Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Am a Human Petri Dish

For the last three weeks, I've been walking a fine line. Kind of like, I've been on an old rickety bus, hanging on for dear life, and hoping the wheels would stay on -- just so I could make it around the bend. Three weeks ago, while in Canada, I caught a cold, which turned into a sinus infection. Just when I thought I had it beat (and therefore went and did some hard workouts), it came back, with a new twist.

Last Tuesday, I woke up, having a plan to drive up to Brighton and do 8 VO2 intervals. VO2 intervals are hard, and mentally, it's hard to get psyched about them, just as it's hard to get psyched about putting a plastic bag over your head and then running up a mountain as fast as you can. I staggered to the bathroom and stood there. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it was an exact reflection of how I felt: tired, maybe even a bit haggard, eyes a bit sunken in, and not very motivated to do intervals. I stood there a bit longer, torn between the guilt of not wanting to train and wanting to climb back in bed. I walked to the closet to get dressed and picked up some Capilene. Then I walked back to the mirror and stood there again. Then I got back in bed and sent a text to my friends: "My sinus infection is worse. I'm not going out this morning. Sorry." And I went back to sleep.

Thursday (12/23), I was feeling better (although not completely healed) and had one of the best interval sessions of my life -- climbing, at times, at 80 feet per minute, and not feeling all that maxed out. I guess I was well rested. Psyched that I was feeling better, I pushed it hard on Friday (12/24). But after 4000 vertical, I felt something was off and shut it down. Too late though.

By Sunday (12/26), I had caught a new bug, and it was worse than the 3 or 4 bugs I have had in the last three weeks. I only know that because I have been knocked out, laid out, and feeling sorry for myself since then. It's been the full meal deal with aches, congestion, cough, etc.

And so, the wheels on the bus have officially fallen off. They rolled on down the road, and I'm left sitting here laying on my couch writing a blog about it.

Training is all about stretching the body's limits, forcing it to compensate and adjust. But when you stretch too much, like anything, the body will snap, and rebel, and get sick a lot. In hindsight, I should have taken a long rest after Canada and fully recuperated. Instead, being a bit too greedy and too obsessive, I thought I could push it and train through the sickness, and then get recuperated in the weeks leading up to the big race. And in doing so, I became a very effective human petri dish.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Training Log: December 12 to December 18

After feeling awesome in Canada a couple weeks ago, I caught a nasty cold that put my training on hold for a week. This week, I felt progressively better, albeit a bit tired. I still have something funky going on in the sinuses, but I think I'm getting closer to being healthy again.

With Nationals coming soon, I'm focusing on threshold type efforts and muscular endurance. With a pretty tough work week, I was able to squeeze in about 10 hrs of training and 17,300 vertical. Here is a summary of my efforts:

Today, Jon, Tim, Jason, Andy, Graham, Bart, and I had a little "Fun Rando" gathering in Little Cottonwood. We set a 1000 vertical foot course up with a mini-booter, and ran 4 laps. The first one was breaking trail in a blizzard. After that, the weather cleared a bit, and we were able to burn 3 laps, giving us 3 solid 15 minute threshold efforts.

Here is the time/altitude graph:

And my corresponding HR:

One more week of hard training, and then I'm going to start tapering down.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ski Touring on Rogers Pass

I've had a man-crush on Greg Hill for a long time. Greg might take a bit of flak for being a self-promoter, but his publicized adventures have been a source of inspiration for me. Thanks. For that reason, I was excited to ski at Rogers Pass -- an area that Greg frequents -- and to get a glimpse of the mountains and skiing possibilities in that area.

Monday at the Pass greeted us with bluebird skies. Reiner Thoni of Revelstoke and the winner of the 2010 Selkirk Classic, joined a Salt Lake motley crew of me, the Dorais bros., and Bart (the token white guy), along with a Jackson trio of Cary Smith, Zahan, and Nate Brown.

Reiner, rocking the Team Canada skinsuit on a Rogers Pass Tour:

From 2010-12-07

Most of the crew skinning up a ridge to 8812 Bowl (the massive pyramid peak in the background is Sir Donald and hasn't been skied):

From 2010-12-07

Photo credit: Bart

Nate Brown bringing some "style" to the backcountry with jewel-studded shades and a bit of skin:

From 2010-12-07

We spent the first few hours and 6k of the day skiing Video Peak and the 8812 Bowl, both popular runs at Rogers Pass. From the tops of these runs, we saw lot of mountains, glaciers, and ski potential. Unless skiing and adventure got old, that area of the world could hold a person's attention for a long long time.

From 2010-12-07


From 2010-12-07

Video Peak

From 2010-12-07

And a view of both from Mt. Cheops:

From 2010-12-07

At the bottom of 8812, we said goodbye to the Jackson Trio who had to go home, and headed up to Balu Pass and Mt. Cheops.  One of the striking features of the mountains at Rogers Pass is the relief.  As a point of reference, SLC sits at around 4500 feet.  So does Rogers Pass.  Here is Cheops:

From 2010-12-07

We tagged the Cheops summit, skied down to the shoulder, and entered into a couple of chutes.

From 2010-12-07

Photo credit: Bart

The one that I chose, with Bart's assurance that it "went," cliffed out. We booted back out and skied a nice run down to the valley to meet our other compadres. From there, we skinned up and went back up to Balu Pass, trying to squeeze out 1500 vertical to make it a 10k day. We got about 1350 feet, and that was more than good enough. Celebration - 9850 vertical feet, some classic Rogers Pass runs, and getting dark fast:

From 2010-12-07

Monday, December 6, 2010

Selkirk Classic

Andy, Bart, Jason, and I traveled north, far north, to attend the Selkirk Classic, a race put on by Golden Alpine Holidays.  We got ourselves to the town of Golden, British Columbia and then GAH flew us to the Meadow Hut in the Esplanades where the race was held.  The view on the flight in was astounding:

From 2010-12-05

The expanse of the Canadian Rockies makes the Wasatch, well,a bit small.

From 2010-12-05

We arrived at the Meadows Hut on Saturday and GAH guide -- "Russ" -- gave us a nice preview of the race course, and more importantly, the Esplanades.

From 2010-12-05

Although the high pressure created an inversion and overcast skies in the valleys (which sit at about 2000 feet), above the inversion, the weather was perfect and afforded us 360 views of the Selkirks.

From 2010-12-05

On Sunday, for the race, we had great weather again. Because of the logistical issues, the race was capped at 14 racers. Several racers from the US were able to attend as well as racers from the Canadian National Team. At 9:00 am, we lined up in our skinny suits, and we were off. Unfortunately, because I was frothing at the mouth and staring at a skin track, I have no pictures.

On the first climb, a group of five or so got off the front and summited about the same time. Me and the BG were in that group. Unfortunately, several in that group crashed on the bony first descent, giving me and Reiner a slight gap. At the transition at the bottom of the first descent, Reiner got out first, and held the lead until the end.

Finishing order went something like this:

Reiner Thoni
Cary Smith
Pete Swenson
Andrew McNabb
Andy Dorais
Melanie Bernier
Zahan Billamoria
Nate Brown
Jason Dorais

I was happy with the way my race went. The pressure was on the whole time, and I feel like my training this summer and fall is kicking in.

More than anything, it was fun racing in a new and unique venue. The course was very "Euro" in that it was 100 percent in the backcountry with some fun skinning. We were all very impressed with GAH and their hospitality, and as you can see above, the terrain blew us away. Future home of a North American Pierra Menta?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Training Log: November 7 to November 13

Sunday:  2.5 hrs, 10 miles, 4200 ft.  Easy.  Ran Grandeur Loop.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 2 hrs, 3200 ft.  60 min of threshold; easy rest of the time.  Skied at Snowbird with Bart, Tom, and Quinn.  Fat skis (95 at waist, yeah), broke trail.

Wednesday: 1:15, 7.5 miles, 1000 ft.  Easy.  Foothill run.

Thursday: Intended to do interval session, but the alarm went off and I pulled the covers over my head.  Worried about making a sinus infection worse.

Friday: 1.5 hrs, 2950 ft, 8x4 intervals at my hill on Alta.  Was slower than last week.  Max HR 181.

Saturday: 4.5 hrs, 5750 ft.  3x20 subthreshold to threshold.  Easy the rest of the time.  Burned a lap up Hidden Peak at Snowbird, then met Brother Aaron, Billy D., Jeremy, and Walt for some action in Cardiff and off the Black Knob.  

Total: 11.75 hrs, 17,100 vertical.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Feet and Trail Shoes: And the Winner is . . .

A few months ago, I posted about "My Feet and Trail Shoes" and it has been the most-viewed post on this blog.  Weird.  Weird because I would think things like the WURLOS or Uintas Traverse or Skimo would be more interesting, but no; it's my ugly feet and their promiscuity with trail shoes.  In my previous post, I hadn't yet formed any solid conclusions, but now, after a solid 6 months of trail running, I have.  Here they are:

1. Minimalist Shoes Hurt My Feet.  There isn't a universally accepted definition of minimalist shoes, but I consider shoes with little to no arch support, minimal cushion, and a very low heel to toe drop to be minimalist, i.e. Five Fingers, New Balance MT 100, Inov8 Talon 212.  I like the lightness and nimbleness of these shoes.  Unfortunately, after 35 years of bondage, my feet are not strong enough to run in them all the time, on any terrain, for long distances.  Most of the summer, the my feet were bruised, my arches hurt and ached a lot.  I thought I had plantar facsciitis.  I probably ate an unhealthy dose of Ibuprofen to mitigate.

But I continued to run in wimpy flimsy shoes.  I ran the Wasatch Steeplechase, the Jupiter Steeplechase, and the Speedgoat in Inov8s.  I did it because I thought it was cool and that they made me faster.  I did it because they helped me adjust my running technique.  And because of the latter, the price in pain and discomfort was worth it, well worth it.  In hindsight, however, I probably could have also used some more supportive shoes to ease the pain and discomfort.

2. Trail Shoes Must be Sized Big and Not Tied Too Tight.  Many people have told me this, but I guess I didn't know that trail shoes need to be THAT big and THAT loose.  After I finished the Jupiter Steeplechase, I couldn't walk for a week and had to take an additional 2 weeks off before I could run normally again.  Why?  Because my shoes were tied too tight and my shoes were too small.  I thought that the key to preventing blisters and toe bang was to tighten the laces down.  I was wrong.  For me, the key is to have what I consider a very loose fit.

3. And the Winner is? My favorite most comfy shoe that I have run in thus far, and continue to run in, and will continue to run in for awhile (I ordered 3 pair), is the Montrail Rockridge.

Initially, I was skeptical.  In fact, I returned a pair before I actually bought one for keeps.  It's not a sexy shoe like the Crosslite.  There isn't anything uniquely special about it like the Hokas.  The heel to toe drop is a bit high at 10mm.  They look quite ordinary.  Yet, after a short break-in period, my feet are quite happy in these shoes.  They are amply cushioned, have a bit of arch support, and allow me to run down the rocky and rough Wasatch trails with more confidence and comfort than I do in other shoes.  My only complaints with these shoes are durability (the soles wear out fast) and the laces are too short.

I will continue to run in minimalist shoes every once in a while in order to refine technique and because it is the cool thing to do.  But the Rockridge is my go to shoe for now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Training Log: October 31 to November 6

Sunday: Nothing.

Monday: 2.5 hrs, 60 min threshold, 4000 feet, Alta -- up to Baldy shoulder, down, top, main chute.

Tuesday: 1:50, easy 2400 feet, Alta, Baldy main with brother Jordan

Wednesday: 1 hr, easy run

Thursday: 1:30, 6 x 4ish intervals, 24 min of VO2, 2600 feet, Alta

Friday: 1 hr, easy run, 500 feet

Saturday: 5 hrs 10 min, easy, 7200 feet, went for a long walk and found and skied this:

From November 6. 2010

Great day to be out. Didn't see anyone. Recrystallized pow and November Corn!?!?

Total: 13 hrs, 16,700 vert feet

One of the keys to training -- so I've been told -- is going slow enough so that you can go fast when you have to. This week I focused on getting a lot of low intensity/level 1 time in so that I could get the most out of my high intensity workouts. More often than not, when interval day comes around, I'm too tired and too fatigued to get a quality workout. And doing intervals in this state certainly doesn't make me faster and probably makes me slower. Part of the problem is that I have limited time and when I'm out training, I want to make the most of it. Another part of the problem is that I get impatient and don't like to go slow. But what I have come to learn is that "making the most" of training doesn't always mean pummeling myself all of the time. "Making the most" of training means pummeling myself on the days I'm supposed to do that, and on the other days, training in a way that allows me to pummel myself on the days I'm supposed to do that, i.e., go easy.

It's tough to put this principle in practice, but I'm going with it. "You've got to trust your training." -- Billy D.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Training Log: October 24 to October 30 -- SNOW!!

I was able to get the first on-snow training of the year this week. It went down (and up) something like this:

Sunday: Nothing.

Monday: 2500 vert, 2 hrs, 45 minutes threshold, rest of the time easy/whatever. Went up the gut of Baldy Main Chute and back down with Bart and Andy. Rock skis -- BD Havocs with Dynafit toe pieces only. :)

Tuesday: 2500 vert, 1.5 hrs, 10 minutes of VO2, 15 minutes at threshold, rest of the time easy/whatever. Baldy Main again with Andy. Rock skis -- BD Havocs again (and still not enough time to remount heelpiece).

Wednesday: 3000 vert, 2.5 hrs, easy peasy. Baldy Main and shoulder with Billy and Jeremy, and as always, they gave me some valuable training advice. Manaslus. Jeremy made a little video:

Thursday: nuthin -- stomach flu

Friday: 3000 vert, 2 hrs, 30 minutes threshold, rest easy. Baldy Main and up to Collins.First day on race skis.

Saturday: 5 mile run around neighborhood, easy. Brother Sam's wedding.

Total: About 11k vert and 9 hrs.

I consider this somewhat of a transition week. I think the mountain running has helped, but skiing is certainly a different motion. Of note is the strain it puts on the hip flexors, inner groin, and lower back. Oh, and the DH? Ouch. Looking forward to getting faster on skis.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Training Log: October 17 to 23

I fell off of the wagon . . .

Monday: Rode bike to work, ran home. 6 miles easy.

Tuesday: Grandeur West, up and down, 6 miles, Threshold (over under) effort. Wasn't feeling good, so to motivate myself, went from a 2 x 20 threshold effort to a 30 on 30 off effort for 30 minutes.

Wednesday: 2 miles easy. Knee is injured. Needed to back off to aid recovery. Plus, it hurt.

Thursday: 2 miles easy.

Friday through Sunday: I moved. One decent effort from 4:30 to 11:00 pm on Friday. Sustainable pace with a few hard efforts thrown in from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturday. Sustainable pace with a couple bonks from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday and then again from 6 pm to 10 pm on Sunday. My eating habits will surely have a reverse effect on any fitness gains I have made this month: pizza, chinese food, pizza, chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, a bag of wasabi peas, candy . . . Thoroughly and totally blown. Thanks to those who came and helped.

Looking forward to being on snow!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Training Log: Oct 2 to Oct 16

Skimo training continues.

I rested from October 3 to October 10. On that week, I did a few short (under 3 miles) runs, and Deseret Peak (8 miles, 4000 vertical) -- nothing too stressful. I focused on recovery and got some body work done. The body work helped me loosen up after a summer of mountain running.

Last week, from October 11 to October 16, I put in a solid block. My intent is to build both volume (time and vertical) and intensity. I put in three intensity sessions in this week, one of which involved two consecutive time trials to the top of Hidden Peak. I am happy with how my body is responding to these efforts -- it seems to recover quite quickly, which is a indication of a decent base. I have to be careful to be patient and not ramp up too fast. There still isn't any snow!! Also, today my knee hurts from my Hidden Peak TT yesterday. Maybe I should have ridden the Tram down. I might have to do some biking this week.

Here is my log from last week:

Monday: Easy trot for 1 hr up and 1/2 down on Olympus trail. 5 miles, 2542 feet.

Tuesday: Grandeur Loop. Threshold effort up (49:49). Easy after. 10 miles, 4360 feet.

Wednesday: Easy run in the neighborhood. 5 miles. No significant vertical.

Thursday: Intervals on Grandeur with weight (backpack stuffed with climbing rope). 4 x 4-5 min. 3 miles, 1860 feet.

Friday: Easy run to work, bike back. 7 miles in, 6 miles back. No significant vertical.

Saturday: Snowbird TT from tram dock to Hidden Peak (patrol hut), twice. Threshold effort on the up, easy on the down. 13.5 miles. About 5700 vertical. 52:48 to the top the first time, 56:38 the second time.

Totals for 10/11 to 10/16: 43.5 miles, 14,462 vertical.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Memory of Ben

From Ben

Ben Jacobsen's fight with cancer ended today. I was very sad to hear the news. His passing made me think on some dawn patrols we had. The last one I recall was in January 2009. It was a powder day, and we skinned to the top of Neffs. At the top, we were treated to this view of Lone Peak.

From Ben

Because we were so happy to be out, after one run off the top, we skinned up to the base of Triangle Peak, and then dropped off into North Fork. Ben knew that this wasn't the sensible option, but he was a good sport -- even after the non-sensible option nearly ruined an otherwise-good powder day. Our run into North Fork pretty much sucked. I think we kicked off a sizable avalanche. Ben and I dug our edges into the hill watched a cloud of snow sift through the trees. We looked at each other wide-eyed, then laughed it off. We were happy to be alive. To make things worse, we missed the only good exit out (an elk trail) and ended up performing a massive bushwhack. To this day I can't remember one worse. After a while, it became a situation of every man for himself, along with a situation of get out of here as fast as you can. I skied straight to the car. A few minutes Jon came along. Ben took a bit longer (I attribute that to his telemark gear), and we almost left him. But we didn't, and all ended up being several hours late to work.

I'm glad I got to ski with Ben. I will miss him.

Ben (in yellow) at the base of Triangle Peak, getting ready for a nice adventure. Just before this, we gave him grief about wearing white women's ski gloves.

From Ben

Ben hopping a rock in Idaho:

From Ben

Until then . . .

From Ben

Note: Some of Ben's friends organized a cycling team for Ben -- Team Firestorm, which is selling Firestorm jerseys. Proceeds go to Ben's family. Let me know if you're interested.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Deseret Peak

From 2010-10-09

Deseret what?? I thought that I was well-versed in the Wasatch, but I had no clue where Deseret Peak was. Quickly, I Googled it: in the Stansbury range, about 11k, in a designated Wilderness area, less than 1 hr away from the city. Since it was clearly a win-win-win, I responded "yes" to the email. I'd get to meet and run with some new people, I'd get to run a new trail, and I'd get to do some ski recon.

I. The New People:

Jay, Darcie, and Brian descending Deseret Peak.

From 2010-10-09

George through the mist.

From 2010-10-09

Brian, Jay, and Greg on the Summit.

From 2010-10-09

II.  The New (to me) Trail

Not sure exactly what the name of the trail was, but we ran a counter-clockwise loop that ascended and descended Deseret Peak.  A cloud hung over the summit.  It had snowed earlier and there was a fall rime on the trees.

From 2010-10-09

From 2010-10-09

III.  Ski Recon

Oh yeah . . . .

From 2010-10-09

The entrance:

From 2010-10-09

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coyotes in Red Pine, Pfeif, White Baldy

Saturday morning I was feeling pretty beat, but wanted to cap off a good building block. So I got in the car and ended up at the White Pine trailhead. I ran up to Red Pine lake and heard a pack of what I think were coyotes yipping away. They went to town for about a minute, then I never heard them again. I recorded part of the session though:

From there, I went up to make offerings (for family, miscellaneous blessings, and snow) on the Pfeif:

From 2010-10-03

And then traversed the ridge to the top of White Baldy. Some parts of the ridge were runnable. Other parts were pretty scrambly.

From 2010-10-03

I didn't choose well dropping into White Pine, and ended up getting a bit of unanticipated free solo action. I found some snow though:

From 2010-10-03

Monday, October 4, 2010

Build 1

I'm about 5 weeks into my skimo training program. "Training program" is a term I use loosely, but generally, it involves a few training periods with the objective of being at peak fitness in January. I had a pretty moderate summer as far as intensity and racing goes. I did a few trail running races in hopes that my body wouldn't forget how to work hard. But for the most part, my objective was to maintain fitness (and learn how to run, but that's another story . . . ).

Beginning on August 30th, I entered into a "build" phase. My objective during this phase was to build aerobic fitness and to increase efficiency at threshold. Thus, intensity-wise, it involved several rounds of effort at or below threshold (for me, 162-172 bpm) and a lot of aerobic time (for me, 135-140 bpm). In an ideal world, I would be able to train on skis. However, since there is no snow around, my activity of choice has primarily been mountain running, with a bit of biking mixed in. I've found mountain running to be a good substitute for on-snow training. The motion of climbing steep mountains, sometimes with poles, is very similar to skinning. I think it will require less transition time than biking. Hopefully, it will translate well.

Here is a short summary of Build 1:

I'm going to rest this week, and then enter into another Build Phase. Hopefully, the snow is not too far away.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Dawn Patrol

I've been enjoying the fall, getting as many mountain miles and as much vertical in as I can.  The weather this fall has been too good.  Last year on this day I was getting ready to go skiing.  Though snow will be welcome, I'm not at all desperate for it if I continue to have days like today.

This morning Jon, Tom and I "ran" to the Salt Lake Twin Peaks via Broads.  We started at the S Curves, which is about 6200 feet and climbed to 11,200 feet.  Because I was leading the way, we got off-route and ended up going up Bonkers, and then scrambled up the ridge to Twin.  It certainly wasn't the conventional route, but it was quite fun.  From car to summit was a bit under 2 hours.

Luckily I had my camera along this morning, and got some nice shots.

Tom above Bonkers at first light.

From 2010-10-01

From 2010-10-01

The light on the Big Cottonwood quartzite was warm and inspiring.

From 2010-10-01

As you ski Bonkers this winter, remember, this is what the snow rests on.

From 2010-10-01

Jon on the scree field.

From 2010-10-01

Tom scrambling near the Diving Board with O'Sullivan and Drom in the background.

From 2010-10-01

Following the ridge to the summit.

From 2010-10-01

Jon's morning jog.

From 2010-10-01

I didn't have my Whippets to jam into my favorite crack here.

From 2010-10-01

Bonkers on the right. Twin on the left.

From 2010-10-01

Great day in the mountains.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Speedgoat 50k: An Ultra Runner I Am Not . . . Yet

Every so often, the body needs a good thrashing.  If I were to place some of my adventures on a thrashing scale, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, I would rate running the Speedgoat 50k a solid 7.5.  I would say that it's right up there with long speed ski traverses and epic bike rides.  I went into the Speedgoat 50k thinking that it might be my entrance into ultra running.  I came out of the Speedgoat 50k thinking two things: (a) ultra running is really hard, and it's going to be awhile before I even can fathom being a real ultra runner, i.e. the kind that runs 100 miles, and (b) that was totally awesome!

The Course

According to my Garmin, the Speedgoat was 31 miles, gained about 11,000 feet, and descended about 11,000 feet.  The Speedgoat started at Snowbird, criss-crossed the front side and eventually topped out at Hidden Peak (11,000).

From 2010-08-03

From Hidden Peak, the race went to the top of Baldy, down into Alta, and nearly to the top of Alta's Sugarloaf lift.  It then descended sharply into Mineral Basin and down Mary Ellen Gulch and bottomed out somewhere in American Fork Canyon.  From there, it climbed back up towards Mineral Basin via Miller Hill.  It then took us up Mineral Basin the Peruvian tunnel.

From 2010-08-03

After exiting the Peruvian tunnel on the frontside of Snowbird, the course forced racers to run down before we were able to climb back up to the top of Hidden Peak via the Devil's Backbone.  After topping out at Hidden Peak for the second time, the course turned down down down to the start at Entry 1 of Snowbird.

From 2010-08-03

This course was covered in 5:43 by Kevin Schilling.  Nick Clark finished a few minutes later.  Luke Nelson finished in third.

My Race

All the stats are compiled here.  I took 7 hrs and 27 minutes to finish the course.  Out of 152 "Billies" and "Nannies," I was 32nd place.  I was happy with that result given that I was venturing into some unknown territory -- 31 miles is by far the longest I have ever run.  But more importantly, I was happy to simply be out and running in the mountains, with other goats.

At the start, I enjoyed seeing some of the heavy hitters of the sport.  Immediately, an elite pack formed at the front.  I joined the pack right behind them, and held on as long as I could.  While doing so, I was able to meet and chat with other runners.  Jared Campbell told me he was going to attempt WATOJA, which is the Wasatch 100 on Friday and LOTOJA on Saturday.  Another guy told me that I make a loud thud when I hit the ground.  About 7 miles into the race, I was running downhill, caught my toe and went down hard, cutting my hand, scraping my chest, and bruising my hip.  Kind of a sucky way to begin a race.

One of my favorite moments of the race was topping out on Hidden Peak the first time (my second favorite moment was topping out the second time because that meant it was all downhill).  There were people on top with cowbells and the like cheering.  Plaid shirt guy had taken a direct route -- on foot -- up to Hidden Peak and was there to cheer on racers.  The sun was peeking over Baldy.  It was a nice scene at 11,000 feet.

As I scurried across the ridge to Baldy, I laughed to myself as I watched the guy in fluorescent green scrambling up Baldy.  It was Andy Dorais, a partner from the WURLOS ski tour.  During the WURLOS, Andy skipped Baldy, and he was finally making it right.

The run down into Mineral Basin wasn't very fun.  After I thudded on the ground, I lost my downhill mojo.  The blood smeared all over my water bottles was a constant reminder of the thud and a hindrance. The fact that the course plummeted down a scree covered, rutted road didn't help either.  Like skiing, it's best to simply "point 'em" on the downhill; if you're tentative, you tend to be too tight, look bad, feel bad, and burn too much energy.  I wasn't able to point 'em.

Much to my amazement, when I reached the bottom of Mineral Basin, the course jogged up over a ridge, and then plummeted down another several thousand feet down Mary Ellen Gulch to somewhere in American Fork Canyon.  I wasn't able to run these miles confidently, and at the bottom, I face planted again, filling my wounds with black dirt.  Ouch.  Ouch. And ouch.  (I might have been a bit more profane than that in the moment.)

A little over 16 miles into the race, Andy and I hung out for a few moments at the aid station.  I washed my wounds and argued with one of the workers over whether I had to do a penalty lap for going off course (for once in my life, I didn't).  Andy was lounging in a lawn chair eating popsicles and said he wasn't feeling good; so I left him for dead and kept going.

3 miles after that, I hit my wall, and saw a fluorescent green shirt gaining on me.  Soon, Andy passed me, and left me for dead when I stopped to examine some blisters on the ball of my foot.  Luckily, I had some new friends to nurse me along.  Mark Christopherson and I seemed to be moving at the same pace, and we did some hard miles together.  Jared Campbell and Pat McMurty whizzed by, but slowed up long enough to offer me a gel, which I gladly took and which enabled me to get back up to Hidden Peak the second time.

As I was climbing up the Devil's Backbone, I wondered why I was going so slow.  At that point I probably had done about 10,000 feet of climbing, which isn't out of the norm during ski season.  Why was I feeling so beat?  I'm still not sure.  It might have to do with the different mechanics of running.  It might also have to do with the thrashing my body took running from the top of Snowbird to AF Canyon.

Although my body forced me to go slow, I never was miserable.  (For example, the last 20 miles of the Highline Traverse were bloody miserable.)  And the whole time I had fun, which was a blessing. Perhaps the novelty of the challenge rendered me blessed.  Perhaps it was being on new trails and seeing yet another aspect of the Wasatch.  Perhaps it's because I'm born to run . . . HA!

When I got to the top of Hidden Peak, I felt that the race was basically done, which wasn't truly the case.  My legs conveyed this to me quite loudly as I hobbled down the trail for the next 5 miles.  My pace was in the 10 to 12 min/mile range.  And I got passed by several people, two of whom were "Nannies," and three of whom were wearing moon boots.  But I didn't care, I had only lost one toenail (I'm down to 5 good ones), was still running, had covered 31 miles, and was going to finish.

Over the last four months, it's been a struggle to become a runner, to cause my body to adapt to the demands of running.  I have a long way to go, but I'm finally to a point where I am relatively comfortable, running. Runners often describe their sport as being "pure."  They describe feeling "free."  As I have a run the Wasatch this summer, I agree.