Category: Blog

Icy Spikes Running in the Dark

Had to wear my Kahtoola Microspikes this morning. There was a little bit of snow that started last evening at about 35F and transitioned into a freezing slick surface as the temperature descended with the sun. Check out the pic with my spikes and the frosted sheet of thin ice below.

I ran on the recpath as it circled the Cedar Hills Golf Course hill section. It’s a common route for those living within a mile or so. It’s a bit dark back down by the creek and ponds. I love the sounds of the creek rolling over the rocks. Every now and then you see the glowing eyes of various critters ducking into the foliage as your headlamp beam reveals them.

It has been really cold and damp. A damp cold. The worst kind that settles into your bones. Today was a little windy, which made it feel worse. I wore a slightly thicker base layer top and it seemed to work while running. While walking the dog prior to the run it was sure cold.

In Seattle my heart strap for my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak had decided to become dead. Not sure if it’s the strap or the sender unit. I replaced the battery and still no go. That’s why I didn’t record heart rate on Cougar or Tiger Mountains, and why I’ve been mainly using the Tickr Run.

I had gotten a replacement strap and sender combo last year when I thought I’d lost mine, and I finally found it in the secret hiding place I’d never forget. Today I opened it up and it paired instantly. It should, being a fellow Suunto and all.

The main reason I had to get this bad boy up and running is that I am going to run Quandary this weekend. The Wahoo Fitness App is good. It works. It records some interesting data from my Tickr Run sender. Some of it only when I’m moving fast enough. The problem is that cell service is spotty on Quandary. I know the places where it is generally consistent. That’s not too much of a problem though, as the packet can be resent to Strava later when I do have good service.

The main problem is that some notifications and any use of the camera can cause the app to die a miserable death. Sometimes the data is recoverable, but sometimes Strava spits it back and says it doesn’t taste right.

So I can’t take any pics on Quandary or send and receive texts Usually I take a bunch of pics if my hands are warm enough. Generally I text my wife progress reports. So I don’t really want to be using the Wahoo Fitness App on Quandary.

That leaves me with having to locate the heart strap. I did. I tested it this morning. Now I’m happy.

Expected Weather on Quandary Summit:

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On another note – Elbrus access might be easier as the US State Department seems to be no longer recommending against visiting the region: Story Here

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Thinking Ahead – Quandary December 15

I have been planning a trip to Colorado in mid-December for a little while now. It’s to celebrate an event with a close relative. While I’m there I hope to get a climb of Quandary in. I was hoping to make another climb back at the end of November, but the weather, road conditions, and a transportation issue meant that I could not.

As is typical, I’ve been monitoring the weather on Quandary, and here is a report from one of my favorite sources… https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Quandary-Peak/forecasts/4348

The top image is from the summit, and the bottom image is for about where the bridge is near the “closed for restoration” sign. So not too bad for wind, temps, or wind chill. I’m in the middle of a little boot “quandary” (haha) since I’ve outgrown all my double boots. When the chills go below zero I prefer to wear light double boots, like my Scarpa Phantom 6000 Mountaineering Boot, which is what I did when I climbed Greys with Todd Gilles prior to Elbrus Race 2013. It was quite a bit below zero F that day and I was just fine.

Salomon Boots I’ll be wearing

The warmest “mountain” type boots I have right now that fit at all are my Salomon S-Lab X-Alp Carbon Boots (link is to a newer version than I have). They should be sufficient. I wore them last year on a winter climb of Quandary, but had issues with socks and slipping around inside on the descent as the slide locker loosened up. I’ll have to manage that I suppose, in the worst case possibly even unzipping and tightening the slide locker at the summit, in the cold, in the wind, prior to descending.

I’ll be packing up my gear over the next couple of days, so stay in touch here to get the full scoop as I prepare for whatever my goals evolve into over the next few months.

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Morning Road Running – Beginning Groove

After my amazing fun adventure running up and down both Tiger and Cougar Mountains near Seattle Washington, I had to make some decisions.

The weather was awesome. Forties and raining. The trails were wet and smooth. I loved it. I managed to get in about seven or so miles each of the three days I had there. That’s about the most sequential running I’ve done in quite a while. I had some really good paces on the flats, uphill, and downhill. It was inspiring.

But then I had to suffer from the backlash of that. Recovery sucked. 

With my goal of doing a VK this coming year, and possibly Elbrus, it became obvious that my running training needed to change somehow. That how evolved into going back to ground zero so to speak. I needed to start at one mile a day a few or so days a week and work my way back up from there.

It was simply that my mind and body were primed and ready to crank out seven miles for a few days, but no more than that. In the bigger scheme of things this wasn’t a really bad thing. Quandary is a 6.5 mile out and back. Cake. But the bigger implication was for training. How many miles a day do I need to run how many days a week to effectively achieve my maximum speed?

Right. Enough that my body isn’t really ready to do on a daily persistent basis. Back in 2010 I began with baby steps doing various stepmill, elliptical, and treadmill workouts. I started with very low targets and worked my way up on the way to Elbrus Race. Now Elbrus Race Classic is a 9-ish mile out and back with a lot more elevation gain than Quandary.

So back to square one, which is an outside run over a mile a handful of times a week. Outside because I need to get my shivers out of my system prior to either a fast winter Quandary or any Elbrus.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. Our ‘hood at large contains a large semi-circular area adjacent to a golf course and outlining the edge of some hills near the mouth of American Fork Canyon. The knots of streets are cut by a local connecting highway or two, and some of the rec paths. If you zigzag around a bit you can hit just about any mile goal pretty easily without too much elevation gain or loss. If you do want some elevation, there are a few nice steeper roads along the hills.

I started running in the morning, normally after a circuit training routine that I’ll share later. I’m up to about 2-ish miles a day a handful of days per week. My pace is decent enough. One day in spikes due to recent freezing rain and snow mixed I averaged around 13:00 + but mostly I’ve been moving closer to 11:00 + pace. Not too shabby for someone who hasn’t run outside in the cold in a very long time.

Those are some of the screenshots from the Wahoo Fitness App I’m using on Android. It’s got some klunky bits, but otherwise works good in combination with my Wahoo Tickr Run heart rate strap.

I’ll share more on that later, but for now, I’m working my way toward a hike or even run up Quandary here pretty soon.

TTYL!

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Thinking of Quandary This Month

I’ve been chatting with my wife about my goals and plans for the coming year. One is to finally finish up Elbrus, Race or not. In discussing my plans in regards to finishing Elbrus, we thought that perhaps I should try to get in a once-a-month climb of Quandary, regardless of weather. Elbrus has atrocious weather you know. Cold and windy is the norm most summit days it seems. It’s only the non-summit days that you get beautiful blue skies.

Since I was able to acclimatize so well for Orizaba in 2013, in spite of living here in Utah at the time, we considered that I could actually just test my 14000′ ability to acclimatize regularly, then once on Elbrus, hang out for a day at the Barrels Huts and go up the first nice day.

In any case, it seems reasonable, based on the past. Now for the future.

What shape am I in? Can I acclimatize? Can I get my “running legs” back in time?

Stay tuned …

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Evolution of a Cyclist

Chain Reaction Cycles posted this on Facebook recently, and I realized just how very true this is.

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Message From Moab 18 August

Sadly, it looks like Elbrus Race 2018 is out of the picture. Not enough time to get trained and peak, and get a visa, and get the High School Mountain Bike team I coach ready for the impending racing season.

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Road To Elbrus – Morgan in the Dark – 13 August

When I first began this whole idea of returning to Elbrus Race, like I did in 2010 and 2013, I hadn’t been running at all. I’d even quit running on the treadmill. Training to be a mountain biking coach, in spite of my limited technical skills. I even get to ride with some really super fast kids, so it’s tough work for me. I’ve been so injured this past year that it’s been hard to recover and keep up a lot of the time.

For those of you who don’t normally follow me, or my adventures, I entered Elbrus Race 2010, but was unable to continue after a lazy cook gave me untreated water. In 2013 I took 5th place in a slightly modified race up to 17,000′ in near whiteout conditions. I have written numerous books about my Seven Summits Quest, and my training for climbing, including instruction manuals. Check out my author profile FOR MORE INFO.

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Winter End Musings – Where do we go from here?

It’s been a long few years since I ended up returning to work as a “mere employee” and having to waste a lot of time commuting and then sitting at at desk in an office with 26 male employoees and one toilet between us. Since most of them are typical fast-food survivors and need to spend a good deal of time squeezing out toxic waste byproducts while playing on their phones, it’s somewhat difficult to stay properly hydrated.

If you can’t figure out what the connection is, let me know in a message and I’ll spell it out for you.

Fighting the results of my own toxic byproducts of training hard has become a real challenge. Enough so that my training is seriously impacted. Gone are the days of 10 days on and 1 day off.

Learning how to ride a mountain bike while overcoming the delusions of my youth that plague me has been a super difficult challenge as well. My memories of 30 years ago cruising along at 28 MPH on an 18 lb bike with 700 x 20 slicks confound me as I struggle to stay over 15 MPH on my 30 pound full suspension bike. Add in the inverted gravity response to cornering on loose gravel. It’s tough. But it’s part of the game when you’re a certified mountain bike coach for a local high school team.

I also get to spend a lot of time on a trainer, with the bad weather, or should I say typical Utah late winter weather?

I’ve been on the treadmill a lot, with various levels of incline, and overall it’s been okay, though not sustainable at heavy loads right now. I was using an Adidas Footpod and just recently changed to a Wahoo Tickr Run which provides the same data from a chest strap. So far I’ve liked it and it’s a bit more accurate than the pod, which is a mystery to me.

And on top of it all, I’ve been dreaming about Quandary. Remember my favorite Colorado Fourteener that I’ve ascended in every month of the year? I kind of do. I was thinking all winter of going out there to do it, but it’s been a bad weather and wind magnet all winter long. This shot is just an example. I saw days with > 60 MPH winds and way below 0 F.

Suddenly we get this:

Quandary Summit
Quandary Treeline

What is a sort-of retired, but not willing to give it up Skyrunner to do?

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Snowshoe Hike in New Snow

Saturday Jan 21, 2017

It snowed last night, and my plan was to head up American Fork Canyon to Tibble Fork Reservoir and do some longer hill repeats. The road was unplowed and if not for the construction trucks heading up and down for the dam repair project, there wouldn’t even be a path. Fortunately I managed to get my SUV up to the lake parking and took off up the trail.

Even snowmobiles hadn’t made it up yet in any great numbers so the trail was really loose, even in the one snowmobile track there. I kept sliding out of the track and up to my knees. No running today. So I quick switched out of my New Balance Leadville shoes and Kahtoola Microspikes and into my Salomon S-Lap X-Alp Carbon and my backpacking snowshoes. Yeah, you don’t run in backpacking snowshoes.

It was “smooth” going to say the least. It was good work heading up the hill and since I was way off on getting anything on Strava [Strava for this report HERE] I just forked into Granite Flats campground to check out the path up the ridge of Box Elder Peak that I could see in previous runs up here. I really want to do that. Not today though. The path was narrow and not tracked out at all. Sank up to my knees and tipped into the creek bottom, even on snowshoes.

I ran into some 12 year old Boy Scouts hauling sleds down toward the parking lot. They were a bit miserable what with the heavy snow and all. Seriously over 2′ up here. Amazing good fun digging snow caves and hauling sleds. Great to see the young ones hard at work up here.

On the way downhill I met another runner heading up in smaller, lighter, faster snowshoes. He had come up planning on running just as I had, but had a backup plan handy (snowshoes) and was going to make a 2 hour workout his new plan for the day.

In spite of the storm it was actually quite warm, around 24F. I wore my Saxx Subzero wind front boxers, Underarmour windstopper tights, TNF base layer, and Pearl Izumi hybrid softshell fleece hoodie. I got in 2.5 miles in a decent, but certainly not fast time. Overall, great fun in a beautiful setting. I got in a rather gentle workout, and over the previous 7 days nearly 20 miles.


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Dirt Road Hill Laps in Saint George Utah

Sunday, Jan 15 2017

While on a road trip to Las Vegas for a gymnastics competition for my daughter, I had a few hours to kill early Sunday morning in Saint George Utah. The weather was perfect, about 40F and right at the break of dawn I got out to the trailhead, the top of the dirt road behind the condos at the Green Valley Race Loops (MTB race course}.

Mountain biking Bearclaw Poppy at Saint George Utah

I’ve been on this course a number of times, prerunning the course as a NICA certified Level 2 High School Mountain Bike coach, and then riding the local trails for fun and adventure. It’s a blast out there. I will someday run the backcountry trails, but today I needed to do some hill repeats.

From the top of the hill at the condo, down to the lowest section of road is a shorter hill, then the long hill up to the water tank at the walk-over gate to Bearclaw Poppy. I went out and back twice for a total of 5.4 miles and 853 ft of vertical. [Strava]

These are really long hill laps for most normal hill repeat training, but it was hard work to keep the pace up for so long. Much like a Vertical K would be.


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