Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Nice Reprieve

Today Andrea and I are taking off for a two week vacation in Nicaragua. Yes, it is safe there, or so they tell me. Everyone seems to think that Nicaragua is still a nation in the midst of a revolution. When we tell people that we're going to Nicaragua, we're usually asked if it's safe there. Supposedly, we've never been, it's very much like Costa Rica, just slightly less touristy. I'm just looking forward to getting a way for a bit.

Hopefully I'll come back itching to run. This season really hasn't gone to plan, and I've been feeling a bit burnt out on racing. Of course, Western States has become a huge thorn in my side these past 3 years. Knowing that I'm not running there next year feels so liberating. Also, I think that Kiwi's health issues have really worn on my ability to race to my capabilities this year. That sounds like a bit of a cop out, but she's like our child. Seeing her struggle with her illness has really stressed me out and zapped some of my motivation to race and train as hard as I'd like. But there's nothing like a good vacation to recharge. I plan to come back in two weeks with a little better outlook on things.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obsess Much?

Am I totally crazy to be going to 5, yes I said 5, Pearl Jam shows in a span slightly longer than a month? I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. They will play a completely different set each one of those nights, in fact, they'll play a different set every night of the whole tour. Plus, they only tour about once every 3-4 years, so if you're a fan, you've got to make the most of it when they do. So beginning September 21st I'll be attending 2 Seattle shows, 1 Vancouver, BC show, 1 Portland show, and one very special show on Halloween in Philadelphia, PA. It is a bit obsessive isn't it?

Well I know I've been blogging a lot about non-running things, but there's still been plenty of running happening as well. Lately I've done most of my running to and from work. It's such a great way to energize yourself before work and unwind after. The weather has been fabulous here in Seattle, so run commuting has been a real treat recently.

Speaking of real treats, on Sunday evening Andrea and I were fortunate enough to attend the wedding of my old runnin' partner the "Alabama Hammer." It was a beautiful ceremony, and even though I despise him for no longer running with me (only kidding), I couldn't be happier for him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like Sophie's Choice

I realize this is in poor taste, but I just couldn't resist the comparison. To be honest, I've never even seen Sophie's Choice. I know the basic premise of the story though. I understand that Meryl Streep is fantastic in it, but I digress. My point here is that I'm faced with a terribly tough choice. Since I have no children and only one border collie, I can't relate to having to choose one of my children over the other. What I CAN relate to is having to choose between Pearl Jam shows. (I warned you that this was in poor taste didn't I?)

So I've already got tickets to see Pearl Jam in September at Key arena on the 21st and 22nd. That's great. Since then I've kept hearing rumors of a Halloween show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. I guess I've become caught up in that hype, because now I feel like I can't miss that show. It will be the last concert ever at the Spectrum, by the way.

Andrea and I decided that if that show was announced that we'd go. But here comes the Sophie's Choice part. On Monday they did officially announce the Halloween show, but along with that, they also announced shows in Portland and Vancouver, BC. We can't justify going to all of these shows, so Andrea has laid it out for me. We can either go to the one Philadelphia show, which has the potential to be spectacular, or we can go to both the Vancouver and Portland shows. A practical person would realize that two shows is better than one, but like I said, I've become entangled in the excitement surrounding this final show at the Spectrum.

Oh, having to choose between these events is agonizing. Maybe it'll come to me in my sleep, because by 9am, when tickets go on sale for Philadelphia, I have to make a decision one way or the other.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Too Many Decisions!

What's a guy to do? Pearl Jam just announced the Philadelphia show on Halloween that I'd been waiting for. Great news, right? Well they also decided to add Vancouver, BC and Portland. Andrea and I are going to have to sit down and check out the finances. This could get pricey. Yikes!

More Tour Dates Added


We've got some great news ... Pearl Jam has added some dates onto their North American tour, on both coasts.

Oct 31 Philadelphia, PA Spectrum Arena* Aug-12 @9am PDT
Oct 27 Philadelphia, PA Spectrum Arena* Aug-12 @11am PDT
Sep 28 Salt Lake, UT E Center Aug-12 @1pm PDT
Sep 26 Portland, OR Amphitheater Aug-12 @3pm PDT
Sep 25 Vancouver, BC GM Place Aug-12 @5pm PDT

General sale tickets for the Philly shows will start August 14th through The Portland and Vancouver general ticket sales will also start August 14th through The remaining west coast dates will go on-sale to the general public through on August 15th.

Ten Club will be hosting a swift pre-sale for these shows beginning August 12th and ending August 13th at 5pm PDT. Coordinated dates and times are listed above.

You must be an active member as of August 9, 2009 to qualify for the ticket pre-sale. Tickets will be sold online only at with a Visa or Mastercard only. Two (2) tickets per show. No single tickets.

For wheelchair accessible or disabled seating, please contact the Ten Club at 1-800-724-8038 before making a ticket purchase.

*The Philly Spectrum has graciously provided Ten Club with a more-than-usual allotment of tickets for our eligible members. However, after our usual allotment, seat allocation (for these additional shows only) will be comparable to general public sale tickets, but still assigned by membership seniority.

Ten Club tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis and available only while supplies last. Seat allocation for the additional west coast shows will be distributed by membership seniority, with the exception of rows 1-2 and 9-10 which are randomly assigned regardless of seniority.

Tickets are not mailed in advance. Tickets are distributed at the venue on the day of the show. The Ten Club member must collect the tickets with a valid photo identification.

By opting to purchase tickets, you agree to all Ten Club policies. All ticket sales are final. No refunds, exchanges or transfers. Please visit here for a full description of the Ten Club ticketing policy and procedure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Speed Scramblin'

I've just been craving time in the mountains lately, and today was no different. I had the day off, so I decided I'd make the most of it by heading to the east slope of the Cascades. The objective of the day was to climb Mt. Daniel, a peak that I've wanted to get up for some time, and to do it as quickly as possible.

I was up by 4:30am, but everything seemed to take much longer than it should have, and I didn't get on the road until 5:30 or so. I arrived at the Tucquala Meadows trailhead at around 8am. Not really knowing how long the climb would take, I wasted no time getting started. I was solo today, so I slung my pack on and cranked up the tunes as I briskly started up the trail.

Unlike Sloan Peak, I was on a well established trail for the first 5 miles of the climb. Jim Nelson's book said that it should take about 3 hours to reach Peggy's Pond. From there the route was all off trail. Given that I was setting out to do this climb quickly, I knew that it wouldn't possibly take 3 hours to get to Peggy's Pond. I have run from this same trailhead a handful of times, so I was somewhat familiar with the terrain. Of course, I was carrying a little bit more gear than I would for just a run. After one brief wrong turn, I arrived at the end of the trail in less than an hour and a half.

The temperature was actually quite cool and there were some foggy clouds shrouding the view of most everything above. However, it seemed to be a very thin layer, and it was only a matter of minutes before everything was bright blue and sunny. The route up Mt. Daniel is really straightforward, and there are few technical difficulties. In uneventful fashion, I reached the summit in 3:02 from the car.

Although it was clear and sunny, the wind was howling up high, so I didn't get to savor much downtime on the summit proper. I wrote an entry in the summit log, ate a bar, refilled my water, and made my way back down to a more protected position. The descent was simply a return down the same route. However, it was a little more eventful than the ascent.

There was one section of the ascent that was a little dicey. For those of you that have climbed or do climb, you probably realize that downclimbing is significantly trickier than ascending. I thought that I could take a more direct line down the mountain and avoid downclimbing some semi-technical terrain. Unfortunately my plan backfired. 100 feet or so above the last snowfield, I came head to head with some pretty sketchy terrain. All of a sudden the rock became quite rotten and loose. The pitch was steep enough that if I were to slip, I probably wouldn't be able to stop until I reached the snowfield. It wouldn't have been a fall off a sheer cliff, but I didn't want to find out what damage could be sustained by such a tumble. I climbed part way back up the face and traversed toward the direction I had originally come up. In hindsight, I should have just climbed all the way back up and descended the exact route of the ascent, but I was being stubborn and just wanted to get onto the snowfield as quickly as possible. There was another line with some more solid looking rock that I had picked out from a distance. Following that path to it's terminus I was now only 50 feet above the snowfield. Again I traversed across the fall line to another promising looking rib of solid rock. This one looked like it led down all the way to the snowfield, but it was really steep. Rather than face the down sloping angle, I spun 180 degrees and began to very carefully downclimb. Every hold that I grabbed hold of or stepped on had to be carefully inspected for structural integrity. Many of the solid looking hand and footholds broke off without so much as a good tug. With about 20 feet left to descend to the snow, I spun back around and sat on my butt. There were no solid holds left to downclimb. Everything that I put any weight on was just crumbling and sliding down onto the snow. At least at this point, I knew that a fall would not be costly. If I did start to go, I may even have been able to run it out onto the snow. Thankfully I didn't have to find out. Without losing control, I was able to negotiate the final 2o feet and exit onto the snow.

The rest of the trip was without incident, and I arrived back at the car in 5:32. It was another fantastic day in the mountains. In the last few weeks, I've been able to get out to climb two peaks that I have wanted to do for some time. Now let's see what kind of shape this climbing has me in when I race Waldo in two weeks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

White River Report

Feeling a little bit downtrodden after another disappointing attempt at Western States, I thought that helping a first-timer through White River would be the perfect remedy to add a little fun back into running. My uncle, Bill Ames, has been contemplating running 50 miles for some time now, but he's had a great deal of trepidation about the distance. I proposed to him, that if he would sign up to run White River, I'd run the race at his pace to help him through.

Needless to say, he signed up, and I was committed to helping him through it. Uncle Bill kept assuring me that I could back out on our deal and run my own race. However, I was dead set on running with him. In all honesty, it was for both non-selfish and very selfish reasons. Obviously sacrificing my own race, to get him through his, was a selfless decision. On the flip side, I was really relieved to have a good reason not to have to go out and race. Feeling so drained after another Western States debacle, I just really needed to go out and run with no pressure.

And run with no pressure I did.

At 6:30 am the race got underway. It was strange not to be lined up at the front of the pack, but it didn't take long for me to start really enjoying a more casual pace. I couldn't believe how many more people are on the trail when you're in the middle to back of the pack. For the first 3 miles it was like a conga line of runners. However, as the grade steepened, people started to spread out a bit more. Bill was really moving well up the unrelenting climb. In fact, I was a little taken aback by the clip that he maintained.

Uncle Bll arrived at Corral Pass looking very strong and in seemingly good spirits. We were 17 miles in and everything was going quite smoothly. We seemed to make good time on the out and back, and it wasn't long until we were filling up at Ranger Creek and preparing for the 6 mile descnt to the midway point of the course. The section from Ranger Creek back to Buck Creek is a quad-burning downhill. Bill looked very strong initially, but as we neared the bottom, I could tell things weren't going well.

Our pace had slowed a bit, although we were still passing people. When I asked how he was doing, his responses became a bit more curt. I wasn't too concerned at that point. More people than not are pretty wiped by the bottom of that windy plunge down the creek drainage. We were very close to the Buck Creek aid station, and I figured a little change of terrain and some food would change things in a hurry.

Buck Creek provided an incredible reprieve from the monotony of the previous six miles. The aid station was bustling with people. We were greeted by many familiar faces, and I heard from numerous people that I appeared to be having a lot of fun. Unfortunately Uncle Bill was not having quite so much fun. His legs were pretty hammered, and he took a moment to sit down in a chair while he ate. I was a little concerned about his race, but having run this distance before, I knew that things can turn around quickly.

With food in our bellies, we struck out on the trail again. I explained to Bill that I always enjoy the second half more than the first. It was true, but mostly I was trying to remain upbeat, because it was becoming more and more clear to me that he was mentally and physically waning.

About a half mile up the second climb, Uncle Bill sat down on a log and told me that his day was probably over. "No, this can't be," I thought. UB has climbed El Cap, traversed the Bailey Range solo, run 17 5ok's, and survived numberous other harrowing climbing adventures. He couldn't possibly be derailed by 50 miles. I saddled up next to him on the log and tried to get a picture of what was going on. He explained to me that his legs were just shot and that even hiking was feeling like too much work. I convinced him to eat a couple of gels, and to his credit, he stood up and pressed onward.

Ultimately though, he stopped again, this time for good. He decided that it just wasn't his day. Again, I tried to keep him going, but I also respected his decision. It's not as though I've never dropped out of a race, obviously. So with UB out of the picture, what was I to do? I thought about just walking back to the start with him, but I didn't need another DNF. I was then reminded of my two friends Dan and Eric. They were somewhere in front of me, by how much I didn't know. Maybe, just maybe, I could catch them.

Having taken it pretty easy through the first half, I had some legs, so I began to run hard up the climb. As I rolled into the next aid station at Fawn Ridge I was disheartened to learn that Dan and Eric had arrived 25 minutes earlier. I had hoped to catch them by the Sun Top aid station, but that was seeming pretty far fetched with only 5 miles to go. Nonetheless I put my head down and continued to hammer upward.

Just before the summit aid station, there were two women taking numbers. I asked when Dan and Eric had come through. I was ecstatic to learn that just 3 minutes earlier they had checked in. I was going to catch them. To my surprise, as I crested the hill and the aid station came into view, I saw Dan and Eric. I filled them in on Bill's race and asked how they were doing. Both of them were in great spirits and we all set off down the road together.

Dan had run 50 miles once before, at the San Juan Solstice this past June, but Eric was running his first 50 miler. In fact, Eric had never even run a 50k, so he was in uncharted territory. Both of them seemed to be moving well as we chatted our way down the Sun Top road. By the bottom of the road though, Eric showed that he was indeed human. His IT band had tightened up on him. Not being in any hurry, I was content just to stick with Eric and Dan and do whatever I could to keep Eric upbeat and moving forward.

We hiked most of the final six miles, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I was so impressed with Eric's determination. Clearly he was in discomfort, yet he remained so seemingly upbeat. We crossed the finish line in 10:30 or so. It was about 3 hours longer than I would have been out if I was racing, but it was really enjoyable. Of course, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to finish with Uncle Bill, but I was glad to play at least a small role in Eric's first 50 mile finish.