Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congrats Greg!

Latest issue of Ultra Running Magazine came in and familiar picture donned the cover.

Congrats Greg!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Fun

Christmas Eve started out great as I joined Erik, Peter, and Greg for a leisurely run along the shoreline.  I held back just a little because I knew would be sledding later in the day family and I knew this wouldn't be our normal kind of sledding trip we do every Christmas Eve.  Usually we head up to Mtn. Dell or Sugarhouse Park depending on the snow levels, but not this year.  This year we were invited up to Karl's Luge run.  I heard about the "sledding" run and even saw some spotty footage but I had never witnessed it for myself.  All I can say is wow!  Check out the video I took of Betsy and I chasing Karl and Cheryl down the run if you don't believe me. Good times indeed.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Two recent Milestones for me and they're not related running.

500th all-time bike race on Saturday 12/18/2010
First Backcountry ski tour 12/16/2010

A few weeks back I had an old cycling friend of mine ask me how many bike races I had done (he happened to know that I track everything).  So I did a little digging and came up with 499.  The majority of those were on the road, but it does include cyclocross, a couple of MTB races and even a couple track races on the San Diego Velodrome.  Saturday will mark number 500 at the Utah Cyclocross series final, so what did I do to prepare for it?  Read below.

It's been at least three years in the making and this last Thursday it finally happened, my first backcountry ski tour.  The trip wasn't dramatic and it didn't even come close to being a dawn patrol since we started at 1pm, but it was damn fun.  It probably seems silly that it took me so long to get it going but I have a long list of reasons why and they are mostly related to intimidation and financing.  I thought I would document what I've learned thus far and why it took so long.

1. Pick a sliding method:
Telemark, Alpine Touring, or Splitboard are your choices for travel.  I picked AT since I suck at snowboarding and learning to telemark would take more time.  I really waffled on this for a while because Tele is quite versatile, but AT won out because I'm just getting proficient at skiing and dropping a knee would just be something else I would have to overcome.  Each one of them has it's merits and I think it's safe to say that one of them doesn't rule supreme over the other two.

2. Obtain Equipment:
The list is long, expensive and intimidating.  I spent most of the 3 years cobbling together bits and pieces, using it as an excuse for why "I will just have to wait until next year".  Finally I had all the pieces I needed when I went to mount my Fritschi bindings (that were given to me) and discovered they were too small for my boots.  I was immediately crushed, but decided to liquidate the bindings as well as some other equipment I had laying around for the bindings I really wanted - Dynafit.  The feebay sale was a success and I was able to procure the bindings I really wanted all along.  I will also say here that it helps to have some friends with experience that can "guide" you down the equipment path and be willing to show you the ropes (thanks Jared! and Matt).  Without further ado, here's the list without clothing and AT specific:
  • Skis - $100 - You can go wild of course, mine are Rossignol T3's, purchased used from the UofU rec dept - These are tele skis that I mounted AT bindings on. They are really the weakest part of my package, but the easiest to upgrade and they float in the powder.
  • Bindings - $300 - Dynafit TLT Speeds - With respect to AT bindings there are really quite a few choices but Dynafit's are light, durable and hard to find in the used market (which should tell you they are in high demand).  The other popular name brand is Fritschi, but one of the downsides with them is that you have to lift a good portion of the heel piece every time you lift your heel, which is less efficient.
  • Boots - $530 - Black Diamond Methods - Again lots of choices, but just like running shoes, I was told I  should go with the pair that fit my feet.  I tried on Scarpa's, Dynafit's and Garmont's.  The BD methods aren't exactly the lightest boot around but after my first tour my feet were still happy after 4+ hours  I should also point out that you might want to choose a boot that has the Dynafit inserts in case you change your mind down the road, as happened to me.
  • Poles - $0 - Not even sure of the brand as they came with the skis.  They are adjustable, as touring poles should be, but I didn't adjust them a single time the other day.  If I had to purchase some, I would probably just go with a longer, standard ski pole.  Less moving parts means less chance of breakage.
  • Skins - $140 - G3 Nylon - I had planned on getting Black Diamond skins (the price listed) but I found a deal I just couldn't pass up and found these in good condition from a friend.
Safety Gear (UAC has a great list):
  • Avalanche Beacon - $300 - Pieps DSP - I acquired mine from a friend that no longer uses his.  The price I listed is what I had planned on spending.  Ortovox and Backcountry Access are the other popular brands.  From what I've learned thus far frequent practice is necessary and practice sites are located in the following locations: Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, Solitude, The Canyons, Deer Valley and Snowbasin.
  • Shovel - $50 - Still unsure which one I have as I believe mine is sitting under the Christmas tree (I borrowed one for my first adventure).
  • Probe - $40 - Ditto from above.
  • Backpack - $200 - Black Diamond Avalung - Not my current pack but the one I hope to obtain for next season.  My current pack is an older pack that is just big enough for an overnighter and has very easy access to the shovel and probe.
  • Avalanche Class - $250 - Level 1 certification - I'm taking this class in January.
3. Getting over The Fear Factor
Running as we do in the mountains comes with a certain amount of risk, albeit low, but covering the same terrain with snow on it increases the risk tenfold in my mind.  Education has been my tool in getting over this hurdle.  First, I have learned about much of the terrain by running over it multiple times in the last five years.  When I'm looking up at a ridge or peak I know what's on the other side or where a certain drainage empties.  Second, I'm learning about avalanche safety.  I mentioned the class above, but in addition to that, I have been checking the Avalanche Report every day since it has snowed.  Just by reading each day's forecast I have learned quite a bit about temperature gradients, wind loading etc.  Of course I have much to learn on this subject and I am an eager student.  I have had a couple of friends get caught in two different avalanches, one of them survived, while the other did not.  The threat is always there and I plan on respecting it all the time.

Finally, the actual tour.  I headed up Big Cottonwood with my friends, Clark and Jess to the Butler Fork trailhead.  From there we skinned up to Baker Pass then hit the ridge leading up to the summit of Mt. Raymond.  
Clark with Gobbler's Knob in the background.  Yes, that is a cycling team jacket from the Belgian powerhouse Mapei.  Hideous colors, but easy to spot!
I'll stop here and say, I would have never dreamed that my first tracks in the backcountry would be on the east face of Mt. Raymond. Getting there was nothing short of  a crash course in alpine touring.  Learning the little things like putting skins on, adjusting bindings for climbing and the kick turn at switchbacks.  The good news is that all that stuff got easier the more I encountered it.  
Me, with Grandeur in the Background

Jess, with Mt. Raymond in the upper right
Back to the ridge on Mt. Raymond and we finally decided to ski down once we reached a spot about 2/3 the way up.  After locking my heels down I peered over the edge and felt instant anxiety.  It looked steep and intimidating, but after Jess went and arrived at a safe spot I dropped in.  I made my first turn and the snow felt heavenly as I started bouncing from turn to turn.  By the time I stopped my face was frozen with a grin and that's when I got it.  What my friends have been telling me about for so long and why it's so much fun.  
I'm so anxious to go again I'm considering skipping the 'cross race on Saturday...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Totally Refurbished With an Effective Age of 40? I Hope So!

Today I had a great run. Yeah, it was only six miles. And yes, I only ran a 13-minute per mile pace. But REMARKABLY, I felt good! You see, it’s been a tough year for me. I’ve experienced the personal health version of "when it rains it pours"…

My deluge of health-related problems began in May when I fell climbing in Zion National Park. The fall resulted in a torn rotator cuff. At first I was hopeful that a cortisone injection and rest would be all that was needed. But after several months still no improvement.

Shortly after the fall I began experiencing pain in my groin. The pain was particularly acute when striding-out and descending. I thought I had somehow pulled something in my groin or inner right thigh. Rest, ice, and massive quantities of ibuprofen offered no relief. Ughh!

Then I learned that I was anemic. WTF?? I began taking iron supplements and changing my diet to include foods high in iron and foods that facilitate the absorption of iron.

Needless to say, I never felt good running all summer. My shoulder and arm hurt and I found myself taking spills due to the limited use of my right arm for balance. The pain in my groin nagged me and I found myself holding back on flats and descents to manage the pain. And, most days it felt like running was taking more effort and "work” than I was used to. And on some days, the pain and malaise made runs simply suck.

I desperately wanted to run the Wasatch Front 100 this year and try to set a personal record. But, by the end of August, there was no more running through the pain and I had lost confidence I could finish the race, at any speed. It was time for surgery. Five days before Wasatch I had rotator cuff surgery. About this time I learned that my blood counts were continuing to deteriorate and I was referred to a hematologist to find the cause.

Why I had anemia and why it was continuing to worsen was a mystery. In short, we began to investigate whether I; a) wasn’t absorbing iron, b) wasn’t producing healthy red blood cells, or c) was bleeding out red blood cells. On the surface, none of these made sense. During an endoscopy to determine if I was bleeding from the stomach (a possibility given the very high doses of ibuprofen that I had been taking over the summer to manage the pain in my shoulder and groin) it was suggested that while in the neighborhood to take a biopsy to rule out celiac disease. Bingo, I had sprue!

During the time we were working on finding the cause of my anemia I learned that the cause of my groin pain was a hernia. While my abdominal wall had not completely failed, the bulge in the weakened area was causing pressure on nerves that were causing the pain in my groin and inner right thigh.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I had surgery to repair the hernia. The next day I spent 6 hours in an infusion center getting IV iron to jump start the development of healthy red blood cells until such time that my small intestine heals adequately to begin the normal absorption of iron. Most of the people in the infusion center were there to receive chemotherapy. It was a good and needed reality check for me. Here I was whining about not being able to run as fast as I would like, but other than being a slow and broken for the purpose of running – I was in good health. It was a reminder as to how I lucky and fortunate I am.

While there is no cure for celiac disease, the treatment is pretty straight up - a gluten-free diet. So on Thanksgiving Day I had one last gluttonously gultenful meal before saying good-bye to wheat for life. It will take about three months for my small intestine to heal and be able to adequately absorb iron and other nutrients again. Yet, already I can feel the stop-gap effects of the IV iron.

I’m feeling refurbished. My arm and shoulder feel great. My groin pain is mostly gone. And I can already feel more energy and strength. In fact, I’m quite certain that with a bit more rest and healing, I’ll have an effective age of 40 and be able to once again run with all of you with whom I so enjoy running. See you on the trails soon!