Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black Canyon Ascent and... yes, another Road Trip

Trying to escape what is becoming one of the most oppressive Springs on record, here in Colorado, I loaded up my motorcycle with running shoes, camera, and lots of warm clothes and headed to Southern Colorado and into Northern New Mexico. With no real itinerary, I simply pointed the bike in the direction of Alamosa where my good friend Simon Gutierrez lives and hoped for the best in weather.

Simon and Me

Six hours of riding left me ready for some beers and a burger at Simon's favorite place in Alamosa - The San Juan Brewery. It was Wednesday. I told him that i might head to the Grand Canyon by the weekend and he quickly informed me that the Black Canyon Ascent was on Saturday. It didn't take much to convince me to do the Black Canyon Ascent - a race that I've known about for years but have never made it to the starting line. Simon also mentioned that there's a $200 purse for nabbing his course record.

The next 72hrs I spent, rushing the 350 round-trip miles to Albuquerque and back to visit my sister and her husband. She and I went for a run, which we've never done before. She showed me some fine desert trails not far from her place - complete with the New Mexican flair of discarded couches, chair and mattresses along the way. Pizza and beer.

Running outside Albuquerque

Sleep. Coffee and a scone then back to Southern Colorado for some fun in the Sand Dunes for the evening and morning.

Looking North towards Crestone

Back across the Rockies for a second time, avoiding the many deer that line the road as you approach the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. A friend and I met up with Simon and Brandy Erholtz on Friday night. Burgers, beer, bed.

Just before the Saturday morning start, I got to talking to a runner who mentioned that this would be his last year to try and break the 50-59 age group category (he'll be 60 next year). Chuck Smead, he tells me his name. Winner of the 1977 Sierre Zinal and probably the first American to travel to Europe as a mountain runner. He told me that he just finished reading my memoirs to which I replied that I'm 29 for five more days - much too young for memoirs.

L to R: Chuck Smead (Colorado Flag), Myself, Scott Drum, Marty Wacker, Brandy Erholtz, Simon Gutierrez

Simon took the race out somewhat fast, which is something that he's good at. I caught up to him one mile in and maintained the lead to the finish. Based on my effort (I didn't have a watch on to check mile splits), I felt like I was in a good position for the record. Rounding the final corner and seeing that I was in fact 1:30 slow was a little disheartening. This is training fuel, though - being behind. Brandy won the women's race without any problem but also found herself several minutes behind her own course record (which I don't see getting broken by anybody but her).

The course was beautiful - finishing only a few hundred feet from the rim of the Black Canyon - truly one of the most awe-inspiring canyons that I have ever been to. The race was very well organized (complete with a bluegrass band at the finish!), and the organizers gracious. Following the race we were treated to a wine tasting on Main St. in Montrose.

After a peaceful night of camping and a casual 16miler with Brandy and Simon in the morning I returned to Woody Creek to a still persistant winter and much training to be done for the upcoming months.

outside Albuquerque


GZ said...

Holy hair!

Anton said...

Footwear observations: I can't believe Chuck Smead is wearing a pair of Five Fingers. And that YOU are wearing a pair of Crossmax. Trade out for some flats and that's your 90sec right there!

Great photos.

Mostly Paved said...

Chuck says he'll never go back to "those". Racing in trainers - didn't know i'd be racing.

Anonymous said...

what I enjoyed most was the part about the burgers and beers. really helps make racing/road trips more fun.
With a bit of luck I might catch you in Canada for a beer

Joe Grant said...

I also noted a lot of beer and burgers...probably about 90 seconds worth...

Mostly Paved said...

yeah - w/o the beer and burgers, who knows how much slower i'd have run.

ps - chuck smead did break the 50-59 record. true legend. he didn't have any comments about burgers or beer.