Top five training hikes in Boulder – #3

South Boulder Peak via Shadow Canyon

UPDATE: This trail was re-opened on June 7, 2013 nearly after a year’s closure due to the  Flagstaff fire.

Distance: 3.35 miles

Gain: 2,922’

Average Grade: 16.5%

Description: Some may disagree with on the choice of this hike as #3 as opposed to maybe #2. South Boulder Peak is the highest mountain in the Boulder OSMP. The approach up Shadow Canyon feels as relentless as it does remote and the views of Eldorado Canyon to the south, both from Shadow and the summit of South Boulder, are pretty amazing by local standards.

So this hike scores highly both on the epic scale and as good training but also suffers from a number of accessibility inconveniences. Unless you are a resident of Boulder County and have acquired the appropriate permit, there is a $5 fee for parking at the South Mesa trailhead. The hike is also the longest on this list with much of that distance being a scenic but fairly easy approach to the bottom of Shadow, where the vertical fun begins. Basically, it’s difficult to knock this one out after work unless you can run it (and I hate running) or don’t mind coming down in the dark.

That said, while the trailhead itself is very popular, South Boulder itself is not so much, mostly due to the reasons mentioned above. So if dodging the crowds is your thing, this is your hike. Make sure to consult or better yet bring along the official OSMP trail map as there are numerous junctions and spurs of the Mesa trail to navigate on your way to Shadow.

Trailhead & Parking: $5 per car for non-Boulder County residents (or you can purchase an annual pass for $25) at the South Mesa trailhead. Boulder Country residents are free as long as you have obtained the annual pass from OSMP. If you don’t mind an even longer and more boring approach, you can park free at the South Boulder Creek West trailhead, just watch you don’t step in none of them cow patties along the way.

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Some body composition numbers from my new toy

The month of December saw me receiving multiple daily packages from UPS and the postal service. The packages were addressed to me, but none the contents were actually for me. They were toys for the children—many, many toys—generously given by their grandparents, despite my admonishment not to buy too many toys. The money would be better spent subsidizing our cable & internet bill (the de facto toys of today’s youth).

Admittedly, I am hard to buy for as my interests are somewhat fringe. As such, the sums of cash I received from both my parents and in-laws were both graciously received and last week I finally pulled the trigger on my own Christmas toy: a Tanita BC-554 Ironman Body Composition Scale, bought from The Colorado Cyclist on sale for $109.99. Sorry for the plugs and just a mention that I receive no compensation from the manufacturer or retail entity, but am maybe a little old school in feeling that credit is due for a useful product purchased at a fair price.

Anyway, this is an item that had been on my “would never buy this for myself” wishlist for over a year. It is my new weapon in the trench warfare that the struggle to achieve optimal racing weight has become.

I input the personal data last night, including my age (42), height (5’ 10’’) and the fact that I am, according to Tanita, an athlete (defined as someone who trains 10 or more hours per week).

Here are my stats from this morning’s first official weigh in, along with some explanation and analysis:

Weight: 162 lbs

Body Fat: 13%. On the low side of the healthy range for a 42-year-old male but completely shameful for an endurance athlete.

Visceral Fat: 5. Had to look this one up: fat between body organs and for men and underneath the abdominal muscles in particular. A score of 1-12 is healthy, scoring goes up to 59.

Water: 56.6. 50-65 is the healthy range for men. I weighed myself first thing in the morning and was likely a little dehydrated.

Muscle Mass: 134 lbs

Bone Mass: 7 lbs

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – 1828. This is the number of calories burned per day just by existing. This figure is 100+ calories higher than what I get when I run the numbers through the BMR calculators on found on the internet.

Metabolic Age: 18. This means that I have the BMR of your average 18-year-old male, for what it’s worth. The range is from 12-50. As tempting as it is, I refuse to gloat about this figure. I have always vowed to age gracefully and find it super annoying when people moan about getting old, which I find a far more desirable outcome than the alternative.

Physique Rating: 5. Indicates that I have average muscle mass and body fat %.  If I were to drop 2% of body fat I would get the desired rating of 8, which means average muscle  lower than normal fat%. This is a scale created by Tanita and measured 1-9. Important to note that the scale is non-linear and each number has it’s own specific meaning.

Drawing some rough conclusions from this data: 13% of 162 means that I have 21 lbs of body fat. The low end of recommended fat% for cyclists is 5%, a figure that I poached off the excellent Sports Fitness Advisor blog.

Let’s say that for the sake of non-perfectionism, that 6% would be ideal. Using my weak math which I won’t bore you with, I can then reverse engineer a target weight = 150lbs. So basically I want to lose 12 lbs of fat by the end of April.  Of course this assumes no change in muscle mass, which is unlikely over the course of the next few months of hard training, so I will have to revisit these numbers on a regular basis and revise my target weight accordingly.

Incidentally, there happens to be another cyclist who is 5’ 10”, 150 lbs.

Top 5 Training Hikes in Boulder – #4

Flatiron #1&2 Access Trail

Distance: 1.4 miles

Gain: 1,422’

Average Grade: 19.2%

Description: Enough people hike this trail and yet it is relatively unpublicized on the web and was only recently added on the official Boulder OSMP map. I rate this trail as best training/hiking bang for the buck in Boulder if you’re short for time.

You may notice that the length of the hike is the same as Sanitas, with a little more gain. I would also say that the training stimulus is slightly different as the trail is steadier than Sanitas, not including the fun scampering section a little past the halfway mark. From there the trail begins it’s dizzying ascent up a number of tight switchbacks, sandwiched in between Flatirons #1&2.

Again if you’ve paced yourself well, the start of the switchbacks is the point to drop the hammer for a strong finish. Just be careful, as a couple of turns near the top are somewhat indistinct and easy to miss when at speed. If you are able to knock this out at around 35 minutes (or less), then you are in pretty good shape.

The real bonus of this route is the scenery, which is varied and epic as urban foothill hikes go. The ascent ends behind Flatiron #1, an area that has a primordial feel about it and has a great view of the northern Front Range. From here you can bomb back down the way you came or continue west down the slightly loose and sketchy climbers access trail that drops down to the Saddle Rock trail on the backside, creating a longer loop.

Trailhead & Parking: The caveat of this great hike is its origin at the Chautauqua trailhead, which is very busy on summer afternoons and weekends, being as it’s reasonably accessible from Rt. 36 and kind of famous…but also free!

Top 5 Training Hikes in Boulder – #5

Mount Sanitas, East Ridge

Distance: 1.4-miles

Gain: 1,295’

Average Grade: 17.5%

Description: This is a fun ascent and although not very long, it is excellent “microwave” training if taken at speed. It is also pretty much the most popular hike in Boulder–for people and dogs–and sees an enormous amount of traffic on summer afternoons and weekends.

This hike is often used as a fitness benchmark by the elites. As I began my slow climb back into shape in 2009 I was able to do this hike in just under 27 minutes from the little pavilion down by the creek to the post which marks the summit. Imagine the blow to my ego when I later found out that the standing record is 14:12, set by world-class trail runner Kilian Jornet.

Pace yourself on the first section up to the crest of the ridge, as it’s one of the tougher sustained steeps of the hike. After that it’s a varying mix of steeps and false flats leading to the final nausea-inducing (if you’ve done it right!) rocky stair step to the top.

Trailhead & Parking: Plenty of free parking along the road on Sunshine Canyon Drive, just west of the Mapleton Center of Boulder Community Hospital. Of the five hikes on this list, this one is the furthest from Rt. 36.