Monday, July 11, 2016

Trail Running Through America Blog 8

Utah and Colorado

Day 29: Lake Blanche- Salt Lake City

My last run day in SLC, I wanted something that would give me a solid hike with great views, and something that I could spend a few hours on with no rush. So I got to looking on the alltrails app and I found the Lake Blanche Trail. I read on the reviews that it was a 3,000 ft climb in the first 3 miles and that if you really wanted an extra special view to hike past the lake and you would find 2 more small lakes. Sounds good to me.
When I started the hike I quickly found they weren't joking about the toughness of the original climb. There were areas with large rocks, areas with a lot of tall plant growth, and a whole section of some bouldering. But there were also beautiful waterfalls in the first mile. It was a challenging climb but a lot of fun to go up.
When I got to the top I took the strangers reviews to heart and went past the first lake and followed a "trail" over a hill and sure as shit, there were two small lakes and a really pretty water fall. Worth EVERY single extra step~ 

I wanted to explore the area so I did some rock climbing, and some tree climbing and at one point tip toed over a broken up dam so that I could get around the lakes to the waterfall. I also got a fantastic views of the mountains and the surrounding areas from different vantage points. Once I got to the waterfall I realized my handheld was about empty, it was over 80* outside, so I figured since it was flowing fast it should be safe to drink and I refilled. In the refill process I almost fell down the waterfall. Yikes. 

Once I got done exploring the area I headed back down the trail back to my car. I had hiked all the way up and around, and then ran the sections I could on the way down. It was a great way to end my stay in SLC.

If you are ever in Salt Lake I would highly recommend you hike this trail. It is worth every foot of climb!

Day 30: Travel Day- I am headed to Denver where I am excited to meet up some of my buddies I met 2 years ago during the North Fork 50k. It will be fun to have a run reunion and see some more of the Northern Colorado mountains. I had every good intention of waking up early to run before I hit the road, and I did in fact wake up early... but I just couldn't do it. I really wanted to get on the road. So I finished up my last minute car packing, loaded up Waylon, said my goodbyes to Sara and family and hit the road. Driving across Wyoming is BORING and I hit 12 construction zones which always slows things down. So, I busted out the good "classic music", ie: Spice Girls, Savage Garden, etc and had a grand ole Karaoke session in the car. Waylon was not impressed but I sure enjoyed myself.
Finally, after dying a slow death in the Denver traffic, I made it to my cousins's house. She is in Wyoming camping, so I have her place to myself for a few days. It is 98* when I pull in, so I decide I am not running, and instead enjoy just having a quiet evening.

Day 31: Cherry Creek State Park- Colorado
 Wake up, grab some breakfast and start looking at the surrounding areas for somewhere to run. I don't want anything to hard since I know tomorrow is going to be a tough run and I don't anything that I have to travel far for since I had a big travel day the day before. I end up finding Cherry Creek State Park. It is only 15 minutes away and has a 7 mile loop around the lake and a Wetland Area. I grab some water and salt and head over. 

This loop has some shade in the Wetland area which is nice, but that only last for about 2 miles. After that it is full on direct sunshine and of course Denver is in a heat wave. So I take it easy and make sure to drink lots of water and take salt. It is fun to watch people out on the water paddle boarding,, boating, and just swimming. I love seeing people out enjoying the outdoors like this.

I get around the lake and decided to keep going. I go through the Wetlands again and take some off shoot trails that give me extra miles in the shade and end up with about 12 miles. Nice and flat, easy peasy.
Once I get home I get on Yelp to find a pizza joint and find one with great reviews. I order a large vegetarian pizza and cheesy bread and set out to carbing up for tomorrow. My running partner has also told me to prepare for 12 hours on the trails. What have I gotten myself into?

Day 32: The EPIC run-  It is a long post....
Get to bed at 10 pm, lay awake until 11:30 trying to remember if I packed everything and  do my best not go to the car to make sure. Wake up every 45 minutes because I don't want to sleep through my alarm. 1:00 am the alarm goes off. I hit snooze and at 1:20 I wake up, sit up real fast with an "oh shit" and haul my butt out of bed. Let the dog outside, throw my oatmeal in the microwave, heat up some coffee, and I am on my way out the door by 1:34 am. Drive to the Park and Ride where I am meeting John, my running buddy I met a few years ago during a 50k. 2:00 am I park, and he quickly follows behind me. I transfer all my gear to his car, we both lament about how tired we are and we start heading North.
We drive up the mountain until we get the trail head we are going to finish at. The other guys we were supposed to meet up slept through their alarms, so we are starting without them. It is cold, but we know it will warm up quickly once the sun comes out. Regardless I start the run with arm sleeves and a light jacket which I end up taking off after a mile. It is my first time using the bungies on my Nathan Pack, they work like a dream! The view of the night sky without any light pollution is ridiculously amazing. It is hands down one of my favorite things. 

We throw on our head lamps and start out. After a brief jaunt down the road to the starting trail head, we start climbing. Parts of the trail have baby pine trees growing and we are getting a little scratched up. I notice that the trail is very rocky, but don't think much of it. As the sun is coming up we get stunning sunrise views over the mountains with the lakes and the city of Boulder in the distance. Then we hit our first snow field. Because it is still dark, the snow is frozen solid. It is like stepping on a steep ice rink. John makes it across, however since I tend to be a little on the Bambi side of things when it comes to slick, I elect to hike above the snow field and down and around. I know for a fact I would end up sliding down the mountain.

As the sun continues to rise we get to go down for a few miles. In this time we hit 2 more snow fields that are pure ice. We both climb over the top of them and down and around. I have never really encountered snow fields like this, it is way cool. We eventually get to switch off our headlamps and cruise through the moutains. As we get lower it gets greener and a little less rocky.
Then we start the first BIG CLIMB. We are at 9,800 feet at the base and we climb for a little over 3 miles. It is slow going in some spots as there gets to be grades of 35%. And this is where I realize how rocky these Rocky Mountains are :-) Once we get to the top we stop to take some photos as the views are breathtaking, as is the elevation.
Stunning Mountain Views every turn
The whole way was rocky
 We are at 11,843 feet. My highest climb yet. And then we get to go down down down. Woohoo. It is a 6 mile decline. As we are going down the mountain we start to run into other runners, including the runners we were supposed to meet up with. They are doing the loop the opposite direction we are. We stop and chat with the other runners, as well as a handful of backpackers we run into along the way, sometimes just chatting and a few times giving directions. Lucky for one pair of girls, John has brought his map.
However, what you go have to go up. I can see the elevation profile for this run in my head, as John had sent it to me the day before. I know that we had 6 miles of down so I am watching the miles click by. I also know that we have a 6.5 mile climb.

As we are going through this downhill stretch we go through several stream and creek crossings. Some are easy to cross, some are not. Most of them either have rocks that are not slick or a log to balance on to get across. My two favorite stream crossing moments of the day happened in this stretch. The first had a rock you had to jump to near the opposite bank. John warns me it is slick. So, again, Bambi. This is not a good idea for me. So start walking up and down the bank weighing my option. I find a spot where it is a bit narrower, I eyeball it for a second, then make a decision. I step back a good 6 feet, get a running start and leap over the stream, landing just on the edge of the opposite bank. I land it with a hand raise and a "TA DA". John is duly impressed and laughing and we keep on going.

My second favorite stream crossing was a little trickier. It was much wider and it was mostly submerged rocks. I wasn't paying attention as John crossed until I heard "shit" and I look up and he is calf deep in water. hahahahahahaha. Then I try.... uhhu.. that is what I get for laughing. It doesn't take long until I am also calf deep in water. The cold feels good, but now we have sloshy feet. But it was fun.

During this time we have started around 6.5 ascent to the Pawnee Pass. During the beginning of this climb we see waterfall after waterfall. I love waterfalls. They are my second favorite thing after unfiltered night skies. 
The first 3 miles of the climb are not too bad. It is still rocky though and the higher we climb the rockier we get.

Then it happens, the HOLY SHIT moment on this run. We are at mile 17, as we round the corner John says me "There she is". I stopped dead in my tracks, paused my watch, looked at him, looked at the pass, and then looked at him again... " We are climbing THAT?!?" I am going to die. Yup, death is imminent.

Mile 18 we reach the base of the mountain. Now, in all fairness John had warned me that you couldn't actually see the trail and that it really was climbing over rocks and refinding the trail every few feet. I thought he was exaggerating. He. Was. Not. For the next 3 miles I went through just about every emotion in the book. So to save you and me time, I will do the super fast version: "This is cool,  OMG I hate my life, My feet hurt, You know not everyone can do this, John is lying to me, We are not almost there, I swear we are in friggin Disney land they way this wraps around and around, Oo that is a pretty view, How are those people running so fast up this, How is John 2 switchbacks ahead of me, Okay getting through this makes me BadAss, Yup I am a badass, OMG why aren't we done yet, I am going to kill John, Wow look at me go up this rock a billy goat, Fuck, Double Fuck, Wow it's windy.. I hope I don't get blown off the mountain, Oh I am really almost there, oh no it wraps around more... ahhhhhhh, I think I am going to cry, no, there is no crying in trail running, Wait this is really the top! YES, I am Queen of the Mountain!!"  Oh and if I hear "we are almost at the crux" or "we are almost at the top" in the near future...well I can't be held responsible for my behavior, ha. I am told I was radiating my emotions from down the mountains... probably why John got up it so fast. heehee
If you look close you can see John
The view from the TOP

We hit the top of Pawnee Pass, 12, 548 feet. We grab our breathe, do some congratulations. I am so ready for a nice downhill stretch. Which, it was downhill... and it was also more rocks. Nothing like coming up, but enough I can't get a good rhythm. And because I am tired and my feet hurt, I am starting to lose my footing. I have to go slow. But down I go. Then we get to our 2nd to last snow field. Luckily the sun has been out for quite awhile by this point so it is softer, however I still came very close to losing my footing and going down. For the next several miles we pick around rocks and snow as well as say hi to hikers and runners. By this time my feet hurt from all the rocks, actually truth be told, my whole body hurts. My arms, my abs, my glutes, everything. I feel like I just ran a 100k.
Then we hit the bottom. We are right near the lake and a hiker tells us we are only 1.5-2 miles away from the trail head. Praise the Lord. John goes ahead and I take my time. I am wiped so I do a run/walk mix the last 2 miles.  When I finally finish, John is at the car with the beer poured and we celebrate a truly EPIC run.  I am beyond happy we did this run and I got to experience this route. 

As we drink our beers we chat with other runners coming in that we had seen on the loop and enjoy some time. We finally pack up and head down the mountain.

Now the story doesn't end there. Because on the way down we noticed a huge thing of smoke coming up from a ridge. It is a brand new forest fire. It has literally just started and we can see the flames within the smoke shooting up a good 50 feet in the sky. They are just now starting to close roads and call for evacuations. I shoot some photos and share up prayers for the firefighters and residents as we reroute through Boulder. I have kept on eye on the news of this fire and it is not good. It was started by some guys from Alabama and the fire is growing, it has already destroyed four homes and forced thousands to evacuate the area. I will be keeping at eye on it. It legit started 16 miles from where we were just 45 minutes before.

Day 33: Recovery run around Quincy Reservoir- Colorado-
Wake up, do a quick systems check. Quads, fine. Calves, fine. It-band, fine. Step out of bed... feet... still sore. Bleh. Okay, that means comfy cushy socks and some cushy road shoes. But first... I am starving. Eggs and Hashbrowns. That seems like a good idea. Okay, pull up the map my run and see where I wanna go while I am eating. Oh Hey, there is a reservoir with a path around it a few miles away. Perfect. Finish my food and head out.
A. It is already 90* out when I start
B. There is no shade in Denver (no joke)
C. There is a small possibility that eating eggs and hash browns 20 minutes before a hot run may not be a good idea.
I get to the reservoir, about 3 miles with a few accidental detours on the way, run into the area and.... UHHO. My stomach is doing that gurgly thing that it has only done once before. This is not good. Bathroom, where is the bathroom. Oooooo.. porta potty. Done! Sorry fisherman, this is currently out of use.
Okay... got that handled. Do I dare try to run around the water or do I head home? mmmmm... going to try it. First mile goes okay. Second mile I feel much better, Third mile I am glad I decided to do it.
I wanted to do 10 miles, and my legs would have easily done so. But now the temperature is near 95*. I have on my visor, I have my cooling rag draped across my shoulders (they got burned yesterday) and I have water ( although it is getting hot-the ice has long since melted). I think 7.5 is fine. I finish up, eat some lunch and head out to meet a buddy for ice cream. Basil-Blackberry and Lemon-Blueberry. Yum!!

My cousin is going to be back from camping, along with her 2.5 year old twins. It is going to be a fun evening. And I need to plan my run for Day 34 as well as the rest of the trip.

I hope you all are getting in great miles and finding your own running adventures. Happy Running!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trail Running through America Blog 7

A lot has gone on in the last week. I have seen a lot of places and done a lot of things! 

Day 22: I am headed out of Washington, headed towards Oregon where I will spend a few days. I spent some time on the google and found a random Mountain (I think it was George's Peak) that promised great views of Mt Rainier and Mount St Helens. It is cloudy and grey as I head out and up the mountain. As I am driving up I am thinking to myself, there are so many clouds I am not going to be able to see anything. But, I am already half way up the mountain on a crappy dirt road, so might as well stick it out and keep going. I am glad I did, because about 80% the way up, I was above the clouds looking at blue skies and gorgeous views. Seeing Mount St Helens was incredible!

 She is a beautiful mountain for sure. I couldn't find the trail I was looking for, so I ran on fire roads and around the peak of the mountain. At one point in time I wanted a better view, so I climbed up a huge rock formation (that was a little scary as it was high up and very narrow where I was standing). Waylon was not impressed and I had to get stern to make him stay at the bottom! But it was worth the view. Then I literally slid all the way back down on my feet and hands. Also, a little scary. 

Then I was headed down the mountain I got a great view of Mt. Rainier. I love that mountain! I kept the run short as it is a down week, got back in the car and headed to Bend, OR. 

Day 23: Okay, I have to back up a little to the night before. I had been sent a list of campgrounds from a friend of a friend and had two I wanted to check out. Like a jackass, however I didn't fill my gas tank while I was in I definitely was worrying about running out of fuel as I drove farther and farther up into the mountains. First time this trip my gas tank had been below 1/4th tank. OOPS. haha Then, when I picked a campground, the campground host took a shine to me. He showed up at my camp site with free firewood, beer and an offer to do laundry. I thanked him for his kindness, but was just a bit cautious. Having a 80 pound dog with me does help in feeling safe.

Now onto the actual run. A guy on facebook had given me a suggestion of a trail to run, the Tumalo Falls trail. I am glad I took his advice. It was a nice trail, well groomed and with great views along the way. Waylon loved being able to play in the creek and the water flow was very pretty. Bend has trails on trails on trails. I want to return here at some point in time and spend a week or two. Mt. Hood is stunning and there are lakes and waterfalls everywhere. This is on the top 5 to return to list for sure! 

Once I finished up my run I hit the road again. No specific destination in mind, just wanted to get a few hours closer to Utah. 

I drove for 3 hours or so and found a campground in the middle of nowhere. It only had about 8 sites and basic services (a vault toilet, fire pit, and water) which is my favorite type of camp site. I got there early which was nice so I could set up camp, take Waylon to the creek right next to the site, and get a fire going with wood I collected nearby. It was a peaceful night reading a book and enjoying the campfire. 

Day 24: I would like to say I got up early, I did not. I slept in and tore down camp, grabbing Waylon and hitting the road. I knew I wanted to find somewhere to run along the way and eventually stopped at a random fire road in the mountains to grab a few miles. Well this fire road ended up connecting to a campground which then connected to a paved nature trail. Well, how about that... a random paved nature trail in the middle of nowhere connected to an even more rustic camp site than I had stayed at the night before. I got lucky! 

Day 25: I am in Salt Lake. My best friend moved here a little over a year ago and I haven't seen her at all in that time. So of course we had stayed up until 1 am... which means I slept in and it was 80* outside when I started my run and almost 90* when I finished. After input from some locals, I had gone up the the Big Cottonwood Canyon (which is 2 miles from Sara's house) and did a loop that went around 2 lakes, through some meadows, and through some woods. The first 3-4 miles were a climb, I mean, just 3.5 miles of up. 

I started at 7,200 feet of elevation and went to 9,500 feet. That is the highest I have been yet on this trip. I was sucking wind for sure! I ran into a few runners, a few mountain bikers, and a gazillion hikers! Since this is a down week, I did 12 miles and was happy to do so.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying some down time! 

Day 26: Okay, I am doing 20 today. Meeting up with a local runner, Mike, in the Lower Cottonwood Canyon. We are going to start at ski resort at the top of the mountain and loop around. We started at 8,000 feet and topped out at 10,567 feet . OY VEY! I got dizzy at one point because the air was so thin, but was able to work through it and get through the run. 

I finally saw MOOSE! I have had 3 bear encounters, a lot of deer, and a few snakes, but no moose. We were only .5 miles into the run when we ran into 3 not more than 50 feet off the trail. We also had a big ole deer standing 10 feet from us that didn't feel the need to move. Closest I have come to one in awhile. We ran through Catherine's pass, up Sentinel mountain, around the based of Devil's Castle, and to Mt Baldy. Mike is a great running partner, sharing the history of the area, the names of the different moutains and making sure that I am not dying from the elevation. We went around a little lake called Secret Lake, turns out this is a popular hiking destination... I can see why. It is a pretty little lake surrounded 360* by mountains. Mike had to cut out after that and offered to tell me more trails to take to get my 20. I said I was more than happy cutting my run in half. The truth is, I am tired. I have been climbing mountains for almost 4 weeks, and I am starting to get some mental burn out. Physically I am good, legs don't hurt, everything feels good...but I am getting burned out. 

Then I got to spend the rest of the day with Sara, her husband Mark, their baby Wolfy, and Sara's niece and nephew at the pool. While the kids swam, Sara and I ran a few more miles, then joined them in the pool. I haven't been to a pool in years, and had a blast playing with the kids, even though my runners tan lines were wickedly made fun of.

Then Sara and I made a batch of Coronaritas and spent the evening catching up, drinking, and singing country songs, very possibly at the top of our lungs. heehee 

Day 27: HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! I was supposed to meet up with a local runners to run a loop through the LCC, but I had messaged them the day before to back out. I need a break from the mountains. The kids wanted to go to the pool again, so Sara and I grabbed our running shoes to run while they swam. Sara is still coming back from having her baby, so today's run is her longest yet. We did 5 miles, running through the neighborhood and around the park. It is amazing that here in Salt Lake you just have to look around and you see gorgeous mountains. It is a trail runners paradise, if you don't mind living in SLC. Me, personally, could never live here. But I am enjoying visiting. 

The rest of the day was spent playing in the pool with the kids, taking a nap, and then setting off fireworks with the kids and watching the shows. A friend of Sara and Mark's has a house that overlooks the entire valley that SLC is in, so we could see half a dozen firework shows from his balcony. It was kind of awesome. 

Day 28: I need a rest day. Physically I am fine, not sore, not stiff. I just need a break for a day. A day to catch up on the blog, transfer my photo's and just chill. I will be back at it soon enough. 

So whether you be on mountains or roads, Happy Running!