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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
10 hours, 25 minutes
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
19 hours, 11 minutes
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.
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.
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.
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.
Remember: de-honoring white supremacists isn't erasure of history as long as we
continue to teach future generations that the K.K.K. once held considerable
political power in the State of Colorado. And that it could happen again.
This was my biggest week of training ever. I aimed to surpass my efforts in
week nineteen of my 2019 season and I did it.
17 hours, 34 minutes
15,279 feet D+
I ran on six days, including three long runs and one hill workout. My hamstring
continues to feel fine at a slow pace. Saturday's long run was in hot weather,
and I managed the heat well. Sunday's was at high elevation, up to 12,324 feet,
and I handled that well, too.
The wildflower season at Horsetooth and Lory is evolving. The State Flower is
in bloom, as is our showiest penstemon and the bright yellow and red
It's great to live close to Rocky Mountain National Park and have relatively
easy access to high elevation trails. My family I drove to the shuttle lot on
Bear Lake Road, masked up for the short bus ride to Glacier Gorge trailhead,
and were on the trail soon after. I'm going to do this again soon, to run and
to pick up the permit for our family backpacking trip at the end of the month.
Big news this week is that the Never Summer 100k race is officially on. There
will be rule changes and constraints to keep runners and volunteers safe: wave
starts, no parties, reduced service at aid stations, masks required when not
running or eating or drinking. If I'm healthy on July 25, I'll be on the
starting line. For a few weeks I've been making plans for an alternative
adventure in case Never Summer didn't happen, but I didn't think it would be
feasible to run the entire course by myself due to the high elevation and
remoteness. I'm pleased to be able to do it with support. Thank you,
organizers, volunteers, and our State Forest hosts.
Shit is fucked up and bullshit, but I'm still running. Running restores me.
Here are the numbers for week seventeen.
16 hours, 5 minutes
13,143 feet D+
That's my biggest week of climbing and running/hiking time since I started
keeping track in 2015 and number three for mileage. Early in the week I was
worried about my hamstring. I definitely tweaked it a little at the track on
Tuesday. It was a mistake to try a speed workout this week and I'm going to do
something else instead next week. Wednesday my injury didn't hold me back too
much on the climb at Maxwell and I was able to go up and down Timber and Howard
on Thursday. My hamstring is okay at 10 minutes per mile or slower, so
I decided to keep my long running plans for the weekend: back-to-back runs of
about 20 miles and 5000 feet of climbing.
Saturday I did Quad Rock climbs four (Timber), five (Mill Canyon), and six
(Spring Creek) in light rain under cloudy skies. I got home before a rare
hit Fort Collins and the rest of the Front Range.
Today, Sunday, I drove to the Roosevelt National Forest's Dunraven Trailhead
and in perfectly tranquil mountain weather ran up to Signal Mountain, Donner
Pass, and back. My runs at Lory and Horsetooth top out at 7000 feet. This run
started at 7800 feet and I ran 8 miles above 10,000 feet. The Never Summer 100k
course that I'm training to complete has eleven of its first twenty miles above
10,000 feet and twenty-five miles above that elevation overall.
This was my first time on these trails. The 4.5 mile, 3000 foot climb on
Bulwark Ridge Trail through dog-hair stands of lodgepole pine is less than
special, but the Signal Mountain peaks offer neat views and the tundra is in
great shape. I don't think many people come up here.
The trail between Signal Mountain and Donner Pass (not that Donner Pass) is a little sketchy in places.
Mature limber pine are everywhere. I had an odd accident ducking under a fallen
one: the bill of my cap, pulled down low against the sun, hid a branch on the
far side of the trunk and I knocked myself on my ass coming out from
The trail down from Donner Pass is much more runnable and attractive than the
Bulwark Ridge Trail and there are many wildflowers along Miller Fork Creek,
a tributary of the Big Thompson River.
I'm going to try to get up into the high country again next weekend. Snow is
leaving the mountains so quickly now, a higher peak or two might be possible.