Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mar 31 - April 6

Mon - 5th Flatiron->4th Flatiron->1st Flatiron (2:13, 4000')
          It's been a really long time since I linked up multiple flatirons, so this outing was a real treat. The Fifth Flatiron always seems to be the last one to melt out, and is the most out-of-the-way, so I have markedly fewer ascents of it (this was my 34th summit of the Fifth, compared to nearly 150 on the First), despite its outstanding quality of scrambling. The final arete to the summit is one of the more thrilling positions in the flatirons, in my opinion. I hadn't been on the Fifth since November, so my 15min ascent was far off my sub-9min PR, but it made for a sporty warm-up. The descent down its southern margin was predictably snowy, but I was spared from postholing by the early morning temps before continuing my scrambling on the Fourth Flatiron.
          I have even fewer summits (this was my 21st) of this piece-meal formation, but I still find satisfaction in its variety--the lower piece offers a unique water groove and airy arete, the middle chunk is defined by a low-angle, waterworks chute that opens into an idyllic garden-like space, and the final piece provides a fun offwidth with an unlikely escape on thin face holds. The descent, however, was hideous this time around. Bushwhacking, boulder-hopping and talus-bumbling are all made much more difficult when blanketed in several inches of snow and occasional glare ice.
          When I was finally back on trail, I decided I still had some pep in the legs, so I jogged over to the base of the First Flatiron for a quick scrunble that I now have completely dialed in. Despite officially requiring the most technical and tenuous moves (5.6) of all the Flatiron's east faces, it's also the one I do the most, so I feel very comfortable on the crux sequences. Plus, after nearly 2000' of scrambling, I was optimally warmed-up and accustomed to the slab-mongering these rocks require.
          In the evening, in lieu of a partner for climbing in the gym, I decided to overcome my prejudices and try out some leisurely bouldering. The Sanitas trailhead is a 5min bike from my apartment, and another 5min of uphill hiking delivered me at the North Shelf Traverse, a technically easy 60' of rock wall that allowed me to get a nice pump before watching the sun set with some Melville. With summer coming, I'll hopefully be able to maintain some of my (still meager) climbing fitness I've built this winter by goofing around on boulders after morning 14er missions.

Tue - 4th Flatiron->Green->2nd Pinnacle (1:34, 3200') + climbing gym
I was tired today. I guess yesterday's 2hr+ outing is still a bit beyond me fitness-wise, because it was all I had to bumble up the rock before marching to the summit of the mountain. I had enough fun on the Fourth yesterday that I was psyched for a reprisal today, but my energy stores had a different mind. On the way down the mountain, I added a little scrambling coda with a 5min ascent of the Amphitheater's Second Pinnacle, via its South Face (the rock comes within feet of the Amphi trail). It's been a while since I've been able to amass enough consistent activity to develop any long-term fatigue; it's satisfying to finally be able to achieve that.

Wed - Green Mt. (1:34, 3000')
I was hoping for an emergence from the cloud layer with today's ascent, but their reach extended beyond the summit of Green. Even so, my hip was very close to 100% pain-free today.

Thu - Green Mt. (1:56, 3000') + climbing gym
Today's wet, heavy snow provided surprising purchase for my lugged 110s, but today's real progress came in the afternoon gym session with Joe. My climbing has definitely improved this winter, but I had yet to actually climb a 5.11 from bottom to top (as if gym grades have any bearing in the world of real rock). That changed somewhat unexpectedly today on an 11b with a lot of reachy, balance-y moves requiring opposing forces on big holds. It was surprisingly satisfying. This kind of gym climbing--especially if it's in a corner--definitely seems to be the style that I'm best at. Maybe because when I'm on a rope outside I tend to be climbing dihedrals.

Fri - Green Mt. (1:51, 3000')
          Running up the Ranger Trail today---okay, who'm I kidding? the unconsolidated snow made for terrible footing and I hiked most of the top half of the mountain---I happened upon a set of bear tracks just past the Greenman Trail junction. At first I thought it was just a particularly large dog, especially since they were overlaying the human shoe-prints on the trail, but shortly after gaining the ridge the tracks diverged from the trail and they were very obviously of the ursine variety. It seems a little early in the spring for bears to start rustling about and emerging from hibernation, but I was surprised at how excited I was to be reminded of the presence of mega-fauna in these seemingly humble hills above town. I've seen lots (literally dozens, over the years) of bears on and around Green Mt, but something about seeing these tracks and not the animal itself--signifying the animal's elusive nature, I suppose--was particularly satisfying.
          I finished reading Moby Dick today as well, and despite it being a book about whale hunting I think it definitely portrays a kind of respect for the sperm whale, which happens to be the absolute largest of the world's mega-fauna. Certainly Melville describes the giant fish in great detail and with an admiration that goes beyond it merely being a lucrative source of lamp oil. I suppose big creatures are humbling in a compelling way, be it bears or whales.

Sat - Green Mt. (1:38, 3000') + climbing gym
          I biked to Chautauqua today for a run up Gregory Canyon and down Bear Canyon. The fresh snow on the mountain requires an aggressive lug that I'd rather not needlessly burn up on the pavement, hence the brief two-wheeled warm-up and cool-down.
         Today was the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's body being found in his Seattle home. The first album I ever bought was the Nirvana live album On The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, on cassette tape, back when it was released in 1996. I'm not sure why I purchased this before 1991's seminal Nevermind, but it certainly followed quickly. Along with copies of my sister's Smashing Pumpkins classics Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, this was the balance of my teenage music listening.
          It's interesting to be getting old enough now to be observing what of my generation's music is remaining relevant. On my run this morning it occurred to me that Nevermind (and the best Pumpkins albums) is now as old to me as much of my Dad's favorite music (CSNY, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.---all of which is the music I truly grew up on) was to him when I first started listening to Nirvana and SP in the early '90s. Weird.

Sun - Green Mt. (1:39, 3000') + climbing gym
          From my apartment window it looked like The First Flatiron still had a few patches of snow and ice on it, so I stuck to the trails again today, biking up to Chautauqua and reversing yesterday's route. With my fingers crossed, I've been able to string together quite a few days of relatively substantial running the past couple of weeks, and this morning I could feel the weight of the accumulated fatigue, which may or may not have been exacerbated by a couple extra beers last night at a Geoff Roes instigated picnic-in-a-snowbank. Alaskans (even transplants) sure have a weird way of having fun. As such, I was content to just pitter-patter up and down the hill, congratulating myself for getting out early enough that the exceedingly muddy Mesa Trail was still stiff with the overnight cold.

Window-seat inspiration, mid-week.
Looking back down Gregory Canyon.
In a cloud. Summit #29 on the year. Gotta be one of my weakest first 100 days of the year ever, in that regard.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 24 - 30

Mon - Climbing Gym
          Today was my ninth day climbing out of the last 10 days, seven of those with Joe, including today. As such, both of us are starting to feel a little accumulative fatigue and niggles in our shoulders, wrists, forearms. Only three of those nine days have been outdoors, but even on days I've been climbing outside I've often hit an evening session at the gym; with this morning's snow showers, Joe and I took yet another trip to Movement.
          Despite the flurries, the gym was surprisingly and pleasantly deserted. We suspected this might have had something to do with Spring Break, but it was a pleasure to not have to wait for any routes and to basically have the run of the place. My skills are still mediocre to most, but I've become secure in my current abilities and am pleased to continue to see a gradual improvement. I will be largely absent from Boulder for May through September, so next month is likely the last pass I'll buy until next fall, but I've finally grown to enjoy the gym as a valid way of getting out and using my body when the lower extremities are preventing any other kind of activity and conditions are preventing getting on real rock.

Tue - Anenome Ridge (0:44, 1200') + climbing gym
          Today was the first truly 100% pain-free run I've had since the first week of January. It's amazing how momentous that feels. Most of all, it makes me realize just how debilitating chronic pain can be to both the mind and body. I cruise up Sunshine Canyon on the buttery single-track that I refer to as the "Cali Trail" because of its exceedingly smooth, buffed-out tread. I've raced enough in California (American River, Miwok, Western States) to know that trail builders in the Golden State will not tolerate neither rock nor root :-) The run back along the ridgeline is glorious---Spring is inexorably making its inroads, much to my delight, and my euphoria at being able to run without a hitch in my stride is palpable. I feel fat and out of shape, but the pure kinesthetics of running never fail to induce joy.
          The past two weeks I've been conducting a new set of physical therapy exercises to strengthen the musculature of my hips---specifically targeting weak glute medius muscles---and the diligence seems to finally be paying off. The exercises are tedious, awkward, and time-consuming (30min, 3x/day), but most of all, require a focus and specific attention that I hadn't been applying before. If done with a lack of focus, it is very easy for the over-developed, stronger muscles in the hips (as I understand it, in my case, these are the psoas and tensor fasciae latae (TFL)) to take over for the weaker glute medius and just perpetuate and reinforce the very cycle of imbalance that we're trying to correct.
          In the evening, Joe and I hit one final climbing session at the gym before he flies to Alaska tomorrow. It was a pretty weak effort on both our parts---the fingers and arms are just thrashed at this point and need a couple days off.

Wed - Mt. Sanitas & Anenome (1:08, 2000')
Another completely pain-free outing, but the second bump up to the Anenome Ridge just about did me in. I am unfit right now. In the afternoon, I had my third physical therapy appointment with Bob Cranny. I feel like I'm really learning stuff here about what I need to do to stay healthy long-term. I suppose, like most things, it will come down to whether or not I can exert some discipline.

Thu - Mt. Sanitas (0:55, 1600') + climbing gym
          I get up early today to snag a lap on what is probably Boulder's most popular peak before frantically biking to Movement for an 8:30am rendezvous with Caroline. The ambiance on the mountain this morning is unexpectedly rich---low clouds are swirling even on this diminutive summit---and the early hour means not many people are out with their dogs just yet.
          Later in the day, I download and watch Seb's latest installment in Kilian's Summits of My Life chronicles. I think it's really good and improves on some of the things that I felt were slightly lacking in A Fine Line. I have the utmost respect for Seb as an outdoor filmmaker---if you haven't already, definitely check out his antics in I Believe I Can Fly (Flight of the Frenchies) and Petit Bus Rouge. I like how Seb brings a playful-bordering-on-madcap sensibility to what people are doing in the mountains. Only because of his own athletic capabilities is he able to so evocatively capture some of the most cutting-edge pursuits.

Fri - Green Mt. (1:43, 3000')
To my surprise, a skiff of snow fell overnight, so I change my plans from scrambling to a pure running outing. The fresh flakes over the bulletproof ice on the Ranger trail offer sufficient purchase for my 110's lugs on the uphill, but the downhill proves to be a different story; the trail seems better suited for ice skates than running shoes. There's an occasional murmur of infirmity in my hip on the downhill, but it doesn't seem too serious. Nevertheless, it's a good reminder that I'm not out of the woods yet and that after almost three months the tenacity of this bullshit isn't going to vanish magically. At this point, I've probably gotta just commit to making hip exercises a part of my standard routine, even once everything seems solid.

Sat - As I jogged down the street this morning I detected a recurrence of the slight but nagging pain in my upper, lateral left leg (same old shit) from yesterday morning, so I stopped and walked back home. Earlier in the process, I probably would've continued to run through this, but I know now that that doesn't work with this particular ailment. It's a fairly glorious spring day, but some persistent clouds at least partially assuage my angst at not having an available climbing partner for getting on some rock.
          Earlier this week I finished DeLillo's Libra, a novel that fictionally embellishes on most of the known facts about Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination (Oswald's birthday was Oct 18, hence the sign in the astrological title). Despite the rather obvious themes in the book about the difficulty of making sense of the world, in the evening, in an attempt to do just that, I watch a pair of documentary programs online regarding the JFK assassination. One is a Nova special that examines the forensic ballistics (seems to support a single shooter), and the other is a Frontline biopic on Oswald (most aspects of which made it into DeLillo's work). It feels good to finally learn some things about one of the most notorious political events of the 20th Century. It all seems particularly pertinent with the 50th anniversary of the assassination a few months ago and the current kerfuffle going on over in Russia/Ukraine.

Sun - First Flatiron+Amphitheater (1:13, 2000')
          The hip seemed to respond positively to yesterday's rest, so this morning I bike up to Chautauqua for some leisurely scrambling. I resolve to hike the whole day, but I have a hard time heading uphill without really putting some effort into it and getting a sweat going, even if I'm not running. All the ice has finally melted out of the approach, though, and I'm happy to step onto the rock with a dry pair of shoes for once. This lends itself to particularly efficient footwork and I scamper up the 1000' face in 14m45s in stellar conditions---almost calm winds and pleasant temps despite the cloud cover.
          After downclimbing, I decide to hike down to the Amphitheater on the descent for a quick circuit of three of the four Roach Classics there---I scramble up the South Face of the 2nd Pinnacle, downclimb into the Amphitheater itself, and then tick the 5.5 finger crack on the West Face of T-Zero before finishing with a summit of the First Pinnacle via its exposed Southeast Face. The last 30' of this one always garners my undivided attention. Even a short outing like this, with no running, does so much to improve the tenor of my day.

This is a song from my second-favorite band ever (a very close second), TV On The Radio:

TVOTR's lead singer, Tunde Adebimpe, has a side-project called Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band. Massive Attack recently did a couple remixes of some HWBMB songs that I think I like even more than the originals:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 3 - 9

Mon - Green Mountain (1:33, 3000') + climbing in the gym
Nice and warm day out on the mountain this morning, feels like spring. Today I was randomly listening to Broken Social Scene's first real album You Forgot It In People, which was released in late 2002, but I didn't get around to it about a year later. Anyways, it kind of took me by surprise that I'd been listening to the album for over 10 years. It's (still) really good and there was a time when I would've placed BSS as probably one of my top-3 favorite acts---they're easily still in my top-10.
          I saw them live twice, both in 2011, the last year they were together. The March 2011 show in the Boulder Theater is still the most expensive music ticket I've ever bought ($37) and I remember feeling quite ambivalent about paying that much, being used to paying ~$20 less for a show. It was absolutely worth it. Most indie acts I've seen are $15-20 and will predictably play for 60-75min, take a short break, and then come out and play maybe a couple more songs as an encore before calling it a night at 90min of entertainment, tops.  The BSS show in Boulder was unlike anything I'd ever seen. They played non-stop for two and a half hours and with infectious enthusiasm the entire time. One of the best shows I've ever been to. Here's a performance of a classic track from them from a brief get-together of theirs last summer.


Tue - Green Mountain (1:38, 3000')
I have an acupuncture appointment this morning, so I'm on the mountain earlier than usual, which is always a treat. I love running at sunrise. Just as I'm leaving the summit, I bump into my friends Homie and Bill. These guys happen to be two of my biggest inspirations in the mountains. Like myself, both are simply average climbers (though Bill leads harder than anything Homie or I could), but their enthusiasm and appetite for the mountains is virtually unparalleled.
          Homie's attempt on the Colorado 14ers speed record from a couple years ago is legendary, and Bill has continually concocted logical and interesting climbing projects that only require moderate technical ability but heaps of endurance, planning, and resolve. Bill has co-authored a book about speed climbing, directs the Tour de Flatirons scrambling races each fall, climbed 100 pitches in Eldo in a day, and linked up all 53 of Gerry Roach's Flatiron Classics in a long weekend. When I did the Glacier Gorge Traverse in 2012, Homie and Bill's trip report was my main source of information. Both men have absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of Colorado climbing and mountaineering, and beyond being directly inspired by their actual mountain endeavors, it's the way they approach them with such enthusiasm and energy that really gets me excited. Ultimately, they're living examples of the fact that you don't have to climb 5.12 in order to have innumerable fantastic and satisfying adventures in the mountains.
          Bill parts with a cheery, "I see you've been going to the gym a lot, we should climb together some time! I usually go at 6am; it's great, hardly anyone's there!" Before I turn to start descending, I chuckle and sheepishly reply that I'm usually either still sleeping or just sipping coffee at 6am, so that seems pretty unlikely.

Wed - AM: Green Mountain (1:39, 3000') + climbing in the gym
           PM: First Flatiron+Green Mountain (1:42, 3500')
Now that I'm back running, my sleep is more regular and I wake up earlier. It's a much more natural pattern to be in (rising with the sun), and today it affords me a brilliant display of alpenglow combined with a fresh layer of sparkle on the Boulder peaks and Flatirons, which I'm very fortunate to be able to view from the comfort of my apartment window, coffee in hand. The run up the mountain is slowed by the 3-4" of fresh snow and is further hindered by my breaking both of my Microspikes early in the run (they're an old pair). I descend past the First Flatiron to scope the conditions, and though it's wet in a few key spots, I'm confident that it'll be dry enough for a safe scramble this afternoon.
          After the run I head to the gym for a couple hours of climbing with Caroline. She's just returned from a few weeks in Catalunya, taking pictures of climbers and doing a little climbing of her own. Caroline is a far better climber than me, but I always enjoy watching what it looks like to be proficient on the plastic. She's extremely precise with her feet, deftly executes energy-saving adjustments in body position, and generally floats up the wall. For some reason, I seem to climb better in the gym with her than with anyone else because I fully accept that she's on a different level and I don't waste mental energy comparing my own (woefully lacking abilities) or getting frustrated when I can't match her on the wall. It feels like a fruitful session.
          Spring is in the air this afternoon and I decide to test the hip a little with a second outing. My legs are heavy and unresponsive on the run up to Chautauqua, but the hip feels good, so I resolve to just soldier through it and hopefully start building some fitness. The trail leading up to the First is an alarmingly sloppy, slushy mess, so my shoes don't initially offer the best friction on the rock, but within a minute or two I find a great rhythm despite having to be attentive in a few damp spots.
          Back on the ground, the warm afternoon has made the snow and ice on the trails pleasantly tacky, and I enjoy good footing sans Microspikes. On the way down, I spontaneously pop into the Amphitheater at the base of Green and scramble a couple easy 100' routes on the east face of the West Bench to just further revel in the warm, calm gloaming. Maybe all the time in the gym has been worth something, as when I first tried these short lines last November I remember being a bit apprehensive; tonight I'm thoroughly warmed up and they're a nice little tag at the end of a great evening on the mountain.

Not a bad view for morning coffee and a book.
Thu - AM: First Flatiron+Green Mountain+2nd Pinnacle (1:56, 3500')
Ugh, so tired. I was bonking pretty hard right from the beginning this morning, so it was a pretty desultory outing. The extra time and vert came in the form of tagging on a scramble of the south face of the Amphitheater's Second Pinnacle (one of the four Roach Flatiron Classics that is in the Amphitheater) as I was descending the mountain. It's a nice route with a funky chimney and an airy pull-up on a huge horn to gain the worthy summit, not your typical slab-mongering.
          After the run, I have yet another acupuncture appointment with Allison. I feel super grateful for all the work she's put into getting my trending towards health. Not much has been working on this particular injury, but her diligent trigger-point therapy seems to be the key thing that has finally gotten me back on the trails.

Fri - AM: Green Mountain (1:37, 3000') + climbing in gym
         PM: Green Mountain (1:39, 3000')
I linger over my coffee and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about 20min too long this morning, and as a result just miss the available window for scrambling the First before the incoming snowstorm. My brain is by far at its peak comprehension abilities before 10am, so every day I try to take advantage of that with 30-40min of reading before I hit the trails. Today, though, as I leave the door at 7:15am the clouds are just beginning to wisp in over the summits of Green and Bear and during my run to Gregory Canyon it starts raining. By time I reach the 6000' level or so the rain has turned to snow and on my run back down the mountain to my apartment, my 3oz jacket is just enough protection to keep me on the pleasant side of uncomfortable.
         After an afternoon session in the climbing gym with Joe, I'm excited to head back out into the elements again for a second lap on the hill. Something about inclement weather always stokes my motivation and due to appropriate apparel choices the evening romp is a real pleasure; I'm doubly stoked to find that my hip seemingly obliges the day's rigors as well.

Sat - Green Mountain (1:51, 3000')
Though the snow was sticky last night, cool overnight temps have rendered the footing sugary and unconsolidated, making for a sloggy uphill. This is countered, however, by brilliant sunshine and rapidly warming temps. After the morning lap, I spend the rest of the day visiting my two sisters and two nephews down in Colorado Springs, highlighted by a stroll through the Garden of the Gods. My nephews turned one year and six months old this week, respectively, and their rapid progressions into little human beings is rather amazing.

Compression for post-holing protection and a tight calf Saturday morning.
Sun - AM: Green Mountain (2:05, 3000')
          PM: 1st Flatiron+Green Mt. (1:14, 3000') + climbing in gym
Today is by far the nicest weather day of the year so far---temps were near or right at +70F---and I took full advantage. There was still a little lingering snow on the First Flatiron, so I instead tested my hip with a longer circuit of the mountain, descending down Bear Canyon and coming back on the Mesa Trail. The hip is in a weird place where it doesn't seem to be getting any worse, but it's not really improving either. Descending is still the most troublesome, but overall, the acupuncture seems to be keeping things in check.
          In the afternoon, the incredible weather begs for further enjoyment, so I bike up to Chautauqua and lace a quick lap on the hill, including a really on-point scramble of the First Flatiron. My footwork and coordination is very precise for the entire outing, and I carry this directly into an indoor climbing session with Joe as the sun is headed behind the mountains. We crank through what turns out to be probably my most productive couple of hours in the gym of the whole year. I'm able to comfortably climb routes I usually fall on, and it's a nice end to a full day and week of activity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Feb 24 - Mar 2

Mon - First Flatiron (:58, 1600')
There was still a little lingering snow on the slab this morning, so I had to be very deliberate in many spots---a slip anywhere on the First would be highly unpleasant and easily fatal in a lot of places---and the trail back down to my bike was its usual hideous mix of snow and ice. So it was a slow lap. I should really just bring Microspikes for the trip back down the hill, but also don't want to unnecessarily dull them. Typical spring-time concerns.
          Despite the day quickly warming to somewhere near the +60F mark, time constraints forced me into the convenience of the gym for a couple hours of climbing with jLu. At least the pleasant weather meant no indoor crowds. Jenny was intent on leading more routes (in the gym it's really easy to just stay on top-rope and keep trying stuff beyond your ability), so we headed to the most overhanging wall and grunted our way up juggy but strenuous routes where falling typically meant dangling in the air instead of slamming into plastic. I continue to feel mostly like a fish out of water there, but every now and then I'm able to experience an extremely fleeting sense of flow and ease. Heavy emphasis on fleeting.

Tue - Climbing Gym
Leg had some twinges in it, so I just headed back to the gym today with jLu. It sucked. I'm finding that climbing, like running---like any activity, I suppose, where a concurrent engagement of mind and body is required---follows a rhythm of inexplicable good days and bad days. Of feeling sometimes "on" and sometimes very "off". Today I was really off. Struggling on top-rope on grades that typically serve as warm-ups. So it goes.

Wed - Pretty low ebb. Bad mood all day. An unsolicited bit of advice: don't construct your coping-with-life mechanisms around something as capricious and physically abusive as running up and down mountains. 

Thu - Took another day off, due to indecision. Joe was heading out for a run with our friend Jeff Valliere, but before that we got a cup of jav together at Trident. I've been pretty bummed lately with the now seven week hiatus from running, so it was good to sit down and solve some of the world's problems with Joe. Joe knows me well enough to tolerate my bitching but then predictably counters with the unflagging optimism and stoke that is the hallmark of his personality. My leg still hurt when I walked out of the cafe, but thanks to our conversation I felt a little more in control of my mood, capable of sprinkling in bits of positive attitude. His is a valuable friendship.
          Later in the morning I had another acupuncture appointment with Allison (I also submitted to the needling on Tuesday), and it was hugely beneficial. Allison was able to finally get the musculature in my hip to respond a bit and the short session induced some instantaneous improvement in the pain levels in my leg. Improvement which unexpectedly and encouragingly remained through the rest of the day.

Fri - 1st Flatiron+Green (1:14, 3000')
Temps are moderate this morning, but it seems a bit breezy as I bike up to Chautauqua. This isn't an issue until I emerge from the First's east face onto its North Arete and begin the final traverse to the summit. I usually dance up this section in a veritable trot, but today near-constant gusts from the west force me into an anxious cower as I try not to get blown from the rock. Things are even worse on the downclimb (which descends a ramp and ledge system on the western and southerly aspects of the rock), but once I'm back on level ground I enjoy a comparably pleasant march to the top of the mountain.
          The gale on the slab's summit reminds me of a line from the DeLillo book I read this week, The Body Artist, "There's something about the wind. It strips you of assurances, working into you, continuous, making you feel the hidden thinness of everything around you." This is something I've felt innumerable times---most often above treeline---even when not on exposed, death-fall terrain. Wind is psychologically unnerving; it unfailingly makes me feel desperate and vulnerable. On the descent I'm ever mindful of my hip, but---much to my joy---it registers nary a murmur and I'm able to jog pain-free back down to my bike.
          In the late afternoon, I meet Joe for a couple of quick pitches on the Elephant Buttresses in Boulder Canyon. It's our first time climbing together outside in several months, and once the sun drops behind the mountain things get surprisingly cold in a hurry, a reminder that, despite the day's warmth, it's still winter.

Sat - Green Mountain (1:24, 3000')
When I wake up, the cloud ceiling is low, but it hasn't started precipitating yet. However, after the hour that it takes to drink a cup of coffee and get suited up, there is already 2-3" of snow on the ground and it's dumping down more. This makes the usually trivial pedal up to Chautauqua an adventure in itself, and I flounder a few blocks before the trailhead, locking my bike on a random street corner. I enjoy fresh tracks on the mountain, though, and when I arrive at the summit I am greeted by a solitary set of footprints and the singular magic that occurs when you unexpectedly break through a ceiling of clouds. I've really missed the trails these past couple months and getting to experience the local peaks in their frosted beauty. I guess the silver lining to injury is that the mundane is injected with a freshness and renewed appreciation.

Sun - Green Mountain (1:34, 3000')
The single digit temps and icy streets convince me to try running to the mountain instead of biking. The forecasted high of +40F seems unlikely until I get to 7500' or so on the mountain and it feels as if I've suddenly stepped into a warm room. The air even takes on a certain mustiness, and as I gain the ridge an opaque ocean of gray clouds spreads out below me. Winter has its treats. Running back down the hill, though, crossing the temperature threshold is like dropping into an ice box and I quickly re-don my jacket and extra gloves. Much to my delight, the hip feels like it is almost strengthening with the extra time on my feet and I finish back at my doorstep more optimistic than I've been about my running in a long, long time. Maintaining the momentum of my health in an upward trajectory will require constant vigilance, however.

Longs Peak
Haven't been up here in a while...
The Third

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Feb 17 - 23

Mon - Green Mountain (1:17, 3000')
It's been a long time---six weeks, exactly---since I've done anything both weight-bearing and cardiovascular. So today's excursion up and down the front of the mountain was both unexpected and profoundly mood-altering. A solid week of freeze-thaw has turned much of the usual routes into treacherous water ice, but it also meant that I could finally get in a dry scramble on a Flatiron. After such a long time away from this (I haven't been on a flattie since early November) I just stuck to the moderate, mostly 4th Class terrain of the 2nd Flatiron before continuing on to the summit of Green. I was pleased to negotiate the downhill with basically no pain in my leg, and on my bike ride back home I was overcome with a sense of well-being that has been notably missing so far this year. I have 10 weeks until UTMF; if the past is any proof, it's enough time to be ready to race. Most importantly, though, is that even amidst my labored rasping and wheezing and unfit legs, I was just so happy---in some kind of deep, visceral way---to be back out on the mountain.

Tue - Green Mountain (1:24, 3000')
I did another lap on the mountain this morning; today I was wearing a pair of the forthcoming New Balance MT110v2. The development process on this pair of shoes has been quite long and full of a few more than the usual twists and turns, but today I was really happy with the final product. Great grip with the slighter deeper lugs and new sticky rubber and really on-point lateral stability. I'm psyched to have a durable, everyday mountain shoe
          When I got back from my run UPS had dropped a giant box at my door, full of a variety of custom-built NB shoes. This is an (obviously) huge perk of working with NB, and the continual tweaking of my footwear is a tinkering process I really enjoy. I feel really lucky to have a company that will modify the stock model to meet my wide-ranging specific needs. Right now, I'm replenishing my stock of Winter 110s (but with a hyper-aggressive outsole) and building a racing shoe specific to the technical (sticky rubber and extra-supportive forefoot rand) and typically sloppy (fell-racing studs) demands of an upcoming Skymarathon.
          This time around, though, I had somehow forgotten to specify what sort of midsole heights I wanted on my Winter 110s, so the factory seemingly defaulted to the traditional 12mm drop of a generic running shoe (it's complicated to explain why, but on these particular shoes I had requested an old-school, super-simple, cut-sheet EVA midsole versus the more typical injected EVA midsole).
          At first I was chagrined and chastised myself for my boneheaded oversight, but then I realized it wouldn't be a difficult modification and--after a gym climbing session at Movment with Joe--biked down to McGuckin's Hardware for the necessary supplies: a pair of C-clamps, a hack-saw, and some industrial-strength bonding cement. Browsing the tools at the store, I had a few pangs of happy nostalgia for all the construction projects I completed with my Dad growing up back on the farm, but, most importantly, when I was slaving away over my shoes later that evening I was actually taking pleasure in using my hands and some ingenuity to rectify the mistake rather than just being disappointed that I'd committed it in the first place. Craft is important, and not something I so tangibly touch upon often enough.

Dammit! Previous custom version on right, current version I flubbed on the left.
Wed - First Flatiron (:49, 1600')
This morning was my first scramble on the First Flatiron in almost three months. It was awesome; an over- and mis-used word for sure, but truly, this proud rock always inspires awe in me. It was my 135th lifetime ascent of the 1000' face, and the full-body engagement of scrambling is something that never ceases to deliver a more heightened level of joy and presence than what occurs during mere bipedal movement. I was equally pleased to find that, even after three months away (mostly conditions/weather-induced), my hands and feet located the regular holds nearly as effortlessly and comfortably as always.
          To be clear, this was technically only a half-lap on the rock. In an effort to accommodate the messy and variable footing on the trails right now, I wore a pair of shoes with super-aggressive lugs this morning (see above pic). The reduced surface area of pointy lugs doesn't offer nearly enough security on the bottom 400 feet of the First, which requires a lot of precise friction on relatively thin holds. As such, I hopped on the slab half-way up and took the still-classic Baker's Way route to the summit.  In the afternoon, jLu joined me for a quick lap on my favorite climb in Eldorado Canyon--the 6-pitch Rewritten on the Redgarden Wall (though I led it in three pitches)--and we had the route all to ourselves, a true gift on this uber-popular classic on such a pleasant weather day.

Thu - Green Mountain (1:22, 3000')
A dusting of snow overnight was enough to hide all the ice, making the trails a terrifying mess today and precluding any scrambling. In the afternoon, I had a pair of sensory enhancement appointments--first, I learned about hearing aids and was set-up with a demo pair, then it was off to get my eyes examined in order to renew my contact lenses. It's been a little depressing over the last couple of months coming to terms with significant permanent hearing loss at only 30 years of age, and, quite frankly, my initial experience with the hearing aids was a bit underwhelming. Tinny-sounding and itchy, and still feeling like I'm not catching everything in a conversation. Plus, it's never good to be getting electronics wet…I may not be doing much running with these buggers, especially in the summer. Bottom line, preserve your hearing for as long as you can (not that I had any say in this situation). Medically speaking, we certainly haven't gotten the ear as well-sussed as the eye.

Fri - I took today off from physical activity. Reluctantly, and full of angst. I went so far as to get suited up and even did a test jog down the street (amidst nearly 60mph wind gusts), but ultimately decided that my upper leg hurt just a little too much. This injury has proven to be far more stubborn than I would've guessed in the beginning. Instead, I spent much of the day plowing through Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. The Nobel Institute apparently voted this the Greatest Book of All Time, and at 1000 pages it has the literal heft to go along with such a literary accolade. I, however, am unconvinced. After more than 700 pages, I feel like the narrative has acquired a certain redundancy---here is Quixote engaging in yet another farcical, absurd altercation!---that is rapidly eroding my enthusiasm. I'll finish it, of course, but like whenever I get to the end of most classics of the literary canon, I'm afraid that I won't have absorbed everything I should've. I almost always feel like I'm missing something. 

Sat - First Flatiron (:47, 1600')
The wind was finally more reasonable today. After more waffling over my coffee this morning---how does my leg feel? will getting out do more harm than good?---I finally hop on my bike and head up to Chautauqua. I run most of the uphill to the base of the First (uphilling doesn't hurt my leg) and despite a bit of an audience on this weekend morning, begin the scramble. Even after an extended spate of warm weather, a bank of snow gathers at the base of the First, so in the winter my traditional start to the climb shifts a couple dozen feet to the north, at the top of the stairs at the base. A modest ridge here offers good holds for my right hand, and after I step onto the face I spend a long time wiping the soles of my shoes onto my socks and the rock itself, trying to rid them of moisture so that I have the best purchase possible on the sandstone. It's my first time climbing the full face since early November, so I have a little apprehension about feeling comfortable on the frictiony slab.
          Within a few seconds, however, any nerves fade away and I'm almost instantly in a really pleasant flow state. All of my time in the gym over the last couple months makes the 55 degree slab feel even more shallow than usual, and I move up the rock with little effort, really glad that I decided to get outside. Once I join the North Arete, I pop over a bump in the ridge and am surprised to see a helmeted climber in the corner below me, fiddling with placing a stopper. I ask him if it's fine if I just jump over him (my usual tactic on this small ramp), he obliges with a smile, and a couple minutes later I'm seated on the summit, surprised that it's only taken me 14min. This is a typical time when I'm hitting the First regularly, but I thought I would be more rusty today.
          After the short downclimb, I decide to just hike back down to Chautauqua instead of running. My leg still hurts on downhills and I don't want to push it. The successful scramble mostly tempers my frustration, though, and all in all the short outing leaves me in a positive mood.

Sun - Second Flatiron
In the morning, Boulder is cloaked in an icy inversion layer, which serves to thin the crowds up at Chautauqua. The fresh dusting of snow deters me from the First and I enjoy a spicy scamper up the Second Flatiron's Freeway route instead.
          This weekend, the Track and Field Indoor National Championships have been taking place down in Albuquerque, and I've been following the action on-line. I've been a hyper-geek about almost every aspect of the sport for almost 20 years now, but over the last decade--as more and more of my attention has been occupied by mountains--my interest has waned to a certain degree. Pure athletic performance inspires me, but there just seems to be less personality and compelling story-telling on the oval and the roads. I know that a certain one-dimensonality is required for success at the highest levels, but most of the sport's top athletes seem content to be portrayed as little more than generic robots.
          As such, I'm a bit torn when some fairly significant drama occurs during and after the women's 3000m (finally, a story with a little depth! but it all seems to just be a bunch of juicy gossip, too). more than covers it---and, in my opinion---embarrasses itself a bit by continuing to position itself as the sport's leading tabloid (by being misguidedly convinced that they're merely "asking the hard questions"), but not even this can remove the fact that there does, indeed, seem to be a pretty glaring---daresay, even corrupt---double standard within USATF decisions at this track meet. Free Grunewald; she was clearly the best runner in the race yesterday.

Finally, I know I'm several years late to this bandwagon, but after owning literally only one of their songs for a few years ("Wet and Rusting"), I've really been enjoying Menomena's full catalog lately. A nice trio of tracks here:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dec 30 - Jan 5

Mon-AM: 2:04, 3000' ~ Green
Up Bear Canyon and down Gregory-Ranger. Feeling pretty sluggish this morning, so I skipped Bear Peak and just jogged up the canyon instead.

Tue-AM: 2:11, 4500' ~ Bear & Green
Did the usual loop, and it was super-warm out, probably upper-50s. Legs weren't as responsive as I would've liked, though, and the weather was hot enough to make me feel dehydrated and worked by the end.
PM: Climbing, at Movement.

Wed-AM: 2:19, 4500' ~ Bear & Green
Finally felt good on this run. My new apartment is a minute or two further from Chautauqua, making for the slower time, but I had a blast on this run, zipping up and down the vert instead of the usual slog.
PM: 0:54, 700' ~ Sunshine Canyon
Easy out and back at dusk with Dan Kraft. Good to catch up.

Thu-AM: 2:19, 4500' ~ Bear & Green
Up Fern and back over Green. Pretty tired today, probably need an easy day.
PM: Climbing, at Movement.

Fri-AM: 2:25, 4500' ~ Bear & Green
Usual loop up and over the two bumps. Trails a bit icy in spots, but mostly manageable. Gorgeous shirt-sleeves weather, but blustery on top of Bear. That should all change by tomorrow, though, with some fresh snow.

Sat-AM: :34, 500' ~ Streets
Sometimes you just need a rest. Suited up and ran up to Chautauqua in the on-going snowstorm, but after just a few minutes of slogging up the hill I could tell my legs had nothing. I've been tired all week; it wasn't a hard choice to take a break.

Sun-AM: 1:57, 3200' ~ Green
Rest can do you good. After a bunch of sleep, I felt a lot better this morning; lots of fresh snow with more falling down meant it was a low-intensity day, though.

Hours: 14h40
Vert:  25,400'

This week was a good reminder that you can't skip any steps in the return to fitness. The previous week I had put in a serious bump in volume and this week I could feel myself needing to recover from that even though my mind wanted to be doing more. No worries, there's plenty of time; I just need to stay healthy and focus on doing sustainable training. This winter's schizophrenic weather continued this week. Highs close to +60F during the week gave way to single digit temps and close to a foot of fresh snow this weekend. It's all good, though; I love the variety.

Seeing that 2013 is over, I suppose a little industrial tallying is expected: I spent 799h45min in the mountains, during which I ascended 1,257,850'. Last year (2012) I had 5hr less volume but 160k' more vertical. I suspect this was because less of that vert was amassed on as technical routes as those I tackled in 2013 (both in terms of technical footing (talus, etc.) and technical climbing/scrambling (both roped and unroped on both snow and rock). I'm not going to count up exactly how many days I missed but there was at the very least a month's worth for injury (a nagging hip niggle last winter and then my UTMB-induced troubles this fall) and then more than another month's worth for general fatigue/end-of-season-rest, also this fall. Of course, in 2014, I'd love to implement more discipline and smarts to keep that time off due to only fatigue-related issues, not injury.

Snowy flatties.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dec 23 - 29

Mon-AM: 2:18, 4500' ~ Bear & Green
Easy loop over the peaks. Grunting up Fern Canyon was a little slower than normal due to a couple inches of fresh snow.
PM: 1:08, 2700' ~ 2nd Flatiron+Green
Biked to Chautauqua and wasn't running until after 4:30pm, so most of this outing was in the dark. Scrambling the Freeway on the 2nd was fun, a little spicy with the dusting of snow on everything.

Tue-AM: 1:37, 3000' ~ Green Mt.
Up and out the door early before driving home to Nebraska for Christmas. Exceptionally windy morning, and my legs were a bit tired from yesterday's first double in a long time.

Wed-AM: 3:35, 1800' ~ Verdigre Loop (Nebraska)
Awesome run. At 32 miles this was the longest run I've ever done back home in Nebraska and it was a great way to spend Christmas morning. This is a 30mi loop, but when I was nearing the end I thought I might as well go a full 50K (in 3:28) and then jogged another mile as a cooldown. 10 mile splits were 69:20, 66:30, 64:50. Really fun to just get out and roll along at a steady pace for a few hours; definitely boosted my confidence a bit in my fitness. Also, I haven't done a run like this in a long time…a couple of years at least. I'm anticipating a couple races this year with lots of flattish running, so I might be doing a run like this fairly regularly here in the early season.

Thu-AM: 2:02, 1000' ~ Nebraska
Nice, easy recovery jog on one of my favorite 15 mile loops here in Nebraska. Felt good to get out and go easy on tight legs from yesterday.

Fri-AM: 1:02, 600' ~ Nebraska
Down to the river and back via the "Ethiopian Trail". Brilliant moonlight from a quarter-orb, and I even saw a shooting star. I love easy jogs like this at home.
PM: 2:16, 4500' ~ Bear & Green
Back in Boulder after a long day of driving, but my legs felt fantastic as they often do in the evening after a morning run. Had to turn on my light once I entered Fern Canyon, and really enjoyed the unseasonably warm evening and having the trails all to myself. Shorts and a t-shirt.

Sat-AM: 5:07, 5200' ~ Torreys & Grays
Parked just off the highway with Joe and went up Kelso Ridge before making the trudge up Grays as well. Ugh. My first time above 9000' or so since August, and I could tell. Above 12k' I was struggling. Today was my first outing on my new skis, and I suppose I learned some things. We skinned up to basically the base of Kelso Ridge before ditching the skis and continuing on in our boots. Our boots are light, but it's nothing like scrambling in a pair of running shoes, haha. Skiing down the road at the end of the day was, of course, a nice pay-off.

Sun-AM: 2:02, 3000' ~ Green Mt.
Up Gregory-Ranger and down to Red Lion and back down the Creek Path. A few inches of fresh snow made for a nice low-intensity outing. Unexpectedly caught up to Jurker while heading down to the highway; nice to share some strides with him after not seeing much of each other the last few months.
AM2: Climbing at Movement. Gym climbing is interesting; it's basically reducing the act of climbing to the pure kinesthetic/physical aspect, removing virtually all of the danger, uncertainty and route-finding of climbing on actual rock outside. Good for getting strong, that's for sure.
PM: 1:02, 200' ~ Creek Path
Easy jog in the dark in the evening. Trying to re-boost the amount of actual running I'm doing this season.

Hours: 22h09min
Vert: 26,800'

Really good week of running here. I had a pretty big boost in volume this week, and with all of the flatlander running back home in Nebraska even managed 130 miles or so. I can feel myself finally starting to build some fitness, but Saturday's outing up into the thin air was a rude reminder of the fact that I've spent most of the past month on the road at near sea-level elevations. Altitude acclimation will return quickly, though.

Mom and Dad on the spread.
Joe cruising up Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak on Saturday.