The Upside of Being Down

It was four weeks ago yesterday that it became clear the pain in my foot was somewhat more serious than I had thought. Two days earlier, I had notched a PR on a routine lap of the Zen trail. Although that achievement meant nothing to anyone else, it was a nontrivial event for me given the 100+ times I’ve run that particular loop.

Since then, I’ve managed to be reasonably disciplined in caring for my foot and avoiding weight gain — it’s amazing how few calories are required to sustain a sedentary lifestyle — but it’s been impossible not to feel disappointed as I’ve hobbled about in a walking boot and the strength has seeped out of my body. Once again I was this close to peak fitness when the trap door opened.

So yeah, the negatives of an injury are pretty obvious. But there actually is a positive side to the experience, as I’ve been reminded again. Seriously. In that spirit, here are some of my favorite things about being injured.

1. All the other little aches and pains have time to mend.

2. Falling in love again with the bike. I’ve reached the point in the healing process that a good spin is nice non-weight-bearing rehab. It is also pure bliss on its own terms.

3. A renewed sense of appreciation and gratitude for: amazing landscapes and a body strong enough to quickly venture deep into them; the meditative benefits of a routine run; the weekly “hard reboot” offered by Saturday morning’s long run.

4. Taking stock of what has and has not been working in my running and what might have contributed to the injury.

5. Clarity about which special events on the calendar are nice and which are sacrosanct. In my case, it’s a particular handful of adventure runs that matter most this year and not the races I hope to run.

6. Time to spend on other hobbies.

7. Less laundry.

Hiatus, End of Hiatus

– Ritual is important. That’s why, this winter, I broke my foot. Specifically, my fourth metatarsal. It keeps alive a streak of four years — or is it five? — in which I’ve sustained a moderately serious injury between Thanksgiving and Civil Rights Day. So I’m on a bit of a hiatus from running, which gives me an excuse to end my hiatus from blogging.


– We’re proud to support the Zion 100 and Bryce 100. Prior to my injury, I was getting out regularly with race director Matt Gunn and our mutual friend, Justin Nelson, on different sections of the new-and-improved Zion course.  On one such outing, I had the chance to record a bit of shaky POV video, always a crowd favorite. So if you’d like to sample the Eagle Crags portion of the course, here’s the link to that.

– A bit late, but I’m calling Jared Campbell the Wilderness Runner of the Year. When Hardrock probably isn’t one of the top 3 toughest wilderness runs you complete in a year, you’ve done something pretty special. Also, the stuff he consistently dreams up, especially the offbeat multidisciplinary stuff, really puts him in a category of one. I’m thinking here of Wasatoja and Zironman. All with no fanfare, which makes it all the more admirable.

Pine Valley Wilderness: Mill – Summit – Whipple


A point-to-point route in the Pine Valley Wilderness. One of the more runnable options in the PV. The better direction is to start at the White Rocks trailhead and end at Whipple: the Whipple trailhead is a lovely spot next to the Santa Clara River whereas White Rocks is a bit middle-of-nowhere.

Noteworthy (distances from the White Rocks trailhead)

0.5 miles: Mill/White Rocks junction. Following the Mill Trail means veering right at this junction and shortly passing through a gate into the Wilderness Area. The Mill trail climbs a narrow, rocky canyon and entails multiple creek crossings.

5.5 miles: join the Summit Trail at Mill Flat. This does not feel like a junction as much as a bend in the trail, but several other trails dump into various connection points in the meadow.

7.6 miles: Kolob Canyons overlook. At the turn of a long switchback, just before reaching the high point of the route, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the Kolob Fingers and beyond.

8.9.-10.0 miles: North and Whipple Valleys. Two beautiful alpine meadows connected by a very short canyon. Whipple in particular has one spot that has pretty good water (treatment recommended) most of the summer.

10.0 miles: Summit/Whipple Junction. The junction is right after the trail reenters the trees from Whipple Valley. Stay right for Whipple.

10.7 miles: begin long, gradual, two-part descent into Pine Valley.

16.0 miles: Whipple Trailhead.



Trailheads: White Rocks, Whipple
Trails linked: Mill, Summit, Whipple
Distance: 16 miles
Total Ascent: 3,800 feet
Water sources: Mill Creek, Whipple Valley
Map & elevation profile

Something Worthwhile

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, in the hope that you’ll spend the time saved by clicking on the links embedded here.

Either actually or virtually, I’ve met some of my favorite people through the existence of Wilderness Running. Indeed, it is the main reason WRC still exists at all. Todd Forkin is in this category. I don’t remember for sure how our correspondence first evolved from gear chat to matters more personal and meaningful, but fortunately that’s what happened. I’m sure it probably had something to do with the writing he does on his blog, which is sometimes heart-breaking, often funny, and always raw.

In any case, we did become friends, and, as a friend, I’m very happy to be providing Todd a token of support for the pilgrimage he is about to make. I invite you to do the same and to follow along at the diary where he is recording his journey.

Rechargeable Headlamp Comparison: Black Diamond Sprinter vs. Petzl TIKKA XP² Core

Rechargeable headlamps are as convenient as plugging in your cell phone. If a lot of your runs happen in the dark, that alone may make you consider these two popular headlamps.

wilderness running company

Black Diamond Sprinter (left) and Petzl TIKKA XP² Core

Sprinter Overview

The Sprinter is purpose-built as a running headlamp. As such, it has relatively few light settings or other bells and whistles typical of multipurpose headlamps.

The battery unit clips into a USB-compatible base for recharging. Black Diamond claims a burn life of six hours if used at maximum brightness on a full charge. I’ve left mine on overnight and found it still glowing, but at a diminished level. So while BD says the Sprinter’s power is regulated, it seems like you’ll perceive a significant drop-off in brightness well before it goes dark. I took note while pacing my friend Justin at Zion 100 that he was ready to swap out his Sprinter after about four hours.

The Sprinter employs a single LED which emits a white, oval beam. This is different from the ordinary flood-vs-spot option of many headlamps and is one of my favorite things about the lamp. Whereas the flood beam of most lamps can be a bit dim for running and spot beams tend to compromise peripheral vision, the beam of the Sprinter provides both adequate brightness and relatively good peripheral vision. The Sprinter’s white LED does have strobe and dimmer capabilities, but there is no red (night vision) setting.

TIKKA XP² Core Overview

Whereas the Sprinter’s ideal application is quite narrowly limited to running, the XP² Core is a multipurpose headlamp that does a lot of things well. It has the full complement of beams and settings: three white light modes and two red, with flood and spot beam options. This makes it as useful around a campsite as it does on a run.

The Core rechargeable power unit is housed within the lamp case where the batteries of most compact headlamps are located. In fact, the Core unit can be swapped out in favor of three AAA batteries. Like the Sprinter, the Core unit pairs with a USB-compatible cord for recharging.

Maybe the best feature of the XP² Core is what else can be done with its recharging cord. Namely, if you plug your XP² Core into your computer, you can use Petzl’s OS software to manage the light settings of the unit in order to maximize its brightness over the planned duration of your outing. In other words, you can manipulate the power usage of the XP² Core so that the lamp stays at a prescribed level of brightness for a prescribed length of time. The software is simple to use and, based on my unscientific experimentation, it works. XP² Core also has a safety whistle. I told you it was a multipurpose lamp.


wilderness running company

The Sprinter’s rear-facing blinker.


wilderness running company

Lamp unit up front, power unit in the back.


wilderness running company

The Core power unit with charger port.


wilderness running company

Battery life indicator, and white and red LEDs.

Bottom Line

I use both headlamps. I like both headlamps. I love the convenience of their rechargeable battery units, both lamps are sufficiently bright for the vast majority of the outings I undertake, and they are lightweight and comfortable to wear.

Like most runners, very rarely do I run in the dark for more than an hour or two. Early starts, late endings, short days, etc. For those outings, I prefer the Sprinter. I like its beam, and I find its fore-aft balance helps it ride just a bit more comfortably than the XP² Core, despite its heavier weight. Also, a fair amount of my winter miles tend to be on dark roads, so I appreciate the additional safety provided by the red blinker of the Sprinter for those outings. Certainly, this is hair-splitting and should imply nothing negative about the day-to-day appeal of the XP² Core.

When the XP² Core really excels is on those occasions when you know you’re going to be out in the dark for a longer length of time and you want to be confident that your headlamp will get the job done for the duration. In that instance, the OS feature of the XP² Core is pretty great. So, for example, on a recent overnight double crossing of the Grand Canyon, the XP² Core was my headlamp of choice and it performed beautifully.

If you don’t mind owning several headlamps or don’t run in the dark for more than 3-4 hours at a time, the Sprinter is a very compelling option. Given my personal mix, I use my Sprinter probably 90% of the time. But if you are only going to own one headlamp and you are likely to use it hard and in a variety of applications, the XP² Core may be the better option.

Tale of the Tape

Black Diamond Sprinter
Light settings: 1 white (plus rear-facing red blinking light)
Beam settings: oval
Weight: 102 grams
Maximum light: 75 lumens
Maximum distance: 45 meters
Rechargeable battery unit: lithium ion polymer
Recharge time: 5 hours
Other battery compatibility: none
Water tightness: IP X7 (limited immersion)
MSRP: $70

Petzl XP² Core
Light settings: 3 white, 2 red
Beam settings: focused long distance (spot), wide angle (flood)
Weight: 82 grams
Maximum light: 60 lumens
Maximum distance: 58 meters
Rechargeable battery unit: lithium ion polymer
Recharge time: 3 hours
Other battery compatibility: alkaline, lithium, rechargeable Ni-MH,
rechargeable Ni-Cd
Water tightness: IP X4 (water resistant)
MSRP: $110

Pine Valley Wilderness: Brown’s Point – Forsyth Loop

wilderness running company


A fun, challenging loop into the Pine Valley Wilderness, with the option of convenient side trips to Signal and Burger Peaks, the two highest points of the Pine Valley range.

The Brown’s Point Trail follows a bony ridge whereas Forsyth mostly tracks a drainage. Brown’s Point is the steeper of the two trails; finishing with Forsyth means you’ll usually have water for the last two miles or so of your outing. Another generally reliable water source is at Further Water, one of the numerous alpine meadows spread across the top of the Pine Valley range at semi-regular intervals.

To close the loop, link Brown’s Point and Forsyth using the Equestrian trail at the foot of the mountain and the Summit trail on its top. The Summit Trail proper navigates a saddle between Signal and Burger Peaks. Two short spurs of less than 1/2 mile and 500 vertical feet each take you to the two peaks.



Trailheads: Brown’s Point, Equestrian, Forsyth
Trails linked: Equestrian, Brown’s Point, Summit, Forsyth
Distance: 14-16 miles
Total Ascent: 4,500-5,000 feet
Water sources: Forsyth Creek, Further Water
Map & elevation profile

Red Mountain: Point-to-Point

wilderness running company

The upland portion of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is a good place to work on becoming a more resilient runner. Although there are no very long, sustained climbs to be found, the hills are relentless and the footing taxing. For good measure, the brittlebrush and blackbrush will give you a good gash if you’re the least bit careless.

The area also happens to be a great spot to go when southwest Utah gets a bit of winter weather. When such conditions prevail, lower elevations turn sloppy from rain and higher elevations get buried with snow. But the terrain between about 4,000′ and 5,000′ gets nice: it usually doesn’t get much more than a few inches of snow and the deep, abundant sand is much more enjoyable to run when wet than when dry.

One fun option in this category is Red Mountain trail, which makes a north-south traverse of the Red Mountain Wilderness. There are not many trails onto the giant red block of sandstone, but once there, you are rewarded with hours of potential exploration and expansive views in all directions.

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company


First Light 2012

wilderness running company

The week after Thanksgiving I carelessly slipped on an icy footbridge and took a very hard fall during a road run. The dull ache from the bruises to my hip, knee and shoulder subsided on a reasonable schedule, but something about the trauma badly pissed off my piriformis. So, December was spent trying to restore an approximately normal, twinge-free walking stride rather than ramping up my running mileage as I had intended.

Anyway, I made slow and steady improvement during the run-up to Christmas. Finally, cautiously, I ventured back onto the trails the past week for short runs and my arse tolerated it pretty well. As planned, today was the first day I stretched myself out a bit. Having learned that a quicker tempo irritates the injury more than going slowly up or downhill, I opted for a day on the Oak Grove trail in the Pine Valley Wilderness.

Runners who are passingly familiar with the St. George area tend to think almost entirely about the desert terrain at the immediate edge of town. Folks who know the area a bit more may also think about the mesas and big canyons of Zion and its immediate surroundings. But there is much more to the area, as you might imagine once you realize the altitude within a roughly 15 mile radius of downtown St. George ranges from just over 2,000 to more than 10,000 feet above sea level. And a lot of it is gnarly. (Compare a few of the photos below to the Grigne pic at Anton’s post; I don’t doubt anyone so inclined could find a few hair-raising routes twisting up and around the vertical granite spires that dot the Pine Valley like dandelions.)

A hike up the Oak Grove trail typically starts from the Oak Grove campground, but in the winter the Forest Service closes the gate four miles downhill, about where the prickly pear and redrock peter out. Having the extra bit of mileage on the access road is probably just as well, since it gives you time to set your jaw, so to speak, before hitting the truly steep, rugged terrain when you hit the trail.

5,100 feet of gain in seven outbound miles, with 3,400+ doled by the three miles of singletrack. The steep, southeast-facing slopes don’t hold much snow or support much vegetation, so this is an ideal shoulder season trail. It also works straight through winter during a dry year like this one. The majority of the trail was completely dry today and the deepest I post-holed in the small patches of snow under the trees was mid-shin.

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

wilderness running company

Load More