A Look Back at 2018

Happy New Year Everyone!

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We all looked so cute for New Years Eve!

It’s the first day of 2019 and I’ve been logging the miles! It was a cold day out in the mountains, but I got my first peak of the year! As I leap into 2019, I wanted to look back at what I liked most about 2018. Here’s a quick look at my year.

Best Race: Squaw Peak 50

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Squaw peak is probably my favorite race I’ve ever run. It’s beautiful, wildly challenging, and you still get a full night of sleep (unlike Javelina Jundred). I also really enjoyed the 50 mile distance. The race itself was particularly well put on and the course was perfect. Although it does give over 10,000 feet of gain, it has a very high finishing rate and I attribute that to the awesome aide stations and volunteers.  And although I did lose a few toenails in the weeks following, the race gave me the confidence needed to finish my 100-miler in October.

Best Run: Kings Peak in August

At 13,527 feet, Kings Peak sits as Utah’s crown. It’s a fantastic 28 mile trail through woods, alpine tundra, and skree fields. I met up with the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers to run it on a crisp and cool day in early August. I went alone and wasn’t entirely sure that I should go, but once I got out on the trail, I met people at my pace and stuck with them. It was a wonderful day. The route took me about 8 hours, which is a moderate pace and never felt too difficult (except at the end while I was struggling over loose rock). I did have many fantastic runs throughout the year, but this one certainly stood above the rest.

Favorite Trail: Pfeifferhorn Peak via Red Pine Lake

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Red Pine Lake Trail as the fog rolled in

I had seen Pfeifferhorn from afar many times, but this summer was the first time I climbed it. It was a foggy day, unusual for Utah, but the conditions made the trail so much better. At the top, the fog cleared and we were able to see the Wasatch and the Salt Lake Valley. It was a beautiful route and a beautiful day. This is a trail that I’ll definitely do again this summer.

Most Used Gear: Salomon Pack

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Me in my trusty Salomon pack

I went through multiple pairs of shoes, many different socks, and even switched out my spikes and trekking poles. The one piece of gear that remained constant was my Salomon Skin pack. It never chaffed, never bounced too much or hurt my shoulders. Basically it did everything it needed to do.

Most Used Running Fuel: Run Gum

As anyone who knows me will know, I am a caffeine addict. I love coffee and tea. Unfortunately on a run, it’s not always so easy to get an extra boost when you need it most. While I was training for Javelina, I was looking for ways to take caffeine during the night, but not hurt my stomach. The Wasatch Running Company suggested Run Gum and I loved it! It comes in three different flavors, all of which are great. The little bit of sugar helps too and gives me something to look forward to when the miles get long. At Javelina, I never really felt sleepy and I largely attribute that to Run Gum.

Favorite Cross Training: Climbing

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Unless you consider hiking as cross training (my physical therapist does not), I have never really been very good about doing other things besides running. I manage an okay yoga practice, but when the miles get high, my yoga practice tends to suffer. This year I really tried to remain consistent at some sort of cross training and found that climbing really works. It keeps me strong and mildly flexible and helps a lot with the mentality it takes to finish long ultras. I’m still a considerably better runner than I am a climber, but I’ve had a ton of fun going out and sending some routes.

Total Mileage: 2,040 miles

Total Vertical Gain: 285,098 feet

What are some of your favorites from 2018?

Ultra-Goals for 2019

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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I saw Darth Santa on a run in Salt Lake City.

With the end of 2018 quickly approaching, I’ve been looking back on a big year and looking forward to some more ultra-fun in 2019.

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My biggest goal of 2018!

Since Javelina, my training has been pretty chill. I run when I want, don’t when I don’t. I have not done any substantial long runs in quite some time, but everything is about to change. I have some pretty big goals for 2019 and a lot of races. In 2018, I ran my first 100-mile race and I am hoping to get a couple more under my belt in the coming year. I have most of my races planned out and I’ll go ahead and list out a few goals that I have for each of them.

Running Up for Air (February 9-10)

This is a 24 hour timed race that climbs Grandeur Peak as many times as you can. The trail is about 6 miles long but climbs about 2500 feet each lap. I am not particularly good at climbing, but I wanted to challenge myself on this one. I am just hoping to avoid the mid-night lull that I had around 2:00 am at Javelina. I would love to get through 7-8 laps, but I am more concerned with keeping my mental state good and my food intake right. I’ll mostly be walking this one, so it should not beat up my legs nearly as badly as Javelina or even Squaw 50 did. 

Zion 100 (April 21-13)

This is my main goal race for the spring. I need a qualifier for the Western States Lottery again, and although I am running another qualifier in the fall, I don’t want to rely on that one since it will be the toughest race I’ve ever run. Zion has similar elevation profile to Javelina and is not nearly as hot. My main goal is to finish, although I have another goal of PRing my 100 at it, which I think is very doable. This race goes through some of my favorite type of environment and with a bit of training, should be a pretty fun day out in the desert.

Squaw Peak 50 (June 8)

I had such a fun time at Squaw last year that I want to run it again. I’ll use it as kind of a tune up for my goal race in the fall. It has a rough elevation profile, which is something I definitely need to work on. I would love to run this race faster than I did in 2018, however, that definitely depends on how quickly I recover from Zion 100 in April. I’m hoping for a good day with little drama and just a finish with strong legs. 

Bear 100 (September 27-28)

The Bear 100 is one of the most famous and most challenging races in Utah. With about 23,000 feet of gain, this race is going to take a lot of training and a good day. I don’t have any specific goals other than to finish the race. Bear is known for it’s tough elevation profile and fickle weather. It’s a pretty local race, so I’ll have tons of support and pacers to help me out. I might run a tune up race leading to it of 50 miles-100K, but heading into the fall, my main goal will be to finish Bear.

My non-racing goal for 2019 is to blog and vlog more often. I’ll try to post on the blog 1-2 times per week and to post on the vlog once every other week. I’ll include training updates, race reports, trails that I run and just thoughts about ultra-running in general.

I hope your year was as fun and exciting as mine. What are some of your goals heading into 2019?

 

Running in the San Rafael Swell: The Wedge Route

The state of Utah has the highest population per capita of ultrarunners in the country. It’s no surprise why, since many of the best long routes are right in our backyard. We are within driving distance to some of the most well-known ones, including the Trans-Zion trail, Rim-to-Rim of the Grand Canyon, and of course the Wasatch and Bear 100 routes. This weekend I completed an equally awesome one, although much lesser known, The Wedge. It’s a 21-mile loop along a giant canyon called the Little Grand Canyon. But don’t let the name fool you, it’s not very little at all.

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It’s not quite the right time of year for the route, and it had about 3 inches of snow throughout making it a little more of an adventure. The Wedge is only about 2 hours and 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City in an area of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land called the San Rafael Swell. The Swell is more well known for climbing and canyoneering, although it does have a fair amount of awesome running routes.

Trail Stats

Total Mileage: 21 Miles

Vertical Gain: 900 Feet

Time: 3-5 Hours depending on pace and picture taking

Permits or Fees: None

I got a late start, heading out around 10:30 am. It was very cold (17 degrees) and I reluctantly got out of my car to head out on the trail. I knew with the snow the route would take a little longer than usual. I started at the Wedge Overlook (between campsites 9 and 10) and took the road about 5 miles out to the other side of the Wedge. From here, I just winded my way back to my car at the overlook.

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A fair amount of snow for the desert

Normally, the route is pretty easy with only about 1000 feet of elevation gain throughout, but with snow and icy conditions, it was a little tougher than usual. The route is on a well traveled mountain bike trail, so if you’re ever out there be sure to stay on the lookout for them. I took about 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the entire thing, but I did stop to take a lot of pictures.

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Big jaw-dropping views at every turn

It was a pretty awesome day on a pretty awesome route. I’m hoping to get back out here when the weather is a little warmer. The best time of year for this run is in the spring or fall when the snow is gone, but the desert hasn’t gotten too hot. If you’re ever in the area, I’d highly suggest making a short trip out to this gem. There are many variations of the route to either lengthen or shorten the run.

My Wild Patagonian Adventure

I’m back! After about a month running around the world, I have finally landed back in Kansas. Frank and I had a fantastic time in Patagonia. We spent our time hiking through several Chilean and Argentine National Parks, checking out some of the towns in the region, and of course, seeing penguins. Here are just some of the pictures from our adventures. I have thousands…

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Although the trip was incredibly fun, Patagonia is a very touristy place. I was expecting to be out there and find no one but a few really dedicated hikers and mountaineers, but in reality, it was covered in European, Israeli, and British tourists. It was also a lot more expensive than I expected. I am certainly glad that we went, but if I had known what Patagonia would be like, I likely would have gone somewhere else.

To be completely honest, I have yet to find a National Park system in the world that can compete with the US in maintenance and cost. While in Patagonia, I longed for the solace of Canyonlands and Glacier National Park. In the US, you really only have to hike a few miles into the backcountry to find yourself completely alone. That was not the case in Patagonia. No matter how far I went, I always found crowds and tons of people (and garbage). I did leave with an extreme appreciation for our National Park Service.

Now that I have returned, I will be getting back to consistent blogging. I am putting together a training program to run Colfax again in May. I will be blogging my training progress as I prepare for the race. I will also have a few other races on my calendar, which I’ll leave for another post.

I hope you all had a great month, and I am looking forward to getting back in touch.

What is your favorite National Park? Do you have any races coming up soon?

I’m Back!!!!

I’m back!!! After two epic weeks in Europe, and a whole lot of flights, I am finally back in Manhattan, KS and slowing returning to my normal life. I look forward to catching up on all of your blogs and training, but I am still exhausted and it may take me some time to get back to the grind.

In Europe, my mom and I went to London, Liverpool, Krakow (Poland), and Paris. It was a ton of fun AND I even nabbed a tiny new half marathon PR in Liverpool (post about that to come). Here is a few photos of all of our fun:

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Thai food in London
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Post half marathon nap
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The streets of Krakow
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In front of the Arc de Triumph
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Big Ben

What’s next? I start training for Chicago… like now! I took a few weeks to run slow and infrequently as I recovered from my several weeks of wild running. However, the break is over and it’s time to get back into marathon training. I’ll be posting soon about my training plan and goals.

Hope you all had a great few weeks! How is your training going? Are you traveling this summer?

Weekend Adventures: Paddling the Kansas River

Manhattan rests in the floodplain between the Kansas River and the Big Blue River, both of which are seasonal and often too dry to paddle. However, over the past few weeks, Kansas has gotten a significant amount of rainfall, causing flooding damage throughout the city and the water levels in the rivers to rise significantly. Frank and I took this as an opportunity to take out our kayaks and finish a significant portion of the river.

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This is the portion of the river that we conquered.

On Saturday morning we gathered out gear, shuttled our car in Wamego (with the help of our friend, Zeb) and walked from our apartment to the Kansas River, which is a one-mile trek. Now, I don’t typically call one mile a trek, but when you are carrying all of the gear you need for an overnight paddle, plus two kayaks, one mile quickly becomes a trek.

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Our loaded up Kayaks outside of the fanciest restaurant in town.

Seriously, we probably looked like nutjobs walking through downtown Manhattan with kayaks.

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Dragging two boats behind Texas Road House.

We got to the river, set ourselves up and paddled away. It is kind of amazing how quickly it goes from a decent sized town to farmlands and wilderness. Within two miles on the river, you never would have known Manhattan was so close.

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Since the water levels were so high, we were keeping a speed of about 5 mph without really trying. There was a lot of debris along the banks and on little sandbar islands, making it clear that the flooding had been pretty destructive out here on the river.

We paddled by a large group of frat guys from Kansas State, who threw full beers at us (thanks?) and cheered as we passed. They looked like a pretty fun (and drunk) group, but they were so loud we could hear them for another half mile. It kind of took some peacefulness away from the river. Fortunately for us, they were the only people we saw all day!

 

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Frank paddling out ahead of me.

We stopped briefly in a small town called St. George, grabbed some food and paddled another mile before finding a small island to camp on. The sun was setting, and in full Kansas form, it was fantastic. Right across the river was an eagle’s nest and I could hear the occasional cry of the bird as I drifted asleep.

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The view from my boat!
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The desolate landscape of our island.
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Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this!

The next morning we woke up to some rather threatening looking clouds. We wanted to get to the car before it started to rain, so we packed up camp and got back on the river.

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Can’t leave your island without a selfie!

It wasn’t long before we saw the Wamego water tower and knew we were close to the car. The take out was a little funky and I managed to get my boat caked in mud.

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Almost to Wamego

It only took us about 6 total hours of paddling to make it from Manhattan to Wamego. We were a little disappointed that it was such a quick stretch of river and were hoping for a longer paddle. Unfortunately, because of the seasonality of the Kansas River, we had to play it safe, just in case the water was slower than we thought. Next time we are hoping to do a longer stretch, maybe all the way out to Topeka or Lawrence.

Paddling is always a super fun and nondestructive way to get into the wilderness. Kansas has very little preserved land and no areas for backpacking, so we were pretty proud of ourselves for finding a way to backcountry camp in Kansas.

Depending on the weather, we might be out for another paddle this weekend!

Did you go on any adventures during the weekend? Do you have any adventures planned?

Weekend Adventures!

Happy Monday Everyone!

I had a crazy fun weekend and a great week of training. I’ll update you on how the training went in my recap, but for now, I am going to tell you all about my weekend adventures. I figured that since Frank and I spend every weekend on some sort of adventure, I should start a blog series on what we do and where we go. This series will be very photo heavy interspersed with what we were up to!

Most weekends are spent backpacking, hiking, climbing, trail running, or some sort of outdoor activity. This weekend, we did a little bit of everything! Frank, our friend, Ben, and I took Friday off from work and drove out to Arkansas Thursday night for some sweet sport climbing and hiking in the Ozark Mountains.

We made it to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in the AM and went straight out to some of the more popular climbing spots in the canyon. Now, before I was a distance runner, I was a climber. In fact, distance running was a way to get me in better shape for mountaineering. Soon, running became my main passion, but being able to climb all day is still pretty awesome.

Ben made it up his first climb EVER!! I was super happy to see him enjoy the climbs the way I do!

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After a full day of climbing, we went for a short hike through the Buffalo River Gorge. If you are ever in the southern Midwest, this is a place you HAVE to go!

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It doesn’t get much better than this!

We got back to the ranch just before dark, hung out with some goats (they had like 100 baby goats), and went to bed.

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The hills were covered in tents and dirtbag climbers.

Saturday morning and afternoon was filled with some of the tallest climbs I’ve ever done. These walls were about 85 feet tall and had some of the most fantastic views from the top. We climbed until our arms tired out and went back to the Buffalo River Gorge for the National Park Service Centennial Concert.

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This route went WAY higher than I am right there!

The concert was packed, and in such a beautiful place.

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Frank and I were making some faces at each other during the concert… also that guy behind us…
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Tons of people made it out for the concert!

Post concert, we packed up our backpacks and hiked into the woods a few miles to find a campsite. The Buffalo River Gorge is right up against a National Forest, where there is free camping all along the trail. All National Forests have free camping in the wilderness, so if you are ever in a pinch, it’s a good place to make an overnight stop.

We woke up Sunday morning with the sunlight coming in. I tried to stay asleep in my bivy, but Frank was not having it.

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To cut on weight and mass, I use a bivy instead of a tent. They are waterproof and super easy to set up and take down.

Before heading back to Manhattan, we went for a hike to a cave at the Lost Valley Trail. The Ozark Mountains are filled with great little spots, but this one was just fantastic. There were natural bridges, three caves (one had a waterfall inside), and a ton of scenic overlooks to view the valley.

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Crawling out of a cave.
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Frank and Ben beneath the Natural Bridge.

After the hike, we ate some lunch and made the 6 hour trip back to Manhattan, KS. Although we expected this to be a rather uneventful ride, as we got close to town, we heard on the radio that a tornado had touched down just west of town. The roads were quiet except for the occasional storm chaser vehicle driving by (good sign, right?). We stopped to overlook some of the crazy weather, but were advised that if we wanted to get back to Manhattan, that we should do so immediately. We made it back and into the basement, but the warning was lifted about 15 minutes later. Aside from some flooding, Manhattan made it through the storm untouched.

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Rather ominous looking clouds over Manhattan, KS.

So, we did a little bit of everything this weekend! I even managed to squeeze in some miles between our adventures. How was your weekend? Did you go on any adventures?