Ran Mt. Princeton on Wednesday with JV and Brandon. 12 miles, 4,900'.
The last time I was on Princeton was a somewhat unique experience. In May 2009, Mikey, Hixon and I pulled off our first night hike...which was how I wanted to first do Princeton. While it's a breathtaking sight as one enters the Arkansas River valley from the east, the standard route is aesthetically quite unappealing. It's this unappealing-ness that makes Princeton a prime candidate for "gimmick climbs." When JV emailed me about running it earlier this week, I found it hard to say no. I had planned an "easier" run up Pikes from Elk Park for later in the week, but this seemed to be a comparable climb.
With a 7:00 meeting time, I found it preferable to drive out the night before rather than respond to a 4:00 wake-up call. I drove up to the radio towers at 11,000' and bivy'd for what seems like the hundredth time this summer. Parking the jeep at this point offered for a good stash point so we could go light. My plan was simple; run down the road and hope to hit the lower trailhead (8,900') right at 7:00. I left a couple of minutes late and caught JV on the intial uphill. Within seconds, I realized what was happening here - he was AFTER it! I quickly peeled off of the hot pace and checked in with Brandon, who was a couple hundred meters behind him. After exchanging a few words, we both just settled into a gear and climbed.
For all of its non-redeeming qualities, Princeton does offer a long stretch of perfectly run-able trail. I soon found myself in an almost-comfortable zone, and the valleys began to rise around me. I got back up to my jeep an hour after I had left it. Ahead was the real work, though: 3,100' more climbing, with much of it above treeline on rough terrain. I could see neither Jeff ahead of me nor Brandon behind me.
An added bonus when one runs a fourteener is the amount of strange looks you get. Wednesday was no exception. Making it even more worthwhile was that Jeff had already run by everyone, so encountering TWO crazy guys (and soon to be three) was truly mind-blowing for them. Priceless.
I was able to keep a good running cadence until about 12,400'. After that, the trail had deteriorated to a bunch of large talus blocks. Not needing to take any chances, I simply elected to hike this part...not that I had much choice - the last 1.0 had a solid 1,500' of gain! Jeff passed me at 13,600' on his way down. That kid was making some serious time, but of course he threw in a "Oh, I'm sure you'll catch me on your way down." About ten minutes later, I tagged the top, said hi to a few others up top, and started the journey home.
The descent was uneventful. Brandon and I crossed paths about where I had run into Jeff. "THIS IS HARD," was all he had to offer. I reached 12,400' with relief - slogging was even less enjoyable today than most days. Monday's run was definitely still affecting me, and I just wanted to be done. Luckily, parking at 11,000' meant I didn't have far to go in order to finish.
JV, Brandon and I grabbed lunch at Eddyline post-run. I'll tell ya what - runners are runners no matter where you go. I can go anywhere and pick another runner out in a crowd simply based on how he acts, how he talks, what he says. Getting to know these two guys was a case in point.
I'm in the middle of a three-day stretch of recovery. Sunday, I'll be crossing over to the roads to run the inaugural Summerfest Rock n Sole half-marathon. Conditions seem to be conducive for me to take a shot at my 1:18 from earlier this year. I have barely done any work sub-6:00 over the past few months, but I'm stronger than I've maybe ever been. We'll see how it turns out...