Thursday, December 13, 2012

Salomon S-Labfellcross review

I didn’t even know that it had snowed until I walked outside.  I’d been up for several hours but I hadn’t bothered to look outside b/c we’d been waiting and waiting for snow and it hadn’t come.  There hadn’t been any in the forecast.  So the snow had surprised me at 5 am as I walked outside.  I turned around and switched my shoes out for the Salomon S-Labfellcross.  I’d been waiting to try them out.  The super aggressive lug height on the bottom of the shoes screamed I want to run up and down European mountains in snowstorms, rainstorms and whatever horrible weather mother-nature could throw at me.  I’d been waiting and waiting for an opportunity to try the shoes.  I certainly would have preferred to try them on a long trail run w/ a lot of elevation gain and decent.  But that was not why I was up and out the door at 5 am on this cool, December morning. 

I had moved to Boulder a few months back seeking a clean life of mountain living, outdoor meditation and mountain running.  But to pay for a roof over my head at night I was working a couple of jobs, one of which was delivering organic produce to the doorsteps of the good people of Colorado.  Today was my mountain route which meant I would be driving on harrowing mountain roads around the Evergreen area of Colorado.  These roads would include four wheel drive roads, shelf roads, jeep roads and one stop that is about a fifteen mile drive up Mount Evans.  Once I get to the homes, they are usually so far back in the hills that even my all wheel drive van has a hard time negotiating the ups and downs.  I knew I’d be hiking some of the boxes up to people’s homes.  And trying to take advantage of every opportunity in front of me, I decided to just make today a training day.  

For months I’d seen the Team Salomon videos of Killian Jornet running up Mount Blanc on what seemed like a daily basis w/ the lightweight S-Labs.  The only complaint I’d heard about the S-Labs were the lack of tread on the outsole.  I was told the S-Labfellcross were like the S-Lab on steroids.  I’d tried a couple of other name brand shoes that even though it looks like they have a beefy, multi-directional tread on the bottom, it’s impossible to stay upright if you get caught in the rain.  Salomon had not let me down in that regard yet.  And the beefy $170 price tag that went along w/ these shoes gave me high expectations.  If Salomon was willing to charge that much for a shoe, it must be something they believe in. 

As I drove up into the mountains that morning the snow conditions got thicker the higher in elevation I went.  My usual hour drive was slowed down due to traffic and once I finally made it to my first stop the sun had come out and it appeared as if it was about to be a sloppy, icy, muddy day.  I would be running up and down mountain driveways of people who sometimes didn’t want to be found in the back hills of the Colorado front-range.  It wasn’t exactly my ideal day in the mountains but it wasn’t all that bad either.  If you have to have a day job, getting up to about 10,000 feet to deliver heavy boxes up steep driveways constitutes as pretty good training in my book.  I see lots of wildlife when I do this route.  A typical day would show me a dozen deer, a few turkeys or fox and sometimes up to seventy or eighty elk.  It’s a beautiful day and I certainly spent more time driving than running but I’m able to get some solid hill and sprint work in.  W/ Mount Evans and Bierstadt looming in the distance, things could always be worse. 

The shoes are very lightweight (9 ounces) and considered a minimal shoe with their 4mm heel drop.  The super protective upper of the shoe made me want to bushwhack my way around Colorado and forget the trails altogether.  My first impression of the shoe when putting it on my foot was that it felt a little narrow.  But after a few minutes, my foot accommodated nicely.  The speed lace system held my foot nicely w/ no slipping.  My only complaints about the shoe is that it is a little overbuilt for any trails w/out rocks and roots to run over or around.

My day was long.  A fourteen hour work day left me beat down and tired.  My only hope was that today (Tuesday) was actually my Friday, having two days off ahead of me.  When I got home I had no energy.  Physically and mentally exhausted.  I wanted to go for a little night run but I had nothing left.  Then again, when training for an ultra, it’s important to practice running when you have nothing left in the tank.  I smiled.  I laced the shoes back up and grabbed a headlamp.  Maybe just a quick run up Mount Sanitas and back from my apartment.  Just a quick little ten miler…

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hoka Mafate Review

I was as skeptical as they come.  They look like moon boots!  I work at the Boulder Running Company on weekends and I’d heard it all from anyone taking their first look at the shoe with their super sized midsole.  But I’d been selling them to nearly all the serious trail runners that come into the store.  Many of them are on their third or fourth pair, swearing by them.  

As long as I stay in the Hokas, I remain injury free / is what nearly everyone said.

I’d been fighting off injuries since I ran the Leadville 100 in August, where I saw one in eight runners wearing the Hokas.  One guy even had them tied to his backpack, where at the top of a big climb he would stop and switch out his minimal shoes for the Hokas and then bomb the downhills.  I was intrigued but hesitant.  I’d tried all the fads when it comes to running shoes.  I was in the Newtons for a year and had good luck w/ them.  I tried going more minimal and like most people, got injured.  I had decided that I would just stick to a trail shoe w/ a 10 mm heel pitch and wear it w/ an insert.  But still, I was fighting off a nasty Achilles injury that had lasted for a long time.  Almost every run was followed w/ frustration.  Sure, I finished my run but now the Achilles hurts and I probably just made it worse.  I’d tried everything, even going inward.  Maybe I’m constantly injured because of some inward battle within myself.  I’d turned to yoga and meditation to calm myself down, hoping to heal my injuries.  No luck. 

I purchased my Hoka One Mafate 2 Lows with little expectation and yet big hopes.  They carry a hefty price tag, almost the most expensive shoe the BRC sells.  That night I went for a four mile pain free run.  Could they be magic shoes?

Today, I laced them up w/ double digits on my radar (if I could make it that far without pain).  My four legged running partner and I headed for Mount Sanitas where I could give them a proper testing.  It’s not the most technical climb in the world, but it’s very rocky and there are a few sections where you are doing more boulder hopping than running.  I was unsure if all that extra foam cushioning on the bottom of the shoe would prevent me from climbing efficiently.  They were no bother.  If anything, the extra padding gave me more confidence to take a step off a jagged rock that I might otherwise avoid.  When we arrived at the summit of Mount Sanitas, I was feeling no pain and nearly converted. 

Then we started our descent.  That was when their logo, Time to Fly, began to make sense.  To say I hammered the downhill wouldn’t be right.  Hammer is the wrong word.  It felt like I floated down the mountain.  All the extra cushion absorbed every rock and root I normally feel on a fast descent.  It felt like the mountain was covered in about two inches of pristine powder snow.  Even Roxy couldn’t keep up.  I put my arms out and floated down the hill faster than I ever had before.  Even if descents were the only thing the shoe was good for, I’d be sold.  It felt like I was cheating. 

I did roll my ankle once, which is a common problem of mine.  With the extra cushion on the bottom of the shoe, there is a lot further for the ankle to roll towards the ground.  I hope this doesn’t prove fatal for me in the future.  I like to normally run with a shoe w/ a wider last like the Saucony Xodus. 

I finished my ten mile run w/ no pain.  I still stretched out, I’ll still wear compression tonight.  Are they magic shoes?  Are they too good to be true?  Well, I haven’t tattooed Hoka across my back yet but I know what I’ll be wearing out on my next trail run.  And I can’t wait. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Truth About Mount Massive

I bet Anton wakes up early.  Real early.  So I set my alarm for 3 am.  It’s a 2 hour drive to the trailhead.  That’ll put me there before the sunrise.  If I remember right, there was a really cool place to watch the sun come up at about tree line. 

I’d hiked Mount Massive twice before.  The first ascent was flawless and the second I ended up running for my life.  Yes, my life.  The clouds had moved in faster than I could move out and was stuck right in the middle of a lightning and hail storm.  Lightning was crashing right in front of my face as I ran down to timberline laughing like a crazy person.  This would be my third trip up Massive, but my first winter ascent. The snow was dubious at best but it would be cold and the paths would be tough to follow.  My dog and I were ready.  For months now, I had been following all the posts and pictures by Anton Krupicka and Joe Grant.  Pictures of them summiting mountains in all sorts of conditions.  They’d bagged every 14er around, sponsors had led them to races all over the world and now, after running up and down Green Mountain about a zillion times, it seemed they were bored and now free climbing up the flatirons with no ropes, outside of Boulder.  I had just recently moved to Boulder.  Ultrarunning and peak bagging is what takes up most of my thoughts these days.  I had seen Anton on the trails a couple of times (both times were rainy, foggy days and just like magic, from out of the fog comes a shirtless Anton). 
Hey, are you Tony?
Yeah man.
Far out!
He checked his watch and said / Have a good one!
I met Scott Jurek at Whole Foods.  The nicest guy in the world and he seemed genuinely interested in meeting me.  I’d even given Dakota Jones a smile and a nod on the Mesa Trail more than once.  This was it man.  I’m living the dream!  It was high time I channel some of that mountaineering energy that I was constantly reading about on Anton’s blog or Joe Grant’s Alpine Works site.  It was my turn to snap an Instagram photo from 14,000 feet up to remind the world that I’m here and I’m alive. 

I jumped out of bed when the alarm went off at 3 am.  In a half hour Roxypoo and I were on the road on Thanksgiving morning, ready for our first winter 14er.  I had more than enough winter clothes and today I would carry an ice ax, just in case.  The plan was no different than any other big climb, run / hike as much of the ascent as you can and then run down.  I had Mount Elbert in the back of my head too.  Bagging both in the same day.  I knew it was possible.  Anton had probably done it as a training run and set a FKT in the process.  If I’m feeling good / I told myself. 

At 5:38, Rox and I set off in the dark from the Mt. Massive trailhead.  My trusty headlamp led the way.  I ran some.  I hiked some.  It wasn’t long before my Achilles started fussing.  This has been an ongoing injury for almost a year.  So I back it off and mainly just hike.  Being in the woods with all of the thick white snow adds a density to the mountains.  It makes the woods quiet which makes the experience more reflective than ever.  I go inward.  I smile.  Moving along quickly on a trail in the woods is the best meditation I have found so far. 

It’s light out by the time I hit tree line.  I look up at the summit and wonder / How am I going to get up there? / but then I remind myself that I’ve been up there twice before.  I just have to put my head down and take one step at a time until I reach my goal.  Just like an ultra.  Just like life.  

There’s no real trail at this point.  There is a lot of snow.  I am just making my own trail right up to the top.  Rox is in her element.  She rolls around in the snow.  Eats the snow.  Goes pee in the snow.  She is in heaven.  I march up even though it’s steep and there is no air.  I couldn’t run this if I wanted to.  Anton could.  He could run right up to the top and right back down to the bottom before breakfast and then do a three hour barefoot session in the PM.  All I can do is take five steps and take a break to catch my breath.  When I reach the saddle, it’s so windy that a big gust of wind comes through and takes the hat and sunglasses right off my head and right down the mountain.  I run after them and finally retrieve them but now I have to climb back up.  Ugh.  I make my way over the scrambling, jagged rocks to reach the beautiful and rewarding summit.  I know that if I take my gloves off to open a gel or an energy bar, they will be too frozen to take a picture.  And vice versa.  I opt for the picture.  If you don’t document it, it didn’t happen, right?  I wonder if Joe Grant has this problem.  Eat or take a picture?   I use my teeth to put my gloves back on.  It’s too cold to bother pulling my phone out to see them temperature.  I made the summit.  I received my blessing.  Time to head down.  

Almost immediately on the way down my IT band starts fussing.  My IT band NEVER hurts.  What is this?  I can’t believe it.  Does this happen to Anton or Joe?  It seems they are running up and down huge mountains every day.  Don’t they ever get injured?  I can’t run a mary without something hurting.  Is it because I’m a decade older than Anton and Joe?  Is it because they’ve been running for years and I just picked it up a few years ago?  Every time I begin training for a big ultra, something happens and I end up in the gym, lifting weights and using the elliptical in preparation for the event.  Anton runs almost 200 miles the week before he runs a hundo!  Maybe I should surrender the fantasy of running a course record at Hardrock.  Maybe Anton and I won’t hug this year w/ gusto and brotherly love at the end of a hundred miler, both coming in first and second place after a hard days battle through the mountains of Europe.  In reality, that’s not why I’m out here.  I’m out here because I love being outside, especially in the mountains, moving forward.  The air is crisp and I am completely comfortable with myself.  The everyday stresses of work and bills and dirty dishes and laundry just go away when you are 35 miles in to a 50 mile mountain race.  Or when you’re headed up to your second 14er of the day.  It’s pure bliss and it’s the one thing that gives my life a feeling of value these days. 

And that’s when I notice I’m lost.  I know the general direction I should be heading but there is no trail and I am bushwhacking my way through the woods to get down off of the mountain.  Eventually, I’ll come across a trail or a road somewhere.  No luck.  Hours go by.  You are no longer on the mountain but you are in the woods and completely lost.  You yell / HELLO?  IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? / until you have Pink Floyd stuck in your head for a week.  You are lost and you are screwed and it’s afternoon now and you wonder if you’ll have to call a ranger or sleep out here?  Eventually I find tire tracks.  Tire tracks have to lead to a road.  I follow them for a long time before coming to the gravel road that leads to the trailhead where the truck is parked.  I see the sign that says it’s 4 miles to the Mount Massive trailhead.  I eat a gel but it doesn’t do much.  The damage has been done.  I was out there for hours w/out putting any calories in because my hands were too cold.  I am rendered unable to run and it’s going to be a
4 mile hike back to the truck.  Why don’t I ever hear about this happening to my running hero’s?  What should have been a four or five hour trip is now almost eight hours.  The dog and I shuffle along, slowly, hungry.  Why me?  Why does this stuff always happen to me?  And then I remember…I moved to Colorado for adventure.  Here it is.  I smile.  Maybe I am living the dream life.  Maybe getting lost in the woods for an extra three hours is as good as it gets.  Maybe.  I can’t help but to shuffle alone with a huge, cheesy grin.  3.5 miles back to the truck.

Mount Massive

trampin around...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Leadville 100

                                                                   Minutes b/f the start.

Marty led the team meeting the night b/f the race.  They wanted to make sure that you knew that it was okay to DNF if your Achilles was acting up.  You’d rather die than DNF.  You’d rather die ten horrible deaths.  It had, however, been your only anxiety going into this race.  You knew you could finish the things as long as your foot held up.  You told them that you would do everything and anything in your power to finish the race.  You’d tape it up and take a bottle of Tylenol, if you had to.  You didn’t want to push it until rupture, obviously.  But you’d do everything in your power. 

You were at the point of being superstitious about it.  If you went one day w/out it hurting, you’d analyze everything you did that day for it not to hurt.  Which vitamins had you taken?  Had you used compression that night?  Anti inflammatories?  Prayer?  Stretching?  Since your pacers Jessica and Marty had been out, you’d climbed four 14ers.  You’d climbed five the week b/f.  The all day ups and downs didn’t seem to bother it much.  But when Jess had suggested the two of you do a little five mile shake out run, you had to stop at one mile.  You’d been icing it in the mountain streams.  You’d been taping it w/ KT tape.  It seemed to hurt whenever it wanted to.  This was the biggest race of your life.  Four of your closest friends had driven out here to help you cross the finish line of a hundred mile mountain race.  They were getting nothing out of this.  They were here for you to finish.  And finishing looked grim.  You didn’t want to let them down.  They told you they understood if the injury prevented you from finishing.  You were grateful to have such understanding friends.  But you wanted to finish more than anything in the entire world.  You had sacrificed EVERYTHING for this race.  When you lay in your sleeping bag the night b/f, you were scared and emotional.  You knew it was possible you’d be DNFing less than five miles into the hundo.  You had no idea what would happen. 

You had two alarms set for 2:30 am and kept waking up every half hour out of nervousness of oversleeping.

Most of your crew drove you to the start of the race.  You’d decided to walk the first mile to warm up the Achilles.  Then you’d begin jogging.  Not even close to your usual approach and something you’d never normally do.  As you were waiting for the start of the race, Anton Krupicka walked by. 
Good luck Anton! / you said.
Do we have to check in? / he asked you.
No man, this is it! / you tell him. 
He looked nervous about having to check in which was kind of funny to you.  This was his fourth time doing this race.  He’d won it twice.  You’d think he’d know.  He looked clear eyed and focused though.

They counted down and said go.  There were camera crews and thousands of people up in the middle of the night, cheering.  You remained in the back of the pack, walking.  There were eight-hundred people ahead of you and about five behind you.  You walked and it felt fine.  Once out of town you began the job.  You were tentative.  You weren’t toeing off.  You baby it, knowing your other leg will suffer the brunt of the day and night.  At mile five, you run right past where you’d been camping for the last week.  Your crew was is there, covered in blankets and wearing headlamps, cheering everyone on.  You stop and hug them. 
How’s it going?
So far so good / you say, to your surprise as much as theirs.  You and them both half expected you to drop right there.  They cheer you on. 
At mile ten you decide to start passing people.  The first AS is at mile 13.5 where Marty is waiting for you.  You shed the headlamp and arm warmers.  He tells you there is a lot of runners ahead of you.  That was when you got to work. 

It was the first big climb of the day.  Sugarloaf pass.  Your power hiking skills are decent and you push.  You don’t talk to runners.  You push.  You grind.  Once at the top, you start running down, running eight minute miles.  You push it hard to National Fish Hatchery aid station at 23.5 miles.  You tell the volunteers your number so they can get your drop bag.  They look.  They look.  You help them look.  No sign of it.  They’ve lost your drop bag.  You’ll be through this AS two times.  It had extra shoes, socks, compression, Carbo-Pro, Tums.  It had everything you need to make it through this race.  The tough just got tougher.  You see your crew all together for the first time this morning and they lift you up and make you smile.  Maggie touches your face to give you positive energy.  Everyone is taking pictures and having fun.  There is a long stretch of flat road after that.  Tons of vehicles w/ crew members are going back and forth on the road and cheering for the runners.  You are gaining confidence.  The foot is feeling good.  You are passing people by the dozen.  Things are going your way.  You don’t want to get ahead of yourself though.  Remain calm and focused on the present.  Remain humble.  ANYTHING can happen over the course of a hudo.  Back to the trails w/ a four mile ascent to the Twin Lakes aid station.  You are jamming on watermelon and gels.  That is usually all your stomach allows.  Your salt and hydration intake is down to a science.  Totally flawless.  This is the aid station you began seeing people crying.  Two women and two men were bawling.  One guy was in the fetal position, wailing.  D/t injuries?  The course being too difficult?  Who knew. 

You cross a river.  Up until now, all the runners had been pretty quiet.  Not a lot of talk.  But once you all begin the climb up Hope Pass, everyone unites as brothers and sisters.  Everyone is encouraging each other and struggling to get up that massive, steep climb that can humble the worlds best ultrarunners.  Especially w/ forty miles on the legs.  One guy said it was like running forty miles and then climbing a 14er.  That sounded accurate to you.  You have no idea how long that climb took.  Hours, for sure.  You don’t take many breaks.  You break treeline.  Then there is an AS that’s so far up, it takes llama farmers to haul up all the supplies needed to man an aid station for a bunch of runners for the weekend.  You stop to put some calories in.  Someone tells you it’s only a half mile to the top.  Eff!  You thought you were at the top.  A half mile of climbing may not seem like much but this could take an hour.  You are at 12,800 feet and it’s like running w/ a sock in your mouth.  Luckily the food gives you a little boost.  This is where you see the leader of the race, Anton Krupicka and his pacer Dakota Jones bombing down as you are going up.  They are moving fast and they are ALL business.  Then you see Thomas Lorblanchet (who went on to win the race) and his pacer Anna Frost not far behind.  Nick Clark is in third.  These guys are your heros.  They are about ten miles ahead of you.  Someday.  Someday…

You run most of the way down.  This is nearly an eight mile descent.  You knees are blowing up.  You make it to Winfield and you are dehydrated and calorie depleted.  Your crew gives you Snickers, Red Bull, candy, water, anything and everything.  The good news is this is where you can pick up a pacer.  Jessica is primed and ready.  Her energy is perfect b/c you are spent.  You’d just run the hardest fifty miles of your life.  Probably the hardest thing you’d EVER done.  And now you are about to turn around and do it all over again.  But somehow your confidence is growing.  This was where you told your crew / I’ll finish no matter what.  It may take me longer than expected, but I’m going to finish.

You and Jess begin the eight mile climb.  Hours go by.  She said it was the hardest thing she’d ever done.  It starts to rain.  She tries to stop you to put on the raingear. 
No, we have to keep moving.
But shortly after that, you have to sit down for a minute b/c you are becoming confused and disoriented.  And then you keep going. 

After making it to the top, you walk the half mile down to Hope aid station.  All you can get down is chicken broth and candy.  You take down as much as you can.  It’s enough to push it hard down Hope Pass.  You both run down almost all of it.  Five steep miles down and your knees are screaming.  River crossing.  Aid station.  Switch pacers.  Four miles up.  It’s dark.  The headlamps go on.  You and Marty run a long flat section.  You chat w/ other runners who are struggling.  You puke on a gel.  It’s going to be tough getting the calories down from now on but you have no choice.  The tough just got tougher.  Your feet are trashed.  Your shoes are falling apart.  Wet socks.  Rocks and sand inside your shoes and socks.  You need to make it to the next aid so you can switch socks.  You and Marty run a half mile, then take a break.  Run a half mile, take a break.  Achilles is getting fussy.  Top of your other foot is getting fussy.  When you finally make it to the aid, you have your crew tape up your feet.  Your shoes are rotting right off of your feet.  Since the race lost your dropbag and extra shoes, you have to borrow whatever you can find.  Thankfully, Jessica’s boyfriend wears the same size as you but all he has are some cheap $35 Adidas and no one has spare socks.  You shake the sand and rocks out and wring them out and put them and the Adidas on.  The tough just got tougher.  Switch pacers.  You and Jess have one more monster climb, Sugarloaf pass.  You eat as much watermelon and drink as much chicken broth as you can and go.  You’ve been dreading this climb for hours and you just want to get it done.  You push hard.  Jess is struggling to keep up.  You are hiking faster than everyone on this climb.  All you see are headlamps going up and endless climb.  You devour it.  You have to stop to change your headlamp batteries.  There are six or eight false summits.  And what goes up, must come down.  For miles.  It’s dark.  It’s cold.  It’s quiet.  You’re grouchy.  You are not responding to Jessica’s questions.  Legs and feet are hamburger.  Gone.  You are not having fun at all.  You are in hell.  You just want to be done.  But there is absolutely no choice other than to grind it out to the final end.  You switch pacers for the last time.  Marty is going to take you home.  Thirteen more awful miles.  You hate running.  You hate runners.  You push on.  As you and Marty are hiking, you see a building off to the right, near the lake.  A boathouse.  But as you get closer, it’s gone.  Or never was there.  You see people setting up camp to your left.  That’s strange / you think / --people setting up camp at 6 am.  But when you get closer, they are gone.  Never there. 
Marty, I think I’m hallucinating. 
Marty turns around and looks at you and smiles.
Welcome / is all he says w/ a wry smile. 
The tough just got tougher.  Ten miles to go. 

It’s the longest ten miles of your life.  It feels like fifty.

Marty, I have to stop to get these rocks out of my shoes / you tell him.  Only they aren’t rocks.  They’re rock size blisters, right on the critical spots of your feet and you are rendered unable to run.  It’s going to be a hike aaaaallllllllllllll the way in from here.
The tough just got tougher.

Ten and a half years later, you and Marty make it back into town.  Tawnya meets the two of you.  You have just enough energy and pain tolerance left to run the last quarter mile.  You hear your name.  It’s 8:30 am.  Twenty-eight and a half hours.  Eight-hundred started.  Only three-hundred finished.  You are right about in the middle.  And there’s no way you could have done it w/out your crew that drove eighteen hours on their own dime and slept on the ground or in their cars to do whatever it took to see you to the finish line.  It felt so good to have them there and to hug them and thank them at the finish.  Words are never enough.  THANK YOU GUYS.  They helped you achieve something that you’ll have w/ you for the rest of your life.  And that’s that.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

two and a half weeks b/f Leadville...

I can’t figure out why I’m crying.  Is it because I am about to leave my hometown for a very, very long time?  Or is it b/c I just said goodbye to my closest friends and family?  Or b/c all of the above and I am listening to Tom Waits first album, Closing Time.  I am wearing shades.  I am alone except for the dog and the truck.  I am about to drive eighteen plus hours.  After the tears and after the Tom Waits, I begin to feel better. 
Rest area.
Back on the road in 1 hour 15 minutes.
Drive for another two and a half hours. 
Rest area.
This time, four hour snooze. 
Let Rox out.
Brush teeth.
Drive into Denver and stop and the same Denny’s that I once ate at w/ Her.  Four years ago. 
I even think one of the same people is working there.  Four years later.
I drive to Idaho Springs and get a room.  I have been rushing around for months now trying to get everything organized and in order to move and make a clean break w/ no stress.  My mind free from obstruction.  No enemies.  Just love and good karma.  I have been successful.  Now I need to pull over and get a room and take a night off b/f getting to work tomorrow.  As soon as training begins, I am putting 100% of my time and effort into the Leadville 100 that is less than three weeks away.  One nights vacation won’t hurt me b/f living in the woods and training diligently to run a hundred mile mountain race.  I will be soaking my foot and Achilles in cold mountain streams twice a day and stretching and doing pushups and planks and deep knee squats and not having too much beer and slowly taking myself off caffeine and getting my mind right and getting myself ready to suffer for 24-30 hours.   

8/4/12  10:18pm  12,800 feet
Roxy and I climbed Mt. Evans today at 14,284 feet.  Wanted to take it easy on day one so we started at Summit Lake which is at 12,800.  It still took a few hours.  Altitude was a factor but I can’t complain.  All the time I’ve put in running this year helped a lot.  I was able to run some but it was mostly a hike.  Ran some on the way down as well.  On the way down, we saw over sixty mountain goats and one big horn sheep.  It was a pretty awesome day of trying to acclimate.  Camping up here at Summit Lake will help.  I always sleep great up here too.  It’s cold at night.  I have four thick layers on top and I’m in the sleeping bag and under a blanket.  I read Haruki Murakami until it got dark.  Then I put the headlamp on and got in the back and read some more…

8/5/12  7:47pm  12,800 feet
At 0700 hours, we hiked up from Summit Lake today and negotiated the sawtooth ridge from Evans to Bierstadt.  Bagged Bierstadt and then traversed back to bag Evans again.  Spent some time on the summit.  There was a family from Iowa that couldn’t believe I hiked and ran up.  Shoot man, this was an easy one compared to most.  They waited for me down at the parking lot just to see that I made it back safely.  I couldn’t believe it!  They took my picture.  Kind of funny. 
I ate some food and then drove back down the harrowing shelf roads into town.  Killed time in Idaho Springs for the day.  Not much to do.  Wanted to check out the Indian Hot Springs b/c I thought maybe I could kill a few hours there.  They said they’d let me tour the place b/f paying for a day pass.  They have a hot spring pool and a men’s and women’s “cave”.  They told me to go down and check it out.  I think the cave was some sort of gay haven for dudes.  I opened the door and saw more penis than I’ve ever seen in one place.  There was steam.  It was dark.  There were dudes in towels and there were dudes naked.  Every eye shot to me to see who was coming in.  Dudes laying around.  I felt dirty and I think they did too.  I bolted the hell out of there. 
Went to a brewery.  One of the waitresses told me she gets off work at 8:00.  That doesn’t happen to me much, so I probably should have stuck around.  I didn’t.  Some other guys asked me if I knew of any good camping and I told them the only camping I knew of.  It’s at 12,800 feet.  It’s cold.  It’s 22 miles out of town.  But I told them that they will never see beautiful camping like that again.   They looked hesitant.  They just needed a place to crash btwn Phish concerts. 
So, here I am.  Same cold spot as last night.  22 miles out of town.  The only person on Mt. Evans.  12,800 feet.  A zillion stars.  A shooting star every 10 seconds.  Massive headache tonight though.  Typing and driving seem to make it worse, so I’m checking out.  Later.

8/6/12  7:44pm  11,300 feet
Drove into Boulder today and checked the city out for the first time.  Got lost for a few hours.  As much time as I’ve spent in Colorado, I hadn’t been through Boulder.  It reminded me of Madison.  I met a possible roommate today.  He seems normal.  Student, avid tv watcher etc.  The rent for a bedroom in downtown Boulder is the same as my entire mortgage payment back home.  But I don’t get a workout room, yoga classes, pool and whirlpool back home.  There is a dog park across the way from the apartment.  I don’t know about perfect but the place seemed alright to me.  I’ll sleep on it a couple nights…
Made the drive over to Grays and Torreys peaks.  It’s raining now, so Roxy and I are camped out in the truck.  Hoping to climb them both tomorrow.  Depends on the weather, depends on how my Achilles feels etc. etc. 
I am camped in the same spot that Her and I once camped.  That was not a good couple days, from what I remember.  I’m still trying to exorcise those demons.  I am parked in the exact same spot.  The spot where I accidentally left my boots under the truck four years ago.  I checked, they’re not here.  It’s the exact spot where, when Tabor came up and joined us, we had a raging bonfire and talked into the night.  And then early in the morning, we dug into the nine mile hike and the thirty-six hundred feet of elevation gain and decent.  That’s what I’m hoping for tomorrow.  But I just heard thunder…

Started at 11,300 feet where I had camped for the night.  This was some beautiful camping, even in the rain! I was glad the skies were clear when I pushed out of the truck this morning at 6 am. Ate a little and Roxy and I took off. I ran what I could, power hiked the rest.  Made it to the top of Grays (14,270) in an hour and a half. I was the first one on the peak this morning. A plane literally buzzed me. I know they saw me, because they were so close, I could see them looking at me. We took off and went for Torreys (14,267) and made it there in a half hour. Took some video and pictures and then ran the entire descent down. No lie, it felt great! I shaved about three hours off my previous time on these two peaks. Stopped and talked w/ lots of hikers and just felt like I was on FIRE! 3,600 feet of elevation gain and descent.
Drove into Idaho Springs and got a room.  Did the laundry, filled the water bottles, tried replenishing the 10,000 calories I burned this morning at the Tommyknocker Brewery. 

8/8/12  8:37pm  Mile high city
Woke up and leisurely loaded up the truck.  Went to breakfast at the same spot Her and I did, four years ago.  Different people working there.  I wonder what She’s doing this morning.  Colorado just makes me think of Her more than ever.  But I know that She doesn’t have time for me anymore.  And I don’t blame Her…
I mostly just drive around all day.  Drive to Boulder.  Drive to Denver.  Potential roommate calls and says I can fill out paperwork w/ Boulders Apartment if I want.  I rush to Boulder during rush hour traffic.  Fill out a rental application.  They tell me it’s all up in the air d/t the little spec on my criminal record.  We all have a past.  Sometimes mine comes back to haunt me.  It humbles me.  I feel bad.  I feel silly.  I feel embarrassed.  I get a six pack of beer and listen to Beck.  “When I wake up, someone will sweep up my lazy bones…”

8/9/12  mile high
Wake up in a hotel room and since checkout time isn’t until noon, I know I’m going to milk it out until noon.  Watch tv, do a little exercising etc.  Then I am pretty much just waiting around all day for my 3pm interview w/ Boulder Running Company.  I sit outside a Starbucks w/ Roxy and look online for apartments.  I make about a million calls.  No luck.  I interview.  The woman who interviews me asks you if I’d like to join the trail runners tonight.  I have nothing better to do so I say I’d be delighted to.  More waiting.  I wander over to a park and watch some crossfitters exercising.  Roxy and I meet the run group at 5:30.  We run about six miles, nice and easy pace.  My Achilles bothers me some.  It kind depresses me but I try not to let it get me TOO down.  The redrock trails were amazing! We have a beer afterwards in the parking lot.  There is a North Face rep there demo-ing some shoes and raffling off some stuff.  I win a stellar half zip.  I was kind of half hoping someone would ask me my situation and offer me a couch to sleep on but no such luck.   I drive to Idaho Springs and eat at the brewery.  Again, I’m kind of half hoping a female bartender will ask me my situation and offer me a warm bed to sleep in.  No such luck.  I did have some interesting conversations w/ a waitress and a married woman who just dropped her husband off at an airport.  Beautiful woman.  It’s dark out.  I take my leftovers out to the truck for Roxy and she plows them down.  I drive out of town to Echo Lake and camp w/out paying, knowing I’ll have to be at 5 am to be out of there b/f the rangers catch me.  I’m tired.  I wake up a few times when I hear various noises but mainly I sleep like a log. 

8/10/12  7,524 feet                  
I’m starting to worry about not being able to find a place to live.  I go to a Starbucks and use their internet service and jot down a zillion numbers of people that have been looking for roommates in Boulder w/in the last few months.  That kills a few hours.  I look at the people who come in and out of the coffee shop.  The people who have jobs and agendas.  They have nice vehicles, professional jobs, wives and husbands.  This life is foreign to me.  I take Roxy for a long walk and then we hang out at a park.  We run 2.15 miles to shake the dust off.  Achilles hurts.  It depresses me intensely.  I wonder if I’ll be able to run Leadville.  I’ve never DNF’d anything.  We make the drive to Frisco, then Breckenridge.  We drive to the McCullough spill flume where I’ve camped several times.  Rox and I scope it out and set up camp.  It’s 3pm.  I have nothing to do.  No phone reception.  I’m tired.  I read.  I eat.  We have a fire.  We go to bed early. 

8/11/12  10,850 feet
I wake up and head into Breckenridge.  When my phone reception comes back, I realize my friends and pacers that are here to help me through the Leadville 100 are in town and ready to meet up!  We meet at the 7/11 and head to breakfast.  Hugs all around and they are as excited as I am to be in Colorado.  They are both avid runners and in good shape but have no experience w/ altitude or mountains and as good of shape as they’re in, this is going to be a new ball of yarn for them.  But they are anxious and eager and the best pacers in the world and are here to run and acclimate ASAP and they want to get out in some mountains TODAY!  We opt for Quandary peak as their first teener.  We claim a camp spot and start gearing up for the days climb.  We are definitely getting a late start but as long as we keep an eye on the skies, we should be good.  We climb up to treeline and we are not the only ones that got a late start on this fine Saturday.  Marty and Jessica have a little trepidation and wonder if they’ll be able to make it.  They were at sea level yesterday, so this is no joke.  They are both tough as nails and fight through altitude sickness and doubt to top out at 14,000 plus feet.  It’s cold and windy on top so we snap pictures for documented proof and then head down.  As soon as we are coming down, they are feeling better and in fact feeling GREAT b/c they made it.  I couldn’t be more proud and I know I have the best pacers around. 
We camp.  We have a fire.  We have a beer.  We have some laughs.  It’s good to have some friends here to enjoy Life w/ again…

I want a double / Marty says. 
Double shot of espresso? / I ask.
No, a double 14er. 
That is when I know I have the best pacers and crew in the entire world. 
We head to Grays and Torreys.  Again, a late start but the skies look stellar.  We head up and they already feel better than the day b/f.  They march gamely on.  We make both peaks and they are loving life.  We head into town to a brewery afterwards for burgers and beer.  And this is how the next week goes.  There are more 14ers.  There are more breweries.  There is camping and living outside for days at a time.  I have a couple of job interviews.  I find an apartment.  I find a part time job.  I worry incessantly about my Achilles and wonder if I’ll be able to complete the Leadville 100.  Hell, I wonder if I’ll make it ten miles into the race.  I have no idea.  There are hotels and a shower every other day or so.  There is music.  There is laughter.  There is training.  The rest of your crew arrives the day b/f the race.  And then…there is Leadville…