Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My soul is crushed by the results of the presidential election on November 8th. After a sleepless night, I got up early and ran through the pitch black streets of Missoula, alone with my thoughts. Our country voted to reject the very fabric of our democracy, our appeal to reason, and our collective human decency. I have only been this deeply saddened by the death of a loved one, and as a result, am preparing mentally for a similar grieving process. But as of now, tears well up in my eyes as I contemplate looking my son in the eyes and trying to explain how our country could do this. I am so sorry.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ninemile high points

I have tended to shy away from trails in the Ninemile, citing long road drives, short trails, and poor trail maintenance.  But, by biking from the valley, the peaks of the Ninemile become engaging outings with sub-30 minute drives from Missoula.  Since my poor broken big toe is still on the mend from an unfortunate growler-to-toe accident, it seemed prudent to mix a lot of biking into these outings.  No worries, because I have always enjoyed time on a bike.

Ch-paa-qn + Edith preak road loop
I rolled out from the bottom of the Sixmile road in the dark on a foggy Saturday morning.  By daybreak, I had passed the Ninemile ranger station, and was well up the Edith peak road.  There were a lot of hunters, but I figured a bright blue shirt and blinking bike light should be sufficient to identify myself as a human.  Sunrise was spectacular, especially with the valley shrouded in undercast.  It was fun to grind away at a moderate pace, and I was at the Reservation divide less than two hours after leaving the car,  After a quick transition to running shoes, I ran the Reservation divide trail to the base of the peak, then slip slid my way up through bear grass and frosty talus to the summit.  Ch-paa-qn has one of the most striking views around, especially of the Missions and Flathead valley, and the undercast added to the drama.  A bitter wind on the summit was not sufficient to dampen my spirits.

Sunrise!  It was a lot more striking in person. 
Summit view out to the Missions.

Thumbs up while looking South along the Reservation divide.
Summit view looking down the Ninemile to the Bitterroot and Graves creek ranges.
In deference to big broken left toe, I took my time carefully descending frosty talus to the trail, and made it without a single toe stub.  The run out to the road was fun.  From the trailhead, I skimmed along muddy roads for a few miles toward Edith peak before layering up for the cold downhill ride to Sixmile.  With my mountain bike out of commission, I was on the cross bike, and was not looking forward to bone jarring ride down. But it went quickly enough, and I was soon spinning out the last few miles to the truck.  4.45 at steady aerobic pace.  30++ miles.

Adding a bike component to the outing shortens the drive to 25 minutes from town, and makes it a more fulfilling outing. There are a ton of good road loops in the Sixmile/Ninemile.  Just doing the Edith peak road loop would be a very good 3 hour circuit, but it is only one of many good road circuits. I need to do Ch-paa-qn from the house some day as a grand loop, riding to Ravalli, jamming up to the Reservation divide from the east, and returning to town via the Edith peak and the frontage road.

Three lakes peak + Ninemile tour
I was able to take an afternoon off from a busy work schedule and play.  With peaks of the Ninemile largely below snowline, I decided to park at the Ninemile house, bike a bunch of flat dirt road to the head of the drainage, and run Three lakes peak.  The ride up the drainage was fast and delightful, aside from being chastised by a hunter for not wearing orange (I assumed a biker clad in neon green was sufficiently visible).  After a quick bike to running shoes transition at the trailhead, I started jogging up.  Montana Trail Crew runners cleared the trail last year, and it is still in good running shape.  Soon enough, I had climbed to Burnt Fork pinnacle, traversed the beautiful high single track to the peak, and hiked snowy talus to the west summit.  It was another beautiful day to be out.
Rolling a few miles in.  Three lakes peak looking white in the far distance.
Still a long way to go on the bike.
Cruising the trail out to Three lakes peak.
Looking out to the Missions.
Looking south along the Reservation divide to Ch-paa-qn and the Missoula valley.
The return to the bike was fun, running freely, and chasing the sunset.  To my surprise, the deproach bike was much faster than the approach (I didn't think 500 vertical feet in 20 miles would make much of a difference), and I was back at the car in plenty of time to watch the Cubs crush the Indians to win the World Series.  6.35 at a steady aerobic pace, 50 miles plus or minus.  I can only imagine how stunning this outing would be in early October before the cottonwood leaves have fallen along the creek, and when the larch have just turned brilliant yellow.
Fall in the upper Ninemile during the egress run.
Last rays of sunlight on the ride out.
Back at the car.  Not even dark!  psyched.
Stark mountain + Rennick access road
Looking south down the Ninemile to the Missoula valley from the summit of Stark mountain
After a morning of cheering Leah on at the Elk Ramble 15k, I was able to sneak out for the afternoon.  With limited time before dark, I decided to hit up the Ninemile one last time.  I ended up driving five miles or so up the drainage to the bottom of the Rennick access road and biking from there.  The dirt road to the trailhead is slow and frustrating in a car, but it was pure joy on a bike.  I was running in a little under an hour from leaving the car.  The trail to Stark was also pure joy - basically 4,000 vertical feet of steep but runnable grade from the trailhead to the top.  I did it in a push, and was on the summit well ahead of schedule.  
Dirt road riding to the trailhead.
Nearing the lookout.
A long shadow, Ninemile valley, Ch-paa-qn, and the Missions.
 The run down was faster and smooth, and an uneventful bike ride out had me back at the car about an hour faster than anticipated.  Really nice way to spend a perfect fall afternoon.  I didn't do any mileage checking, but probably a little under 30 miles and 5k vert, done in 3.48 at a bright aerobic pace (I went a little too hard today).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mountain Project and fall outings

For almost a year, I have been basing my training approach on advice from Mike Wolfe and his new business, Mountain Project.  And I continue to grow stronger and more durable, both racing and in the mountains.  I recently got in touch with Mike again after a summer of hard high intensity work, and was reminded once again how helpful his insight has been.
A couple of my home strength workouts.  Stale.
Looking forward to working with Mike to focus this hard but very important work.
As the days get shorter, and folks turn from a summer of playing outside to more focused work in the gym, I heartily recommend working with Mountain Project to sharpen your preparation for ski season or any other demanding mountain sport.  Mike has spent over a decade pushing his body to (and at times over) the limit, and as a result, has a complete understanding of what works and does not.  He is also a mountain athlete in the purest sense, and has tuned his training for moving efficiently in the mountains.  Check it out here.

Here's to a few weeks of alternating between strength work in the gym, hanging out with Mr. Samuel, and trapsing around the hills, soaking in the wonder of of fall.
Snowbowl lap with Sam.
Throw in golden larch and a few sets of baby squats and you have yourself a nice fall outing.
Since Blue Mountain, I have been out a reasonable amount, but have generally been skunked by weather.  Jeffrey and I tried to do a Sweeney peak/Holloway lake loop in the Bitterroot on a frosty Saturday morning, but bailed on the ridge traverse due to rime ice and hateful, biting wind.  We still ran up through the beautiful chain of lakes to Holloway, and made it into a quality outing.  Must get back and do this one soon.
Snow at Holloway lake.  Feeling vindicated with our decision to bail from the alpine.
Jeffrey, heading home.
I also failed massively on the must-do North to West fork Loop in the Great Burn.  I turned around at the Stateline in a semi-hypothermic state after being hammered with rain for several hours.  Ditto on getting back to do this one.
Rainy day in the Great Burn.
Members of these conservation partners in the Great Burn may be
diametrically opposed politically, but are working together
to make a positive difference on the ground.  Thanks.
And, after rain put the kibosh on a planned Lolo pass bike ride, I did my first 100-mile bike outing, riding to Hamilton and back on the paved Bitterroot trail, with a small additional detour to fill 'er out to 100 mi.  Aside from an hour of unpleasant 40 degree rain and getting a little whopped by 6 hours on the bike, it was a fun outing.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Blue Mountain 30K, 2016

Mile 7.  Photo: Kyle Story
I once again had a great time running the Blue Mountain 30K.  I showed up well rested and surprisingly prepared for a 6-week old father thanks in large part to Leah’s support.  I was excited to race, and soon enough we were off.  The pace in the lead group felt about right, so I settled in a pack of four, moving briefly into the lead before settling into a comfortable 3rd place, which I would hold for the entire first climb.  

Running with the lead group early on.
At the top of the first climb, Nicole Hunt and I passed Michael, and I took the lead at the first aid.  I pushed the downhill at a smooth and fastish pace, which I hoped would be enough to put a small gap on my pursuers, but to my minor dismay, they held in and even closed the gap a bit on the climb to the second aid station.  It was great to see my family at the second aid, even though I just rolled through.  The remaining climb to Hayes and run down to the last aid went OK, but Nicole remained a stubborn 30 seconds back.  Ready to either secure the lead or go down trying, I decided to push it as we both fired up the last climb.  The effort was sufficient to finally gain a small gap to the top, and I rolled as fast as my legs would go to the finish.  I almost took one spill, and cramped once, but kept it together, crossing the line appropriately whopped, about four minutes faster than my previous best. Nicole came in about two minutes later, having broken the women’s course record (I think).  Thanks for Runner's Edge, Mike Foote, and the Hellgate team for putting on another great race.

Milton (on bike) was nice enough to provide encouragement and traffic control near the finish.
Happy Storyberg family at the finish.
In terms of analysis, the race went well. The field was small, and even though I had a good run, a similar performance would not even yield a top 30 finish at the Rut.  But a win is a win, I guess, and it did feel like race with constant pressure from Nicole.  Preparation was a lot different in the past (more biking, more Vo2 max work, targeted strength work on a few weak muscle groups, less running volume, less sleep), but a consistent, extended block of training translated well to good race performance.  Looking forward, I am excited to take a little break then return to hard efforts in late fall with renewed psyche. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Missoula running circuit time trials

My post to track hard running efforts on Missoula's most popular runs.

SHEEP - out and back from Woods 20 mi and about 5,000 v.f.

9/1/2016 :  It is almost comical to bill my Sheep mountain times as fast, as the standard cadre of fast Missoula runners could clip this run off in sub 3 hours without working too hard. In any case, I shaved another two minutes off my time today.  I went out at a full race pace and hoped for the best.  I was right on my previous splits the entire climb, but had to work disconcertingly hard to hold the pace.  I didn't stop for a break at the top, and was soon cruising at my fastish and smoothish hard pace back to the car.  I climbed to blue point a minute ahead of last time and kept things rolling a razor edge below the cramp threshold.  I made it out totally spent and passed the evening holding sam on the couch, drinking liter after liter of water.  It will be hard to go faster without better fitness.  This was my first hard post-fatherhood effort, and it felt good to clean out the engine a bit. 3.10.46
Cheesy self portrait on top of Sheep, 2014.  The 2016 edition was about the same,
 except with a more defined pain cave grimace.
2016 Splits:  Three Larch road: 23; Top of first hill: 44; Blue Point: 1.14; Top of next to last hill; 1.44; summit 1.52.  Blue point on return: 2.24; Top of first hill downhill: 1.45; Woods 3.10.45

HR - avg 163 up, 145 - 155 down.  Slight increase over both halves.

SENTINEL - Sentinel Hill climb course
I have not been able to challenge my time since fall 2013.  My best time was running with Doug Brinkerhoff the week after the Rut. We pushed each other to the point of breaking.  23.45

SENTINEL - My favorite run
Route:  Up to North Sentinel however you like.  Down to Hellgate saddle, Up and down Radio Tower via Chopsticks/Ridge trail.  Out Hellgate.  Good in either direction, but I think this is the fastest. Good steep run.  I absolutely love it and much prefer it to the Pengelly Double dip course.  Start and stop is at the Kim Williams bridge near the Adams Center.

5/2015 - I have slowly chipped away at my time over the years, and was surprised to best it this year.  I out at a tempo run pace (HR in low 170s) and topped out on Sentinel around 26.30.  I don't remember my split to the top, but it was probably just under 55.  More notably, I was hang on to the tempo run pace.  I hit it hard on the downhill, keeping the HR around 165.  I did have to stop a few times to stretch out my calves, since they were in a two week period of being problematic, but otherwise the whole thing went off about as fast as possible. In the end, I shaved about 3 minutes off my time, mainly on the Radio Tower climb and Hellgate descent. 1.24.59

JUMBO - Ascent via L
10/27/2015 - I have done a few Jumbo time trials this summer, and have not been able to bese my previous time, but I still haven't had an all-out, hurting bottom to top effort.  This time I just pinned it from the bottom and held on, which yielded a new best time, if only by a mere 10 seconds.  I have had mixed results with speed work over the past few months, but occasionally I am feeling good, and today was a good example.  I was rested and my body responded favorably to the stiff pace, so this will be a hard one to beat without better fitness.  22.41

STUART - out and back from the Corridor
Route - Out and back from the Corridor.  I stay on the trail the whole way, even though cutting switchbacks on the upper portion would save as much as 5 minutes.

8-2015 I had a good hard go at running Stuart Peak for time the other day. I still contend a mountain bike is the best tool for cruising around in the Rattlesnake, but irregaurdless, Stuart is still a great long run. 

Twin lakes and the Rattlesnake from Stuart.
I have been trying to avoid long hard efforts in favor of smarter training tactics, but I went for it anyway, had a blast, and perhaps honed in my pacing strategy for the Rut 25K.  A quick recovery is also yet another encouraging indicator that I am finally fully recovered from the Beaverhead race.  After 5 mins of warmup jogging, I was able to sustain a near-skimo race effort for the duration of the run, and was surprised to have enough gas in the tank to run the last few miles at near threshold effort.  I returned to the car in a magnificent state of fatigue.  Unfortunately, a weird blood sugar dip or something relegated me to an evening lying on the couch.  Sorry for the poor company Leah, Joshua and Amy!

As per usual, not a fast time for fast runners, but a good solid personal effort, and a good confidence boost leading up to the Rut.  Splits:  Overlook trail outbound 39 mins, Upper culvert crossing: 59 mins, Wilderness boundary; 1.23?; Stuart summit 1.45; Wilderness inbound 2.01; Upper crossing 2.14; Overlook inbound 2.24. CTC 2.50.30.

BLUE MOUNTAIN - Deadman Loop

Route:  Loop up Deadman trail and down through the Recreation area.  There isn't really a clear fastest direction.  When running for time,  I cut a lot of switchbacks on the recreation trail above the recreation area on a combination of game trails and old timber units.  The Forest Service rerouted the Deadman trail in summer 2015, so the rowdy downhill is no longer in existence.  


The stars finally arrived for an opportunity to challenge my 2013 time on Blue Mountain.  I consider fall 2013/Winter 2014 the time when I was in the best shape of my life, so any improvements in time would have to come from better pacing, downhill running, and dialing the route.  After playing it perhaps too conservatively at the Rut 25K (???), I went ahead and ran out hard from the car, slowly ramping up until my HR was around 170.  I did the run in reverse from past efforts, climbing Deadman and descending the horse recreation trail.  I think it is faster in this direction according to the climb-ladders, descend-ramps theory, but the routefinding is trickier.  In any case, My HR faded from 170 to an average around 164 over the course of the climb.  I saw a few motorbikers as per usual, but they were adequately polite, and it was nice to chat with them for a few minutes on the summit.  

My legs were surprisingly jankey from the outset, and they were already a little hammered by the time I started the descent.  I ran the descent hardish, with HR 140 – 155 depending on the technicality of the descent.  I cut a lot of switchbacks in this direction above the main recreation area cross country and on climbers trails, and if you don’t like that, feel free to tack 10 minutes on to my time as a basis of comparison.  I had a few minor calf cramps on the descent, not enough to have to stop, but enough to validate I had put in a hard uphill effort.  In any case I ran out to the car in 2.14.40, just below my previous 2.18 best.  I think there is some room for improvement.  For one, I want' all that fresh.  Also, I think it would be a bit faster to take it out a touch slower for the first half of the climb, pin it to the top, then really focus on running the entire downhill evenly and fast. 2.10 is realisic, sub-2 would require better fitness.

Splits:  Leave 2.14? trail 11.30.  Start up Deadman – 23?; Summit 1.24; Road in Recreation area 1.57.