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.

Squaw 50 Vlog Recap

Better late than never, right?

Sorry about my lateness! I made a vlog talking about the Squaw 50. Check it out and hear about running a 50-miler for the first time. It was a great race and I am so glad that I did it. Honestly, I am not-so-secretly planning my return next year. 🙂

Click “like” and Subscribe for more updates as I trail for the Javelina Jundred.

We are being robbed

There are many things that I absolutely love about living in Utah. Having the opportunity to run in the Wasatch is not lost on me at all. And to top it off, after living here for about a year now (that was fast), I have made some good friends that make Utah a fun place to be.

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Despite loving my home, sometimes it can be hard to live in a state with such blatant disregard for environmental conservation. I feel like I am constantly protesting some legislature and I am always getting emails from the Sierra Club about new problems. It’s depressing.  Even though this has little to do with running, I still think you should know what the Utah (and national) government has in store for this place. Keep in mind, this doesn’t just affect me. Much of the land in Utah is federal and protected by either the National Park Service or the Bureau of Land Management. This land is your land too.

The Fight for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments

National Monuments, much like National Parks, are managed by the Department of the Interior. Often National Parks start out as National Monuments, which generally have more minimal management and staff and less stringent rules about what can be done within the area. While a National Park may not allow grazing or hunting, often times National Monuments do. New National Monuments can be made through the Antiquities Act (started by Theodore Roosevelt) that allows a sitting president to declare federal land a new monument without the approval of congress. Many of our past presidents have done this, including Barack Obama, who declared the controversial Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah.

Utah has the Mighty Five National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches) but also seven National Monuments and two National Recreation Areas, all of which are managed by the Department of the Interior. The National Parks alone amount for an estimated $1.7 billion in the state of Utah. We are a state that specializes in outdoor recreation and ecotourism.

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Despite the obvious economic benefit of Utah’s parks, the state and the federal government are fighting to reduce two of our largest National Monuments. On December 4, President Trump rescinded 85% of Bears Ears National Monument and over 50% of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in a proclamation that undid years of environmental progress. It is currently being fought in a legal battle between the Federal Government versus Patagonia (the retailer), REI, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo Nation, and Zuni Tribes). As of last week, leases for drilling became available for land within the previous boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.

This fight should be important to us all. The federal government and the state of Utah stole land from every American and have shown no respect or regards for the wants and needs of Native peoples. Even if you have no plans to ever visit these places, this land has been taken time and time again from Natives, despite the many archeological sites within the monuments of ancient pueblans and tribes. When left without management from the Department of the Interior, Bears Ears National Monument is subjected to grave robbing of native sites, and now is open for drilling.

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Frank and I went to Bears Ears a few months back. What we found is hard to put into words. We went on hikes with towering cliffs, upon which were small shelters high up where I imagined no human could get to. Everywhere we went went we found the remnants of ancient cultures. It was a silent place, but it was as if we could still hear the people who once walked this land.

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I’ve also been to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which is covered with slots so tiny, we could barely fit. These places are unique and special and worth preserving. Each of these photos were taking within the bounds of these precious monuments and these scenes are not hard to find, you just need to go for a walk (or a run).

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So, here I ask for help. Contact your local legislators about this and tell them that you do not support Trump’s overreach on our lands. Donate to the Native American Rights Fund. Donate to the Sierra Club. They are making a huge difference in this fight. This is not my fight or Utah’s fight. This is everyone’s fight.

I’m Becoming a Mountain Runner!

It’s not every week that you have a really great training week, so when you do, you can’t take it for granted. This week was certainly a special one. I managed 56 miles of running/hiking and about 10,000 feet of vertical gain. I did every mile on trail and either in the Wasatch or at Antelope Island (a local state park out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake). My legs are exhausted, but in tact and I am thrilled with my progress.

Monday: Off – Chilled out. Watched The West by Ken Burns with Frank after work. 

Tuesday: 7.2 miles with over 2500 feet of vert

This was a fun run up a mountain north of town called Wire. My friend and I tackled it as fast as we could (it took us like 48 minutes to get to the top). It’s a brutal climb straight up about 1.8 miles to the top. Then you get to the best part, the gradual downhill that starts by climbing along a ridge and finally a single track path back to the car. It was a fun night!

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Awesome ridges! 

Wednesday: 13.2 miles with about 1400 feet of vert

I didn’t have time to get my long run done over the weekend, so I hit up Mill Creek Canyon after work. I took it slow and meant to only do 11 miles, but after some poor running math, I ended up doing a little over 12. I tacked some on at the end since I was so close to the half marathon mark.

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My mountains are so pretty!

Thursday: Off – More Ken Burns… Frank and I are an exciting bunch. 

Friday: 7 miles with 800 feet of vert

Frank and I decided to camp out at Antelope Island State Park. I love running out there since the trails are much more gradual and runable than most of the Wasatch. Frank came with me on his mountain bike and took some rad shots of me running as the sun was setting.

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Oh and there we bison too…

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Saturday: 15.7 (running and hiking) with 2000 feet of gain

I ran in the early morning about 6 miles on the Island again. I took it fast and hard and it felt great to really get my legs moving. Afterwards, I hiked with Frank and a few friends to Elephant Head. Basically, it was a perfect day.

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Sunday: 13.8 (running and hiking) with 2900 feet of vert

I got out early on the Pipeline Trail with my friend. We took it slow, since my legs basically felt like jello. Afterwards, Frank and I hiked into an icy canyon and turned back after 5ish miles. Then we watched more Ken Burns documentaries.

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Elly gets real comfortable when we watch movies.

This is the best week of running that I’ve had in a long time. I’m feeling tired, but strong and uninjured. I’m incredibly thrilled that I was able to take this kind of load and it gave me a lot of courage going into the next few months of training for Squaw 50. Mileage is usually not the problem for me, but maintaining that kind of vertical gain is ridiculously hard. But after this, I feel like I can really cut it as an ultra runner out here in Utah. Next week I am backing off considerably and taking it pretty easy. Recovery week, here I come!

Training and Mountains to Climb

I had a really good week of training! I hit about 6000 feet of vert over 40 miles of running and 8 miles of cross country skiing. It felt good and it was awesome to get out and ski a bit. Despite the rather mild winter we’ve been having, it was a really great time!

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Skiing in the Uinta Mountains

I am not a particularly good skier, and spent a substantial amount of time on my butt. Most of the first 4 miles were uphill, which meant the 4 miles back were all downhill. I took a few good falls (by a few, I mean like 10), but check out this video of me really owning that downhill!

I got a long run in of just 12 miles. I am still working up to the longer mileages for this training cycle. The real problem I am facing is that in order to get the vertical gain I need, I have to run on trails. And that just takes so much longer. While heading up some of the bigger peaks around here, I end up hitting 25-30 minute miles. It’s just impossible to get really long runs in like that. I may have to start doing the longer days on road.

This week my goal is to hit 10,000 feet of vertical gain. In order to get that done, today I went up Mt Wire, a rather knarly peak on the north side of town.

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Mountain running is tiring business.

It was definitely a difficult trek. I clocked over 2000 feet of gain in the first 1.8 miles of the run. It was hard and my calves burned, but the view at the top was certainly worth it.

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My playground!

From the peak, my friend, Dan, and I ran along the ridge to another peak called Red Butte. I always struggle with ridges and I get pretty scared on the thinner ones. We took it slow and steady.

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Ridge running along Red Butte

As we were coming down, we got some cool sunset views. When it comes to scenery, Utah doesn’t disappoint.

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Beautiful sunsets

So far so good for the week.

Also, I am officially signed up for Squaw 50-miler, which has 14000 feet of gain, so I better get to it! I am certainly getting nervous about this race. Luckily I still have over 5 months of training to go. I’m really not sure what to expect or how to train for it. Honestly, my main goal is to just get to the start line with no injuries.

Oh and here’s a selfie with Elly!

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We love each other.

Have you ever hiked/ran up a mountain? Do you like trail running or road running (I love both)?

Friday Five 2.0 Linkup: Reasons to hit the trails!

I am linking up the Friday Five 2.0 with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness. This week I am going to give you five reasons to try some trail running. As you all know, I run the Wasatch Mountains, but you don’t need mountains to be a trail runner!

  1. You get the best views!

No matter where you are, the views in a woodland forest or in mountains are always better than being in the city. It might take a bit of a drive to get to your running destination, but having something interesting to look at will make it way more exciting. The beauty on the trails is always unmatched.

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It’s so ugly in Utah.
  1. You might see some animals

Even in more urban areas you have a much higher chance of seeing some interesting wildlife on the trails than you do on the roads. Look out for birds above and deer between the trees. If you live in Florida (my original home), you might even get the chance to see an alligator or two. No matter where you are, there is wildlife to be seen, so don’t forget your phone and stay alert!

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Saw this big guy on a run. Luckily he was more interested in the food than me.
  1. Fresh air

Most of us live in cities and it just stinks to have a bus go by you while you’re conquering a big hill. The only way to get around this is to get out! So hit the trails. The air is fresh and you can breath easy.

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Sometimes the air in the city stinks. Hit the trail!
  1. Don’t have to worry about cars

I’ve had a few close calls on the roads with cars. Sometimes drivers don’t look for pedestrians on the sidewalks before they drive and that can lead to a real disaster. Unless you live somewhere with a great multi-use footpath, you probably have this happen all the time. So, why not hit the trails and go where the cars can’t?

  1. It makes a great hill workout

In most places, the trails are a bit hillier than the roads. Although the terrain probably will slow you down, maybe consider using trail days as hill workouts. Pick out some trails where you can get some real vertical gain, even if that means you have to do some power hiking.

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Did somebody say hills?

I do love the roads, but hitting the trails has made me a better runner and has certainly given me an opportunity to see some pretty cool stuff. Try it out sometime and I am sure you will not be disappointed!

Do you have a park near by you prefer? Where is your bucket-list trail run?

Week 1: Training for the St. George Marathon

I had a bit of a breakthrough at PT this week. I was told to give my legs a try and go for a run. So I did… And it seems like everything is going pretty well. I can still feel the sciatic pain on uphills, but for the most part, things are looking up. Running on road feels a little weird, but not painful. Luckily, I live in SLC where there are tons of trails. I’ve mostly been sticking to those.

This week was definitely the first in a long time that made me think that I could run a good marathon time relatively soon. It’s basically a miracle that I’ve healed so fast, so I am not totally convinced yet that I am tI’m not taking on any speedwork for a while, but that’s ok. For now, I just need to get my endurance back.

This was my week:

Monday: Went to PT (I’m usually pretty tired after that so I don’t run)

Tuesday: 5.1 miles running and walking with overall 10:31 pace (on road) + Bikram Yoga

Wednesday: 6.4 mile trail race 11:51/mi with 1600 ft gain

Thursday: Went to PT + Bikram Yoga

Friday: Easy 3.1 miles on road (10:36/mi)

Saturday: 3.4 easy on dirt road (10:44/mi) w/ 400 ft of gain

Sunday: 12.3 miles (10:30/mi) w 1100 ft of gain

Total: 30 miles w/ 3400 ft of gain

The long run was the real test and except on a few uphills, I got no pain at all from my leg or back. Here are a few pics from the run (and yes, that’s me in the background freaking out about the snake).

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I ran right by the mouth of this snake. Good thing it didn’t bite!
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Nice views of Mt. Timpanogos

I’d say that it was a rather good week. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m making a transition from roads to trail. It’s easy to get trail mileage here since the mountains are so close. I’m learning a lot about myself during this injury, but most of all, I’m learning that my favorite type of running is on trail. St. George Marathon might be my last road race for a while and, assuming my injury is settling down, I have a few wild plans in mind for some awesome trail races.

This week has started off to a good start. Check out the video I made on my run this afternoon on the Pipeline Trail!

Hope your training is going well! Have you ever had an injury that sidelined you for a long time? What did you do to stay active while you healed?

Weekend Adventures in Arches NP

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. Here’s what Frank and I were up to.

Friday after work, we picked up a friend of ours (yes, we made a friend in Salt Lake City!) and drove down to Moab for a few canyons and a science march. We spent the night camping and woke up at 5:30 for an early start in Arches National Park.

By about 9:30 am, the crowds in Arches are pretty wild, so we made it to the trailhead at 7:00 and hiked into a beautiful canyon called U-Turn.

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U-turn is a pretty nice beginner canyon with a 95-foot repel at the end.

Since Frank works as an ecologist, after the canyon we made sure to go to a science march in Moab. Despite the very small population size, there were over 200 people in attendance. We grabbed a few signs showing our support for Bear Ears National Monument and for land conservation. It was great to see so many people in support of science and conservation.

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After the march (and lunch), we hit up an incredibly beautiful canyon called Medieval Chamber. This canyon had all of the best things Utah has to offer, slots, and arches. The end had us repelling next to a giant arch, with a rather big audience at the bottom.

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The awesome 100-ft repel between the canyon walls and Morning Star Arch
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My audience as I came down the repel… pretty weird.

After the long trek back to the car, we watched the sunset at Dead Horse Point and ate some tacos. Pretty much a perfect end to a perfect day.

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Areli working on some dinner.
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Frank and I at the Dead Horse Point Overlook

The next morning we got up at a more reasonable 7:00 am and quickly packed up to get back into Arches NP for one more canyon.

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Frank had some pretty great morning hair.

Elephant Butte is the highest point in the park, but in order to summit, you need to repel down 100 ft into a canyon that leads to the summit. It’s a fantastic route and definitely had some pretty epic photo ops.

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Coming down the 100-ft repel into the canyon leading to the summit.
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Frank on the last repel down Elephant Butte.

After Elephant Butte, we hopped on the road and made it back to SLC early enough for me to go for an easy 5-mile run.

Next weekend I’ll be back in Moab for some more canyons and some climbing. I feel like I basically live in Moab!

How was your weekend? Have you visited any National Parks lately? What is the closest one to you?

Training Update: Base Building

I feel like my blog has turned into an ode to how much I love Utah.

But seriously, I really love Utah.

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It’s just too pretty here.

Anyways… this is a running blog and I do have some running coming up. As a few of you already know, I am not running the Utah Valley Marathon due to my injury from a few weeks back. I am still coming back from the injury and my mileage is pretty low at the moment. Instead, I am hoping to do the half.

Despite my setbacks so far in 2017, I am hoping to have at least one really good race in the fall. I signed up for the St. George Marathon in October and will be going for a very significant PR there. I know that it seems early to say that I am going for a good time, but St. George is a downhill course that is known for shaving many minutes of marathon times. The race goes through some of the most beautiful parts of southern Utah and generally draws a big crowd.

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Training for St. George will start in June, so I have a few months of base building and strengthening before I start. I want to have my ankle in tip top shape before I start, so I am keeping my mileage pretty low and doing a lot of cross training to make sure that I don’t aggravate it more. I also imagine that some upper body and core strength won’t hurt in making me a faster runner.

That being said, this was my training last week.

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M: 4.3 miles at easy pace + 6 mile hike at Ferguson Canyon

T: 4 miles at marathon pace (8:55/mi) + Climbing at the gym

W: Yoga + Climbing at the gym

T: 6ish miles no watch

F: Yoga + 4 miles on trail 800 ft vert

S: Hiked ~7-8 miles

S: Snowshoed 8 miles

Total: 18 ish miles running + 22 miles hiking

Apparently I hiked a lot more than I ran this week. It might be that way for a little while since walking does not hurt my ankle at all. The snowshoe hike did not feel 100%, but everything else felt good. I’m excited to get my strength back, but I am definitely taking my time getting there. These are my plans for this week:

M: Off

T: 5 miles + climbing + yoga

W: 10 miles + yoga

T: Off

F: 5 miles + Yoga

S: 4 miles + hiking

S: 4-6 miles + hiking

Of course that mileage is all ankle dependent, but we’ll see how it goes. How is your training going? Have you picked out any races for the fall?

Sydney Update: She seems totally fine. She’s been a little needier than usual, but seems to be back to her usual self. I’m still kinda confused about what happened, but she seems much much better.

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Sydney and I were disturbing Frank while he tried to sleep.

 

Weekend Adventures!

Hey Everyone!

I had a great weekend! Here’s what we were up to!

Friday

I didn’t get back from work until pretty late, but Frank and I immediately went out to Red Butte Canyon for some trail running (me) and mountain biking (him). I mostly ran along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that runs from Provo to Ogden and is pretty much a 5 minute drive from my house. Frank stayed on his bike, but I managed to get in a few miles and a whole lot of vert!

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Not a bad view for right outside a major city!

After the run, we went home and made dinner and watched Louis CK skits. It was a pretty chill night.

Saturday

A while back, I saw an ad for the Ogden Climbing Festival at the climbing gym that we go to. They had a series of workshops, talks, free climbing, and a trail maintenance day. Of course I signed Frank and I up for the event. Saturday morning, we woke up early and went up to Ogden to help out some trail maintenance. Although we didn’t get a huge amount done due to weather, I did win a raffle for a pretty sweet rain jacket by a SLC based company.

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It was a beautiful view with some not so beautiful weather.

Frank and I hiked a little bit before the workshops along the Pine View Trail.

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At 1:00, I took a workshop called Traditional Gear Placement and Natural Anchors. I learned a great deal, but unfortunately it was cut short by some pretty bad lightening. I gotta say, being stuck on the side of a mountain during a thunderstorm is not at all ideal.

The storm passed, so Frank and I hiked along some trails behind the Red Butte Garden with our friend Areli. Afterwards we all went back to our place for spring rolls!

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Sunday

Frank and I woke up to a bit of a winter wonderland. I think Salt Lake was having it’s last (hopefully) go at winter. We took the opportunity to grab the snowshoes and go for a beautiful hike.

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SO MUCH SNOW!!!

In total, we did about 7 miles with over 3000 feet of elevation gain. Not too shabby!

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Beautiful views throughout the trail!
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The snow covered Lake Blanche was looking very beautiful.

That was pretty much our weekend! It’s never boring out here in Utah!

How was your weekend? Did you get outside at all?