Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Extended weekend at the Great Salt Lake.

The Great Salt Lake. An... interesting, and awesome place. Took a fews days to work remotely and spend some time in the mountains. Best part about Salt Lake: wifi in the morning, mountains in the evening. Mark and I did a solid amount of climbing in Little Cottonwood, mashing our hands--and body, in my case.

Day 1: I had basically one climb that I cared about doing while I was there: The Coffin. So, naturally, I hoped right on it, discarding of any pacing or strategy for the next few days. I forgot tape, but figured it would ok, since "it was going to be all fingers anyway." Putting this in writing is almost as painful and embarrassing as the climb was. It was a total sketch and thrutch fest. I sewed up the first 15 feet with ok gear, never getting the horrible landing out of my head, until it looked like an aid pitch below me and I was too gassed to have any chance at finishing with any dignity at all. The rest was a battle and I left a lot of skin in that crack getting to the top. It was hot, my feet felt like they were slipping off the whole time, I was terrified of decking on the horrid landing for longer than I should have been. But hey, I figure battling it out on climbs that intimidate me is how you get better, and if not, I guess I'll quit climbing. Not sure why I botched the climb so badly. I floated up Sasquatch compared to what went down on the Coffin. Anyway, after that we went and Mark lead the first pitch of Satan's Corner, a pretty cool little section of climbing.

Day 2: Thinking that it was cooler than the day before we headed back to the sunny side of the canyon and Mark casually lead Bushwack Crack. A proud lead for him. (This was Mark's trip to shine.) I followed it and lead the supposed second pitch of the climb, which turned out to be some tree and bush climbing, a fun little flaring wide bit, wondering where the route actually goes, making a committing slab move, down climbing to one of two pairs of chains up there. Not really sure why there is a second pitch above Bushwack. To be fair, it wasn't totally worthless, just nothing like the first pitch. From there we top roped Callitwhatyouplease That would be a solid lead too. Fun flaring wide section for most of it. Then we went up to climb Becky's Wall, but someone was on it. I lead the corner variation on Satan's Corner, was totally worked and basically just sick of sucking at climbing, so we called it a day from there. I wanted to go check out the Trench Warfare cave, so Mark obliged and we ran up, navigating through the dusk and got there with just enough light to see it, then ran back down to the car.

Day 3: I headed down to Provo on FrontRunner and Mark lead Green Monster. Quit the opposite than my Coffin lead. He was solid, fluid and totally nailed that lead. We top roped it a couple times and we called it a day as the sun went down. I ran/walked back from FrontRunner to Mary's. 5 miles with a massive Bruges waffle halfway. (Strava here.) Great 100 mile stomach training, I guess.

Day 4: Black Diamond gear swap. Great time, as always. We were super tired by the time we wrapped up the sale, grabbed some lunch/breakfast with Scott and Brooke and then decided to just climb for a bit at Millcreek Momentum, which I had never climbed at. (Aside from sneaking in and bouldering.) That is an awesome gym! I would be so psyched to climb there on a regular basis. Compared to Bay Area gyms, there are basically no crowds. The gym is set up in a very smart way, it can accommodate a lot of climbing at one time. We were worked and it felt like the back of my swollen hands were bleeding through my tape gloves after a few laps on the cracks they have there. I went back to Mary's and napped for 3 hours, happy with the amount of climbing we did, but disappointed in my performance. It was a great trip for logging the hours, being outside, getting humbled and spending time with good friends.

Overall: success.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mental health day on Cathedral Peak

A couple days ago, we snuck away and got in a lap on Cathedral. Great way to close the Tuolumne season. We spent the night in the back of the truck at the trailhead, took our time hiking and climbing, and were back before bedtime. Winter is definitely on it's way in the high country. We had wind for basically all of the climb, and the clouds became more frequent and menacing as the day progressed. Only saw one other party up there. Higher peaks like Conness had a pretty good covering of snow up high. Awesome day out in the mountains.

Lazy morning start.

The approach in.

Starting pitch 2.

Someone needs a Snickers.

Eichorn Pinnacle.

Clouds like these were more frequent towards the end of the climb and on the descent.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ultraspire Alpha Review

The Ultraspire Alpha excels in races, but can still carry enough to equip you for a full day of ripping through the mountains. This is a review for 1st generation vest, although the 2nd retained much of the same features, with some awesome looking improvements. This review should still be relevant for someone looking into the most recent version.

The Alpha has been a great racing and training vest. I have completed a handful of races using this vest, including two finishes at Wasatch 100, a few 50k's and most recently, Speedgoat 50k. There are a number of features that are perfectly refined and I have been impressed with the attention to detail that went into the designing of this pack. Truly, a running pack for runners designed by runners.

I'll start in the front of the pack and talk about the features I use the most, the command center if you will. There are two front loading pockets made out of mesh that can scrunch closed with a bungee draw-string. These pockets are big enough to front load them with water bottles. I'm not a big fan of carrying your main water supply in front. It just seems like all the negatives of being a well endowed female runner, but none of the benefits. Too much bouncing. For most of my racing I have used a Amphipod Hydraform 12 oz bottle in one of the front pockets for coke or drink mixes, along with the 2 liter bladder in back. In the other pocket, I'll carry either my windshirt, or more gels, just depending on the weather.

Further up on the front straps there are 2 useful pocket systems. On the runners right, we have a "sweat-proof" pill pocket with a magnetic snap closure clasp. This makes it much easier to access a handful of salt pills on the go, without dumping them all over the trail. The material has proven to be very water resistant. I have never had any of my pills or tabs get wet, even while dumping water on my head to stay cool during some hot races. On the runner's left, there is a zippered pocket with stretch fabric. I have found this useful for carrying keys or more pills. Most of the time I will keep Sport Legs and some Ibuprofen in a little baggie in this pocket. When I've used it to carry keys, the stretch fabric does a nice job at binding down and
silencing the jingle.

The two cross chest straps are made of elastic material and the buckles, while totally bomb proof, can be very difficult to attach and reattach to the opposite side of the vest. The rubber pieces that they fit into are hard to wiggle the buckles into. The newer model has totally revamped the cross straps, and I assume it's for this reason. I have found myself running with just one strapped down most of the time. I think that this speaks to how well the pack rides in general. It seems to fit my 6'1" 150lb frame perfectly. I get no bouncing in this vest at all. As my bladder empties I have to tighten the front straps a bit, but when the bladder is empty, the bouncing is barely noticeable anyway.

The back has a main sleeve pocket for the 2L bladder as well as a pocket that runs along the bottom that can be accessed while running. It fits anywhere from 1-5 ClifShot packs very well. There are magnetic closures on this pocket as well, making it super easy to slip into and automatically closes once you retrieve what you were after. Under the arms, on each side, is a mesh fold over pocket that can fit 1-2 gels or trash. I use these pockets the least, as they are the most uncomfortable to access, at least for me.

The bladder has a great top closure with a fold and zip piece that makes it quick to refill. The bladder, when completely filled pops out of the top of the pocket, but is secured with the lashing closure. I'm sure if you filled it to their fill line, it would fit perfectly, but when it's 90 degrees and 9 miles to the next station, you fill that bad boy all the way. The hose has given me trouble from the start. As I am writing this, I am thinking that I may have gotten a defect, but the hose is very difficult to suck water out of. Air seems to also get into the nozzle on the hose, so you're sucking in water and air. I'm still using it, so it functions well enough, but you can also get it replaced or use the bladder of your choice.

The feel of the fabric used is nice. It is unbelievably breathable and very light. Everything on it dries really fast. It doesnt retain smells at all. I've raced in this for years and never had to wash it, though I probably should. I not too hard on gear, but this thing has proven to be super durable. Still has many more races to go in it.

The Alpha keeping me hydrated late in the game at the 2014 Wasatch 100.

As much as I have found this pack to be exactly what I need, it is not for everyone. It lacks some features that some people find valuable, relating to volume and carrying capacity. I have seen it done, but there is not a convenient way to lash or strap or carry poles with this vest. I have seen people carry them with the lashing on the back, as well as one guy who simply slipped his collapsible poles across his chest, using the two main straps to hold them in place. When the bladder is full and pockets used to carry food, there isn't too much space to hold an extra jacket or other gear. If you are carrying this style vest, rather than a pack for outings in the mountains, this one probably won't carry enough extra gear for you. For racing and long runs, I have found this to be a perfect vest. Aside from the hose mouthpiece, I wouldn't change a thing on it.

Friday, September 4, 2015

ZPacks 20 degree Sleeping Bag Review

I purchased a ZPacks sleeping bag in 2013. I originally made this purchase specifically for my first failed JMT hike, but have since used it for more than just backpacking. This has turned out to be a great bag for almost all applications, proving to be durable, warm and packable.

I'll start with saying that I'm 6'1" and 150 lbs. I run pretty cold and sleep pretty cold compared to others. I knew that I wanted at least a 20 degree bag for summer in the high-country. I ordered: "20 Degree Regular Width Sleeping Bag, Length: Extra Long - 6 feet 6 inches."

As far as the temp rating goes, I would say this bag is accurately rated, maybe a bit on the cold side. I have slept in this bag in temps down to around 25 degrees, with long johns and a light fleece or down layer on top, and was comfortable. (Again, I run cold.) To achieve lower ratings in their bags, they not only add more down, but the internal wall height in the bag is extended to allow more room for the extra down.

The stuff sack that comes with this bag is a simple cuben fiber roll top bag. It closes using a strip of velcro and a buckle. It's nice knowing that your sleeping bag is in a waterproof bag when the skies open up while your hiking. I ended up punching a small hole through the bag when I pushed a pair of crampons too hard into the top of my pack, but a thumb-sized piece of duct tape has done great in repairing it. This stuff sack is about as light as you could get it, but it definitely comes at a sacrifice of compressibility. I have used other, much smaller stuff sacks and it has been able to be compressed a lot more than the ZPacks stuff sack will do. Obviously this comes down to priorities, wether you value space in your pack, or being as light as possible.

I've spend most of my nights in this bag pairing it with a bivy. It works great in a bivy system and the pertex/ventum materials dry out super fast. I've used it in a tent at decently high elevations. Highest being just above 13,000. My feet were a bit chilly, even in a tent, but stuffing an extra layer toward the bottom of the bag solved that problem remarkably well. I agree with other reviews that mention how tight the foot box in this bag are, but this didn't surprise me. It's an ultralight piece of gear, it's not going to be the most comfortable bag. I'm a skinny dude and the regular width is a perfect fit around my feet and legs, and room enough to move arms around when the bag is fully zipped up.

I sized this bag so that I would have some extra room to hunker down in it and cinch the top over my head. The closure system at the top of this bag is a skinny draw chord and a velcro strap, which I have found to be not very useful. Newer bags are now made with a buckle instead of a velcro strap. When the zipper is fully closed and I cinch the top down tight, I haven't found a need to use something like the velcro or the buckle. Although, it probably helps to keep the zipper closed while moving around in the bag.

This bag is super versatile as far as regulating temps during the night. With the 3/4 zipper, I have left it fully open, using it as a quilt during hot nights in the back of the truck. Sleeping with the bag fully zipped and my head out of the bag is great for chilly nights in a tent. And then of course, the fetal position with it fully zipped and cinched in a bivy during alpine charges, or fast-packing. I think the perfect piece to pair with this bag to ensure you have a warm system is a hooded lightweight down jacket. I have been super warm using this bag, Patagonia cap 1 long johns, a Cap 4 hoody (now called the Thermal Weight hoody) and a Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody. For me, that's been a pretty bomb proof system.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

John Muir Trail: Third Time's a Charm

The Elusive Misstress.

When a dead week at work prompted some time off, the JMT immediately popped into my head. Two years ago my friend Mark Allen and I had an epic learning experience in a JMT attempt. Our thinking was, "if we just walk all day long, we can get pretty far, right?" There is no question that, considering our experience and our fitness, we were quite delusional. At the time, we were also cheap and decided that we should carry our food, rather than mail food drops. Then to seal our fate, we brought enough food to feed a small army for weeks, instead of a couple of guys for one. This ended with our retreat at about the half way point at Red's Meadows after starting in the Valley a few days before. We were absolutely worked, humbled and embarrassed. Needless to say, it's been in my mind to get back there every since.

Sunrise on the Eastside. One of my favorite places.
I went into this feeling prepared, fit and ready for a round two. I left the Bay Area around 4pm and rolled into a pullout around Tioga Pass some hours later. Woke up early, drove to Bishop to buy a map and long johns, which turned out to the only piece of gear I had forgotten. A few hours later I was signing the permit to start that day at the visitor center in Lone Pine. I rallied up to the Portal and double parked while I finalized my pack and waited for a parking spot to open up. I ended up waiting for over two hours for a parking spot. In hindsight, I now realize was probably a good thing, considering how the day shook out. By the time I finally started up the trail it was 1:48pm. I felt really good on the way up to Trail Camp. My pack was a joke compared to my previous attempt, even carrying food for most of the hike this time. My legs felt solid and rested. I was feeling good and kept telling myself to keep it conservative, there will be plenty of time to push it. I flirted with the idea of walking into the night and punching out Whitney on my first half day. I knew this wouldn't be a good idea, and promised myself that I would stay the night at Trail Camp. As I approached timberline I was feeling my stomach churning a bit and my head was starting to pound. Getting a headache during my first day or two in the mountains is standard procedure for me as it is hard for me to stay hydrated. I arrived at Trail Camp at 5:02pm, set up my bed and started to hydrate. My stomach was still feeling it and it was hard to choke down some food. The next few hours I wrote in my trip journal and laid on my bed slowly sipping water. Each time I got up to go to pee, I felt increasingly dehydrated, sick to my stomach. The last time I got up to fill my water bottles before the night, I noticed how hard it was to keep my balance as I walked to the small alpine lake. My breathing was abnormally labored. I laid on my sleeping bag, super conflicted as to what I should do. I finally decided that I would go down to Outpost camp to spend the night and see if my conditions improved. Trying to pack my pack only confirmed my decision. I was disoriented and would place something on the ground and then immediately begin to search for it. I sat down for what felt like 30 seconds but when I looked at my watch it was 7 minutes. After some time of this, I talked to the couple camping closest to me. I told them I was sick and to make sure that I got out ok in a few minutes. I was afraid that I would lay down again and not get up.

Can't really remember taking this, but I'm glad that
my selfie game is still strong mid altitude epic.
I began my descent just after 8pm and flicked on my headlamp soon after. Just a few hundred yards down the trail I vomited what food I had in my stomach, then continued to dry heave. I was stumbling, but never fell over. I tried to change out of my warm clothes part way down, but was unable to find my hiking clothes in my pack. I arrived at Outpost camp and felt no better. At this point, not knowing that much about what my symptoms meant, I was afraid of staying to high and causing damage or getting worse. I decided to continue my descent and that I would sleep in the truck at the Portal. By the time I got there, I was feeling worked. I ate a cookie and passed out. The next morning I felt super tired and pretty groggy. I decided that the trip was over. Mostly I was afraid that if I went back up, I would just get sick again.

I have ever experienced altitude sickness before and after doing my research on it, I maybe would have been ok to sleep up there and have my condition improve. At the same time, my conditions suggested more than just normal altitude sickness, possibly cerebral edema. In that case, it obviously would not have been a good choice to stay high. I not sure what caused this to happen, and it has me pretty worried about getting up to altitude in the future.

As far as gear and food, I was pretty satisfied with weight and my kit. Allow me to geek out about it for myself and all the other three people that may care.

Food: I figured that if I brought what I thought was enough for 4 days of food, I would end up with the perfect amount for 7 days, plus supplementing at the couple resupply stores along the way. Here's what I ended up with:

Justin's Peanut Butter (4 packets) - 720 cal
Alternative Baking Co. Cookies (3) - 1380 cal
Whole Foods Chocolate bars (2) - 1020 cal
GU (10) - 1000 cal
GU Brew Recovery (1) - 240 cal
EFS electrolyte drink (1) - 96 cal
GU Brew - 400 cal
Clif Builder's Max (2) - 780
ProBar (3) - 1140 cal
Soylent (1 bag) - 2000
Loucks Sesame snaps (3) - 630 cal
Baggie of SportLegs and Advil

Total calories - 9406

Gear. I felt that I was prepared for basically anything the Sierras could have provided during late August. Here's what I ended up with.

Hoka One One Stinson 3 ATR
Darn Tough socks
Smartwool socks (thick for sleeping)
Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody
Patagonia Cap 4 Hoodie
Montbell windshirt
Patagonia Houdini Pants
Patagonia Cap 1 long john bottoms
Black Diamond Twilight Bivy
Thermarest NeoAir Pad (W's reg.)
Brooks running shorts
TNF Better than Naked Shirt
Z-packs 20 degree sleeping bag
GoLite (RIP) Chrome Dome umbrella
Black Diamond Ultra Distance trekking poles
Bear Canister (Solo size)
Leatherman Squirt
Timex watch
Black Diamond Beanie
Black Diamond Ion Headlamp and extra batteries
SPOT tracking device
JMT map
Dropper of chlorine for water purification

Overall, it was a heartbreak. Never been hammered with altitude sickness like that. Glad to know that I have a dialed system though. Who knows, maybe the opportunity will soon present itself to get out there and try it again.

You know what they say: third time's a charm.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 Speedgoat 50k

I decided to revive this blog from the depths of my Google account. What better way to do it than with a race report from last weekend at the Speedgoat 50k? For all 3 people that might stumble across this and actually read it, I apologize for the disjointed and generally ill-organized report on the event. If you want a considerably condensed version of this sufferfest, check it out here on STRAVA. 

This all started last fall during a business dinner at which the Speedgoat himself was in attendance and offered a comped entry. I took him up on it, as I have always wanted to run the race and see what Snowbird is really like when all the white stuff melts for the season. Living and training at sea level for the past year has been less than confidence inspiring, but I did manage to sneak in a few solid days in the Sierras and in Mill Valley leading up to the race. The name of the game for this round of training has been avoiding injury at all costs. For me, that means incredibly low volume.  I'd say that my average training week consists of 2 runs per week of no more than 4 miles per run, some climbing at the gym, a core class once a week, and maybe a few sets of squats. Since February, I have been getting up to the Valley and Tuolumne a couple times a month. Hiking in to climbs with a decent pack has been a key part of my training, and I think that it paid off during the race.

We flew in Friday mid day and I couldn't resist taking a lap up Little Cottonwood Canyon on one of my favorite trad climbs. It was baking hot on a belay ledge and by the time the evening was over I was pretty tired. Not from the climbing, but probably a combination of traveling and the hot sun. I had pre-race jitters so it took me a while to fall asleep, but once I did I slept until the alarm at 4:30am. When I woke up I was really not in the mood to go run around in the mountains, but that was soon to change mid way up Hidden Peak. We rolled up to the start, checked in, chatted with some Hoka friends and went back to suncreened futz over gear. When it was time to listen to Karl's shpeel, I realized I forgot my sunglasses, so I ran back to the car to get them.

We started and I ran with Rach for a long while. Going up the first steep section I knew I was in for a painful day. Just wasn't feeling strong, I guess. More than anything I was probably just winded from the elevation. We meandered our way up and across Peruvian and Gad valley until we were climbing switchbacks up the Little Cloud bowl just below Road to Provo. Rounding off the first climb over the top of Hidden Peak was a high point, seeing a friend I hadn't seen a long time (Chubba!) and a couple Hoka homies was a big morale boost. Running down the backside of Mineral Basin was cool, just because I had never been there in the summer, but skied down that section many times. I almost went down hard a couple times when the terrain fell out from underneath me on the steeper sections. Right before the little climb out of Mineral Basin, Sage was already flying down from the out and back at the mine. Crazy wheels! (The new athlete kits looked awesome too.) Running the long down into the flats before the mine was a strong section for me. Not fast, but long and steady downhills usually crush my little lurpy legs and flare up my IT bands, etc. This time down I felt solid. I ran it into the mine aid station and was stoked to see Roch running the aid station with a solid crew. Then began the long climb back up to Mineral Basin. In years to come this is where I'll be be able to make up some time as I ended up hiking basically the whole thing. There are some runnable sections, but at this point I was feeling it. This is also where I became pretty damn dehydrated. Head pounding, I tried to be consistent with the fluid intake. I was happy to have a big hydration bladder as well as a bottle in the front of my vest. Getting into the Mineral aid station for a second time I was probably in my lowest point of the race, which looking back, wasn't too bad. Just dehydrated. I drank 32 oz of water and 16 oz of coke before leaving the station. (I also grabbed a stack of saltines and some sour watermelon candy which both hit the spot. I drank a good amount of Coke throughout the race.) Climbing up towards Alta was pretty miserable but nothing compared to the Baldy climb. Seeing Steve and Chubba at the top helped me slog up there, but man that was steep! Anyway, through the tunnel aid station, through the tunnel and descending Peruvian. The mental crux for me was when I realized that we had to go up to Hidden Peak again... I didn't study the course really at all, so this was a nasty surprise. Chubba hiked with me for a few minutes at the top of the climb and that was a huge mental boost for me. Pretty wild what seeing a friendly face out there can do to get you stoked again. The final 6 mile descent was the first time that I couldn't run when I wanted to run, the legs were just hammered at this point, but I was starting to smell the barn. I was chatting with another runner when someone cruised past us. It was motivating to see someone putting it to the grindstone and so I fell in line behind her. We ended up running the rest of the way down from there which was only a few miles, but I was stoked to be running under 10 minute mile pace, if only off and on, for the last bit. Finishing was awesome, of course. Hung out with Hoka people, and cheered Rachel through the finish line an hour after me.

Of the Ultras that I have run, I felt the best after this one than any others. I have also recovered much quicker as well. Walking around that evening and the next day was fine. I was sore, but not limping, which is usually the case for me after a race. This was also the first race that I didn't have any injury flare ups during the race. If I wanted to run, I could run. If I couldn't run, it was because it was too steep or I was too blasted, not because I was limping downhill. In many ways, it was the hardest race I have done.

I thought a couple times during the race, "this is harder than Wasatch." Obviously, they are apples and oranges, but mentally, Speedgoat is soul-crushing. I was quite a bit slower than I thought I would be. I said I had no time goal, but, come on, you always have a time in your head. Was hoping to be around 9 hours, ended up with 10:24:07. With no injuries and minimal training, I'll take it! Overall, it was an awesome day. Happy to be healthy and stoked to sign up for the next race. Im thinking another 50k. Probably TNF in December.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Week of May 12th - May 18th

Alright, and we're back! Hip is good. I have emerged from the dark, miserable cave of injury and back into the light of running and training and eating. Here is the week's report.

Week Summary:

May 13- Monday: 20 min run.

May 14- Tuesday: Rest

May 15- Wednesday: Rest

May 16- Thursday: Shoreline trail. 6 miles. fartlek. Average pace 10min.

May 17- Friday: Up slate canyon, around and down the front of the Y. Carried full race vest. Ate a Larabar, a Sunrider bar, and some gels. Handled it well. Stomach turned a bit as soon as I started the heavy downhill. Something to remember about when to fuel. 2.5 hour run. 8 miles. 4,092 feet up and 4,092 feet down. Felt really good.

May 18- Saturday:  1 hour run. 6-7 miles. L knee sore from all the down on friday. took it a bit easy. Everything else felt really really strong. Lungs and heart rate  stronger than beginning of the week. Running a lot more hills without getting winded.  

Summary: Started Carter's training plan this week. I feel really good about what he laid out for me to do. Not the week I wanted it to be in terms of volume. But I am learning to listen to my body and actually obey it. Left knee was sore from all the down on friday, so it forced me to go easy on Sat. However, after coming off an injury that put me down for two months, not a bad first (real) week back. I took an ice bath after Thursday and Friday run and that helped a lot. CEP socks on Thursday and Friday helped a lot too. Makes a big difference for me. Monday I ran in my Altras and it rocked my calfs. Not injury feeling, just really sore the next day. Only in calf and solius, not achilles. Probably won't run in them until after pocatello, not worth the recovery effort. Although, to be fair, it could have just been part of the curve of getting back to real miles. The big run/hike I wore my Hokas, which are always a great experience. Love them. The other two runs I was in my puregrits, which also always feel great. Sleep is the crux of recovery for me right now. I need to get to bed earlier. My ADD kills me at night. Class and work are keeping me really busy. Ate really well. Been doing steak and pasta after the runs, lots of shakes inbetween. Still need to eat more, lots more. I am still loosing weight. I guess not a bad thing for running fast, but I'd like to be in between 140-145. (139 right now.)