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.


  1. Way to get it done (Aug) and get that monkey off your back.

    PS We don't use the word "tummy" in these circles.