Guest Blog Post by Bryon Powell of irunfar.com
What an odd year it's been! I raced two on-snow ultramarathons last winter before having March's White Mountains 100 Mile cancelled just a week before it was to take place. From the Hardrock 100 to the Middle Creek Flyathlon, such would be the case with my in-person racing for the year: canceled! Fortunately, Running Rivers stepped in provide me with two sources of inspiration: the Socially Distanced Flyathlon Challenge (SDFC) and the standing Troutman challenge.
As a recovering attorney (don't hold it against me!), I'm a rule follower... but I also look to see where advantage can be found within regulations. With my skillset (good runner, crappy fisherman), the SDFC's rules suggested that I cover a lot of ground while more or less catching whatever fish I could quickly land along the way. That line of thinking quickly led to me considering a run from in or above Leadville, Colorado downstream along the Arkansas River for as far as I could make it in a day. Somewhere along the way I'd a quick fish on be on my way. Fortunately, my plan evolved!
Last autumn, I attempted the Troutman challenge for the first time and failed miserably. With races and work travel off my calendar for the summer, I caught a case of Troutman fever. I tried Trout from below the Rio Grande Reservoir to Cunningham Gulch and, then, that route in reverse. I tried from Molas Pass to above the Rio Grande Reservoir... and back. I believe it was on my sixth or seventh attempt of the year... an intended recon-only outing on the Piños River that I finally ran a successful Troutman. Not long after, I was crewing my wife on a Nolan's 14 attempt in the Sawatch Range, when I fished Chalk Creek. A few days later, I had another Troutman there. It was at this point, I began considering fishing Chalk Creek during my long SDFC day. What if... I tried to Troutman... during it?! Could I Troutman AND run 100 miles in one outing? There was only one way to find out! (Over the next few weeks, I made a few additional Troutman attempts. Failing along the Piños and from Purgatory to Cunningham Gulch via the Animas, while succeeding on another attempt based around Purgatory, up to Hermosa Creek and down to the Animas.)
Well, I couldn't shake the Troutman 100 idea and I started my attempt at 6th and Harrison in Leadville (the start of the Leadville 100 mile run) at midnight on Wednesday, October 7th. The night run from Leadville to Buena Vista was blissful. Just me and silence and the stars. I was a bit wrecked (fatigued glutes) by the time I got to Wright's Lake where I started fishing 45 miles into the effort.
The fishing of Troutman was more challenging than expected. The rainbows weren't biting down low early and they're less common the higher up Chalk Creek one goes. I started off fishing two spots that had yielded rainbows within minutes just two days earlier. In 90 minutes of combined fishing, the lower spot yielded nothing while the second spot was nothing but browns. I tried another fishy spot toward the Mt. Princeton campground. More browns, no bows. Another couple hundred meters upstream and brown, brown, brown, brown, brown. I was about to move on when I decided for five more casts, as they should be rainbows mixed in here. The next fish I hooked was more acrobatic and I saw its silvery flash. Finally, a rainbow, which I landed before moving on.
Later, a cutthroat was even harder to come by. After hours of fishing for cutties near St. Elmo (with handfuls of brookies and a few browns caught), I decided to haul ass 2,400' up to Baldwin Lakes in hopes of catching a cutty before dark. I still can't believe how much of that climb I ran. I fished some plunge pools on the climb with no luck. I did get a strike when the terrain opened up into an amazing cut-bank, s-turn meadow... but the fish were beyond spooky in the crystal clear, glacially-paced stream. So, up to Baldwin Lakes it is. Although, I've never been here, I head straight toward the second of the lower pair of lakes. I see it and my heart sinks. Fish are hitting the surface, but I swear the glassine water looks 10" deep 40' out. How the heck am I gonna get a fly on a fish without spooking it?! Recognizing the futility of simply flinging my fly waterward, I circle the lake looking for the inlet stream. When I find it I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's little more than a trickle into the larger puddle of a lake. Still, it's my one shot, so I pulled out my tenkara, lay down on the rocky shore between the inlet and the lake, and get to casting. Twenty casts in, I get a slow strike and the end of the ripples the stream sending into the lake, but fail on hookset. The same thing happens a few casts later. Another couple casts in and another slow strike. This time I wait. A second slow strike and a third. The fourth strike's a bit more forceful and I finally try to set the hook. Fish on! And it's a cutty. I quickly land it with my heart racing and a huge grin on my face. This last-ditch longshot panned out!
I quickly pack up and head out for the rocky five-mile descent to Chalk Creek Rd. I hit the road and my wife's car just past the marathon mark. I take a chair and pull out an AleSmith Speedway Stout I'd carried for 192 miles of previous failed Troutman attempts and 10 more miles this day. It takes me a while to down the 16 ounces, but I do so happily. I finish the beer and, with it, close out this Troutman in 11:28.
I get up and continue running down the Chalk Creek drainage and, then, the highway toward Poncha Springs. I manage 93.6 miles before my SDFC 24 hours are up. Still wanting to complete the Troutman 100, I walk out the remainder of the 100 miles on the Salida cutoff while dealing with anterior tibialis and stomach issues.
All in all, I'm psyched with the effort and experience. It was a gorgeous day throughout, the Sawatch Range and Arkansas River Valley didn't disappoint, and Meghan was an incredible crew. Thanks, too, to all of you who shared some love along the way!