Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trekking Poles

This section will be pretty short.  My rule for trekking poles is if there will be long, steep climbs like at The Wasatch 100 or Hardrock, use them.  If not, they are too much trouble to fool with.

I have seen a couple of people using them in local 50Ks but that is about all.  I personally do not like using them anywhere other then long, steep climbs or steep descents.  Since most runs in the Birmingham, AL area have only a few short, steep climbs with a lot flatter running between, they are just too much trouble.  When not using them, you either have to carry them or stow them.  I don't want to do either.

When I ran the Leadville 100, I did not have my poles and when I was making the double crossing over Hope Pass I wished I had them.  The climb is steep and long and the descent to Winfield is extremely steep, especially lower, down in the Aspens.  If I do Leadville again I will  picked them up at Twin Lakes, outbound, and dropped them off again on the way back through TL.

I did use them at Wasatch this year for the entire run.  I did not ever stow them although I did not really need them through most of the first afternoon.  My major concern with using the poles at Wasatch was that I could not carry my water bottles or a flashlight.  I spent considerable time through the summer figuring out how to manage with "no hands."

Hydration was the primary issue I had to resolve.  I had run with hydration packs before and really did not like them.  You never know how much water you have at any given time.  I used a Nathan 2 Liter pack in the Katcina Mosa 100K in Utah in 2008.  On the longest and hottest climb in the run, I ran totally out of water half way up the climb and the temperatures reaching 100deg. that day.  At the aid station before that climb I did not take the time to pull the bladder out and see how much water I actually added.  I climbed over an hour with no water at all and that was a disaster.  I never recovered and was not able to finish.

Of course knowing how much water you have is no guarantee either.  At Leadville last year I hurried through the Twin Lakes AS ( mile 40) too quickly and did not drink anything.  I also did not totally top off my two, 20 oz hand held bottles before leaving Twin Lakes.  By the time I was 200 yards past the AS I realized I was really thirsty and knew I should go back.  I did not.

I had gone to the training camp for the Leadville 100 in late June where we actually ran from Twin Lakes to Winfield (the turnaround) and back to TL.  I knew what to expect in the climb but we were not able to run across the valley floor.  In the spring there was a lot of runoff from show melt and the ankle deep creek we ran through in the race was a raging, class 4 river at the camp.  I did not realize how far it was across the valley to the start if the climb and the woods.  The valley floor is totally exposed and it was a hot day.

I emptied one bottle before hitting the climb and knew I would run completely out long before the "Hopeless" aid station which is located at timberline on the way up.  l started rationing my remaining water.  I did not actually run out but was consuming much less water than I needed.  I again became very dehydrated on the climb and my pace slowed to a crawl.  I finally made the AS where I drank a lot and totally filled my bottles before continuing on up to the top of the pass.  I was moving so slow I was sure I would not make the Winfield cutoff.  I felt so bad I had to walk all the way down the pass, and the almost four miles up to Winfield.  Fortunately, my wife, Marye Jo, was waiting for me at Winfield and make me take my time and rest, eat and drink.  After about 20 minutes I headed back  to the start of the climb over Hope again.  As befoer, I had to walk the four miles back downhill to the beginning of the climb, and of course, walk all the way to the top.

By the time I reached the top of Hope Pass I was beginning to feel better and was able to run most of the way down.  The whole time I was sure I would never make the cutoff at Twin Lakes, but i did and was able to finish.  I actually got to feeling good and ran much of the last 35 miles.  (That is the downhill and flat sections.)

Back to Wasatch.  I decided on a Nathan 3 Liter pack.  (No danger of running out of water.)  In fact, I was so concerned with running out that I started the race with a little too much water in my pack.  I did not need to add any more until the third aid station at Bountiful "B" AS at mile 24.  I will not do that again.  Another reason I like this pack is that it has storage space between the outer storage area and the compartment for the water bladder.  The trekking poles slip right in and stay put when you do not need them.

The solution to the flashlight issue I talked about earlier, in the section on night running.  I wore a headlamp on my head and another headlamp around my waste.  The combination worked great.

I train with a pair of old aluminum poles but purchased a pair of Black Diamond carbon poles for the race.  The poles are extremely light and I like them.  I did have a problem with one of the latches.  The latch kept coming open during the training run where I tried them out.  I adjusted the clip and then it started slipping.  I had it just about right for the race although I did slip some.  

I also have a 2 liter Nathan Pack that I like and use for shorter training runs but there is no place to store the poles.  

I don't seem to have much luck with "short posts."


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