FKT: Paul Hooge - Longs Peak (CO) - 2013-09-13
Paul Hooge repeated the Boulder-to-summit-and-back on September 12-13, 2011. Hooge used a much more direct and efficient road route (through Jamestown), which amounted to about 37 miles of road running each way to and from the Longs Peak Trailhead. He reached the summit a little under 12 hours and completed the round trip (starting and finishing at the Boulder County Courthouse on the Pearl Street Mall) in 23h18m. Hooge was supported by his wife during the run.
Long Day by Paul Hooge
After being waitlisted for Hardrock along with exactly one million runners, I thought it might be fun to make it a year of independent runs. I made up several little challenges in the form of 50 milers on trails and roads around my home at Walker Ranch outside Boulder. Up and down Flagstaff 5 times, Myers Gulch 10 times, 50 miles across my basement (treadmill) where I had my wife pass me off bottles while I yelled out things like, "Retrieve the blister kit!" to simulate racing.
Many years ago when I first climbed the Keyhole route on Long’s Peak I was convinced I had just conquered Mt. Everest. Now it seemed the next logical step was to do the alternative, long approach, from Boulder. I did some Internet searches to see if this had been done. Google introduced me to the "Fastest Known Times", a forum administered by Ultrarunning Legend Peter Bakwin that as best I can understand was developed to nurture pathetic people like me with their illness.
Indeed, I discovered that Paul Pomeroy ran a 115 mile mostly trail version of this route in 28 hours 44 minutes. After reading his report I understood this was just a fun run for a runner of Paul Pomeroy's stature that he did on a lark in 2003. Something like, “Should I go to a movie or run to Long’s Peak and back?” I knew right then it was my time to pounce and go for the FKT.
I have heard of too many ultrarunners eventually being unable to distinguish between their spouse and a roving aid station and the subsequent DNF of their marriage. I have not quite reached the point where I look into my wife’s eyes and see only GU's, powdered drinks and electrolyte tablets. When I suggested I would be making drops to self-support myself along the way, Robin my wife, insisted she be there. I was touched initially until she informed me, sure she was willing to toss me the occasional bottle, but more importantly she had tickets, popcorn and a front row seat to watch me suffer. She was not about to miss this full day matinee, help or not.
With my extensive and supportive crew in place and all the confidence that I could at least walk to the “Leaving Boulder” sign, I announced my intention on the FKT website. I would take the most direct public roads and trails to the top. I decided on the Pearl Street Courthouse, Old Stage, Jamestown, Peak to Peak, Highway 7 to Long’s Trailhead then the Keyhole Route. This came to a little over 90 miles and 13,000 feet of ascending round-trip. For planning purposes, I consulted my algorithm. The run calculated out to around 11 blisters, 3 breakdowns of “I can’t go on”, and 1.37 vomits.
At 8:00 p.m. on Monday, September 12, 2011, I left downtown to the roar of cheers from my own mouth and the irritation of passerby’s. As the website suggested, I had been training for this since I took the first steps in my mothers womb and I should document it as verifiable as possible. I had announced it on the website, had witnesses, carried cards to pass out for independent verification and wore a SPOT tracker. I also saved all my GU wrappers, lost toenails, and bronzed my running shoes immediately afterwards.
I love the night. I work nights. Cool and calm, just like me, I thought. With my torch in hand I glided through the evening out of Boulder. As usual, at about mile 3 I hit the wall and stayed squarely pinned against it for the next 87 miles. Curiously, I discovered dogs don’t like people running by at night. They all sounded like some mountain hillbilly’s Pit Bull /Wolf breeding experiment with dinner held. As I scooted along I wished I had brought a gun to shoot myself before they tore me to bits. I had the occasional thought about mountain lions as well, but took comfort knowing that no matter how far it dragged my disemboweled carcass, I would eventually be found with my SPOT tracker on.
I gained Peak to Peak Highway. It was surreal as I ran though the night. There were spectacular views all around me with Pink Floyd now drowning out the rare sounds of the night. I was astonished that only TWO cars passed me for the next 15 miles on the highway. Robin crewed me from the window of the car and sometimes drove next to me for extended periods while we talked. I love Colorado. I love being able to run. I love being so ignorant to do this.
For 37 miles I averaged just under 12 minute miles with the difficult to watch, shuffle, wobble, limp, thing I like to refer to as running. I had arrived at the trailhead. Now a simple tag of the summit and I can skip home.
I passed out verification request cards to a few people along the way to the summit. This was a little awkward as we both felt like I was a guy hawking free dinners at a strip club on the streets of Vegas. I made my way up the Peak. Everything was harder than I remembered. I was going so slow I was convinced I was going backwards. Fortunately everyone else was going backwards faster than me and I passed about 20 people. A thick black cloud descended on the peak. It started snowing and the wind began to blow hard. I kept moving taking comfort in the wise decision I had made to leave some of my critical warm clothing at the trailhead. After achieving the keyhole the next couple hours is a blur of freezing, hypoxia and exhaustion. I was the first that day to make it to the top. I took a couple pictures with my phone and made an “X” on the register using the numb stump at the end of my wrist and headed out the only way I could go, down. I had made the summit in just less than 12 hours and was happy to be headed home. Soon after I made it off the top, the clouds turned into sun and the wind all but disappeared. I passed about 40 people on the way down. Word got around as to what I was doing and everyone was very supportive. The rangers even took my picture when I made it to the bottom. As I hit the trailhead again, I changed into shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed my bottle, and headed out.
Did I mention I love the night? This was day, sun and cars. I was quick to realize that the most dangerous part of this trip was not me stumbling along the narrows on the face of Longs, but the 90-year-old lady that barreled past me in her truck at 1 second faster than the speed of light while drinking a beer and text messaging. Eventually, the traffic lightened and the shoulder widened. I got into a rhythm; eat, drink and pity myself. At the turn off to Jamestown I could not take it any more. I sat down, put my feet up and enjoyed 180 seconds of pure bliss before returning to my fate.
Robin was amazingly supportive, often stopping after just a mile. I would yell, “1 salt pill, 1 of the orange bottles, no sick of orange… I’ll try the lime one, and a plain GU. I think maybe a Cup O’Noodles at the next stop.” It would have been impossible without her.
I made it over Old Stage and was surprised by my friend Drew Geer greeting me on his bike with his large camera. He followed me all the way into Boulder snapping pictures. The break from my pity party was appreciated and he got me in. About a mile out Peter Bakwin joined me. It was great talking with Peter and we finished to my wife’s cheers back at the courthouse. The time was 7:18 p.m. The run had taken me 23 hours and 18 minutes, comfortably under the 24 hours I had hoped for. I had consumed just over 6 gallons of water and 10,000 calories.
An ultrathanks to my wife who made this possible, my friends cheering me behind their computers watching my SPOT locations and Peter Bakwin for providing a forum to encourage these personal challenges.
You can see the route along with pictures and download the KML or GPX file from SPOT Adventures at: