Backing out of Quad Rock

I've concluded that three weeks of rest between Never Summer and Quad Rock (on August 15) won't be enough to do well in the 25 miler. I don't feel sore today other than a little shoulder pain and I felt comfortable on an easy run at Pineridge on Wednesday, but I do feel vaguely weary. My left calf, which I'd injured during the 2019 Quad Rock 50 miler, was feeling strained at the end of Never Summer and will benefit from more rest before any more running or power hiking uphill. I registered for the Black Squirrel Half, which is scheduled for September 12. With luck, that will be my next event. Until the middle of August, I'm going to ease back into weight training, yoga, and mellow runs. After that I'll try a few workouts and set some reasonable goals for Black Squirrel.

Never Summer 100k recap

I concluded 25 weeks of training and finished my first 100k race this morning. By the numbers, the past week is among my top weeks.

  • 21 hours, 32 minutes (#1 longest time on feet)

  • 74.2 miles (#4)

  • 14,295 feet D+ (#3)

The Never Summer 100k starts in Gould, Colorado, an unincorporated former logging community 76 miles west of Fort Collins. I arrived early Friday afternoon, set up my tent, and handed over three bags of supplies to be dropped off along the course. This service allows runners who have no crew, like me, to drop or take gear along the way. I sent gallon ziplock bags with my favorite gels and drink mix to the 17 and 29 mile points. I sent a larger waterproof stuff stack to the station at 44 miles with more gels and drink mix, a change of clothing, an extra rain jacket, and a pair of running shoes. The sugar in my bags amounted to 2500 calories. The race provides food and water at seven stations and I planned to eat another 2500 calories of food like peanut M&M's, bananas, and cheese quesadillas. I avoid soft drinks at home, but embrace the sugar and caffeine in Coca-Cola during races.

After saying bye to my bags I went for an hour long easy run on the first miles of the course, turning around after testing the first climb. Back in camp, I snacked on crackers (200 calories), cooked and slurped up two packs of ramen (400 calories), and washed them down with a double IPA (250 calories). After fluffing up my sleeping bag and pillow, I made a large mug of mint tea and then walked away from the camping area to take pictures of the sunset and reflect on my training. I have felt better the night before a race. I've been getting over a sinus infection; my head was still a bit stuffed up and I had experienced some slow pressure release on the drive over Cameron Pass earlier in the day. Knowing that I had trained well (over 250 miles of running and 48,000 feet of climbing in June) helped me put aside worries about my nose and sinuses.

Last light of day on Seven Utes Mountain

I set an alarm on my phone for 3:45 a.m., but awoke at 2:55 to the clatter of a cowbell sending off the first wave of 10 runners. The race's COVID-19 protocol included wave starts, one every five minutes, to get every runner off the line before the race's nominal start time of 5:20 a.m. My wave began at 4:45. We had overcast, calm, and cool, not cold weather, so I left my jacket and gloves in my vest. We ran and hiked in the dark for most of an hour. I removed and stored my headlamp halfway along the climb up Seven Utes Mountain. I've skied up and down the mountain before, but have never done it in Summer. It affords lovely views and on the descent, just below treeline, is the biggest patch of columbine flowers that I have ever seen.

Dawn on Seven Utes Mountain (11,478 ft), 6:21 a.m.

Participants in previous editions of the race remarked on upsides to the wave starts. The summits and the trails to them were less crowded, and the lines for portable toilets were much shorter.

American Lakes basin, 8:27 a.m.

It took me one hour and nine minutes to get to the top of North Diamond Peak from the base of the climb on Colorado highway 14. That pace was fast enough to pass 15 other runners. At the top, I found a small group (trumpet, guitar, drums) playing "99 Red Balloons". Instead of taking a photo, I put on my jacket and gloves for the first time. A light rain had started.

Medicine Bow Mountains, 10:58 a.m.

I had a misadventure in the middle of the course. Between the Montgomery Pass Ruby Jewel aid stations, somewhere around mile 25, I got off the trail to pee and discovered that my pack was completely unzipped. My rain jacket was missing. I was not so out of my mind yet to dare going above treeline once more without a jacket, so I backtracked to look for it. After hiking a mile, uphill, I found it on the very edge of the trail. Retrieving my jacket cost me almost 30 minutes, but paid off. I needed it on the climb to the cold and rainy saddle above Kelly Lake.

Kelly Lake, 3:25 p.m.

Peaks and lakes aren't the only natural features on the race course. Quaking aspen trees grow tall in extensive groves below Clear Lake. Unblighted large specimens are uncommon and their beauty is striking.

Aspen grove, 6:52 p.m.

I've struggled to stay motivated at the end of races, but not in this one. I left the Clearly Canadian aid station at mile 44 with fresh, dry socks and shoes, a turkey and cheese wrap in my hand, and didn't look back. The sky cleared and the trail dried and turned very runnable. On the way to the Bockman aid station I met Jim Wei, a runner from Colorado Springs, and we pushed each other to the finish. I moved up 24 places in the last 17 miles and Jim moved up 25. He was the only one to pass me in those miles. I wrote last week that I had set three tiers of goals for the race; I hit the second one despite my misadventure, finishing in 19 hours, 20 minutes, and 31 seconds.

Finish line, 12:05 a.m.

I can't thank the race directors, Nick Clark and Brad Bishop, enough. I suspect that between the COVID-19 uncertainties and protocols they put in twice as much effort this year. To all of the generous, kind, masked volunteers on the course: I am eternally grateful. My deepest gratitude is for the support of my family. Ruth, Arabelle, and Beatrice are as proud of my finish as I am.

I'm going to take a short break from running and writing about running, but still plan to be at Quad Rock on August 15.

T minus sixteen hours

Taking the day off work was a great idea. I'm too excited about the race to do any computering this morning. Instead, I'm packing camping and running gear in my car. After lunch I will drive up CO 14 and over Cameron Pass to the race start in Gould, set up camp, hand in drop bags, and go for an easy run.

I'm expecting rain today from moisture in the monsoon flow which is beginning to affect Colorado. Tomorrow's forecast on the course looks better than today, starting sunny with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon, typical summer weather in the Rockies. I'd rather not be wet all afternoon, but I'm prepared for it, and the race is prepared for it, too. There will be hot food at aid stations. I'm looking forward to cups of soup in the later stages of the race.

Tapering for the race has been challenging. Air quality has been poor here the past two weeks and because of that I've done less running than I planned. But I have kicked my sinus infection, banked up plenty of sleep, and eaten well. I feel rested and energized, and that's the important thing.

Never Summer training week twenty-three recap

It was a light week of running.

  • 4 hours, 3 minutes

  • 22.9 miles

  • 1614 feet D+

Allergy and a sinus infection have been getting me down and I skipped a workout last week because my head was stuffed up and throbbing and I felt fatigued. I'm taking medication for the infection, using an over-the-counter steroid spray in my nose, keeping my house closed up, running the air conditioner instead of the house fan, and spending less time outside sucking up pollen. I feel better already.

I've set goals for the race and made a plan simple enough to follow and evolve on race day. My first goal is to finish. My more ambitious goal is to finish in under 19 hours and 30 minutes. My stretch goal is to finish in under 18:30, to cross the line before 11:15 p.m. OpenSplitTime allows racers to make pacing plans based on data from previous years. I've done so for 19:30 and 18:30 finishes, made a spreadsheet, printed it out, and roughly laminated it using packing tape.

Zork style cheat sheet for the first half of the course, second half on the other side. I hope I don't forget to "go north" from the Diamond Peaks aid station.

My three drop bags are mostly packed. The one at the Diamond Peak aid station has calories and is for ditching gear that I may have needed before the sun came up. We're required to carry a headlamp from the Ruby Jewel aid station (29 miles) onwards, so I have one in that bag along with more Tailwind and gels. I'm leaving my biggest bag at the Clearly Canadian aid station, miles 38 and 44, with calories, a change of clothes, spare shoes, stormy weather gear, and a warm layer for the home stretch.

Waiting for the race to start is hard, but I know I need a few more days of rest before I'm ready to do my best. Four more sleeps to go. I'm not counting Friday night, since I expect to sleep poorly before waking at 4 a.m.

One week before the Never Summer 100k

I'm focused now on preparing for race day, the 25th of July. I'm working 9-5, but not thinking about work after 5 p.m. I'm not working on any open source projects after hours or any house projects other than gardening, cooking, and cleaning. Instead I'm sleeping in, exercising moderately, organizing my gear, and packing drop bags. Next week I probably will not be responding to any non-emergency emails.

I had a virtual appointment with my doctor on Friday to talk about my allergies and some cold-like symptoms, including an intermittent fever, which developed last week. I recorded an ear temperature of 99.8 °F on Wednesday. The high temperature concerned me because COVID-19 cases are increasing again in Larimer County, and also because the race organizers are going to check temperatures at the event and disqualify racers (and crew) who are hotter than 100.4 °F. I approve of this! But I don't want to get DQ'd if I'm not infectious. My doctor diagnosed me with a sinus infection. I've had a serious sinus infection before, in Winter though, never in Summer, and this is exactly what it felt like. What a relief. I'm taking a five day course of amoxicillin and expect to be free of symptoms before July 25.

My doctor also recommended using Nasacort® (Triamcinolone) to treat acute allergy symptoms which have been interfering with my training since the end of June. I'm using the Kroger brand of this over-the-counter steriod. On July 10, when I was still optimistic that I would eventually stop feeling crappy without any intervention, I joked on Strava about getting a "therapeutic use exemption" (TUE) and some "pro cycling strength" medication to cope with my allergies, and now, here I am. It's not a joke. Triamcinolone is, of course, the steroid which Team Sky is alleged to have been abusing at the Tour de France. Use of triamcinolone by athletes in international competition without a doctor's orders is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). I am going to be squirting it up my nose once a day, only, not injecting it into my butt or leg muscles like cyclists have done to enhance recovery and lose weight.

I feel good right now about the steps the race organizers are taking to make the race safer with respect to COVID-19. Masks are required at aid stations. There will be no self-service food or water, no communal plates or bowls, no use of the warming tent unless you're dropping out. Racers are starting in waves of 10 every five minutes. Parties before and after are cancelled. It's not risk-free, but it's outside on a one-way loop except for the six miles to Clear Lake and back and it won't be hard to keep a safe distance from others out there on the trail. I hope conditions don't change next week, but if they do, I trust the organizers and Jackson County to make the right call.

Never Summer training week twenty-two recap

I reduced my mileage again in week twenty-two while trying to keep the quality of my activities high. I did some moderately intense weight training, went to the gravel track, did a hilly tempo run at Lory, and a nice long Never Summer recon run.

  • 10 hours, 25 minutes

  • 46.5 miles

  • 8379 feet D+

Saturday I drove up CO 14 to Cameron Pass to run on the Never Summer course for the first time this season. I parked at the Zimmerman Lake trailhead and loaded my pack. Although I expected mild weather, I brought all the gear that the Never Summer directors are requiring this year: rain jacket, gloves, hat, light, water containers of at least forty ounces. This, along with my first aid kit, drinks, food, and phone, would give me a good sense of my load during the race.

Diamond Peaks from the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead

From the parking lot I ran west to Montgomery Pass (11,156 ft). That will be mile 23 of the Never Summer course and there will be an aid station. From the pass, I ran on the course, in reverse, to North Diamond Peak (11,852 ft), the high point of the race. From there, I diverged from the course, traversing to South Diamond Peak, down to the Cameron Pass parking lot, and crossing over CO 14 to get on the Michigan Ditch trail and back on the course again.

Rawah Range and Never Summer miles 23-30 from the first summit south of Montgomery Pass

Nokhu Crags, Mt. Mahler, Mt. Richtofen, and Never Summer miles 5-11 from North Diamond Peak

The Michigan Ditch diverts water from the North Platte basin to the South Platte basin. The dirt road adjacent to the ditch has a very gentle grade and is very runnable. Still traveling in the reverse sense of the course, I eventually left the ditch trail and climbed up alongside the Michigan River to the American Lakes basin (11,200 ft). I hadn't been up there in years. It's more beautiful than I remembered and I found it hard to leave.

American Lakes basin, behind Nokhu Crags

After descending from the lakes I switched over to running the course in its forward direction to tackle the infamous North Diamond Peak climb: 2100 feet of elevation gain in 2.3 miles. At 2 p.m. on a hot day this was grueling. I'm glad that I'll be beginning this stretch between 8 and 9 a.m. during the race. Near the top, the grade increase to 25 percent and beyond. I got slightly off course and ended up attacking the 35-40 degree face of the peak instead of the less steep micro-ridge that I will stick to on race day. I had to sit down for a few minutes to recover at the top.

I started with 1.5 liters of water in a Camelback reservoir, two half-liter soft bottles of Tailwind solution in my vest's front pockets, and another liter of water in my stomach. This turned out to be not quite enough for a sunny and hot day, but I was able to collect and melt enough snow to survive.

Reddest paintbrush I've ever seen along the Michigan Ditch

Diamond Peaks from American Lakes trail

I covered 22 miles and climbed 6000 feet on my outing, 35% of the Never Summer 100k distance and 42% of its positive elevation change. 21 of these miles were above 10,000 feet and six were above 11,000 feet. I crossed paths with other runners, including a couple who were doing a self-supported 60k version of the race. I hope they brought a water filter.

My right hamstring confirmed at the track earlier in the week that it is still not one hundred percent recovered, but I didn't have any problems with it on my long run. I'm not planning to run faster than ten minutes per mile during the Never Summer 100k and still have two weeks of tapering and recovery before race day. I'm confident that I'll be fine by then.

Never Summer training week twenty-one recap

Week twenty-one is done. The Never Summer 100k starts in twenty days. I'm reducing my training volume gradually in the last four weeks of my training program. Here are my running and hiking numbers from last week.

  • 19 hours, 12 minutes

  • 62 miles

  • 12,054 feet D+

Monday through Thursday I was backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park with Ruth, Arabelle, and Bea. A heavy pack and family-friendly pace explains the relatively long time I spent on trails this week. We used two days to pack in to Lawn Lake and slept two nights at one of the three backcountry sites near the lake. Wednesday I left camp before breakfast to run up to a pass called "the Saddle" and hike from there to the summit of Fairchild Mountain (13,502 ft). Camping at 11,000 feet helped make this a quick trip.

Fairchild Mountain is named for Lucius Fairchild, U.S. Army general and Governor of Wisconsin from 1866-1872. According to Wikipedia, Fairchild believed Reconstruction of the South ended too soon and that Southern veterans shouldn't get back their captured battle flags. Imagine his surprise and anger if he could see the Confederate flag still flying in the United States today.

Below the saddle

Fairchild Mountain is not a complicated or difficult hike, but the route from the saddle is unmarked and variable. There are a few isolated cairns, but no clear network of them. You can scramble directly to the top over couch to car-sized rocks or follow less technical but more winding paths. I did a bit of each. At the top there is a crude windbreak made of stacked chunks of granite and a plastic bottle with a few notes.

Southwest to Ypsilon Mountain (13,520 ft), Gore Range in the far background

Looking to the west and northwest you can see the Never Summer and Rawah mountain ranges that Never Summer 100k participants will be traversing. Those peaks are nowhere near Fairchild's elevation; the highest point of the race is 11,852 feet on North Diamond Peak in the Rawah range.

Never Summer Range, Rawah Range on the right, and the Park Range in the distance

It is windy on top and with only a light thermal layer and a ripstop nylon jacket fifteen minutes may be all you can linger on the summit before you are chilled. The descent faces neighboring Hagues Peak, a more formidable mountain.

Northeast to Hagues Peak (13,560 ft)

Fairchild Mountain is remote, a twenty-mile round trip from the Lawn Lake trailhead. I was the only person to reach the summit on July 1.

Saturday I ran twenty-three miles at Lory and Horsetooth, the twenty-five mile Quad Rock route minus a few miles because I ran out of water in the heat. Today I ran twelve miles at Pineridge and Maxwell in warm conditions, again. These were my last back-to-back long training runs.

Never Summer training week twenty recap

This week I did no running workouts and no very long runs. Just five days of easy short to medium length runs on trails within a few minutes of home, a yoga session, and a session of weight training intense enough to leave me sore all weekend long. The numbers are modest.

  • 6 hours, 1 minute running

  • 34.4. miles

  • 1827 feet D+

Next week I will be backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park with Ruth and our kids. If I'm lucky, I'll get to summit a few of the Mummy Range's 13,000 foot peaks.

Never Summer training week nineteen recap

What a week. I ran and I ran some more. I carried a very heavy pack to the top of Lory State Park, camped with my family at a beautiful "backcountry" site overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins, and then I ran from there. I ran after we got home, and then I got up early to run again today. Here are the numbers.

  • 19 hours, 11 minutes

  • 83.2 miles

  • 15,925 feet D+

In my week sixteen recap I set my goals for 220 miles and 36,000 feet D+ in weeks 17-19. I realized 231 miles and 44,347 feet of climbing. If my season ended here for some reason, I'd still feel satisfied. It's been a lot of work and a lot of fun getting here. I've never identified as a runner until a couple years ago and so I'm still rather geeked about having run 80 miles in a week for the first time.

This morning I got up before dawn to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park for more alpine running. From the Bear Lake trailhead I ran and hiked up to Granite Pass (12,080 feet), and then circled back via Storm Pass (10,257 feet) and the Glacier Creek Trail. I avoided bad weather, my legs and feet felt great, all in all a perfect day on the trail.

Just above treeline, going up, 8:30 a.m.

I'm liking Rocky's new timed entrance reservation policy. The park is less crowded and feels less crowded. The Bear Lake trailhead parking lot was less than half full when I arrived at 6:30 a.m. On my way up to Granite Pass, I saw one person. On my way down from Storm Pass, I went an hour without seeing any other humans. The few other people on the trail thought this was pretty cool, too.

Battle Mountain in the foreground, Mummy Range in back

Solitude is nice, but I also like seeing people on the trail discovering things about the environment and themselves. A pair of college friends from sea level finding their limits on the tundra below Longs Peak. A family from Denver carefully leading their young kids to their highest elevation ever. A dad and his teen son talking about doing more hikes like this during the summer season. The week after next, I will be backpacking in Rocky (what we Coloradoans call Rocky Mountain National Park) with my family and having similar experiences.

Longs Peak from Granite Pass

Ruth and I hiked to the summit of Longs Peak by the Keyhole in August of 2002. That's the "easy" route. In June, you need an ice axe, crampons, and good timing. In August, you only need good timing.