I woke up this morning with an itch to run from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Millcreek Canyon. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because my right hamstring is feeling better. Maybe it was the forecast for sunny and warm. I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that there has been no significant snow in weeks and the skiing sucks. I Knew I needed some alone time. And I had a desire to test my new winter running shoes – Montrail Hardrocks + sheet metal screws.
First, a bit about the shoes… I consider myself fortunate to be friends with Christian Johnson. You see, Christian is the uber-expert and authority on all things ultra running related. Gear, nutrition, training, routes. If I have a question, Christian has done the research and has an answer. So when I asked Christian what kind of shoes he recommended for running on snow-packed trails, he told me to take one of my old pairs of heavy trail shoes and screw 3/8” sheet metal screws into the bottom. He advised me as to where the screws should be placed for maximum traction and comfort.
I figured the perfect test run would be up the Mill D luge run to Dog Lake, down to Big Water, follow Millcreek Canyon to Elbow Fork and take the Pipeline Trail to Rattlesnake Gulch. My test route was 14-15 miles – all snow covered.
For those of you in a winter slump, experiencing doubts and concerns about your level of fitness and conditioning, needing a little confidence boost and some steroids for your ego, then you MUST run the Mill D luge run on a weekend morning. From the get go, I was passing skiers in tele and AT gear chugging up the trail. On multiple occasions I almost read-ended snowshoeers that seemed like they were not even moving. I moved like a sports car on the autobahn. I felt fast! This was fun!
But the autobahn came to an end at Dog Lake. Within several hundred yards of the lake the tracks of backcountry skiers dispersed upward, in search of powder covered slopes, and I found the trail down to Big Water to have only been traveled by what seemed to be two, inexperienced skiers on very skinny skis. I began dropping through the snow, up to my knees and sometimes my thighs. What so far had been a most pleasant run, quickly turned into a trudge. Each plunge was a small defeat. After several thousand defeats - I was feeling pity for moose – slogging for months through deeps snows. I cursed the inexperienced skiers who created these lame tracks. I hoped to hell I didn’t come back in a future life as a moose. This sucked!
Finally I reached the road at Big Water. The groomed surface was frozen hard and made for a great running surface. I made good time down to Elbow Fork where I connected to the Pipeline Trail for the final dash down to Rattlesnake Gulch. The Pipeline is my favorite winter running trail. It is almost always well compacted due to the heavy traffic of snowshoers, runners and hikers. The southern exposure makes it feel a good 10-20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. And, it is a quick and easy escape from winter inversions – just 6 minutes from my home in the City.
Report Card. Definitely an “A” for the shoes. They provided excellent traction up the Mill D luge run as well as down Rattlesnake Gulch, which was very icy. I’ve now got a fabulous pair of winter shoes for just a buck-fifty in screws. Thanks Christian! “C-“ for the hamstring. Plunging through the snow seemed to do a number on it. I’m icing it while I type. Fingers crossed it will feel better come morning. “A” for being in the sun. If by chance you are one of the people who saw me running in my underwear (with my shirts and tights tied around my waist) along Pipeline – my apologies, I know it wasn’t pretty. And lastly, an “F” for being a moose.
Stay tuned for a HURT report from Hawaii next week from Greg and Christian. Good luck Greg. And Christian, get better soon – we miss running with you!