Monday, February 25, 2008
WARNING! Stupidity ahead.
Yesterday (Sunday) I had planned to get in some good training in the morning before taking Allison to the Home and Garden show in Denver. Lee and Monique were going to meet us there too. I headed down to Waterton Canyon and had planned to run the 7+ mile dirt road up the canyon and back and then bike it. Since I started out running, I took 2 bottles of Accelerade with me to stay fueled for the run and bike and paced myself easily.
The uphill run didn't take long or much energy so since I was feeling so good, I decided to hit the single track trail at the top of the canyon. This trail is the beginning of the Colorado Trail but it has a loop that comes back around to the canyon road. The single track loop is a little over 3 miles of beautiful scenery and I knew the way having biked it before. The first mile was great, but steep and I was still feeling good.
Most of the snow I encountered on this 45+ degree (in the mntns.-60 in Denver) day was packed down by hikers and there were little patches of ice that were easy to avoid. I was wearing my Continental Divides and shorts with 2 shirts and my carried water bottles. As I got to the trail split where it leads on to the Colorado Trail or circles back around to the road, I took the loop since that's what I was familiar with. All of the foot traffic that I had seen up to that point had abruptly stopped so apparently everyone had been doing an out and back instead of taking the scenic loop. Wonder why?
After a little more climbing and some muddy sections, I hit the back side of the mountain where it stays shaded and the snow was still pretty deep on most of the trail. The wind and sun had caused it to crust over making it a thin shell of rough ice on top of deep snow. I was making fresh tracks and not minding the first section of 6-8 inches of untrodden snow when I came upon a section wherein I sank up to my waist! Not only that, but the crust on top had cut my exposed legs once my foot broke through the top layer. It cut me going in and again when pulling my leg out. This was a little uncomfortable, but I was not to be deterred from this picturesque training opportunity. It was a minor annoyance, but anyone who knows me knows that little cuts and scratches mean nothing to me. As I continued forward, I kept thinking, "This deep stuff probably won't last for long." Each step, I lost more skin and was beginning to bleed pretty steadily. I was still fairly warm although my skin was starting to get numb from being encased in snow from the hips down. It's an odd feeling to have good bloodflow and to be warm despite being soaking wet and covered in ice. As long as I kept moving forward, I knew I'd be ok. The deep stuff continued. Then got a little better for a few feet, but overall I stupidly forced myself through about 1.25 miles of that painful experience. A couple of times, I was unable to maintain my balance and toppled over into the snow at which point I'm sitting (in shorts) in a snowbank up to my neck. My first thought was to sit there for a moment and catch my breath and take a short rest, but the reality of my situation kicked in quickly and I realized that was NOT a good idea. 10 miles away from civilization and being on foot is definitely not a good place to tempt hypothermia. It transitioned from being an amusing novelty at first, to being an annoyance, to being an uncomfortable test of will power, to being an slightly frightening challenge from which I have quickly learned.
My original plan was to run 12-14 miles and then bike the same, but my curiosity got the better of me and it turned into the hardest 17+ I've ever done. Besides the snow fiasco, the mountainous terrain was a little steeper than I was prepared for at that distance.
In the end, I toughed it out and made it back to my car in 3 hours and 40 mins missing some skin and a little blood. What doesn't kill you, only makes you tougher.... right? I realized when I got back to the car, that I had only drank 1 and 1/3 of my 2 bottles. I don't think I was dehydrated, but I'm going to have to start paying better attention to my fueling, my surroundings, and learn to keep my sense of adventure in check.