“Lets do something stupid.”
SLB XI didn’t need anything to make it special. It was epic. The athletes, the rides, the weather, the whole experience was just perfect. I felt like SLB was finally turned over to itself. Communidad (community) was the word that kept passing through my mind. My affinity for everyone individually and collective is so high and so strong as the mix of old friend and new energy really has created something magical. Maybe it was BECAUSE of this that I wanted to do something special. It was like I wanted to honor and show respect to what I was experiencing. I didn’t need it for training. It was too long and hard to be useful. I didn’t need it for the experience, I had been up this mountain more times than I could count via bike. Honestly, as I started the 34k run from 2000 to 9000 feet I really had no good reason for why I was about to run up the largest mountain in mainland Spain which when the Tour of Spain dares to use it always proves to be the hardest climb of the tour.
As I got moving I noticed the first part is insanely steep at sections. I was having a really hard time keeping my heart rate down. I set a limit of 5 beat below my LT so I would have something left in the tank but honoring that limit would prove hard.
I also noticed my calfs were on fire. It’s one thing to run a hill; it’s different to run 45 minutes and not have a single step that isn’t up. At the hour mark I hit the quarry; 20+ grade and where Cadel Evans lost the tour of Spain. Today it was pura Paz (pure peace) I normally make it here in 40 minutes or faster so I did the math and realized this was gonna take 4 hours. After that is the spot I proposed to Christine at and I stopped and just took in the view and memories for a handful of seconds and water (see photo of my heart shaped feed zone). It’s just one of the most amazing spots on earth. It’s magic.
After that you hit the main road. It’s less step but the wind, altitude and cold start coming on as you are above the snow line. At this point the first people from the camp started catching me. I had taken off as soon as we got here to get a head start whilst build bikes dress and warm up. I had no bike 🙂 it was nice to see people again and Chris Langford gave me a bottle which was, like, totally the best thing ever. I chased down a Carboom gel and felt better for the next 5k.
Math gets surreal when doing something like this. Normally I might run 3-4 minutes per k. Now 5 min per k is flying and 6-7 minutes is happening. The next 12k went down well and we hit the ski station where the pro roadies stop. We don’t stop there and go another 9k to the military station.
This is where things got brutal. The thinning air was killing me. My high altitude tent is in storage (long story) and I was coming from true sea level. Running at 8000 feet was like breathing threw a straw while a grown man sat on my chest while trying to sprint. Walking in my lightweight Brooks Launch even felt heavy and put me into zone 3. A few running steps and my heart rate went to 180. I was over 3 hours in. I was above the tree line and wind was legit.
With 6k to do I came unglued. I had a hard time eating or drinking. I was shuffling and death marching. I looked like the walking dead. A few pro road cyclists came flying by me and they looked so fast and effortless, like birds using the wind. They made me hate myself. I was consumed with self hate, and curing myself for doing something so stupid. It got dark inside. But The top of the mountain was in front of me and I realized the shape of it is so iconic (see photo) Tattoo idea perhaps, I thought to myself. I have never gotten a tattoo of a training run before but this kind of deserves it.
As I finally crawled to the top I saw the athletes who beat me there. I crawled into the van that was already loaded with bike and mumbled “get me off this f(ck!ing mountain.” And with seconds we were on our way down. I was wrecked. We drove down and at the bottom I sipped Drip Drop, ate a Pure Fit Bar wrapped myself in my Champion System hoodie and track suit pants (baller) and tried to pretend I didn’t just destroy myself for a long time to come. But wow was it worth it. Looking back, I can’t stop shaking my head at how stupidly good that was.
“Lets do something stupid.”