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CanyonRan for the second day in a row.  I dressed in tights and a light jacket to withstand the blowing snow and 38°, but man it felt so good.  I can feel that I’ve lost my strength.  My speed is back at zero.  But I also can sense that I could regain my fitness fairly quickly with enough discipline.  Thirty days will not create too large of a gap to overcome before my next big event.  Of course, my next big event is no longer the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day – I’ll be walking that with Ellie.  My next race is now set for the fall – the Boulder Marathon.  I took second in my age division last time around.  The goal this year is to maintain pace with my buddy Chris Price and try to win my age group.  This photo is of my last event two weeks before surgery – the Moab Half Marathon.

wild and crazy guysIf I broaden my scope beyond simply running, my next big event is really an 80 mile hike along the Continental Divide on the Collegiates West Loop of the Colorado Trail.  I’ll pick up Mike at DIA, Saturday morning June 21.  He’ll fly out from his home in Atlanta.  We’ll drive three hours directly to Buena Vista to hook up with Rob.  This photo captures the three of us preparing for a 10K road race 35 years ago in high school.  I know what you’re thinking.  I haven’t aged much.

Hope Pass saddleWe plan to start from Twin Lakes and hike south toward Monarch Pass. This is where Mike and I gain our trail legs. The Twin Lakes Trailhead sits at 9200 feet off Hwy 24 and 82. The trail leads south/southwest and rises through Little Willis Gulch over the next six miles to 12,500 feet, peaking at Hope Pass (pictured here) – which is the highest point of the Leadville 100 trail run. This is an average 10% rise, which at altitude will have Mike and me breathing as hard as if we were running. I only mention me and Mike because Rob is a mountain goat.  The trail then drops steeply, three miles through some switchbacks along Sheep Gulch down into Clear Creek which lays between 9800 and 10,000 feet. This 16% down slope should sufficiently shred all our knees. We’ll end our first day either here in Sheep Gulch or a few miles down along Clear Creek and set up camp.

We follow Clear Creek west along the Pack Trail for three miles and veer left (south) at the South Fork. We follow this course and reach Lake Ann after six additional miles. Assuming this is day two, we might rest here at 11,800 feet for lunch. We start up again heading south and rise up to a saddle at 12,600 feet after another mile.  We quickly drop back down to 11,000 and bounce along a series of undulations between 11K and 11,200 feet before settling around 11,400 feet along the Timberline Trail. After eight and a half miles, we drop through Prospector Gulch to Texas Creek. This puts us back onto Pack Trail and we follow the creek for another four miles before crossing it. We could camp out somewhere within those four miles. After crossing Texas Creek, we rise up above treeline and continue for yet another four miles, veering onto the South Fork of Texas Creek until we reach Cottonwood Pass which sits at 12,200 feet. One of our cars will be parked here with a cooler of libations.

We’ll shuffle a car down to Monarch Pass, likely adjust our gear, and then eat a real dinner in BV.  If we have time, we’ll also squeeze in a bath at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.  The second forty miles of our backpacking trip will continue from Cottonwood Pass and end at Monarch Pass.  The average elevation will hover at 12,000 feet.  Despite it being the end of June, at this altitude there will be snow.  The entire 80 mile hike will take either five or six days.  We have enough time in our plan for contingencies.  I agreed to this get together just after my surgery while still sporting a catheter tethered to my bladder.  A boy needs goals.  I had no ideal then if I’d be prepared but now that I’m running again I feel fully confident I can hang with these guys.  Time to close the gap.