Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Traveling to NYC

I am sitting here pretty much all alone in Terminal 8 at JFK Airport in New York. I have about 45 minutes until my wife lands here, so I am writing to you all to pass the time a bit. Today's travel day was not the best I have every had. Both difficulties with airports, airline attendant, and a few amateur mistake on my part as well. The good news is that I have finally arrived in New York (3 hours delayed) and only have to wait a little bit for my wife to show up along with my bag.

Before you ask why my wife would have my bag, let me start from the beginning of the day, a day which started much like any other, with my alarm waking me up dark and early at 5:30am. I immediately got up and put on the clothes I had laid out next to my bed the night before. I stumbled in the darkness lit only by my phone out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to heat up a heat pack for my leg and some tea for my belly. This is a pretty typical routine, where I have my tea and breakfast on my couch while surfing
the web on my phone and heating up my hamstring to be ready to run.

Once I finish my tea I go through a few exercises to further warm up and stretch out my legs, and with my early morning grogginess this takes me about 30 minutes to do what should only be 15. But I like to plan ahead, I know I will be a little lazy, even on a day like today when I am scheduled to fly to NYC for the TCS NYC Marathon. So, planning for that extra time is why I normally get up at 5:30am, so I can lazily go through all my necessary warm up before I meet my teammates to run at 7:00am.

At 6:50 I kiss my wife goodbye and drive to the Run Flagstaff store in downtown Flagstaff and arrive just as Adam Vess is pulling up. We say out casual good mornings, but I am less interested in socializing with Adam today. Not because I despise Adam with a passion (I don't really), but because Brett Gotcher just arrived in town, and I was super excited to catch up with him.

The next few hours went by too quickly, after running 7.5 miles with Brett and my teammates I stretched out and chatted a bit more. Then I met my wife at Dunkin Donuts, our planned post-run breakfast destination this morning, I ordered a half dozen, some coffee and then we decided to head home and eat there. My wife was coming from class, so it wasn't that much of a wasted trip to meet at Dunkin. At home we ate, drank, showered and got ready to catch our flight.

We left our house at 9:30am to drop out puppy off at Nick Hilton's house so they could watch her while we were away. After a quick drop off we headed to the airport and it wasn't until this point that I started to think that we were cutting things rather close. Usually the Flagstaff airport is pretty relaxed when it comes to check in times and boarding since it is such a small airport. We however made the mistake of thinking that we could just show up at 10:00am for a 10:25 flight and not have any issues whatsoever. We were wrong.

First we couldn't check my bag and would either have to leave it in Flagstaff (not an option), or change our flights to a later time and arrive in NYC at midnight. Terrible planning. Instead my wife volunteered to just change her flight, make sure I get to NYC and she would check my bag along with her. That also means I get to travel with her bag, which is pretty much my only company right now. I also have my phone playing music, so I am not completely alone.

My Travel Companion!

I make the trip to phoenix easily enough, only to discover when I get there that because of all the bad weather in NYC our plan is grounded for an undetermined amount of time (officially 2 1/2 hours). Turns out the after all our poor planning and issues with trying to convince the airline people in Flagstaff to do us a favor and just check my bag anyways, that my wife would leave Flagstaff 3 hours after me and arrive in NYC only 45 minutes behind. Such is the life of travel.

The time is not ticking by and her flight should arrive in about 20 minutes now. This was a great way to pass the time. Thanks for reading and hopefully you will follow me as I race the INS NYC Marathon this Sunday morning! Tune in at 9am EST on ABC or ESPN2!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Conquering Mt. Humphreys

This week I decided that I would finally climb to the top of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff. Mt. Humphreys’ peak is at 12,633 feet, sitting approximately 6,700 feet above Flagstaff, and is the highest point in Arizona. I have attempted this as a hike previously 3 times, each time failing to make the final stretch from the ‘Saddle’, at 11,800ft, to the peak. These failures were all due to wind, snow, and cold, since the Australian Rules Football team I volunteered to lead to the top is only in town in November, and the weather gets pretty nasty that high up.

Humphreys Peak - 12,633 Feet

On the third of these attempts, the group and I tried to ‘brave the storm’ and push our bodies past the cold and wind to finally complete the challenge. Alas, we fell a ¼ mile short that day, as the weather only got worse. One man from the group decided to continue despite everybody else discouraging him, and he eventually returned with frostbite on his hands. The moral of that story is to be extremely prepared for this climb, because it is excruciatingly tough. Thus, for my first 5 ½ years of living in Flagstaff the only times I attempted to make it to the summit was in November. Those conditions took their toll on me and definitely made me fear Humphreys.

Two weeks ago I ran the SnowbowlHill Climb for the first time, which is the 7-mile road that leads up to Snowbowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff. The ski resort also serves as the starting point for the ascent to the top of Mt. Humphreys. After finishing the Snowbowl Hill Climb, I got the itch to attempt the climb up Humphreys again. Then, Wednesday night, Brian Tinder sent me a message asking if I wanted to run up to the top with him Thursday morning. As ill prepared as 12 hours might be for a run that would climb 3,400 ft in 4.8-miles, I figured that the coincidence was a good sign to say, ‘yes’.

Tinder's Little Celebration

I got up at 5:00 AM to brew some coffee, drove to Tinder’s house to meet him at 6:00 AM, and we carpooled up the hill to the Humphreys Trailhead, which begins at 9,200 ft. With 2 cups of coffee in me, and a handheld water bottle with cell phone pocket, I was ready to begin. We started up at a rather casual pace, neither of us had any record setting in mind, we just wanted to ‘run’ up it. The first 3.5-mile to the Saddle were uneventful, despite the roots and jagged rocks, there was a lot of stumbling but neither of us fell. We arrived at the Saddle in 55 minutes; our average pace taking a big hit as the trail gets steeper the closer you get to the top.

After pausing for a minute to check out the scenery we begin the final 1.3-mile ascent. I am amazed at how rough the terrain is, hiking is difficult and running is nearly impossible. The last time I was up here, there was 3 feet of fresh snow, which covered all the jagged rocks and made the trail impossible to find. Seeing it now without any snow allowed me to realize how steep the fall is on either side of the trail, and how damn lucky I was to have come out of my previous attempts unbroken.

View Looking Towards Flagstaff from Summit
23 minutes later we reached the peak, we quickly celebrated with some sips of our drinks, a couple pictures and a video, and checked out the view from the top of Arizona. We could see the fire burning 30 miles South just above Sedona and the Grand Canyon 90 miles North. We stayed only a few minutes because despite the beautiful summer weather, the wind and temperature at the top was getting cold with us just in sweaty shirts and short shorts.

Cold - And Ready to Head Back Down!

Then, we descended, which was nearly as tough as the climb at some parts. I stumbled nearly 50 times on the way down after catching my toes on rocks and roots, my legs getting tired and my stride getting lazy. I nearly fell one time when we were 100 ft from the top, catching myself by slamming my palm into a rock just before my knees and face hit the ground. Every other stumble was under control, and served as a wake up call to keep paying attention to the ground!

We arrived at the trailhead and ran a loop around the parking lot to make the run an even 10-miles. The run roundtrip was 2 hours 20 minutes; our ascent was 1 hour 18 minutes, and decent 1 hour 2 minutes. Each is approximately 13 minutes and 21 minutes behind the course records, respectively. Some day, maybe not some day soon, I will attempt to break those records. For now I will start to focus on the roads again. The Olympic Marathon Trials is 6 ½ months away!