Hopes, Fears and Getting High (Rocky Mtn, that is)

The sunset above was a sight met with mixed emotions on Tuesday night. I was far behind where I should have been in terms of my driving to Colorado, due to slow going on I-80 because of construction. We are talking 4hrs slow, driving less than 50 mph for the first 8 hrs. Therefore, the fact that the sun was setting was a bit disheartening but at the same time, a sunset is still a sunset. It is a beautiful moment in time, it cannot be rushed, it need not be. It reminded me too, that I was in no rush. The reality of the situation was that I was on my way to Leadville to acclimatize for TransRockies which was, at that moment, more than a week and a half away. There were no appointments to keep, no pressure to arrive on time. I had hoped to make it in time to run a double Hope Pass crossing with Bryon Powell on Wednesday morning, but even so, I told him to go without me if I hadn't arrived in time.

But for whatever reason, I still was feeling moody and stressed. I felt anxious and at the time I could not figure out why. I am, after all, use to all this rambling right? I have been "homeless" for nearly a year and have become very comfortable just being wherever I am. That said, I realized, as I swam through my feelings, that this is one of the first adventures since London where I simply decided to just go. Without much of a concrete plan or itinerary or direction. That is very different to the very calculated and thought out plans of most of my travels. Usually I have a clear direction and plan. Usually I have a soft landing, somewhere to go, some sort of structure. What I had, in this case, was just a friend willing to share a campsite and my own desire to acclimatize, which requires me to simply "be", just at altitude. Like London, I desired to just show up and figure it out from there. But that is also something I have become unaccustomed to. After leaving London, I lost a bit of that adventurous spirit somehow in the quest to "move on" with my life. And move on towards what? I think when I came down from my London experience, I got caught up in idea of figuring out my direction, I got caught up in my very own Threat Level Orange. I have talked enough about it that is certain. One of the things I have begun to work on in addition to being Here and Now, is letting go of the safe bets, the safe choice, the safe path and regaining the adventurous spirit that is a bright part of me. The fact of the matter is, I am perfectly comfortable with the unknown. I am happy as a pig in s**t, having just a few belongings in my car, setting up a tent and camping out (first time camping ever, some much fun) and that being the extent of things shaping my day to day. It is a great exercise for me to wade deep into the uncertainty, into spontaneity, and leap without looking. It is further helping me to regain myself, my power. In alot of ways it is a small thing, in other ways it is everything. But needlesstosay, it is empowering to wake up each morning and say "how will I create today? The possibilities are endless".
Somewhere, high above is Hope Pass.

And after all that, I still made it to run Hope Pass. It took 22 hrs to do an 18 hr drive, but I made it. I was able to get a 2 hr nap in at 3:30am, or should I say I was forced to take one. Thankfully Bryon was able to stall his friend Paul for a bit and I made it up to the trailhead without having to delay them too much. No better way to shake out your legs and start acclimatizing than start running straight up a mountain starting at 9,300 feet!

Looking up at Hope Mtn
As I have said, I feel like I have become a better climber and hill runner. But also, since this is a relatively new development for me, I still sometimes somehow think my fitness is a clever ruse. And so, while I was super excited to test myself on Hope Pass, I was also desperately hoping that my legs would once again shatter my doubts and fears. And they did. Sure, my heart was racing, my lungs were heaving due to the elevation but I could tell that I was fit. I could tell that underneath the mask of not being acclimatized was a whole new uphilling me. I keep talking about the whole running uphill thing because, well, as I said, it is pretty new to me. I have been average on the ups for so long and dreaded them so much, that it is so refreshing to run up 3,000 feet and exclaim (between gasps for air) "this is freaking awesome! I loved that climb".

Bryon at the top of Hope Pass, after coming up the North Slope (the "fun" direction)

The air up there. Me smiling at the top of Hope Pass, 12,500 feet up.

View down the North Slope

The run up for the first crossing was more runnable than the second. The North Slope up which we started is a bit more gradual, which is to say still not the most runnable trail ever. I pushed where I could, my heart beating at an insanely high rate and power walked when I couldn't. I enjoyed myself which is definitely the point. Running down the South Slope was a bit dodgy. The South Slope is the "un-fun" side because there is lots of loose rock and slippy dirt. It is pretty technical and steep which I demonstrated the dangers of by slipping and buckling both ankles under me and skidding on my shin and hand, which was a small price to pay for keeping myself on the trail and not off the cliff. I ended up being extremely cautious going down the rest of the way and prepared myself mentally for seeing this climb in the opposite direction. We spent a few minutes chatting at the South Slope trailhead, I took a Vespa and off we went. It was good that we were doing both directions since the South Slope uphill is the direction that TransRockies goes. It was brutal. It was awful. It was painful. It was awesome and I am glad to have done it once before race day.
Almost there, just 500 more vertical feet. Looking up the South Slope.

Once we got to the top of Hope Pass again, it was time for some fun. The more runnable North Slope makes for a fun bombing downhill. I was feeling a bit light headed (lack of oxygen?) and the tops of my feet were feeling bruised up from pacing at Headlands on Sat/Sun, but I clipped down the hill with a bit less trepidation. Arriving at the bottom, I kicked off my shoes, and went straight into the frosty creek. It was such a nice reward for a tough run. 4 1/2 hrs, maybe 18-20 miles, tons of fun, emotion and experience.

I look forward to the rest of my time in Colorado. I love it here. It is very "me", I could see myself living here. I am looking forward to feeling more acclimatized, exploring some awesome trails and watching the Leadville 100 (tomorrow the mtn bike race and next sat, the run- and I am not mad at all that there are tons of cute cyclists wandering around Leadville today). I am also making plans to hit up CO springs, Vail and Boulder while I am here. Before I know it, it will be race time and Caitlin and I will be throwing down against some awesome competition. Exciting!