Monday, August 2, 2010

Alpine Binge

Last week I was presented with the opportunity to get out and spend some significant time in the high mountains.  This is my favorite type of running to do, hands down.  The powers of precipitation only allow running travel above treeline for a few short months out of the year, so I always make a concerted effort to cram in as many miles as possible up there while I can.

The highlight of all this was a 50ish mile long run on Saturday (that we had intended to be 40ish miles).  Scott and I planned a "Super-Loop" of sorts up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just west of Boulder.  Neither of us had much, if any, experience with these trails, so we were both eager to see as much as we could in a single day.  With that in mind, I devised the following admittedly ambitious route:

(Starting and finishing at Long Lake in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.)

The start would be at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area at ~10,400'.  From there we would head up and over 12,550' Pawnee Pass down to Monarch Lake at 8400'.  Next would be a hump up to the Strawberry Bench and the High Lonesome Trail/CDT, which would take us to Junco Lake.  From there we would continue climbing up to Caribou and Arapahoe Passes back at 12,000', drop briefly to 11,200' and then climb again to the day's high point of 12,800' at the Arapahoe Glacier Overlook.  An enormously long descent would deposit us down at the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station before we made our final 2000' climb of the day up and over 11,500' Niwot Ridge to drop back down to our starting point near Long Lake.  On the map it looked bold, but doable.  Of course, none of this was even remotely appropriate as a "taper" before this past weekend's White River 50 mile USATF National Trail Championships, which we both ended up running.

(A fairly intimidating profile.)

Scott was gracious enough to carry a camera all day, and it was completely worth it.  The breathtaking scenery and fantastic singletrack were the defining characteristics of this day's run.  Also, the stark difference between what a plan looks like on a map and the nature of the actual felt experience. 

There were at least two moments worth noting during the course of our eight hours and ten minutes of running.  After about four and a half hours of running time I topped out on our third 2000' climb of the day at Caribou Pass.  As I sat on the edge of the thin piece of singletrack carved directly into the rock mountainside, sucking on a gel and gazing out into the spectacular basin that spread out before me, I finally "got it".  This is why Boulder is a special place.  For the past year I've had a hard time accepting why Boulder garners so much more praise and hype as an outdoor mecca when someplace like, say, Colorado Springs had the nearly incomparable charms of Pikes Peak going for it.  Well, these mountains had to be it.  The Indian Peaks are as rugged, steep, remote, and scenic as anything I've seen in the San Juans or Tetons, two of my upper-echelon contiguous 48 states mountain standards.  Eventually Scott joined me and we trotted over to Dorothy Lake at 12,000' for a quick alpine dip before continuing with our run.

The second moment was more of an existential, despair-inducing episode.  Scott and I had just climbed to ~12,800' to a perch on the ridge overlooking Arapahoe Glacier when I pointed out to him the Niwot Ridge trail snaking over an alpine meadow waaaay over there.  We'd been running for over five hours at this point and I was trying to convince him--and myself--that we were only ~12 miles and two hours away from the crest of that final climb.  Of course, we were way off on the mileage and it would actually be another full three hours of running before the day's work was complete.  But that's a big reason why we were out there: to see a lot of country and in the process callous our minds and bodies to the demands of running all day.

The rest of the story is better told in pictures:

(Looking down the magnificent drop on the west side of Pawnee Pass.  Monarch Lake can be seen way off in the distance.  The only other place I've seen trail constructed on such precipitous terrain is in the Grand Canyon.)

(Scott, utterly dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape on the Pawnee Pass drop.)

(Who would've thought this was back there?)

(The High Lonesome Trail: where it seems only elk dare roam.)

(Wow. Sitting on Caribou Pass with Arapahoe Pass and South Arapahoe Peak in the background.)

(Scott cruising over to Arapahoe Pass.)

(A late-in-the-day desperate descent off of Niwot Ridge after not being able to find the trail back down to Long Lake.)

(We came straight down that.)

(Finally, back at the Roost, killing mosquitoes.)

(Scott expressing his love for Forest Service mileages after a longer-than-expected day.)


Chris said...

Thanks for another great post, I love reading these! This is a bit silly, but when I see these pictures of you and Scott doing these epic runs (I yearn for the day that I can consider doing something like this), it appears you are carrying almost nothing, not even a shirt! You mentioned you ate a gel along the way, but I'm just wondering, if you're out there 8 hours, what are you doing for water, food, etc.? In all the pictures, neither you nor Scott seem to even have a water bottle with you. Or am I just missing that? I know you guys are truly super-human runners, but I can't imagine doing an 8 hour run on one or two gels!

Also, congrats on the White River 50!

PunkRockRunner said...

I think you said it best....


Thanks for the post.


Unknown said...

You truly are one of the more "fortunate" human beings on the planet, taking advantage of an opportunity that most of us only dream of doing. Thanks again for sharing what is out there. Congrats again on WR50 and good luck at Leadville.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great pictures. They show deeply the goal of trail running.


Anonymous said...

yes, what are you doing for nutrition during your run???

mtnrunner2 said...

That's a heck of a loop!

I ran Pawnee last year but it was late spring and I turned back short of the pass due to snow. On the plus side, above Lake Isabelle there were huge rolling "dunes" of snow you could run up and down on because the surface was settled and compact. It was surreal. I think it was the most fun I've ever had on a trail run.

laurent delnard said...

does this trail is agreemented by water source?
but so,in this sort of environment,it isn't always the case...and ,by human faults the most of the time,directly or indirectly,sometimes water source aren't do you manage your hydratation in this case? secret art? dry and dangerous running?
whatever what a pleasure to follow you among the most beautifull view of america...thanks from a far and small island in indian ocean

Deanna Stoppler said...

Nice! I miss the big mountains living here in VT, but I still love to get out and enjoy these eastern hills. It's so fun to be above treeline with no one around. Love the photos too!

mtnrunner2 said...

P.S. - The Indian Peaks area is sorely underestimated; I'm constantly impressed by its rugged terrain and beauty. Nice aspen stands in the fall, too.

Scott McMurtrey said...

"callous our minds" -- I like that.

Sarah said...

Sounds like an awesome run. I'm heading to Boulder for the first time later this month. Would you recommend this (probably a shorten version) run for a flatlander wanting to experience the essence of the Boulder area?

David Hill said...

I gather from the WS report that you are about 150 lbs, but how tall are you? Just curious how my BMI compares to someone who runs your type of mileage. Thanks, and the blog rocks!

Anonymous said...

Another reader curious about hydration and nutrition when you appear to have nothing with you.

laurent delnard said...

did you carryed 50cl or 75 cl in your hand's bottle?
when you're get losted in the last downhill...did you thinked about this quantity?
is it a special low-hydratation training or is it simply your skill to lose very few water when you are running?
i know you're very independant about the best way of training....since your college training, perhaps since your've got certainly iconoclast things to learn us about this the artist'runner you are!
thanks for your blog!

mr everyday guy said...

Stellar! Seriously.

Tyler Lamprecht said...

Nice meeting you this week in SLC (group run at SL Running Co). When you said you had a "solid result in your last race", I didn't realize solid = course record. Nice effort.

One thing I wanted to ask you but spaced was about your diet (I've noticed many others asking essentially the same thing). I was wondering if you'd be willing to share with us your daily diet routine when you post your weekly recaps. I think what I'd like to see (from a learning perspective) is what your daily food routine looks like. Perhaps you try it for a month just so the rest of us can get a feel for how you manage the diet given the number of miles you log on a weekly basis.

Thanks again for the inspiration and for keeping us updated via your blog. It's a great read.

Best of luck at Leadville.

vis said...

I'm curious about Tyler's question as well.

Anton said...

Some quick responses:

On long runs in the mountains like this one, I carry one bottle and 8-10 gels in my shorts pockets. I ate all 10 on this run. I refill my bottle at springs/streams/snow. I tuck a 3oz wind-shirt/jacket in my waistband in case the weather turns nasty above treeline. Scott was wearing a pack vest, but only because he doesn't like to play it quite as close to the bone and carries a little extra food (some bars) and maybe one more layer. Of course there are short periods of time during some long mountain runs where I've used this set-up and been uncomfortable (a little cold, a little wet), but hey, it's the mountains, what do you expect?

As for day-to-day nutrition, I'm definitely not going to keep/publish a food log because it's tedious and highly uninteresting. This summer I've been eating basically two meals a day: a brunch-ish one at ~10-11am after my morning run. This is almost always apples and nutella tortillas. Then after my second run I'll have dinner, which is generally pasta and veggies; rice, beans, and veggies; frozen pizza; etc., etc. It varies and I hardly think there are any secrets there. In general, I think it's best to eat simple, fresh, local foods but I obviously stray from this sometimes out of convenience and laziness.


Tyler Lamprecht said...

Tony - your answer (re daily eating routine) will work for me. Was curious about general approach - how many calories you consume and where calories come from. Thanks for the input.

Unknown said...

Just some gorgeous scenery. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of that neck of the woods

laurent delnard said...

thanks to you mister krupicka...and let me told you i like your point of view:"hey,it's the mountains,what do you expect"

good luck for leadville and all that will be following after!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing these experiences. Your approach to running is so refreshing and it pushes the boundaries for all the runners out there. It has definitely deepend my love for the trails.
Best wishes and continued success..

Anonymous said...

do you or Scott wear a GPS watch or anything to track your actual route/mileage or just use mapmyrun or something to chart it out when you finish?

also someone above asked how tall you were (and assumed you weighed 150)... just curious myself.

final Q... i've read Geoff Roes is training in CO (or will be soon)... are/will you and Scott be running with him. If so please blog about it since it seems neither Scott or Geoff are very prompt with blog updates! :)

tim said...

Hey Anton! You may already be well aware of these bands, but i wanted to share them anyway.. and i happen to be helplessly addicted to them right now. First bonobo... specifically the albums days to come and black sands. And the bowerbirds album upper air.. these artists, these albums can definitely take you to another place! Take care. And best of luck at Leadville!


建邱勳 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brackley said...

Great post. Quick question for you: I have tried running Green to Bear to Walker Ranch and I can't figure out how you cut from Bear trail to Walker. Is it through the private road? Any issues there?

Thanks for your help -- a fellow Boulder guy.

B. Bliss said...

Tony, you briefly mentioned exposure.
Any problems with sunburn etc from running with no hat and shirt on these long runs?
I know I got a blister on my nose from a 12 mile run about a month ago so am using a pretty much natural sunblock for my nose.