Lapping Up Green03/26/2010
Unfortunately (depending on one’s perspective, of course), mid-week Boulder was treated to maybe it’s largest snowstorm of the season, accompanied with some significant winds at the higher elevations. Up high, the two feet of snow was whipped into fantastical ice-cream scoop drifts that rendered Green Mountain’s Ranger trail virtually unrecognizable.
My Wednesday morning summit of Green involved excessive amounts of postholing, wading, wallowing, swimming, and cursing as I struggled to descend the socked-in switchbacks of the Ranger trail without benefit of snowshoes. A downhill three miles in 44 minutes. Thursday was maybe even worse in spots as the warm day-time temps had glazed the top inch or so of the snow-pack into a shin-bloodying crust. Fun stuff, for sure.
Jeff and I knew that any plans we had harbored for large, interesting tours of the Boulder Mountain Parks trails were stymied, so yesterday he dutifully took a pair of snowshoes up and down the Gregory-Ranger route on Green to prepare the path for today’s task: laps on Green Mountain.
I prefaced the real work with my usual ~30 minute/3.5 mile jog to the Gregory Canyon trailhead where Jeff would park his vehicle as a de facto aid station stocked with a milk jug of water, GU, and bananas. On the first lap, Jeff and I were full of energy and hope. Gregory canyon had melted out nicely in yesterday’s afternoon sun and our minds and legs were eager and fresh. Chatting easily, we were soon at the Ranger Cabin–the veritable half-way point of the climb–and dug into the trail with enthusiasm, interested to see what conditions would present themselves today.
Despite Jeff’s best efforts yesterday, the trail was still a mess. Granted, without his handiwork or Microspikes, it would’ve been largely impassable with any semblance of a usual running motion. When the grade steepened, Jeff allowed me to step by as I continued up, maintaining a running cadence amidst the uneven footing and unconsolidated powder. It was scarcely quicker than his powerful hiking.
At the top, I scrambled to the summit, caught a few puffs of sweet oxygen, and waited briefly for Jeff. I’d grown increasingly cynical as the top approached, highly doubtful of my desire to attempt any more laps. The trail conditions were far from ideal, and I wanted the chance to open up my legs a little instead of having a snow-induced governor clip my stride. However, 22 minutes of a controlled-but-quick, quad-pounding, 2500′ descent of the front side of the mountain erased any question in my mind. The banter with Jeff–and the sharing of the suffering–rejuvenated me, and after a quick gel and chugging of water we were headed back up the canyon for another 5.5 mile loop and 2500′ of ascent/descent.
Now fully warmed up I cruised through the canyon feeling surprisingly good, getting to the cabin 15 seconds faster than the first lap. Ranger was a little stickier now with the rising morning temperature, but more importantly I had resigned to just flailing a little, and I reached the summit 20 seconds quicker than the first climb: 42:25. To give an idea of the conditions, on a more packed trail I will typically cruise this route in a routine 37 or 38 minutes with a (snow) PR of low-35. I waited again for Jeff before tip-toeing and slaloming down the technical Greenman, Saddle Rock, and Amphitheater trails.
On the third lap, Jeff and I decided to split up: he knew his final ascent was going to involve a fair bit of hiking and he preferred to do that on the shorter, steeper frontside route we’d just run down. I like to run as much as possible, so I stuck to the 1/2 mile longer Gregory-Ranger route and after another gel charged up the canyon for the final time.
Things were decidedly tough this lap. Gregory had become wet, muddy, and just generally sloppy, while Ranger had turned into that unpleasantly punchy (and still uneven) snow surface that absorbs any sort of helpful energy return. Surprisingly, I was hitting similar splits, however, and I pondered the physiology of fatigue that caused markedly higher respiration and leg leaden-ness despite no real increase in speed. Damn you, legs and lungs. Despite this, I pushed the last three minutes to the summit in order to sneak in ten seconds under my second-lap time and successfully negative split the workout.
On the final descent with Jeff I still felt great. A fourth lap seemed like the natural thing to do. Thankfully, ominous clouds and rational thinking won the day and after thanking Jeff for a great run I instead jogged over to Chautauqua to log a couple flatter bonus miles before running home to complete the 25 mile/8000′ day in 4h18min. I’ll certainly be back for four laps sometime soon (with better trail conditions), but didn’t think that increasing my long run by an hour after a mere four days was the most prudent thing to do to my knee. Of course, within an hour or so of stepping back into my apartment, the clouds that had enshrouded the Indian Peaks all morning decided it was time to start distributing their contents over Boulder, leaving me grateful for having snuck in yet another magnificent day in the mountains.
(Summit #92 of 2010: Pointlessly testing some of Jocelyn’s camera’s video capabilities.)