Thursday, July 31, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Day 5 began at around 7 am. Sam looked very strong after several hours of sleep and the North face crew hit the trail to capture Sam's determination. The last word came from Kirsten who said day 5 was nothing more than a continuation of an never ending slog. The plan is to run about 50 + miles by the end of day 5 and for Sam to catch up on some much needed rest. By mid Day 5 he is past the half way point and has run more than 260 miles. Sam is still on track to set a very impressive record that will take some serious suffering to break.
I got back to Seattle yesterday afternoon after spending 3 days helping Sam’s wife, Kirsten, pace and crew Sam on the Co trail. The first day was flawless. Sam ran the first two legs by himself, Kirsten picked him up for the 3rd 13 mile leg and I paced Sam for the last 32 miles of what would be a grand total of 72 miles for the day. Coming from sea level to 12,000 feet was hard for me - it was a complex 32 miles to say the least. Sam pulled me through.
We arrived at camp one at 3:00 am and were asleep by 4. I woke up shortly thereafter to make some coffee but had gotten the wrong fuel. @%$*! Even more alarming, I found out that Sam was having heart pain when breathing and he had a 32 mile leg ahead of him before the next easily accessible place. Looking over the maps, Kirsten discovered that we could access the trail 6 miles into the 32 mile segment.
The Plan: Sam would take it easy the first 6 miles while Kirsten called his brother Doc Dan to get his advice on Sam’s symptoms. Kirsten and I also took this time to re-supply. Luckily, we found a gas station open in the middle of nowhere. They had hot water and we were able to fill up the French press inside the gas station and brew up the Caffe Vita dark roast – the locals were a bit confused.
We met Sam at mile 6 and he was feeling much better – knocking it out in about 1 hour 45 min. We later received confirmation from Dr. Dan that Sam’s body was getting used to strenuous activity at high altitude and that he would adjust over time (which he did). I was also feeling great to pace Sam over the next 28 miles to Breckenridge where we would meet Kirsten. Kirsten would then pull Sam through the next 13 miles to Copper Mt. This 13 mile leg was basically a 4,000 foot climb up and then straight back down. Meanwhile, I went to Breckenridge to procure the biggest double Bacon Avocado Cheese Burgers I could find, the right fuel to boil hot water, and a pint of Half Baked Ben and Jerry’s per Sam’s request. I then proceeded to the next meeting point at Copper mountain where Sam and I would start the next 28 mile leg at around 9 pm. (Hopefully).
However, at 8 pm I received a cell phone call from Kirsten saying that they had lost the trail but could see the lights of Copper Mountain and were going to bushwhack their way down. Hmmmm…One hour later I actually saw their headlamps appear high up in the darkness for just a couple of seconds. The brief glimpse of light gave me hope that they would be down soon.
However, the lights and hope disappeared as quickly as they came into sight. Needless to say, I was very concerned for their safety. To my frustration, the cell phone was turned off after the initial distress call, and I was required, as friend and crew, to assume the worst. I set a time of 2 hours before I would call 911 for search and rescue if I did not here back. In the meantime, I strapped on my running shoes and pounded up the trail screaming their names into the darkness. I returned to the vehicle a bit frantic.
At 2.5 hours, I picked up Sam’s black berry and dialed 9-1, when all of sudden I had a incoming call from Kirsten! They were down but blocked by the river. A huge surge of relief came over me. I knew exactly where they were from Kirsten’s description and ran to meet them to guide them back to the trail and the bridge over the river. They were both tired, but in amazing spirits. I was very impressed how well Kirsten handled such a precarious, stressful and arduous situation. I found out later, from a mountain biker, that this section was notorious throwing hikers off course.
It was now around midnight – way too late to continue on the 28 mile leg we had planned for the end of day 2. We set up camp and went to sleep with the plan for an early start. The next morning Sam and I began the 28 mile leg. We realized that last night’s snafu was actually for the best. This leg was tough, with lots of elevation gain, and at high altitude. Also, because it would have been Sam’s last leg of the day, he would have been too fatigued to run any of it. Accordingly, an all night 28 mile high mountain death march would have most likely taken us 13 to 15 hours. But now, with a good nights rest, we were able to knock it out in 7.5 hours, running all of the flats and down hills and speed hiking the 5,000 feet of total elevation gain. To top it off it off, we had breath taking views that we would have never seen in the darkness.
Kirsten met us at mile 19 and mile 28 – perfect timing for lunch and restocking provisions. After Sam and I finished the 28 mile leg, we continued straight into the next 13 mile leg that, according to the guidebook, was easy. We thought it would take us 3.5 hours. It was not easy (dam guide book) and 5 hours later we met Kirsten just outside Leadville. Kirsten then picked up Sam for yet another 13 mile leg. Meanwhile, after running for 40 straight miles, I drove to Leadville to find the biggest steak and stiffest bourbon I could find. I was able to talk with my Macky, her voice always giving me a much needed boost of energy. I also got Sam and Kirsten a high mountain pizza pie full of meat and veggies. Fully stocked reloaded and revived, I drove to the next rendezvous point – which happened to be the trail head to Mt. Massive, the highest of CO’s 14teeners. I would then pick up Sam for as long as we could go before we had to drive me back to Copper Mountain to meet the Mountain Express Bus that would take me back to the airport. I did not want to leave.
I made coffee, bathed in the creek, and got dressed for my final leg of the trip. Sam and Kirsten arrived in great spirits. It was 11:pm. Sam and I started running again around 11:40 and made it about 7 more miles where we met Kirsten around 2 am. Kirsten made Sam a bed in the back of the SUV and we started the drive back to Cooper Mountain to drop me off. Kirsten, being the trooper she is, forwent much needed sleep to keep me awake for the drive. We parked in the gas station/mountain express depot. I rolled out my sleeping bag on a park bench and went to sleep. The van arrived on time and I bid farewell to the crew. I was back at work at 1 pm that same day. I looked like Ed Norton straight out of Fight Club.
Sam’s attempt is not about running through the mountains for obscenely long hours, its about testing the human spirit and its capabilities and boundaries. Its also about illustrating what can be done when folks merge their strengths together to accomplish what most could not fathom. Sam has an incredibly strong will and stays positive despite pain and fatigue. Kirsten is tireless in both pacing and crewing. Sam and Kirsten make an incredible husband and wife team and it was an honor to be apart of it. I wish I could be there to see Sam and Kirsten crush the record. Keep it up guys. I know you can do it!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Well, I picked up my faithful crew at the airport this evening, and after a quick late dinner, the 3 of us are all settled in to the hotel room for one last night of sleep before the trek begins tomorrow morning bright and early. I know there's no way I could do anything like this without the incredible folks supporting me. My wife Kirsten will be with me for the whole trek, driving along and meeting me at various points and keeping close tabs on my nutrition/calorie intake/hydration, etc. My faithful training partner and great friend Brock is here also to round out this small but fantastic team! When this expedition was first proposed the plan was for Brock and I to tackle this trail together, but after an unfortunate injury early this year, we had to change the plan a bit. Fortunately Brock is feeling great now and ready to run with me for probably quite a bit for the first 3 days before heading back to Seattle. Then Kirsten and I will push on to Durango!
We'll post updates on the blog one way or another each day so that you can keep tabs on what's going on and how things are going. Thank you all so much in advance for all your prayers and positive thoughts and vibes being sent our way!
Now onward to Durango!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Leadville is North America's highest incorporated city at an elevation of 10,430 - the ideal place to be for a few days of acclimatization. Interestingly enough, Leadville, CO was also where my 51 marathons adventure began just 2 years ago so the town has a special significance to me, and it seems only fitting to start this next big adventure in the same place. Spending a few days at this high elevation seems really to be doing the trick and I'm not feeling nearly as winded as I would have expected.
I went out for a very short run/hike today of just a few miles. I first drove out to the CO Trail trailhead nearest to Leadville. I snapped some photos of the beautiful scenery, but decided against running on the trail, as I just feel like it would be bad juju and I want all my footsteps on the CT during my trek to be my first ones there. So after fighting off the intense mosquitoes and stinging flying things for a few minutes, I hopped back into the car and headed back to Leadville and up to the other trail system with which I'm familiar here- the Leadville Marathon course. Wow- talk about a flood of memories as I began my trek up the trail here for my short jaunt. My mind was awash with memories of the 50 marathons adventure as this was my very first of the 51 marathon courses- what a way to start! I remembered huffing and puffing up this very trail with an intense infection and lots of congestion added to my having just come from sea level on the MS coast to over 10,000 feet. What a journey that was, and I know the CO Trail journey at hand will be similarly special. After my short jaunt I felt fresh and ready to keep going on and on, but this week is the time to rest. I can hardly wait to get on the trail and get going!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
begins to materialize.
First, thanks so much for finding my new site! The first adventure that will be chronicled on the new site will be (as you probably already know) my journey on the Colorado Trail. I've dreamed of running this trail for quite some time, and can hardly believe I'm actually here in Colorado after much planning and anticipation. The plan is for me to begin running on Friday morning July 25, and just keep trekking along the approximately 485 miles in an attempt to break the current speed record of 8 days, 13 hours, and 28 minutes.
I arrived in CO this past Saturday and had a great relaxing stay for a few days with some great friends in the Boulder area. The altitude was a bit of a shock to the system on the first run we went on, but by about 30 minutes in I was feeling pretty comfortable. The goal of being here early is to acclimatize to the high altitudes I'll be running through on the CT, and I'm feeling pretty good at this point. My body is feeling rested and fresh and I can't believe I'm actually here in Colorado!