Monday, June 23, 2008

Fearsome Creatures

Jasmine is always signing up for some class or another. Her latest is boxing. Don't mess with Jasmine, folks. She knows what she's doing, and, though I have yet to find out for sure, I suspect if she had to, she'd fight dirty.

I'm going to make sure our chocolate supply never gets too low. One can't be too careful.
Avery sure likes to play with the gloves too. She goes from "sweet little princess" to "little ball of rage" in 6 seconds. Daddy's so proud. :-)
Oh, and when Avery's got the gloves on....beware of the low-blow.

In other news... I saw a cougar today! I've lived here almost 14 years, I've been up in the forest zillions of times, and today was the first time I've seen a cougar. I was out on a short run over lunch, and there it was, right on the gravel road between Dimple Hill and Lewisberg Saddle. At first I didn't see it well, as it was around a bend in the road, partially obscured by trees. I thought it was someone's dog - maybe a golden lab or something. Then I figured it was a coyote. I came around the corner and it was maybe 100 feet away from me, casually running away from me. I realized it clearly didn't run like a coyote, and it was far too big to be a bobcat. Then it turned sideways and I got a good look at it. I could see every muscle in it's leg! Yikes. Just like the cougar at the zoo, except without double layered fence. Luckily it didn't take any interest in me, and didn't seem the least bit aggressive or threatening. Except for, you know, the frayed and bloody shoelace dangling from it's fangs.

About this time I asked myself why I was still jogging. I stopped, picked up some rocks, and waved my arms like a moron. I heard you're supposed to wave your arms to make yourself look big or something. By this time the cougar was long gone, of course, but I figured it couldn't hurt. I am sort've glad nobody saw me though.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Daisy Dash and Mt Hood Climb

Saturday Avery raced the Daisy Dash 1km. A few weeks ago she noticed a poster in a window advertising the run. “Daisy Dash” and “Kids Run” jumped out, and she immediately asked if she could do it. It turned out to be a really cool event. Proceeds go to Girls on the Run of Willamette Valley, and it’s held in Willamette Park, along the river in South Corvallis. There’s a 5k run and a 1k run.

At breakfast she asked what the “healthiest” breakfast was. She wanted to know what I ate before a race. So together we had oatmeal, shared an English muffin, and some fruit. Last night at dinner she ordered mac-n-cheese, because she wanted to “Carbo-load”. She probably would’ve ordered that anyway, or course, but last night she had extra reasons.

We pinned on Avery's number (179) and she lined up at 9:00 AM, with about 9 other kids, for the 1 km run. I think she was the smallest kid there, but it didn’t seem to bother her. Benny the Beaver held up the starting horn, and before I knew it they were off. The kids all started at a full sprint, with Avery holding on at the back of the pack. I watched the pack of kids blaze by, as Avery found her pace and settled in. She passed another girl as she disappeared down the path toward the turnaround point.

It was kind of strange waiting for Avery and the other kids to hit the turnaround and come back up the path. This was Avery’s first run without me tagging along. It was weird knowing she up off “by herself” a half kilometer away. But soon enough, the kids started showing up on the return trip, and before long Avery was speeding my back toward me. She was still running, and had passed a few more kids. When she saw me, she knew she was close to the finish, and she kicked into a faster gear, pushing herself full speed the last hundred yards or so to the finish. She ended in 6th place, and was pretty thrilled. She had a huge smile at the finish line, and happily boasted about running the entire-way non-stop, and about the "tons" of people she passed along the way. After catching her breath, she said she wished it’d been a 2 km run, instead of "just one".

For the record, I’m pretty careful not to push Avery to run or race. I’d never “train” her or anything like that. But it’s pretty cool to see how she just loves to run – around the backyard, up and down the trails when we’re on a hike, “racing” the dog while he’s chasing the Frisbee - and how she wants to run races just like her daddy does. She’s certainly got a competitive streak in her as well. Whether it’s racing, playing Chutes and Ladders, or anything else, losing it’s something that she likes to do.

Sunday was Fathers’ day. I started the day with an 11 mile run in Dunn Forest. Afterwards, Jas and Avery joined me on a great little hike at Fitton Green, a great little area of Oak Savannah, with fantastic views of Mary’s peak and the Willamette valley, just west of Corvallis. Jasmine made a great picnic lunch for us, and the sun came out and made for a warm, sunny hike. The rest of the day was spent at home, doing some gardening, and packing for a climb up Mt Hood.

At 9:30 pm, my friend Todd, his brother-in-law Raymond, and friend Warren, picked me up, and we drove up to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood. At about 12:30 AM, we started climbing, leaving the from the lodge at 6000 ft, aiming for the 11,200 foot summit, slogging up the snowfields on the edge of the ski area. It’s a long, dull slog for the first few hours, until reaching the top of the ski area, and leaving the busy snow-cats behind. From the top of the lifts at about 8600 feet, we angled left, leaving the busy Southside route, instead aiming for West Crater Rim - a much more interesting, less crowded, and fun route to the summit. As an added bonus, there's a few hundred feet of wonderfully steep climbing from the crater floor to the crater rim.
As we angled up and left, we watched the moon set, turning from white to orange to crimson, its shape distorting into bizarre configurations, until it dropped into the hazy horizon. Not long after the sun set, a glow appeared to the East, behind the mountain, as morning drew near.

Around 4:30 AM, we stopped, not far from the base of the crater wall, to re-fuel, put on crampons, and rope up. We kicked some platforms out of the snow to sit down on. The snow conditions were pretty interesting – about 3-4” of rock solid, well frozen crust covered a deep layer of unconsolidated sugary snow. As long as conditions stayed cold and the crust held firm, we were in good shape, but I certainly didn’t want to be out there if things warmed up and melted the crust, as that would create perfect avalanche conditions. This kept me nervous enough that I didn’t let us spend too much time taking any breaks. We climbed past frozen remnants of recent avalanches, that reminded me to keep moving.

As we started again, roped together now, I led us up the wall of the crater, followed by Raymond, Todd, and Warren. I picked the most fun (i.e. steepest) line I could, reaching the crater rim as directly as possible via snow and ice. It was actually quite a bit steep than I remember from years ago, and the climbing was quite fun. Before long, though, I got a bit nervous about taking novice climbers up such a steep section, so I worked really hard kicking steps – breaking through the hard crust – making a staircase up the slope. Near the top, I came across a solid patch into which I couldn’t kick steps. It was a blast front pointing up this, but I as I topped out on the ridge, I was sure to set up a bomb-proof anchor so Raymond and the other guys would be well protected across the ice section.

The guys definitely picked up quickly on proper use of crampons and ice axes, and after some practicing below, looked pretty comfortable, and perhaps even competent, up the slope.
Once on the crater rim, the slope eased off a lot, and we slowly traversed below and to the right of the cliffs forming the crater rim. Raymond was a wee bit tired by this point, but he impressively kept at it, often taking several steps at a time between periods collapsed in a heap over his axe. But a combination of supportive encouragement from above, and manhood challenging name-calling from below, kept him properly motivated to push on.
I really enjoyed this easy, but beautiful section of the climb, as we paralleled the rime ice covered cliffs, all the way to the summit ridge. I chose to stay along the crater rim all the way, rather than veering right to merge with the standard South Side route. It not only kept us out of the way of the crowds, but added a cool traverse along the summit ridge before reaching the true summit.

The weather stayed cool, and we were finished the climb to the summit ridge while it was still in the shade, and conditions stayed wonderfully firm. As we topped out on the summit ridge, we were greeted to full sun. The traverse along the ridge to the true summit was pretty cool, and at around 8:30 am we reached the summit itself. We had a nice break, scarfed down some food, and took a few pictures, until the cold and wind finally drove us from the top. I was glad that it had stayed cold, which gave us plenty of time still to safely descend. We headed down the normal South side route for the descent. It’s interesting to see how things have changed over the last few years, as what used to be the easiest, most direct chute to ascend/descend has gotten much steeper, and the normal route now follows the a different gully through rime covered upper rocks. We descended in the opposite order – Warren leading the way, and me bringing up the rear. The snow was solid, and we had an easy descent down to the Hogsback, where we unroped and removed crampons, helmets, and harnesses. I was happy to be back down before the heat of the day.

From here it was a LONG slog back to Timberline, as always. By 11:00, we were back at the car, and by 11:45 we pulled into the Ice Axe Grill in Government camp. We were briefly horrified at the CLOSED sign, but just as we about to pull away, a waiter flipped the sign over and waved us in. Now THAT was a close call.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I was up for about 35 straight hours from Sunday morning until Monday afternoon. Huh.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

TMI 50 Miler

It's less than 6 weeks now until Tahoe. I'm almost, sortve, kind've starting to feel something resembling confidence. Probably it's due to equal parts part solid training, ignorance, and self delusion.
Yesterday I went out with a group of locals for a 50+ mile training run, featuring a great route laid out by the Trail Meister. We started early (5:30 am) with Sander, Todd, Scott, Dave and I ("Team Tahoe") accompanied by Dennis and William (who got up super early to drive over from Aumsville). After ~28 miles we exchanged Dennis and Dave for John and Ken, who's fresh legs led to a faster pace, and made me want to trade them back in for Dave and Dennis.

The first 28 mile section had a whole lot of everything -sunshine, drizzle, wet feet, long climbs, steep descents, slogging through freshly logged timber, miles of singletrack, a bit of bushwacking. Which was nice, but I'm afraid the only lasting memory I'll have is of the Poison Oak. I've never seen, sidestepped, jumped over, ducked under, and pushed through so much of the evil weed in my life. After a while I nearly gave up trying to avoid contact all together, but instead tried to focus on at least saving my favorite and most useful body parts from the dreaded plants' oils. Despite a triple Tec-nu scrub down after the run, I suspect I'll be cursing the damn plant for the next couple weeks.

On the bright side, the Wasabi peas made for a nice snack. Todd, especially, seemed to enjoy them.

In between dodging Poison Oak, we worked on our racing skills; specifically, I think we've mastered the NASCAR inspired drafting - sling shot technique ("Shake & Bake!").

Other than the fact the I could've used a few gas-x pills at around mile 40, I felt pretty good (meaning no specific pain stood out from the others). By mile 50, the internal bubbles had passed, the ibuprofen had kicked in, and I managed to push it pretty hard downhill for four miles to the car. I figure if I feel like that at mile 54 at Tahoe, I'll at least be able to get to mile 55, and work something out from there.

In total, The run ended up being about 54 miles, with 10,500 feet of gain and descent. Unless you're Sander, for whom 54 miles wasn't nearly enough, and you chose to take a long way back to the car. For all I know he's still out there running today. He looked as fresh at mile 50 as at mile 5.

After the run I had a "2-bagger" ICE bath, and a double decker Salmon burger with a big salad topped with a can of black beans. Life is good.

This week I'm planning to have a step back week for recovery, followed by another two weeks of high mileage and some speed work, before tapering down before Tahoe.