Monday, September 27, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I had been doing a variety of runs leaving from my house the last few weeks that take me up to the web of trails on the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff. Most of the runs end up being between 12 and 18 miles depending on the trail choice.
I had been struggling to really move on these loops, having a hard time getting under 2 1/2 hours for anything over 15 miles which surprises me because there really isn't too much elevation gain in the runs (most only about 1,000-1,500 ft of gain and loss). Or maybe it shouldn't suprise me because I did run from my house to the top of Humphrey's and back almost two weeks ago...probably had a bit of recovering to do...
Today was different. Maybe it was a good energy day, it was nice and cool or I was just in the groove or getting stronger but I got in a loop of 15 miles and about 1,500 ft of gain and loss in 2 hrs 10 min 14 sec. I felt great the whole time and really cranked the last 7 miles or so back to the house. It was by far one of my fastest runs of that length on the trails and I felt great. Man, some days are good! I'll savor the good feelings of this run and try to build on it. I don't even feel that fatigued afterward. Savoring.........
Here's the loop I did:
Started at my house in downtown Flagstaff and then ran roads over to Buffalo Park, ran straight out the back of Buffalo to the Oldham Trail. I then jumped on the pipeline and Easy Oldham and followed them to Elden Lookout Road (saw a tarantula on the road, surprised him and pissed him off as he jumped and then landed with his front legs in the air ready to strike). After following Elden Lookout Road a short distance I went up the Brookbank and linked into Little Gnarly to get to Schultz Creek Trail. From there, I followed Schultz Creek Trail back down to Schultz Creek Road. I followed Schultz Creek Road a short distance to the paved urban trail along Hwy 180 and followed it back to my house. Got that? Lot's of linking but all of it a good time (well...maybe not the few miles of pavement at the beginning and the paved urban trail (they are doing construction on the gravel urban trail right now that I usually follow). The trail sections are some of my favorites on the Dry Lake Hills. Good Fun!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So far things have been going well but not without a few moments here and there of longing for a way of life not so long ago. It is amazing what kind of grip the idea of needing a vehicle has on me.
With not having a car, there is the obvious difficulty in more involved planning and travel time to get around but there is also the more subtle side of it all...the romantic freedom of having a vehicle. It's funny, because even if I don't get out on any trips for a while, just knowing that I could go on a trip because I had a car to do so gave me a sense of freedom and ease that I don't have now. Maybe it's social pressure, marketing or decades of me driving around the country exploring the remote nooks and crannies that has programmed this need for a car into me. All I know right now is that I feel like I'm missing something every day since I haven't owned a car. I mean, I've pretty much had a car since I got my drivers license. That's 20 years of programming my mind to need a car!
To be honest, I do have an option for vehicle travel once in a while for errands...Susan has an old car that is trustworthy around town that she drives to work each day (she is a teacher). But that's why I don't really use it, because a fair bit of planning and shuttling would be involved and she takes drives it early in the morning and doesn't come back until evening time Monday-Friday.
Instead, I have been using my feet to get around. It has been a good excuse to get extra miles in and I will have to admit that my weekly mileage has gone up in the last few weeks as a result. I have been motivated to put longer runs in around home too because I have to run to the trail heads instead of driving to them.
I could get a bike... Well, I'm working on that one but I really don't want to spend a bunch of money on one so I'm trying to be patient and to be completely honest I kind of like the idea of just using my feet for a while. It seems like the most simple way of getting around and after having a car it is an interesting experiment pulling a 180 and just using my feet for transportation.
My thoughts and feelings right now in a nutshell?
-A silly empty feeling, like missing an old friend, for my car and the freedom to explore far away places that it represents.
-The longing for a few fall mountain adventure runs in the San Juan's, Sierras and New Mexico Mountain Ranges that I had been dreaming about before the snow flies. I don't see any of these runs happening in my current situation. Instead I will need to really explore my local trails and ramp up for the Grand Canyon (which I may not get into as much as I'm used to either).
-A sense that I need to see the positive side of all this and really focus on being more creative and really explore what's near Flagstaff with my adventuring. This is an excellent opportunity to really get to know my home trails and crags well.
-If I'm not able to get away on as many adventures then I am going to try to put a good effort into channeling that energy into continuing to get faster and in better shape for next year and future big running goals and for a good shot at a PR on Rim to Rim to Rim this Fall.
Well, the experiment of simplifying life by not having a car continues... I'm sure some really good learning opportunities and running adventures will come out of it.
To end, I thought I'd share a couple videos I've watched lately that inspired me. 1. A one legged climber that crushes and 2. Anton talking about the new Minimus shoes and his take on running. Enjoy.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
We have such a luxury in Flagstaff that there are so many mountain trails so close to town that I was becoming lazy and not running the few miles to get to them. I didn't want to wast the time or energy running the 1 or 2 miles of flat urban trail or pavement to get to the singletrack.
Even though it is a bummer to have my car go kaput, it may be a great thing for my running and my life, forcing me to use my feet to get to the mountains instead of my wheels and in the process leaving a smaller footprint on the planet.
Even though I love how a car can get me to the "best part" of the trails so quickly so I can enjoy my favorite parts of the mountains even on days where I have a tight schedule, there is a part of me that realizes that I should be content with getting up there when I have the time. There are plenty of good trails that are right next to my house too. Just because I run them all the time or they don't have the elevation gains I would always hope for doesn't mean that I need to gas guzzle my way up to the mountains all the time to run. Maybe this will be a good lesson in making the best out of what I have. To run, I don't need a car, I only need my feet. What a hippy!
Which brings me to my recent House to Humphrey's Run...
Two days ago I had the pleasure to do a run that I had thought about for a few years now, a run from my house in downtown Flagstaff to the summit of Humphrey's. Before, when my car was working fine, I never got around to doing this run because I had the luxury of zooming up to the mountain to do my long runs. Since my car broke down, it became an obvious objective.
It only took me one week to make the run happen after having no car. Now, looking back, I can't believe that I never did it before. It is an obvious objective done by many and I can't believe I put it off for so long.
Maybe it was the "trail snob" mentality that kept me from it or maybe it was the fact that it is often more exciting for me to "adventure" somewhere else then in my own back yard. I mean, this was going to be a suffer fest (running this far always is) and usually it is much more exciting to suffer in a brand new place and not right down the street.
Well, the commitment was made and I enjoyed the run thoroughly. I started by running toward the mountain on the urban trail in downtown feeling a bit funny with a full nathan pack and two hand helds while others on the trail were riding bikes to work or out for a morning run jogging by with nothing more than shorts and a shirt.
I then hit Schultz Pass Road and followed it the short distance to Schultz Creek Trail. Schultz Creek Trail went smooth and I felt surprisingly good on it for carrying so much water on my body (I usually am cruising up this trail with only a hand held and a couple gu or less). By the time I reached Schultz Tank and the start of the Weatherford I was feeling really good and all warmed up.
I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to run the whole Weatherford trail to Humphrey's saddle with all the extra weight but I surprised myself with feeling quite good and running the whole thing feeling strong.
(Controlled burn near town as viewed from the Weatherford Trail. The Schultz Creek Trail that I followed up earlier in the morning is just left of the burn. I luckily traveled through that area just before they started the controlled burn.)
(Nice section of the Weatherford about 3/4 of the way up)
(Excellent section above tree line on the Weatherford. The summit in the right side of the photo is Humphrey's Peak.)
I reached Humphrey's Saddle still feeling really good and took my time heading from there to the summit. No reason to kill myself here as it is slow moving anyway. I wouldn't loose much time if I didn't bust it all the way to the top. I still ran the flat sections but I didn't put the same gusto into it as usual.
When I reached the top, I looked around to savor the view. I had put in just over 20 miles from my house and gained about 5,500 feet to get here and it seemed a shame to not enjoy the summit for a few minutes before heading down. I was lucky too, because it was a beautiful day and very pleasant temps. A great day for being on the summit.
House to summit: 4 hrs 45 minutes (including some distractions with taking photos and calling into town about the fire).
(Cheesy summit shot)
On the way down things got a bit more tough. I had drank all the water in my Nathan pack on the way up and it seemed reasonable to only need two hand helds worth of water for my trip back to the house but the temps got pretty warm and I drank a lot more water early on the way down than I had anticipated.
I drained both hand helds by the time I ran down the Humphrey's Trail, the mish mesh of trails that follow along Snowbowl Road and I reached Freidlien Prairie Road. I was probably about 10 miles from the house at this point and it was still hot. I still had a long way to go...
I did keep a small bit of water (about a 1/3 of a cup) in one hand held to swish around in my mouth for a while. This was nice as it kept my mouth from getting to ridiculously dry but it was doing nothing in the way of hydration.
To say the least the last few miles of urban trail to the house were rough. I had all sorts of visions of water (laying in water, guzzling tons of water, etc...). It had been a long time since I wanted water that bad. I did manage to run all the way to the house though and through the feelings of exhaustion and dehydration I was still really, really happy to complete this adventure. Finishing time: 8 hrs 40 minutes.
After the run it took me a while of drinking water and consuming food to finally feel back to normal (the first few cups of water I drank almost made me puke) but after a few hours I felt pretty good. I was worked of course but in the normal way I feel after running this far. Seems that no harm was done with the lack of water...although because I did it unsupported this time I promised myself that I will most definitely stash water along the run in future versions of this run as to not have the same issues. Running out of water sucks!!!
In the end it was 5,500 feet of elevation gain and loss, 43ish miles with a time of 8 hrs 40 minutes house to house and believe it or not only a couple miles of pavement. Truly an excellent run. Maybe it will become an annual thing...
Friday, September 10, 2010
To catch you up to speed on the story of the damage to my car, I found out that the engine is indeed jacked, no good, R.I.P. It was going to cost more to fix it then the car was worth so, after some weighing the options with Susan and conversations with the mechanic, we decided to leave the Subaru in Albuquerque at the repair shop and try to sell it on craigslist from there for dirt cheap. If we couldn't sell it in 3 to 4 weeks, we would send it to the wrecker.
The plan for Wednesday was to drive the rental car from Flagstaff, back to Albuquerque, clean out the Subaru a bit, drop off the rental car and then head back to Flagstaff on the Greyhound. Simple right?
Well, there wasn't any excitement for the first few hours of the drive east on I-40. In fact I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises that I can remember. It was spectacular. The funny thing was that I could remember thinking to myself "What a beautiful way to start the day. This is going to be a new start after my bad luck with the Subaru and a great day. Things are going to look up!"
Then I got to Grant, New Mexico... My plan was to drive up to Mt. Taylor, just above town, and get in a quick trail run to stretch the legs during this epic day of sitting on my butt in vehicles. Seemed like no big deal.
(oh...let me stop things here and tell you some important information for the next bit of the story. I only had insurance on the car for the first few days when we were driving it around the Jemez Mountains on our trip. Then I took it off, thinking that I wouldn't drive it around much in Flagstaff and then put the insurance back on when I took it back, originally thought, on Friday. So I didn't have a chance to put insurance back on before I went on Wednesday because I left so early in the morning and it was a last minute decision (it was the most efficient day of the week for me to do it.). Can you see where this is headed?)
So I drove north out of Grant to Mt. Taylor with the thought in mind to be careful not to do anything to the car since this is a side trip. After some miles out of town the road turns to dirt and there is a final 5 miles of smooth dirt road to the trail head. Everything was going fine and I was being extra careful not to do anything to the car when, within a 1/4 mile of the trail head, I noticed a shallow dip in the dirt road, kind of like a big rounded pot hole. I slowed down to maneuver through it as to not hit anything under the car and then half way through I heard a wham. My first thought was "Oops. I must have scraped the bottom of the front bumper a bit." I didn't think much of it though and when I stopped the car at the trail head I took a look at it to see if there were any scrape marks on the front of the bumper. Instead, there was a crazy amount of transmission fluid pouring out of the bottom of the car!!! WTF!!!
I went into survival mode and thought immediately that my only choice was to drive back into town as fast as I could to find a repair shop before I lost too much fluid and wrecked the transmission. I knew that if I left the car there and let all the fluid pour out I was stuck. It would have been a crazy epic to find someone else on this remote dirt road, get a ride into town, get my car towed and all the rest of the craziness that would have followed.
When I got to town, I found a little repair shop that had some really nice guys working at it. They confirmed that it was transmission fluid pouring out and were amazed that I lost as little as I had considering where I came from. If I had lost much more the transmission may have suffered and needed to be replaced. After draining the rest of the fluid out so they could work on it we discussed how this was a rental car and I had not contacted the rental company about it for fear of what kind of $$$ that would cost me and time. I didn't want to involve them if I didn't need to. I just wanted to fix it and pretend it never happened if possible. They were cool with the idea and agreed to start work on it.
The damage was extremely minimal. All I needed to replace was a bolt (that the head broke off off creating the leak) and a sheet of metal it was attached to that holds in the transmission fluid (don't even get me started on how cheap of a design this was for something so important as a transmission).
This could have been a couple day affair of ordering parts but...
You wont believe this but they had another car come in of the same year and make do the almost exact thing a couple weeks ago on that same dirt road. Except the driver didn't catch it and drove around on it for a week until he/she burned the transmission. Sucks for them but an unbelievable piece of luck for me as they didn't damage the bolt and sheet of metal that I did. I was able to use their parts and after an hour of work the rental car was done, cleaned of all evidence of transmission fluid that had sprayed under the car and I had paid them ONLY $150 for the work!!! Can you believe that!
I thought that I was f-d a couple hours earlier. When I was driving the car down to the repair shop I thought for sure I would be sitting in Grant for a couple days, paying thousands of dollars to put in a new transmission and not sure if I should ever drive a car again with my luck. Instead, the car was fine and the rental car company would be none the wiser. Although, I would never recommend to any of my friends to buy that car someday...he he.
The next few hours went well and I was riding a strange high after getting away with one back in Grant. Once to Albuquerque, I took care of business with the Subaru and dropped off the rental car. Besides the normal epic of riding the Greyhound (nothing the Greyhound could dish out could ever compare to the excitement in Grant) the rest of the day was fine.
I will report on a few of the highlights of the Greyhound trip though:
-Bus left 1 1/2 hours late because it was "getting cleaned" although they didn't tell any of the people waiting for the bus this. Someone had to walk up to the desk and ask after we had already been waiting an hour to find out.
-When the bus was finally about to leave a crazy lady talking on her phone wanted to get off. The bus driver let her off but told her he was leaving and she wouldn't be able to get back on. She got off anyway and sat down on a bench yelling into her phone as we started to drive off. Right at the last moment, she jumped out of the seat and started running for the bus. The bus driver kept going ignoring her and then stopped at the last possible moment and let here on. As she got on the bus I heard loud groans from many passengers and one man in front of me said "I hope she doesn't kill the bus driver while were going down the freeway."
-Another lady (very obnoxious and loud using the f-bomb in every sentence) mentioned that the crazy lady was on her last bus and during a heavy thunderstorm was yelling "TURN THE BUS AROUND! TURN THE BUS AROUND!"
-The obnoxious and loud f-bomb lady was some good entertainment for most of the ride with some of the crazy stuff coming out of here mouth. One of my favorites was when she was talking to her 3 year old on the phone and explaining to her that she had only smoked pot once and drank a couple time on the trip. Her 3 year old called her out, not believing her and she spent the next few minutes defending herself. WOW!
-Later, on the ride, a guy got on and sat next to the f-bomb lady and they hit it off with more crazy conversation. His best lines were "After I was in prison for 12 years, one day I was at home sleeping and the police came in and dragged me out into the yard in my underwear because they thought we had a stockpile of guns!" and "I'm trying to get out of Arizona because I have 2 strikes." Double WOW!
-Also, the bus driver was funny too because he would ramble for way too long about nothing when he was doing bus rules and talking about upcoming destinations. Many times, people on the bus would yell out "Shut up! Be quiet!"
What a great bus ride!
The day ended similar to how it started, with a memorable light show. Just as it started with a whopper of a sunrise, it ended with a spectacular Arizona sunset and a beautiful rainbow. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get that fresh start after all. Just had to work out a few more epics first.
On reflection, I will say this. Be glad for what you have and cherish the good times because things can go really, really bad. To have a week of crazy stuff like this is pretty stressful but some peoples lives are filled with this bad stuff. All I know is that my life is really, really good and I am thankful. Gotta have an epic or two once in a while to really appreciate it I guess.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Our plan was to drive in my "trusty" subaru outback wagon and climb in the Jemez for three days, maybe get a trail run in or two and possibly soak in the San Antonio Hot Springs. Some of these things happened but not all and it was all after a pretty epic start to the whole thing.
Friday night we made it all the way to Albuquerque without any excitement. Just the normal sitting in the car on the freeway for 4 hours. Yee Haw. Once we made it to Albuquerque everything changed.
I won't drag on about the ins and outs of the mechanics of what was going on with the car (partially because I'm not sure what the hell what going on anyway...) but it was loosing power and almost stalling on hills. We exited just north of Albuquerque and stopped at a gas station to assess and talk to a gas station attendant about sleeping and auto repair options. At this point I was worried that my car might not make it out of the gas station.
After getting some beta on where to go I bravely/stupidly started the car, limped out of the gas station and drove toward the hotel. It was about 5 miles to the hotel and for the entire distance I was worried about making it. On every uphill I was sure the car was going to stall and I had to run one red light just to keep the momentum and I was prepared to run more. Luckily, it was the middle of the night at this point so I didn't have much traffic to worry about. We made it to the hotel and Susan and I decided to stay at the first one we stopped the car at.
The next morning we somehow were able to creep the car along to the repair shop a few more miles away with a few more stressful moments and one big one less than a quarter of a mile from the shop. We had to go over one last hill and boy did we barely make it. Barely...
We did get the car to the repair shop though and at least we didn't have to worry about moving it again. The shop wasn't open of course (as it was a three day weekend holiday) so we had to leave it.
We thought about all of our options at this point. What would we do now? We almost rented a car and went right back to Flagstaff to lick our wounds and wait for the car to be repaired. We figured we would figure out a way to get back there and get it in the next week or two. Instead we found a pretty cheap rate and rented a car for a whole week and decided to keep the dream alive and continue on with the trip.
When it was all said and done, we still got some wonderful climbing in at a a scenic alpine sport crag called Las Conchas (sorry no photos-I forgot the camera...) for two days and did a nice trail run before returning home. We were hoping to climb at a place called Gilman Tunnels but that place blows. They gave it 5 stars in the guide as an area but we were not impressed. Las Conchas was 100 times better.
So, for now, it's a waiting game on the car. I have the rental car for a week to get around which is a nice luxury and then I'll drive it back to Albuquerque and pick up my car on Friday, fingers crossed.
Who knows how much it will be to fix it. It could be some silly fuel or air thing that I couldn't find or it could be a f-d up engine for all I know. Time to spend some money....
On another sad note, there is a big fire near Boulder, Colorado right now. Information here. Let's hope they get it under control soon...
I think I'll end this with something a bit more motivating. I watched this trailer this morning and got fired up to watch the movie. Who knows if it's any good but I got psyched watching the trailer. Check it out.
See the movie at Hulu here.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I felt really energized and ready to go for broke when I started and charged up the first section determined to get a strong cadence and shave some time off the section to the saddle.
I believe that for me to go under 2 hours consistently or at all this is the key. I am running and hiking the rest of it more closely to where I think I will plateau on this trail (the whole trail is extremely rocky, technical and steep and the upper ridge from the saddle to summit is loose, rocky, steep and scrambly so going from summit to ridge is slow moving and coming down is hard to go fast for fear of breaking my face or other important parts of my body (well, my face isn't that important...).
Well, I did make it to the saddle in 57 minutes even (about the same as my fastest time) but was sucking some serious wind and feeling pretty dried out. I think, looking back, that I started out a bit quick and lost some steam up high and it was maybe a touch too warm for really coming in with a break through time for me on this section.
The upper ridge went better and I was able to get to the summit in 1 hour 18 minutes (a few minutes faster than my previous best).
Coming back down felt sluggish but I still really went for it and somehow kept on my feet (no falling on my face on this run...amazing!). Although, I just didn't have the burst at the end like I do when I run this trail in the mornings. Despite this, I fought hard and finished with a time of 2 hrs 1 min 33 sec.
Not a bad time as it is a new PR for me but the realization that I need to get faster going uphill is hitting me hard now. I seem to only be shaving seconds off my time and I feel very slow still going uphill to the saddle.
Popping a fast time for me and going under 2 hours is inevitable I think at this point. It is a matter of the right day but to go under consistently and really dig into that 1 hour something space I am going to need to make a leap now. I am going to have to put the work in. Maybe more years of running will help but hill work is going to have to be in my future.
Time to get strong on hills! The dream for me is to literally charge my way up that trail and push 5 miles an hour or more (doesn't sound very fast but you should see this trail!). Right now I am not even making it to 4 miles an hour going up. Oh...the dream. Gotta keep running and attack the hills!!!