The 100 Year Flood

My family moved to Boulder in the summer of 1968. On May 5-9, 1969, hard rains produced the biggest flood in decades. As a 7-year-old the 3 feet of water in our (unfinished) basement seemed super cool, sort of like having an indoor swimming pool.

Growing up in Boulder the “100 Year Flood”, was part of the local lexicon, like fallout shelters were for families in the 60′s; one of those legendary things that can’t really happen. We know about these things and plan for them, right? Every summer at 10 a.m. on the first Monday of each month, Boulder tests its emergency warning system – deafeningly loud sirens and a booming voice over the loudspeakers chillingly announcing, “THIS IS A WARNING SYSTEM TEST.”

But on September 12-15, 2013, when the proverbial “100 Year Flood” actually happened, it was a shocker. For one thing, no one ever thought a big flood would happen in September, when summer monsoon storms typically taper off and thunderstorm producing convection is weak. This year the monsoon was stubborn, and a confluence of static weather systems and particularly abundant monsoon moisture produced a cataclysm that the typically subdued National Weather Service forecasters termed “biblical”.

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UTMB 2013

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Photo: Salomon Runinng (Damien Rosso).

I dropped from the 2013 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Trient, Switzerland on Saturday morning—139km and 17hr after the start in Chamonix, France, but still 29km from making it all the way around the mountain. Curiously—despite the DNF—UTMB was one of the most pleasant, even serene, racing experiences I’ve had out on the trails. However, sometimes a few pieces of gristle are all it takes to bring a halt to our silly ambitions, and, if you let it, completely transform your outlook on the day. I’ve tried to not let that happen, but I’m a competitive bastard, and it takes constant attention on my part to keep my perspective firmly situated in the much-vaunted “bigger picture”. Sometimes you really want to win the fucking race, though. Or just finish, even. And when you don’t, it’s disappointing. Big surprise.

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