comb ridge

Sep. 6th, 2018 06:40 pm
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
The long Labor Day weekend is for us an excuse to get out of town, and this year we headed out to Utah in our Sportsmobile. It's still a little early for the desert, but rain was forecast for the mountains, and given the choice we opted for hot over cold and wet. Spoiler alert: excellent choice.

Because I'm still a bit injured, backpacking or mountain biking was off the table, so we went to Comb Ridge, where there are many relatively short dayhikes to ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and rock art panels. Comb Ridge is part of Bears Ears National Monument, and actually it's one of the few areas within it that is still protected as a national monument, which yay. It's about two and a half hours to the accesses to the dirt roads which run up each side of the dramatic rock ridge, so we left on Saturday morning to give us time to do some hiking that day.

Lots of photos and some text )

34 photos (more than are in this post) in my Flickr album
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
Our friends Ryan and Steve organized a White Rim trip again this year, and this time we were the only other people on it. (We did it with them last year, and also in 2013. We also did it twice in the 1990s with friends from Boulder, where we lived then.)

Ilana at top of Mineral Bottom switchbacks

Read more! See more pictures! And there's even a linked map! )

Or just look at the Flickr album.
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
Moab, in Utah, isn't very far away from Durango. We go there three or four times a year, for the Canyonlands running races in March and October, for the nearby backpacking when our mountains are too snow-covered for access, and for the world-class mountain biking. It takes a bit less than three hours to get there by car; how much less depends on your willingness to exceed the speed limit, and your need for gas and bathroom stops.

Or you can bike there in seven arduous days, over 215 miles of secondary roads, jeep roads, and trails, up mountains and across desert valleys along the route set up by San Juan Huts. (Here is a map Britt put together, showing the route - click "->7.5' Topo Maps" and zoom in to see it more clearly.)

Want to guess what we did? Yeah. Strenuous climbs, scary descents, rain, heat, mud, and mosquitoes - also killer views, deserted roads, and cold beers enjoyed with good friends. I call it a win.

Riding toward Geyser Pass

Day by day trip report, with lots of photos )

All the photos (119!), none of the blahblah

Advice I'd give to anyone contemplating this trip )
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
Uh, hi! Remember me? I used to do stuff and post about it!

Last week we joined friends for a White Rim bike trip. This is the same trip we did three years ago (and look, I wrote about it here!) and it was organized by the same couple, though this year it was mostly a different cast of characters, and also in the opposite direction. And also, I have a new bicycle!

Ilana and new bike

For those of you who care about such things )

The ride was to start Wednesday, but Britt had a meeting he couldn't miss and would come later, so I got a lift to the start with some of the other riders. We had lunch at the top of the Mineral Bottom switchbacks and then rode the ~10 miles to the Hardscrabble campground. The road between the bottom of the switchbacks and the camp is often very sandy, which makes for hard riding; due to recent heavy rainfall, it was instead nicely packed, with occasional mud that was mostly avoidable by choosing a path wisely (or briefly leaving the road). Britt rolled in sometime around 8 pm, which was still well before sunset.

In addition to the mud, the rain had made the desert bloom. We rode by orange globe mallow and blue blanketflower, by the pinks and yellows of flowering prickly pear cactus. (Photo by Ryan)

Cactus flower (by Ryan)

Read more... )

All 15 of my photos at Flickr (the ones in this post, plus a few more)

Brendan's photos, which are better than mine, at Google Photos
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
The Canyonlands race in Moab, UT in March is one of my favorites, a beautiful course along the Colorado River, and I've done it every year since 2010. After running the 5-mile course last year due to injury, I was happy to get back to the half marathon at Canyonlands this year, even though I hadn't trained nearly as much as I would have liked. I paced well and felt good despite the windy, warm weather (not as windy as 2011 or 2012, though), and though this was one of my slower races, it is my "best slowest race" compared to others run on similarly low mileage and little specific training. I hope this means that if I can get back to the kind of miles and workouts I ran in 2012 and 2013, I will be able to get back to similar race times.

Training )

Weather )

The race )

Final stats

My chip time was 1:43:46 (one second less than on my watch which I must have started a little early) for the 13.18 miles I ran by my Garmin. Which means my work on running the tangents paid off, as usually this race comes in at 13.2-13.3. I was 2nd of 85 in AG 50-54F, just 15 seconds behind the winner - darn! - and actually, I also came in faster than every woman in 45-49 and all but one in 40-44, who won the Masters award - with a time over a minute slower than my best time on the course, which got me only a 3rd in AG in 2010! (I also beat all the girls under 20, but that's not as significant.) I was the 48th fastest woman out of 1083, and the 165th fastest person out of 1801. Despite all this, this was my second slowest time of five doing this race; but despite that, I feel good about it.

I do have to admit, though, that the placement is only so good because there were not many fast women running - or many at all. The race has shrunk over the six years I've been running it; in 2010 there was a lottery to get in, and over 3200 runners, but for the last several years all entrants have been welcomed and this year there were only 1800 runners. (According to a friend, the drop, which seems to have been most acute between 2014 and 2015, is because Moab hotels have become too expensive.) It's okay - I don't mind being a medium-big fish in a medium-small pond! Or a medium-fast fish, anyway...hoping to get faster!
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
(Even though this came at the end of our Canadian trip, it's neither in Canada nor was it the mountain hiking vacation the rest of the trip was, so it really deserves to stand alone as a completely separate post.)

This river trip had been planned since late winter, when our friend Steve lucked out and got a permit - the Green River through the Gates of Lodore section is lottery-controlled, and a lot of people try for years and never get picked. We'd done it once long ago, when we'd lived in Boulder, but this would be my first time rowing my own boat.


"The Gates of Lodore", strictly speaking, refers to the dramatic entrance to the Lodore Canyon of the Green River (looming behind me in the above photo), which ends at the confluence of the Yampa River with the Green, but people often use it to mean the usual river trip through Lodore, Whirlpool, and Split Mountain canyons, a distance of 43 miles through the Dinosaur National Monument in far northwest Colorado and northeast Utah. We'd do it in four days, which is typical. The name was given by the 1869 Powell expedition and is a reference to a poem by Robert Southey called The Cataract of Lodore. (If you thought Poe was into onomatopoeia with his clanging bells, he ain't got nothing on Southey.)

Our trip, in words and pictures )

The Flickr album, with 36 photos
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
I'd been toying with the idea of running an ultramarathon for some time, but it wasn't until this autumn that the stars finally aligned. I had signed up for this year's Durango Double because I really liked the new format and courses - not to mention that I had friends coming in from the midwest to run it, and it seemed awfully rude not to run it with them! But that would be the week before my usual fall half marathon, The Other Half (where I set my half PR last year). Then I discovered that the organization that puts on several well-regarded ultras in the Moab area was doing a new 50K/25K, the Dead Horse, on the day before The Other Half. In a burst of what probably seems like insane troll logic to anybody who isn't a competitive runner, I decided it would be easier to fun-run an ultra on the weekend after the two-day trail half/road half combo, than it would be to race a half, and signed up for the 50K.

race logo: Mexican-style skeleton rider on skeleton horse.

50K worth of words and pictures. Take your time. )

So, what's next? My husband admitted that he secretly hoped I would hate ultrarunning; he's not a fan of the amount of time I spend running, which certainly can add up. (He'd rather I got more into mountain biking, which we can do together - his knees are too worn out for running.) I am a better road runner than a trail runner, and I would like to keep chipping away at my half and full marathon PRs for as long as I can. But - I really enjoyed this run. I kind of want to train hard and run it next year as a goal race, and see if I could come in under 5:30. I am also contemplating the other area ultras, of which there are quite a few, 50K and 50 milers; I have promised Britt I don't aspire to a 100-miler. (Which, I really don't, because sleep deprivation.)

But, as Ned Stark said, Winter Is Coming. I might run our local 5-mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, but other than that, I'm looking forward to ski season - I just bought new skis! Except...the Boston Marathon Is Coming, too, in mid-April. I guess I'd better start training...

(PS: No horses were harmed in the writing of this report.)
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
Chesler Park camp area

As you may remember, in mid-March I ran the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah, and Britt came out as well and ran the associated 5-miler. We'd arranged to keep our hotel room for the night after the race, and on Sunday we headed home by way of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, along with my online friend Mike from Reno, who'd also run, and his wife Dorothy. Britt was the only of us who'd been to this part of Canyonlands before, and that a long time ago; after a too-short hike into the Chesler Park area, we all agreed that it was worth a much longer visit.

So as soon as I got home, I got online and applied for a backpacking permit. Pretty much all spring dates were full up, but I snagged the only consecutive days at one of the Chesler Park campsites (backcountry camping is by permit only at assigned sites), Sunday and Monday April 6th and 7th. Our plan was to head out at midday Saturday in our Sportsmobile, camp on public land nearby, then hike in on Sunday morning. Our assigned campsite would be only a bit more than four miles in, so we would have time for a dayhike that afternoon and a longer one on Monday before hiking out on Tuesday morning. To our delight, our friend (and frequent backpacking companion, most recently on last summer's Weminuche Wilderness trip) Shan would come with us, though alas his wife, also a fun person to have along on a hike, was out of town.

Read more, and look at way too many photos... )

These and more photos (57 pictures plus a video which...sometimes works?) at Flickr
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
The White Rim Trail is a well-known 4WD road approximately 100 miles long which loops between the Colorado and Green Rivers through Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah: it descends from the 'Island In The Sky' mesa top down to the level of the White Rim sandstone, which was formed during the Permian period 245 to 286 million years ago. Blah blah blah, a picture's worth a thousand words:

edge and pillars

(Okay, I'm cheating here, because I'm not riding on the actual trail but on the sandstone rim. Most of the ride is really not as scary as this makes it look!)

More about our trip, with [occasionally scary] photos )
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
Ilana running canyonlands half marathon 2013 Friday afternoon Britt and I drove out to Moab with the bikes in the truck; we had a pleasant dinner at Miguel's with our friends Kevin and Nora (as per tradition) and I drank a margarita (also as per tradition), then went back to the motel (the Gonzo Inn, where Karah and I usually stay) and took a soak in the hot tub (you guessed it). It was a lot more fun to have Britt along, which was not not as per tradition, but I hope it becomes one.

In the morning we got up and had coffee and breakfast cookies with Kevin and Nora (yep), then caught our respective buses for our respective starts. I was running the Canyonlands Half for my fourth time, and Britt would be running the five-miler; he's not really into racing, but he runs four miles with me a couple of times a week, so I figured he'd be fine.

It was a relatively warm but cloudy day, with only a light breeze - welcome weather after the ferocious headwinds of 2011 and 2012. After a quick porta-potty stop, I found Karah and the rest of the Grand Junction girls, and we chatted, resting among the red rocks while waiting to be allowed to move up the canyon to the start.

I lined up a bit in front of the 1:40 pacer; based on my last few tempo runs of around 7:32 pace, and my average mileage of around 44mpw, I figured 1:38-ish would be a good goal. Maybe I had a shot at a PR, under 1:37. My plan was to go no faster than 7:20 for the first mile (it's sharply downhill and oh-so-easy to go too fast - last year I ran 7:20 that mile, and the year before, 7:18) and no faster than 7:24 (1:37 pace) for the next three miles, then play by ear.

The race )

And then we went mountain biking. And eating. And biking again. )

Anyway, it was a fabulous weekend, A+ would run (and bike) again!


Jul. 9th, 2012 09:00 pm
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
We were going to go backpacking in the mountains above Silverton, but the forecast was pretty awful - 80% chance of rain on Saturday, 60% on Sunday - so instead we went to Utah, to do the Fish Creek/Owl Creek loop we did back in August 2010. We figured that now that the rains had begun, it should be okay to do a desert hike in the summer.

Except that it wasn't. We (me, Britt, and our friend Shan) drove out to the trailhead and paid our permit fee, hiked and scrambled down the steep, rocky canyon wall, and found that the rains didn't do diddly-squat. The springs were still running, but the dry winter had failed to fill the pools, and the places we'd swum two years ago had only a few inches of scummy water.

See? )

When we saw this, we decided it would be too risky to continue on the loop, as there was a good chance we would not have enough water further downcanyon. Instead we backtracked to the spring, where there was a decent pool we could swim in, as well as enough running water from the spring for filtering, and set up camp. The next morning we explored upcanyon a bit, and then hiked back out. Phooey.
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
painted wall

This past weekend Britt and I went on our first backpack trip of the season, to Grand Gulch, which is a canyon system in southern Utah which was a major population center back in the 11th century. Lots of ruins and rock art to look at, in addition to the natural beauty of the redrock canyon country; lots of wildflowers and a little wildlife (a big gopher snake, and I didn't put his picture inline here but be warned there is one in the linked photoset, if you are a snake-o-phobe).

short trip report, and a few pictures )

Set of 24 photos at Flickr
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
It has been, frankly, a rather sucky year for my running. In February I ran a 5K hoping to break 22 minutes, but instead ran 22:24, ten seconds slower than my PR set the year before on the same course; in March, I missed a hoped-for half marathon PR by over 3 minutes, although quite a bit of that can be blamed on a ferocious headwind that ruined pretty much everybody's day. And then injury was added to insult, so to speak, as a metatarsal stress fracture not only forced me to bail on my planned spring marathon (at which I was anticipating a huge PR) but all my planned spring and summer races.

In October was happy just to be able to run a half, with no hopes of anything close to a PR. But as I ramped up my running through November I was feeling pretty good. I'd been running every day, 2-3 times a week on hilly trails and the rest on the paved rec path or roads, almost all easy, comfortable miles. As I posted last Sunday, I had some solid runs, giving me hope that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to get a PR out of 2011 after all.

The Winter Sun 10K in Moab is definitely a PR course. It's mostly downhill with one moderate and a few minor uphills, and it's about 2500 feet lower than where I live and train. This latter fact makes it critical for me to run by feel rather than by pace: because I can't train at anything close to my race pace, I really have no idea how fast I can run it until I actually do. Last year, every time I glanced at my Garmin I boggled, thinking, "OMG, I can't run this fast! How am I running this fast?" (Here is last year's race report.) This year, I hardly looked at it at all.

Pre-race )

Race )

A little [embedded] video of the finish )

Numbers and analysis )

ETA: Have some photos! (via the Flickr "guest pass")
at the first turn
finish line

Or all the race photos that I'm enabling through this system:

Of course my real goal race is Houston, six weeks (yikes!) from now. I've played a little with various race-equivalency calculators, including some that adjust for elevation and terrain, and come up with 3:25 to 3:30 as a reasonable marathon goal (which, of course, is exactly what I want). This is supported by my friend Jim (, who last month ran a 10K two seconds faster than I managed today, and a 3:30 marathon yesterday (congratulations again, Jim!) so I am fairly confident I can get my goal if I can stay healthy and keep running good volume.
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
[pre-race report]

Cliff notes version: 1:43:54, my worst time on this course and only 23 seconds faster than my spring 2009 half, my first race after getting serious about running, but I'm happy with it as a comeback considering I only started running again after my stress fracture ten weeks ago. (Also, it barely qualifies me for the NY Marathon for the last year before they tighten their standards considerably. I might have to run it next year.) 6th in my AG (out of 123), 30th woman out of 1144, 127th human being out of 1733.

The play-by-play )

This was my third Other Half, my sixth race put on by the Moab Half Marathon organization, and the first in which I did not take home a trophy or medal[*]. And I'm okay with that. Comparing my run this year with the previous two years, I don't see anything I could have done differently. I paced reasonably. I worked at an appropriate effort level. I raced with what I had on the day, and that is all I could do.

The post-game analysis )

So I know that this year's racing season is a work in progress, and it's barely begun. The Winter Sun 10K is in seven weeks. We'll see what happens.

[*] Well, actually, I did get a medal, as The Other Half gives finisher's medals to everyone who runs. This year's medal is not only attractive but useful, as it's a combination race medal/bottle opener! (Photo courtesy of my friend Paul, [ profile] paulbe.)

Took me a while to realize that The Other Half finisher's medal has a built-in bottle opener.

And that reminds me that in fact I DID get a PR this year. One reason I love this race is because the Moab Brewery supplies free beer (in souvenir pint glasses) at the end. I learned last year that all Utah beer is 3.2 (that is, relatively weak) due to Utah's bizarre alcohol regulations. But I don't mind, because that means I can drink a whole lot! I had three pints direct from the tap, plus two other people decided they didn't want to drink and I got half of each of their beers, for a total of four. That is a post-race Beer PR! (And I still felt entirely sober driving home.)
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)

I left for Moab around 10am Saturday morning with my mountain bike strapped into the bed of my pickup truck. Ordinarily the day before a half marathon is a day for rest, maybe a couple easy miles with strides at most, but I knew I wasn't in shape for a PR, and Britt was off in the mountains hunting elk, so I had the whole weekend to myself, and I wanted to have fun.

And so I had fun! )

Race report next! I promise!
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Ilana on the Dolores

The Dolores is a lovely desert river in western CO and eastern UT which unfortunately has a very short season due to dam control. Most years, releases are limited to a couple of weeks or less, and of course the river gets very crowded then, particularly on the scenic and moderate Slickrock to Bedrock run (which I've done twice). The lower section from Gateway CO to the confluence with the Colorado River in Utah has a somewhat longer season, as the free-flowing San Miguel river joins the Dolores above Gateway, but usually by mid-June the flows have dropped below what's needed for rafting. This year, however, heavy snow in the mountains near Telluride kept the San Miguel flowing into summer, and conditions looked reasonable -- around 1200 cfs (cubic feet per second), on the low side but fine for smaller rafts -- for a July 4th weekend on the lower Dolores.

I would not have chosen this particular section of the Dolores on my own, because among its rapids is an infamously long and difficult one right at the state line between Colorado and Utah which is, oddly enough, called Stateline Rapid. (According to one of our guidebooks it is also called Chicken Raper, although that name seems to be mostly applied by kayakers to the crazy-boaters-with-deathwish line on the left of the big island that splits the rapid, about which our more sedate guidebook says DO NOT GO LEFT WHATEVER YOU DO.) But our previous plans had fallen apart, and I got email from a friend who really wanted to do this section, and Britt thought it sounded good, and so the lower Dolores it was.

Ridiculously long trip report, with photos and video. )

Or just go straight to the photos (these plus lots more) on Flickr.
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
the walls get bigger

Spring is here, and with it the jones to go hiking in the desert. This is the perfect time for the Utah canyon country; the bugs and heat haven't arrived yet, but it's no longer winter-cold...or so we thought. Our original plan was to spend a long weekend, but the forecast was looking grim (8°F overnight low?!?! Snow?!?!) so we delayed a couple of days and headed out with our friends Doug and Anne on Sunday morning April 10th.

We were able to pick up our original itinerary permit and get it rewritten for our new dates. Our plan was to hike in via Kane Gulch, which is the trail closest to the ranger station, and camp near its confluence with the main stem of Grand Gulch. The next day we'd continue to the confluence with Todie Gulch, where we'd camp and hike out the following day. The daily distances we'd planned were quite short to accommodate side visits to the many pre-Puebloan cliff dwellings, some marked on maps and unmarked ones we hoped to spot, which are the main attraction of Grand Gulch. Back during what passed for the medieval era in Europe, Grand Gulch was relatively densely populated with the pre-Puebloan peoples who are often referred to as the Anasazi. Now there's nothing there but ruins, rock art, potsherds and corncobs - and the occasional hiker.

Trip report and about a dozen pictures... )

Or just go look at the pretties on Flickr: 34 pictures, mostly captioned.
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
The day after the Canyonlands Half, Dee and I went to Arches NP for a little recovery hiking.

Delicate Arch

a couple more photos )

See all nine photos at Flickr.
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
After 13.1 miles of it, I can now report that "running against the wind" really sucks. I was feeling good, well-trained, at a good weight, and healthy; in other words, I was ready for a PR, but the weather had other ideas. Strong south winds that funneled up the Colorado River canyon made the race a lot harder than it was last year. Still, I ran 1:40:25, which exactly ties my Other Half time from October (2 weeks after a marathon and a hillier course), and as the wind indiscriminately affected everyone, I ended up with 3rd in my age group, same as I did last year with a 3+ minute faster time.

Gory details )

It was still a great weekend. Dee, an imaginary friend from RWOL, flew in from the midwest to run this race, and ended up taking first place Masters female even though she was disappointed in her time. I had margaritas at Miguel's the night before the race, and beers at the Moab Brewery after, with a bunch of other RWOL friends, including my usual race roomie Karah and our friend Kevin. (Karah's report has lots of great photos - I stole the one above from her - and is here on her blog.) The next day Dee and I visited Arches National Park despite the continued miserable windy weather, and it was fun hiking to the pretty arches even though the sky was cold and gray and the air hazy.

Despite the lack of PR, I still feel fairly confident about my upcoming marathon on May 1st. And I'll be running another half marathon, the local Steamworks Half, in June, giving me another chance at a PR.


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

April 2019

14 151617181920

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @



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