Many Bites of Elephant at the Boulder 100

A little over a week ago I pulled the trigger and actually registered for the Boulder 100 race to be held 16-17 October. As I mentioned in my recent article I had not been training for another race this year after my efforts pacing Ultrathoner to his 100 mile finish at Lean Horse in August. Several reasons drew me to signing up–a few long distance outings, for fun, with Aly; conversations with Barry about his races; and the unknown, as in, what does running more than 77 miles (reference to my solid finish at Laurel Highlands in June) feel like? There was only one way to find out. Besides, why ‘waste’ 14 months of training conditioning without giving it a try?

The race is run concurrently with the 12 and 24 hours of Boulder on an out & back trail around the Boulder reservoir. While the repetitive nature of the course did not entice me to sign up I thought it would make it easier to self support and attempt my first 100. The course is some asphalt, a good section of gravel road and the rest single track trail with a well stocked aid station at either end.

The day was a beautiful Colorado fall day with a slight breeze and few clouds with the temperature in the upper 60s. The trees were changing colors and the distant view of the snow dusted peaks of the Front Range helped distract me from the repeat trail. Additionally with three races together I was constantly passing people with whom I exchanged pleasantries and encouragement. This would continue until night which limited my vision to the illuminated world of my headlamp.

To finish the race we had 14 laps to put behind us with the standard 30 hour cut off. I knew, short of an unknown medical surprise, that I could easily finish 50 miles before there was any concern for completion. My pre race calculations called for me to attempt an average 13.5 min/mile pace. I did not want to come out too strong only to crash later in the night but I also did not want to factor in much walking as I am not conditioned to walking long distances as I discovered at Lean Horse. So an easy dog trot was my goal.

I also borrowed from my mountain climbing experience the idea of resting 5-10 minutes each lap by sitting down and allowing my legs to rest. Most runners will walk and stand for a couple minutes at the aid tent then shuffle off on their next lap. I sat in a chair in the back of my SUV next to a cooler of food to recharge each lap. I think it worked as my time each lap remained consistent as the miles added up.

Before I knew it the day had shifted into night and I finished my 50th mile a few minutes over 10 hours. My friend Barry enthusiastically joined me as a pacer at the start of my 8th lap. Being a strong ultra trail runner in his own right I was concerned that he would out run me!

Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence – the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes – all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose by the seriousness of the task at hand.
–Jon Krakauer

Having a pacer on a 100 race is not required but is very helpful. The mind does wander after so many hours of running allowing simple things such as time and distance calculations, hydration and nutrition to get messed up without a pacer. Having more than one pacer is not a bad idea either as 50 miles can be a lot of time and distance for anyone to volunteer for during a race.

The half moon cast welcome light for half the night to supplement our headlight’s beam. Even with the moonlight it was dark enough to justify a headlamp yet many participants chose not to use one. Many were walking and not running at this point causing my main complaint of the race. If you do not have a light and are wearing dark clothing how can I see you until I just about run into you? It’s such a simple thing to check at the aid stations in order to continue the race for the safety of everyone.

While some of the walkers were still keeping a good pace Barry and I joked that Halloween was starting early with the arrival of so many shuffling runners mimicking the Hollywood zombie movies. If a runner is walking and limping that much how much damage is being done trying to compensate for what ever injury or lack of conditioning caused them to start walking that way? Perhaps that is a good indicator that they should quit?

The 7.14 mile laps continued to fall behind us approximately every 105 minutes until we crossed the line for the last time a little after sunrise for a sub 23 hours and a top 10 finish for my first 100 mile attempt! I ate the whole elephant and survived.

I certainly have to thank Barry for his company, photos and keeping me safe through the last half of the race. I suspect I’ll be returning the favor in the very near future.

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The Next Adventure: 100 Miles

A 60 k mountain trail run from Monarch Pass a few weeks ago confirmed the fact that I am in better running shape than I thought.  Naturally the planning wheels started turning so with a little research at UltraSignUp I found several race objectives. 

One was in my backyard.

So I signed up.

I will be attempting my first 100 mile race at the Boulder 100 this coming weekend.

Am I ready?  Is maybe an acceptable answer?

After a 60 k fun run (yes, fun and run in the same sentence as 60 k) I am going to give it a try.

I should be able to run at least between 50 and 100 miles.

And I will have some company to aid me through the night.  Barry, a climbing partner and fellow long distance sufferer, quickly offered to be my pacer.

I just hope I can keep up with him…

According to the race website this course is “run on the beautiful trails at the Boulder Reservoir with great views of the snow covered peaks. The course is flat with approximately 100 feet gain per lap with an aid station at approximately 3.5 miles. The course will be marked and is non-technical.”

Boulder 100 Course

Having run the 24 Hours of Boulder in 2008 on this course I would substitute boring for beautiful in the description above.

But this is about the personal challenge and not the surrounding beauty of the trail, which at night will be only the glow of my headlamp anyways.

Let’s see what a 100 feels like!

Inyanka yo.

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AAC – ACI Climber’s Exchange in the Tetons

While many were enjoying picnics and BBQ’s with their loved ones at family gatherings and block parties I went north to Grand Teton National Park for the first half of the USA-Iran climber exchange hosted by the American Alpine Club (AAC) and the Alpine Club of Iran (ACI). 

As the camp chef responsible (during the first half of the exchange) for cooking for the 25 members of the group I arrived ahead of our guests to go grocery shopping and do some meal planning. 

The first morning was cold and clear with a beautiful view of the Grand beyond my cabin.  Fall was certainly evident with the aspen trees starting to show their gold—and it was only the first of the month!  Having never climbed in the park I was looking forward to exploring it later in the week. 

The Grand in the backyard

The first task at hand was going grocery shopping, which is something I do not like to do.  Thankfully with the help of several new friends we filled four shopping carts to overflowing with enough supplies to kick off the exchange.  The receipt was over six feet long!  It was enough for two days of meals.

At the Magic Chef

The eleven Iranians arrived at the Climber’s Ranch in the middle of the night after two days of travel.  Several hours later the brunch buffet opened allowing the ACI members to meet their AAC member guides and fellow exchange members.  Naturally when you put this many climbers together climbing is the first thing talked about after the polite questions about travel, ones health and the weather.  Since the ACI contingent arrived in the dark they were amazed at the natural beauty surrounding the climber’s ranch.  The rest of the day was unplanned allowing for everyone to get to know each other and to rest up after such a long journey.  I on the other hand started prepping and cooking dinner for 25.

The Climber’s Ranch is an old church and scout camp with rustic cabins at the base of a huge ancient moraine at an elevation of 6700 feet.  The primary building in camp is the library which is the gathering area for any guest.  Shelves of books, a wood burning stove, a PC and several couches make for a cozy place to relax between climbs or during poor weather.  Attached to this building is the kitchen with a 1946 Magic Chef stove in one corner.  This behemoth, with 8 burners, two ovens and a griddle, resembled a retired boxer whose body was not working well and what worked was often a bit unstable.  This required me keeping a close eye on the temperature and state of doneness of anything being cooked, fried or baked.

The library and kitchen building

The main gathering spot

Where most guests cook their meals

In planning the meals I designed themes to allow for variety and some ease of meal planning with an unknown kitchen.  Our welcoming dinner was an Italian spread including a salad bar, garlic bread and meat lasagna with homemade sauce.  For dessert there was watermelon and a fresh fruit salad for anyone still hungry.

The next day was a climbing day!  So after breakfast we gathered our gear and promptly left the camp to make the 0800 boat across Jenny Lake. 

Crossing Jenny Lake

Once across the group divided into two teams of climbers and one of hikers.  All were soon welcomed to the park by two large male moose grazing mere feet off the trail.  Plenty of photos were taken by all.

Moose on the trail

I joined the climbing group with Bo, Molly, Ben and Majid.  Our destination was the Guide’s Wall about an hour hike up the canyon.  I could not put my camera away as new mountains and vistas showed with every turn in the trail. 

On the way to climb

A beautiful view

The final approach to Guide's Wall

I tied in with Bo and Majid leaving Molly and Ben as the duo.  Bo effortlessly led us up three beautiful granite pitches.  In preparing for our final pitch we unanimously agreed we did not like the color of the clouds quickly building and turning darker ever minute.  So we promptly changed direction and three raps later we were back on the ground.  The front’s bark was worse than its bite but none of us would have wanted to be four pitches higher when it came through.  Either way it was a successful outing.

Haliku and Bo at the belay

Majid finishing pitch 2

Once back at camp I returned to the kitchen to make dinner after securing a few volunteers to help with the prep work.  The evening’s repast was baked potatoes, fruit salad, baked fish on a veggie pyre and a pineapple walnut cake for desert.

As an added bonus we had a slide show of amazing climbs around the world by past president Jim Donini.  Everyone was tired, full of good food and enthralled by Jim’s stories and beautiful pictures.  It was a very successful day.

Post dinner presentation by Jim Donini

After several amazing weather days we woke to grey sky and clouds obscuring the peaks.  Without the sunshine the temperature was noticeably cooler.  With these conditions plans were reworked where the majority of the exchange went for a hike directly from camp.  Instead of hiking we, the same group from the day before, with Greg instead of Majid, went rock climbing at Blacktail Butte located on the valley floor.  Composed of limestone this single pitch wall provided different challenges from those we had at Guide’s Wall.  The day flew by as quickly as the clouds streaming across the valley and before we knew it we had to return to camp.

Dinner this evening was ‘outsourced’ to a guest chef, Jim Williams an Everest guide and world culinary explorer, who prepared a lamb shank BBQ with all the fixings.  Delicious!  After dinner we were treated to a private showing of ‘180 Degrees South’ presented by Yvon Chouinard.  The movie is done in a classic adventure story model of exploration and adventure opening the authors’ eyes and minds in ways they could not have imagined when the set off on their journey.

After a dawn breakfast and picnic lunch preparation I said goodbye to my many new friends as they headed to Yellowstone National Park for the day on a photo safari while I returned to Denver.  The exchange was a very enjoyable experience with climbing and conservation being the common love between two diverse, yet same, teams.  I look forward to the ACI’s hospitality next year when the AAC team heads to Tehran.

Most of the team

Thanks to Tom Bowker for some of the pictures.

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At the Lean Horse 100 as Pacer and Crew

In late August I traveled to South Dakota to support Tom’s attempt at completing a 100 mile race.  Since this is his ‘backyard’ race, being a Black Hills resident, he was especially eager to succeed.

While I plan to write more about my experience as a pacer suffice it to say he did finish. But the story does not end there, in his suffering and his joy, he learned a lot about himself and his new home state.   It is his story best told by him here.

Last Mile at Lean Horse 2010

Congratulations!

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A Salsa of Wine and Fish

While not a salsa–in a food sense–but certainly a dance, I recently experienced a food and wine moment where the wine and the meal, while both delicious, when paired brought out the best in both.  A great team effort. The recipe I know well as I’ve modified an old Cuisine at Home dish over the years. The wine was recommended by one of the employees at Argonaut Liquors when I asked him what white he was liking this summer.

A little web research indicated this wine is a joint venture between importer Jorge Ordonez, Enrique Busto and the Gil family of Jumilla. I am not well versed in Spanish wineries so these names lend little significance to me. What I do know is it is well worth finding to match with your favorite dish before the cool days of fall arrive.

The flavor components reminded me of a sauvignon blanc but with mineral undertones which was refreshing when paired with baked red snapper filets and a medley of summer vegetables. ¡Buen provecho!

Now about this wine…

Winemaker's notes:

Bright, lifted nose that could very easily be mistaken kiwi, gooseberry, grapefruit zest, "mineral". But this is riper, deeper. Ditto in the mouth. Great depth of fruit and opposing mineral cut. Another wine with a sugar/acid cage match.

Professional reviews:

 "The Verdejo grapes for the 2009 Shaya are sourced from both estate vineyards and local growers with vine age ranging from 75-112 years. The wine was barrel-fermented and aged on its lees. Medium straw-colored, if offers up an alluring aroma of baking spices, spring flowers, and peach. On the palate it has a creamy texture, vibrant acidity, and intense flavors leading to a lengthy, fruit-filled finish. It is a great value in dry, aromatic white wine that over-delivers in a big way." 91 Points, The Wine Advocate

“Quite rich, but still graceful, this white shows melon, orange blossom, green almond and lime zest flavors in a thick texture. Vibrant acidity keeps this lively. Drink now through 2010.” 5,500 cases made. 89 points, Wine Spectator

Label prose:

As the morning mist disperses across the undulating countryside the Shaya deer emerge from the surrounding pine forest to forage. The gnarled vineyards planted a very long time ago in the sandy riverstone soil produce the finest Verdejo in Rueda. There is a distinct minerality in these wines which compliment the abundance of fruit flavors.

 

Crusted Red Snapper on a Veggie Pyre

Makes 4 Fillets; Total Time: 45 Minutes

Veggie Pyre

  • 1 C tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 C leeks, sliced thin (can use green onions)
  • ½ C green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 T. garlic, minced

Crust

  • ½ C Panko bread crumbs
  • ½ C Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ C low salt plain potato chips, crushed
  • ½ t. paprika
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ t. black pepper
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • Fish
  • 4 red snapper fillets (~6 oz), boned and skinned
  • 1 T. scallions or chives, chopped.
  • lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450 deg F.

Combine the vegetables and place on a greased baking sheet (or cover with foil). The pyre should be a rectangular bed approximately 1 inch high roughly the same dimension of the fish fillets placed side-by-side.

Place fillets on top of the vegetable pyre; season with salt as desired.

Combine crust ingredients then mix with the melted butter. Cover the filets by pressing the mixture into the fish.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the fillets flake when tested with a fork. A good rule is 10 minutes per inch including the vegetable pyre.

Garnish with the scallions and lemon wedges to serve.

Note: you can use flounder, tilapia or other flat fish if you can not find red snapper.

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Goodbye Old Friend

One of my climbing partners retired last week. 

I have mixed feelings about this change of events.  I should be happy for the climbs, domestic and international, that we have shared over the last five years but there is a sense of loss.

Logically I knew this was coming after I went to Denali last year with new partners.  Perhaps I was in denial at that point and had to work my way through it?

Even though we will no longer be together when the alpine siren's call pulls my soul to another high altitude challenge we will still keep in touch.

Pretty close touch actually.

As the Phoenix was reborn of the ashes so to has my partner been reborn to another purpose in my life.

 

Now reborn as a rug instead of a rope, positioned at the foot of my bed, he will invoke fond memories for years to come.

Months ago a search turned up Retired Rope Rugs as a recycling option instead of the dumpster behind my flat. 

The owner, Thomas, quickly wove my rope into its new form.

So if you have a rope ready to retire there are options to give it a new life.

 

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Climbing in the Bugaboos

Recently a good friend and climbing partner was in Canada climbing in the Bugaboos. His video of beautifully captures one of the reasons why we climb. Enjoy.

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