Bear training week ~5 recap

The third week of my season's big training block was my biggest yet from the climbing perspective. My runs averaged 220 feet of elevation gain (D+) per mile, which is what the Bear 100 course will demand of me in 5 weeks. Here are last week's numbers.

  • 20 hours, 37 minutes

  • 76.2 miles

  • 16,775 feet D+

Extrapolating that to 100 miles, naively, predicts a 28 hour finish. That would be amazing! There's no way I'm going to finish in 28 hours. I think I'll be able to keep up this week's average pace for 60 miles and then will slow down dramatically after that. We'll see!

Next week I'm giving myself a break from long hilly runs. I'll do daily runs of not much more than an hour, yoga, some strength and conditioning. And I'll be working on my race day planning: gear, drop bags, fueling, etc.

Bear training week ~6 recap

For fun I'm using the bitwise complement operator ~ in the title of this post. Race week is week ~0. On Monday, it was 6 weeks to race week. I'm starting to feel fit, close to my 2020-2021 form.

The numbers for the week:

  • 16 hours, 54 minutes

  • 71 miles

  • 12,165 feet D+

I've run six days in a row and my shortest run was today's: an hour and 20 minutes. I went out for five hours in Rocky Mountain National Park on Wednesday, two hours in Lory State Park on Friday, and five and a half hours at Horsetooth Open Space on Saturday.

Soaking hot and tired feet in the Big Thompson River below Fern Lake in RMNP.

Below the Westridge Wall in Lory S.P.

Alone on Arthur's Rock, looking NE across the reservoir and plains.

Towers trail tailgating

A bear was active around Towers Trail yesterday, but successfully avoided me. According to some bikers, it crossed the trail behind my back near the top during my first lap. If I'd turned when I heard them shouting, I might have seen it. I know there are bears up there, but have never seen one while I've been on the trail. It's a good time to be filling up on chokecherries, that's for sure.

Next week I'm going to increase my training volume a little more. Instead of two 5.5 hour runs, I'll aim for 3 x 4 hours.

Never Summer training weekend recap

Thursday, July 27, I drove west on CO-14 up the long Poudre River canyon and over Cameron Pass to Gould, the base for the Never Summer 60K and 100K races, for three days of camping and running in the mountains. Friday I would run the 60K race, Saturday I would go out for a few hours in the morning, and Sunday I would run a few more hours before driving home. Back-to-back-to-back easy long runs at high elevation to help me get in shape for the Bear 100 in September.

I had completely fair weather for the drive and for setting up my tent. I tossed a drop bag with spare shoes and socks in the truck bound for the Bockman aid station, caught up with other runners who I haven't seen in a while, cooked some quinoa for dinner, and tucked myself in.

Nokhu crags from Cameron Pass on CO-14

Thunderstorms passed over Gould almost all night long. I slept fitfully, and struggled to get my act together before the 5:30 a.m. start. I tied my shoes in the last 30 seconds before race director Nick Clark let us go. Not being a morning person, getting to the start on time is always a challenge for me.

After two miles of rolling along the margin of the valley floor, the course climbs steeply up Seven Utes Mountain. I stopped feeling groggy and started feeling the effort. I hiked the whole thing, comfortable at the back of the pack, and in a little over an hour, I was on top of the first alpine summit.

Runners heading down from the summit of Seven Utes Mountain, mile 6

My plan for the day was to go at an average pace of 20 minutes per mile. At the Bear 100, this would equate to a 33 hour finish, comfortably within the 36 hour cut off. I got to the Michigan Ditch aid station (11 miles) ahead of schedule and reached the Diamond Peak aid station (19 miles) 45 minutes ahead of schedule. The segment between them climbs 1000 feet, then becomes a highly runnable downhill. I ate solid food at the aid station, filled some pockets with cookies, and took 3 soft bottles of VFuel (race sponsor) solution to get me through the Diamond Peak climb and the ridge connection to Montgomery Pass.

Sweltering conditions made the first part of the Diamond Peak climb tough. A steady breeze above treeline helped make the slow, steep slog up the ridge more comfortable. The last unforgettable mile of the climb has a vertical gain of 1370 feet.

The ridge between North Diamond Peak and Montgomery Pass, mile 21

I took it easy on top, taking lots of pictures with my phone, and texting them to my family. News from the course always makes my mom happy. I reached the Montgomery Pass aid station a little less than three hours after leaving the Diamond Peak aid station.

I've been recovering from a back injury, perhaps from my crash at Kettle Moraine, and by the time I reached Montgomery Pass it had seized up. I wasn't able to do any consistent downhill running after this point. Still, seven hours of pain free running and hiking felt like major progress. I hope I'll be close to 100 percent by the Bear. I hiked down to Bockman aid station, did not change shoes and socks, grabbed more drinks and cookies, and hiked and jogged intermittently to the finish. I was just seven minutes over my goal.

Fort Collins runners Clint Anders and Jenna Bensko won the men's and women's divisions. Full results are here on OpenSplitTime.

Saturday morning I woke early to the sounds of the 100K race starting, dozed for another two hours, then drove 45 minutes to the Bockman aid station. It was dormant at 9. It is the 100K race's 50 mile mark and the first runner wouldn't be arriving before 2 p.m. From Bockman, I hiked the course in reverse to the Ruby Jewel aid station, then went forward on the course to the pass overlooking Kelly Lake, roughly mile 35. The lead runner and eventual winner, Zachary Russell, caught up to me just before the top. I stuck around to see the next ten runners come over, then headed back to Ruby Jewel. Saturday was warm, and the closer I got to Ruby Jewel, the more suffering I saw on faces. I heard later that 50 runners dropped out there at mile 31.

Pass above Kelly Lake, mile 35

I returned to Bockman, hung out there chatting with the aid station crew for a bit, then went for a swim in North Michigan Reservoir, a place where I've camped with my family, and which is full of water again after being drained for maintenance of the dam in 2021. After cooling and washing off, I returned to my camp at the race finish to change and get ready to work at the kitchen. From 6 p.m. until midnight I washed dishes and served food to runners. The kitchen group was a lot of fun and was lead by an actual chef who does the same duty at Hardrock 100 and a few other serious races. People are super grateful for a hot meal after a long day on the trail or at an aid station, and there isn't anywhere to eat in Gould. I would do this again.

100K finish line

I slept very little Saturday night. Runners trickled in until 6 a.m., and Brad Bishop (volunteer coordinator and finish line announcer among many roles) read every name and number over the PA system. On the bright side, I did hear names I knew, and was glad for them. My friend Ivan became the 100K race's first 70 year old finisher at 3:50 a.m.

After breaking camp and packing my car, I said good-bye to people, and drove homewards, stopping at the American Lakes trailhead for one more trip to that beautiful alpine basin. This time I went all the way to Thunder Pass for the view into Rocky Mountain National Park.

American Lakes basin from Thunder Pass

Over the weekend, I spent 20 hours on trails, covered 100 kilometers distance, and climbed over 4,000 meters. A successful mountain training camp, for sure. I got signs that my back is healing, did some volunteering, hung out with my favorite runners, and met some fun folks for the first time. I don't know if I'll run this next year, but I'll be back to be a part of it.

Laid off

My position evaporated on Monday, one of many layoffs at my job. This is a first for me. If you've got advice, I'm all ears. If you're a former coworker and looking for help finding a new job, hit me up. I'm good at reviewing resumes and enjoy telling hiring managers good things about good people.

I'm fortunate to be in a good position right now. My family is healthy, we are insured through Ruth's position at CSU, and have some savings. This is not the case for everyone who gets laid off, I know.

Am I going to let this derail my attempt to finish a 100 miler in September? No way. Looking for work will take time, and I'm picking up more family duties, but it looks like I'll also have more free time to spend on the trail this summer.

Kettle Moraine Fun Run

Our home, the planet Earth, is a solid sphere (approximately) and spins around a relatively constant axis of rotation as it orbits a star we call "the Sun". Due to this rotation regions of the Earth's surface experience alternating periods of illumination, which we call "day", and periods of darkness, which we call "night". Earth's period of rotation is 24 hours. On average, 12 hours of day are followed by 12 hours of night. The exact division between day and night depends on latitude and on the position of Earth in its orbit around the Sun because Earth's axis of rotation is not perpendicular to its orbital plane, but is tilted by about 23.4 degrees. The hemisphere of Earth tilted towards the Sun experiences more daylight than the other hemisphere for half of an orbital period, or "year", and then this situation is reversed for the other half of the year. The hour is a human construct, but day and night are not. They are part of the nature of our world and affect all life on Earth.

Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Organisms tend to be more or less active during day or night or during the transition. Humans like you and me are mainly active during the day and rest at night. Human activities that last longer than 24 hours and don't involve jet propulsion may span an entire night. All this is to say that during my upcoming 100 mile trail run in September, which starts at sunrise and will, I expect, last 30 hours or more, I will necessarily be traveling on foot all night long. I will need to work against my normal circadian rhythm to eat, move, make decisions, and not sleep. I'm familiar with staying up after dark, have spent some late nights out on the town, and outdoors in wild forests and deserts. Marching all night on trails in the dark, however, is different. I'm lacking this kind of experience and didn't want the 100 miler to be the first time I tried to do it. Thanks to David Bitner, I've been aware of the opportunity to run overnight at Kettle Moraine. This summer I decided to try it.

The annual Kettle Moraine trail races in Wisconsin have distances of 100 miles, 100 kilometers, 50 kilometers, and a 38 mile "fun run" that starts at the 100 kilometer mark of the 100 mile course and shares a finish line with the 100 mile race. Runners can start the fun run any time after 5 p.m. Bitner and I started a little after 9 p.m., joining a 100 mile runner from his Minneapolis running club as dusk faded into night.

Kettle Moraine start and finish line, Friday before the event

The fun run begins on rolling forest and prairie trails that are, in winter, part of an extensive Nordic ski trail system. The trails are sand and gravel and quite runnable. I saw fireflies and a few stars and enjoyed chatting with Bitner and Christianne, who was having a great 100 mile debut. After seven miles, the course leaves the ski area and turns onto the more primitive and rocky singletrack of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

To illuminate the trail, I used two different lights. Around my waist I wore a 300 lumen Petzl TIKKA headlamp aimed at the ground about 10 yards ahead. I love that the headband of this lamp fits around my middle. On my head I wore a Black Diamond Sprinter 500 headlamp. I saw runners carrying more high-powered lights. The maximalist Kogalla RA system is popular with Kettle runners. My two small lamp system was perfectly fine. I don't need to run in artificial daylight, I only need to see the trail a few strides ahead. Both of my lights lasted 8 hours. At the Bear, where night will be 12 hours long, I will have extra AAA batteries in a drop bag out on the course.

9 p.m. Saturday, during the race

The Kettle Moraine fun run has aid stations no further than 5 miles apart. In the spirit of simulating an overnight run at The Bear, where aid stations are separated by 7-9 miles, I wore my large running vest with two 0.5 liter soft bottles and carried a first aid kit, rain jacket, light gloves, change of socks, running poles, and some emergency rations. My plan was to eat well at aid stations, and try eating more than I usually do at night during races. I've recognized that I failed to eat enough at the end of my two 100 kilometer races, and that I absolutely have to keep fueling well past the 60 mile mark if I'm going to finish a 100 miler. I think I did a good job of this at Kettle. I snacked at Tamarack, 5 miles in. At Bluff I ate an entire hot dog with mustard and some cookies. At Highway 12 I had a quesadilla, watermelon, more cookies, and peanut M&Ms. Rice Lake, the turn-around point for the fun run, had the best food, and I indulged. I had a pulled pork slider with BBQ sauce, a piece of prime rib, and more watermelon and candy. This was at about 2 in the morning.

Halfway through the fun run, light drizzle turned into steady rain. I put on my rain jacket, unfolded my poles, and took off solo. Following Bitner and Christianne had been pretty easy and I wanted to test my mind and emotions. Would I be able to keep chugging through the night with no company and no pace setter? It was time to find out.

I increased my pace and was able to stay adequately warm without my jacket in spite of the rain for the next four hours. Every 30 minutes or so I would see light ahead through the trees and would slowly catch up to and pass a 100 mile runner and their pacer. Otherwise, I was alone on the trail. I continued to eat well at the aid stations, though it did get harder to stay committed to eating the same old junk food. Bluff had bacon, and coffee. I left that aid station with some of each.

It's a different world at night. This sentence is both cliché and true. The air and surfaces in the environment cool. Bird songs are replaced by frog calls. Human perception contracts and changes in quality. The acute color-perceiving cones of our eyes take a backseat and the wide-range grey-scale rods take over. I feel more conscious of sound in this state, aware of cracking sounds in the woods outside the range of my headlamps, hearing the murmurs of other runners or distant aid stations long before I encounter them. This is why humans love being up late at night on occasion. We leave the ordinary world of commerce and labor and sharp detail and enter a dim and fuzzy world of mystery and spirits. It is a mind-altering experience.

30 minutes before dawn I stumbled going down a little hill, rolled my right ankle, and fell sprawling head first on the trail. I was fortunate to not fall on and snap one of my ultralight poles or injure myself any worse than a few scratches. After a few minutes of walking, I was able to restart running, but more slowly than before the fall and needed to put my jacket back on in order to stay warm. That was the only misfortune of my fun run. I had no regrets about eating a lot, no problems with gear. I ran the second half of the fun run 40 minutes faster than the first half and filled up on eggs, bacon, hash browns, and coffee while watching 100 milers arrive. Christianne and Bitner rolled in to the finish 75 minutes later.

Running all night was fun and a useful experience. I'm feeling more prepared for my own first 100 mile run.

Quad Rock 50 recap

I did it! My third Quad Rock 50 mile finish in three tries. My official time was 13 hours, 56 minutes, and 57 seconds, just three minutes under the limit. I prepared less for this race than I have in 2019 and 2021 because I'm aiming to peak at the end of September and looked at it as mainly a long training run that I might finish or not. My longest run so far this year was 18 miles. I joked with the race director afterwards that my plan was to run myself into shape in the first 25 miles and then build on that. I was mentally prepared to not finish and also prepared to push myself if a finish was within reach.

In the first half of the race, I stayed well within my limits and left the Soldier Canyon aid station, the turn-around, with an elapsed time of 6 hours and 15 minutes. The climb up Timber Trail was warm and I cramped severely on the following descent down Howard Trail. I arrived at Arthurs Rock aid station only seven minutes before the time check. Dropping out at Arthurs had crossed my mind on the descent and the thought was lingering a bit as I hobbled in, but the friendly volunteers filled my tank up with pickles, popsicles, and encouragement, and I found myself good to go again. I headed out towards the Mill Creek climb and was racing, slowly, against the clock all the rest of the afternoon.

After I got to the top of Mill Creek, I had to resupply quickly and then get over the rest of the Westridge Trail climb and down to and through the Horsetooth aid station in 65 minutes. Again, thoughts of dropping tempted me during the technical part of the descent. I felt better during the runnable last 1.5 miles and made it to the aid station with four minutes to go. Not enough time to change socks and shoes as I'd planned, only enough time to grab more drinks and food and regroup with two other runners.

The final climb is not as hard as the penultimate climb, and after that it was mostly a matter of managing my effort well. At the last aid station, with 2.3 relatively flat miles to go and 30 minutes left, I was pretty confident I would make it in under 14 hours. I ran the downhills quickly and didn't dawdle on the flats, coasting just a bit to the finish line.

Honestly, I could have kept going. I was feeling composed and fairly energetic at the finish. I'll be building on this for the next 16 weeks.

Bear training weeks 15-17 recap

It's another three week batch post! My day job, home projects, and running are pretty demanding right now. It's hard to find time to do one of these posts each week like I did last year. I hope the situation changes!

I finally feel like I'm getting into something like racing form and am enjoying it. I'm doing one intense hill workout each week and they are paying off; I have more energy going uphill up longer weekend runs. In four of the past five weeks I've done one long run with at least two Quad Rock climbs, and in the past three weeks I've added one more run with a single QR climb. The only Quad Rock climb that I haven't done recently is the first. I'll try to get to that next week. Here are the numbers for the last three weeks!

Week 15:

  • 32.4 miles running and hiking

  • 7 hours, 4 minutes

  • 3,422 ft D+

Week 16:

  • 47.5 miles running

  • 10 hours, 2 minutes

  • 6,808 ft D+

Week 17:

  • 51.3 miles running

  • 10 hours, 46 minutes

  • 7,234 ft D+

I spent the weekend of week 15 in Tucson with Ruthie enjoying some sun, warmth, and food. I ran in Tucson's Mountain Park, we hiked in Saguaro National Park, did some birding around the city, it was great to get away from the cold and snow in Fort Collins. I like Tucson and want write more about it soon.

Saguaro cactus in Tucson Mountain Park

Running conditions here in Fort Collins change from day to day in April. One of my four-hour runs was on dry, dusty dirt, and the next was on snow and mud.

Arthurs Rock on April 15

Arthurs Rock on April 22

Quad Rock is in 13 days. I'm not planning to do a long taper, instead I'm going to treat it as a very long, volunteer supported training run. I'm going to run hard next week and try to bump my vertical above 8,000 feet, and then will back off early in week 19, but still end up over 60 miles distance and 12,000 ft D+ for race week.

Bear training weeks twelve, thirteen, fourteen recap

This is another attempt to catch up on three weeks of running in a single post. Week 12 was a rest week. I didn't run very much, but did it on dirt, with hills and friends. On Sunday we went to Red Mountain Open Space, crossed over into Wyoming for a few miles, and saw a large flock of Mountain Bluebirds.

  • 4 hours running

  • 19 miles

  • 2,156 ft D+

In week 13 I bumped up my volume and intensity of running. I spent some time at the weight rack at my local gym, tried hard to pick up my knees and run better, and got some hills on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

  • 8 hours, 20 minutes running

  • 41 miles

  • 4,058 ft D+

Week 14 was complicated by heavy snow and brutal wind, but I got to the gym for some lifting and yoga, and did back-to-back hilly long runs on the weekend.

  • 7 hours, 52 minutes running

  • 37.8 miles

  • 5,522 ft D+

A few weeks of paying attention to running better seems to be paying off. I'm finding it easier to not shuffle and my knees feels fine despite the increase in workload.

Bear training weeks nine, ten, and eleven recap

I'm catching up on three weeks of running in this post. I'm making progress. Poor weather, knee pain, and a return of last summer's PACs complicated my training a bit. I'd like to have run a little more, but have been mixing in more high quality speed workouts and have been consistent with weight training and yoga. While not in the same form that I was when training to peak in May 2019 or July 2020, I'm not in terrible early season shape. Here are the numbers.

Week nine:

  • 6 hours, 15 minutes running

  • 30.1 miles

  • 2,441 ft D+

On Sunday I got out for a hilly run in the snow.

Snowy Howard Trail with large mammal tracks to the left

Week ten:

  • 5 hours, 7 minutes running

  • 28.3 miles

  • 1,122 ft D+

Week 11:

  • 4 hours, 56 minutes running

  • 25.8 miles

  • 2,208 ft D+

On Saturday local trails started opening up again and I got a nice long run on dry dirt. It was wonderful.

Horsetooth Reservoir in transition from winter to spring

Bò kho sandwich

Last might I cooked thit bò kho, an aromatic beef stew, from the recipe in Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table". The process starts with making colorful annatto-infused oil. The red-orange color is provided by caratenoid compounds named bixin and norbixin. Annatto pigment has long been used to color cheeses, junk food, and other things.

Bright red annatto-infused oil

This morning I put leftovers on a roll and sprinkled it with cilantro, mint, onion, and stewing juice. It's a very satisfying breakfast sandwich.

Stewed beef and carrots with herbs on a roll

I played with the "food" setting on my new phone's camera and got some colorful, but flawed photos. The setting has a limited focus area that I haven't learned to drag around properly.