Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Red Hot 55K

I guess I better post this before next year's race, huh?
After my son and I hit the road for Moab, we took the Cisco back way in through the canyons, past the Dewey Bridge.
We ate at the Moab Brewery, and afterwards I picked up my race packet.

After not running a single official race in 5 whole months (only El Chubbo Grande in Dec.), it was nice to see old friends.
We parked at my usual spot near the start line and slept in the back of my Forester.

The next morning was perfect weather. I had a coffee-challenged morning, where I geyser'd the coffeepot twice. But I still managed to make enough brew for my son and I.
This would be my son's first day driving completely unsupervised. So I handed him the keys and headed for the start.

Since I didn't remember to bring my camera, and I already have tons of photos of Moab and Red Hot, you'll just have to take my word for it - the scenery was at it's Moab/Canyonlands best.
I was going to bring road shoes to handle the punishment from the slickrock, but my unpadded La Sportiva Crosslites somehow handled the rocks so well my feet hurt LESS than they ever had with any softer shoe! Go figure!

And this is with my bad right foot. My foot hurt a little bit before the race, it hurt a little all through the race, and it hurt a little at the finishline post-race party.
At dinner, though, it throbbed all of a sudden, and it was downhill from there. Normally, it just takes some warm-up to loosen it up, but that wasn't working. I was limping the rest of the vacation.
This year was the best race weather in the history of Red Hot.
My finish-time was horrible - a PW (personal worst). I think if I drink enough beer, I can get an even better PW next year.

I was actually pushing for a record, but at the last aid station I was 15 minutes back, so I quite trying and just coasted tot he finish. For one thing, it was Day 2 of a 4-day vacation. For another, I was hurting and pushing 100% would have been lots of pain and extra hurt on my foot for nada.

I splurged for a hotel room for one night, showering well and sleeping like a corpse.

The next day, the snow started falling, and falling.

My son and I went to Canyonlands and checked out Upheaval Dome. The snow started dumping on us real heavy. It was a fantastic hike, because I always love hiking in falling snow, but it sure did hamper the views. It was a very slippery hike.

We kept following little rock cairns like the one below, but it was still hard to see the trail. The reason we didn't go further is we were afraid of slipping, and we were afraid of walking on the biological soil crust.

Some of the trees were awesome, and kind of spooky at the same time.

This tree was weird, with swirls of bark and limb.

We spent our last night near the Dewey Bridge and headed back the next morning.

On the way back, we stopped in the middle of nowhere, south of Cisco, and shot one of my Glocks and my AR-15. It was a great spot to shoot, with literally miles of open range sloping away from us.

For a 4-day vacation, we managed to get a lot of adventure out of it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Volcano near Dotsero

I recently ran the Moab Red Hot 55K, but that post will have to wait.
As usual, I forgot my camera (what a surprise, huh?) so all I had was my iPhone.

I took the Friday before Red Hot off work, and left Denver Thursday night with my son.
We'd been planning to explore this youngest-in-Colorado volcanic crater for months. Many of you know I majored in geology at Kansas University (in a previous life). From Google Earth, it's starkly obvious that in addition to the main crater, there's a big crack that heads north-east to a much smaller crater. I wanted to check it all out.
If you're not a geology geek, this post might seem boring - just warning you.

We arrived about 10pm on a moonless night, so exploring had to wait until the next morning.
We slept in a tent and it got down to 10F.

In the morning, I found huge canine footprints. I suppose they could be dog. There were no human prints around, and they were the biggest canine prints I've ever seen. My brother, John, and I found a dead wolf several years ago with a tracking collar still on, right next to I-70, so I know wolves are back in northern Colorado. No telling for certain what it was, but it was might huge. I could easily see them belonging to a creature that weighed as much as my 175lbs.

The Dotsero feature blew around 4200 years ago, so about 2200B.C, in the time of the Pharoahs in Egypt. It was a steam-powered explosion like a mini version of Mt. Saint Helens. Lots of pyroclast covers the terrain in the region, but it looks more like cinders and mixed-up steamy mud than lava. I-70 actually runs right over a solidified pyroclastic flow.

We checked out the little crater first.

As you can see from the sky the crater is obvious. But from the ground, it was a dud. In fact, it was hard to believe we were actually standing on the feature.

The slope behind the crater in the image above is not part of the crater, but the slight slope to the right is. My son is standing in the 20ft crater. Only scruffy grass grows there - I'm guessing because of the pH of the soil or something like that being wrong, none of the sage that grew thick everywhere else was growing in the crater.

Below is the little crater rim, with a big cinder rock.

In this post's 2nd photo above, both the crater and the ditch are circled. The image below was taken where the bottom red circle is.

The whole area is eroded with smooth, shallow ravines and nearly all features are rounded. This ravine is the fissure, and the red dirt it cuts through is so soft you can crumble it easily with your fingers. Yet as soft as it is, the edges of the fissure are sharp and jagged in stark contrast to the surrounding features.
To me, this is a bit of a puzzle. A fault-line usually moves. So either the craters should have been sliced in their middles and mismatched, or one side of the fissure should be higher than the other. Neither was true. This fissure hasn't slid anywhere in 4200 years. But it must be active or the ravine wouldn't have sharp features. Dirt must still be moving upwards, cracking in the middle, even as it erodes away. That's the only way I see that this ravine can stay looking so young.

The big crater was much more impressive.

The northeast end was very DeathValley-ish. In fact, I wondered if the big cinder hill to the east of the crater was still rising up? I stood there looking up at it trying to see some sign of activity, and also taking in the morning sun finally warming things up. That's when I noticed the steam. Up on the hill east of the big crater, amongst the crisscrossing roads of the cinder quarry, was a steaming hole in the ground.

The parting shot is of part of the mud-flow. Glenwood Canyon has lots layers of red sedimentary rocks. Here you can see the same rocks jumbled up with mud.

The area where we camped is going to be where I will probably stop many times in the future. It's just out in the middle of nowhere, just far enough away from I-70 not to hear or smell the traffic.
BLM land used to be free, no rules, no restrictions. These days, there's no discernible difference between BLM and National Forest or even National Parks, sometimes. Nearly all my favorite free camping locations now charge fees. I saw a BLM sign explaining this was so they could afford to "improve" things. Well, sorry, if you want things "improved" on BLM land, then change the designation to "NFS" or "...Parks". Don't ever "improve" my BLM land, and don't charge me for it. Every time they build restrooms, it draws more of the wrong kinds of people - the kind who don't want to rough-it. That kind is more likely to bring trash and leave it, to inflict unreasonable destruction to the landscape.
Below is how someone felt about this trend at Fruita...

Shot it full of holes and knocked it down with a 4x4.
I don't condone vandalism, especially if guns are involved. As far as I'm concerned, if someone uses guns to inflict vandalism on property, they should be banned for life from owning firearms, the same way felons are.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

BP Part 2

I hit Bergen Peak again. Last long run before Red Hot 55K.
The trails were very packed down, unlike the week before, so I didn't get the workout I needed, but it was still 3hr on my feet at altitude and in clean air.

I know this is hard to believe, but I actually remembered to bring my camera! Not only that, but I remembered to USE my camera!!!

Storm coming...

Snow flurries...

Pikes Peak grayed-out, center, in the distance...

Mount Evans...

Below, in the distance, just beyond the hills, there's a gray cloud hugging the ground. That's Denver's smog, and it's been choking the shit outa me. In fairness, I realize my life in Denver adds to this smog - another reason I don't like driving anywhere to go running. Damned if I do for adding to the smog, and damned if I don't because my lungs will be processing tons of shit in the city.

Here's my snowshoes with the bolted-on trail shoes. I slip a pair of thick Gore-Tex socks over some Drymax socks, and I'm good to go...

I'm not in shape, so I'm not really ready for the Red Hot from that angle, but I'm sick of Denver and working, and I'm hankerin' fer a trip west and a long weekend. Taking Friday off work. I hope the roads are passable. There always seems to be a severe storm coming or going, and once they closed the highway years ago and trapped me in Frisco. I've seen a lot of jack-knifed trucks, and when they drive too fast with chains, the chains start to disintegrate and become shrapnel. Even safety equipment isn't safe.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

No Logs, No Fire

I haven't felt real enthused about training. Races always seem fun, but I suppose if I don't rain, there won't be anything fun about 34+ miles across slick-rock, or 50 miles on any mountain course.

This year, I haven't bothered to update my Excel spreadsheet running log. I don't plan to, either. I don't figure I'll be logging enough mileage. The whole purpose was to guarantee that I don't over-do it, yet maximize the miles. I don't plan to train with such fervor anymore.

My right foot still hurts, but not as much as it did sitting on my ass. Still, I'm wary of putting too many miles on it. I want to spend more time using weights and my ergometer.

Mostly, I'm still too busy doing city things to get to the hills very much. I'm also trying to spend less money. Gas is too expensive to hop in and drive 200 miles to exotic places, or even often to less exotic places.
The smog in Denver is choking me more than ever, even though smog isn't as bad as it used to be in past years. I think the more smog my lungs process, the more toxins accumulate, and the more incessant my coughing, hacking, spitting, and nose-blowing becomes. Anyone who knows me knows I cough a LOT! Especially while running. It's one reason I usually prefer to run and power-hike alone.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bergen Peak

We got a nice snow storm Thursday night and Friday. It made for an awesome and difficult run. When I raised my feet as high as I could each stride, my toes were still plowing through several inches on top. It wasn't fluffy snow, either, but tiny flakes that pack closely together. Some guy drove real slow next to me at one point and yelled out his window, "Dude! you're frickin' hard core! Keep it up!" That cracked me up. Geez - civilians. Their so funny.

Superbowl Sunday, I drove to Bergen Park in a rush and put in some hours on the trail before the party. The area had reportedly gotten 28" of snow. The lower trails had been well packed by snowshoers, hikers, and skiers, but not a soul bothered to trudge uphill. So it was very hard going, but wonderfully pristine virgin snow. Some sections of trail were mid-thigh deep, and others had packed and melted in micro-climates to only ankle deep. And that's with me wearing my running snowshoes - I was still sinking in deep.
I didn't take poles because I wanted more of a core work-out. Man, between shoveling snow at home and plowing up Bergen Peak, my middle was fried.
I saw a couple of deer close-up, and whistled at them to calm them down.
The higher I got, the colder it got. I was barely wearing enough clothing, and I could have used an additional layer on my calves, but I came out okay.
I always forget my camera, so no photos - sorry.
I was so beat I almost fell asleep during the Superbowl.

In spite of not logging more than about 7 miles a week since Thanksgiving (except for a few stray long runs), I've suddenly been logging some miles each day in preparation for Moab Red Hot 55K. Of course, it's too little, too late, but better than nothing. Even though I'm running 6 days a week, some days I only do a couple of miles. With all the snow and ice, though, the miles have been much harder than normal. I've also used my Concept2 rowing ergometer a little bit. It's still going to be an ugly, grueling race for me. But if I'm on the trail and still moving, I'm happy.

Since my foot started hurting, even though I had nearly stopped running, I theorized that running on it again would make it hurt less. Guess what? I was right. It still hurts some, so looks like I need to run even more. Someone told me that only ultra-runners say stuff like that. All I know is I'm going to hurt one way or the other, because I've always had arthritis. The day I hold still is the day I turn to stone. And nothing will stop the pain then.

Man, am I fat! My belly is starting to jiggle. It's very disconcerting. I have no idea how I got fat - I think I'll have some more cherry pie and a beer while I try to figure it out.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vi Endurance

A set of friends a little north was having their public "outing" of Vi Fuel while my friends and I were in Estes Park. (Vi is pronounced "vee".)
Vi Endurance was started by Michael Hodges, Mike Poland, and Alan Smith. It's a new energy gel for ultra athletes. If you look at the ingredients, you'll see that it's different from any other product, including blocks. Vi has no refined, simple sugars. I have always preferred Hammer Heed because it has no simple sugars, but the taste was bland so I mixed it with Gatorade. Vi tastes sweet, though (not sure how they managed that). It doesn't taste as overly-sweet as other gu's, but it doesn't taste like bland, thickened Heed.
Since they're just starting out, there are only three flavors, chocolate, vanilla, and peach cobbler.
Vi is not yet available in many stores, but you can buy it here.
Expect to see plenty of people wearing Vi shirts and using Vi at the Moab Red hot 55K coming up in two weeks.
One of the other things I love about their website is all the featured runners in the banners are my friends from north-of-Denver on the trails we all run on.
Vi also has a Facebook page.

Estes Park Getaway

I ran off to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park with friends last weekend.
The following photo is the only one my iPhone let me take before the cold zapped the battery and forced it to shut down.

As usual, I neglected to bring my real camera, so I stole the rest of these photos from my friends.

Brandy and Julia took turns dragging each other around the ice on Bear Lake. There was plenty of silliness that day, with snow angels, butt-surfing, and other goofiness. Our little-child inner selves were out!

Some of the ice was so clear you could see down to the water 20" below, and some very interesting cracks. I wish I'd had my camera! I could have taken some cool little videos.

There was less snow than I've ever seen for this time of year. This kept the wildlife dispersed through the forests - no need to come down to Estes Park or the meadows of RMNP.