Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A fine day on Timp

Chris Adams and I have been talking about getting together to run for a long time, and we finally made it happen today on little jaunt up Timpanogos, one of the best peaks around.

Chris has been running forever and been doing ultras for a while, but only last year did he do his first hundy:  The Bear, up in the Logan area mountains, where he fully crushed it.  He got into the Wasatch 100 this year, and with the race now two weeks away he’s very much gearing up for it.  It’s funny:  we were both entered in the brutal Speedgoat 50k at Snowbird but both of us were traveling too much prior to the race (Chris packed up the family truckster and did a ‘round the country tour) yet we dealt with it in different ways:  I bailed for fear of…..pretty much everything associated with doing that race unprepared, and Chris did it to jump start his training for Wasatch!  And of course did just fine. 

It’s been 4 days now since that silly Skyline marathon, and my legs were feeling sorta ok by spinning on my road bike and some easy-ish mountain biking, so I thought they’d be fine today……but alas, no.  For some reason my hamstrings are super sore, and even after talking to Colin last night about his torn hamstring and specifically saying “well, the hamstring is one of the biggest muscles in the body, so it takes a long time to heal” I then absolutely neglected my own thought and agreed to join Chris on Timp despite my sore hamstrings.  But he was kind and we weren’t in a hurry so we moseyed on up and then moseyed on down, and as ever Timp was stellar; every time I go down to Happy Valley (Provo/Orem/Alpine; one of the nation’s capitals for anti-depressant use!) I’m amazed at the relief and sheer awesomeness of that area. 
gratuitous summit shot
I’m going to pace Chris for the Big Mountain to Lamb’s Canyon section of Wasatch in a couple of weeks; should be interesting and fun, tho at only 50 mi in he’ll just be getting warmed up and I won’t have a chance to watch him dig deep. 

Chris chugging towards what will undoubtedly be a good Wasatch 100 finish in a coupla weeks
For a good tale of a recent hundy Andy Dorais just threw up a great post on his rookie experience at that impressive distance at Leadville this past weekend: Hearing his tale makes my little sore hammies seem pretty trivial! Great effort, as ever.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My 2nd Marathon

In nineteen hundred and seventy nine I, as one of the biggest middle school dorks around, decided that I wanted to run a marathon.  My ever-supportive parents didn’t know any better and therefore didn’t try to discourage me, and my middle school cross country coach – who definitely did know better! – tried to stop me, to no avail.  I was determined to be a marathoner. 

To make a long story short, I thought I actually had prepared pretty well, and perhaps I had, but the exuberance of youth put me through the halfway mark at something well-under 90 minutes, and accordingly, I slammed into The Wall quite hard and did the next 13 miles in well over 2 hours.  But I did finish.  Yet as my very concerned mom helped lower me down into a chair at the finish line, I barely-perceptibly groaned “I am never doing another marathon again.” 
"To all to whom these presents shall come"?  Huh?   Note that the signature of the county commissioner at the bottom is that of Earl Blumenauer, a longtime US Representative for Oregon who is the bicyclists biggest champion on Capitol Hill. 
a tired 9th grader
 And despite many years of running, I never did another marathon, until yesterday. 

I ran all through high school, most of college and after college, but always in the 3000 meters to 10 mi range, even though I always did better the longer the race.  When I worked for Nike I went down to Houston to work at the marathon there and ran the first 20 miles on a whim at 6 minute pace and felt fine, but couldn’t finish it because of the work commitment post-race.   A few years ago I did a great outing with Chad Bracklesberg from the Salt Lake Valley up to Brighton on trails and it was….24 miles.  And a few weeks ago we did a great run in the Teton that was…..25 miles.  But neither were that arbitrary (???) and somewhat hallowed 26.2 mile distance that somehow has embedded itself in our psyche as The Marathon.  But on Tuesday I realized that we were going to be in town this weekend and we’d been talking about doing a big run, so I looked at the SLC running geek calendar and saw that the Skyline Marathon was Saturday (all races are on Saturday in Utah) and was on familiar and excellent terrain:  starting in the beautiful Eden Valley near Ogden, climbing up onto the flanks of the impressive Ben Lomond peak, a long descent to the North Ogden Divide, a brutal-but-shorter climb up Lewis Peak, a 7 mile descent down to Pineview Reservoir, and 4 miles of flat/rolling around the reservoir to the finish.  We hadn’t run this route before but do it at least once a year as a mountain bike ride (one of the best rides around that almost no one does) so we knew – at least, on two wheels – what to expect. 

The race organizer had suggested that people come and camp at the finish line at Eden Park to avoid an unpleasant SLC wakeup time to catch the 5:15 bus to the 6am start.  We arrived just as darkness was approaching, expecting to find a small tent city, but…..we were the only ones!  As it turns out, not only is Friday night a bit of a hot time in the tiny village of Eden, but we were right across from the fire station, which in high fire season is a busy place.  But at least Ashley’s body decided to give her a good preparation for the next day’s festivities by subjecting her to a series of foot and calf cramps throughout the night.  So our pre-race sleep wasn’t quite as peaceful as we had hoped for. 

We started in the dark, but knowing that light was not far off, we elected to avoid carrying headlamps for the entire race, and as I bolted off the line for the hole shot into the singletrack to get ahead of the crowd I saw that a couple of other bolters did have headlamps, which was great until I started hyperventilating about 3 minutes in and feeling like I was about to blow the hearty breakfast pastry I had wolfed down 45 minutes prior so I had to back off the pace, let the headlamps go, and then slow a bit further due to the dim light.  Which was fine; it was a long race. 

The first climb is about 2800 feet at a pretty moderate grade, and for once I tried to be really patient and keep my enthusiasm in check and not go out too fast (hopefully I’ve learned something in the last 34 years!).  So I chugged up the climb at a very sustainable pace, sitting in 4th place, with the 3rd guy in periodic glimpsey view, let the two leaders go completely, and enjoyed the brilliant sunrise that was enhanced by the many fires in the area. 

The 6 mi descent from near the Ben Lomond summit to the North Ogden divide is a screamer on a mountain bike, and is almost as fun running.  Again I tried to be conservative but still go fast  - a delicate balance – knowing that the next descent and subsequent flats would take a hard toll.  Things were going well until I crashed; typically I only trip and crash when I’m running with Derek, but this time there was unfortunately no one around to blame except myself, and I found myself sliding on my side remarkably fast down the rocky trail.  A very quick assesment indicated little more than a couple of re-opened scabs bleeding into my too-new, too-white-anyway arm sleeves (for the sun) and off I went. 

I was about a minute behind the 3rd place guy starting the mean climb (1600 feet in 2 miles) and figured that with an effort a hair harder than I had done before I could catch him, and sure enough fairly quickly he came into sight.  Kind of like in rando racing, it’s always a bit odd to be “racing” yet actually be walking, but that’s what we were doing.  He said that someone had told him that 2nd place was 4 minutes up the trail, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps his early enthusiastic pace up the first climb might come back to haunt him a little?  I just kept “racing” (walking) up the climb, and sure enough at the top there was the 2nd place guy.  We rolled out of the aid station more or less together, and I felt like I could go a bit faster, so I asked to go by, thinking that even a little gap could result in getting out of sight due to the thick corridor of scrub oak.  That plan worked fine, until about halfway down the 7 mile descent the pounding started taking its toll on my legs and I had to back off a little.  And a little was all it took, because he came back quickly and passed me a mile above the bottom of the descent, where the dreaded flats began. 

I pulled into the aid station and saw him talking to a buddy instead of re-fueling, and made the snap decision to gulp a couple of dixie cups of water in lieu of my bottles and get out of there before he did.  How bad can the last 4 or 5 miles be when it’s 90 degrees? 

Actually, quite bad. But I also asked myself:  “What did you expect?  It’s The Marathon:  the pinnacle of joey runners’ difficult endeavors around the globe!  It’s supposed to be hard the last few miles; that’s why we joey runners do it!  Did you expect to just blast along at a fine 6 minute pace?”  Actually, yes.  But I pretty much felt like I was going backwards (maybe I should I tried that; I probably would have gone faster).  So I anticipated that guy to come roaring past me – as well as the 4th place guy – at any moment. But I finally shuffled home still holding onto my 2nd place in 3:40 (so I’m still slower than I was when I was 14!), and was given my “finisher’s medal” by a 2 year old that I will cherish for all my years (given that I still have my 1979 Portland certificate, that’s probably  - and unfortunately - not an exaggeration!).  

The winner was a nice kid named Nate Peters, who is a fairly recent transplant to UT and is a good running geek:  about 6 foot, probably140 pounds, averages 80-90 miles per week, and was turning heads at the Speedgoat race a few weeks ago as he knocked it around with the Big Boys until some shoe issues slowed him to a still-very-respectable 13th there.  He shattered the course record on Saturday by 11 minutes, finishing in 3:24, averaging an impressive 7:45/mi pace despite having a couple of relatively spectacular crashes that resulted in scrapes all over his chest and back and a bad cut in his hand.  He’ll be one to watch soon. 

Ash charged up the first climb quite well and was among the top women, but began to get plagued by the aforementioned foot and leg cramps despite copious consumption of electrolytes, salt tablets etc, and struggled the rest of the way, but overall given her relative “training” (not much) was happy she did it, and it was good prep for a 40 mile crossing of Rocky Mt national Park we are hoping to do with some friends next month. 
bad timing on the shot; caught her in the shade.   But I can guarantee that despite being awkward due to cramping, the shuffle was a fast shuffle!
The concept of running a marathon typically involves months and months of physical and mental preparation, but it seems like in this community and era of people doing lots of ultras that The Marathon has taken on a bit of a lesser stature.  But given how sore we are today, it’s still a worthy effort, regardless of what the badass ultra guys say! 

And I hope it’s not another 34 years until my next at-least 26.2 mile outing. 

Am I now worthy of the sticker?  I guess so, until I get cool enough for the one that says "26.2 is just the beginning"! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Grand Teton - The Next Generation

On August 11, 1898 William Owen, Franklin Spalding, John Shive, and Frank Peterson had the first confirmed successful summit of any of the Tetons’ major peaks when they climbed the Grand Teton and established the famed “Owen-Spalding” route (what about Shive and Peterson?  They were there too!).    On August 11, 2013  - 115 years later, to the day – the world-famous climbing brothers Tom and Paul Diegel – fresh off their recent successful ascents of ladders to pick apricots and various staircases at their respective homes, honored this foursome’s feat by doing the same! 

And truth be told, today’s outing had a bit more meaning.  Paul C Diegel, our dad, climbed the Grand sometime before he met our mom, and they met in 1950.  And as we were growing up this photo:
 of our dad, looking oh-so-badass high atop the Grand Teton, graced the walls of our humble home in Portland.  I think it’s probably safe to say that this photo had a singularly significant influence in Paul Jr and I being intrigued by the concept of a life spent bopping around the mountains (and, as it turns out, our dad’s climbing career ended some years later after a harrowing day on the adjacent Mt Owen when a lightning storm-turned-snowstorm rattled them so badly that our dad got home and declared mountaineering an asnine activity and that he was absolutely done with it!).    But for a variety of reasons, the summit of the Grand remained elusive to next generation of the Diegels;  I made an attempt in nineteen hundred and ninety two, and though we were tantilizingly close to the summit we – wisely, at that time – bailed due to moving too slowly.  And despite that fact that we now live only 4 ½ hours away – vs the 800 miles that we and our dad had to travel from Oregon to get to the Tetons - we never really put it together to come up to match our dad’s feat. 

And even at that, were almost denied this time:  on our drive up to Jackson Paul’s knee went from a little achy from thumping up Mill Creek on his bike the day before to quite painful, and a planned run up Paintbrush Canyon turned into a short walk as he hobbled back home.  We waited another day to see if it would improve, and since I had read somewhere that climbing Teewinot:

was good training for the Grand I thought I’d go ahead and get my “training” done the day before our planned Grand ascent by charging up that (super good scramble; anywhere else and it would be a classic; as it is, it’s “average” relative to its location).

The most common way that the Grand is climbed is to hike up Garnet Canyon with big backpack full of climbing gear, food, and camping stuff to set up a “base camp” on day one (or pay Exum Mountain Guides a lot of money to get guided and stay in their huts at the 11,000 foot Lower Saddle) summit the next morning, descend, break camp, and head down in the afternoon.  However, being somewhat averse to slow plodding and sore shoulders from heavy packs, we felt that an early start, light packs with minimal climbing gear, and a good marching pace from the valley floor should put us on top and back down in a pretty reasonable day.  Paul’s knee was feeling a little better – at least, going uphill; we’ll worry about the down later!  - so we gave it a go. 
Hiking up Garnett Canyon towards the lower saddle

"Really?  soloing up that left horizon?  really?"
However, despite the intimidating view from the lower saddle, and like all things that require a long wait, the actual climb of the Grand was a bit anticlimatic; although the GT and the adjacent peaks have a ton of amazing lines to climb, we did the OS route which is notably the easiest, and it turned out to simply be another pleasant day of romping in the mountains. A nice longish hike with a little bit of scrambling:

 and about 2 minutes of pretty airy traversing, with of course sublime views in every direction.

some of the terrain that Jason, Jared, and I ran across a few weeks ago

the backside of Teewinot and the easy part of the Cathedral Traverse from there to the top of the Grand
 We decided to not bring much climbing gear besides a harness (to poach a line to rappel down) because most of the beta we got from folks that the route was very soloable, and so it was.    Not surprisingly, a mid-August weekend with a favorable weather forecast meant that we would be sharing our wilderness experience with plenty of other people, but it wasn’t too bad and as always we bumped into a few friends:   Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf with BD’s QC manager Kolin Powick were there on a successful mission to finally get Peter’s son on top of the peak, and the venerable Jack Tackle was also up high, where he thrives best. 

The Tetons are amazing, and our hats are off to the 1898 ascenteers for being the first to realize the potential that those incredible mountains represent.  And the brothers Diegel are pleased to finally fulfill our destiny – ala Luke Skywalker – by summiting more than 60 years after our dad did. 
Here’s to ya, pop; thanks for the inspiration. 

A few more pics:
Nowhere is safe from I-phone diddling.....

Even the most badass of climbers do it, apparently...

Or yapping on said phone....
ah, Dad would be so.....uh.....proud!? of his cool sons.....

According to Ash:  "There's always a bear on the lower switchbacks!"
I read somewhere that climbing the Grand was a good warmup for canoeing on Jenny Lake; glad we followed protocol!

Friday, August 9, 2013

A luminary sighting in the Tetons

Team Diegel – including Ma Ginnny – arrived in the Tetons last night for a few days of recreation.  The ever-gracious Drew Hardesty again offered up his cabin, that has the official Best Porch View In The World:
Few better places to enjoy a coupla cups o' tea....

On the way up last night we saw a copy of the Jackson Hole Daily News, which had as it’s headline that Sally Jewell was in town discussing the prospect of a federal purchase of private land inholdings within Grand Teton National Park that are being proposed as high-end home developments.  The article is here:

I of course was excited when Sally Jewell was nominated as the Secretary of Interior; a former petroleum engineer turned financier turned the CEO of REI – and a kayaker! – as her nomination was an overdue acknowledgement of the clout that the outdoor industry  - including enthusiastic participants - has as a counter to the resource extraction industries.  And this was an example of her coming down on what I consider to be the right side of an issue that could have broader implications on the West’s federal lands.  And interesting that she’s doing so in the backyard of Wyoming’s newest luminary resident, Lynn Cheney – Dick’s non-lesbian and arch-conservative daughter – who recently moved to WY to take on their already-quite-conservative senator (ala UT’s supremely embarassing putzhead Mike Lee). 

So this morning as I snozed (or maybe doozed) on Drew’s porch as the first rays of light were hitting the summit of Teewinot there was a bit of activity of cars rolling in and out of the driveway heading into the rangers’ cabin area and people piling out of the various cars.  In addition to the gratuitous buttoned-down, gun-toting ranger and a handful of other folks was a lean, 50-something woman who was fairly clearly leading the charge, and when she saw me she marched over to the porch, stuck out her hand, and said “Hi. I’m Sally Jewell.” To which I responded “I know!”  and, at the risk of sounding too cheeky, I quickly added “we are all really excited to having you represent us in Washington.”  She was getting out for a quick hike up to a nice lake before she had to catch a flight  - hopefully to another national park! – and had gotten a good entourage of folks to join her. 

We chatted briefly and I told her I was in the outdoor footwear biz, and was given a good lesson in the power of perception by powerful people when – totally without looking down – said “how can you be in the footwear business with your toes that hammered!”  A very good question! My mind reeled with the many western land issues that I felt like I should use the opportunity to remind her of, and I also thought I should tell her that Drew Hardesty deserves yet another medal of honor for leaving his awesome cabin to us for use for a few days, but then she was off  - just as a drizzle was starting to fall – to get a good morning march done in one of “her” – our! – best national parks before blasting back to Washington to help defend them. 

Last week at the OR show I had the good fortune to also be introduced to Sally McCoy, who is the CEO of Camelbak and is of similar ilk to Sally Jewell .  I think it’s fairly safe to say that these two women have been the Grande Dammes of the outdoor business, and it’s nice to meet them both and get a personal sense of their well-known integrity, intelligence, and enthusiasm and know that it’s getting appreciated on an important scale. 

And of course there was yet another female luminary lurking on said excellent porch:
Ma Diegel with one of her erstwhile handlers
Two of her handlers are planning a one-day blast up the Grand on Sunday with the venerable Jeff Wogoman, much to the madam's chagrin, but it'll at least give her something tangible to worry about for most of a day.....

And speaking of the Tetons, here is Jason's account  - with better pics than mine - of our run almost-around the Tetons of a few weeks ago:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Oh Deer

I had mentioned in my previous tale of our Idaho bike tour that we had one long, challenging climb followed by a bit of late-day ridge running sans water, looking for a decent place to camp, and we were blessed with a nice little pond that was not marked on the map that was our salvation (I’m being a little melodramatic, but Ash likes to point out that I’m a food and water weeny; I get unusually twitchy when I anticipate a dearth of either or both).  When we saw this foot-deep “pond” (practically a puddle; I’m guessing that it dries up later in the year) our first concern was mosquitoes, but as it turned out our nemesis turned out to be much bigger and more ferocious:

As we threw down our bikes and started the quick process of “camping” we noticed a deer wandering around the woods near our pond.  We barely gave it much of a glance; they are pretty much large mice and we were pretty intent on bathing, rehydrating, and eating.  We were a little surprised that it stayed in our area and was clearly not afraid of us at all; you see a lot of tame deer in national parks and the like due to the plethora of people, but as mentioned earlier, we were literally in the wilderness on our bikes and usually in more remote areas deer are pretty easily spooked. 

As we finished dinner and the light waned Ash went through her nightly ritual of getting everything she wasn’t sleeping with all zipped up:  food, clothes, book, and even her helmet all went into her panniers that were closed up tightly.  I did the same with the food I had to avoid critterfeeding, but the rest of my stuff was pretty loose around the area.  No big deal. 

As the night wore on, the deer – which was sort of cute and endearing earlier – became a pretty significant problem.  It kept tromping around near by, and Ash heard it “given’er” chomping on stuff.  I mostly slept through it all – though at one point I did wake up, get up, and nearly blow out my shoulder winging a rock in the deer’s general direction – but Ash was doing a bit of battle trying to scare it away a good chunk of the night.  Finally the deer seemed to move along and she was able to get a few hours of sleep. 

When we awoke Ash went over to the pond to get some water and said “why’s your camera way over here? and your glasses are over there, and your helmet’s near the pond?” It quickly became apparent that my helmet, headbands (I was using a couple of them), and gloves were great salt licks for the deer.  It had literally stripped all the foam fit pads out of my helmet, and the great sweat repository of the chin strap was absolutely licked clean (albeit with a bit of deer slobber on it).  The deer had indeed given’er so hard on my chin strap that it had broken the buckle, so in order to make the helmet work I had to engage a bit of bailing wire:  

My gloves, which just that day had caught my gaze as I had marveled at a) how long I’d had them, and b) how incredibly tattered and gross with sweat and snot stains they were, are now very likely adding some nice purple color to some deer pellets in the area.  Amazingly, my cycling shorts were unscathed,  which is probably attributable to the fact that I had rinsed them out in the pond water and therefore doused the considerable sweat stains that had been created the day before. 

So have I learned my lesson, and will I follow Ash’s lead in the future and button up my stuff as thoroughly as she does?   Unfortunately that’s probably unlikely, but at least that deer got a rare nice evening of dining with plenty of flavor.