Racing Arizona

Across the Years 24 Hour Run

Melissa and I took the plunge and signed up to particpate in the Across the Years 24 Hour Run. Ever since completing the Never Summer 100K in July I’ve felt mentally prepared to try a 100 mile race. Sure, 100 miles is much, much longer than 100K, but Never Summer is a brutally difficult course. An easy 100 mile course probably wouldn’t take me a whole lot longer (relatively speaking) than the 16 hours it took me to cover that mountainous 100K.

Well, it didn’t really work out to run a 100 mile race the rest of the year, but there was one more chance at New Years: Across the Years. It’s not a 100 mile race, but rather a 24 hour timed event. The course is easy–a 1.05 mile loop that’s 85% dirt/gravel. I should be able to run 100 miles in 24 hours. I was confident I could.

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I know a lot of people who have run 100 miles. They all have the same advice for first timers: start slower than you think you need to. I knew this advice and I was thinking about it in the early hours of the race. The problem is, I really had no frame of reference for slower than I think I need to go. So I started at a comfortable pace–a pace I felt I could maintain all day. My heart rate was super low. But my pace was a bit quicker than I expected. I made a few concerted efforts to slow down, but every time I tried to slow I accidentally sped up instead. After a while I just went with it.

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The result of my “comfortable pace” running was that I covered 50 miles in the first 8 hours of the event. This was too fast. I almost certainly wasn’t going to run 100 miles in 16 hours and there was no chance I could possibly run 150 miles in 24 hours. So why was I running so fast? It didn’t feel fast. In retrospect, my running pace was probably okay, but I should have spent more time walking, which would have slowed my average pace and left a little life in my legs. As it happened, I didn’t walk a single step of the first 50 miles. Big mistake.

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After 8 hours it was starting to get cold so I put on some warmer clothes and I walked a few miles. My legs were tired now, and I had 16 hours left to go. The sun was setting and I settled into a pattern of running a few miles and walking a mile. As much as my legs hurt, the extreme cold weather was bothering me more by this point. The temperature dropped to 22˚F during the night. I had been training in colder weather at home, but there’s a big difference between 22˚F when you step out your front door and 22˚F after you’ve been running for 12 hours. This was just about the coldest I’ve ever felt in my life. I had to wear my winter coat (on top of my running jacket and long sleeve shirt) when I was walking. All the food and drinks I had sitting out froze solid.

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After the initial rough patch with my mileage in the early 50’s I came back to life in the late 50’s. I had another rough patch in the early 60’s before coming back to life. I had another rough patch in the early 70’s and again in the early 80’s. By the mid 80’s I was getting close enough to 100 that I was able to stay motivated to keep going. I was doing more running and less walking. My knees and hips hurt when I ran, but my ankles hurt when I walked. Since it hurt either way I figured I might as well just run.

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I feel like I’m a lone survivor
forgotten in a dark and deadly world
and on my own, I walk alone
to see the sun again I’d give anything

I passed the 100 mile mark around 20h30m. Now I had 3h30m for bonus miles. I was moving slow. I hadn’t had a very good idea of my placing all day since the live results I could see all included people who had run previous days. When I passed 108 miles I suddenly moved into 1st place. Well okay then.

I did the math and figured I could finish with 112.33 miles. I reached that mark with 15 minutes to spare, but I really put everything I had into reaching 112. I couldn’t muster the will to cover one more mile, despite having time to do so. My body was done a long time ago, but my mind took over and kept me going. Once my mind was out of it I was done.

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Prior to the race my biggest concern was simply staying awake for 24 hours, but that was never really a problem. I did crash pretty hard after the race, dozing off and waking up periodically throughout the next day. Participants can run the 24 hour event on any of six consecutive days. In the later days one man and two women ran farther than me so my final result was 2nd place male. I ran on day two and Melissa ran on day four. She put in an incredible effort and ended up with 100.78 miles. It was a triumph for both of us.

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Melissa and I discussed our races more in depth in this interview on the Ultra Ordinary Running podcast.

Cyclocross 2015

Cheyenne Cyclocross Series #1

Cross season started for me with a very low-key event up in Cheyenne, WY.  The first race of the Cheyenne Cyclocross Series had about 15 people total show up for beginner/intermediate/advanced men/women/junior races.  The organizer decided to just have everyone race at the same time.

One guy started fast.  I caught up to him and passed him after half a lap or so, then I was alone at the front for the rest of the 35 minute race.  One guy finished half a lap behind me, while everyone else finished more than a full lap behind me.

So, reasonably good start to the season.


New Belgium Cyclocross #1

This was a much bigger race than the last one.  It takes place on a very rough (made for mountain bikes) course.  I flatted out of the race after a quarter of a lap.  Nobody there was the slightest bit interested in helping me out.  I’ve never felt so unwelcome amongst a group of cyclists.  This was a horrible experience.

This pretty much sums it up


Cross of the North – Friday

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Cross of the North came week after the Blue Sky Marathon.  I did well at this race last year on a different course.  This course didn’t suit me quite as well (bumpy, loose dirt, off-camber, few straightaways), but it was fun nonetheless.  I started in the last row (which precluded any chance I could have had at a good result).  I rode hard.  I passed people the entire race.  I worked my way up to 9th place.

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Photo by Melissa

Cross of the North Friday


Cross of the North – Sunday

I actually had a really good start for a change, and moved up a lot during the first part of the first lap.  Then somebody rode right into me, knocked me off my bike, and dropped my chain.  By the time I had fixed my bike and remounted 22 people had passed me and I was even farther back than I was at the start.  I rode hard.  I passed people the entire race.  I finished 22nd (the exact number of people who passed me after I got knocked off my bike).

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Photo by Melissa


New Belgium Cyclocross #2

This race went much better than my first attempt at New Belgium, which is to say I finished.  But it wasn’t without incident.  I was very far back at the start and I was stuck behind people the entire race.  This is a course that is not well suited to, you know, passing people (or peddling, for that matter).  I had moved up quite a bit then on the very last lap I tripped over the barriers and fell flat on my face.  I got up quickly and didn’t lose any places between there and the finish line.  It was embarassing.


Indy Cross

I was visiting the midwest in late October and a friend of mine talked me into a cross race in Indianapolis (then he didn’t show up).  The race was fun.  It was raining and the all-grass course was super-slippery (everyone went down at some point during the race).  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, A bad start left me far back in the field, I passed people the entire race, I finished unremarkably.

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Blue Sky Marathon

My performance at the Blue Sky Marathon last year was a bit of a disappointment. I was able to handle 1-1.5 good climbs, but after that my legs were toast. On the 3rd climb I slowed to a crawl.

This year I’m not quite as fit as I was last year, but I feel like maybe I’ve been doing better at climbing. I haven’t necessarily been climbing as fast, but I feel like I can at least get through 2-2.5 good climbs before I start to crumble.

So the first big climb in this year’s race went a lot like the first big climb in last year’s race. I held back a bit on the uphill, let loose a little on the downhill, and found myself in a pretty good position around mile 10 before heading out on the Blue Sky Trail proper. I passed the half marathon around 1h45m or so (only a few minutes slower than I ran at the Black Squirrel Half Marathon), right about where I wanted to be. I hoped to run between 3:30-3:45, preferably on the low end but I’d settle for the high end.

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Photo by Terry Grenwelge

The second climb went okay. Not great, but okay. I definitely had more left in the tank as I rounded the loops at the south end of the course and headed back toward the finish line. I walked nearly the entire Indian Summer climb on the way back last year. This year I was determined to run, even if it was slow, I would still run. It was a struggle, but I did it.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

The final 5 miles were a bit strange. I slowed down. I wasn’t exhausted. I hadn’t bonked. I simply couldn’t muster the courage to push myself any harder. Rather than run fast and hurt I simply chose to jog it in and stay as comfortable as possible. That’s not the choice I usually make, and I’m not super proud of it.

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Photo by Melissa

I finished in 3h50m, which was 12 minutes faster than last year, so it wasn’t a complete shit show. But I was well off my desired time. Maybe one of these years I’ll get it right at this race.


This was the 4th and final race in the trail race series put on by the local Gnar Runners race management. As it happens, I was the only person to complete all four this year. Since the Never Summer 100K was new this year, I guess I’m the only person ever to complete the so-called Gnar Slam in a calendar year. And since I’m the only person to ever complete the Gnar Slam, I have the de facto record for cumulative time of the four races (until someone beats it next year). Here it is:

For a grand total of 33:12:55.

September 2015

Running

I raced well at my A race, the Black Squirrel Half Marathon. Then I quickly followed that up with a C race, the Loveland Marathon, which I jumped into 36 hours before the start. This race went quite well, but it really beat me up. All my previous races this year I’d maybe take a day or two off and start training hard again. After this downhill road marathon I didn’t feel good running for at least 10 days. So that threw off my training a bit, but I began to pick up steam again by the end of the month.

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Photo by Terry Grenwelge

Loveland Marathon

Baby rattler

Baby rattler

Red next to black is a friend of Jack

Blue Sky training running

Grasshopper

Paramotoring at sunset

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
May 17 128.92 miles 7.58 miles 19814.3 feet 1165.55 feet
June 15 183.07 miles 12.2 miles 28361.2 feet 1890.75 feet
July 24 281.46 miles 11.73 miles 43619.1 feet 1817.46 feet
August 26 252.57 miles 9.71 miles 29024.9 feet 1116.34 feet
September 22 167.85 miles 7.63 miles 15629.9 feet 710.45 feet
Total 165 1527.6 miles 9.26 miles 209427. feet 1269.25 feet

Running 2015 9

Quad Destroyer

Loveland Marathon

What are we doing this weekend? I just saw in the newspaper that the Loveland marathon is on Sunday. Maybe I’ll do it.

It was a typical Friday afternoon at Casa de Ragfield. My last road marathon I decided to run three days before the race. This time I left myself 36 hours. What could possibly go wrong?

I was feeling good coming off my first decent race of the year at the Black Squirrel Half Marathon the previous weekend. This race has been in the back of my mind for a while, but I’m not sure I ever really seriously considered it. It’s downhill. And I don’t mean it’s 400 ft of drop like the famous Boston Marathon, it’s almost 3,000 ft downhill. The course starts in Estes Park and follows US-34 down the entire Big Thompson River Canyon before the final 5 miles of rolling hills going into Loveland. The finish line is a 15 minute drive from my house.

Big Thompson River Canyon

Ram

Mama black bear + 2 cubs

There are two things to keep in mind about running downhill:

  1. You can go really fast.
  2. You will completely destroy your quadriceps muscles.

I think the longest continuous downhill I had ever run is about 9 miles. I think the longest continuous downhill I’ve ever raced is 6.5 miles. This race had 19 miles of continuous downhill, and about 23-24 total.

I tried on various costumes on Saturday, but the potential of really warm weather by the end frightened me a bit into staying pretty conservative.

Shirt

It was still dark when the race began at 6:00 AM on Sunday. I didn’t wear a headlamp–nobody did. The first few miles out of Estes Park were a bit dodgy. The first uphill mile was 7:24–my slowest mile of the day. The second downhill mile was 6:10. There were three guys way off the front (I couldn’t even see them), and by the time we reached the start of the canyon I had caught up to and passed the rest of the fast starters. So I was in 4th place, where I would remain for the rest of the race. I didn’t see another competitor for nearly three hours.

The early miles were great. I was running fast, though still holding back as I wanted to make absolutely sure I didn’t blow up too early. The temperature was cool, I almost wished I had worn gloves. The traffic on the highway was very light at that time of day.

Mile 7 I accidentally ran in 6:02. This was faster than the 2nd mile of my recent 5K race. I got to thinking, Wouldn’t it be wild if I ran a sub-6:00 mile during a marathon? How crazy would that be? Well the grade became steeper and mile 10 I ran in 5:58, followed by 5:58 for mile 11, and 6:02 for mile 12. I had just run a sub-18:00 3 mile stretch in the middle of the marathon.

Loveland Marathon

Loveland Marathon

Now, it wasn’t all kittens and rainbows. It was around mile 10 that I started to notice my quads were beginning to hurt. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen until at least mile 16-18. The road soon became more shallow and I backed off the pace a bit, though I was still running most miles around 6:10-6:20. I passed the half marathon mark at 1:22:00. This was a new half marathon PR for me.

Somewhere around this time I heard some noises up above me. I looked up and saw three bighorn sheep climbing the canyon wall.

It was around mile 16 when the noticeable pain in my quads turned into full blown serious pain. My legs were killing me. With 10 miles still left to run I felt like I was 40 miles into a hard 50 mile race. I began to dread every step as each one just brought more pain. The canyon became less steep and I began to slow a bit, creeping up to 6:25 pace.

Once I reached the bottom of the canyon I was faced with the dreaded mile 20, which contained the first significant uphill after an awful lot of quad-crushing downhill. I had to work hard for that 6:56 mile. I was so not enjoying this.

Loveland Marathon

The downhills hurt and I was slowing down. The uphills hurt and I was slowing down more. After a few miles of rolling-to-slightly-downhill terrain, mile 25 had another big uphill. I had completely broken by that point, running another 7:24–this one much more painful than the first.

As soon as I crested the hill I saw another runner about 50-100 meters ahead of me. That’s strange, I didn’t see that person on the way up the hill. I actually lifted the pace to try to catch up, even though I figured it was a long shot. Then the person stopped to walk, and it slowly dawned on me, this person was not in my race. After passing a few more people I realized these were people finishing the 10K run that was taking place simultaneously. So I wasn’t going to move up any more positions.

Loveland Marathon

Will and Melissa were at the finish line to cheer me on. I finished in 2:48:46 (2:48:43 chip time). This was an 8 minute PR on what was a very fast and incredibly painful course. I finished in 4th place (there were cash prizes for the top three finishers, so I was out of the money).

The obvious question about this race is how much faster is this course than a flat course? The answer is a little complicated.

My average heart rate for the entire race was 151. I wasn’t running hard. At all. I’m still burning fat (as opposed to carbs) until 148-150. I could have done the entire thing breathing through my nose. Yet I still ran a faster time than ever before. So, on one axis, this course is significantly faster than a flat course–upwards of 15-20 minutes.

My legs, on the other hand, were hurting by mile 10 and were completely trashed by mile 16. I had to run through so much more pain and discomfort than I typically would in a marathon. For example, my last road marathon I ran 2:56. In that race my legs felt comparable at mile 22 as they did at mile 10 in this race, and at 24 where they did at 16 in this race. I spent a lot of time out there suffering. This absolutely slowed me down.

Finally, there’s the small matter that this race takes place at high elevation, starting around 8,000 ft. That will further slow things down compared to a race near sea level.

Weighing these factors I’d estimate that for me (a runner a fairly strong cardiovascular system, and slightly weaker leg muscles) this course was probably 10 minutes faster than a flat course near sea level. If you have strong legs this course could be even faster for you.

Loveland Marathon

My Strava records only cover my time living in Colorado, but still it was pretty cool to completely sweep the PR boards with this race.

August 2015

Running

The Diamond

Longs Peak (14,259 ft)

Cow on trail

Horsetooth summit

August was a big month, but just shy of July. I took a bit of time to recover from the Never Summer 100K and on a whim I did a couple of short fast races. By the end of the month I was in full blown preparation for the Black Squirrel Half Marathon.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
May 17 128.92 miles 7.58 miles 19814.3 feet 1165.55 feet
June 15 183.07 miles 12.2 miles 28361.2 feet 1890.75 feet
July 24 281.46 miles 11.73 miles 43619.1 feet 1817.46 feet
August 26 252.57 miles 9.71 miles 29024.9 feet 1116.34 feet
Total 143 1359.75 miles 9.51 miles 193797. feet 1355.22 feet

Running 2015 8


Cycling

Riding the Foothills Trail

I got my mountain bike back out and had a few good rides.

Black Squirrel Half

The 2014 Black Squirrel Half Marathon is the one legitimately good race I’ve run in Colorado. To say that I’ve been looking forward to this year’s race would be an understatement. My 2015 has been filled with injury and mediocre race performances. Black Squirrel is the one race I was reasonably confident I could run well.

Last year I ran 1:40 and finished 3rd place overall, with both time and place exceeding my expectations. This year I thought I had a chance to possibly run 1-2 minutes faster, though I would almost certainly finish with a lower placing (based solely on people on the entrants list who I know to be faster than me). Like last year I spent August running the course several times in training. This is the kind of course where detailed knowledge of the terrain is a big advantage.

Timber climb

Westridge Trail

Timber Trail

Cow on trail

Then race day happened.

Black Squirrel sunrise

One thing I’ve noticed from years of race photos is that the way my facial muscles rest it looks like I’m super serious (or possibly a little pissed off). Sometimes I actually am super serious, but usually not so much. I was pretty serious about this race. Perhaps too much so.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

I started a bit quicker than last year (I actually did a warmup this time), though still under control. The big climb from miles 2-5 is tough. Anytime I wanted to speed up, I would look around and see Ryan Burch (winner of Quad Rock and Never Summer) nearby and forbid myself from passing him this early in the race. In fact, I just decided to follow Burch and go however fast he was going. At times I had to hold back, while other times I had to go all out to keep up.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

At the top of Timber Trail I was in a group with Ryan and two other guys. Very suddenly, and out of nowhere, I got an awful sidestich. This never happens. Why is this happening? The pain was so intense I had to slow down significantly. My race would soon be over if I couldn’t get this under control. After slowing down for several minutes (and losing significant time to the pack I was with) the pain began to subside and I started to speed up to chase these guys down.

We crested the top of the mountain on Westridge Trail and began several miles of descending. I went hard. I made up time on all three of them. I almost connected with them just before the steep switchbacks down Howard Trail. Once we hit the switchbacks Burch took off. I gradually reeled in and passed the other two guys, but I didn’t see Burch at all.

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

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Photo by Terry Grenwelge

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

Once down to Arthurs Rock Trailhead we hit the valley trails, which is where the race really begins for me. After a few minutes I caught a glimpse of Burch and one other guy running together about 1-1.5 minutes ahead of me. I ran hard and for a while it seemed like they might be coming back to me.

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

The other guy pulled away from Burch, and I started gaining serious time. With a mile to go I was about 10-15 meters back, and he knew it. He fought hard and I barely gained any more time. He ended up finishing just a few seconds ahead of me.

Black Squirrel Half Marathon

My time of 1:41 was about a minute slower than I ran last year. It’s not quite what I wanted, but it was still pretty good. I finished 9th place overall. There was a lot more competition than there was last year.

Peach Festival 5K Take Two

Hi, my name is Rob and I run 5Ks. It has been 365 days since my last 5K. Then I had a moment of weakness.

In 2012 I started to have significantly more success in races than I had ever had previously. In the past 3+ years I’ve won several races, with lots more podium and top 10 finishes. This whole time I’ve been improving and improving, running faster and faster. I knew it couldn’t last forever. I’m getting old. At some point I had to slow down and start running races slower and slower. The side effect of this paranoia is that I’ve basically stopped running 5Ks because I’ve been pretty sure my next 5K would make it quite clear I’m in a state of decline.

But, fuck it, I like to race. One year after my last 5K I did another. It was the same race, the Peach Festival 5K pretty close to our house. I’ve been in ultra mode for so long (4 of my last 5 races were ultras) I foolishly decided to eat the same pre-race breakfast as I do for an ultra (almost 600 calories). Big mistake. My stomach hurt during my 4 mile warmup from all that food. By the time the race started I just barely stopped feeling like I was going to vomit.

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The start was fast, but it quickly settled down. A few people took the lead and I dropped into the chase pack. 5:52 for the first mile. Shit, that’s slower than I wanted to average. The chase pack broke up and I worked hard to catch up to a guy who had pulled away. I managed to catch up and stay with him for the next mile.

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6:06 second mile. Why can’t I do this anymore? The last mile had a bit of downhill and I used that to ramp the speed back up a bit. One guy blew past me from behind and finished 35 seconds ahead of me. All in the last mile. So I wasn’t moving super fast. The guy I was with pulled away. People from behind were apparently closing in on me. 5:55 third mile, 18:24 for the full 5K.

It was my slowest 5K in 4 years.

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Once again I finished in 6th place overall. I guess that’s some consolation, but I really wasn’t racing the other participants. I was racing myself. And I lost bad.

I shouldn’t have eaten so much for breakfast. I shouldn’t have raced a 5K after running 50 miles in the previous 5 days. I should have done more (any?) speed work. I should have run faster. But I didn’t. And since I’ve never been one to take life lying down, this debacle can only serve as motivation for future redemption.

All photos by Melissa.

Longs Peak

Planning

There’s only a short window of a few weeks each year when it’s (relatively) safe to climb Longs Peak without an ice axe (which I don’t have and don’t know how to use). Longs is the closest mountain over 14,000 ft to Fort Collins, in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. It looms large over everything here. I can’t actually see it from my house because closer mountains obstruct the view. But it is visible farther east (where I rarely go) and from the summit of Horsetooth Mountain (where I go much more frequently).

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I missed the window last summer to climb it and I didn’t want to miss out again this summer. Longs is the most frequently climbed 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado–not because it’s the easiest, because it’s the most accessible. That means it also attracts the greatest number of people who are completely unprepared, both in terms of fitness and in terms of technical skill. As a result, Longs is responsible for more deaths than any other 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado.

So I wanted to climb it, but I wanted to do so safely. I sent a message out to a handful of friends and I got one bite, my friend Curtis. We drove up to the trailhead early one Saturday morning in August to find the parking lot completely full and cars parked along both sides of the road for about a half mile back. This was around sunrise. Most people got a much earlier start than we did, but we were planning to move pretty quickly. Regardless, we certainly didn’t expect that many cars.

Starting around 9,400 ft, we alternated running and hiking in the early miles as the grade varied a bit. We took the standard, most common route via The Keyhole. The trail was actually pretty horrible. Rather than a smooth uphill the trail had hundreds (thousands?) of stairs built in, so people put a lot of intentional effort into ruining it. There was no regularity to the spacing of the stairs, so each one took a different number of steps to get up. It was awful for running, though I’m not sure I would even want to hike on a trail like that.

The Diamond

Once we got up to 12,000 ft there wasn’t much more running uphill, but we still hiked quickly. At The Boulder Field the steps thankfully ended, but so did the trail for a bit. We just had to hop across hundreds of huge rocks going in the general direction of The Keyhole.

The Boulder Field

After The Keyhole come the dangerous parts. First is The Ledges, which wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Yes, the trail is narrow. Yes, there is a pretty big drop off. But it was dry and if you paid attention to what you were doing there was very little real danger.

The Ledges

After The Ledges the trail turned sharply upwards into The Trough. Remember all the cars in the parking lot? This is where all the people were. We had only passed a couple dozen people earlier in the trail, but this is where everyone was bunched up. Fortunately, there were a few different lines up the trough so it was relatively easy to pass people. The dangerous part through here was all the loose rock that would occasionally go tumbling down when people took a wrong step. Some people were wearing climbing helmets, and frankly, that wasn’t a terrible idea.

The Trough

At the very top of The Trough was the hardest part of the climb–an actual climb. It was only about 10 feet high, but everything else on the trail is nothing more than a scramble. Once through The Trough we got to The Narrows, which lives up to it’s name. The trail is narrow. There is a huge drop off. Again, just pay attention and all will be well.

The Narrows

The Narrows

Once past The Narrows we made it to The Homestretch, which is where the other half of the people were. In some places there were two lines up The Homestretch and I could pass people, but in other places there was only one line and I had to wait.

The Homestretch

The Summit

Soon enough we reached the summit. It’s a weird, completely flat area about the size of a football field at 14,259 ft. Parts of The Keyhole, Trough, Narrows, and Homestretch had been windy and cold, but the summit was perfectly calm. There were no clouds for hundreds of miles in any direction.

Longs Peak (14,259 ft)

We were cautious but quick on the descent. There would soon be a mass exodus by the hundreds of people at the summit before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. I wanted to beat the crowd. Most of the scrambling sections I crab-walked down, facing outward. I kicked more loose rock down The Trough than I would have liked, but fortunately none of it hit anybody.

It was blazing hot by the time we made it back down to The Keyhole and The Boulder Field. We had picked the hottest day of the year to do this. On the long run back down the trail both Curtis and I ran out of water (we packed a lot) and started to get dehydrated. We stumbled a bit, both falling down a couple times. We finally made it back to the car where I had a big jug of ice cold water waiting. We had successfully climbed Longs Peak and made it safely back down to the bottom. At times it wasn’t pretty, but we almost certainly weren’t the least prepared people on the mountain that day.

The time I almost DNF’d the mile

Mountain Avenue Mile

Every bit of training I’ve done since December has been geared toward the Never Summer 100K, the longest, most difficult race I’ve ever attempted. It was mostly successful. I’m not quite sure what part of me thought it might be a good idea to follow up that 16 hour event with a 1 mile race.

I knew I didn’t have a shot at the time I ran in my most recent mile race two years prior, which was downhill and at nearly sea level. I trained, which is to say I did one track workout (in Illinois) a week before the race where I ran 400s in 77, 76, 75, 74, 74. Maybe, just maybe I could squeak in under 5:00. Realistically, I knew 5:05-5:10 was more probable.

I did a relatively long warmup of 5-6 miles. The older I get the longer it takes me to get up to speed. I toed the line with about 30 other grown ass men (the fun run, youth, masters, and women’s races had already taken place).

The race began.

I was so unaccustomed to racing such a short, fast distance I apparently completely forgot how to run. Literally the very first step I took from the starting line I pushed off with so much power that I completely wrenched my right hip flexor. It had to have been in just the completely wrong place. Whatever happened, it was the most excruciating pain I’ve experienced in a very long time.

I kept running because, well, it was a race. After 100 meters I started to pull off to the side so I could drop out of the race. But I kept running because, well, it was a race. After 200 meters I felt a huge snap/pop in my hip, and almost instantly the pain disappeared. Now the only pain I felt was the normal pain of running as fast as you can for a very short (but not quite short enough) distance.

My first quarter was the fastest. I slowed down a bit the second quarter, reaching the half mile in 2:28. My second quarter was already slower than I hoped to average for the whole distance. This didn’t bode well. The third quarter was slower still. I picked up the pace in the fourth quarter, but not enough. I finished in 5:05 by my watch and the finish line clock, but that somehow turned into 5:07 in the official results. So it was right where I expected, but not where I wanted to be.

Most sensible people would take away from this experience that the mile wasn’t the event for them and never try it again. I immediately wanted to try again (like a half hour later). The problem wasn’t my fitness, I’d just completely forgotten how to race that kind of distance. With even just a tiny bit of practice I could do quite a bit better.

Or at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself could happen.