Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2019 Review

I'm pretty late getting to a review of 2019, when it's April 21, 2020, but I didn't want last year to be forgotten.  Although I didn't complete any ultras in 2019, I did have many cool adventures and climbed a lot of new peaks (including several 14ers).

Of course, the main thing I log each year is my Horsetooth Rock summits, and I got 133 in 2019.  That's my 2nd best total (164 in 2013), but I should have gotten more since I was already at 100 by the end of June.

In my buildup for Hardrock, before it got cancelled, I was able to knock off a lot of crazy local bucket list challenges.  I believe I now have the first and only Round Mountain 6-pack (54 miles, 18,000 feet of vertical) and Crosier Quad (38 miles, 11,000 feet of vertical, adding Sullivan Gulch to the classic "Crosier Triple").  I also completed the Greyrock 6-pack (45 miles, 15,000 feet of vertical), which I don't believe had been done since Pete Stevenson completed the feat in 2011.  I couldn't beat Pete's time, so his OKT ("only known time") is now the FKT ("fastest known time").  The one challenge that is still eluding me, however, is Octarock (106 miles, 22,000 feet of vertical, Quadrock 50 x 2 with 4 Horsetooth Rock and 4 Arthurs Rock summits thrown in).  I gave it a go in late June but got denied at about 70 miles due to hypothermia and flooded trails.  At least it wasn't a blizzard like when I tried a few years ago.  I now have 3 DNFs at Octarock.

Greyrock 6-pack with Jaime

Crosier Quad with Brett

I still visited the San Juan mountains over Hardrock week with my Dad and two of my sisters.  I got to explore a lot of trails and peaks that I have never been on.  The options are just endless out there!  On the day we were supposed to run Hardrock, I joined up with a fun group of old and new friends for an out and back along the course from Silverton to Green Mountain.  Certainly a fun day!

Topping out Green Mountain with my Hardrock friends

Exploring the San Juan Mountains with Regina

August and September had me playing a lot in the Sawatch Range, exploring the Nolan's 14 line and pacing Alan for 50 miles at Leadville (my first time seeing the whole course).  Doing Nolan's self-supported, I learned a lot about gear choices and also realized I need to do it with support to ever come close to the 60-hour "finisher" cutoff.  I might be able to give it a supported shot in 2020.  My plans are to go NOBO (Shavano to Massive) since that's how I've been scouting it.

Following Alan over Hope Pass at the Leadville 100

Following the Nolan's line

Life in the Sawatch.  Fueling up for Princeton on the horizon.

When not travelling down to the Sawatch, I spent plenty of summer time closer to home in RMNP playing in the Mummies (did Mummy Mania twice) and around Longs Peak (3 Longs summits this year).

The Mummies

Longs Peak (14,255 feet, approximately)

I did take on some shorter local trail and road races in 2019, and found to have regained a good bit of my speed.  My longest race was the Lory State Park 12K and my shortest was the Mountain Avenue Mile, where I clocked a 5:39!  I was able to get my road 5K time back under 20 minutes as well.

Mountain Avenue Mile

Finally, in November, I couldn't resist the urge to take on a 100-mile race, so I made a road trip to Alabama for the Blood Rock 100.  I met up with my sister who flew down from Maine and we enjoyed camping in Oak Mountain State Park (the site of the race).  Absolutely beautiful country down there and I loved the rugged, rocky, and steep trails!  The race was challenging, with over 26,000 feet of vertical, and a lot of rain!  I wasn't committed to finishing and pulled out around Mile 60.  However, since the 2nd 50 miles was a repeat of the 1st 50, I still got to experience the whole course.  I was glad I made the trip!

Camping at Oak Mountain State Park

Along the Blood Rock course.  They even installed ropes.

So onward to 2020!  We're certainly experiencing some different times right now, and I don't know if there will be any races to run this year.  I'm in Hardrock (if it happens) and I'm on the waitlist for Bear (if it happens).  Even if all races get cancelled, I still have many trail running/hiking goals that I am excited about and would love to complete this year given the opportunity (Octarock, Nolans, Hills to Sea Trail, Colorado Trail, etc.).  I just appreciate that I can still enjoy my local mountains and trails for the time being.

A recent sunrise from atop Horsetooth Rock

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Mummy Mania and a 40 year old FKT?

The Mummy Range, extending through the northern portion of Rocky Mountain National Park and beyond, has long been my local alpine playground.  After a relaxed traverse of the Mummy Mania (or Mummy Kill) route last weekend with Alan, we discussed the best way to make a loop of it.  It's kind of a pain to have to shuttle between the Chapin Pass and Lawn Lake trailheads to do the standard point-to-point route.  Especially when you leave the keys to your truck parked at Lawn Lake TH in Alan's car at Chapin Pass TH.

Snow holding on the ridge between Ypsilon and Fairchild, the most difficult section of the traverse.

We both came to the agreement that the best loop would be from Lawn Lake TH, and then up the Ypsilon Lake Trail to a point where you could bushwhack and gain Chiquita's east ridge.  And you might as well just skip Chapin since it would no longer be on the way and you more than make up for it with the 5.5 mile and 4500 feet of climbing to get the Chiquita summit.  I couldn't believe it when I saw on the FKT (Fastest Known Times) website that the legend Bill Briggs held the FKT for the exact route we described.  Bill did the loop in "about 9 hours" on July 31, 1979!  I guess I should have informed Bill that I was going to take a shot at his time since I believe he is still screaming down mountains on his skis and hiking trails at the ripe age of 87.

Well I took my shot today despite dark clouds in about all directions at sunrise.  Luckily, the distant thunder stayed distant and, despite the steady rain and occasional hail, I was able to put together the loop.  I know many others who could easily go faster than my time, but I was very satisfied with my 7 hour and 38 minute effort today.

The GPS track (with georeferenced pictures), 19.8 miles with 7605 feet ascent/descent

And for the Strava folks:

My time splits:
0:00  Lawn Lake TH (Start)
0:22  Ypsilon Lake/Lawn Lake Trail junction
1:37  Point 12005 Summit
2:15  Mount Chiquita Summit
2:47  Ypsilon Mountain Summit
4:04  Fairchild Mountain Summit
5:16  Hagues Peak Summit
6:13  Mummy Mountain Summit
6:49  Black Canyon/Lawn Lake Trail junction
7:24  Ypsilon Lake/Lawn Lake Trail junction
7:38  Lawn Lake TH (Finish)

From now on I'm going to call this route "Briggs Loop".

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Camp Hardrock 2019

The photo above was taken on top of Green Mountain at about 12 miles into what would have been a 100-mile loop around the San Juan Mountains at Hardrock 2019.  Instead, on this day, we turned around here and headed back to Silverton for a 24-mile "fun" run.  Mother Nature may have cancelled the race this year, but she couldn't put a dent in the Hardrock Spirit we all shared on this beautiful day!

I got to give a talk the other day on this record snow year in Colorado.  People usually don't buy my excuse that I climb all these mountains because it's part of my "job".  I'm not only soaking in the beauty, but also observing the alpine hydrologic cycle at work.  Ok, whether you buy it or not, it was one of the most fun and best received talks I have given in quite some time.  It must have been the Hardrock emphasis and all the "eye candy" of the San Juan Mountains.

This year, like in 1995 when Hardrock was last cancelled due to snow, Silverton had a big snow year with 269 inches by June 1.  What made these two years particularly a problem for Hardrock though, was the high amount of snow that came after March 1.  This Spring snow is typically wetter, producing a very high snow water equivalent, or what snow hydrologists like to call "SWE".

When deciding if conditions will be favorable for the Hardrock event to take place each year, the Hardock committee considers several factors, one being the SWE at the Red Mountain Pass SNOTEL station (USDA-NRCS SNOTEL), which sits at 11,200 feet (approximately the average elevation of the Hardrock course).  If SWE is above 23 inches on June 1, then there is potential for dangerously high runoff and streamflows to occur when Summer comes.  On June 1, 2019, the SWE at Red Mountain Pass was 34 inches.

This wasn't the only factor weighing against Hardrock 2019 though.  This snow season saw unprecedented avalanches, leaving avalanche debris across roads and trails still yet to be cleared.  In fact, Grouse Gulch, a critical aid station location on the Hardrock course, was still buried at the time Hardrock was to occur this year.

Photos of several other locations taken on or near the Hardrock course this year compared to past years tell quite the story from lingering snow and ice:

to high streamflow:

but one thing never changes in the San Juans, and that is the spectacular beauty of this mountain range, regardless of the snow levels.

A 360 degree video perspective atop Bridal Peak (because you just don't know which direction to take the best picture):

See you next year Hardrock!  Snow or no snow, the Hardrock Spirit will be alive and well!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Catching Up (2016-2018)

Running trails, climbing mountains, and getting back to nature where life slows down and the mind clears to the beauty filling the senses.  It took a lot of patience and hard work, but it's great to be back!

I thought a long time about sharing this story since we all get injuries along the way, often surgeries, and then we recover, especially in the world of mountain ultrarunning.  But if I can help one person with similar symptoms, then it's worth sharing.

On a typical long run one Sunday morning in March 2016, my right sacroiliac joint seized up and I could barely walk.  It took me 6 hours to get from the top of the Westridge Trail in Lory State Park back to my home about 6 miles away.  After multiple tries of resting (weeks at a time) and comebacks, the SI joint felt better, but now the pain in the groin, butt, and tailbone still made it difficult to impossible to run.

I decided on an MRI in July 2016, which revealed 5 pelvic stress fractures from the sacrum to the pubic bones, so it looked like I just needed more rest.  Living on Horsetooth Reservoir, I decided to pick up stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which I still enjoy a great deal and continue to do even now that I can run.

Despite my best efforts to recover while laying off the running, every time I would try again, it was the same story.  Mostly groin pain, both sides.  Every run felt like I had already been running for 90 miles.  So finally in the Spring of 2017, I got a second opinion on the MRI and this time was told I wasn't going to get any better without surgery (actually two surgeries).  Femeroacetabular impingements (FAI) of both hip joints resulted in torn labrums, with the right side barely having any cartilage left.  With no hesitation, and with the goal of running The Bear 100 in 2018 (so I could get Hardrock qualified again), I wanted the surgeries (both arthroscopic) as soon as possible.  Despite shaking his head in disbelief at times, my surgeon knew it was possible and it wouldn't matter if he recommended it or not.  We did the first surgery on the right hip in July 2017.  Unfortunately, there was not enough labrum left to repair in this surgery, so it was more of a cleanup mission and shaving down the bones, both on the femoral head and acetabular socket, to relieve the impingement.  The prognosis was not great but I would likely see at least some improvement.

Rehab started quickly and I was back on the SUP after about a month, and also very committed to the stair climber at the gym.  I even did about a month of easy trail running, although still painful, leading up to surgery #2 (the left hip) in December 2017.  This time the labrum was reconstructed, along with more bone shaving for the impingement.  This meant a longer recovery, but a better prognosis for improvement.  So again, it was a quick commitment to rehab (mostly glute/core strengthening) and generally trying to stay in shape.  I returned to the SUP by March 2018 and again spent a lot of time on the stair climber.  In April, I got the ok to start running, but only on a treadmill for the first month.  I also discovered the Skillmill, which I still use regularly today.

I returned to trail running in May and progressed to the point that I thought I could finish the Never Summer 100K in July.  I figured if I could finish that, then I could finish the Bear in September.  As it turned out, I would finish them both.

To summarize a race report for both of these races, they were pretty much the same.  I was not as prepared for either race as I typically would want to be.  I sat on a rock and wanted to quit about half-way through both races (I had a million good excuses to not finish).  I even resorted to trekking poles for the last 50 miles of Bear, which I never use.  However, I did finish both races, which was really my only goal (I knew I would be slow), and last month I got my spot in Hardrock 2019.

So now the plan is to continue to get stronger.  I know I am not fully recovered from the second surgery (up to 18 months for full recovery) and there are still days that hurt more than others, but I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was before the surgeries.  I've gotten back to doing some speed work and even some short road races, making me actually feel like a runner again.  I now know it's all about the glutes and the goal is to literally be a "strong-ass" runner to keep those hip joints working for as long as possible.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way!  Despite the surgeries and recoveries, I still fit in many great adventures over the last couple of years, just at a slower pace.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Hardrock 2019 Odds

I could think of no better reason to revive this blog after nearly 3 years than by posting some much anticipated Hardrock odds for next week's lottery.  Maybe I'll follow this post with a little write-up on where I have been hiding for 3 years, but you might need to grab a bag of popcorn before reading that story.

So with a record number of applicants and the continued format of 3 selection pools (Never, Veterans, and Else), here is the breakdown.

Never Category (never started a Hardrock)
45 spots
2246 applicants
17,052 tickets (average 7.6 tickets per applicant)
Lowest number of tickets: 1
Highest number of tickets: 512

1 ticket = 0.27% chance of getting selected to Hardrock
2 tickets = 0.53%
4 tickets = 1.1%
8 tickets = 2.1%
16 tickets = 4.2%
32 tickets = 8.2%
64 tickets = 15.7%
128 tickets = 29.0%
256 tickets = 49.7%
512 tickets = 75.0%

Else Category (started Hardrock but have less than 5 finishes, or a former Veteran dropped to Else)
65 spots (2 spots already taken by last year's top male and female)
228 applicants
897 tickets (average 3.9 tickets per applicant)
Lowest number of tickets: 1
Highest number of tickets: 20

1 ticket = 8.2%
2 tickets = 15.7%
3 tickets = 22.6%
4 tickets = 28.9%
5 tickets = 34.7%
6 tickets = 40.1%
7 tickets = 45.0%
8 tickets = 49.6%
9 tickets = 53.7%
10 tickets = 57.5%
20 tickets = 82.2% (Randy, it's time for you to get back in the Vet category where you belong!)

Veteran Category (5 or more Hardrock finishes)
33 spots
38 applicants
369 tickets (average 9.7 tickets per applicant)
Lowest number of tickets: 5
Highest number of tickets: 27

5 tickets = 64.0%
6 tickets = 70.8%
7 tickets = 76.4%
8 tickets = 80.9%
9 tickets = 84.6%
10 tickets = 87.6%
15 tickets = 95.9%
20 tickets = 98.8%
27 tickets = 99.8%

Note: These percentages are based on the preliminary ticket counts just released the other day, but updated ticket counts should not significantly change these odds.  Also, I am not accounting for any additional entrants coming off the wait list like I have in the past.  The wait list has moved less and less each year, so no guarantees there.  My amateur statistical methods are summarized here.

Good luck everyone!  Lottery to be held on December 1.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


My 2015 numbers:
132 Horsetooth Rock summits

That's the only thing I keep track of now.  I'm pretty happy with 132, my second highest to the 164 from 2013.  I wouldn't say that my summit count is always correlated to how well my "training" is going.  In fact, I would say sometimes it might be negatively correlated because it means that I am getting out on some bigger mountains.  But I still like to keep the tally because it does give me some motivation to get to the highest point on my backyard trails, and at least a few others I know are interested in my summit count.

2015 also had me picking up my 7th 100-mile finisher buckle at the very challenging Ouray 100.  That was really my only race in 2015.  I did finish the inaugural Never Summer 100K, but made a point to never consider it a race since Ouray was just 6 days later.  It turned out to be one of my most enjoyable "races" ever on a spectacular course.  I look forward to volunteering this year at this great event.

2016 is not shaping up to be much of a racing year for me either.  I was pretty disappointed to miss out on Hardrock for a second year in a row, but very excited for many of my friends that got in.  I was even denied by the Leadville 100, but wasn't too heartbroken by that one.  The only race I plan to run this year now is the Mogollan Monster 100 in September.  It is a Hardrock qualifier, which I will need to put my name in the hat for Hardrock 2017, and it will be fun to explore this part of Arizona where I have never been.

My focus this year will be to get out on the trails for the sake of getting out on the trails (no upcoming race needed to motivate me for that).  I am excited to knock off some more adventures and routes I have been scheming but never have time to get to.  Kristel and I are planning to do some "fastpacking" trips this year, with the ultimate trip being the Nolan's 14 in August.  We won't be doing it in under 60 hours.

So let's hope 2016 is filled with enough mountain adventures to keep this blog alive.

January summits can be challenging

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hardrock 2016 Odds

The application period has closed, the tickets are counted, and in 6 days the 2016 Hardrock entrants list (and wait list) will be announced.  So it is time, once again, to see just how lucky you need to be to get to the starting line in Silverton next July.  (The statistical method is summarized here.)

The "Never" Category:
There are 1315 applicants who have never started a Hardrock and 47 spots in the 2016 race available to them.  Last year, the wait list in this category went 9 deep (13 deep two years ago), so I will base my projection of "getting in" as being drawn in one of the first 56 spots (47 plus 9 off the wait list).

1315 applicants, 5480 tickets, average of 4.2 tickets per applicant

1 ticket, 1.0% chance of getting into Hardrock
2 tickets, 2.1%
4 tickets, 4.1%
8 tickets, 8.0%
16 tickets, 15.4%
32 tickets, 28.5%
64 tickets, 48.9%
128 tickets, 74.1%
256 tickets, 93.5%

The "Else" Category:
There are 191 of us going after the 70 spots in the category of having started a Hardrock, but having less than 5 finishes.  With 2015 Hardrock top finishers Kilian Jornet and Anna Frost taking two of those spots automatically, that leaves only 68 for the remaining 189 applicants.  Last year's wait list went 12 deep in this category (16 deep two years ago), so I will say that if you are a top 12 wait lister, then you will get in.

189 applicants, 708 tickets, average of 3.7 tickets per applicant

1 ticket, 13.6%
2 tickets, 25.4%
3 tickets, 35.6%
4 tickets, 44.4%
5 tickets, 52.1%
6 tickets, 58.7%
7 tickets, 64.4%
8 tickets, 69.3%
9 tickets, 73.5%
10 tickets, 77.2%
11 tickets, 80.4%

The "Veteran" Category:
Since Hardrock moved to this three-category lottery system, every Hardrock "Veteran" (5 or more Hardrock finishes) who has applied, has been offered a spot.  With only 43 applicants for the 35 available spots, the same should be true this year as well.  Last year, the wait list of 9 cleared, and this year the wait list will only be 8 long.

There could be some minor adjustments to the ticket counts over the final days, but not enough to significantly change these probability estimates.

Lottery on Sunday, December 7 at 10am MST.  Good luck!