Monday, May 23, 2011

Ogden Marathon

My intentions were good when I signed up for the Ogden Marathon several months ago.  I figured that by May I would be done with skiing and on to other stuff, like running.  Little did I know that "spring" skiing would not really even commence until May, or June as the case may be.

By Saturday, I had logged a total of 88 running miles since November 2010.  20 of those 88 miles were acquired on a "fun run" a couple weeks ago, when the Dorais brothers and I set out to run an "of the couch" marathon.  We barely made 20 miles, but it gave me confidence that I could make it 26.2.  Plus, I've logged lots of vertical and lots of skiing/climbing miles.

After an alpine start, a drive to Ogden, a school bus ride to the top of Ogden canyon, and some milling about in a muddy smoky pasture, I lined up with the 7 minute mile group.  I sheepishly stood to the side because I didn't think I would be going that fast.  But as it turned out, about 200 people over estimated their pace, and as the gun went off, I found myself boxed in.  Luckily, one skill I do have is being able to weave in and out of any type of peloton (bike, ski, or run), and work myself up into a decent position, which is what I did in the first mile or so.

When the people cleared, I was able to catch a short glimpse of the elite guys.  They were flying!  And that was inspirational.  It almost made me want to be a marathon runner.

This inspiration carried me for about 10 miles.  I was having fun, feeling good, and moving at a decent 6:45 ish pace.  The course took us by the swollen Weber river and Pineview reservoir.  Above Pineview, I traced ski lines on the snow-covered mountains.  I was having a good time.

I was surprised that I was moving at a 6:45 pace because I had only done two 3 mile runs at that pace this year.  But since it felt ok, I went with it.  But my head told me I ought to slow down.  I didn't though.

By mile 10 or so, my body had no choice but to slow down to a 7:30 pace for a mile or so.  I think I had a hunger knock, which was turned around quickly by some gel.  The achiness in my feet disappeared with a couple Ibuprofens and I was able to run the next 5 miles sub-7.  I secretly wondered whether I could go under 3 hours.

But that was too ambitious.  By mile 17, I was a hurting unit.  By mile 19, I was no longer inspired and had eaten the last of my 1200 mgs of Ibuprofen.  I wanted to be done.

About mile 21 or 22, a couple of guys that I saw at the beginning of the race, leisurely loped by.  Both were wearing red shirts.  Both looked experienced.  So, I latched on and started drafting off of them, forcing myself to match their pace.

I did that until my legs locked up.  Cramps.  I had to stop and work the kinks out for a bit.  I did hamstring/calf stretches on the guardrail.  Luckily, the cramps subsided, and I was able to continue.  As long as I kept my pace in the 7:30 range, my legs would go.  As I moved into the 7:00 range, the cramps would come back.  It took me a couple of cycles to figure that out.

While my aerobic system didn't feel all that taxed, my legs and body felt maxed.  The Ibuprofen dulled a lot of that, but the pain was throbbing through by mile 25.  Fortunately, the last mile, I saw several people I knew.  I also could hear music.  And that lifted me up and carried me to the line.

I crossed the line in 3:12 and 40 something seconds, and was glad to have completed my first legitimate marathon.

Since then, I've looked at some blogs of 2:30 marathon runners.  And I'm intrigued.  How do they maintain such a fast pace for 26 miles?  Although I set out to run the Ogden Marathon with some guys at work and so I can put a 26.2 sticker on my car (kidding!), I'd be lying if I said that I don't have any new aspirations.

Monday, May 16, 2011

North Face of Buck Mountain

On Saturday, Brother Sam and I, backed up by Sister Anne, joined Brian Harder for a climb up Buck Mountain via the Newc Couloir and the summit ridge, and then a "ski" down via the Bubble Fun Couloir.

Buck Mountain .Newc Couloir on right side.  Bubble Fun Couloir on the left.   Photo Credit: SummitPost
Buck Mountain stands about 12,000 ft tall in the southern Tetons.  There are three prominent lines off "Bucky's" north face--the Bubble Fun Couloir, the Newc Couloir, and the North Couloir.  Brian wanted to ski all of them, and that's what we set out to do.  As usual, and in accordance with my M.O. of this spring, we tried to bite off a bit more than we could chew.  Still, we had a fun adventure, one that I'll not forget.

A Newc

L to R: Brian, me, Rod Newcomb,
Bob McLaurin, Sam
The Newc Couloir is named after Mark Newcomb who, I guess, made the first ski descent.  After running over a deer, puncturing a tire, and making a tire pit stop in Evanston at 10 p.m., Sam, Anne, and I rolled into the Taggart trailhead at 1:30 a.m.  Sam and Anne put up a tent in the parking lot, and I crashed in the front seat of the car.  I awoke to Brian's voice and the smell of singed deer guts at 3:00 a.m.  Shortly after that, an older model brown Mazda truck rolled into the parking lot.  It was Rod Newcomb, father of Mark Newcomb, and an icon in Teton mountaineering.  Like us, he was going skiing at 3 a.m. in the morning. Unlike us, he was 78 years old.  All the years of experience in that one man is quite astounding.  I'm sure he thought I was a doofus when I asked him if I could have my picture with him.  But he obliged, reluctantly.  "Guess I don't have a choice," he said.

Teton Sunrise
A Bear Booter
Going without sleep, stumbling around in the mountains in isothermic snow, crossing over a lake like Bradley Lake on thin ice, and coming across fresh bear tracks aren't on my list of reasons to get up early to ski.  Seeing the sun come up, however, is.  Seeing the sun light up the objective--Bucky's north face--also is.

Skinning up Avalanche Canyon at first light.  Photo: Sam Inouye

Bubble Fun on the left, Newc on the right.
To the Top
Man Booter up the Newc
Going into our project, we knew that the snow conditions would be a big factor in our success, or failure.  This year, the Tetons have had over 600 inches of snow.  April came and went without a period of high pressure.  Last week, a new foot or so fell.  On our approach, we crossed multiple wet debris piles.  What would it be like up higher, we wondered?  

At about 10,000 ft., we encountered winter-ish conditions.  Bucky's sheltered north face had protected the snow, and booting conditions became firmer.  We appreciated this since we set up a 3,000+ vertical foot booter up the Newc.  With crampons, we kicked steps, and traded pulls.  As we did, fog and clouds rolled in and out.  

As we went higher, the Tetons to the north came into view, including the South and the Grand.  

Endless options!
As we climbed to the top of the Newc, the slope became less sheltered, and we climbed into the sun and onto some steep wet snow.  Each of us brought 1 ice tool.  We plunged them deep as we tentatively made our way over the wet steepness, finally gaining the summit ridge.

Sam topping out on the Newc.
 The expression on Brian's face says a lot.

As Brian crested, I pointed at the foreboding west ridge and said, "Brian, the ridge is full-on; I think we might be hosed."  Sam simply said, "I'm not climbing that."  Brian reasoned that our stance portrayed our desired route in the worst light possible, and urged us forward, and so forward we went, up the ridge.  As I worked up the ridge, I gave myself a pep talk: the guidebook says that this in only 5.7 . . . Because the snow was rotten, and in no way afforded any measure of security on the exposed ridge, I chiseled away ice and snow to find good holds.  Luckily, the holds revealed themselves.  And soon, we were standing on top of Buck Mountain.

Good hands?  Brian and Sam traversing to the summit of Buck Mountain.
Bubble What?
So, who named the "Bubble Fun Couloir"?  Seriously.  Perhaps the name-giver was demented.  Or perhaps the name-giver employed the same strategy we employed in calling Buck Mountain "Bucky."  Using a more endearing or comical label somehow made the otherwise scary mountain a little more palatable, more friendly.  I have to admit though, as I dropped into the Bubble Fun Couloir, I wasn't feeling the love.  At the top, there was a thin layer of slop over a firmer layer.  Luckily, it got better as we descended.  And it was steep!  Added to the "fun" was the fact that the chute terminates at the precipice of a 200+ foot drop.  Completely undeserving of the name "Bubble Fun," completely.

Brian Harder descends the Bubble Fun.
Our Crude Anchor
Me and Brian downclimbing to a rap station. 
I was scratching around, looking for a crack.  We were a bit nervous because the sun was starting to heat up the Bubble Fun headwall.  Small chunks were zinging past.  "Hey Brian, where are the pins?"

Brian was scratching around, looking for a crack.  "You have them."

"No, I don't."

We both looked at each other.  And then Brian said some things that I cannot repeat on my blog.

I had a rack of pins, but I left them in the car, thinking for some reason that Brian had a rack.  As it turned out, he didn't.  Fortunately, he had a rack of nuts and I had two Pecker Pitons.  And fortunately, after significant foraging in the snow, we found some placements.  We put in two nuts, and drove a Pecker in sideways.  And then we rapped off two nuts and a Pecker.  Sorry, very crude--in a number of ways.

I take the blame for the questionable rigging.  In hindsight, I should have used a double fisherman's to join to cordelette ends, and we should have put a figure 8 in the cordelette to prevent shock loading if a placement failed.  But, it had been a stressful few moments, and we were anxious to get out of there.  Brian committed first, and informed us that cliff was exactly 200 ft. and that our cords reached, just barely.

Time to Go.
Our adventure in the Bubble Fun took too much time.  While we ascended the Newc in less than 1 hr 30 min., the climb up the summit ridge and setting up our rap took more time than anticipated. By the time we were at the bottom of the Bubble Fun, it was 11:00 or so.  Temperatures were climbing, and we reluctantly skied past our booter up the Newc, descended to the bottom of Avalanche Canyon, and skied out.

Bradley Lake with the Grand barely visible through the clouds.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Blogging

I've been thinking of something Aton Krupicka said on his blog a few days ago:
Over the past couple of years I've realized that maintaining a blog isn't such a personal thing as one might first think and that it is actually a very rewarding means by which to connect with others, share, and hopefully inspire and impact the community in a positive manner.  I say it a lot, but running often feels like a very selfish activity to me, however, sharing my experiences with other interested folks via this blog and others has become an effective way to hopefully contribute and expand the impact of my running experiences beyond just my own little world.
Although I've never expressed it out loud here, I've often wondered why I blog. Once, when I was supported by one front point on a flake above an exposed cliff, I wondered whether I was taking such a risk just so I could blog about it. I almost resolved to quit blogging right then and there because blogging for that reason would be, well, dumb.

Of course, I didn't quit blogging because part of me agrees with what Krupicka says: sharing my experiences somehow makes my adventures seem a little less selfish. And doing so allows me to tap in to a community of people who share similar interests.

After all, it is because of the accounts of others who took the time and care to write about their adventures that I was and am inspired to do what I do. One of the things that I like to do is long ski traverses/linkups. Looking back, it was a combination of many things that motivated me to strive to develop the "art" of these kinds of traverses (an "art" that remains elusive). I've been skimo racing, i.e. trying to figure out how to move fast on skis, since 2003. But the thought of taking fast skiing and skimo race technique to the mountains and the backcountry really didn't occur to me until a few years ago. More specifically, the blogs and publications of Andrew McLean (Wasatch Top 10 in 10 Days), Greg Hill (accounts of his big long days), and Noah Howell (the Super Coaster) got me thinking of fast and light ski traverses/linkups. They inspired me, and for that I say, thanks!

Presently, I think it's safe to say that there are good ski and climbing blogs for most ranges in the lower 48. As I've surfed the web, looking for beta and daydreaming about places I'd like to go and traverses/linkups I'd like to do, I've stumbled across some pretty cool accounts, on blogs of course. For example, I'm heading to the Cascades later this month. Written adventure accounts posted by the Traslin brothers, Sky and, and the Skoogs, just to name a few, have been very useful. Thanks. As I've surfed the web, trying to learn the ins and outs of alpine climbing, I've discovered resources like Cold Thistle. Again, I say thanks.

I've found that while guidebooks point me in the general direction of where I want to go, blogs and personal accounts often fill in important details and provide inspiration. So, my conclusion for now is that while blogging is somewhat self-promoting, and a bit silly, I'm going to continue. And as I have been inspired by others' blogs, my hope is that some of my accounts here will do the same.