Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dead Horse and Rocky Sea. 33 Miles. 6800 Vert

Good to be back in the Uintahs on a fine autumnal weekend.  Pete has been wanting to get up and do this particular run for quite some time.  It turned out to be perfect weather, perfect scenery, and a not so perfect run, for me at least.  Friday night Pete, Court, and I arrived at the West Blacks Fork drainage on the North Slopes of the Uintahs, after a really long dirt road and a brief encounter with a porcupine.  We found a great campsite and fell asleep to the bugling of elks. Probably the time of year for elk action, because they were keeping up the bugle calls all night.  After a late, 9 am, start we headed off into the forest on no particular trail, just south.  At mile 1.5 we found the actual trail and started a steady run.  At this point I could tell my legs were heavy, I felt weak, and short of breath. Our starting elevation was above 9000 ft and my legs had not yet recovered fully from the Wasatch100 2 weeks age.  And the interval sprints on Thursday left my quads throbbing going into the run.  We kept on, passed some great views of Mount Beulah and took a breather at the beautiful sky blue alpine Dead Horse Lake.  11 miles into the with run perfect temps. We started up the formible Dead Horse Pass.

  When you look at it it does not look like it is even possible to go up and over it. But in reality in has a good switch backing bouldery trail and before I knew it we were on top looking out on to the southern Uintah lakes and valley.  We cruised down the pass and kept up a good pace.  I wished I had a pole to do some fishing at Continent lake. Last time I had been there we were slinging 14 inch trout one after another.   Mile times from the pass, went about 11, 11, 14, 11, 18, 12, 24, 12. I thought it was a bit flatter, but as we passed Jack and Jill lakes, the up and downs were constant and steep.  Court went out ahead and Pete and I started dragging. I was so weak. I had sore legs and the start of a sore throat.  Despite the slow speed we all made it up Rocky Sea pass and started running fast again. We had logged 25 miles and had 8 to go, but at least the end was in site.  Pete and Court went out ahead and I plugged back in the headphones and slogged along. I was feeling better, especially having eaten some of Pete's food. (I totally under prepared on the fuel side of things) We all finished about 5 pm at the High Line Trail  Head near Mirror lake. I was about 13 minutes behind the others. I was tired but felt great.  Now all we had to do was get back to the car. After sticking our thumb out for over an hour some kind souls let us jump in their truck. Down at the Bear River Lodge we started getting nervous. Everything was closed, it was getting late, and we were still a 3 hour bike trip back to the car.  We all agreed we had the energy to slog it out, but needed to call Amanda so she would not worry. Then we ran into some great folks drinking beer at the Uintah Adventure Lodge across the highway and they loaned us a phone and Truck (for $40) Arby's. Home by 10. yay.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Heaven and Hell in the Wasatch

Why? Why Run 100 miles across mountains and through the night?  I love running.  I am competitive and love seeing how I stack up against others. I love everything about mountains, from the steep craggy ridges to the dense forest floors, to the frigid summits and bouldery trails.  Lastly, plain and simple, curiosity, how far can my body and mind go?  I have wondered that question as I finished marathons, all day trad climbs, and high summit hikes. Thinking “dang I am tired, but I could keep going”
Quick Facts. The Wasatch100 Mile Endurance Run bares the slogan “100 miles of Heaven and Hell.”  Wiki says “Wasatch gains cumulatively 26,000 feet in elevation as it traverses the Wasatch Front, commanding vistas of basin and range country, the Great Salt Lake, steep canyons, broad plateaus, and craggy peaks. Altitude ranges from 4,700 to 10,460 feet, and temperatures range from 80s in the shade during the day to 20s on the high ridges at night. September weather in Utah can vary widely. Some years heat is a major factor. The fastest runners typically finish the race in 20 hours or so, while the field is given 36 hours to finish the race.”
Over the past 3 years I ran a couple of organized 50 mile races, a marathon or two, ran across Zion NP in a day, ran across the Grand Canyon and back in a day, and ran and summited the highest point in Wyoming, Gannet Peak, in a day.  All of these adventures left me wasted yet charged for more.  The Wasatch 100 starts in my front yard and was the logical next adventure.  So over the past 7 months I paid the 200 bucks, did the mandatory trail work, trained (950 miles, 200,000 vert), bought a GPS watch and high tech trail shoes from Europe. Like you do. Then swigged some Nyquil on Thursday night and drifted off to sleep.
5 hours later my dad picked me up, with my stomach and nerves grumbling, and drove me a mile up the street to my favorite most run trail. Then me and 300 other dudes were off, in the dark, heading North toward Layton on the Bonneville SL Trail.  The field stayed crowded for miles, went past Adams Canyon, then at Fernwood Picnic Area turned up the mountain for 4000 ft of gain, all the way up to the Chinscraper Cliffs, near where a hornet stung my ankle,  and then onto the ridge above Davis County.  I cruised up and down the slopes past Thurston Peak and then under the shadows of the Francis Peak Radar Balls. Sat and took a breather at the top of Farmington Canyon, mile 18 at 9:40 ish.  A little later than I had hoped but still good time.  Feeling good and tired, and my feet were hurting. Awesome fancy Hoka shoes were a nice nice ride (soft landing) but too new and digging into my ankle.  I Grabbed water and energy gels, slammed a Red Bull, and took off.  At about mile 27 I was alone, sore, walking uphill, and getting passed by other people. It was getting hot and mundane.  The next aid station had Jelly Bellys, bananas, and twizzlers, sweet. Spirits started to lift as I slogged up a steep hill (somewhere above Muller Park Canyon) as the trail banked SE and continued up over passes and down steep slopes.  I sprinted into Big Mountain Pass Mile 39 at 3:30 ish (hundreds of people were there cheering and ringing bells.) Then I got on the weight scale to see if I was healthy (eating and drinking enough) I was 6 lbs over my pre-race weight!  I was so worried about being under weight.  I needed to go to the restroom bad and my stomach hurt from eating so many gels and power bars to make weight. My new friend Beth met me here and helped get my drop bag.  I downed a Red Bull, ate bananas, and an orange, and filled water bottles. Then we trudged off. Beth helped keep me moving but I was bonked.  I could not do more than a shuffle jog and my stomach was killing me.  I am 90% sure I got giaraidi on a training run in the Uintahs, stupid dead sheep. My gut was reeling.
I pressed on through the stomach cramps and heat and started passing folks on the technical down sections.  My pacer buddy, Beth, was awesome, and kept encouraging me by saying things like “hey pass those people up there, place does not mean anything but passing people gives you a metal boost.” By mile 53, Parley’s Canyon I-80 Lambs Exit, I was cruising and feeling good again.  I kissed my wife and baby on the check, said ho to my folks, ate some soup and fruit, changed my socks and my buddy Pete and I were off on our way up Lambs Canyon.  My shoes no longer hurt, and I was feeling pretty good. We slogged all the way up and over the mountain then down onto the Millcreek road.  It was now dark and chilly. Pete was great company and we even ran lots of the uphill, passing lots of folks.  At the top of Millcreek Mile 60 I ate Ramon and watermelon, got a jacket and more gus, heard the Utah/Utah State score in OT, drank another Red Bull, and headed off up to Lake Desolation at around 10 o’clock.  I did okay on the first part of the uphill but soon I totally crashed, again. Every step was hard, jogging was painful. My lungs were suffering.  I could not breathe in deep without pain.  I had entered the dark side of ultra-running.  After what seemed like an eternity we made it to the remote Lake Desolation aid station and was greeted by a large warm fire, salty mashed potatoes, and broth.  As I chatted it up with the volunteers, who had all carried heavy packs up there PROPS!,, I looked above me and saw head lamps up a steep ridge above me and thought, “I flat out can’t make it to the next aid station, 5 miles away.” My body and mind were done. But I pulled myself away from the comfy fire and got moving.  The chill felt good, I slowly made it up the climb and did whatever I could to distract my mind; thinking about Anna and Amanda, singing songs, and talking with other runners.  All of a sudden saw the lights of the next Aid Station Mile 70 at 12:49am.  I ate some more broth, twizzlers, and a bananas and headed down Guardsman Pass, I was feeling great and moving fast again. By the time we made it to the Big Cottonwood Road Pete was tired and sick on gus.  As we pulled into Brighton Ski lodge, Pete hurled in the parking lot repeatedly. O well, the upchucking pricked Spence’s ears and he was ready to take me the last 25 Miles. (Pete felt great immediately after, just didn’t do well with those energy gels) Brighton Mile 75 is nicknamed the Morgue, but there was no coffin for me. I felt great. I ate some hash browns, downed some ginger ale, and another banana.  My dad and wife Amanda were there in the dead of night to cheer me on.  Amanda had a pack full of down sleeping gear and first aid stuff (ie the coffin), I just gave her a hug and said I’m out of here.  With Spence all woken up now, I took off with a yeehaw.  My pace was slow up the hill, just power walking up passed Lake Mary, Catherine, and Martha.  Got to Point Supreme (highest elevation of the day) and started flying down the other side. Passing people here and there.  I was so focused I did not even realize Spence had no light. His battery went dead 5 miles before.  I didn’t even give it a second thought he is an animal.  We pounded through two more aid stations, ate bacon, ginger chews (I was done with gels), and drank more soda.  I had told Spence about my previous crashes and that I anticipated another around mile 88. But as we rounded the last long climb I could smell the finish. I was in lots of pain, but felt great. I got a rush of adrenaline on the first steep decent, called the Dive for good reason, and continued good time even on the ups.  On every down I passed runner after runner. I love steep technical running down hills.  The sun was not up and it was still chilly. I was in and out of the next aid station, Mile 93 in under a minute and started up the next 2 mile climb.  By now I was almost rapid with excitement.  My mile times had dropped from 24 minutes, to 14 minutes, to 10 minutes.  I started down the last steep trail, through red fallen leaves and hit Midway with at an 8 minute mile 99 and 100.  I sprinted under the Finish line banner at a dead sprint and hugged the family.   Mission accomplished. Ate a muffin, drank a Monster energy drink, washed legs, got a massage, and headed home.  It was so great having friends and family to see me finish and cheer for me.  I was stoked to see how many friends and fam had been following me online.  What a wonderful adventure. 
That night was painful.  Legs could barely move. Every muscle hurt.  Sleep was hard.  Next day was stiff but made it to church and could play with the dog.  By Wednesday running again, with just a little soreness.  Hmmm Western States 100…