March 13, 2018

Just off Hiawatha Highway.

Running through Red Feather Village, I'm reading the map carefully as I explore the area for the first time. I come to Illy Lane. Wanting to venture off the one-lane winding dirt road known affectionately as a “highway,” I see Illy connects with another part of the village, to the north

Off I go.

Within yards I encounter another sign. “Elf Lane,” it reads. Well, which is it: Illy Lane or Elf Lane? Have I misread the simple hand-drawn map I carry? It's easy to get lost in running through a heavily forested area. 

And what does this cryptic text mean? Are there summer cabins along this road?

Then I see.

Illy Lane is Elf Lane.

For a full quarter of a mile, the Elves have taken over. High in trees, low under outcroppings, peering over the tops of boulders, hiding behind bushes.

They’re countless. And they're everywhere.

March 12, 2018

Hiking: Red Feather Village to Home Base. 10 miles.

Like all runners, mostly I move in the lane facing traffic.
The road here has a noticeable crown, for snow management in the winter. With endurance walking I switch sides periodically to avoid the constant strain on my ankles and knees of leaning one way.

 Here's the first step in training for what may become a 50-mile hike.

May become. We shall see.

Malachi has shared the Teddy Roosevelt / John F Kennedy Challenge with me: 50 miles in under 20 hours.

The distance is one challenge. The 20 hours makes it a true challenge—limited resting. It’s like the original ultramarathon, but without other competitors. Just you and your body.

Not only has he shared the challenge, he’s actually made a serious effort at doing it himself. Per the challenge itself, without preparation—just go out and walk. In a terrific effort, he covered about 37 miles, losing time as injury and pain caught up with him.

I’m unwilling to do the without preparation part. At my age and with the learnings of 30 years of running, I know a deal-breaker when I see one. Teddy Roosevelt was a raving hyperactive fitness buff. The Kennedys were known for their competitive, sports-focused activity level. And if pictures of Bobby Kennedy when he finished this adventure can be trusted, it pretty much wiped him out.

Today I did the ten miles in 2:45, which is a pace of 16:18 per mile, a bit more than 3.5 mph.

50 miles at this pace it would take about 14 hours, 15 minutes.

But it’s unlikely I can do it at this pace.

My hike today was all downhill, over 1000 ft across the ten miles.  And what I can do for ten miles I can’t sustain for 50.


February 25, 2018

A New Running World.

 My life and my energies are nourished by being close to nature, with plenty of time for silence and uninterrupted experiences. As I've grown older I've realized how important it is for me to take things at my own pace, or at whatever pace they naturally unfold.

As I've recognized for years, time and deadlines are the great stress factors in my life. Without that dimension, most experiences are adventures to be explored, savored, allowed to wash over me.

Life in Boulder County is moving in a direction that allows less and less of that introspective opportunity. It's a beautiful, exciting place to live and visit, and I'm not alone in watching it being loved to death.

Our new home is in the far north of Colorado, 35 miles northwest of Fort Collins, not far from the village of Red Feather Lakes.

Here are some images from my inaugural run around the central area.

I've taken a break from running for a few months, partly with the demands of moving our residence and research center, partly to give my knees a rest.

In 25 years of running, like all runners I've had a variety of injuries, aches, and pains develop and require attention. When I did the City of Oaks Marathon I experienced my first knee pains, after a five-mile uphill stretch about mile 18. It quieted down with rest, and only occasionally has flared since that time.

Then last year it began talking to me again, always after an uphill stretch or a lot of stair-climbing.

Now I'm back on the roads and trails, knee strong. My cardio conditioning has remained remarkably strong, with not nearly as much deterioration as I had anticipated.

I'm at 12 miles per week, aiming to build back to 20-25 miles per week, my ideal schedule. Though I'm also throwing into the deal more hiking, with weekly mileage right now about 15.

Hiking? One of my sons has discovered the Teddy Roosevelt/JFK 50-mile Hike Challenge, and I'm hooked on the idea. 50 miles in 20 hours. (Another son puts in the added spec of carrying a 50-lb pack, but that's another story, one I'm not so hooked on.)

October 18, 2016

California running.

Staying a few days in a campsite outside Escondido, California--30 miles northeast of San Diego--I had thought a trail run would be fun.

Though we were in a rural area up a nearby drainage basin, the drought means there's been no actual drainage for years now. It was crispy dry, not just there but in the entire southern California area.

Flood control in Escondido, with bicycle path.
The larger obstacle to a trail run in the area is that there are no real trails, at least that I could locate.
The mountain terrain is abrupt--steep, rocky grades escalate immediately from flatlands. Nobody hikes the mountains. Nobody.

And where we were staying, the only thing remotely resembling common space is street and highway. I found one city park--a five-acre arboretum, surrounded by freeway and parkway. For a five-mile run, less than desirable.

So I took off through the neighborhoods surrounding the gym. I enjoy seeing how people live in their spaces. One observation: a good measure of a family's economic well-being is where there home is along the transition spectrum, from green lawns to xeriscape. In Escondido there are a lot of bare dirt yards.

Flood control in Boulder, with bicycle path.

November 20, 2015

Running and writing.

Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters
I've known for a long time that hiking and running open up new ways of thinking for me. In times when I'm chewing on an idea I can find myself going over the same ground again and again, in repeating circular fashion. If I grab a pencil too soon the idea stays in its rudimentary form. A bare skeleton.

But if I go for a run, or for a hike in the forest, the idea elaborates itself. With each step I find more than my physical self moving forward. Before long my thinking has moved into new territory, found new linkages, discovered more applications, uncovered new memories.

On return I often can't stop writing, my original thought having birthed an entire way of seeing the world in new light.

Other experiences in my life have taught me the connections between memory and body, but this one is particularly vivid because it's so frequent and so useful. I hadn't really given it much thought, but I've just come across an essay on other writers who are runners.

From Homer's Iliad to A.E. Housman, Jonathan Swift to Louisa May Alcott, Joyce Carol Oates to Malcolm Gladwell--all runners.

Here's Nick Repatrazone, writing in the Atlantic.

November 2, 2015

Measured effort.

Boulder Creek Path at the site of the narrow-gauge bridge.
After about 12 weeks of busyness, fatigue and resting, I return to my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday running regimen. Knowing I've lost both cardio and muscular strength and conditioning, I've been cautious about easing back in, not wanting to overdo it and set things back by stressing my now 70-year-old system.

In thinking about it I recall the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion, a way for a person to think about how hard he/she is working/exercising. It's hard for me to imagine I haven't yet journaled my thoughts on this, as much as I have thought about it and incorporated it into my workouts. But a search of past blog entries fails to show any evidence.

I first began thinking about this concept when I was running a section of the Switzerland Trail railroad right-of-way in February. For many weeks in a row I'd been on the groomed trails in the Boulder area, what we in the mountain community call the flatlands, elevation 5600 ft.

On this winter Saturday I was panting like a race horse, moving slow, my feet feeling like lead. What the heck was going on? So I began paying attention. Well, I was running into a steady headwind. A 15° headwind. At elevation 8800 feet. Over an irregular cobblestone surface. Uphill, for three miles. Ohhhh.

This was a wakeup call for me.

At another time in my life--actually, for all my life--I'd not had to pay that much attention to conditions. I just ran. With age and the development of my own unique combination of health issues, I've acquired some limitations.

In response I've developed my own version of the Borg scale. I've come up with the range of issues that require additional exertion, and I've been incorporating them in a measured and conscious way to my running, titrating the stress levels according to what it feels like my systems are ready for.

Within the context of however I assess my current state of conditioning, the exertion factors are (in no particular order).
  • Distance of run
  • Duration of run
  • Ambient temperature--above or below 45° to 70°
  • Wind
  • Precipitation
  • Elevation
  • Terrain
  • Running surface
  • State of hydration, nutrition, rest
In my more OCD moods I've sometimes thought of using point values with the factors, in some additive or even multiplicative fashion, but that's carrying it too far. I know I'd never follow through on any systematic way, once the system was designed.

For a long time this system has kept me relatively free of injury, and more importantly for me, kept my runs fun and invigorating. When I'm feeling tough I can take on extra challenges; when I'm feeling less tough I can measure them out more judiciously.

I like to think of this as a product of the wisdom of age. I'd prefer to not think of it as a reflection of wimpdom.

December 30, 2014

Going out Fast. Or slow.

Shared by a runner who calls this her nemesis. Love her humor.
There was a time I could pretty much take off running right out of the locker room or truck door. My first mile or so would be a bit slower at a given heart rate, but it wasn't anything that really called attention to itself.

For the past year I've noticed a distinct change: my first hundred yards or so are just downright painful, and the first couple of miles I feel like I'm running dressed in armor. Along about mile 2 everything settles in, my breathing becomes easier, my pace picks up at a stable HR.

Along with other changes I see as time goes by, I've quietly filed it away as Well, this is what happens as a runner moves into another decade of life.

I learn from my own experience, but what I learn is always richer and more complex when I stay open to the learnings of others who share. In this week's posting at Sweat Science, Alex Hutchinson reports on a recently published study exploring pacing of workout sessions.

Of particular interest to me was his offhanded reference to oxygen kinetics.

That's where my research curiosity kicked in.

Jonathan Savage, a software-engineer runner with a most informative blog, explains it as the time it takes for oxygen delivery to respond to the demands of exercise. Here's his elegant graphic:

Now that I've got a name for my experience, it's an easy search, vo2 kinetics and age, and quickly any number of links show up. The short version?

Oxygen Update Kinetics of Older Humans are Slowed With Age.

As with every other age-related effect, I can choose to succumb to the reality, or I can work more systematically and with more purpose on my level of conditioning.

And I'll no doubt do some of each, depending on what else is going on in my life or the world.

October 29, 2014

Still running, still learning, still in the fresh air.

North Boulder Ranch, October 2014.
A while since an entry, but my habits persist.

Eighteen to 20 miles a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, never the same route twice in a row.

May 8, 2014

Urban trail run.

Under a springtime sky.
With the changing of the season, trail running has been on my mind. While the athletic activity in running is rewarding to me, at heart I run to be outside enjoying this beautiful world we've been given. On my off-days from running I hike and I bike. It's all sweet.

(I've been known to use a treadmill in recuperation phases from injuries. The running part of it feels good, the sweat is just as delicious, the breathing is invigorating. But it doesn't touch my soul.)

Often in the lowlands of Boulder Valley (elevation 5600 feet or so) I'll run neighborhoods and enjoy the landscaping, the university campus for the architecture and landscaping, the foothills for the grasses and trees and rocks and creeks--the landscaping. And of course the creek path system, all a carefully designed natural landscape. No matter where I run in my area here, the air and the humidity are comfortable and comforting.

This week, still easing back into a full distance regimen after the transition of working conditions, I did the garden landscaping at the Hawthorn Community Garden. With our garden at elevation still in early formative stages for the season I found encouragement and inspiration by seeing spring coming in in the valley. The fragrance of the grasses and the soils gave me energy to my fingertips. People are so clever in the way they lay out their plots of land, and as a community garden the variety is truly a work of art.

The loop around the garden space is about a mile, maybe a bit less--my gps was uncharged so I ran free of monitoring. Easy, flat, alternating surfaces of asphalt, gravel, woodchips, it was a splendid way to spend an hour or so.

Breathing. Waiting.
As I return to running I find my cardio and my skeleto-muscular system about at about equal levels of readiness, with a slight edge for better cardio conditioning. Last week I did a 4-mile run, easily within breath and HR target range, but felt a twinge of tenderness in my right knee the last half-mile or so. I kept my run today to 3 miles. It all felt great.

April 30, 2014

Springtime in the Indian Peaks.

Shadow reading the news.

Despite other changes in my daily life with my decision to invest full-time energies into my historic preservation work, my running routine continues to be Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. That has served me well for 15 years or so, I enjoy it, and it's become an important part of my week.

For cross training on other days, I often bike in the warmer weather. In the cooler weather it's hiking or snowshoeing.

Outside my back door in the Indian Peaks region of the Colorado Rocky Mountains I step directly onto a trail system that weaves around some sections of the vast Roosevelt National Forest. For hiking it is incomparable. For running less so, for reasons I've noted elsewhere.

Moving into terrain further from home in the forest, this week I've discovered an entirely new network of trails to explore. They really are beautiful, and quite a bit of the network is trail that could be runnable, by which I mean it could allow me to do more than stay upright on rough terrain. Like, look around.

Here's a sample of it today, with my hiking / running companion reading her news along the way.

About a mile and a half into the hike today I had very good news myself. Springtime has officially arrived in our part of the forest.
Pasque Flowers, 04.30.14