Friday, July 23, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

Ever since I moved to Boulder last year, I vowed to make the short trip northwest to Rocky Mountain National Park for an epic run or two.  I had visited RMNP well over a dozen years ago on a family camping vacation, and it was trips like those that laid the foundation for my present-day obsession with cruising as many miles of high country trail as available time and my two legs will allow.

Alas, last fall my two legs (my right knee, specifically) weren't allowing too many miles of any sort at all, so it wasn't until this past Wednesday that I finally made it up to RMNP to explore this iconic portion of Colorado's mountains.  Starting from the East Longs Peak Trailhead, Scott and I completed a fairly arduous route that would include three nearly 3000' climbs and 34+ miles of singletrack all above an altitude of 9000'.  (All pictures courtesy of Jenny Uehisa.  Likewise the wheels, patience, and irrepressible good humor on the day.)

(Our route: a scenic out and back to the Continental Divide in RMNP, starting at the base of Longs Peak.)


(12,000' Granite Pass, 12,324' Flattop Mt, and Granite Pass again: three big climbs.)


(Advising Scott on the emergency options for Longs Peak.)


(First strides of a long day in the mountains: East Longs Peak Trailhead at 8am.)


(Typical trail above treeline on the outbound leg of our run, headed towards Granite Pass on the horizon to the right.)


(Some stunning gneiss and the Diamond on the east face of Longs Peak, above Chasm Lake.)


(Trail signage on Granite Pass: Bear Lake = 7.3 miles away.)


(Our destination as seen from Granite Pass.  Clouds brewing.  Bear Lake is in the center of the photo at 9400', and the climb up 12,324' Flattop Mountain is on the ridge headed out the left side of the frame.)


(Scott, back at the trailhead, happy to get out alive.  A fairly lively little storm cell chased us all the way back from Flattop Mt to Granite Pass and our starting point at the trailhead.  Although we probably appear extremely minimally prepared for above-treeline weather, the fact that we are running puts us in a much more advantageous position--in my opinion--than hikers stuck above treeline with gigantic packs weighing them down and drastically increasing their exposure time to the elements.)


(Enjoying the pleasant exhaustion that five and a half hours of mountain running can bring.  Scott and I are likely debating the relative merits of employing road flats on 34 miles of largely technical and rocky trails.)

36 comments:

Kevin said...

I ran Flattop a few years ago while on vacation. What a beautiful part of the world.

Lauf Befreien said...

Anton, Scott has inspired me to go vegan as I continue to run in college. I haven't read anything about your diet or the foods that power you. Thanks!

Matt said...

Sweet. Thanks.

Mahesh Natarajan said...

Nicely done!! I do think that folks like Jenny are to be more explicitly thanked by we folks who read your blog cos the pics give a very vivid idea of what your run was like.

Also can you please let Scott know that he needs to take a leaf out of your blog (hmm .. book) and update his? :)

The other thing Tony, about reading you and Scott running together is that in my mind, its a coming-together of sorts .. of the old guards (in Scott) with the avantgarde (in you). Long distance running was not meant for guys in their 20's until you and kilian and the rest came along! :)

Its been awesome following your blog!

Anton said...

Mahesh--I agree, the behind-the-scenes folks like Jenny can get overlooked; thanks for pointing that out. However, I must disagree on your comment about age. PLENTY of younger folks were running ultras before Kilian and I came along.

Scott himself started racing ultras when he was only 20 years old and won his first Western States when he was 25. Hal has been racing and winning since 22 or 23 years of age, and on and on...these guys have competed at a very high level for a very long time.

Tony

Mike Alfred said...

Brothers? :)

Eric said...

how does the trail up to flattop compare to the trail to granite pass. I ran that same route a few days ago, but turned around at tree line on the bear lake side of granite pass. i was surprised how gentle the grades were, other than a few awkward step sections. is flattop similar?

also, isn't the trail on the north side of granite pass heaven-very few rocks, the eyes are free to feast.

Mahesh Natarajan said...

Tony - Thanks, I stand corrected on the age factor; Though I cant help feel that these days (or rather of late), ultrarunners are getting progressively younger and better. May be its just more of a romantic notion in my head than borne out by facts.

But definitely, old or not, i wouldnt want to trivialize ultrarunning by reducing it to a bunch of statistics about winning races. I have a strong suspicion that you , scott and most of the others would run just the same everyday whether or not there is a WS100 or a Leadville100 lurking in the far horizon. The races just make the journey a little more exciting! :)

Brad G. said...

Wow, looks like a great run. Looks like you guys had fun out there.

John said...

Thanks for taking us along. Eleven days and counting of no running because of an excruciating foot injury I need to fantasize; your blog is the Playboy of running.

Michael Shane Helton said...

A day with Jurek on the trails? Awesomeness.

BALOGZMAN said...

Wow..that's awesome. Can't wait for the first ever ultramarathon to be held in our place this coming December...

Jah bless Anton on your daily runs..

Long live to all the ultrarunners..

Barry Bliss said...

Nice photos.
Thanks.

mr everyday guy said...

Looks wonderful and thanks for sharing your adventures with others. It adds a bit of inspiration to those who run 30+ mile weeks, especially when I complete a nice "long run" of 14 miles. These runs allow me to think of what is truly possible.

mtnrunner2 said...

Nice report and pictures.

I love the Longs Peak trail. Great bang for the buck: nice forested approach, a great payoff at the top with the views of The Diamond. I can't resist going to Chasm Lake for the steep linear valley, waterfalls, the green lakes, and that high alpine meadow with the stream running through it. And of course sitting below the east face of Longs.

At Southern Sun I talked to one of the servers who had just been over Granite Pass the other day, and at the time I wasn't familiar with those other trails, or that there was a trail connection to the Bear Lake area. Cool!

As a runner I also like being able to high-tail it off the mountain when the weather comes.

Sarah said...

I want to create a theme song for you and Scott. You guys should have a tv show.

Joe Chambers said...

Legends.

Barry Bliss said...

Anton,
Does Scott also eat those gels you eat while on long runs?
I am wondering if you have ever experimented with alternatives like making coconut date balls and adding some almonds and/or spirulina.(Food processor style.)
I checked out the gels and was not impressed with the ingredients--being into simpler more natural food sources.

PS I know they may be a sponsor/supporter but I trust you may be willing to speak truthfully.

jeff said...

Awesome! I still have fond memories of a 25+ mile loop I ran in RMNP during a day off from backpacking a few years ago and just loved how runnable the trails were!

johnmichael said...

dude, i agree. running above tree-line definitely puts you at an advantage. not only does all that gear slow you down, it also makes you feel like your prepared for whatever is coming (which may or may not be the case regardless of what's in that huge pack).
been reading the blog for a while, but just started following it. great inspiration for my own running adventures! thanks!

Jeremy & Ashley said...

Long time follower of both you and Scott... I must say that I enjoy reading about two Ultra Superheroes doing training runs together! Are you guys both heading over to the Outdoor Retailer Show in a few weeks? Just moved to downtown SLC in January... let me know if you ever need a place to crash or someone to run with.

-Jeremy

PunkRockRunner said...

This is great.

I was feeling pretty good about running the San Francisco Marathon yesterday (with its 6,000 feet of ascent) and then I read this.... Thanks, thanks a lot...

Two of the best ultra running has to offer running together? If I could keep up, I'd love to listen in on those conversations.

All the best,

Ron

SanDiegoPJ said...

Killer run and amazing pictures man! I just got into Ultras this year and after some injury time off I'm starting back with hoping for some fall races. Love following your blog for the inspiration and seeing what's possible.

Was wondering how you fuel for runs like this with no pack or anything? Are there places to get water along the trail?

Anton said...

SDPJ--

With regards to fueling during the run I had six gels stashed in my shorts pockets and a bottle. I generally re-fill at alpine seeps and run-off, but for this particular run there was a water fountain at Bear Lake that was at the perfect location in the run for refilling the bottle.

vibram five fingers said...

The post is about reading you and Scott running together is that in my mind, its a coming-together of sorts.It is so attractive.

Scott Keeps Running said...

Man, those mountains are beautiful. It's runs like these (versus races) that make me love running so much. Racing is fun, but the exploring that running by yourself lets you do is what does it for me.

SanDiegoPJ said...

Thanks for the insight! I appreciate your minimalistic approach to things so I'm always trying to pick up tips and the trade.

Moncler Jackets said...

WOW..this is the true life.
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zbsports said...

That was an awesome run...running in that kind of mountain is very difficult but really an achievement...nice!!!

pk said...

A little shorter run (maybe 20 or so?) that's fun is trail ridge road up to the AVC. It's not single-track (but it isn't paved either), but it has a few advantages: 1) it's fun to run with a group of people, you can run 5 abreast and talk; 2) you can run it at night during a full moon without worrying about breaking your ankle; and 3) it's there and back, so you can run with friends of different abilities.

Anonymous said...

Anton,
During this 5.5 hour effort what did the two of you consume for calories, and how did you transport them? Could you share some of your thoughts regarding nutrition on the trail.

You're an inspiration, thanks!!

Jesse said...

Hey Anton, are you vegan like scott? What do you think about the vegan diet and your nutrition in general?

M said...

I am a runner too but I hiked that trail yesterday...I wouldn't trust myself not to crash and burn on those trails!

Awesome!

George said...

I never knew any of this existed until about a few months ago. I was led to your site from a close friend (who has completed a few ultras). I am very impressed and amazed at what people have accomplished with this sport….. I wish that I can accomplish one of these before I die. Thanks for the awesome pictures and story!

To your good health and continued success!

ro6er said...

I have those exact same brook T6 Racers, although I'm not sure I could do 34 miles in them. I did do a marathon in them and I was ok.

MYS said...

I'll coming to Boulder from Austin in 2 weeks for mountain training pre-Leadville. This route looks great. What trailhead did you use, and do you think the trail will be accessible in early May given recent snow?