Wednesday Morning I got up fairly early and after having breakfast I headed to Frisco where I wanted to get a taste for the second climb of the course: the 10 Mile Ridge.
I left Paul’s apartment with a full tank in my rented high teck Ford Focus and made it to Frisco at around 9:15. The idea was to park near the Rainbow Lake and search for the Colorado Trail. I remembered I watched a few videos of people previewing the trail on you tube, so I though I was in good shape to recognize the path.
As soon as I got off the car I realized nature was calling so I took care of business right away. I came back to the car and I was debating what I should have put on for the run. I felt a little disorganized, since I could not tell if I was going to be cold on top of the mountain, or coming down. I got my shorts on, plently of glide and then needed to get my shoes on.
At that point a red SUV came into the parking lot and I thought “here are the usual kids or tourists ready to make a mess of this quiet place”. I kept minding my own business and about 30 seconds later I hear a voice asking me: “Excuse me…”
I swear I did recognize the voice immediately, even if I never met this person before in my life. I turned around and looked at her with a huge smile.
E M E L I E !!!!!!! I almost screamed
She looked at me, almost confused, and was about to ask “Do you know where the trail is?” Clearly she recognized I was there to do some recon. The problem is that she was probably so mind blown by the fact that somebody recognized her in the middle of a remote parking lot in Frisco, Colorado, US that she asked:
“Do you know if I am famous?”
I did understand the real meaning of the question and I walked her to the entrance of the trail that was leading to the Rainbow Lake. She went back to the car after thanking me and got ready. I husseled to prep myself so I could get a picture or two with her, but…in no time she was back with her running partner and was about to leave. At least I maneged to get a photo of her…from the back…booooooooo
I said hi to both and I kept rushing to get ready. I clearly remember they guy telling me “Nice Shoes”. Finally I took off probably 2 minutes behind them. My watch did not even have a signal yet, but I was running after them. I brought my phone with me, just in case, so I could capture her running technique, her climbing ability, her style. I was so interested I forgot of two elements:
1. Where the heck would I put my phone in while running?
2. How can I catch up with arguably the best female ultrarunner in the world?
Less than a mile into my run I realized that the network of little trails around the lake was quite intricated and while passing a few hikers I asked them if they saw a guy and a woman running together. They did not see anybody, which was surprising, so I pulled off my phone and checked for directions on the UROC webpage opening the mapmy run file they had. This move turned out to be right on the spot cause I could almost see myself running in the right direction towards the lake. after that it would have been an easy task to follow the trail.
When I got to the lake I heard a noise on my right, behind the vegetation and in no time two people jumped out. Again Emelie and her friend bumped into me and said “Hey you, again”. I must have been visibly happy seeing them and given they seemed lost I told them they could follow me. Then I realized I said something stupid…cause there was no way I could keep up with them, so I gave them some directions.
We took off and I tried to snap a photo of them. Of course running, keeping a steady hand and a good focus on a sweaty phone is not an easy task, but at least I got this shot:
We started talking and I asked the routing questions “When did you get here, where did you flight from, where are you all staying, etc.”
After getting a few answers in a broken english (not that mine is any better) I wanted to get the guy involved as well so I asked him if he was with team Salomon.
He looked at me and answered “Yes”, then continued “Do you like the shoes you are wearing?” I told him of course I do, even if I prefer the other model (both Salomon, one the SLab Sense that I prefer and The Sense Ultra that I was wearing). Then he looked at me and said “I invented those shoes”. I replied “Oh yes? Cool…” It took me a few seconds to connect. His name is “Patrick Leick” and he is basically the guy that made the Salomon S-Lab Sense for Kilian. Wonderful. I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to tell him how I loved his shoes, how I felt the first time I put them on while running in Bear M. back in February with a foot of snow on the trail, how I used them with no socks and got bloody heels for the first time, yet, I could not stop running.
I wanted to tell him the thoughts I had while running the Febapple and taking the lead after 10 miles, and looking at my shoes, thinking about Kilian and his book that I was reading, and eventually almost crying thinking about the euforia I had while leading the race, how feelings that had been buried for more than 10 years, they all came out.
But I felt stupid, I did not know how to tell him all those things, so we kept running, focusing more on the whereabouts than on other things.
Emelie started pushing the pace a little bit and I managed to follow her, a good chance to check if the acclimatization process was working better than the day before. I kept going with my little steps almost tip toeing up the trail and I kept up with her easily. I felt great. Patrick started losing some ground, but it was no big deal…he gave us the thumb up to keep going.
Emelie and I kept going up, exploring the course, making sure we were not off track and she even stopped to take a little diversion in the woods…even superhumans need to pee!! Good to know! I felt pretty decent the entire ascent and almost constantly gained on Emelie, so I decided to slow down in some parts until I figured it was a good chance to try and get another decent photo of her:
When we broke out of the woods and reached the tree line limit I could not believe the view I could get. I got the camera again and took a couple of photos with Brekenridge just under us, the mountains of Leadville far away, and Frisco well behind us. And Emelie coming through.
Some residual snow was still lingering upthere, but nothing that could stop us from making it to the top.
When we reached a portion of fairly flat trail I decided it was time to part ways from Emilie since she has her accomodation in Copper Mountain on the other side of the mountain, just at the bottom of the descent; I only had my Focus back in Frisco…so I did not want to overdo it or run many miles and get my legs busted before the race. She kept going straight on and I looped back, meeting Patrick just a few minutes into my way back to the car. I figured I reached the highest point of the course, I felt good and I believed I only had downhill stretches to reach Copper Mt after the ridge I got to with Emilie.
Great Views from there:
It was a very interesting experience, I’m glad I met Emilie and Patrick; yet I am a bit disappointed by the description of the run she made on her blog. She kind of hinted that she would have preferred to be alone and run quietly. I did not think I made a lot of noise; I was mostly reserved and exchanged just a few words, and actually just helped her and Patrick find the right path. During the climb most of the time I was a little ahead so we did not really spoke for long periods of time…but it is what it is…I’m glad I met them.
After a quick descent I reached the car and went back to Boulder, got some food and rested. At least the morale was much higher at the end of the day, since the climb went very well and I felt confident that when locking into a good pace altitude was not affecting me as much as I thought. I was not feeling so discouraged as I felt a couple of days before.
Thursday morning I woke up and I felt I needed to do some running; Friday I would have traveled to Vail, attended the pre race panel, and most likely just rested, so I needed to get a final last effort to prime the legs without destroying them.
Sham and Paul messaged me and passed me a link with some of the trails that Boulder Park Authority opened up that very same day. Looking at some of the logs that Paul had, I decided to run close to the apartment and hit some trails with a little of climbing involved. Massimo Alpian, Paul’s and Sham’s friend, suggested to hit the Sanitas Trail. I thought it was a good compromise and took off around 11am.
After a short run on the trail around Wonderland Lake where the damages of the floods were still very evident, I proceeded towards Hawthorn Ave where I could hit the trails in just a few blocks.
After an asphalt section still very damaged (see photo below) the dirt road became fairly steep and in no time the road gave room to a single track trail that was making my heart pump intensively.
I was glad I was running, cause the feelings were great and confidence was building up quickly. Being able to move quickly on steep hills but with a moderate effort (i.e. when you know you have more in the tank but you are not giving it all) builds a lot of confidence that things are going in the right direction.
The trail at one point became an incredible display of rocks and I got tricked into an area that was not part of the trail system. Not a big problem: with a few steps on some edgy cliffs I returned on the right track and proceeded to the top. Once I arrived to the Summit I had no idea of what I did: I climbed Mt Sanitas in Boulder!!
I did not know what Mt Sanitas was…until I learned that even Kilian came there the previous year to set the climb record time.
So, when I reached the top, looked at the views of Boulder, and saw a metal plaque on some rocks, I thought it was a deserved prize to take a picture for the records!
While snapping the picture of the plaque I heard a person breathing heavily coming up behind me, from the other part of the hill I just arrived from. Somebody was making an intense effort and I did not turn around just because I was taking pictures with my phone. At first I thought it could have been a friedn of one of the hikers that were chatting just around me.
Then the breathing became increasingly more pronounced and loud in a matter of a few seconds: I understood it must have been a runner.
Carefully I looked to my left without turning my head to avoid looking suspicious and I saw the minute frame of a woman standing a few feet from me. Immediately I recognized her shoes but I noticed they were not regular Salomon, since the sole was different.
Who was this person standing by me?
She approached me and asked if I came from the trail on the front side of the ridge. I confirmed I did and that the trail was open and only a couple of spots were a bit dangerous, but with some caution she should not have any problem.
At this point I was contemplating returning to base camp and rest for a few hours before going to the Boulder Running Company for the afternoon event with Kilian Jornet. While I was still navigating in deep thoughts on how to return to Paul’s apartment the misterious woman was already gone from where she came from. I was a little pissed cause I did not even ask her who she was and what she was doing there (besides running, of course). I decided to follow her, without a clear plan. The problem is that now I was headed south, the opposite direction of my final destination, so I was a little concern that I was going to put on too many miles…however, at this point there was not looking back.
I qwuickly caught up with her, even if I stayed a bit at some distance. She was going down the rocky terrain fairly fast, and I was doing a good effort to keep up with her.
She must have heard my steps and while pulling a bit to the right she told me I could pass her if I wanted.
I declined the invitation, explaining that she was going already quite hard, and I needed to save some energy for the weekend.
That helped breaking the ice and we started a conversaton about the weekend plans, what I was running, what was she planning, we talked about her injury, until she said she was a little disappointed that this year she could not defend her 2012 Leadville Champion Title.
At that point my jaw dropped.
I had in front of me Tina Lewis. That made it 2 professional athletes in less than 24 hours. Incredible.
Even more incredible the fact that….she knew Mike Arnestein, the Fruitarian from NY!!!
We reached the bottom and I told her that was it for me, but as soon as I realized I had to go north, we joined again to run the Sanitas and the Dakota Trails together until I was back closer to the apartment.
She told me she had to go to the Salomon event with Kilian and that she would be in UROC to spectate.
It was a great conversation and – as I found out later – a very nice person to talk to.
Once back at Paul’s place I was getting ready for the next day: I needed to pack my things, clean the apartment and get ready to meet Kilian and fellow runner/ultra marathon addicted Stephen England who was coming to Boulder straight from Telluride just to see Kilian.
Here are a few pictures of the event, where I saw again Patrick and Emilie, Tina, I met again with Matt Flaherty. The major thing I remember was the phone call with Michelle just towards the end of the event. LOL…
After having dinner with Stephen and Tiffany in downtown Boulder, I took off from the city and headed deep into the Colorado mountains to get settled in Vail before the predicted storm hit us:
I had lunch at the village and took a quick look at the finish line and the expo. Settled into the hotel and picked up the Bib. I also let Stephen and Tiffany know that the weather conditions were not ideal for camping so we arranged to spend the night in my room so we could all get some rest before the race.
We participated to the panel discussion and we listened to all the pros talking about their race predictions and their preparation.
I finally had the chance to take a photo with Kilian (with Stephen’s kind help), and I must admit it was a bit weird to ask this poor guy that was harassed by everyone to sign autographs and shake hands and take pictures with, to spare some time with me.
So I asked him in Italian, and he was surprised to hear a different language.
I asked him “Ciao Kilian, posso fare una foto con te?” He replied “Certo”. And after taking the picture I wished him “Buona fortuna per domani”. “Grazie anche a te” he said.