Yet Another Running Misadventure


Less than two months until D-Day: September 18th. The day I run my first ultramarathon. The day I toe the line at 6am with 159 other crazies. I'll be the youngest person there. I's scurred.

With more than 9,000 feet of climbing throughout those 50 miles and an average elevation of 10,000 feet, I'm hitting the trails as hard and as high as I can. That's why I was delighted to find this run online:

I started running on the Big Spring Hollow Trail, connected to a trail that climbed up to Cascade Saddle, and from there I took a Forest Service trail (060) which lead me to the mouth of Rock Canyon. I know I say this every time, but this was one of the most gorgeous runs I have ever been on. I had the entire mountain to myself (didn't see a soul from 6:30-10:00), without even so much as an iPod to interrupt me. When you're walking through a quiet, undisturbed world that is so majestic, so breathtaking that it nearly makes you cry, it almost seems sacrilegious to have Katy Perry blasting in your ear. Besides, no song could ever compare to the sound of aspen leaves quaking in the wind, the soft crunch of dirt beneath your feet, and the perfect stillness of night floating up the mountainside as the sun retires for the day.

After a couple hours of running/hiking, I turned a corner into a cirque behind the Saddle. That's when I saw this guy across a ravine. I have creatively named him Bambi.

Bambi was a young buck--I could tell by the fuzz on his antlers. Newly grown antlers must be itchy, because he kept lifting up his leg to scratch them! It was the funniest thing. I stood there watching him for a few minutes. He watched me, too. There were no other deer around--just me and Bambi in this gaping meadow filled with wildflowers.

I decided to move along. Bambi moved along too, in my same direction, from across the ravine. Pretty soon the ravine closed up, and he was walking directly on the trail behind me.

Then the strangest thing happened. He followed me. If I took three steps, he took three steps. Bambi must have flunked out of deer school, because every single deer I have ever come across has ran away from me as fast as deerly possible. Maybe he'd never seen another human before. Maybe he was hoping to make me his Faline. I dunno. All I knew was that my heart was pounding and I didn't know what to do. I doubted he was going to hurt me--look at that face!--but still, the fact that he had ANTLERS and HOOVES and TEETH (aka: hurt potential) made me nervous.

That's when a little elf opened a filing cabinet in my brain (what? your brain doesn't have elves?) and pulled out an index card. On the index card was a tidbit of information from my younger days. When I was about eight years old, my Grandpa Kern--a true cowboy if there ever was one--gave me a book about the horse whisperer. I didn't read the whole thing, in fact I doubt I read thirty pages, but the one thing I remembered from that book was that horses bow their heads slightly when they want to show deference and respect.

Horses and deer are kind of the same, right? At least that's what I figured. In an effort to reassure Bambi that I was his friend, I did a little head bow. Apparently he liked this, because he kept following me! Had I let him, he would have walked right up to me and probably let me touch him. In hindsight, I wish I had. But I was all alone, deep in the woods, and the last thing I needed to was piss some deer off and have him trample me. I decided to err on the safe side. Having exhausted my deerspeak capabilities, I spoke to him in softly in English: "No, no, deer! Go away." And guess what? He obeyed. Bambi gave me a puzzled look, watched me walk away a few steps, and then turned around and started grazing again.

I continued on up to the Saddle. The view at the top was . . . wow.

A gorgeous vista, right? However, there is a serious problem with this picture. Look at the "V" in the middle-right of the picture--where you can barely see civilization below, miles away. Now look at how much sun is left on the mountain.

I had drastically underestimated how much time this 12-mile run would take me. Taking into account the elevation, I'd been banking on three hours (maybe 3.5). But 4000 feet of nearly relentless climbing took a lot longer than I thought it would. I was on the mountain for four hours . . . and I hauled.
I ran the final ninety minutes of my run in complete darkness, with nothing but a wimpy 1-inch Maglite to help me find the trail. I might as well have used the light from my cell phone. In addition to running in darkness, alone, through tall brush and tress, the trail was tiny, rocky, and very steep.

As I was curving down the mountain, I spooked a deer who darted off down the hillside. It just about gave me a heart attack! I decided that spooking a deer was one thing, spooking a bear was another--so I tried to make as much noise as possible. I made up a little twenty-second song--"da da ba dum dum da da...."--and sang that sucker on repeat as loud as I could as I made my way down (total: 540 times). I also pulled out my pepper spray and kept it cocked and ready, and thought about whether it would be better to whack a bear over the head with a trekking pole or try to impale it.

In addition to alerting any prowling beasts of my approach, the little song I made up helped quiet my nerves and forget how utterly terrified I was. I had never run on this trail before, and had no idea where I was going. At times it intersected with service roads, but I just chose the route that seemed to lead me closer to the city lights. There were plenty of opportunities to get lost. There were plenty of opportunities to break an ankle--running full speed down a trail I couldn't see.

After miles and miles of running without seeming to gain any ground on the lights below, I started getting really freaked out. I felt like breaking down into a paranoid cryfest, but I knew that the minute I lost focus was the minute my chances of making a mistake increased. So I kept singing.

I sent some prayers up to God. He heard them :) I rolled into Rock Canyon safe and sound at 10:15, exactly four hours after I'd started. It was so good to see Brock there in his truck waiting for me. We may or may not have broken the Sabbath and made a Wendy's run immediately thereafter (I needed something to calm my nerves, okay?! Not to mention I was ravenous).

But you know, despite all this, I find myself sitting here and wishing I was back up on that mountain. Can't wait to see what this week's long run will bring :)


  1. GORGEOUS!!! Someday I want to run with you again. This time I promise to not suck so badly. You are amazing!!!

  2. Wow, that's a crazy story! What a gorgeous view! Glad you made it back. Good luck on your run in September!

  3. Crazy!! That picture of the mountains is very good though! You hit it at a perfect time of day, and you used the rule of thirds in the photo perfectly!! :)

  4. You will do great on your 50 miler:)
    Glad you are safe..

  5. Kristi you are really funny I wish you didnt change the name of your blog so often so i dont feel so behind. I miss you a lot. Oh and fyi you are sick for trying to run that far.

  6. Glad you made it okay! You are definately an inspiration. And you have opened up my eyes to how beautiful Utah can be. I don't go into the canyon or in the mountains that often and find myself always saying Utah isn't that pretty based just on the valley. Thank you for proving me wrong. And goodluck on the rest of your training for your ultramarathon!


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