Sunday, October 23, 2011

Idaho Birthday Run

A couple of days after my 40th birthday, my friend Sue and I went up to Southeastern Idaho to do a birthday run.  The plan was to do a run somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles.  After talking with my friend Luke, he suggested the Portneuf Boundary trail in Idaho, just south of Pocatello.

Sue and I took off Friday afternoon (with Frank and Artie) after I finished work and stayed at the Best Western (which allows dogs).  I was super-excited driving up to Idaho on Friday afternoon, and felt like I could not contain my excitement for the run the following morning.

Saturday morning we woke up at o-dark-thirty, and set off for the trailhead.  The dogs looked like they were still half-asleep when we asked them to eat their breakfast at 4:30.  Loaded up in the car, we set off for the town of Inkom, where my brother and sister-in-law live.  The dogs got dropped off here, and were excited to stay with their cousins for the day.  Contrary to warnings from my cousin Nikki in Michigan, her dog Scout (a border collie, whom Stefan and Abigail adopted a few months ago) was pleasant and playful with his fluffy-bun, muffin-dog cousins.

Just up the hill from Inkom is Pebble Creek ski area, where we parked the car.  We were off and running (although slowly, in the dark... ) shortly before 6am.  A couple of miles along the trail, we encountered some lights shining into the aspens:  deer hunters spotting in the early morning hours.  We smiled and waved, and wondered if they thought to themselves, "Did we just see that?  Two women in skirts running down the trail in the dark?"

We took in the early morning views from the Boundary trail, headed south towards McCammon, and I was surprised by the depth of side canyons along the route.  Robber's Roost canyon was especially spectacular, and the views just south of it from the overlook were amazing.

We passed a couple of hunters on ATVs just before Harkness canyon, and despite having explicit directions from Luke, still managed to get a bit off-track.  We found the trail again, about 1/4 mile down the canyon (after visiting the "No Trespassing" gate at the top of the canyon) and were again on our way.  The toughest climb of the morning was then in front of us and I felt as though I had no power at all in my legs.  I tried to let the cliffs above Harkness Canyon inspire me, and the fall colors down below, but the gorgeous scenery was just not enough to get my legs moving at the rate I wanted them to.  I had a slight mental breakdown, and admitted my lack of energy and bad attitude to Sue.  Just verbalizing how I felt (crappy) seemed to help me through the next part of the run, and I actually started to feel a little bit better.

From here towards Bob Smith Canyon, the trail became a bit more gradual, and rolled along nicely with a downward trend.  We were passed by a group of 4 motorcyclists, who were quite congenial and surprised to see a couple of women running in the middle of nowhere.  All four of them waved and said hello.  When Sue and I reached Bob Smith Canyon, we decided to refill our water at the creek: because it was running, and because we had been warned by Luke that there wasn't a lot of water in the next section of trail.

Despite the warning and the refill, I ran out of water several miles later.  We were just more than half-way through our run, at about mile 21, at the base of the next big climb.  I went for about 5 miles without water, until we reached a road and creek crossing somewhere on the eastern slope of the Portneufs.  I refilled my water, but still had to wait 30 minutes for the iodine to work to treat it, and that was a very long 30 minutes.

Before long we were at the Big Spring-Pebble campground and were hoping to find filtered Forest Service water taps.  Unfortunately, they had been turned off for the winter.  We were forced to filter water from the creek, and I was very skeptical that it would be clean enough to drink, after seeing the cow-pies in and around the point of access.  The iodine worked, though, and I never got sick (thankfully).  We saw several more motorcyclists, who all waved, and a couple of middle-aged men whom I consulted with about directions to Inkom Pass.  "Well, you're headed to the ski area?  That's probably 10 miles away from here!"  I pointed out to him that we had already come nearly 30 miles today, and that we were 3/4 finished with our run, so another 10 miles would actually be most-likely easily achieved.

One more long and steady hill of about 4 miles, and we made it to the top of the pass.  Looking at the descent down into Jackson Creek and the I-15 corridor, I finally got some energy in my legs.  I knew we were almost done, and probably had less than 5 miles to go at this point.  Sue, on the other hand, would feel her injured left hip on the descent, bringing tears to her eyes.  She caught me again when the terrain leveled out and became more rolling.  We passed a couple of creeks, one being Green Canyon, and I was relieved to see the ski run just in front of us.

We finished the run with enough daylight to eat Pringles and salami at the car, and drove down-canyon to pick up the dogs at my brother's house.  Sue drank a Fat Tire and I enjoyed some Perrier.  I was tired, but not wiped out, and relieved to finish 38 miles with 10,000 ft of climbing in under 12 hours with my good friend.  I thought about running two more miles down the canyon road to make it an even 40 miles for my 40 years, but decided it was close enough, and I would run 2 more miles in my dreams that night instead.  We socialized with Stefan and Abigail for a few minutes, and I got to open some birthday presents:  new Bose earbuds that will be used often and enthusiastically, and nearly 3 pounds of maple sandwich cookies, along with two 12-packs of Fat Tire.  My family knows me all too well!

What an awesome birthday.  I could not ask for anything more.  Good friends, loving family, time in the mountains, and good health.  Here's to another trip around the sun.
sunrise from the Boundary Trail
looking south towards Lava Hot Springs
Sue slays the Harkness climb
Harkness Canyon cliffs
nice descent towards Lava after the killer Harkness climb
me, halfway up the Harkness climb, with Old Tom in the background
getting inspired by the fall colors
Sue sporting her hunter orange ~ safety first!
somewhere on the east slope of the Portneufs
consulting the map on the backside of Haystack Mountain
Inkom Pass, and almost home
heading off toward Jackson Creek from Inkom Pass
finished! 38 miles, 10,000 ft of climb

Monday, October 10, 2011

Elizabeth Smart Canyon

Each time I go up this canyon, which is not very often but nonetheless I typically end up here once or twice a year, I am struck by several things.  First, the remoteness of it, even though the entrance to it lies just feet from a busy metropolitan trail where thousands of people travel each week by bike and on foot.

The second thing that strikes me is the steepness of it.  Just a mile beyond the rolling, easy going Shoreline trail of the Wasatch Front are hills so steep that they will tie your calves in knots and create a heady dizziness that makes you believe you will pass out.

Third, which goes along with the remoteness and the steepness of the area, is the fact that a local teenager was abducted and brought to this place several years ago.  She was dressed in nothing but her pajamas, and trod the sharp rocks, thistles, and sage in her bare feet.  For weeks, if not months, she was forced to "live" with a scary crazy man and his "wife", just minutes from the comfort of her home, family, and friends, yet no one knew where she was or even if she was still alive.  


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mount Wire

Last year at about this time, I climbed Mt Wire, on the edge of Salt Lake City's foothill mountains, on my birthday.  It was a bittersweet day, filled with smiles and hope on the one hand, and a growing realization on the other hand that I would soon be an orphan.

My dad was in the hospital in Germany, and I knew it was the beginning of the end.  I climbed Mt Wire on that day to show myself that I had the physical strength to endure a challenge and that this strength would translate to the mental clarity and strength that would be needed to deal with the situation that would soon present itself.

I am still dealing with the after-effects of that day, though one year later.  My family has been faced with so many challenges, yet none of those challenges seem out of reach.

Last year was brilliant sunshine up on the hill.  This year, the winter's first snow dusted the peaks and the charred remainder of a summer wildfire was evidenced.  Fresh oak brush sprouts up through the charred remains of old skeleton branches and promises resilience.  The fresh snow in the surrounding peaks looks clean and fresh.

With another year come new challenges.  With another year comes the strength to endure.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

drive time clears my head

It's getting harder and harder for me to motivate to run these days.  I'm blaming it on a combination of Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I'm not sure that I technically have, but the days are getting shorter and cooler, the nights are colder, and the first major snowstorm hit the Wasatch Front today) and post-race let down, after doing the Wasatch 100 (and finishing!).  I don't have a lot of goals that I'm reaching for, so staying on a weekly program has been difficult.  I find myself opting for drinking coffee and eating cookies instead of meandering on the trails.

I do have a 40-miler planned for my birthday in about a week and a half (a mile for each year), and I'm also reminded that this time of year, if I do a lengthy run, there will be a significant amount of running in the dark with headlamps involved.  It's been tough to stay motivated to train leading up to this 40-miler, even though it is on a route that I'm actually really quite anxiously anticipating.  I put off my training runs, though, and hope that my base from this summer's training will hold strong.

Today I put off my interval run, partly because of my mood, and partly because it was 40 degrees and raining steadily outside.  I did motivate to clean out the gutters on the front porch, so hopefully some of the basement-leakage issues from overflowing gutters will be lessened (or resolved).  I thought about turning on the treadmill and putting a movie on the computer, but just couldn't motivate myself to do it.  I did a couple of on-line Continuing Medical Education modules, and by 3pm I found myself restless and needing to get out of the house.

Thanks to Frau Holda, the White Lady of Winter (my Subaru wagon) for getting me and the dogs out of the house today.  I needed some sort of inspiration, and the hills of the West Desert gave me a little.  The Oquirrhs and Stansbury Ranges are dusted with snow, the light was filtering onto the golden grasses and blooming sagebrush of the desert floor, and through the dark intermittent storm clouds poked rays of brilliant sunshine and blue skies.  All of this reflected off of the still water of the Great Salt Lake and standing water of the surrounding wetlands. 

Even though I didn't get any exercise today, my mind was uplifted and my energy was a bit renewed.  We'll see what the weekend weather outlook provides, and maybe I will be able to get out with the dogs.  I'm going to let the muddy trails dry out a bit first though, and until then I will just enjoy the view.