Rocky Raccoon Feb 2nd 2008

Trip Report for Rocky Raccoon 100 mile run Feb 2nd 2008

In order to adequately report my experience of running my first successful 100 mile race, I feel like I need to provide some background to make it easier to understand what this accomplishment meant to me. My health has always been pretty precarious. When I was about 2 months old, I contracted spinal meningitis, and my parents were told that I had about a low chance of surviving, and that if I did survive, I would almost certainly be brain damaged. My mom and grandma took turns holding me around the clock because that was the only way I would quit crying, and miraculously I survived. My parents were sure that I was retarded, since I didn’t speak a single word until 18 months of age and was smiley and happy all the time, but by the time I started school I was at the top of the class intellectually.

When I was 12, I fell and broke my nose, which started a nasty cycle of horrible sinus infections, and I was pretty sickly throughout the teen years. At age 18, I had nasal surgery to correct the damage from the broken nose and did somewhat better for a few years after that.

I started my career at age 20 and married Lori at age 21. The additional demands of full-time work and later the added demands of having children really began to take a toll on me physically and mentally. In 2003, I became tired of the chronic sinus infections and went to a surgeon. He put a scope up my nose and discovered some serious bone damage caused by the constant infections, so I went under the knife and had things repaired. This was pretty much the breaking point for my body. I was suffering from various myalgias, difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, joint pain, you name it I probably suffered from it at some point. I was allergic to virtually everything, and ended up losing almost 50 pounds because everything I ate made me sick. I was a complete mess both physically and mentally, and Lori pretty much didn’t know what to do with me. It was causing serious strain on our marriage.

One night during this time, I was feeling particularly bad. I was laying in bed, long after bedtime, with a pulse of 100 and I felt like I was going to melt down even though I had no covers on and no clothing but my underwear. It was then that I had a sickening thought – if I continued down the path I was on I would soon no longer be able to work and provide for my family, and would eventually die from whatever was wrong with me. I thought about all the things that that would mean for a long time, and finally resolved that I wouldn’t go down without a fight. I would swallow my pride and do whatever I could to get out of the mess I was in and be truly healthy for the first time in my life, or I would die trying.

I began exercising, which was very difficult for me at the time. I couldn’t handle anything too intense, but found that I could tolerate some weight lifting. I began doing Body For Life and soon was at least starting to look a little bit better and getting a bit more energy. I still couldn’t do any type of cardio exercise though – every time I tried I would be sick for 2 or 3 days afterwards. Eventually I was able to start riding my bike for an hour or so at a time, but was still struggling a great deal. On December 1st 2004 I decided to start a disciplined program of running every other day. I ran for 5 minutes that day, and then 10 minutes 2 days later. Within about a month I was up to 45 minutes at a time, although it was very slow.

During this time, I had started seeing an allergist and was taking allergy shots. After 9 months of so of this treatment, I had a chronic sinus infection that didn’t respond to the antibiotics anymore and I was feeling worse than ever. I had just read The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin and decided that enough was enough. I quit taking all the meds, stopped going for the allergy shots, and started trying to follow the diet from the book. In two days, the infection was completely gone! Finally something seemed to be going in the right direction.

In mid 2005, Lori and I decided that it was time for a serious change. We had devoted the last three years to building up a residential rental property business and we were just really tired of working all the time. We had been spending all of our vacation time in Estes Park, so we decided to look for a business opportunity there while we were on our summer vacation. After spending 2 weeks trying to buy a business, we were at a dead end and finally just decided to buy a house and move there and see what would happen. We signed the deal on Sunday morning right before we drove back to Kansas and moved in September. I was able to keep my job in Kansas, going to a 7 day on – 7 day off schedule.

In April of 2005, I ran my first race. It was the Mennonite Run for Relief 5K, which I ran in 29:56 with a great deal of knee pain. Two months later, I ran the Estes Park ½ marathon in 2:09:10. In June 2006, I ran the Estes Park Marathon in 4:51:45. I then tried the Leadville 100 race, making it 60.5 miles in about 17 hours.. In June 2007, I ran the San Juan Solstice 50 in 13:31 and thought I was ready to give Leadville another try but I was only able to go 76.5 miles in 22 ½ hours before completely giving out. After this race, I was having a lot of trouble with my back and hips and just couldn’t seem to get it together. I started seeing Grant Spencer (a Gonstead chiropractor) in December and he was able to get the healing processes that were blocked by poor alignment back into play.

In early December, I went to another allergist who tested me for food allergies and found that I was allergic to dairy. Finally! I had discovered what had been holding me back for so long. After removing milk and cheese from my diet, I quickly began to recover and start training for the 2008 Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race. I was able to do two 22 mile runs in January, and figured I was as close to ready as I was going to get given the short amount of time I had to train.

On January 31st, I flew to Austin with my close friend Michael and stayed at his mom’s house that night. In the morning, we made the 3 hour drive to Huntsville. Later we met up with some wonderful friends we met online, Bill and Sandy, from San Antonio, who had volunteered to crew for us. After going to the pre-race meeting and going out for a great Outback steak dinner, we settled into bed and were asleep by about 9.

4:45 came much too early as we dragged ourselves out of bed and got ready for the race. We met up with Bill and Sandy just a few minutes before 6 and then we were off and running with 250 other runners. Michael and I decided that we would walk at least the first hour, and for a little while we were in last place! Soon we passed one older gentleman who was walking even slower than we were so we were spared the distinction of being dead last. We continued walking for 67 minutes, when we reached the highway aid station at 4.1 miles in. Michael had a nasty blister on his achilles tendon and had to pause to tape up, and then we took off running. Michael had been unable to train for 2 or 3 months, so we just took things nice and slow, and walked up every hill. After 4 ½ hours, we had completed the first lap of 20 miles and Michael was still feeling good.

We continued on for a few more miles when Michael started to feel the complete lack of training. At mile 30, he knew his time was up, and to continue on would only lead to injury. Leaving the aid station by myself, I had a huge surge of energy (probably induced by the headphones I put on after Michael dropped), and I took off at a pretty quick pace. This was a bad idea though – I had enough energy to run fast but my legs were getting tired, which lead to me kicking roots several times with each foot over the next ten miles. My toes were getting sore but were still tolerable at this point – little did I know what they had in store for me later on. I completed lap 2 in 4:20, total elapsed time 08:51:17.

I was still feeling good going out on lap 3, but within a mile or so I had my first low spell and couldn’t really run. Thankfully this passed after a few miles and I was able to start running again, although at a pretty slow pace. I completed the lap in 5:02, total elapsed time 13:53:36.

At the start of lap 4 I was still feeling pretty good, but like the last lap I soon crashed again and could only walk. From this point on I was mostly spent and would only run (slowly) a few more miles total for the rest of the race. Around mile 65 I paired up with another runner who was suffering a bit and we walked together for a while before I recovered a bit and left him behind at mile 68. At the aid station at mile 70, I had to stop for a while to get my feet cared for. I was getting some monster blisters that had to be popped and taped up, and my big toenail had an enormous blood blister underneath of it that was threatening to push it off (of course the sensation while walking was less than enjoyable!), so the aid workers popped the blood blister and pushed my toenail back down into its place and taped it down. I took back off and finished the lap in 6:40, total elapsed time 20:35:44.

The final lap was before me and I was one hurting unit, and it was getting harder and harder to go on. Thankfully I had my wonderful crew, Bill and Sandy, and of course Michael was also helping out since he was out of the race. It was such an emotional lift to see their faces and visit briefly with them at the aid stations. The race would not have been the same without them and I am deeply grateful for their selfless devotion to me during the race. Thanks guys!

I left the start/finish line for the last time and headed out. After a few miles, I again paired up with another hurting runner (he had a stress fracture in one foot – OUCH!) Unlike the first runner I paired up with he wasn’t an emotional drain and we had a great time visiting. We stopped at the aid at mile 90 and I saw something that provided a great deal of inspiration. You see, at this race you could sign up for either 50 or 100 miles, but, since both races were going on at the same time, the 50 milers could take up to 29 hrs to finish. There was a VERY large man, probably over 350 lbs, who had entered the 50 mile race and had completed 40 in the same time I completed 90. He had made a commitment to his family that he would get into better shape so he wouldn’t die young, and he set his sights on the 50 mile race. By the look on his face I could tell he was hurting way more than I was, and I was filled with admiration and awe as I watched him painfully get up out of the chair and head back out toward the finish line. I don’t know for sure whether he made it or not, but either way his accomplishment was much greater than mine, at least in my mind.

We headed back out of the aid station and went just a little ways when I heard a loud thud in front of me, followed shortly by a very loud primal scream obviously coming from someone in a great deal of pain. I shined my light ahead to see what happened, and observed one of my fellow sufferers had kicked a root for the 100th time, causing massive toe pain, and it had also caused him to fall face first onto the ground. He screamed for a couple of seconds, and then I watched him pick himself back up and start walking again. I had heard these screams in the distance several times (and had done a bit of it myself, even though I’m not very vocal). Everyone had warned me about the roots on the course, and Michael and I had even made fun of them earlier in the race, but the roots ultimately had their revenge on me and everyone else on the course.

I had been unable to eat anything and could barely even drink water due to nausea, but by this time the sun was starting to come up and I was feeling a bit better. At the mile 93 aid station, I slammed two glasses of HEED and a GU packet, and said goodbye to my new friend. Within a couple of minutes my body literally came back to life! I was off and hiking over 4 miles per hour and having a pretty good time listening to the headphones. I was able to keep up the newly found energy until mile 99, when I pushed just a bit too hard up a hill and my left leg totally locked up! Even very small steps caused intense pain in my upper leg and hip. I tried stretching multiple ways, beating on the affected muscles, and even tried modifying my walking technique for a few minutes without success when suddenly I found I could walk again, though fairly slowly. I continued on this way for a while longer, and then I saw the finish line in the distance. The adrenaline got the best of me and I was soon walking full speed again. About 100 feet out from the finish line I actually started running and came through the finish line a very happy man! Lap time was 6:53, total elapsed time for 100 miles was 27:27:31.

Bill, Sandy and Michael were there to greet me and quickly got me sat down in a chair. I took my shoes off and discovered a horrible massive blister on my heel, so the aid station personnel helped me pop and tape it. You can see a picture of it and many other pictures from the race that Sandy took at

The next couple of days were a whirlwind of sleeping and massive eating to try and replenish my food stores (I lost 7 lbs from the race due to inadequate food intake). Many thanks to Michael’s family for putting me up and for feeding me so well after the race! I’d also like to thank Bill and Sandy once again for being a part of all this madness, and to Lori for supporting me as well.


Estes Vacation June 16-19, 2005

Estes Vacation June 16-19, 2005

Lori and I left Hutchinson kind of late on Thursday morning, around 8:15. This put us in the park at Milner Pass around 4:30 Colorado time. We were intending to go for Mt. Ida, but the snow was really soft due to the lateness of the day, so we turned back after about an hour and checked in the hotel. By this time, Lori wasn’t feeling well and had a bad case of pink-eye, so we checked in the hotel and went to bed. The next morning, I was up at 6 and asked her if she wanted to go hiking. Her answer was – “Yes – but I am too sick.” So I gathered my gear and headed out to Glacier Gorge Trailhead. I hit the trail at 6:40, and arrived at Mills Lake around 8, and was rewarded with an awesome view of my goal for the day (the Trough on Longs):

After a quick bite to eat, I hit the trail again. Around the time I got to the campsite, I started running into some serious icy snow. After roughing it for a while, I finally put on my crampons (for the first time) and discovered what I had been missing. By about 9:30 I was at Black Lake:

At this point I was tired of carrying my snowshoes and cached them in the trees and started the steep snow climb up to the plateau at the base of the mountains. About 20 minutes later I was rewarded with another awesome view of my destination:

A little more scrambling and I could see the Trough and Pagoda even better:

Finally it was time to REALLY climb. The snow was pretty soft at the bottom of the Trough so I headed up the rocky ridge to the right of it, and was able to climb about 2/3 of the way over there. The view from there:



I also made a friend at about the same time:

You just never know what you’ll run into at 13000 feet I guess!

Here’s a shot of the Keyhole from the back side:

And a shot back down from where I just came:

At the top of the Trough, I met a father and son team from Washington state that were in the area for a family reunion. We had a long visit, and found out that they had climbed a good portion of the homestretch but turned back because they said a section of it was “like a waterfall”. I was surprised they turned back since they had crampons and axes with them, so I bid farewell and headed out across the Narrows. I did encounter a couple of sections that were pretty exposed, but the snow was in good shape so I went on through. Here is the view looking back:

I also got a great shot of the cirque on the east side of Pagoda:

Finally, I arrived at the Homestretch. It was largely covered with snow, and did have a section that had a fair amount of flowing water on it, but the snow was pretty solid. After about 40 minutes of laboring, I was on the top!

The last time I summited, I was in the clouds and could see basically nothing, so I spent a little time exploring the summit. I saw the Loft on Meeker:

And Chasm Lake:

I then took time out to sign the summit register and have my customary peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. It felt great to be alone on top of such a great mountain. The last person to sign the register was Jim Detterline (the ranger), three days prior. Before him, it had been 9 days since anyone had signed. Unfortunately, it was late in the day (4 pm), and a nasty looking cloud was forming just to the east of me:

Seeing that cloud got me motivated, and I boogied down off the summit and started the long slog back to the trailhead. I alternately glissaded and plunge-stepped down the Trough, and was utterly soaked by the time I got to the bottom around 6 pm. The rest of the trip out felt like a death march, but I finally arrived back at the truck at 8:45, just before dark. When I got back to the hotel, I discovered that I had made a serious error in my trip planning: No Suncreen! Here’s the damage 4 days later:

Ouch! You can bet I won’t make that mistake again.

Saturday was rest day. We visited Ken and Carolyn Wills at their cabin, and were able to meet up with Michael Hodges at McGregor Mountain Lodge, and had a great visit with him as well.

Sunday morning was race day! Lori and I were signed up for the half marathon at the second annual Estes Park Marathon. Lori was still not feeling well, but she decided to try it anyway. The race started a little late (around 7:10 am), but finally we were off running! The weather was perfect for running, just a little breeze and temps in the upper 60’s. Two hours, nine minutes, and 10 seconds later I was across the finish line, have just made my goal of a 10 minute mile (9:52 minute/mile pace). I ran back to the truck and drove down to the lake where I saw Lori coming up the path, so I hopped out of the truck with the camera and ran the last mile with her. She crossed the finish line at 2:42:19, a very respectable time considering that her knee was killing her most of the way. You can see the results of the races here. If you look in the 10K results, you’ll find Michael Hodges in 24th place with a time of 52:18, pretty good for someone who just recently started running (way to go!)

Here is Lori and I at the finish line:

After the race, it was time to pack it all up and head back to Kansas and our real lives, and to start looking forward to the next time we get to travel back to our favorite place in the world.

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Alan’s First Ascent of Long’s

Here is the story of my ascent of Long’s Peak on Friday Sept. 10th, 2004.  The forecast was calling for sunny and warm all day (like it had been all week long), so I didn’t get up until 4am.  Lori drove me to the trailhead, I signed in the register, and was on the trail at 4:45. It looked like there were a few clouds in the sky, but it was a very nice morning, not much wind and around 55 deg.

I made good time, a little over 2 mph, so I was at Chasm Junction (3.5 miles) around 6:15.  I stopped for about 10 minutes and visited with the 6 or 8 people who had stopped there, and then I was off again.  At 6:30, the sun came up and bathed everything in a beautiful alpenglow.  Unfortunately, the clouds swallowed up the sun in about 5 minutes so I didn’t get any cool pictures.

Around 7:45 I made it to the end of the trail where the campsites are, at the start of the Boulderfield (5.9 miles from the TH).  There was only one tent there, and the occupants were moving around getting ready for their day.  At this point, the wind was picking up and the temperature had fallen to around 40 deg, and the sky was completely overcast.  I made a quick stop at the privy and set off across the Boulderfield.

At 8:30 I arrived at the shelter at the Keyhole (6.5 miles from the trailhead, 13,100 ft), and it was snowing like crazy.  The rocks were wet and slick, so I stopped at the shelter to see what the weather would do.  After a while, I met a guy name Bryan who was there with a friend.  After an hour and a half, it was still overcast and wet, and lots of people were turning back down the trail.  Several people had come back from the Ledges saying it was too slick for them.  Bryan and I had just decided to go see for ourselves when a young couple from Boulder showed up and started putting on their climbing harnesses.  Bryan and I looked at each other and said “Hey – they have a rope and know what they’re doing.  Let’s follow them.”  So after they got all of their equipment on and organized, all five of us took off through the Keyhole and across the Ledges.  One other guy started out following us, but everytime I looked back to check on him he was further and further behind, with a seriously pained expression on his face.  After a few hundred yards, he turned around and we never saw him after that.

The Ledges were completely wet, with a couple of small patches of ice, but were easily navigable.  We just had to carefully place our steps and take our time.  Fortunately, we didn’t get any more snow after we left the Keyhole.  It took us about 45 minutes to negotiate the Ledges, and then we entered to Trough.  The right side of the Trough was covered with a couple of inches of snow with ice underneath (very dangerous), and there was a fair amount of lighter snow-covered ice in the middle and left side, but again we just took our time and chose our steps (and handholds) carefully.  In 2 loooong, steep hours, we had climbed the Trough and negotiated around the chockstone at the top and were ready for the Narrows.

We decided to ditch our packs and make a quick dash to the summit (except for Bryan and his friend, who kept their’s on).  This did make negotiating the couple of tight spots on the Narrows a little more comfortable, but it would have been easy enough with the pack on.  I was really surprised – much of what I read about the Narrows is completely misguided.  It is actually quite easy to cross (even if it was slick I don’t think it would have been too difficult).  The view is certainly breathtaking, but the path is wide and there are plenty of handholds and footholds to keep you on the mountain with relative ease, though if you have a problem with heights this is not the place for you.  After about 15 minutes we were across the Narrows and headed to the HomeStretch.

The HomeStretch had some very thin ice on it in spots, but the rock was rough enough that we were able to ascend without too much difficulty in around 20 minutes or so.  At 1 pm, we were all on the summit!  Unfortunately, we were almost completely in the clouds, so we couldn’t see too much.  We signed the register and rested for 20 minutes or so and headed back down after I called Lori on the cell and let here know I made it.

Whoa!  Going down the HomeStretch is harder than going up, at least when it is slick.  I ended up kind of slowly skiing down the difficult sections on my feet while in a crouching position (so I didn’t have far to fall onto my behind ).  A little more than half an hour and we were back at the top of the Trough with our packs, eating lunch.  By this time, the clouds were completely gone and we were privileged to enjoy some incredible views.

The trip back down the Trough and across the Ledges was uneventful, and easier than going up since the rocks were dry and most of the ice had melted in the middle and left side of the Trough.  We were back at the shelter at the Keyhole at 4.  After 10 or 15 minutes of visiting, I said goodbye to my new friends and headed down the trail.  Fortunately, for me at least, I left just in time.  A T-storm started brewing in the North and I ended up almost jogging down the trail to get to treeline before it got to me.  I was just past the Alpine Brook bridge when the first thunderclap came from directly above me.  I was a little concerned, knowing the my new friends were way behind me on the trail and above Timberline during the storm.  Fortunately, the lightning seemed to be confined to the clouds so I figured they were OK.

A quick 40 minutes took me the last two miles in the hail and rain to the TH, where I signed out (at 6:58 pm) and jumped into the truck where Lori and the kids were waiting to take me back to the camper.  I made it! – car to car in 14 hours and 13 minutes, 15 miles with 1 mile of elevation gain.  Here are the pictures:

The Trailhead sign (during the daytime)

Rebecca at Chasm Junction on the Tuesday before my ascent

Me trying to get the latch to work on the ‘Sky Potty’ at Chasm Junction

Here’s a great shot of Peacock Pool, Ship’s Prow, Mount Meeker, and the couloir leading to the Loft,
taken from Chasm Junction

A closeup of Peacock pool from Chasm Junction

A shot of the Diamond and North Face from the trail before the BoulderField

The Keyhole from close to the end of the trail.  If you look close you can see the Privy in the lower center.

One of the tent sites at the start of the Boulderfield.  The rocks are stacked up to help block the fierce winds
that often blow up here.

Bryan (red pack) and the climber from Boulder

Awesome view of Glacier Gorge from the bottom of the Trough

View of snow/ice on the right side of the Trough

Here’s me at shortly after we entered the Trough – just follow the Bullseyes and you’ll eventually get there 😉

This is the start of the Narrows, the narrowest part.  The fog at this point was
good, since it blocked the view of the 2000 foot dropoff on the right.

Here’s the proof – the obligatory Summit photo

Bryan’s friend had a nasty fall trying to get over the chockstone at the top of
the Trough.  Ow – that lump stuck out almost an inch from his shin.

Preparing to leave the Summit in the fog

Going down the HomeStretch in the fog

A quick look at a small, unnamed lake close to Keplinger’s lake, seen from the bottom
of the HomeStretch.

An awesome rock formation called the Pallisades that blocks the view of the South side routes
up Longs.  That’s Mt. Meeker and part of the Loft in the background.

A great shot of the HomeStretch from the bottom.

Here is Pagoda Mt. and the saddle called the “Keyboard of the Winds”

Another shot of the Keyboard of the Winds

Back across the Narrows

Just follow the crack and you won’t fall off 😉

An awesome frozen waterfall about halfway down the Trough

Here’s a good clear view down the Trough into Glacier Gorge

Here’s the hardest spot on the Ledges.  There is about 10-15 ft of smooth
rock to the right of the bottom bar and then a serious dropoff.

As near as we can tell, the bottom bar is a foothold, and the top one is
a handhold.  We could have negotiated this without the bars, but were
certainly more comfortable having them there.

Chasm view and the North Face and upper part of the Diamond, taken from the BoulderField on the way back down.

I couldn’t resist this shot of Mt. Ypsilon from the Boulderfield, with the storms starting to brew.

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