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Monday, June 21, 2010

Part 2: Running err... Climbing.

So here I was finally "pacing" (or as I liked to call it.. keeping Vandy Montana company and annoying the shit out of him for 17 miles). It had been a long day of waiting around anxiously, and it was finally time to get down to business.

Going into this pacing gig, I had all kinds of preconceived notions: I was going to be the best damn pacer there was. Vandy Montana was going to attempt to throw in the towel and everytime I was going to go all Herb Brooks on him and inspire him to the finish line. He was going to attempt to throw himself off the side of a mountain instead of finishing and I was going to talk him off the ledge. Literally.  I was going to be the pacer that drived him and urged him across the finish line and all the other runners were going to be jealous that I wasn't their pacer.

In reality though, that didn't happen, at all. 

Once we left the aid station, we kind of took it easy. The next 7+ miles to the next aid station were the toughest of the course. And we had no idea what to expect. We knew we would be topping out around 9000 ft, and we were at about 6500 feet at the aid station. I wore my garmin and Vandy Montana asked me to put the elevation setting on the display, so that we could monitor it as we went along.

Eventually we started climbing a bit and I thought... oh shit. Here we go. We got up to about we were hovering around 8,000 feet for awhile and I was looking forward to getting the hard part over with.

And then... we started going down.

And I started to get pissed. In my head I was cussing the race director. What the hell? When are we going to get this freaking mountain over with? You have us go up part of the way, to tease us, only to make us climb BACK down and then BACK up another mountain????? Ass-hole. I kept it cool with Vandy Montana though. That was my strategy for the day, when he asked me how I was doing (which, he did a lot) my response was going to always be upbeat, but not annoyingly so. My usual response was, I'm good. Or I'm okay. Even if I was suffering from acute mountain sickness I wasn't going to led on that I was in any pain or discomfort. I wasn't going to be a problem for Vandy Montana. He had enough problems. 50 of them.

Eventually we got to a clearing and Vandy Montana took a break, laying down. I looked ahead and saw this

Ummm... Okay. And then in the white stuff up there, I saw tiny little dots moving. Must by my imagination, I thought. A guy passed by us and I asked him... ummm... that's not the mountain, right? He told us that indeed it was. And that white stuff?? Yeah, that's snow. And those tiny dots are racers. F@*K.

The next mile or so, we would be climbing that mountain. Straight-UP. No switchbacks, no trails around the mountain, but straight up.

We got back on the trail and started our ascent. I've done some hiking that is straight up and I've ran at 8000-9000 feet of elevation before (at the Madison Marathon in Montana last year), but I've never CLIMBED AT ELEVATION like this before. I was out of breath literally after about 5 steps. We were climbing about 100 feet of elevation every 10 minutes or so. And we stopped to take breaks about every 125 feet.

The breaks were awesome. As soon as I caught my breath, I felt fine and the next few steps up felt wonderful, and then the elevation would zap my breath again and I'd huff and puff until our next break. And once we took a break, it took me a good 2-3 minutes to actually catch my breath.

If I could have cussed and breathed at the same time, trust me, I would have been throwing expletives off that mountain like you wouldn't believe. And then we hit the snow and it was slippery and annoying. I mean, it's bad enough to be struggling with your breath, but now we were struggling with our footing. Luckily, going up the mountain, there wasn't too much of the path that was covered in snow. But enough to be shitty.

Finally, we started approaching the top. We stopped for a minute to take a last little break and I could tell that Vandy Montana was not doing so hot. I had been offering him food everytime we took a break, but he never took it. Finally, he agreed to take a mini cliff bar that I had. I chowed down on some shot blox and before we got ready to tackle the last little bit, we chatted up someone going past us.

Turns out, because of the snow, the top of this mountain, wasn't actually our summit. Oh no, we actually had to climb up another mountain next to it for another 300 feet of elevation. Just a little bonus, ya know. I mean is this a damn race or a freaking mountaineering expedition? Jeez.

At this point, Vandy Montana and I were both pissed. We started to make our way, slowly up to the top of the mountain. We took another break and Vandy Montana ate another cliff bar (a full size one) and admitted to me that he had started feeling light-headed awhile back.

D-U-D-E. You gotta tell me this stuff! I'm your pacer, you gotta let me save you and be awesome! Ugh.

Finally, we got to the flippin top of that piece of shit bonus mountain.

9500 ft. The highest I've ever been

And I was thrilled. Thrilled with the view, thrilled with the fact that the aid station was close by and thrilled with the fact that the hardest part (course-wise) of the race was behind us. 

Vandy Montana taking a break with other runners on the summit.

Self Portrait (duh)


We started making our way down the mountain and towards the aid station... Only 10ish more miles to go...


Melanie said...

Hahaha, mountaineering expedition. Love it. Keep the reports coming. So awesome to read about this!

Source hydration bladder  said...

Wow. I am wondering that you must have enjoyed in your expedition. I love to read your experience and hope someday I will also go.