Monday, May 31, 2010

Pocatello 50 Mile Trail Race - 2010

As 150 solo and relay runners toed-up to the starting line at 6:00 am for the Pocatello 50, nobody could have imagined what the day would bring. Temperatures were cool in the high 40’s with intermittent drizzles. Arguably, ideal conditions for a 50-mile trail race. But within minutes of the start the rain became steady. And, as runners started climbing Kinport peak after about mile 9 the rain turned to snow with gale force winds. Despite warnings from race directors Jared Campbell and Ryan McDermott to plan for all weather conditions, few runners were prepared for extreme weather.

As Ryan advanced up Kinport in the middle of the pack, he realized the “arctic like” conditions would put runners and volunteers at risk and conferred with Jared about calling the race. A tough, but appropriate and prudent decision was made to call the race and begin to turn runners back.

Runners ahead of Ryan would continue on to either the City Creek (17 mile). The lead runners who had passed City Creek before the decision was made proceeded to the Mink Creek (32 mile) checkpoint. A number of runners became lost despite the course being extremely well marked including team MRC lead runner, Dan Sears who made an 8 mile detour and ended up at some dude’s bull ranch. Once Christian Johnson and Peter Lindgren, Dan’s teammates learned that the race was called and their lead runner lost, they assisted the race directors in sweeping the course and helping several runners who were experiencing hypothermia return to aid stations. Of the seven people Peter collected, none were disappointed that the race had been called.

Since Christian did not know the area very well, he decided to work his way back from City Creek up to Kinport, secretly hoping he wouldn't find anyone in need of help since he had left ill prepared to help anyone he might find. Once he reached the ridge the wind was howling and visibility had been reduced to 40 or 50 feet at best. There he found Leah from Austin, Texas stumbling through the snow and incoherent. He quickly wrapped her in his waterproof jacket and ushered her into the shelter of the trees. Leah was on the verge of hypothermia and Christian was nervous to find himself in this kind of situation. Christian then got Leah on her feet and did his best to keep her moving down the trail. Leah gradually warmed up as they descended to a lower elevation; becoming more lucid as she got closer to the City Creek aid station. Several other runners had to be found and escorted back to aid stations.

Both Jay Aldous and Greg Norrander who were running 50 solo ran to the Mink Creek aid station. Jay was pleased to hear the race was called, as he was concerned that his recent pedicure would not stand up to another 20 miles of slogging through water, snow and mud. A special thanks goes to Vanessa for attending to the needs of the cold and wet runners (including Jay and Greg) who made it to the Mink Creek aid station

MRC would like to applaud Jared and Ryan for making the right call early in the race and taking decisive actions to clear the course and account for all runners. A big thanks to all the volunteers who despite the cold and wet took phenomenal care of the runners, many of who were in bad shape. And, for those runners who left the race without reporting to race officials that you had dropped or were heading home, shame on you. Much time, energy and stress was expended in accounting for you!

The discomfort and disappointment of the day will fade. The memories of what we collectively shared and endured will live on, and likely be greatly exaggerated over time as we retell this adventure over and over, on WARM SUNNY trail runs…

Thanks Jared, Ryan and Mindy for a great adventure!

- Peter, Christian, Greg, Jay

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grand Canyon R2R2R

For many trail runners, the Grand Canyon is Mecca. There are few runs that provide the challenge, scenery, majesty, and sense of accomplishment that traversing the Grand Canyon does. Many runners make annual pilgrimages to the Canyon. Others find that a crossing is a once in a lifetime rite of passage. A box ticked. A goal met.

This past weekend I was invited by a group of friends and neighbors (AKA the Larchmont Drinking Club) to join them on their pilgrimage to the Big Ditch. I had run the Grand Canyon 20 years or so ago and at the time had considered it a box ticked. But I knew it was time for me to return, this time I wanted to run R2R2R.

My run began on the North Rim at 2:30am. I needed an early start in order to get back to North Rim in time to drive to Zion National Park to pick up a permit and be showered and ready for 5:00pm cocktails. Nothing like the prospect of a good Malbec and a hot date 15 hours in the future to get me to pop out of bed with just a few hours sleep.

There is something surreal about trail running in the dark. One’s senses are heightened. Sounds become more acute. Your feet and legs literally feel the trail, responding without the benefit of sight to undulations and obstacles. The smells vividly describe the terrain you are passing through. And for me, my mind is released to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, daydreaming…

I amused myself for miles with the thought that it was very possible that while daydreaming I might fall off an exposed section of the trail. The amusement was based on the likelihood that media reports of my death would caution people with great exaggeration about the dangers of running in the Grand Canyon alone in the dark, rather than caution people against the grave dangers of daydreaming – the real cause of my demise.

By the time I reached the river I had categorized all my favorite trails based on a road system (e.g. Kaibab trail being the trail equivalent of an Interstate Highway), made a list of foods that I would not miss if I never ate them again (e.g. carrots, pork, white chocolate, turnips), and had mentally cleaned out my clothes closet with a list of items I would toss upon my return. Yes it’s true; nobody has ever considered me an intellectual giant…

After 14 miles of downhill running I was looking forward to the climb up to the South Rim. I actually prefer running uphill and I wanted to see if I could run the entire way to the top of the South Kaibab trail. As I began to climb up I could see headlamps, up and in the distance of other adventurers beginning their journey into the Canyon. The sun was rising as I neared the top and I was able to watch the first light spread across the Canyon. Magnificent!

I ran up the entire way without difficulty and treated myself to some dried mangos and a bagel at the top. I asked the first hiker I saw, a tall transvestite fully outfitted by REI (hmm??), to take a picture of me. She happily obliged and commented, “You must be a really good runner because you are so short.” Ouch!!
Head down, ego damaged and psyche bruised (manifestations often experienced by short people), I began the return journey. The descent back into the Canyon went quickly. With the exception of having to quickstep through the sections of the trail where erosion is being prevented through the use of juniper logs, the trail is a screamer. It was fun to open up the throttle and fly past the day hikers.

Once I crossed the river and hit the flats along the river my legs suddenly felt heavy. I wasn’t used to long pounding descents. I wasn’t used to this mileage. For the first time I felt the sun. I realized I had been neglecting my nutrition. The climb out was looking to be a chug.
As I began the climb up the North Kaibab trail I had to downshift a gear and go into economy mode. I was bonking and I needed to pay attention to nutrition, hydration and efficiency. I consumed a couple of gels, drank heavily at Phantom Ranch and plodded on. Fairly quickly I felt better, but the legs were still heavy. I just haven’t put the miles in this winter to comfortably run more than 40 miles in one go.

The last five miles were tough. I tripped several times on those God damned juniper logs and was covered in dust. Covered in dust and sweat, (fortunately no mule shit), I was not a good ambassador for trail runners. People likely assumed I was as miserable as I looked. SO NOT TRUE!

I had a most magnificent day and adventure. I can’t wait to come back next year and run R2R2R2R. And yes, in case you were wondering – I did enjoy that glass of Malbec before 5:00pm!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fun Run Results-2010

The weeks leading up to the 3rd edition of the Grandeur Fun run had me feeling a little apprehensive. Storm after storm kept dumping snow in the Wasatch, and a mere two weeks before the race I found myself postholing through 16 inches of fresh and wading through waist deep drifts at the top. Where did spring go?

Luckily, as is Spring in Wasatch, a series of warmer weekends followed, and with each fresh layer of snow, the warming temps would melt more than was laid down and by Fun Run day, the snow at the summit was enough to add a little fun, but not slow anyone down.

A five man group of me, Peter, Greg, Dave and Scott set off for an early first lap to mark the course and get some miles in. We soon caught up to Angela, Gina, Lisa and Jackie who are making it a habit of getting an early loop in. (Ladies- I apologize I wasn't at the finish when you finished your second loop, I had to get to a soccer game. Let me know your times so I can get them recorded.) The trail was perfect and we had a great early morning run. We were on the lookout for Wayne and Brian who had reportedly started early, and as we were descending from Bambi Hill, Brian came into sight, and Wayne was just a few minutes behind us.

At 7:02, with much shivering-that Parley's Canyon wind is BRISK- and little fanfare the runner's took off. I waited around for a few stragglers and then started my second ascent. What a beautiful sight to see a line of 60+ runners strung out along the ridge of the first ascent. I had to stop and soak it in for a minute or two.
Jared Campbell, Aaron Brown and Jay Aldous led the charge and stayed in that order for the entire race with Jared getting first dibs on pancakes with a new fastest finish time of 1:44:50. ( I can't say course record since this isn't an official race :) Aaron was 2nd in 1:48:50 and Jay-nursing a sore glute- was third in 1:51 10. Jared was so fast that as I tried to finish marking the course from the rock quarry to the finish, he caught me and I sprinted after him doing my best imitation of Leland by throwing strips of flagging in the middle of the trail.
On the women's side, Emily Sullivan was first, in a new fastest time of 2:06:45, Suzanne Lewis was hot on her heels in 2:07:58 and Nancy Fagan was third in 2:21:40.

Overall it was a perfect day to have a group of friends get out and run together. Thanks to everyone who ran and ate pancakes, bacon, elk sausage and everything else. Thanks to my brother Steve for manning the griddle, Christian for helping take times at the finish, Jesse for being at the top of Grandeur, Jill for cleaning the flagging on her second loop and everyone else that ran, hung out, helped out and had a good time. Let's do it again next year!

Final Note
If I somehow missed anyone's times or anything like that, please let me know and I'll make any corrections. Full results are on the Grandeur Fun Run link to the right.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kanab Canyon Trail Run

I’ve been doing some work for Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, UT. Each month I’m required to be on-site for several days. When I’m at the sanctuary, my workspace overlooks Kanab Creek Canyon. For several months now, I’ve wanted to run up the canyon – today was my day.

After my last meeting, I quickly donned my shorts and shoes and was out the door. From Angel Village at the Sanctuary I followed the County road to where it dips down towards Kanab Creek (just after Angels Rest, the pet cemetery). From there, I jumped into the creek and began to run upstream.

There is one section of nice narrows, lots of tamarisk, and once you top out, wide-open terrain with a variety of jeep tracks providing a diverse selection of slick rock, sand, and cobble. You can choose to run in the creek or along jeep tracks depending on your fancy.

After an hour out I turned around, anxious to get back and celebrate the day by sitting in the creek and enjoying a couple of barley pops. This is the first day I have been warm in almost 6 months and I cherished the sun on my skin and the cool water on my legs. An excellent little run and recommended for anyone visiting the Sanctuary or passing through Kanab.

Next run - R2R2R on Friday. Can't wait....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fun Run Update

For all of you anxiously awaiting the Grandeur Fun Run, here is a quick update.

Conditions: There is still a bunch of snow at the top-here's what it looked like yesterday morning- and even with the weather warming up, there will be a fair amount left next Saturday. The rest of the trail is perfect. For those of you who remember the dead deer just off the trail going up Bambi Hill, another one decided to die in the same spot, so keep your eyes open and nose closed.

Aid: There won't be an aid station this year at Church Fork. Plan on carrying all your stuff.

Markings: I may put a few ribbons up early Sat morning. If you don't know the course, study/print the map provided in case I sleep in and don't get it marked.

Questions: Check out the link to the right.

It should be good weather and will definitely be a lot of fun!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Love Running

After getting clearance last Friday that I could begin running again, I went out immediately after work that day.  I decided on something easy, a loop or two around Sugarhouse Park, which is part of my standard beater run.  You know, your goto route when you're pressed for time-but you've just got to get out-run.  Really I could go the rest of my life without ever running around that park and be perfectly happy.  But last Friday it provided somewhere soft for my tentative stride to get some turnover without any risk.  Halfway around I had a grin from ear to ear and struggled to keep a lid on my slower than usual pace.  By the time the I was ready for my second loop I couldn't help myself any longer and sped up to sub 7 pace.  I was breathing harder than normal but it didn't matter, I felt as though I was flying.  After a few more minutes I began to feel some pain.  Then the smile came back, the pain wasn't in my knee, it was my muscles straining to keep up the pace.  I blocked out the muscular pain and tuned in to my knee for the rest of the loop.  Nothing.

The end of the loop came too soon and even though I wanted to do another I stopped.  Better to be left wanting more than come limping back after aggravating something.  That was when I realized how much I truly love to run.  Here I was on cloud nine after a short 4 mile run on the beater loop.

I remained tentative for the next two days doing some easy runs, took a day off, then met up with Greg for trip around Red Butte and up Van Cott.  Coming off the long descent on Van Cott I felt some pain again.  This time it was my quads taking a beating and it felt great.  In the days following I completed another 3 runs with some vertical.  The knee is still happy and so am I.  Now I just need to work on the fitness part to complete the package.