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Showing posts from August, 2014

Still too dumb to quit

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Well, team "Too Dumb to Quit" put their intelligence in question once again by completing yet another insanely routed loop around Mont Blanc. Daniel and Beat arrived in Chamonix at about noon on Sunday, after five and a half days of off-piste adventures of the sort that render distance and even elevation statistics meaningless. Numbers don't convey the degree of difficulty in La Petite Trotte a Leon, which is why a select few love it so much ... and the people who love them, not so much.

I sure am proud of these guys, but mostly I'm just glad they're done. It's probably obvious that I don't hold much love for PTL. The course creators go out of their way to make every kilometer as difficult as possible. Steep talus, icy boulder fields, snow slopes, knife ridges, glacier moraines, frequent 35-percent-plus grades, via ferrata, exposed scrambling — basically, any terrain that doesn't fall into the "Class 5 rock climbing" range of technicality i…

On the "trail" of the PTL

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Oh, PTL. I intended to post more regular updates about Beat’s progress in the race, but this week in Chamonix has gotten away from me in a big way. My phone’s sim card died and there’s nothing I can do about it because the phone is AT&T-locked (I hate phones. Up until a month ago I was a proud smart-phone holdout; I had a dumb phone that I rarely used and carried with me only sporadically, and I already miss it, so much.) So our communication is worse than it would be if pay phones were still a thing. But I digress from this retro-grouching. Beat and Daniel are still alive. In a race like PTL, that’s pretty much all that matters.
 Here’s a slightly longer summary: We flew SFO-Zurich-Geneva on Saturday/Sunday, and took a shuttle to Chamonix, arriving too late for dinner, probably sometime around 10 p.m. local time. I never weather jet lag well, and stayed awake another full night while Beat dosed himself with enough Ambien to wake up with a hangover. Bank, grocery store, packing, …

Lessons from PTL

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Beat and I head to Geneva and then Chamonix on Sunday afternoon, just enough time for him to grab a few last-minute supplies, attend a pre-race briefing, and start Monday's Petite Trotte a Leon properly jet-lagged and travel weary. I finished up my packing rather effortlessly, having streamlined the process enough that I can fit three weeks of travel and one major multiday race into a small suitcase and carry-on (my secret: I just use nearly the same supplies and gear for every endurance race I do, winter or summer, bike or foot. Works!)

Beat has a case of pre-race jitters and rightly so. Mine can hold off for a couple more weeks. While Beat races the PTL I'm going to take buses around the valley and attempt trace pieces of this year's PTL course as my one week of TDG "training." Some of my friends have hinted at whether I feel regret for not attempting to avenge my PTL DNF from last year. No. None. I have no intention of ever returning to PTL. It wasn't rig…

35

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My birthday is this week. It's my 35th. This also marks three and a half years of living in California; both numbers baffle me. It's not that I feel young — I've been more of an "old soul" ever since I was actually young — but I just can't believe that half of a decade has passed since I climbed on top of Mount McGinnis to embrace my thirties. "It's such a cliche but it's true that once you hit 30, the years really start slipping away," I told my friend Leah as we headed out to Big Basin for a ride on Saturday. She reminded me that I've filled these California years with adventures, which is one of the reasons they've gone by so fast. I actually think routine is what really makes our perception of time speed up, because days that are filled with sameness are the ones that tend to disappear. I have plenty of habits, but also a sense of curiosity that injects sparks of wonder into even the mundane days. Wonder is what keeps me young.…

Dog days

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August is the month for reluctant training, stirring up clouds of dust from the chunder trails, wiping the burn of salt from my eyes, and running without water for eight miles in the midst of a 20-mile run in 85-degree heat because my region is in exceptional drought and the groundwater taps are dry. Through it all, I wonder why I so ambitiously signed up for a late-summer race. But I know the reason. Registrations for these things always take place in January, when California's outside temperatures are tolerable and spirits are still fresh. (I wouldn't call my January legs fresh, however, since I'm usually in training for some hard Alaska race. But at least the legs are peppy in January, because they're going to Alaska.)

Then late summer comes around and the legs are tenderized, spirits over-ripened, and the consequences of January ambition ... those are still the same.

I actually wouldn't mind hibernating through August. One of these years I probably should. But…

Before it gets dark

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I learned about Rob's death the way many of us learn about tragic events involving friends and acquaintances these days — on Facebook, a day before any concrete information was out there. From the timing and a few vague statements, I could only discern that the likely cause was an accident during the Alaska Wilderness Classic, an unsupported adventure race through the Wrangell Mountains. The news had a somber impact on the early part of this week. I did not know Rob well, but he was someone who was kind to me when I was scared and vulnerable, and left a lasting impression.

Rob was a perennial volunteer for the Iditarod Trail Invitational, and always manned the checkpoint in Rohn — a remote, spartan outpost on the far side of the Alaska Range. We first met in 2008 when I stumbled into his lovingly outfitted wall tent after spending nearly thirty hours making my way over Rainy Pass. I was physically shattered, emotionally spent, frightened by my night out at thirty below, and had a…

"8,000 Miles Across Alaska"

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For the past few weeks, I've been finishing up the details of a collaborative book project I worked on with Tim Hewitt, a biography about his many adventures across Alaska. Like everything I do, this one is long overdue, but I'm excited to announce that "8,000 Miles Across Alaska: A Runner's Journeys on the Iditarod Trail" will be released on Aug. 18 in paperback and eBook from online retailers worldwide. For those with Kindles or related phone aps, the eBook is already available on Amazon. The eBook also can be pre-ordered from iTunes and Barnes&Noble. As of yet there are no plans to sell signed paperback copies directly, but that may change.

I'm happy that this project came together. I've long been a fan of Tim's — I wrote a short letter to UltraRunning Magazine advocating for a "Performance of the Year" nomination in 2011 before we'd properly met — but never anticipated being approached to help tell his story. Tim has been racing…

Bellingham to Baker and Back

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During the last week of June, while I was still in South Africa, Beat flew up to Washington to join his friend, Dan Probst, and seven other runners in an attempt to run from Bellingham Bay to the summit of Mount Baker and back, a 108-mile round-trip excursion that included a roped glacier climb. Daniel has ambitions to recreate a 21st-century version of the Mount Baker Marathon. Arguably one of the world's first adventure races, the Mount Baker Marathon was held from 1911 to 1913 with the objective to travel by automobile or steam engine to the base of the mountain, run up to the summit, and return the way they came. The race drew tens of thousands of spectators, as well as some major mishaps — a train derailment and two crevasse falls (this risk, along with the onset of World War I, is what shut down the race after only three years.) 
As far as Dan knows, no one has traveled the entire distance on foot. He's made several attempts at this; the latest one was shut down by wet …