The drive home from crewing and pacing at the Western States 100 was a time of reflection. I was convinced that I needed to sit out the Hardrock 100, which was only 12 days away. I simply did not feel well in body, mind, or spirit. Exhaustion had crept into every facet of my life but somehow I convinced myself that racing would be a good idea. Essentially, I did not want to miss out on an opportunity to race Hardrock. I toed the start-line feeling pretty good and ran well for 35 miles. Beginning at the base of the single track climb up to the summit of Handies Peak though, fatigue engulfed me and I was forced to slow down. I did not feel good above 11,000′ and I quickly lost my 7th place position. By the time I made it to Grouse Gulch at mile 42, I began to seriously entertain the notion of dropping out. Good friend Rich Smith was there to pace me and as we headed up Engineer Pass the nausea and exhaustion began in earnest. I must have puked 10 times on the climb, but Rich was there to ensure that I kept plugging away. I specifically recall being hunched over on exhausted legs, dry-heaving, and telling Rich that “I have no idea how the hell I am going to finish.” (Definitely a low point of 2011) He paused and stated simply and without a hint of drama in his voice: “By putting one foot in front of the other.” This resonated with me, but first I had to get some calories and liquids back into my system. We sat at the top of Engineer for at least 30 minutes while I wallowed in my self-pity, snacked on a few items, and drank some liquids. Rich remained positive and I was really glad to have him there with me, because I would likely still be sitting at the top of the pass had he not prodded me into action again.
There comes a point during every race when ‘something’ kick-starts the lethargy out of you and drives your brain, heart, and body toward the finish-line. That point came as Rich and I began the descent from Engineer Pass to Ouray. The initial 400′ or so of vertical descent is on a muddy/snowy/grassy slope that was tough to negotiate, especially after developing cold and stiff legs by sitting for 30 minutes. Rich and I slipped simultaneously on the treacherous slope. I caught myself without issue, but Rich caught himself with an outstretched hand and managed to dislocate and break is middle finger. (A definite low point of 2011) (See picture below). He did not scream, swear, whine, complain, or even really say anything about it. He calmly stated: “Duncan, I think I broke my finger.” That was that. We headed onward at a faster clip. Indeed, now it felt as though we were moving with purpose and urgency. To keep the swelling down, Rich ran with his hand above his head for the entire descent into Ouray. Without a doubt, this was the most entertaining part of the run. (A high point of the season!) Thanks to Rich and his family for the sacrifice of the weekend!
My energy was solid and my body felt like it was coming back around as we clipped into Ouray. Annie had come down from Gunnison with a few friends to watch me go through Ouray! I was so excited to see her there. (Remember, Annie was about 2 weeks away from her due date at this point). I believe I had slipped back to 13th place by this point, but I was determined to finish as best as I could. With Jerry and Adam pacing me the rest of the way and a full night between me and the finish-line, there were many highs and lows. Eventually we trooped it out and I finished in 8th place at 30 hours and 57 minutes. I was underwhelmed with the placing, (My worst ultra result to date)(A definite low point), but I was ecstatic with my first Hardrock 100 finish. There is nothing quite like it. The 2011 Hardrock 100 blew my mind, humbled me, and left me wanting more. (A high point of 2011).
With Hardrock now behind me, Annie and I waited anxiously for the arrival of our first child! Annie had a perfect pregnancy without any issues and she handled it splendidly. Jordan Elizabeth Callahan was born on July 30, 2011 at 6 pounds 6 ounces. She and mom were both healthy and happy and Annie and I launched into parenthood. We are so excited and thankful to have a beautiful, healthy, and perfect baby girl in our lives. We could not be happier. (A HIGH POINT OF 2011 AND OUR WHOLE LIVES!)
This ‘post-Hardrock’ window saw me launching a full-scale assault on all of the summits in and around the Gunnison Valley. Seemingly every day I was getting above 11,000′ and picking off 12,000′ summits. Some of these were pure hiking endeavors, while others were hard running efforts. I found perspective the higher I went and I sought out many great mountains. Parr and I of course hit up many of the mountains together. Scott Drum and I headed to Mt Sneffels. Ryan Burch, Scott and I ran a fantastic loop around the Castles near Gunnison. We topped out over 13,000′ on West Elk Peak and then completed the 28 mile outing. (Without question, this time period was a major high point of 2011).
Early August came on the heels of having a child, racing Hardrock, and after a 3 week binge of high altitude. These three things left me drained heading into my taper for and racing of the Leadville 100. In retrospect I was not emotionally or mentally ready to tackle another 100 mile event. I was not focused and my ambition was lacking. My body was ‘toast’ and certainly not ready to perform at a peak level, but somehow I convinced myself that I would be able to rise up to the challenge at Leadville. It was not to be, and I was a non-factor from start to finish. There were times during the race that I was suffering so bad but my pacers kept me moving. My quads were destroyed from about mile 40 on and it was all I could do to keep grinding it out. Leadville was a uniquely humbling experience and I am thankful for all of the support from my friends who once again came up to Leadville to crew, pace, and watch me run myself into the ground. Thank you for being there on the good days and the bad. You can read my full Leadville 100 2011 race report here. One thing I noticed about the 100 pictures from 2011’s Leadville is that my head is down in every picture. I never look up. Here’s an example from the Mayqueen Aid Station: (A 2011 low point)
After Leadville came some much needed rest, a period of re-focusing, and large dietary changes. I spent the fall helping coach the Crested Butte XC Running Team. The boys won the first team State Title in school history, with 2 of my xc skiing athletes being leading scorers and in the top 10 overall. (Definitely a high point of 2011!). Annie and I adjusted to being first time parents pretty darn well, mostly on the back of Annie’s superior skills of prioritizing, organizing, and scheduling. Jordan has been a great kid and so far rock solid with regards to eating, sleeping, and staying on a schedule. Again, a testament to Annie’s abilities as a mom. Training throughout the fall and into winter has largely consisted of 4 or 5 runs per week for a total of 30 to 40 miles, mostly done at a ‘trotting’ pace. My body rebounded from the horrendous summer and as the New Year has dawned, I know my body’s endocrine system is back to normal ranges of hormone secretion. My energy is high and body is lean. No doubt the high energy is a result of having a renewed sense of purpose; raising a child! I have completely altered my diet from mostly carbohydrate-centric to a grain-free, ‘optimized-fat-metabolism diet’. The staples of oatmeal, jam, bread, pasta, rice, and cookies have been replaced with eggs, butter, way more veggies, dark chocolate, and nuts. I have never felt leaner, ever. I would like to detail this a bit more at some point in the near future.
Thanks for reading the final accounting of the 2011 season. Next up on the dockett is finalizing my plans for the 2012 season, developing my training plan and nutritional strategy to an even better level, and enjoying the process of transformation from ‘out-of-shape’ to extremely fit. I love that process and how it plays out in every other area of life as well. Here’s to an awesome beginning to 2012. Be on the look out for another post in a week or so lining out the upcoming running season’s goals, races, and priorities. Live well. Train well. DC.