Saturday, December 19, 2009

Alexander Ridge to Lambs Canyon

Yesterday was an adventure! The short version goes as follows: Elk-1 Me- a big gash on the leg.

Long version is as follows:
I have a tag for a late season cow elk hunt that ironically encompasses the first 50 miles of the Wasatch 100 Course, the south-eastern boundary being I-80(Parleys Canyon) and a mile above the Lambs Canyon exit. So... to spend some off season time on the Course, and because that's where the elk are commonly found during the winter, Rich and I headed over to Alexander Springs to see what we could find.The elk were in abundance, but unfortunately, so were the hunters and all the elk we saw were running and miles away. That was no deterrent and we kept following the elk up canyon along the Wasatch course from Alexander to Lambs. As fit as we think we are, two legs with a 20 lb pack and a rifle in 18 inches of snow is no match for 4 legs and we didn't get remotely close. Regardless, it was a beautiful morning and just good to be outside.

Admitting defeat, Rich and I started our way back to the truck. There is a spot on the Course where the Lambs aid station is in sight and looks oh so close. You can see the volunteers bustling around, hear the occasional shout and cowbell as you come into sight and the adrenaline kicks in. A newcomer to the Course may think it's only 1/2 mile, but in reality the trail takes a hairpin turn back up canyon and takes you another 3/4 of a mile up canyon before turning back down to the aid station.

Rich and I were feeling a bit pooped, so at the hairpin turn, we just walked off the berm with the intent of cutting cross country through the snow and scrub oak, and avoiding the extra 1 1/2 miles of trail. Bad Decision. 5 feet down the hillside, my right leg started sliding on the 40 degree slope, my left leg bent so I could squat back and not pitch head first into the scrub, and I felt my left knee scrape over some snow covered rocks. Just a scratch and maybe a bruise I thought...until I looked down at the surgical style slice in my pant leg. Oh oh, probably more than just a scrape. I scrambled back up to the trail to assess the damage and this is what I found:

Oddly enough, it didn't hurt, and since we still had an hours walk to the truck, I rummaged through my first aid kit, pulled out my leatherman and 3/0 gut suture and went to work. Rich was offering all sorts of encouraging advice like "What the Hell? Oohhhh, I think I'm going to puke. You can't do that to yourself! I gotta call Lisa (his wife) to come pick us up cuz there's no way you're walking out on that", etc.Well, we made it out in fine form, I was only 1/2 hour late for family pictures (the last family pictures we had I crashed snowboarding 2 hours before and smashed my nose. At least this one wasn't visible) and I even managed to get a short run in today and the sutures held.

I hope that come Sept 10, 2010, things go a little smoother from Alexander to Lambs.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Balance UNICEF “Magic” Shoes – Your Vote Needed

I love surprises! And this week, I had the most amazing surprise – I received a pair of UNICEF branded New Balance MT100 racing flats. What, UNICEF partnering with New Balance you ask?? No, these are a one-of-a-kind, hand painted shoes by shoe artist YK.

First, some context. Then, what I need from you.

Several months ago my running friend Christian offhandedly suggested that I should try to run a sub four-hour, 50K trail race. He went on to advise that the perfect course for this would be the Goblin Valley 50K. Knowing that I would need every advantage to break four hours, I purchased a pair of 7.8oz New Balance MT100 racing flats. While I couldn’t quite get under four hours (4:05), I found the shoes magical.

I found the shoes so magical that I couldn’t help showing people at work. For the most part colleagues were polite and compliant when I said, “Hold them! See how light they are!!” Though, something about their facial expressions and how they held the shoes with extended arms suggested they didn’t fully appreciate the magic.

After four years with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF I’m moving to a new opportunity that will give me more time for family, running and skiing. This past week my team held a going away party for me.

You’ve been there. It’s the requisite work good-bye party with gift. You know the moment is coming where you get the gift and that you can’t let your face reveal how you feel about the wall plaque that you will never hang, that crystal something that you will never take out of its box, or the book of quotes and sentiments that you know just aren’t real (I find these books are problematic in that they raise the question, “if they really felt this way about me – why were they such a&&holes to me??”)

So it’s that moment, and I’m handed a wrapped gift the size of a shoebox. On top, a Barbie doll has been tied down with gold ribbon. I release Barbie from her bondage, remove the wrapping paper, and open the box. Brilliantly branded UNICEF shoes in cyan blue!! OMG? But how? From where? What does Barbie have to do with anything?? So many questions race through my mind.
We’ll the story is this… My brilliant colleagues wanted to give me something that represented my passions; running + UNICEF. “Magic” shoes adorned with the UNICEF branding work that has been so much of my life the past four years - simply f’n brilliant!! To do this, they commissioned YK to create a one-of-a-kind UNICEF shoe just for me! Definitely check out this link

But here’s my dilemma – and what I need from you. Should the UNICEF “Magic” shoes be displayed in my new office, a timeless icon that will remind me of the great people I worked with at the U.S. Fund. Or, should I race in the shoes, and feel that those with whom I worked so closely are right there with me on the trail, literally experiencing in a down and dirty way the joy that running brings me. What is your vote?

Thank you to all of my colleagues at UNICEF and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. The past four years have been the best four years of my professional career – largely in part because of you. It has been a privilege to work with you to create a world where no child dies of a preventable cause. Know that I, Jay Aldous, Believe in Zero

Sunday, December 6, 2009

North Face Endurance Challenge; Last – and best - race of the year

Being married, like ultra-running has its is challenges. Being married for 25 years… Well, let’s just go straight to an ultra-running cliché – there are highs and lows.

This past weekend I had one of those highs – being able to have the honor and privilege of running with my wife Adrienne in the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Championships in the Marin Headlands.

But first a little history… My return to ultra-running after 25 years can partly be attributed to marital tension and strife. It started a little over a year ago with the spousal nags. “Aren’t you ashamed of that spare tire around your waist? You wouldn’t be out of breath buckling your ski boots if you exercised occasionally! You used to be so much more attractive when you were fit!! Please don’t take your shirt off!!! Perhaps if you did something besides work you wouldn’t be such a grouch!!!!” So on September 6th, 2008 - I declared - “Enough!” I started running again.

Since then some cool stuff has happened. The spare tire disappeared. I can buckle my ski boots with ease. Shirts come off in the summer. I’m much more pleasant to be with. And, I have the pleasure of spending time with Adrienne running.

Over the past year we’ve done a lot of running and races together. The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 mile in New York. Jared Campbell’s Pocatello 50, Goblin Valley 50K, Moab Extreme XC 50K and the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco. Together we’ve had fun – and along the way we both have been getting faster.

So for our final race of the year, I asked Adrienne if I could pace her in an effort to place in the women’s masters’ category. Few people know this, but pre Jay, Adrienne was an accomplished marathoner winning in Las Vegas and placing in Athens (Greece – not Georgia) and Phoenix. Beneath the veneer of running for health, pleasure and socializing – there is a competitive Adrienne.

As the starting time approached, spousal differences began to surface. I like to get to a race 30 minutes before the start. Adrienne likes to arrive 5 minutes early. I’m all about a hearty breakfast. Adrienne has a sensitive stomach. I like to run light. If there is something she might need, she likes to carry it. I LOVE my Armani running shirts. Adrienne thinks I look like an idiot. I say go out fast and hang on. She likes to go out slow and bring it on. My philosophy is that the pacer is in charge. She thinks the one being paced is in charge. The beginning of a 50K, when you will be spending the next six hours together, is not the time or place for disagreements of this import and significance!

At the sound off the horn we were off. Each of us trying to show our point of view was correct; the pride behind our beliefs driving us along at a blistering pace. Aid station #1 at 4 miles – 32 minutes. Aid Station #2 at 8.2 miles – 1:08. Who was going to be the first to suggest we slow down and follow our plan to run 11:30 miles that would give us a sub six hour finish and a good shot at being the top women’s master?

As we brought down the pace and reconciled our differences, we shared the agreement that the Marin Headlands are a magical place to run; sweeping ocean vistas, lush forest with redwoods and ferns, flora and smells that are new to us. As we got into a steady pace we enjoyed each other’s company and celebrated how fortunate we are to be together - and running together.

At Aid Station #4 at 19.1 miles we started down the backside of the curve of euphoria and optimism that occurs early in a race. Adrienne began to feel the effects of having gone out too fast. My right leg, which has been troubling me for the past several months, began to go numb. It would take both of us working together to finish this race with dignity in the time that we had planned

I was impressed at how strong Adrienne was on the down hills. She would drop me and pass a number of people on each descent. I would slowly catch-up with her on the ascents and pull her up to the top before she would drop me again on the next downhill. We were a good team. With three miles to go we crested the last hill and knew that a first place Masters finish was hers if we could maintain our pace. She surged towards the finish as I dug deep to keep my right leg, which somewhere around mile 20 I had named ‘Pete, the peg-legged pirate’ turning. No way in hell was she going to drop me. Marital AND male pride was now on the line!

We finished in 5:50 with Adrienne taking first place in the Masters category and fifth overall. Adrienne bettered her time from the previous year by 1:10! Even peg-legged Pete beat his time from last year by 15 minutes. Our good running friend (and relative) Debra Scott, scooted along for an impressive 8:12 and her daughter Isabel, finished first in her age in the 10K component. A great day for all.

As Adrienne and I celebrated the race and the day – we acknowledged that we are a mighty fine team – both on the course and in life. Congratulations Adrienne on running a great race. And thank you Adrienne for being such a wonderful companion – both on the trail and in life….

Friday, December 4, 2009

Black Ice

This morning, Rich (aka Snuffy-as in the elusive Snuffleupagus. Much talked about but seldom seen) and I set off on another beloved Grandeur loop. The temp at the start was a refreshing 20 degrees. Add the lovely Parleys Canyon early morning gale force wind and the tears in the corner of my eyes were frozen in about 3.7 seconds. We took it easy to the top by the light of an almost full moon. Descending into Church Fork we prudently donned Yaktrax to help with the footing. Last weeks loop proved to be treacherous with long stretches of ice and I figured we'd need a little traction. The ice was so hard and so slick that we still shuffled our slow way down slipping and sliding through some sections. A couple falls, a bruised and bloody hip and a broken Yaktrax later, and I've decided my renewed weekly forays up Grandeur Peak will stop at week two until there is fresh snow or the temperature hits 65 degrees. I'd strongly advise anyone else to do the same.