I met up with Tony for coffee this morning at Spruce. His hip has still been giving him grief, making it hard to find a good groove with his running. Positive progression is followed by relapses without any evidence of excess or lack of focus. Tony is probably the most passionate runner I know. His desire for mountain time is so strong, that when taken away can be completely overwhelming. Passion, which derives from the Greek pathos, meaning suffering, can be both a driving and destructive force in one’s life. Beyond the immediate angst and frustration of an injury, it is easy to fall into a pattern of questioning ourselves and the meaning of our pursuits. While these times often feel oppressive, making it difficult for us to see the bigger picture, in the grand scheme of our lives, they only amount to momentary obstacles. My wife shares similar challenges in her efforts to reconcile her dedication to the betterment of Indigenous peoples struggles with her chosen PhD track in sociology. Our immediate hardships do not always directly reveal the long term benefits of such pains. I tend to be of the mindset that adversity, brings on doubt, but that doubt does not necessarily have to be a negative. To question, to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and vulnerable is a way to grow.
After coffee, I ran up Green via the Gregory/Ranger trails. I rarely run this route up the hill preferring the many steeper alternatives, but an easy, continuous run in the warm, mid-morning sun sounded pleasant. Unfortunately, the trail is riddled with stretches of bulletproof ice, making it difficult to find any sort of good rhythm going up or down. This transitional time of year for running is always challenging for me. The snow is melting, but the ice often persists, providing for a mix of slide and slope. I’m not as fit as I’d like to be yet, but still have a decent amount of mileage under my belt, making me feel generally tired and run down. I know it won’t last and that with the warmer weather also comes fresher legs and renewed perspective. I’m ready for spring.
I went for an early climb with Tony at the gym. It was pretty deserted allowing us to climb a lot of routes without the slightest wait. The route setters were at work changing up some of the lines. They were sporting Movement Climbing Gym shirts with their nicknames on the sleeves, so it was interesting to put routes to names. The guy changing the ropes told us he replaces 3 to 4 ropes a week. That’s a lot of use! I stopped by the Laughing Goat after climbing for a slice of coconut cake (best dessert in town) and to get a little work done. I like the Goat. They serve decent coffee and food, almost always have seating and when they don’t there’s always the standing desks. I usually dread having to stand, as I’m most often coming in after a run and all I want to do is slouch in a chair for a couple of hours. Live music at the Goat is also great. I never intentionally go to the coffee shop to listen to music, but bands take me by surprise when I’m not expecting to see a show and perform some great acts.
I hit the road to Salida for the marathon the next day. I drive south on I-25 taking the slightly longer route to 50 west to avoid any high passes. The scenery is spectacular and the driving easy. I catch a quick run and some dinner in Cañon City, before pulling into Salida just after sunset. I find a quiet back street to post up in the truck. I’ve changed my sleeping set-up from a futon mattress to a cot making the back much more spacious for one person. The cot is also easily removable so I can make better use of my truck for utility purposes. My uncle calls and we chat for several hours about a wild variety of topics ranging from the state of the environment, to running, to bringing up kids, and social media. I get to sleep well past midnight with my alarm set for 6am.
I get up feeling groggy and still stiff from a good week of running. The past 3 weeks have been pretty up and down for me. After getting the flu and running Red Hot, I traveled to California for the inov-8 retreat, which didn’t involve much sleep, then I got poison oak. Consequently, it’s been difficult for me to get in a good running routine until last Monday when I finally felt like I was making some progress with the poison oak. Every day since then, I got out with renewed enthusiasm which has been good for my mood, but tiring for the legs. I stumbled over to Safeway to find some coffee and a bite to eat. I bump into Clarkie who’s picking up a couple of donuts- clearly the food of choice for longevity in the sport. We chat mainly about UTMF that we will both be running next month. This will be Clarkie’s 6th Salida marathon. He’s good about running the local events and always does well. In fact, in his half-dozen participations he’s never finished off the podium.
The race starts with a two mile flattish dirt road loop, along the river, that returns to the start before heading up onto some twisty, single track trail for the next 5 or so miles. Expectedly, my legs feel heavy and I have a hard time warming up. Being on the up-swing from the past 3 weeks of wreckage, I’m just happy to be running relatively comfortably and don’t feel in the least bit pressed to try any racing. I settle into a slow, manageable pace- not jogging, but not fast by any means. I’m in a group of 5 or 6 guys and once we leave the trail, we start a long, very gradual uphill road climb to the turn around on the course. I’m always terrible running this type of grade, but am feeling particularly pathetic today waddling up the road. Several guys pull ahead of me, but I feel no incentive to try to keep up. I’ve decided to approach racing a little differently this year, doing a lot more shorter races and also training races, something I’m not accustomed to doing. My approach in the past has always been that if you line up for a race, then race. Bad races happen of course, but they are due to issues like injuries, food poisoning, getting sick, or hypothermia, etc. I’ve hardly ever deliberately signed up for a race just as a training run. However, in the midst of the marathon, it’s hard to reconcile the training intent with the desire to actually race. For a while, I hold on to the idea that maybe I can just dig a little deeper, get the legs moving a little faster and actually get in the mix. Yet, my headspace is neither here nor there. I just don’t really have it in me to run any harder and actually am quite content with just feeling good. When you’ve been separated from feeling good for a while, it’s nice to ride that emotion when it returns without burning it too quickly with a harder effort. Once I reconcile myself with this idea, I start to enjoy the race a lot more and am happy to cruise the last fun, trail miles into the finish. I hang out with Jason Koop, Clarkie, Matt Trappe, and few others at the finish over some brews and some corn chowder. The Salida Marathon is a fun event, that feels a lot like a Fatass. I can see myself wanting to come back to it year after year, much like Red Hot.
After the longish drive home yesterday, I got up a bit tired only managing a lethargic hour run around the neighborhood. The snow is still crusty and inconsistent around Gold Hill. With the running not really happening for me today, I head down to Boulder for some climbing in the Amphitheatre with Tony. We soloed a few of the short Gerry Roach classics, including a slightly awkward 5.6 that I was happy to do in my climbing shoes rather than Mudclaws. We then top roped a fun south facing overhanging roof, with good moves. It was a beautiful sunny day and quite warm in the wind sheltered Amphitheatre. Regardless of what I’m doing, it always feels good to be outside.
I ran down Fourmile Canyon to meet up with Tony for some more climbing this time at Happy Hour crag. It’s a fun spot off of Canyon offering a mix of sport and trad routes. I didn’t eat anything for lunch so I’m quite light headed, but still feel good on the rock. Tony leads a nice warm up 5.7, that we follow with some top roping on harder routes we want to lead at a later date. We both agree that the crag presents some interesting climbing for us, that will help progress our trad skills for future bigger objectives.
I got out for a couple of hours of running around Gold Hill with my gear for White Mountains next week. I’m pretty happy with my set-up having found a good combination of waist pack (worn under my jacket to keep my bottles from freezing) and race vest. Between the two, I can carry all the gear I need to stay safe, water and food. I’ll post my final list before I leave for AK next Wednesday.
In the evening, I met Brad, Tom and Scott for a run up Sanitas. The trails were dry and I cut a perfect line down the drainage to Sunshine Canyon straight to the Cali trail that parallels the road. We followed this pleasant evening outing by dinner at Sherpas and a couple Sherpa ales. I learned that the Sherpa ale is a variation of Left Hand Brewing’s Sawtooth ale, a solid brew for any occasion.
Mountain Forecast indicated reasonably low winds (15/hr) on Longs Peak today. If the winds are over 25 miles per hour in the winter, I don’t even bother trying to go up, as it will be miserable above treeline. Temperatures were pretty low with wind chill at 11k around -10F and up to -20F at 14k- perfect for some White Mountains training.
I set off early morning, under a clear blue sky from the east trailhead with intentions of making an out and back to the summit via the North Face. The snow is consolidated in the trees, but I’m still happy to have snowshoes going up the Reveley short cut. Above treeline can be a horrendous wallow fest along the Jim‘s Grove Trail, but today the snow is crusty and I’m staying mostly on top without much postholing. I stash the poles and snowshoes between Mt. Lady Washington and Granite Pass and run on mostly exposed, frozen tundra to the bottom of the Cables route. I stop for a gel, put on my down jacket and crampons and cautiously make my way up the snow aiperon towards the first eye bolt. CAIC reported moderate avalanche risk on north and east facing slopes steeper than 35 degrees. I’m exactly in those conditions and am not too enthused by the look of the snowpack, especially since this is the exact spot where Tony got into an avalanche last year. I decide to proceed anyway, working my way along the rock outcroppings to my right, that are evidently less dangerous. My right leg punches through deep into the snow and my Kahtoola crampon catches a rock, snapping the strap. These particular crampons have plastic, backpack style buckles, that are simple and practical to use for hiking (their intended use), but don’t make them very reliable in any type of rugged terrain. With the rear strap now broken, the crampon won’t stay on and I’m forced to turn around 500 feet from the summit. Ascending without crampons on the icy North Face isn’t really an option. In some ways, I think the mechanical failure is a blessing in disguise as the snow really isn’t in the best shape right now for safe travel until probably late April or early May. On the run back down, I bump into Jim Spark, a mountain runner from Estes Park. He’s an older gentleman with a thick, white beard, but one is hard pressed to guess his age watching him move swiftly up the hill. He’s running a few skyraces this year including IceTrail Tarentaise and Mt. Elbrus. We discuss the greatness of the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon that he ran the same year as I did. Unfortunately, he wasn’t selected for another go at it this year.
Despite not reaching the summit, rare are the days when a trip up Longs isn’t rewarding. Today was no different.