Viewing entries in
Running

First 100 After Math

Comment

First 100 After Math

I'm trying to recount everything that happened that night I finished the Susitna. It feels like my recovery has taken an eternity and I want to capture all the details of what happened to my body.

So here is my trip report Link. In summary I was in motion for close to 37 hours straight with no rest. I was moving over undulating icy and snowy terrain with a 30 pound sled strapped around my waste. Every step was deliberate and forceful.

Here is what I remember from those days post race. When I finished at 9pm I was wide awake I was afraid to take my shoes off so I sat inside eating and drinking for about 30 minutes. When it was time to go Corbin pulled the car around but I couldn't stand. I had no control over my lower legs. I couldn't straighten my knees or bend them so they always stayed at a slight angle. Corbin lifted me from the chair and I put an arm around his neck. Though honestly he was supporting all of my body weight while my legs slid on the icy ground beside him.

Once in the car I finally removed my shoes and socks. Immediately my feet swelled to an abnormal size and the pain on the bottom of my feet was so extreme I started to moan. I couldn't tell if they were frost bitten, and I was convinced I would never walk again. I had over 20 blisters covering the bottom of my feet. I quickly placed them under the heat and fell asleep. When I would wake up I realized I was still hallucinating. I saw faces in every object that passed and the sound of snow machines still echoed in my brain.

By the time we got to the hotel I wasn't even able to use Corbin as a crutch. Unable to bend my knees my legs stuck straight out in front of me as he sat me in a wheel chair and wheeled me into the elevator. I was so swollen at this point I looked 30 pounds heavier. Once we reached the hotel room Corbin laid me on the floor where I was convinced I could crawl to the shower. My knees were so sensitive that I resorted to an army crawl but only an inch of dragging my legs uncovered the pain all over and instead I laid helpless on the floor. At this point still fully clothed in what I had run in I was going in and out of shock. My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my body and muscles would convulse. By now it was almost midnight.

My clothing smelled of piss and sweat an extremely foul smell, and I wanted to shower immediately. I had been moving for two days and had peed countless times without wiping with anything but snow. Not to mention a few times I may have peed on my shoes at wee hours of the morning. Needless to say I smelled bad and I couldn't move. Corbin returned from putting back the wheel chair and assisted me in my clothing removal. My body was in worse shape then I had imagined and I found that the sides of my thighs were extremely bruised from the poles of my sled rubbing. Not to mention the horrible chaffing around my waste from the sled belt.

Now came the hard part getting to the shower. Corbin lifted me on to the toilet while he sat a trashcan upside down in the tub so I could shower without standing. This is when I realized how severely dehydrated I was. My pee was the deepest color of blood orange. I was unable to support my own body weight and as hard as I tried I couldn't left my legs over the side of the tub without using my arms. Corbin sat me on the upside down trashcan and started the tub. I couldn't figure out how to clean my self while sitting so I got rid of the trashcan and laid horizontal in the tub. I splashed water over my body and soaped as much as I could while Corbin sat near by making sure I didn't drown.

Then came the shock again. My teeth started to chatter and I started to convulse. I felt helpless as I urgently asked Corbin to get me warm. I was unable to free myself from tub. He lifted my body out and held me over his legs while he used the hair dryer to blow heat on my skin and toweled me to get the water off. I slipped some clothing on and he placed me in the bed.

The pain and swelling was so extreme there was no position that didn't hurt. I wanted my legs elevated because I still couldn't feel any of my toes mostly from the swelling at this point. He stacked all 8 pillows from the bed under my legs and made me some dinner. He was forcing Skratch Labs Recovery powder down my throat and making me eat even though I didn't want to. My left knee was worse then my right and the swelling and pain was strangely behind the knee. I think from the heel first walking I did in sections. So Corbin filled a few bags of ice and I iced my left knee all night. At this point it was now 1am.

Corbin was tired and I was set for a sleepless night anyways so he passed out in the bed beside me while I shifted and moaned all night in and out of small pockets of sleep. At 6am I realized I need to urinate and it was an emergency. I woke Corbin up and he quickly carried me to the toilet and back to the bed. He then snuck down to the lobby and grabbed me a big breakfast. By the time the sun rose it was shaping up to be the first bluebird day in awhile. Corbin got my trekking poles close to the bed and I urged him to go skiing.

I was now alone tossing and turning in pain. I needed to unpack and repack the sled for the flight that night. I couldn't sleep so I called my family and talked on the phone most of the day laying in bed with my feet propped up the wall. But then it hit again. I needed to pee. I positioned myself sitting at the edge of the bed with the trekking poles in each hand and stood up. Still unable to straighten or bend my knees I shuffled with the trekking poles to the bathroom. I was mobile now so I used my hands to lift my legs into the tub and used the railings to hold on while I took a solid shower. I could stand without the trekking poles now but I couldn't walk without them. I dried myself and put fresh clean clothing on. I felt good and wanted to put my compression socks on in hopes of making my feet feel better. So I sat on the couch with a knife popping some of the bigger poorly positioned blisters. Puss oozed out all over my feet and I applied as much Neosporin as I could.

I got the sled packed and unpacked and then Corbin showed up. Now was the true test. Could I walk without the poles? It was slow painful and awkward, but I could hobble unassisted. We went to the award ceremony and I got the belt buckle before heading back to the hotel. It was 9pm at this point an entire day after finishing the race and I could finally sleep. While Corbin packed his ski gear I passed out into the best 3 hours of sleep I could have asked for. We then headed to the airport for our 2 am flight back to Reno. I hobbled through the airport and to the gate where I fell asleep on the floor. Corbin woke me and I got onto the plane where I immediately feel asleep in Corbin's lap. Off this flight and on to the next a similar story. I was so destroyed I couldn't interact with other human beings. I couldn't formulate thoughts or words.

Corbin drove us back to Truckee where I laid horizontal on a couch unable to operate my car or move quickly for 3 days. I couldn't sleep. I could barely work. I couldn't walk Lopi without becoming extremely fatigued. Everything was a chore I was drained. The most empty I've ever been.

But I picked myself up on the fourth day and drove back to Incline. I showered and did laundry. I unpacked the sled and packed myself for my next trip to Boulder. I took Lopi on a walk and I enjoyed the little improvements in mobility that I gained daily. I still couldn't feel two toes on my left foot and my feet needed to be lotioned daily. But life keeps moving on even if your not ready for it to.

I flew to Boulder 5 days after returning from Alaska for work still unable to walk without limping. But everyday seemed to get just a little bit better and I found myself walking 1 to 2 miles everyday limp free after day 8 of no running. But I still couldn't sleep. It wasn't till my final night in Boulder that I got a goodnight sleep. I account it to the late night and good conversation with friends. Or maybe it was the climbing I had done that morning. Non the less I finally slept for the first time in 10 days.

I feel like I went through hell with this recovery and I've finally come out on the other side. I've learned so much about my body and what I need. I know next time things will be different.

Comment

Susitna 100 - A Race Across Frozen Alaska

2 Comments

Susitna 100 - A Race Across Frozen Alaska

I watched the sunrise, then the sunset, then the sunrise, and then the sunset again. I don't even know where to begin to talk about the Susitna 100. I'll try to start from the beginning.

I had originally heard about the Susitna 100 from a good friend who was working at Happy Trails Kennel. He raced it two years ago in the bike division and at the time I thought it sounded crazy. Flash forward to August 2015 I'm coming back from a soul crushing (and foot crushing) Nolan's 14 attempt looking for a sufferfest to satiate my sadness. I looked seriously into the Zion 100 but couldn't bring myself to register. The terrain seemed straightforward and the challenge was more of distance and less of elements. Weeks went by and something sparked my memory of the Susitna 100. I did a quick Google search and found myself entangled in the logistics of a race across frozen Alaska dragging sled! A few hours later I was registered. At the time I don't think I realized what an epic endeavor this would be.

Months went by and I built a sled and did some long runs in Tahoe, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, and Zion. Training was easy this year with the large amount of snow Tahoe received so I tried to get out often to run around with sled. Logistically the race is intimidating warning of frostbite and other serious damages from the extreme cold and extreme distance. I over planned and was sure I'd be ready for the worst case scenario. I wanted to leave there with all my fingers and toes!

Something to know about the Susitna 100 is that all racers are required to carry a -20 degree sleeping bag, a closed cell sleeping pad, a bivy sack, 2 insulated liters of water, 3,000 calories of food that you can't eat unless in an emergency, a headlamp, and a rear flashing light. At a minimum your gear has to weigh 15lbs but most peoples weigh well over. This is why all the runners drag a sled. So here I am weighing in at 118 lbs with a sled that in total weighed 30 lbs. My weight to sled ratio had me at a serious disadvantage from the start. But no matter what, this race wasn't going to be physically or mentally easy.

Corbin and I flew into Anchorage a few days before the race and explored around the area. A quick day in the Chugach and a awesome day in Talkeetna getting to see Denali up close and personal. It was nice to distract myself from the grim reality the next 2 days would be for me. I got the sled packed and all the gear dialed and was feeling ready but nervous for the day ahead. I honestly had no idea what to expect. When people asked me how long they thought it would take I would answer with anywhere from 32 to 38 hours.

At the start it was still dark and I checked in for the race. I walked around in a room full of athletes over hearing conversations that started with "The last three years I did this it was... " or "My last 100 miler was like... " My heart immediately sank and I couldn't join in on any of the conversations. A few people chatted with me and asked me about my last race or my other ultra races. I was left codfish mouthed. My response was uh... I don't race but I really liked running the Grand Canyon.

All the racers funneled out to the start line and I positioned myself directly behind the woman who has raced it 15 times. I figured if I could stick close with her I'd do well and not get lost. The gun went off and the adrenaline started pumping. I was determined to keep up with these ladies. I was in first for awhile, then second, then third. By mile 5 I knew this was not a pace I could sustain for 100 miles, but I kept charging. I wanted to stick close to the front of the pack. By mile 10 I must have been 5 or 6 back and by 15 I realized that I needed to walk. The first aid station was 22 miles from the start and it felt like an eternity to get there. Kept thinking I must be getting close. Two men that were keeping the same pace as me caught up, Dustin and Tim. I kept with them till we got the first checkpoint in a little over 5 hours. I left the checkpoint before them because I was moving much slower then them so I knew they would catch me in the next 15 mile stretch to Flathorn Lake. This was the section of the trail that conflicted with a dogsled race.

Zoom another group of dogs ran past and then another and another. It was crazy to watch all the mushers out there running the dogs and for a few minutes I also felt like a dog dragging a sled. My thoughts wandered to Lopi and how much I love that dumb dog. I played out scenarios in my head of Lopi getting picked on by the sled dogs because he's a California softy. It's the little things that keep your mind distracted from your current state.

Tim and his friend Lester zoomed past me and Dustin stayed pretty close. It was the infinite awfulness of the dismal swamp. The never ending flat icy miserable miles of nothing. I was happy to have the micro spikes on my feet but now 30 miles in I could feel the bruises building on every step. I just wanted to get to Flathorn Lake before the sunset. The temperature had dropped considerably since the start of the race and just in a light pair of gloves I thought I was going to lose my thumbs. I kept shaking my hands trying to rush blood back into them.

It was a relief right as the sun was setting to finally make it to the check point. It felt like an eternity as I watched the checkpoint get closer and closer traversing the miles over the frozen lake. It was busy with people. I dropped the sled and started to prepare myself for the long cold night. I pulled out my big black diamond expedition mittens and a few hand warms. I thought my feet were doing fine other than the bruising on the bottom so I didn't change my socks. I pulled out my puffy and a second pair of pants and headed into the checkpoint. My plan was to make it quick I was feeling better and want to making it through the night with all my fingers and toes. I had drank almost all my bladder so I planned to fill it up and get on my way with a few bites of food. Any icy hill led up to a small hut that was booming with warmth. As I started up the hill I watch Tim slip badly and fall down it. He seemed okay so I kept moving. When I got inside I layered up and ate some food the warm couch was so inviting I knew I needed to stay focused. I went outside to fill my water bladder and ended up filling it with freezing cold water. This proved to be a crucial mistake. As I headed back inside for a brief second I realized my backpack was soaking wet and there was water everywhere. I checked to make sure I closed the bladder only to realize the cold water had burst the seams. Well there was no way I was going to put a soaking wet backpack back on my back so I cut my loses and threw it in the sled. 

It was dark now so I had my headlamp out and was ready to keep moving. As I left Flathorn Lake I had a million things racing through my head. How was I supposed to run another 70 miles with no water!? I had a Nalgene in my sled but having to stop and take the sled off every time I needed to drink was going to take too much time. I continued contemplating my options for several hours. The bruising on the bottom of my feet had become unbearable and I removed the micro spikes after dropping down onto the Susitna River. It was about to be a very long 18 miles on a cold flat river to the next checkpoint and at this point I wasn't positive I was going to finish. My demeanor quickly changed from wanting to finish towards the front of the pack to just wanting to finish period. It was no longer a competition to me but pure survival. I didn't train and travel all the way here to just give up. I was going to finish. I kept repeating in my head my motto... never give up, it's not that bad, just keep moving.

The miles ticked by slowly and my pace had slowed considerably. My thoughts drifted to comfortable things like being in a warm hotel room with Corbin just snuggled up fast asleep. I mentally struggled to push through. I thought about how much easier it would be to like simple things. To take a vacation to Alaska without running 100 miles. I thought about my other options. How I could be a stay at home mom and never run again. I picked up another handful of snow and shoved it in my mouth. It was the only way to get a little water in. All I could see on the horizon were red flashing lights and when I looked behind for miles dots of headlamps. It was nice to know I wasn't completely alone yet. 

My legs were now starting to cramp. I could barely bend my knees. I had stopped fueling because I had stopped hydrating and now almost 50 miles in my body was taking a toll. The bruises on my feet felt better when I jogged so I found myself shuffling slowly. A red light in the distance kept getting closer until it was right in front of me. It was Tim and he was standing in the middle of trail just standing. I looked at him and dry mouthed sputtered can I have some of your water. He kindly obliged and I got a few calories and water in. He was hurting bad from the fall he took down the icy hill at Flathorn. We ran together for a bit talking about this and that. He would share his water with me every for miles and I greatly appreciated it. Time seemed to go faster with his company and my mind wandered less to the comfortable things. 

The final stretch to the 5 Star Tent checkpoint went on forever. Tim would stop every few minutes to lay in the snow and stretch out his back and I found myself more and more often needing to bend over and stretch out my legs. The cramping had become so severe I was constantly making a plan for the next check point which involved a Skratch Labs Rescue drink and a lot of salt. When the checkpoint finally came into view we told ourselves we would be quick and get as fast as we could the 11 miles to Eagle Crest Lodge. The tent cabin was warm and inviting and being able to sit down never felt so good. Tim took his shoes and socks off and his feet looked like hell. I should have changed my socks too but instead I continued to stick it out. A couple people there had given up, and I made a pack with Tim that we would not give up. We were making it to the finish even if it took us 48hrs.

When we left 5 star tent we were moving well. We chatted about our families and friends. Tim was excited to have dry socks on and I was excited to finally have some salt in me. Miles passed and my body started to deteriorate again. My thoughts wondered to the bikers who by now were showered and sleeping in a warm bed. The race was a memory to them. Something they did yesterday. But for us we were only half way done and it was still very much a reality. 1 am, 2 am, 3 am... it was early and I was wide awake belting the lyrics to I believe I can fly. Tim on the other hand was exhausted he wanted to sleep. I encouraged him and we kept moving. The air had gotten colder and our breath lingered around our faces. Every time Tim would breath a cloud of minty fresh air would sit in the air and I would walk straight though it. He was chewing gum at this point to keep himself awake.

When we reached Eagles Crest Lodge it was the last point we had to give up and we were determined to finish. I finally got to use a bathroom inside and see the carnage the sled had done to my hips. We left the Lodge early in the morning and were headed towards Cows Lake. We knew we would be watching the sunrise on the way. A few miles from the lodge I was hurting again. The weight of sled was taking a toll on me. I needed to make it lighter. We stopped and dumped all of our liquids from the sled. We were now just sharing one camelbacks worth of water between the two of us. We sat down in the darkness and laughed about all the shit in the sled we didn't need to bring. But we weren't going to drag it all the way out here for nothing. So we lit up the jet boil and made a cup of hot chocolate. The best cup of hot chocolate I've ever had.

As the sun rose we could finally turn our headlamps off and Tim made a comment about all of my hair being frozen. Next the hallucinations started to begin. We had been moving for 24 hours non stop at this point with over 30 miles left to go. Giant houses with airplanes and dog kennels appeared and disappeared in the woods. Tim was seeing similar things and a few times we would ask confirmation on if something was there or not. I found myself falling farther and farther behind Tim. In an effort to keep up I would walking directly behind him in his foot prints. This seemed to help the time pass but I found myself getting fatigued faster. The steep icy uphills with the sled felt traitorous and the icy descents often ended in me and the sled sliding down together... involuntary. 

When we reached Cow Lake we knew we weren't going to make it to the finish in the daylight but we hoped we could at least make it to the 90 mile mark at sunset. This was the hardest stretch for me. The trail jerked steep up and then steep down and repeated this for miles on end. A few times I found myself taking the sled off and sending it down the hill without me. Tim at this point was well ahead of me. He would a go three or four miles and then fall asleep on the trail and I would wake him up when I finally caught up and we continued  to do this almost the entire way to mile 90. The checkpoint never felt like it was going to come and we passed under power lines for a few miles. Out to the left something caught our eye. A moose I screamed! It quickly turned and looked at us and I immediately regretted my decision to shout. It started to kick its legs and for a few moments I wondered if I was hallucinating it but now Tim saw it too. The checkpoint was right around the corner and I pounded a pop-tart and a bottle of water before we started the final stretch to the finish. We were going to actually do it! This 10 mile stretch went quickly while Tim and I talked about everything to distract ourselves from our current situation. We planned our ways of destroying the sled. Burning, pissing, running over it with a car. We were determined to never do this again. A couple of times Tim shouted in fear of an actual hallucinated moose and I thought I saw Corbin on the side of the trail multiple times.

When the finish finally came into sight I thought I was going to cry. My body was depleted and my mind was too. Corbin cheered us on as we pulled the sled up the final hill. 36 hours on my feet with 40 hours of no sleep and we were finally done. Tim and I laughed about the craziness we just endured and we sat inside eating and drinking food for a bit. I know for a fact I would have never finished if it wasn’t for Tim pulling me along the last 30 miles.

Now came the biggest challenge. The race was over and now my body was done. I tried to stand up but couldn't. Corbin carried my limp body to the car where I finally took my shoes off for the first time since starting two days ago. Pruney, white, bruised, swollen, and blistered. The pain was so extreme I wanted to cry. In my delirious state I asked Corbin to cut my legs off. And then I was out. Corbin said I would moan every once and awhile and say words like pop and then laugh. When I regained consciousness we were at the hotel. I was still hallucinating and I smelled bad of piss and sweat. Corbin dragged my limp legs into the hotel and pushed me in a wheel chair to the room where he dumped me out on the floor. I was determined to make it to the bath tub. But my legs didn't work and I laid on the hotel floor in pain.

I wanted out of my smelly clothes and I wanted a shower. I got naked on the floor and Corbin lifted my body into a warm bath. I've never felt so helpless in my life then when I asked Corbin to supervise so I wouldn't drowned. The warm water felt nice but I soon went into shock convulsing and violently shivering. He lifted me from the tub and toweled my off before placing me in the bed. He then elevated my legs, forced calories and water down my throat, and iced my knees before falling asleep. I don't know what I would have done with out him. I slept like shit from the pain maybe getting one or two hours. In the morning I urged Corbin to go ski and I laid helpless in bed for hours. Tossing and turning moaning in pain. But without Corbin there to help I became mobile. At first using trekking poles to get around and stand in the shower, and then fully supporting myself as I limped around. 

As we headed back to Tahoe that night my legs seemed to get better as my exhaustion increased. I would fall asleep everywhere and on everything in an instance. 

I learned a lot and I appreciate more now then ever before the importance of foot maintenance. Hopefully my next 100 will feel a little bit easier after that... and it will most definitely not involve pulling a sled!!

2 Comments

Run a Fun-K and Join a Running Club

Comment

Run a Fun-K and Join a Running Club

Let’s talk about me for a second. I gave up racing after cross country in high school because I didn’t like the person I had become. I’ve always been a super competitive person coming from team sports like soccer and basketball. I feel in love with running when I was a Freshman in high school after giving up team sports. I joined the cross country team and realized the excitement of competing against yourself and the elements and not against the people around you. Running was physically hard and the personal challenge intrigued me. I took a class specifically in running and training from BYU and started to realize how limitless the body was with proper training. I moved to Colorado after finishing high school and decided to take an academic life style and give up running. Two days into living in CO I discovered rock climbing thanks to my cousin Anthony who was living there at the time. This community of people covering ground in the vertical world was exciting. I was hooked. But then I discovered the CO 14ers. I spent three years in Colorado running, climbing, and summiting tall peaks but doing it because I enjoyed it not because I needed to train. I accepted a job in SF shortly there after and moved to the city. I hated everything about it and used running as an outlet for my stress. I ran every day of the week and quickly discovered the crazy community of ultra runners in the Bay area. I became strong and raced my first 10k with in weeks of moving. The stress that overcame me and all the pressure to train was overwhelming and though I was the third female finisher I never wanted to do it again. Racing to me wasn’t worth it. I wanted to run because I loved to run not because I needed to place in some position in a race. 

So I looked into a running club. Running with other people is way better then running alone. I discovered the San Francisco Running Company which was just down the road from where I was living. Excited to meet like mind people I introduced myself and showed interest in there Saturday group runs. The lady said to me “We do a minimum of 20 miles on Saturdays. You probably couldn’t keep up.” That stuck with me. I never did show up to a group run instead fell back in with the community I felt welcomed in, the climbing community. Yosemite is the only place I’ve ever felt fully at home, and I consider the people there family. Everyone is pushing the human limits, and everyone is excited to see other people succeed. Those were my people.

Fast forward to a year later. I’m gearing up to make an attempt on Nolan’s 14 a burly mountain run through the mountains that I first fell in love with. I’m not racing against other people. I’m racing against the power of my mind. Against the will power in my being and against the muscles in my thighs. This is were I fell in love with running again. Traversing large amounts of terrain in rugged environments with nothing but your body. I ran big runs in Tahoe, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, and Zion but I had a big question mark in my mind. If you change the way you approach racing can racing be fun? Can it be just like training for a mountain objective like Nolan’s 14? I also didn’t have any runner friends. I often found myself out alone or dragging a climber through the mountains. My other question was were there people like me in the ultra running world?

I moved away from San Francisco for good and settled in to Tahoe. This is when I decided to give racing and running clubs another chance. I picked the Susitna 100 in Alaska because it seemed the closest race to not being a race. The extreme cold and rugged environment make the race more of a race against yourself then against other people. I also chose to become a member of the Donner Party Mountain Runners. I admittedly was nervous at first. To me running clubs carry a clique vibe. Everyone knows each other and everyone runs together and the new person is usually greeted with judgment of speed and fitness. But this was different. I was immediately welcomed with kind words and encouragement. They invited me on group runs and even to run one on one. These weren’t the San Francisco ultra runners that won’t welcome you in unless you place a certain time in a certain race. These were the mountain runners. The people I had been searching for in the running world. 

Needless to say I decided to tackle my hatred for racing again this time in a snowshoe 10K hosted by the DPMR. The race was fast and fun and I got third but honestly it didn’t matter. I never stressed or felt any pressure and that was all that mattered. Next stop Alaska.

You can catch the running clubs newsletter here with a few of my blog posts in it DPMR Newsletter! Not to mention if your in the Tahoe sign up and drop me a line! Let's run together!

Comment

Extreme Cold Fueling

Comment

Extreme Cold Fueling

So what do you eat when it's freezing outside and everything that has water in it is frozen? Ever try to bite into a rock solid Clif Bar or suck back a very solid goo... It is not fun. So I am facing this dilemma in regards to the Susitna 100. Libby and I also had a small issue with this in Zion as well. Our solution on the go, in the cold but not terribly freezing temperatures, was to rotate goos into our legging pockets after eating one so that it would have enough time to warm up by the time we had to take the next one. This may have been a good solution for us at the time but what happens when its -20 degrees out and you need fuel right now and everything is frozen!?

Dehydrated everything. You can't have anything that has water in it. People have recommended dried fish and dried beef jerky along with dried fruits and veggies. This however is a bit of an issue. I am a vegetarian and have been for a long time. Downing a packet of beef jerky in the middle of a 100 miler sounds like the last thing I want to do. As for dried fruits and veggies they will work, but I am looking for something with sugar, salt, and calories without having to eat a pound of dried cranberries. So I reached out to Skratch Labs hoping for answers to my problem. They suggested making my own goos they didn't give me an exact recipe but pointed me in the direction of a recipe and this is what I made up from a combination of a few recipes and just from my mind. So take it with a grain of salt (pun intended) and modify as you like!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large egg
  • 2.5 cups of raspberry Skratch powder
  • .5 cup of water
  • 1 cup of marmalade
  • half a stick of salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Gear:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large pot
  • Spoon
  • Optional: wax paper, edged pan, whisk

Cooking Directions:

  • Combine Skratch mix, water, butter, and tartar in pot. Stir on medium heat until Skratch mix and butter is completely dissolved and then bring to a boil.
  • Let boil for a few seconds and then add the marmalade and stir until it is completely dissolved and boiling.
  • In the mixing bowl add the egg and beat for a few seconds. 
  • Slowly pour the syrup into the mixing bowl while still mixing.
  • Beat with a spoon or whisk for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Place the bowl outside your van in the snow over night 

OR

  • Line a edged pan with wax paper and pour the mixture into the pan. Then place it in the freezer over night.
  • In the morning the mixture should be a little harder but not stiff.
  • Scoop the contents into a jar for storage and or plastic baggies for on the run and or wrap in Skratch paper tubes for on the go.

Comment

Ultrarunning Podcast Laughs

2 Comments

Ultrarunning Podcast Laughs

I peed in a water bottle in the back of a Subaru Forrester while recording a podcast for DFL Ultrarunning.

The stories a little deeper then that though. So I woke up on MLK day in Truckee. I hopped in the car and headed west towards the Bay. I shot Libby a text telling her I might be late for the podcast we had planned to record at noon. We had tried to record the podcast about three days earlier but had technical difficulties with being in three separate cities. I had to be in the Bay for work so we figured it would be easiest to just meet up and do it then. The pass on i80 was chain controlled and it had been raining/snowing non stop for three days... But oddly enough I made record time and was an hour early. I met up with Libby and we grabbed a boba tea from across the street before starting to figure out logistics for recording. Libby lives in a shack outside a climbing gym and doesn't get very good internet. The climbing gym itself would be too loud. So Libby had the great idea to back her Subaru Forrester up against the gym and we could sit in the back and poach the gym wifi. 

So here we are with the Subaru backed up in the do not park spot just to the right of the handicapped spot and subsequently right in front of the entrance to the gym. I finished my tea and we Skyped on with Eric from the podcast. Everything was going great until half way through the Yosemite story when I had to pee... but by half way through talking about the Grand Canyon I realized it was an emergency and I was never going to make it through talking about Zion. So I mouthed to Libby "I NEED TO GO PEE" she read my lips and and didn't know the emergency state I was in. I pointed to right outside the car door. She shook her head no. I was at the pee your pants state. She handed me the laptop and I filled some time talking about the rest stop outside the Grand Canyon. When she returned she handed me a bottle and my eyes lit up. I handed her the laptop quickly ripped down my pants and started peeing in the bottle... In the back of a Subaru directly beside the entrance of the climbing gym. Libby turned the laptop away so you couldn't hear the pee hitting the bottle but the whole scene was too much to not laugh a little. I pulled my pants up and capped the bottle off and continued talking as Libby burst into laughter. We were really good but the laughing blew our cover. We have really proven to not be the best at planning. Give it a listen if you have the time. DFL Podcast Episode 60


2 Comments

Where to Run with a Sled (in Tahoe)

Comment

Where to Run with a Sled (in Tahoe)

So you built this sick running sled and now you want to know where you can run with it. Well thats a tall order. In Tahoe it seems like you can barely get enough flat miles in to actually feel like you ran with it. Every trail seems to want to go up up up. So I’ve been out and about running around with my sled trying to find the places that offer more than a few 1 mile laps of meh running. Here are the current goods I’ll try to update this as I find more gems in the area.

Castle Peak - Options to go on the rolling PCT or to run on the moderately flat Donner Lake Rim Trail
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.339750, -120.350162

Deep Creek - An initial uphill followed by lots of flat. This gets skinned a lot so follow the skin tracks (but not in the skin track)
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.258776, -120.211609

Donner State Park/ Coldstream - Roads and roads and roads of rolling snow to run! Or just run around the mega flat state park.
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.321503, -120.230272

Tahoe Meadows - A few miles of flat mostly snowshoers and snowmobiles
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.307656, -119.908443

Spooner Lake - Flat and a 2.1 mile loop… Lap it out for hours.
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.107080, -119.913613

Prosser Hill - Flat OHV roads big and wide
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.386975, -120.184195


All that being said you can most definitely always go to a groomed cross-country resort to get that good long work out in. People will look at your funny but who cares you’re training! Some good ones include:

Tahoe Donner and Royal Gorge

Comment

How To Build A Running Sled

Comment

How To Build A Running Sled

So you've found yourself in a situation. You are running a 100 miler in Alaska in the middle of winter. The race requires you to carry 15lbs of survival gear on you at all times and you decide that is too much to carry on your back. So what do you do!? Build a sled of course! Lets also say you want to build this sled in about 3 hours from stuff you can get from around town... Well you have come to the right place because I have done all the hard stuff for you.

Step 1: Convince yourself that running 100 miles in Alaska in the winter is a good idea and register for the race.

Step 2: Move to a snowy climate so you can train.

Step 3: Re-convince yourself that running 100 miles in Alaska in the winter is a good idea.

Step 4: Training in cold weather conditions without a sled.

Step 5: Realize that you should really be training with a sled.

Step 6: Gather materials for the sled.
-Cheap kid sled from your local gas station
-2 Carabiners
-30ft of static cord
-Backpack belt
-25 large zip ties
-2 5ft and 1/2in PVC pipe
-1 Large duffle bag or custom made sled topper (made by my awesome mom)
-Power drill with two drill bits (based on cord/zip ties size)
-Lighter and Scissors
-1 Black Lab for moral support

Step 7: Drill 10 holes on each side of the sled.

Step 8: Place custom made sled cover in sled and use scissors to punch holes in fabric at the exact holes. (if using a duffle just buy bungee cord and strap the duffle in the sled then skip to Step 11)

Step 9: Accidentally stab your finger with the very sharp scissors

Step 10: Place quick ties in holes and fasten them tightly and cut the extra plastic

Step 11: Drill two large holes in the front of sled (and two in the back if custom sled)

Step 12: Cut cord in thirds.

Step 13: Thread cord down through front holes and tie an over hand not on the bottom and top.

Step 14: Slide PVC pipe over cord and clove hitch or whatever knot you want to the carabiners.

Step 15: Clip Carabiners to backpack waste belt (cross them in the back for more control).

Step 16: Run around your house in it because it's a damn sexy sled.

Step 17: Melt those knots!

Step 18: Okay go drink some hot tea because you're done. And now the hard part of actually training with it is upon you. The following steps are for my custom sled.

Step 19: Cut the remaining cord in half.

Step 20: Thread through the back holes and tie a knot on the bottom.

Step 21: Thread through the tie down straps and tie to the front of the sled.

Step 22: Now you are done too and can drink some hot tea before going outside with it.

Hope that helped maybe just a little! Feel free to reach out and ask me anything else. (I named it Clifford the big red sled)

Comment

Triple Crown of Trail Running

Comment

Triple Crown of Trail Running

The Triple Crown of trail running encompasses approximately 100 miles and 25,000 feet of elevation gain. 3 Rivers, 6 Rims, 3 National Parks, 2 Months, 2 Chicks, 4 Sticks. The Rim to Rim to Rim of Yosemite, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. As climbers going fast and light in the mountains is really important. Being able to cover large amounts of distance in a short amount of time with only your legs and large amounts of gels is the name of the game. We coined it the Triple Crown of trail running because of the famous triple crown in our home park linking El cap, Watkins, and Half dome.

So what exactly is this made up adventure the Triple Crown of trail running you might ask. Here are the separate trip reports:
Yosemite Trip Report - Topo and Elevation Profile
Grand Canyon Trip Report - Topo and Elevation Profile
Zion Trip Report - Topo and Elevation Profile

Though you don’t have to do them in any particular order we seemed to do them in increasing in difficulty. Not as a strategy more as an accident. Yosemite is the shortest of the three at about 17 miles and 7,000 feet of elevation gain. A start at Glacier Point sends you down to the valley via the 4 mile trail. The valley is only about half a mile wide so it’s fast progress getting to the Yosemite falls trail were you ascend quickly and then return the way you came. We completed this in the end of October when the days where longest and we were on familiar terrain. Our Grand Canyon adventure happened a month later right before Thanksgiving. The days were shorter and the distance was more than doubled with even more elevation gain. We had perfect weather though for late November. Covering 44 miles and about 12,000 feet of elevation gain via the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails. The final and star of the entire adventure was Zion. We completed Zion on the shortest day of the year right before Christmas. Night running, snow, and cold for hours on end as we charged for about 40 miles and 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Navigating the East and West Rim Trails of the valley.

I could talk your ear off for hours about these amazing adventures. There is no way to really see a park then by experiencing it by foot. I hope you get inspired and hike or run these lines as well!

Comment

Rim River Rim River Rim *of Zion

Comment

Rim River Rim River Rim *of Zion

Bang Bang Bang! There was a loud knock on the door of Libby’s mothers house. Who could that be we thought? When we opened the door it was the cops. “Excuse me miss but we got a call from a neighbor about a suspicious econoline van being parked outside this residence.” Ironically I had just crawled from my bed in the back of the van maybe two hours earlier. It is my home and even when offered a bed in a house I often choose the van. Libby consoled the officers letting them know it was fine and everyone went on there way. So what were Libby and I doing in Las Vegas a few days before Christmas? Let’s rewind.

The idea to run the Rim to Rim to Rim of Zion happened a little after the half way point of the Grand Canyon. It was Libby’s idea and in the moment it seemed like the best idea ever. We trotted along the trail scheming about how easy Zion would be. I distinctly remember us saying something along the lines of “At least we have the hardest one almost done. Zion will be easier than Yosemite!” The planning was immediate, laying in the back of the van legs paralyzed from the Grand Canyon and already looking at topos for Zion. You would have thought we might have, just maybe, learned something from the beating we just endured. Runners highs will do weird things to the brain. The initial idea was to run from the river to observation point back down to the river up to angels landing and back down. However this would be considered a River Rim River Rim River… and that just didn’t fit right with us. 

A few weeks went by and Libby and I had planned out the epic three day adventure for the end of December. This time it involved a van, plane, and a Las Vegas rendezvous. I didn’t do much of any running between the Grand Canyon and Zion and I didn’t expect Libby to have either. Libby was in Ukraine being a bad ass nurse healing hearts, and I was in the Bay quitting my job. I picked Libby up on December 19th from the Las Vegas airport. I was already in the area because the previous few days I was climbing with my sister and friends in the St. George and Red Rocks area. That night we got an alright sleep and in the morning was when the cops showed up. We ran a few errands and then headed for our bivy spot outside of Zion.

The plan had changed from the original idea and we were now going to run the East Rim Trail to the West Rim Trail back to the East Rim Trail this would be a total of about 60 miles round trip and allow us to do a proper Rim River Rim River Rim. Our longest run yet. Since we both live in California winter isn’t really a season. And the past couple of years that was the truth. Climbing in tank tops in Yosemite in December and running in a snowless Tahoe in January. I for some reason had this idea that there wouldn’t be much if any snow in Zion. But we called up the backcountry office to get the details on the trails. They pretty much said I don’t know it might be snowy. I imagined a few hours of post holing in knee deep snow on the rims followed by lots of dry and fun trail running. I couldn’t have been farther from what we were about to endure.

We woke up at 4:50am and started towards the East entrance. We wanted to start moving close to dawn. The roads were icy and as we got closer to the East Rim the snow on the sides of the road became more and more apparent. We both packed our bags and stuffed a bagel and cream cheese down our throats. It was about to be a long day of goo, trail butter, and baby food. We were a few miles in when the sun finally rose. It was this brilliant red. Libby made a comment about a red sky being a bad sign. We were about to see a lot of bad signs. We charged through the snow for a few hours. We kept thinking the snow would lessen as we lost elevation but it seemed to just be getting thicker. The crunchy snow turned our ankles side to side and stressed our metatarsals. While the champagne powder felt like quick sand as it splashed up over our knees. The moving was slower than we had expected and we kept trying to make mental notes of the surroundings just incase if the storm hit early and covered our tracks. 

As the sun rose it was hard to tell that it did. The ominous sky was gray and was foreshadowing for the storm forecasted for that night. The sun never graced our skin and I stayed tightly covered all morning. As we ran through the snow we could hear the woods come a live in the morning. The barking of the coyotes in the distances and the sound of snow crunching under our feet. It felt therapeutic almost like meditating. We barely talked mostly because it was hard to hear each other over the sound of snow crunch. 

We came across a few trail junctions and ended up following a fainter trail that went out right. I was hesitant and shouted back to Libby about getting the map out. We never did and continued to trudge on. I was following the tracks of a single person which should have been the first warning but by the time we reached a trailhead half a mile from the junction it was clear we had made a wrong turn. A little extra mile detour to add to the mornings joy. We turned around and got back on the correct trail. We need to keep moving. It was after all the shortest day of the year.

A few miles from the trail junction the trail was covered in blood… fresh blood. It was scary seeing the white snow so bright red. It looked like a bunny had been eaten for breakfast and we took that as another bad sign for the day. We continued down hill in a couple of areas that were definitely no fall zones. We were loosing elevation quickly and I joked that running was my favorite snow activity as we sneaker skied down pillows of powder. Soon the view of the valley came into sight. It was breath taking and we were both relieved to finally be making some sort of progress after what felt like forever of snow slogging. Libby wasn’t doing well. She was already setting the ground work for an early turn around. She said just letting you know that we may just do Angels Landing and then turn around. My knees are hurting really bad and it’s early to be having this much pain she reiterated. I reassured her that I would do whatever she felt was right. Though an early turn around at Angels Landing was feeling very enticing. The thought of being out here in the dark for 7 or 8 hours in a potential snow storm was making me nervous as well. 

We hit the trail junction for Observation Point and finally found a place to slip on our spikes. Now it was just the quick run down to the Weeping Rock. We made quick progress of this with the extra sure footing that the spikes on our feet had to offer, and I snapped a few pictures of the views to distract myself from the extremely urgent need to poo. It was quickly becoming an emergency. As I stood a thousand feet above the trailhead toilet I peered down at what seemed like my freedom. I looked back at Libby and said I’ll see you at the bottom as I launched myself into a full out sprint. The trail was packed with early morning hikers and I wasn’t about to ruin there morning with an explosion of trail side diarrhea. Though for a few minutes I thought it was inevitable. My gait opened wide and I let gravity take me down the trail, across the parking lot, and into the bathroom. Without even time to lock the door, backpack still on my back, I pulled my pants down just enough and lost control. I can most definitely say that was the closest I have ever been to shitting my pants.

Pants up and spikes off, Libby and I made our way on the mile long section of road between the Weeping Rock trailhead and the Grotto. The Grotto was the only place we would be able to fill up water that we knew of so we made sure to drink a lot and fill up as much as possible. We never stopped for very long because it was so cold. The longer we stopped the more cold we got so our stops were often quick and to the point. It was surprisingly cold even down in the valley which was not a good sign for the weather on the rims. When we headed up the Angels Landing trail we decided we weren’t going to make a decision until we got to the split between Angels Landing and the West Rim trail. I knew Libby was leaning more towards the Angels Landing option but I still had some fight left in me. We charged up the trail in a extremely fast pace. We were finally hitting our second wind. By the time we reached the junction I knew we should keep going and Libby did too. It was very apparent at this point how low Angels Landing actually is from the true rim. It does not even get close to the West Rim height. Loosing a little elevation and then gain some again we finally reached the West Rim. 

We sat down and looked at the map. We had planned to take the Telephone Canyon trail which would save us about 2 miles of distance getting to the West Rim trailhead. Unfortunately since the recent snow fall nobody had taken that trail and it was completely untracked. Our lack of a GPS left us in a tricky situation. Do the longer option adding another 20 miles on to our trip and risk getting stuck in a snow storm, in the dark, in an unfamiliar park. To me we had already finished half of our goal. We had run Rim to River to Rim now all we had to do was get all the way back to the van. Tagging the trailhead of the West Rim would be nice but it was where it was located so far away because of where the road ran not because of where the true rim was. Running from trailhead to trailhead in the Grand Canyon made sense because the trailheads were actually at the rims but for Zion the trailheads were 10+ miles from the rims just because of the nature of the valley. Here was the dilemma Libby was jet lagged, in pain, afraid of the dark, and nervous about the weather. I was nervous about the weather, in pain, and afraid of the dark. We made the call. We turned around at the rim and we both kicked ourselves at first. Trying to justify our decisions. We played it safe and I think we made the right call for us as a team, on this day, with these conditions. But because we are both motivated people it was hard to turn around. But the faster and faster we lost elevation and the darker and darker the sky got the better I felt about our decision.

We had committed to our decision and there was no turning back now. Libby kept commenting the faster we move the faster we get back. It kept us moving. Nothing seemed more exciting then laying in my bed in the back of the van. I wanted to make it up the East Rim climbs before it got dark. The route finding was a bit cryptic and I wanted to avoid getting lost at all costs. We ran down the paved Angels Landing trail wincing with every move. Filled back up at the Grotto and made our way along the road for the final mile before heading back up the East Rim. At this point we still head 11 miles to go and a ton of elevation to climb. It was around 3 pm and the sun was already setting.

When we put our spikes on at the bottom of the Weeping Rock we knew we wouldn’t be taking them off until we got to the van. I struggle to run in the spikes because they tweaked my previously broken first metatarsal just right that by this point the pain was not just ultra pains but broken bone pains. Something I was not unfamiliar with when it comes to running. Up we went hardly talking at all. We were on a mission to get the hell out of this canyon before we had lost all of the light. We made it up both major climbs before we needed to strap on our head lamps. We were 5 miles from the van and in complete darkness. There was no moon or stars because of the storm clouds. The worst part of this all was that we were now in the woods. My headlamp illuminated the snow in front of me which showed tracks of animals coming in and out of the woods. Nothing feels more eerie then being in the snowy woods at night. I kept my creeped out feelings to myself and agreed with Libby to stay close. Heads down we studied the tracks on the trail, bunnies, deer, coyotes, maybe cats, human foot prints, big human feet, little human feet. It wasn’t fun but we kept moving and in the silence I would think of the worst case scenarios and then quickly forget and daydream about laying in my bed getting a back and calf massage. Every time I lifted my headlamp I half expected to catch the glow of an animals eyes but never did. I was happy about that.

We had done really well about fueling and kept a good strategy all the way up to the end. About 2 miles from the van we both popped a goo and congratulated ourselves on never having to eat another goo for a really long time. I was feeling very sick and barely kept down the last 3 goos I had taken. All I wanted was real food. Anything of substance anything to stay down. When we made it back to the van everything went away. All of the fears of getting lost everything. It was all over we could rest now. Eating a little here and there and changing a few layers we both examined our bodies. Our feet didn’t fare well… blisters, bruises, and sores. I know it would be a long few days of compression, stretching, and icing. But our ultra was far from over as always. We still had to drive back to Las Vegas.

I hoped behind the drivers wheel and started to make our way slowly towards the interstate… very slowly. My night vision is terrible and so are my headlights on the van. Poking along at 20 to 30 miles under the speed limit we made progress. This isn’t anything new. Libby laughed remembering how slowly I drove away from the Grand Canyon. It almost felt like deja vu… until the flashing lights showed up in my mirror. O boy I was getting pulled over. The officer came up to the window and was surprised to see two emaciated females behind the wheel. I half expected him to be pulling me over for going way under the speed limit but instead he told me my license plate light was out and gave me a warning. If there is one thing I know, driving a creeper van sure does draw the attention of the cops. 

We headed on our way and I stopped at a Mavericks to get gas. I put the pump in the van and hobbled to the bathroom. I was surprised though I felt much better then after the Grand Canyon. When I returned to the van I opened the drivers door to find Libby hanging out the passenger side and like any good friend ran to take a picture. The first vomit of the day which was then followed by several other vomits at different Mavericks along the way back to Vegas. By the time we got home Libby limped into the house, and I crawled into the back of the van. I could finally relax it was finally all over for a bit. I crawled into my sleeping back and tried to fall asleep. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be so lucky. The pain in my broken foot was excruciating and I tossed and turned all night unable to sleep. When I woke I was worked. Libby gave me some pain medicine but it didn’t seem to take the edge off. It had been 6 months since I broke it but I guess I never really rested it. RICEing real hard right now. Libby headed off to the airport to go back to her job in the bay and I loaded up Lopi and my sister and headed back to do some climbing in Red Rocks. Like always life returns back to normal faster than you’d expect.

Comment

Rim River Rim River Rim *of the Grand Canyon

1 Comment

Rim River Rim River Rim *of the Grand Canyon

So here I sit. Legs up a wall and laptop slightly falling into my face while I try to type in this awkward position. I am searching to find the words to explain the amazing adventure we had in the Grand Canyon. I hope I can capture it here.

It was September some time and I was in the Valley. I tried to motivate to climb but instead I joined the gathering of climbers sitting in the shade around Tom Evans. We must have sat there all day talking about climbing and everything in between. Cheering on the crushers pushing in the heat to send El Cap. I was on the tail end of my fractured foot and itching to get back out running long distances. The previous morning I had free soloed Tenaya Peak, and that morning I had motivated to get in a short run up Cathedral gully finally boulder hopping my way back down at a clipping speed with minimal pain. Needless to say, I was feeling rather invincible. So there I was sitting in the meadow dreaming about my next big objective. Nolan’s 14 crushed me and breaking my foot had made dealing with the crushing even worse, but now I was coming back and ready to train. 

Libby and I on the yoga mat. Photo Credit: Tom Evans http://www.elcapreport.com/ 

The idea to run the Grand Canyon had been in my mind for about a year now. In my mind I always imagined it being this epic feat of days on days on days of running, but when I finally sat down and Googled the distance it only came out to about 42 miles. I was psyched that seemed reasonable and totally doable in a day. The only problem was that I wanted a partner. I made the bad decision to attempt Nolan’s 14 alone. Though I don’t regret it. I think it would have been much more enjoyable with company. This however is a problem I face often. I don’t hang out in running circles. I hang out with climbers. Badass crusher climbers, who don’t particularly enjoy running or at least running for hours on end. But sitting in the meadow my foot finally healing, stoke level high, and sharing a yoga mat with Libby Sauter I had an idea. Libby, an expert in suffering and badass crusher climber, had been running a little bit. A very little bit. I later found out only 5 times in the past 4 years since badly breaking her leg. I thought Libby would be the perfect partner, she’s determined and not afraid to suffer. So on a whim I asked her if she wanted to run the Grand Canyon with me around Thanksgiving. Initially she wasn’t sure if I was serious, but then she got stoked. The only problem was that we had about two months to train for a massive run, and I was still recovering from a broken foot and she had some big El Cap plans.

All this to say we trained… actually not at all. We met up once in Yosemite Valley to run the Rim River Rim River Rim of Yosemite which entailed starting at glacier point running down the 4 mile trail across the valley up the Yosemite falls trail down the Yosemite falls trail across the valley up the 4 mile trail. Roughly 20 miles and approximately 9,000 feet of elevation gain which meant 9,000 feet of elevation loss as well. It would simulate about half of what running the Grand Canyon would be like. When we finished we felt good but that quickly turned into calf cramps and funny walking. In only 3 more weeks it would be the real thing and we would be deep in the Grand Canyon not on the familiar terrain of the Sierras.

 

We were on a tight schedule. A super tight schedule. Libby only had 3 days off of work so we knew we would be pushing hard to drive down, run, and drive back. But we were psyched! We met up Thursday night made sure we had all of the essentials and started the journey to the Grand Canyon. I had chatted up one of my good friends who guides down there and he made plans to meet us in the bottom of the canyon and help pace us out. Unfortunately he bailed last minute for splitter climbing in Red Rocks. I couldn’t blame him. I’d rather be climbing in Red Rocks instead of running the Grand Canyon. At this point I had entered the apprehension phase, as I like to call it. It’s a phase that happens during all big objectives. The phase where you doubt all of your training and doubt you ability to do anything and everything every again. You think about how great it would be to just take this time and do some nice warm sport climbing in Red Rocks instead of dragging your ass across the Grand Canyon and back. During this phase you come up with a million different ways to get out of doing what you had planned to do. Sometimes you even draft up a text to your partner explaining how your recently fractured foot or bad head cold is going to keep you from following through on your plans. You never do send anything. This phase always passes, but I think it’s natural to feel this way sometimes.

Libby and I drove most of the night Thursday night before tucking away in a interstate rest stop off the 5. The next morning we finished the drive talking about everything and anything to pass the time and getting more and more nervous as the landscape quickly changed to desert. We talked about water mostly. Mainly because we were trying to hydrate, which entailed peeing every 150 miles on the side of interstate. This made the drive drag on forever. And also because Libby had expressed concerns about a 30 mile stretch of the canyon that might be waterless. We talked about it a lot and she planned to carry more water because of it. I on the other hand was very unconcerned about the water issue. I felt like a liter and a half was more than enough for the sections we couldn’t fill up at. I continually tried to assure her we would be fine and it wouldn’t be a big deal. This has often been a fault of mine. I tend to take a no big deal attitude to a lot of things that are actually a pretty big deal. Being with out water in the Grand Canyon with no way of getting out but by foot would have been a pretty fucking big deal. When you first come into the canyon it is littered with signs warning death by dehydration. Maybe Libby was right. I was about to find out.

When we got to the Grand Canyon Friday night the sun had just set. We drove to the entrance gate to ask the rangers questions about trailheads and water. They assured us the water would be off from Phantom Ranch to the North Rim and gave us instructions on parking for the South Kaibab trail. It looked like we would have to park a mile away from the trailhead which meant we would be adding an extra 2 miles on to the run, one before and one after finishing the canyon. When you are already running 42 miles an extra 2 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal. We drove out of the park and slept in a hotel parking lot about 5 minutes away from the entrance. We got the van organized and started to pack our food talking about what and how much we needed for fueling. The excitement started to surge inside of me. It was finally going to happen. We made a game plan for the morning. We would wake up at 4:50am and drive into the park locating the pull out where we could leave the van. Then we would eat breakfast, get dressed, and prepare any more food and water for the trail. We wanted to be running just as the sky got light enough to see. We were in bed by 7pm.

Click headlamps on. It was morning and I was excited. We drove into the park and found the parking spot no problems. We quickly prepared and peered out into the darkness. It was 5am and the moon was set. The night was dark. Very dark. But not only dark it was bone chilling cold and the icing on the cake was the wind. We knew the night running would be slow so we wanted to make sure we did the down hill in the daylight maximizing our fresh legs and gravity. We both laid in my bed in the van in our warm sleeping bags just waiting for dawn to break. Staring out the windshield we laid in silence. At 6:15 am it was time to go. Everything on, car keys check, time to go! A quick glance at the clock showed 6:22 am as we started our way on the paved rim trail. We quickly gained warmth and Libby shed her puffy before we even got to the trailhead. At the trailhead we didn’t miss a beat plummeting down the extremely icy trail and trying not to loose it in front of a few men standing with there hands on there watches looking like they were ready to start what we had started a few minutes earlier. When the trail stopped being icy we knew we were rapidly loosing altitude and could relax a little bit. Libby looked back at me and said “I think we are going to get passed today. Those guys looked fast.” As the sun rose the canyon opened up below us. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was beautiful.

We made quick progress of the South Rim. Using the GoPro a lot and taking photos of the views. We had both forgotten to use sunscreen which we feared would by a huge problem by the end. Libby joked “A ginger and a cuban run the Grand Canyon without sunscreen. Which one gets more burnt?” followed by “A runner and rock climber run the Grand Canyon. Which one gets more worked?” Libby shouted “Damn it I get fucked in all these scenarios!!” When the Colorado River finally came into sight we felt a relief that 1/4 of the objectives was finished only 3 more to go. The trail was closed for a bit which redirected us through a campground but we kept moving till we got to Phantom Ranch. At Phantom Ranch we chatted up the tourists and refilled our water. Our plan was to carry a little extra water for another 5 miles and then stash it before summiting the North Rim. This would help break up the 30 mile stretch which we feared could be waterless. Libby took an extra 2 Liters and I added an extra 1 Liter to my pack. We headed for the North Rim. The problem with the North Rim is that it is ever so slightly going up hill for 15 miles. So slightly that you don’t really notice it and don’t understand why the flats feel so hard. We made progress but barely talked at all. We had distance between us and the extra weight on our backs wasn’t helping our speed. We stashed the water were we thought would be appropriate and felt a little lighter and faster. Less then a mile from our stash we came up on the campground below the North Rim. It looked under construction and a few people were milling about. I tried the water and to my surprise it began to run. Damn it I thought we didn’t need to bring all that extra water! O well we kept moving. By the time we reached the final 5 mile push which ascends the North Rim we couldn’t believe how terrible that section of trail was. Neither of use were excited to retrace our steps through that on the way back. 

At this point almost 20 miles into the run the two fast looking men we had passed at the beginning finally caught up to us. We chatted for a bit of the up hill and then they charged on ahead. Libby and I couldn’t believe it had taken them so long to catch us. Even after we kept what we thought was a crawling pace for almost 10 miles. We ascended the North Rim slowly making jokes and chatting along. We could tell we were getting higher as the trail became more icy. I looked back at Libby and said “Just remember it only hurts because it’s hard!” To which she responded “And it’s only fun because it’s hard.” We continued up hill. When we reached the North Rim the two men were just leaving we exchanged hellos and figured we might see them again on the downhill. The North Rim kind of sucked. There were no views and everything was covered in snow. Libby and I sat in the road with our puffy jackets on to keep us warm and eat a bit before heading back down. I lamented that the nice thing about the Grand Canyon in the winter is that you have no other option then to finish at this point. We laughed a bit at the thought we were only half way done. Our laughing often turned into painful coughing which then turned into occasional gaging. The North Rim was the closest I came to vomiting as Libby made a joke and I laughed coughed gaged a bit.

It was time to go again. I moved slow on the initial downhill because of all the snow and ice. I couldn’t imagine how terrible it would be to slip and break or tear something that far from help. Libby moved a little faster ahead of me. Almost out of the snow Libby ate it hard. This was exactly what I was afraid of. She quick did a check and everything seemed okay. Phew now it was just downhill downhill and downhill. As we passed some backpackers we joked “It’s all downhill from here… Until its uphill again.” We could see the two guys in front of us. We were gaining on them slowly. Libby thought we might be able to catch them. After all, we were definitely faster then them on the downhill. But then it hit me.  “O my god Libby I am going to shit my pants right now. O my god I am going to shit right here. O my god!” I quick ripped my pants down kicked up a little hole by the side of the trail and relaxed. Rupturous farts exploded from me but I didn’t actually shit. I felt better. Lets keeping going I yelled. I had eaten my entire burrito on the North Rim and with an already sensitive stomach I knew I should have stuck to gels. My body was having trouble digesting and the constant pound on the downhill wasn’t helping. We never did catch the men but we were clipping along quickly. Almost down the steep part of the down hill I had another one of the stomach fits. This time there was no time to kick a hole. Almost simultaneous to my proclamation of immediate need to shit, Libby loudly announced she was going to vomit. So here is the scene. Two girls on the trail. Trekking poles and backpacks yard saled on the trail. One with her pants around her ankles making loud echoing farts, and one with her hands on her knees saliva draining from her mouthing coughing and gaging. This is what a horrified hiker, runner, or backpacker would have seen if they crested around the corner of the fourth mile on the North Kaibab trail. Libby held it together and laid horizontal on the trail trying to combat the need to vomit. I similarly lost no liquids or solids. A minute passed and we were both feeling worlds better. We continued down the hill to the next place we knew we could get water. Laughing about how absolutely ridiculous what just happened was.

We filled up on water and continued on our way to Phantom Ranch. It was clear at this point that we could make it there before sunset. We quickly made it to our water stash and drink a bit before pouring the rest out. There was no need to carry extra weight on our back. We kept light conversation excited about how we were more than half way done. Pounding a gel here and there and skirting along the river. By the time we got to Phantom Ranch it was 6pm. We filled up on water and talked with some of the tourist we had seen 10 hours earlier. They observed, “It’s good to see you guys are still friends. Laughing and having good time even after all of that.” It was funny because it was true. We were just as happy and laughing as we were when we rolled in optimistic and fresh that morning. We sat by the water spicket for a bit eating and drink before we headed in search of a bathroom. A quick bathroom break and we would be on a non stop push for the finish. At this point 12 hours in and the entire South Kaibab trail of climbing left to do we thought it unlikely we would do it in under 15 hours. But at this point we didn’t care we knew we needed to get out and it didn’t matter how long it took us to get there.

We were on a non stop march. There was only one thing left to do and we weren’t getting there any faster. We switched our head lamps on and started the journey. The moon was bright but we needed to stay focused. This is when we came up with… the bubble. There is no life outside the bubble. The bubble has no concept of distance, no concept of time. There is no start and there is no finish inside the bubble. The bubble protects you. Don’t ever leave the bubble or the bubble will leave you. When your eyes stray from the bubble the bubble shalt make thy trip and stumble. This banter back and forth lasted for a few hours as we marched up the trail not letting hour eyes stray from the head lamp bubble on the ground in front of us. The elevation and distance seemed to fly by and before we knew it Phantom Ranch was just a light on the bottom of the canyon. We switched our headlamps off and decided to finish the final miles by moonlight. It was cool out but not cold yet. The sky opened up with a million stars and the moonlight illuminated the tops of the mesas. We had no idea how far we had left. My watch head died hours ago on the North Rim. We just knew it we would get there some how. Everything hurting and we still had a ways to go. Libby proclaimed “Climbing is so much easier than running.” Explaining and comparing running and climbing for a few feet. I had warned Libby about this phase. It happens in almost every hard run I have every done. It is the period where everything in the world is easier than what you are doing and you can’t imagine why any one would want to do this. You saying things like “Climbing is so much easier. I’m just going to take the next few months and do nothing but climbing.” It goes both ways though. Often on really hard climbs I will find myself thinking “Running is so much easier! It’s so simple and easy.” 

Around this time however, I started to bonk hard. I had run out of water because I, in my delirious state, forgot to refill my water at Phantom Ranch. With no water I couldn’t eat the gels that I so badly needed and I started to inwardly moan with every step. At one point I found a nice looking bivy site off the side of the trail and I half jokingly stated we had reached our final destination. Libby was feeling it too. How glorious it would be to finally stop. To finally be done moving. The inward moaning turned to outward moaning and about a mile from the top Libby handed me some water from her pack and I took another gel. The feeling of life came back quickly and I knew we were going to make it out, which at moments I wasn’t totally sure we would. Out of no where there it was, the top. We had finally made it. Shivering we put on our puffy and finished out the final mile to the van. It felt unreal that we had made it up the South Rim in only 3 hours without stopping once. The clock showed 9:33pm when we check it at the van.

We high fived and celebrated that it was finally done. It however was far from done. We still had to drive back to San Francisco. When I finally sat down in the van my brain could tell my body to relax. It was over. There was nothing left to run. Relax. Even though it was cold I needed to get compression socks on my feet before the swelling began. But I couldn’t just put compression socks on I wanted all fresh clothing. So sitting legs outstretched in my bed I pulled my pants down. Immediately I started to shiver and subsequently my thighs started to cramp and spasm. Here I was unable to get my pants off of my ankles and shivering and convulsing. Every time I tried to left my leg up so I could reach my feet I was thrown into a world of muscle spasms and pain. This probably lasted for 15 minutes half naked and shivering. When I finally got the socks and pants on Libby was already sitting in the passenger seat wrapped in a blanket eating saltines. She was not about to take any of her clothing off it was too cold. Blasting the heat we headed for the California border. We drove all through the night exchanging stories from work and life. We were caffeinated from the gels we had eaten and riding a runners high. Not to mention we both knew that sleeping was not going to go as we wanted it to that night. Every movement would be painful. By the time we decided to bivy it was 2 am and we found ourselves at an Arizona rest stop only 20 miles from the California border. Libby promptly waddled out of the van to use the bathroom and I laid face down in my bed.

When Libby returned it had been several minutes but I had really lost concept of time. She was relieved to be back at the van and looked at me completely serious and said, “I really thought I was going to have to bivy in that bathroom on that toilet.” She had been unable to lift herself from the toilet and sat there contemplating how she would get out. It was kind of scary how helpless we were. We later after many bathroom breaks realized that the beta was to always use the handicap stalls. The extra handles allow you to lower and push yourself up with your arms instead of having to engage your thigh and leg muscles. We hunkered down there for the night and to no surprise slept terribly. In the morning we finished back to California. Just in time for us both to go back to work on Monday morning.

1 Comment

Words to Live By

Comment

Words to Live By

I've been asked this question before... What is it that pushes me to get out every day and push my human limits? What kind of sick and twisted and fucked up thing makes a person run 40 miles on a badly broken foot? I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I don't struggle with motivation every once and awhile. For example, over the summer when I was training for Nolan's 14 I once woke up at 4am to run part of the course only to drive to the trailhead, take a nap in the back of my van, and not get started until 11am. Which subsequently meant I get stuck in a terrible thunderstorm as is common during CO summers. But all that aside I must say I do enjoy suffering. I genuinely enjoy a self induced dose of pain. I seek it out in its most natural forms, and then dwell in the pain cave with a smile. I think this is mostly because I experience much worse pain. Pain that is not physically induced. Pain which I cannot explain. Pain that is so painful my life stops. I stop. Pain which I have no control over. And when this pain rears it's ugly head in my life I am reminded of how pleasant that long run in the rockies was with that broken foot. But I can talk about this for hours so instead I'll post the wonderful and motivating skyrunner manifesto, which I know by heart and I hope will motivate you like it does me. Feels fitting as I prepare for another sufferfest adventure. This time in the desert with good company!

THE SKYRUNNER'S MANIFESTO

Kiss or kill. Besa o mata. Kiss glory or die in the attempt. Losing is death; winning is life. The fight is what decides the victory, the winner. How often have rage and pain made you cry? How often has exhaustion made you lose your memory, voice, common sense? And how often in this state have you exclaimed, with a broad smile on your face, "The final stage! Two more hours! Go, onward, upward! That pain only exists inside your head. Control it, destroy it, eliminate it, and keep on. Make your rivals suffer. Kill them" I am selfish right? Sport is selfish, because you must be selfish to know how to fight on while you suffer, to love solitude and hell. Stopping, coughing, feeling cold, not feeling your legs, feeling sick, vomitting, getting headaches, cuts, bleeding...can you think of anything better?

The secret isn't in your legs, but in your strength of mind. You need to go for a run when it is raining, windy, and snowing, when lightning sets trees on fire as you pass them, when snowflakes or hailstones strike your legs and body in the storm and make you weep, and in order to keep running, you have to wipe away the tears to see the stones, walls, or sky. The strength of mind to say no to hours of partying, to good grades, to a pretty girl, to the bedsheets against your face. To put your soul into it, going out into the rain until your legs bleed from cuts when you slip on the mud and fall to the ground, and then to get back on your feet and continue uphill until your legs cry out, "Enough!" and leave you marooned in a storm on the remotest peaks, until you die.

Leggings soaked by snow, driven on by the wind that sticks to your face and freezes your sweat. Feeling the pressure from your legs, the weight of your body bearing down on the metatarsals in your toes, pressure that can shatter rocks, destroy planets, and move continents. Legs suspended in the air, gliding like an eagle, or running faster than a cheetah. Running downhill, slipping on the snow and mude before driving yourself on anew, and suddenly you are free to fly, to shout out in the heart of the mountain, with only the most intrepid rodents and birds hidden in their nests beneath the rocks as your confessors. Only they know your secrets, your fears. Because losing is death. And you should not die before you have given your all, have wept from the pain and the wounds. And you cannot surrender. You must fight on to the death. Because glory is the greatest, and you can either aspire to glory or fall by the wayside. You cannot simply not fight, not suffer, not die...Now is the time to suffer, the time to fight, the time to win. Kiss or kill.

Preparing to get caught in the storm on Mt. Antero with my late 11am start

Preparing to get caught in the storm on Mt. Antero with my late 11am start

Comment

Rim River Rim River Rim *of Yosemite

Comment

Rim River Rim River Rim *of Yosemite

Rim River Rim River Rim of Yosemite Valley. Not many people do this run or anyone that I know of but Libby and I are training for the Grand Canyon and it sounded like the perfect way to train. We rolled into the valley late Friday night and had a good night sleep in Foresta. A simple breakfast and we were headed on our way to Glacier Point the next morning. The drive isn’t short but we got to the point around 10 am. Excited for the adventure ahead we both pounded a gel and geared up. The plan was to run down the 4 mile trail, across the valley, up the Yosemite Falls trail, down the Yosemite Falls trail, across the valley, up the 4 mile trail. 

So we blasted off from the van. We made quick progress running down the 4 mile trail. When we made it down we had a quick bathroom break and jetted across to camp 4. In camp 4 we pounded another gel and prepared for the awfulness that was ahead of us. The dreaded Yosemite Falls trail. The best part was that we were hitting the Yosemite Falls trail in the heat of the day. Sweating are faces off we charged non stop up the Falls trail. The heat , the steepness, and the never ending terribleness of the Falls trail dragged on but we made it up in about 50 minutes. The initial down hill pounding we had experienced on the 4 mile trail was clearly taking a toll. We took a little break at the top of the falls to eat a burrito and hydrate back up. We then had to go back down knowing we would soon be charging back up the 4 mile. 

Down we went stopping once to say hi to some friends climbing on backer cracker and then again in camp 4 to refill water and eat a little more food. We made it across the valley and to the 4 mile trail and were feeling good. This lasted for a while but we both started to feel the bonk about 2 miles from the top. We stopped for a few seconds to enjoy the view of half dome and finish our burritos but then it was push for the end. After stopping for a few seconds it’s always hard to start moving again. Things begin to tighten and it takes several steps to get back into the rhythm. I think we did pretty well about keeping moving but towards the end it was obvious we were hurting. Finally at the van we could relax.

A moving time of 4:51 covering 17 miles and almost 7,000 feet of elevation gain which also means 7,000 feet of elevation loss. We stretched and pounded some food and water hoping we could evade any soreness. This proved to be hard to avoid. The next day we woke stiff and sore but mainly in our calfs. Being sore is an awesome feeling but rather funny when you try to step out of the van or stand up in the meadow.  Excited for the Grand Canyon adventure that is in store. More training reports to come!

https://www.strava.com/activities/424906123

Comment

Tahoe Rim Trail Fun?

Comment

Tahoe Rim Trail Fun?

Feeling like shit. Today I hated running. Today I didn’t have fun. I felt the weight on my back. I felt the bruises on my toenails. I felt the blisters on my feet. I felt the chaffing on my shoulders, the undigested food in my stomach, and the poorly healed fractured bone in my foot. Today sucked. But I ran. I ran 20 miles on the Tahoe Rim Trail and it was terrible. But I did it. I did it in hopes that the next time would be a little less terrible. 

On runs like today I question why anyone would ever want to run, why anyone enjoys running, what is the redeeming quality of running? But now I know. I suffered and I succeeded. No records were set at a 14 minute mile pace but I finished and now I am better for it. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I pushed myself through blisters and bruises. I pushed myself and I walked a bit too but I didn’t stop.

Running sucks sometimes. You don’t always feel strong and powerful and ready to charge. Sometimes you just feel like shit. Like a giant pile of shit but you have to remember all the times that you felt great all the runs where you crushed and it felt awesome. All the times you finished a long run and felt so good that you wanted to keep doing more but didn’t. Those are the times that I like to remember. Those are the memories that get me out everyday. Pushing.

Comment

Running Mountains. Rose.

Comment

Running Mountains. Rose.

Mt. Rose the beast of a peak right over the California border with views that will take your breath away and wind that will also take your breath away. This weekend Corbin, Lopi, and I enjoyed a 13 mile run up Mt. Houghton cross country to Mt. Rose with a mild 3,000 feet of vertical. I wrote up a topo on my blog showing the route. Looking forward to many more runs on the Tahoe rim Trail. The gently rolling trail makes for fast moving miles at altitude. Tahoe I love you. You are the closest I'll ever be to home.

Comment

All The Running Shoes

Comment

All The Running Shoes

A few weeks ago when I made an attempt on Nolan's 14 I tossed all my running shoes in a trash bag so if I needed an old pair I would have them all in one place. I picked up the bag and realized that I had a lot of old running shoes! Every time I need a new running shoe I go out and try something new. I figure after awhile I'll settle on the shoe or the brand I like the best but right now I'm still looking.
In an effort to not forget what I liked and didn't like. I've written up little personal reviews for all these shoes.


 

Trail Shoe:


La Sportiva - Wildcats
The wildcats were not my favorite shoe. Probably because I bought them in a size too small. They have a large heel to toe drop and a plastic piece on the bottom. I would not recommend them for any substantial amount of running. But made great approach shoes after the fact. My advice also with La Sportiva shoes is you can never go too big. My foot size is 7.5 but in every shoe I’ve owned of theres I would easily go 9.

Best memory: loosing my toenails in the Tetons
Retired As: Approach Shoes



Brook's - Pure Grit
The PureGrit are a phenomenal shoe! A nice cross over to a slightly minimalist shoe. I wouldn’t recommend these shoes for rocky technical terrain because the tread wears off quickly and the all around minimalist feel to them can cause foot bruising. But for running beautiful dirt trails for hours this is a perfect fit.

Best memory: 3rd Female finisher of the La Sportiva mountain 10k
Retired As: Backup Trail Running Shoes



Altra - Lone Pine
The Lone Pine is another great shoe. This shoe offers a large toe box and 0 drop for a real minimalist shoe with a little extra cushion. One of the lightest shoes I own and pretty much 100% mesh. This is it’s only fault, not a shoe to run on granite because the mesh will wear through very quickly. My advice when running with these shoes is to start short and build it up if you’re not use to a minimalist shoe. I always feel just a little bit more tired after running long distances in these shoes the first few times. Just takes a lot of miles to get everything strong again.

Best memory: run from my front door to the top of Mt. Tam
Current trail shoe

 

Road Shoe:


Brook's - ghost
The Ghosts are the first real running shoe I owned. I didn’t know anything about serious running at the time and had just grown my toenails back after loosing them in the Tetons to my old running shoes (the Wildcats). Mainly a road running shoe I spent many cold CO nights running the slick sidewalks. When I moved to California I continued the trend and also wore them for my 3 mile walk to work everyday. Lets just say they wore out really fast. It is true. Don’t walk in the same shoe you run in. Thats why I retire all my old running shoes to walking shoes. Brooks makes fantastic shoes though. If you have no plans to run ultras or you are just getting started into running. I can’t recommend Brooks enough!

Best memory: first run in SF
Retired As: First Shoe to cut up in emergency



Salomon - X-Wind Pro
The X-Wind Pro left a bad taste in my mouth for Salomon products. They claim to be a “city trail shoe” which to me means a road running shoe. I felt like they forced my foot into a weird position. And I only ended up running in them for a few months. However, I will say these are the most durable shoes I’ve ever owned. I walk to work 3 miles everyday in them and love them to death. The speed lacing makes them convenient to slip on and off and the sides are not made out of mesh which means after 500+ miles of walking and running they still have little to no signs of wear on the sides. When it comes to Salomon they know mountain running shoes probably the best in the industry but not really road shoes.

Best memory: the ledge trail Yosemite
Retired As: Walking Shoe because the are the most durable shoe I own



Hoka One One - Clifton's
The Cliftons are the shoe that changed road running for me. I hate cities and I hate running on the road. But lets face it sometimes you don’t have a choice but to run on the road. These shoes opened up a world of commuting for me. I could seemingly run forever on the roads and not feel the pain of the constant pounding of concrete and asphalt. Though I’ll never be a road runner I can’t imagine running in any other shoe when it comes to those days in the city.

Best memory: run commuting around the city
Current road shoe

 

Mountain Shoe:


Salomon - Speed Cross GTX
The SpeedCross GTX are some of the best mountains shoes I’ve run in. Salomon really disappointed me initially in there “road” shoe but made me believe again when I picked up a pair of there mountain shoes. These shoes keep your feet warm and dry but are also durable enough to not rip apart after hours of running on granite. The tread stuck well during technical running and didn’t wear down too fast. I have run in these shoes in the tall mountains of Colorado and California and hopefully soon Alaska too.

Best memory: Nolan's 14 attempt on a fractured foot
Retired As: Hiking shoes
 


Hoka One One - Speedgoats
The SpeedGoats are a new shoe for me and I haven’t really put them to the long days in the mountains test. The high profile makes me a little nervous of twisting an ankle but on my short technical runs around Yosemite it seems to be an irrational fear. What I have noticed is they actually have pretty good traction and control. More so than any of my trail shoes which is why I want to test them more on the spicy rocky runs. If they are anything like there road shoes I know I’ll be hooked. I will write more about them soon.

Best memory: running through the wet marsh around Bishop
Current mountain shoe


So in conclusion I’d currently recommend:
Road Shoe: Hoka One One
Trail Shoe: Altra
Mountain Shoe: Salomon
Just getting started running anything/ all around best in the show: Brooks

Comment

A Guide to Planning Nolan's 14

Comment

A Guide to Planning Nolan's 14

Nolan's 14 is a huge endeavor not only because of the intense and extreme running but also because of the months and months of planning and preparing that go into it. If you want to read my failed trip report go to the previous post Nolan's 14 the Adventure.

I spent months preparing for Nolan's 14 with pages and notes and emails. I hope this helps the next person, maybe a little, to feel more prepared before they start this process. Also because next year I don’t want to forget all the things I had to do this year.

I’m not going to go into detail about how to train for Nolan's 14. It is actually simple... run a lot, run a lot at altitude, run sections of the course, run at night, be prepared to suffer.

This post is more about the logistics of gear, food, crew, travel, navigation, pacing, and anything else I thought about.


Gear


I am a strong believer that gear doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. For example, I once won a bouldering comp in an old pair of evolvs with a blown out toe. However I will say that gear can greatly limit the amount of suffering and make your life much easier. Here is a list of things I’d recommend having on you with the brand of what I used.

Running Shoes: Salomon Speed Cross 3 GTX
Backpack: Black Diamond Blaze Pack (they no longer make this model)
Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Ultra Distance trekking Poles
Rain Pants: Patagonia Houdini Pants
Rain Jacket: Patagonia Houdini Jacket
Leggings: Lululemon Speed Tights
Wool Socks: SmartWool PhD Run Ultra Light Mini Sock   
Puffy Jacket:  Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
Wool Shirt: Patagonia Merino Lightwieght T-shirt
Fleece Sweater: Patagonia R1
Gloves: Columbia Trail Summit
Sunglasses: Oakley Half Jacket Polarized
GPS device: Delorme InReach Explorer
Bladder: Osprey Hydraulics Lt Reservoir 1.5L
Water Bottle: Platypus SoftBottle 1L
Watch: Suunto Core
Gaiters: Salomon Trail Gaiters High Lab
Headlamp: Black Diamond ReVolt
Batteries: 3 AAA
Tape: Athletic Tape or Duct Tape

This is what I’d recommend you have for gear in your support van. Essentially bring whatever extra you have brand doesn’t matter because if you need to use them you’ll just be happy you have something.

Extra Running Shoes
Extra Rain Pants
Extra Rain Jacket
Extra Leggings
Extra Wool Socks
Extra Headlamp
Flashlight: Nathan Zephyr Fire 300


FOOD

IMG_20150804_211049225.jpg

Fueling and hydrating is one of the most important things when it comes to long distance running. With Nolan's 14 it is super important to not screw this up. Especially at altitude when it can get hard to eat or drink enough. Here is what I’d recommend having on you for food.

4 Caffeinated ClifShot Energy Gels
6 Non Caffeinated ClifShot Energy Gels
2 ClifBars
2 Kind Bars
5 HappyBaby Baby food
2 Miniature Wheat Bagels
2 ClifBloks Gummies
2 Nuun Electrolyte in Platypus bottle
4 Saltstick Tablets

That isn’t very much food so it is important to refill at each aid station maybe carrying more or less food depending on the mileage or terrain or time of day (Maybe bring more caffeinated gels at night). So I recommend having a bunch of extra of the above items in your support van. I’d also recommend splitting out what you think you will need into separate drop bags labeled with the aid station you want them at so on go day you don’t have to think about it.

11857656_10206171702344364_1218995300_n.jpg

Here is what I’d recommend having in your support van for food. But to be honest really any food would work. I told my crew to grab me a milk shake and fries every time they went through a town.

Peaches
Apples
Oatmeal
Peanut Butter
Nutella
Hummus
Tortillas
Bananas

Pedialyte
Slim Fast
Cookies
Donuts
Ginger Ale
Bagels
Mash Potatoes
Avocadoes
Pretzels
 


Crew

IMG_20150820_160751485_HDR.jpg

The most important part of Nolan's 14 is having an awesome crew. It really amazes me when I hear people who have done Nolan's 14 in under 60 hrs with no crew. This is also the hardest part getting someone to commit 3 full days of their life to making sure you don’t die in the mountains. So it is important that you prepare them for what’s in store. In my case I only had one person to crew though ideally you might have two or three to help out.  First I debriefed my crew via email. Then I followed up in person providing maps and answering questions.  Here is a sample email of what I sent my crew a few weeks prior to my attempt:

Nolan's 14
Hey! I've been planning this run for a few months now and I want everyone to have all the information they need or would desire. Here is a link WEBSITE LINK to my GPS where you can catch my location at any point on the run.
First I will say my goal for this run is to complete it in under 60hrs. If at any point this goal seems unattainable my second goal is to just finish no matter how long it takes.
My motto is never give up, just keep moving, it's not that bad. Since you will be supporting me in this so don't let me give up!!
Okay now into the meat and logistics! Aka the fun stuff.
These are the times I need to be at these points on the course to achieve my sub 60hr finish assuming a 5am start on Wednesday August 19. Note I low balled these times most likely I will be there later rather than sooner.
-Mt Massive 8am
-Mt Elbert 11am
-La Plata Peak 5pm
-Mt Huron 9:15pm
-Mt Missouri 12:15am
-Mt Belford 1:30am
-Mt Oxford 2:30am
2 hour rest
-Mt Harvard 7am
-Mt Columbia 8:30am
-Mt Yale 11:30am
-Mt Princeton 6pm
-Mt Antero 10pm
-Mt Tabeguache 12am
-Mt Shavano 12:30am

I will be carrying on me
- 1.5 liters of water
- 16oz of nuun drink
- 10 gels
- extra batteries
- sat/gps phone
- a rain jacket
- rain pants
- gloves
- socks
- hat
- headlamp
- trekking poles
- 5 baby food
- 2 clif gummies
- 2 mini bagels
- salt tablets

In the van I will have 5 bags label for each aid stations they will all include:
-extra socks
-extra food
-change of clothing (if needed)
-extra batteries (if needed)
I'll also have food in the van to eat but if you're rolling through town grabbing some fries or a pizza would make me totally stoked. I'll leave cash with you.

Things to note
- I will want to give up. Don't let me. Even if I'm crying about falling or seeing an animal whatever it may be. Don't let me. This is very important because I will not be in a state of mind to make these decisions and will be upset looking back if I give up for some stupid reason.

Things you might hear me say and should ignore:
- I'm too tired
- My legs are fatigued
- Too much elevation
- Its too dark I'm scared
- I'll never make it
- The weathers too bad
- I'm not moving fast enough
- I haven't trained enough

GPS coordinates for aid stations and time
-aid1 9am (Lat 39.151030 Lon -106.455116) May not be needed
-aid2 2:30pm(Lat 39.071978 Lon -106.469364)
-aid3 6pm(Lat 38.985233 Lon -106.440611)
-aid4 2:30am(Lat 38.94379 Lon -106.342764) Hike
-aid4 am(Lat 38.871523 Lon -106.292038) Hike
-aid5 1pm(Lat 38.816305 Lon -106.332722) 
-aid6 7pm(Lat 38.711233 Lon -106.289806)

Along with these aid stations there are several places on the course you can hike too you can find them linked here http://mattmahoney.net/nolans14/maps/index.html. I think the easiest one would be to catch me on Missouri or Belford after the aid before Huron. And or park the van at the aid stations and start hiking the course backwards till you find me. Odds are you'll be moving faster than me at all points in time. Also I'd recommend after the last aid station in alpine driving to the trailhead for Shavano and meeting me on the summit of Tabeguache for the grand finale! Aka the short Traverse between the last two peaks.

When you see me on the course at an aid station make sure you do the following:
- fill all my water
- restock all my food
- get my stoke back up
- tell me any weather changes
- make me change my socks
- make me lube up any chaffing or tape hot spots
- make me change any wet clothing
- make me eat and drink

Okay last but not least. Things happen I get that and if for some reason I get to an aid station and you're not there it's no big deal. I'll just keep moving. The amount of food I'm carrying on me will be able to last me a long time and lots of water readily available even though untreated. No sweat. I'm prepared to roll with the punches.
Here is the timeline I'm thinking
August 17 - Fly into SF at noon drive to Truckee immediately. Pick you up and head straight for SLC.
August 18 - Drive into CO. Get Groceries. Prepare for Race. Climb at Rifle. Sleep at Fish Hatchery.
August 19 - Start at 5am.
August 20 - Pushing
August 21 - Finish at sometime.
August 22 - Climb in Rifle drive to SLC.
August 23 - Drive back to Truckee. Drive Back to Bay.
August 24 - Back to work.

I'll send you anything else if I forgot it.

Travel

IMG_20150708_120412380.jpg

Nolan's 14 is no joke when it comes to elevation. If you have the time and flexibility to stay in CO for a month before making an attempt do it. Otherwise I’d recommend making your attempt on your second or third day in CO. Just enough time to get rested but not enough time to start the slow acclimation process.
As for traveling I always find it better to drive. That way I have my van and everything I could possibly need already sorted out, but I live in California. If driving isn’t an option flying and renting a 4wd vehicle is your best bet. The roads for crew can be a little rugged at times so I wouldn’t rally a rented Prius back into the depths of the mountains. The last thing you want is your crew not being able to get to you because of car issues.


Navigation

I wrote up a bunch of Topos and detailed information on my Run Topos part of the blog. They are broken down into 5 sections which are big feats themselves and great places to start out to get a taste of what Nolan's 14 will feel like. I used some of them as training runs and ways to gage pacing. You can find them linked here respectively:

Leadville Fish Hatchery to CO82
CO82 to Clear Creek Road
Clear Creek Road to CO Trail
CO Trail to Alpine
Alpine to Blank Cabin

As for navigation picking up an inReach Explore Delorme and pairing it with a smart phone is a life saver when it comes to navigating the mountains…Especially navigating the mountains at night.


Pacing

Pacing is important when you are trying to do it in under 60 hrs but honestly I think finishing Nolan's 14 even in 70 hrs is an accomplishment too. I first calculated pacing based on a 30 minute mile pace but often you are doing fast than this or slower than this at times. I then compared that to what pace other people had on successful Nolan's 14 attempts. Instead of taking this information from me though checkout all the amazing data parsing Tom Lauren did on his site www.tomlauren.com/notes/... A wealth of knowledge to be had on that page.


Questions to ask yourself

Should I find a partner or do it alone?
Like anything having a partner can be nice but can also have its draw backs. I went at it alone but that’s because it’s hard to find someone else that’s just as crazy to join me. I would recommend bringing a partner but making sure you train with them and both have the same goals. It’s always refreshing to have two brains when running such extreme distances. And since pacers are not allowed having a partner is your best bet.

Should I do it North to South or South to North?
When I made my attempt I was going South to North. However for all of the planning and really up until the day before I was going to go North to South. Honestly I don’t think it matters much but this is my thoughts. North to South seems a little bit easier. The first couple of mountains involve a lot of up and down between each of them from Massive to Huron you aren’t really linking any peaks on ridges, which can be nice while you are still fresh in the beginning. This allows you to finish on Tabeguache and Shavano were the ridge between the two is fast with little elevation change when you are the most tired. Going South to North has its benefits in terms of aid. In the beginning the aid is more spread out and you are linking mountains together before seeing you’re crew and at the end when you’re exhausted you get to see your crew between every mountain. In the end they are equally as difficult traversing the same terrain, it’s really up to you.

Comment

Nolan's 14 The Adventure

Comment

Nolan's 14 The Adventure

I don't know how to write about Nolan's 14. I guess it's just kind of comical how everything went down and how much I've learned from the whole ordeal. I'll start by saying Nolans I'll be back. If you want a good laugh and quick synopsis of everything that went wrong read my previous post called How to Not Do Nolan's 14. Otherwise keep reading for all the details you never cared to read.

It was August 17 2015 and I was on a long flight from Kentucky to San Francisco. The previous 5 days were filled with love and family and climbing. Another one of my sisters had gotten married. Afterwards I seized the opportunity to climb in the Red River Gorge with my oldest sister and her friend. But now I was headed west back home and then I'd immediately be Colorado bound in the van.

Colorado has always had my heart it was where I was first introduced to real mountains. It was where I learned how to suck wind at altitude and climb rocks. The Sierras are great! New, exciting, fair weather, and rocky but nothing will compare to the grandness of Colorado.

I loaded my van up with gear food and Lopi and was headed to Tahoe to pick up Corbin, the man who would be crewing me. He had never done something like this before, but I had debriefed him for weeks and had plans to talk strategy the whole drive.

Flash back to a week earlier. I was tapering for my big run. Excited and feeling strong. I headed to Yosemite valley. A place I know intimately. A place I call home. My coworkers were in the valley for the first time and I wanted to show them why Yosemite is so great. But it was also a sad weekend a meadow full of mourning and celebrating life. Long story short I was on El Cap when I repelled too fast and swung into the rock. Trying to stick the landing my left foot took all the force. The pain was immediate and I was sure it was broken. Emergency room, crutches, ice, and x-rays later I was cleared with a likely fractured foot but only a diagnosed bone bruise. Unable to weight my foot. I joined the mourning in the meadow. And for the first time in a long time I felt the power of Yosemite move through me. I was vulnerable. I was weak. I held in my hands the ashes of a man who lived so extreme the extremeness that I wanted to live. His power moved through me and I felt his presence in the valley. To live so fully so alive that death doesn't scare you. It is what I strive to achieve.

Having a broken foot wasn't the end of the world and it wasn't going to stop me from running me big objective. I actually rested for once. I stayed off of my foot as much as I could and hoped it would be 100% by go day.

Back to California. I rolled in late to Truckee to find Corbin not ready to leave. It was okay though I had been traveling all day and wasn't that excited to drive more anyways. We eat a delicious dinner, and I cleaned the house while he packed. We decided it would be safer to leave at 3am after a few hours of good rest and just drive all day to CO. The alarm sounded at 3am but I struggled to get up. Finally I jolted from bed in a panic. It was now 4:30am. Over sleeping was about to be a theme. We quick loaded up the van and I started driving while Corbin snoozed in the bed in the back. I drove through the sunrise and was over halfway through Nevada when the lights started flashing in my window. I had never been pulled over by a cop, and I didn't think I was speeding. Exchange of papers and words and finally back on the road with only a warning. I was more aware of my speed after that. I continued to drive the whole way through Salt Lake. On the other side we filled up gas and Corbin took the wheel while I slept. When I woke up we were in Rifle and Corbin was excited to climb. After a pitch or two the sun had set and we headed into town to grab some dinner and buy groceries for the big run.

The final drive to our bivy at the base of Mt Shavano was long. It felt unreal that in only 6 or 7 hours I'd be making an attempt on Nolans 14. Corbin took the 3 hour drive so I could sleep. The car slowed to a stop. I woke up. Are we getting pulled over again? Yep right outside Leadville Corbin was tired. We reached our bivy at 2am. I set my alarm for 5am and saw the sad notification that I only had 3hrs of sleep. The alarm sounded and I turned it off. Again jolting out of bed I looked at the clock, 7am I had over slept 2hrs. I need to go now. A few exchanges of words, a little breakfast, and I was heading up the trail.

IMG_20150819_070357374.jpg

I had never used my GPS but I was confident I could figure it out. Charging up hill I thought for a second. I was expecting the trail to be single track not a fireroad. I pulled out my gps and grabbed my location. I was far away from where I wanted to be heading up the wrong mountain. This is when I made another bad decision. Instead of backtracking on trails, losing some elevation, and then going back up I decided to cut straight through the woods hoping I'd intersect the trail. I did hit the trail around 8am not far from the trailhead about a mile of slow bushwhacking. Disappointed in myself for wasting so much time I began charging up hill. 

The forest was thick with fog which made it very enchanting. I couldn't see the summit but I was sure when the fog finally split it would take my breath away... and it did. Picking people off the trail I made it to the summit of Shavano where I only stayed for a minute. I had been trying to get water out of my camelback with no success. It appeared air had gotten lodged in the hose. After messing around with it at the summit I gave up and headed for Tabeguache. I was happy I still had my liter of nuun to drink but bummed I would have to take my backpack off to drink it. Every second is precious when daylight is on the line!

IMG_20150819_093254692.jpg

The ridge between Shavano and Tabeguache is short and quick but my first taste of down hill. With every step the pain in my foot became more and more apparent. Usually a fast descender, I turned into a hobbling slow mess of pain. But that was only one of my problems the ridge has a clear view of the two summits with a group of 40 people on the summit of Tabeguache and maybe 10 on the summit of Shavano... and I had to poop..... bad. I quick looked around for some places to go but decided to just make it fast and quick and hope nobody notices. So I went on the ridge and hid it under a few rocks. What a relief I thought. Good thing I brought toilet paper... not. Great, I was several miles into a huge run and now I was going to continue to run for 15+ miles in my own stew. This day was not going my way. I pulled my pants up and continued to shriek in pain as I slowly picked my way across the ridge.

I made fast progress as I went up hill on Tabeguache. My foot placements were more calculated and so the pain was more controlled. On the top I met a father and daughter out raging in the mountains. We talked about how great the mountains are and he gave me a little advice on gullys and drainages to take on my journey. I discussed my fractured foot and the man just laughed and said. Well aren't you just the typical ultra running masochist. I had a plan of attack and was stoked to keep on moving. 

I eyed what I thought was the easiest way off of Tabeguache which actually turned into what I like to call the death gully. The back side of Tabeguache was steep, loose, wet, and narrow. I was tossing rocks down the size of my body and down climbing sections of 5.7 where rocks would come off in my hands. A few times I fell leaving nasty cuts on my arms and legs. Every time I'd tweek my hurt foot my natural impulse was to scream out in sheer pain. I had never heard these kind of noises come out of my mouth before but I couldn't control them. What I thought would be a quick decent turned into one of the longest descents of my life. Time was ticking and I still needed to make it up to Antero and down to Corbin, who I was hoping was waiting in Alpine.

My mind was a blank void as I made my way through the forest. I reached a river and sat down. The thought crossed my mind to fill up my liter of water but I didn't. I was still hoping my camelback would start working. Now I was out of water. I figured if I really needed to I could open up my bladder and just drink straight from it. The river proved to be harder to cross than I was expecting and on the other side I found lots of tents and cars. A nice change of pace from the remote gully I had been in for hours that appeared to get little to no travelers.

I charged up the gully of Antero. It was steep and loose. But I was more controlled as I went up hill. I like to think when I'm running. It's where I sort out all of my life problems. It's where I plan my next adventures and solve my work problems. But after hours on my feet alone with my thoughts your mind goes blank. No more problems to be solved. No more things to think about. Nothing. An empty mind. Step after step. It's a beautiful feeling to be empty. To be stateless. To have no thought.

IMG_20150819_144349306.jpg

I was headstrong and set on finishing. I said hi to a bunch of mountain goats and finally fixed my camelback. The delicious cold water was exactly what I needed. I was getting a second wind and excited to see Corbin finally after 10 hrs on my feet. I summited Antero fast and then made the bad decision of descending the steep face instead of running down the roads. The running was slow and I scree skied a bit screaming out in pain at every tweak of the foot. Suddenly I lost control sliding 50ft before coming to a stop. A little shaken I stood up didn't brush the dirt off and assessed the damage. I was hurt. My foot was hurt. My hands were bleeding. And what was that sharpness in my thigh? My phone. Shattered. My guiding GPS device. How was I going to navigate at night now!? The sun was setting so I limped to the road. Everything was against me for a reason. This year wasn't my year to complete Nolans 14. I decided then I was done. Heading up Princeton in the middle of the night would get me killed. I needed to listen to all the warning signs. I was broken.

I slowly jogged out the four wheel drive roads while night engulfed me. The woods came alive around me and I felt the eerier aloneness of the mountains. Only two miles from where I was hoping Corbin and Lopi would be. I dragged my trekking pole behind me to alert animals of my presence. At any moment I could fall and not be able to walk or move quickly. An easy and delicious treat for a lazy mountain lion. Though in retrospect I was looking rather hollow and boney. A mountain lion might have taken a second look and passed.

When I reached the road. I was delighted to find my van with Corbin and Lopi inside. It was then I realized I had never turned tracking on on my GPS and being several hours later than expecting Corbin and Lopi had been very concerned. I crumbled in a pile by the side of the van. Tears streamed down my face as I said the words I never want to ever say. "I'm done." Lopi licked the sweat from my skin while Corbin lifted my broken, sunburned, bloody body into the bed.

I woke up the next morning feeling low. I felt worthless. I had given up. I knew I could do it. I was a failure. Swollen and bruised foot aside, I had given into the comfort of stopping. I would never finish anything in my life. I'd always give up when things got really tough. I continued in self loathing for hours before Corbin suggested going for a little walk. Instead I took him up his first 14er. I continued Nolans 14 but this time limping badly. I wanted to turn around but I didn't. I pushed myself hard up Mt Yale even though my body said no. When I stood on the summit I finally felt peace. It was a good reminder to myself that you don't always get what you want and if I want to suffer I'll suffer. For the first time in awhile though I actually got to sit and enjoy the summit. I was prolonging the terribly painful downhill part anyways.

I'll be back. But next year I have to punish myself more for not finishing this year. Next year I'm going to push myself to hell and back in what I'm calling Nolans 28. Stay tuned.

Comment

How to Not Do Nolan's 14

Comment

How to Not Do Nolan's 14

Do not leave California the day before you plan to make an attempt
Do not get pulled over twice on your way to Colorado
Do not arrive at your bivy at 2am only 3hrs before you plan to start running
Do not oversleep your alarm and not get started till 7am
Do not take the wrong trail and end up bushwhacking losing an hour right at the start
Do not not know how to use your gps and tracking device
Do not forget to put sunscreen on
Do not forget to bring toilet paper
Do not have to poop on an exposed ridge with lots of people around
Do not get air stuck in your camelbak hose and be unable to drink from it for the 12hrs
Do not take the steepest and loosest decent off of Tabeguache
Do not fall often because of your bad footing (because your limping)
Do not take a 50 foot sliding fall off Antero and shatter your phone in the process
Do not give up ever
And most importantly


Do not attempt Nolan's 14 on a broken foot


Learn from my mistakes. Kind of comical how many things went wrong on go day. Lessons learned.

Comment

How To Taper When You Don't Want To

Comment

How To Taper When You Don't Want To

Step 1: pick a really ambitious goal to run.

Step 2: reach absurd levels of stoke about this run.

Step 3: train your ass off every free moment that you have and give up all your other hobbies.

Step 4: in the last few weeks before race day stress about training and tapering.

Step 5: since you can't run (because you're tapering) go back to the hobbies you gave up to train for (see step 3). The more dangerous the better.

Step 6: engage in dangerous activities and mildly injure yourself. 

Step 7: go to the emergancy room because it's probably broken.

Step 8: xrays later be thankful you have strong runner feet and only sustained a deep bone bruise a week before race day.

Step 9: engage in competitive crutching.

Step 10: sit around and do nothing because you can't weight your foot. (hey look! now you are physically forced to rest and taper.) Tada!


Comment