Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hike: Final thoughts on Siphon Draw bonk

Yesterday I wrote about a hike up to the flatiron on Superstition Springs Mountain that despite my preparations, left me with heat injury.

Aside from the continued reflection of where this leaves me in any sort of endurance pursuits, I have come to to think that my body's are like a battery of energy. And even though we can increase the capacity of our battery, if you short that battery enough times, or drain it down to empty often enough, that eventually you will not be able to get a full charge on it.

I just feel like...I feel like....sigh, I have all this passion in me to do things and live a full life like I used to and now, and now I can't. My own body cheating me from the happiness that mentally I crave. Not the all consuming happiness of the generic father/husband/son/work success but the 'seize the day and throttle the shit out of it' happiness.

The sole comfort is that I did this to myself living that life. I just expected it go another 20 years, at least. And I am still hopeful that it will.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hike: Siphon Draw, including Flatiron

What I thought began as a great hike on a wonderful route Saturday, turned out quite badly for me. It leaves me still today with more questions than answers to my future in endurance or perhaps athletics at all.

A very brief synopsis of the route. From the Lost Dutchman State Park (LDSP) its a pleasant hike to a Wilderness Gate and then a rocky uphill to a seasonal waterfall called Siphon Draw. It is then an increasingly steep scramble towards the top of the Superstition Mountains with occasional areas of vertical bouldering. The route is on the right side of mountain in the header above this blog.

This should have been easy for me. And in fact the trip to the dry waterfall was uneventful. The storm the night before left the temperatures much lower but the humidity much higher. Knowing this I brought 180 oz of water in my pack, its only contents other than my survival kit and some calories.

I began to fatigue about 3/4 of the way up. I sometimes used rest steps, which is not unusual for me. I rested five minutes of every thirty, but again I build in rests because I tend to miss whats around me if I don't. At the top I rested and enjoyed myself for 45 minutes. I felt good. I also considered something that I noticed with most other people on the mountain, I had significantly more water than anyone else, that I could see. Many people bringing just one or two liters with them. I drank 3 liters (100 oz) just getting to the top.

One of my outdoor idols is mountaineer Ed Viesturs, he is famous for living the phrase, "Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory."

The decent began innocently enough. Then I began to cramp in my quadricep. Hard. Those that do endurance races like marathons and Ironmans understand the sudden onset of rigored spasms that leave a person in what can only be described as an agonized state of tazer, knowing that there is still hours of movement to go.

The cramping came and went, as it often does, and I dealt with it like many of us do, I pushed through it. But for once I considered my age, which is a new weakness for me. I may have been the oldest person I saw on the route the whole day. My knees ached and I was sweating like a colander holds water. I felt old, or perhaps something else.

At some point with 1.5 miles to go, I really started to fall apart. Mentally and physically. I replayed the Ironman that nearly cost me my life a year and a half ago and all the things I have done since to avoid this very moment. All the promises I was breaking to my family, my friends, being in this state of collapse. It only sped my decline.

The heat, humidity and physical defections continued to compound. My training took me back to accomplishing simple goals; get to the next curve, walk to the next rock. I could not simply sit down in the unshaded desert and expect relief. Looking at my GPS I realized on the way up I had plugged in a way point for a campground shower area just off trail. I was a half mile away from that and my car a half mile again past. My goal became to reach this peice of civilation and cool myself under a shower and rest inside before going further. I could not get more wet than I was from sweat.

As I approached the campground my face began to tingle like a low voltage current passing through it. A sure sign of heat injury, as if I needed more evidence.

I sat in a shower stall for several minutes before I reached for the knob to turn it on. It didn't work. Nor did the other. I went to the sink basin and poured water over my head and torso with a water bottle but realized the enclosed room was not cooling me down as much as the wind would outside, so I slung my now empty pack over my shoulder and went to my car letting the wind cool the water on me. The hike really was beatiful and I know that any other day I would have greatly appreciated the wonder of nature around me. But my quad was feeling tazed with more regularity as I reached my car.

Unfortunately I knew what was coming when I stopped at my car which filed me more with dread than delight. You see when your in a state of cramping, your body gets accustomed to working a certain way and when you change that motion, by say sitting or crossing your leg, aggressive cramping attacks other areas of the body. In my case this day, the calf below my already cramping quad. Not usual. And half the toes of my opposite foot.

Now some people reading this can say they have had excruiating toe cramps, though I have heard of such things after ironman swims or cycling, I could not lay claim to this anomaly until today and oh my god I couldn't believe that the pain I felt along 18 inches of thigh for the last 90 minutes could be focused in three small toes all at once.

Now I suppose I am aggrandizing my suffering without really prescribing the right amount of stupidity I should have felt. Nothing made me feel worse the entire day than calling my wife and describing my condition. I went to place I promised I would never go again.

The rest of the day was spent in bed, dealing with cramp aftershocks, drinking cold beverages like Gatorade and apple juice and eating salty foods. The next morning I seemed to be most recovered except for the inital quad cramp that continues to frustrate me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cheating the Adventure?

My last post described my hike to find a suitable route to tackle the Superstition Ridgeline hike. In the interim I purchased a new GPS unit, my report on a New Shiny Thing will be forthcoming. But it has been a pleasant frustration to learn how to use my new toy. I spent a full day of my vacation tooling with the map software and learning the patterns of the control.

I sat here knowing that someone, somewhere had to have run a GPS over this trail and logged their way points online. Not having a clue as to how to find that sort of information I crunched the keyboard, for hours today. After my first beer went warm and my eyes started to hurt, I struck gold. (Somewhat of a pun as the route is in Lost Dutchman State Park)

I now have the exact coordinates to find my through they myraid of trails and drop offs, cliff faces and nameless peaks. Plus I am able to do the same with every trail in the Superstitions. Just as sarcasm is dificult to project in writing, (god knows I try), its almost as hard to express the feeling of utter success. I could not have expected such a treasure trove of information.

Having this information may be akin to cheating on a test, or having the FAQ to a difficult video game, or knowing how a movie ends, but I don't care. To me it is more like a treasure map with clues to X marks the spot.

I still have to go out there and recon my way points. Fine tune the difference between a digital map and my boots. I still have to do a hike that is akin to hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim. How fun is that!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hike: West Boulder Saddle

Superstition Springs Mountains
Carney Springs Trailhead
West Boulder Saddle Trail, + extra distance
August 14, 2009
Start time 0700, Temp: 95*

West Boulder Saddle is the first stage in a three stage climb over the Superstition Mtn's (aka, The Supes). Its the mountain range in my blog header. The middle stage is called the Ridgeline hike which goes from the highest peaks down to an area called the Flatiron, a tabletop mesa running the lip of the cliffs. The third stage is called Siphon Draw which is located inside the Lost Dutchman State Park. Those that know their way can do the whole thing in about 10 hours. Those that do not, it will take atleast 15 hours to find your way.

Part of the reason this one way route is so difficult is that there is no clear path up to the top of the Supes from the West Boulder Saddle route, which as near as I can tell from research is the only way up there. My plan called for me to recon that first stage and lay in waypoints on my GPS, so when I came back to hike through with a pal(s) later on, we would have a defined path.

Then a week before my recon, I lost my GPS.

Undetered, I headed out with my map, compass, photocopies of trail notes, a well stocked backpack (29 lbs) and a lotta luck. Here is my trip notes which I scribble while I am in the backcountry.

Took dads pick up as I don't know the conditions of the roads back here. There is no marker for the Trailhead (TH) but online reports ar that it's been blocked off and have to hike a 1/2 mile in. I missed the turn off, or more accurately, I wasn't sure but knew it was exactly 1.2 miles from the Peralta TH, went there and backtracked.

0700 Start. The TH turns out to be a little turnout on the side of the road with some wood pylons to denote a non-driving area. I head off down the trail at a heading of 330* along an overgrown road.

+o:15. Make it too the wilderness gate in the book and cross over into to State lands.

+0:15:17. Oh Eff. There is no good trail here. Which way do I go? Trusting directions.

+0:31. Something not right. Supposed to be on an old road (?) but this si definitely not. Will go a bit further, famous last words for me, then turnaround. At this point I should hit 'Carney Spring'.

+1:00. Taking a break. Temp climbed to 102* but sun was behind canyon most of way up. I may have seen the pipe in the notes but didn't walk up to it. But there is no such thing as a straight line in nature. They keep saying 'Saddle' but walking up a ravine to what? About 200 yds from the top so I will keep going. The trip length by book is 2.5 hours RT so technically I am still on track. At least if I screwed up and on the wrong trail, it's all downhill from here. haha. I have seen cairns/ducks, a good sign and there can't be that many trails leading up that are not in the book. The rest equalled 25 minutes most of that time orienting the map to areas across the valley. GPS would have solved this positioning so fast. I am rusty with land nav but I think I know exactly where I am.

+1:26. Heading up.

+1:55. Definitely a vantage point but is West Boulder Saddle? Not so sure. I can see the truck below at 150* azimuth. Lots of ducks on the way up and was white spray paint which I have read is a sign of the Ridgeline trail but on the Siphon Draw sign. Still not sure I am in the right spot. Looking for a SW trail from this spot heading to the top of the ridge. There is a geographic signpost mentioned in the guidebook. I don't see a trail at all just animal trails and water runoffs.

+2:11. Dead end. Followed no trail to the SW and ended up behind a a prominent buttress with nowhere to go. I didn't see any ducks or paint marks since I started this direction. It would have been great had there been a map coordinate to the signpost but this is almost like, "Take a left just past where Old Man Johnsons tractor hit the tree in 1977"

+2:25. Done looking, heading back down.

+3:20. Back at TH.

Thoughts. Is it possible I was on the wrong trail the whole time? My back azimuths seem to check out with my map position. That GPS would have been great. There is a trail that leads west from the Wilderness gate so maybe there is another enterence that the overgrowth hide from me.

At the top I may have stayed to close to the cliff face and not worked my way farther in before turning SW to find the signpost. I wonder if I walked in front of a natural rock fence and the trail was behind it.

I think I will come back with a lighter load and a GPS and test both those theories. Right trail, wrong trail, had a great trip.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Fork In The Road

There inevitably comes a point when all the hard work pays off; when there was notable success in your exercise or nutrition routine, perhaps you lost that weight, fit into that dress, looked your best and you shined in your critical limelight Congratulations. It is such a tremendous sense of accomplishment to mark a date on the calendar to look or achieve your best, then use willpower, determination and persistence to make your dreams a reality.

Now, all the compliments have been given, the vacation is over, people impressed. You have dutifully and proudly silenced the critics. Its ten days into your “Pizza and ice cream” phase where you reward yourself for the months of sweat and healthy foods. As you sit there late one night in a sugar stupor on your couch you finally have THE thought…I need to start up again.

The reality is that most people have this thought about a dozen times before they actually feel pressured to make a decision to do something. There is a fork in the road about two weeks after any big event; one road is obviously well traveled with familiar signs and smells that lazily curves back around to where you were when you started this crazy trip and another road that climbs a steep dusty mountain leading to your next goal.

Right now you may look but certainly don’t feel as strong or as beautiful as the day you achieved your goals. But now the suppressed habits of your old life are competing with the structure and sacrifice of the new. The sad fact is that most people silently and far too comfortably fall back into their old habits and as if on auto-pilot they take the lazy curve back to the life of complacency. Back to the wardrobe which three weeks ago was bragged about that ‘nothing fit’. Back to the impulse eating and binge snacking late at night. Back to looking at yourself in the mirror each morning only to suck in, pull on and berate yourself mentally.

Dare to be great. Don’t take the curve in the road that you have seen a hundred people take before, the lazy curve that leads to weight gain and tight pants and lack of energy. Take the road that climbs the mountain, the steep road that causes you to sweat and sacrifice junk food for cleaner burning energy. Climbing the mountain doesn’t have the repetitive and calm scenery of the plains but when you finally look up from the road after a particularly steep part of the climb and you look out around you, the view reminds you that the effort was worth it.

Many times when you come to the fork in the road, the arc moving away you’re your beginning is not all that rough at all. The mountain looks really steep because you remember how much effort it was the first time however it’s easy to forget that your body and the mind are in a different place, adapted to the climb. After a few bumps in the road getting started again you realize it’s adapted to the effort and finds it enjoys the challenge, the road becomes easier to travel.

The goal in your mind this time may be completely different than the first one which means the road is not the same. When you reach your perfect weight, the next goal may not be weight loss, it may be performance driven, it may be destination driven. Ask yourself a question: If you were your ideal weight right now, what would you do that you don’t currently do? Surprised at your answer? Hike Europe. Run a marathon. Go to a tropical beach and just sit and soak without any mental torture.

After reaching a goal like weight loss, or fitting into an outfit for a dinner, a wedding, a vacation or just finally being fed up with the way you look in the mirror; it’s normal and necessary to take a break and bask in your success. Good Job. But when the time comes for you to decide if you go back to where you came from or if you continue to pack your workout bag and extra snacks every morning remember the way you felt on the day you reached your last goal. Remember that all that adoration and success came because you took the fork in the road.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Journal the Adventure

I promise this has a triathlon point. Of course you are reading this blog entry using a 21st Century contrivance but long before the advent of this blog or before I knew what the internet was, I 'journaled' using everything from Composition books to Steno Pads, to small notepads that fit into the blouse pocket of my uniform.

Everything went in there from my notes on how to establish the perfect ambush, to frustrations at my shortcomings, to my workout details and nutrition, to the joys and highlights of my life, including entries like race reports, my wedding day, starting a company from scratch and the birth of my son. Going far enough back I can trace the meandering thoughts that eventually became the bedrock foundation of my entire future, all there pen to paper.

There is something that uniquely stirs me when writing by hand. At sunrise, or sunset, sometimes even in the dark, at a sidewalk bar with a steamy cup of coffee early or maybe a tall frosty ale later. Some of my most intense journalling came in the early 1990's when I spent hundreds of hours sitting with my back against the wall of a centuries old fort in the south pacific and wrote a vision of my life that still leads me today.

Which leads me to the two misgivings of this wonderful blog. First, my journalling /blogging became mostly singular in thought and not the ramblings of someone who prefered to write stream of conscious. It is the lesser of the misgiving though as I love nothing more in athletics than triathlon. The second, is that I have to censor my thoughts which when put on online through CMS, become comments and that is not the purpose of journalling.

A few years ago I went back to journalling. Though it is now simply called an Adventure Journal. See the sad fact is that even on the great show '24', its just one day and the protagonist still lives 24/7/365, but how boring that must seem in comparision. So while I my heart soars through the the inspiration I provide on CMS, my mind is cleared in my journalling. My Adventure Journal only goes with me when I hike or travel or to memorialize a specific experience, like a race report, a day, a trip. I have written a much on airplanes as I have on rocky outcroppings. Along with my introspections, I will often include my terrible drawings, map datum, a momento depending on the location and hopefully later a photograph.

Why? Why have a journal and a blog? History I suppose. One that will last on with the future of my children and heirs. It is the collective story of how, why and who I am. in this time. I think that a blog is a very unemotional and contrived way to accomplish this. Touching a leather bound journal or seeing in block letters the long ago date on a notebook is an everlasting experience. It elicits the forbidden fantasy of reading someones diary and maybe learning their deepest secrets.

Now I choose distressed leather bound journals with a strap closure, call it the renassiance in me. Barnes and Noble sells a great collection of this type. Journalling is something that can bring a person much closer with who that want to be, what they see, and a way to get past the urbane crap that stunts our true inner growth. Looking at those blank pages and wondering what will next be inserted from my life brings me so much greater joy than clicking 'New Post'.

There's treasure everywhere

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Trapping and Keeping vital documents

The title is a take on the old Trapper Keeper the old school notebook that held all your classwork. I created a project that might interest you with families.

I often find myself looking for critical information for my family and house. Where is the passports, the immunization papers, Mo needs a follow up on a surgery, who as the doctor that did it two years ago. Whats the phone number for the urgent care? Where is the number for the pest control people, what company trimmed my palm trees last spring. You see my point.

Now each of us has a three prong folder and attached inside is two sheets of business card holders and several sheet protectors. In the card holders is all our doctors, attorneys, businesses that may be vitally important to our life. In the sheet protectors are all the vital documents a person may need to provide at some point, including a list of bank accounts, Wills, Power of Attorneys, birth certificates, immunization records, social security cards, school contacts, injury issues, etc.

The household file is all the contacts we need once a life or annually like home warranty info, security company, pool guys, tree guys, plumbers we have used in the past, numbers for all our mortgage and vehicle loans.

All five folders fit into a single legal size folder and kept secured. In case of emergency this folder can be accessed immediately and if needed taken with one of us. Every document has also been scanned, saved in the universal .pdf format and put on a thumb drive and kept in an off site secured location.

If you have the ability to take video with your digicam, do a short pan of all the rooms in your house and your expensive items and store this footage on a thumb drive. This will allow you to work with insurance agents should you lose your house or any of items.

The whole project has cost about ten dollars. The three prong folders were $0.15, the legal file $0.99. The card holders and sheet protectors about $3 a piece. If you don't have a scanner, you can take close up photos with your digital camera and then transfer to an inexpensive small storage thumb drive. Its more important to have the numbers on the documents rather than be able to reproduce them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cans for Cash

Mighty Mo and I were finally able to get all our cans to the recycler. At $0.45 per pound of cans we turned in just under 100 pounds and collected a little over $44.

We have been collecting cans for a couple years now so we can buy a dune buggy. Every chance we get on the weekends we drive through our neighborhood and scout for littered cans. I get a hoot of him leaning over the dash and then trying to open the door and scoot out to retrieve a can. Of course I pick up any cans that I find in parking lots and such. I once went on a run and came back with a dozen crushed beer cans. Thankfully my shorts had pockets. The'n there is my forays to the campgrounds I go to swim at where I am assured at least a dozen cans just tossed on the ground.

The other half of this program is to teach him stewardship of the environment which is working very well. He often picks up dry litter to put into the trash as we walk around.

At this rate it will take decades to get the money needed to buy a dune buggy just based on collecting cans so of course the process is more symbolic than substantive but at his age its the coolest thing in the world and a great way for the two of us to bond.