Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Baja Travesia Preparations

I leave on Friday for Baja, Mexico to race in the Baja Travesia expedition adventure race, 370km in 3-5 days - it includes kayaking, trekking/canyoneering, mountain biking, ropes and a desert auto rally. Yeah that's right desert auto rally! Needless to say I am stoked! It's our last race of the season... then I take the rest of Dec off and get ready for some ski mountaineering races and life in the mountains. What is crazy is no matter how many adventure races I do I always seem to have to buy new gear for each race. I'll be getting everything I can at the best little gear shop in Seattle - Second Ascent. This time around my list looks like this:
  • A bivy (I've been eying the Black Diamond Lightsabre for over a year now)
  • USCG approved strobe (we each need one)
  • 30m 6mm climbing rope (for the canyoneering sections)
  • 36" sewn sling (the two I have are 24")
  • a dry bag big enough for ALL my mandatory gear

Starting Monday (Dec 5th) you can follow the race on Sleepmonsters.com.

On a more exciting note I have been working with Epic Kayak Paddles on a sponsorship deal for the team. Epic make the best kayak paddles on the planet. Today I ordered 3 paddles to be overnighted to me for Glenn, Seegs and myself.. we're getting the 2 Piece Mid Wing Full Carbon Paddles - this could be the most beautiful and awesome paddle ever made... I'm pretty sure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

USARA Nationals Sickness

Racing in the swamp at USARA Nationals was an interesting experience. Most of the race I was able to block out any type of thoughts about what could happen to me from drinking the swamp water or having open wounds and being in the swamp water for 19 hours straight. It's quite scary actually. Since the race on Nov 4th in Tampa my teammates RVG and Jen Segger have suffered severely. Both have had crazy fevers with debilitating headaches that got so bad they ended up at the ER... and on an IV! Scary. There are posts on the Florida adventure racing forums about many athletes coming down with these types of sicknesses. Ryan ended up with a severely swollen and infected leg as well. I hope they get better soon. Here is a picture of my legs a few days after the race, it really doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea -

Turns out about 1/2 the teams that races have become sick. The race directors just sent this message out to all the teams. Apparently everyone has come down with an infection called leptospirosis that you get when you are exposed to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Snow Lake

This weekend I was able to get out with Steven Wort and some other adventure racers and play around in the Hyak area. Afterwards I sneaked over to Summit West and got 4,490 vertical feet of climbing in on the skis. Sunday was spent skinning up to snow lake with tina. Amazing views.

tina at Snow Lake

South Fork of the Snoqualmie River

Thursday, November 17, 2005

3,000 feet for breakfast

I work a full time job. I have aspirations as an athlete... an endurance athlete. The combination of these two facts frequently affect my sleeping patterns. At 4am this morning my alarm went off. Ugh. Snoqualmie hadn't gotten snow since Sunday, and it's been warm all week - perfect. My sole purpose was to get some vertical climbing under my belt on my new race skis, skins, and boots in preparation for ski mountaineering races this winter. I tried to regain the feeling of excitement I had the night before as I cut my skins, got my gear ready and practiced using my new Dynafit bindings, but it was a futile effort. The important thing is I got up anyway. I was skinning up Summit West by 5:50am in the dark and loving it. My race skis are sooo light! They're a pair of Piuma Trab 170cm, sidecut of 100-70-90 (yeah I know, but they're race skis!)... and my Gramont Mega Ride G-Fit boots feel like slippers they are so comfy.

My first two runs were in complete darkness.. add a little fog and you get a scary scene. I could only see about 4 feet in front of me as my headlamp just reflected back off the fog that enveloped the entire ski hill. I say hill because it's just over 747 feet of climbing from the bottom to the very top. However darkness and spotty snow coverage made it somewhat challenging. As the sun came up the fog burned off and it became a whole lot more enjoyable... well, as enjoyable as skinning up Summit West can be. I got in 3,000 feet of climbing this morning and made it to work on time - booyaa.

"Either you ran/biked/kayaked/skied today or you didn't."

Monday, November 14, 2005

AMGA and a victory for DART in Explore CA 24-Hour

AMGA: Because I have this dream of racing all summer and ski guiding all winter I applied to the American Mountain Guide Association's (AMGA) Ski Guiding Course. The course is 8 days long and there are many requirements; including 5+ years backcountry skiing experience, being comfortable skiing 50 degree slopes (are you ever comfy on a 50 degree slope?), completion of Avy II course, were a few. The courses are usually taken by ski professionals; ski patrol, PSIA Instructors, ski guides, etc... so I was not so sure I would be accepted, but I applied anyway. Friday I got confirmation I was accepted into the class! So I'm very excited, and a little bit nervous. The class is Jan 6-19 in Jackson, WY. I wonder how long I can live in the Westy with a down sleeping bag during the bitter cold of Jan before I break down and get a hotel room? Jackson is supposed to have some of the best snow on this planet - we'll see.
"The work of the guide implies abnegation. The guide does not go where he wants to go,but must go to the summit of which his client has dreamed. The guide does not climb for himself but primarily for the pleasure of the companion he is leading." -Gaston Rebuffat 1965

DART wins Explore CA 24-Hour Adventure Race - Gold Country!: Since RVG, Jen Segger and I just competed in the USARA Nationals we sent Cyril, JVG and Glenn to CA to compete in the last 24-Hour race of the Explore CA Series. We are currently winning this seires, I raced in the Catalina race and we've managed to send some kind of team to each one of the first 5 races. The series ends with the Baja Travesia expedition race in Mexico. Congrats to the DART team for bringing home a win! Apparently they battled early with Wellsport but then ended up winning the race by more than 5 hours! Sweet.

Skiing this weekend: This weekend I got on my skis at Snoqualmie. RVG and I skinned up Hyak, headed to the power tower and then skied down summit Central (ski acres). The skiing wasn't good but it was fun to get out there for a few hours. We ended up meeting up with Steven Wort and a cast of others from the local adventure racing community.. it was nice to get a good social day out and get on the snow. I am still getting over being sick, this cough just won't go away, so this was just my speed.
I have been talking to Steve who does many "beginners training" sessions. I am going to make an effort to help him out. It's of vital importance that we get out and get involved in promoting the sport locally.

Tidbit: "The average American will watch the equivalent of two months of television each year". - Don't be average.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Some things...

I recently visited the TRIOBA Adventure Race site to see if their 2006 race dates were up yet... and bam! I'm hit with our image on the homepage - pretty cool pic of me and Cyril. He's sucking on his hose and one could argue that I look a bit constipated. Here are the dates for 2006 - hopefully they have more long events this year than short.

  • May 20 or 21
  • July 15 or 16
  • September 9 and 10

Hart and Cyril Paddling

AR World Championships:
One of the races I've always wanted to do is the Southern Traverse, New Zealand's premiere adventure race, 400km, six days long, non stop. This year the Southern Traverse, which starts in 4 days, is also the Adventure Racing WORLD Championship race. My team DART, qualified in May by placing second at the Appalachian Extreme expedition adventure race in Maine. The problem is the cost of doing this race is HUGE... so unless a sponsor stepped up to help us get there, we could not afford to race - and that did not happen. It's really one of the big disappointments of this season. I'm not sure what more we have to do to get financial sponsorship.. seriously.

tina's blog:
My lovely girlfriend tina has just posted a blog that is a public request for us try to get on the CBS reality show the Amazing Race. I still don't know much about this show. If I can put her on my running tow and hammer out mass miles I'm in.. better yet if those miles were in beautiful and exotic places all over the world... perfect. BUT if I have to eat cow testes - forget it. If I have to embarrass myself in any way or eat anything gross - it ain't happening. More to come on this later.

Ski touring!:
What time is it?! - It's time to skin up and ski down.. time to earn your turns baby. Snow is falling in the Cascades and Mt Baker opened Tues with more snow than anyone in the WORLD! RVG and I are planning a trip to Mt Rainier for some buttery turns this weekend. Sunday I hope to get tina out on the snowshoes in the Snoqualmie area... I can't wait, I love snow.

SoloGoat blog:
I enjoy reading Ernesto Marenchin's blog. Mostly because he is what I dream of being someday, a professional athlete.. also because he is the underdog. This guy came (seemingly) out of nowhere at the 24-Hour World Championships this year to take second and give Chris Eatough (6 time World Champion) a HUGE scare. Here is another interesting read - a Nat Ross interview after the 24-Hour Mtn Biking World Championship where he gives Ernesto some well deserved props. Keep an eye on this guy.

Quote for today: "The will is everything. If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely." Henri Ducard - from the movie Batman Begins (corny source, good quote)

Monday, November 7, 2005

USARA Adventure Race National Championship

Friday Nov 4th, 2005 - Riverside Park, Tampa, Florida: 70 three-person co-ed teams who qualified by winning local USARA Adventure Races around the country toed the line in Florida for a chance to be crowned the 2005 adventure racing national champions.

The week prior to this race I had a sore throat that never got better or worse--that is, until the pre-race meeting. Then I started to feel really sick. That night, I felt really weak and my sinuses were a mess with loads of mucus, which caused a couple of throw-up sessions in the bathroom. Although there was no option of me not racing, the times I was able to fall asleep I had nightmares of being so sick I would not be able to get out of bed. I would wake up and try to assess how I felt throughout the night, and it was not good; it seemed to be getting worse.

Although certainly not 100%, I woke up and was able to get out of bed, and I felt much better than I thought I would. The race started on foot with an orienteering section where you had to grab tokens out of buckets at four different CPs. We ran well and stayed on our bearing most of the time, with a few exceptions where we had to retrace our route back to our known point and start over. These exceptions made me think we would be way behind teams that nailed them all.

After dropping our tokens off in fourth place, we tore out for the next nine trekking CPs on foot. We had to cross a significant river, a prime gator spot where we heard someone had been attacked. If you look at the photos from the race you'll see the two walking zip lines set up by the race directors for you to get across. We didn't even consider them; it's faster to swim. RVG, our fearless leader, dove in and we followed; we would end up doing this what seemed like 100 times through the race. After getting all nine trekking CPs we arrived as the first place team was shoving off in their canoe. Even with our mistakes we were fast enough to still be in a good spot.

The canoe section was crazy, gross, ridiculous, hard, itchy and fun as shit. A volunteer forced us to take a red "heavy" canoe because it was closest to the water. Teams behind us were able to grab the 30 lbs.-lighter white canoes. At the time I had no idea they were different and might not have cared that much – however, I had no idea what lay ahead. We first paddled upstream for a CP in the major part of the river, then back down. We had quite a nice rhythm going. Once we got into the thick of the swamp, however, things changed. First, they call this area "17 rivers" because there are 17 rivers you can head down--16 HUGE mistakes to make. We were warned of this in the pre-race meeting. People have gotten lost paddling this area, requiring search parties, etc., "so follow the flow of the river at all costs" we were told. This was easier said than done. As we paddled deeper into the swamp, we approached our first downed tree that blocked the river. We couldn't go under it, couldn't drag the boat over it. The first three teams were still trying to portage around it when we arrived. OK, a quick portage, no problem. We got out and portaged our heavy ass canoe through the swamp, put it back in and we were on our way again. As we kept on down the river, it got worse. Teams were all over each other, trying to push their boats over logs rather than portage, fighting for position, almost pushing their canoes down on each other – at times - an ugly scene, but we quickly became good at it. Depending on how big or bad, we would either get out, stand on the log and drag the canoe over it, or portage around in the swamp. Some of the logs were such that there was enough room to paddle under, as long as we lay down in the boat. It was scary at times: You had to paddle, then hit the deck or get your neck broken. It was a challenge and while racing you had to somehow try and be careful about it all. Dan Weiland from Nike was not so lucky: Their race ended with him being knocked out and getting stitches in his head. And so it went for the next few hours, constantly getting into and out of the canoe to portage, dragging it over downed trees while balancing on logs, swimming in the nasty while pulling the boat over debris, lifting it over obstacles, killing half-dollar-sized spiders that kept jumping in the boat, flicking off leeches, hoping I'm not drinking too much of the brown/yellow swamp water that I'm swimming in, etc. During this hotly contested section we would fluctuate from top three to 11th, then back again.

The first bike section was fun for a few minutes, then the trail hit another swamp. We waded through with our bikes on our shoulders. I am the sweeper, so I'm usually last in our line. This is so I can make sure no team member gets dropped. So it was RVG, Jen then me. As I watched RVG almost disappear in the swamp with his bike over his head, I was certain that I would have to help Jen, but somehow with just her head above the water she got through it. But we did not come out of the water unscathed. RVG lost one of his egg-beater pedals, just the stem was left. This was not good news. We pressed on and RVG then got a flat. As I was changing it, we were passed by the team that went on to get second place. After the bike, we headed out on foot for the next trekking section and this was where our race ended.

We caught up to the front pack at an intersection and they said they couldn't find CP12. RVG had a good grip on the map, so we headed out down a trail as he followed the curves on the map. He knew right where we were, but we could not find the surveyors' trail that was supposed to lead us to CP12. We continued to look, going down a bit farther.. nothing. We assumed it was overgrown and since we knew the first teams had not found it yet, there would be no worn path through the jungle yet. So we headed in where it was supposed to be on RVG's bearing and convinced ourselves we were on some sort of old trail. Within minutes we hit swamp, and it fluctuated from ankle to just above knee-deep. We followed this bearing for a while; it should have been 700 meters in. It started to get dark. Eventually we crossed paths with a pack of about six teams and joined forces, all of us slowly trekking through the swamp in the middle of the night. It was very surreal. Shining your headlamp out into the swamp you could see little eyes reflecting back at you--gators, snakes, etc.; we were traveling through their living rooms. This swampy, dangerous terrain was no man's land, and we spent about 4.5 hours out there, sharing theories and ideas. Florida is flat, so if there are no features to go by when you're lost. With us were a couple of good navigators from well-known teams. Jennifer Shultis from EMS pulled the cell out and called the race director. The race director informed us many teams had found it and there was ribbon on the path. Whoa. She also said it was better to miss a CP than the 12:30am cutoff time for this section. As a group we decided to cut our losses and head for the trail again, skip CP 12 and move on. It wasn't long after hitting the trail that we found the surveyors' trail to CP12, much farther down the road than we thought it should be.

After getting 13, 14, 15 and 16 we ran back with EMS and another team to the TA. We would arrive just over 30 minutes too late for the cutoff. About 18 teams had made it in time. Our race was over. None of us had ever been short-coursed before; it was a yucky feeling. At this point continuing would be for fun and training. We would have finished the short course but Jen was not feeling that well. She had severe chafing, but worse yet was her year-long injury of plantar fasciitis. It was obvious for the last few hours she was hurting pretty badly: She ran bow-legged and only spoke when asked direct questions, and even then she only answered a quarter of the time. Whenever we entered the water she would howl in pain. So RVG and I left it up to her to decide. As a team we have one more race left, the Baja Travesia, a 3-5 day expedition in Mexico. So it simply didn't make sense for her to continue for fun and risk still being injured for the Baja race. At the time I was torn, but now I am of the opinion that was the right decision. We need her in top form in Mexico. First place wins $10,000.