Sunday, November 17, 2013

Running and Riding for the Sheer Joy of it.

Throughout most of my life I have always done everything with a goal in mind. In order to train hard I usually need a race or series or event for motivation. One of the things I love about the fall season is that racing is over and riding and running doesn’t really have a purpose other than doing it for the sheer joy of doing it.

Yesterday while running with Max in Ute Park I couldn’t help but feel appreciation for everything, especially the pleasure of just being in an incredible place running with my best friend. I appreciate running in Ute Park even more since it came so close to being developed. Thanks to Friends ofUte Valley Park, tons of fund raising, and people getting involved we were able to keep this amazing place as it is.
Max at Ute Valley Park

Today I spent close to 5 hours riding trails ranging from fast fun single track to very technical rocks without ever leaving the city limits. Ute Park, Pulpit Rock, Palmer Park; it’s incredible what we can ride right in our “back yard”. This was one of those special days, riding with friends on great trails with great scenery and everything seemed to just flow. Like so often when we get on these kind of rides, we’re kids again out riding out bikes.
The "boys" Palmer Park

Jeff at Palmer Park

An awesome Sunday Morning!

Earlier this week I went up the Incline with Max, and again, had nothing but appreciation for our life here. Max loved it, I loved it, and it was just a great way to start off the morning. The Incline is an old abandoned cog railway that rises over 2,000 feet in less than a mile. Way better than a stair stepper at the gym. It’s been a while since I been up the Incline and the work that “Incline Friends” has done definitely shows.
Let's go dad Catch up!

Best Friends at the top of the Incline

So I’m not sure what the point of by blabbering is. I would just like to encourage everyone to get outside, take a walk, a run, a bike ride or whatever and just appreciate this incredible planet we live on.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Catching up on Summer

I can’t believe it’s been over five months since I’ve last written.  Time just flies by and before you know it the season is over and we’re looking at winter dead in the face.  So the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series ended with the Breckenridge 100, which was a fitting final for a long hard series. The Breck 100 has got to be among the toughest if not the toughest 100 mile mountain bike race in the country. I won’t try to compare it to the Leadville Trail 100 because with the exception that they are both 100 miles and at high altitude, there really is no comparison. With tons of single track both technical and fast and close to 14,000 feet of climbing, Breck is certainly a challenge.  And if this race wasn’t challenging enough, this year we got caught in a very cold and hard storm about 80 miles into it. I had to stay within 3 or 4 places of Mark Wallace in the 50+ age group to win the overall series. Mark won and I was second so I held on to the series win. Believe me it was not because I was the fastest. Mark destroyed me in every race. He just missed one race and lost the points for that race. He was way faster than me.

Climbing Little French Gulch Breckenridge 100
Courtesy of Mountain Moon Photography
My friend Kevin Cahn had an incredible series and race as well. Up until this year he could rarely complete a long training ride or race of any distance without suffering severe cramps. This year he trained hard, worked on his nutrition, learned to pace himself and did the whole series without a single cramp. Not only that, he finished top  12 in the 40 – 49 age group at the Breckenridge 100, the first 100 mile mountain bike race he  ever did. Wow talk about taking on a challenge!

 Kevin passing through Start/Finish Area (Courtesy of Mountain Moon Photography)
I have to put in a plug for Thane Wright and his crew for putting on such an awesome series. Kevin and I volunteered to help at a couple of the races and got to see first-hand how hard he and his crew work. Putting on races of this caliber and magnitude is no trivial task. These races are well organized, challenging, and fun; and Thane does an incredible job.
Another highlight of the summer was helping crew and pace my friend Matt Larsen through the Leadville Trail 100 run. It was Matt’s first 100 mile run and he was awesome. Like any 100 mile run, he had his lows and highs but just kept going without a word of complaint. It was an honor to be part of his incredible accomplishment.
 Matt on 2nd crossing of Hope Pass (Leadville Trail 100)
Besides working, training, and racing this year, I have been going to school.  This is the main reason I haven’t been updating my blog. Between work, riding, running, racing & school there hasn’t been time for much else. I’ve written what seems like a million papers since last spring and by the time I get my homework done, I’m exhausted.  I’ve been using my years of experience, along with seeking the expertise of my mentor, Sharon McDowell-Larsen to coach on and off for the last couple years and find I really enjoy it. I love helping people achieve a goal or dream they never thought possible.  One of my proudest moments was watching a high school friend cross the finish line of her first marathon in Akron, OH. It was a feeling I’ll never forget. So I’ve been working on a degree in exercise science to learn the science behind my years of experience. I want to be the best coach I can be. This pursuit has been challenging and super interesting. I really love it and time is just flying by. 
With that said, I will take on 2 – 3 athletes for 2014. The reason I keep it to so few is I want to make sure you get my full attention.  I’m looking for clients that want to achieve something extraordinary.  Since I am a two time Leadman champion, I am particularly interested in helping potential Lead-men/women achieve that goal. If you’re thinking about Lead man/woman or other challenges this summer, now is the time to start the preparation!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Snake River Challenge was Quite the Challenge!

Climb, climb, then climb some more. That has been my motto over the last month and at Snake River it paid off. One of the things I love about racing is the training. I can’t explain it but I love to go out and ride all day in the mountains. It doesn’t matter if its road or mountain bike. And yes I love finding a long steep hill and climbing it again and again. Since I averaged over 20,000 feet of climbing each week this month, June was a great month.  This included awesome rides like the 111 mile Breckenridge – Copper – Leadville – Minturn – Vail – Copper – Breckenridge Loop and the Mt Baldy – Jones Park – Pipeline trail MTB Ride, etc. I even got in on the Colorado Springs Sunday group ride, which I haven’t done in years.

Sharon and Kevin heading toward Leadville


View of Pikes Peak from Mt. Baldy
So with all that climbing I felt very good about my chances at the Snake River Challenge.  Kevin Cahn, Ralph Bateman, Dave Andrus, and I went out a week before to pre-ride the course. For some reason every time I pre-ride a course I find a section that makes me nervous. This time it was the descent down a black rated trail called TNT. Trails at Keystone are rated by their difficulty just like ski runs; Green – easy, blue – moderate to difficult, black – difficult to crazy. So all week I thought about this trail and if I was going to crash and get seriously injured. I can’t count the times that I’ve lost sleep about sections of various courses after I pre-rode them. What happens every time though is once the race is on I focus on racing and the trail doesn’t seem anywhere as dangerous as I had built it up to be. So was the case at Snake River.

Four Old Guys Still Playing Like Boys
Snake River Challenge is a 3 lap course at the Keystone Ski Resort that amounted to 55.7 miles and 10,217 feet of climbing. Although we did three laps we essentially climbed the mountain six times. Right from the beginning we started with a steep dirt road climb that led to a single track that zigzagged its way up the mountain, ending about ¾ from the top. We immediately jumped on the “blue” Mosquito Coast trail which took us almost back down to the bottom of the mountain. From there we climbed a dirt road to the very top at almost 12,000 feet. We then proceeded to a trail called 11-7 (due to it being at 11,700 ft) which was a rolling fun trail interspersed with rock gardens to keep you honest.  This trail looped back around to the top of the mountain from which we descended a series of black, blue and green trails to the bottom. These trails were rough, and TNT was especially steep, rocky and loose.

Lettin er Rip
(Courtesy of Mountain Moon Photography)
So the first lap went well, although I struggled a bit on the initial single track climb. Once we descended and started the second climb up the road I found my rhythm.  Even though it is a long and steep climb I was enjoying it. Hit 11-7 with good speed right through the rock gardens and powered up the short punchy climbs. The descent went like a dream and even though it was extremely rough, I felt so smooth and fast coming down. On the second lap I felt even better on the climb and after finishing the 11-7 loop, I knew I had enough in the tank to really push on the third loop. But that is where I ran into a problem.

Awesome Trails in an Awesome Place
(Courtesy of Mountain Moon Photography)
On the descent through the TNT section I slammed my back wheel hard against a rock and heard something break. I didn’t know what it was until I tried to shift gears and nothing happened. Stopped and realize I broke my derailleur cable and only had one gear in the back which was the smallest cog or hardest gear.  I continued down knowing that there is no way I could do the third lap climb in that gear.

Spent most of last lap standing while pedaling
(Courtesy of Mountain Moon Photography)
Each lap starts out especially steep right off the bat. I could not turn the pedals and had to push. When it got less steep I would attempt to ride, but I was up out of the saddle barely able to turn the cranks. And this would only last a couple hundred yards before I had to get off and push again. I began thinking this was useless and I might as well turn around and call it a day. Just as I was about to give up, the trail would flatten out just a bit and keep me going. Then off and pushing again and wondering if I should turn around. Upon hitting the single track another racer suggested adjusting the high limit screw and see if the chain would move up a couple of cogs. I did and it worked. I was able to move it up two cogs making it two gears easier. It was still extremely hard but at least it was doable. For the rest of the climb I tried to get momentum whenever I could then punch as hard as I could sometimes barely turning the cranks to get over the next steep. This went on for what seemed like hours. Everything hurt, my back was screaming, my calves were screaming, my lungs felt like they were going to explode, and my heart felt like it was coming out my chest. Not to mention after particularly hard efforts I got light-headed.  This was most likely due to working so hard at such the high altitude. Despite all this I was passing people all the way up the climb and nobody passed me. Finally the top but no reprieve; still had to do the 11-7 loop, which almost did me in. This loop had a lot of short punchy climbs through rock gardens that were incredibly hard to get through in that gear. A thought did occur to me to just throw my bike down the mountain and sit on a rock and die. But then I was so close to the descent, I couldn’t just give up. Finally off the 11-7 loop, up the short single track to begin the descent.

The descent was such a relief.  I didn’t go as fast as I could have, because I thought how much it would suck if after all that I got a flat on the way down. Finally down to the finish. Made it! And second place in the old guy’s category to boot. I found out later only two guys in the old guy’s category finished, but I’ll take it. So in the end, I came out in pretty good shape, still holding the lead in the overall series.  One more race - the Mighty Breckenridge 100. It’s been said, that Snake River Challenge was just a warm-up.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rocky Mountain Endurance Series in Full Swing!

Rocky Mountain Endurance Series – Kinda like Leadman without the running! What a spring it’s been so far. Kevin Cahn and I signed up for the whole Rocky  Mountain Endurance Series, which is six ultra-endurance mountain bike races spread through May, June and July. The first four were two weeks apart from each other and now we have a four week break before the two monsters; Snake River and the Breckenridge 100. I got to give a big hand to Kevin. In his first season of real racing he chose to go with hard core of the hard core and he’s hanging in there just fine.
So the first four races are history, and it’s been quite the adventure. It’s the first time in years I’ve focused exclusively on mountain bike racing and it showed. I’m getting there though. Last week I made the podium in a big race for the first time since my Hep C adventure. It was also the first race I felt like I was racing instead of just riding. A great feeling!

A quick summary of the races so far:
Ridgeline Rampage Single Track!
Ridgeline Rampage: I was pretty nervous leading up to this race. I pre-rode the course the week before and it was deceptively hard. There were no huge climbs but tons of little ones. Tight twisty single track for most of the course with ups and down throughout. This kind of course can really wear on you.  I started very conservatively with this in mind but pretty much never got out of that mode. We were doing six 20 mile laps for a total of 60 miles. I got passed toward the end of the 1st lap by a 65 year old. I thought “no worries, I’ll see him later”. Didn’t happen. That guy is now my inspiration! I stayed conservative through 5 laps, worried that I’d blow up, then finally picked it up the 6th lap. I rode like it was a one lap race, passing tons of 20, 30, 40 year olds, but no 50 year olds.  (Our age is written on the back of our left calf).  Where were they? Obviously way ahead of me.  Finished 5th in the 50+.  5 hrs 28  min, 5,288 ft climbing. Good to be back.
 The highest Point of Battle the Bear

Battle the Bear: I’ve done battle the Bear before and it’s a fast non-technical course with five small climbs per lap for six laps. I think I had a good race, but results were a little disappointing. The start was fast right out of the blocks.  Started out with the lead group, but two guys took off the front and there was no way to go with them and hold on for the whole race. Got in a group of four and we went back and forth through the first lap. Starting the 2nd lap one got away on the first climb. I was able to out climb the other two but they would close in on me on the flats or when I got stuck behind younger age group riders. Went back and forth through the third lap, then I pitted on the fourth and got left behind. Chased pretty hard through the 4th lap, then for some reason got a bloody nose on the 5th. Spent the 5th lap trying to make my nose stop bleeding, because I was bleeding all over everything. The 6th and final lap I opened it up and hammered the 1st half. Then I got caught behind what looked like 100 kids in the kids race. Just had to fall in the crowd and pretty much shut it down. Some of those kids were really shaky (and scary to watch) on the descents. I certainly didn't want to put any extra pressure on them trying to get around them. Anyway, finished strong and was consistent through the whole race. Just couldn’t put in the extra effort and respond to the attacks. Finished 6th in the old guys category.
A long Fast Descent at Indian Creek
Indian Creek: All I can say is Wow! 53 miles and over 9,000 ft of climbing. Among the hardest if not the hardest 50 mile mountain bike race I've ever done. Absolutely Brutal. By the end of the 2nd lap (of 3) I was not racing any more, just focused on finishing. On the third lap it was total survival. Just keep pedaling. Lots of hike a bike, and long descents, followed by long steep climbs. I was definitely  not on my game descending and really lost a lot of time on them. Finished 7th out of 7 finishers in the old guy race. About half the field DNF'd.  Even though I felt good in the beginning, I felt I wasn't climbing as well as I used to, and my descending was very slow. Really need to work on that.

Lettin er Rip at PV Cycle Derby
PV Cycle Derby:  66 miles 5,000 ft of climbing. The best race of the year so far. For the first time I felt like I was racing from beginning to end. Awesome course with tons of single-track and good mix of technical. Very similar to Palmer Park and Ute Park type riding. Went hard the 1st lap then relaxed on the 2nd lap as this was going to be a long day in the saddle and I needed to stay relaxed through the technical sections and not be all tense. The 3rd lap, especially the 2nd half really turned it on, pushing it the hardest I’ve pushed so far this  year. Felt like my old self again! Caught and passed several guys in my age group and finished third. As I mentioned earlier, my first podium finish in a few years.

So after four races I’m actually leading the series for the old guys. Not because I’m the fastest, but the only one to complete all four races. The two big ones are coming up though. I think Snake River is going to be brutal, and the Breck 100 is one of, if not the toughest 100 mile mountain bike race in the country. So the training theme over the next few weeks is climb, climb, then climb some more. When I get to the point that I think I can’t climb another hill, climb two more!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Playing in the Snow!

Despite the fact that this was a recovery week, it was full of variety and I got to mix things up very nicely. We finally got some decent snow, so Max and I went snow biking. Well I at least rode the bike. Max ran, mountain biking is a trick he hasn’t quite mastered yet. I also got in a couple short runs with no sign of pain, so I’ll start bringing running back into the routine. My focus will still be mountain biking this summer though.
Snow Biking with Max

When Max and I ride/run in the early morning, we run along a creek and Max often lurches and growls at the other side. Since we are up way before sunrise I cannot see anything but darkness, so I had no idea what has been grabbing his attention most mornings. This week we had bright fresh snow reflecting the light from the stars and moon almost making it seem like daylight. When Max started lurching at the creek, I looked over and saw a coyote on the other side running along beside us. He ran with us for quite a way before disappearing off through someone’s back yard. As we got a mile or so further Max took off like he was chasing a rabbit and disappeared around a turn in the trail. As I come around the bend I saw him chasing a coyote much bigger than himself. A smaller coyote came out from a clump of bushes and Max went after him. This one seemed to be much younger and actually appeared to want to play. Max and the coyote seemed to be playing, running in and out of the trees until Mr. Coyote saw me approaching and then decided to beat feet out of the area. Max started to go after him but I called him back and we continued our run. Another mile or so later out of the corner of my eye, I caught yet another coyote running alongside us on the other side of the creek. Throughout the rest of the week, I spotted at least one coyote during our morning run/rides. The night, illuminated by the snow’s light reflection, enable me to see these guys when I otherwise wouldn’t. Judging by Max’s reaction, they’re there every morning, I just never saw them until now.
Max Sniffing Coyote Tracks
Let's Go!!!

As much fun as it is to play in the snow, it can be a bit treacherous when commuting to and from work. It appears the city of Colorado Springs forgot there is a northern part of town, at least when it comes to snowplows. Many of the side streets through the neighborhoods have turned to solid sheets of ice. I almost went down once in traffic but somehow stayed up after hitting an icy patch. I did go down on a side road with no traffic and slid about a 100 feet on my chest and face. Lucky it was all ice so no road rash. Other than that, I welcome the snow, we certainly need it. And it is SO fun to go snow biking on the trails.

As far as training, it was quite a mix this week. Snow biking, commuting, road riding, trainer rides, and a couple runs. And this was an easy recovery week! Next week, starts another four week phase that will raise the bar for both intensity and endurance. Looking forward to it!
Hitting the Hills at the Air Force Academy
Stats for the week:
Distance: 166.55 mi
Time: 16:23:35 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 6,223 ft
Avg Speed: 11.6 mph
Avg HR: 112 bpm

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Feb on the Bike

Dan Durland, Kevin Cahn, and Kara Durland
Pueblo Reservoir
Plantar Facetious can be a stubborn injury. After weeks of absolutely zero running, lots of stretching, icing, and doing all the things one is supposed to do my foot is still not ready to return to the runner’s world. At the end of six weeks it felt like the pain was completely gone so I gave it a shot and went for a very slow three mile run with Max. It felt OK with no pain. I waited two days and did a four mile run; still no pain. The following weekend, four miles on Saturday and seven on Sunday. Slight pain Sunday evening but gone by Monday. Seven miles on Tuesday and still OK. Thursday an eight mile run and the pain returned, not bad, but it was back. So with that I’ve decided to scratch running the Ave of Giants Marathon and pretty much scratch running altogether and focus on mountain biking, this year.

The good news is without all the running, I am feeling very strong on the bike. Training has been awesome and I can feel my power and enthusiasm returning to pre-running levels. I look forward to hard intense rides and am beginning to feel like I belong in fast group rides again. Max certainly misses the daily runs, but I’ve been taking him out mountain biking 2 – 3 times a week; albeit on  dark & chilly 4:30 am February mornings!

In my opinion there is a big difference in training for cycling  vs running. Maybe I’d change my opinion if I trained specifically for running, but I feel cycling requires much more “intense” training than running. Running races (and running in general) is much more steady then cycling. In running one tends to go at a consistent effort while cycling is much more like doing intervals for hours at a time. I once ran a 10 mile race and my average heart rate was 160 beats per minute.  I rode a three hour mountain bike race and my average heart rate was 160 beats per minute. However when the heart rates were graphed they didn’t look anything alike. My run graph was almost a straight line with my heart rate pretty much steady between 158 and 162. The graph from the mountain bike race however was all over the place, ranging from the low 140s to the low 180s.  So in that respect the two disciplines are nothing alike.
February has been very unseasonalably warm in Colorado Springs, with temps in the 40s and 50s during the day and very little snow. While this isn’t a good thing for the environment, it does provide the opportunity to get in some decent training. So far this winter I’ve been consistently getting in 200+ miles a week of riding. This is mainly due to not sharing my workouts with running but the abnormally warm weather is also playing a role.  This week was almost perfect - two good hard tempo rides, a super hard mountain bike ride with the God and Goddess of Single Speeds; Dan & Kara Durland, and a long 4 ½ hour road ride to end the week.

Goddess of the Single Speed - Kara Durland

This week was also the third week of a four week cycle, so I’ll be taking a much needed rest next week. Taking a rest week every four or five weeks really helps recharge the batteries both physically and mentally which in the ends helps prevent burn-out or getting into a rut. The last three weeks have been the most consistent, hard, and disciplined training I’ve done in a while. Maybe because I haven’t been mixing the running and biking. I feel good about my progress. I’m looking forward to a rest week and then taking on the next cycle and preparing for a summer of hard racing and adventure!

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 Starting to Take Form

January Riding at Pueblo Reservoir
Kevin, Sharon, Larry
Four weeks without running so far. I am going to make sure my heel heals completely. Maybe after a half century of stubbornness I’ve finally learned. One of my biggest downfalls and the downfalls of many endurance athletes is not having the patience to heal. My running career was ended for a dozen+ years or so when back in my early 30s I wouldn’t let an Achilles tendon injury heal. I struggled for two years always trying to come back too early. Finally, I got into cycling so I could stay in shape while waiting to heal. It wasn’t until I decided to try LeadMan about 15 years later that I started running again. So this time, I will be patient! Four weeks of stretching, icing, and massaging my foot with a tennis ball has help speed the healing process. I think I could start running now, but I’m going to wait another week and start back slowly.

Being able to ride my bike has helped immensely with the wait period. Actually it feels great riding while not being worn out from running. Without long and hard runs before rides my legs feel light and energetic instead of trashed. I’ve just been having a blast going out and tearing it up on the bike. Poor Max certainly misses the running though. He consistently got up with me in the morning with hope that got fainter and fainter that I would take him running. A couple times he’s laid on the floor whining for me to take him. I felt so terrible. So the cure for Max it turns out, is the same for me; take him mountain biking! He loves it! Problem solved for both of us.

Max has to get his running fix behind a Mountain Bike Now
With the injury I’ve been forced to change my plans. One of my goals for the year was to break 3 hours at the Ave of Giants Marathon. That is out the window. Even if I start running next week, I would risk injury again training at the intensity it would take to accomplish that time. So I will run it just for the joy and experience of running through the giant Redwoods! I am also going to shift my focus to bike racing this year, particuarly the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series. The Rocky Mountain Endurance Series includes the Breckenridge 100. This is definitely among the toughest 100 mile mountain bike races in the world. I raced it in 2010 and absolutely loved every mile of it. On the suffer scale you definitely get your money’s worth!

Finally I reached into my bucket list and pulled out the first thing that came out – Ride the Colorado Trail! Ouch! How did that get in there? Well that’s what came out so that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m still in the planning stages as this will be truly epic. Approximately 500 miles of extreme mountain biking at extreme altitude, 300+ miles of single track, and self-supported. This promises to be quite the adventure!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bringing in the New Year

Well it’s that time again, a new year. Time to reflect on the previous year and set goals and plans for the coming year.  Up until December, I really hadn’t come up with any concrete goals athletically, so I was just running and riding for the sheer love of it, and transportation.  During this time I got into the habit of using my bike for just about everything; commuting to work every day, running errands, and even most of my Christmas shopping. Without realizing it I found two huge benefits;
1) It helped keep me in bike shape
2) Other than a trip to Moab, I haven’t put gas in my truck since September and still have a quarter of a tank!

Toward the middle of December I decided to run the Avenue ofGiants Marathon in May. My goal was to go all out and train to run it in under 3 hours. Paid the $80 entry fee and started training. I figured endurance is not an issue, what I need is speed work and lots of it. I think my enthusiasm got the best of me though and I fell victim to what I preach not to do and that is, doing too much too soon.  So now I’m limping around with Plantar Fasciitis. Everyone I’ve talked to that has experienced this wonderful injury says I’m looking at 6 weeks to 6 months of no running. I’m doing everything I can to speed up the healing so we shall see. In the mean time I can still ride my bike!
2012 was good year in that it was the first full year since treatment and I’ve made full recovery. Some highlights include The Coastal Challenge, Ring the Peak (bike & run), The Silver King, Moab, multiple climbs of Pikes Peak, Collegiate Peaks 50, The week- long” gentlemen’s” ride, and Leadman. I may not have done as well as I would have liked in some of these events, but when I think about it, I have to be pretty satisfied to have participated in these adventures while still regaining my strength and confidence from the year before. I really feel thankful and blessed to be able to train for and participate in quests like these.
2012 Highlights

 Silver Rush 50 Mile Run

Silver Rush 50 Mile Run
Leadville Marathon
Ring the Peak (Run)
Ring the Peak (Bike)
Leadville Trail 100 Run
 Leadville Trail 100 Bike
Leadville Trail 100 Bike

Coastal Challenge (Day 2)

Coastal Challenge (Day 3)

Coastal Challenge Day 4

Coastal Challenge Day 6

So I’m really looking forward to 2013. There are a ton of challenges out there. As much as I’d like to run a sub 3 hour marathon at 55, I may just have to wait until I’m 56. If that’s turns out to be the case, I’ll just have to reach down in my bucket list and pull out another adventure!

Have an awesome 2013!