BY PETER JONES
If you have ever known a runner, then you will understand when I say that runners are a funny lot. When they are injured or have not gotten in their daily run, they are often the grumps of the group. However, if their running is going well, or they just finished a race with a solid performance, they are often super excited and their energy is often contagious.
Ultrarunners – those “crazy” people who enjoy running beyond the marathon distance or for hours upon hours – are even more extreme, seeming to non-runners to be bipolar athletes riding a never ending rollercoaster of ups and downs.
Boulder is no stranger to these types of athletes, those who push beyond what most people would consider sane or even healthy. In fact, Boulder might have the highest population of such individuals in the country, or at least it seems that way on most sunny afternoons on the trails west of town. Amongst this plethora of insanely fit people, who on any given day of the week run more miles and climb more vertical than most people do in a month, there are a few achievements that stand out each year.
One of those came on Nov. 1. Starting at noon, locals Adam St. Pierre and Henry Schliff embarked on a twenty-four hour journey that involved running up and down Mt. Sanitas (whose summit is at 6,843’) a total of 22 times, covering over 70 miles and 28,000’.
Remember, these types of people are crazy; crazy smart and crazy fit and St. Pierre, an exercise physiologist, running biomechanist, and coach at Boulder’s Center for Sports Medicine, fits the bill. Talking with him a week after his accomplishment, his humility, sincerity, and intellect were apparent.
“I did it just for fun. I’m a big advocate of self-experimentation, and I wanted to see how different foods and things would work in a long effort similar to a 100 miler.”
That was about the extent of what I could get out of him about his challenge.
He didn’t go into details about how epic it was, or how hard it must have been to run up and down ~1,320’ each lap feet for 22 hours and 45 minutes for a total gain of over 29,000′.
“No, things went pretty smoothly. My legs got a bit tired after about twelve hours on the descents, coming down the East Ridge, and I had a low point between 3am and 5am, but otherwise, it was a fun time.”
That’s just the thing about Boulder and athletes like Adam and Henry, who are almost a dime a dozen here in town. This sort of thing is really no big deal, at least not for them. Sure, I’m writing about it because it is a big deal – only one other person, Paul Pomeroy, has done more laps on Mount Sanitas within 24 hours – but for Adam, Henry, and others like them, this was more about challenging themselves and learning their own limits.
Although this was a personal challenge, Adam and Henry were almost never alone during the full twenty-four hours. Friends, family members, other runners, former athletes that Adam had coached, and others showed up throughout the time to run a lap or two with them, to offer encouragement and support, and to bring some nourishment.
“A lot of friends ran with us, bringing warm food and beverages in the middle of the night. My friend Brian Hoffman came out at 2 a.m. and did five laps. He really helped me through my low point, telling good stories, taking my mind off the monotony.
“Wendy Drake came out at midnight, John DeRose brought us hot ramen noodles, Anna Karvill and Noah Duncan made homemade chicken noodle soup, which really was great at 9 p.m.”
In all, Adam and Henry only did one and a half laps by themselves.
In talking with Adam, his humility preceded his ego. Rather than dwell on his accomplishment or relate to me the deep suffering him and Henry went through, he focused on how much support he and Henry received.
“It was so encouraging to see so many people come out, from all different realms, not just runners.”
This included many of the hikers that they encountered who were out just enjoying the weekend. “We got a lot of strange reactions. One couple we met hiking on Saturday afternoon, and then we saw them again on Sunday morning. They asked if we were the same runners they had seen the day before, and when we told them we were and that we had been running all night, they just didn’t believe us.”
And that is just the thing, Boulder is filled with these types of people, and they all come out and support each other in whatever crazy challenge one is taking on. For Adam, he was trying to accomplish his goal of running Mt. Sanitas 100 times in a year, as well as to get in a solid workout that simulate what it would be like to run 100 miles. Running with Henry was just icing on the cake.
“We worked well as a team and I had a blast; Henry was good to talk to, we are the same speed, and we kept each other flowing.”
In something this challenging, having a good friend to share the experience with is critical, and having even more that come out and support you along the way is even more beneficial.
Perhaps that is why more and more athletes are moving to Boulder, attracted not only by the great trails and ideal training conditions, but because there are so many like-minded individuals already here. Pushing your limits is easier to do when there are others to help you along the way.
Adam is already talking about giving the twenty-four hour record another go in the spring. When he does, I’m sure he won’t be alone – this is Boulder after all, and there are plenty of people who will want to join in the fun.
To read more about Adam and Henry’s twenty-four hours of Sanitas, you can read their blog posts (Adams http://www.astpcoaching.com/blog/24-hrs-of-mt-sanitas-chasing-paul-pomeroy and Henrys http://mountaintalking.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-mt-sanitas-circuit.html).