Author Archives: Heather

Subscription Update for HeatherCaplan.com

Hey y’all!

I don’t use that southern charm often but some days it’s just in the mood. I’ve heard from a few people that it’s tricky to get the new digs into a Feeder (e.g. Feedly), and I hear ya. If you use the homepage it should work out! Let me know if you have any more trouble, though. And thanks for the notes thus far!

Subscribiption / Feeder URL: http://heathercaplan.com

(Rather than using http://heathercaplan.com/blog/) 

If you’re just catching up, here’s where the story has led us over the past few weeks.

About that Spring Marathon…”

Running Goals: What Liberates You Can Bind You

Boxes Checked…Tunes ON (Race Playlist)

We’re on our way to Portland –> Eugene, OR for some good ol’ 26.2 mile fun! Catch ya soon.

Cheers,

H(C)C

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Reminder – New Website for DOTR!

Hey, hey friends! Just a friendly reminder that “Dietitian on the Run” moved to some new digs early last month. Come join us at heathercaplan.com/blog/ and say hi!

Cheers,

Heather

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Uprooted & Updated (URL)

It’s been almost five years since my words made a new home in this space! As a brand new dietitian (circa 2009), I eagerly put fingers-to-keyboard and found a voice through which to relate to you, eat with you, train with you, and move all around life with you. In fact, I’ve “lived” here longer than any house, or city, since my teenage years! Whoa.

That said, a little freshening up was in order. All of the miles, recipes, and life updates are packed up and ready to go! Soon you’ll see them all comfortably settled into the new digs – same name, different URL.

NEW SITE: HeatherCaplan.com ! See ya over there!

And more importantly, Thanks for being along for the ride…

Bixby Bridge Highway 1_DOTR

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Backpacking Zion National Park: Trans-Zion Trek

We got ourselves to southern Utah with two missions: 1) run the Canyonlands Half-Marathon in Moab, and 2) explore as much of Zion National Park as our legs could handle in four days. Luckily this only took a little bit of pre-planning, which was done entirely by him while I was in another country. Going into the second part of our desert crawl, the only thing I knew is that my backpack was stuffed with some new gear and he had an ambitious adventure laid out.

The Trans-Zion Trek  (named such because there isn’t one single trail that covers the park north to south or east to west, but rather a group of connecting trails) is approximately 50 miles. Since we would need one day to snatch our backcountry permits (which allow you to set up camp), we had three days to tackle this. Per my request, the trip was modified to an abbreviated version, about 40 miles, skipping the East Rim trail and ending at The Grotto (i.e. bottom of Angel’s Landing) instead. According to our new BFFs at Zion Adventures*, this is dubbed “one of the most spectacular hikes in the world”, and I have no argument.

Trans Zion Trek Elevation Chart_Zion Adventures

48 miles – 20,400 ft elevation change – credit: ZionAdventures.com

*The ZA crew provided a lot of great information, last-minute gear needs (batteries, an extra pair of socks, etc.) and an early morning shuttle to the start of our trek. They also allow you to park your car in their Springdale lot while you’re off adventuring. Win, win!

—–

If you want the short version of this very lengthy recap:

  • Day 1: 9 miles: Lee Pass Trail (La Verkin Creek) + Kolob Arch + a detour to our allotted campsite on the Willis Creek Trail (#13).
  • Day 2: ~17 miles: Hop Valley Trail to Kolob Terrace Road, Connector Trail to Wildcat Canyon, ending at the West Rim Trailhead (camping in Wildcat Canyon).
  • Day 3: ~15.5 miles: West Rim Trail (detour on Telephone Canyon Trail for a slightly shorter option) to Angel’s Landing (0.8 mi roundtrip detour, but must-do!), finishing at The Grotto Shuttle Stop.

—–

Lee Pass Trailhead_Zion_DOTR

Monday (Day 1), 6:30 am: Shuttle departure from Zion Adventures.

7:20 am – Lee Pass Trailhead drop-off, the hiking begins! It wasn’t light out quite yet, but once we hit some sun, it was cause for a vitamin-D soak-up stop. Nothing feels better than this…

Lee Pass Kolob Canyon Sun_DOTR Lee Pass Trail_Zion_DOTR

Lee Pass Trail takes you from Kolob Canyon to Hop Valley. Our camping permit was for site #13, which meant we had to trek about 2 extra miles out, on Willis Creek Trail, and backtrack the next day. Even with the extra miles, Monday was short; we took our time. We stopped for breakfast about an hour in, took a ton of photos, and got to the Hop Valley junction by noon. There’s an easy 1/2-mile side-trek up to see Kolob Arch (considered the second-largest in the world). We had lunch up there, with a view (and a ton of flies).

 Lee Pass Trail_Zion H

Kolob Arch_Zion

Day 1, 1:00 pm: Kolob Arch box checked, we started along the Willis Creek Trail to find our home for the evening. We picked #13 on this trail instead of campsite A or B on Hop Valley, which would have taken us in the right direction of our goal, because of the creek access. Crucial! As you’ll soon read, water accessibility is a luxury here in Zion. If you start on Lee Pass, you’ll see and cross this creek many times and be all like “Omg WHY doesn’t this trail just stay on ONE SIDE?!”, but appreciate that fresh water, friends. It won’t come again easily.

Hop Valley Junction Sign_Zion_DOTR

Willis Creek hopping_Zion_DOTR

By around 2:30 pm we had found our campsite and started to set-up, relax, put our feet up and enjoy the fact that our little spot in the canyon actually had great sunlight for a few hours.

Willis Creek Campsite 13_H M Willis Creek_Zion break M

Day 1: ~9 miles.

Tuesday (Day 2) 5:30am: We set the alarm earlier than the sunrise because not only did we have to backtrack 2 miles, but we also had another 15 miles planned to tackle. We started with headlamps on, passed a lot of campers sleeping at sites 11 & 12, and finally saw some sunlight in the canyon by about 7:45am.

Willis Creek Trail_zion day2

Hop Valley Trail_Zion_DOTR

As soon as you start on the Hop Valley Trail (HVT) from La Verkin Creek, you begin to climb. You’ll go up, and then pretty far down, and then back up again. The miles through the Valley are beautiful and quiet; but the water is muddy and impotable. If you need to fill up, do it BEFORE you leave the Creek.

Other things to know about Hop Valley Trail:

  • There are 2 designated camping areas (neither of which have a nearby water source, but if you fill up before you hit them you’re good!).
  • There are wild turkeys.
  • The trail will cross a “creek” multiple times, but it’s very shallow, sticky and muddy. If the bottom of your boots happen to start coming loose, this may explain it (you’ll see…).
  • The views on BOTH sides are breathtaking. Don’t forget to look back a few times.
  • Some trail sections include deep dry sand – be ready to take a few boot-emptying stops.

Somewhere in the middle of this, my left boot decided it had had enough. Here’s where I remind you not to trust gear that’s 10 years old; and to bring a lot of duct-tape. We’ll get back to that.

Hop Valley_Zion_DOTR 1
That rare moment when you remember to stop and look back, the views from both sides are stunning.

Hop Valley Trail_Zion_DOTR 2  2015-03-24 09.06.44
Hop Valley_zion_H M

Hop Valley Trail Trees_Zion_M

The HVT is about 6.5 miles – we stopped around 9:30am for a snack break and had only seen one other hiker on the move (and a handful up having breakfast at camp). Once you climb back out of Hop Valley, you’ll connect with Kolob Terrace Road…and….(wait for it)…A TRAILHEAD!

What do you typically find at a trailhead? Bathrooms & trashcans, yo. This is gold.

Day 2, 12pm: ~8.5 miles in (~17 total) – Kolob Terrace Road
We stopped for lunch, an actual bathroom break, a change into shorts (me) and to drop off the trash we had accumulated thus far (adios!). I was THIS excited to have a toilet, after just one day.

Kolob Terrace Road bathroom_zion_DOTR

Moving on…

Kolob Terrace Road – Connector Trail
From the trailhead bathroom stop, you’ll have a short dirt trail before hitting Kolob Terrace Road. Across the road is a sign for the “Connector Trail” (which you’re following); don’t assume that means it’s up the road, as we did. Assume that means it’s up the rock and follow the cairn, as we initially did not. Either way, know the trail is there and you’ll find it eventually.

Once you find it, it’s okay to stop and take a pic. Because look at that.

The Connector Trail leads from Kolob Terrace Road to Wildcat Canyon, and is about 4 miles long. Note: there are a few water options here, but they’re few and far between, and they are not your average spring or creek.

Somewhere in between these rocks we found water and spent about 30 min filtering it. Much needed!

Connector Trail View_zion_Day2

This trail has limited shade and, as noted, water, but man is it beautiful. You hike towards a few big structures and then they’re gone.  If it’s not summer yet, you’ll definitely see a few snow patches.

At the end, you hit the Wildcat Canyon Trail.

We had camping permits for Wildcat Canyon, and would soon find out that most of this trail is carved into the side of a plateau and, obviously, through a canyon. There is only one water source (a spring) and limited flat space. Knowing that we had to finish this adventure by Wednesday afternoon, I was pretty stubborn about hitting the West Rim Trailhead before stopping for the day. He obliged. We carried on…

There’s a sign for the spring water, emphasizing the need to purify, as I’m sure you can gather. We were pretty close to dry bottles, so we spent a while here gathering and filtering. Another couple caught up to us and joined the party – our first, and only, conversations with “outsiders” of the day!

This would also be our last fill-up before dinner and have to keep us hydrated through the morning. Tricky, tricky. We left with fully-hydrated bottles and packs and hoped our systems + cooking would hold up.

One thing that didn’t hold up: the other boot! If you’re keeping up, I now have two broken boots kept together by tent rope and duct tape. Winning.

By around 6:00pm on Tuesday night, we finally hit the West Rim trailhead and called it a night. There were a few camping-ish options nearby, so we choose the one that seemed flat and rain-friendly (the skies weren’t looking light). The Jetboil worked its magic, we fueled up and then crawled into bed.

Day 2: 17 miles, ~26 total.

—–

Wednesday (Day 3) – 5:15am Alarm

We started under the stars, with warm coffee but a cold breakfast (saves a little water for drinking). Headlamps on, packs packed and energy high – we had to finish this thing up!

2015-03-25 06.34.04 2015-03-25 06.58.55

Sawmill Spring is about one mile up and a short detour (down to campsite #9 on West Rim trail), but of course worth it. Because, WATER. At this point, you stop when you see water and there’s no dispute about it.

Carrying on…

West Rim Trail Sunrise_Zion_DOTR

This is why you start early; bliss.

The West Rim Trail will deceive you by starting off nice n’ flat, on the top of a plateau. We made great progress for about 3 hours, thinking the rest of the day would be a breeze. Or maybe that was just me, but it was a nice thought for the morning…

West Rim Trail_Zion_Morning M West Rim Trail_Zion_Morning H

The trail eventually splits into Telephone Canyon or (you stay on) West Rim. The former option was about half the distance and 1/10th of the views, so given our time-constraints of the day we went with that. (If you’re not on a time limit, definitely stay on the West Rim for the photo ops and trail porn.) Telephone Canyon Trail is only ~1.6 miles, but of switchbacks and muddy, snow-melting, trail. So fun.

And then you come to another junction, before you scale down the side of this canyon. Had I known those switch-backs were coming, I may have stayed in bed on Wednesday morning.

But first, let’s fix these boots for the 18th time.

West Rim Trail_boot fix_M
West Rim Trail_Canyon Switchback_Zion

Day 3 – 11:00 am – As we started on this section I had a minor panic – is this trail for real?! Who did this? Where’s the railing? Why am I still walking down? When does it end?! Why are my boots so crappy?! How deep is the canyon?

I hugged the inner side of this trail like my life depended on it, which it did. He didn’t seem so bothered.

 Not even sure how my sweaty palms held onto the camera long enough to capture this.

He noted at some point that he was a little worried as to how I would manage to get up Angel’s Landing if this was getting to me. And I had no idea what he meant – it’s just a trail, right? I’ll be fine. Stay tuned.

After a LOT of down and then a LOT of up – a quick outfit change before my legs died in the fleece-lined pants I had on – and a few deep breaths, we made it to the bottom of Angel’s Landing. This felt like a HUGE milestone, because from here we have the optional climb up (0.4 mi to the top), and then only 2.5 miles until we were done! We also had finally started seeing hikers, eventually getting to the point of the trail that’s totally crowded and totally threw off our lone-hiker world that we’d been in for two days.

We stopped for lunch and were not only surrounded by at least 75 people doing the same, as we all stared ahead at Angel’s Landing and thought WHY?!, but there were also bathrooms. I didn’t even have to use it, but it’s just nice that it’s there, ya know?

Angel's Landing Trailhead_Zion_M

Are you kidding me?

I spent most of our 20 minute lunch break debating what my mind would settle for. We now knew why this short 0.4 mile trail (0.8 mile roundtrip) took anywhere from 1.5-2 hours, which we had never anticipated. There are tons of people, most of the time the trail can only function with one-way traffic, and OMG THE TRAIL. I had one of two options: 1) comfortably and safely wait around while Mike did it, and spend at least 90 minutes frustrated that my fear took a victory, or 2) spend 90 minutes 100% terrified and climb it anyway.

Obviously I went with #2.  Roundtrip, it did take us about 90 minutes and I spent at least half of that utterly terrified. I quietly cried a little bit, but kept moving. I held onto the built-in chain for dear life, and found solace in the other hikers who seemed equally unhinged. Eventually, I realized why everyone does this, fear or no fear:

Angel's Landing View_Zion_DOTR 2

Angel's Landing View_Zion_DOTR Angel's Landing Peak_zion_H M

Angel’s Landing: named because the initial Zion explorers said that “no one but angels could land here”. That’s no longer true, but once you’re there you can certainly appreciate their perception.

Angel's Landing Trailhead_Zion_H M

Thank sweet baby Jesus that’s over.

Box checked, fear faced, heart happy and feet fatigued, we finally began our final stretch. A long 2.5 miles of downhill switchbacks, stopping at least another 5 times to fix my boots (which have totally thrown in the towel at this point) and chatting away with people who asked where we had camped, and politely made no comment as to our state of affairs.

We picked up the Zion Park Shuttle at The Grotto, back to the Visitor’s Center (if you’re doing the full trek, you continue on the East Rim Trail) . Our journey was over; and we had four-wheels to give our two feet a break. (Then you can take a free shuttle outside of the park (near the theater) to Zion Adventures. This only runs in-season, though, so check on the dates.)

Day 3: 15+ miles

(Abbreviated) Trans- Zion Trek DONE – 41 miles total

Zion National Park Map_DOTR_ZA

Our camping sites noted with the *, and ending point at the star.


HIking boots toss_Zion_DOTR

—–

Any experienced backpacker will probably tell you that each hike is its own form of bliss, but this being my first real foray into the world of Trans-Trekking, I feel especially high. Nothing about this was easy, save for a few flat miles, but everything about it was enjoyable. We didn’t have a bad day, much less a bad hour. We only had a few scares of water availability, but otherwise everything went smoothly. We took this adventure as it came to us, not knowing if it would happen until the 11th hour, and we soaked up every minute of it.

We’re coming back for you, Zion – there are still corners, trails and subways to explore! In the meantime, we thank you for your hospitality. And your proximity to restaurants that serve up a perfect post-hike feast!

Oscars Zion Meal_DOTR

Oscars_Cheers_zion

Cheers!

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Travel Running: Canyonlands Half-Marathon – Moab, UT

Registering for Moab’s Canyonlands Half-Marathon was a decision-made-easy by the TAD crew, at least 5 of whom would be joining in for the fun. It was confirmed as a good life decision when we started doing some research about what areas could be explored before and after running 13.1 miles in southern Utah! What was not part of those initial plans (for me) was a one-week trip to Israel right before this race, or an additional half-marathon, or jet-lag.

In other words, this post should actually be titled one of the following:

“What not to do before racing Canyonlands Half-marathon!”

OR

How to make the most of your Canyonlands – Moab,UT weekend! No PR included.”

You choose.

Arches National Park_DOTR

We arrived late on Thursday night, because Moab is actually much further from Las Vegas than we had anticipated (but not much closer to any other major city; especially not one with a direct flight from Monterey, CA). Friday morning was reserved for some exploring in Arches National Park, and by exploring I mean choosing the longest “difficult” hike (7.2 mile round-trip trek to the Double-O Arch) and also getting lost (not recommended).

Four hours later, we finally sat down for lunch at Eklectica Cafe, which I highly recommend paying a visit to! I opted for the Vegetable Hummus Wrap and a side of potatoes, because carbs.

Moab Eklectica Cafe outside_DOTR

The rest of Friday was spent checking out downtown, the race expo (easy to find and navigate!) and our hotel room. Feet up!

—-

One of the tricky aspects of this race is the start time – scheduled for a late morning kick-off, at 10 a.m. I assume there must be some logic behind this, from a Race Director stand-point, but I couldn’t tell you what that is. What I do know: there’s a generous window within which you catch a shuttle to the starting line (7:30am – 8:15am) and then a long waiting period within which you try to stay warm and entertained before actually letting your feet move!

We left the hotel early and hit-up the Love Muffin Cafe (I mean, seriously – the names of these little places!) for coffee & breakfast. Then we walked over to catch an early shuttle – we were dropped off around 8am and plopped ourselves up on a rock and bundled up. There’s a DJ, water + coffee + hot-chocolate station, plenty of bathrooms, a short walk up to the bag-check and and starting line and no sunshine (yet).

TAD sweatshirt_Canyonlands Half Marathon H+M_Canyonlands Half Marathon
Team Amazing Day_Canyonlands Start

All the TAD people! Left to Right: Emma, Jeff, Ashley, Jen, Katie, Hope & me.

Canyonlands Half Marathon Starting Line_DOTR  Team Amazing Day_Canyonlands Half Marathon

Okay, let’s finally get this ball rolling…

Miles 1 –3: have a net downhill, so I had the go-ahead to let the legs be free and the strides be open and gauge how things felt. What I would soon learn I had severely underestimated: jet-lag (see: Jerusalem), altitude (see: 4500 ft) and hiking (see: 8 mile, 4 hour trek). I was pretty quickly aware of how the day would go – these miles were just under 8s, but they should have been a very comfortable sub-8. There were not.

Pleasant surprise: Beth! Oh hey, girl. Hadn’t seen her smiling face in a few days and after a full Israel-week of her energy, that’s a long stretch! She snuck up behind me like a jerk and I was all cranky like “personal space!” and then I realized who it was. That was probably the one and only time I laughed for the next 90 minutes…

Miles 4-8: were supposed to be “comfortable, but close to the edge”. It was pretty clear that for today, that blissful middle-racing-ground was nowhere to be found. It was either ease up and prolong the suffer, or keep the speed, even though it’s much closer to uncomfortable than anything else. My headphones quit but my ego was all charged up. The good thing is that this wasn’t a goal-race. It was meant to be a PR-attempt in the middle of marathon training, but then an opportunity to travel to Jerusalem popped up that I couldn’t turn down, and I got home two days before turning the suitcase inside out and leaving again. I had to have a little chat with myself that basically relayed this message:

It’s okay if you don’t PR today, but it’s not okay if you give in. It’s okay if you don’t run your fastest miles, but it’s not okay if you don’t remind yourself what it feels like to put in the effort. It’s okay if you’re tired, it’s not okay if you let fatigue wear you down. It’s okay if you have nothing left to give, but it’s not okay if you stop giving anything at all.

Canyonlands Half marathon_Running DOTR

Somewhere around mile 9: I had to pick it up, because that was the plan and because I want my legs to remember how it feels to push through that familiar race-day fatigue and maintain a pace nonetheless.

Miles 10-13: are bare and rough. Up to this point you have bouts of shade thanks to the canyon walls, but now? You have the almost-noon desert sun beating down on you. You’re out of the beautiful canyon and onto a highway. You know you’re close, but you’re not nearly close enough. Mike hopped back in to run me through that last mile (his finish – 1:30), and I immediately told him “No coaching!” (which means “no encouraging cheerleading statements about “almost there!” or “pick it up!” or whatever – nada!). Which was just a more efficient way of saying I am so effing exhausted WHERE IS THE FINISH LINE?! He caught on. As soon as the Finisher’s shoot began he hopped out but said “Catch that  guy ahead of you – you’ve got him!” and I sure as hell tried.

Canyonlands Half Marathon Finish_DOTR

2015 Canyonlands Half-Marathon – 1:47
Overall
: 278 of 2121
AG (F 25-29): 13 of 161

Team Amazing Day_Canyonlands Finish Group_DOTR

The team had a great showing – a few PRs and a lot of happy runners!

—–

What you should know about the Canyonlands Half Marathon:

– Moab, UT is a gorgeous town with great opportunities for hiking and general desert exploring. Plan at least a day or two to get through Arches National Park, enjoy craft beer & great food, and see the sights.

– The organization and execution of this race are seamless! All of the provided information is easy to follow and everything was on-time.

– Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts book up quickly! We stayed at the River Canyon Lodge, walking-distance to the shuttle pick-up, and the rest of the team shared a vacation rental home, also within walking distance. There are a lot of options that won’t require you to drive or park on race-day!

– Canyonlands Park is stunning. You’re in for a treat! The course is beautiful for 11 miles, and then kind of brutal at the end. But you’ll be tired during those last two miles either way, so just get through them.

– It’s chilly at the start, but you can throw clothes ‘away’ or pack them into your bag before letting it go (which we did). You’ll warm up in that southwestern sun very quickly, so don’t overdress!

– Moab’s elevation is around 4,000 feet – plan accordingly!

Where we ate before and after (and recommend!):

– Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro (coffee + post-race treats)

– Eklectica Cafe (Friday lunch)

– Peace Tree Cafe (Post-race Lunch)

——-

Add this one to your scenic half-marathon bucket list – you won’t be disappointed!

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