Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wasatch 100 part II finally

To start out, I do apologize for taking SO long to write part two, but I have been busy. Its time again to register for the Wasatch 100 and you have to ask yourself, do you do it all again? Clearly that answer is different for everyone, but for me its reasonable simple. First and foremost, does the wife approve? Second, was it worth the time, sacrifice, and suffering. Thankfully in my case both of these answers are yes. (with some small print of course) So assuming I don't change my mind between now and then I am going to put in my application. Just to give you an idea how quickly your fitness drops when you are at that level, I went for a run yesterday with one of my pacers and we did somewhere in the range of 6-8 miles in 1 hr 30 mins. Today my legs hurt, and I noticed my quads as I pulled my fat legs into the truck. Not bad for running 100 miles just 3 months ago and still having maintenance runs in between. So by May it will be back to square one.

Back to the story. After leaving the big mountain aid station, the sun has started to set, its still warm, and the course is easy. I currently am running with a 60+ year old hard man who finished the Hardrock this year in like 38 hours. Thats one of the nice things about these races, it seems you are constantly humbled. He pointed out a fascinating old airway beacon along the course which I wanted to go back to see but haven't. As we continued to run along the Sun is starting to set over the Stansbury mountains, similar to the joy in your soul that is beginning to set as well.

There was some anxiety associated with this part of the trail as just 7 days earlier I had fallen three times on this section, stubbing my left big toe, all three times. On the third fall I was running down a steep, black diamond, mountain bike course where I took a header off a full on run down a steep section that brought tears to my eyes. I never checked but I likely caused some type of hairline fracture in the first metatarsal. After rolling around on the grown for some time I was able to run the 4 or so miles out that day, but didn't run again until the race. As I ran down this section of trail in twilight, my mine focused on NOT doing that again, since I still had 50 miles to go.This section brought some of the first frustrating moments in trail selection too. I haven't been able to run this section exactly right yet after attempting (hence the black diamond mountain bike trail) to finish this section once before. Now that I had the trail markings this section turned out to be a mile waster, as I affectionately called it. A place where there put in meaningless turns and switchbacks to get the mileage right. The trail we should have run went along the ridge and dumps you out at Summit Park, yet the trail we ran takes down yet another steep, ball bearing ridge descent with scant switch backs. You descend down to the powerline trail almost all the way to Little Dell Golf Course, then promptly start back up the hill toward the pass on the powerline trail. where you cut off into the woods to cross the ridge to lambs canyon. This is one of those trail life lessons, if you will.

Its not the actual distance that matters; it the perceived distance and difference between the perceived and actual distance that dictates the mood at which it is accepted.

I think this section of trail was one of those crushing moments where the trail felt twice as long as it should have been (because it was) for the section of land crossed. When I finally rolled into the lambs canyon aid station, the Euphoria of Big mountain had rapidly disappeared. The good news was that my whole family was again waiting for me, as well as my first, soul supporting pacer.

Its always difficult to explain the emotional experience associated with such an event, but pacers are like catalysts to that experience, either good or bad. My first pacer, a friend who I respect deeply, and have enjoyed many a good time with, helped hold me off of the pit for another few hours. We started out together into the dark of lambs canyon together on a familiar section of asphalt that would soon lead to the beginning of my favorite 25 miles of trail. This is where I noticed, for the first time, the substantial difference between my training pace/strength and my race pace. The natural assumption is that race pace is faster in most races, but not so for me. I think in my training runs I would do the lambs canyon section of trail in around 55 minutes round trip at a good healthy pace (which in the mountains means like 12:30). Yet this time we where just creeping up the trail with large sections of walking. Yet what was still encouraging at this point was that I was still passing people, like I had been doing since the beginning. In my convoluted consciousness, this is where I anticipated making the most progress over the competition because 1.) I new the trail very well and 2.)I felt like I was best at climbing, which was the next 25 miles or so--Unfortunately I was mistaken. This was the last section where I would pass anyone for good.

As we rolled into the big water parking lot in Mill Creek, I started to realize that i was seriously hurting. Not so much in a fitness level, but in a fatigue sense. I was so tired, week, and out of it I just wanted to sit in my lazyboy (a camp chair) for the next 5 hours... The good news is that I was surrounded again by friends and family to encourage me to leave my lazyboy. After having a selection of food that didn't taste all that wonderful I headed out into the dark again with Dave, a fellow runner who I would spend the next 40 or so miles with, and my second pacer, an old friend from elementary school.We left the bigwater trailhead toward dog lake in another section of trail that I considered to be easy yet my training experience was light speeds faster than what I was doing now. This section of trail is the second big mile waster section where you go to dog lake, down Mill D South to the Y, then back up to desolation lake. My personal route would be East out of Big Water to the great western then along the ridge via the crest trail to Guardsman's pass. Either was additional climbing and descending was required. That being said when we reached the desolation lake aid station, it was a sight to see. Too me, it looked like the end of a rave with the camp fire still raging. Interestingly enough I don't remember anything except arriving at the aid station. We then began the climb up to the spine and out towards brighton.

This was where the pit began. If you remember the blog link I post sometime back about explaining the ultra experience this was the pit. Not in the means of your physical fitness, but in this case fatigue. As we ran out the easy section of the trail towards Gardsman's, I started to experience serious sleep depravation and dilution.
For the first time ever in my limited experience the desire to sleep was almost able to overcome the desire to stay awake, even during serious exercise. Another way to explain it is the subconscious starts to become as or more powerful than the conscious. Ever had the head bob's when your tired? How about while running? Well we where running and I was getting the head bobs, fading in and out of consciousness, and somehow staying on the trail. This is also where I experienced the best hallucinations. If their is anything I remember clearly, er kindof, its the hallucinations. I'll talk about them in part III.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wasatch 100 part 1

It was with fear and trembling that I woke before the alarm Friday morning at 3:15am. After spending a mostly sleepless night my whole body was filled with excitement in anticipation of this momentous event that I was about to attempt. Two days earlier I had returned from work and flown in from the North of Salt Lake City where I could view the entire Wasatch 100 course from the air. It was ridiculous. Even traveling at jet speeds it took FOREVER to travel just from the northern start of the course down to just past the sessions aid station: somewhere in the area of 1/3 through the course. It was also both amusing and terrifying the logistics associated with running such a long distance. My dear wife would drop me off at the starting line at 4:30am in the morning, return home, go to work for eight hours, then come and meet me again 7 miles before the halfway point. 2 more times my crew would return home, try and sleep a little, in the case of my father mow the lawn; and then return to support me again. No matter how fast you run it, the Wasatch takes a long, long time.

As I was preparing on the drive up to Layton, the sky was unleashing its fury with rain, wind, and the occasional lightning strike. Fortunately it stopped before we arrived at the start never to return for the rest of the race. The start is a small dirt parking lot at a BST entrance point that was now filled with 257 headlamps all waiting to experience some of best of heaven and hell. After a quick check in and an early morning stop at the John we where off to a rather fast start. Some of the best advice I got for my first marathon last September was to go slower than you think you should for the first 10 miles. In the case of the Wasatch, that would be the first 43 miles to big mountain. As we all funneled into a small single track trail I repeatedly returned to my heart rate monitor to make sure I wasn't getting caught in the race frenzy. Unfortunately it kept reading rates like 184, 175, etc. So I kept slowing down. After a few minutes of this I noticed my breathing was almost non existent and I did a carotid pulse check to check the accuracy and sure enough it was all wrong. My heart rate was sitting at about 128. So much for coded heart rate monitors. Once the traffic thinned it returned to accuracy and we got settled into a good pace. I decided that the Princeton Tech Arrora was a bad choice for running in the dark as the depth perception just wasn't good enough. Unfortunately I had reserved the Teka + for the second night section so I just had to deal with this for a while.

The trail turned out to be beautiful single track all the way to the ridge. Unfortunately the snow started somewhere around 6500-7000ft and the temperature dropped significantly. I had my base layer Patagonia short sleeve, arm warmer, running hat, shorts, compression socks, and thin gloves. By the time we reached Chinscraper I was freezing and trying to keep the fingers from going numb. Chinscraper, by the way, was a non-event. There was much talk about this feature before hand but it turned out to be pretty easy to navigate. After passing it the trail eased and the pace quickened, a nice relief from the long hall climb from the valley. The Sun had come up, but you wouldn't know it due to the shrouding in cold, damp clouds.

The single track ended at the start of the dirt road to the Farmington Radar towers. It was actually a very interesting section of road because you couldn't tell where you where and it seemed to stretch on for ever. I never saw the Radar towers as we ran right below them, but I did feel the cold of the ridge. This section was the coldest of the entire race and interestingly enough was the only time when I seriously doubted if I would finish the race. The side of the road was filled with rime ice and groppel, and nothing seemed to be melting.

At this point in the race I was starting to fear a serious glucose deficiency because of bad planning. I brought very little food along with in anticipation of close, well stocked aid stations. I had 6 home made Gu shot's and about 40 ounces of water. The water was fine, but turns out the first 3 water stations had nothing but water, which I had plenty of. After passing Chinscraper I started conserving even more for fear that my body would switch to eating muscle mass instead of carbohydrates. It wasn't until what seemed like a number of hours after running out of Gu that we finally reached the maintenance shed stop where the food was a plenty and I had a drop bag with warm and dry clothes. After downing a large quantity of calories and filling the water I was off for a much more optimistic section of trail. This was still all new trail for me and very exciting ground to be crossed. It was very interesting to note the level of impact caused by the internal combustion engine vehicles of this section compared to the others. I'm not trying to stand on my soapbox, but the destruction of unregulated use was astonishing. The good news was that the sun had finally came out and it was warm enough to take off the gloves for the first time.

For those of you who haven't done an event like this that is outside the norm of intense competition, a lot of the race is about enjoying a good time with people who share your interests. This is the first place I started running with Dave Evans, a strong runner from Cache Valley. I also met a girl named CJ that turns out I used to work with her back at Snowbasin a few years back. The best part of all is that Dave looked like the evil twin of another Snowbasin employee, also named Dave. We ran together for a while until about the bountiful B checkpoint through another fabulous section of single track trails. At this point I lost track of them both and continued on through my strong point, climbing.
Like in most things, everyone has their strong and weak points in a sport, and in running my strong point is climbing. So as we left the B station we started up the big climb to sessions and again the running partners changed as I moved passed the weaker climbers. I was still on new trail, and this section was also exceptional. Beautiful single track through a blend of Aspen groves and pines forests with that perfect, soft, mossy dirt that is pure bliss to run on. This section of trail was also the muddiest and caused a bit of difficulty on some of the steep climbs. As we continued on past sessions we crossed the upper cirque of City Creek canyon where I started to be a bit more familiar with the terrain. I was surprised by how many alpine characteristics it had. This would undoubtably be a good winter skiing location. The climbs and descents mellowed and the pace picked up significantly. At this point in the course I was feeling really good, like I could win it, except that the winners where like 30 miles ahead. This is the first time I met Trash Bag Man, who was a guy from Southern California wearing a trash bag to keep warm. A fun guy, with a great costume. He would go screaming down the hills and pass me and the creep up the next hill where I would then pass him. We kept this up for some time until I finally left him for good just before big mountain. After cresting the ridge between City creek canyon and Immigration, I finally came to a section of trail I had run before. This may seem of little significance, but to me it was like Christmas time.

It is difficult to write about the emotional experience associated with these long races, but I think the Race director has good it right in the Website where he calls it "100 miles of heaven and hell." Your emotional experience is just as extreme as your physical experience. This moment was one of those moments of heaven. The place where the tails merged was a steep, loose hill with soft ball size ball bearings on it. But I was so psyched that I ran the whole thing (not my best choice). Other than a small section before Parley's Summit, I new the trail all the way to Cathrine's Pass. I wish that I could convey better the joy and excitement you have during these little victories but I am at a loss for words.

Soon after gaining the well known trail section I passed through the swallow rocks aid station with barely a slow moving on towards my crew at Big Mountain Pass. It seemed like no time at all to do the 6 or so miles down to the road where my family was waiting. Try and imagine this: You've been running since 5:00 in the morning through cold, wind, steep, mud, fog, sun, heat, and snow for the last 11 hours. Noon has passed, the sun is starting to sink in the sky and you haven't seen anyone that you really know... You've experienced lots of darkness, big climbs, descents, falls, unknown trails, beautiful almost untouched wilderness. You are tired, dirty, salty, and definitely stinky. As you round the top switchback at big mountain on your way down to the pass you hear the music, the cheering people and of the cow bell. You have less than a mile to go to see your family for the first time. As one very fast finished noticed, the emotion can be overwhelming. He actually took a fall here and broke a finger (Although he still finished in under 28 hours). I could have been crying with excitement here if I had the extra salt and water. This was probably the apex of the race for me. Everyone is happy, the sun is out, and you still feel good at 10-11 or so hours into the race. Its a great experience, unfortunately this is mile 43. And I might add, its the easiest of the 43. Up ahead the trail starts to get steep, rocky, technical, high, and the worst of all: dark.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Speed Goat 50K

So some of you have probably heard of the 50k trail run, and may be thinking this is just another 50k trail run... Well that's what I was thinking until about mile 7. I suppose I should have read this section for Karl Meltzer's blog/race page.

"8) There is still almost 12,000′ of climbing. If you think this race is only a little further than a marathon….you are DEAD WRONG. Or perhaps you’ll like the Dead Last Award…. There are no other 50k’s on the planet this tough…"

Anyway I can agree that this was much more difficult than the other things I've run this year, even though its distance wasn't that long. Here is the short and dirty. (Topo photo's taken from http://slc-samurai.blogspot.com/ for a topo)

Start at Creekside at Snowbird Run up to the tram, while taking detours to make sure and run up and down section of most lifts, finishing your climb coming down from gad 2 to little cloud then climbing up Road to Provo to the tram. (Aid station 1) then descend to the saddle above the tunnel and up baldy for your 11, 500ish foot high point, then down sketttttchy terrain to the bottom of mineral basin, to include spotters, and 2 fixed lines to keep you from tumbling. (somewhere last year someone fell and they had to carry them out) Then continue down rutted 4x4 roads to the bottom of mineral (aid station 2) far enough down yet? No!

Climb a ridge then drop down 5 miles (yes thats correct, 5 more miles) into American Fork Canyon, then across for 1 mile for a total of 6 miles to the next aid station. (this was probably the best one, cold towels, dancing paddle man, Popsicles) then climb all the way back up to the bottom of mineral (probably the most painful part) Get your cup of champagne, and then do the 2 mile climb out of mineral which really wasn't too bad because at least you can SEE the ridge your going to.

Aid station 5 get some goodies, through the tunnel and down 3K feet to catch a trail that takes up back up 3K via the tram ridge to the tram. This is where I saw the dude who would run 100yds then lay down for a few minutes, then repeat. I don't think he was going on a full tank of gas. Then after an agonizingly slow and steep decent hit the last aid station at the tram and go for the 6 miles back to the finish! Also a place where I saw some people getting pretty wacky!

I had some tough times with hydration and electrolytes. Mostly I think the hydration. I didn't sleep at all the night before due to working late so I started taking Red Bull and soda at about mile 15, this turned out to be a really bad idea. I was just taking a shot or two at the aid stations, but my stomach revolted and after a while I was having difficulty taking anything in which lead to the dehydration. With that, I also started to heat up so much which then caused nausea and I wanted to vomit, but didn't. It was a hard race. I came out of the blocks pretty fast and after reaching Baldy decided I wasn't going to be able to hold the pace for the race, so I slowed considerably while getting passed by a good 5-6 people, but I'm sure this saved me from DNFing. All in all, not too bad. Clearly I need to do some more speed work and VO2max work to speed things up. The distance really wasn't too bad, just the altitude. I finished the race in 9hours 10 minutes and 54 seconds in 90th place out of 152 finishers and estimated 48 DNFers. As apposed to the Sherpa and Samurai that finished, which this was their first race ever. (http://slc-samurai.blogspot.com/)

As far as the race goes, not really very well organized, some of the things promised didn't happen. Aid stations where poorly stocked, and no Gu anywhere! That was the worst thing for me because I didn't bring enough containers to get from drop bag to drop bag. Gu is my primary food source during races and I couldn't carry enough, so this was a big problem. Usually the aid stations had watermelon, oranges, PB and J, and if your lucky some candy. Not really a good selection in my mind. I can only eat PB and J for the first few hours then its a no go. Fruit is good but lacks any real complex carbs or long term food, which is what these races are all about. Race info is also really difficult to find.

How about a topo or altitude profile? I know one is out there, but I couldn't find one for this blog. I got a pretty cool shirt, a pair of socks, and a really cool bottle opener finishing medal that I can't figure out how to open bottles with. When we where done we waited almost 3 hours for our drop bags! Maybe that was ok if their was music...or something, but there wasn't. Not even really chairs to hang out in. If this wasn't
THE Speedgoat, it probably would be a flop, but I guess people will come for the name even though it aint cheap, but the food sure is! Great time, I'd do it again... Just remember to bring your own chow!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mirror Lake Run.

I tried out a few new things today including a training run up in the Unitas. I'll start by talking about the 'new and cool tech stuff' and then talk about the route.

First off, I'm not sure if you have noticed, but a new(ish) electrolyte drink powder is out called EFS. http://www.firstendurance.com/ The two stores I went to both told me this was THE stuff, everyone was buying it, get your hands on it before its all gone, so of course I bought one. In comparing your 4 major electrolytes, EFS has significantly more than anyone else, not to mention you get more servings per contain, AND the container is actually the right size, not like a GU container which you open and its already half empty. Based on a 12 ounce serving EFS has 1160mg of electrolytes(Na, Ca Mg, CL K+) compared to

Hammer at 162mg
Cytomax at 200mg
GU 216mg
Gatorade Endurance 435mg

I might mention that it doesn't mention the Hammer as Hammer endurance, but this would probably make a difference. EFS then has over 2 times the amount at Gatorade, and 5 times more than most everyone else. Good or bad? I think it depends on a lot of things. How hot it is, how much YOU sweat would be the primary questions. EFS also has an Amino Acid content of 2000mg.

So I've used EFS on two runs now, the first was about 9 miles 7500ft to about 9800ft and after following the instructions and adding 1 scoop to 12 ounces of water, I made it about 1/3 into the run and I couldn't drink the stuff anymore (which was in all 4 water bottles, shesh amateur) And because of it I could feel myself dehydrating rapidly(like the top of your mouth starts to get dry), but it was also causing a chemical imbalance that was going to make me upchuck. After reaching the next water source I just pored the remaining out and took some fresh water with Iodine, and chugged. Back in business. The second run I took with EFS I cut the recommended portion down to 1/3-1/4 the recommend serving and things went much better, but STILL it was difficult to stomach. Obviously the high levels of Sodium are part of the problem but I also wonder if its the 2000mg of Amino Acids that I'm not stomaching well? I don't know but after 4 bottles or just under 4 servings I was done for the rest of the day and stuck with water (and Iodine) and Hammer Electrolyte Pills. This seems to work pretty well but I had this funk taste left in my mouth that made the water almost bitter, and I'm not sure if it was from the iodine (which isn't new to my mouth) or the EFS. I never really got over it. Its actually reminded me of the smell (weird I know) of a Diabetic when they start metabolizing fat after their glucose has run out. So I'm not sure how much I like this stuff, unfortunately I've got $25 worth of it left so I better keep trying. The good thing is that I also have a new tech Suunto Vector http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3661486 want-a-be watch from high gear that has a hydration alarm to keep me on task.

This new watch does everything that the vector does plus a little, and minus a little. The cool part is you can set the Altimeter with either the actual altitude or by Sea Level Pressure, very cool. The Vector cant do that. The Problem I have with it is the compose calibration has failed EVERY time, I've tried multiple times at home and 3-4 times on the trail today. So you don't have to carry a compose, as long as you trust the uncalibrated one. That being said it was very accurate when put up against the Topo. The down side is that when your recording an activity 1.) The altitude doesn't have close enough measuring intervals, and 2.)sometimes you accidental press the stop button by bending your wrist to the wrong position. This happened today 2 times. The first time I didn't notice for a long, long time. So because of this my times are pretty off.

One more rant, then I'll give you the route. I have a polar F11 heart rate monitor http://www.heartmonitors.com/polar/polar_f11_heart_rate_monitors.htm that I really love, but the ONLY way to change the batter is to send it back to polar! That's fine if you only use it once every 2 weeks, but if you are using it 3-5 times a week, you don't have the time. And don't try and do it yourself, there is a reason the have you send it in. I changed the battery last year, and I almost killed it forever.

The route, Finally. Parenthesis show Forest Service route numbers. I started at Mirror lake trail head and headed South (086) down the Duchesne River to the East Fork river confluence where I then turned North East (087) and headed up to Pinto Lake via the Skinner's cut off trail, the South to Governor Dern Lake, and Rainbow lake. Here I Planned to turn north (074) towards 4 lakes basin, but instead missed the sign and ran half way or more to Lost Lake where I finally realized it and backtracked to Rainbow Lake again. Then up to Bedground Lake then straight North (085) to Olga Lake to meet the Rocky Sea Pass Trail(083). Left turn (WNW) at the T on Highline Trail all the way back to Mirror lake.

Sound easy right? Well with the detour, its between about 24-27 miles, 2700ft of climbing and descending, and a very rocky and technical trail. My fancy watch clocked in at 5 hours 48 minutes but I'm sure it was more like 6hours 30 minutes due to the off time. That seems ridiculously slow, but the more I think about it, I'm not sure you could go much faster. 50% of the trail is very technical rocks, logs, marshes, and ball bearings, and the other 50% is still rocky and steep. Even if you had the lungs to run a 9 minute mile above 10K I'm pretty sure you'd make it about 20 feet before twisting your ankle and breaking your jaw (when your face impacts one of the big rocks in front of you). I'm sure you could cut off an hour or two if your name was Dean Karnazes http://www.ultramarathonman.com/flash/

It is a beautiful route, with plenty of water sources, and very few people. I would recommend it. I couldn't fit the camera in my tiny water belt so I can't share any of the magnificent images with you, next time. Just bring everything you need because there are no 7-11's on the way and a twisted ankle is very likely!

Monday, July 12, 2010

To WURL or not to WURL

So I've been thinking about the WURL a lot laterly. First because Jared did it on skies (WURLOS) and because it seem like an excellent training tool for the W100. WURL stands for Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Link Up. I haven't really done my research on it like I should, but basically you start somewhere either in Ferguson or Broads and climb to Twin Peaks then hit them all to Twin Lakes Pass, then you turn South to Alta and then Turn West again and hit them all to lone peak and exit out Bells. Its doesn't seem to be set in stone the course, but that's the basic idea. I had two days off left of my vacation so I figured I'd go up and try it out and see if its plausible for someone like me. So I packed up a small pack with enough goodies for 2 days out (2 days of suffering, not comfort) with just a few items.

I planned on leaving at 300am, but by the time I was packed it was midnight so I set the alarm for 400am. All in all I started hiking at 5:38am, probably 30 minutes to an hour too late, but I didn't expect to finish the whole thing in one day.

After taking a different route to the summit of Twin(11330), it was about 3 hours in, 1 hour later than I had hoped. A short photo and I was off.
Twin I might add is a bit of a rip off because you have to summit both peaks and it takes a good 20-30 minutes to hit them both, but you only get one.

I also got the peak north of twin(10800), at the top of Stairs Gulch. Then moving on to Sunrise (11275) their was one extra(11200) in between and some serious scrambling. Sunrise has some full on climbing I would give about a 5.4 with some lose rocks and ending in a choss pile (like every other peak). It turned out to be not too bad except the exposure, and the running shoes. Then moving down Sunrise turned out to be the biggest thrill of the day as it was extremely difficult to transition through the saddle to Dromedary. In retrospect I could have chosen a better line but I'd give it down climbing 5.7 with lose rocks and dirt EVERYWHERE.

A short moment to describe the traveling. Its like taking 1000 granite tiles and stacking them on top of a low pitch roof, on top of the Sears Tower. This is about the consistency of the rock on all of these peaks with short burst of good stuff. So you move agonizingly slow, and carefully place every foot and hand most of the time. A slide could be fatal a good portion of the time. I would describe this as having a 'high objective hazard' or a hazard that you can't do anything about. I do have time climbing choss piles, but not piles of it, so this was pretty stressful for me.

After the summit of Dromedary I got sucked into a trail that led down towards Lake Blanch. Turns out it was the wrong trail so I ended up crossing a Quartzite slab, that also happened to be the run off from remaining snow. Another very stressful moment. then going around to the decent side I reach the knife edge ridge, choss pile. Similar to the one on the Pfeiffer, but longer, chossier, and maybe even higher off the deck. After a moment of thinking I decided I'd had enough and the payoff wasn't worth taking yet another risk crossing this ridge. If I came off with a boulder it would mean serious injury, or more likely death.

I don't mind crossing some sections like this, but when you've been doing it for the last 3 hours the risk becomes too much. I decide then that I wouldn't come back to the WURL, because of the high danger associated with this first section. As time has pasted it seems less and less, so who knows I might come back. I'm not sure what the answer is, but it seems like a rope would be too big of a burden. Maybe climbing shoes and a partner, I don't have an answer. Either way the risk is pretty big on this one. I would much rather take a 40 foot wipper than fall off of one of those things.

I down climbed from Dromedary on the trail I noticed down to Blanch lake and at first was thinking about heading back up on far lookers left of Mill B South to the back side of the saddle between Superior and Monte Cristo. Not a bad plan, until you figure out how high above the lake you really are.

I would estimate it took me 2-3 hours to get from Dromedary to Lake Blanch, even with a sick section of Glissading.

Again the down climb was difficult and very slow, but reasonably safe. Then climbing back up would take a while to because of the brush, rivers and indirect route. I was at hour 9 by now and decide to just bail because I was so far behind where I should be.

If you where on ski's, I think this would be the choice because it would only take 10 minutes down and maybe 1 hour back up.

All in all car to car time was 10 hours with 5 peaks, all over 11000ft and about 7000ft of vertical and somewhere in the range of 8 or 9 miles. As of now, its not to WURL


Monday, June 21, 2010

Mud,Rocks, and a Fat Tire

This weekend was a special week for me as it was my first attempt at an 'ultra' running event. I'm not sure I know the real definition of an ultra except its longer than 26.2 miles and seems to usually happen on trails instead of roads. My particular event was the BigHorn 50m. Months ago when we where still out skiing we set up a race schedule for the summer in preparation for another, more famous ultra. In our great foresight someone decided this would be a good 50m race, being its June we should have been well trained--or maybe we didn't think that we would be skiing into late April. Anyway June 1st roles around and my longest run is like 16 miles, far short of a 50. I start to panic which equals more training. Unfortunately 3 short weeks isn't really enough time for that type of prep.

When we arrive at registration I am surrounded by incredibly fit individuals that make me feel like the fat guy that takes up two seats. After an evening of pasta, a poor nights sleep, and a long drive to 8800ft we are at the 600am start time. Off we go into the mud and snow. Its difficult to explain the apprehension associated with starting out an endurance event like this. Your scared, focused, and alert to a large number of things. Any one of these things could cause you to fail. And as my friend likes to say... There is no sag-wagon on a trail run. So as we start out the race I start thinking about 1.) Keeping my heart rate low and my strides small as to conserve all the energy that I can. 2.) Making sure to have the best footing possible to keep from turning and ankle or anything else 3.) Doing my very best to keep the feet dry. Unfortunately the first 6-10 miles was serious mud and snow. Some people just gave up and filled their shoes with mud and water, others would carefully work through to keep as much water and mud out as possible. I was in this crowd. Looking down at my feet right now, I should have tried even harder.

After about 6 miles I finally got out of the Leming line and had a little space to myself, by mile 12 I was mostly alone. (This combination of solitude and human experience is part of the reason these races are so wonderful) As always, my mental pedometer was counting down the miles based on precieved pace, and time. Unfortunately it was WAY off. When I was feeling at about 18 miles I was really at 14. So after the first 19 miles you cross the river and start up a 2-3000ft climb. Personally, I enjoy climbing and wasn't too worried. I was worried however about how terrible I felt at just 1/3 into the race. At times the pain was so bad, I would double over. Again, its difficult to explain by my lower abdomen felt like it had been in a paint shaker for the last 4 hours. (Really it had, I just didn't realize it). I started to fear the DNF next to my name as I pictured myself being unable to continue at mile 36 (the only place you could bail). Thanks again to the friend I was doing the event with I thought of what he said (At any point in the race, the way you feel isn't permanent, it will change) So I held on to the fact that this wouldn't last forever and just kept going. Slowly the pain softened (it could have been the large quantity of IB Profen) and by mile 36ish it was just a dull ringing in the ears.

The view was incredible and always changing. I still am amazed by how far 50m really is when experienced one step at a time. I can still recall beautiful images of the alpine evergreen forest, the class 5 rapids, to the 5.10 granite hand crack and later into the oak forest, the sage, and the aspen. An amazing experience to cover so much terrain in a day and see so many diverse plants and eco systems. Interestingly, you may wonder how you can stay focused this long, or doesn't the monotony drive you crazy? And the answer is absolutely not! Not once did I wish for my ipod, not even in the 12th hour. The mind was alive and engaged in the surroundings, keeping my feet safely under me, and balancing my nutrition and energy exertion. In fact I would have expected the mind to be dulled by the end of the race, but I felt just as alert and sharp at the end as I did in the beginning! Not to mention, in order to keep the machine running you need to be taking in water, electrolytes, carbs, proteins, a little fat... all in small manageable amounts at the right time so you don't overload the system. If your not doing something every 10-15 minutes, chances are your missing something. Maintaining this balance alone can be very difficult, especially after you stomach refuses to take another gel shot or drink of salty orange flavored water.

My success is due in part to the tricks of the trade shared with my by old man ultra. Had I not gotten these small tidbits, I wound not have finished this race. Thanks Old Man Ultra. Sorry for a lack of photos, but I wasn't about to carry a camera for it.

All in all I'd say this is definitely in the top ten life experiences I've had. Experiencing what the body and mind can do is eye opening. Had you asked me if I could complete this race 2 days before I would have told you no. Not only did I complete it, but I felt good, I finished with a good time, and had one of the better finishing splits. Success like this one is great for the confidence and the mental fortitude in preparation for even large events. I cant wait to see whats next!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Understand The Endurance Athlete

For anyone who actually reads this blog I appologize for being silent for so long. Thing have been happening, I've just been too busy to write about them. One of my expected upcoming blogs will be 'Wall Street is like Wendy's' sure to hopefully bring some smiles to your face. But for now in the short 10 minutes I have in between work I would like to send you to a fabulous blogger's site that shares a little bit about 'why' the endurance athlete IS. I hope this is as insightful for you as it was for me.


Monday, March 29, 2010


It seems the skiing is starting to get pretty fierce out there these days and the motivation is getting thin. On Saturday I headed up solo to have a look at CoalPit #4 and all its glory. Turns out I'm not sure exactly how to get to it... no surprise. So I ski a fabulous coulair in the same region that hasn't seen tracks for a while. After skiing up sloppy wet snow (all good alpine starts have this right?) I notice a very unique snow surface up a head that I've never noticed before.

It has the look of a miniature river delta for lack of better words. Turns out its a gropplanche! How cool is that? Apparently so much gropple fell on Friday that it slide... but only in the way that gropple can slide... like sand or even a little like water creating a beautiful smooth, unconsolidated snow surface. A small note of interest is that snow, when in motion, does not take on the mechanical characteristics of water, but of something else entirely. I would spend more time on this subject but frankly I'm too tired after 3 nights of work. So skipping the explanation in between, this gropple avalanche was completely different than a normal one, it didn't slide the same way, it didn't settle the same way, and it sure didn't ski the same way. Once up into the slide path it looked more like the lower end of a glacier moving though a canyon on its way to the see. Totally cool... I guess if your a snow geek. Another analogy would be like one of those swimming pools full of plastic balls you remember as a kid? Same principle except steep and the balls are smaller...

The down side to this was that based on its complete lack of consolidation, you couldn't skin, and when booting you would sink to the bottom of the groppel and slide backwards on ball bearings. (a testament to why gropple is a bad bed surface) There was a small sun/temperature crust on top but was completely unsupportable. Just like in sand you would step down and the gropple would immediately fill in over your boot. I was trying to think what the best method for movement would be and skinning and booting where out, crampons- useless... What would one use? Maybe a paddle or flippers? Or one of those fancy Ordovox shovels that bends 90 degrees at the shovel http://en.ortovox.com/safety_products/shovels/cougar.html

The good news is that with enough weaving around you could usually find some old buried wet slab debris to walk on beneath the gropple. After a semi-successful boot the ski turned out to be pretty amusing. If you ever get the chance to ski on 36 inches of pure gropple--do it!

Oh and when you get to the Y and want to turn right, go left.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Super Traverse

I've been itching to ski for a week now and I think my quads would explode if I sat around one more day... So I dragged the only willing ski partner up for a 600am meeting for the coalpit headwall... or whatever we decided to do. After of course sleeping in and being like seven minutes late we arrive at the trail head and I'm looking through my scattered gear and noticed that I had left my coat (the only one I planned to carry) at home... good start, and I didn't even think of bringing my helmet. The good news was that my ski partner was willing to share his super tech patagonia shell with me. Its a super light mountaineering shell, looks like a rain jacket its so thin... and uninsulated... But its March right? We will be putting on sun screen in a few hours! Wrong, it was snowing, blowing, my camelback froze, and my hands went numb several times in my Marmot gloves (being that I left my trusty extra patrol mitts home since it was spring). Anyway off we go in the dark. Some unknown time later we have crossed White Pine, Red Pine, Maybird, The Obolesque, and are at the bottom of Hogum drainage looking way up at the Hypodermic Needle.

One of my personal favorite features in the Wasatch, and the best part is its not a road side attraction, so not everyone has the gusto to make it. I was trying to figure out on my topo the actual vertical associated with the decent, or in our case the ascent. And it looks to me from the river bed to North Peak of Thunder Mountain to be over 2000ft, so we could estimate the total decent of the Hypodermic Needle including the runout to be about 2000ft. After you've done the boot pack, you would probably agree. We tried with all the meager skills we had to skin as far up as possible but due to the temperature crust with 2 inches of freshies on top it was very difficult, if not impossible. So we prematurely started to boot because it was easier... at least a little. If you could find a crust thick enough to not sink to your knee anyway.

I think there is some type of Omen associated with Thunder mountain because its always covered in clouds.. For example if you go to Ian Provo's blog in my watch list you'll see their decent of the Hypodermic, in the clouds. Two of my friends tried the Super Tour a few weeks ago but where stopped in there tracks by 0/o vis on the Thunder Mountain Pass.

Today was no exception, when we reached the top we could see very little and got a few glimpses here and there of our location and really none of our destination. So I jumped on the nearest ridge that I thought would lead us to one of the three chutes on the headwall... unfortunately it was Thunder Mountain Ridge, not so much CoalPit ridge. So we did a very sketchy traverse looking for an entry into CoalPit.

After we noticed the angle mellowing out we decided to pull out a map and a compass and quickly figured out we where no longer in Coal pit but in Thunder bowl, via Thunder Mountain.

The good news was that the easy angles of Thunder bowl skied the dust on crust much better than I think CoalPit would have. Not to mention we actually had a lot of fun in lower Thunder where it joins into Bells.

There is something special (and punishing) about skiing from 11000ft down to the end of the snow and then hiking down to the city. Not that I want to do it again tomorrow, but it gives you some feeling of accomplishment. So because of my lack of attention to detail and decision making based on the assumption of our location we got to ski what I think

I'm going to call the Super Traverse, after the Super Tour, but one step farther North than the North Super Tour. ll miles, 5000ft of climbing and 7000ft of decending. Lets see it on the next addition of the Skiing the Wasatch maps!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Clearly I'm not a Samurai

Well, I know this is a record number of posts for one day, but the wife is gone, and I'm home alone... so what the heck. Today I took on the task of heading up to Lone peak, or possible thunder bowl from the safest route, the South. So I got a good old alpine start and started skinning at 1000am for the 7000ft + day. Something you don't think about after a while of skinning in the cottonwoods is the pure joy of approaches in the real sense, not the 10 minute skin through the groomed 30 foot wide green run. The approach to Lone peak from the South is basically an old dirt road (actually clay) that starts in Alpine and just goes up, and up and up. After about the first 1000 yards the snow gets too deep and I throw on the skies (about another 7 lbs per foot) and start skinning through the breakable crust that we all love so much. It goes like this... take a step forward, weight the ski, then it breaks through 6 inches of snow which handily fall on top of your ski for you to carry up. On and the repeat for say...6500ft.

The good news is that there was a short section in the middle that some tracked-mobile had gone up so I didn't have to break trail for a 1/16th of a mile. In the summer we have had the hike to the Cirque in something like 3 hours, so I figured how long could it take? 4 maybe 5?

Wrong answer... 6 painful hours it took me one step at a time.... step, weight, sink, step weigh, sink. I had a quick lunch break just above the second hemagogue but that was really the only break I took... Moral of the story is, I think I need to ski more, and more big days--not just the 5 hour days.
Well, I did finally make it to Bear Tooth Canyon over look just shy of Lone Peak (about 400 ft shy that is) and got to look down to where I should have been if I wanted to ski thunder bowl. Next time, maybe I'll get close to my goal and climb a little more like a Samari, not so much like the wire rider.