Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2014 Twin Mountain Trudge

Last year, after my fifth consecutive Twin Mountain Trudge, I was gifted my five-year "Mountain Masochist" jacket and told myself, "That's enough."  I then went ahead and registered for the race again this year.  It's hard, nigh impossible, to fix stupid.

The weather this winter has been of average potency, but I was concerned about snow level come race day.  Compared to this time last year, there is significantly more snow in the high country of southeast Wyoming.  Reports from a couple weeks before the race described snow levels rivaling the most extreme Trudge years (2008, according to folklore, being the worst).  However, a few warm days and a cessation of snowfall helped bring snow levels down to manageable.

Quite the scene for a race.

The Trudge is never without a card up its sleeve.  Weather did roll in the night before the race, and by the time Chris and I were leaving Cheyenne, temperatures were in the single digits, and the roads were slick and covered in snow.  After a long hour in the truck, we made it to base camp in time for the sun to come out.  The other miracle was the lack of wind.  This was the least windy Trudge I have experienced.

We gathered for Alec's pre-race sermon and then hit the road.  The start of the Trudge is always a paradox.  It is cold while one is milling around waiting for the start, so extra layers are necessary.  However, after a mile or two, those layers become swelteringly hot and shedding them is a necessity.  I wish there was a way around this.  I have yet to figure it out on my own.

Me: "Chris, you're going to want to take it easy at the start."  Chris, above, clearly not following my advice.

Chris and Kyle took the race out hard.  I decided not to get sucked into that again this year.  The Trudge truly is an exercise of slow and steady.  It's taken me five years to figure that out.  Again, you can't fix stupid.

I hung with a couple of others for the first three or so miles.  I had to stop to remove my jacket, and I went easy through sections of deeper snow.  I hovered around third to seventh place, content to let the race come to me.  Veteran trudgers know that the crucible of the race awaits on the south side of Twin Mountain in Devil's Backbone (or Playground) and the Skeleton Trail.

As we came out of the deep snow in the trees and onto FR707 heading to the Twin Mountain trail, I felt good and made a move on the somewhat bare road.  I went around the two guys in front of me and moved quickly along the TM trail.  I felt good and choose to push the pace on that section.  I could tell I had opened up a gap on those behind me, and I wondered just how far ahead of me Chris and Kyle were.  I could tell from their prints in the snow that they were running together, going back-and-forth.  Since they were both Trudge virgins, I hoped they were hammering each other to the point that, if I kept things steady, they might blow-up and come back to me.  What did happen was that they simply pushed each other to go faster until the end.

I got up Fenceline without much difficulty and moved on to the Devil's Loop.  My stomach was not feeling great that morning, the lingering effects of a bug I had the previous week, but I decided it was probably time to force down some food.  I grabbed one of my patented sweet potato and black bean burritos and munched on it while I descended to the creek.  However, I failed to pull my foot all the way out of a post hole and clipped my microspikes on the icy crust, sending me sprawling on the ground.  I fell on my shoulder in order to save the burrito in my hand.  Which I did.  Like a boss.

Devil's Loop is always tough.  I felt like the snow levels on the north side of Twin Mountain and along Devil's Loop were about the highest I had ever experienced.  There were no more bare spots from there all the way to near the finish.  It was ankle to near-knee deep snow the whole way.

I realized that I wasn't gaining ground on the two in front of me, so I focused on just trying to move as quickly as possible to remain in front of those behind me.  I trudged and ran when I could and just held on.  I told myself before the race not to get frustrated like I always do.  The trudge is a thing to be endured.  I cannot impose my will upon it.  I have to take what it gives me.  I think the change in attitude made a world of difference.

Trudging away.

I was actually not angry.  The beard hides emotion.

I came off the trail and back onto the old two-track that takes us into the finish and took a look behind to see if anyone was catching me.  I saw a runner coming off the hill, but probably several minutes back, so I thought, "Okay, I have third place wrapped-up."  I was tired by that point, and knew I had one more hill to go into the finish, so I jogged on the road when I could.  As I got to the last hill, I took one more look and saw that the runner behind me had made up significant time.  "Crap," I thought, "now I am going to have to run to finish."  So I did and it wasn't much fun.  I ended up keeping about two minutes on the other runner, Peter Jones, who then went out for a second loop and would win the 22-Miler.  Oh well, I still got done first.

Number six in the bag.  Black and white makes it much more dramatic.

I was happy with myself for not getting all pissy about the conditions and for not trying to go as fast as I thought I should.  Again, you only go as fast as the Trudge wants you to.  And other than a little soreness in my shoulders and back, mostly from my pack, I was in great shape after.  I usually can't walk for several days after a Trudge.  I haven't missed a running day since.  By far the best I have ever felt post-Trudge.

With that, Trudge Number Six was a resounding success for me.  I was well under three hours in conditions similar to when I have taken 3.5 hours to complete this course, and the third place finish is my highest ranking since I won the 2009 edition in arguably the easiest year conditions-wise.  Considering my planned move to Boise sometime in the coming months, I feel this may be my final Trudge for some time.  If so, what good way to finish out my run.

Evan takes a break from the fat bikes to pull down a fifth place, sub-3 hour finish.
Sandra always has a smile on her face.  We should all model our attitudes similarly.
Artery loves this shit.
Jefe also loves this shit.
New this year.  Post-race cigars.  BAMFs.  Would have liked to partake, but my lungs said, "Hell no."
A Trudge tradition.  Dry clothes, chairs, beers, and cheering for other finishers.  Jefe, Sandra, me, Evan.
Clayton expresses his thoughts to Alec about his race.  Clayton will be back next year.

*All photos: Wendy Perkins for Journeyman Adventures.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Forever Trapped in February...

I am trying to be more optimistic and positive, but I am not the least bit remorseful to see February hit the damn road.  The weather here in Big Wonderful has been even more mercurial of late than usual.  It has alternated between days of 40 degrees or warmer and days of zero degrees and snow.  That vacillation has lead to a near constant frozen glaze on the roads that makes running (and driving) a crap shoot at best, downright threatening to life and limb at worst.  I look forward to a time when I can go for a run and have confidence that my next step will not lead to injury.

I have also missed six days of running this past month.  I have been fighting off a bug that began as a touch of the flu, then morphed into a head cold, then hit my stomach.  I've been feeling it for the better part of three weeks.  The runs I did get in were short, slow, and not particularly enjoyable thanks to the aforementioned ailments and weather.

Hit the bricks, February.

March welcomed us with the 10th anniversary of the sadism that is the Twin Mountain Trudge.  From the frying pan into the fire...

Finishing my sixth Trudge in a row.  Photo: Lindsay Sweley.

I will dedicate a proper post to that adventure soon.  The Trudge deserves that much.

With improving weather and a little inspiration, I am again filled with wanderlust.  I am in the process of outfitting my pick-up for camping purposes.  I have it rigged-out so that I can sleep in the back and have storage for gear.  It can be used as a base camp from which I can make forays into the wild.  That has always been my dream.  Time to realize it.

Elizabeth and I have been trying to see each other every month.  I went to Boise in January, she came to Wyoming last month, and this month we are planning to meet in the middle.  The middle, in this case, being Moab.  The canyons and desert always have an ability to sooth my wanderlust.  The vastness of the space has a unique ability to add perspective to my life.  And going in March has always offered a welcome respite from the travails of Wyoming winters.