04 September 2014

The Colorado Fourteener Experiment

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” 
- Wendell Berry
With 7 days until I toe the line at Run Rabbit Run, I thought I'd give you a quick update on what's been going on since Hardrock. Since July, I have made going up 14ers the mainstay of my training. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "14ers", it's any mountain that is over 14,000 ft. Colorado has 54 of them and mountain climbers attempt to tag all of them over the course of several years. I have no such ambition, but with my nagging Achilles Tendonitis, I needed to adjust my training so that I was doing steeper climbs, which engage my hamstrings rather than my calves. My Achilles is less sore when I do these steep mountain climbs and along with a long, flat easy run at the end of the week, it's been the extent of my training for the past six weeks or so. 

I have no idea how this drastic alteration in my training will affect my results at RRR. My biggest concern has been keeping my tendonitus from getting worse as I keep training as minimally as possible. On my rest days (4 total), I've been icing, doing eccentric heel drops and having my chiro huz adjust my hips, knees and ankles. I looked into dry needling, but the cost was prohibitive for us. My hope is that I can preserve my ability to descend, as that is my key to beating cutoffs. If I run low-grade climbs for even 45 minutes, I'm in tremendous pain on the descent due to my calves being primarily activated. Keeping this in mind, I have alternated between speed walking and running on the low-grade approaches to the 14ers and that has helped. 

So, it remains to be seen if my Achilles can handle the 30+ hours of walking, running and hiking that I plan to do in Steamboat Springs. I'm going to give it my all and do my best to get it done within the cutoffs. Then, I'm going to rest as long as needed, which means dropping out of the Denver Marathon in October. The speedwork needed will only inflame my Achilles. I'm actually looking forward to a period of rest as my training takes a lot from me and my family. My dear huz has been incredibly supportive as he's taking a greater role in childcare due to my early mornings and long days in the mountains. My kids have been interested in doing some hiking and scrambling in our local parks and I'm excited to do more outdoor activities with them.

As of July, I had tagged just four 14ers (Pikes, Princeton, Yale & Handies). Since then, I've summitted 12 more. Here they are in order of peak-bagging:
Looking SW from the summit of Shavano (#5)
Looking up at Columbia (#6)
These prickly plants freak me out going up these mountains
Foggy summit of Belford (#7) (Photo: Meghan)
The all-white, no-see-anything, background on Belford for me & Meghan
View from top of Quandry (#8)
Sunlight spilling over the Sawtooth on the ascent to Bierstadt (#9)
The butt glissade down Bierstadt to the connecting ridge to the Sawtooth. Note the rock I narrowly missed bashing in to. Oy.  
View of Bierstadt from the Sawtooth ridge
View of Bierstadt and the Sawtooth from Evans' west ridge
The hikers that joined me going down Bierstadt to Evans (#10)
View of Antero from Tabeguache (#11)
View of Huron from the saddle of Missouri
Bagged Missouri in a sleet storm (#12)
View of Yale and Bear Lake from Harvard (#13)
View ofTorreys from Grays (#14 - #15)
View of Stevens Gulch from Torreys
View of Harvard from Oxford (#16)
I was also able to crew a few runners who were going after the Nolan's 14 -- traversing fourteen 14-ers in the Sawatch Range in less than 60 hours. I wrote about pacing my friend Julian in his attempt last year here; this year, I helped run an aid station a little more than half-way through the route. This year, there have been four runners that have completed it out of 15 attempts, though one was over the 60 hour mark. Bear in mind that Nolan's 14 is regarded as being tougher than the Barkley Marathons by those who have finished both. Let that sink in...
I made Deb Pero's Hardrock Potato-Bacon soup for the runners
Blake Wood (2001 finisher) chatting with
Brandon & Gavin, two of this year's finishers
Ginna, Anna and Tina helping resupply packs
Jason and his pacer Tom. He completed 9 peaks on this attempt 
The kids are now in school, one in Pre-K and the other in 2nd grade. After a busy summer of playdates and water parks, I'm looking more at getting out with them on weekly outings in the woods. After an opportunity to do a little rock climbing, my boy now wants to do more scrambling. Baby girl loves to hike and play on the rocks for hours too. So as I taper for RRR and enter my off-season, I don't mind doing less running if I can instill a love of the outdoors in my kids. 
Playing on the rocks at a local park, My boy and I went on to
scramble across a ridge for the next couple of hours. Love!
Brandon posted this video of his Nolan's 14 adventure with Gavin. Enjoy!
Happy Trails,


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