Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Colorado Trail Day 1 - Jxn Creek to Molas Pass

"I am completely destroyed".  Those are the first enervated words I spoke as I finished the Colorado Trail on Saturday afternoon.  9 days later I attempted my first run, still "completely destroyed".  Sound sleep is also hard to come by.  I usually end up dreaming about a particular day on the CT in a hurry to get somewhere.  Needless to say I'm exhausted when I wake up.  For the past two weeks, when I'm not napping, I spend my days pacing as if I'm still fast hiking with my mind racing all the while.  And yet it still takes every bit of strength to get out of the chair to make the journey into the kitchen.

Segment mileage start/finish time time on feet MPH Elevation gain
Day 1 Jxn Creek to Molas Pass 73.9 5:00 A to 12:35 A 19h 35m 3.77 15,608
Day 2 Molas Pass to Spring Creek Pass 53.3 6:11 A to 11:41 P 17h 31m 3.05 10,843
Day 3 Spring Creek Pass to Hwy 114 55 5:59 A to 10:39 P 16h 40m 3.3 8,611
Day 4 Hwy 114 to US Hwy 50 49.9 5:48 A to 9:21 P 15h 33m 3.21 8,826
Day 5 US Hwy 50 to N. Cottonwood crk 43.2 5:40 A to 7:40 P 14h 0m 3.09 8,874
Day 6 N. Cottonwood crk to Timberline Lake 53.6 4:45 A to 9:45 P 17h 0m 3.15 11,082
Day 7 Timberline Lake to Gold Hill 51.8 3:55 A to 9:45 P 17h 50m 2.9 9,867
Day 8 Gold Hill to Waterton Canyon 105.1 2:15 A to 12:40 P 34h 25m 3.05 15,184
TOTAL 485.8 8d 7h 40m 17s 152h 34m 3.18 88,895

I accomplished my goal of setting the new Fastest Known Time on the Colorado trail with a time of 8 days, 7 hours, 40 minutes and 17 seconds, beating the old record set by Paul Pomeroy by 4 hours 37 minutes.  From the very beginning I wanted to define my limits and give this adventure every ounce of my being.  There is no question in my mind I have defined my limits.  I did not accomplish this alone, this was a complete team effort with a total 27 people helping out along the way: Nicole Jaime. Rick Robinson. Alverna Jaime. Julian Jaime. Rick Hessek. Brendan Trimboli. Harsha Nagaraj. Brandon Stapanowich. Rob Kunz. Sylvia Kunz. Byron Powell. Meghan Hicks. Rae Jean Robinson. Matt Trappe. Molly Trappe. Gavin McKenzie.  Mike Ambrose. Todd Ganglehoff. Alyssa Wildeboer. Travis Wildeboer. Brian Fisher. Kathy Darnold. Dick (Kathy's brother). Johnny Darnold. Beth Blankenship. Rodney Blankenship. Leah Fein. I thank each and everyone one for their help along the way!  Here is our journey:

Since I don't have very many photos, go here for some professional photos.

My wife and I, alongside Matt Trappe, made the journey to Durango on Wednesday, August 14th to get settled in and finish up any last minute shopping.  We joined up with Brendan Trimboli, Ian Sharman, and others at Carvers brewery on Wednesday night for some grub and a few brews.  The talk was more about the Grand Slam and, in particular, the Leadville 100.  Which was fine by me because it got my mind off the journey ahead.  Weather inevitably comes up in these conversations and according to the weather people, I had timed my trip just right.  The  monsoonal moisture had subsided and looked as though I was going to have the best weather possible, if not a little hot leaving Durango.  Thursday we met up with Rick, my father in law and crew chief, who had driven the RV over from Utah.  We settled into a camp site at Junction Creek and it was just like getting ready for a 100 mile race....  second guessing all my prep and questioning if I had everything.  Perfect!

Day 1
Up at 3 AM and I hardly slept a wink.  My wife, Rick, and Matt all up and just as excited as I was...  no one needed to say anything, it was in the air.  A lot of hard work and sleepless nights lay ahead and we were looking forward to it.  I drank my Yerba Mate and ate my Muesli (which would become my standard breakfast over the next week) and it was time to go.  4:45 AM we are at the South terminus of the Colorado Trail along with a hearty bunch of friends to see me off; The Darnolds, Rodney and Beth, Leah Fein, Brendan Trimboli, and my crew.

Ready to go!

5 AM on the dot and we were off.  Brendan Trimboli and Leah Fein accompanied me up to Gudy's Rest and it was non stop chatter.  We parted ways at Gudy's and for the first time I was alone with my thoughts.  Alone and excited till I rounded a corner and spooked a bear on the trail!  Holy shit!  It really didn't sink in until about 15 minutes after the encounter.  That was a freaking bear!  The bear was more afraid of me than I was of it.  It bolted up the side of the hill and out of sight quickly.  First encounter with a bear in the wild.

I kept a constant eye on my watch, and in particular, the MPHs.  I became obsessive with it and realized it was helping me dig a hole so I ditched the Garmin after the first day.  4 MPH seems slow in running terms but in these multi-day adventures, it's quite fast.  This day was crucial not to push too hard but also try to get done as quickly as possible - a risky game.  I was told by many that 74 myles was too much for the first day but I also knew if I wanted a shot at the record I had to do something that has never been done.  For me, this was getting ahead while I was fresh and then maintaining a relentless forward motion (RFM) for the next 7 days.  In addition, if you look at the logistics going from West to East, you have to try and get across the San Juan's in one push.

On our way to Kennebec pass and beyond

My Favorite section - Cape of Good Hope

I made it to my first checkpoint at mile 17 where my faithful crew was waiting for me.  Downing some calories and electrolytes, picked up Matt Trappe and we were gone.  I was ahead of schedule at this point and for the next 20 myles we maintained that pace.  That pace was basically running all the flats and downs with intermittent hiking uphill.  Because of this slower than race pace effort I was able to pack and eat most real food items such as: breakfast burritos, Ensure, granola bars, Pay Day candy bars, Allen Lim's rice bars, cookies, and fruit.  But I also had my First Endurance liquid shot flasks for that much needed "pick me up".  I also had two 20 oz bottles, one filled with straight water and the other filled with grape electrolyte drink.

My choices at aid stations.  

Matt was busy running ahead and snapping some great pictures but also getting some good video footage.  He most certainly did more than 20 myles in that section. There were lots of people out on the trail; some day hikers, some thru hikers (by the looks of their beards and must), and others who were doing the segments between Molas and Jxn Creek over a weeks time.  We stopped and chatted with a few and I was always reluctant to tell them what I was doing.  Maybe I was more afraid of what they were thinking...  "a week to get to Waterton canyon - no way!"  In my mind I knew what I could do and it would be close to the FKT so I didn't need any doubt from others creeping in.

Finally we arrive at Hotel Draw, 42 myles and 10 hours into the journey.  My crew is there all set up with turkey wraps made, cold Coke, EFS grape drink, and a nice comfy chair.  While I eat my food, my wife runs around repacking my Ultraspire pack for the next segment of my journey.  This is how all the aid stations went - flawless.  The precision of a high speed NASCAR crew but with a calm demeanor and smiles all around.

My faithful trail fairy

I now pick up Mr fairy himself, Brendan Trimboli.  I gave him a hard time for not toting the fairy wings while he paced me at Hardrock so he broke them out and certainly lifted my spirits.  Brendan was set to take me the next 50K to Molas pass.  The climb up to Blackhawk pass was casual.  In fact, I tried to keep most of every day casual.  I didn't want any soreness in my muscles and the only way to do that was to keep it under the hood.  Picture this: a Pinto (car) with a souped-up Corvette engine.  Saving it for when I need it.  Rick would meet us again in 11 myles at Bolam pass.  Most who have gone this direction trying to set the FKT would stop at Bolam pass and with 13 hours into my journey, I contemplated it.  After I sat down to drink my Coke and Ensure, I felt revived.  I felt in my heart that I could push on and be off the trail by midnight.

Resting up at Bolam Pass for the final push

We crossed Cascade creek at 8 PM and shortly after dawned our headlamps.  A stiff climb up to a 13,000 foot pass awaited us and it would not disappoint.  For the first time in 16 hours I had to sit on a rock and gather myself.  I had been eating and drinking regularly but the day was wearing on me, as would any hundred mile race.  I knew once at the top of the pass there would only be 11 myles remaining.  I was not thinking about any days beyond the moment I was in and felt that mentally was my saving grace day after day.  This was the first of many nights and what I came to dislike about darkness was that it always seemed farther than it actually was.  We could not see any horizons and judging by familiar places on the trail, we always thought we were closer.  One example of this was when we saw a headlamp in the distance.  Rick had mentioned he would get to little Molas lake and started making his way towards us.  The light lifted our spirits but the closer we got the light, the further it seemed away.  The trail contours the finger like canyons in a u-shaped fashion; meaning a straight line would only have been a couple myles.  Turns out the light was Megan Finnesy.  She had walked out to meet us but started back towards little Molas when our lights disappeared in the canyons.  Anxious and frustrated, I wanted to be done.

Soon enough we caught up with Megan, rounded a couple of ridges, and heard a few faint tires humming on Hwy 550 below.  Brandon Stapanowich and Rick were waiting on the side of the trail a mile up from little Molas, while my wife and Livvy waited at the lake.  All of this lifted my spirits but it was late.  12:40 AM.  I ate some beef stew and anything else I could get into my mouth before I passed out.  Brandon and I would hit the trail at 6 AM the next morning.  A little late but refreshed mentally and physically.  Now my favorite and toughest part of the Colorado Trail - The mighty San Juan's.

Myles: 73.9 
Time: 19h 35m 
Elevation gain: 15,608  
Myles to go: 411.9

End of the first day

Eating as much as I can at 1 AM