Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September Snows

Well, I've been craving this day since the summer solstice and the onset of oppressive 90+ degree days that we've had. Snow has finally fallen in measurable amounts at the high elevations and I needed to go up and remind myself what it is to feel cold.

It seems that contrast is crucial in life, for without it, I think we would simply exist without fully appreciating the natural world, good food, or any other pleasurable stimulus.  With the hottest, driest summer that I remember being chased away by a flash of autumn and a preview of winter, contrast is in the air.

Chris Cawley suggested a run through yellow trees on snowy trails but wasn't able to join me. As I drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon, I exclaimed aloud to nobody in particular, how stunning the aspens are, juxtaposed against conifers, with a dusting of snow on the ground.  Feeling haggard from little sleep, my grogginess vanished as I stepped out of the car and felt rain and sleet on my face.  The ever grinning Jon Swain joined me and we were off, splashing slushy snow in search of yellow trees and snowy single track.

Here are a bunch of my favorite pictures from the afternoon:

The stylish Jon Swain

Photo by JS

Jon has never frowned in his life

Photo by JS

Photo by JS

Photo by JS

The ever sanguine Jon Swain

Photo by JS

Forests of gold

And, since there's snow on the ground, it's time to prematurely think about skiing (actually, a couple intrepid folks made turns from Guardsman pass today).  To fuel the fire, check out the new PowderWhore movie, which will be making its world premiere tomorrow night through Friday at Brewvies.   There will also be a bounteous raffle with all proceeds going to the Utah Avalanche Center.

More Fall Colors

The fine fall weather continues so I had to sneak in another quick outing.  Oddly, I had never been to the summits of Gobbler's or Raymond.  Short on time, I chose Raymond since it's triangular face holds the more interesting ski lines that need to be investigated later this winter.  From Butler Fork, the trail ascends at a moderate, mostly runnable grade until just shy of the summit proper where some easy scrambling ensues.  It's 4 miles one way and 3100 vertical to the summit and features at least one moose and calf that enjoyed blocking the trail for around 5 minutes today...keep an eye out. 

On the way up

Summit shot

Heading back down (photo by Josh Anderson)

Farther down
As a side note, there is a brilliant stand of Aspens at the base of God's Lawnmower.  Anyone know of a trail that heads up that way?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

These are the days...

As Tom Evans from "The El Cap Report" likes to say, "These are the days!"  Autumn is certainly the best season for running.  The peaking colors and crisp air have injected a substantial amount of enthusiasm back into my running and in spite of a horrendous work schedule, I have been able to sneak off into the mountains every so often.

One of my favorite runs this time of year is a lolly-pop loop starting from Mill D North to Desolation Lake, the Crest, Millcreek, Dog Lake, and back.  It's just over 13 miles and gains around 3000 vertical. The vibrant colors are just past prime at the higher elevations but are sure to be coming into form at some point along the way.
High on the Crest Trail
Also this week, Jason and I were able to find the energy and time to head up Broad's Fork where we found a variety of trees in differing stages of brilliance.  Up high, the weather agreed with the calender, and Autumn was in the air.

Jason gaining the saddle

Feeling sleep deprived and clumsy on the talus 
Really loving the movement of running with a strong fall breeze above
Jessie then got her turn to enjoy the trails and I got to take a short nature hike with Lars.  I dawdled along while I tried to explain to his young mind the changing seasons, photosynthesis, chlorophyll degradation, and the various causes for the remaining hues of red and yellow.  He yawned and acted annoyed.  Eventually after trying to eat something red that must have looked delicious but tasted terrible, he fell asleep and avoided any further teaching.

Overly excited dad and and his bored pupil
These are the days!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lone Peak FKT?

This morning I woke up at 6:45 to the babbling whimpers of my boy Lars, who himself was starting to wake up.  My alarm was set for 6:50 so I scored this one as a win.  Jessie was already at work so it was my day to take Lars to his "little school" for the morning.  Being my only day off this week, I needed a little time in the mountains before hanging with the kid for the afternoon.

Our routine is as follows:  Change the diaper, pick out an outfit that won't embarrass his mother, gather his supplies and bottles, find some food that is acceptable to both of us, play on the living room carpet for a bit, transfer all his gear and my gear to the car, transfer boy and boy's gear to his .

That accomplished, I rallied to the BCC park n ride where I picked up Layne, who was also game for a little Lone Peak TT.  This speed game is one we've enjoyed playing lately, particularly in the Wasatch as a lot of the peaks are laden with memories of previous struggles and all day epics.  It's nice to have the personal comparison as efficiency in the mountains improves.  Looking beyond self, the comparisons are not always so favorable as more and more fast runners are starting to make a habit of running up big peaks. But, as far as I can tell, there isn't a lot of documentation of this kind of stuff.  Local speedster, Jared Campbell has started to accumulate some of the faster known times on his blog where he has a page for Wasatch FKTs.  While not listed, the fastest time I knew of was by Chad Ambrose and Jared Inouye. They chose the Big Willow approach and logged a solid 2 hour and 15 minute ascent.  Because of familiarity, I chose the Jacob's Ladder trail but am interested in how all the options compare as the distance and vertical gain varies slightly.

Getting an unfortunately late start meant that we would be dealing with warm temperatures but we were both just happy to have the release of running in the mountains.  From the sign at the trailhead, our personal struggles began.  Moving at just slightly different paces, it felt like a solo effort.  I ran and hiked at an intensity that satisfied me in the moment but as the memory of that discomfort fades, seems too shallow.  I was comfortably uncomfortable all morning but that's how these events play out at times.  It's trial and error to learn one's physiology as applied to a particular course.

On the summit ridge, I glanced at my watch and saw that I had 18 minutes to finish under two hours, which had been my goal at the outset. Invigorated by the impending personal success, I felt smooth over the last section of 3rd class scrambling.  I was smearing, pulling, high stepping, and then was surrounded by just air and a dense layer of smoke from the recent forest fires.  Wild and the size of a dining room table, the summit of Lone Peak is one of my favorite places.  I nibbled Sport Beans and rationed my remaining liquid while waiting a couple minutes before cheering Layne onto his PR for the peak.

6 miles in almost 2 hours??? Not that fast.
1:51:35 had elapsed and I had a new FKT.  I'm sure others have gone faster but not cared to boast or spray it on the internet but as the name implies, an FKT is simply the best known.  An example of this is the humble Andy Anderson who ran the Grand Teton in 2004 in 3:04:xx without telling anyone.  Unknown to the world, he held the GT running record for 8 years (his unofficial record was broken by Killian Jornet but then reclaimed officially 10 days later).  Anyway, this time on Lone Peak will be easy for at least a dozen runners that I know personally, let alone all the others.  I predict that many of you will push the time under 1:40 or even 1:30!  So in that vein, here's a video challenge to a few of you by name.  I forgot the MRC crew, Lewis, GG, NFB, Big Lars, Harder, Tom D, Tom G, and a bunch more of you... sorry.

Lone Peak Time Trial from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Maybe we should set up another bandit runner race where everyone starts at the same time but from different trailheads and we converge on the summit.  It would be fun to see how that shakes out.

Enough blathering...

Lars time!

Sharply dressed baby Lars, age 9 months
Gear List:
Outdoor Research High Efficiency Series running shorts and jacket (due out spring 2013)
Nike "Richard Simmonsesque" singlet
Black Diamond Z Poles

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Space Shot Video

Here's a short video of our recent trip to Zion.  While we were hot, sweaty, and pretty miserable hanging in our harnesses, it was actually fun and the video depicts that reasonably well. Zion climbing in the summer...highly recommended!

Space Shot, Zion Nation Park from Jason Dorais on Vimeo.