Sunday, October 20, 2019

Ring of Never Summers.

As I planned to do two difficult 100 mile races this year, both fairly close to each other (for me), I felt recovery from Ouray was important.  Two days after the race, I was back out there. 
I decided to do my early recovery by bike, doing two shorter and lower intensity efforts back to back on the last days of July.  My thoughts were that mountain biking is definitely lower impact than running or maybe even hiking, but also very good cardio.  And getting that blood moving would help clear out my legs.
Then a short bump up to some longer days before tapering for the Plain 100.  It was going swimmingly, until...
This was one of the two longer days I did in August.  Funny that while I wanted to do a traverse of the Ni-chebe-chii this year, it never occurred to me to do a ring around the range.  Until I was sitting there mapping that is!
From previous adventures, I knew there was at least some sort of trail(s) on the west side of the range.  I took a close look at satellite imagery to make sure there was indeed something there in those places I wasn't as sure of, and I could see there was definitely something there.  I knew the back half of the planned route would be good.  It follows the course of the Never Summer 100k, and then kicks in RMNP, where even the least traveled trails are usually still well maintained.
This planned route checked nearly all the boxes I had: new to me trails and intersections for route finding, approximately 15% on dirt road (matching a similar percentage at Plain), similar gain per mile, and like all of my days, self reliance, in that I'd have to carry everything needed for the day from the start, and get water from ambient sources.
I had a great weather day coming up, and enlisted an adventure buddy for the journey.  Though she was looking for something more runable, it didn't take much to convince her to join me for this big day.
We met at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center dark and early, leaving my car there as she offered to take the drive to the Colorado River TH and back.  Like myself, Erin drives without much regard for the speed limit, particularly at night, so it wasn't too much longer to get over Trail Ridge Road.
We started as planned just after 6 am.  I was hoping to average 15 minute miles, or thereabouts.  In hindsight, pretty ambitious for a day like this, where I wasn't sure there'd even be a trail in places, and if there was, what it would look like.
Off we went, up the Red Mountain Trail, home of the world's largest switchback!  Note that none of the maps I've ever seen show this trail accurately, including the one they give you when you enter the park.
I mapped it both ways, and decided to basically go to the end of the switchback, and head off directly uphill from there.  This skipped about four easy miles of trail and road in trade for a shorter and quicker bushwhack uphill.  
Once there, we turned left and followed Grand Ditch Road. 
Which provided a great morning view of Grand Lake.  You can see the ditch road cut into the hillside on the right.
I had every intention of running this, but cramps really slowed me down, and we fast hiked.  It's a few miles of unengaging terrain.  Roads are my least favorite thing to run, which is why it's good to include them.
It felt like it took forever, but we only spent an hour or so on the road before we got back on some trail.  We took the small bridge across the ditch to start up the Bowen Pass trail.  It was pretty good at first, well put in and seemingly well traveled, but that changed shortly after, when we took a right to continue on to the pass instead of going on to the obviously much more popular Parika Lake.
I remarked that it reminded me of a fairy tale, where the character comes to a fork in the road and the decision is to take either the nice, well lit road with baby bunnies playing next to it, or the dark, foreboding road, over grown with trees and a skull on the ground.
We took the latter.
Approaching the pass.
And while there were a few stretches that were harder to follow due to lack of use, it wasn't bad really.  We saw a mom and baby moose, and upon breaking treeline, tried to follow the trail as best we could, but also noted that we could clearly see where we wanted to end up at, and could just head directly there if we wanted.
At the pass, and into the unknown.
Looking back on some very fun days.
We could see a few cairns on the other side, but no obvious trail.  We followed them at first, but knowing that we'd generally trend north, aimed for the base of the large rock glacier ahead on our right, the result of the slow erosion of the Never Summer Range. 
Said glacier.
And yours truly for size comparison.
We crossed a small creek and spied what looked like a trail continuing on the other side.  This ended up petering out pretty quickly, so we bushwhacked up to find the trail per the gpx file I'd made for myself.
I have this marked on the map at the end.  After crossing this water, parallel it uphill and it looks like the trail takes off on your left.
The trail was generally good and easy to follow when below treeline, though not without dead fall.  However, it was a different story above or around treeline, which this route flirts with alot.  There were some pretty long stretches without any obvious trail, maybe just a cairn here and there, or maybe nothing.
We came to another large rock glacier and spent some time searching for the obvious trail, which I'd spied with satellite recognizance.  From where we were, it was difficult to see where to go.  My gpx followed the USFS map, which showed the trail up from where we were.  Maybe it once was, but no longer.  I went up and Erin went down- she found the trail which you can see in the disance in the next photo.
Rocky!
As she said, this was probably the easiest section of trail to follow, but some of the most difficult to hike or run.  In true Never Summer fashion, nearly ever step was on to something loose, though the trail blazed through rock was definitely distinct.  Thanks to whoever made it, as I'm sure they never wanted to see another rock again. 
Thumbs up, so far!
Looking back again from farther along.
The next landmark we'd come to was Lone Ranger pass.  I don't know if its called that, or if it actually has a name, but this is the low point between 12ers Lone Ranger on the west and Mount Cirrus on the east.
Between the rock glacier and this point was more of the same pseudo trail.  At times nothing, at times widely spaced cairns, and at times actual trail, again best to follow through rocky areas.  As we approached the pass, we could clearly see a trail going up it, but decided to just go for it straight on and hit the trail when we crossed it.
Looking north from the pass.
From here, we'd head down into the valley, and then up and around the west side of Mount Mahler, the highest point to the left of center.
We started down,first crossing a small snowfield (thanks winter!), and then following cairns and a well put in trail into the trees.
The maps are wrong again here, the trail generally stays up versus going down into the valley, though we again had some issues following it in the more open and less treed sections.  Of course in the trees we faced lots of dead fall.  So who knows which is better?
Near Silver Creek th.
We eventually crossed the creek and found ourselves at the Silver Creek th, which is accessible by vehicle.  It looked like someone had been there somewhat recently, but I'd guess many don't venture in that far, and it might only be people looking to drive 4WD roads.
The next section was a bit tricky.  While I'd looked, and could clearly see trail 1141 at higher elevations, I assumed the intersection would be easy and obvious.  Not so.  It looked like the traill was right after the first stream you'll cross, but after wandering a bit, Erin spied a cairn after the second stream on our right.
We went through a small grassy meadow and into the trees before a real trail started.  Once we did locate it, it was obvious for the most part, save again for any areas that entered meadows or places around water.  The growth is so much that the minimal usage doesn't help keep the trail in, so we wandered a bit here and there.
Looking back as we gained altitude.
The climb was steep, but it went by quick.  We occasionally faced some deadfall (surprise!), but I knew that we'd very shortly hit the Never Summer 100k course, and it would be clear.  We lost the trail here and there, but were able to get it back eventually.
As predicted, things improved significantly once we reached the saddle east of Seven Utes Mountain, seen here.
We were at mile 16 or so, and now on good and well maintained trail.  We hiked the ups, eventually topping out at point 11187, where we were able to get this great view.
Nokhu Crags to Static Peak and Mount Richthofen. 
Back from whence we'd come...
and into the future.
We headed down to Lake Agnes, enjoying some easy downhill.  Since we've both done the NS100K, we talked about our experiences there. 
Lake Agnes, where we saw the first few people of the day.
Yep, it was a solitary effort for most of the day, but I guess people frequent the area.  It's always a shock of sorts after going so long without seeing anyone. 
We got past Agnes and after some debate, found the right way to Michigan Ditch Road.  We filled up on water before we joined the road.  It was pretty cool to see the wood pipeline next to the road- I'd guess many people wouldn't think of a pipe as being wooden.  We alternated hiking and jogging along the road, and finally reached the turn we'd take to head up toward Thunder Pass.
Up the trail.
I remembered this part of the trail pretty vividly.  At that point in the race I was feeling miserable and had resigned to dropping at the next aid station. 
On this day we were both suffering on the uphill, and by mutual unspoken agreement, made the climb slowly.
We did take the time to look around and enjoy the sights, something I didn't do at all during the race. Here, the north east side of Nokhu Crags. 
We discussed making a short out and back to Upper Michigan and Snow Lakes over the day.  This would ultimately help me visit these destinations I've included in the big list of stuff in RMNP (even though these aren't).  By the time we got there it wasn't even a discussion really.  I think we were both too gassed and looking forward to the long and leisurely descent from Thunder Pass back to the car.
We saw a fair number of people in this area as well, one of whom very clearly noticed that we stood out from the average hiker!
He asked what we were up to, and seemed only slightly shocked when we told him.  "I used to do that long shit too!" he exclaimed.  I thought it was pretty funny, and the short chat put a smile on my face.
We sat for a break at Thunder Pass, watching the tiny figure of a person making their way up Lulu Mountain.  We ate and drank, though I think Erin had finished her water awhile ago.  From here it was all downhill, an expression that doesn't make alot of sense.  While there are some short ups in the area of Lulu City, it was around 2300 feet of descent in the next seven plus miles.
Soon we'd be down there.
Erin grabbing some water. 
We started down.  The trail here was pretty fun, well put in even in grass, and fun to run.  Or jog I guess, neither of us was really running hard at this late point of the day. 
Down.
The descent back to Grand Ditch was pretty fun.  When we got there, it took us a little bit of looking around to figure things out.  It looks like the trail just crosses the road and continues down from the map, but the reality is that you have to turn left, stay on the road for a bit, and then take a right near the camp buildings to get back on the trail.  Not too bad really.
More descent brought us to the Colorado River, where we crossed and continued on.  We saw a few people along this stretch, some of whom even cheered us on.  Thank you kind persons!
We finally hit the Red Mountain Trail intersection we'd taken that morning.  Almost there....
We got back to the car at 4:50 PM, nearly 11 hours after we set out.  This was a bit slower than I was hoping for.  The race was just a few short weeks away, and it would've been a great confidence boost to be able to average 15-18 minute miles.  We ended up at 20:22.  Not bad, but I was hoping for more.  At that pace, I'd be up against and stressing cutoffs for the entirety of the 107ish miles of the Plain (cutoff at 36 hours).
I rationalized that by telling myself that this day was harder in some ways.  It was:
-Higher elevation, with the lowest point at the start/finish (9040 feet) being over 2000 feet higher than the highest point of Plain, Klone Peak (6820 feet).
-Both have no course markings besides the usual signs at intersections, but the trails here were hopefully in much worse shape as far as ease of following, mainly in that 8ish mile long stretch on the west side.  We had some very slow miles in that section.  I am under the impression that the trails in Washington get more use/are better delineated and more trail like.
So I was okay with the slower but still entirely reasonable pace.  I had to be! 
Yet still I worried, what if I just wasn't fast enough?
We headed back to Estes, facing lots of early fall Elk related traffic.  It was a pretty awesome day on a really fun loop with great company.  How had I never thought of this one before? 
As it turned out, my worries were for naught.  Or maybe I should say inconclusive.  Less than two weeks before the race, I fell and broke my arm.  Hopefully I can get back there in the future, but as for going in with my fitness where it was this year, we'll never know. 
If you go for this loop, you could easily fastpack or backpack it to split it into two or more days.  For me, it would probably only be one night out there, but you can camp anywhere not in RMNP, though you'll need a parking permit to leave your car at the Colorado River TH overnight.  There's alot of beautiful scenery out there. 
I've marked up the map a little, to include places you should turn that aren't obvious.  A quick test in Gaia shows the markers come through, but look a little different.  If you use the Caltopo app, you should see it as it is.
Link to hike map on Caltopo.
Goodbye Blue Monday:
31.51 miles, 6532 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Apache Peak, Mount George, and Iroquois aka The Bicuspid Traverse.

Though I like my work schedule, having three weekdays off isn't the best for meeting up with and seeing friends who also enjoy being outside, but have more traditional weekends.  It's an occasional pleasure to see them, though it often means them or me taking a day off to meet up.
We got lucky on Labor Day- I happened to have off because it's Monday, one of my normal days off, and most normal people have off for the holiday.  The weather looked great, if anything a little warm for this time of year.
After throwing a few suggestions back and forth, we decided on taking the east ledges route of Apache Peak to the summit, then follow the west ridge to the curiously white person named Mount George, and finally Iroquois.  
I'd join with prolific peak baggers Dave Johnson and Mike Offerman for a day that absolutely promised fun and adventure!
The first adventure was meeting up.  I met Mike at the Walmart in Longmont and we carpooled from there.  I suggested that we meet with Dave at the pullout right before the Brainard pay station, unfortunately neither of them had been to the area in awhile, and didn't know this lot even existed.
We could get intermittent cell service, and tried to text Dave, but they didn't go through of course.  So we went down Brainard Lake Road and found him before heading back to the parking and switching cars as Dave has a pass.  Phew!  Lesson learned to either be more clear in the first place or maybe just give a GPS point.
We made it to a pretty full Long Lake TH, got our stuff ready, and started up.
Early morning.
We passed a number of people, though most were pretty close to the trail head.  The only one we passed a little higher up was a lady who was hiking to Isabelle Glacier.  She asked how far it was, and though all of us had been there before, it had been awhile, and I guess distance is an abstract thing really.
Dave told her half a mile, but soon enough it became pretty apparent that it was longer than that.  It became our joke for the rest of the day that it was only half a mile to anything.
She caught us later when we stopped for a break.  Dave apologized, and she asked if the small snowfield near us was the glacier.  We said no.  She asked if it looked alot different, and we said no, just larger.  It sounded like that was enough for her; she took some photos and seemed to indicate she was satisfied with seeing only this small snow field left over from the harsh winter.
Our route was finally coming into view.  As on my last time up Apache, everything ahead looked hard, and I'd thought our ascent route was somewhere to the north of the peak.  I was mistaken, the east ledges are actually south of the summit.  There are alot of small moraines there, and Dave and I enjoying coming up with farcical names for them: "The Neverending Moraine" "Rick Moraine-us".  Mike was a little ahead of us, probably sick of our chatter!
Dave and myself crossing a low snowfield, no traction needed.  Photo by Mike Offerman.
On the ledges.  Photo by Mike Offerman.
The route really wasn't bad at all, I guess just barely third class in places, with some easy slab climbing.  Most of the difficulty was really annoyance- the loose talus and scree to the top.
Nearing the summit of Apache Peak, 13441 feet.
Shoshoni Peak is the closest but lower point, Mount Audubon is higher but farther away.  Lots of looseish rock.
We got to the summit soon after this was taken.  Great views abound in every direction. We signed into the register, had a quick snack, and the onwards!
The descent off the summit was more of the same rocky stuff for a few hundred feet before the real fun begins.  We were doing part of a known route, but one that isn't often repeated.  We didn't know how the route finding would be, or exactly what the terrain would be like.
The initial descent.
Looking over to the eventual goal, hard to really pick out amongst all the other rocky stuff.
Per the map, it's only a mile from Apache to Iroquois.  But it's a long mile.  We generally stayed up pretty high on the ridge, which may not have been the most efficient route, but it was certainly very fun, with great scrambling.
Mike going around a corner.
Atop and around Fair Glacier.  Photo by Dave Johnson, who kept saying how crazy Mike was.
Dave in a compromising position himself.
We got past Mount George, the curiously white person named summit in Indian Peaks, and then doubled back to get to the top.  Mike went around to the south side, Dave started around to the north side, and I shrugged and went directly up the face in front of me.  It looked like there were enough hand and footholds to just go for it and it worked!
I walked over to the summit, and was disappointed to see the broken glass register.  All the work to get to this unranked peak, and I couldn't even let anyone know I was there!
Another look revealed a smaller register.  The paper inside had been there for over twenty years, and even counting the three of us that day, averaged less than one sign in per year during that time.  Pretty cool!
Dave planking on the summit. 
Mike near the top.
The down climb off Mount George.  Fourth class I guess?  Photo by Dave.
We continued northwestish from here, with more fun and engaging route finding and scrambling.
Descending toward Iroquois.  Photo by Mike Offerman.
Mike took this one as well-great to see the colors of fall popping.
With all the moisture this year, the tundra has stayed a pretty vibrant green for much longer than normal.  Ironically, I told myself that I'd take a photo of this on the way back.
We took a short snack break here, with Iroquois (the point to the left of Dave) not far off in the distance. 
Another view, Hopi on the left, Iroquois on the right.
Dave getting close to Iroquois.  Photo by Mike Offerman.
Lost Tribe Lakes and my finger.
Dave and Mike got going from the break a little bit quicker than me.  We commented on how great the day was several times.  If anything, it was almost too warm though the predicted wind never really came to fruition.
I was on some of the easiest non trail terrain of the day, walking about fifty feet behind them, when I fell.  I've slipped/tripped/had something move under my feet and fallen plenty of times out there.  The most it's ever cost me has been some skin and blood, maybe a broken section of hiking pole.
I'm not even sure how I fell.  It was so quick.  I was just walking along on large talus, and all of the sudden in the air.  I think I fell to my right first, bumped something, and then went left.  The thing I landed on was slightly lower than my feet, so I fell from slightly greater than standing height.
I put my hands up of course.  My left palm impacted a rock and I heard a sickening crack come from it.  I felt immediate and intense pain, and saw a small but obvious deformity at my left wrist.  The bone wasn't protruding fortunately, but my first thought:
"It definitely didn't look like that this morning."
I'd never broken a bone before, but knew immediately that was what happened.  I got up, holding everything in place with my right hand, and called to the guys ahead.  They came back and had me sit right away, then lay back when I said my ears were ringing so intensely I could barely hear them.  I don't think I hit my head, or anything else really, just a few scrapes here and there.
We were able to get my pack off, and get my emergency kit out.  I took a Naproxin right away, then used the little bit of tape I had to affix some of Dave's spare clothing in the hopes it would help provide some support.
We sat and discussed what to do.  I immediately appealed to them to both go to the summit while I waited.  We were that close after all.  Dave said he thought I shouldn't be alone, but I said I could use the emergency whistle and had a line of sight to them for most of the time they'd be gone.  Frankly, I didn't want to wait for them to go one at a time.  I was already counting the minutes until I'd be back home.
We thought about dropping down to Lost Tribe Lakes, and then the Arapaho Pass Trail, and take that to Monarch Lake.  Of course from there it's close to three hours back to my house, and we didn't have a vehicle there or anyone to call really, so that plan didn't really work.
"Don't you still want to do Iroquois?" Dave asked.
I think I answered with an expletive.  We were so close... and I'd have to come all the way back... more expletives... "Let's go, come back here, and evaluate." 
We left our packs to lighten the load, though I brought my Inreach just in case.  Thus, I likely earned the dubious title of the first person to break a bone enroute to Iroquois, still summit, and then hike all the way back out.
Mike on top (by Dave).
Dave on top (by Mike).
Me on top (by Dave)?
Hell no, I didn't even try.  I just touched the top from standing and called it good.
Mike got out one of his hiking poles for me, with the idea that it would give me more balance.  I definitely didn't want to fall again!
We slowly made our way back to our packs.  We sat again and talked about what to do.  I had serious doubts in my ability to go back the way we'd come- some of it was hard enough with two hands on the way out.  But we all agreed that from where we were that going back on a known route was the best way out.
We stayed down off the ridge, largely finding easier terrain there, though still with a few third class cruxes.  Even more fun one handed!
Headed back through the business.  Photo by Dave.
Mike generally stayed in front, finding the easiest possible route through for me, while Dave stayed behind me, carrying my pack in his, and just making sure I was okay.  I was so fortunate to have them with me, as this would've all been much more difficult if I had been alone.
Mike looking back at us.
In some places where I did need a fourth point of contact, I'd use my left elbow.  I guess it worked.  It felt like it took forever, but we eventually got back close to Apache.  I was so looking forward to the easier movement of the trail, but first we'd need to go back down the loose scree and stuff we'd come up that morning.
That was some of the worst- of course the tendency is to flail ones arms when a foot slips (which happened more than once).  That simple act was extremely painful.  I butt slid some of the looser stuff, afraid of falling.  But we got down, finally getting back to the trail around 430 pm, about 4:15 after the fall and break.
It felt better if I kept my arm down, so I did.  I was feeling ok I guess- dehydrated as I definitely didn't drink enough, but the pain was at a dull roar.  It was nice to be on actual trail and feel like we were making good time.
I love dogs as much as the next person, and probably more than most people, but the few people we encountered with off leash dogs (though it is well signed at all trail heads that they have to be on leash, and dogs are required to be on leash in any wilderness area) were of maximum annoyance.  Not that the dogs were "bad", but I was really tempted to kick the one who stopped in the middle of the already narrow trail, and didn't move.  I guess the owner thought that was endearing; I was ready to drown that fucker in the creek (maybe just the broken arm speaking).  If one had jumped on me, I would've yelled at someone like I've never yelled at someone before.
Put and keep your dogs on a leash while in Indian Peaks Wilderness area, where they are required to be on a leash as signed.
We got to Long Lake, which felt extra long, and the tape around my wrist fell off.  I would've taken it off soon enough anyway, but ugh.  Looking at my arm with an extra bend where its supposed to be straight, plus the swelling... looked a little bit ugly.
We got back to the trail head at 6:16, nearly 7 hours after the fall.  It felt like forever.  We got back to Mike's truck, and he got me back to Walmart.  My car is manual, but fortunately it was my left hand only that was unusable.
I headed back to my house first.  I wanted to let my dogs out quickly, though I had a friend come by that afternoon, they'd been alone for quite awhile by now.  I also did some quick research-urgent care is really more appropriate for this type of injury, but they were all either closed already, or about to close.  So I headed to the local ER.
I had to sit for awhile- I know better than most what can happen there, and though I was in pain, I did not have a life threatening emergency.  So I got checked in, got vitals taken, eventually got a few xrays shot, and waited patiently.
The guy in the "room" next to me was not waiting patiently, and had already requested and been given Morphine (!) because... he broke his pinky!  I didn't want narcotics there, as I had to drive myself home, but come on.  I know everyone has different pain thresholds, but it was rather entertaining to know I'd hiked out 7 hours, and then driven another 1.5 to get here, and got to enjoy the sights of my mangled arm while he complained about how it was taking too long and how his pinky hurt.
I called my wife, who was inconveniently out of town, to let her know what happened.  My first ever broken bone at 38, and my first real out there accident.
I broke the Radius.
Even though I got there after the guy I was next to, and got xrayed and the results from after he did, patience paid off.  He kept pushing his button and not so subtly hinting to the hospital staff that answered his call that he felt like he was there for too long.  As he was doing that (again), someone came in, splinted me, gave me a prescription, and sent me on my way.
I made an appointment the next day with a Orthopedic Surgeon.  I saw them a few days later and they were able to get the break set and splinted in a bigger splint to limit mobility. My follow up is tomorrow, and as long as everything has stayed in place, surgery will not be needed.
Yep, I'm definitely all right.
I've been thinking alot about this day.  It's disappointing in alot of ways- the race I spent most of the year training for was in less than two weeks from the day this happened.  At first, I still had designs on going, but I effectively can't use my left hand at all, and while I think I could deal with the pain, lugging around this huge splint wouldn't work.  Oh well, it'll be there next year.
I hope once I'm in a real cast it's lighter and thinner, so I can still get out and enjoy some of the fall hiking season.
But people die up there.  Though it's a stupid fall, it would've been alot worse with a much more serious injury if I'd fallen in any of the harder stuff.  Though it was painful, I was able to ultimately get out under my own power, though not without assistance from Mike and Dave.  I was lucky to be with two people who have alot of outdoor experience, and who were able to get me out safely.  I can never thank you guys enough.
So what went wrong, or is there anything I/we could've done better?  Some accidents are preventable, some happen due to an obvious error on the part of the victim, and some just happen.  I think mine falls into the last category.
I don't know that I could've done anything to prevent the fall.  I am no stranger to the terrain we were on when it happened, and know how to move there.  Maybe if I'd been using my poles, they would've provided more balance or I might have gotten the left one under me as I started to fall and caught myself, who knows.
I should've been carrying more tape- that might've made a difference in comfort or support.  The amount I usually go with is enough for blisters and the like, but definitely not enough for a more serious injury.
I think sitting and discussing what to do was the correct way to go.  My first thought was to use my Inreach to call for help, but for where we were, it probably would've taken as long for someone to get to us as it did for us to get out.  It was pretty windy, so I'm not sure if a helicopter would've been able to fly; nor did I really need one (though it would've made that hard terrain on the way back ALOT easier!).
On the map, I've included our possible routes out, plus range rings at quarter mile increments.  The route we took was to the closest trail in our area, with Crater Lake being just slightly farther away, though much more difficult to get to.  In hindsight, Dave also suggested that we should've went down and then up and east to the Fourth of July Trail.  But in looking at the map, I'm sure we went the best way.  Plus, that trail head would still have left us at least thirty minutes from the cars at Brainard Lake.
So on a day when something went majorly wrong, alot of things went right.  It sucks to skip the race, but a fall at 12500 feet could've been alot worse.  If I ever do get to ride in a helicopter, I hope it's under my terms, and because I want to, not because I need to.
Link to hike map on Caltopo.
The Bicuspid Traverse (Dave's name):
Apache Peak, 13441 feet (via East Ledges): 5.7 miles, 2941 foot gain.  Third class.  Moderate+.
Mount George, 12876 feet: 6.9 miles, 2376 foot gain.  Fourth class.  Strenuous-.
Iroquois, 12799 feet: 8.1 miles, 2299 foot gain.  Third class.  Strenuous-.
As a whole, this day covered 15.67 miles with 5008 feet of elevation gain in up to fourth class terrain.  Extensive route finding is needed.  Strenuous.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2019 Ouray 100.

I was around mile 39, on the second Ironton loop, when I saw the first flash of lightning.  Much to my surprise, the preceding day in the mountains had been relatively dry- there were a few times I got my rain jacket out and put it on, but the precipitation didn't last for long.
Here I was, back at the Ouray 100.  Though satisfied with my time from the year before, I wanted to see if I could improve.  This involved a much more dedicated approach to training, but more on that later.
It was just after sunset when the lightning occurred.  I had my headlamp on and hadn't used it yet, but it would get dark soon.  The flash surprised me.  I'd never actually been out at night in a storm.  The ensuing rumble of thunder was loud, and way too close.  But I kept on, knowing that the saddle I'd pass over was just above treeline, and the surrounding areas were higher.  Hopefully I wouldn't be the highest thing around.
Some low clouds rolled in, and I went up into them.  Visibility dropped significantly, and unlike the nearly full moon we enjoyed last year, it was starkly dark, with a pervasive inky blackness beyond the reach of my beam.
I continued to the pass, trying hard, and using my poles for all I was worth to get to the top and get over before the storm really hit.  I enjoyed the sight of cloud to cloud lightning in front of me, then finally saw a headlamp headed down my way.
As we passed, I asked the only "Am I almost there yet?" question I'd asked of an oncoming runner the entire race.  "Yes," he said.
I was at the top moments later, and started running down the other side immediately.  I put my rain jacket back on as the rain started, and then the pending storm finally broke.  As I was headed downhill, I could see a multitude of strikes right over there- where the course went next, up and over Richmond Pass.  Now safely below the trees, I decided to slow my pace to a fast hike, in the hopes that the storm would move along before I got there.  But from what I could see, it only intensified.  I could see another person was about to catch up to me, something that would normally make me move, but it seemed like a good idea to keep it slow.
And it was then, when I wasn't quite paying attention to my footing, that I misstepped, and tweaked my right ankle AGAIN.  This was the third or fourth time this race, and an ongoing issue this year.  The first time was on a run way back in February, and after some time off to recover, things felt good.  But it's been tweaked over and over this year, and here it was again.  My ears rang this time it hurt so much.  But I kept hiking and got to the aid soon after, and jumped in the car with Katie shortly after it really started raining.
This was my lowest point of the race.  I wasn't cold or really all that wet, I was up on calories and generally moving and feeling good to great overall.  But my ankle.  And after the close call with above treeline lightning last year, I was not willing to go out without some idea of where the storm was and what it was doing.  I asked at the aid station, but they had no info on the weather.
Back in the car I used my Inreach to send for a weather prediction, but it wasn't of much help.  I decided to wait in the car until the storm passed, or at least lessened in intensity.  So I changed clothes, had some warm food, and sat.  My mind was wandering- I was pretty close to dropping here.  After an hour the storm was still raging and it was now obvious that my time goal for this race was out of reach.  Personally, I think it's BS to drop out for that reason alone.  But other reasons came to mind: I'd already finished this race, and had a belt buckle.  It wasn't a qualifier for anything.  I'd done 44ish miles and still had more than half to go, and it seemed likely I'd tweak my ankle at least 4 more times in the remainder.  And in seven weeks I'd be heading to Washington to try the Plain 100.  Dropping now would give me a shorter recovery time, and allow me to heal up from what would be a potentially less injured status if I quit.
Quit.  That's the word that echoed through my mind.  I'd never quit at a race.  Could I?  I finally heard the rain start to lessen, and then stop.  Stupid me, it was only then that I started to get my stuff ready to head back out.  Should've done that before, so I could just go.  Oh well.
I discussed dropping with Katie.  She said she'd support me no matter what, but that maybe I should go to the next aid at Weehawken, meet Dan and Nora there, and make a decision then.  I thought about all the training I did over the winter and spring, and how much money I'd spent just to be here.  I wasn't ready to give up, and was still hours ahead of the cutoff.
Since it had rained heavily before, I put on my rain pants assuming that all the bushes next to and overhanging the trail would be wet.  And off I went, into the night....

Training this year was different for sure.  On the advice of a stronger and faster friend, I integrated some weight training.  While I usually do this, I generally focus on core and upper body, with the idea that the running and hiking I was doing was plenty to exercise my legs.  Not this year.  I added in squats, dead lifts, box step ups, and variations upon those to keep things fresh.  I got a weight vest, thinking that carrying some extra weight on hikes would help (but didn't use this much due to the ankle).  And I tried to be more dedicated about actually running.  Last year I hiked alot of steep peaks, which was fun and gave me the gain I thought I needed, but probably wasn't the best for actual training.
And with the Plain, I thought I needed to focus more on moving at a decent pace rather than hiking steep stuff.  So I did.  I'd also include a few fartleks per run, and focus on going from a hiking pace on an uphill to at least jogging when I reached the top, and on running flats and downs as much as possible.  Even if they were the dreaded jeep roads.  I hate running jeep roads, so it made sense to include them in training and to practice moving on them.
Last year I also touched on trying to get myself into a bad mood in training in an attempt to help train the mental aspect of ultra running.  Better to experience this in a "safe" setting, in training, and know how to recover, than to face it for the first time out there and fall apart.
This year I didn't specifically practice that, but it came anyway.  The weather got me.  It was a very wet winter and spring in Colorado, and I had literally over a month of long run days in which I got rained, snowed, or hailed on (or some combination).  Waking up at early o'clock and hearing it already raining was difficult enough.  Knowing that after I got ready and drove to the trail head, I'd be out in it all day made it really hard to get going at all.  But I still did it.  I can't tell you how many times on those days, getting wet, cold, and generally hating life, I vowed to quit running forever.  But then the next long run day would come along, and out I went.  In the rain, or snow.
Mount Sanitas.  Snow, but I didn't quit.
I survived the bomb cyclone.  Just barely.  I got up extra early with the eta of the storm, thinking I'd be most of the way back to the trail head by the time things really started up.  Unfortunately, I only made it half an hour in before the snow started.  But I didn't quit.
Clouds and rain on Bear Peak.  But I didn't quit.
Seven hours of running in the rain in Roosevelt National Forest.  I also discovered the chest pocket on my rain jacket was a little less water proof than I thought.  I had my phone stored there, and it got unrecoverable water damage.  This was one of those days when it started to rain as I drove to the trail head, rained the entire time I was out, and for the entire drive back home.  But I didn't quit.
Tempestuous weather at Higgins Park.  This was dry the week before.  But I didn't quit.
Clouds and rain on Green Mountain.  But I didn't quit.
Eight inches of snow at the end of May.  Again, completely dry the week before.  But I didn't quit. 
The mighty St. Vrain, pre-thunderstorm and half inch hail (which, yes, hurts quite a bit).  Sat for awhile under the boughs of a pine to avoid the projectiles, but I didn't quit.
Still, a week before the race I found myself wondering if it was enough.  It looked like some of the other people doing the race had trained alot more than I did.  I saw one guy post that his last big week was 105 miles and 50k vert!  Conversely, I think my single biggest week was around 60 miles, and most gain around 15k feet.  These didn't even come in the same week.  Last year I was also able to spend more time at altitude with a much drier winter.  I worried about that too.  Would the altitude get to me with a lack of training in it?
The time I did get to spend above tree line seemed to indicate that worry was for naught.  I marched up Hallett Peak so quickly in low clouds that when I got to the top, I found it hard to believe I was actually there.

The race started fine, though in seemingly typical slightly disorganized fashion, as I was still in line waiting to verify that my tracker was indeed working (which it kinda did last year, at times) when the countdown started.  I was still in line when they said go.  Uhh.... so what should I do?  They told me to just go, and if it wasn't working, they'd look at it at Camp Bird.
Start at Ouray 100 2019. from Andy Rose on Vimeo.
So I literally started DFL.  But that's completely ok.  I like being behind and having people to chase. 
What did I pick up?  Notice the guy in front of me had something fall out of his pack.  It was his car keys.  How much would that suck to do this race and discover they'd gone missing somewhere along the way?
We went to the perimeter trail, with a group of maybe 20 people already trying to take a wrong turn and head up Twin Peaks, which actually comes around mile 75.  The larger group convinced them to go the correct way, even the one guy who was pretty insistent that he was on the right track.
I briefly talked to Walt Handloser here.  One of the fun things about this race is the social nature of it.  The out and backs allow you to cross with people multiple times, to see them and offer encouragement.  Walt is way too many races down in his half a hundred hundreds project, where he is trying to set a record for number of 100+ milers run in a year.  This was number 28.  We were never going the same way again, and another guy started to talk to him so I never got to tell him what an inspiring person I think he is.  The physical part aside, just the logistics of getting to places at times and so on sound nightmarish.  Keep it up Walt, I'm rooting for you!
Up we went- the first 5.5 miles are on Camp Bird Road, and while that seems easy, you gain 2500 feet in that distance.  I elected to jog and power hike most of this.  This is a long race with alot of elevation gain, and while one could have the thought that one should run the easier to run areas, I felt like I should keep my pace reasonable here.  If anything, I could work harder on the climbs or more technical descents, where I could gain some time.
I didn't stop at the Camp Bird aid, just gave my number and continued on.  I was happy to see that the race was taking bib numbers this year.  The trackers are definitely not infallible, and I would rather know the person who they realized is missing 12 hours later last checked in at Crystal Lake and never made it to town vs last checked in at Ironton hours earlier and was now somewhere out there.
I was probably around .5 miles from the top when the front runners started coming down, which put them a mile in front of me.  Seemed fine- again, it's a long race.  I was able to plainly see the effects of all the snow in this basin.  There were several small streams crossing the road, which some of the runners tried to find a way around.  I just went through, knowing I would not be able to keep my feet dry, and it was only a matter of time.  We'd cross an extended section where the road was flooded with 8 inches of water which chilled me to the bone, and then a few short snow fields before the first out and back hole punch at Silver Basin.  As I said to another runner, "When my face turns blue, it's as cold as the Rockies.".
I started back down.  Last year it looked like I was mid pack, but toward the back.  This year it looked like I was solidly in the middle, but closer to the front.  Where I hoped to be.
I headed down and back to Camp Bird, where I briefly stopped for water.  The next section was one on which I would try, and try hard.  I felt like I really slowed down alot here last year, with the 2.1 miles from Camp Bird to Richmond taking way too much time.  I hoped to make it to Richmond by noon or better, but I'd also decided to not look at my phone and see what time it was or how I was doing.  I guess it's good to keep track, but I also didn't want to see I was moving too slow and get disappointed and start that negative mental downwards spiral.
Despite that, I did take a minute to pull out my phone quick and see it was 1137 as I was approaching the aid.  So good news!
For food this year I decided to stay as liquid as possible- I was using Sustained Energy because it has no flavor and I found last year I eventually grew sick of the flavor of Perpetuem.  I started with a double dose mixed, and carried a second bottle with a double dose dry.  I added water to that here to mix it, but didn't take any additional water.  I also again used maple syrup bought in bulk and carried in a soft flask as my energy gel.  Weird maybe, but perhaps the most natural source of liquid sugar, and I like the flavor.  I had around 500 liquid calories for breakfast, and resolved to finish my first bottle of Sustained Energy by the time I hit Chicago Tunnel, and then the second bottle I'd just mixed by the time I got to Ironton.  With a few swigs of syrup, that should put me at over 2000 calories in the first 8 hours, and definitely set myself up for success for the rest of the race.
There was a strange foible with the course marking here.  I was behind another guy, and both of us saw a wrong way sign on the right, and assumed that meant to NOT go onto this trail, which looked like an offshoot.  We continued straight, and after not seeing another marker for a bit, both pulled up the GPX file to look at.  We were on the correct trail.  So we, and a few behind us, continued on.  We took a right to discover we were not on the correct route, but after another stream crossing we joined the flagged path.
There were a few confusing wrong way signs along the course, with them often placed in the middle of an intersection versus on the side, and more clearly on the wrong trail.  Picture a Y.  You want people coming from the bottom of the Y to take the right turn ahead.  The wrong way sign was often placed right in the middle of the Y, between the two possible paths.  I think it would've been alot clearer to put it on the left branch of the Y, or at least on the left side of the intersection rather than right in the middle.  Fortunately, this was the only time I actually went the wrong way, thinking the sign was marking the correct way as the wrong way.  And the GPX file provided by the race was wrong.

A screen cap, my actual route in orange over their gpx in purple.  The kick out north is where the course was actually marked, though we thought the don't go this way sign was telling us to not go that way.  So we followed the correct course per the race provided gpx file, and either the course was marked incorrectly, or they should've updated their file with the change.
I tweaked my ankle for the first time here, but the dip in frigid water certainly helped it feel better.  Shortly after, I hit hole punch number two at Chicago Tunnel.  Not a bad one, but the thing that sucks is you can see the next very long climb to Fort Peabody just across the valley.  Ugh.
I slipped on the descent and scraped my left knee, but the rest went fine.  After a quick cross of the raging Imogene Creek, I started up the next climb.  Last year I found it to be rather jeepy, and I guess it was the same this year.  Again, all of the drivers were friendly, but the exhaust was a little off putting!
Up, and up, but soon the highest point of the race would be behind us.  Apparently Ouray County had just gotten the road up to Imogene Pass plowed through a few days prior, it was pretty cool to see the wall of snow left on the side of the road.
As we climbed to the top (again, the GPX provided by the race was incorrect here, as we stayed on the road all the way to Imogene Pass, and then climbed to Fort Peabody from the NW rather than from the NE as shown.  This was more clearly marked, and fairly obvious as the route indicated by the GPX was under snow.) we passed by talented photographer Howie Stern.
"Make me look beautiful!" I said.
"You have to look at the camera first," he replied.
Sick burn!  But this did turn out to be the single best photo he got of me during the race.
The hole punch at the top was missing, but another guy and I took photos of each other.  Just in case.  There were two hole punches that were missing a hole punch along the course, the second at the out and back from Weehawken.
And down.  It started to rain just a little bit, so I got out my rain jacket.  The rain was the cue for all the Jeeple (term coined then, by me- "jeep people") to start down, so I got stuck in a conga line of jeeps.  There just wasn't enough room to pass and in reality we were all going about the same speed at this section.  Once things got a little less rough, the jeeps were able to get going a bit faster than I could muster, and I was left once again in a cloud of exhaust.
It didn't really rain all that much, I think I had my jacket off soon enough.  I did see a single lightning strike down in the valley below, but that was about it, so no big deal.
On the descent I ran into a familiar face, that of Jason Pecoraro.  If you've done any races in the west, you may have seen him- a punk rock Gandolf, with wit and wisdom to match the look.  All comparisons aside, he is extremely friendly, helpful, and supportive of all and has a welcoming mellow vibe.  I highly recommend that you say hi if you ever see him.
We talked a bit before going our ways, me down and him up.  I made it back to Richmond Aid, where they had a pretty good crew this year, and did not run out of stuff like last year.  So that was good at least!
When I left the aid, they told me to cross the bridge and turn right.  This was also signed.  So I did.  I saw someone facing down the road (left) and yelled to her.  The times we'd passed before and after she had headphones on, so I'm not sure if she didn't get or didn't hear the directions from the aid station.  She definitely didn't hear me.  She was down the road a little, but was not moving.  I didn't know if she'd dropped or what, but decided to not go after her-I tried after all.
Up the road again.  It was really wet, bringing back memories of pacing Dan at the Bighorn 100 earlier this year.  Fortunately, it's rocky enough to not really be muddy, because that was a nightmare.  Eventually the course went into some snow.  With the afternoon sun, it was pretty soft and easy to manage the climb.  It felt like it took forever, but I eventually topped out.
The descent on the other side was a little sketchy.  There were two snowfields to cross, the first pretty ok, and the second okish, but with a very high consequence fall if you didn't self arrest immediately.  In the afternoon mush, it was okay to feel secure going across this.  From there, it was just motor on down.  Since I wasn't using poles, I could definitely feel it in my legs, and knew I'd pick them up when I got into Ironton.  I realized that if I just changed my gait slightly and leaned forward more, it took alot of the impact off my quads, so that's what I did.  This also helped me along, as it made me actually run (or do something like that).
Last year I said this was my single least favorite climb, this year the descent was annoying.  Not because it wasn't fun to run or try, but you can hear the cars on the road below from pretty high up, which makes you think you're almost there.  But nope!
Eventually I found myself on the road, and headed into Ironton.  I tried to jog this, and had one of my crew members jog up to meet me.  That was nice!  I checked in at the aid, and then went over to the car and started getting ready.  The medical director came over to check that I was doing ok- he'd noticed from my gait that my ankle was bothering me, and also said I looked pasty.  While I thought I was slightly behind on hydration, I said I felt good in general, and that I'd likely consumed close to 2000 calories so far.  After he walked away, I asked my crew if I looked any pastier than normal.  I am pretty white after all!
I changed socks, got more sustained energy, dropped some of the food I'd been carrying just in case, and headed back out.
Erin helping with my feets, which she apparently found comically narrow!  Why then do I still think most Hokas are too narrow?
The first Ironton loop is done counter clockwise, and I headed up Corkscrew Gulch.  Last year I encountered a total of zero jeeps on this road, so I thought it would be the same this year.  Not so.  I encountered a multitude of different off road vehicles from jeeps to dirt bikes.  Again, all were friendly, but the exhaust!  I figured with the time of day, this would likely be my last significant jeep encounter for the rest of the race.
We made our way up through some massive avalanche debris fields, with walls of snow on either side of the road and trees sticking out.  It looked like they'd simply plowed most of the debris off the road into the creek on the side.
I kept almost catching up to a guy here, but would stop to pee or something and he'd get away.  We finally met near the top, but he was definitely faster than me on the downhill.
On the way up, the front runners passed.  At least I was about half done the loop this year.  Last year I think the first place people passed me when I'd just started out.
The downhill on Grey Copper is pretty fun, nice single track the whole way, though a little wet near the bottom, which is not unique to this wetter year, so be prepared to get your feet wet here.  Shortly after I made it back to the aid station and checked in.  Nora and Dan headed back to town to sleep for a middle of the night wake up and pacing duties, so I was met by Erin and Katie who got me ready and quickly turned me around.  One thing I wanted to focus on this year was quicker aids, Katie timed this one at six minutes.  Not bad!
Still smiling at mile 30 something...
Out again, and up Grey Copper.  I'm not sure which way this loop is "easier" in, if there is a way that it's easier.  I definitely like being on single track vs the jeep road, so Grey Copper is preferred to Corkscrew.  I was able to make most of the climb in the waning daylight, so I was definitely well ahead of where I was last year.  I finally got back to the road around the time darkness came.  Though you are still below treeline here, and essentially are for this entire loop, I saw a close flash of lightning here, off to my east, and then heard the boom of thunder, and there is just a sense of being exposed.  This was the first time I'd ever seen lightning out there at night, it was a little freaky!
I increased my pace, hiking the uphill pretty hard.  Things got misty, and visibility dropped to maybe 15 feet or less, even with the brightest headlamp I own.  It was obvious I was climbing up into a low cloud, with occasional drops of rain seeming to conjure out of the air.  I knew there was a completely enclosed pit toilet along this stretch, and that if shit went sideways and I needed to hole up for a bit, I'd be able to do so there though I'd probably never forget the smell.
The lightning continued, but interestingly enough, I was unable to hear any thunder.  I'm not sure if the clouds made it look closer than it was or what.  It was pretty, but definitely kept me moving quickly!
I hadn't seen anyone in a bit, and finally saw a headlamp ahead and above me.  I was getting anxious due to the lightning, and when we passed I asked him if I was almost at the top.  He said yes.  Phew.
I started down the other side.  Things were going well, and I was feeling good, but this is when the low clouds cleared and I started to see a big storm with multiple cloud to ground strikes in front of me-right where the next section of the race would take me.  It started raining in earnest for the first time...

I was still in the car when the storm lessened and then stopped.  I cursed myself for not getting my stuff ready earlier, as that took about thirty more minutes.  It was restful to sit there, but I didn't sleep.  I am not sure if this rest helped or not, and I was kind of pissed at the weather.  Everything was going exactly to plan up until the storm, but I just wasn't willing to go out after last years experience with several close above treeline strikes.
Though this seemed like the right decision at the time, now I wonder.  It's likely that things would have cleared up by the time I reached treeline, so maybe I should've just kept on.  But one thing is that the race was unable to provide any weather forecast at the aid station.  This race puts alot of runner safety in your hands, so providing info to runners to make an educated decision as to if they should go out or not seems like a great idea.  I was able to use my Inreach to let Dan and Nora know to expect me later than thought, so someone in town with internet could certainly use one to tell an aid station what the weather might be like.
And if that decision is put entirely into the hands of the runners, how about including some advice on what to do in case of a lightning strike above treeline?  Though I missed most of the prerace briefing due to a traffic delay, I am under the impression that this was not discussed as I headed up to Richmond Pass and caught up to people, several of whom asked me what to do in case of lightning once I said I was from Colorado.
I didn't find the climb too bad this time around, and passed many.  I caught up to two guys who were at the sketchier snowfield, one of whom seemed to be stuck at a point on it.  With the descending night time temperatures, the snow was considerably firmer, and crossing was certainly a hair raising experience.  I stuck with these two for most of the descent on the other side.  The snow was definitely firmer and the descent went pretty slow.  I didn't bring them, but found myself wishing I had microspikes, both for the earlier crossing and this descent.  This would've made it alot easier, but oh well.
I alternated jogging and power hiking the descent.  With it being dark, I didn't want to misplace my foot and tweak my ankle again.  Once I got to Camp Bird Road, I picked the speed up.  On all the climbs thus far I paid alot of attention to the trail and trail surface to be able to pick out the easiest or less rocky areas to be able to jog down.  It worked here, and I made it to Weehawken soon enough.
As I met Dan and Nora, my first unfortunate words were, "I'm thinking about dropping."
"Let's talk," Dan said.
So we did.  I don't think it took much to convince me to go on really, as I think I didn't really want to drop.  It's just that those little reasons can add up.  I was fortunate to have both of them be woofers.  My main concern was the ankle, and with several tweaks up until now, the approximate halfway point, it seemed likely that I'd do it again, at least that number of times, in the back half.  They were able to evaluate and Leukotape it.  Well, it worked.  Despite an occasional owie and some soreness, I did not tweak it again.
Dan made the journey up to the lookout with me, and the company was nice.  The sun rose somewhere along the way, but I think we were higher up than when it did so last year.  The hole punch was missing again, perhaps there is a hole punch thief in Ouray?
I guess there's not alot to say about this section.  Back at the bottom we took a brief break to get some coffee drank (my first of the race) and things switched out before Nora and I headed out to Hayden Pass.
She did this section with me in the opposite direction last year, so I hope it was fun to see it in a different light.  We saw a couple with their dogs near the bottom, and the said they saw a bear and cub up the trail a bit.  Fortunately, we did not!
We make the climb and descent to Crystal Lake in great weather, arriving to the crew.  Thanks guys for everything!  It was so helpful just to have people there just for you, to be able to help have your stuff ready, and make any changes and go.  I made the decision to switch from my larger pack to a smaller one here, as it just sits differently and is ultimately more comfortable.  Though there are the aid stations at Camp Bird and Richmond, you're essentially on your own as far as any gear you might want or want to exchange until Ironton (the first good crew access), so plan to carry anything you might want.
Crystal Lake in, Ouray 100 2019 from Andy Rose on Vimeo.
Switching packs, making sure I have the mandatory gear and stuff I want.
Erin went with me as we headed back up.  I was taking a look at the sky already- those puffy white clouds looked okay so far, but definitely something to keep an eye on.  We talked a bit, and at some point I noticed someone above us, also headed up.
Crystal Lake out, Ouray 100 2019 from Andy Rose on Vimeo.
"Ugh, we have to go all the way up there?"
But step by step we did.  As we got higher, and close to where it happened last year, I started hearing some thunder and suggested that we move it.  I was not going to get stuck in it again, and in the same place.
This section is weird, because you actually top out and then descend a bit before crossing the ridge and getting back below the trees.  It was here that shit looked like it was once again about to hit the fan, with greying skies ahead of us, audible thunder, and visible lightning.  And lo and behold, we caught that person who was all the way up there before we even got into the trees.
We made that final turn, and started the descent.  I was trying to alternate running (or jogging) and hiking just to take some of the strain off my legs, which seemed to work well.  But I was still feeling remarkably good, jogging most of the steep downs.  I told Erin about the upcoming terrain-this is once section where there are a few tight turns to take carefully, with loose rock over hardpack.  There's just a few places where if you came in hot and had to stop quickly, you'd slide and end up down the hill in a gully.  Not a place I'd want to be.
If you take a look at the map, you stay on top of a ridge headed north westish from the pass, take some switchbacks, and then cut back east, crossing a gully, before the difficult part starts.  It was there that the brewing storm broke.  We quickly got our rain jackets on, and I'm sure they helped a little, but we really jetted through the next section.  It rained as hard as I've ever seen it rain, except I was now out in it.  It poured for the entirety of this section, only slowing down when we finally got into the lower and lusher section of the forest.  I had thought about putting my rain pants on, but it happened so quick!
We kicked out onto Camp Bird Road and headed into town.  Erin was able to persuade me to run sections of this, but I could feel my heart rate was pretty high, so I wanted to take it easyish.
Apparently, I exceeded my estimate for this section and checked into Fellin Park right as my crew arrived!  Good timing, as we were able to get things changed out and head out for Twin Peaks pretty quickly.
Heading out to Twin Peaks post hot food.  Erin, Nora, Dan, and myself.  We neglected to get a photo of all of the crew together.
We started up, the climb familiarly not too steep at first.  But that changes quickly.  This climb is just up, up, up, taking down around 3500 feet in just under 3 miles.  It won the "my least favorite climb award" this year.  With the time of day, we were in direct sun for most of the lower parts of it, and the very recent rain added some humidity.  I was sweating hard!
Atop Twin Peaks.
But we eventually made it to the top, and had a quick sit to enjoy the views before we started back down.  Shortly after you take the turn out to Silvershield, you'll pass one of the most awe inspiring sights of the race.  Erin had commented on some of the trees we saw near Crystal Lake- Aspen over a foot in diameter, huge pines bigger than anything you see in the front range.  She remarked that some of them must be 500 years old or more.  But we soon came to a sandstone bench holding remnants of a time long ago passed.
Dinosaur tracks!
Pretty cool.  Erin loved seeing these.  So did I.  It's something that makes you feel so small in a way.
This section of the trail is pretty runable or jogable, provided you still have the legs to do so.  We got to Silvershield reasonably quickly, met up with Katie, and headed back to Fellin Park.  I think this is one of the easier sections of the whole race, while still climbing 500 feet/mile.
Silvershield in, Ouray 100 2019. from Andy Rose on Vimeo.
At Silvershield, mile 80, still smiling.
We were finally caught by the first two 50 milers near the Twin Peaks intersection, and made the steep descent at a reasonable pace.
Before said steep descent.
I dropped Erin off at Fellin Park, and Nora joined me for the section up to Chief Ouray Mine.  I was moving well enough to see Cascade Falls in daylight this year- it was pretty beautiful!
Last year I definitely had some navigational issues on this section.  I think I just didn't look at it enough, and wondered if we were going the wrong way as it climbs, then descends a fair amount, then climbs again.  I thought it was just straight up.  I was also tired and it was dark.  This year I wondered how I had those struggles the year before.  It seemed pretty easy to follow the markings.
I was feeling pretty good as we left.  I guess part of that was just passing another runner in the aid station.  I did not want to get caught.  This was another person who I think went out too fast, as she was definitely well ahead of me in the early out and backs of the race, but who ended up finishing two hours behind me- and we were into Fellin Park at the same time.
I was definitely moving quick-or so it felt.  But I couldn't out run the sunset, and darkness came on this climb.  I was hoping to see Bridge of Heaven in day light, but it wasn't to be this year.  We made it to the mine, got the hole punched, and took a quick sit to clean out the shoes.
I felt pretty good on the descent as well.  There were places on the way up that I thought looked a little too close to the edge to run, but I guess I forgot about those.  We were caught and passed by the first place runner, who we witnessed take a short cut and go directly down a pile of the loose tailings versus out to the switchback.  What did that save, like ten seconds?  Not sure why he did that.
I remarked at some point that I was still feeling good and felt like I was moving well... Nora agreed by telling me she was working way too hard to keep up!  Haha.
We made it back to the base of the falls where someone(s) had decided to build a number of unnecessary cairns.  I took a short break to knock them all over before we continued back to town.
I checked in for the last time.  I was ready to be done at this point.  I had half a can of coffee just in case, though I still felt pretty good.  I was definitely flagging on this climb last year.
Mile 91.5, just one final out and back to go, but it's a doozy!  I didn't plan on changing shirts here, but felt pretty sweaty and gross.
And we were off!  Dan with me for this last section.  Having done it before, I knew it would feel like it was taking forever.  It's a long, steeper, and rockier climb at first, and when you reach the ridge, it feels like you're almost there.  But you're not.  Still over 2 miles and around 2k of climbing left.  Though predicted to be dry, we got into some low clouds and got some more raindrops/condensation.  It seems like it takes forever, but we got to the top finally, punched the hole, and took a short break.  As we headed down, we passed by a guy we'd seen on the way up who said he was having a rough time.  He asked us to kill him!  Lol.
Though I wanted to move with gravity, I was not too inclined to really try here, not too long after putting in a big effort on the previous section.  I also felt this section was a little sparsely marked.  I guess there is only one trail with few off shoots, but keeping in mind that most will be hitting this section at night, in the dark, and will have been awake for 40+ hours.  Having confidence markers every quarter mile or so would be a great idea.
So I wasn't too inclined to try, until I noticed someone catching up to me.  "Do you think that's the 100 miler we passed?  Or a 50?" I asked Dan.
"So it's a race?"
"Yep."
I guess in the end I didn't want to find out either way and started running.  It's a little tricky in places, definitely some looser rock/uneven surfaces where I slowed down, but once I got going I felt pretty good.  I finished the 1.5L of water I'd taken somewhere on this downhill, but too late to care now.  I could see back at a few places and saw the headlamp that was getting closer to me at first was now getting farther away from me.  I looked later, and as it turns out that headlamp belonged to none other than Beat Jegerlehner, who has done some truly epic races.  Legend.

How many beets must one man eat if one man wants to beat Beat?
Not that I beat Beat of course, he stopped as he wasn't feeling great and I caught him.
We hit the road, where Dan persuaded me to keep running by telling me that I had five minutes to get back to town to meet my time estimate for this section.  As my crew have discovered, giving me a random number is a great way to get me going!
So we ran back to Fellin Park, went around the hot springs, and I crossed the finish line.  I didn't meet my time goal of course, but still managed to take out 1:35 over my previous attempt the year before, finishing in 44:21 (HH:MM).  I guess finishing in the dark of night was a good reward, if not meeting my goal.
Finish, Ouray 100 2019. from Andy Rose on Vimeo.
At the finish, still smiling.

I sat for a bit here, got some ginger ale, belt buckle, and medal, though one of my favorite mementos is the "free" bib you get.  There is usually some pretty cool wear and age to it in the time you've been out there.
We headed back to the condo, just a few short blocks away.  I started eating some food while everyone else got ready for and went to bed.  Except Erin, who normally gets up that early.  She got ready to leave.
I got in the shower, turned the water on as hot it would go, and lay on the floor under the spray.  I was taking my time bathing, until I snapped awake, realizing I almost just fell asleep!  I quickly finished up, and just like last year, lay in bed for what seemed like awhile, wondering if I'd ever fall asleep, and then woke up to my alarm the next morning.
I slept about five hours, as I wanted to get myself back on a normalish sleep schedule (staying up for 48 hours messes things up a little!) and also wanted to go to the awards ceremony.
It's low key, and while I understand people have to travel and some were very likely still asleep, I was kinda bummed at the low turnout.  Last year it was fun to get a photo together with all the other finishers, as well as see some of those people you spent so much time with out there.  In addition to some of the people I previously talked about, I was hoping to meet Brett Maune, two time Barkley finisher and course record holder and holder of numerous FKT's, including being a former holder of that for the John Muir trail (one of the best trip reports I've ever read, and I go back and reread it now and again when I need some inspiration, scroll down about halfway on the link), and I didn't see Walt at the end, as I hoped to talk to him a bit more.
I did get to see, congratulate, and talk to another legend in the world of ultra running, Kirk Apt.  Former course record holder at Hardrock, he now holds the record for the most consecutive completions of that race.  Additionally, he has only ever DNFed once.  So pretty impressive.  If you're new to this race, he would be a very good person to base your projected splits off, with a reasonable start but strong finish.  He was very kind.
We headed back to the condo, and while I had suggested and felt up to a reasonably short hike, got no interest from anyone else.  I've been on the crew/pacer side and while you might not be out there running the whole thing, it's not like you sleep any better or more than the person you're there for.  Katie and I did end up walking over to the Ouray County Museum, which was pretty cool.  It's always interesting to see the history of this state we live in.  That proved to be a good amount of walking and standing to help blood flow and hopeful recovery.  After all, I'd be doing this all again in only seven weeks...
Again, I had a pretty good time, and felt mentally good the entire time.  Physically, pretty good as well (except for the ankle, which I knew would be a problem).  I felt like I kept up on calories just great, and while I know a liquid diet won't work for everyone, it worked great for me.  I did add in some solid foods here and there once I got over the initial full feeling.  And my normal person super power, only discovered last year, is apparently having the ability to stay up all night and still be pretty lucid.
I don't think I hallucinated, or saw anything that blatantly wasn't there.  For me, I think it's a mix of tiredness and light that your mind tries to make into something familiar.  So last year I saw a number of animals that didn't move when I approached, only to discover that deer was actually a tree that looked like a deer.  This year it was people.  I think it's that combination and working hard that cause the bush a hundred feet ahead to look like a person, until you get close enough to see it's not.
I was also pretty memorized by the patterns of dried dirt on the floor of the portapotty at Fellin Park, and the wall texture back at the condo post race.  I fell asleep staring at that.
I think the race as a whole was better this year.  I like that they were now checking everyone in at each aid station.  This seemed like a great insurance policy in case of someone getting off course or getting hurt somewhere and going missing.  The trackers generally seemed to work much better this year though, but again, are not infallible.  Watching the replay post race, there are a few people who seem to be floating around in the ether for a time to snap back to the course at a later point.
Aid stations seemed better organized, and fortunately did not run out of stuff this year.  Course marking was generally good, with the few exceptions mentioned.
I guess a negative is runner safety.  It seems like it's really all put into your hands.  Sure, you shouldn't go out into that thunderstorm, but how can you make that decision when there is no information available from the aid stations?  Sure the snow crossings (which likely would not be there in normal years) were fine and soft during the day, but were considerably firmer/sketchier at night.  A consideration of the conditions in both the heat of the day plus the cold of night would be good- most people went back over this at night.
Maybe this is true of alot of races, but a friend of mine did a race in eastern Colorado on the same day.  There is an extended above treeline ridge run, and by the time he got there, SAR was down the hill a bit actively directing people to not go up on top of the ridge and side hill due to the lighting risk.  Not that something that extreme would have to happen here, but SOME info from aid stations would be nice to be able to make that decision for yourself.
I had a good time again.  This race is young and there are still some organizational foibles to be worked out, though I'm sure it'll get there.  I think it feels more like an adventure race with more frequent aid stations than a traditional ultra.  There is definitely a sense of being out there, and you have to be able to rely on yourself for those times.
Will I do this one again?  During the race, that was an enthusiastic

but after... maybe I could go back, and maybe with a smarter training schedule I could go faster.  Considering the guy who finished less than 40 minutes in front of me was the big training week of 105 miles and 50k of gain, and mine was probably around 60m/15k, maybe I trained smarter already?  Who knows.  But the circumstances of life change.  I may not have the time or want to dedicate to training next year.  The want was definitely lacking this year.  I want to be bagging peaks, but most of the stuff on my list is going to be at a pace that's too low for training due to off trail time. So, and much to the chagrin of my crew who I would ask to come back again (pretty please), I'll leave it at a solid maybe.
There's lots of other races out there, and it happens that my skills certainly lend me to do well at this one.  It's also in spectacular scenery, as long as you aren't getting rained or thunderstormed on.  Expect to get rained or thunderstormed on.
I finished in 44:21, a full 1:35 faster than last year.  I finished in exactly the same place, 14th overall and 13th male.  32 people finished this year, out of 73 starters, for an improved finish rate of 43.8%.  However, only three females finished.  I don't know if this race is more difficult to women, or is perhaps just not attracting the talent/skill.  I like that the prize purse is higher for women (meaning they get more money for winning than the men).  So that's pretty cool.
It's a race, but for most of us it's the race against yourself and you get to the finish step by step.  You're going to be out there for a long time, and it's easy to forget that.
Link to (possibly not accurate) race provided GPX on Caltopo.
2019 Ouray 100:
102.1 miles, 41,863 feet of elevation gain.  Second class.  Strenuous+.

And of course, a huge huge thanks to Katie, Dan, Nora, and Erin for all of your help crewing and pacing.  Thank you for taking time out of your lives and schedules to come out and be there for me.  You are all people I love, and it meant the world to me to have you there.  I could not have done it without you!