Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"20" (and the week in training 12 23 12)

Pre-run pose (photo by Liliana)
During the last several weeks, I've been reading as much as I can about ultra marathons and trail running.  In addition to scouring the internet and finding sites like trailrunnernation.com , I've read a couple of different books including Neal Jamison's Running Through the Wall  (which includes several essays by a variety of ultrarunners) and Relentless Forward Progress by Byron Powell.  I'm learning "on the run" so to speak and I'm trying to incorporate these ideas into my training as I go.   One of the biggest challenges has been getting the longer runs accomplished during a busy work week.  As a result I've generally been doing a "shorter" long run on Saturday, followed by a long run on Sunday.  Since we are on vacation these two weeks, it has been somewhat easier to accomplish longer runs, but it's still a bit of a challenge.  I'm also still very interested in doing a fair amount of cross training to save my legs a little bit of the strain from running.  The other factor has been the cold weather.  Last Thursday, I was out the door at 5 a.m. for a very cold run (more on that in a moment).
5 mile loop
The end of this week found us in the mountains at my parents place.  Their home sits along a dirt road in the mountains at an elevation of approximately 8400 ft.  The area has many short, narrow, and hilly roads that are perfect for simulating the fire roads of the CPTR.  I've been anxious to get some running in at altitude with some real hills since that hasn't been much of an option in Pueblo.  After researching some options for different routes, I selected a 5 mile loop that included a good mixture of uphill and downhill running.  This would allow me to have an "aid station" every few miles as well as the option of stopping after 5, 10, or 15 miles.  My hope however, was to get a full 20 mile run completed.  I'm pleased to say that I managed to do so.  The loop option also seemed to be the "safest" option at this point.  I was tempted to do one longer loop of 20 miles but it would have put me on some roads and trails with which I wasn't as familiar.  
A little before noon on Saturday, my wife and I set out for some easy running.  We bundled up in anticipation of the twenty to thirty degree weather that awaited us.  Thankfully, the weather was ideal for running, and I probably overdressed a little bit, but after my "chilly" run earlier in the week, I wasn't going to take any chances (The best new addition to my running wardrobe are the gigantic ski mittens that I've kept up here.  Those suckers will be returning home with me this time around!).
Downhill section makes for easy running!
My lovely wife ran the first loop with me which was great.  A few years back, she would have balked at running in the cold weather, but she has done enough running in the winter now to appreciate it more.  One of the things that I've come to accept as part of longer trail running is the idea that it is okay, in fact necessary, to walk from time to time.  I would estimate that during this particular run, I walked at least 5 to 6 miles. Walking and a slower pace speaks to the social aspect of trail running and the fact you should be able to run at a pace that allows for conversation throughout.    During the first loop we did just that, walking at times and chatting the whole way.  But after 5 miles, she was headed inside and I was out for loop #2.
The second loop passed much like the first.  In fact, each of the first two loops took about 63 minutes, which is a touch over a 12 minute pace per mile (although they varied from 9 minutes to 16 minutes depending on the terrain).  I could have run each a little faster, but I was trying to stay mindful of my heart rate which induced me to pause throughout the the run.  HR training is certainly a different animal at altitude as I couldn't tackle any of the hills without quickly reaching my aerobic threshold. The loop that I was running had a lot of variety and broke down as follows:
Mile 1: The first half of this mile is mostly steep uphill, the second half is mostly downhill with just a few risers.
Mile 2: Starts with a moderate uphill of about a quarter mile, and then is almost entirely downhill.
Mile 3:  Much like the first mile with mostly uphill and then downhill the rest of the way.
Mile 4: Almost entirely downhill and fairly steep.
Mile 5: Almost entirely uphill, though gradual (a lot of walking in this stretch).
Dashing through the snow!
After 2 hours I returned to the start of the loop to find a water bottle and a note written in the snow.  Before she had gone inside, I'd asked Melisa to set these out for me as I was carrying no hydration or nutrition.  I quickly drank a little of the water and set out for loop #3.  I decided at the onset of this loop that I would take it very easy and try to save enough energy so that I would have something left to complete a fourth loop.  I was decidedly slower, but it was enjoyable to take my time and enjoy some of the scenery.  Knowing when to slow down is an important skill  to develop when running for distance as opposed to time.  When running a "loop" course like this, it's easy  to fixate on how the each loop compares to another, but that can cause one to lose sight of the true goal, which is actually about increasing the time and distance running.
Running a "loop" course also has a "psychological" component.  For example, during the first loop it seemed unreal to think that I would actually be passing by the same place at least three more times for the next several hours.  Later, just as I was close to completing the second loop, it was difficult to imagine that I was not quite halfway finished even though I'd already been running for two hours.  The third and fourth loops were a little easier because I knew that I was on the shorter side and had run further than I had left.  In fact, the fourth loop was in some ways the easiest and most enjoyable to do because I knew I would head inside once I had finished.
Still another challenge with running loops is that you pass by the "stopping" point several times, unlike a single loop or an out and back course.  The CPTR is a two-loop course that includes the option of changing from a 50 mile into a 25 mile if the runner chooses.  In my mind that is a blessing, but also a curse.  I think it will be important to feel especially strong at the turnaround point, knowing that there's the sanctioned option of shortening the run by half.  After 5+ hours of running, it will surely be tempting to call it a day.  As I get further into my training, I plan on doing a longer run that includes a turnaround point like this, for the sole purpose of practicing the willpower it will take to keep going.
The snow on the trail was never too deep and was hard packed in most spots.  I'm sure I lost a little bit of traction on some of the steeper hills, but it didn't detract from the run.
Notes in the snow at the "aid station."  I wrote 1-2-3 as I finished each lap.
The last loop of the day (#4) passed quickly and I did my best to run as much of it as I could.  Then sun was starting to fall behind the hills and the temperature got noticeably chillier.   By the time I finished I was well over four hours (4:21:57)which is closer to my marathon time than a twenty mile run.   I frequently hit my aerobic threshold even when going downhill, but it never got to crazy high levels.  I also did this run without any nutrition and I'd say that is probably something that I won't repeat.  I think that about 3 hours is the limit for running without any kind of nutrition and while I do feel that my nutrition needs have changed somewhat since I began Maffetone training a couple of months ago, I need to start integrating eating into my running routine.
Brooks Ghost V
I also did something that I normally wouldn't have done which was to run the entire 20 miles in a new pair of shoes.  On the way to the mountains I stopped and picked up a new pair of shoes that provided a little more cushioning than what I've been used to.  I wanted some shoes that provided extra cushioning given the time I'm spending on my feet.  My initial plan was to run the first 5 in new shoes and then switch to my older pair.  However, after the  first five miles, the new shoes felt just fine.  Same thing after I hit 10 miles.  After that, I kind of forgot about it all together and in fact, I didn't feel a blister or hot spot the entire time, so I just left them on.

Although I was quite tired when all was said and done, but recovery has been positive this morning.  I'm not overly sore or tired although I'm going to resist the urge to run today (a day of rest is in order).  I may try for some X-country skiing tomorrow morning if I can.  Seems like a good way to end the year!

This twenty mile run caps off my week.  Normally I would do my long run on Sunday but I was too eager to wait this week.  I'm now beginning a "down week" meaning fewer miles and which will conclude with  MAF Test #2 at the track provided that the weather is somewhat cooperative.  It has been a productive month of running for me, and the most that I've done in a long time (maybe ever in fact).  When all is said and done, I will have completed a hundred miles further this year than I did in 2011.  The numbers are still low by most standards, but it works for me.

This is how my week in training breaks down:

Sunday December 23, 2012: This was my long for the week of 16.64 miles.  I ran for an hour and then took a walk break of 5 minutes and repeated this three times.  Overall I felt pretty good during the run, but recovery was an issue.  At about 14 miles or so, my left leg was bothering me.  My plantars fasciitis was acting up (which usually doesn't happen during a run) and this was impacting my running form.  I began to feel a slight sting in my upper hamstring and was worried about pulling a muscle.  This set me to thinking if it wasn't time to get some new shoes with a little more cushioning and support.  I know that there are different theories about minimal shoes, etc., but my experience to date has been that for longer distances, I do better with more cushioning.

19 miles and still smiling (sort of!)
Wednesday December 26, 2012: After messing with a few flat tires, I managed to get a ride of an hour and twenty minutes on the trainer at a fairly steady pace.   Besides, I had recorded Battle Los Angeles, and I had to see the exciting conclusion.  I felt pretty good the entire time, and I believe the break of a couple of days from running also helped.

Thursday December 27, 2012: I went for a run at 5 a.m. this morning and it was an absolutely freezing outside.  I can't remember a time when I've been so cold.  I managed to get 10 miles in, but it was nothing but suffering!  I think that the temperature was about 2 degrees the whole time.  I had also read about increasing the frequency of walk breaks to a 5:1 ration (5 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking) and I wanted to see what this was like.  It was so cold that I don't know what to think of it at this point.  I'm looking forward to a run in warmer conditions to see how it goes.  I don't know how realistic that will be during the CPTR as I will have to respond more to the changing terrain, but I think it's still worth trying a few more times.

Friday December 28, 2012: 30 minutes of alternating core work and weights.  I'm going to work up to doing this a couple of times a week.

Saturday December 29, 2012: Twenty mile long run (see above).

For the week I wound up with a total of 46.64 miles of running (this due to the fact that I did my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday).  My total for the month comes in at 117 miles which is an average of just under 30 miles/ week.  Here's a few final snaps from the camera of the scenery during the long run on Saturday:


Looking back down the first half of the hill on Shawnee Road.

Aspen grove between Creedmore Lakes Road and Tiny Bob Road.

The gradual uphill at the bottom of Lone Pine Drive



Saturday, December 22, 2012

The week in training . . .12 16 12

Another week down.  Another week closer to the fifty.  This was also the last week before a two week vacation commences.  During the next two weeks, I'll continue with my training and even get in a few trail runs at a higher altitude.  This was a good week for training in spite of being quite busy with work.  I managed to get a couple of quality runs in and I'm finding that these generally occur on the weekends when I have a little more time.  Here's a summary of the week.

Sunday December 16th, 2012: Out the door early again.  A few minutes after five and I'm out on the street, running through the dark with only my  headlamp to illuminate a small sphere on the ground in front.  And it's cold.  Very, very cold.  Normally on a run, I warm up after about 15 to 20 minutes, but that isn't the case today.  After an hour I take my first walking break of five minutes.  I try to keep a brisk walking pace, and the five minutes goes quickly.  I start up again and after another 30 minutes or so of running, the sun finally breaks the horizon completely.  The temperature rises and I'm feeling even better.  My pace ranges between about 10:45 to 12:00 per mile at a bpm of 139-145 throughout the run.  I'm in the zone for the last 5 miles and feeling great.  Felt like I would have been good for another couple of hours.  Total run time: about 3 hours.  Mileage: 15 miles.

Tuesday December 18th, 2012: When I got home from work I put about 40 minutes in downstairs doing weights and core exercises.  I'm including some lunges, dumbbell squats, and calf raises with dumbbells for my legs.  I ended with about 5-10 minutes of yoga.

Thursday December 19th, 2012: With the bike trainer all set, I flipped through the channels and noticed that Battle Los Angeles  was just starting.  Nothing like a low-quality movie to watch while training.  About 30 minutes into a good ride, just as I was getting into the movie,  I could feel the back wheel jumping a little bit.  I've ridden enough to know what the problem was.  A flat tire! Damn.

Saturday December 21st, 2012: Today was a short run of 8.67 miles.   I waited until about 8:30 to head out the door and it was worth it in terms of temperature.  The weather was absolutely beautiful this morning.  I elected to do a two loop run, first clockwise, then counter clockwise, just  like the CPTR.  Only difference was that each loop this morning was less than one-fifth the distance of CPTR. Ha!  I wound up a little short of the 90 minutes I'd planned.  Total run time: 1:23:54.

Tomorrow I'll be up again (early) and I'm planning on a little over three hours of running before Mass.  


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The week in training . . . 12 09 12

Each week I'm going to try and highlight my training as I work towards the Collegiate Peaks 50 mile run next May.  I do keep a training log over at Beginner Triathlete and in January it will mark the beginning of my 4th year of logging data there.  While my BT postings are more data oriented, these postings will serve to be more anecdotal.  I especially want to highlight the psychological aspects of this endeavor, in addition to getting the numbers in.  So without any further ado . . . here goes.

Sunday December 9, 2012:  It was probably only the mixture of enthusiasm and excitement that got me out of bed and out the door by 5:45.  As I looked out the window, I found myself peering through the dark at the first real snowstorm in Pueblo this year.  Nevertheless, I bundled up and set out the door for a long run.  The streets held that unique silence that only results from the combination of snowfall, darkness, and the fact that the majority of the city was still slumbering early on a Sunday morning.  Underfoot, the snow was wet and and sticky.   When I chose to run on the empty street instead of the sidewalk, it would start to cling to the soles of my shoes, and after a few strides, I would have to drag my feet in order to wipe them off.  However, after the first 3 miles or so, I moved onto the dirt trails at the north edge of town, and this got better.  Unfortunately, running in 3-4 inches of snow during a white out does a number on depth perception, so I found myself stumbling quite a bit.  Nevertheless, I managed to run a little over 12 miles through the storm in just under two and a half hours.  Not a bad start to the week.

Wednesday December 12, 2012:  This is one of the busiest weeks of the year at work.  Between concerts, meetings and other happenings, it always feels like the big squeeze before the holidays.  On top of that I'd had a stressful day and I was tired when I walked in the door.  Still, I knew I had to get on the bike and get something done.  I'd taken two days off so it was time to go, but more importantly, the stress of the last few days was dragging me down.  While Melisa went to do some holiday shopping before dinner, I got on the trainer, tuned into "Border Wars" and managed a whopping 30 minutes at a very moderate pace.  Something's better than nothing, but this was not a great workout.  Maybe just a little below mediocre.  Still, I've done enough workouts in my life to know that they can't all be gems.

Friday December 14, 2012: On Friday mornings for the last couple of weeks, I've found myself awake a little after 4 a.m.  On this day, I laid in bed listening to a podcast until about 5 a.m.  Then it was up and out the door for a short run before work.  I managed a little over 4 miles during the 45 minute run.  I'm starting to get used to running in the dark now.   I always run with my headlamp, my reflective running vest, and usually a flashlight.  Friday is also Starbucks day at our household, which is always a favorite!

Saturday December 15, 2012:  I treated myself this morning and slept until about 6:30.  My plan today was for a 90 minute run, which I decided to do at the maximum aerobic rate below threshold.  I had a great run and managed to get nearly 9 miles during the hour and half.  Afterwards, I was a little sore, but we had a long day of shopping planned.   Before bed, I took a few Advil and got to sleep early in anticipation of a long run early the next morning before Mass.  

Back to back long runs will be a strategy that I use on the weekends during this training.  The idea is to get the legs accustomed to running when tired.  I will slowly be building the amount of time that I run each weekend.  Right now I'm at a 90 minute run on Saturday followed by a 180 minute run on Sunday.  Eventually I will expand this to where I'm running about two and a half hours for the first run, followed by up to 5 or 6 hours on the following day.  Tomorrow I plan on running three hours.  I'm also going to force myself to incorporate a couple of walking breaks into the run, so I can get used to that.  

Something else that has been different on these longer runs is that I'm currently not taking nutrition or hydration when I run.  I was nervous about this at first, but because my pace is so slow, and I've been teaching my body to metabolize fat for energy more efficiently, it has not been a problem at all.  For warmer weather, I will definitely be adding hydration, but I'm going to hold off on the nutrition for a while.  Eventually I will do a long run where I'll bring some nutrition along, but I won't use it until I absolutely need it. 

I consider that there is a huge mental aspect to being able to run 50 miles and I'm finding it helpful to think about the race in terms of time instead of distance covered, and I think this will be key to running the ultra.  Next week I'll write more about how I'm approaching the psychology of ultra-running, which may be just as important as the physical.
  • Total time running:  4hrs, 41 min
  • Total Miles biked: 30 min
  • Workouts that I missed:  No core or weight training this week.  Something I'll have to stop skipping. 
  • Beers sampled:  
    • Noche Buena- an old favorite from Mexico.
    •  O'dells 90 shilling- quickly become my favorite go to beer.
    •  Winona's Big Brown Beer- the owner of Shamrock Brewing must be a fan of Primus.
    • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- with the Shrimp and Bacon Club at Cheesecake Factory
So that's my week in training.  Sometime at the end of the coming week, I will post round two which will include another long run, some cycle training, and who knows what else. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

. . .five-oh . . .

A few weeks ago, while perusing the "inter-webs,"  I came across a race scheduled for early May that I'd not heard of before, although it's been around for several years.  Something about it stuck with me, and after frequent visits to the site, as well as reading multiple race reports from the past few years, as well as a YouTube video or two, I signed up.  So, on  May 4, 2012, I will run the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 50 in Buena Vista, Colorado.  The fifty mile event consists of two loops of twenty-five miles each.  The first loop is run clockwise, and then it is run again in a counter-clockwise direction.
 As with any new undertaking, I'm both excited and nervous about the event, but mostly excited (I'm sure the nerves will kick in as the race gets closer).  I've been reading every article on ultra running and trail running (the two are very connected as most ultras are on trails), to get up to speed on this new challenge.  From what I can gather, there are some key points to remember in order to put together a successful training plan and execute an effective race.
Just like in marathon training, the cornerstone of successful ultra training is the Long Run.  The long run just happens to be a bit further.  Many of the plans I've seen also suggest doing a couple of longer runs on back to back days to simulate the "tired" feeling that the legs will experience during an ultra.  For the immediate future, I will plan on doing a long run on Friday morning before work, followed by an extra-long run on Saturday.  This means no sleeping in for me for the foreseeable future.  I hope to do most of my longer runs early in the morning so as not to interfere with family time during the day.
Another key factor in ultra running is walking.  Unlike a lot of marathons and other races, walking is pretty much de rigueur for an ultra distance race like this.  In fact, part of my strategy will be to walk much of the steeper parts of the race.  Because of the varied terrain, it's impossible to have a set pace to follow throughout the race.  The key is to keep pushing forward, taking walking breaks when necessary. 
The elevation profile demonstrates many opportunities to practice "walking."
Similar to triathlon, nutrition is another element of the ultra.  I anticipate that the race will take me anywhere from 9 to 12 hours (12 is the cutoff in fact).  That means I will be eating and drinking throughout the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner (well OK, it won't be three squares).  A big part of my training will be learning to eat and drink while on long runs.  I hear good things about Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches!  I will likely try some other things too.  During the HITS 70.3 Triathlon last summer, I did experience some trouble with feeling nauseous during the race, so this is an area I will have to work on.  My hope is that I can get to where I can consume just about any type of nutrition without it wreaking havoc on my stomach.  During HITS, I discovered that the de-fizzed Coke was very effective in helping my stomach, and I was pleased to see that this will be offered at aid stations throughout the course.
Weather is another factor unique to ultras.  While many road races boast "rain or shine," this is almost always the case with trail runs.  What makes this more significant is that the race takes place in the mountains which means that weather conditions are subject to both greater extremes and more variety.  It will likely be well below 32 degrees at the start of the race, and if it's a nice day, it may be into the 70's by the afternoon.  If the weather is extremely hot or cold, then it will be an opportunity to reassess goals and determine what to do.  This will also impact the gear that I bring.  Runners are allowed to have a "drop bag" at the 25 mile turnaround so I can use that to stash anything I might need.  Anything else will have to be carried for at least 25 miles.  That means I will be looking into some lighter weight shirts and jackets to wear for this event.
Takes as long to watch as a Marathon and may in fact be more painful!
At the heart of the ultra (as well as many other endurance events) is the battle between mind and body.  It is accepted that during an ultra, a runner will experience several peaks and valleys in terms of emotions and the will to go on.  The body and mind will conspire to "convince" the runner that it would be best to stop this nonsense, go home, and rest.  It is the duty of the "spirit" to persuade the runner to keep moving forward.  In my previous experience with Marathons, the psychology of the thing was always the most formidable part.  Standing at the start of the first two races, I was filled with anxiety about whether or not I could actually finish.  The distance intimidated.  Yet each time I ran, I managed to finish.  In preparing to do my third marathon last May, I took a different perspective to running the marathon.  Since my goal was just wanting to finish, I was able to relax and not worry about times, etc.  Instead of thinking about having to run 26.2 miles, I thought about it as just a part of my morning.  Running for a few hours before lunch was all.  Hell, sitting through an Oliver Stone movie takes nearly as long!  This relaxed point of view will be my approach to the ultra.  Instead of fifty miles, I'll remember that it's less than four half-marathons.  It's just a long hike on a Saturday.  Nothing to sneeze at, but not insurmountable.  After all, there are thousands of people that complete an ultra distance race every year.  Besides, it's not like I'm doing a 100 miler.  Those folks are crazy!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Maffetone Test #1

http://philmaffetone.com/180formula.cfm
 After last weekend's Rock Canyon Half-Marathon, today it was time to conduct my first official Maffetone test.  I've been running and riding a little more in November and early December, so today I wanted to get a measure of my fitness at this point.  The graphs below represent my weekly mileage totals (Running and Biking) for Late September/ October compared to November/ December.  Here is October:
October Distance Totals
 And here's what the last 4-5 weeks (November/ December) have looked like:
November Distance Totals
 The purpose of today's test was to begin creating a series of benchmarks for comparison throughout the course of heart rate training.  I will repeat this test again in about a month, hoping for a day with similar conditions.  As my heart rate training progresses in the next several weeks, I should see a drop in the overall pace per mile at the same heart rate. 
December 8, 2012
The Maffetone Test consists of a warm-up, a five mile measured run at just below aerobic threshold (between 139-144 in my case), and a cool-down.  As with any experiment, the key to a successful  comparison lies in keeping the variables as consistent as possible for each test.  The most important variable is a consistent running environment.  For my purposes, that meant running on the track at a nearby high school.  I used the run over (about 1.5 to 2 miles) for the warm-up and used the post-test return as my cool-down.  I ran at about 1:30 in the afternoon and the temperature was in the low to mid-fifties with very light winds. 
To make testing easier, I set the HR alerts on the Garmin so that I would have a gentle reminder if I let my heart rate dip too far below aerobic threshold or if I let it climb too far above .  After hearing a few alarms during the run, I noted that the tone of the alarm would change to indicate whether it was too high or too low.   A nice feature which meant that I didn't necessarily have to be looking at the watch the whole time (I did anyway, but it's nice to know I wouldn't have too!). Throughout the test my average heart rate stayed pretty steady, averaging between 140-142 beats per minute.  I thought it would be harder to maintain a consistent rate, but it was much easier than I thought.  I also set the Garmin to automatically record my mile splits.  This kept me from forgetting to hit the lap button or from losing track of which lap I was on over the course of 20 laps around the track.
Here are the results from the test:
Results from the 5 recorded miles of the Maffetone Test
So here's hoping for at least one sunny day in early to mid-January so I can get out and check my progress.  I don't know if I'll see a huge difference in my times, but it will be interesting to see what happens.  I will continue to increase the volume of training that I'm doing (more on that later), so I will have plenty of opportunities to work on building my aerobic engine.
Final Results from today:
Miles run: 8.42
Total Time: 1:26:13
Maffetone Test Mileage: 5 miles
Maffetone Test Time: 46:28
Average Heart Rate: 141
Average Mean Pace: 9:18
Median Pace (Mile 3): 9:22
Median HR (Mile 3): 141
Time of Day: 1:30 p.m.
Temperature: 51 degrees
Brooks Shorts, T-shirt, Mizuno Wave Precision 12, Tifosi Sunglasses, Road ID

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Rock Canyon Half Marathon Race Report

The RCHM runs along the Nature Center Bike Path from City Park to the bottom of the Reservoir and back.
 Don't let the title of this post fool you.  I am writing a Race report, because technically, this was a race.  That said, I did not "race" today in any traditional sense of the term.  This is because I have been working on the Maffetone training method which requires that I keep my heart rate (bpm) below a certain aerobic threshold (in my case around 140).  Today that was quite a challenge, but I managed to do just that for the most part.  The race also set the stage for continued training and endurance development during the next 3 months.  I felt great the entire race, and I know I'm ready to start slowing extending the amount of time that I'm out running in the coming weeks.  It's been a while since I've done this format for a race report, but I'm going to do it as a top-five countdown.
A look at my HR throughout the race. 
#5- A new personal record (sort of): Note that it says personal record, not personal best.  In fact today was the slowest half marathon I have ever done.  In a funny way, it was rather difficult to do this.  There were numerous times where I would have liked to just take off, and pick up the pace, and at times I had to check myself as I would notice both pace and heart rate creeping upwards.  I've set a goal to just go out and enjoy a race in the past, but I usually wind up chucking that approach and racing anyway.  But today it was kind of cool that I didn't.  Here's hoping all of my restraint on the trail today, will pay dividends down the road in a few months.  The other thing about running slower was that I really enjoyed the run and relished in each moment of it.  Usually towards the end of a race, I start to count down the miles and tell myself that there's only a few more to go.  I start to focus more and more on getting to the finish line.  That wasn't the case  today.  I just kind of rolled along through the each of the miles and before I knew it, the race was almost done.
Garmin Training Center Data
#4- A well run event:  On the way to the race this morning, I figured out that this was the fourth time that I've run this half-marathon. It also happened to be my third half-marathon this year.  The mark of a well-organized race is probably that you don't even really think about race organization before, during, or after the race.  That's how it was today.  I didn't think about the quality of the event, the course, the aid stations, etc, because they were all done well and with no complications.  I've done about a dozen events this year, and been in attendance at two others, and this one was among the top three as far as organization goes.
#3- Extra energy:  Today when I finished the race, I felt absolutely fine.  I'm a little sleepy now, but I think that might have more to do with the 2 beers (Belgian Black Porter, very good!) that I enjoyed at Shamrock's post-race with my Irish Biscuits.  I had so much energy in fact, that when I got home, I took my "new" bike down to the store to buy groceries for dinner.  It's nice to run an event like this and not feel so completely spent at the end that there's no energy for anything else!  I'm looking forward to "stretching" my endurance in the next few weeks as I contemplate the CPTR for May (more on that idea later).
#2- Camaraderie:  I normally don't take a race to be a fully social event, and I've gone to so many races by myself that I often don't interact with many of my fellow runners. Today, as I was taking my time, I had many opportunities to visit with other runners.  I was also able to do a lot of "people-watching" which is always entertaining at a race.   Even better, there were six of us from the family that ran today, plus many friends and acquaintances.  Pretty cool to see how many folks we know that embrace the running lifestyle!
Finisher's Medal
 #1- The Weather:   This was the best part of the race simply for the fact that conditions for this race were absolutely miserable a year ago.  I normally wouldn't rank weather as my #1,  but in 2011, the weather was literally the "polar" opposite of today.  Last December we ran with temperatures in the upper teens to low twenties and a brisk wind that was saturated with snow which blew sideways across the race for nearly the entire time.  Much more of an ordeal.  There are times when a snow-filled run can't be beat and it certainly makes one feel like a bit of a bad-ass to be out in the elements, but the contrast today was nice too.  It was a great treat to be out there today in warm weather, running in shorts and a t-shirt to boot!
This was a great way to start the month of December off and I look forward to doing this race again (although I don't know if it will be next year or not?).

Final Results: Closer to the back of the pack but still ahead of the nearly 6 billion people on earth that didn't even show up to run today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finished Fixie



A few weeks back, I did a post about a "fixie" that I had purchased at Walmart with plans to tear it apart, repaint, and upgrade some of the components.  Since then, I've put a lot of work into the bike.  This was a great way to learn a little more about bicycles and get a peek at some of the moving pieces to see how they work.  And while I didn't get into some of the more technical parts of the bike like the wheel hubs, or the bottom bracket, I did get to do a fair amount of tinkering (and a lot more sanding!) to get the bike ready.  Along the way I decided to add some different parts to the bike as well.  I was able to get a lot accomplished, but in the end, I wound up taking it to the LBS for a few final repairs and a brief inspection, just to make sure that I'd done everything right!  This evening I was finally able to pick it up from the shop and bring it home.  The next chance I get to ride to the store or to school, I'll be able to take my fixie.  Here's a final  rundown of the project:
The beginning:  I purchased this bike from the local Walmart for a mere $100.  Originally, it had a black frame, yellow handlebars, a red wheel with a yellow tire, and . . . wait for it . . . a yellow wheel with a red tire!  Those folks at Walmart sure do know how to make a bike fun.  Even more exciting, the bike came with a plastic chain guard that was attached to the bike by a steel tab that was welded just above the right side of the bottom bracket.  In short, this bike was fifty shades of UGLY!
One word: Quirky
Getting started: After disassembling various bike parts and removing the snazzy decals, I got down to the nitty and very gritty business of sanding.  Originally I started with some steel wool, but  wound up using  a palm sander with regular sandpaper that I had laying around.  This worked quite well on the larger surfaces of the bike, so I only really needed the steel wool for some of the harder to reach places and for the finishing touches.  The sanding took several sessions, and as I worked on it further, I eventually wound up removing the fork, the cranks, and the chain from the bike.
Painting:  Despite my efforts to get some community input into the color of my bike, I wound up choosing a yellow and black scheme for the bike.  In truth, the colors are not very flashy, but I really didn't want something that stood out (If that was the case, I would have kept the original color scheme).  I settled on a pale yellow hue, that contrasted nicely with the black handlebars, wheels, and tires on the bike.  I finished it with a clear coat to protect the new paint job.
Upgraded parts:  I made a few minor upgrades to the bike as well.  First, I added a set of bullhorn handlebars to replace the standard bars that came with the bike.  When these arrived, I discovered that the original stem would not work, but I was able to find a replacement at a fairly low cost.  I also invested in a new set of black tires to replace the red/yellow scheme from the bike.  Finally I wound up buying a new chain, a rear tube,  and a new brake lever since I jacked those up when putting the bike.
The finished bike

Total cost (Bike, parts, steel wool and paints, etc): approximately $275.00
Total hours spent: approximately 12 hours
Final thoughts:
1) This is probably not the cheapest, nor the best way to get a fixie bike.  There are plenty of outfits online that will sell you a customized fixie bike for about the same out of money that I wound up spending. You might spend just a little more, but you will likely get a better bike with nicer components.  If your desire is just to have a cool fixie to ride around, then purchasing a "turnkey" bike is probably the way to go.  If however, you are more of a "hobbyist" looking for something to do, and you don't care if the final product is perfect, then doing this as a project is a good way to go.  Because the costs were so low, I didn't have to worry about jacking the bike up or breaking any of the parts.  And even if I did, I was certain that I could replace them at a low cost, and any significant damage to the bike, wouldn't leave me out several hundred dollars.  Plus, I now get to bask in that sense of pride and accomplishment that only comes from "doing it yourself."
2) It's a good idea to read books, watch videos, and seek out other resources when working on a bike.  I had previously purchased a copy of Zinn and the art of Road Bike Maintenance  and this was my "go to" resource when taking the bike apart, and putting it back together.  This was especially helpful when taking the cranks off of the bike, as I don't know that I'd ever understood how to do that without reading something.  I also watched a few "You-Tube" videos, and even used an app on my Smartphone to better understand how the bike worked.  Reading through some bike forums was another way to pick up some ideas about working on bikes from others.
3) Sanding and painting a bike only looks fun.  In truth, sanding the bike down, applying a couple of primer coats, painting the bike, and then applying additional clear coat, was a hassle.  I spent many hours in the garage going over the bike with a fresh coat of paint, only to find after it had dried, that there was still a patch here or there that had been missed.
4) Unless you're experienced, it's a good idea to take the bike to a shop and get it looked over once you're finished.  Once I had finally reassembled the bike, I was having some trouble with the chain jumping all over the place.  I then decided to remove a link or two from the chain, and while this fixed that problem, it created another.  I tried to put a link back into the chain, and failed miserably.  I was also unhappy with the brake set-up on the bike.  I liked it even less when I snapped the brake lever bracket in half while trying to get it onto the handlebars.  After wrestling with different pieces of the bike for about an hour, I decided that I was no longer having fun,  and so, although it hurt my pride slightly, I decided that I'd had enough maintenance for this project.  I took it to the bike shop for a couple of small repairs, and asked them to check it once.  A wounded ego is much less painful than what would happen if the handle bars came off of the bike in mid-ride!
So that was my fixie project, and I look forward to having a bike that I can take for short trips around town.  I may add a rear rack for panniers or a plastic crate to make grocery shopping easier at some point, but for now, this bike is done!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maffetone training

It was a pretty short hill.  Fairly steep, but I've run it a hundred times easy.  Just before the hill, the trail rises gradually for about 300 meters. Not a big deal, this hill.  I wouldn't even give it a second thought.  I look down at my heart rate monitor at the base of the hill.  I'm only running at about a 15 minute pace at this point, but it already reads 139 bpm.  I shuffle my feet and slow down, noticing the pace drop to 17 minutes and change. My heart rate dips slightly, but as I move up the hill, it breaks 140 and moves to 144.  I slow to a walk and finally reach the top of this small hill.  After another 20-30 seconds of walking, my heart rate slows down to the low 130's and I'm able to run again.  Eight miles in, and it's near the end of my run.  The cardiac drift has set in, so even though I'm running only at about a 13:30 pace my heart rate is steady at 139.  After an hour and 53 minutes, I finally reach the front steps of my house.  It has taken me nearly two hours to cover a meager 9 miles.
In the past, I would never have been "okay" with a 9 mile run that took this long.  I've owned a heart rate monitor for a few years and occasionally I've used one to get some feedback on my running or cycling, but I haven't really used it purposefully.  A while back, I stumbled across a reference to the Maffetone method and the benefits of training just below the aerobic threshold for extended periods of time.  With a long winter ahead, it seemed like a good time to give it a shot.
Dr. Phil Maffetone developed a method for calculating the aerobic threshold.  This threshold is important because it is the dividing line for your body between converting fat for energy versus utilizing glycogen and blood glucose (which occurs at the anaerobic level).  The best way that I've heard it described was in an article by Mark Cucuzzella MD,FAAFP on a site named Freedom's Run Training.  Training at just below the aerobic threshold helps you to build a bigger "engine."  Calculating your aerobic threshold is extremely easy.   Take the number 180 and subtract your age.  That's basically it.  You can add a few beats if you have a high level of fitness, or subtract a few if you are just getting back into it, but 180 minus your age is the key.
Not a recovery sandal . . . a mitochondria!

During running, the goal is to keep your heart rate below that threshold at all times, as you train your body to convert fat energy more efficiently.  As the body becomes better at doing this, you will see an increase in your pace at the same heart rate.  After several weeks (3-4 months really), the difference should be quite noticeable.  The key to tracking your improvement is by doing a Maffetone test.  Basically, you select a consistent run (flat course, track, or treadmill is best) and run 5 miles at just below the threshold pace.  This test is repeated every month or two and you can see the difference in the pace.
Unfortunately, I didn't perform this test correctly a month ago when I tried it.  Instead, I ran at closer to my Lactate Threshold pace.  It was still pretty interesting to watch my pace drop over the course of 4 miles while maintaining a heart rate of about 160 bpm.  However, I will be redoing this test in the next week or two so that I have an accurate baseline to measure progress.
Training with the Maffetone method is extremely hard for reasons that are the opposite of what you might think.  It's not "hard" in the traditional sense of the word.  In fact it's quite easy because it takes place at such a low rate of exertion.  But this can be extremely frustrating, like today when I had to stop and walk a couple of times because my heart rate was starting to rise.  In a couple of weeks, I have the Rock Canyon half-marathon, and I shutter to think how long it will take me to run it this year (Last year I ran it in a snowstorm in 1:42:58).  I'm anticipating at least another hour this year.
Despite the current "slowness" of training right now, I'm going to stick with it through the winter.  Since I'm already about a month in, I figure I will continue to train this way through February with a monthly test.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Feeling a bit off during the "off season"


For the last few months, I've been taking it easy.  With no races to train for and a mountain of work that's included a lot of weekend time, I've continued to exercise, but it has been very irregular and unstructured.  I've been much better at extra slices of pizza, sampling craft beers, and seconds on dessert.  With the onset of winter, I can see my super-fitness from last July getting buried in the snow.
I think this is a common challenge for many athletes as we struggle between the need to take a break sometimes, and the fear, anguish and stress caused by training less.  Endurance athletes are hard-wired in ways that are in direct contradiction to relaxing and taking it easy.  We thrive on training cycles that involve short term/ long term goals, structure,  and regimen.  Even the most "zen" focused athlete has a healthy dose of Type A coursing through their arteries.  Endurance athletics is beyond a hobby or a pastime, it's a lifestyle.  I don't know if it defines who we are so much as it's how we express the nature of our personality to begin with.  So, to step away from these things for a time each year seems foreign and unnatural.  Triathletes seem to deal with this in many different ways, some better than others.  A few folks continue to train year round, and many others pursue other activities at this time of year.  The truth is, there isn't really a good answer that fits for everyone. 
This fall has been particularly difficult in that regard for me as I feel unbalanced by the "off-season."  A number of times I've returned from an enjoyable Sunday run brimming with best intentions to stay consistent and get more workouts in during the week.  Before bed, I'll set out my running gear convinced that I will get up and run before work, only to find them still waiting again the next evening.  Or, I'll carve some time out between the end of work and dinner so that I can jump on the trainer for a short 30 minutes.  Instead, I walk in the door at five-thirty, grab a beer out of the fridge, and take it easy. I'm trying to keep perspective on this, reminding myself that I don't have to be training, but it's definitely a struggle, and I wrangle with feelings of guilt and frustration for not doing more.  I know in my heart that I will never let myself go completely, and I'm already plotting which marathons, triathlons, and bike rides I might do in 2013, but it's making me a little crazy.  I need to find balance and I need to learn to deal with this whole "off-season" thing differently.
During the last couple of weeks, I've decided that I do need some goal during the off-season.  The "on season" is quite a ways out, and if there isn't something on the near horizon, I get a little listless about the whole thing.  Last year, I participated in a Winter running Series, which kept me active and helped me to maintain some training.  At the same time, I was dealing with some minor injuries, so I had a great reason not to train as much.   About two weeks ago, I signed up for a local half-marathon that takes place in early December.  I have no intention of "racing" this event, but I'll use it instead as a piece of "off season" fitness, and a chance to work on my base.  Having something to train towards has injected a little more motivation into my outlook.  I've created a humble, very manageable training plan to get ready for the half.  It consists of only three workouts a week (including one long run on the weekends), but it's enough for now. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pimp my Ride

About a month ago, I spent $100 and got a very cheap and obnoxious-looking fixie bike from the local Walmart.  I've been looking at fixies for a while now as I've wanted something that I could ride for short errands, and between home and work.  An added bonus is that a cheaper bicycle would give me the opportunity to experiment with bike maintenance, without having to worry about destroying a quality bicycle.    With this bike, my plan has been  to strip the bike down and build it back up with bullhorn handlebars, better tires, and perhaps most importantly, a better paint job.  To date, I've taken the handlebars, stem, and fork off of the bike (along with the brakes), and I will be removing the pedals and cranks very shortly.  If you've never seen Walmart's Fixie bicycle, it looks a little like a 1970's McDonald's threw up.
Here's hoping there aren't any extra parts when I'm done!

I've considered a number of paint schemes for my bike to replace the current set up, but I've had trouble deciding.  Originally, I was opting for black wheels, cranks and pedals, along with a dark gold frame, but the more I look at it, this doesn't seem quite right.  So, I've decided to open it up and let any readers decide what color they think it should be.  I will accept submissions for the next two weeks, at which time I will announce the winning scheme.  Tonight I asked my family to give me their top four choices.  Please leave me a comment with the choice that you prefer.    Here are the choices below:
WTF . . . What the Fork?

#1 (Maya) The Wiz Khalifa-  Black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow . . .
#2 (Lily) The Blue bug- Blue with Green
#3 (Melisa) Der Grasshopper- Green with Pink
#4 (Ted) Berry White- Reddish/ Purple with White
I expect to finish stripping the bike in the next week or two, at which time I will be ready to paint.  I still need to order some new tires to replace the red and yellow ones that came with the bike.  So, let me know which you think would look best.
If you come to a "fork" in the road.



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Off Season "Suffering"


 This fall is the busiest I've been in years.  It seems like every week that passes, there is more and more to do.  It's a good thing it's the off season and I haven't really solidified any races or set any solid goals at this point. Likely, it won't be until the first of the year before I start finalizing my 2013 schedule and setting specific goals.   And that's a long ways away yet.
Early in the workout.
However, one thing I will be working on throughout this off-season is getting better on the bike. To that end,  I made an investment last month in three videos from the Sufferfest.  If you are unfamiliar with the Sufferfest, it is a series of videos that are designed to be used with your trainer (kind of a poor man's computrainer, I suppose). I plan on using these throughout the winter to work on improving my bicycling fitness.  Last year, some knee issues, coupled with more time spent Marathon training,  resulted in low amounts of time on the bike,  so this year, I plan on getting more time on the trainer.   
The Sufferfest seems to be a good way to do just that.
The Warm-up footage is from a San Diego Velodrome
 I bought three of the videos: The Downward Spiral, Angels, and The Long Scream.  The videos are downloads, and after a fair amount of struggle, I was able to successfully burn each of them onto a DVD.  And although I've only tried them a couple of times (and only completed The Downward Spiral in its entirety), I have to say that they do offer an impressive workout.  Last week, I had Maya snap a few pictures as I rode.
The name "Sufferfest" seems appropriate (I'm not laughing)
The Downward Spiral is an interval workout and gets its name from the two sets of descending intervals that you complete (2:00 minutes to start, descending by 15 seconds each time with an equal recovery in between).  Prior to the start of the intervals, you warm up to videos of a Mountain Bike Descent, and what looks to be a small criterium race.  For the intervals, the video switches to footage from  the Paris-Roubaix race.  It then toggles back and forth between between the two with the Crit race being used for the recovery portion after each  interval.  The interval set is repeated with some alternate race footage (I can't remember from what) for the second set.  As a cool-down, there is a short movie of some stunt biking in Europe (kind of hipster urban bike stuff, but still pretty impressive.
I think what sets these videos apart however is the Music.  Although none of it has really been familiar to me, it definitely goes well with the video footage.  And even though, I've ridden portions of the Downward Spiral a few times,  I continue to enjoy the music.  I think there are something like 10 videos to date,with more promised to be on the way.  So after I tire of the three that I have, I may look at adding a few more. 
The Sufferfest Motto- "I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow"




Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton & Danny Coyle


I am not a Lance-hater.  In my humble opinion, the majority of people are neither good nor bad, but are combinations of both attributes.  Good people make bad choices, and vice-verse.  To me, Lance Armstrong seems to embody that.  A Seven Time Tour Winner and A Doper.  Founder of the Livestrong Foundation and a Cheat.  Inspiration to millions and cruel and ruthless to former friends and colleagues.  And, if you take Tyler Hamilton's word for it, Lance is not alone by any stretch. 
The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs  by Tyler Hamilton and Danny Coyle, chronicles his life as a cyclist and an admitted user of performance enhancing drugs and blood transfusions.  His story intertwines with that of his colleague and eventual nemesis, Lance Armstrong.  Unfortunately at times, the book does read more like an expose about Armstrong and the fact that he got away with Doping for so long when everyone else was "getting popped."  Clearly, and not without reason perhaps, this is a big issue for Hamilton, and he makes no bones about this, or the feelings of betrayal generated by his former teammate at Postal.  He lays out an extensive record of doping both on his own part, as well as amongst many of the top names in cycling during the last decade.  
Tyler Hamilton writes extensively about Doping & Cycling

But this isn't what makes the book interesting.  Rather than the "who did what" aspect and the scandal, it's his description of the espionage and the science behind performance enhancing drugs that is fascinating.  The story goes into great detail to explain how entire teams, and eventually individual riders were able to obtain these drugs and continue to use them despite the feeble attempts to test athletes and present the image that the sport was attempting to clean itself up.  Hamilton, with independent verification of events by coauthor Danny Coyle, talks about the complicity that the UCI shared in the doping issue, how the best riders in the world consulted the same "doctors," who provided support in the form of EPO's and eventually blood transfusions to be used throughout the  race: Le Tour.  
It's obvious that doping has had a huge impact on cycling performance amongst former and current professionals, and that yes, Lance Armstrong was one among many users.  Hamilton points out that doping was so extensive amongst the top cyclists, that at times, it didn't really feel like cheating.  It was part of the "culture" of cycling and many riders approached it like any other tactic or strategy to be successful.  Hamilton does not trot out the argument that it was "fair" because "everyone was doing it,"  he simply points out that any clean riders would not have been able to keep up with the leaders because of the impact that doping had on the racers.  Better riders tended to be able to afford better doctors, drugs, and strategies, and so doping tended to create an unstoppable cycle that propelled itself.  
The US Postal Team dominated the Tour and other races for several years.
Coming on the heels of Lance's decision not to arbitrate with the anti-doping agency USADA, this book isn't really shocking in what it reveals about the riders (Personally, the book did nothing to convince me that some of USADA's methods are wrong and undermine the principles of due process).  Most of the cyclists mentioned in the book have also confessed and/ or have served suspensions for testing positive.  For me, the book doesn't really change the way I feel about Lance.  He's still an incredible athlete.  He still beat cancer.  He still inspires others.  And, he's got his own demons, challenges, and flaws.  Like any of us, he is neither good nor bad, just some combination of both.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Foam Fest 2012: Beer Drinking Report

After Mass last night, we left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa and raced off to attend Foam Fest 2012 at the Colorado State Fair.  This was the second year in a row that we've gone to this beer festival, and it will likely earn a permanent spot on the calendar.  While Pueblo only has one Microbrewery that comes to mind, the Festival brings in brewers from around the State.  For thirty dollars (plus the $10 gate admission), you can sample around 60 different beers from about 25 different brewers.  And while they do provide free hot dogs and chips inside the beer garden, a better bet is to head  out to the main fairgrounds and indulge from a very large variety of food (Funnel Cakes and Nachos anyone?).
During the last 12 months since I last attended the festival, my knowledge and appreciation for beer has grown.  This is due in large part to my own experiences brewing beer with Mr. Beer, (it may be the easy-bake oven of home brewing, but it's still a lot of fun) and my acquired taste for Hops laden beers.  I now know more about the brewing process, the different ingredients, etc. At any rate, I came to the festival with the intention of sampling the beers in a more sophisticated manner.  That lasted at least twenty minutes.  Here are some thoughts from this year's festival including a list of my favorites.
Don't drop your cup!
The "dropped cup" correlation-  Don't drop your commemorative plastic cup at Foam Fest! Whenever a cup hits the ground, the whole place erupts in a collective groan (I'm pleased to say that I have not dropped my cup at this event).  There is an interesting correlation between the number of dropped cups and the lateness of the hour.  In the beginning, you might hear a cup drop every 20-30 minutes.  Near the end of the night, it happens in  one to two minute intervals.
You will grossly underestimate how much you've had to drink- Just because the "pours" you get are small (about 3-4 oz), doesn't mean you aren't drinking a lot of beer.  Consider that you might sample 3 to 4 beers during a 10 to 15 minute period (and that's if you are taking your time).  At that point you've had anywhere from 9 to 16 oz. of beer.  Over the course of an hour, you've now had 36 to 64 oz. (3 to 5 beers).  Foam Fest lasts four hours, so I think you get the point.  Plus,  you are not drinking Bud Light.  Most of the beers at the festival are at least 5% ABV.
Fair Food will help with the above- Nachos, Indian Tacos, Gyros, Deep Fried Twinkies, Giant Turkey Legs, Funnel Cakes, Deep Fried Snickers Bars, etc. will absorb some of the effects of all that beer drinking, just don't get sick!
Zora Pale- My personal favorite
The Best Beers of the Night- I had one "hands down" favorite last night, and several that I enjoyed a great deal.  The Best sample last night was the Zora Rosemary Oatmeal Pale from Strange Brewing Company.  The beer had an almost rich buttery taste and while you could taste the Rosemary, it didn't overpower the rest of the beer.  This beer was a little more full bodied than a typical pale ale, and it had an incredibly smooth finish.   They also had a Cherry Kriek Beer that won gold in 2011, and while I'm not a fan of the "fruit beer," this one was enjoyable, Melisa's favorite of the night.  More tart than sweet. 
The Oskar Blues Brewery won a Gold Medal last night for their Deviant Dale's IPA (8% ABV, 85 IBU's).  What can I say, I like those bitter, hoppy beers, not something I would have said a year ago! They also had the best selection of bumper stickers and were even giving away beer "cozies."  (We discovered that these cozies wound up in receiving larger pours, as they obstructed the view of the person pouring the beer).
At the Del Norte Brewing Company they had a Mexican theme going.  Craft beers in the Mexican style are remarkably rare, which is surprising given the long history of quality beer coming from that country.  Their Manana Lager was a Mexican Amber of excellent quality, and I'll give them extra credit for brewing something unique from many of the other breweries that were present.
Honorable mentions go to Amica's Green Chile Ale, the beers from Pateros Creek Brewing, and the Vanilla Cream Ale from San Luis Valley Brewing Company.
Mmm . . . Not so much- I generally find the beer at Shamrock to be quite enjoyable, and I did like the White IPA that they poured last night.  Not quite as enjoyable was their Pilsner which was a little bit of a let down.  I had tried to order it last week while having dinner, but they had stopped serving it at that point.  I was excited that I was getting a chance to try it again, but    there seemed to be just a slight skunky aroma that I didn't agree with.  For me, the standard on Pilsner beer is set by O'Dells Double Pilsner, and Left Hand's Polestar Pilsner.  However, the Shamrock Brewery produces many great beers.  Their seasonal 3rd Street Stout (made with coffee from Solar Roast down the block) is a fine, fine beer.
Elk Mountain Brewery in Parker won a medal for one of their beers last night, but I doubt it was their Kolsch.  This beer had a very disagreeable taste.  It was in fact, the only beer that I "dumped" last night.  I won't condemn all of their beers however (they did win something last night after all).
This morning, as I write this, I'm nursing a bit of a hangover, which is something I haven't experienced in quite some time.  For the most part, I'm ready for bed after a couple of beers.  I guess it's just part of the territory when it comes to Foam Fest.  And who knows, maybe by the time dinner rolls around, I'll be ready for a fresh brew.  Cheers!