Monday, June 29, 2009
Colorado trip part 2
continued from previous post.....
(I meant to get this post done over the weekend but between At&T and their cruddy DSL service and following along with Western States online, I got nothing done!!)
Saturday I got up early and headed out for an exploratory Salida run. From my bedroom window I could see this big hill with a winding dirt road spiraling up it ... oddly enough it was called "Spiral Dr." Go figure! I headed toward it and found a nice runnable dirt road with a steady but not leg breaking climb, at the very tiptop of the hill there is a weather station and little hut, I spent some time at the top taking pictures and video and visually scouting out the BLM lands to the east of Salida.
I saw some interesting trails so headed down the hill... as I was heading down I passed a ton of people on bikes and foot on their way up... I guess I was the early bird! I headed off onto the trails and ran around for about 12 miles, but I hadn't brought enough water with me for any further explorations. It was just wonderful to be under the bright sun and Colorado blue sky. The skies in Colorado are such a particular shade of blue, when I first moved to KC I would wake up crying with homesickness after dreaming of that shade of blue. The trails were nicely groomed, rolling hills, with great views. I knew which mountain I was staying near so I didn't have to worry about getting lost, when I was ready to head back I just jumped on a trail that headed in the direction of that mountain! Can't do that on the prairie! After lunch Mac, Angela and I drove up to Cottonwood Pass and hiked up there for awhile... it was quite chilly but good for some altitude adjustment. Cottonwood Pass is amazingly gorgeous... it's right on the Continental Divide and the snow capped mountains all around & elevation of 12,126 make it quite breathtaking... literally and figuratively!
Sunday I spent in Salida again exploring trails and getting lost... at one point I was running up a canyon and in the middle of a section of smooth sandy trail, I came a bone... nothing else around it.. just a fairly good sized bone. Animal? Human? Who knows, but I decided to pick up my pace a bit and hope that some mountain lion wasn't going to jump on my back. I spent about 4 hours on the trails but headed back when the heavy clouds started to gather and the lightning got pretty close. We spent the evening getting our camping gear together and early the next morning we headed for Leadville. We all squished in the 4-wheel drive truck, it was a bit uncomfortable on the drive up, but worth it when we got to Winfield and got a camping spot up the 4 wheel drive road. We got camp set up and then went for a gorgeous hike. We drove into Leadville to pick up a few things that afternoon, and I started feeling a little odd. It was the first time all trip that the altitude actually seemed to affect me. My head hurt, stomach was a bit queasy and I felt a touch dizzy. I drank a bunch of water and ate lunch, which seemed to help quite a bit. I kept a journal of how the altitude was affecting me from day to day so hopefully I can figure out the optimal time frame to head to Colorado in August, and other than the first day this was the first "significant" problem. That night I slept pretty good, even though it was pretty cold.. I'm guessing somewhere in the 30's. I ended up with some really crazy, vivid dreams of mountains falling on me.
Got up early the next morning, and had butterflies... it was Hope Pass day. I didn't know what to expect, since everyone talks about Hope with a combination of respect/horror and dread. I knew that I wasn't going to get the "real" experience 'cuz I wasn't going to run 50 miles first, but I wanted to go home knowing that I could get my ass over the pass. I filled up the biggest waterpackI had (100 oz) and took plenty of warm clothes..I didn't know how long it would take me, if there was anywhere to get water or how the weather was going to behave, so I had to be prepared. I figured carrying the extra weight on my back was good training. I had some Lara Bars, Raw Revolution bars and some homemade gu in the pack, but I forgot to grab the bean and rice burritos I made up. Doh! I told my friends that if I wasn't back in 10 hours.. to call out the Calvary. Of course, HOW they were going to do that, I had no idea since none of us had cell reception and neither of them knew how to drive a stick shift!! I wasn't really worried but it was something to think about.
I had my map and directions from the race packet and set off running down the dirt road to Sheep Gulch where I hopped on the trail. It immediately goes up... and up.. and up. NO switchbacks! I literally stopped and laughed a few times (in between gasps of breath) because I was on my toes the whole time, it was too steep for my heels to hit the ground. Needless to say I was NOT running! I kept as fast of a pace as I could manage, but had to stop and take pictures and gasp for air occasionally. (I uploaded a ton of pictures to my Flickr account.. the link is on the sidebar). I hit the top of Hope in about 1:49.. one of the slowest 5 miles I've "run"! When I got to the top it was super windy and cold but I took the time to enjoy the views, knowing that I probably wasn't going to be looking around much in August! As I started to descend the other side towards Twin Lakes.. a big black dog appeared out of nowhere at the top of the pass and started barking at me. Scared the shit out of me since I had seen absolutely no one! The dog continued to bark his head off and start to come down the trail toward me.. and all I could think was.. "great.. this makes for a really crappy ending to my life.. mauled to death by a dog on a mountain. Nothing exciting like a bear or mountain lion or even a rabid marmot, but a common dog." Luckily for me, the dog was either called by his humans or decided I was too scrawny to eat and took off back down the other side of Hope. I never did see any other humans, but I can't imagine he was up there by himself!
The descent into Twin Lakes was gorgeous.. running next to a mountain stream NEVER sucks. I had plans to follow my directions and just keep following the course for as long as I could, but a deep, rushing water crossing caused me to turn around. A mountain biker was trying to figure out how to get across, but I took it as a sign that I should just turn around and head back over Hope. The mountain biker started following me and when I looked back somehow 2 more cyclists had joined him.. they were pushing their bikes and finally I stopped and told them that they were on the trail to go over Hope Pass which caused them to quickly turn around and head back down. Going this direction over Hope was much easier.. there was actually sections I could run. The descent on the Winfield side however is a quad killer! My biggest concern for the whole darn race is how to keep my quad from totally fizzle frying by the end. We just don't have long downhills in KC to practice on and I'm pretty darn sure my gym is not going to allow me to prop the end of a treadmill up on 2x4's to simulate downhills! I made good time down off Hope but then the 2 1/2 miles up the dirt road to Winfield was kinda not fun. It's really dusty and felt a lot steeper then it looks. As I was approaching Winfield, I heard cheering.. and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. Mac & Angela had set up an aid station for me and had food and water ready and had been hanging out, reading books and waiting for me to show up. It was awesome! It was a great finish to a great day.
I finished just in time since some rainstorms moved in and we decided at that point instead of dealing with trying to get a fire started with wet wood and getting rained on all night, we'd go into Leadville and get a hotel for the night. We ended up at the Super 8 where I have rooms booked for the race and found they have a teeny tiny sauna and the rooms are not very well soundproofed. We ended up on the first floor and had a family of very large, insomniac clog dancers staying in the room above us. Mental note: call hotel and see if I can request a 3rd floor room for the race.
The next day I headed out to run the Powerlines section of the course..yipes! Yet another big ass hill to go up. I went up and up until I couldn't go up any longer due to a big ol' snow field and then I turned around and ran down. I stopped to talk to a couple of mtn. bikers that were out training for the MTB100 miler and we traded admiring compliments. I was a very lazy cyclist and didn't like to ride uphill very much so they have my admiration for all that uphill on a bike and I had their admiration for running 100 miles. It was a very uneventful run.. I went up and then I went down and the buzzing of the powerlines was in my ears the whole time. I decided that I need to incorporate a lot more hiking in my training and also a lot more time on the stair climber.. the hills were steep enough that it was more like going up stairs then being on the treadmill with the incline cranked. Downhills are still a problem but I will continue to do lots of squats and lunges and hope that having really strong quads will help.
Thursday I had to head back to Colorado Springs, and did a short run with my Dad on the Air Force Academy. I meant to do a long run but my calves were so trashed that at one point Dad found me "stretching" against a tree but I was actually crying 'cuz my legs hurt so bad! He scolded me and made me turn around and only do 6 miles for the day. I'm not sure how they got so trashed but I had to take a few days off running when I got back to KC. Yoga helped a lot, but they felt sore for many days. It was really a great trip: I had a really good time, I got to run sections of the course that I wanted to, I did some altitude work and I didn't have to deal with the heat and humidity for a week and I got to hang out in my favorite state.