Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Running? (probably more like crawling) the Continental Divide Route

Every now and then something geographically big takes a hold of my mind.  I day dream about it, pore over maps, read about it.  I imagine what the terrain will feel like, and how good it will feel to stop at a stream in the sun to refill water.  Two and a half years ago was the last time such a route took hold of my mind, the Tenmile-Mosquito Traverse in Colorado (a 38 mile ridgeline, of which 28 miles are continuously above 13,000'), and it took up two of the most insane days of my life.

I've found a route to inspire me, but I know next to nothing about it.  It's 110 miles, all of it within a mile of the Continental Divide, mostly ridgeline, mostly off trail with some technical sections (glaciers and miles of Class 4 terrain, possibly some Class 5).  I've been perusing through J. Gordon Edwards' "A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park," which often gives reference to the CDR, but has no description for large sections of it.  And the internet has next to nothing written about this route, which only increases the allure.  I can only assume it goes.

The route starts at Marias Pass and ends at Forum Peak, on the border with Canada, crossing over the summits of 30+ named peaks along the way, including some behemoths (Mt. Jackson, Mt. Gould, Iceberg Peak) and only crosses one road, the Going-to-the-Sun Highway, at Logan Pass.  Along the way, 13 glaciers are skirted or traversed, at least 90 miles of cross country terrain are covered, and no real trail guides the route for more than 2 miles.  In short, this is it.  It's the purest, most aesthetic route across Glacier National Park, and a route that seems mostly forgotten to time (parts of the cross country route are described as being on abandoned trails from the 1950's).

Most of the route isn't a place I'd want to be in during a storm, which adds the challenge of time.  There's a shelter cabin at Gunsight Pass, and a large basin that's traversed west of the Highline Trail, but those (and Logan Pass) are the only places where weather isn't a factor.  Right now I'm not sure if the route is even doable in one go, in a fast style.  Some of the easier ridgeline sections seem navigable at night, but large sections of the route (traversing from Mt. Logan to Gunsight Pass, the Garden Wall, the ridgeline from Ahern Pass to Mt. Kipp) seem like complex terrain.

I've got about half a year before this goes down, and a few months before I can really train for it with some long days in the Bitterroot, but I'm happy to have found something with all the components for a big adventure--a long route with complex terrain, troubling logistics and the uncertainty of whether it's even doable (if someone's done it, they haven't published a report online).

I've been Googling pictures of the route.  It's too beautiful not to try:

Iceberg Peak

The Garden Wall
Definitely scouting this out before I traverse it in the middle of 110 miles
If it doesn't go, the Highline Trail is still within a mile of the divide

Mt. Chapman, near the end of the route

110 miles of this!  GAH!  So crazy.

Another section worth scouting,
the traverse from Mt. Logan to Mt. Jackson (where this picture was taken)

About a third of the way through the route, the Gunsight Pass Shelter

110 miles into the route, Forum Peak, in Canada
Then just down to the lake and a long drive back

The first peak of the route, 4 miles in,
Little Dog Mountain

Some of these pictures seemed intimidating, but then I looked back at pictures from the Ten Mile-Mosquito Traverse, and realized that this is only a slightly more technical, more chossy, more remote, three times longer version of that.  So it won't be that bad.

This section of the traverse really wasn't fun

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nov. 24th to Nov. 27th

Monday, 11/24--Off

Tuesday, 11/25--Intervals w/Run Wild Missoula

3, 2, 1 minute efforts x 3 w/1 min rests btwn intervals, 3 min. btwn sets, ~50 minutes

There was only two of us!  I guess everyone was either traveling or didn't want to run in the rain.  This was a good workout, but I always feel a little flat on Kim Williams.  I had trouble switching to a faster speed for the 1 minute efforts.

Wednesday, 11/26--Pattee Canyon/Maurice loop

303', 20 minutes

Snow!  This was a nice twilight run before dinner, and the snow didn't matter much on most of the route except for one short, steep 100' hill where I almost slid a couple times.  It's beautiful out with the snow.  Hope it sticks!

Thursday, 11/27--Turkey Day 8k, 4th place

nill, 28:49

A great start to Thanksgiving!  I didn't feel that fast, and ran the first mile a little slower than I'd have liked (~5:50), but was able to run a little faster later in the race to secure a solid, but distant 4th.  There were a couple icy spots, and I tried to stick to crunchy snow in the road as opposed to what could possibly be ice.  I wasn't ever really in the front pack, but was close enough to see the battle up front play out.  It's pretty impressive to watch those guys keep rolling out 5:20s on a snowy course!

Vert.=not much, 1:39

Time for a hiatus.  I might try to learn to cross country ski, and do some circuit training, but won't have much of a focus on training for awhile.  The goal is to not run, so that I really, really miss running and am all ready to focus on whatever is in the cards for next year.  It's ugly sweater, eggnog belly time.

Not sure if I'll keep this blog going--it's served its purpose (giving myself an honest look at how I train).  I feel like it's become enough of a habit for me to keep a log on my own without the pressure of any audience, and I'm starting to understand the basics of training.  This has been a good year for speed--set PRs in everything from 400 meters to the marathon (which are the only PRs I care about--I need to run in the mountains if running more than a marathon).  Good year of training!  Looking forward to some mindful rest!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nov. 17th to Nov. 23rd

Monday, 11/17--Off

Tuesday, 11/18--Intervals w/Run Wild Missoula

4 x 5 min. @ 10k pace w/2:30 rests, ~50 minutes w/warm up and cool down

Fartleks always seem to feel harder than they should.  We were running roughly 6 min/mile pace, but it felt like 5:40s.  I suppose its running in the dark, or on very slight inclines.  It's definitely a good work out.

Wednesday, 11/19--University Mt.

3,455', 1:38

I felt really good today.  In fact, I summitted South Sentinel in under 29 minutes, which almost matches my tempo effort, but the effort felt moderate.  I think it was the warmer temps/running with less weight in clothes that made me kind of fast today.  Conditions were better on University, hit the summit in 57 minutes and snapped some pictures.  Such a beautiful day.  Went at a good but slightly leisurely clip back home.

Thursday, 11/20--South Sentinel

1,850', 43 minutes

This was a little more purposefully fast, but not quite tempo effort.  Summit in under 28 minutes, down in under 16.  This felt pretty good, but I'm still having trouble knowing when to trust the snow and when not to on the downhill.  I took the shortcut, my rationale being since the ground is snow covered I'm not actually creating a trail.  It's a flawed rationale, but I really love that shortcut.

Friday, 11/21--South Sentinel to Fire Road and back

2,950', 1:12

A moderate effort on some steep stuff today.  The snow made for a couple tricky sections on the descent to the Fire Road, but I was surprised at how runnable it was.  I think the descent back home was a little faster today--getting used to this slippery compact snow thing.

Saturday, 11/22--South Sentinel to Fire Road, Sentinel Gulch to Summit and back

4,193', 1:45

This week has just felt goood!  I think it's the cooler temps combined with the lower volume of running (I expected this workout to be 10 minutes longer).  It was a bit windy, with a very slight bit of rain--the only super windy part was Pengelly Ridge.  Muddy trails today.

Sunday, 11/23--University Mt.

3,455', 1:47

Icy!  Once I got past South Sentinel summit, the rest of the trip was more icy than expected (spikes-worthy).  I made it, but it was a little slow going, with some x-country bits to avoid the icier trail.  Beautiful day--light snow falling on University summit.

15,903', 7:55

This has been my most vert. in a week in just over a month!  I'm taking a short hiatus soon, and the snow's coming, so I suppose I was a little vert. happy this week.  I've never done this much anywhere near this late in the year.  Good week!

These are my hill shoes.  Wear in the back, wear in the front, not much in the middle.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nov. 10th to Nov. 16th

Monday, 11/10--Off

Tuesday, 11/11--Intervals w/Run Wild Missoula

3 min. @ 5k pace x 6 w/1 min. rests, ~50 min. with warm up and cool down

This was the first cold (below 20 degrees) workout of the year, with temps hovering around 10.  I felt a little flat, running about 6 min. pace efforts, but didn't feel like pushing it.  Only three of us made it out this week!

Wednesday, 11/12--South Sentinel plus a bit extra

2,189, 1:04

I had originally planned on running up to University, but realized that may have been a bad idea considering the conditions (windy, cold, and I woke up with a slightly congested throat).  So I went back home after running down towards the saddle a ways, and indulged in hot chocolate.  Temps were about 10 in the mountains, but well below zero with windchill.  My buff started to freeze solid.

Thursday, 11/13--South Sentinel

1,850', 50 minutes

An easy run up and down the hill.  Temps were about the same as yesterday, but no wind on the ridge, so I felt way overdressed.  Legs felt okay, not great.  I still have a bit of a cold, so pushing myself and breathing hard, especially in cold weather, doesn't seem great.

Friday, 11/14--South Sentinel

1,850', 48 minutes

Legs felt good today, and my cold is nearly gone.  This was quicker than usual because I was trying to squeeze it in before an afternoon class.

Saturday, 11/15--University Mt. via Pengelly

3,455', 1:56

Wow.  Today was gorgeous.  I took it pretty easy and took quite a few pictures along the way.  It was a little rough going up University, with several inches of soft snow still lingering.  This was really fun to run down.  I didn't see anyone except for on the Fire Road and Pengelly.

Sunday, 11/16--Up South Sentinel, Down Sentinel & Back

4,144', 1:59

A nice easy long run with some decent vert.  I had to take it pretty slow going down Sentinel, since I'm still getting used to snow running.  Nice to see quite a few people still out taking advantage of the trails.  Temps around 20 degrees.

13,488', 7:27

The first cold week of the fall.  I don't really have anything big in my schedule, so now it's kind of just about staying in shape.  I haven't ever been running this much vertical this late in the year.  The trails may get snowed in for real soon, so it's best to take advantage of them now.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nov. 3rd to Nov. 9th

Monday, 11/3--Off

Tuesday, 11/4--Intervals w/Run Wild Missoula

Fartleks @ 5k pace, 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1 minute efforts, ~50 minutes w/warmup and cool down

I'm still recovering from MT Cup, but it actually felt good to get on some asphalt for the first time in a while.  I'm glad to have some folks right on my tail and Forrest to chase--that guy is fast!  I've no idea on my pace.

Wednesday, 11/5--Exploring Obscurity in the Sapphires

3,778', 1:45

After getting a good hill in (S. Sentinel), I decided to check out a trail I'd always noticed but never been on, on the north aspect of Sentinel.  It turns out it was a game trail, and it turns out that it ends (or, rather, I felt disinclined to continue on) at a steep chute with a bunch of downed trees.  Not runnable terrain.  I also ran up the easy way going up Sentinel for the first time (I'd only run down in the past).  It feels a lot steeper going up than going down.  Legs felt better, still sore.

Thursday, 11/6--Route Scouting

3,199', 1:32

I worked out a few shortcuts for Saturday's adventure/poker race.  Yeah, the shortcuts involve off trail travel, but at the same time I feel like I learn more about mountains and hills when going off the trail.  Is the damage I do worth the experience?  Probably not, for a short answer.  I don't want to get into a tangential debate with myself here, though.

Friday, 11/7--More Scouting

1,164', 52 minutes

Went up to familiarize myself with some trails in the Pattee Canyon area.  I was able to work out one more, significant shortcut for tomorrow's course.  Should be fun!

Saturday, 11/8--Phall Phatty Phringe

5,059', 2:49

I won the Shellac Gourd!  Woohoo!  This was a really fun event, complete with a potluck and a prize raffle (anyone want an XL Lady's Big Sky t-shirt?).  I stayed near the back of the pack at the beginning, and went the least traveled way (via shortcut to Crazy Canyon) with Jimmy Grant.  We ran the rest of the route together, improvising based on where we thought other runners had gone.  This is kind of an unusual race--6 decks of cards were placed out in the mountains, and runners had to come back with the best poker hand.  Ties were broken by the fastest time.  There was some off trail stuff, a good bit of road running, some steep trail, mellow trail--a bit of everything.  Jimmy and I came in together as the first who had gone to all 6 points, both with a royal flush.  He let me have the gourd, since he had collected last year's gourd (would anyone want two of those?).  Run went well, but running downhill on pavement put a toll on the quads--I was surprised to get some 6 minute miles in on the roads.  This is the last hurrah of trail running for Montana.  Excited for the film fest tonight!

Sunday, 11/9--South Sentinel

1,874', 52 minutes

After staying up till 2 AM, I felt kind of groggy in the morning.  I finally made it out the door just before noon, but felt kind of awful--not used to nights out.  I cut the workout short, just settling for an easy up and down on the same old hill.  Snow should be coming tonight!

15,074, 8:40

With the coming storm, it's unlikely I'll get this much time or vert. in a week for the rest of the year.  Feeling ready to settle down and recoup for awhile, maybe focus a bit more on speed, but a lot more on studying.  Saturday was the most fun I've had in awhile, maybe since The Rut.  I've heard talk of a chocolate milk mile that may be going down this next week--it's that time of the year now where running becomes more goofy than usual, because it takes goofs to run through the winter.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Oct. 27th to Nov. 2nd

Monday, 10/27--Off

Tuesday, 10/28--Hill Intervals w/Run Wild Missoula

~500' (guessing), 50 minutes

Ran three different sets of hills, 3x each.  This workout hurt, but not quite as much as the hill intervals two weeks ago, and definitely not as much as the Sentinel Hill Climb.  I felt pretty good, and remained consistent throughout the workout, but there are a few guys who come to the workouts that I just can't touch on the short stuff (less than a mile).

Wednesday, 10/29--Crooked Canyon-Crazy Canyon-Sentinel-Fire Road loop

2,215', 1:26

Moderate pace, flatter running.  I stuck mostly to the mellowest grades I could make a loop out of in the Sapphires, running down Sentinel the least steep way, and running down MO-Z at the end.  It's been awhile since I've done a longish run with much turnover.  Legs felt a little wonky running on so much flat, but not too bad.  Saturday's race will be flat and fast, but I'm crossing my fingers that it's closer to 8k than 5k (won't know until race day).

Thursday, 10/30--Pengelly to Sentinel, back via Fire Road

2,179', 1:11

A moderate run on a beautiful day.  Running down Sentinel, I came pretty close to a large buck climbing out of Sentinel Gulch, and stopped to watch it for a bit.  It came up to the trail, and stood there for several seconds before continuing its ascent.  I love having this backyard!  Run felt good, getting more used to flat terrain.

Friday, 10/31--Pattee/Maurice/South Ave. Loop

303', 19 minutes

An easy quick run, same as last week.  I ran fast on the pavement just so I could get back to grass and dirt.  Looking forward to tomorrow!

Saturday, 11/1--Montana Cup!, 36th place? (not sure, since unattached, collegiate runners aren't listed)

6k, 21:23

This isn't my forte, but I was happy with the results.  I ran a stronger race than last year's Montana Cup on less favorable conditions (flat, shorter distance).  It's amazing that we can have a race with this kind of depth mostly on the basis of regional pride and bragging rights.  Missoula had a strong men's open team, and I was mostly just trying to stay with some of the Missoula middle pack--it didn't seem like we'd have a chance at losing.  There were three guys that passed me in the last minute, which was a disappointment.  I still don't know how to put in a good kick.  I slowed in the last third, but came out averaging about 5:45 miles.  That's speedy for me, especially on cross-country terrain.  Missed my goal of top 30 by 7 seconds (so close!).

Sunday, 11/2--Blue Mt. w/Jimmy Grant

3,716', 3:17

It's amazing how 21 minutes of hard running can make the body so sore the next day.  It took a little while to wake up, since the run began just after 6 am, but it was great to get up into the snow!  This was my longest run since The Bear, roughly 20 miles.  For the last half hour or so I felt pretty worked.  Racing yesterday was the hardest I've ever run.

8,913', 7:24

This week didn't have much vert., but I feel like it exhausted me more.  Working on turnover takes far more effort for me than powerhiking a steep hill.  I felt good about MT Cup, but it makes me want to work on speed more.  I finally ran a sub 18 minute 5k partway through the race, but I'm sure I'll be able to go faster per mile at my next road race, probably the Turkey Day 8k--it'd be nice to get 27:xx there.  Feeling sore.

Fresh tracks at sunrise

Plus some photos from last week's hill climb

Photo credits Myke Hermsmeyer

Fighting Dan Mazza off all the way to the end

A small but deep field--Nearly half the field ran at sub-6 minute pace

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oct. 20th to Oct. 26th

Monday, 10/20--Off

Tuesday, 10/21--Mt. Sentinel Tempo Run

1,906', 38 minutes

This felt a bit like mountain running!  Rainy, foggy weather, cool temps and some mud.  Mud is really fun when you haven't been running for 20+ hours.  It did, however, make for a slow descent.  Splits were about 24 minutes to the top, and 14 back down.

Wednesday, 10/22--South Sentinel to Evans St. and back

3,760', 1:35

This was a little bit faster than last week, at a moderate pace.  I felt pretty good, but the sun was getting to me.  I pushed more on the uphills, and cruised the downhills.  Beautiful colors out right now!

Thursday, 10/23--South Sentinel to Fire Road and back

2,950', 1:15

Very light rain and cloudy skies, perfect running weather.  It was just a tad cold on the downhills.  I took the downhills pretty easy again, but held a moderate pace on the uphills.  Good day.

Friday, 10/24--Up to Glacial Lake Missoula Marker and back

1,016', 27 minutes

A quick run in between classes.  About 17 minutes up, 10 minutes down at a good-but-not-all-out effort.  Strange thing I noticed: the pumpkin was gone yesterday, but now it's back.  Maybe it was just knocked down and someone set it back up.  I'll continue to monitor.

Saturday, 10/25--Pattee Creek/Maurice Road Loop

303', 20 minutes

An easy run on some gentle terrain, getting a little bit of everything in except for steep or techy terrain.  Feeling rested.

Sunday, 10/26--Sentinel Hill Climb (7th place, 22:40) + Smokejumper

1,934', ~1:00 (stopped my watch at the summit)

That hurt.  My lungs took more of a toll than my legs, and I had an okay race, catching several guys between the M and the summit, but was pushed really hard at the end by Dan Mazza, managing to stay just over a second ahead of him at the finish.  I was hoping for sub-22, but ended up with 22:40, which I'll take.  It's only a 6 second PR from trailhead to summit, but a 90 second PR on the race course (it's faster to go to the left and avoid the switchbacks).  I didn't really feel good after the finish until I started running down Smokejumper with a bunch of folks (Steve Brown, KT, Nicole Hunt, and a few others).

Jumbo to Woods Gulch to the Neighborhoods w/Nicole and Scott

2,729', 1:53

This was a long cool down through a bit of rain and wind.  It's really nice to get out running with new people.  I also managed to see some new trails, and part of the Elk Ramble course which is in less than two weeks.  Hamstrings felt a little sore from the race.

14,598', 7:08

A winding down week.  This is the first of three straight weeks of racing (all short races), and I felt good about resting enough and racing well.  Besides The Bear, I've still only been passed by one person this year (Andrew Miller), but had some trouble holding off Mazza at the end of the hill climb.  Next weekend's race sounds like it could be pretty tactical, even to get in the top 30 (my goal), so hopefully I can keep my streak of not getting passed.  These short races take more strategy for me, since I'm not very fast.