Monday, July 29, 2019

Running the Tushars Marathon 2019

 Early morning on July 27, 2019 was the time to start the Tushars Marathon. This mountain marathon would cover 26.2 miles with over 7,300 feet elevation gain (and loss, since we were doing a loop). And most of it would be over 10,000 feet elevation.

To prepare, I had followed a 16-week training plan.
 This worked well with my schedule, as with work and family, I could only reasonably run four days a week. I did the whole schedule with only a couple minor modifications.

My other big preparation was listening to the Podcast Trail Talk, which helped me a lot with nutrition, preparing myself mentally, and also being a big inspiration. One of the tips was to prepare myself for the route. I looked at the race website and downloaded the trail map. I tried to figure out where I would be going up and where down, and mentally broke the run into segments based on the aid stations and high and low points.

I also looked a lot at the profile. Being mentally prepared for the major ups was very helpful. I was surprised by the runners I met during the race who had no idea what was coming next.

 Our family had camped out near the start at Eagle Point Ski Resort the night before. It had not been a great night's sleep, with a big thunderstorm into the late night and a rambunctious dog. But the family managed to get up to send me off.

I had my running vest packed ahead of time, my GPS watch fully charged, so all I had to do race morning was get dressed and eat some breakfast. And try to get more charge into my phone, it hadn't charged during the night like I had planned. There were more runners than I was expecting. And this was just one of four races--the 100km and 70 km had already started, and the half marathon would start 30 minutes later. 

Then we were off. We had a muddy downhill first, then lots of uphill. 

It was a cloudy morning, so sunrise wasn't amazing, but it was still beautiful.
And there was a lot of snow! I was glad for all my training through snow drifts, as they didn't faze me.

I had to take some quick photos, knowing I would enjoy the scenery more later than in the moment, while I was huffing and puffing. I loved the downhills, they were easier than the ones I had practiced. But the uphills seemed harder.

At mile 8, the Alunite Ridge Aid Station was a welcome sight. I drank some Gatorade and grabbed some pretzels and peanut M&Ms. I was happy to arrive at 2 hours, which had been my goal.

Next up was a steep road. Only about 3-4 miles of the race was on roads, about 20 miles on single track, and the rest just across grass and meadows. These two ladies ahead of me were doing the 70 km, and I was a bit surprised to run into some 70km racers. It was a nice morale boost.
At the top of the road was a pass and some more beautiful single track.

 While the first eight miles I was running with big groups of people, at this point I ran a couple miles without seeing anyone else. It was really sweet.

And the downhill kept going! I knew the big ascent to Delano Peak was coming soon, so I just enjoyed it.

The trail passed by these old cabins.

And also by this adit. This guy passed me, but then when I said we had 2,000 foot elevation gain, he stopped for a break to eat and I passed him. 

The trail was really wet and muddy. We had numerous stream crossings to clean our shoes.

Another cool mining cabin.

The trail kept going up in the trees, then we came out into the meadow. Hello, Parry's primrose!

And then we were above treeline, with a daunting mountain to climb. We went through some of the snow you see.

It was gorgeous, but I really had to keep talking myself into taking step after step. My two running mantras were "Run Your Own Race" and "One Step at a Time." The first was because I was feeling a little too competitive and then sometimes discouraged when people passed me. The second was because even though I wanted to quit many times, every step I took was one step closer to the finish line.

Can you see the distant figures? I was hoping to be up Delano Peak in about 4 hours. 

The Paintbrush was bright pink and a different species than I knew. I saw some other flowers I didn't know, but resisted taking photos of them all!

Looking behind me at some of the people coming up the slope.

And then, finally, I was there! There was a big group of people on the lee side of Delano Peak, and I wondered why the runners were hanging out so long. It turned out they were hikers, getting an extra spectacle on their climb! I was at the top at 4:02 and sent a quick text to my husband.

The downhill was fantastic. I just wanted to drink in the views, but instead took a couple photos and then ran.

At the bottom of the downhill was a mile or so up a road. It was not fun. I ran out of water and really wanted to be at the aid station.

The Mud Lake Aid station was tucked behind a hill, so I didn't see it until I was right there. I had to take a few minutes to recuperate here. I drank a cup of gatorade and another of water, filled my water bladder with a liter of water. I ate some turkey and cheese, tortilla and avocado and hummus, and some more peanut M&Ms. Despite how crappy I was feeling, I had made it here in 5 hours, which was my goal. The few minutes there made me feel much better. Then I started out along Mud Lake. Here's a view looking back towards the Aid Station:

Some 100 km stragglers were still coming in the opposite direction. They weren't looking so great, and I wondered how they were going to finish. This aid station was busy, with runners from the three longer races all there. But about a half mile away, the Marathoners took a different trail. 

In fact, here's the junction. The trails were marked quite well. And this is when my phone quit working right. The next section, a long downhill, was quite nice, although I could tell my legs were getting tired. It took a little longer than I had planned. And then there was a big uphill through Big John Flat on a road, with too many ATVs. That part was not good. I couldn't wait to get to the aid station at mile 22. But it seemed like I kept going and going. And two people passed me, which pissed me off. 
Finally I got to the aid station, and the ladies were so nice. I had some more Gatorade and sweet watermelon. Yum! Only about 4 miles to go. One blog post I had read about the race said this was the flattest part of the race. Liar. There was more uphill than I expected. I was not happy about that. At all. And even though I was grumpy and sore, I knew there wasn't too much to go. And then I caught up with some half-marathon stragglers, and that made me feel a little better. I got to the final downhill, which I did without much grace, and then the final uphill. My husband was waiting for me part way, which was so nice! I managed to run the last 20 yards!

I had had three big goals for the race: 1. Finish, 2. Finish in less than 9 hours, 3. Finish in less than 8 hours. When I had looked at 2018 results, I saw that the median time to finish the marathon was 8:35. I really wanted to beat that. Well, my final time was 8:13, so I accomplished goals 1 and 2, but not quite 3. I finished 41 of 73, plus 12 that did not finish. I felt a little bad about my placing at first, but then I realized that only two people older than me had finished. And I was third for females in my age group. Plus I was still walking!

One racer asked me at the aid station at the end if I was going to do it next year. I told him it depended on how I recovered. I'm still sore, but I'm still moving. Pre- and post-race massages by Jenny Hamilton Therapeutic Massage have made a huge difference. And I'm thinking of how to improve. So we'll see...

Tushars Mountain Runs

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Baker Lake and Dead Lake, Great Basin National Park

My longest run to train for the Tushars Marathon took place three weeks before the marathon and was due to be a 20-22-mile long run. I wanted to be as high elevation as possible, but faced a lot of snow at upper elevations. Where could I go? I decided to start out on the Baker Lake trail, a bit over 5 miles long.

The lower elevations (about 8,000 to 9,000 feet) were totally snow-free, with pretty flowers blooming.

The trail was wet, with many stream crossings.

Baker Creek itself was quite impressive. I liked all the cascades.

I made a little detour to the third snow survey site . When I had been there the end of March, we had measured the snow at over six feet deep. This snow marker sign had not seemed so tall! I stood next to it and was about a foot shorter than the joint.

I continued higher and started running into snow.

And more snow! Beyond mile 4, it was pretty much all snow, but of varying heights. I did more hiking than running at this point. 

And finally I was there! The lake was still mostly frozen over. It was quite impressive.

 And that's when my phone died, without warning, I think because it was so cold. I had an external battery so plugged it in and wandered around a bit, wanting to get a few more photos.

I also ate some snacks and rehydrated. I am trying not to eat much sugar, so I haven't been doing any gels, so each run I've been trying different solid foods to see how my stomach handles them. So far, everything has been good. Trail mix is a big favorite. My phone got enough power to take a few more photos, then it was time to move on. I had several possibilities: 1. Do the Baker-Johnson Lake loop. This is a terrific loop, about 13-miles long. But with all the snow, it was too dangerous, especially descending from the ridge to Johnson Lake, a very steep section and one that I could see was entirely snow-covered. 2. Go up to the ridge above Johnson Lake, then continue along the ridge to the Snake Divide Ridge trail through the bristlecones. I did this last fall, and it was a gorgeous run. But it seemed very snowy, and since I was already on an external battery for my phone, I didn't want to be there without decent communications. 3. Go back down the Baker Lake trail and hook up with other trails.

 I chose #3. It might not be the most adventurous, but it would probably provide the best running surfaces, and that was what I was after. Plus, it would be safer to stick to marked trails. So I ran down to the junction with the South Fork Baker trail, took that past some tents (!), and to the beautiful meadow.

The last time I had seen the trail junction sign, it had been surrounded by snow! Now the snow was gone and it was good running uphill to the next big beautiful meadow.

Then I continued up to the ridge between Baker Creek and Snake Creek, where I found this sign : Snake Creek Divide (not to be confused with the Snake Creek Divide between Snake Creek and North Fork Big Wash), Elevation 9,871 feet. Johnson Lake 2.0 miles. Soon after I came across a group of backpackers who had gone up to Johnson Lake, and they warned that the snow was really deep past the Johnson Mill Site.

 The views from this connector trail, called the Shoshone Trail, are terrific. Here's looking southeast into the Snake drainage.

I met up with the Johnson Lake trail and headed uphill until I got to this trail junction to Dead Lake, 0.6 miles ahead. This is a new trail, and I wanted to check out Dead Lake.

I knew Dead Lake would be more than the puddle it is most of the time, but I wasn't prepared for just how much water would be there!

The trail skirts one edge, but I decided to walk around the lake so I could see it from all angles.

I could have swam in it! (I considered that.)

It was a super fun sight.

I couldn't resist a selfie!

Then it was back running to the Johnson Lake trail and the Shoshone trail. Along the way I saw this flower I had missed previously. I still don't know what it is!

Here's the view coming back into the big meadow and to the South Fork Baker-Timber Creek junction. I took a right and headed over into Timber Creek. There was just one big snow drift at the top of Timber Creek.

Then it was pretty quick heading down the trail.

And finally across Baker Creek and back to the vehicle!
I don't know the exact mileage, as my Garmin watch ran out of battery, my phone ran out of battery, and I had to just run without electronics! (A good thing to do!) It was a very pleasant run, and I was glad to have an excuse to get out on the trails. I certainly have a different view of trail mileage after all these trail runs, it's a wee bit faster than the many hikes I've done with kids over the past 10 years!
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