Ok, so day 2 of training camp is the crux of the route and the exact middle 20 miles of the race. It is the infamous “Hope Pass”. Now, since it is the middle of an out-and-back race, you have to hike up and down the pass, run 2.5 miles, then turn right back around and do it again. God damn!

The day went like so:

Got up at 5:30 AM. Didn’t sleep super well, but my guilt at leaving the dog crated all day drives me to get up early and spend a good hour walking and playing. At 6:30 I drove my truck up to the gym and met up with various other people I had met yesterday. My plan was to drive to the run this time, since it was an out-and-back, so I didn’t need to use the shuttle. Jeff and I drove, and Dan went with his buddy… lots of people were car-pooling.

The crowd lined up at the bridge. Not the usual course start, but not too far off.

The start of the trail was at a nice little bridge, and the temps were perfect (meaning: would be too hot later). I guess there were a few less runners on this second day. The crowd seemed smaller, anyway.

Another beautiful Colorado morning!

We started off and got stuck in really tight single file. Some dude (I was going to say “jackass”) was going really super slow, so although it’s annoying to have to pass, we made several passing moves until we were pretty well out front of the “slow” gang, but trailing behind the lead “fast” gang.

As perfect a trail as they make. Some of the stuff further on out of the woods.

Once we were on the actual course trail, it was pretty much hiking the entire way. I think it took us 1.5 hours to get to the top (too lazy to check the Garmin… ok, nevermind… hold on…) Correction: 1:50 to the top. Lots of the trail wasn’t too steep, so we were making good time. We kept moving fast and passed lots of people the entire way. I felt quite good, although I think the pace was a little bit faster than I would like for race day.

Moving out of the woods to above the treeline.

More gorgeous mountain terrain. I was in heaven.

Nearly at the top of the pass. Pretty easy terrain.

Me hiking the very last few feet to the top, from the North side.

Jeff and the view South from the top of the pass.

The trail was nice at the top, and honestly it was over a lot sooner and a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Then we were on the steeper South side, which we ran down pretty much the entire way. Holy shit my quads were just *aching*. It didn’t take us too long to get down (37 mins), and there was a little aid station. The only thing I ate were like, 3 of those cheesy “goldfish” crackers. Tasty lil’ critters aren’t they?

After that is the hellish mental battle of a road to the turn-around point: Winfield. The road is uphill pretty much the whole way, very hot, dusty, and just feels… interminable. I was really glad we ran it though, so I know what to expect on race day. After re-filling out packs (I would not run out of water today!) we headed back to the mountain… The way back from Winfield is downhill and pretty cruisy, thank God. The whole Winfield section took us about 1 hellish hour (for ~ 8 km or 5 mi).

The ghost town of Winfield, at the end of the hard gravel road section. The halfway point, the 50 mile mark! AKA: where the real race begins.

Ok, then we’re back to hiking up the South side… and holy crap it was tough. Took us about 1:10 to get back up, which was pretty fast going. I mean, just panting the whole time, HR up in the 170’s, like starting a second lap of the Grouse Grind, but at 10,000 ft of altitude (and after running a 6 hour marathon yesterday)… On race day, this is after 80 km. Lots of people quit at Winfield, but you must do whatever it takes to get over Hope Pass inbound. You must.

So we did it. We were hiking really quite fast, and were passing people all over the place. Guys were just leaning on trees looking half dead already. Rough going for everyone.

Halfway up, but the very worst is well behind us. I actually enjoyed this section a fair bit.

After we got out of the woods above the treeline it actually got a lot easier, and I was stoked because at that point you know you can do it. It’s almost runnable but we would never run any of it. We were taking a fair number of water breaks and rests as it was, though still making good time.

Not a lot of breaks didn’t involve hands on the knees & lots of gasping!

We continued to pass lots of people (irrelevant, again, but fun) and finally made it to the top just around the 4:40 total mark, I think.

We started down, at a pretty relaxed pace. Some people were really killing themselves to get down quickly and I didn’t get it, honestly it’s just hard on the legs. Lots of the terrain is really runnable though, and we did do lots of good running. I was pretty tired, a bit headachey, and my contacts were bugging me. I was having a hard time seeing really clearly. Sunscreen in my eyes?

Anyway, we had a little stop where the Aid station would have been (Jeff’s very good idea) and then just took our reasonable amount of time getting back down. Ended up crossing the bridge (very tired, I will admit) in 3 seconds under 6 hours. Which is a pretty solid time, methinks. Took us just about 1:20, then, to get down. (Versus 1:50 to get up.)

There really weren’t a ton of people ahead of us, and we didn’t push too hard, although I don’t think I can do that in 6 hours on race day and still have much left for the remaining 40 miles. This fast runner I met, who has a 23 hour finish or something, says “oh yeah you can.” but … we’ll see. I need to do a lot more hiking, my quads and hamstrings were really sore. Embarrassingly sore. Here I was thinking I had strong quads…

I actually felt pretty good today though. Combination of cooler temps, staying hydrated, and eating more, meant I was in better shape after today, despite the fact that we’d just ran 76 km in two days, and climbed like a million feet of ascent.

So all in all, the run today was 34 km long with 2,049 m of elevation (6,722 ft!), and we finished in exactly 5:59:57! The schedule for a 24 hour roughly even-split finish calls for just over 6 hours for this section. Will be tough! The A goal is turning into a A++ dream goal…! But still 1.5 months to train and acclimatize. I’ve only been here 6 days, so hopefully lots more strength to gain.

Here’s my Garmin plot from today: Training camp day 2 – Hope Pass double crossing.

Now I’m off to try to stay awake until it gets dark out… And the dog is an absolute animal after being crated for two days straight, so I’d better play some goddamn tug-of-war. Just what I need after 50 miles of hard mountain running this weekend, and another half-marathon lined up for tomorrow night!

Mitch out.

ps: I’ll try to be more entertaining next time, I promise. To make up for the tedious running updates, here’s a picture of the dog half-asleep with her toy still in her mouth:

Sure must be a hard life…