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Bolder Boulder 2011

Started: 2011-06-01 20:08:31

Submitted: 2011-06-04 07:51:35

Visibility: World-readable

In July, my mother is planning a gathering in Oceanside, Oregon (on the coast near Tilamook) with her extended family, including my cousins in San Diego (some of which I didn't think could leave San Diego County). Oceanside is not especially close to Kiesa's parents in Longview, but it is served by the same major airport with direct service from Denver, so our first instinct would have been to try to chain trips to see both of Calvin's grandmothers at once. This broke down when Kiesa's mother scheduled a multiweek vacation covering most of July, including the obvious before-and-after windows of my mother's vacation. Kiesa decided instead to take Calvin to visit her mother over Memorial Day, leaving me at home to work and run the Bolder Boulder. And, as it turned out, do yard work.

Kiesa and Calvin left on Wednesday before Memorial Day. I worked through Friday (cleaning up technical debt incurred earlier in preparation for running my code on shiny new chips, and fending off cries to work on bugs that clearly weren't mine), then had the long weekend to myself. On Saturday I pruned my most precocious lilac. Several years ago I planted four lilac bushes along the western edge of my house, and while they all have survived, the southernmost one (presumably the one with the best light) has done much better than the others. This spring it bloomed aggressively, but by the weekend the brilliant white flowers had faded and it was time to deadhead the the nascent seed pods to encourage the shrub to put its energy into foliage rather than seeds. I pruned the shrub as well, thinning some of the lower branches and attempting to keep it from encroaching onto the path along the side of the house.

My next mission was to turn on the sprinklers. I've always tried to turn on my sprinklers earlier in the year, but this year I entered the spring with an abiding hatred for my lawn and no desire in doing anything at all to maintain it, especially mowing it. Not content to heed my antipathy, my lawn decided to take advantage of the wet spring by beginning to grow, albeit somewhat scraggly. Two weeks ago I finally looked up lawn care companies on the Internet and found one company to aerate and fertilize my lawn right away, and continue to mow it throughout the summer. (At least, I think they're supposed to mow my lawn throughout the summer, on Tuesdays, but they didn't appear to have shown up yesterday and I haven't yet had the chance to check whether they showed up today after a post-holiday shift.) With regular lawn mowing arranged, I finally took the opportunity to turn on my sprinklers in an attempt to keep my home owner's association from sending me any nastygrams deriding my attempt to return my lawn to its historic prairie-grass state. This year, nothing froze over the winter and needed to be replaced, though the drip line running to my shrubs refused to turn on when driven by the automatic timer, which I flagged for later reference.

Undaunted, I turned to the small brick patio at the base of the stairs leading down from my porch onto the lawn. Ants had colonized the sand supporting the bricks, and three years ago I undertook a major spring project to remove the bricks, replenish the sand, and replace the bricks in an orderly fashion. In the intervening three years, the ants had returned, undermining the sand and causing the bricks to sag again. I removed the brick, poured one and a half cubic feet of sand under the bricks, tamped down the sand, and replaced the bricks, but not before I mashed my left index finger between two bricks while tamping the sand. I scurried inside for a bandage, put a glove on my hand, and returned to finish the bricks.

Saturday evening I finished reading my latest academic library acquisition, Into Tibet by Thomas Laird. I picked up this book on a whim next to The CIA's Secret War in Tibet by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, cleaning out CSU's Morgan Library's entire collection of books documenting the America's international relationship with Tibet in E183.8.T55. An exercise in narrative history, the book tells the story of an American CIA agent in northwestern China as the postwar Nationalist regime falls to the Communists and Stalin builds his first nuclear bomb on the other side of the border. As Mao's new Communist regime tightens its control, he joins another American, who may or may not be a CIA agent, and they head through the desert to Tibet and eventually to Lhasa, arriving shortly before the Communists invade -- which may have been precipitated by their presence. I found the book fascinating on many levels: the narrative was interesting, the history of postwar China and preinvasion Tibet fit neatly into my recent research, and on a meta level the very telling of the story -- carefully pieced together over a decade of research into still-classified events -- was intriguing.

On Sunday, I took a break from my yardwork to go cross-country skiing at Brainard Lake. My last attempt at spring skiing was met with more walking than skiing on sticky snow at 9000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park, but I guessed that, after a wet and snowy May there would still be plenty of snow, especially in the trees, at 10000 feet and above at Brainard Lake. The morning dawned cool and overcast in Boulder, but by the time I got to the newly-paved winter parking lot outside Brainard Lake Recreation Area, the sun was bright and I was beginning to wonder if I would see enough snow to ski on. I strapped my skis to my pack and walked past the gate onto the road, which was plowed and clear until a half-mile from the lake, where the road abruptly ended in a giant snowdrift. I exchanged my hiking boots for nordic system ski boots and skied around the side of the drift onto the snow-covered road beyond.

Around the lake itself, the road was alternately drifted and bare. The snow was soft and slushy in the sun, and crusty in the shade. I skied around the north side of lake and followed the road to the Long Lake Trailhead, then tried to follow the trail along the north side of Long Lake. I used the map on my GPS receiver as an approximate guide as to where the trail ought to be and had some luck following a reasonable route through the woods. When I reached the western edge of the lake and thought the Jean Lunning Trail connected to the south, around the southern edge of the lake, I tried to turn south to find it but got sidetracked in a broad snowy meadow with clear tracks (at least one snowshoe and one ski) leading west, further up the valley toward Lake Isabelle. I followed the tracks and soon emerged in a large snow-covered basin immediately below Lake Isabelle. I tried to remember how the basin looked in summer and also marveled at the snow and the dozens of tiny avalanches on the surrounding mountains. To the west I could see a giant bergschrund on a steep snowfield on the east side of Shoshoni Peak, and further west I saw snow running all the way from Isabelle Glacier to Queens Way to the summit of Apache Peak. I soon got an amazing view of a giant cornice on the headwall immediately to the east of Lake Isabelle. I kept a respectful distance and carefully evaluated my footing for slide potential, carefully avoiding any steep snowfields. I couldn't find a good way up to the level of the lake itself (and the map on my GPS receiver led me slightly astray as to the precise location of the trail on the ground; had I followed the trail through the trees I might have had a better shot at the lake) and decided to declare victory and head home.

I retraced my track down the middle of the basin, and tried to avoid the hard-to-navigate trees on the north side of Long Lake by sticking to the flatter basin on the west side of the lake, but the ominous crunching and compacting of the snow below me drove me back to the general vicinity of the trail, which turned out to be easier to follow on the descent, since I had already found most of the path of least resistance, and my misguided divergences from the optimal route were easy to spot in retrospect (and from the opposite direction). I descended the Niwot Cutoff Trail and followed the road back to the winter trailhead, eventually walking the last mile on the closed road. The snowy spring seems poised to wreak havoc on my plans for a snow-climbing summer but at least I can still ski, as long as I can find the trail.

Despite remembering to apply sunscreen to my face and neck, I forgot to properly sunscreen my arms. I spent most of the day skiing in short sleeves and ended up with a significant sunburn on both arms.

Back in civilization, I dropped by Home Depot to pick up deck wash and deck stain in one final attempt to finish re-staining my deck. (Apparently this is something I should have done more than ... never ... in the six years I've owned my house.) I needed a couple of dry days over 40° in a row for each segment I stained, and dry days were not easy to come by in the wet, post-el-nino spring of 2011. I started with the railing on the west side of the deck in March, where I over-applied wood filler to the gaping cracks in the deck and ended up with a stain that was more pink than redwood. In April I scraped together one dry weekend and cleaned and painted the railing on the east and north side of the deck. This time I was more circumspect with the wood filler; I found 'stainable wood filler' and used that sparingly in only one inconspicuous crack. It was clearly a different color than the surrounding wood in the semi-transparent redwood stain, but I was careful to apply it only to the crack itself and sand away the excess. I also applied the recommended two coats to the larger boards in the railing, resulting much-better-looking final product.

According to the weather forecast, my window for consecutive dry days started on Monday; I needed twenty-four hours after applying the stain to let it dry before any chance of rain. I started on Sunday afternoon by sanding and washing the surface of the deck itself, then let the deck dry overnight.

I woke up early Monday morning to run the Bolder Boulder. I've lost track of how many times I've run the road race; aside from a hiatus from 2004 through 2007, I ran the race most years since moving to Boulder in 1991. My schedule was dictated mostly by how early I needed to wake up in order to eat before my wave start at 07:03. (My experience last year, in which I missed my wave start in the face of an epic queue at the mobile lockers, also encouraged me to indulge in an early start.) I opted to eat breakfast two hours before the race, so my alarm woke me up before the crack of dawn at 05:00. I ate a small bowl of high-carb granola, double-checked my gym bag, and headed out the door.

I picked up the RunRide bus on the west side of Longmont for a bus ride into Boulder for the start of the race. The morning was cool and cloudy but didn't rain until I was finished running. The race changed its starting location this year in order to get more space behind the starting line to stage the 90 waves; for the first time, it started to the north on 30th at Walnut, exchanging the gentle downhill at the start of the race (which allegedly encouraged runners to go out too fast and crash later) for a gentle uphill. The bus dropped me off on Arapahoe just west of 30th before 06:15, with forty-five minutes to go before the start of the race. I exchanged my gym bag for a sticker on my bib tag at the mobile lockers and meandered to my wave start with plenty of time to spare. I qualified into wave B, the fourth wave of the citizen's race, within sight of wave A. I remained vaguely nervous about my performance (and my pre-race nutrition strategy) as I stood in the middle of the closed road, between the fences separating the starting area from the sidewalks beyond, in the early-morning chill. I took a quick warm-up run back to the nearest bank of portable toilets and returned in plenty of time to await the start of the race. I heard the wheelchair's starting gun at 06:55, and the start of wave A at 07:00, then we started shuffling inexorably toward the starting line and our own start.

When the gun started my wave, I thought only of my aggressive target pace: seven minutes per mile, for ten kilometers. I let most of my wave pass me at the start before I realized I was running slower than my target pace, up the gentle hill at the start, and tried to step up my pace as the course headed toward the first turn at Valmont. The morning stayed cool and overcast, but it felt fairly humid (at least, by Colorado standards). I struggled to keep up to my goal pace and ran as close to pace as I could, but I had to conceded I wasn't going to hit seven minute-miles for a ten-kilometer race as I had in my last five-kilometer race. (At the very least, I didn't finish the race with surplus energy I should have used early in the race.) I kept up and even improved my pace as I continued running, meandering through residential neighborhoods, skirting downtown Boulder, and running up the final mile down Folsom and up the final brutal hill into Folsom Field. The bagpipes at the entrance to the station barely registered as I focused on the finish, finally dropping onto the plastic track protecting the turf into the sparsely-populated stadium for the last big turn to the finish. By the time I sprinted across the finish line, I knew I hadn't quite met my goal of cutting another four minutes off last year's personal record; I'd have to settle for cutting two and a half minutes off for a new personal record of 46:18.

I crossed the bridge to the east side of the stadium to pick up my lunch (though it was still before 08:00) and noted that I'd finished the race before more than half of the later waves had actually started. (I'd heard stories of runners finishing in early waves and looping back to the start for another far more leisurely run with larger groups in later waves, and such a feat was now within my grasp.) I circled back to the section where my coworkers might be congregating, but turnout threatened to be light this year in the absence of a formal team sponsorship by my employer. (The race itself canceled the corporate team competitions this year, which my employer had previously competed in.)

I spent a few minutes sitting in the stadium as more runners finished but left when it started to rain. I grabbed my gym bag from the mobile lockers, found shelter next to the Foucault pendulum under the physics building, put on pants, drank my high-carb-and-protein post-race recovery drink, and wandered through the expo in search of free coffee. I felt tired after the race and trudged to the bus pickup for the ride home. The busses didn't appear until 09:00, still before the last waves of walkers had started, and well before the elite race and the Memorial Day festivities.

At home, I took a shower, did the dishes, and turned my attention to the porch. I filled some of the more egregious cracks in the porch, then headed back inside to let the filler cure for a few hours before attempting to stain it. Shortly after I returned inside, a fast-moving thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere (out of a zero-percent chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service forecast; during the storm the forecast changed to allow a 20% chance of scattered thunderstorms) and dumped hail on my porch. I found I couldn't keep my eyes open to start my next expansive history of Tibet, The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, so I took a quick nap, giving the hail the chance to melt and dry. Once I verified the deck was dry, I sanded down the filler, trying (with some success) to sand away the filler except where it was actually filling cracks, and proceeded to stain the entire deck. This proved somewhat less arduous than staining the railing, with all of its various small surfaces on each side of the tiny 2x2 vertical supports between larger 4x4 posts, but was still time-consuming and tedious. I finished my first coat on the deck just after sundown, knowing I'd have to add one more coat in the next forty-eight hours for complete coverage.

Kiesa and Calvin returned on Tuesday, just in time for me to get a mostly-last-minute trip to my corporate mothership in San Diego. I didn't want to leave before seeing Kiesa and Calvin again, and I had a dental cleaning to show up for on Wednesday morning, so I had to pack and apply one final coat of stain to the deck on Tuesday night. I'm sure the deck will be stunning (or, at least, better than it was), but I'm more than ready to give up any more attempts to maintain it for the rest of my life. Or at least the rest of the year.

Modern mobile phones make my head hurt, and I speak as the owner of a
sheepskin that proclaims me to hold a degree in computer science.
- Charles Stross, What I want for Christmas