Wrapping up one season to begin another - 2014 (part one)

Preface: I started this post when I thought ski season would take off, fill in the mountains and leave running a seasonal memory in the fall of 2014. Because this year's snowpack was up and down (mostly down in 2015), I've actually kept at it on the trails and been working hard to improve my form and nutrition, strengthen up, and get pre-qualified this spring for a 100-miler. In short, splitboarding, fastpacking/peakbagging, and running are all starting to blend together in the West's new winter season. I'll do a continuous set of posts until I'm caught up with the 2015 season.

In 2014, I wanted to write an end of the year summary on a new hobby that kind of sprang up last year: running. So, I should start by saying that I'm not really a runner. Actually, I've never considered myself "a __________." From playing drums in a couple two-bit youth crew bands to skiing (splitboarding) pretty hard the last few years, I've never considered myself a "splitboarder" or a "drummer." Hell, most weeks, I barely consider myself an "ecologist," and I do that at least a little bit every day. I might deny claiming titles to remind myself to be flexible, portable, and open-minded in case I land somewhere that doesn't lend itself to a certain lifestyle or activity. I can do new and different things, I'm not stuck in one thing or another. In that vein I like to be adaptable to my setting, finding challenges and interesting things to do wherever I end up. Anyhow...last year...after taking up running to get in shape for splitboarding and to see more and new mountains around the West, I sort of had a "running season." It was great.

I ended up seeing more mountains and trails than I thought I might, burned through way more shoes than I thought I would, and in the end made some new friends, spent time with old friends, and saw some ridiculous athletes do some ridiculous things. All while helping to keep Hammer Nutrition and First Endurance in business and maintaining a solid excuse to wear compression tights and short shorts all summer. Here's my breakdown by month:

Faster than they look, Andy and Brian

May - after a nice, extended corn snow season, I looked up at my beloved Logan Peak, checked to see if the (~28-mile) Logan Peak race had filled up (it hadn't) and said, "why not?" With a 50-50 shot on whether I would actually sign up, I headed to the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Portland. The plan had been to head up to Hood for a quick ski ascent, but between Society of Wetland Scientists business, my research, warm weather, and hanging out with old friends, I knew it would be a stretch. Conditions got warm that week and a climber died on the mountain while Andy Dorais set the Mt. Hood ski ascent/descent record in under two-hours. I stayed in the city and ran all week, hitting up more pavement than I usually do, and getting on trails at Lake Forest Park. I also met (Dr.) Eric Chapman, a super nice guy, marathoner, and wetland biogeochemist who is (now was) doing his PhD at Arizona State. We went for a run, exchanged emails, and went our separate ways. I signed up for the Logan Peak race on my phone at the Portland airport while I waited to board. I was just over four weeks out from the Logan Peak race and hadn't run more than 12 miles in one pitch since I was 13 or 14 years old.
Flagstaff "family weekend" 2014
June - as an ecologist with field ambitions, I was obligated to a field season in rural Utah. I ended up spending a lot of time near Utah's Raft River Mountains, snagging total station points and looking at a couple small streams. My mileage was increasing, but I had a hard time getting 40 plus mile weeks in without running every day. I made a list of all the places I wanted to run between 10 and 20-miles, and tried to check every trail off. Wood Camp, Preston Valley, Cherry Creek, Stump Hollow, Green Canyon, Dry Canyon, Spring Hollow, Mill Hollow, and other winter ski routes got run, mostly multiple times and in distances from 10-15 miles. My big run was from my office at USU to the River Trail, hit lower Spring Hollow, Crimson Trail and back. I think I maybe touched 16 miles for my long run, but was getting more climbing down than I thought I was. In the end, I was more worried about resting while working the field full-time and trying to finish some simple writing and analysis tasks (spoiler alert: 75% of it got done).

I toed the line at the Logan Peak race that month as more of an experiment than a "race." Uneventfully enough, I got excited, ran too hard out of the gate, cramped up, walked some sections that I hadn't planned to, and finished at a slow pace that had me on the course for over five hours. With a steep learning curve, I was mentally all in for another chance to keep improving my fitness, fueling, strategy, and running form. Some new and old friends and acquaintances absolutely crushed the course that week, and with trail running being a small world, it wouldn't be the last time I'd see any of them around the Bear River Range or the race scene.

July Flagstaff "family weekend" 2015. Same mountain, different route.
July - Somehow, Erik Syrstad, skier, CROWBAR organizer, UW PhD, engineer, and all around mountain badass mentioned El Vaquero Loco to me in an email. EVL is a challenging 50k in the Salt River and Wyoming Ranges of western Wyoming, just outside of Afton, the childhood home of Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler, Rulon Gardner.  It was also on my birthday in August, and I was stoked to do a "real" ultramarathon. I got to do a couple memorable training runs to prep for this one included setting shuttle and checking off the Wellsville Traverse, a frosty, late-July Beirdneau ascent via Green Canyon, some hikes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with Lexine and her dad, and a power hike/dog training mission with Lexine up to Humphrey's Peak, AZ. I also got to check out some of the excellent singletrack around the Flagstaff area, which led to some serious consideration of running the Flagstaff Sky Race in October.
Wellsville single track
Next post, part two: August, September, October and November 2014!

(Edit: I failed at writing the other parts)

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