After work I drove up American Fork Canyon to the Timpooneke Trailhead to run up to the top of Mount Timpanogos for the first time this year.  It would be my 57th career summit.   This run is about 15 miles round-trip and ascends about 4,800 feet to 11,749.  I had yet to be above 10,000 feet this season.

I decided to use this run to benchmark my fitness level.  I have run this trail so many times that I know precisely what a good run is for me on this trail.  I really worried that I was in poor shape because of less training due to my ankle injury.   Last year by July 12, I had already summitted Timp three times.  I really had no idea how I would do and how altitude would affect me.

Shortly before 5 p.m., I was away on the trail.   Water was rushing down the river below the trail, a sign of a good runoff.  I was curious to know how much snow there was up above.   I reached the “ten-minute rock” in about nine minutes, a nice start!   This is a big boulder by the trail as it makes a turn to the left to head toward Scout Falls.  The usual streams crossing the trail in this section were running pretty fast.  I knew that tip-toeing across them would slow me down, so I just blasted across them.  My feet would dry off very fast.

I passed by Scout Falls in 20:15, which is a very good time.  I was feeling fine and not breathing hard.  This was a great sign.  I continued up the giant staircase, a series of plateaus in the huge valley.   I was surprised to see that by the one-hour mark, I had reached a point higher than about 53 of my previous runs up this trail.   Wow, what was going on?   I did notice that my right quad was starting to feel pain.  I discovered the reason.  I was leading out with that foot on the climbs, protecting my tender left foot that wasn’t really bothering me at all.  Recently I was just getting in the habit of leading with that foot.  I concentrated on a more balanced approach and could feel my left quad contributing more.

The usual snow fields arrived below the basin and they slowed me down somewhat getting across them.  It looked like there was about the same amount of snow, perhaps a little more than last year at this time.

I reached Timp Basin at the junction of the trail that heads to Emerald Lake in 1:23, again a very good time for me.   I could now see the entire basin and all the huge snow fields.   I was now at 10,000 feet and my breathing was still under control.  The basin was void of the usual plants that cover it later in the summer.  Little shoots of green could be seen all over.  The snow cover must have only disappeared across the basin a couple weeks ago.   I had to pass over occasional snow fields, taking the usual snow routes for early in the season.  I stopped to refill a water bottle in a little stream that runs directly off of a snow bank.  I’ve filled up in this steam many times in the past and never had problems.   The cold water tasted fantastic.

Up on the shelf below the saddle, I bypassed taking the sweeping switch-back through boulder fields and instead headed more directly toward the saddle by hiking across the snow that covered the shelf almost completely.   The climb up was a little challenging in the snow and there wasn’t a very distinct trail in the snow yet.   I’ve run the trail when there was much more snow.  I would say that it still is too challenging for Timp novices who don’t know for sure where the trail goes, and would freak out going over steep snow slopes, but probably within a week or two it will be just fine for the usual large groups that go up on the weekends.      

As I looked up to the saddle, I spied a mountain goat standing on a large rock, right on the saddle looking down at me.  I reached the saddle (11,000 feet) at 1:56, still a good pace, but it slowed down a bunch from the snow climbs.   Going over onto the western side, a warm wind hit me.  I needed to tighten my hat in order not to lose it.  All that was left was the rugged climb up to the summit.   The mountain goat ran up on the trail ahead of me, keeping a close eye on me.  

I pushed on ahead, starting to feel the altitude, and I stopped to eat a couple of peanut butter cups.   All I brought on the run was two water-bottles filled with water and a few bite-sized cups.  That would be plenty for me. The trail to the summit was rougher than usual.  Many rocks had been pushed onto the trail from the winter snow, but there was no snow on the trail, on this side of the mountain.   As I made the final push up the slope, I slowed from the altitude, but still had a steady pace, only stopping a couple times for about ten seconds.  

I reached the summit (11,749) at 2:22, a good time for me, but not fantastic — Pretty average.   I signed the summit book and found my last entry on 10/3/08, my 56th summit.  I also found Phil Lowry’s entry in October for his record 401st summit.   Someone had written a sarcastic “Right!” next to it.  I added a comment that Phil is the record holder.  It is an amazing accomplishment.   He hasn’t yet gone up this year.  I texted Phil on my phone with a message that only said, “57.”   He would know what the meant.  And I made a quick call to home telling my son that I was on the top of the mountain and would be home in a couple hours.

Now, I was interested to see how fast I could get down.  I love running down this very technical trail.  My run down went fine until I started to get a little cocky and didn’t pay attention.  I twisted my bad ankle very bad and screamed in pain.  Luckly it didn’t pull my bad tendon and within a minute the pain was gone.  That was a close one.   About ten minutes later, both my feet stumbled on rocks and I started to go flying off the trail, with my head going right toward a huge boulder.   But thankfully, at the last split-second, one of my feet regained control and pushed me back up, catching my balance.  That would have been a terrible fall.  I know my head would have hit hard and my arms would also have been bloodied.   After this I slowed down some to be more cautious.  I finally noticed that I was having trouble getting used to my new shoes.  The tread was catching on rocks.  I needed to lift my feet better.  Also my left toe would catch continually, probably because the left foot was protecting my injured ankle.   I concentrated on these factors and eventually could speed up again.

The sun was going down, but I had plenty of light all the way down.   I finished my run in 3:54.  My PR is 3:35.   But anything under four hours is very good.  I was delighted.   I was greatly aided on the run down by snow fields.  I was able to take some significant short-cuts by bounding down steep snow sections. They were all near the trail but helped me skip some switch-backs.  It was great fun.

Last year my first trip up was 4:25.   I did accomplish a 3:46 on July 12, 2008, almost exactly a year ago.  So I have concluded that my fitness is just about what it was this time last year.  That is very good news and means that I should set my sights high for Saturday’s Tahoe Rim 100.  I’ll take this race more seriously now and start a taper.

My splits for the run were:

Scout Falls

20:15

Emerald Lake trail

1:23

Saddle

1:56

Summit

2:22

Saddle

2:37

Emerald Lake trail

2:55

Scout Falls

3:38

Finish

3:54