Wednesday, June 27, 2012


'Babe, did you take these?', I asked Aspen about a week ago as I uploaded a series of photos from our Samsung TL220 to iPhoto. Gracing the set were a number of close-ups of our 2.5-year-old son, Carson, gazing into nothingness with his summer-blue eyes. I shifted the laptop screen in my wife's direction. 'Uh, I don't think so.' Amusement briefly crossed her face before the phone rang and we went on with our day, not giving the pictures a second thought.

A few days later I bounded up the basement steps to the sounds of:  'Cheeeeeeeeeeese. FLASH!!! giggle-giggle-giggle.' It was Carson, perched on the couch with the camera in his hands, snapping a series of self portraits. Ah, the culprit! Still not sure what this means, but we figure it's just a matter of time before he uploads a video to Youtube.

Copyright © 2012 Carson Hilbelink

Postscript: After a closer look at this first set, we were pretty sure that Carson didn't take them (One-handed? Come on.) Those were found to be the work of unGuy (age 5). I would have guessed the same on the second shoot if I hadn't witnessed it with me own eyes! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Working Out The Kinks

Two-mile training runs are the pits!
It's been seven weeks since returning to some semblance of a regular running routine. This brief daily escape has been terribly missed, as I climb back onto the wagon with the welcoming clasp of an old friend. But of course, it's not without its growing pains. I put on some sympathy weight (....OK, 20 lbs), including more than a few lbs of upper body muscle mass that pushed me into the 195-lb range. I attribute this to many long days of swinging a pick and shovel while searching out my most favorite crystal digs. My knees are definitely not getting any love from this fleshy backpack. Now that we're in the gemhunter's 'offseason', the ground is frozen and will not be accepting my hand tools anytime soon. Bye, bye, guns (kisses biceps).  At the start of Week 8, I've already withered to a svelte 187, and looking to shave another five lbs from this frame by the New Year, especially after hearing that each lb of extra weight adds about 0:02 to each mile. So, imagine the hours I would sacrifice in a 100-mile race!

Rather than bore you with statistics or my paltry running log, I'll focus on what has changed for me as I approach the 2012 season. First thing to go was the Maffetone Heart Training Method. I recommend it as an initial means of building a strong aerobic base, but feel that the method is designed for the sea level runner training on little or no hills. I live on a hill at 8,700 feet, and there's just no easy way to keep your heart rate below, say, 140 bpm, without walking at some point. I was hiking at least one portion of every run, not realizing it was reducing me into a comfort-seeking, slow runner at race time. It eroded my ability to suffer, when suffering should be what drives me more swiftly to the finish line.

Instead, I've modified an existing training program to stack two long run days in a row, with a break on either side and then some shorter days throughout the week. It was tough starting from scratch. 'Hmmmm, let's see...Monday - 2 miles.  Uhh, t-t-two miles???'. We'll see how that goes.

The next move was from the Salomon XT Wings 2 to a lighter shoe. I've found that the Wings are simply too beefy, and while I'm not yet ready to jump on the Vibram train, there is something attractive about running technical singletrack in a minimalist shoe. I'll stay with the already-discontinued XT Hawk 2 until I can't find any more in my size.

Finally, there's the heartfelt desire to cut down on Diet Coke and sweets, which has been surprisingly easy - especially the sugary stuff. It only took a few days for the cravings to dissipate, and the health benefits are already materializing in other venues (read:mood). 

As I scan through the 2012 schedules, I realize what I missed most about the races was the camaraderie and competition, and honestly, being able help others along the way. In the meantime, I'm pining away as the mileage creeps forward. Maybe I'll be eating your dust on the trails next spring.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Call of Duty 4 - The Run!

'I'll teach you not to steal my Shot Bloks!'
In the most recent Trailrunner Mag (December 2011), a runner from Las Vegas in the 'Letters' column boasts that he always carries a gun, a knife, and pepper spray on his runs, stating that 'it adds a little weight, but the peace of mind is worth it'

Really???? Is he running down 'The Strip' at 3:00 AM?

It brought to mind the diversity in how we each manage our own sense of security. I live in the foothills of Colorado, where the most one should fear is a possible attack by a wild animal. Yet, I see the metal gates, home alarms and floodlights popping up everywhere. I remember having a discussion with a former FDNY firefighter and a rather large retired fire chief (also from the Big Apple) regarding the level of safety up in these hills. The FDNY guy said that he always packs heat and felt much more secure in the boroughs of New York than in the sleepy ascents of Conifer, to which the gregarious Chief replied, 'If someone breaks into my house, The first thing he'll see is my fist going through his face.' Ah, Chief. Good on ya, man. Maybe you should be joining me on my night runs.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In Other News...

Carson at Costco Optical
I was trying to think of something clever to announce my brief return to blogland, but alas, nothing. Much has happened since January 2010 - We welcomed the birth of our second son, Carson Ray, just a few minutes into the new year, I left my job as a geologist with a large corporation and started my own consulting company, I discovered a large pocket of monster quartz crystals while on a training run which spiraled into a gem collecting obsession, resulting in a drop-off in my training mileage. Needless to say, the urge to run was always present, and I'm currently in the opening stages of a 'comeback'. I've signed up for a 50-miler in April 2012, and have struck a fragile balance between miles and stones. Much of this stuff deserves posts of their own and may get some extended treatment in the future.
Monster Smokies

In the meantime, loads of 'sorries' go out to those who commented on previous posts only to hang in limbo while moderation notices went to my now defunct corporate address. My music site is also a memory, but the free song downloads will soon find a new home, and I'll post a link when those are ready. (Edit: Here's the link!) Plus I need to figure out all of the new Blogger bells and whistles that have been added since I was away. Good times.

Looking forward to seeing you on the trails.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Dignity of Labour

Ahh, yes. 2011. I haven't posted in a long, long time. I get it!

In a previous life I was a synthpop artist. Back in 2003 I was signed to a small independent label out of Utah, released a single, XRV, in 2004 and then a self-titled album in 2005. During the recording process, I agonized over every detail, and the finished product never really mirrored the image I carried in my head. Years went by before I could even listen to the album. But lately that dissatisfaction has mellowed. Sure, that mental red pen still clicks to life whenever one of those tunes comes up on my iPod. But these days I find myself enjoying the works for what they are - simple musical snapshots in time.

A long time ago, I came to the realization that the album was not going to make me the superstar I had once hoped to be, but it still has merit as a melodic, provocative effort. The disc sold well in the synthpop circles, via iTunes, Amazon, etc., but I haven't received a royalty check in some time. So why should I be hoarding something that devoured two entire years of my life? It's like stashing your paintings in a closet.

Well, the time has come to hang this one on the wall and move on. You can download the entire album, as well as some covers, remixes, and unreleased items here.

Download. Enjoy. Share.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

(cough) May (cough) (cough)

Yeah, I’m still kicking. Work is in the midst of a spring fury, and fire academy is in full swing (or in firespeak, 'fully involved'). The weather has been idyllic, and the long days beg for more grandiose impressions in this ball of clay I call our property. Oh, and there’s this little kid named unGuy pushing his truck up and down the cobbly paths I’ve created. Did I mention that I’m a trailrunner? These days my runs are few and far between, but stuffed with enjoyment and void of injury, forging yet a deeper appreciation for time I once took for granted. With a few exceptions, my racing calendar is a blank slate. Instead of jumping into the old standbys year after year, the idea of exploring new terrain, with no premise of what lies around the bend, holds a fair sense of wonderment. In place of mileage, pace times, and placement are music, vistas, and running to run another day. Only a select few are able to combine these successfully. A common question offered to runners is ‘Why do you run ?’, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the same answer twice. When asked, I’m also likely to give an indefinite response, and I assume it’s because the nature of my love for running ebbs and flows with my current state of mind. When running becomes a chore, the culprit is usually some other aspect of my life that has gone amiss. But there are times when I’m traveling some unfamiliar terrain and everything appears to be in sync. If only I could eke out a few more minutes in my day so this feeling would linger for just a little while longer.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I'm back on the wagon with the latest race report from the Moab Red Hot 50K. The race marked a marginal shift in my priorities as a trailrunner. Stay tuned for a contemplative account of this Valentine's Day adventure.

Needles District, Utah

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sliding Down That Pole Will Be Fun

My 2009 race schedule recently took a bit of an interesting turn when I joined the local volunteer fire department. Basically, my Wednesday nights and many of my Saturdays will be spent at the academy tying knots, climbing ladders and putting out fires in fake buildings until the end of June, which means Fruita, Gateway and Kettle are out this year and Ice Age, Big Horn, and Silver Rush are in! I'm already there.

My goals for the year are to stay healthy, enjoy my family and take in the scenery. I hope your 2009 is a prosperous one, too.

Aspen, unGuy and Kirk at the Elk Creek FD Open House

Monday, December 22, 2008

Facing The Wind

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of Facebook requests, mostly from friends and relatives who are embracing this latest social networking craze. I’ve never quite forced my finger to the fad pulse, unless I felt it was beneficial to do so. Those close to me will attest that I’ve always followed my own path, anyway. As a youngster, when kids my age were playing football at the local park, I was home scheming a go-cart that ran on the nearby abandoned railroad tracks. While my high school classmates were pumping their fists to AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne, I was nodding to Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears. Instead of the obligatory Colorado skiing and mountain biking, I took up snowshoeing and trailrunning. I sold all of my ski equipment, and my bike continues to collect dust in the garage.

Aspen recently invited me to join her group, but the folks at Facebook deemed me ‘ineligible’ for membership. Uh-oh, did my hard time at San Quentin raise some red flags? I may never know. Regardless, the denial was enough of a deterrent for the time being. I’m content with blogging for now. And when the inevitable question comes up, ‘Hey, have you been to Grandma’s Facebook page?’, I’ll know I’ve made the right decision.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Catching Up With Depressed Mode

Ahhh. I know I owe you guys a couple race reports. They're coming - I promise! Hope you're having a great summer!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Race Report: The Leadville Trail Marathon

Sorry about the delay in race reports and the like. The weather's been great, and Aspen and I are usually out working on the yard until dusk. Anyway, I suppose I should briefly recap the Leadville Trail Marathon and then my most recent race, the Pikes Peak Ascent. During the Fourth of July holiday we camped near Twin Lakes with our friends Mike, Sasha, John and Ann.

Is that the Big or Little Dipper? I forget.

The mosquitoes were terrible and seemed to prefer fresh blood. I came into the race with about 20 miles of training over 5 weeks, suffering a nasty case of ITBS that mangled my performance at this year’s KM100.

Hoofin' it up 6th Avenue. White visors anyone?

I started out in the back of the pack and picked my way through about 200 competitors, taking numerous pictures and dispensing S-Caps and Advil to struggling runners along the way.

Avoiding those abandoned mines for a change

I arrived at the first aid station in 72nd place and finished 29th out of 244, and it may have been my most well-executed and uneventful race yet.

First brutal climb about three miles in.

Not me, but nice vest, dude!

That scintillating climb to Mosquito Pass.

Chilling at Mosquito Pass (No skeeters were present, by the way).

Ahh, pavement. Soft, forgiving pavement.

.....aaaand the obligatory course map.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting One's Bearings

As I strolled in from a run on a typically cool and quiet evening, I thought it odd that the lights were on at our neighbors Gary and Kim’s, especially this time of night, but I coasted up our driveway and a flight of stairs to slip quietly into the house. Aspen had long been asleep and the dogs were closed in with her. As I was hanging my running clothes I could hear the mutts making a commotion in the bedroom. I let them out, as not to wake her, thinking they were excited to see me. Once I opened the door, they bolted towards the patio, but I had closed the screen door, preventing them from going any further. They paced excitedly from the front to the patio doors in almost a frenzied state, the tempered ‘mruff…..mruff’ warning barks threatening to rouse Aspen from sleep. Finally, I flipped on the outside light, slid open the door and watched as the dogs peeled out, their nails treading in vain to turn the corner towards the patio gate. Fortunately for them the gate was closed, because on the driveway below was about a 400-lb black bear, dragging a full bag of trash away from the house. I had forgotten to close one of the garage doors for the night and he snuck in for a late-night snack. When the lights came on, he scuttled toward the nearest tree and attempted to climb it, before abandoning the idea and galloping down the driveway, claws clicking on the asphalt. The dogs were frantic by now, and Aspen stepped out on the porch, rubby-eyed and confused. I looked across the street to see the outlines of Gary and Kim, and I discovered that the bear had also paid them a visit. Apparently one of their burros, Mikey, spooked him over to our place. The encountered occurred so swiftly, I didn’t have time to get the camera. But the ensuing adrenaline rush will not be hibernating anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Painful Lessons in Humanity

Note: I’m still working on the Leadville Trail Marathon race report, but in the meantime I offer this short anecdote. Enjoy.

This past week Aspen and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary, and unfortunately most of the events surrounding this commemoration will not be remembered fondly, rather with disgust tempered by resolve. This year’s occasion loosely coincided with the grand opening of a sushi restaurant in Conifer. We had been salivating over the prospect of such an establishment in our own town for months, after years of frequenting various sushi dens throughout metro Denver with no clear favorite (ok, Osaka Sushi is mine). Of course, jamming a piece of raw fish in my mouth at $2 a pop does not sit well with a guy who used to eat an entire meal for that amount, so we only indulge on special occasions and during happy hour when prices are relatively cheap.

This was our Plan B. My tragic Plan A was to surprise Aspen by arranging a candlelight dinner at one of our most favorite Chinese restaurants. The place is a bit of a dive, but the food is great, and the owner always greets us at the door and routinely sends a complimentary glass of wine or dessert to our table. However, I assumed he would only recognize me by face, so I drove to the eatery a few days before the magical date in hopes of presenting him my idea in person. I had called ahead to confirm that he would be there when I arrived, only to find that he was out making deliveries and would return shortly. In the meantime, I sat in the waiting area and chatted with his ten-year-old son, a bashfully friendly kid tending to the few customers dining nearby. I asked him about school and his outside interests as the time whiled away. After about thirty minutes I began to look at my watch, since Aspen would soon be expecting me at home. Around then the conversation drifted to a subject I was not prepared to explore, involving him being physically abused by his father. I fidgeted uncomfortably as the boy matter-of-factly alluded to an incident when his dad punished him as a five-year-old (and this was much more than a spanking). I continued to ask questions, while secretly fearful of their replies, until I could no longer justify the wait. I excused myself and made a hasty retreat to the car. My thoughts raced as I sped home in disbelief. Did I misinterpret the boy’s story? Is this commonplace or even accepted in Chinese culture? Should I say something to someone? For the next few days I struggled with the idea of this man with an outwardly kind and caring demeanor, hiding the soul of a coward. I questioned what would provoke a father to strike his five-year-old son and wondered if I could be capable of carrying out such a shameful act.

That Friday, around 6PM, I pulled into the parking lot at the new sushi place with a half-hour of happy hour to spare. Aspen had just arrived and was relaxing at a table on the patio, while Nick dined on one of his favorite meals of shells and cheese. I noticed two other couples with young children, including one seated at the table next to us with two girls about two and four years old, along with a man who looked to be their grandfather. It was a typical cool summer day in Conifer, and everyone appeared to be relaxed and in great spirits. As Aspen and I have enjoyed some of our deepest discussions at restaurants, I felt comfortable disclosing the events that had unfolded a few days before. The experience had taken its toll on my disposition, and I needed to tell someone. I expected she would then understand why my initial plan fell through. What I didn’t expect was that I would break into tears after relating what I had learned, as if the weight on my conscience had suddenly been lifted. Once I regained my composure, I apologized for my terrible timing, and we talked briefly about it before moving on to another (and more cheerful) subject. I had effectively destroyed the mood, and it was only a glimpse of what was to come.

A teenaged boy filled our water glasses, and I asked him to send out the waiter. Aspen was already enjoying a glass of wine, and I needed some alcohol in my system to temper what had just transpired. We soon became aware that something was amiss with the wait service. First, we were informed that the happy hour prices would not take effect for another few weeks. My beer showed up about fifteen minutes later, and we weren’t able to place our food order until we had been seated for about thirty. We both chalked it up to ‘working the kinks out on opening day’ and made the best of it by entertaining Nick and eavesdropping on the other patrons dining on the patio. It was obvious that the mother of the two girls at the table next to us was becoming increasingly irritated as time wore on. Eventually, I sensed the same frustration in a few of the other customers, as the wait staff continued to bungle orders and make repeated apologies for the delays in the kitchen. After about an hour, the waiter brought out a portion of our meal. His hands were visibly shaking from the verbal onslaught of disgruntled diners. Then the manager made an appearance to reassure a couple that they would shortly receive their meal, offering to comp their drinks. The grandfather stood up and muttered something about ‘going to the kitchen to see what’s taking so long’ and disappeared. The father of a family seated behind me held out a plate of sushi and proclaimed loudly that he didn’t order it and anyone was welcome to it.

By now, it was getting past Nick’s bedtime, and we were struggling to keep him entertained, allowing him to splash his hands in our glasses of water and taking him on short excursions away from the patio. The woman next to us was getting more vocal in her displeasure with the service and took every opportunity to justify it to all within earshot. Her behavior was making Aspen visibly upset. We looked at each other, and I said calmly, ‘Let’s go.’ The waiter passed by as we gathered our things, and I politely explained to him that we hadn’t received our entire order but needed to get our son home to bed. Aspen offered him some words of encouragement as she signed the credit card slip, and we stood to exit the restaurant. Against my nature, I dealt some parting words to the obnoxious woman:

‘It’s only a meal.’

She sat there in disbelief as I repeated myself, and then some. 'It’s only a meal. It’s not worth embarrassing yourself’. The waiter was standing next to the table, and his eyes grew large as I unleashed my brief but pointed reminder. Not to be outdone, the woman replied with some fallacious statement about us leaving because we received our order before anyone else. I had already said my peace, so her counterattack was fruitless.

As we walked to the car, I noticed that Aspen was in tears. I drew close to console her, underestimating the impact this woman had made. Sobbing, she exclaimed, ‘I’m so glad we’re not like that.’

‘Me too, Babe. Me too.’