Tag Archives: utah

Walking Johnny Down the Mountain

Had planned to do something big for Black Friday. Had a good day doing Mt Raymond, and felt like drinking to celebrate. My roommate’s girlfriend had some cider we had to drink. So I did my part, a little to well. Like blackout drunk and doing dumb stuff and not remembering any of it. And puking on the living room rug. And on the rug in my room. Mushrooms and carrots. 

On Thanksgiving day, I pretty much slept till five pm. I didn’t want to get up. I could hear my roommate vacuuming the puke. Turns out, he had to get a steam cleaner. When I finally did get up, I had no desire to leave the house. So I binge watched The Office and ate a sandwich. The next morning I felt a million times better. 

Did laundry and finally worked up the courage to clean my rug. The weather was beautiful outside. I felt incredibly guilty for not taking advantage. I turned on some music to get psyched. I got dressed and got out to my car, and kind of sat there for a bit, debating whether I really wanted to go out. There was a winter storm warning that was still in effect. I didn’t want to be fooled by this weather and get up into the mountains and then get stranded or blown off. After waffling for a minute, I decided to go anyway. I could always bail if it looked bad. 

Gorgeous start of the hike. 

Got to the trailhead at 2 pm which is a very late start. It was warm and I felt overdressed. At least a dozen people passed me coming down. I saw a guy that used to work at my store. 

I saw fewer and fewer people. And then I ran into this bird. He was just chilling on the trail. I was surprised that he didn’t run away or freak out. I took out a granola bar and fed him little pieces. He was a little nervous, but he’s probably seen (and been fed by) other people before. I fed him another bit of granola and told him I’d see him later. 

Two minutes later, I see a hiker just standing on the trail. It’s a Chinese guy. He appears to be waiting for someone. I ask him if he’s okay. He was tired and had run out of water. He gave me his bottle and I filled it up halfway or so. He said his phone was at 15%, so I lent him my charger.

We started hiking and a minute later, this other Chinese runner guy comes down the hill. “Here Johnny. This is for you.” and the guy gives Johnny a bottled water. I assumed they must know each other and was confused. This guy left his friend behind?? 

Then the runner guy, Wan Ho, wants to get a picture of the three of us. He does, and then he heads down. I ask “You’re leaving him?” He says, “Yeah, I gotta get down before the storm gets here.” Right, that Winter Storm Warning…

Screenshot of Wan Ho’s Strava image. 

Turns out, Wan Ho had just met Johnny on the way up. Wan Ho was just doing his own hike and Johnny was moving too slow. So Wan Ho went to the summit and was going back down. They weren’t friends, they just happened to both be Chinese. 

Johnny and I continued upward toward the saddle. I wanted him to see it since he was so close. He seemed kind of out of it, but he told me he had just flown in from Buffalo, New York on Wednesday. He failed to earn two different degrees at school, and was too ashamed to go back home for Thanksgiving because of his super traditional parents. He had been hiking the last few days to clear his mind. He was leaving tonight at midnight. 

I had no idea what to say about this. I terrible at it but I tried to make small talk. I asked him what he had in his backpack- a laptop (??) and a book. I told him about the bird on the trail. I sort of let the conversation die. His mind was elsewhere. Add to that the elevation was taking a toll on his lungs, he’d hardly eaten anything all day, and he was slipping and sliding in his shoes. Just not a conducive environment to talking. 

I gave him my poles, but he was still sliding so I took off my microspikes and put them on his shoes. He was able to hike much better. We finally got to the saddle and took a few photos. I made him eat some of my food. 

At the Saddle.
The mountains look great in snow. 
Johnny.

I’m not sure if he thought the view was worth the struggle. We didn’t hang around too long. It was about 4pm by this point, so we didn’t have much sunlight left.

I thought going down would be quicker, but it was just as slow, if not slower, than going uphill. He was very tired and taking very small, slow cautious steps. There was a lot of slushy ice on the trail. I slipped a few times, but just small slips. 

This was actually the first time I saw the bird. 

We got to a spot and there was the bird again! He was still there just chilling! And I think he remembered me. I fed him again, at one point he ate out of my hand. I could tell he associated the sound of the wrapper with the food. I don’t know why, but this little bird made me happy. 

There was a constant, slight rain. I was getting chilled moving at such a slow pace, so I  put on my rain pants and rain jacket. It got progressively darker until it was time for a headlamp. I tried to follow Johnny and light his way with my headlamp, but that didn’t work so well. So I had him wear it. I could see surprisingly well without it.  We crept along ever so slowly. 

One other “exciting” thing was that I discovered my phone now has “Night Sight” for taking photos at night. It’s about damn time, Google!

Usually you can tell you’re getting closer by the traffic. It’s weird what a relief it is to hear traffic. It makes me feel like I’m not in the middle of nowhere, although we were still really far from the trailhead. Then the cars start getting slightly bigger as you get closer. The cars seemed tiny for sooo long. But then we got to the last switchback. Then the last staircase. We made it! I was probably more excited than Johnny was. 

Before I dropped him off at the Air BNB he was staying at, we ate some food at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. After being out in the dark and cold hiking for a few hours, some hot soup and hot tea were just what we both needed.

Johnny should be just about to get on a plane for Buffalo right about now. 

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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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.