Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rucu Pichincha Climb, Ecuador

An active volcano peering out of the clouds above the city of Quito, the pichinchas are a group of three peaks with Rucu being the most accessible to climb. On my final day in Ecuador I had an overnight flight with an 11:00pm departure, which would give me ample time to attempt the trek up the mountain. This would serve a few "firsts" for me, the most exciting part was potentially reaching an altitude above 15,000ft, weather permitting.

The best approach would be getting a taxi to the Teleferico, a sky tram taking visitors to an overlook at 13,000ft. From there is would be a three mile walk up to the base of the "rock." Gaining ever so steadily along a line, the trail offered spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and distant volcanoes, as well as the big city below. I reserved my pace due to the high altitude and ventured up and up making conversation with other hikers as a way of restraining myself. By the time I approached the final ascent up the rocky crag I met a group of Americans with the same intentions of reaching the peak safely in numbers. As the very characteristic clouds blanketed the summit, our single file line served as a nice way to summit with risk of making an ill advised turn into the crater.

Two hours after stepping off the tram I found myself at the summit, sharing in the thrill of climbing my highest mountain to date - 15,413ft!  For reference, the highest peak in the continental United States is Mount Whitney in California at an elevation of 14,995. Rucu is nearly a thousand feet higher. I was surprised by how little of a factor the high altitude affected my climb, a promising test for future ascents. A group photo was mandatory after an achievement such as this, so we huddled around a large wooden sign for a quick shot before making our way down when the clouds broke. 

The return was rather easy and I simply soaked in the views and enjoyed my final few hours in such a remarkable place. I have a good feeling I'll be in the area sooner than later to take on some of the larger peaks like Cayambe and Cotopaxi.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mount Hood Climb 2016

Mount Hood Mountaineering Ascent
Mount Hood National Forest
Government Camp, Oregon
Mileage - 7.8
Time - 9:30
AEG - 5,349ft

Mount Hood is the tallest peak in Oregon (11,249ft) and the fourth highest in the Cascade Range. It's considered a potentially active stratovolcano, though unlikely to erupt. Based on location, the mountain receives 430 inches of annual snowfall and offers year round skiing. This also creates dangerous climbing conditions as the weather changes quickly and can become hazardous. As of 2002, it has claimed the lives of over 130 people.

Matt and I began planning our trip months in advance and chose Memorial Day weekend as our best opportunity to reach the summit based on past weather patterns. Gear preparation, route planning, rope skills and physical conditioning were all part of training leading up to the climb. We followed the weather closely in the days and weeks prior and were still in question the afternoon of our arrival. Since we had given ourselves an extra day of leeway, Matt and I stuck to the plan and went after it the first night. From our base camp at the Mazamas Lodge, we made last minute preparations before dinner and tried to get to sleep by 7:00pm. Making a true "alpine start" the trek began around 12:30am.

A slow grind up the ski slopes is how our evening started, along with several other climbers already in route. The best sign, and a bit of relief was a starry night. Conditions were good so far. There wasn't much conversation between the two of us, mainly because of the winds and how covered up we were. Slow and steady up the slopes until day break when we reached 10,000ft. It was there we roped up for safety to complete the final climb up Hogsback and through the Pearly Gates.

The weather held up nicely and we made our way to the summit just after 6:00am, with the sun beaming down on us and the wind whipping over the peak. There was enough time to catch a photo before quickly and carefully down-climbing to take a break. The only issues we ran into were the winds and freezing hydration bladders, otherwise we were pretty fortunate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Boston Marathon
Boston, MA
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:58:48
Pace - 6:48
Place - 1265

There are so many facets to this race I don't even know where to begin. Boston is one the world majors and the most prestigious race in the United States for the qualifying standards, history and overall runner experience. It certainly lived up to the hype.

Besides the competitive nature of the race, there are several other (and I wouldn't call them small) intricacies to this race that make it so perplexing. The weather is always a factor this time of year on the East coast and plays a big part in race strategy. The hilly course with a net downhill challenges even the best runners in regards to planning the best time to exert the most energy. Finally, the crowd support is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The final two miles were almost deafening, and if you need a bit of motivation you will definitely find it there.

Like many on the course on Marathon Monday, I struggled. It was warm and we battled headwinds. Could be worse, right? Sure. Personally, I just had a bad day. It was my worst marathon performance to date. My finishing time and effort didn't reflect my previous four months of training. Stress, travel, dehydration, and a lingering injury was the right recipe for disaster that struck me around mile 10. It was all downhill from there...and I'm not talking about the course. I hadn't even come close to Heartbreak Hill yet.

Quitting wasn't in the playbook, but sometimes physiological problems become a concern in those late miles. On top of that, I was passed by about 800 people in the second half, which was a bit demoralizing. Each mile marker brought me closer to the finish and that's what I focused on the rest of the race. Once I hit the 25-mile sign I knew I could get under three hours if I just hung on to a 7:30 pace. And that is what I did. I threw my arms up to celebrate briefly and stepped over the historic finish line with a huge sense of relief. Then I grabbed my medal and drop bag and passed out in the grass on the Boston Commons for a couple hours. As my friend Becky said after, "you're stronger now than you were this morning" which was a true testament to finishing the race.

I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did, but that's the way the marathon goes sometimes. Not every day you go out to run is perfect, and today was one of those days for me. What I did enjoy was visiting with friends, sharing stories and living the excitement that is the Boston Marathon

Amanda excited after finishing her 10th consecutive!
Boone, Stacey and James pre-marathon on Boylston Street

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mountain to Fountain 15K

Mountain to Fountain 15K
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Mileage - 9.3
Time - 51:10
Pace - 5:29
Place - 15th

Fast and furious is how this one went down in Fountain Hills on Sunday morning. By fast I mean the first rolling 10K coming out of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, which I believe I ran a 40 second PR. Man, it felt good to run fast! Furious were the hills after the 10K mark, which I believe is where I blew up. Leg turnover was fine, I just hadn't done enough anaerobic training to help buffer that kind of intensity. Miles 8 through 9 were a bit of a blur, though I do remember regrouping and actually gaining ground on the couple of guys that passed me early on. I think if the race had gone on another mile or so I could have moved up in position. Overall it was a great race and a fun event with friends. I want to thank Susan Loken, our elite coordinator and all the volunteers and race staff. Keep this one going!

Sara, Boone and Zach in Fountain Park

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Brown's Ranch

This "winter" we're having in the valley has been incredible. The running hasn't been bad either. That's thanks to my new, and possibly favorite place in all of Arizona to run (at least in the Phoenix metro area). The city of Scottsdale acquired several thousand acres of land to extend the McDowell Sonoran Preserve all the way to the border of the Tonto National Forest, and the recently developed trails are outstanding. The newest section offers gentle rolling single track around a few stand alone mountains with endless combinations of trail circuits, and it's all smooth sailing. I have spent the last six weekends up there for my long runs with distances typically ranging from 16 to 19 miles and have created different loops on each outing. If you don't believe me, check out this picture or go see it for yourself! 


Sunday, January 24, 2016

El Cajon Mountain

El Cajon Mountain Trail
Lakeside, California
Mileage 11.1
Time - 2:06
AEG - 4,000ft

Over new years weekend I was in San Diego visiting my sister and knew I could find something interesting to explore. The view of the mountains to the East of our hotel in Mission Beach was like the cereal aisle in the grocery many options it makes it hard to choose. All I know is that those peaks were calling my name.

San Diego county has a lot to offer, and I love the amount of open spaces and preserves so close to the city. Naturally, I looked for the tallest, toughest, most accessible mountain to climb. El Cajon would be perfect. Starting as a hike, it quickly turned into a trail run once I got out there. Since the trail is really more of an old jeep road I could run a good portion of the miles. Now don't get me wrong, it's washed out and a bit more rugged than I imagine it used to be, just not terribly technical. The trail was surprisingly busy, everyone seemed to be in good spirits and oddly encouraging as I passed by during the ascent.

After an hour I reached the five mile junction with the peak visible and a mere half mile scramble to get there. This was without question the best part, and seeing the summit sign is always a welcome sight. The true peak is one large boulder you can climb up to clearly establish your accomplishment. I had enough time for a few pictures and a snack before anyone else arrived. Then I was off running again. The second hour seemed to go by much quicker and before long I was back at the trailhead ready to call this one good.  

Overlooking San Diego to the West

Cuyamaca Peak from El Cajon Mountain Summit