Sunday, July 22, 2012

While you were sleeping...

I ran the Millcreek 50k this past weekend.  You may be thinking, "Oh, no big deal for Missy B.  She runs all the time."  But alas, this was a really big deal for me.  Several times I have backed out of this event, because the thought of running 31 miles at night was too much for me to handle.  You see, first off, I don't like moose very much whether it's day or night.  They are simply too unpredictable in their behavior.  Second, the Millcreek 50k route goes right through a lot of moose territory.  And third the event is at night.  Moose + night time running (could quite possibly) = unfriendly moose.

I talked my friend Liz into running it with me, and then at the last moment another friend, Amy (whom I ran the 22 miles from Big Mountain to Millcreek with last week) decided to run too.  As we were ascending the first 6 miles of the course, we were joined by Betsy Johnson, so we had a really great group of four badass ladies.

I didn't take a lot of photos during the race because, well to put it plainly, it was at night and it was dark.  The views of the Park City lights from the Crest Trail were really fabulous and could not be captured accurately by photography.

I really didn't think much of the animals that might be on the trail, because we were having such a great time running along.  I did spend a lot of time thinking of my stomach though, which had been doing flips and twists all day long leading up to the event.  I thought it was just nerves, but by 2am when I was halfway through the race and my stomach was still tweaking hard and starting to affect my running, I realized that maybe I had caught a stomach bug that had been going around.  Amy and her mom had it last week, and Liz was having some stomach troubles on the run as well.  There were some emergency pit-stops that were made along the way...  sorry!  But when you got to go, you got to go.

Here it is 36 hours after the event, and my stomach is still not quite right.  It's a bummer, because the rest of the event went really well.  I was pretty wide-awake the entire time, and told and listened to lots of stories with the girls.  We really had a great time.

After running the Crest Trail from Millcreek and passing Deso Lake, we put our heads down and ground up Blunder Fork to Dog Lake.  I really rallied on this and caught up to the other three, as I had hung back on the downhill from Lake Desolation for fear that I was going to fall on the water bars (my depth perception is not really very good on that section at night, I've decided).  There was an aid station set up at Dog Lake and we were joined by Amy B., Emily B., and Jeremy S.

I found myself in the lead across the Desolation trail from Dog Lake to Mill A basin, and hoped that I wasn't slowing the group down.  It's really a rough trail at that point, with lots of roots and branches and things to trip you up.  I called back to the group a few times, and was reassured that I was running a good pace, and enjoyed listening to the chatter of Amy and Jeremy behind me.

As we got to Mill A, Lizzie and I both needed a pit stop, so we slowed and let the group run past.  It was quite a change in atmosphere as things quieted down without the spirited group of runners right behind us.  Unfortunately, not having the distraction of other runners chatting, I focused in on my stomach pain as a result, and I think it's the reason why I slowed down quite a bit at this point.  I never threw up, but had a low level of nausea the entire time, and had an empty pain in my stomach that was difficult to pin down as to whether it was nausea or hunger.  Each time I ate, I got a little more nauseated, but if I didn't eat, the pain would grow as well.  It was really strange.

When we reached Baker Pass between Gobbler's Knob and Mt Raymond, Liz and Betsy had gone ahead and I hung back with Amy.  Thankfully, Amy stuck with me after my 10 minute bout of moaning due to stomach pain (sometimes it just feels better to moan out loud.  It dissipates the pain to a certain extent).  I told Amy I thought it was one of her strengths, that she doesn't let others know what is bothering her and that she might be uncomfortable.  She complimented me on my ability to be honest and verbalize my feelings.  We really do make a good running pair, the two of us!

So Lizzie and Betsy had gone ahead, and Amy and I concentrated on running a nice, moderate, comfortable pace down Bowman Fork Canyon.  We got to the turn off to Terraces and found some water jugs at the side of the trail and refilled a bit.  We didn't want to take the last of the water, because there were still some folks behind us who might need some.

The climb up Terraces trail to Elbow Fork went really easily, and seemed less steep than it usually does in the daylight hours.  We both commented on the fact that it was really warm in the canyon and on the ridge tops.  Warmer than we both would have expected.  We were both very comfortable running in shorts and short-sleeved shirts.

Greg Norrander styled us out with drinks and snacks at Elbow Fork, and even filled my handheld water bottle with ice cubes and coke.  Several minutes of sipping on the coke and my stomach felt tons better.  It really is magic for my tummy!  Amy and I averaged 13 minute miles down the Pipeline trail (from mile 20 to 25) which was really quite remarkable considering the amount of climbing and the stage in the race that it was.  When we got near Church Fork, I convinced Amy that we could get up and down Grandeur Peak in the next 2 hours (our other option was to go straight down Church Fork and end the event with a marathon finish instead of a 50k).  She took the bait, and we started up the climb.

Sunrise from Grandeur Peak

Salt Lake City sleeps below.

Delirious at mile 27, Grandeur Peak

Nice views once the sun came up.
Amy needed to stop for a snack, and my stomach was barely tolerating Honey Stinger caffeinated chews at this point, so I popped a couple of chews and told her that I was going to keep climbing.  As I neared the ridge, dawn broke, and I found myself not needing my headlamp for the first time all night.  A few runners passed me on their way down to the finish (one of whom was Lizzie, who gave me a hug as she went past ~ which helped motivate me to get to the top!), and I joked with one runner that I had timed things just right to catch sunrise on the peak.

After I summited and took photos with another runner, Jeff, I turned to descend back down the mountain to the finish.  I was wondering where Amy was and if she had maybe bailed on the climb, because she had been wanting to be back at her house at 7am to meet some other folks for a run on the Wasatch 100 course that same morning (crazy, I know!) so I was thinking she had made a phone call and was going to get picked up by her boyfriend, Bryce.

Just as I rounded the corner of the false summit, there she was with my friend Dee!  She had a smile on her face, as always, and I told her she was 5 minutes from the summit and she should go "Git it!"

I made steady pace down to the Church Fork picnic grounds, and when I hit the pavement down the Church Fork road, I wasn't even thinking of my stomach anymore.  I made it to the finish as planned, 2 hours and 5 min from the point where we had debated whether we could get up and down in two hours or not.

Amy had stopped to make a call to Bryce at the top and she came in a few minutes later.  I was really glad to see that she wasn't upset with me for misjudging the amount of time it would take her to do the last 5 or 6 miles.  I had chatted with race organizer Ken Jensen while I was waiting for Amy, and it was really nice to catch up with him after not seeing him in several years.

Amy and I went to McDonald's and got sausage McMuffin with egg value meals, and my stomach felt the best it had over the preceding 24 hours.  Strange how a gut-bomb breakfast can somehow have that comforting effect!  Amy forewent her previous plan to run the first part of the Wasatch course that morning, and fell asleep on the floor of her home for several hours.  I mustered the strength to take a shower before I went to bed for the day.

An amazing day and an amazing event.  I'm not sure if I would have been so wiped out all weekend if I hadn't had the stomach issues.  It was a pretty good exercise in perseverance, that's for sure.  I have also decided that I'm not the fastest runner out there, by any means, but it's really nice to be able to run with a friend at a moderate pace and tell stories and laugh for nearly 10 hours straight.  There was one point where Amy and I both got really quiet, but every so often I would say, "Great job, Amy!"  and she would reply with, "Hey, you too, Missy!"  and it really was just one of the nicest things I think I have ever heard in my life.

Thankfully, we didn't see any moose along the trail all night.  But we did see plenty of creepy-crawlies.  There were literally thousands of millipedes along the Terraces trail and hundreds of banana slugs in Bowman Fork.  By the time we got to Pipeline, the trail was all a-glitter with the twinkling eyes of spiders hiding in the rocks.  It was surreal.  As we turned the corner above the Millcreek Inn and the Church Fork junction, a bat flew up off of the trail and hovered above our heads, with its orange eyes glowing in the light from our headlamps.

I have had a great time eating, napping, and recuperating all weekend.  Next year, the course will reverse and it will be an "uphill year" with more elevation gain, which almost seems unfathomable.  Maybe I'll wait and do it again two years from now when it returns to the downhill direction!

While you were sleeping:
On the day (night) ~ 31 miles, 9,700ft elevation gain, 9 hours 47 minutes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Warm up for Wasatch 100

No, I'm not racing Wasatch 100 this year.  I did it last year.  After three DNFs, I finally got my belt buckle.  I don't ever want to see the last 25 of that course again unless I'm racing, and I'm not sure when I will be racing Wasatch again ~  yeah, it's that good.  That's not to say that I won't try and do 100 miles again, but maybe just not that particular 100 miles.

Needless to say after that many times out on the course I know the first 75 miles of the Wasatch course really well.  So when my friend Amy emailed me Wednesday afternoon and asked if I might want to join her on part of the course the next morning, I decided to help her out.  You see, Amy is just a little bit, uh ~ how shall I put it and be all politically correct about it?  She is map-challenged.  I think she is the type of person who can look at a map and make just about any location on said map fit where she is standing at any point in time.  But she would likely be wrong.  She did show me this sweet map-App on the iPhone (called "Peaks") which helps as a locator.  You could also use Google Earth, but if you don't have cell service, you're kind of SOL.  And a lot of the course is out of cell service.

Amy had planned to run from the Bountiful B to the Big Water trailhead in Millcreek Canyon (38 miles).  I wasn't planning on doing that much for my long run this week, but I told her that I would plan on picking her up at Big Mountain and running the rest with her (22 miles).  The pace would be conversational and easy.  We planned for a hot day.  I think we were both a bit nervous about her running the first bit on her own, but thankfully at the last moment, another friend (Steve) stepped up and decided to run the first 16 with her.  I also told her that she could call me at any point along the way and I would try and talk her through it.

As it turned out, she did call me at one point, and we had a discussion about Hardscrabble Canyon, and after figuring out that they were not actually in Hardscrabble, but that it was below them to the left, it turned out they were in the right place.

I drove up to Big Mountain at about 8:30 am, after missing my chance to shuttle up there with Amy's boyfriend Bryce (who was sick the entire day with a virus, and when I stopped by Amy's house to meet Bryce he was conked out in a febrile state and didn't hear me at the door).  Just as well, Amy's first pacer Steve took my car home to his house, which is my neighborhood and it was easy enough to get back.

So I hung out with Bryce at Big Mountain once he arrived, and once Amy and Steve got there, I surprised Amy with a fried egg sandwich and some fresh coffee (those would be the first brownie points of our day together).

We headed up the ridge towards Bald Mountain, and I kept thinking to myself that the turn-off to the west should be coming along "any minute" and it's kind of easy to miss if you are not paying attention (and we were chatting along happily, so I was thinking that the chances of missing the turn-off were actually quite high... ) but after seeing a guy running with his two standard poodles, we confirmed that the turn-off was actually a bit farther, and past Horney Toad ridge.

We found it easily and cruised along down to Alexander Spring, and I pointed out to Amy that this is where one of the aid stations on race-day is.  Then we started the endless climb up the pipeline double track.  The endless, hot climb.  Thankfully there was a bit of a breeze (as oftentimes it can be dead calm).  To say this section was hot is an understatement.  We could feel the waves of heat radiating off of the ground.  It was, in fact, one of the hottest experiences of my entire 40 years.  We had been sucking down our water steadily, and thankfully I had the foresight to call Bryce just before Alexander Springs and report that we were about halfway to Lamb's from Big Mountain, and asked him to meet us at the Lamb's Canyon exit with cold drinks, ice, and snacks.  All I could think about for the entire section was how good my ice-cold Coke was going to taste.  I think it's what got me through.

It was so hot in this 4-mile section that we almost didn't even talk about the heat for fear that it would make us want to give up.  Instead, I told stories of my recent trip to Scotland and of Wasatch races past, and I don't know what all else.  Suffice it to say that when I have a captive audience, I come up with a lot of witty babble that makes the time and the miles go by more quickly.  (Not once was I asked to be quiet, and that is my evidence attesting to the fact that my stories were much appreciated!)

We got to the land-bridge just before the trail parallels I-80 and gave Bryce the "heads up" call that we were getting close.  He wasn't quite at the underpass when we got there, so we sucked down the last few drops of our water and waited patiently in the shade while semi-trucks rumbled over our heads on the bridge above (freaky).  But at least we were in the shade now instead of the full sun, and it was probably about 10 degrees cooler there.  Right on schedule, we made it from Big Mountain to Lamb's in exactly 4 hours.

Bryce came and surprised us with club-soda, Pearson's Nut Rolls, Salsa Sun Chips, lots of ice (lots), and best of all (for me) Coke!  Oh, it tasted so good.  I filled up my hand-held water bottle with ice cubes and coke, filled up the other water bottle with club soda and ice, filled my water bladder with ice and water... ooh, sweet ice!  I scarfed down about a quarter of the bag of Sun Chips and after 15 minutes or so, we decided we had better get moseying up the Lamb's Canyon road.

There is a God in Heaven who blessed us with some clouds that built steadily as we climbed up out of Lamb's Canyon to Bare-Ass Pass.  We stopped about halfway up to take a snack break, and I was stopped on a nice flat section of trail.  I asked Amy to come around the switchback that she was on because it was a really nice place to stand.  We ate our snacks for about 5 minutes and then Amy looked over my shoulder and said, "Oh, my Gosh.  Turn around.  There's a mother moose and her baby right behind you."  And sure enough, about 50 yards away stood a mother moose, looking right at us, munching on some leaves.  Her baby was a softer shade of brown and was nuzzled right under her chest.  What a magical moment.  We quietly crept up the trail and hoped that mother moose would not find us threatening, as we didn't really have the energy to be chased by a moose at that point.

We continued up the trail and almost without even realizing what was happening, we became increasingly aware of the plethora of butterflies in the flowers on the sides of the trail.  Talk about magical moments!  There were hundreds if not thousands of them.  We didn't take many pictures along the day, but we did stop to take photos of the butterflies.  It was awe-inspiring and incredible.  We couldn't believe our eyes.

We got to the top of Lamb's Canyon at one and a half hours, and only had about one and a half hours to go!  (Just as I predicted!)  I love that section of the trail when you top out at Lamb's and see the Salt Lake Valley below.  You run down through the aspens and into the cooler air of Millcreek.

Before long we were at Elbow Fork at the Millcreek Road.  We had mentioned in passing to Bryce that "when we walk up the Millcreek Road... " and he replied with, "What?  You're not going to run up it?"  and we looked at him with dull stares.  As it turned out, we did run a little bit of the road up to the Big Water trailhead, but mostly we speed walked it.  I looked down at my pace clock on my watch a couple of times, and we were walking 4 miles per hour.  I was pretty impressed with us for walking that fast after so long and hot of a day!

We passed some road bikers on the road who were debating quitting before the end, and Amy shouted some encouragement to them.  I told them how far Amy and I had come today (38 and 22 miles, respectively) and they looked at us like we were, oh, I don't even know what.  It's almost like it didn't even register to them what we were doing.

We reached the end of the road, literally, at the Big Water trailhead.  Bryce was not there to meet us to pick us up yet, so after congratulating each other, Amy said, "Well, should we start walking down?"  Amazing.  Here she is, after 38 miles and she wants to keep going.  I have got to tell you, I was really impressed.  She didn't complain about aches and pains or being tired or anything the entire way.

Bryce came hauling up the road and we waved him down and quickly jumped in the car, because there was another car hot on his tail trying to get (too) quickly up the canyon.  Bryce drove us back down and after dropping him off to get some much needed rest (he really was looking pretty sick, and we were so lucky to have him helping us out even though he felt awful) we went to Este Pizza in Sugarhouse for some slices.

We sat inside in the cool air conditioning and complemented each other on our badassery.  What amazing girls we are.  What an amazing place we live in, and what an amazing community of runners in this town that, as Amy pointed out, we can email someone the night before a big run, and not one, but two people step up to come along for the run.

Warm up for Wasatch ~ the fun has only just begun.

On the day (for me) 6 hours 51 min, 22 miles, 5500 feet elevation gain.
On the day (for Amy) ~12 hours, 38 miles, and a lot more gain.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thanks Scotland, now I'll take a side of Germany ~

My Scottish West Highland Way adventure turned out to be a grand success.  I think the trip would not have gone so smoothly if it hadn't been for Davie, who was my taxi service to and from the airport, my chef, my butler (although he made me carry my own bags), and an all-around good friend.   Several times during the trip, we came back to the flat and he would ask me if I wanted a cup of tea and a scone.  That was one of my favorite parts of the trip... eating scones and drinking tea in Davie's kitchen.

We awoke early the next day after bagging the Bouchaille Etive Mor peak to head to the airport.  I had to be there at like 5:30 am, which I was not very fond of, but I would be traveling to Germany which required the 2 hour international advanced-check-in.  The ladies at the KLM desk were really nice.  I ascended the escalators thinking that I was going to security, but made a wrong turn and ended up doing a lap through the food court.  The looks and smell of the food after drinking ale and scotch the night before really turned my stomach.

I turned around and went through security, then did the mile-long walk to the gate.  I stopped and got a cup of coffee at one of the airport pubs and was amazed to find men lined up drinking pints of beer at 7am.  Eye-opener anyone?  Not for me.

The good stuff.
I connected from Glasgow through Schiphol, Amsterdam.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to get anything to eat or drink (as I had planned) at the airport, because I had a very short layover.

It felt good to touch down in Munich, and know that I was only a short 2 hour train ride from our town of Kochel am See.  I felt even better when my bag came off the luggage belt, given my short layover in Amsterdam.  I stopped at the train ticket Automat and purchased my ticket, then rode the subway train (S-Bahn) for the first leg, and sat next to some really nice Americans~ the woman was a retired flight attendant, and she was traveling with her brother.  They had flown stand-by and their bags were held up in Augsburg, so they had made the trip to the Munich airport to see if the bags had arrived:  they had not.  They were planning on going shopping.

Just as we were approaching the Munich main train station (Hauptbahnhof) the train police boarded our car (or the Gestapo, as my sister-in-law likes to call them ~ they are truly scary, some of them).  And these two lived up to the reputation.  The cop looked at the American woman and said (in German), "Can you read?"  Apparently, she had gone to a self-serve ticket station and had time-stamped the wrong end of her ticket.  I translated for her.  Her face turned bright red, and she just looked at the cop and said (in English), "Yes.  I can read English."  The cop shook his head and said (in German), "Next time, it's an 80 Euro fine if I catch you again."  What an ass.

Raindrops on the train window ~ Bavaria.
Poor woman was mortified when I translated for her.  That's no way to treat someone who is a visitor in your country (or anyone, for that matter).  The majority of Germans realize that it is foreign tourists who bring tons of money into the country, as a major industry in Germany is tourism.  The nicer you are, the more likely someone is going to come back.  This cop seemed to be really having a very bad day.

I made a quick transfer to the regional train (Regio-Bahn) at the Hauptbahnhof and was relieved to be in the last stage of my journey.  I had about 2 minutes to grab a salami sandwich at the kiosk, and quickly wolfed it down.  When I got on the train,  I recalled the movie with Steve Martin and John Candy called "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" and had a bit of a chuckle to myself.  I had been traveling all day, by all modes of transport and felt a little haggard.

The train was full of a youth group who was going to a town just north of where I would be going (Benediktbeuern) and they were going to stay in the youth hostel.  I sat next to the youth group advisors and had a nice chat with them and told them about my recent trip to Scotland.  By the looks of their pre-teen  group, they were going to have their hands full for the next few days.

A room with a view ~ Erlengrund, Kochel am See.
As I approached Kochel, it began to rain.  All of that sunshine in Scotland and now I had finally found the rain.  It felt pretty good, actually, and had a calming effect on me :)  I was also happy to find out that the Regio-Bahn is now running direct to Kochel, instead of requiring (yet another) transfer at a station 30 minutes north of town.  I called our friends in town so that someone could pick me up.  Our friend Jan Jr. got me at the train station and took me straight to the house.  I was ready for a nap.  His parents had invited me to dinner that night, and I wanted to get a shower and a nap in.

On the day ~ three countries, traveling by car, airplane, and train.  ~10 hours and very little to eat or drink.  I was so happy to sit down to Bavarian brotzeit in the evening and was looking forward to relaxing at the house and eating well over the next few days.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Old Gabe 50k

I'm going to take a break in telling my tales of my European adventure to tell you about a lesser-known 50 kilometer race that I ran in Bozeman, Montana a couple of weeks ago ~ the Old Gabe 50k.

I've been wanting to get back up to Bozeman for a while (I hadn't visited in a couple of years) to visit a good friend of mine, Emily or "M" as we all like to call her.  I knew that it would be a good opportunity for me and the dogs to do a great long-weekend road trip, because while I would be running my event, M would be entertaining the dogs (Thank You!).

It didn't really register in my thoughts how steep or difficult this race would be when I signed up.  Over 31 miles in the Bridger mountain range, we would ascend (and descend) nearly 11,000 vertical feet.  The course is a double out-and-back course, meaning you go out over one pass for about 7.5 miles, hit an aid station, then double back over the same trail to the main start-finish point.  This is where the 25k racers finish, and where most of the 50k racers have to talk themselves into going out for the second half of the race.  The second out-and-back is a little less vertical, but not much easier, and again you go up and over a pass, down to an aid station, and double back over that pass to the finish.

The views were fabulous and the people were fantastic.  To give you an idea of how friendly this race was, about 18 miles into it, when I still had about 3 hours left to go, I started thinking to myself, "Hmm.  I've been out here for about 6 and a half hours now.  I should be seeing the runners coming back to the finish pretty soon."  And just then, I saw a guy coming down the trail through the woods.  The trail was very narrow with a steep drop off to the side, and even though trail etiquette says that the uphill hiker has the right of way, race etiquette says the faster runner has the right of way.
Ants marching through one of the first
meadows in Middle Cottonwood (mile 2).

Looking up at the first headwall ~ Saddle Pass (mile 3.5).
Looking back towards Middle Cottonwood
from where we started (mile 3).
The second headwall, the first time over the pass
(across the Bostwicks) (mile 4).
So I shimmied over to the side of the trail, hugging the embankment and said some words of encouragement to the runner who would soon win the race.  He replied, "Hey, you too!  Great job out here!"  Huh?  I thought to myself, here I am with nearly 3 hours left to go and this guy who is going to win is telling little old me that I'm doing a great job?  Sweet.  In fact, most of the rest of the racers said similar words of encouragement.  Because the race is a double out-and-back, we saw each other on the course many times and it was really cool to be running alone yet know that there was someone out there who seemed to be pulling for you to have a strong finish.

The first pass had a north-facing snowfield on the far side, and was so slick and iced-over that my shoes would not hold.  I slid down it on my butt.  At the edge of the snowfield, the melting water had turned the ground to slicker-than-snot mud and as I slipped and slid (and fell) down the hill, I wondered to myself how I would get back up it on the return to the pass.  (As it turned out, I ended up walking a rivulet of water as it came down from the snowfield which had washed most of the slick mud away and was down to the mineral rock bed.  When I got to the snowfield, I skirted along its edge and only had about a 6 foot wide section to traverse up at the top.  Thankfully my shoes held, because if I had slipped I would have slid 500 feet down the snowfield and would have had to climb up it a second time.)
Looking up to Saddle Pass snowfield from a meadow
down in Truman Fork (mile 9).

Looking back on Truman Fork, headed for
the climb up the snowfield at Saddle Pass (mile 11).
The aid station crews were fabulous, and there was even a water stop on the last pass that the volunteers had hauled up gallon jugs so that we would have something to whet our whistles until the next stop (or finish).  It got pretty hot down in the valleys (90 degrees is pretty hot for Bozeman, but I reminded the volunteers that I was from Utah, so it actually was quite pleasant compared to our upper 90 degree temps of late).

At the halfway point, I had a hankering for a handful of meat, and that's exactly what I asked the aid station volunteer for.  "Why yes, we actually have a bunch of lunchmeat right here in the cooler.  Do you want some ham?"  Oh, sweet Jesus did I ever want a handful of ham.  I was complimented on my style by another one of the racers, saying that he thought my parents had done a fine job raising me.  I even attracted the attention of a yellow lab who caught the whiff of ham still on my fingertips, and was inclined to follow me up the mountain for a ways until I called down the trail and asked his owners to round him up (they did, and he left me alone).
Views of the Gallatin Valley and Bozeman below (mile 20).
Second to last climb up an incredible ridge with a
beautiful breeze blowing and a water stop at the top (mile 25).
This is what I looked like at mile 27.
In my opinion ~ not good (Haha!).  I think my face
looks very puffy but in my defense, I had
just summited the last climb of the race.
After the race, which lasted 9 and a half hours for me (the winners did it in around 7 hours for the men, 7 and a half for the women) we had pizza and local beer on tap in the park.  Ahh, Montana.  One of the many reasons I love it there.  I continued my good luck with event raffles by winning a subscription to Trail Runner magazine, the last drawing of the evening.

On the day ~ 30.9 miles, 9hr 32min, 10,655 ft

To emphasize the difficulty of this race, my 50k race in February in Scottsdale, Arizona which was considered a flat course with only 1,530 ft of vertical, took me 5hr 44min (nearly 4 hours faster).  Despite the difficulty of the Old Gabe 50k, which is named after Jim Bridger and takes place in the Bridger mountains, I think I would do it again.  It was such a low-key, friendly, small-town event and everyone participating should have been there (there was not one racer who looked like they were out of their element, despite the difficulty).  The race director and his volunteers were top notch and styled all finishers out with a tech t-shirt and a pint glass, not to mention the beers and pizza in the park afterwards.  Winners got hand-thrown pottery bowls.  I highly recommend this event to anyone who is brave enough to try it.

Happy to be out of the car on Forest Road 056! 
Dogs take a break on the pass above Henry's Lake.
Bing, Bang, Boom ~ Birdie, Artie, and Frank (l to r).
Happy dogs on the trail.
Me in my sweet new VFW trucker hat that M gifted me.
The dogs had a fantastic time in Montana as well ~ M took them on a super hike which topped out at a high alpine lake and they got to go swimming for a good amount of time.  They were pooped when they got home.  We also found a sweet forest road (FS 056) in Idaho just south of the Montana state line and just north of Henry's Lake, which we ran on (and walked on the day after the race), giving us a chance to stretch our legs.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scotland Part Seven ~ Munro Baggin

Well I had finished the West Highland Way and my intention was to go back to Glasgow and have a nice relaxing rest.  I would be headed to Germany for a week of relaxation and good food and coffee and was really looking forward to it.

But I wasn't quite through with Scotland yet.  Davie, who had picked me up in Ft William the day before had over-nighted at a hostel at the edge of town and I at my less than comfortable hotel (the Guisachan ~ if you can help it, don't ever stay there.  The double rooms might have been fine, but as you might recall, I was stuck in a broom closet near the fire escape.  Although I will admit, the breakfast was very tasty and the staff was nice enough to even bring me some towels, which they had forgotten to put in the room, when I asked for them).

I was looking forward to the drive back down along the A82 and reminiscing about the places I had seen over the last few days on foot.  Davie, however, wanted to go hiking.

So as we passed through the area of Glencoe (or "the Glen") and looked at the peaks, I kept saying to Davie, "Well, I guess I could get out and stretch my legs for a bit."  I was looking at the peaks and thinking to myself that none of them would be an easy jaunt.  We filled up our water at the local climbers lodge and changed into hiking clothes.  We proceeded down the highway and stopped not at the area where I had first scoped out a possible hike (I think the presence of the bagpiper drove Davie away from this location), but rather to the peak that I swore I would not climb.
Bouchaille Etive Mor (the Great Heardsman)
and Stob Dearg (Peak on Left)
Back on Day 4, as I climbed up the Devils Staircase, I had looked across the valley and seen a huge peak and ants marching in a line up to the top (people).  It seemed to be a very busy, popular peak and did not look easy by any means.

But when Davie and I started out up the steep trail I somehow found my legs and my strength.  The large stones in the trail were like stone steps:  very consistent hiking and I soon found a nice groove.  All my complaining about how tired my legs were after completing the 100 miles of the West Highland Way in the last 5 days seemed like sandbagging ~ I dusted Davie to the pass.

At the pass.
Views to the southeast from the pass, Glen Etive lies below.
Self portrait on the pass.
Views to the north from the pass ~ the Devils Staircase
and Ben Nevis clearly visible in the distance (center, left)
When I got to the pass, I set the camera out for a few timer shots, and took a few headshots as well.  I started looking up to the peak and guestimated that it would probably only take another 20 minutes or so to get to the top.  I waited for Davie to catch up, and he gave me a bit of a hard time (well-deserved, I assure you), for leaving him down on the trail.

View of Stob Dearg Peak from the pass.
After a snack, we finished the last bit of climb, which was probably only about 15 minutes because for some crazy reason I felt like I could actually run part of it!  Haha.  I had totally found my strength.

View of the Rannoch Moor from the peak.
Davie and I arrived at the peak and visited with some of the folks on the top.  A couple of guys from England took our photo together.  I can assure you that although Davie may look as though he is scowling, he is smiling on the inside.  It was an absolutely gorgeous view all around, and he pointed out a lot of the peaks and surrounding geologic markers.

View out to the west, past Glencoe in the gap is the sea.
The darkened hill in the middle I believe is Bouchaille Etive Beag ~
the Little Shepherd.
Another view off to the north.
Me and Davie at the peak.
We cruised back down to the car together, and had pretty smooth driving until we hit the outskirts of Glasgow which is not surprising for a Monday at rush hour.

We stopped at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel on the way back and I got a piece of cake and a coffee and I think Davie got a Shandy (never did Davie drink so many Shandies as when he traveled with me, I think... ).  It was a nice little pick-me-up treat that held me over until dinner (anticipating with apprehension).
Bridge of Orchy Hotel where we stopped for refreshments.
Davie fed me some scotch whiskey before bed which I will admit made me feel a bit ill the next morning, but I can't imagine turning it down as it was a celebratory drink after a fine day in the Scottish hills.

Off to bed at a decent hour... because I would be traveling to Germany in the morning.

On the day ~ Bagged Munro Stob Dearg via Bouchaille Etive Mor (the Great Herdsman).  4.75 miles, 2,500 ft elevation gain, moving time 2hr 25 min (elapsed time nearly 4 hours to enjoy the views).  Amazing day.  Looking up the wiki on the peak, it is quite famous and I feel fortunate that Davie talked me into having the energy to climb it.