Jun 16

FoCo Rock City

Quad Rock 50

In January I signed up for the Quad Rock 50 mile race. This is a local Fort Collins event, on trails I run frequently, run by almost everyone I know, put on by race directors I run with regularly. This was the race I really wanted this year. Then a couple weeks after registering I injured my knee and struggled with the pain throughout the Spring.

I gave up on my hopes of a strong race at Quad Rock. Down but not out, I was determined to participate somehow, even if it meant dropping down to the 25 mile race and walking every step of the way. My training for Quad Rock was far more hiking than running. I spent many hours on the course. I was ready for the long hike in early May. Then the sky split open, poured rain for days, flooded everything, and postponed the race. Sure it sucked for some would-be participants, but it was good news for me. Now I had 5 more weeks to prepare. It was a miracle.

A second miracle followed shortly thereafter. By the end of May my knee was feeling better. I ramped up my running mileage with no ill effects, so I tried a now-or-never long run two weeks before Quad Rock. Success. I’m going to run this damn race.

My expectations were pretty low. I mean, this is a really tough course with six mountain climbs totaling close to 11,000 ft of ascent and descent. I figured best case scenario was to simply complete the 50 mile course under the 14 hour time limit. There were many other (worse) scenarios I didn’t particularly care to entertain. If I could (mostly) run the first 25 mile lap in under 6 hours I was confident I could hike the entire second 25 mile lap (if I had to) in the remaining 8 hours.

Quad Rock 50

I started near the very back so I wouldn’t face the urge to jockey with fast runners at the beginning. The first few miles felt super easy. 2 miles in we turned off the wide dirt road into single track and I really truly experienced my first ultra conga line (a solid line of runners moving the same speed with no good opportunities to pass or be passed).

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

This was the real test of my patience. I passed. Mostly.

Part way up the first climb the single track gave way to the wide Towers Road trail where I was free to move at my own pace again. We were all hiking up the steep trail, but I was moving at a faster pace than most others around me. I spent so much time hiking this Spring that this felt pretty effortless.

Quad Rock 50

At the top of the climb we hit the Towers aid station for the first time. I refilled my bottle and began the descent down Spring Creek trail. Midway down I got caught up in another conga line (is that supposed to happen on downhills?). Again my patience was tested, and again I sort of passed.

At mile 10 I reached the Horsetooth aid station where Melissa and Will were waiting to see me. One mountain climb down, five to go.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

I took a few moments to put a bandaid on my left heel where I was developing a hot spot that seemed likely to turn into a blister. I wore the same shoe + sock combination I’ve worn for many, many miles without problems… but today I had a small problem. Fortunately it never got much worse.

Quad Rock 50

I was pretty proud of myself for having the self control to start the race so conservatively, so I promptly ran almost the entire way up Horsetooth mountain after leaving the aid station. I probably should have been walking more.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

I have to say, things were going pretty well at this point in the race. I felt great. I wasn’t even remotely fatigued. It wasn’t super hot yet. I was eating and drinking well.

Another trip to the Towers aid station, followed by a rapid descent of Mill Creek trail and I made it to the mile 17 Arthurs Rock aid station, where, once again, Will and Melissa were waiting to see me.

Quad Rock 50

I still felt good. Two mountain climbs down, four to go.

Quad Rock 50

The Howard trail switchbacks are interminable. I mostly hiked at a quick pace, with a bit of running thrown in.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Once I reached the top it was back down the switchbacks on Timber trail, followed by a completely unshaded final few miles down to the start/finish area. It was getting pretty hot by this point in the day. While the first 17 miles of the race were pure joy, I was starting to notice all the downhill miles wearing on my knees (both of them). I slowed down a bit to ease the pounding a little and that seemed to help.

Quad Rock 50

Three mountain climbs down, three to go. Will and Melissa greeted me after 25 miles. Will showed me a sign he made for me and his drawing of the planets. It was adorable. I replenished my food and drink supplies. I put on a bandana around my neck with some ice in it to cool me down. It was really hot. A lot of the people coming into the start/finish turnaround weren’t going back out.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

My legs weren’t cramping or sore, but I didn’t have much power left. While I could still run the flats and downhills, I knew there was no more running uphill left in me. Still, I moved with a purpose. There was no stopping. Every moment I wasn’t moving forward was just that much longer I was going to be out there.

The second lap is run in reverse, so it started with a long unshaded climb in the heat. Furthermore, I was passing all the runners who were still coming down into the start/finish area. At the first aid station of the second lap I began to see the carnage from the day’s heat. There were three guys sitting on the ground next to the unattended table of water jugs. They were out of the race, but they still needed to get back to the bottom of the mountain somehow.

I ran the descent and made it back to the Arthurs Rock aid station where Melissa and Will were waiting once again. I didn’t spend too much time there. I wanted to get this over with. Four mountain climbs down, two to go.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

The next climb up Mill Creek was possibly the low point of my race. It was incredibly steep. I was hot. I was thirsty. I was no longer moving (even walking) at a good pace. I was just barely moving forward. When I eventually reached the top of the seemingly-endless climb I was greeted by enthusiastic volunteers at the Towers aid station who had a kiddie pool full of cold water for me to dunk my head in. It was glorious.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

I ran much of the way across West Ridge trail and then down Horsetooth Rock trail to the mile 40 Horsetooth aid station. The descent was a bit slow on account of my knees, but I was still in one piece. Five mountain climbs down, one to go.

I really wasn’t looking forward to the last climb up Spring Creek trail. It’s not super steep. I can run up this trail. But not today. Not right now. I walked almost every step of the way. For the first half of the climb I had a buddy to share in my misery. We never said a word to each other, he just walked two steps behind me at the exact same speed for a couple miles. Eventually another runner passed us (running!) and my buddy left me for the faster guy. C’est la vie.

Quad Rock 50

At the Towers aid station for the final time the enthusiastic volunteers game me a popsicle, which absolutely made my day. Just one more painful descent, then a few miles in the valley. Oh God, the valley. The hottest part of the course. I didn’t know if I could handle it.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Then came the final miracle of the race. The moment I hit the valley, the clouds moved in for the first time all day. I wasn’t getting pounded by the sun as I had feared I would be.

Quad Rock 50

Just after leaving the final aid station, with about two miles to go I took a quick glance behind me and saw another runner about 100 meters back and closing. And I did what had to be done. I ran a mile faster than I had run the previous 35. Another look behind showed nobody in sight. Crisis averted.

Melissa and Will saw me approaching, and Will ran beside me to the finish line. It was done. A month ago I couldn’t run 3 miles without pain, and now I just finished the most difficult 50 mile race of my life with no major problems.

Quad Rock 50

There was massive carnage in the heat. Some runners who registered for the 50 mile race dropped down to the 25 after seeing the weather forecast. Of the 95 that actually started the 50 mile race only 43 finished it. I somehow ended up 13th.

All photos of me taken by Melissa.

Jun 12

May 2015

Running

May started a lot how April ended. I could run a little bit, but it still hurt, especially if I went farther than 2-3 miles. I had resigned myself to at least hiking the first 25 miles miles of the Quad Rock 50 mile race I had signed up for back in January. I whipped myself into decent hiking shape.

Hike

Event notice

Then the rain came, flooded everything, and postponed the race from mid-May to mid-June. This was pretty good news, at least for me.

Hell or high water

Then in the middle of the month, without warning, something happened. My knee pain had been gradually improving with physical therapy from Rocky Mountain Rossiter, but it suddenly just disappeared. I was running pain-free for the first time in months. I cautiously ramped up my mileage, not really believing what I was feeling, knowing in the back of my mind that the next step would bring doom. But it never did. By the end of the month I did a 20 mile run with 5,000 feet of ascent.

Ridge

Melissa's first Horsetooth summit

Horsetooth Mountain time lapse

Arthurs Rock

Am I ready to run the most challenging 50 mile race I’ve ever done? Well, yes and no. I don’t have the fitness to race hard, so I’m not even going to try. I think I do have the fitness to complete the race (which would be quite an achievement by itself), so that’s what I’m shooting for. I plan to take it pretty slow, but stay ahead of the time cutoffs. It’s going to be brutally hot, which is going to slow things down even more. I may not make it, but I believe I can.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
May 17 128.92 miles 7.58 miles 19814.3 feet 1165.55 feet
Total 78 642.66 miles 8.24 miles 92791.3 feet 1189.63 feet

Running 2015 5

May 19

February, March, and April 2015

“Running”

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Horsetooth south summit

X-ray

Round Mountain Trail

Longs from Crosier

Nice day for a hike

It’s been a rough Spring. With near-constant pain in my left knee, I’ve really struggled to do much running at all. What little running I have done has been quite painful for the most part. I was able to do a lot of walking and hiking (which are less painful), and a fair bit of cycling (which is also less painful). The good news is that my knee is finally starting to feel a bit better in May (though still not great).

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
Total 61 513.74 miles 8.42 miles 72977. feet 1196.34 feet

Running 2015 4


Cycling

Freak snowstorm on the way to school

Guard rail rash

Buckhorn Canyon

I transitioned to a new training log, and I don’t have all my historical cycling data imported yet. So here’s February, March, and April 2015:

313 miles, 21h30m, 21,926 ft ascent, max speed 51.4 mph.

May 18

Canyonlands

Canyonlands NP

I wasn’t super familiar with Canyonlands National Park before my trip to Moab, UT in February. Even though I was a bit short on time, I had to pay a quick visit on the Sunday morning after the Red Hot 55K before I headed back home. In short, I was blown away.

In the park is the confluence of the Colorado River and the Green River. The two rivers form deep canyons that, with no bridges within the park’s boundaries, separate the park into three separate districts that are quite a long drive apart from each other. So I just visited the Island in the Sky District closest to Moab.

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

I drove the entire length of the road in that district, stopping at every overlook to stretch my sore legs and take in the scenery.

Mesa Arch

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Leap

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

The 3 miles I hiked did wonders for my legs after the race and before the long drive home. What should have been a 6 hour drive turned into 11 as I got caught in a whiteout blizzard crossing the Rockies before I even reached the weekend ski traffic that was all headed back to Denver at the same time. So my afternoon and evening weren’t nearly as pleasant as my morning.

Anyway, I anticipate returning to Canyonlands at some point in the future. With a bit more time I’d love to see the other two districts of the park as well.

Mar 11

Not So Red Hot

Rise and shine

It’s coming up on one month ago that I ran my first race of the year, Moab’s Red Hot 55K. It didn’t go well and that was a bitter pill to swallow. I was well prepared. During my last long run, two weeks before the race, I noticed some minor knee pain. This is not unusual. By that evening I couldn’t walk downstairs. This is unusual. Then two days later I caught the flu and that lasted for two weeks, right through the race.

Moab Red Hot start

Moab Red Hot first climb

Moab Red Hot early miles

Moab Red Hot first slickrock

Despite the constant knee pain and the illness I decided to run anyway, even though I was pretty sure it would be a disaster. Within the first two miles, my suspicions were confirmed when I noticed my heart rate was through the roof for the pace I was running. The best decision I could have made at that point would be to slow down and jog the next 32 miles (or until my knee pain became too unbearable and drop out). I, of course, did not make that decision. I continued on at the same pace, with the same higher-than-normal heart rate until I crashed and burned around mile 20.

Moab Red Hot slickrock

Terry

Moab Red Hot sand

Moab Red Hot

Moab Red Hot finish

150214 redhot 0428

Beaten

The last 14 miles were a complete sufferfest. Dehydration, fatigue, sunburn (even in February a desert is still a desert) all conspired against me. I really took a beating out there. At this point nothing will change my rotten performance. All I can really do is try to learn from my mistakes and do better next time.

Whenever that might be.

In the four weeks since the race I’ve run a total of 12 miles because my knee pain is so intense. I haven’t had to deal with pain like this in a decade. My running plans for the year are no longer a matter of how well I can run at my big races, but if I can even run them at all.

Colorado River canyon sunset

On a more positive note, this was my first trip to Utah. While many miles of the course were flat sandy and rocky desert with not much to look at, much more of the course was incredibly beautiful terrain (still sandy and rocky) with views of two national parks and a high mountain range. I was blown away by some of the views. During the race I met in person a friend from Fort Collins who I’d only previously known online. And after the race I ran into Cousin Don, an old friend from Illinois. On the whole, the weekend was great. It was really only about four hours of it that completely sucked.

Feb 22

Arches

I was out in Moab, Utah last weekend for the Red Hot 55K. I’d never been to Utah before (well, at least not outside the Salt Lake City airport). On Friday afternoon I took a whirlwind tour of Arches National Park. While it wasn’t the most impressive national park I’ve experienced, it was worth the visit. There’s plenty to see. It probably would have been more impressive if I wasn’t there the day before the race and I had time to do some actual hiking rather than short walks from my car.

Arches NP

Arches NP

Arches NP

Arches NP

Arches NP

Arches NP

Feb 12

January 2015

Running

Epic ice beard

FCTR kids trail run

Remember to live.

Rise and shine

Foothills sunrise

Dam

Deer

Rock Trail

Rock

January was quite a month, running-wise. Despite actually taking several days off to deal with a strained quadricep, I still ended the month with my highest total running mileage ever (and I’m pretty sure that includes when I was running competitively in college, though I don’t have the records to back that up). Furthermore, the last seven days in January I ran 96 miles, which is by far the most I’ve ever run in a week.

Heading into my first race of the year (Moab Red Hot 55K) on Valentine’s Day, things seemed to be going well. Of course, I was running on borrowed time. The entire month of February I’ve had severe knee pain and I’ve hardly run at all. I’m going to run the race and then I’ll probably have to take some serious time to recover.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
Total 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet

Running 2015 1


Skiing

Slope

Skate ski

Eldora

Twin Twisted Tree Trail

I went downhill skiing for the first time in 20 years. Additionally I had a few good cross country ski outings while the snow was here. I bought a pair of skate skis at a used sporting goods store and taught myself how to skate ski (I’ve only ever done classic style previously). I also took a trip to the nordic center at Eldora Ski Area for my first time on groomed trails (including some serious climbing). Good times.

Jan 28

2014 Racing Recap

My race performances have been on a steady upward trajectory since I returned to running in 2007 after a years-long break while dealing with torn cartilage in my left knee. 2012 was a breakthrough year. 2013 was even better. 2014, despite a small hiccup, may have been even better still.

The hiccup of which I speak was the fact that we moved across the country from (effectively) sea-level to one mile above. From one of the least fit states in the country to the most fit state in the country. From an area with less competition to an area with more competition. From an area with relatively easy terrain to an area with quite difficult terrain. You get the idea. I may have been a moderately sized fish in a small pond before, but that’s no longer the case.

The year started well, with a 1st place in a 10 mile trail race (ShITR). Next came a 2nd place in a 9 mile trail race (Nippy Niner). Then came a pretty remarkable span of 43 days where I set personal best times for 50 miles (Land Between the Lakes), 5K (Take Steps for Kids), marathon (Go! Saint Louis), 50K (Double Chubb). I ran two of those PRs in a superhero costume.

IMG_0766
Photo courtesy of Lori Vohsen

River's Edge Trail

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2014 04 14 09 06 31 copy

IMG 0468
Photo courtesy of Shannon Drohan

We made the move to Colorado in May. My first 4 races here (Pilot Hill 25K, Leadville Trail Marathon, Mount Werner 50K, Peach Festival 5K) were pretty rough. After spending the summer acclimating to the altitude I feel like I finally nailed it by finishing 3rd at the Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon. Then came another dip, with a mediocre cyclocross race and a somewhat disappointing finish at the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. I bounced back with a very close 2nd place in a cyclocross race, then a 1st at the Forest Glen 50K in Illinois, then a speedy finish at the Allerton Trail Run in Illinois.

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Tree line

54608334 MtWernerClassic10
Photo by Ski Town Photography

1.5 miles

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Forest Glen 50K
Photo courtesy of Cousin Don

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Photo courtesy of Allerton Park Trail Run

I put in some big climbing (over 21,000 feet) the week of Thanksgiving, then I was the 1st (only?) finisher of the Chubby Cheeks 50K in December.

Comparing results from recent years, things look good.

  • 2012: 26 races, 18 top tens, 9 podiums, 3 wins, 4 PRs
  • 2013: 23 races, 21 top tens, 13 podiums, 5 wins, 4 PRs
  • 2014: 18 races, 11 top tens, 8 podiums, 4 wins, 6 PRs

Looking ahead to 2015 I’m planning to do fewer races, but the races I will run are going to be doozies. So far on my plate are Moab Red Hot 55K, Quad Rock 50 mile, and Neversummer 100K. Realistically, I’m not expecting to win many more races. But I am looking forward to running well in some really hard races against some great competition at some pretty incredible locations.

Jan 28

December 2014

Running

Horsetooth Rock Trail

Horsetooth summit

State line

Trailhead

Dusk

Home among these mountaintops

December was a very easy month. Aside from the fat-ass 50K I didn’t run a whole lot (relatively speaking). The runs were short(ish) and easy. There were several days off for travel and a few for being sick. By the end of the month I felt recharged and ready to get after my training in January.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 19 192.03 miles 10.11 miles 9620. feet 506.32 feet
February 19 227.4 miles 11.97 miles 12301. feet 647.42 feet
March 17 192.96 miles 11.35 miles 10819. feet 636.41 feet
April 15 155.13 miles 10.34 miles 10947. feet 729.8 feet
May 24 252.5 miles 10.52 miles 20364. feet 848.5 feet
June 21 224.48 miles 10.69 miles 33782. feet 1608.67 feet
July 18 201.09 miles 11.17 miles 33696. feet 1872. feet
August 19 212.37 miles 11.18 miles 28465. feet 1498.16 feet
September 17 180.49 miles 10.62 miles 23117. feet 1359.82 feet
October 15 147.11 miles 9.81 miles 13376. feet 891.73 feet
November 23 206.79 miles 8.99 miles 46985. feet 2042.83 feet
December 19 171.59 miles 9.03 miles 23836. feet 1254.53 feet
Total 226 2363.94 miles 10.46 miles 267308. feet 1182.78 feet

Running 2014 12

Jan 15

Chubby Cheeks 50K

Chubby Cheeks start

In mid-December I ran the Chubby Cheeks 50K. This is a fat-ass event (no entry fee, no bib number, pseudo-race, organized group run) that takes place on the trails of Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and Lory State Park. I hadn’t run long in two months, so I was eager to complete the full 50K rather than one of the shorter options (22 & 26 miles). At the starting line I overheard one of the other runners apologize to his acquaintance that he was only going to run the marathon distance that day.

I love Colorado.

Sunrise

Horsetooth Rock Trail

South Ridge Trail

Audra Culver Trail

I started off with a group of three guys I knew and one guy I just met. We ran together up the mountain at a leisurely pace and stopped at the top for a while to soak in the view.

RMNP

Horsetooth summit

Horsetooth summit

We picked up the pace a bit on the way down before hitting bottom and starting the second ascent. The second descent was again fast. At the bottom the other 4 guys split off for the 22 mile turnaround while I soldiered on alone, now blasting music on my iPod.

Spring Creek Trail

Howard Trail

Arthurs Rock

I stopped for a bit at the top of Arthurs Rock before somewhat uncharacteristically bombing the next descent as well. Another trip halfway up the mountain and back down left me at the marathon turnaround point. I arrived there at the same time as a guy I knew (who started later) so we ran together for a few miles. He said he felt bad as we started the last trip up the mountain so I was on my own again.

Timber Trail

West Ridge Trail

I was moving pretty slow by this point. I’ve climbed the mountain twice in one run before, but not more than that. This event included 4½ ascents of the mountain and by the last climb I was pretty tired, though still in good spirits. I descended one final time and began the half mile journey back to the starting line, which was at the nearby home of the organizer (Nick).

Melissa and Will were headed to the after-event party and they passed me right at the end. Will got out and ran with me to the finish line. At 6h35m I definitely didn’t set the course ablaze, but I wasn’t really trying to run fast. This was a nice comfortable (at times) training run. With 7,500 ft of climbing it turned out to be the most I’ve ever climbed in a single day.

Screen Shot 2014 12 13 at 6 29 01 PM

Despite the nice weather, apparently nobody else was stupid enough to run the full 50K that day. So I “won” by default. After a couple hours at the party two other runners finished the 50K, though I think they added a few miles by getting lost at one point.

It was a good way to end a good year: running with friends, running alone, climbing the mountain over and over again, running fast, running slow, walking, completing a nice long run just because I can, yet not killing myself in the process. It was only after the run that I realized that this was mostly the same course as the Quad Rock 50 mile race I’m running next May, which makes me even more glad I was able to do this run.