Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mount Sentinel: Double or Nothing

Total vertical ascent: ~4,000 feet
Total distance: ~5 miles
Total elapsed time: 1 hour 25 minutes 40 seconds
First round trip: 41 minutes 27 seconds
Second round trip: 44 minutes 13 seconds 

Sometime back in the April or May - probably May, I had the vision for an all out double effort on Mount Sentinel. Two back-to-back round trips to the summit power hiking - no running - in an all out effort. Unfortunately, summer came on quickly, delaying the outing: my body seems to be at its best in terms of sustained exertion in the 40s-50s. Yesterday, it struck me that tomorrow (today) was the day! My body felt strong and the weather had finally become relatively stable. Go time!

I fueled up with a Clif Shot Blok jelly on my way to the trailhead, cued AWOLNATION on my iPod and set my timer. I went pretty hard and probably looked ridiculous as ever to all of the other hikers on the trail: trekking poles flailing, legs akimbo. So it goes...and so I went!

The first ascent was improbable. Improbable in the sense that I was killing myself on the first ascent, way too fast. I knew what I was doing and by that I mean I was clueless, save for the fact that I knew I had the entire descent to recover for the second ascent. Diminishing returns...and so I continued!

I pushed hard for the first summit and failed to get my split on the summit, but I put it at around 24:30ish based on my descent times and second round trip. I tagged the summit and hauled butt down, doing everything in my power to not run a step. Instead, I power walked with a low-center-of gravity, again looking quite silly I'm sure.

The first descent went without a hitch. I popped a couple of Shot Bloks on the way down when my body was ready to receive it. As I got back to the parking lot, I checked my split: 41 minutes and 27 seconds. I was beside myself! My previous PR on that trail for the year was in the 45-46 minute range. I felt strong and ready for another go (and somehow the AWOLNATION album I was listening to restarted. So, you know, it was go time). I grabbed a 7-10 second drink of water at the drinking fountain and hauled butt back onto the trail.

The first 1/3 of the second round trip was rough. My legs felt dead and I wasn't sure if I was moving quickly or not. In my mind, I was flying, but somehow, in reality, it didn't seem so. And so I persisted. About halfway up, something clicked and strength returned: I begin finding rest on the gentler slopes. About 2/3 of the way up I passed a guy that I had passed on the way down on the first round trip. He commented, "You are making this old guy look bad". I responded, "Well sir, I am not feeling so good". Which was true and honest and all of that. It was at that time that a slight nausea set in. With roughly 600 feet to go, the end was in sight and it wasn't difficult to push through the feeling of sickness, knowing that the sooner I got to the summit, the sooner I would be resting again on the descent.

I pushed hard on the last ~200 vertical feet, leaving nothing on the table. Which felt good mentally, but not so good physically! Not in a damaging sort of way, but in a sickness sort of way. Fortunately, I never lost my lunch or Clif Shot Bloks. I hit my split on the summit: 1 hour 8 minutes 36 seconds. Whoa! I was extremely surprised. Mostly that I hit a 27 minute 9 second second round trip. It felt like hours!

Eager to feel better, I quickly began my descent. Within a couple of minutes, the nausea subsided enough to take my final Shot Bloks. Honestly, I brought these less because I needed them and more because they are freaking delicious (thanks Phil!). I am snacking on them as I write this in the comfort of my home. Anyways, I moved swiftly and steadily downhill to the final track of AWOLNATION's 'Megalithic Symphony' eager to click stop on my watch. I smiled at the 'old guy' as I passed him for the second time on the way down.

I hit the trailhead for the second time and stopped my watch: 1 hour 25 minutes 40 seconds. Whoa! I was beside myself. I was really hoping for under two hours and after the first round trip settled on the 1:30-40 range, but this. It was nice to be surprised! Very nice.

And so hear I sit, writing about something that happened 2 hours ago and means little to anyone else. Truthfully, it means only un poco to me. Life is about living and this is one way to live. It includes meaningful relationships, fulfilling work, a healthy soul, love and ambitious, enjoyable goals. I had a blast and hope that everyone else is finding their Mount Sentinels these days!

Onward and upward!

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