It’s hard to believe, but when I look back I see that I haven’t skied any new 14ers in a while. Harvard was two years ago now, and before that was prior to Denali – a full five years ago. There are a lot of reasons why – time has been tight, along with poor snowpacks and stability, capped off with a lack of motivation to wake up entirely too early to drive and climb all day. This season’s incredible snowpack, combined with an impending deadline that will likely cut off my season mid-May, have me excited to get out again. This was the first weekend that held a pleasant forecast after the snowpack stabilized to my liking, so I had to take advantage of it with a big day out.
Saturday’s outing started like most do – packing up Friday afternoon, setting the alarm for 2am, and going to bed early. Lucky for me, I was wide awake at 1am and didn’t need the alarm. I tried to go back to sleep but gave up about 1:30, got out of bed, and fired up the coffee maker. Several cups later, John arrived and we got on the road.
We pulled up to the lower Princeton trailhead just after 5am and decided to see how the road went. Half a mile in we encountered enough snow to make the road impassable, saving us a mile of walking on a dirt road in ski boots. No complaints here.
We made our way up the road for a while, until we came to a switchback around 10,500′ that butted up against a SE-facing slidepath on Tigger Peak, the 13er you have to traverse to get over to Princeton. It seemed solid and supportive, so we started going straight up.
Quick trips up Grays in the winter are nothing new for me, and that’s what I intended for Friday. I’d never gone up Torreys in the winter, not because it’s difficult but because I’ve just never cared to head over after topping out on Grays. John and I had discussed the option, figuring we’d see how we felt when we topped out and make a decision at the time. Weather was forecast to be as perfect as it gets for mid-winter, so I was optimistic for a good day out and a good workout, whatever the decision was.
The plan to ride Mt. Evans was nothing new – I’d ridden it a couple times before, once from Idaho Springs and once from Echo Lake – but wanting to ride it from home is something I’ve been trying to make happen for a few years. Even though the logistics are simple, the ride statistics are daunting at about 110 miles and over 11,000′ of climbing round-trip. My schedule, weather, and motivation finally aligned on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I settled on a 4am start to be early-enough to beat any afternoon thunderstorms, but not so early that the drunks would still be driving around.
I started by heading up and over Lookout Mountain, to the Genesee bike path, and on to Evergreen Parkway – a ride I’ve done countless times. Sunrise was just after 5:30, meaning it finally started getting light a bit after 5am. At about six a.m. I stopped to eat a bar, check in at home (where everyone was still asleep), switched my light from “see” to “be seen,” and started up Squaw Pass. Shortly after eight, I was on CO-5, the Mount Evans Highway.
It’s been over a month now, and my knees are largely better. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the race. Things started off very well, and I was running in the top 5-8% through the half-way point. I jogged the flats, downs, and mellow uphills, and hiked anything even remotely steep. I kept the calories, fluids, and salts coming in, and truly felt not just good but great. At the turnaround at Winfield I was joined by my friend Jordan, took on some poles for the hike back over Hope Pass, and my knees completely fell apart. The hike back up the pass was neither blistering nor crawling, but the pain got worse as I went up. I had to stop at the Hope Pass aid station for a while, and an amazing volunteer spent several minutes working on my legs. It helped for a few minutes but the pain came back, and the descent back to Twin Lakes was a painful crawl. By the end my knees were in such bad shape that Jordan could hear them crunching every few steps, and I dropped out as soon as I got back to Twin Lakes, 62.5 miles in, only 38.5 to go. It sounds like a long way to go but had my knees held up, I have no doubts I would’ve finished strongly. I’m hugely appreciative to my friends who came out to help me that day – Jordan, Greg, Meredith, and Nate – and wish I hadn’t dragged them up there for nothing. And I have to thank my wonderful wife for putting up with this whole-summer debacle and supporting me through it.
I’ve run twice since then, a four-mile jog from home and a trail race – the same one I won a couple years ago. Things didn’t go quite so well this time around, as I finished 9th (2nd in AG).
I suppose going out as pack-fodder on a beautiful day is better than doing it with a painful DNF. It was quite a summer, but I’m glad to be done, and I’m glad to be able to focus on my family. Truth be told, I was growing tired of all the running and have been looking forward to new things. There will always be new adventures, and for the foreseeable future they’re going to be enjoyable.
This past weekend brought the second biggest event in the Leadman series, one that I put a lot of training time and effort towards for the sake of getting a big shiny belt buckle – including a huge three-day weekend on the bike last month. I started the weekend with an early drive to Leadville for packet pickup and killed some time before the mandatory pre-race meeting with a haircut. The meeting was a waste of time, with no relevant race information but plenty of “you’re all amazing, especially these guys who have done the race dozens of times, enjoy the near-life experience you’re about to have, etc. etc. etc.” With that over I slowly made my way to lunch and my hotel, and wound down for the afternoon/evening.
My alarm came plenty early at 4am on Saturday. I microwaved some breakfast, got dressed, put on most of a tube of sunscreen, and before I knew it I was lined up in my starting corral.
Earlier this year, the Rodeo guys posted up a trip they were planning through the Flat Tops Wilderness. It looked ridiculous – three days to cover 265 miles and nearly 20,000′ of climbing over mixed terrain in places bicycles are rarely seen. I didn’t know what bike would be appropriate, or if I’d even have an appropriate bike for the trip. I did know, however, that it would be perfect training for the Leadville 100 bike race. So I signed up, knowing I had a lot of work to put in before mid-July rolled around.
Working nights most of the summer on top of raising a family got in the way of a lot of training time, but preparing for this trip and the Leadman series were a big enough priority that I fit in what I could; even so, I was nervous in the days leading in to the weekend. The day the trip finally rolled around, I woke up to my alarm at 3, had a small breakfast and coffee, and hit the road. I got to Steamboat a bit early, but before I knew it we were loading up the support van and getting ready to roll out.
This past weekend was one I’ve been looking forward to wrapping up for a while now. For the Leadman series, I was only required to do one of the two 50 mile races. Needing a qualifying time to get in a better corral in the 100 MTB, doing the bike race was the obvious choice. If I hadn’t, I’d start the race in the very back, behind at least 1000 people (there were ~1,350 finishers last year) and have almost no chance of finishing under nine hours. So doing the 50 mile bike race on Saturday was a given. At the same time, I went in to this series having never run an ultramarathon – so maybe it would be good to get the experience of a 50 mile run to sort out my pacing, nutrition, etc. And if I did it the day after a bike race, I’d have the bonus of doing those 50 miles on already-tired legs. And with that, another poor decision was made – to do a pair of 50 mile races back to back. Continue reading →