Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

June 27, 2016

Camping in the Uintas

Heat, bugs, and the dog learned to SWIM!

Our lightweight backpacking weekend plans went through a few small changes the week before we set out.    To say the least.  First we were going to hike near Timpanogos Peak.  Then the forecast looked like it would be in the 100s in the valley, which would be way too hot in that area to enjoy it.  Then we decided to bring the dog.  As in 11 month old energetic cattle dog Spot, who had never camped before and was sure to walk his sharp claws all over our delicate, expensive, weight-measured-in-ounces-not-pounds air mattresses and down bags.

So the backpacking trip, ostensibly to see if my gear was ready for a longer backcountry hike, became a car camping trip.   The Uintas seemed like a place to escape from the heat of the valley.  Unfortunately, we didn't really know where to car camp, with our stringent requirements of great views, no bugs, water nearby, easy to get to, hiking trails, and no one nearby.  Hah.  I'm sure such a thing exists, but it is (and should be) hard to find.  After driving down a few bumpy gravel roads, we finally passed the point of no return on one (as in there was no way I wanted to turn around and drive it again for nothing), and decided we would continue on until we came upon a camp site.   Amazingly, we did.  It was isolated, with a little stream, nice views, and close enough to a place to hike the next day.  But the bugs...yuk.  Luckily we brought head nets is all I can say.

Aside from mosquitos it was nice, and Spot managed to be polite in the tent and not pop our heavier and more comfortable air mattresses.  The next morning we took him on a hike down the road/trail, which dead ended in about 4 miles so we saw only a couple of people all day.   We did find a few nice small lakes, and near the end of the hike, we finally found Echo Lake, where Spot jumped in and swam around of his own volition.  It looked inviting, so we jumped in too.   Even at above 9000 feet, temperatures were in the 80s and we had been carrying our packs for training.  It was nice to cool off and chase the dog by the lake.

Spot was exhausted by the time we got into camp, and ate more for supper than I've ever seen.  Luckily being tired meant he was very good in the tent that night!   I guess if we want to use our lightweight gear we need to make sure he is good and tired before we hop in the tent :)

June 26, 2016

Huntsman 140 Mile Bike Ride, 18 June 2016

Our big adventure this July will be RAGBRAI, a 7 day bike ride across Iowa.   So we need to prepare by riding our bikes...a lot.  To that end, we signed up for the Huntsman 140 bike ride here in Salt Lake City.  140 miles seemed like a long way, but my motto is usually go big or go home.    Plus the ride is raising money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute...and it turns out the son of my dentist is getting treated there.  Small world.

We watched the forecast calling for 90s the day of the race, and suddenly 140 miles seemed like a long way indeed.  The ride would start at 6 am in SLC, and then made its way south, near our house, down to Utah Lake, and then all the way along the lake to Elberta.  There we would turn around and do it all over again to get back.   The forecast was also calling for south winds, which would speed me back home if I could just get to the turnaround!   But it's a ride, not a race, so I could use the help of the peloton to help fight the wind and go faster.

Sunrise over Salt Lake City
At the start, it was cool enough to use my arm warmers, which would help protect against the brilliant sunshine later in the day.   There were about 750 riders, but I think most of them were doing shorter options of 30, 50, or 75 miles.  So the group at our start was fairly small, about 50 riders.  We started out together through a myriad of turns before settling into a straightaway.  So settled in fact, that we missed a major turn which didn't seem to be marked properly.  Not to worry, it's not a race so we just took the next road instead to get back on course.

Jim, by the way, was enjoying cruising with the peloton until about mile 5, when he hit a nasty patch of gravel on a downhill and flatted both tires.  :(  After trying to fix them repeatedly, he realized that he had actually shattered his carbon rim and was out for good.  I didn't know until later but he would spend the day getting his bike into the repair shop, very disappointed not to get to finish the ride.

Meanwhile, I was redlining the first hour trying to keep up with the peloton and thinking they were going really fast.  We averaged 22 mph and that was with stops at red lights!  I realized why later...the leaders knew we needed to beat the strong south winds to Elberta before it got really gusty. But after an hour of riding with everyone, I made the crucial mistake of cruising down a hill rather than speeding up.  The lack of momentum on the subsequent uphill made me terribly slow, and the entire peloton sprinted ahead and were out of sight before I could blink.  Never to be seen again.

I felt like I was now the last person on the course.   With 115 miles to go I settled down to a solo ride.   But of course I wasn't last, and occasional small groups of riders would catch up to me.  I tried to stick with them, but I just wasn't fast enough usually.  So I spent a good part of the first half getting dropped by every group that passed me.  They were mostly guys, so I didn't feel too bad...but a little bad.    Sometimes I would stick on the back wheel for a mile or three.  Sometimes I couldn't even catch their wheel at all....they would pass me like I was standing still!

The day started to heat up, and it was nice to get to the first water stop at mile 37.   I knew I was now more  than halfway to the turnaround...breaking the distance into smaller chunks is good for the psyche.   The ride, which had a few small hills so far, flattened out along Utah Lake as I turned the corner to the west.  From here I could see Elberta!  Bad news...I was still 20 miles away.   It was so clear and so flat that distances were deceiving.

But the miles clicked off pretty fast and I was averaging a faster speed than I had hoped for.  Even better, there seemed to be no wind...I stopped once, in disbelief that the air was totally still!   Too good to last though, as with about 6 miles to go to Elberta, the wind finally kicked up, right on schedule at 10 am.   Suddenly I realized why the peloton had been riding so hard to beat this nasty headwind.  I struggled against it alone, seeing riding coming back already from the checkpoint.   Luckily with 3 miles to go, two guys caught up to me (they had been fixing a flat earlier) and I determined to stick with them to fight the headwind.  It is really, really nice to tuck in behind a wheel and suddenly go a few mph faster with less effort!   I did take a few turns at the front but I was grateful for the help.

The checkpoint at the turnaround was well stocked with snacks, but I didn't stay long.  It seemed a shame to not be riding, now with a tailwind!  The tents were threatening to fly away, the day was getting quite hot already at 10:30 am, and I wanted just one thing...to get to the finish line.

It was a breeze going back north this time....I didn't care if I had a peloton, I was going 25 mph and I held that speed for almost an hour.  It was like I had a sail or something.  A rider near me said he hoped it would never end.  I wasn't sure if a never ending bike ride was a good thing, but flying along on a flat road felt pretty nice.   I had time now to count the dead snakes on the road (three), and evaluate the bunny population (lots of expired ones on the road), and swerve to avoid a sheep in the middle of the road with a broken leg (yikes).

Back along the lake, the wind wasn't quite as strong or as helpful, but it blew me into the food stop at mile 102 about as fast as I could have dreamed it.   I downed a Dr. Pepper, subway sandwich, cookie and chips while talking to a man who had helped pace me earlier in the day.   Didn't stay long though,  it was uphill to the finish and there were 38 miles left.  I did most of them alone, but finally stuck with a group in the middle.  I felt really strong, but hot.  At each water stop, I would fill my bottle with ice, and then top it off with water.   This felt blessedly cool to drink for about 10 minutes before it melted and got hot again.   Luckily water stops and volunteers came at regular intervals...it was hot.  

Even drinking a lot of water wasn't enough for my effort levels over the day.  For a while now, if I stood up and straightened my leg to stretch it, my muscles would lock up and cramp.   Nothing for it but to keep riding.   A bit of shade during the final few miles was welcome, but the short-but-steep hills were not.   I slowed for a couple of deer crossing the road (in the middle of SLC!) and then sprinted to the finish line with a flourish.   My time for this not-a-race was 9 hours 30 minutes, faster than I had hope by a ways!

A water stop in Sandy

June 9, 2016

Wasatch Trail Running Series HEATS Up, 8 Jun 2016

There's a fun little trail running series along the Wasatch mountains around Salt Lake City.  Each Wednesday evening (and some Saturdays) there is a trail run, and each time it is a different trail in various locations, including Draper, Park City, and the local ski resorts.   Check out the locations and dates here:  Wasatch Trail Run Series

I was hoping there would be more races in Corner Canyon, which is the closest event to where I live.  But reality hit home as I was driving to my first race, which just happened to be in Corner Canyon.   It was still over 90 degrees at 6 pm, and the course faced the west and would be in full, sweltering late afternoon sunshine.    Driving up to the ski resorts to run didn't seem like such a bad idea anymore!

There are two courses each week, short or long.   I guess they can be anywhere from 4 miles to 7 depending on the location.   I choose the long course, then cringed.  I was already sweating just standing in line to register.  Luckily this week, long was only 5.5 miles....any more and someone would probably get heat exhaustion.

This would be my first summer in Utah, since I've spent the last two summers in Europe for the Red Bull X-Alps race and training.   It's already hotter than I though it would be in June, but I can do anything for 5.5 miles, right?

Salomon shoes were at the race to offer free demos of their newest shoes.  I was already wearing a pair of their shoes, but I took them up on their offer and tried a newer version of my model.   At least it would be their shoes getting full of sand and dust on the trail!  :)

Corner Canyon is a bit torn up right now, with construction workers putting in a pipeline straight up the middle.   Luckily some of the trails are still open, and our route took us past some contraction, then up and up near the Bonneville Shoreline trail.   I was unable to run uphill in the heat, and forced myself to take small sips of my water bottle so it would last me the whole race.   It felt like about 4 miles of uphill, but finally I was able to point back down the hill and down to the finish.

It was a fun little race, and $20 rather than some trail races where the entry fee is much higher.  I look forward to doing more of these!   Hopefully next time it will be cooler...at 7:45 pm when I finished, the car still showed 90 degrees.  Like running in a sauna.

RESULTS    I'm not proud of my finish place, but my legs were dead from a hard bike ride the day before.   Not that I would have been much faster in that heat regardless!   A note about results....they are further broken down in the SHORT and LONG courses by A, B, and C designations.   When you register you can self-select whether you want to race in the Fast (A), Middle-Of-The-Pack (B), or Beginner (C) groups.   I couldn't possibly declare myself to be a beginner runner (!) so I selected B.  This only really applies to the series results if you compete in at least 5 races, and all the runners start together, so the designations aren't too big of a deal.