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Logan Peak Trail Run – June 27th, 2009

June 28, 2009

Three weeks ago, my quads became jelly as I ran the Kettle Morraine 100K run in Wisconsin, which featured somewhere around 7,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.  Today – after being silly and doing some hikes Thursday and Friday – I was looking at a much shorter race (only 28 miles) – also with somewhere around 7,000 feet of gain and loss.  Steep, up and down, and at altitude – the perfect recipe for summer fun!

The Logan Peak run is a relatively new “ultra”, thouh as an ultra it is somewhat short (as most ultras start at 50k).  What it lacks in distance, it makes up for in elevation; in addition to the gain and loss, the course varies from about 4800 feet above sea level at the start to 9750 at the top of Mt. Logan.  But even as a new ultra, it had a lot of signups – about 80, though I was the only one from the midwest (or farther afield than Colorado).  I don’t see anyone I recognize, so I chitchat with a few runner, finding a lot of first time ultrarunners.  The RDs run a tight ship, and gather us up and we’re soon off on some city streets on the eastern side of Logan, Utah.

The course gains elevation quickly, running along a north/south deer fence to get to Dry Canyon, where the elevation climb begins in earnest.  I settle into a good pace with two runners from the area, Mike and Denise.  I find out Mike is a seven time Wasatch 100 Front finisher (a 100 mile run along the Wasatch mountains here in Utah in the fall), and Denise is a first timer.  Mike even mentions he’s ahead of his pace, which makes me really worry about the pace I’m keeping.

The first four miles gain somewhere around 3000 feet of elevation, eventually switchbacking along some somewhat rocky trails as we get to the first aid station.  I fill up with Heed (aka Tums water) for some electrolytes and we begin cutting back to the south, contouring around several major drainages as we move from the western side of the mountain range to the Southeastern side, where the next aid station awaits and that has a short but steep out-and-back to the summit.  The south section has a lot of downhill running, and I get passed by a few people but also pass a few others as I navigate the wonderful trail.  Two features though bear worth mentioning, though – LOTS of downed trees (more of an annoyance) and several large snowfields.  Unlike the last two days, these snowfields are more in the way than dangerously blocking the path, and I actually start feeling comfortable running on them, although we did have to help one person up the first major snowfield by hauling a runner across with a stick.

Still, the views are VERY open as we look down toward Provo (?) Canyon, and the trail is very easy to follow, and the single track is VERY fun to run on.

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As you can see, we have gained a lot of elevation at this point, and the trail provides great views in all directions as we cross the SW ridge

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What goes down must go up, and soon we start hitting some annoyingly steep, rocky, muddy and snowfilled climbs.  The trail is easy to follow, but is slow going as you have to watch all of your foot placements.

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We climb up and up and the road eventually gets a bit better, though it also kept changing levels of muddiness and rockiness.  Would note that no one is running here, as the slope alternates from a very easy 5% to a calf-crunching 25% in places (or at least that’s what it felt like – I had to start walking 100 steps then stopping to catch my breath in several places).

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We hit the aid station at the eastern edge of the loop and get ready for the out-and-back, which is to the top of Mt. Logan where you’re required to touch the weather station at the top.  Here you can see more snow and the weather station on the ridge above.  The trail we’re taking cuts way back to the right (East) before catching the ridge up to the top.

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How to run on snow:  Imagine sand that will occasionally sink 8-9 inches. Oh, and imagine you’re also covered in mud. How do you do it?  The best way is really just to run like you cross steep, scree-covered slopes in the mountains:  Don’t think about it and just run on the top of it.  Mike was an expert at this, and following his lead I eventually got used to running across the snow (though I’ll admit going down this patch I actually chickened out and slid down on my butt.
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Approaching the top, lungs burning, I see… more snow!  The trail actually barely passes on the left side of the snow as you make the way up the finall two hundred feet or so of elevation.  The good news is that it’s a nice wide snowfield, and you can actually run down it after you hit the weather station – a very enjoyable (if somewhat wet) playground joy!
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Running downhill, I start feeling a bit ill – not sure if it was the previous days’ hiking, the ultra a few weeks ago, or my general lack of downhill running that made me unprepared for descending 1400 feet in a mile and three quarters.  So I hobble back to the aid station, grab a lot of salty food, get my White Cheddar Cheez-its out of my camelbak, and start slowly around to the north side of the loop.

Although the first mile or so was fairly miserable for me, eating and backing off the pace made me feel much better. By the time I hit the next aid station (an unannounced aid station two miles later that had SALT PILLS!) I’m feeling good and start enjoying running again.  I’m still moving slow, but the last two miles of almost-misery are replaced with the joy of running in the mountains on beautiful single track trail.

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Eventually, another runner catches up with me, and Bruce and I manage to run and walk the next five miles together, getting past the last aid station and keeping each other company.  Bruce is a very generous guy, and gives me a lot of dinner and hiking recommendations in Northern Utah.  I eventually let him run ahead, as he’s a much better downhill runner than I am, and I’m still a bit loagy.  He jets on ahead.

I make the last couple of miles with only a small amount of pain (more because it’s getting hot and I’m feeling a bit flushed, but also because I’m running steadily downhill and the rocks are eating up the ball of my foot a bit), and cross the line in somewhere around 8 hours (a little better than I had expected).

Next run isn’t for a while – a nice fat ass six hour run sponsored by my Chicago ultrarunning group.  Hopefully I’ll recover by then. 🙂

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 29, 2009 7:26 pm

    Jason, congrats on your “little” 😉 ultra in Utah! Amazing pictures and a great story. Nice job!

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