Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cruel Jewel 100

Cruel Jewel was important to me.  Important for a lot of reasons but mostly important for selfish reasons of redemption.  I needed redemption for last year.  Last year was abysmal, by any running standards.  Quad Rock 50 got flooded out and rescheduled.  Then I sprained my ankle and couldn’t make the reschedule.  I ran San Juan Solstice 50 a month after said sprained ankle and had to walk about 25 miles—it took like 14 hours to finish.  Then I put all of my energy into Nolan’s 14.  I didn’t do any more races, I just focused my energy into scouting and getting the routes down.  Both Nolan’s attempts didn’t work out d/t getting sick beforehand.  I was left w/out a Hardrock qualifier and zero races that I felt good about.  I felt like a failure.  Was I getting too old for this stuff?  Nothing seemed to be working out.  You’re only as good as the last thing you did, or at least that’s what I read somewhere.  Well, I hadn’t done anything.  I needed to finish.  I needed a Hardrock qualifier.  I would have crawled across broken glass infected w/ typhoid to get to this finish line.  

I flew out to Georgia early Thursday morning and ran a shakeout run, shortly after I landed.  I had never climbed 33,000 feet in a day and 108 miles is about 6 or 7 miles further than I had ever gone—further than I really ever cared to go.  I wasn’t nervous.  In fact, I was calm.  Too calm.  Would I fall flat on my face?  Had I trained hard enough?  Too hard?  In March and April, I had run lots of 80 mile weeks, with a few 90’s and 100’s sprinkled in for kicks.  In April, I ran the Rockin K 50 miler in Kansas as a little test.  A week later, I jumped into a 24 hour event (not something I recommend but I’ve been known to succumb to peer pressure) w/ the intention of running an easy 50-60 miles.  At 60 miles, I was in 3rd.  My buddy Logan showed up at that point w/ fresh legs and was able to pace me through a fast 10 miles or so.  I kept it up until I was in 2nd.  I went on to run 102 miles before calling it a day.  I never really pushed hard, just cruised.  Then I basically rested for a month before Cruel Jewel.  I exercised twice a day but was only logging 30-40 mile weeks most of that month in order to let the legs heal up.  I didn’t feel 100% going into Cruel Jewel but I didn’t feel injured either.  I was ready to see what I was (or wasn’t) made of.

The noon start was something new for me.  That gives you just enough time to “try” and sleep in and just basically have a few anxious hours b/f the race.  I made sure I had everything I needed in my pack and my drop bags.  This would also be my first hundred w/out crew or pacers to help me out.  I was going this one alone.  The only other person that I knew down there was my friend Cecilia.  I was staying at her parent’s house.  She was running as well and had run the course last year as well.  She was the one that convinced me I needed this race on my resume.  While she nervously hugged everyone (she knows everyone down there, this is her home turf) I sat on the sidelines, quietly waiting for noon.  In fact, she’s so popular down there, when people saw me quietly following her around, they assumed I was her pacer.  Nope, I’m here to see what’s what.  

At noon, we were off.  I felt the nervous energy, felt people going out way too fast, settled into an easy pace w/ about 10-12 people ahead of me.  I tried to keep my heart rate low in the first 7 miles to tap into the fat burning mode I’d trained my body to do.  

A few months b/f the race, I’d taken on a new diet.  I’m not one to try fad diets but I needed a change and knew my body wasn’t happy w/ what I’d been feeding it.  I’ve always had a gluten sensitivity.  I’d always puked my guts out during ultras.  I’d always had a large capacity for alcohol and it never seemed to bother me too much.  However, I’m always trying to make small, positive changes.  What better way to start than w/ what I’m putting in my body?

First, I gave up gluten and wheat.  I started to feel better.  My skin cleared up.  Then I increased my fat intake and lowered my carbohydrates altogether.  It was a big commitment.  No bread.  No tortillas.  No pasta.  No beer.  Lots of butter, coconut oil and avocados until they were coming out my ears.  I was spending lots of money on quality foods and most of my spare time was now spent in the kitchen, preparing food for the day.  The first few weeks, I felt like crap.  My runs felt like junk.  Ten minute miles seemed to nearly kill me.  I went for runs w/ friends and was just plain embarrassed at my performance.  I was slow and tired.  I hung in.  I pushed through.  No carbs.  After a few weeks, I broke through.  I crossed the line and my body was now burning fat rather than carbohydrates and sugar.  I didn’t “become faster” after those few weeks, I just slowly bounced back to feeling normal.  Gone were the days of needing a gel every 20 minutes of a run.  I’d go for a 20 mile run w/ only a nut butter.  I’d wake up and have a super fatty bulletproof coffee and run 10 miles and not even be hungry afterwards.  Was it working?

I tested it out in Kansas at the Rockin K 50.  The race went well.  I ran the whole things w/ 2 gels, 2 nut butters and a coconut water or two.  That’s it.  The good Lord granted me a first place finish to let me know to stay on the path I was on.  Recovery was quick.  The next weekend, I jumped into the 24 hour event.  I was only there for time on feet and sleep deprivation training, w/ Cruel Jewel in the back of my mind.  I ended up w/ a 2nd place podium finish.  Then I basically had a month to recoup b/f Cruel Jewel.  I ran some 40 mile weeks.  I cross trained a lot.  I gave up alcohol altogether.  W/out being able to drink beer, I was left w/ liquor or white wine, neither of which is all that great for training hard.  So I gave it up.  Now I’m not saying I’ll be sober and carb free for the rest of my days but right now, it’s working for me.  Even after the race, I’ve managed to stay strong.  High fat, low carb, ketogenic, sober living.  Who the hell was I?  All the questions went through my head.  Did I even want to be this person?  I kept it up anyway.

The first aid station was at 7 miles.  I’d been following a conga line of runners and as they all stopped for food and water, I cruised right on by.  At mile 7, I was on my own.  There were runners ahead but who knew how many.  Run your own race.  I felt great.  The Duncan Ridge Trail, known as the Dragon’s Spine awaited us.  It was relentless.  In Colorado, we are used to monster climbs and technical trails much worse than this.  We are used to 3,000-4,000 foot climbs and trails so technical, you can barely run at all.  But in Georgia, most of the climbs were 500-800 feet.  There are a few bigger ones but since I was running on (only) 3,000-4,000 foot mountains, it didn’t seem that taxing to me.  In Colorado, we run up 8,000-14,000 foot peaks on the weekly.  I ran by myself for a long time.  In and out of aid stations, up and down mountains, sun shining down w/ nothing but blue skies above me.  I saw Cecilia’s folks at mile 30 (the only time I would see them throughout the race—after all, they were there for her, not me) and was able to switch shoes.  They let me know my GPS tracker wasn’t working and they messed w/ it while I ate a couple strips of bacon.  There were a couple of guys I’d been leapfrogging w/ for miles and we were kind of pacing off of each other.  Nightfall came and we ran into the 50 mile turnaround a few hours later.  I was tired, sore etc. but not done.  Still moving well.  I changed shirts, ate some nut butter and drank coconut water and headed back out by myself for more punishment.  I went deep, deep into the night and into myself.  I wasn’t puking my guts out.  I wasn’t going through super high highs or low lows.  I was just cruising.  Instead of dreading eating a gel every 20 minutes and making myself sick, I was eating every 8-10 miles and looking forward to it.  Never hungry, just feeling “normal”.  Sure, it was tough.  Sure, my legs were toast.  Sure, my feet would turn into burger b/f long.  But I wasn’t sick and I was able to take food in w/out it being a complete nightmare.  I put in headphones and listened to an audiobook.  Eventually, the sun came up.  I had about 30 miles to go.  I’d power hike the ups and shuffle along on the downs.  There were no flats.  It was either up or down.  I wasn’t necessarily moving fast but no one else must have been either b/c as slow as things seemed to be going, I was on my own and no one was passing me.  Everyone was suffering by now.  My lowest point came at mile 75.  I was tired.  Wrecked.  At the 80 miles aid station, I tried to eat some beef jerky.  Too dry.  I tried to drink a Red Bull.  Blah.  Fail, fail.  

Is there anything you need? / the aid station volunteers offered.

Nope—I’d better just get back out there / I replied indignantly.  The last 25 miles weren’t going to run themselves.  The Dragon’s Spine still awaited me, along w/ a finish line—somewhere out there.  I was pretty destroyed but still moving.  I made it to 100 miles.  Only 8 miles to go.  Those 8 miles seemed impossible.  There were one or two more climbs.  I didn’t want to do it.  I wondered if I could hitch a ride w/ some southern boy who would be willing to drop me off a half mile from the finish.  I could run in and claim I’d made it.  God, would that be easier than this.  I shuffled along for 30 minutes and looked at my watch.  I’d only moved ¾ of a mile!  What?  This is stupid!  Help!  Get me off of this course!  Eventually I made it to “the bridge” and I knew I only had 3 miles to go.  I got it in my head that no one would pass me w/in the last 3 miles and I’d give it all I had.  I moaned in pain w/ every step.  I knew the finish was close.  I could smell it.  W/ about ¾ of a mile to go, I saw someone behind me, moving fast.  He was trying to overtake me.  Nope.  Not happening.  Not on my watch.  I didn’t know what place I was in and didn’t care.  This gentleman was not going to take anything away from me.  I just “turned it on”.  I don’t know where the reserves came from but I dropped a 7 min / mile and ran it all the way into the finish, pain every step.  108 miles.  33,000 feet.  I crossed the finish line, elated.  28 hours and 41 minutes.  No one to hug.  No one to celebrate w/.   I had done it alone.  Not just the race but the entire journey that had started months ago.  No one to encourage me.  No one to push me.  I had found a strength and confidence w/in myself that was quite literally priceless.  They told me I was in the top 10 finishers.  I felt like I had found a new me. 

I like who I am when my back is against the wall and everything is against me.  I like who I am when the pressure is on and I’m tired and want to go home.  These are the moments I live for.  These are the moments when I find out what I’m really all about.  These are just a few of the memories I will remember on my deathbed.  

I’m definitely not perfect and I would never suggest modeling your life after mine.  I’ve made every mistake in the book and it sometimes seems I only do the right thing when there’s no wrong things left to do.  I’m not special, gifted or even all that athletic.  I’m just a messed up guy, looking for my own peace of mind.  The trails are just one of the things that help me to be a better person.  Running 100 miles isn’t healthy.  It’s pretty tough on your body.  But there’s something special about finding a strength deep, deep w/in yourself that you KNOW everyone has.  Most people will never tap into it though.  I say—open that door.  See what’s on the other side.  Go deep.  You only live once.  Be the most authentic you that you can.  Be YOU on level 10.  You don’t have to do it every day.  Do it once in a while.  Prove to yourself that you are something special and carry that around w/ you, silently.  Bukowski said it best.  “You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.  It’s the only good fight there is.”

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Robert Louis Cole: Train Man, Blues Man

One September night, I wandered into a bar Johnny Cash had once played, in Louisville, Colorado.  There was a young man picking a guitar and singing with only a few people, hanging out and listening.  I was immediately entranced.  His voice commanded attention.  He sounded like a fifty year old black guy singing the blues when in fact, he was a white guy, probably in his twenties.  He sang with his eyes closed and there was depth in his songs that someone his age shouldn’t know yet.  It was like he was exorcising demons on stage, while equally calling upon them.  He broke the strings on his guitar at one point and had to go out to his car to get more.  He had the voice of someone who had lived ten lives.  We stayed until the very end of the set and he gave us his CD. 

“He was fantastic live—his CD must suck.” I have to admit I thought. 

His CD was even better than his live performance.  The eight songs were arranged perfectly.  The songs told folk stories, told of the blues.  Blues that a young man at his age should not know.  Sitting around a campfire with a jug of whiskey blues.  Boxcar blues.  You could hear influences and references to classic literature, along with country and folk music.  It was an extremely wise CD for a man of his age.  It immediately reminded me of Tom Waits first album, Closing Time.  There was so much potential there.  His CD felt like he had laid down the groundwork for something amazing.

I didn’t take the CD out of my trucks player for a month.  The more I listened, the more curious I became.  Who was this guy?  I did a little research online.  I found out he had left school at an early age to hitchhike and ride trains around the country.  People still did that?  You could hear the travelogues in his music.  I had to find out more. 

I contacted him to see if he’d meet me to tell me his story. 

When Robert Louis Cole arrived at the Weathervane Café on 17th Ave in Denver, he told me he had just worked a double shift at the bar the day before.  It’s 1:30 pm on a Sunday and he just woke up.  He was surprisingly clear eyed and ordered a coffee and a sandwich. 

“How did it all start?” I ask him. 

“Well, I knew by the time I was 15 that school and that sort of life wasn’t for me.  I started hitchhiking around the country and hopping trains.  It terrified my parents.”

“I bet!  How did you start riding trains?”

“I grew up in the punk rock community of older guys.  Some became my friends and others became my enemies.  They were all apart of this train hopping culture.  I just got really hyped on it.  You see these kids in lots of towns.  Dirty, carrying backpacks, eating out of trash cans, begging for change, drunk a lot.  I did all of that shit.” 

He had tattoos peeking out from every part of his flannel shirt.  He had a pack of Pal Malls in his shirt pocket. 

“So, I wasn’t doing much.  I had twenty-four free hours in a day.  I learned how to juggle.  I’m still pretty good” he smiles. “I bought a pawn shop guitar and started playing.  Dylan songs, stuff like that.” 

He tells me he had a great life growing up.  His mother was a musician and he grew up singing in the church choir.  He grew up going to church because it was a safe community and it was free.  His parents were hippies and he grew up on wheat bread and sprouts. 

“Does your mom support your music?”

“She does, mainly because it’s one of the only positive things I’ve done with my life.  She’s sixty and does Thai Chi and is still writing songs.” 

Eventually, RL Cole ended up living with his sister and brother in law.  He was living in the basement and teaching himself to play guitar.  His brother in law was a great musician and was patient with him and gave him honest feedback.  He really helped him out. 

Eventually, he found himself living in a trailer in New Mexico for a couple of months and in his mind, he was putting together a concept for an album.  Not long after, he recorded twenty-seven songs and whittled it down to eight perfectly arranged, beautiful songs. 

“How does the muse hit you?” I ask.

“Well, sometimes it hits me after a manic episode of not sleeping for a few days.  I’ll be in the garage with my dog, red eyed and drinking whiskey, putting together all of these concepts that have been rummaging around in my head.  Sometimes Lady Luck comes to your house for two or three days and throws a brain party.   However, I’m not necessarily a balanced person.” he admits. 

“Listen man, I don’t want to dwell on your train riding days” I say “but you’ve gotta indulge me a little.  Tell me some stories” 

“Well, there’s a few ways to ride freight trains.  The most common is to ride box cars.  It’s nice when it happens but it’s not that often when an unmanned boxcar goes by with one or both doors are open.  It’s easier to get in a shipping container called a forty-eight.  It’s called a forty-eight because each of the serial numbers on the cars starts with a forty-eight.  There’s a lot of wind pressure between the wheel well and the track and if you’re not careful, it’ll suck you under.  So you have to be careful riding forty-eights because it’s easy to lose a dog or your backpack.  I actually lost a friend that way.  It sucked him under between Baltimore and Philadelphia and split him in half.  So most of the time, I’d rope myself onto a medal rail and crawl in my sleeping bag and sleep.  Half the time it’d be pouring rain and I’d just want to ride in the pusher engine in the back of the train. There’s usually no one in them.  It’s like a luxury ride!  There’s a fridge full of water, a bathroom, air conditioning or heat.  But I got caught doing that a few times.” he laughs. 


“Oh yeah.  Sometimes you’d get lucky but not always.  I didn’t usually have ID.  Sometimes they’d just kick us off, sometimes we’d get arrested.” 

“What was one of your high moments while out riding trains?”

He thinks for a minute. 

“Probably the last time I rode a train, it was June of 2013.  I was in Texas and I wanted to get home to Colorado to see the woman of my dreams.  I had a buddy who had just gotten out of jail and he had a good mind for train hopping.  I asked him, how do I get back to Colorado?   Well, there’s a north / south coal line that goes down to Texas and dumps there and goes back empty.  So I needed to hitch a ride down to Saginaw, Texas outside of Fort Worth.  There I am, camping in a cornfield near the train yard waiting for the right train for a couple of days.  Riding trains is 98% sitting in bushes waiting and 2% pure adrenaline.  I saw my train and I’m booking it through a cornfield in snakeskin boots with a backpack and a guitar.  Well, I missed that train and had to camp another night.  Finally, on the third night, I caught a train and I was so happy.  It was a high point in my life.  I’m on a train heading back to Colorado to see the love of my life, it was pouring rain.  I knew I was going to be back in Colorado in thirty-two hours man!  There is no storm like a Texas plain thunderstorm.  It was beautiful.”

Robert Louis Cole has several lifetimes of hard won experience.  I think about all of his adventures and talent and him working at a bar in Denver.  I feel like there’s something to be said about a guy who drops out of school at 15 to ride trains, drink and do drugs, yet he somehow emerges as this heroic, layered musician.  I see as much devil in him as I see God.  I see as much of a past in his eyes as I see a future.  I see as much evil as I see good.  He’s extremely well read and we talk literature for a while.  He says he ripped off a Dylan Thomas line in one of his songs.  He mentions the Russian authors and how they wrote so beautifully amidst such a bleak landscape.  He doesn’t understand Faulkner but acknowledges that Steinbeck is his guy.  He also says he’s been a heavy drinker and drug user since age 15.  He is now 26 years old. 

“What are you doing with yourself these days?” I ask. 

“I live with my sister and her husband and their two kids.  Between work and my family and my dog, I like to read.” 

He tells me he goes to the gym regularly and he’s an amateur boxer. 

“Where do you see the direction of your music going?”

“I’ve got a few shows coming up but I’m going to take five or six months off to reflect on where I’d like to go with it all.  I want to think about different album concepts and I want to analyze my live performances and decide where I want to go with that.” 

When we shake hands and part ways, he is in front of the Weathervane Café, smoking a cigarette.  This is his one man attempt to do something.  The hard living RL Cole.

South Arapaho Peak

Monday, August 25, 2014

Leadville 100 2014

When I look back at the video my crew took of me at the May Queen aid station (mile twenty-three), I don’t look like a runner that’s going to run nearly another eighty miles that day.  I don’t look fit.  I don’t look confident.  In fact, I look like I just ran one of the bigger runs of my life.  I barely remember that aid station.  I remember running into the first place I’d see my crew thinking / My legs feel like they’ve got eighty miles on them, how am I ever going to get this thing done? / I’m pouring sweat.  My crew is looking at me, dumbfounded.  Karlen just stares at me with a look that says / What?!—You’re out of shape?—You’ll never make it!  Why did you drag us here? / The video shows an uncomfortable silence.  No one knows what to say. 

I know better.  Luckily, my crew chief knows better.  Heather wipes the sweat out of my eyes and waits for me to use the bathroom.  We both know that three hours into a twenty-four hour event is not a good gauge.  This is the first time Heather has taken one of my races as her responsibility.  She knows me well.  She hands me my food and says / Okay, you’re good! / and kicks me out of May Queen.  I walk out thinking / How am I ever going to do this?

He can pull a run out of his ass / I later found out Heather told the rest of the crew / —don’t worry about him.

My plan was to start slow and ease into the first fifty miles.  At mile twenty-three, I’m whooped.  Not a good sign.  I force food down.  I force myself to run but thirty seconds later, I need a break.

You have to turn this around, Adam.


Be grateful.  Grateful for your health.  For your crew. For the fact that you’re healthy enough to make it to the starting line of such an amazing race.

I put the headphones in—something I normally save for WAY later in a race.  I stop thinking.  I just move.  I feel.  If there is a need to walk, I walk hard.  When I can run, I run.  That’s it.  I encourage others, which somehow encourages me.  Over the next eleven miles, I somehow come back from the dead.  I gather up a few guys that are moving well.  They follow me and we charge.  We steamroll people by the dozen.  I bark orders like a drill sergeant and they are all in for the ride.  There’s about six of us, charging into Twin Lakes (mile forty).  I know I have crew there, waiting.  I can’t wait to tell them I’m back from the dead!

Joel calls my name and waves me over to the set up.  This aid station is short and efficient.  Not slow and confused.  I know what I need and I tell them I’m about to crush Hope pass.

I’ll see you in a few hours!

And just like that, almost as soon as I leave the aid station, I feel like death again.

Going up Hope Pass is supposed to be my specialty.  I love going uphill and normally that’s where I pass tons of folks.  However, today, as I climb up to 12,800 feet, I need lots of little breaks.  It’s like I’m carrying a hundred pounds on my back.  I begin vomiting.  I sit down.  I worry.  I get up and move.  I need another break. 

I know enough by now to know—this is just how it goes sometimes.  Bipolar ultramarathoning.  High highs, low lows.  Suck it up and keep moving.  I’m moving SO slow that when I make it into Hopeless aid station, they ask if I’m okay.  They can tell I’ve fallen off pace by quite a bit.  I’m wrecked but I tell them I’m feeling great. 

Coming down Hope Pass, I’m embarrassed to admit…I needed a ten minute power nap.  COMING DOWN.  This is supposed to be the easy part.  This is supposed to be where I rest. 

When I make it to Winfield, Heather is right at the edge of the woods waiting for me.  I’m at nearly twelve hours.  This is not shaking out the way I wanted.  She tells me Logan is going to be my first pacer.  Thank God.  Logan and I have slogged hundreds of miles together.  He knows me and I know him.  Lucas has joined the team and this is the first time I’ve seen him all day.  We bro hug and just like that, he’s on the team.  I refuel.  I try and fake strong.  They tell me I’m doing well.  I cringe.  Logan and I head back up the big hill. 

C’mon dude, we gotta pass twenty-five people on the way up.

I don’t say anything.  He’s lucky I’m moving at this pace. 

Twenty-five people / he says again. 

I projectile vomit everything I just ate at the aid station.

I breathe deep and loud.  Logan plays music on his phone, loud enough to annoy folks but his only concern is me and he knows how to get me to move and feel like a gansta when I’m doing it.  He calls me a pussy and a cocklicker at least fifty times.  Two-thirds of the way up, we’ve passed our twenty-five people.  Does that shut him up?

Twenty-five more / is all he says. 

His words just go through me.  Impossible goals.  He can say what he wants, I’ll just keep moving. 

You’re turning it around! / he says / —Hope Pass is easy, bitch!

My head is down.  I’m marching hard and hyperventilating. 

A little chicken broth at Hopeless and I know we’re running down whether I’m able to or not.  It’s a six mile descent.  We pass more folks.  He keeps playing music and others are annoyed.  He says things that I don’t hear.  We just crush.  We cross the river and jog into Twin Lakes.

We passed ninety-six runners and pacers on Hope Pass / Logan tells me.

Ninety-six?! / I think.

Twin Lakes is all business as usual.  Lucas is taking over pacing duties.  I eat, drink.  I know I’ll be puking it all up once I’m back in the woods but I have to at least TRY getting it down.  I hand out high fives.  I accept hugs.  I take food with me.  We have a three mile ascent ahead of us. 

Lucas is a work buddy.  Lucas is an Ironman.  Lucas shaves his legs…and I’ll never let him forget it.  At work, it’s ultrarunner versus triathlete…all day. Our friendship is literally just smack talk.  I don’t know if we’ve ever said anything nice to each other.  We just make fun of each other.  Sometime we go too far.  However, here he is, volunteering to stay up all night and get me to the finish.  If I can’t be a wuss in front of ANYONE, it’s Lucas.  I know this and it was all planned.  I have no choice but to be strong or I will NEVER hear the end of it. 

I thank him for shaving his legs for my race.

However, Lucas is perfect.  We talk about everything.  We tell stories about work, women and life in general.  He does a fantastic job of keeping me moving just a bit above my comfort level. 

After ten miles, I break Lucas.  He admits what must be painful for him:

I’m impressed / he says / —if you finish this thing, I’ll never make fun of you for being a power walker!

Ha.  Win!

He gets me to May Queen.  Crew crews me a like a Naascar pit stop.  I give Lucas a hug.  We’re closer than ever before.  I’m handed to a stranger with wide eyes.  He’s a pacer my crew has set up for me and I trust them.  He tells me he’ll get me over Sugar Loaf.  I tell him I don’t want to lollygag on this climb, I want to get it over with.  His name is Dave and he assures me, we won’t be messing around. 

No talking up Sugar Loaf, we decide.  We need to move hard.  I lead the way and give a hundred percent.  I’m hyperventilating. 

I wouldn’t want to see you climb with fresh legs / Stranger Dave tells me. We pass the few people that have made it this far.

I’m just thankful to have him.  He pushes me.  He keeps me running when I don’t want to.  He tells me I’m a badass.  He’s very encouraging.  He gets me to eighty-seven miles.  I fall into a chair.  I’m stupid with exhaustion.  Thirteen miles to go.  Heather takes over. 

God bless Heather for her thick skin.  She got the brunt of everything. 

I was not nice to her and I wouldn’t let her push me.  I refused.  I was a baby.  I was rude.  I hadn’t eaten  for hours.  I’d been throwing up.  No sleep.  All compounded, it came out over the last thirteen miles.  I argued with her about our pace.  I complained.  I whined.  She was encouraging.  She was firm.  She was beautiful.  God bless her.  I was not a nice person to be with at that point. 

We made it past Turquoise Lake, to the boat launch. 

How much further? / I ask someone.

Six miles.

I complain some more.  I look at my watch.  We can walk it in and still get in under twenty-five hours. 

We hike a couple of miles.  I ask the next person we see / How much further?

Six and a half miles.


We’ve gotta move.  We’re running out of time.  I want the big buckle.  We run a mile or two. 

How much further? / I ask the next person we see.

Seven miles.


We’re running out of time / Heather says / —you’ve gotta go!

I can’t!

You have to!

I don’t care!  I don’t want it this bad!

I DO! / Heather screams.

Silence.  I process this.  These guys have spent tons of time and money to come out and help me finish with a respectable time.  I can’t quit now.  I HAVE to push. 

I leave Heather.  I run the endless gravel road into Leadville. 

Forty minutes to get in under twenty-five hours.

Thirty minutes. 

I look at my watch.

I see lights—they’re miles away.

Twenty minutes. 

I’m finally coming into town.  There are a few diehard spectators. 

Will I make it? / I yell.

If you hurry!

I run. 

Will I make it? / I yell to the next person I see. 

If you hurry, you’ve gotta move!

I turn around.  Heather’s headlamp is trying to rush in to see me finish.  I don’t have time to wait. 

Finally, I see the finish line.  I have ten minutes to get the BIG buckle.  It’s mine.  Karlen and Joel run in to the finish with me.  I run up the red carpet.  I’m the last person to get the BIG buckle.  The LAST!


I was happy to have finished, but I wasn’t done for the day.  I owe apologies for my behavior.  I owe thanks for everything that was done for me.  I couldn’t have done it without my seamless crew and supporters.  Saints, all of them.  Now, if they just get me to a warm bed and put a beer in my hand, I would owe them my life.

And they did. 

And I do. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Longs Duathlon

Long’s Duathlon

An alarm going off at 1 am usually means one of two things.  You have to go into work at some godawful time or you are getting up for a major league adventure.  Luckily for me, today is going to be a major league adventure.  I’d packed up everything the night b/f.  This time I was going to bike from the “official” start rather than Louisville, where I live.  The last time I attempted the Longs Duathlon, I started from home and the extra hour or two of biking made for A LOT.  I mean, c’mon.  I’ve got far enough to go here as it is. 

I would venture a guess that only 10 or 20 people have completed the Long’s Duathlon.  I was going to give it another go.  My planning hadn’t been meticulous but it was thorough.  I’d be carrying a heavy backpack w/ my gear up to the Long’s Peak ranger station from the gentleman’s club on the north side of Boulder.  I was carrying enough food and water for about twelve hours.  I was carrying bike locks and running shoes.  I had a Snickers bar and a Red Bull for when things got ugly.  It would be a hundred miles on the bike at the end of the day.  Oh, and run/hike up a 14er as quick as you can.  13,000 (!) feet gained total.  The skies were clear and I could see a million stars.  I was ready. 

I took off on the bike at 2:05 am (the exact same time I started this adventure last year) and began peddling.  The ride out to Lyons is rolling and really a quite enjoyable bike ride.  The ride up to the ranger station from Lyons has about 6,000 feet of gain.  It’s brutal for a non-biker like myself.  I can run up hills okay but I’m out of practice w/ biking up hills. 

The guy who’s been sleeping on my couch for a few weeks now, says he’s going to run up and down Long’s this morning too.  Logan’s plan is to go up the Loft’s route and come down the cables quick enough to make it to work at 10:30 am in Boulder (badass!).  He’s eighteen years old, about to start college.  He runs and climbs everyday.  I knew he’d be driving past me at any time.  I keep thinking every car that passes me is going to be him.  Finally a car drives up real slow and I hear his voice out the window.

Havin fun buuuddy?

Yeah man / I was peddling ferociously uphill.  We’ve had several long conversations about cycling and Logan is definitely not a fan.  He can run and climb better than me most days but he’d rather die than ride a bike.  I half expected him to throw a sandwich at me. 

And off he went.  I was left w/ my blinky lights and dark road going up into the mountains.  As I got closer, I was getting tired.  The heavy backpack was digging into my traps and hurting my lower back.  As I made my way up to 9,000 feet, I was barely going 10 mph.  Every peddle stroke was torture.  JUST GET ME TO THE RANGER STAION ALREADY!

When I finally made it, I took about ten minutes transition time.  I made sure I had what I needed and made sure the rest was locked up.  I started up the big hill and there wasn’t much “run” in my legs.  They were spent.  I hiked hard while taking in some calories.  The sun was coming up and Long’s is always busy on a Saturday.  I bumped into ultra mountain man Nick Clark on his way up w/ a buddy.  They said they were planning on doing the grand slam today (Long’s peak and the surrounding satellite peaks) which I told him is on my list.  They told me they’d seen me biking in and knew immediately I was from Boulder and going for the duathlon.  We wished each other good luck and they took off at a good speed. 

I hadn’t really made up my mind as to what route I’d be taking up.  The keyhole is the standard route that I could easily live the rest of my life w/out.  I’ve been up and down the keyhole route many times.  Cables is much faster.  However…the FKT that I’d like to take down one day is the keyhole route.  (Last time I went up cables and down keyhole.)  I was leaning toward keyhole, just not looking forward to the extra time I’d be spending out here.  A twelve hour day is long no matter how you cut it. 

I started getting really tired as I broke tree line.  Really tired.  Tired at the same exact spot as last year.  Was it from only getting two hours of sleep?  Was it from the bike ride?  I knew I’d be needing a quick power nap at the exact same spot I took one last year.  I found some grass and lay down on my hydration pack.  I crossed my feet and passed out completely for about ten minutes.  The nap helped.  Then I kept making my way up the hill. 

I found myself moving toward the keyhole.  I looked up at the summit and the cables route.  It looks so easy.  So available.  So…right there!  But I wanted to know my time on an honest keyhole up and keyhole down route.  It was getting cold and I hadn’t brought anything warmer w/ me.  I was only wearing bike shorts and a long sleeve shirt.  People stopped at the keyhole to put on warmer clothes.  I just breathed into my hands and kept moving.  I followed bull’s-eyes the rest of the way up, past the trough, past the narrows and past homestretch, passing lots of folks.  When I made the summit, people just wanted me to take their picture.  I took a couple bites of food and started down as quick as I could.  It felt good to finally be going down.  I moved as best I could along the rocks, passing people and trying to be kind while in a hurry.  I was having a good time!  It’s not everyday you get to carve out a twelve hour period of time to do what you love!  Half a day in the mountains is a gift.  It’s a beautiful thing!  You have to appreciate it while you have it.  In a couple of days, I’ll be back to the pod, in front of a computer screen…trying to enjoy that J

I didn’t have as much energy as I would have liked.  In fact…I was bonking pretty hard.  Walking the downhills is something I never like to admit but here I was…same place as last year…walking the downhills.  All I could think about was my Red Bull and Snickers down by my bike.  I chatted w/ folks, many of which were also exhausted.  I tried to encourage them or offer them food.  No one was in trouble but everyone seemed exhausted on this Saturday.  Me too.  I finally made it to the ranger station and had my sugary snacks.  I put in my earphones, hoping the music would just carry me home.  I took time to transition, making sure everything was packed away where I needed it.  I’d consumed a few liters of water but my backpack didn’t seem much lighter.  At least I was going to be riding downhill most of the way back.  I accept.  I took note that Logan’s car was gone, so he must have made it out alive.  There are a few uphills to get out of there that are real diggers.  Not much energy left for biking uphill.  However, the majority of the ride was a fast descent, much of which I was peddling for my life to get it over w/ as quick as possible.  My watch told me I was on track for eleven hours.  That would be almost 90 minutes quicker than last year!  I needed to keep moving.  Once I made it back to Lyons, it was almost over.  Just about ten miles of rolling hills to where my truck was parked (and hopefully not towed away).  There are always lots of cyclists on the road btwn Boulder and Lyons on a Saturday and I was happy that I was passing most of them.  Heavy backpack, tired legs and all!  Every mile was taking forever.  I could see Boulder.  Why wasn’t it getting any closer?  Move, Adam.  Move! 

When I made it back to the start I was exhausted and happy it was all behind me.  I was happy.  I enjoyed every minute!  I stopped my watch. 10 hours and 54 minutes.  Over 90 minutes faster than my last attempt.  Yes!  I set the bike down, took off my backpack and just walked around moaning, breathing and coughing a lot.  It hurt and felt good simultaneously.  A long, beautiful day in the mountains.  These are dream days for me.  I really appreciate days like this.  In fact, if I didn’t have to work…this is probably how I’d spend most of my days.  Rushing up and down the biggest mountains, checking my watch to see how close I’m getting to the masters.  That’s it. 

Do big things.