Tuesday, July 20, 2010

14er Report - Redcloud Peak

14er Report
Mon, July 19/10
Redcloud Peak (14,034 ft)
Sunshine Peak (14,001 ft)
Redcloud Peak (14,034 ft)

When I decided to go to Southern Colorado (Silverton) for the weekend to run the Kendall Mtn Marathon I figured that I might as well stay on after the race to run a few 14ers in the San Juan Mtns.
I have climbed most of the 14ers within a 90-min drive of home and now must travel and stay over 1 or 2 nights to climb ‘new’ 14ers. This represented such an opportunity!

Once I confirmed that the race would indeed take place on Sat I hoped to run one 14er –Handies Peak – on Sun after the race. However in spite of my trusty and normally reliable 14er guide and directions from locals at the hotel I was unable to find the Grouse Gulch Trailhead that was supposedly only 12 miles from Silverton. I actually think I found it but it is not commonly used and had no signs or markings and I was not willing to risk venturing off into the wilderness of the San Juan Mtns w/o confirming I was on the proper trail and heading for the proper destination. So I bagged the hike and instead drove around the San Juan Mtns to Lake City on the East side of the mtns. I could have driven over a 4X4 pass but they scare the crap out of me – I would rather run over those roads/passes than drive!

The access and trailheads are much better from Lake City but to make sure I didn’t experience the same problem and disappointment I checked into the tourist center where they provided me with detailed maps and directions to the trailhead. I woke early on Mon with a plan to drive to the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch Trailhead located about 20 miles southwest of Lake City and to climb two 14ers. It required a bone-jarring ride over 10 miles of rough 4X4 roads but I arrived at the trailhead at 7:30am. The trailhead is located at 10,400 ft and provides access to two 14ers – Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak.
I set out on a nice soft dirt trail through a pine forest. After hiking for more than 1 hr and still not seeing my destinations I started to wonder if I was on the right trail. I took out the trail directions and noted that it was a 3-mile hike into a basin before you actually could see Redcloud Peak. Finally I reached the basin and could see Redcloud –or what turned out to be a false peak. After another hour of climbing I reached the summit of the false peak and could see the ‘real’ summit of Redcloud Peak. And I could see a group of 10 hikers approaching the summit. At 10:30 am I reached the summit (14,034 ft) and was rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of the San Juan Mtns.

I could see Sunshine Peak about 2 ½ miles to the south and decided to strike out for my 2nd 14er. I hiked with a local woman down into the 13,500 ft saddle between Redcloud and Sunshine but the weather started to look ‘iffy’ and she turned back. Maddog was too close to give up so I continued on a reached the summit of Sunshine peak (14,001 ft) at 11:40. I took a few photos and headed back. I had to retrace my route to get back to the trailhead and car and that meant climbing Redcloud a 2nd time. I was trying to push the pace to beat the bad weather on the horizon and I was quite pleased that I was able to charge back up Redcloud w/o any rest stops. I caught up with a few hikers that had been descending Sunshine when I was climbing it so I really was pushing a good steady pace. I planned to enjoy a short lunch on the summit of Redcloud Peak but when we reached the summit we were greeted with dark clouds and pea-size hail. Fortunately there was no thunder or lightning but new all decided to take a few quick photos and get the Hell off the mountain before the weather got worse! We rushed down the steep section of Redcloud and when we reached the basin I was able to run (term used loosely) the final 3 miles back to the trailhead.
Although I actually climbed three 14ers I can only count or add two to my list. I have now completed 26 of Colorado’s 54 - 14ers! I figured the hike was about 17 miles and the total time was 6:51 so I was pleased with the day. I was exhausted – again- and the long 4-hr drive back home was difficult. I slept 10 hrs last night and am still tired so am taking a rest day. I plan to climb a few more 14ers in the local area during the next few weeks to maintain my high-altitude acclimation in preparation for Pike’s Peak.

Stay tuned!

RR - Kendall Mountain

Race Report
Sat, Jul 17/10
Kendall Mountain Marathon
Silverton, CO
Marathon #333
7:36:55 – 1 AG – 6 OA

This was an unplanned/unscheduled race. I was looking for a race in mid-July to maintain my marathon conditioning but I didn’t want to spend money on air travel etc. I searched the local Colorado race calendar and found a new (inaugural) marathon to be run in Silverton, CO. That is a real pretty area of CO and also close to many 14ers that I had not yet climbed. After many attempts to contact the race director who chose to ignore my emails/phone messages for more info I decided to drive to Silverton the day before the race. If the race didn’t happen I could always climb some of those 14ers?

I drove west and then south through the scenic town of Ouray that sits in a canyon surrounded by the San Juan Mtns. It is also the beginning of the Million Dollar Hwy between Ouray and Silverton – so named because of the Million Dollar views (and no guard rails to obstruct those views)! I took many photos of these and other beautiful scenery of CO to share with my readers. When I arrived in Silverton I found registration/packet pick-up – not where it was supposed to be and none of the race volunteers could provide information on the race or course. I signed up and then found the man in charge of the race timing. He was most helpful and provided me with most of the information I needed. Warning – there is very little info on the website for this race and the race director will not respond to emails/etc. It was difficult to get info on logistics and the course even after I registered. For this and other reasons to be discussed I do not recommend this race!

The most important Information I learned was that the Kendall Mtn Run – a half marathon – had been run for 32 years and this year a marathon had been added. The marathon would be two loops of the half course. I had mistakenly interpreted the info on the website to mean that the half marathon course started in Silverton and finished at the summit of Kendall Mtn! WRONG! The course started in Silverton (elevation 9318 ft) and climbed 3748 vertical ft over 6.5 miles to the summit of Kendall Mtn (13,066 ft) – and returned to Silverton. Like I said the lucky marathoners got to run two loops! I asked about aid stations – there were supposedly five but the locations were not known? That was an important detail because I needed to know what waist/water belt to wear? I decided that I would wear a larger, more cumbersome belt to start the race because I wanted to carry a camera to take photos for my readers -because there was another strange twist (noted on the website). The course followed a very steep 4X4 road for the first 5.85 miles and then ended at 12,800 ft – no road and no trail. For the final 266 vertical ft and .65 miles runners were forced to scramble (on hands and feet) and bushwhack to the summit of Kendall Mtn! I knew that would present some great photos of the race!

As I walked around Silverton and looked up at Kendall Mtn that towered above the town on the East it looked intimidating and scary. I drove the first few miles of the (very steep) 4X4 road and confirmed that there would be a lot of walking involved and early in the race!

Sat was ‘M’ Day! The race started at 8am – sunny and a warm temp of 50F with temps forecast in the low 80s. I decided not to carry warm clothes but still wore the larger waist belt to carry my water, carbo gels and camera. I parked my car at the finish line so I could switch to a smaller belt (or discard the belt) at the Half. There were over 100 runners in the Half but only 12 in the marathon. Marathoners had a blue bib so we could identify our competitors. I managed to run the 1st mile but was then reduced to walking with most of the runners. The 1st water station was located at 1.6 miles. I will compliment the race organization on the water stations. They were located approx. every 2 miles and had lots of water, energy drink, food and carbo gels. I reached the 2nd water stop at 3.4 miles in 54:10. The next 1.7 miles of the course climbed very steeply (45 % grade) and relentlessly to the 3rd water stop at 5.1 miles (1:33:09 and a split of 38.58). The course then made a 180 degree switchback and climbed steeply to the next water stop and the end of the road at 5.85 miles. I could see runners ahead scrambling up the steep summit and I was scared! I am afraid of heights! I reached the end of the road and started to follow the route that other runners were using to scramble up the mtn. I kept my eyes focused on the mtn and refused to look down until I reached the summit (13,066 ft) in 2:06:32. I stopped to take a few photos and wash down a carbo gel. Yes they had a water stop on the top of the mtn? I don’t know how they carried those gallon jugs of water up there? Now for the scariest part of the course – I had to scramble back down to the road – and I was terrified! I side stepped down most of the scramble/descent to maintain total control and prevent a fall and injury. It took 16:02 to descend .65 miles! But the next 6 miles was all downhill and steep. So steep in fact that it was difficult to control my pace and speed - any small mistake and losing control would result in a serious fall and injury! About half way down the descent I passed the lead runner – a local elite female who was running up the ascent for the 2nd loop. She was so far ahead of everybody else! Nobody was even close! As I passed other marathoners starting their 2nd loop we looked at each other and exclaimed that we had to be totally crazy to run a 2nd loop of this nasty/challenging/insane course! I reached the Half in 3:30:44.

I switched my waist belt to a smaller belt. It was necessary to carry water since it was taking 40 to 50 minutes to walk/climb the 2 miles between water stops on the ascent and that is too long to go w/o water in the mtns! I didn’t need the camera any more so a smaller belt would be lighter and less cumbersome. I think I was delaying the agony of starting the 2nd loop. I really didn’t want to run a 2nd loop. A person had to be crazy to run a 2nd loop! Maddog (appropriately named for this situation) screamed that I paid for a marathon and I needed to get my money’s worth! As far as I was concerned I had already got my money’s worth! Reluctantly I started climbing/walking back up Kendall Mtn. I knew the 2nd Half would be much slower. I figured 4 hrs would be a good target? I reached the 2nd water stop at 3.4 miles (16.6 miles) in 4:35:13 and a split of 1:04:28. On the 1st ascent I had been able to run the very few flat and downhill sections – but not on the 2nd ascent! I was trying to conserve energy for the scramble and final descent. I caught 3 runners – one female and two young males who were cramping badly and had to drop out. I reached the end of the road at 18.95 miles in 5:24:20. I was all alone on the scramble – nobody to follow up the ascent. I reached the summit in 6:01:47 and a split of 37:26 for .65 miles!

I might have stayed there on the summit because I was too scared to scramble back down. However a few drops of rain, a boom and a flash of lightning quickly changed my mind. I needed to get off the mountain! Even the race volunteer was concerned about staying up there! It still took me 17:56 to scramble that short .65 miles descent but then I was back on the road. I decided to take a risk and push the pace on the steep descent. My legs were trashed – they were sore and stiff and my quads screamed at me as they tried to keep the old bod in control on that terribly steep descent. Then my heart monitor alarm started beeping? I was pushing the old ticker at 100% Max! I figured it was an incorrect reading and adjusted the strap. The alarm still beeped a warning sound? I figured it had to be a combination of the exhaustion and pace plus the anxiety I felt at risking a serious fall and injury by pushing the pace? So I ignored the monitor and continued to push the pace until I crossed the finish line in 7:36:55!

I was totally fatigued and beat up. One spectator asked if I had fallen or rolled down the scramble since my clothes were covered in dirt. I replied that safety on the scramble was my priority – not cleanliness!
I collected my finish medal- got in the car and drove to the hotel. After a long hot soak to soothe tired/sore muscles and wash away tons of dirt I returned to the finish line to check results. The timer was kind enough to print me a copy of the final results. I had finished 1st AG and 6th Overall. The 1st AG was a given since I was the oldest runner in the race – by many years. The 6th OA felt good in such a tough/challenging race. I may need to revise my ratings for the world’s toughest marathons after that race. One thing I am absolutely certain of – once was enough – I will never run the Kendall Mountain Marathon again!

It was 5 pm – I had not eaten all day (except carbo gels). I went for an early dinner but I was so exhausted and felt so poorly that I could hardly eat so I went to bed and slept 11 hrs!

On Sun I planned to climb a 14er near Silverton but in spite of my normally-reliable 14er guide and directions from the hotel I could not find the trailhead. I think I did eventually find it but it had no signs or markings and I was not willing to venture off into the wilderness of the San Juan Mtns w/o confirming the trail and destination. Instead I took a ‘forced’ rest day and drove around the San Juan Mtns to Lake City on the East side of the mtns where the access and trailheads were much better for the 14ers I wanted to climb.

On Mon I woke early and arrived at the trailhead by 7am so I could score a triple-dipper - by climbing three 14ers in the same day. A 17-mile hike/run with three 14ers in 7 hrs. More details to be provided in a separate 14er report!

Maddog enjoyed a great weekend of high altitude endurance training to prepare for the Pike’s Peak Marathon. I am ready! I wish the race was in two weeks instead of 5 weeks because I am tired of training for it!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

RR - Leadville Trail Marathon

Race Report
Sat, July 3/10
Leadville Trail Marathon
Leadville, CO
Marathon #332
6:31:14 – 3AG


What better way to describe this race. I didn’t have a lot of confidence going into this race in spite of two high-altitude training runs on trails in the past few weeks that seemed to go OK.
I ran this race two times before – the last time being five years ago when I set my PR of 5:41 in what I rate as the 4th toughest marathon in the world! Because of the degradation/deterioration I have noted in my finish times in mtn races this summer I figured that a target of 6:30 would probably be reasonable/realistic although I hoped to finish under 6:15?
The race starts/finishes in downtown Leadville at 10,200 ft and climbs to the highest elevation at the top of Mosquito Pass (13,185 ft) at the Half. This year there was also a Half Marathon that turned out to be an annoyance as far as I am concerned.

The weather forecast called for great weather and it was sunny and a pleasant 51 F when I lined up with about 800 runners for the 8 am start. Because the forecast called for temps in the mid 60s by the time I finished with no thunderstorms or snow I decided not to wear a cumbersome waist pack that could carry survival gear as well as water. It tends to bounce or flop around and is annoying – especially when I expected to be out on the course for 6+ hrs! Instead I wore a smaller waist pack that could carry one bottle of water and some carbo gel. It is absolutely essential to carry water in this race. The water stops are about 3 miles apart but in the mtns that can take more than 1 hr and it is dangerous to go that long in the thin, dry mtn air w/o water! There would be a risk of severe dehydration!

As soon as the race started I knew it was not going to be a good day! The course climbs east out of Leadville for the first 1 ½ miles to a rough 4X4 road that climbs steeply (1500 vertical ft over 2 miles) up Ball Mtn in the Mosquito Range. I normally run that entire first section but was forced to walk a few steep sections of the paved and dirt roads at 10,500 ft. That was not a good sign! The Half runners split off before we reached the 4X4 road and I followed a pack of marathon runners as we walked/hiked up the steep, rough road. It was impossible to run – the trail was too steep! I reached the 1st water stop at the top of Ball Mtn (12,000 ft) at 3.8 miles in 1:00:13 - six minutes behind my PR time! I filled my water bottle and washed down my 1st carbo gel before starting what I consider to be one of the toughest loops in any race. It descends and then than ascends more than 1000 vertical ft on Ball Mtn – twice in 3.3 miles - before returning to the same water stop at 7.1 miles! I made it back to the water stop in 1:50:11 and a split of 49:58. I was looking forward to the next section of the course – a descent of 1,000 ft over 2.7 miles on an old mining road to the entrance of Mosquito Pass. I pushed the pace to sub 10-min pace and reached the water stop at 9.8 miles in 2:14:52 and a split of 24:41. The bad news was that I normally reached that water stop under 2 hrs – I was 16 minutes behind my PR time!

Now I faced the toughest section of the course – a 2085 vertical ft ascent over 3.3 miles to the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,185 ft! And my poor old legs had already run more than 6000 ft of elevation change! I was able to run the bottom section of the 4X4 road that climbs Mosquito Pass but was soon relegated to following the other runners who were walking/hiking. And then the Half runners became a nuisance. We were climbing Mosquito Pass while the mid-pack and slower Half runners were descending and the road/trail was crowded with runners. It was difficult to select or claim the best/safest part of the road/trail and required watching each foot plant while trying to watch for downhill runners! It was very annoying and unnerving because I was concerned about suffering a bad fall. When I passed the 12,500 ft elevation and began the steepest section of the trail I started to suffer minor stomach cramps – one of my early symptoms of altitude sickness. Luckily they did not get worse and I was able to ignore them and reached the top of Mosquito Pass and the Half in 3:26:55 and a split of 1:12:02. That was only a few minutes slower than my trial run last week so I was happy with that time – but the bad news was that I normally reached the top of the Pass close to 3 hrs! The good news was that this race is one of the few where you can expect to run a negative split because the 2nd Half starts with the descent down Mosquito Pass. Unfortunately I was not able to push the pace as fast as I wanted on the descent because of the number of runners sharing the trail. I was not willing to risk a fall and a severe injury! I returned to the water stop at the entrance of Mosquito Pass in 4:11:20 and a split of 44:25 – much too slow for that descent!

Now I was really concerned! I am normally back at the top of Ball Mtn in 4:15 – and I still had 2.7 miles of ascent back up the mining road to the top of Ball Mtn. Certainly my ‘dream’ of a sub - 6:15 was gone and even my target of 6:30 was looking bleak? I tried valiantly to push the pace back up that ascent of 1000 vertical ft but sadly was forced to walk (too) many sections. My legs seemed willing but the old lungs could not suck in enough of the thin air to keep them churning? I reached the water stop on the top of Ball Mtn (12,000 ft) in 4:50:35 and a split of 39:15. Maybe there was still hope. If I could run the reverse loop around Ball Mtn under 1 hr there was still a chance? I continued to push the pace on every downhill and (few) flat sections and hike the ascents as fast as possible. That loop is an absolute bitch – especially on the 2nd Half. As I pushed up the final ascent of that loop just before returning to the water stop I was sucking desperately for air and suffering stomach cramps (altitude sickness) again. But I reached the water stop at 22.4 miles in 5:44:34 and a split of 53:58. There was still hope because the last 4 miles were downhill and I had run them in 45 minutes before!

I decided to accept the risk and push the pace on the descent down the steep and treacherous trail and all went well for the 1st mile - but then disaster(s) struck. The trail was very steep and dangerous. It required a lot of zigzagging across the trail to pick out the best/safest spots for a foot plant and that created a lot of stress on muscles not normally used by road runners. I wasn’t surprised when my right adductor cramped and started to lock up. Luckily I was able to step off the trail quickly to massage and stretch the muscle and after a few minutes it relaxed enough to continue running. However about 5 minutes later the left adductor cramped and locked up. The pain was immediate and so excruciating that I collapsed in the middle of the steep trail and rolled around looking for a position – any position – to decrease the pain so I could massage the muscle and get it to relax and release! It took a few minutes of screaming and pain before the muscle released but I still couldn’t walk. The trail was so steep that any effort to walk stressed the adductor muscle and it started to cramp again. I was forced to side-step down the trail for a few minutes so that all the stress was on my right (downhill) leg! By then I realized that any hope of finishing under my target of 6:30 had been blown to Hell. That observation was confirmed when I reached the road on the outskirts of Leadville in 6:18. I had 12 min left for the final 1 ½ miles. A sub-8min pace at 10,500 ft is difficult enough – but attempting to push the pace that fast while preventing any further stress on two screwed-up adductors was impossible!

I wisely decided not to risk an injury for the sake of a few minutes and cruised the final 1 ½ miles to cross the finish line in 6:31:14. Since I finished close to my target time I had to be happy with my time.
After taking my usual finish line photo I checked the results posted at the finish line. I was the 1st old fart over 65 to cross the finish line. Unfortunately the Age Groups were 10 years (i.e. 60 to 69) and it is very difficult to compete against the youngsters in that AG so I was not surprised or disappointed to learn that I placed 4th in the AG. However I was totally shocked and still do not believe the time of the winner in the 60+ AG – 4:07! That time is not believable for a 60 year old! Typically a runner should add 2 to 2 ½ hrs to his normal road race time for this race (i.e. 6:30 should be a reasonable target for me since I run 4 hrs in a road race). Elite young runners might finish 1 to 1 ½ hrs slower than their road race time. That means that the 60-year old runner can run a road marathon in 2:30? I think NOT!!! I am waiting anxiously for the official results to see if there was a mistake and correction?

So I was happy with my time. But I was definitely NOT happy with my performance! Right from the start I didn’t seem to have the energy or capability to push the old bod on the ascents and more importantly I didn’t seem to have the mental toughness needed to ignore or accept the pain to make the effort! And right from the start my body clearly and unequivocally was giving me some important advice: “I am too damn OLD for this Mountain Trail Marathon SHIT”!!!!!

Many road runners switch to trail marathons at the end of their running careers because they claim it is easier on their bodies since the pace is slower. BULLSHIT! I monitored my heart rate monitor closely and carefully throughout the entire race (I had lots of free time since I was running so slowly). When I was hiking/climbing the ascents as fast/hard as I could my heart rate was between 140 to 145bpm (85% Max) – the typical range for when I run an 8 to 9 min pace in a road race. It was in the same range when I was pushing the pace on the descents so that means that I pushed my OLD ticker and OLD bod at 85% Max for 6 ½ hrs vs 4 hrs in a road race! I reluctantly agree with my OLD bod – “I am too damn OLD for this Mountain Trail Marathon SHIT”!!! This was my 3rd and final Leadville Trail Marathon!I will NEVER run the Leadville Trail Marathon again. I told the Sports Manager that if I even mention the idea (again) she has standing orders to have me committed or shoot me to save me all the agony and pain!

I would like to vow that I will never run another Mountain Trail Marathon again but I have a wee dilemma. Early in the year in my na├»ve and exuberant zest to prove my ever-lasting youth and invincibility I regretfully signed up for yet another Mountain Trail Marathon – the toughest marathon course in the world – Pike’s Peak! Thus I am forced to train hard(er) for the next month – but if I do not see or feel any improvement in my conditioning – especially in my capability to run ascents above 10,000 ft – I will withdraw from Pike’s Peak!! I just do not have the desire/motivation or willingness to accept the pain for the 7 hrs I predict it would take to finish Pike’s Peak!

Stay tuned!

Footnote: After contacting the race director I finally received news that the 60-year old runner who finished in a remarkable 4:07 had indeed run only the Half. Thus Maddog got elevated to 3rd AG!