Monday, December 15, 2014

Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon 2014

Runners Den Fiesta Bowl Half
Scottsdale, Arizona
Mileage - 13.1
Time - 1:14:22
Pace - 5:40
Place - 7th

A signature race that's been around for years, the Fiesta Bowl half is a valley favorite touring downtown Scottsdale. This would be my first shot at the course. It paired nicely with my training schedule, landing on the last day of the last week of my base phase. This gave me an opportunity to test out my fitness without going into the red. I admit, I was really curious after not racing since July and being injured in August.

A solid group of local guys packed the front line and a few moments after I made my to the start we were off. I purposefully ran at a conservative pace the first two miles (5:50, 5:48) in order to set a nice pace later on. It worked out great. I ran on and off with a few guys until mile 8 and then it was me all by my lonesome to the finish. My biggest accomplishment this day was not the overall place or time, it was having the ability to pace myself accurately, even in the later stages of the race.

A big shout out to Runner's Den for an excellent event with nice age group prizes and plenty of runner refreshments post race. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rim to Rim to Rim

South Kaibab to North Kaibab to South Kaibab
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Mileage - 43, Elevation Gain - 10,800 ft
Total Time - 9:59, Moving Time 9:13

My buddy Arrick has been asking me about doing the double crossing for the past year and we finally pulled it off on Saturday. We were anticipating really cold temperatures and the possibility of ice on the trail with an overnight thunderstorm. Neither of that happened and we enjoyed near perfect conditions for a hike/run of this magnitude.

We parked down the road at a small lot about a half mile from the actual South Kaibab trailhead and ran in to warm up. We dropped into the dark abyss at 5:45am and picked up speed as a little bit of daylight made the trail more visible. We topped off our bottles at Phantom Ranch and cruised across the bottom of the canyon. The lighting and clouds hovering around the North rim were spectacular and the air was crisp. We were pumped up and made good time to the N. Kaibab trailhead (4:25 moving time). We took a break, rearranged our gear and began discussing the strategy to finish in under 10 hours. Even though we had a goal in mind, it didn't keep us from having a little fun on the trail.

Easy miles at the bottom of the canyon
Now it was time to begin the stretch we had been waiting for, the 14 mile section from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch. Roughly 8 of those miles were smooth trail along a creek at the bottom of the canyon. Arrick led the way and we ran at a steady, sub 8-minute mile pace. It was nice to reach Phantom Ranch to clean up and cool down before the climb out South Kaibab. I filled two bottles for those final 7.5 miles and we took off. I think we were confident we would make good time going uphill, that wasn't the case.  The pace was slow, slower than I would've guessed. I think the combination of fatigue and the steepness of South Kaibab prevented us from running. Well, that is until we realized how close we were to the 10-hour mark on the final switchbacks. Down to the minute, even seconds for me, Arrick and I tried to run to beat the clock and we did it! This may be a one and done, not because it was such a challenging trek, but because it went so well. That's how I want to associate my experience with a rim to rim to rim.

Arrick running near the Colorado River
These are a few lessons I learned on the trail: One of my biggest fears is being unprepared for an emergency on the trail, but I was way over-packed. The extra weight caused strain on my shoulders and neck from my pack. Eat more and drink more, especially during the downhills. I started to crash on the final miles up South Kaibab. Don't underestimate South Kaibab. It's steep and relentless.

Arrick leading the way up N. Kaibab
Early miles heading down S. Kaibab

Friday, November 14, 2014

Flatirons 1&2

Flatirons 1&2 Hike
Boulder Mountain Park
Boulder, Colorado
Mileage 2.9
Time- 49 mins
AEG 1,422 ft

I had plans to travel to Boulder for the Lydiard Coaching Certification starting Friday night at 6:00pm, so spending my afternoon in the mountains sounded like a great idea. More specifically, Boulder Mountain Park.  Hidden within a picturesque backdrop of the city lies a vast network of trails just waiting to be explored. I couldn't wait to get moving. At the parking area in Chautauqua Park is a small visitors center where I obtained a map and some advice from the girl working there.

I set out on the Bluebell trail where I would pick up the Chautauqua trail, which leads to a set of switchbacks up to the first Flatiron. This section is where the view starts getting good. Occasional openings in the tree cover gives way to views of Boulder and the Eastern plains. Once you reach the saddle between 1 and 2, you're able to peek over the front range and see the continental divide further West. A fresh dusting of snow on the peaks made for a nice backdrop behind the rocky foothills. After topping out on the flatirons I dropped down to the Mesa trail and traveled a few more miles before returning to Chautauqua. It was a very pleasant afternoon on the trails and got my weekend off to a great start.

Go see it for yourself!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Joshua Tree National Park

While planning my move back to Arizona from the San Francisco bay area, I wanted to break up the drive and see someplace new. The two options I toyed with were climbing Mt. Baldy and staying in a hotel outside of LA or camping and hiking in Joshua Tree.  I chose the latter for a couple reasons. I could hike in the afternoon, camp under a full moon and do a quick trail run in the morning before getting back on I-10 for the remainder of my trip through the desert.

Arriving late afternoon, I quickly assembled my tent at the Ryan campground with my sights set on hiking Ryan Mountain for what was setting up to be a spectacular sunset. Reaching the 5,457 foot summit didn't take long as the trail was only 1.5 miles one way. The view, however, was fantastic. A true panorama of the park with San Jacinto and San Gorgonio visible to the South was enough reason to stick around for a while and take it all in. At dusk I headed down to camp eagerly awaiting the moon to rise over the mountains to the East. The park took on a whole new perspective as the boulders lit up and trees seem to create a cast of spooky characters lurking in the dark.   

In the morning I didn't waste any time getting up and onto the trail. I started with a quick hike on the Barker Dam trail to see the desert oasis and an interesting set of petroglyphs. The hike turned into a run as I ventured out to the Queens Mine and then over to the Wonderland of Rocks. I felt as though I took a trip back in time with all the history in the area. Most of the mining equipment is still in tact as well as the old vehicles parked near their operation. Eight miles later I returned to the car ready to pack it up. As always, time gets the best of me and I had to make my departure. Luckily, the park is just four hours away from Phoenix so it won't be long until another visit is in order.

I was surprised, though it wasn't surprising given this remote desert region, water is only available at the NW and SE entrances of the park. Be sure to bring ample amounts of water for your camping and hiking needs. I'll have to find more trail information on the park as it's rather expansive and many running options may be possible. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dipsea/Steep Ravine Loop

Dipsea/Steep Ravine Hike
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Marin Headlands, California
Mileage - 3.95
Time - 46 min
AEG - 1,021 ft

It's my last weekend living in Northern California, so I had to do something noteworthy before heading back to Arizona. I debated a couple options and went with the Dipsea-Steep Ravine loop in the Marin Headlands. This is a classic hike with a little bit of everything in just four short miles. In an area loaded with incredible natural and man made features (Muir Woods, Mt Tam, Golden Gate Bridge), this one holds up among the best.

You're probably thinking, "that's it, a mere four mile hike?" My thoughts exactly. I didn't drive 80 miles for a hike lasting less than an hour. A lady working at the Pantoll Ranger Station (where I parked) suggested an alternate loop connecting the Matt Davis, Coastal, Cataract, and Old Mine Trails, which sounded good to me.  Not feeling quite fulfilled with only a few miles under my feet I gave it a go. She was right, it was spectacular! Lush forests, ridgelines with views up the coast, creek crossings, grassy meadows and a panorama of San Francisco I'll never forget. I also found myself in a footrace with a couple wild turkeys for about a hundred yards, which added to the excitement of course. The trail was smooth and gradual, with climbs that hardly raised my heart rate. Those six miles flew by in what felt like seconds, but I was loving every minute of it!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Half Dome - Cable Route

Half Dome Hike/Climb
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Valley, California
Mileage - 18.55
Time - 8:52
AEG - 6,537 ft

Six months of anticipation led up to Wednesday morning at 5:00 am when Matt, Lisa and I left our site at the Upper Pines Campground for an all day trek to reach the summit of Half Dome.  Famous among climbers as one of the largest granite monoliths on earth, and certainly one of the most recognizable features of any National Park, climbing Half Dome draws adventure seekers around the world. There are two ways to the top, climb the 2,000-foot face or be fortunate enough to have your name drawn in the annual lottery for a permit up the cable route. I finally landed mine.  

The journey began on the Mist Trail hiking nearly 3 miles in the dark before we reached the top of Vernal Falls. The next 5 miles steadily gained elevation on the back (Southeast) side of the dome, giving an entirely new perspective of the mountain. Those miles went by rather quickly as the excitement continued to build the closer we came to the cables. Minus the smell of smoke (from a nearby fire) everything about this trail was really enjoyable. Once we hit a junction with two miles remaining, the views really started to open up, exposing most of the valley floor and distant glacial activity from eons ago.

An early start and fast hiking would work in our favor, arriving at the cables and descending before the crowds showed up helped make our overall experience as good as it could possibly have been. I'm not going to lie, when I first saw the cables from a distance I was nervous. As we drew near, standing at the base of the dome directly underneath the cables had a way of easing the tension. All I had to do was keep a firm grip, ensure my footing, make three points of contact, don't look down and I would be fine. Oddly enough, I wasn't in a rush to stand on the true summit, conquering the cables was the real accomplishment on this hike. We did have a chance to relax on the mountain for at least 45 minutes or so, Matt and Lisa fought off the persistent squirrels and took a short nap.  I soaked in the views and warm sun rays before preparing for the down-climb.  It wasn't as bad as I envisioned, and looking down over a 2,000 ft cliff on either side was not as scary as one might think.

It was all smiles on our return to the valley, mission accomplished! The hike down became quite leisurely, cooling down in the Merced River, stopping to take pictures and taking the extra time to see all the viewpoints. A big surprise was waiting for us when we opted to take the John Muir trail down instead of the Mist Trail. This turned out to be my favorite view of the day (pictured below, left to right is the backside of Half Dome, Mt Broderick, Liberty Cap and Nevada Falls). What a sight to see!

Nine hours later we returned to camp in Upper Pines, cleaned up and walked over to Curry Village for beer(s) and pizza. We found a prime spot on the porch of the lounge building where the three of us recapped the days adventure relaxing in the wooden rocking chairs. As the hours passed, more and more hikers strolled by and we shared stories and relived the infamous cable route. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

North Peak - Montara Mountain

Montara Mountain Hike
N. Peak Access Road 
Montara, California
Mileage - 8.17
Time - 2:23
AEG - 1,970 ft

Rising nearly 2,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean and through the dense coastal fog is a collection of peaks known as Montara Mountain. North Peak is the highest, so of course you know where I headed. I strategically timed the opportunity to visit another new place in the bay area, because if there is one guarantee in life its that there will be loads of traffic on a holiday weekend in California (or any other time for that matter). I left home at 6:30 am and on the trail by 7:30. 

Finding parking was my first priority. Being unfamiliar with an area always fuels those anxious feelings of exploration, though today was simple. Not so simple for those arriving at 10:00 am when I had finished my trek. What a mess. Once you determine where to begin (I chose the North Peak access road, start to finish), all trails eventually end up on this fire road and lead to the top.  Exactly one hour and twenty minutes of very enjoyable climbing, I had reached the summit.  Yes, the view was spectacular, 360 panorama! What more could you ask for?  The coastline was nice, the bay area was another story. The haze prevented me from seeing any of the Easy side and it was even a bit difficult to make out the actual San Francisco Bay.  Regardless, it was nice to get up there!

Hiking down was a breeze, almost effortless. The steady climb made for a quick decent. As the fog disappeared and the sunlight intensified, the deep ocean blue waters looked better and better. Finally back at the trailhead, I ditched my shoes and ran down the beach toward the water. Knowing how cold the Pacific would be, it somehow came as a surprise. I hung out for a while, caught a live crab that washed up on shore and enjoyed the complete opposite view I had an hour ago.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Berry Creek Falls - Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Berry Creek Falls
Berry Creek Falls Trail Run
Skyline to the Sea Trail
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Boulder Creek, California
Mileage - 10.2
Time - 1:46
AEG - 2,576 ft

Big Basin has been on my short list of places to visit while making the rounds in the bay area, and I was certainly treated to something special this morning in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Big Basin is the oldest state park in California, founded in 1902, and is home to both old and new growth coastal redwoods.  One might say that Berry Creek Falls is the main attraction in this area, and I would agree if it wasn't for the natural beauty of the trail itself. It's hard to capture everything into a single photo or even a collection of the best shots.

I began my run from the park headquarters making a quick one mile ascent on the famous Skyline to the Sea trail to the first junction. From there it was all downhill (mostly) to Berry Creek Falls.  There was a surprising amount of flow considering it hasn't rained since March. I can only imagine how it would appear after a nice rainfall. I didn't stay long as I wanted to travel further down the Skyline trail and get enough mileage in to reach ten for the day.  With all that descent in the beginning I wondered how difficult the return trip would be. The trail was gradual enough to allow me to run most of it back to the main park.  I passed numerous hikers and backpackers and the general consensus was that everyone was having a good time.  Maybe that was because they were headed downhill??  Anyways, if the opportunity arises I urge you to visit this park, it's top notch!  The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle, there is a visitors center, campground, general store, cafe, bathrooms with running water and trails of varying difficulty.  Go check it out!

Park Headquarters

Nice signage everywhere

Redwoods near Berry Creek

Redwood Trail


Monday, August 4, 2014

Freel Peak - Lake Tahoe Highpoint

Freel Peak - 10,881 ft
Freel Peak Hike
Carson Mountain Range
Humboldt National Forest
S. Lake Tahoe, California
Mileage - 10.25
AEG - 2,932 ft
Time - 4:56

After a big event like the SF marathon, I always like to take a little down time to relax and recover. By down time I mean hike the tallest peak surrounding Lake Tahoe.  I suppose we can call it active recovery, as the trail gradually rose up a slope that was drawn out over five miles to reach the top.  Well, the last section was a bit steep (1,000 feet in 1 mile), though not technical and we took it pretty slow.

I planned a weekend of hiking and camping with my sister Val and her fiance Josh, it would be their first time climbing anything of this magnitude and going above 10,000 feet.  I think it might have been the perfect way to get them started peak-bagging, though they may have high expectations after this one!  This trip had all the makings of a perfect hike; great weather, subtle elevation gain, unmatched views of Lake Tahoe and just challenging enough to feel a sense of accomplishment, though not overwhelming to the point it becomes unpleasant.

Tahoe Rim Trail
I'll let the pictures do most of the talking, I will include a trip description for those interested since there wasn't a great deal of information online.  Starting from Horse Meadow, there is a small jeep road that leads West across a stream that you'll want to follow for the first half mile until it turns into single track. Stay to the right and begin climbing a few hundred feet until you reach Armstrong Pass, which will also be the one-mile mark and the Tahoe Rim Trail intersection.  Go right towards the sign indicating Starr Lake.  From here the trail veers toward the lake and goes uphill subtly for the next 3.1 miles.  A good view of the lake finally becomes visible at the pass, though the landscape and rock formations should hold you over until then. There is a sign indicating you have one mile left to reach the peak, and the toughest section awaits.  Continue on until you're standing on the summit and enjoy the view!

Josh, Val and Boone at the TRT junction.

Freel Peak is in sight.

Enjoying the view on the summit.

Jobs Sister and Jobs Peak in the distance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The San Francisco Marathon 2014

The SF Marathon
Michigan Bluff Photography - Myles Smythe
San Francisco, CA
Mileage - 26.2
Time 2:43:42
AEG - 1,529ft
Pace - 6:14
Place - 13th Overall

Moving to the bay area in February opened the door to a wide variety of races, many offering comped entry with a qualifying time, the SF Marathon included on that list. So I took advantage of my recent effort at the Rock'n'Roll Arizona back in January.  A sub-2:40 finish gave access to elite seeding and VIP treatment pre and post race, a nice perk at a major marathon I must say.  Come race morning, that wasn't the only thing on my mind.  The question was whether or not I would be prepared after a recent layoff from runner's knee.  

My buddy Jon flew in from Phoenix on Saturday looking for his own destination race and a chance to enjoy the cooler summer temps. It was 114 when he left and 59 degrees race morning.  We never found out why the marathon started so early (5:30am), at least we had plenty of time to relax afterwards.  Following a typical pre-race warm up I was good to go.  A strong field of runners gathered at the line of the Embaradero Sunday morning ready to take on the mileage and hills of San Francisco.  

The early miles went by rather quickly as we made our way through the Wharf, past Chrissy Field and up the first climb onto the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was doing my best not to get carried away knowing there was a long way to go yet. My splits were all over the board and the hills, turns, and wind never allowed me to settle into a comfortable pace. I caught the first female half way across the bridge, exchanged a few words of encouragement and never saw her again.  Not going to lie, I thought she was going to catch me later on, somehow I managed to hold my own.

Finishing kick at mile 26
At mile 10 I started to think the second half wasn't going to fair well.  Fortunately there were enough guys around to keep me motivated to run hard, especially through Golden Gate Park. I focused on getting to mile 20 where we would begin the decent back towards the bay, those miles didn't come easy though.  Then it became a matter of mental checkpoints to reach the finish. "Get to AT&T Park and you have less than a mile to go" is what I kept rehearsing. Lead changes continued throughout the race and as we rounded the stadium two guys passed me. Normally this would be defeating to the point of slowing down, instead I chased them to the finish.  Crossing the line under 2:45 was a big victory for me given my current fitness and a difficult course.  Overall it was a great day and Jon and I enjoyed the rest of weekend in the city. As always, a huge thank you goes out to the race staff and volunteers for allowing us to tour one of the country's finest cities on Sunday morning! 

Results posted here:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Having reserved two nights on Saturday and Sunday over the 4th of July weekend in Lassen Volcanic NP paired perfectly with our trip to summit Mt Shasta. Following the big climb, Matt and I made the scenic two hour drive from the city of Mt Shasta to the national park that afternoon to find our campsite waiting for us in Manzanita Campground, the park's biggest and nicest place to stay in my opinion.  Each individual site had plenty of room and nice amenities, our site backed up to a trail that was less than a quarter mile from Manzanita Lake, which is where we spent a fair amount of time relaxing by the water and swimming in the "warm" waters. 

The focal point of visiting this hidden gem of the national park system was to hike Lassen Peak, a 10,457 foot dome volcano rich in recent geologic history and the center piece of the park.  Then we discovered they were holding their "Reach Higher Trail Challenge" that consisted of a to do list encouraging visitors to seek out new trails while getting exercise in order to earn the commemorative bandana.  What a great incentive, and of course I couldn't resist!

Matt and I spent the entire day Sunday mapping out how we were going to see all these areas without wasting any time, plus we had to hit Lassen Peak at some point.  I think we covered about 15 miles that day to earn the Endurance Master title by completing all seven.  

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed my time at Lassen NP, there really is something for everyone to enjoy here and very family friendly too.  This place boasts over 150 miles of trails, all four of the world's volcanoes, hikes of varying levels of difficulty and interest, kayaking, swimming, bird watching, scenic drives, backpacking, geothermal areas, you name it and it's there.  We had the impression that most people were relaxed and the vibe was very laid back. Minus the crowds of Yellowstone and Yosemite, and you'll understand what I'm talking about.  Now it's time to plan another trip out there!

Lassen Peak from Helen Lake
Matt on the Lassen Peak Trail
Lassen Peak Summit - 10,457 ft
Manzanita Lake near our campsite
Brokeoff Mountain
Bumpass Hell
Bumpass Hell and the boiling mud pots

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mt Shasta

View from camp
Mt Shasta Hike/Mountaineering
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Mt Shasta, California
Mileage - 12.92
Time 12:12
AEG - 7,209ft

Climbing Mount Shasta has been on our radar for a couple years now, and all the pieces fell into place this weekend for Matt and I to make a one-day ascent to the summit.  His trip to Mt Hood was cancelled once again, and I had planned on visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park on Saturday and Sunday, when he pitched the idea of doing Shasta at me and I said let's do it!

A great deal of planning went into making this trip possible, the complexity of the climb had us going over a number of scenarios these past couple weeks until our plan was finalized.  Logistics, gear, permits, camping, mountain conditions and everything in between came together by Thursday, July 3rd when Matt arrived in Oakland.  After breaking camp at Castle Crags, we drove into the city of Mt Shasta to check off the last few needed items at the Fifth Season before setting up shop at the Bunny Flat trailhead.

Climbers entering Red Banks
An "Alpine start" put us on the Avalanche Gulch trail at approximately 12:30am Saturday morning.  We would be hiking from 6,950 to 14,179 feet in a matter of 6.5 miles, loaded down with enough clothing, water and mountaineering gear to reach the peak.  We had our work cut out for us that's for sure.  The first two miles to the Sierra Club Horse Camp were a breeze, it was the next two miles of steep, loose scree to base camp (Helen Lake 10,443) that really got the heart rate up.  Seeing the stars and Milky Way pour over the mountain was a spectacular sight, enough to keep me occupied as we pounded out those switchbacks. At 3:00am we took a short break to don our crampons and ice axes in unison with everyone else at base camp.  We followed the lead headlamps up the snow field for a grueling couple of hours to crest the Red Banks at 13,000 feet. This had to be my favorite part of the climb, especially getting in the rhythm of "axe, step-step, axe, step-step."  Early reports had warned climbers of rock falls and we had a scare just before going through the chute in Red Banks. A basketball sized boulder cut loose and rapidly descended into the path below and screams shot out as we watched a group of five almost take a hit as the rock fell into the abyss below.  Fortunately no one was hurt!

Shadow of Shasta, an incredible sight at daybreak
On we went, cresting the major hill where we were able to shed the crampons and headlamps to hike up Misery Hill. Daybreak was upon us and the peak almost in sight.  At this point we knew a successful summit was within reach, less than a mile and just over a 1,000 feet to go.  The view is hard to put into words, simply magnificent.  From the glaciers on the North side to Mt Shastina to the West, it was hard to take it all in at once.  Matt and I reached the peak at 8:00am with two climbers ahead of us to offer congratulations of a job well done and share the photo opportunity.  Conditions were ideal and we enjoyed our time at the top of Northern California.

The work wasn't over yet because those who go up, must come down.  Granted it was less physically taxing on the aerobic systems, the technical element of descending presented even more challenges.  The snow field was tricky, and it wasn't until we hit softer snow that glissading down the mountain became possible.  At 10:00am Matt and I were back at base camp eager to shed layers and put our hiking shoes back on for the last few miles to head out.  Elevation quickly dropped and so did the miles.  A quick break at Horse Camp allowed us to regroup, fill our empty bottles and mingle with those headed up the mountain.  Reaching the trailhead was a total sigh of relief, and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment shared between the two us knowing what we had just put ourselves through.  Another major trek is in the books and something we will certainly be talking about for years to come.    

Slow going up Red Banks

Mt Shastina and the Whitney Glacier below

Matt working his way up Misery Hill

Finally free of the crampons above 13,000 ft

Crossing the snow field to the peak

Boone and Matt at the summit of Mt Shasta - 14,179 ft