Sunday, June 6, 2010

Running Mt. Evans

Sunday, I took a little detour from the normal everyday road miles around my house and ventured to the high country to run a few miles up to the top of Mt. Evans, elevation: 14,240'.
Mt. Evans, one of Colorado's 52 peaks reaching 14,000' or more, boasts the "the highest paved road in America" and as such, we Coloradoans host an annual run, in late June, up the beast. Two years ago, I signed up, having never even driven up the thing, let alone run it. But I had registered for the infamous Pike's Peak Marathon (having at least driving up that monster, but never having run or climbed it) so, as is pretty customary for Pikes Peak prep, most people run Mt. Evans for a little vertical altitude training.
Mt. Evans' race is 14.4 miles with 4000' elevation gain. Pike's Peak is 13.2 miles in 8000' elevation gain. Yep, I needed some high altitude hill training to get ready for Pike's Peak so I registered for the Mt. Evans race. That was in 2008 and I trained up Mt. Evans two times to get ready for that race and, at the time, was one of the most physically demanding thing I'd ever done (later that summer, when I ran Pike's Peak, I learned Mt. Evans was nothing compared to PP), yet also one of the most exhilarating experiences I ever endured.

I am no mountain goat; I am the world's worst hill climber but I worked hard to conquer that beast....I did a lot of hill repeats and all sorts of glute work in the gym and I just ran up the thing slow but steady, crossing a few minutes shy of 3-hours. That ain't bad, folks. 4000' up, no oxygen....I was thrilled, it was truly one of the most rewarding finish lines I've ever crossed.

2008 race, perfect conditions (with my friend, Dennis)

I also did this race last year, but 2 days before the event, I had one of my 23,985 annual sinus infections but this infection decided to invite a friend: Mr. Ear Infection, and the two of them combined decided to cause me a great deal of vertigo and equilibrium problems. I learned, in 2009, that you never run up the side of a mountain in less than ideal fitness nor sporting an illness which can cause you to fall off the thing. This was the first race I've ever done where serious thoughts of DNF were entering my head. The start of last year's race saw crappy weather conditions; the entire mountain was socked in a major misty cloud and visibility was about 3', at best. The race director stated at the start of the race they would determine by mile 6 if the race would continue on past mile 9 to the summit or if they would close the course down at mile 9 (the first check point). I stood there feeling very guilty for hoping they'd close the course; I had two friends running the race who had not ever run it before and these guys were phenomenal runners and I knew they could do well....and they wanted to run it. Still, the weather sucked and I was sick and I really didn't want to be there. When I got to mile 6 and learned the race would continue on, it was not going to be closed at mile 9, I was in total disbelief; it was really nasty out ... and I was having some bad light-headedness from the ear thing. When I got to mile 9, I stood at the aid station and had a big tug-of-war with myself on whether to continue up the last 5ish miles, where the beast gets really tough because now you're really tired and now you're above tree-line so are totally exposed to the wind, and now there are about 10 switch-backs just endlessly meandering to the top. The thought of finishing this thing was haunting me. I told the gal at the aid station I didn't think I was going to keep going, I wasn't feeling well. She just stared at me. I just wanted to scream at her, "Um, you go run up it with an inner-ear imbalance and see how you feel..." but I didn't and instead, turned around and continued on. I'm not sure how I made it, but somehow I did. A full half hour slower than the previous year, but oh well, I finished. And once again, felt a great sense of pride for an incredible accomplishment (and again, I ran Pikes Peak last year...but that's another story for another time).

2009 Summit in a big cloud with a big ear infection (again, with my friend, Dennis)

When registration opened for this year's climb to the top of Mt. Evans, I thought long and hard about whether or not to go back up again. I've played this race game enough times to understand that you can never predict how things will unfold in preparation for a big race, but I knew after my lung fungus fiasco that I was not in the condition I wanted to be to run this thing, and beings I had other adventures on the horizon this summer/fall, I didn't want to waste a bunch of training time to get up Mt. Evans in optimal condition. So I didn't register for it this year. And honestly, I'm not sure it will ever be on my race calendar again...I'm just not sure.

Nevertheless, if I'm given the opportunity to go for a training run up the thing, and it fits into my schedule, I'm in...and that's exactly what I did on Sunday. A few guys from a group I run with now and then were going up to train for the race in a few weeks and I latched on. I think they were grateful, actually, because when you run UP this thing, it becomes a complex, logistical production of dropping one of two vehicles off at the top and then going back down and then run up to the dropped off car then driving back down. Enter me. I drove to the 9 mile marker and ran the 5.68 miles to the top, then ran back down to my car. The guys began their run at start line and ran to mile 9, where my car was, thus I saved them time by not having to go drop a car off. I know that's confusing, but trust me, I saved them a lot of time :).

So up I ran 1843', and back down I came. The timing worked out perfectly and the guys finished their 9 mile jaunt up while as I finished my 11.2 round trip....and as an added bonus, my twin boys, along with their friend, rocked climbed to the top of Evans while I ran.

It was an amazing day. No, I won't be running the race in two weeks, but I'm perfectly fine with that; I got to run this incredible mountain nevertheless, and I may try to run up doing it again before summer ends.

Enjoy my little journey up Mt. Evan's Sunday!

Echo Lake, the start line of the actual race

Me, at the start of my run at Summit Lake

My boys and their friend (friend in the middle), ready to climb

The start of my daunting climb (the road is the long gray section)



A furry friend in the road, see him in the hole??

There he is, Mr. Marmot

View of the road from about mile 13



At the top!!!

Looking to the West from the summit

Mt. Goats are very common on this mountain



Coming back down, I ran into this guy on the road

A close-up on this magnificient creature. This is the only place in Colorado where I have run into mountain goats, and I've been almost everywhere in this state!
Happy to see my friends, Craig and Pete, as I was going down and they were running up

48 comments:

Steel Springs said...

Amazing. I loved the stories and the pictures! The difference in weather in 2008 and 2009 looks huge! I train in very flat country and cannot even imagine running up a mountain. That is so impressive!

Slomohusky said...

Geez! My head is getting light headed and I am feeling sick just looking at some of these pix. Truth be told, I love Colorado. I have been there many times. Love it. Yet there are times just driving to places like Vail or Aspen when the elevation is just too much. Serious elevation sickness issues. I had it really bad in Gunnison once on a trip there.

Oxygen is good Jill. So, you and anyone else running to the top of Mts like this - Wow! Three hours? I would need that and 21 more with 12 hours of that in an Oxygen tent.

HappyTrails said...

Looks like another beautiful day in the mountains, made all the better by sharing it with your boys! Blue skies, too - a big bonus! I LOVE the great pics-the marmot poking his head out of the pothole is personality plus. The mountain goat is magnificent. I have heard, but not sure, that there are a few goats in the mts outside of Aspen. Pat yourself on the back for a hard run and a wonderful day!
K

Char said...

That was awesome! Love the pics and the story - you were so tough to finish the race last year.

Jennifer said...

Wow, and I thought I ran some hills this weekend! Ha, you have mountains... so Lucky! I need to visit CO soon and test out my sea-level legs and lungs! Looks like a fabulous run on a great day. This is what running is all about!

saundra said...

Great pics and sounds like an awesome run!

ajh said...

I loved the story and the pictures! You are seriously awesome!

C2Iowa said...

Great pics!!! Sounds awesome.

Julie said...

Hi Jill,
You are one tough chick! I can't even imagine how difficult that run must have been for you! I ran up in the mini mountains of Idaho and I thought that I had an elephant sitting on my chest the entire time:( You actually kicked some big time butt:) I love the pictures...absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing Jill, this was nice. I hope that you have a wonderful week!

Abby said...

Beautiful...

Johann said...

That is so fantastic! Thanks for sharing this! Lovely post and beautiful pics.

Marlene said...

What a beautiful place to run! I would love to try something like that but the elevation would kill me half way up! I'm a flat-lander. lol

Suzy said...

Wow, what an amazing run! Hard with the uphill and lack of O2, but still beautiful! Love the pictures.

shellyrm aka jogging stroller mama said...

Jill that was amazing. You live in such a beautiful place. I loved seeing the snow!

I'm glad you got out and ran to the top. I think not attempting it in 2 weeks is wise. It sounds beyond challenging into the no fun area! (without proper training) You'll get the next great challenge.

Kenley said...

Wow, that is something else Jill. For me, just walking up the Mountain seems a daunting task, let alone run it. Seems like one of those races that you just have to do once in your life time. Thanks for sharing your struggles and adventures. And....I absolutely loved the pictures, thanks for sharing. Whatever you decide in the future, at least you know that you have been there before and done it so you know what to expect and how to train for it.

Whitney said...

Wow, wow, WOW! What an AWESOME run! And absolutely LOVE those pictures of the mountain goats.

Katie A. said...

I LOVED this post!!!!!
I really, really want to come to Colorado now and run with you ;) I am so jealous of your pretty scenery! Glad you got your run in, too!
Miss you, hugs and love!

onelittletrigirl said...

Wow- what great pics!!! I will be out in CO in November and I really hope to see some of these sights myself!

DRog said...

Unreal...Amazing...you are killin me with these awesome CO pics and workout. Though when I lived in Denver 93' to 96' I never seemed to get out and do those things!
-D

Sherri said...

I love the Midwest..but I have to admit, I do miss the mountains! I loved your pictures and your stories..you seem to be quite a mountain goat to me! =)

Running and living said...

I want to climb, too! Stunning pics, and congrats to you for the climb this year and in the past!

Katie said...

Loved the pics, especially of the mountain goat! Mountain races are just nuts! I've run the mount washington road race in NH, and it was definitely the hardest race I've ever done. Also the most memorable...

brian said...

Love the pics! Nice Marmot! LOL (Made me think of the Big Lebowski)

Molly said...

I can't believe there was a real Mountain Goat!! I really enjoyed reading this, you rock!

oh, and Amazing Grass....it's wheat grass powder made of all sorts of good stuff, I put it in my smoothies...I think it gives a big boost to my immune system. They have a website, or you can get it from Amazon.com.

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

Thanks for the note on my blog. Loved the pics, CO how amazing. I always love seeing the beauty. Thanks for sharing. I especially love the "critters" - how amazing to get those pics.

Petraruns said...

That is amazing! Gorgeous scenery and HARD CLIMBING! Well done girl you are a very strong runner. Loved your race reports from your previous races - those sound like really tough challenges..

Anne said...

I'm not sure I could use the word run and mountain in the same sentence as you did. Nice work! And nice photos. Now I know what a marmot looks like.

Teamarcia said...

Wow! Love this post, although I'm feeling oxygen deprived just reading it!
Cannot wait to visit!

Dennis said...

Great Pictures, looks like a great day, sorry I missed all the fun. Glad to see I still made the blog with some pictures though, great memories and fun times although I hate the race especially when Craig C beats me.

Congrats to your boys on Summiting without any adults too.

And Congrats to you on another run up Evans.

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

fist I love that you asked what is amazing grass on sleeper baker, it means you haven't been corrupted by bloggers!! :)

this trip just looks amazing and makes me wish I was near mountains...though I really do like our ocean, until it's all tar black that is

elaine said...

I wanna come do it next year! I grew up at 7000 feet and we thinned trees upwards of 10,000, and I got lightheaded at that.

ajh said...

I added the snake image the right way so don't go back and look at my blog. I must be feeling a little masochistic today.

Run Jess Run said...

That made me want to burst into song...when I saw the pic of the marmot, the theme from Caddyshack went through my head...then when I saw the mountain goat, I thought of The Sound of Music.

Mark said...

Really good post. I have been up that Mtn once..in June..it sleeted at the top! For a Missouri Boy that was crazy!

lindsay said...

Nooo vertigo! Not allowed!! These races are hardcore! I have heard of pike's peak but not Evans. Pretty cool, but yeah deathly :)

Beautiful pics! So jealous of all that beautiful nature.

misszippy said...

How cool is that? I am jealous! Glad you enjoyed the journey. And I can see how tough it would have been last year to decide what to do! You are a stud for making it through. Thanks for sharing the great pics.

Adam said...

That is so awesome!! So, I might have missed it - but are you signed up for pikes peak this year or no? That race is on my bucket list of races. But, first I suppose I should do a trail run or two.

gary said...

I plan on coming back in my next life as a marmot. So please don't step on me while you're running. Thanks.

Meg said...

Marmots? Mountain goats? Wildlife, wow, that's a huge concept for me! I love the pictures of you on Mt. Evans and it looks like it was challenging but totally worth while. Awesome job. Sometimes those occasions are almost spiritual(or maybe that's the elevation hitting my brain)...anyway, great post, I loved your journey up the mountain. Hugs!

Anne said...

What a great post! I loved the pics and the comparisons. It's awesome that you got to enjoy yourself and not feel it needed to be on race day...you are definitely hardcore, that has got to be one crazy tough workout!! Thanks for sharing :)

Tom (aka CLT Runner) said...

Jill is a BA!! I can't even imagine running up those mountains. I visited Pikes Peak a loooong time ago, and had a difficult time just catching my breathe. Great pics!

Irene said...

That's a lot of wildlife! We get all excited IF we see a duck! j/k, but it's just about accurate. Beautiful, beautiful pictures. You're such a trooper. Congratulations!

T.C. said...

Amazing pics! Very cool that you get to see mountain goats!

Glenn Jones said...

Okay. I am now completely jealous. Our high country is still under 6 feet of snow! I LOVE the high country. I feel so mentally invigorated up above the treeline. What I would give to be able to live there!

Awesome awesome pictures. Doing some math though - you started over 10000 feet? I'm gasping for air at the thought! Living a mile up certainly has benefits!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Great photos! What a beautiful place to run! And so challenging, too!

LMC said...

Honestly, I can't wrap my ahead around either the Mt Evans race or the Pikes Peak marathon with those crazy elevations! I'm very impressed that you've done them once, let alone more than once. This particular run sounds joyous and the pictures are beautiful. You're lucky!! BTW, I Perpetuem was one of the freebies I got from Hammer and I used it for my tempo run on Thursday. It was just like you said, it has a great "pick me up". I'm ordering more. Thanks!

The Green Girl said...

That is amazing, congratulations on your huge accomplishment. I had to say that I feel your pain about the sinus infections. I remember a time when I could count on one hand how many days a month I didn't have a sinus infection.

Velma said...

This is awesome Jill! I love wild animal pictures.