Race Report: Whiskey Basin 57K

aidstation

After last month’s Mesquite Canyon fail, I was determined to get another 50K lined up so I could get that notch in my belt. Of course, the good folks at Aravaipa Running just happened to put together a new race in Prescott. And of course, I already had friends who’d be there. Game on!

First of all, this course was (mostly) fantastic:

  • Amazing views – coming up on mountain passes was something to look forward to, as you always got a new perspective on Prescott and the surrounding area
  • Not a ton of steep grades – there was certainly climbing involved, but it was mostly through lengthy switchbacks
  • Did I mention the views? The finish was at Watson Lake, which itself is a sight to be seen, especially for this desert dweller
  • Trails were very runnable, with the exception of a rock bed area past Goldwater Lake. I mean, that part could be runnable too – but certainly a bit dangerous. I heard stories at the following aid station of people showing up bloodied from falling over the rocks. But hey, that’s trail running!

I guess I would say my run was satisfactory. I could do better, but I did about what I was shooting for. A touch over 9 hours at a 15 minute / mile pace.

I was pretty happy with the way things were going in the first half of the race. Decent enough pace. Leap frogging with some new friends and other runners. Great stuff.

By the second half, I realized I wasn’t taking in calories as I should have. And then IT band issues started up. And then the rock bed came into play, and THAT slowed me down a fair bit. It is what it is. Just kept moving, though, and soon enough I was back on nicer trails and hustling to the finish.

IT band issues and other things will happen.  But I can keep training, building in proper recovery time, and doing things like using my foam roller to decrease the likelihood.  Nutrition shouldn’t be a problem, though. I had extra gels and other things in my pack I probably should have eaten along the way. I just need to simplify that plan and not just wing it along the way. By the time you realize you need it, it’s too late.

Overall, it’s pretty cool to know that just a few months after logging my first 26.2, I was able to put in 36+ miles on trail with a few thousand feet in elevation gain along the way. The human body is capable of amazing things, and I’m excited to keep seeing what people are capable of in that regard. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met through trail running, as well as my other friends who I’ve run with over the past year. Next up? A return trip to the Grand Canyon! This time I’ll be bringing my running shoes… Stay tuned.

Here I am while doing a recovery hike the next day. Am I doing it right?

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on

 

Race Report: Mesquite Canyon 50K (DNF)

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After finishing my first marathon in January, it didn’t take long for me to want to push myself further. When a buddy of mine mentioned the Mesquite Canyon race, it just seemed like the perfect fit. Add about 5 miles to the marathon distance and put it in some gnarly but scenic mountains, not too far from home? Sign me up! And so I did.

After a few longer training runs on South Mountain, I felt adequately prepared – physically and mentally. I knew my legs were capable. I knew how much I had to hydrate. I knew how much I needed to consume for fuel along the way. I was ready.

Come race morning, though, I guess I was a bit of a mess. I mean, I left my house with confidence. But of course, I left my race bib on the counter. And (I’d learn later) I grabbed an old pair of shoes with worn out tread. Whoops. Maybe it’s this same level of aloofness that led to my later mistake.

Regardless, the bib wasn’t a big deal – they simply gave me a new one. Side note, for a moment here – Aravaipa Running puts on a heck of an event, and they’ve really got everything taken care of. Logistics, trail markings (well, I have a bit of a note on that), aid stations + volunteers – it’s all very well done, and it was just really cool to be a part of something much bigger than my usual weekend solo runs. The weather was gorgeous and everyone had a look of joy on their faces as we got started.

Start of today's Mesquite Canyon 50K at White Tank Mountain Regional Park!

Posted by Aravaipa Running on Saturday, March 12, 2016

The first 6 or 7 miles felt great! I was moving at a pace I felt very comfortable with, and I was going to beat my ‘worst case scenario’ goal of 10 hours, with little problem. Heck, it felt like 8 hours was in reach. I’m not a speed demon by any means, but if I’m back of the mid pack or front of the back of the pack – that’s okay with me.

splits

The problem came right around that seven mile mark, though. I was following a couple of guys, including a guy named Flint who had stories of running with the Tarahumara down in the Copper Canyon of Mexico. I decided to stick with these guys for a while just to listen in. Along the way, we ended up going right when we were supposed to take a left. As it turns out, we were just a few of many who made the same mistake. A group behind us followed for about a mile before turning back. I even heard the race leaders tacked on an extra 2-3 miles for the same reason – they had the pace to overcome the mistake, though. We overcommitted to our mistake, and lost 80+ minutes wandering 4.5 miles off course. Yeah, NEW worst case scenario. If only I had taken a second to look up at the sign when we first passed it – I would’ve realized the need to turn left at Ford Wash, even though it didn’t appear (initially) to be the right way. Up to that point, we had simply been following orange polka dotted trail markers, and there was one next to the intersection to the right (wrong way). It became understandable how we made the mistake, and course markings probably should’ve been more clear, but I was still kicking myself.

By the time we got back to that point, it was rather disheartening, but we figured we’d press on. It was going to be my first 50K, dammit! It became more disheartening, though, as we saw fellow 50K runners returning from the aid station (it was an out and back section) and realizing how much further we had gone and that we may not make the cut off. I didn’t recall exactly what the cut off time limit was, but I figured I’d make it to the 13 mile aid station at Bajada, regardless – so it didn’t matter to look it up.

As I made my approach, I could see it in other runners’ faces. We totally missed the cutoff, but they didn’t want to be the bearers of bad news. Instead, we got words of encouragement, which were certainly appreciated – though, part of me wanted to clarify to everyone why we were so far behind! I got to Bajada, and the volunteer there was really delicate about the matter, but I already knew. He just confirmed it. I was angry. I was sad. But those feelings will only get you so far. I knew where I had screwed up. But I also knew that I would’ve been on a decent pace had I made the correct turn in the first place. I would’ve completed my first 50K, and my preparations were more than adequate. I felt good thinking about that, at least.

I declined a ride back to the start, instead opting to get a few more miles in under my feet since I wouldn’t be allowed to finish the race. It was a nice time to reflect a bit before relaxing with a beer. Next time, I’ll be drinking that beer out of a pint glass that finishers are awarded with!

Yosemite: Running with Lightning and Deer

yosemite

Wow. I haven’t written a blog entry in a while. I guess life has got me busy. It’s important to take a few moments to reflect from time to time, so I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to do so, at least around various milestones: trips, races, other fun life activities..

..I thought I was running alone, but the deer were actually running with me now, urging me to go faster!

We planned this trip in the beginning of the year. You have to, if you want to reserve permits. You could always just show up and see what’s available, but it’s hard to do that when you’re driving from nearly half a day away. I’d meet up with my friends, Beck and his wife Christine, on the way to Yosemite’s east entrance, and we’d caravan the rest of the way to the camp site. We figured this was a good idea, as cell phone coverage tends to get spotty around the small towns that dot the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and it might be tricky to find each other once in the park itself.

On my way to meet up with them, I decided to listen to an audio book called Shattered Air, which was about the lightning strike incident that took place in 1985 on top of Half Dome. People did stupid things, and not everybody made it out alive. I figured it would serve as a good warning about the fickle nature of lightning. As I drove, I passed through an intense electrical storm that had me seated forward in my car like an old lady who can barely see over the steering wheel. Lightning struck all around the roadway as cars passed through unscathed. I’ve never driven through something quite so powerful. Little did I know that wouldn’t be my last experience with lightning that weekend..

May Lake. I like lakes. And clouds. #latergram #yosemite #tuolumne

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


Our original plan was to obtain back country permits, so that we could camp out in the wilderness and explore parts of Yosemite that most people don’t get to see. Those passes get snatched up really fast, though. Heck, we barely were able to get car camping permits. Yosemite is a really popular place, and for good reason. There isn’t a bit about it that isn’t absolutely gorgeous. We took it easy after getting our tents set up.. We had hot dogs and beers and s’mores… Pretty typical camp stuff. We figured we’d sleep until we couldn’t sleep anymore, then hike to May Lake and the top of Mount Hoffman. This would allow my cardiovascular system to acclimate a bit to the elevation, as I had planned to do a long trail run the next day.

Mr. Pineapple at Mt Hoffman Pass. Half Dome in the background. #latergram #yosemite #tuolumne

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


The three of us took a shuttle to the trailhead and after being dropped off, made our way up to May Lake. They have tent cabins set up there, which are available for reservations. Upon seeing the chairs lined up next to the lake, we decided we’d definitely come back another day to stay there and enjoy some beers while staring out across the water and up at the mountains. Today, though, we had a mountain to hike!

The ascent up Mount Hoffman was tough. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as my lungs struggled to process the thin air as we kept moving higher in elevation. We eventually made it to the top, though. All along the way, we kept an eye on looming storm clouds. They looked like they were moving away from the peak, so we figured if any others developed we should have enough time to get to safety. And so, we stayed at the top of the rocky mountain for a while. Beck found a marmot who couldn’t care less that we were there, and he got some great photos of the little guy. I guess I shouldn’t say ‘little’, as he was quite fat, having claimed the area that seemed to be popular for hikers to rest and eat and drop bits of food..

We also saw a falcon of some sort attacking a group of ravens. As far as we could determine, the falcon may have been trying to drive the ravens away from a nest or a food source. It was amazing to watch these birds fight in mid-air. The falcon’s speed and ability to dive suddenly gave it the edge, and it managed to keep the 20 pound black feathered birds at bay. Seriously, watching this was perhaps the coolest thing ever.

As we headed back down the mountain, we heard thunder for the first time. Better pick up the pace! We did, but it wasn’t enough. Before long, it started to downpour. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the thunder didn’t let up, and before you know it, we began to see flashes of lightning. As we crossed a large granite rock, the brightest flash of lightning occurred – and just about simultaneously, we could hear the crack of electricity in the air and the clap of thunder. THAT. WAS. CLOSE. I had been thinking about this moment ever since hearing about what the survivors in Shattered Air did. I jumped into the closest patch of dirt I could find and crouched down for a moment. Who was I kidding, though? If that previous lightning bolt wanted to hit me, it would have. Regardless, we all ran for it at that point. Down the hill, the lightning and thunder eased up, and by the time we got to the shuttle stop, it seemed pretty safe. You know, beside the possibility of hypothermia from standing out in the cold rain.. After waiting nearly an hour for the shuttle to show up (we never did get an answer as to why they were so late), we got back to camp, changed into dry clothes (the most glorious moment that day, besides watching the birds, perhaps), and sat in their car with the heat on for a while! Eventually, we could all feel our hands again and we were ready for a beer to close out the day. Plus, I had to start getting my gear ready for the next morning’s 20+ mile trail run, assuming weather would cooperate.

Sunrise #TrailRunning! #Tuolumne to #Vogelsang to #LyellCanyon.. #latergram #yosemite

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


My alarm went off at 4:30am. Even though I had all of my clothes ready, snacks set aside, and everything.. I still didn’t start my run until nearly 5:30. Sometimes it’s just hard to get moving in the morning, you know? The timing was actually quite perfect, though, as by that time there was just enough light in the sky that I could leave my headlamp behind. One less thing to concern myself with! Just me and the trail this morning: from Tuolunme Meadows along Rafferty Creek to Vogelsang, down into Lyell Canyon, and back to where I started as a big loop. Time to find my happy place.

Love the trail. #TrailRunning #latergram #yosemite #tuolumne

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


The first half of the trail was mostly uphill. It was mostly a gradual incline, though, so it was pretty easy going, save for just a few steep portions. Along one of the flat parts, with Rafferty Creek to my left, and a canyon wall covered in trees beyond that, I heard a strange noise.. I thought it was some sort of strange bird up in those trees, until I saw them – two deer running back and forth on the hill. I paused for a moment, as they both looked at me. One made that noise again, and it ran ahead. The other followed. As did I, about a 150 yards away on the trail. They stopped after a bit, and called out to me again. Once I caught up, they moved up the hill again and called to me once more. This was seriously happening. One minute, I thought I was running alone, but the deer were actually running with me now, urging me to go faster! I almost couldn’t take it. I laughed. It was amazing. I wondered if I could get a picture of the deer, but it turned out that the lighting was pretty bad, and they were just far enough away that they’d just look like brown dots among the trees. I figured I’d use this opportunity to put some sunblock on and eat a quick snack. In the time it took me to do so, the deer had given up on me and moved on. It was fun while it lasted.

#Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. AKA bathroom break! #latergram #yosemite

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


Eventually, I made my way up to Vogelsang, another of the High Sierra Camps. Here, the tent cabin guests were just waking up as I met a few of them en route to use their facilities. They seemed to be confused about my presence there so early in the morning. After all, they were the first people I had seen along the trail all day.

Let's do some stairs! #trailrunning #latergram #yosemite #vogelsang

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


After Vogelsang, I came down over the pass to Evelyn Lake. At this point, the Jurassic Park theme wouldn’t stop playing in my head, and I imagined Photoshopping dinosaurs into the pictures I’d take with my phone. I ultimately didn’t do any such thing, but feel free to make edits to my pictures yourself! Just tag me in them..

Great #trailrunning path or greatest trail running path? #latergram #yosemite #lyellcanyon

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


A little over six hours from the time I started, I got back down to the start. A couple was standing there, waiting for some friends to meet them. They told me they had also come from Vogelsang that morning, but that they had stayed there for two nights before getting up early to make the trip back to Tuolumne. They seemed impressed about the run I made that morning. I felt pretty good about it. And really, I did. I wasn’t sure if my heart would be beating out of my chest or I’d be dying to sit for the rest of the day – but I really felt good! If I had to, I maybe couldn’t gone another 10 miles at a similar pace. Maybe not.

The end of a long but SO rewarding morning! #trailrunning #latergram #yosemite #tuolumne

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on


After the long run, I relaxed with a saison from Mammoth Brewing Company, a bag of ice on my knees (preventative measures), and a bag of baked Cheetos. It was just another one of those moments where I couldn’t be much happier. Beck and Christine eventually came back from exploring the nearby meadows, and I grilled up some burgers as we enjoyed a few more beers before the afternoon storms rolled in.

In just a couple of days, we soaked in quite a lot of what Yosemite had to offer. My phone was in airplane mode the entire time – though we could send the occasional text and make phone calls, there wasn’t any data reception. But really, I didn’t want any. I love my job, and I love keeping up with my friends via social media, but I love taking a break from it all every so often. I’ve been to amazing places all around the world, and I’ve yet to be more impressed with a place than I am of Yosemite. I think we’ll have to make our visits there more frequent. That John Muir guy was onto something…