Outdoors again

Thanks to heavy snow on October 25 and cooler weather, the Cameron Peak Fire is 92% contained and continues to cool down. People are returning to their homes, CO 14 is open again between Fort Collins and Gould, and crews are beginning the work of retiring fire lines to mitigate erosion and runoff before the winter snowpack forms. The nearby Mullen and East Troublesome fires are also quiet. Air quality has been good and I've returned to running semi-regularly. On November 1 I ran up to the top of Lory State Park to get a view of the burn. Crews stopped the eastward run of the fire at County Road 25E, which runs along the base of Buckskin Heights.


Buckskin Heights burn is in the middle ground

If the fire had started a week earlier, or if the snow had arrived a week later, we might have lost the forest in Lory. It was a close call.


Lory State Park dodged a bullet

On November 8, I ran at Red Mountain Open Space for the first time. The trails are smooth and very runnable and there are some Triassic and Jurassic sandstone formations reminiscent of those you'd see further west on the Colorado Plateau. It's a bit of a drive to get to the trailhead, but I'll come out here again, for sure.


View from a high point on the edge of Red Mountain Open Space


Running through time

Surviving the election

To survive the election and the vote count I made a huge pot of Alsacienne soul food. First, I did a quick cure of some pork belly to turn it into petit salé.


On election day I sauteed onions, garlic, carrots, bay leaves, and simmered them with homemade sauerkraut, adding the petit salé, ham, kielbasa, and boudin blanc at the end.


This kept me well stressed-fed through Thursday. Friday we had kimchi and cheddar cheese quesadillas and some sparkling wine from California as Biden and Harris neared victory.

Saturday morning? I don't remember what we ate. I don't think I needed anything after so much choucroute garnie the week before and after the good news. I took a bunch of backlogged junk to the dump, which seemed like the perfect way to celebrate Trump's loss.


I don't have too much to say about the election. It was dramatic and stressed me out quite a bit. I'm extremely relieved that Biden and Harris won and can't wait to see Trump and his band of racist crooks and incompetent toadies leave. It's perplexing that so many Americans voted for this cruel, narcissistic clown. Only 71 more days. I hope he spends all of them golfing instead of doing more damage.

October 16, 2016: Trail des Calades

I'm indulging myself in a look back at my first trail race in France, the 2016 Trail des Calades in Saint-Jean-de-Cuculles, a village in the Pic Saint-Loup wine region just north of Montpellier. The town and its église de la Nativité-de-Saint-Jean-Baptiste are a nicely preserved minor medieval site. We ran out the ancient fortified gate of the town to begin the race. I never tired of the palpable history around me while I was living in France. Maybe the feeling wears after a while and you just want to replace it with some kitsch?


Fall decor

I went back to the race website and found a photo of myself on a particularly steep part of the course. The Trail des Calades climbs (and descends) 650 meters over 16.5 kilometers, an average grade of 4%. The segment in the photo was closer to 15%.


Heading up the Combe de Mortiès

The black soil of the Combe de Mortiès is Toarcian marl containing lignite and fossils from shallow seas of the early Jurassic. Ammonites are common in this formation and images of these ancient molluscs are used in local brands.


Glass of wine poured in August 2016

Sadly, it seems that the 2020 edition of the race was cancelled. I hope that it will be back next year. Hang in there, organizers and supporters.

Cameron Peak Fire at two months

The Cameron Peak Fire began two months ago and is the largest fire recorded in Colorado. It has burned over 167,000 acres (67,000 hectares). 30,000 acres burned on Wednesday in a 15-mile run that appears as an uncontained eastward-stretching red lobe in the map below.


Fire map for morning of 2020-10-16

The limber pine groves around Signal Mountain and Donner Pass that I ran through on June 7 burned on Wednesday. I know people who are getting evacuated near this new run. Horsetooth Open Space and Lory State Park are closed. High winds are expected again today and according to the incident commander more crown fire runs may be possible. It's a bad situation.



I cancelled a rare run with an actual human friend tomorrow because of the smoke. Hopefully early next week will be a little better.


We're experiencing another episode of poor air quality in Fort Collins due to the Cameron Peak and Mullen fires. The graph below is from a monitoring site near my house.


I ran for 5 hours during the Saturday-Sunday dip but haven't been on the trail yet this week. I'm getting tired of this crap.

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.