Quad Rock training week six recap

Week six (of 19) is done.

  • 12 hours, 36 minutes

  • 56.7 miles

  • 9495 ft D+

I did some tempo running on Tuesday, a hard hill workout on Wednesday, and 35+ miles on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday I reigned myself in and kept those miles comfortable in an effort to keep building my aerobic base. It's tempting to get sucked into measuring my fitness by how fast I can climb Mill Creek or South Ridge one time, but most of the races I'm running this year will be longer and slower. Running at an average pace of 13:45-14:30 minutes per mile for 9-10 hours, as I did, feels so slow, but if I can do that for 50 miles on the same terrain I will achieve my goal of finishing Quad Rock in under 12 hours. I can't finish in less than 12 hours alternating between hard running and walking to recover. I really do have to increase the pace I can run all day long. Running even one minute per mile slower at Never Summer would get me an excellent 16 hour finish.

Saturday, while heading north on the Westridge trail my eye was caught by this shiny thing hammered into the ground.


Photo point on Westridge

The forest up here is being thinned in an effort to make the park less susceptible to catastrophic fires. I guess that the photo point is part of a plan to monitor what happens to the undergrowth afterwards.

On the subject of trees, I stopped below Horsetooth Mountain to snack and trade an empty bottle in the front pocket of my vest for one stashed in the back and noticed for the first time this little stand of aspen trees.


Crappy photo of Horsetooth Open Space aspen

Natural aspen are rare at 6500 feet on the Front Range. They're more common above 8000 feet. I wonder if these are remnants of an older wild stand or are descendents of trees planted by early 1900s homesteaders.

At the end of my run the sun came out again and I stopped to remove a layer and admire this view of Horsetooth Mountain. Now that's a nicely thinned forest. At the bottom of the photo you can see piles of dead wood that will be burned later this winter.


Horsetooth from Herrington Trail

There was ice on the usual spots Saturday and without traction I crashed twice, bruising my right elbow and the heel of my right hand. Nothing serious and it didn't hold me back on my second long run today.

Next week: rest, family time, letting my body adapt to all the work of the past three weeks.

Quad Rock training week five recap

I ran 5 days this week, one less than last week. My back-to-back long runs were longer, 25 miles for the weekend. I kept up with my strength and conditioning workouts, did a tempo run on the bike trail, and went up and down the Towers Trail for a mid-week workout: 1500 feet of climbing in 30 minutes of hard running in the snow. I didn't intend to do any segment sniping, but got the 2nd fastest time ever in my age group on The Shining. 1/7th of a mile with an average grade of 14.3%. The ability to run uphill fast for a small fraction of a mile is the closest thing I have to a natural talent in this sport. I had an audience for that segment, a herd of 15 mule deer browsing on both sides of the trail, with little concern about my going up and down multiple times.

Here are the numbers for the week.

  • 8 hours, 49 minutes

  • 42.1 miles

  • 7677 ft D+

Saturday, I was feeling pretty good on the climb up Mill Creek, the fifth of Quad Rock's six big climbs, and I went a little bit harder than comfortably hard all the way through the top of the climb and didn't suffer for it on the way back to the car or on my second weekend long run today. I'm more fit than I was early in 2020 and am feeling good about it.


Heading out for a tempo run in the snow


This is more my style


Sunday the snow is but a memory

Quad Rock training week four recap

I ran six times in week four. Two easy recovery runs, one long run in the hills, two tempo runs on less hilly trails, and one running workout: repeats on the paved road that climbs up Stadium Hill. Colorado State's old football stadium on the west edge of town is gone, but we still call this stretch of road Stadium Hill.

  • 8 hours, 35 minutes

  • 44.3 miles

  • 5653 ft D+

The weather this week was cool and dry. Local trails are mostly clear, but there are some good patches of ice in shady spots.


Looking at the radio towers from the Towers-Spring Creek-Mill Creek intersection

Quad Rock training week three recap

Week three was the last week of my first block of training. A recovery week. No running workouts. No long long runs. I went a little harder on strength and conditioning and easier on running.

  • 4:53

  • 23.5 miles

  • 2972 ft D+

My next two four-week blocks will add high-intensity hill workouts. The two blocks after that will increase the length of my back-to-back long runs. The final block will be about fine tuning, tapering, and racing. The block structure is based on the 100k plan published in Krissy Moehl's Running Your First Ultra. It's relatively easy for me to follow such a plan because my weekends are open, my work hours are fairly flexible, and my body is (so far) comfortable with lots of easy running. As long as I keep the easy days easy, running and hiking 6 days a week hasn't been a problem. Your mileage may vary, of course.

I'm feeling considerable stress from work and the shitty state of our society. Running helps me cope, but only if I keep my brain off these matters while I'm on the trail. Sometimes it's hard. With a fairly elected government of functioning adults it's going to get better, but it could get worse before we pull out of this excrutiating nosedive.

Quad Rock training week two recap

I've survived jumping into week six of last year's 24 week running program. So far, so good. Here are the numbers for week two.

  • 9 hours, 32 minutes

  • 46.8 miles

  • 4829 ft D+

I ran six days in a row, which I haven't done in months, and did speed workouts on two separate days. I'm already running almost as fast as I was running at the track last March and without much fast running since then. Instead, I've been doing a hybrid Yoga/HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout twice a week since the end of October, on Zoom, live from Seattle, with Ruth and her sister. It's 30 minutes of Vinyasa yoga, with 30 minutes of Tabata-like workouts sandwiched in the middle. Typically, we start with a slower round of core exercise, like intervals of reverse and bicycle crunches. Then a round of rotating through intervals of squats and lunges, followed by a round of intervals of pushups and/or sideplanks and up-and-downs or burpees. The last round might be intervals of mountain climbers and up-and-downs. In all, it amounts to about 15 minutes of (when I'm motivated) near-maximum effort.

Today, Sunday, I went for a long, slow run in the snow at Lory State Park. I was the first one over the top of Westridge and on the start of the descent on Howard, I found myself surrounded by the largest flock of Pygmy nuthatches I've ever seen up there.

Next week is a rest week for me. It would be awesome if we didn't have any new national or international crises.


First tracks on Westridge

Quad Rock training week one recap

The numbers:

  • 9 hours, 23 minutes running time

  • 44.9 miles distance

  • 5581 ft elevation gain (D+)

At the start of the week it was 19 weeks to Quad Rock 50, which I ran in 2019, and then 12 more weeks after that to Never Summer 100k, which I ran in 2020. I'm going to try to finish both of them this year. It will require some customization of the training plans I've used in previous years. Quad Rock is closer than I'm used to and I'm not familiar with trying to build and peak again for another long race. It'll be an interesting problem.

I've been running and doing strength and conditioning workouts regularly through November and December. Feeling pretty good about my base, I fast-forwarded the 24 week plan I followed the past two years and am effectively starting at week 6. My mileage is a little less than that of week 6 in 2019 or 2020 because I'm trying to guard against the possibility that my form isn't as good as I think it is. I did do plenty of climbing and got in a solid speed workout. Conditions have been pretty good for running, overall.

I replaced my old Forerunner 35 watch and its busted and superglued band with a new Forerunner 245. Its battery is good for 24 hours of GPS recording time, so I'll be able to record my Quad Rock and Never Summer runs for the first time. I got a new wool top to give my old one a break, but otherwise I'm running in the same gear. Sheet metal screws in the bottoms of my Speedgoat 4s are providing plenty of traction.

This weekend I did back-to-back long runs for the first time in three months. Saturday I went out for four hours of sweaty huffing and puffing on the hills in Horsetooth Open Space and today I went for a easy recovery pace run on the Spring Creek Trail pavement. How easy is easy? I checked my watch's heart rate monitor and whenever it registered more than 120 bpm, I backed off a little. 8.5 miles at 11 minutes per mile. I hardly even broke a sweat.


In deep shade on Loggers Trail headed north towards Arthur's Rock (R) and unnamed rock (L)

Station Identification

Hi, my name is Sean Gillies, and this is my blog. Blog is short for "web log". Individual posts to a web log are called "posts", not "blogs". I write about running, cooking and eating, travel, family, programming, Python, API design, geographic data formats and protocols, open source, and internet standards. Mostly running and local geography. I live mostly in Fort Collins, Colorado, and sometimes in Montpellier, France. I work at a startup named Mapbox, building location data services and products. I appreciate emailed comments on my posts. You can find my address in the "about" page linked at the top of this page. Happy New Year!

Running in 2020

I ran 223 times in 2020, one fewer than in 2019, but I went longer, further, and higher.

  • 346 hours, 29 minutes (9% more than 2019)

  • 1737 miles (+2%)

  • 224,822 ft (+24%)

I'm happy about my achievements. Here's a short list of my favorites.

The South Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Open Space became one of my favorite trails in 2020. The views toward Masonville, Longs Peak, and the Front Range are amazing. I've been collecting photos from one switchback. I live in a dry land and it's especially dry in winter between the fall and spring snowstorms.


January 4


June 6


December 27

What are my favorite things about running? I like the beginnings of long runs when my stiff legs start to soften. The smell of pines. The crunch-crunch-crunch sound of my feet on sandy trails. Bird songs. Animal tracks in new snow. Friendly hikers and runners. Solitude. The flattening grade at the top of a climb. Thinking about computing problems on short runs with no computer around. Leftover tea in my thermos and an apple and listening to NPR on the drive home from Lory. Most of all, I appreciate how running recharged me whenever I got low in 2020. I hope I'll be able to rely on running again in 2021.

My 2021 running program

I've been struggling to settle on running goals for 2021. I like goals and I've wanted to have goals, but I haven't been sure about about my choices. I've been toying with the idea of signing up for a 100 mile event, a long-term goal of mine, but woke up this morning with a feeling of clarity and committment. The right goal, or goals, for me in 2021 is to run the local trail races, all of the local trail races, the Gnar Slam. This means a 50 mile race in May, 100 km at the end of July, 13.1 miles in September, and 26.2 miles in October. I've run all of these before, but never more than 2 in one year. I'm going to enjoy reconnecting with the local community (counting on COVID-19 vaccination!) and solving some running issues that troubled me last year.

I went for a run at Horsetooth Open Space earlier today to celebrate and cement my decision.


D+ goal reached

After Northern Colorado's wildfires were finally controlled and air quality began to improve at the end of October, I set a goal to reach 200,000 ft of elevation gain on Strava before the end of 2020. Today I reached that goal on a short and steep run in Lory State Park. Because Strava doesn't count elevation gain for manually entered activities, that number doesn't include the 13,500 feet of climbing at Never Summer 100k. So I'm really at 65,000 meters D+ for the year. A lot of this was earned on Lory trails.

We're in a drought here. There's a little bit of snow on the top of Lory, but look at how brown and dry the Northern Front Range plains are.


So brown


Long shadows at 12:30 p.m.

It's interesting running on uneven trails with such a low sun angle. On the first leg, I was headed directly into the sun, squinting and treading cautiously. On the second leg, running up the Howard Switchbacks, there was better light but so many long shadows from every branch and rock. On the third leg, headed down the Timber Trail, very dim light in deep shade. The good news is that in 13 days we start getting more sunlight every day.