Sunday, April 22, 2007

SLC's Real Marathon

Which Leg Beater?
There were two marathons taking place on 4/21 in SLC. One where you could pound the pavement for 26 miles and lose a few hundred feet of elevation, surrounded by a 1,000 people. Or the real marathon where you could dance on the trails above SLC, take in roughly 6,500' vertical with stunning views of the Wasatch front while being surrounded by your friends. I chose the latter.
This is a local "club run" where the competitors don't wear numbers and don't pay an entry fee. Last year it dumped about 2' of fresh snow the Thursday before, then warmed considerably by Saturday. Let's just say it produced an epic day. Usually the winning times are in the low 4 hour range, but on that nasty day the winning time was just under 5 hours. This time around the weather was slightly better only sprinkling the hills with about 6 inches of snow on Wednesday and by Saturday the trail was in perfect condition.
Sam, Peter and I arrived at the start, chatted with friends, and got our stuff ready. Karl was there, fresh off his win and course record at McNaughton 100 miler the week before, supporting Cheryl and her first attempt at this marathon. 8am approached and the race director gave a detailed description of the course, consisting of "go do a ten mile loop over there then a sixteen mile loop over there, ready set go". I had decided that I wasn't going to get stuck in the middle this year so I went out with the leaders and settled in to a comfortable pace. by the time we were midway up the first climb it was Brian, Chuck (who was only doing the first loop), Kevin (who had just run Boston the Monday before!) and myself. It was really nice to run with these guys as we chatted and the miles just flew by. We completed the first loop in about 1 hour 44 minutes, which was about 20 minutes faster than anything I had done in training. I had a goal of finishing under 4 hours 30 minutes and this put me on pace to accomplish that. As we left the aid station/starting area it immediately starts climbing back up and I quickly realized that I was going to have to slow down a bit if I wanted to reach my goal. Kevin and Brian went on ahead and I noticed that there was a guy closing on me from behind. He eventually caught me before the next aid station at about mile 17 and put some distance between us. At this point I just focused on my time goal and resigned myself to hold on to my current 4th position.
After the final aid station the course overlaps itself a bit and this is where I saw Karl and Cheryl running together. I shouted some words of encouragement and looked down at my watch as I started my way up the final canyon and it read 3:34. This was about 4 minutes slower than what I had set as goal at this point but I was happy none the less. The canyon climbs gradually for about 1 1/2 miles where you then leave the trail and hit a beast of a climb I affectionately call Uncle F#@ker. I cannot claim that I named it, that credit goes to my good friend Leo, but I can say I have a better understanding why it has that name. You see, not only is it appallingly steep, but it has about 3 false summits kind of teasing you like a mean Uncle. My mantra on this climb has become "just keep moving". Just after I left the main trail I found the guy that had passed me earlier and he didn't look particularly well. We chatted for a bit and I found out his name was Elliot and he had never done this course before. I offered him some food which he declined, then we started climbing my favorite Uncle. I kept running my mantra through my head trying not to look up at the false summits. After about 20 minutes I glanced back and noticed that Elliot was a fare way back, being overtaken by someone else in a red shirt. Now I looked at the top and focused on getting there without falling apart. Once I gained the summit I started down the 4 mile rocky ridge that leads to the finish. I glanced back a few times to make sure that red shirt wasn't gaining on me and I couldn't see him. I was still pushing for my time goal and I knew it would be close. I made my way down through the parking area and headed to the finish line at the RD's house. I hit the driveway in 4:34, 4 minutes off my goal. No matter, it was great day in the hills running around with friends. Kevin ended up coming in ahead of Brian who suffered from a golf ball size blister on his heel for the final descent. After I arrived Leland came in, then a few others I didn't know followed by Peter then Sam. I was a little puzzled when I saw Karl coming in by himself a short time later but realized what was going on when he pulled out the camera to get some finish line pictures of Cheryl. Congratulations to all that finished the real marathon in Salt Lake, see you next year!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Weekend Antics

Hittin' the trail at 6am meant an early wake-up and making sure that my headlamp was functioning. This is another difference between cycling and running; I rarely started a ride before the sun was up but now I start trail runs routinely in the dark. I like it because I can head out for a 3 to 4 hour run and get back to the house just as everyone is getting done with breakfast. That of course means more time with the family and that makes everybody happy. However early alarms on the weekend can seem evil sometimes.
The chartered course for the day is called Short n' Steep. It's only 16 miles but packs in 5000' vertical over 2 major climbs and 1 minor climb. The rest of the elevation gain and loss comes from rolling foothills in between. I came up with this loop back in the fall when I was looking for a way to connect a few trails without going out and back. My favorite types of runs, or rides for that matter, consist of loops. I find them more interesting and fulfilling than going out and back. The true loop is one that I can complete without crossing over anything I've already been on. I can't quite make this one work that way but it's still one of my favorites. The Short n' Steep route starts at the mouth of Emigration canyon at the trailhead for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and follows the BST over to George's Hollow then all the way up to the summit of Mt. Wire. Near the top there are two panels that look like monster billboards (I assume they are repeaters of some sort) and at the top there is a 25' metal lookout tower surrounded by a chainlink fence and a gate without a lock. I had never climbed it before, but as I watched Peter scale the metal ladder I figured what the hell and climbed up as well. It was actually quite amazing how much more of the mountain can be seen from up there, mostly because the summit is very big and round.
A view from the top looking Southeast

There goes Sam on the descent

On the way down we hook up on the trail that leads to the 'Living Room'. This is a spot on the ridge that has many flat pieces of sandstone that people have stacked in the form of armchairs and couches.

Sam and Peter in the Living Room

From here we descend into the mouth of Red Butte Canyon and straight up the north side of the canyon to the top of Mt. Van Cott.

Me on Van Cott looking out over SLC

Then we run the ridgeline all the way back down to the BST and ascend up Dry Creek. I've toyed with the idea of leaving the trail at the back of Dry Creek and following Dry fork then ascending Unkle F@#ker, but today was not the day, especially after the 50 miler last week. So we stuck to the plan, climbed up to the saddle then dropped into Limekiln Gulch and ran back to the trailhead on the BST. Even though I prefer the high alpine runs I'll try not to take these smaller mountains for granted. They can provide a proper beating if you're in the mood...