Share the Trail


2016-08-02-09-49-06I’m on a narrow downhill section of singletrack. Yay downhill! The section is not steep, but lots of roots cross the trail, requiring enough focus that I don’t see the mountain biker coming uphill until I almost reach him. Startled, I slam on the brakes and step to the side. By this time, he has also stopped and pulled off.

“Thanks!”, we yell at exactly the same time.

“Have a good run/ride!”, we yell at exactly the same time as we each move on.

2016-08-02-10-42-08I’m kind of laughing at our excessive politeness as I continue my run. It’s really nice to laugh at excessive politeness, rather than grousing about the rudeness of someone on the trail.

I won’t say it happens a lot, but I’m sure we’ve all had those trail moments that kind of ruin your mood for a while. It bothers me the most when it’s a fellow runner. Sometimes I’ll wave, or say hi, and get a stony stare in return. Then I say things under my breath…

2016-08-02-09-24-32On that extremely polite day, I was on a trail that can get a lot of mountain bike traffic. It’s part of an extensive network of trails, some bike only, some downhill bike only, some multi-use. On this system of trails, I’ve seldom had a problem with a mountain bike. Everyone seems to be just enjoying themselves and able to share without trouble. Which makes sense. It’s not that hard.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case everywhere I run.

Part of the problem, admittedly, is the inconsistency in trail sharing rules. There is a sign at most trailheads in my area that shows a horse, hiker, and bike. This sign shows that everyone yields to horses, and bikes yield to hikers.

2016-08-07-08-05-05-2If you learn one thing from this post, always yield to horses. Always! As a former equestrienne, I can tell you that even a horse you know well can be unpredictable at times. Also, horses are BIG! If you squeeze behind a horse on the trail, you might be unpleasantly surprised at the result. With horses, move off the trail as much as possible and let them pass. Pay attention to the rider. If the rider seems relaxed, she’s probably on a horse that has a lot of trail miles and will not misbehave. If the rider is tense on the reins, then give them plenty of room and don’t make sudden moves.

On other trails, signs say “yield to uphill”. This makes sense. For me, admittedly not the greatest mountain biker that ever lived, starting on an uphill can be difficult. Running uphill doesn’t pose the same challenge, but it’s nice to keep going when you’re trying to push to the top of a hill.

20160828_152611-2There is a nice, short, technical, multi-use trail that I run sometimes where I have had NO END of problems. I don’t know if it’s the easy accessibility of this trail, but I often come across that dreaded “bad biker”. This is the mountain biker that puts all the trails at risk for mountain bike closures.

This particular trail is used by families with tiny children and great-grandmas. It’s frequented by stoners and groups of teens. These groups don’t take a nice nature hike thinking they are putting life and limb at risk.

But, throw a few pre-teen mountain bikers into the mix, drop them off at the top so they’re not even tired (good idea, dad) and see how fast they can get to the bottom. Do this every Saturday, the busiest day on the trail. Whether they think they’re in a race or a video game, there is no slowing for pedestrians, other bikes, or wildlife.

2016-08-07-09-32-24Unfortunately, these are the mountain bikers that the people on the trail that day are going to remember. They will remember the ones that almost ran them down, the ones that didn’t slow down, since they were airborne, the ones that would never think to smile, or nod, or thank somebody for moving to the side.

And these are less than half of one percent of the mountain bikers I see on my runs.

I don’t have a solution for these particular stupid boys. My husband and daughter talked to a police officer at the trailhead after a near collision, and the police officer thought you should yield to downhill riders since they’re going fast and it’s hard to stop. As if careening out of control is something to be desired. So. No help there.

The simplest solution is not to necessarily follow the signs posted, but to be polite. Everybody is doing the same thing. Whether you’re running, hiking, strolling slowly with your grandchildren, or mountain biking, you’re just out enjoying the outdoors. Everybody needs to do that more. We’re a sedentary and expanding populace, and getting out on a trail is extremely good medicine.

IMG_20140415_181300_365If you can’t say “good morning!” or at least nod, maybe you are part of the problem. The trail doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to all of us.

So yield! Just yield.

And maybe smile.

Timp Trail Marathon 2016 – Redemption


2016-05-21 13.50.59We’ve been wet for hours. Hours. It takes a while to get really cold, but eventually we do. My hands no longer work the zippers on my pack. My thighs feel strangely numb. Not just the skin, but the muscles. Now and then I just stop, my muscles quivering in a strange way, my legs deciding that we are now done. I encourage them, without much enthusiasm, and we get going again. Why didn’t I wear tights? Why?!?

The view is opening up ahead, steep peaks covered with snow. I can see a meadow, with little tents and smoke. What a cold place to camp! Then I realize… this is the Indian Springs aid station! These hard-core volunteers packed up here last night. Just to give me a peanut butter sandwich.

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We stand next to the dying fire for a few minutes. It snowed very recently and the trailside grass is covered with wet slush. It’s not easy to leave the fire, but we do, climbing again to a high meadow. And high winds. And the assumption that we will never be warm again.

The Timp Trail Marathon is run on an incredibly beautiful course. The first half brings deep green meadows and panoramic views of Utah Valley. At the Gun Range (first) aid station, we get coke and cowbell. Yes, cowbell! Thank you charming couple! Then the rain starts, so light it doesn’t even count. The temperature is perfect.

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Because of my last attempt at this marathon Timp Trail Marathon Race Report: Comedy or Tragedy?, my husband B has joined me. He promises me that I will take the correct turn at the Dry Canyon parking lot. He promises a finish line. I also noticed him packing some first aid equipment the night before. I almost feel obligated to take a nice fall so he can use it.

So we take the correct turn at the Dry Canyon parking lot. When we reach the Grove Creek (second) aid station, we get more cowbell! But the rain has picked up. We stand under a canopy and put on our jackets and gloves. I put a Buff around my neck and a warm headband across my ears. I wish for a rain jacket, but the one I have is mainly for wind. We step out from under the canopy and are drenched in minutes.

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Heading away from the valley, the course climbs until we reach a deep canyon. Steep, rocky cliffs rise above us, the peaks disappearing into cloud. We continue along the steep side of the canyon on a sometimes precarious trail. A stream rushes through the bottom of the canyon, swollen with spring runoff and steady rain. The trail crosses rockslides and rock shelves. As a runner with a falling habit, I use a lot of caution in some spots. Eventually, the stream becomes louder, much louder. We turn a corner and find that we are looking down on a waterfall. At this point we just stop and enjoy the view. And at this point in my story, I must apologize. No pictures. It’s raining too hard for my camera to come out. I’m sorry.

Next year I promise multitudes of pictures.

We cross above the top of the waterfall and climb through forests to the Indian Springs (third) aid station. Then a little more climbing, across the high meadow… and then down! Fortunately the first few sections of downhill aren’t too technical, since my muscles are still frozen. The rain stops. After a long stretch of downhill, we start to climb again. The trail has degenerated to stretches of slimy, sticky mud. Somehow I stay upright, slipping backwards as I climb upwards. The mud lasts almost to the Dry Canyon (fourth and final) aid station. On the last downhill to the aid station, I finally hit the ground. It had to happen.

2016-05-21 13.51.04I get another peanut butter sandwich. I’ve been thinking about another peanut butter sandwich ever since the last aid station. Then we begin the last climb. As we reach the top, Utah Valley once again opens up below us. The sun comes out at last. I take off my gloves, buff and headband. I’m warm. I can’t believe I’m warm. I could lose a layer, but I don’t bother. It’s so nice to be warm.

The course finishes with fast downhills, on singletrack crossing through scrub oak and green meadows. The high desert is in its brief spring glory, the hills covered in green. I call it the Irish phase. In another month, these hills will be yellow and crisp.

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Finish line! A man points out a picnic area where we can get some chili. He obviously has a good idea of the course conditions, because he says, “after this, you know you can do anything.”

It’s true. We do feel that way. We just ran 26 miles, with 5,292 feet of climb, through mud and winds and rain, flirting with hypothermia and potentially deadly dropoffs. B did it with a nasty head cold that becomes bronchitis within days. I did it (as usual) with my weak legs and lungs. We did it. WE DID IT!

I have a runner specific, recurring nightmare where I don’t make a start line. I struggle to find my shoes, my running clothes, my watch, all fighting through that unique dream fog that you know will NEVER allow you to make the start line! Over the past year, this nightmare took a twist. I make the start line all right, but then I realize I’m off course, I took a wrong turn somewhere, I don’t know where I am, I can’t find any flagging, I will NEVER find the finish line! Everyone who knows me knows the source of this nightmare.

2016-05-21 13.45.55For a year, the Timp Trail Marathon has haunted me like the white whale in Moby Dick. As badly as I wanted the finish a year ago, this finish means so much more after last year’s failure. The taste of redemption is sweeter than honey. My finisher’s medal is worth more to me than gold.

Yep, a cliche-packed paragraph that is nevertheless SO TRUE!

B informed me at the finish line that he was taking full credit for my finish. My legs and feet gave some argument, but I can’t deny that I finished, unlike the minor disaster of the previous year.

So I’ll give him some credit, but I’m not about to give him my incredibly valuable medal. 2016-05-26 11.54.53

Moab’s 2016 Red Hot 33k… the Snow Episode


2016-02-13 13.30.32We’re climbing a hill on our toes. Our magical trail shoes grip the smooth red rock, turning us into human mountain goats. Perhaps we are breathing a little harder than a mountain goat would in this situation. Perhaps the mountain goat wouldn’t stop to take a picture or gaze open-mouthed at the view. Then again, confronted with the panorama of red domes and cliffs, frosted with snow like giant red and orange cakes, with hazy purple and white mountains in the far distance, even a mountain goat might stop and stare.

My second Moab Red Hot 33k left me even more enamored than my first. Have you ever run on the red rock that lives in Utah? Have you stared down from a high point at the savage beauty of the rocky desert? I recommend it, dear reader, if you ever get the chance.

2016-02-13 10.09.33But I’ve already told you about the event, and my deep love for everything about it (Moab’s Red Hot 33k… a Love Story). So I’ll just tell you about this year. Last year was quite dry. This year brought a lot of snow, and the Red Hot course was changed slightly to get us out of the snow and ice-filled ravines. That meant even more running on the slick rock, and less down in the sandy washes.

Last year I ran alone. This year I’m running with J, one of my two pregnant daughters.

2016-02-13 08.50.46Yes, two pregnant daughters. My running daughter J and my non-running daughter N are expecting their own daughters this summer. Within six weeks of each other. I’m not making this up. My running goals and wishes and aspirations now require a jogging stroller for two.

2016-02-13 12.10.48My children are old enough that the whole pregnancy thing is a blurry memory, but one thing I remember clearly is that you fall madly, hopelessly in love the second you see that baby. So I’m doing a lot of cardio to make extra room in my heart.

Anyway. The plan for today is that I will go at J’s pregnant pace, keep her in check a little, not let her get all competitive. So the three of us (one is about the size of a blueberry and isn’t even wearing shoes) are running together. Also in the field is my husband, Js father, and the blueberry’s grandfather, B. This is just one person. B.

2016-02-13 12.42.27Also, running in the 55k, is my big brother! He’s also a J so I’ll call him JC. I probably wouldn’t even be a runner if it wasn’t for him. He’s to blame for all of this! His inspiration and influence have caused me no end of foot pain and running related expenditures. He is a 3-time Ironman and has completed LOTOJA eleven times (if you don’t know what that is, look it up, you’ll be impressed). He was running marathons when that was still an impossible distance for me.

JC has only dabbled in trail running, but he has now decided that a 100 miler is his next big thing. So he’s out there, running the most beautiful course in the world for his big trail debut.

2016-02-13 10.09.08The day is perfect, with clouds painted across brilliant blue skies. We keep a steady pace, taking pictures when there is no choice, taking it pretty easy. The only way J seems any different is that she’s running with me. Normally she would be waaaay up there somewhere. One of us fell, but not J. This happened just after that someone made a mocking comment about the baby. Don’t disrespect the blueberry. That’s what I learned. We finish within seconds of my time last year, so either I’m a fantastic pacer, or she is.

B finishes far enough ahead of us that his free beer is already gone and he is prepared to drink Js free beer. I think it’s unfair to take advantage of a beer lover’s pregnant state, but B apparently does not agree.

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Shrine to Childhood along the course

We wait at the finish line, hoping to see JC finish the 55k, but that post-run chill starts to kick in and we get on a shuttle back to our car. As we walk to our car, I see Anna Frost. ANNA FROST!! I think it can’t be her, I mean this is a pretty small event in Utah, and of course I don’t say anything to her, but it’s ANNA FROST!! I tell everyone at work! They give me a blank stare… ah well, we all have our heroes, and four of mine ran this year’s Red Hot.

When I talk to my brother later, it’s obvious that he’s hooked. He has a 50 mile race scheduled about 5 weeks after the Red Hot, and I’ve no doubt it will go as planned. By the time he runs his 100 miles I will have two granddaughters. One year ago, I could not have imagined this, for either of us.

2016-02-13 09.04.36So keep running, friends. You never know what’s around that next corner.