On Comebacks

Big step today in my return to civilized life… It wasn’t easy up in this little mountain town but I finally found an internet provider that could hook me up with 10mbps. This is a huge step in restoring my ability to conduct my photography and writing enterprises! I still remember sitting in my camper after the wife had passed from cancer, life completely decimated… no home, no family, no job, no savings left, camera broken and laptop on it’s last leg. Wondering, how does one come back from this?

Steve & Dad Leadville (wordpress)Today I received and notice in the email that it is once again time to register for the Leadville 100 “Race Across the Sky” and I am reminded of my most memorable comeback, my first Leadville 100 finish. I was relatively inexperienced at running that distance and by the time I had reached the Halfmoon aid station on the return trip about 70 miles into the race, I was physically and mentally trashed. If you want to drop out, you can ask  the aid  station and they will remove your medical stats wrist band, effectively eliminating you from the race. I was the first person I had encountered who looked so bad that the aid station people were asking me for my medical band. But for some reason I said no and managed to down some food and eventually stumble out of the aid station and continue the race.

I was moving so slowly though that race personnel were continuing to drive by and ask me for my medical band. But I continued to put one foot in front of the other while my mind argued with my body… With more than a marathon in distance to go there is no earthly reason to believe that it is possible to finish. In preparation for a marathon distance run most people get some extra rest, do some carbo loading and take steps to prepare their minds and body for such a distance. No one starts a marathon completely exhausted, sleep deprived and sick from not being able to eat a proper meal, cold and wet and in the dark of night in the mountains with an 11,200 foot pass to climb.

But even then, in complete denial of reality, I continued to put one foot in front of the other… why? Because I could. Because it is what I expected of myself, because it is what my crew who had worked so hard all summer with me expected of me. Because you can’t just drop out for being tired and sick, because you knew when you signed up for such insanity that you were going to be cold and tired and sick for over 24 hours. Cold and tired and sick is not a valid excuse for giving up, it is part of the race. Such as it is in real life, even in your darkest hour you continue on because that is what everyone does, because that is what is expected of you by your friends and family and people who are counting on you, because giving up is unthinkable.

Well as it turns out by the time I arrived at the Fish Hatchery aid station I was feeling a bit better and was able to down some more food. By the time I got to Hagerman Pass the food was kicking in and I could smell the finish line. There was still nearly 20 miles to go but some strength had returned and my body had warmed somewhat. I knew I was pushing the limit on cutoff times and I dug deep and hit the afterburner. Later my pacer told me if I had gone any faster over the pass he would not have been able to keep up with me. By the time I had gotten around Turquoise Lake I had made up considerable time against the cutoff limits and a finish was guaranteed if I could just continue to put one foot in front of the other.  I could no longer hold down any food or ERG but I just kept walking up the long four mile hill to the finish line. Finally, after 29 hours the old west mining town of Leadville was once again in sight. And at 29:15 my feet crossed the finish line and I received the coveted hug and finisher’s medallion from Merilee.

I have been involved with sports my entire life and am definitely a fan of great comebacks. I believe that sports can train people for success in life and this experience was no different. I was able to draw on the hardship and perseverance involved in finishing a 100 mile race in the mountains against impossible odds to carry on with life even after the terrible circumstances surrounding such a devastating illness and death in the family. I know others are at this time facing their darkest hour and I hope these words can in some small way encourage them to make their comeback in life.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items
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Endurance

This time of year always reminds me of the big endurance races here in Colorado, the Pikes Peak Marathon and the Leadville 100 Mile “Race Across the Sky”. Although it has been a long time since I have run the race I know the trials and tribulations of attempting to run 100 miles at an average of 10,000 feet of elevation have permanently changed my mindset regarding what the mind can force the body to accomplish.

Steve & Dad Leadville (wordpress)When my buddy and I were on the descent from our winter summit of Mount Elbert last year, we knew we were nearing the parking lot but it was getting cold and dark and we were really tired from 10 hours of hiking in snow. That’s when your mind starts telling you that you aren’t going to make it, or you are on the wrong trail, or that you didn’t prepare and train enough to accomplish what you are trying to do. He said to me, maybe we should just stop and camp… I’m sure I was just as exhausted and miserable as anyone could be but I said no, we can make it… I said we could go another 50 miles feeling this miserable! Lol, sounds funny but it’s true.

The Leadville 100 is an out and back race from the town of Leadville, Colorado to the ghost town of Winfield at an average of 10,000 feet over three mountain passes including Hope Pass at 12,600 feet. And I can tell you when you summit Hope Pass the second time after 12 hours of running with your legs feeling like two pieces of useless rubber, sick to your stomach and heart feeling like it is going to explode inside your chest, there is no earthly reason why you should believe that you are going to be able to run another 45 miles over two more mountain passes… in the dark.

But somehow all the training, past experience, determination and pure force of will come together to keep you going, just because you can and because you can’t bear the thought of living another year with the specter of failure hanging over your life while you train another twelve long months for another shot at it. And once you stagger across that finish line you are somehow different and the change applies to many aspects of life. Things you thought you would never be able to accomplish become possible. Things that cause others to shrink in fear are small in your mind now. In your chest beats the heart of a champion and no one can ever take that away from you, ever.

The picture is of me and my dad nearing the finish line in Leadville. My dad was a runner too and I always liked having him pace me for the last section from Twin Lakes on into town… He was my life coach when I was growing up and while others might have felt sorry for me and maybe allowed me to give up so close to the finish line I could always count on kind words of encouragement from my dad… Lol… like “oh shut up and get going, we’re almost there!”… 🙂 I always liked this picture, not because it is the most scenic or dramatic but because it is the one that shows the sheer magnitude of the race. The mountains in the background towering over the skyline are where the war takes place. Looking back now it is hard to even imagine crossing those mountains twice, but I did and I am a better person for the experience. Good luck and Godspeed to all who are facing the monster this year!

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Rocky Mountain Winter

Got some good hiking in this morning, now working on staying ahead of the curve by getting some more winter pictures done. Have to say, these images of our Mount Elbert winter hike in January of 2016 have to be some of the most memorable shots I have ever taken.

It was a beautiful morning and we were climbing the east face of the mountain with the sun at our backs so the snow and the entire mountain was brightly lit. Those pictures were really nice, I got some good ones of the Mosquito mountains up by Leadville from the mountainside and a few of Twin Lakes far below us. We had a beautiful mountain jay following us part of the way, and then judging by the footprints we also had a mountain lion to contend with. But by that time we were above tree line and could see for miles all around with no lions in sight. Still, a bit unnerving but we forged ahead. We hoped the lion might be more interested in the bighorn sheep we could see far in the distance.Mount Elbert Summit in Winter

The hike was more difficult than we were hoping for, the 14ers.com guide said it would be snow packed all the way and all we would have to do is follow the micro spike tracks. But that turned out to be a bit of an optimistic view as it had snowed a bit the night before and a lot of wind had covered the tracks in some key places. We had a large clearing to cross and it was completely snow covered. We somehow found the trail under the snow and by poking our ski poles around we were mostly able to stay on the trail, but one wrong step and you were buried up to your waist in powder and it was very difficult and time consuming to get back out.

Summit Mount Elbert in WinterThen there were no less than three false summits, so early estimates on a summit time were way off and we were about to give up when all of a sudden we found ourselves on the summit. Very strange… we were just walking along wondering how much further the summit was going to be while discussing turning around and suddenly there was no more mountain in front of us. And it was the most amazing scene before us, nothing but snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see. By that time it was about 2:00 p.m. and the lighting was very strange… At 14,439 feet of elevation the late afternoon light was very bluish and hazy. And totally quiet except for the breeze blowing. I could have used Photoshop to take the blue out of the images, but when it comes to art I am a bit of a Realist and want my pictures to show what it was really like. The temperature wasn’t bad when we first arrived, but about 20 minutes later after we had enjoyed the summit experience for awhile it started getting cold, really cold! It had taken us about eight hours to summit and we only had three  hours to descend so we thought we had better skeedaddle! It took about an hour for the burning to subside in my fingers and toes from that last few minutes at 14,439 feet.Steve Krull at the summit of Mount Elbert Colorado in January 2015

The full collection of those images, at least all the ones I have done so far can be found in my Rocky Mountain Winter gallery. There are also tons of other images from snowshoe hikes in snowstorms, wildlife in the snow, blizzards and beautiful lighting on Pikes Peak in that gallery. The images can be purchased as glossy wall art on metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framed prints, and as gift items including coffee mugs, phone cases, greeting cards, t-shirts, household items, lifestyle gifts and more. Commercial stock versions of the art can be purchased by clicking here for the image licensing portal.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

If This Jacket Could Talk

If This Jacket Could Talk

As luck would have it, I got a really good deal on a new Gor-Tex jacket the other day. Later that day as I went to zip up my old one it didn’t feel right, looked down and the zipper was broken… zip all you want, but it isn’t going to close. The shell is starting to rip out in places too so it is looking like it might be time to retire this old garment. I’ve been looking for a replacement for it for about a year now, so I was a bit surprised to have found the replacement on the day that I needed it! Although I shouldn’t be, I can’t count the number of times Providence has filled my need at the exact instant it was required. The words of the Apostle Paul, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in Glory.”

Summit Elbert Steve.jpgWell anyway, that jacket has served me faithfully for many years. Not too long after we were married, probably springtime in the mid 90’s, Tricia and I were grocery shopping at the Whole Foods on Colorado Blvd. in Denver. There was an Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) right beside it back then and they were having and end of season sale that we could not resist. That is when we got a really good deal on matching Gor-Tex suits, the blue jackets and black pants. That would make my jacket over 20 years old this year if my memory is correct!

So if that jacket could talk, it would have some stories to tell! Countless snowshoe treks through the woods together with our dog Bear outside our home in Parker. Those were our best years together, enjoying prosperous life in the horse country south of the city. Since then the forest that we hiked in has been plowed under by a developer and is no longer accessible, a heart breaking story on it’s own of an unsuccessful bitter and protracted battle by residents to save pristine forest land.

The jacket kept me warm through countless training runs, snowshoe races in Breck, Dillon and the Eldora ski area, treks through Chautauqua Park and up Bear Mountain Fern Canyon, Mallory Cave and the Arch. The jacket has been on top of Pikes Peak, and 14ers Elbert, Yale, Massive, and Harvard. I can’t count the number of times it protected me from the snow on the Chicago Lakes Trail on Mount Evans and on countless treks to the summit of Bald Mountain in all kinds of weather. And of course it was my constant companion during the capturing of some 6,500 stock photo images, keeping me and camera safe and warm during photo shoots in snowstorms every year for the last two decades.

The jacket was with me in the hard times and the good times. I can’t count the number of times I had to wear it in winter bike rides up the pass, getting to work to try to save money to get the truck fixed. The jacket saw blizzards, hail storms, torrential rain, wind and every sort of mayhem that these mountains are capable of throwing at a person. I was wearing that jacket pretty much every time over the last few years during the funerals and burials of two dogs and three cats that made the journey to these mountains with me. I don’t remember for sure, but I can imagine the jacket was with me two Marchs’ ago as I waited for the outcome of our final trip to hospice. Tricia never got the chance to wear out her jacket… too many health problems to count kept her indoors way more that she would have liked.

I believe though, that this image shot by my buddy Ralph sums up the greatest moment in this jacket’s long history. The winter summit of Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak. I’m not sure I can throw this coat away… think I might just hang it in the closet as a reminder, a trophy commemorating the best moments of two decades of adventure. For sure, my new jacket has a lot of living up to do to exceed the adventures of my first one, but I am ready for a run at it!

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

The Rescue

I’m thinking I should probably put some of these stories down on the old electronic paper… John Hoss was my usual partner in crime and he has long since passed from cancer and I’m no spring chicken anymore either! I’m sure his sisters would like to hear the details of some of our adventures and I had probably better get to it before the memories fade 🙂

Well anyway it was probably the spring of ’76, the ice had just gone out on West Okoboji and we were eager to get out in the water. John had built a two man kayak in shop class that winter, with a wood frame and fiberglass skin. Well on that particular day we had decided to put in at Johnson’s and paddle over to Pikes Point and back, doing a little fishing along the way. Of course there was no one at Pikes Point… it was a cold gray April afternoon and there wasn’t a soul on the lake, or even outside for that matter… I think it was about 50 degrees with a light breeze… So we soon bored of Pikes Point and decided to head back. But… at the time it seemed like a good idea to paddle across the lake and visit Gerk’s beach, the reasoning for that decision escapes me now… Well we got a little further than half way and a ferocious head wind came up along with some of the biggest waves I have ever seen on West! So we abandoned the idea of making Gerk’s and just headed for Johnson’s.

In the meantime we had begun to take on water as the bow was dipping under the waves and flowing over the top into the boat. We briefly debated doing some bailing with the bait bucket, but decided it would be a waste of time and only delay our inevitable arrival on Johnson’s beach. Of course in a kayak there are no seats, so we were kneeling in several inches of 40 degree water paddling furiously towards shore when we heard the horn of the Queen, the only other boat on the lake honking at us as it pulled up along our starboard side. Soon we heard the captain’s voice on the PA system asking us if we were in distress and in need of rescue… John and I looked at each other and I said to John, we don’t need rescued do we? John looked at the boat and looked at the Queen and looked at me and said, “Well that would be a real pain in the ass!”! So we told the captain that everything was fine and going according to plan 🙂

Eventually we made the beach, half sunk in the cold gray water of West Okoboji, but laughing about the adventure and vowing to keep it a secret and not to tell our mothers about our marvelous idea and fun filled afternoon 🙂

The Road Ahead

Day three of radiation therapy. Can’t see any improvement yet, but she needed less pain medication yesterday so that is a good sign. Three down and seven to go. The beauty of autumn is quickly passing as the wind and the hail are taking their toll on the brittle golden leaves. The mountains will be barren until they take on a fresh mantle of white that comes with the cold of winter. Meanwhile I am given some time in the waiting room to reflect and look ahead.

In the ebb and flow of the photography business I’ve had to change focus many times and these times are no different. Many years ago wedding and portrait photography were abandoned for stock photography which more suited my desire for the peace and solitude of the wilderness. Stock photography has had it’s ups and downs as well and adjustments have been made there too. In the early days of digital stock, such simple subjects as solitary trees and isolated fruit sold like hotcakes and life was easy. However it wasn’t long before word got out and cameras got better. The picture world has become flooded with imagery and it has become more and more difficult to stand out and make consistent sales. Agencies have experimented and made improvements and mistakes. By the end of the Y2K decade I was finding nature photography and the Royalty Free model to be on the wane so in 2008 I concentrated almost exclusively on sports photography and the Rights Managed license model, giving up my exclusive crown at iStock and having my most prolific year ever at the Alamy Agency.

Then came the Getty acquisition of iStockPhoto and with it some great benefits for exclusive photographers. Such cool opportunities that I had to backtrack and get the crown back. It has been a great ride since then but I sense the tide beginning to change again. Upload limits at iStock have been removed and the ensuing massive influx of imagery has once again cut deeply into contributor profit.

Lead-Pack

So in late 2014 I am considering another major change in focus. For me the pendulum has swung back to producing more exclusive editorial imagery and reportage. So to begin my move forward I will be looking back to the beginning of the year at the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series. The rest of my time in the Radiotherapy waiting room will be spent scouring the year’s events for suitable editorial images for my Rights Managed portfolio on the Alamy agency. However I will never tire of the solitude of the woods and the communion with wildlife and nature high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Irony

A beautiful morning this Friday, and a perfect day for Jill Howard to head to Utah for her valiant attempt at a Boston Marathon qualifying time in the Top of Utah Marathon. As I had mentioned in an earlier blog I was going to step out of my comfort zone in my Examiner reporting role by reaching out and doing a story on someone instead of just places and events. My first interview report was published this week and is now available on the Examiner online. Jill has been on a two and a half year journey through a life threatening illness and back again. Her recovery has been fast and remarkable and tomorrow she will show the world that she is back.

It was ironic though that I finished up the story on Jill’s recovery from brain surgery in the waiting room of the hospital while my friend of 25 years and life partner was on the MRI table getting a spine and brain scan to look for cancer. Today as Jill heads for Utah I will head for Colorado Springs to get the results of the MRI and wait while my friend gets mapped for radiation therapy. It will be a long day for us and there are a lot of long days ahead of us with ten straight days of radiation treatment to endure.

God is good and God is merciful, so I hope that in a few months I will be writing another Examiner success story about a miraculous recovery. In the meantime I am learning to take the days one at a time, living by Jesus’ advice that “Today’s worries are sufficient for the day.”.

It looks to be a glorious weekend in the mountains and I am looking forward to the big Oktoberfest celebration in Woodland Park. I have missed it every year that I have been here for one reason or another, but this year I am determined to attend. Be sure to subscribe to my Examiner column so you won’t miss my report on the festivities! It’s free and you will receive an email each time I publish a new article!