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