Monday, December 29, 2014

Since the big move...

Derek and I have been in Ogden for a solid 3 months now, and a lot has happened. Derek started work at Weber State University as the Outdoor Program's Assistant Coordinator and I found a great part time job at Gear:30, a local independent gear shop downtown.

Not long after we moved in, Derek left for Red Rock, Nevada to take his AMGA Rock Guide Exam which he PASSED - YAY!!! He was home for a bit and we were able to get some exploring and some skiing in before he left for Ouray, Colorado to take his AMGA Ice Instructor Course. The whole skiing thing is new to both of us, so I'll have to expand on that in a future post.

I haven't been as crazy busy as Derek, but I have keeping myself occupied. I've been working on writing my first novel and got my first draft finished during NaNoWriMo. I'm tweaking it a bit more before I have friends read it for revisions, but I am pretty excited about it.

I was also able to see my extended family in St. Louis twice this December - once to celebrate the life of my Grandma after she passed away on December 4th and once for a family reunion of sorts, celebrating a birthday, a graduation, new babies, and Christmas.

Now that the holiday season is wrapping up, we're looking forward to having friends come visit us in our new place. The snow is finally here and is begging me to go play outside. It's going to be an awesome winter!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Big News!!

Derek and I have some big news to share!

No, we are not pregnant. (Gotcha!)

YES, we ARE moving to UTAH!!!

Derek has been offered a wonderful opportunity with Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. We are driving away from our sweet Brevard home on October 1st. If you know anyone in Brevard who wants to rent, tell them to check out our listing with Fisher Realty.

Wish us luck on the next phase of our adventure. And don't worry, I'll definitely be posting photos of the 29-hour-long cross-country drive with our Uhaul-car-towing insanity.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thirty-one, done!

It has taken me a while to get to posting this, but I did indeed run 31 miles on Saturday, July 28th as planned! YAY!!!

I don't know how many feet of elevation change we went through, except that there were a couple thousand just in the first half of the run. The whole thing took 5 hours and 52 minutes, which I think has me at an average pace of 11:21. Not bad for my first (and LAST) "Ultra" - seriously, never doing that again!

Happy Highlights:
  • My Derek is awesome and I would not have even attempted this without him. I am so grateful for his support and encouragement
  • We have a ton of awesome friends who came out in support; thanks to Derek, Maggie (who ran 13.1 miles with me!!), Sam, Clay, Ron, Lark, Lindsay, Michele, and Felix, I did not run a single step by myself
  • We also had a great gathering of family and friends at the house afterwards; I, of course, snuck off to go to bed before the party was over (cause dude, I ran 31 miles), but I hear things went great :)
  • Not a single blister on my feet (Derek brought me socks to swap out when mine got super sweaty)
Here are some photos from the day...

We started & finished at Kuykendall Campground

Getting ready to set the official time...

And we're off! Sam ran the first 4.5 miles (and some later miles) with me

Finishing the first 4.5 miles; about the leave the road for the trail

Next 6ish miles were on trails with Ron; we went to the top of Cedar Rock and back. Nothing like a little 3rd class rock climbing to keep things interesting!

Stretching after the Cedar Rock leg; 1/3 of the way done!

Trying to eat before the next leg; another 6ish miles (5.5?) going up and over Chestnut Mountain with Clay

"I'm Eeeeeaaating!"

Sweet note from new friends


Love from the CR Basecamp

CR Base Camp

Finish Line!

Finishing time - 5 hours 52 minutes

Attempting to smile; or at least not sob too openly

To Cathey's Creek to cool down

It was COLD!!

Good Friends :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thirty-one, Here I Come!

Just wanted to check in briefly. My birthday run will be this Saturday in Pisgah National Forest. I am so ready! As you may have guessed from the title, my 30-miles-for-my-30th-birthday run has turned into 31 miles. One to grow on and all.

There have been a couple of training bumps along the way. I got a crazy stomach virus that knocked me off track for a couple of weeks. More recently, I discovered what "Runner's Diarrhea" is [shudder] when I completed my first ever marathon (WOOHOO Marathon!!). But for the most part I've been able to get in good long runs on my weekends and stay active enough during the week that I feel ready for Saturday.

Derek has been wonderfully supportive during this whole process. When I asked for his help, he came up with my original training plan, encouraged me to keep to it, and didn't get too annoyed with me when I ignored it and ate doughnuts instead :) He loves me. Derek is also taking care of all of the 'race day' logistics, so that I can just run and have fun. I definitely would not be able to do this without him.

That's all I have for now. I'm going to spend the week eating plenty of carbs, enjoying a lot of yoga and walking, and just chilling out. Will post again when the run is done! Hopefully there will be pictures :)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Trail Run Fun

So far the training for my upcoming 30 Mile 30th Birthday Run is going pretty well. Tomorrow, I will be halfway through my second training cycle with a 16 mile run to be completed. I'm excited because from this point forward, every 'long run' I do will be the greatest distance I've ever run. So even if I don't make my 30 mile goal in the end, I feel like I'm getting to do something cool just through the training.

I'm doing all of my long runs out on Cathey's Creek Road and the adjacent forest trails. I think trail running provides unique problems for the runner as well as bits of entertainment that you won't find anywhere else. With that in mind, here are some of my pointers for running in the woods...

  1. Even if you wear bright colors, you may get shot at by a drunk hunter. I recommend singing the Oscar Mayer Wiener song as loud as you can to announce both your presence and your insanity. 
  2. If you squat to pee, check for poison ivy. If you fail to do this, call me and we can commiserate.
  3. Snakes are everywhere. Get over it and jump over them. Or abruptly turn around and run back the other direction. That definitely works too.
  4. Not all deer are afraid of you. In fact, some deer may just give you crazy eyes and then charge you. Watch out for those psychos.
  5. After reviewing points #1, #3, & #4 - it's probably a good idea to be armed when you run.
  6. Those horseflies that try to bite you may seem like a nuisance when you are running like a maniac to escape them; however, when you discover that you cut down on your time considerably just because you were running from those little jerks, you may be grateful for there presence. But not really.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The "Ultra" Training Plan

My goal of running 30 miles by my 30th birthday (12 weeks away at this point...) is rather... well... ambitious would be a nice word. I wouldn't be trying it if I didn't already have a strong baseline of fitness and enough experience to believe that, with appropriate training, my body can do this without badness happening. 

This past year, I trained for a half-marathon within an 8 week period immediately after having healed from stress fractures in both feet (the fractures were not due to running, FYI). Because of the recent injury, I was very conservative in my training. I stopped at even a hint of pain and I walked more than I ran. However, when I was able to run, I ran my heart out. Towards the end of my training period, I was amazed at how much better my training felt than in the past. Most of all, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to gain both speed and distance. I had started my training hesitantly, thinking I wouldn't be able to run the race completely; I ended my training in the best running shape of my life.

Based on that success (and other stuff), I plan on training similarly for my "30 by 30." I'm going to do a couple of short-fast-hard runs during the week (seriously, just two of these) along with a long, gentle-paced run on the weekends.

Derek took this plan and added to it based on his own experience and research. He created a comprehensive training plan for me that includes cardio, strength training, and core training. His plan incorporates a great deal of advice found in Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston (Derek wrote a book review on it if you are interested; If you live around here, you can also borrow this book from the Transylvania County Library).

I'm sure that the additional strength training will help me improve my power and my overall bone health, too (my doctor will be pleased I'm sure; I can never leave an appointment without some comment about how frail & skinny I am..."You'd better put on some weight, or you'll break a hip when you get older!" [eye-roll] Maybe I'll rant about that in a different post). Strength training is something I've always been slack about, and I'm hoping that making it part of my running training will help me do better with it. 

We'll see how it goes :) I'm off to do my first double-digit mile run of this training cycle! 

30 by 30

This year will be a milestone birthday for me (me = Susan... I felt the need to make sure y'all know it's me writing today since I've been a huge slacker and most of the posts have been by Derek this year.. okay, ALL the posts have been by Derek this year).

Anyway, on July 24th I will be turning 30! In honor of this life achievement (umm... because yes, getting older is an achievement. It is awesome. It means you didn't die yet. Be excited about birthdays people!) I wanted to do something big. When I've got friends like Clay Kennedy, who did the Linville Crusher to celebrate his 30th with Derek, it is easy to be inspired to do something awesome!

At first I thought, "Well, running a marathon would be big." A marathon has been on my bucket list ever since I've had a bucket list. What a great, healthy way to bring in the next decade of life! But then I thought, why stop at 26.2? How cool would it be to run 30 miles for my 30th birthday?

So that's what I decided to do!

I immediately started looking for 50k races in the region (since that's the closest standard race distance to 30 miles) and quickly discovered that nobody else thinks it's a good idea to do a 50k in the south July... there are no 50k races to be found around my birthday anywhere near where I live.

The Art Loeb trail in the Black Balsam area.
Photo Credit: Hike WNC
Rather than take this as a sign that maybe I should hold off and do this at a later date, I'm just going to make my own 30 mile run. I'm still looking for the best place to run it - Derek suggested the Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah National Forest. It's a possibility, though I'm a bit worried about sprained ankle potential. Open to suggestions there! I know I want it to be a trail run or at least a dirt-road run.

I'm also looking for friends who may want to join in for any or all of this adventure -- as running buddies, race support, or just joining us for the post 'race' birthday party that will take place.

If you are interested in getting involved or just want to shout out some positive encouragement (always appreciated), get in touch with me whatever way you normally do (comment, FB, email, phone).  We'll make some plans.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review of Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete.

Recently, Patagonia Books published Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston.  Constantly seeking to better myself as a climber, I could not resist the title.  I have read Mark Twight’s Extreme Alpinism:  Climbing Light, Fast, and High cover-to-cover numerous times.  At the time of publication, it was widely considered a template for cutting-edge alpinism involving structured physical training and unconventional techniques on next-level climbs.  House and Johnston’s new book appeared to be a worthy successor to Twight’s title, and it certainly proved so on the first read.

The first thing I noticed when I got the book was its size; this thing is BIG.  The author’s choice of the word “manual” for the title was clearly intentional.  The book is textbook-sized and organized like one.  Like any good textbook, though, the material is presented in an extremely accessible manner.  The writing style utilizes clear, concise, and palatable word choice.  It addresses complex topics in a way that allows for comprehension while avoiding oversimplification as well as unnecessary details.  The text also features great full-color photographs to inspire and motivate, in addition to vignettes from some of alpinism’s finest.  The list of guest-authors for these mini-articles reads like a who’s who of cutting edge alpine climbing from the 1970s to the present. 

As for the content itself, the reader will find little that is groundbreaking from an exercise physiology or sports science perspective.  Much of our knowledge of the unique sport of climbing is drawn from the vast annals of decades of research and experience in other well-studied pursuits such as running, cycling, and Olympic lifting.  However, whereas much of this information is left scattered across a variety of texts to cobbled together piecemeal by the interested alpinist, House and Johnston’s valuable tome compiles the wealth of knowledge into a single location.  Further, the extraneous information is winnowed from the climbing-specific knowledge, leaving the reader with a wonderfully dense amalgamation on­­­­­ the pursuit of alpine climbing as an athletic endeavor.

The text guides the reader through all the necessary fundamental lessons in physiology before addressing each phase of a well-designed training program, from recovery and transition, to base period and muscular endurance, to peak and tapering.  Also included are specific treatments of altitude physiology and training, nutrition, and mental fitness.  Finally, accompanying spreadsheets available for download aid the budding trainee in constructing an appropriate program and recording progress. 

True to the nature of the alpine environment, the text pulls no punches in reminding the reader that training is difficult, self-discipline is demanded, and peaks in strength and ability only happen at the end of a long march through a challenging build-up of fitness.  A few quotations prove telling and unapologetic:  “You can’t coach desire.”  “Eliminating all alcoholic beverages may be a good idea while training and climbing.”  “The only good reason to climb is to improve yourself.”  “No movies, no television, no gaming…reduce music…reduce internet and e-mail…avoid drama.”  “Progress is simple:  you must want who you might become more than who you are right now.”  However, to the reader who can cope with these Spartan recommendations, the fruits of the labor are promised as literally “being in the best shape of your life.”

While the text is no doubt compelling, it does have its limitations.  A few more typos and editing errors than normal provide occasional distractions to the reader and demand a bit more thorough line editing.  This slight inconvenience aside, the book is quite clear in its target of alpine climbers.  Those looking to improve their sport climbing game could certainly learn volumes about physiology, structured training plans, periodization, and nutrition, but they would likely be better served by the many books Eric Hörst has published specifically regarding training for technical rock climbing.  There are prescriptions for gaining the cardiovascular fitness to move heavy loads uphill steadily and quickly, but none for maximizing your hangboard workout or sending that sick project at the Red River Gorge.

Training for the New Alpinism provides a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for both well-trained alpinists and those just entering the realm of structured, goal-directed exercise.  The text unabashedly advocates a plan for becoming a better climber in the lofty realms of snow, rock, and ice guarded by tempestuous and hostile environs.  Finally, it does this while extolling the virtues of disciplined training, exhorting readers to push their limits.  It waits patiently, hoping to bear witness to the next generation of strong mountain athletes willing to follow its precepts, pushing the limits of human possibility ever-further.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Patagonia: Los Gringos Turistos

I pulled hard against the sharp, juggy undercling, right arm extended and tense, left hip turned into the wall against the steep overhanging limestone.  I pressed outward with my toes, my core tight as my left hand groped for a hold, missing the good one and finding purchase on three fingertip dimples in the white rock.

Karsten Delap getting into position to take photos.
I instantly knew I had missed the correct hold but was rapidly fatiguing against the steeply angled rock and the lack of forearm fitness, a result of two preceding weeks characterized by much walking but little vertical movement.  Nevertheless, I committed to the poor handhold and released my right hand aiming for what I knew to be a good handhold above.  With a furious scream and a powerful burst of energy, I sprang upward, missed, oozed down a rough patch of rock, and fell off.

Downtown Bariloche.
  “Nice work, man,” said Kevin, from behind his camera, suspended in the air on a rope just a few feet away.  With an injured foot and hip, he was playing the role of photographer.

I flexed my hands, attempting to force blood back into my cold, numb fingers.  Despite the cold, it was good to be out climbing, moving.  It was good to get pumped, get tired, strive, scream, flail, push, fall.

We were making good use of our last two days in Bariloche, taking advantage of the opportunity to catch up on not only our sport climbing but also cultural experiences we had neglected.  We spent the days cragging and the evenings acting like tourists.  We sampled the many things Argentina in general, and Bariloche in particular, do well--ice cream, wine, chocolate, beer, and beef.  In contrast to the preceding two weeks, we kept a much more relaxed schedule, resting, catching up on sleep, and catching up with Kevin’s friends.

At Berlina brewery.
On our last evening, we shared the kitchen at the campground with a group from Buenos Aires.  A gaggle of high school students had just graduated and were spending a week in Bariloche to celebrate.  A couple of their mothers serving as chaperones were in the kitchen preparing milanesa, similar to chicken fried flank steak.  I watched with interest as they prepared the meal while I absent-mindedly kept an eye on our remaining tortellini, the last of our field food.  Slowly, the students trickled in and out one-by-one, seeing what was for dinner and offering a greeting.

As they came, the students started to linger, asking questions when they discovered I knew a little Spanish.  Soon, there were a half-dozen teenagers crowding the small kitchen, intently querying me about my life, my age, my work, my wife--everything they could think of.  In short order, the two women ejected us all from the kitchen so they could finish making dinner in peace.

The students invited us to sit with them and their parents and teachers for dinner.  Soon, we were conversing about our recent climbing attempts, our stay in Bariloche, our return to the states, their activities for the upcoming week, and their aspirations to become school teachers, coaches, engineers, and entrepreneurs.  We became facebook friends, gave out business cards, took photographs, and shared customary hugs and kisses on the cheek before finding our way back to our cabañas.

The next morning, we packed for a bittersweet departure.  The youths and their chaperones were gathering for breakfast.  Amidst a clamor of, “¡Ciao!” and, “¡Buen viaje!” we left the campground.  I anticipated the long road home and recalled the enthusiasm of the amazingly friendly students.  There was nothing to do but smile.

Grabbing one last choripan on the road (courtesy of Kevin Shon).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Patagonia: Shifting Winds

The atmosphere at Refugio Otto Meiling is what could be described in castillano as “¡re buena onda, che!” or “really good vibes, dude.”  I was speaking with Gaspar, the caretaker of the hut, a young man in his late 20s with a mop of shaggy brown and blond hair, clear blue eyes, a weathered face familiar with sun and wind, and a persistent smile.  He complimented my attempts at Spanish and we made plans to get beers in Bariloche when we were all off Monte Tronador.

The view from Refugio Otto Meiling.

Packing for the hike up to the refugio.
I turned my attention to the hut’s other occupants--two separate groups of middle-aged men from Buenos Aires and a local mountain guide with his elderly Italian client.  There were just enough people at the hut for us to all converse in a mixture of Spanish, English, and a little Italian.  The amicable atmosphere lent itself to friendship and conversation, preventing any potential reclusion of our group as the three gringos in the corner of the room.

One of our new acquaintances inquired about our attempt earlier in the day on Pico Anón, the international summit and the highest point on Tronador.  I again got to relate a story of a summit unattained.

On the road to Monte Tronador.
Our day had begun well enough, traversing the glacier west of the hut on an icy crust just strong enough to prevent us from punching through to the sugary slush of snow below.  We moved silently forward through the pre-dawn darkness, roped together as we advanced, individual globes of light from our headlamps strung out between crevasses in the frigid morning.  I sensed the tension in the rope, moving in step with my two partners. 
On the way to Pico Anon (Internacional)
Dawn found us crossing the southern ridge of Tronador onto the Chilean side of the mountain, on the western aspect, once again out of the sun.  The sight in front of us revealed a prolonged stretch of steep, hard snow slopes dirtied by rockfall and scree released from the poorly consolidated tower of volcanic tuft above.  The long runout below fed directly into the gaping crevasses in the maw of Glacier Blanco.  Hurried but cautious, we traversed the slopes in the growing wind.  Attaining the west ridge of the peak, a bergschrund and mixed rock terrain guarded the summit only 200 feet overhead.

Onward and upward to the southern ridge.

We paused momentarily to consider the rapidly lowering cloud ceiling, dark clouds looming and engulfing not only the summit but the entire south ridge we had just traversed.  A stiff gale put us on our knees and blasted our faces with ice pellets.  The daylight sun was evidenced only through the partially translucent fog and the reflection off the brown-tinged snow.  With visibility rapidly diminishing, we shouted to one another through the gusts.  Unanimously, we elected a prudent retreat back to the hut.
Descending in the clearing whiteout.

I relayed this tale, as we all shared a freshly prepared meal of goulash.  The forecast for the next day called for a severe storm to arrive no later than noon.  As Karsten and Kevin discussed our plans to hike out the next day, I hatched a plan of my own for the next morning.  I ruminated on the view of Cerro Lamotte through the bay window, a jumble of small rock fingers protruding through an icy cone atop a small glacier.  Far from the highest point on Tronador, Lamotte nevertheless represented a minor summit on the extreme end of the mountain’s east ridge.

Lunch time!
I informed Karsten and Kevin of my intent to make a rapid ascent of this sub-summit early the next morning before our hike out, offering them the opportunity to join me.  Feeling uninspired by yet another snow slog and suffering their own array of over-use maladies, both elected sleep over a second consecutive 3:30am wake-up call.

The next morning I set out in the darkness, the first to depart the hut.  I immediately second-guessed my decision.  The temperature was not quite so cold as the preceding morning, so with every step I found myself punching through the crust of frozen snow and post-holing up to my shins.  After a half-dozen steps I became unperturbed and developed a steady rhythm, ascending the ridge at a cardiac pace.

Intermittent clouds covered the landscape, warning of the approaching storm.  Despite the occasionally limited visibility, navigation was quite simple--follow the ridge to the saddle, avoiding the glaciers on either side, turn right on the next ridge and begin rock climbing.  I negotiated steepening snow and wove a path through minor towers on 4th class terrain.  Fifteen feet of gray ice with a coating of granular snow led to a final short, simple hand crack guarding the summit block.

Cerro Lamotte summit shot.
From my perch on the tiny peak, just large enough to sit on, I could see nothing, engulfed entirely in cloud.  My entire world was a small pedestal of rime-covered tuft that fell away precipitously on all sides into grayness.  The only evidence of my exposed position were the blasts of frigid air surging upward from behind and below, washing up and over me, fiercely flapping the hood of my jacket.

As I could see little, I did not linger on the summit. Shortly after descending back to the saddle, the clouds broke briefly, revealing both my path eastward back to the hut as well as the glorious first light of dawn.  I paused once more to take this in and snap a few photos.

I returned to the hut for an early breakfast as my companions began to stir.  While we prepared for departure, the predicted storm arrived, bringing driving winds and a steady bout of freezing rain and sleet.  The weather did little to dampen our spirits.  I put on my rain gear and stepped outside into the awesome force of the storm.
Sunrise near the Cerro Lamotte summit.