Dec 29, 2011

2011 Rewind, 2012 Crystal Ball

This has been a banner year and it seems like I've been saying that to myself for the past few years, but as each year passes new opportunities arise which leads to new things: whether that's a new adventure or new personal challenges or being one step closer to having a life-long profession.  As I look back at this past year I can't help but be satisfied and answer the question of whether I've made the most of things this year with a resounding yes.  Since this blog is really about backpacking, running, and PT I'll address all three:
Running: Back in late December 2010 I started to build a running base, something I've never done, and it saw me run 40-60 miles per week (January 2011-June 2011) consistently up until my first 100 mile race in June.  It's certainly nothing spectacular in absolute terms but relatively speaking it was a major step for me, since I've never undertaken anything like that before. Previously, I had been sporadic and inconsistent with more of my interest in running races without the proper work and respect for training.  2011 saw the shift from a recreational to a more focused but still very inexperienced runner.  To put it in perspective 50% of all my races happened this year: 1-Road Marathon, 4-50km races, 1-50 miler, and 2-100 milers.  With those experiences under my belt I'm ready to shift from a base-building runner to a hopefully more competitive runner and that's gotten underway the last few weeks.  My most proud races are the LA Marathon, Bishop 50 miler, and Javalina 100 runs.  The LA Marathon not only saw a 38 minute PR and Boston Qualifying time but it was the first time I considered myself a possible runner.  Bishop was my second 50 and I had doubts I could run it well because of a mile-42 ITB injury in my first 50 miler the previous year that saw me walk with a locked knee (couldn't bend it without severe pain) for the last 8.  That put seeds of doubts and a sour taste in my mouth while knocking me out for 6 weeks. So Bishop turned out to be a pretty emotional run, especially after running the last 12 miles hard.  After a disastrous San Diego 100 I needed to prove to myself that the 100 mile distance is something I can do well in.  Still undertrained I decided to give JJ100 a go and the result re-affirmed the potential I believe I have in the 100 mile distance.  Now I have Angeles Crest 100 in my sites and with proper training (already underway) it's an event I know I can do well in.
PT:  I have officially finished the academic portion of my PT schooling and it's been quite a road.  The last six years of full-time academia have been all for the purpose of one goal: becoming a PT. Now I'm 6 months away from my National PT Board Exams, July 2.  All that stands is a full-time 4 month internship and my school comprehensive exams.  Oh I cannot wait to get that financial and temporal freedom.  Also, my 5+ year job as a PT Aide came to a close yesterday and it's been a great ride with a once-in-a-lifetime boss, a great PT, friend, and future colleague.   
Backpacking: None of the aforementioned would have been possible without a passion and love for backpacking.  I wouldn't have gotten into running trails if backpacking didn't kick my ass every time I went out there and I wouldn't have devoted many years to get into a profession that allowed me to take time off to do it.  The first half of the year saw a small 2 day trek in Joshua Tree and an adventurous 110 mile east to west traverse of the sanctuary that is the Grand Canyon.  The real highlight of the year though was the Grand Traverse of the Alps, a 415 mile journey in the French Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea with the love of my life, Megan.  By far the most physically demanding trip I've taken (117,000 of gain) and most rewarding.  It was a bittersweet day on the shores of the Mediterranean when tears and laughter were ever present.  What an experience of nature, culture, and personal challenge.  I can't wait to fully experience more of what this world has to offer.

So what's in store for 2012: My real focus is going to be Angeles Crest 100, getting my PT License and paying all my student loans off.  It's going to be a relatively quiet year for backpacking, a calm before the storm of sorts (PCT 2013, woohoo!) but this will give me time to reconnect with the Sierra's, my most cherished surrounding, on a JMT through-hike and new terrain not yet explored. I cannot wait for 2012!

December 22-27, 2011: 89 miles, 21,000 gain: High intensity week but will back off this coming week, especially with internship coming up.  Felt good throughout even at the tail end.  Best week of training so far and good progress.

2011: ~3050 miles running>hiking

Dec 22, 2011

Jump Start

As the year winds down to a close and the holidays are upon us I wanted to get a jump start on the big racing goal of the summer.  On my drive up to San Francisco last week with Megan to see "The Nutcracker" ballet I was debating on what 100 mile race I wanted to enter for the summer.  Usually in the summer time I have backpacking trips planned and running merely becomes an afterthought.  As mentioned in the post on why I trail run, it's a tool to stay in shape for backpacking season.  With that said these next six months are going to be full of turbulence as I have finished my 2.5 years of academic work for my Master's in Physical Therapy and all that stands left is a 4 month full-time internship, Comprehensive Exams, and my final PT Board Exams.  On top of all that we are planning to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail in its entirety (~2665 miles) starting April 2013.  With a trip of that magnitude money will need to be saved and debts paid off (i.e. student loans).  That means a lot of endeavors and re-kindling of relationships in the local mountains, and by local I mean the High Sierra's and the San Gabriels.  Why the San Gabriels too since it's not an area I normally spend a lot of time in?  On that pre-mentioned drive to SF I had a gut feeling that the Angeles Crest 100 was one of the right adventures for the summer.  It's a race in the local mountains that sees a hefty 21,615 feet of elevation gain and 26,700 ft of loss in the July heat.  This is a footrace that I have ultimate respect for,  involves terrain I want to explore, and challenges I feel I will be ready for.  My hiking background is a perfect fit for the amount of consistent climbing involved, especially during the latter stages of the race where inevitable fatigue takes over.  Now that I've completed two one-hundred mile races after my first year of real training (Dec 2010) I'm excited to see what a little experience and real challenging training can produce.  By real training I mean consistent 30-50 mile long runs on challenging, race-specific terrain, track work, hill repeats and other runs exclusively on trails with as much climbing as possible.  This previous year my "long" runs where basically 50K races once a month with one 50 miler three weeks before my first hundred.  Even before Javalina Jundred last month my longest run was 29 miles (two different runs that day).  Obviously nothing impressive or adequate for most people but for me that may have been the appropriate, probably conservative, plan to get me to the starting line injury free and prepared to complete the race.  Now it's about more than that.  It's about doing well and what that personal definition is, is something I'll keep inside to keep driving me.  About a week ago I strained my right calf (good start, huh) on a descent run causing a battle that lasted this entire past week.  I'm glad to say that with the right approach the issue is resolved.  What this lets me know is that with an increase in intensity of training that I'll have to look after my body with extra care; that includes self-care and appropriate days off.
Not to sidestep the backpacking whatsoever, I'll head back to the Sierra's on the JMT (3rd complete hike) sometime in late June/early July to not only get my hiking legs back but to re-connect to the mountains I truly love and cherish.  Other races and trips will be thrown in up until July that most likely will include the Ray Miller 50 (Feb 25) and R2R2R (March), Zion Traverse (April), Bishop 100K (May), JMT (June/July).  So that's the first half of the year all perfectly laid out, but we all know things can change.  Anyway these are the numbers for the week and photos from runs:

December 13-20, 2011: 79.25 miles
                                       19,000 elevation gain

Parker Mesa Overlook

Mt. Diablo State Park

Near the peak of Mt. Diablo

Mt. Diablo with The Onion

Descent down Diablo

Up Los Liones


Malibu Creek SP


Sunrise from Westridge


Dec 3, 2011

Recover and Go

It's been three full weeks since Javalina 100 and I've been taking it fairly easy in terms of sheer mileage volume, roughly running 40-60/week.  What I mentioned in the previous post was that I wanted to start more intense workouts and that's been pretty much what I've been doing.  I joined the LA Track Club, a conveniently short bike ride away, at the Santa Monica High School Tuesdays for speed work.  The three years since I've taken up running I haven't done one lick of speed work.  I'm now mentally and physically prepared to undertake the intense training I need to do to improve my running performance.  I've probably put it off so long because I know doing that kind of work is really not enjoyable compared to loping along the trails.  I also started to add some hill repeats that sees about 280 vertical gain in .2 miles and that too produces chemicals my brain doesn't particularly enjoy.  With that said, I'm hoping the Ray Miller 50 miler on February 25,  my third fifty, will see the full fruition of this added type of training, and even 2 weeks into it I can tell it's starting to have a positive affect.  It all starts on Monday, with one or two 50km races thrown in the mix just to get some long runs in.
The reason I'm putting in this type of training is because I want to see what my potential might be.  I know there is something there and I'm excited to start taping into it.
For now, I'm in a Ridgecrest motel because Megan has her first ultra race tomorrow morning: OTHTC 50K.  I'm really excited to see her perform well as I know she can.

Denali Expedition Recap

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