Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, 06/25/12 Longs Peak Birthday Bash

Longs Peak, 14,255
Keyhole Route
~14 miles
~5,000 vert.
3:46 (2:05 up)

Though I usually consider June to be my favorite month, this has been a tough one for me, having been sick (a light, but lingering case of what I guess to be bronchitis), the girls being sick for weeks, Allison having bronchitis, lack of sleep, a disappointing race at Mt. Evans, buying a house, busy at work and all the general craziness of wrangling two very busy toddlers. Add to that the ridiculous heat and often times unhealthy levels of smoke from the fires burning statewide, I have not been particularly enthused about or motivated to run. Lately, in order to avoid the heat, I have been trying to run before work (though 5:30am is way too early for me to put in a quality workout, even on my best days) and after work has just been too brutally hot to even want to get out, much less push hard or perform well, so I am struggling to come up with a compromise and get beyond what has become a bit of a slump.

However, my run up Longs Peak yesterday to celebrate my birthday was a huge mental boost and was quite rejuvenating, just what I needed to turn things around.

I went into the day with no real plan or motivation to push too hard, but knew I wanted to stick to the Keyhole route (long version with no Jim’s Grove variation), not worry about time, enjoy my surroundings and keep my effort low enough as to not feel the effects of the smoke.

I started at 6:26am and it was already quite warm and the smoke from the fires all over the state was present, but not really as thick as I had feared. I felt pretty lousy for the first five minutes or so, as it is always a bit of a shock running early in the morning at 9,000+ feet, but I soon fell into a comfortable rhythm and once I was warmed up, felt like I had boundless energy and felt well acclimated.  I momentarily contemplated heading back to the car to ditch a few items and restart my watch for a hard effort, but I diligently opted to stick to my plan.

Each section of trail passed by seemingly quick and effortless (effortless because I was not putting much into it really) and I could not have been more content or have been enjoying myself more, totally absorbed in my surroundings and free of worry, doubt, obligations or expectations. Near the Keyhole, I switched my brain from runner to hiker mode and took things pretty casual and cautious to the summit. Nothing about this final section is hard, but there are a few sections where you would not want to fall and I sheepishly admit that those sections caught my attention more than normal this time. I was conscious of the fact that I now have much more at stake than my previous trips, before becoming a dad and negotiated the exposed sections with great care.

The summit arrived seemingly fast (though not really that fast with a 2:05 ascent time). Even though this was 14 or so minutes slower than PR (using all the shortcuts for my previous PR efforts), I was happy with it given the added distance, relative minimal effort, casual approach and pauses to chat with other hikers on the ascent. I spent around 15 minutes on the summit just enjoying the (limited) views and conversing with fellow hikers.

I took the descent very easy and in fact was slower going down the upper section (37 from summit to Keyhole vs. 34 for the ascent), though I did spend time casually talking to other hikers along the way. One college age girl was quite impressed with my speed in relation to herself and the other hikers and was quizzing me about my training. "Do you do this a lot?" (I responded with "not nearly as much as I would like"). "How long have you been training for this?"... this I was unsure how to answer, do I train for THIS? Can I break it down to a yearly training cycle? Since I started running? Since I started climbing 14ers? Since I started climbing mountains when I was 4? I just simply and truthfully replied "a lifetime".

Below the Keyhole, the day really warmed up and I was thankful to have brought two bottles of water, as I drank it all and wanted more. I wanted to push a bit on the downhill, but I took a chance in (wrongly) selecting my La Sportiva Electrons, which provided AWESOME grip on the rock, but have an awkward fit/sizing and I could feel my toes getting smashed with each step on the technical descent. I was wishing that I had somehow been able to snag a size 10.5 test pair as the 10 is just too small (though I am normally 9.5 or 10 with a little extra room depending on the shoe) and really had to adjust my stride to minimize toenail damage.

Finished up in 3:46 for the roundtrip, quite slow by some standards, even slow by my standards, but was one of the more rewarding and enjoyable outings I have had in a long time, regardless of what the watch said. A perfect way to turn 41.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Jeff. I want to do this at some point. I'm guessing my time would be around 5 hours or so, but I'd be happy with 6 to be honest.

    You feel exactly what I feel now regarding exposure. It's taken some of the joy out it to be sure. I guess that's one of the prices to pay, and extra attention regarding something like that is never a bad thing.

    Nice work.