Sunday, September 16, 2018

BV Autumn Color Run Half

Yesterday, I ran the Buena Vista Autumn Color Run half marathon. Lo and behold, I won the damned thing. Results here.

With 214 runners participating, I’m fairly certain that’s the biggest race I’ve ever won.

Based on recent workouts, I was optimistic that I was in relatively good shape. A few workouts made me think I might just be in the best shape I've been in since college. So I wanted to give a fast course a decent try to see if I could score a new PR. Since this was a fast, downhill course, my goal was to try to run sub-1:25. My prior PR was 1:29:30-ish, which was the half way split to my marathon PR of 2:59 back in 2011. Given that I had never run a half marathon before, I figured I had an excellent chance for a PR!

But as I’m starting to learn at these small mountain races, organization is always a bit of a crapshoot. You never quite know what you're going to get on race day. 

The race buses got us to the starting line about ten minutes before the race was supposed to start, where there were three porta-potties awaiting 200-plus runners, so yeah, it was a bit of a shit-show at the start. Literally!

Being a male and only needing a number one, I was able to address my concerns easily enough amidst the beautiful fall foliage. But the race was delayed to accommodate many of those who had different concerns.

Conditions were nearly perfect. Warm for a fall day and breezy, but nothing to complain about.

The race eventually started with the race director driving on the mountain road ahead of us honking his horn, which was a first for me. I started in front for the first few hundred meters, and then looked at my watch and noticed I was under 6-minute pace, which was a bad idea.

So I relaxed a bit and a local runner named Jared Oubre popped out in front of me. Jared’s a great runner and he’s gone sub-1:20 a few times at this event, so I figured that was going to be that.

My intent was to try to start with a 40:00 initial 10k and then see if I could hold on for second. But the first two miles clocked in under 6:20 and it felt doable, so I decided to roll with it. Mile 3 was 6:03 and mile 4 was 6:02 (these were both downhill miles, mind you), but they felt good and relaxed. Mile 5 had some decent rollers that knocked the wind out of me, but I kept things below 6:30 and still felt ok.

From miles 5-8, the course opened up from the fall foliage to open roads where you could see well ahead of you, and Jared was, indeed, well ahead of me. I was running well, but he probably had close to a two-minute lead. Third place, on the other hand, was right on my ass. Through 8 miles, I was focused on time, staying relaxed, and holding off third.

But as we got closer to mile 9, there was another decent uphill section, and I could sense that I had closed the gap some. At a turn, I tracked how far I was behind him, and the lead had narrowed to 55 seconds. Then, with three miles to go, it was 45 seconds. Closer, but the math was still working against me.

The final three miles were on a busy (by Chaffee County standards) stretch of straight road heading back into BV. At this point, I still wasn’t even aspiring to catch him, except I started to notice that he kept looking over his shoulder. It’s been a long time since I thought about this in a race, but every runner knows that’s a clear sign of weakness, right? I felt like crap at this point, too, but I thought to myself, this guy is just waiting for someone to catch him. I figured I had to give it a shot.

So I pushed like hell the last two miles. And he kept looking over his shoulder, and I kept getting closer. I closed with a 6-flat and passed him somewhere in the last mile.

I won in an official time of 1:21:00. I was shocked. That was way faster than I thought I could run and way slower than any other winning time in the history of the race. My lucky day, I guess.

As Tom Sobal is fond of saying, “the key to winning any race is having the faster guys not show up.”

Either way, it's the best race I’ve had in years. And after a few years where I feel like I have underperformed expectations in nearly all of my races, it's nice to outperform expectations for once. 

Going forward, I suspect that’s the last race longer than 5k I’ll be doing in 2018. Still haven't even come anywhere close to the main goal for the year, so I figured I'd put some effort in that direction over the next few months.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Breck Crest

Ran the Breck Crest half yesterday. Results here.

Short story is that I got 5th overall and second in my age group. But they told me I won my age group (40-49) because the guy who got second got top three overall. So I got a blue ribbon with a medal on it for winning my age group even though a guy who was 43 ran 10 minutes faster, which seemed a little silly to me. 

Either way, it was perfect weather for a race, chilly at the start and then mild during the race. Race starts in Breck, which is at around 9500 feet.

At the start Andy Wacker took off at what must have been close to 5-minute pace uphill, and then a pack of five of us, with me following three men and one female, running at closer to 7-minute pace, well behind.

I moved into 4th place at about two miles, as we worked our way up gradual single track. I had planned to run conservatively, by heart rate, but my heart rate data was wonky and unusable, so I was running by feel instead. I got the sense that I was running hard, and when my HR data finally started registering correctly, I could see I was in the 170s, which was indeed too intense for a 2-hour-plus race.

I laid off the gas a bit, trying to keep my heart rate below 170. The trail got way steeper, though, and I got passed by a guy after the five mile mark. I continued to make steady if not spectacular progress up the hill. Hit the crest at 6.5 miles at 12,500 feet at about 73 minutes and then the mile-7 aid at 78 minutes.

At that point, the marathoners, who got a 10-minute head start on us, continued on the crest and us half marathons took the steep fire road back down into town.

It was rocky for about two miles and then smoothed out. I trotted my normal conservative pace on the rocky stuff and then tried to push on the smoother sections. Mile 10 was a 6:11, my fastest of the day. At this point, the road opened up, and I could not see anyone ahead or behind me. A guy at an aid station said I was about four minutes behind the next runner.

That did not do much for my motivation. We switched from fire road to single track, and that’s when my low-6-minute pace turned into high-7s. There were a couple of rollers, and then a bit of a contrived section as we got back into town. Race ended up being 13.54 miles, according to my watch. 

Finished in 2:05 and change.

On the whole I’m satisfied with the effort.

I certainly didn’t execute a perfect race. In an ideal world, I would have started off with my HR in the high 150s and finished with it in the low 170s. Instead I did the opposite. I toasted myself a little early, but I think 2:05 is a decent reflection of my fitness. With perfect execution I might have gone 2-3 minutes faster, but I think I finished where I belonged relative to the other runners.

Race results notwithstanding, I’m happy with how my running is going.

It was about two years ago when I started upping my mileage beyond 15-20 miles a week. Last year, I averaged closer to 60, but I was injured the second half of the year, so it didn’t do me any good. This year, I think I’m a touch better off fitness-wise, but have accomplished it on less mileage (about 40 miles a week) and most importantly, with no serious injuries (knock on wood).

So yeah, racing reasonably well (for my fitness level) at mid-distance mountain races with no injuries. I’ll take it.

Here's a pic of the top 3 plus age-group winners:

  Photo courtesy @agoldie94

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


I’ve had a fun summer so far. I have not achieved the big goal or anything close to it, but I’m having a good time getting out there.

In July my wife and I went to Iceland and Ireland for a little summer vacation. I have not yet flown on a plane since I moved to Salida nearly two years ago, so the idea of a trip sounded fun. Our main mission was to attend a cousin's wedding in Ireland, but we figured we'd do one of those Iceland stopovers, since it was on the way, and we had heard good things.

We didn't do a whole lot of planning for the Iceland trip, but there was lots to see when we got there. It would be a great place to be a trail runner the few months of the year when the weather's decent enough to do it. Very beautiful, rugged terrain, and a decent trail network.

We actually booked an AirBnB in Reykjavik for the whole time we were there. I mainly did runs by the local bay, so not as much trail running as I might like. But we did a bunch of day trips with hikes, which piqued my interest. I suspect I'll go back some day.

In Ireland, I did most of my running in Phoenix Park in Dublin, which is about a mile from my Uncle's house. I gave the whole 17:30 thing a time trial effort by myself, but it was definitely not happening. Not sure if it was jet lag, constant overeating, or just the fact that I'm not fit enough, but I was not even close to getting it done.

When I got back to the US, I weighed myself for the first time since before I left and found that I had gained a solid 13 pounds in three weeks. Impressive!

Since getting back to Salida, I've been trying to get up high as much as possible. Last Saturday I did an ascent of Ouray at 13,900-something feet and this morning I did an ascent of Mt. Aetna, which is 13,700-something feet.

Views from Ouray

Views from Aetna

This morning I was actually trying to climb Taylor Mountain, which is next to Aetna, but got turned around and did the wrong mountain. Then, the hike down Aetna was way more of a challenge than expected. Nothing super exposed, but basically a super steep scree field the whole way down. I ended up sliding on my ass much of the way just to get down the mountain without killing myself.

(Also fun: I saw two bears running through the meadow while I was on the way down. They were the fourth and fifth bears I've seen this summer).

It's supposed to be a good place to do a hike/ski in winter, but upon further reflection, it was not an ideal place for a summer run. Very little running (or even fast hiking) happened outside of the first two miles up and down. In fact, I have not seen any documented evidence online of anyone else doing this ridge without some combination of skiing/glissading. For good reason. It was doable, but tedious and hard.

Not quite 14ers, but it's nice having the mountain to yourself and exploring the local terrain.

In sum, a good summer for adventures, but no races in a few months.

In terms of future focused efforts, I'm thinking about doing the Breck Crest Half, the Autumn Color Run in Buena Vista, and then maybe the Royal Gorge 5k in Canon City on October 6th. But all of those plans are fluid, depending on if I still feel like doing those races as they get closer.

It would appear that my first year as a master has been more of a directionless meander than a focused effort toward any goals. Whatever. It's been fun. Perhaps the lesson is that I should just learn to stop setting goals.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Tales on the Trails 5k/Spiral Drive 4 mile

I've run a couple of local races in the last month. Both were micro races here in Salida. Both were good fun, for different reasons.


First, the Tales on the Trails 5k, which was a race put on by my wife on behalf of the Arkansas Valley Humane Society. I probably would have run with one or both of our dogs, but the older one has arthritis in his hip and the younger one has a heart condition. So it was on me to carry the torch for the family.

I won in 18:53. Second place was a young woman, nearly three and a half minutes back. I ran 5:49, 5:44, and then 6:03. I was by my lonesome the entire time. The last mile was uphill and the course was about 200 meters long. Had sub-18 been on the table, I might have found the extra energy to go for it, but when I was at around 17:45 with a quarter mile to go, I just put it into cruise control.

My watch said 3.23 miles and 18:53, which was just a shade over 5:50 a mile.

Race entry was $20, and I won a pair of shoes at 7000 Feet and some other swag. Not bad.


This morning was the Spiral Drive 4 mile. The Spiral Drive 4 Mile is an old school Salida race that usually draws a decent crowd from the local running club. It goes up about 600 feet over two miles to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain and then straight back down.

Race fee was $12 and the winner got a pick axe and a new pair of shoes. All finishers received an engraved wooden plaque. God Bless Salida.

It was a toasty morning by Salida standards, but I figured that wouldn't be too big a deal, seeing as how it was only 4 miles. It was also hazy from the forest fires. Wasn't sure whether that would be a problem or not.

Race started and a local runner named Nelson Jones took off pretty hard. I started to tuck up behind him, but then looked at my watch and saw we were going about 5:20 pace into a slight uphill, so I definitely needed to take the foot of accelerator to avoid a blow up at that pace. I deferred to him as the incline steepened, and he probably had 100 feet on me at a half mile. Over the next half mile, without increasing the effort, I found myself reeling him in. And then at right around the mile marker I put in a decent surge to get ahead of him.

I threw in a couple of extra surges to see if I could sneak away, but no luck. So as we approached the top I decided instead to conserve my energy to see if I could drop him on the downhill. Here are some pics, courtesy of Tom Sobal, from near the summit.

In the second picture, that was the moment when I thought I was making the surge that was going to put the race to bed.

Not so much. About a half mile down the hill, Nelson tucked in behind me, and the two of us started running together. I tried a few more surges, but they did more to drain me than they did to put any distance on him. I mumbled something to Nelson about how he was running a great race, and he took that as a sign to drop me.

I ran consecutive 5:23 and 5:29 miles down the hill, but Nelson ran about 20 seconds or so faster.

No pick axe for me.

My watch said 25:53, 6:16/mile, for 4.13 miles between 7050 and 7650 feet. I'm very happy with the effort, despite losing the lead in the last mile.

Don't think the bad air quality affected the race much, but it's definitely affected how I've felt since. Been coughing and wheezing all day.


Not sure what's next on the agenda. I'm traveling to Ireland in July for a cousin's wedding, so that'll likely be where I try to get my 17:29. Don't know of any races that will line up for when I'm there, so I think I'll just try to find a flat stretch a ground on a day with good conditions to see if I can make it happen.

I'd like to get some good mountain runs and races in this summer as well. Thinking maybe Georgetown to Idaho Springs, Breck Crest Half, and the Sleeping Indian Hill Climb. Brother's having a kid this August, and work has been hellacious lately, so it's hard to commit to much.


Today's race was very much instructive on how I need to improve my raw speed. This Monday, I tried to do six quarters at sub-5:00 pace and couldn't manage, and I ended up averaging about 5:15 pace for the bundle. In races like today where sub-5:20 downhill miles were required to keep up, I just didn't have the wheels.

So at least I know what I need to do next. Go get some wheels.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Time Trial

I ran a time trial today.

The goal for the year is to run a 17:30 5k, so I figured I should go run a 5k, see how far off I am.

I was hoping to run an 18:15, and I ran a 18:21. I was on pace for an 18:30 through about 2.7 miles, but got a little burst of energy at the end.

  • That’s the fastest 5k I’ve run since I was 19! 
  • You can do tempos and intervals all you want, but actually going at it for a full 5k, that's a special kind of burn. 
  • I was working hard, no doubt, but I'm hopeful I might have another half-gear in there somewhere.
  • I remember liking this distance once upon a time. I think I still do. 
  • Today’s run was 5:55/mile. The goal is 5:38/mile. 17 seconds a mile faster seems super intimidating. But two seconds per mile every month? Not totally inconceivable. Still intimidating, but less so.
  • Pretty sure my best bet to reach this goal is to find a 5k in November/December at 7,000 feet lower altitude than where I’m currently running. 
I acknowledge that there’s something arguably douche-y about being a 40-year-old running just shy of 90 second quarters by himself on a high school track. But, whatever. On the grand scale of things, none of this matters. I'm having fun with it. And I'll keep doing that as long as I feel that way.

On an unrelated note, I am not running Run Through Time this year, marathon or the half. I could give a bunch of excuses, but the truth is, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll be out there, though, volunteering at the intersection (miles 12 and 16) where Dakota Jones and Eric Senseman got lost last year, trying to make sure we don’t have a repeat.

If you’re running, I’ll see you out there!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Injury Prone

Walking around my living room this morning, I noticed something unusual.

I wasn’t in pain. Not even a niggle. Just me, walking around in my bare feet like normal people do.

This is unusual, because I am injury prone. And it’s taken me 28 years of running to admit it. 

I got to thinking about this a couple of months ago when my buddy Tom Sobal asked me on a Sunday run, “have you always been this injury prone?”

“Me? Injury prone.” I thought to myself. “Pssshaw. I’m not injury prone.”

But I like to consider myself a rational guy, so let’s consider the evidence: 
  • In 2017, I missed multiple races and hobbled through a few others with Achilles tendinitis in both legs. Plus, I strained my quad in October trying to do a track workout. Had to take off nearly a month for that.
  • I had tendinitis that kept me from training hard in 2016, too.
  • In 2015, I didn’t really train or race (except for two 5ks).
  • In 2014, I had various injuries that kept me from ramping up training for ultras.
  • Same for 2013, except for shorter distances.
  • In 2011, I injured my left hamstring right after my first 100 and had to take more than two months off. And then a month before Leadville in 2012, I reinjured the same thing and had to take a month off/easy before the race and then limped the last 47 miles of the race when it flared up on me.
  • In 2010, I had IT band issues that made me DNS Rocky Raccoon in January 2011.
  • Between 1999 and 2009, I didn’t train or race.
  • My freshman year of college in 1997 I missed half the year of cross-country with a stress fracture.
  • My sophomore year in 1998, I was still dealing with the stress fracture.

So yeah, now that I think about it, I’m totally injury prone. Like, as in maybe running–is-a-really-bad-idea-for-me injury prone.

But I still love to run and I have no intention of quitting any time soon.

So what to do with this information?

Here’s what I’ve been doing over the last couple of months:
  • Forget about mileage. Sure, Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter ran 160 miles a week for dozens of years in a row, and that’s what made them running gods, but I’m not built like them. Accept my limitations.
  • One day off every week. I’m teaching myself to ski!
  • I’ve gone over to the dark side.
  • I’m doing two workouts a week, but this go-around, rather than balls-to-the-wall Vo2 max stuff, I’m focusing on 90% efforts. I’m doing cruise intervals, hills, and tempo work. I’m doing workouts knowing that I have an extra gear in the bag, but leaving that gear for race efforts. First things first: I have to make it to the starting line in one piece.
  • No ultras or even marathons (at least for now).
  • Core and strength stuff daily. Lunge matrix and leg swings.
  • Strides once a week, two longer aerobic efforts (70-120 minutes) and two easy days.
  • I’m just being super careful to introduce stress in an incremental way. If my last workout was 6 x 800 at 6-minute pace, then the next workout might be either 5 x 1k at the same pace or 6 x 800 at 5:55 pace.
None of this is rocket science. But it’s obvious in retrospect that I haven’t seen improvement in my running because I haven’t been making consistent progress in the right direction. I have bursts of activity followed by injury followed by long periods of relative inactivity. I gotta figure out how to cut out the injuries or all the rest of this so much bloviating.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

End of 2017 Musings

  • Decent year of running for me. Will finish with just over 2800 miles. That’s the highest mileage I’ve done since 2011, and the second highest mileage year I’ve had since my freshman year of college. And though I don't track it, I've never had a year with more up and down.
  • Good year of running, but a crap year for racing. I ran four races. One was decent (Imogene). Ran five miles off course in another (Creede). Got sidetracked and swam in a lake in a third (Crested Butte). And the Run Through Time in Salida was bad enough where I’d rather pretend it wasn’t a race.
  • On a brighter note, the move to Salida has exceeded all expectations. It’s just a super fun place to live. I expect to stay here permanently. My wife and I will be looking to buy a place here soon.
  • I turned 40 this year!
  • I have two racing goals in 2018. One, have fun racing as a master. Two, run a sub-17:30 5k. The first should be easy enough. The second will be a real challenge, as I’m nowhere near that level of fitness right now.
  • I still plan to run mountain trail races this year; I'm just sticking to half marathons and shorter. I had fun at Grin & Bear It and Creede (despite getting lost), so I’ll probably go back there. Other “maybe” races include the Fibark races in Salida, the Run Through Time Half here, the Hardscrabble race put on by Hal Walters in Westcliffe, the Black Canyon 10k, the Sleeping Indian Hill Climb, the Lead King Loop, and the Moab Trail Half. Half of those races and a few 5ks would make for a good year.
  • Since I’m 40 now, I might also hop into a road marathon just to get a qualifier for 2019. My BQ time is 3:15 now, which seems doable even without much specific training. Judging by those running equivalency calculators, if I’m anywhere near 17:30 fitness, I should be able to do a flat road marathon in under 3:10 without straining too much.
  • The 16-year-old version of me would have found this very hard to fathom, but the challenge of running almost as fast as I used to as a teenager is way more intimidating to me right now than the challenge of running more 100s. I am about 80% certain I could train for a year and get another buckle at Leadville, maybe even the big one. And I’m 80% certain I could slog through some Hardrock qualifier. 
  • But, can I run a 17:2X, with even a year of training to pull it off? Right now, I reckon that there’s an 80% chance that I’ll fail with this goal. Which makes me think that it's a good goal.
  • I know a lot more 40-plus-year-olds who can run 100 miles than ones who can run a sub-17:30 5k. So yeah, I think the 5k goal is harder.
  • This is not the first time I have talked about a moderately ambitious 5K goals on this site, and I didn’t even come close last time. So yeah, for now, it's all hat and no cowboy. 
  • That's all for now. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those reading. And best wishes for a Happy New Year!