Tuesday, 30 July 2013 07:55

Desert RATS Trailrunning Festival 2013

by TrailAndUltraRunning.com

Gemini Adventures hosts more than just a race in Fruita, CO in April of every year. By all definitions it is truly a festival. They start with a pre-race dinner at a local hotel on Friday, the marathon and double-marathon on Saturday, followed by awards and a party, then a half marathon and 5 miler on Sunday; a whole weekend of events. With proper planning runners should attempt to attend all of the weekend’s activities as it will make the experience extremely fulfilling.

Gemini Adventures prides themselves on scenic courses, and this one certainly fits the bill. Located in the high desert of southwestern Colorado, the course sweeps through desert landscape and red slickrock cliff buttes. Supplied with plenty of aid stations and a well-marked course, this race is great for new trail runners and ultra veterans alike. TAUR gear review specialist and Altra ambassador, Leslie Howlett, was sent out to the race to see what all the fuss was about and to run her first ever 50 miler. An elite triathlete turned trail and ultra runner, she is pushing into the longer distances. After having to end her race early at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 miler in March due to a quad strain, she set her sites on the Desert RATS Festival. She reports on her experience below.

A view of the course


Leslie: In this race the RD offers a $100 bill for the first man and first woman up the hill at 1.3 miles. I figured I’d test the waters and go for it if I had a chance but decided to rein it in after being 3rd at close to the 1 mile mark.  No biggie.  It did take me several miles to get my heart rate back in check, probably not the smartest move, but didn’t hurt me in the end.  The 5.9 miles to the first aid station were almost exclusively technical slickrock. The runners behind me seemed to be running really fast and I was getting a little tired of having people breathing down my neck. I either needed to pull over to let 4-10 of them pass at a time or running hard to stay in some open space and avoid being passed by a wagon train. After that first aid station the slickrock went mostly away, the course flattened out, and the field spread out. I finally felt like I could settle into a groove and run my own pace.

I put my headphones in earlier than usual because there just wasn’t anyone to talk to. However, I did meet up with 3 ladies around mile 13 and ran with them for the next 10 miles.  That was nice. Most of the time we were fairly spread out. I don’t mind being in my own head, but it was nice to chat and pass a few hours together. Heading back to the start/finish to get ready for lap number 2 I was feeling a bit tight and sore and hoping the next 26 wouldn’t feel like this, but there was no quad specific pain and no question I’d head back out. I enjoyed pushing what felt like a good pace on the mile of dirt road back to my husband.

With the three ladies I ran with


At the start of the second lap I chose to switch hydration vests. My husband, Jeremy, switched me out of my Ultraspire Surge into a Nathan VaporShape, which was already filled with the gels and pills and food and water I wanted. No worrying about forgetting to switch something or calculating how many gels to reload with. Perfect. I left the halfway point feeling good. I didn’t push as hard going back out as when I was coming in, but I felt fine. The second loop runs in reverse so there was a steep downhill section around mile 30 which really bothered my knees so I ended up walking most of it. The first aid station of the second loop came a little faster than I expected which was nice. I put an ice pack on my knees for just a minute and that alleviated the pain I was experiencing. My husband was there waiting for me and said he would meet me at the next aid station and run the last 12 miles with me. I left that aid station feeling amazing! I was seriously flying for what felt like an hour. Anything seemed possible! Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and I went into a low. It wasn’t a true bonk and certainly wasn’t related to nutrition, I stayed right on top of that. No real pain in my legs either, just more of a mental bonk. I expected to be able to see the next aid station for quite a while, even if it weren’t close, and it just never came.

Finally I saw the aid station and came tromping in a little grumpy and ready to see my husband…who wasn’t there.  Oh boy let me tell you, I was as mad as a wet hen!  I’d been without water for half an hour and was due for a gel a while ago but wasn’t going to take it without water, went through a discouraging hour+ and all I wanted to see was him. And he wasn’t there. Luckily he did show up a mile or so down the trail after getting lost and going to the wrong aid station.  He waved to me. I didn’t wave back. I told him I was happy to see him but in actuality was not very happy with him, at all. It didn’t last though. We quickly kissed and made up and were on our way. It was nice to have him there, to have someone to talk to.

I figured once we got to the last aid station I knew we had 5.9 to go and could set a new goal.  We’d be almost done, pretty much home free. What I forgot was how winding and how many blasted slickrock switchbacks there were in that next 5 miles. That really was ok though.  I came to finish and was happy my husband was with me. My first 50 miler (52 miles actually) was over and in a respectable time of 10:55.

Coming into one of the aid stations


I’m pleased with the way the race was run.  Organized, scenic, plenty of aid station support, good flagging, and very supportive race staff all over the course.  It is a race I would recommend, especially for someone newer to ultra running or someone looking for an early season race that’s not too challenging.  Thanks for a great race Reid!

To read more about what Leslie is up to, check out her blog!

The Wonderland Trail is 93 miles (150kms) long and encircles Mount Rainier. It is a strenuous hike with a ton of elevation gain and loss, through lowland forests and valleys and into high alpine and sub-alpine areas. You can do a portion of the 93-mi trail, just click on a specific link out of the trail sections listed below, or you can accomplish the entire length as an epic option. *It is estimated that approx. 200-250 people complete the distance between 10-14 days.


Trail Sections –
Longmire to Devils Dream: (5 mi) Most popular place to start and finish the 93 mi loop.
Devil’s Dream to Klapatche Park: (9.8 mi) Start early; a challenging hike with spectacular highlights.
Klapatche Park to Golden Lakes: (7.8 mi) A reduced mileage rest day after Devil’s!
Golden Lakes to Mowich Lake: (10.2 mi) Dark, damp forest with wild river crossings.
Spray Park Alt Route: (8 mi) Hikers reach 6,400 ft. in elevation here.
Ipsut Pass: (8.5 mi to Carbon River, 13.4 mi to Mystic Lake) To blow through some miles, take the lowland expressway through Ipsut Pass.
Mystic Lake to Sunrise: (10.6 mi to Sunrise Camp, additional 2.1 mi to White River Camp)
Hike along the massive Winthrop Glacier to rolling meadows and sweeping views.
White River to Sunrise: (10.8 mi) A quick descent and a tourist hot spot, this location offers the first spot where you feel like you’re on the mountain as opposed to viewing it from surrounding foothills.
Panhandle Gap to Nickel Creek: (10.9 mi) Birds eye view of Southern Washington – the highest section of the WT trail.
Nickel Creek to Longmire: (11 mi to Paradise River, additional 3.5 mi to Longmire) A busy day with an assortment of sites. You will experience many canyons, Reflection Lakes and waterfalls.
*Check out this really rad Wonderland Trail Online Itinerary Planner to help you plan the perfect trip for you.
Location: Mt. Rainier National Park, Ashford, WA 98304
Logistics: For camping reservations, regulations, and specs please view Mt. Rainier Camping. There is also lodging available at National Park Inn at Longmire open year round.
Day Hike: There are a number of places to start day hikes/runs, check out the trail sections above.
Endurance Challenge: Fit athletes can do the entire trail in 7-8 days.
Epic: This is a very rugged trail that is a challenge even for top ultra endurance athletes. Currently, the FKT for this route, unspported is 28 hours 50 minutes
Length: 93 miles
Elevation: 22,000 ft. (6,700 m) gain. Highest point: Panhandle Gap (6,750 ft)
Terrain: Strenuous.
Season: Main hiking – late summer to early fall. Mt. Rainier’s high elevation and proximity to the Pacific Ocean can also bring moisture, rain, or snow to the trail. In the past, the WT is still mostly snow-covered during June and early July.
Details: A backcountry permit is required to hike and camp on the WT. Camping sites must be reserved; 18 trailside camps, group sites, composting toilets and water sources are available.
Shop: Longmire General Store – gifts/basic groceries, Paradise Camp Deli & Gift Shop, etc.

In the following article we’ll explore why testing your resting heart rate for signs of stress and overtraining can be a guide to understanding your adaptive response to training workloads. Heikke Rusko developed these simple steps of testing your resting heart rate profile line after working with elite cross country skiers.

Pick a week when you are well rested and have minimal stress in your training cycle and life. Then at the same time each morning for 3 consecutive mornings follow these steps for a baseline resting heart rate profile. Once you have consistent resting heart rate profile or baseline you can then test yourself for comparison throughout your training cycle for signs of stress, due to overtraining, poor recovery, onset of illness or other forms of life stress.

Rusko Steps:
1) Before you get out of bed in the morning continue to rest quietly and comfortably.
2) Record your heart rate after 2 minutes in prone position with a heart rate monitor and watch.
3) Stand up slowly continuing to monitor heart rate.
4) After 15 seconds, take a second heart rate in beats per minute.
5) During the next 90-120 seconds, take a third heart rate average over the 30 seconds.

This test should take you no more than 5min, 2-3 minutes lying in bed and 2 minutes standing. A normal resting heart rate profile will include a jump in heart rate upon standing, and a decreasing heart rate line upon the 90-120sec heart rate reading. These heart rate data points and profile line are personal to the athlete and comparing your resting heart rate profile line to others is nonproductive.

Once you have your personal resting heart rate profile it is important to retest once a week, preferable at the same time and day of the week. A well-rested athlete who is adapting to the training workloads will show a consistent heart rate profile or slightly lower line between measurements. An elevated heart rate of 8-10beats above base line during any of the 3 heart rate data points can indicate signs of unadaptive stress response. The shape of the profile line can also be interpreted. A quick and steep rise upon standing and quick and steep descent at 90sec indicates a well rested and adaptive athlete. A slow climb and slow descend indicates an increase in stress levels. This heart rate profile change indicate that you have not fully recovered from a previous workout or accumulative workload, and it may be helpful to reduce training by including a recovery run, an easy cross training day or a full rest day before performing another hard or intense workout. On a more serious note these changes may indicate an athlete on the verge of overtraining, poor recovery habits, onset of illness or in a high stress life style. All of which will wreak havoc one’s fitness and competitive ability. Personal and measurable data assists the conscientious athlete to reach their fitness and running goals healthy and happy.

Cindy Stonesmith CMT ACSM/HFS
Owner and Endurance Running Coach

I headed out to the 24 Hours of Utah; happy to get away from more fresh wet snow in Boulder and ready for some sun and sand. This is the 7th time I’ve run this race which is the same number of years it’s been running. Yes, my husband is the Race Director, hence my team name, “The RD’s Wife.” Everyone who runs has to have a team name whether competing as a solo runner or as part of a team.

I look forward to this race every year, because it’s a break from the cold and snow, but this year was a little cooler than typical. I think it was pretty cold for the staff, volunteers and spectators, but for us as runners it was perfect. There were lots of categories of racers: 6 hour solo (which was run completely at night), 50k, 12 hour solo, 12 hour duo, 24 hour team, 24 hour solo and the hundred milers. With the exception of the 6 hour solo runners, we all got started at 7 a.m. My plan was to do a 6 hour training run, so I registered for the 12 hour solo since I wanted to run in the warmth of the day.

Everyone headed to the start line wearing a few layers as it was about 30 degrees and pretty windy at the start. We were happy to get moving and even happier for the wind protection as we made our way around the course. It’s a 5.37 mile loop that you run in alternating directions. Regardless of which direction you’re heading, you have about a mile of sandy trail, followed by a moderate climb up slick rock followed by a downhill on slick rock and back to sandy trail.

After the first lap I got into a groove with a fellow teammate, Dan Blankenship, aka “Reverend Slim.” I don’t see him much, so we had lots to catch up on which is a good thing as we had many miles to go. As we went, we lost layers as the sun climbed in the sky. After 6 laps, I peeled off – my daughters were patiently waiting for me at the finish line. Dan and the other runners kept going…and going…and going. Only two runners, Hawaiian Shirt Ray Churgovich (27:09 – 2nd place) and Scot Hartman (25:21 – 1st place) stuck with it to complete the full 100 miles!

It was yet again a great run and I’ll be back next year!

The 12-hour, 24-hour, 50K, and 100 mile set off at the same time. 1st place 12 hour solo male was Neeraj Engineer from Broomfield, CO with 59.07 miles completed, and 1st place 12 hour solo female was Shana Leneveu from Louisville, CO with 53.7 miles. 1st place female 24 hour solo female was Charlotte Vasarhelyi from Kitchener, ON with 69.81 miles and 1st place 24 hour solo male was James Nussbeck from San Diego, CA with 69.81 miles. Overall 1st place male for the 50k was Chris Edmonds from Colorado Springs, CO completing the distance in 3 hours 56 minutes, and Overall 1st place female for the 50k was Claire Mellein from Osos, CA completing in 4 hours 38 minutes. To complete the morning’s series, 1st place male in the 100-mile category was the aforementioned Scot Hartman, completing the distance in 25:21. No females completed the 100 mile this year, but Rochelle Garnanez was close with 80.55 miles completed in the time frame.

Later on in the evening, the 6 hour solo began, surging a fresh crowd into the field of runners with many miles on their legs. 1st place male was Brian Passenti from Glenwood Springs, CO accomplished 26.85 miles in 6 hours, and once again, 1st place female was Danelle Ballengee from Moab, UT with the same distance covered, and merely 3 minutes later.

Though much colder this year, the 24 Hours of Utah racers were well equipped to put the miles on their legs and leave with a feeling of accomplishment. This was only the beginning. For those of you who continue on to next event in our series, there’s so much more to tap into, and for those of you who are new – welcome to the family!

With 24 Hours of Utah steadily approaching, Gemini Events sat down with Eagle Mountain Runner, Megan Morrissey for a recap on her experience as a 5-time 24 UT team racer. Here’s what Megan had to say about training, racing, and the Eagle Mountain Runners,

1.) What do you like about this race?
We all love running so being able to get away and spend the day and night together is something we all look forward to every year. Being a loop course is great. We can have our little camp area to hang out and have our only worry be when we run next. We buy every gossip magazine and just relax and have fun. We take nothing serious for those 2 days. It is a great break from real life.

2.) How many years have you been running as a team?
Eagle has had a running group for over 10 years. At one point we would have 18 people on a run. We run consistently at 5:15 am 3 to 4 days a week and long weekend runs. We don’t really know what happened but over the years it ended up just being the 5 of us. So we signed up for 24 Hours of Utah back in 2007.

3.) How many years have you competed in 24 Hours of Utah?
We have done it every year except one (2010) where a few of us had something come up with family. We have had to sub people a few times when one of the core 5 was injured. This is the first year we have run without Katie, she is injured. Anita and I are going to double up on laps every other time we go out. That will be a new challenge.

4.) Who has been consistent in keeping the team together – who’s the captain, the wrangler, the heart?
That would be me. We have a funny dynamic in our group. I am really not a leader but for some reason take that role on with the group. But we all love it and I never have to talk anyone into it. It is more like “Did you register us for Moab yet?”

5.) How has the team changed? (Either athletically, physically, mentally, etc.)
Knowing each other for so long we have seen a lot of change. When you get up at 4:45 to run with people you get to have great long talks about everything from jobs, marriage, kids to dealing with dang running injuries. A few of us started running ultras with the others supporting us as pacers and crew. A couple of us have been out for months with injuries. But through it all we are still very close.

6.) How do you train as a team? As individuals?
We will always try to run together if scheduling works. We txt out a run and if you make it great. If not you may get a bit of a ribbing but all in good fun. We also all go out alone when no one else can go. We all need to run.

7.) Any heat training? Is there snow on the trails in Eagle?
We have had a long cold winter. Unfortunately we lose most of our trails to an open space closure from Dec -May. We have 2 open trails we snowshoe run and katoola run. So no heat training except for Anita who spent a week running in Hawaii! We are so ready for heat and dirt.

8.) How do you go from mountain training to desert training?
Honestly we are so ready for dirt and heat it isn’t a problem. The hard part is going back to snow.

9.) Any little rituals you do in Utah that you and your team would like to share?
We have a fire pit and keep the fire burning no matter what. And Blue Moon’s after the last lap!

10.) Please tell us something fun about the event!
The first year was probably the funniest. It was in May that year so it was superhot. We would come back from our lap and put our feet in a bucket of ice water and just be out of it. On our late night/early morning laps we saw spiders with glowing eyes and mice running over our feet. On one of my laps I screamed by head off when I saw a snake, okay it was a ribbon tied to a bush as trail marking. But being tired and worn out from the heat I think we all lost it a bit out there.

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