Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do something, whenever you can, that scares you.

Friday we arrived in the area of the Leadville trail run, and even before docking at our accomodations there was a planned run in the morning.  We started out from twin lakes: Me, Sweet Baboo, Ken, Jean, and Mo.  Some other guy showed up from Massachusettes, but he was actually from Romania, and that's all I know, so that's all I'll say about him. 

The area is breathtaking.  I took pictures.  I'll upload them when I get home.  jagged peaks that once held glaciers, well above the tree line, some with bits of snow still on them.

We started out and after a mile or so I heard a mention of river crossing,  and I, uh, HUH?  river crossing?  Oh, well.  No big deal.  River crossings in New Mexico are streams that may or may not have water actually in them, and most of the time, you can just jump across them.

So as we jogged along, every once in a while I would run across some water, pretty still, about 4 to 6" deep, where some slow-moving streams crossed our path.  Finally I asked Ken, "so, is this the river?"

"Not yet," he said.

Then we got to the river.

Oh.  Shit.

It was an actual river.  With cold water was moving fast.  I mean, it wasn't the mighty Mississippi or anything, but there was no way you were getting across this without serious wetness.  My time across, I stepped down...and down...and down...until I was ass deep in rushing mountain cold water.  I was almost freaking out, not because I was ass deep in cold rushing water, but because it was fast, with a strong current, and it was pushing me backwards.  Lucky for me I had that Clydesdale in back of me to keep me from moving.

So I came up out of the river, soaking wet from butt to feet, and then we headed up to the trail head and parted ways.  The plan was, those training for Leadville 100  would go up and over Hope pass, which is around 12,000 feetish above sea level, and then back up and over from the opposite side. 

My plan was to make it to the pass and come straight back.  They moved on ahead, and Baboo had flour in a water bottle and whenever they made a turn, he marked it with the flour, and so in that way the path was marked. 

It was a long grind.  I get pretty breathless at those altitudes, so my resolve was dissipating rapidly.  I realized as I got pretty close where I figured the pass would be and realized, I had no way of knowing when I had reached a "pass".  I didn't grow up in the mountains. 

Was there a sign saying, "HOPE PASS"?  or, "You have reached The Pass"?
A greeter?  

I hiked up for a couple hours, saw a couple of ruined cabins, and hiked a little more ways up, decided I was tired of climbing this thing and, well, hell, *I* was not getting ready to run Leadville 100 so I headed back down the path to the bottomland.  I found out later that I was within a half mile of the pass, so I'll call it good.

I took pictures. I'll up load them at home.

But then, on the way back, I was alone.  I got the river, and walked up and down the beach, trying to find away across without a 200 pound man to cling to, and I made a couple of false starts, walking back to shore when the water go deeper.  It's not that I was afraid of drowning or anything.  It's mostly that I had electronics, including my phone, in the pack and was afraid of being pushed over backwards, underwater, and ruining them.  That, and maybe hitting my head on a rock and drowning. 

I turned around and came back to shore, finally decided, I'll just wait until they all come down off the mountain so that Baboo could provide a nice anchor for getting across. 

But that could be hours

Finally, I thought, I can do this.  I can do this.  I stood there for a really long time thinking that.  I stuck my handheld in the chest strap of my hydration pack, grabbed a long stick, and stepped back into the water.  I got to the deeper part, and even as the water pushed me backward, while I was stepping backwards, I continued stepping sideways, facing into the current the way Baboo told me to do, and then, well, then I was on the other side.   

It was one of the weird, trimphant moments when nobody was around but me to know it, but there it was.  So I took a picture of the river, and now it's on my cell phone.  When I get home, I'll upload it here. 

Later we drove to Leadville, altitutude 11K or so, and ate some really awesome Mexican food. 

THIS morning, Saturday morning, I woke really tired.  I didn't sleep well, and had had about 9 hours of sleep in two days.  Baboo and I headed out to Leadville again, and got coffee, and by then I was a little nauseated, and my head was starting to hurt and pound a little.

 I'm no fool, so I begged off the run and went back down to 8000 feet to rest.  I looked up altitude sickness, and it had a list for "mild" sickness that went like this:
Symptoms generally associated with mild to moderate altitude illness include:

•Difficulty sleeping (check)
•Dizziness or light-headedness (Mmmm.  Maybe)
•Fatigue (check)
•Headache (check)
•Loss of appetite (no, not really)
•Nausea or vomiting (check)
•Rapid pulse (heart rate) (check)
•Shortness of breath with exertion (you mean more than usual? check)

So tonight, we're supposed to do an "after dark" run.  I really want to do this, so I'm going to rest and hopefully feel better to go later. 

It occured to me when I was walking around a gift shop the other day that I want to have the kind of life where I can to see, and be among, the things that most people see on TV or in paintings. Running around in the mountains is a pretty good start, I think.  I also credit Baboo for exposing me to a lot of things I might have been afraid of in another life. 



  1. Take care of that mild altitude sickness.

    You are pretty cool, getting yourself across the river like that...I think I would have left a trail of fear ;)

    Sounds like a beautiful place to be!

  2. Give that Clydesdale a big hug for me and tell him to be safe (as if you have not already done so...) I have yet to do a real river crossing. There is a 50k here that has a crazy one, with a rope and everything (so we do not need to bring our clydesdales). We should do it next summer!

    I hope you guys have a fun and safe race! WOO HOO!!

  3. I see you joining us for Sharkfest in the near future!

    I have your wrought-iron photos for you. What is your e-mail? Or should I send them to your FB account?
    Let me know!
    Good luck and have fun - that's for hubby and you too!

  4. altitude sickness is serious business, but it's easy to ward off - drink lots of water, take it easy the first few days to adjust, and rest. my family came out here and needed to acclimate quickly. they got addicted to GU chews. i figured if they worked at mile 20, they should work on day 1. they'd pop a couple with water when they were feeling sluggish. worked! enjoy colorado! sure wish i could run at those altitudes.

  5. Ok, I am an idiot. I just read SB's post and realize now it was a training weekend. Makes much more sense now, even though my previous comment does not.

    I did have to laugh reading my previous comment. My personal clydesdale would never do a river crossing. He would, however, stand on the bank, take pictures of us, and offer "helpful" suggestions.

  6. You are AMAZING for crossing that river alone! I wouldn't have done it without backup for anything - and even with backup it would be easier to move a mountain than me across a rushing river.


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