Saturday, September 20, 2014

Run Rabbit Run 100 mile race

September 12th to 13th, 2014

A 100 mile race in the mountains with over 20,000 feet in elevation gain and loss, hours upon hours of relentless up and down, all through the day and all through the night and well into the next day--sounds like a great way to spend a weekend! And as for my crew and life mate, Rebekka, what better thing does she have to do on a beautiful fall weekend then to drive from aide station to station and wait interminably for me? This is what we do for fun.

What was the theme for my experience this year at Run Rabbit Run 100? Overcoming adversity; problem solving; getting ‘er done. At 59 years young I still have some spunk, so when I found myself stuck in the middle behind walkers at the start, I scooted out into the long grass and scampered up to join the lead pack. I think I was in 10th or 12th place or in that region by the first aide station at the top of Mt Werner. Some have said that I started out too fast. My reply? It’s a 100-mile race. It really doesn’t matter how fast you go for the first 10 miles. I was running well within myself. After cresting out even higher than Mt Werner we dropped down to Long Lake in brilliant sun. I saw where I was place-wise in the short out-and-back half-mile stretch to the Long Lake aide station. I turned around at the aide station without stopping—I had enough water and sustenance in my pack.

At the intersection we turned right and headed for the Fish Creek Falls Trail. The easy single-track trail followed the creek with willows turned golden with fall colors before it turned down steeply in rocky treacherous switchbacks. My goal was to stay upright, so I let a few speedsters bounce by me. One of them took a spill in the rocks.

I met Rebekka for the first time since the start at the Fish Creek Falls Trailhead; she took my pack and gave me a hand-held water bottle for the four mile run on paved road to Olympian Hall, where she would meet me again after getting my pack ready and filling my bladder. Sure felt good to run the downhill four miles unencumbered. I ran a couple eight-minute miles, but reached busy Lincoln Avenue just as the light turned yellow. While waiting for the light to turn I made a fatal error of stretching. I suspect this ill-considered move came back to haunt me when in the last ten miles of the race severe tendonitis in my ankle and knee brought me to painful walking status.

Now back to the overcoming of adversity that I alluded to earlier. My primary nemesis is--in a word: nausea; and always at the 100-mile and often the 100K distance. I’ve never had a problem with 50-mile runs and below. After Olympian Hall we had a long 21-mile lollipop loop that started with a climb on a dusty road to a man-less water station, followed by a hugely steep climb on the aptly named “Lane of Pain” after which we entered the lollipop loop to Cow Creek Aide Station at about mile 31, where I would meet Rebekka again. This section was an easy gradual downhill single track trail. I fell into an easy rhythm, knocking out 8:30 miles to the aide station. At Cow Creek I plopped into the chair Rebekka had for me, changed socks, replenished and set off on what would be a longer than advertised return loop. They had said eight miles to the man-less water station, but I had eleven miles on my watch. It was long. Very long. I found myself slowing down in the afternoon sun and several runners went by, including Paul Doyle. Running down the “Lane of Pain” the “hares” were in full force coming up the trail, including Dan Vega, who later would drop.

When I finally reached Olympian Hall for the second time at mile 42 I was on the verge of nausea. This was a major crew aide station, and quite a few CRUD-mates were there, including Rick and Jill Hessek, Clark and Elise Sundahl, and others. They urged me to eat something, but I turned almost everything down because I felt it would just come up. Finally I took a cup of broth. The sun went down over the western ridge line and suddenly it felt chilly. I put on way too many clothes for the four mile stretch on paved road to the Fish Creek Falls Trailhead; a decision I soon regretted when in the sun again on the other side of the valley. Rebekka walked with me along the bike path to the river bridge before returning to the car so she could meet me at the trailhead.

Walking and running up the road (mostly walking), now in the sun, I started to overheat and removed my jacket, looking over my shoulder for Rebekka for when she drove by. I saw her and flagged her to stop just as I passed a man in a lawn chair with two young boys holding toy AK-47’s. One of them pointed his gun at me and said, “bang.” Handing over the coat to Rebekka was a bit of a problem with the constant traffic, so the man in the lawn chair offered to give it to her when traffic subsided and I continued my ramble up the road. After a few minutes, wondering why I didn’t see Rebekka drive by, I looked over my shoulder and the guy was still talking to her whilst a line of cars had queued up behind her. Rebekka told me later that she couldn’t get him to stop talking and finally just drove off.

At the Fish Creek Falls trailhead I suddenly felt woozy and commenced to emptying out the contents of my stomach upon the pavement. I plunked down in the chair, put on a new warm shirt, stocking cap, gloves, and headlamp before heading back up the steep trail to Long Lake for the second of three visits to that aide station. I hiked slowly up the steep six-mile long trail with 2400’ of elevation gain as the civil twilight turned into darkness. At the top of the rocky section the first “hares” who had started the race four hours after the “tortoises” passed by: Rob Krar, another runner, Nick Clark, who I said hi to: (the last I saw Nick was in Costa Rica in February for the Coastal Challenge stage race,) then a runner I didn’t recognize went by saying “Are you Steve Bremner? I’m Brendan Trimboli.” I recognized the name from Facebook. Brendan would later drop out, his first DNF out of five 100-mile starts. There is a picture of him just behind Rob Krar, the eventual winner, about 14 miles into the race.

Meanwhile, I was still not doing well with the nausea. I was feeling depleted, but afraid to try and eat anything. I struggled up the trail. When a runner passing me asked me if I was doing alright, I said that I was unable to hold in any calories. He dug into his pack and came up with a Zophran-like prescription nausea-fighting pill that his sister had left over from her chemo treatments. It was just a small pill and he said that after an hour to an hour and a half I’d be able to eat again. I thanked him and he went on his way. When I reached the Long Lake aide station 45 minutes later I was freezing. I pulled up a chair by the fire and asked for my drop bag and started changing from shorts to tights and putting on all the clothes I had available. It was just enough. The temperature would be dropping into the high teens at this elevation.

With mistaken confidence I drank a hot chocolate, a cup of broth, and followed it up with a bowl of ramen. Though it was under an hour since I’d taken the nausea pill I thought the time was “close enough.” Wrong. I catapulted from my comfy chair by the fire to the outer periphery and threw up everything I’d just taken in. When the resident EMT began quizzing me on when I’d eaten last I knew it was time to go. I wasn’t going to let someone else decide when I was going to quit the race.

Five and a half rolling dirt road miles and I arrived at the next aide station at Summit Lake. The three quarter moon hung low over the silhouetted forest line, the air was crisp but I had enough clothing. I wasn’t bonking yet. At Summit Lake I took a break beside the kerosene heater inside the tent. I guess I didn’t look too well, because another EMT started quizzing me--time to go.

Over the following 7.6 miles down to Dry Lake we lost about 2,000’ in elevation and though it was still in the early morning hours it was getting a lot warmer. Some of the faster tortoises passed going the other way up to Summit Lake, including Carson Rickey, who would go on to finish second tortoise. I had run with him in the first ten miles, an eternity ago. Paul Doyle passed with his pacer, Shannon Meredith about a mile before Dry Lake.

I still hadn’t been able to eat anything, so I’d come up with a plan. At Dry Lake I’d see Rebekka again for the first time since going through Steamboat Springs. I’d take an hour long nap in the car, after which I’d probably be settled down and able to take in food. It worked. I felt great! Once I’d had some calories I was ready to go. I ran all the way down to the Spring Creek trailhead, 4.5 miles of beautiful single track trail that crossed 15 solid Kevlar bridges. At the turn-around I didn’t linger—just checked in and out and started running back up on the return to Dry Lake. On the way down the trail I had passed a dozen runners including Gina Harcrow, who must have gone by while I was sleeping in the car. I began to feel knee ankle pain on the return trip, so I walked most of the ups. The round trip 9 miles took me just under two and a half hours, just what I’d predicted—and hour down and an hour and a half back. Not bad with some 60 or so miles on my legs. Succumbing to the sleep monster I took a 10-minute power nap in the car to take the edge off, drank some orange juice and a muscle milk and was ready to go again just as it began to get light—no need for a headlamp on the dirt road going back up to Summit Lake. Problem one was solved, namely nausea. Time for the next problem, asthma attack! Two miles into the 7.6 mile hike back up to Summit Lake I suddenly started having a hard time getting air. Normally I carry an albuterol breather for these contingencies, but I’d forgotten it this time. When you can’t get air in your lungs, climbing while at elevation becomes very difficult. I sat down on a rock at roadside gasping for air. When runners went by I asked it they perchance had an albuterol breather. No luck. Finally I asked a runner with a cell phone who was on his way down to Dry Lake to try and call Rebekka. He couldn’t get reception there, but promised to call her when he got reception again.

I didn’t want to retrace those two miles back to Dry Lake, so I started walking very slowly up the five + miles to Summit Lake. I would walk a few steps then double over trying to bring air into my lungs. Though asthma attacks are by nature “panic attacks” they are very real. You can’t get air into your lungs, so there’s a certain amount of panic that just acerbates the situation by preventing air flow. I tried to calm down and let the air flow resume; walked slowly; measured my breathing; kept going. Finally after three and half hours I’d covered the 7.6 miles up to Summit Lake, and they had an albuterol breather! A couple puffs and I was a new man. Now I was able to eat well, too so I rested and ate.

While I had been struggling up the road other runners had alerted the volunteers at the aide station that I was having problems and they’d sent their EMT down to find me. Well, he drove right on by and was all the way down at the Dry Lake Aide Station where they’d called Rebekka who had already gone back to the hotel. She returned to Dry Lake and then drove all the way up the rough dirt road to Summit Lake, arriving just as I was about to leave for the next aide station. She had brought my breather, which I put in my pack in case I needed it and off I went.

To get back to Long Lake for the third time we had to take a nearly nine mile long trail vice the 5.5 mile dirt road we had traveled the last night. I was moving pretty well--running most of the flats and downs and passing a lot of the runners who had gone by me while I had my breathing problems. I did notice the pains in the my left knee and ankle were getting more persistent. I hadn’t noticed that my bladder hose was leaking water when it was not closed and about halfway I realized I was completely out of water. I begged some water off another runner—actually it was someone’s pacer. Thank you!

This segment from Summit Lake to Long Lake was quite scenic, with many muskegs of swampy ponds filled with switch grass. The wet summer was evident in the overflow from the muskegs that made for muddy trails.

I stopped at Long Lake just long enough to fill up my bladder and eat half a grilled cheese sandwich. Half a mile after Long Lake I arrived at the intersection last seen about 24 hours prior and turned left this time to retrace my steps back to Steamboat Springs. I didn’t remember the next lengthy climb. There were several mountain bikers on the trail which was mildly annoying. One of them passed me, and then promptly stopped in the middle of the trail to look at his GPS. I passed him only to have him come behind me again a few minutes later. The pain in my ankle stopped all running, but I was hiking pretty quickly. I came up behind a runner who was weaving and going slowly—only about a mile and a half an hour. I told him that we had four hours to go and ten miles to cover. At his pace he wasn’t going to finish. He could walk it in, but it would have to be a brisk walk. My math was correct for the “hares” which it turned that he was, but for the tortoises we still had six hours to finish. Well, Bob from Boston, soon to receive the moniker Boston Bob from me, hearkened well to my message and fell in behind me for the ride to the final aide station at the summit of Mt Werner.

The volunteers at the Mt Werner Aide Station were enthusiastically shouting, “We’ll take care of you!” “Six downhill miles to go.” We didn’t even pause. Right down the road we went. I hung on to Boston Bob for just a couple switchbacks before he left me in the dust. For about three miles I was able to run and walk about half and half, mustering up 14 minute miles. It got very painful though and when I tried walking a full mile and the time it took was 18 minutes I decided to just walk it in. The sun overhead was relentless so I aimed for shade whenever possible. Finally, with under a mile to go Rebekka found me. She had wondered what was taking me so long and had started walking back up the course. She was able to see what time I had made it to the final aide station using the web site, and if I were even jogging slowly downhill I should have finished already.

Rebekka and I walked the final mile together. I had to ask her, where exactly is the finish line? Well, I had to walk down near the gondola start, and then walk up some stairs. Groan! Strolling along I made my leisurely way to the end. Lots of people cheered me on, including many friends from Colorado Springs, some of whom had finished earlier in the day or paced or crewed. Sitting down never felt so good!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pikes Peak Marathon, Aug. 17th

Pikes Peak Marathon - Manitou Springs, CO - 08/17/2014

Distance: 26.2

Goal: 5:59

Results: 6:05


General Summary: I didn't have grand expectations going into this race, my eighth Pikes Peak Marathon (I've run three ascents and two doubles). I've only run to the top three times this year, twice from Elk Park and once from Devil's Playground. The last time I went up on the Elk Park Trail I struggled in the last three miles.

I started off slowly and managed my pace well, given my level of fitness and general dotage. I reached A-Frame in 2:35 and the summit in 3:47. Coming off the summit I ran very well, passing a dozen or so runners on the return to A-Frame. On the long traverse to the Bottomless Pit Sign I caught me toe once, but recovered, then I out and out fell. Got up dusted myself off with minimal damage, only to fall for real just past the Bottomless Pit Sign. Now that hurt! I bruised my ribs and my legs started cramping as I lay on the ground. Finally I got up and started to walk it out before starting a slow jog. Any step or drop in the trail brought pain to my side, but when the trail was smooth I managed a good pace, reaching eight minute miles on the lower trail. Somehow I held off three other age-group oldsters hot on my trail to sneak in there for 2nd place 55-59 year age group: the three clumped in within three minutes of me.

Things Done Right: Hydrated and fueled very well. I wore a pack with bladder (Cytomax), and carried two gels, a package of shotblocks, and ate about seven S-Caps. I also drank water at nearly all the aide stations. Didn't bonk!

Things Done Wrong: Got careless on the way down and fell too many times. Ouch!

Any Other Stuff: The race staff did an excellent job as usual and thanks to the volunteers! Also, a shout out to Friends of the Peak who had two work days in the week before the races to assuage the effects of the recent rains on the lower trail.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Operation Dark Snake: a clandestine ascent of Culebra Peark

Operation Dark Snake: The Poaching of Culebra Peak June 28-29, 2014

4:15 AM: it’s the hour before the dawn. I thought we were on our last peak, Mount Maxwell, and ready for a final descent along its east ridge to our vehicles parked at the end of the steep 4-wheel drive track. We had hiked all through the night, after starting at 5 AM the previous morning. I had tried to descend due east, but the way down was hellaciously steep, and then after a few feet it cliffed out. We tried a ramp that descended northerly, thinking it might bend eastwards. No dice. So, we hunkered down under a lip to the east, mostly out of the biting cold wind, and waited for the dawn.

How did we find ourselves in this grim situation? We had started 24 hours before under high spirits. We knew we had a full day ahead of us, but I thought we would finish before nightfall. The task? Climb Mt Maxwell’s east ridge, and then traverse nine 13,000’ peaks along a high ridge for about fifteen miles in order to reach the forbidden fourteener, Culebra Peak, 14,047’, then turn around and retrace our steps.

Culebra Peak is on private land. It is the only one of Colorado’s 54 14,000’ peaks on private land. The “legal” way to climb it is to fork over $150 to the present owners of a massive Spanish Land Grant that once passed hands for a case of whiskey, but in recent history saw $22 million in state funds unable to bring into the public domain. The access point for the “Taylor Ranch” is from the west. I have climbed Culebra four times now, twice from the east and now twice from the north. Both east and west and north and south of the peak for miles and miles is taken up by Spanish Land Grants. I think they are an anachronism and should be either adjusted to allow public access or be roundly abolished.

Now we’re back on the morning of June 28th. We summited Mount Maxwell a few minutes ago; the sun has just risen over the eastern horizon. We are traversing in a southerly direction, towards the next thirteener in a line of nine to go before Culebra. I look down to the east and spot eight bighorn sheep in the basin far below. Chewy the dog makes a half-hearted attempt to run down there, but gives up easily. Surprisingly a solitary hiker joins us, the only other person we would see all day. His name is John and he’s aiming for an obscure unnamed thirteener that is not on our agenda for the day. He lacks about 30 peaks to complete ascents of the more than 700 13,000’ peaks in our fair state. He disappears shortly afterwards, avoiding the summit of Mariquita Peak by skirting around it to the west. He had already “bagged” it on a previous expedition.

We have many more peaks to climb before we can even turn around and head home. We pass Whiskey Pass and I miss it! Wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t notice the plane wreck from 1999, when near Christmas day a solo flyer hit a down draft forcing a crash landing. He survived and was able to radio for help. Beaubien Peak, Francisco Peak, the mild summit of Lomo Liso Mountain, then a long mild flattish traverse where we drop to 12,500’. The crux of the climb was coming up: Miranda Peak, featuring loose, moving slabs of rock on a steep slope. Not fun for humans or canines. I could see that our party was not moving fast enough. If we didn’t pick up the pace we would certainly be forced to hike through the night. I offered John and Sheila the option to quit then and turn around. I had already climbed Culebra three times. I had nothing to prove. No. They wanted to continue. Okay then. Before Miranda Peak was over and done with we had to traverse a mini-knife edge. Just walk the crack and lean into the mountain. Chewy? Move briskly and don’t look down.

Three more unnamed thirteeners separated us from the summit of Culebra. The penultimate summit was 13,701’ and featured a steep 700’ foot ascent along a ridge. This was the final crux, and we neared the summit of Culebra. When we reached the summit just before 5 PM (remember: we started at 5 AM that morning, so if we did even splits that would mean finishing at 5 AM the next morning) I mistakenly thought that it was a false summit. Farther south on the ridge was another highpoint. John and Sheila were not happy when I said we had to keep going. “Do you want to have come this far and not climb the actual summit?” Well, I was wrong. We added half an hour to our day by continuing along the ridge. On the way back to the real summit I realized that Red Mountain was that red mountain to the southeast. Duh! Sorry guys.

Our next object was to get past Miranda Peak before the lights went out. We knew it would be hard enough in the daylight, but in the dark who knew what problems might ensue. We just succeeded. The sun went down near the summit of Miranda Peak, and I sped ahead to climb the next high point where Sheila had left her poles. After a quick ascent I came back down and met them as they came off Miranda and showed them a traverse that avoided the high point. John would not be so lucky retrieving his poles: he donated them to the next intrepid party to trek this course.

We now had miles to go and several peaks to traverse before we slept. Indeed, we had more adventures ahead of us then we imagined at that time. If all went well, we would traverse Lomo Liso Mountain, Francisco Peak, Beaubien Peak, drop down to Whiskey Pass, then climb back up to DeAnza Peak, descend again and then climb up and over Mariquita Peak before descending then ascending the final summit of Mount Maxwell, after which we would descend its summit along the east ridge to our vehicles. If all went well I anticipated finishing around 5 AM or dawn.

Other factors came into play however. The wind from the west had been persistent all day. As night fell the wind picked up and it was colder. We were all exhausted and the urge to stop and rest was strong. We found spots out of the wind over the ridge to the east (the wind was westerly), but while they were a respite from the biting wind they didn’t bring warmth. We had no choice but to keep moving in order to fend off hypothermia. We had no choice but to keep climbing through the night.

Remember when I said that I thought that we would be done before nightfall? I had a strong headlamp with extra batteries, but I left them in the car to “save weight.” All I had was a handheld flashlight with low batteries that rather quickly went dim. John and Sheila had headlamps but no extra batteries. We had to share. Since I was leading this expedition, John gracefully gave me his headlamp and Sheila and I tried our best to shine the light in John’s path so he could make his way along.

By 10 PM it was dark. Lights out dark. No moon. My Garmin Fenix 2 GPS watch showed low battery, so I turned off the GPS tracking in order to preserve battery for the compass function. We really needed that compass in the dark! By tracking northerly I kept us mostly on track, but occasionally we found ourselves peering over cliffs. “Are we lost?” asked Sheila at one point. Or John asked, “What happens if you can’t guide us back?” I had no response that didn’t stoop to sarcasm, so I mostly ignored the questions.

Up and over Lomo Liso, then Francisco Peak, then Beaubien Peak and the long familiar flat traverse across Whiskey Pass. I was confident that we were on track; by constant consultation with the map and compass we stayed on course. I’m confident that we next ascended DeAnza Peak and started up Mariquita.

The distance between DeAnza and Mariquita was lengthy. Along the way up Mariquita a single-track trail tracked around the west side. We followed it a ways and I vaguely remembered it from my 2010 trek along this same course. I succumbed to doubts however when I noticed the silhouette of what I now know must have been Mariquita to the east. I thought it was Maxwell and to John and Sheila’s chagrin and protests I said we were going the wrong way and that we were going to retrace our steps. John’s feet were killing him, but he pushed gamely on.

Now I could see a silhouette of a peak that I thought was Maxwell. We climbed steadily to its summit where an elaborate wind shelter constructed of stones lent credence to the idea that this was indeed the summit. I checked my bearings on my watch and set our course “due east.” There was a problem with that though! Going due east down the peak was very steep with cliffs! No way! I decided to wait for dawn in about an hour to assess.

When dawn came I was mightily confused because I couldn't identify any of the peaks (except Culebra in the far distance). I wrongly assumed I was north of Maxwell because we had covered a lot of ground. I think when I went off the single track and backtracked we somehow came back towards Whiskey Pass. The drainage we were above was Whiskey Creek and the peaks that we could see were not familiar.

Sheila had been cold all night and was borderline hypothermic. I presented the alternatives to them: 1) we backtrack and try and find out where we had made our error, or 2) we drop down below treeline and bushwhack and look for a road to make it to Highway 12, and either hike back to our vehicles or hitchhike.

With the wind blowing cold and the exhaustion of being out all night we made a consensus decision to drop down below treeline. We were hallucinating with the lack of sleep and I thought I saw domesticated animals down below. Once down though there was no sign of them. As we followed a creek in an easterly direction I thought I saw a fence and a house. Nope.

Suddenly Sheila said, "John said he saw a road." I said, "Where?" John pointed north and Sheila pointed south. I still thought I had seen a fence and a yard implying a house. I now know that it was a hallucination, as was the road that John thought he saw, induced by being up for over 24 hours. We all know about those hallucinations. For example, the giant horse that both John and I saw in the predawn hour that turned into a mundane rock formation. To avoid the house I proceeded down an elk path for a couple hundred feet before turning north to intercept the "road." Not finding a road to the north, I backtracked and crossed the creek and went south until it was obvious there was no road there either. I then went back to the spot where I had last seen John and Sheila, but they were nowhere to be found! I looked around in concentric circles, but I was reluctant to call out because I still thought there might be people around and I knew we were on private property. I then went back to the creek and started going down the creek side, periodically going north and south in search of a road. After nearly a mile I noticed stumps cut with a saw and knew there had to be a road. After a bit of searching I found the start of an old logging road. I followed the road, running and walking quickly when after a couple of miles, a truck drove up with ranch staff inside, a man and a woman. I could have dashed into the woods when I heard their vehicle and probably could have avoided them, but at that point I didn't care if they found me.

The man was very belligerent and threatened to prosecute me. I explained the circumstance and why I had dropped down to the ranch. Namely that Sheila was borderline hypothermic and the best option was to get her down to where she could get warm again. Finally he told me to just keep hiking out and get off the property. I walked in the hot sun for another hour or more when they came back and the man said that "Pat" the woman had a kind heart and they had decided to take me back to the start of the old logging road so I could go get John and Sheila.

After a couple of wrong turns, I finally succeeded in finding the old logging road and made it to the end. The man said he would honk the horn three times and that we should listen to see if we heard a reply. I knew that it was too far to hear anything and after several more honk sessions, the man said that he and I would hike up to where I had last seen them. Pat said she was going to call the ranch manager on their radio to explain that they "had a situation." The man (who never told me his name even when I asked him for it) objected saying he didn't need any more decision makers muddling things up, but the woman overruled him. They had a strange relationship: very tense.

The ranch manager said no, we couldn't go look for them, and that Finally, John got cell reception and texted that they were walking down the road we were able to bring the episode to a close. I was about 30 miles north and driving home and was about to drive back to get them, when Julian offered to get them as he was getting close. I said yes, that was the better option because the longer I remained awake, the greater the chance that I would nod off while driving and get in a wreck.

Here is Sheila’s email to me with her version of what transpired following our separation: “When you asked where John had seen the road (I had no idea we pointed in different directions), I heard you say something, but didn't hear what you said. I was so confused as to why you weren't walking to the road. I told John that I was going to "run up to the road" and that he should chase you down and get you to follow. I think he yelled once (I might be wrong about that, though). There was no road--John said it must have turned into a trail, so we started to follow the water. I figured we'd come upon you soon, b/c you had been stopping to wait for us periodically. Then, we saw "a house." This was within a few minutes of being separated. I told John to follow the water and scream for you (as I bee-lined toward the 'house'), and he said that if we saw the house, certainly you did, too, and you were probably already there waiting. We went over to it, and of course, it was not a house. We followed the water for a ways and then it got pretty difficult, so we paralleled it in the forest.

“At that point, we figured you were long gone, but we were keeping our eyes open, hoping we'd see you. The forest really wasn't much better--it was dense, and downed trees were EVERYWHERE. I think each one took me 3-4 minutes to lift my legs over. Occasionally, we'd find a trail (sometimes just an animal trail, once or twice a trail that looked like it might go out to a TH). Always, the trail would end up just disappearing. We found what looked like old 4WD/ATV kind of 'roads' a few times, but they always became so overgrown you couldn't follow them. We did this for HOURS, and all we could see ahead was more forest. Throughout the day, we both were hallucinating like crazy. I cannot tell you how many times we thought we saw pavement that turned out to be a downed tree or a dirt road that was tree bark. I thought I heard someone whistle; John thought he heard voices; I thought I saw trucks a few times (once I even saw tires... that just turned out to be the ground underneath a downed tree); I also thought I saw two people sitting on a grassy knoll. Once, we both saw the same thing that looked like a house. After awhile, we were almost out of water, and we found a trail that headed steeply toward the river below, so we took that.

“We reached the river and saw a flat area between the other side of the water and the trees. Sure enough, it was a road. We had no idea we were on private property, and we had no idea how long the road was or where it led to, but we figured we'd walk on it while we still had daylight. John was checking to see if he had cell reception every 5-10 minutes, and FINALLY he had one bar and that was when we saw the texts from you and Julian and Rebekka.

“Thanks for showing us the route and for being so patient throughout the night. I don't think I have ever been so cold for so long--that was really rough, and when I saw John's feet (after we hit the pavement on Sunday) I felt terrible. His shoes had cut into the top of his foot, and the pads on the bottoms of his feet were really swollen. We both have the same sentiment--in a strange way, we're thankful for the experience--it is good to have to persevere through tough times; those kinds of experiences build character and confidence. That said, we're not exactly looking to repeat that kind of epic experience anytime soon (or ideally ever again). I don't think I will ever step foot on a mountain again without my down jacket. I hate being cold (that and being hungry are my two least favorite feelings in the world! I'd rather be roasting hot than even a little cold).

“We both were amazed at your speed and your stamina. Your efficient pace is incredibly fast, and you have good 'mountain legs' that don't change pace, regardless of terrain. Good for you for not wasting those strengths--you should be pursuing the craziest endurance feats out there. I hope you and Rebekka have a great time in Europe (and an awesome race)! Thanks, again, for a (mostly :)) fun weekend!”