Saturday, December 11, 2004

Rocket City Marathon (Alabama)

December 11, 2004
Marathon 30, State #24
Huntsville, Alabama
3:48:33

http://runrocketcity.com/



I committed to running this marathon only about 3 week prior to the race.  I introduced my "under 4 week training program for a under 4 hour marathon" and it works!

Homeyra & I traveled with friends John and Teresa.  We arrived in Huntsville Friday and spent the afternoon enjoying lunch downtown the Rocket Museum and watching a IMAX movie of the new space station.

The official race hotel, the Hilton, is definitely the only way to go.  The expo, start and finish lines are all right there.  We made some new friends Matt from Florida and Bill from Martha's Vineyard.  A cold front had blown in and the weather was much colder than anticipated for a southern state.  I had to wear head band, three layers plus tights and gloves.

The were no significant sites and the course wound through mostly pretty boring residential streets with an unbelievable amount of turns.  The course was mostly out and back, so the wind and cold was much more of a factor the second half as it both picked up as well as was in our face on the return. 

I'd have to say the best part of the whole race was the food at the finish line.  Fresh pastry's, bread, soup, fruit, ice cream, and many more snacks.  My massage was mediocre at best, but short lines and friendly service.  The whole town was very friendly and I recommend checking out the general store downtown by the courthouse on the corner.

Both me and my friend John added another notch to our belt and look forward to the next adventure!


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Mount Hood, Oregon (11,239)

17th High Point Visited
13th Highest State High Point
5th Most Difficult

summitpost.org
wikipedia.org


My wife, Homeyra, had a physics conference planned for the last weekend of June in Corvallis, just south of Portland so I tagged along and planned my climb of Mt. Hood while she was busy working.  I discovered a guide service, Timberline Mountain Guides, that offer two types of summit trips - a one day and a two day.  I decided on the one day summit, but the day prior to my actual climb included a training day on basic mountaineering.

I was able to talk one of my friends, Scott Herrick, into making the climb together and joining my team.  He's currently living in Switzerland, but it worked out that during the same time frame he was conveniently in the states visiting family in Colorado.  He flew in the night before our training day and we camped at Still Creek Campground (3,600 ft) near the base of Mt. Hood. 

Our class began at 8:30 a.m. and we started by going through our gear list to be certain each team member was properly equipped for the variety of conditions that we would expect to find on our climb the next morning.  In addition to Scott & I, two other climbers Jeff from Tennessee, and Glen from near Portland and our guide Eric made up our team.  Eric has guided on Mt. Hood for many years and on our climb told us his stories of other climbs including a two week trip to Mt. McKinley in Alaska.  Next we hiked about a mile from Timberline Lodge and began our training of basic techniques of climbing and self arrest.  We learned how to step, how to use our ice axe, and hove to move together as a roped team. 

I had fabricated two mini sleds for glissading, one for me and one for Scott to use on our descent down the mountain the next day.  I took some plastic to a local ski shop and melted the front edge with heavy duty heat fans so I could create my sled.  Also I attached some kick boards made of soft foam to the top of the plastic for extra padding.  Also we I drilled holes in the sled to attach a strap to hold onto.  For the final touch we melted hot wax across the bottom of the sled for less friction and more speed. Key criteria is that it had to be light, durable, and fit easily into our packs.  At the end of our training day Scott and I gave the sleds a trial run.  We only had a short way to slide down, but they seemed to work like a charm.

That night we went to bed around 9 p.m. because we had to wake the next morning about 12:30 a.m. so we could board the snow cat by 2:00 a.m.  At our campground it never really dipped to much less than 50 degrees at night, but the higher elevations the temperature steadily drops.  We met the group at Timberline Lodge and signed in at the register.  Our snowcat was on time, so we boarded and began our climb.  The snowcat to the top of the ski area seems to some as cheating, but none of us complained knowing that we saved ourselves 2 hours of sleep and 2 hours of climbing!  We unloaded, turned on our headlamps, and began our actual climb.  Our first leg of the trip we used only our trekking poles as we made our way all the way to the lower part of Hogsback.  Up to this point I think we stopped only twice for a short break and to hydrate.  An important technique we learned was the rest step, where each step you pause for a brief moment.  This saves considerable energy and helps keep the heart rate lower.  Our strategy was not to break a sweat on the climb.   I also learned that using the trekking poles saves another 30% of energy making our climb more swift.  The poles were something I debated purchasing with all the other gear that I needed, but ended up the one thing that I was most thankful to have had.  While hiking, we pealed a layer, but every time we stopped for a break our first thing we did was to pull our down jackets out to stay warm while motionless.  Again another worthwhile investment!

Our final break before starting the lower Hogsback, we finally put on our crampons.  For this leg Eric felt the ice was firm enough so we continued up lower Hogsback with trekking poles and left our ice aces in our packs.  Our next break was at Crater Rock  We started to smell the sulfur that rises from the ground underneath us, but never did the smell really bother any of us.  Up to this point, the climb was steep, but for the most part for five healthy guys a walk in the park.  We were half way to the summit and already passed another team that started nearly an hour before us.  At Crater Rock is when things became serious.  We stashed our trekking poles and removed our ice axes from our packs and began to rope together for our next part up upper Hogsback.  This was my first real view of the bergschrund where only a few years prior to our climb there was a major accident and rescue of several climbing teams that slid down the mountain into the crevasse.  As we made our way closer to the bergschrund we discovered that there was a snow bridge that formed in the middle that allowed safe passage.  Up until this point we climbed up no particular trail, other that trying to stay in the footprints of the person or team in front of us.  Now along upper Hogsback there was a definite trail cut into the snow.  The route continued to gradually get much steeper as we made our way up upper Hosback.  Footing was very solid and we continued to steadily make our way closer to the summit. 
At the top of Hogsback there are many rock ledges hanging overhead and are quite dangerous, so though even very tired from the steepness of upper Hogsback, we pushed on with minimal break.  We were able to pause long enough to view one of the most memorable sights of all my climbing experience.  We were now above the clouds and the sun was beginning to rise from behind the opposite side of the mountain.  This created a shadow of the summit on top of the clouds.  Each of us snapped many pictures of this most wondrous site.   We pressed on to the last steep slope which took us to the summit of Mt. Hood.  Our climb which started at 2 a.m. was half way done as we stood on the summit by 6:30 a.m.  As we reached the summit the winds picked up heavily and I couldn't get my down coat out of my pack fast enough to try to keep warm in the cold mountain air.  With wind chill the temperature dropped well below 20 degrees.  Again it was still clear and you could see as far as Mt. Rainier 100 miles away.   Pretty magnificent just to see the reward of the last four hours of hard work.

Recently reading more about mountaineering, I reminded myself that we were only half way done, and often the return is more dangerous than the accent.  After about 30 minutes on the summit, a snack, and many photos, our wind chilled bodies were ready to begin the climb back to the lodge.  Again we roped together, but instead of following the trail back down the mountain we tested the ice and it was still very firm, so hiked down giving full trust to our crampons as they dug into the ice with every step.  Pretty scary because directly in our fall line was the bergschrund.  We made our way steadily down and carefully crossed the ice bridge that still stood strong over the bergschrund.  We continued down to just above Crater Rock where we unroped and gathered our trekking poles for our final two stages of our climb down.

We had one final break at the bottom of hogsback and were anxiously awaiting our opportunity to use our glissading sleds we had carried all morning up and partway down the mountain.  The sun hadn't hit the ice yet, so the ice was still very rigid.   Scott tried first, then myself on a small slope.  We went so fast so quickly it was scary.  The worst part was the sled took the abuse of the bouncing over the foot holes that our path crossed.  Thank goodness for the extra padding incorporated into the sleds, but the abuse was too much and the plastic that we used started to become brittle and break apart.  First Scotts split in two, then mine.  We still had a long long way to hike and much preferred the sledding method, so tried to hold together the pieces of the sled for the rest of the way down.  Once we got low enough that the sun was hitting the slopes the slide down was much softer and easier to dig our ice axes into the snow to control our speed.

We finally made it back to Timberline and gazed back up and the mountain standing proud behind us.  What a great experience.  What will be next?

























Sunday, April 25, 2004

Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon (Oklahoma)

April 25, 2004
Marathon 29, State #23
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
3:48:18


https://okcmarathon.com/

I committed to running this marathon only about 3 week prior to the race.  I got a call from my friend John and he wondered if I would like to go with him to Oklahoma.  Timing was fairly good and airfare was reasonable, so I said, "yes"

I flew in Friday night for the Sunday race.  Saturday headed down to the expo which was held at the downtown convention center.  Very nice facility with plenty of room for a nice sized race expo with venders.  After packet pickup I headed down to Bricktown, which is the "hip" renovated area of downtown with lots of restaurants.  I found a great Italian Bistro called Zio's.

After lunch I walked around the National Memorial.  Ends up we free tickets for entry into the museum in our race packet, but didn't have them with me to go through the exhibit.  The whole downtown area seemed to be having a celebration or festival which I think is some kind of anniversary for the bombing.  Also the biggest Bass Pro Shop is located in the area which I got to walk through.

For dinner I found a steakhouse by the hotel and a nice relaxing dinner.  Live entertainment was a surprise at 7:30 on the stage with an old timer band.  Race morning everything went as planned.  We got to the start line in time to take care of all morning activities and jumped in the line for the start.   
I tried a new strategy by changing the limits of my heart rate monitor from about 169 to 161 and managed to stay under the limit the first half of the marathon.  Those dreadful miles from 18-23 seemed to be less painful!  Lots of yummy goodies and massage at the finish line!

Friday, February 27, 2004

Tybee Island Marathon (Georgia)

February 7, 2004

Marathon 28, State #22

Tybee Island, Georgia

3:44:14

 

 

Georgia is a long way from Columbus, Ohio so I made the difficult decision of whether to drive or fly to drive.  The distance is about 750 miles which is a long ways for a single day.  Ends up I broke the drive into two half days both going and returning.  Leaving Columbus about 4pm on Thursday my goal was to make it to Charlotte, NC for the night to stay with my friends Scot and Richelle.  My little brother, Brandon, agreed to travel with me for my second marathon in a row.  Bad weather rolled in on Thursday evening as we headed down I-77 through WV and Virginia.  We arrived in Charlotte about 11:30pm.  Friday morning we made the remaining 4 hour trip arriving on Tybee Island to register and check out the place. 

One of the first things we noticed on Tybee is that the tide was out and that all the marshes were dry or very low.  Ends up depending on the tide you may not be able to have access of some of the waterways!   We first headed to the beach and found the pier that jets way out into the ocean.  The wind was kicking up and there were some great looking surf, but it was a little cold so we had the whole peer to ourselves.  Across from the peer we found a little Marine Museum with $2 entry that wasn't that spectacular.  We ate lunch at Cousin Vinnie's pizza and it was fabulous.  We made our way from lunch toward the lighthouse.  It was closed by 5pm so we had to settle for only a few pictures and planned to come back on Saturday after the race.  We made our way to the beach and checked out some sand dunes and a few surfers out in the waves.  We found a little dive bar downtown and shot a few games of pool before heading looking for dinner.

Saturday morning the race began at 8:00 a.m.  I had been plagued by an ankle injury and then followed by a little flew, so my training was far below my normal routine.  I was pleasantly surprised to run under 3:45 and feel great doing it.  It was difficult to know what to wear because all the southern runners were very cold and all the northern runners were warm.  During the race I ran across a couple interesting runners.  First I passed a young guy, about 21 years old, who was running his 201st marathon.  I guess he started very young and traveled with his grandmother who was a runner to many races.  I also met Tim Collins from Urbana, Il.  Ends up after a couple miles running together we figured out we had a lot in common.  It was my 22nd state marathon and his 21st.  We both ran back to back marathons last year in Delaware and New Jersey.  Finally we finished only minutes apart in each race then we exactly tied with our chip time in Georgia!

Saturday Brandon & I made our way back to Charlotte for the night.  Our plans were to hit a few highpoints on the way back home, but the Thursday storm and Saturday night storm in the mountains prevented us from going to North Carolina and Tennessee's highpoints.  We did manage to see South Carolina's high point.

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina (3,560)

16th High Point Visited
29th Highest State High Point
37th Most Difficult

summitpost.org
wikipedia.org

Traveling to Georgia to run a marathon on Tybee Island, we decided to try to knock off an easy highpoint on our way home.