Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Keepin' It Sub-G

I've been wanting to get up to the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park all summer and I finally had a day to do it. Forcing myself to wake up early is not too much fun but I happened to wake up at 3 am all by myself, thanks to the hot flashes, so it was the perfect opportunity.

I wanted to get up there before sunrise so I could top out above treeline while the light was good. And it was...

Last week I took 4 days off from running because my legs were so sore and dead. I rode the bike one day and that was it. It was a good call. I ran increasing distances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, took yesterday off, and today I wanted to get a short hill workout in without pushing the pace. It's been raining a lot with thunderstorms in the afternoons but I knew if I got up early enough I could get a good workout on the Longs Peak trails.

I rarely run trails anymore because of my painful, weak ankles. I can't even hike much because of the uneven surfaces, at least not on really technical trails. But I miss it and every year I try to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park to get back on the trails I used to love so much. I can usually tolerate the well-worn trails. But there's one more problem...

I am terrible at altitude. Back in the days when I used to train for the Leadville Trail 100, my running buddies used to call me G.B., short for "Gooney Bird" because every time I got above 13,000 feet I was so hypoxic I would be goofy.

This was the first time I've been above 8,000 feet this year except for one trip to Como at 10,000 feet. And I haven't been running trails. I wanted to do this for the vertical and the scenery, to get an easy run in, with a lot of hiking on the uphills. I started out at 5:15 am and it was just light enough that I didn't need my headlamp.

As I climbed up to treeline, it looked like they did a lot of work on the trails, after last year's flooding. There were a lot more waterbars and steps cut in the trail. Those are harder to run than smooth trail, but I was powerhiking up anyway.

My ankles did well, except for a few places on the downhills where the rocks were loose.

But the goofiness started early, once I got above treeline I was a little lightheaded and nauseated. I took some gels and those helped.

First I went toward Chasm Lake to see if the columbines were out. They are, but not as many as last year at this time. They might be late with the cool, wet spring we've had. There was a huge snow drift just before the bowl below Chasm Lake and I decided to turn around there, since I was goofy and alone, and there was a good 1500 foot slide down to Peacock Lake with a lot of big rocks. I headed back up to the main trail and continued up to Granite Pass.

By the time I got up to Granite Pass at 8 am I was freezing my butt off in the wind and my hands were numb. I didn't think to take my gloves out of my pack, because I was G.B. And by then I couldn't even take my pack off because my hands wouldn't work to unfasten the buckles.

I had considered going up to the Boulderfield but decided to not go any higher, 12,000 was plenty high for me, and it would take me forever in my lightheaded, spaced out state. I knew I needed to stay below the Gooney Bird threshold.

I went down toward Boulder Brook but stopped before treeline, when I found a spot that wasn't quite so windy, just below some rock knobs. I took some photos and sat down to drink some water, put clothes on, have another gel.

On the way back up I felt great. It took me less time to climb back up to Granite Pass than it took to come down. I was freezing though. Once I got over the pass and descended a few hundred feet, the sun was intense, and I started to hot flash, absolutely pouring sweat like it was 110 degrees, except it was no more than 60 degrees up there. I stopped again to take off most of my layers. I was running but it was an awkward stride, because I was lightheaded and didn't have the best balance on those rocks.

I finally started to feel sub-gooney again when I got back in the trees and it was much easier to run without rolling on the rocks and twisting my screaming ankles. Finally made it back to the trailhead by 10 am and drove back home. It was only 11 miles, 3400 feet each of gain and descent, but just what I needed. My quads didn't feel like jello, either, so maybe I'm finally getting used to the vertical.

It was a good change of scenery and refreshing for my mind, too. Later this week I'll be at the opposite extreme in Death Valley. But first, a few more runs. Tomorrrow night I'll be speaking at Runners' Roost in Fort Collins, showing my Badwater Double slideshow and talking about ultras.

All the sore spots have pretty much gone away. My hip feels fine now, and my left knee is almost normal. I'm hoping to get a good 35 miler in on Thursday before my road trip starts. I'll have the opportunity to rest up a bit during the Badwater trip since I won't have much time to run, and when I get home, I can hit it hard for the final 7 weeks or so before the taper. This summer is going to fly by. Like a Gooney Bird.

More pictures below:

Hidden columbines.

Peacock Lake and Columbine Falls.

Looking east toward Twin Sisters.
Looking northeast toward the Mummy range.

Rock Knobs below Granite Pass.

Approaching Granite Pass from the east.

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