Simple and Cheap: A Journey to Finding What I Want

A look at how missing a goal race was a lens for finding one’s running priorities.

By on September 14, 2022 | Leave a reply

Not getting to run this year’s High Lonesome 100 Mile due to contracting COVID-19 on race week was undoubtedly a disappointment. However, in the wake of that disappointment, there were silver linings to be found and lemonade to be made.

Silver Lining: An Exploration of Importance

The main silver lining was a perfect opportunity for me to ponder both what’s really important to me at the moment and what I want to get out of my running this year.

On the running front, did I want or need to race a 100 miler or another long race? If so, was it for me? For others? To get a qualifier for this race or that? Was I looking for a reason to explore? If so, did I want to go abroad, finally visit a long-admired-from-afar spot in the U.S. Intermountain West, or see new spots closer to home?

What was I willing to give up to reach those goals? Would I spend the money for a hotel before and after a 100 miler? Would I give up the time to drive eight hours each way to a Rocky Mountain race or hole up in Europe for a week between running a race and covering UTMB?

After a few days of reflection, and, perhaps, with the goal adventure pre-determined, I realized I didn’t need to race, whether for internal or external reasons, nor did I need or want extensive travel. So, what did I want? A challenge, cheap and simple.

Two Glasses of COVID Lemonade, Please

A week and a half later, I found myself camping in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. I’d been hooked by an idea and I was going to give it a shot.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to love combining running with fly fishing. Over that time, I’ve completed a handful of Troutman (a standing challenge created by the conservation nonprofit Running Rivers* to catch four trout species, run a marathon or longer, and climb 3,000 feet or more in under 12 hours**) and, earlier in 2022, Ültroüt (catch four trout species plus a fifth fish species, run 50 miles or longer, and climb 5,555 feet or more in under 18 hours**).

What was next? An attempt at the newly minted Lucifish, which would require catching four species of trout plus two other species, running at least 66.6 miles, and climbing at least 6,666 feet in under 24 hours.**

Lucifish Attempt #1

Texas Creek from Brown's Pass

Texas Creek from Brown’s Pass on Lucifish Attempt #1.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of this run/fish adventure, but it was an incredible day. Some highlights include:

  • Facing and overcoming my mountain lion fear in being the first person to head up the trail from the North Cottonwood Trailhead starting at 4 a.m.
  • Fishing Kroenke Lake as pastel light filled the sky.
  • Not seeing a soul for four hours from the trailhead, through Brown’s Pass, and down Texas Creek until seeing a hiker camped just off the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
  • The five hours spent above treeline on the CDT with stunning views, countless varieties of wildflowers, and a handful of inspiring thru-hikers.
Continental Divide Trail - Wanderlust Ridge

Wanderlust Ridge on the Continental Divide Trail during Lucifish Attempt #1.

  • Interrupting a self-supported run with the purchase of three sodas and two Snickers at the St. Elmo General Store.
  • Threading the needle of hours of thunderstorms to catch a grayling in a lake at 12,000 feet.
  • Catching my final fish, a rainbow trout, just as daylight was running out.
  • Running 75 miles in a single outing with no support other than a stop at a public store. I’ve run longer in one go, but always with support, and I’ve run much longer without support, but always in multi-day fastpacking style.
  • Thinking I’d possibly completed Lucifish, although subsequent review confirmed I’d only caught five species, not six.
  • Successfully tent camping before and after a 75-mile run, despite reservations that it might not be comfortable enough around such a big day.

Lucifish Attempt 1 details.

Continental Divide Trail - Dreamland

Running through a dreamland on the Continental Divide Trail during Lucifish Attempt #1.

Lucifish Attempt #2 … First Successful Lucifish!

Once it became clear that I’d fallen a species short of the first official Lucifish completion, I started thinking about a follow-up attempt. On-the-ground reconnaissance two days before the attempt confirmed a sixth species was in play in the town of Salida. Game on.

North Fork South Arkansas - Fuller Lake

The North Fork of the South Arkansas River and Fuller Lake on Lucifish Attempt #2.

Again, skipping the play-by-play. Just some highlights.

  • Kicking off a run at midnight.
  • Watching the Perseids meteor shower for many hours.
  • Seeing bats and fish compete for food as dawn broke and 14ers reflected over an urban lake.
  • Catching my first bass in many decades.
  • Lightening the load with one resupply cache in Salida. In truth, I debated finding someone to crew me once or twice for this effort, but, in the end, it was nice to once again have the outing be me and a backpack.
  • Catching a first-cast cutthroat … right where I knew it’d be.
Lucifish - Cutthroat trout

A first-cast cutty on Lucifish Attempt #2.

  • Onsighting the climb up the south side of the ridge between Billings Lake and Grizzly Gulch. The trail-less talus field was beyond my comfort zone, but I managed it. Having goals like Lucifish or another grand adventure are great for expanding one’s possibilities.
  • Remaining cool, calm, and collected when a thunderstorm’s lightning and hail pinned me down for 40 minutes just below my final ridge of the day between Grizzly and Pomeroy Gulches.
  • Catching grayling at glassine high alpine lake moments after the thunderstorm abated.
Pomeroy Lake

A glassine Pomeroy Lake on Lucifish Attempt #2.

  • A tasty IPA from trail angels as I descended toward camp with only six miles to go.
  • Stopping and dancing like no one was watching as I turned around above St. Elmo while tacking on the last bit of mandatory distance.
  • Finishing the run with plenty of daylight left and feeling good while doing it.
  • Becoming the first person to complete Lucifish!
  • Once again, having no problem tent camping before and after a very long run.

Lucifish Attempt #2 details.

Arctic grayling - fin

An Arctic grayling’s festive fin on Lucifish Attempt #2.

Both of these outings will stick with me for a long time. They were challenging, beautiful, empowering, simple, and cheap. They were worthwhile in the moment and inspiring for the future. I’m not swearing off races — they have their place and provide their own motivation — but the past few years and these two runs have shown me just how much pleasure I can get out of going out and exploring the world around me.

Grizzly Gulch

Grizzly Gulch not long before the thunderstorm rolled in on Lucifish Attempt #2.

Call for Comments

  • What have you learned about your own running motivations in recent years?
  • What are some of your most meaningful runs outside of racing?

* I attempted Lucifish in part to raise funds for Running Rivers’ conservation work. If you enjoyed reading about these run/fish adventures or you want to help advance Running Rivers’ freshwater ecosystem conservation and rehabilitation work, please consider making a donation on my Running Rivers fundraising page. (Full disclosure: I’m a Running Rivers board member.)

** Technical Note: Each of these challenges requires consuming a heavy beer within the time limit. This stands at least a 12% beer for Troutman, 15% for Ültroüt, and 16.6% for Lucifish. Non-alcoholic alternatives are being developed.

Lucifish - Rainbow Trout

A nice wilded rainbow trout caught during Lucifish Attempt #2.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.