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A Bear, Moose, Scott Jurek, and Me: A Wild Day in the High Country

August 13, 2012

Saturday run: 26-27 miles in 7.5 hours, two mountain passes, most of day at 10,000+’ and topping out at 12,550′ with 7,000+’ climbing

After last Saturday’s 50k race, I put in a moderate 6 days of training, just about 45 miles with lots of climbing and hiking.  Three of the week’s hikes were with Austin buddy, Louis, and we even coerced our three boys (Jacques, Emile, and Sagan) to trudge through the Hogback climb.  That one can be tough for adults, with about 1000′ of climbing, but our group of 5 made it through, each under his own power.

I was right where I needed to be, at 76 miles for the week, heading into another big weekend.  Up at 4am Saturday, I met up with Matt, globe-trotting, ultra adventure couple Ryan and Silke, and their buddy, fast-but-one-day-removed-from-sea-level-Ben.  The 5 of us took on an interesting high mountain loop that includes climbs over the Buchanan and Pawnee passes, as described by Anton Krupicka.

Matt did a fantastic write-up about our shared experience that warrants a read for anyone who wants a real understanding of our long day.  One of his spot-on quotes” “There are running adventures and then there are outdoor survival adventures. This was a hybrid. “.  Within the first few minutes of the run Ryan and Ben were off in the distance, with Matt, Silke, and me running together, leapfrogging each other, running in changing pairs, and often stringing out by a few minutes, with whoever was stronger taking the lead.

With the exception of a few good stretches in the first half of the run, I often was in the back, which makes sense given my relatively weak climbing and tired legs heading into the day.  No ego out there for me – Ryan and Ben are about to tackle the 200-mile, insane-even-for-most-ultra-runners Trans-Alpine Run across the Alps, Silke and Ryan recently spent 11 months running, climbing, and biking across the most remote areas in the world, and Matt shifts (seemingly) without effort from marathoning to swimming to the weight room to yoga and back to all-day trail masochism.

I was without a camera but luckily Silke and Matt grabbed a bunch of great shots as we hit a huge range of terrain.  I’ve confused who took what but thanks to both, as all photos on this post are courtesy of Matt and Silke.  It is nice having running buddies who can double as a camera crew.  Since one mountain run description sounds much like any other(at least when I’m the author), I’ll skip the prose in favor of some highlights:

  • On the ride out we had to briefly stop to let a portly black bear finish wandering across the road.  It was my first Colorado bear encounter and it didn’t bother me at all that I had to experience it from the safety of the minivan.
  • After finishing the run, again in the van, we came across two enormous bull mooses/meese.  Even from the shelter of a 7-seater van they were imposing.
  • Over the course of the run I saw some occassional human wildlife, including one in the form of Scott Jurek, perhaps the most impressive and accomplished ultra-runner in history, at least from America.  He was friendly and all smiles, quite the contrast to my grumps and grimaces, but just crossing paths was a lift at a low point in my run.
  • There was a stretch of about 15 minutes coming up the backside of Pawnee Pass where the temps were low 40s with sustained winds we estimated at about 60mph.  I thought I might actually get some frostbite, followed almost immediately by a 40-degree spike in temps where I thought I might overheat if I pushed too hard.
  • Total run time was within 75 minutes of my most recent 50m trail race and this 7hr30min effort wasn’t even 27 miles and I think it was harder.

Pics galore…

Flowers and trees and nothingness:

Me, trying to keep up:

Happy Matt and friends:

5 amigos:

Big mountains:

Scotty J:

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