The drive to Leadville was long, and hot. I will try to remember other things that happened, but those are the essentials.
Left Vancouver on June 19, at 8:30 AM … was going to try to leave earlier but figured: what is the rush? Beating the border line-up would be nice, but so would getting a good night’s sleep and not abandoning the g/f at 4 AM.
“Wake me up, before you go-go!”
Anyway, the drive to the border was fine, the border was fine. I got a border guard that asked almost no questions, and I was throwing him off with my answers.
First pointless line of questioning:
Agent: “Are you a professional runner?”
Me: “No, I’m a mechanical engineer.”
Agent: “Where do you work?”
(long, uncomfortable pause…)
Me: “It’s in Vancouver.”
Second pointless line of questioning:
Agent: “Are you bringing any food over?
Me: (Looks around…) “Uh, nope. Some Trader Joe’s beef Jerky. Some dog food…”
Agent: “What kind of dog food is it?”
(long, uncomfortable pause…)
Agent: “Uhhh… does it have any lamb in it?”
Me: “Uhm… Hmm… I think this is the Six Fish flavour. So… no? No. No it does not contain lamb.”
So that ordeal (and a 40 minute line-up) complete, I was now en-route. I basically didn’t stop for the entire trip, except for gas and to let the dog pee, and poop, which continuously never happened. Which was enraging, but whatever. It wouldn’t be so bad if Americans had lawn, not just rocks and tumbleweeds. I think the dog just didn’t want to poop on a tumbleweed, or a crusty pile of gravel with garbage all through it, which comprises 40% of American flat surfaces, the other 40% being pavement, (with 10% going to lakes and trees.)
I pulled over in … some city, to buy myself a new camera. I wasn’t going to spend this entire trip shooting shitty shots with my iPhone. Instead, I will be shooting shitty shots with my new Olympus TG-1 iHs. Their new, top of the line “Tough” series camera. It’s pretty good, but it does what I want: turns on fast, takes photos fast, and saves them in more than 1 kilo-potato resolution. It’s also (obviously) great for bringing on runs (although it’s a bit heavy) because I won’t have to worry about rain and dirt, unlike the iPhone, which apparently has a rain-absorbent (that’s hydrophilic fyi) connector ports and worse low-light performance than every kitchen utensil except for the wooden cutting board.
We slept, somewhere. I turned on my Garmin about 310 km into the trip, somewhere around Snoqualmie (sp?) which is … somewhere, I know that much. I ran it for about 10 hours before pulling over to sleep, then we crashed for about 4-5 hours. The last thing I did was check the Garmin before bed.
It was too hot for my sleeping bag and I slept like crap, the dog was anxious and kept waking me up, just staring out of the truck, presumably at gophers or something. Nothing worse than waking up out of a semi-sleep, sweaty and hot with a dog standing over you looking frantic.
Dawn of the Second Day
Upon waking (around 5 AM) the check engine light came on, in the truck. Oh shit, I was stressing out. Luckily it didn’t seem to do anything, although it sounds like it’s running a bit rougher. Given my previous experience with injector cut-out testing, I naturally concluded that it was probably a bad injector. Whatever it is, it ain’t slow us down. Our gas mileage got a bit worse at first, but seemed to improve eventually. Probably got a piece of goddamn Utah stuck in an injector.
The Garmin died around the 16.3 hour mark. It died on the second “low battery” warning. This is important for the race, because I don’t want to lose my data, and I want to know how long it’ll last. If I set a new course record 16 hours should be more than sufficient … (That’s a joke.) In actual fact, my Garmin will die just after the half-way point, and I will be forced to either charge it, or use a backup. The g/f and the brother and sister all have Garmins, but they don’t have 310xt-like battery life. So we’ll see. Then again, who needs a Garmin? Just run until the finish line appears miraculously, like a dog-poop after 3 days of holding it in.
Coming off of a record-setting shitty June in Vancouver, where it was routinely in the low 10’s and raining, the heat of the Utah dessert was obscene. 37 degrees C (over 90 F) in the truck, without air conditioning, had me and the dog just about throwing ourselves out of the windows. Actually the dog seemed less irritated with it than I did, although she didn’t poop for two days, so perhaps I am wrong. Driving through Salt Lake was awful. What an awful highway system. How come the USA has amazing highways, but once you’re within city limits it’s all just goes to shit? What’s with the American preference for cracked, poorly maintained cement road surfaces?! I don’t get it. Anyway, I missed two turns in Salt Lake, partly due to construction, partly due to google maps directions, partly due to me not having any idea where I was going. Mostly construction’s fault though.
After that it was pretty much due East (including the broiler of Eastern Utah) … for a long, long stretch. Interminable. I tried to imagine cowboys struggling to cross the desert. Oh god, why is Utah even a state?? I realized, as I crossed into Colorado and things got immediately nicer that Utah is a state of leftovers. Looking at the shape of Utah, one realizes this is obviously true. Utah is what happened after Colorado took all the good stuff, and said “uh, you can have that dry, brown, flat bit.”
Western Colorado was pretty boring too, but it got nicer the further I went. It was only a hop, skip and a jump from the I-70 (I think it was) down US-24 to Leadville.
Leadville was a bit underwhelming, but the terrain was nice. Huge mountains (Massive, and Elbert) dominate the skyline, and they are bare of trees (which I love) and still somewhat snowy, in patches. Thankfully (praise be to Jesus) the temperatures dropped steadily as I climbed, although still only at low as 26 degrees! It’s dry as a bone here, must be like 5% humidity. The dog is a like Peter Griffin when he puts on his static electricity pyjamas and goes around shocking everyone. Just brushing her for like 10 seconds and she’ll crackle like Rice Krispies. Guess I won’t be brushing her, I’ll start a forest fire.
The altitude is pretty good. I mean, I wasn’t “out of breath” but I had a slight headache (though that could be the road noise of hell, the ear plug pain, the sunglasses pain, the lack of food for 2 days, or the 32 hours of almost non-stop driving) … I did notice it bit. It feels “lighter”. They say that VO2 max is reduced by 12% (I think at 10,000 ft) but performance is only reduced by 6%, because the wind resistance is actually so much less! I was amazed by that. Wouldn’t that much of a wind resistance be immediately noticeable, when waving your hand? I would have to do that calculation (I may later) but I thought the air felt lighter and less resistant. Could be my imagination though, but it must be close.
So I unpacked my stuff (was able to move in a night early, since I arrived a day early) and walked around town with the dog a bit. We were cooking our nuts off but it wasn’t unenjoyable. Got to bed at a reasonable time (11 PM?) and fell soundly asleep. Tona’s crate is her little home away from home, as is her little brown bed thingy I bought her, so she was comfortable and did fine.
So we made it. 2314 km in 32 hours, from 8:30 AM on Sunday to 4:30 PM on Monday. Not bad, but not good. I blame the dog.
More to come. Mitch out.