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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Conquered!! And Completed a Boulder Skyline Traverse

I started my run, nervous that my legs would feel bundy, very slowly. Yesterday I went on a 2 and half hour run and my legs felt super bundy and last weekend my legs felt bundy when I attempted this same exact run, which I eventually aborted. Starting off slow paid it's dividends!

Here is the route I was attempting, which to most of you this won't make any sense unless you are familiar with Boulder trails. From my house next to Wonderland Lake take the bike path to Linden, connect to Goat Trail. Take Goat Trail up to Sanitas Valley Trail. Take Sanitas Valley Trail (Or Dakota Ridge) down to Mapleton, cross Mapleton, take Anemone Trail around Red Rocks. Cross under Canyon and head through Ebin G Fine Park. Hook onto Flagstaff Trail and use that trail to partially go up Flagstaff Mountain and then down to Baseline. Run up to Gregory Canyon Trail Head. Proceed on Amphitheater Trail, continue up Saddlerock Trail and up to Green Mountain. Go down Green Mountain, down Bear Canyon, turn right on Mesa Trail, then up Shadow Canyon, tag South Boulder Peak, then tag Bear Mountain. Run over to Ranger Trail, connect to Ute Trail, tag Flagstaff Mountain Peak, down Flagstaff Trail to Ebin G. Fine Park. From here, depending on how I feel I have several options to get back home from easy (taking streets home) to hard (tackling Mount Sanitas). 

All these peaks in this run make for TONS of elevation gain. I wish I had one of those nifty new watches to tell me how much elevation I climbed today, my guess is I climbed around 7,000 ft. - 8,000 ft. but I honestly have no clue. Another reason I wish I had one of those nifty new watches is they have GPS and then I would know how far I ran. I ran for a total of 5 hours and 45 mins, and can only guess how far I ran, probably around 35 miles, but again I have no clue.

The entire run I felt fabulous. Last weekend running up to Green Mountain (8,144 ft.) and I felt like walking, not today! Today was a totally new me, maybe I am finally recovered from the Boston Marathon. All in all nothing could stop me today! Not crazy elevation gain or snow!

A view west from the top of Green Mountain

Another view west from the top of Green Mountain

A marker at the top of Green Mountain that tells you the names of peaks in the distance, those are some huge peaks!

There I am with Boulder in the background from the top of Green

The trail that I descended from Green to head over to Bear Canyon

After Green the big challenge is running up Shadow Canyon. I have even been told that Shadow isn't for running, it's for hiking. TODAY WAS NOT THE DAY FOR HIKING!!! I continued feeling great and RAN all the up Shadow Canyon, BOOM conquered it, and up to the top of South Boulder Peak 8,549 ft. without a single step of power hiking nonsense. South Boulder Peak was my favorite peak to be at the top of today, I loved the views!
Looking out from South Boulder Peak

Another view from South Boulder Peak

A look east from South Boulder Peak. While I was on top of South Boulder Peak it started to snow, but it was weak and obviously wasn't going to last

On the right is Bear Mountain, the next peak on my list to summit. On the left is Green Mountain, the first peak I hit today

Bear Mountain in the background

Bear Mountain on the right and Green on the left

Bear Mountain, only a quick jog away from South Boulder Peak

If you click on this pic and blow it up you might be able to see the trail going up to the summit

I was amped to run up Shadow Canyon with no walking whatsoever, thus my mind started working new challenges that I can go after and I decided that I might as well complete a full Boulder Skyline Traverse today. The Boulder Skyline Traverse is a run that goes to the top of the 5 main peaks in Boulder: Green Mountain 8,144 ft., South Boulder Peak 8,549 ft., Bear Mountain 8,461 ft., Flagstaff Mountain 6,978 ft., Mount Sanitas 6,863 ft. 

After South Boulder Peak it was time to tackle Bear Mountain, which is a simple one from South Boulder Peak, they are close to eachother.

Looking west from Bear Mountain

Looking north at Green Mountain

Green Mountain and Boulder below

People climbing up to the summit of Bear Mountain

After Bear Mountain it was time to hit up Flagstaff, which is mostly downhill, except for a short uphill section to the Ranger Trail. Flagstaff Mountain is nothing exciting, so on to Mount Sanitas without stopping to finish off the Boulder Skyline Traverse. I descended Flagstaff Trail, crossed Ebin G. Fine Park, up and over Red Rocks via Red Rocks Trail, and then time for Mount Sanitas. At this late stage in the run Mount Sanitas is tough, from the starting point it is 1,600 ft. of elevation gain to the summit, game on! 

While running up Mount Sanitas I made sure to take short strides and minimize jumping from rock to rock in order to conserve energy. That would have sucked if I started walking ascending my last peak!

At the top of Mount Sanitas

Looking north towards Wonderland Lake, where my run will end today

Looking south towards Green Mountain, was up at the top 3 and half hours before

My hydration vest, mounted on a pole, and Green

After taking my pics at the top of Mount Sanitas I decided to bomb the downhill and practice my downhill descent since coming down from Mount Sanitas is some technical stuff. I let gravity take control and got home from the peak of Mount Sanitas in 20 mins with a total time of 5 hours and 45 mins.

Yesterday I posted about my nutrition for today's run. I ended up using 3 energy gels and 3 energy bars during the run for a total of 1,020 calories eaten during my run. It's crazy how last weekend I couldn't get enough calories during my run and today I just didn't need the calories, not that I try to minimize taking in calories, but I just let my body decide whenever I need calories. I also drank my way through my hydration bladder. I had filled my bladder up to 60 oz. I probably should have refilled it at Ebin G Fine park before hitting Red Rocks and Mount Sanitas towards the end of my run. The other option is to fill the bladder to its capacity at 70 oz. Decisions for next run! Before my run began I ate two Lara Bars for a total of 440 calories and drank about 32 ounces of water.

Tomorrow the run up to Nederland is off, well it is still on but I'm not going to meet up. I was told that the group I was going to meet up with doesn't fit my style of running. No biggy, will have to figure something out for tomorrow. Still want to do a solid long run. I haven't ran up Fern Canyon yet, which is appealing, and then bag some peaks from there. Another idea I have in my head is a double Boulder Skyline Traverse, but done with way less climbing.  I would do this run by not descending down to challenge myself to any climbs like I did today, instead once I'm up at elevation tag the peaks and then turn around and tag them again. I would hit Mount Sanitas first, then Flagstaff, then Green, then Bear, then South Boulder Peak, and then turn around and tag them all again.And my third idea is to drive to Walker Ranch and run there since I'm yet to run there, I hear it is beautiful! I'll think it out tonight and make a decision.

Got together last night with the crew I'm doing the Zion Traverse with. Everything is looking solid, but might have to take Friday off. I need money, but living life for the crazy moments is more important to me. Gotta talk to my boss and see what her feelings are if I'm gone Friday, should be fine, after all I'm paid by the hour. The only problem is she is already taking Friday off and may need me to lead things while she is gone.

HAPPY SATURDAY!$!!#@!@#@^$!%$%!#@%!@&^(*#!(*&*!^#& WOOHOOOOOOOOO

Friday, April 29, 2011

Nutrition on my Long Runs

On my long runs I typically pack two types of energy: energy bars and gels. I really hate buying both and have successfully made both with the help of Deanna, but laziness often gets the better of me, at which point I head to the store and stock up. Since I have that crazy long run tomorrow I stocked up today and got my hydration vest all set up for tomorrow. My buddy Dana dropped me by REI after we had a blast at Left Hand Brewery. Shout out to Coey! He took care of our tab there and hooked us up with 48 beers! WOWZERS!!!

At REI all I needed to get was energy bars. Deanna had bought me some energy gels earlier in the week. She got me Honey Stinger gels. I have tried many other brands of gels and these seem to get my energy going immediately and better than any other gel I have tried. I also like the fact that the main ingredient is honey, not some crazy synthesized sugar. I like these gels so much that I used them during the Boston Marathon by baby-pinning 5 of them to the inside of my running shorts, for ease of pulling them right off of the baby pin. Check out the Honey Stinger nutrition facts. As I mentioned I like that honey is the main ingredient, but also there is water and salt. Salt is a NECESSITY for ultra-runners. I am also a fan of not consuming caffeine during my runs, only because I don't consume caffeine frequently. It's crazy how many energy gels contain caffeine! I guess a lot of athletes like that caffeine buzz during their workout, but my body isn't used to it so I don't consume caffeine during a workout.

At REI I set out to get Lara Bars. I absolutely love Lara Bars. They are all natural and the main ingredients are usually dates and some sort of nut. They don't have any added sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, or any other forms of added sugars, just the sugar from the dates. They are gluten free, vegan, and soy free too. My favorite kind of Lara Bar is the coconut cream pie. If you click on that link you can then proceed to click on the links for the nutrition facts and ingredients. Look at how simple the ingredient list is! It's not a freaking long list of ingredients that is beyond a paragraph long. In my opinion if there is a paragraph of ingredients then there is some fake ingredients in there that I want to stay away from. I'm a simple man who likes simple energy bars!

Food wise for my long run tomorrow I am packing 5 Lara Bars and 5 Honey Stinger energy gels. I determine how much food to pack by my guesstimate of how long my run will be. I usually pack 300 calories per an hour of running to be safe, could probably get by with 200 calories per an hour though. The problem with packing more means the hydration vest is heavier, which might give me a better workout, but could also cause more stress on the legs since more weight is coming down on them. Preferably I want to keep running as simple as possible and as natural as possible, but being safe is critical too.

In terms of hydration I mix up a few ingredients. First off I add coconut water, which is a great source of natural electrolytes. Then I add in a tablespoon of apple cidar vinegar, squeeze a lemon in, then add water until I'm at 60 oz of water. I hate carrying so much water, but I feel it is a good safe amount. Last weekend on my long run I started off with 50 oz of water and went through all of it, so I bumped it up to 60 oz for tomorrow.

How much food and water to pack is a crazy guesstimate experience every single time. There are runs where I'll barely need any food or water. Then there are runs where I need every ounce of fluids and every bit of calories I have on me. Hopefully tomorrow I'm feeling great and am able to run up Shadow Canyon. I was telling my aspirations to a fellow runner today about my run planned for tomorrow and the response I got was that Shadow Canyon isn't for running, it's just too darn steep. My fellow runner may be right and maybe I am just trying to conquer the impossible, until tomorrow!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shoe Review: Nike Free 3.0v2 (v2 means version 2)

Just got back from dropping Deanna off at the Denver airport. She is heading out to San Diego for a fun weekend and some good weather! It's always interesting when Deanna leaves because I'm on my own for food. Deanna cooks me dinner every night, so when she is gone I usually resort to oatmeal for dinners, but thinking I might hit up a pupusa place too. But overall I feel pretty lost when it comes to food without her, it's amazing having such a good cook taking care of me!

Already got some great plans for tomorrow: hitting up Left Hand Brewery in Longmont with my buddy Dana. We made a really good connection there last weekend. Last weekend was Easter weekend and Deanna had her annual Easter brunch. One of Deanna's old college roommates, Tab, who lives in Fort Collins, came down to Boulder to spend Easter with us and guess what? Her fiancĂ©e, Coey, is a taste tester at Left Hand!!!! Score!!! I love visiting breweries and I love beer! My friends sure know it, like Pat who wrote up a recipe for vegetarian beer chili to help keep me fueled. Even as I write this post I am sipping on an Eye of the Hawk.

Beer has an interesting relationship with my running. Here is the most recent classic example. After running the Boston Marathon the finish line volunteers hand the runners Gatorade and bananas, none of which I could get down my freaking throat. During the race I baby-pinned 5 gels to my shorts and by the last one it was rough getting the calories down, the same with Gatorade during the latter stages of the race. After the race I knew I needed to get some calories and hydration in me despite it all not going down and being extremely unappetizing. After I found Deanna and my parents, we took some pictures, I put some clothes on (no I did not run the race naked), and then we headed to the closest bar. And hot-diggity that first beer made me feel 100% and shot me straight back into equilibrium. Now you're probably saying to yourself, and in a smart-alec tone, "Now Brian that's because the beer went straight to your head". I won't deny that, but in all honesty that first beer made me feel 100% and ready to eat again after having zero appetite before that initial sip, and my body felt normal again once that beer was down. Beer, called sugar water by many, has a great recovering effect on me! Another example is I ran a half marathon in Boulder, the Boulder Spring Half, and after the race there was free beer for all runners, thanks to Boulder Beer Company. After the race I sashayed right over to the beer tent, didn't even cool down or stretch, and instantly after having that first beer I felt great!

I'm a big fan of beer, and I'm also a big fan of finding running shoes that work for ME (OK I know that was a weak transition, but that was all I could think of). Before I buy running shoes I research and find a few models that seem like they would fit my criteria, which is light, usually under 8 oz, neutral, a minimal heel to toe drop, and close to the ground, I don't like to feel like I'm running on stilts. The problem with the shoe reviews that I read is that some crazy blog poster posts how the shoes feel running after running a  total of 10 miles on the shoes. That is just plain stupid to me. Somehow these crazy runners with blogs get new shoes all the time, write up some initial review and then never report back on their long term opinions of the shoe (pretty good way to get free shoes!). So today I am reviewing a pair of shoes that I ran into the ground, to the point that I couldn't wear them running anymore, because the seams came out and the holes were just too big causing my feet to move all around within the shoe while running.

I bought the Nike Free 3.0v2 back at the start of December, 2010 and wore them till about the start of March. I actually started off by buying the Nike Free 5.0, but returned them, too much cushion, for the 3.0 (the lower the number the less cushioning). My initial impressions were good. They're great road shoes, which at the time I was mainly running on roads, and OK trail shoes. I wasn't living in Boulder when I first purchased the Nike Free 3.0v2's and didn't run on trails as often as I do now. The problem I had with them on trails is they pick up all kinds of rocks and sticks in the grooves. The grooves were designed to help your feet move freely and naturally, but they are also great terrain eaters, sometimes they would even pick up a huge stick that would start slashing away at my opposite shin. I love running on trails, and try to run on trails as much as possible, but as I mentioned at this point I didn't have access to trails on a daily basis. After every run on a trail I would have to empty the grooves on the soles of the shoes of rocks and sticks. Staying at my parents place for a week I would empty the rocks in the same spot in front of their door, they thought a rabbit was around digging a hole up somewhere, that's how many rocks get stuck in those grooves!

The shoes comes in at 7.2 oz, and have a heel to toe drop of 4mm, felt close enough to the ground for my liking, so they fit my criteria well, and were very comfortable to wear. They did take a little getting used to with running sock-less. I don't like wearing socks when I run. For some reason with these shoes they rubbed my feet oddly and it took a couple weeks to build up some calluses to them, but this didn't deter me from not liking them, this is normal with buying new shoes, your feet have to get used to them! But I never did figure out what caused the rubbing, but since it eventually went away it didn't matter.

The rock situation isn't horrible, but just kind of annoying. Some days I would debate about taking out the rocks at the end of my run, but I would ultimately decide that I didn't want the extra weight of the rocks attached to my shoes. I believe that the heavier your shoes are the more unnaturally the weight causes your legs to swing like pendulums.

 One problem I had with these shoes, and I seem to have an issue with any new shoe is that my body has to adapt to them as I mentioned. With the Nike Free 3.0v2, they really threw off my right IT band. I have never ever had IT issues, so this was really weird. It didn't take long for the pain to go away, but it was surprising, and got me worried about my training for Boston. I had to take off about 5 days because my IT band hurt too much to run.

Overall I put a solid amount of miles on these shoes, and I don't keep perfect track of my miles, probably 700-900 miles on these shoes, and most shoes only last around 500 miles, so good stuff! I like to wear shoes till they are DONE. I find that once I have broken in a good pair of shoes I don't want to leave them till I have to. In this case the seams on the outside part of the right shoe came out, causing my foot to move around like crazy in the shoe.

My concluding thoughts on these shoes is that they make great road shoes, but aren't ideal for trails. They do have some cushioning, but there were many times a rock edge would stab through the cushioning and kill the bottom of my foot, just not enough meat in the sole to protect the feet on trails. When I first got these shoes I thought the sole would wear down super quick, but it stayed intact way better than I imagined. I recommend these shoes for road running and road racing, I would be down to wear them for a marathon!

My beat up Nike Free 3.0v2's

The HUGE hole where the seams gave out

Both shoes developed holes where my big toe was, maybe I need to cut my toe nails more frequently :)

The soles, look at all those grooves!

Pic #2 of the sole

That is it for this post. Today I went on a run for an hour and fifteen mins, with about 8 strides at the end. When I came home I found that I had a friend on my shin: a tic trying to burrow into my shin, which is impossible since it is pretty much straight bone, but he still required some tweezers to dislodge him. Tomorrow I'm going to do a two hour and thirty min run, then off to Left Hand, and in the evening bbq'ing it up with the group I'm heading to Zion with for some planning. Chin Chin (that's what you say when you toast in France). It's time for my 2nd Eye of the Hawk and then off to bed for a solid morning run,. YEEHAW no work tomorrow!!!! THREE DAY WEEKEND!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Failed Attempt? Not so much...

This past Saturday I headed out in snowy weather to bag some peaks here in Boulder, cause I love running up those crazy mountains! It hadn't been a full week since finishing the Boston marathon (I ran 2:43, not too shabby since my last PR was 3:09, and for that matter breaking 2:40 seems like it should be a cake walk, considering my first mile was 7:04, my 5k was 20:58, and with a bathroom stop thrown in at mile 11 I should be able to break 2:40, this confidence also resonates from the fact that I ran the 2nd half of the race 5 mins faster!!). Boston made my legs feel bundy (my term for lethargic legs) all week, they just had no response in them, but no big deal, recovery is good. Despite the bundy I headed out on a Saturday long run. I probably shouldn't have headed out on this long run with it only being 5 days after Boston and bundy legs slowing me down, but I always tell myself: if it ain't going well, no shame in turning around! Just getting outside and being in nature is the best part of my runs. Plus the snowy weather adds an element that I love being out in, some sort of primal toughness feeling I get being out in cruddy weather makes it seem that much better!

Anyways to the run. I wanted to bag 4 possibly 5 peaks here in Boulder, starting with Green Mountain via Amphitheater and Saddlerock Trails, then down Boulder Canyon, Mesa Trail over to Shadow Canyon, up Shadow Canyon, give South Boulder Peak a quick kick, up to Bear Peak, then down to Flagstaff Mountain, and possibly Mount Sanitas if I was feeling great. Going up Green I knew it was going to be a rough day, but at least I didn't break into a walk then. BUT with feeling so bundy I told myself that if I break into a walk it's time to head home. The walking eventually happened going up Shadow ERRR! I now have a goal for this weekend: to run this whole freaking run! I'm pretty confident I can do it, my legs are feeling wayyyy better now that it's two weeks after Boston, hopefully no more bundy. I had a decent tempo run yesterday so bundy looks to be bye-bye! ADIOS BUNDY!

Coming down Flagstaff Trail towards Gregory Canyon. The snow covered bushes were beautiful!

Right around the corner from the pic above was a nice family of deer enjoying the snow too!

The top of Green Mountain

The top of Green Mountain taking a needed rest

Shadow Canyon: consider yourself sauced this Saturday!

Where I started walking and hence time to turn around and head home

Despite not completing the run, and again I must say it was a weak outing with my blame on Boston, I was still out running for 5 hours and 15 mins, my longest run to date, so still a success. This upcoming weekend I plan on breaking last weekend's longest run TWICE, yeap I'm hardcore like that! Saturday I plan on attempting this run again, and then on Sunday I'm going to meet up with a sub-group of the Boulder Trail Running Group, called "The Church of the Holy Trail" to run up to Nederland. This will be my first run with the "church" group, looking forward to meeting those holy church running people! I've been wanting to run up to Nederland for quite some time, since seeing Scott Jurek, Geoff Roes, Joe Grant and Dakota Jones running up to Nederland; I was out doing a long run at the same time as them and ended up latching on for about an hour. Also just yesterday I was talking about wanting to run up to Ned, and coincidentally and awesomely there was a posting on the Boulder Trail Running Group for a run up to Ned this Sunday! O yea and for attempt #2 this Saturday, doing the same long run as last week, it's supposed to be cruddy weather again GIDDY UP!

You may be asking yourself: why is Brian running so much this weekend? Cause I want to have some material for my blog, actually that's lame and not the reason at all. The truth is Deanna is out of town, which means I won't be looking forward to spending my weekend time with her so I might as well get lost in the woods for a couple days. Plus in week is going to be a bit of a down week, but with big plans: heading to Zion to do the "Zion Traverse". I'll be driving out there Friday night and promptly starting when I get there Saturday morning. The traverse will be done in fun style with lots of hiking and great socializing with the group I'm going with. I'll be doing a lot of planning during the week and thus cutting into my running time. I won't be running on Friday or Sunday and will probably run about 15 miles and hike the rest of the traverse, so a low key time for me, which will be good for my body, since I get stubborn about recovery.

Earlier in the post I mentioned the Boulder Trail Running Group. I found them on yahoo groups through the advice from a fellow I met out Mount Sanitas named Rick. I frequently meet up with them on Tuesdays to do a tempo run. This Tuesday Tempo Run (TTR as we call it) group has really taught me the art of downhill running, despite all the years I have been running (started running in 2nd grade). 

The trails here in Boulder are very technical, I never encountered technical trails like this in Southern California. Yet despite how technical the trails are my Tuesday Tempo Group bombs the downhills in the most gutsy way possible, so of course I do my best to keep up. I don't quite have the art down yet, which is lots of short steps with a high stride cadence, but I do pretty well. Long strides are just asking for a toe to get caught on a rock and with all the momentum a good fall is bound to ensue. The other runners agree that it takes practice, so today being Wed, and yesterday being a tempo day, I was motivated to work the downhills after seeing some downhill art in action. Yesterday for TTR we did a run up Gregory Canyon and over to Flagstaff Mountain on the Tenderfoot Trail. Once we were at the top the tempo portion was over and then it was time to bomb Gregory on the way down! Downhill running is fun stuff and I can definitely see how you can burn other runners on downhills, plus keeping a high cadence and short stride will help keep the thighs intact. Here is an interesting article from Nick Clark about downhill running: Nick Clark on Downhill Running. I certainly agree with Nick Clark! Planning on attacking downhills in my training in prep for my first ultra on Sept 17th: Run Rabbit Run 50 Miler. Although having never done an ultra I feel that I could rock one any time, but I just don't own any money at the moment to sign myself up, but I am constantly drooling over various ultra races. To keep myself from needlessly putting myself into crazy debt signing up for races (and dang do some of then cost a lot), I just make sure to plan out awesome long runs. I'm not entirely convinced doing races is more fun than planning out my own crazy long runs! Haven't done an ultra yet so no complete judgment to be made.

Lastly I want to mention how well my Boston Marathon went. It was my third marathon, and I tried a new diet and training regimen for this race, First off my training was more than double for my last marathon. My last marathon I averaged about 40 miles a week and usually ran 4-5 times a week. For Boston I ran daily and average around 100 miles a week. My diet was also completely different. For my last marathon I just made sure not to eat hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. For Boston I went vegan in an attempt to use less toilet paper, I am fully vegan except I still love my honey. Lots of people were skeptical if a vegan diet would keep my energy levels up, but luckily I have Deanna(Deanna's Recipes) looking out for me. She is always cooking up great food to give me the energy boost I need and is always masterminding a new recipe for me so I can perform at my optimal level. Did you know Scott Jurek, widely considered the best ultra-runner of all time, is vegan too? I can't say for sure whether the new diet helped me run better because my training for Boston was so much better, but I do believe the diet didn't slow me down one bit. BUT for those skeptics out there, who knows maybe if I ate some meat I could have broken 2:40. On that note I shall cap off the post by saying how proud I was to PR by 26 mins with a 2:43! Marathon #4: sub 2:40!

Boulder is a fantastic running city, but will be moving to San Diego at the start of June. Luckily this is where I ran in college at the University of San Diego, so I know plenty of local runs, combined with all the trails I know from backpacking (I did 1,400 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer of 2009 from Mexico up to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern Cali). I already have some crazy camping/running trips planned out in my head. Summer is looking like it's going to be ME vs. THE TRAIL!