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They are called “14ers” and they are damn proud of them in Colorado. As they should be. 53 peaks in total that rise a minimum of 14,000 feet above sea level . . . more than any other state.
Quandary Peak, (in the photo above, prior to my partial ascent), is 9 miles from Breckenridge and comes in a respectable #13 on the list at 14,265 ft. In fact, the height difference between the most lowly of 14ers (Sunshine Peak, 14,001′) and the greatest (Mt. Elbert, 14,433′) is not all that significant. Another thing they all have in common (besides relative height) is that as you approach the summit, if you are a non-mountain-goat-variety-mammal, it becomes increasingly difficult to a) breathe, b) move, and c) order pizza due to poor cell reception.
Doing without breathing and Domino’s is one thing, but you are going to have to move to complete the Leadville 100 Trail Run in less than 30 hours. And it doesn’t hurt to get a little practice in at altitude prior to August 18 at 4 AM. Not that a few days at altitude will make much difference for your body . . . it takes 3 to 6 weeks to acclimate. But it is important for your brain and spirit to be reminded of how addled they will become when they encounter about 40% less oxygen than at sea level. My brain and spirit, having forgotten Pikes Peak 2011 and in need of a refresher, joined me for a few jaunts into the ether of Summit County, CO over a long weekend.
Here are the oxygen-deprivation-enhanced epiphanies from the weekend:
You’re Not in Missouri Anymore. 25 yards uphill at a moderate pace and you quickly realize that Colorado has seriously short-changed you on air. It looks cleaner and smells sweeter, but this is all a marketing sham. They have packed fewer oxygen molecules into every cubic foot and a joint commission of the FTC, EPA and the St. Louis Track Club needs to investigate and hold someone accountable. Oxygen theft is serious issue and I have my suspicions that New Orleans (6 ft below sea level) and Death Valley (282 ft below sea level) may have had a hand in this.
You’ll Get Over It. Kind Of. You will simply never perform as well at 10,000 ft. as you will at sea level. But, after the first mile or two of sounding like a snorty, wheezing, asthmatic bulldog, your body will grudgingly shift into a lower, new-normal gear. Yes, you will walk up hills you would normally run, but your exertion level will settle into a familiar if albeit slower pattern.
It’s Pretty. Nature in all it’s glory; the Tenmile Range in Summit County has it all. Virgin forest, rocky paths, mooses/meeces, man-eating bears. I was running up Quandary Peak trying to see how far I could get before the sun disappeared…wide-eyed, lungs clawing for O2 traction, excited to explore a new trail. And then I realized I was the only one on the mountain (the lone truck in the trailhead parking lot was heading out with a load of craggy trout fisherman as I headed in toward the path). Suddenly, there was a bear around every hidden switchback. I could feel them with my spidey sense. Here’s a tip, if you are in bear country all by yourself, sing “Call Me Maybe” loudly while gesturing wildly and laying down a percussive beat with your hands and feet. It works.
It’s Pretty Cool. As in a 98-degrees-in-St.-Louis-while-it-is-starting-to-snow-at-11,500-ft-on-Quandary kind of cool:
With those few snowflakes indicating a pending storm and only black bears to provide warmth, I surmised it was time to head back to lower altitudes and higher levels of oxygen. Next time, I’m going to the top . . . with bear spray. Or someone slower than me.
Training Update: 50 miles last week, headed toward a 100 this week. 1498 ytd as of this evening (National Runners Day!). Grandma’s Marathon a week from Saturday. Upon the advice of ultra runner Twitter buddies who have done this before, I am going to use Grandma’s as a training run. And, if I can get up the nerve, I might do something I have never tried that morning. High mileage, but no serious aches or pains so far.
Life & Hope Fund: We’re up to $3472 for the cancer patients helped by the Life & Hope Fund! Many, many thanks to Robin & Dennis Roach, Gail and Mary Ann Myer, Greta and the Mundens, Steve Glazer and Shele & David Christoffersen for their very generous support! All of you are AWESOME!!! Want to help out? Just click here! Also, St. Luke’s Hospital included a nice article on our efforts in their current edition of Vision magazine . . . click here to read.
One last pic…enjoyed a great run with my daughter, Kaity! Straight up into the atmosphere, well above 10,000 feet, she was a mountain goat. Kaity is training for her first half marathon in October and she is going to do great!