With grey clouds in the sky, trails fresh and damp from overnight rains (no dust!) I started the day out with a quick climb up to Flag Rock. The south ascent is about 1,500 ft of climbing over 1.5 miles of trail. I was low on energy, but happy to be up there. When I got home to shower and head to work torrential downpours hit, so I got it in just in time!
Last year on Pioneer Day, a friend and I tackled Baer Canyon. It was only my 2nd trail run, and we were unprepared and it was rough. I thought I would continue that and make an annual tradition of pushing myself to do unwise things on Pioneer Day. On the top of my trailrun to-do list has been to bag Thurston and Francis Peaks. I have been to both, but only after driving up to Francis and then running the Great Western Trail. I wanted to do it proper, climbing up from the valley floor. I put out the word and was joined by a few nice gents – Bryan, Jeremy, and Steve. Bryan had to turn back (work, or something) after the first hour of climbing, but Jeremy and Steve stuck it out to the end.
We started at 5:00 AM with headlamps, and I immediately fell behind the group on the climb out of the Fernwood Recreation Site in Layton. I don’t know what it was, but I just felt horrible. My stomach felt uneasy, and the climb really beat me up. When Brian turned back, I caught up to the other two and we stayed together for most of the remainder of the climb. We made it up the primary ascent, hit the delicious springs to refill our water along the traverse over to Chinscraper and then tackle that final climb up to the ridgeline.
As we neared Thurston Peak, we cut up a stream drainage where there was exposed rock and dirt to make an easier bushwhack up to the the peak. Its a bummer that someone hasn’t blazed a proper trail up to the top. Someone get on that. We enjoyed taking a rest, chugged some soda, ate, and then continued on south, back to the Great Western Trail.
Along here, I hit my stride on the GW, but after about an 1/2 mile got stopped in my tracks by simultaneous cramps in my right calf and thigh. Ouch. I had been careful to keep hydrated and intake calories, but I had completely forgotten to pop a salt capsule. I took two with water, rubbed them a bit, and then runned them out until they loosened while trying to catch up to Jeremy and Steve. They didn’t cause any more problems as I kept my electrolytes in balance.
I love this stretch of the Great Western – amazing views on both sides.
We took the steep road/trail up to the FAA towers on Francis Peak and stopped to refuel, take pictures, and plan our descent. Originally, I had planned on coming down the Francis Peak Trail, but had been convinced to take the Farmington Canyon Road down. This would put the mileage higher than I had planned, but I was excited about the prospect of hitting 20 miles – which would make it my longest run ever.
We started to scramble down the rocks just south of the peak marker to get back on the road when both Jeremy and Steve let out a sudden scream and help. Apparently, I had stepped right over (almost on) a large rattlesnake. As they followed me, they saw it slithering away, whereas I hadn’t even noticed it at all. After we got our nerves back, we got on the road and started down.
At this point, my left IT Band was starting to hurt, so I told them to go ahead while I stretched. I had about 8-9 miles of gravel road downhill ahead of me and I figured that with stretching the IT band might hurt, but would be manageable.
I caught up to them a mile or so down the road and continued my faster pace, moving ahead of them for another couple miles. Then, the blisters started. On the heal and arch of my right foot, two large blisters developed. This slowed me down and as we approached Skyline Dr. / Farmington Canyon Rd., they caught up to me. I was quickly realizing that this was going to be a much slower descent than I had planned so I wished them good luck and sent them on their way. So much for 8 minute miles the whole way down. Instead, I hobbled / limped / kind-of-ran / sometimes walked down to Sunset Campground and then took the Farmington Creek Trail down to its trailhead where my wife picked me up. It was really painful. Excruciating.
Jeremy and Steve took the road the whole way down, and my shortcut actually put me at the bottom ahead of them, even though my pace was slow.
In the end, I was exhausted and in a lot of pain but happy to have down 20 miles and to have bagged both Thurston and Francis Peaks. Though on speed PRs, a PR for distance and that was fun.
Sklyine 50 Volunteer Sweep Accidentally Becomes my Longest Run Ever
Altra was sponsoring an aid station at the inaugural Skyline 50 mile Mountain Marathon, and since my family was out of town, I decided to volunteer. We were stationed at the Public Grove Hollow trail head (FR 620) on Avon Pass Rd. above Eden, UT. It was a gorgeous day and it was fun seeing the runners come through. We were at about mile 12 of the race. After everyone went through, I had also volunteered to sweep the course up to the next aid station. The purpose is to make sure everyone is off the course and accounted for and then tell then next aid station that they can pack up and go. It was about 5.5 miles. I planned on refueling and filling my water and just running back to my car – for a total of 11 miles. That is a lot for me, but I knew that I could take it slow on the way back if needed.
Now – before I start my long rant, let me say that in the end I had a good time. There was a great scene at the finish line and it was a lot of fun socializing and meeting some new people in the trail running / ultra community. Very nice people.
By the time I hit the trail it was heating up (around 10:15 AM). I headed up Public Grove Hollow on FR 620, eventually branching left (west) when it turns north. It was a gradual climb, all on a ATV trail. The last 2 miles slowly descend (with lots of rolling ups and downs). Not bad. When I got to about 5.5 miles I didn’t see an aid station. Perhaps my GPS is just a bit off, I thought. There were ribbons on stakes and tied to trees marking the course, so I knew I was in the right place. I thought that maybe it was just a little further down the trail. I continued seeing ribbons until about mile 6. But after that they disappeared. Now I was getting worried. Was I supposed to take one of the side trails or branches of the road? I had looked down each of them for ribbons but hadn’t seen any. I continued on until about mile 7.5 and then turned around. By this point I had dropped in elevation down into the Devil’s Gate Valley area I hadn’t seen a ribbon for about 1.5 miles and figured that I had somehow missed the turnoff. By this point it was hot and I was getting low on water. I had been pacing my water consumption with the expectation that I could fill up before running back. With the temperatures now getting up into the 90s, I was worried. I met some motorcyclists and chatted a bit on my way back – they offered me a bottle of water. On my way back to where I saw the last ribbon I again checked the paths branching off – and nothing no ribbons.
I made it back to my car, but it had turned into a nearly 25 km / 16 mile run – my longest ever. In a way I was happy that I had been pushed to run so far. A (still slow) 1/2 marathon PR. Even with the extra water, I ran out at the end and was getting dehydrated – it was bad. Without that extra water, I would have been in serious trouble.
I drove my car down to the finish line to report in and apologize for getting lost and not reporting to the next aid station like I was supposed to. And this is where it gets interesting.
It turns out that I hadn’t gotten lost. I ran right to where the aid station was supposed to be and beyond. The problem was that the aid station had already packed up and left!!!
I suddenly went from trying to apologize to being a bit peeved. Wait a second! You guys knew that I was out on the trail, sweeping it to come report to you, and you just packed up and left?! I was dumbfounded. They knew I was coming. And, they had to have known that I would showing up asking for either A. a ride to my car, or B. Water and some food to fuel my return run. But no – they had just left. What is the purpose of sweeping the course if you can’t report to anyone when you get there? So, I ran right past it. AND – on their way out, they had removed a bunch of the flags/ribbons – which is why I hadn’t seen any after about mile 6. They could have left a note on the trail saying – hey, you made it, sorry we had to leave early, go ahead and turn around. Here’s a bottle of water. OR – since they were on freaking ATVs, they could have ridden up the ATV trail until they found me and told me to go ahead and turn around. Here I was, out volunteering to help ensure the safety of runners and then they just leave me out there to suffer on the trail, endangering my own safety.
This wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for the fact that it was HOT and I was 7.5 miles away from my car with almost no water. Without the good samaritan motorcyclists giving me water, I would have been in bad shape. I would have made it back to my car, but I would have been hurting.
If you can’t tell, I was a bit upset – I still am.
On the bright side – I made it. I had a slightly unnerving and stressful, but successful run.
On the Farmington 50 mile Challenge (and associated North Marathon challenge) that I put together there is one section of the route that I was concerned might not be as much of a trail as the satellite image suggested.
It is a short traverse from the northernmost (NE of Francis Peak, down the Morgan County side) Smith Creek Lake, west and over the main ridgeline between Morgan and Davis Counties – merging on the other side with the Great Western Trail. It turned out that the trail was fairly easy to follow and a great way to link up across the ridge. I built some cairns for teh runners’ help.
Back in late-April the Mrs. allowed me a 3-months early birthday present – a pair of Altra Olympus trail shoes. I was about to run the Zion Trail Ragnar (read about how much “fun” that was) and hoped that the much raved about max cushioning would help ameliorate impact on some of my over-use injuries. I have now put ~100 miles in them over varied terrain and thought it would be worth a review.
Stack Height – 36 mm
Weight – appx. 11.6 ozOffset / Drop – 0 mmHeel Width – 94 mm
Midfoot Width – 120 mm
The max-cushioning movement has been picking up steam apparently over the last few years, and with a lot of ultra marathon runners swearing by the Hoka One-One shoes, the Olympus was Altra’s first foray into the max-cushioning market. Altra is known for 2 major hallmarks: 1. Zero drop; and 2. The wide toe box. The zero drop means there is no mm difference between the heal and toe – whereas most running shoes (and all shoes in general) have a raised heal. With some of their other shoes (I have put in a few miles in a hand-me-down pair of Lone Peak 1.5’s) this requires a transition and takes a bit for your calf muscles and Achilles tendons to get used to them. With the larger stack on these, however, I found little trouble making the transition. For me, the wide toe box was the bigger selling point. With more room for toes, the foot is able to splay out wider. I found this gave me better stability, but did lead to them feeling a bit sloppy when I was descending challenging terrain. As for the max-cushioning, I love it. They feel so nice – so squishy. I have run ~100 miles in them so far. I have taken them in mud and snow, dry rocky and dusty trail, even terrain and up mountains, and even 25 miles or so on pavement. These have been on short 3-4 mile run and longer 8-10 mile runs. 100 miles in, I have come to some decisions. They are great for easy – medium difficulty terrain, but are not the best choice for overly technical trails. I will continue wearing them on long runs (to save my joints and feet a bit) and on trails that don’t require more aggressive tread or tighter fit. When doing runs that involve climbing up and coming down – with little lateral traverses or “even” ground…I will pick a different shoes. Overall, however, I am quite please with the purchase. They will be my workhorse for a lot of miles.
Max cushioning feels amazing
Wide toe box allows feet to splay full and adds stability.
This may also reduce toes jamming up against the upper of your shoe – causing blisters and toenails falling off. HOWEVER, when making steep descents, I find that my toes do still hit a bit.
I have been using some Injinji socks to take advantage of the room my toes have.
Light weight and fairly smooth tread makes them easy to transition to pavement if needed.
I love supporting local companies (they’re from UT – hence the Mt. “Olympus” name) and my interactions with Altra Ambassadors and customer service have been nothing but positive.
Gaiter trap built into the heal. I haven’t bought gaiters yet…but have been thinking about it.
Not great for uneven terrain. With the higher stack there is some inevitable instability.
Weak tread. I was quite shocked by how un-aggressive the lug patters and tread are on this “trail” shoes. I haven’t had serious problems with it, but on steep climbs, mud, or snow, I have found myself wishing I was wearing something different.
Fit feels a bit sloppy sometimes – even when using their suggested alternate lacing patters.
Tongue slides over to the side
Upper and laces don’t seem incredibly durable. I assume the light materials help keep the weight down, but a bit surprising.
Thin tongue means if you really crank the lacing down, it causes some discomfort on the top of your foot
Color along the sides of the rubber (orange) immediately began to wear off. Oh well. They should be caked in mud anyways, right?
I am now about a week removed from Ragnar and am starting to assess how the race affected my injury-plagued lower-half. In short, some prior injuries seem fine, some seem bad.
IT Bands: Miraculously they didn’t hurt during the race so I am optimistic that all of my daily work on the foam roller is doing the trick. Fingers crossed.
Stress Fracture on left Fibula: This didn’t hurt during the race or the day after. But, in the following week it has started to throb. Whereas the pain had completely dissipated before – even when pressing on injured part of the bone – it is now back as a constant throb. If I press on it, I can definitely feel it. So, I think that got reinjured a bit. I was fairly certain this would happen. I bet it would have been much worse had I worn my normal street shoes. I think the max-cushioning on my Altra Olympus trial shoes saved me even worse trouble.
Stress fracture on my right fibula? Maybe. There is new pain there that is persistent and feels a lot like my left.
Knees. There is some occasional knee pain in places other than my IT band spots.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Oh yes – like I haven’t had in a LONG time. I haven’t been this sore for this long in well over a year.
The plan moving forward? No running for another week maybe. Perhaps I’ll focus on some light conditioning and strength training and stretching around the house.