Running

Hancock Peak Trail

Hancock Peak trail
I spent Memorial day weekend at Duck Creek Utah.  That gave me the opportunity to do the Hancock Peak trail.   Maps show the trail to be about 7 miles at 9,600-10,100 feet altitude.

I couldn’t find much on the trail so here are some points if you are looking to do it:

• There is no trail.  You have to travel between cairns and cut trees.  It wasn’t that hard, but I frequently (most of the time) was off trail.  Patience is required when you have to figure out which way the trail went.

• The cairns are big and frequent, however sometimes they are not where I expected.  And sometimes they are under snow. 😐

• Looking for signs of a trail in a lava field is hard.

• A map is helpful.  In addition to a printed map, I used the off-line mode of google maps to help orient my position.

• No one else was on the trail.  Perhaps it gets busier later in the season.

• My map says this is a bike trail.  Be sure to ask the rangers if trail maintenance was done if you plan on biking.  There was a lot of downed trees on the trail.

• I’m not experienced in forest trail finding.  I had to work at finding the trail, especially in the snowy areas.

• There wasn’t any crazy dangers on this trail.  You still need to be careful, you could break a leg in the lava fields, get lost in the forest, not really any cell service, and don’t expect to see anyone else on the trail

• The round trip took me 7 1/2 hours and 17+ miles.  I’m sure you can go faster when there is less snow and more of the fallen trees cleared away.

It was a fun hike and I enjoyed trying to find my way through the trail.  The ancient lava flows were kinda interesting.  But the scenery wasn’t that exciting.

Harris Springs Canyon

(Desert Trails can be deceptively dangerous.  You need more water than you think you need and you won’t see very many people, if any.  Carry extra water!)

With one of my kids now in High School, its adjusted my morning running schedule.  The nice side effect though is if I drive her to school, I’m closer to trails.  I’ve been exploring an area on the far North West end of the developed portion of the Las Vegas valley.

This weekend I was finally able to get further along the trail than before.  My ultimate goal with this trail is the circumnavigate the mountain.  Not sure the name of the mountain and my google-kung fu was inconclusive.  However, given that there is a Harris mountain in the La Madre range and the wash and road is Harris Springs canyon, I’d guess the mountain is Harris.

Google Map

I went about 6 miles into the trail.  If I were traveling to do this trail I’d find somewhere to park along Kyle Canyon road to shave several miles off the route.  But the most convenient starting point for me is at the intersection of Grand Teton Road and Pole Line road.

If you are coming to town and want to do a trail besides the obvious ones in the Red Rock area, this is a nice easy route.  This is an awesome non-technical trail with both single track and double track in the area paralleling the wash.

Hopefully next weekend I’ll get out and complete the trail.  I figure I probably need to budget for a 20 mile run to complete this route.  I’ve already done some sections on the back side so I don’t anticipate a significant change in the difficulty.

 

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50 Mile attempt x3 Learning

On my birthday I made my 3rd attempt at 50 Miles.  I didn’t quite make it but I had fun and learned a lot on this attempt.

Training

Good:            I ran about 40 miles a week (MW) leading up to the race and I cut the mileage down to 20MW the month before.  That amount of mileage was fine for me.  I guess I can try for 50MW next time but I don’t think so.  I’d rather do some other activity rather than increase the mileage.

Bad:                I didn’t do enough long runs.  I need more 25+ mile runs.  Pace, Nutrition and stubbornness are only tested on longer runs.

Course

Good:                The section of the AZT I ran was beautiful, non-technical, and kinda flat (4,000 feet of elevation change).  The RD even scheduled perfect weather – though he could have made it a bit cooler in the mid afternoon.

Bad:                The race was actually 54 miles.  I don’t mind the extra 4 ‘free’ miles, but I told everyone I was running a 50 miler.  I didn’t want to be so particular when I was talking to people, they already think that I’m crazy.  So I kept it simple and told them I was running a 50 miler.

Where it gets bad is I DNF’d at mile 48.  ‘Why’d you quit with only 2 miles left?’ …uh it was actually a 54 mile race.  They think I’m crazy either way but now I feel more crazy having to add more context to my DNF.

Drop Bag

Good:                Ziplock bags.  When I ran Zion 50k I had a tough time using my drop bag.  While at the aid station I wasn’t thinking clearly and never could remember what I wanted out of my bag.

This time, within my dropbag I packed all my ‘must haves’ in a separate gallon size ziplock bag.   That way no thinking, just grab and go.  I did have ‘just in case stuff’ but the important stuff (like my headlamp and gels) were all in the ziplock.

Bad:                Didn’t use all the drop bag stations.  While running I figuratively slapped my head about my planning.  I was concerned about how to get my drop bag back after the race.  I travelled to the race and wouldn’t be able to get my drop bags back – except for the 50k drop bag, which was located at the start/finish line.  I didn’t want to leave behind my stuff.

Duh – It never occurred to me to not drop stuff off.  If I only pick up stuff and use disposable bags I won’t need to collect stuff later.  I should have sent nutrition to each of the drop sites.  Then I’d be able to tell how I was on calories – (for example: my pockets still have gels in them, need to eat more often).  I’d be travelling a little bit lighter and it would be easier to find the gel or tablet I was looking for because my pockets wouldn’t be stuffed.

Pace

Good:               I had a pace plan.  I also converted the cut off times to pace as well.  Doing math while running gets harder and harder.  I didn’t have to remember to get to this station at this time – 16” pace was the cut off.

Bad:                I may have had a pace plan… didn’t mean I used it.  Ugh.  Something about mile 10 is magical.  I feel like superman.  Part of me knew I was just Clark Kent but then again I don’t run with glasses.  I was running way faster than I planned to and in my mind I figured I was just more awesome than I thought I was during planning.

To be fair to me, I’m not sure how much of my problems where from pace.  I didn’t manage nutrition and hydration as well as I need to and the midday heat also worked against me a bit.

Nutrition

Good:                Bacon:  The race had a bacon station!  🙂  Salty bacon tasted really good.

Pork Chops: The race even had pork chops at the 50k aid station.  I wasn’t in shape to eat it by then, but every race should have pork chops and bacon!  🙂

Applesauce packets.  Yum.  I’ve been experimenting with them.  Those go down very easily.  The problem is they don’t have much calories.  Don’t care, they taste good even when I wasn’t feeling well.  Perhaps I’ll experiment with other packets (perhaps some baby food packets might taste good too).

Pretzel sticks.  I wish I thought of that earlier.  I was running a huge calorie deficit, I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted to eat.  At mile 40 I grabbed a big handful of pretzels and left.  Salty, small bites, easy to stomach.  Perhaps the magical food to solve all my problems?

Bad:                On my last run I realized that I needed as simple of food as possible.  No tasty flavored gels – I bought Vanilla Hammer gels as my primary food source.  I think I need to go with unflavored (and stock my drop bag with pretzels!).

Caffeine – I figured caffeine would help keep my speed up during the back half of the race.  Perhaps, I did use 2 of my caffeinated gels.  However I need to find a better caffeine delivery system because chocolate and coffee flavored gels have too strong of a flavor to sound appetizing for me late in the race.

Attitude

Good:              I planned on having rough spots and I planned on using the clock.  That way when bad things happened it wouldn’t knock me out – I’m here all day.

Where it really paid off was at the 50K aid station.  I wasn’t having that much fun as I approach the 50K finish.  Rather than drop down to the shorter distance, I knew I had plenty of time left to make the next cut off.  I figured I could just sit in the aid station and decide in 5-10-20-30 minutes if I should drop down or continue.  If you are watching the clock, use it.

Plus it was still daylight – I wanted to run with my headlamp!  🙂

Bad:                I wonder how much of my slow pace at the end was from running out of desire and stubbornness.  There was more in the tank.  I just couldn’t get it out.

 

Colossal Vail 50/50

Colossal Vail 50/50

My quest to complete a 50 miler brought me to Tucson to run the Colossal Vail 50/50.  I found it kinda funny that I left home for a race in Tucson that had 40 people in my distance (100-125 overall) the same weekend a 40,000 runner Rock & Roll event was held back home in Vegas.  40 people on a beautiful trail, 40,000 people jammed together on pavement?  I made the right choice!

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The race was crazy well organized for such a small event, somewhere around 150 volunteers for a race of only 100-125 people.

This is a very nice fast course.  One could run this whole thing, there isn’t any technical portions and very smooth trail. … I couldn’t run the whole thing, it’s more of ‘in theory’ you could run the whole thing.  🙂

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The design of the course is a double out and back – 34 mile out and back south and a 20 mile out and back going north.  There are no real killer sections, but the climb from mile 12-16 before the turnaround and then the mid day heat on the return half of the 50k knocked a lot of people out of the 50 mile.   So watch yourself there.

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The deserts in Tucson are more varied than the Mojave desert in Las Vegas.  The trail flows between the scrubby desert with scrubby bushes that I’m used to, to the greener deserts you see in old westerns.  In the north portion, you get the saguaro cactus forest that AZ is more famous for.  Though at that point I was just trying to survive to the next check point so maybe I was imagining things.

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I’ve done several trail races, this was the first course that was on an active section of the trail.  Several day hikers and through hikers were out on the trail.  I’d imagine its because that even though there was no huge ‘payoff’ vista or anything, this was a good solid trail – a place and a route you’d actually go for a hike even if there was no race.

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So about the volunteers and aid stations, there really were more volunteers than participants.  There was an unofficial bacon aid station at a road crossing as well as pork chops at the 50k aid station!

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The most famous runner in any race is generally the fastest.  The second most famous is the person at the back.  That’s the person that is keeping all the volunteers out on the course.  From Mile 34-48 I was that person!  🙂 Though there was a runner still on the course after I DNF’d – but I was famous for a while.  I bring that up because there were at least a half dozen mountain bike volunteers out sweeping the course and making sure I was ok.

When I made it back to the finish line (via a car) there was still a ton of food left.  A nice treat for me – as a back of the pack finisher in trail races–  finish line food is usually very picked over.  In fact, the camp fire was still going and it looked like the ‘party’ would continue for hours after I left for my hotel.

 

Low Carb

I had a follow up appointment with my Doctor to discuss my blood work.  He suggested I try a low/no carb diet.  I smiled and then went to REI to pick up my gels for my upcoming race — How many carbs can there be in a gel anyway  🙂

A lot of gels

He’s probably right, but not going to switch right before a race.

Operation Jack & Pacing Prep

(Sorry, no pictures so if you are like me you probably aren’t reading this anyway)

Earlier in the month I ran a novelty run with my kids, Operation Jack Elimination Challenge.  Normally I’m a purist but this race fit nicely in my calendar.

The concept is you have X amount of time to complete a loop.  If you finish early, you wait until the cut off time before you start back up.  Then the cut off time drops for the next loop.  For me, this was a great format to run with my kids.  I like ‘racing’ with my kids but I’m still faster than them  🙂  .  It feels silly to drop $35-$40 for my entry fee on a 5k and then just jog/walk around with them. I’m at a race to race, even when I’m not.

With a  this format, I was able to run with my kids for the first lap and then ‘drop um’ on the next lap when they weren’t able to make the cut off.

However, what really made the race for me was the training on holding pace.  The reason running and racing holds appeal to me is the same  reason why pace is so very hard to dial in on these long races . During my Loveall canyon run I had a target pace.  That target pace turned into a not to go slower than pace.  Which then turned into a “I should run faster and bank some time”.

With this Loop race, it reminded me how difficult it is to hold pace. I knew the set lap pace, but I kept on speeding up because I could.  I’ll have to watch carefully next month.

I’d recommend you incorporate a training run like this in your next build up for a race.  Do 2 mile loops at a crazy slow pace and then do it 1 minute faster each time around.  For extra points, do it without a watch (except at the start/finish).

Ed

Vegas Trails and almost taper time

I’ve been progressing steadily towards my third attempt @ 50 miles.  In order to shake it up a bit I’ve been running some trails near my house.  Plus my upcoming race is a desert trail race so I can claim I’m simulating race conditions  🙂

Two of the trails are Gateway Canyon and Brownstone Trail.  Both have the same trail head if you go my way.  I park @ Desert Moon & Sky Vista, the end of the civilized world right now.  Though home construction has started back up again so by the time you read this you might be parking a little closer.

Either trail you take, the first few miles are going to be cleared rocky service roads,  The Brownstone road is boring for 2-3 miles but it gets more fun.  Gateway is a utility pole road but it is more trail like so it is still fun to run.

GATEWAY CANYON

Gateway Canyon

Gateway Canyon itself is a fun narrow canyon with some rock scrambling.  Nothing crazy but you will have to climb up some boulders — you probably could run the canyon if you start on the west side but I come in from the east.

Entrance to east end of gateway canyon

View of the east end of gateway canyon

The canyon has some neat spiral colors on the rocks, but I’m not the best photographer so I don’t have pictures of those.

You have several options once you get to the end of the canyon.  I turn left and run towards the small town of Calico Basin and turn the run into a 12 mile loop. You can push on and get into the main part of Red Rock and turn it into a 15+ mile loop, or if you go right you’ll turn into the better part of the Brownstone trail.

Near west enterance to gateway canyon

Heading towards Calico Basin

Rocks in Gateway Canyon

The only picture I think I took inside the canyon. Oh well

BROWNSTONE TRAIL

Brownstone Trail

Gateway canyon is fun to run, but I felt that the brownstone trail had better views.  Brownstone Trail Near Brownstone Trail

Once you get off of the cleared road, you are running up a wash – like running in sand, except with rocks.

Thanks — and remember its a desert.  Bring more water than you think you need.

Big Races

I came across this picture of a the City to Surf race.  I’ve never run a ‘big city race’ with tens of thousands of runners or even thousands and thousands.  I think the biggest race I’ve run is the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon where it is 1-2 thousand.

I’m sure these big races are fun, but man that’s a lot of people.  If you haven’t run a smaller race you’re missing out.  At a smaller race you all cross the starting line within a minute of each other. It feels like a race – even though the only time I’m within 1 minute of the leader is at the starting line.  The aid stations are personal since the volunteers aren’t trying to get water to 10,000 runners.  Almost like you have your own crew at each aid station.  And the courses for smaller races are more varied – not every road and trail can handle 10,000+ runners.

There are tons of smaller races out there.

e