Category Archives: Gear

Saved by Thoughtfulness

This is loooong and booooring. You’ve been warned.

Planned to run 24 hours after working a full day. Idea was to be awake at least 36 hours. Had an ambitious course that I’d never set foot on. Toned it down to Plan B which was just a simpler loop. But it turns out even that was a no go.

First thing I learned: In the Canyons, there is no cell reception unless your on a peak, and even then it can be iffy. So if you make plans where you might or will be out of communication, make sure the plans are bulletproof. Know exactly where to meet.  I’ve only run with her Madison before, so I should have asked her what kind vehicle she was driving. She parked in the next parking lot, so I moved my car next to hers.

We left promptly on schedule at sunset, 6:21. Headlamps came out shortly. We had a pretty pleasant run up Church Fork to Grandeur Peak. When we got to the top, we saw someone had left a sword there, maybe from Halloween. Madison definitely won the “Dramatically pulling the Sword from the Stone” acting award. (Even though the sword was barely in the ground.)

When we got on the unmaintained and untraveled Mill Creek Crest trail, it was really hard to see where the trail was. And the ground was covered with these short bushes that further obscured the trail. So having the full brightness of our headlamps was critical. Always start a big run with brand new batteries, especially if time matters like in a race. And always have spare batteries. In my experience, batteries start to dim to unacceptable levels after 8-10 hours. The difficulty of the terrain may dictate how soon you should change them.

We would find the trail, run for a minute and then be looking again for the trail. Repeat this for two of the slowest miles ever. This was frustrating and one of the main lessons of the night. Just because you can see the trail on map, doesn’t mean squat – and even a phone app might not help. My dumb ass thinking I could find the route AT NIGHT was wildly mistaken. I should have gone and pre-run the course, especially since I invited someone to run with me. I felt like a jackass getting us lost. Thank goodness Madison was not upset.

We discussed that sometimes it’s okay to not know where you area all the time. Sometimes it’s okay to struggle to find the way. But after awhile of constantly not seeing the trail, of having no idea where to go, I started to get worried. I started to get that feeling when you’ve been drunk or tripping too long and you just want it to stop. It was more annoyance than panic. I would have killed for some small orange flags or cairns.

We persevered nightmare level bushwhacking until we reached a small peak. There was a steep drop off in the direction we were headed. We looked around the sides for a less steep route, but found nothing. After a fruitless search, Madison suggested we bail and backtrack. I fully agreed. This was a good example of being mentally flexible and not getting fixated on an objective.  As much as I wanted to keep going since we were so close to Mount Aire, I knew she was right. And looking at a map now of where we were and where we were trying to get to, she absolutely made a smart call.

We turned around, and even backtracking was a bit of a challenge. At one point, we decided instead of going all the way back to where we split off from Church Fork, we could just drop into the canyon towards the road and eventually hit the trail. While that was true and we did eventually hit the trail, it was super sketchy. We had to slide down some steep scree fields. The whole time I kept thinking if anything happened to Madison, it was my fault. Fortunately the trail was relatively close which was a HUGE relief. We were ecstatic to be back on a trail and made our way back to the cars. I apologized for getting us lost

After Madison left, it was about an hour before Nate and Brian were scheduled to show up. I loaded my food and water, put on my down jacket and wrapped myself up in my down sleeping bag. I rested my eyes and brain a bit. Saw a few cars drive by. I turned on some music to rouse me as I got out of the car. Then two cars coming from each direction pull in on either side of me. I was like “Fuck yeah!” I don’t know why, but I thought it was so cool they both rolled up at the same time. They got situated, and we started off.

Told them Mill Creek Crest trail was a shit show and that we would have to resort to Plan C. Ascend Church Fork, down Grandeur west face, and then over to Pipeline and back. As they were getting ready, we had a bit of discussion on how to dress appropriately. It was pretty cold, there was a possibility of rain so it was important for us all to have the right clothing. I had been wearing a base layer, with a tech tee, and my windbreaker which had been working well so far. Later, I would find that I would like to have something more substantial for next time. Learning to dress for your temperament is critical in cold weather and comes with practice and experience. 

We made it to Grandeur Peak easily. We took photos with the sword. Nate (in the red) looks like he’s pooping, I think he said as much.

As we descended the West face and began making our way towards Pipeline, there were some hiccups route finding. Nate seemed a little agitated, and rightfully so. I again felt I had let my friends down by not knowing the route. As we struggled uphill, it occurred to me that I should have done this at Bonneville Shoreline Trail. That is a much easier, flatter trail. Nate had even suggested that to me, but I thought it was too flat and I wanted to be a badass. Ahh, hindsight. The value of simplicity cannot be overstated. We finally made it to Pipeline. After plodding along, it was great to actually run on a flat wide trail.

As we got closer to the cars, I was sad and anxious. I was extremely jealous that they would be going home to shower and sleep in a comfortable bed and not be cold and not have to run anymore. I would be on my own for the next 6 hours.

We were done an hour early, so I took a nap. I had planned for 20 min which turned into close to an hour. Looking at the time, it was hard to will myself to leave the relative warmth of my down cocoon, go back into the cold night, and start running again.  Memories of Julie’s “Don’t be a lil bitch!!!” stirred me into action.

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I loaded up and was ready to roll, it was 6 am. I was right on schedule, which made me happy. I headed in the opposite direction from the last loop. Since I was on my own, I wanted to do the west face of Grandeur which is considerably harder than the Church Fork route. I warmed up and turned on my music which helped me feel less alone.

For the most part, I feel like I had been on top of my hydration and nutrition. My mental state had been pretty good up to his point. No injuries or gear issues. The weather was NBD. I had done this peak plenty of times to know what I was in for. I figured two hours and I’d be at the top.

It was tougher than usual. I kept stopping and checking my heart rate, which never seemed to be that high. I was huffing and puffing. The higher I got, the more I stopped. It began to flurry and the wind kicked up. It looked worse at the peak, so I stopped and put on my rain jacket, rain pants, and another pair of gloves. That was a smart move. I kept climbing for what seemed like an eternity. The wind intensified even more, blowing the snow into my face. All I could think was how bad this sucked.

Normally, I am pretty good at putting The Suck in perspective. I tried focusing on just the steps in front of me, but also kept looking up to see how much more I had to go. It was always A LOT.  I tried to keep in mind that even though it looked super far, I would be there soon enough. FutureSelf usually reminds me of the long view, but was now conspicuously silent. PresentSelf was in full on pity party mode.

Since I was basically crawling, I had plenty of time to think up “reasons” to quit. I was “being smart so that I could live to run another day…”  I didn’t Lexi to drive out here expecting to run and find that I could barely walk… I didn’t want to get sick and screw myself for Dead Horse on the 17th… I wasn’t having fun anymore… I was tired and cold and had had enough… None of which held much water.

Bottom line: mentally, I had given up.

I started thinking how I would explain to everyone why I gave up. What would I tell them? Did I have a legitimate enough excuse? Would I have to make something up? There would always be some silver lining to find. People would still give your credit for what you did do. It’s okay to fail. There was no real consequence to quitting.

Armed with all my “reasons” and assurances that no one would shame me for quitting, I texted Lexi that I was pulling the plug. As I hunkered down, shielding my phone from the oncoming snow, I was still completely conflicted about sending the message. After I hit the send button, I felt a mixture of 3% relief and 97% guilt and disappointment.

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Recently, I have been concerned with knowing when to call it quits. Maybe in the back of my mind, I thought this was one of those times it would be prudent. I wanted to show myself that I could be smart. But I think if you really should quit, you’ll feel it in your gut, you’ll just “know.” And on the flip side, you should also feel it in your gut when you should NOT quit. I think I knew in my gut that I shouldn’t quit, and that’s why I felt so conflicted and disappointed.

Shortly after sending the message, I reached the peak and immediately started descending. Literally, within the first few steps down, I realized my legs were fine. (Which shouldn’t have surprised me. By this point, I’d only run about 30 miles.) Was this some weird kind of fluke? I kept running, expecting to feel worse. Nope. Not a fluke. Legs are fine, it’s just your dumb, weak brain couldn’t manage to keep it together.

Excited by this new development, I got my phone to text Lexi to “put the plug back in.” She had sent a message 20 minutes ago. There might be a chance to catch her. I replied, but realized I no longer had cell reception and the message would not go through. I had needlessly bailed on my friend.

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Happy I could run, but dejected and extremely disappointed that I had let another friend down, I stewed and tried to dissect what happened. My thinking has always been that during really long races, you’ll hit a low and want to quit. It’ll suck and seem like the end of the world. But if you can wait it out just a bit and take a step back, things will probably be okay.  If I had waited till I got to the peak and gotten over the literal hump, I would have seen that I was fine, or at least less inclined to want to quit. Round and round my squirrel brain went, unable to pinpoint exactly why I gave up.

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The snow came down a bit more. I was grateful that it was snowing and not raining. After hours of solitude, I passed a hiker. Then a couple, and then several more couples. And then I saw a girl trail runner.

She smiled at me. She had two hoods on, I didn’t recognize her; it was Lexi! OMFG! She decided to come out anyway and run me in the last mile. She parked way down the road next to some other car with Texas plates, had run the other direction, got the feeling she was going the wrong way and turned around and headed this way. She’d already run four miles. She was just as excited that she actually found me. I couldn’t believe the luck!

The whole way back, I was floored that she chose to run me in the last few miles without even knowing if she could find me. Most people would have just stayed at home and called it good. Even after I realized my legs were fine, I was resigned to quit. Her thoughtfulness saved my run. And for that, I thanked her profusely.

We ran back to my car and I resupplied. I wasn’t hungry, but Lexi suggested that I should eat whether I wanted to or not, which is almost always smart advice.  We tried to cook up an instant heat up O-meal. You add water to this heating element and it cooks the food super fast. We added the water, wait almost 10 minutes…. nothing happened. Maybe the element is bad? Throw the wasted heating element in my bag. Took out the heating element from another meal, added water… again nothing!  Then all of a sudden, the first element starts steaming furiously. I grabbed the bag and pluck out the element. Then again the other element goes off. It might be the cold, but I will never buy an O-meal again. I didn’t end up eating anything, but did have two beers as were “cooking.”

We discussed where we should run. Since I hadn’t been able to reach Mount Aire, I suggested we give that a try. The route was clear and involved no bushwhacking. I felt good physically. More importantly, mentally and emotionally I was a new man.

 

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We ran down the trail and found the entrance to Mount Aire. We trucked upward in the muck and snow. I was moving as fast as a glacier. Eventually we made it to the peak. Surveying our surroundings, there was a huge peak to the east. Curious, I looked at the Gaia app. It was Mount Aire. We were on the wrong peak. (Insert eye rolling emoji.) It looked pretty formidable and was at least another 800′ of climbing. We were both pretty tired at this point and neither of us wanted to climb it, but we were so close and FutureSelf piped up that we would regret it if we didn’t.

So we started up the switchbacks.

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It again began snowing. I don’t know how she does it, but Lexi was wearing short shorts and wasn’t fazed at all by the cold. We made it to the peak and couldn’t see much. We took a quick photo and immediately headed back down to get out of the cold. We saw a sliver of blue sky on the way down. Incredibly, once we had reached the ground, the sky behind Mount Aire was all blue.

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The return run was fun. As we drew closer, I could smell the barn. We did some fartleks, and for a few of them, I ran hard. It was fun, joyful running.

I finished with 23 hours, but I still consider it a success considering I was going to quit after only 18. No need to find a silver lining here. Still cannot believe how this turned out. Super stoked to have had friends join me for this adventure. No one got hurt, we didn’t die, and we’ll probably do it again sometime.

24 HR Training Run Planning

So as part of my training for The Franklins 200, I’m going to attempt to run 24 hours after work this Saturday. Plan is Work from (essentially) 7 am – 4:30 pm, drive to the trailhead (Possibly take a short nap) and then start running and hiking. I’ve told a few of my coworkers and invited them to join me. I can’t back out now because I’ll look like a chump. Also it’ll be fun to run with some of them… if any of them decide to show up. It’s going to be tough because if I manage the whole thing, I’ll have been up around 36 – 40 hours all told. I am planing now so that I can be prepared and pull this off. Here are the things I am looking at right now. Pack is going to be full and heavy.

  • Food – Need enough calories in my pack for several hours. What will this include? Bacon, peanut butter, avocado… Waffles… nuts and raisins… cookies, lots of cookies… burritos, pizza… Will have more food in the car, which should be centrally parked to allow easy access from multiple directions. Bringing either a Jetboil and/or a cooktop in order to make hot food. Or even those heat up with water deals would work. Regardless, at some point, hot food is a must. Hot coffee and/ or broth would also be ideal.
  • Water – Big jug of water in the car. Will carry a water filter and back up bottle. Might stash some bottles during tomorrow’s run just in case. Cooler filled with all the usual liquids: Chocolate milk, Arizona iced tea, sparkling water, Coke and/or Mt Dew, Gatorade, coconut water, NUUN tablets would be nice. And of course, BEER.
  • Clothing – Need at least one change of clothes in the car.  Wear waterproof socks. Rain gear: carry or car? (Should carry, right? Check weather forecast.) Two pairs of gloves, two buffs. Will I need my old man hat? A hat of some sort. Sunglasses and clear glasses for the night. Keep puffy jacket in the car for when I take a break.
  • Shoes – All my current shoes are in the middle of their lifespan, I can tell that they are on the way out. I may purchase a new pair for this event. Will wear the usual two pairs of socks and gaiters. Carry a spare pair of socks in plastic bag in my pack. May need to upgrade to waterproof gaiters if possible. DEFINITELY will buy Microspikes. Not sure if I will need them for whatever route I come up with, but I will need them eventually.
  • Gear – External battery to recharge phone and Garmin. Cables for both. Waterproof pouch to contain them all. SET ALARM ON PHONE TO REMIND ME TO START CHARGING GARMIN. Headlamp and spare batteries. Spare headlamp: carry or car? (Should carry, right?) Bring waist light. Poles with spare poles in car. Cell Phone with downloaded maps. Phone battery has been draining very rapidly of late. May need more than one external battery. (Carry one and have one in the car.) Carry little first aid kit. (although honestly I don’t even know the first thing about first aid.) Emergency blanket. May bring GoPro.
  • Navigation – will be mainly by cell phone using GAIA and All Trails apps. Will have a paper map as backup. Maybe even just use that.
  • Sleep – Plan to get up early (5am) on Friday so that I will be plenty tired and get to bed sooner on Friday night. Will be waking around 5:30 on Saturday.

How do I plan to meet my friends? Where will we meet? Should I just do repeats on something so that it’s easier? Where do I park? Is it going to be okay there overnight?

Some way to make funny signs for my buddy Dustin. Bring a marker and white board?

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My last thing is figuring out a route. There are a lot of trails in the area that i’ve not been on. I want to hit several peaks, but don’t want to do anything too risky.  I want to be somewhat near the car so if I need anything I can get it, but also as an easy spot to meet my friends. Wherever I park, I need to make sure that I can leave my car there overnight.

I have the next day off: Recovery Plan.

  • First thing is usually to rehydrate and drink as many liquids as I like.
  • Get home and get showered, and in comfortable clothes.
  • Should have some quality food that I can just heat up, although that may look like just a pizza. A steak would be dope. Have both and choose depending on how tired I am. I haven’t drunk much beer in the last two weeks or so, I will have earned a few if I pull this off.
  • If I’m not immediately tired, write about how it went. What worked and what didn’t. Any aches or pains, how are my feet? Edit photos.

This will be a pretty big adventure and so I’m pretty excited. I’ve not run on the majority of the trails that I am looking at, so I don’t know what to expect. While I know I can run for 24 Hours, and be awake for 36, I don’t want to be overconfident. Route wise, maybe what that means, is to do all the fun exploration scary stuff at the beginning while I’m fresh, and do easy familiar stuff at night and/or while I’m tired. Whatever happens, you’ll hear about it soon enough.

 

 

Thoughts from Pfeifferhorn

The day before, I had no idea where I was going to run. Mentioned to my roommate that I was contemplating attempting Pfeifferhorn. He said there was no way with all the snow. I thought what does he know, he doesn’t even hike that much. While his reasoning was sound, (snow on the east side of the mountain would still be there) it made me want to do it just to prove him wrong. Dumb reason if ever there was one.

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Night before, looked at All Trails for basic info. 9 miles round trip, no big deal. Prepped my pack for a regular run. Had a biggish breakfast and drove out. Cold start. Encountered some patches of snow. Pretty soon, it was all snow. Got off course a bit, but soon found the trail. Saw footprints from a day or two ago. Followed those.

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img_20181024_112117img_20181024_112610This is about when I started to think how unprepared I was. I had no microspikes. I knew this would be an issue. But I had done Lone Peak without them and survived. I was relying on my poles, and they were doing a good enough job.

I do not own waterproof trail shoes. They would have been super helpful on this day. I have waterproof socks, but totally spaced on wearing them. I also spaced on packing a spare pair of socks, even though I had though about it the night before. That would have been nice, because by the end of the run, my feet were soaked. Luckily, my feet never got really cold, so it wasn’t too bad.

My gaiters worked okay, but allowed snow to get into my shoes several times. I need to get four point gaiters and/or consider getting the Altra Lone Peak mids. Also just taller waterproof gaiters may be necessary, especially for when I start snow shoeing.

I thought about how dumb it was to be out here on my own. If I twisted an ankle or something happened, I had nothing other than my phone. I barely had any warm clothing. I was wearing just a short sleeve technical tee and my windbreaker. I didn’t have an emergency blanket. I had no way to make fire, to signal, to whistle. At least I had jokingly mentioned to my roommate that if I didn’t show up that night, he knew where to send the search party.

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Hiking up to the ridge was a pretty steep climb in the snow. When I stopped and turned around, all I could think was if I slipped, I would have a very long, bumpy slide down.  I debated whether I should continue or not. Just make it to the ridge and then reassess, I told myself. Here I began to wonder at what point do you stop? When do you tell yourself, this is dumb, I could die, I need to turn around? I figured if that was really the case, my stomach would tell me. I made it to the ridge, and it wasn’t a big deal.

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Looking at the app on my phone, I was so close to the peak. But first there was some scrambling to be done. I wished there was someone with me, another brain to help decide if this was doable, or dumb. I sat and contemplated. Just take it slow. If it gets too sketchy, I’ll turn around.

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I stowed my poles and slowly and carefully, I made my way across the rocks, seeking out what seemed like the safest route. I tried to stay on the west side of the ridge where there was less snow. I recalled scrambling over rocks with Brian. This wasn’t so bad.

I made it across the scramble and stared up at the climb. There was a trail of footprints in the snow. It looked crazy steep. I was nervous. I sat there awhile wondering if this was the point to turn around. I tried to remind myself that going forward is great, but I would also have to return the same way. I thought again about when Brian and I did our little mini WURL. The peaks all looked crazy high and far, but eventually we would summit. I figure this was no different. Go for it.

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Step by step, I inched up the final climb. When I stopped to look back, it was a bit nerve-wracking. I was in for a lot of broken bones if I slipped. I made sure to dig my poles into the snow, making sure that one was in the snow at all times. There was a large swath of rock that I got on and instantly felt a million times safer on. There was no snow on it and I could grip really well. It became necessary to look up and see where I would go to stay on the rocks.

And then I made the side summit, and walked the 20 feet over to the true summit. I wish there was a geological marker, but I didn’t see one. Took several photos of course. Sat there and enjoyed the absolute silence. It was a gorgeous day to be on top of the world.

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As I began to descend, I realized one of the drawbacks of hiking up on the rock: I couldn’t see where exactly I had gone. There were no footprints to follow. But it wasn’t that big of deal. When I got to the scramble, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was off the crazy steep stuff. The scramble was much quicker on the return trip. Then one more downhill.

Once I got to the bottom of that hill, where earlier I had wondered if I should continue or not, I scoffed at why I was scared. I think familiarity has a lot to do with it. This is all new to me, so it seems scary. Chances are though, I will see these steep snow-covered climbs frequently living in Utah. It will cease to be scary. As I descended, it was a lot less scary.

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The rest of the run was uneventful. My feet were plenty wet by this point. No blisters though. I slipped a few times, thankful that I saved them for flat ground. After about 6 hours I was back at my car, happy to have not died. Also, I was happy that I could tell my roommate that I summited Pfeifferhorn in the snow.

 

Corner Canyon 50K

Spent too much time browsing potential races on Ultrasignup. Definitely hooked on the rush of signing up for another race. It’s great to have a race to look forward to, but my wallet hates it. I had seen the race, but anticipated being in Moab to volunteer for the Moab 240. However since I did R2R2R and spent way too much there, I couldn’t afford the time off to volunteer for four days like I had planned. I was scheduled to work the day of the Corner Canyon race, but not until 2:30… I could do this. So I signed up.

A newish race about 7 years old. It’s a charity race raising money for people with major medical issues. I figured it must be easier so that more people can run it. Nope. It was a genuinely challenging course. There was plenty of easy flat runnable sections with crazy steep climbing sections mixed in. There were a few out and backs, but too much repetition. There were some nice views throughout the race.

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Temps were pretty dang good. The start was a bit cold, but not too cold. The start was the usual mix of excitement and mild dread about the many hours ahead. My goal for the race was to push myself harder than usual. That meant less walking and running at a faster pace. I wanted to see if I could actually finish in Ultrasignup’s predicted time of 6:51. Since I didn’t know anyone running, I could just chug along without much distraction.

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Running hard has become a foreign concept to me. My usual mentality is to run slow so that I don’t get my heart rate too high and then get tired. It was hard to break out of my comfort zone and force myself to work harder, but I did. Just not smartly.

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I ran hard straight out the gate. I felt great for the first few hours, but then unsurprisingly, began to fade around mile 23 -24. And then there were some major hills to contend with. Normally, I love crazy steep hills. But being calorie deprived made it really tough. I was plodding along step by step. I chose not to use poles, and even though it was tough, I still think it was the right choice.

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There was a “short” out and back section where we had to run to the turnaround point and mark our bib with the Sharpie there. From where I stood when the volunteer directed me, it looked to be just an extra hill. He informed me that it was past that. He told me a distance which I heard as .3 or three tenths of a mile.

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So I run up to this hill, and then down the backside. I’m following the guy in front of me and he’s going up another hill. Get up over to that one, and I can see more runners… and more hills. This is the longest .3 miles of my life!

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I tried to disassociate myself from my current struggle by pretending I was FutureSelf. Futureself had the pleasure of being finished with the struggle and looking back to tell PastSelf that it would soon be over. This is a newish strategy for me, and I imagine I’ll have to rely on it heavily during the Franklins.

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Finally I make it to the turnaround spot and grabbed the maroon Sharpie to mark my bib. I contemplated writing “Bitches I made it!” but settled for something less offensive.

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The return trip was quicker, but not by much. Everyone coming the opposite direction looked strong. Even though they were behind me, I knew I was going to get passed.

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I questioned the volunteer about the distance because it seemed further than it should have been. He said it was “three quarters of a mile.” (And that might have been each way.) I guess the “point three” that I thought I heard was wishful thinking.

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Here a couple guys I had been leapfrogging finally left me in the dust. I was really hoping I could catch them at the end, but no luck. I wonder if they thought to themselves “oh that guy’s going out too fast. I’ll catch him later.” I hate being that guy.

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At the next two aid stations, I forced myself to eat more. While standing there nibbling on whatever, I stared at the table in a daze, wondering what else I could tolerate. Two women passed me during my calorie contemplation.

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Eating perked me up energy wise and started moving better. Finally my mental game picked up, which was great because from the last aid station, it was only three more miles. PresentMe took over and pushed hard for the finish. I didn’t catch those guys, which was a little disappointing, but NBD.

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Crazy

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Browsing the internet the other night after a long day, just about to finish my beer. I get a text from Nate:
“They just stashed 1k dollars worth of gear on superior. Up for a night hike? Been up there for like 45 mins.” I was like. “What the hell? Who did what??”

So he calls me and tells me the deal. One of the local race directors dropped a bunch of prizes at the peak of Mt Superior. He’s on the way there, do I want to join him. My legs are on their sixth day of running, with 66 miles of running and almost 30 miles of biking; they are tired. I want to go to bed. Instead, I tell him I’ll get my stuff together and meet him there.

I’ve not done Superior yet, it’s definitely one on my list. I have no idea what to expect, but I plan for several hours. I pack up and get out the door sort of quick. It’s a 30 min drive. Nate calls just as I Google maps is giving me critical driving info. I tell him I’m almost there.

Three minutes from the meeting point, Nate again calls and informs me someone bagged the prize. Deflated, I pull up to where he’s parked and he tells me the story. He gave the race director a ride to his car, or something like that, and found out we just missed out. I”m

Not wanting to have to driven 30 minutes for nothing, I say we should hike it anyway. My mindset is this is great training for Bigfoot. My legs are dead, I’m tired, it’s late at night and dark. All the things I will have to deal with in a few months.

We find an entry point and start climbing a shale field. Quickly we lose the trail and are just scrambling. Progress is slow. After only a half mile, we realize we are going up the wrong way and have to quit. We could possibly go higher, but it would be super sketchy if we had to down climb, so we call it off.

We make our way down and end up bushwhacking through a bunch of trees and brush, locating some stinging nettle as a bonus. Half a mile never seemed so long. We finally got to bottom and back to the road. I was never so glad to see pavement.

I don’t imagine this will be a regular spontaneous occurrence, though Nate did say the race director would probably do this again. So to be ready for the next time, I packed a GObag to keep in the car. Now I can just show up somewhere and run unplanned.

I will add more things and adjust for the seasons. But this is what’s in it now.

GOBAG DIAGRAM

Gettin Good at Gettin Lost. Even w/ GPS

So I tried to get on the Speedgoat course today with mixed results.

In Texas, there wasn’t really ever any need for GPS or knowing a course because there aren’t that many options and whatever options there are don’t go far, so it’s not a big deal to get lost. After today, I realize that I need to up my navigation game. Which is to say, I need to get one.

Today I was using the Gaia app with a GPX file downloaded from a guy on Strava. I want to get familiar with it because that is the app we are supposed to use for Bigfoot 200. I used it last week navigating to Lone Peak and also managed to get off trail. I also supplemented the app with Google Maps and that helped.

Some of the things I came away with:

Study the course! This is probably obvious to everyone but me, but now I get it. I can’t always rely on your magical electronic map to get me where I want to go. I have to have some idea of where the hell I’m going. This is super important when I’m out on my own like today. If I get myself lost 10 miles up a mountain, it’s going to be a long night. Which leads to my next take away

When going somewhere unfamiliar and I plan on being out there for several hours, pack more calories than I think I need. I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out where I needed to go it added a couple hours to my time. Which means I’m burning precious calories. And if I get even loster, It’ll make thinking that much harder. You don’t want your stomach to be the cause of bad decisions.

I thought I might try some really nice olive oil and bread and salt or cheese next time. Food needs to be calorie dense, sturdy and portable. Also a small Ziploc for garbage would be helpful. I had a small can of tuna which needed a bag to keep my pack clean.

I brought a bunch of Endurolytes. Twice I’ve encountered guys suffering from heatstroke. They are small and light and could really help someone out. That and crystallized ginger and a first aid kit.

And it wasn’t an issue on this outing, but in the future, having the ability to filter stream water is important. In Texas, this was never a consideration for many reasons. But here, you simply can’t carry enough water for an intense all day outing, and you don’t necessarily need to since there are often flowing water sources. So I have to learn what all is involved in filtering water. It doesn’t seem too complicated. But we’ll see.

Snow baskets. I think that’s what they are called. Those are the wider discs that go on the bottom of trekking poles for the snow. Today my poles would just punch through the snow. Those attachments help spread the force and keep them from sinking so far in the snow. Along with that, two point trail gaiters don’t cut it in the snow. Several times the snow found its way into my shoes.

Glissading can be fun if you plan for it. I slipped and slid and got a cut on my backside. I was lucky it wasn’t worse. There is probably some technique for doing it properly. It also probably requires something to slide on. My chintzy shorts were of no protection whatsoever.

Looking forward to the next chance to run the course.

 

200 to 200

Hadn’t run much this week, wanted to make up for it with a long run. Was very inspired, motivated after hanging out with Dustin at Julie and Joe’s house. Julie gave us some insight on doing that long of a race.

Took my poles with me to “practice” using. I can use them just fine. I have my techniques down pretty well, but sometimes my arms hurt after using them extensively. I might have bad form?

Carried my windbreaker, glad I had that. Part of the day was chilly. Luckily there was no rain. My raincoat issue still has not been solved.

Did a bit of hiking as well. Felt like I was moving well. Kept decent track of calorie intake. Stopped at the gas station and got drinks and a hot dog. Hot dogs are def something I want to put on my list of foods to have at races. Nice and salty, good bite to them, easy to digest. Ketchup being the only acceptable topping due to its sweetness.

Learned and thought about a few things in regards to Bigfoot on the run:

It was hard modulating my temperature with the windbreaker. I took it off and put it back on several times during the run. I think a vest with arm sleeves might be something to look into. Or getting a jacket with pit zips or some sort of easy venting. Also, all my sweat condensated inside the jacket, especially around the crook of the arms.

Finally figured out a spot to attach my mouthpiece for the bladder. Hooked it on the loop of the top strap. So whenever I take off the strap, the hose goes with it. Smart!

That stupid whistle needs to go. It clicks non stop. Dammit Salomon, just build the whistle into the buckle like everyone else! That backpack should come with instructions. And it should NOT be one size fits all. The zippers on the sides are annoying. I felt like my arms kept rubbing against the sides. Def need to wear sleeves, otherwise that could lead to chafing.

Thought I should tape my nipples just in case. 108 hours is a long time.

Put tape or something around the middle of the poles. If it’s cold, especially at night, the poles are cold. Tape or something to hold on when it’s cold.

The Injini socks I have are not going to cut it as liners. When I took them off, they had slid down a bit and I think could very well have been a blister issue. So taller liner socks it is! If only Darn Tough and Injini could have a sock baby.

Need to figure out how I will carry my Garmin as it’s charging because the cable plugs in perpendicular to the watch. That’s some dumbness right there. Also need to time how long it takes to charge. And figure out all the settings.

Bought two liters of water at the gas station since they were cheaper by the pair and I thought one wasn’t going to be enough. But one was enough and I had to ditch the other bottle. Realized I should know by sight how much my bladder can hold.

Did some exploring, which was nice. It is some much more interesting when you run somewhere new than running something you’ve run a million times before. Ran up Branson Falls! Found some new hills in the neighborhood next to the Powerlines. Also a bonus hill in the neighborhood next to Crownridge. Also found a new trail off of Prue road. It was anything spectacular, but it was still some place I’d never run before, and there was a hill along the way. Also hopped a locked fence!

Got two errands done, dropped off books at the libary, and bought some things at Joanns.

Overall, pretty good run. Goal was 20, got 26.6. Need to follow it up with 15-20 miler really early. But don’t know if that’ll happen.

Crazy Desert Race 100K

“It’s only 100K with no hills.”

I regret going into the race with that sort of attitude. I didn’t prepare as well and my performance suffered as a result. I didn’t have a terrible race, but I know it could have been better. Many small things added up to a frustrating race.

One of the bigger culprits was not getting enough sleep. The day before the race, I got up before 6 to go hiking with a coworker, went to work, and then drove 3 hours to San Angelo, finally getting to bed around 11. That is far from ideal. Sufficient sleep is vital for good performance mentally and physically. When I started the race, my legs felt heavy.

I wore my newish Ultimate Direction hydration pack. I’ve worn it a few times, but never raced in it. I think it still needs to be broken in. Maybe 10 miles in, I noticed my bottle was jamming my rib cage, making a very tender spot. After I finished the first loop, I put on my old Salomon pack and it just felt great. I also love the huge back pocket that I can reach into without having to unzip or zip. Basically, these little gear niggles should be worked out prior to a race, not during.

Coming into the second to last aid station, I found out that the course mileage was off by 5 miles. I was heading into the last aid station when I should have been finishing the loop. This threw me off mentally. What would happen now? Would we have to run a 75miler? I imagined several possible scenarios that could play out, finally resolving not to sweat it, Rob would figure something out. No way would he make us run an extra 13 miles. Like I tell myself all the time, just focus on the mile in front of you.

The sky had been overcast for the entire first loop. It seemed like it was going to be a perfect day for running. Thinking it would stay that way was wishful thinking. Wishful thinking that got me mildly sunburned and drained quite a bit of energy from me.

My old man hat and ice bandana have saved me on numerous sunny occasions. I had them in my bag at the start/ finish, but chose not to bring them with me as I foolishly thought it would be overcast all day. Katie offered sunscreen, which I declined. 2 huge mistakes, likely due to lack of sleep and fretting about the course mileage issue.

The clouds burned off and the sun was in full effect. There was very little shade on the course, it was extremely exposed. Every I looked, there was cactus, as if to remind me that I was in the desert. I used my buff as an ice bandana, and that worked okay. Proper ice bandana is way faster to fill and wear. There wasn’t much I could do about the sun. Whenever I saw shade, I stopped and took a short break.

Hydration and nutrition were okay. Shat once before the race, but still had enough for three more times during the first loop. Wore Calderas first loop, but switched into Lone Peaks for the last two loops. Forgot iPod on second loop, only had music for last loop.

I have never looked at my watch so many times during a race. It became incredibly frustrating near the end trying to figure out how much longer I would be running. I wanted to do 12 hours, and kept trying to calculate in my head if I could. Each time I did the calculations, my results changed. That was pretty demoralizing. And add to that the fact that we had to run a few extra miles because of the marking error, so I wasn’t entirely sure how close I was to the finish.

Leapfrogged with several runners, including Julie of course. Finally caught up to Dustin in the very last mile. He had been puking but was moving. I didn’t stop to talk or run wit him, I just ran past him. Finished in 12:58 for 5th. Dustin showed up two minutes later to finish in 13 hours on the nose for 6th and Julie came in at 13:01 for 7th. She won 100k last week and again this week. Amazing.

So while not a terrible race, it was a far cry from the planning and execution of the last race. What’s worse is that now I am behind in points (but I think just barely) for the Desert trail race series. The winner of the three race series gets $500. I’ve never won any money from running, and it would be awesome if I did. The last race is the Franklin Mountain 50K in November. It looks like if I want to win that money, I am going to have to train, plan, and race my ass off. So maybe being behind is a good thing, providing me the motivation to focus on the task ahead.

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Zion 100M

Waiting forever for a flight? Write a race report!

 

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All smiles before the race. 

Went with Elizabeth, my buddy Ed, and his gf Katherine.

 

Start was a hill. Slowish going, not bad, good warmup. Run behind Ed. Lots of dust. One spot had a rope to use or you could go around. Never seen that before. Chose to go around. First aid station top of hill. Do I need aid this early?

Starts getting light. You can see the scenery. Take shots with GoPro. Stash camera in pack. Stop to poop. Commence running again. More awesome scenery, grab camera and… I’ve been filming for 20 min. Definitely was filming during my poop break. Wonder how that’ll turn out. And I’ve managed to get separated from Ed. Don’t see him again till Mile 50 or so.
Running behind two guys. See kid up ahead, holding out his cupped hands.  He offers the first runner,  “Ca- SHOOS?” No thanks. And the second runner, “Ca-SHOOS?” No thanks. And them me, “I LOVE cashews!”  kid dumps some into my hand. I chastise the runner in front of me for not humoring the kid and taking some cashews. Dry and flavorless, I eat a few and chuck the rest.
Taking a selfie at a lookout. Put phone down, set timer. Hear what sounds like a horde of buzzing bees. Look around, it’s a freaking drone! I give it the peace sign, it hovers for awhile. I try and take my pictures, it’s still there. I give up and start running downhill. It follows me for a bit. I think, Okay. I’ll try and haul ass down a rocky descent, give it something worth filming.” But eventually it flies away, following a runner going uphill. Just as well. I sure hope there aren’t any drones when I have to, uh, you know.

 

Garmin 920xt failure. Feel smart for finally remembering to use Ultra Trac mode. Watch should last a long time. Miles are clicking by. Before I know it, I’ve done 20 miles. And then a few minutes later, 21 miles… Wait, that can’t be right- 21 miles in 3.5 hours? Ask a girl nearby what’s her mileage? 14. F*********ck! GPS is off by SEVEN miles? Rest of the race, hear the mile beeps but can’t look cause I know they are wrong. Makes the whole race a little more difficult not knowing what mile I’m at. (You could say,  “The aid stations are at known mileage points, just go by that,” but that doesn’t help.) Same thing happened to a guy I ran with, except he was smart enough to start his watch over at an aid station and use just regular GPS. I decided against that because …. I’m an idiot.

Adding insult to injury was when watch beeped low battery, after only about 20 hours. The Whole point of Ultra Trac is extended battery life. Now I don’t even get that? Next time, will try and use a charger during the run. Or bring along my old Garmin. (But that’s annoying to have two separate files for the race. Or is that just me?)

The big climb. Talked to a guy named Danny leading up to the climb. Said he’d run the race 5 times. Two other races he’d also done every year. As we began to climb the hill, he cursed at the hill, “Come on mother effer!” Very amusing. The hill was steep and longish, but didn’t seem that bad. Poles were a tremendous help. Made it about 2/3 up before I realized to turn around and look at the beautiful scenery behind me.

 

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Mile 35 doesn’t look like much a hill from the photo. 

 

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Got to the top, the volunteer recording our race numbers was a young girl about 12. She greets me with, “Alright! You made it to the top of that stupid hill!” I was like… Accurate!

This was probably the best section scenery wise. We ran along the edge of the mesa which provided some spectacular views, although these pictures don’t fully convey that.

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Paul, whose first 100 in the US got him one ticket, with which he got into Western States.

 

The rain finally shows up. I’m running down this dirt road that is quickly turning into the worst kind of thick mud. Super slippery, thick, and gloms onto your shoes, weighing you down. I come to a T section, there is a car stuck in the mud, and 3 cars waiting on it to get unstuck. For a split second, I feel like I should stop and help. See several other cars coming up the hill, tires spinning out because of the slick mud. Can only think that these people are morons. Film one girl driving a tiny ass car spinning out.

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Couldn’t figure how to edit video, so here ya go. 

Running out the red loop. Somehow miss the first turn. Run about a mile before I realize I’ve not seen ANY confidence markers. Think that’s okay, maybe they assume you know this must be the way. Did see one guy running opposite direction, so…. It must be… Turn around and run back. See a pair runners a bit aways, yell at them if they are doing the red loop. They are. I was def off course. Get back on, see where I made my mistake. I think I was readjusting my pack. Pretty upsetting but I don’t dwell on it that much. It’s about this time that I stop running and can only hike. My right shin has started to hurt.

The White and Blue loops were tough: I couldn’t run, I felt like the sections weren’t well marked, it was dark, I was alone, I’d heard all my music by this point, I wasn’t eating well because my stomach wasn’t happy. (At the aid station, I actually threw up for the first time during a race. It was just a little bit, nothing major, but still.) And it rained on and off, which had me taking off my pack to put on my jacket and then 10 minutes later taking off my pack so I could take off my jacket. And the miles seemed S U P E R  L O N G. BUT I never got to a really low point, my mental game was pretty good considering. I managed to slog through the night, and my spirits rose when it started to get light.

After I finished the blue loop, I was supposed to do the final trail section to the finish, but because of the rain, the course had been modified to have us run the dirt road back. This route was 2 miles shorter, but would still make for an exact 100 miles.

Walking out to start the very last section to the finish, I see a guy I thought I had left in the dust. Take off my coat and pack, try to stash my poles in my pack. He takes off running. Puts up a good distance while I’m fumbling with my pack. I start running, want to catch up. (He doesn’t know it, but he’s racing me.) Haul ass done a dirt road, stop to sh*t. Hope the guys I just passed are far enough back…  I pass a lot of people in this home stretch. Everyone is walking. Eventually catch up to him. I run 90% of the last leg. Final mile I see the 55kers heading out. Film that. Keep seeing roller after roller, more flags, wondering where the f#ck is the finish???

 

Finally see the inflated finish gate. Haul ass, pass 4 more guys. Run it in strong. Want to cry. Go to the finisher tent, lady basically tells me which one to pick. I’m done. I got my damn buckle.

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Ed and Katherine are at the finish. Ed dropped after I saw him last at the aid station. Katherine’s race got rerouted to a lame out and back on a dirt road, so she was able to defer till next year. We waited several hours for Elizabeth to finish. She also got rerouted but finished with only about 82 miles.

 

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Food wise: Pickles were good! And Bacon and Avacado. Quesadillas are okay, but tend to de dry and flavorless, which is a bad combo because it seems hard to generate saliva towards the middle and end of race. Need juicier things, things with higher water content. Also don’t eat or drink the same thing at every station. Especially soda, it makes my  stomach acidic. (At least in the quantities I ingest.)  Have to alternate or pace the soda intake. Alternate liquid nutrition with solid foods.

Dissolvable seltzer tabs helped. Ibuprofen always helps.

Bladder and a bottle. Best combination. Cannot overstate convenience of a drink tube.

Change of socks. Dry clothes. Bring even more pairs when expecting rain or tough environment. Vaseline and Double sock treatment kept me blister free. Do not care for La Sportiva Bushidos for more than 20 miles. Ran 50 in them and was glad to get them off. Good traction, but not entirely comfortable. Calf sleeves, still not sure about, but my calves weren’t terribly sore after the race, but then neither were my quads, so… Batteries. Extra headlamp. Gaiters. Need to order gaiters.

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My dopey new hat

New hat worked out beautifully, although it is kind of heavy and bulky. New rain jacket worked beautifully. Kept me dry and warm, did not overheat. Watertight bags worked fine. Not sure if they got rained on, but my stuff was dry. (They were also inside ziplocks, so they had better be.)
Changed contacts mid race. No issues with blurry vision. This was a huge win, as having an issue with my vision would have made the night that much more difficult. But it was hard to put them on. Need to practice without a mirror. Always have something clean to catch them on.

Naps. Took two (three?) 5 min naps. Points I felt woozy, like I was drunk. Glad I had my poles at the end. More sleep prior to race, especially if travel is involved.

One carry on bag only. Elizabeth had two(?!) suitcases and that was problematic. Always have a proper post race drop bag. Dry clothes, a blanket or hoodie, cash and ID. And beer and food if possible.

Walking was sore the next day, but not nearly as bad as in the past.

Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set Pack Review

After using the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set pack for several months now, I feel it’s time for a review. I bought it back in January(?) and I’ve worn it for 20 hours doing R2R2R, at the Treviso marathon, (I know that’s weird), Hell’s Hills 50 Miler,  and dozens of multi hour training runs. It’s gotten to the point that I feel weird if I run without it. Bottom line: I really like the pack.

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Official product image via salomon.com

First and foremost: fit and comfort. For me,  the pack fits beautifully. It’s like wearing a vest vs carrying a “backpack.” That is a huge difference. The vest style design eliminates the sore shoulders that result from a backpack style pack. At my last race, even after 9 hours, my shoulders felt fine. There is more surface area than most other packs, which means more pockets and places to stash things. This increased surface area helps distribute weight. The elastic material along the outer edge pulls the pack load closer to your body. This helps the pack stay put and keeps stuff from bouncing around. And one of the things I like best is there aren’t any loose strap ends flapping about.

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Official product image via salomon.com

It comes with two 16 oz soft flasks, but get this – IT DOES NOT COME WITH A BLADDER.  (Yet it does come with an insulated sleeve for a bladder.) This really confused the heck out of me, why sell a hydration pack without a bladder?

So I bought a Camelbak 2L bladder. I filled it with water and tried to put it in the insulated sleeve… It wouldn’t fit. I believe the sleeve is made for a 1.5L bladder. Not the end of the world, just throw the bladder in the pack without the sleeve.

Then I ran into another snafu. Some official looking photos (not on the Salomon website) show the hydration tube running out the “tail” and under the vest. However this requires a bladder with a spigot that routes sideways rather than upwards. Again, not the end of the world, just route the tube over the shoulder.

It was at this point I wished the pack had come with “instructions” or a small guide. (There’s a small illustration for how to secure trekking poles, but that’s it. ) Or better yet, these details made clear on the website.  That way I could have known to buy a 1.5L bladder with a sideways spigot.

I haven’t attempted to use the soft flasks because I think it would be more troublesome trying to reinsert a soft flask vs a hard bottle. That could be a mistaken assumption, but I’ve been using two 21 oz Camelbak bottles and that’s been great. It’s nice because I can have water, a liquid nutrition, and a sports drink. The only thing I need now is to find bottles that have the long straw so that I don’t have to remove the bottles…

There are pockets galore! It’s a little overwhelming at first what to do with them all, but eventually you’ll figure out your system. Most of the pockets are easy to get at. The zippered pocket on the side opens easily with one hand, but you need another hand to hold the bottom of the zipper to zip it up. No big deal. The big open rear pocket is tricky to get into without taking off the pack.  And although it feels sketchy to have the rear pocket secured only by the tension of the elastic, I’ve yet to have anything fall out on during a run.

Lately I’ve been running during the hotter parts of day. The pack is constructed with mesh material and breathes well. However, sweat easily migrates through the mesh, so make sure whatever you carry in those pockets is sweat tolerant. If you carry your phone, you would be wise to keep it in a Ziploc baggie. The evaporated sweat also leaves a visible salt residue which is a visual reminder that the pack needs to be washed.

At $185, (WITHOUT a bladder) I cried when I bought this, however it has been worth every penny. REI recently started carrying the pack, so if you’re a member you’d get $18.50 back on your dividend.

Finally, the name is in desperate need of shortening or simplifying. Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set just does not roll off the tongue easily. Or at all. Someone asked me about the pack and I couldn’t remember the name. Maybe Salomon can work on the name for the next version.