Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kings Peak Marathon:

In July the most memorable adventure that I had was running to the summit of Kings Peak. I was with craig, while he attempted a speed record for the Triple Crown (highest three peaks in the state), car to car. It was my 7th time to the summit of Kings and I set a personal best time by reaching the top in 4:50, which I was very happy about. My previous PR was 6:30. I did have some minor knee pain, so I did take it easier on the descent, so my total time was 10:40:29, which is good, but I can do better. Here is a trip report that I wrote:

This would be my 7th trip to the summit Kings Peak, which is the highest point in Utah (13,528 feet). It never gets old. I met Jun at his place on Wed at 9:00 PM and after picking up a few snacks from the 7-11 we were off on the close to 3 hour drive to the trailhead. It was fun talking about peaks, runs, and what our strategies would be on our runs in the morning. Jun was going for the Triple Crown (Highest 3 peaks in Utah) and he wanted to set a speed record for getting all three in one day car to car with no camps in between. I really wanted to do the Triple this year, but I knew with my knee issues of late it would not be smart. I also knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with Jun, so even if I wanted to grind through it I wouldn't want him to have to wait several hours for me at the finish.

It was cool at the trailhead, but not as cold as it had been the two previous years. We set up the tent, got our gear ready, and then settled in for a restless 3.5 hours of sleep. I fell asleep pretty fast, but I woke up at about 3:30 to use the bathroom and I never could get back into a good sleep. The alarm went off at 4:30 and I felt pretty good considering the lack of rest.
Jun cooked up some oatmeal that really hit the spot and we got our gear together and we were ready to hit the trail just after 5:00 AM. The temperature was almost perfect. It was cool, but not cold. We settled in to a nice running pace and chatted for the first few miles as we ran. I knew Jun was going for speed, so it wasn't long before he got too far ahead and I wouldn't see him again for about 5 hours.

The run to Elk Horn Crossing was so nice. The temps were good, and I felt great, but my ITB started to get tight between miles 3-4, so I had to take it easy. I would not run any of the steeper sections, so I was alternating between a nice easy running pace and a power hike, depending on the trail. I reached Elk Horn crossing (5.3 miles) in 1:20, which was 35 minutes faster than my previous best time. I took a short break, had a gel and put on my iPod.
The next 3 miles I again alternated from fast hiking to easy running and the views were just impressive. Towering 13, 000 ft. peaks, wild flowers and everything was very green. I really enjoyed this section. I would stop about every half mile to stretch my ITB and take in the views. Once I got to Dollar Lake (about mile 8) I was expecting to start seeing groups of people making their way to the summit because most people that climb Kings use the area for their base camp. I didn't see anyone at all. After about a mile I did see a couple of groups far ahead almost to the Gunsight Pass switchbacks, and my next goal was to pass them. I picked up my pace and ran most of the way to the base of the switchbacks

Just before the switchbacks I stopped to fill up my water bottles in a spring where we normally stop. I used iodine tablets with all of my water to make sure it was purified. After a quick stop I turned my attention to passing the two groups ahead of me. It turns out it was two scout troops, and within 10 minutes I had passed both groups on the switchbacks. They were moving s l o w and they couldn't believe I was running past them. I heard one guy mumble an Oh my Gosh. I am not very fast for a runner, but compared to most arm-chair hikers my pace actually looks quick.

I noticed one solo hiker left to pass, so I pushed to pass him and get up to Gunsight Pass. He kept looking back at me and then started to speed up, so I didn't quite catch him, but we both arrived at Gunsight within seconds of each other. I stopped to take a gel, while he headed down into Painter Basin. It was very windy up there, so I didn't stay long. I started my traverse over to the Gunsight plateau and I noticed that the guy had dropped way down into the basin and now he kept looking back up at me and where I was going. I think he was second guessing his route, because I saw him turn around, but I never did see him again, until I was on my way down from the summit.

The traverse across the plateau is very rocky and lumpy and not easy to run on at all, so I just kept a fast hiking pace. I didn't see anyone in front of me at all. Just before Anderson Pass I did see some hikers that looked totally confused and they came over to talk to me, asking where Kings Peak was. I pointed up to the ridge and the guy just didn't want to believe me. I spent about 5 minutes telling him right where to go and showing him the way, and finally he said "We will just follow you." They had come from the next basin over and had never been in the area before. There was another guy and his 12 year old son that followed us as well.

After about 15 minutes all of the hikers were lagging way behind, but the 12 year old kid stayed with me all the way to the top. I started chatting with him about hiking and mountains and then I asked him how he was in such good shape and he told me he is a runner and runs 5K's. I found out his PR is 20:04 and I told him he was going to be a great runner and to keep it up. It was fun and I shattered my previous PR to the summit, reaching the top in 4:50. I was the first person on the summit for the day, and I had started 8 miles further than all of the Dollar Lake folks. I started to feel fast (I know I am not).

I was seriously debating a trip over to South Kings. I felt really strong, but after hanging out on the summit I started to feel nauseated, which happens every time, so I decided to go back down. On the descent I passed several parties going up and I had a few comments like "You're fast" and "You look like this didn't even faze you." Haha. Again, I know I am not fast. Most of these were scouts and their leaders. I ran into Jun after about 20 minutes and he was kind of in a bad mood. He was tired, but he was making great time. We chatted for a few minutes and then he took off for the top.

I had been feeling really good (other than my knee being tight) the whole day, but the descent from the summit was murder on my knee. It started to hurt. I couldn't push off or land on it hard or it would hurt, so I had to really slow down because going down is just one massive pile of boulders. I was so slow. When I finally got down to the trail I took about a 25 minute break to eat some solid food. So far it had only been gels. I felt really refreshed, but the traverse back over to Gunsight Pass was very slow as I was now being very tentative with my knee and I was much slower than the way up.

I found a spring and filled up my bottles and took another short break, and then I finally saw someone coming up behind me. I couldn't tell if it was Jun, but I figured if it was he was flying. I was really slow coming back, but I was way ahead of him when we passed each other. Once I reached the pass I picked up my pace a lot. It felt so good to be back onto the trail and my knee felt much better. I made pretty good time going down and just before I reached the bottom I saw Jun taking a short cut to avoid the switchbacks. He had passed me and I didn't even know it. He was only about a minute ahead of me, so we both stopped to take a break to put on sunscreen and make some gear adjustments.

We ran together for about 10 minutes, but he passed me and slowly built up a huge lead. After about 10 more minutes I couldn't see him anymore. He still looked pretty fresh and had an excellent pace going. My body felt relatively good, but I was losing steam. The elevation really works you and I was feeling it. Most of the route is above 10,000 feet and you can definitely feel it. It is much harder to get a fast pace going up there. I alternated from running to hiking all the way back to Elk Horn crossing, passing several people that were shocked to see someone running up there. The people I talked to all asked where I came from and what I did and seemed surprised.

At Elk Horn (mile 21) I stopped to fill up my water bottles and have a gel. The bridge that is normally there has been washed out, so you have to cross the river on wet logs. It is easy, but I guarantee a few boy scouts will take a swim crossing it this year. From Elk Horn back to the trailhead always seems really long. I alternated between running and hiking the rest of the way. When the trail was in good shape I ran, if there were a lot of rocks, boulders or hills I hiked. My knee actually started to feel better, but my energy levels were gone. I was hammered.
Jun was waiting for me at the finish and it felt really good to be done. My mileage was exaclty 26.2, which is pretty cool. I finished in 10:40, which is about 3 hours faster than my time from last year. It isn't earth shattering, but I am happy with it. I think I could have easily shaved about an hour off if my knee hadn't been giving me trouble on the descent. It actually took me almost an hour more to come down than it did going up, and believe me it is much easier going down.

The new Brooks Cascadias were soooo good! My feet felt great the whole day and the shoes take a pounding quite well. After all of the rocks, boulders and scree I was expecting them to be more beat up than they were.
We had an amazing time and Jun set a speed record for the Triple Crown. He was fast and strong and it was fun having a front row seat to watch him go. Even though this hike/run/climb has become waaay too crowded I love it. I will be back every year

To see a video of our day go here:

Also, the Deseret News did a story on Craig's Triple Crown and they also talked about my Kings marathon. You can see the story here:

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