Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Running Review

It was not my most impressive year for personal records (PRs) or total mileage, but it will still go down as one of my most fulfilling years. I did a race / vacation with my wife, made some new running friends and discovered some fantastic trails. Here are some of the highlights.

Running Some Numbers

Total Mileage: 2,179 (3,506 km)
Average run: 7.8 miles
Hours spent running: 366
Average Miles / Week: 43
Average Pace on my normal runs*: 7:46

Running Shoes

Due to some support from the Boulder Track Club and winning a race, I got to try some new running shoes this year. I have pretty flexible feet and so I am fortunate to be able to run in most anything. With that said, I found some winners and one less impressive shoe this year.

I really wanted to like the New Balance 110’s. They are $50 which is pretty cheap for a retail price. They are a good shoe, but they are a little too minimalist to me (I prefer not to feel every rock that I step on) and other friends who used them found they fell apart a little sooner than most other shoes. I also found that running through the snow in these shoes froze my feet. I probably will not get this one again.

My favorite shoe of this year was the Asics Fuji Trainer II. It is lightweight, has good traction and has soles that protect my feet sufficiently from Bouder’s trails. I also like the pouch where you can tuck laces into. A close runner-up were the Montrail Fluid Flex shoes. Also lightweight and well padded. I sometimes had trouble keeping the laces tied although I think tucking them in has solved this. I give them a second to the Fuji Trainer II only because I like the traction on the Fuji Trainers better.


I cut back on my racing a little this year. For the past few years I averaged a race a month. Parenthood and other priorities cut this down to seven races this year. However, what I lost in quantity I maintained in quality. I have already written about my favorite race, the CabotTrail Relay, but it also turned out to be my best race of the year**. A close second (in terms of how I ran) was the Keystone Half-Marathon – my one victory of the year (for which I got my favorite running shoes of the year).

Then there were races that will have a special place not because of my performance, but because of the experience. The Rockin’ K TrailMarathon was special because my wife came along and it was a great family trip. We found a gem of a dinner in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas (which won Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF) and visited a nearby state park. Then there was the WildWest Relay where I organized a team from my company (plus a few friends). While it was no Cabot, it was a great time.

Favorite New Trails
I also consider this the year that I discovered trail running. It’s strange that it took me so long to discover trails in Boulder – I guess I had always been a road runner by training and mindset. But I finally decided to explore this amazing trail system that was accessible a mere half-mile from my doorstep. I also joined the Boulder Track Club’s Mountain, Ultra and Trail (MUT) team which introduced me to a whole new mindset of running and a whole new set of friends.

My favorite runs (trails, loops, etc.) of 2013 were:

1. The Greenbriar Loop – while the Greenbriar Trail is less than half of this loop, it is, for me, the centerpiece. It has meadows, single track, views and an easy climb. I ran some variation of this loop more than any other. It is an everyday loop. It has some elevation gain – but not too much. It has a mix of single-track, bike paths, dirt roads and pavement. It can be done as a seven or eight-mile loop which meant it could either be an easy day or I could go for a short run after with my wife or our dog. It was a good loop to do after a hard tempo run, a long workout or when I just was just wanted to let my mind wander.

Greenbriar Loop (8-mile variation)
2. Shanahan Ridge Loop – this was my go-to medium-hard climb that I could do as a normal run. It is a steep enough climb to give a good workout, but not so steep that you cannot run it. It is flexible in that, from my house, it could be a 7.5, 8, 9.5 or 10-mile loop.
Shanahan Figure 8
3. Dowdy Draw Trails – my favorite long run by far was working over to the Dowdy Draw Trailhead and running the Spring Brook – Goshawk Ridge – Old Mesa Trail. You had stunning views, beautiful meadows and fun climbs. The section where you descend Goshawk Ridge and go into Eldorado Canyon is my favorite stretch of trail in Boulder.


Starting our family will be an interesting variable to running in 2014. I suspect that my son, the Bob and the bike path that runs near our house will get to know each other well. I look forward to helping  my wife train for another half-marathon. I look forward to exploring new trails and doing new races. I look forward to many more good times.

*excluding speedworks, races and long runs
** I’ll get into how I determined that in a piece I am working on for next year.

Friday, December 27, 2013


At some point every runner tries to justify why they run. Sometimes the question is asked by friends or family. Sometimes you ask yourself this question when you find yourself cold and wet halfway through a 20-mile run.

Why I run was recently brought into focus by two events that wrecked my December training schedule. The first was, as best the doctors could tell, some form of walking pneumonia. I have been hit harder for shorter periods of time by a good flu or cold, but this one made the idea of running laughable for more than a week. I was fortunate in that it was not very contagious and that I recovered in time for the second big training disruptor – the birth of our first child. Now, having a child has not meant no running, but I have been running less as I try to balance my runs with doing my share of diaper changing and keeping up the house (and not even to a particularly high standard). I will be forgoing my favorite race, the Cabot Trail Relay, this year and it is hard to make group tempo runs and speedworks that start at 6:45 A.M. on five cumulative hours of interrupted sleep (I know this does not sound bad to some people, but I have gotten used to seven or eight hours).

And yet, in spite of not doing a speedwork for over a month and knowing that my leg-speed is a few notches off my peak, I am thoroughly enjoying my six-mile runs. So on one of my runs this week I contemplated what is it that makes my runs so rewarding.

I feel that it is first important to look at the secondary reasons. First, I enjoy being in shape. It’s fun to see the look on the nurse’s face when I go in for a check-up and they see that my resting pulse is below 50. Second, I like beating people in races. If you and I are toe-to-toe with a half-mile to go, I am going to try to out-kick you and expect the same from you. I like not having to worry about what I eat. I try to eat less meat, more vegetables and choose less processed foods. But I also do not worry about having the occasional burger or beer(s).

As near as I can pinpoint, I run because I feel immense joy. If you want to look at this on a purely scientific basis, you could chalk it up to endorphins, vitamin D (from the 300 days of sun that we get here on Colorado’s Front Range) and other internal reward mechanisms. I prefer to call it joy.

Admittedly, I do not always feel this joy immediately when I first get out of bed, but it gets me out of bed because I know that it will be there a mile into the run. And there are some days when things just do not click or it is 35 °F, windy and raining and I find myself under-dressed halfway into the run. But when I get back and think of what I made it through the joy is there.

I feel this joy throughout the run and often throughout the day when I look back on the run. I think of seeing the sun light up Green and Bear peak a bright pink-red. I think of running through the trees of the Mesa Trail. I am a better person when I run. My wife has come to recognize this and will now tell me to go on a run if I miss a few days and am getting cranky.

 So there you have it. Perhaps I got a bit deep in my cup with this one, but if I cannot discuss joy around the holidays I do not know when I could. It is time to rest up for tomorrow’s run.      


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Welcome to Boulder - Grab Your Running Shoes

Whenever you move somewhere you tell all of your friends to visit. They never do. Until one day one of them did. Adam Goode, one of my running friends from Maine (and the Cabot Trail Relay) said he was coming by in November. I was excited not just because someone was coming to visit, but because I had a chance to show off this running Mecca to someone who would appreciate it.

For our first run I wanted to do a tour of Boulder. I wanted to get in a climb on the trails, a view, part of the bike paths and maybe a brew (okay, definitely a brew). Since Adam is a stronger runner than me a sea-level, I figured he could handle a bit of a climb so we first did a partial climb of Flagstaff Mountain to Realization Point. After a nice climb to get the blood flowing, we were rewarded with great views of Boulder. I gave him an overview of the town before we descended to Eben G. Fine Park.
Adam at Realization Point on Flagstaff Mountain

I had not seen Eben G. Fine and the upper portion of Boulder Creek since the flood and the damage was amazing. Adam and I were both seeing this for the first time – even though I have run this section many times. I wanted to show Adam the Boulder Creek Path to show off the Boulder’s bike path system. We made a mandatory  diversion from the Boulder Creek Path to get a photo at the Frank Shorter Statue.

I decided to end that day’s run at Avery Brewing. Avery has always been a great supporter of the running community in Boulder. Adam Avery himself often wins his age group in the local race scene. Alita graciously agreed to pick us up to keep the run at 11 miles.

 The next day I took Adam on one of my favorite easy runs – the Greenbriar / South Campus Loop. This is a great run at this time of year because you can almost always have great views when the sunrise lights up the flatirons. This morning we got a special treat as the full moon set behind the Bear Mountain just as it was in full sunrise red.

Finally, I got to introduce Adam to the Boulder running community. We did an out-and-back tempo run on the newly re-opened Mesa Trail with the Boulder Track Club’s Mountain and Ultra Trail Team. We got a stroke of good luck when the Boulder Trail Runners joined us for a solid crew of 13 runners. Adam graciously hung back with me and took in the views. We were also treated to one of the best sunrises of the year. 

If anyone else want to come see me in Boulder - bring your running shoes and I'll show you a good time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Running with the Army Reserves in Ft. Hunter-Ligget

There are many qualities by which Soldiers judge their post. In my active duty days I prefered posts that were near interesting towns and had good units. Now that I am in the reserves, these factors are less important. Instead, when I think about whether I like a post or not, I tend to think about the running it offers. By this measure, Ft. Hunter-Liggett out in California is actually a pretty good post.

By most other standards, Ft. Hunter-Liggett is not that impressive. You may have seen it yourself without knowing – it is where the Vietnam scenes of We Were Soldiers were shot (which is rather comical that this dry climate was chosen to shot scenes from a country that I think of as having rain forests). It is only slightly less remote than another California base, Ft. Irwin – but with less to do on-post.

However, it is one of the largest posts in the Army by area and it has miles of empty dirt roads that go up great ridges and hills and through old (although not dense) forests. The first step before running is to talk to the range control. These folks manage the training areas on post and will keep you from running through some training or a live fire (aka, an unplanned tempo run). They never officially gave me cart blanch to run wherever I wanted, but they also did not seem too perturbed by it. This was probably because they did not realize that when I said run I meant for an hour or more up-and-over some of the nearby ridgelines.

Most of my routes started on the Sulfur Springs Road just off the main post. I generally had to run early in the morning and so I ran up the paved road on the until it was light enough and then would break into the dirt roads. There was nothing very technical, but there were some fun climbs and great views.

Here is a longer run I came to like just northeast of the main post area.

Just on the other side of the Sulfer Springs Road from that run, there is another nice ridgeline. While it may not have the starting elevation of a Boulder run, it has some decent gain and a screaming (but non-technical) downhill.


Then I tried one trail along the Mission Road just off of post to the north. This one goes along the road for a while before going up a steep climb to a transmission station. From there I randomly chose one route down which was a little steep for my skills.

Finally, if you can make it out to Basecamp Ward, there is a fun and challenging run up Bald Mountain. While there is nothing challenging about this run. It is a fun incline and has some rewarding views at the top.