Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dog Days of Summer playlist

Just wanted to highlight the glories of bandcamp. I listen to more forlorn things in the summer... strange.

1. Seeding by Log Across the Washer (yes, this is from the trailer for "In the High Country")
Listen to Seeding

2. Beacons by Cusique (band featured in "In the High Country")
Listen to Beacons

3. Ulysses by Mason Jennings (song featured in "In the High Country")
Listen to Ulysses

4. Lone Cowboy by the Sterling Sisters (just a band I like)
Listen to Lone Cowboy

5. Raised You in the West by the Sterling Sisters
Listen to Raised You in the West

6. Fairplay, Colorado by the Sterling Sisters
Listen to Fairplay, Colorado

7. Legs Away by Mother Mother
Listen to Legs Away

8. Take These Thoughts by Chris and Thomas
Listen to Take These Thoughts

9. You're the One I Want by Chris and Thomas
Listen to You're the One I Want

10. Shake Me Down - Cage the Elephant
Listen to Shake Me Down

11. Tough Love - Hamell on Trial
Listen to Tough Love

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Movie Review: In the High Country

It was during a snowy stretch earlier this year that Cory went to weekly run club at Runner's Roost and met Anton Krupicka for the first time. Anton came to speak at the run club and he took time to run alongside everyone and chat during the six-mile run. Cory came back saying that Tony is the kind of guy that when you meet him, you instantly feel bad for anything negative you ever thought about him. I think deep down a lot of people are just jealous when they realize that they are not willing to give up their life and live on practically nothing so that they can run all day. In order to cope with this sadness, people assume that Tony must not be a nice guy. It was at this event that Cory learned two things: people are wrong and there was a movie being made called "In the High Country."

If you are unfamiliar with TK and you have no idea what this film is about, here's a link to the trailer. To prime you for this review and the movie in general, here are some things to highlight from the trailer. If you have a musical ear, you might notice how deliberate Joel, the film-maker, is about the musical selection and how he times it with some great shots. Also you might notice that there isn't any dialogue. Does it catch your attention that they highlight the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the credits in a way that you would highlight a featured actor? This is all intentional. Going into the movie experience, you should prepare yourself mentally as if you were viewing art in a gallery not as if you were going to a movie theater to be entertained.

We went to see the film during it's world premiere event in Boulder this past Saturday. As we were driving over the the Dairy Center for the Arts after eating a delicious dinner at Illegal Pete's, we saw a very skinny hipster on a bike almost get creamed but a guy on a moped. We got a little closer and realized that it was actually Anton on the bike. Ha!

Buzz Burrell did a great job of facilitating the evening. When you get in a group of ultra-runners, it can be very awkward. In general, the kind of people who are attracted to a sport where you spend copious amounts of time by yourself outside often causing your body agony are shy and introverted people who don't like to talk about themselves. Buzz had his work cut out for him trying to get Joel and Anton to open up to the large audience. Fortunately the introductions were short and we quickly started the viewing of the 30-minute film.  Joel literally just played the latest edition of the film off his laptop. No DVD yet or anything.

The film did not disappoint.  The opening credits were exhilarating and actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the film. You can see Joel trying to set the foundation for the main theme of the film: A life-giving connection to the land and an overall need in every human's life for a sense of place.  After the credits, we get to see Tony's hometown of Niobrara, Nebraska where his dad, Ronnie, talks candidly about Tony and his decision to live in the mountains of Colorado. What I enjoyed most about this section, entitled "Roots," is that they didn't downplay Nebraska at all. Nebraska is a state that most people spend little time in and try to drive through as quickly as possible. It would have been easy to make this section about Tony escaping to a grander place, but instead it established Nebraska's humble beauty as a launching point for Tony's desire to be rooted in a place.

The following sections, "The Search," "Vulnerability," "The Practice," and "Chasing Muses," all build off of this foundation highlighting the importance of a sense of place.  There were some harrowing scenes of Tony and Joel on Long's Peak and later during the Q&A they admitted that they had gone off route and not planned to do such a perilous climb.  You can tell that Tony is unprepared during this climb... he seems cold and he admits to being very afraid. But I admire the vulnerability that both men showed by allowing this section to be such a prominent part of the film. It shows that at heart, Tony is an adventurer. He's not out to be the best at anything, he simply wants to enjoy how his body can travel efficiently through the mountains.

There is footage taken from a variety of peaks. As many people know, Tony was out to set a speed record for Nolan's 14, a 100 mile route that bags 14 of Colorado's 14ers. Tony had a bad day during the recent attempt and had to stop after 6 peaks. But this film wasn't about Nolan's or any FKT's. It wasn't about racing or even training. It wasn't even about Tony. TK could have been easily replaced with any other ultra-distance trail-runner. It was a celebration of the majesty of our earth and our ability as humans to connect and explore it. As such, there is little dialogue and instead there is more a focus on getting artistic shots that convey emotion and cultivate a desire in the audience to get out of their seats and enjoy wherever they are.

Joel accomplished this so well by seamlessly integrating a musical experience into the film. Many of the songs were written and performed by a group local to Joel's area in WV. The group, named Cusique, has most of their music available on Bandcamp. Take a listen! In one of my favorite sections, Mason Jenning's Ulysses was layered in the background.  Even for people who don't have a musical ear, you will definitely take notice of how Joel uses the rythm of certain songs to determine the editing of scenes. Clips are cut to match the natural beat of the song in the background. During the post-viewing Q&A session, Joel said that while he was waiting for Tony to complete the crux move during their Long's Peak adventure he was probably singing the song that he put in the background of the film. This guy is intentional.

After the film was finished, Buzz once again took the mic and invited Andrew Skurka (Go-Lite athlete and professional hiker), Peter Bakwin (Ultimate Direction athlete and founder of the Fastest Known Times website), and Stephanie Ehret (Ultra-runner) to come to the front. He asked them to get the conversation going and to talk about their impressions of the film. All were very shy and seemed reluctant to speak, but it was good to get the ball rolling. Then Joel and Tony were back up fielding questions again.

Most interestingly has been the debate about distribution of the film. If you read the comments section of this irunfar review of the film, you might be as appalled as me at how angry people are that the film isn't available yet via digital download.  I realize that since I've already seen the film my thirst to see it has been satiated, but it is crazy how we as consumers have this need to have whatever we want right now. If people were to meet Joel Wolpert, they would realize that he is an artist and NOT a business man. After spending a whole year making this film, it seems that he is taking time to recharge (be with his family, perhaps?). Distribution is important, but now that his art is out there, his mission is accomplished. Distro is secondary. He mentioned that they are working on digital dowload and Buzz mentioned they are also trying to field the overseas requests as well.

I've been fascinated by the comments in the irunfar review that diverge from the film and use the forum as a way to discuss personal opinions of Anton. From a social sciences perspective, it is interesting to look at the comments that seem more like a personal attack on Anton and how those people don't actually use their real names when commenting. Additionally, these commentors seem to be the ones farther removed from the ultra-running community here in Colorado that Tony is a part of. I hope that these kind of reactions from people who have not yet actually seen the film and have not personally met Tony don't mar the reception of the film itself.

It's a must-see. I will be forking over the dollars whenever it does become available to purchase.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

When I grow up... screw continuity this is about our trip to Breck

My Grandparents recently celebrated their 50th anniversary! And to celebrate the whole family came out to Colorado and stayed in Breckenridge for the 4th of July.

Independence Day Trail 10k

With a good numbers of runners in the family, we decided to do Breck's 4th of July Trail 10k. The Minnesota contingent of the family consists of some pretty good runners. My uncle was once a competitive marathoner, like oylmpic marathon trials good. My cousins both were high school cross-country stand-outs good enough to run D1 college level. But none of them had run trails before.

We all rolled out of bed to get ready for the race and my one cousin realized that she had forgotten all of her running stuff. I offered her a sports bra and top and she said, "I'll just run in my swimsuit." Crazy person. She finished the race bruised and bloody from falling as many times as is possible in a 10k but she rocked it as the 5th place woman!

Cory got an impressive 3rd place. He said that the guy who started out in first got lost and decided to drop out. In a fit of rage the guy crumpled up his bib and threw it in the race director's face. What a jerk! It's not like there were even any prizes.  Cory was happy to accept a podium spot, though.

I was pretty happy with how the race went for me. I got 4th in my age group and I think I was the 14th woman. The course was beautiful but it was frustrating because there were very few places where you could pass people. In the initial climbs I was forced to walk because the people ahead of me were slowing up. On the downs I once again got stuck behind some slower people. This was the first race I ran where slower people didn't just step to the side to allow you to pass quickly.

The Minnesotans seemed to enjoy the race but said that it was a lot harder than they expected. My dad loved it as well, but got caught up by all of the slow people on the single-track. We will have a better strategy for next year.

Scouting the Breck Crest Course

Last year Cory ran the Breck Crest Marathon and I was dying to see part of the course. Cory cautioned me that it wasn't easy and that it probably wasn't wise to go run 23 mountain miles the day after a race. I was stubborn, but we ended up deciding to do the first 8-10 miles, which are the prettiest, and then turn around and come back.

We woke up early and headed out to greet a beautiful sunrise. The first few miles are all uphill but not too steep. It was pretty runnable. Then we hit a jeep road that was crazy steep and powered up to tree line. Once we got to tree line there were beautiful views, but we were surprised to feel a few rain drops. It seemed too early for storms.

Cory enjoying early morning wild flowers

It was sunny but rain was starting to fall.

Love this high country

As we continued on, leaving the jeep road and going up the more technical and steep Wheeler trail, I asked Cory how on earth were people able to run this section. He said that everyone walked a bit, even eventual winner, Nick Pedatella. This made me feel a little bit better about walking, but as we got higher there were some ominous clouds waiting for us.

Beautiful dark clouds

Cory looking at the map near the saddle

Once we got up to the saddle, it was pretty clear that the weather was not on our side. We still managed to get in about 14 miles and some sweet pictures, but I still have some unfinished business up there. I'm contemplating doing the race this year.

The Decalibron

Going into this trip we knew we wanted to do something epic with my dad. Near Breck there are four 14ers that are pretty easy to do all in one day. Those peaks - Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross - are colloquially called the Decalibron.

We've heard a lot of things about the Decalibron. Bross is legally closed, but a lot of people summit it. That doesn't make it ok, but we were talking to Cory's uncle and aunt who, as we speak, are doing their second to last of all the Colorado 14ers. They said that the person who owns the land at
Bross' summit wants people to summit Bross but he doesn't want to assume any legal liability if someone were to get hurt. We also had heard that the descent down Bross is the worst part.

At the parking area, waiting to head out

We got out early and headed up the trail in before the masses got going. We quickly ascended Democrat and stood at the cold windy summit. I immediately regretted not bringing pants. There was still a little snow, but it was packed down and easy to get around. Democrat was probably my favorite peak just because it had the best views and the rocks were different - more jagged than the sloping summits of the other peaks.

Just below the summit of Democrat

We scurried on down and across to Cameron, which I would say is the easiest 14er I've ever hiked. There was a family with small children hiking it. Cameron and Lincoln were pretty runnable as you can see in the pictures.

Cameron Lincoln saddle

Going up Lincoln

At Lincoln's summit

The wind got even stronger as we headed down Lincoln back towards Cameron and across to Bross. I was starting to get jittery thinking about the descent. I could see the scree field I had heard about and it looked steep. As we neared the top of Bross, a couple that was ahead of us came back down towards Cameron. They said they had heard enough about the descent and were going to go all the way back to the Democrat/Cameron saddle and descend. This was not what I needed to hear.

On our way to Bross

At the summit of Bross. I'm freaking out about the descent.

We sat at the summit and while my dad and Cory snacked, I was shaking mostly because of the cold but partly because I was so nervous. The trail looked doable from where we were but it twisted around the mountain and out of sight. This is where I pictured a precipitous drop off with a pile of carcasses laying at the bottom. We discussed our options and the guys talked me into giving it a shot.

We got started and I went so slowly that I thought the guys were going to throws rocks at me in their anger. It wasn't bad, but if you were to make a little slip you could fall a long ways. Beside the vertigo, let me just say that this was the most over-rated descent I have done. I have done much steeper things, but I think people just freak out over the drop-off.

I had heard that there were parts where you could just jump and slide and I think that Cory was looking forward to this a little. Really though, the trail was pretty clear and stable. There was a scree slope just beyond the trail that looked like people had tried to come down. Maybe this was the freaky part people were talking about. Not sure, but it was an epic day. We took our time and did it in about 5 hours.

Pretty Lake Emma beneath Democrat

Friday, July 19, 2013

When I grow up I want to be a race director

We are now living at the base of a "mountain." Really, it is a foothill. But we love it! Since 2007 I have moved seven times. If you do the math, I haven't lived in a place for more than a year. It's a little scary that now we live in an area where I could see us staying for a long time. I actually feel a desire to be invested in this community and work to see it's greater good.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the races in Colorado and most of them are in very scenic places in the mountains. Colorado Springs has some great races to showcase it's trails and the Gnar runners of Fort Collins have some rockin' events, but besides the Bear Chase Race, there aren't really any other ultra-marathons in the greater Denver area. The Bear Chase race, is a great event which is managed very well. Bear Creek Lake park is a great venue for newer trail runners because it is flat and not technical. The park is pretty and the course for each race does a number of loops around the park. I'm not downplaying the Bear chase Race at all, but there are a lot of nearby trails in the area that offer more climbing, scenery, and technicality.

If you were to flip open any running magazine you might find write-ups of running towns that are great to visit. Places like Boulder, Sedona, Missoula, San Fran and its outliers, etc, but you never see Denver on the list. I'm not quite sure why there aren't more races, write-ups, and runners flocking to the area because my heart is filled with contentedness over the trails here. There are numerous county and city parks with trails that can be endlessly connected.

I originally assumed that the reason for the lack of races was because the parks would not allow races. I know that the parks in the Chataqua area of Boulder, for example, were off-limits and I assumed maybe the same was true in Denver. But I've seen a few more races popping up here and there in some of my favorite parks and I've dug around through some city rec sites to find great local races that just aren't marketed that well to the greater community. Can't blame them;
the parks departments have bigger things to worry about than marketing races.

This brings me to my main thought. For a long time now, I've been wanting to start a race. Now that I am finally in a community that I love, I want to highlight all of the reasons that I love it. And those reasons largely consist of trails that I would love to showcase. No need to wake up at 3 am to drive to the mountains for a race, when you could hit up a great ultra in your backyard and train on the course as well. I can think of multiple courses that would involve some serious elevation gain with the perk of being at a lower starting elevation. Also, I've found that there is something surreal about starting in the plains and getting up to a little mountain town entirely through human powered transportation. If World War Z became a reality, I know a direct route from my house, up trails, and into the mountains where I could live happily while the world figures itself out.

Obviously I have a lot of work to do to make this a reality. I already have some friends that want to be involved, but if you are reading this and want to be involved, then let me know. Even if I don't really know who you are. I already have a name for the event, but I'm not going to share it yet because I don't want any other aspiring race directors out there to steal it;) Plus I don't want to reveal it until I have a kick-ass logo to go along with it.

I don't have a lot of details yet, but I was thinking it would be a good late season race.  Snow can linger in the foothills until May, then June through September is really hot, and snow usually doesn't accumulate much at all before November at the earliest... not until late January this past year. Realistically it would be cool to have the race together for October 2014, but maybe I'm just dreaming. I'm hoping that by putting this on my blog I will have people to keep me accountable to actually make this happen.

I have a lot of thoughts on the course, but I don't want to give any details until I talk to different parks and see if they would even allow it. If you talk to me, I would be happy to tell you different options and even take you running on them!!

Yes, I started in the plains and got here by foot.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When I grow up I want to be like Pat Chlouber

A lot has happened in this past month since I've written. Instead of trying to write about it all in big post, I'm going to go backwards in a series of three posts. Let's start with what I learned yesterday: When I grow up I want to be like Pat Chlouber.

This weekend, the Leadville Race Series hosted a 50 mile bike race on Saturday and a 50 mile run on Sunday. We had signed up to volunteer so that we could be part of the fun while saving our legs for an upcoming 50k on August 3rd. As the weekend approached we realized that we had overbooked ourselves. We moved to a new apartment on Monday/Tuesday and worked 9-10 hour days the rest of the week and on Saturday. I tried to squeeze a 20 mile run and 15 mile bike ride in before work on Friday and I started getting the sickness that Cory had just fought off.

Nevertheless we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4am on Sunday and our roommate/cousin came along to witness his first ultramarathon. When we arrived at our assigned aid station - the Rock Garden - we were rewarded with amazing views. Mayla frolicked around unleashed as we waited for other volunteers to arrive. Next to drive up the dirt road was Pat Chlouber, full of energy and ready to rock the day. After introducing herself in her southern-tinged accent, she proceeded to feed Mayla half of her croissant. Mayla was in love.

Words to describe Pat: Go-getter, feisty-when necessary, approachable, knows what she wants. The scene at the aid station location was a mess. Apparently no one had cleaned up after the bike race the previous day. Pat gets on her phone and gets things done. Soon people arrive with all of the stuff about 45 minutes before the leader was supposed to arrive. And man, did this woman have vision. The Leadville race series is in her blood. I didn't know much about the Chloubers beyond this video. Watch it, it's pretty great.

Originally from Oklahoma, Pat and her husband, Ken, moved to Denver. They loved it and lived in Lakewood for a while. Eventually they ended up in Leadville and they have been there for a long time. In 1983 Ken co-founded the Leadville 100, coined "The Race Across the Sky." Later in the day, Ken told me that the race had been founded when the town was in bad economic times. As they thought about starting the race, Ken said the only way that he would do it is if the race started and finished in Leadville in order to bring people to the town. If you were to ever meet Ken, you would immediately recognize that he is the kind of guy that does what he wants without caring about what other people think. And I think that's a good thing. Well, Pat's a strong enough woman to match that.

So back to the Rock Garden Aid station. The first runner arrived at the aid station (mile 18) as expected and ran through without stopping. He kept a noticeable lead on the field for the whole race. The first two women, Leila Degrave and Helen Cospolich, rolled through neck-and-neck and the two women were miles ahead of the rest of the field.  Soon larger groups of people started coming in and a few guys wanted to drop out. You should have seen Pat try to convince them to keep going. I'm not sure who said it, if it was Pat or another volunteer, but I quote, "In Ken's opinion it would be better to die out here on the course than to quit."

You get such a different experience from volunteering over racing. When you race, you only get to talk to the people around you, but when you volunteer you get to talk to everyone. The people who roll through saying, "Just water," (people like me); they are no fun. The people that hang out without a care in the world; they are the best.

Take Charles Corfield, for example. In the 50-59 age group I must say that he stuck out like a sore thumb, but not for the reasons you'd expect.When he rolled in at mile 18 inbound in the top 20 he looked so strong and relaxed, but on the way back he somehow managed to look even stronger! After looking at his splits, his last 25 miles were only 10 minutes slower than his first 25 miles! At the aid station Cory offered to fill up his bottle, but he said that he makes his own drink mix combining Gatorade powder with Maltodextrin. I think I'm going to have to try that sometime.
Charles Corfield accepting his award.
Photo: Leadville Race Series

Then there was the French-man. I never got his name, but he was hilarious. He stuck around the aid station inbound for at least 10 minutes talking and joking with people. Asking about the foods, asking about the weather, asking about, well, everything there was to ask about. We pretty much had to kick him out for fear that he was going to go from racer to aid station volunteer, but we looked forward to seeing him again at mile 30.

There were also the flirts. The guys that came in with their pick-up lines planned.  I would ask "What can I get for you?" and they would say something like, "I don't need anything else besides your beautiful smile." It was especially funny when, little did they know, they had a huge, mis-aimed snot-rocket stuck to their face/beard/shirt. And with the hail and torrential downpours that plagued the day, there were a lot of snot-rocket remains stuck to people.

Most notably, though, there was Mike Aish. He won last year and hoped to be a contender at the 100 miler, only to end up with a DNF. Since then, he's had some other great performances, so one would assume he would be attempting to defend his title from last year. Instead he rolls in outbound at mile 30 in about fifth place and stays to talk to us all for 5-10 minutes like there wasn't a race going on at all. It was as if he didn't even notice the three or four people go by. As he stood around drinking an entire can of Coke, he told Cory that he had done 30 miles around Hope Pass the previous day! It seemed he was trying to purely focus on getting some good training in for the 100 miler. Then he went on to pass all of those people and finish in fourth place!

Mike Aish looking fresh at the finish.
Photo: Leadville Race Series

Later in the afternoon as the rain came pouring down, Pat said she had to go. She told me that we had been the perfect volunteers and that if we needed anything Ken was there. She pointed to Ken sitting in the rain on his ATV in a bright yellow plastic poncho and rain pants, saying "He's wearing his mountain canary outfit." It was going to be a fun last few hours.

After the sun finally came out, Ken told me more about the 100 miler and pointed out Hope Pass off in the distance.  He told me that he married Pat when they were teenagers and that it hadn't always been the most romantic love, but that it had been a "great partnership." He told me that he had put Pat through a lot, and when I said that she seems to enjoy Leadville and that she said she escapes to California for warmth in the winters, it became clear that he's just the kind of guy who wants to do more for the people he cares about most.

On a less serious note, Cory talked to him a bit about the history of the 100 miler and Ken said that the first time a runner asked for a comp entry, he thought that that was the most arrogant thing in the world. He talked about runners that were nice and runners that he didn't want to let in because of how he perceived their attitude. Then Cory mentioned that Scott Jurek was planning to do the 100 this year, and Ken definitely had something to say about that! Ken is a cowboy who loves his meat and after reading Scott's book, Ken has a category for vegetarians and vegans. I'll let you fill in the blanks. Somehow from this book Ken also had drawn the conclusion that Scott is a jerk. Cory told him with a chuckle that he had personally met Scott and that he was incredibly nice, but Ken had made up his mind. Scott's got some work to do...

Finally the last few people started coming through. We were out of pretty much everything and these people had one hour to make the cut-off in 4.5 miles.  One younger girl came through and had been struggling through back issues the whole race. She REALLY wanted to keep going but Ken stopped her and said, "There's not a chance in the world that you are going to make it, sweetheart. Even if you were my own daughter I would tell you to call it a day." Somehow instead of consoling her she came came back with the reply, "If a person can walk 3 miles in hour I can make it." We didn't have the heart to tell her that her math didn't add up and I think Ken respected her more for her resolve to go on.

We unceremoniously packed up and went home. I definitely want to run the race next year.

Beautiful view on a stormy day.
Photo: Leadville Race Series