Friday, September 28, 2012

Mountain Mayhem

Last week I was out in Washington State for a medical waste management course and took advantage of the trip to enjoy a good trail run in.  The last day of the course ended before noon, and we weren’t flying home until the next day, so we hit the road to Mount Rainier.  Now normally I would have researched it to death and found the perfect little place for me to get a run in.  I didn’t get the chance this trip, so we winged it. 

The Seatle Waterfront

Me and a coworker headed east, following signs for Mount Rainier and hoped for the best.  We stopped for lunch and while sitting at the table, I attempted to look up hikes using www.everytrail.com to find something.  I stumbled across a trail that looked suitable and we headed out.  Nearly an hour into the drive, with about 15 miles to go, we hit dirt.  The road turned into a dirt road the rest of the drive up, and I do mean up!  The elevation was climbing faster than corn through a goose (ha!).  We eventually reached the park, paid our entrance fee, and found a parking spot.

Immediately we were greeted with a picturesque mountain lake view of Mowich Lake.


The water was so calm, so clear, and so blue.  There is nothing quite like a secluded mountain lake to run by. 


Being that my coworker isn’t much for running, we had to work out the logistics.  He chose to do a 2 hour out and back hike, while I did a run, meeting back at the car in two hours.  Great!  Plenty of time for a good run.  

My initial plan was to run around the lake, up to a mountain pass, then continue up to a fire tower, hoping for a great view of Mount Rainier, we were on a smaller mountain about 15 miles away but trees and Fay Peak kept us from getting a good view of Mount Rainier.   

DSC04958 DSC04963

The trail was slightly larger than single track, more like double track.  Plenty of ups and downs, with roots everywhere, it was similar to the Stone Mill 50 Mile course, only wider.  Running along the lake shore provided awesome views and frequent picture stops. Soon, I left the comfort of the shoreline and headed up to Ipsut Pass where I took a short break for some photos.  Along the way, I crossed paths with a group of hikers and one of them said “You know there is a speed limit.”  Not in a mean way, but joking at how I was running and they were struggling with the hike.  Ha!

DSC04968 DSC04969

DSC04971 DSC04978

My original plan to hit the fire tower was thwarted when I realized it was a rather large descent then ascent.  I didn’t have the time or energy for strenuous climbing, so I headed back to the lake, intent on taking the trail the other direction in hopes of a good view of Mount Rainier. 

I passed my coworker and told him my intentions, then sped up a bit to make sure I had time.  This other side had several mountain streams, and dense forest.  Quite a few hikers were on this side, and several told me of a “decent” view of the mountain was a head.  I kept going, destined to hit that view before I had to turn around.  Finally, a hiker said I was close by, and the spot was just up some stairs.  Yeah right!  “some stairs” turned into a steep ascent of about 300 feet! 

DSC05004 DSC05008

DSC05014 DSC05018

Finally, I hit made the spot.  The view was SPECTACULAR!  Well worth the long drive and trail run.  I spent a good five minutes soaking it all in, then hit the ground running for our two hour rendezvous. 


DSC05026 DSC05029

I felt bad that my coworker didn’t get to see the same view, but in fairness, I put in the effort, he didn’t.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a great view though. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Red Rock Adventure Part II–Red Rock Canyon

See Red Rock Adventure Part I – Red Rock 5K Here

We last left off with the end of the awards ceremony and a decision.

“I had a choice, run the two miles back to the hotel, or head “elsewhere”  So I hit the road…”

And now, the exciting conclusion…

My intention was to run some more after the race.  Sure, I could have easily run the two miles back to the hotel and make it a 7 mile run, but that just wasn’t good enough.  Since I’m in training for a 50 miler, I really needed to get more in than that.  My plan was to head out west…. literally.  The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located about 15 miles west of downtown Las Vegas, roughly 7 miles west of my hotel along a sparse highway.  What better way to see the sights than on foot right? 

After giving it some thought, I decided to run out towards the park, but turn around early to make it a total of 13 miles.  Since I’d just run a 5K, I wasn’t sure if I’d be up for anything more.  So I headed out. 

DSC04758The first 1.5 miles or so were through the suburban neighborhood the race was in.  Fancy homes and such.  After that I hit the highway and it was a straight shoot out of town.  Slow and steady was my mantra.  It was hot and the sun was shining high.  Thankfully I had my chill towel from the race.  I periodically would wet it down some more and let it cool my neck and head, very refreshing.  Had I not had this, there was no way I would have made it much further. 

DSC04764Shortly after I started running along the highway, I noticed there was a lot of bikers out.  It was a bicycle race.  I came upon the finish area and saw a small crowd was hanging around, waiting for the finishers I assumed.  I continued to pass bikers for nearly the entire rest of my run.  Some were pleasant and said high, others, as bikers commonly do, acted like they had the right of way and would fly past me, expecting me to move off of the shoulder. Still, it made for some interesting company.

Getting back to the run, I quickly left the suburban landscape, replacing it with rocks, dirt, and more rocks. Desserts are beautiful from a distance, but up close, it’s nothing more than dirt and rocks, with a smidgen of life thrown in for good measure.  When one is stuck along said terrain, it can become quite monotonous of a landscape.  Thankfully, I had plenty of rocky mountains to occupy my eyes.  The mountains were gorgeous.  Per the name, there were various formations of reds and browns throughout the landscape. 

DSC04771When I got close to my predetermined turn around, I was in good shape.  I had over 1/3 of my water remaining and could have easily returned to the hotel without problems.  Then it struck my vision, a road sign ahead that stated I was only two miles from the parks visitors center.  Hmmm.  More to contemplate.  Turn around or keep going?  If I turned around, I had a 4.5 mile straight shot to the hotel.  I had some nutrition with me, and water was decent.  The other option, head out the extra two miles to the visitors center where I was bound to find more water, snacks, and some rest.  I took the obvious choice, hit the visitors center.

Keep a truckin’ keep a truckin’  I was moved fine, but since getting on the highway path, it had been a steady but slight uphill.  Soon, I arrived at the visitors center road, and headed up.  I was relieved to find out that bikers and walkers only had to pay $3 to enter, instead of the normal $7.  A nice perk for spending the last 1.5 hours in the dead hot sun.

DSC04775     DSC04777DSC04779     DSC04782DSC04784     DSC04792DSC04800     DSC04803DSC04809     DSC04811

The visitors center was quite cool. there were some interesting exhibits, and a nice gift shop, not to mention the air conditioning. I stayed there around an hour, relaxing, seeing the exhibits, and grabbing some gifts for the family.  Since it’s difficult to actually see many of the desert wildlife, they had a bronze statues of many local desert wildlife around.  Paige and Connor would have loved it.  After that, it was time to hit the road. 

DSC04827     DSC04820DSC04825     DSC04819DSC04828     DSC04834

I knew I still had roughly 6.5 miles to get back to the hotel, so off I went, slow and steady.  I didn’t use set intervals, but I was probably running between 1-2 minutes with a 1 minute walk break.  The return trip seemed to fly by.  Sure it was hot, brutally sunny without a hint of shade for miles around, but I had a full water pack, my hat, sunglasses, and my chill towel buddy to keep me comfortable.

            DSC04859            DSC04868DSC04856     DSC04857DSC04866     DSC04870DSC04871     DSC04876DSC04879     DSC04809          

Before I knew it, I was back in the land of the living, with houses, people, and some shade!   That last 1 mile or so was nice.  I knew I’d run over 16 miles, but wasn’t exactly sure how much.  I’d had an adventure in the desert, and I’d completed a 5K including a PR.  I just had to reach the hotel where a refreshing shower and cold drinks awaited.

DSC04881     DSC04885DSC04888     DSC04889

Finally I hit the parking lot for the hotel.  Since it’s a resort casino, the place was huge, and I still had a good 1/2 mile to the front.  Slow and steady I went.  Finally, I made it and promptly asked one of the doormen to snap a photo of me.  When I got to my room, I calculated everything out and the finally tally was 18.5 miles.  Two miles to the race, three miles racing, and 13.5 miles through the desert.


How’s that for a Las Vegas Adventure?