Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cripple Creek "Celebration"

"Hey Sean, how do you feel?"
Who in their right mind comes up with this kind of crap?

A few months ago,  I took ideas from a few of my friends and began to put together an "event" that would get some people to show.  (I'm good for about one of these annually)  Peter Maksimow had turned 32 a few months ago and did a 32-miler that day just for kicks.  Brooks had run the 35 miles from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek unsupported a couple of times.  I realized that A)I was turning 36 and B)I needed to get at least one meaty run in before Collegiate Peaks.  Why not see if I could talk a few people into joining me for the trek across the south side of Pikes?

The logistics were fluid to say the least.  In the two months leading up to the event, many people were in and out of the picture.  A couple of guys committed to running the whole thing.  Many others chose to run it as a relay, run just a portion, ride a bike, provide sag support to everyone, or just wait for the crew to show up in Cripple Creek.  Some folks were staying overnight in Cripple Creek, others opted to take the Ramblin' Express shuttle back to the Springs.  Needless to say, trying to figure out just who was going to be where was a challenge.
Ready to run

When all the smoke had cleared, we had a group of about 12 or so looking to at least start the run on a crisp and beautiful morning.  From the Upper Gold Camp Rd./Helen Hunt parking lot at 7,500', we set off together in a 10:00 mile before settling into a couple of groups.  We stayed in these groups for the majority of the day - in mine were Peter, Branden Stepanowich, and Paul Doyle.  All four of us have 50-milers on the not-so-far-off horizon.  I was a little nicked up, as my left hip/IT band had been kind of tender all week.  I had concerns that the birthday boy might have to pull out of his own shenanigans prematurely.

  The first eight miles climbed 1,500' on the closed portion of Gold Camp Rd., and they featured many tunnels and views of Colorado Springs down below.  Unfortunately, running this stretch was like running on a beach - sand, gravel, and generally sloggy footing.  We met our sag vehicle at mile 8.5, where Gold Camp intersects Old Stage Rd. and opens up to car traffic again.  A quick refuel and we were off again.  To this point, my hip problems seemed fine - a little soreness, but nothing debilitating.

Patrick, Peter, Sean, Branden, Paul.  "9 miles down"
 As the miles clicked away, we alternated between chatting and retreating into our own little worlds.  As one would expect, the further in we got, the more withdrawn we became.  Once we hit our first view of the Rosemount Reservoir at mile 14, we had reached just short of 10,000'.  We stayed within a few hundred feet of 10k for the remainder of the day.

One of many tunnels

Gold Camp solitude?

A little lack of communication with our Taylor, our sag driver (I failed to tell him that he was to take care of ALL the runners, not just the back pack) left us without extra clothes, food, or water from miles 9 to 22.  These miles were precisely where a brisk headwind met us.  Paul and I had stripped down to short sleeves when we last saw the sag.  At first, we weren't concerned as we figured Taylor would catch up to us any minute.  One minute turned into ten, then sixty.  Finally, another sag vehicle topped us all off.  We also gained two more part-time runners - Darin and Sandu.  We began to open up the pace a little bit from miles 10 to 25, averaging a shade under 8:00's for this stretch.  The pace was a tad more brisk than I had hoped for, but save my hip I felt comfortable.  It began to throb periodically during this stretch, and I began to wonder again if I was going to suffer a DNF. 

At mile 24, Brooks and Amanda joined us.  They had parked in Cripple Creek and run backwards to catch us.  They were just in time to witness the first casualty of the lead pack.  My hip had been tightening up with more and more frequency, and just after they joined us, I looked up to find myself a minute behind the others.  After downing some calories and sandbagging a couple of 9:30 miles, I got back into a groove.  Brooks and Amanda stayed with me for the remainder of the run, and I was thankful for the company.

By now, I had begun to chunk up the remainder of the run into doable portions.  My focus moved to just reaching the first pavement of the day at mile 30.  This signified a new long for me.  The thought of every subsequent step taking me further into the unknown blew a little bit of wind back into my sails, but needless to say I was still experiencing more downs than ups at this point.

The last six miles were broken up in my head in this way - 1.5 miles of pavement, 2.5 miles of climbing on a dirt road, and 2 very steep downhill miles into town.

The paved mile and a half marked my low point of the day.  Thoughts of the various methods of inflicting death upon myself went through my head.  I'm pretty sure they all were more appealing than continuing in the ragged state I was in.  The pain that I had once felt in my hip I swear had spread to my entire body.

Once we turned back onto dirt and began climbing again, I caught a glimpse of Branden ahead of was then that I quit having a pity party and went to catch up to him.  His wheels had fallen off not too much after mine, but our little reunion gave us enough juice to top out at mile 34 realizing we were going to finish this madness.  All that remained was, according to Brooks, a "nice little jog" into town.  Losing 1,000' vertical.  In just under two miles.  On twisty, uneven pavement with no shoulder.  Ugh.  Sweet relief when we hit the city limits!

Run distance:  36.0 miles
Gain:  3,560'
Time:  5h20min

This was a great experience on many levels.  First, bringing over 30 people together for something like this was neat.  Never thought I'd find like-minded souls that actually find running for hours on end to be fun.  Second, I finally am familiar with the ultra "death" feeling.  I had averted it in my 30-miler last month, but now I know it's real and that I won't actually die.  How encouraging.  The celebration afterward was comical, as well...

Runners(full):  Paul, Peter, Sean, Branden, Steve, Julian, Yeti
Runners(part):  Patrick, Jane, Andrea, Deirdre, Darin, Sandu, Brooks, Amanda, Sarah, Deb
Bikers:  Patrick, Beth, Marc, Brandon
Support vehicle:  Taylor
Moral support:  Brian, Christoph, Wes, Chris, Josh, Katie, Matt, Randi, Nora

Post-run festivities

What the ...?