Roper Lake State Park/Mt Graham Hill Climb

I am 36 years old. Yesterday, my long time friend who I have known for 18 years since my Rowing days at Northesatern University, someone who I supported at his wedding holding NU Oars over the Canadian National Team rower, someone who supported me at my own wedding and I last saw at it 5 1/2 years ago, someone who I always loved, cared about, and looked up to like a brother died. With a wife who had just overcome cancer and two young kids, someone who on this Easter weekend was one of the most spiritual people I had ever known, Craig, I love you man. I will miss you.

I have always lived my life like everyday was my last. And I am so thankful for everything I have been able to see, do, accompish. Sport and Endurance sport has been my passion for 12 years now but some of the roots behind the dedication, commitment, and love of sport came from Craig over our many early mornings and late evenings on the Charles River. So today, I thought of him during my ascent of Mt Graham.

At more than 10,000′ it’s the 4th tallest mountain in Arizona. 2 hours from home we left Friday with furchildren Sydney and Roxy. We camped at Roper Lake State Park, made smores, watched Sully on the TV, and drank lots of Coronas (I know). Fiona and I did an easy 6mile run on top of the 7 I did earlier in the day. She is in 3:40 shape having done a 5K test in 23:04. I am proud of you Fiona. We woke up early due to an alarm I didn’t turn off, made eggs, fried toast and what I thought was vegan sausage that I am now feeding to the dogs. We left soon after that with easy riding from the campground past the Federal Prison and then I took off at around 300watts. My garmin was not working even though I put a new battery in the Quarq 5min in, thanks Dollar General.

Mt Graham was tall, sunny, and looked beasty. The 5% grade slowly built to 7% where it stayed for most of the next 2hr4min. I didnt drink so much as it was cool 60s. I ate cliff bloks every 20 to 30min. The views were amazing and the first piece of road pavement was gorgeous. A short section of 13% grade was next and I thought of the time I averaged this grade for 1hr20min up Mt Washington. But today I was on my TT. The vegetation changed from cactus to bush, to trees, to large evergreen s as the elevation rolled from 3K 4K 5K 6K 7K where there were cabins and I started getting cold with 50F. By 8K I now saw snow and i climbed up the western backside with amazing views over South Central Arizona. I climbed past 9K and stopped after the finish line around 9,050′ with hands in armpits and ice blocks for feet. I don’t remember the last time I was that cold.

I turned around after a energy bar and rode at 7-9mph downhill till I found Fiona 3miles back. I was vocally struggling from the cold, legs shaking. We slowly decended to 8K, 7K and it was now 45F but snow was coming down and pelting my sunnies. We stopped multiple times in the decent to warm our hands and really never had relief till we were done. We stopped back again at the Dollar store to pick up Charcoal. We looked back and the top 3,000 fewt were engulfed in a snow storm.

5 course meal on the cards. Salad, Fire cooked corn and Garlic Bread from the RV oven, stuffed clamshell, full catfish and lemon cod over the flames, and potatos with butter and spring onion. After some coronas, now some Chianti before vegan choclate chip cookies.

Mt Graham is no joke. I held 60min power of 290watts, 90min of 279, and 266 for the full ascent. It is steeper and nearly as long as Mt Lemmon with another K of climb. I finished 190th of 678 and am looking to return in 6 weeks to give it another go. On Mt Lemmon, I am 636 of 9,394!!!

As they say, when you die, you can’t take your posessions with you; instead, you are left with your good deeds. But for me, when I think of Craig, I think about a man, a father, a spiritual being who was always someone I admired. When you leave this world, you also leave behind the way you inspired people to find the best out of themselves. I hope that I can do that for every reader of my blog and to those that share in my journeys. I am happy to have you! God bless you and God bless the Smallwood Family. RIP.

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