Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congrats Greg!

Latest issue of Ultra Running Magazine came in and familiar picture donned the cover.

Congrats Greg!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Fun

Christmas Eve started out great as I joined Erik, Peter, and Greg for a leisurely run along the shoreline.  I held back just a little because I knew would be sledding later in the day family and I knew this wouldn't be our normal kind of sledding trip we do every Christmas Eve.  Usually we head up to Mtn. Dell or Sugarhouse Park depending on the snow levels, but not this year.  This year we were invited up to Karl's Luge run.  I heard about the "sledding" run and even saw some spotty footage but I had never witnessed it for myself.  All I can say is wow!  Check out the video I took of Betsy and I chasing Karl and Cheryl down the run if you don't believe me. Good times indeed.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Two recent Milestones for me and they're not related running.

500th all-time bike race on Saturday 12/18/2010
First Backcountry ski tour 12/16/2010

A few weeks back I had an old cycling friend of mine ask me how many bike races I had done (he happened to know that I track everything).  So I did a little digging and came up with 499.  The majority of those were on the road, but it does include cyclocross, a couple of MTB races and even a couple track races on the San Diego Velodrome.  Saturday will mark number 500 at the Utah Cyclocross series final, so what did I do to prepare for it?  Read below.

It's been at least three years in the making and this last Thursday it finally happened, my first backcountry ski tour.  The trip wasn't dramatic and it didn't even come close to being a dawn patrol since we started at 1pm, but it was damn fun.  It probably seems silly that it took me so long to get it going but I have a long list of reasons why and they are mostly related to intimidation and financing.  I thought I would document what I've learned thus far and why it took so long.

1. Pick a sliding method:
Telemark, Alpine Touring, or Splitboard are your choices for travel.  I picked AT since I suck at snowboarding and learning to telemark would take more time.  I really waffled on this for a while because Tele is quite versatile, but AT won out because I'm just getting proficient at skiing and dropping a knee would just be something else I would have to overcome.  Each one of them has it's merits and I think it's safe to say that one of them doesn't rule supreme over the other two.

2. Obtain Equipment:
The list is long, expensive and intimidating.  I spent most of the 3 years cobbling together bits and pieces, using it as an excuse for why "I will just have to wait until next year".  Finally I had all the pieces I needed when I went to mount my Fritschi bindings (that were given to me) and discovered they were too small for my boots.  I was immediately crushed, but decided to liquidate the bindings as well as some other equipment I had laying around for the bindings I really wanted - Dynafit.  The feebay sale was a success and I was able to procure the bindings I really wanted all along.  I will also say here that it helps to have some friends with experience that can "guide" you down the equipment path and be willing to show you the ropes (thanks Jared! and Matt).  Without further ado, here's the list without clothing and AT specific:
  • Skis - $100 - You can go wild of course, mine are Rossignol T3's, purchased used from the UofU rec dept - These are tele skis that I mounted AT bindings on. They are really the weakest part of my package, but the easiest to upgrade and they float in the powder.
  • Bindings - $300 - Dynafit TLT Speeds - With respect to AT bindings there are really quite a few choices but Dynafit's are light, durable and hard to find in the used market (which should tell you they are in high demand).  The other popular name brand is Fritschi, but one of the downsides with them is that you have to lift a good portion of the heel piece every time you lift your heel, which is less efficient.
  • Boots - $530 - Black Diamond Methods - Again lots of choices, but just like running shoes, I was told I  should go with the pair that fit my feet.  I tried on Scarpa's, Dynafit's and Garmont's.  The BD methods aren't exactly the lightest boot around but after my first tour my feet were still happy after 4+ hours  I should also point out that you might want to choose a boot that has the Dynafit inserts in case you change your mind down the road, as happened to me.
  • Poles - $0 - Not even sure of the brand as they came with the skis.  They are adjustable, as touring poles should be, but I didn't adjust them a single time the other day.  If I had to purchase some, I would probably just go with a longer, standard ski pole.  Less moving parts means less chance of breakage.
  • Skins - $140 - G3 Nylon - I had planned on getting Black Diamond skins (the price listed) but I found a deal I just couldn't pass up and found these in good condition from a friend.
Safety Gear (UAC has a great list):
  • Avalanche Beacon - $300 - Pieps DSP - I acquired mine from a friend that no longer uses his.  The price I listed is what I had planned on spending.  Ortovox and Backcountry Access are the other popular brands.  From what I've learned thus far frequent practice is necessary and practice sites are located in the following locations: Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, Solitude, The Canyons, Deer Valley and Snowbasin.
  • Shovel - $50 - Still unsure which one I have as I believe mine is sitting under the Christmas tree (I borrowed one for my first adventure).
  • Probe - $40 - Ditto from above.
  • Backpack - $200 - Black Diamond Avalung - Not my current pack but the one I hope to obtain for next season.  My current pack is an older pack that is just big enough for an overnighter and has very easy access to the shovel and probe.
  • Avalanche Class - $250 - Level 1 certification - I'm taking this class in January.
3. Getting over The Fear Factor
Running as we do in the mountains comes with a certain amount of risk, albeit low, but covering the same terrain with snow on it increases the risk tenfold in my mind.  Education has been my tool in getting over this hurdle.  First, I have learned about much of the terrain by running over it multiple times in the last five years.  When I'm looking up at a ridge or peak I know what's on the other side or where a certain drainage empties.  Second, I'm learning about avalanche safety.  I mentioned the class above, but in addition to that, I have been checking the Avalanche Report every day since it has snowed.  Just by reading each day's forecast I have learned quite a bit about temperature gradients, wind loading etc.  Of course I have much to learn on this subject and I am an eager student.  I have had a couple of friends get caught in two different avalanches, one of them survived, while the other did not.  The threat is always there and I plan on respecting it all the time.

Finally, the actual tour.  I headed up Big Cottonwood with my friends, Clark and Jess to the Butler Fork trailhead.  From there we skinned up to Baker Pass then hit the ridge leading up to the summit of Mt. Raymond.  
Clark with Gobbler's Knob in the background.  Yes, that is a cycling team jacket from the Belgian powerhouse Mapei.  Hideous colors, but easy to spot!
I'll stop here and say, I would have never dreamed that my first tracks in the backcountry would be on the east face of Mt. Raymond. Getting there was nothing short of  a crash course in alpine touring.  Learning the little things like putting skins on, adjusting bindings for climbing and the kick turn at switchbacks.  The good news is that all that stuff got easier the more I encountered it.  
Me, with Grandeur in the Background

Jess, with Mt. Raymond in the upper right
Back to the ridge on Mt. Raymond and we finally decided to ski down once we reached a spot about 2/3 the way up.  After locking my heels down I peered over the edge and felt instant anxiety.  It looked steep and intimidating, but after Jess went and arrived at a safe spot I dropped in.  I made my first turn and the snow felt heavenly as I started bouncing from turn to turn.  By the time I stopped my face was frozen with a grin and that's when I got it.  What my friends have been telling me about for so long and why it's so much fun.  
I'm so anxious to go again I'm considering skipping the 'cross race on Saturday...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Totally Refurbished With an Effective Age of 40? I Hope So!

Today I had a great run. Yeah, it was only six miles. And yes, I only ran a 13-minute per mile pace. But REMARKABLY, I felt good! You see, it’s been a tough year for me. I’ve experienced the personal health version of "when it rains it pours"…

My deluge of health-related problems began in May when I fell climbing in Zion National Park. The fall resulted in a torn rotator cuff. At first I was hopeful that a cortisone injection and rest would be all that was needed. But after several months still no improvement.

Shortly after the fall I began experiencing pain in my groin. The pain was particularly acute when striding-out and descending. I thought I had somehow pulled something in my groin or inner right thigh. Rest, ice, and massive quantities of ibuprofen offered no relief. Ughh!

Then I learned that I was anemic. WTF?? I began taking iron supplements and changing my diet to include foods high in iron and foods that facilitate the absorption of iron.

Needless to say, I never felt good running all summer. My shoulder and arm hurt and I found myself taking spills due to the limited use of my right arm for balance. The pain in my groin nagged me and I found myself holding back on flats and descents to manage the pain. And, most days it felt like running was taking more effort and "work” than I was used to. And on some days, the pain and malaise made runs simply suck.

I desperately wanted to run the Wasatch Front 100 this year and try to set a personal record. But, by the end of August, there was no more running through the pain and I had lost confidence I could finish the race, at any speed. It was time for surgery. Five days before Wasatch I had rotator cuff surgery. About this time I learned that my blood counts were continuing to deteriorate and I was referred to a hematologist to find the cause.

Why I had anemia and why it was continuing to worsen was a mystery. In short, we began to investigate whether I; a) wasn’t absorbing iron, b) wasn’t producing healthy red blood cells, or c) was bleeding out red blood cells. On the surface, none of these made sense. During an endoscopy to determine if I was bleeding from the stomach (a possibility given the very high doses of ibuprofen that I had been taking over the summer to manage the pain in my shoulder and groin) it was suggested that while in the neighborhood to take a biopsy to rule out celiac disease. Bingo, I had sprue!

During the time we were working on finding the cause of my anemia I learned that the cause of my groin pain was a hernia. While my abdominal wall had not completely failed, the bulge in the weakened area was causing pressure on nerves that were causing the pain in my groin and inner right thigh.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I had surgery to repair the hernia. The next day I spent 6 hours in an infusion center getting IV iron to jump start the development of healthy red blood cells until such time that my small intestine heals adequately to begin the normal absorption of iron. Most of the people in the infusion center were there to receive chemotherapy. It was a good and needed reality check for me. Here I was whining about not being able to run as fast as I would like, but other than being a slow and broken for the purpose of running – I was in good health. It was a reminder as to how I lucky and fortunate I am.

While there is no cure for celiac disease, the treatment is pretty straight up - a gluten-free diet. So on Thanksgiving Day I had one last gluttonously gultenful meal before saying good-bye to wheat for life. It will take about three months for my small intestine to heal and be able to adequately absorb iron and other nutrients again. Yet, already I can feel the stop-gap effects of the IV iron.

I’m feeling refurbished. My arm and shoulder feel great. My groin pain is mostly gone. And I can already feel more energy and strength. In fact, I’m quite certain that with a bit more rest and healing, I’ll have an effective age of 40 and be able to once again run with all of you with whom I so enjoy running. See you on the trails soon!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The War is Over

...On my foot.
I was originally going to title this post "Mission Accomplished" but then it occurred to me readers might think I was unsuccessful in my endeavor...

Consider this a Public Service Announcement.  If I had known what was happening to my foot very early on, when I first noticed it, I could have taken care of it within a week.  Instead I fought this thing day in and day out for roughly 9 months.

I am referring to the Plantar Wart that took up residence on the ball of my left foot last February.  When I first noticed it I thought it was a callous.  It wasn't at all painful and just felt like a small, hard piece of skin.  A blister had been in the same spot just a month or two prior, so that just helped me rationalize the idea of a callous.  The ironic thing is that it was more than likely the blister that allowed the papilloma virus to enter my foot.
Young Plantar Warts
If you see something on your foot that resembles the picture above don't wait around to see what happens.  The easiest clue to figuring out if it is a Plantar Wart is if the fingerprint is altered in any way around it.  I would suggest hitting it right away with Compound W and duct tape.  For those that don't know, Plantar Warts are very similar to normal warts except that they grown inward because of the constant pressure on the foot.  Leave them alone and they can grow an awful long way.

By the time I got around to doing something about mine it was causing me pain after I would get done running.  I could flex my toes and feel it immediately.  Our resident Dr. froze it a few times and I continued with the freezing kit at home.  Eventually when it looked like it was going to surrender I started digging at it with an x-acto type blade.  I was able to dig in several millimeters with no pain and no bleeding.  Then I would fill the hole with Compound W and cover it with duct tape.  I did this everyday for 3 months straight.  At this point when I would run it felt like I had a hot coal on the ball of my foot.  The pain would come and go so it was difficult to figure out if I was beating it or not but if I let up on the assault it would gather itself up and keep burrowing into my foot.

PW (that was it's public name, privately I referred to it as something else) finally surrendered about two weeks ago and I shaved off the last of it.  I wanted to post something sooner but I feared it might not be gone all the way and I would just be pissing it off by writing about it.  
A few closing notes and words of advice, I most likely picked this bugger up when I was going to the gym.  I now shower with flip flops on.  I know a few people that have gotten rid of these in a matter of  a week or so because they attacked it right away.  Compound W and duct tape will kill the skin and cells around the area, don't be alarmed, just shave away the dead stuff and re-apply, it really works.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grand Canyon R2R2R - Part Deux

This past spring I had the opportunity to run the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to rim with a group from the Larchmont Track Club. It was a magical and memorable run, and one that I knew I wanted to do again. Read original post. So when Jared Campbell called several months ago asking if I was interested in joining him for a fall R2R2R run there was only one answer, “consider me in!”

A fairly large group had expressed interest in the November 13th run. But, work, family and health considerations in the end left just four eager participants; myself, Jared, Karl Jarvis and Matt Zinkgraf. We met late the night before in the campground on the North Rim, Jared and I driving down from Salt Lake, Karl and Matt driving up from Flagstaff. The temperature as we crawled into our sleeping bags and tents was a chilly 19 degrees.

By our start time of 7:00 am the day had warmed to a balmy 30 degrees. One of the challenges in running the Grand Canyon is anticipating and managing the temperature change. While we all wanted to wear our tights, we knew that in several hours at the bottom of the canyon the temperature would be in the 60s.

The descent from the North Rim is spectacular. Starting in a ponderosa forest, one quickly drops into the top of Bright Angel Canyon with spectacular vistas of the South Rim. We made quick time down to Roaring Springs where we topped our water and stashed some clothes for the climb back to the North Rim. My favorite part of the rim-to-rim run is the section of trail between Roaring Springs and Phantom Ranch. For the most part you run along Bright Angle Creek, often on trail carved into the canyon wall. From Phantom Ranch we decided to go up to the South Rim via the South Kaibab Trail.

We made good time up the South Kaibab Trail with Jared in the lead, running all but the steepest sections. At Skull Point I opted to turn-around and begin the journey back to the North Rim. Karl and Jared proceeded up to the South Rim.

Once back in the bottom of the canyon I celebrated what might be the last 60+-degree day of the year for me by running with my shirt off. The sun felt good on my back!

The run from the bottom of the canyon back to the North Rim was like a time-lapse onset of winter. For about an hour I ran shirtless. Then, another hour with a short-sleeve shirt. Back at Roaring Springs I needed my long sleeved shirt. And by the time I reached the Rim I needed my gloves again.

As I waited for Jared and Karl in the car, wrapped in sleeping bag to stay warm, I knew that this was likely the last long run I would have on dirt until spring. ☹

Photos Courtesy of Jared Campbell

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Watch Meltzer on NBC

It's not often that an Ultrarunner gets national TV coverage but this Sunday, November 14th, NBC will be airing coverage of Karl Meltzer running the Red Bull Human Express, running 2000+ miles on the Pony Express trail.  3pm ET/1pm MST, here along the Wasatch Front it will be on channel 5. More details at www.worldofadventuresports.com.

The show will also consist of the Red Bull Rampage in Southern Utah (xtreme Mtn Biking), Rallycross (5 drivers at a time in rally cars on a dirt circuit) and the Teton Gravity Research skiers doing cool stuff in Alaska.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Antelope Island 100k Race Report

All Photos by Greg Norrander. Go to his blog for more awesome pictures of the race.

When I first heard there was going to be a 100k in November out on the island, I couldn't get it out of mind. I knew I probably shouldn't sign up for it. Who jumps from the 50k distance to a 100k without doing anything in between? My thoughts went back to this past spring when I ran my first 50k on the island and then ran my first marathon a month later. It worked out ok then, so I figured why not, I'll do it. The best way to get my feet wet is to just jump right in, so I signed up.

My training went very well leading into the race despite it maybe being a bit unorthodox for ultra running with my longest run only being 22 miles. The last time I ran more than 22 miles was the Logan Peak race at 28ish miles and that was back in June. But I felt fit and my mind and body felt right to run a good race.

The morning of the race I almost didn't make the starting line. I set my alarm the night before the race and went to bed. Somehow I set my time back an hour. So, when my clock said 3:30, it was actually 4:30 and I was still in bed. My wife happened to wake up and realized I was wasn't gone and woke me up. I jumped out of bed so fast and got dressed and grabbed all my gear, my breakfast shake and was out the door in less than 5 minutes.

I drove the 45 minutes to the island from Salt Lake City a bit stressed I wouldn't make packet pick up. I made it to the packet pickup just in time and had a few minutes to get everything in order before the race was started.

With it being dark, I couldn't really make too many folks out. The race plan was to not lead the first couple miles to get a feel for what paces everyone was willing to run and then adjust from there. I had an idea of what I wanted to do being somewhat familiar to the course, so with my plan in place all I had to do is start running.

Jim Skaggs (race director) sent us off and immediately an older gentleman, who I learned was named Davy Crocket, took the early lead going into the first climb. I settled in my own pace with Brian Beckstead.

As we crested up and over the first big hill, I found myself in the lead. My body felt good after the first couple miles and fell into its own rhythm rather quickly. I led the way up to the first aid station with Tim Long in tow who was running without a headlamp, he forgot it. After the first aid station a few of the other runners caught back up to me and we ran as a group down towards the Death Valley aid station. Davy retook the lead on the downhill section at this point and he was the first to arrive to the aid station.

I re-filled my bottle with water and followed Davy onto the beach . Getting to the beach we had to run through some fine sand that my shoes kicked up all over my legs and got down into my shoes a bit. I didn't wear my Dirty Girls and for a moment I regretted it. But there wasn't anything I could do about it now, so I just trudged onto the beach. I quickly caught back up with Davy and just followed him for a bit. It was rather hard to tell where to go. The beach had flags marking the course, but was hard to make out the next one due to it being dark still. At this point several other runners caught up to us and we ran as a group until we came up to a rocky part of the beach and we lost track of where the trail was supposed to go. We took a left when we should have taken a right and ran ourselves right into a bog with stinky, cold, wet mud. So much for dry feet.

We eventually made our way out of there and just ran along the beach the best we could until we found another flag and continued along the course.

The sun was starting to rise as we made our way off the beach and it was gorgeous. The terrain looked surreal and the colors of the sunrise made it feel like I was on mars or some other unearthly place. It may have been the best sunrise I have ever seen.

As we made our way south along a road, I looked ahead and saw the 1000 foot climb we had to do next. I was in the lead again and decided to push it a bit up the hill to find out who the players for the race were. I quickly was alone and would be for the next 50 miles.

I didn't push it too hard up the hill but ran where I could and that created the distance I was looking for. By the time I arrived to the North Sentry aid station I had a decent lead. I quickly filled my water bottle and continued down the other side of the island. As I ran south just before we headed east and down the hill, some antelope ran out in front of me for a bit along the trail then darted of into the distance.

I held back on this downhill section. I often times do this to recover and conserve energy instead of expending too much trying to run fast. I cruised along at 7:30 min pace until I reached the bottom. I half expected the others to catch me on this downhill section. At the bottom I looked back and could see them coming, but Tim and Brian were a fair distance behind me.

The next section of the course was really flat, 12 miles all the way back to the finish/start line. I put my body on autopilot and cruised at or around 8:00 mile pace. I could feel the other guys behind me so I kept the pressure on. As I ran along, I did worry a biy about the pace being too fast and that I would fade on the second lap but I decided just to roll with it. I really did feel comfortable and I just had to trust my body and my training.

Almost back to the start/finish line, I had climb a small hill. At the top there was a

big buffalo standing near a watering trough just to the right of the road. On the left hand side there was a fence. I stopped and really didn't see a good way around it, so I just walked slowly along the fence trying not to make eye contact with it. As I neared it, it quickly turned and fronted me and gave me a snort. I about crapped myself. But it held its ground as I continued to walk by. When I felt I was clear I hauled butt down to the start line area full of adrenaline.

I quickly restocked my supplies from my drop bag. As I was leaving the aid station, Brian was coming in with Tim not too far behind him. I told Brian good luck and started my second loop. I was now in un-charted territory for me. After 32 miles, every step will take me further than I have ran before. So I had no idea how my body was going to react. At this point, all I could do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eat and drink as much as I could.

As I made my way to the next aid station it became clear I was starting to distance myself from the rest of the field. I didn't try to pick it up at this point, I just kept running the same rhythm. I was starting to get some aches in the calves but nothing serious. My lungs felt great and my breathing was relaxed. As I ran down to the Death Valley aid station I realized for the first time that I had a good chance to win the race, if my body didn't have a meltdown of some sort. My mind felt fresh, excited, motivated and strong.

I made it to the Death Valley aid station (40 miles) at 12:02 pm, 6 hours into the race. I looked up and could see Brian making his way down the switch backs so I re-filled my bottle and headed out to the beach once more. This time being able to see the flags and not lose my way.

At this point I might have gotten just a bit excited. When I got down to the beach I pushed the pace a bit harder than I should have. The sand was very draining on the quads. Near the end of the beach section I had to stop for about 30 seconds to get them to calm down, they were just about to cramp up on me. I thought I just made a big mistake. I was also running out of water and had a few miles to go to the next aid station with a 1000 foot climb in the way. The next couple of miles would make or break my race and I knew it and there might be

nothing I could do about it.

So I just kept on running and ignored my screaming quads. Out of the blue there was Greg Norrander taking photos! Funny how he pops up like that. After being alone on the trail for so long, he actually energized me and put a bounce back into my step as I
headed towards the climb.

One thing I love about a two lap course, is that I know exactly what's coming and it makes it easier to gage my efforts. I took a deep breath and started to work my up the hill. I knew I had to be careful with the climb. I decided it would be ok if I lost a little bit of ground here because I knew I could make up for it on the other side once it flattened out again. I just had to make it over in one piece. So I walked more of the hill than I normally would have liked. It ended up being a great decision because this was also the warmest part of the day and I could feel my heart rate getting higher as I climbed. If I would have pushed it too hard, it may have been the end of me.

I ate a gel, popped two SCaps and drank the last of my water about half way up the hill, my quads were burning now and they continued to twinge, not quite going into a full cramp as I climbed. I was really wishing there would have been a water station at the bottom of the hill.

As I neared the top, I took a look back and couldn't see anyone behind me. It was my race to win or lose.

I pushed my way up the last bit of hill and saw the Sentry Aid Station. It couldn't have come at a better time for me. I drank a couple cups of coke, downed a banana, 3 Scaps and a couple cups of water. That was my favorite aid station in the race. The view up there was awesome.

I didn't stay long knowing I may have lost a bit of ground on the climb. I ran down the hill, letting it go a bit more this time around and pushed 7 min miles down to mile 50. At the bottom of the hill I crossed 50 miles in 7:38. I was hoping to be a bit quicker, but I was pleased with my efforts so far. I knew I had a shot at breaking 9:30.

With 9 miles to go my parents and couple siblings found me on the trails and started to cheer and follow me along the last part of the race. It

was a big help. I got to the Nine Mile aid station and drank as much coke as I could. I couldn't muster the thought of another gel or anything else other than coke for the rest of the race. I should have forced myself to eat more gels though. Coke is good, but it isn't nearly as good as a gel and I would pay for it a bit later.

I ran to the next aid station where I was greeted with cheers from family members once again. Only 10k to go and I knew it was going miserable. I stayed a bit longer at this aid station drinking coke and downing a couple more Scaps. Chatted with everyone a bit and realized I started feeling worse the longer I stayed there. So I knew I had to get moving. I had been able to run out of every aid station, until now. I had to walk about 30 yards to get the legs working again.

I just kept moving along as quick as I could. I was still able to maintain the 8 min miles until the last few where I slowed down to 9 min miles. I had to stop and walk 3 times. Not keeping up with the gels the last 8 miles was really catching up to me now. I could tell my energy stores were all used up and I was close to running on empty.

I finally came to the last short, steep hill and cruised my way down the finish line. I was experiencing so many emotions as the finish line got closer, it was almost overwhelming. Satisfaction was the one that stood out the most, knowing all the work I had been doing was finally paying off. I bested my own expectations and ran an almost perfect race for me and happened to win the race at the same time.

I crossed the finish line in 9:28:37, 55 minutes in front of second place finisher Tim. I don't think things could have gone any better for me. It was the perfect course on a perfect day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bryce Canyon Link-up Trail Run

Back in June I was intrigued to learn about Craig Lloyd’s 39.2-mile Bryce Canyon Link-up run. Since I drive by Bryce National Park at least once a month on my way to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab for work, I knew this was a run I wanted to do.

I had originally planned to complete the run back in September. But a torn plantar fascia plus surgery for a torn rotator cuff put those plans on hold – until this past Sunday!

Keeping in my personal tradition of a lazy Sunday morning, I didn’t hit the Riggs Loop trailhead at Rainbow Point where the run begins until 9:30 am. At the trailhead the temperature was a chilly 38 degrees. A little too cool for my liking! The forecast called for cloudy with a high of 52. The cool weather, coupled with the fact that it rained heavily the day before and the sandy sections of the trail would likely be firm, had my spirits high that this was going to be a great run.

The Riggs Loop immediately drops off the rim through pine forests descending approximately 2000 feet to the Riggs Springs campground and then climbs back up to the rim where it intersects with the Under-the-Rim trail. As I got close to the intersection with the Under-the-Rim trail at 8 miles I made the decision to run back to the car (an easy half mile detour) to get the arm sling I have been wearing for the last six weeks after having rotator cuff surgery. I had hoped to run without the sling, but after about five miles I could feel a strain and pain at the point of the attachment. Rotator Cuff surgery was the most painful thing I have ever experienced and the recovery has been frustrating slow. There was no way I was going to take a chance on a setback.

I was happy to have the extra carrying capacity the combination sling/man purse provided. Into the sling I tucked an extra couple of gels, some yogurt covered cranberries, and my arm. My lazy ass shoulder was thrilled to no longer have to bear the weight of my arm.

The next 23 miles of the link-up follow the Under-the-Rim trail. For some reason I had expectations that I would be running along the bottom of the rim walls amongst brilliant red and orange cliffs, hoodoos, and fins. For the most part this trail meanders through unremarkable ponderosa forest, much of which has burned in recent years. There was a tremendous amount of fallen timber that left me thinking the trail should really be called the Over-the-Logs trail. While I had been averaging 11 minute miles on the Riggs Loop, my pace slowed considerably as this section required climbing over fallen trees, dancing from one side of the eroded trail to the other, and navigating through large washes scattered with loose rock. As I trekked across sections of rock and mud deposited by the previous day’s runoff I appreciated the landscape forming power of erosion on steroids.

After running along Yellow Creek I was looking forward to exiting the trees and climbing up to Bryce Point (31 miles) where I would again be on top of the rim and would get to enjoy the best views in the Park. Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point and Sunrise point did not disappoint. Absolutely magnificent views!! And, super fast trails that allowed me to once again pick-up the pace. From the top of the rim the final 6.5-mile leg of the Link-up is along the Lower Fairyland Loop where you run through and amongst magnificent rock formations. This is what I had imagined the Under-the-Rim trail would be like. The best part of the run had been saved for the last! The Bryce Canyon Link-up terminates at Fairyland Point. Total distance 39.2 is miles with approximately 15,000 vertical. Total running time 7:40.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Something Different

I want start this post by stating the fact that I love to run.  That is also why I have forced myself out of the running shoes and on to the bike this fall season.  It really boils down to this problem I have with physical activity and how I can become slightly OCD about it.  For whatever reason I can become so completely focused on continual improvement in one activity that I end up pushing my body to a breaking point (sometimes painful, but always frustrating), which is then followed by a rebuilding period.  I have a history with this issue and based on that experience, without a break, my chances of running myself straight into an injury seems very high.    So this year I made a resolution to heed some advice I received years ago and do something different.

For this fall season, that something different is Cyclocross.  It just so happens I have a few pieces of equipment laying around from my previous addiction, errr activity of choice – cycling.  Three bikes to be exact; one road, one mountain bike and a singlespeed cyclocross bike.  I started taking turns riding the road and mountain bike ever since pacing Nick Clark at Wasatch and had a great time re-discovering an old passion. Then one night I saw my lonely 'cross bike sitting in the corner begging to be ridden.  It wasn’t long after getting air in the tires that I decided I would race the following weekend.

Before I get to the racing let me give you a quick explanation of what cyclocross is.  The bike of preference looks like a road bike with knobby tires and while there are other subtle differences between road and 'cross bikes, they are minor.  Sometimes riders will put on flat bars instead drop bars (the kind that roll down) to get a wider hand position.  The reason a rider might want a wider hand position is because of the terrain the circuits cover, including but not limited to: gravel, dirt, grass, sand, concrete, asphalt and when it’s wet, mud.  The circuits also include sections that require the rider to dismount and run with the bike.  These sections could include some barriers, large logs or a steep uphill that the rider must negotiate on foot and almost every course has at least one or two dismount sections (some riders can bunny hop barriers and that is perfectly legal as well).  The length of the circuits vary, but generally take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to cover and the races are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour long depending on the category.  The category I decided to ride is singlespeed, meaning I pick a single rear cog and a single front chainring and use it for that race.
Leading up to the first race (week two of the series) I had done a handful rides (5 or 6) and simply banked on my running fitness getting me through, besides, I had no expectations except having fun and catching up with a few old friends.  Well, once I was in the moment, standing on the start line it was a different story.  I took off with the other dozen or so racers heading for the first turn and I heard my chain making a weird noise.  I eased up and drifted to the rear of the group to investigate and lost several places.  Frustrated, I pushed hard to catch back up and the noise became louder.  Finally I got off to check it out and discovered the chain was off the jockey wheel in the chain tensioner.  This pattern repeated itself until device that holds tension on the chain came apart, rendering my bike useless.  I ran back to the car, fixed it and finished the race in 2nd to last place.  Despite the setback I was still smiling and my heart was pounding.
Before the following race the next weekend I fixed the chain tensioner by throwing it in the garbage and finding a suitable replacement.  I also managed to squeeze in a few more rides, giving my legs a chance to acclimate to the new stress I was forcing on them.  The next race went much better where I finished in 2nd place.  Surprisingly, I had more fun this time around and I'm sure it had something to do with actually being able to focus on riding rather than fixing my bike.  

I plan on doing a few more while I'm having fun and mixing up the riding with some occasional trail runs just to remind my legs what they'll be coming back to...

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Snow

I LOVE running in the mountains. I've been running the past few weeks, but mostly road and treadmill, and was completely re-energized today by my short trip up Neff's canyon. It's time to get on the trails again during the best time of the year. Here's a few photos to share the beauty I found.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bear 100 - Crew Report

Shake n Bake!

The crew of every ultra runner needs an anthem. A rallying cry if you will. Words that have special insider meaning creating a camaraderie and bond that bring out the best performance in all.

For Darcie Gorman and crew at the Bear 100 – it was Shake n Bake!

But first some background. Several months ago I was invited by Darcie to help crew her on her first 100-mile attempt. “How lucky am I?” I thought, at the prospect of being a part of someone’s first 100. For those who have a run a 100 miler, there is always something magical, even mythical about the first time you go the distance. To be both a participant and voyeur in Darcie’s adventure, well let’s just say my answer to her invite was “count me in!”

Darcie is an Alabama girl, and as we planned for how we would best support her, it seemed fitting that our Team Gorman crewing efforts take on a NASCAR theme. Somewhere in the planning, perhaps influenced by testing a variety of energy based barley drinks, Team Gorman fell under the influence of one of our century’s greatest cinemagraphic accomplishments, Talladega Nights. Team Gorman soon consisted of our featured runner Darcie, crewed by Bobby Troy (her husband Troy) and Ricky Jay (myself), and paced the last 50 miles by Jeffry Buechler.

This crew report starts at Temple Fork Aid Station (mile 45) where Bobby Troy and I first caught up with Darcie. Darcie came into Temple Fork well ahead of our projected time. It was immediately clear that she had perhaps gone out a bit too fast, and had not been drinking adequately. We immediately determined that the focus of the next leg would be hydration and nutrition. While I was not planning on running with her, I thought it would be fun to run this leg and play the role of hydration taskmaster. The mostly uphill, 6.5 miles to Tony Grove flew by quickly as we chatted, drank and yes, finally peed!

At Tony Grove (mile 52), Jeffry assumed his pacing duties. Jeffry is one of those rare individuals who constitute the ideal pacer. An accomplished ultra-runner who with empathy and humility transfers his experience into foresight, prescriptive actions and encouragement. He flew out from Colorado at Darcie’s request to help her through the night. Wishing Darcie and Jeffry well, Bobby Troy and I raced off to Franklin Basin Aid Station (mile 61.5) to get ready to transition Darcie into night mode.

At Franklin Basin I witnessed a most inspirational nutritional experience. I was able to watch Dan Barnett consume almost 1000 calories in a single aid station stop. Simply amazing!! Pumpkin pie. Two cups of soup. Rice Crispy Treat. A Frapacino. And more… I have to believe Dan’s talent for putting down the calories contributed to his phenomenal sub 24-hour finish.

After being mentally fueled by watching Dan pack calories, I ran up the trail to watch runners come into the station. At about a mile out I was fortunate to run into Brian Kamm who let me run with him into to the Aid Station. I helped Brian get through the station and ran back out to meet Darcie. She looked great and was pleased to report that she had peed twice. Nice!

Next stop was Logan River Aid Station (69.5 miles). I’ve never experienced an aid station that had quite the energy as Logan River. It was a group of people from an LDS Ward and they were having fun! Singing songs written about the Bear 100. Serving Dutch oven rolls. And insisting that crew partake in some nourishment and fun. After scarfing a hot roll I ran up the trail to meet Brian. I had so enjoyed the run into the last aid station with him that I was hoping I could do it again. About a mile up the trail I met Brian and we ran into the aid station together. He looked strong and in good spirits. Another hot roll and I was out again, this time to meet Darcie. I met Darcie and Jeffry about a mile and half out. She was moving slowly on the downhill and indicated that her quads were a bit fried. I shared some encouraging words (Shake n Bake!), got instructions for what she wanted at the aid station and ran ahead, secretly concerned that the wheels might be starting to come off for her.

Bobby Troy and I got her turned, equipped her with the trekking poles she requested, and bid her and Jeffry off on the next leg. At Beaver Lodge Aid Station (76 miles) I thought it might be time for a little pick-me-upper, so I donned my Ricky Bobby costume and headed back out to meet Darcie and Jeffry. I think they enjoyed the diversion. Many thanks to the gentleman manning the radio at Beaver Lodge who had recently had rotator cuff surgery and had all sorts of useful tips and encouragement to aid in recovery.

Darcie was now pretty much walking. While her head was super strong – no lingering in aid stations, regular eating and drinking, positive outlook and confident about finishing – her legs were pretty much shot. I was concerned as I watched her navigate the stream crossing at Beaver Creek (85 miles) with some difficulty. Despite having not seen us for 10 miles and it being 26 degrees, she knew just what she wanted (glove warmers, Blocks with caffeine, an extra jacket) and was quickly on her way. I was impressed at how mentally alert and composed she was.

Darcie moved along well to Ranger Dip Aid Station (92 miles) where the transition was quick. You could tell she knew the finish was close and just wanted to get on with covering the final eight miles. Shortly after leaving Ranger Dip Jeffry excused himself for a pee and retuned wearing a tutu, which he would wear to the finish.

At the finish Troy went out to meet Darcie and Jeffry and run the final mile with them. Darcie ran across the finish having completed her first 100-miler in 26:45. She was the third place female. Shake n Bake! And, congratulations Brian and Dan for sub 24-hour finishes!

As Team Gorman drove back to SLC I reflected on what a great day I had just had. I had shared in Darcie’s accomplishment of completing her first 100. I had been able to spend time both on the trail and at aid stations with many of the runners, their families and friends for whom I have such respect. And, I had been able to be outside in beautiful country at a spectacular time of year. Thanks Darcie for inviting me to be a part of your adventure!

Photos courtesy of Troy Gorman

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Wasatch Classics

After a long summer of running the usual training runs in the central Wasatch I decided this weekend to run/hike some of the more classic routes I tend to neglect. On Saturday my plan was to run up Cardiff Fork Canyon and then down Days fork. I ended up running up Cardiff Canyon from the Big Cottonwood Canyon side but when I reached the pass I decided to check out the trail up to Superior Peak. I have always wanted to hike Superior but honestly have always been a bit intimidated by the very steep exposed ridge to the summit. But I decided that today would be the day and after a hour of steep loose hiking I reached the summit. I was rewarded with probably the best view I ever had in the Wasatch. The trail was steep and loose but very safe as long as you moved slow and paid attention to all the loose rocks. It actually took me longer to get come down then it did to go up.

On Sunday Peter and I decided to run up to the Pfeifferhorn. We started fairly early to avoid any crowds and ran a short time in the dark sharing a single head lamp. The early start paid off as we only passed one person on the way up to Red Pine Lake. As we worked our way up a steep trail to Little Red Pine Lake the wind was gusting and blowing and added a sense of seriousness to the climbing. We were careful but efficient working our way across the long boulder field, Peter commented that the wind almost knocked him over a few times. Luckily the wind abated as we climbed the steep trail that would lead us to the thin exposed ridge to the final ascent gully. The sun was also shinning on us now and it was turning out to be a perfect morning.

As we got closer to the Pfeifferhorn, Peter said with a look of surprise “we're going to climb that!” it was exactly my thoughts when I first did the route 2 years prior. I assured Peter it wasn't that bad and that the route looked worse than it was, and that the narrow approach ridge would be more intimidating than the trail up to the summit. We picked a good route on the North side of the ridge and quickly made our way up to the summit. It was a little cold and windy so we only stayed a few minutes. The air was smokey so the view was somewhat limited but the smoke added its own beauty to the scenery. We had not seen a single person since the trail below Red Pine Lake and would not see anybody until we descended below the lake on the descent.

When we got back to Red Pine Lake we ran the single track trail all the way down to the parking lot, round trip time was 3.5 hours. The parking lot was full with cars and people. Peter and I both had smiles on our faces as a lady asked if we were finished already. Another great day in the Wasatch. Too see more photos go to Peter's Flickr link at the top of the blog page.