Friday, July 20, 2012

Triple Crown attempt with Craig Lloyd and Josh:

Congrats to Craig for setting a new fastest known time on the TC posting an 8:29. Josh and I were there to complete the TC as well, but we were not going after the FKT with Jun. I went to sleep the night before at midnight and was up at 2:30 am to meet Jun at 3:15. I was hoping the lack of sleep wouldn't come back to bite me later in the day. We picked up Josh and then had a fun ride to the Henry's Fork trailhead laughing and joking most of the way. We saw an incredible lightning storm just before Ft. Bridger and then it rained hard for a few minutes and I was nervous about the conditions in the Uintas.

We pulled into the trailhead at 6:00 am. It was cool and there were a lot of cars there. We got all of our gear together and we were standing at the gate about 15 minutes later ready to go. After a few pics we all started our watches and settled into a nice 10:00 min mile pace. You might think that sounds easy but I can assure you it isn't. At 9500 feet running a 10:00 min pace feels like sub 8 and to make things more challenging the trail is one of the more technical that we run on. It is full of rocks large and small and it is very hard to stay off of them and after a few hours I'm always beyond annoyed at all of the rocks. After about 2 miles Craig slowly started pulling away. I wanted to stay with him, but my heart rate was already up pretty high and I didn't want to push it too hard, so I backed it off a bit and Josh and I ran together to Elk Horn crossing (mile 5.3) where we stopped to take a quick break and cross the stream.

We pushed a slow pace into the Henry's Fork meadow and Craig was already out of sight. It was a beautiful morning and we had the entire place to ourselves. This really is one of my favorite places in Utah with high peaks, wild flowers, trees and a stream running right through the heart of the meadow. It was pretty awesome. At Dollar Lake we saw a few campers and they seemed surprised to see us running. We went around the Lake and tried to find the best route up the ridge to the Gilbert plateau. It was basically straight up the mountain and we just got right to it. Hard! The next two hours were by far the most difficult of the day for me. We were now over 11,000 feet and would be climbing to 13,400 in some of the most difficult terrain in the Uintas. After humping the ridge and gaining the plateau it is basically a massive rock pile with uneven tundra all the way to the top. Slow. We ran where we could, but it wasn't much. We were both feeling the altitude and it just seems to suck the energy right out of you. Slow progress.

We finally ran into Craig coming down off of Gilbert. He was moving well. We chatted for a few minutes and then he took off for the chute on the western spur and we got back to the massive pile of boulders that we had to negotiate to the top. I finally started feeling a little better a few minutes before the summit and Josh was surprised that we were actually there. The summit of Gilbert really is isn't all that great. It is just a really big pile of flat rocks with a little rock shelter right at the top. We stopped for a break and snapped a few pics and then started the tedious slog back down to the chute that would take us back into the Henry's Fork meadow. It seemed to go on forever and both of us ran out of water. Luckily when we found the chute there was a spring flowing in the rocks and we took another break to fill our water and cool off. It was awesome.

We made good time down the chute, although both of us tweaked/banged our ankles on the rocks and a few curse words were said for sure. At the bottom we stopped again to dump sand from our shoes and I ate a bean and cheese burrito. The first half of it tasted amazing, but toward the end my tummy started to protest. Back on the trail and back into a running pace to Gunsight Pass. We stopped just below the pass so Josh could fill one of his bottles in the spring there and it wasn't running very well. We noticed that there was a large black cloud now over Gilbert and moving south toward East Gunsight and also the pass. I was a little worried and as we made our way up the switchbacks it only got larger and darker. Uh oh. Just below the pass Boooom. Rumble. Thunder. Shiiiit! We stopped to assess the situation. We figured we would wait a few minutes to see if this would burn off, but the clouds continued to build and we heard a few more shots of thunder. After about 20 minutes we both realized we were probably done. I did not want to get caught up on the plateau or on the Kings summit ridge in a storm. That would be terrifying. We waited another 25 minutes and finally decided we were done. Well, that blows. We were both feeling solid and would have made it for sure, so we were pretty bummed. We hiked back down off the switchbacks to get our legs back and then slowly ran back to Dollar Lake.

The clouds only got darker and there were several booms of thunder. It also started to rain and it would rain off and on the rest of the way back. We took our time and stopped several times to take shelter under trees from the rain. Back at Elk Horn crossing it was wet and there were several groups of hikers that all seemed rather impressed that we were running. A few of them asked us what we were doing and couldn't believe it. The run back from Elk Horn to the trailhead is and always will be the worst 5 miles of running anywhere. By then your feet and legs are trashed and the rocks are everywhere and the trail goes on forever!!! It is hell. We passed everal groups of hikers that were on their way back to the trailhead and one guy called us "showoffs", so naturally we picked up our pace and powered up a large hill. We kept it up for a few more minutes passing another group before we stopped for a quick break.

With just under two miles to go Craig finally caught up to us and he looked fresh and was moving well. We ran with him for a while but neither of us were in the mood to push the pace at all, so we backed it off again and he pulled away. At the finish Craig looked amazingly good and it was pretty awesome that he got back the FKT. We were bummed that we didn't get the Triple Crown, but I still had one of the most fun days of the year running with Josh in an incredible place. The thought of returning to do Gilbert again is not a pleasant one, so I'm not sure if I will ever attempt the TC again. It has to be the worst mountain I have ever climbed. For only doing 25 miles I was pretty wrecked. This terrain and the altitude beat you up like nothing else. It is unreal. I feel like I just ran 50 miles. Congrats again to Craig. What he did out there is pretty incredible. I'll post up some pics later.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wasatch Ridge Running:

This last Friday I ran to the summit of Timpanogos with Craig and Matt Williams. We left at 9pm and hit the summit in 2:08 which is a pretty decent time considering we weren't pushing it too hard. It was awesome up there. That was my 53rd peak of the year so far and I am on pace to shatter my goal of 75 peaks for the year and I should easily pass last year’s total of 78.

Last Thursday the crew (Craig Josh and Mark) met at 4:30 am to do a fun ridge run above Snowbird. It was a total blast.

Sugarloaf, Baldy, Hidden, AF Twins and Red stack peaks with Craig Josh and Mark:

I think this was the best pre-work run of the year so far. Up at 3:30 to meet the guys at the LCC park n ride at 4:30. We took two cars and left one at Snowbird and then jumped into Craig's and drove to the lower Albion Basin road where we parked and started. As soon as we got out of the car we could smell smoke and it was pretty thick for the first few miles. I felt like I was back at the Ritz dance club smoking cloves circa 1990. My stomach felt like crap and we were all moving slow. At the Catherine Pass trailhead I stopped for a quick break and that seemed to help my stomach, but it didn't settle completely for about an hour. We slogged up to the top of the Apline ridge where we were greeted by the standard wind slap in the face. A few more minutes and we topped out on the first summit of the day (Sugarloaf).

After a quick break we ran the ridge over to Baldy where we stopped again and had a break. I downed a gel and then we ran over to Hidden Peak. I love this ridge! It is one of the most scenic places in the Wasatch. At the top of Hidden Peak we could see the next objective, the two summits of American Fork Twin peaks, the high point in Salt Lake County. The ridge over to AF Twins is a bit sketchy with some scrambling and Jsh decided to head down the road while we continued on the ridge.

I really loved the scrambling across the ridge, but it did slow us down a lot while we negotiated a few precarious spots. Incredible! I'll post some pictures later. After the spicy section it is a scramble up some loose rock and boulders to the top of the east twin. Another sweet view and out 4th peak over 11K for the day. Does it get any better? We ran over and tagged the west twin and then negotiated the ridge over to Red Stack Peak where we took another break.

The descent off of Red Stack is horrendous! Steep, boulders and nothing resembling a trail. It sucked, but after that we picked up the dirt road above the Gad Valley lift and ran it in back to Snowbird. Awesome!
Wahsatch Steeplechase:

The Wahsatch Steeplechase has to be one of the most unique race courses in the state of Utah. It is steep, rugged and challenging and I was really excited to run it. The race starts in Memory Grove and climbs 7.5 miles with over 4,000 ft. of elevation to the summit of Little Black Mountain. From there it is a wicked downhill on some steep technical trails to City Creek Canyon below and then back to Memory Grove. I arrived at the start, got checked in and then hung out for about 30 minutes trying to get loose. It was already warm and I was glad I had on my hydration vest. I chatted with Dan Gardiner for a few minutes while we waited for the gun and I knew he was going to have a great race. My goal was to go under 3 hours, but I knew I would have to run a perfect race to do it and with the warm temps I was getting worried.

My goal was to keep a strong pace all the way to the summit and then really push it on the back half if I was feeling good. I went out pretty fast at the start, but there was a large group that went out really fast and I hung back a bit knowing that there were plenty of steep tough miles ahead. Within a mile I was already passing guys that were walking that had gone out too fast. After about a mile the crowds thinned out some and for the next 2-3 miles I was running with the same group. I was feeling really good so far and really enjoying the run. I didn't hike at all until the first aid station at the bottom of the Pipeline hill where I took a gel and S-cap as I hiked up the steep slope. At the top I picked up a solid run and held it most of the way to the base of Little Black Mountain. During this section I passed 7-8 runners, but I was also passed by a few dudes that were running pretty fast. I wondered if they could keep up the pace.

At the base of Little Black the trail becomes extremely steep and it is almost a necessity to settle into a hike. I was in a group with about 5 other guys and we just pushed it up about as fast as we could hike, but about 3/4 of the way up I passed 3 of them on a very steep slope. As we crested the ridge I got back into a run and was surprised to see so many people still hiking. The ridge is not an easy run. It is craggy with a lot of rocks and I passed a few more guys on my way to the 'climbing' section. Jun told me that in order to go under 3 hours I would have to be on the summit in 1:45 and as I reached the downclimbing sections just off the summit I was right there at 1:45.

There are two pretty steep down climbs that require the use of both hands and feet and the race website rates them at 5.4, but I would say they are solid 4th class, but not too bad. When I got to the first of these two down climbs there was a small queue of people backed up because a girl was frozen on the climb and wouldn't move. One of the guys behind her started to coach her down and a race volunteer was there trying to help her with her foot placements down below, but she just wouldn't go. It was so frustrating as the minutes clicked by and I couldn't do anything but stand there. Finally she made it down, but then proceeded to not move out of the way and ran to the next down climb where she got stuck again. When it was my turn I quickly found a foot and hand hold and jumped down within a few seconds, but I realized I was going to be stuck again and had to wait for a few more minutes again as the she tried to get down the second climb. Luckily it wasn't as long as the first, but she still didn't step aside and allow anyone to pass, so I made a slightly sketchy move to get around her as she was still blocking the path on the ridge and moving slow. I can understand that she wasn't comfortable on the terrain and don't have a problem with that, but she should have stepped aside after the first downclimb to allow the 10ish runners to go by that had been waiting for her.

The rest of the ridge is fairly technical, so I took it easy, but still passed 4-5 runners on my way down to Smugglers Gap. I pushed it faster than I normally would on a training run, but still didn't get out of control or move too fast because there were a lot of rocks and roots and the trail was steep going down to Smugglers. At SG aid I pulled off my hydration vest as I ran up to the table and quickly opened up my bladder to get some water. The volunteers said I couldn't take too much, so I had them put in about 15 ounces and I hurried to get my vest back on and started the run down on the Smugglers Gap trail. I was now alone for the first time during the race and I ran for at least a mile by myself. Again I ran faster than I normally would have, but still stayed in control because the trail is a bit sketchy in places.

After about a mile I saw 3-4 runners ahead and within a few minutes I had passed them. I don't usually pass anyone going downhill, but I was feeling really good. At the bottom there was another aid station and I drank a cup of water and one of Nuun and grabbed a gel as I started to run down the canyon. As I took the gel a pretty fast runner passed me, but I was running a 7:20 pace and didn't want to push it under 7, so I just tried to keep that pace and knew I could do it for the 5+ miles to the finish. My hamstring has been bothering me for the last 4 months and it felt pretty good until this last section. It was pretty sore and my legs were feeling it from the climb up to Little Black, but it never got too bad.

At about mile 12 a girl and guy caught up to me and the 3 of us paced together all the way to the finish. We took turns leading, but we stayed together most of the way back. It was really good to have someone to help push the pace because my legs were really feeling wrecked the last few miles and it was getting hot. I ran out of water with about 3 miles to go and the only thing I drank was a small cup of water at the last aid station. My two new friends didn't stop, so I had to pick it up a bit to catch back up. When we were on the canyon road we were running a solid 7:20 pace, but when we got back onto the trail it was tougher to keep that up and we went over an 8:00 pace for the first time since getting off of the Smugglers trail.

With about a mile to go I was feeling really good, so I picked up the pace and dropped my two pacing friends. I had been passed by a couple of guys and I was trying to finish strong. I ran a high 6, low 7 pace to the finish passing one more guy about 100 meters from the end. I finished in 3:05 which was 5 minutes slower than I had hoped, but I was happy with my race because I pushed it as hard as I could have and felt like I ran the best race that I had in me. I maybe could have pushed it harder on the way up, but I might have blown up on the way down. I guess I need more experience with knowing just how much I can push in these races, but I do know that I gave a solid effort and I am happy with the result. I have no idea what place I came in because I haven't seen the results yet. This is an incredible race and I hope to do it again next year.

June Training:

June was a decent training month for me. I am still trying to overcome some tendonitis in my left hamstring and because it is still nagging I have had to dial back my training more than I would have liked, but the good news is that seems to be working and I can tell that it is finally getting better. With just over two months to go until the Wasatch 100 I really need to amp up my miles and get in some good long training runs over the next two months. Hopefully my hammy will cooperate.

I was finally able to get some sweet Wasatch elevation in June tagging 7 11kers and doing some really fun runs/scrambles/climbs. Probably the best adventure of the month was climbing the South Ridge of Mt. Superior with Matt Van Horn and Craig Lloyd.

Mt. Superior South Ridge with Craig and MattVS:

I was up at 3:30 am to climb Mt. Superior via the South Ridge. The S. Ridge is one of the best mountaineering scrambles in the Wasatch and this would be my second time climbing Superior on this route. The route is very prominent from Snowbird and Alta ski resorts and it starts off with some nice scrambling followed by several exposed knife edges and ends with a loose scramble over a pile of rocks at the summit of Superior. If you don't like heights this is not the route for you. It is very exposed and requires several dodgy moves, but there are ample hand holds and as long as you take your time with route finding it never gets too bad (that is relative).

We started just before 5:00 am at Snowbird and it was cold (35ish) and I forgot my gloves. Ahh Shite! We crossed the street and bushwhacked our way up to the lower ridge where there are several ledges to work your way up. The first several hundred feet aren't too bad, but there are a lot of loose rocks and you have to take care and make sure of your hand and feet placements. I was a bit behind the other guys most of the day and the downside was they kicked off some rocks. Craig knocked off a few that I heard coming and I ducked below a bigger rock and could hear them flying down right next to me. Nothing serious. After about 5 pictures with my camera I realized that I didn't have the memory card (shit again) so I would have to take pics with my iphone. Not good.

After about 40 minutes the fun really began as the ridge turns into a knife edge and the scrambling becomes much tougher and a lot scarier. There is plenty of exposure on both sides and I just tried to have good hand and foot placements as I made my way across. About half way up there is a sign dedicated to Hartman Rector, a man that lost his life climbing on this ridge several years back. It is a good reminder of the seriousness of the terrain. I spent most of the morning trying to catch up to the guys and they were nice enough to wait. The serious scrambling went for about an hour although it seemed like we had been on it for hours. There are 2-3 really scary sections and for the first time in a long time I heard Jun say "That is scary" and he said it a few times. He doesn't say that often.

After working our way around the crux section it is a scramble over some very loose rocks up to the summit. The guys got ahead again and they made it to the top and went over to tag Monte Cristo while they waited for me. We all arrived back at Superior at about the same time and I realized I was out of water and my energy was really low, so I took a gel. We took the East ridge back and it is not one of my favorite places in the Wasatch. It is steep and very loose and you have to take it easy with all of the slippery rocks. I hate it, but there aren't many options up there. Again the guys got ahead and waited for me up on a small peak just above Cardiff Pass.

At the pass I emptied several rocks out of my shoes and then we ran all the way back down to the canyon road. Again they got ahead of me, but I wasn't going to run fast with all of the rocks on that trail. The trail ends right at Alta ski resort so I ran the canyon road back to Snowbird. The guys were out of sight by now and just before I reached the parking area they came to pick me up. What an awesome day and experience. The South Ridge is challenging and scary, but it is incredible to work your way up that thing and finish it off. I give it 5 stars. Back down at the LCC park n ride Matt and I both had a dirtbag shower and got ready for work laughing the whole time. It was a perfect morning.

Matt put together a sweet video of our climb. Check it out.