Monday, December 28, 2009


I am telling you right now, had there not been an open bottle of Hersey's Caramel topping in my refrigerator, I would be at least two pounds lighter than I am today. Because look, its not just the caramel topping, any a moron can dip a spoon in a jar, its creatively applying that ooey, gooey, scrumptious substance to something else. Usually something chocolate.

My Flatiron hike on Christmas Eve, hammered, hammered, my quads. Four days later I can walk down my stairs without taking them one at a time or using the railing. So even though I am a few miles behind in my training this week, I am on vacation through January 4 and I am looking for some great adventures.

Here is some of the things I would love to get done this week. As I am often corrected, all adventures are not endurance sports or competition. Thus I am going to fulfill my promise Mighty Mo to see snow before the end of the year. He has never seen it in person. I am going to attempt another run up Carney Springs to find the trail that leads over the ridge line of the Superstition Mountains. Fellowship with friends, an anniversary with Mistress and New Years.

Its not enough to exist. I am going to live.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hike: Flatiron

On Christmas Eve, myself and several of my AZTRICLUB team mates decided to meet up and hike in Lost Dutchman State Park. Specifically we hiked first to Siphon Draw and then as some turned back, four of us continued, literally up the trail, to Flatiron. This is rated as the hardest hike inside the Valley of the Sun. This is not the first time I have done this hike, but in most regards this was a new hike for me as I am finally getting into better shape as I transition from recovery to base training.

The hike started just before sunrise and two degrees above freezing. Yikes. We also knew that travel of the sun and location of our hike would keep us in shadow for many hours. Zipped up, shivering but in good spirits we marched out on the frost covered trail.

It was a relatively quick 55 minutes to the seasonal waterfall marking the end of Siphon Draw trail. There was some water flowing and those that playfully stomped in the thin pools, were scrambling to purchase footing on what is called slick rock for a reason. After a quick, too cold and chilly break, we parted ways with our team mates and smeared a 100 yard 40 degree face that bring many people to lung chewing heaves of breath.

The distance from Siphon Draw to the top of the Superstition Mountains, called Flatiron, is roughly a mile. I have the exact distance in my GPS but its somewhere across the room and my knee is currently bathed in a ice wrap. So forgive my lack of enthusiasm for movement. However far the distance, its the vertical nature that begs the question, "Why are we doing this?"

This part of the hike is a solid Class 2 climb, I'd call it 2.8 if I could. Except for the lack of exposure that would seriously injure there is much use of the hands to continue forward, or perhaps more specifically, upward movement. The jovial nature of our banter certainly helped pass the time and before we knew it, we were on the top in a total time of 1:55. A very respectable time.

Of the four of us in the party, only I had climbed the entire route recently. One had climbed it years ago. One climbed most of it recently but turned back due to time constraints. One had never been. I had warned that time loses track at the top and we should not stay long. Forty minutes blew by in a flash and the though the sun was finally on us, the wind was terrible and we moved back down.

It is a Christmas miracle that I personally did not fall or suffer injury. I willingly admit I am good for one good fall per hike. However it was two others who slipped on frosty rocks and bruised their tailbones. I certainly turned an ankle here and there and looked a fool to absorb rapid movement in painful directions and as earlier stated am dealing with a painful knee ten hours later. In all a great hike and with great company. My hydration was excellent and nutrition on target.

It is not enough to exist. I am going to live.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy advice

A sure sign that I am firmly moving back into triathlon is the attraction people have toward me for advice. Nothing pleases me more, and I think I speak for the vast majority of triathletes, than helping peoe with their programs. Dosent suck that I am in the indusrty I am n which gives me practical experience with people and fitness.

Today alone I have been approached by two people looking for advice or mentoring I to the sport. Funny enough all the people I have spoke too lately all have the same fear, the swim. From someone like me who had zero swim ability and still cannot float and has only one stroke, anything is possible.

What has been most exciting for me is that is something that was sorely lacking in my recovery. It was very important for me have hard break from the excitement of adventure and now that I am back I haven't skippd a beat.

I would say the one thing has changed is that as of yet I still haven't fully comitted myself to training with the squad. Where I was at 90% of team events I am now at about a third. Better than the 0% it has been so it's not all bad.

2010 promises to be a great year for me. I expect to engage again in the spirit of competition. I expect plenty of successes and honestly quite a few failures. "No rain, no rainbows."

it is not enough to exist, I am going to live.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is that you?

In the last month, my training and nutrition have been pretty spot on. Enough so that every day of the last week, people have remarked I look significantly thinner. And that is true. Clothes are looser, face and neck thinner. It's nice getting that kind of recognition from my peers.

The sad fact is that for 18 months my fitness was not a priority, recovering my kidneys and liver took that distinction. Its seems that for now, at the level I am training, I am keeping the lid on that situation. But I took a hit physically and nutritionally. I never really put on a lot of weight but as I get older the weight becomes more noticeable. Thus I am beginning to believe the converse is also true. Read the first paragraph.

Though I work through Wednesday and have to attend a meeting next week, I won't physically interact with my management staff in a significant way until January 4 or 5. I am going to use this dark time as a way to really take the training and nutrition to a whole new level and make some huge leaps in my progress.

Being on vacation allows me to push the training a bit more and then truly recover with rest instead of working 10-12 hours each day. I just need to avoid the excess Christmas calorie and not become overwhelmed with other peoples (read: family) obligations they want to put on me which conflicts with me working on myself.

Wanting to devote time to myself for exercise is selfish and you will never hear me say otherwise. But a persons fitness is more than physical, it is mental, emotional and spiritual as well. How can you love others if you don't love yourself? How can you be the leader of your family if you can't lead from the front? Why be good when you can be great? Is that you? It's me.

Its not enough to exist, I am going to live.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Streams of consciousness pour like sweat

After a long strange day I am laying in bed reading a book. Something in the book makes me suddenly want to read an online biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. This leads me to reading several battle histories which leads me to want to find the old video game Doom online and play it. Then I start looking up any old video game that I used to play to see if its free online. That gets disappointing because free clicks into pay sites. Undeterred I spend two hours of precious sleep time surfing game sites for games that I can play.

Which really sucks because I need my sleep and the last thing I need is to inflame my video game habit which could be as dangerous a drug to me as any narcotic to an addict. Just so I am clear, I don't have a real problem with video games like an addict does with crack, but I am just saying, here I am well past midnight at a computer when I should be in bed in deep REM sleep. Like mom says, "Nothing good happens after midnight." I'd be willing to push that till 2am, but the illustration stands. And I have gotten into some really tight spots well before midnight. So it might be an arbitrary time anyway.

I made my second spin class for the week and have officially terrified the women in my class. Not only did I burn just about 1000 calories, I produce prodigious sweat, a proverbial lake around my bike that was avoided at all costs when the lights came on. The grunting also did not help when the instructor said, "Give me a 10" (out of 10). I won't be able to make it back there for a couple of weeks. Till January. Oh well.

I still haven't decided what to do about racing early next year. I say I will, then I say I won't . I have been pushing myself hard for it and then wonder why I train so hard for it. I am confused. Pulled in two directions, equally tensioned along two polar opposite ends of the spectrum. I feel that either path now is a good one to follow but each has its own long term obstacles. A constant nagging that I should be able to compete against the clock but staying in denial. Or race with the knowledge I could quite suddenly lose control and charge into a dire physical scenario.

I know what I know what I know. I think....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Spinning around

Today I went to my first spin class in years. I was challenged by the spin staff to go through the class. Since I am technically a big-deal in my company, and I accepted the challenge, the first person of my level to do so, the instructor(s) delighted in the days leading up by describing the pain they were going to put me through. I let them have their good humor at my expense.

Surprise, surprise when I showed up with cycling shoes. The instructor was helpful with a smirk and loud announcement. When asked to provide my official title, I responded 'Janitor' with a laugh and I believe the point was made to the other cyclists.. The cycling shoes did not fit the clips but they had a better bottom than my running shoes so I used them anyway in the strap in pedals. A quick set up, light spin, black lights on, and away we went.

My thoughts of the class are as follows. First, I will give it to the instructor, he put on a great class and did not let me or any previous sense of goading me distract from the experience he gave the whole class. As a strict triathlete cyclist, I am used to being in the aero position and trying to stay as tight as possible for hours at a time. Spin class had way to much standing for me. And swaying the body with upper body training. It took me 75% of the class to break that habit and try to get into the 'swing' of things.

When the lights came on, the regulars milled about. Some saw the lake of sweat around my bike. Its was prodigious. The instructor came over and gave me a very nice compliment, my ability to finish the class the way in which I did was all the abbreviated commentary that was needed.

A bunch of the people in class wore HRM and were comparing calories burned. I heard, "330....520" and so forth. I got done cleaning up my bike and looked at my own Polar monitor. 1005 calories. I was taken aback and actually said the number out loud. One of the ladies looked at me and was pissed. Pissed. I think she is usually the center of attention for the class and I just clowned the calories burn category by almost 50%.

As it turns out, I will be back at that club when the instructor is teaching another class this week. I plan on making a repeat showing. I don't think I will make this a full on habit but its a nice change of pace.

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not all lollipops and egg nog

Well still haven't trained this week, nor most of last. Painful admission on my part. I feel guilty of Common Man Syndrome but I realize this is just a marginalizing of how sick I am right now and how run down I get before a vacation. I think everyone, myself included, has had a hard 2009 and just wants to have a little joy and love of family before closing the book on the year. Its just getting through the rest of the year, first.

I did get nine and half hours sleep last night. I needed it. I woke up only once about three hours in. My book was still propped on my chest and my headlamp was still shining on the page. Mistress let me sleep in as long as I needed, which was great except it made me rush to get out of the house on time. Though I have popped a couple cold tabs to get through the day.

Mighty Mo has missed the whole week of school with his illness. He has a couple hours of good energy and then just wiped out. Hopefully he will be better by the weekend.

Mae took her first couple of unsupported steps in her playpen yesterday. Mistress wouldn't call them 'walking' but all of us think she will officially walk by Christmas. She has barely crawled around on the floor, instead preferring her walker to zip around in.

Mistress is juggling it all with relative ease. Her ankle is getting better and like all moms, able to absorb multiple immediate needs with a pretty casual disposition. With Mae sleeping through the night now, she is also getting undistrubed sleep with is greatest gift a mom can have.

Its not enough to exist, I am going to live.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spirit of the Deer

About ten years ago I had a workout partner who was a fitness model, fitness educator, new agey-yoga type guy. We could not have been more different as partners. He did lighter weight and higher reps. I was a power movement guy lifting for strength. But it worked. As was often his style he would get very philosophical about fitness being about mind-body-spirit and one day he spoke about the Spirit of the Deer.

First he described the Spirit of the Bear. A bear is a tall powerful creature known for its strength. A bear could run down a human or catch a fish with one swipe of its mighty paw. Bears are also known for eating habits. Bears gorge themselves usually in just one meal a day. They steal food from campers, break into cars based on a scent. Bears love to eat. Bears are creatures of habit. And bears put on a lot of weight in order to hibernate for the winter.

The analogy was that I was the bear. I have problems with food control. I love to eat. I rarely changed my workout style except to add some more running for the odd road race I still enjoyed. My body type is such that I easily put on weight. But I was strong and powerful in the weight room, able to leg press half a ton and bench press 110 pound dumbbells for sets.

Then he described the Spirit of the Deer. A deer is a nimble creature. While fast, it relies on agility to get away from predators. A deer does not gorge, but nibbles all day long. A full stomach does not help a deer in any way. A deer does not hibernate in winter but faces the challenge without significant gain in weight like the bear.

He was the deer. Of course he may have taken the animal analogy too far as like most animals he was unable to remain monogamous, in this case to his very human wife, and she culled him from the herd with a nasty divorce.

The analogy and the story is one that continuously pops into my head when I meditate, both the Spirit of the Deer (and marital fidelity). For the most part, I understand the necessity to remain a lighter, more agile person. A lighter person takes less medication and has, in general, better health. A lighter person is someone who through metabolism or habit has eating patterns that give energy throughout the day, sustained energy. A lighter spirit is seen as a benefit to the eco system and and not agitator.

As someone who is most certainly a bear spirit by nature, I have tried, with some success to become a deer spirit. I no longer train the same way, eat the same way, maintain and sustain my energy the same way. I don't look at life the same way as I did those many years ago. This is progress that I can measure in me by looking at those around me who have lived the same year, every year for the last ten years.

I see the dangers that exist for people that are overweight or obese as they get older, whether they have the spirit of the deer, bear, eagle, hummingbird, whatever spirit someone ascribes to them self, they heavier they are, the worse off they are. (Massive generality).

My point is, this holiday season, with all our obstacles to exercise and nutrition, try to channel the Spirit of the Deer. Eat sparingly and often during the day. Do not gorge at parties. Move around and don't hibernate (wise advice for any day). Think light and nimble, someone who bounds over small logs on your trail (obstacles) instead of big, lumber, energy draining bears who stomp through the brush leaving a path of destruction behind it and end up exhausted and have to take long naps.

Its not enough to exist, I am going to live.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Back to training

Well, its time to get back on it. Attempting my first day without cold medicine. I think most people describe how sick they are by how many days they spent in bed or by their symptoms or missed work. I can certainly use those terms but I usually base mine on how many days of training I miss. Today is one week. That sucks, I know. I am going to try some circuit training and treadmill walking.

In my past, I would knuckle under and just do whatever it takes to get the training done. Of course then I had training goals and race schedules. Now I just want to get well as fast as possible. The older I get I find the more tired I am when sick. A normal light five hour sleeper when healthy, when sick I will sleep a hard seven plus hours. AND I am beat the whole day.

I am not alone in this. It seems like 2006 with Mighty Mo. Kid says he doesn't feel good but has a completely normal day and then next morning BAM; bronchitis, sinus and ear infection. He just got off two weeks of antibiotics and now on two more for another two weeks. Mistress spent two hours at the doctors with him yesterday and he will be out of school most of the week because his immune system is shut down again. At least now we know what comes next in this little dance and we're prepping his system to combat the colitis that will attack his intestines.

Through it all the kid has a better disposition than me.

Its not enough to exist, I am going to live.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sick Day(s)

Well the exercise ride was going well until I caught this damn winter cold. I haven't worked out in four days. I really dislike these stupid things. I would use 'hate' but that is too strong a word and I won't let Mighty Mo use it, either. But its up there.

It's been a while since I've had a cold or flu and I suppose I am acting like one of those crazy Seattleite's who forgets how to drive in the snow. It's okay, I can say 'crazy' because I grew up there. And its true. 380 days of rain a year and not a single problem looking through those old skippy, squealchy wipers but add a 1/4 inch of overnight snow and a morning work commute and everyone (else) forgets how to drive.

But back to me. I just want to sleep and in the past I would have knuckled under and just gotten the workouts done on 2x the daily recommended dose of DayQuil, but it's not worth it. Besides ithe cold is screwing up my nutrition and hydration, I am way under caloried the last few days. Which brings me to one of the best movie lines ever, "I figure I am only one stomach flu away from my goal weight" (Devil Wears Prada). I think new federal laws regarding Blogging forces me to disclose that I did not get paid or receive free gear to write that. Though I'd be happy too.

Regardless of my fitness levels, when I am sick I usually can't taste food. So I default to M&Ms and Diet Coke. Might as well splurge, right. But so far I haven't had either. Too sick for even that. Though the girls in my admin office have all kinds of goodies and I tried a Girl Scout Cookie called Thank U Berry Munch. Now look, I haven't had Captain Crunch cereal in at least 15 years, but I am telling you that those cookies take exactly like crunchberries. I stopped at one when I read that it only takes five of those to equal the same calories as a 6" Subway turkey with veggies. Seriously, a cookie that small has 60 calories? That ain't right.

Mistress told me last night that she was going to 'Ferberize' Baby Mae and I may want to sleep downstairs. I just took an extra Nyquil and I slept like a baby. Well, not our baby but somebodies baby I am sure. Luckily, she knew I had to get to the office at zero-dark-thirty to prep for two dispute resolutions going before judges this morning and I skated before anyone was up. By the way, it takes exactly 20 oz of extra caffeinated Quik Trip gas station coffee to cut the fog of 3 Nyquil taken 7 hours earlier. Try to mathmatize that!

But right now, Mighty Mo has his two best bud's over at the house this afternoon probably running around like Hammy from Over the Hedge on a caffeine drink. Mistress is short on sleep, cranky and making sure nothing those three do is permanent to the house or themselves. Baby Mae doesn't even want to sleep. All I want to do is sleep. So I am not sure what to do, except I am not going to buy a large bag of peanut M&M's and half rack of Diet Coke. Probably.

Again, just to stay compliant with new federal law, lots of product placement and name dropping in this post and none of those sonsofbitches are paying me a dime.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Life versus living, racing style

The improbable has become probable. I am contemplating races for 2010. It is actually quite hard for me to do so. In the last 18 months I have taught myself to recoil in horror at the thought of competition in order to get healthy enough to compete again. How zen is that?

Nevertheless, I have cracked open this process just a bit to see mentally how I will respond. It has not been easy. I vacillate between extremes of my own personal opinion because I realize that all my faults lie on the race clock and not in my training time. I know my current limitations have placed a significant governor on the events I can do but I desire to do them all the same. To race again, oh to race again, could lead me to a very real sense of physical destruction and that must be avoided at all costs. So I think of the exact opposite. I could pull off the feat of becoming the fastest cyclist and runner on my team and never race again. My speed but a legend seen during the week but not in a race. The Ty Webb of triathlon. (Ty Webb, the character played by Chevy Chase in the movie Caddyshack, was the best golfer at Bushwood who never played in tournaments).

If I do race my first attempts must be something that has some fail safes involved ;whether that be a physical governor like a pacer or a time/distance governor based on the course. How that all looks will vary with my idea of my training base, events that are coming up, plus the objective thoughts of Mistress seeing me go through this process. I rely on her quite a bit for feedback as in my mind I do not realize when I am saying things that make no sense.

Currently I am in a place of training consistently but not very hard. Its a good first step. I know where my limit is and staying well within that zone. I am not holding myself to a rigid structure that would normally lead me to peak for a race. I don't want the added pressure, I want to have fun. I want to get to a point in 2010 where any of the the following distances can come from me on any day; swim 2.4 miles, bike 50 miles hard and run 15 miles at will. Not in a race setting and not even as a brick. Just go out and do it.

These are distances that used to be merely foundational base work and now they represent the best I could hope for, the culmination of a good return to the sport. I haven't even come close them yet in training. The roundabout point is that my race goals are still undefined, still not even sure to race or not race. The training however is defined. First it must be safe, second it must be consistent, third it must be fun.

It is not enough to exist, I want to live.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On course.

I promised my good pal and training partner Hardcore Mike that I would spend some time with him during the second of three laps of the Ironman Arizona run course. As things tend to go at these events, it is hard to be in the right spot at the right time and find people. As it happened, I walked up to some friends and was told Mike was just two minutes up the course. What happened next fulfilled a reoccurring dream.

I cinched my pack belt and took off like a bolt from the sky. I was already dressed the part of an Ironman contestant and received no complaints as I entered the course looking the part of competitor. The only clue to my true identity was the pace I was setting in a already exhausted field of runners. I had no reason for this sprint except to see my friend as quickly as possible as the sun was soon setting.

I suppose in hind site, my speed was also the physical expression of joy I feel doing something I love bottled up since my unfinished race last year. Knowing that for all intents and purposes I will never run as a competitor on an Ironman course again, I cherished every crunching footfall, every spectators accolade, the sheer thrill of freedom that comes from running. And I ran.

At my pace I should have caught up to Mike within a mile, certainly before hitting the overpass triathletes must cross over Tempe Town lake. I ran three times that distance along the course and did not see my friend. Is it possible his pace was that good? Anything is possible. I continued to run another mile, seeking jerseys of his color and running that person to the ground until I knew it was not him. It was never him.

I come to a spot that is the neck of a loop. Do I run the loop and chase down my friend, still possibly, beyond rational thought ahead of me? Or do I play it safe and wait here? If I passed him to this point he would run up on me. If he was ahead he would come back this way. There was no hesitation, on I ran.

As a 'bandit' (someone on the course who did not pay) I kept far away from provided aid, I took no water, I took no food. I did take the verbal support. Oh, it felt so good to get this praise. "Good Pace!" "Looking good!" and so much more. To me it all sounded the same, "Welcome back. We missed you. We love you."

I charged up the lone hill of the run, a place called Curry Rd, maybe he is on this stretch. And I became in tune with the pangs the athletes possibly felt as I ran by. They all must think I am one of them, but my pace is far to fresh for the effort this crowd has put out today. I know if someone passed me so completely at this point in my race, I would be disheartened. I would inwardly begin to doubt my ability. So I slowed down as a token of unspoken honor.

I ran all the way back through the course looking for my friend. I never found the actual one, Mike, but I reconnected with the mental and emotional one in my head. I miss racing so much, not because I am fast or crush my peers, but because its a freedom. Its the power of purpose, vision and direction over Common Man instincts to be decadent, lazy or live a uninspired life. Because of this knowing, I touched a unanticipated point in my recovery.

I will race again. I know it. I will earn the congratulatory statements of the volunteers and sip from watered down Gatorade they hand out in pinched Dixie cups, a chalice to champions if their ever was one. It felt wonderful. I felt alive. I am more hopeful and properly committed to a new life in racing.

It's not enough to exist, I want to live.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A New Shiny Thing: Mountainsmith DAY lumbar pack

For those that know me, they know I am seldom parted from my backpack full of wonderful shiny things. Today I discuss my newest shiny thing, the pack itself. Its a Mountainsmith Day lumbar pack

My first impression of the pack, in Red, is that it is made to take the worst sort of beatings and last for years. The reviews from customers said as much, but seeing is believing. The YYK zippers are quite sturdy on its three pockets. The first pocket modest sized for quickly needed items. The main pouch zipper is close to the top of the pack and holds the bulk of the storage space. A very small zippered internal pocket for keys, wallets and such is inside this larger area. Along the rear of the pack is a thick back pad. There is a hidden unzippered pocket behind this for paperwork or passports. On the bottom of the bag and along the hip belt are cinching straps to even out the weight being carried.

There are four ways to carry the Day. First is the classic fanny pack mode, using the hip belt When not in use, these can be tucked out of the way quite securely behind the back pad. Next, by using the two top bag loops much like a gym bag. The last way the bag can be carried out of the box is by the provided shoulder strap which attaches to the Day by use of two quick release buckles. Mountainsmith has an aftermarket product called Strappettes, which I did purchase. The Strappette is a harness that replaces the shoulder strap and allows the Day to be worn like a backpack.

My one concern was the external bottle holders. I saw a smaller version of the Day, called the Tour while at REI. A standard 1 liter Nalgene bottle sticks out from the top of the pocket an inch or more. This gave me pause to its ability to keep the bottles seated when doing those things that I do. I think these would be just securing tall bike bottles or 1 liter Gatorades that slope inward at the top. When the Day arrived the first thing I did was load two full Nalgene's and the fit is perfect.

I would have to wait a couple weeks before I could hit the trail with the Day, but I moved out of my backpack as soon as it arrived. Using the carry strap, I have had the bag with me daily for work and it holds everything I need, including lunch. On the weekends I have loaded up my DSLR camera, extra odds and ends for the kids and its done very well. I appreciate that the entire profile of the bag is smaller than a standard backpack. It fits under seats and strollers much easier.

When the shoulder strap is removed the Strapette harness attaches to the same quick release buckles on top of the pack but require some visual cues from the instructions to attach to the hip belt on the front. Based on just weight bearing, I don't think a set of quick release buckles on the hip belt would be out of line to make this process easier. However the harness is a great addition, dare I say required for trail use.

I used the Day pack with Strappettes for my Four Peaks summit hike. I carried my standard light hiking kit, added my medical kit, GPS, plus a down jacket. Add some food, two full Nalgene bottles and an extra liter in the pack and total pack weight was a tick under eleven pounds. Using the Strappettes and the pack being located along my hips, I barely noticed the pack on me at all. I felt much lighter than if I had the same gear in a backpack. Much of this hike was done in a steep scree chute and I dragged the pack along sharp rocks and rough ground. The pack was scuffed and dirty but not a tear or fray. The same can't be said for my trail buddies pants.

Ultimately I will test this pack on a multiday backpack trip, though not as the primary pack. Instead, using the Strappettes I will attach the Day so it sits in front so I can access food, water, maps, camera, rain gear and bug dope without having to take off my full pack. When a campsite is established, the Day will stay on me when I am outside my tent, holding immediate need items which will also include fishing tackle.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hike: Browns Peak / Four Peaks

For many years I stared North and East from the Valley of the Sun and dreamed to climb the Four Peaks. While eclipsed in scale locally thanks to the Superstitions, South Mountain and Camelback Mtn., the Four Peaks do have the prime distinction of being the only visible location of snow covered mountain tops from the city. The photo below is not self generated or indicative of my hike on this day. This is just a very pretty picture.

While there are four peaks, only one has an established route, Brown's Peak. This would be the tallest peak, the furthest left in the photo. It is named Brown's Peak. The other three simply labeled numerically, 2-3-4. Its a bumpy 20 mile drive on a unmaintained forest service road to get to the trail head. Four wheel drive is highly recommended but not mandatory.

At the trail head, around 5,600 feet, it is certainly Fall. Crisp cold air. A golden sun peaking through green fir and scrub. Wind through the trees. Frost on the ground. Its is so nice to see green on something other than cactus and weeds. There is only a couple vehicles in the lot and one hiker with a dog who said he came back short of a summit.

The first hour of the hike is pure high country scenery. I've had enough of desert hiking, I really enjoy the ecosystem that presents over 5,000 feet. The trail is loamy dirt, not sand or crud. There was a fire here a little over a decade ago and burnt tree limbs still liter the area. If anything it gives you an appreciation for the power of nature, almost everything I see is younger than me. There are massive round rock formations all around us that the low growth only accentuates.

The trail reaches a saddle at just under 2 miles. We stood there looking at a soft ridge to our right, certainly not one of the Four Peaks, and what appears to be a straight up rock climbing proposition to our left. A returning hiker shows us the route through a narrow scree chute to the top of the peak. We locate three of his friends on the face and he explains he turned around because the climb was too exposed for his taste.

Many, many years ago I rock climbed on a regular basis. I wasn't a very strong climber but I have found that that carries as much weight as saying, I am not a very good Ironman. It is something held up as slightly crazy and out of norm with society, therefore revered regardless of ability. The final season I climbed, I gave myself two concussions from falling. Mistress watched me fall on the second one. For those counting, these were concussions eleven and twelve for me. On that day she made me promise if I ever climbed or bouldered again I would wear a helmet and that I would never climb or boulder again. Looking at the half mile in front of me, I'm about to break a promise to wife.

None of the guidebooks or online descriptions for Brown's Peak or Four Peaks really does any justice to what they uniformly call, The Chute. It is often described as a scree chute, if at all mentioned. Here is the reality. It's freaking steep. On the rock climbing scale, I would rate four obstacles between Class 3 and 4. We remind ourselves that lots of people climb this chute every year, without injury, so my trail buddy and I keep going.

The chute itself is a capable trail with no way of getting lost. How can one get lost when either side is shoulder width apart. The first exposure is a lateral move of about two meters. It is true bouldering with only hand holds and toe holds to move across. The next exposures are more technical climbing routes of four to five moves each. No need to be roped, but the constriction of the walls and the lack of any soft landing make the anxiety factor a bit higher than required. The true blessing and what I am sure has kept injuries to a minimum is the perfect sized hand hold all and the decent sized foot placements.

The summit is small, the size of a small bedroom. On a clear day I am told its the best panoramic view in the state. It quite possibly is but on this day a haze keeps our view to a just a level of spectacular. Turns out my trail buddy has intermittent cell phone service. I call Mistress to tell her I am okay, just reached the summit but behind schedule. What occurs is two dropped calls and an unsent text messages that leaves her fearing the worst until I call two hours later. During that time she thinks I am calling from a hospital and they have told me to turn off my phone. When it comes to me and mountains, this has happened.

Whether we needed to or not we belayed our packs down the vertical challenge. I don't think it helped or hindered our time but it allowed me to use the short rope I carry in my pack and practice belays. Plus I got to climb without the extra weight on my back. At no point do I feel that I can't make a move down, its figuring the first right move.Once committed the problem is easy to solve.

A constant statement I use on the way up and twice as much down is, "My wife is going to be disappointed when she sees these pictures." Though it is impractical for most hikers, if I do this climb again I will bring my helmet.

Once back to the saddle, its a fairly brisk hike back down to the trail head where the aforementioned follow up call with Mistress takes place and her stress level drops to normal. I haven't heard that sort of relief in her voice in a long time. Not sure if I should be happy or sad about that. The day ends with another major hiking accomplishment in the state of Arizona.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

See your future

I am sorry to say I have never met an obese person in their 70's. Oh, I am sure that with the obesity trends in our society they are all over the place. I just never see them. I don't see them in grocery stores, I don't see them in the retirement communities around my house. I don't see them in the senior citizen classes held at my gym. Sure there are plenty of seniors that are out of shape and overweight but not obese and that's my focus today. Because obese people die young and I am talking 30, 40, 50 years of age.

Just my thoughts. It is my completely unscientific opinion that the lighter you are, the longer you live. I don't mean that a 150 lb man will statically outlive a 200 lb man, I mean that individually, you, yes you, will probably live longer if you weigh less than you do right now. If your a female at 165 lbs, I think you will live longer and have a better quality of life as you get older if weighed 10-20% less. If your a male, I think the same if you weigh 240 lbs.

I think anecdotally you can see this in our children. The more obese the child the more medical problems they have in their teenage years and beyond. The more overweight a person is as they age, the more issues they must deal with regarding blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and heart conditions. That's just the physical and doesn't even address the mental or emotional.

There is certainly plenty of visually contrary evidence to this thought of mine. Overweight, dare I say obese, people (statically speaking) finish Ironman distance races and run marathons. They have trained themselves for a period of time to be in peak health. But even the most fit person will tell you, that fitness fades, strength and endurance ebb and flow. One year is focused fitness, the next three years a confusing mess.

This is why it's never more important than today to commit yourself to a lifestyle of health and fitness, however you define that endeavor, that leaves you leaner in the long run. Through exercise, nutrition, portion control and healthy living, you reset your homeostatic body weight to a lower number on the scale. You do it today and then recommit every day. For the rest of your life. As you lose weight you win control over your body. People who lose weight take fewer medications than when they were heavier. People who lose a necessary 10-20% or more of their body weight have a better opinion of themselves; their self esteem and self confidence increase dramatically. They love themselves more which enables them to love others more deeply and completely. Dropping a significant amount of additional weight on the body makes a person more productive at work, with less sick days.

Do not believe you were born to be a certain weight. Do not believe you're destined to look or feel a certain way until you die. Don't alibi your conditions or feelings because your a victim. of something. Don't. Just don't think of whatever excuse works best for you today. Don't delude yourself that, "Come Monday, I will start up again." You didn't last Monday.

Start up today. This minute. Right now. Make the choice. Make the time. Apologize and ask forgiveness if you must but do not falter. Stand before the barbs and arrows that will surely come your way for finally taking the most selfish stand you can. The stand for your longer, happier, healthier life. You cannot be 100% the way you want to be next year if you don't get 1% better today. And 1% better tomorrow and then every day of your life try to get a little bit better.

---Its not enough to exist. I want to live---

Monday, November 9, 2009

Searching for something

In 1899, a young man full of responsibility, rides up on his horse. He kisses his girl and says, "Someday, I'm gonna marry you and make you proud of me." He then rides off to do important things.

In 1969, a young man avoiding responsibility, rides up on his chopper. He kisses his girl and says, "Been nice shackin' up with you for the past week." He then rides off in search of more important things.

In 2009, a young man with no responsibility, rides up on his razor scooter. He kisses his girl and says,"I had ten kills on Halo 3 today." He then rides off to bunny hop the curb for the 26th time today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pay for Play

As I begin ramping up my training, within all agreed upon limitations by my docs and Mistress, the juices come flowing back into me, the drive to be great, the focus, the creativity. The fun of fitness.

I really love hanging out with my tri-pals. but endurance people by necessity are soloists, we are not trying to tackle or catch an object. We are not a collective team trying to outscore an opponent. In reeality our truest competition is not even a clock; its the person in our head. We get up early or stay up late to fit it all in. Our lunches are not sitting with co-workers but dodging traffic and weather windows and rushing to be done in time to not be late getting back to the office. We put in hours of training time each week all by ourselves. The only mention is a blurb on a social network site or the corner of a personal webpage.

I do think that endurance athletes pay more to play, mentially and emotionally. We do not have that collective misery that make teams come together in the big game. Our two-a-days are in the same sweltering heat of summer as a high school football team but what we do we do alone, not with four dozen people going through the same thing.

If we do train with team mates its a true blessing in the sport. But on race day these truest friends become your race markers. You are looking for them, are they ahead, are they behind, do they look fresh or hammered? You want to beat these people but at the end of the day the discussion of who beat who is secondary to the effort you put into your day.

Sure we Pay to Play, mentally and emotionally. We can only please ourselves.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fighting Beeline Demons

I have begun to reinsert myself back into the world of triathlon. And I love it. It will culminate in a race later but for now it's just a reconnection with my team. I went to the OW swim workout Saturday and the bike ride on Sunday. The ride happen to be on the Beeline highway, one full lap of the Ironman Arizona course.

Now I am not a superstitious person, but I will tell you that I thought about riding the Beeline a lot in last few days. For those that feel they are missing the "Why" of this, I injured myself quite badly on the bike course of Ironman Arizona in April 2008.

The team was doing two loops of the course, many of them are doing IMAZ this month. I was emphatic that I would only do one loop. Not just to diffuse any potential goading later on from my friends, but to remind me to not goad myself into doing two.

I have rode this loop a hundred times, but not once in the last 18 months. I still knew all the landmarks and where the slightest changes in elevation was as well as the mileage between points. All the things that become memorized from the boredom of going up and down the road.

Everything in the first few miles had gone right. I was on time for the ride and I had all my gear. I even changed my first rear tire flat in over a year in under six minutes. I had not lost a mental beat in the game, it was emotional. For better or worse we stopped at the gas station on the corner of McDowell and the Beeline to wait for a late arrival. Sitting there at the base of the highway for ten minutes, it felt like someone had called a time out in football to ice the kicker. I wasn't all that sure I wanted to ride to the top. The demons were eating at me.

I was lucky enough to ride with my two primary training partners the entire time. We kept it light and fun. The closer to the top of the course the steeper it gets and the wind was strong so the pace dropped. I think they where playing with me, because they kept saying their computers were screwed up and asking me what the speed and distances were so I would have some more confidence in my ability.

When we reached the IMAZ course turnaround, I was starting to feel the pump in my legs, my butt was sore, my upper back and arms were weakening. I looked at my friend Jeff and I remarked, "I don't know how I maintained that level of pain for four hours. I have no idea how I made it up this hill for a third loop in the shape I was in."

All I heard from him was laughter. A laughter laced with all the nervousness and compassion of a buddy who really didn't have the words or want to express some of the things he was thinking about me too. I realized I had not said what I said with pain but with humor. I laughed back.

The last time I rode back down this course I had a police and ambulance escort. I think the cop was bored but the ambulance guys were truly concerned because I refused their aid at the turnaround during the race because it would take me out of the race. This time I rode strong with my friends. I went to the top and I was good. I didn't cave into fear or make excuses. Riding back I had joy again. When they all turned around at the bottom to go up one more loop, I continued on my way back to the car. Only one lap.

Since last year I had a habit of telling people that every day was a bonus day. Like it was a gift from God, that I had to find some sort of meaning in. Completing that one loop of the IM course Sunday lifted a bigger weight off my mind than I thought I had on it.

I realize now its not enough to just exist, I want to live.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beginning a new Training Contract.

I feel so Oprah-empowered when I say, "I am giving myself permission to think about an event schedule next year." I know, pathetic. This starts with a Training Contract. For those that are not clued in, my wife and I create training contracts so that our family has some balance and I can selfishly train for multiple hours a week without regret. It usually takes us a few weeks of going back and forth on a range of subjects before its locked down. Unlike my more famous last Training Contract, I will actually post this document so other athletes have a template for there spouses.

For example, in the last contract, Mistress really wanted wake up with me in bed next to her so I was required to wake up with the family three times per week, instead of being out the door before sunrise and getting back after sunset. I wrote my weekly training on the bathroom mirror a week in advance and these sessions were uncontestable so long as I completed her chores list within 24 hours of her asking me, (dishes, laundry away, etc). If I did not, then lost training time on the weekend. There were many more, like no eye rolling, passive-aggressive behavior when I left for a six hour workout. Which in hindsite, she suckered me with that concession, Mistress has been super supportive of my training.

Based on my health issues, the results of my Grand Canyon hike and other performance evaluations, Mistress and I have been talking first about limits. Right now she is dead set on so many consecutive hours in one workout and I, of course, want more. I think it will end up somewhere around four hours per long ride and two hours per long run. We will see.

She has made it quite clear that Ironman makes its appearance in the first paragraph of the contract. It is off limits to discuss, an absolute deal breaker. My routine is immediately stopped and I cannot start again till I finish a psychological evaluation to make sure I can resume training without pushing myself into an IM race mentality. Fair enough concession on my part.

She also made it quite clear that century rides, (100 mile bike sessions), are not allowed. Her feelings are that, if I am not doing any Ironmans, then why do 100+ mile bike rides? Fair point. We both need to figure out if I will be held accountable to hours or distance. Once that is concrete then we can go over this stuff.

I have an inkling of events for next year, mostly short road and trail races, but also some wilderness trips. More balanced than just half marathon, Olympic triathlon, repeat, repeat, repeat. The blessing is that a load of my team is doing St. George Ironman next May and Kona or Silverman next November, so there is no shortage of training I can't jump when I want. I would love to do more weekend hiking trips next year based on peakbagging mountains in southern California and the SW region. As long a I keep the technical aspects of rock climbing out of it, and bring a helmet when required, Mistress will be happy with this.

This whole events concept for 2010 is right along the course my doctors planned for me. I haven't even seriously thought of racing in the last year. Its left me quite conflicted as I enjoy the forced retirement, but missed the discipline, the comraderie and amazing energizing spirit of my teammates and a race goal.

There is treasure everywhere...and right now it looks like a racing bib.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grand Canyon Hike: South Kaibab to Bright Angel

No where else to go but down? The trailhead of South Kaibab, Grand Canyon

Standing at the South Kaibab trail head I leaned forward and look down. I felt so grateful to be able to do something this amazing. I am about to walk off the rim of the Grand Canyon, follow the South Kaibab trail down to the Colorado River and then back up using the Bright Angel trail. What will happen over the next eight and a half hours was affirming, awesome and not the hardest thing I have ever done.

Usually when you think of hiking, your subconscious rationalizes that your going to go up first then come back down. When one considers the Grand Canyon, the subconscious become conscious, hiking about 5,000 feet down over few hours and then hiking 5,000 feet up over twice as many hours. Using this formula it is easy to see why people get so anxious about entering a rock world that geologically ends up two billion years into the past; almost half way through the earths crust. Not me though, this felt like Christmas morning.

Going down but looking up South Kaibab

For all of us, it is not so much the fact that when you look out across the horizon you see the majesty the canyon but you can't help but look down at the path you will be taking to the river. It switches back and forth and back and forth, almost like a one sided drain pulling you towards a great unknown. People stretched thin along this roughed out trail carved out of solid rock. As my group stepped off I teasing made the comment, "The only way out, is up."

It is easy to smile and have a good time when your going downhill. Especially at the start of something. And it is with this joy that I entered the canyon. Based on my goals for the day I took it quite easy, considering the pull of gravity towards the bottom. An easy pace, a few stops for no reason. I am not a competitive hiker. To run down this for my first foray is a disservice to my love of the outdoors.
author, Deep in the canyon

It's easy for me to talk to people and met quite a diverse group along the way. Ironman finishers like myself; some hiking like me, others running it out in full ultra-marathon kit. A firefighter from Sequim, Washington who was surprised I knew the place thanks to a relative that lived there. A heavyset woman who took a head start on her friends, expecting them to arrive at any time. A camera man deep into a three week rafting trip wanting the latest sports news. As I continued to drop closer and closer to the Colorado, I felt strong, happy and awake.

As all of us on the hike, almost three dozen people, regrouped at the river, I was towards the last to arrive. Fine by me, miles on the South Kaibab trail went by just right, I didn't let anyone dictate my pace. I know most of these people I'm with don't have the outdoor endurance legs I do and that their energy and ego will finally catch up to them on the way up. It was extremely busy on our little beach below the black suspension bridge. A rafting group of three score and our merry band equaled nearly one hundred people on a sliver of heaven. Man I wish I'd brought my rod and some tackle.Behind me the Colorado River and 5,000 ft. of decent on South Kaibab

As the backpacking guru, I was asked to inspect the placement of moleskins and questioned how to better sit a pack on ones back. Although I advised everyone to bring some sort of pain management, I dispensed a good deal of Tylenol to help with backs and knees and muscle soreness. I thought I had done a great job on my own hydration and nutrition but it was not to be the case. I fueled myself well but did not drink nearly enough water or Gatorade, each in separate 100 ounce bladders in my pack. This is foreshadowing, (which is the key to higher cinematography) or in plain English: this will come back to hurt me.

Back on the trail we walk through a mule station and campground called Bright Angel. It is here for the first time that people can refill with purified water. While the icky's are gone the pure, clean taste of cold river water remains. It is an intoxicating drink unlike anything bought in the store or pulled from a urban tap. Its a unexpected reward for those who have never partook before. There smile is my smile because you can't forget that feeling. Our thirst slacked we crossed yet another short bridge over the Colorado and walked through a mile of soft sand before reaching the rough hewn trail back up. Only nine miles and 5,000 feet to go.

While you can technically hike up and down the Bright Angel trail year round, it is best to avoid the dead of winter and heat of summer for such a strenous hike. In the summer the temperatures are 90 degrees on the rim and 120 degrees at the river. In the winter, there is snow reaching at least a quarter mile off the rim which can make trail passage extremely technical without the proper gear. Also in the winter, water is turned off at two of the resthouses along the trail, 3 miles below the rim and 1.5 miles below the rim. As these sites are fed from the lodges above with exposed pipes they are shut off when freezing temperatures arrive, usually the middle of October each year. Let me look at the date of this hike, October 10. Yup, cut it close. I called two separate ranger stations daily, sometimes getting conflicting advice to get the latest intel. Luckily for our date the water was on.

Several of the people who rushed down, rushed out and up the trail. Deciding once again to hang back of the pack, I felt really good at this point. I was drinking with a purpose to prepare for the sweat output to come. After a few miles, my little group caught up with the rest, the caboose on a thirty person train. I cannot abide by the accordian affect this presents to my pace so I decide to indian run past the group with what turned out to be about ten people peeling out to follow along, just waiting for someone to break ranks. While I did not maintain my fast pace, those that had the capacity continued their run upward. I merely wanted to be at my own pace. After this unclogging, I was only past by two other people.

I didn't do this hike alone. Far from it. I did almost every step with a trail partner. Someone in my company who also has a lot of hiking experience. Between my kidneys and his bum knee, we felt we would have a fairly close pace and it turned out it was almost exact. Turned out great for us both.

Five miles from the river and four and half miles from the rim is a rest area called Indian Garden. It's a beautiful ranch area with natural tree cover and hardened park facilitie for resting. For those coming down the Bright Angel trail this is the usual dayhike turnaround point. I ran into a one of the rabbits that blew past me earlier. He was completely drained and cramping. He would stay there two hours before he continued and finished the climb. I however only stayed long enough to fill my water up, make contact with some of the others that past me and kept moving on.
The middle of the photo shows a smear of trees between the ridges, this is Indian Garden.
The trail lead away from that into the shadows.

From Indian Garden there is a small rest house every 1.5 miles up the trail until reaching the rim, at 3 miles and 1.5 miles from the rim. As it turned out it took my partner and I just under one hour to cover each of these distance. It doesn't sound terrible to say that each 1.5 miles was only about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, however the trail switchbacked every 50-100 yards, making it quite the vertical hike, over 14% grade, steeper than most treadmills highest incline settings. The trail itself is not rocky at all. In fact its rather hard compacted dirt. To help with erosion, there are logs staked into the ground and some of these presented a step of 12 to 18 inches. Again, this doesn't sound hard, except this is after you have already covered 15 miles of terrain and every effort that is not in sync with what your body causes cramping.

By the 3 mile resthouse I began to cramp a bit. Very hard a few times but its pain I know and can push away. Eventually it didn't bother me at all. My partners bad knee and ankle held up just fine but his right hip flexor completely locked up on him making every high step, more of a throwover than lift up. Our conversations went from free flowing to more of just me blathering about nature and warnings of, "big step" by whomever was in the lead. When we would reach a rest house we would stop for several minutes to catch our breath, refill water and converse with other hikers. It turns out that three other groups had a similar pace and we all would leap frog each other all the way to the top and encourage each other until we got there.

Sometime just before reaching the 1.5 mile resthouse I bonked hard. (This is were the foreshading pays off). Its like you know your moving slow but all of a sudden its as if your walking into this invisiable wall. Its the only place I looked at my hike buddie and said, "I promised my wife that I if felt like this I would stop and rest." No complaints from him and we sat down letting our empty bodys regain energy. After five minutes we were no where near 100% but it was enough to get to the resthouse and enjoy some proper seats and shade.

The last 1.5 miles to the rim was a mixed bag of happiness, frustration and anger. I knew our pace would have us at the top in under an hour which made me very happy. I also knew that I was physically not going to have the energy I wanted doing it. It was gone. I was at the place where it is all mental. If I could feel my muscles ripping protien apart for fuel, I would have. I could almost sense the thickening of my blood and the damage I was doing to my kidneys. But I had to go up. And up I went.

The anger really didn't happen until about a ten minutes from the top. The trail had become a constant downstream of tourists coming down for pictures. Here I am covered in dirt and mud and sweat and drained of all energy and I pass a tourist in a suit and tie with a camera in his hand. Grandmas and toddlers. Big fat designer purses carried by big fat women in designer jeans with their cork heels drinking diet cokes, laughing and saying, "Look, I hiked the Grand Canyon," to their equally impressed significant other.

Once on top we both shuffled towards the main lodge. Like other hikers we dodged gangs of tourist standing in wide groups in the middle of the path, licking ice cream and not moving out of our way. We must have looked post-apocolyptic in our ragged mess but they did not care, not even as my partner collapsed in the shade next to a soda fountain shop. I went in to purchase a cold soda and almost lost it as a very nice group of elderlys held up the line sampling all 15 flavors of ice cream before deciding on brownies. But by then I had eased passed them, paid my fare and savored the bubbly tingle of an ice cold Coke.

I could second guessed my hike or wondered if my time was slow or fast or whatever, but it didn't matter. What mattered, is that I did it. Was it as hard as an ironman? No way. Not even close. How about a marathon? Yes, pretty close to a hard marathon. It gave me a great indicator of where I am at with my recovery and how to insert myself back into a competitive racing environment come 2010.

But the story is not over when I reached the top. What happens over the next four hours is in and of itself a story I will tell very soon. Remember, there was at least twenty people behind me that had to finish, some in very bad shape. But in my case....

There's treasure everywhere.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Grand Canyon pack list. -Ultralight

Here is my pack list for the Grand Canyon hike. I, and several people from my company, on Saturday are hiking down the South Kaibab trail to the Colorado river and then coming up the Bright Angel trail. Its one big loop from along the the south rim of the canyon.

I am super excited. While I have been to the canyon and hiked around it, I've never been far into it. Call it a Life List, Bucket List, whatever. For some it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. Actually living in the state, I hope its just one of many more trips to the canyon.

We endurance athletes often talk about our gear and I suppose my proclivity to do the same with hiking is no different. Isn't it also an endurance activity of sorts. Not nearly as expensive as triathlon however. So I listed out the gear I will be carrying with me. I used to be a normal backpacker with 50+ pounds of gear on me, sometimes 80 pounds, but in the last few years, I have really researched and tested ways to go lighter. Because this is just a one day trip and on a very well run trail, I won't have a bag or tent but I am impressed with how light I have made my kit.

On Back

Golite Pack- Speed 18 oz

med/blister kit 8 oz

100 oz bladders x2 7 oz

top, mid layer 6.5 oz

GPS unit 5 oz

umbrella 4 oz

sleeping mat, foam 3.5 oz

camera 3 oz

leg warmers 3 oz

nitize S-biner 1 oz

socks, extra 1 oz

baby wipes 1 oz

sunscreen 1 oz

anti-chaff lube 0.5 oz

Buff 0.5 oz

AA x2 1 oz

64 oz = 4.00 lbs pack wgt.
Diminishing Items

Food 12 oz

200 oz H20 200 oz

212 oz
lbs food & h2o wgt.

lbs. total start wgt.

This list does not include what I will be wearing the whole trip, the boots, shirt, shorts, hat, etc.

When considering pack weight, water and food are not included in the base weight due to the fact that you are consuming such items. To get down to 4 pounds when in the past this would be 20 or more, amazes me.

Everyone is concerned for my safety, as am I. Keeping myself hydrated is key, which is why 70% of my pack weight is fluids. I'm going with 150 ozs to start. 50 oz is h2o and 100oz is Gatorade Endurance. This will cut my pack weight to under 15 pounds while going down to the river and then refill to a full 100 oz of water to go back up.

Why a sleeping mat for a day hike with no sleeping bag? The Golite pack is frameless which cuts the weight down significantly. A cut down foam pad with an loose open roll inside the bag creates a frame that pushes against the pack fabric. You put gear inside the circle created by the pad.

Living for so long in Seattle, I would be laughed at for carrying an umbrella. Seattlites do not do such things, we deal with rain. Living now in the desert SW I have come to appreciate just how much sun and heat a micro umbrella keeps off someone. Add to that, the obvious rain and wind blocking properties.

I hope to post from the road on the way back.

There's treasure everywhere.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grand Canyon Hike: rim-river-rim prep

I am very much looking forward to hiking in the Grand Canyon on October 10. I am doing a rim-river-rim loop, starting on the South Kaibab trail going to the Bright Angel campground on the Colorado river and then taking Bright Angel trail back up. While it can be done much faster, I am looking at taking as much time as it takes with available sunlight.

This will be the hardest test of my physical endurance since Ironman last year and my recovery process since then. The training I have been doing in the last few weeks specifically for this trip and in general the month prior, has been going well. I've have overreached a few times since but I have not made the same mistakes twice.

One of the positives is that I have decades of hiking under my tread and over the last couple of years I have transitioned from a heavy backpacker carrying 50-80 pounds per trip to a light hiker carrying a pack weighing less than 30 total pounds for three days, water and food included. This has really helped me with conserving energy. I'd love to be an ultralight hiker and could be with some changes but I enjoy having some comfort items and extra preparedness gear.

Its adding to my starting pack weight but to be on the safe side I am going to carry all my water with me, two 100 ounce reservoirs, from the start. I may or may not be able to refill on the trail, except down at the river and want to be prepared for that. One is plain water, one mixed with 700 calories of Gatorade Endurance. Starting pack weight with all my gear plus food and water will be about 17 pounds and when I finish without water and food will weigh about 3 pounds.

The gear I am taking including the pack, but minus food and fluids, only weighs about 3 pounds. This is certainly ultralight but I am trading my both my comfort and preparedness items for the fact that this is a one day hike and both these trails are heavily tracked by hikers and park rangers with emergency phones at several locations. So there is no need for additional gear, just what I need to eat, drink and deal with inclement weather.

There is only two things that really scare me. First, its a loop and once committed there is no option to bug out. If I am dehydrated or bonk on my way back up, there is no real rescue by going back down to the campground. All I can do is slow down and keep moving towards the rim. Second, is that in August when I got my most recent heat injury, it was something that came upon me quite suddenly when usually I am fully aware of my body ahead of time.

The best I can do to limit these issues is take my time on the trail and hydrate and eat regularly. Doing these should get me through just fine. I can't control the weather but the time we're going is stastically a great weather window and cooler than what I train in now.

Looking forward to a great day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recovery in process

I kick started my training a little over a month ago. In that time I have been able to really study my body's reaction to all types of exercise in varied climates and terrain. What I realize, when it comes down to it, I need more recovery time between the more strenuous workouts. Depending on the type, time, weather and terrain, it may take me 36-48 hours to recover instead of the 12-24 hours it used to take.

I sort of feel like there is this little computer bar graph that drops from 100% rather quickly and goes back up rather slowly. Like watching a program loading up. It's "In Progress".

This is not a necessarily bad news. Knowing recovery time frames allows me to set up my training in a way that puts hard sessions a day or two prior to days that are already hard to schedule workouts and I can use those days as days off.

For the next month, I am going to change my training so that I am only training moderately or strenuously 4 days per week. The remaining days will be my usual daily exertions like mowing the grass or running up and down the field taking pictures for Mo's football games or active rest like walking.

Speaking of which, I picked up a nice treadmill for the family. Mistress will eventually need it for rehab on her ankle which is slowly, painfully, healing from her break in late June. Mighty Mo will start using it for 10-15 minutes every day for exercise. My active rest will also be done on the machine using some fast walking and the incline.

There's treasure everywhere.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A New Shiny Thing: Platypus Big Zip SL

It may be premature but after one week and several uses I am totally in love with my new Shiny Thing. The Platypus Big Zip SL, a 100 ounce hydration reservoir.

Don't ask me how because I can't pinpoint it but I recently popped an 'unbreakable' Camelbak 70 ounce reservoir. I really like Camelbak gear. They are a quality company but I have an open mind to replacing gear so I went to my local REI and looked around. After my contact there laughed at me, in his experience I break more unbreakable gear than any person he talks to, we moseyed over to the hydration area. In my everyday backpack I have a 2 liter Platy Bottle that I have been very happy with for a couple years so looked for their model comparable to my punctured Camelbak. This is where I found the Big Zip. Plus its made in Seattle and I have mad props for outdoor gear made in my hometown.

My New Shiny Thing weighs one third as much as what it is replacing. I really like the fact that it is clear plastic with a special film inside that is antimicrobial and anti-slime. It has a secured carry handle that covers the large ziplock top. With the opening at the very top it is easier to clean and easier to fold and package into my more narrow packs which is not as easy when their is a large rigid screw top lid on the face of the unit, ala Camelbak.

A great addition is a quick disconnect for the drinking tube. I have run into drinking tube issues in the field and the ability to take the tube off and not have the reservoir at risk of spilling is a real benefit. Plus for packing the unit away the tube can be removed from the reservoir without concern that the constant on/off will stretch the tube at the connector causing leaks. Again an issue I have come across.

For anyone looking for a replacement reservoir or a second one to carry with you, I highly recommend a look at the Platypus Big Zip. If your daypack has a sleeve to fit a hydration reservoir do yourself a favor and start packing your own water. At $32 you will easily recoup your costs in no purchasing bottled water. Even if you just fill up at the twenty-five cents a gallon refill stations you save in some cases 75% on water costs over buying one liter of bottled water at the store.

You have lots of options for carrying water with you. Nalgene bottles, stainless steel bottles, reused water bottles, bike and running bottles. Hydration systems. All have their time and place. The important thing is that you are drinking water or other beneficial fluids throughout the day. And you bring enough with you. Whatever water you think you need to drink at that time, double it.

There's treasure everywhere.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Inspiration from the unassuming

I think it is unavoidable that when we converse with the common man about our endurance pursuits, that these people's eye flutter into the backs of their heads and they swoon under the perceived effort it would take them to perform such tasks.

"Your riding 100 miles? That's as far as Tucson is from Phoenix. NYC to Philly. Seattle to Canada. San Francisco to Sacramento. THAT. WOULD. KILL. ME."

Or our funny but unfortunate response to new marathoners, "Oh. Your running your first marathon. I usually run those after swimming two and half miles and then biking 112. first." Watch the eyes flutter in front of you.

For those of us who have taken that step into the endurance world, either by doing or even watching, such distances only bring up one connotation, admiration and understanding. Which brings me to the crux of my post today.

I was fortunate to have lunch this week with someone I consider a friend but haven't seen much in the last two years. An Ironman to be sure but a runner at heart. An unassuming man with a time consuming construction job, a fantastic family and a passion for ultra distance events. And this motivates me like nothing else. A man who has finished 5ks to 100 milers. Run the Marathon des Sables. Finished Ironmans and all the rest. Decided to run the length of the great state of Arizona and made if from the California border to his home in Phoenix on a bad knee and instead of quitting got on his mountain bike and rode the rest of the way to New Mexico. In the summer.

We discussed our injuries. My long documented here and he lately has had some of his own as he sustains his running base year after year waiting to be invited to Badwater. His ultimate destination in endurance.

My long run this weekend is 8 miles. He's going to run 25. It's a low mileage training run this week for him. Okay my eyes flutter a bit at that. He is doing a 100 mile race that starts after sunset Halloween night. A couple weeks ago the race director did a 30 mile training run on the course from 6pm to 6am for free. Are your eyes fluttering yet?

My point is that no matter how hard you train or how great the distance is, there is someone out there, who is not superhuman and not sponsored, doing that for a warm up. Isn't that great? It is. I love it. It means that there is hope for the rest of us. It makes us shiver and anticipate and dream.


Dream. Of the possibilities.

Whether it's in weight loss, or fitness, or business, or even faith, its important to surround yourself with people that are doing what you want to do. People that are living the life you want to live. It's a process. It's hard as hell. But I am so fricking happy I have the friends that I do. The endurance community is a one hell of a family. Unlike any a person can ever have.

Thanks Steve.

There's treasure anywhere. Even in a lunch.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brain or Kidneys: A love story

Kind of a weird title to describe the two front battle I have every day with my life. The daily battle the last year and a half is keeping my kidneys and liver in proper working order. A lot of that has to do with keeping my head straight. Which is really my original problem.

A popular morning radio host came back today after 5 months of leave from a Traumatic Brain Injury he suffered in a car accident. I had to listen to this in private because even after so many years, my own brain injuries plague me daily. Everyone's TBI is different, some are lucky, others not. A bop on the head kills one person, and I was supposed to be a retarded 9 year old the rest of my life with a funny gait to my walk. Here I am.

Listening to people who are back from TBI is very moving to me. I remember it so clearly. Even with all the accomplishments I have had in my life, I think when I am most honest with myself is when I first proclaim I am a head injury victim. Even when I speak with command and authority in front of an audience of people, like I did today at a large meeting, in my mind I still hear my voice as a halting, hesitating, word altering, forgetful head injury person. So to hear that voice come back to me, on the radio today, or in passing in daily life, it affects me.

Not much causes me fear. But I am frightened to....of another head injury. The last one in October 2007 was a nothing hit and it took 3 months to get my life back on track. I have been constantly told that the more you have, the easier they become. I've had 13 open and closed head injuries. Am I on borrowed time?

Mistress is rightfully concerned about the kidney stuff and my solo training style but when it comes to my brain, she is defiant. I get no leeway here. She dreads the call that comes telling her I hit my head. And she's got a few of those in our time. So when it comes to protecting whatever gum and duct tape keeps my brain going, she is very concerned.

God. Its just so hard to even write this stuff. Why am I even going to post it? I am so full of conflicting emotions and thoughts. Half the time when I look in the mirror I feel like I am looking back at someone else. I see a positive, happy person on the outside with a smirk and easy laugh. On the inside I see a glassy eyed, open faced, shy, don't want to say anything because it won't come out right, guy whose gotten really lucky in life.

My kidneys and my body will eventually heal enough for a normal life if not a common one. My brain will never be right. I wish this radio host a good recovery. It takes a lot of balls to do what he is doing on the air. I am sure even now, I will learn something.

There's treasure everywhere.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bright Angel trail coming up

Got some great news out of the blue last week. My partner, my boss, has decided to take the managers and executives of the company on a weekend trip to the Grand Canyon next month, to hike the Bright Angel trail as a team building exercise. This trail is Life List accomplishment for me and fulfills half of my desire to do a rim-to-rim-to-rim of the canyon in one long day.

I have dreamed of doing this for a long time and I am super motivated. My family not so much. See, I still have dark urine after most of my hard exertions and this promises to be a 12-14 hour day of 19 miles over 8,500 feet of elevation change. After my last 'hard trail' hike, and total bonk / heat injury on it, Mistress is rather frustrated with my exuberance. In fact the first words out of her mouth were, "Why don't you just kill yourself now." Notice there is no question mark there.

Still, whether it is to my benefit or not, I think I am in better cardio shape that 40% of my managers and I am excited to go. As a team building exercise, I have no desire to pound down, then run up Bright Angel. (Okay, quite a bit. You got me there) But as long as I get to the river and back up in the time limit were setting, I'll take all day. Heck, I'll bring my head lamp and take up the time I be at the post trail dinner too, if I have to. As long as I don't bonk on the trail. That would be bad.

I am not so much into the logistic stuff like booking hotels and restaurants, so I volunteered to create a packet of maps, directions, time lines, gear lists, and will throw the logistics into it that other people do. It's pure delegation.

The trip, if it goes off, (it is short notice) will be October 9 & 10.

There's treasure everywhere.