Monday, June 30, 2014

Logan Peak Trail race

As I’ve started doing more trail running I have found that it’s not really socially acceptable to just run; you must race.  If you get into a conversation with a fellow trail runner the questions are not “what killer big adventure runs have you done/are you planning”, they are something along the lines of “what races are you doing?” under the assumption that – as a trail runner – you race!  So, in order to fulfill my requisite racing obligation in order to be socially acceptable, I decided on a bit of a whim to enter the Logan Peak Trail “Ultra” up in Logan this past weekend, as a tune up for – yes – yet another Race!

And because blogs many times seem to be along the lines of “This is what I do” and trail runners "do" races I guess that means that therefore I am compelled to blawg about The Races blow by blow!  So here goes the oh-so-scintillating tale….

An early start to carpool up with friends of friends who were willing to drag an unknown entity along with them up to Logan (since I don’t know enough people to carpool with) got us to a nice suburban park in Logan right at the base of their formidable peaks.  The toughness gets going right away, with a 3000 foot climb in the first 4.5 miles.  I have ran short and hard a few times this summer and long and slow a few times, but not very many long and hard, so I tried to be conservative and not blow myself to bits in the exuberance of a newby on this section. 

In the few races I’ve done around here there seems to be “The Guy” who is notably faster than everyone else and as such simply bolts away never to be seen again:  This weekend’s Western States 100 winner Rob Krar in the Jupiter Steeplechase a coupla years ago, Utah road marathoner Fritz Van De Kamp in the Wahsatch Steeplechase, uberkind Nathan Peters in the Skyline Marathon last summer (and Wahsatch Steeplechase last weekend), all around speedy guy Jason Dorais in all his events, etc.  And at first Saturday seemed like no exception:  one guy took off up the trail early and fairly soon was out of sight.  I sorta shrugged and thought:  “well, I don’t know any of these folks and probably that dude is one of the The Guys so I won’t kill myself trying to stay with him” and thus fell in with three other guys and we held a nice steady pace – part time running, part time walking up the steep grade – up to the first aid station, where shortly thereafter the course become more rolling on ATV tracks. 

As we came around to the south slopes of Logan Peak I risked tripping to sneak some peeks at the great views of the valley that seemed a long ways below.  And as I plugged along at a still-moderate pace I realized that the three guys I had been with seemed to be dropping back, so I was alone in 2nd, and thought “well, that’s pretty much the race finish now.”  This went on for quite some time until I caught a glimpse of movement far ahead and realized that it was the leader, and out of curiosity did a quick time check and was surprised to reach the spot where I’d seen him in less than two minutes..  As we made our way north towards the 2nd aid station that was at the base of a 2 mile climb to the top of Logan Peak I came around a corner and was surprised to see him walking on a very gradual grade.  There had been some steep walking sections just prior, but this was quite runnable. As such I caught him pretty quickly and said “Howdy!  How you feelin’?” and he mumbled “I should have looked at the course profile more carefully.”  Ah, indeed.  At this point we were about half done time-wise, I felt good, and figured well, I might as well demoralize the poor guy even further (it is A Race, after all) so I therefore laid into the Logan Peak climb a bit. 

It’s an out and back up to the peak, so it’s a good chance to suss out the positions of everyone else, something that is otherwise nearly impossible on woodsy trails.  I realized on the descent that my pace-layin’ had worked and if I kept a good clip and didn’t crash on the long technical traversy singletrack and long, overgrown descent (that we had climbed earlier) I might have the win.  The trail was great as it wound through beautiful (and very skiable!) terrain, but as it turned onto due-north aspects the rains that had fallen the last couple of days took an effect and the trail started to turn to goo.  Additionally, there had been cows on the trail very recently, so I was pretty much slogging through some pretty good slop that was also well-infused with greasy cow pies.  I passed a posse of what looked like freerider mountain bike dudes just before the sludgefest; at least I didn’t have to haul my 40 lb bike along!  I was also debating about trying to stay in the nice narrow – but muddy – singletrack versus going along the vegetated sides to try to preserve the integrity of the trail, but that seemed fairly silly considering that I was apparently behind a herd of vegetation-decimating bovines. 

As I moved around to the western slopes of the peak I blasted around a corner to see a very discouraging sight:  Not only were there 4 or 5 horseback riders on the narrow trail but there was what appeared to be a huge herd of cattle!  Oy vey, am I going to get caught and risk losing this race because of a bunch of stupid cows?!  And I hate cows.  But the folks were nice enough to get their horses out of the way immediately into a conveniently-located opening and I blazed up behind the cows with my best “YAH… YAH…YAH COWS”  that I had learned from my many, many years as a cowpoke out on the range.  It worked, because they frantically ran up the trail and one by one stumbled off the trail (to the really steep downhill side; I almost felt bad for a second) and out of the way, fortunately without shitting in my face, which seemed like a distinct possibility at the time. 

Then came the quad-busting 3000 foot descent that was actually not too bad; it was just steep and overgrown enough that it wasn’t blazing fast, so my relative lack of footspeed didn’t really come into play.  And soon enough the park came into view and the huge throng of thousands of spectators (at least, the requisite handful of husbands, wives, kids, and dogs) roared their approval. 

1-2.  Pablo Garcia charged from 5th place to 2nd
Of course, success in these races is always a function of who shows up: if the likes of the aforementioned Fast Guys or the legendarily hard-training Lars or any of a big gaggle of strongmen decide to come, then it’s a different race.  And actually the defending champeen whose time was notably faster than mine in much warmer temps was there but he had battled the flu all week (good on him; I would not have done so!). And I’ll most certainly be pack fodder in 3 weeks at the Wasatch Speedgoat sufferfest at Snowbird. 

As we rolled though the first mile nice guy Nick Sourlos mentioned to me that it was 26 miles versus the advertised 28 miles, which for sure was good to know as the race transpired, but it meant that…I still wouldn’t be a true “ultra” marathoner.  And sure enough, on the little gps gizmo watch that I had borrowed my total distance was…..26.2 miles. I’m still not worthy! 

Thanks very much to all the race directors and volunteers who so happily get up at gawdawful times haul up food and water and watch us shove pieces of bananas in our faces with barely a “thanks” mumbled through it.  And of course thanks to new friends Carolyn and Kevin for the ride up.  

A fun community and fun event, which is probably why “What races you doing?” is a very good question indeed.     

And if this account isn’t enough….here’s an article written by a very earnest young reporter for the Logan paper about the race (the Stanley Cup and NBA finals must be over….)

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