December 15, 2014

2K run (10:49)

25 GHD Ext.
15 Burpees
10 Jumping Pull Ups
30 DB Shoulder Press
50 Sit-ups
50 Flutters
2x:30 Plank
Repeat x2

Beginning of the 2nd mesocycle. Main focus is to increase my running miles and clean up the nagging hamstring injury.

Felt good aerobically today. First time in the last 4 weeks that I didn’t blow up when I started running because of my lung problems. Felt good to make progress there.

Much stronger in the weight room. Movements felt much cleaner but the quantity isn’t there yet.

Back in the saddle tomorrow. Amazing how a recovery week gets you focused and passionate again.

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Off Day

Quick entry today. Off day today to refresh my mind and approach the week with vigor.

Got caught up on sleep (kind of) with 10.5 hours last night.

Looking forward to a increase in intensity this week!

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December 13, 2014

On my ride today, I decided to start providing a more detailed account of my training in preparation for the Leadville 100 in August 2015.  I want to do this because the past couple months have been challenging emotionally and physically and it has been a challenge to establish confidence during the past 4 weeks as I returned to regular training.

Quick details about why the past few moths have been emotionally and physically challenging:

1. Very trying XC season that saw growth in the team and an increase in my time commitment which affected my training
2. New prep (US History) at school that has led to a time increase there as well.
3. Commuting 45 minutes each way via car has eaten into training time as well, especially as the days get shorter.  On the flip side here…I have trails out the back door!
4. Almost getting stabbed after asking an individual to leave our XC practice back in September.  Dealing with the court process and the emotional ramifications of this has been more challenging than I anticipated.
5. And most directly affecting my training, a chest pain/lung exposure problem that no doctor seems to be able to get a handle on.

With this being said, my goal here is to chronicle the challenges faced as opposed to the my specific training methods.  With that being said, I’ll take advice on any and all fronts.

—–

Currently, I am in the stage of rebuilding my base as I get ready to progress into bigger/longer rides in the new year.  Today finished the first 4 week mesocycle.  The first 3 weeks continually built on each other and this week was a recovery week.  It was a busy week so it was somewhat disorganized, but it ultimately consisted of 2 runs and lifts and 2 rides.  The extra off day was spent regaining lost sleep.

Today’s ride took me from Bicycle Village in Boulder to Rockvue via Marshall Mesa/Coalton.

Marshall Mesa TH

It’s a great winter ride as it is usually dry and snow free.  Especially when it’s been 60 degrees all week.  I wasn’t feeling great as I started the ride.  Back to back 1 am bed times (which hasn’t happened since the party days of 2010) had taken its toll and I had to force myself to ride by driving to work with Christine.

It was aimless meandering for a bit as I worked out of Boulder and let my legs warm up.  Eventually, I picked up the bike path down Broadway to the Marshall Mesa TH.  I was feeling much more ready to ride by the time I hit the rock garden that starts the trail.  First time on the new bike (Trek Remedy 9.7) and it blasted right through it.  27.5″ wheels really are cheating.  And I’m OK with it.

Marshall Mesa TH

As I climbed, my confidence grew.  I have never completed the section from the Community Ditch Trail to the Greenbelt Plateau Trail without dabbing in either the rock section at the bottom or on the stairs at the top.  Today changed that.  As I hit the top and climbed the final big climb of the day, I felt confident and that I had grown a little bit as a rider today.

I hit the Greenbelt Plateau TH and headed over the rock garden trails towards home, setting PRs on those sections as well.

Beautiful day for riding.

Beautiful day for riding.

Unfortunately, heading up the High Plains trail, I got Stravassholed by some guy blowing by me, unannounced on a single track section.  I let myself get fairly pissed at his poor etiquette despite my inner protestations not to let it bother me, it did.  If you want a Strava KOM, don’t go for it on the weekend.  10 am on a Wednesday is a much better idea.

As I polished off the climbing for the day at Coalton/128 TH, I enjoyed the views of Longs and the Front Range in the mid-day sun.  It’s amazing how the mountains change with the time of day.  I’m usually racing the sun up here, and catching the sunset which hides many of the nooks and crannies of the Front Range.

I cruised down the familiar Coalton Jeep Road and headed home.  I was feeling passionate about riding and excited for the bump in training next week and used that energy towards a hand cleaning of Maggie.

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Mt. Lindsey (September 7, 2014)

September and October are the best 14er months of the year.  The trails quiet down, colors start to change and little bits of snow dot the trails.  Kris and I set out to complete our first Class 3 climb together, Mt. Lindsey, in the Sangre de Cristo range.

The drive down the night before is easy, but boring.  It was different heading out to climb a 14er and the only major climb of the drive was the Palmer Divide.

We headed down the night before and we’re greeted with scattered rain showers and a pot o’ gold that we just couldn’t reach.

_MG_4053 _MG_4055It’s a long slog from Gardner to the trailhead.  The road is easy, even when it turns to dirt until about 6 miles out from the TH.  Once you get past the Aspen River Ranch, the difficulty increases and there are some rocks that require navigating, but it can be done by 2WD.  We crossed quite few puddles as well.  I tried to hit them with as much vigor as possible to maximize the dirt on the car…much to Christine’s chagrin.

We camped the night in a cloud and woke at 4 am to get climbing.  It was chilly, but perfect for a hike.  With a hot breakfast and coffee in our bellies (Thanks to Kris’ new Jetboil), we hit the trail at 4:55 AM.

The trail initially drops down a bit and then maintains a flat profile for the first 1.3 miles.  It’s a great way to start a hike, especially early.  Lets the legs get warmed up and the mind get awake.  After 1.3 miles though, those legs need to be warm because it is time to start climbing.  And it’s gonna happen quick.

As you start to climb, a boulder field emerges on your left.  From 1.3 to 2.3 miles, you pick up 1200 feet from 10,800 to 12,000 ft.  The trail is solid and you can climb quickly if you’ve got the quads.  Kris and I mad decent work of it, only stopping to take off some layers.

Around 11,400, we crossed over the top of the creek.  The crossing was dry, but the water was rushing below us.

Crossing above the creek later in the day.

Crossing above the creek later in the day.  Looks quiet now, but gets going lower down.

As you approach 12,000 feet, the trail plateaus a bit and you work your way across a basin to approach the climb up to the saddle.

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The sun slowly rises with Lindsey (the pointy peak) in the distance.

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Hiking across the basin and approaching the climb to 13,100. Lindsey pokes her head above the ridge.

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Looking towards Little Bear, Blanca, and Ellingwood as the sun creeps into the valley.

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The trail returns to a steep grade, but that is to be expected up this high.  In .75 miles, you reach the 13,100 foot saddle that leads to decision time.  Take the “Difficult Class 2″ route to the left or attack the Class 3 ridge that we had planned to, even though there was spotty ice and snow.  It really wasn’t a decision.  We headed towards the ridge.

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Approaching the saddle, the ridge route becomes clear. The crux is obvious before you even approach the ridge.

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Climbing towards the saddle, we rose above the clouds.

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The ridge is a great mix of class 2 and class 3 rock.  Almost everything is stable but there was a good bit of ice around so we kept our eyes peeled and made sure our footing was solid before making a move.

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Beginning the ridge, the crux is obvious in the upper left of the picture.

As we worked our way to the crux of the climb, Kris and I found ourselves on the class 4 knife edge.  We worked our way backwards from it as the only way forward was back unless we were comfortable with a brief leap of faith.

Once we were a bit lower, the route was straightforward and we hopped across a few rocks to reach the base of the crux.  This area isn’t challenging, but there is some nasty exposure.

 

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If you get this high before the crux, you’ve gone too high!

IMG_2200 IMG_2203Back on trail, we headed up the crack in the middle of the crux wall and tried to stay to the left to keep it class 3.  Easier said than done with the snow/ice on the rocks, but we reached the top and were left with one more move to reach the summit ridge.  It was a simple move, but required some one legged bounding (who know that XC drill would actually come in handy) through a crack in a rock with major exposure running out to the bottom of the basin almost 1,000 feet below.

Making the move off the top of the crux.

Making the move off the top of the crux.

Once we reach the top of the crux, it was relatively straightforward hiking to the summit.  There were a few more moves to get to the class 1 trail, but my memory of this part is vague.

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The final steps to the summit.

IMG_2204 We reached the summit at 8:45, 3:50 after leaving the trailhead.  The class 3 ridge was a blast and I enjoyed the challenge of finding our way through it.  Having never done a class 3 before, it was the perfect introduction.  Might be a good idea if you’re skittish on exposure to avoid anytime with ice on it though.  We were forced into a few decisions that led to some more “airy” moves because of the slickness of some rocks.

On the summit, we met up with a couple who had come up from the gully and we compared perspectives on the route.  We also soaked in a view of life above the clouds as well as the Crestones and humble Humboldt off to the north.  No Sand Dunes today though.  They were tucked beneath the clouds.

_MG_4122 _MG_4107 _MG_4106 _MG_4108 _MG_4127 _MG_4099 _MG_4100 _MG_4102We chose to take the class 2 gully back to the saddle.  The ridge just seemed too slick to safely down climb.  As we descended, we were very happy not to have come up this way.  The rock is loose and solid footing is hard to find.  There are two sections where you have to work your way through some tight rock, but there is no exposure so as long as you are patient, its OK.

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Dropping into the 2nd gap.

IMG_2214The hike out was one of my favorites.  The basin was beautiful in the full sun.  Little Bear and Blance loomed to our west and unique peaks emerged to our right.  The descent was slow going, but as we reached the basin, we opened our legs and pushed the pace.  The steep drop was tough on the knees, but knowing we had a flat last mile let us push the pace.  It would serve as a sort of cool-down.

IMG_2215 IMG_2216 IMG_2218 IMG_2219 IMG_2221We arrived back at the trailhead at 11:47 am, just sneaking under the 7 hour mark for a total climb time of 6:52.  Our total elevation gain was 3755 and our mileage was 9.2 miles.  We are intrigued on the miles as, 14ers and Roach have the route at 8 miles.  While we had to do some backtracking, it wasn’t 1.2 miles worth, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know!

 

 

 

 

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Leadville 100 MTB Race

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Don’t ask me how I ended up holding this bib on the Friday before the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, but here I was.  Checking in downtown Leadville for a 100 mile race.  Not just any 100 miler.  Leadville.  The Race Across The Sky.  At 6 am tomorrow, I would be staring at 100 miles and 12,162 feet of climbing.

Rewind to 2 weeks prior.  I’m preparing to climb Mt. Columbia, a 14,078 foot 14er to finish out the Sawatch Range (with the exception of Elbert which I’m saving for my finisher).  My wife Christine calls me the night before the climb and asks if I’m willing to accept a free entry on behalf of Transamerica to the Leadville 100.  It was an offer I couldn’t say no to.

The Leadville 100 was on my bucket list and I had planned to do it next year.  I had down the Silver Rush 50 twice and had thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.  However, training had been spotty since the Silver Rush because of our honeymoon in Alaska so I was a bit nervous about attacking this challenge.  I couldn’t turn the opportunity down though.

Fast forward 2 weeks of getting my legs ready to roll again and here I has in the middle of downtown Leadville at 6 AM.

**Also, big thanks to Jeremey Brouwer for crewing and taking the majority of pictures you see here!

Wrong corral but ready to make it work.

Wrong corral but ready to make it work.

Christine’s co-worker Cisco had also received an entry and he was along for the race as well.  He had gone this far before, so I was looking forward to racing with him and had drawn on his knowledge prior to the race.

Cisco.

Cisco.

For me, I had mentally broken the race into 8 parts:

1. The start/climb to Carter Summit
2. Carter Summit-Pipeline Aid Station
3. Pipeline-Twin Lakes
4. Twin Lakes – Columbine Summit
5. Columbine Summit-Twin Lakes
6. Twin Lakes-Base of Powerline
7. Base of Powerline- Carter Summit
8. Carter Summit-Finish

Start-Carter Summit
The start is a rude awakening.  No way around it.  It’s early and it’s cold.  Oh and it’s aggressive.  The first couple miles are downhill on pavement with 2,000 people jonesing to ride fast.  We we’re cruising.  Before long, we were on dirt road as we approached the base of the climb to Carter Summit.  The climb begins in earnest at 6 miles.  It’s challenging only in that you are surrounded by riders, many who lack technical biking skills needed to deal with the tight surroundings and uneven terrain.  I reached the summit of the climb at 1:03:26, right on schedule (target 60-70 minutes).  I had been unsure of how the start would go down, so to be on pace was comforting at the time.  94 miles left.

Carter Summit – Pipe Line Aid Station 

Leaving Carter Summit, you quickly descend down pavement.  It’s an opportunity to gain some separation from the pack if you’re willing to attack the descent.  It’s also the first chance to eat.  As we began the descent, I crammed a Lara Bar down.  Another racer ate as well, but both of us wondered why no one else was taking advantage of the opportunity.

4 miles later you find yourself at the bottom of the next climb.  The backside of Powerline.  It’s a relatively straightforward 5 mile climb, but the rock does get progressively looser towards the top.  As you top out, you start to become aware of the nastiness of the Powerline descent.

The Powerline descent.  Keep those arms loose!

The Powerline descent. Keep those arms loose! (Photo not mine)

The 1400 foot descent drops you onto pavement at 23 miles.  I wasn’t running GPS and my sense of mileage was off (future note: ride with GPS less) so it felt like I should be coming into the Pipeline Aid station relative quickly after bottoming out on Powerline.  Wrong.

Once you hit the pavement, its more than 4 miles to the aid station.  Not unreasonable or overwhelming by any means.  But when you’re not mentally prepared for it in a 100 mile race, it takes its toll.

We left the protection of the trees and found our way onto the open plains east of the Sawatch range.  We also made friends with the wind here.  It was challenging enough and I didn’t want to end up alone so I forced myself into a pack that was riding a bit faster than I was comfortable with.  I latched onto the back and told myself that even though they were faster than I wanted them to be, it was less effort to be in a pack than solo.

It got to the point where I thought that I missed the Pipeline aid station but eventually I came upon it.  Cisco’s wife had set up camp and I quickly grabbed a little bit of banana bread for breakfast and replaced my waters.  77 miles to go.

Pipeline Aid Station – Twin Lakes

The terrain from the first aid station to Twin Lakes was one of the most challenging parts of the race for me.  Mentally at least.  I knew that it was rolling, but it required constant focus as it switch from double track to single track and then road.  There was no protection from the wind and you had to work to stay in a pack.

I’d also recommend being aware of when the course goes to single track.  It seems a lot of riders are uncomfortable with aggressive descents on single track.  I was stuck behind someone who struggled with that and lost several minutes here.

Eventually you bottom out and you start a gentle climb around 36 miles that brings you into the Twin Lakes aid station.  The climb is smooth and leads to a short descent to the dam.  If you’ve got a support crew, I highly recommend them setting out their tent at the station the night before.

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The cutoff at Twin Lakes outbound is 4 hours.  For some reason, this cutoff worried me.  I felt like I could be well below the cutoff on Twin Lakes inbound and at Pipeline inbound, but 4 hours was an aggressive start.  Thankfully I came in at 3:34.

I had been a bit behind at Pipeline but had pulled back all but 4 minutes coming into Twin Lakes.

Twin Lakes is a unique position.  You’re 40 miles into the race.  40% done with the day.  However, the 3,000+ foot climb up Columbine is staring you in the face.  All that climbing in less than 10 miles.

Twin Lakes – Columbine Summit

Talk about a climb that is outrageous.  As you ride out of Twin Lakes you have a quick small climb, but then a couple miles of rolling hills as you approach the base of Columbine.  After 2.5 miles, the climb begins in earnest.

As you work your way through the initial ascents, the climb is steep but smooth.  You quickly make friends on the climb and work together to reach the top.   Depending on where you are in the race, you also must deal with descending riders.  Some of them just don’t give a damn about anyone else on the course.  Keep that in mind riders!

As you approach tree-line, the course become more challenging and works it’s way towards single track.  Eventually you hit the Goat Trail at 49 miles.  Talk about a long last mile or two.

Once you break treeline you can see the turnaround.  For those of you that have spent time above treeline, you’ll understand just how far away it can feel.

I arrived at the turnaround (slightly over 50 miles) at 5:58, just under 6 hours.  Although it is somewhat counterintuitive, the course is faster on the way back.  Let’s put it this way: on top of Columbine you’re looking at a 10 mile descent instead of a climb.

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Helicopter shot from Columbine

One of the main pieces of advice given to me before the race was to get food as quickly as possible and get off the summit of Columbine.  Any time above tree line takes its toll in a cumulative manner.  Not to mention the risk for storms up that high.  I grabbed a sandwich and a little bit of Coke and worked my way up the quick climb out of the aid station.

Columbine Summit – Twin Lakes

Not much to address here other than be aggressive on the downhill.  It’s tough initially above tree line as the trail is a bit narrower and you are dealing with 2 way traffic, but once you get back in the trees you can let loose on the smooth road.

My 2h41m climb took a little more than 42 minutes to descend.   Now we were talking.

I rolled into Twin Lakes Inbound at 6:49, almost an hour in front of the cutoff time of 7h45m.

Coming back through Twin lakes inbound.  Let's go home!

Coming back through Twin lakes inbound. Let’s go home!

Twin Lake – Base of Powerline

This was the slog of the race.  I had rolled into Twin Lakes with a lot of gusto and excitement from completing Columbine and getting back a lot of time on the cutoff.  That quickly came to an end though as I worked my way onto the wind swept pavement.

I was able to prepare myself mentally for the single track climb, but the endless up and down took its toll.  I worked my way into a group and we just put our heads down and worked our way through piece by piece.

The Pipeline Inbound station seemed to never arrive.  I kept looking for it around the next corner, but it never seemed to be there.  I was mentally in a dark place, considering quitting the race, wondering I was even out here.  It’s not like I was racing for a team or anything.  No one was depending on me.

I went through Pipeline expecting to see my crew, but they were no where to be found.  I made a huge mistake and rolled right through, not stopping for water, even though I was down to 3/4 a bottle.  I was tremendously underestimating the Powerline climb at this point in time.

Race time was 8 hours as a I crossed underneath the Leadville banner at Pipeline.  4 hours to ride a little over 30 miles.  Did I have it?

I was frustrated and down as a I left the station.  I came back out onto pavement and once again worked my way into a group.

Just short of 80 miles into the race, I was greeted with the most welcome sight of the day: Jeremy, Christine, Mom Benetti…and some guy with a megaphone chanting for me.  They quickly re-stocked my water and Jeremy advised me to put my head down, accept that this little climb on the road in front of me sucks and get my ass up Powerline.

Rejuvenated, I headed out towards the Fish Hatchery and the base of Powerline.

Base of Powerline – Carter Summit

I was in the home stretch now.  20-25 miles to go…depending on who you ask.  (Side note…take everyone’s computer readings with a grain of salt…they vary).  I was mentally prepared to hike a bike up much of Powerline.  The descent was gnarly…and that was 6 hours ago.  The terrain is steep and rutted out.  Rideable if I was fresh and not surrounded by other riders.  I was neither at the time.

I rode the initial mile or so, and then settled into a strong hiking pace.  I looked forward to the final climb up to Carter.  It was all road.  I knew if I could hold my pace up Powerline, I had a good shot to Buckle.  There was still a lot of work left though.

Powerline is nothing but a slog.  There are false summits galore (5 I think) and plenty of slippery slope.  Each time you summit, you hop on to ride and get 30 seconds back, but you are off the bike as quickly as you hopped on.

Finally I was on the 11,000 foot summit and ready to get down.  The descent from Powerline is loose but manageable…unless somehow your front shock got turned off somewhere on the last climb…and it takes you a mile or two to realize it.  Then, in that case, your shoulders and arms are super tired!

It’s a quick descent from the top, with the bottom half being pavement and soon you find yourself at 10,000 feet, staring at your final 1,000 foot climb of the day.  And you say thank you…because it is paved.

The climb is a bit more than 2 miles, straight road.  Get on someone’s wheel and climb.  Enjoy it.  It’s the end of the suffering.

Carter Summit – Finish

I rolled over the top of Carter Summit, grabbed some water and headed down.  I needed the hydration, but was also ready to be done.  I talked with an aid station volunteer (Thank You!) who told me that there was about 10 miles left…the majority of which are downhill.

I attacked the descent, which took a mile or so to get going.  I don’t remember the top being rolling hills, but it was.  A little over 2 miles later, I was in full free fall.  I passed quite a few people on this descent and continue to be amazed at the lack of downhill ability in this race.

With about 6 miles to go in the race, the course flattens out and you dig deep across the final flats until the finish line climb.  You may remember that at the top of Carter Summit, I asked how much was left and was told 10 miles.  I asked this question again at the flats and was greeted with the answer: 10.  Upon further clarification, this meant 10 kilometers.  Moral of the story, clarify before you ask or be prepared to flip out!

After attacking the flats, around 100 miles, you turn let and head up the final climb.  Yes, you may be asking why start a climb at 100 miles when you only have a 100 mile race?  Me too.  But Leadville does Leadville wants.

The last climb hurts, but it’s a hurts so good type pain.  It’s not steep and it’s not long.  I spent much of it coming to terms that I was going to finish in under 12 hours and Buckle.  And not just under 12 hours, but probably in the lower 11s.

Eventually you ride past Leadville High School and you can hear the cheers of the crowd.  You cross through the neighborhoods of Leadville where fans offer any help they can give you, including quick turbo boost pushes and then you see that finish line.  It’s downhill with a quick up, but you don’t notice.  The red carpet rolls out.  My name is called.

11:26.04

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Mt. Columbia (July 27, 2014)

Kris and I had dread climbing Columbia for a while.  The scree slope sounded nasty and the alternative route lacked a clearly defined trail and was a long time above treeline.  Not to mention our adventure on Harvard a few years back (http://14000feetandabove.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/mt-harvard/)

We camped at the trailhead the night before so that we could get an early start on the climb.  The trailhead is well marked but smaller than a lot of the other trailheads on the road, so it was a bit harder to find.  We passed it and realized our mistake relatively quickly, so we turned around and headed back.

Camp was quick and easy to set up.  With the tent established, we thought about starting a fire, but it had rained a good while earlier and everything was wet.  Oh well, off to bed it was.

3:30 AM….Alarm.

Coffee…food…hike.  We we’re out of camp at 4:03 and on the trail.

Initially, you follow the Colorado Trail for the first, but around 10,000 feet you head northwest off the trail.  It is not clearly marked, or marked at all for that matter, but once you find the initial movement, you can pick up segments of a trail here and there.

We worked our way through the forest.  Occasionally on trail.  Occasionally not.  Our GPS was incredibly handy here and saved us quite a bit of exploring, especially in the dark.  We had been hiking for around an hour when the sun first began to peek above the horizon, but our surroundings remained dark.

As we approached tree line, we had picked up a trail, but were met by 2 glowing eyes in our headlamp beams.  We quickly turned a hard left and took another route up.  I occasionally glanced over to see the eyes, watching us, but appearing to maintain their position.  It wasn’t until a couple minutes later that I felt like we were safe.

As we reached tree line, we found a rock outcropping that offered an incredible view of the sunrise in the east:

_MG_3844  _MG_3847 _MG_3849 _MG_3852As the sun rose, we approached the stand of dead trees.  In the pre-dawn light, it was eery to work our through the shadows.  We were able to maintain the trail, but at times, it was challenging with the variety of deadfall and the meandering nature of the trail.

As we left the trees behind, we found ourselves on decreasingly less rocky terrain.  This was in reverse to your standard 14er where the rocks increase the higher you go.

We followed the ridge line and skirted the 1st peak to the south.  It’s easy to dodge it.  All that needs to be done is to aim for the saddle.  At this time, your objective is clear.  Initially, you need to find your way onto the ridge directly in front of you, and then you work your way over to Columbia, which is in view to your right.

_MG_3865 _MG_3864 _MG_3863 _MG_3869We reached our first bump on the ridge at 12,800 feet at 6:41 AM, 2:37 into the hike.  From here, the terrain becomes a mix of smooth trail and large rocks.  We could see Columbia and the ridge we needed to follow so we put our heads down and worked our way across.  The day was beautiful so far and the weather was calm.

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There was the occasional steep section.

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Areas like these reminded me a lot of the glacier carved bowls of Alaska from a few weeks prior.

_MG_3879We worked our way around the ridge and finally found ourselves pointing North at the summit of Columbia.  It was getting a bit later in the morning, but we had only seen 4 other people on the hike.  We would run into 2 of them on the summit.  We assume the other 2 traversed over to Harvard as we did not see them again.

As we took aim at the summit, our morale increased.  We had been above 13,000 feet for quite a while.  Above tree line for even longer.  I was stoked as I had the Leadville 100 MTB coming up in a few weeks and the altitude had kicked my ass back in the 50 a few weeks ago.

We picked our way through the ridge and found ourselves on the final summit approach quickly.

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The summit approach

_MG_3913Around the point of the picture above, we met up with the standard route on Columbia, but still did not see any climbers.  Oh well…Kris and I have gotten used to having peaks to our relative lonesome.  Not a bad thing!

The approach to the summit, is a bit of scramble, but nothing beyond your standard class 2.  We made relatively quickly work of it since we felt strong and found ourselves on the 14,073 foot summit just over 4 hours after leaving the trailhead.

The weather was still clear and beautiful and we had the summit to ourselves so we took some time to enjoy the view.  We also refreshed our acquaintance (hatred? love?) of Harvard a few miles away.

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We did have some company on the summit…

Marmot!

Marmot!

He tried to be casual…but he was not so casual…or sneaky.

We spent almost 30 minutes on the summit.  We finally found the motivation to head down a little after 8:30. The ridge hike down is straightforward, but I do recommend you be willing to hit each of the points on the way back.  We tried to skirt a few of them to the south and found ourselves hopping around some nasty rocks and making life much tougher on ourselves.

It’s also tough to maintain the trail as you head below the dead trees.  We ended up rock hopping and bushwhacking until we found our way onto the path.  Once we get past those rocks, it is smooth sailing.  Kris and I were able to run our way back to the trailhead form there.  It is one of those trails that is too steep to walk so you might as well just open it up and cover some ground.

At 11:40 AM we rolled back into the trailhead, 7h37m after we started.  We covered 12 miles, with close to 5,000 feet of elevation gain.

We had dreaded Columbia, but walked away from it having enjoyed the experience much more than anticipated.  The Southeast Ridge route offers a challenge by way of route finding and steepness.  The amount of time spent above tree line raises the risk of the hike, but if you give yourself enough time to dodge the storms, it is well worth the trip.

 

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Leadville Silver Rush 50 (2014)

With great anticipation, I returned to the base of the Dutch Henry Ski Hill with my sites set on a sub 6:00 race.

_MG_3305 _MG_3304Drawing on my experience from last year, I was much more aggressive in finding a position towards the front.  I wanted to be able to attack the hill and be in front of the bottleneck that occurs a few miles in.

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My lovely wife. First race as a married man!

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My brand new mother in law. Crewing her first race today!

With almost double the training (literally, double the miles), I felt much more confident in my ability to excel in the race.

As the gun went off, I attacked the bottom half of the hill and found myself panting and out of breath about halfway up.  I backed off the pace but continued to be aggressive.  I didn’t want to get caught in the back when the trail goes to single track.  I lost too much time there last year.

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Get to this turn as quickly as possible. It will save you minutes.

_MG_3322 _MG_3324 _MG_3326 _MG_3328 The course meanders for the first few miles but after a steep drop, the climb begins in earnest.  From miles 3-10 you climb from 9,950 to 12,000 feet along a gradual 4WD road.  As you approach the top, it gets steeper and there are spots where I was forced to hike a bike.  I reached the top in 1:23, my goal had been 75 minutes so I was a bit behind but not terribly.  I quickly descended down to the first aid station and arrived only 2 minutes behind my goal of 90 minutes.

Christine getting me restocked.

Christine getting me restocked.

The big climb down, now it was time for the short, steep ones.

The big climb down, now it was time for the short, steep ones.

_MG_3349   _MG_3362 _MG_3368 _MG_3367 _MG_3370 _MG_3372 I was feeling good.  Nowhere near as cooked as last time.  I grabbed what I needed and rolled out.  It’s a fun descent out of the aid station and then the climb begins.

The climb was tougher than last year.  It seemed to be more rutted out and more loose than I remembered.  There was definitely more hiking for me and I started to fall off my goal splits.  I hit the turnaround 20 minutes behind schedule at 3:04.  It’s a faster course back, so I wasn’t tremendously concerned, but I knew the climb out from Stumptown was going to be tough.

Several of my amazing crew for the day.

Several of my amazing crew for the day.

Approaching the 2nd aid station.

Approaching the 2nd aid station.

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Storms were building and I was nervous about getting wet, but I decided to forego the rain jacket.  The climb back out from Stumptown is steep and can be quite a bit sketchy with riders coming down the steep single track from the summit.  I practiced my mantra of RFM..Relentless Forward Motion.  I had a bit of hole to dig out of, but I wasn’t done yet.

As I summited the the climb out of Stumptown, the wind was starting to pick up so I hustled my way off the 12,000 foot pass and into the trees.  There is a quick climb again before the long descent to 32 mile mark.  It’s only 300 feet, but if you’re not mentally ready for it (I wasn’t last year), it hurts.

I opened up the throttle on the descent and really noticed a difference in my full-suspension vs. the hard tail I rode last year.  I was also a much better downhill rider than last year.  Both of these helped my time significantly.

As I reached the beginning of the final climb, I doubled down and focused on pedaling.  The aid station at Printer Boy breaks up the climb nicely and that was my primary goal.  Try and gain as much time back before Printer Boy and then work my way up to the base of Mt. Sherman.

I got to Printer Boy at 4:36, only 19 minutes ahead of last year.  I was concerned sub 6 hours wasn’t going to happen, but the opportunity was still on the table.  As I climbed back up to 12,000 feet, my legs began to cramp up a bit and I had to stop occasionally to stretch them out, but I was able to continuously climb.  It’s straightforward and smooth, just long. You can see much of it the entire time.

I reached the summit at 5:16, 24 minutes ahead of last year.  I just needed a little bit more time to get under 6.  It was going to be an aggressive descent!

I let loose and tore down the hill.  The next 7 miles were covered in 26 minutes, putting me at 5:42 with 3 miles to go.  The final 3 are rolling hills that require your attention in shifting as well as digging deep to get up the small climbs.  I attacked with everything I had left and forced water down to keep fueling me.  I was cutting it close and I knew it.

To get to the finish line, you go on top of Dutch Henry Hill and down a trail just north of it.  I sprinted across the top and knew that I was under 6, but I pushed just to make sure.

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The clock read 5:57:11, almost 3 minutes under my goal.  Cut it close, but got it done!

_MG_3401 _MG_3404 _MG_3405 _MG_3402 _MG_3407 _MG_3409 _MG_3413 _MG_3412With my goal accomplished, we enjoyed dinner and a beer in the race expo.  The difference between how I felt this year vs. last year was night and day.  Last year, I was tanked and exhausted.  This year, I could feel that I had undergone a big effort, but I wasn’t dead.

Little did I know, I was going to need that feeling in a few weeks.

 

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