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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

End today with tomorrow

There is a fundamental step that all pre-dawn athletes must master in order to be successful in a consistent fitness program. They must be able to envision the upcoming day and prepare themselves for it, when all they want to do is go to sleep.

Some of this is done well ahead of time by following an already established training plan. Simply being able to forecast the training for the next day, weeks or months removes the mental gymnastics and compromises we try ultimately create for ourselves when we 'wing it'. The hard part is of course the doing.

It's late. You're a half hour behind schedule thanks to a show on t.v. and it felt so good to just sit after a good hard workout, a full day of work and time with the family. But you almost fell asleep on the couch and if you just walked into your bedroom, you would be asleep right away. But tomorrows training schedule was set up weeks ago. As painful as it might be to collect yourself before going to bed, you know you can not make up for lost training time. So the collection begins.

First you confirm your workout for the morning. Then you find your workout bag and take out the sweaty clothes. Then you make sure you have all the necessary components for your workout, including an extra pair of shorts or a shirt just in case. Then you find all your work clothes for the next day. Then add an extra shirt or socks, because you recall taking a shower at the gym and then realizing you left home without a shirt. Did you pack the belt? Double check the towel.

Did you prep your food for the next day? Pre-pack dry foods like crackers, fruit, and power gels. Salads and Tupperware foods are portioned and sitting on the front of the shelf so you don't forget them. Do you have your water bottles already filled? You don't. They're in the sink soaking but what a pain. But you do it anyway because they're your best bottles. They don't hurt your teeth when you pull them open. Don't leak down your shirt. But it really is the suckiest part of the day, cleaning out bike bottles. If your lucky you have a coffee pot with an auto start and set that up. Once less thing to think about when trying to get out the door.

Now you double check everything to make sure its all there and ready. You may even preposition some bags in the car. Geesh, did you ever think you would carry so many bags with you? Gym bag, food bag, work bag, plastic bag with even more stuff in it. Oops travel mug still has coffee in it from this morning.

Now you go to bed. Your eyes are red and hurt a little bit. You just want to sleep and have been purposefully trying to stay half asleep as you went about your tasks. Finally you put your head down on the cool pillow. Man this feels good. Crap. But instead of your mind slowing down it speeds up. Did I pack that? How far is it? I better go check. And up you are again.

By the time you fall asleep it's closer to the time you normally do so and nowhere near when you actually want to. Its tough. You know you'll wake up a couple times and stare into your indiglo watchface inches from your eyes, celebrating that its not as early as you thought, you feel well rested and can still sleep for another two hours. This is the best sleep you get all night.

This is where dreams live.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Body Response

An important aspect of any new fitness program is that you make fundamental changes gradually but quickly. Its almost impossible to create a new lifestyle by cold turkey and have it be sustainable. Those that enjoy a 'final' meal the night before a 'diet' only set themselves up to have a horrible time staying away from those pleasure food later on. Those that jump right into ten hour training weeks are setting themselves up for frustration due to lack of rapid results from their effort or worse, an injury.

Consistency is key. And though this is a holiday I maintained the program I established last week; I was out of the house early and all my training done before work.

I went back to the same route I ran Friday for my 3.25 mile benchmark. The same route I have ran for a decade. My second time running it this season and I cut 3.5 minutes off. Approximately 1 minute per mile. Still a couple minutes over a time I will happy with.

So what changed? Nothing really. Except maybe my resolve to be consistent. and be out there. My body remembered the ups and downs of a course I have run thousands of times and became more efficient today. It will do so the next time and the next. This is what allows a person to lower their training times and expend less energy while doing it.

It's so simple and yet so looked over when compared to the vision we create of ourselves finishing a race or looking a certain way. Being consistent makes you more efficient at what your doing. Being efficient lets you do more.

Do more.

Friday, September 4, 2009

First day back

How many more times in my life will I state, "First day back on a fitness program"? Well at least I make the statement. Someone said, "It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked on your ass, it matters how many times you get up."

I stayed on track time wise the whole morning, which was great since I left the house early, did three separate workouts (run/weight/bike) and got a shower in before hitting the desk. My baseline run loop of 5k was what I thought it would be. I have ten years of running on this loop so I know based on my times how to progress. Weight are weights, hard and fast. The bike allowed me to get some meditation and reading done. Some of the long time employees asked what race I was training for, as they are used to seeing me in the gym early when I am focused on a goal like a big endurance event.

Not this time. My September goal is to just be consistent with my training, make sure the family adapts, stay healthy and have fun. No racing. Moving into October and beyond I will step it up a notch, what that means and where that goes, I am not sure.

I may have a goal date though which is cool. We (company) put out a big bonus to our managers for next spring. If the company hits a specific goal and they meet their responsibility for it, we will take them and their spouse to Hawaii as a big company trip.

That's pretty cool for them and me. It gives me a great short term goal of getting beach ready for Oahu. In the meantime it's, "Be consistent, stay healthy, do the right thing at the right time, all the time."

There's treasure everywhere.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A countdown has begun

Beginning Friday morning, I will be officially back on a weekday training schedule. Yeah. Mistress and I had a very brief conversation about me leaving before everyone is up and going straight to work after training which has always produced consistency for me, rather than whatever I have had to do this year to accommodate working harder than ever in my life, a newborn, a Mighty Mo and a wife with a broken ankle.

Mistress is getting around just fine in her air cast and the broken ankle is healing well. The family has created a set schedule for the mornings, getting Mo to school and getting Mae ready for the world. Now that Mistress is home full time and ambulatory, I will unloaded the dishwasher, dry mop the hard wood floors, make Mo's lunch and my own, then hit the road.

I know some wife's reading this are wishing their husbands would do just one of those chores daily, but that is why I am such a great catch ;)

I am really looking forward to this. I have no idea where it will lead me. I have no idea what my focus will be. In the beginning it will just be about being consistent and in my case as safe and fun as possible.