I must have really made good time from Ouray to Telluride because when I rolled into the aid station my crew was not there! The aid station felt this was a bigger deal than I did; I was happy to just sit and take a little break. However, an aid station volunteer was immediately dispatched to search the parking lot for our yellow Jeep! Perhaps a minute later Kathy and Fritz emerge out of the darkness; they’d come by the aid station perhaps five minutes before and checked the IN/OUT board and noticed that Darla had not come through yet so figured since I’d been trailing her by 30-40 minutes for a long while that they had time yet. Turns out the board hadn’t been updated; Darla had already come and gone! Oh well.
Of all the sections of the Hardrock course the next one was the one I had been anticipating the most because of its notoriety and difficulty. Over the next 9.3 miles to the Chapman Gulch Aid Station (82.4) the route climbs 4500’ and drops 3090’. I knew I needed to load up on calories before I left so I devoured a bowl of potato soup and several slices of water melon (love this stuff!). I also knew the next stretch would be during the “doldrums” of the early morning; those tough hours between midnight and sunrise that often reduce even the toughest of ultrarunners to stumbling zombies! Therefore I dispensed with water in my bottles and loaded up on Coca-Cola! And with a final wave I was out of there!
I was only a handful of minutes out of Telluride, on a wide path that switch backed just above the aid station, when I heard cheers and applause from the aid station. Must be Mikio and his pacer I thought. Time to press the pace a bit. The next mile or so is on the wide Telluride Bear Creek Road that has a fairly gentle grade so I tried to run as much of it as I could as I knew there’d be very little running soon enough. A short time later I arrive at the Wasatch Trail and begin climbing in earnest; steep switchback after steep switch back; endless. The route is overrun by thick vegetation which makes seeing my way ahead a bit difficult with my headlamp but there is really nowhere else to go but up! In the less overgrown sections of trail I often pause and cut out my light and stare into the heavens; the Milky Way is a bright and foggy band across the pitch sky! Wow! I’m not just stopping to admire the Universe however; I’m trying to see if I can spot Mikio’s lights behind and below me! Ha! Fortunately I don’t spot his lights and snap mine back on and continue ever upward; the roar of Bear Creek my only companion.