Thursday, August 06, 2015

Tushar 93K Skyrunning

I went to Utah last weekend to run Ultra Adentures' Tushar 93K. It was a gorgeous race, and since obviously this is the only 93K I've ever run, I suppose I set a PR, despite the course's nearly 17,000 feet of climbing, almost all of which takes place between 10,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level. The race was part of the US Skyrunning series, which the NYT just wrote about, and is definitely my kind of race.

I flew to Utah on Thursday, and cowboy camped on a random BLM road outside Fillmore (Utah's first capital--the BY trying to curry favor with Millard.) Friday I worked remotely and hung out in Beaver, where there is not a lot happening. In the evening I drove up into Fishlake National Forest to Eagle Point Ski Resort to check-in and hear the RD give a completely scatter-brained course preview due to lack of sleep. Mostly he told us to take our time because the course was overgrown, extremely steep, and gorgeous, all of which sounded good to me. He did make me worried about sharing trail with ATVs, though. Fishlake is host to the Paiute ATV Trail, which didn't sound like it would mix well with a couple hundred runners.

Cowboy camped again 5-10 minutes from the starting line, and was ready to go for the start at 5AM. It was dark for about the first hour, but it wasn't really that cold--my windshirt and sleeves only lasted a few minutes after we started.

The course was all pretty reasonable (by my standards) for the first 6 or so miles. A group of about 8 of us bunched up for a couple minutes because we weren't sure we were on the right track. With the exception of this one section, the course was very well marked--though if I had to do it again, I wouldn't forget to download the USGS quad to my phone--that's what I bought Backcountry Navigator for. Then we climbed, and climbed, saw some mountain goats, and kept climbing, until we summited Delano Peak.  

Then we dropped, climbed, dropped, climbed, dropped, saw a woman dressed in a kind of creepy cat costume, and then dropped a lot. One of the climbs in the middle there was Copper Belt Peak, which had incredible views and was an out and back section, so I got to see where the leaders were. (I think Tim Olson was in third at this point, where he eventually finished.) Three miles each way of this was on a road with ATVs and dirt bikes, but it wasn't that bad, and bothered me a lot less than all the traffic on the dirt roads in the Zion 100.

A few miles after Copper Belt we began the longest drop of the race, down to 7,000 feet. There was a waterfall and a red tailed hawk waiting at the bottom.

What was next was obvious--we had to gain it all back. 4,000 feet in about five miles. I listened to Jim Croce (I swear every single one of his songs is about a girl from either Georgia or Mississippi) , then Terry Gross, was a few seconds late to a bear sighting, and finally crawled my way to the top at no more than a 2 mile per hour pace.

From there it was all in the bag. Seven or so miles that were the reverse of the first seven miles of the race. At the very end I was pushing to finish before needing a headlamp. Mission accomplished.

All in all, a great race. I originally signed up for the 100-mile version of the race, but that was cancelled due to lack of interest. Matt the RD made a pretty generous offer (refund of the difference plus free entry into any other race of his) for sticking with the 93K, and I'm glad I did it, but I still wish I'd been able to go for the 100. If I had, I might be complaining now about how loopy the course was, but maybe not. It would seem that there are plenty of trails that one could use to make a 100-mile course something other than a loop repeated twice, but at 93K the course is close to perfect. There's nothing that feels contrived--you just bag three awesome peaks, and this is how hard it is. It didn't hurt that the weather was fantastic: overcast and not too hot but never actually raining.

I ran in a new pair of Hoka One One Stinson ATR, which rubbed the outside of one of my ankles a bit. The tongue could really use more padding. I had a pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.0 in my drop bag, but sometimes with Altra's wide toebox I can slide forward and bruise toes on downhills, so I figured I'd be better off with the devil I knew. Footing is definitely an issue on this race--the trails haven't seen a McLeod in at least a generation, or are just way above treeline on a grassy meadow that's never had a real trail, so you'll land at an angle a lot, and I wasn't always enjoying the Hoka's extra stack height.

Here's the Strava, though it's not mine, since mine seems to have disappeared when my Garmin ran out of battery the day after.

Sunday I drove back up to Salt Lake. I tried to climb Nebo on my way, but the first trail was horribly overgrown, and the second was over-lightning-y. It was fun to run in the rain for a bit though.  I did a couple backflips on a trampoline, hung out with a couple of great friends from the OBUW days, and then caught my flight home.

Could use a little maintenance

Leave No Trace

Oh, and one last thing. I just got into the Bear 100. That means if I can clear it with work, I'm going to try and run Plain 100 Sep 12-13, IMTUF 100 Sep 19-20, and Bear 100 Sep 25-26. I am a little concerned, to be honest.

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