Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Running at 10,000 Feet

According to our very old GPS, Washington Lake sits at 10,016 feet.  According to my Garmin, once around the campground is .43 miles.  And for the first run at Washington Lake, that was all I could do.  Welcome – once again – to the world of high altitude running. 

My first experience in high altitude running was at Hoop Lake in the summer of 2012.  At that time I was training for my first 10K.  Three years, several pairs of running shoes, and many miles later, I was still a wheezing slug on my first run at Washington Lake.  Blame the thinner air.  According to renowned running coach Dr. Jack Daniels, at an elevation of 6,500 feet you lose 10 percent to 12 percent in VO2 max (the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during exercise) and at 7,500 feet you lose 12 percent to 15 percent.  By my rudimentary calculations, at 10,000 feet I was likely losing 16 – 20 percent.  The good news – at least that thinner air was clean! 

I built up distance over time, adding the surrounding area – including some trail running off the Crystal Lake Trailhead.  And I challenged myself – before I left Washington Lake I would make it to the Bald Mountain summit:  10, 759 feet.  I made it on August 20.  The distance, round-trip, was 9.5 miles.

Averages are so average.  When I calculated the slope of the route I ran regularly, I was dismayed with the result: 5% uphill grade.  That doesn’t seem like much.  But wait!  While the road is pretty much all uphill, there are a few relatively flat sections.  There are also a few really steep sections. Great practice for running both uphill and downhill.  Once I had acclimated to the altitude, I found that my pace was similar to what I normally ran – 11 to 12 minute miles on the uphills; 9 and under on the downhills. 

I had to refer to my original post, Running at 9200 Feet, to remind myself of one of the benefits of running in high altitudes.  In high altitudes the amount of oxygen in the blood is reduced because there's less oxygen in the air. To compensate for reduction of oxygen in the air, the kidneys secrete more of a hormone called erythropoietin, which causes the body to create more red blood cells.

The average life span of a red blood cell is 90 to 120 days. Runners are often able to train harder and perform better for several weeks after they return from about a month-long stay at altitude because their blood still contains the extra blood cells that were produced when they were training at high altitudes. 

It’s just over four weeks to the Lake Powell Half Marathon.  Hang in there, red blood cells!  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Washington Lake Group Areas

I know.  This post is out of order.  I just couldn’t leave my series on Washington Lake without writing about our group areas. 

Washington Lake has five group areas.  Four of the five group areas accommodate groups up to 50 people; the largest group area accommodates 100 people.  The group areas are named after former U.S. presidents:  Lincoln, Jefferson, Hoover, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.  These sites are available by reservation only at www.recreation.gov.

So why were these particular five presidents chosen?  Roosevelt – that’s Teddy, not Franklin – was President when the U.S. Forest Service was created.  Per http://www.fs.fed.us/learn/our-history, “Federal forest management dates back to 1876 when Congress created the office of Special
Roosevelt Group Area
Agent in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States. In 1881 the Department expanded the office into the Division of Forestry. A decade later Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorizing the President to designate public lands in the West into what were then called ‘forest reserves.’ Responsibility for these reserves fell under the Department of the Interior until 1905 when President Theodore Roosevelt transferred their care to the Department of Agriculture’s new U.S. Forest Service. Gifford Pinchot led this new agency as its first Chief, charged with caring for the newly renamed national forests.”

President Herbert Hoover also had an influence over the National Forests.  “During his presidency, Herbert Hoover added 3 million acres to the National Park Service (expanding it by 40%), oversaw the National Park Service Reorganization of 1933, and added 2.3 million acres to the U.S. Forest Service.” (www.nps.gov)

Early in his presidency, John F. Kennedy issued seven Executive Orders concerning the National Forests.   Per www.americanforests.org, “Even though President Kennedy never designated new forestlands, he did enhance and add to the forests already in existence when he assumed office in 1961. Even without a new designation, and having less than one term in office, President Kennedy made his mark upon numerous national forests throughout the southeast and the Midwest.” 
Kennedy Group Area

What about Jefferson and Lincoln?  Both pre-date the National Forest Service.  Maybe they were just the favorite presidents of the builders of the Washington Lake Group Areas. 

The group areas are about ½ mile away from the main campground, so the groups can have their privacy.  Well, for the most part.  A lot of people drive into the group areas looking for either the trailhead or for fisherman parking.  I have to laugh.  What part of “Reservations Only” don’t they understand?  We also get legitimate visitors – people who are investigating the group areas for a future reservation.  We’ve tried to encourage the groups to work together to keep the lower gates closed so they are minimally disturbed.

Each group area features multiple picnic tables, two grills and two Dutch oven tables, and a large fire pit.  Restrooms are a short walk from each group area.  A trail at the top of the loop (in the Kennedy parking lot) leads to the Washington Lake Dam and to the Haystack Lake trailhead.  The Washington Lake shoreline trail is less than ¼ mile from the entrance to the group area and leads directly to the Crystal Lake trailhead. 

All in all, the Washington Lake Group Areas are a great place to spend a few days with 50 – 100 of your closest friends.  Make your reservations early – they fill up fast.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Farewell to Washington Lake

…or what’s left of it.  The lake has been draining since the beginning of August to irrigate the farms in the nearby Summit County valleys.  We left Washington Lake on Tuesday, September 8, after closing the campground.

That’s right – the campground is closed.  This is unusual.  Normally Washington Lake is kept open until October 31, weather permitting.  This year, the Forest Service decided to bring in a logging contractor to remove the beetle-killed trees.  They will close the main road to the Crystal Lake Trailhead on the weekdays through September and open it for weekend hikers.  Fishermen can still park outside the campground and walk in, but the campground is closed for the season.

Labor Day weekend was also unusual.  We expected to be full by Wednesday, but found ourselves actually having people arrive after dark on Friday and get campsites.  Perhaps it was the late Labor Day; perhaps the cold weather forecast scared people away, but Labor Day weekend was relatively quiet.  Labor Day itself, a beautiful day, was more work than we had expected.  We had to turn dozens of people away so we could lock the gates by 1:00 PM. 

Just a couple of weeks before we left, I checked in a camper that looked familiar.  A little later he asked me if we had hosted in other places.  “Yes,” I said.  “Warm River?” he countered.  Wow – a camper who remembered us from Warm River.  Actually I remember his family group quite well – they were the ones who accused us of being too nice.  That was the thing about Warm River – they could have hired Attila the Hun as camp host and people would have still come.

Looking back on our experience at Washington Lake, it has a lot in common with Warm River. 
      Regular campers who come year after year.
·         The shuffle – campers who arrive early in the morning and wait for a particular site to be vacated.
·         Transfers from reservation sites to more desirable first-come, first-served sites.
·         Lots and lots and lots of people – all the time.  With Warm River it was floating the river.  With Washington Lake it was hiking the trails.
·         No place for fishermen to park – at least, not for free. 
·         A busy group area – or in the case of Washington Lake – multiple group areas.
·         Very few mice – we actually caught only two all summer.  At Warm River we attributed this to our co-host’s cat, John Wayne.  Not sure why there are so few mice at Washington.  Maybe they can’t take the altitude.
·         We were busy most of the time.  No rest for the wicked – or the good – camp hosts. 

We are home now.  The trailer is unloaded and packed away in storage, waiting for its next adventure.  Where will that be?  Keep tuned.