Ultrarunner fighting Atrial Fibrilation (AF)

This blog has pretty much always been about running ultras, mostly Hardrock. It still is but now it is also about running after AFib. I was forced to miss Hardrock in 2011 due to the onset of AF but my long term goal was to get back to running milers. And hopefully help any other runners with AF who stumble upon this site. I never made it into Hardrock in 2012, or 2013, or 2014. I didn't have a qualifier for 2015. I ran Fatdog in Canada instead. That was tough. I finished my 4th Hardrock in 2016 and now I'm back to try for the magical number 5.

If you want the history of my AF the heart problems all started back on May 25 2011: http://howmanysleeps.blogspot.com/2011/05/out-of-hardrock.html

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Virginius - 8 days to go

Thursday 7th: the trail marking crew were marking the Virginius Pass section of the course. This is a spectacular pass separating two of the main towns on the course: Telluride and Ouray. It also represents one of the most challenging points of the course. The pass itself consists of a break in a massive geological formation that looks like spiny back of a Brontosaurus, with craggy peaks of a rocky ridge line giving way to a small flat platform. This exposed platform is only a matter of metres wide but serves as the Kroger's Canteen aid station. This checkpoint is famous for many reasons, not the least the regular offer of a shot of Tequila to runners as they pass through. 

But the real notoriety stems from the location. Perched precariously with a sheer drop-off on both sides, all supplies are packed in and the volunteers spend the night sheltering under a flapping tarp in temperatures that can dip below zero with wind chill. 

Which means any snow on the northern slope freezes to solid ice. In the clockwise direction this year we will have to slide down any residual snow (ice) after scrambling up the steep loose scree on the southern approach. After the initial steep drop, runners then transit the currently snow covered basin before descending the second, shorter slope. Which leads to another bench before the final very steep and treacherous slope.  

After driving through Ouray, Phil and I continued for about 6 km to near where the Governors aid station will be. Here we parked and started the long, tough climb up the jeep road. Being ahead of the trail marking team, we managed to take a wrong turn that didn't add much distance but did treat us to an encounter with 4 magnificent deer. 

We had to cross a couple of snow banks but eventually reached the end of the road above an abandoned mine. This was the start of the lowest pitch. All 3 pitches took a lot of work to climb. Each step required kicking your shoe into the crusty snow to gain traction. Several times I would slip and threaten to slide all the way to the bottom. A potentially dangerous slip. 

But we made it to the top, with elevated heart rates, as much by the fear of falling as the exertion!  The marking team started arriving soon after us. After something to eat, we turned around and butt-slid the top pitch somewhat out of control down to the basin. The middle pitch was uneventful apart from dislodging a big rock that crashed onto my shin taking plenty of skin with it. 

The final, lower pitch was dodgy and I ended up sliding out of control into a melted wash away of a small creek. With one foot in the ice water I came to an uncoordinated stop. No damage this time though. 

Back on the road we jogged very easily back to the car. Only 12km total but 3:45hrs and reached over 13,000ft with 800m climbing. (My O2 was 90% and heart rate 72 on rising.) It was a good section to revisit. These conditions take me out of my comfort zone and better to be reminded if that before race day.

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