Did you know that ski resorts have steeper slopes in the summer than in the winter? Really, I am not kidding you! I ‘ran’ The ‘Bird this past weekend and I promise you that someone physically moves the mountain and re-angle it, adding 7-10° inclination to any given slope after the snow melt.
Going backwards to how I ended up so intrigued by the changing of the slope angle on some silly ski runs…
Sometime, in March, when there was still a sizeable amount of snow on the ground and my runs were limited to 10 miles max on the road, I was hunting around on the interwebs and found a race in Salt Lake, at Snowbird no less. It was a 50k! Can’t be that bad, right? I mean, I’ve done 9 Trails and 50 milers, so this can’t be that bad, and plus I’m living here now… and I am in desperate need of an ultra trail race. I actually did start to train, long runs amongst my pack hiking for Mt. Rainier training 1 month prior. Then, I sprained an ankle. 3 weeks later, I sprained it again. Running turned into biking and babying it, so that I could go to Rainier and not let Jenny and her ‘A Team’ down. Two long runs in 100 F heat and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could actually pull this off. Some advice for you here (listen closely, it’s important): it is not a smart idea to ridiculously sprain your already permanent cankle 19 days before the race you already doubt your fitness for on a routine 6 mile easy trail run.
|perhaps if i put a runner on the other foot too, i’ll stop damaging it!|
And again, my running turned into biking, and babying, and wishing and hoping, and I turned into Jenny, sending my friends pictures of swollen appendages. Enough rest and some good old pavement running convinced me that I was healed enough to try for the race…..errr… hike. Naturally, I went to visit my sister and thought trying CrossFit for the first time, with one week to go, would be a great idea. The next 4 days of my life were spent complaining about the fact that it hurt to move, sit, stand, walk, etc. and my entire goal for every day became to avoid screwing with the ankle. Which leads me into my race day mantra…
|Photo credit: Mick Jurynec (thanks for sharing these!)|
Waking up at 4 am, getting coffee-ed, fed, hydrated and more coffee-ed to drive over to Little Cottonwood Canyon, I knew my drop out options were slim in this rugged race.
|Dark and early, driving into Entry 1|
|pre-race briefing, ultra runner (ie crazies) central|
Evidently this was going to be the theme of my race. We quickly dispersed up the cat tracks, winding up Gad Valley, quickly learning that this fire road of a trail was an easy groomer which I had finished many days cruising very slowly down when the slopes were snow covered. If I barely moved on it in the snow, how on earth did it get so steep when reduced to dirt?!
Soon enough I was slogging up Little Cloud Bowl (but not before a detour back downhill), a stretch over 1/2 mile on snow with hand lines. Needless to say, soft snow on a warm day does not treat one’s messed up ankle very well.
|Little Cloud Bowl|
Going up the snow we looked like little ants falling in line, but it wasn’t as tough as I thought and before I knew it we were up and past the traverse at Hidden Peak Aid Station. This was 2:36 in and about 8 miles into the race… it was going to be a looooong day. From there it was down a ridiculous drop along the spine, a drop that I don’t even like skiing down, it was worse with loose dirt and jagged rocks. I settled into a good pace and got myself up along the spine to Baldy, we dropped down the spine on the other side into Alta, on the way encountering the first “I will not break my ankle” section above, about a half mile down a gully of a trail on the spine with steep, giant drops and loose rock skittering down; complete with hand lines to help lower on. For the next 7 miles as we drop down into Mineral Basin and climb up and over down to the Pacific Mine aid station, thoughts of dropping for fear of ending up with a broken ankle resonated through my head; it is amazing how much repeating ‘just a little further’ gets you! The rumors of popsicles at the 15 mile aid station on the backside were indeed true and a welcome treat after the sun came out while I was faithfully praying for my ankles (and sanity) during the 4 mile trot down a ravine of boulders and loose rock. These were not run-able downhills! 5 hours in, it was time to move, so I settled back into the chugging through uphill. Amazingly with a almost a 2 year break from racing, my body remembered how to motor through.
|Finally making it up|
|and afforded spectacular views of the Wasatch backcountry|
|No, the belt wasn’t moving (and it goes the wrong way!)|
From here, I foolishly thought it was an easy job back up to Hidden Peak and on down to the finish. That would be too easy, on his quest to make this the hardest 50K, RD Karl designed the course to wind down Chip’s run, about 2/3 the way down to the base. I realized my fate as my quads slammed down on my femurs trying to make time getting down under Peruvian, watching the top of the tram rise higher and higher above me.
|Peruvian Gulch from the traverse. Beautiful!|
A long descent down and an even longer slog back up Cirque Traverse, the end was in sight! It was a traverse over to Little Cloud and then a rather cold glissade down a half mile of snow – maybe my favorite part! Down, down, down we wound up on some sweet single track and the end was really in sight, multiple times. With the finish line and Creekside in view, we traversed back and forth 3 times before finally being brought in. He certainly made us work for it.