Life of a Runner: Elevation

Hello readers! Sorry for the break, but I was on vacation! Now I’m back to tell you all about my adventures in Utah, both running and otherwise. I hope you’re sitting down because I’m going to try to cram it all down in this one entry.

Sunday, June 27th

Travel day!

Monday, June 28th

2 miles, 17:58 (8:59/mile)

I got up and right away went for a run on the treadmill. Bailey’s new apartment has a fitness center, so we both utilized that. It was technically my first run at elevation and it wasn’t too bad. It did take me a while to figure out how to get the treadmill up to speed. After the run, Bailey and I did a core workout together, which was also nice.

The rest of the day was spent exploring a bit and helping Bailey set up her apartment.

Tuesday, June 29th

I skipped the run today because we planned on doing a longer hike this afternoon. The only problem with afternoon hikes — as we soon found out — is that storms can pop up out of nowhere. We went hiking to this place called Lake Desolation. The whole thing was about 7.7 miles total. It was beautiful, covered in aspen trees and with rolling hills the whole way. When we reached the lake, we saw some storm clouds that looked like they were headed our way. As soon as we heard thunder, we decided it was time to scurry. My mom and I ended up running pretty much the whole way down, so I guess we could count it as about a 4 mile run. It was so much fun!! Granted, we had to take it a bit slow and be cautious, especially once it started raining, so we wouldn’t lose our footing and slip. There was quite a bit of thunder and lightning that were a bit uncomfortably close, but we were fine. I was a bit worried about Bailey and Dad, the other half of our group, but they were fine as well. It ended up just being a beautiful hike/run. Apparently quite a few people love that trail for running and I can’t blame them. If I were acclimated to the elevation, I would have loved to run that, too. For now, I enjoyed the views, the smell of pine, and watched the raindrops fall. We ended up being completely soaked, but I didn’t mind one bit. It was totally worth it. That ended up being one of my favorite hikes on the trip.

Wednesday, June 30th

2 miles, 17:20 (8:40/mile)

Another morning on the treadmill. I did feel pretty good this morning. I tried to push it the last mile, upping the pace to less than 8-minute pace. My left hip is sore, but I’m sure it’s just because of the hike/run yesterday. In the afternoon, we did a short 2.3 mile hike up to a place called the Living Room. Though it was short, it was pretty steep, and there wasn’t much shade to protect us from the hot sun. The views were great. It’s just that we had about 1,000 ft. of elevation gain over a mile. My legs were definitely sore, and it was hard not to run the whole way down because of how steep it was.

Thursday, July 1st

2.4 miles, 22:50 (9:15/mile)

We went up to a place called the Silver Lake trail, which was a boardwalk and dirt trail up in the mountains. Mum and I ran loops on the trail for our first run at a really high elevation, since it was around 9,000 feet up. It was around 60 degrees when we started, and it was sprinkling. Wow! It felt like I was sucking wind through the whole thing. It was definitely hard. Originally, we were only going to do 2 miles, but then we decided to just finish out another loop. It was a nice trail, the people there just weren’t so great at trail etiquette. We ended up walking a lap after for a cool-down. Each loop I think was around 0.8 miles. We even saw a moose! It was beautiful.

After the run, we did a short 2 mile hike up to a place called Donut Falls. The funny thing about this trail was when we hiked Lake Desolation, two guys came up to us and asked us where Donut Falls was. But it was in completely the opposite direction from where they went. Donut Falls’ trail starts south of where we were, so they were about six miles away from it. So, in honor of those two poor lost dudes, we hiked Donut Falls. That was a really easy trail, but again there were good views. It was pretty crowded, though. So today was a bit of an easier day.

Friday, July 2nd

Today was just a hiking day. We chose to do a hike that started out in a place called Brighton. Cool, right? On this trail, there were three lakes that people hike to, and that trail was about three miles round trip. The first mile of the trail was really crowded. There were so many people hiking with their kids and stuff. Once we got past the first lake (which was picturesque), the trail was a lot less populated. The only bad thing was there were lots of mosquitos. It started raining between the second and third lakes, but it didn’t take long to figure out that it wasn’t rain, it was hail. Little balls of ice about the size of a pea were falling to the ground. It was awesome. We started at about the same elevation as the running trail yesterday, so a little less than 9,000 ft.

Once we got past the lakes, we decided to continue on, because that trail also went up to Sunset Peak, and it was only about 1.5 miles longer. My legs were pretty sore, and I just felt so tired the whole time. It was hard for me to keep going, especially once we got past the lakes. After that, it was a pretty rocky uphill climb. We ended up stopping to rest several times, debating how much farther we should go. Finally, after going almost 3 miles, we called it. We weren’t far from the top, but there were some storms building, and if there’s one place you don’t want to be in a storm, it’s on top of a mountain. There were some other factors that went into the decision too, like how tired we were, what the remainder of the trail would be like, and how long it would take. In the end, we decided to turn around there after resting for a bit and drinking lots of water. The views were spectacular from where we ended up. Of course, the hike down was a lot easier, but still my legs ached. When climbing up, you use more of your calf muscles and glutes. When climbing down, your quads do a lot of the work, and you can feel them tensing with each step downward, especially on the steeper spots. The whole hike ended up being about 5.5 miles, but my watch died just a tenth of a mile before the end, so I’m not sure. I ended up sprinting the last quarter mile or so, which was really fun. Once I reached the parking lot, I was able to lengthen my stride and stretch my legs out. That actually felt really great.

Saturday, July 3rd

OFF

Sunday, July 4th

2 miles, 17:33 (8:47/mile)

The run was good. It’s getting easier. Yesterday’s off day really helped my legs recover. We did a 4.5 mile hike this afternoon to Silver Lake. No, it’s not the same trail as the one we ran on earlier in the week. People just aren’t that creative sometimes so we end up with thirty things with the same name. This Silver Lake was a pretty steep trail that didn’t have a lot of shade. And we went in the afternoon, so it was pretty hot. There were also a lot of dogs on this trail, which was cool. This hike was not so great. I had some issues along the way with breathing and had a sick feeling in my stomach; all that was due to things that really had nothing to do with hiking, but I eventually got it figured out. Just some personal issues. Anyway, at the lake, we sat around, dipped our feet in the water (which was allowed) and watched some dogs swim. It was a very hot hike, though. Much hotter than we thought it would be.

So, to sum up the week, I only did about 12 miles of running, but I also hiked about 18 miles on top of that. So that’s pretty cool!

Monday, July 5th

Whoaaa today was a big day. We decided to do a trail to a place called White Pine Lake. The trail said it was 4 miles to the lake. It started out on the same trail that took you to Red Pine Lake for the first mile. Let me tell you, a lot of people were going to Red Pine. That was pretty annoying, especially with the complete lack of manners from a lot of them. But after the trails split, it got a whole lot quieter. The first bit was a series of switchbacks that were out in the sun and kind of steep. After that, there was a glorious flat section that wound through a forest area. That was my favorite part besides the actual lake. It was just beautiful. We saw some absolutely amazing views along the way. As the distance crept closer and closer to 4 miles, we were anxiously watching for any sign of the lake. 4 miles came and went, no lake. Then I remember rounding a corner and seeing this long, steep uphill stretch covered in rocks. That was the hardest part. Oh my gosh I wanted to sit down and give up. Taking small steps and keeping myself moving, I finally made it up. At the top of that stretch, I met a couple who were also hiking. Apparently they thought it was 4 miles round trip. Yeah. I was worried about them, since they were very much not prepared for that.

After that rough part, the trail wound around a corner. I felt sure the lake would be around it. I hurried down the path and turned the corner… and the trail just kept going. As I walked, I followed the trail with my eyes to see where it went and where it could possibly end. After I saw where it went, I sat down on a boulder and waited for my mom. I was ready to give up. I was so tired. Once she caught up, she asked where the trail went. Once I pointed out the path, she said, “Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.” It curved through the boulder field, went up for another couple of switchbacks, and then led to this line of trees, the only green spot in the area. We felt sure that the lake would be beyond those trees. A quick word from a fellow hiker on his way down confirmed it. On the way to the trees, we passed through some snow and laid down in it. That was actually nice. Once we got to the trees, it was all downhill to +he lake. The total distance to the lake was a little over 5 miles. We hung out at the lake for a while to refuel. It was absolutely gorgeous. This hike and Lake Desolation were my absolute favorites of the trip.

Obviously, the way back down was a lot better, but it still took a lot of energy. The way down still felt like it took forever, mostly because by that point we just wanted to be done. We ended up hiking for just over 4 hours, and the total distance was 10.4 miles. So much for 8 miles round trip. The people in the last mile were just ridiculous, doing things like taking up a whole bridge so we couldn’t cross, or shoving into us with hiking poles. Not so fun. Regardless, the whole hike was just amazing. But we were dead tired after that.

White Pine Lake, our long-awaited destination

Tuesday, July 6th

Rest Day

Wednesday, July 7th

We hiked up to Lake Blanche today, which is supposed to be one of the best hikes with the best views in Utah. We were prepared for it to be a tough hike because even though it’s shorter than our last one, it was supposedly harder. And it definitely was pretty tough. It was really steep and there was less shade than expected, but it curved through the woods and created this enclosed, humid, and buggy path. Mum and I stuck together once again, as we had on the whole trip. At one point, we were taking breaks every tenth of a mile. It was tough for sure. We got rained on, too, on our way to the top. There weren’t a lot of great views on our way up because of how enclosed it was, but we did see a mother duck type thing and her babies, which was cool. Once we got out of the clearing, there were lots of big red rocks. The red rocks were my favorite part of the trail. The reason for that was because once we made our way through the rocks and climbed over a small wall, we saw the lake. And I immediately started laughing. The lake was partially dried up (which is fine, water levels are low all over) and slightly swampy-looking, and there really wasn’t anything beautiful about the lake. Even the views of the mountains weren’t spectacular. I just thought it was so funny because of how people praise this lake, and it ends up being way less gorgeous than White Pine.

Also, once the rest of the fam got there, we were exploring, and there were other people at the lake who were swimming. That’s a watershed area, so it says in like three different places that no swimming is allowed. It just made me so mad. I wanted to go say something to them, but some people reminded me that that might not be the best idea. Anyway, the rocks were lovely. On the way back down, it was hard not to run, but we really couldn’t run because it was so rocky. I ended up slipping on a rock and cutting both my knees open. They’re pretty bruised now from that hard fall. Otherwise, the way down was uneventful. My legs were pretty sore after, though. The trail was 7.7 miles round trip.

Thursday, July 8th

2 miles, 18:49 (9:23/mile)

Today, we went back to the Silver Lake boardwalk and tried to run again. Well, that didn’t work out so well because there was a school trip there and even more people than the last time. We did one loop and then decided to just finish it out on the road. It was so ridiculous, at one point my mom and I both said “On your left” to a family who did not move at all, they took up the entire trail, and so we had to jump off the trail, hurdle a tree stump, and pass them that way. As we went by, the man grabbed his son and pulled him close, probably to protect him from the oh-so-dangerous women who were running by. That just blew my mind. Anyway, I didn’t feel great today running. I just felt slow and sluggish. My legs were still sore from the past few days, even though we had a rest day Tuesday. (Quick note: my apologies if there are any typos, the new kitten is playing on my keyboard)

After the run, we took the boardwalk trail over to a quick little trail up to Lake Solitude. This is another popular hike, but it’s only got about 600 ft. of elevation gain, so it’s great for families and beginners. The hike itself was easy, I was just struggling because I was exhausted and my legs were sore. Especially on the way back, I had trouble keeping up. I think it was mostly because of the run beforehand, and it was also significantly hotter today, especially at that altitude. I think the high was 106. The lake was alright. We saw a cool bird that was making strange noises. And we saw a whole gang of bird watchers. On the way back, a deer popped out onto the trail and walked in front of us down the path for a while, and that was really cool. I thought it was funny that we saved our last two hikes for what turned out to be the least extraordinary views. Regardless, it was a good time. It was kind of bittersweet, though, because it was our last day in Utah. That hike ended up being about 3 miles.

Friday

Travel Day

Saturday

2 miles, 16:36 (8:18/mile)

I took off and ran around Keystone this morning. My first mile ended up being 7:56. Elevation training!! My second mile was a bit slower because the humidity started getting to me going up those hills. I went west on the highway. I felt great! I guess I just have to readjust a bit to the humidity. Trade elevation for humidity again. I’m hoping I can keep up this staying active trend, though.

Thanks for sticking with me. I know this was a long entry, but if I just wrote about my running in Utah, it would be a lot less exciting. I had a wonderful time out there and really enjoyed spending time with my family, especially with my sister. I can’t wait until we visit her again! I’ll be back on a regular schedule this next week, I promise. This weekend was just a bit busy. Even though there was only an hour difference in Utah, I’ve still got to readjust to this time zone :)

See you next week!

— Morgan

Teacher, Runner, Reader, and Writer. Destined for great things, I think.