Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Running The Alpine Loop

Oh the Alpine Loop!  What an absolutely incredible place to run.  Since I don't have anymore races to run for awhile I decided it was time to put a little bit of mileage in so my body doesn't forget what running feels like.  After all, I still have a couple more races to do before the year ends.  

I've been slacking on my running because I have become majorly addicted to the gym.  I am in love with the rowing machine (I have callouses to prove it)  and I love how much the stairclimber makes me sweat.  But I also realize that to be able to run another half marathon next month and then a full trail marathon in November I better not be too big of a slacker.  

So that brings me to today (Last Saturday).  I have run on part of the Alpine Loop before when I did the Run for Lyle to get to Kona, virtual run.  This time though I wanted to run and explore even more of it.  I've driven this loop multiple times but have never experienced the whole thing on foot.  Maybe someday I'll accomplish that.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Alpine Loop here is a very nice description provided by Wikipedia.

State Route 92, also known in various portions as the Timpanogos Highway, and Alpine Loop Scenic Highway is a scenic state highway in Utah County, Utah that runs from I-15/US-89 near Lehi to US-89 in Provo Canyon. The route is approximately 20 miles long and is the only road with access to Sundance Ski Resort and the Aspen Grove Family Camp and Conference Center sponsored by the BYU Alumni Association. 

The route runs east from Highland and up American Fork Canyon, where it enters the Uinta National Forest. Shortly after, it passes Timpanogos Cave National Monument, a famous group of caves buried in the side of the canyon. The route continues up the canyon and bends to the south where it passes the east side of Mount Timpanogos.  After passing Sundance Ski Resort, the road links up with US-189 in Provo Canyon. 

In my own description it's a beautiful, country, mountain road that barely fits 2 cars.  It winds all over the back side of Mount Timpanogos and has many campgrounds, hiking trail heads and beautiful scenery.  It's a highly traveled road in the Fall when many people are out to see the changing of the leaves. 

So in deciding to do this run to get in some mileage I invited my friend Josh (who I should just start calling my son since I treat him like one) to come along.  He is in the same sort of rut as me with not having many races left for the year and wanting to get some more mileage in.  He was planning to join me and then got some foot injury (which he called Plantar Fettucine-what a goof!) and had to back out the night before.  I was sad and went to bed decided that I wouldn't go up there alone and in the chilling 30 degree weather.  (Utah just got hit with a major cold front with snow in the mountains.)  I had determined I would just hit the gym hard and call it good.  Well, I tossed and turned all night dreaming about running on the Alpine Loop and when I woke up I was still somewhat sad and feeling down that I wasn't going.  Mark asked me what was wrong and I told him my desires for still running up there and how I was sad that I wasn't.  He said "Well get ready to go and I'll take you up there, there's no reason you still can't do it".  I quickly got ready and gathered all my stuff and we headed out the door.  He had to be home quickly for a church function and so we zoomed.  He dropped me off just five miles up the Provo Canyon side at the Aspen Grove Family Camp.  I shed my coat since I had a couple layers on already and kissed him goodbye.  

BOY OH BOY WAS I A HAPPY GIRL!  It was 9:00 am in the morning and the sun was shining and the air was crisp and cool.  The car said 32 degrees when I got out.
The first 9.2 miles of this Alpine Loop is a steady climb until you reach the summit, which is almost the half way point of the 20 mile loop.  Since Mark drove me up the first 5 miles I only had to climb 4.2 to get there.  
Since I strongly dislike uphill running I just decided to call it a good hiking experience and enjoy the scenery along the way.   Once I reached the Summit and took a potty break I was now ready for the rest of the way to be all downhill.

Ignore mile 16.  I really can't run a 4:32 mile.  I forgot to turn off the watch when I got in the car.

In between mile 7 and 8 a big white van pulled up and honked at me.   It was my cousin and husband and her parents and brother and all her 7 children.  They were up there taking the family on their yearly tradition of seeing the leaves on the Alpine Loop.  It was fun to visit with them for a few minutes.  They were going to head down to the red barn in Santaquin to get ice cream after.  They tried multiple times to give me a ride and come along, but of course I declined.

Even though I was running downhill from mile 5 on I never went super fast.  I still just wanted to take this easy and not wear myself out.  This was supposed to just be for enjoying the mountains and recapturing the joy of running.   Sometimes I walked, and sometimes I ran.  It was all good enough for me.
 For some reason I really like signs and so every time I saw one I would stop and take a photo. 

I have a friend who works for and this goat sticker is one of their logos.  I thought it was pretty funny to see that on one of the trailhead markers.  I sent her the photo and she thought it was funny too.

Overall this was an awesome Saturday morning experience.  I am hoping to take advantage of more of them before the weather turns too nasty.  I also enjoyed running without all the hoopla of dealing with packet pick-ups, bus loadings, port-a-potties, way early alarm clocks, and standing around for an hour and a half for a race to start.  Oh and I forgot to mention that this 15.25 miles didn't cost me a half marathon entry fee either.  Hmmmm.........I probably shouldn't get my wheels turning too much or I may just talk myself out of a lot of races next year.   Wait....maybe that is already happening.  

Bring on some peaceful, quiet, beautiful Saturday morning runs.  This I could really get used to.


Amy @ Run Mom Run said...

Man, I love the Alpine loop. I wish I lived nearby, I would have run it with you for sure!

One of Vaughn's favorite rides in Utah county is the Alpine loop.

That loop brought us together.

Cory Reese said...

Those pictures are awesome. It is completely beautiful up there. I wish I lived closer so I could enjoy some of those miles!

Kathee said...

We really need to get together for a run! I've been working way too much. When is your next long run planned?

tammy said...

That is gorgeous.