Black Squirrel recap

I ran the 8th edition of the Black Squirrel Half Marathon on Saturday. To minimize crowding, runners went in waves. Ruth dropped me off at the Lory State Park office 10 minutes before my wave's 7:00 a.m. departure time. I jogged for seven minutes to reach the starting line, pulled up my Buff, found some empty space between the other runners, and tightened my shoes. With only a sixth of last year's crowd, the mood was quiet. Nick Clark had to raise his voice only a little to brief us on the course. He gave a shout-out to the crews on the Cameron Peak Fire, counted down from 10, and we were off.

Conditions yesterday were excellent. Sunny skies, clean air, and 43 °F at sunrise. The course's lower elevation trails can be muddy after wet weather, but had drained and were firm and only a little tacky. On the mountain we saw one patch of snow and several puddles. My new Nike Terra Kigers are more suited to dry conditions, but I had no traction problems.

I went more slowly on the climb than I last year. Strava says I covered the Quad Rock climb #4 segment (3.5 miles, 1128 ft D+) in 43 minutes and 27 seconds, a minute more than on 2020-09-07. I had started near the front of my wave and passed one other runner on the climb. I shaved 20 seconds off my best time on the descent and arrived at Arthur's Rock trailhead only 34 seconds off last year's pace.

The last 4.5 miles of the race have always challenged me. Saturday I suffered from hip and hamstring tightness. Despite needing to stop twice to stretch, I finished the final segment one minute and 32 seconds faster than last year. My official time for the race: 2:18:07. A new personal best by 32 seconds.

My form slumped in the seven weeks between the Never Summer 100k and Black Squirrel. It's been hot and smoky and I've had a sinus infection brought on by irritation from inhaling soot. I found it hard to run even 20 miles a week and harder to do any intense workouts. Would I have liked to have taken a better time? Yes. To be honest, despite my intention to develop into a gracefully aging person, I'm a little disappointed. Still, I did the best with what I had on race day and that's the most important and durable measure. I had fun and appreciated the chance to be outdoors breathing fresh air and feeling alive. Thank you, Nick, Brad, and all you generous volunteers.

Summer snow

Fall is still 12 days away, but it has begun snowing in Fort Collins.

Air quality is excellent this morning. Of course I went running.

Cameron Peak Fire update

The Cameron Peak Fire exploded this weekend, growing to almost 40,000 acres on Saturday and nearly 60,000 acres today. Ash has been falling at my house all day and the smoke plume has almost entirely blotted out the sun. At 1 p.m. it looked and felt like 45 minutes after sunset. I grabbed plots of solar irradiance, the density of solar energy reaching the ground, and temperature from the CSU weather station, a half-mile northeast of my house. The effect of the smoke is dramatic. It has absorbed or reflected most of our expected sunshine and we're stuck in the low 60's while other cities on the Front Range are still roasting in the 90's.

Graph of the density of solar energy incident on the ground.

Ground level temperature. In Denver it's another hazy 90 °F day.

A winter storm is forecast to arrive early tomorrow morning, bringing rain and snow, and hopefully some relief for firefighters, mountain residents, and the rest of us downstream. It may get below freezing tonight and Tuesday night, so Ruth and I went out in the gloom to pick our basil and green tomatoes. I'll be making pesto and stashing in it our deep freezer for the rest of the afternoon.

Update (2020-09-07): InciWeb now reports 96,000 acres for the Cameron Peak Fire.

Too smoky to run

I haven't run since the 19th of August because the quality of our air has been so poor. Like much of the Mountain West, we're under a plume of smoke from California fires. The Cameron Peak Fire, 50 miles upstream, continues to grow. And on the 21st a new fire started about 5 miles from my house and has grown to 165 acres. Yesterday afternoon the CSU air quality station measured a maximum air quality index (AQI) for fine particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) of 199. That's bad. Three hours outside installing a new chicken coop yesterday has given me itchy eyes, stuffiness, and a cough. I wore a mask, but still inhaled too many particles.

Trail Runner has an article that looks at issue around running and PM2.5 exposure. It has me thinking that I should stay in today even though the PM2.5 AQI is 72, only moderately bad. But this may be the best we get for a few days; I see forecasts of PM2.5 AQI 140 for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cameron Peak Fire

In the things are continuing to get worse department, a wildfire erupted near Cameron Peak in the Roosevelt National Forest yesterday and has grown to over 2000 acres in size. As you can see in the loop below, the smoke plume is affecting Fort Collins, 50 miles downwind.

GEOS 17 loop by Dan Lindsey

The Cameron Peak Fire is only a few miles from the Never Summer 100k course and is burning forest I know and love well. I'm going to be staying inside today. No running.

Mapbox updates French imagery

Three years ago I took a houseboat trip on the Canal du Midi. Back at home, I wrote:

Mapbox's imagery of Capestang, a village on the canal, is out of date. We (I work on the team that makes the satellite basemap) will update it, but until we do it affords a look at the way things used to be on the canal. Below you see that the canal in the village was bordered by huge shade trees. You can also see that some of them to the right of Capestang's newer metal bridge are completely dead.

We've done it; we did update the map and Capestang is appropriately deforested. The city is less green, which is sad, but more accurate, which is good. The new imagery was acquired by camera from a plane on June 20, 2018 and made available under an Open Data license by the French Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière (IGN).

You can see the updated imagery in the maps embedded in my older blog post and in this larger version. More details about the update are available on the Mapbox blog.

Back to the State Forest

My family and I escaped the local heat wave for three days and camped on the shores of North Michigan Reservoir (8,900 ft) in the Colorado State Forest. This is a popular campground, but the less popular sites are still available mid-week. Ours had great access to the water that more than made up for the close proximity to the adjacent site. Arabelle and Beatrice fished, got some strikes, and Arabelle landed one very nice rainbow trout. We hiked, played card games, sat around a fire and toasted marshmallows. On our last night the sky cleared up completely and we had several hours of stargazing and meteor watching before we slept. We saw one bright orange Perseid fireball and heard people exclaim from farther down the shore of the reservoir.

While wandering on a hill above the reservoir I realized that I had run near the campground during the Never Summer 100k. After leaving the Bockman aid station (mile 56) at 9:50 p.m. I crossed N. Michigan Creek and in less than a mile traversed a clearcut hillside visible from the reservoir campground and then turned south to climb up and over the shoulder of Gould Mountain.

Jackson County Road 41A runs through the clearcut in the center of the photo. Gould Mountain is on the right edge.

The forest around N. Michigan Reservoir has been decimated by bark beetles.

On July 25 I ran across the entire background of the photo above. Right to left, mostly above treeline, and then left to right again, below treeline. It was fun to see the course again from a distance.

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.