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.

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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?