Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Urban adventure running in Bellevue, WA

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On Monday afternoon this week I found out I got to go to Bellevue/Redmond, WA to meet with some Microsoft folks for work. I didn't have much time to explore my running options and knew I would have much time to actually run since it was a 36 hour round-trip trip but I did want to get out at least a little bit. My friend Rose contacted her sister and brother in law that live in the area and they made some fine suggestions like Tiger Mountain and Mt. Si. Unfortunately, it turned out I had a couple hours only so I checked Google Maps and saw that my hotel was nice and close to a green space called Bridle Trails State Park. Hey, it was green and had the word "trails" in the name so I figured it would work. And it did.
I ran up there with no more than a hand bottle and a map of the area bike trails folded up in my pocket.
I didn't get out until 3:30pm and knew it would start to get dark around 4:30pm. The run started on paved bike trails along highway 520 and then I found the turn onto the Bridle Ridge Trail that would lead to the park. I got a bit confused by a short detour into a very small wetland area and cruised through that short loop. (Later, I saw on the map that the wetland is right next to the Microsoft West Campus!) Finally on trail, I ran along the northern edge of the Bellevue Municipal Golf Course and then finally hit the northeastern edge of the Bridle Trails State Park.
Once in the park the running was darker because of the tree canopy above and the waning daylight. The trails were sloppy and muddy thanks to heavy horse traffic they evidently receive. Trail intersections were frequent but unmarked and I hadn't a clue which way was which so I just began following small signs that showed a dog print or something. Ironically, it appears dogs aren't allowed in the park? This was fun adventure running as I saw no one else and had no idea where I was going. I eventually popped out on a major road but didn't know where I was. Most of the traffic was going to my right so I went with it until I hit a major intersection at 116th NE St and 60th NE St. Now I could find on the map where I was and voila! I had made a nice little loop through the edge of the park. I headed east on 60th NE until I got back to familiar territory and and cruised on back to the hotel.
It was a great little run of 12 miles in a completely foreign place to me.
Now it's time to check out a Thai place Rose recommended and then read up on the stuff we're supposed to talk about tomorrow at Microsoft. That'll be another adventure, albeit of a much different type.
I'll be back in NM tomorrow night. Yippee!

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 2008 in Review

Seems I'm getting on this old blog about once a month for updates so here's a run down of how I spent my month of October:

It's been a great October so far! November promises to be a great month too with a continuation of great weather in the near future and some great trips planned with friends. Also, my sister and her family will be coming back to New Mexico for bit between moving from Hawaii to the Seattle area so that'll be great too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Moab Alpine to Slickrock 50 mile race 2008 (and some climbing too!)

50 miles
11,000' vertical gain, 12,000' vertical descent
10 hours, 42 minutes
Map from my Garmin Watch
Photos from my camera
Photos taken on the course during the race from Sean Cunniff
Photos from Greg Norrander (Pro quality)
Full results

Wow, so it's been weeks since I blogged at 'cha y'all. Sorry for that. It's been a fun few weeks so I hope to write about that soon but for now...I'm sitting here stiff and sore after running the Moab Alpine to Slickrock 50 mile race yesterday. This was my first time running this low-key, high-quality race and I really enjoyed it. If you like easy, flat 50 mile races, this one isn't for you but if you enjoy amazing mountainous terrain with super scenic views of canyonlands, put this race on your calendar for next year!

The pre-race on Friday was very relaxed and small. Only about 45 runners signed up for the race. Allison, Mom and I met up with Sean and Mike (running in his first 50 mile race ever) at the pre-race in Moab on Friday evening and we got the course briefing. It was all very informal and mellow and I really appreciated that. After dinner at Pasta Jays with Mike and Felicia, we drove to a campsite right near the start line at the Pack Creek Picnic Area in the La Sal Mountains. Camping there in the national forest was awesome with a campfire and the waning but bright moon. The only thing not awesome about it was the gigantic patch of goatheads that Allison and I pitched our tent on unknowingly. Well, even after realizing the mistake and adding another beefy tarp under the tent, we both still ended up with deflated Thermarests in the morning. (I later found 17 holes in mine and 6 holes in Allison's.) Nonetheless, I got a good night's sleep and awoke at 4:45am.

It was a warm morning and it was much easier to get out of bed than it often is at higher, colder runs. After downing a toasted bagel and 12oz of coffee I got my growler on and then headed over to the start line a few minutes before 6am. It was a small group of runners and I liked that. I started wearing shorts, sleeveless shirt, a visor, sunglasses, GPS watch and iPod. Also, I made a bold (and perhaps foolish decision) to wear a new pair of La Sportiva Fireblades that I had only run 7 miles in up until race day. The gamble paid off and I really liked the shoes. The low delta-H (10mm) is fantastic. :)

We all got going at 6:00am at the trailhead at 6,400' under the bright moonlight following the Pack Creek dirt road up for a few miles and eventually catching the Pack Creek trail which paralleled a decently deep river gorge on our left. The fall colors were amazing and as we climbed higher I had to take it easy so I wouldn't trip as I looked around to take it all in. The glowing light of the sunrise illuminating the red rock of Canyonlands to the west was phenomenal.

The first part of the course climbs hard from 6,400' to 10,400' in about nine miles to the La Sal 4x4 jeep road crossing through some scenic meadows along the way. From there it was descent on a jeep road and then more single track through some more nicely wooded areas with great views to the valley to the second aid station at Squaw Springs at mile 14. I enjoyed more great single track (and suffered a hard but non-painful digger) on the next section of single track to Oohwah Lake at mile 17. More climbing and more fantastic views summed up the next section of trail to the Geyser Pass aid station at mile 20. Allison and my Mom were crewing for me and were at Squaw Springs, Geyser Pass and Warner Lake and it was great to see them there!

After Geyser Pass came the climb up Burro Pass to the course's highpoint at 11,000+ feet. That was an awesome climb as at one point I looked up to watch the runner ahead of going up the pass and noticed the moon, appearing very large, above his head and above the pass. I wish I had taken my camera! The other side of Burrow Pass was a steep, technical descent that downhill mountain bikers love. I kept myself in check on this knowing I didn't want to beat up my quads just yet. I eventually rambled into the Warner Lake aid station at mile 26 in 6 hours, 5 minutes. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do--go out a decent pace but hold back enough so that I could run more later on the fast dirt roads. I was hoping for negative splits and I ended up with that. (5:50 for the first 25 and 4:52 for the last 25.)

The climb out of Warner Lake to the top of the pass into Miners Basin was an ass-kicker but I had some company (Shane who had just ran the Wasatch Front 100 miler a couple weeks ago) to commiserate on the way up. Shane would go on to finish in 10:01 in second place! On the descent into Miners Basin it rained and hailed on us pretty good for a short bit but that felt nice, actually. The Miners Basin aid station was done up in "saloon style" complete with liquor. I just went for the chicken noodle soup and some water though. From there it was a fast downhill on dirt road to the pave La Sal loop road where we turn left and run uphill on the paved road for a couple miles to the Kokopelli trail turn-off. The paved road kinda sucked but the killer view of Castleton Tower and Castle Valley more than made up for it!

After a quick stop for a bottle refill at the Kokopelli trail turn, I shuffled my way down the Kokopelli trail through the recently burned area. On my way down I passed a guy with a dog on his way uphill and he shouted, "Go Hilltoppers!" I didn't recognize him at all but he obviously knew I was from Los Alamos High School somehow. He would later catch back up to me and explain he had been talking with Allison earlier and that he, David, was from Los Alamos originally. Cool!

Thing started to get warm as I ran onto the Sand Flats Road and aid station at mile 36. I filled both my water bottles and reveled in the thought that the finish was only 14 miles of all downhill dirt road away. I actually managed to run most all of the remaning 14 miles at a decent pace (~9:00/mile) and felt good. I knew my race strategy had paid off as I distanced myself from the runner behind me and passed another runner that had been in front of me. It felt wonderful to actually be feeling good in the final 10 miles of a 50 mile race. That's a rarity for me. One short spur road off the main Sand Flats road was a bit rough as we had to run on a good bit of slickrock and rough terrain (but it was a nice change to get off the main Sand Flats road) and I hit the last aid station at mile 42.

I tanked up on water there, down some more gel and an electrolyte tablet and started going for it. I ran almost all of the final hot, open road to the finish walking only a couple of short uphills. With a few miles to go I took off my shirt as I felt I was overheating a bit. And then, just like that, I rounded a corner and saw the finish line at the Slickrock Bike Trail parking lot and kicked into as high a gear as I had left to finish in 10 hours, 42 minutes which turned out to put me in sixth place overall. I sauntered over to the shade of the CR-V where Allison and Mom had been waiting for me and just collapsed into the chair. It took me a while to get motivated to move but the thought of a shower, food and a beer in Moab was very motivating!

This race is awesome! The last seven miles are pretty brutal but the rest of the course really makes up for it. The low-key style of the race is very appealing to me and the terrain is some of the most scenic I've ever run.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Long week trip coming up!

Hey y'all I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya...
Allison and I are headed out for the week first to Lake Mead, NV for a friend's birthday party on Saturday and Sunday and then on up to City of Rocks, Idaho for a number of days climbing with our friends Rose and Chris. It'll be awesome. On the way, as we drive through Salt Lake City, UT, I'll be stopping to pace my friend David for the last 25 miles of the Wasatch 100 mile trail running race. I've never seen the course so I'm excited to run part of it and support David in this great race. I'll be back online in 9 days or so. Enjoy your holiday weekend.

Here's a great photo Bill took of me climbing Colossus, 5.10c, at sunset in City of Rocks, ID last time we were there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Taos Up and Over 10k trail run, 2008-08-23

Taos Up and Over 10k
6.2 miles
2,600' vertical
Third overall, second male overall
Full results

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After last week's ascent run at Pikes Peak, I wanted to take advantage of some decent training I'd been doing recently so I headed up to the third annual Taos Up and Over (TUAO) 10k run with Allison, Chris and Rose. Rose and I both had run in the Pikes Peak Ascent last week but Rose was in wave two and had disappointedly been turned around at the A-Frame during the PPA so she was really looking for a finish at Taos.
The TUAO runs 2,600' vertical feet up the ski area and then back down via a course that's all dirt road jeep trails on the mountain. Neither Rose nor I had run it before.

This race was the complete opposite of last week's race on Pikes Peak. For one, the weather today was perfect. Also, the race is super low key and there were probably only 60 runners there. It's also much shorter. :) Just like I like it.

At the 9am start, I started in the front and quickly settled into second position at a comfortable pace. Unfortunately, though, I've come down with a small cold so my lungs were immediately feeling tight and somewhat burning. I was not optimistic about the lungs holding up but as I got higher, they felt better. My strategy was power hike on the steeps and hope those that were running ahead of me would tire out from the inefficient running up steep stuff. After about the first mile I was in fourth position and watched the first female and first male head up looking strong. The runner in third was running up the steep stuff and generally slowing down so I knew it wouldn't be long before I was able to pass him. I passed him just before the first water station where I powered down a gel and cup of water and kept the power hiking alternating with running on the lower angle terrain. At the top of the climb at mile 3 I watched the first male crest over in pursuit of the first female. I hit the top of the climb in 43:52 and hoped I'd catch the runners in front but as I looked down, I couldn't see them and figured I wouldn't catch them. The views of the highest peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak (13,161'), were awesome. The descent followed steep jeep roads down that were a bit loose at times so it was challenging. I was still able to run fast down though and held a 6:14 minute/mile pace for the entire 3.2 mile descent. I moved quickly and didn't expect to be caught and didn't expect to catch anyone. That's how it went all the way to the finish--uneventful and pretty quick. I finished in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 5 seconds for third overall, second male overall. For my effort I won a free day lift ticket for Taos Ski Area and now that snowboards are allowed, I'll definitely use it! Rose came in around 1:17ish which was good for third female overall. A very productive day for the Los Alamos runners!

At the start. Beautiful weather!

After the first switchback.

Finish! Note the awesome white balance of this shot. Allison used my chest for the white balancing.

Miles Fitzgerald finishes up around 1:11

Rose finishes in her matching skirt/shoes combo!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pikes Peak Ascent 2008-08-17

Pikes Peak on Sunday morning after the storms on Saturday during the ascent.

I found myself leaning my shoulder and head into the electric hand dryer in the Pikes Peak summit house, rubbing my hands together and grimacing in pain as the blood and feeling returned to my purple fingers. To the tourists walking into the restroom, I must have looked like some idiot as I continually restarted the air cycle of the dryer by pushing the side of my forehead into the big silver button.

I had just finished running my first-ever Pikes Peak Ascent in what many are calling the worst conditions ever for the race. When the race started in Manitou Springs at 7:00am, it was drizzling and the temperature was around 50 degrees. When I arrived on the summit of Pikes Peak after 13.32 miles, 7,815’ vertical feet of climbing and 3 hours, 12 minutes of running, it was snowing, the temperature was 32 degrees, the wind was blowing between 20 and 30mph and there was an occasional flash of lightning accompanied by some thunder.

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That morning, just before the start gun fired, I took off my wind shell jacket and tied it around my waist knowing I would appreciate it later above treeline. The forecast for the summit of Pikes Peak called for snow and winds up to 20mph. In the jacket pocket, I stashed a light beanie. On my body I wore a long sleeve synthetic shirt over a short sleeve synthetic shirt, shorts, smart wool socks and some lightweight trail running shoes. I had a pair of very light gloves in the pocket of my shorts. I also decided to carry a pair of cycling arm warmers in my other pocket. For fuel I carried a single 20oz hand bottle and a small gel bottle filled with about four gel packets-worth of Carb-Boom strawberry-kiwi energy gel.

The race started off well and I watched the fast runners shoot on ahead as I tried to stay towards the back of the front-runners pack. JV (Jeff Valliere) was gone and out of sight in no time on his way to his 2:53:34 finish so I locked onto friend Jeff Kunkle and made my best effort to keep him in sight for as long as I could. Not having run this race before, I was sure what kind of pace to hold down low and Kunkle had completed this race many times so my strategy was to just keep an eye on him to help pace me.
As we funneled into a single line of runner from the pavement onto the trail to reach Barr Trail, I watched Kunkle about 8 people ahead of me and tried to keep it that way. I expected it to be more hectic and tough to pass people on the trail up the Ws but it wasn’t very difficult. Everyone was very considerate and moved over if they felt someone else coming up behind them.

I set off on this race hoping to run it in 3 hours, 10 minutes. Using the online PPA pace calculator, I memorized three major split times along the course so I would know how I was doing on my way up. At the top of the Ws, I should be at 38:13. I ended up at 37:00. At Barr Camp I should be at 1:36:34. I ended up at 1:32:06. And at the A Frame, I should be at 2:15:21. I ended up there at 2:12:31. For my part, I did a pretty good job of pacing myself. I owe a lot of that to Kunkle too. I managed to keep him in sight, and even talk with him a bit, up until the Barr Camp. After that, though, he charged off to his 3:02:33 finish and I didn’t see him again until the summit.

Personally, I was feeling pretty good and on schedule for my 3:10 finish. The light rain was off and on but never very hard and the wind hadn’t kicked up. But that all changed when I came to the A Frame with about three miles to go. From here, we were out of the trees and into the full winds and snow. The trail began to get slushy from the wet snow and the winds got stronger as I got higher. When I was headed southerly it was a full-on headwind so I would tuck one hand into the pocket on my shorts and with the hand that was holding the water bottle, I’d stick it behind my back so it wasn’t exposed to the wind. When I’d hit a switchback towards the north I’d keep both hands in front of my body to keep my hands out of the wind. I had gloves on my hands but they were so light and damp they weren’t helping a great deal. I did end up using one of my arm warmers as a “mitten” on my right hand for a while which I think helped. The trail in the final few miles is trail constructed through talus so the footing got a bit slick but never too treacherous. As I got higher I could begin to hear the announcer at the finish line up above but because of the dense fog and snow, I couldn’t see up to the summit. Then, just after a volunteer standing next to the trail shouted, “less than a quarter-mile to go!” there was a bright flash of light followed quickly by a clap of thunder. This motivated me to push things a bit more and I cranked out what I could to the finish.

I was feeling good but the cold kept me from pushing it hard to the finish and I ended up two minutes behind my goal time with a finish time of 3:12:00 exactly. As I crossed the finish line I was immediately given a finisher’s medal by a volunteer (the volunteers that endured the conditions for hours on Saturday ought to be given huge stipends!) and pointed to the building where I could change and get some hot beverages. Allison was there at the finish to greet me (she had been standing out in the cold and snow for a quite a bit—what a trooper!) and give me my bag of warm, dry clothes.

En route to the summit shop, I stopped by the moving truck to pick up my finisher’s shirt. At this point, the wind was howling and the snow was blowing sideways. I quickly ran over to the summit shop where a guy yelled at me, “This building is for tourists and customers only, not for runners. There’s a building back that way where you can change.” Well, I knew that Allison was in the building and that there were restrooms with electric dryers in there so I told the guy, “I’m just going in to find my girlfriend.” With that, he gave a skeptical look and let me pass by. I found JV, Kunkle and Allison all waiting in the foyer of the building. I grabbed my dry clothing and ran into the men’s restroom inside to change. My body’s core temperature was still reasonable and I didn’t feel hypothermic but my fingers were completely numb. I had a very difficult time using the zipper on my jacket and untying my shoes. I went straight for the electric hand dryer and got to business undressing. Forgetting that I was among tourists and not fellow runners, I stripped down and threw all my wet clothes into the sink as I rubbed my fingers and hands under the welcoming warmth of the hand dryer. As the feeling and blood returned to my fingers, I grimaced in pain as another guy in the restroom stared at me probably wondering just what the hell I was doing. Runners. Yeah, we're different.

After getting into my dry clothes I headed out and found Allison again. We had heard they were considering closing the road down so we hustled out to the parking lot to find a shuttle. Allison had parked a few miles down the road at the Devil’s Playground so we hopped into a waiting shuttle van and endured a slow, tedious ride down the road to the parking area.

We got into Allison’s car and had an uneventful drive down the mountain and back to Manitou Springs where we met up with JV, Jeff, Jean, Wayne and Mark for some food and giant margaritas at The Loop.
I ended up 84th out of 762 runners in the ascent. Full results can be viewed here. Some good stories from the Colorado Springs Gazette... Peak Throws All its Tricks at Ascent Runners and Storm Pushes Many Ascent Runners Back Down.
And how about some more photos?
Hanging with the 14erWorld.com crew underneath the awning at the laundromat before the race.

The scene at the finish line just before JV, Kunkle and I finish.

JV (in blue) just after finishing. And to think he almost left that jacket at the start line!

Kunkle finishes strong sans hat or hood. What a toughie!

There I am rounding the corner to the finish line. I'm running, really!

Finishing strong! Or something.

Mount Audubon run and hike, 2008-08-09

JV power hiking up Mount Audubon when the sun was out briefly.
JV power hiking up Mount Audubon when the sun was out briefly.

I know it's over a week since I was up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (IPW) but it was a great outing with my friends Jeff and his wife Allison so I figured I'd write up a little bit about it. Plus, JV did the hard work and posted a nice write-up on his blog so my job is a bit easier. :-)
I had never been up in the IPW but had read numerous reports and seen many more photos from the area. Bill and I were up in the Boulder area staying with JV and Allison so Bill could compete in the 5430 Triathlon that weekend. While Bill was checking in and scoping the course on Saturday, JV, Allison, their dog Sierra and I headed up into the IPW to run/hike Mount Audubon. It was a dubious weather day to start with low clouds and a cold wind but once we got going, and as the day progressed, the weather improved. The trail is well-traveled so it was easy going and offered some great views of Long's Peak and Mount Meeker to the north. "Hey JV, what's the peak over there?"

Monday, August 11, 2008

You won't see me swimming 1+ miles

But you can see Bill Geist in his first ever triathlon...a half Ironman called the 5430 Triathlon in Boulder, CO. I was up there with Bill this past weekend visiting our friends Jeff & Allison and Heather while Bill got to spend 5:17:17 swimming 1.2 miles, biking 57 miles and running 13 miles on Sunday.

I've only "competed" in one triathlon, the Los Alamos Triathlon, back in 2004 and that wasn't pretty but it was fun. The swim killed me because my idea of swim training was to go to the pool the day before the event and swim 100m with huge breaks every 25m. So it was awesome to see Bill and the other competitors jumping into the Boulder Reservoir to swim in open water like that. I would have required arm floaties to make it out alive! The full photos that I took can be seen here. The full results of the race can be found here. I'll let you know when Bill is going to compete in a full Ironman....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What a week...

Busy at work for sure. I missed my regular, daily lunch run on Monday and Tuesday due to an aggressive project at work. But I did manage to get out today for the regular Wednesday Guardrail Grind at the bottom of the Camp May Road. This lovely quarter-mile section of guardrail beckons us each Wednesday so we can run 8 laps on the very steep paved road. A time of 2:20 or less up the .25 hill is quite good. Hard average is 2:30. My PR is 1:58 and I don't do that very often. Today was a hot day but the rain came in about halfway through the repeats making for a nice reprieve from the heat. Check out the details or just click the map below. If you want to join us next time, let me know.

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And speaking of working too much...Bill and I had hoped to leave town Thursday around noon to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park and climb the Casual Route on the Diamond of Long's Peak in a a car to car effort on Friday. But the workload has dictated that we will not do that. But our backup plan is nearly as fun...we're headed for the Cynical Pinnacle in South Platte on Friday instead. From there we'll stay with our good friend Jeff Valliere in the Boulder area and do something fun involving mountains and trails on Saturday. Sunday Bill is competing in his first triathlon, the Boulder 5430 Triathlon long course. Wish him luck!

Now playing: Hawthorne Heights - Breathing In Sequence
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 4, 2008

Would you eat this?

As a part of our bi-weekly Los Poblanos Organics fruit and vegetable box this week, we received an absolutely awesome eggplant! Check this thing out:

Then, we cooked up some croissants for dinner and found a matching partner for this badboy eggplant:


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hill repeats how I love thee...

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Now that I'm recovered from Hardrock (I only ran 60 miles so recovery was pretty quick), it's time to focus on my next planned race, the Pikes Peak Ascent, on August 16th. I've never run this race but it's 7,000' feet of climbing in 13 miles so I know it'll be tough. I hear 3 hours is a way solid time so I'll be shooting for 3:20. My naivety could be fueling that time estimate? We'll see.
As for training, I feel hill repeats will be crucial for a good time in the PPA. With that in mind, I resumed the Pajarito Mountain hill repeats today. The standard repeat is straight up the Aspen Run. A typical run up the run to the top of the Aspen chair is .63 mile and 1,110 vertical feet. I ran my first lap up in 16:53--not quite a PR but close. It took nearly 11 minutes to run straight down Aspen. On the second climb, I took it much easier and stopped to urinate and completed the run up in 19:33. To descend I ran one of the more circuitous mountain bike trails down through the trees between Big Mother and Little Mother. More runnable but slower with a descent time of 13:03.
Each time I go up there to run, I consider how lucky I am to have such a great place to run and train so close to home. It's green, cool and high so the views are amazing. I'll be up there at 5:20am this Tuesday and Thursday to run a few repeats before work. Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hardrock 100 2008

Coming into Telluride around mile 27

For the third year in a row, I traveled up to Silverton, Colorado to run the Hardrock 100 mile trail run race in the wild and scenic San Juan Mountains July 11-13. I ran and completed this tough race in 2006 and 2007 finishing it once in each direction to become the "true Hardrocker" as they say. This year I threw my name into the lottery again and ended up 17th on the wait list in February when they did the drawing. By the end of June, enough people had bailed out of the race that I was officially in. However, before that time, I hadn't fully committed to the race mentally so when I decided to run it again this year, I wasn't sure how I felt about it.

It's an awesome scene and I feel like I know so many other Hardrockers that I really enjoy going to Silverton to see everybody and feel the excitement surrounding the race but personally I guess I wasn't ready to run it again. But when I did start on the race on Friday morning at 6:00am, I decided I might as well see if I could run it pretty hard.

That was a bit of a problem! I went out secretly hoping for running under 32 hours but I told no one about this. Since I had finished Hardrock in 2006 and 2007, I knew I could finish the race so I figured I might as well try to really run it. At at mile 35 (really early in the race!) it became obvious to me that I hadn't trained enough to run that pace and I started really feeling it.

The biggest climb in the race comes out of Ouray starting at mile 43 at 7800' to Engineer Pass road at 12,900'. I picked up Bill as my pacer in Ouray and felt like I was crawling all the way up to Engineer Pass road. When we reached Grouse Gulch at about mile 60 a little after midnight, I had lost all desire to continue. My legs still felt pretty good but I was wiped out energy-wise and mentally I just didn't want to commit to going on and going over Handies. Had I not finished the race before in this direction, I would have continued but I had had enough for this year.

It was a great ~60 miles and, Bill, I really appreciate your crewing skills and pacing company from Ouray to Grouse Gulch. Mom, Matt, Allison and Dylan, you guys did a wonderful job of crewing for me and I really enjoyed seeing you all at the aid stations along the way. Thank you so much for taking the time to come support me!

The Hardrock is an amazing 100 miler and there is a great feeling of family amongst all the runners and their families. I'm sure to be back there next year but to see it from the crewing/pacing/aid station side of things. It'll be awesome!

Also, Bill posted some of his photos from the race if you're interested...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Google Earth video of our travels to and in the Thangsing Valley, Sikkim, India

I've been working on a slideshow presentation of our trip for the Los Alamos Mountaineers in June 2008 and came up with this Google Earth video of our travels. There is no sound because I intend to narrate the video as it is show during the presentation but if you want to check it out on YouTube, take a peek:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Josh's photos from the India trip online!

While I've been severely procrastinating in regards to sorting and captioning my photos from our India trip, Josh did an awesome job of getting his photos organized, captioned and online. You can see them all here. He broke the trip photos into three chapters to make going through the photos much easier. Post a comment here and let him know what you think!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A few of my favorite photos from India

I have over 2.5GB of photos from our India trip that I've been sorting through a bit. I plan to post them in a web album at some point but no doubt that will be a while. But in the meantime, here are a few that I really like or that tell the story a bit...

Monks playing cricket at the Enchey Monastery.

We're huge in India...

Sarah and Sam enduring the long drive from Gangtok to Yuksam.

Our group at the lookout above Dzongri. Kangchenjunga and Pandim are the major peaks in the background. From left to right: Me, Sarah, Sam, Dawa our guide, Josh and Suraj our liaison officer.

Jopuno, 5,936m. We successfully climbed the west ridge, the ridge going from lower left starting on the glacial snow to the summit.

The "A-Bomb" sunset from our 16,000' camp on Tinchenkang.

Josh descending the rock face section on Tinchenkang in a snow storm on our summit attempt day.

Kangchenjunga in the moonlight from our basecamp.

After the storm cleared, Sam descending the west ridge of Jopuno on our summit day.

Our big mountain family at Thangsing camp before we hike out. The group includes Dzo drivers, porters, our cook and his assistant, our liaison officer, guide and us.

Super friendly school girls at the border checkpost of Sikkim and West Bengal.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ah, the taste of green chile

Hey, we all made it back home safely and without incident! After a couple of long flights (9 hours from Delhi to Frankfurt, 11.5 hours from Frankfurt to Los Angeles), a night in Los Angeles and a short flight to Albuquerque this morning, we were reunited with our fair state of NM this morning around 9am.
The flights were rough for me. First, Air India had an antiquated Air Canada 747 in poor condition that has the least leg room of any jet I've ever been on. Then, despite not having any stomach issues the entire trip, as soon as I got on the jet, I started up with the diarrhea which is still with me even now. On top of that, I came down with a head cold a day before we left for home. It was one miserable trip back!
But, despite a wacked-out stomach, I was eager to get some chile so Allison and I headed straight to The Frontier restaurant where I enjoyed my last bit of gluttony for the trip. From now on, it's diet time and time to shed some of these extra pounds I amassed while playing tourist in India post-expedition.
I'm unpacking and sorting through five weeks of mail, both electronic and postal, and just happy to be back home again. It was an amazing trip with some truly wonderful companions and I'm wildly thankful to have had the opportunity to make this trip.
In a few days I hope to have some photos with captions and a story online and when I do get this up, I'll post the link here.
Thank you Sam, Sarah and Josh for an amazing excursion. It was awesome!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Delhi Sandwich

We made it successfully to Delhi last night after a nice drive from Darjeeling to the Bagdogra airport yesterday morning. It was sad to say goodbye to Suraj as we'd become good friends in the past month but we'll stay in touch via email and maybe come back to explre North Sikkim sometime.
Today we'll take a taxi (and hopefully an auto-rickshaw!) around Delhi and check out Lodi Gardens at the recommendation of my co-worker Giri. Tomorrow we leave here at 7:30am flight to get back in Los Angeles around 6pm on Saturday night. We stay the night there and leave early Sunday on flight back to ABQ. We're almost home and we are looking forward to being back again.
India has been fantastic and I can't wait to show you all some photos and tell you all the details about this wonderful journey. Thanks for reading and saying hello here!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Allison!

Hey, today, April 1st, is Allison's birthday! Let's all wish her a happy day!

Monday, March 31, 2008

In Darjeeling, ain't no foolin!

Hello all! Jason here. First, thank for all the super awesome comments on the blog so far! We really appreciate everyone saying hello and leaving your thoughts about our trip. Second, let's here it for Allison for all the time she's put into this page and posting all the updates! Allison, the four of us here say...THANK YOU!!!! You're the best.
We arrived in Darjeeling yesterday after spending a night in Pelling, West Sikkim. Pelling is crazy, it's just a bunch of hotels on a hill. Really, just hotels. I don't know how the town is sustained. We couldn't even find a market?!? On our drive from Pelling to Darjeeling we stopped at a holy cave and hot springs along the river and had lunch in a town called Naya Bazaar. As we ascended from 1200' by the river at Naya Bazaar to Darjeeling at 7200', we passed by numerous tea plantations perched improbably on the very steep hillsides. It's mind-boggling how much agriculture is done on hillsides that drop so steeply.
It's been an awesome trip for sure. Here in Darjeeling now for a couple days we'll be doing the tourist bit and will be consuming loads of tea and food. Now's the part of the trip where we get all fat and happy like most tourists. We're SO psyched about how our expedition went! The trek in was fantastic, we summitted one of the peaks and saw some amazing territory. Each morning we'd wake up with a stellar view of Kachenjunga and I was just glad to be alive and in such a wonderful and amazing place. When we left for this trip I figured if we summitted just one peak of the two, I'd consider that total success given we had no knowledge of the routes and difficulty involved. Yahoo!!
It's been fantastic but I'm also looking forward to getting back home to enjoy spring in the Southwest and see everyone back in New Mexico. See you all soon!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Evening, Tshoka

Jason phoned from Josh's cell phone and left me a voice message. They were at Tshoka which is about 10,000 ft. It was snowing and raining some. He said they are 1 day away from Yuksum. He said in Yuksum they should be able to take their first shower in 24 days. Jason said that pretty darn sweet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Leaving base camp, Wednesday AM

Jason phoned and said they were packing up base camp this morning and moving down into the valley. Sam and Sarah had made more attempt on Tinchenkang. He said they got around 18,500 ft and the conditions on the mountain were bad. The rock band had a lot of ice rime on it. After packing up base camp they were going to make a trek to Goecha-la Pass. Goecha-la pass is just below Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest mountain. Then it would be a 2 day hike out. He said he would try and call Saturday or Sunday.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Base Camp, Monday Morning

More snow, Jason said it had snowed overnight. Jason said even the guides thought the weather was unusual, with this much snow this early. They had talked with Sam and Sarah at the 16,000 ft camp yesterday and were going to talk with them today via radios. Sam seems to have upset stomach. The same that Josh had a day or two ago.  Jason didn't have much to say since he has been at base camp for the last couple of days. His hike to the lake was nice.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Base Camp, Sunday Morning

I heard from Jason this evening and it had snowed again yesterday. He was glad to have a second rest day. He was planning a hike to lake (maybe Samiti Lake?) where a lot of trekkers go. Sam and Sarah were preparing to go to the high camp on Tinchenkang. Jason and Josh decided, if the weather cooperates they will go for the summit from base camp. Jason said if the weather did not improve maybe they would head out a day or two early to do some tourist activities.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jopuno Summit Day, 5,936 meters

Jason called tonight. He and Josh made it to the summit of Jupuno yesterday. Sam and Sarah made it to around 18,500 ft. Jason said it was an 18 hour day. They left base camp around 3:30 am and reached the summit around 1 pm and returned to base camp at 10:30 pm (He said the cooks prepared a big dinner). Jason said the day started out clear and became cloudy around 10 am (like the last couple of days, he said). Jason said they climbed a 45-50 degree snow slope, to a rock band then to very loose rock. Jason described it as loose shale. Jason and Josh did not have any summit views because of the snow. He said the descent was tricky with the snow on the loose shale. He said today was a rest day and his feet and toes were sore from the 5,500 ft up and then down. 
Jason said there was some sort of strike going on in India (bus?, road?) so they may have to charter a helicopter back.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

18,400 ft Jopuno

I heard from Jason this morning. He and Josh made it to 18,400 ft on Jopuno before it got very windy and they had to turn around. They were going to cache some ropes and axes but decide to keep moving up because the weather was nice but turn windy. Jason said the west ridge is nice, with a 45 degree snow slope then some rock to the summit. They cached the ropes and axes at 17,000 ft and tomorrow they all will be going for the summit. Jason said it had been nice at base camp, good food and it was nice to sit with everyone in the evenings. Hopefully I will hear something tomorrow evening.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

18,000 ft and snowing hard on Tinchenkang

Jason called tonight. He said they were moving back to base camp. They had run out of food and fuel. After a couple nice days of weather, it has turned snowy. Friday night when he called it had snowed. Sam and Sarah had to descend from their cache trip in the snow. Sunday, he said, Josh and him had made it to 18,000 ft and it started snowing hard and the visibility was zero. He said the day started clear but soon turn bad. Jason and Josh picked up the cache at 17,500 ft and with heavy packs was a slow descent to 16,000 ft camp.
They have decided to move back to base camp and hopefully dry out for a day or two. They may try to summit Jopuno next. Jason said they could just go from base camp for that summit. It was a short call but still great to hear his voice.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

16,000 ft High Camp

Jason called and left a voice message. They were at the 16,000 ft camp. They had taken a cache to 17,500 ft. He said the glacier looked interesting but he thought they could make it. Tomorrow they will try for the summit.

Moving to High Camp - 16,000 ft

Jason called last night but it was a short couple of calls because the satellite phone kept dropping the connection. Grrr:( They were moving to the 16,000 ft camp today. It was a beautiful day. They were hoping to head for the summit on Saturday. Josh and Jason are starting to feel better. Now Sam might have the head cold but is feeling well enough to move higher. And that is all we got to talk about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

14,000 ft Base Camp

Jason called this am. Yeah! They were at their base camp at 14,000 ft and had established a high camp at 16,000 ft and left some gear there. Jason did some recon up the ridge to 17,000 ft and said it looked good. They plan to move up to the 16,000 ft camp and maybe go for the summit on Thursday or Friday. He said both him and Josh had head colds but nothing serious. Jason said the weather was good and they were above the clouds in the valley, the views are spectacular. I can't wait to see the pictures. Hopefully I will hear something on Saturday or Sunday.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

8:00 pm Sunday, Thansing Valley

Jason said they made it to Thansing Valley. They are about 1,000 feet below their base camp. The last couple of days have been shorter hiking days. Jason got to go for a hour long trail run above 13,000 feet. Tonight is the first night they have slept in tents. They had been sleeping huts before tonight. Jason said the food has been good and plentiful. They had apple pie for dessert! Yum.
Tomorrow they should be at base camp and be able to do some recon for the mountains they want to climb and maybe start climbing one on Tuesday. The weather has been clear in the mornings and cloudy in the afternoons.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tshoka Saturday Morning

Jason called me this evening from Tshoka on Josh's cellphone! Amazing. Everything was going well. Tshoka is around 9500 feet. Yesterday, most of the day was snowy and rainy. They were heading to the next town which I think he said was Dzongri but could not hear well.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Yuksam Friday Morning

Jason called from Yuksam. Friday they start hiking for base camp. It should take around 3 days hiking to reach base camp. Jason said the jeep ride to Yuksam was steep ups and downs. He said the weather has been good. Jason said the terrain has been jungle-ish. He said the people have been very friendly and the food, good. The food has been more Asian inspired than Indian.
The satellite phone was cutting out so we didn't get to talk long.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

6:45 am Thursday, Gangtok

Jason called and left a voice mail message for me.
They were in Gangtok. They had spent the day touring monasteries and shopping in the markets. In Gangtok there are big banners for them, t-shirts and later on Thursday a press conference is going to be held. Also later today they will be driving to Yuksam.
They are hoping to start hiking on Friday and maybe get to basecamp on Saturday. Jason said he was looking at the third highest peak in the world, Kanchenjunga. He was looking at 20,000 feet gain from his hotel window.

Kangchenjunga Picture

He said their guide, Barap was a class act, very well organized, great skills. Until next time....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


8:30pm Bagdogra, India

Yeah! I just got to talk to Jason via the satellite phone. He sounded alittle tired but very excited about their trip. They had met up with Barap of Sikkim Holidays and he is a very nice. And yes all the luggage had made it. The weather has been nice and is a little rainy, but Jason is hoping in the morning he might see Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world from his hotel window. March 5th they will take 5 hour jeep transport to Gangtok. Thursday, March 6th they will take another jeep transport to Yuksam where they will be begin our trek into basecamp.

Everyone was feeling good but tired from the traveling.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Delhi - Bagdogra

Jason sent me an email this evening.
We are in Delhi getting ready to go to Bagdogra. This places is nuts! And very polluted. Yeah, the time thing has really thrown me off. Its 12.5 hours or something. (Delhi time zone is 12.5 hours ahead of MST). All our bags arrived which is AMAZING! We'll fly to Bagdogra today to meet Brap and then get on the jeeps.
hello from Malaysia! As Allison posted our original flight to Delhi was cancelled so affyer a 14 hour flight (thankfully I scored an exit row seat for that leg!) through Taipei and to Kuala lumpur, we found ourselves with a few hours to explore downtoown KL. It was about 30USD each way for a taxi into the city and it was nice to walk around the very modern downtown area. In one hour we head off to Delhi (finally).let's just hope our bags arrive there with us.
We are still on schedule to catch our original flight to Bagdogra on Tuesday morning to finally meet Brap there.
thank you Allison for the last update here!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

LA - Kuala Lumpur - Delhi

After arriving in LA, Jason gave me call with an update.

Soon after landing the group found out their flight from LA to Frankfurt had been cancelled due to engine trouble on the flight coming from Frankfurt.
Now they had to collect their 12 bags and find a new flight. As it turned out only 10 bags came out and 2 were missing. Eventually the 2 bags showed up.
Their first option which would fly them to JFK with an overnight stay in New York quickly filled up.
Their next option was to leave LA at 11:35 pm fly to Kuala Lumpur via Malaysia Airlines, arrive there 12:05 pm with a 6 hour layover then fly to Delhi and arrive at 11 pm. Originally they should have arrived in Delhi at 4:30 pm.

Jason said he wold try and call from Delhi. Until then have a good day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

officially on the way!

well we have started the trip! If its not packed, we dont need it, right!? Were in ABq at the airport having checked our 12 bags and paid $400 just for the extra bags. Ouch! I'm using the fancy iPod touch I got from Allison for valentines day to make this post.
Its always a bit tough to start these trips leaving friends, fAmily and 'normal' life behind. I'll miss you all.
See you in April!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Map of Thansing Valley

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sikkim Callllllllllllling!

Sikkim Callllling was the subject line of one of the first e-mail messages we received from our Indian team expedition coordinator and member, Barap Namgyal Bhutia, of Sikkim Holidays in Gangtok, Sikkim, India. From all of our interactions with Barap via e-mail thus far, we're expecting quite a character and look forward to meeting him.
In late 2007 Sam and Sarah started scheming up a five-week expedition to Sikkim, India and asked me if I'd be able to join them. Climbing in the Himalaya has long been a desire of mine so I quickly moved on the opportunity and secured the time off from work (some vacation time, some leave without pay time) and committed to the trip. Rounding out our team of four is Josh.
So now were six days away from leaving and I wanted to give my friends and family some more information about our trip by posting it here on this blog and also hope Allison will be able to update this blog for us while we're out so anyone that is interested in our trip can just come here and check the latest post to hear about our progress. Also, I just signed up for a GrandCentral account so I might be able to post voice updates to the blog from the satellite phone. Technology just keeps blowing my mind even more. We'll see! But, in the meantime, here's some more information about our trip.

We depart from ABQ on March 1st, 2008 going through LAX, then Frankfurt and finally Delhi, India. We arrive in Delhi way early on March 3rd. We'll stay the night in Delhi that night and then fly to Bagdogra, West Bengal on March 4th assuming we aren't plagued by delayed/lost luggage on the flight from the US to Delhi. (That seems to happen on most of my previous expedition trips.) March 5th we'll take jeep transport to Gangtok and, I assume, do a bunch of shopping for food and supplies. March 6th we'll jeep transport to Yuksam where we'll be begin our trek into basecamp. It's a three (or so) day hike into basecamp in the Thansing valley.
Once at basecamp we should have roughly 20 days to explore and climb the peaks around the valley. Our main objective peak for the trip is Tinchenkang (6010m) but we also hope to take a look at Jopuno (5936m) and perhaps Frey Peak (5830m).

Around March 28th we'll hike out and hopefully spend some time in Darjeeling before going back to Delhi to spend a day or two before our flight back to the US on April 5th. We'll be back home on April 6th. Whew!!

Alright, my yearly blog post!

I came here to put up something about my upcoming trip for a mountaineering expedition to India and realized it's been almost exactly a year since my first, and only blog post. That's pretty pathetic considering blogs were designed to be easy, timely and informative. None of which this blog is. Wow, a year! I've experienced and seen a lot of different places and things since my initial post here....
It'll be hard to top a year like that! I had so many wonderful times with friends and family and am so thankful for the life I've been able to lead. The loss of our friend Greg Bayhurst in 2007 was definitely a low-point but at the same time, it was a reminder that we should all live our lives to the fullest and enjoy this time we have on the beautiful and mesmerizing planet. And with that sentiment in mind, I'm reminded why I came back to post here on my blog...my upcoming trip to the Indian Himalayas...