Monday, November 7, 2011

SJC Enduro 2011

Trying to post to the 'blog once a week. Failing so far....

Last weekend, I rode the San Jacinto Enduro. I you've never heard of it, that's the idea. It's one of those under-the-radar, unsupported "rides" that keeps it's street cred by staying low-key. There are no entry fees and the start list is selective to stay under the limit for a permitted event in the National Forest. It showcases all the best trails Idyllwild has to offer and challenges even very strong riders. The "management" at the start of the ride said "It's a perfect excuse to ride your bike all day in the mountains; and that's a pretty cool thing."


I RSVP'd for the Enduro last year, but couldn't make it since I was on lockdown in Monterey. This year, I was going no matter what:

I broke my geared bike back in June; I can't seem to find a replacement part and I'm not buying new wheels for a bike I don't plan on riding any more...looks like I'd be riding the single speed. I was still field training for work and putting in huge hours when I RSVP'd for the start list. I got in as much training as I could ,but my preparation was still less-than-adequate; pacing would be key. The total ride is 78 miles and approximately 11k feet of climbing, however, my longest ride on the single speed had only been less than half of that. I was worried for sure. Since the ride was divided into two loops, I figured I'd ride the first one conservatively and make the decision about loop two at that point.  I soon found out that turned out to be a popular game plan with the majority of the field.

I could only get race day off, which meant driving up Friday night after work. Ugh. I jammed home, threw the rest of my  gear in Holly's car (girl packed most of it by herself!) and we hit the road. We grabbed dinner on the road, rolled into the campgrounds around 10 , unpacked and set up in the cold dark and crashed into the tent.

Race start was 6AM and that meant a 5-ish wake up, meh. I'm NOT a morning person. Too cold to mess with coffee, I chugged an Ensure, mixed my nutrition bottles and shivered while prepping the bike and my gear. I forgot to mention, this ride is totally unsupported; no aid stations, no SAG, no rescue crew and no course markings. You get maps and a "cue sheet" that details the route...that's it.

I climbed back into the tent, gave Holly a kiss on the cheek and rolled down to the start: hands painful and going numb with the feet following soon after. I signed in, someone sang the National Anthem incredibly well for the early hour and near-freezing temps and a voice in the dark counted down..."GO!" We were off.

Honestly, the stuff in the dark is a total blur. I vaguely remember: getting dropped on the hwy (geared out on the single speed, legs felt like blocks of wood) climbing for the first hour, incredible pain as my hands began defrosting and the most amazing sunrise I've seen in a long time. A sketchy fire-road descent into Hemet, a water stop at a fire station, and the arduous climb back into Mountain Center. The first 20 miles of near-boredom stand in sharp contrast with some of the most amazing single-track trails I've ever ridden. I've ridden these trails before, but in the reverse direction. It's way better this way. Friggin' sweet.

I finished up loop one (45 miles and about 8k feet of climbing) at about 11:37 or 5:32 of riding. The most time I've spent on the single speed by about 20 miles and 2.5 hours. My quads were trying to cramp the last 5 miles, loop two looked like it would take another 3.5 hours and Holly was sitting at the campsite by herself. I thought about how I would feel if I pulled the plug after loop one and made a quick physical assessment; I felt like I could definitely ride loop two, but couldn't think of any reasons to keep going. It would be nice to say I finished the whole thing, but I had gotten everything out of the ride that I wanted to when I started: rode some new dirt, made some new friends and had a blast riding some amazing trails.

Mission accomplished.

Videos courtesy of Chris Branson and "My Idyllwild".


Monday, October 24, 2011

Shake it Out

I know: I'm averaging about one 'blog update a month. I'm sure that both of you who read my 'blog are crushed. I'm sorry.

I certainly paid my dues over the past 5 years or so. It's about time for things to go my way for a while. I'm finally done training for work. The cut me loose and I've been working by myself for nearly a month now. The freedom to do what I want is nice, but it certainly helped having another opinion around when things got sticky. I'm muddling through. 

People always stop me and remark about what a great job I have. It's way better than sitting in a cubicle all day, but long hours sitting in a truck and dealing with the "bad" part of the population keep it from feeling like a permanent vacation. Nice views out my office window, though.

Now that I'm getting on my feet financially, Holly and I can afford to eat a little better. I splurged a while back and bought a cast-iron grill pan. It makes AWESOME steaks and heats up way faster than a grill does. It smokes up the house a good bit, but I'll take it in exchange for some par-boiled and grilled artichokes. They came out amazing.

It's getting on into Winter, which means bigger surf and big changes on the beach. That last storm that rolled through stripped a LOT of sand off the beach. That's a full-size truck and a 3' sand berm.

Every so often, I get to take part in some neat events that most people never get to see. The local marine wildlife rescue called asking if they could release a sea-lion on our beach. I was happy to help out.

Alas, the 4WD on their truck decided it was a good day to give up and they were soon stuck in the sand. Despite airing the tires WAY down and digging the truck out several times. the truck wan't going anywhere. I asked if they wanted me to call a tow-truck and they said they had called "Jeep Rescue". I sat in my truck watching the waves roll lazily in and expecting to hear the tell-tale sound of a diesel tow-truck. Imagine my surprise when I heard the distinctive rumble of a small-block V-8. I turned around in time to see this amazing vehicle making it's way down the ramp.

That's a 1977 Jeep Cherokee on 47" tires. They affectionately called it "Matilda".

I totally want one..

"Matilda" had wildlife rescue un-stuck in no time at all and I went back to making sure the beach was in the chill condition I left it in. I got a radio call about a "sick sea lion"on the beach a mere 1/4 mile from where they released one earlier in the day. Coincidence. No way. Same friggin' animal.

Pain in the A$$! I spent the next several hours shooing people away from it:

"No, you can't roll it back into the ocean."
"Yes, it's fine."

And so on...

For the record, they're like 300-lb dogs with a nasty disposition and a worse bite. Ask any real surfer or diver about sea lions if you don't believe me.

State Mountain Bike Championships were a few weeks ago. I had the day off and went down to cheer for some athletes and re-connect with some enduro-friends. Kerry had a solid race in Cat 2 after being on a boat for 9 months. His second ever race in Cat2 after "graduating" from Clydesdales (200lb+). A feat in and of itself; his weight loss over the past year inspires me. Awesome job!

Not to be outdone, John Dang stayed strong, despite the sweltering heat, and pulled down the win. I bet that State Champion Jersey is going to look great on him. I can only imagine how good it must feel pulling one on. Sweet!

Last week I celebrated my 36th birthday. Mom and Da originally wanted Holly and I to come over for dinner, but sprung an all-expense paid Disneyland trip on us instead. WIN. A fairly crowded day, but we hung in there and got to all the "good" rides. I love Haunted Mansion all dressed up as "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and Space Mountain never disappoints. The 3-D version of Star Tours made us both wanna hurl. It never did before, I think it has something to do with the 3-D glasses. Bummer.

 Last, but certainly not least, Holly bought me a stove-top espresso maker for my birthday. French Press coffee is rad, but it's too much liquid so early in the morning. I had a theory that the diuretic effect was from all the liquid and not the caffeine. For $25, it was worth the experiment. I was right! All the buzz without all the bathroom stops...and it makes amazing espresso. I called my sister to brag and it turns out both she and mom have had one for almost a year. Thanks for sharing! Sheesh!

Anyway. I'm easing back into training and working hard at figuring out how to fit training around a 4 x 10 hour shift work schedule. Tips are appreciated.

Thanks for reading; both of you!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

Noun - an uncomfortable mental state resulting from conflicting cognitions.
Like when you take a sip of a soda you swear was supposed to be Dr. Pepper and it turns out to be Coke. That awkward split second where you brain goes..."wait a minute, this isn't what I expected."

Without going into too much detail, work's been a lot of that. I'm loving the job, but it's a bit more gnarly than I expected. I'm confident things will get better once the busy season winds down, but I worked more than a few shifts that started at 4PM and didn't finish until 6AM. Not what I expected, but what ever is?

Long shifts make it tough to train like I want to and my fitness level (or lack thereof) prevents me from the long, meditative workouts I love. I'm working my way back up to an acceptable level, but long is the way and winding is the road. Last week I drove out to Temecula and hit a few hours of dirt with Luke. My odd work schedule doesn't allow me many weekend days off for socializing with people on a "traditional" work schedule and that wears on me a bit.

Thursday I hit up one of my favorite So Cal trails. Hello, old friend.

 There was one other car in the parking lot when I pulled in and the rider passed me going down hill as I was going up. I had the trail all to myself! Strange feeling since this lot is FULL most weekends. My non-traditional work schedule has some benefits.
Up, up and away. Hot is right. Within 20 minutes, my cycling kit was soaked through with sweat. The high humidity affected my cooling and I found myself walking because it was just too hot.

 The original plan was to ride all the way to Blue Jay Campground and back, but it wasn't going to happen in the heat. I pulled the plug at Cocktail Rock and enjoyed the 6 mile descent back to the trail head.

Basically, I'm squeezing training in wherever I can. Since I'm still "training" at work, I'm bouncing between parks my hours constantly change. I should be done and onto my own schedule in 3-4 weeks, but I'm not counting on anything until I have it in writing. I'm really looking forward to settling into something resembling a routine so I can get back into a training groove where I'm happy.

Back to "work".


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Climb Mt. Whitney: check

Let's back up a bit...

The third week of May marked the end of my sentence, err training, in Monterey. We did the whole graduation thing, the Parks Director pinned a shiny star on my jacket, I packed up and got the hell out. Holly and I rolled in to San Diego at about 11PM that night and collapsed on the bed. Done.

Earlier that week, Dan had flown a message on Facebook that his climbing partner for Whitney blew his knee out (chronic injury got worse) and he needed a fill-in or he'd be forced to stay home. Whitney permits are a little difficult to come by, I'd always wanted to do it (it was on the "Bucket List"), I had the time and the money. I ran it by Holly since it was the weekend after I just got home from 8 months in Monterey and she gave me the go-ahead: "Do it."

I sent Dan a message, spent WAY too much on gear and last Friday, I pulled into Lone Pine to meet up with him. I'd never done any mountaineering, but I'm pretty fit, I've done solo backpacking and used to rock climb pretty aggressively. Besides, it's just walking, right?

I met Dan in Lone Pine around noon and we hit the local grocery for last minute supplies. I followed him up to the trail head (Whitney Portal) and we did one last gear check before hitting the trail. 
At 8360 feet elevation, I could feel the altitude just walking around the parking lot. It would get MUCH worse.
We weighed our packs on the hanging scale at the trail head just for giggles: me 53 lbs, Dan 55 lbs. Yikes! Onward and upward; the trail started off fairly steep and got steeper from there. With the warm temps, we were both sweating under the load of our packs.
Plenty of high step-ups to negotiate; not easy carrying 30% more weight than your legs are used to.
Still, there were plenty of beautiful views to take our minds off the workload. I lost track of the number of times we stopped to take pictures or just take in the views.
The hiker in front is jut for perspective, that's not Dan. The trail traverses above the granite slab in the background and through the valley between the peaks. Whitney itself is just over the ridge above the hiker in the foreground. Yeah, a looonnng way up.
The granite cliffs flanking the valley provided an amazing backdrop for the hike in.
Dan and I turned out to both be John Muir fans. No choice but to stop and geek out a bit at the entrance to the John Muir Wilderness. It's also quite the symbolic entry into the back country. You're a long way from help back here.
With record snow fall this past Winter and Spring, the Sierra snow pack is about 160% of normal. It wasn't long before we began encountering significant snow fields. With the late start and the warm temps, the snow wasn't holding our weight and we began "post-holing", which slowed our progress considerably and took much more effort to get through than I had anticipated.
We were still having a good time at this point; we were enjoying the views and just happy to be out there. Dan's all smiles.
Amazing waterfall. Lots of water running in the streams and creeks makes for dramatic waterfalls.
Sweet view! Lone Pine Lake in the foreground with the Owens Valley below.
We pushed hard, but did not make it to our planned campsite, Trail Camp. Instead, we stopped at Mirror Lake (not supposed to camp there) due to the lack of open room at Outpost Camp just below us. With all the snow, finding a spot on actual dirt proved challenging. We persevered and found enough room. however. We pulled in late (5:30) and debated pushing up to Trail Camp, bu a group that summited that day advised against it saying trail camp was very cold and windy, miserable in fact. We took their advice and stayed put. It turned out to be good advice as the wind began gusting strongly and increased throughout the night and into the morning. We started out summit trip Saturday morning by climbing the snow/ice field in the middle of the photo. A trial by fire for me considering I've never used crampons or an ice axe before. Yikes!
Mirror Lake mostly frozen; our water source for the trip.
Saturday we headed for the summit. It turned out to be way harder than I thought it would be. The first snow field directly across from Mirror lake looked short enough, but it took us almost 50 minutes to climb it. I didn't know it, but I was in for a long day.
We eventually made it to where the trail side meadow should be, but it remains covered by several feet of snow and ice. Consultation Lake (below) is no different. Hard to believe it's almost June and there's still this much snow on everything.
The push up the snow chute up to the John Muir Trail junction and the ridge line was a nasty one. It's, by far, the hardest part of the trip and climbs about 1500 feet in a very short distance. Despite our fitness, it took us two hours to reach what is called "the notch" or "Trail Crest". I can only begin to describe the suffering; 20 steps, 20 breaths...repeat for 2 hours. The progress was frustratingly slow and the lack of available oxygen only made it worse. Half way up, Dan carved out a ledge in the snow for a seat. When I got to him , he got up and let me rest. My calves and feet burned like fire from climbing the steep slope in crampons. I silently thanked the REI Salesperson for recommending a boot with a stiff sole. I eventually gave up my precarious seat and went back to my task. Step, step...move the ice axe. Breathe, drink. Repeat.

At long last, Trail Crest!    
Here we paused long enough to remove our crampons and take in the views we worked so hard to attain. The pictures hardly do it justice and a panoramic video only hints at the beauty. Here's a pretty sweet 360 VR pano I found: 360 Pano
North West into Sequoia National Park. I think that's Crabtree Lakes in the foreground. Guitar Lake is just off the screen to the right, behind the point.
West into Sequoia National Park. Friggin' gorgeous!
Back down the valley we came up from. Consultation Lake just visible in the right foreground.
North towards Mt. Whitney. Not sure if it's the middle or far peak on the left. Still a ways off.

I was hurting for sure by this time. I was tired, had a headache, was pretty nauseated and could tell I was way low on cals...and then I ran out of water. With the closest water source at Consultation Lake and about 45 minutes before we even reached the summit, I knew I getting back would be very difficult to say the least. I don't think he knew it, but when I asked Dan how far to the summit, I was mentally deciding if it was time to bail on the summit and head for some water. Luckily, Dan had enough water to share some, but it would be close for us to make the summit and make it back to water. Moreover, it was getting late (12:45-ish) and we still had to hike all the way back to camp. With increasing wind speeds (65-75 mph gusts) and snow forecast, it was decision time. Spending the night on the ridge line or at Trail Camp would be ugly.

We needed to pick up the pace so Dan suggested we ditch our main packs. We put our crampons back on, I took a small summit pack with just some emergency supplies, Dan grabbed his camera and water bottle and we and went for it. Game on.

I could tell we were making better time with the lighter load. Finally, we hit the last snow field on the back side of the peak. Soon I heard Dan yell out: "There's the hut!". I looked up and there it was. The peak!
It was blowing HARD up on the peak, Dan went over to the summit register and we both signed it. He went about snapping photos and I plopped down on the lee side of the hut. I was smashed. Dan shared more of his water with me and I eventually realized I was on top of the highest point in 48 states. I set about taking my own photos.
Back down the valley toward Lone Pine. I didn't get closer to the edge because of the wind.
Muir Hut!
Sequoia National Park.

 Yeah, it's high. Still seems a bit surreal.

We spent about 30 mins on the summit, relaxing and taking pictures. We headed started the journey down at about 2 PM, 7 hours after leaving camp that morning. Most people had already summited and we knew we were close to the last people coming down. It occurred to me we, possibly, had no one behind us to help if we got in trouble. Kind of a sobering thought, really. We hiked back down to our packs, re-shouldered them and trekked back to the "notch". We took our crampons back off for the trip down the tough snow chute climb; this time, we'd make it down in 5 minutes; glissading! Imagine a snow slide with a 1000' vertical drop and you get the idea. Adult-sized fun! A fellow climber summed it up: " I wanna go again! That was fun, but it feels like Mr. Frosty just had his way with me." Quote of the trip.

Alas, the fun had to end. By now it was late in the day and the snow had softened considerably. As smashed as we were, post-holing was taking a huge toll on our bodies as was the dehydration. I'd walk/stumble as far as I could until I thought I was going to vomit and then take a break until the waves of nausea passed. Not fun. Add to that the 65-75 mph wind gusts and it made for extremely slow going. Dan won the "deepest post hole" award when he sank all the way to his groin in the snow. You get the idea.

Finally, we were close enough to Consultation Lake that Dan pushed ahead to see if he could find water for us. I could see him below me trying to figure out how to get through the ice and not break through and fall into the water. I caught up to him and plopped down on some rocks where he was looking at drinking from a snow melt pool when he spied a small snow melt waterfall nearby. He filled a bottle dropped the bleach in to treat it and we both sipped the cold, delicious liquid. Saved!

Again, time was not our friend and we had to press on before dark and before the snow blew in. After a final, tricky descent we made it back to camp and threw ourselves to the ground. Exhausted. I heard Dan moving about re-securing his tent that had blown over during the day, while I made some weak gatorade from the lake. Cold, tired and nauseated, I changed out wet clothes for dry and climbed into my sleeping bag to warm up. I fell asleep from the ordeal and awoke 30 mins later feeling much better. Dan had also fallen asleep without meaning to. We made dimmer and ,eventually, the gusty winds drove us into our beds. Unfortunately, a good night's rest was not in the card; Mother Nature had other plans for us.

HOWLING winds all night long. Several times I thought the nearby trees were about to fall on us or that my tent would rip apart from the winds. Around 1100, I heard it the unmistakable sound of snow falling on my tent. The winds were strong enough during the night to blow snow under my tent's rain fly and through the mesh of the inner tent. By morning, I had a small pile of snow inside my tent and a 1" snow drift against my tent. We both only slept about an hour at a time, but sleep we did. I awoke Sunday morning to clear skies, weakening wind gusts and fresh snow on the ground. Perfect!
Sunrise! Oh yeah!
Dan finally got up and I debated out loud if to make breakfast or not. Dan mentioned breakfast in town and I was hooked. Let's go. 

From the cold tamps the night before, the snow had hardened considerably, which made the trip down exponentially faster than the day before. Soon we were out of the worst of the snow and back onto dirt. Not before spying a few, last winter reminders. 
The scenery still amazes me.

We made it back to the trail head in a few, short hours, but not before one, last snow flurry to remind us who was really in charge. We packed up and hit the local cafe for breakfast. More disappointment: no pancakes after 11 and it was already noon. Dammit. Luckily, they serve breakfast all day; we chowed down.

After lunch we said our goodbyes and I hit the road. 

I'm stoked to check this one off my bucket list. People in the parking lot were mirroring the challenges we had faced: lots of soft snow, losing the route, emergency bivvy sack use and even shacking up with strangers while waiting out the weather. I'd love to go back in the Summer and see all the trees and plants green and the lakes  in the unfrozen state. 

Hope you enjoyed the story and the pics. The rest of the pics are here. There's just too many to show on the 'blog.   

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
-John Muir



Sunday, April 24, 2011


I'm putting together a presentation for work and I needed some plant/nature photos. I put out the call for help to the online community last week, but using my own shots feels better than getting them off the web. The photographers that I've been working with have been more than generous with their time and property rights. Thanks to everyone that's been helping me out.

I was able to re-hab the MTB from last month's race (braks pads F and R, F brake bleed cleaning etc) and decided to grab the camera and see what I could do on my own. It's been beautiful in Monterey all week and I woke up Sunday morning to cold temps, wind and light drizzle. Great. Nothing for it but grab a jacket and HTFU. 

Lucky for me, the recent rain meant tacky trails (woot!) and flowers blooming everywhere. I spent quite a bit of time snapping pics and just enjoying being out on the dirt after way too long of a lay-off.

Black Sage (Salvia mellifera). This stuff was going CRAZY.
California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)...I think. Feel free to correct me if I have the plants wrong.
There were entire hillsides absolutely covered in these purple flowers. No idea what they are, though.
Poison Oak! (Toxicodendron diversilobum). The water on the leaves is from the rain Tons of this stuff all over the place as well. Some of it growing right next to and even reaching out over the trail itself with leaves as big as the palm of my hand. Crossing my fingers and hoping I don't get a reaction. There's so much of it up here, I'm thinking of buying some PO soap just as a precaution. Yuck.
Overcast, windy and rainy all day, but I didn't care I was so glad to be out riding. I started from the west end of Fort Ord, hooked up with the Sea Otter Cat 1 course, did a loop and headed back. Lost some data, but probably 30+ miles and about 3:20 or so with all the stops. No hurry, just chillin'.

I was so blow away by how green everything was. I've been locked up in my room for so long that I totally missed the transition from Winter to Spring. Well Spring is here with a vengeance and I'm going to make sure I get out and start enjoying it!
Black Sage blooming all over the place. Crazy!

That's it for now. One more week of interpretive training complete with a test and 20 minute presentation, followed by 3 weeks of first aid and rifle training (woot!) and then 2-weeks of VACATION! I can't wait.