Tuesday, May 28, 2013

So maybe I overdid it

 Late spring is such a beautiful time of year on the Wasatch Front, and so brief. I forget. There's a short window between the snow and withering heat of summer, when the mountains come alive with electric greens and vibrant wildflowers. It's intoxicating. I must have some, I told myself, even when I woke up Sunday morning with deep-set stiffness and a hungover feeling of fatigue. Saturday's Twin Peaks attempt was as hard on my body as any 50K trail race; probably harder, as I engaged all kinds of muscles I hardly use and bashed plenty of body parts in the process. I promised myself I would take Sunday off, I really did. But when the morning dawned as gorgeous as it did, I groped for justification. "It's not like I can just come back any time." "Really, it's my quads and calves that are sore. Those things are resilient." "It will be good for the soul. Hundred-milers are soul efforts anyway."

West Ridge of Grandeur Peak. I effectively had three hours between the time I made the decision to go hiking and the time my parents and I were leaving to visit the cemetery where my grandparents are buried, as well as my living grandmother. Grandeur Peak is a "little" mountain at 8,300 feet, so it seemed doable. I chose the West Ridge approach because I hadn't been there before, the trail was only 2.5 miles, it was a closer drive than the Church Fork trailhead, and didn't involve dealing with holiday weekend crowds in Millcreek Canyon. But that also meant starting in the city, near 5,000 feet elevation. There was perhaps a bit of willful avoidance regarding the simple math in that equation.

 I do love climbing a seriously steep trail. With a few small dips, the West Ridge actually gains 3,400 feet in 2.5 miles, or a vertical kilometer over 4K. I could climb trails like this all day and be a happy hiker, if not for the inevitable equally steep descent. I made decent time to the peak, 1:17, and started down at a fast march in an effort to match it (I'm generally slower on descents.) At the first little dip that required climbing, an excruciating cramp seized my left calf. It clamped down and wouldn't let go; felt like someone was applying a tourniquet to my muscle. I used to experience these calf cramps frequently when I lived in Juneau, and back then I interpreted them as a sign that I was overtired from steep hiking. I stopped to writhe through the pain for a few seconds, and then spent another minute trying to knead the knot. No luck. I was just going to have to get myself down the mountain with this tight muscle.

 It hurt. I hate descending a seriously steep trail. I could descend trails like this all day, and that would be my proof that Hell is indeed real and I have gone there. I know I need to get over this loathing in order to pursue my first love, but it's hard to tolerate when calf muscles are pinching and pulsing as I'm trying to sidestep down some loose gravelly slope. Still, I made it down not really worse for the wear. It was a cramp, after all. Those things have short shelf lives.

So, Monday. I went to bed at midnight on Sunday night and slept solidly for ten hours. I had no intention of sleeping that much. My dad and I had planned to squeeze in another hike, but he came down with a stomach bug on Sunday and I had assumed he wouldn't want to go. He was feeling marginally better Monday morning so we decided to use the short window of time we had to go to Bell Canyon.

 My mom thinks it's weird that my dad was sick and I was obviously tired and we went hiking anyway. She's right. It's just that we don't get these opportunities often. The justifications came back out. "It's 70 and sunny." "I need one more good test for my shin, which I think is in great shape again anyway." "I'll rest for the next three days, no problem."

 Bell Canyon has a reputation for being one of the few family-friendly hikes in Wasatch, and was proportionately crowded on Memorial Day. It's still a Stairmaster of a trail; the route to the Upper Falls is 7 miles round trip with 2,600 feet of climbing. My left calf was twitching, and it would sometimes seize up when we had to stop while climbing to let someone by (which was frequently.) Dad was nauseated and also not enthused about dealing with the crowds. Can we admit that we regret going out today? I dunno. I was so happy to be there. I met a couple of old friends on the trail. And we finally broke away from the crowds and enjoyed a peaceful break gazing up at the roaring hydraulics of the Upper Falls. Good for the soul, I assured myself. Good for the soul.

 I think there's a chance I'm coming down with the bug my dad has. I'm not feeling so good. I have to work all day Tuesday and lots to get done for final race prep on Wednesday, plus it's supposed to rain, so at least the mountain temptations are removed. Beat had me promise that if I ended up going on a mountain bender in Utah, there would be no whining at Bryce. There will be no whining, I promise. But panic before then, that I can't prevent.


  1. You still have a few days to recover

  2. I had a short layover in Salt Lake on Saturday and the mountains looked so inviting... I can understand how it would be hard to stay away.


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