Friday, March 20, 2009

Bear Peak RT <1 hour RT

This winter I'd been up Bear Peak two or three times per week, and almost daily in December with Kevin and Nico, and I'd been thinking that this would be entirely possible to hit Bear Peak and back to a trailhead in less than one hour. I'd tempo run it in 42 minutes from trail head to summit recently without too much effort, so I reckoned that I could get under 40 minutes pretty easily on the ascent. If that were the case I would need a sub 20 minute descent back to the TH, which also was reasonable.

I had a stomach bug last week from Ava, so I pulled an unplanned taper for a few days. After one harder run earlier this week I took another mellow 2 days to get my legs back under me and on Weds am felt great. For a week, Bill Hanson and I have been working on this mini-mackumentary about my upcoming Western States run, so we shot about 15 minutes of me jogging in the morning as my warmup. I didnt plan on running Bear peak that day, but felt so refreshed that morning I decided to time trial the peak in the afternoon with no real expectation of trying the sub 1 hour RT.

After a few hours at the library working on my microbiology class, I took a lunchbreak and headed over to the Cragmoor trailhead, jogged for 5 minutes, took a leak in the trees, then hit the start at the signpost and headed up! I decided to see how I felt at the summit before I committed to racing the downhill for the sub 1 hour RT.
The Cragmoor TH is the start and finish of Bill Wright's Fall Flatirons scramble of the Slab, so I'd been used to time trialing this trail before and knew how to pace up to the Slab (which is located where the Shanahan trail dips down to hit the Fern Canyon trail). I knew I couldn't go out too fast as the real "race" starts up at the Nebel Horn Saddle, much like the Pikes Peak ascent doesn't really start until A frame 3 miles below the summit.
I hit the top of the stairs where the trail joins the Shanahan trail in 2:41 and liked my conservative paced thus far. It was cool out but plenty warm, so after ditching my shirt under the Shanahan power lines to be picked up on the return, I kept on. At the Mesa Trail I was at 9:43, almost a minute slower than when we run the Slab race in the fall. I hit the Slab in 13:00(or so..I forgot this split)I thought I should start to pick up the pace as I felt very comfortable so as the trail dropped quickly down 60 feet into the ditch by the north side of the Slab and I used this drop to pick up momentum on the uphill on the other side. I hit the Fern Canyon trail post at 15:07, and reached the top of the first rockclimb/top of first steep steps (where Jeff and Allison almost got clobbered by ice this winter) in 18:41. The ascent to the Nebel Horn saddle felt good like I wasn't curshing myself, and I passed a few hikers coming down and a couple who were sitting in the trail eating. Of course they displayed amazement at running this trail, by saying "wow" and "nice work", but this is Boulder of course where we basically do this before breakfast every day.
I reached the saddle at 24:26 and decided to ramp it up from there to about %95 effort level to the summit. I power hiked a good part of the way on the lower steep slopes above the saddle as this is the steepest part of the whole climb and it felt more efficient than running, and this section only lasts about 250 feet. The angle eased off a bit and I was able to run/power hike alternately til the trail pops out on the ridge and I ran most of it from there.
Coming out to the summit cone I knew I was well within sub 40 minute range. The last ridge scramble I have so wired that I basically run along the top of the ridge to the summit. I was wearing Pearl Izumi shoes that Bob Africa gacve me, so there isnt any sticky rubber but it is enough traction to run well on the rough summit ridge sandstone. I stepped on top of the summit rock with my feet actually on the summit in 37;43, turned right around and ran the ridge back to the trail.
The descent was a blur (as it always is!) but I didnt race it too hard to blow my legs out and risk a fall. Nebel horn saddle I reacehd in 45:17. On the way past the steep steps/first rock climb, of all people of course but here comes Scott Elliott chugging up the hill with Tara Breed just behind. I said a quick Hey and kept cruising. I used the momentum down to the ditch by the Slab to power up the other side and down to hit the Mesa Trail again in 52:31. I knew sub 1 hour was in the bag at this point so I tempo'ed it down Shanahan and hit the finish post in 57:39.
That evening I still felt good so before going to my 6 pm micro class in Westminster, I did a few mile repeats at 6 minute pace to get the speed back in the legs. Weds was the best workout day I'd had in a few months! (And I paid the price as I am sore 2 days later!)
All in all I know may guys out there can go faster. I think Jeff Valliere has run close to 35 minutes on the ascent and Scott Elliot when he is fit can go faster. I think I can knock 2 minutes off this RT time with some focus by taking another minute off the ascent and one on the descent, and also doing it with a couple guys to push the pace may drop the overall time by another minute. No plans to pursue this at this point though as it is ultrarunning season for me with Western States as the overall goal.


  1. Congrats on the little one! Good to see you posting again! I hope you keep it up with some regularity through WS. It'll be fun to watch. See you out there!

  2. Hi JP. I hope I stick with it too. I never keep a training log but know that I should to help my training and help my general writing skills, which need help.

  3. It is an amazing view that you can have from there. Specially from the skirt of the mountain.