Sunday, July 28, 2013

Uinta Highline Trail

A couple weeks ago, Ben Lewis, Jason Berry, Peter Lindgren and I set off on what proved to be a most excellent adventure. Dropped of by my dad at the Leidy Peak trailhead at the eastern end of the High Uintas, we hoped to travel west for 80ish miles of the Uinta Highline Trail in one push, arriving sometime the following morning at the Hayden Pass trailhead on the Mirror Lake Highway.

We felt we were well prepared with plenty of food, abundant water supplies along the way(Steri Pens to purify said water), emergency supplies to bivy in case the forecasted storms pinned us down. we carried maps, compasses, SPOT tracker, a Garmin GPS, and a satellite phone to lead the way and get us out of trouble if needed.
What we weren't prepared with was actual knowledge of the route as the only experience any of us had was some limited traveling of the 9 miles from Rocky Sea Pass to the Finish. We all knew that the trail was very faint in the first 15 miles to Chepeta Lake, with accounts of runners/hikers getting off trail within the first few hundred yards. This wasn't going to happen to us with our wide array of route finding gadgetry!! Right......

A lazy 7:45 am start and we were on our way.  As soon as we stepped out of the car, the clouds descended, a light rain started, and our feet were wet for the next 28 hours.  Leidy Peak was obscured and we began making our way from cairn to cairn confident in our route finding abilities. An encounter with an elk herd, dense fog and an hour later something didn't feel quite right and we pulled out the maps for a closer look than the cursory glances we had thus far taken.   We found that we were indeed on trail 025 (the Highline Trail), but instead of heading west, we were going east. An hour into our adventure and we had just circumnavigated Leidy Peak and were within .5 miles of our starting point!!  Well...  Luckily all other route finding errors (of which there were a few) weren't as bad as that one and we managed to generally stay on course the rest of the way.  

Rather than a long narrative of the rest of the trip, I'll let this excellent video compiled by Ben Lewis tell the story.  The only other tidbits I'll add are that we all under-estimated this route. It was HARD!! After 8 of the toughest finishing miles I can remember, we finished in 27:52 to break the FKT held by Chad Bracklesberg by 22 minutes. And after an earlier attempt foiled by severe lightning and thunderstorms, Stephen Jones lowered our new FKT by 11 minutes, finishing the Highline Trail in 27:41. Congrats Stephen, and more so on doing it solo!!

Special thanks to my dad and brother for providing drop off and pick up transportation. Gregory packs for their Tempo packs which were awesome, and personally, to Altra footwear and the Lone Peak 1.5 which kept my feet happy through 28 hours of sogginess.

Friday, July 12, 2013

News Items

While I had a break in the Hardrock 100 coverage I decided to post up a few news items.

  • As I'm sure everyone has heard the Wasatch 100 race committee has decided to add Irv's Torture Chamber back in for 2013! It is truly astounding to me that a race committee would listen to the runners and make a change like this. This is just another reason why this race is so special. Read about it here.
  • Brighton marathon results and report have been posted over on the Wasalpstriders blog. Even though we couldn't be there to organize things this year there was a very healthy group of runners that did it themselves. Right on guys, thanks for keeping the tradition going.
  • This Saturday morning (7/13/2013) Erik, Peter, Jason and Ben will be making a run at the Highline Trail in the Uinta's. Follow along here on Spot.

Now back to Hardrock...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thoughts on the Wasatch 100 New Finish

With some friends, I ran from Brighton to the New Finish of the Wasatch 100 on Saturday.  We have all run Wasatch before, some more than others, and some on different courses than the most recent version that finished at the Homestead.  We all came to the same conclusion after the run:  We didn't like it.

The reasons: 

1) Safety-As I ran the miles of pavement and dirt roads replacing the beautiful singletrack from Rock Springs to Pot Bottom, I couldn't help but think of how dangerous this section could be during the day.  Imagine a nice fall day, with hundreds of people driving the Cascade Springs road, and hundreds of runners and their pacers trying to share that road. Imagine a hot fall day, 85 miles into the experience of a lifetime, plodding along in the heat with NO shade or cover of any kind.  
2) Simplicity-The Wasatch 100 website states: "Due to issues related to crossing private land the Wasatch 100 will no longer be able to finish at the Homestead in Midway." I understand that the private land issues are in Lime Canyon, which is located after the Pot Bottom Aid Station, during the last 4-5 miles of the course. So why did the course change all the way up at Rock Springs?  Why not keep it the same to Pot Bottom, then go right (down canyon) on the Wasatch State Park road, and join the new finish to Soldier Hollow?  I have limited map reading abilities, but it only took me a few minutes to see what seemed to be a much simpler solution.  Are there other issues at stake? The two I can think of off the top of my head deal with the Rock Springs Aid Station and the Dive and the Plunge.  If there ARE other issues, it would be nice to gain clarification on what they are.
3)Reputation- Wasatch has the reputation as being one of the toughest 100 mile races out there.   A good part of it stems from the brutal toughness of the last 25 and last 15 miles of the race.  While the race will still be one of the toughest out there, the new route definitely tames it, and I feel diminishes some of the aura surrounding the Wasatch 100.

Now, this is my own opinion.  I know there are a lot of other opinions out there, and there are plenty of people who may think I am being nit-picky, ungrateful to the efforts of the race-committee, a "snob", and so-on and so-forth.  Others will say "Who cares, what's the big deal? There are other hard races with lots of dirt roads, pavement etc,."  Many of you will never have run Wasatch.  Others will have run multiple versions of it. There are many opinions out there, and I welcome hearing them all.

I am grateful to the Race Committee and John Grobben for their tireless work in creating and maintaining one of the coolest yearly events that I know of.  I feel extremely fortunate for the opportunity to participate in something like this that has completely changed and helped define my life since my first running in 2005. Regardless of the finish, I look forward to Chinscraper, Alexander Ridge, Bare Ass Pass, Red Lovers Ridge, Catherine Pass and everything in between.  I am just confused and a little concerned as to why this incredible section from Rock Springs to Pot Bottom has to change.

I would love to hear any and all opinions.  This has the potential to ruffle some feathers, so please keep the dialogue civil, and don't make anonymous comments, if anyone cares to respond. 

Here's a map with the new route, and the route keeping things the same until Pot Bottom.
Old route-Yellow. 
New Route- Red. 
Possible connector from Pot Bottom to to New Route- Blue and/or Orange

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July

Written by Scott Dickey on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I'm taking the liberty to re-post this excellent reminder of the brave men and women who allow us to celebrate the 4th of July every year.  Whatever your views may be of  politics, religion, nationalism or whatever......, please remember that your ability to have differing opinions and beliefs is made possible by living in this great country.  Please take the time to thank one of the brave men and women who have defended our freedoms, and risked being in a situation like the one described below.  Happy 4th of July!! 
When I enlisted for the Army back in 2000 I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. I had just graduated college and the desire to enlist grew too strong for me to ignore. Before I knew it I was being flown to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training and in for the ride of my life.

During my 4 years of service I would learn how to jump out of airplanes (with a parachute of course) repel out of helicopters, operate more than 10 different weapons with expertise precision, make shoes reflect like a mirror (floors too) and jimmy rig just about everything imaginable. I discovered how much weight one could really carry on their back and learned hundreds of military acronyms. I can find any location in pitch dark with only a compass. I frequently operated with little or no sleep for days on end, and experienced the true definition of “hurray up and wait”. I also learned how to react instead of think and realized how awesome running water and real food is… plus many, many other things. So when 9/11 comes around I always think about my time of service since it pretty much revolved around this date (2000-2004). It brings back a lot of memories, most are good but not all of them. Some of my fellow soldiers were lost and made the ultimate sacrifice. RIP my friends.
Very easily I could’ve been one of those fallen soldiers. On my second tour to Afghanistan, my vehicle hit an improved explosive device (IED) or landmine. Fortunately for me the IED was upside down and the blast was directed towards the ground. If it had been installed correctly, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I was injured, but not severely. Guess it just wasn’t my time.

Of all the ways this has affected me, one way was truly unexpected. It has made me love running more than I ever have. Just the simple process of stepping out the front door is a miracle for me. When I am too tired to run or don’t have any motivation, all I have to do is think about a fallen or injured soldier and out the door I go, just because I can.