Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Colorado Trail Day 2 - Molas Pass to Spring Crk Pass

It's never a good sign when you're waiting for the alarm to go off at 4 AM.

I didn't get settled into my bed until 1:45 AM.  And just like a 100 mile race, the body was giving off way too much heat and the adrenaline still pumping.  Needless to say, I tossed and turned for two hours.  Out of bed, I'm dressed in no time at all and quickly eating breakfast.  As I sat and ate my Muesli and drank my tea, my 5 AM anniversary time to mark a day had come and gone.  I was now one plus day into my adventure and 412 myles to go.

At 6:11 AM I finally set off with Brandon Stapanowich down to the Animas river - a 4 mile, 2200 ft drop.  As would become a theme early in the morning, my body was spry and my mind was sharp.  A hyper-aware/chatty state.  Brandon and I weren't going fast but we ran all the way to the river where we had to stop to shed some clothes and eat some food.  For me, SnackWell creme cookies and my standard concoction of EFS liquid shot diluted in water.   Now starts the toughest part of the day - a 9 mile, 4000 ft climb to heaven - the heart of the mighty San Juan's.

My morning buzz started to wear off just an hour into the climb when total malaise took over my body.  Brandon is a Physical Therapist by trade, which I didn't know until I started to shed some concern about a pain in my right shin.  I had severe shin splints last trip on the CT and for it to be happening this early was a real concern.  Brandon gave me some solid advice that would help save my shins for the majority of the trip, "most likely you're heel striking as you go down hill.  The tendons and muscles on the front of your foot/shin have to contract and stretch way too much, which becomes an over-use injury.  Lean forward and try to strike mid-foot going down hill to reduce the stretching motion".  It worked.  I concentrated on my foot strike on most down hills and eventually stopped thinking about the phantom pain in my shins.

Finally at the top of the world where the views go on forever.  My stomach was unsettled, my energy was low, and the pace slowed quite a bit.  Brandon got his music out and played it for all the marmots to hear, something to take my mind off the monotony.   The first song was a rap entitled "Walk It Out".  Look it up and you'll laugh too.  Pretty soon we were singing along...  pretty easy when there's only 3 words in the song.  Exactly what I needed.  We finally pulled into Stoney Pass around 12:45 PM, almost two hours late.  I felt uneasy for being behind schedule but needed the rest so we took about 20 minutes to eat and refill water bottles.

Brandon and I on top of the world
I started pointed out the trail for Hardrock to Brandon, which told me mentally I was coming back. 20 minutes does wonders for the soul.  We are now headed towards Maggie's Gulch and the memories from Hardrock, a mere 5 weeks ago, flooded my mind.  I'll admit, I was getting a little emotional.  Maybe because the terrain was very familiar?  Maybe because I'm feeling better and to know I can dig out of a hole?  Maybe because I'm approaching 100 myles on the journey and the trail is starting to strip me down?  Probably a combination of all of them.  I've been here before both mentally and physically and know I've got to keep things in check. Shortly after we bisected the Hardrock trail we ran into Jason Halladay, Jeff, and Eric who had left Spring Crk early that morning.   Nice to see some familiar faces out there and stop to chat a bit.

A sign made by Jason, et. al. at Spring Crk, Brandon and I above Maggie's
Up and down ridges, in and out of drainage's, and the ebb and flow of energy is the theme for the day.  It's slow progress, much slower than I anticipated, but this terrain is unforgiving and above 12,000 ft. it takes a toll.  Timing-wise, we are about 3 hrs behind schedule with 8 myles till we reach Carson Saddle.  I start to calculate in my head "at 3 MPH that's still another 3 hours away...  shit!"   Brandon was great the entire time: he asked questions where I only had to answer yes or no, he kept the mood light, and he put things in perspective when it seemed like we would never get there.  Finally we descend into the top of Cataract Gulch where we intersect the Hardrock course once again.  My energy is renewed -again- because I know we're getting close - 2 hrs tops.  Once we climb out of Cataract Gulch our pace quickens and then the Carson Saddle road appears.  We were both running low on water and food but now we can smell the burritos from Mobius cafe.  Matt Trappe, Rick Hessek, and my father in law are all eagerly waiting for us.  We are 3 and 1/2 hours behind schedule but still get to Carson saddle by 6 PM.

Much needed rest at Carson Saddle
Scarfing down a Mobius Cafe burrito at Carson Saddle - Thanks Megan!



Making our way out of Carson Saddle
After a 45 minute break, Rick, Matt, Brandon, and myself start the 17 remaining myles of the day.  What lay ahead was probably the most spectacular scenery of the trail; high alpine tundra, sun was setting through some clouds, air was still, and the temps were in the low 50s.  Amazing.  We finally have to stop, just short of the Yurt (San Juan Solstice aid station), to put on our lights.  Rick had packed a can of Coke, which I gladly sucked down in 2 seconds.  Coke became my "go to" mojo juice. And as much as I hate to admit it, a Snickers bar to boot.  I kept thinking "man!  Those are good but I can hear me getting fat..." To balance things out I ate a packet of my fruits and veggies - Peter Rabbit Organics.  Energy is now up and we start making bets to see if we can make it to Spring Creek before the first finisher of Leadville 100.

Lake San Cristobal in the distance


The sun is setting fast

Even though we were on familiar ground, the horizon was gone in the darkness and the trail -once again- went on forever.  The trail virtually disappeared among a sea of rocks, which caused us to keep looking up to find the CT blazes.  Stumbling over rocks after 16 hrs on my feet became very frustrating...  quietly under my breath I was repeating expletives "eff this and eff that and where the eff is the road..."*  Matt got some cell reception and found out that Ian Sharman had won Leadville in a blazing time with Nick Clark hot on his tail.  Happy for them because they were done but my day would keep going for another hour and 45 minutes.  We finally hit the dirt road which told us that we still had another 3 myles.  Ugh!  We rounded a corner and saw the lights of the RV.  11:41 PM - 53.3 myles in 17 and 1/2 hours.

Slow and go but I was through the San Juan's after two days on the trail.  Right on schedule.  Nicole had cooked up some steak and potatoes and we all went silent as we gorged ourselves.  Brandon would go again with me in the morning to Eddiesville.  My goal was to start everyday at 5 AM but I made the call to start an hour late in the morning.  I was now running the razors edge and I didn't want to fall off.

Myles: 53.3 (127.2) 
Time: 17h 31m (37h 6m)  
Elevation gain: 10,843 (26,451) 
Myles to go: 358.6
(totals)

*I don't want to come across as being negative or always seem like I'm complaining, I'm just explaining what was going through my head every step of the way.  I certainly didn't let this be known to those who were helping me but if you've ever run an ultra then you know what I'm talking about.  Constantly fighting off the demons and try to remain focused on the task at hand.  I struggled almost every day when the sun went down primarily because I couldn't see where I was going and the end always seemed closer in my mind.  
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