Last year around this time I joined a large group run to the San Rafael to run the Good Water Rim Trail at The Wedge. I was hooked. This year another big group ventured down – about 30 of us – and it was great.
For the first 9 miles I tried to focus on keeping a steady pace – not going out too strong. I thought I was going more conservative than last time, when I felt I started too fast and then bonked. Looking at my splits, my 10 min/mile pace this time was a lot faster than last time. Oh well. It felt pretty good. At the 9 mile aid station I felt a lot stronger than last time (with the exception of a rolled ankle and hot spots on both feet – they never blistered, thankfully, but I was worried). I was just a couple minutes behind the lead group and stayed a few minutes behind them for the next 7 miles to the east overlook. Mostly, I ran solo. But that was fine. The scenery is spectacular. The east 7 miles are a lot rougher trail and that wore on me. I slowed, alternating running with fast walking for a 10th of a mile here and there. At the 16 mile overlook I jumped out to the road and followed it the 5.5 miles around and back to the start just like last time. By the end, my energy levels felt really good but my legs were just shot. So sore. Thankfully, no cramping though. I tried out fueling with just tailwind and it felt great. I popped a couple extra salt tabs when it warmed up. And, I mixed a bottle of perpetuem for the last 2 miles, but didn’t end up drinking much of it.
I thought I’d take a chance on FS 27, Sq*** Peak Road in the snow. Mostly firm, but enough soft spots to cause a few tumbles on the way back down from the overlook. I thought I’d leave a little blood for the mountain lions to taste.
I had been wanting to do the Grove Creek -> Battle Creek loop in the snow for a while. With my sister-in-law (also a new trail-runner) in town and wanting to do a run, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I asked around and knew that the climb between the two drainage – up and over Chris Flats – might be a bit sloppy. I figured we could tough out a mile of post-holing though. No problem.
Grove Creek was pretty good up to the bridge, and even a bit beyond. Once we broke out of the trees, however, the tracks lessened and post-holing began. Up to the spring, up to Chris Flats, and most of the way down into Battle Creek it was a sloppy mess. If we had hit it early in the morning before the sun warmed up the surface, we might had stayed on top more. Perhaps not though – it was soft pretty far down. In any case, it was an adventure. Rachael may never forgive me, but she did get some good pictures out of it!
GPS data got messed up on the descent into Battle Creek. There is no way we were moving that fast!
Heavy hearts this afternoon. A member of my local trail-running community, Stephen Jones, lost his life in an avalanche. I had never met him in person but we had messaged online a few times as he generously provided information on some remote trails I was hoping to run and that he was familiar with. By all accounts, this was normal for him. Generous, giving, gregarious, a friend to all. Of the many expert wilderness runners and back country skiers in our group, he was possibly the most experienced. He had run 200 mile mountain races (yes, 200…100 just wasn’t enough) ran crazy long solo unsupported adventure runs in the High Uintahs and elsewhere, and was intimately familiar with much of the Wasatch – both dry and in the snow. It is sobering to be reminded of our mortality, especially when faced with the death of someone who seemed so very invincible. On a bright note, it was encouraging to see so many in the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers immediately post their contact info and offer to drop everything and join search and rescue to find him – possibly risking their own lives in the process.
This is something I have been mulling over for a while – the surprising generosity and friendliness I have encountered in the trail and ultramarathon running community. My initial guess of what type of community a group of very serious athletes would be that it is insular, competitive and perhaps ego-driven, skeptical of newcomers. I have been proven wrong time and time again. My new friends have weathered my constant asking for advice, at times with gentle ribbing (and throwing snowballs at me from summits as I struggle to make it to the top…you know who you are!), but always with smiles. I think there is something about the ultra-marathon sport that makes people this way. You cannot run ultras alone. You are forced to recognize your dependence on others as you need aid stations, crew members, pacers, etc… The extreme nature of the sport forces you to admit you can’t go it alone. I think this instills a deep sense of humility – at least in the ultra runners I have met. It seems like a community where novice and elite athlete alike come together and rejoice in their common love of the outdoors, wilderness, and trails. Many of my new friends are people I have interacted with only via our club’s facebook page, but when we finally meet in person they have always been friendly. I’m glad to have found such a warm and welcoming community.
So, as we mourn the loss of a comrade, I hope we can take a moment to count our blessings, give a little extra love to those we love, and rejoice in the little community we have built for ourselves. Blessed we are.