Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Romney/Edwards 08 Challenge

The Challenge

100% house to house self-propelled:

Climb 4 routes in 8 different canyons
“Run” 4,000’ up to 8,000’ and then back home

Ride at least 48 miles with 4,800’ of elevation gain
Carry all of my gear for 32 of those miles (until Lisa shows up)
Climb 32 routes (Lisa’s age in Feb)
At least 4 5.11s and 8 5.10s
Run/hike 4,000’ of elevation gain and 8,000 of elevation change in 8 miles
On-sight at least 4/8ths of the routes
Eat 4 pieces of birthday cake (Romney’s idea)
Drink 8 cocktails (Edwards’ idea)
Do the challenge supports only by the immediate family
Get to the restaurant by 8:48

Theme was an issue. All of my recent challenges have had a theme, and this one was beginning to seem contrived. Okay, so maybe the entire idea of a birthday challenge is contrived in the first place, but I digress. The old alpine theme didn’t seem appropriate given our long stretch of nearly perfect November weather and nothing else was coming to mind. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I’d be doing a challenge until a few days before it actually happened. So, in the end, I settled on what’s been the theme for my entire year: Romney and Edwards (and our family).

Training for one of my challenges I ran in Jason and Tiffany Campbell, who had been married that year. When I asked if they were doing a challenge Tiffany replied, “We’re doing the marriage challenge.” Given pretty much no one I know ever thought I’d be attempting that one, it would seem to be enough to suffice for 08. And while our marriage isn’t particularly challenging, life transformations have kept us pretty busy. For this reason I’ve planned a big year ahead and written it down. It was going to be my entire challenge but, as my birthday approached, I found myself with a bit of fitness, no injuries, and unusually nice weather. It seemed like a cop out not to find a way to suffer for a day. The theme became the same as ours is together: style over statistics.

We care little for the contrivances of the normal world. We didn’t get married to impress anybody, shock anybody, for tax purposes or certainly not to legally start a family. We did it only because we felt like it. It seemed like a good idea to explore life together. And as long as we can do it in good style, we’ll continue. And if we can’t, we’re both in agreement that we won’t let ego keep us together. We’ll be good together, or apart.

Now I just needed a stylish challenge. I really liked Trent’s self supported canyon challenge. With a little research I found that there were at least 4 routes in 8 canyons that I could ride to. Furthermore, there was an 8,000’ plus peak protruding around 4,000’ above our house. Knowing that with enough time I could finish, which contradicted the birthday challenge ideal that if you know you can do it than it’s not a challenge, Lisa added a speed element: I needed to get to our restaurant of choice by 8:48 (in hindsight, I should have started at 4am.) Kind of like our relationship, it was serendipitously falling into place. That didn’t mean it was all going to be easy.

Corner Canyon: Red Rock

Leaving just after 5am (4 would have sounded better and I’m remiss it wasn’t thought through) I left the house with all the stuff I’d need for the day and rode south. It was 28 degrees and still—as perfect as I could expect for Nov 22. The ride was chilly, uneventful, but a tad hillier than I’d remembered and I was 15 minutes behind schedule when I got to Red Rock.

I chose the 4 best looking routes: a 5.8 and three 5.10s, and did them self belaying on TR. The rock, supposedly quartzite, felt exactly like my old haunt Red Rock near Santa Barbara. I did this alone to let Lisa sleep as the ride to the next area was going to take a while. It seemed quite un-stylish drag her out here to belay me in the dark on four easy routes, and then make here wait while I rode up Little Cottonwood. Self belaying did prove to be slightly slower, and I was further behind schedule upon leaving.

Little Cottonwood Canyon: Lisa Falls

I’d actually chosen Lisa Falls prior to coming up with a challenge theme because it was high in the canyon and I thought I wanted more elevation gain. Turns out I didn’t need it, nor the miles (I’d be 10-15 over), but it themed out well in the end. It also provided a climbing challenge.

From the topo it looked like I could get four routes from one belay station. As slabby granite goes, it can be confusing to sort out if you’ve never been to the cliff. I few minutes after beginning I was hanging from a bolt looking around and trying to figure out where the routes actually went. I un-stylishly made it to the anchors (an ascent that wouldn’t count) and then spent some time trying to figure out where the lines were.

I finally figured out the puzzle of roofs, slabs, and corners and tr’d four routes: 5.7, 10d, 10b, 8+. We were now WAY behind schedule. My hope was that I could start making up time as the canyons were now closer together. Actually, I thought my chance was ruined but, to paraphrase a line from last year, “I don’t think we’ll make it. But we will continue on in style.”

Deaf Smith Canyon: Hornet’s Nest

I found this cool little canyon on I’d scoped it out and the routes didn’t look bad, though all were supposed to be 5.11. It was a weird type of quartzite/granite-ish mix that reminded me of some of the routes I’d established in the Southern Sierra. I liked it.

Unfortunately, it gave me trouble right off. Half way up the first route; an arĂȘte that was steeper than it looked, I was pumped. I nearly lost it high above the last bolt and had to re-focus in order not to fall. This mindset shift was exactly what I needed, because the next route looked a lot harder.

Lisa suggested I take a rest, rationalizing that if I didn’t and fell, it would end up taking longer and we couldn’t get further behind schedule. This turned out as sage advice. I felt great on my next go. The final two routes were done in about 10 minutes.

Ferguson Canyon: The Cathedral

A quick ride made up some time but another long approach lost it. At this point I was worried about the last 5.11 on the list because it looked like a slab. It turned out not to be and, in fact, much easier than the Deaf Smith climbs. I probably climbed these four routes in about 15 minutes. I ran ahead of Lisa on the trail, figuring she would catch me as I rode up Big.

Big Cottonwood: Dogwood

She didn’t. Beata’s no Tuco when it comes to directions and, somehow (though she’s been in Ferguson at least 10 times) she led Romney astray on the way out. It only cost us 5 minutes or so but it seemed ridiculous. At times B can be a perfect mountain companion but, occasionally, she behaves like a six-year old on a sugar high. At least she’s always cute.

I’d never been on the Dogwood slabs but the first one was anything but a mindless romp. The rock was as polished as glass, longer than it looked from the road (causing me to skip some bolts), and the routes didn’t go quickly.

I got faster, made up some more time, but we then hit another snag. Romney was bonking and I was getting pretty spacey. Support duty is not picnic (Bob’s chronic “I’m tired” from 03 comes to mind). We’d already done a lot of hiking and the pace of everything was much quicker than a day at the crags. Lisa hadn’t eaten and needed fuel. So she headed off to get some bagels for us while I rode off towards Mount Olympus.

Tolcat Canyon: Pete’s Rock

Originally I was going to the Sport Utility Crag but, with no approach, I thought Pete’s might be quicker if I could figure it out. This turned out to be a great decision. I hiked to the top and threw a rope down the longest and steepest section of rock. The four routes I did were, amazingly, excellent. Quartzite often hides the nature of its climbing. Most of Big looks nothing like a climbing area but, in my mind, climbs beautifully. Pete’s is historically significant but I’ve always thought that was out of convenience only. It looks like a giant pile of rubble. But I would say the four climbs I did (two were at least 5.10) would get 2 or 3 stars on the Wasatch scale. Climbing in the sun was fun, quick, and I was thinking there was now a chance that I could make it.

Mill Creek Canyon: The Itchy Stitches Wall

I’d been here once before—on No Star Tuesdays—and hoped to never be back. It was, however, the only current choice when one needed to climb four routes in Mill Creek. Perhaps revived by some calories, I felt good riding up the canyon. Then, luckily, the death scree ascent was frozen into place and went fairly easily. The climbs were sharp and nasty but went without a hitch. Soon I was flying down Mill Creek, amazed that we’d get to the final area before it was dark.

Parley’s Canyon: Iron Maiden Wall

These routes had a lot of stars in the guide but my friend Greg had described them as “slick and horrible.” They looked cool from the ground but the rock undulated, making it very hard to see the bolts in the fading light. By the time I was on route one, a headlamp was leading my way.

These were bad—BAD—routes to do in the dark. They weren’t exactly slabs, so you couldn’t just paste your feet, and finding holds was a ridiculous proposition. You’d have to fish around for a rough spot in a sea of dimpled marble. Getting to the anchors on the first route took a long time and, unfortunately, I’d have to lead two in order to climb four routes.

It was even worse for Lisa. Not only did she have to worry about me plunging out of the darkness, but the freeway was a steady stream of noise (too loud to allow communication), and it was propelling a consistent frigid wind into her face. How bad was it? Besides Beata whining up into the darkness at me (she never does this), Romney added, “This makes the Itchy Stitches place seem like paradise.”

The Final Push…

…For the summit was a sufferfest. Romney n’ Ratso took off to get ready for dinner and Beata and I headed up, away from home, onto the well lit slopes of Grandeur Peak. At night, Salt Lake lights up this mountain like a full moon making for a surreal alpine setting. My legs were cooked and the trail on the west ridge is like a stairmaster on the hardest setting.

Near the lower summit we had a dilemma. We were out of time. I called Romney for a strategy session. In order to make it to the restaurant in time, I could either tag the summit and have her pick me up at the trailhead, or turn around and try and get all the way home. As home is a good two miles or more from the trailhead, I wasn’t sure I could even do the latter anyway. I began headed up when sense got the better of me. Style. Wasn’t’ that the order of the day? To get a ride would be like descending K2 in a helicopter—might as well just go up that way. It would be far better to get back to the house under my own power. Given my approaches, I probably had the numbers I needed anyway. But the main point was to get back home the way I began, using my feet.

The descent hurt more than the climb. But the lower we got the clearer it became that there was a chance to make it. We sped up at the trailhead and ran home. I walked into the restaurant with 2 minutes to spare.

The restaurant was an epilog. After not eating much all day the beers (and some bourbon) and the cake were hungrily absorbed for their nutrients. It did include more themed serendipity. Among our friends was Marti, who’d introduced us, Erica, who house sat Tuco while we were eloping, and Lynn, who (and her husband Ben) were a big part of how I chose to move to Salt Lake. The place was also called East West and, now that I’m thinking about it, our relationship heightened while I was in Asia last year. So I guess it’s a challenge that all just fell into place. And the coolest thing is that it's only the beginning.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What I'm Doing Tomorrow

For those of you who've asked, here's a quick update on what I'm going to try tomorrow. This week's been busy. In fact, the year's been busy. As late as yesterday this was on the verge of not happening. But the weather seems to be cooperating so, what the hell; might as well get out there and suffer a bit. It's not nearly as ambitious as last year, but challenges are about where you're at right now anyway.

So here's the deal:

Climb 4 routes in 8 different canyons (so 32 routes), using my bike as transport.
Then run up a mountain, gaining at least 4,000' over at least 8 miles, and finish at my house.

So the entire challenge is non-motorized, save for the dinner part (hmm, maybe re-think dinner but it's hard to accomodate a bunch of people on a Sat night).

I must ride at least 48 miles and gain at least 4,800'. I need to on-sight 4/8th of the routes. All of these should be well eclipsed.

Then I need to eat 4 pieces of birthday cake (Romney's idea) and finish 8 drinks. Somehow, I fear the cake more, but the drinks have gotten me before.

So that's about it. If anyone reads this and is in town we're planning dinner at 8:48 at East/West. Call me if you'd like to join us. We have a very small group and they said they can accomodate more. Sorry about the bad planning but this is an off-the-couch challenge of sorts. The suffering, however, could be just as bad as ever.

My wife (B and Tuc where possible) is the only person joining me during the challenge this year. This year's been pretty much about us anyway, so that seems fitting. She'll drive, belay, and climb whenever she feels like it. So I'll be self motorized but not my support crew. This is a bit different from Trent's challenge a few weeks back but I thought this would be sort of boring for him, since my hardest climb is probably 11b or so.

I'd better try and get some sleep. Thanks for your interest. Louie, give a shout out to everyone at Hangar 18.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shed Days

Reading this article about Oscar De La Hoya reminds me our days in the shed.

Oscar's Training Camp

As an athlete, nothing is as coveted as when you have time to get away from the distractions of everyday life and can train. Like they say in the surf film In God's Hands, "beginning tomorrow we train all day, every day.” It’s the mantra all true athletes yearn to live by.

Of course you don't train all day. In this article The Golden Boy echoes as much reverence for the frat life as anything else. But the romantic notion is that your entire life is focused on getting as fit as you can possibly be. It's a time you know that you need to seize. And not just because it's hard to find the time to live this way, but because you know, without a doubt, that you won't always have the motivation it takes to do it.

I've created these scenarios a lot during my life. From "Rocky" training in the hills behind my house as a kid, to the high altitude training camps I organized in high school, to "camp baseball", a dream that never quite materialized; I've sought throughout my life to get away from the world and just train. But nothing I've ever done comes close to what we refer to as The Shed Days.

In the early 90's, my friend Phil and I gave up our comfortable abode in Santa Barbara and moved into a storage shed. We wanted to rock climb as hard as possible and the reason was simple; to focus seriously on training. The shed was a bastion of simplicity in a hectic world. There was no phone, no internet, and very few bills. Only a few of our friends even knew where it was. During the couple of years it lasted we were probably more fit than we've ever been. But more importantly, we we're--as we often referenced--livin' the dream. We trained hard but we learned even more. It ceased to be about climbing, or even training; it was just about life. It was our Nirvana.

We often talk about going back. Of course we never will. Phil has a new gym he calls The Shed. We both still get after it from time to time, and I’m sure we always will. The limits of human performance has us both entranced. But we’ll never again have the singularity of focus that we did at that one point in time.

I can see exactly why De La Hoya keeps fighting. He knows that one day he’ll lose his edge, but he wants to milk the feeling as long as he can.. It's probably a guy thing. It’s certainly an athlete thing. And for those who roll like we do, it’s as close to the essence of being as we’ll probably ever get.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Old Alpine Challenge

I wasn't going to do a traditional birthday challenge this year but I've come up with something semi inspiring. I'm going to stick with my former idea of training for 12 challenges in the upcoming year but, also, I've got a fun little day out planned. The theme this year will be mountaineering. Not so far off from last year, I guess, but this time it's due to the weather we're having, which has had me delaying and re-routing my my concoction. Sure, bad weather is normal for this time of year, but it's been snowy and wet ever since I hatched this hairbrained scheme and I've felt like a mountaineer; hunkered down in my tent and waiting for a break in the weather for my shot at the summit.

Last week my itinerary was snowed in. Over the last two days a warm rain has melted the snow but now the rock is sopping wet. Tomorrow I'm off for three days to ride with the lads down in the desert. When I get back, I'll lie in wait for a break in the weather. If it comes, I'll give this a shot provided I don't need to be working. Mountaineering is expensive. Thus, most alpinists have jobs or are somehow bankrolled. As one of my friends put it after running out of money waiting for the weather to break in Patagonia, "I could support a full-on heroin addiction for a lot less money than this damned addiction."

Climb 4 routes in each of 8 different canyons.
Haul all of my gear with my bike.
Ride my bike to all of the climbs.
Run over 4,000' of elevation gain (and that much of descent) in 8 miles--this will be over at least one summit and provide an ample snow quotient.

Yeah, yeah, I know this is very similar to Trent's Challenge but it's a super cool thing to do.

I'll espouse on the mountaineering theme more in upcoming posts, as well as come up with a few more challenges to make the day creative as well as hard. For now, I just wanted to get it down so that I was commited to giving it a go.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”
- Sir Edmund Hillary

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bobby J

If it weren't for Lance Armstrong a lot more people would know who Bobby Julich is. He was the first American after Greg LeMond to be a top notch stage racer in Europe, and came in third in the Tour de France the year before Armstrong won his first. In 2006, he had one of the best years of any any American rider when he won three major stage races, including being the first American to win Paris-Nice, a bronze in the Olympics, and second overall in the ProTour. He retired this season and will move into a managerial role with Saxo Bank (formerly CSC) next year.

Most likely because he always rode for European teams he never got a lot of press in the US. Most American fans were probably more aware of Lance's domestiques than Julich. This is too bad because I'm sure we could learn a lot more about the European racing scene from Bobby J than any other US rider. His 17 year career is re-caped with an interview here at Cyclingnews.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obesity & Diabetes

An article appeared on the wires recently discussing the obesity epidemic and its link to the skyrocketing rate of diabetes. If you're overweight or live an unhealthy lifestyle it's a must read. I'm sure most of you reading are thinking, "well, duh". If you're not, you must be new around here. In case you missed it, here's the article:

We, as many of you know, have just released a workout program that's been approved by the American Diabetic Association. It's a re-vamp of a Kathy Smith program called Project You: Type Two. The medical world has been slow to trumpet the importance lifestyle plays in regards to diabetes (not all of them, of course, just in general and in making national recommendations for lifestyle as a preventative measure). This workout is the first to be released on a national level that specifically targets this problem. The fact is that all exercise programs target the problem because all will improve you health and decrease the likelihood that you'll become obese. And, just in case some of you weren't convinced before, the link between obesity and diabetes couldn't be more related.

I've got a reasonably scary article on obesity (and what to do about it) coming out this week. If you don't get our weekly newsletters, go to this page and enter your email at the lower right corner. You'll be required to opt in but it's free and you can easily cancel anytime. Of course, you won't want to:

If you'd like to take a closer look at Project You: Type Two, here it is

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Training to Train

Just finished my first easy morning yoga session since early summer. My legs are still sore from about 5 minutes of simple functional movements a couple of days ago. It's Nov 1st, which means the my pre-training training must now officially commence. After each summer, no matter how much I've raced or climbed or what kind of shape I'm in, I'm not ready for hard training. Nothing prepares you for the rigors of training except for training. In fact, the fitter you are the more damage you can inflict on yourself when you get back into the gym. After doing this many too many times to myself, I now begin my training periods with a rather long and boring prep period.

Starting today, each morning will feature some yoga and breathing exercises. Three times per week I'll do some functional cross fit movements, twice a week I'll force myself into the climbing gym to train on the systems wall. This way, when my training program begins in the last week of this month I'll be ready to work without having to worry about limping around for the entire holiday season.

pics: a big loop around tahoe from my parent's house. the base is good. now all i need is some power and technique.