Aug 20, 2009

Steve's bucket list: Cactus to Clouds

This is part of a series of posts where I discuss items on my "bucket list." the introduction to the series is here.

Valley Floor to Summit of Mt. San Jacinto - 17.5 miles, 10,400' of climb. Extreme heat in the summer at lower elevations, lots of snow in the winter higher up.

This is another one that has been on my mind for years, before I was ever involved in ultra-running. I have hiked to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto before. Took the tram from 2500' to 8500' and hiked the rest of the way. That was a lot of fun, but I left unsatisfied as it felt like taking the tram was "cheating." Doing the real thing - ascending from the desert floor - has been in the back of my mind ever since. It's not a particularly long hike at 17.5 miles, but where else can you claim a sustained climb of over 10 thousand feet without a significant break? Therein lies the intrigue.

Then there is the weather. Palm Springs it hot, which makes a summer ascent perilously difficult. Winter is just as dangerous, as the snow at the summit can be dozens of meters deep, and it doesn't melt before the valley is over 100ยบ every day. There is no water and no way out in the first 8000' of climbing. So timing is important - go up at the right time of year, starting at the right time of day. And, of course, be in shape.

One thing I'd like to do is, rather than return to palm springs, actually traverse the divide and hike to idylwild. For some reason that really appeals to me.

Aug 12, 2009

Steven's Bucket List: Run the Wonderland Trail

This is part of a series of posts where I discuss items on my "bucket list." the introduction to the series is here.

93 miles, 22,000 feet of gain. circumnavigates mount rainier in washington.

I suppose it's only fair that I start with the item that inspired this series of posts. It's also only fair to give proper credit to krissy meohl and ellen parker, who ran it last week in 2½ days. Upon reading about it on Krissy's and Matt Hart's blogs, the idea of running this emerged from the recesses of my memory.

I first heard about the wonderland trail back in 2003 or 2004, reading backpacker magazine's list of best hiking trails in the USA. I was immediately interested, but this was before I was into ultrarunning. I weighed at least 350lbs at the time. I found myself discouraged by the 10-14 days it typically takes (fit) people to complete the thing, because that is a lot of time away from home & family for a hike.

It has stayed in my mind, however, even as I started getting into trail running and developing the ability to travel long distances. The idea of mixing trail running and the wonderland trail for a 2-3 day completion had occurred to me, but I never heard of any ultrarunners actually doing it until reading on matt's blog about krissy's and ellen's completion.

I don't know why more ultrarunners don't do it. But if you'd like to know why I'm so interested in it, all you have to do is a google image search for wonderland trail. Here's a sample:

Aug 10, 2009

Steve's endurance bucket list

Kicking The Bucket
Of the runners I know who race prolifically, most have a list of "must-do" races, the events people resolve they'll do before they die. Typically included on these lists are the USA's most famous & prestigious races - Marathons in NYC & Boston, JFK 50, Western States 100. All of these events are very famous and closely watched by thousands if not millions of people. These are the big events, where even if the person isn't too enthusiastic about the event themselves, they still wish to do it, just to say they did it. I am no exception in this regard - I'm running the NYC marathon this fall because.. it's NYC. I've just gotta do it.

Sometimes, people also have much lower key races on their life lists. For me, Wakely was like that. About the only people who care about Wakely are friends of the people running Wakely. The appeal to me was its lack of attention - I often feel most at home at the gritty self-supported no-glory endurance events that don't think too highly of themselves. The laid back vibe is so refreshing in a world of strict rules and strict attitudes.

Having said that, I spent much of the first few miles of Wakely trying to forget the fact that, in a very real sense, each step I took deeper into that forest was the boldest of my short ultrarunning career. Yes, at 32 miles it is a relatively short race, but if something went horribly wrong, not only would I be screwed, but I'd put a lot of people tremendous inconvenience at the very least, and a few into a heart-wrenching amount of stress. It wasn't the most encouraging thing in the world to think about, but at the same time, completing wakely was something I needed to do; something I needed to prove to myself.

As I wrote in my report, I was completely alone for almost all of the race. Nearly 11 hours of me, in a remote wilderness that I was not familiar with, all by myself, trudging along, counting only on my own strength, endurance, and brains to get me to the finish line. I needed an experience like that. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it, because if I could comfortably finish wakely at nearly 300lbs, imagine what I could do at 200lbs.

This brings me back to my bucket list. Wakely was on it - as an end in one sense, but also as a means to a several larger ends. Armed with the experience of Wakely, I am much more confident about the things that I'd like to do before I die, preferably while I'm still young. None are ambitious in an extreme sense; I don't have much desire to attempt a transcontinental run; but they are not insignificant tasks either. They speak to me, personally, in a profound way, and I'd like to share them with you. So over the next couple of weeks, I'll post 4 or 5 entries about some of the various things I'd like to do in the next 5-10 years. I hope you enjoy them.