Monday, September 26, 2011

Alpine Loop run- 43.3 miles

July 4th 2011

With my wife being out of town for the week I wanted to take the opportunity to get in a long run, but I was nervous about my recent achilles issues, so I wanted something that wasn't technical and wouldn't have too much elevation, but at the same time I did want to test it out to see where I am. After a lot of thought running the Alpine Loop seemed like a really good idea, but where to start? I figured why not start at my house. It would give me the miles I was looking for and add a little extra spice to the challenge. I asked my FRB and FB friends if anyone wanted to run with me and luckily Adam Hall was in.

We met at my house a little after 3:00 am and were running in perfect temps. There were very few cars out on the roads and it was a lot of fun. We didn't want to burn ourselves out, so we ran at an easy 9:00 pace and had some really good conversation and the miles were just clicking by. It took about 50 minutes to get to the canyon and we both turned on our headlamps. The river was running high and it was really cool to run up in the dark. We didn't see the first car for a few miles and we didn't see many cars at all until we were almost to the top of the loop.
I stopped at the Timpanogos cave parking lot (mile 7.6) to refill my water and take a gel while Adam hiked up and had a snack. It took me a few minutes to catch back up to him and then we got back into a nice comfortable run. We were not pushing the pace at all and when I would check my watch we were anywhere from 10-11:30 on the uphill climb. Eventually the climb starts to get steeper and we decided to hike the steepest parts to save our legs. I did feel some slight tightness in my achilles, but it didn't last long.

The sun started coming up as we hiked the steeper sections and about a mile from the top we had a moose on the side of the road that didn't want to move. As we got closer we made some noise, but it didn't seem to want to budge until a car drove by and spooked it. The mosquitoes were a slight pain, but we had applied deet, so they never became much of an issue. The views on this run were absolutely incredible and the last few miles climbing to the top of the loop are about as good as it gets with some stunning vistas, including some really great views of Timpanogos. I showed Adam some of the climbing routes on the mountain and we stopped a few times just to take in the sights.

We were really happy to reach the top of the loop because we knew it would be all downhill or flat from there. We had well over 3K of climbing so far and my legs were ready for a change. It took about a half mile to get used to the faster downhill running, but eventually we were in a groove and loving it. From the Cascade Springs turn off to Sundance was some of the best running I have ever done. The views on this road are unreal. It was as green as anything I have ever seen in Utah. I love this loop in the fall, but it is also pretty amazing right now as well. After a few miles of running through the lush green aspen forest you start to get the views of Timp again and we were both just giddy. I was smiling and loving every minute. This was probably the best part of the run for me. Our pace kept creeping into the 7's and I kept trying to slow Adam down so we could save our legs. It was tough because that road is the perfect place to open it up. We also passed a few runners coming uphill toward us and we gave them fives and it was fun to see them smile and get excited too.

We stopped at a campground just before Aspen Grove (about mile 21) to refill our water and I took a gel. It was the fourth one I had taken and I also took an S-cap. From Aspen Grove to Sundance we started to see a lot more cars, so we had to really be careful. We cruised at an easy 8:30 pace most of the way out of the canyon, but occasionally Adam would pace us into the 6's or 7's and I would remind him to slow down.

When we reached Provo Canyon we stopped to take another break. I was really hungry, so I downed a Snickers bar and a gel, but it didn't seem like enough. The next few miles I could tell that I needed more energy. I was hoping to make it to the gas station at the mouth of the canyon to refuel, but my energy levels were definitely low for a few miles.

We stopped again at Bridal Veil falls (mile 27) to take a few pictures and I was still craving salty foods. I took another S-cap and over the next few miles kept thinking about what I wanted to eat when we got out of the canyon. About mile 29 we had a guy pass us and I could tell Adam didn't like it at all and then a few minutes later a few girls started to pass us and Adam picked up the speed, so I came along and pretty soon we were running in the 7's. :) It actually was good because before that our pace had slipped into the 10's, so the last few miles going out of the canyon we kept just under a 9 pace.

There is a gas station at the mouth of the canyon and we stopped to refuel. I really wanted some salty potatoes, but my choices were pre-made sandwiches, cold hot dogs or a burrito. I settled on a chimichanga and a Reeses cup with a large Coke. The first few bites of the Chimmy were sooo good and I was moaning with delight, but after about half of it was gone it started to taste like... well, a gas station burrito. I was about 3/4 of the way through it and it started making me sick. I told Adam that was the best and worst burrito I had ever eaten and that made him laugh.
We walked for a couple of minutes after the rest stop to get our legs going again and it was tough when we started running again, especially with several ounces of Coke and chimmy sloshing around in my tummy. The next 5-6 miles were tough. The perfect weather we had up to that point was gone. It was hot, humid and the sun was now out for the first time beating on us. We would get stopped at red lights at times and we both hated that because that meant we had to stop running and get started again, which was tough on sore legs.

About mile 37 we stopped at a Chevron to refill our water and drink some Gatorade. I noticed that almost everyone was staring at us and we were greasy, salty and I'm pretty sure downright rank. I apologized to one lady that was standing by me and she politely said it's ok. Haha. We stunk!!!

The last 6 miles were hard. I definitely prefer running in the mountains to running on city streets and when you are getting close to 40 miles it is even worse, but we just kept pushing and grinding and the miles just seemed to go by. We both felt relatively good, and my energy was up (thanks to the chimmy). About mile 41 we turned back onto the Alpine Hwy and stated the climb back up to my neighborhood. There is a nice big hill by the cemetery that we had to deal with. Adam ran the steepest part, while I hiked and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The last mile wasn't so bad. We just had a nice and easy pace and ran it all the way to the finish. It took us 8:41 and it was an incredible experience. It is the most miles I have ever run on pavement and I am not sure that I want to repeat that. It would have been nice if there had been some trails mixed in, but I can't complain. It was an amazing run

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