A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Monday, June 10, 2013

5K: 3rd Place…Female Division

It was the Drop Your Drawers 5K, raising money for underwear for underprivileged kids. The course was 0.10 miles short, which was was unfortunate as I was on pace for a personal record. All this means, besides personal satisfaction, is that I was wheezing, limping, and drooling on myself, all the while constantly hitting next on my iPod to find the perfect song to distract myself. It was all worthwhile though, compliments of the gender confusion inherent with the name Sandy, I took third place in the female division.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yard Happenings

Gardening is easy, when you have access to lots of running water. I recognize that Denver’s climate, if not supplemented, would provide enough rain to cover the land in tough, brown grasses. Compliments of Denver Water and high water bill, we have a bevy of vegetables.

Members of the squash family have taken over the front yard. Vines snake across the yard and front porch, and will likely circumnavigate the fence line before the growing season is done.


Unknown squash. It looks like an acorn squash, but we did not plant them.


A green pumpkin, with its orange hue beginning to show.

Tomatoes and Thai basil are the success stories in the backyard. These two are shading out beets, carrot, and onions, but given our love of tomatoes and basil, this slow motion shadow induced suffocation is welcome.


And occasionally, a surprise, beyond the usual weeds, leaps forth. In this case, a stinkhorn mushroom. Phallic and malodorous, they are delicate and fade quickly beneath the summer sun.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thundering Herd of Testicles

In a stunning display of self-propelled motivation, Alan, Brandon, the Texan, Stam, Brody, and me ran the Wild West Relay. A 198-mile run across high plains and mountain passes, from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs, via Wyoming. It was the first relay for any of us.

Our team, the Thundering Herd of Testicles, was but a drop in the bucket of sexually charged names. The roster read like the mutterings of a 15-year old boy: Tits in the Wind, Whiskey Dicks, and Rammin’ it up the Pass, being amongst those lacking in subtlety.

The Texan and I thought it prudent to carb-load the night before, which was achieved with the assistance of Tecate. So with 1/3 of the team suffering a lack of sleep, dehydration, and a touch of nausea, sometimes referred to as a hangover, Stam toed the start line at 6 AM and we were off.


We were an “ultra” team, meaning no more than six runners, with each of us running legs ranging from 29-37 miles. A typical leg looks like this:

  • Runner departs
  • Drive past in the van 20 minutes later playing this
  • Wait at exchange area for runner
  • Runner arrives
  • Baton exchanged
  • Runner departs, and repeat until Steamboat Springs

An inordinate amount of time is spent in the vehicle, a 12-passenger van, rented, with maximum insurance coverage given what we knew would be a tired state. Within minutes it was awash in water bottles, running shoes, snacks, and odor, as though a river of locker room detritus had been deposited amidst the bench seats.


Energy was high in the morning amongst all teams. Lots of music, people throwing footballs at the exchanges, and a casual camaraderie at the exchanges. Like the arc of daylight, this intensity peaked mid-afternoon and then slowly receded.

Running through the night, over mountains (thanks to Stam and Alan) and across high plains beneath a full moon, was a surreal experience. The slow pace and lack of distraction quieted the mind, especially when coupled with fatigue. Sleeping in the van was a challenge, in fact, I am not sure Alan even slept. Mid-night exchanges were hushed affairs and the sun an eventual welcome sight with which to sync our body clocks.

The finish seemed inconsequential compared to what we did. Over 30 hours of running that ceased with the crossing of the line. The team crossed together, laughing and cheering as we once again, in a stadium announcer voice, we heard our team name called: and coming in now is the “Thuuuunderingggg Herd of Testicles”.




Brody reacts to a botched exchange. On a 30 hour run this 4 second delay proves inconsequential.


Alan fading from view on a leg that featured 1,800 feet of climbing.


Brandon running a downhill at such speed that we almost did not catch him before the exchange. Look close, he does not touch the ground when he runs.


That is me tying my shoe. I suffered a foot injury weeks before and was nervous about how I would hold up. Swapping out insoles made a huge difference. 


Brody heading out on his 3rd leg. With the sunset to his left and an empty road he cruised the centerline amidst the towering silence of southern of Wyoming.


The Texan and I handing off. This was my 5th leg and I was dragging through the first half. On the second half the sunrise was accompanied by a song that I listened to a lot while running off the misery of divorce and it struck a chord. The realization of all that I have, including the health to spend 2 days with friends in pursuit of the asinine, replete with laughter and support, had me in tears. Rather than being heavy, I was lightened, and although I cannot claim to have suddenly been running 7 minute miles, I could not stop smiling as I loped through the high plains.


Stam and Brody reading up on the next leg


Stam cheering on a fellow runner


Alan, the team captain, running the numbers.


Things get intimate


Alan and Brandon exchanging atop a brutal climb. We watched a rubber-legged runner suffering from heat exhaustion nearly collapse into her teammates’ arms here.


A hummingbird at the Red Feather Lakes Village General Store.


Stam, a hill climbing machine, cruising Forest Service land


Foot numbing mountain stream soak


Stam grabbing a rest in the long shadows of the afternoon


The Texan tiptoes across a cattle guard at the Colorado and Wyoming border.


The “Turtles” and their irreverent hood ornament


It looks like a pending proposal as the Texan and Brody exchange.


The Texan and I grabbed showers and soup at a local high school. Runners were sleeping in the halls and the gym, it looked like an athletic refugee camp.


The final exchange, Brody is 5 miles of circuitous and sun soaked glory from the finish line.


Foot maintenance.


The Texan and Alan doing some post-race wallerin’ in the Yampa River.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sand Creek 1/2 Marathon–the long and short of it

Aleka and I ran the Sand Creek Half this morning. In its inaugural year, this race supports the Bluff Lake Nature Center with a course that wends its way along two creeks near Stapleton. Being a mid-summer run, a 7 AM start time helps beat the heat, so with the sun already surprisingly high in the eastern sky, the start gun went off.

The first half, a simple out and back, passed without incident and I was pleased by my 8:30 pace given the previous day’s 5 miler. The second half, since the race was constrained by residential development, involved a series of loops in and out of the Nature Center. Here is where things went awry. Signage was inadequate and poorly written, I am still note sure what Loop 2 Bypass means, and race officials were offering inconsistent direction.

Operator error is of course what comes to mind, and trust me, I had plenty of time to dwell on that as I was misdirected onto an additional 1.1 mile loop. I spent 9 minutes wishing a pox upon the course official and curious how many other people scored a bonus loop. That will likely never be known, but the other problem I learned of, misdirection shortening the course. Aleka was directed away from a loop and finished having run only 11.6 miles.

This was the sole topic of conversation at the finish area, with the race director apologizing for the confusion. I was beat from my run and Aleka was letdown to have not run a half, so she fired off 1.5 miles upon getting home, showing a degree of dedication I do not possess.


Post-run recovery, buttermilk fried chicken, bacon, cheese and eggs, lovingly smothered beneath a pork gravy


Bloody Mary to restore sodium levels

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Little Bear,Blanca, and Ellingwood

  • Distance: ~13.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: ~7,300
  • Start time: 3:20 AM
  • Finish Time: 5:00 PM
  • Climbers: Alan and Sandy
With highs creeping into the triple digits and Front Range ensconced in the smoke of wildfires Alan and I headed south, seeking refuge amidst the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
This year has lacked big mountain days. Those days with pre-dawn starts, blisters, a huge caloric deficit, and a lot of time above treeline. After bouncing a few miles up one of Colorado’s worst roads, a brief sleep, and an alarm that went off at 2:55 AM, that dearth halted.

We got 4 miles up this road. It took an hour.

An orange sun peering through the haze, including wildfire smoke, in the San Luis Valley
Little Bear Peak is much maligned, all because of the “Hourglass”, a narrow 45 degree climb that funnels rockfall. It can be a shooting gallery if careless climbers are above you. Alan and I avoided the situation with the early start, putting us on top before any other party.
Alan at the base of the Hourglass.
Me, following up.
Skylined, with the San Luis Valley in the background.
There is a traverse along a narrow ridge between Little Bear and Blanca. We had thought about doing it. Alan was up for it. Me? I took one look and said “no”. With narrow catwalks perched 1,000 feet above the valley

The traverse between Little Bear and Blanca
Summit shot
Since we did not do the traverse we had to backtrack and drop ~2,500 vertical feet to the valley floor to pickup the standard route for Blanca and Ellingwood
Headed upvalley, we climbed the headwall left of the waterfall
Alan atop Blanca with Little Bear in the background
Me with Little Bear in the background
It was a brief descent and ascent to pick up Ellingwood, which is connected via a sinuous ridge. From Blanca, Ellingwood appeared a loose pile of choss. Nothing more than granite tiles stacked upon one another, waiting to slide to the valley floor with a hapless hiker facing a quick ride and a quicker stop. Upon closer inspection the trail was obvious and lacking in the perceived danger from afar. We descended different routes, with Alan staying on the ridge proper and me dropping into a couloir, but both eventually meeting on the valley floor.
Alpine tarn with tumbling snowfield
All told, the day totaled over 7,000 feet in elevation, a personal best. It was felt on the hike out, in which every step forward fired nerves letting you know that feet hurt and quadriceps were overtaxed. The ride home featured pizza and fatigue, not necessarily in that order.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Post-Work 14er

Alan and I went from climbing 14ers every weekend last summer to both being booked and having to schedule stuff months in advance this summer. One workaround, and a cure for mid-week mental doldrums, the Wednesday climb. It is all quite simple, by following these steps:

  • Pick something within a 90 minute drive
  • Leave town no later 4 PM, confident that afternoon storms have passed through the high country
  • Pack light and be walking within minutes of hitting the trailhead
  • Begin the race between muscular endurance and sunlight, carrying a headlamp to hedge the bet

We took this approach to Mt Bierstadt, a short 14er and a good test piece for the feasibility of mid-week climbs. Greeted by dramatic skies and occasional sunshine punching through a low cloud cover to illuminate the alpine, we pushed non-stop to the top.


A few hundred feet below the summit, and seemingly the clouds


Viewshed cleaved by shadow


The view from the parking lot, 2.5 hours after we began.

My mental well-being is inextricably tied to my physical endeavors. A run, a ride, or hike clears cobwebs through awareness of the moment. While inevitably a rare occurrence, the mid-week climb will certainly remain on the to do list for the remainder of the summer, as the benefits last well beyond the moments of movement.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Dog’s Bath – In Pictures

Aleka’s dog, Barley, per the norm, does not like baths. Usually mild mannered, he barks and growls, and will twist about to bite the water source, all the while shaking himself to dry off. Knowing this, we don flip flops, old shirts, and heavy aprons, as we will be in the splash zone the entire time.


Looking pleased with the situation.


Doing surprisingly well.


Anxiety creeping in.


Sad eyes.


Flight urge.


Wishing us painful deaths.


Back on the street and completely unfazed