Today was my 26th week in a row that I've run up Grays and Torreys. Half way done with the challenge. There seemed to be a noticeable shift in the environment today - the air temperature was actually not freezing out, the wind was not as biting, the early start not as bad. I'm sure there is plenty more winter to come, but I thought I could sense a touch of spring today. It was the usual slog however, breaking trail after catching up to a party of four near the Stevens/Grizzly split. Down in the trees, everything was wonderful, but once at the willows and beyond, the wind and micro gusts were fierce.
Lessons Learned So Far
Consistency is key, but boy is it hard. Trying to run G&T once a week during the winter is not easy. I've had to juggle being sick twice, which put the whole challenge into jeopardy. Not to mention that this winter we seem to be getting frequent and substantial snow storms, making it even more dicey trying to fit in an attempt with work and the weather.
It gets easier, sort of. When it was nice and dry out, running G&T once a week was not a problem. I was able to fit it into my training schedule and things were smooth. Once the snow started, my times slowed a bit and the "epicness" of the challenge increased. Sitting at Bakerville at 6:00am when it is -2 degrees out and knowing that you have to try and make it 14.5 miles and 5,300' before you freeze is not motivating. However, I've now run it enough to really not be too afraid of the weather or temperature. I've been up there when it was -2 at the car with solid and consistent wind, so I know that my gear setup will allow me to make the attempt, unless it is just really brutal out there. However, each run taxes the body less and less and my ability to recover and continue with solid training right after has become easier.
If you go light, go fast. There are a lot of ways to approach the peaks, and none are better than the other. For this challenge, I've chosen to run (or speed power hike), which means I carry a lot less gear than others I see out there, especially in winter. Going once a week has allowed me to nail down my "hoped for" time, which allows me to calculate how much water and food and clothing I will (hopefully) need. Right now, my winter setup consists of:
- 40oz of water
- 3 bars
- 2 gels
- 1 fruit strip
- Brooks Cascadia 8s (sprayed with tons of NikWax)
- one pair of wool socks
- running shorts
- 2 layers of Patagonia long underwear
- 1 outer Outdoor Research running pants
- 1 medium weight long underwear top
- 1 tech t-shirt
- 1 Nike running long sleeve shirt
- 1 hooded running jacket
- 1 regular nylon running jacket
- 1 hat
- 1 balaclava
- 2 pairs of $1 gardening gloves doubled up
- 1 pair of Salomon race poles
- 1 pair of Atlas running snowshoes
The conditions change weekly. It is amazing how much conditions can change every week. Some weeks there is tons of snow, where I have to post hole all the way. Other weeks, everything has been blown clear and a fairly decent packed trail can be run. I can't wait until summer and I can run on solid ground (and with less clothing), but the winter conditions are also unique and make the mountains and basin entirely different place then in summer.
Confidence in the mountains is essential. None of this would be possible if I did not have complete confidence in myself and my abilities on this route. Pushing forward through deep blowing snow in a white out is only possible because I know the route and my abilities. Feeling comfortable skirting past fully loaded avalanche zones has taken many years of being in the mountains. Likewise, standing on top of a 14er with a bit of water, a bar, in full winter conditions, with no one around and 5,000' and 7+ miles to safety has taken a long time to feel OK with.
There are a lot of other really small lessons I've learned on this challenge, one's that I can't think of right now but that have become rote - and essential. All in all, I'm really happy to have reached this point - half a year. I wasn't too sure how it would all go, and when I first thought of the challenge back in the summer/fall, I don't think I was too serious. Now, however, with each one it becomes a bit more serious and I only hope that I can hang on and complete this.
I don't know what is in this... but it is a random artifact of the trail...
Another lovely morning...
Lame summit selfie...
This massive slide happened between me going up and coming down - crazy powerful!