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

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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

Solstice 2016

The new year holiday is meaningless to me, based on nothing but someone’s idea of a chronological date indicating an arbitrary division of time developed centuries ago. However, the Winter Solstice is real, something significant in the alignment of stars, planets, the sun and the earth. It is a mark in time that has a profound effect on my life as I squeak out a life here in the mountains of Colorado. It is the day when the hours of light stop becoming shorter, a day when I can count on more time under the beautiful light of the sun even if it is only a few seconds more than the day before. There is something psychological about knowing that the next day will be longer, perhaps warmer and without a doubt a bit lighter. It is also a day we can count on, a day that we can say without a doubt will be a division in time, the day that identifies an exact moment in time where something changes for the better.

Summit-HikerFor me, in two days it will be the new year… a time to reflect on the previous year and look with hope towards a new one. It is also a time to review whether the previous year will be a year in which I will receive the only thing that really matters, the words of the Almighty, “Well done good and faithful servant.”. I could not bear to hear the words in my mind… “Of him will I be ashamed… ”, speaking of those who were ashamed to speak His Name.

2016 was supposed to be simple, beginning with a trip to REI, my happy place, to invest my yearly dividend on some new bike riding gloves. A year when I was going to prosper, to enjoy life after years of caring for my wife of 25 years as cancer ravaged and eventually destroyed her body. A year that was going to be free from conflict and strife, pain and struggle. A year that began with a great victory, a winter climb to Colorado’s highest peak…

But it was not meant to be so… The war rages on, if not in my life in the lives of others. Early in the year I prayed to the Almighty, let the struggle be over let me just enjoy life now. Fortunately He did not listen to my prayer… the war is not over and neither is my part in it. As I look back it is hard to comprehend that the events in less than 365 days could be confined to just one year. You would have to go back and read all my blogs to gather it all in, but the short story is without my participation it is very possible that two lives and two souls may have been lost. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that as a result of my efforts some suffering may have been averted, a few lives made better and for some there will be new hope and a new chance for a future.

SummitIn spite of the struggles of life, the year also found me in two more of my greatest moments, summiting the three highest peaks in Colorado, counting the winter climb to Mount Elbert my buddies and I also summited Massive and Harvard in the summertime. The west face of Pikes Peak in wintertime has continued to elude us, but also resulted in an experience of a lifetime. Buddy Ralph and I were literally blown over by the strongest wind I have ever experienced… followed by a quick and desperate struggle for survival that will be fuel for stories for years to come! I wish we had some pictures of our frozen faces and beards but the sprint to lower elevations didn’t allow for time for that. However, now when we see the snow blowing a thousand feet in the air over the top of the Peak we can look at each other knowingly… well aware of what life is like on the Peak when that happens!

mariah-steve-summitThe year also yielded another first… my first drive to the summit of Pikes Peak on the Pikes Peak Highway. Barely squeaked that one in on a work day with my friend and co-worker Mariah. A beautiful day down at the base of the Peak was followed by a very cold and windy visit to the summit, but for sure it was a day I will never forget!

But the end of this year finds me tired, injured, and in doubt for my own future. For the next year I must depend on the blessed words of scripture, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”. I have to know that my efforts this year on behalf of others will not go unrewarded, and that “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”. I have to know that He is watching over me and that there are plans for my life that I am not yet aware of. This year saw the demise of the news company I was writing for as well as any hope for a future with my main photo agency iStock / Getty. I have begun anew with a fledgling portfolio at a newer agency hosted by well known media giant Adobe, but it is only hope at this point. At this time I am out of pictures to upload, out of ideas for new ones and left praying for ideas.

For the new year, I am devoid of ideas for my own plans… spiritually drained and wondering how to start over yet again, but I am confident that the Author of the Future is not taken by surprise, not discouraged and not deterred. I go into the new year knowing that the Blessed Hope has plans I don’t know about and that my best days are before me and not behind… Knowing in my spirit that the next year will be a better year than the last.

 

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