Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week Summary (Aug 28) - New Height and Distance

Sacramento Pass OB: 7.3 mi (+1,105 ft); 11:05 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.6 mi (+377 ft); 8:58 pace
TRT - Echo Summit Recon: 8.2 mi (+1,381 ft); 12:47 pace
TRT - Kingsbury to Big Meadow (+Freel Peak): 25.0 mi (+5,411 ft); 14:57 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.6 mi (+512 ft); 10:10 pace

Weekly Totals: 51.8 mi (+8,787 ft); 11:06:32 on trail

On my way home from Leadville I grabbed a few miles at Sacramento Pass just north of Great Basin National Park at the eastern edge of Nevada.  I climbed on nice two-track roads and occasional single-track through pinyon woodlands underneath Wheeler Peak. It was a nice break from the drive across Utah and Nevada and good to keep the discipline while on the road.

I stuck to Emma Quarry for my five-mile days, but broke some new ground checking out the Echo Summit area of the Tahoe Rim Trail.  I had left the Garmin at home so I've estimated my mileage based on the some pretty good maps and I'll figure out the elevation at a later date.  This is a great break in the drive home from our office HQ in Davis, California, so I think I'll be checking out these trails again soon.  It's also part of the TRT segment from Big Meadow to Echo Lakes.

Freel Peak from Monument Pass

Motivated by our week in Leadville, I hit the trail for a long Saturday on the TRT. Rainstorms greeted the morning as I met with Marta to shuttle the Yota out to Big Meadow, south of South Lake Tahoe, California.  Marta and I left the Yota at the trailhead and she drove us around to Kingsbury (south) where we'd start our Saturday excursion. As she made her way toward Monument Pass, her longest day since her half-marathon a few years ago, I enjoyed the trail to Star Lake. Last time I was here, Darren was working his way from Big Meadow through deep snow, while also summiting Freel Peak (10,880 feet).  On this Saturday, I was retracing his steps in the opposite direction. I felt great when I reached the pass below Freel where a group of hikers commented on the sudden presence of a runner. Their kind words and encouragement made the summit trail to Freel Peak look enticing so I turned off the TRT for the two-mile side trip. I hadn't planned this at the start, but now it would be a true re-do of Darren's snowbound run. I had the distinct benefit of a summer's thaw, finally.

The summit of Freel Peak (10,800 ft), Mile 12
The summit was popular and a bit crowded, so I turned quickly back to the trail. I was soon headed for Armstrong Pass but beginning to feel the miles and elevation gain. After the pass, where you might expect a leisurely descent, I found more climbing to Freel Meadows.  It felt endless and I walked more than I anticipated.  I kept moving but I realized I'd never felt this tired in my new season of running. I looked to Darren at Leadville, thinking that this is simply 25 miles, less than a third of what he worked his way through. Although I felt sluggish, I'm happy I kept to my steady progress and was rewarded with season highs in mileage and elevation gain. It was a good experience to finally confront a bit of fatigue so far from my planned finish and work through it.

Perfect single-track of TRT
Given the steady fatigue I encountered during 25 miles, I'm looking forward to the challenge of my first ultra at Lake of the Sky, a 36-mile event on the northern portion of the TRT. I'm confident I'll meet the challenge.  I'll have a good week's taper going into the event (I approached 67 miles in my recent 7-day interval!) and slightly less elevation gain over the Lake of the Sky course. I can't wait. In the coming week I will be running the Brockway to Tahoe City segment of the TRT, this is the inbound section of Lake of the Sky and the outbound is simply the opposite direction.

My back is hurting quite a lot today (Sunday).  Felt good on Emma Quarry but I think Saturday's effort has left some hamstring tightness that translates to lower back pain. It's the same sensation I had earlier in the season and I should be able to work through it. I'll probably get in a visit with Jon at Manual Therapy for some maintenance. Maybe the time in the Yota and distances traveled without any cross-training are catching up a little. As before, running feels good so the pre-race training won't suffer.  I hope.

Week Summary (Aug 21) - Leadville Trail 100

Emma Quarry OB: 6.4 mi (+567 ft); 9:32 pace
Easter Hill Loop (CO): 5.3 mi (+582 ft); 10:28 pace
LVT - Turquoise Shakeout (CO): 6.0 mi (+295 ft); 10:05 pace
LVT Support: 3.6 mi (+261 ft); 16:13 pace
LVT - Turquoise Fish Loop: 21.4 mi (+2,210 ft); 11:39 pace

Weekly Totals: 42.8 mi (+3,914 ft); 8:30:16 on trail

Turquoise Lake and Mt. Elbert in the Sawatch Range near Leadville, CO
This week (Aug 15 - 21) saw the Young Mountain Runners converge on Leadville, Colorado, where Darren laced 'em up for the Leadville Trail 100. Ultra-marathons are complete and complex tests in which it is all too easy to measure success by one's place at the finish. Conversely, it could be just as simple to equate DNF (did not finish) with failure. The competitor wants to place in his/her race with impressively low times across expansively high miles; the runner strives to finish his/her event with determination, joy, and respect for those ahead and behind. On some days, the course and its elements turn back both the competitor and the runner.  The competitor may be defeated, but the runner touches the wall, learns what it's made of, and looks forward to another go.  Darren had to withdraw at the Fish Hatchery Aid Station (Mile 76.5); the competitor felt defeated, the runner will keep going.  And this is a little bit of what happened at Leadville, from the point-of-view of an awed crew member...

I started the running week with a lengthened version of the Emma Quarry OB, adding a section over the VC-Gold Hill Divide.  It was a slight taper week within the training cycle, so the mileages were down a bit.  I shifted to the go-to, short Emma Quarry because I had to jump in the Yota and head for Colorado.

The Yota zipped across Highway 50 and I made it to Scipio, Utah, by midnight mountain time.  I was at Dennis and Mary's house by noon.  Darren, Carrie, and Chloe were already there, having started their road trip with a couple nights in Great Basin National Park. We had dinner plans that included sushi so I wanted to get my Wednesday Five in before heading into downtown Grand Junction. Dad had sent me photos of their runs on Easter Hill and that's where I went with my shorts and a bottle of water.  It was 98 degrees, probably not a good idea. It didn't seem too bad and yet Edward Abbey's Dead Man at Grandview Point (a place not really too far from Grand Junction) kept popping into my over-heating brain. Nevertheless I enjoyed the sandstone cliffs and juniper of their local trail. That is until I found myself two gullies over from my start point, running out of water and panting up the little hills. Ah, but a nice dinner awaited us once I'd cooled down and rehydrated. Coolly, Darren stayed at the house, tapering out for the coming journey.

We packed up the trailer, shoved the Yota in the garage, and took off for Leadville early Thursday afternoon.  Darren and I sped ahead to take care of the mandatory medical check-in and pick up his race packet. It went quickly, so we were soon at the camp were the trailer had arrived. We were stationed in the Baby Doe Campground on the eastern shore of Turquoise Lake which is circled by about seven miles (14 because you do it outbound and inbound) of the LVT course. With the camp set, Darren and I cruised for a few miles on the LVT Shakeout including a bit of the Turquoise Lake trail. It didn't look quite as rocky and rooty as we'd been led to believe, but would still pose some technical difficulties in the dark of the start and finish! We were a bit heady from the new location and the high altitude, such was the build-up to the race's start.
Darren gets his medical band and #856

On Friday we attended the race and crew meetings and got a little better oriented with the course and crew possibilities. We basically took it easy knowing that we had a long 24 hours ahead of us.  And then the storms came...

Darren and Carrie had had thunderstorms and wind-filled nights at Great Basin, and now the lightning and ground-jarring thunder shattered any hopes of sleeping during the very short night before start-time. On any other camping trip it would have been an interesting storm, but this was simply disruptive and inconvenient. We slipped from our tents in the early morning hours to prep for the starting line and were soon on the quiet streets of downtown Leadville with other gathering racers and crews. Not much to do but encourage Darren and chat with other racers. Jeff Browning, a contender, talked with us for a while as the crowd grew. I enjoy the camaraderie among all of the participants, front to back.

The shotgun sounded at 4 am and headlamps gave an artificial blue-white glow to the boulevard as the race began. The crew bolted back to camp where Dad dropped Mom and me before heading to May Queen Aid Station.  Mom and I walked out to the boat ramp, an unofficial crew point, to watch the runners pass by at about Mile 7 or so.  It was a fantastic sight as the first headlamps split the dark as the trail hit the lake.  Soon the leaders were followed by a seemingly endless string of diamond-hued lights glinting and flashing at the margin of the lake. The little lights kept coming, all 622 of them. We barely saw Darren as he glided across the boat ramp; he would later tell me he didn't recall the boat ramp at all. As the race headed into the mountains, I took to camp to rest for the night ahead. It would be my job to pace Darren through the darkness and encourage him to maintain his strength for the remaining miles.

News from Dad who met Darren at each Aid Station showed that our runner was making all his split times.  We carried little cards with his splits, times that we could expect him to be at Aid Stations along the course. If he kept to his splits, he would finish in 24 hours and 20 minutes. That would get him a nice sub-25 hour, traditional belt buckle and be well within the cut-off time of 30 hours. With each call or text Darren was doing perfectly, hitting his splits and enjoying the event.  I would pass this information via a group text to Darren's fans at home, and they would respond with great encouragement.  I'd try to catch some sleep between the surges of news every two hours or so.

Hope Pass, up high about the time of Darren's inbound
Darren, ready to go again at Twin Lakes (Mile 60.5)
When Darren left Twin Lakes Aid Station for Hope Pass (12,400 feet) he was looking and feeling good; an afternoon set of storms threatened the pass but didn't amount to much.  We'd see him again when on the inbound leg through the same Station.  Dad retrieved me from camp and we returned with Mom, Carrie, and Chloe to Twin Lakes.  I checked in as a Pacer, signing the waver and getting a bib-number that said "PACER."  I was ready to go if Darren thought he could use some support.  When he arrived he looked great and greeted family and on-lookers with ease.  He said he felt pretty good on the pass - it was crazy hard but so beautiful. Several of the lead runners had paused to say "hey", and then it was Darren's turn to encourage those on the outbound as he passed on his inbound (once over the pass the runners hit the 50-mile mark and turned around to challenge the pass a second time).

He said he'd really need help on the Turquoise trail so I would wait to pace at Treeline as originally planned. And then he headed up "the slide" and into the evening light. The wait at Treeline seemed forever. I was energized to get going while trying to remain calm because I knew at this point it wouldn't be running as much as keeping momentum. When he approached the small but growing cluster of crew vehicles, I could sense his mood had darkened in the diminishing night. We were quick with the stop, grabbing lights and slightly warmer shirts. I was excited to join the event but concerned that my runner needed some real help. It was help I really couldn't gather, I didn't have the tools to revive the spirit that had been so alive only a few miles and hours ago. He had crossed a boundary that he couldn't re-find. We jogged slowly at times and I would get encouraged. I tried to ask questions about earlier in the day, hoping to invoke some of that energy. I grabbed my phone and showed him Bryan's (our bro in Texas) fabulous video. That brought a smile and a quiet "that's awesome."  But the sleeplessness of the previous several nights was a demon he couldn't shake. Add to that the fact that the section after Treeline is asphalt road to the Fish Hatchery with race/crew traffic in a steady on-coming and following stream. I couldn't relax and think of jokes or songs to sing (whatever) as I focused to keep Darren on a line beyond the cars' reach. The road seemed to never end, but eventually we walked in the hatchery at Mile 76.5.

The Fish Hatchery, the morning after (Mile 76.5)
As Darren looked to rest for a while, grabbing a picnic bench awkwardly tilted in the crowded driveway, I grabbed warm water, soup, and cokes in the Aid Station (thanks so much to all who volunteer their time to do that job all day and all night). But soon he was shivering uncontrollably and I moved him to where Dad was readying his gear for the next segment of the run. We draped him in a sleeping bag and eventually got him into the backseat of the jeep. He slept fitfully and uncomfortably as we discussed our options.

But the demons had their talons set and, after an hour or so of trying to regain focus and determination, Darren decided to withdraw. It was a decision that had to be made, and it would weigh on him for days, and hopefully soon drive him to carry on. He had put hours of training, planning, and effort into this event and to step out now was immensely painful and sad. In the worldly scheme of things these are minor events, but your heart does not often focus on worldly things. Leadville broke his heart, now it's time to re-build.

Mt. Elbert, high point of Colorado
Are you sure this is the trail?
I think he made the correct decision, though I wasn't really sure at the time. Low points come and go in these events and you have to fight your way through them. Hell, I really don't have the experience to even think about this. One of the challenges of having ultras as a goal is to see how I personally respond to the hardships of the ultra. On Sunday I ran all but the final approach to the finish as I looped from Turquoise Lake to the Fish Hatchery and back to camp. I wanted to experience a bit of the route and see what we would have been up against. The powerline hill would have exposed Darren to an intense, drawn-out climb, and though beautiful in the vast sky of a sunny mid-morning, it might have been dire for a drawn-out runner and his inexperienced pacer. I loved my 21 miles on Sunday. I dedicated it to swatting at the ghosts that had crushed my favorite ultra runner, and it reaffirmed my desires to keep running in the mountains until we can someday soon give the demons their due.

Turquoise Lake from the Colorado Trail
You did great Darren; we will continue to chase the demons, enjoy the skylines and trails, and keep inspiring others to give it all regardless of the many definitions of success. As long as we keep going, failure is not an option because it isn't possible.

Thanks to Dennis, Mary, Carrie, Chloe, Desna (at home with the horses), and Bryan in Texas with the big flag, for making this a great Leadville week.  We will see these trails again.  Thanks also to Kristen, Walter, Dan, Scott, Eric, Jim, Marta, and Steven for your support during it all.  622 started, 340 finished; only 92 made it under 25 hours for the big buckle (thanks to Inside Trail for the stats). Tim Long of Footfeathers and Inside Trail, Darren's coach and friend of Trail Option, finished 15th (21:04). Darren was in 68th position at Fish Hatchery. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Week Summary (Aug 14) - Sierran Luxury

Commemorative Emigrant Trail OB: 7.2 mi (+458 ft); 9:20 pace
Waddle Ranch OB: 5.3 mi (+659 ft); 9:34 pace
Martis Valley Loop: 8.3 mi (+300 ft); 9:28 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.6 mi (+737 ft); 9:26 pace
TRT - Tahoe Meadows to Spooner: 24.1 mi (+2,673 ft); 12:07 pace

Weekly Totals: 50.5 mi (+4,826 ft); 9:02:00 on trail

Worked in Truckee, California, all week, camping each night in the Martis Valley Recreation Area on the east side of the valley. I'm happy with the discipline I maintained while doing fieldwork and camping with my crew. Each run involved shifting my usual schedule of mid-day runs to the evenings while exploring the numerous well-kept trail systems on Forest Service and Corps of Engineers lands around camp.

On Tuesday I headed north of town to the Donner Picnic Area to check out a section of the Commemorative Emigrant Trail which runs from Alder Creek to Stampede Reservoir. This is a very nice single-track and I enjoyed my short time on the trail. It will be nice to visit again as there is a 30-mile out-and-back opportunity on this fairly level trail.

The short run of Wednesday included some single-track extending from the dam of Martis Reservoir into the hills of the Waddle Ranch Preserve. It was a very warm evening but I enjoyed the short excursion across the dam and into the forest.

Thursday's run was planned as a simple loop around Martis Valley on trails of the Corps of Engineers and the Northstar Community Service District. I left the campground planning to follow Martis Creek toward Northstar but found that the two-track road ended at the north margin of the Martis Lake where the bespoke creek creates a relatively large wetland. I committed to crossing the creek but found several meanders and wetland bogs as a made my way to the eastern side of the valley. I knew a road entered the valley over there somewhere. It took a good bit of cross-country sagebrush- and bitterbrush-hopping but I soon found a poleline road and worked my way toward the Northstar Golf Course. Here a well-made community trail took me on a level path around the valley. I had to run along the roadside margin of Highway 267 to get back to the campground road; the traffic in this valley is completely beyond the capacity of local commerce and/or tourism. Where do all these cars come from, and where are they going? Anyway, a nice last evening in Martis Valley.

Due to my late arrival home on Friday and any number of tasks that had to get done following my absence, I swapped my Saturday and Sunday distances. I used the Emma Quarry OB for Saturday's five miles and looked forward to several hours of trail on Sunday.

Marta early on Sunday above Tahoe Meadows
Marta had agreed to pick me up and join me for the start at Tahoe Meadows on Sunday morning. Nice to be in the chill of the morning, again back on the Tahoe Rim Trail. We headed south toward Spooner climbing steadily out of the meadows. Open forest greeted us but soon gave way to the granite boulders and patchy woodlands of the Carson Range. We shared the trail in the early morning until it was about Marta's turn-around point and I headed to the south, slowly climbing toward Tunnel Creek Road and Snow Valley Peak. Sadly, I would learn later that Marta encountered a gravity storm and had a rather rough crash prior to exiting the forest above Tahoe Meadows. She's a bit skinned up and a little battered, but I know she was as jazzed about the trail as I was and isn't too worse for wear; though the next few days might be quite painful. Thanks for the ride and run Marta!

Washoe Valley from the TRT
Marlette Lake from the TRT

Although over 20 miles long, this segment of the TRT is relatively level with a contouring trail that jumps from east-facing views of Washoe Valley to west-facing vistas of Lake Tahoe. It's simply fantastic. I've never felt better in the midst of a long run (though I've yet to have what I might consider a "bad" day on the trail). The views are astounding and I stopped for photos quite often. I opted for small handheld bottles and my Nathan hydration pack (2.0 liters) along with four GUs and several Clif Bloks and felt great the entire run. On previous runs I'd used my Gel-Bot bottles which hold a couple GUs for "easy" consumption, but I think I fuel better when I down a GU right from the package and simply use the bottles for water. As I said, no problems at all today.

As I stopped for photos about 5 miles in, a group of mountain bikers approached. This section of trail is open for MTBs on even-numbered days. As the lead biker saw me he hollered to his pack-mates, "hiker!" "Hiker? Give me a break," I calmly replied. He said sorry and road on as I said hi to the others. I could hear them laughing at my comment as they climbed ahead of me. I soon encountered them at their picture break a half-mile ahead. "Cat 5 bikers," I deadpanned as I strode past them (the lowest rank of categorized road racers). Soon they were on me again and I watched as they handled the bouldery descent with ease.

I met them again at Tunnel Creek Road as they pondered their next move. We talked a little about them map and the trails they had access to and I moved on. One of the guys commented, "Now look how the runner is kicking our asses!" The former leader quickly commented, "No it's worse, the hiker is kicking our ass!" It was a good laugh prior to the good climb toward the ridges of Marlette and Snow Valley peaks. I ran with one of the riders for a while, but soon left him behind on the climb and never saw the group again.

Purple slopes of Lupines
I hit a few snow patches near the apex, but these are small remnants of the larger drifts of weeks past. The late melt, however, has produced a prodigious crop of lupines. These low flowers paint the slopes a solid purple in many places. I've never seen anything like it. The sandy granitic trail forms a small line through the flowers with the blue of Tahoe forming a backdrop. It is simply wonderful and exhilarates the middle miles of the effort.

Snow Valley Peak still ahead

Mount Rose, behind

After Snow Valley Peak, below the cooling winds gusting along the exposed ridge-top, there is a long descent through the warm pine forest to Spooner. The downhill wears on you, and I might have tried for a better pace, but I enjoyed the passing miles and was soon at the Spooner Trailhead where Desna waited. I left some gear, grabbed some water, and quickly left for a half-lap around Spooner Lake and into the State Park so I could reach my goal of 24 miles. Finished in the parking lot in just under five hours. Best run yet, and so nice to see Des at the end of the trail.

On toward Spooner
This week I'm off to Leadville, Colorado, to pace for Darren at the Leadville Trail 100. In the first phase of the Young Mountain Runners - Leadville Week, Dennis and Mary ran a 10K race in the town today. It was their first competitive effort and such a high altitude (Leadville is at 10,000 feet). Mary just missed the bronze in her age group, finishing fourth, and Dennis finished seventh. They particularly enjoyed the big celebration in the last mile to the finish. Dad should be getting me some race details pretty soon, but nevertheless, it was an auspicious start to our week.

Darren is prepping for the altitude of Mt. Ebert and Hope Pass by camping at the high camp in Great Basin National Park for the weekend on their way to Grand Junction.  I will meet the team there on Wednesday. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week Summary (Aug 7) - Feeding the Bears

TRT - Brockway West OB: 10.0 mi (+1,683 ft); 10:44 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.6 mi (+483ft); 9:12 pace
Ophir Grade OB: 8.1 mi (+1,145 ft); 9:48 pace
TRT - Mt. Rose to Relay Loop: 15.7 mi (+3,671 ft); 13:08 pace
Water Route - Ophir Grade: 12.0 mi (+1,165 ft); 9:40 pace

Weekly Totals: 51.4 mi (+8,147 ft); 9:31:48 on trail

It's days like these...
The needle's in the groove, somewhat stuck, over and over, but slightly different tunes; that is, another great week on the trail. Having re-discovered Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Rim Trail, I've been kicking myself for years of avoiding the nearby beauty of the Lake of the Sky.  I'm almost half-way around the lake, visiting each weekend for some cool altitude and the fantastic TRT. We had to wait for the late Summer to open things up, but it's all been worth it.

Started the week with a repeat of my out-and-back run from Brockway Summit, a bit longer than the usual Tuesday (RFP Week #10) but I felt good and wanted to verify the route and distance with the Garmin (my mapwork was nicely close for last week's summary but the elevation required an additional 1,000 feet of gain!).  The evenings are starting to cool just so slightly, a luxury to be stopping by the TRT mid-week.

Visited Emma Quarry for the typical Wednesday night out-and-back. Still just love that trail. It set the stage for Thursday when I tried for some higher intensity on the climb of Ophir Grade. Although I hit the trail at noon-time, the temps were relatively cool (probably because I'm planning fieldwork in the Mojave Desert for later in the month).  I didn't keep the pace up as planned, but it remains a good lunchtime effort to the top of the grade where I could see my goal for the weekend across Washoe Valley.
Mount Rose from Ophir Grade

I had to grab a jacket in the pre-dawn of Saturday morning; I even considered the heater in the Yota as I stopped by Steven's house. We were meeting Darren at the Mt. Rose trailhead for a summit run. Great to have Steven join us; we'll work him in slowly!

Darren was waiting on our arrival, as was Stan from the Silver State Striders.  He's also headed to Leadville as a pacer, and today he was heading south with his racer, though she hadn't yet arrived at the trailhead. Letting Steven head off for a hike, Darren and I took to the trail across Tamarack Ridge. This trail is about eight years old, but it was new to me as I realized I hadn't been on Mt. Rose in more than a decade. The trail is well-used and we passed several hiking parties working their way toward the summit. We skirted waterfalls and lakes I'd never seen before.  I'd climbed and skied this area from several directions, but the TRT was exposing me to new sights in a place I thought familiar. I kept a moderate pace knowing the elevation would add up, and Darren pulled away as we turned at the wilderness boundary and began the rise to treeline. Above me to the east, the summit ridge was backlit by the yellow beams of the morning sun. Darren was a loping shadow now working through the sheets of light. It was an inspiring view, but by the time I grabbed my camera, he was gone. I noticed the summer fog of Truckee below me and pointed the camera downward.

Fog at Prosser, near Truckee
The final switchbacks push me above treeline, this is true mountain running. A single track climbs toward the sky and each side tumbles to valleys thousands of feet below. In the thin air, I move better it seems, or maybe it is simply the acuity of light that brings focus. I've always felt this way up high; it's why I long to return time after time. And again I'm astounded that I've avoided the quick escape provided this beautiful peak. I'm on the summit in 1 hr 15 min, about 9 minutes behind Darren who's looking around for the summit register. As busy as this trail is, they'd need something more like a big-city phonebook. We loiter for a few moments taking in the views and naming prominent geographic points for the other summiteer of the moment (he took the opening picture of Darren and me on the summit; thanks man!).

Darren on the Summit

Lake Tahoe beyond Tamarack Ridge
Once upon a time I considered Mt. Rose a day hike, now, if I thought of it as the only goal of the day, I could likely make the summit in under an hour. Maybe someday I'll try that, or not. Why hurry days like these?

We soon begin the drop back to treeline, fetching stares from the several hikers working their way up. May be some contempt there, are we altering their experience in our apparent haste? Many still consider us "gluttons for punishment" to quote one passerby but most simply offer a kind "good morning" in response to our greetings. I enjoy asking people why they didn't trip the faster guy just up the trail! Anyway, I'm improving on the descent and I stay pretty close to Darren, though he's going cautiously in the final weeks before Leadville.  Back at the wilderness boundary we split from the Alp-like crowds and head along an unproven trail to the north. This is the approximate line of the future Rim to Reno trail but it sees little use right now. The springs are fully charged and water flows from the smallest of seeps. We head this way to add some mileage to our loop, but soon Darren turns back, he has a camping trip with Carrie and Chloe to finish the weekend. I'm going to continue down the trail to gain a mile more so that I can easily get to my planned 14. Darren is primed for Leadville. I think his challenge rests in the mental game of going 100. His work is paying off, and we'll take it with us to the high country of the Rockies in two weeks.

I'm barely a quarter mile in when I see movement on the trail ahead of me. It's certainly the biggest coyote I've ever seen; no wait, thick fur is moving in red-brown waves as it begins to increase it's gait. In a few steps I notice that it is herding two other smaller-scale red-brown balls of fur through the closely scattered trees. These are bears in full stride now, thankfully heading downhill just ahead of me. Momma bear looks at me once and I quickly change my plans for that extra mile down this trail. Today this wilderness is theirs, thanks for sharing. I'll go now.

I probably had my best uphill pace of the day making my way back to the main trail. I only glanced over my shoulder a couple times knowing I couldn't go much faster anyway! Regaining the trail, I knew a few of these people would be slower than me (it only takes one) so I settled in to complete my run. Feeling the rush and joy of the encounter I decided for more elevation gain and headed for the Relay Station on the section of the TRT toward Brockway. I ended with 15.7 miles and a nice cushion of elevation, a worthwhile Saturday on the TRT.

Sunday morning brought the second segment of this week's scheduled B2B (back-to-back). This is part of ultra training meant to get the runner used to running on tired legs. Well, I notice that just about every Sunday after a good Saturday long one; sometimes I have the pleasure of experiencing it on other days as well. But today would be different. I started on the Ophir Grade just above town and soon the weariness of getting the muscles and joints back in the flow simply faded away. Maybe this isn't the practice I'm supposed to do, but it felt great to be back on the trail. Maybe it was the few extra carbos I got from the beers at Larry's place yesterday evening.  My pace was steady in the cool morning and I extended my usual Ophir Route out along the waterline that is our town's connection to the Tahoe basin.

I like the many desert runs as much as I enjoy the forest trails of the Sierra. But desert has its own share of beasts that demand my attention. Rattlers are much nicer than the copperheads and moccasins I grew up around; at least these guys let you know they mean business if you aren't careful. This big boy was only a few hundred yards short of my six-mile turn-around, so I thanked him for posing and moved on. But when I came back moments later, he was gone. Of course, I heard him in every grasshopper, buzzing bee and rush of grass for the next three miles. I've run into a dozen or so rattlers this year, encounters that are thankfully brief if a bit jumpy for yours truly.

The Washoe Valley side of Ophir Grade
It would be nice to connect the waterline along Ophir Grade to the TRT via the trail at Hobart Reservoir. Feeling like I did today, it isn't hard to imagine that this will come pretty soon. I had been a little haunted by the B2Bs on my schedule, though I'm happy to say that I've met the challenge of the first few along the RFP. Finished with my best week of total mileage, elevation gain, and time on the trail.

This week I work in Truckee where I'll explore some new trails before returning for my longest day yet on the TRT. I can only keep going.