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Saturday, May 19, 2018

There are days when I feel like I can whip the entire world. Today was not one of them...

"We always default to self deprecation..."   Samsara, by Juliet Lina.

My alarm is set for 5:32 AM, but I'm awake by 5. Dawn breaks softly. I count distant stars as they disappear one by one. Light eases into La Crevice with the stealth of a panther, imperceptible degrees of movement. Still, this time of year, we live the early and late hours of daylight without sun, which does not strike our windows until 8:38 AM, and slips behind another mountain by 3 PM. 

Today is the Black Canyon Ascent: 2000 feet of elevation gain over six miles. My stomach is queasy, yet I roll out of bed and force-feed it strong, acidic coffee. I will need Tums and slip half a dozen into my pocket. 

It's barely 6 AM when Leon hollers up the stairwell that he's ready. I skip breakfast, pop another Tums.

My bag is packed with clothing for a cold start (wool sweater) and a hot finish (tank top). I'll decide what to wear at the gun...erring on the side of being cold for the first mile.   

The Black Canyon went from being a National Monument to a National Park in 1999. It's an unlikely geological gash in the earth's crust...quite narrow considering it's depth.

The Black Canyon's name came from the lack of sunlight penetrating into it's deep and narrow gorge. The dark shadows cause volcanic based, 1.7 billion year old rock walls to appear black. 

"The Gunnison River drops an average of 34 feet per mile through the entire canyon, making it the 5th steepest mountain descent in North America. By comparison, the Colorado River drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile through the Grand Canyon. The greatest descent of the Gunnison River occurs within the park at Chasm View, dropping 240 feet per mileAt its narrowest point the canyon is only 40 ft wide at the river."

Some get their kicks on walls. Others by hiking down to fish the Gold Medal waters of the Gunnison River...
This is the trail down to the Gunnison River. There are frequent rescues, even though Rangers do their best to talk you out of going. Bobbie and I have made it to the river and back out two or three times...and each time we see people who have no business being there. Sections of the return trip up to the rim is a Hellish scramble.
We arrive at 7 AM, in time to get one of the last parking spots. The race starts at 8, with "walkers" starting at 7:30. 

The wind is blowing so we sit in the car for a while. Restlessness sets in so we bail into the cold to stretch leg muscles. 

Soon enough, runners are called to the start line. I know my place and slip to the back, while Leon moves forward. He's gunning for a sub-hour time, but our age division is top heavy with fast Geezers who will likely be taking home the "Gold." 

I don't care about Gold, but would like to average 11 or 12 minute miles over the six mile course. In my running prime (30's) I was routinely under an hour at the Black Canyon. But now, pushing 68, it will be interesting to see what happens (unless I die from ego induced exertion, a form of stupidity typically afflicting aging males). 

Pre race scenes... 

Leon doing his pre-race meditation... while everybody else fidgets and checks their cell phones.
"Bang," we're off...Leon in a large group of front runners, me back with the slowpokes where I belong. The first hill is a doozy...a little something to let you know who's boss and make you question choices to do such things.  

Right off the bat I have difficulty catching my breath, which confuses me because I've been training at 8 to 12 thousand feet and the start line is 6,500. Granted the hill is steep, but so are all the hills I've been training on. My pulse is elevated and I can barely push off. WTF? 

The only cause I can think of...besides the fact that I have been power-hiking/biking instead of running...is that I consumed too much coffee...two large, strong cups on an empty stomach was not the smartest way to start a difficult race. 

I have no choice but to slow down and give my heart a break till my body can metabolize some of the caffeine coursing through veins. It takes 3 agonizing miles...fifteen minute miles Argh and Damn.

I plod the race like a pregnant cow, so slow I'm embarrassed...not in last place but damn close. My legs are rubber by the time my heart rate normalizes. 

I catch up to a few Walkers, barely passing them. I'm not sure what my time was...something just under an hour and 30 minutes, I think, 20 some minutes beyond what I hope to accomplish, which sucks.

I find Leon at the post race party. He's down about his time, too (tho it was fast by any age standard @ an hour and two minutes, but slower than last year by over 4 minutes. He wanted so bad to run with the "big (old) boys" this year...thought he was ready. His legs tell him otherwise. 

We pick up our T shirt consolation prize and get on the bus, quiet and slumped in our seats, shaking heads, Deprecating our Selves with a pity party.

Oh well. Mama said there'd be days like this. I suppose we better get used to it at this age :)

Monday we'll get back to the "grind" of training. Maybe next year I'll turn in a respectable time...or not.
Boo hoo from Lovely Ouray. 
The mountain kicked our butts.
mark and leon 


  1. You and Leonard are both winners IMHO. -scamp

  2. You know, sometimes just showing up is enough. I wouldn't even do that. You showed up and did the whole race, and finished. That's winning in my book. Give yourself some credit! (And next year, have breakfast?) 😉

  3. I know that road! went up/down that road exactly one year ago on an electric bike which was way more fun than running it :)

  4. Just to let you know age 70 was was my BIG physical decline year. Still glad to be trying to have tooooo much fun tho.

  5. I don't run any more--you two out did most people your age!

  6. Good effort! Maybe too much power bike riding is using leg muscles that are different from running? I volunteered to hand out water at the Indianapolis Mini marathon a couple of weeks ago. It’s fun to get involved in the running community. I use to run the race but wanted to save my legs (knees) for hiking.

  7. Seems to me the bright side of all this is that you can still participate in events like this! Good on you for never stopping, always giving it your best!

  8. I think you did great, especially with such short training time. Wear that t-shirt proud and keep on shuffling!

  9. It may have been disappointing for you both but we admire you for even being able to finish a race like that.

  10. You're a better man than I - my right knee keeps me from doing a lot that I use to love to do...

  11. No comment:
    Glad we will be seeing in September :)

  12. Fun report. I laughed and nodded sympathetically throughout. :)

  13. Isn't a beautiful thing to be able to write WELL about something you feel you didn't necessarily DO well at??? You walked a line between deprecation and self-esteem. Thats the best we can do sometimes I think! Thanks for linking my blog, Mark. I miss you guys!

  14. You were out there which is more than most can say:) Way to go!


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