Brief Trip Report: Puerto Rico 2009

Sorry for the delay with the Puerto Rico report. In brief, there was some airport excitement with the weather that the east coast was experiencing. Canceled flights, delays, etc. In the end of it all Nicole and I as well as the rest of the family arrived safely in Puerto Rico.

group shot on the back porch, complete with 4 hammocks and an ocean view

The house was literally on the beach and high tide waves occasionally hit the basement walls.

view from the rooftop looking away from the ocean

Nicole and I spent a day in Old San Juan. It reminded us of Old Town Pasadena in some ways. Of course in others...it was nothing like it.

looking between fortress walls onto an ocean-side cemetery.

great art museum that we checked out

flags in Old San Juan

Old San Juan at night

much of our food was prepared at the house courtesy of Mr. Special, a local supermarket.

One of the days a group of us went hiking in Maricoa State Forest while another group hit up the zoo and some local shopping. During the hike the rain threatened but held off. There were many different kinds of trees, birds, and plants - some of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

ranger station at the park entrance

Nicole peaks over the top of a huge stone tower on top of one of the mountains

the first leg of our trip home we were upgraded to First Class!

greeted home with a sunset over Los Angeles

I think I took around 450 photos, so this is just a glimpse. I may post a couple more here and there. I hope that you all had safe and fun holidays. Happy New Year to all.



We got up at 4am to drive across Puerto Rico, drop off the rental car,
and catch our flight to Atlanta...then LA. We are at SJU airport and
through security. That's a good start.


On waves and trails...

Got out on the boogie boards today. You can't tell from this photo but
the waves were brutal. Tomorrow we hit a nearby beach that is supposed
to have great waves to ride. The family is healthy and having fun.
Time for burritos. Happy holidays to all.

p.s. I used google earth to find some farm roads and dirt trail
nearby. It made for a hot, humid, wonderful run.


Old San Juan

After another airline scare that Nicole might not make it due to more
flight complications, she has arrived. I picked her up earlier today
and we visited Old San Juan. The picture in this post was taken during
a cliff bar break at the fort. When we get back to LA I'll post more
pics of the whole trip.


Snow. Run. Fly.

My flight out of LAX left an hour late. My connecting flight changed
gates and concourse. I ran 30 gates and one concourse away and am now
on my plane. Lots of snow in DC. I don't miss it. Slept about 45
minutes total. That will be about all I get now that I'm on EST. Next
stop. San Juan.



I am waiting for my red eye flight at LAX. Nicole's flight out of
Hartford was cancelled due to weather but she was able to get one the
following day thanks to her mom and no thanks to the airline.


Winter Blues...Nope.

drying out the footwear

It rained pretty good late last week and on the weekend. Well...good for southern California anyway. The steep trails turned into temporary raging creeks. It was pretty cool.

Update for the 2009 trail running goal.
1085.9 miles of California mountains
349 days
3.11 miles per day (average)
16 days remain
45.6 miles remain

Under 50 miles to go? No problem...even though next week will likely be more about surfing and relaxation than logging miles.

Oh yeah, I may have forgotten to mention...Nicole and I are celebrating the holiday with her family...in Puerto Rico. No doubt there will be some excellent photos and stories to follow.



Wow. This takes me back to my BMX days as a kid, but I never did anything like this. Also, nice touch having a great tune by Band of Horses in the background. Seriously, check out the first minute and a half of this video...then get pulled in to the rest. The bike becomes a fluid extension of the rider Danny's body and even the surroundings become part of the bike. He is truly in his element.


Walk Alaska...

Andrew Skurka is planning a new adventure. He will do a long distance backpacking loop. In Alaska. 4,500 miles long. Details are on his site. While you are there check out the Great Western Loop and the Sea to Sea Route. This guy is all about epic adventure. He was an excellent resource in planning my gear and technique for the Appalachian Trail thru-hike.



Some days you head down to Venice and walk. Recently Nicole, Jeremy and I shared one such day. Below are a few random pictures from our travels.

new skate park with ocean and mountains in the background

young gun shows how it's done bowl to bowl

skulls for sale!

there are some really great homes along the canals

the sun sets on another day


Barefoot Friday...

Today was the barefoot running workshop led by Barefoot Ted. There were about 20 people that came out. Not surprisingly all of them had read Born to Run.

I look about 30lbs overweight in this photo, Thanksgiving dinner?!

There was a lot of great information shared and some good exercises to do to improve form. Disclaimer, I only put on the Vibram Five Fingers at the end of the workshop to ask him questions about the fit. To prove it, here is what my feet looked like when I got home.

Road tar!

Ted and Barefoot documentary guy (Mike?)

No I don't think barefoot running is crazy or extreme. Yes I plan to incorporate it more into my training. Yes I think anyone can learn something from it in terms of form and staying light on your feet.

I feel completely recovered from Sunday's 50k and have had to suppress the urge to go out into the mountains and run for hours. Tomorrow or Sunday I will get out for a couple hours and get in some solid miles.

That's all for now.


Give Thanks...

I am thankful for many things. Friends, family, and good health are the tip of the iceberg. Here are two more things from the long long list.

I am thankful for my awesome wife

I am thankful for adventures past and future

I could easily list 20 more things...or I could go spend time with family...goodbye.


Race Report: Santa Monica Mountains 50k

Disappointment or triumph? The Santa Monica Mountains 50k is now history. I will start by saying it was the hardest physical/mental running experience of my life. I said hardest, not worst. It had potential to be the worst - if I would have dropped out when every ounce of me was begging to just turn back and DNF or collapse into a pile.

I had big hopes for this, my third ultramarathon of 2009 and well, third ever. I got about 5 hours of sleep, which I thought was decent. Nicole dropped me off at the trail head and I picked up my number and played the waiting game until the start of the race.

Everything started as planned. 7.5 miles into the run was the first aid station where my friend Evan was working and he told me I was on pace for my six hour goal. This was nearly 40 minutes faster than my previous best, but well within reach...if everything went well. 5.5 miles later I hit the next aid station and loaded up on water. Still on pace for my goal.

The climb coming out of that second aid station about 15 miles in took its toll. Steep winding switchbacks followed by a stretch of loose rock straight up the side of the mountain. The worst part about it is that you can never tell where it is going to level out until you are there...and "there" is pretty far up! I muscled up the mountain but knew that I had lost some time.

Into the third aid station (same one as the first). Even though I knew I was slipping off pace, Evan had encouraging words and told me it was still doable if I cranked the downhills. I left for the next 7.5 mile loop and wondered if I could still pull off a good overall time.

The next long sustained uphill and the full heat of the day gave me its reply. It was no. No on all accounts. Can I power hike to the top? No. Can I take in a gel? No. Can I catch my breath even while standing still? No. Not good. This would be the hard point that I spoke of in the beginning of the post. I fought my way at what seemed like a crawling pace to the last aid station.

The picture below was taken as I was leaving the last aid station with 5+ miles to go. Literally at this point I was hanging on and fighting to make it under the cutoff time.

Nicole came to pick me up and since I was out there a bit longer than expected she and Benton made friends...like this little girl who was waiting for her daddy to finish running.

Time passes...and finally I made my way back down the last mountain towards the finish line. The last mile or two I picked it up to a make it or break it pace. I knew I wasn't in dead last and I knew there were people not far behind. I was determined not to let anyone pass me on this last stretch. All said and done, it took me over two hours longer to finish that I had hoped, and I feel stronger for the experience.

Of course no race this close to the ocean is complete without an icy cold finish. Here Benton and I make our way over the slippery rocks to the frosty waves.
The aftermath. The next morning and all day today I feel great - mentally clear, and physically I have recovered to the point where I can run up and down three flights of stairs with minimal effort. I did, however, lose around 9 pounds during the course of the race. That is some serious performance declining dehydration. I thought I was keeping up on fluids an electrolytes, but something was obviously way off. I have since gained the weight back and find it hard to believe that the race was yesterday. Now I have to decide whether to train for another 50k...or step up to a 50 miler. Too soon to tell.


Almost a Milestone...

I'm now 999.5 trail miles into the year and getting ever closer to the 5k a Day Trail Challenge I set for myself. December will be tricky getting in trail miles due to some holiday travel. More on that in another post. Until that, wish me luck on Sunday when I'll rack up another 30+ miles.


L2H - Lowest to Highest Trail

For those familiar with the Badwater 135 ultramarathon there is now an unofficial hiking route named the L2H (Lowest to Highest Trail).

That's right! You too can hike from lowest and the highest points in the contiguous United States in 130 "easy" miles: Badwater, Death Valley (−282 ft) where temperatures easily reach 130F and Mt. Whitney's snowy summit (14,496 ft). Am I the only one getting excited about this?

I'm one week away from the 50k. Wish me luck. In the meantime Nicole and I are looking forward to company in the form of two of her brothers who will be staying with us through Thanksgiving. Can't wait to see the guys!

Lastly, I came across an opportunity to do another barefoot running workshop. I'll be participating in this the day after Thanksgiving. Details are here and you can google Barefoot Ted to learn more about the host of the event. If you have read the book Born to Run, you already know who he is.

That's all for now.

Thanks to fellow mega backpacker/ultrarunner "the Onion" for the heads up about the L2H Hike.


Trip Report: San Gorgonio via South Fork Trail

It was time for another dayhike with Stitch. We decided to hike up San Gorgonio Mountain. It is the tallest peak in Southern California and the 7th highest in the lower 48 states at 11,503'. Despite its impressive peak elevation, our hike up the South Fork trail would only have about 4600' of gain. The total out and back distance of the trail is just shy of 25 miles.

After roughly four hours of sleep I got up and packed the car. Thirty minutes later I picked up Stitch, and 2 hours after that we were at the trailhead.

It was immediately obvious that this was going to be a beautiful hike. Huge trees, more green landscape than I am used to seeing in SoCal, and a view that just keeps going and going.

We had some fun along the way...like when Stitch made a camera into an iPod.

I carried 16lbs of fluid and little else. A warm insulating layer for the peak and a 3oz. windshirt were clutch. We did cross a couple of streams and saw some springs seeping out of the mountain. Reliable water can be tricky on this route, but I could have gotten away with much less than I carried.

Dry Lake. The name is self explanatory. We took a nice snack break here and saw a couple of backcountry rangers (though they did not see us).

Stitch checks out a propeller among the wreckage of a 1950's plane crash. This military plane went down in a snowstorm and there were no survivors.

Breathing in the air at 11,502 feet above sea level. A bit higher than the 101 feet I live at. I am wearing the same pack, trail runners, gaiters, insulating jacket/windshirt, and visor as I had with me on the Appalachian Trail. When great gear is working for you...use it!

Parting shot on the way back down to the trailhead. San Gorgonio is in the background. We finished a little while after dark but it remained light enough that we didn't need our headlamps.


What the?!

Yeah. Ok. So it was actually a book about fabric and quilting or something like that. Nicole and I saw it today at a store and I couldn't pass up the photo opportunity.

I got my Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks the other day and have been able to wear them around a bit, but no running yet. A more detailed report will follow after I get some miles on them. So far they are really comfortable and a great option when full barefoot is not an option (you know like at the market or...work).

Yes, those are individual toe pockets

Stitch and I have another zany adventure lined up to take place very soon. Trip report to follow. Hang on to your hats!


The Road to Vegas...

Vegas was a lot of fun. A pretty easy non-eventful 4 hours or so each way in the car. We listened to the audio book for Born to Run. I have already listened to it, but Nicole had not yet so we got several hours of listening in.

We had some great sushi after arriving and got to meet baby Audrey for the first time. All in all a great trip.

Our Vegas friends live in a great house pretty much as close to the mountains as it gets. Next time we are out there hopefully we'll have more time for some hiking.

The Hip show was good...but short. Just like when I saw them perform in Hollywood a few months ago there was no opening act. Unfortunately they only played about an hour and a half in Vegas as compared to about two and a half + hours previously. Oh well.

I got in a hot 15 mile run today in the little mountains. I'm still wired for East coast weather and seasons, so 80 degrees and sunny in November seems odd. I'm getting closer to 1000 trail miles on the year and the average per day is just over 3.09 miles.

With the 50k about three weeks away I have to start thinking about the dreaded taper. I don't know if I mentioned before, but this race will mark the one year anniversary of my first trail race (the 30k). I certainly feel comfortable running longer distances than I did then, but I don't know if I'm actually any faster!

Oh yeah, daylight savings pretty much means if I forget to take a headlamp to work with me I won't be able to run on the way home. Where did my evening sunshine go?


120th Post

more awesomeness at www.toothpastefordinner.com

Bought a new work shirt tonight. I am not a fan of shopping. Good find on the shirt though...wrinkle free, good quality, and cheap. I am less a fan of ironing clothes than I am of shopping for them.

The 5k a Day Trail Challenge is going well. 914.7 miles down for a 3.07 miles per day average.

The Santa Monica Mountains 50k is less than a month away. EH and BK of Night Owl Racing will be manning an aid station with young Mr. T. I'll be running for the finish line just as fast as my legs allow. I hope to keep up the swim in the ocean tradition post race...man it's going to be cold.

This weekend Nicole and I are heading to visit D + J in Vegas and see The Hip at House of Blues. Can't wait!

That's all for now.