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COLORADO Crush

Ask anyone who knows Robbie Balenger and they'll tell you he's the real deal - determined, modest, supportive, and relentless in the pursuit of his own betterment. On his most recent birthday, friends sent well wishes through the internet to "the king of endurance" - a fitting title for a man who once ran across the entire continental United States in 75 days, more impressive when you know he's only been running for the last 7 years. When Robbie dreamed up his summer endurance challenge, it wasn't even the first demanding athletic feat he would attempt this year alone. As part of our Feats Of Strength Series, Robbie crushed the Central Park Loop record for - running 16 loops of Central Park (about 100 miles) during the park's open hours. That's a full 5 more loops than the previous record holder.

How do you out-challenge yourself when you're a person who has completed seven ultramarathons in four months?

“I started to put it all together when I was going stir crazy because of quarantine. I was working for a startup, but I wanted to get back to running full-time and I started to think about what an endurance athlete might want to do. I wanted to crush Colorado.”

Once the challenge took shape, it looked like this. A marathon. Two ultramarathons. All 486 miles of the Colorado Trail. And then, as if that were not enough of a challenge, he was going to add in some mountain peaks. 58 of them, to be exact. He'd be taking our Versatile Shirt and 3/4 Tight with him.

This time, recovery

Robbie approaches his endurance efforts the same way we approach our field tests. Make a change, see if it's sustainable and beneficial. When he ran across the continental United States, he was putting his plant-based diet to the test. This time, he was focused on recovery. There was no way for this effort to be easy, by any means, but he was searching for an ease that would help him get through all of the miles that were ahead of him.

At the start of this project, Robbie had two things on his side: NuCalm and Ten Thousand. NuCalm was ready to make sure his actual resting was as restorative as possible. Ten Thousand was there to make sure his movement through the mountains and over trails was as comfortable and supportive as humanly possible.

“What stood out was the durability of the tights. I had three pairs of tights and would re-wear them without washing them and they kept their structure completely.”

The entire kit was adaptive to whatever movement he had on deck for the day, lightweight enough for the days when he would be running long distances but sturdy enough on the days when the road ahead was steep and full of loose rocks. The adaptability of the kit took the guesswork out of planning his gear for the entire challenge, with reliable gear guaranteed to support him every step of the way. The biggest of Robbie's worries was immediately taken care of:

“The most important thing to me is eliminating chafing. The 3/4 Tights solved this problem. Not only did they prevent chafing, the anti-odor tech left them smelling clean day after day.”

14ers

Colorado, where Robbie lives, is home to 58 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet - "14ers" as they're called locally. They span across 7 different ranges of the Rocky Mountains that pass through Colorado - the Front, Mosquito, Tenmile, Sawatch, San Juan, Elk, and Sangre de Cristo Ranges. While all of them involve a lot of altitude gain, the terrain varies greatly, some with more beaten paths or less chance of rockfall. He'd been able to knock out the most-approachable peaks early.

Some of the more harrowing 14ers lay ahead of him. Trail notes on mountaineering websites describe current conditions from those who have recently passed through - if there's snow above the timberline, whether you'll need microspikes on the way up (or down), leaving warnings of loose rocks. Little notes that offer advice, but also outline the real danger that might await a less experienced mountaineer.

Finally on a Sunday in August, it was time to see the view from the top of some of the most difficult mountains in Colorado. Robbie knew with some of the remaining mountains in the Elk and Sangre de Cristo mountains, he would be testing his current skills and learning on the ascent. In a photo documented on his social media, you can see Robbie, body angled forward in the steep pitch of a mountain, helmet on, sea level ground miles beneath him. There he is, right in the middle of his growth as a mountaineer, an endurance athlete, and a person.



“The difficulty of these peaks on the world stage is not super high, but high enough to pull me out of my comfort zone. The combo of technicality, route-finding, and risk assessment all while being at altitude introduced me to a side of mountaineering that has me excited and wanting more. These skills are stepping stones to what might be required to move along the Alps, Himalayas, and Andes.”

63 days. 1,176 miles. 308,981 feet in elevation gain.

Robbie's got a statistic he says he tells people when they are unfamiliar with mountaineering.

“The elevation gain is equivalent of climbing Everest base to summit ten and a half times.”

He's left with an overwhelming sense of pride and, as to be expected, a mix of feelings about finishing such a monumental task without knowing exactly what is next. He's back to the drawing board but there's no doubt we can't wait to see what's next. There is something very addicting about chasing down new endurance goals.

“There are always so many ebbs and flows throughout an endurance effort. You begin to trust yourself more, you know that ebbs and flows are natural. You gain more resilience in life.”

Robbie’S KIT

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