I must have passed out because I woke up in that -all too familiar- stupor of not knowing where I was and if I had somewhere to be. Those few minutes were terrifying and exhilarating all wrapped up in one emotion. When I finally had the sense of where I was, I reached for my phone hoping that I had not overslept.... 12:30 AM?!? Yep, it was one of those 30 minute power naps that somehow revitalizes every fiber of your being. "This is it!" I mumbled while stretching. From here all the way to Waterton Canyon will be one continuous push. No more sleeping, just relentless forward motion (RFM). I didn't actually get vertical until 1:15 AM but my mind was racing so I could not fall back asleep. With no sleep from the night before, plus 30 minutes tonight, and nothing planned for the next 39 hours, I was going to need all the help I could get to stay coherent and upright.
Thank goodness Robert Kunz volunteered to leave Gold Hill with me. It was 2:15 AM and we were on our way to the Middle Fork of Swan River, the first crew stop so I thought. The storm had passed but it was pretty chilly so I elected to wear tights - Manpris with long socks nonetheless.... At least I was warm and dry. I had 105.1 myles in 38 hours and 59 minutes to break the record, and according to my smart friends (Nick Pedatella and Brian Fisher), I only had to manage 3 MPH with a total of 4 hours of down time. But that 4 hours had to be broken up over the next 6 crew points, which gave me a maximum of 40 minutes per stop with no stopping on the trail. No more sleeping, planning, or thinking, just RFM!
|A little bewildered|
|Starting to smile @ 3:30 AM. With Rob Kunz|
It was dark and damp but the moon was our beacon once again, which seemed to lift our spirits a bit. We were talking and keeping a pretty good pace over the first hill and continued to do so with a succession of rollers in the pre-dawn hours. Four hours in the dark -for once- seemed to pass by in minutes and once nautical twilight arrived, our pace quickened. We started our descent into the Middle Fork of the Swan River and as I carelessly slapped my right foot down on the trail, I felt a little pop or some sort of tweak. I stopped to massage it out but as I started up again the uncomfortable pain was all too familiar. The shin splints I was so carefully avoiding may have reared its ugly head. Walking on flat terrain didn't hurt, it was when I tried to lift my toe uphill or heel strike on a downhill that it hurt. With the crew being no more than a mile away I could deal with it at that point. To top things off, the Mexican food I ate late last night was not agreeing with me, stopping several times to clear out my system. I've never been one to go fast in the woods so that took some time. I should have learned my lesson from a few days ago when the same thing happened after eating Mexican food. But I can't help it, I'm Mexican and I was eating everything that was put in front of me.
We arrived at the Middle Fork of the Swan River, crossing the road and then through the campground, and the crew were nowhere to be found. We didn't have a map because I knew where we were going and I knew this was the spot to meet. We had passed a couple of campers and before trudging along to what I thought was Georgia Pass next, Robert went back and asked the campers for a map or at least give us a snapshot of what lay ahead. According to their map we still had to get to the North Fork of the Swan River before we started the climb to Georgia Pass. That's when we realized the crew must be waiting at the North Fork and NOT the Middle Fork. We had wasted at least 15 minutes of that precious 4 hours of downtime on a silly mental mistake of mine. In my mind, the North and Middle Fork were one in the same.
It was only a couple of myles to the North Fork but with my bum right shin, those myles dragged on waaay too long. From quite a distance away as we -unknowingly- paralleled the Middle Fork road, Robert and I heard the strangest noises, sounded like a chorus of humming or howling but we couldn't quite make it out. Good thing Robert turned and acknowledged the noise because I was gonna pretend I didn't hear it... I certainly didn't want to talk about something that really wasn't there so early in the day. Finally we saw the source . Whew! It was a dog sledding camp with literally hundreds of Alaskan Malamute type dogs standing on their houses howling because it was breakfast time. That occupied my mind long enough to take us to the waiting crew in no time at all.
|Eating while massaging|
|North Fork of the Swan River. Not happy and a little concerned with my shin|
What I didn't realize was that those episodes were giving me a jolt of energy and as soon as the stimulation disappeared, so did the energy. Right as we crested Georgia Pass I could not stay awake. Very similar to when you're falling asleep while driving so you open the windows to let some fresh air in. Well I was gulping air and breathing deep to help get me out of this trans of falling asleep on my feet. Finally I couldn't take it anymore so I sat down on a rock, hung my head and shut my eyes for a few minutes. Once I got up I pounded the EFS liquid shot along with a Snickers bar and stumbled along. Just as we got to tree-line the nutrition started to translate into energy and it was just like that I entered into a euphoric running spurt. Albeit, it was downhill but I was running and all around was a blur. More and more people were coming up and we just sailed on past. I had done this run from Kenosha to Georgia several times over the summer so the territory was familiar along with my splits. It was a fun mental game to see how close, or in reality, how far off I was from the summer splits and managed to pass the time really well. Shortly before crossing Jefferson Lake road I looked up to find a familiar face smiling from ear to ear - it was Todd Gangelhoff! It was one of those moments when I realized how close I was to home. When I planned the trip from Durango to Denver I had hoped my friends would come out to run with me. And they did. I gave him a hug and quickly continued towards Kenosha Pass. His plan was to go out as far as he needed to reach us and turn back around to Kenosha where he started.
Six myles left to Kenosha after crossing Jefferson Lake road and it was ridiculously hot in my long sleeve shirt and Manpris. But as hot as it seemed right now there were still piles of hail on the side of the trail -some a foot deep- that was a good reminder of how miserable we were on top of Tenmile yesterday. According to Todd that storm was just as nasty on the front range. Finally we arrived at Kenosha just after 1 PM and I was hot and tired. But after I saw and heard the crowd of people there to support me, it all went away. I already wear my emotions on my sleeve and now being stripped to the core it was easy to get choked up behind my Smith Optics glasses. Although I didn't want to expose any of these emotions to anyone because everyone else was tired and stripped to the core so it would only become a sob-fest. I nearly broke down the last time Nicole broke down at Clear Creek. I needed to guard against that so as we crossed Hwy 285 I grit my teeth and swallowed my flowing tears. Once there, I was quickly shuttled into the RV to change out of those ridiculously hot clothes, ate some food, and on my way within 20 minutes. I REALLY wanted to stay and talk with people but this timeline was so tight every minute/second counted against me.
|Rick and I at Kenosha|
|Alyssa and I on our way to Long Gulch|
|Sort looks like I'm wearing a skirt. Nope big boy shorts.|
|Concern as I leave Long Gulch heading into another night|
We still had 8 myles to reach Wellington Lake Road and from what I remembered last time I did this section during the day was a short climb then a gradual downhill on a primitive road to the crew. It was about this time when I started questioning everything and became severely agitated because -once again- the darkness was messing with my ability to judge distance. I fell once on a slippery boulder section just as the rain started and I could not get up, basically upside down stuck in a rut. Rick had to pull me out and that incident further fueled my anger. The road was straight enough that we could see 1/2 mile at times with our lights and every turn would present another straight away. I began to throw rocks at random trees on the side of the road (which startled Rick as the rock clashed against the trees) to release some of the pent up anger. I certainly felt relieved once I hurled the rock -grunting- with fury (ahhh). I kept looking for signs that I'd remember but nothing looked familiar. Nine o'clock became 10 and there was no end in sight. Finally we made a turn onto single track that would lead us to the Rock Creek TH. It must have been almost midnight before we made it to Wellington Lake road. We had traveling 17 myles in ~6 hours which was just below the magic number of 3MPHs.
|The crew in Bailey|
If there was any fun left in this adventure, I wasn't seeing it. I just wanted it to be over. The succession of pacers were always a welcome sight but shortly after leaving Wellington Lake Road with Brian and Rick I had to sit down because I couldn't see straight. Nearly 24 hours on my feet and a belly full of food was too much to handle. Although each time I sat down it was no longer than 5 minutes and yet so revitalizing. As we got going again the pace felt slow and methodical but it was all I could do. The moon had a made a full circle around the earth and came back up to make the night pleasant with mild temps. The span between Wellington Lake Road and Buffalo Creek is always a long one -mentally- so I prepared my mind not worry about distance, just enjoy the time with Brian and Rick. In reality, it's only 12 myles but almost feels like the movie "Groundhog Day" where the terrain is identical around every corner and you ask yourself "wasn't I just here..." Unfortunately this happened several times and ended up being further away than we thought. Finally we crossed a road (FS 550) and knew Buffalo Creek CG was just a mile up the trail.
It was around 4:30 AM and not a soul was stirring about as we arrived at the parking lot, although it didn't take long for a couple of headlamps to come out and greet us. I know I was slurring my speech and couldn't really articulate what I wanted, I just wanted to lay down. I got into the RV and slumped over the table. For the first time in the RV I didn't care about food, just sleep. Pumpkin pie, oatmeal, breakfast burritos... they were all put in front of me and I just didn't have the desire to eat. I'm not sure how much time went by but I finally came to with Nicole saying "are you alright?", and Rick saying "you gotta eat..." I may have slurped down some oatmeal and some pumpkin pie but just as my body and mind were getting comfortable, it was time to go. Maybe 4:45 AM and I was baby stepping down the trail with Brian and Rick. I basically had to do the next 28 myles in 12 hours to break the record. By now you all know (if you've been reading) there's a pattern, after a slump/pass out comes a euphoric running spurt... no different here but these spurts are getting shorter and requiring a lot more focus than I have right now. I needed the sun or something else to jump start me to the finish, I was losing a sense of reality.
Head down, shuffling towards the Hwy 126 crossing I hear some sort of "YeeHaw and bang-bang" commotion and out from behind me comes two dudes running dressed in Cowboy and Indian outfits. My headlamp picked up a yellow Speedo with "goodbye" tattooed on the butt and a couple of feathers.... What the hell is going on?!? It scared me at first and really didn't know what was happening but then Brandon Stapanowich and Harsha Nagaraj turned around... I had quite a good laugh! Both of them had been on the trail earlier in the trip and had come back to run in with me. Here I have 4 friends who put everything else aside for the day to come out and support me. This was really happening! In less than 8 hours I'd be finishing the Colorado Trail in record time and this caused me to internalize what it all meant: family, friendship, adventure, memories, limits, community. Running -in of itself- is a very selfish sport and I have always struggled with the time commitment involved. But in this long trail/multi-day/FKT adventure I have found a place to make it "not so selfish" by creating these adventures to form bonds and lifelong memories that will forever be etched in all of our minds. I have found the importance of a loving and supportive family and the meaning of true friendships that will last a lifetime. It takes a community of like-minded people to pull off one of these adventures and everyone who takes part knows it can't be done without them, which makes the success/completion just as much theirs as it does mine. I walk away knowing that "WE" did this together and "I" could not have done this alone.
|Cowboy and Indian pacers|
|Completely passed out|
|The sun helped a lot|
|Brian Fisher with the escort|
|Fighting like Jedi's|
|Buffalo Creek burnout with Brandon Stapanowich|
|Crossing over the South Platte. Amazed at the sight of my crew|
|The crew at South Platte|
|What's not to love about these guys?|
|Making our way|
|Coming up on Bear Creek|
|Start of Waterton Canyon|
|Taking up the road|
|The crew during the final mile|
|Rick and I the final mile|
|The Crew Chief|
|The final steps|
|A hug from my wife. Matt with his ever-present camera|
|Myles giving me a hug|
|Jaxon telling how proud he is of me|
|Look for a film by Matt Trappe this coming Spring.|
|Time to rest the feet|
Myles: 105.1 (485.8)
Time: 34h 25m (152h 34m trail time)
199 hours 40 minutes and 17 seconds total time
(8 days 7 hours, 40 minutes and 17 seconds)
Elevation: 15,184 (88,895)
Myles to go: ZERO
Total Avg. MPH: 2.43
Avg. moving MPH: 3.18
Total sleep: 14 hours
|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||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|