Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 15

First off, in my running I had great muscle recovery from my mountain run around the Indian Peaks wilderness. That was very very encouraging. However, Starting about two weeks ago on Tuesday (when I ran my 22:21 four mile tempo I started to get a leg pain in my right leg on the lower right side. About three inches above the ankle on the outside. I originally thought it was from dropping a 200 pound rock on my leg while we were bridge building, but there has been no bruise and I am afraid that it is due to running in old shoes with improper running technique. The result was that I only ran five out of seven days this week. I ended my running streak at like 66 days in a row. That is up from a previous high of like 42. I wanted to get to 70 but my leg hurt so much (about a four out of ten on the pain scale) that I decided not to push it. It's really scaring me for several reasons. There is no way I am going to attempt the Colorado Trail record attempt with a hurt ankle. There is very little chance that I will attempt it without some form of sponsorship.  Third, I just don't like setbacks in my running. It shows that I don't know everything and that somewhere I have a problem. If it is overuse then it is probably shin splints because I have not been doing shin ups and when I don't I have a problem although the location is a little different that I am not totally sure it is shin splints.

Working I had a good week. The kids got their merit badges and managed their fear of heights. Everyone in my opinion is afraid of heights but some people can manage that fear a lot better than others.  Someone who is truly not afraid of heights is crazy.

Thursday I went to an O.A.R. concert at Red Rocks. That is a pretty crazy venue. You can see the city and the stars and a great band all at the same time. Here is a picture of just before the concert started.

Saturday I went climbing on Lumpy Ridge. We tried to do a 5.10a traditional climb but between our hunger at 5:30 PM and the crack that disappeared at the crux we decided to back off. I am training for the Casual Route on Long Peak, which both of my prospective partners have said I get to lead the 5.10a crux at the top. I have never trad climbed that hard so I need to train so that I can get up it easy. That being said the crack is solid and would take great gear so all things considered it would be a nice place to  take a trad fall. Here is a picture of my normal partner traversing around to the rappel slings with Estes Park in the background.

Job searching I emailed some people I have contacted in the past asking about interviews and job opportunities. In addition to the kind of job that I want (engineering) I'm considering professional guiding. I'm good enough that I could lead most trips out there. Also if I could just do day work and still have enough time to run it really would be kind of nice. The pay is better than I make now and I would probably be able to work year round.

I am accomplishing so much this summer of what I set out to do: run the Indian Peaks, climb on the Petit, attempt a 5.10 trad climb, climb the 5.12c on Signal Rock, run a couple 100 mile weeks, get in some good tempo runs at altitude, and go to a concert at Red Rocks. Climbing the Diamond on Longs Peak is really the only thing I have left that I wanted to do. The Colorado Trail is a bit more of an undertaking. The more I think about it it would really destroy my body for a few weeks and any fall marathon that I ran would not be as good. We shall see though...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Types of Sports Injuries

In this context I will treat injuries seperate from sicknesses. When I
say injury I mean something that prevents an athlete from training and
competing because of a temporary (hopefully temporary) disability. In
general there are only two types of injuries: overuse and traumatic.

Overuse injuries are injuries that an athlete aquires because they do
something improperly over and over again. That is to say if your foot
hits the ground at just a fraction of a degree away from perfect if
you run too much without doing supplementary training you will get
injured. Most runners who progress through the years will aquire
several of these as they learn how to take care of their body and
learn better form. Common overuse injuries include IT-band syndrome,
runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and in some cases
stress fractures. In a future article I will discuss some prevention
and recovery methods.

Second there are traumatic injuries. Simply put these are the injuries
that those nearby can hear and see happen. The athlete is fine one
second and in pain the next. Common injuries include: broken bones,
sprained and twisted joints, pulled muscles, bruises, and concussions.

Step one (often passed in a fraction of a second by experienced sports
medicine people) in determining recovery from an injury is determining
if it was overuse or traumatic.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Working at Boy Scout Camp

Recently one of my bosses told us that he delights in seeing the Boy Scouts scrutinized in the media for this mistake or that mistake. He said the reason for his pleasure was that the Boy Scouts were doing so much good and were so successful that other people were out to get the Boy Scouts. It is a different point of view to be sure.

I can say with certainty that Boy Scouts changed my life, several times. For example, I went on a ten day backpacking expedition at Philmont Scout Ranch in 2001 the summer after my freshman year. I also ran track in the spring of my freshman year in large part to get ready for that trek. I would have never guessed nine years ago that my exploits in the spring and summer of 2001 would have such life changing consequences. My two physical "hobbies" both took a big step up that year. There were steps before that point and after that point but that specific year was one where I really committed to both sports. Many of the pieces of gear that I bought for Philmont I still have and use occasionally. Those two weeks in New Mexico inspired me to spend a good part of three more summers are Philmont. That fall in cross country I had a breakthrough season and it pretty much cemented my passion for running.

So now as I am most of the way through my fourth summer at a Boy Scout camp I have been doing some reflecting on the whole experience. Why do I spend my summers teaching teenage boys outdoor skills? Why do I spend my summers with teenage boys instead of working with adults at a corporation? Why am I working for 20% of the pay that I thought I would be making with my education?

The answer is actually simple. We staff members don't really ever talk about it but you can see it during a flag ceremony or a mealtime prayer. You can see it when we are trying to get a 12 year old to do the 30 foot tall rappel even though he is crying and his legs are shaking. You can see it when we are handing out hot chocolate after swim tests (or the canoe T exercise) in our 64 degree lake. The reason is that we simply believe in what we are doing. It is honest work that makes kids... better. They have more confidence, more appreciation for the environment, they trust each other. Even though I don't talk to the kids I went through Boy Scouts with too often anymore we still have a bond. Like the 15 degree night in Kansas when the liquid soap turned into a solid. Unless you were there you can't appreciate how interesting it was to do dishes that night.

Someone once said, "it is better to give than to receive." I received so much in my seven years as a Boy Scout that I hope to give back some of that to the next generation. It is very rewarding when a 12 year old with shaky knees and tears gets down the rappel and shows up back at the head of the line five minutes later with a huge smile on his face because he had fun and wants to do it again.

Many people get paid only with money. I get paid with smiles, yells, and quiet compliments. Plus a little money. Life is good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 14

It was a good week for several reasons. First of all I had two contacts about possible jobs. One was from an employer who was interested in hiring me several months ago for a direct government job but for whatever reason I was ruled out in the selection process so he never even had the option of interviewing me. However, he is now interested in hiring a contractor and is planning on considering me. The work is in the research and development with emphasis on the development of materials manufacturing processes. That is just what I would like to do. The second is a friend's dad who knows all sort of people among them a plastics company that might be interested in a materials engineer.

Other than that I had a good week of running. I had a 19 mile long run in the fog on Magnolia road and a four mile tempo in 22:21 which is a very pleasing time for me considering the altitude. Then Saturday I set the currently fastest known time on the Buchanan-Pawnee Passes loop. For a total of 92 miles this week.

As far as work went: we only had six hours of climbing all week. The rest of the time we spent working building a bridge (about 32 feet long) across a stream. I plan on taking some pictures and showing the general process. this is going to be a very stable bridge.

As far as my personal climbing: I climbed our 5.12 again which I think is about 5.12c. Then I spent some time in a local climbing gym doing V1 and V2 problems far easier than I ever have before. I also did well on a 5.12a after I was really tired and I made it most of the way up a V5. My finger tips are very hard and I am climbing very well right now. Better than I ever have before. I mean 5.12s are hard however you slice it. That being said, I was checking out some 5.13s in the gym and I can see the holds and I know how to hold them. However, I can tell that I do not have the specific strength to hold myself onto the wall on a 5.13.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Running the Buchanan-Pawnee Passes Loop

It is officially 26.4 miles including 6700 feet of vertical elevation and two passes over 12,000 feet. The start is either the Mitchell Lake Trailhead or the Long Lake Trailhead. From there the trails allow a runner or hiker to link up Buchanan Pass to the North and Pawnee Pass to the South. The topo map and elevation graph give an indication of the seriousness. So here is the story...

I discovered this route in the spring. I have hiked in this area many times through my job at a camp a few miles north of Ward. Furthermore I see the peaks Sawtooth (just south of Buchanan Pass) and Audobon (right in between the two passes) on just about every run that I go on from the Peak to Peak highway to county roads 96 and 103 and the road to Jamestown. I decided early in the summer that I wanted to give it a try. However, I did not want to try it in a rainstorm. I only just decided the night before that I would actually do it. We had serious rain storms Wednesday and Thursday up here at 8800 feet so I was worried it would be bad weather and I would just end up gym climbing in Boulder on Saturday. Finally, Friday night I made the call that I would go and announced it on Facebook.

I have to work Saturday mornings so I worked to clean up our camp for the next week of campers. At 9 AM I was cleaning the kitchen counters. At 10 AM I was swinging a hammer trying to take nails out of boards. At 11 AM I was on my way to Brainard Lake. I had a bit of a late start. When I arrived they told me that there were no open parking spots at the Long Lake Trailhead or Mitchell Lake Trailhead so I had to park on the south side of Brainard Lake which added about a half mile each way to the trip. I had a park ranger snap a picture with my iPhone before I headed off. The time stamp for that picture is 11:19:43 AM 7/10/2010. Then I started the sufferfest.

The gear that I took for the adventure was: Mizuno Yellow lightweight trainers, Ironman Wigwam Socks, running shorts with mesh elastic waist pockets (I forgot the brand but they are great shorts), Joe Colton Off Road Run race t-shirt (I was seventh this year in the 15 mile race), Nike running hat, Tifosi sunglasses, two Ultimate Direction 20 oz water bottles, 3 oz Montbell Ultra light wind jacket (with full zip and hood), a tube of Cliff Shot Bloks margaherita flavor (200 calories), two GU gels (Espresso Love and Orange, 100 calories each), my iPhone and head phones, and the key to my van (seen behind me above).

It took me a little over five minutes to get to the road intersection of Mitchell and Long Lakes. Then I headed toward Coney Flats. The trail went above tree-line slightly was a a little rough then it dipped down and I had a nice two miles downhill at a nice grade. Between the cutoff to Coney Flats and Coney Flats I only saw one other person and he was doing a little running as well. I reached the entrance to the Indian Peaks Wilderness 1:12 after starting for about 7 miles at that point so I was doing around 10 minute miles.

I headed up to Buchanan Pass and after 15 minutes I had passed everyone else on the trail. I still haven't figured out the whole running uphill around 12,000 feet thing yet. I would run 20-50 meters then walk for that long and then do it again. I arrived at the top 2:06 after starting. I sat down for a few minutes to put on my wind shell and take a few pictures. The time stamp on the first picture is 1:28:39 7/10/2010 and on the second picture is 1:29:09 7/10/2010. My face about says it all.

At 2:08 (after I started) I started the run down. I didn't see any people for several miles running down and I was alone for about an hour and a half. When I finally saw some backpackers I asked if the trail to Pawnee Pass was ahead of me. The said it was but that kind of destroys my unassisted claim. I ended up taking all of the right trails with no one to help me but I kept asking along the way if I was on the right trail because I didn't carry a map.

At 3:20 (after I started) I hit the trail sign for the Cascade Creek Trail and I took a left. About this time I got really tired. I rarely run more than three hours and my body knows that so it was letting me know. On the uphill from the trail junction to the top of Pawness Pass I ate my four remaining Shot Bloks (out of six) and both of the gels. About half way up I took out the iPhone and put the head phones in and started listening to the Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D. album. I use some electric adrenaline sometimes to help me move faster. There was a lot of walking on this uphill section.

When I hit the next trail junction to Pawnee Pass I was comforted to see that someone before me had added some labels to the sign. They had added "Pawnee Lake" and "Pawnee Pass" with arrows. I was relieved to know that I was going the right direction as I was tripping all over the place at that point and my head was spinning a little. If you look on the lower left of the sign you can see the permanent marker "Pawnee Pass". The time stamp for this picture is 3:33:25 7/10/2010.

I headed up the final stretch, more walking than running.  I feel bad when I am out there trying to run and people see me walking. I feel like I am not trying hard enough. At this point I only had about six ounces of water left. I was already getting dehydrated. I put on my wind shell again when I went above tree-line because it was somewhat windy, maybe 20 mph winds. The trail was much better than I expected. Most of it is very run-able even going uphill. I had heard horror stories about how hard it was and it really was not terrible at all. Just before the top there is a small dihedral on the left side of the gully at a switchback and I stopped there to take pictures because the wind was picking up. This is the view looking up the last 50 vertical feet to Pawness Pass. The time stamp is 4:41:05 PM 7/10/2010.

I crested the top 5:23 after I started for a 2:03 ascent from the low point on the west side of the continental divide. The wind gusts were up around 40 mph. Very walkable but when I was up in the air running it would blow me around. From there it is a simple four miles down to the the pavement which I did rather quickly considering I was out of water and food. There was a moose down by Long Lake which the tourists pointed out to me but I have seen so many moose this summer that I didn't stop or take a picture. I hit the pavement three way intersection at 6:28:24 after I started running for a loop time of 6:23:14. I finished the last half mile back to my van for a total on the go time of 6:34:11 and what I will call 27.4 miles. A very long day.

What would I do differently in the future? I would have liked to take more water, or maybe taken some energy drink like G2 gatorade. I was quite dehydrated when I got down. I think I took a good amount of food. It was only 400 calories but I think that more really would not have done much for me. I tried to get several of my friends to hang out on top of the passes to video tape me coming up and over but it seems that no one wanted to hike out a few miles. Also, now that I am familiar with the route I would not need to ask directions and that would save me some time. That is to say that going under six hours would not be very hard but getting under five hours would be difficult, at least for me.

What's next for me? I want to get up the Casual Route on Longs Peak again, free climbing the whole thing this time. There is also talk of a run at the Colorado Trail in August (500 miles, current speed record: eight days 12 hours). I also want to debut at the marathon this fall. I am not sure what will happen but I am sure that anything I do will have all of my energy. That definitely includes whatever employment I have as well as my physical recreation.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Mongol Rally 2010

This story begins in June of 2005. I was a 19 year old kid who was to be a conservationist at Pueblano at Philmont Scout Ranch. One of the program counselors (the assistant camp director) was a man named Andrew Bass. He had just graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and was enjoying his "last" free summer before the working world.

We staying in mild contact through Facebook for several years while he worked at places around the world saving his pennies until I noticed that he was riding his bicycle from Vancouver to Tierra del Fuego. From September 2008 until April 2010 he rode and lived in many different cultural places. His next adventure is the Mongol Rally 2010.

Basically the Mongol Rally is a a group of people that drive cars with less than 1.2 liter engines from Great Britain to Mongolia and then donate their cars to the people of Mongolia. Along the way they raise money for charity. The charity his brother and him are raising money for is the Mercy Corp.

He has a website, Steppe on it!. They will be blogging about their progress and inevitable breakdowns and hiccups along the way to Mongolia over six months. If you have the ability give their charity a donation (they are covering their own costs). They also have a Facebook page: Steppe on it! Mongol Rally 2010.

Below is a picture of him riding through Ecuador. I am sure this adventure will be pretty crazy. The one statistic that was most interesting to me was roughly the following from Andrew, "One team set the record for the longest tow. A team broke down in France, like on day three and was towed all the way to Mongolia. There was an old retired couple with a Land Rover that started towing them and took them most of the way. Then in like Russia or something sold them the Land Rover for whatever they had in their pockets, like seven dollars. Then they finished towing themselves to Mongolia."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Backpacking, Mountaineering, Camping, and Climbing Stoves

There is a huge demand for a small portable flame in the wilderness to heat water. There are three general categories of stoves which I  describe.

Solid Fuel Stoves:

  • Stoves that burn wood, charcoal, fuel tabs
  • Easy to transport fuel and easy to find fuel
  • Hardly any control of flame size and heat
  • Cheap
  • Dirty
  • Best uses: true unsupported long wilderness treks where wood is easy to find but carrying two gallons of white gas is not practical. These are for beginners who like fires or experienced people who like the simplicity. Simple backpacking or camping are their best uses.
  • My favorite: soda can alcohol stove
  • My least favorite: coffee can wood stove
Liquid Fuel Stoves:
  • Stoves that burn white gas, kerosene, diesel, alcohol
  • Easy to find fuel but difficult to transport fuel
  • Very good flame size (heat) control
  • Moderately expensive
  • Somewhat clean
  • Moderately heavy
  • Best uses: general backpacking. In the US and abroad fuel is easy to find. They work well at higher elevations and in cold temperatures but are not the lightest option. They are too volatile to be used in tents and can not be hung.
  • My favorite: MSR Whisperlite International
  • My least favorite: They are all pretty similar I don't have a least favorite.
Canister Stoves:
  • Stoves that burn propane, butane or a mix of the two
  • Difficult to find fuel or fuel that is new and not in refilled cannisters
  • Generally only on or off so no flame control
  • Somewhat expensive, especially the fuel
  • Very clean
  • The lightest option
  • Can usually be hung and still work
  • Best uses: where weight is an issue and so is time. Ultralight backpackers who need to boil water faster than an alcohol stove. Climber and mountaineers who want to go lighter or hang their stove.
  • My favorite: MSR Reactor. It's efficient, light, powerful, and hands down my favorite stove.
  • My least favorite: I have a decade old Coleman with a huge burner and pot support. Nice for camping not for backpacking.
That's a general run down of stoves to be used in the hills.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 13

Sorry for the late post, I'll get to that...

First in the world of running: I had a good week. Only 88 miles but that included a mediocre 4 mile tempo in around 23 minutes then I had a good 10 mile tempo in a little under 66 minutes. Considering that mmore than half of both of those was above 9000 feet I am pleased. Tempo runs (somewhat hard runs for several miles) are the bread and butter of a long distance (half marathon and marathon) runner's training. So continuing to get two in every week is a must. In fact if I can get up to three per week that would be better. Sunday I even got in 23 miles of running over two separate runs. I did have a bad day of running Tuesday, because I had a good day of climbing...

In the world of my climbing: Monday my friend turned 18 and Tuesday we hiked up from Glacier Gorge to the Petit Grepon and proceeded to attempt the standard south face. It's an ultra-classic 5.8 grade III. We had the whole route to ourselves. That was a little surprising as it is supposed to be so popular. We made it about 500 feet up the route a little over half way. Then after a particularly hard 5.7 pitch we decided that between the weather, the time, the difficulty of that 5.7 and the lots more 5.7 and some 5.8 to come that it would be best to rappel off. So four double rope rappels later on slings, bolts, and pitons and we were down. We then hiked (and ran a little) out. The best part of the day for me, besides having a very safe trip, was the fact that my newest climbing partner hiked so fast. We were really moving up and down the trail. That is exactly the kind of thing that I am looking for right now. I want to know how fast I can approach, climb and descend a route safely. This is all part of my greater plan to take this to the greater ranges so that I can move quickly in the mountains. The advantages of fast movement in the mountains are the ability to cover more ground in a day or between snow storms also to spend less time exposed to objective dangers like avalanches, rockfall, wind, cold, and darkness (not specifically a danger but it sure doesn't make things safer). I also climbed the 5.12 again and was video taped doing it. Which should appear in the next few weeks. I also took two more traditional climbing newbies up a pitch on the first flatiron. So the total of newbies I have taken trad climbing is up to 18. I hope to hit 20 by the end of the summer.

In the working world: I worked every day. Some days more than others like Tuesday I only did dishes after supper.

In the world of internet access: no internet. We were warned in the middle of June to cut back and I did. However, someone or some people did not and we ended going over the limit. Now we are on a revolving limit so even though the month ended our internet is still super slow. What is slow satellite internet? Slower than dial up. It won't load a lot of pages. One of the staff members at camp is taking an online class and it won't even load the webpage so he is getting farther behind every day. Not cool.

As far as future employment: I talked to a sponsor about a possible charity run/hike that would take the better part of two weeks in early August. I just have to decide if that's what I want to do.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Internet Punishment

For the last month I have been existing mostly on Internet that comes from a satellite dish. Along with several dozen of my acquaintances. We were warned about two weeks ago of the high amount of data that we were using (mostly streaming videos, file sharing and one person in particular was watching CSI:Miami). So having streamed some Hulu and Flotrack videos early in June I felt partly responsible for this problem. However, I need to find a job starting in August, pay my bills, check my email, and I like updating my running log (and blog for that matter). All of those things require very little bandwidth.

This is one of those cases where the majority of people are punished because of a very few people who take advantage of the system. Basically, it makes a lot of us pretty mad. It's an unfortunate situation because they do not have any proof who the one or two big offenders are. Unfortunately, they do not have the capability to track what computer is doing the illegal file sharing or streaming video and using all of our bandwidth. I will willingly submit my computer for inspection so that I can be proved innocent. The worst part is that whoever it was continued to stream video after we were warned to limit Internet use.

That is to say, don't punish me for file sharing or streaming video when our bandwidth was near the limit. It would be good to find out who was the main offender and dole out an appropriate punishment.

As I face an ever nearing unemployment not having readily available Internet access is frustrating. Life always works out, so I try to remain confident that I will find something. Of the entire camp staff (less than 20) I am the most educated and yet I am the only one with nothing to do come August. It's strange my path in life. I don't get it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's All Fun Until Someone Gets Hurt

It's an old saying and it's very true. Many of us like dangerous things or even things that we take for granted that are not dangerous. As an example, walking. Simple, normal, done with very little thinking yet many people are paralyzed and never walk. How many times do we walk (or run) laughing and enjoying life? We are so fortunate for even things like the ability to walk or taste or see or physically feel.

Over the weekend a close relative had two strokes. She is at least temporarily paralyzed on her left side. I am laughing and walking and she can not walk right now. A laugh is not the same when a loved one is crying.