I'm exhausted. The last few weeks of adventure in Colorado and Montana have left me beaten, bruised, sunburned, and wanting more. I'm already planning another mountain adventure once I have time for a nice long nap.
In mid-July I flew to Durango for the Kendall Mountain Run. This was my first true big-mountain run, and my first foray into the world of Sky Running. I loved it! The race went from downtown Silverton to the top of the omnipresent Kendall Mountain overlooking the valley, and back down. It followed a beat up old mining road from 9,000' up to 12,700' before leaving the road for a scramble to the 13,000' top.
|Yes, we "ran" to the top and back|
I was pretty nervous for the race since I knew I was going to be in a lot of pain and the competition was fierce. Two Hoka runners showed up, including the great Sage Canaday, a few top guys from Flagstaff, and some local hotshots. That's not to mention Stevie Kremer who was the clear women's favorite.
The race started with a relatively flat 3/4 mile before ramping up sharply to start the climb. The pace went out hot, and I probably started too fast, but as it was the lead group gapped me early and I never saw them again (until they passed me on the way down). With the last 1/4 mile climbing I still opened in a 6:30 at 9,000+ feet, which I quickly backed off from when my body violently reminded me that there is less oxygen than in Missoula. I tried to settle into a solid climbing effort and not worry too much about who was around me.
As we got farther into the race and the road got steeper my running pace turned into a hike/run out of necessity. I tried to keep running when the guy in front of me ran and walk when he walked, but realized my walking pace was slower than his so I needed to run more. You'd think after hiking 3,100 miles of the CDT I'd be able to hike faster, but that was my clear weak point on race day.
|Post race hike|
About 3 miles in Stevie came pitter-pattering by me with her quick little strides. As far as I could see she never walked. I met Stevie at the beginning of the race since she arrived with one of my friends from Flagstaff and because of that felt extra motivated to try to keep up since I was no longer anonymous. Unfortunately keeping up didn't exactly work and she beat me to the top by three or four minutes.
We worked our way above treeline and the high mountains of the San Juans filled the horizon. I was suffering severely, but couldn't keep from smiling. I was racing at 12,000', getting crushed, and loving every minute.
I rounded the last curve on the road in time to hear someone (later found out it was TRF Pro member Andrew Benford) yell "rock!" as the front runners came flying down the scramble and back onto the road for a screaming descent. When I hit the scramble the elevation, or exhaustion, hit me back. I was forced into a bear crawl in places, but it could not be described as a powerful bear crawl. It was more the crawl of an old bear coming out of four months of hibernation after only storing enough food for two months. There was nothing graceful or fluid about it.
|Dropping off of Hunchback Mountain|
I made it to the top, took in the view, and began my descent. Now I was in my element. Before the bottom of the scramble I caught a guy who had ascended a minute faster than me. After a quick emptying of the shoes when I hit the road I took off chasing the next guy and Stevie. I ticked off several sub-5:30 miles on the steep, rocky road, passed the next guy (moved me into 10th overall) and kept the brakes off to try to make up any time I could on Stevie. I caught sight of her about a mile before the bottom, but it took me another 1/2 mile to close the gap and pass her. By the time I hit the flat mile run into Silverton I was cooked. The only thing keeping me running was the fear of getting passed back by anyone. That had to be the longest last mile of my life.
I made it though and crossed the line in 9th. I can say that now I am without a doubt a huge fan of Sky Running and will be enjoying many more high races in the future.
The rest of the weekend I got to hang out with my parents and play in the San Juan's. After the race we went up a side canyon near Silverton and scrambled up a steep slope while checking out the incredible mining remnants. The engineering prowess it took to get rails and cables strung through the high mountains is astounding, especially considering how much we struggled just trying to hike up a slope.
The next day I convinced my parents to drive over Stony Pass and back to Hunchback Mountain. I thought this would be an hour long drive, but it ended up being a 2.5 hour rocky trek with an Oregon Trail (the computer game, not the actual trail) style fording of the Rio Grande. Eventually we made it and got to hiking.
|Heading up Great Northern|
The area around Hunchback mountain was my absolute most favorite day of hiking on the Continental Divide Trail. Sara and I both felt strong, the scenery was incredible, and we put in some major miles. Everything came together that day. For me to be able to return and go up Hunchback, which we had missed two years ago, was a great experience. I wish Sara was there with me of course, but hiking the ridge again brought back a lot of great memories. Plus I got to scramble a little bit on a steep, exposed ridge line and watch some great cloud action roll through. What could be better?
After getting back from Colorado I went to Whitefish, MT for the start of the Cycling House's Glacier to Yellowstone tour. I acted as a guide for this trip, but we all went up a day early so we could get in a hike and run before our week got crazy.
We opted to go up Great Northern after an 18 mile trail run on the Whitefish Trail. Great Northern was spectacular. Despite having to hunker down twice to let squalls blow through into Glacier National Park, we successfully traversed the scree filled ridge and made the peak. On the descent we gave up walking and opted to run the ridges, trails, rocks, and generally act like five year olds hopped up on Halloween candy. I'm quickly realizing that alpine ridgelines are my happy place.
|Racing down the Ridge|
The bike trip was exhausting. We had incredibly bad luck with a number of bike fixes, truck problems, campsite problems, construction issues, long miles, and trailers that fell off our vans into creeks. The clients were great though, and the riding went well, but the work it took to overcome the setbacks was incredible. I could give Sleeping Beauty a run for longest nap champion.
On the way back we stopped for a stress relieving run outside of Butte that quickly turned into a bouldering, tree throwing, rock pushing trail extravaganza. Mentally this helped a lot, even if did contribute to overall fatigue.
I was supposed to be going to another Sky Race this weekend in Washington, but the fires there forced it to be called off. My race the next weekend has also been called due to a lack of entries. So no racing for me until the Rut in September. But I do have plans for a big route in the Cabinet Mountains this weekend. Time for more exploring!