Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Wedge 50k

Yesterday I took the opportunity to head out to the San Rafael Swell with a few friends and run the Good Water Rim trail around the Wedge which borders The Little Grand Canyon. This trail is a well-defined mountain bike trail that keeps you within nearly 10 feet of the canyon rim at all times. Starting at the Wedge Overlook it runs 15.5 miles out to to the opposite side of the canyon and back, making for a nearly perfect 50k. You can see the route we took in the picture below. Our route is in RED.

We arrived at the Wedge Overlook just after 8am and after taking a few pics and video were off on the trail by 8:30am. We stopped just a half mile later to take some more photos and video at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook, a must-stop and look point for all travelers to the area. It is absolutely gorgeous out there. 

 The Little Grand Canyon from the Wedge Overlook

 From left to right: Matt VH, Matt W, Scott W, and me

I couldn't resist the jump out to the big rock at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook

Off again we hit the single track within another mile and were now cruising right next to the rim of the canyon. The trail is very flat, but technical with many little turns around trees and shrubs. Add in a very rocky trail and your focus has to be what's ahead of you and not looking out over the canyon. Because of this we made several stops to take photos and video in the first 8 miles, just enjoying the opportunity to be out there in such beautiful country.

 Just before hitting the single track

Scott and Matt overlooking one of the many deep finger canyons we'd run around.

The trail is so cool because as you run in and out of these finger canyons there are literally times when your running mates can be all the way across the canyon, up to a mile back, and still not more than a couple of feet away. It's crazy. After 8.5 miles we came to campground #5 where we had stashed drop bags with a cache of water and snacks, something we wouldn't need until our way back. We waited here for a few minutes for one of our party to catch up after a pit-stop and it was then that I decided we were taking too long and it was time to focus on running and training. Back on the trail I got settled into a nice pace with the two Matt's behind me and Scott a little ways behind them (he was having stomach issues). Matt VH and I hit the turn-around at miles 15.5 at the same time. I took one minute to use the bathroom and stretch then was off again while Matt stayed to hang out a few more minutes. Only a quarter mile later I came across Matt W running towards me looking strong and then Scott another half mile after that. I was now alone and comfortably running at my own pace. I was focused on trying to finish this run in under 5 hours, which would be an achievement considering how much stopping and mucking about we did the first 9 miles. My aid stop at mile 22.5 was less than three minutes and I was back on the trail carrying a banana as I went. Until this point I had been getting my energy from fruit snacks, a couple pieces of beef jerky, and a salted nut roll. After a few swallows of Pepsi and a banana I had hoped that it would give me the surge I needed to finish strong (that combination is usually rocket fuel for me). However, that day it would be my downfall. For some reason my stomach turned a little south and I didn't want to eat and drink. I didn't feel grumbly, just nauseated and like I had no energy. I was now doing the mental math to see what kind of pace I could run . . . or walk and still finish in under five hours. Luckily, thanks to such strong middle miles I had built a decent cushion and new I could take it easy, which I did. I crossed the 50k mark at 4:57:00 and then finished car to car in 4:58:42, which made me really happy. Overall I was super happy with my effort on the run, although a little disappointed with the last 7 miles. I tried to shortcut my nutrition and it just turned out to be an unwise decision. 

Once back I knew I would have a bit of a wait while the others finished. I had guessed I would be waiting at least a half hour, if not up to an hour. While it was sunny and I was able to run in shorts and a jacket, it was still barely above freezing and I started getting cold waiting for the boys. My half hour wait turned into 40 min and I was now getting very cold as the slight wind was biting into my exposed legs and neck. I was hunkered down below a small ledge that offered some reprieve from the wind, but it wasn't enough to keep me completely free from it. As long as the wind wasn't blowing I was fine, but my hands were numb and I was ready to be back in the car. Luckily, Matt came running in strong about 45 min after I finished and he had the keys. We warmed up in the car and waiting another half hour or so for Scott and Matt VH to finish. We were then on our way home.

I can't say enough about this run and this area. While it is quite the drive from Salt Lake (3+ hours one way) it is so beautiful I would gladly make this drive just to hang out and view the sights for an hour or two. It is truly breathtaking.

Scott at the finish


Jake said...

What an awesome area. Considering how long it takes to drive to Moab, Zion, or the real Grand Canyon - that place is really a gem at "only" 3 hours away. Andrea and I looked at your pics last night and immediately said "We have to go there this spring!"

Mike Place said...

Nice! That looks like a good one.

Nick said...

When training for the "big one" especially early season...sometimes hanging back with your friends and getting time on your feet is the best training there is.
Enjoying your write ups

jun said...

Thanks for the nice comments boys. Yeah Nick, hanging back is the way to go. That's what I love about adventure runs, the relaxed fun. I probably should have stayed back for longer, I certainly would have been warmer, but when I get a goal in my head I just have to go for it, I guess.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm never sure how many people see this stuff.