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 โ€œRace Across the Skyโ€. 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 โ€œoh shut up and get going, we’re almost there!โ€… ๐Ÿ™‚ 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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Four Thousand

Last March three thousand images in my iStock / Getty was my goal for 2015. I was hoping I could make it to the whitewater festival in Salida and maybe even the Garden of the Gods 10 mile run. Much to my surprise my summer was far more fruitful than that. There were sports events, trails to explore, fourteeners to climb, and road trips to make that I had not even imagined would be possible and over seven thousand images are the fruit of that bounty.

Incline

Manitou Incline

It took no time at all to upload the couple hundred images I needed for my goal of three thousand and much to my surprise autumn found me just shy of an amazing four thousand images in my portfolio. With tons of images to work on I knew I would make that goal this year too. With summer coming to an end and the peak behind the shadows until spring, I decided to take a break from shooting and concentrate on the uploads and the four thousand mark.

Finally towards the end of the week I uploaded the batch that would put me over the top. It turned out that number four thousand was a capture of the Manitou Incline, which I climbed for the first time last summer. It seemed appropriate to celebrate by making another climb to the top of the mountain stairway, so yesterday I loaded up my gear and pointed the car towards Manitou. Better prepared and better educated on the pitfalls of the 3,500 foot climb, I began my trudge to the top. About half way up I was taking a rest from nearly spitting out my lungs when a young lady churned past me using a technique that looked worth a try, half steps. One foot up, next foot up to the same step with a half second rest or so before putting the alternate foot up to the next step. With a half second rest on each step, the rest of the climb went without the need for oxygen stops. Soon I was hearing the cheers of the crowd at the top so I broke concentration and took a look up at the action. Much to my surprise I was already at the top none the worse for the wear.

Snapped a few pictures of the town and the snow on the old railway bed and headed for the Barr Trail. With proper running clothes on the easy downhill trail was just a little bit too tempting to run down, something I haven’t done in quite a while. Time to the top was 1:12 and my total round trip time back down the Barr Trail was 2:20 or so, I forgot to shut off my watch.

Where to go from here, guess I’ll take a break and do some meditating. It appears as though some of the efforts made by iStock and Getty to win back customers are beginning to pay off. Sales have begun to pick up dramatically so I’ll be watching to see what is selling and what isn’t The Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series is coming to an end this weekend, so maybe I’ll run up and see how that turns out so I can write the final report for the Examiner. Need to brainstorm on how to capitalize on my new status as “Denver Exercise and Fitness Examiner” as well. Recent workouts on the treadmill and the run down the Barr Trail have me wondering if some trail runs might be in my future as well! It has been a long time and I have missed the runs and the companionship with other runners terribly.

I don’t really have any more goals for this place at the base of Pikes Peak. There are one or two trails in Cheyenne Canyon that I didn’t get to, but the reason I didn’t get to them was because I wasn’t that motivated to do so. Would like to move further north, all the action I’m interested in is either in Boulder or up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sports and wildlife in the SOCO are sparse and I’m not looking forward to the long hours of winter boredom. I had hoped to be out of here by winter but it looks like I’ll be braving the cold at 9,000 feet yet again. Oh well, as always I’ll make the best of it.

Trail Markers

Trails through the mountains are often wide, well marked and well traveled. However sometimes, in order to visit the most splendid locations we find ourselves off the wide trail, alone deep in the remote wilderness where the trail is not always easy to discern. Often in a mountain trail race tiny flags are tied to a branch every few miles to show the way or to mark a fork in the trail. Near the summit of the high mountains where no vegetation exists, cairns are constructed using stacks of rocks to mark the way. Occasionally the cairns are small, maybe only two small rocks stacked in a strategic location. No matter how they appear, the trail markers instill confidence in the hiker or runner that he or she is on the right path. The road ahead may be long and difficult but there is comfort in knowing you are on the right path.

Cairn

Cairn on the Trail

Have you ever been hit with a sudden realization, by something so amazing it just stops you in your tracks? Something so profound that you know without a doubt that you have just seen a sign from the Almighty, one of those little trail markers to tell you that you are exactly where He intended you to be at that exact moment in your life.

I had one of those moments today, actually kind of an ordinary moment while engaged in an ordinary activity when I realized that the chances that I would have the tools, the ability, the time and the experience needed by someone at this exact moment are so infinitesimal and so precise that divine intervention is the only way to explain it.

Certainly the task at hand is important but also important is the realization at a time when I was beginning to question my choices, my decisions, in fact my entire game plan. Realization that the answer came at the exact moment I was seeking answers filled me with peace that I have not yet seen the whole plan and that it is indeed true what is written in the Psalms: Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.”. Our journey through life is often complex, involving many people, precise timing and requiring a great deal of patience. The little trail marker I saw today assures me that I am still on the right trail.

So I write this in the hopes than someone reading this who feels like everything is going wrong might understand that โ€œHis ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughtsโ€. That even when it doesn’t seem like it, there is a plan and if we take time to sit quietly for a bit and meditate, we might just catch a glimpse of one of those little trail markers. The road ahead may still be a rough one, but there is comfort in being on the right path.

Pikes Peak Ascent

Wow, what an adventure today was! Last night I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. to get an early start on my day photographing the Pikes Peak Ascent, but the alarm proved to be unnecessary as I awoke at 4:20 a.m. on my own wired up and ready to go! One cup of coffee and a couple of toasted frozen waffles later I was on my way down the pass. My parking plan worked perfectly as I pulled into the end spot in the free parking area at the middle school. A short walk down the hill and I was in the midst of the action, albeit an hour early.

Finish Line

Pikes Peak Ascent Finish Line

I needed a few minutes to get my equipment ready and talk to the race officials so that was fine with me. A couple of nice people described to me in detail how I would be able to get a ride to the peak in the media van and I just wanted to pat them on their heads and say to them, โ€œSilly people, if you only knew me you would know that there isn’t a chance on God’s green earth that I will be in that van when it leaves.โ€… Got some great shots of the race start, including some of our next Runners World Cover Girl, Jill Howard ๐Ÿ™‚ Sure enough, when the time came the media van was nowhere to be found but I fortunately ran across the guys hauling the time keeping equipment to the top and hitched a ride with them.

Pikes Peak Highway is amazing. It winds around all over that mountain giving fantastic views in almost every direction imaginable. From there I could see Woodland Park and Rampart Reservoir, the Springs, South Park and from the summit you can probably see the Atlantic and Pacific if your eyes are good enough! Well that could be a slight exaggeration, but suffice it to say you can see a long ways.

On my way through the Summit House at 14,115 feet I reached into the pocket of my photography vest to get my sunglasses and felt a piece of paper. What do you know if it wasn’t a $20 bill. So I bought some food and as I ate breakfast I knew this was going to be a great day! It only takes the fastest men a little over two hours to run the thirteen miles from Manitou town center to the top so that only left me about 20 minutes to get into position. I hiked down the mountain a few switchbacks and found a spot with a good view and waited for the action. It wasn’t long before I had the first place man and woman in the bag so I headed down a bit further for a different view.

I had found out from Jill what her predicted finish time was and I liked my original location better so as the time for her finish drew near I hiked back up the trail to try to get a shot of her nearing the finish line. And right on time, there she was with a big smile and a greeting! After all these years I finally met her in person ๐Ÿ™‚ At that point with almost 500 images on the chip I decided to just make my way to the top and chat with her and William for a while. So great to talk with them in person after so many years of internet friendship.

I heard the train whistle for the Cog Railway and I have been wanting to get a shot of that train for so long… so up to the peak for the train shots. Word to the wise.. there could be two trains, not one! The train headed out and I ran along the tracks to get a shot of it descending down the mountainside when I heard another whistle right behind me. Yikes… a second train bearing down on me. Fortunately it didn’t have time to get up much speed at that point so I just hopped off the tracks and took advantage of a second chance at the pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

After that, nothing much to do but get back down to Manitou. There were plenty of shuttle vans taking the runners back down and my handy staff and press pass badges were good for a free trip back to the bottom. Once my feet were on the ground in Manitou, dressed for 14,000 feet I thought I was going to die in the 90 degree heat. Luckily it was only a few blocks to my air conditioned Miata. Now… to process 500 pictures and write an article for the Examiner. I’m sure it will be an easy task to write of such an awesome experience ๐Ÿ™‚

Be sure to subscribe to my Examiner news feed so you will be sure to receive notification as soon as the article is published!

The Last Shall Be First

Smokey, our new feline addition has been with us about a month now, just happy to have some food and to be in out of the cold. He has made himself at home, finding a place he likes to sleep and always at the front of the line when it comes to feeding time. Sometimes there is nothing like our furry little friends to lend understanding to some spiritual truth and Smokey has stepped up to give me some heart warming insight. The Bible says, โ€œThe last shall be first and the first shall be last.โ€. Smokey has only been with us a short time while his little friends here have been with us over ten years. Yet he thinks nothing of marching right to the front of the line at feeding time and making the same demands of attention from his master that his older friends enjoy. And his confidence is just fine with his master who has no problem with treating him the same as his buddies ๐Ÿ™‚ In other words, the spiritual truth here is that there is no difference in God’s eyes between spiritual veterans and new arrivals.

TiggerTime is flying and we are grinding through this Rocky Mountain winter. January is almost over, the days are getting longer and the north face of the big peak is beginning to see some light. Soon it will be time to train my camera lens back on the temperamental old rock for some new new views of her many moods. For now though my writing continues to be of winter. The Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series is half over, but the competition is just beginning as foul weather spoiled the running of the first races in the series. Snow is continuing to fall regularly and is still my favorite photographic subject for this time of year. As I look out this morning there is a fresh blanket of white and it looks like I will be doing some shoveling if I want to get anywhere today. On the other hand, it looks cold and gray and like a good day to just stay home and watch movies while my closest friend in this world recovers from another painful and unfortunate bout of pneumonia. As we roll into February I am looking forward to more hours of light, slightly warmer temperatures and more winter activities to photograph and write of. Be sure to subscribe to my news feed on the Examiner so you don’t miss out on any of this Rocky Mountain winter!

Ultra Running 2014

Despite a bout of food poisoning I managed to complete my article on this summer’s ultra running schedule in Colorado. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the grueling endurance sport is catching on in my state. It has been a while since I have run an ultra and I was happy to find that there are still runners who aspire to finish the Grand Slam and a new challenge called the Rocky Mountain Slam, the completion of four major ultra marathons in the Rocky Mountain region.

I was also pleased to find that a number of quality new events have been born in Colorado to fill out the summer schedule and give runners all around the state a chance to run close to home. Given my circumstances I will not have the opportunity to participate, but I do hope that I can get myself and my camera to one of these fine events to get some pictures and meet some of the new runners.

Please stay tuned to my blog and subscribe to my free Examiner page to stay updated on the latest developments on the trail running scene.

Summer

Working on my new ideas for my outdoor sports and recreation reporting job for the Examiner. Reporting on summer running opportunities in the Colorado Front Range was one of the ideas that came to me the other day, so I have been busy researching the racing calendars and contacting race directors the last couple of days.

Fresh off the press are new articles on summer trail runs and the summer races on the Pikes Peak Road Runners Calendar. I was surprised to discover how popular trail running has become since I last was involved. I highlighted a few in my report on Summer Trail Running. The busy PPRR schedule this summer includes the Summer Series, the Triple Crown of Running, and even a running festival to benefit the Wildlife Rescue Center in Keenesburg.

I hope I can get to some of these events and get some pictures and write some first hand reports so everyone can see what we are up to in the beautiful mountains of Colorful Colorado!