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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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      JIM'S MOLAS→MOLAS TRAINING RUN               
"We can do anything we want if we stick to it long enough."
- Helen Keller 


I've always liked that quote. It can apply to so many aspects of our lives, including Jim's and my pursuit of mountain trail ultra running. Neither of us gives up easily when we have goals we are intent on reaching - even if it appears like we continue to strive in vain. Hundred-milers come to mind here!

One of Jim's goals this summer is to finish the Leadville Trail 100-miler (LT100) again. LT was his very first 100-miler, back in 1999, and by gosh, he finished it! That's not an easy one to do on your first try at the distance. It is at altitude (about 9,200 to 12,600 feet elevation) and requires a lot of running to beat the cut-offs.

Since then, Jim's gone on to finish Kettle Moraine (sub-24 hours), Western States, The Bear, Wasatch,  and Vermont, but he's DNF'd Leadville in his two subsequent attempts there. He is determined to finish it this year, and his chances are better than ever before because of his more extensive training at altitude this summer. When he was working, he couldn't spend more than two weeks acclimating before LT100. Now he's got all summer.

Time flies, however, and neither of us feels particularly "acclimated" to high altitude yet! We've been doing as many miles above 9,700 feet as possible since we arrived in the Silverton area two-plus weeks ago and we've been between 12,000 and 13,000 feet several times now. Hopefully, all the climbing and elevation will pay off in five weeks at Leadville.

[Five weeks?! Is that all???]

Since there aren't any 50K or 50-mile races nearby for Jim to use as training runs right now, he'll have to do a couple long runs on his own to prepare for Leadville. With all the dirt roads and nice trails in the San Juan mountains, he has ample opportunity to devise his own routes nearby.

We discussed some options for long runs, and today he chose an out-and-back course on part of the Colorado Trail that 1) is very beautiful, 2) is mostly runnable, at least downhill, 3) gets up to 12,650 feet, 4) has plenty of elevation gain and loss, and 5) is fairly close to Silverton.

That would be a Molas Pass to Cascade Creek and back to Molas Pass run on lovely Segment 25!

Jim ran the first eleven miles of this route on July 1 and continued down Mineral Creek Trail and back to the camper on South Mineral Creek Road. I described his run on July 2 after I ran the whole segment from Molas Pass to Bolam Pass Road.

His plan today was to start at Molas Pass, run up and over the pass on Rolling Mountain, then down to Cascade Creek (14.5 miles), turn around, and come back. He estimated a time of about eight hours to do 29 miles, thinking he could get up to the Mineral Creek Trail intersection faster than when he did it with Cody nine days ago. He didn't take a camera, either, since I took so many pictures when I did this section. The photos here are other ones I took July 2.

Molas Pass is just seven miles south of Silverton, the closest CT trail head in the area. I dropped Jim off there at 5:45 AM so he'd have a good chance of reaching the high point (11.5 miles) before the daily late morning/early afternoon t-storms hit the pass.

Cody and Tater were still sleeping in the camper, and I stopped in Silverton to do two loads of laundry before heading back to camp. [Note: 6-7AM is a great time to do laundry; no one else was there!] Although I took plenty of my own reading material, I ended up perusing interesting articles in Inside/Outside Southwest and the Silverton Magazine instead.

I had a lazy morning after doing the laundry and eating breakfast. I walked the dogs, read e-mail, edited photos, and worked on this journal (I'm always behind on entries this summer!). There was some rain off and on, but not as bad as the previous five days. We sure miss the sun!

It was still raining when I got to Molas Pass at 1:30 to wait for Jim. From my rather high vantage point in the parking area, I could see the storm clouds rolling by. I had planned to take the dogs out on the trail to meet or wait for Jim, but it was too wet for me get motivated to get out of the truck.

I tried to take a nap while I waited. Not possible. Too many people driving in and out of the parking area making too much noise. I have a hard enough time taking an afternoon nap when I'm in my own bed and it's quiet. Oh, well.

I was a bit concerned about whether Jim got into any storms while he was on the trail, especially coming back over Rolling Mountain above tree line on the return trip. He did get wet, but wasn't in any danger of lightning. The first couple hours were sunny, then overcast. It drizzled off and on after 13 miles and rained steadily the last nine miles. Ugh!

Jim showed up wet and tired but happy at 3:15, longer than he'd intended to be out there but making decent time under the circumstances (altitude, elevation gain and loss, distance). His time was 9:30 hours for 30 miles, not 29. He ended up going half a mile farther before turning around.

Jim remarked again about how bright the flowers glow when they aren't viewed in direct sunlight. He loved the grand vista to the south from the pass at Rolling Mountain, which he didn't see on July 1, and had great fun running down the fairly smooth switch-backs on that side of the mountain. Of course, it required a lot more energy to come back up those switch backs on the return (that side is steeper than the north side), but he got to run most of the last eleven miles back to Molas Pass that he had to walk on the outbound.

He was satisfied with his run and agreed that it was a good simulation of conditions at Leadville. I equate the pass over Rolling Mountain to the one over Hope at Leadville. They are both about the same elevation (Rolling is a little higher), the approach from the north is an easier grade on both, and the approach from the south is steeper on both (runners go out-and-back over Hope Pass in the LT100, similar to what Jim did today on Rolling Mtn.). The trails on both courses are fairly runnable downhill. And although Jim didn't have any road miles today, as at Leadville, he has plenty of dirt roads around here to run on other days.

Cody got a break today. He wanted to go with Jim but we made him take a rest day. He's so full of energy, even after a long run with one of us. When he's not with us, we both miss his company on the trail.

Jim did get to talk to a couple of hikers on the trail today (one from Outward Bound) and he saw others that were camping. He also saw some pack llamas behind him on the trail but they never caught up to him.

All in all, a great day on the trail!

Next up: Segment 24 on the Colorado Trail, a really unique section.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil