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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great American Beer Festival 2013

I have been fortunate living in Boulder for the last few years to live within a short bus-ride of the super-bowl of beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival. While Oktoberfest may serve more by volume, few can match the GABF for sheer variety. The festival features 3,100 beers from 624 different breweries.


 I have been fortunate to attend this festival every year since 2009. The first year I bought my ticket. Then I realized that I cannot drink $70 worth or beer and the next year I looked up volunteering. By a bit of luck, I chose to volunteer with the glass crew. If you came into the festival on Friday or Saturday evening this year, you had a roughly one-in-thirty chance of getting your tasting glass from me.

The first hour or so is spent madly handing out glasses and marking tickets to the throngs of beer fans that descent on the Colorado Convention center as bagpipes play in the background. But after that first hour they put part of the crew on break to walk the floor and sample the offerings.

For those that want to volunteer at the GABF, you want to start looking at the website around June. Opportunities abound for great positions from pouring at the sample tables, to making sure that people throw their refuse into the right containers, to helping people around. Most of these positions allow you to walk around for at least part of the time and sample the brews. Some, like hauling kegs, do not let you drink that night but instead give you a ticket for another night. While you do not get to wander the hall for the full three-and-a-half hours, I have never left the GABF unsatisfied.


I tried the pretzel necklaces in past years, but it just was not that satisfying. So this year I expanded to bagels, almonds and trail mix packs. This felt healthier than other options I saw like Slim Jims and Cheese Sticks. Since you cannot bring a backpack into the festival, having food that you can put on a string necklace is ideal. I was able to find almonds and trail mix in little packs that had the hole in the top for vending machines.

The there is the question of tasting strategies. If I had a smartphone I would have used the app thatcame out this year. It had some really neat features to help you choose where to go. Among these features were style tours like the Darth Vader tour (dark beers) or the Hopness Monster (IPAs). You could then look up beers and have it show the location on the festival floor.

Since my phone is a 2006 vintage, the app was not an option. Instead I decided to focus regionally in California, PA and New England with a quick (but mandatory) stop at the Pro-Am table.

Beer Journal

For the past four years the sheer variety of beers eventually overwhelmed me. I remembered one or two interesting or weird beers, but even the good examples of porters, IPAs and imperial stouts blended together by the end of the evening. But this year my wife gave me a beer journal.

The journal’s tasting pages roughly mirror the tasting sheetsof the American Homebrewer’s Association with fields for color (or colour since it was made in Great Britian), appearance, aroma, taste and overall opinion. It also had a neat little flavor wheel where you could mark the intensity of common flavor elements.

At first I found it annoying to fill out the pages. When you first walk onto the floor to go tasting, you are like a kid in a candy store with a  blank check. It was annoying to have to slow down to look at the beer, write, smell it, write, sip it write, finish it off, write. But by the end of the evening I realized that I had tried 35 one-ounce samples and could remember all of them. The next day I woke up and felt fine. I was onto something.

The journal is not without its drawbacks. It is more cumbersome than an iPhone app and you do look like a bit of a dork filling it out (although this has never stopped me before). I also probably missed a good conversation or two as I was writing or pondering my brew. But overall, I think I will carry forward with some form or beer journal at this festival, digital or analogue.
Fits conveniently in your cargo pocket


Ah, can you really choose your favorite child? Well, at least for the next year or two that will be easy. Choosing my favorite beers at this year’s festival was much harder. Of the new breweries that I tried, I can give my top 3 (of course, I hit a several proven winners like Magic Hat and the Bruery):

1.       Aftershock Brewing (Temecula, CA). Favorites – Dubbel vision, Richter Rauchbier, Arizona Bay (Barleywine) and Jess y James (Imperial Stout) were all amazing versions of their styles.
2.       Port City Brewing (Alexandria, Virginia): This one just barely lost out to Devil’s Backbone Brewing for small brewery of the Year. Their Optimal Wit and Monumental IPA were pretty good, but their Maniacal IPA (Double IPA) and H3 Belgium Triple were really good.
3.       Calicraft Brewing Company (Walnut Creek, CA): This one got an edge because the brewer happened to be pouring when I arrived and was excited about engaging all the customers about what he was doing with each beer that he brought. The Oak Town American Brown was a really well balance brown that was aged in two types of American oak barrels and one French oak barrel. The Wild Wit was aptly described as wit meets Sauv blanc with local organges, coriander and 25% local honey. I finished off this brewery with their fresh hopped ale.

Other fun brews:

1.       Roble’d Oaked Red Ale from Claremont Craft Ales (Claremont, CA). I like good red ales and good oaked beers. A match made in heaven. Or a fermentation tank.
2.       Penut Butter Ale from Marley's Brewery & Grille (Bloomsburg, PA) got rave reviews and was always gone by the time I got to wander the floor.
3.       Pi from Tap It Brewing (San Luis Obispo, CA) 3.14% ABV, all specialty malts 3.14% of recipe by weight, hops added in increments of 3.14 pounds. Pretty tasty to boot.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Running in the Big Easy

My wife and I decided to take one last grand trip before having to deal with the logistics of traveling with kids. After some debate, we settled on New Orleans. As with every place I visit, I sat down the night before and researched some running routes. There were two promising areas to run from in French Quarter: the levy along the river and St. Charles Street.

Ran my Chevy to the Levy

Alita on the Levy at Woldenburg Park
One suggestion was to run along the levies of the Mississippi. I rather like running along rivers and so I headed south towards the big muddy for my first morning run. I hit the river at Woldenburg Park and turned upriver.

The path along the river petered out after about a mile as it hit industrial facilities. This often seems to happen when I research running routes. I find that a lot of the suggestions are for people looking to run a mile (maybe two) but if you are looking to run more than four you often to have to be more creative. I continued upriver by sticking to the roads that stayed close to the river. I went past storage facilities and less impressive looking businesses. Eventually I reached a Walmat near the Clarence Henry Truckway which marked three miles on my watch and headed back.

New Orleans Jogging Tours

My wife, being rather awesome, found a website that offered jogging tours of New Orleans. In a bout of good luck, our trip coincided with a Groupon which reduced the price from $30 to $15. For some reason, the idea of a jogging tour had never occurred to me although it is fairly easy to see how such a tour would be a great way to see a city (incidentally, I looked it up and there are such tours of Boulder – too bad, this would have been a great business to start).

The tour is a one-man operation, run by a guy named Marcus. At the time of the blog, it was, according to Trip Advisor, the numberone activity to do in New Orleans. While I do not think it is quite the number one thing to do in New Orleans, it is a lot of fun and I would highly recommend it.

Marcus offers two tours times, 6 am and 9 am. While 9 am would have had more light, I went with the earlier tour so as not to disrupt the vacation time with Alita. We started off at the US Mint on the corner or Decatur and Barracks St. We went eventually found ourselves running down Bourbon Street as Marcus narrated the history of the French Quarter with me.

New Orleans Jogging Tour Route

 The dawn’s first light was coming out as we made it to Lee Circle. As always, Bobbie Lee was facing north so as never to turn his backs on the Yankees. This one snuck by just fine as we ran along to the St. Charles Streetcar line.

Eventually we left the streetcar line and turned south onto Washington Street. Marcus gave me a quick tour of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and then took me through the homes of the rich and famous in the Garden District. We got to see the homes of Archie Manning (first quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, father of Payton and Eli), Sandra Bullock, Jefferson Davis (well, the former home) and the former home of Anne Rice.

Jogging past Archie Manning's House in the Garden District
We finished by going back along Magazine Street. Marcus and I crossed Canal Street, re-entered the French Quarter and parted ways.

Marcus and me at the end of the run
St. Charles Street

For the remainder of our time in New Orleans I did a modified version of the route I did with Marcus. I would run west along Royal Street and across Canal where it becomes St. Charles St.

St. Charles Streetcar Route from the French Quarter
 St. Charles Street is a sort of single-track trail in the middle of the city. I say sort-of because the dirt path is the St. Charles Streetcar line. You run on the left track and jump over to the other one when a car comes towards you on the track. This is not nearly as dangerous as it might at first sound. The cars travel slowly – it often took four or five blocks for a car that I heard behind me to pass me.

St. Charles Streetcar Line
I generally out for a certain distance (around three miles) and came back along the streetcar line. When I got to Lee Circle I would go back along Magazine Street for a change of scenary.
Audubon and City Park

Audubon Park
Although I did not run in Audubon Park, Alita and I did take a nice stroll around the park. The perimeter is probably around 1.5 miles and is tree-lined for much of that stretch. I would also imagine that city park would be pleasant.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bear Chase Trail Race

Sun. 29 Sep. 2013

This race almost did not happen. The floods that devastated much of the front range almost derailed this race. The original start was 40 ft. underwater. The good news is that the Bear Lake Reservoir was specifically designed to save the greater Denver area by holding the water from such a storm – and that’s exactly what it did. The race directors were able to re-route the races and make this thing happen.

The weather was perfect for race morning. I had a few minor equipment issues, but redundancy saved me. I threw in two pairs of running shoes. The first one (that I wanted to wear) was the left and right shoe from two different pairs. Fail. Then my Garmin Forerunner 205 battery finally failed. It just can not seem to hold a charge. But I had a second pair of running shoes and another watch.

Walking to the start from the bus

The park itself was closed to parking that morning. Instead you parked just to the west of 470 and took the bus to the start. This was fairly convenient and the bus ran every 10-15 minutes.

The center stage for the Bear Chase Races are the ultras – the 50k, 50-miler and 100k. These were scheduled for Saturday, but rains on Friday forced a delay while the trails dried out. So the ultras went off at 6:00 and 6:30 am. Then the half-marathon started at 7:00 am.

Start of the half-marathon

And finally my race, the “Baby Bear” 10k started at 7:30 am. We did two 5-k laps. The first file went out along the bike path for about a third of a mile before turning to the right onto single-track and into the rising sun. I went out in 5:50 but was quickly passed by four fast folks from Runner’s Roost.

Courtesy of

The second mile of the loop featured a water crossing which was easy to run through but a fun obstacle. The last part of the second mile and the third mile were mostly uphill and into the wind. This was my slowest mile each lap by a good 20 seconds.

Courtesy of
I finished in a solid 5th place. Was about a minute behind fourth but over two minutes ahead of sixth. While the course was about 30-40% pavement, it was still a beautiful and well-run trail race. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice intro to trail running at whatever distance you choose.

Another one in the books.
 I want to thank the Boulder Track Club for getting me to do this race. I also want to give thanks to the race organizers for all the hurdles they had to go through to put this race on. Finally, a big thanks to for providing free digital photos to the runners.