Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Bill Jacox (you out there Bill?) wrote this about 10 years ago when we went climbing in Peru in between leading Outward Bound trips out of Leadville..
We had an awesome trip , ran the Inca trail (as I posted last spring), and climbed a couple mountains in the Cordillera Blanca. We also spent a couple weeks in Cusco and took Spanish classes and experinced what we could of live in the old Incan capital.
So, this is the truncated version of his story; after it sits in your email inbox for 10 years yahoo accounts will clip your messages short; serves me right for not cleaing my inbox out for 10 years!

Bill's writing below...(apologies for the formatting)

Tired, sore, beaten, and bruised, i sit pressed against the side of the rattle-trap mini-mini-micro van. i am one of four crammed into the back seat, both knees pressing hard against the seat in front where Dave sits. my left foot up on the wheel-well and my left elbow out the window. i grip the window pane with the still numb fingers tips of my right hand in an effort to keep from crushing the freshly scrubbed peruvian woman on my right. my right hand keeps pulling in reflexively on the window pane as if on a door ajar. i must keep reminding myself that the looseness i feel is not a partially opendoor but that the entire vehicle risks "opening" and, thus, spilling me onto the dusty road. as we pass within inches of cactus, burros, telephone poles, embankments, and buildings, i wonder what it would feel like to shatter my elbow in such a manner. occasionally i remember where i am and reflexively jerk my elbow inside, almost punching the unlucky lady next to the big, dirty, and smelly gringo climber. occasionally, i see the van's shadow and wonder what has fallen from my packunnoticed. i feel my tired body, chapped lips, sunburned nose and tongue (you don't believe me?). i look ahead at dave's red and> white blistered neck and reflect on the last five days.......

we got to a later start than we had intended out of huaraz on tuesday (we were both waiting for the internet place to open to check for expected messages which neither of us received). we chose one of the many minivans (combis) headed to our destination of caraz and hopped inside. along the way we picked up other passengers and at one point heard our driver coax an undecided passenger into our van by telling him there was "more love" in our van. convinced, he hopped in and off we went.

at caraz we had to switch to a different van headed to cashapampa. unbeknownst to us at the time was the driver's need to fill the van fully before actually starting up the road. consequently, we drove around and around one particular block easily 15times looking for other prospective riders. we eventually headed out and soon found ourselves on a very bad and dusty road. i tried to plug a large hole in the floor with my day pack but we arrived in cashapampa decadeslater completely covered in dust. enroute we stopped to pick up a guy with a bag of live chickens (which he put on the floor next to my feet)and a very loud boom box (which he insisted on playing the rest of the time). we eventually began to hike at 3:00 p.m.under very heavy packs. why didn't we hire mules to carry our gear up to the glacier? no comment...

as we hiked up the trail gaining thousands of feet as the sweat poured unabated, i had two voices going through my head (when i wasn't singing ani difranco lyrics to myself): my friend helen saying that guys don't know how to take care of themselves (no lunch, no mules), and friend dr. ed telling me that dave and i are an orthopaedic surgeon's dream. as darkness fell, we made camp, made dinner, and hit the sack. at this point, my small, two-person tent seemed plenty big> > for two.....> >> > we got up and headed out expecting a long, full day> > of hiking up to the> > toe of the glacier. we gain another 3,000 ft.> and> > stop and chat with> > two other yankees coming down after being weathered> > away from a summit> > attempt. we finally arrive at our next camp and> > find part of the> > austrian team, one sick austrian and their peruvian> > cook who had just> > killed, plucked, and boiled a chicken for dinner> > that night. no> > comment.... apparently, the other two austrians had> > been at the col> > camp at 19,000 feet two nights already and were> > expected back that> > night. we had another good night's sleep (the> last> > for me) and dreamt> > of climbing mountains.> >> > we arose early thursday morning and headed up the> > moraine. we reached> > the glacier and pulled out all the gear necessary> > for glacial travel> > and set ourselves up. we met the two austrians> > heading down after> > having spent three nights at 19,000 ft. they> hung> > out in bad weather> > for two days and gave alpamayo a go the day before.> > it sounded like a> > long epic and they didn't even reach the summit.> > they said they had to> > leave pleny of gear behind on their late descent.> > dave and i look at> > each other briefly. we are both thinking the> same> > thing (what is> > another word for pirate's treasure?). we> continue> > on up the glacier in> > variable weather and finally arrive at the col in> > whiteout conditions.> > we are both pretty spent (dehydrated, exhausted, and> > suffering from the> > altitude) and it is all we can do to set up the tent> > and start melting> > snow for water and dinner. later that night it> > clears and we are able> > to catch a good view of our route on alpamayo under> > moonlight. we> > decide to go for it the next morning. we are> all> > alone at 19,000 ft.> >> > NOTE: at altitutdes over 18,500 ft. (the "death> > zone") the human body> > cannot regenerate itself. technically, what> that> > means is that your> > body starts to slowly die. practically, what> that> > means is that you> > are pretty miserable: no appetite, no sleep,> slow> > brain function, fast> > pulse rate, nausea, headache, constant dry throat> > from forcing in and> > out dry rarified air....sound fun? but, boy, is> it> > beautiful up there!> >> > we wake up, melt some snow, prepare our frozen> > things and start walking> > toward the mountain. it takes us one and a half> > hours of soft snow> > glacier travel to reach the bergschrund (don't worry> > if you don't know> > what "col" and "bergschrund" mean. it doesn't> > matter.) and decide to> > just stay roped up and simul-climb the beginning of> > the route and> > change that plan as conditions dictate. so we> > frontpoint for two solid> > hours up 2,000 ft. of 45 and 50 degree snow and ice> > to the ridge. we> > placed no gear and never stopped (as if there was> > any place to stop)> > until we reached the summit ridge. it took us 2> > hours to climb the> > ferrari route on the sw face of alpamayo and we> > reached the summit> > ridge at 9:30 a.m. we sat for a spell and then> > continued on the> > knife-edge ridge to the true summit. with such> > exposure on both sides> > we had to straddle the ridge and "shimmy-slide" part> > of the way.> > nothing quite like straddling the "most beautiful> > mountain in the> > world" at 5,947 meters at just before 10:00 a.m. on> > friday morning.> > what were you doing then? as the clouds started> to> > roll in we knew we> > had the bigger part of the job ahead of us: getting> > down.> >> > we start our descent with one rope between us and> > take our time (we> > still have plenty of daylight). we use natural> > features where we can> > and make natural features with our ice tools where> > there is nothing> > else. we do not want to leave any of our gear> > behind (it is expensive> > to replace) and we don't want to use any of the> > recovered> === message truncated ===

Dave's writing.. So in esseance we got off the mountain with multiple rappels with various "creative" techniques that saved us a few bucks, but in hindsight was somewhat unsafe and stoopid. ..actuallyu it wasn't even in hindsight.. at the times I think we knew we were being stupid but didn't want to lose the $5 ice screws!

At the times, I was sponsored by Montrail for ultrarunning and I had some nice climbing boots (the Couloir, it is called) they gave me for the trip; I still have them and use them every other year when I go ice climbing. My feet swelled so much on this trip that my toes got hammered on the descent and destroyed by feet. It was so worth it though!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Inca Trail 1999

I found this story I wrote way back in 1999 when my co-instructor from Outward Bound, Bill Jacox, and I went down to Peru to run the Inca Trail Race and to climb Alpamayo. We had an excellent run and an even better climb ( I may have the Alpamayo story somewhere, whcih I will try to dig up.)

I believe that these days a runner needs to be accompanied by a local outfit or guide service in order to run the Inca Trail from Kilometer 82 to Machu Picchu. I know there are some gringos who lead running trips down there though.

Here 's the story of the run.

Full of eager, excited runners, all ready to tackle what would turn out to be among their most memorable and exotic runs. We took a bumpy ride over dirt roads to kilometer 82 of the railway line which follows the Urubamba River Valley. After pre-race pictures with some of the race sponsors's banners, Cusquena Beer, Smartwool, and Odwalla, we jounced over the Urubamba River on a rickety footbridge onto the first 8kilometers of rolling dirt and rock trail. The start was located at just under 8000ft in elevation, an altitude to which Bill and I were well acclimatized, having been in the ancient Incn city of Cusco (11000 ft) for over a week. Living in Colorado helps too. There were some runners who live at elevations under 5000ft who did very well, though.There were 20 people running the race; an Austrian, 13 Front Range Coloradans, Bill and I, and 3 Peruvians, including a national steeplechase champion named Marco, and a national Inca Trail legend named Edgar Rodriguez who holds the record for racing the trail in 3 hours and 50 minutes. This was an enthusiastic, outgoing bunch of ultrarunners with respectable resumes of races they´d completed in Colorado and around the world. Some of them were perennial Leadville 100 runners. The Austrian fella, Carl, was completing the Inca Trail run as his 96th marathon or ultrarun, and afterward was heading off to Huaraz, Peru for a multi-day 190 kilometer race. They all held with a passion for the ultrarunning that is more a lifestyle than actually asport. For any person who had only run the Boston or Grandma's Marathon, this was not a good race to start ultrarunning.Edgar, Bill and I ran for the first 2 kilometers together, taking some action photos, skipping over rocks and roots, chatting, etc. Edgar said in Spanish that we were going out too fast, and that we should relax a bit, but I felt good and felt I knew what I was doing so I went ahead a bit. There were a few minor snafus in the run, some things that are only are learned by experience in peruvian culture. Things that are planned with Peruvians only happen when they are meant to happen rather than when one may want them to happen. Unknown to me, Edgar was the trail marker, therefore the pace-setter. The first 10 kilometers of the run through beautiful campesino(a Peruvian country person) farms and several drainages that empty in the sizable Rio Urubamba. It is a steep walled valley on one side covered with lush vegetation, and our side had many side trails that led to the farms and rural homes along the trail. I had almost gotten myself through the rolling, mazey first 10k until I took one wrong turn over a pile of cow pies on a trail that led to a farm. Through the bushes, retracing a few game trails, over some barbed wire, under some logs. Yikes! I bushwacked along another game and cow trail for 5 minutes until I got back to the main trail. I was a bit perplexed from there, so I stopped and decided to wait for the rest of the front of the pack Bill turned a corner near some bushes, running along in his longstrided way, power hiking up the short, steep section to where I was waiting, followed a few minutes later by Edgar. We called out to Edgar,40 feet behind "Que camino?!" No response. I really think he may have been trying to help us slow down to conserve our energy for the next 42 kilometers. Bill decided to keep going the way which we thought the trail went and I decided to wait for a response from Edgar. After thoughtfully marking the trail so the next runners would know where to go, he gestured vaguely in the direction that Bill went. Back in run mode finally!I caught up to Bill in a few minutes, talked shop for a few minutes and then kept going. The trail was pretty well defined it seemed from there. At about kilo 14 the trail did a sharp left and headed up the switch backs. Here is also where I thought that I´d find an aid station and having drank the last of my H2O out of the hydration system I carried on my waist, I yearned to down a quart or two. The aid stations, 3 total in the run, were to be attended by some Cusquenos(people from Cusco, a few hours away) who had hiked out days ahead of time. This was a lesson in how "time" is perceived in Peru and much of Latin America; things happen at a different pace here, and reliable workers can be hard to find. Bananas, water, energy drink, bars(not the alcoholic kind of bar), shelter and radios were to be at each feed station. This is where is the first ascent to the 1st of 3 passes starts, a 6000 ft climb over the top of Dead Woman Pass (Hmmm..Interesting name). The climb started on loose dirt and rocks, and after a half hour of huffing, power-hiking, and feeling "a bit dry", I was caught up to by a running Edgar, and he offered a few words of encouragement. "Mas Rapido!" he said. I thought, "Great. Yeah. I'll..uh..be right along. Go ahead without me." Was this the same Edgar who seemed to be taking his sweet time only 1/2 hour ago? Amazingly, the rest of the way up, he was just ahead of me as the trail turned to the stone steps that the Inca Trail is known for. We entered the clouds and a semi-tropical lush forest. Astonished European, Peruvian, and North American hikers, as well as porters carrying giant loads stopped to let us pass. "Are you guys running some kind of race?" they asked. "You guys are loco!" Given that most people take four days rather than four to 12 hours, I guess these kind of runners were loco.Now in mountain running, the reality is for most of us that on the steep ascents, it is not at all "running". It is surviving. And the only consolation for most is that what goes up must come down. And even then the stark reality still exists that knees are joints that can cry out real loudly when compressed. There are only 3 runners I have ever seen run ascents like that, Edgar being one of them, and myself not one of them. The guy is built like most Peruvians in size, about 5 ft 5 or 6 in , only he has powerfully built legs under him. A couple of those porters decided to race me up the hill and actually kept up for awhile...with a monstrous load of tourist trekkers' gear on their backs! Some of the racers were passed by loaded porters on the descents too!Still ascending to the saddle of the pass, the clouds thickened. There were silhouettes on a flat looking area maybe a mile ahead. "Goats, burros, Peruvian yetis, but those aren't people, are they?" I thought, knowing the legacy of false summits that comes with going up mountains. A bottle neck of hikers on the trail appeared before the silhouettes. The trail was steepest here , and Edgar was still in sight as he topped out. Finally the pass, situated near the silhouettes was a tent was set up with water, Odwalla bars, coca tea, Edgar and the small aid crew. After a few minutes of recharging, I said my thanks to the crew and Edgar and started down the steep descent, with a very full, watered and Odwallaed belly. The steps were works of art. Evenly spaced Incan carved, placed meticulously centuries before. I love going down hill, and some times letting gravity take over with some speed is best for the knees and legs. 3000 or so feet down, and at the base of the next pass I pit stopped in some grass, took care of business, and Edgar cruised by. I managed to catch him up before the next aid station, and after that never saw any other runners for until Machu Picchu hours later. The rest of the run was dotted with ruins here and there. Walls of precisely carved granite that must have taken years to build were the foundation for these ruins. With all the tectonic activity in the Andes, these walls and ruins have stood the test of time. Huaraz, where I am now, has been destoyed several times by earthquakes, and Incan walls from before the conquistadors are one of the only constants. Alluviones, walls of mud, rock, ice and snow, that crash out of the mountains from collapsed glacial lakes, happen every few decades. The Andes are a geologically dynamic range only rivalled by the Himalayas. A local Peruvian guide and his charges of American trekkers steered me the right way when I took a wrong turn into a particularly large ruin. Usually in the US if you get lost in a mountain race it's because you either spaced out while racing, the race director screwed up marking the course, or you got stuck in the trees. Only in Peru will you get sidetracked in archaeological wonders. The last aid station actually was a mobile aid station. Juan, the man in charge of the feed station was completely flabbergasted when I ran up behind him before the 3rd pass. He hustled along, his pack full runners' aid, asking questions about where I'd come from. He never believed that anyone would be there cso fast. I was one of the lucky ones though who found him. Turns out that other runners who arrived at the 3rd pass aid station never even saw him nor an aid station. I guess Juan found other things to do that day. From there, the water, or lack thereof, left my body. It is really hard to stay hydrated, if not impossible, on these long runs. It was a long haul into Machu Picchu. The trail went through a gorgeous ruin in the clouds, and after getting pointed in the right direction again by some hikers, I started the long, long descent down from 12500 ft to 8000ft. The sun started to shine in the hot and steamy lower elevation. I preferred the damp mist that fell up high at that point. A mud puddle started looking like a delicious thing to drink. I stooped over to sip, and then saw the tracks and a bit of the remains from a burro's standing in the same spot. I stood up to plod through the last 8 K. Finally, up over a rise and through the ancient gates of Machu Picchu!
(For some reason the last bit of this story got clipped but I recall getting to Machu Picchu and there was no finish line there! The organizers had misjudged how quickly we would finish the run and arrived wayyyy late. I had no money to buy a drink from the gift shop and wondered if I had misunderstood that the finish was in Aquas Calientes, a few kilometers downhill from Macchu Picchu. I ended up hiking all the way down to AC and then back up to MP, to find that the finish line had indeed finally arrived to MP! I was so wasted by then.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mini Documentary / Mackumentary

Since Western States is my objective this year, I thought it's be cool to document something building up to the race. Here is the link to the mini-version of what I am working on with Bill Hanson, local Boulder film guy.
Since I am looking for a new sponsor, feel free to contact me as we are tying in a sponsor to this project, which may become something something bigger and longer. I am notorious for being low-key about my sports but for some reason I am more motivated to being "out there" this year.

"Training" this week thus far

March 26Today - Dumping snow- Easy 1.5 hours with dogs in 1.5 ft feet snow
Goal: recovery/taper. Miles, about 5 -6

March 25 Yesterday; AM: 45 minutes easy pace on Vail Gore Creek Path with Tanker. Goal: get energy flowing for evening mile repeats and drive home.
PM 6 x 1 mile repeats at 5:30-6:15 pace, 5 minutes easy jog in between. From Marshall rd, South Boulder creek path to 55th back to Marshall RD ia Gravel pits/Buffalo Ranch. 1:05 total; about 10 miles

March 24 In Vail: (free 2 nights lodging and skiing)
AM: Tele skied in 2 ft dump in back bowls. Bad for leg speed but good for soul and skied with Ellen. Good for leg strength though if done in moderation.
PM: 1 hour easy. Goal recovery

March 23. AM 1.5 hours easy. Goal; recovery from 2 hoyr road run day before. Feel a bit sore and will lose right big toenail due to road run.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Here's the dog I refer to, Tanker. He rocks, especially in winter.

Eldora skating

Here are a couple photos from last weekend when we were at Eldora skate skiing with Ava in the towable Chariot bike/jogger/ski-thing. She is warmer and happier than she looks in the photos. Ellen is also warm and happy.

I woke up super early yesterday morning, like at 2 am, and started thinking about PA school and whether I will be be accepted. I am on the wait lists of 2 programs in the Bay Area, and pretty high up on the list of one of those programs, Touro University. I really want to get in, and Ellen, my wife, REALLY wants me to be accepted too. Ellen has been a saint in tolerating my career changes and the 1.5 years of the latest science pre-req classes that have dominated my life. I am committed to this professional path though and love studying again (unlike my undergrad at UNH 1000 years ago) and am psyched for grad school to start.
Anyway, I was thinking about school when I wass awake and at 4 am decided this was a waste of time to be sitting in bed and jumped up and in 10 minutes wss in the cara heading up to Eldora to skate ski. 30 minutes later I had my headlamp on and did a long loop through the nordic trails in Buckeye basin, then skated and herringboned right up the Jolly Jug trail past the top of Cannonball lift to the top of the Eldora ridge. There is a nice groomed wide ski trail and is relatively flat that crosses the top of the mountain for a mile or so to top of Corona and to the West ridge section of the ski mountian. It was freshly groomed from the night snowcat guys made for excellent skating in the dawn light and from a fingernail moon. A great workout at 10k feet! It isnt running training but close enough and skate skiiing only last a couple months near Boulder so you gotta do it when you can...or when you are laying in bed at 2 am.
After 30 minutes of ridge skating I passed a couple snowcats who were headed out to the Corona top of the lift and the cabin. This made for a great ski run back the 1000feet to the bottom of the mountain in 3 minutes, which is super fun in skate skis! Then back to the car for a quick banana and drink then another hour of skating. All told about 2 hours of skating, then back down to Boulder to be home at 8am.
I like skate skiing as cross training not only because it is a blast but also because it builds aerobic fitness, upper body strength, and most importantly core strength. In running the core muscle groups are used more than runners tend to believe, and those who do core strengthening on a regular basis help their running immensely, be it for a 100m sprinter or dirtbag ultrarunner like me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bear Peak RT <1 hour RT

This winter I'd been up Bear Peak two or three times per week, and almost daily in December with Kevin and Nico, and I'd been thinking that this would be entirely possible to hit Bear Peak and back to a trailhead in less than one hour. I'd tempo run it in 42 minutes from trail head to summit recently without too much effort, so I reckoned that I could get under 40 minutes pretty easily on the ascent. If that were the case I would need a sub 20 minute descent back to the TH, which also was reasonable.

I had a stomach bug last week from Ava, so I pulled an unplanned taper for a few days. After one harder run earlier this week I took another mellow 2 days to get my legs back under me and on Weds am felt great. For a week, Bill Hanson and I have been working on this mini-mackumentary about my upcoming Western States run, so we shot about 15 minutes of me jogging in the morning as my warmup. I didnt plan on running Bear peak that day, but felt so refreshed that morning I decided to time trial the peak in the afternoon with no real expectation of trying the sub 1 hour RT.

After a few hours at the library working on my microbiology class, I took a lunchbreak and headed over to the Cragmoor trailhead, jogged for 5 minutes, took a leak in the trees, then hit the start at the signpost and headed up! I decided to see how I felt at the summit before I committed to racing the downhill for the sub 1 hour RT.
The Cragmoor TH is the start and finish of Bill Wright's Fall Flatirons scramble of the Slab, so I'd been used to time trialing this trail before and knew how to pace up to the Slab (which is located where the Shanahan trail dips down to hit the Fern Canyon trail). I knew I couldn't go out too fast as the real "race" starts up at the Nebel Horn Saddle, much like the Pikes Peak ascent doesn't really start until A frame 3 miles below the summit.
I hit the top of the stairs where the trail joins the Shanahan trail in 2:41 and liked my conservative paced thus far. It was cool out but plenty warm, so after ditching my shirt under the Shanahan power lines to be picked up on the return, I kept on. At the Mesa Trail I was at 9:43, almost a minute slower than when we run the Slab race in the fall. I hit the Slab in 13:00(or so..I forgot this split)I thought I should start to pick up the pace as I felt very comfortable so as the trail dropped quickly down 60 feet into the ditch by the north side of the Slab and I used this drop to pick up momentum on the uphill on the other side. I hit the Fern Canyon trail post at 15:07, and reached the top of the first rockclimb/top of first steep steps (where Jeff and Allison almost got clobbered by ice this winter) in 18:41. The ascent to the Nebel Horn saddle felt good like I wasn't curshing myself, and I passed a few hikers coming down and a couple who were sitting in the trail eating. Of course they displayed amazement at running this trail, by saying "wow" and "nice work", but this is Boulder of course where we basically do this before breakfast every day.
I reached the saddle at 24:26 and decided to ramp it up from there to about %95 effort level to the summit. I power hiked a good part of the way on the lower steep slopes above the saddle as this is the steepest part of the whole climb and it felt more efficient than running, and this section only lasts about 250 feet. The angle eased off a bit and I was able to run/power hike alternately til the trail pops out on the ridge and I ran most of it from there.
Coming out to the summit cone I knew I was well within sub 40 minute range. The last ridge scramble I have so wired that I basically run along the top of the ridge to the summit. I was wearing Pearl Izumi shoes that Bob Africa gacve me, so there isnt any sticky rubber but it is enough traction to run well on the rough summit ridge sandstone. I stepped on top of the summit rock with my feet actually on the summit in 37;43, turned right around and ran the ridge back to the trail.
The descent was a blur (as it always is!) but I didnt race it too hard to blow my legs out and risk a fall. Nebel horn saddle I reacehd in 45:17. On the way past the steep steps/first rock climb, of all people of course but here comes Scott Elliott chugging up the hill with Tara Breed just behind. I said a quick Hey and kept cruising. I used the momentum down to the ditch by the Slab to power up the other side and down to hit the Mesa Trail again in 52:31. I knew sub 1 hour was in the bag at this point so I tempo'ed it down Shanahan and hit the finish post in 57:39.
That evening I still felt good so before going to my 6 pm micro class in Westminster, I did a few mile repeats at 6 minute pace to get the speed back in the legs. Weds was the best workout day I'd had in a few months! (And I paid the price as I am sore 2 days later!)
All in all I know may guys out there can go faster. I think Jeff Valliere has run close to 35 minutes on the ascent and Scott Elliot when he is fit can go faster. I think I can knock 2 minutes off this RT time with some focus by taking another minute off the ascent and one on the descent, and also doing it with a couple guys to push the pace may drop the overall time by another minute. No plans to pursue this at this point though as it is ultrarunning season for me with Western States as the overall goal.