Riding Mt. Evans – and how the Peloton made it possible

The plan to ride Mt. Evans was nothing new – I’d ridden it a couple times before, once from Idaho Springs and once from Echo Lake – but wanting to ride it from home is something I’ve been trying to make happen for a few years. Even though the logistics are simple, the ride statistics are daunting at about 110 miles and over 11,000′ of climbing round-trip. My schedule, weather, and motivation finally aligned on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I settled on a 4am start to be early-enough to beat any afternoon thunderstorms, but not so early that the drunks would still be driving around.

I started by heading up and over Lookout Mountain, to the Genesee bike path, and on to Evergreen Parkway – a ride I’ve done countless times. Sunrise was just after 5:30, meaning it finally started getting light a bit after 5am. At about six a.m. I stopped to eat a bar, check in at home (where everyone was still asleep), switched my light from “see” to “be seen,” and started up Squaw Pass. Shortly after eight, I was on CO-5, the Mount Evans Highway.

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ForeRunner Review

I’m past 50 miles on my Garmin ForeRunner 305 at this point, and figure it’s fair to give it a real review now. I’ve still been using a program made by RunnersWorld for racing a 10k, in preparation for my half marathon. The most important thing is for me to get more miles under my feet, and the speedwork is always good for strength, speed, and to keep it interesting. I’ve also started running with music on again, which is a great distraction from the monotony of running.

My only real gripe with the unit is that it averages your pace over far too long a period of time. I’m not sure what the time is exactly, but I can be doing a 6:00 pace after coming down from a 12:00 rest, it will tell me to slow down (because my target will be, say, 7:00) yet it will be displaying 8:00. Other than that, it’s great. You know exactly how fast you’re going (or rather, were going over the past 30 seconds or so), how far you’ve gone, and have a great, easy to setup program to keep runs different. Last night for example the workout was 2 miles warmup, then 7 sets of 1/4mi fast then 1/4mi resting, five minute break, 7 more sets, and finally a 2 mile cooldown. I was out running for close to two hours, which I’ve never done before, yet I never felt bored. It was easy to just keep focused on the next interval. The HR monitor is nice to have, and helps the unit get a reasonably accurate estimate on calories burned for your run. All in all, a good product, especially for half the cost of a 405.

In other news, it looks like the trip to Silverton is off. There’s a big storm (supposedly) coming through, and I’m still a little sick. Bummer.

FiveFingers: 50-mile review

I’ve had my Vibram FiveFingers KSOs for a few weeks now, and have reached roughly 50 miles in them, including a single 25 mile week. At this point, I think they’re great. There’s a freedom to running in them, as you truly feel everything under your feet. I feel faster and lighter on my feet, and my pace is faster for a given effort level than it feels.

The downside is that barefooting really works your calves. My calves continue to be tighter and more sore than I ever could have imagined, and although there is some improvement, it’s still to the point where I’m nearly hobbling around the day after a 8.5 mile interval run. Today is supposed to be a 9 mile easy run, but I’m taking a rest day as there’s simply no way I could do it. Additionally, I’ve torn holes on top of both of my second toes from scraping them on rocks, concrete, dirt, etc. I’ll probably need to patch them fairly soon. That said, I’m sticking with them for the time being. Hopefully by the time I hit 100 miles the soreness will no longer be an issue.

On a side note, I’ve been using thedailyplate.com for the past few days (which is a part of livestrong.com now) after being turned on to it by Nate, and it’s already an obsession. It’s a great way to set goals with exercise and calories, and accurately track how you’re doing on a day to day basis.

Garmin Forerunner 305

I ordered this toy as something to help me run more at the same time I ordered my replacement Foreman grill. I’m always fascinated by excessive data and fancy gizmos, and keep trying to improve on my times. I’ve been slacking on running lately, so what better than a GPS and heart rate monitor built into one little unit to get me back at it?

I took it out for its inaugural run today, which was part of a 10km training program I downloaded from runnersworld.co.uk . I’m running a half marathon in 6 weeks, but there’s no 6 week half-M program there, although there is an 8 week 10km program, so I took that and lopped off the first two weeks. Today’s run was 5 miles, with the first and last being warmup/cooldown. I did it in 40 minutes, which I’m pretty happy with especially given the ridiculous winds that were blowing around town today. I’ll certainly be ready for the Colfax half in May. A month after that, I’ve got it set to start a 16 week program to prepare for the Denver Marathon. My targets? 1:30 for the half (though I’ll be stoked at 1:39:59) and 3:30 for the full. It looks like I probably won’t make it skiing this weekend (despite the ridiculous amounts of snow) thanks to my car being horribly banged up in the hit & run last week, so I’ll go for a longer run tomorrow most likely.

I got mine from Amazon and had it in about a week with free shipping. I’d strongly suggest a HR monitor for people trying getting serious about working out, and if you want to/can afford it, the GPS is a great addition for running.

Technically Unfat

As of yesterday, I’m not longer considered overweight under the government’s highly-flawed BMI system. The chart below shows the past year. The first month and a half is likely not exactly as shown, as there are no data points between the start of the graph and the peak in March. Those gains were caused by lots of time in the weight room, and the past year I’ve been focusing on cutting down to pick up speed in running, cycling, climbing, etc. Having the Wii Fit to look at every day certainly help with tracking your weight, and when you know if you’re gaining, it’s that much easier to push yourself to cut back on fatty foods and step it up on the exercise.

As can be seen, I’m still a ways off the lows of a couple years ago, but I have no interest in regaining them. I was too thin and not strong enough for what I want to do (though I was certainly fast!).

In other news, I just got Katrina’s batch of photos from the Seattle trip last Summer. I intend to get some up by this weekend.

An end and a beginning

Well, after what seemed like a ridiculously quick year, 2008 is on its way out – and what a year it was. Starting with the winter that refused to end, ski season was phenomenal, and though I didn’t make it out for as much ski mountaineering as I would’ve liked, the inbounds skiing kept me happy. Spring set off with my first century ride, as well as the start of the bike-to-work mission. Summer held an amazing vacation to Washington state, camping, hiking, and climbing the Grand Teton. Autumn was generally quiet with some enjoyable skiing, relaxing, and hanging out with friends.

Since I began biking to work on June 25 (bike to work day), I have ridden in 80 times, and driven 40 – exactly 2:1. The ratio moved in favor of the bike after I took my new job though, with November seeing only one day of driving to work. My goal for 2009 is to ride my bike 80% of the time. As long as Denver doesn’t get hammered by snow through the coming months, I should be able to make the goal without issue.

I’m ending the year with my weight at 179.8 pounds. The fact that this places me at 0.15 “BMIs” into the overweight group is obscene. I’m in about as good shape as is possible. Prior to the Clinton administration single-handedly changing the upper limit of the “normal” range from 27.4 to 25, I would’ve been solidly “normal” and healthy. But no, I’m supposedly at risk of all sorts of fat-based health issues. Right.

2009 promises to be another quick year. Goals include a ski descent from the summit of Mt. Rainier, a few descents of the Colorado 14ers (Maroon Bells possibly), Sopris, and Gannett Peak in Wyoming’s Wind River Range (if their snow ever gets stable). Another century ride or two will likely be in the works, and if I get really ambitious, maybe a half marathon.

Good luck for the coming year folks, make it a great one.

Focus on Fitness

With winter bringing shorter days, colder temperatures, and excessive quantities of generally unhealthy food, it’s a good time to get thinking about fitness again. It’s easy in the summer time. It’s light for hours after getting home, and the warm weather makes it a lot easier to bike to work, go for a walk or run, and just generally be active in the outdoors. Like many people, I’ve had a tendency to gain weight as the weather turns cold, and lose it in the summer. Since I decided to get in shape back in the summer of 2005, I’ve been periodically tracking my weight.

As you can see, I dropped from over 190 to hitting 170 in roughly four months when I first started. Then winter hit. When it warmed back up I spent a lot of time hiking 14ers and running, and hit the mid-upper 160s. I may have been thinner than what is ideal, but man, I was swift. The same thing happened in the winter of 2007 and repeated the next summer. I gained 22 pounds in less than five months, and never took it off despite all my time on the bike. While I’m fast, strong, and by no means fat, I do have a few pounds I could shed which would make me faster and stronger.

Enter the Wii Fit. I finally found one online last week, and it arrived yesterday. It has fun activities for various benefits, but one of the best aspects is weight tracking in only a minute or two every morning. I set a goal in Wii Fit to get sub-25 for my BMI in two months (at my height, that line is at 176). That will require a loss of almost two pounds a week, which may be overambitious. Regardless, I need to get there prior to the spring ski mountaineering season. An extra layer of wool or polypro is far better than extra fat to stay warm.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who is also actively working to get back in shape, and fantastic backcountry skiing opportunities nearby. A hard skin up in cold weather can burn several hundred calories per hour. Even better, each lap you’re rewarded with a ski run through untouched powder and no crowds, with low-speed quads to get you up any where you want to try. Even better is light winter mountaineering. The cold, wind, and gear weight can result in so great an energy burn that you could lose a pound of fat even after a huge meal at the end of the day to recharge.

Get out there, burn some fat, and most importantly, have fun!