Yes, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve neglected my blogging duties. So lets recap to bring you up to speed. Olympic Trials, Cascade Trifecta (Rainier, Adams, Hood) attempt but fail, Siskiyou Outback 50k, Steens Mtn Running Camp, and now on my way to SpeedGoat 50k.
You got the blog on the Oly Trials, no more explanation needed. Lets move on.
The Cascade Trifecta wasn’t part of the original plan but a local guy, Brett Yost, who stole my record away on the Three Sisters Traverse, hatched a plan to do Mt. Rainier (14,000ft), Mt. Adams (12,000ft) and Mt. Hood (11,000ft) in 24hrs. I was just along for the ride and really didn’t know if I was in any kind of shape to attempt it. This would be my first time up any of these mountains, first time on a glacier, first time on a 14er.
The Trifecta was done a few years ago by the guys that keep up the FKT website in like 28hrs or so. I loaded into a Vanagon at 9pm Tuesday night with Brett and Dave (our driver) for an overnight drive to Rainier. I slept, it was awesome. Woke up in the Rainier parking lot at 5:30am, picked up our permits at 6am from a ranger that seemed somewhat indifferent when we said we’d be back by 1pm. He looked at us and said “good luck”.
Off we went. 400m in I knew I made a bad call on the crampons I chose. I had lightweight Kahtoola’s and a heavier real mountaineering strap-on crampons. I chose the latter and the conditions were perfect for the Kahtoola’s. Oh well. Brett and I climbed. Past Camp Muir, E Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver. We roped up around the upper crevasses to be safe. The altitude definitely started to have an effet around 12,000ft. I was surprised just how easy the climb up was though. Aside from the crevasses, it was a slog through the snow with no climbing involved. All the mountain climbers are rolling their eyes about now. Yes, I realize this can be a difficult mountain. We just happened to hit great conditions that made it a lot easier than it potentially could be.
We hit the summit at 4 hr 18 min. For a fast descent we scrapped the crampons as the conditions were soften up and began our run down. The soft Muir snow field proved to be the most demanding. We postholed some and the weather continued warmed up until we were exhausted and overheating at the base. We stopped the clock at 6:33 at the Paradise Lodge. I was tired and excited to be done and to be able to sit down. Brett was just done. He immediately laid down in the van and didn’t move. He was cooked by the heat and probably on the verge of heat exhaustion.
Road construction delays within the first 5 miles of our onward journey would be the least of our problems over to Adams. Winding, curving and slow dirt roads forced the Vanagon to a crawl and eventually added two extra hours on the trip over our predictions. Then Brett hit me with this: As I readied for the climb up Adams, Brett asks the question that I probably should have known was coming by looking at his state but hoping that he wouldn’t, “You’re not really going up that, are you?” “Well, yeah.” Was my response. He said he couldn’t do it and I attempted to rally him for at least one more climb. We drove on with the question of whether we would attempt Adams lingering in the Vanagon.
It was a little out of the way to get to the trail head if we were to continue on home but not that far so I directed our drivers to head to the trailhead. I still wanted to try it since I’d never been up it before and I hoped that pulling up to the mountain would spur Brett to at least try it. And he almost did. About 5 miles from the trailhead he reluctantly decided to try it so he began preparing. Jumping out of the van at the trail head and feeling his legs after the five hour drive however finally convinced him otherwise. I packed up and headed out into the unknown. A short run up a road and I was on snow on the flanks of Adams and on I hiked. I came up to the “headwall” of the false summit. I was starting to get pretty worked an toward the top, as the sun sank and enveloped me in the shade of the mountain, it was harder and harder to go on. Reaching the false summit just as the sun descended over the far off horizon I had a choice to make. I lingered for 10, 15 min starting off toward the next headwall up to the true summit, then heading back the other direction. I paced back and forth several times convincing myself of one path, then the other. I hate giving up, but I would hate slipping on the rapidly firming snow and tearing my body up on the mountain more. I hate not reaching a goal that is so close, but I would have hated wandering lost in the woods for several hours trying to find the parking lot more. So I descended having seen the mountain and experiencing the majority of it. After the fatigue I felt going up, the run down was surprisingly easy and free. About 3hrs up, 1hr down. I reached the parking lot just as full darkness settled down. Glad to be done I could have some hot cocoa and a rest in the Vanagon that would carry us on home. We didn’t attempt Hood. We’ll save that for the next trip. Brett said he learned a lot, I learned a lot. I learned that it’s definitely doable so another attempt some day will be in order.
Turning my energy or lack thereof to the SOB 50k, I headed down Friday evening in my Honda Civic to camp in the parking lot of Mt. Ashland… in, yes, the trunk of my car. (not sure why everyone gives me a funny look when I tell them that, or when I pop my trunk in the morning and peer out, hmm) Anyway, I like SOB. It’s one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever run. Hundred mile views to the south of Mt Shasta and Northern California, alpine meadows, and lush evergreen forests. But, this was business, I needed Erik Skaggs’ course record on the non-snow course. Erik decided to duck me and run the inaugural 50 mile course instead, so I wasn’t going to have a lot of help. Gary Gellin was there to help me out though and we ran through the first 10-11 miles together. I was hurting from the climbing a few days earlier and had to work for the record. I got it but not without a lot of discomfort. You all know what a side cramp feels like, imagine having your entire chest cavity and back feel like that. Ouch. I took to breathing very very loudly and sounded like I was in my 18th hour of labor. I was just happy no one was around that could hear me.
So SOB ended with a win and a new course record of 3:32 and a lot of loud breathing.
In a mad rush I finished up some work at the shop, threw everything I thought I might possibly need (read way too much stuff) and off I flew to be inspired by 175 teenagers at Steens Mountain Running Camp. Best camp …ever. 20 person army tents, no electricity, sagebrush, aspen groves, camp food, and a large dose of the most effective mental strengthening tools for runners help make this camp one of a kind. I get to hang out with 175 high school kids and get to pump outhouses, the most prestigious job at camp. I had an awesome week teaching, running, and learning.
Now off to SpeedGoat in Utah.
Now, skip ahead to after SpeedGoat.
Wow, what a race. That was HARD. Epic and Hard. With each race like this I definitely learn a lot and continue to get better at these courses that I would consider are not my forte. So I was pretty happy how SpeedGoat went. Obviously there’s some room for improvement but that’s a good thing, just means that I have something to keep me motivated and something to strive toward. Killian continues to amaze me but I still don’t believe he’s totally unbeatable, possibly at that type of mountain course, but maybe on a course somewhere in between our strengths. I guess that’s why I decided to do Pikes Peak. I save you and won’t analyze it now.
You may have noticed that SpeedGoat looked like it was cool weather, what with my arm sleeves and all. Ah, au contraire. Although skeptical at first I’ve grown much more confident in Mtn Hardwear’s new CoolQ zero technology and it’s pretty darn cool, (pun intended). It actually does work and keeps me cool and keeps the sun from draining my energy. You’ll be seeing that around much more in the future.
SpeedGoat was a serious race for me but at the same time just a good training run. The work in the mountains I’ve been doing lately is ultimately just to help with my endurance and strength in the Ultras that are to come in the fall. Flatter and faster, I’m hoping that the mountain training will pay dividends when the course flattens out and gets a little longer. Much to come and much to accomplish before the end of the season.