Spirits were high knowing today would present fresh faces with fast terrain.
The best night of sleep so far. I passed out around 10:45 PM and would wake up to my alarm at 3:30 AM. Each day my intention was to get started at 5 AM but I was always late. I told Bryon to meet us at Hwy 50 at 5:45 AM because of my zombie-like state last night. The terrain was more forgiving today; flatter and lower elevation. So starting later today would not be a problem because I thought I'd be traveling close to 4 MPH for most of the day. I mistakenly discounted the distance and growing fatigue on my mind and body.
Bryon and I got started at 5:40 AM, and although a bit chilly, it was slated to be a gorgeous day, if not hot. I'll admit I was a little nervous starting with Bryon, only because I didn't want to disappoint him. He and Meghan Hicks had just been covering the Leadville 100 run and were on their way home so they decided to spend a day with me. I'll be honest, I felt pressure to perform. I didn't want anything leaking out that I was painfully slow but rather strong and smiling throughout the day. I know that's shallow thinking but those thoughts entered my mind early in the day. Once we saw the sunrise, all shallowness was washed away. We were treated to an amazing sunrise - orange and red with a layer of soft clouds. "That is awesome" exclaimed Bryon, as he snapped pictures left and right. The guy is very talented; he can snap pictures while running backwards (never tripped) and carry on a full conversation.
|Amazing sunrise with Bryon Powell|
|The Aspens are thick through here|
|A Coke and a (half) smile|
|With Rob and Sylvia Kunz. Taberguache over my left shoulder|
|With Sylvia Kunz. Mt Princeton straight ahead.|
Segment 13 is deceivingly tough with 5300 ft of climbing in 23 myles. The first part of the segment is up and over a little rise to South Cottonwood creek, not too difficult, but the second part has a 3000+ climb in 9 myles. Most of the first part was a blur to me because the upcoming climb was weighing heavy on my mind. But one conversation about human potential was memorable. I love to define my own genetic potential, first and foremost, and then see how it compares to others. FKTs are for defining genetic potential and racing is for comparing it to others. Rob asked "Do you think the 2 hour barrier in the marathon will be broken in our lifetime?" I said no. It will be broken but not in our lifetime. What is possible? The mind is the limiting factor. That's what intrigues me about human potential. Just when we think we've defined our limits we push a little farther the next time with the right conditions. Familiarity of that mental aspect of what a limit feels like, makes the difference of going past it or not. In my case, I did the Colorado Trail 4 years ago and it was the hardest thing I had done in my life. Once the pain and fatigue were a distant memory I starting preparing for my attempt to break the FKT. I knew I was capable of something in the 8 day range, but exactly what, I didn't know. This conversation passed the time -mentally- for the entire 14 mile first part of the segment. Next thing I know we're dropping into South Cottonwood creek and the crew was once again set up.
|Rolling into South Cottonwood creek around 4 PM|
|Sun is getting low|
Once back on the trail now with Matt Trappe and Meghan, we continued the conversation about genetic potential. I was still buzzing about it from earlier and I noticed our pace picked up once we started talking again. We crossed South Cottonwood Creek road and began the stiff climb to the pass just below Mt Yale (yet another 14er). My legs were given a short break today from all the climbing so I was eager to see how they responded. The good news is that I was climbing really well and got into a nice rhythm. I didn't want to stop, not even once during the climb, but I could tell my energy flow was waining. I wanted to get to NCC before sundown so that I could convince my crew to let me trudge on for the final 18 myles to Clear Creek. Once at the top of the climb we took a food break and something was a little off in me. I was processing everything just fine in my brain but what was coming out of my mouth was not the same. I sloughed it off externally but internally I knew this was a "new low". For the first time on this journey I didn't want to push on into the night. Was I at the tipping point of my journey? Could I still get the fastest time on the trail if I stopped at NCC? Doubt set in. To get my mind off these thoughts we started talking about predictions on who would win UTMB. My favorite was Dylan Bowman. Little did I know he had busted up his ankle and would not start.
This steep downhill was killing my quads. My uphill was way faster than this downhill. In 3 myles we lost 2500 ft of elevation, very similar to the backside of Hope pass. Coupled with my mental state, I just wanted to be off the trail. Around 1/2 way down we ran into Harsha Nagaraj, who came out to pace me the following day. It was another mental spark I needed to make it the remaining 2 myles to NCC. Harsha has a great (dry) sense of humor -and I usually laugh- but right now I wasn't getting it. I was barely processing anything rational. And with all the bitching I was doing about how steep this section was, I only wanted to know how much farther. We rounded a corner and there was my Dad. I nearly broke down. In a sense I wanted him to save me and tell me it's going to be alright. He said "you're doing great, son. Almost there." It was comforting but I was hurting.
|Meeting up with Harsha|
|Final mile of the day|
The sun was lost in this narrow canyon as I rolled into the campsite. No one needed to tell me I was done for the day, I knew it. We all huddled around in a semi-circle and before Rick could even finish stating the obvious, I cut him off and said "alright, that's it for today. I'll start around 4 AM to get a head start". Everyone was just as relieved as I was. By 9 PM I had been fed and was vertical in the RV -not sleeping- just letting my body calm down. People were coming by the RV to say hello and check on me. Bryon and Meghan were now heading back home to Utah, but before they did, Bryon gave me another beer and told me how amazing the (Princton) hot springs were... The beer made up for the comment.
I was fine with a belly full of food but I couldn't help but think it was over. I had only gone 43 myles and I needed to 60 to have any shot at the FKT. I kept asking if anyone knew if I was still ahead of Paul Pomeroy's splits, but no one knew. Up to this point I was ahead based on making it past the San Juan's in two days, but in my mind, we were probably even now.
Before everyone settling in, we made plans to start in the morning around 4:30 AM with Harsha and Rob. Rob and Sylvia were supposed to be headed to the USA Pro Challenge, in which First Endurance was a sponsor, but they wanted to continue to support me with this journey. That meant a lot to me. As much as I was having a pity party for the shortened day, all of this support helped me turn the corner, grit my teeth, and commit to giving it every ounce of my being to get to Waterton Canyon under 8 and 1/2 days. I was now exploring that realm of redefining my limits.
Myles: 43.2 (275.3)
Time: 14h (83h 19m)
Elevation: 8874 (52,762)
Myles to go: 210.5