It was a gorgeous day, through and through. The day was mostly sunny; the temps in the low 40's; there was no wind; and most importantly, I felt good!
Dennis picked me up at the wee-hours of 5:30. Welcome to summer mountain running: very early morning departures to beat the heat and because it takes awhile to transport us to any mountain destination. That's okay, I actually like it, but last night I got like3-hours of sleep and I was really tired. Tea helps....so had a lot before the run (and caught up to me by mile 6 when I had to pee like a racehorse. I had to find a rock in the snow; I was well above tree-line :/). We got there early, par for the course when Dennis drives. Met a girl, Diann, in the parking lot who asked us if she could tag along; she was running the Mt. Evans race in a few weeks and had never done it so doing some training. Soon, the rest of the prostate group running showed up. Because some of us are slower than others (that would be me), the faster 3 (Pete, Jeff and Craig) took one car up to Summit Lake and dropped it off while the rest of us (Andre, Dennis, me and our new friend, Diann) took off for the 9 miles 2300 elevation gain up.
I was breathing hard within seconds. Dennis and Andre took off, Diann hung by my side. I told her we all did our own thing and encouraged her to go her own pace. It was quickly evident this was tougher than she thought and by mile 1, she fell behind me. The first 3 miles, I think, are the toughest on the lower 9 miles of this course (the last 5 are a whole different can of worms...those last 5 can take almost as long as the first 9; the are so steep! Dennis' Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/6311614 ). I know last year I didn't walk at all until just after mile 4, aside from a quick jaunt to the side at mile 3 ,where there is a small visitor center, to take a couple pictures - but this year I was walking a tiny bit right before mile 3. Just after I crossed mile 3, I see the faster guys coming back down with the other car. I was hoping to get to mile 4 before I saw them so I was convinced that at least Craig and Pete would be passing me before I reached the top. And I was fine with that.
Miles 4-6 are on the back side of the mountain and I don't particularly like this portion. I don't know why, other than it's less scenic and also steep. I have to do a lot of walking here. At a couple points, I got slightly discouraged because I couldn't go more than 200 yards between walks. But I made them brief, just enough to get a little air, and then got moving. I think the altitude was bothering me a bit here, too. Just before mile 6, there is turn-off outlook point and the view here is just intoxicating! Mile 6, I had the guys drop off more water for me so when I saw the marker, I wasn't really out of the water I was carrying and I thought I could make it the remaining 3 without changing bottles. So I ran past the extra water but I hadn't gone far when I realized that I was kinda low on the h20 reserves and I had to pee badly. There was a rock near the mile sign and I just had to hope that no one was coming. It was either that or run up 3 or down 3 to the nearest port-a-potty. Did my business and refilled water and off I went.
Mile 6 I seemed to get a second-wind and I just put my head down and pushed. Around 6.5, you get the first of two reprieves on this road and you get a nice quarter mile-ish flat section. Your quads almost don't know what to do because they haven't been doing much, unlike my calves which were screaming! It felt great here and the little feeling of dread from 4-6 is erased and I felt alive again! Mile 7 is a little steep and I had to walk some. There's this bend in the mountain here and you can see a good mile in front of you. I could see Andre and Dennis, barely. You know those documentaries shown on Mt. Everest where the guy at the camp has a telescope on the climbers and the climbers look like little ants against this massive mountain? Yea, that's what Andre and Dennis looked like. But it didn't take long before I was in their spot as I hit mile 8. I looked back to where I was when I viewed the ants and I didn't see a sole behind me. I was shocked. I couldn't believe that I was going to be able to finish without the faster guys passing me. Just about mile 8.5, the road hits the second of the reprieves an actually goes DOWNHILL for about a quarter mile. It actually HURT my left knee and my quads didn't particularly enjoy it either, I think they thought they had the day off. This downhill section of the road is really in poor shape; lots of holes and waves and rocks. But it also takes you directly into the parking lot of Summit Lake (still lots of snow up here. I need to get up there in late summer so see what the now snow-covered lake looks like thawed) and the car. 1:53. That's either 2 minutes or 7 minutes better than last year. I'm having a brain cramp and know I was 5 minutes from 2-hours finishing but I don't remember which side of 2-hours it was and I can't find my journal that has it written down. Either way, that's great because I know I walked a little more from last year and yet my time is faster (one way or the other). Dennis and Andre were at the car eating a bagel. Dennis said he hadn't been there but 10 minutes so that felt good :).
Lots of cars up at Summit Lake; lots of skiers up for a last run. Not sure if they take their skis up to the summit of the mountain or if they hike it up somehow. Took some pictures and about 20 minutes (20 minutes!!! I couldn't believe they weren't right on my heels as I came running in!) Pete showed up followed by Craig about a minute later and Jeff about 20 minutes later. Jeff's had a bad foot problem lately and has it in a sort of brace so this performance from him was great. We sat at the top for a bit until the now-behind-the-clouds-sun was causing us to be cold and we headed back down to Echo Lake.
The two groups departed at Echo Lake and said we'd see them in two weeks for the climb from Summit Lake to the top (the hardest part). I was so cold, donning 4 layers of clothing wasn't helping, so I cranked Dennis' heat on full-blast all the way to Idaho Springs. I think Dennis was about to melt. We went into town and had a quick bite to eat and headed home to Denver. It was 78 degrees when I crawled out of the car, still wearing 4 layers of shirts (one of them my fleece North Face jacket); if any of the neighbors saw me, I'm sure they questioned my sanity. Well...I'm sure most question it when I wear normal weather appropriate clothing :).
It was a great run and as much as I feel I have lost a lot of glute muscle strength over this time last year, I had a great day. A smile a mile wide!
I don't think I'll be overly sore tomorrow, at least I hope not and so far not too stiff, though I have been doing a lot of sitting as all I've basically done all day is sit here and type; I have a lot of writing due by tomorrow evening and I wanted to get the bulk of it done today so that tomorrow, I can actually try to clean my pity house!! I hope my legs are good enough for a medium run tomorrow!
9 miles run