Saturday, May 24, 2014

Running Up Things

I would say that the last few weeks have brought about a fun little change in direction to shake things up a little. Following a couple of road races last month with the Cherry Creek Sneak and the Colorado USATF 5 Mile Championships (insert admiring praises here to the two 40 to 50 year old women--Nuta and Colleen--who went 1-2 and kicked my @$$ all around the Boulder Reservoir that day. Humbling, and encouraging at the same time, because apparently you don't get really fast till you're like 35.) I went to the more western side of the state to the lovely town of Montrose to race the Black Canyon Ascent. Admittedly I'd never done any kind of ascent type race in my life, but I heard about it, and seriously who would not want to take part in a race that sounds more like the fourth installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? I expected it to be sort of like this:
The Black Canyon! Just kiddin' guys, this is actually Mordor and those are hobbits.

But instead, it was more like this:

And thus far, even though I entered it more or less on a whim, it is my absolute favorite race to date. And that's a lot of races. Sure, a 6-plus mile climb is a bit of a ball-buster, but it's hard to feel like you're truly suffering when you're surrounded by such ridiculous views. After I had my initial "Um, WHAT did I sign up for this for?" moment on the start-line, with good reason since there weren't many climbing type workouts--well no actually there were no climbing type workouts--under the belt at that time, the gun went off and aside from wanting to stop a few times to sort of just sort of look around and be really impressed, it made me wonder why the heck I'd ever want to go back to the track and roads (I mean, I will, just not today). It was so tranquil and peaceful up there and you just sort of settle in and grind away, and no one is spiking your calf or screaming at you to get-out-of-lane-two-but-don't-get-boxed-in-lane-one-and-oh-by-the-way-your-last-400-split-was-a-second-too-slow. The mile markers just kinda clicked by. I won, and apparently missed the course record by a just a little bit, set by none other than Colorado's own queen mountain goat Kim Dobson and closely rivaled (by one second before Kim broke it last year) by Brandy Erholtz. Both have been qualifiers for the World Mountain Running Champs, so to be close time-wise to two mountain running studs on the first go-around was encouraging.

Aside from being a ton of fun though, I think this uphill/mountain type stuff attracts a different sort of crowd. It's sort of like, "Okay let's all go run up real steep sh*t as hard as we can, then let's go run around some more and look at pretty things that you will only see if you ran up a mountain to see it." Or something like that. Very competitive, yet without the uber-tense atmosphere that permeates track. At least, that's how I feel about it. So I've retired from track. In all likelihood I'll retract that statement next season when I feel compelled to try just one more time. Maybe.

Anyway, since I don't have a ghetto flip-phone anymore (that is a phrase likely to only be uttered in First World countries), I was able to take some nice touristy photos on my self-guided pre-race tour:
Happily waving bear around mile two. He is not to be fed.

Maybe somewhere around half-way.

Trotting up the road.

I heart.

So coming up, I was initially set on doing the Portland Track Festival in a couple of weeks to have another go at the 5k. But that's not on the docket anymore as it got replaced with Mt. Washington, a 7-point-something mile long ascent which sounds like quite the grind to which Black Canyon was just a warm-up for. So that will be another adventure and will lead up to the USA Mountain Running Champs, not too far away from Mt. Washington on Loon Mountain, so the next few weeks will see lots of up and lots of New Hampshire. Onward and upward (ha?)! Okay bad pun.