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Month: May 2014

The Farmington Spine

The Farmington Spine

Ever since I moved to Farmington, UT, about a year ago, I have eying the “Farmington Spine” on maps and as I drive around every day. It is a ridge that runs from the mouth of Farmington Canyon, southeast, and all the way up to the road that connects with Bountiful Peak. I love running ridges, and this one looks like it would be easy to follow to the top. The trail maps show it, and people said it is fairly easy to follow going up, though a bit overgrown at the top. This is a chronic problem for all of our Farmington Trails.  From the valley floor, most are pretty clear for miles 0-3 on the way up.  Then, mile 3-4 is generally overgrown with scrub oak and the like, and difficult to follow at times.  Then, the last mile – 4-5, is often above the tree line and much easier to bushwhack.

In any case, I decided to tackle it today, hitting the trail around 6AM. Besides wanting to hike it myself, the Farmington 50 Challenge that I put together sends runners DOWN the Spine. Fellow runners said that there are popcan markers nailed to trees that make going UP the trail pretty easy to follow. However, you can’t see those on your way down. So, I got a roll of pink ribbon and planned to flag the upper portions so it would be clear and easy to follow on the way down as well.

The trail is a climb!  Wow. Unfortunately, the ridge wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped.  For much of it, you are either in a deep rut (5-20 ft. wide, 10 feet deep) flanked with trees, or up in the forest itself – so you don’t really get consistent views that some ridge-lines offer.

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One of the viewpoints on the lower section, mile 1 or so, before you enter the trees. Looking NW, back down the spine.

Towards the top, the trail was easy to follow – but overgrown. My legs got fairly scratched up. At about mile 4, you break out of the trees. To the right there is a small valley thick with trees – and other the other side, the western most flanking ridge that I wanted to follow up to the top. I flagged the path of least resistance up the open meadow until the trees to the right faded out and you can traverse over to and up to the top of the ridge easily. That ridge climbed and then dropped down to an old jeep trail that had a wrecked and shot out old 70s car at its terminus.

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Like my new ride?

From there, I just followed it to the intersection with the road that goes SE around the Steed Creek basin and up to Bountiful Peak. It was getting hot at this point, but the views were worth it. I turned west, and followed the road to an overlook (the point above the Steed Creek cliffs).

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I considered going down to the cliffs, and then following the Steed Creek trail to the BST and back to my car. I decided, however, that it would be best to run back down the Spine to make sure that my flagging was sufficient. It is a good thing I did, because at various points I need to add or move flags to aid trail identification on the descent. My left IT band, as usual, was hurting by the end.  It was great though.

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This really doesn’t do justice to how ripped up my legs got

8.8 miles in 2:12:46 @ 15:03 min/mile and 4,068 ft. elevation

 

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Avenue Twins in the Morning

Avenue Twins in the Morning

I would like to do this once a week or so – waking up around 5:00 and getting in a good trail run before work. This morning I drove down to City Creek, parked at the Morris Reservoir, and ran the Avenue Twins.  I ran part of the BST up to the back ridge that overlooks City Creek to the north, and then followed that ridge around, East, and up to both of the Avenue Twin Peaks.

It was a beautiful morning.

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On the ridge, looking west towards SLC and Ensign Peak on the other side of City Creek

 

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Panorama looking north from the ridge down into City Creek Canyon

 

From the southern Twin Peak, I bushwhacked straight down south to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.  There appeared to be remnants of trails going down, and it got me back on the BST fast. I think took the BST NW back to the north ridge, ran that NW to the overlook into City Creek Canyon where it ends, and then skidded down a small trail to the trail that hook up with Morris Creek. My left IT band was hurting by the end, but more distressing was that about 1/2way through, a large knot/muscle spasm developed in my left lower back. Incredibly painful throughout the day.

5.9 miles in 1:18:00 @ 13:07 min/mile and 1,719 ft. elevation

Working on my Trail Tan

Working on my Trail Tan

It appears that summer temps have arrived.  I ran up the Farmington Creek Trail to the Sunset Campground today and wow, it was hot! I hadn’t taken that trail all the way up yet, and it was a great one – a perfect short run. A little vert, but mostly nice rolling trails – and a fun fast descent on the way back to the car!  Ankle feeling great – ZERO pain – IT bands still acting up around mile 3-5.

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3.8 miles in 48:47 @12:58 min/mile and 1,282 feet elevation

 

Flag Rock with a Friend

Flag Rock with a Friend

On the 24th of July last year, I took a friend and co-worker on my 2nd ever trail “run,” and we hiking up Baer Canyon. It killed us, neither of us was in good enough shape to do it, and probably not coincidentally, he hasn’t joined me on another outing since.  Until tonight!  I took him up to Flag Rock in Farmington which is a short,  but steep hike.  It was a lot of fun – hopefully I can get him hooked.  My ankle felt great, and IT bands weren’t too bad.  I have been rolling them with the foam roller a lot.

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3.7 miles in 1:11:01 @ 19:04 min/mile and 1,528 ft. elevation

 

Successful Dirt Test for my Stress Fracture

Successful Dirt Test for my Stress Fracture

With an official diagnosis of ankle problems, a fibula stress fracture, and a strong suspicion that running on pavement severely aggravates it, I decided to hit the dirt today and test out my theory. I started at the Farmington Pond, ran north on the BST to Shepherd Canyon, up to the Upper Terrace, and took that back to the car. Its a great loop. My left IT band hurt towards the end, but my ankle did not. Often the pain is delayed, really coming over the next two days…..and……no pain. The ankle felt great in the days after. So – I am officially swearing off pavement for now.  And good riddance! I have also started taking vitamin D and calcium supplements, which the doctor said will help promote bone healing, growth, and strength. I doubt they are kicking in this quickly, but it can’t hurt – right?

 

2014-05-10 Farmington Upper Terrace
I think its official. Utah has won me over.

4.6 miles in 55:18 @ 12:08 min/mile and 898 ft. elevation.

 

Stress Fracture of my Lower Left Fibula

Stress Fracture of my Lower Left Fibula

So…you know all of that ankle pain I have been whining about since January?  The pain that I thought was my peroneal tendon. Well, I was wrong.

With Ragnar behind me and another Ragnar coming this summer, I decided to get serious and go to the doctor. The pain hasn’t really been bad at all. Actually, I only really feel it anymore if I push on it. But, I figured it was worth looking into. The doctor said my tendons are all great, but I have a low-risk stress fracture on the outside of my lower fibula – just above my ankle bone.

So, what does this mean? He said it is minor and low-risk. I can continue to run on it without major risk of it fracturing further. Doing so, however, will prolong the healing period and make the pain last a lot longer. Well – that’s better than tendonitis, I think.

And here is the interesting thing. As my knee IT bands have been flaring, I made the decision last night that I would stay on the flat pavement for a while and get them back in order. Moreover, I would do what everyone has always suggested and start with low mileage, working up slowly each time – instead of putting in too many miles, too fast and getting these over use injuries. Oh yeah – the stress fracture can be caused by rapid upping of mileage and over-use.  Duh.

Well, I ran 5k last night – actually a great run. 3.6 miles in 30:34 @ 8:36 min/mile.  That’s a great pace for me. I even got a PR for my 1k and 1 mile distances.  However, when I awoke this morning, my ankle actually kind of hurt. Kind of bad. Like it used and like it hasn’t for a while.

And this all reminded me of January (here and here) – when this whole ankle pain burst out of nowhere. Guess what I was doing? I was worried about my IT Bands, and putting in flat miles on the pavement. And, more miles than I was used to. A ha! The light bulb goes on. Miles on the pavement – caused the stress fracture – aggravate the stress fracture.

So – that’s that. I’m done with the pavement for now. I will roll my IT bands like crazy, stretch, and try to find flat trails for some short runs. My ankle has hurt after my last few trail runs – but immediately hurt after 5k on the pavement.  So, back to the dirt I go. I’m going to try hard and keep my mileage low -play it safe.

Meh. I didn’t like the pavement anyways!

The dirt is my true mistress.

To Flirt with Dirt – a Cautionary Tale

To Flirt with Dirt – a Cautionary Tale

I penned this for the kind folks over at Trail and Ultra Running.
They run a great site. Get to know it if you haven’t already.

 

Full disclosure – I am no ultra-runner. I have yet to run an ultra-marathon (or normal marathon) and don’t know if I ever will. But, trail-running in general is taking over my life. It dominates my daydreams, works its way into vacation plans, and surely drives my family nuts. Dirt is a dangerous mistress. Don’t believe me? Just talk to an ultra-runner and try to get them to talk about anything other than trail-running. It’s an unhealthy obsession – a wonderfully unhealthy obsession.

This is a cautionary tale. Words of warning, not to be taken lightly.

Don’t flirt with dirt.
You are not strong enough to resist its seductive grasp.

This tragedy has its roots in the dirt and trails of NW Washington where I grew up. I got hooked early as a teenager, mountain biking on some of the country’s best trail systems. The trails were a mere 5-10 minute bike ride from my backdoor and I spent a lot of hours on that dirt – rain or shine. Plenty of time was spent hiking and camping in the area as well. So, my predisposition to dirt-addiction goes deep. But not once did it ever occur to me to run on those trails. Ridiculous! I hated running, and to be honest, why run the trails when I was pretty good at biking them.

Fast forward about 15 years. I am now living on the Great Plains, with little to no close mountain biking opportunities, but desperate for some physical activity. I had begun swimming laps for exercise and had the thought that if I could figure out how to run, I could do triathlons. I biked, I swam. Running would be the necessary evil to compete. I started running, and for the first time ever, got past the “this is so miserably hard and painful that I never want to do this again” stage and actually started to enjoy it…So much so, that I upped my mileage too fast and got some serious IT Band troubles. Arg. Nevertheless, a possible interest in being a “runner” had developed.

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Feet – Dirt. Dirt – Feet. Have fun!

Fast forward again to June 2013 when I moved Utah and next door to a venerable local runner Matt Van Horn. In an odd twist of fate, we were from the same hometown and he and my families actually knew each other (our parents had a great time catching up) but he had moved when I was still in elementary school. I found out that he was an ultra-runner and did this thing called “Trail Running.” The concept blew my mind. WHAT?! You can RUN on TRAILS?! How had I never thought of this? I love trails. Maybe running on them will help me get over the fact that I kind of hate running.

And here is where I went terribly wrong folks. I tried it. I a couple run/hikes up popular local favorites Flag Rock and Baer Canyon in Davis County, Utah. What a naïve fool I was. The moment I stepped foot on those trails and picked up my pace from casual hike to a jog or run, I was hooked. This was amazing. I could get exercise and not do it on exhaust-choked city streets. I could explore trail systems (like I have always loved) but do it at a pace fast enough to actually cover a good amount of territory in a single quick evening outing.

So here is my warning and my desperate plea with anyone reading this who is thinking about going out for a nice afternoon job on a dirt trail. DON’T DO IT! If you make the mistake that I did, and gingerly put your little running-shoe clad foot on that trail and start to job, you won’t be able to stop. I haven’t been able to. More stupidly self-inflicted knee injuries and ankle injuries aside (that’s a cautionary tale for another day), I keep on going back.

To flirt with dirt is to lose your life to it.

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Snow-covered dirt trails are no less tempting.