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!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UVU Backpacking Excursion

So my hiatus as a university faculty is over.  This past fall I had the opportunity to teach at Utah Valley University and loved it!  1st block I co-taught whitewater kayaking and 2nd block I taught a section of backpacking.  This posed a problem with my move to Ogden as the weekly Wednesday commute to Orem on my one day off grew tiring but it was a fantastic experience and I had a great time.

I had a great group of students.  It was an entry level backpacking course including information ranging from the layering system to water purification to group dynamics.  Hopefully the students found the course interesting and useful.  The class culminated last weekend with a 3 day backpacking trip to Escalante National Monument.  Near the thriving metropolis of Boulder Utah we drove east and hiked up what is known as The Gulch.  Hiking north up the canyon was fantastic.  The canyon has a year round water source for the first four miles and is a relatively easy hike.  The small stream provided a small obstacle for those without Goretex shoes but we made our way up the canyon with little difficulty.  A couple of waterfalls and narrow red rock canyons provided plenty of beauty.  The temperature was a bit chilly in the evenings and mornings dropping down to 27 degrees which allowed the students to put much of the newly found knowledge to practice.  All-in-all the trip was a huge success covering 18 miles total (including a day hike up Lamanite Canyon) and hopefully was enjoyed by all.  I know I needed a trip into the wilderness and this trip was perfect!

Before the move to Ogden I was planning on teaching next year but logistically it won't work out.  I loved getting paid to have people forced to listen to me about my obsessions!  But for now I will focus on Canyon Sports which after this last snowstorm is getting super busy.  Also it will allow me to ski or get a long run in on my days off rather than heading south to teach.  Anyway, I hope everyone has their skis waxed because winter is finally here!  Strap on those skis or snowshoes and play hard this winter!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

B-Day Weekend and Work work work!

So this past weekend was my birthday.  At 27 I feel that life has finally caught up to me.  Rather than school stress, care free parties, and hours of running I now have bills, insurance, and 12 hour work days...every day.  Life could be worse of course and in fact things are looking pretty good.  I'll explain:
I like my job.  It's a salaried position with great benefits.  In a couple of months I should be financially stable (which in today's economy is huge!), I'm happily married, and overall I'm feeling physically and mentally strong.  So with my birthday being last Friday I decided to have a fun weekend.  I had to work all day Friday, but I got Saturday and Sunday off work and we had a great weekend planned.
We went out for a fantastic sushi dinner Friday night and then stayed with the in-laws up Hobble Creek Canyon Friday night.  Having not had a long trail run since the Bear 100 and feeling unconnected to the mountains, I decided to go for a long run on the Squaw Peak course the following morning.  My in-laws live at mile 25 which puts me in perfect placement for a great run.  I ended up running from mile 26 to mile 36 and back on a perfect day with mild temperatures and a soft trail.  It was just what the doctor ordered and was the best birthday present I could ask for.  The best part was that I still have it!  I felt strong, healthy, and ran quickly.  With minimal training over the last 2 months I was a bit worried but 3 hrs and 15 minute later I was back from an amazing 20 mile run!  With Squaw Peak sign-ups coming shortly I was pumped and excited for what is sure to be another great Squaw Peak 50.  Note to self, don't ever go 2 months without a long trail run!
After some food and a short nap it was off to watch the BYU-Utah game at a friends house.  Being a BYU fan it was a disappointing game, but the Utes were/are the better team this year.  Go bust the BCS Utes!  I never have understood the hate involved with rivalries.  It seems so juvenile.  It's a game for heavens sake.  Heck, even 5k athletes seem to try and beat each other down on a training run...I mean if that what encourages you to run, but as for me, I love to run for the sake of running.  There is nothing more invigorating and rejuvenating than a long solo trail run.  Lovers not haters, that's what I believe in!
So after the game it was off to the Coldplay concert.  I will fully admit it...I love Coldplay.  They make great music which is original, positive, and catchy.  There was a great energy at the concert and I'm sure it was more than the residual affects of my earlier trail run.  It was an amazing performance.  
After the concert we went back for a midnight BBQ at the in-laws house.  Good ole late night fun with the Holzapfels!  Sunday was a veg out day.  We spent the first part of the day with the fam and than a relaxing day at home in Clinton.  It was a great weekend.
This week was back to the usual.  12 hour shifts every day at work.  I finally feel comfortable and confident at work while working toward some really exciting promotions.  Canyon Sports is on the rebound!  Anyway, with winter incoming get that last unhindered trail run in and bring on the snow!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Moving to Ogden

So it's been a month since the Bear 100 DNF and lots of things have happened. The most consuming part of my life has been my move to Ogden. I am super excited about the move. Frankly, I need a change. I love Orem but most of my life has been there. I will always have fond memories of Runner's Corner but again, it was time for a change. It should be fun exploring new trails, new ski resorts, new whitewater, and a new area. To everyone in Utah County I will miss you but I'm sure I'll be around often and see everyone on a semi-consistent bases. Mostly I'll see people at Ultra races and of course my family, whom we will visit as often as possible.

Speaking of Ultra's, it 's sad but true that I already have most of my plans laid out for the first half of next year. As of right now though, I have no plans on running a 100 mile event. I think I need more time for my body to develop that endurance and some more ultra experience. As of right now I'm only running 2-3 times a week pretty easy. I plan on taking the next couple of months to focus on work and recover for next year. My big new goal for 2009 is to try a couple of triathlons! I plan on setting a trail running base and similar race schedule from the last couple years and then do some triathlons over the mid summer. It should be a new adventure!

My new job is also an adventure. I moved to Ogden over the last few days and my first full-time official start day is Monday October 27th. I have spent quite a bit of time there the last couple of weeks but I had to finish up business in Orem first. Canyon Sports is the name store and we do all sorts of outdoor gear. Winter is coming so we are priming up for the ski and snowboard season. We also have all sorts of kayaking, rock climbing, camping, backpacking, and outdoor clothing for sell as well as a full service bike shop. I'm pretty stoked and it should be fun. Canyon Sports is now under new ownership and I think we can make a huge difference in the quality of the store. I got hired as the new general manager which will require a lot of stress and hard work but I feel up to the challenge. If you're in the Ogden area come in for a visit! 4598 S. 700 W. just off Riverdale road. I am still having to teach my backpacking class at UVU on Wednesdays so not only will I be working 40 hrs/week at Canyon Sports, but my day off will be commuting to UVU to teach my backpacking class. Once the class is over and I feel comfortably trained at Canyon Sports life should be a little easier and I can focus my extra time on training! Here's to new adventures!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bear 100 DNF

So the Bear 100 was last weekend. I didn't have the race I wanted but the course was beautiful, although poorly marked, and had great crew accessibility. Several people had great races especially Ty Draney and Eric Storheim. Congrats guys! I dropped out at mile 70. If interested you can read my report despite my not finishing this race.

The race started at 6:00 am and by the time we got to the trail 1/2 mile later the entire front group had lost the course. Comical really, and the story for many people in the race. We finally figured it out and up we went. The first 20 miles were great. It quickly began to get light and the pack thinned out. I found myself running with Christian Johnson, Paul Sweeney, and Jon Wheelwright. We had great conversation and I really enjoyed those first 12 miles. After the first aid station we dropped Jon but the three of us continued to run pretty close together all the way to mile 37. It might have been a bit quick but we all felt good and it was nice to run with friends. The colors were incredible as the pictures show but it was much hotter than I expected. Heading into mile 37 I felt a small blister and a few hot spots. Plus I was 30 minutes ahead of my sub-24 pace chart. I decided to take a few minutes to re-hydrate and fix my blisters which I did but unfortunately I lost Christian and Paul.

From miles 37-45 I had my first struggle. JR, my uncles friend decided he wanted to be a part of an ultra and paced me through this section. I had never met him before but we hit it off and it was nice having a pacer. This section sure was hot! We ended up losing the trail for 20-25 minutes going almost a mile off course. Mentally it was a bit demoralizing. Next I ran out of water. Heading into mile 45 aid station I wasn't feeling great. I drank a red bull, lots of water, and a bowl of potato's and salt.

I headed out of the aid station feeling much better and ready for the huge climb up to Tony's Grove. We cranked it out in great time and I felt bad when we passed Paul Sweeney with stomach problems. He toughed it out and went on to finish. I was really getting into a groove and coming down into Tony's Grove mile 52 was the high point of the race for me. The temperature was perfect and I couldn't believe how beautiful Tony's Grove was. I flew into Tony's Grove right on my 24 hr pace schedule feeling great. I passed Christian who was having stomach issues, then after a quick stop, off I went.

The next section was gorgeous as well. I could tell that my adrenaline rush was over but I felt fine and kept motoring along at a solid clip. The long downhill was nice but it started getting really dark. Several times I had to stop in my tracks and look for markings. The last 2 miles into Franklin I could feel myself slowing down. My legs were really weak. I kept plugging along and finally got to Franklin mile 62 feeling not so great. My blisters were fine and stomach felt great. I couldn't figure it out because I was eating really well and I was right on pace.

I took 20 minutes to try and recharge but less than 1 mile after leaving the aid station I shut down. I just couldn't get my legs to move. They were so sluggish and weak. I was shocked at how quickly it hit me. Phil Lowry, whom I had seen several times after starting an hour early, passed me looking good. I tried to follow him but I was dead. After almost an hour of slow struggling I was starting to get really worried. Several times I had to sit down and recuperate. Whenever I did I felt really out of breathe and I started to recognize how hard my heart was beating. This was a bad thing because I have a history of heart problems. This really started to get me worried. Christian had taken care of his issues and he passed me looking great. He asked how I was doing and I voiced my concern with the request to send my wife up the trail to come and help me out. After another hour of walking through the dark mountains alone, I was for the first time in my life scared in the mountains. My hands were starting to go to sleep becoming tingly, I felt increasingly out of breathe, my legs were pure mush, and I had to stop every 10 minutes to rest. I didn't get the most accurate reading but according to my calculations my heart seemed to be near 200 beats per minute. I had been walking slowly for 6 miles and after a rest it was still near 200 beats per minute. Scary being in the middle of nowhere with heart problems. Finally I saw a light coming towards me and heard my name called. It was Dave Hunt of all people! I was on the verge of tears as he came up and gave me a big hug. I was so relieved! Soon my father came up the trail. We walked the last mile down to Logan River mile 70 together. We decided that I needed to lay down. I laid down on a cot the volunteers had and then seemed to really freak out. I could really feel my heart now and it was going crazy. Super fast, super hard, and irregular. It was an emotional experience with my wife when we decided that I shouldn't go on. With a history of heart problems, none of which had caused problems since I was 18 years old, and with 30 miles to go, we decided that I would drop out. It's hard to say, but at that rate, how long would it be until I had a heart attack? Especially if I had gotten lost again in the dark like so many others? 30 miles was a bit too far to take that chance.

The cause is hard to distinguish, but here goes: I got a great job offer on Tuesday. Zanna and I would be/will be moving to Ogden in 3 weeks. 1- I hadn't slept for more than 3 hrs per night since that day. 2- I was having some serious anxiety with these big changes coming up in my life which runs in my family. 3- Since mile 45 I had taken a huge amount of caffeine. Red Bull=80mgs , then 35mgs of GU about every 45 minutes afterwards. This means 400 mgs of caffeine in 7 hours. I don't take caffeine very often. So this was probably way too much. 4- I have only run over 62 miles once in my's a long way, I'm young and inexperienced. 5- I have a history of heart problems.

It sucked especially since I was on pace, had no blisters, and was eating well with no stomach problems. I had trained really hard for this event so it was hard to quite early. I had a goal of never dropping out of an ultra and it was a really hard decision. Let's just say that I'm finally going to break down and buy a heart rate monitor. During the next 6 months I'm going to monitor my heart to see how and when problems occur. Looking back on the experience I never would have noticed an increase in my heart rate unless I had stopped. But with my heart going that fast it was taking up the blood flow and oxygen flow. This would increase my respiratory rate and keep the precious blood and oxygen from my extremities. Hence my legs would go to mush and my hands would go to sleep. Who knows when my heart started racing? It wasn't until it's effects became manifest through my legs and respiratory rate that I noticed it. So anyway that was my experience at the Bear 100. Congrats to those who finished despite the hardships of a hundred miles and the poorly marked course. Thanks to Greg Norrander for his always awesome pictures. Happy off-season everyone!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Preview- The Bear 100

Wow, it's come quick! The Bear 100 is only three days away. I've been ready to run this thing for the last two weeks! (I hate tapering) Anyway, it looks like it's going to be an exciting race both in terms of terrain and competition. The autumn colors have turned and this new course looks fantastic. Lets hope it's marked well. I like the crew accessibility and what looks like a beautiful course over decently runnable terrain.

The competition looks stacked though. It has gotten increasingly interesting as the race has neared. Jeff Browning is out but coming off his amazing Wasatch victory Geoff Roes is in, as is patagonia athlete Ty Draney. The competition to me breaks down like so:
1-Geoff Roes wins in style...again. 20 hrs.
2-Nate McDowell hangs for 75 miles buts ends 2nd.
3-Ty Draney another solid outing in 3rd.

After this point my race predictions get a bit fuzzy because it seems harder to predict my own finishing time then that of others, however, here goes:
4-Leland is a stud and will run well despite still recovering from running an awesome Wasatch.
5-Brian Beckstead- ok I'm going out on a limb and putting myself in 5th. It matches my goal time and I think I'm up for a good race, but obviously it's not set in stone.
Eric Storheim, great runner as we know but can he hold on for 100 miles?
Jared Campbell, no 3rd place this year, not with a bum knee and three weeks after UTMB.
Christian Johnson, I know he wants to rip off a good 100 miler!

With a new course it's hard to gauge where I'll be and really game plan this race out. I haven't raced since June 28th at the Logan Peak Challenge (the 1st 11 miles of Bear before it broke off) but I am so ready to race! I've had a couple of small injuries this last couple of months but nothing serious. My shin splints are pretty much gone but my hamstring is still nagging me a little. I'm not really worried about either. I just don't want serious blister or stomach issues. Hopefully I've prepared thoroughly and taken the necessary precautions to avoid those things.

For pacing I decided that 15 minute miles are about right for this course, my fitness, and my experience level. I feel that this is a conservative pace but I intend to stick pretty close to it for the first half of the race and then maintain to the finish. Even splits puts me at 25hrs but if things go right I would like to finish under 24 hrs but that would be a perfect race and we all know how Ultra's are. Anyway, here's to a happy Bear trail!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Alaska 2008 Sea Kayaking

So a few months ago I took my wife Zanna whitewater kayaking down the Provo River. We had a great time. That evening we were telling Richard, my father-in-law, about our experience and how how we thought he would like kayaking, especially sea kayaking, which my wife and I do as often as we have the chance. Next thing we know Richard is on-line looking up places to go sea kayaking. We ended up booking a 3-day trip to Fox Island through Kenai Fords Tours. Having worked in Alaska I knew this was the trip for our group.

It had to be a quick trip due to time constraints put we flew into Anchorage Alaska on Monday August 18th and arrived home Friday August 22nd. Tuesday the 19th we got a rent-a-car and drove to Seward Alaska on the beautiful and renowned Hwy 1. We hopped on a boat in Seward which took us out to Fox Island and an all you can eat Salmon cook out. It was fantastic. The boat continued it's tour but we along with only a handful of people stayed on the Island. It was magnificent! We got a small room which was quaint but had all necessary amenities including hot water, flushing toilets and clean sheets. It was perfect.

That afternoon and evening was our free time. We hiked up the only trail on the island which was about a mile long rough trail straight up the mountain behind the resort. Along the way we picked ripe wild raspberries and blueberries. The view from the top was incredible! Mountains in every direction, vast glacier fields, and plenty of blue ocean in between. That evening with the other 12 guests who would be staying overnight on the island, we ate an amazing meal prepared by the chief. This was five star dining with an unprecedented view. To end the day we walked along the beach skipping rocks and looking for starfish during the low tide. Due to my experience kayaking, I even got to go for a short kayak trip with the employees. It was a great day. Zanna and I who are used to roughing it in the woods were enjoying it immensely yet it paled in comparison to my father-in-law and mother-in-law who are used to big city hotels. It was a perfect combination of the wilderness experience and five star resort treatment.

Wednesday was the kayaking day. After another delectable breakfast by the chief, we signed the waivers and got geared up. My mother-in-law was very nervous especially after dropping her kayak and watching it slide down the beach into the ocean. We easily retrieved it, calmed her down and off we went. It was a bit windy as first but the skies were clear, the temperature was nice, and it was just a great afternoon. Our only break was pulling over on a beach and having lunch. If you have never been sea kayaking in a wilderness location such as Alaska, it should be on your list. Pure bliss! Especially the rope swing off the docks after kayaking all day!

Dinner and breakfast were unbelievable again. It tasted like we were eating at the Chief's Table in Orem just with a way better view. After breakfast another boat came out to pick us up. This one took us on an 8 hour glacier and whale watching cruise. It was a little more overcast this day but we ended up sea lots of beautiful wildlife including Puffins, Cormorants, Bald Eagles, Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Dal Porpoises, and Humpback Whales. The only thing we didn't see were Orca's which was a little disappointing but Northwestern Glacier which we did see was spectacular! Nobody got very sea sick and it was fantastic. That evening in Seward we visited some old stomping ground of mine at Apollo's Restaurant. (I lived and worked in Seward during the summer's of 2003 and 2004.) It was a great way to end the trip. We drove back and slept in Anchorage tht night and flew home on Friday. If anyone wants to see Alaska but do it in style, this is your trip. All four of us had a wonderful time. Pretty much all of my time in Alaska has been amazing but this trip was had the least stress, best food, and some of the most beautiful views. Cheer's to Alaska!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wasatch 100

Although I was merely pacing Wasatch this year, it was great to be part of the experience which is the Wasatch 100. I wasn't able to get to Lamb's Canyon until later than I wanted but I was able to see a great group pass through, most of them friends I've met through Runner's Corner or in the ultra world: Phil Lowry, Shane Martin, Shaun Christian, Greg Norrander, Scott Kunz, Jim Skaggs, and many others. It was fun and exciting being there.
Soon the group I would be pacing came in: Dan Mitchell, Matt Galland, and Danny Bryson. They had a solid break but soon the four of us were heading out of Lambs Canyon. By the time we got to Upper Big Water Matt was falling back. His knee was hurting something fierce but we pushed on. Desolation aid station I had a chat with him about not forgetting to eat due to the knee pain but he was falling behind fast. Dan and Danny were taking longer than needed at the aid station and they made the difficult decision to leave him. Matt unfortunately dropped at Scott's Tower. Dan and Danny however were both feeling great heading into Brighton. I was going to stop at Brighton but they both talked me into running to the finish. I was excited and grabbed everything I needed out of my car. With Matt out of the race the group dwindled and Danny took off, finishing in 28:38! Considering we left Brighton at 2:45am he must of cruised!

Dan Mitchell and I weren't slouching either. Dan really took care of himself at the aid stations and we cruised to the finish in a time of 29:26 without getting passed by a single runner from Brighton to the finish! It was an emotional experience with his whole family including his 4 kids holding signs and running the last 1/2 mile in with him. There sure is something special about running 100 miles!

For me it was a great 47 mile training run and now I'm tapering for the Bear 100 in two weeks. This new course seems exciting! Anyway, Happy Autumn Trails!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

John Muir Trail, Part 1

July 24th 2008 THE DRIVE
The trip had finally begun. After much preparation we (myself- Brian Beckstead and Golden Harper) left Orem, Utah at 7:00 am for our long awaited John Muir Trip. The drive was long and boring as we drove through the Utah/Nevada desert. It didn't get much better until the rolling hills of California and the rollercoaster road of CA-120. As we began to rise up into the Sierra's we got our first glimpse of what lay before us. Rocky, steep, and beautiful, Yosemite National Park, it was breathtaking. Merely driving through the park was an adventure.

We arrived at the wilderness permit office in Toulumne Meadows at 4:30 pm to gather updated information on the trail and pick up our wilderness permit. Although the official start of the Muir Trail is at Happy Isles, Toulumne Meadows is the first major junction. It also serves as a great place to grab some warm grub. Anyways, as we arrived so did 3 hikers whom we discovered were also fastpacking the John Muir Trail and had covered the mileage from Happy Isles so far today. They however, were taking 11 days to our 9 days. We wished them well and would expect to see them later on the trail.

After getting our permit we stashed our packs in bear boxes with the idea of hiking those first miles with no packs and accessing our gear the following day. This would have worked perfectly if not for a few problems that I will mention later. We then continued on into Yosemite Valley and the trails beginnings.
Yosemite Valley matches all the talk! Beautiful, crowded, and pesky bears. Within 30 seconds of pulling up to the backpackers camp a small brown bear ran past us followed closely by a man yelling. We chuckled until we realized that the bear had come from the direction of our future camp site. We shrugged it off and set up camp. One problem is the parking. We had to park nearly 3/4 mile our campsite. It was a pain. Anyway we went to sleep with happy dreams...until I was awakened suddenly in the middle of the night with Golden whispering in my ear about a bear being in our camp. Being half asleep I went into emergency mode claiming that we must scare it off and make noise. I did not have my glasses on and never did get a good look at the bear. Golden laughed at my safe yet semi-panic stricken response as the bear moved away harmlessly. It was the last bear we saw on the journey.

Day 1- July 25th, 2008 START YOUR ENGINES!
Woke at 5:30 am happily looking forward to the adventure that lay before us. However getting the car, stashing all smelly items in bear boxes, and finally getting to the start took quite a long time. Heck, it was a hike just to get to the start of the hike but by 7:00am we officially started the John Muir Trail!
The trail made no illusions as to what would take place. Up and up we went with throngs of over people. Most of these people were day hikers who were going up to see the waterfalls or bagging half dome. We ran most of the flat sections and much of the gradual uphill wanting to cover this first section as fast as possible, especially since we didn't packs. We didn't look at the mileage as carefully as we should have and thought we only had 22 miles to toulumne meadows so we took a water bottle and several granola bars. We failed to understand the steepness of the terrain and that toulumne meadows junction was 22 miles yet our packs were at the far end of toulumne meadows mile 26.8....turns out that it's a large meadow.

However we were still oblivious to this fact as we ascended past Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. These iconic waterfalls matched any picture I'd seen and are a wonder of nature. Soon we branched off the main river leaving the crowds far behind us and began our way to the high country. After 14 miles we had already gained an astronomical 5320 ft and were standing at sunrise meadows! A popular yet perfect place to camp we took only a moment to enjoy the view before we headed on to our goal.

Next was the Cathedral's: Cathedral Lake, Cathedral Pass, and Cathedral Peak. Named after the namesake mountain it was a gorgeous area where we decided to stop and soak our feet in the lake while we enjoyed our surroundings. The water felt amazing and as of yet we had progressed quickly with no problems. However our water was gone and we ate the last granola bar at the lake. We did have our emergency filter straws which enabled us to stay relatively hydrated.

From our break at Cathedral Lake it was all downhill but soon after starting my stomach turned south. I was no longer able to run the downhills and our progress was slowing as the temperatures were rising. Soon I was taking emergency bathroom breaks and getting worried. It took forever to arrive at the junction and when we finally did, we realized our mistake and began slugging up the trail to our packs. Toulumne meadows is a big freakin meadow.
Luckily on the highway was a burger stand and convenience store which we were overjoyed to see. However my stomach and nausea were increasing and I couldn't eat more than some french fries and ice cream. Golden who, although a bit tired, seemed to have no problem downing a burger and fries. My nausea wasn't much better and Golden soon came over looking pale as a ghost. As we talked about what was happening we realized that we hadn't planned for sodium intake on this section of the trail and we were experiencing a serious electrolyte deficiency. I went and got a large coke and a salt shaker then alternately began downing straight salt followed by a swig of coke. It was a desperate attempt to recover from our self causing malady. We went across the street and napped in the meadows hoping it was pass. Golden's problems hit a little later than mine but over the 2 hrs at the meadow he must have gone to the bathroom 4-5 times. It wasn't looking good for the remains of our journey.

Although still not fully recovered we had no choice but to keep going. Our permit required us to hike 4 miles past where we stashed our packs and we still had almost 2 miles to go to that point. We stopped and bought some chocolate milk and snacks at the convenience store before heading off. By the time we got to our packs 2 miles later we were feeling surprisingly better! We took another 30 minutes filling up our water bladders and arranging our packs but I could not believe the turn around. Although I didn't mentioned it but I was having serious doubts about our ability to keep going. I wanted to die a mere 3 hrs earlier yet here I was feeling 100% better and putting on my pack! It goes to show how important electrolytes are in long distance events. Those four miles went quickly and we set up camp just before it got dark.

Feeling increasingly confident, we drank and ate as much as possible to rejuvenate and refuel our bodies for the next day. We had travelled almost 31 miles with a scary setback. It was almost good for us because it made us more humble and pragmatic at our outlook, planning, and nutrition yet we were still on pace.

Day 2 July 26th 2008 THE BIG DAY/GARNET LAKE
Woke again at 5:30am, yet this time we were on the trail at 6:00am. We started in Lyell Canyon which has a beautiful stream running through it and a large deer population. I was surprised at how many tents we passed with people still them. Also I was shocked at how many fish were jumping in the stream. I was dying knowing how easy they looked to catch. This became an ongoing problem as the trip progressed. Lots of fish and no fishing pole.

We soon started climbing to Donahue Pass. The terrain was much different today which makes sense being that we started at 8600 ft instead 4300 ft! Lakes appeared and disappeared throughout this beautiful climb. We felt surprisingly good yet I didn't want to kill myself off today so we set a nice consistent pace up Donahue Pass. We still must have passed 40 people over this heavily used area. Most were just out for the week. Golden thought he saw his future wife on the trail but I had to drag him away claiming that she wouldn't be legal for another couple of years. She was very attractive though!

Donahue Pass was a classic Sierra pass. Blue skies, jagged peaks, hanging glaciers, and magnificent views in every direction. It was somewhat daunting looking into the distance and seeing endless mtns knowing that we had to pick our way through them over the next week at the rate of nearly 30 miles per day. However, with feeling as good as we did and a long downhill ahead, we wasted little time and off we went. The miles went quickly and soon we were at Thousand Island Lake. There was no allegorical explanation in naming this lake. It was absolutely picturesque with the clear blue water and mountains rising up at the far end of the lake. It wasn't time to stop yet but who knew it could get better. However, Garnet Lake somehow manages to trump about any view in the world!

We spent over two hours soaking up Garnet Lake. We swam out to an island, bathed, enjoyed the views, and relaxed. It was inspiring! Our confidence was up and we were feeling strong. We then did a few calculations and figured we would try to make it to Reds Meadow that night. It looked as though it would be more or less a steady downhill after an initial climb, however we discovered it was much more. Each lake was 200 ft lower than the next yet between each one was a climb and descent. Up and down we went hoping that we would get to Reds Meadow in time for a burger. We pushed hard and when we realized we had topped the last climb we decided to run.

From Gladys Lake we began a slow run but the trail was smooth and a perfect grade to start moving quick which we did. Down into Red's Meadow we ran but like our previous meadow experience, sometimes meadows are big. By the time we reached the bottom I was spent. My feet were starting to hurt and I was really tired. 32 miles will do that. We needed to get to the resort and we had only reached the ranger station. I finally forced down a bar at Golden's suggestion but the next 1 1/2 miles to the resort became known as the Red's Death March. We did however go through Devil's Postpile National Monument which was cool. Very similar to The Giant's Causeway in Ireland although this is a classic example of how Giants are far superior to the devil. It was still geologically fascinating. Soon we could smell food and found ourselves at a road intersection where several people noticed our weary features and when we asked them where the resort was they responded by saying 1/4 mile up the hill and that there was an outdoor BBQ going on. We began sprinting.

Finally we reached the resort at 7:15pm. To our dismay the BBQ had ended 15 minutes earlier and it's correlating restaurant also closed at 7. What restaurant closes at 7pm? We were devastated, however the convenient store was still open. We grabbed some soda and ice cream bars which we quickly devoured and set off to find the backpackers camp and the rumoured hot spring showers. The camp was busy and we set up camp with everyone else. (These backpacker camps are reserved for people coming, going, or passing by with a wilderness permit and are a free-for-all mess but very cool and convenient)
Just after dark we went up to the hot spring showers. They are pretty much rusty tin walls, a pipe with a nozzle in each room, an old bath tub, and absolutely no lighting. I'm pretty sure it's where horror movies got their start. The water was nice and it set us up to sleep great which was needed because I was exhausted! We had covered over 33 miles and a lot of ups and downs but it was a fantastic day which put us well ahead of schedule.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

John Muir Trail Completed!

It was conquered! The entire length of the John Muir Trail is behind me...and it was amazing! Golden Harper and I completed the official length, Yosemite Happy Isles to the top of Mt Whitney, in 8 days 5 hrs. More details to come.

I think I will give a day by day account in a two part series over the next few days. There will be pleny of pictures and even audio clips. Needless to say, we had a great time. The JMT did not disappoint with it's broad valleys, clear lakes and streams, glacial mountains, and jagged peaks. Constant inspiration and beauty, it provided amazing vistas, tough climbs, and plenty of memories. It was the trip of a lifetime!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wasatch 60 Fastpack (Muir Prep)

So in final preparation for the John Muir Trail we had a trial run. We wanted to test our gear, our fitness, and our minds. Could we really average 25 miles per day for 9 days on the Muir Trail? We decided to try 60 miles in 2 days along the Wasatch Front. Our course would consist of 27 miles of the Wasatch 100 course and then continue following the Great Western Trail around Mt Timpanogos and home.

Friday July 18th we drove up Mill Creek Canyon, mile 61.7 of the Wasatch course, to start our test. We started hiking around 8:00 am and the first few miles went quickly as we passed Dog and Desolation Lakes. Unfortunately coming down Scott's Tower the balls of my feet started really hurting. Memories of Wasatch 100 when the balls of my feet peeled off began haunting me. Once in Brighton Golden and I swapped shoes to see if that would make a difference, which it did. For some reason the stiff Montrail models (Continental Divides & Hardrocks) give me problems on the balls of my feet. I was planning on taking Hardrocks but I have now opted for the Vasque Velocity VST's which were a bit too heavy for me to run in but are softer and more flexible than it's Montrail counterparts for long distance hiking. Golden is taking the Brooks Cascadia, which worked out very well for us (Golden and I are the same size and plan on swapping shoes regularly).

After a 30 minute stop in Brighton, we filled up our water and continued up and over magnificent Catherines Pass. It was beautiful and we made great time. Our packs were around 24-25lbs which we did on purpose to mimic the maximum weight of our packs. We made it to Rock Springs, Wasatch 100 mile 87.4, around 7:00 pm where we cooked up a large dinner and had a nice long water stop. Once at Point Supreme we branched off and got on the Ridge Trail where 3 miles from Rock Springs we stopped and made camp. Our feet hurt but we had a successful day. We started later than we will on the John Muir Trail, took our time, and finished feeling relatively strong.

The next morning we awoke at 6:00 am and by 6:30 am we were hiking down the trail. A quick breakfast at 7:30 and then down into Timpanoke campground with the always inspiring Mt Timpanogos looming before us. By 9:30 we were filling our water bottles and taking a sponge bath at Timpanoke. With 21 miles to go, we still needed to virtually circumnavigating Timp. Surprisingly though, I felt better on day 2 than day 1! This was a good sign. I taped my feet and was back in the Hardrocks and we cruised! Around Timp we went following the Great Western Trail. By 12:30pm we were already at the top of Grove Canyon and soon we were in the Battle Creek Meadows. We soaked our feet in the last possible creek, which we should have also filtered some water, and headed over the saddle of Baldy. By this time the front side of Timp was hot! Those last 7-8 miles were tough as we were running low on water and the temperature was nearing 100 degrees! But it was all downhill and we walked in Golden's north Orem house at exactly 5:20pm! Aside from some sore feet, which hopefully will be resolved by these Vasques, I felt great! The total mileage from the trip was just under 60 miles.

Now instead of doing 29-30 miles per day, on the Muir Trail we will only need to average 25 miles. The elevation is a bit higher but the temperatures should be lower. There will be plenty of water as well. If my feet hold up I feel confident in our ability to finish without many problems and definitely within the time frame of 9 days. I'm excited and I better be since we leave this weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2008

John Muir Trail Preparation

Argued as the most beautiful trail in America the John Muir Trail runs from Yosemite National Park, through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and finishes atop the highest mountain on the continental United States, Mount Whitney 14,505 ft. It's length is approximately 225 miles.

Over the winter I was approached by a friend to fastpack this amazing trail in a mere 10 days. I jumped at the idea and have been preparing ever since. The original group all bailed out on me but I ended up convincing long time friend and runner Golden Harper to come and do it with me. We are now 10 days away from the trip and locking down our final preparations. We have also decided to attempt it in 9 days. Pack weight is slowly getting whittled down and we are hoping that our packs will weigh between 20-22 lbs for the majority of the trip. We will have only one resupply point at Muir Ranch which is approximately half way.

More information later to come, and no I am not a Karl Meltzer copy-cat. Remember last year I fastpacked the Uintah Highline Trail long before Karl started publicizing his AT journey, and I have been an avid backpacker most of my life. But great minds do think alike! I am hugely excited for this challenge and it should be tons of fun.

Also a huge thanks to our sponsors on this trip: GOLITE and RUNNER'S CORNER

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer Kayaking

So one of my many time consuming and expensive hobbies is whitewater kayaking. Although I don't get to go as often as I would like, I am still able to squeeze in a few nice runs now and again. Recently I went up to Sixth Water and finally got some pics! Sixth Water is actually an artificial river which diverts water from Strawberry Reservoir into Diamond Fork. It's pretty fun Kayaking and as Ryan, my buddy who ran it for the first time said, "It takes class V balls but class III skill and consequences!" For the most part it's a straightforward run with a nice causeway and a bunch of 8 to 15 foot waterfalls and absolutely awesome to run. Every time I go up there I have so much fun. What a cool place. Good luck finding it and scout first if no one in your group has run it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Logan Peak Trail Run 08

So last week I was still sick. After Squaw Peak 50 I ended up getting sick for over a week. I suspect is was from getting cold, wet, and exhausted from Squaw Peak and then going white water kayaking on back to back days in icy cold snow run-off. It sucked. Lets just say that since Squaw Peak I had run 6 times for a grand total of 50 miles. Pretty pathetic. Then in an effort to force my lazy butt back on the trails I signed up for the Logan Peak Trail Run a meager 5 days before race day. Needless to say I struggled but let me tell you that this race is a classic event that every Utah Ultrarunner should participate in.

One reason I signed up for this event was to visit my cousin's the Mechams. We rarely get up to Logan and this was a good excuse to visit family and take part in a new race. So Friday afternoon my wife and I drove on up to Logan (If you live in Davis County I am sorry because the traffic there truly sucks). Our incredible hosts hooked us up and first thing Saturday morning I was off to the event. The start was uneventful for the most part. Once the race started we all got in line behind Leland. Leland knew everyone was relying on him for pacing and course directions so he dutifully became the rabbit. The climb up Dry Canyon was brutal. My legs were more sluggish than I wanted and so I purposely went up a little slower then everyone else. I talked quite a bit with Jon Allen as we motored up the mountain. The terrain rose quickly and with it the mountain vegetation changed as well. Wildflowers, lush vegetation, aspens, and pines. It was gorgeous. Before I knew it we were at AS#1. The aid station was limited since they have to pack everything up on mules. I was in 7th place and had 4 guys directly in front of me which put me in an awkward position. I wanted to place well in this event and I made a ridiculously stupid move since I was already a ways back. After standing and watching the others fill their bottles, I got impatient waiting and decided to blow through the aid station. IT WAS SO STUPID. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

The next several miles were amazing! The trail became a rolling singletrack of near perfection. I easily caught up to the front pack which would have happened even if I had taken 30 extra seconds to fill up on water at AS#1 (I'm quite bitter at myself for this if you can't tell). Anyway this section went quickly and was wonderful. The pack was thinning out and the trail runnable. Luckily there was a small water station at mile 10 which enabled me to finally fill my water bottle. By this point the front pack was down to five and nobody wanted to make a significant move past Leland. I was feeling pretty good through this section and then AS#2 crept up on me. I was in fourth place with all three guys right in front of me and I didn't want to get back logged like I did at AS#1. I had most of my bottle still full and without thinking I blew through this station as well!! STUPID! I don't know what I was thinking but next thing I knew I was in the lead and had spiced things up a bit for us frontrunners.

The climb up Logan Peak was relentless, snowy, and/or muddy. Jon Allen and Leland responded quickly to my move and together we climbed up the mountain. Knowing my downhill abilities I let them pass me to the top but caught them on the downhill. I polished off my water and filled up once back at the aid station. However, less than a mile down the road I started cramping! It was bad too. I had felt a few twinges earlier but this hit hard. I quickly took some electrolyte caps and drank a bunch of water as I slowed down moving into 4th place. The next 5-6 miles were pretty bad. The cramps dissipated but I knew they would come back. I drank all my water to fight the onset but there were no stations and the temperature was rising. I did everything I could to stay relaxed and within range of the front runners. The trail was amazing and the views incredible as I struggled on. I passed Greg Norrander who provided all of these fantastic pictures and then stubbled upon a spring at mile 23! I quickly filled up and decided that it was now or never to make my move. Off I went drinking as much water as possible trying to catch the leaders.

Shortly thereafter I reached the final aid station, filled up my bottle, and took off. I soon caught and passed Leland as I speedily made it downhill hearing that the leader was 2 minutes ahead with less then 4 miles left. Sadly the water was too little too late and I cramped again coming to a grinding halt. It was awful. I polished off every drop of liquid and my last electrolyte pill in a desperate attempt to keep running while hobbling down the trail. Leland caught and passed me in the climax of my pain at which point I then decided that I was going to beat that old man if it took everything I had. The next few minutes were painful but that water and pill kicked in just in time. Leland and I ran the next mile together at which point I decided to take a chance and pass him. Yelling and hollering I challenged Leland to catch me and off we went. That old bugger is tough and for the last mile I kept looking over my shoulder yelling at Leland to keep moving. He would holler back that he was cramping bad. We must have been quite the sight running as hard as we could on cramping legs. With 200 yds to go I knew that the worthy running legend wouldn't catch me as I kicked it in yelling and hollering to a second place finish in a time of 4:53:38. I think I might have driven Leland too hard as he crossed the finish line 14 seconds later and colapsed due to his cramping. Check out the results here:

To be honest I had so much energy at the end of the race but my poor legs took the brunt of my stupidity with the cramping. Dehydrated with too little sodium I was a mere 2 minutes from the winner Jon Allen. Wade McFarland ran an awesome race and finished 4 minutes back from Leland in fourth place. All-in-all it was a great course and a great day. I needed to get out and push myself again and what a perfect challenge. Plus there was cash prizes! For second place I got $60 cash and a great pair of Smith sunglasses! Note to self- don't blow through 2 of 3 aid stations on a 90 degree day. It's painful. Here's to the next few weeks of early morning high altitude trailrunning. Yahoo!!! Happy trails.