Sunday, June 26, 2011

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Day 7 (Lake City/Durango/Telluride)

I awoke and headed to the local coffee shop in Lake City, the Mocha Moose, before making my 4 hour drive (via Slumgullion Pass) to Durango to pick up my friend Adam before heading to Telluride for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. After descending the backside of the pass, I got a text message (cell service was spotty at best) from Adam saying he had missed his flight out of San Antonio (long story) and would be arriving 6 hours later than planned. While some (normal/sane) people might have panicked or been upset, I decided to make good use of my time and grab a run on the Colorado Trail in Durango. The CO Trail runs from Denver to Durango, offering some 470 miles of beautiful mountain trail for runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. I logged nearly 3 hours of running under a cloudless and warm sky before heading to the airport to pick up Adam.

(Deer On Slumgullion Pass)

(Colorado Trail in Durango)

(Post Run Recovery - Colorado Style)

After picking up Adam, we drove 2 hours to Telluride, checked into our hotel, and caught the Gondola up the mountain to Mountain Village, where we would see the first concert of the weekend, Yonder Mountain String Band. The boys put on a great show as usual, offering up one of my favorite setlists I have seen them perform.

Day 8 (Telluride)

We awoke to a cool, crisp morning and headed into town to check things out. After a cup of coffee at the Steaming Bean (one of my favorite places in Telluride), we checked out of our hotel and headed across the street to the condo we would be sharing with 8 other people for the next 4 nights. Rather than camp, Adam and I had negotiated a spot on the floor of a condo with complete strangers. This turned out to be one of the best things we could have done. Not only did we have a place to sleep, shower, and rest during the day, we met some really cool people and made new friends.

(Perfect Festival Weather)

Did I mention that the music was amazing? We saw Trampled By Turtles, Telluride House Band (led by Sam Bush), and others at the main festival stage, and then headed over to the Sheridan Opera House to catch a “Nightgrass” show featuring Railroad Earth. This venue was as intimate as they come, holding no more than 250 people. We spent the entire first set right at the stage, close enough to see everything the band was doing. They put on a great show, playing until 2:30AM. Tired, but having had a great day, we trudged back to our condo and fell asleep on the floor.

Day 9 (Telluride)

Since I had taken the previous day off from running, I was extra excited about getting out into the mountains today. I decided to head up Tomboy Road towards Imogene Pass (elevation 13,113’). Locals had told me the snow was pretty deep up high, so I planned on hiking up as far as I could before the snow got too messy, and then heading back down to town and up another trail. I made it to 11,400’ before the snow stopped me. Not wanting to spend my entire morning post holing up the mountain, I turned around and bombed back down to town. As I did, it started to snow. It was 100+ degrees back home, but I was now running in the snow. I was as happy as could be. I absolutely love running in the mountains, and having it snow on me made it even better. I decided to veer off the road and head up 1,000’ of the Jud Wiebe Trail, a steep singletrack trail that takes you through the forest. I did a couple miles of this and then crossed town and headed up the ski mountain. When I was done, I had run for nearly 5 hours and logged over 20 miles. What a perfect start to my day. The rest of the day was filled with more music at the festival and another Nightgrass performance, this time by Yonder Mountain String Band. Looking back on this show, I am convinced it was one of the best (of any band) I have attended. The energy at the Sheridan Opera Houser was high, and the band brought out countless guests to sit in on songs. I learned that the only thing better than seeing a band with a banjo player in it is watching the band perform songs with 3 banjos. Another perfect day.

(Had To Turn Around Here)

Day 10 (Telluride)

Saturday was much like the previous day – wake up, run in the mountains, watch great music, sleep, repeat. I ran an “easy” 8 miles, heading to the end of town and up towards Bridal Veil Falls. Although I had to turn around before I reached the top of the falls (wanted to get back in time to see the Emmitt-Nershi Band at the Festival), I was so amazed by the beauty of the falls that I decided I would definitely go back the next day.

(Bridal Veil Falls)

Saturday’s lineup at the festival was full of bands Adam and I wanted to see and made for a long day. We again went to a Nightgrass show, this time at the Palm Theater, which was actually just the auditorium at the local high school. It made for a weird vibe during the first set, as the Emmitt-Nershi Band seemed to play quietly, almost uncomfortable in the spacious auditorium. The second set was a different story altogether, as more people filed in and the band cranked things up. Their version of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” brought a smile to my face. They played until 2:30, so again we would be operating on little sleep the next day, our last in Telluride.

Day 11 (Telluride)

Having gone to late-night shows for 4 consecutive nights, I was exhausted on Sunday morning. I trudged around town, visiting the Steaming Bean and peeking into various stores around town. I really wanted to run in the mountains, but the looming storms and my fatigued body made it tough to get motivated. I finally decided (at 3PM) to get off my butt and run, and I’m sure glad I did. I headed up to Bridal Veil Falls again, this time going well past the top of the falls (close to 11,000’). I met another runner as he was coming down the trail, and we chatted for a bit about how much we enjoyed running in the mountains and listening to good music and how Telluride was perfect for that. As I climbed up the slope, it started to rain, so I put on gloves and a light jacket. Soon the rain turned to snow. It began to snow harder. Again having to turn around due to deep snow, I bombed back down the mountain towards town, smiling the whole way. Once at the bottom, I headed up to my final destination, Bear Creek Falls (you have probably noticed by now that Telluride is full of waterfalls, tons of them). The rain intensified, and I was thoroughly soaked and beginning to get cold. Once at the falls, I turned around and headed back to the condo for warm, dry clothes. Adam and I rounded out the night (and our time in Telluride) with one final Nightgrass show (again at the Sheridan Opera House), featuring the Punch Brothers. Like Yonder, they brought out many guests and kept the crowd entertained. Having Peter Rowan play a few songs, including the unplugged encore, was the highlight of my night for sure.

(Bear Creek Falls)

As I have said before, Telluride is still my favorite town in the world (that I have visited). I love everything about it – the mountains, the laid-back vibe of the locals, the numerous trails originating right from town. It has everything I want. I know that my heart is in the mountains. I absolutely love running these trails. When I am in the mountains, everything else seems to become insignificant, all the troubles fade away, and I am happy. Truly happy. I know what makes me happy in life when I am in the mountains. In that sense, this trip has been good for me. I am coming to a better understanding of what I want, what I need. Life is good here

Friday, June 24, 2011

Western States

I know, I know, I REALLY need to bring you all (all 2 of you) up to speed on my travels, but I really haven’t had much down time. I promise (again) to fill in the gaps when I get a chance. I’ve been in Tahoe the past few days, running in the mountains and soaking in the Western States experience. Originally, Chris and I were supposed to pace our good friend Liza at Western. Unfortunately, Liza has a fractured foot and is out tomorrow. Instead, I will be crewing (along with Chris and Liza) and pacing Bryon Powell, no slouch himself. It is possible (and highly likely) that I will end up having to run the last 38 miles with him (Chris tweaked his back and is out). This wouldn’t be a huge deal had I not run 37 miles yesterday along Emerald Bay outside Tahoe. Oh well, more time in the mountains for me!

Hopefully when the dust has settled (literally), I will be able to write a more detailed summary of what has transpired overt the past few days. Until then, enjoy some of these photos.

(View From Lake City, CO)

(Telluride Bluegrass Festival)

(Snow In Telluride)

(Liza, Killian Jornet, and Geoff Roes)

(Even Bears Like Coke)

(Eagle Lake Near Lake Tahoe)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quick Update From Tahoe

I promise I will update my blog soon (for the 1 person that reads it J), but it’s difficult to find the time when I am surrounded by scenery like I had on today’s run in Lake Tahoe. 2011 bear count – 11.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quick Update From the Road

I will write more when I get a chance, but Telluride, CO is still my favorite place on earth. I was there for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, but I also managed to squeeze in a few runs, during which it snowed on me twice. Need I say more...I'm of to bed to catch a couple hours sleep before heading into the Wasatch Mountains for some fun.

(Snow in Telluride)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Take My Breath Away

Day 5 (The Incline)

(In an effort to get caught up, I’ll try to make these short)

“Hey Willie, show us something that will take our breath away”. These were the words uttered to Willie in reference to our run on Monday. I think the intention was to see some “breathtaking” scenery, but Willie interpreted it quite literally. The Incline is a famous (to most ultra runners) 1 mile stretch of “trail” (really just steps) in Manitou Springs, CO. The lie at the base of Pikes Peak. This is what Willie had in mind for the day. Words cannot possibly describe how steep this is, nor can pictures really do it justice. But the stats don’t lie. The Incline is approximately 1 mile long, boasting 2000’ of vertical gain, with an AVERAGE grade of 38%!!! It took me just over 43 minutes to make it to the top, and I was passing people along the way. A 43 minute mile. Wow. Once at the top (after catching my breath), we continued up the Barr Trail to Barr Camp at just over 10,200’. Here we filled up our water bottles (with cold stream water) and headed back down to Manitou via the Barr Trail (no Incline down). 14 miles total for the day, with just over 8,000’ feet of elevation change.

(The Incline)

(Willie filtering our water at Barr Camp)

I showered and headed of for Lake City, a tiny town nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. I love the mountains, but the San Juans have captured me like no others. Their majestic beauty is heightened by the distinctive red hue. They are awe inspiring features. I pulled into Lake City just before dark, checked into my cabin (trust me, it sounds way more glamorous than it is), and headed to the saloon across the street for dinner (all that was missing were the swinging doors).

Day 6 (Lake City)

The next day I met Claude, a friend of Joe’s dad who lives in Lake City and was going to map out a run for me. Since this area of Colorado is currently at 200% the normal snowfall, he advised me to avoid the high mountain trails (deep snow and raging streams can be dangerous) and stick to the jeep roads. I still managed to log 20 miles with 6500’ of vertical, all the while taking in the amazing views. The best part is my legs felt great the whole day (60 degree temps help). I had a blast and felt like I could have run all day. Running in these mountains makes me very happy.

(How can you not be happy when you run here!!!)

I’m excited about how well my training is going and can’t wait for the next run. Tomorrow I’m up early and headed to Durango to pick up Adam. We will spend the next 5 days in my favorite Colorado town, Telluride, for the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I can’t wait!!!

Trip Totals (Through Day 6)

Driving Mileage – 1750

Running Mileage and Vertical Change (est.) – 4 runs/66 miles/27,000’

Training Runs and Baseball

Day 3 (More Colorado)

I awoke at 5:30 from my restless slumber on Willie’s air mattress to find Willie brewing a fresh pot of coffee and cooking oatmeal. We were heading over to Pine, CO for a 19 mile training run with our friend Chris and 20+ others. Chris and Willie are running the North Fork 50 mile race in July, and this organized run would take us over the last 19 miles of the course. After the hour drive over from Willie’s house, we started the run and headed up, up, up. I could feel some soreness in my quads from my downhill running the previous day, and the lack of oxygen (we were “only” at 7,000’) made the climb tough. This initial climb took us through a larger burn area with very little shade. Once we topped out at 8,000’+, we were treated to a fun 4 mile downhill on smooth, groomed forest trails. I settled into a nice downhill rhythm, chatting with a guy from Denver. We saw tons of mountain bikers, as the day was sunny and clear, and these trails were great for biking. As I was running with the guy from Denver (never caught his name), a biker came riding towards us, his black lab following close by. The Denver guy didn’t move, nor did the dog. It was kind of funny (for me at least) to watch the dog plow into the guy, sending him head over heels onto the side of the trail. After a barrage of expletives and a rant about leash laws, Denver guy was on his feet again, and we were heading to the one and only “aid station”. The RD had driven her car out with some water and snacks for the runners, just before our last climb of the day. We were close to 11 miles in, and I felt great. The next climb was tough, as it took us up another 1,000’ through another burn area. I did find it comical to hear other runners complain about the heat (it might have been in the 70s). I just laughed and tried not to shiver in the cool mountain air. I finished the run feeling good, having taken roughly 4 hours to cover 19 mountainous miles. For my second day at altitude, I was pleased.

(Willie making last minute preparations)

(Our First Climb)

(Chris and Willie after the run)

We hopped back in the car and made the return trip to Big Willie’s place. I showered, ate some lunch, and was on the road again, headed to Longmont (just outside Boulder). My plan was to find a hotel, drop my stuff, and catch the shuttle bus that would take me to the Leftover Salmon concert outside Ft. Collins. I checked in at 6, and the bus left at 6:30. As much as I wanted to go, I was exhausted from the past few days and called my first audible of the trip. Instead of going to the concert, I grabbed a bite to eat and crawled into bed for a decent night’s sleep.

Day 4 (Baseball in Denver)

The next day I headed to Denver to meet a good friend that worked with me in San Antonio. Nate was our PA announcer for Rampage games and had recently moved to Denver. When I told him I would be in town, he suggested we catch a Rockies baseball game. Having never been to a game at Coors Field, I was excited to go and enjoy the beautiful weather (it was again in the 70s with crystal blue skies). I met Nate at a rooftop restaurant across from the stadium. After catching up, we headed over to our seats, which turned out to be perfect. We were in the first row of the upper deck in right field, meaning we had spectacular views of the snow capped Rocky Mountains in the distance. The game itself was entertaining, with the teams (Colorado and the L.A. Dodgers) combining for 6 home runs. We left in the 8 inning and headed to a local bar that had an 80s theme. In fact, all the walls were lined with arcade games from the 80s. Nate and I spent an hour playing Double Dragon, Track and Field, and Tron. What a great place!

(View From Our Seats)

The nice part about my trip is that, while I have a loose itinerary with some definitive plans, I have lots of room to go with the flow and change plans along the way. I had originally thought I might drive halfway to Lake City and find a place, but then Willie mentioned running part of Pikes Peak on Monday. That got my attention, so I decided to stay close by and run Pikes. Nate and I met a couple of his friends after the game for dinner, and then I headed to Colorado Springs.

Trip Totals (Through Day 4)

Driving Mileage – 1500

Running Mileage and Vertical Change (est.) – 2 runs/32 miles/12,500’

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Update From the Road - Days 1-2

Day 1 – San Antonio to Santa Fe

I spent the bulk of my day Thursday in my car, driving to Santa Fe, NM. I’d like to say the drive was uneventful, but that wasn’t the case. Much of the Southwestern US is in a major drought, creating conditions that are ripe for wildfires. Just outside of Carlsbad, NM, I noticed a large cloud of smoke up ahead. As I approached, I noticed that the grass in the median and on the right should was on fire. And the high winds were whipping flames all around. A fire truck had just arrived, so this must have been a recent happening. Within seconds, the road ahead of me was no longer visible, now covered in thick smoke. I slowed down and hoped for the best as I drove through the smoke. As I passed through, flames leaped at my windows, and I could literally feel the heat from the inferno. I was lucky to get through when I did, as much for safety as for the delay I’m sure it caused many cars behind me.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I stopped for gas, I found that my latch wouldn’t open. I pulled the lever multiple times, but nothing happened. I began to use my keys to see if I could pry open the gas “door”, but no luck. Finally, after at least 5 minutes of trying this, it opened. No big deal, just a freak occurrence…so I thought. I’ve bought gas 3 times on the trip so far, and each time I have had to pull the lever, pry the door, pull the lever, and so on….It’s getting to be a nuisance.

I arrived in Santa Fe just as the sun was setting, and the view was spectacular. To make things even better, I had to put on jeans for dinner since the air was a bit cool, a nice change of pace from the 100 degree days we have had in South Texas recently. I went to my “usual” spot, the Blue Corn Café, where I watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals, chatted with a guy from Dallas (huge Widespread Panic fan), ate an artery-clogging tortilla burger (burger wrapped in a tortilla and covered in cheese and green chiles, and had a pint of my favorite beer there, the “End of the Trail Brown Ale”. Needless to say, I slept well that night.

(End of the Trail Brown Ale)

Trip Totals (Through Day 1)

Driving Mileage – 725

Running Mileage and Vertical Change – 0 (since Chris Russell wants to know)

Day 2 – Santa Fe and Big Willie’s

I awoke to the early sunrise (it was light by 5:30AM) and debated on which run I wanted to do. I opted for my standard Santa Fe adventure, the Atalaya Mountain Tail, a 6+ mile roundtrip to the top of Atalaya Mountain. This run boasts close to 2,000’ of elevation change each way, and I planned on doing 2 repeats, netting me close to 8.,000’ of vertical in my first day. I have done this trail several times and know what to expect. I mentally break it up into 3 sections, each close to a mile long. The first section is rolling and provides a nice warmup for the second section, which is a mile-long steep climb, finally giving way to a series of moderately steep switchbacks that lead to the summit. The view from the top is amazing, giving you a sweeping view of Santa Fe below and mountains on all sides. After snapping a few pictures, I dropped a water bottle (left it so I wasn’t tempted to not climb back to the top again) and headed down to my car. Upon reaching my car, I changed out water bottles and headed back up. I could definitely feel the thinner air (the trail starts at 7,300’ and climbs to over 9,100’) as I made my second ascent, but I knew this was a great way to ease my body into the altitude I would encounter in Colorado. Once at the top, I grabbed my water bottle, chatted with a local (I love meeting new people on these adventures), and headed back down, wanting to make it back to my hotel in time for a quick shower before I had to check out. All in all, this was a great run. My quads were spent, but I was happy with the morning, Oh, and it was in the 50s all morning. Can’t beat that.

(Atalaya Mountain)

(Looking Down into Santa Fe From Top of Atalaya Mountain)

After showering at my hotel, I headed back down to the Santa Fe Plaza area, grabbed a pizza at a rooftop restaurant, explored the area (had to find the local outdoor store), grabbed a coffee, and went to Blue Corn again to get my growlers filled with some local brew, I then headed north towards Colorado Springs, where I would be staying with Big Willie, a friend I had met several years earlier while crewing and pacing for another friend at the Leadville 100 mile run. Willie lives about 15 miles west of Colorado Springs, up the valley at over 8,000’. When I pulled up to his house, I was stunned. The views were absolutely breathtaking. If I had to move to Colorado, this place would be on my short list of towns to relocate to. Pikes Peak is just over the ridge, you have mountains on all sides, and he literally has running trails outside his backdoor. Simply amazing. After catching up with Willie and Chris (another friend I met through my Leadville adventures), I retired to an comfy air mattress for a few hours of sleep before we awoke for another run in the mountains.

(View From Willie's Porch)

Trip Totals (Through Day 2)

Driving Mileage – 1050

Running Mileage and Vertical Change (est.) – 12.5 miles/7500’

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Goin' Out West

Today I leave for my annual summer road trip. Then only difference is that this year’s version will last 40+ days and take me over 7,000 miles, through at least 8 states. I will see countless mountains and breathtaking views, attend bluegrass festivals and rock concerts, and log more hiking and running miles in the mountains than ever before. I am headed to Santa Fe tonight. The forecast calls for highs around 80 and lows in the upper 40s. Perfect! I will try my best to keep this blog updated. Maybe not everyday, but as often as possible. As Tom Waits (and many others who have covered the song) sang…”I’m goin’ out west”….

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Working on the Chain Gang

Many 100 mile races require entrants to complete a certain number of volunteer hours. Some even specify that these hours must include trail work (aka manual labor). I needed 12 total hours for Tahoe and 8 for Wasatch, so I have spent the past couple months accruing a couple hours here, a few there. I had cleaned the trails at McAllister, checked for fire ant mounds at Government Canyon, and volunteered at an aid station at a trail race in Burnet. Yesterday, Larry and I spent the morning in Bandera at Hill Country State Natural Area, where we would complete our obligations.
I always say that I wish I did more volunteer work in the trail running community (when it isn’t required), but I always find an excuse to not do it. As stewards of the trail, we should give back and help maintain the very trails we enjoy running on so much. Many of these parks and trail systems rely on volunteers to keep going. I promise (heard that before?) that I will be better about this in the future.
As soon as Larry and I arrived, I noticed that there were already several volunteers doing work. Any they had a chainsaw! Interestingly, they were wearing matching outfits. Well, it turns out they were “volunteers” from the nearby Hondo prison system. Inmate labor. Larry and I should fit in just fine. We soon were given hedge clippers and a hacksaw (Larry got the saw, and it had seen better days) and told to hike over to trail 5 and “trim it back” to make it more accessible for horseback riders. After nearly an hour of this, we moved to Trail 5b, known lovingly as “Sky Island”, quite possibly Chris’ least favorite trail at Bandera. Larry and I took great pride in the irony that we were spending our morning making this section of trail “easier”. Now Chris has no excuse for not breaking 24 at Cactus Rose!
All in all, Larry and I had fun. We got sweaty, dirty, and a little sunburned. It was fun to catch up with Larry, who will be toeing the line with me in Utah in September at the Wasatch 100. The folks at Hill Country State Natural area are awesome to work with and very friendly. Now if I can just find the time to volunteer more often ☺_

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sweating In Bandera

Having done hard hill repeats and a leg workout over the previous 2 days, I wasn’t expecting much from my 15 mile run at Bandera yesterday. And that is exactly what I got. After a few hours of sleep, my alarm went off just before 3AM. I groggily rolled out of bed, did some last-minute packing, and was on my way to our usual meeting spot, the Exxon at Bandera/1604. Tim hopped in the car, and Rich (new the group, having just completed a 100 mile solo run around Town Lake in Austin a few weeks ago) followed behind. After a few near misses with deer, we were at Hill Country State Natural Area, where Robert was waiting for us.

We hit the trails for 10-15 miles, starting with the section that would take us up and over Lucky’s Peak, then Cairn’s Climb, followed by Boyle’s Bump. I knew from the start it would be a long morning. The sky was overcast and dark, but the humidity was brutal, worse than normal it seemed. I was drenched within minutes, and my energy was never really there. Once we had finished the loop and reached the junction of Sky Island and Trail 5, we bid farewell to Robert, and the 3 of us that remained headed towards Trail 1. Once at Trail 1, Rich veered left to head back to the car (another 2 miles), while Tim and I hung a right with the intention of taking Trail 1 to Trail 7,, about 5 miles back to the car. I had been lagging behind Tim and Robert most of the morning, and things just kept getting worse. I had zero energy. I told Tim to run ahead since he seemed to be feeling good. Not long after Tim took off, I made the decision to turn around and head back via Trail 1, the “easier” return trip. I just lacked the energy and desire to fight the trail.

Although disappointed with my effort, one thing I have learned over the years is that you will have good days and you will have bad ones. The key is to not get too high or too low. Enjoy the good days, learn from the bad, but don’t dwell too long on either. Tomorrow will bring a new run. I had fun hanging out with Tim and Robert, and Rich had some good stories from hjs days in the Air Force. Only a few more days until I head West to cooler temps and low humidity. After yesterday, I can’t wait.