After several days of running around and squawking like a kindergartner at recess I have finally settled into an appropriate high elevation encampment on Half Moon Road just outside of Leadville. My Sierra Designs Mondo Condo now occupies a site on the squatter’s camp established by Miles of Leadville Running Company. Mike Ambrose set up his North Face tent between mine and Miles’. They've both headed into Leadville to attend to business this morning. The quiet, in combination with a restful night last night, is allowing me -- for the first time since I made the cross-country trek to Colorado -- to collect my thoughts and begin to ready myself in earnest for the speed record attempt.
Just by being here – I’m at just about 10,000’ elevation – I am gaining the last bit of fitness needed to trek 50 – 60 miles per day on the Colorado Trail. Although the trail climbs and descends about 90,000’, the average elevation is just over 10,000’. Sensitivity to high elevation may differ from person to person, but the physics is simple: oxygen exerts less pressure up here. A person going from low to high elevation has to adjust. I have been most aware of the difference when climbing. I can either put a lot more effort into going my usual pace or I can slow my pace and exert my usual effort.
Fortunately I have not been affected by the adverse symptoms experienced by some who travel to high elevation. I haven’t had headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, etc. Until last night (my fifth night) I did have difficulty sleeping, however. Also I noticed that above 12,000’ I feel lightheaded when climbing quickly. Based on a similar trip I made to Colorado several years ago I know that after just a couple of weeks I will be able to perform at a higher level with the same effort. That is why we are here.
I find myself surrounded by legions of people who go to Colorado to get the benefits of training at elevation and, of course, to play in these spectacular mountains. I can see how people get caught up in recreational pursuits here. I’m parked near the Mt. Elbert trail head and don’t know how long I can resist the pull of this high summit. I met Tony Krupicka yesterday in Leadville. For now he has the great fortune of being perhaps the only person with enough sponsorship support to run full-time in the Colorado mountains. Although tired from his recent incomplete attempt at a speed record of Nolan’s 14 (The 14 summits above 14,000’ in the Sawatch range) Tony was already talking about the next set of summits that he’d like to string together. He told me that running below tree-line -- as I’ll be doing for much of the Colorado Trail -- doesn’t hold much appeal for him. If I was a younger guy I’d have a hard time coming down from above tree-line too.
For now the two big summits I couldn’t resist will have to do. It’s time to rest and think about what will be required to establish a speed record of the Colorado Trail. We will likely be at the mercy of forces beyond our control. Wildfires have already caused closures of multiple sections along the trail. As of this writing there are detours that appear equitable with the standard route. We’ll write more about our decisions as we know more about what the status of the trail will be at the time of our attempt.
In the meantime enjoy the video illustrating my playtime so far in Colorado!