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Daybreak coming up the first climb at 11000 feet.
As most of you all know one of the highlights of my running is helping others get to their dreams and goals. One of the ways I can do this is through pacing. This past weekend was Swede's last hard run before the Leadville 100 in 3 weeks. So I left the course and distance up to him.  And in true Swede fashion he delivered an incredible run.

We met at our usually time of 4am on Saturday morning and started our ride to the Indian Wilderness area close to Ward, CO. The mindset was to do the Pawnee and Buchanan Pass and maybe throw in Audobon for good measure. Chris, Steph, and I arrived at the TH at 5:15 and the place was half full. Looks like we are not the only ones hitting the loop. Trail runners started popping out of cars everywhere like Wak-A-Mole. Talking to others we decided to add a few to our group and we were off.

From the start I could tell Swede and Steph meant business. Swede was in the mindset to push the pace. I was in the mindset to sweep the course...nice and easy. Elevation was climbing and the sun was rising...what an incredible sight!!!

First turn comes...and goes...as Swede ran right by it. Ever heard to saying "if you friends jumped off a bridge would you follow?"? Well that was me...I ran right by the turn which I knew and just kept rolling up the mountain. Back tracking is always fun on loose footing...

As we made our way towards Buchanan Pass the trail descended for a while and was very nice rolling areas. I was carrying my trekking poles (which I love, http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/mountain/trekking-poles/distance-trekking-pole) in hand and really enjoyed this area.

As we approached the climb to Buchanan Pass I could tell this was going to be a great day of running. The climb was tough but very doable especially with poles. At the top we took a minute to take it all in. We were all feeling good after the initial climb and ready to roll. As we were there Swede pointed out the clouds in the valley that were below us. We were around 12000 feet and the clouds we under us...that was an incredible view.

Now...let me start by saying I have ran in some incredible places before but this next section was one of the best. We come off Buchanan Pass and the trail drops into a beautiful valley full of wildflowers. They were EVERYWHERE. I almost fell a few times looking at them as the trail took us back to tree line. That was one of the memorable areas I have ever ran. As Swede and Steph pushed the tempo through the next section I was just smiling and having the time of my life. That is when I happened...I came around a corner and Steph was standing in the trail holding her hands over her head. I thought either the Clif Shots and elevation is making her crazy or there was an animal with horns around the corner. Turned out she was not crazy and there was a BIG moose standing there. I never knew how big those animals were until now. They looked like a horse with antlers and I wanted to keep my distance. No trying to ride the fuzzy tractor today...

The next areas went by fairly quick and we ran into our friend Rob Howard who was running the loop as well but the other direction. We chatted for a few and were off. Rob was running his last run before taper as well. What is up with everyone looking strong but me?

We get to the last climb of the day and had no idea what to expect. We entered into this "bowl" where the mountains were jagged and straight up. Hmmmmm...where does the trail go? The climb was around 6 miles and 4000 feet up. Oh yeah...this is going to be fun. As I approached the major incline I asked a hiker how far we had to go to top out. He replied "don't worry about distance just try not to fall off". Rather odd at the time but made sense later. The climb was grueling but still walkable. At one point early on I looked up this jagged edge and could see movement. Not knowing what it was at the time I quickly learned it was people hitting the switchbacks. Even going up the trail I had no idea where we were going. FINALLY we top out at 12500 feet and at the Continental Divide. Oh that felt so good as my quads were on fire and poor Steph was going to puke. Swede on the other and was looking smooth and fresh...damn you. We know now the down was coming.

Now something to note about Steph...she is crazy. She runs technical downhill like it is road. Hopefully today with her jacked up stomach I could keep her insight. We BOMBED the downhill the next 5 miles. It was so awesome seeing others hiking up and we were killing the down. We got the "freaking nuts" look...you know the look!!!

Back to the car we called it a day. Steph had just put in one of her longest runs ever, Swede was cruising all day and looked really focused and in shape, and I was feeling good as well. We all were smiling and if you can end smiling that is a good thing. We finished around 28 miles and 7600 feet vertical climb. That took me to 100 miles even with 21600 feet vertical climb for the week.

Swede is ready to roll and I am VERY honored to be there with him as he crosses new bridges in his life. Leadville 100 here we come...
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Topping out on Buchanan Pass with the clouds below us.
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Our "friend" on the trail.
 
 
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One of the many breath taking views along the way...
jIn order to start this post I need to take you a few years back. In 2004 I took my first trip ever to Colorado. I came in with Meg and her parents on a week long vacation. We were heading to this place called Estes Park. I remember landing in Denver, seeing the Flatirons, and driving up through the Big Thompson Canyon. As we drove into Estes and I took my first GOOD look at the Rockies and was hooked. All I could do was to imagine what I would do in this outdoor playground. I was truly blown away. I could not believe there were mountains like this. Of course...I felt I need to run it to fully experience it. Well...long story short I went on my first run the next morning like I was at sea level and quickly started my smack down on "no air". I was in love!!! Little did I know that EP was going to be my backyard a few years later.

Back to present day. Last weekend Meg and I did our "Sunday Hike in the Park" at Lawn Lake in RMNP. As we pulled into the parking lot I had a flash back to 2004. "I remember this road...this is the one I wanted to run!!!". It was the Old Trail Ridge Road. Starting at 8500 ft elevation and topping out at 11775 over a 10.5 mile dirt road. Like 2004 my thought was I need to run this monster!!!

Thursday evening rolls into Friday. Friday I text Swede and all it said was "Ready?". He knew what I meant as soon as I said it. We both were looking for good vert and good footing as we have a monster run next weekend. Bouncing back ideas my light bulb went off..OLD TRAIL RIDGE ROAD!!! I texted Swede and said I had it. In which he responds "uh oh". It was ON!!!

Swede and I agree that we we would sleep in and meet at 430 in Loveland. I know...sleeping in right. We start off on our drive up Big Thompson Canyon and I started to get flash backs again of the same drive in 2004.

Arriving at the parking lot there were a few people getting ready to pull all day hikes. We discussed our plans with each other in which they stated we were nuts...funny I was thinking the same about them. The sun was coming up, birds were singing, and Swede and I were off!!!

Now if you don't know this road it is 10.5 miles and averages at a 6% grade or what we call runnable. From the start my legs felt good. I was in the mindset to climb so I stated to push the tempo. Miles went by, vert numbers went up, and we had the road to ourselves. It was absolutely amazing. As I neared the top of the climb a tour jeep was taking a few people up. They looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind. As the passed me I said good morning and asked how they were doing? One guy responded "better that you". In which I thought if you only knew...I was living my dream!!

Topping out at Trail Ridge Visitors Center I saw the same Jeep. They saw me coming and the same guy asked "are you man or machine?". Talk about getting me JACKED UP!!! We talked for a few minutes as they wanted to know what we were training for. I love the look and questions when my response is 100 mile trail runs. You know the deer in the headlights look and the "all at one time?" question. We were 10.5 miles in and standing at 11775 ft.

As Swede and I left the parking lot there was a trail crossing the road. We had no idea where it went but we knew we were going to find out. Needless to say if there is an adventure then we are on it.

As we hit the 14 mile mark we started talking about how far we wanted to go. Swede said lets go to 15 and make the turn. Since the run was such good footing thus far I felt we could make it in no time. Man was I wrong. We stated up the Mount Ida trail and it quickly turned ugly. Nice technical sections with quick steep inclines. At one point I am sure I called Swede something but I will plead the fifth on what that was. After a half mile or so the trail opened up to a beautiful wide open mountain and we were on perfect footing. When we hit more 15 we decided another .5 to make a full 50K for the day was not going to kill us.

When we made our turn point Swede and I stepped off the trail and just sat down. I have never heard true silence until then. It was absolutely still and so silent. I will never forget that lack of noise.

As we made our way back to Trail Ridge parking lot we were both ready for the 10.5 mile downhill. We made a quick stop at the Visitors Center in which we got the "what are these two fools doing?" looks. Don't mind us folks we are just running a 50K training run!!!

Leaving the parking lot I wanted to push my tempo to see what I had from mile 20.5 to 31. My first mile was 540 pace and stayed fairly quick on the way down. I ran the last 10.5 miles in 1:11. Not too shabby for that time of the run. Coming down the road I saw the same tour jeep. The driver told everyone over loud speaker that he saw us running earlier that morning. He asked everyone to cheer me on in which they did. That was a wild moment!!!

Finishing up I could not help to reflect again on 2004 and the journey that has happened over the past years. The many miles, events, and moves that put us where we are now. Sometimes looking back helps to see forward and appreciate the times even more so.

It was a great week of running for me. Finished at 105 miles and 18000 vertical gain. Tic Toc...Leadville and Wasatch are coming!!!

Next weekends run...all I can say is HOLD ON!!! It is going to be EPIC!!!
 
 
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Stopping to take a look around 12740 ft.
It is Saturday morning at 2:55 AM. Most people would be counting how many hours they have until they need to get up. Not me...I was counting minutes. I lay there, cats taking up most of the bed and Meg snoozing away. Finally 3 AM comes (because getting up any earlier is crazy right) and I am up and moving. I have a date with Chris and Steph in the Rockies!!!

As I am leaving the house I am starting to get jacked up and post on Facebook something like "3 AM and I am up ready to go". Not long after my iPhone alert sounds and I have a reply. I am thinking someone is as crazy as I am. Well it was Swede getting ready to roll as well. We meet at 4 and we are off to Rainbow Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness for some fun.

We arrive at the trailhead around 5:30 and we are off. The opening climb starts at 10000 ft and climbs 6-7 miles and 2500-2700 ft. Needless to say it was brutal but DAMN what a way to wake up. The views along the way were some of the best I have seen. The climb was tough but I am learning VERY quickly the need to know how to power hike.

Once we topped out we were standing on (literally) the glacier. The picture above does not do it justice as it was absolutely spectacular. This is when the fun really started!!!

The next part of the trail was a 1200 ft very quick descent with water running down the middle of the trail in sections. Made for some very tricky footing along the way. Little did we know at this point as we were cruising that this monster was going to eat us up once we headed back.

Along the way we could see the trail heading up the pass. It was kind of crazy for me to see because it was so open and looked almost as wide as a road. Starting up the trail Steph was cruising (as she did almost all day) and I was working on my power hiking skills again. I think you can sense a theme. When we hit the top of the pass we were 9 miles in. The upcoming downhill was UGLY. It looked alot like Hope Pass in Leadville. Just freakin brutal which made us all smile. HERE WE GO!!!

Cruising to the bottom we were still not close to our turn point in mileage so we kept rolling. Thinking the next section would be flat and we would have a few easy miles. Well...the hills were not flat they were down hill. When Swede and I hit our turn at 13.1 miles down we had more downhill than up. All I could say was CRAP THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!!!

Making the turn my legs were starting to feel it. I knew we had alot of climbing to do over the next 8 miles. Swede and Steph were looking good and pushed on as I was happy to sweep the course.

Now remember that hill I referenced above? Yep it was BRUTAL on the way back. We all pushed as hard as we could and I know at one point I was clocking a 24 minute mile. Wow that beast just would not let up.

FINALLY when we topped back out at 12740 ft we know all that was left was the technical downhill. We all regroup and Steph leads the way pushing the tempo the entire way. I guess I felt the need to play soccer because I was kicking every rock that was in the path. At one point it stopped in the trail, floated a few colorful words, picked up a rock, and proceeded to throw the rock as far as I could. Yep...I felt like a man again. I could tell the rain was coming so I needed to stop getting frustrated and get moving. Steph and Swede were chilling out when I got back to the car. Upon returning my Garmin said it was 25.8 miles which meant I had to keep going. Everyone know that if I am that close I am going to finish the marathon.

As I stagger back to the car looking like Otis the Drunk I could almost taste the recovery food waiting. Oh sweet lord I was done so give me a Red Bull, chocolate milk, and peanut butter sandwich!!! A much as I love to train and run I love to finish. As we travel back home all we could say was BRUTAL. We had just crushed out a marathon between 10000-12740 ft and 8500 ft vertical gain. By far the most vertical I have ever done in that short amount of distance.

Beat up but still glowing I added up my week. It ended up being 102 miles and 18800 ft vertical climb. Even more so the run was absolutely epic. Thanks to Steph for putting together a beast of a run!!!

Who know what this week hold but whatever it is I am sure it will be epic!!!
 
 
Yesterday I was approached by a friend and fellow runner on Facebook. She is training for a PR flat road marathon and PR hilly trail 50K. Now most of you that know me know I stack races all the time and it can be done and done well if done right. She had one simple question for me. It was "do I do hillwork, speedwork, or just run?". I thought WOW that is the hardest easy question I have ever had to answer. So after a few moments I started to formulate my response (takes this Ol Fart a few minutes to get his thoughts together).

When I started asking questions about her thoughts and training for the races I got mixed responses. A few I asked were:

- What is your marathon PR goal?
- What is your 50K PR goal?
- Which race is your "A" race?

Her responses were...well...alot like mine (no surprise there). Both races are her "A" races and she is looking for 10 minute PRs at both distances. DAMN!!!

So it prompted me to think...what is better hillwork or speedwork? Or is it just better to get out and run?

I had to think and look back at my recent training before the Bighorn 100. I ran a 2:46 at the Colorado Marathon (road) and then a 3:08 (CR) at the Carvins Cove Marathon (trail). They were both PRs and done within 4 weeks of each other.

Looking back my training was mostly flat road and speedwork versus hill trail workouts. I have always been a person that says "hillwork is speedwork in disguise" but could it be the other way around? Can speedwork be the equivalent of slower hillwork?

After researching deeper into my past races I keep seeing almost the same information. On almost all my PRs I have leaned alot on speedwork and tempo runs no matter the terrain or vertical change. It has always treated me right with the exception of the "holy lord, goat seeing, oh man I am running with Darci Africa, I think I will walk for 40 miles" DNF of Bighorn 100. That story will be up soon.

So after much thinking I told her to concentrate right now on speed with one day a week of hills. As soon as the marathon is over make the quick shift of hillwork and one day of speedwork. Well it was more indepth than that but it was tailored to her specific training schedule.

Speaking of...if I can help anyone with training schedules or advice my "door" is always open for anyone.

So there is my second post...might be a ramble. So let me know your thoughts of hillwork, speedwork, or run when it comes to your training. I would love to know your thoughts/comments.

Let the debate begin...
 
 
Well...here we go with my very first blog post. I never thought this day would come but here it is!!!

I will keep things short and sweet for my first post as I am "riding on training wheels" right now. Wow I have so much to learn!!!

Most of you that know me know that I love doing things that others won't try. Not that they can't but that they won't or refuse to try. So as last work week was winding to a close I shot Swede a quick text. All it said was "want to get stupid Saturday?" in which he replies "you know it brother!!!". After that well...our minds shifted to when/where and we are planning. Chris (aka Swede) is in the midst of training for the Leadville 100 and I the Wasatch 100. Since Swede's race is closer I wanted to make sure we had him primed. I asked him to lay out a course and DAMN did he ever.

Saturday morning rolled around and the alarm went off at 3 AM. Talk about hard to roll out of bed but I knew the fun was about to begin. I threw on my Brooks gear and grab my North Face rain jacket as it was raining and we would most likely be in the rain all day. Loading up my vehicle the caffiene was starting to kick in and I was starting to get fired up (no surprise). With the radio booming and the rain falling I was on my way to meet Swede at 4 AM and we were off!!!

We stated our run at 5ish at the trail head of Lilly Lake in RMNP. The sun was not quite up and the fog was heavy. It was setting up to be an epic day!!! The first couple miles came easier than normal for us. We rolled though some good climbs and faster flats. The birds were singing and the world was waking up. I absolutely love these moments when you are just "there" as the world comes alive.

We stopped at one point a few miles in at the junction of the Estes Cone trail. We both looked at each other knowing this scramble was not on the route and both said "why not"...off we went. It was .7 miles up and roughly 800 feet of barely marked trail. At the top we were hoping the fog would clear so we could see the sunrise from 11200 feet. Well...as we waited it just did not happen. Little did we know what was coming. As we descended down the mountain from Estes Cone the skies cleared for a few moments. It was almost like we were meant to be there at that time. Swede and I both were frantically grabbing for our cameras as we had a front row seat to Longs Peak and Mt Meeker at daybreak. Truly one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen.

As we returned to the trail junction that we were originally on we knew this day was going to be incredible. We left the spot and headed out the trail to a nice gentle descend. While on the trail I was telling Swede about the Leadman idea.  As we started talking he said it is something he would be interested in as well. So...looks like Swede and I are getting "stupid" again and taking on the Leadman Series.

The rest of the trip was breath taking section after breath taking section. It was either the view or the 11-12K elevation taking your breath away but either was it was epic.

As we made our way back to Lilly Lake I could not help but notice as dirty, wet, and muddy as we were we still were both smiling from ear to ear. These days don't come around often but when they do...DAMN!!! We had just ran 22 miles at 6900 ft of vertical climb and topped out over 12000 ft elevation.

As we "refueled" with the food Megan and Steph (thank you to the both of you) made for us the skies opened up. Rain was coming down hard and people were scrambling around trying to stay dry. It was kind of funny to watch the folks in nice white shoes running through the mud (well a little funny).  We had very little rain during the run and it was ironic that it happened when it did. Kind of like the run was meant to be.

All I can say is WOW what a run!!! Swede put together an epic run in RMNP.

So there it is...my first blog post. I hope whomever reads it enjoys it. I am always open to comments to make it better.

Looking back maybe this was not so short and sweet after all...oh well!!!