Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

March 31, 2013

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Just up the road from St. George, Utah is a hidden little gem called Snow Canyon State Park.   I am assuming that I will find lots of hidden little places to explore in Utah, given that there are twisty little canyons everywhere.  But Snow Canyon was our first stop after leaving our new home on a spring break journey with Rob's sister and her family.  By moving to Utah we have inherited more than a sunny place to live, we have gotten the chance to spend some quality time with family...time sorely lacking in the last 10 years as we have lived and traveled abroad.   The 6 of us piled loads of gear into the motorhome and hoped we had enough for a few adventures.  So the spring break journey started with a long drive in the RV down from Salt Lake City, and we were glad to get out for a walk in the warmth of the desert sun.  

Snow Canyon assuredly didn't have any snow or hint of it, but was named for the startlingly white rock filling the top end of the canyon.  The bottom layers were red sandstone, and hanging out on the surface was black lava rock.  I suppose the original settlers had to flip a coin to choose the name.   "Red canyon...no, black canyon...ok, white".   Anyway.

There were plenty of trails to choose from in the park, and we went with the Lava Trail.   Various lava tubes emerged from the ground, and intrepid hikers could squeeze down in them and explore.  Which we did, somewhat carefully since we had left our 6 different headlamps all in the vehicle, and didn't feel like running back for them.   Oops.   Mostly we were happy to feel warm sunshine, and out came the sandals, shorts and sunglasses.  Let the sunbathing begin.   We had been skiing in negative temps just the day before near the house...what a change. 

When the dark lava tubes lost our interest, we headed to the nearest sandstone dune.  I think they were actually petrified dunes...all I really know is that they are a blast to run around on.  Luckily our travels for the week brought us to a lot more of them.   Lovely.  The kids and I ran around to the tops of a few sandstone peaks.   Let the photos speak for themselves here.

March 30, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Yorkshire Dales Open 5, 3 Mar 2013

The March 2013 Haglofs Open 5 was in my backyard.  More or less.  Or at least it was my backyard before I decided to change careers and move to Utah to pursue a job in nutrition.   So I am writing this from thousands of miles away now and wish all of my friends in England a rather tearful goodbye. 

But back to the race, or should I say race planning.  Knowing that this would be my last event in the UK (almost literally as I flew out the next day) I volunteered to help Tom Needham with the planning of the race.  As it turned out, Tom had other things come up and didn't have much time to plan, so I was happy to step up and do a bit more.  My last tour of the local moors, I guess you could say. 

I started with the run course, and with a blank map started wandering around the countryside looking for cool things to attach controls to.   My map soon became littered with notes, cool places to attach controls, cool things to see, and I discovered much more about my lovely backyard than I had imagined.

After the notes came a few meetings with Nicki, more recce time, more revising, and finally the maps.  There were some bumps in the road.  Who knew I wasn't supposed to attach controls to things that weren't actually a feature on the map?  But that tree is out the middle of nowhere all by itself, and it's really cool, can't we use it anyway?!  We got creative with a few locations, and I sacrificed my favorite tree because there was absolutely nothing near it we could use.   (Racers, you got lucky as that saved a bit of up and down on the run!).  Our first bike recce was a muddy, snowy mess...it took us 5 hours to get around half of the course and it was very slow going.   Mentally I was saying YES!...no one is going to clear my course!

When the time came to put out the controls, it hadn't rained for a few days and the going was marginally better.   But the winds were howling and we had two long days of fighting our way out onto the moors while attempting to drive to as many as we could.   When we split up to do some of the run, I  put out a couple of controls, then finally arrived at my final location.  Doh!  I had left all of my cables back at the last control!  #$%@   Huffing back to get my supplies took the energy out of me, and I left the lone control for the next morning instead.

Race day was perfect.  The weather had been dry for 2 weeks, the trails were super fast, it wasn't sunny but at least it wasn't cold or windy either.     I enjoyed the day spent in transition checking all of the racers in and out and watching the smiles on their faces.  A minor hiccup was in the form of a stolen control, near an intersection.  A replacement was put out but that couldn't account for time lost searching for it, sorry.   The leaders didn't seem to care, as they were on the way to clearing the course with time to spare...in perfect weather that's bound to happen.   All in all, everything seemed to go smoothly, even the setup and teardown of the new yellow Haglofs sign.

So thanks everyone for coming to race in my old backyard.  I miss you all, and you are welcome to come visit me in my new backyard, anytime!

Sarah finds my favorite tree!

Adrian on the limestone pavement

The cow "pandas" make a reappearance

March 4, 2013

Helvylln Summit in the Snow!

I would have bet money on my last visit to the Lake District being last weekend during the Adventure Racing Ball, but when another chance came up, I took it!    My friend Andy wanted to do a recce of Legs 1 & 2 of the Bob Graham Round, as his attempt at the route will take place in May this year.   I hadn't been doing a lot of long stuff lately so both legs sounded a little too far for me.  So I dropped Andy off at the start of Leg 1, and then drove to the end of Leg 2 at Dunmail Raise and started back the opposite way. 

Honestly, though, I wasn't terribly motivated to do a big hike, so I figured I would just go up to Helvylln and back, maybe across Striding Edge which I had never gotten to do.  I went quite slowly and just enjoyed the sun peeking out of the clouds and the nice weather.    The waterfalls were flowing strongly down Raise Beck, and a little ice and snow stuck to the trails even down low.   As I climbed higher, the snow and ice accumulated and often covered the trails, although I never needed cramptons to safely stick to the trail. 

That is, until I got to the top of Helvylln and looked over the Swirral Edge trail down to Red Tarn.  At least, I tried to look over the steep trail, and couldn't find it over the cornice of snow at first.  I took a few tottering steps on the sloping snow, and realized that I would have to be mad to attempt going down the slope without crampons and an ice ax.  Sure, it was only 50 feet down to the clear rocks, but it would only take one step to slip down far enough to donate some bright red blood to the white snow.   Striding Edge was the same, quite steep and slick, so I gave up any attempt to make an extra circle and started heading back again.

Although it had been windy on the summit, a short descent got me in sunny shelter, and I must confess....I took a nap.  Hard to believe I could be (just) warm enough in wintry conditions on March 1, but it was beautiful and I just enjoyed sitting still...I really don't do that very often.   I had my GoPro camera with me, so I could use the stopped time to take a few time lapse sets.  

So a few more naps on a casual afternoon while I was waiting for Andy to catch me up so we could finish the route.   I gradually kept wandering back to the car, and never saw Andy.  The sun started going down and finally I could see the small figure heading down to the car, yay!  Needless to say, he hadn't had the time to take any naps, while fording rivers and clamboring over a lot of icy trails.  Luckily, there should be snow during his attempt at the Round in May.  Good luck, Andy!