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Month: October 2013

Testing Endurance, first true 10 mile Run

Testing Endurance, first true 10 mile Run

As I have mentioned, I know that trail running extends my endurance.  A slower 6 mile in the hills is way easier than pounding out 6 miles at my top pace on pavement.  So…I decided to test my legs out and really see if my endurance on the streets was improving.  I decided to run a straight 10 miles.  I had never done this before, so it was a big deal for me.  It was hard,  but I’m very glad I did it.

10.3 miles @ 10:34 min/mile

I followed it up a few days later with a evening pavement run – experienced my first ever side ache, but clocked my best 5k time ever.. 3.5 miles @ 9:11 min/mile.  So, maybe my speed endurance was improving.

Blood on the Snow and Running to the Sound of Rifle Shots

Blood on the Snow and Running to the Sound of Rifle Shots

With the family still out of town, I took a longer excursion up to the top of Farmington Canyon to run the Great Western Trail from Francis Peak to Thurston and back.  I had done this once before, and wanted to get it in again before the canyon road was shut down.  As I drove up, however, I noticed an oddly large volume of 4×4 pickup trucks going up and down the canyon.  Then, I noticed people in orange vests…and it hit me – ELK SEASON.  I wonder how much like an Elk I look like while running….

At the FAA towers I asked a couple guys if they thought I’d be ok on the trail, and they assured me I’d be fine.  Lots of hunters were traversing the ridge on the trail, and no one was shooting on the trail as there were lots of other hunters hiking it.  Fair enough.  I took off.

It was beautiful.  A bit chilly, but not too bad.  I chatted with a few hunters along the way – all nice folks.  I made it up to the actual marker at the top of Thurston Peak, something I didn’t do the time before.  The main trail doesn’t go to the peak, and it was a bit difficult to find the side “trail” that did, but I made it up and down.

The run back was eventful.  As I came back down to the Great Western Trail and returned running south, I head a gunshot echo.  It spooked me, I won’t lie.  I kept running and a bit later came across a trail of blood going up a snow covered section of the trail.  1/2 way up, a dude and his wife were quartering the haunches off of a dead elk.  Pretty gruesome scene.

Looking south from Thurston Peak

19 October 2013 Francis to Thurston 2

Right past where the Baer Canyon trail connects with the GWT, a side trail cut up to the East, and I thought (from a map I looked at before) that it might go over the ridge and drop down to some small lakes I saw on the map – Smith Creek Lakes.  It didn’t.  But, I made note to explore them from the main split in the road a little farther south next time I was up here.

 Looking South 19 October 2013 Francis to Thurston

In all, a great afternoon.  8.9 miles @ 14:56 min/mile and 2,133 ft. elevation

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First Run with a Friend

First Run with a Friend

Back from my conference in Tucson, my family was out of town – so I had to take advantage of having free time to myself.  Up till now I had only run solo.  Even in Kearney on the streets – I may have run one time with my wife.  My next door neighbor said he was up for a run, even though he runs full-on 100 mile ultras.  He agreed to not make fun of my slow pace.  I was also a bit concerned because my left ankle still hurt a bit.  The ankle was tender, but didn’t cause much trouble.

Although he lives next door to me in Farmington, MVH had never been up the Davis Creek watershed much.  So, I had fun showing him a few trails – he couldn’t believe he hadn’t run them before.  We went up the main Davis Creek, over to Pretty Valley, and then across to the Ford Canyon Overlook and back.

4.7 miles @ 18:08 min/mile, 1,508 ft. elevation.

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Davis Creek Canyon Sunset
(MVH on the right)

15 October 2013 Davis Creek to Ford Canyon

Soap Creek Canyon to the Colorado River, Vermillion Cliffs

Soap Creek Canyon to the Colorado River, Vermillion Cliffs

In October I had a conference to attend down in Tucson, so I decided to drive.  My plan was to find a place to run somewhere in the middle of the drive and I chose an obscure canyon that gets easy access to the Colorado River.  It is Soap Creek Canyon, south of the 89a and the Vermillion Cliffs.  The night before I couldn’t sleep so I just hit the road around 3:30 AM – arriving at the trail-head around 11ish.  When I pulled off the highway and saw just how remote this was, I had second thoughts – but forged ahead in any case.  You open a gate in the fence, close it behind you, drive over some desert to a makeshift parking lot / trailhead.  And, then you head down the canyon.  It begins as a shallow wash, slowly deepening.  Eventually you enter the south fork of the canyon proper and soon have a lot of canyoneering decisions to make.  There are no places that require all-out rock climbing, but lots of small drops and cliff faces to navigate.  There were cairns to follow, but I had lots of concerns about heading down the wrong drop.  At one point, there was even a rope descent.  I passed 2 guys heading in the opposite direction – they had camped down at the river.  That was comforting because I was becoming increasingly aware of how remote the place was.  So far the terrain was dangerous enough to possibly cause a break if I fell, but not too bad.  The ever-present paranoia of rattlesnakes had me more worried.  By the time I made it to the Colorado River, it had taken longer than I had planned, I was getting worried about sunburn and anxious to get  back to my car in one piece.  I quickly dipped my feet in the river, geared back up, and made my ascent back up the canyon.

About 1 mile back up disaster struck – I rolled my left ankle hard, hearing a pop even.  A few minutes later, I rolled it a second time.  I had 4 miles to climb, and lots of rock faces to scamper/scale up.  This was bad.  About another mile up, BOTH of my calf muscles cramped violently.  It was debilitating.  This was trouble.  I slowly made my way up.  I eventually caught up with the 2 hikers, and they were glad to see me.  Expressing that they were concerned at how little gear I was packing -worried that I would run out of water.  I showed them the 2 liters my pack held and they were relieved.

Thoughout the ascent any time I did more than a walk, my calves cramped and brought me to teh ground.  So – I walked out the last 3 miles or so.  Scarier was when they cramped mid-rock climb up the various 10-15 ft. tall cliff drops.  By the time I got to my car I was exhausted and relieved.

10.7 miles @ 13:5 min/mile and 2,442 ft elevation

Looking back, it was probably a foolhardy and stupid route to do solo.  I would probably do it again – but only because I know the trial now.

As for the cramping calves…this is an excellent example of stupid rookie mistakes.  When I got to my sister’s house in Phoenix later that night (after a great dinner with a colleague in Flagstaff at Satchmo‘s BBQ), I did some googling and quickly deduced that I had run low on electrolytes.  I was hydrating, but sweating quite a bit and doing nothing to replenish them.  Stupid stupid stupid.  Lesson learned.

Panorama of the Vermillion Cliffs, looking North IMG_1436

Looking down the Soap Creek Wash

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River

Weird curled up dried mud all of the creek bed

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River2

Canyon Deepening

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River3

The Mighty Colorado River @ Soap Creek Rapids.  This is just downstream from Lee’s Ferry

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River4

Looking up-canyon at the split between the North and South forks.  Apparently you can do the north fork, but it requires repelling.

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River5

LOTS of climbing up boulder fields like this

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River7

Handy rope for a particularly hard section with no good alternative routes

8 October 2013 Soap Creek Canyon to Colorado River8