Utah cross country youth coach Michael Durman and his 12 year old son Cameron, together on our way to the snow line on the Bear Canyon Trail.
This is a true "Runners on Trails" entry following my 4 day trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend my niece's high school graduation. I arrived to my sister Judy's house in Utah Thursday night, joining my other sister Kim, my parents, and Judy's in-laws. It was the first time in 30 years (since childhood) that the 5 of us had slept under the same roof. We had a great time visiting with each other, playing cards, going for walks, and eating. We all attended my neice, Jamie's, graduation on Saturday morning.The view from my sister's front yard of 11,200' Lone Peak. Some day I shall conquer!
In and around all the family activities I would sneak outside for an adventure, either with my brother-in-law, Jim, or by myself. Judy and Jim live next to a several hundred acre walking/hiking/equestrian trail system called the Dimple Dell which is located on a mid-west shelf of the Wasatch Mountain Range. On those trails with killer 100 foot gains and falls I did 8 and 5 mile runs. The trail surface is packed dirt/sand and loose mulch, by far, the best surface I have ever run upon. I did back to back running days (which I never do) and felt great. While running in the neighborhood park, one cannot help notice there are these intimidating, mesmerizing mountains looming to the near east, about a mile away. Eleven thousand foot Lone Peak is the highest peak within 20 miles and soon became my obsession, "Jim, I want to hike THERE!" I'd point. "We'll go Sunday, but it is impossible to go all the way because there is too much snow. We'll go as far as we can." Cool beans!!Camron running at 7,500 feet on the Bear Canyon Trail, Utah.
I slept lightly on Saturday night in anticipation of the big hike up the side of Lone Peak. In the morning we were joined by Jim's buddy from work, Michael Durman, and his son, Camron. Michael is a cross country coach for Cam's team, along with Mark Oftedal, who is a several time finisher of the Wasatch 100 (he was 2nd in 1995 with 23:07 hours). Camron is twelve and one of the coolest young men I have ever met; his interests span greatly from lacrosse (this is his first year and he's scored in every game, so far) to ultra running. He has a 5K time of 20:43. Cam seemed able to go on forever on the trails. He ran the 6 miles down the mountain on our way home. His father and I traded places keeping up with him. We talked all day about lacrosse, running, and adventuring. When I told Cam about my dream of entering as a two-man team for the Gore-tex Transalpine 8-Day Stage Race, he said he wanted to be my partner. Believe me, if it was race legal, I'd take him. He had no fear. I look forward to visiting him on future trips to Utah to see his progress in the sport of running and his growth as a young man.
We had a lot of talk about the rattlesnakes. Though we never saw one, we had several heart stopping scares when Cam would put on the brakes and run behind me saying, "There's a snake; I know it is!" All were false alarms as they turned out to be either chipmunks or lizards. The trails were easy to traverse and were much less technical than the White Mountain trials. One was able to look around at the scenery without having to keep a constant eye on where your next step was going to land.Me with my brother-in-law Jim Greene and his son Gary on the B0nneville Shoreline Trail.
I have always said that running/hiking with friends makes the time disappear, and so it was Sunday. Our group consisted of Jim, Gary (Jim's 35 year old son), Michael and Cam Durman, and me. Jim and Gary hung together and were a bit slower than Mike, Cam, and me. Though slower, Jim has endurance to no end, and if he wouldn't get in trouble from my sister, he'd still be hiking the trail with his wooden walking stick. Three hours disappeared in what seemed like no time. At that point we decided to turn back. We had made it to about 8,200 feet, according to someone's altimeter. We hit patchy snow with some patches several feet deep. The trail was becoming difficult to follow, so we decided to turn around. I had my overweight packback brimming with snacks and drink, which all scoffed at in the beginning. Let me tell you that I had no food left by the time we got back to the trail head. We lucked out with the weather and didn't need any of the extra clothes I brought.Mike and Cam Durman starting the descent at 8,000 feet.
Salt Lake City lies in the ancient lake bed of the now vanished Lake Bonneville. The ancient lake went from Yellowstone National Park to Las Vegas. The only remnants of the lake are the Great Salt Lake and a few other small lakes. The Bonneville Shoreline trail runs along a shelf of the Wasatch Mountains. Until someone explained it to me, I was quite puzzled at the name "shoreline" for this trail. I now know it is in reference to the ancient Lake Bonneville.
What I found unique about our hike were the constantly changing ecosystems and flora types we traveled through on our ascent. Unlike the East, as we got higher in elevation the taller the trees got. We'd go through sections of one foot high vegitation and wildflowers, only to go back into the trees 300 feet further up. What we don't have in the East (yet) are desert-like conditions, which Utah has at times. This type of weather, I believe, is linked to the strange flora patterns on the mountain sides. Living on the flat land of the Eastern Shore, it would seem so wild to look at mountains in the distance, and even wilder to have them a few miles away.Yours truly with fresh snow in the background.
There were so many trails to choose from, I'm glad I wasn't the one in charge Sunday. There is greatness in Utah. The accomplishments of the athletes who tackle the mountains out there are tremendous. Utah resident, Karl Meltzer, has won the Wasatch 100 Trail Race 6 times and came in second 2 times. I got the feeling there were individuals all around who had taken the opportunity to explore the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City. I was, also, amazed that the trails were not packed. 1.8 million people were milling about below us and we only passed one hiker in the higher elevations. This solo hiker we came upon took a look at me and immediately asked if I'd ever run the Wasatch 100. He had just finished climbing all the 14,000 foot peaks in the US with his wife. I was flattered by his question, to say the least, and it has started me thinking about a 100 miler. That is a dangerous thing. The Wasatch is a grueling 100 mile race with a 36 hour time limit. Less challenging 100 milers have a 24 hour time limit. I would love to try something like that, but I don't know my body, or mind, well enough, yet, to give it a go. We'll see what the future brings.
In the meantime, there is little over a week left before my Eagleman Half Ironman. I am so excited that I wish I had a mountain to burn some energy on. I feel I have prepared well in the three diciplines of swim, bike, and run. Yet, I don't feel I have been able to give 100 percent to my training. Of course, if I did, my wife and children would probably not be speaking to me. I hope to have a finish time under 6 hours, and if it goes really well, 5 1/2 hours. Regardlessly, I plan to have a great time and take it all in as a learning experience. Actually, that's a lie; I'm tired of learning, I just want to have fun.
I am very grateful for all the opportunities I've had in the last few years to push, measure, and test my limits. But, more important have been the friends that I've made. Even though I am exploring the world of Triathlons, it is with Michael Valliant's running passion and friendship that started me on this journey. Now, with Rise Up Runners, there is a whole "Google" of friendships waiting to be tapped. This is an exciting time of my life....