The Ultra Experience
Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or backpacking 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, July 31, 2007
My recent adventure involved me taking my father-in-law, the ever famous Professor Richard Nietzel Holzapfel, backpacking in the Uintah Mountains. Since he nor his son Zac had ever been camping before I got all their gear prep'd early and planned an awesome trip with great food. We left just after lunch on Friday and off we went up the Mirror Lake Highway. Passing through the tiny town of Samak was way too entertaining but once at the Crystal Lake trail head, it didn't take long to hit the trail. We were only going two miles in but the trail was steep and we took our time. Can you even imagine Prof. Holzapfel with a 25 lb backpack heading up a trail? For those who know this Deseret Book superstar you can understand how adventuresome this trip was! We picked a great Leave No Trace campsite away from the noisy Boy Scout's up on the base of Mt Watson. Zanna made us a dinner consisting of couscous and salmon which was a hit. Once dinner was over we went off to the main event...fishing. Zac quickly got hooked on the fly and bubble technique and spent the rest of the trip fishing every spare second. Richard even caught several fish and then quickly became fascinated by my "uncanny ability to catch fish." Yes it is true; I love fishing and seem to be fairly skilled at catching fish. The area produced lots of small Brook trout and we all had a great time with plenty of fishing success. It was fun being in the mountains with people who were experiencing the smells, sounds(or lack thereof), and views for the first time. They kept commenting on the views and the wildflowers. It was great and exciting for me to see them enjoying themselves. Everyone even seemed to sleep quite well and grew a little closer to the outdoors. We went home happy Saturday afternoon from a small yet fun adventure. Happy adventures to us and hopefully to everyone else!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Once done with my NOLS course I was eager to get back to trail running. When approached by Golden and Danny to run Cascade Peak I said "sure" having no idea what I was getting myself into. The first several miles were great especially since it is on the Katcina Mosa course (my next race) but after Lightening Ridge the trail ended and it got nasty. Running turned to scrambling and on it went. The scree and bouldering got tiring and annoying but on we went. Nearly five hours later back stumbled 3 tired souls eager for a Jamba Juice. Cascade Mtn is NOT recommended for running. Not by myself or anyone sane person that I know of. Having done it, I have no intention of ever doing it again! It did create some classic moments. Like Danny respectfully wearing his American flag shorts, it being the 4th of July and all. Cascade Mtn is a 10,908 ft mountain that rises to the east above Orem/Provo.
So 3 days after Squaw Peak 50 miler I was off on my next adventure, a 24 day course with the National Outdoor Leadership School. My course was an Outdoor Educators Course which is a course for outdoor professionals. Since I am an Outdoor Rec student at UVSC and having worked for Outdoor Education at UVSC guiding trips for the last year and a half, I definitely qualified. The group met up in Lander, WY on June 6th to prepare for the 17 day backpacking trip and the 5 day rock climbing camp that was to come. Our group immediately connected (Whoa OEC) and off we went into the amazing Absarokas Mountains in Wyoming. Needless to say I learned a lot about backpacking, rock climbing, expedition behavior, teaching styles, community values, and Canada. (Thanks Dai!) The group was amazing and I met some great people that I will never forget. If anyone is thinking about participating in a NOLS course, I highly recommend doing it. It is well worth the money and an unforgettable time.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
So the big race finally came. Last year I had the race of my life placing 10th with a time of 9hrs 20 min. It was also my first real ultra marathon. This year I had more experience and much better training. I was excited. The race started at 5am. I got there with plenty of time but at 4:55am nature called. It also called lots of other people because there was a big line for the toilet. Luckily at 4:59am my turn came. It only took 30sec and then I ran to the starting line and within 10sec of arriving the race started. Not having the best starting position I spent the first mile slowly picking my way through the crowd talking to those I knew. I found myself in seventh place by the dirt and there I stayed. Going up the Silvia trail the leaders pulled away but I kept a comfortable pace with Christian Johnson and Rich McDonald. Shortly after Hope Campground I decided to try and stay within 3-5 minutes of the front pack and I picked up the pace. I found myself in 5th place and there I stayed for a long time. Last year at AS#3 the lead group's time was 1hr 55min. I could see them in the distance every once in a while meaning I was 2-3 minutes behind them. Needless to say, I got to AS#3 in 1 hr 50 min!! Way too fast. I was exactly 2-3 min behind the front group in 5th place. I decided to take this next section a little easier and just let the front group go. It felt good to ease off going up and over Horse Mtn. As we neared Camel Pass Brad Mitchell caught up to me and we ran together for the next several miles. I got to Hobble Creek mile 22.7 feeling fine but by the time the road (3 miles) was over, I was hurting. My stomach was giving me serious problems and my feet were killing me. My time at mile 26.5 was exactly 9am, which was my desired split, so I realized that I just had to hold on. I didn't do a very good job. I'd moved into 4th going up Hobble Creek but at mile 28 Leland and Brad caught and passed me. Sadly I was forced to walk up much of Hobble Creek and Sheep Creek. I couldn't eat or drink anything and I was in pain. Around mile 31 Golden (my pacer) arrived I explained how the last 5 miles had been. Small talk followed for several minutes but then we topped off at Sheep Creek. I'm better and more confident on the down hill so that mile+ into Little Valley I made a push. I was feeling slightly better at this point in time and started making much better time. AS#8 came and went with me picking up steam and feeling better. I was able to eat and gu up finally so off we went with 16 miles to the finish. I knew that if I could get to the Windy Pass AS#9 my downhill abilities and familiarity with that section of the course would pay off. When I reached the AS after a long hard push I also found out I was back in 5th place again which gave me even more excitement. (Sadly Brad took a wrong turn...sorry Brad) Needless to say, I made it off of Windy Pass in 51 minutes! I hurt all the way to the finish but it felt great to finish a tough race 5th overall with a time of 9hrs and 13 min which was 7 minutes faster than last year. Sadly I lost 30 minutes from AS#6 to AS#8. My young and stupid mistakes probably cost me a 3rd place finish. I felt that I ate and drank way too much at the beginning of the race in fear of the record heat that took place which ended up giving me serious stomach problems. I tried a newer and much lighter weight shoe which gave me painful foot problems, I had trained way too hard the previous week and a half, and I went out much faster than I should at the beginning of the race. Though I made several crucial mistakes, I feel good about still finishing 5th with a good time and notching it up for experience. There's always next year! Happy Trails everyone!
The annual Sojourners Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim run was a blast. There were only six of us this year yet we had a blast. Participants : Brian(Me!), Golden, Mike, Danny, Justin, and Derek. Needless to say the run went well. At Phantom ranch (mile 16) Justin and Derek informed us that 16 miles was the furthest they had ever run. hahaha We all had a great laugh about that. Little did they know how hard the next 8 miles would be. Mike, the sleeping one, who is a 2hr 23min marathoner FINALLY grew to respect the ultra distance as Golden and I crushed him the last three miles out of the canyon. My very supportive wife who drove around the canyon was there to great me when we finished. Although I felt great during and after the run, in hind sight I pushed it way too hard with Squaw Peak 50 in only 8 days. Either way it was awesome. Next year I want to do the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. Anyway...happy trails.
Mauna Kea is a 13,796 ft volcano on the big island on Hawaii. For whatever reason I thought that while I was in Hawaii it would be fun to run up this. The trail head/visitor center is at 9,180 ft, and the trail is roughly 8 miles each way, at which distance there would be 4,616 ft of elevation gain and loss. Sound like fun? Actually it was awesome! The trail was tough since it was either fist size lava rocks on top of each other or loose sand but the scenery was breathtaking. Before I started I asked the ranger at the visitor center if there was anything I needed to know about the trail. He took one look at me dressed in my skimpy running clothes and thought "idiot!" He shrugged after a second and then began hassling me that 40 oz of water would not be enough. It didn't take me long to end that conversation and begin running. Needless to say I made it to the top in 2:02:50. Not the best but I stopped to take a bunch of pictures and I wasn't pushing it. It was surprisingly cold up there, but luckily I had my trusty Golite Wisp jacket which kept me perfectly warm. After a 3 minute break and a dozen more pictures I headed out. I was a little dizzy at nearly 14000 ft but I was feeling quite good and so I decided to push the pace on the way down. Needless to say, I made it down in a mere 51:13! I was quite happy with myself. I've yet to find a faster time so as of now I am claiming the ascent/descent and total time record for Mauna Kea. Total time was 2:54:03. Add 3 minutes if you include my break on top. If you visit the big island of Hawaii I highly recommend running/hiking Mauna Kea. However, the rangers/guidebooks recommend 8-10 hrs and 2 liters of water per person for the hike. Good luck trying to break my record...you'll need it. Happy Trails!
Zanna (my wife) and I went to Hawaii for 8 days in May. I had never been anywhere tropical before this trip so I was quite impressed. We stayed at the Waikaloa Hilton near Kona. Quite the experience! My favorite activities were snorkeling with the Sea Turtles and Manta Rays, kayaking, Volcano Ntl Park, the Sushi restuarant in Hawi, and my run up Mona Kea (See next blog). Pretty awesome. Also, all these pictures were taken with the same camera. Sweet huh? It's the Pentax W10. It comes with 6 mega pixel and waterproof to 10 meters. Love the camera and of course the vacation.