Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Make the Time

We are coming up on the three weeks of my youngest son Max being in the hospital. However, due to a successful surgery last Friday and a very strong recovery we are hopeful that we will get to go home this coming weekend. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of craziness. While my wife has become a resident of the hospital, someplace she already works and says she spends far too much time at already, I have been driving back and forth between home and here; picking up Sam and/or Tyler, helping out with football, moving the lawn, and generally just trying to keep everything else outside of this hospital together.

Needless to say my running has taken a backseat.

However, I have been able to schedule time with work, my wife, and parents to open up a day or two here and there to get in a few longer runs, while at the same time squeaking in additional very shorts runs on a few of the other days. This is a report of what I've been able to get out and do the last 7 days.

Wednesday, Aug 24th: Lamb's Canyon to Brighton, a preview of the Wasatch 100
22 miles, 6500 ft vert
Starting very early in the morning I headed out into the darkness with Scott and Adam. None of us had ever run the section from Lamb's Canyon up and over into Millcreek. It is an incredible section of trail. The northeast facing slope is lush, overgrown forest that (for the most part) casually sweeps up the hillside until it crests on the saddle one peak to the northeast of Mt Aire. I found this section really gorgeous. Then it's a very steep descent down to the Millcreek Canyon Rd and up to the Big Water/Dog Lake trailhead. I had run the rest of the trail from that point to Brighton, although in the other direction. This is all I'll say about this section; it is stunningly beautiful, but slow. For much of this 14 miles section you get to see views of both Park City and the Cottonwood ridges. You pass several lakes, can pull from a couple of natural springs, and with a bit of luck dodge a few moose and deer. Running the Wasatch Crest is one of my favorite trails near Salt Lake. I just love it. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling it on this day. No matter what I did I couldn't find the energy to really push. Regardless, I still had a great time. I can't wait to pace Scott on this section in just over a week. Here are a few pics from trip.

 Atop Desolation Peak

 On the saddle between Lamb's and Millcreek.

On the Wasatch Crest

Saturday, August 27th: Timpanogos
14 miles, 4400 ft vert
I knew that running this on an early Saturday morning would be more like a visit to a big-named concert than a pleasant run in the mountains. Mt Timpanogos and the Timpooneke trail leading to it's summit is, by far, the most popular trail destination on a Saturday morning in all of Utah. Coeds from BYU love to start their hike at midnight and get to the summit just in time to watch the sunrise. Countless others start their hikes throughout the night and into the next morning, basically clogging up the trail from bottom to top and back; from midnight until late in the day, making it a complete circus to try and run on any given Saturday between August and October. And yet, even with this description, we went undeterred. Silly, right?

It was a very casual run up. Matt had to stop for a potty break very early on and I continued up. I didn't feel super strong, but I was able to maintain a running pace much further up the trail then ever before. I was watching my splits (yes, I track splits at certain landmarks on Timp) and was a minute or two behind my normal pace much of the way up. When I hit the saddle at 1:36 (mile 6) there were already 50 people there watching the sunrise. Generally I think these people are idiots, but this particular Saturday I couldn't blame a single one of them for making the pilgrimage to even this point (700 ft below the summit). The sunrise was a mind-blowing pink and orange and filled the eastern sky. Even in my hurry to reach the summit I had to stop in wonder if that beautiful moment. While there several coeds asked how long it had taken me to reach that point, and when I told them my time heard several gasps, awes, and a bunch more congratulations on getting their so fast. That gave me the boost to really push to the top and I found myself up there in 1:54, only 2 minutes behind my previous best time. Matt got there fewer than 5 minutes later. He was impressive, for sure.

We stayed for only a few minutes. I simply couldn't handle being up there with the hordes of idiots rambling on about their classes, weird friends, and general pointless gossip. I was pretty dang tired hitting the summit and wasn't sure how I'd fair going back down, but as soon as I hit the trail I let my legs go and I found a gear I've never used on Timp before. I call this gear 'Out of Control'. Ha. Regardless of the fact that there were hundreds of people coming up and going down the trail I had to constantly avoid I was still able to cut 8 full minutes off my previous best descent time. That turns out to be more than 1 min/mile faster. Even for me, someone who LOVES to run down technical trails, that is impressive. I can't wait to get back up there on a weekday when there are fewer people and see what I can really throw down.
Previous trip photo

Tuesday, August30th: The Pfeifferhorn
9.5 miles, 3800 ft vert
The last time I went up the Pfeifferhorn was at least six years ago. I wasn't a runner then and was happy with a 10 hour round trip time. Back then I went up to get time on the snow practice my mountaineering skills. I have never been up there when all the snow is gone and the green tundra and small lakes and ponds abound. How have I missed this beautiful scenery for so long?

I went up with Scott and we cruised up to Red Pine Lake pretty quick. I was ahead by a couple of minutes and took a bit of a wrong turn and ended up on a ridge to the east of the lake, instead of the direct route to the south. I was hoping to get a pretty fast time up, but between my wrong turn and the technicality of the trail I found myself more than 15 minutes behind schedule. I felt ok, if maybe a little sluggish, but how bummed can you be when you are surrounded by a place so beautiful. I liken it to the Swiss Alps, it certainly has that feel. Thanks to my wrong turn Scott was now ahead of me. I quickly caught up to him though and we pushed across the plateau to the scary ridge then up to the summit. I was more than 15 minutes behind schedule and no hope of reaching my goal, but I went after it anyway.

Going down I went back into my new 'out of control' gear and really let it fly. Moving down the extremely steep summit and down into the cirque are very slow, but I still was able to push fast. I love that kind of crazy trail running. Rock hoping, which usually stops people dead in their tracks, is something I relish and can generally move very fast. Then, down on the lower trail where it is super rocky and covered in roots I just focused on not catching a toe. Even then, on one of the smoother sections I still went down hard, rolling off the trail and down the steep hillside. I popped back up and continued on, losing only a minute or so overall. I hit the bottom in 1:45:16, 2 minutes faster than I was hoping to go. It was really cool to make up 18 minutes on the descent. Here are some awesome pics from the day.

Now it's time to look forward to pacing Scott for 47 miles at Wasatch 100 and then changing my focus to my big fall race, the Pony Express Trail 100 where I hope to go under 20 hours.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Life Happens

It's been a week since the Quest for King's Marathon and I'm still here in the hospital with my son. We are still waiting for his lipase levels to come down in his pancreas so that they can do the final surgery. We are hoping it will happen on Wednesday. Then we just have to wait out his recovery and he'll be back to normal. Then, with a bit of luck, our lives will be back to normal.

I've only had time to run once in the last week. I can feel the lack of miles on my legs and can't wait for the day when I can get back on a normal workout program. But right now I wouldn't be anywhere else. Max gets better every day (until he has the surgery and then he'll go back into the recovery phase) and for a good portion of the day he is even a happy little boy, playing with his dinos and cars. These are the moments we look forward to and try to enjoy, knowing that later he will have to have his dressings changed or get checked by the docs, neither of which he likes. It's only time though and time passes, usually quite quickly. Soon we'll look back on this as a growing experience, at least until the bills start rolling in. Ha.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quest for King's 2011

Well, the third annual Quest for King's Marathon is in the bag. We had close to 15 people show up this year, all of whom had a great experience, or so I hear. I wasn't there.

The day before the race I ended up having to take my son to the hospital. It turned out to be the right choice because what we thought was only slightly serious turned out to be quit serious. He is still here and will continue to be here for up to a couple more weeks with a surgery in there somewhere.

I've read several reports from the race, however, and everyone reported they had a great time. You can read several of them here: Aaron K (winner), Scott W, Matt V, Josh, and Mr. Crockett himself.

Next year I plan to not only be there, but even have it a little more organized. I'd like to try and get most everyone gathered the night before, have a big bonfire and just socialize and enjoy the time we all have together. Then the next day have a proper start and something at the finish to welcome everyone back. But that will have to wait. For now my focus is on my son.

Thanks to everyone who showed up and ran. I'm glad everyone was safe and had a good time. Pics to come in the next couple of days.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wasatch Whoa!!

While I will not be running the Wasatch 100 this year I have a friend, Scott, who will. The current plan is to pace him at least the last half of the race. His preparation has included running a lot of the course. In the last week he's run from the start to Bountiful B and the section from Big Mountain to Lamb's Canyon. He is feeling pretty prepared.

However, one concern for him and something I noticed that could be a real concern for everyone is how much the course is overgrown in the first 53 miles. He mentioned last week that there were sections near Francis Peak and Bountiful B that were so overgrown you would lose the trail in a matter of 100 yards. Likewise, while we were running the last half mile into Lamb's Canyon the trail completely disappeared. We ended up going a quarter mile too far and had to bushwhack up a hill onto the golf course. Even with trail marking, if the markings are close enough in these sections a lot of people will get very lost. They still have a month to clear some of the really bad spots and mark it completely, but unlike past years the foliage is a lot more overgrown and there should be some sincere concern for how the course will run for up until Lamb's Canyon. Below are some pics that represent how overgrown it is.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Skyline Drive Attempt

On Monday August 1, 2011, along with friend Davy Crockett, we attempted to run the entire 110 mile long Skyline Drive in central Utah. The route runs from Hwy 70 near Richfield all the way to Hwy 6 up Spanish Fork Canyon. Much of the road is above 10,000 ft elevation.

Due to a very heavy snow year and recent storms we encountered over 30 miles of intermittent mud - thick, sticky, clay mud that hung to your shoes like lead weights - we were unable to complete the entire course. I made it 50 miles before quitting and Davy went a total of 67. While difficult it was still beautiful and amazing. Below are some highlights and then a video. Enjoy.

- We hit serious mud at mile 9. Our crew vehicle had to turn around and drive many miles to a future meeting place. The mud continued to last for 7more miles and took us over 3 hours to get through.

- At mile 37 I rounded a knoll to find Matt and Josh (our crew) asleep (or so it appeared) in fold-out recliners both facing the most stunning sunrise I've seen in years. I actually got choked up.

- More mud. And the kind of mud that sticks to your shoes making them weigh about 5 lbs more than they should.

- Glaciated snow fields covered the road at 2 places, forcing Matt and Josh to drive hours in the opposite direction and miles around to a distant meeting spot.

- There were 5 miles of running where I actually felt really good. Physically I felt pretty great the whole run, but mentally I was a wreck from the time we started. Having been gone all last week I think I just really wanted to be at home with my wife and kids. But I had made a commitment to Crockett and wanted to do the run, so I was conflicted.

- At mile 47 my stomach turned south. It wasn't bad enough that I was stopped in my tracks, but it was the excuse I was looking for to quit at mile 50. That was the darkest running moment of my career. I've never quit anything I've tried before, except when I was in physical danger. I just quit because mentally I couldn't handle it. I was mad at myself for giving up and was thoroughly disappointed in myself for letting Crockett down. I quit wallowing  in my own self-pity about 3 hours later and went on to try my best to support Crockett whom we never saw till he also called it quits.

- Crockett ran an additional 17 miles after I stopped, which took him 7 hours, all thanks to MUD!!!!! It was then he knew that he couldn't finish because it would have taken us about 12 hours longer than planned and we all have to work. He ran a total of 67 miles.

It was an awesome experience though. And I still got to run 50 miles in some of the most beautiful country in Utah. Enjoy the video.