Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Running the Touchstone Alice/Toxaway Loop in the Sawtooth Mountains

Twin Lakes from Snowyside Pass
It was in September of 2008 and shortly after my humbling DNF at the Grand Teton 50 (or Teton 45, as it is now indelibly and often referred to) that I first ran the Alice/Toxaway Lakes loop in the Sawtooth Mountains.  With a sense of urgency, Brad Mitchell, AJW, and I had wanted to get together for a long run in the high country before the passes were shut down with early season snow.  

On AJW's suggestion, we settled on Alice/Toxaway, and since that chance introduction it's become one of my touchstone runs.  It's not the longest loop (19.4 miles) nor one with the most vert (3,200 ft), but it's filled with ample rewards:  the rock-hewn notch at Snowyside pass; stunning views of alpine lakes large and small; and technical trail that makes for a wonderfully challenging morning no matter how good you're feeling. In a word - perfect.

I try to run it at least once a year, and if a season goes by when I don't fit it in - because of injury or weather or harried family life -  I feel like I've left a birthday present unwrapped.  So when things fell into place this past weekend for a solo outing around the loop, all felt right with the world. 

On the 2008 inaugural with Brad and AJW, we did, in fact, hit snow going up and over Snowyside pass - not much, just enough to chill the feet and put an edge on things. But this past Sunday, the weather was stunning - a warm, crystalline day - and every step a gift.

Route notes:  The Alice/Toxaway Lakes loop starts at Pettit Lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, near Stanley, Idaho, about 45 minute's drive from Sun Valley.  The loop is best run counterclockwise - first passing Toxaway Lake, up and over Snowyside Pass, past Twin Lakes, and then Alice Lake.  Strava details: http://www.strava.com/activities/191349100.


Alice Lake
Alice Lake


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

With Fall (and Potentially Snow) in the Air, a Trip Up to Hyndman Peak


With snow having dumped once already this summer in the high peaks and basins, it seemed that if I were going to fit in Hydnman Peak this season (elev 12,008 ft), it needed to happen sooner rather than later.  So when the opportunity opened up Labor Day morning, I packed my Houdini, a PB and Nutella, and SteriPen, and headed for the trailhead.

Though the outing isn't epic in distance - or vert, for that matter - it's a stout trip, regardless.  In about 6.5 miles, you gain 5,000 feet, and while the first 3 miles are easy-grade and runnable, the rest is an on-and-off hike/jog with the last half mile a pure talus scramble (class 2) to the narrow peak.  Then, of course, you come down.

For the trail runner looking to season the quads, nab some good vert at altitude, and just do something a bit different, Hyndman is perfect.  And at the end, you can pat yourself lightly on the back.

Until, that is, you remember that just two weeks ago, Luke Nelson and Jared Campbell tackled Hyndman at 1:00am using the much more technical Wildhorse Creek approach on their way to setting a heroic FKT for summitting all nine of Idaho's 12ers in a single go.

Oh, well.  It was a beautiful day, just the same.


Friday, August 29, 2014

A Meditation on Filling Bottles (20-second Video)

We all have our special spots in the backcountry.  Those places that speak to us at some elemental level, and though we may not fully understand why the place is so special to us, we simply know - simply feel - that it is.  

This little pool on the North Fork of Hyndman Creek is one such place to me.  There are thousands just like it throughout the Valley, but to me it is singular.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Looking Ahead to the Summer Solstice at the River of No Return 100k

While not quite drunk with success from my outing at the Red Hot 55k - given the slow time and low placing - I did come home from Moab feeling buoyed.  Running's been tough the past number of seasons with injury after injury, and I came away from Red Hot feeling some possibility of a more normal season in 2014.  Exactly what that means will become clear over the next couple of months, but I haven't let that stop me from making some solid plans for the summer.

Having lived in Idaho for over eight years now, I've always wanted to make a summer trip to run in some of the remotest parts of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, but its foreignness, vastness, and pure wildness has always intimidated me a bit.  And that is the likely reason both for the draw the area has on me, and for my putting off visiting it.

But, with my legs feeling good and fitness coming around (however slowly), I took the plunge and signed on the dotted line for one of the few remaining spots in the June 21 River of No Return 100k (RONR).  Sporting 16,000 feet of vert, 2 high passes, and a stacked women's field with the likes of Trason, Vaught, and Ortiz, it'll be a stout affair and no doubt right on my edge of fitness - even if training goes well.

But I'm excited to challenge myself again at the longer distances. While I've been able to do some shorter ultras over the last couple seasons, it's the longer races that really ground me and that put me in touch with my elemental self - a feeling and experience I've very much missed.

If I'm honest, there's probably only a 50/50 chance that I'll actually toe the line come June 21.  But until something tells me otherwise, I'm going to keeping looking toward RONR and enjoying the journey.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Warming Up at the Red Hot 55k (Plus Photos)


Thirty-four miles on the striking red earth and slickrock of the Red Hot 55k seemed like a great reason to end the too-long hiatus from posting to Run Junkie.  I don't have any great excuse for the sustained void, except for some ping-ponging moderate injuries (left knee, right knee, Achilles, hamstrings, and back again) that sent me for yet another season largely into the arms of racing mountain bikes - an at-times fun but not passionate pursuit.

But this fall, things started to come around for my running, so much so that I signed up for a Valentine's Day trip to Moab to test my mettle on the deceptively tough Red Hot parcours.  Training wasn't perfect, but I felt I had enough miles to toe the line for a solid training run.

I ran Red Hot once before back in 2009, memorable because I both broke my camera (dropped in the Martian Moab dust) and wound up on the masters podium.  This year, I didn't expect it to be quite as eventful.  I had too many cycling miles and less than half of the weekly running miles I did the first time.  

And things played out pretty much as I thought - a challenging but largely enjoyable 34 mile run. The toughest part was trying not to race against my 2009 self, a goal I did not meet and a race I definitely did not win.  It caused me to go out too fast and finish too slow.  But it sure felt great to be back in the game, to toe the line at a great season opener, and to start to think about the possibilities of 2014.









Monday, May 27, 2013

Recon of the Hyndman Basin in the Pioneer Mountains (Photos)

The Hyndman Basin in the Pioneer Mountains near Sun Valley (Idaho) is one of my favorite places on earth.  For being not too far off the beaten path, it has a lonesome beauty and primordial feel that makes it stand out even amongst the grandeur of the Northern Rockies where it rests.  It's also a great destination for trail and ultrarunners needing or wanting to get in some stout miles.  Six miles and 5,000 vertical feet from the trailhead is Hyndman Peak (elev 12,008 ft), which requires only a .75 mile (1200 ft) scramble on consolidated talus - easy going compared to most similar peaks in the area.  It makes for a nice 12 miles with great vert and time on feet, and the views are incomparable.

Feeling the need for a little something different from my normal Saturday training, I decided to head up the Basin to see what the late spring conditions were like.  So I grabbed my Z-Poles and KTS crampons and decided to see how far I could get before deep snow, time, or good sense turned me around.  I made it near the saddle at the base of the final push to Hyndman Peak before the flat light made it hard to discern the edges of the frozen and still snow covered run-off lakes.  Being alone and not wanting to hazard a break-through-the-ice emergency, I decided to head back down.

Seems it'll be another month before enough snow melts to reveal the standard route to the top.  Come late June, I'll be back up there, with fitter legs and no crampons.

Just entering the basin.  Hyndman Peak far right.

Basin still pretty much all snow, with nice crust cruising. Here, about mid-way up.


Not too far from the saddle (near my left heal) between Hyndman (not pictured) and Old Hyndman (in background) .

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dog Days of Spring

Felled by a bad cold for far too many days this week, I finally made it back onto some dirt with our ever ready dog.  We were both a bit slow, both a bit tired (notice the tongue), but we enjoyed the early evening - tapping out a nice rhythm on the way home down Quigley Canyon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Science Wire: New Study Details Risk of Taking Pain Medication Before Endurance Running Races

A new study published last week in British Medical Journal: Open adds more evidence to the dangers of taking pain relief medication before a long running event.

German researchers studied 3900 runners of the Bonn Marathon and Half Marathon, asking them to report their pain medication use before the event and any adverse events experienced during or after the race.

Half of the runners reported using pain medication before the race, with the most popular drug being diclofenac (which isn’t often used in the United States), followed by ibuprofen and aspirin.

Researchers found that those runners who took pain medications experienced significantly higher rates of stomach/GI cramps, GI bleeding, heart-related problems, and bloody urine compared to those who didn’t take any medications. All serious events requiring hospital visits (though only 9 in number) were in the pain medication group, with the three instances of temporary kidney failure in those who had taken ibuprofen.

Not surprisingly, but also not documented previously, the higher the medication dose taken before racing, the more likely it was that adverse events occurred. But even at low doses, the risk of adverse events was higher in users than non-users.

Researchers also found that pain medication didn’t seem to offer much benefit to offset the risks. While those in the medication group had slightly fewer muscle cramps during the race compared to non-users, they didn’t experience less soreness or joint pain. In fact, medication users had higher rates of soreness and pain after the event than non-users.

While it’s not perfectly understood why pain medication may lead to adverse events during endurance running, it could be that such medications inhibit the production of prostaglandins, which have hormone-like qualities that help protect tissue from damage. Inhibiting prostaglandin production could make tissue damage to the GI tract, heart, and kidneys more likely, especially under the stress of a long athletic event.

Taken together, these results are pretty compelling that taking pain medication before long endurance running events likely provides little benefit and can come with some real risks . While these results can’t be directly transposed to ultramarathons, it’s not too far fetched to think that the risks of using pain medications before or during such events would at a minimum match, and possibly exceed, those detailed in this study.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Looking Back on My 2005 Boston Marathon Photos

I lived in Boston for seven years in the late nineties, but it wasn't until I'd returned to the West Coast that I punched my ticket for the Boston Marathon in 2005.  I was in the middle of a training block for an Ironman (it was before my ultra days) and not really in any sort of marathon fitness.  But it was a great opportunity for some hard miles on storied ground - the same ground I'd gone to year after year as a spectator to watch the likes of Uta Pippig, Moses Tanui, and Cosmas Ndeti unravel their opponents.

So on that warm spring day in 2005, I toed the line and carried my camera (yes, even back then) and snapped some photos on the trip from Hopkinton to Boston.  A few times a year, I think about some of the photos I took that day, but I hadn't actually looked at them for a number of years - until Monday, after the bombings.

What I see in the photos from that day - more so now than ever - is a community in celebration stretching the full 26.2 miles, and it comes to a head on that final stretch down Boylston Street, where five deep crowds and their roar push the mid-packers and leaders alike to the finish.  It's like nothing else I've experienced in sport, really.

I know I can't really add anything to the discussions of the past few days that hasn't been said.  I simply wanted to share the photos from my experience that seemed to capture the spirit of the Boston Marathon - a spirit that no event, however tragic - will ever suppress.

Early miles
Getting close to the Newton Hills

Baby on board
Spectators the full length

One for the road

The half



Near the Citgo sign and Fenway Park

Down Boylston to the finish

Silverbacks

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lingering Spring, Worderland Dreams, and a North Seattle Photo Tour

Until the singletrack thaws and dries a bit more, there's won't be too much interesting to write about on the backcountry running front here in the high mountains.  Yet, it's shaping up to be a great season, what with the early spring and some nice indications that I have a good shot at some fun ultra-distance outings this year.  Top of this list - because what is a running season without a few goals? - is an early September unsupported trip around the Wonderland Trail, which circumnavigates Mt. Rainier.

While planning and training for that outing are in embryonic stages, I recently found myself in the shadow of that hallowed ground on a spring break trip to Seattle with my family.  While there, I could have sought out some of the classic singletrack the area has to offer.  Instead, I took my runs to the road, which is always a nice switch since the vast majority of my miles are trail miles in the high season.

Road running in the city also offers a completely different set of photo opportunities.  So I took my camera out on one of my North Seattle/Burke-Gilamn Trail runs to document things. Photos below.  Slideshow, here.

Separation:  On the Burke-Gilman Trail
Kenmore Air and Lake Washington
Group ride
The industrial side
Playground

Spring in Lake Forest Park
The past