May 12 – 1805/18/2014
Mon – Green Mt. (2:02, 3000′)
Today felt like January, not May. There was a solid 2′ of snow on the summit of Green—enough to make running even downhill a chore—with more coming down the whole time. It’ll be gone soon enough; this kind of thing doesn’t really bother me too much, knowing that temps will be in the 80s later in the week.
Tue-AM: South Boulder Loop+Kitt Field barefoot (2:05, 20mi, 700′)
With all the snow on the trails, it was easy to stick to my loose commitment to run some extended flat stuff once a week. My hip still feels most solid on even surfaces, so after two days of wobbling through the snow, I seemed like a good idea to retreat to the more predictable footing of the bike paths.
This is a pretty decent loop. The first 10mi were the same as last week, ending with the South Boulder Creek Trail at Marshall Rd just south of town. I averaged roughly 6:30s for the first half, hitting it in 65:30. On the way back towards downtown I added an extra mile by looping up Greenbriar to Gillaspie before joining into Table Mesa and getting back on the creek paths for a couple miles of barefoot on the turf at Kitt Field. I was able to pick up the pace in this section, hovering right at the 6-flat mark, until I lost my shoes for the turf running and clicked off a 5:50 and 5:40, just to keep things honest, finishing up the second 10miles of the run right at 1hr-flat.
The lay-running physiologist in me knows that a run like this falls pretty squarely into what Jack Daniels might call “quality-junk” mileage. It’s too slow for proper anaerobic threshold or “tempo” work (which, here at altitude, is probably more in the 5:20-30s range for me), but certainly too fast to be a proper “easy” run either. My rationalization is that running is more mental and intuitive than merely imparting a specific stress on a specific metabolic/cardiovascular system, and for ultras, it’s simply good to feel efficient at the comfortably-quick effort that 6min pace is for me. I suppose if my immediate goal races were of the typical North American 50mi variety—low-6hr endeavors on smooth trails with ~10k’ of vert—then I’d be concerned with doing a more specific tempo run each week.
PM: Run Colorado Group Run (Greenwood Village) (:33)
Easy jog on tired legs. This is a pretty cool weekly gathering, though, with Pete grilling sausages and easily 100 people showing up to get out and stretch the legs after work. And despite being the absolute heart of suburbia there was even some decent dirt to run on.
Wed – 1st Flatiron+Green Mt+Seal Rock (2:45, 4500′)
Even after only a week or so off from scrambling, it’s always such a pleasure to get back on the rock and be moving efficiently, with full attention. While I was descending Bear Canyon today, I impulsively decided I also wanted to go check out Seal Rock, just south of the mouth of the canyon. This prominent, uniquely shaped flatiron on the face of Bear Peak has had my interest for quite some time, I’ve just never gotten around to actually climbing it. There’s a great access trail to ascend the 400-500′ up to its base off the Mesa Trail, and then it’s 800′ of classic flatiron scrambling up its north arete. Much of the terrain is quite easy, probably 4th Class or just a little harder, and the plethora of holds made it feel about like the Third Flatiron to me. Above the downclimb shoulder (the bend in the rock that gives it its seal shape), the rock gets a little steeper and thoughtful in a few spots, but soon after you’re standing on the large summit. The downclimb is just a reverse of the final 300′ or so of the route, back down to the shoulder, and then a short scramble northwest to the ground. I’ve been meaning to extend my flatiron explorations to the south for a long time—I’m at least familiar with most things between Skunk Canyon and Gregory Canyon—and Seal Rock was a great introduction, and being so close to Bear Canyon and Fern Canyon and unaffected by any seasonal closures, I’ll probably be tacking it onto the end of a lot of my runs going forward.
Thu-AM: Green Mt. (2:00, 3000′)
Standard easy lap up Gregory Canyon and down Bear Canyon. The snow is melting at a pretty remarkable rate; should be able to do a pretty much snow-free long run this weekend.
PM: 2xFirst Flatiron+First Flatironette+The Spy (1:08, 2500′)
I wanted to get out for some concentrated scrambling this evening, so I did a couple Gerry Roach Classics on the First. Biked to Chat and did my usual lap up the standard East Face, tagging a 13min ascent. After downclimbing and descending back to the base via the trail, I linked the First Flatironette to The Spy, which is only 300′ or so, but is a great little sidewalk in the sky. From here, it’s only a couple minute uphill hike to get onto the North Arete of the First, an enjoyably airy variation to climbing that formation. My legs felt great and my scrambling was perfectly on-point, but I figured an hour was enough…still gotta be prudent with the hip.
Fri – 1st Flatiron+Green+Seal Rock (1:57, 4000′)
Got out with Joe this morning for a fun tour of Green. It seems like it’s been a really long time since Joe and I have gone for a run together. I think it has. Starting out of Chautauqua in the morning is always a little rough as it’s uphill no matter how you cut it. By time we got to the base of the First we were already sweating and there were several parties out enjoying the big slab, including by buddy Timmy O’Neill, definitely one of the legends of the First (not to mention, just generally as a human, too). After running down Bear Canyon, I was excited to introduce Joe to Seal Rock, fellow slab-mongering scrunbler that he is, and it didn’t disappoint. Several times, Joe exclaimed, “I think this is better than the Fourth!”, referring to the Fourth Flatiron (which, incidentally, is where it previously ranked in our hierarchy of quality scrunbling objectives, behind the First, Third, and Fifth Flatirons). I agreed. It’s pretty satisfying when one discovers a delightful new wrinkle to the routine, right there in your backyard.
Sat – 2xGreen->Walker->Eldo->SoBo Peak->Bear Peak->Fern->Green (5:36, 33mi, 12k’)
After last week’s less vert-focused long run, and with waiting for the fresh snow to consolidate in the high country, I opted for some low-altitude accumulated gain. Only an extra 2mi of distance, but I was able to cram in an extra 5k’, so, mission accomplished. On the initial two laps on Green Mt, I went up Gregory-Ranger both times to maximize the running and while I felt ok, my legs didn’t have quite the pep I’d hoped for, managing only a pair of 38min ascents. I’m definitely carrying a bit more accumulated fatigue than I was a week ago. Similarly, on the climb out of Walker Ranch my enthusiasm was waning but was slightly bolstered when I hit the same split for the climb as last week. Though slick and muddy, the grunt up Old Mesa was encouraging, and I committed to continuing the climb up Shadow Canyon to the summit of South Boulder Peak for an almost 3000′ continuous climb out of Eldorado Springs.
I haven’t been in Shadow Canyon since before the fire over there two years ago, and that’s a real shame because it’s a gem. Last fall’s flood increased the techy nature of the footing—to the point where it’s probably not fair to compare ascent times from before the flood—but I was really enjoying the variety provided by hiking the steeper, trickier stuff and the atmosphere while working back up through the inversion layer again was refreshingly damp and cool. Near the bottom of the climb, I caught up to Jason Antin, who I had seen earlier in the morning descending the Ranger Trail. We stopped for a quick chat, where I was once again reminded of the primary maxim in the Boulder outdoor community—no matter how tough/impressive/awesome you think you are, you can almost be assured that someone else is doing something even more impressive. Jason was in the midst of three laps on the three peaks, i.e. running the Mesa over from Chautauqua to Shadow Canyon, up to SoBo Peak, over Bear and Green, and back down to Chat for a 17mi/4500′ loop. Three times in a row. That’s a big day. Suddenly, my outing didn’t feel so proud, but I was definitely inspired. Thanks Jason!
The real treat was breaking out of the inversion just below the SoBo/Bear saddle and enjoying magnificent sun and views while tagging SoBo and Bear Peaks. On the summit of Bear, a small part of me wanted to just run the West Ridge of Bear over to Green—saving myself the particularly abusive descent down Fern Canyon and subsequently an extra 1000′ of vert going up Bear Canyon—but a Watermelon GU was enough to squash any doubts and I ripped the Fern descent with gusto before the slow grind back up to the final Green summit and descent of the day.
Sun – 1st Flatiron+Green Mt. (2:12, 3000′)
I was definitely feeling yesterday’s vert in the ol’ pins this morning, so just tapped along at a very easy effort, enjoying the leisure of it all. I got there early enough that there was only one party on the First, along with plenty of cool breezes. In order for a little extra time, from the summit of Green I descended the Ranger Trail to the Chapman Drive drop down to the Red Lion Inn, a nice alternative if you’re looking for a more gradual, tech-free downhill.