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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Ten tips for a successful snowshoe hike in the Colorado high country

Little experiment here… I wrote all this good stuff for an online news agency called the Examiner a few years ago and suddenly without warning they went out of business and all my articles just disappeared 😦 Luckily I wrote most of them in open office and saved them. Today fresh snow and Facebook reminded me of a memory, namely the publishing of this article!

So today I’m working on transferring them to my phone where I can publish them on WordPress! Here’s one, what do you think?

Ten Snowshoe Tips

1. Choose your snowshoes
Step number one for an enjoyable outing in the cold Colorado Rocky Mountain winter is the correct choice of equipment. Different types of snowshoes are available for the variety of conditions that are encountered in mountain back country. If you are going to be hitting the remote rugged trails found high on the rocky ridges you will need a good set of back country snowshoes with both heel and toe claws. The snow has likely been melting and re-freezing for some time and there will be a lot of ice. The back claws are crucial to keeping your footing on the slippery slopes. If you are going to be encountering deep powder, larger snowshoes are better to limit the amount of sinking. Running snowshoes are available for endurance training if the trail is going to be well traveled and packed. Racing snowshoes are light and equipped with only a front claw.

2. Layer up
Conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and proper attire is paramount. An early morning start is going to be cold and until the heart is pumping warm windproof clothing is worth it's weight in gold. As the day wears on and the sun begins to shine some layers may need to come off to avoid overheating. Start with a close fitting hi-tech moisture wicking thermal layer, including socks and glove liners and a hat. Various weights are available to suit the outdoor temperatures you may encounter. Follow with windproof and waterproof pants and a wool sweater. Wool is better than cotton because it continues to provide warmth when wet. Choose a good pair of waterproof boots. Gortex light hikers are good for running and felt lined snow boots may be needed for sub-zero temperatures in the higher elevations.

3. Jacket with hood
Be sure to choose a jacket with a large hood that extends several inches away from the face. Winds in the high country can be fierce and the hood will protect your face. Snow is likely at any time in the high country so make sure your jacket is waterproof. Staying dry is the best way to avoid hypothermia. Lastly, don't forget warm waterproof gloves. Frostbitten fingers are the quickest path to misery on a snowshoe hike

4. Sunscreen and lip balm
The sun and wind in the high country can be brutal so be sure to wear a good SPF30 sunscreen and UV resistant lip balm. Chapped lips and a severe sunburn can ruin your day just as easily as frostbite.

5. Wear a backpack
A good water resistant backpack can be a life saver. Carry extra clothing, food, matches, flashlights, liquids and cell phones. Professional backpacks found at the mountaineering stores are equipped with extra waist and chest straps to reduce bouncing and distribute weight for greater comfort. Packs are also handy for toting the clothing that you will be removing as your body heat increases during the day.

6. Don't use external water holders
Don't use the external bottle holders if your backpack comes equipped with them. Water and ERG will freeze out there, so put the water bottles inside against your body. Body heat will keep them from freezing. Use the bottle holders for socks or something else you need to keep handy.

7. Fog proof your sunglasses
Sunglasses are essential in the high country. With little atmosphere to filter the sun, serious eye damage can occur from the bright sunlight reflecting from the snow. During a hard workout sunglasses will be sure to fog up so visit your nearest mountaineering store and purchase an anti fogging spray or liquid that will keep your vision clear all day. If you have plastic lenses make sure the substance does not contain ammonia.

8. Cooking spray on your boots and snowshoes
Nothing is worse while snowshoeing than a big ball of ice stuck in your claw and on the heel of your boot. Spray your boots with a cooking spray like Pam before you get started and keep some in your pack. The slick spray will keep the ice balls from forming.

9. Use cross country ski poles
Ski poles can be a lifesaver in the high country. They can help you keep your balance on treacherous ice covered trails and take some of the strain off of your legs on steep climbs.

10. Bring tire chains
The weather in the high country is unpredictable. What can start out as a beautiful sunny day can turn into a serious winter storm without warning. Tire chains can make the difference between an enjoyable day trip and a life threatening overnight camping ordeal.

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

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

Best of the Best

My Alamy stock image portfolio doesn’t get a lot of attention in my pages, perhaps because it is the smallest of my image portfolios. But I’m thinking it should get more love! I have been with Alamy for nearly a decade now, and during that time I have carefully selected only the best images from each photo shoot to place there. So although I only have a few over one thousand images there, they are the cream of the crop.

And that’s not the only reason my clients might want to purchase stock imagery from the Alamy agency. As one of the oldest digital image pioneers, Alamy is also the most fair to photographers, paying the highest commissions of any of the major players. In addition, Alamy is also a major contributor to charity, helping to find a cure for cancer. Alamy was founded in 1999 James West, along with his uncle Mike Fischer, who “By this time was also involved in research: medical and education. So the agreement was that in lieu of dividends for the major shareholders, payments would be invested into Mike’s medical research charity. A charity which is investigating and, hopefully, developing vaccines against cancer.”.

My contract with another agency states that if I submit an image there and it gets rejected the image cannot be used anywhere else for any other reason. So for each photo shoot, I look through the images and look for the best and most unique and I ask myself a question, “Will I lose sleep if this one gets rejected and taken out of circulation?” If the answer is yes and the exposure is of the exceptionally high standard required by the Alamy editors, I will submit it to Alamy instead of another place where it is more likely to have a high volume of low priced sales.

So if you want to take a tour through my cream of the crop over the last decade, please have a look at my Alamy image portfolio! And if you are a stock buyer, I urge you to look with an eye cast towards your next advertising or publishing campaign!

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.

Time Flies

Wow… hard to believe, it seems like summer was just getting started and I was looking forward to reporting on the summer running activities. The better part of summer is now behind us and I am looking forward to autumn events.

There is that moment every summer when there is a sudden twinge of cool in the air and you know that summer is starting to lose it’s grip. We had a cool spell this week and I felt that twinge. However I think it was just a cool spell and the blast of cool air was just a coincidence. I think there is plenty of hot summer fun yet to enjoy before we start to feel the crisp cool air of autumn in the mountains.

That moment is coming though, and the way time is flying this summer the moment is probably coming quicker than I would like. The Pikes Peak Road Runners have their fall running schedule posted and it is chock full of events for everyone. Autumn is still a few weeks away but it isn’t too soon to start looking ahead.

Watch for my full report on the fall schedule on my Examiner Outdoor Recreation news column! It’s going to be a good one! Click the subscribe button beside my profile picture in any of my articles for a free subscription to the Examiner and to my articles and updates!