Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More fog (actual fog)

 When Beat and I were preparing to move away from California, several of our friends there expressed disbelief that we'd deign to leave the perfect weather of the Bay Area.

"Colorado has 300 days of sun!" Beat would exclaim.

"I get pretty tired of perfect weather," I'd say truthfully, omitting the detail that I've lived through the other extreme and I didn't always tolerate that well, either.

Now I'm experiencing spring in the Colorado Rockies, and so far I've seen a delightful pendulum of snowing - 80 degrees - raining - 80 degrees - fog - snain.

 For the past four days, it's been fog. At 7,000 feet, the haze is thick. This seems to make me more productive, probably because I spend less time staring out the window. Over the weekend Beat and I completed the organization of our gear room, of which I'm quite proud. Beat even built sturdy wooden racks for our bikes and trekking poles. We still spend our time sitting on camp chairs and eating off a camp table next to the wood stove — but we have a gear room! It feels like growing up.

Beat volunteered at a 50-mile trail race, Quadrock, on Saturday. His duties required waking up at 1:30 a.m., so I lazily declined to join. Instead I set out to explore the two major canyons of the Flatirons that I hadn't yet seen, Eldorado and Shadow canyons. The fog was a veritable cream-based soup that descended all the way to the valley floor, so I didn't take many photos. In fact it was a beautiful route, even shrouded in gray. But this didn't stop me from indulging in a pout session during the climb up Shadow Canyon, because I was moving at snail's pace and still having difficulty breathing, and why do all of the trails here have to be rock staircases that gain 1,800 feet per mile?

I think my acclimation is improving. The sleepy/headachy phase is over, and I do feel more clear-headed during the day. I know full acclimation can take months, but I do become frustrated over the fact I'm nearly always out of breath whenever I'm exercising. My legs are basically bored, but my lung capacity is stretched so thin that I'm sucking wind probably 80 percent of the time. This fuels my lung angst — an idea that my lungs were permanently scarred in 2015, and my oxygen-processing capabilities will always be less than they once were (and they were never great to begin with.) This (hopefully unfounded) fear is compounded by the fact that I am no longer taking maintenance asthma medication, so I'm always nervous that an attack is around the corner. So far I've been managing well without the inhaler, but the angst remains.

The problem, I believe, may stem from pushing myself too hard, especially when I don't think what I'm doing should be so hard. What I need to do is accept the fact that here, for now at least, my runs are going to closely resemble hikes, and that's okay. For me, running has always been about finding the most efficient way to travel long distances across variable terrain on foot, rather than push the pace as hard as I possibly can. Sometimes pushing as hard as I possibly can is a 45-minute mile, and that's okay too.

 Anyway, I was still grumpy about my bored legs and frazzled lungs when I tagged South Boulder Peak and sat down in the fog for a snack. Just as soon as I settled onto a rock, an incredibly strong gust of wind tore across the ridge. The sonic blast nearly knocked me off my perch, and I was sitting down. After the gust moved past, I turned to see a sudden break in the fog, revealing the crest of the Continental Divide, and nothing else.

 Looking east, I could see the thick inversion below. Within two minutes, another massive gust ripped past, and everything was shrouded again. This was the only clear view I received over the course of a 4.5-hour, 12.5-mile "run." It was worth it.

 The fog stuck close to home all weekend, as did these deer, reminding me that if I ever get around to planting a vegetable garden, it's going to be an all-out war. I embarked on shorter runs in a mixed bag of rain drizzle, snain, and what I'm pretty sure were ice pellets. My lungs seemed more amenable to working harder and my hand hurts less when it's cold, so this is basically my perfect weather for running.

 On Tuesday morning, we woke up to a dusting of snow. Ah, so pretty.

 What? It's May 17?

 And it's 90 degrees in Los Altos? Yeah, I don't miss it.

During my Tuesday morning run, wearing a pair of Hokas with 500 hard miles and the tread rubbed smooth, I slipped on a particularly slimy patch of mud, skied a good five feet before I finally got my left foot down, promptly rolled the ankle and tumbled into some rocks. Now my right shin has ballooned up nicely. It hurts to put weight on it. It was just a bruise, so I finished up the run, although I'm not sure why. I really hope I can start biking again soon — it's considerably less hazardous for me. I will hopefully know more after my nerve test tomorrow.


  1. Gorgeous photos! Fog on the mountains has always been one of my favorite things. I used to LOVE the low hanging fog when I lived in SE Alaska.

    1. The inversions always remind me of climbing peaks in Juneau on foggy days, just to spend a few minutes standing in the sunlight.

  2. Your weather is much like the weather we have in Northern VT. 75 one day, snow the next. I don't mind it but it makes for so difficult heat acclimation when all the sudden race day is 80 and it was snowing the day before. Just love the snow capped Mtn picture framed by fog!

  3. Replies
    1. Not yet but they're around. KB Bear has some great captures of the local wildlife via photography and trail cameras, posted on her blog: http://romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com/

  4. That picture of the Divide is so cool! I love being out in any kind of weather in the Rockies, but I will be there in three weeks and I hope the snow is done by then :) It has been a cool and wet May here in Indy and I'm ready for some sun.

    1. Usually by June it's quite warm in Colorado, but the high country is still snowy. I'm hoping to venture beyond the Boulder bubble soon.

  5. Well, if it were me I would say that pushing myself hard every day isn't productive, but you seem to be able to do it typically. You'll get there, and when you go to a sea level race you will fly.

    1. I agree with you, actually. When I write about pushing myself hard, I'm referring to higher intensity efforts, which I don't engage in all that often. (Because the harder you go, the sooner you have to stop, and I'm all about maximizing volume :)

      I know you live at altitude. It will be interesting to see how this affects my fitness over an extended period of time. I'm mostly fine with the notion of being a slower runner than I was in California, but I do want to join in some running group activities and right now I'm self conscious about not being able to keep up. These Boulder folks are crazy fit. :P

  6. Hi Jill & Beat

    Congratulations on your new home and adventures.

    About CTS: I had the old surgery (incision from wrist to middle of hand) back in the mid 70's and have been pain free every since. (gulp) That's over 40 years ago!!! At that time I could not hold a toothbrush or hairbrush, etc. Now with endoscopic surgery I believe the healing time is much reduced.

    Have you inquired about endoscopic surgery?


  7. That divide photo is awesome. Its back to 70% again here in mnt. View. The heat wave only lasted 3 days. I thought of moving to Colorado someday, but I know in the summer there are long stretches of 90's which I wouldn't tolerate very well after living by the bay here all my life.

  8. Loved reading and seeing the pictures. It's so beautiful there!!! "Being able to keep up" just made me chuckle. From a young woman that just completed the ITI and has completed the Tour Divide. You may not be able to keep up right now BUT you can give them a "run for their money" in a 1,000 race with temps always below freezing. Sometimes you just make me chuckle! Go run with them. Make new friends. If you get dropped . . .just smile and say "oh well".

  9. Your pictures are simply stunning! I love foggy days in the mountains.

  10. I need to get back there. Soon!


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