Happy to announce a new talk covering my Highest Hundred trip in 2017 at Bent Gate in Golden, CO on the 28th of March. Come by and check it out! The event is free:
Happy to announce a new talk covering my Highest Hundred trip in 2017 at Bent Gate in Golden, CO on the 28th of March. Come by and check it out! The event is free:
The 2018 FKTOFTY Awards have been announced. I’ve very thankful that the Tour of the Highest Hundred was selected in the lineup! Although, it didn’t “win”, I really had no reason to think I would! I’m actually a little confused how different FKT attempts can even be compared to each other, but if all we want to do is celebrate FKT projects in general, I think that’s a worthwhile reason to make such lists.
But if I hope that the Tour of the Highest Hundred would win something like a popularity contest… forget it. It’s too long, too hard, too weird, and too obscure to ever become the type of, “Destination FKT” something like the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim or the John Muir Trail are quickly becoming. And that’s totally fine with me. A litmus test is this: try to visualize exact what teh Highest Hundred challenge would entail. Kinda hard, right? What do you focus on? The distance, the peaks themselves, the elevation gain, the route? It’s a complex mother.
But, there’s a lot of reasons I think going for the Colorado Centennials by bike and by foot self-supported makes a totally life-changing challenge, even if you don’t make it your own FKT.
The theme of this week was, “Am I getting sick? I’m getting sick. No, not quite sick, maybe tomorrow?! Tomorrow I’ll be sick?!” Thus, it was an easy-ish load of training. Trying not to overdo it, as everyone around me seems to be inflicted with the plague.
Before I completed my first self-powered Longs Peak Duathlon (after a few failures) from Arvada, I knew of only a few others I was certain had made the trip: Bill Wright, The Briggs Brothers, Stefan Griebel. I never thought about who the first people to complete the feat were – perhaps the names were lost in mountaineering history?
That’s until I started reading Paul Nesbit’s, Longs Peak: It’s Story and a Climbing Guide mentioned:
1977: Cleve McCarty of Boulder and his 12-year-old son Eric bicycled to the trailhead, climbed the Kieners route on the East Face […] went down the North Face and biked home, all in one day.
Not bad! Cleve McCarty is fairly well-known in Colorado Mountaineering lore, and that makes it all the stranger that I never heard about this adventure of his. As well as this long day, Cleve once held the FKT for completing the Colorado 14ers: 54 14ers in 54 days (or was it 52 peaks in 52?) back in 1959. He’s also the co-author of High Over Boulder, with Pat Ament.
What’s also amazing is that Eric McCarty repeated the trip with his own 12-year old son, 32 years later!
And of course, Eric is still around, in Boulder, and works a few blocks from where I work. Small place, this world.
Wow, the start of the new year perfectly coincides with the beginning day of my training journal? Guess that’s good enough excuse enough to jot things down online.
This year, I’ve decided to keep record keeping in a actual gridded notebook, and make my notes as I do the exercise, which makes a world of difference when doing a half a dozen things say, at the gym, and want to keep track of progress on all those things. Even using it for these few days, it’s been amazingly helpful, if not for recall.
Sadly, it makes posts like this one pretty boring, since the added minutiae may not be all that entertaining. But, I’m generally working on a few things:
I have no concrete goals, so I’m just hoping for consistency of my aerobic training – doing a workout 6 days a week of at least one hour each workout would be ideal. I’m not looking to kill myself. My aerobic conditioning is probably my most mature of all my fitness by a wide margin. Right now, I’d just like to feel fit, and get a sense of balance and health. Consistency is key – I usually gravitate towards death marches of 9 hours+, but they’re not really really worthwhile for training purposes, as I usually take a few days off afterwards to recover.
Far below my aeerobic fitness is my climbing fitness – I couldn’t be any more different in how I train the two. Instead of every day (with one reset day) for aerobic work, I shoot for every other day. I focus almost exclusively on bouldering (power). When it comes time to project a route, it only takes a few weeks to build up enough endurance to make this reasonable. I’m not against training via sport climbing, but I do find bouldering to be the most efficient use of my time. Generally, I find myself pretty heavy for a climber – my legs are pretty developed from mashing those bike pedals and power hiking up those hills, and my upper body just isn’t in comparison. I shy away from any sort of upper body development I don’t need – I’m one step away from being allergic to weights – getting muscle on this frame usually isn’t a problem. Too much back meat does make for a slow Justin.
I’ve been working through an injury in my right ring finger which doesn’t have an exact time/reason it started to affect my climbing, but boy does it. Symptoms are also much stranger than I’ve experienced before: very tender in the pad right after my knuckle – perhaps this is an A2 pulley problem… who knows.
My general way to treat this problem is a little bit of rest, a lot of taping (“x method” being my favorite) and taking a big step back in the grades I climb. Last summer before my trip, I was topping V7’s and V3 were more a warmup. Not being able to do any V3 I want in the gym is a little bit of a pride-swallower. Pulling hard really angers that pad though – more so than crimping. Jugs are also very hard to hold, as they also put pressure on this A2 pulley area. Ugh!
Man, where to start? Right now, my ankles are some of the worst spots of my lack of mobility. A few years ago, I fell strangely on my left ankle while bouldering, causing an audible (if only to me), “pop”, and some definite problems with my left ankle ankle-ing. I’ve since worked through that, getting marginal mobility back, but pain still remains. Could be just an old-man pain from whatever scar tissue is still in there causing discomfort and slight inflammation. I wish it would go away, and hoping more mobility will at least help on that front.
My right ankle succumbed an intense sprain and/or break (in the foot itself) in September, as I finished my last peak (Longs Peak) of my 105 peak trip. I hobbled down the mountain that day, and got back to the bike, where the injury really didn’t affect me. The next day, I could barely walk. Walking the next few weeks was pretty painful, and running was absolutely out of the question.
I’ve slowly been regaining mobility and use of my ankle, but it’s still touch and go. I’ve started to ramp up my ankle PT I was practicing because of my left ankle for my right ankle. It’s a long, slow, painful process. Each day, I measure the dorsiflextion I can make – just by seeing how many inches away from a wall I can put my foot, and still touch my knee to the wall, when I bend it.
My target is 5 1/2″. I actually do two measurements: one before I workout, and one afterwards, usually after I do all the PT. That way, I can see if there’s a immediate benefit to all the stretching/tearing/terrible things I do to the ankle.
To me, it seems that the ankle PT has to be done almost daily, or the work I do just gets quickly reset.
I’ve started doing yoga quite a bit, as a way to work on my total body mobility, which I have painfully (if literally painfully), very little of. I’m quite terrible at it, but it’s fun to start something fully from the beginning again.
To be somewhat balanced with all the climbing I do, I sneak in a little antagonist training. I’ve a torn shoulder, so I don’t too any benchpress, but I’m also at the point where pushups are challenging.
Check out the La Sportiva Blog to read and read about just how I got to where I am in all this peak-bagging self-powered adventuring.
Thanks goes to La Sportiva for believing in me, and providing me with the best trail running shoe on the planet: The Mutant.
The electronics gear kit list! Bringing any sort of gear – especially electronic gear, is a fine balance between the convenience of having the resource, and the burdens of carrying it all with you. Doubly so with electronic gear, as it all requires some sort of power source to charge it all up.
For the Tour of the Highest Hundred, I brought more electronic gear than on any other ultra racing/FKT trip in my life! It was a lot to manage, but I made all my choices after much deliberation.
Here’s the rundown:
The Crestones! A highlight of my Highest Hundred trip – the mountains of this group are awesomely steep, the rock is solid, the scrambling: divine. This is truly a Fastpack from Hell-yeah!
Seven Centennials summited:
Six Centennials summited:
To make the Tour of the Highest Hundred work, my general strategy was to keep the number of separate trailheads I needed to visit by bike as low as possible, while designing my route on foot to tag as many mountains in an area as possible. Transitioning to/from bike-mode/hike-mode and superfluous riding are big time sucks.
One of the largest puzzles is the Sierra Blancas. Even enthusiastic peak baggers will separate this group of mountains into >= two trips:
Three different trips to three different trailheads is a lot of bike riding for six mountains that sit close together. Visiting the eastern trailhead, then the western ones means either crossing a northern mountain pass (Mosca Pass), or going around the entire southern end of the Sierra Blancas (La Veta Pass) – I was willing and needed to do one, but not both.
Header image: Argentine Pass just a few days before finishing. I was, it seemed, a bit tired.
It’s been 22 days since I finished the Tour of the Highest Hundred. I’m asked often what recovery looks like for something like this, and when I think I’ll be 100% again.
Let’s step back, and clear up the air. Get rid of any myths about putting yourself through a gauntlet like the Tour of the Highest Hundred: It’s a terribly unhealthy, fool-hearty endeavor to do so much, so fast. You risk the onset of serious overtraining syndrome at best, and completely preventative overuse injuries at worst. The only thing that keeps you from seriously and reputedly causing long-term damage to your health is that you will, in the end, stop doing it and give your mind + body the rest it so terribly requires. This is really true for any ultra distance event. Racing one hundred miles can be done in a day and is pretty horrible for your health – how long do even the most elite runners need to fully recover? Keeping on for 2 months is, I think, a fair bit worse.
Even when grinding myself into the ground, I had the fantasy that if I could just get a good block of rest, then do a little bit of training to polish things up, I could come back to do something else quite amazing: set the FKT for Nolans 14, or something like that. I bumped into Meghan Hicks along with Brendan Leonard and Hilary Oliver in Buena Vista – kind of out of my mind (OK: really out of my mind) and I mentioned this. Meghan’s response? “That’s fucked up“. It really is wishful thinking, and probably is patently wrong. Sixty days with little rest is a big ask from any body; then asking it after just a few weeks rest to do something yet again phenomenal is only for the most carefully dreamt dreams.
Training for the New Alpinism describes exactly what I’ve done petty eloquently:
I felt I was smart enough to somewhat temper the problem of overtraining by splitting my tour up into two equal parts. The first half I would take it somewhat more easy, have more rest days, stay in more hostels. The second half I’d be a bit more cavalier over my daily exertion and cut corners with the amount of sleep I got. I can’t say in any surety this is what I did, or if it was, that it had a good effect. The Tour of the Highest Hundred is just too complex of a challenge to slice things up so roughly.
When I initially finished, what I most experienced was just complete exhaustion. I stayed in bed, mostly and if I tried to push it and stay conscious, I would just fail after a while and find myself sleeping wherever I was – on the couch, mostly. There were a few days in a row I didn’t leave the house! Sleep quality was shallow and terrible. I knew things were getting better, when I started getting anxiety attacks! Even though they were unpleasant, at least they were a type of emotional other than numbness. This took a week or two to achieve.
Tonight, I sit on my bed, after doing not much of anything today – not much of anything for the past week+. I woke up dizzy, and stayed that way for the entirely of my day, same as yesterday – same as the day before. This really prevents me from doing much of anything other than baseline “being awake” and, “breathing”: no hiking or climbing; no riding bikes or dare I even suggest: running.
Seeing that it’s been three weeks after finishing, this seems a little out of the ordinary to be quite honest. I’m a stubborn bastard with a high pain tolerance, but even I think enough is enough – I should be feeling a whole lot better by now. I’ve taken my vitals and my heart rate and blood pressure reflect that of a fit mid-thirties dude. Sometimes if my blood pressure is too low, I’ll have dizzy spells – same when my already-low heart rate dips even further down. I’m not dehydrated, either. Or if I haven’t eaten in a few hours. I’m fearing the worst I can come up with: some sort of water-borne parasite like Giardia or even Lyme Disease. I may have to go to the doctor for that one. Forced rest, I suppose.
Not that I needed any more motivation for that. On my last day, after summiting the last mountain of my tour, Longs Peak (#105), I managed to slip and sprain/impinge my right ankle in the Boulderfield. Sweet mercy. I hobbled down the last few miles, making the the most direct line I think I’ve ever managed back to the trailhead, but hell if it didn’t hurt to even hobble in the most strange and unusual ways. Hopefully, it’s not also a fracture. Who knows, really, but it’s a little nerve-racking to see my foot still swollen from the trip. To be generous, both feet are swollen, which only shows to prove just how much I kicked my own ass. If I look at the trip holistically, it’s a complete miracle I only sprained an ankle, and when I did, it was 6 hours before I finished the entire tour.
Other than feeling completely zonked mentally from the Giardia-like illness, and being able to only hobble around on one good, yet beat-up foot, I’m doing alright. I’ve gained most of the weight I’ve lost. I haven’t walked more than 100 steps at one time except around a grocery store, but I can ride my bike 10 miles in a day and it doesn’t feel too bad for the foot. Climbing is a different story. My right foot is lacking flexibility, but two months off from hard training kind of feels as if you’re starting from square one. Every time I go train, I feel much more fit than the last time, which is reassuring. Entirely understandable that I’ll have to make up lost ground and gain fitness again. Although I prefer bouldering, I can’t think of anything more destructive to a seriously hurt ankle than to repeatedly fall on it in creative ways as one is to do bouldering.
Only until I can get through this dizziness/lightheadedness issue will I be able to focus on recovering physically. At this point, with this much inactivity, I’ve lost most of the short term adaptations I’ve made being up so high for so long. Instead of thinking I’ve done a super intense training block, it’s better to think I’ve instead gone through a very traumatic event, and I’ll need to start from a fitness level far below where I was even a year ago. It took me three years to feel ready to do the Highest Hundred tour after doing the 14er tour, remember.
To be a bit kinder to my body, I’ve focused, if not forced myself to start a fairly consistent yoga practice, which I feel is doing wonders towards uncrippling my body. My shoulders and hips are opening up again – both get pretty tight cycling, and I doubt hiking/running/backpacking do much good when taken to such extremes. Sleeping on the ground for that long isn’t always for the best, I suppose – I had a few days where my pad would deflate in the middle of the night and I was left on the lumpy ground (I manage to fix the leak after a few tries).
So that’s what I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve tried my best to persevere, but if I’m tardy on getting back to you on our correspondence (or, whatever), I apologize, I’m doing the best I can, and I hope to only get better as time goes on. I bought this ticket and this ain’t my first go-around, so some aprés suffering is just a part of it, which I’ve tried to at least anticipate.
I’ll try checking in after a few more weeks, perhaps I will have interesting news from a doctor’s visit.