Monday, May 15, 2017

Running races, 2017

Unless I have a breakout race or something, I will put all running races in one post.  The format is more of a journal for me to look back on over the years, but if other people find it interesting, that is great too.

Huffing for stuffing 10k
I had an average race, splitting 6.05 miles.  I started out in no mans land behind the lead back of about 15 runners.  The first slightly uphill mile was a disappointing 6.22, so I ratcheted the pace up just a touch and spent the remaining uncomfortable miles, passing almost 10 runners and running a few sub-6 miles on the downhills to the finish.  I was a little disappointed in my pace, but pushed about as hard as was prudent.  Not my best 10k ever, but I have had a few productive weeks of building fitness after a weird fall with some sickness and an achilles injury, and I will take a two minute improvement over my previous times as an encouraging sign.  Leah had an OK race.  Thanks to my family for watching Sam.

Rut 28K
I showed up for the race optimistic, having cobbled together a consistent string of long days in the mountains, which resulted in fairly good fitness.  I ran the first half of the race at a marginally sustainable pace, arriving at the half way point a few minutes faster than last time.  To make a painful second half story short, I battled adductor/sartorius cramps for the rest of the race, which cost me about 40 minutes.  It was fun to run for a bit with Doug and John Fiore, although they both dropped me easily when I had to stop to get the legs unsiezed.  In any case, I finished in about 4.52, having not run anywhere near my fitness potential.  Leah had a much better race.  I am putting out feelers to try to get to the bottom of my inner leg cramping, as I now have an unconfirmed theory that it is a more complicated mobility and/or nerve issue than muscle weakness.  Thanks to the Mikes for putting the race on, to my parents for watching Sam, and to all the volunteers and participants for making the weekend so fun.

Missoula half marathon
Leah and I ran this together with Sam in the running stroller.  Aside from having to get up at 3:30 to make the start with baby, the run was quite smooth and easy.  Leah was able to hold on to her goal pace, so we just rolled along the course at 7:40 miles.  I actually really enjoy stroller running, and don't mind pavement, so the race was a blast.  The sunrise was beautiful, the spectators were fun, Sam did well, and the course is a nice tour through the hilights of road running in Missoula.  While not a full race effort, it was tiring as well.  We finished in 1.40.

After the race, I headed out myself and ran the Double Dip course to make it a full marathon length day.  I had a goal to beat Leah's race time but was unable to do so, despite pushing hard.  It was fun to get a long hard effort in.

Pengelly Double Dip, Missoula
I finally participated in this long standing Missoula "tall half marathon."  With our son in day care, both Leah and I were able to run, which was great except Leah is fit, and I knew she would be keeping me honest on all of the climbs.

My heart rate monitor wasn't really working right, so I ran by effort, starting a few clicks above what seemed reasonable for a two hour race.  The few numbers it did flicker over the first hour were in the 170s, indicating the last hour of the race would be a painful horror show at the same pace.  At that effort, I was pleased to top out on the M climb in about 15th place.  I was hoping to pass a few people on the flat fire road, but it didn't really happen, so I just rolled along in my slot, working hard but feeling OK.
Working hard above the M.  Photo: Votography Images
I once again took some risk and pushed very hard for the entire climb out of Crazy canyon and up University.  I only moved up one position, but also arrived at the high point of the course less haggard than those in front of me.  With a little gas left in the tank, I was able to slowly move up, passing one runner on the University descent, and closing the gap to John Fiore and Nicole Murray on the climb to Sentinel.  I had just enough run left in my legs to pass both John and Nicole at the beginning of the downhill, and ran hard all the way down to Kim Williams, with Jeffrey in pursuit.  The last flat mile was very hard, since I reeled my friend Doug in, but just did not have anything left to pass him in the last few hundred yards.  I ended up finishing totally whooped, at 1.54, in 9th? place.  Leah came in just a few minutes later in 7th.  Great run Leah!

It is a short race, but I had a very good performance relative to my fitness.  Pushed hard, took some risk, moved up, almost blew up but didn't, and finished totally spent.  And had a blast. 

Don't Fence me in 30k, Helena
First climb. Me, looking like a chump with one arm warmer.   Moving up.

I finally did this hilly and beautiful race, and it was every bit as enjoyable as I had hoped.  We had good friends watch Sam, so both Leah and I got to race, which was wonderful.  I went out reasonably hard, and settled into the first climb around 30th place.  Even though I faded a touch over the course of the race, I did not fade as much as everyone else, and I spent the next ten miles or so working hard but also slowly picking runners off.  I was surprised at how fast the course was, especially the uphills, which were runnable with very few exceptions.  I did have a surprisingly low patch on the runnable Helena ridge section, battling a sideache and generally not keeping good turnover on fatigued legs, and both Tory and Leah Handleman (women's leader) came within about 5 seconds of reeling me in.  Fortunately I found another gear somewhere for the last steep climb to the peak, and the ensuing technical downhill was just tricky enough to allow me to hold my lead to the finish.  I crossed the finish tired and with a few calf twinges, feeling like I had a perfectly solid race given my current fitness.  2.53, 17th place.  Leah ran a predictably solid race, finishing sub-3.30, 16th place female.

For future reference: I ran the first two uphills with HR in the 158-162 range and faded to the low 150s by the end. Not an even effort, but I moved up something like 15 places over the course of the race, so it seems as though I paced reasonably for an optimal performance.  I could have dug deeper on the climbs, but not much. With a few cramp twinges on the last downhill it seems as though doing so could have very well risked a blowup.  As a metric, I am feeling slower than past years, but not too far off.  But (fingers crossed) healthy and grateful to be building fitness. I'll take it.

Riverbank 10k
I ran this long standing Missoula race with Sam in the stroller.  Sam was on his best behavior, so I was able to give it a more or less full effort.  I didn't really have a time goal, but after a mile or so of sorting things out, I started pushing hard, which was about a 6 flat pace.  I passed people throughout the race, with the exception of one dude who passed me in the half mile, and who I could not catch despite my best efforts.  I got a lot of compliments running in the top 10 with a baby stroller, but I don't think people realize that a baby stroller doesn't actually slow one down much at all on flat pavement. Final time was 38 low, 6.07 pace.  Without a doubt, Sam was the stroller champion of the 10k.

Monday, May 8, 2017


I skied Sweeney on the last day in April.  The forecast was for rain, so I headed out with plans to ski for a few hours.  The weather ended up holding, so I stayed out all day and had a great time.  I ended up climbing to just shy of the summit, skiing a good long run South to Sweeney creek, climbing back to the exact summit, then bowl bouncing my way back to the car.  I did not bring a camera, so no photos. With fast conditions and a solid all day pace, I was able to eke out 10,000 vertical feet in just under 9 hours car to car, and it was great to be out all day and get tired.  The snow was just OK, but I didn't care. 
The tour.  Note the recommended run to the South.  All three northeast bowls are popular and recommended.
I think the Sweeney approach is too long, and the terrain is too scrappy and steep for good winter skiing.  But, everything is different in the spring when the road opens up to near the trailhead, and one can piece together the avalanche prone terrain more easily.  I also think that skiing South off the peak makes the tour a lot more interesting, and would highly recommend adding that into the day if at all possible.

Also, in early April, a group of Missoula's finest did a traverse from Lolo to Sweeney, and reported having a great day.  I think it would be super fun to team up with another party after the Lolo gate opens and to the traverse in opposite directions.  Either direction has good skiing, and it is a very reasonable length day.  Any takers for this spring?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Complete Rattlesnake Traverse

Jeffrey at nearing the end of the traverse.
After years of scheming, it was great to finally do a complete ski traverse of the Rattlesnake range.   I was a little hesitant, given the potential to be slowed by glopping, but Jeffrey was excited to give it a go, and even offered to run shuttle.  How could I say no?  The day of, we set out from the Finley trailhead at 5:50 am, excited for an adventure.  The approach was surprisingly quick. After an hour of brisk walking, we transitioned to ski boots at the base of the hanging valley.  Jeffrey put in a hard hour of trailbreaking, which put us at the saddle near the head of the basin.  We took the line of least resistance, skiing a short steep run into Agency creek, traversing near the head of the basin to the base of Mcleod, and punching it up into the mist.  Fortunately, I was familiar enough with the terrain that we were able to navigate successfully despite the whiteout.  From the Mcleod summit, we skied the excellent South face, then did a long skate into the Five lake basin.
Jeffrey moving up Finley creek.
First run.
Skating toward Sanders.
 Jeffrey took the reins and punched in the entire next climb, which was short but hard, with tricky dust on crust skinning the entire way.  I was happy to just draft, hoping to put in a trailbreaking shift or two later in the day. From our high point on the shoulder, I had hoped to continue west to the unnamed summit, but the ridgeline was craggy, and we decided to keep rolling south.  As a result, we skipped a super nice looking run, oh well.  The rolling traverse to Sanders lake was long but surprisingly quick, considering the distance and need to put skins on to surmount a short sub ridge.  We arrived at Sanders lake a little under five hours into the day.  We skinned to the crest west of the lake, and booted the upper West face. It ended up going surprisingly quickly and smoothly (the NW ridge of Sanders is pretty scrappy in the summer).  We skied good roller ball corn on the Southeast face before skating across the flats to a transition just above Glacier lake.  The push to Mosquito was all easy and fast skinning.  We skied the excellent Southeast couloir with terrible roller ball debris and sun saturated wet crap snow before making another long traverse down to Worden lake.  It was my turn to try to repay trailbreaking debt incurred earlier in the day,  so I made a hard push all the way to Stuart.
Interesting booting high on Sanders.
Jeffrey skiing off Sanders with the one and only North face of Mosquito behind.
More schussing.  Sanders run behind.
I cut a small wet slide at the entrance to the Mosquito peak run.
Lots of switchbacks on the climb to Stuart.
The day was still young enough, and we were feeling good enough to ski the direct South face (instead of beelining out on the SE ridge).  The snow was surprisingly good corn, the run was steeper than I had imagined, and it was good to finally ski this face that I have been eying from town for so many years.  The exit was slow but fun. We were able to stay located on the trail up high, and had about a mile of entertaining intermittent snow patch hopping before having a perfectly clean transition to shoes about a half mile above the Overlook/Stuart trail junction.  From there 40 minutes of uneventful jogging put us back at the car, hot, tired, and excited to have completed the traverse.  By the numbers, 8,500 vertical feet and about 20 miles, done in 10.5 hours car to car at an all day pace.
Great skiing on the surprisingly steep South face of Stuart.
Light on your feet!  Dirt skimming on the exit.
Make no mistake, it was a great experience moving efficiently along the entire spine of the Rattlesnake.  The skiing was just OK, however, since all of the runs are short and south facing.  The most fun part of the day for me was skating and schussing on low angle terrain below the runs, covering ground quickly, and spending the day with a great partner.  The length is actually not too bad, and this tour is in the reach of an "average" touring party with good routefinding skills, as long as one allocates a long day to the adventure.  For skiing quality, I don't think the complete traverse is nearly as good as the classic Stuart NF/Eagle Chute/Mosquito N chute/Sanders N chute/ Return Point 6 (many options) link up, which is one of the finest long days around Missoula.  Also, Mcleod needs to get skied more.  The approach is a little rough around the edges for the first and last hour, but it is not too long, the summit is awesome, the skiing is great, and there are a few good options to bowl bounce your way there and back to make it into a really nice day.