Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CT - Days 4-6

Sorry for the delay but I've been a little under the whether for the last few days so no energy to think or write, let alone get out of bed. At any rate, ON WITH THE ADVENTURE...

Day 4
Start 5:56 A.M.
Timberline (May Queen) - Clear Creek 34.5 myles

8 hours 28 minutes - 4.0 MPH

With this day I'm entering new territory as far as mileage is concerned. My only previous experience up to this point was a 6 day, 150 mile stage race in the desert. "Let's see how the body holds up because the mind is strong" is all I kept thinking about.

It was really cold to start, as always at May Queen in the dark - probably mid 20s this morning. Aric Manning drove out from Utah to join me for the next two days and I was pretty excited to share some time on the trail with long time, good friend. Ironically as we started up the trail, it was the same exact time that I would have been there if I had been running the Leadville 100 so everything was quite familiar to me. The trail was just as rocky as where Rick and I had left off yesterday but no surprise. Rick Hessek was kind enough to meet us at Hagerman road to take any additional clothes and lights, which we obliged as we climbed out of the freezing zone.
Rick at Hagerman road - nice bedhead

Now it was onto a part of this segment I'd never been on. We passed straight across powerline road and slowly descended into a very nice, lush section. We crossed several cross trails leading back down to the Fish Hatchery so I was comfortable where we were at. Up to this point the trail had been marked exceptionally well but as we came to our final Fish Hatchery trail crossing about 8 myles into the segment there were no clear markings for the CT. Aric went in every direction looking for the familiar CT marker but to no avail. Finally we came back to the intersection where we found an old broken sign partly behind a tree that indicated CT. What made it more difficult was that the trail seemed to go through a very nice campsite.
Familiar CT confidence marker

The next part of this segment we skirted around Mt. Massive and finally dropped into Half Moon trail head. Aric and I were now running good, slightly downhill and enjoying a beautiful warm day on very familiar territory.
Aric enjoying the sunlight at 10,000 ft

Starting out from Half Moon is a bit of a climb but still familiar as it's still part of the Leadville 100 course, it's always my favorite part of the Leadville 100. I was really enjoying myself with all the fall colors almost all the way to Twin Lakes when I realized Aric was no longer behind me. I waited for a bit and then continued on, drawing arrows in the dirt at critical intersections. Come to find out, Aric was starting to have trouble with his Achilles again and was really nervous about it rupturing. He was forced to call it a day about 18 myles in - good decision Aric as the Achilles doesn't repair itself at all.
Beautiful Aspen section above Twin Lakes

After descending down near Twin Lakes it became very hot and exposed. I was drinking and eating good so my running was still very comfortable. I knew the trail had to get along side Twin Lakes but I didn't know what the trail looked like. Well as it turns out if you've never been on this part then by all means don't bother! It's a 3 mile straight shot all the way to the dam - hot too! Thank goodness Rick Hessek and Bill Dooper met me at the road crossing before this 3 mile section to refuel me because I would have run out of water. Finally I reached the dam where my crew was waiting for me. I was a bit overdue so my mom and dad were a bit worried. Actually I told them the wrong time (slight miss calculation) when in reality I was traveling in good time - around 4.2 MPH. At any rate they were there with breakfast burritos and Coke ready to go and I was off.
Bill Dooper, Rick and Jill Hessek, Mom and Dad at Twin Lakes

On to the last mountain to climb and then I was done for the day. I was really looking forward to being done early today to spend time with the family and get a good rest. I pushed the pace a bit but with 3500 ft left of climbing I knew not to push too hard to cross that invisible red line. I crested the last hill and who comes around the corner?? The ever-present Bill Dooper. It really wasn't a surprise because he had been meeting me on parts of the trail all the way through the Leadville valley - very nice indeed. That night at the trailer there were several people visiting which almost brought a tear to my eye because they were all there in support of me. I wish I had taken a picture.
Bill Dooper above Clear Creek

Day 5
Start 5:47 A.M.

Clear Creek - Chalk Creek 41.3 myles

10 hours 50 minutes - 3.6 MPH

The night before I walked to the bathroom and noticed a little something on my left shine bone - didn't pay much attention to it, just rubbed it.

All the family, friends, and food the night before was enough to recharge my battery for this day that included 3 very stout climbs - about 8300 ft of elevation gain. I left this morning all alone, which was something new to me and unnerving in the darkness. I was happy to welcome light as I neared the first climb and a herd of Elk welcoming me to the top. It was a quick descent off into a very nice little valley where I saw 3 different backpacking groups firing up their camp stoves. They looked at me a little funny because I was dressed in shorts and virtually came into their "remote" location out of thin air. No one asked questions and I was off to tackle the second climb.

It was on this second climb that I began to notice this "little something" work it's way back into my shin. In my conversations with Dave Horton he had warned me of a condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or Shin Splints and the minute I felt discomfort to stop and loosen my laces to where my shoes would almost fall off - I did that and it seems to relieve some of the discomfort. But now I was concerned about how bad it could get and what would it feel like going downhill. I was relieved to finally get over the second climb and be able to go downhill without any discomfort at all.

I made it over to North Cottonwood creek in very good time (despite the two climbs) where Rick and Aric were there to meet me. They refueled me with candy (Snickers - mmm good) and water. I had not planned to see them there but it was a very nice surprise indeed. Aric was headed home and sent me off over the next climb with words of inspiration - I needed that. While they had been there they saw another thru hiker by the trail name of Mr. Miserable (real name PJ). He was a post man from New York doing the CT for the second time. As it turned out, Rick later befriended him and invited him to dinner that night at Chalk Creek. Rick had offered to take his external frame pack so that he could get up and over the next climb fairly quickly to make it to dinner. Come to find out PJ hit a hail storm chasing me and had to return down. Strange turn of events for Mr. Miserable but he was there to greet me as I arrived at Chalk Creek. He had skipped the section with a ride from Rick but overnight elected to have Rick take him back and do it. In addition, Rick had also shuttled a couple other thru hikers around up to this point.

So now for me I had made it over the last major climb and was descending down into Cottonwood Hot Springs (avalanche TH) where I would meet my parents who promised hot burritos. Slight communication error as far as exact location so I waited at Avalanche TH for about 20 minutes and then went on after leaving my streamers that I had been there. About two myles up the trail I saw my parents in the rain waiting, they were probably waiting in the right area but the data book was a little mixed up for me. At any rate, hot burritos, Gatorade, Coke, and I was off - very much needed.
My parent's at the burrito cart in the rain

Last section of the day was one climb out of the valley and then rolling hills for the remaining 12+ myles. Beautiful section with fall colors

Nice section with fall colors

I had been pretty fortunate up to this point as far as rain was concerned but now with thunder and forming clouds all around I thought I would get drenched - not a drop from the time I left my parents all the way through Chalk Creek. This rolling section was to be a good test for my uncooperative left shin... turns out whether I was making it up in my head or not, it was getting worse and more noticeable. I was no longer able to run without discomfort either up or slightly down. The severe downhill hurt it the worst. Having the shin nagging at me made this section take forever! But I finally made it to the chalky white cliff area that I was familiar to be Chalk Creek. I thought I was close when I saw Bill Dooper but he said I was still 4 myles out and all on asphalt.
Bill at Ridge Runners Ranch

Running the next 4 myles on the road was simply too much for my shin to handle so I was forced to walk most of it. This asphalt section must go! Probably the worst part of all the CT. The private land prevents from descending directly off the hill but rather wind around on a longer road. Finally to Chalk Creek with my patient crew. But how much damage had I done and what will I feel like in morning? I immediately got into the river up to my knees and iced my shins a couple times. I then elevated and wrapped them for the remainder of the night. I was sad for two reasons; 1. my body was starting to betray me, and 2. my family would leave tomorrow to get Jaxon back to school.
My crew at Chalk Creek

Me and my boys the night before they went home

Day 6
Start 5:51 A.M.
Chalk Creek - Marshall Pass 35.1 myles
9 hours 34 minutes - 3.7 MPH

My family was going home today but at least they would meet me at Hwy 50 before they left. Hwy 50 also marks the halfway point of the journey.

Well I woke up this morning with minor discomfort so I elected to wrap my left shin loosely. On the first climb out of Chalk Creek it seemed to help as the discomfort was minimal. I was extremely happy at this point. Now I was entering a section that was relatively flat for the next 8 myles so another test to come with the wrap - seemed to be fine too. All right, feeling confident now! This flat section was very pleasant as the sun began to rise, first hitting the tips of multiple fourteeners to my right.

Nice flat, open section with fourteener's in veiw

Now for the last few myles of this segment I was hoping to pass by quickly as I was to meet my family at Hwy 50 but I had one climb and two descents before that. It was on the first severe descent that my shin started acting up. I took 4 Advil to take the edge away and that seemed to help. Finally I looked down upon Hwy 50 and ironically I saw my crew arrive into the check point.
Hwy 50 - Half way point

I got into Fooses lake where I knew my crew was waiting for me.... wait a minute where are they?? I looked into every pull out and could not find them so I decided they had driven up the 2.5 mile road to the official Fooses TH. Sure enough that's where they were waiting with Coke and cinnamon roll in hand. It was really hard for me to leave and just nearly broke down. But I knew as long as I kept going they'd be back on Friday to meet me. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope my body wouldn't rebel anymore.

My family at Fooses Trail Head

Last climb of the day is a doozy - up to Marshall Pass and join the CDT. I had been on this section and up to this point think this section is the most beautiful because of the meandering lower portion and views on the upper portion. I met a few other hikers on the way up; Tyler who had been out on the trail for 30 days (full beard and all) and another fellow who was backpacking from Hwy 114 to his home in Breckenridge. He knew Helen Cospolich real well so I said to say hello. I told Tyler who was headed my way that if he made it to Marshall pass for the night we would feed him with plenty of Coke (Coke seemed to be a favorite on the trail). I proceeded on at my pace and made it to Marshall Pass in decent time. Some amazing scenery along the way.
The climb up from Hwy 50

The colors starting to come out up high

Remember I had told you in the previous post that someone had shot at a bear in Waterton canyon their first day out on the trail? That someone was Tyler. He made it to Marshall Pass that night and told the story of shooting at a cinnamon colored bear two times to help a nearby camper out. The bear was into this guys backpack and had stomped on his tent, the guy yelled out to Tyler who had a .357. The bear did not flinch as Tyler shot one time in the air and one time in the general direction. They both got out of there and that was that. I'm wondering if this is the same bear that Dave Donaldson saw while he was running the Roxborough loop about a month ago?? Anyways Tyler told stories about who and what he was doing, ate, and then was on his way. While I was visiting with Tyler, Rick had gone down to Pagosa Springs to pick Harsha, my pacer for day # 7.

But before Rick left, he was there to greet me as he was everyday in every way. Here is an image I became familiar with and would pretty much bring tears to my eyes as it was such a welcome sight.

Rick ringing the cow bell at Marshall Pass

Through 6 days - 267.6 myles

Stay tuned to find out how the shin thing worked itself out... or not.

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