As I gimp around two days after experiencing the Logan Peak Trail Run first hand, I’ve had a little time to reflect on last Saturday.
I already knew trail running is not my strength. I enjoy the mountains, but I have a hard time picking up my feet, especially when I get tired. That is not a good combo when trying to run trails. I get away with it on asphalt, but iceberg-like rocks, tree roots and whatever else that finds its way onto the trail have to be negotiated and that means being much more aware and picking up my feet. For me at least, I can not enjoy the scenery and run at the same time.
I’m sure my wife got a little tired of me scolding myself on more than one occasion: “Pick up your dang feet,” I mumbled several times to myself after tripping last Saturday. But hey, I did not go down. That is a major accomplishment as I almost always seem to find myself in a heap in the dirt at least once when I do a trail race. So, I will take that small victory.
My trail experience is mostly hiking. I have done three half marathons on trails and trained with my wife when she did a trail marathon two years ago. But tackling Logan Peak this year was a new experience, or I should say a new distance for a trail race — 26.15 miles to be exact according to my watch.
While my wife Tawnya has spent the last two or so months hitting the trails every Saturday, I concentrated on preparing for the Utah Valley Marathon with road miles. However, I did hike at least once a week with my daughter Samantha for the past nine months, and we have been up to Mendon Peak, Hawkwatch Peak, Logan Peak and Providence Peak in the past month, as well a some other grueling elevation gains.
My main goal was to not slow my wife down. Tawnya and I have wanted to do this race for a few years and decided 2021 was the year. We also agreed to do it together.
We checked in at 5 a.m. and prepared ourselves for the 6 a.m. start at Hyrum Gibbons Mount Logan Park. There was plenty of anticipation at the start. While I didn’t approach this as a race, I knew it was and my competitive juices were pumping as we set off. As we left Gibbons Parkway and headed up Mountain Road, the adrenaline was pumping. A couple of miles in, I was wondering what I had got myself into.
Now I’ve hiked up Dry Canyon a handful of times and did so just a few weeks ago with Samantha, so I knew what I was in for. But when 138 other people are there and trying to get to the Syncline trail as soon as possible, well, it’s a different feeling. Plus, my daughter and I took breaks along the way. We did not on Saturday.
Tawnya led out and I tried to keep up as we climbed up Dry Canyon to the first aid station at the junction between the North and South Syncline Trails. We had gone 4.4 miles without stopping. Yes, I want a pat on the back. Plus, we had even run some. It was also nice to have avalanche debris cleared off the trail as when my daughter and I had hiked it several weeks ago, we found ourselves climbing over many downed trees.
We didn’t spend much time at the aid station. We headed south on the South Syncline trail for two miles of incredible views and mostly runable single track. The trail then met Welches Flat jeep trail was four miles long, and that part is anything but flat. I had been told it was rolling, but that isn’t accurate either.
That jeep trail was a screaming downhill section, followed by a steep, rocky uphill. Repeat and repeat. I lost track of how many times we did that until we joined the top of Providence Canyon and followed a forest service road to the second aid station. We had 11.65 miles behind us at that point.
Next up was the climb to the races’ namesake — Logan Peak. We followed a jeep trail to the top, reaching 9,710 feet and 14 miles. I had to address a toe issue, which thankfully a Band-Aid did the trick, and we headed back down as I tried to keep up with my mountain-goat wife. She can descend much better than me.
After a brief stop at the aid station, we headed northeast on a forest road and eventually joined up with the North Syncline Trail, which gave us grand views of Logan Canyon. We ran a good portion of this, but did have to work our way across two snowfields that had a few trees down from avalanches.
As we worked our way back to Dry Canyon, the heat of the day became more noticeable. So did the horse flies. Luckily, we did not get bitten by one.
After getting some water at the last aid station at the top of Dry Canyon, we descended into what some runners called the oven. Temperatures did rise as we lost elevation. With that came cramping for me. Tawnya led the way, but I slowed us down big time as I dealt with balky calves and quads. She was a trooper and stuck with me as I screamed in pain a couple of times. The noise, however, was mostly to scare off any snakes that may have been lingering.
We made it to the bottom of the canyon and more familiar footing for myself — asphalt — for the final three-quarters of a mile. As we closed in on the finish, a co-worker yelled my name. All I could mumble in return was “seven-and-a-half hours, unbelievable.” As we approached the finish line, it was great to see my daughter and son there to cheer us in. A wave of gratitude rushed over me.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, that may be the hardest thing I’ve done since picking up the sport of running. It’s way too early to even think about trying that again.
The best part was sharing the experience with Tawnya and once again proving we can do hard things. It was great to have my two children there at the finish line. Sharing some miles with several good friends that I’ve met through running in Matthew Shoemaker and Wade McFarland was fun. Seeing friends Matthew and Jeri Cheney was also nice. It was also fun to see a couple of athletes that I’ve covered do really well in Madison Flippence and the speedy Jesse Dunn.
The volunteers at the aid stations were all so encouraging and helpful. It was also nice to have fellow runners give encouraging comments, especially as we ascended Logan Peak as others came down.
I’ve had respect for trail runners for some time, but even more now. And those that do 50, 100 and more than 200-mile races, that is truly unbelievable. I can check another race off the bucket list and reaffirm that I will never attempt a trail race of that sort of distance.