Sunday, April 29, 2012

Salt Flats 100, 2012

There is a faint light of a runner behind me, and the promising, taunting, frustratingly small light of the finish line in front of me.  Legs hurting in a variety of spots, lower left anterior compartment, and both sets of quads aching with each shuffling step, I slowly work toward the finish.  After 96.2 miles, only able to maintain an 11 minute per mile pace, I have 40 plus minutes of straight running towards a light at the finish.  “Are we there yet?”  “How many more miles do you think we have to go?”  “Hold on I need to pee again.”  Erik, my pacer, I suspect, felt like a parent on a long car trip with an anxious kid in the back seat.  We had been warned to keep moving along as the last stretch would “play with our minds”.  

Photo: Greg Norrander

Peter and Jay staying warm before the start.  Photo: Greg Norrander

Waiting for the start.  Photo: Greg Norrander

At 7 AM yesterday, about 50 of us set off on the hard white compacted salt left when Lake Bonneville evaporated.  My 4th grade son recently wrote a paper on the Salt Flats.  As I started the race on the flat hard surreal surface, I tried to imagine Ab Jenkins in the Mormon Meteor speeding across this odd Pleistocene-era landscape named after a guy (Benjamin Bonneville) who probably never actually saw the Salt Flats.  Even Jay’s record-setting fast pace about 9 minutes per mile (for the full 100) is almost geologically slow compared to the Blue Flame’s record 630 miles per hour or 5.4 seconds per mile.  The Salt Flats are 12 miles long, 5 miles wide, and we were beginning a 100 miler running across them.  

Practice running on the Flats.  Photo: Greg Norrander
Probably the best lounge act at the Rainbow Casino.
Greg and I drove out the night before and stayed in West Wendover.  Despite the shifty characters, cigarette smoke, lure of a tempting lounge act, slot machines, and bar, I was well rested after a night at the Rainbow "Resort" and Casino.  At the start of the race I met up with Daryl Hultquist, another Kenyon College grad.  Daryl and I played soccer together at Kenyon, and by happenstance were both signed up for this race.  Though we had never run together, we matched a nice pace for most of the morning.  
Running with Daryl Hultquist. Photo Greg Norrander
After clearing the Salt Flats, we ended up running through some lovely mud that
added unwanted weight to our shoes.  Jay’s parents were waiting at Aid Station 2 (mile 16), kindly greeted us, and quickly sent us on our way despite instructions from Jay to strike up a long conversation to slow me down.  Daryl and I caught Kristopher Hawbaker, a Navy pilot running his first 100.  We took turns breaking wind (oops, I mean "drafting") behind each other as we ran towards the first climb.  I appreciated the drafting quite a lot, though I wasn’t sure that I was helping cut much wind for these tall guys.
Heading into Aid Station 3. Photo: Greg Norrander
Daryl and I made a quick climb of Cobb Peak Pass at mile 25.5, the first climb of the day.  As Daryl stopped to take in some calories I found myself running alone for the first time all day.  The descent made for some very fun running, followed by an unusually pleasant rolling gravel road to aid station 5.  At aid station 5, I was perfectly on pace for an 18 hour finish.  This was an arbitrary and naive target given my lack of course knowledge and training.  The 19 mile loop through and around Crater Island was amazing, worthy of a destination run itself, though it wrecked my 18 hour ambition.  After the descent from aid station 6, there is a 7 mile stretch across a perfectly flat old lake bed of intermittently forgiving mud.  Running across this in the full sun and head wind was tough. The vast expansive desolateness was beautiful, but made me feel very small, insignificant, and slow as the positions in the distance didn’t seem to get any closer no matter my speed.  Daryl caught up to me on the mud and we stayed together for the next 20 or so miles.  We alternated running and walking, over the flat sections.  I was happy for the rest, given how uncertain my fitness was for running so long on such flat terrain.  While the couple of climbs were welcome breaks,  I stressed about how the decreased pace would affect my overall time.

Aid Station 5 in the distance.  Photo: Greg Norrander
After some soup and encouragement from Carolyn Luckett who captained the aid station 10, Daryl and I split-up.  With 7 miles to the next aid station, shrinking daylight, and being far enough off my pace, the calculation to leave my headlamp at mile 74 was starting to look foolish.  The descent west into the sunset was spectacular though, and while I risked running in the dark without a light, the view on that section was worthy of the miscalculation.  

As I got close to the 11th aid station, Erik met me on the gravel road.  After his previous night of disrupted sleep, a run up Unkle in the morning, and a long day in the VA dental clinic, Erik was still ready to run a marathon with me well into the night. (One couldn't ask for better friends.)  As it became darker and darker, we left our lights off- the road was easy to follow, and we didn’t want to become a target to run after.  We weren’t going to give up second place.  Mentally the last climb went by quickly as did the descent as we exchanged stories and jokes.  
Once we hit the paved road for the last 6 miles, things got hard.  Three weeks ago I ran this section with Christian and Jay.  It was hard then because of a headwind and fast pace.  Now it was hard because of 90 + miles on my legs, the worry that there was someone tracking us down, and an inability to run faster than 11 minutes per mile with a frequent need to walk and pee.  The lights behind us didn’t seem to be close, but it was difficult to tell if any were coming with pace.  There was still a fair bit of ground to cover. 
Running the last 3.8 miles with a dim, teasing target in front is mentally challenging.  The constellations of stars were a distraction as were the cars in the distance on I-80, but the overall goal of getting to the small light at the finish was hard to ignore.  Sometimes time and distance constrict, but here time and distance seemed to exapand.  I eventually crossed the finish line in 19 hours 23 minutes, good for second place behind an amazingly fast 15:04 from Mr. Aldous.  It was windy and cold at the finish.  After a brief interview with the Park City TV crew doing a documentary on the race, Greg, Erik, and I headed back for Salt Lake City to catch the few hours of sleep left in the night.  
Photo Greg Norrander
Many thanks to Vince Romney who directed a very well run race.  The course is spectacular.  The volunteers, from fellow runners, scout troops, and parents of runners made this an even more memorable event.  A huge thanks to Erik and Greg for crew and pacing support.   Huge congratulations to Jay for running a perfect race and setting yet another record.  He made it look easy.  It was not.  I won't say that I am hooked on flat 100s, but I think I am hooked on this race.  Plan to run this unique event before it becomes so popular that you can't get in.

Photo: Greg Norrander
One post script-note: wearing a brand new pair of shoes of a model that you have never worn for a 100 mile race may seem like a bad idea, even stupid.  The Brooks Pure Grit however were flawless, silky, perhaps even stylish with bright orange uppers and lime green soles.  Certainly destined for the brotherhood of traveling shoes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

BoSho 2012 Marathon Report

Once again the BoSho Marathon proved to be the preferred event of the day with a record number of participants (128) and finishers (103). Special thanks to John, Dan, Brian and Bob for organizing such a flawless fun run for the 13th year in a row. Also thanks to the other volunteers that helped with flagging and filling water bottles. Results can be found over at the new Wasalpstriders blog.

Coming into this year I had some high expectations after going under the 4 hour mark in 2011. The plan was to try and replicate the same race and maybe go just a little faster. When I arrived at the start I couldn't believe how many people were there, it was awesome.

After receiving our instructions for the day we were off. I assumed the lead on the first climb with Mick Jurynec right behind me. As we descended down to Red Butte I glanced back and thought I saw Mr. Krupicka chasing us but it was new runner to the Wasatch, Adrian Shipley. The three of us arrived back at the first aid station together where I picked up my extra water bottle and dropped my shirt off. Heading up Dry Creek we were still pretty close together with Adrian right on my shoulder. I got the sense he would like to go faster so I pulled off and let him go ahead. My legs were feeling a little heavy but I felt I was still holding a good pace. By the time we hit the back Dry Creek he had a handful of seconds on us and ran the full length of the rocky drainage. When we hit the real climb, Unkle F@#*r, he had a few more seconds and then I watched as he ran the first steep part. I continued to glance up from time to time while I was in fast hike mode and Adrian continued to run all the way to the top. I was in disbelief. When I finally reached the top I calculated he had put two minutes on us.

The descent down to Morris reservoir and the next aid station was a bit faster than I remember from the previous year and sure enough, when we hit the aid station we were nearly five minutes ahead of last years splits and Adrian was still two minutes ahead. The warmer than usual morning gave way to the real heat on the climb out of City Creek. Mick and I were still together with Adrian in front, when Kevin shilling came flying by us about halfway up the climb. I was pretty stoked to see Kevin having such a good day after having the bad ankle last year. The gaps stayed pretty constant all the way to the North Salt Lake bench where Mick and I were now in 3rd and 4th with Kevin chasing Adrian.

As Mick and I climbed up and over Meridian we maintained the same gap, but I could tell Kevin was closing on Adrian. By the time we gained the rolling ridge line they were out of sight and I could only assume that Kevin had caught Adrian and they were both pushing the pace up front. The long descent into City Creek is something I usually look forward to but my shoes had blown out the sides (Montrail Bajadas, review coming soon) and my feet had been moving around too much causing blisters to develop on my heels. Mick and I still rolled the City Creek section nicely and ended up back at Morris and the aid station right on last year's split.

The climb out of Morris felt slow and the watch confirmed it as we hit 5 points at the 3:28 mark. Sub 4 was still possible but not with the way my legs felt and the blisters growing by the second on my heels. After about a mile and a half I told Mick that if he wanted to break 4 hours he was going to have to go and that's exactly what he did, reaching the finish with 10 seconds to spare and nearly catching Adrian in the process. I rolled it in for 4th in 4:03 and I was pleased with the effort. Storheim followed in 5th just a few seconds off his time from 2011. The temperature reached the high 70's, which isn't exactly scorching, but the heat was definitely a factor as it was the hottest day we have seen this year.

No doubt about it, the times are coming down and getting more competitive. The fact that 3 guys went under 4 hours is pretty incredible, but the real shocker is the fact that 5 women went under the 5 hour mark with Megan winning and setting a new course record in 4:20! Perhaps it was the mild winter that produced some fast spring legs or maybe there are just more runners getting out and dancing on the trails. Congratulations to all that finished the toughest and best marathon in Salt Lake and good luck on the rest of your season...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Grandeur Fun Run May 19

A group of trail enthusiasts will be meeting for a run at 7:00 am on Saturday, May 19th at the Grandeur Peak Trailhead. Further details can be found at the link on right sidebar.

Originally scheduled for May 12, this has been changed to not conflict with the Purge the Spurge event being conducted by Salt Lake County at the same location. Please read this article about the event and consider attending to help clean up Grandeur.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Original Source is Back!

Just in time for this weekend's festivities, I'm happy to announce the original source for Trail Running info and fun runs is back.
The Wasalpstriders (Wasatch Alpine Striders) have a new blog. Many of the past Fun Run results are posted on the Archived Results page, such as the BoSho, Deso, and Brighton marathons so check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

BoSho 2012

A few of us are getting together on Saturday for a run in the foothills if you're interested in joining us. We plan on doing a marathon distance with a few hills thrown in for good measure.
The start time is 7am at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Be aware of closed roads for the other marathon going on that morning.
See you there!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trail Running Discussion at Black Diamond Store

Bryon Powell, author of Relentless Forward Progress, and editor of will be leading a discussion on trail running and ultras at the Black Diamond Store in Salt Lake City on April 19th @ 7pm.

Come join the discussion and get 15% off trail running gear from the BD store. They carry products from Montrail, Brooks, Hoka, La Sportiva, Darn Tough, Bridgedale, Gregory, and Icebreaker among others.
Meet other trail enthusiasts, ask and answer questions about anything trail and ultra related.
BYOB is encouraged.

Who: You and Bryon Powell
Where: The Black Diamond Store, 2092 East 3900 South, Salt Lake City, UT
When: Thursday, April 19th, 2012, 7:00pm

See you there!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Paria River Run

“We should go do a slot canyon” my daughter Zoe casually remarked one morning before school. Not one to miss an opportunity for a road trip with my 17 year old, “how about this weekend was my response?” A few texts later I had recruited her older brother and my wife Adrienne for a trip. Now all I needed was a destination!

For some time I have wanted to explore Buckskin Gulch. And, I recalled reading about a run Davey Crocket had done down the Paria river. As I researched the area further I developed what I thought would be a fine plan, a family hike in Buckskin and an opportunity for me to run the Paria River from the White House TH to Lees Ferry (38.2 miles). To make the adventure even more exciting, I learned that there was a recorded FKT for the Paria River of 6 hours and 51 minutes.

I’ve had a challenging February and March – nagging hamstrings plus a cold that had me on my back for two weeks had set back my running considerably. But the legs have been feeling better and the cold was behind me – I was looking forward to running the engine again.

I was dropped off at the White House TH on Saturday, March 31st at about 8:30, considerably exhausted from the effort of getting two teenagers out of their hotel beds in Kanab before noon. After spending some time organizing my pack and taking care of other business, I warmed myself in the sun waiting for an 8:45 am start.

From the TH, the trail almost immediately drops into the river. Within the first mile I realized that my goal of going under 6 hours was going to be difficult. Running in water is HARD. I wanted to stay on a 9 minute per mile pace. But, I quickly realized I could not sustain the effort required to go that pace in the water. So, I formulated a new plan. Today would be a day of intervals – I would run as hard as I could out of the water, and run at a recovery pace in the water.

I reached the confluence with Buckskin Gulch (7.2 miles) in 1:08, right on my desired pace. During this first hour I had been able to acquire a modicum of divining skill regarding the location of rocks, holes, and shoe sucking mud underneath the turbid water. I was having fun!

After the confluence the canyon deepens and becomes quite spectacular with tight meanders, large amphitheaters, and cliffs vaulting over the river. While I had planned on listening to music, to have turned on my iPod would have been an insult to the beauty of the canyon.

I had originally planned on getting water at Big Spring (12.3 miles). Yet upon reaching what is considered to be the most reliable source of water in the canyon, I opted to proceed not wanting to spend the time to fill my pack. I passed Big Spring at 1:59.

After Big Spring I sensed that the volume of the river was increasing. Holes became deeper. Water that had been shin deep was now calf deep. It became harder to keep up my pace. “Duh” I said to myself, realizing that the sun and warmth of the day was starting to melt snow in the upper reaches of the Paria. The volume of water would continue to rise through the day.

I reached The Pump (17.4 miles) at 2:46. I was still on pace to go sub 6 hours! I felt great and celebrated feeling healthy again after injury and illness.

After the pump the river becomes much more difficult to negotiate. I found myself stepping into deep pools and falling down. I found myself slipping on rocks and falling down. I found myself tripping on rocks and falling down. I was doing a lot of falling down which was slowing me down considerably – and pissing me off. I was getting frustrated. I pushed harder to keep up the pace. But, as we have all experienced in different circumstances such as snow, sand and on hills – there are times when you can put out 15% more – but only go 5% faster. I had to accept that this section of the river was going to be slow.

I reached Shower Spring (22 miles) at 3:41. I had lost considerable time over the last 5 miles. And, Shower Springs was not the best choice for refilling my water pack and handheld (although – it is one of the best campsites in the Canyon). It took some effort to reach the spring and use my handheld to catch water for filling my water pack. It was ten minutes before I was back in the river and moving towards Lees Ferry.

My progress remained slow after Shower Spring. I was hopeful that the high water trail that began at about mile 26 would be faster than navigating the cobble rock, mud and holes that had me moving at a crawl (I estimate my pace was wobbling between 12-15 minute miles after Shower Spring).

The high water trail exceeded my expectations. There were sections of hard pack sand that I would run as hard as I could, then recover on the moderately technical and/or sandy sections. The theme of intervals continued. Once I was out of the water I noticed the heat of the day. While it felt good to be warm, I was worried that I was not used to the heat (only in the high 70’s – but I’m a snow country boy who still has his winter blood) and I was concerned about the strong headwind. With no more reliable water sources until Lees Ferry, I knew I would be cutting it close on water.

It felt good to be on a trail, in the heat, and in the red rock country that I love. I was feeling strong and having a most spectacular day. I reveled in how lucky I am to be able to have the time, health and means to do runs like this!

While I was making good time and was certain to set a FKT, I knew that I would not be going under 6 hours. While the six-hour goal was self-imposed, it felt good to just run briskly and not feel that I had to hammer out the final miles. For the last hour I listened to music, daydreamed, and celebrated being in the moment.

I reached the Lees Ferry TH at 6:21:36 after 38.2 miles of fun! Tired - but, feeling strong and healthy, and thinking that perhaps I have another good year of running in me.

From the TH I ran to the boat ramp to get water (I had run out of water about 4 miles from the end) and sat in the Colorado River soaking my legs snacking on my remaining nutrition while waiting for my family to pick me up. What a wonderful end to a spectacular run!

This is a great run and I encourage others to do it. A few suggestions for those who do:

Water flow makes all the difference in how quickly you can move. You can check the flow at / It was 13CFS (relatively low) on the day I ran.

Select shoes that do not hold water, have good protection (the cobble rock takes a toll on your feet and ankles) and uppers that will protect you from cactus. I ran in old pair of La Sportiva Fireblades that were perfect. I almost ran in Montrail Rouge Racers (my favorite shoes) which would have been a terrible pick. Speaking of pick – I’m still picking several cactus spines out of my feet.

I had a hard time locating a number of the springs. Fill up when you can and don’t get yourself into a situation where you must rely on a particular water source.

Most of the springs are dribbles. Bring a handheld or a container that can be used to collect water to transfer to a water pack.

The lower part of the canyon (from mile 25 on) is exposed and likely VERY hot most of the year. Plan accordingly!

Think twice about bringing the tunes. So much beauty and visual stimulation that you may not want the distraction. Plus, no guarantee you’ll be able to keep the iPod dry.