trail 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.

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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.

 

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.

Stout Canyon Road, Duck Creek Utah Area

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Every now and then I get to spend time in the Duck Creek Village, Utah area.  Of course, when I’m there I try and find interesting places to run.  On my last trip I ran Stout Canyon Road (Forest 063).  This is a nice 9 mile forest service road, generally down hill From UTAH-14 to US-89.

Towards the beginning of the course you will run through forest impacted by the 2012 Shingle Fire.  The area is partially regrown and not ugly, though you have to appreciate the fire damage for what it is.

After that you run through typical Utah forest and eventually into sparse cabin property.  A nice 18 mile round trip.

  • Non Technical
  • gradual incline/decline
  • No cell-service
  • very little traffic
  • Can be muddy
  • No big payoff, though you do get a nice view of the red rocks.

Ed

Las Vegas 100

So I’m thinking of running a 100k race in October – Las Vegas 100. I know, I DNFd doing a 50 Mile. However the race falls during a good time and they don’t have a 50 mile option.

First the course. It is a loop course in a park. When I first started thinking about Ultras, loop courses seemed boring. Perhaps loops are boring, but after running a 50 mile race I see a lot of advantages. The race advertises that the loops are 10, 7, and 5 miles long depending on the loop. But really, the loops are zig zaggy in the same desert lot so it really is 100k of mostly the same scenery over and over again.

So what are the advantages?

* There aren’t many Ultra races within 5 miles of my house. I can do this race with the only expense being the race entry fee and supplies.

* I saw how much work it is for my race crew (AKA Wife). In a point to point 50 mile race it is a long day for the crew, especially when she isn’t into racing. With a loop course, the aid station is always in the same place.

* The course is at a park. While I’ll be mostly running in the desert, the park is large, grassy, and has duck ponds (and other animals). My extended crew can picnic and play at the park.

* After awhile, the scenery doesn’t matter (I hope). It’s me versus the race.

* Loops = more people to talk to? In my last race, as the field spread apart, there wasn’t anyone around.

How am I going to avoid 2 DNFs in a row?

* Pace Pace Pace.  I’ve taken to wearing a heart rate monitor again.  I’m going to try and keep my heart rate down below 160.  Probably in the 140s.  Still trying to figure it out.  Regardless, the HRM will keep me dialed back.

* I’ve been running with a light total knee compression wrap.  It seems to be working.  It also helps to remind me from time to time to work on running mechanics.

* Caffeine!  Not sure how I’m going to do it yet, but hopefully caffeine will keep me perked up at the end.

* Training.  I’m trying to get my weekly mileage up to 50 miles and I’m more serious about the training.

Now I just have to find a pacer.

Ed

Rainier To Ruston 50 Mile 2014

R2R Race Report

Rainier to Ruston 50M was my first attempt at 50 Miles.  The course was a downhill point to point course with about 20 miles of trail and about 30 miles of paved trail. This is a very fun course with the whole distance being very runnable.

Just before the start

The start of the race was a bit disorganized, not bad, but a little crazier than I’m used to.  Driving to the starting line, we nearly turned around before we got to the start due to lack of signage.   Much of the confusion is understandable. I’m used to races set in rural areas or mountain trails in the middle of nowhere.  Those RDs mark the course during the week and get everything set up the day or night before.  This race was on a heavily used urban trail and ran through city parks.  The RD must go crazy trying to get a 50 mile course up in time for us.

My ‘plan’ was a 12 minute mile pace for a 10 hour finish.  Figured I might drag at the end but still be able to make 12 hours.  We were off and quickly I ran into my first strategic error (second if you count the goal pace).  Turns out there are trees in Washington.  I’m used to running in the desert southwest where I can always see the sky.  My Garmin lost signal under the canopy of trees — so my primary tool to rein me in during the start of the race wasn’t very useful.  Without the feedback of the watch, and with the wave still tightly packed, I probably was running 9-10 minute miles.

The first 3 legs of the course are primarily trail.  Some of the relay runners were nervous about the ‘secluded wilderness’ advertised on the website but these are the best legs! (Assuming it hasn’t been raining) This was a very pretty trail that you could actually run on.  Some roots are there to try and place you in the dirt but I was able to get through unscathed.  There were a few muddy sections to scramble around but it was a dry year for the course so it wasn’t too bad.  This section could be very challenging in a wet year.

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After the trail sections, the course moves onto a nice and active urban trail.  From this point on it was like running a ‘supported’ run out in the community.

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Navigating the course was easy; although I spotted some runners heading off in the wrong direction in 2 spots so you can get lost if you try.  Some of the city portions can get a bit sketchy – especially if your pace starts falling off.   I was cheered on by some homeless guys later in the race as I ran under a freeway overpass.

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I really enjoyed the course, but I struggled the whole way with my pace.  It didn’t help that my left knee was killing me.  By about mile 39 I lost the desire to go on.  It was a combination of exhaustion and nausea that probably finished me – though I didn’t realize how much the exhaustion hit me until 2 days later when I noticed I had 2 black eyes.  I kept on going until about mile 41, search and rescue was stationed there and my wife and her friend also had walked down the trail to that point to cheer me on.

I sat and talked for a half hour trying to rally but that wasn’t happening.  I ended up DNF’ing at 41 miles and 11 ½ hours or so.

Perhaps with more experience I could have rallied and gone on.  I didn’t notice the nausea.  I’ve been nauseas on runs before but this felt different.  I just didn’t feel good.   While I was being driven to my car I fixed my nausea problem  :-).   My pace had dropped off to somewhere around 20-25 minute/mile pace but perhaps with caffeine and an understanding that I was going to take 12-14 hours and not 10-12 hours to finish I could have combatted the fatigue.

But those are all …could have dones… They didn’t start to hit until a week after the race.  I was pleased with the distance I went.  I am starting to plan my next 50+ mile attempt.

Key Learnings:

  • I figured the ‘easier course’ would compensate for the longer distance.  I had run several 50Ks, but they were intense courses.  -Nope – Miles is different than intensity.
  • Pace.  Argggh. –Maybe I should have spent more time ‘resting’ at the early aid stations.  That would have helped me get away from the pack that I was running with.
  • My left leg – Grr.  I wore an IT strap above my knee.  I think it worked – or rather it hurt worse when I tried to run without it on.
  • Hammer Anti-Fatigue caps seem to work.  When my legs got sore, taking one of those eased the pain.
  • Around mile 20-30 my shoes felt like they were a half size too small.   Not sure if that’s just my mind finding something else to worry about.
  • I’ve never had problems with socks before.  But after a while my socks felt a little like sand paper.  I even changed socks at mile 20.  My feet were fine after the race so maybe it was all in my head but it will give me a reason to buy more running gear.
  • Caffeine!  10+ hours running – I need to add caffeine to my nutrition about 8-10 hours into the course.

Aside from the DNF, I had fun on my run.  I need to figure out my stupid left leg and make some other changes to my strategy and try again.

Running in the Heat

Running in the heat

 

I run all the time during the summer.  For a ‘bread and butter’ run I’ll just wake up early.  But I love to run when its crazy hot out.  Probably for the same reason why I run far.  I do it because its hard.

When I started running I listened to podcasts and read articles on running.  I don’t know, but I think that every article on running is written by people that live in locations where a hot day is 75 degrees.

Here in Vegas, the average LOW temperature in July is 81.  But it’s a dry heat right?  That might be one of the silliest thing anyone can possibly say.  I’m sure running in high humidity is not fun, but when you go out running in 105 degree weather and 5-10% humidity, the sun just fries you to a crisp.  If you run on asphalt, you can feel the heat coming up through your shoes (Don’t try that barefoot running thing on asphalt during the summer in Vegas!)

High heat is extremely dangerous.  It seems every year there is some poor soul who dies on a trail only a mile from the trailhead.  It seems so ridiculous and it could never happen to you.  WRONG.  You may be a strong runner.  You may even be used to the desert.  Running in the heat can kill you if you don’t take precautions.  High heat is oppressive and it smells weakness.  As soon as it beats you down there is no getting back.

These are 2 articles from 2013 that all occurred in the Vegas area to hikers:

Scout Leader Death

Gold Strike Canyon Death

 

Rule #1 You don’t have enough water.

The amount of water you need seems to grow exponentially.  When it’s 60-70 degrees out I can do 10 miles without water.  I won’t be happy, but 10 miles with no support is no big deal.  When it gets hot, that same run will take 40-80 ounces of water to keep me going.  And I’ll be very thirsty the rest of the day.

It is very important to consider resupply. What if something happens during the run?  What if the you can’t sustain the run?  That quantity of water isn’t a convenience, it is a requirement.  If you walk or get sick you will need more water.  How are you going to obtain it?

Seriously, you need to carry more water.

 

Rule #2  Sunlight is Heavy

This sounds funny but it’s true.  The heat is oppressive, it’s hard to describe the feel, but it’s as if you are carrying an additional 5-20 pounds or more with you on the run.  It’s not like cold or wind or other inclement conditions, heat is it’s own inclement weather with its own challenges.  The heat and the glare weigh you down.  If there is no breeze, the oxygen in the air feels wrong.  If there is a breeze, it feels like a convection oven.  It cooks you faster.

You will fatigue faster than you think.  How are you going to get back to the start?  The combination of fatigue and lack of water is why people die only a short distance from safety.  You must be careful.  EVERYONE can handle 1 mile of outdoors and yet people can still die less than 1 mile from safety.

 

Rule #3  Every exposed piece of skin will burn in less than 30 minutes

I tan well.  But desert running requires protection.  I will burn fast without protection when I run during the day.  Sunburns hurt.  Wear a hat.  My hair used to do a better job protecting my head, but not so much anymore.

 

Some other things to consider

#  Water gets hot

A nice cold drink of water sounds so refreshing on a long run during the summer.  However, your water will quickly approach the ambient air temperature. 100 degree water works, but it isn’t very enjoyable.

I sometimes use Hammer Perpetuem.  It’s a creamy electrolyte drink.   On a 100 degree run it turns into a warm slimey slightly curdled? milk drink–Yummy.  It probably isn’t that bad, but heat changes what sounds good.  When I’m 90 minutes into a run, hot Perpetum sounds as good as spoiled milk on the run.  Be sure your nutrition plan makes sense when you are over heating.

# Municipal water sources in the desert taste bad.

If you are running in an urban area you might be counting on drinking fountains to resupply.  The desert southwest US has extremely hard water.  Its perfectly fine to drink but it doesn’t taste good, even less so when it is warm.  Oh, and the water from a drinking fountain will be nearly scalding hot for about 15 seconds.  Let the fountain run a bit and “cooler” water will show up.

# Don’t count on drinking fountains

You know about Murphy’s law right?  If you have plenty of water, all the drinking fountains will work.  But if you don’t have enough water, they will be turned off.  Even if they do work, maybe only a dribble comes out, not enough to refill a bottle.

This can be a real problem in my area late in the summer season/early fall.  “They” like to shut off the fountains so that pipes don’t freeze.  Never mind that it’s still 90 out during the day.  There must be some crazy maintenance calendar that “they” like to follow regardless of common sense.

I do resupply out of drinking fountains from time to time, but the water tastes bad and occasionally I run into problems.  Just be careful.

 

Running in extreme temperatures is a great challenge, but you need to be serious about it.  Think about what you are doing and have a plan.

 

e