Sunday, July 5, 2015

Climbing Denali with RMI Expeditions

[ed note: this is old and unfinished, I'm just finally posting it now as is, on the two-year anniversary of summiting Denali July 5 2013]
On June 18 2013, I flew to Alaska for an expedition to North America's highest peak, 20,320 foot (6,194 meter) Denali (officially Mt. McKinley). In total, we spent 20 days on the mountain, and about 5 minutes at the actual summit. It was filled with challenges, both mental and physical; I lost both my big toenails; it took a while to get over the cough I acquired at 17,000 feet; I am quite psyched to tick this one off of my list.
After great previous trips with RMI Expeditions on Rainier (a summit climb in 2009, and a winter seminar in February), I didn't even consider climbing with anyone else, even though I had never met the guides. The lead guide for my trip was Pete Van Deventer, along with Geoff Schellens and Robby Young. Along with them and six other clients, none of whom I had ever met in person (I connected with the guides and one other climber via Facebook), we had a great trip; we got along pretty well as a team.
I already posted some articles on specific aspects of this climb, starting with the training and gear, also about the weather. I had ideas for several more articles, but I lost momentum on this whole project; I just had too many adventures the following summer, most notably climbing Granite Peak in Montana and a return trip to Mt. Rainier. What follows is the day-to-day of the trip, notes taken during evenings and rest days on the mountain, some fleshed out after returning home.

Monday, June 22, 2015

ALA Dallas Stair Race / Lake Pflugerville Tri

For me to do two races in one weekend is hardly unprecedented and not that ridiculous, particularly considering the combined time was less that 1.5 hours. To do two races in two cities, one week after running a marathon and hiking 28 miles to the highest point of another state, is why they call me "Just Plain Nuts." After getting back from Utah late Tuesday night, going to work Wednesday through Friday, I drove to Dallas Friday evening. I went to Dallas for the postponed American Lung Association Fight For Air climb, now moved to the Reunion Tower (site of May's Heroes Memorial Climb). After that race I turned around and drove back to Austin for packet pickup for Sunday's Lake Pflugerville Triathlon. I would say I had a decent showing in both events; I definitely felt the previous week's exertion in my legs and maybe more so in my cardiovascular system, not having truly recovered.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Heroes Memorial Climb

I raced in the inaugural Heroes Memorial Climb, twice up the Reunion Tower in Dallas, benefitting first responders. I wound up finishing third in the competitive wave. According to my watch my climb times were about 6:11 and 6:52, but my official combined time came out to 13:12. I had maybe five minutes of recovery between climbs, waiting for the elevator back down. After the second climb I went outside for the opening ceremony, afterward following the firefighters and police back into the building. The event organizer had said we could climb as many times as we wanted, so I followed everybody else right into the stairs. My third climb was about 7:20, and I went right back up after coming down the elevator for a time of 7:22 by my watch. I took a longer break after the fourth to take some pictures at the top. I went most of the way up the fifth time with my friend Robert, who was doing his ninth climb. Five was my limit, with a final time of 7:55.
The stairs were quite confusing to me the first time up. Most of the way it's a pretty standard flight, landing, 180-degree turn, next flight. However there's a second stairwell entwined going the opposite direction. With the poor lighting and open-backed metal stairs my mind was confused. Also, since it's a tower with no occupied space until the "pod" level, there aren't regular indicators of progress. There is an occasional spray-painted "20" or "45" to indicate the level, but they're easy to miss. Eventually you get close to the pod and the top treads have been painted. The stairs change in the pod to a triangular formation, brightly lit, clean, and much nicer materials than the rest of the stairs.
The event in general was a good one. It was cool to see so many first responders climbing in their gear, and to be able to climb with them (later climbs, they weren't in there during the competitive wave). The stairs are super wide so there was plenty of room for everybody. I have no idea how good of a fundraiser it was, there weren't a ton of people, at least not that I saw. Probably fewer than 200 people did the event, maybe 40 of those were first responders. There are things they could improve, but it went pretty smoothly for a first-time event.

The Rookie Tri

My third time doing the Rookie Tri was my slowest yet, but I have a pretty good excuse. Whereas last year I did this race a day after doing a 100-mile bike ride, this year I did it one week after a 45-mile hike/run across the Grand Canyon and back (aka Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim or R3) in 19 1/2 hours. Considering my quads were so sore I could barely walk down stairs the two days after and a bad blister on my left big toe hindered walking on flat ground, that I was only 30 seconds slower is pretty good in my book.
After getting home late Monday night, I did some light workouts through the week. A bit of swimming and biking was fine, but the two attempts at running did not go so well. I didn't manage more than a couple miles, and not a very good pace. I picked up my packet on Saturday and my only goal for the race was to have fun.
When I set up my transition Sunday I made the unfortunate discovery that I didn't have insoles for my running shoes. That's definitely something I should have checked after barely getting over a bad blister. I briefly considered doing the run barefoot or use my only other footwear- flip flops. I decided the shoes would be the best option, and hopefully it wouldn't be too bad for two miles. I was feeling a little pressed for time, but kept running into friends and had to say hi. I had plenty of time in the end, and of course I like seeing my friends, but I was a touch frazzled.
Like most triathlons seem to be doing, this race has changed from a wave start to a time-trial start, so there was some clear water at the start, but even over 300 meters there's plenty of overtaking. I didn't really pay much attention to the other people in the water other than a bit of a pileup at the second turn and again at the exit. My swim time was slower than slower than previous races. I would say it might be because the swim exit timing mat was closer to transition, rather than being right at the water's edge, but that would mean I was slower getting on my bike because my T1 time was slower as well.
Somehow I had my best bike split, however. I'll give credit to my fancy bike and to chasing my friend. This was my second sprint tri with the bike I bought from a pro triathlete after Ironman Wisconsin last fall. I'm sure its aerodynamic advantages over my old bike make a miniscule difference over 11 miles, but it is lighter which does make a difference on a rolling course. My friend David passed me as I was getting strapped in coming out of transition, but didn't just zip away like every other race. I actually caught up and passed him briefly before he passed again. He never did get too far ahead of me, and psychologically dragged me along with him.
My run was my slowest yet at this race, but I amazed myself by running a steady 8-minute pace for two miles. I did get a small blister on my left instep, but it hasn't been problematic.
I hung around for quite a while after the race, long enough to see a few friends and teammates get awards. I could have used a nap in the afternoon, but wound up going to my friend's house for a post-race party.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

CF San Antonio Run/Climb / Natural Bridge Caverns Trail Half Marathon

After two weekends of disappointing racing, I had a good weekend of back-to-back races in San Antonio, very unlike each other, and both a little different than anything I've done in the past. Saturday was a stair race, but starting with a 1-mile run (actually it was a little short due to construction); Sunday was a half marathon but on trails and a fair bit of elevation, a bit steep in a couple spots. I finished 17th overall in the combined run/climb, but I was ninth quickest on the stairs, a far sight better than last week in Dallas. While my time Sunday of 2 hours even was a little quicker than two weeks ago at 3M, the course was probably a mile short, so it would have been slower; it still was much better in that I put in a consistent effort throughout the race. While my weight hasn't dropped appreciably, it has been trending in the proper direction. Altogether, I feel this is a good indication my fitness is finally heading back in the right direction.