Tag Archives: trail running

Speedgoat 50K

I had gotten on the course twice a few weeks prior with some success staying on course. Despite having a course map and GPS on my phone, I still managed to get off trail. The second time I was a bit more successful, but still only ran the first 9 miles. During the race, I don’t think my course preview did much for me. Part of it was just my inexperience with GPS mapping, and part of it was just not running far enough.

Knowing a course can make a huge difference in how well your race goes.

The more obvious reason is staying on course. Twice during the race I went off course. Once with two other runners and once by myself. Luckily, there were runners nearby to correct me. It is super important to be mindful that you are actively looking for the proper flagging and not just blindly following the runner in front of you. For this very reason, I prefer to run in front of people because it forces me to pay attention.

The more subtle way course knowledge affects you is how you pace yourself. How long is this hill going to last? How many more big climbs are left? how hard can I take this downhill? How many f*cking switchbacks are there before the finish? Knowing where and when to push yourself and when to hold back allows to be more judicious with your precious energy.

Not knowing what’s coming up can be demoralizing. After I reached the second main peak around mile 24, I mistakenly thought it was all downhill from there. But it wasn’t. There was still another major climb. I should have known since the race claimed around 12,000 feet of vertical and my Garmin was around 9,000 feet.

Let’s talk about the actual race distance. How far is it, really? Just because the race has 50K (Or whatever distance) in the name doesn’t necessarily mean that is the actual distance. It could be longer or even shorter. The Speedgoat race was a bit more than 50K, which is not surprising, since it’s a hard race anyway. I’m fine with a few extra miles, as long as I know in advance. Finding out that instead of the 3 miles you’ve been fixating on is actually 6 more miles is tough. So in the future, if the distance isn’t listed explicitly, just assume that you might very well have “bonus” miles. If you finish at the expected distance, awesome! But if your watch says you should be done and the finish is nowhere in sight, you won’t be as upset.

Finally, if you are familiar with a course, it just seems shorter. It’s like when you are driving to a place you’ve never been before. You are taking in all sorts of sensory information about the scenery around you. So getting there takes forever. But on the way back, it seems much quicker. It’s sort of the same thing with a race course. Once you become familiar with it, your brain stops taking in all the minute details and just sees big landmarks, which breaks things into bigger chunks. Now you can’t always get on the actual course, but you can look at maps, YouTube videos, and read about the course.

Some other minor things.

I’ve only been in Utah for about 2 months now, and I’ve seen at least 4 guys suffering from heat stroke, only one during the race. Not sweating, the chills, sunburn. I don’t know much about heat stroke, but I think these are three obvious symptoms. I plan to have an extra stash of salt pills and crystalized ginger (or even pepto pills) and maybe sunscreen for those unlucky souls. If you know you are going to be in the sun all day, use sunscreen and/or cover up. Hydrate properly and take electrolyte/ salt tablets.

 

Late in the race, my inner thighs started to cramp up in a major way while I was climbing a short steep hill. I had to sit down. Once during a 100K gravel ride my legs quads locked up in a similar fashion. It was nuts. I think it might have been an overuse issue combined with an electrolyte imbalance, or it might have just been too much steep climbing. Once I made it up the section, and it flattened out, I was able to run just fine. So that is an interesting mystery. In the future, I’ll go back to having two liquids with me at all times, water and some sports drink. I think that will help keep my electrolytes in balance, provide some additional calories, and avoid flavor fatigue of warm water.

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The wildflowers were amazing.
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No idea where the hell this was..

I was honestly worried about finishing. I haven’t had any runs over 20 miles in what seems like forever. And my knees were sore after 4 miles the other day, how would they handle 30? Things turned out fine, and it gives me a bit of hope heading into Bigfoot 200. A lot of this dumb sport is mental. You sign up for a race, you’re at the race waiting for the start, you start, there’s non stop mental anguish for however many hours, then you finish and drive home and think,” Holy shit the race is over.” And life goes on.

Overall, I think this was a great race. Great location, super challenging course, great schwag (although we didn’t get finisher’s medals because of a snafu, but they are available), super aid stations with choice options (it wasn’t all just candy) and great post race options (although I didn’t get to spend much time there afterwards.) So if you are considering running Speedgoat, I’d highly recommend it.

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.

 

Kirby Flats 50K Report: First DNF (with an Asterisk?)

Kirby Flats was an inaugural race, and actually the first time the director had ever put on a race.  There was a 50K,  25K,  and 10K. All three were free provided we gave our honest feedback about the race.

It was a small turnout, maybe 50 people for all three races combined. In the 50K, there were only eight runners, and three of us were Rockhoppers. The race started at 6 am. It was a cold, misty, and dark. At the start we joked how everyone was guaranteed a top ten finish. And whoever came in first would set a course record.

Kyle the race director sent us on our way at 6 sharp. We started with a long steep incline. The other two Rockhoppers Brian and Ed chatted away, I just listened. There was another guy right behind us who became part of our group due to proximity. After a mile, (!) we never saw the other four guys again, which was weird because we were not running fast at all.

The second mile was unrunnable. There was no clear trail on the ground, so we had to keep hunting for the next flag. And unfortunately, the flags were not reflective. But what really slowed us down was the terrain: tons of slippery exposed rock and steep uphills/ downhills covered with scree and leaves. It took us 29 minutes to cover mile 2.  This set the tone for the rest of the race.

Eventually, we did reach some sections that we could run. After hiking so much, it felt weird to actually run.  Unfortunately, we soon entered a super flat and super boring section that ran along the fence line of pasture. It felt like when you were in high school and they made you run laps around the field as punishment.

I felt dumb having complained about how tough the earlier sections were and now how boring these flat sections were. And we were still having to figure out where the flags were leading us.

It may have been as early as mile 2 when the topic of dropping the race came up. At an average of only three miles per hour, it would have taken about 10 hours… to finish a 50K! We had expected 6 or 7, maybe 8 hours, but 10? Was it worth it? (I joked that we weren’t even getting a t-shirt for our efforts.)

I had never not finished a race, and I knew this would happen eventually. I felt conflicted as to whether I should continue or not.  I wasn’t injured. But did I really want to spend another 6 hours out here in the cold rain on this poorly marked course essentially by myself? (The new guy said he wanted to finish. But this was his first trail run and he didn’t even bring water with him. I certainly didn’t want to have to rely on him.)

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Trail version of Groundhog Day: Stephanie, Jazzy, and Adnil ran the same loop 3 times.

After almost 4 hours, we made it back to the start having completed one 20K loop. (The 50K was (2) 20K loops + (1) 10K loop.) There were lots of 25K runners at the tent. The race director was there, listening to the runners’ woes. Apparently, everyone had had navigational issues. One group of ladies had somehow managed to run a small loop three times. Basically, it turned into a big drop party. At the time, I didn’t feel bad dropping since everyone else was.

DNF's all around but still smiling!
Three 50K DNFs and three 25K DNFs! Still smiling though!

But two days later, I feel crappy about dropping.  Sure it would have taken a long time, but it’s not like I’ve never run for 10 hours before. Sure the course was confusing, but we (think we) ran it. And the poor new guy – I could have helped him finish his first trail race.  But what bothers me the most is this was a challenge and I pussed out. I could have finished, I just didn’t want to, which seems like the worst excuse possible.

There’s nothing I can do about it now, the DNF is in the books. It’s certainly a bummer, but not the end of the world. I don’t know if the RD is going to post any “official” results – as there may not be any results to post. I am curious if any of the other four 50K guys finished. I will feel a little less crummy if no one finished.

KF 50K DNF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasure Uncovered

The other day I headed out for a run, unsure of where exactly I was going. I wanted to run to the Powerlines, but it was really hot and there’s no water available there. My measly 2L bladder would be half empty by the time I got there. The flat trail  would be mostly shaded, so I decided that would be a wise choice.

I decided to run past 1604 and explore a bit. I had followed a Hash trail out there on a run long ago, but didn’t get too far. I wanted to see how much further the “trail” would go.

Running under the bridge, I  was amazed at all the little mud bird houses built on the underside. Then I passed the spot where eons ago I drank many beers at a Hash “circle.”

As I rounded the corner, I saw the familiar junk pile. I knew that this spot had been used as a dumping ground before.

Main pile on the left side.
Main pile on the left side.
Pile on the right.
Pile on the right.

I plucked a 5×7 photograph off the ground.

This was the first photo I found.
The first photo I found.

 

As I scrutinized the junk, I could tell this was new stuff that had been dumped recently. My instincts kicked in: I am a scavenger. I have a fascination for looking through trash, junk, rubbish, – whatever you call it – for things that I can use somehow. As an artist,  I see value in things that might seem worthless to others. And as I poked around, almost immediately I struck gold.

More photographs. Old black and white photographs!! And lots of them. Before I knew it, that one photo had mushroomed into a  huge wad. At first I thought I would keep just a few because I could fit only so many in my pack. But the photos were all gold – I’d find a way to carry them all. No way was I leaving any behind. (At least not any black and whites, I did leave some more recent color photos behind.)

By this point, my running brain was totally switched off. All I cared about was finding more photos, I was a junkie searching for my next fix in the pile. But I knew I had to stop at some point, if for no other reason than the sun was getting low and worse- the mosquitoes were starting up. I found three or four small concentrations of photos and then it seemed like that was it.

At this point I figured out this guy died and they just dumped this stuff. Whoever did this just wanted to clean house. They were probably not related, otherwise they’d have kept the photos. Or maybe they were related and just didn’t care. Either way is sad.

I tried to roughly organize my haul in order to compact it. I found a Manilla envelope and stuffed in the photos. Then I stuck the envelope in a large Ziploc bag to protect it from my sweaty self. I could carry the whole pouch in front of me tucked under the bands of my pack. It made my chest retain heat, but it stayed put and more importantly, kept my hands free.

As I ran home,  I got some weird looks. I’m sure people wondered what the heck I was carrying. And yet even if they knew what was in the Manilla envelope, they would probably ask: “What the heck are you doing with photographs you found in a dump of some random dead person?”

And I asked myself the same thing. Why do I do this?

* * *

Grand total: about 150 photographs, (several of which are stuck together and awaiting separation,) one negative,  a few postcards, a letter, a note, a Mason’s card, a certificate of birth, and 3 lottery tickets (whose numbers I intend to play one day.)

There are many more interesting images I’d like to share, and ultimately, I will organize the photos into an album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R2R2R

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Going up North Kaibab

This past week, I ran R2R2R.

There’s no way to capture the scale of the Grand Canyon in a photo, so I was looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes and as I  ran through it. The canyon lived up to the hype. It was impressive and a little ginormous. The run, however, wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I expected to be on Death’s door, shriveled up and/or burned to a crisp after finishing.

But it wasn’t that bad, which was oddly disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. Especially the last four hours hiking up Bright Angel Trail. But overall, it felt like another 50 mile race, just with more vertical. I feel like I trained pretty well for the run, but what really made it “easier” was the weather.

Perhaps the trail gods pitied us, as there was cloud cover for a good portion of the day. This made a huge difference: It spared us the heat of the inner canyon, which is supposed to be tortuous. It allowed us to run for longer periods without overheating. And it kept us from running out of water. (Sort of.)

Ultimately, I’m thankful we didn’t have to endure the heat.

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We began under a full moon. (Or pretty darn close.)

I ran with four other people from our group of 20. We started about 4:45 am. Once it got light, the first few miles were spent oohing and ahhing and taking pictures. It was awhile before we really got going. We took our time and drank in the Canyon. We made several stops along the way, but the majority of the first 15-20 miles was uneventful and went by relatively quick.

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This is what I came to see!

 

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Chris and Michele on one of the bridges.

 

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I could still manage to get lost…

 

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You can see the cloud cover starting to roll in.

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Lower mid right, that white streak is a baby waterfall.

 

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Tanya and Jason sporting matching hats.

As the day went on, it warmed up. Going up North Kaibab was probably the worst of the heat. It was hot, but not unbearably so. We stopped in an awesome shady spot and lounged for a bit. The rock was cool and felt great on our tired legs. Once we started back up, we were greeted with a never-ending series of switchbacks to the top.

We eventually made it to the top of North Kaibab and had lunch. One of the other sub groups was already there, so we got to to eat and chat with them. But the best treat? The water. Oh-my-goodness!! So cold and refreshing. (I felt guilty about dumping out  my bladder just so I could refill it with cold water.) Oh, and mental note for next time: Extended breaks make it extremely hard to get moving again. 

After the agonizing uphill, running –actual running– the downhill was really fun. I felt we had been trudging along all day (which was probably actually a good thing), but now was a chance to to open it up. I love the feeling of bounding through rocky trails as fast as I can. So I started running up ahead at my own pace and then stopping and waiting for the others. They were never that far behind, so that worked out great. But I had to remind myself to keep it in check because there’d be hill to pay later.

At Cottonwood, we stopped and soaked our feet and legs. The ice cold water felt great, though I could handle it for only like 10 seconds at a time. The others had no problems sitting in the water up to their waist, so eventually I had to do the same. It felt great for like a second. It’s crazy how fast the water evaporates though.

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Ribbon Falls. Don’t you just want to touch the fuzzy greenery?

We took a detour to check out Ribbon Falls.  It was a great little water fall. You can climb up to the top and stick your head under the water. As you might imagine, it felt great.

And then came the slog. Running back through the inner canyon was the running version of Groundhog Day. It was the L-o-n-g-e-s-t S-e-v-e-n  M-i-l-e-s  E-v-e-r. We would have really suffered here if it weren’t for the cloud cover because the rock absorbs the sun’s heat all day and then radiates it right back out into your face.

By this time, the moon was nowhere to be seen and it was pitch black. Michele had a problem with her headlamp/batteries, so I let her use my headlamp. I ran between her and Tanya and was able to see well enough. The trekking poles were a lifesaver here. They allowed me to cross over the logs more easily, helped provide depth perception, and overall stability.

This was by far the toughest section to get through. It was certainly  challenging physically, but even more so mentally. We could hike only so fast. Partly because we were tired and partly because of the fear of walking off the cliff. Chris had said if we could do a 30 minute mile, we were doing well. That sounded ridiculous, but I think it was true.

There were some lights at the top of the canyon that we seemed to be moving toward but not getting any closer. We seemed to be hiking forever but not making any progress. All we could see was five feet in front of us. And those damn lights up top. I started thinking about food. I would have killed for a burger and a Coke. Seriously.

Strangely, it wasn’t even midnight yet and we started getting bombarded by other runner’s (presumably)starting their R2R2R journey. It was disappointing because many of the runners didn’t yield the trail to us or even slow down. (Trail etiquette dictates that those moving downhill should yield to those moving uphill.) A few bellowed the “Looking good!/ Good job!” line which was a little too chipper for my taste.

Some time after midnight, we finally made it to the top of Bright Angel. I thought for sure I would cry, but I didn’t. I was too tired.

 

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Mega thorny cactus flower.

Other Notes/ Advice type Stuff

Water: Jason and Michele both ran out of water twice.  We gave them some water the first time, and the second time was right before a stop. They got lucky. It’s better to carry too much water than to run out. Simple as that. And really, how do you run out of water twice?!

I had a 2L bladder for water which I filled completely at each stop and a 21 oz bottle for Perpetuem/ Heed.

Calories: I brought around 6,000 calories, almost twice what I actually consumed. (Although about 2000 of that was Perpetuem and Heed.) Often what seems edible in the grocery store is anything but on the trail. And again this was the case. A dozen+ gels, 3 bars, cola flavored gel chews (next best thing to a Coke), pretzels, beef jerky, cookies, almonds, single serve tuna fish with crackers, olives, a real sandwich, and powdered Perpetuem and Heed. And I forgot to bring Payday candy bars. I think those would have done me well.

I love my Salomon pack. I bought it specifically for this trip and it has been great to me. Maybe I should finish the review I started.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT did work in the canyon (even though it was constantly losing satellite reception), lasted over 17 hours. I never stopped it, if I had, it might have made the whole trip. What I should have done was to stop it at each water stop and treat that as a run. The drawback is you have to remember to restart the watch…

Trekking poles were a HUGE help going uphill. I’ve never used them before (hills in Texas?) but they were easy to get the hang of. Most of us rented them from the General Store. Best $12 I ever spent.

A wide brim hat or a legionnaire’s cap is a must. And sunscreen.

Make sure your headlamp works! Put in new batteries and/or carry spares. You might even take two headlamps. If your sole source of light breaks somehow, you’re in a tough spot.

Proper foot care  the week prior to the run: Clip and file your toenails, pumice any tough spots, and moisturize with lotion.  Wear double socks – toe socks under Drymax- and gaiters. And carry a spare pair of socks. Dust and sand still managed to infiltrate the mesh in my shoes, but I had ZERO blisters.

Take lots of pictures. Duh!

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