Now look at this picture:
These are actually pictures of the same terrain (according to a cartographer). There's a 12,000 foot pass, there's a bowl, there's a cirque, essentially the same thing whether you portray it with topo lines or a photograph (actually a cartographer would argue there's more data on the map than the photograph). Yet, in our planning for our Saturday endeavors, Michael, Chris, Keith, Katie, and I had the limited data of the map that we could pull data from to pursue our main goal of a beautiful, rewarding, mountain run of 20-30 miles. Dotted lines, red dots, and topo lines told us what elevation relief we could expect in a specified distance. What they couldn't tell us was how much dirt or talus was on the trail, whether the snow fields were filled with suncups or smooth, what the views were really like, or how blue the lakes were. We could get a magical and/or a painful experience based on all the minute details that could never show up on a map.
Before I decided to head up with the group, I waffled about weighing my mileage goals for the Angeles Crest 100 and the ambiguos nature of the trails around Mammoth. I knew exactly what it would take to get 30 miles in the San Gabes, and I knew that things could get much more difficult in the Sierras depending on where you went. For example Chris, Michael, and Elissa did a 20 mile route through Duck Pass with little trouble and similar topographical features to Sunday's Silver Lake to Thousand Island Lake route which was contrasted with mosquitos, technical talus, and a couple extra hidden thosand feet of rolling climbing. Two different scales of difficulty, but relatively difficult to discern on a topo-map (did I mention that we had the really good Tom Harrison maps too?). Ultimately I ended up going because I wanted adventure more than consistency.
Thousand Island Lake
The next logical thing I could've done to chase my mileage goals would've been to ask locals for the info on what's runnable and what's a slog. However, where would the fun be in that? I don't mean this as an off-handed comment, but rather a personal question. For me, trips to the Sierra have been about discovery: geographical and personal. I could spend an hour counting tiny lines all over the map, calculating percent grades, looking for terrain that might suggest smooth and fast trails, but I would have a mindset of expectation rather than exploration. "This trail should climb for a little bit more until it flattens and turns right to a view of a huge lake and we bag some gimmie miles" versus "there's a long climb, we take a few lefts, it should be beautiful, we'll soon find out".
Cruising back up to Mono Pass
Every mile I've run in the Sierras has had distinct challenges and rewards associated with it. Some have felt like they pull every ounce of strength out of my body, and others felt like they've only flooded my inspiration reserves. For me, the point of running new trails in big mountains is never just about sheer numbers and topo lines. It's about exploration and tracing the intricate contours of every inch of the earth and your soul. The effect the run has on you as a person outwardly might make your smile more or hoble-but it's nothing compared to the experience bouncing around your mind, just like the topo lines will never tell the whole story of what it's really like to be there. Exploration is integral to being an ultra runner.
Weekly recap May 27-June 2:
91.3mi, 18hr 5m, 23,060ft
-Step back week to get the legs primed for the next 3 week binge.
Weekly recap: June 3-9:
Monday: 9mi, 1:02, 300ft - Tempo run, 1 mi warm up, 10k at 6:20ish up and down san vicente, 2 mi cool down. Not terribly fast, but relatively good for tired legs in the middle of 100 mile training.
PM: 8mi, 1:09, 1300ft - westridge with Guillaume and Katie, easy miles
Tues: 10mi, 1:39, 2,200ft - Temescal up to Rivas Ridge, Backbone, Rivas cyn with Pedro and Elan. Fun technical singletrack with a good feeling in the legs all through the overgrown brush and technical footing. Pedro's gearing up for a silver buckle at Western, should be in good position to make it happen in a few weeks.
PM: 4mi, :37, 100ft - Easy run in MR10's to do a little barefoot strengthening
Wed: 10.5mi, 1:37, 2000ft - Sleepy run up sullivan, luna, sullivan cyn back, sullivan ridge. Cruising easy
PM: 5.3mi, :43, 150ft - San Vicente with Katie in MR10, easy evening run
Thurs: 9.2mi, 1:17, 1,400ft - Coyote run up Old Ranch, Sullivan Ridge, mild
PM: 4mi, :33, 100ft - Easy run after eating a lot of cheese. I was hungry.
Friday: 30mi, 4:47, 5,400ft - San Vicente, Old Ranch, Luna, Sullivan Ridge, Rustic Canyon, Backbone, Rivas, Temescal, Rivas, Backbone, Rustic, Sullivan, home. Legs felt a bit flat, mistakenly underestimated water and calories, enjoyed being done with a ton of pure running miles.. but felt confident to pack 90 miles in 5 days of pure running which is important for my AC goals. That one was for Michelle Obama.
Saturday: 25mi, 6:30, 5,500ft - Started off hiking/running strong with Chris. Bagged Mono Pass and enjoyed the views with the group. Filled up at summit lake and jogged down the Pioneer Basin loop on a gradual and rocky descent. Tried to get to the Fourth Recess Lake on the way back but foolishly followed the wrong stream (bonking?). Eventually headed back up Mono Pass where I worried about Katie and doubled back a few times until I finally headed down at the sound of thunder. Checked out Ruby and Heart lakes for fun. Long day above 10k, not too many easy miles. Famished at the end after making due with less than 800 calories for a long day.
Sunday: 18.4mi, 6:05, 5,200ft - Hiked up to Thousand Island Lake with Katie and Elissa. Pure recovery day, it ended up taking awhile keeping the party on track in the snowfields and scenery, but eventually we made it out. Body felt really lethargic, even though we were below 10,200ft all day. I could've ran down a bit faster, but I stayed with Katie to savor the last drops of the Sierras.
133.9mi, 26hr 11m, 24,570ft
Lumineers - Untitled Song