Bradley's View

Bradley's View

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Grand Mesa 50

     I came into this race with a thoroughly thought-out plan of attack for how to ensure that my time out there would be as enjoyable and productive as possible.  About a mile into the race my plan was abandoned and it was with reckless abandon that I proceeded to run until... Wait, lets start from the beginning...

     At 3:45 alarms sounded throughout the tent, I came to quickly, crawled over Matt and Kendrick and went through my pre-race routine in the moist morning air.  At about 4:40 we arrived at the Grand Mesa Lodge, which served as the start/finish line.  A couple of minutes after 5:00 AM, the race director asked non-chalantly, "Who wants to count us off?" And after a "3-2-1" we were off into the darkness, headlamps bobbing up the hill like buoy's on a rough sea.

     The race started with an 11-mile loop from the lodge, which featured a couple of significant climbs.  The objective I had laid out for myself prior to the race was that I would run easy-easy-easy for the first 35 miles and finish very strong- the only stipulation was that I would not let myself dip below 5th place.  I settled behind Troy, a great guy and great runner, figuring he was probably taking it easier in the early goings.  We worked hard early, enjoying the beautiful trail that bobbed and weaved past a dozen or so lakes.  As the sun started to creep onto the mesa we were on top of the crest of the crag, which was a stretch of trail about 4-5 feet wide and with a drop of about 300 feet on either side.  It was super technical and just rolled up and down.  After running up the hill in a pack with Troy, and four others I decided to find my happy pace and attempt to get back to my original gameplan.  Once you dismount the cragcrest, you begin a descent down what is practically a carpeted sidewalk and, hey, how could you resist the urge to fly down it?  As the loop came to an end I was back within 50 feet of Troy and a couple of others.

On the Crag Crest trail

     At the first aid station (mile 11, 1:46), I spent no more than 3 second, literally.  I tossed the head lamp to Kendrick and the water bottles to Matt, and he tossed a full one back to me and I was off.  I ran with Troy for another mile or so, and then it came to my attention that the only people in front of us were not our competitors, but the leaders of the 60k race that started at the same time. Doh!

      At about mile 15, I began to notice some serious fatigue welling in my legs, and knew that I really had to lay off the pace and respect the course that lay ahead.  Once mile 18 rolled around I began a battle that would rage the rest of the day against cramps around my groin and in my quads.

      I was really kicking myself for starting out so fast, for deliberately disobeying my designed plan for the race.

      Anywho, I met up with Matt and Kendrick at the mile 23 aid station, for another quick exchange of bottles and Kendrick tagged along for the beautiful 16-mile loop on top of the mesa.  I reached the halfway point of the race in under 4 hours.  Not too bright.

      The crappy cramps ebbed and flowed for the remainder of the day, seriously inhibiting my ability to run more than 10 minutes at a time during the 16 mile mesatop loop.

      By the end of the loop, which took way longer than I'd hoped, I was at mile 39 and had been moving for 6 hours and 40  minutes.  This meant that I had a generous 2 hours and 20 minutes to cover the final 11 miles and still finish under 9 hours, easy right?  Wrong.

     Over the course of the day, most notably my foolhardy full-speed-ahead start, I had manage to completely trash my quads beyond recognition and beyond ability to run.  I truly felt as if, when running downhill, they would just give out and be unable to hold me up.   Matt joined me for the last 11, and urged me to run when possible and was delightfully patient when I refused (we ran about 2 of the last 11 miles).  I became quite apathetic during this stretch, as my original plan had involved saving a  huge push an covering this stretch in about 1:50 I was naturally quite disappointed that my experience was truly the antithesis to my desire.

    As an exclamation point on my woes late in the race, I was passed by 4 runners in the last 5 miles.  My goal time for finishing the race was 9:24, and I finished 3 minutes behind that in 9:27.

     It was a learning experience, as always.  If that 9 mile deathmarch doesn't teach me to pace myself better early on, I don't know what will.  I also need to work on hydrating a little bit, which could help me avoid cramps- I peed for the first time about 2 hours and 30 minutes into the race and the second time was about 8 hours and 30 minutes into the race, not a good sign...  There is always lots to learn, and I've chosen not to beat myself up over foolish mistakes and just keep my chin up and take away what I can concerning racing and fueling strategy and apply them all to my graduate work: the Run Rabbit Run 100 in September.

     Most sincere apologies that there aren't more pictures to show.  I can't reccomend strongly enough a trip to this incredibly unique place- I don't know that pictures would do justice to the distinct landscape of lush greens and vast forests that rise thousands of feet above the desolate desert that surrounds it.  If I pay another visit there, I'll be sure to snap some pictures and put them up here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Week In Review: Tapering...

    Tapering... more like boring!  Ha... ha...  But really, tapering isn't all that much fun.  Trying to limit runs to an hourish isn't all that exciting when there are so many sights to be seen so close by that can only be reached by foot!  Hopefully there will be some observable benefits when Saturday's race rolls around, but right now I'm not so sure..

     I'm stoked to have some good guys in Kendrick and Matt out there crewing me this weekend and really stoked to run 50 miles around the highest flat-top mountain in the world!  The mesa is about 500 square miles and rises 5,000 ft above the surrounding valley reaching its high point at about 11,3333 ft.  Truly a remarkable piece of land!   I've heard the weather will be great, low of 48/high of 68 with a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon!  From what I've heard the course is really beautiful and fun, though slow.  I hope not to spend more than 10 hours on the course- I feel like I'm strong enough to finish in less than 9 (the current course record stands at 9:24), but any given day...

     Tomorrow morning Matt and I will leave Leadville and head out to find a campsite. My primary objective will be to keep my stomach happy, with a strong last 15 miles being my second priority.  It will be fun to race again since I haven't run an ultra since my first and only pay-and-get-a-t-shirt ultra back in March of last year, the Bel Monte 50.

     Here is last week in review:

7/16- Monday

7/17- Tuesday
      13.5 miles with Brandon and Luna on the CT/CDT near Twin Lakes, 2:00, 2,500 ft

7/18- Wednesday

7/19- Thursday
      13 miles with Luna near Frisco, Meadow Creek-Gore Range-Ten Mile Creek, 2:02, 2,800 ft

7/20- Friday
       8 miles with Matt and Luna on Mitchell Creek Loop from Tennessee Pass, 1:10, 800 ft


7/22- Sunday
       7 miles with Kendrick and Luna on the Boulder's Trail, :50, 800 ft

Totals:  41.5 miles, 5 hours, 6,900 ft

Near the intersection of the Meadow Creek and Gore Range trails

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Week In Review: 7/9-7/15, Inspired By Hardrock

      After the manifestation of unfortunate ailments the previous week, I decided it was in my best interest to give myself a few days rest.  Three days off in a row was something that I hadn't afforded myself in some time, but I think it paid off and I'm feeling strong again.

      This weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the most inspirational events imaginable- the Hardrock 100 in Silverton, CO.  Arguably the most difficult 100 in the country, it quickly captured my imagination and I am very hopeful that I will be among the 10% whose name are chosen in the lottery for next year's race.  

      Bearing witness to such awe-inspiring efforts on such beautiful terrain as the Hardrock 100 course really got me excited about the Grand Mesa 50 that I'll be running in a couple of weeks.

      Meeting up with Brandon and Hannah was a treat, as was getting to share our new home with them.  Brandon, Luna and I shared a few great runs including a summit of Mt Massive.

       Anywho, the week in review:

7/9- Monday
        5 miles in an attempted summit of Missouri, thwarted by thunderstorms, 1:25, 3000 ft

7/10- Tuesday

7/11- Wednesday
7/12- Thursday

7/13- Friday
          10 miles of the Hardrock course with Brandon and Sandi from Grouse Gulch to Handies Peak (14,087 ft) and back.  Really great run on incredible trail. 3:20, 5000 ft

7/14- Saturday
          7.5 miles with Brandon and Luna, fish hatchery loop, 1:20, 1,500 ft

7/15- Sunday
          14 miles with Brandon and Luna up Mt Massive via the CT/Mt Massive Trailhead, and descending the backside to North Halfmoon Lakes Trail.  5:00, 5,000 ft

Totals:  36.5 miles, 11 hours, 14,500 ft

Up from Grouse Gulch outside Silverton

Sandi and Brandon on some picturesque singletrack

Up on the first pass with Handies and the sun rising behind me

Brandon heading up the first pass

Sandi, myself, and Brandon on the summit of Handies (14,087 ft)

Me and Luna running the last of the ridge to Massive's summit

Us and Brandon on Massive
View from Massive's hindside

Brandon and L.D on the North Halfmoon Lakes trail

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Week In Review: 7/2-7/8

    At the beginning of the previous week's "Week In Review" I stated that I was feeling about 100% healthy.  Now this is a glorious thing to proclaim, for obvious reasons, but I could scarcely have been more asinine in my blatant taunting of the universe and, thus, I sit with ice on my shin as I type...

    I'm scarcely shaken; though it has bothered me the past three days I trust that it will heal pretty quickly if I give it attention- its something that has come and gone innumerable times in the past.

     Anyways, to kick off the week Melissa and I had the pleasure of meeting up with our friends of old Brandon and Hannah, who were so gracious as to bring our beloved pup, Luna, with them on their way out west.  The reunion was glorious, as expected, and Brandon and I got in a sweet run on the La Luz Trail in Albuquerque.

     Being back with Luna has been outstanding, not to mention humbling with regards to my running, and she seems to be acclimating quite well to the elevation and welcoming to the lack of heat and humidity way up here.

     The Ten Mile Traverse was a truly unique and spectacular experience.  I would love to do this every week!  (Follow the link for pictures and a brief write-up)

     I'm really looking forward to this coming week (but whats new?) as I hope to squeeze in some high mountain summits before and after work early in the week before heading to Silverton on Thursday to cheer for and support the fortunate few racing the Hardrock 100.

    Here she is, the week in review:

7/2- Monday
        15 miles on the La Luz Trail (Albuquerque) with Brandon. 1:50 on the ascent and 1:30 on the way down. 3,750 ft

7/3- Tuesday
        Long day at the coffee shop

7/4- Wednesday
        10 miles with Luna on the Boulder's trail in 1:20, 1,800 ft

7/5- Thursday
         Ten Mile Traverse with Jeremy and James in 6:15, 8,500 ft

7/6- Friday
         6 miles with Luna in Buena Vista up toward Midland Hill, thwarted by thunderstorms before the summit, :55 minutes, 1,100 ft

7/7- Saturday
         7 miles around and to the football field (3 miles barefoot) and back to the house, 1:00, 400 ft

7/8- Sunday
         12 miles in the backyard.  1:55, 1,800 ft

Totals: 64 miles, 14 hours 40 minutes, 17,300 ft

Me and Brandon on the La Luz Trail (Photo B. Thrower)
A rocky road to the ridge... (Photo B. Thrower)

Me and Brandon "Golden Calves" Thrower on Sandia's crest (Photo woman with border collie)

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Ten Mile Traverse

     After several restless evenings of feeling like a kid at Christmas the day finally arrived for us to approach the Ten Mile Traverse.  To be fair- the day hadn't yet arrived, it was about 3:00 in the morning when we left Leadville to head to the trailhead in Frisco...

     I had gone back and forth on what gear to bring for some time, and ultimately decided I'd be glad to have a layer at some point, and that I could make the journey, which I estimated to be between 5-7 hours, with two water bottles (1 liter) and a handful of gels.  So after stripping down and suiting up James, Jeremy, and myself were itching to go.

Hoping to beat the weather with a 4:15am start

     We ran by headlamp for the first hour or so up and up and up (~3,500 ft in 4 miles) en route to the summit of Peak One.

The sun showing its color in between clouds over Frisco
       Arriving at the summit after over an hour of moving was quite gratifying, it was also nice to know that we wouldn't have any climb so large as that for the rest of the traverse.  In fact, we wouldn't be dropping much below 12,500 feet for the remainder of the day!

Me, James, and Jeremy on Peak One

Tenmile Peak a.k.a Peak Two as seen from Peak One

A rocky traverse.

    We were well aware that there would be technical terrain to navigate on the route, and were almost giddy with the prospect of getting into the heart of it beyond Peak Two!

Heading up Peak Two's ridgeline.
      The temperatures were perfect and the morning light heightened the astounding beauty of the ridge.

Peak 3 in the center and Peak 4 beyond it to the right as seen from Tenmile Peak.

    The traverse from 2 to 3 was everything we'd hoped it would be.  It was a consistent scramble with a "choose your own adventure" kind of feel about it.  As we were feeling giddy and energetic, we decided to do our best mountain goat impressions,  making a few class five moves here and there, and pursing the ridge's crest as often as possible/practical.

I've heard this is called the Dragon's Tail, which I think is awesome considering I wear one of those...
Summiting Peak 3

Peak 4 and its awesome ridge in the distance.

Making moves

Riding the ridge to Peak 4
Summiting Peak 4

    Veering to the west of the ridge up Peak 4 was a blast, a lot of scrambling, of course, but we felt strong and were super stoked to gain the grassy ridge that ensues on the way to Peaks 5, 6, and 7.

Copper Mtn Ski resort from Peak 5
    Arriving at the summit of Peak 6 was slightly demoralizing, there is a stout descent to the saddle before climbing up Peak 7, and Peak 8 loomed higher still in the distance.  Not having a trail up the ridge incredibly steep ridge made for quite the push!  I felt really strong standing beside Breckenridge Ski Resorts Peak 8 chairlift having maintained a really strong pace up the climb. 

Early on Peak 8's burly ascent
    While waiting for Jeremy and James to join me on the summit, I became acutely aware of a hole growing in the pit of my stomach.  I ate some food, thinking that it would be back to normal in a minute or two.  But, boy, was I wrong.  My stomach went completely amok, I went from feeling 100% to 0% in a matter of minutes and was slowed to a walk down to Peaks 8 and 9's saddle, stopping along the way to dig holes, try to throw up, or find some sort of relief from the extreme discomfort I was feeling.

     I continued down slowly, grateful that the other two J's were waiting for me before starting the climb up Peak 9.  I stopped and sat down frequently to try to quell my stomach, but to no avail.  On the climb up Peak 9 I was contemplating my predicament and realized that during the Run Rabbit Run 100 in September it would be almost inevitable that I would feel as bad if not worse than this at some point throughout the day and this was a golden opportunity to exercise my will to overcome.  That being said, the steep ascent of Peak 10's talus slope (~900 vertical feet at around a 75 degree angle) was awesome.  I adhered to goat-like movements using all fours to scurry up the loose rocks and over the boulders on my way to the American Flag flapping freely in the wind atop the highest peak of the day (13,633 feet).

Peak 10 dead ahead
Jeremy summiting Peak 10

At 13,633 feet

Some of the traverse in the background
    We made the traverse in about 6 hours and 15 minutes.  The day was a huge success by every measure.  It was certainly one of the most sensational routes I've had the pleasure of navigating so far this summer, and something I'll certainly do again before the summer's end and would recommend to anyone else (I'd love to join you!).  It was great to spend time with James and Jeremy, who both kicked butt out there.  I'm glad I was hindered by the stomach issue late in the outing and hope that I learn how to avoid that in the future to ensure that I can run and race stronger and more comfortably in the future.  All in all, the route was about 14 miles with 8,500 feet of vertical gain.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Week In Review: 6/25-7/1

     Still running strong, and most importantly still feeling about 100% healthy!  This makes for an exciting time with a lot of great runs planned in the near future and a 50 mile race less than a month away!
      I was delighted to summit the southernmost high peak of the Sawatch Range on Monday in good company.  Had the pleasure of summiting Colorado's highest peak twice this past week on what proved to be epic outings.  

     I have become really comfortable with my ability to hike with haste and manage technical descents efficiently- I'm truly blessed to be in a setting that allows both of those to be practiced so easily.  My only concern regarding my fitness level is with respect to my ability to run... I mean, spending nearly all of my running time on steep ascents often well above 10,000 ft certainly has its benefits, but I've lost a bit of confidence in my ability to keep my legs turning over for hours on end, but this will be put to the test at the Grand Mesa 50 in a couple of weeks.  

     I was able to put up a really strong, speedy effort on Mt Elbert via the North Elbert Trailhead that gave me an unwavering confidence boost.  

     The week in review:

6/25- Monday
     Rested from yesterday's 5 hour effort

6/26- Tuesday
      9.5 miles up and down Mt Shavano (14,229 ft) with Sandi, 2:04 to summit, 3:15 total, 4,600 ft

6/27- Wednesday
       3 miles barefoot on the football field, :25

6/28- Thursday
       7.5 miles with Josh on the Fish Hatchery Loop (Highline, CT, Rock Creek)  :35 to CT, :52 to Rock Creek, 1:14 total, 1,400 ft

6/29- Friday
       PR on Elbert from North Elbert Trailhead, 1:24 to summit, 2:09:34 round-trip.  Couldn't have felt better about this outing- stopped to chat plenty, could definitely shave off an easy 5 minutes... 4,500 ft

6/30- Saturday
      No excuse for taking this off, really...

7/01- Sunday
      11 miles, South Elbert Trail to summit, caught up with Sandi about 20 minutes from summit, summited in 1:20, followed Black Cloud Trail staying above 13,800 for nearly 2 miles, ending with a super-steep descent ~5,000 ft in 3.5 miles(?!) before meeting Melissa at the trailhead, 3:40 total time, 5,200 ft

Totals:   40 miles, 10 hours 45 minutes, 15,700 ft

Looking back East towards Salida while approaching Shavano's ridge.

Look west from Shavano's ridge

Sandi makes the final push to the summit.

At 14,229

Beautiful stretch of trail on the descent, Shavano in the back, Sandi running

Heading up the South Elbert Trail, looking down on Twin Lakes

A glance towards Mt Massive from Elbert's summit.

Me and La Plata from the saddle of Elbert and South Elbert

Family reunion!  Luna has made it to Colorado, playing fetch in Timberline Lake.