To cure myself of this awful crud, I ate some spicy Tai food in Durango, Colorado several nights ago and then, the following day, soaked in the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. The indigenous people of this area have believed in the healing powers of these mineral waters for centuries.
Wishing I had just a few more days to get well, I arrive in Silverton, CO with my loyal crew, Cara and little Maddie, who happens upon a raven tail feather on the ground. She gives it to her “Da-da” for good luck which he promptly sticks in his cap knowing that today, he will need all the luck he can get.
About 150 runners line up for the start in this little mining town nestled in the San Juan Mountains. Most will run the 13 mile single climb and descent, but about a dozen of us signed up for the 26 mile double ascent. Dumb! After the gun goes off, we cruise easily through the flat main street and then turn toward a dirt road that leads to Kendall Mountain. In less than a mile we start the arduous climb. I try to run as much as possible at first, but then must settle for a fast walk.
I pass a few people and then recognize some camping neighbors that we met several days ago. They just happened upon the race while on vacation and signed up yesterday on a whim. I enjoy some conversation with this couple from Missouri in between huffing and puffing up the hill.
The weather is refreshingly cool and we are shaded by the slope of the mountain as we run through a beautiful pine forest. Soon I hear the relaxing sound of a stream down below. The pack has thinned out and I’m mostly running alone now. I keep moving at all costs and only stop to fill my water bottle at every other aid station.
I hit my flask of chia seed and gel mixture which interrupts my breathing. I desperately gasp for air, but keep the pace. If I’m going to finish before the cut-off, I can’t stop even for a drink. The road becomes very steep in places and then switch backs higher and higher.
Soon we are above tree line and I’m reminded of a hiking trip I did in the Swiss Alps years ago. Lush deep green meadows blanket the rocky slopes and I can hear the tell tale “baa” of sheep grazing above us. I’m enjoying the dramatic scenery when suddenly I hear someone scream, “ROCK!” The sound of a loose projectile tumbling down the mountain fills the air.
|Our campground was on that lake.|
|The "ant mound"|
This is the most ridiculous part of the “run” and requires the use of all your appendages to gain the summit. As I start my climb, many runners are descending and one dude seems to be leap frogging down the side of the cliff to make better time. One hand and foot in front of the other and I slowly make some progress. My heart is jumping out of my chest; a good excuse to take some photos.
Just when I think I’m on top, the route dips down over a saddle and keeps climbing up a craggy face. Finally, at 13,066 ft elevation —the summit! I look at my watch and almost two hours have passed. I snap some pictures and take in the view, but then get a move on.
The climb down is equally as taxing and staying upright is difficult. Sliding down the loose scree, letting gravity do the work, seems the easiest way at times. After getting back on terra firma, I can actually begin running. I hope to make up some time on the way down so I just go with the flow.
Pretty soon I can feel my leg muscles tightening; some I’ve never felt before. The quick descent to lower elevation clogs my ears making me dizzy. When I get to the bottom, I hit the flat part and have to walk to catch my breath. My legs feel like rubber, my head is swimmy, all my energy is zapped and now I’m supposed to do it all over again.
Thoughts of dropping out are creeping into my mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to just spend the rest of the morning watching the steam trains in Silverton with Cara and Madeleine. “Chooooo-choooooo!” Then I remember the raven feather tucked in my cap and I run my hand over it. Certainly it has magical powers that will get me back up the mountain.
|We rode that train a few days ago.|
|I took this one in the morning. I didn't take my camera on the second trip up.|
As I scale the precipice, I’m greeted by several fellow runners who are on their way back down. I climb fast, but am forced to stop for a few short breathing breaks. Finally, I’m back on top of the summit with several photographers and a timing official who checks me in. “I think I’m the last one.”, I say “Is there a special award for being DFL?” “Yes”, he replies. “You get to carry these water jugs back down.” Ha!
|This shot was also taken in the morning. The sky was dark and scary the second time.|
One runner catches me and we chat for a while, but I can’t keep up with him. When I reach the bottom, I have a good lead on the last two, but I’m getting hot and feel like I may puke. It’s very sultry down here in all this thick moist air, so I’m forced to start walking again. Intermittent bouts of running and walking get me to within a half mile of the finish, but a young lady passes me. As hard as I try, I can’t catch her and then, in the last 100 yards, the last runner overtakes me.
|My magical raven feather.|
The last four finishers, including myself, were all within a minute of each other making for an extremely fun and exciting end to the day. One time to the top of Kendall mountain and back is plenty of amusement for anyone, but if you are feeling up to the task, take the “K2” double challenge!
See you on the trail.
|The view from Molas Lake Campground.|