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Running In The New Year: The Grand Canyon, Havasupai, and Squaw Peak 50

Havasu Falls near Supai, Arizona. The water is...

Havasu Falls near Supai, Arizona. The water is blue/green due to high concentrations of dissolved lime picked up as the water runs through the sedimentary rock of Havasu Canyon and the Grand Canyon. 

It’s that time of year again when we say good bye to the out going year and greet the new year with goals and new year’s resolutions. If you’re like me you may have goals and new year resolutions for running.

For me I plan on running the Kahtoola Bigfoot Snowshoe Race in January and then during the months of February and March train for some Spring/Late Summer adventure runs. I want to either do a rim to rim run of the Grand Canyon or do a day run into Havasupai to play and swim in the waterfalls there and then at the end of the day run back out back to the trailhead.

Back in May of 2012 I did a Grand Canyon rim to rim run and I would have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable adventure runs that I have done. It’s enjoyable to do for a number of reasons. 1) Well maintained trails that are relatively rock free. 2) Lots of downhill running and flat trail running equals very runnable trails. 3) Low elevation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon means easy running that makes you feel like a running God. Especially if you live and train at higher elevations. 4) Water is piped into the trail.

What I think would make Havasupai a fun adventure run is that this is an Indian Reservation with places to buy food and a restaurant to eat at. This means we can go light and carry with you water and a few things to eat while on the trail. The real highlight of course would be exploring the area around the waterfalls and the swimming in the turquoise blue water of Cateract Creek, and to see the beauty of Navajo, Havasu and Mooney Waterfalls.

In June I plan on Running the Squaw Peak 50 Mile Endurance Run. I have 7 lifetime finishes for Squaw Peak, but for the past few years I have struggled to finish this race. For this year, I really want to get my 8th Squaw Peak finish and then eventually get 10 lifetime finishes.

After June I plan on running the local trails during the summer and running Mount Timpanogos as mush as time will permit.

Trail Running: Fitness and Nature

There are many reasons why I love to run! Among all my many reasons I thought I would blog about two of those reasons….being fit and being in nature.

Running to enjoy the nature

Running to enjoy nature

Being fit just feels good! It feels good in more ways than one. Being fit just doesn’t effect your body, but your mind and mental health. I find it easier to focus on work or whatever I’m working on after a run. I also feel less stress. There have been many times when I have been stressed out and don’t feel like going for a run, but every time I go running when feeling stressed I always feel better afterwards.

Being fit allows me to do strenuously physical tasks or activities. An example of this is when I summited the highest peak in the Tetons. I didn’t have to do much preparation fitness wise because I was already fit. I was able to just show up and do the climbing. Running to be fit affords me these opportunities to just show up to a strenuous activity to do it and enjoy it.

Most of my running is done on mountain trails in nature. It just feels good to be in nature away from the stresses of life. One of my favorite times to run in nature is after it has rained and the air temperature is cooler than

Being fit allows you to be active

Being fit allows you to be active

normal. The leaves on the trees and plants drip with rain drops and the birds sing as I run by. I love moments like this! Breathing in the clean mountain air helps clean my inner self from stress and worries. Here is a favorite quote of mine from the naturalist John Muir:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

Running is a great stress relief and a great way to enjoy nature especially if you get on the trails in the mountains.

Bib Numbers…What To Do With Them

Bib numbers…if you have run at least one race, then you have a bib number. But what do you do after the race…do you throw it away? I keep my bib numbers and display them like they are finisher medals.

I have kept all my bib numbers except for one that happened to be from my first race, which was a marathon. I did not keep it

What do you do with all your bib numbers?

What do you do with all your bib numbers?

because that race was such a miserable experience that I never wanted to run again and did not want to remember the experience so I threw my bib number away.

A week or two later, after I had forgotten the misery and pain, I signed up for my first ultramarathon and second race…The Tahoe 50k. My second race was a much better experience and I became hooked on running ultras. Since that second race I

have kept every bib number from all my races. I have bib numbers from 5ks, half marathons, marathons, 50ks, 50 milers, 100ks, and 100milers.

On all my bib numbers I’ll write my finishing time and maybe a note or two describing the race and what I enjoyed about it. If I DNFed (Did Not Finish) then I’ll give an explanation on what went wrong, how I was feeling, and what I was thinking. It’s a nice way to remember some of the fun races  and learning experience gained in running ultramarathons.

If you decide to keep your bib numbers, don’t just tuck them away out of site. Display them somewhere, where you can see them often and where others can see them too. Having them in sight can be a reminder of what you have accomplished as a runner and help provide motivation for training and for running future races. Also, having them in sight for others to see can make for a nice conversational piece.

I display my bib numbers simply by threading a small rope threw the holes in the bib numbers. This last Christmas my sister bought me a small plaque with two hooks on the bottom specifically for putting bib numbers on. Those are two options for displaying bib numbers.

Display Your Bib Numbers

Display Your Bib Numbers

Over the years I have found that I value my bib numbers just as much and maybe more than my finisher’s medal. I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s because that each bib number I have was with me as I ran those races.  Races that required me to sometimes go deep into the pain cave in order to pull out finish. A finisher’s medal is something nice, but it is something you only receive after the race. It’s not something that is with you from the starting line all the way to the finish.

Ultramarathon Running and Trail Running

Trail-RunningWhat’s the difference between ultramarathon running and trail running? Not much…except to be a trail runner you don’t have to run ultra distances (more than 26.2 miles) and to run an ultramarathon you don’t have run on trails.

The reason I’m making a distinction between the two, is that I am starting to realize that to enjoy trail running I don’t have to necessarily run ultramarathons or be training for an ultra race.  This realization has come to me for a number of reasons. First off, my time is more limited than what it used to be. I just don’t have the time to be out training for an ultra. Second, I have been having a debate in my head about quality or quantity.

What I mean by quality or quantity, is asking if it’s better to have more quantity, as in logging more miles on a run? Or is it better to have more quality, as in shorter and slower runs to take in the scenery and  enjoy the moment more?

This may be stating the obvious…but I’m beginning to realize to be a trail runner I don’t have to be an ultramarathon runner. The benefit of just being a trail runner is the time benefit. It doesn’t take as much time to run trails as it does to train for and run an ultramarathon. I can enjoy the moment more when I am out on the trail running and not worry about training or running at a certain pace.

All this depends on your interests and goals, I guess. If you want to run beyond the marathon distance in the mountains then perhaps ultramarathon running is for you. But if you just want to get out and run trails to enjoy nature…then trail running may be what you want and will enjoy more.

The Mental and The Physical in Ultramarathon Running

Mental Toughness

Struggling during an ultramarathon race is common and part of the challenge. To overcome those struggles toughness is required. So….where does toughness come from?

My feeling is that toughness is a combination of the mental and the physical. When I am in good physical shape for an ultramarathon, my body can respond to the physical challenge of running ultra distances. When this happens my mind or the mental part of me is more at ease and I am in a better place to handle the challenges than if I was not in good shape.

With that said, there have been times when I have toed the starting line of an ultramarathon knowing that I’m not in good shape. I have found when this is the case my body does not respond very well to the challenge and my mind or the mental part of me seems to go down hill.

So does the physical part of me determine my toughness? I think being in good shape physically certainly does help with the mental component of ulta running, but there are times even when in good shape, when physically I feel crumby. When this happens it becomes mental and it is mental toughness that gets me through the hard times.

How do we stay mentally tough when physically we are struggling. The physical may be a sour stomach, muscle cramping, or any kind of aches and pains. Perhaps the mental toughness comes with understanding that these physical struggles will pass. They may pass after a few miles or they may pass after crossing the finish line.

Getting better physically means drinking, taking salt, and eating. Doing this can be hard especially when your stomach goes sour.

So, where does toughness come from? Mental? Physical?

Trail Running Photography

Is there more to running trails than just running trails? I think so. What I mean by that is if you are out running trails then you are out in nature. Maybe you are on a mountain trail or in the desert on a trail or maybe on a city trail. Whatever kind of trail you are running on there is a good chance you are surrounded by nature. Something I have started to do more of is enjoy nature on my trail runs. I do this by taking pictures of what I am seeing as I run up and down mountains. I also have found it enjoyable to take video of my runs and then edit that video into something that is hopefully enjoyable to watch.

I started out doing this by taking pictures with my iphone 4. Not the best option as far as quality pictures go, but it was good enough and the only option I had at the time. I found a couple of apps that I could use on my iPhone to edit my pictures…Google’s Snapseed app and of course Instagram. Snapseed works great for editing photos before posting them to Instragram. Instagram is a great way to share photos and Instagram has photo filters for minor photo editing. Instagram is primarily set to share and view photos on a smart phone, but there is a sharing function in the app that allows you to share to Facebook, Twitter or to email your photos to family and friends.

This what a good day running in the mountians looks like.

Good trail runs look like this.

After using my iPhone 4 as my main camera for awhile I decided to buy a nice point and shoot camera that I could easily carry with me on trail runs. The end result of this purchase has been better quality pictures. I also bought a GoPro Hero 3 which has been a lot of fun to use. I can take video and pictures with my GoPro. Both video and pictures from the GoPro are great.

Trail running by itself is a lot of fun, but adding photography and videography to trail running adds another element to running trails. And it gives you a way to share with others the things you are seeing and experiencing. Below are some of the photos and a video I took on my run last Saturday.

Saturday's Run

Some trail running pics.

Snow Running

Lately I have only been running on the treadmill rather than my preferred terrane which are trails. There are two reasons why I have been on the treadmill and they are cold weather and bad air quality due to inversions we get here along the Wasatch Front. The high day time temperatures have not been above freezing since Christmas and the low temperatures have dipped below zero at night. This stretch of cold temps is uncommon for the Salt Lake area…something I’m not used to. As far as the air quality goes, it is unfortunately common to have inversions or bad air quality during the winter months. In fact, about a week and half ago it was reported that the air quality along the Wasatch Front was worse than Beijing’s air quality which is supposed to be some of the worst air in the world.

That's not fog or clouds. That's an inversion or bad air quality.

Below in the valley that’s not fog or clouds. That’s an inversion or bad air quality.

So today I decided that I had, had enough of treadmill running and decided to get up on some trails above the inversion. Right now there is a good amount of snow in the mountains. Because of this I picked some  heavily used trails to run on so that the snow would be packed down. I decided to go up a canyon in the Salt Lake area named Millcreek and run on a trail called Pipeline.

I knew the Pipeline trail would be above the inversion which means that it would be warmer up where I was going to be running than in the valley. When there is a inversion there is cold air that gets trapped in the valley, but above in the mountains it can actually be warmer.

Microspikes

Microspikes

Knowing this I purposely dressed in layers so I could peel off the layers as I got higher and it got warmer. I also used a pair of Microspikes to run in. These worked great for running in the snow they easily bit into the snow to give me  great traction for my whole run. During my run I did not really think much about my traction or the fact that I had Microspikes on. But once I took my Microspikes off to walk a short distance through the snow to my car I noticed my traction was not as good and that wearing Microspikes really makes a difference.

It felt really good to be outside today instead of on a treadmill. It also felt equally as good to be breathing crisp cold fresh air in the mountains. There is nothing like getting out in the mountains to enjoy nature

 

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