Monday, June 28, 2010

Saturday, 06/26/10 Missouri/Belford/Oxford

14.5 miles
7,400 vertical
Start from Missouri Gulch TH at 7:20am
Finish at Missouri Gulch TH at 12:45pm
Partner: John Prater (Homie)

Homie is training hard for the upcoming Hardrock 100 and wanted to get in some quality time up high. Missouri/Oxford/Belford stood out as an empty spot in his June grid, so we hit the road early Saturday morning for a good mountain outing. Though tired and groggy at 4:30am, conversation flows quite easily and almost non-stop with Homie and the trip to the Missouri Gulch TH passed quite quickly. At the trailhead, John was ready in an instant, while I hurriedly futzed around, as I had just thrown a bag together without much thought the night before.

We got on the trail at 7:20am and settled into a comfortable/conversational hiking pace that we maintained all the way up the switchbacks, through the valley and to the ridge below Missouri’s summit. There was some snow on the trail just below the ridge, so we avoided it on the left. John smartly went straight up to the ridge on more solid rock, while I performed an ascending traverse through scree and dirt toward the ridge in the general direction of the summit. This turned out to be somewhat inefficient, so I figured I should gain the ridge asap, but was blocked by a long/soft/impassable lingering cornice. This meant I was forced to traverse further than I had hoped as the ridge got higher and higher above. Once there was a gap in the snow, I bee lined directly up the steep fall line, but was on “conveyer belt” scree and dirt. I clawed, kicked and cussed my way through as my heart rate was nearly maxed to make what seemed like backward progress. Once on the ridge, Homie was long gone and I took off at full steam to try and catch up, as we had just speculated that we might be able to break 2 hours for the ascent. The ridge made for excellent running, except for the hard class 2+ section that required a little care. After carefully negotiating the steep gulley, I bolted for the top as Homie waited just below the summit so we could top out together in 2:05. After a ~10 minute break, we jogged down the ridge off the summit and back down the trail into the basin, re-filled water bottles in the creek and started up the trail toward Elkhead Pass. From Elkhead, it was a nice gradual hike to the high shoulder of Belford where we hiked along at a moderate pace conversing the whole way.

For much of the hike/run, I was quite preoccupied with the painful blisters developing on my heels (even though I stopped to cover the developing blisters with Band Aid brand blister coverings , they unfortunately did not work and my blisters continued to progress throughout the day). I was stupidly using a brand new/untested pair of Montrail Hardrocks I got for free the day before. The new shoes are super sturdy and protective, but that comes at too high of a price, as the sole is as stiff as a Vibram soled mountaineering boot and they are very heavy. The Hardrock is really a hiking boot in trail runners clothing and will think twice before using them for such an outing.

From the Belford shoulder, we upped the effort a bit over to Oxford, dropping to the saddle in 7 minutes, then another 16 to the summit, arriving there in 1:38 from Missouri and 23 from near Belford’s summit. We again took a nice long break, taking time to refuel and enjoy the summit for a bit. I was not looking forward to the return over Belford. My energy level and mindset were great, but my heels were in pain and my legs were feeling a little tired from the combination of Quandary the day before and gassing it through the scree and sprinting to the top of Missouri earlier in the morning. We again ran back down to the saddle on the good trail and I was expecting to dog it back up to Belford, but I dug in a bit, my strategy being to hurt worse for less time, arriving on the summit after 26 minutes. After another break on Belford, we started down the standard route with the intent of cruising somewhat easy, but before long, I was in a good groove and ended up pushing the pace at times. I felt better and better as I went, my legs were rock solid and I felt like I could cruise the most technical sections with confidence. Half of it was mental I am sure from having such a great time out in the mountains on such a great day with a great friend. Our goal was to do the whole loop in under 6 hours and I had it in my mind that we could run the final descent in an hour or less. I was occasionally checking my watch to mark progress. We were down off the ridge in 22, made the Elkhead Pass jct. in 25 and were back at the TH in 46. It was like a controlled freefall.

Moving time: 4:56
Total time with breaks: 5:25

TH to Missouri: 2:05 (avg. HR 138/Max 174)
Missouri to Oxford: 1:38 (avg. HR 140/Max 166)
Oxford to Belford: :26 (avg HR 156/Max 169)
Belford to TH: 46 (avg HR 155/Max 167)

On the way home, we got in touch with Brandon who happened to be at Twin Lakes after running part of the Leadville course (part of his training camp), so we gave him a ride back into Leadville. One of the more entertaining exchanges of the day as Brandon got out of the car and was using his i-phone 3 to call his wife:

Homie: “What, you don’t have the new i-phone 4?”

Brandon: “Dude, I’ve been gone!, there is no Apple store in Leadville!”

Homie and I later agreed the funniest part is that he was totally serious.

What an awesome day. I am very much looking forward to more runs like this soon.