During my recent trip to Estes Park with my pregnant wife, we were able to get in a couple of relatively easy hikes, but both had a decent amount of elevation gain. Kristy did very well, having hardly ever visited the mountains in her entire life, and being pregnant on top of that. The hike we did on our third day was my favorite. We started at Bear Lake and hiked up over 600 feet to Emerald Lake, which was still partially frozen. This hike was pretty easy compared to the hike with 1,200 feet of elevation gain on our first day.
Starting off from the parking lot at around 9,600ft we were already seeing drifts of snow along parts of the trail and in the trees. I didn’t come equipped for tromping through snow, in fact I was waring Chaco Sandals! This didn’t deter us though, and we marched on.
This particular trail was partially paved in parts, as it is a very popular trail amongst tourists. The hike provides breathtaking alpine views without having to hike for hours on end. I could definitely see why it would be such a popular hike. Just over three miles round trip, the hike brings you to three stunning alpine lakes.
The first lake was relatively free of snow, except for a few drifts in the trees, but as we gained elevation we started crossing through more snow until eventually a majority of the trail was covered in it. I found humour in the amount of “good lucks” I received when people noticed I was wearing Chacos. My guess is post of them didn’t make it all the way to Emerald Lake, but we did!
The second lake (Dream Lake) we found pretty much the entire trail covered in snow, but it was well traveled, so it wasn’t difficult to find out way. The trails also were not icy, as one individual told as as he was descending. All it took to finish the hike was careful footing and a slower pace. The alpine scenery was well worth the extra effort. And even though I would have rather had water proof hiking shoes on, I found hiking through the snow in my Chacos fairly easy.
Once we arrived at the third and final lake (Emerald Lake) we found ourself surrounded by steep cliff faces and a partially frozen alpine lake. Above us we could see ski tracks from where late season backcountry skiers had recently descended Hallett Peak and Otis Peak, likely from a hike up Flattop Mountain.
We spent a few minutes taking in the view and pondering what it would have been like to ski the lines we could see in the snow. Having never backcountry skied myself I see the attraction to it, but at the same time it seems like a lot of work for what would end up being a very short run. After refueling on Bearded Brothers bars and other dried fruits, and nuts, we made our descent.
The descent was slightly more difficult and resulted in a lot of sliding around. My pregnant wife actually maintained her balance better than I did. I fell on my butt only once. But, that was one more time than I should have. After arriving back to the base of the hike we took a short jaunt over to Bear Lake. It was one of the largest alpine lakes I have ever seen.
This hike is definitely worth your time. But, based on the volume of people we encountered in the off season I would probably suggest doing this hike around the same time we did, or in LATE summer after a majority of the tourists have vacated. I can immagine this hike being quite congested in the busy summer months. The parking lot at the base was HUGE, and on top of that there was shuttle parking further down the road.
I personally prefer the more remote locations, but you are in RMNP, so you are bound to face a crow anywhere you go. Even when I climbed Longs Peak a couple years ago we encountered crowds.
Things have been insanely busy lately with Bearded Brothers so I haven’t had much time to blog here, but hope that will change as the business becomes more self-sustaining. But, today I find myself sitting in my favorite coffee shop with a bit of time to kill. So, I thought I would write a blog I had thought about several months ago.
“I would never do that”, is something I have said many times. Many of the times it has been climbing related, other times fitness or goal related. Despite having said that, many times I find myself doing the very thing I said I would never do.
When I first started rock climbing I felt safe in the realm of top rope climbing and said to myself I will never sport climb; but quickly realized my climbing options were very limited without that skill set. So, I set off to learn how to become a sport climber. This opened up lots more possibilities to where I could climb. Rather than being stuck at a crappy conglomerate stone crag in West Texas, I was able to venture to places such as Shelf Road in Colorado and Horseshoe Canyon in Arkansas.
The next thing I caught myself saying I would never do was trad climbing. But if you have been following this blog for any length of time, you will know I’m an avid trad climber. I would much rather spend a full day climbing 3 – 12 pitches high above the earth, than climbing just a few hard sport climbs. Trad climbing has opened up endless potential in terms of climbing.
Since taking up trad I have made many ground up first ascents of previously untouched rock. I have blazed my own trail up the East Face of Longs Peak when the start of the partially bolted route was covered in snow. There is a much greater since of satisfaction having climbed a route while placing your own gear than merely clipping a pre-drilled bolt. On top of that, I get to climb in places a majority of climbers will never even dream of. It has even allowed me to use my skills to guide groups of other climbers with the non-profit organization Ascend Outdoors.
I have even said this about running and triathlons. When I first started running I thought I would never run more than three or four miles, but one day after running six miles I was challenged to enter a half marathon. I replied, “no way, that’s not for me”. In other words, I would never do that. But, after researching the training required I realized I was half way to being able to run a half marathon with plenty of time left before the Dallas White Rock Marathon, so it was at that time I became a runner.
After having run several half marathons I knew several people that participated in triathlons, and again I said, “I would never do that”. Fast forward to over a year later I find myself starting my training for the Austin Triathlon, in which I finished 17th out of 71 in my age group. Once again, having said I would never do something, I found myself doing that very thing.
My latest business endeavor, Bearded Brothers was another such thing I told myself I would never do. Even though I had always wanted to own my own business, I told myself I didn’t want the responsibility, but looking back on it now I see that it was just fear. Now I am fully emerged creating, selling, and marketing the best energy bars on the planet. We are just 7 months into the venture and already have a presence in nearly 50 retail locations. We are currently working on getting our product into larger grocery stores such as Whole Foods.
So, the lesson to be learned here is, never say I would never do that, because you just might. And, if you catch yourself saying it – realize it could be fear holding you back. It’s likely just an excuse to not try something you really do want to do out of fear of failure or putting in the time it takes to learn it. When in doubt, just go for it!
Having never participated in a Triathlon before, I didn’t know what to expect for sure, so I found myself attending a couple of clinics the day before the race to get a better grasp on what to expect; and it was a good thing I did. I found out important rules, such as no drafting allowed and that I was required to wear a race number on my jersey during the bike, and the run.
The clinics were extremely helpful in figuring out exactly what I had to do, from start to finish. I was most worried about the transitions, but both clinics did a great job of explaining the process and gave helpful tips of what to do and what not to do.
Having taken the time to attend the clinics and explore the transition area the day before the race, I felt ready. My only goal was to finish in under two hours. I figured it was an attainable goal, and having beat that time in practice runs I knew I would be able to crush it.
I knew the swim portion of the race was going to be my weakest, so I went in not expecting much, but at the same time was pretty confident I could beat a time of 18 minutes for the 700 meter swim. Two weeks prior I had swam an entire mile in 40 minutes including a rest period. So, I thought with the adrenaline flowing from the race and swimming only 700 meters that time was totally attainable.
I ended up with a swim time of 19:52, so I was a little bit frustrated, but at the same time happy considering it was my first triathlon and I had never swam two months prior to that. My training never focused on form or improving my stroke, just getting through. In the future I hope to improve on my stroke and time.
I feel I made a few mistakes starting out with the swim. First of all I was one of the first ones in the water, which meant I had to wait for A LOT of other swimmers to enter the water, approximately 71 to be exact. This mean I had to tread water until all the swimmers had entered. In the future I will probably be one of the last ones in the water, rather than the first.
My second mistake was not checking my goggles before I started. About 15 meters in my goggles began filling with water, so I had to stop and fix them. Once I put them back on my right eye was smashed in. I Thought I would fight through it at first, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen, so stopped again to fix the right eye.
Seeing how it was my first tri I stayed back from the pack as much as possible to avoid getting kicked in the face or to have to compete for space, I also wanted to pace myself to be sure I didn’t tire out too soon and go faster than I was capable of. Turns out I could have gone faster. I kept noticing my form was bad while doing the breast stroke (which was 75% of my swimming) so would attempt to speed up, but then noticed myself slowing down again. I kept wanting to make sure I had enough energy for the bike.
I never found myself scared or nervous the entire time. I even eventually found myself passing a few swimmers in my wave, but at the same time was getting passed by several swimmers that started in the wave behind me. After rounding the last turn I transitioned into a freestyle stroke to give myself some extra speed at the end. As I got closer to the exit I went back into a breast stroke to make the exit more comfortable. I found getting out more difficult than expected and took the hand of a volunteer to help myself out of the water. I was thankful they were there.
After exiting the water I felt wobbly and found it hard to get into a good stride running into the transition area. But after hobbling around a bit I was jogging behind the racers in front of me and made a 3 minute transition onto the bike. My transition time was a bit longer since I had to put on a jersey and I kept wavering back and forth between wiping off my feet and just putting on my shoes. I also had forgotten to loosen the velcro on my bike shoes, having them open and ready to jump into. But, considering the long run I had to make from the swim exit to my bike, I’m fairly pleased with the time.
I had pretty much ridden the bike course several times commuting around town so I knew a pace of 20mph would be attainable, but we had a lot of wind to contend with. Thankfully the strongest head wind we faced was going downhill, but this made going downhill feel like going uphill. At a place I would probably average 30+MPH I couldn’t break 25 MPH.
One part of the course had a gradual sloping downhill (with wind at your back) that allowed me to make up for lost time on the uphill and windy downhill. It was lots of fun riding a course I would normally get caught at numerous traffic lights. The only real challenge of the course, other than the wind, was navigating around other cyclits.
With a no draft rule, you had to make sure you passed other cyclists if you got within three bike lengths. This proved to be difficult at times, especially when one cyclist in front of you was passing another cyclists to his right. There were also occasions I wanted to pass another cyclist but couldn’t because how tightly other were riding next to them, I also broke the no passing on the right rule a few times because of this. I was even pushed into some road bumps on two occasions in the SAME spot due to riders being tightly packed during a turn. It was also partially the other rider not paying attention as well.
The course was a total of 24km, which was two loops of the same course. The entire time I bordered on 19+ MPH average, but managed to finish strong with a 20mph average. Had we not had any wind I’m sure I would have done even better. But so would everybody else. Another challenge on the course was surprisingly pedestrians trying to cross the street. On a few occasions I thought people were going to jump out in front of me. At one point a woman crossed at a 90 degree turn and was almost run over by myself and two other cyclists.
A couple times during the ride I felt like I could have been pushing myself harder, but I never really stuck with hammering hard. I’m sort of glad I didn’t though. It allowed me to truly enjoy the experience and take in my surroundings. It was fun seeing my family and friends along the course cheering me on. Had I been too focused on going fast I might have missed out on that. It was also fun zipping by people ringing cow bells. It created a nice Tour De France like feel, it made me smile!
Transitioning from the bike to the run was a lot easier since I already had my jersey on and number pinned to it. The only difficult part was putting on my Vibram FiveFingers. I had practice this a lot, but still managed to get my toes jammed putting them on. But after getting the proper alignment I was off.
I had my iPhone with me to keep track of my pace, I as I was hoping to run a 7:30 pace. But my legs just wouldn’t allow it. I ended up with a time of 24.43 and a pace of 7:58, but I never felt like I was going that fast. My legs felt like led, and pretty much felt like that the entire run. They had never once felt like that during any of my training sessions, either. So it was a very odd feeling.
I kept looking at my RunKeeper to check my pace but couldn’t even believe I was averaging 7:58 – it felt like I was going SO slow. But, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t go any faster. I also though the GPS had to be malfunctioning because It didn’t feel like I was going that fast, but I was pleased to discover my pace was even faster than the 8:32 average RunKeeper reported.
Around mile 2.5 of the run I noticed I had a small rock in the bottom of my left shoe, but decided to battle through it. I’m surprised it took that long to notice, I had assumed it was there since transition. After the race was over I pulled off the shoe to discover a large blister. So either there was never a rock and it was just a blister that formed, or the rock had moved down in the last section of the race.
Despite the rock in my shoe, I finished with a faster split than my second mile, but slower than my first. Upon entering the finish line I was cheered on by friends and even one pro triathlete I meet the day before that was cheering “Go Bearded Brother”. Upon rounding the final corner into the finish chute I heard my name called over the PA and saw my lovely wife at the end cheering me on. My parents were soon by by side too congratulating me on a strong finish.
The post race festival was one of the best I have seen. There were lots of vendors, plenty of free samples and New Belgium’s beer (Lips of Faith was my favorite), which beats the crummy cheap light beers most races provide. There was also live music, free massages and treatments for injured athletes. My only complaint is that the post race meal provide was cold. Although it tasted good I couldn’t pull myself to finish the cold veggie wrap.
I look forward to participating again next year. I will most likely enter the Olympic Distance as well. I just hope I won’t have to train in such extreme heat next time. Even though most of my training was done early morning, and avoided the 100+ degree days. I was forced to train in the evening at times and found it quite challenging. Hopefully by next years tri I will have entered a few others and improved my swim stroke drastically. But with other goals such as a full marathon, we will see what happens.
Time and Ranking Break Down
Finished 17th in Men 30-34 out of 72
Finished 135th overall, out of 709
Swim Time 19:52
Transition 1 3:26
Bike 50:11 (Average 20 mph)
Transition 2 2:16
Run 24:43 (7:58 pace)
With the Austin Triathlon being three weeks away there is a small part of me that wants to register for the Olympic distance after having swam 1200 meters last weekend. This was done almost without stopping. The only time I rested was at 800 meters to say hi to a friend that had entered the pool. I know I’m capable of pulling it off, but not sure how wise it would be considering I only have three more weeks to build up to a full mile and feel comfortable with it.
Chances are I will still just enter the sprint distance, seeing how it is my first triathlon. I’m very excited about it though, and have thoroughly enjoyed the training. I’m still not a huge fan of swimming, but imagine I will continue doing it on a regular basis. Especially since I will probably want to enter an Olympic distance triathlon next. I think the most enjoyable part has been seeing myself become more toned, and feel better overall.
Living in Austin really is a great place to live and train for an event like this. I can wake up early, bike 3.5 miles to Barton Springs Pool and enter the gates for FREE before 8 a.m.; this really helps when you are on a tight budget like myself. After the swim I have my choice of two places to run, and both leave from the Barton Springs parking lot. I can either run the Town Lake trail, or get some rocky trail miles in along The Greenbelt. Lately I have been opting for The Greenbelt, and have been having a blast running the trail in my Vibram FiveFingers.
Learning to swim has definitely been the most difficult part of my training, but learning to run properly in the FiveFingers has also been a challenge. I seem to be fine when running trails, but as soon as I hit the pavement sore calf muscles are an unwelcome certainty. But, the severity of the soreness has been declining lately. They key has been more trail miles, slower pace overall, and gradually building up mileage. Running with my friend John has helped with this, as he has never run more than 4 or 5 miles before and is working up to six miles for his Olympic distance tri.
I guess you could say I have been overtraining for the bike portion of the race. My weekend rides have ranged from 35-40 miles. The sprint triathlon distance is only 16 miles. But, I love cycling around the Texas Hillcountry. Austin really is a great place to live if you are into cycling. There is no shortage of group rides to join up with on the weekend.
On an unrelated note – but then again it is related based on the blog’s name. I have been climbing outdoors in the Greenbelt about once a week with a group called Climbing Buddies. My climbing ability has been slowly progressing back to what it was a few years ago. I am finally able to lead 5.10 climbs again and have been top roping 5.11 climbs. I actually feel that the triathlon training has helped my climbing ability through weight loss (less weight to pull up the rock) and a stronger core.
Having climbing access IN TOWN is just another advantage of living in Austin. I live just five to ten minutes away from all climbing access points. It makes for easy evening climbs as well as longer day trips if you so desire, but being right in town you really don’t even need to spend the entire day climbing. You can easily wear yourself out within a couple of hours. The crags are practically an outdoor gym with quick clips at the top of every route!
The climbing community here too is pretty great. There are a couple of email lists most of the regular climbers are a part of and they regularly message their climbing plans, so finding a partner to climb with is never difficult. The community is even friendly and open to new climbers. You will almost always find people willing to let you top rope climbs they have set up. I’m not even sure such community exists in places like Colorado. But I can’t say for sure since I haven’t lived there.
If you are interested in joining the email lists I mentioned, here are the links:
Also, if you are interested in the Austin Triathlon, here is the website with complete details about registration and race distances.
I recently mentioned I decided to train for the Austin Triathlon, Olympic distance, so I thought I would post an update about how that was going. I guess I will progress from the worst to the best, in terms of how my training is going for each event.
Barton Springs pool is where I have been doing most all of my swim training, and let me tell you – it’s intimidating. While in the water, I feel like a fish out of water – seriously! I’m having a hard time getting into a good rhythm and breathing properly, which causes me to get anxious and break out of whatever rhythm I had going. On top of that, early in the morning the spring is FULL of triathletes training for their next race. You are pretty much guaranteed to run into somebody every time you cross the 1/8th mile pool.
Swimming in a sea of people has advantages and disandantages. The main advantage is it comes closer to simulating actual triathlon conditions. Lets face it, swimming solo in a lap pool isn’t going to help your training for being lost in a huge pack of swimmers. The disadvantage is that it’s intimidating for a novice swimmer like myself, and often causes me to freak out and get out of a freestyle stroke and frantically preform a head out of water breast stroke, which is hardly an efficient stroke, but I find myself doing it a lot.
So far I have had good and bad days. But I have yet to swim more than 200 meters without stopping and have yet to even swim 100 meters just freestyle. I am making progress, though. Jut this morning I was struggling and feeling stressed because nothing seemed to be clicking, but I forced myself to swim another 300 meters, and swam the fastest most efficiently I have since taking on this new endeavor. Even though I’m not totally happy with where I am now, I definitely can tell I am making progress. I’ve never felt like I really struggled with running or cycling, but now I know how a lot of people feel when the first try to take on running. This is a struggle!
I also decided to step down from the Olympic distance and register for the Sprint distance instead. Even though I have already swam 900 meters (not continuously). I’m not positive I will be able to work up to a full mile in the amount of time I have, plus I want to be safe and not drown.
Running has surprisingly been challenging for me recently. This is frustrating for me because the last half marathon I ran, I finished sub 1:50 with a pace of 8:19. Lately I’m lucky if I run under a 10 minute pace. This has a lot to do with the fact that I’m running in Vibram Five Fingers, to reduce stress on my knees and back that resulted from a recent bike accident.
Running in these shoes requires a “natural” running style which is completely different from what most people do in traditional running shoes. In barefoot running shoes, you can’t heel strike, which means you have to land on your forefoot to mid-foot, lightly kissing the ground with your heel as your foot comes down. You also lift your knees high, sort of like you would do while skipping. So needless to say I am using a lot of muscles that are not normally used, so the distance I am used to running is down as well as my pace. It’s a frustrating feeling not being able to run as fast as you once did, but I also have to remember I took a LONG break from running and was completely inactive for nearly four months.
Considering how long it took me to run a pace of 8:19 in traditional runners, I guess I should not be too hard on myself, but I do hope I can at least run that pace during the 5k. Considering it is a race and the adrenaline will be flowing, I just might be able to make it happen. But I would be very happy if I ran a 9 minute pace as well. The other difficult part of running in the Five Fingers is sore calves, since those muscles aren’t used to being worked, and I’m only running twice a week, they seem to get sore very easily and sometimes force me to skip runs. So, I’m hoping the muscles build up and get stronger in the next couple weeks so I can focus on speed again before it gets to close to the race and I have to start tapering.
Cycling has surprisingly been the easiest for me during the training process. Last weekend I went on a 40 mile ride and felt like I could have gone longer. I have been riding efficiently up hills, passing other cyclists along the way. In the past I attacked hills hard and petered out towards the top and end get passed by most of the group, but now I’m flying past other cyclist and staying ahead!
Riding the hills on 360 is overkill for the course in the Austin Triathlon. My top speed going downhill has been 45 MPH, and the hills are killer going up. The return trip features approximately 3+ miles of uphill terrain. There is no point in attacking those hills. The best choice of “attack” is to just slip into a low gear and relax in the handlebars and sit back in the saddle as you slowly make your way up hill.
Also, I honestly have to say I think my love for the bike is overtaking my excitement for running (and definitely surpasses swimming). I have thoroughly enjoyed riding through the scenic hill country around Austin. I’m looking forward to one day taking my bike up to Colorado (or any mountainous state) and enjoying more challenging terrain. Not that the hills here aren’t pushing me, because they are; but I’m a glutton for punishment and enjoy being challenged.
Since I don’t imagine I will do very well in the swim, and even the run is questionable, I will have to CRUSH IT, during the bike portion of the race, which should be no problem since I ride the streets of downtown Austin on a regular basis (which is where the bike course is at). It’s familiar terraine for me, and a pice of cake compared to what I have been riding recently. Another athlete recently told me a lot of triathletes are “one trick ponies” and they rock at the swim, but suck at everything else. So, just because I don’t do well in the swim doesn’t mean I won’t finish well overall! My plan is to pass as many people as possible during the bike portion of the race.
Training for this race has been exciting and challenging! I have even been trimming down, and losing weight. I can’t say how much exactly since I don’t own a scale anymore, but I recently put on the pants I wore for my wedding 9 months ago and they are fitting loosely! I remember they fit pretty tight on my wedding day. So I’m very pleased with the changes that are occurring. I will say though, I am ALWAYS hungry! It makes me thankful I own my own energy bar company right now! Otherwise I’d be breaking the bank just buying energy bars.
So, after some coaxing by a friend of mine that is moving into my apartment complex I agreed to enter the Austin Triathlon, and train with him! I had always told myself I would never enter a Tri, but I think I knew deep down inside I wanted the challenge. The swimming part has always been my biggest fear for two reasons. One, it’s just different and for some reason a lot more scarry than biking or running, even thought at one point I had never done either of those. Two, I simply fear being the one guy that doesn’t look good in a speedo, but I have recently learned that speedos are pretty much no longer a part of tri’s.
To make this an even crazier challenge, I am entering the Olympic distance. That is a one mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, and six mile run. I’m not in the least bit worried about the bike or run portion of the race. My only fear is being completely exhausted after the one mile swim. It will be even worse if I’m not able to train enough to swim the entire mile. Thankfully I know a couple of people that are willing to help train me in the area of swimming. With some luck and hard work I should be able to pull this off.
This is will by far be the most challenging thing I have done in terms of endurance sports. I have had plenty of challenging climbing endeavors, and worked hard to finish my third half marathon in under 1:50, with a pace of 8:21! It’s also been a while since I have even done any endurance running due to my bicycle accident last October. But having almost fully recovered from that I am up for the challenge.
I will also be doing the run portion in my Vibram Five Fingers. I have been running exclusively in them lately, but am still struggling to build up the muscles in my calves, but the frequency of my runs is also not what it used to be. But, six weeks (the time until the Tri) should give me plenty of time to build up the necessary muscles. It helps to have natural running resources like Endura Lab. I have become a huge advocate for natural running ever since my bike accident (I tore meniscus in both knees) and have noticed a huge difference in how I run. I had always had arch pain in my left foot due to it being slightly smaller, but since I’m now running without arch supports… NO PAIN! I highly recommend leaving traditional running shoes behind and picking up natural running.
I will be hitting the open waters of Barton Springs tomorrow morning for my first official swim. Barton Springs is a naturally spring feed pool, so the water will be VERY cold. Hopefully it will be a hot, sticky humid morning so diving in will be a welcomed relief.
The training program will be pretty rigorous compared to the training I have done in the past for half marathons. So finding time to do everything may be difficult, but I’m up for it, even if it means waking up at 5 a.m. and riding twenty miles before hitting up Barton Springs. I’m thankful to live so close to the springs since admission is free before 8 a.m. So I won’t have to worry about pool fees during my training. A short 2.5 mile bike ride puts me outside the gate.
My training has pretty much already begun, as I have put in more workouts this week than I have in a long time. I look forward to updating everybody about my training progress. I will be posting all my workouts on Dailymile, and Tweeting a lot, so be sure to follow me there. I have also added a category “Tri Training” so you can keep up with me that way as well. I’m also open to any advice you might have for training if you have participated in Tri’s, yourself.