Oct 17, 2016

Final Sierra Weekend?

Another opportunity to head out to the Sierra for a few days before winter chill? Most definitely.  A big storm was coming off the Pacific and hitting the central and northern Range of Light but sparing the southern end.  Instead of snow there were 30-50mph winds all weekend without fail but with fairly clear skies.  That allowed a Langley summit, amazingly only my second time up the "easiest" Sierra 14er but boy that frigid wind was piercing.  A stunning view of the Whitney region greeted me at the top and I hunkered down away from the wind long enough to not get frozen and down a bag of chips.  Down "Old" Army Pass and back to Horseshoe for another windy night by the fire.  It turns out most of the Sierra got dumped on with the hope of good things to come.  If this was my last weekend out there until next year then I'm happy I came out.  I've come to the realization I didn't backpack one night this year (although car camped a fair amount) and that is somewhat disappointing.  That will change next year.   I would like to climb Whitney in the winter early 2017 but I need to educat myself more on traveling in avalanche terrain first.  I should take an AVI 1 course in Mammoth or Bishop this winter.  Anyway, here are a few photos from the weekend:

Never seen that before. Legit cairns?

Langley summit

Cottonwood Lake #5

Looking back at Army Pass

Cottonwood Lake #3

Oct 9, 2016

(Polar) Bear 100

Satisfied and not satisfied.  That’s how I feel about my race.  29:52 was not indicative of my fitness, the training I put in, and just the general time I spent in the mountains.  But that’s what I earned.  Although my game plan was to manage the weather with clothes changes when possible, I wasn’t prepared (clothing-wise) for the last snowstorm just before midnight with sub-freezing temperatures (#4 on the day) at mile 75.  It turned out to be a costly mistake.  Arriving at Cowley Aid downright frigid, ice blocks for feet, I hunkered down in a canvas tent with a propane heater the size of a small TV, after initially leaving and turning back to the aid after .1 miles.  That intended short stay to get warm and feel my feet again turned into six hours.  I’m still not sure how that happened.  I guess I didn’t think I would warm up or the potential for hypothermia was real and it wasn't worth the risk.
Yet other runners persevered through that weather and it made me question my mountain credentials.  Others gladly took a 4x4 ride out of there and dropped but that doesn’t make me feel any better.  I like to believe that with rain pants, dry shoes, and socks my stay would have been shorter.  As it was not a crew access point (this year) I simply couldn’t pack every drop bag with dry gear.  I just didn’t have enough to go around and plan for every situation.  But I’m making excuses.  As much as I don’t want it to define my race, it’s what I’ll associate it most with. 
After emerging from my cocoon at 6am I made a nice push the last 25 finishing it 5:52 allowing me to get under 30 hours.  I’m not sure how to categorize the race but I’m actually fairly happy with the race, when I was running. 
Besides the running I want to mention the beautiful and peaceful scenes during first snow where red-yellow autumn colors along with the evergreens created an amazing contrast to the the rapidly, but quietly, falling snow.  I secretly wished a photographer was out there to capture those moments.  It’s something I won’t forget. 
Or the non-stop rain or snow that started from the start and made it a race to remember.  Temperatures were low most of the race.
Or the yipping from the coyote farm (yes, those exist for whatever reason) in the early miles. 
Or the sticky mud that piled under my shoes and the muddy goop that was fun to splash in, especially coming down from Tony Grove Lake. 
Or the good conversations with new acquaintances, each on their own journey. 
Or the nutrition plan that finally worked where I didn’t have major lows of any sort (plan: eat more. duh). 
Or how good the running felt; probably the best I ever felt in a 100 miler. 
Or not being completely demoralized when I missed an out-n-back to an aid and mile 67 costing me 3+ miles. 

That’s probably why I love 100 milers.  You just never know what to expect, which makes it all the more exciting.  I’ve recovered so well that I think another 100 is on the horizon, but I’ll decide in a little while.  I’m definitely coming back to run The Bear again at some point, to experience the original point-to-point course (it was rerouted into a 50 mile out-n-back because of the weather).  Thanks to Marshall and my wife Megan for being out there pacing and crewing making sure I was dry, warm, and fed.  There aren't many photos but here are a few:
Frigid hands at mile 20: Leatham Hollow
Right Hand Fork, mile 37

A little over half way: Tony Grove (mile 53) Snowstorm #2

From Bear 100 FB page.  This is what the next morning was like.

Last few yards to the finish

Final Sierra Weekends

Weekends are now synonymous with leaving town.  It’s become natural to leave, as I just don’t want to be in LA Friday though Sunday if I can help it.  The more I leave on these weekends the more I want it to be permanent. 
Andy came along for the ride (not that he needed convincing) and we spent a nice weekend enjoying the final autumn days before Sierra Winter comes around.  I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would like in the Sierra this summer but other mountains called.  Time to make up for some of it.  As Andy was in taper mode (read: having nightmares) for his Big Backyard Ultra in Tennessee and I was still in recovery mode we planned to take the weekend slow.  We camped at Lake Sabrina Friday night and took in the palette of fall colors the aspen groves showed off.  The next morning we headed off on a mellow hike/run on the trails passing several lakes until basking in the warm rays of the sun at Hungry Packer Lake.  If only everyday could be like this.

Lake Sabrina

Andy running happy

Sierra Golden Trout

Hungry Packer Lake w/ Picture Peak

Winter is coming

After our 13.7 mile fun we headed to Schat’s Bakery for lunch and bread purchasing (they finally had the whole wheat bread in stock!).  On the way to Horseshoe Meadows to spend the final evening it was the perfect opportunity to visit the Manzanar Internment Camp, which is now a historical site.  I remember one of my classmates in high school reading Farewell to Manzanar and that name always stuck.  I’ve also passed it countless times with never a moment to spare to visit.  Today was not one of those days.  I encourage anyone to visit this important piece of American and Japanese history.
A nice and quiet night by the fire was spent at Horseshoe Meadows where the occasional coyote howls and sparkling cosmos highlighted the evening.

Horseshoe Meadow Rd & Whitney Portal Road Junction

Denali Expedition Recap

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