The Ultra Experience

Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or fly fishing but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Uintah Highline Trail Run

For those who don't know what the Highline Trail is, it is a 70 mile stretch of designated wilderness in the High Uintah Mtns of North Eastern Utah. It has some of the most remote primitive and unknown mountains in America. Having wanted to do this trail for years, I concocted a plan this summer to fastpack it. Including my sleeping bag, water, food, and clothing, my total pack was 15 lbs! (For a full list of items I took on this ludicrous journey e-mail me). My excursion took place on the 16th-17th of August 2007. With the record on this trail being just under 30 hours I hoped to possible even set a new record. Getting to the trailhead was more of a journey than I thought as my 8:16 am start shows or my dad will tell you. Once at the trailhead I quickly started my journey. The first section of trail went by easily. I felt great and the trail was comparibly smooth. In fact the whole day was like that. It was one of the best running/hiking days of my life. My pace was little more than a power walk but I knew I had a long way to go. The only problem I had all day was going up Anderson Pass when I started feeling a little dizzy, probably due to the rapid gain of elevation which had quickly risen to over 12,000 ft, so I laid down for 30 minutes. My favorite section of trail was in the late afternoon. From Tunsten Pass over Porupine Pass was incredible. With the sun setting I quickened the pace in attempts to cover as much ground as possible while it was still light and I felt amazing. Once it was dark my pace slowed down drastically. The trail became increasingly difficult to follow and I even got lost for about 20-25 minutes. At one point in a meadow full of willows I spooked a pair of moose that must have been 20-30 ft from me. They luckily ran quickly in the opposite direction as my heart rate SLOWLY came down. Luckily the trail was pretty good and with my trusty headlamp I kept trudging along. I knew that if I had any chance of setting the record I would have to continue though most of the night. Sadly, after running for over two hours in the dark and approaching Red Nob Pass the trail became extremely difficult to follow and I was at tree line. Up to this time it had only sprinkled on me for 10 minutes earlier in the day but with lightening in the distance, hardly a trail to follow, with few trees up ahead, and a serious pass to get over I made the cautious choice by stopping and waiting until it got light. At 2:00 am the storm hit with full force put I was tucked under a pine tree wrapped in my sleeping bag and tarp. My watch alarm was set for 4:45 am since it started to get light around 5:15 am. Unfortunately I didn't hear it and at 5:30 am I awoke suddenly, looked at my watch, and scampered up to get going. The day didn't continue much better. It was raining as it would for most of the day and I had a long way to go. Red Knob Pass and Dead Horse Pass were incredible beautiful and I made pretty good time through that section but heading through Rock Creek Drainage with 12-15 miles to go my feet got angry. The miles added up especially those past few hours in the rain. I powered on but the weather had different ideas. Nearing Rocky Sea Pass a sudden lightening storm hit. With lightening striking all around me I huddled under a small grove of pine trees. At this point with the length of the night stop, the weather and my feet the speed record was gone but during a pause in the storm I hurried over the last major pass. From here is was merely 9 miles to the finish. With heavy legs and sore feet I kept moving...that is until the next lightening storm hit me. This one was something fierce. It was one of the most incredible displays of lightening I had ever seen. Unfortunately, I was too wet, tired, and scared to enjoy it. It wasn't all that scary until, when in lightening position huddled under a pine tree, lightening struck merely 30-40 yds away. I literally was knocked to the ground immediately and with one painfully ringing ear I sat for another 20 minutes. By this point the trail was all puddles and mud. With 4 miles left my blisters had experienced enough and ripped open. With some help from my friends moleskin and athletic tape I arrived to the trailhead tired and in pain. I'd acquired some mean blisters and a multiple personality but we did it! It took me 31 hours and 59 minutes but I was done. My wife was there to greet me and take me to get a burger. Will I ever do this again? Maybe...maybe not. Maybe in 6 days. Yes, that sounds much more enjoyable. However, if I were to go for the record it would have to be like the current record holders; in one fell swoop with a GPS. If I hadn't stopped for 6 hours at night or spent over an hour huddled under trees during lighting storms I very easily believe that I could have set the record. Now racing this, and going all out some ultra runner might even be able to break 24 hours! It would be very difficult though. Below are my splits for all of you aspiring record holders and/or if you are just interested. Happy trails!

Start/Chepeta Lake: 0:00.00 8:16 AM
Kidney Lake 3:59.38 12:15 PM
Anderson Pass 8:48.55 5:04 PM
Tungsten Pass 10:35.59 6:51 PM
Porcupine Pass 11:43.35 7:58 PM
Camp/Upper Lake Fork River 14:59.44 11:14 PM
Red Rob Pass 21:34.52 5:51 AM
Dead Horse Pass 24:19.19 8:35AM
Rocky Sea Pass 28:38.53 12:54PM
Hayden Pass/Finish 31:59:02 4:15PM

Monday, August 13, 2007

Outdoor Retailer Show

My most recent adventure led me to the amazing outdoor retailer show at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake. Although most of what I did there was business, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I met with tons of retail companies including Brooks, New Balance, Wrightsocks, Smartwool, Golite, Gu, and that was just the start. A few highlights that might interest all you Ultra/Adventure people out there: Golite Shoes new low profile carbon fiber trail running shoe. It's amazing, and for $160 it better be amazing. Golite sleeping bags that are male and female specific that also zip together. Lots of companies do similar things but these were super light, looked great, totally functional, and surprisingly affordable. Smartwools new PhD line of running specific socks. Wow! Everything you'd expect from Smartwool plus the most amazing advertising..."my socks are smarter than your honor student." Montrail's new shoe called the Streak. Light weight and looks great. I believe it will be a hit and Montrail really needed something like it in their line. Gu has a new flavor, mint chocolate. It's the best tasting chocolate gel I've ever had. It is a limited item that will only carry through Christmas 2007. Timex is coming out with a new Sleek 50 that also controls your Ipod. It's incredible! Those few items are something to look forward to and there were tons of other great new products on the market. Let's just say the outdoor market is heading in the right direction!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Katcina Mosa 100K 2007

Wow! Why I run this brutal 62.24 mile race I will never know. To date it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. With over 16,000 ft of elevation gain(12,000 by mile 30), rocky and rough trail conditions, ridiculous heat, and...well 62 miles of it, it's hard. This year my goals were simple: 1st-run with Wasatch 100 in mind for learning and training. 2nd-run faster than last year. And 3rd-WIN.
This year Dave Hunt needed a place to stay before the race since he lived in Salt Lake and wanted to stay closer to the race...I offered my house. We prepared the night before the race and set a schedule to be to the start at 2:40 am. (The race starts at 3:00am) Needless to say, we screwed up big time. We left the house 15 minutes later than we had planned, we got lost in Springville due to the road construction, and we pulled in as the runners we leaving at 3:00 am. We both frantically put all our things together, dropped our drop bags and off we went 5 minutes behind the rest of the field. A minute up the road I realized I had the wrong insoles in my shoes and Dave had forgotten his gloves, water, and he had to go to the bathroom. We decided NOT to turn back. A minute later the topic of turning back came up again. This time we decided to go back. We dropped out water packs and went back to the start to take care of business. When all said and done we started a little over 13 minutes behind the rest of the field!! We're idiots, we know.
From there the race went well. Dave and I ran together and after an hour or so we started passing the back of the pack runners. I was quite flustered and annoyed from the whole experience of getting to the start late and turning back but Dave didn't even seem fazed. I tried not to let it bother me. By aid station #3, mile 16.5, we had passed over 20 people with only 2 3:00 am starters in front of us.(There was a few runners who opted to start at 1:00 am) We were heading up Lightening Ridge the most beautiful section of the course and one of the most amazing trails I've ever run. Near the top I started picking up the pace knowing that I was a better downhill runner than Dave and knowing that he was in much MUCH better shape this year than last, so I wanted to put some distance on him on the long downhills coming off Lightening Ridge and Windy Pass. I felt comfortable and heading down into Big Springs aid station mile 23.5 I had taken over the lead and put 4-5 minutes on Dave. Danny and Derick Moody were there to greet me and also help pace me up to Windy pass. It was much nicer this year having pacers, running longer with Dave, and passing nearly everyone in the race. Last year I didn't even see a single runner from mile 16 to the finish. After having now caught even the 1:00 am starters and nearing the top of Windy Pass my legs started feeling a little tired but I'd gone nearly 30 miles with 12,000 ft of elev gain. I felt better at this point than I did last year. 5 min out of Windy Pass I thought I heard shouting as if another runner had come in. I couldn't be certain but somehow I felt that Dave was not messing around this year and it just might have been him. I wanted to put some distance over him during the out-n-back section. If he saw that I had 10-15 minutes on him and looked good it might demoralize him and then I'd have the race in the bag. Coming off of Windy at one point I looked back. I don't know why but I did. Sure enough 5 minutes back was Dave. I decided to pore the heat on. I cruised down into Little Valley and quickly headed up to the out-n-back. On my way down I was shocked...4 minutes back was Dave. Back at the aid station I decided to change shoes and loaded with fuel I was off, determined to bury Dave and win the race. During long openings I would look back to see where Dave was. I didn't see him but I kept pushing knowing he couldn't be too far. Several sections of the course weren't marked all that well and like I promised John Bozung the race director, I would stop and tie flagging for the rest of the runner's. It didn't take much time but at mile 49 as I was tying a flag when I saw Dave, roughly 3 1/2 minutes behind me. Screw the flagging it wasn't my problem any more I was off. I was tired. Really tired and my legs were killing me. He caught me at mile 51.5. I'd pushed and pushed but Dave broke me. At this point Dave was so chipper and moving like a gazelle that I knew it wouldn't even be worth trying to go in together like we had mentioned at the beginning. Dave was very courteous and ran with me for 1/2 mile making sure I didn't need any water, gu, or pills. Finally I told him to go win the race and leave me. He reluctantly did and there the race ended for me. I had given it my all and was spent. Coming into aid station #8 mile 53.5 I was only 3 minutes behind Dave but I was dead. I sat down, leaned over to a crew man and said "make me leave in 3 minutes." In that time I managed to drink a red bull and two huge slices of water melon. I was amazed at how much better I felt! My stomach was still upset but with a quick look at the watch I realized that I could still break 13 hrs! I didn't want to push too hard but I ran solid those 3.7 miles to the final aid station. I should have taken more time there but I really wanted to break 13 hrs. With 5.8 miles left, all of which on asphalt, I changed into some road shoes and off I went. Needless to say, 2 miles down the road and I was dead. I hit my final bonk from whence there was no return. Mentally and physically I had been beaten. I walked more of that road than I want to even imagine. My finishing time was 13 hrs and 4 minutes. Surprisingly if you minus those 13 minutes at the start you would get 12:51:00. I had run merely two minutesf faster than I had run last year!! Quite ironic. I would settle for second place with my good friend and icon Dave Hunt winning out. That long break at aid station #8 taught me a valuable lesson. on these long runs I don't need to rush through the aid stations like I tend to do. It's ok to stop for 3-4 minutes and replenish. I would have run a much faster race if I would have slowed down through the aid stations and eaten more solid foods. I needed more salt as well. What a brutal experience! With Wasatch 100 coming up it is somewhat frightening yet I think I am going to run Wasatch much more casually and not so competitive. I keep learning about ultra's though and although this one broke me I ran well. Thanks to all the aid station crew members! We can't do it without you. Also congrats to female winner Marcee Christian for an awesome race and to all other Katcina runners. What a brutal race. Happy trails everyone.

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