Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Towers

Or three towers, or four, aach, who’s counting.  We’ll get to the towers momentarily.  First, the much-anticipated update regarding our Courage Classic Children’s Hospital fund-raising:

Oh yes, we are now north of $1,000 raised for Children’s Hospital, checking in this afternoon at $1,255.  We have until this Friday, I believe, to try to raise the remainder.  So if you’re considering donating to our ride on our behalf, please click one of the links below, thank you! 
Last we left off, I was getting my shorts handed to me at the local Fort Collins Cycling Team weekly battle royale, which left me rather stunned and impressed.  As an aside, those of you who have seen my biking shorts lately will be happy to know that they have been retired and replaced.  I’ll say no more on that subject, other than to say that many of my trail running friends have been recently scarred by the sight of me bounding up hills in my far-too-old-and-baggy bike shorts.  You’re welcome, Fort Collins.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the team bike ride also took me within view of Towers, the Fort Collins Trail Runners bi-weekly group handicapped time trial excursion.  And lo and behold, the next day (last Thursday) was another Towers run, so just like two weeks ago, I found myself back on the bike and riding the same hills I rode the previous day, but in reverse direction, to get to towers after work.  My legs were plenty tired from the beating they took the previous night, but the weather looked good on a Thursday for once, and I wanted to get some more riding in but still run towers with my gang, so I did both activities once again (hence the sight of me running up towers in my bike shorts).  And I managed to stay dry, at least!
And I was rewarded with a golden sunset from the south dam on my ride home.  That's the "tooth" on the high point of the ridge there, and towers a bit to the right of that.

My legs felt fairly tired trudging up the hill but not overly so.  I have been wondering lately how much cross-over there is between running and cycling.  You know, does riding help one’s running and/or vice versa?  I’m certain that there are good cardiovascular benefits to doing both activities that translate across, but I can’t shake a suspicion that running only builds cycling strength to a point.  In fact in certain situations running may actually be counter-productive to cycling.  Situations like, I don’t know, running up towers.

But we wants towers!  I can’t live without my precious towers.  And I had signed myself up for the Barr Mountain trail run on Sunday at Pikes Peak so I needed some hill climbing practice.  I had entered this particular running race long before I committed to the courage classic.  The intent was to run Barr Mountain as preparation to running the Pikes Peak ascent in August, since it occurs on the same course.  Basically Barr Mountain is the lower half of the Pike Peak marathon course.  Barr sports about 3,600 feet of climbing – and descending -- in about 12.5 miles of running, round trip.  Our local Towers route, mind you, is about 1,650 feet and 6.8 miles.  So Barr Mountain can quite rightly be considered to be, wait for it, about Two Towers worth of running.  Barr trail even sports a tunnel with what I must assume to be a giant arachnid lurking in its darkest recesses.  Quite coincidentally, Celeste and I have been picking our way through the Two Towers DVD over the past week or so.  It’s all towers, all the time with me. 

But the affect of the Barr trail race, this weekend, aside from encouraging me to indulge in some of my favorite towers-related activities (luckily I had no access to mashed potatoes with which I could have made a giant replica of Devil’s tower), was to keep me off the bike all weekend.  Not good Courage Classic preparation, I know.  I got in some riding Friday, mostly my 10 mile work commute plus a few odd-additional miles around town, but no cycling at all on Saturday or Sunday.  No cycling Saturday because I knew I had the running race Sunday, and no riding Sunday because quite frankly I was altogether knackered after running Barr.

And I needed all the rest I could get, for after the twin virtual charley-horse of last Wednesday and Thursday my legs were sore!  On Friday my legs were completely shot.  On Saturday they were marginally better, but I didn’t like my chances for Sunday’s race one bit, even after I was informed by Nick that the field this year was “soft”, and that I was capable of a top-5 finish.  Jeez, no pressure.

Now earlier in this post I had speculated here that it is possible that running does not necessarily help one’s cycling, other than to a point.  But is the opposite true?  Does cycling help one’s running?  Again, noting the obvious cardio benefits, I think we may be on to something here.  For starters, cycling is far less damaging to the body than is running, even trail running.  Provided there are no accidents, obviously.  As I get older I may find that I need to cycle more just for that reason alone.  And while there’s nothing to replace experience gained by running, but I think maybe, just maybe, hill-climbing strength gained by climbing hills on a bicycle may translate better to running up hills.  In the past four weeks, since I ran my first 50 mile race in Wyoming in June, my weekly running totals have dropped noticeably, with the extra training time filled in by more cycling, of course.  In the past four weeks I’ve ran an average of about 27 miles per week.  This is lower than my average for the year so far by about 20 miles per week, so I’m running about 60% of my usual mileage this past month.  Believe me, it’s good that I’m getting a bit of a breather on the miles, actually.  I’ve been enjoying the bike riding and although clearly I’m not as accomplished on the bike as I am on foot, I still like doing it and I suspect I’ll improve if I stick with it some more.  Which I am happy to do if I find that it does not diminish my running ability, of course!

Which finally brings us to the Barr Mountain trail race.  Noting that my weekly running mileage had been dropping, I was a little concerned that I would have some difficulty on the race.  I mean, there’s always difficulty on a mountain trail race, it’s a freaking mountain after all.  I suppose I was concerned about abnormal or extraordinary difficulties on the race.

So I was a little more amped up than usual waiting around the starting line with Celeste and Brian, with whom I had carpooled from the Fort that morning.  Adding to my sense of apprehension was the fact that my gps watch had lost all of its battery charge, so I was flying blind today.  Not that it mattered all that much, because I had as usual failed to study the course or determine any time goals whatsoever.  Nick suggested I try to beat his time up the hill (64 minutes), which seemed like a good plan, but other than that I was just going to try to put in a hard effort and see what happened.

I am the little speck of green on the far far right

The Barr trail race is a funny sort of race.  Like the Pikes Peak marathon, it starts on the pavement of Manitou Springs, and then attains the actual Barr trail a mile or so into the race.  The first section of the Barr trail, called the “W’s”, is rather steep and narrow, and it is difficult to pass slower runners on this section of the trail.  My legs felt a bit heavy and sluggish on the first mile leading up to the “W’s”, but they started to come around and I felt pretty good after that.  I was able to pass a few other runners who had perhaps been a little too aggressive at the start, but I really had no idea how I was doing relative to the field as a whole.  Since the race is an out-and-back, as I approached the turnaround point I was able to count runners as they came at me in the other direction.  I was happily surprised to discover that I was in 15th place at the turn-around point.  Not 5th, mind you, but it had a 5 in it! 

I am a better uphill runner than downhill runner, but I tried to hold on to my position on the downhill by really extending my stride and keeping the effort honest.  I find that I tend to relax too much on downhill grades and this always costs me in races.  And today was no exception!  I thought I was pushing the downhill, but I got passed rather quickly by a gentleman who was shorter than I, but somehow appeared to have a stride that was three times the span of mine.  Then I was passed by a younger guy, who looked familiar to me, and turned out was Nick’s second favorite pacer, the remarkably talented Brendan Trimboli.  Who is Nick's favorite pacer, you might ask? Why it's Scott, of course; Scott Jamie, that is.

I was then passed by another gentleman, Brad Poppele (2:42 marathoner), who as it happened was in my age group, and by passing me beat me out of a free pair of shoes, and $50!  Big props to Brad, and note to self, run faster next time!  Also near the end I was passed by the 3rd place female runner, Brandy Erholtz, who unknown to me at the time was the two time defending Women's champ and course record holder for this race, and two-time U.S. Mountain Runner of the Year (2008, 2009), and all around general bad-ass.  Note that one of the unwritten rules for running this race is that you must have a blog.  Anyway, Brandy passed me at the last aid station with about 1.5 miles to go, but I marked her pretty well after that until the final three blocks, which featured a very nasty and steep uphill slog to the finish line.  Finally, some uphill. 

Noting that I’m a better uphill runner than downhill runner, I found myself quickly catching up to, and then passing Brandy.  I felt rather like a jerk, passing her back, so I tried to be a gentleman about it and urged her to pick it up and finish with me.  What I think I said as I passed her was “Come on, let’s do this”, but those of you who have heard me “speaking” at the end of a race know that what came out of my mouth was more along the lines of “sghheoeor wraauuah ruuuurha”.  Likely for that reason she declined to come with me up and around the corner to the finish.  I crossed the line in 1:56:15, arms in the air and all that, happy to come in under 2 hours just because that sounds cool.  I ended up 18th place overall, and 2nd in my age group.  Looking back at the results I had almost reeled in Brad as well, finishing a scant 7 seconds behind him, although I don't really recall seeing him after he passed me and Brandy on the downhill pavement stretch.

Overall the legs felt pretty good, so I was pleased about that, and pleased that all the extra biking and diminished amounts of running do not seem to have taken too much off my running results.  Come to think of it, I think I was a gentlmanly 18th at the Vail hill climb two weeks ago, and a rakishly handsome 14th at the Bighorn race two weeks prior to that, so I think I have a rough target to shoot for at the Pikes Peak ascent in August.

But before that there is the little matter of the Courage Classic, which starts this Saturday.  I may only run once or twice this week, and I have one more special ride planned for Tuesday, but if I’m not ready now than I won’t be ready on Saturday.  I think I’m ready, it will be a lot of fun regardless.  Thanks again for following along and donating, we really appreciate it.  I will probably post one more time between now and this weekend, and I’ll try to post something during the ride itself.  Once and finally, the links to donate are here, thank you! 

If you blew it, don't reject it Just sit drawing up the plans and re-erect it


  1. It seems to me that bicycling is the most popular form of cross-training for runners. It works similar muscles - a few different ones, but mainly the running muscles - and there's no impact so it gives your muscles a break from that. Although the impact of running is good for your bones; it stimulates them to be stronger!

    Okay, now that I'm done rambling like a nerd, that sounds like the most awesome race ever. I had no idea there were races around Pikes Peak, etc. But then again, I'm a running newb so I can't be expected to know everything, right?

    Good luck on the cycling and the fundraiser!

  2. indeed a unique club we pacers of Nick are...

    interesting fact: my middle name is Scott.

    Nick's last three pacers were, thus: Scott, Scott, and Scott...