Sunday, September 29, 2013

Snow Bear 2013: 99.9 Miles of Pain and 0.1 Miles of Transcendent Bliss that made it all worth it.

A few miles back, on a steep rocky downhill, I rolled my ankle in the dim light. It felt okay later, but it gave me a scare.  At the next river crossing my hood slipped over my headlight, as I hopped from one slippery rock to the next, both of my shoes completely submerged into the icy cold Logan River.  Then around mile 60, as the temperatures dropped further below freezing, my headlamp batteries started to fade. I thought to myself. “It was going to be a long, long night.”   

I decided to run the Bear 100 race 3 weeks ago, after getting super dehydrated and full on heat exhaustion at the Wasatch 100 the weekend prior.  It’s funny how karma works, from crazy hot to unseasonably cold and snowy.  The pre-race meeting in Amalga Utah was cold and rainy. The race-start up dry canyon was also very cold.  My only game plan going into the race was to go slow, survive, enjoy the trails and breathtaking scenery, and finish.  I knew pieces of the 100 mile course fairly well from my college days at USU, and was stoked to link them all up in one jaunt from Logan to Bear Lake.  The first big climb up and out of Dry Canyon turned into an amazingly surreal, somewhat spiritual, and extremely snowy run.   I loved it.  The fiery red, yellow, and oranges, back splashed with the green pine, fresh white snow, and damp icy clouds enveloped me inside and out as the race passed the 10 mile mark. 

I kept up a good fast hike on the climbs and ran the down hills as fast as I could.  At times the weather flirted with heavy snow or rain and remained consistently cold.  I enjoyed running with and talking to other runners throughout the first half of the run and even saw the sun for maybe 4 minutes.  At mile 37, as I cruised down a rocky canyon I saw a guy in denim sitting on some boulders.  My dad, Jim, had hiked up the trail a good ways to see me.  As I hit the aid station I was greeted with a hug and kiss from Anna and Izzy.  I felt pretty good. Legs sore but moving. Body temps regulating ok. But very soon felt super tired.  Going uphill in the midafternoon I really really felt like curling up in a ball and sleeping.  I dug an energy gel with caffeine out of my pocket and downed it with some ibuprofen.  Wow. The chemicals kicked in quick and I picked up the pace and no longer felt like falling over. Before the half way point I got to see the family again at Temple Fork, Mile 45. My stomach was feeling great and I was eating solid food as much as possible.

The next section of trail, up Blind Hollow, was by far the worst section of trail and the most frustrating part of the day. Cows had totally destroyed the trail into a sloppy muddy quagmire.  Literally 2 steps forward and one step back, for miles. Luckily a buddy, Matt Van Horn, was there to help keep the cursing to a minimum.   My super light Hoka shoes were heavier than my steel toed Dr. Martins with all the mud stuck on em.   Not until Tony Grove did the trail improve enough that I could open up and run.  Again I ran into my dad up in the forest hiking up to meet me.  After eating lots of food and getting my spirits lifted by friends and family, Pete and I headed into the sunset.  I was super glad Pete and Nick had been able to come up and help me. Both are funny guys that could tell lots of stories, which for me is great for getting my mind off the pain and dreariness of the run.  The scenery above Tony Grove and into White Pine just blew me away.  My body felt good and I was staying up on water and salt. As long as I could keep the nozzle of my water hose from icing over, I would be okay on hydration.    

We pressed on through the night. Stumbled, climbed, ran, tripped, got soaked feet in the river, climbed up more hills, thought we were lost, stumbled, and finally made it to Mile 75, The Beaver Lodge.  As the “race” wore on I started spending more and more time at aid stations.  I was eating lots of solid food and it got harder to leave the warmth every time.  After spending way too much time in the lodge, Nick took over pacing and we headed off at around 2 in the morning.  The next big snowy climb took every atom of will power I had to hike up.  My steps started faltering and Nick kept asking if I was okay.  I continued pushing and struggling to keep my eyes open. After what seemed like an eternity I surprisingly awoke after walking right into an icy puddle and then saw a heavenly fire at the aid station, Mile 81.  It took awhile to regroup, warm up, and wake up. Then we hobbled off again into the cold windy night.  So glad Nick had a 4 hr energy thingy to help keep my eyes open.  On the next big snowy climb, after the Mile 85 aid station, I couldn’t take another step and laid down on the snow in a ball and told Nick to wake me up in 5 minutes.  Which he did. I shook awake and started pounding up the hill again. 

O blessed sunrise.  Around the time the sun came up I got the first glimpse of Bear Lake. It had been a super tough night and the deep blue of the Lake and the warming sun filled my soul. I pressed on up the steepest hill of the whole 100 miles and then started running the last downhill as fast as my legs could go.  I flew past many runners who grumbled to Nick as he flagged behind trying to keep up.  The closer to the Lake I got the faster I ran. With fiery orange and yellow aspen forests all around me I kept going faster and faster.   With a mile to go and still flying down the hill I started tearing up with joy and gratitude. So glad to have a body that lets me do what I love, so glad to have great friends and family, so glad to be able to enjoy such amazing mountains and so glad to be DONE.  Nick and I crossed the Finish at 9:33 after running for 27:33 hrs.  Overall it was a very difficult run in very difficult conditions. I Loved it.

Stats: 100 Miles, 21,986 ft of vertical gain, 27.51 hrs

Food eaten:  Around 15 energy gels, 50 little goldfish crackers, 5 ginger chews, 2 bananas, 4-5 cups of broth, 3 cups of chicken noodle soup, 3 grilled cheese sandwiches, 2 brownies, 4 slices of zucchini bread, 2 egg sausage burritos, 4 slices of bacon, 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 3 fruit twists, lots of coke and ginger ale, 4 potatoes, a Monster and one 4 hr energy drink, and a bowl of chili.          
Drying my running shorts hours before the race in the motel 8 after using them in the hot tub


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Hell than Heaven

Going into this years Wasatch100 Mile Endurance Run I felt pretty good.  My training was not quite up to where I wish it was, due partly to injuries, but overall ready to crank out the 100 miles across the mountains.  I finished last year in a little over 28 hours and felt I could at least do that well again or better if I ran smart and flew through aid stations. I spent 1 hr 40 min at aid stations last year. 


All summer I have not really stressed for this thing, that is is right up until the week of the race.   The day before, I played a little Frisbee golf and realized how dang hot it was going to be the next day.  That eve I  attended a fun pre-race-BBQ with other runners at the William's and met my pacer Aaron.  Go VHS!.  There are some real strong runners that live around here.  Cool to meet and talk to Davy Crocket a little, he is a local legend and nice guy to talk with.  My buddy Spence stayed at my house and we got up at 4:15 (=mucho sleep).  Sooo  glad I live so close to the start line.  I let Izzy and and little Anan sleep and Spence and I walked over to the main road by my house and thumbed a ride to the start line. Oh ya, and the car that stopped and gave us a ride was Nick Clark, who went on to win the race that day.


Long story short.  I DNF’d. (Did Not Finish)

 I rocked the first half and by mile 54 I was almost an hour ahead of my goal splits.  I felt good through the extreme heat all morning, other than some leg cramping, and Aaron and I rocked the hottest section.  I felt prime going into the cool Lambs Canyon with my buddy Court by my side to keep me company till Brighton.   Out of nowhere came the onset of extreme nausea and stomach cramps.  I puked everything inside of me and felt super weak.  After going up and over into Millcreek Canyon the nausea remained and the stomach cramps turned into bad diarrhea.  I trudged on and on and on all night through hellish sickness hoping it would go away. The more I walked the sicker I felt.  The more I tried to run the weaker I felt.  The more I hiked the more I hoped it would pass and I could start to recover.  I laid down many times, stumbled and screamed, and just felt sicker.  Somehow, mostly due to Court’s patience, I made it to Brighton Mile 75, with almost zero running.  The doc there got me sipping V8 and OJ.  I laid there for an hour in the lodge hoping the stomach cramps would go away, but they did not. I dropped out at 4 am.  Miles 50-75 took almost longer than miles 0-50.
After much thinking I have decided that the cause was simple, not enough water and salt.  I was drinking tons and eating SCaps, but I guess it was not enough.  I do not believe nutrition had much to do with the GI failure.  I got low blood salt which led to blood leaving the GI area resulting in Ischemic colitis.  I was taking at SCap every hour, I should have done 2 per hour.  I was not peeing enough. I should have taken more time at aid stations and drank more.  Simple. 
Izzy and I drove to the finish the next day, after crashing on Pete’s couch, it was fun seeing the last few finish. Good job to all my friends that finished.  Especially to Spence who is a beast and charged all the way to the end for a 20th place finish in 25:32 hrs.  He trained like a mad man and ran a great race.  Thanks to Aaron, Court, and Pete for pacing.  Sorry Pete I could not show you the last 25 miles.

Post Race:

My legs feel good, I really only ran 50-60 miles, so I signed up for
 the Bear 100 Miler in 3 weeks.  Yes I have an ego and hate to fail, but I also just really want to finish a 100 miler this year, I love the Mountains by Logan in the Autumn, and Izzy said
 go for it.


Getting Baked

LAMBS before the crash

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alpine Jewels

Ruby Crest Trail
The first time I traveled to Elko Nevada with Izzy, my then super-wife-to-be, I noticed these unknown tall jagged peaks in the distance.  The Ruby Mountains and Lamoille Canyon have since been a destination I eagerly look forward to. They have been aptly dubbed the Jewell in the Desert.  Over Independence Day week-end I ran up to the summit of the highest peak, the Ruby Dome, and thoroughly enjoyed the rocky terrain.  I decided then,  I for sure wanted to run the whole Ruby Crest trail in a day.  Fast Forward to the week-end before last and I was getting dropped off by my awesome brother in law on the south-end, at Harrison Pass, and started North towards Lamoille Canyon where my Elantra awaited.  I decided on the S to N direction to get a little more climbing and to knock out the dusty hot road section in the morning.  My pace was slow going from the start, due to new and lingering injuries. (see last post)  The dirt road morphs to 4x4 road after 3 miles.  A ragged looking fellow with a beer in his hand asked if I could help him get his Tacoma Truck unstuck.  He really jacked it off the side of the trail into some trees and I could not get service on my phone so I pointed the direction of the highway and said I had good bye as I have 33+ miles to go.  At mile 6 the wilderness trail begins and dives up and down some sweet shady canyons.  Up-down-up-down-up from valley to canyon. South Smith Fork-Middle Smith Fork- North Smith Fork, and McClutcheon followed by another long climb up to the pass above Overland Lake @ Mile 14.  For some reason I had no pep in my step and the ups got slower and slower.  O well. Ate lunch, then bombed down the switchbacks, said howdy to some bow hunters, all of which said there was "something wrong with me" upon hearing what I was doing.  I chugged as much water as I could and began the next big climb to the Ridge.  I knew there was no water from mile 16-30  so after chugging I topped off my bottles and slogged on.  I cruised the Ridge crest and took in the amazing views of farmland and desert to the East and the back-side of the Ruby Dome to the West.  The ridge continued one peak after another. After 4 big climbs and descents on the ridge, to Wines Peak,  I saw another huge peak (Lake Peak) and started to despair. Luckily the trail swung left and over a pass then a long decent into a beautiful alpine meadow with a stream below Farve Lake. The last 7 miles felt cruiser, lots of lakes and a long never ending over switched-back trail to the top of Lamoille.  37 miles and 9,881 feet of vertical climbing in 10:23 minutes.  Pretty slow, but had a blast.
Looking back towards Harrison Pass

The start of the single track at mile 6

Overland Lake

Super pretty super deep lake, Liberty

The full 37 miles on Google Earth

Cirque of the Towers Traverse


Nothing makes your gut sink more than to watch your belay/rappel device go hurtling off a cliff to the valley floor over a 1000 feet below.  Especially, if you are 3 summits into a 11 summit ridge traverse, with 14 rappels and at least 5 pitches of roped-up climbing to go.  Court cursed and I beat my helmet against the cliff. It was still mid-morning and we had a long, long way to go.  The Cirque of the Towers is one of, if not the prettiest alpine vistas in the country.  The pristine granite climbing is coveted by hoards of climbers and the full "Cirque Traverse" is an extremely challenging  Holy Grail of alpinism.  So of course, Court and I had decided to make it even harder by starting from the car and adding the 16 miles of running to and from the cirque to the day, (instead of backpacking in and making it a slightly tamer 2-3 day venture.)  I have quite the list of runs and climb I want to do in life and the Cirque of the Towers has been at the top of the list for years.  I was super stoked that Court agreed to come along make it happen.  He had backpacked in the summer before and solo climbed the whole traverse, so he was the partner to have.  We slept next to the Elantra at the Big Sandy trail head and got moving at 5:30 am.  By 8 we were surrounded by massive granite peaks and stunning alpine lakes.  Then we dropped into the Cirque. Wow.  Court got way ahead because I could not stop taking pictures. First up:  Pingora, we scrambled past another party from New Zealand and then roped up for two long pitches with great crack in great rock.  I remember yelling down below. "This climb is marvelous."  Court followed quick and cleaned the gear.  We had a super light rack; 5 nuts and 5 cams.  I was glad to have Court's experience on the tricky rappels off the summit.  I could not flippin believe he solo climbed this whole thing (with a rope for the rappels of course.)   After 4 rappels we cruised up and over the Tiger Tower  then started up the narrow sidewalk ramp of Wolfs Head.  Nothing like fast scrambling up a 45 degree ramp that is the width of your shoulders with 1000 foot drops on both sides. The ramp opened up wider into sweet 5.5 crack that we quickly soloed as we passed more parties.  We continued fast past a narrow shimmy with your hands jammed in the crack above. Then the ledge goes up into a tight chimney. I exited the chimney huffing and puffing and started to prep my gear for leading the next pitch on rope.  As I unclipped the locking biner from my harness, the ATC on it slipped off and hurtled into space. Dope.  
We gathered our calm… sort of, and reviewed options.  We both felt fairly confident with our münter hitch skills and decided to press on.  I continued leading all the pitches and belayed Court up on the Münter.  We made it off the Wolfs Head, then ticked off Overhanging Tower, Sharks Nose, Block Tower, the Watch Towers, Warrior, Pylon , and Warbonnet.  The lack of water and the extremely technical rappels on minimal all-natural-placement-anchors presented the most difficult challenges of the day.  The Sharks Nose summit is guarded by a one move wonder that goes at 5.8 on the YDS, but pulling an overhang at high altitude on thin crimps sort of makes ratings meaningless.  That was not the only section I told Court he was an idiot for soloing it the summer before.   Some of the rappels required lowering over an edge to weight the rope which is always scary, for these raps we passed the remaining ATC back up the rope.  At 7 pm we drug ourselves up on top of Warbonnet very dehydrated, tired, and razzled.  I sounded forth the mandatory yeehaww and quickly began the descent before dark overtook us.  By 8:20 we made it back to the trail by Big Sandy Lake and made it out to the cars 90 minutes later. Court jogged much more of the trail than I could and had the car warmed up for me.  Fritos-Ginger Ale-Dr. Pepper-Energy Drinks- Hot Dogs- 5.5 hours of driving and we made it home by 3:20 am.  What a day.   STATS: 20 miles, 11,000 feet of climbing/running 16.5 hrs.  I think next time I am in the Cirque I will do 1 or 2 routes, not 11. 
The Approach Trail

Looking back the way we ran up in the dark

Pingora and Wolfs Head in all ther' Glory. We went up Pingora right where the shadow and sun meet

Hanging Tower, Sharks Head, and Block Tower and Watch Towers

The money Pitch on Pingora South Buttress 

top of Tiger Tower

The sidewalk ramp up Wolfs Head

Passing one of the many other parties going slow

scary overhanging rappels

Looking back over the entire ridge, what a day!

The Top of the last Summit, Warbonnet