Fifth time’s a charm

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

I tested the waters with a small 5K a couple weeks ago, but the Black Squirrel Half Marathon would be my first proper local trail race in Fort Collins. I was genuinely excited for this race. I knew the course. I felt fit. Many of the competitors were people I’ve run with.

Furthermore, a trail half marathon is the sweet spot for my abilities. It’s short enough that my speed comes into play, it’s long enough that my endurance is a factor, and if the trail is rugged (or muddy) enough balance and agility will also come into play. This is my most successful type of race (finishing 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 1st in four previous attempts).


But running well at this race race was not a sure thing for me. My confidence has taken a beating since moving to Colorado. I’ve raced in CO/WY four times, having three so-so races and one downright bad race. The Black Squirrel course featured over 2,000 feet of climbing (concentrated in one mountain ascent), whereas previous trail half marathons featured only small rolling hills with less that half the ascent. While I have added quite a bit of climbing to my training, I don’t feel it’s a strength for me.

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The weather cooperated and it was nice and cool for the race: 50’s, cloudy, perfect. It rained all day Friday, so the trails were a bit muddy in places.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Melissa

Muddy road

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Photo by Melissa

I didn’t do much of a warmup so I felt pretty awful for the first mile or so. This was planned though, as I wanted to make sure I didn’t start too fast. I wore a watch, but I didn’t look at it the entire race. We hit the base of the big climb and I was starting to feel a bit better, at this point in 5th place.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Melissa

I ran hard up the hill (harder than I’d ever run it before), but I kept things under control. There was a lot of race left after we reached the top and the rest of the course suited me better. I moved up one place into 4th. Most of the climb I had people hot on my heels, but by the time I reached the top the gap had opened up a bit.

Timber trail

Timber trail


After 4 miles of nearly continuous uphill I reached the top and without wasting any time I picked up as much speed as I could on the downhill. The first bit was easy, but after just a few turns I reached the really tricky section of rocky switchbacks. The first switchback was just above the low clouds, so you couldn’t see where you would have landed if you missed that turn. I didn’t miss it.


Halfway down the descent a runner rapidly caught up with me and passed me. I was somewhat surprised. I was running the technical downhill about as fast as I thought a person could run it, but I was wrong.


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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

I limited my losses and before long I exited the descent onto the rolling valley trails for the last 5 miles of the race, now in 5th place. This was my terrain and I still had plenty left in the tank. These trails are in the wide open valley and I could see two runners just a short distance ahead of me. I pushed hard in the early part of the valley and I quickly made up ground.

South Valley trail

South Valley trail

South Valley trail

Soon #4 passed #3, and a moment later I passed #4 then #3 (so 3-5 had reversed places). I opened up a gap and tried to maintain a strong pace to the end. After a couple hard miles I could no longer see the runner behind me, and I hadn’t seen #1 or #2 since mile 1, so they were surely long gone. I lost motivation to keep pushing myself and I slowed a bit in the final mile.

Coming off East Valley trail

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Photo by Melissa

I finished 3rd overall in 1h40m26s. That was my fastest trail half marathon finish on what was surely the most difficult course I’ve raced. It went well.

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Photo by Melissa

Within a minute or two the next two runners finished. I hadn’t recognized either of them during the race, and I had never met either guy in person, but after some quick introductions I realized that these two guys were both acquaintances I had met online via Strava. I’ve been following when, where, and how fast they train (they can see my training as well). I’ve been genuinely impressed with both of them, and knowing they would be racing, I thought to myself that it would be pretty difficult to beat these guys.

It was even harder than I expected.

Black Squirrel

August 2014


Andrews Glacier

I had high hopes for lots of running while we were in Nicaragua, but the tropical heat and humidity did me in. I felt lethargic the whole time we were there and I only got out a few times. With little running in the first half of the month I really piled on the miles in the second half, even running a few half marathon length training runs on weekdays (which is rare). It took a while to get back into the swing of things, but by the end of the month I was feeling fit and ready for my next tough race, the Black Squirrel Half Marathon on September 6.

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 15 155.2 miles 10.35 miles 10947. feet 729.8 feet
May 24 252.5 miles 10.52 miles 20364. feet 848.5 feet
June 21 224.51 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
Total 152 1658.06 miles 10.91 miles 159994. feet 1052.59 feet

Running 2014 8


Surprise! After months of gradual decline in my cycling August came out of nowhere to become my highest mileage month of the year (so far). And that all happened in the second half of the month. So, what happened? A few things.

Big Dummy

We bought a Surly “Big Dummy” cargo bike for riding around town and running errands, hauling Will and other stuff. Sure, we had lots of bikes already, but all of my bikes are for racing, and they’re not particularly well suited for much else. It seems strange, but just having a bike with wide tires, fenders, built-in storage space, platform pedals, etc. was enough to get me riding just a little bit each day‚Ķ and that was enough to get me out on longer rides. The more longer rides I did the better I felt, both about cycling, but also about running. I’d forgotten how good the cross training was for my running, and how much better my legs felt after a couple hours of low impact spinning.

Flat tire

Fall is rapidly approaching and I’ve been itching to spend time on my cyclocross bike. Mountain biking is huge around here, and it is so with good reason. There are many great trail networks, many of which are quite ridable on my CX bike and I can ride to them from my house on that bike.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 4 64.74 miles 16.19 miles 1114. feet 278.5 feet
February 1 15.9 miles 15.9 miles 0. feet 0. feet
March 2 51.18 miles 25.59 miles 2115. feet 1057.5 feet
April 6 148.91 miles 24.82 miles 6250. feet 1041.67 feet
May 4 73.05 miles 18.26 miles 2810. feet 702.5 feet
June 4 70.06 miles 17.52 miles 4901. feet 1225.25 feet
July 4 62.47 miles 15.62 miles 2986. feet 746.5 feet
August 9 151.9 miles 16.88 miles 6942. feet 771.33 feet
Total 34 638.21 miles 18.77 miles 27118. feet 797.59 feet

Cycling 2014 8