Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bracing for summer

Before leaving Utah, I noticed a bunch of 90s in Boulder's weather forecast and considered extending the road trip to escape north to Montana. If I was brave, that's what I would have done, but I also snagged some extra work for the week and knew it would be tough to hit my deadlines on road. Also, even though Beat was in Zurich on business all week, I wistfully just wanted to be at home, sip my morning quart of coffee while watching hummingbirds on the porch, go for sunset runs on familiar trails. Clearly I'm old, but this is as close to nesting instinct as I'll ever achieve, and I'm enjoying it. 

But summer, ugh. Even though most people expect Colorado to burn after our dry winter, fire season has launched with distressing fierceness. Near my neighborhood, there were three wildfires reported this week alone — small, but large enough to involve a hefty response from multiple agencies. Now when I see a smoke report on the Nextdoor site, I think about just heading to town, rather than staring out the window with anxieties I can do nothing about. 

Heat is its own energy drain. I do love our forest home, but it's almost impossible to keep cool, so the indoor temps generally match outdoor temps. When it hits 85 degrees inside, I move to my "cellar office," which is a camp chair in our dim but naturally temperature-controlled underground bomb shelter. I'm glad the previous homeowner included this strange space. Still, sitting in a sweaty stupor amid midday darkness is not the most inspiring environment.

By Wednesday afternoon I needed to run errands in town, and thought I could squeeze in a 50-mile ride on the cross bike around a new-to-me gravel and pavement loop. Driving slowly down winding Flagstaff Road, I heard a loud noise followed by ker-thunk, ker-thunk, ker-thunk. I pulled over at a precarious hairpin to find the front passenger-side tire in shreds. I did what I tend to do with almost every major bike mechanical I experience — brief panic, followed by fleeting fantasies about whether I could just abandon the bike (car) and walk (ride) to wherever I needed to go. Then I called someone in no position to help me — in this case, Beat in Switzerland. Finally — similar to all of my mechanical upsets — reality sets in, I remember that I am capable of dealing with this myself, and it probably won't even be so hard. Beat gave me helpful tips (location of a lock bolt, where to affix the jack, wedging rocks under the rear tires because I was parked on an incline), and I got it done relatively quickly. I was rather pleased with myself. Despite understanding how easy it is to change a spare tire, I celebrate all of my mechanical victories. 

Anyway, by the time I pulled into the parking lot where I planned to start my ride, it was 4:30 p.m. It's fully dusk by 8:30, and I had no lights with me. Could I finish my 50-mile ride with 5,000 feet of climbing in that time limit? I was going to try! I used all of the adrenaline and irritability left over from my flat tire debacle to mash pedals, and enjoyed settling into peaceful rhythm as I descended amid beautiful evening light through a canyon I hadn't before visited (no pictures, unfortunately.) When it was clear I was going to make it before dark, I didn't push as hard across the flat return, but still finished in 3:36. Most of my rides with their requisite climbing and careful descending rarely break 10mph average, and this was nearly 14mph. Again I was rather pleased ... but not as much as I'd been about successfully swapping out a spare tire on my car. 

By Friday afternoon I'd finished my project, so I headed to Rocky Mountain National Park to ride Old Fall River Road — another ride with 5,000 feet of climbing, this time in 40 miles at higher altitudes. For a person not training for anything in particular right now, I've indulged in several weeks full of big rides, and I was beginning to feel a bit rough around the edges. I blamed the green clouds of pine pollen choking the atmosphere, along with oppressive heat and general ugh-summer sentiment, for not feeling as strong. I also need to accept that I may be having a small lapse in my thyroid health; a few other symptoms are there as well. But no matter ... it was a beautiful afternoon, and there was no one on the road. 

 No one except for these elk bros, and also a red fox that slipped away before I could snap a photo.

 So beautiful, watching them gallop up the road. They didn't seem to care too much about me and trotted at my speed for several minutes while I shadowed them.

RMNP is such a nice place to be. I felt better as I climbed and indulged in fantasies about the Tour Divide — this year's race had just launched that morning. The act of just jumping on a bike and pointing it toward a place thousands of miles away is so appealing — to just breathe, and pedal, and briefly imagine there's no loaded past, no anxious future ... just individual moments and the immediate landscape. I am now thinking fairly seriously about lining up for that coveted 20-day finish in 2019, which is somewhat baffling to me — given my recent health and fitness struggles, aversions to summer things such as heat and pollen, and haunting memories of racing sick in 2015, which was mostly terrible and not something I want to relive. But I still have the incredible experiences of 2009, a 10-year anniversary and my 40th birthday to celebrate, and a joy that still resides there, buried now, but eager to resurface.

 Between all my big rides this week, I did get out for one five-mile run, which brings my June run total to three (counting the hike in Bryce Canyon that turned into a partial run.) Yup, I've been slow to get off the couch since my broken toe healed, and I can feel it. My running fitness has withered like a drought-parched flower; every step feels ridiculously fragile. It's clear I'm not remotely a natural runner, because even brief periods of time off usher me back to an awkward start. Sometimes I think back to my running heyday (2012) and how I breezed through 50Ks almost every weekend, and marvel. I thought I was just getting started in the sport, but I now see how I burned through my few available matches in a blazing bonfire. It was worth it.

Anyway, this was a short run, but eventful. I crossed paths with a black bear just beyond my neighbor's driveway. He was reluctant to step off the road, so I just stood there for nearly a minute, both of us unperturbed as I talked about my run plan and the fact I had bear spray, which I was actually carrying for the first time in Colorado. The whole time he had his back to me, looking sideways, when finally he lifted his snout as though rolling his head back in an exasperated motion, the sauntered into the grass. 

 It sure was a beautiful evening. Temps hit the high 80s at home, so I worked in my cellar office during the day and put off starting the run until 7:30 p.m. Nearly nixed it altogether, but I'm glad I didn't.

 On Sunday, temperatures in Boulder were forecast to hit 98 degrees. I decided to escape the heat by riding to 12,000 feet at Rollins Pass. I started at a dry and dusty Moffat Tunnel, where it was 86 degrees at 10:30 a.m. Four-wheeler traffic was thick for the first six miles, and then the rocky road funneled through a narrow passage that was still filled with snow. Trucks and four-wheelers were stacked up behind it in a bizarre backcountry traffic jam. Stuck in the drift was a small SUV that somehow became buried to the sideview mirrors. The driver was chopping at snow with his ice scraper. It looked quite hopeless. "That's a bummer," was all I could think to say as I sidled past with my bike hanging off my shoulder.

"Looks like you have the right tool for the job," the driver replied.

"Sometimes it pays to go with a lighter vehicle," I said. "Good luck to you."

Beyond there, Rollins Pass Road was as quiet as can be. This climb is lovely, but I tend to forget how tedious it is — a continuous surface of loose rubble and babyheads, on a meandering railroad grade that climbs interminably. Even in good conditions, the effort is always much harder than it seems on paper, perhaps because I am not that adept at balancing and efficiently turning wheels over loose surfaces. So I was already cooked when I encountered another cyclist at the iced-over lake near mile 10. He told me, "there's a lot of hiking past here. If I can do it, anyone can. But good luck following the road."

 The transition from dry, dusty chunder to frequent snowfields was abrupt. The snow was rotten underneath, and hiking was difficult. With every other step, I punched knee- and sometimes hip-deep holes into slushy puddles. The bike balked and sank and repeatedly smashed my shin and calves with its wayward pedals. After a mile, the other cyclist's tracks faded. Then I hit the snowfields that entirely buried the road, requiring me to cross laterally on a steep slope. Each time, I checked the runout and deemed it safe, but traversing the snow was another matter, psychologically. The bike was difficult to manage and my shoes slipped constantly. The snow was rotten slush in spots, and hard ice in others. In the middle of the last big snowfield, I slipped on a patch of ice and lost my balance to my knees. The bike served as a decent ice ax with pedals and handlebars digging in, but my nerves were shaken. I would do almost anything to avoid crossing that snowfield again. (I did not take any pictures of this snowfield. Suffice to say it is probably not that bad.)

 Surprisingly the last half mile to Needle's Eye Tunnel, along with the bypass, were mostly clear. The north-facing trestle corridor was almost completely filled with snow, but above that, a doubletrack climbing to the ridge also was clear. This also meant more steep hiking at 11,500 feet. After four hours of spinning through chunder, bouncing over babyheads, wrestling with my bike, punching through snow, flailing in mud bogs, burning up all of my adrenaline on a scary snowfield, then hiking some more, I reached Rollins Pass. I'd traveled 15 miles, and felt spent. But I wasn't thrilled about doing all of that again in reverse. I looked toward Winter Park on the western side of the Continental Divide and thought, "I could loop this."

Spanning Rollins Pass is the rugged spine of the Divide and a lot of wilderness. There is no quick way around with a bike. I knew this, but I'd never before descended into Winter Park. This was an intriguing prospect, and knew I could find a way back over Berthoud Pass and Idaho Springs. The western descent also was long, rocky and quite muddy, but at least it was clear of snow. Climbing busy Highway 40 on a hot Sunday in June is an experience I don't need to repeat, but there is a decent shoulder and the route is scenic enough. Idaho Springs was an inferno, and the lady at the gas station where I bought water and a sandwich chided me for coming into her store while I was covered in mud. The climb up Virginia Canyon Road was an oven but also lovely and quiet, and I was grateful to escape the highway corridor. From there I hoped to find a "shortcut" on jeep roads back to Tolland through Apex Valley, but private property signs and gates pushed me into the awful casino corridor of Central City at sunset. In Black Hawk, a cop pulled me over.

"Are you aware there's a city ordinance against cycling through downtown?" she asked.

"No, no I didn't know," I lied with an unintentional but possibly sympathy-inducing hoarseness in my voice. I did know about that law. I vowed I would always avoid the town and never give them my business because of it. But it was dusk on a quiet Sunday night, and I really just wanted to get through as quickly as possible. The police officer was nice enough, and let me go with a warning. Being a mud-covered solo woman on a mountain bike probably helped my cause. I can't blame her for the town's ordinance, but jeez.

I commenced the long climb to Rollinsville as dusk faded to night — luckily I was carrying good lights this time. It had been a long day — already 75 miles, and I figured I had 20 left. The first fifteen miles of the day almost broke me, but I kept going, all the same. After I turned onto Tolland Road, I lost myself in vivid memories about the night I pedaled into Koyukuk along the Yukon River during my 2016 Iditarod Trail ride. Somehow the white light on the road, the blackness of the surrounding forest, steep hillsides that resembled river bluffs, and other similarities put me viscerally back in the moment.

I love when this happens. The intensity and beauty of past experience stretched over the shadowy horizon, immediate difficulties faded into the background, and I was new again. I wanted to keep riding, but suddenly I was back at Moffat Tunnel and it was 10 p.m. Eleven and a half hours. 95 miles. 9,500 feet of climbing. A good day. I wished I'd planned it better, and found quieter corridors, but for a spur-of-the-moment decision, tacking on 70 miles and a bunch of engaging new scenery seemed like a wonderful way to avoid a snowfield. I felt wholly satisfied. I miss this feeling, when I take it easy for too long. 
Thursday, June 07, 2018

Reliving Snowy Range Pass

Driving long distances is a guilty pleasure of mine, right up there with cycling and running long distances — I just love covering ground. The best part about road trips is breaking up the drive with some sort of hurried adventure in a new-to-me place. The potential discoveries are seemingly endless. Driving from Salt Lake City to Boulder on Monday, I planned to take I-80 and check out singletrack trails in Laramie, which are popular with Colorado mountain bikers and must be for a reason. However, an afternoon ride through Corner Canyon on Sunday resulted in increased pain in my bruised elbow. I had to concede that I wasn't going to feel good on even remotely technical trail. So I shifted my focus to national forest lands just south of I-80 and west of Laramie, in the Snowy Range. 

I figured I could find some scenic jeep roads to ride. But after two miles of jack-hammering on rocky gravel, my elbow was giving me fits. I did not need this aggravation, so I turned around and gritted my teeth through a painful descent. Good decision to quit early. Since I'd already driven 30 miles off route and kitted up, I didn't want to waste the opportunity to ride. The smooth pavement of highway 130 seemed like a soothing alternative for my sore arm.

I was five or six miles into the road climb when the scenery began to look eerily familiar. This mountain village ... this roadside fishing platform ... those bald peaks in the distance. Where I have seen this before? It took about that long to realize, "Oh, this is the high pass we crossed in Wyoming during the cross-country bike tour!" This was 15 years ago, the last time I pedaled this road. Details have eroded to the point that I didn't recall the location or even the name of the mountain range, but the images of that day are still burned in memory, as clear as anything.

In the autumn of 2003, my then-boyfriend Geoff and I pedaled 3,200 miles from Salt Lake City to Syracuse, New York, on a self-created route (we tore state pages out of a Rand McNally road atlas before leaving Utah, and mostly made up the plan for each day as we went.) There are many stories I could tell from this trip, and may someday have to write a longer blog about it, but let's take a minute to look and laugh at my rig. The bike is an Ibex Corrida, an entry-level aluminum touring bicycle that I bought online for $300. The box arrived while Geoff was out of town, and although I knew nothing about bikes, I was so excited to try it out that I assembled the bike myself. My first ride was a predictable disaster — bent a derailleur hanger so the rear derailleur wrapped itself into the spokes, decimating the wheel and the drivetrain. Ibex, a now-defunct company run by good people, offered to take the bike back and send me a new one at no extra charge. They also sent me that cotton shirt, which I wore on the trip to display my Ibex pride. I considered them my "sponsor." (Ibex later sent me a slightly fancier $799 road bike after I wrote some Web content for them. I rode the red Corrida regularly until 2010.)

Anyway, this was to be a long tour, so I brought the kitchen sink. Among the contents of those panniers was a huge circa-2000 laptop computer and a full-sized frying pan (because camp pots don't work as well when cooking for two.) Also, non-foldable spare tire! I never weighed the loaded bike, but always guessed it to be in the range of 70-80 pounds. Starting the tour with limited training and experience, then pedaling that beast for an average of 50 miles a day for 65 days, left me with knee issues that persisted through my 20s. I also sustained at least 30 flat tires during that trip ... usually pinch flats. I could never figure that one out.

Mirror Lake, photo taken August 31, 2003
The trip began on my 24th birthday: August 20, 2003. We climbed out of Salt Lake City on Interstate 80 and followed Highway 40 through Eastern Utah and Colorado. North of Craig, we climbed into Wyoming via Baggs and camped in Savery — now part of the Tour Divide route. From there we climbed over the Continental Divide and another high pass whose exact location I'd mostly forgotten, until this week. I dug up the excerpt from my trip journal:

Tuesday, September 2, 2003: 
"We crossed the Continental Divide at 10,000 feet and the Snowy Range at nearly 11,000 feet. The morning we climbed the Snowy Range, southeastern Wyoming had dropped to record low temperatures. As we climbed into the clouds, the air hovered just above freezing and stinging rain pelted our skin. We rounded a small lake at 10,200 feet and proceeded to roll across the eight-mile summit beside 12,000 foot peaks of jagged granite, glacial black lakes and windswept pine. It was spectacular, but harder to see as the fog thickened and the temperature dropped.

We reached Libby Flats, the pass, just before 11 a.m. at 10,857 feet. At this point we had put on every piece of warm clothing we had, and still the cold wind cut through. Despite the rewards of climbing to the top of the world, the swift ride down to Centennial proved to be even more excruciating than the climb. The continuous 7 percent grade was merciless on my bike's burning brakes, and my meager coat and gloves proved useless against the windchill. Every part of my body went numb; my face froze in an expression of terror, and I screamed down the mountain until my knees buckled and my fingers turned gray.

Centennial, at only 8,100 feet, was a welcome sight, and we ducked into a tavern for a warm lunch and hot chocolate. From there, the flat high plains rolled us into Laramie - though not without a fight. We fought a prevailing 20 mph crosswind out of the southeast with no relief. By the time we reached the small city, the storm we had been running from all day caught up to us - and it poured. To compound things we got lost looking for a place to stay - impossible on a holiday weekend - and I lost a rear pulley which took over an hour to find and replace. It was nearly dark before we rolled into a KOA campground and crashed in frustration and exhaustion as the rain pounded down."

Geoff took this photo at the pass, dated Aug. 31, 2003. I remember much about this climb, because it was so hard. We got a pre-sunrise start out of camp because we anticipated a long day spanning a 4,000-foot climb. The morning was damp and gray; I remember beads of dew and sweat on my skin. My odometer regularly dipped below 4mph, and my calves burned with such intensity that I stopped pedaling involuntarily at regular intervals. The above journal entry was all I ever wrote about it, but I found this excerpt written by Geoff:

Thursday, September 4, 2003: 
"The thought though that people would actually ride their bike over the immense mountains of the American West didn’t enter my mind until the first time I saw someone doing it. As I recall I was in New Mexico, crossing through the southern Rockies in the ease of my Volkswagen when I saw a lone rider chugging up a winding mountain road. At the time he was probably only 3 or 4 miles from the top, but in my mind he seemed so much further than that. Driving past this rider, I imagined it taking him not minutes or even hours, but rather days to climb this last few miles. At that time the task of biking, fully loaded with gear, up and over the Rocky Mountains seemed as challenging and as intense as most anything I could imagine.

... Several days later I still find myself thinking occasionally of that first rider I saw biking over the mountains in New Mexico several years ago.  I coasted down from the mountains and out across the prairie having accomplished for myself what seemed to me several years ago like a nearly impossible feat.  The wind here on the plains is mostly at our back and the terrain is always dropping more than rising, but even a larger factor in making these past 150 miles seem so comfortable has been the gratification and momentum we gained by biking up and over the Rocky Mountains, an experience which for me will likely be one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done."

Fifteen years later, the climb is not nearly so daunting, the feat more tame ... and yet the original experience is every bit as memorable. After about two and a half hours of mostly relaxed spinning on my mountain bike, I pulled up to the pass. The first thing I noticed was this sign, which I recognized so clearly that I was convinced I could take a selfie in the same position as the original photo (not quite, but ...) It's still exactly the same! 

Upon comparison with the original photo, I now see it's not exactly the same, and the differences are driving the typographer in me crazy. How did they squeeze in that "Nature's Final Production" line? None of the other text is squished. Removing the footprints from the bottom of the old sign doesn't add enough room for text that large. Everything else is the same. Arrrrgh!

The views from Libby Flats. This is something I love most about Wyoming — high alpine plains. This more than anything else reminds me of the Tour Divide. That nostalgia trip also had apt timing, as the 2018 race kicks off Friday.

 Medicine Bow peak. Similar to my first visit here, the weather deteriorated near the top. Temperatures dropped to the high 40s with gusts of wind and rain. The thunderstorms were short-lived, but I ended up descending all the way to the bottom of the pass wearing my puffy jacket. It was a quick trip and I was decidedly better equipped than I was in 2003, despite having about 50 pounds fewer supplies. 

Driving into Laramie with evening light. It was so beautiful. I was all kinds of stoked about planning another bike tour across the plains, until I stepped out of my car to take this photo, only to be attacked by dozens of mosquitos. Then I remembered the sand hills, and the stop-in-our-tracks Nebraska winds, the mean drivers of Missouri, the tornado warnings of Illinois, the vicious dogs of Kentucky, the endless rollers on 17 percent grades in Ohio, the cold October nights in Pennsylvania and New York ... little did we know coasting down this road into Laramie in 2003, our hardest days were still ahead of us. But it was blissful, at the time, to think it was all downhill from here.

Life may be linear, but it folds in on itself in the most interesting ways. There's really nothing like experiencing something for the first time, but the nostalgia trips can be satisfying, too — both for the lucid memories they evoke, and the perspective into how far we've traveled since we first climbed this mountain.
Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Running around Bryce

This past weekend, Beat raced his fourth Bryce 100. It's an event full of punchy climbs, claustrophobic canyons, clouds of fine dust, thin air, daytime heat, nighttime frost — and endless incredible scenery. I've been wanting to go back for redemption since I timed out of this race at mile 72 last year, but I have resolved to not sign up for any more endurance events until I regain a higher degree of confidence in my fitness. Since my springtime running also has been nonexistent, I made an easy decision to DNS the Dirty 30 in Golden, so I could travel to Utah and play in Bryce Canyon (cough, crew for Beat.)

Beat anxiously anticipating the 5 a.m. start. With a 36-hour cutoff and sunset after 8 p.m., there's really no reason this race couldn't start at 8 a.m. rather than frigid darkness that requires runners to wake up at 3 a.m. I just don't understand these early starts. But I was filled with FOMO all the same. I had to remind myself that my Alaska adventures were not that long ago, because it already feels like it's been years since I clawed my way around a daunting swath of land, limbs throbbing and blood pulsing in pursuit of the divine.

The runners were off, so I headed into the national park to do some exploring. One (and only) positive of waking up for a 5 a.m. race start is arriving early enough to catch sunrise over the canyons.

The morning light was nice. But I'm still an a.m. grump. Bah humbug.

I set out for a hike along the rim, appreciative of the lack of crowds. (Okay, one more early start plus.)

Before the first mile was up, I became bored with my pace on an easy trail and launched into a jog. I did not set out with the intent of running — I'm not in great shape for that right now — but enjoyed the endorphin burst and decided to keep at it.

Descending along the Fairyland Loop Trail.

Not even 8 a.m. and I'm already drenched in sweat. To be fair, it wasn't that hot — 75 degrees for a high on Friday.

I believe this is called Boat Mesa? I'm indulging in many photos for this blog post, even though they are somewhat redundant and don't begin to capture the surroundings. Every corner revealed new and consistently breathtaking vistas, sand castles and stone sculptures. Stoke kicked in, and I ran faster.

So there I was, eight miles into my morning hike-run, clocking 7 or 8 mph — a pace that actually forces me to pick up my feet — on a perfectly smooth and nearly level trail at the bottom of the canyon. The tangerine- and salmon-colored fairy castle towered overhead, and I gazed upward in serene bliss. Then, suddenly, splat. I certainly didn't trip over anything and am fairly confident that I wasn't slurring my feet, so I couldn't even tell you why I fell. It's as though (and I genuinely believe this happens to me sometimes) my brain lost the plot and misinterpreted which way was up. I was even using my runner training wheels (trekking poles) to help keep my balance, to no avail. My body hit the hard dirt and skidded several inches. Most of the major joints on my right side — knee, hip, elbow, shoulder — felt like they had been smacked broadside by a 2x4. Every time. Every time! Well, it's good I didn't show up for the Dirty 30, because my running technique — already bad on my best days — has rusted to an alarming degree.

This was one of those hard hits where I had the wind knocked out of me, and had to drag myself off the trail and writhe around in the dirt for several minutes until I could breathe again. Assessment: Bloody knee, bloody wrist, throbbing hip and shoulder. My elbow seemed to have taken the brunt of the impact. In addition to road rash, it had already swollen to the size of a baseball. Ugh.

Happily, nothing was broken. I hobbled along for a mile (walk it off, walk it off), which turned into a more normal stride, which progressed into a determined hike as I climbed out of Fairyland.

Back at the rim, I had an opportunity to quit and grab the park shuttle, but opted to keep going. Descending into Queen's Garden, I was happy to run again, albeit at a much more timid, less thrilling pace.

The Bryce front country is rather compact, and I wanted to cover most of the major trails during this morning excursion. My elbow was hurting, so I put one of my trekking poles away and mostly walked. I wasn't worried about injury beyond the pronounced goose egg/bruise, but I was bummed that I had torn and blood-stained my favorite long-sleeve shirt. Every time!

Pretty hoodoos along the Peekaboo Loop. Does theis scenery ever get old? I doubt it.

By the time I returned to Bryce Point, I'd hiked/run/splat/hiked about 18 miles and stoke had fully returned. So I continued two more miles along the Under-the-Rim trail, until I heard that discouraging "slurp" from my Camelbak bladder, indicating I was out of water. Time to turn around. The final dry mile was quite steep — 1,000 feet of elevation gain in one mile. The one group of hikers I encountered on that climb looked concerned and asked me if I was okay. Well, I was bloody and dusty and likely weaving a bit from thirst and fatigue, but I thought I was doing okay. Since the trailhead was less than a half mile away, I didn't ask them for water.

Even though I was done with my 22-mile excursion by 1 p.m., the timing was too tight to make it out to the 32-mile aid station, my first point to meet Beat. He'd already told me he didn't expect to see me there, and our next point of contact was at mile 65. So I had oodles of time to take and shower and return to the park to picnic my way around the observation points.

I caught sunset from Rainbow Point, which sits above 9,000 feet.

I love sunset. It holds more intrigue than sunrise — the mystery of night, fading light and quiet, cool air and solitude.

At the Bryce Canyon village store, I waited in line for more than 20 minutes — behind a European woman buying what appeared to be dozens of glass trinkets that needed to be individually wrapped — to grab a sandwich and Frappuccino for Beat. He seemed grateful when I showed up at the dusty aid station with fresh food, as he'd been nauseated for most of the afternoon, and was just getting his stomach back enough to eat.

I was back up at 4 a.m. to catch Beat at mile 85. Well before dawn, temps had plummeted to 33 degrees with humidity. There was a definitive chill to the air, but Beat was in relatively good spirits despite an increasingly sore hip and nausea. I guess this goes with the territory in a hundred-miler, especially when one is nearing 50 (Beat has celebrated several of his recent birthdays in Bryce Canyon. He turned 49 on Thursday.)

As for me, well, I woke up after three hours of sleep feeling like I'd run my own hundred-miler, and also been beaten with a 2x4, and maybe crashed my car for good measure. Let's see — 22-mile run-ish after a month-plus mostly off my feet, big splat on the hard ground, continued running after big splat, sleep deprivation and picnicking with leftover race snacks. I'm really getting too old for this.

Besides general soreness and the goose egg on my elbow, I was physically okay ... as in uninjured. Although stiff and grumpy, it seemed a shame to waste this short, scenic opportunity when we had to return to Salt Lake that evening so Beat could catch a flight. After he took off toward the finish, I set out for a short morning hobble through Red Canyon.

Limping along the race course with my one trekking pole, holding my sore arm against my torso, and feeling a little disappointed that Beat probably ran through most of this beautiful place during the night. Night has its own beauties and mysteries, though. We recreational hikers miss so much.

There was an intriguing spur called Buckhorn Trail that I decided to follow. Following this narrow indentation over seriously loose scree in my compromised state with worn-out shoes was probably my most unwise decision in a weekend full of unwise decisions. My shoe slid out and I ended up on my butt, actually quite relieved that I didn't slide all the way to the bottom of the canyon. The scree under my foot kept giving out as I attempted to regain purchase, clawing at the trail with both hands despite radiating pain from my bad elbow. Arrgh! No more running/hiking for me for a while. For now, I stick to wheels.

Still, all of the mishaps were forgotten as I crawled onto a narrow plateau, plopped my now-bruised butt on a rock and breathed sweet, cool air as dozens of small birds darted over my head, in and out of their nest in a nearby hoodoo.

Beat finished the 2018 Bryce 100 in 29.5 hours. He was a little disappointed with his race, but I thought he did great for limited training following recovery from the 1,000-mile journey across Alaska. Plus, Bryce is a deceptively hard race. Someday, I would like to attempt something like this once more. But, really, I should first figure out how to simply run, yet again.