Mile Repeats and Camp Pendleton Mud Run

Running a lot this week, and it's not all the long, slow variety. Today I went down to the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail, which has become my go-to course for flat interval sessions. I did a 3 mile warm-up, then 4 x 200s to get the muscles firing, then 6 x 1 mile repeats. Lucho told me not to look at my watch during this; just pace by feel and hit 6:30-6:40 per mile, but I could also go 6:20s if I felt good. I guess I felt good, although the other hikers out that day might have seen the death mask I was wearing or heard the quiet curses at the end of each interval and thought otherwise. I paced myself well, hitting 6:22, 6:21, 6:21, 6:19, 6:29, and 6:19. The only anomaly was the fifth one; the next to last interval is always the hardest, and I felt slow even though I hit 6:29 (@humblebrag). It definitely hurt, but it's nice to see the times come down and the effort level stay the same.

Post-workout I drank 16 oz. of Gatorade and 20 oz. of Infinit Recovery drink. I stopped at the gas station on the way home and bought a bottle of chocolate milk and a bottle of V-8 and drank both of those one after the other. I'm not sure how I can simultaneously crave V-8 and chocolate milk, but they have both been my recovery drinks of choice lately. I'm sure it has something to do with protein, salt, and my baby-like Pavlovian affection for the Nestle Quik bunny.

Saturday, I ran the Camp Pendleton Mud Run with a group of four friends. We won our division last year, and this year, while running much faster, we came in 3rd. It's always a fun race, and they had some really cool trophies this year.

Sheer Joy

I read this quote from George Mallory this morning, and it has stuck with me all day. This quote rings truer than the more famous, but questionably authentic "because it's there" response to "why climb Everest," and it really gets to the heart of why we take up these seemingly pointless challenges. Running isn't always sheer joy, but there are moments...running down an empty mountain trail after a demanding climb, an early morning run through the fog with a couple of friends, or sitting in the grass, drinking a beer in the sun after a particularly difficult race. These are the moments of pure, aimless, pointless, joy. I plan to read this quote many times in the coming weeks as the Canadian Death Race approaches, and to remember why I chose this particular adventure; it's because running in the mountains brings me joy, and what better reason is there to do anything?

The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for. 
--George Mallory, 1922

Mallory (right)

Sunrise over Everest from Kala Pattar (18,500')

8000 Meter Challenge -- Baldy, San Gorgonio, and a Fraction of San Jacinto

Update: I tried this one again in July of 2012 and completed the 3 summits. You can read more about it here.

8000 6,638 Meter Challenge

Jess and I set out Saturday, early, 4:30 AM, to climb three mountains, Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Jacinto. It's called the 8,000 Meter Challenge -- 8,000 meters of elevation gain and loss, 13,123 feet of elevation gain. For me the challenge would end in the dark on Mt. San Jacinto at 6,638 meters, but it would start at the base of Mt. Baldy.

Mt. Baldy -- 10,066'

We started the hike up Mt. Baldy at 6:30 AM with Jess setting his usual speedhiking pace. The plan was to hike up the mountains and run down when the trail was runnable and not too steep. There were only a few hikers on the way up as we set a good pace and quickly climbed above the marine layer. We joined up with one other guy on the way up, went off trail and did some scrambling towards the top, but once we were there, we had the summit to ourselves. I was happy to see Tibetan prayer flags at the top, reminding me of Everest, and reminding me to take a moment and be grateful to be out there.

As we started the descent we quickly ran into crowds, passing a hundred or so hikers who were on their way up. We were able to run smoothly down most of the mountain and back to the truck for the drive to San Gorgonio.

Elevation gain: 4,026'
Ascent: 1:40
Descent: 1:05
Total Mileage: 8.4

We're number one

Mt. San Gorgonio -- 11,499'

We lost some time on the drive to San Gorgonio, missing a turn and then backtracking. We also started the climb on the wrong trail, realizing after about 15 minutes of scurrying up rocks on hands and knees that this probably wasn't the right trail; it was supposed to be tough, but not this tough. We walked along the river until we hit the right trail and started the ascent.

The hike to the summit starts with some steep switchbacks, then a nice long stretch through a pine forest, along streams and past the misleadingly named "Halfway Camp." After the camp comes some long switchbacks were we encountered our first patches of snow, then a false summit, then a grueling ascent to the summit. I started feeling the effects of the elevation about a mile from the summit. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, head-achy, and dehydrated. I was carrying two liters of water, but realized that wasn't going to be enough about halfway up the ascent, so I started to conserve. It was a hot day and I wasn't taking in enough fluids, so I think that had a lot to do with the bonking sensation I was feeling towards the top. That last mile took me about 45 minutes, and it was the most difficult section of the day. Once at the top, some nice hikers gave us a few water purification tablets that we would be able to use at a stream about three miles down the mountain. I immediately felt better knowing that there would be more water soon, and if I ever do this again, water purification tablets are definitely something I will be carrying.

The descent was amazing. We hiked down the snowy and technical section at the top that lasted about a mile, then I ran. It was the perfect running trail, with just enough obstacles to keep it interesting. It felt great to open the stride up and run on pine needle covered trails in the shade of huge trees, through meadows and over streams. There were a couple times where my feet hit roots or rocks and I found myself flailing in mid-air, twisting to avoid a fall, and catching my balance at the last minute, but not wanting to stop. I could feel myself getting stronger as the altitude decreased.

We returned to the black truck that had been sitting out in the sun all day, soaking up the heat. I drank some hot water and ate some chocolate covered beef jerky (the chocolate chips from my trail mix had melted and covered all my food). It tasted good, and at the time I considered marketing the idea of chocolate covered beef jerky, but now I'm thinking it would only taste good after about 26 miles of hiking and running. We jumped in the truck and started the long and windy drive to Idyllwild and Mt. San Jacinto.

Elevation gain: 5,959'
Cumulative elevation gain: 9,985'
Ascent: 4:11
Descent: 2:25
Total mileage: 18.4
Cumulative mileage: 26.8

The perfect running trail

Mt. San Jacinto, our next stop, behind us

We're number two

Mt. San Jacinto -- 10,834' (of which I did a very small fraction)

At this point I was done for the day. It was getting late, and I didn't have the motivation to climb the third peak. Jess still wanted to give it a try, so we decided to drive to the trailhead in Idyllwild and start up the trail at our own (differing) paces. I was planning on doing a couple of leisurely miles and turning back early, and Jess would probably do more, turn around and catch me on the way down, or continue to the summit and return to the truck where I would hopefully be sound asleep. It sounded like a great idea at the time, while the sun was still out.

I grabbed gloves, a jacket, a hat, and a headlamp and started hiking as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful sunset and I was happily snapping pictures, and feeling really good. I had hit my second or third wind, and I was even entertaining the idea of trying to catch Jess and summit the mountain. Then the sun went down, and I realized I was alone in the night, and I started to hear all the mountain sounds that you don't hear when you are running at night with someone else. I also realized that I didn't grab the spare batteries for my headlamp, and I'm sure it was my imagination, but it seemed to be dimming. I decided to turn around and make my way back to the car. I'll admit it, I was a little scared, with thoughts of bears, mountain lions, women who like cats too much, and The Blair Witch Project running through my mind (sure I wimped out, but I'm still the toughest Brony I know).

I got back to the truck, took a baby wipe shower, changed my clothes, and just as I reclined my chair back to sleep, I see a headlamp come bobbing down the trail. I was glad to see Jess, who also started thinking about mountain lions and Blair Witches when the sun went down. We drove the two hours home, making a quick and glorious pit-stop at Arby's.

Elevation gain: 904'
Cumulative elevation gain: 10,889'
Ascent: :28
Descent: :28
Total mileage: 3
Cumulative mileage: 29.8

This reminds me of the time I spent on Mars

Another Life Lost to CF

It was a rough day yesterday. We lost another good one to CF. She was a good friend of my sister's; the two spent a lot of time in the hospital together. My sister, Sharlie, kept us updated on Katrina's story. Sharlie posted a plea from Katrina's family, a plea for living lung lobe donors. Katrina was on the lung transplant list, but her time had run out for cadaveric donors. Many people stepped up and were tested to see if they had the proper blood type, two strangers were matches, and agreed to give one lobe each to Katrina. And, as my wife told me this morning, if there is any saving grace to this sad story, it is that two people were willing to step up and give up part of their lungs to save the life of someone they didn't know.

Unfortunately, Katrina's kidneys failed and she was unable to go through the transplant surgery. She passed away yesterday surrounded by her husband and her family.

My heart aches for the family, and for my sister, Sharlie. I feel that I have to spread the word about CF to as many people as I can. The lives of thousands, including my sister, my niece, and my nephew, depend on your help.

I set up this blog as a way to share my love of running. I have a modest number of readers, and I have tried to keep the focus on pure running. However, when it comes to this cause, I will selfishly, and unashamedly, ask and plead for your attention. So many of you have helped already, and your dollars are making a world of difference for so many who struggle with this disease. Thank you for your help. I thank you, my family thanks you. Here is what you can do:

Donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (this is what I'm getting my dad for Father's day...sorry to ruin the surprise, dad).

Become an organ donor.

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Palomar Mountain Trail Run

Saturday I ran on Palomar Mountain. I've only been up there once before and that was on a bike. I remember a slow grind to the top, and a long wait for the pros to summit, then a long, spaghetti curved, white-knuckle descent to the bottom. Running the thing is a different story.

I camped at the top with my family, and the first night of camping is never a restful one. The kids were rolling around the tent with stomachs full of s'mores, and the novelty of sleeping on the ground was still fresh. It was a cold night, colder than the 40 degree weather forecast, and I didn't sleep all that well. I woke up at 5:20, 10 minutes before the alarm. I was already in my running clothes, so I just had to slip on my shoes, grab my pack and go. The transition from lying prone to shuffling, to a slow walk, to something resembling a jog was eased along by the beautiful trails and the soft, early sun firing through the trees.

I started at Doane Pond on the Thunder Spring Trail. It's starts as a single track through the pine forest, then opens up to a wide, rolling, pine needle-cushioned trail that climbs over fallen logs and switchbacks to the Chimney Flats Trail and then onto the Silver Crest Trail to the Silver Crest picnic area. At the edge of the picnic area there were some pines lined against a drop. The early morning view from here was breathtaking. The marine layer was thick and quilted stretching from the base of Palomar to Tijuana to the south, Catalina Island and LA to the north, and a cloud-covered Pacific to the west.

I passed a meadow on the way to the Boucher Lookout and noticed a deer, not fifteen feet away, staring at me as I ran. It was young, no horns and it ran alongside of me for a few yards, but long enough for me to notice that the grace of a wild animal running through a meadow needs a different word; we were both running, but there was no similarity in what the two of us were doing. The deer turned toward me as we ran, and I thought it might charge, but it sped up and crossed the road in front of me. There were four or five other young deer that ran alongside, but at a greater distance. At that point I loved running, I loved 5 AM and the fact that there was no one there to share this experience with, because I'm sure I would have ruined it by saying "that was freaking awesome" or something else equally dumb.

I then ran the six miles down Harrison Grade to the base of Palomar Mountain and the Pauma Valley. I dove into the marine layer cloud cover just as it was getting hot. I guess toward the bottom it hit me that I was feeling really good, light and fast on my feet, and that I had to turn around and run the 6 miles back to the top.

My love for running switched to a bi-polar hate at the bottom, as I turned around and looked at the peak, about 4 miles and 3,000 feet away. I struggled on the way up, taking turns power-hiking and jogging, watching the 3 hour estimate I gave my wife the night before come and go, and expecting an emergency vehicle to come roaring around the next turn at any moment. It turns out that I was only about ten minutes off my pace, so no dramatic rescue for me.

I made it back to the camp as the kids were heading out to the pond, fishing poles in tow. Later, we all went for a hike and my wife pointed out the trees to the kids, old trees with deep wrinkles and hundreds of branches, spread across the trail, and through the sky.

Early morning, into the pine forest
Chimney Flats Trail
Deer in the meadow
View from Harrison Grade
Boucher Trail
Harrison Grade

Running with deer

Boucher Lookout

Halfway down Harrison Grade

Tough Mudder

It's been a busy week, but I wanted to write a short report on the SoCal Tough Mudder race.

It was a fun race, and was the hardest obstacle/mud/ event I have done. The Tough Mudder bills itself as a challenge rather than a race. It certainly draws a different crowd than your average road race. The parking lot was full of face-painted, tattooed, pierced, camoed, kilted, underrooed, and scantily clad men and women.

The race was held at a ski resort, so the elevation and constant up and down would have made this a challenging course even without the obstacles. Add in a half mile uphill and downhill section were you had to carry your own log (there is no easy way to carry a log up a hill), twelve-foot walls, four in a row that you had to scale with the help of fellow racers, a half pipe you had to pull yourself up and over, a 15 foot platform you had to jump off of into a cold mountain lake that you then had to swim across, and a couple claustrophobia-inducing pipes that you had to crawl through and a 12-inch high smoky box you had to slither through. There were about twenty various obstacles. The most fun obstacle was the 30 foot water slide into another cold lake, and the scariest was the live electrical wires you had to run through right before the finish. I ran through the wires, covering my face, and getting small zaps of electricity when I saw the last wire, figuring I had gotten off easy, but that last one hit me hard. Later, I saw a few people get floored by the last wire, literally falling flat on their faces and getting up with blood pouring out of their noses and large swatches of skin rubbed off.

The finish line was a party with free beer and a free mohawk and mullet tent. That combination led to this:

I keep telling everyone I'm going to shave it, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet.

The running is going well. I'm to the point now where I can do an easy 8 mile run in the hills around my house and it feels easy, and that's good. I'm heading to the mountains this weekend, and I'm excited about exploring some new trails.

Today's 8 miler

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