3:55am – watch alarm goes off
4:00am – making coffee, eggs and toast, eating banana and slowly getting dressed…. Current temp – cold….shorts or tights, that’s the question this fine morning. I put on my shorts with warm pants over them and packed the tights just in case.
4:50am – on the road to pick up Matt and head down to the Island
6:30ish – checked in, waiver signed and we have our numbers…brrrrr…. I felt for the awesome volunteers that morning! It’s one thing to be running when it is chilly out, but to stand in place it is certainly much more difficult to keep warm.
Arriving at start, we parked and I proceeded to finish my egg sandwich, hoping that it would sit well. I made a quite trip to the bathroom before there was a line and returned to the car to stay warm. As the start time grew closer, I stripped off the warm pants, reluctantly, and made sure I had all the food in my pack that I had intended. I made the final decision to go with the shorts over the tights, and hoped it would warm up pretty quickly. I took one last trip to bathroom around 20 minutes to the start (only had one cup of coffee this morning, so race anxiety I guess). At about 10 minutes prior to race time, I mustered up the courage to leave the warm car and head over to the fire pit. It was actually quite toasty, until we were called over for the pre-race briefing. We got a quick overview of the course (none of which I was likely to remember, except for the bit about everything being well marked…..and it was!)
The rest of this adventure report will be more in mileage, because hell if I took note of the time throughout the run.
The race started with a pleasant slight downhill out of the start area along a dirt road, then took an almost 180 turn and started a mellow climb up the nearby hill. I felt great, with a good pace – not pushing too hard, but probably not as slow starting as I should have. It was wonderful to get moving and the feet warmed up quickly.
I, of course, needed to pee, but not too terrible – hoped for a bathroom at first aid station
Somewhere along this stretch, The Eagles (yes, the band…this isn’t some sort of magical play on words describing the birds) were playing behind me….Peaceful Easy Feeling, I think. Thanks Michele (Mama) Snow for the tunes. Luckily, I would get sporadic and much appreciated music breaks through the rest of the run. (On a separate note, this amazing lady – Michele - had a busted rib throughout most of the race, but still had a smile and amazing attitude every time I saw her!)
We also saw a buffalo somewhere along this stretch, just hanging out off in the distance. I thought to myself briefly, I wonder if someone road one in to the finish, would that count? Hmm…. I know, silly. Had I spotted any closer to the last stretch, I probably would have given it more serious consideration.
Elephant Head Aid station ~ 5.5 mi - First aid station (after a short climb) – I caught up with Matt here…losing layers as the temp is warming up and the sun feels nice. Happy aid station volunteers offering goods – no need just yet but appreciated them!
Somewhere around mile 11 – where I was expecting the monster climb to commence, we hit a trail section that was quite the combination of surfaces. It alternated between larger cobble (river stone-like), then what seemed like newly added gravel, and deeper gray sand. If it was a longer stretch, I probably would have cursed it, but because it kind of alternated a bit and was relatively brief, it was actually kind of nice. It seemed to work the legs differently. The scenery also didn’t suck too badly, so there was that. (For the record, if you ever have the opportunity to explore the western side of the island, jump at it. It was absolutely stunning. It seemed like we were in a different place, not Utah…for sure….and maybe not even on earth. Just spectacular.
Nine Mile Gate – this station was found at the top of the one climb I took a mental note of during my strava reviews – I knew (if I was looking at the same or similar course) that there was a helluva climb between mile 11 – 14, and it did not disappoint. I was glad to have known about it. Tried to eat a cookie (which was delicious) but could tell after the first bite it wasn’t going to sit well – didn’t finish it (but thx for the homemade cookie effort though!) – had two electrolyte capsules upon the offering of one of the volunteers – not sure if it was something I looked like I needed or just offered to everyone, but knowing that sometimes I start to cramp later in a long run, figured it wouldn’t hurt (yep, broke that cardinal rule of not trying anything new during a race….well, this time, it didn’t bite me in the ass). I can’t say for sure if they helped but I think they may have.
Onward through a flat-ish rocky section with a brief additional climb and then a nice downhill stretch. I was alone for what seemed like a while here, after Matt flew off on the downhill. (I was always happy to catch a glimpse of an arrow just to make sure I didn’t manage to wonder off track).
The last stretch was mostly flat with gradual up and down along the shoreline. For me this was probably the toughest as you could see down the shoreline for what seemed like forever…and knowing you had to travel all that way. I decided that the occasional glances to take in the gorgeous views were needed as much as burying my head down into the trail and plugging away….. letting my thoughts wander to this and that…what are the kiddos and H doing…..gosh it’s a damn nice day….what the hell am I doing….and then for long stretches, nothing at all, beyond studying the surface of the trail. I would occasionally think, man I am tired….should just walk for a bit….then (all internally, but yes, sometimes these questions are asked out loud) I would ask myself, are you hurt…I mean, yes you are sore, but are you injured….is there anything really wrong….if the answer is no, this is all in your head…just plug away. Slow down if needed, but don’t stop. It’s funny how easy it can be to talk ourselves in and out of things. I occasionally looked down at my watch to see roughly how much longer I had. I had to approximate because I knew a mile or so had been added to the race to make it longer….but I had failed to recall how long it was in the first place…….somewhere between 29 and 31ish miles I told myself. I could tell my legs were getting tired because my form was starting to lack (likely why my feet were quite sore toward the end).
North Sentry – coke, pickle, handheld water refill (thanks volunteers for topping her off for me!) I have never tried pop during a race…but coke always seem to settle my stomach during a hangover….seemed like a good idea. Again, it happened to be just that. The carbonated goodness felt good on the palate and the sugar kick may have powered me through the next three miles and on to the next and final aid station.
Lower Frary – coke, a visit with Michelle (or Mama) Snow, no water refill needed. Now, it was time to press on through the final stretch along the shoreline. I received a quick high five from a woman who was busting out a nice pace for the last stretch and just cruised right on by me. I was impressed but maintained my slow and steady.
Eventually, there was a short climb up to the road and across, and then a longer climb on a large dirt road.
Pavement, bah (whomever complained and got that added on, I definitely cursed you a few times during that final stretch). I kept reminding myself to just keep moving, look down at the ground if you need to and don’t worry about how much there still seems to be left in front of you. At this point, the course ran past the parking area and the finish line and looped back around to return to the finish in the reverse of our start. It was a welcome sight, despite the fact that we basically ran past it and looped back around to it. I am not sure if I am just a complete trail snob these days or what, but pavement just takes the wind right out of my sails, every time. I know most folks are speedy on pavement, but for me, it is the opposite.
I am sure I am forgetting something, but all in all it was an amazing day filled with beautiful trails and scenery, wonderful volunteers out there providing support, and determined fellow runners running their race and immersed in their own adventure.
Upon the finish, I was happy to be there but couldn’t help but think I could have given a little more and shaved some time. There is that ever present balance of feeling like you pushed as hard as you could without bonking or not finishing that I don’t know that I have figured out just yet.
The chili was amazing and certainly hit the spot.. I know there is history behind the medals and belt buckles but I think the finishers mug is the best.
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Pack: Nathan Vapor Shape
Sustenance: Tailwind (started the run with 400 calories worth in my handheld - tastes like a liquid version of a smartie), Kind Bars, a couple Hammer Gels, chips, pretzels, 2 electrolyte capsules, and 2 small cups of coke during the final two aid stations stops. I also started with 2L of water in my pack so I never had to worry about running out in between stations.
Buffalo run adventures website: http://www.buffalorunadventures.com
I was up at 5:30 am in anticipation of an exciting day ahead! I had checked the SNOTEL reading for Tony Grove last evening and it still showed an inch of accumulation. With that in mind, I knew there would be at least a few inches up higher and realized this could make for more of a Winter hike that a Fall run.
7:00 am - Rob and I met at Green Canyon, as planned, to drop off a vehicle and secure our final plan. With the snow in mind, we had discussed the possibility of changing our plan to an out and back from Green Canyon, however, the best adventures tend to commence with something along the lines of.....ah, what the hell. We drove to Cove, just north of Richmond and headed toward the High Creek trail head. If you haven't had the opportunity to explore this area, you should definitely check in out. It isn't that far from Logan and is absolutely beautiful.
8:30 am - Here we began our journey on foot. It was cool and a bit damp from the recent rain but still free of snow. There were a number of creek crossings at the start, the first of which, I managed to step right into ankle deep. (Yay, go me! Ha ha ....jackass) With some concern about starting such an adventure with cold wet feet, I decided I would make a call in the next few miles. As we ran, my feet warmed right up and those concerns faded (thanks awesome injinji toe socks)
We followed possible fox and deer tracks into the snow as we ascended toward High Creek Lake. High Creek Lake was beautiful and cooooold (windy). We took a few photos as I sung about tiggers being wonderful things (since their tops are made outta rubber, and their bottoms are made out of springs), and proceeded onward to the trail split for Naomi and Cherry Peak.
Quick stop at what will be now referred to as the pee tree for a picture of the sign, then the haul up to Cherry.
As we climbed to Cherry Peak, we admired how quickly the sky changed with the rapidly moving clouds and fog. We heard a series gun shots and inferred that they were practicing, a terrible shot, or there was nothing left of that deer. Upon our summit, the clouds seemed to have settled on the peak, with an eerie unknown grey-ness surrounding us. It was surprisingly still, as we paused to capture proof of our first summit of the day.
We made our way back down to the sign (and pee tree) and happily proceeded on toward Mount Naomi. I am pretty sure we encountered the deepest snow along this stretch, with a couple of sketchy sections (meaning, careful steps and no desire to go down a steep slide....forgot the sleds at home). As we crossed over the ridge line for the final approach to Naomi, we hit a patch of warm clouds/fog. It was a welcome experience, as it felt as though we ran through the Fall, straight through Winter, and were now entering a warmish bit of Spring. After a little scramble we were on the summit, taking our pictures and leaving a note for the next ascenders (what? I just wrote hello....no dirty drawings in the snow... sheesh)
The run down from Naomi was nothing short of a happy frolick through the snow, with a few pauses for pictures of the once again, ever changing sky. The sun gave the snow on the distant ridges a magical glow (that's right...magical....and I was sober). The magic took a temporary hiatus when I realized that I dropped my phone somewhere. We backtracked up trail for a while, hoping that it was somewhere visible and that the only hiker we had seen thus far had not picked it up. This will be known as Lauren's jackass moment number two of the day. (For the record, I felt pretty confident that it was a goner, tucked under a thin layer of snow and just of out sight.) With a little bit of luck (or maybe a lot), I found the phone, just the edge of it sticking out of the snow. I let out a holler of success and proceeded back down trail to find Rob.
We actually ran into quite a few more folks adventuring up trail as we made our way down to Tony Grove Lake.
Upon arriving at Tony Grove lake, we visited with a group of folks geared up for some spelunking in the nearby Polygamist Cave. We plopped down in the lake overlook, stripped off the soaked socks and shoes and aired out the toes for a few. The sun felt great but the wind was still damn cold. I was happy to throw on my down jacket and keep the core toasty while we ate and marveled on our progress, despite the elements. After sitting for a few, my legs started to charlie horse. Rob brought coconut butter so I wolfed down some of that along with my (super healthy) nutty buddy bars. Amazingly enough, the charlie horses faded quickly and we were on our way over to fill up and purify some lake water (cold fingers!) As a funny visual for all of you, that we didn't photo document, we realized that from the other side of the lake, it likely appeared that I was holding up a dromedary for Rob to pee into. We had a good laugh on that, while trying not to spill our freshly filtered water.
Onward we ventured into Tony Grove Campground looking for the section of trail that would link with the back country trail. The campground was cool and dark, making it suddenly feel much later than it was. Along the switchbacks up and out of the area, the sun managed to peak through and make the snow on the pine trees sparkle.... a little more magic for the day.
We eventually made it to what I described as "a meadow" from my somewhat recent memory's run with Matt through this area. A meadow would imply that it was somewhat flat - not so much. It was uphill all the way to the sign and would have been run-able if not for the running water through the area making it a muddy mess. We opted to jog through the sage off trail to get up to the sign where the trail splits.
We opted to experience the 7 sisters because it comes highly recommended and of course, I thought this would be an easier effort late in the day than the other avenue (staying low and just climbing near Elmer.)
Now, if you have gone running or backpacking with me, we can probably agree that my mental interpretations of elevation profiles is wack and my memory of recently traveled trails is horseshit. With this in mind, you can imagine how the 7 Sisters went - they chewed us up and spit us out on the other side. They provided us with gorgeous but brutal climbs (with lovely intermittent downhill sections, all too brief for my liking). Each time we finished one, there was another happily waiting for us (as if to say, oh.... you thought that was it, along with a clever sounding mountain chuckle....whatever that would sound like.) I had envisioned more of a rolling ridge line, with more mellow descents and ascents. Needless to say, I think we were pretty happy to finally arrive at the base of Elmer and proceed onward to Fudd, choosing to save the Elmer Summit for another day.
Reaching the sign for Beirdneau was another morale booster, reminding us that we had arrived at the last leg of our journey.
From here we had nice packed trail briefly and then proceeded to ski through the mud and slop down almost all the way to the (still running) spring. My GPS watch died somewhere along this stretch and I powered up strava on my phone. Hey, they say if it isn't on strava, it didn't happen, so.....
Phone blows up briefly with missed messages, calls, and emails.
We trucked (on tired legs) down into and through Green Canyon, passing one hiker along the way.
7-730 pm - The trail was getting darker, and here we arrive at Lauren's third and final jackass moment of the day.....leaving the headlamp behind. We were able to see just well enough to stay on trail for the first couple sections but finally opted to hop on the road and power walk it down to the car (as opposed to tripping and breaking my fall with my face). Lesson learned and appears to be one that I have to re-learn once every couple of years.
We reached car, or more accurately, Rob reached the car and I almost continued on right past her. Success! We made a few calls and let everyone know we were back to civilization, safe and sound. (Sorry Erin, Joni, mom, Nicole, and Mo for the worry...) Perhaps SPOT will send me a device to gear test for them and write a review. Eh?
We loaded up and made our way to Carl's Junior for some greasy and fast sustenance to get us through the drive back to the High Creek trail head for Rob's truck and then back home to Logan. (Had I thought ahead and brought a sleeping bag, I would have slept right there in the old Element.)
(Robert, the Bear "RawBearToe" and the Crow (due to the crow-like noises I make when almost falling . . . all the time)
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Pack: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20
Sustenance: Tailwind, Kind Bars, Honey Stinger fruit snacks, coconut butter, Nutty (buddy) bars
All Lauren's Photos from this adventure
All Robert's Photos from this adventure