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Monday, December 24, 2012

Arbaney-Kittle

Last April AJW wrote a story for irunfar where he made the definitive claim, "...there is nothing like the Daily Constitutional."  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Jones-Wilkins.  The Daily Constitutional is the staple of my running diet, the constant source of my fitness and trail running pleasure.  My Daily Constitutional, winter and summer, is the Arbaney-Kittle trail outside of Basalt, Colorado.  For me, it is the perfect trail. It's steep enough to provide a serious training benefit, close enough to run from my door, quick enough for an after work jaunt, or long enough (summer only) for an hours long adventure, but most importantly, it offers outstanding vistas and an instant escape into the wild.  The trail follows a historic ranching road and pack trail, climbs 2000 feet in elevation at its highest point, and traverses nearly 20 miles.  I love the trail year round, but in the winter, when nearly all other local trails are buried in the fluffy white, a portion of the trail remains runnable, making it one of the few ways to trounce through the local wilderness.  I am blessed to have it out my back door.  

In an attempt to hasten, "Operation Get Zeke Fit Again," I decided to hit Arbaney for the first time in a few months.  To this end I chose my friend and training partner Jeremy Duncan to chase up the hill.  Jeremy is an excellent hill climber, sincere friend, fellow teller of bad jokes, and all around fun guy to run with.  Jogging from the house we eased our way to the trailhead along a snow covered bike path.  This provided a nice two mile warn-up to the trail's start.  I cherished this mellow section as I knew the ensuing climb would be painful.  Talking casually we slogged along under bluebird Colorado skies and soon arrived at the Arbaney-Kittle Trailhead. 



   Jeremy Duncan at the Trailhead 

The climb up Arbaney-Kittle is not terribly long or technical, but it is pretty darn steep.  The pitch of the trail immediately angles upward from the trailhead and there is little reprieve until you top out.  Once, as I labored up Arbaney, I bumped into fellow Basalt resident, Ron Lund.  Ron is a longtime runner, coach, and the father of accomplished trail runner, Megan Lizotte.  I told Ron that I was trying to to, "take it easy," but I was have little success at this goal.  He accurately declared, "you can go slow up Arbaney, but you can't go easy!"  This is one of the reasons Arbaney is such a great trail; it's hard.  

I chose to use Yaktraxs on my shoes for added traction, and since Jeremy didn't have any, I thought that a little extra gripping advantage would help me stay with him.  That proved to be wishful thinking for as soon as we started to climb Jeremy slipped away.  In the end, it always comes down to fitness and Jer is fit.  Not to worry, for the day was glorious and I was out moving in the crisp air, under the radiant sun.  So who cared that I could barely lift my legs, as my weak hip flexors struggled to flex my hips, or that my calves were on fire just minutes into the climb.  I was running my Daily Constitution and I was lov'in it,  regardless of the fact that my body was screaming at me to stop.  Sweat poured off my brow and I wore my sunglasses at the tip of my nose so that they would not fog up.  Finally, I saw Jeremy waiting for me at the main trun-around point.  I thought perhaps we too would turn here, but it was not to be.  We climbed one more switchback to do the lollipop extension, and it was worth the extra effort.  The views of the Elk Range at the apex of this added loop are outstanding and every time I go there I am filled with gratitude for the life I have.  
Mt. Sopris Shrouded in Clouds 


Jeremy with Basalt Mt. in the Background


Looking at the Elk Range


The Final Ascent

Jeremy was kind enough to tell me some excellent bad jokes before he disappeared on the descent.  My favorite was, "Why did the one handed man go to the thrift shop?  Cause he heard it was a second hand store."  Arbaney is my Daily Constitutional. Arbaney provided the descents to condition my downhill legs for Western and the climbs to prep me for Hope Pass, but mostly it provides me with happiness.    

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Inertia

     The beginning of Newton's first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest...unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.  This law of nature holds true for me as a runner.  Upon launching this blog, I pledged my desire to run for running's sake, forsaking all racing in the coming year.  Hoping to find my inner kid by running like one, I embarked on a non-regimented training regime.  However, instead of finding the freedom I desired, I found an excuse for lethargy.  And just like Newton's law, once I was at rest, I stayed at rest.  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of runs I've been on since my last race, the Run Rabbit Run 50 Mile in mid September.  Without a clear goal I found it hard to conjure the motivation to lace them up and get out the door.

     New to the blogosphere, I had the natural inclination to see what others thought of my initial post.  In surfing around, I found this comment apropos; "I do that [run without a plan] for about three months a year, gain 20lbs.  Then get the itch to be structured again."  I've done my three months, gained my 20lbs, and I feel the itch for a structured goal.  But, a commitment is a commitment, and this year I am committed to not being committed to anything structured.  So where was I to find my "unbalanced force" to knock me into action, if not from a prospective race?  Well, as ironic as it may seem for a trail runner to admit, my catalyst arrived last night in a gigantic box.  To the utter horror of my good friend and U.S. nordic god, Noah Hoffman, yes, this mountain boy and logger off countless single track miles has purchased a treadmill!

     Yesterday when I returned from work, I peered into the garage to find my wife and good friend Lucas discussing the fact that I continue to eat like I am running 120 miles a week, when in actuality, I run closer to zero miles a week.  Laughing at my putrid state of fitness they pieced together our new "Freemotion 730" treadmill.  Aptly named, this machine might really have the power to free me from my current state of sloth.  Being the father of a two year old, while working a demanding teaching job, and commuting nearly 50 miles a day, leaves few daylight hours to run.  And since I am not a huge fan of hitting the icy sidewalks with the headlamp in the wee hours of the morn or the waning hours of the eve, I find myself in a daily predicament; when am I to run?  Lately my solution to this problem has been  simple...don't run.  Enter the treadmill, my ticket to running freedom.


      Now that my excuses have evaporated, and my belly has grown to Santa sized, I am sufficiently ready to embark on my unstructured training program.  The treadmill will always play second fiddle to the trails, but no longer can I justify watching "Friends" reruns over running.  Now I can get my "Friends" fix while I increase my VO2 Max! I love to run the snowy trails of the area ski mountains, or the packed powder winter trail loops, and I don't even mind running the bike paths and back roads through the winter season, but it is my new treadmill that has liberated my running for the moment.  Let's hope that since I have commenced motion, the second half of Newton's law will ring true, and this object in motion, will stay in motion.

   

Monday, November 19, 2012

Running

Running.  It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Like all carefree kids I ran to play the games of my youth, but running was also a game in and of itself.  I lived on a sage studded hillside near Snowmass, Colorado known as Brush Creek.  This meant that a mile long course of scrub oaks and shale bluffs lay between my house and the school bus stop.  What could be more fun than ripping down the hill each day, hurdling the sage brush, blasting through the snow, swinging around Aspen trees while pretending to be some super-rad-pro-racer guy!  I was racing fictitious competitors, and I was racing myself.  I never wore a watch, but I did show up bloody to my first period class once, only to be sent home with a mild concussion from a less than graceful tumble onto an unforgiving rock.   Mishaps like this failed to slow down my thirst for running.  I ran because I could.  I ran because it felt good.  Running fed my soul and made me feel free.  Most of all running put my mind in a beautiful space.  I ran because it brought me joy.

Since those youthful days running has continued to play a major role in my life.  Around my ninth birthday I discovered that not only did I like running, but I also had a talent for it.  I ran a local 5K and won my age group.  Unknowingly, running had shifted from pure joyous play to something different...competition.  I had always been competitive, but now I had found something that I could beat most kids my age at, and that fed my developing ego, giving running a new purpose in my life.  I liked winning, so I slowly turned my attention toward that end.  I became a state champion in high school and an all-American in college.  I dedicated much of what I did, and a large part of who I was to running.  If you asked me about myself, surely, one the first things out of my mouth would have been, "I am a runner".  I was still running because I loved to run, but now I was also running because it defined who I was.

Eventually injury struck and derailed my efforts to earn a marathon trials qualifying mark for the 2000 trials.  I had weathered many setbacks throughout my college career, but this blow proved more significant.  I had defined myself as a runner and now I couldn't run.  Who was I then?  Unable to really answer this question, I stepped away from competition and began coaching.  On one level this meant that I was giving back to the sport, but I was still intensely competitive and began to measure myself by the achievements of my athletes.  Eventually I stepped away from coaching and running altogether, entering a dark period of my life where I made some poor life decisions.  Running had always been a part of my life, and in its absence I struggled to understand who I was and how to find happiness.

However, running loomed in the background, always beckoning me to rediscover its magic.  In 2007, after a couple of years of no running whatsoever, I did just that.  I made the audacious decision to run the Leadville 100.  I gave myself a two year timeframe to complete the goal and I laced up my shoes and ran.  I had to walk the final part of that first run, a 5K loop, but running was again a part of my life and I felt reinvigorated.  Since my return to running, I have successfully completed every one of the ultras I have started, including four 100 mile races.  This season was particularly successful, with a sub sixteen hour run at the fabled Western States 100 and a runner-up finish at the Leadville 100 in a time good enough for the fourth fastest on the all time list.  Running, particularly running ultra-marathons, helped lead me away from my place of despair and propelled me to amazing heights.  When I was a kid I had run for the pure joy of running, and while that still exists today in my running, I worried that I had reverted to that same one dimensional person solely defined by my running exploits.  Who is Zeke Tiernan when you shed the running accolades?

With this in mind, I made the decision to bring my running back to its roots.  In 2013 I will not: run any races, wear a watch, keep any kind of running log, or plan any workouts.  However, I will: jump lots of sage brush, splash in many a stream, glissade as much as possible, and only run when I feel like it.  I want to run for running's sake.  I have paid lip service to this idea for years, but when I am truly honest, I run for the competition as much as anything else.  I want to be the little kid on the trails, not the serious athlete.  Running has the potential to make me a better person, not through winning the Leadville 100, like my ego craves, but through rediscovering running.  I want to run because I can.  I want to run because it feels good.  Running feeds my soul and makes me feel free.  Most of all running puts my mind in a beautiful space.   I am going to run because it brings me joy!