Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April Snow in the Hills

Let your eyes wonder to the left there and behold a screen-shot of Ski Santa Fe's webcam from yesterday afternoon. It looked glorious up there and distracted from my work. What was funny was that I could see other viewers linking though to the webcam and panning it back and forth to get an idea of the snow cover.

John, Aspen Peak, & spring snow
I thought seriously about heading up there this morning with the rossignols but my motivation is for crap right now. My pal John however doesn't screw around, he made it up and skinned around to the top of the twin chair I think. He tells me the snow was ankle deep which was more than I had wagered it to be. He showed me a couple of cool photos of the skiing and what I had missed but all I could heist off the web here is one of his big smiling mug. I'm glad someone I knew jumped on the opportunity because now I feel less guilty for flaking out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bicycling La Cienega - Santa Fe

Southwest on Dinosaur Trail
When it was colder and less windy around here I had a nice ride out to La Cienega southwest of town. The wind seems to be dying down a bit now so I figured I'd put up a ride report and photos. The ride is pretty flat and/or downhill on the way out and seemed harder coming back. I was also late for an event that evening and had to time-trial the return leg which kinda sucked. Those who know me know that I always get myself into those situations but I'm here to tell you don't do it because it pisses off wives to no end.

Riding down and through La Cienega was pretty sweet. Real peaceful, very little traffic, big cottonwoods, lots of little farms and pleasant farm smells. It was the first time I'd ever been through there I think. Along the route I passed by a giant solar panel array at the Santa Fe National Guard facilities, and Rancho de las Golindrinas which is cool if you like history and wine festivals, and Sunrise Springs Spa which looked really nice and inviting - like I wanted to stop and spa-it-up a bit rather than race home in a test of exhaustion.

Solar tech at the NM National Guard

Yours truly and the Cerrillos Hills

I found out another scary thing about biking in comparison to running on this particular outing. Riding into a setting sun I was zoned out thinking about how awesome my ride was when the road curved left and I didn't really notice. I rode unsuspectingly and at full speed off an 8in. drop into a sketchy shoulder and patch of weeds and desert, and was certain this would not end well for me. Actually held it together and stayed on the saddle until coming to a stop which was a freaking miracle. Lived to see another day though baby! and the rest of the ride which was nice. I credit improved balance from riding on rollers most of the winter. Ah, but seriously though vision is key at 20mph.

Sunset at the La Cienega overpass. Sandias in the distance.

Dropping into the La Cienega valley. It was gorgeous unlike this weak photo.

View La Cienega Road Ride - Santa Fe in a larger map

Amanda Lynne Byrne Memorial 5K/10K - Pecos

There was a memorial run held out in Pecos this last weekend (Apr. 16) for fallen runner Amanda Lynne Byrne. The Pecos High senior was fatally struck on the tracks south of town while out for a run in January. The story is pretty heart breaking.

The Byrne family along with long time runner Chris Chavez and many others in the Pecos area helped pull together a memorial 5K/10K event to raise money for a Pecos High scholarship fund in Amanda's name as well as to raise awareness for safety. Information on how to donate to the scholarship can be found at the above link.

The event went well and was attended heavily from the Pecos community and local running circles; Alice Temple was there, as was Dale Goering, Vinnie Kelley, Fred Maas, Pecos High principal Fred Trujillo, Marc Esposito, Therese Trujillo and of course Chris Chavez. I was out there with Gabe Brown to help with the timing. The extended Byrne family was there, many running and walking in the event.

Runners freezing in the Pecos morning before the start

Amanda's father sends them off

The 5K was won by state runner-up wrestler Jonathan Torres of Pecos in 21min 46sec.  2nd overall (and first female) finisher was Rylie Hightower of Las Cruces, 23:13; 3rd place was Antonio Chavez of Pecos, 23:44. Women's runner up was Kelly Koehler of Pecos, 28:19. Full results can be found here.

The 10K race wound through a section of the Pecos National Monument before returning to the high school. New Mexico State Univ. runner Michael Hart was first overall in 37min 4sec; 2nd place was Santa Fe's Marc Esposito, 39:11; 3rd place went to Santa Fe's Vinnie Kelley, 43:32. Therese Trujillo of Santa Fe won the women's overall in 44:58; Runner-up went to Margarita Gonzalez of Pecos, 47:37; 3rd place was Alice Temple of Santa Fe, 48:45. Full results can be found here.

Related Posts:
  - Area Trails List
  - Area Race Calendar

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2010 Boston Marathon - Race Report

I found myself fortunate enough to toe the line in Hopkinton last April. It was my first Boston Marathon and it was easily the most exhilarating three hours of running in my twenty years of sport. I find this very ironic because road running is not really my thing, but running through those small Massachusetts townships surrounded by thousands of runners and thousands more spectators lining the course, the mind-games and cursing to move yourself faster and push harder, looking up to see iconic landmarks in passing, Heartbreak mf Hill, 115yrs of history itself really - it was an experience that cannot be equaled on a trail.

It's eleven months later now and I have a few friends that are finishing preparations for this year's race (James, Tony, Boots otra vez). For that reason I wanted to write a race report and give them something to look forward to. So, Boots and I got in by nabbing qualifiers in Austin, TX. We were convinced the course had to be short because we both had a somewhat above average day. Boots snuck into the top 20 overall with a 2:54 finish. I ran a personal best at the halfway mark, then broke that by two minutes 13mi later. Ha! A bit quicker than any optimistic goals we had settled on. We didn't even know how to put what we did in context, so we just limped off to the nearest Irish Bar and toasted to Boston 2010.

Aside from the training and anxiety in the months leading up to Boston, the first dose of reality hits when you board the flight out before race day. For me it was obvious that at least a dozen other passengers were qualifiers. You notice the carry-on shoes, the gaunt faces, timex watches. There's no other place they could all be going. At our connection, twice as many new runners boarded. I hadn't expected any of this. This was going to be crazy.

Christina, Me, Naomi, & awesome signs
Once in Boston, everyone in our hotel was either running or there to watch someone run. If you left the building you'd see joggers and runners on every corner. I was up early the morning before for some coffee and saw groups of people out getting in a morning run. Not for me dude, the hay was in the barn so to speak. I was getting coffee, a look around the hotel, and heading to the Runners Expo.

By the time you bus out to Hopkinton the next day most of the nerves are settled. You've got your bib, the weather is a known entity, time for some ass-kickin'. Athletes' Village before the race is insane. You just hang out for a couple hours as endless busloads of runners arrive and fill an entire park. We brought lots of warm clothes, plastic bags to lay out on, and stuff to read. I drank coffee and ate a banana - don't like to eat before racing. Briefly saw a couple friends from back home on the way to our corrals and wished each other the best.

Me looking thin as a rail, checking out the stuff I'd be blacked out running through
I jogged up to the front to take a look at the elites, then went to corral 2 to look for Boots. It was strange to walk up to the corral manager and just have him wave me in. How did I find myself here? Nah, but I was ready for this. These people look serious but how many of them have been training in arroyos the last few months? I'm going to give some of these fools the business out there. Took off my second-hand hat, gloves, and long sleeve and threw them over the barrier. The gun sounded and after a short pause my wave was off.

Everything I'd read told me to hold back the first 2-3 miles so several hundred people rushed by me at this point. You all are coming back to me down the road a ways I hope you know. So many people, the road was filled shoulder to shoulder. By mile two we were in a more residential area and the sides of the roads were lined with spectators. Kids were lined up for high-fives. Some held out their  hands flat offering an orange wedge. This was novel for me but after several miles I realized this sort of thing runs the length of the entire course. I saw hundreds of kids with orange wedges. Thousands of people and up-all-night college houses and national guardsmen and civic clubs and packed bars and restaurant patios. I hadn't occurred to me that all of this would be here.

I knew that the ladies of Wellesley would be at mile 12, so I had imagined many times what that experience would be like. Passing by the college is described as an emotional high-point of the race but it was better than advertised. You cannot help but smile and become a spectator yourself. I was worried about tripping-up and falling. I saw a few runners find a cheek to kiss, one did pushups, none of it seemed all that un-ordinary. You can still hear the cheers and screaming a half mile after you've passed. Brilliant.

Wellesley's aptly named scream tunnel
The race itself begins to come alive after this point. I slipped by the halfway mark in a new best. I'd been running 20min per 5km up to this point. People up front were definitely starting to move backward. The first guy I saw walking out a cramp must have been around 14mi which is really damn far from Boylston St.  The furthest metro stop along the course is somewhere around mile 16 so I began scanning the crowds for Christina and Naomi who had made signs for us and planned to ride the metro out to this point. At first it was easy to see a sign here and another one there - by mile 18 there were hundreds of signs, thousands of people lining the streets two-deep. There was zero chance I'd pick them out.

Boots, crushing mens' souls

Mile 24
Scanning the crowds I had zoned-out most of the running through the Newton Hills, but my focus was brought back by a hill that didn't seem to end - Heartbreak Hill. Several people told me not to worry about this hill, it was nothing compared to the trails in Santa Fe they'd say, but that hill was a beast. I could feel myself getting uncomfortable at a point and took a fateful glance up and couldn't see where it topped-out. This made me begin to panic. A few moments later two guys in front of me cracked and started walking at the same time. Wtf? I could not believe that I had just seen that. Is it even legal to walk Heartbreak Hill? And from a couple of guys running 2:50 pace no less. I motored through the top of that thing just out of spite. Near the top the crowds actually begin to close in on the road european-bike-race-style. Some guy with a cowbell was screaming at me, telling me I was almost there. I was tired but all of that was pretty awesome.

From there you roll down into town, past Boston College, past Fenway apparently. I was passing dozens of runners through this section but felt like I was working much harder to hold pace and my mind began to close up. Passing Boston College several belligerent students cursed out a guy right behind me inexplicably wearing a Yankees cap. That woke me out of my trance for a minute. Around mile 23 I saw Christina, Naomi, my Mom, and Bill & Ingrid my in-laws. This made me happy because I was freaking dying. At mile 24 I finally saw Boots up ahead in a slow fade. When I ran up on him I yelled, 'you long haired hippy-bastard!' and a few tired heads turned to see what was going on. Ha! Cut your hair you damn hippy.

Boylston St and agony
The crowds at this point seemed to be roaring. I swear it was the only thing besides torrents of mental cursing that kept me going. At mile 25 the road dipped under an overpass, the crowds disappear and the cheers fade and you're left demoralized. Then you climb back towards the sidewalks and the barricaded spectators and the roar returns! A right turn and slight incline and then left on Boylston - almost home. I could see the finish line from here and it read 2:48. I knew I had inched off pace over the last three miles but started to fly when I saw those two minutes could be had. Ah, but it was a cruel mirage. After a quarter mile surge I eased and tried to find some control over the last bit and was passed by a guy in his late 50's. I couldn't let that slide with 100m to go, it would be my lasting memory of the best day running I'd ever had. The last bit of drive that guy afforded me pushed me past another three runners to 574th place. Drove it home with a near six minute mile to finish in 2hr 50m 51s. One hell of a sweet race, all other races are now slightly less fun. Boots will be back running next week so if you see him kindly buy the man a beer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nordic Skiing Alberta Lake Trail and West Fork Trail - Pagosa, CO

Alberta Lake Trail Pagosa
Alberta Lake Loop
So this is a continuation of a previous post about a quick ski trip the last weekend in March. Ski season is over but I wanted to write up trail reports for the nordic skiing at Alberta Lake and East Fork since they were a ton of fun. There didn't look like much skiing to be had when I arrived in Pagosa, the weather and snow cover was much the same as in Santa Fe. I passed the evening with my old friend Colin (Sutt), with dinner and beers and talk of skiing at Kip's Cantina.

Well it ended up snowing a quarter inch that evening which is sorta why I made the trip. Only light snow cover in town but a heavy cloud hung up on the Pass (a.k.a the Vortex). Grabbed coffee at Pagosa Bakery Company (this place is legit) across the street from Kip's and headed up the pass to check out more of the nordic trails and then hit the slopes with Sutt. The guy works patrol at the Creek so he was up there early setting charges and clearing some of the steeper slopes of potential slides. Good work Sutt.

Alberta Lake Trail Pagosa
Miles of fresh snow and more falling from the heavens
I got onto Alberta Lake Nordic Trails first thing. To find the trailhead you pull all the way through the Wolf Creek parking area, park right there and ski off the back. The trail drops down groomed ski area trails to the Alberta Lift where there are signs that guide you down the valley to the reservoir. In addition to being a no-fee groomed trail, the Alberta Loop also has a concession stand there by the lift. The only nordic trail I've ever skied with full service amenities.

On this morning the snow was freaking awesome. When I first started there was 6" of fresh snowfall but it continued snowing the entire day. I was lucky to be following another group's tracks at first or I wouldn't know where the hell I was going. Ordinarily this trail is groomed for nordic but it was early and the Creek staff were working the ridge and other higher traffic areas (charges were booming from the ridgeline as I shushed along - word-up Sutt). Anyway, a badass trail with badass snow conditions. I think I was smiling the whole way, just couldn't believe my luck that the snow would be this nice. Watching the un-tracked snow breaking off my ski tips on the downhills was fairly hypnotic, so I spent some time focusing on it and nothing else.  [Updated: Skied these trails the weekend of 11/12/11 (An Early Start to the Ski Season). They were groomed and in excellent condition. Might be my favorite nordic trails in the area.]

Alberta Lake Trail Pagosa
Miles and miles and miles...

The mighty Rossis in their element

Alberta Lake Trail Pagosa
Lots of snow up on that pass, also snow men ski spectators

I finally caught the group ahead of me, they said they were from Texas and they were happy that I came along to relieve their work breaking trail. I kind of had experience with this earlier in the winter so it was a piece of cake. One of the ladies said she was a marathoner so the marathoner-to-other-skier ratio was pretty high that morning. When we finished the loop I saw a Cat set to groom the loop and lay down some classic ski tracks. I thought of skiing another loop with the new groomed track but I'd told Sutt that I'd ski some runs with him.

Patrolman Sutt in action
Climbed the trail to the lot, changed out my boards and out of my wet clothes and into my downhill set up. Lift tickets at the Creek are $52. What a steal. Ran laps on Alberta Lift all morning and afternoon. Had to tighten the settings on my ski bindings because the powder was deep enough it was pulling my left ski off. It was a fantastic day. Sutt had to leave and run avalanche patrol with snow falling like it was. Coming from the spring weather we've had in New Mexico since early February it was like a time warp back into winter to be in blizzard conditions like this all day. The Wolf Creek vortex just wrings all the moisture out of the weather that passes east.

Every run was a giant powder chute. My face got sore from smiling.
The Zia was kicking-ass in the storm - that's what I'm talking about
East Fork Trail Pagosa
Scenic East Fork Trail
The skiing was great but I had to get home before dark so after 8 or 9 runs I dropped down to the parking lot and headed down to the East Fork Nordic Trails on the way back to Pagosa. Just below the switchbacks of Wolf Creek Pass the snow stopped falling and although East Fork is only eight miles from Wolf Creek there was only just enough snow to ski on. How that is possible I don't really know, I had just come from what seemed like British Columbia only 30min earlier. East Fork was cool but was more of a multi-use trail and for that reason was more difficult to ski on. I could see snowmobiles with grooming gear that they most likely set to work during the busy season but on this morning the trail was un-groomed. A main trail branches west for several miles, I skied up a less traveled trail that climbed to the northeast with some cool cliffs and rock formations. Very scenic, but after my morning the snow just couldn't compare.

East Fork Trail Pagosa
East Fork looking west

To sum up: Pagosa's nordic trail system is bad-as-hell. I especially enjoyed Alberta Lake Loop up at Wolf Creek. And secondly, weather conditions in Pagosa should not be confused with Wolf Creek 20mi away. Never doubt the snowfall at the Creek because it is un-holy.

   Part I of Nordic Skiing Pagosa

Related Posts:
 - Nordic Skiing in Chama - Edward Sargent WFA
 - Enchanted Forest Nordic - Red River, NM
 - Nordic Skiing - Santa Fe, NM

View Alberta Lake Nordic Trails - Pagosa Springs, CO in a larger map

View West Fork Nordic Trails - Pagosa Springs, CO in a larger map

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ski Touring Deception Peak

Sunrise over the Jemez

Up early for what may have been the last ski day of the season. Rather than laps around Totemoff's I thought I'd try a climb to the top. It got pretty steep half way up so it turned into a hike/run until the catwalk above Sunset. Great touring up to the top of the triple chair and out to the Parachute overlook. On my way back down Sunset I veered off and skied to the top of the Millenium lift, then a short trail run to the summit of Deception. Great views.

Morning sun at the top of the triple chair - Tesuque Peak
Deception summit in the foreground, Mt Baldy-L, Lake Peak-R, Truchas Peaks in the distance

Thin snow cover to be had in the Nambe Bowl

75min car-to-summit with some wandering. The true route to the top in summer is up Raven's Ridge but that would make a tough ski tour. Figured skiing back down would be the easy part but nearly killed myself with four ridiculous falls. Broke one of my poles on the last one and lost my hat. Thought maybe it had vaporized on impact or something but found it later down a ravine. Hiked the skis down to Totemoff for the sake of self-preservation, then skied off my last morning on this winter's slopes.

My retro ski/hike/run/death trainers. At the summit

View Deception Peak - Santa Fe in a larger map

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Summer Weather is no Joke

Tune-Up Cafe:  food + patio + bike logos = badass
Whoa, seems like it's been a while but I'm happy to say that my leg finally feels sturdy enough for some high mileage. April Fools suckas, the leg hurts and life sucks. The leg better get its act together because with this fine weather I'm going to start training the hell out of it and its close friend down there. That's right. First I've got to get through this ungodly tax season that is jacking up my physical well being. For this reason I don't have any good photos to post so here's one of the Tune-Up Cafe because their food and dessert and coffee is excellent and they have bike logos on their t-shirts and coffee mugs.

Plan to sneak out for a ride on Sunday, and a little nordic skiing up at Santa Fe since this is the last week of the ski season. What!? Winter's over? What the hell happened this winter? We got sold down the river this winter that's what, but summer's cool too so I'm ready to go hit it on the snow free trails up there.

I've been a bit out of the loop the last couple of weeks but here goes for some weekend notes:

  • Apparently there's a Bike Swap tomorrow (4/2) in the Rob & Charlie's parking lot. It's being billed as the first annual Santa Fe Bike Swap being put on by $2 admission. I'm down with that even though I expect the swap to be small. Hopefully they'll have some rockin' $2500 mountain bikes at a 99% mark-down.
  • The Atomic Man Duathlon is four weeks out (Sun. 5/1). There's a $5 registration discount available till 4/15 with a password from their website. There's also a training program linked to the site from Aligned Play. I think I'm doing this race even if I'll still be a little wobbly. Hear that leg? Better straighten up and fly right buddy. Beers afterward at the Canyon Bar. 
  • The La Tierra Torture is the same weekend (4/30-5/1). Short track race on Sat., Cross Country on Sun. The races are run out at La Tierra so bring a freaking map along with your ride and your gear.
  • Ski areas statewide are closing up this weekend. Wolf Creek still has a crap load of snow (I gotta get my pictures up from Sunday (ed. got them up finally), but they're closing up shop on the 10th. This happens every April so I don't know why I get all bent out of shape about it.

That's all I've got, I'm going to the Hotel St. Francis for a drink and that ain't no April Fools.

Update (4/2):  One important add-on I forgot to list, The La Luz Trail Run is operating their registration lottery online this year rather than the old mail-in system. Registration for the lottery is open until April 10th on, or just go here. In addition to the improved lottery system, registration slots have increased to 440 this year having been capped at 400 for as long as I can remember. This is the oldest, baddest trail race in New Mexico. Get at it folks.


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