la plata (also updates-hitting it hard, and sarah starts using brackets all the time)

With another Wednesday almost all the way off, I elected to get up at 3:30a to do La Plata Peak (14,336ft, 9.25mi) before the storms rolled in at 1 (something like 90% chance…and they started as we were pulling out). The TH was hard to find, you park off the main road then walk in like a mile, but it’s not marked well plus it’s unusual to walk in on a road without the TH in site. Naturally, I drove into the forest on a very bad service dirt service road and wasted about an hour, looking for the TH and only finding a bunch of obscure signs and random, unmarked roads. By the time I rolled back out to the main road where the TH parking is, I was super frustrated. So frustrated that I was about ready to head home (whoa nelly, Sarah, calm your shit down). I parked and got out, just in time to meet up with a couple that were walking around in confusion as well. We walked in on the road together and found the TH and I departed from them pretty quickly, ready to burn up the mountain fast and dirty (with all that extra vigor for getting so annoyed about nothing). [fun fact: the couple had only eaten chocolate frosted donuts for breakfast-I abstained from telling them how well *that* works out]

Mama nature, you stop it with your damn epic views.  I'm so tired of hiking with gorgeous backdrops all the time! #nofilter

Mama nature, you stop it with your damn epic views. I’m so tired of hiking with gorgeous backdrops all the time! #nofilter

Once you get out of the forest, the views get amazing and you hit the brutal switchbacks that are the worst part of the route. I passed two decent-sized groups that were split up over the switchbacks. Several of the poor dears were carrying gallon jugs in one hand and a couple of the girls were wearing purses [wondering what happens to them? I’ll see them later]. They loved/hated Luna, exasperatedly commenting about how epic she is and WHY DOESN’T THE ELEVATION EFFECT HER?! Business as usual.

The switchbacks were over before we knew it, and we continued through the meadow eating PB&J without stopping. The ascent up the ridge was grueling and somewhat terrible because the whole time it looks like you have so much more to go. The first couple I saw descending told me that it’s not as far as it looks. I disregarded this information, thinking “oh. really. it looks fucking far.” Then it turned out, maybe 5 minutes later we hit the saddle and you could see there was only one last little bit of talus hopping to the summit. [Here’s an aside for you: when I suddenly got interested in mountaineering, I was mildly annoyed at the constant use of talus and scree in trip reports and route directions. I gleaned a basic understanding, that both were referring to broken rock bits. I assumed there were solid definitions of each, but it turns out NOT. They both refer to broken rock bits, or a formation made of broken rock bits. Neither is specific to size. Scree comes from skrioa, Norse for landslide. Talus comes from the same word in French, meaning slope or embankment. Now, you can refer to talus and scree with pride and look very cool. You’re welcome.]

Luna sizes up some rocks.  See?  How hard was that?  Just call it like it is.

Luna sizes up some rocks. See? How hard was that? Just call it like it is.

While scree-hopping (see what I did there?), we came across a whole group of teenage girls that I was initially annoyed by (SO. LOUD.) but that quickly spent 15 minutes petting and fawning over Lu. So I cut them some slack. Evidently, Colorado summer camps take field trips to hike fourteeners. I was pretty impressed with these girls, as there were plenty of grownups still heading up the switchbacks and crying about it.

Me giving you a thumbs up on the summit.  Because I'm cool like that.

Me giving you a thumbs up on the summit. Because I’m cool like that.

We took some time to hang out on the summit, but with my later-than planned start and what I assumed were impending storms, we headed back down pretty quickly. [MORE BRACKETS. There was a family of 3 on the summit eating Subway sandwiches…it was like 10am, so they must have purchased them the night before? This bothered me and I spent more time than I should’ve thinking about it]

The gorgeous Ellingwood Ridge, named for the first person who climbed it in the 20'sish.

The gorgeous Ellingwood Ridge, named for the first person who climbed it in the 20’sish.

On the way down the main ascent, we stopped to tell our fellow travelers that it’s not as far as it looks and they gave me skeptical looks. I ran into both groups of newbies, one about to tackle the ridge with fear in their eyes, and the others lunching in the meadow with resignation. Both stopped me to talk, and I tried to give them an accurate assessment of what was coming next, but it turned out they were uninterested in my guesstimates of time to the summit, or in my warnings of the coming storms. They wanted to talk about Lu, quel surprise.

because Lu is the shit, obv

because Lu is the shit, obv

The hike down was uneventful, which was good, because the storms didn’t hit until I was all the way to the car and on 24, headed back to Denver. And hit they did, hopefully everyone that was up there made it up/down safely. When everything was said and done, I was home by 3p! Definitely a successful trip.

Getting ready for collegiates, I put in a whole lot of time running:
Friday 4mi Matty Winters
Sunday 7mi city
Monday 8mi Mesa Trail (this is the infamous bear run)
Tuesday 7mi Dinosaur Ridge
Wednesday 4mi Matty Winters

Things got filthy dirt on dinosaur ridge

Things got filthy dirt on dinosaur ridge

I’ve shaped somewhat of a plan for the Collegiates: one day is Oxford/Belford/Missouri and the other will be Huron/Harvard/Columbia. I’m getting pumped, TWO WHOLE DAYS in the woods?! Shit’s about to get all kinds of rad.

Stay tuned for delicious raw energy ball recipe and updates on the Collegiates trip coming up fast!

xo

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Elbert & Massive (the two tallest peaks in CO in 24 hours)

I hadn’t gotten to a fourteener since the epic Sawtooth day of awesomeness, so I got this guy on the books. Mt. Massive (14,428) and Mt. Elbert (14,433) (you guys know how much I love parentheses-elevation is speculated, there are a lot of numbers floating around but they’re all within a few feet).

Lu came with me to my Monday morning class, then we headed to Mark’s house to set out for Leadville, CO (but first-coffee and a quick grocery store trip). With iced coffee and frosted donuts, we were en route to the mountains.

On the way into the national forest to the TH, we came across my friend Chris from the Evans hike who was meeting us for the hike up. I had chosen the Southwest slopes route because we were going to be getting a late start-we hit the TH at 11am. So we were looking at 9ish miles and 3,950′ gain. The first couple miles were in the woods and meadow and very lovely, but the gain started pretty quickly and we were headed up.

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Mark was feeling hella strong (probably all of that Orange Theory working out, we speculated) and I was feeling hella-not-energized (here’s a moment that I’m going to take to tell you that I did not properly feed myself or hydrate on Monday…I did not take this trip seriously enough and had cookie dough and Coke for dinner the night before…then coffee and donuts for breakfast WHOOPS. Lesson=learned) and my thighs were BURNING and I wasn’t getting to my second wind very quickly. So Chris and I took it relatively easy while Mark trucked on.

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This was basically the story of the whole ascent, but it was beautiful and pleasant. When we reached the top, Mark was sitting on the rocks chilling and we commented about where the summit actually was (Massive has several false peaks) and we were informed that we were on it!

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The ascent went pretty quickly, we were back down around 6:30. Chris was dying to put his feet in the river, and Mark and I were dying to go into Leadville for some Coke. Sad, right? Nothing like a cold soda after working your thighs to death! There is KILLER camping in the forest between our TH and the Elbert TH that was further east on the way in. We picked a spectacular spot in great vicinity to the roaring river (and with the world’s most epic firepit, that I, of course, didn’t take a picture of because my phone was dead by now). We had Mark’s tent so it was put up in a jiffy, and I used my badass fire starting skillz to get a roaring fire going to cook our veggie dogs and bourbon baked beans over. Chips and coke too!?! Plus-Lu got the extra “dogs” and beans so we hit the tent with full happy bellies.

Not quite a 5am wake up, but 6am so not too shabby. We broke camp and headed to the Elbert TH to rock out one more mountain before we had to head back to Denver. The Elbert TH was already very crowded, the parking lot nearly full and a line for the highly overused bathrooms (should’ve pooped at the campsite, damn). There’s a bit of trail in the woods that’s a nice windy hike, then suddenly BAM! steep incline that never lets up. We passed several people in this section, constantly thinking- any second now, this steepness will let up. It never, ever did. It was a wild trail, the standard route, just up and up with no breaks. But, to gain 4700′ in 5 miles is a lot!

Still snow.

Still snow.

We were fully prepared with food and water, though, and I felt amazing on this hike. Just hauling ass and taking names. We continually encountered more and more people-good lord this trail was busy on a Tuesday! Then we got to the steepest of the steep parts! Oof! I had a mantra in my head on this one-can’t stop, won’t stop. I was rocking as hard as I could. We had seen 3 people trail running on this route (I know, right?? New goals) and somehow right in the middle of the steepest stretch with a little less than a mile left to go I suddenly thought I could run to the finish. That didn’t happen. But, I didn’t take any breaks and was pretty proud.

We spent approximately long enough to take this picture on the summit-it was crowded.

We spent approximately long enough to take this picture on the summit-it was crowded.

We really burned it on the way down. And we realized something-we didn’t start Massive until 11am on Monday-and headed down from the Elbert summit it was only a little after 10am! Two peaks in 24 hours! It felt good.

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The Elbert trip was the fastest fourteener I’ve done to date. I thought about it a lot on this trip and decided to go for my new goal: 28 fourteeners before I turn 28, which means I’ve got 18 to go before October 3rd! It’s a tall order, but I think it’s doable. We fueled down at the Boathouse in Frisco-fries, mountain dew, and pizza.

The mountains are waiting, so get on your way.

Peakbagging (2/4 is better than none, baseline is elevated)

On Monday I was aiming to summit the four fourteeners that are all in a ring in the Tenmile range. We got a late start, going up after my class at Root. Heading up to Kite Lake we had to leave the truck and hike the last two and a half miles in to the trailhead. Lots of snow everywhere still! Kite Lake was still so thoroughly frozen over and covered in snow that we couldn’t figure out where it was, so we headed East to go up Bross first. There’s a break in the snow/ice that reveals what looks like a full on rushing river from the snow melt underneath 5 feet of snow. We threw our packs across and jumped it. The elevation gain in the first mile or so is huge.

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It’s not technically legal to summit Bross right now, apparently due to politics or something. We speculated a lot on this (best guess: somehow part of the mountain is owned by some outrageously rich guy that rides around in a helicopter shaking his fist at all the nare-do-wells that are out hiking) but ultimately what we know is that there’s a sign that says “no legal access”. Did we summit Bross? We don’t know. What we do know is, it was peanut butter jelly time.

No snow up here!

No snow up here!

So now it’s epically windy and we’re crossing the ridge from Bross to Cameron. Still feeling great, I might add.

TAKE NO RISKS when it comes to sunburn.

TAKE NO RISKS when it comes to sunburn.

Lu was putting on at least 4x the miles we were, as usual. As we approached Cameron, we noticed a trail in the snow heading East to Lincoln. Most of the tracks we saw were skis, btw. Anyway, Lincoln looked gorgeous but it was still thoroughly covered in snow, which is fine, but the ridge out to it looked really treacherous at best so we decided to pass, heading up the final ascent to Cameron. We couldn’t find the registry on Cameron, we were even at the point where we thought perhaps we weren’t on Cameron at all, but I compared pictures and maps and it was definitely Cameron.

The air at 14,200 is sweeter.  But somebody get this girl some Doggles!

The air at 14,200 is sweeter. But somebody get this girl some Doggles!

So heading down from Cameron, and noticing how far down the saddle went and how far back up the Democrat summit was, even though we were still feeling good and the weather was great, we needed a little pep talk.
When I’m wavering on a mountain, there are two things I think of that comfort me and help me go on:

From Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go”:
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked
Some windows are lighted but mostly they’re darked
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin
Do you dare to stay out?
Do you dare to go in?
How much could you lose?
How much could you win?

From Robert Frost’s “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening”:
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

Heading down the saddle from Cameron and towards Democrat

Heading down the saddle from Cameron and towards Democrat

Democrat was a steep and snowy ascent. Steep steep. There were tracks to follow but it was steep enough and there was enough evidence on the north side of avalanches that I was a little nervous. We kept on trucking. Slowly slowly. I kept thinking (and probably saying out loud): this is your life right now. If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it. You are walking up this mountain, deal with it. Being present is really liberating. Nothing else existed, including my past, my worries. Not having to get my registration renewed or laundry or grocery shopping or disagreements with friends. Just one foot in front of the other.

Hey, Mt. Democrat.  You beautiful mountain.

Hey, Mt. Democrat. You beautiful mountain.

So we’re about 100 feet elevation wise (Mark’s got one of those crazy awesome watches that can tell you stuff like that. Evidently it will also provide us with our route via GPS once it’s uploaded to a computer! What!?) from the summit when I realized Lu was bleeding. There was a little tear in her pad but because it’s in her foot it was bleeding more than you would expect. On the side of the steep ass mountain I took out my first aid kit and bandaged it up, she was limping weird and I couldn’t take it so we called it and started our descent. Yeah, it was a bummer not to grab another peak when we were so close. But, we had a great day, and at the end of it I’ll never risk Lu.

Part way down the saddle, we spotted what we could only suspect were butt tracks from sliding down the steep snow. We looked at each other, and I immediately was like NO WAY that is DANGEROUS. We’d probably tear our MCL or break our necks or run into a patch of rocks…then I thought WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? I tell my classes all the time NO FEAR. So, with Luna on my lap, I slid down that gorgeous mf mountain. It. Was. Epic. We may not have summited Mt. Democrat, but that descent was the most memorable.

It’s funny how in the beginning of any wintery hike you all try to keep your feet dry, walking through snow gingerly or avoiding it. Coming down the rest of the descent and through the valley-ish around Kite Lake was not only deep, deep wet snow but underlying was SO MUCH water. We may have hiked through Kite Lake. We were only ever 40% sure where it actually was. When it came to jump over the river crossing again, the break in the ice had widened and I started to have those creeping what if’s (if one of us falls in there, the water’s moving too fast and the snow is too loose, we wouldn’t be able to get out). Mark jumped it and I threw my pack but I was freaking out. Then I thought, why? No fear. Just be here. Jump this crazy river! I did, and made it. The 2.5 back to the truck was dominated by talk of fueling down. Fries and Coke? Should we stop at a brewery in Breckenridge or Frisco? Ultimately, it was fries and Coke. 3 large fries? Yes.

What did I learn on this hike? My baseline is elevated. I felt strong the whole time. That felt amazing. It was also a reminder that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” (Helen Keller). Fear is never a good reason not to.

Update: NO SUNBURN on my skin or eyes.

Pike’s Peak Pt Deux (triumph of the human spirit)

On Monday I posted the story of the time we tried the Pike’s Peak winter ascent…and failed.

This is the story of when I attempted to summit Pike’s Peak…and made it.

ahh, the beautiful summit

ahh, the beautiful summit

I didn’t sub out my Monday morning class so I wasn’t headed south until 7:30, which got me to the trailhead just after 9:30 with all the morning traffic. Luna and I ate our pre-hike chia seed/oatmeal porridge, packed up, and headed out just before 10am. [Side note: I thought long and hard about the decision to bring Luna along on what I knew was probably going to be a treacherous hike. The end all is: she is a mountain dog, and if she were able to choose she would always pick adventuring by my side over staying home alone all day. Always.]

Luna, at tree line

Luna, at tree line

We started at the Devil’s Playground trailhead, from the Crag’s campground parking lot off highway 67 south of Divide. The round trip hike is 14 miles, assuming you’re able to stay on the trail and don’t take any detours (hahaha as if anyone has any idea where the actual trail is under all that snow) and gains 4,300 feet in elevation. Below tree line, it was mostly dry and a little icy, as the several feet of packed snow was finally melting then freezing due to the high temps. We made it to tree line pretty quickly. I saw my first and only fellow hiker just before, on his way down (he turned around at tree line); there were two other cars in the parking lot, I never did see anyone from the other car.

The view from tree line

The view from tree line

Still in high spirits at tree line, the weather was beautiful and we set out on a mildly marked trail following snowshoe prints. The wind picked up, but it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t picking up snow and throwing it around. Clear skies and sunshine. Pretty soon, the “trails” collided and I joined the same path as everyone that had come before me. Which is an interesting feeling, following the footprints of the ghosts who walked these mountains. And really, I was using their post holes, so I was exactly following their footprints! The wind picked up pretty hard and I finally put mine and Luna’s coats on for protection. Still wasn’t cold though.

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When we hit Devil’s Playground we completely lost the trail and had to break one ourselves for the first time. From this point on, we never actually found the trail, although we’d occasionally find footprints again but they seemed just as erratic and lost as we were. Somewhere in this section, after we crossed Devil’s Playground but before we reached the final rocky ascent to the summit, I got miserable and almost turned around. I don’t remember if it was wading through the snow in the valley or navigating the rocks in the snow and ice (which was treacherous at best). Once you cross the last peak and head down into that little shoulder part before you ascend up to the summit, you get a view of what you’re in for and it seems so epically far away that summiting suddenly seems impossible. We stopped to eat and snuggle and find some serious morale to keep going. This is where I began talking directly to the mountain, which I would continue for the rest of the day.

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Now, I know I was struggling with altitude sickness a little by this point because I had a slight headache. I don’t remember what all I said, but I definitely remember asking Pike’s Peak to protect us. I’m pretty sure I talked almost constantly during the final, grueling, soul crushing, scramble of an ascent. Climbing like a spider over the large rocks, desperately avoiding breaking a leg in the snow filled crevaces between them, and probably moaning desperately, I kept my eyes one foot in front of me. When I finally reached the 10 feet or so of snow after the rocks end and you approach the real, actual summit I looked up and couldn’t believe it. I crawled, literally on hands and knees, until I reached bare ground, laid my head down, and cried.

From the summit, right after I got my shit together, stopped crying, and stood up

From the summit, right after I got my shit together, stopped crying, and stood up

What I think is really tragic about the fact that Pike’s Peak Highway goes up to the summit, where you’ll find a parking lot and a gift shop, is that what do these people gain from the view? By the time you summit a mountain on foot, you are a part of it and it is a part of you. And the view from the top is sort of the infinity that you are together, the mountain and you. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But the view from the car seems approximately like looking at a photograph: many things that exist in nature are beautiful objectively, but just seeing the physical outline of them is not the same as the experience of being a part of them.

I knew that I was well behind schedule so once PP and I had our sweet moment together, I set out to look for the registry and the signs that you find at the summit of fourteeners. Now, since they had to plow the parking lot there were huge piles of snow everywhere in addition to the cars and it was difficult to see everything. I was in a hurry, so after some unfruitful looking around I went into the gift shop and asked the ladies behind the counter. They didn’t know what I was talking about. “The hiker registry-it’s usually in a capsule next to a big pile of rocks” “Wait, did you hike up here?” “Yes” “I don’t know what you’re talking about, do you know what she’s talking about?””Registry? No”. Sigh. I took another look around. There was a long line of people taking pictures at the Pike’s Peak Summit sign (14,110 feet!). Ultimately, I had to head back down before I lost the weather or the daylight, so I gave up and began my descent.

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So the descent is when things got really weird. Sometimes I would just sit down in the snow and think “if only I could just take a nap.” And it would take me five minutes of saying out loud “Sarah you need to get up. Get up. You need to get up. You need to keep going.” The thing about fourteeners is, you’re miles into the middle of nowhere, and at very high elevation. Once you’re out there, you have no choice but to come back (or to lay down in the snow and die), you can’t just give up. Getting back across and to treeline was a big struggle. But from there, it was only a couple more miles down and the altitude sickness started getting immediately better. I sang out loud the last two miles or so. It’s kind of funny realizing what songs you know all the words to (and what songs you think you know all the words to but clearly don’t). The trip took almost 9 hours all said and done. When I sat down in the car I just said “we made it.” No big deal. We fueled down at McDonald’s because that was the first fast food place we saw (Coke and fries, and you’d better believe Lu got a few fries, but I also had some fuel down peanut butter for her).

Snowblindness. Did you know that’s a thing? My PSA for you: WEAR SUNGLASSES ALWAYS. Snowblindness (also called Surfer’s Eyes) is when the clear layer over the colored part of your eye gets sunburned because of the UV reflections off of snow (or water). It is just as painful as it sounds, and I literally spent all of yesterday in bed because I couldn’t open my eyes.

Pike’s Peak (the time we tried and failed)

So, on the eve of my second Pike’s Peak ascent, I thought it appropriate to explain the awfulness that was the first time we tried to do a Pike’s Peak winter ascent.

First off, we checked the weather (the National Weather Service predicted 15-20mph winds and 30-50 degrees over 11,000ft) and conditions reports on 14ers.com (there were two within the last two weeks and they both enthusiastically said NO SHOWSHOES NECESSARY, THE TRAIL IS PACKED TO THE TOP). So, we casually packed our bags, did not bring snowshoes, and headed to CO Springs with my 18yr old sister and my dog in tow.

We were taking the Devil’s Playground trail up, anticipating 6 miles to the peak. The trail was packed hard until treeline. At treeline, we took a snack break in the sun and played on the rocks, it was lovely. If you’re familiar with Pike’s, you’ll know that you hit treeline relatively early in the hike then there’s a lot of horizontal hiking, some ups and downs as you head to the peak for the last ascent. As we set out to continue, it was immediately obvious that the trail was completely gone. We headed in the direction of the peak. At the time, the snow was only up to our ankles. We were still in high spirits.

pike's peak hike

The wind was picking up, and our feet were cold, but we were still fine. Then we came to a really epic boulder field. Which obviously was not a part of the trail. We decided to cross it because we thought it would get us back on track. It was icy and terrifying, but we all made it. Back in the direction of the peak. Now the snow’s started getting deeper. Much deeper. Soon it’s knee deep and in some places hip deep. At this point, I’ve started worrying about frost bite and have put my extra wool layers on my dog. We’ve been above treeline for hours, and Abby’s gps watch says we’ve gone almost 8 miles and we’re not even close to the peak yet. Did I mention the wind was hitting us so hard that the snow it was kicking up was shredding our faces and almost knocking us over? We see the road, and head for it. I’m thinking: dear god I hope the ranger station is open and if we can make it to the peak we’ll be okay. We finally get to the road and start hiking directly up it…and it takes us at least ten minutes to realize: this road is NOT CLEAR. Obviously, no one’s driven on it, and it’s not even passable. Because we’re hours over schedule, we’ve gone almost all the way through our food. Now is a good time to mention that I forgot to pack our sandwiches. But. I thought we’d be okay because we had packed TONS of food.

pike's yoga

Now we had to decide. Do we hike down the road and *hope* to hitch a ride back to our car (which would have been a very long ride, not to mention there were three adults and a dog that would need picked up). The trouble I saw was what if we can’t get anybody? We’d be significantly further away from the car. So, we attempted to head back. The wind had already blown out any chance of finding even our own tracks. The first section was obvious, but when we got through the valley and to the big rock gateway…none of us had the slightest clue which direction we came from. One of us would see something that we thought we recognized, then we’d get there, and there would just be miles of snow ahead of us. Just when we really believed we found the right way back, we came across an epically steep rock field. By now, we’re all exhausted. And it’s been 5+ hours above treeline. We were at the stumbling, somewhat delusional point. My poor sweet dog had snow frozen to her fur everywhere.

Obviously taken when we were still warm and happy and not worrying about Luna freezing to death

Obviously taken when we were still warm and happy and not worrying about Luna freezing to death

A few hours of stumbling, worrying about our impending death, using an emergency blanket for the first time, and exchanging disdainful looks later…we made it back to treeline and eventually found the trail again. Too exhausted and overcome with altitude sickness, we stumbled down the mountain in silence…not even talking (or even thinking!) about fueling down.

The point is, we made it out alive. This was the only time in my life I worried about frostbite, hypothermia, or death by exposure. It was a good lesson in preparedness. We should never have trusted the internet and headed up there in trail shoes and yak trax, we should have had better equipment with us just in case.

I’ve never before been so humbled by nature (and believe me, I’ve been humbled by nature many times). “You don’t have to dominate the mountain, it is much more powerful than we are. You have to try to understand it, to learn to love it, and run with it, letting it help you.” Killian Jornet

Tomorrow, Pike’s Peak, I try to understand you. I learn to love you. I run with you, and let you help me.

Vermont (Mt. Mansfield) and routine (how it goes out the door sometimes)

So, obviously, I was in Vermont for about 30 minutes before my dad said “well we could hike the tallest peak in Vermont” and I said “deal” and he said “I was kidding” and I said “nope, it’s already settled.”

Mt. Mansfield is the highest peak in Vermont, at 4,393 feet. Apparently it’s supposed to look like a face, and the chin is the summit. I never really saw it. The trail we took up was about 3 miles, with 3,000ft elevation gain. New England trails generally aren’t built with switchbacks, apparently. Just up, and up.

trail up mansfield

It was gorgeous; the first mile or so there was water everywhere from the snowmelt. Tons of technical, several decent size water crossings. Then there was snow. So much snow. I somehow didn’t take any pictures of the snow. All of the snow. Post holing. Soaked freezing feet. Icy rocks. On the way down we laughed about how careful we were to not get our feet wet (pre-snow). You’ve got to love steep climbs when you’re post holing so deep that your hips have to stop you and you can barely drag yourself out!

Once we hit treeline (which, in New England is apparently somewhere below 4,000ft!) it got windy but still not that cold. And let’s be honest…above treeline in the Rockies conditions are an entirely different ballgame. Mt. Mansfield was sweet 😉

mansfield summit

Overall, the technical was crazy fun (what wasn’t covered in snow). Once the snow melts and the trees pop for spring, that hike is going to be gorgeous. The views from the top are permanently epic.

What else did I do in Vermont? Drank lots of coffee and a decent amount of wine, attended a wedding, spent lots of time with the fam. Checked out Lake Champlain. And basically nothing else.

lake champlain

Now that I’m back it’s time to get to work.

Active goals:

Leadville Heavy Half 6/14
Bike to Mt. Evans, hike the summit before the end of June
Peak to Peak Highway and Estes bike tour by mid July
20-fourteeners (by the end of 2014)
Nolen’s Fourteeners by the end of the summer
Learn to Breakdance
Ashtanga Primary Series 5 days a week

Week 2: Distance Running (why I do it) and snowboarding (one last time)

I didn’t post yesterday because I was CRUSHING THE GREENLAND 8 MILE. I was very happy with 1:06 for 8.2 miles of trails; my pre-injury goal time was under an hour so to bust that out after losing four weeks of training in March and April was a good showing in my opinion.

greenland

8 miles made it my longest race. And let me tell you, a lot of shit comes up during 8 miles of trails (particularly when you’re trying to keep your pace uphill). Mainly, WHY AM I DOING THIS. Running sucks. I really want to: take a break, sit down, go to the bathroom, STOP RUNNING. So by mile 6, I could feel every muscle in my body and although I felt stronger then that at any point before, I definitely felt like I was just a body. Muscles and bones, cannonballing forward and forward with no end in sight. Coming up on mile 7, I realized why I run.

Because I am not my body. I am so much stronger than this bag of bones. I am heart and endurance and fire and intensity. I am never going to give up. I will crush all the hills, and I won’t stop until it’s over. I am not lazy. I do not quit. I choose to race 8 miles over going to brunch and day drinking. Over watching other people play sports on TV. In the last 3 miles, I felt so alive. I kicked it in, and the last mile was so painful…but I finished strong. Your mind gives up well before your body does. I’ve come up with lots of reasons over the years why I run. Now, finally, I know. You can’t actually see how strong you are until you stop believing the limits you’ve set for yourself, then shed and shatter them. It is the trial of miles. How strong are you…really?

Then, today, I got up crazy early and went snowboarding. Most of the resorts are already closed, it was Loveland’s last day and I so desperately wanted to get out one last time. It was so windy and icy at the top, the bottom was hot and slushy. The first 5 runs pre-lunch were amazing, despite the iffy conditions. I was unbelievably happy to get up there, and now my legs know the real definition of “burn out”! Epsom salt and lavender bath, coming right up.

taking a break...yeah, this is what breaks look like.  MORE BREAKS.

taking a break…yeah, this is what breaks look like. MORE BREAKS.

Updates:
Still not doing yoga first and last thing. Still haven’t gotten back on track with Ashtanga (wonder why!? TOMORROW, back on track).
I’d say I’m winning at nearly everything else though. So. I feel pretty good.
Next races: Leadville Heavy Half in June, if we don’t do a 10k in Vail the week before also

Potential news: maybe giving up on driving entirely and spending my summer bicycle touring!?! Maybe.

NOW: Epsom salt bath!!!