Monday, December 7, 2009

Inspiration and Leadership

I know I have covered this subject in the past, but bear with me...

Goat and I had a couple good 10 milers this past weekend. My only other run for the week was 5 miles on the treadmill on Monday morning. All was about 25 miles for the week. Eh, not quite what I was hoping, but better than nothing I suppose. We kept a decent pace on Saturday, but Sunday was slow in the snow. Ahhh, the snow was indeed beautiful, and I wish I had brought the camera to share it with all of you.

So, today was a rather stressful day at work and other things have had me on edge, so I really needed to run. After leaving work at 6:30 tonight, I went straight to the gym. My plan was to slog through some decent miles regardless of how long or how slow. I felt slow and clunky at the start. My first mile was somewhere north of 9 min pace. Ugh! After a bit I settled into a 8 min pace and then dropped it into a 7:30 pace. At around 25 minutes I started feeling really worked, and started wondering how I could hold the pace for another 35 minutes. I sat there watching Tiger Woods and his mistresses flash across the TV screen more times than I care to recall. Is there no one left in sports that is a decent guy?

Then I thought about my friends. I thought about real people that inspire me and hope that in some small way I may equally inspire them.

I thought about Matt Estes: one of the best ultrarunners in the country trying to figure out how to manage a demanding job and ultra training. I thought how I'd love to see Matt pull off a victory in a 100 miler while working the long hours that many of us grind out. I know he can do it. I know we can all do it.

I thought about Captain Bill with a very demanding job and a very full family life, and how he managed to do a major trail marathon this weekend. Yeah, he put in more miles in one day than I have in the past 3 days. Way to go, Capt! There's leadership for you!

I thought about the Goat putting in the miles despite being sick all week and pondering the Vermont 100 for 2010 despite having a demanding job.

I thought about many of you out there who get up before dawn and put in your miles before the rest of us get out of bed.

Yes, YOU were the source of my inspiration as I started cranking the pace down. I got my 8 miles in an hour and worked up a good sweat in the process. I had a spring in my step as I thought of my friends pounding out the miles.

Thank you all for being an inspiration and providing some leadership to the rest of us. Power on folks!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Figuring things out

I went to my friend, and climbing partner, Ken's memorial service tonight. Ken died from complications due to Leukemia. I hadn't climbed with him in a few years and honestly did not get a chance to climb with him a lot. He did, however, turn me into an ice climber: a deed for which I am eternally grateful. I had the privelege to climb some sick ice with Ken, and just wish we had more time to rope up together. Nevertheless, tonight was a celebration of his life. There were slide shows (Ken loved giving slide shows) and readings about Ken. It was really quite inspiring. At one point, several emails reflecting on Ken were read, and one of them was from me. I was very pleased that it was shared. It was good to see some old friends from the climbing community. Ken's biggest fear was not being "remembered". I was amazed that he could have this fear because he impacted so many people in the climbing world. He was a real teacher and very giving of his time. He organized trips and was always watching out for others. Ken will not be forgotten. In fact, I've never seen a church so packed!

I'm always a very emotional type at these things, and today was no exception. It also gave me a chance to reflect on how I have lived my life and what I want to do with the rest of the time I have in this world. It reinforced some of the things that I like about myself and my life, and got me to think about some changes I'd like to make. We'll see how it goes...

As far as running, I managed to log some decent mileage this past week. While it's a mere fraction of my training from last year, I did manage to get in nearly 40 miles this week on some tough terrain. I also squeezed in some climbing and yoga, so am starting to feel more fit. We'll see if I can keep it up once the weekly grind kicks back in.

Upcoming plans include ice climbing in the DAKS after Xmas and a big ski trip to B.C. in February. Yeah, backcountry POWDER baby!

Other 2010 plans include the inaugural Traprock 50K trail race co-directed by yours truly and the famous Goat (a.k.a. my bud Kevin). We are shooting for April 3, so mark your calendars and sign up for our Facebook page!

Cheers and have a great week everyone!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and good advice

Today is Thanksgiving! Happy, Happy T-day everyone! I made my traditional apple pie and drove to my folks this morning for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat.

My brother, Robert (a.k.a. Bubba), called earlier in the week to see if I wanted to do a morning run today, and the request put a smile on my face. We run at different levels, and Bubba only gets out a couple days per week, but the fact that he runs is all that matters to me. We have worked out a system that works for us. We run the 1-1.5 miles together and then I start to pull away or Bubba fades a little. I circle back and we chat every 1/4 mile or so. Once we decide on the halfway mark, I take off in a sprint for it. It's an out-and-back course, so Bubba watches for me and turns around as soon as he sees me heading back. At some point, I catch up and then we run back together. Today, Bubba did 6 miles in 55 minutes. I was happy for him as he pushed it hard on the last mile.

When my Dad saw me, he asked if I had any racing plans for the upcoming year. I replied that I would like to do another race, but work has been keeping me from getting any decent training in. He gave me some good advice, "You need to change that...". Damn! For once I could not argue with the man, and we never see eye to eye. I was speechless. It made me think...

Before the run with Bubba, my cousin, Paul, from Colorado called. He said, "Hey, I just wanted to thank you for being in my life you crazy SOB!" I was shocked and confused. Then he explained...he had just spent a few days with his brother, Sean, in Vermont, and Sean showed him the pictures from the Vermont 100 in 2008. OH! OK! Now, I understand the crazy SOB comment. I've also visited Paul during some crazy climbing adventures, so he thinks I'm a total nut now! We had a nice chat :-)

So, I drive home, and decide to check on AJW's attempt at the 5:00 mile. AJW is a great 100 miler and won Vermont in 2008 when I placed 7th. We chatted after the award ceremony as I've always been a big fan. So, while I was watching the video of his attempt, I see his son wearing the Vermont 100 race shirt from 2 years ago. Wow! I'm thinking someone is trying to tell me something.

I don't have a plan right now, but it sure would be nice to start getting in some good mileage and crank out some fast times. I definitely feel better when I run more than 3 times per week.

I signed up for Attackpoint tonight to start tracking my weekly mileage. We'll see where this goes...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Sunday, November 1, 2009


Meb Keflezighi won the NYC marathon today and I just happen to catch it on TV. It was amazing! Meb is a U.S. citizen who grew up in California. He finished 2nd in the Athens Olympics and has finished 2nd and 3rd in NYC previously, so it should be no surprize that he finally pulled off the victory. Nevertheless, he is 37 years old and it is the first time an American has won the race since I graduated high school in 1982. So, it is a great day in U.S. running.

The amazing thing about it, in my opinion, is that 6 of the top 10 finishers were Americans. Ryan Hall, the great young prospect and Meb's training partner, finished 4th. This represents the great return of American distance running. We've all been waiting to see if this day would arrive, and here it is. You have to wonder what Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter are thinking right now.

It was exciting to watch it unfold. There was a pack of 11 runners at the mid-way point, and the commentators mentioned Ryan Hall, Meb and a couple other Americans were in the pack. They focused on the tall, blonde haired Hall because he had won the Olympic trials marathon. I took one look at thought he had no chance. He was too tall and did not look comfortable. Meb, on the other hand, was short and light like most great marathoners, and looked very relaxed in the back of the pack. I wondered how he would do and thought it was cool that he was wearing a USA singlet. I also noted that he had on a hat, arm warmers and gloves. The man was running comfortably all right.

One by one they all dropped off the pace until there was only 2. Meb and one of the great African runners. I watched for clues to see if he had it in him to go for the win. I watched intently, and then I got the clue. He dropped both his arms and shook them out with about 3 miles to go. You do not drop your arms and shake out when you are pushing and fatigued. You shake out when you want to loosen up a little. He still had his hat and arm warmers on him, and I knew he was getting ready to cut loose.

With 2 miles to go, Meb pushed and opened a 5 second gap. He made his move and the other guy could not respond. It was all he needed. He opened up a gap and ran in glory pointing at his USA singlet as he approached the finish line.

Meb is the man!

In his post race interview, he said he had imagined this day for a long time.

After the victory, I went out and ran a quick 6.5 miles to celebrate. I felt like stopping to tell everyone that I passed on the trail, but I figured they would think I was crazy.

So, if Meb can run a 2:08 marathon at age 37 with two young daughters at home and working through a year of treatment for stress fractures, what else is possible? Think about it.

There's a guy up in Mass. who started running at age 53 and has run something like 80 marathons and eight 100 milers. He's about 80 years old or so. Cool.

So, what else is possible?

Enjoy your week!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Captain and Tammy

Most people think of a rainy Autumn weekend as a good time to huddle indoors, stay warm, watch football, eat good food, and take naps. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Even better after a good workout...I have to admit, I looked at the forecast and thought, "This will be a great weekend to run!" Am I crazy or just embracing life? You decide, but keep in mind that there are others like me out there :-)

So, the Goat and I met for our usual Saturday morning running ritual yesterday. We did about 10 and called it. We agreed to meet again this morning as we are challenging ourselves to at least 5 workouts (at least 3 of the 5 must be running) per week for the next 12 weeks. Since racing and rock climbing season are ostensibly (that's for you Dawn) over and skiing and ice climbing don't start for another month or two, we need something to stay motivated. My running season generally kicks into full swing around the start of the new year, so this helps bridge the gap.

Anyway, after our run yesterday, I logged onto Facebook and was happy to see that many of my running friends had also been out for a morning jaunt. However, two of my running buds, Bill and Tammy, were contemplating and seemingly dredding the Newport Marathon in Newport, RI. They are running in the race as I type this note, and it is raining and raining and raining. Bill and Tammy both indicated that the weather called for 35 mph winds, rain, and temps in the 30's/40's.

OK, it might sound pretty harsh (and it is), but I bet you they come back with some incredible memories. For those of you who don't know Bill and Tammy, they were the couple from CT who competed on The Amazing Race with 2 of their 3 children a few years ago. While their kids were much younger than the others on the show, they competed admirably and fared well. It was fun to watch them compete and hear their stories afterwards. Bill and Tammy are also on our Reach the Beach Relay team. Bill is team leader, hence the "Captain" moniker.

So why would they decide to run a marathon in a full out Nor'easter today? Well, they are attempting to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. There is actually a club that recognizes this achievement and I believe Bill is more than halfway to this goal. Tammy, who always has a smile on her face, has been clicking off the races as well, and it is great to hear about the races they run together. I'm sure they will share many memories from these races: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I, for one, think running in the harsh conditions is what it is all about. Heck, anyone can run a marathon in perfect conditions (OK, perhaps not, but you get the point). It's the bold that take on the harsh conditions and relish the challenge. Ian Torrence, one of the outstanding west coast ultra runners, was quoted as saying something to this effect, "When I really get down in a race, I think about what I would be doing if I wasn't running, and realize I'd probably be home watching TV." I think of this world as having two types of people: those who live life and those who watch others live life. Here's to those who live life!

So, here's to Captain Bill and Tammy. One of Bill's favorite quotes is from Steve Prefontaine, and it has become a mantra for our Reach the Beach Team. Pre said, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." So, as the Goat and I put in our 9 miles this morning, I thought about Bill and Tammy battling through the winds and rain in Newport. As miserable as they may have felt, I bet they gave it their best, and it is something they will tell their grandchildren about someday.

Preliminary congratulations to Bill and Tammy for running the Newport Marathon. I hope they cherish the cold and wet memories. They definitely earned bragging rights this year!

Post Script:

I got a call from Dawn who just finished a 14 mile run at the reservoir in the pouring rain. She sounded cold and miserable. Then, I asked her how it went and she replied, "It was a good run."
That, my friends, is what it is all about.

Have an incredible week!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Off the Couch Marathon

Today was the Hartford Marathon.

Unfortunately, I was not signed up for the race. Someone asked me if I was running it, and I said that I only race when I am in peak condition. Well, I haven't been running much lately, so I didn't even consider running this year.

Hartford is the first marathon I ran many years ago and I've completed it 4-5 times. I've also run the 1/2 marathon twice and watched my ex, Tammie, run it once. I also watched Dawn finish the marathon last year. So, the race has been a big part of my life.

Today, Dawn was running the 5K and Tammie was doing the half marathon. In a way, I was very proud because I think I helped them both make running a significant part of their lives. I am happy for them.

So, I really wanted to get out for a big run this weekend because I haven't run long in awhile. I thought it would be cool to try to do at least 20 miles and perhaps do a marathon-like distance of 24-26 miles to try to somehow include ourselves in the marathon weekend. The Goat called to make plans for our regular weekend run at the reservoir and I told him we were running a marathon.

The Goat is usually up for any challenge and today was no different. We met at the reservoir at 8AM and the Goat had his Garmin GPS watch. I thought, "OK, no backing out of this one now". We carried water for the first time in quite awhile. As we ran, I realized that we hadn't done any runs of longer than 10 miles all summer long. In fact, this would be our longest run since the Stonecat Ale 50 miler last November. Wow!

Nevertheless, the miles clicked by and we were moving well. I had mentally layed out a course in my mind that included a run to Heublein Tower. We were near the 9 mile mark when we reached the tower and the views were incredible with all the autumn colors. We elected to head down the other side of the mountain and then back up to the tower to add another 2.5-3 miles to this loop. People hiking the trail joked with us that we were in the Hartford Marathon. Little did they know that we were doing a longer, more grueling run.

When we reached the tower the second time, we realized that we had completed all the major climbing and that the return trip to the cars was fairly flat. By our estimation, it would be close to 20 miles when we reached the cars. Our plan was to refuel and then hit the trail for 6 more miles.

By the time we reached the cars, we were both hurting a bit, and the Goat seemed to be dragging. I knew he would make it though as he has no quit in his body. After some food and drink, we headed back on the trail for one last push. By this point, there was a fair amount of walking happening, but we were enjoying the views and the conversation. I thought to myself that we may be the only people in the state of CT running a marathon distance today other than those folks running the Hartford Marathon.

As we finished, Goat mentioned that we had completed 26.94 miles in 5 hours. This may not seem fast by road marathon standards, but we covered some very difficult terrain and some decent vertical gain, and had to carry our own supplies. Yeah, we were pleased!

It felt so good to be running again. The tempo of the run felt good, and I felt like I could have run longer. I don't know if I have any real races in the near future, but it was nice to get out and put down some miles. Thanks Goat for a great run!

Congrats to all the folks that ran Hartford today. I'm sure it was a wonderful experience.



Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tic Tac Toe - 3 in a row!

Yes! Three in a row...that's how many runs I have linked together. To most runners, this will not seem like much, but it is great news for me....and it almost didn't happen.

So, I took a vacation day Friday and was determined to get in a decent run. I had logged a grand total of 4.5 miles so far in the week thanks to an early morning run on Tuesday. It was another insane week at work and I needed a run to help me unwind and also burn off the last remnants of the cold I was fighting.

I put in about 10 miles at the reservoir on Friday followed by a very similar route with Goat on Saturday. My legs felt a little tired, but I was running well enough. I hit the couch after a nice hot shower and did school work, played with Maliyah, and watched sports the rest of the day.

The Goat and I were supposed to meet for a run on Sunday, but he decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go climbing for the day. I didn't have a climbing partner lined up, and frankly was not in the mood to climb. I had enough to keep me busy at home, and Maliyah was there to keep me company. She's so darn cute!

Anyway, after sleeping in on Sunday, we (Jamie, Maliyah, and me) had a video conference with Tara is Spain. It was so cool to chat with her and see her on the webcam. Unbelievable! I was so happy to see her and glad I didn't miss it.

I puttered around the house, graded papers for my class, and played with Maliyah. Jamie went to the gym and I was alone with the baby. All the sudden, my back locked up and I was a hurting unit. I put the baby down and layed flat on the floor. This used to happen to me a couple times each year, but hasn't happened much over the past 10 years or so. I read a book by Dr. John Sarno called, "Healing Back Pain", and the basic message is that there is nothing mechanically wrong when we throw out our backs. You can't make it worse and movement actually helps it. Anyway, I decided to take the baby for a walk in the stroller to see if I could loosen it up. We walked up and down our hill a couple times and I felt a bit better. The big question was whether to try to get in that 3rd run.

After watching the Patriots squeek out another win, it was time to test out the back. I decided to run on the flats near the river (Paquaback?). It's really flat terrain and very scenic. I tried to stretch my very tight quads (probably the reason my back was hurting) and it was rather amusing to say the least. After saying hello to Mr. Snapping Turtle, I hobbled down the path with the knowledge that my back would probably start loosening up. It did as I expected and I gradually started running with a normal gait. The weather was perfect and as each mile past, my back hurt less. I passed people sculling (is that the correct term?) in the river, the usual fare of bikers, runners, and walkers. I joked with a couple people running with dogs...I told them it was not fair being pulled by sled dogs. They didn't get the joke. I passed a guy with an iPod bothers me that we miss a chance to chat with people who have things in their ears. I went out about 4.5-5 miles and decided to turn around. On the return, I stopped on the bridge to look down at the river and noticed a guy scribbling notes in a notepad. I wondered what he was writing about...the fishermen down below perhaps?

I ran back along the river and stopped to chat with a young guy who was excavating an old home site. He had a metal detector and had a pile of stuff that he had mined. He said that some affluent folks had summer homes along the river back in the 50's and a big flood has wiped them out at some point. He seemed to be pretty excited about his finds, but I didn't see very much of interest. Perhaps everything looked more familiar to me due to age. He was a nice guy and we chatted a bit.

On the home stretch, I took off my running shoes again and ran the last 3/4 of a mile in bare feet. This time I toughed it out on the cinder path even though it hurt like heck. It sure felt good on the dirt path though. Afterwards I stretched my back and legs, but the pain came back quickly. How weird! I can run 10 miles virtually pain free, and then it tightens up when I stop. Hmm.

Nevertheless, my goal of running three days in a row was accomplished. My total mileage for the week was around 34 miles or so...not big mileage by any stretch, but good for me these days.

My other goal this weekend was to make some apple pies from the apples off my trees. They sure taste good, but I didn't get to the baking today. Maybe tomorrow.

Have a great week everyone!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bloody Nipples

Ahh! You know you had a good weekend when your nipples are raw and painful. Oops! This is a rated-G blog, so I better explain fast. My nipples were rubbed raw from my wet shirt while running in the rain. In comparison to how I felt Friday evening, this was a pain that I gladly welcomed...

After another week of 12 hour days and no running, my body and mind were wrecked, and a nasty head cold and feverishness had it's grip on me. I was scheduled to climb with Dave (a new partner) at our Gunks Fall Classic on Saturday, but couldn't see how I would pull it off. I crawled into bed at 8:30 with the blankets piled high in an attempt to burn it off with a good nights sleep. My strategy worked a little although I didn't get much sleep. Hoping a day in the sun would do me good, and not wanting to diappoint Dave, I did my best to pull myself together. I met Dave for our carpool to the Gunks and only half listened as he explained all the nuances of his Prius Hybrid during the 2 hour drive. My head was so clogged I could hardly hear, and I desperately wanted to sleep.

When we arrived in the Gunks parking lot, I realized that I had left my sandwich at home, so had no lunch. Argh! Not a great start! Dave offered me a Clif bar and I found another bar in my bag. OK, back in the game.

I was anxious to see how I would climb in such a weak, light-headed state (kids - don't try this at home). I also hadn't climbed in the Gunks in a couple months and wanted to see how the rock felt in comparison to Colorado and the DAKS. After leading an easy favorite, I decided to try something crimpy. I bouldered my way up Three Vultures and felt really solid every step of the way. I was still feeling crappy as the sun decided to hide as much as it showed itself and I kept going from cold to colder to freezing, but I was climbing well!

We did a few more classic Gunks lines and saw friends here and there. We ran into Lisa and her boyfriend Nate. Lisa is a big-time ultramarathoner and ran VT100 last year as well. This year she ran the Leadville 100, and may be doing Hardrock next year (wishing her a good lottery draw). It was a good Gunks day all around, but I was still dragging and wanted to crawl into bed. At the Gilded Otter, we waited for a table for a crazy amount of time. Dawn showed up for a beer and to chat with friends. She had pitty on my decrepid state, and offered to drive me home. I jumped at the chance to get out of there. Food or no food, I justed wanted to get home and crawl into bed. I was aching all over and it wasn't from the climbing. Dawn and I caught up on things while she drove. She talked and I listened, but mostly I slept. I tried to stay awake, but my eyes and body would not tolerate it.

After thanking Dawn several times for getting me home, I crawled into bed and hoped one more night sleep would do the trick.

I was supposed to run with Dawn at the Gunks on Sunday morning after our big campout Saturday night. Unfortunately, the rain put an end to that idea. Nevertheless, Dawn was committed to running 10 miles on Sunday and I heard her trying to coax the Goat into running with her at the West Hartford reservoir Sunday morning. I guess she figured I wouldn't make it given my current condition.

I awoke to the rain on the roof and decided to go back to sleep. I felt a lot better though, and thought about meeting Dawn for the run. I figured the Goat might bail on the run given the weather and I didn't want Dawn to run alone. She was gracious enough to get me home last night, so it was the least I could do. Besides, a run always help clear my congestion, so I thought it would do me some good.

As it turned out, the Goat did not bail on the run, so the 3 of us ran together for the first time in a very long time. I was dragging, but was happy to be out there. The conversation was light and the running was easy. I was still aching and kept blowing nasty snots out of my nose (ewww!). We took a wrong turn at one point and ended up on a new trail. It was a nice diversion.
After awhile I started feeling better and pushed the pace a little here and there.

At the end of the run, it was suggested that I should go home and take a nap. I couldn't have agreed more, and did just that after a nice hot shower. And it was in that shower that I realized my nipples were in extreme pain due to being rubbed raw by my running shirt. Owwwwwwwwww!!!!!!! Can you feel my pain???

After a day of catching up on little things and with little people (my grand daughter, Maliyah), I sit here satisfied with another great weekend. My nose is still a bit stuffy, but I feel tons better than I did on Friday night. The cool thing is that I didn't have to stay in bed all weekend to kick this cold. I climbed and ran and did everything I wanted to do, and feel better for it.

Post Script:

Goat asked Dawn and I about our upcoming goals. Dawn is running Boston in the spring, so she has a clear goal. Kevin is searching for a goal and we talked about him possibly doing a 100 miler. I have no thoughts of any goal beyond work/life balance right now.

Dawn mentioned that she would be happy to lead a 5.11 climb....she implied that it would be the ultimate and satisfy her infinitely (I can't remember the exact terms/phrasing). I chuckled to myself as I asked, "Really?" She knew the answer was "no". A short time after leading that climb, there would be another goal. Aren't we all that way? I mean, "How long can you be satisfied with a past accomplishment without starting something new?" I don't want to be like the high school quarterback reliving "Glory Days". How long can you talk about the 2008 VT100 without wondering, "What's next?"

But then I wonder...will I ever be satisfied? Do I always need a goal? Can I have a normal goal like weeding the garden or renovating the bathroom...something that doesn't require superhuman endurance or scaring the crap out of myself? What do I have to prove? Why do we need goals? Maybe my goal should just be to chill out, laugh, and spend time with family and friends.

I don't have all the answers, but I gotta believe we can have it all. We can shoot for the stars, and be satisfied with whatever comes our way. It's just a matter of playing our cards right, and keeping our priorities in order. If you have a better answer, let me know. In the meantime, I'm outta here. Gotta go do some dreaming...I hear Badwater runs an interesting race :-)

Have an awesome week!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reach the Beach 2009

Wow! It just gets better every year!

The Red Eye Runners have completed the 2009 Reach the Beach Relay, and I enjoyed this race more than any of the other 4 we have run together (and those were great as well).

From a personal fitness standpoint, I felt less prepared for this race than any race I have ever run. My mileage has dropped to less than 20 miles per week over the past few months, so I didn't expect much in terms of great times. I was, however, very excited to spend a weekend with great friends.

Reach the Beach is a relay race that travels a little over 200 miles (207 this year) from Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire to the Atlantic Ocean at Hampton Beach. Teams are generally made up of 12 people, but there are some 4 and 6 person ultra teams as well. The 12 person teams generally rent 2 large 10 passenger vans for the weekend. With 6 people in each van, we cover the 207 miles with Van 1 covering legs 1-6, 13-18, and 25-30 and Van 2 covering legs 7-12, 19-24, and 31-36. Each leg varies in length from approximately 2 miles to almost 10 miles. It's a big caravan-like party for 24+ hours with over 400 teams participating this year. You can imagine the logistics of pulling off a race like this one, and I am annually amazed at how well it all comes off.

The core crew, Captain Bill, Tim, Paul, and Ken, are all former colleagues of mine from work. They still get together for lunchtime runs, and both support and harass eachother on a daily basis. They are truly a band of brothers. Bill, Tim, and Paul's wives are part of the team: Tammy, Jane, and Flo are all members of my van (The Serenity Van) as well as Bill's two buddies from grad school, Pete and Stan (The Man). Van 1 (The F'em Van) includes Bill, Tim, Paul, and Ken as well as Tim's buddy, Rich, who runs with the group on weekends, and my good buddy, Goat (Kevin), who has been a substitute runner for the past 2 years...but I believe her has earned a permanent spot on the team now.

The race is held on a Friday-Saturday each year in mid-September, and it goes something like this...

We all meet on Thursday after work and load up the 2 vans for the drive north. We stop for a quick bite to each and then spend the night at Paul and Flo's cottage on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee. Captain Bill provides runner introductions to get us all psyched up as we sign our waiver forms, and then gives a short pep talk. We laugh and tell stories and then head off to our respective corners to sleep. I usually sleep on the porch to enjoy the cool air and sound of the loons on the water.

I'm awoken by the sound of Pete and Stan going for their morning swim in the frigid lake (I went for a swim last year and it took me hours to get warm afterwards). We quickly re-load the vans and head off to a local stop for egg sandwiches and coffee on our way to the White Mountains. At Cannon Mountain, Captain Bill goes through the pre-race registration process as we all mill around checking out the race freebies and RTB clothing sales. There is an endless stream of super fit people doing silly things as we are all amped up for a great run. While we wait for the Captain, I usually find a couple running friends in the crowd and this year was no exception. I ran into Bruce and Mark from VT100 training, and wished them luck.

We take our pre-race photos are try to capture silly poses that will bring lasting memories. I am amazed that the women runners seem to outnumber the men this year. We head back to the van to apply the annual "Red Eye Runner" labels. Teams get crazy with decorating their vans and it's fun to see how creative people can be with a few markers and blow ups.

We head back to the starting line, and runner number 1 (Rich) shivers in the cold air as we wait for the countdown. Teams start in groups of 20 or so every 20 minutes, and we were off and running at 11:20AM on Friday. Go Rich!

After 5 years, you get into a routine. Van 2 quickly heads off to Vehicle Transition Area Number 1 and wait for Van 2 to complete their first 6 legs. We eat lunch, socialize, and try to keep the van organized. At some point, our first runner (me) starts to get ready for his leg.

My first leg this year was 7.25 miles which is about a normal run for me. Bill usually predicts our finish times for each leg, and it gives us something to shoot for in terms of results. We also try to track the number of "kills". A "kill" is when you pass another runner on your leg. In four years running, I have only been passed twice, and I did not want to add to that number this year.

With all 11 team members cheering me on, I started my first of 3 legs. Go Red Eye!

I decided to not wear a watch this year, since I lost my Garmin Forerunner and my normal running watch had a dead battery. I found it rather relaxing to not be worrying about my finish time. I ran based on feel, and after 30+ years of running, I know my pace pretty well. I know how hard a can push myself and still have something left for the next leg. The weather had been playing games with us all day, but decided to get nice for my leg. I ran the rolling 7.25 miles from Attitash ski area to Echo Lake Sate Park in North Conway trying to shed the work week with each step. I chatted briefly with a female runner as I passed her. She had a very good pace going and we surmised that we were about halfway through the leg. I passed about 5 runners on this seemingly endless stretch of road, and I kept waiting to see the turn for Echo Lake. I finally saw Cathedral Ledges (great granite crack climbing), and knew I was less than 2 miles away. With a moderate kick to the finish, I handed off to Stan and did my post-race interview with Flo. Flo records our comments after each leg, and a post-race video is provided each year. One leg complete!

Onward we pushed! At the ice skating rink, we used zamboni "snow" to fill the cooler, and Tammy was off and running on her leg. Tammy had to wear a reflective vest and headlamp as it was starting to get dark. After Flo, Pete, and Jane completed their legs, we handed the baton back to Van 1 and headed back to the cottage to catch a couple hours sleep. We are lucky the race course goes near their cottage at that point in the race.

We woke before midnight and I got dressed for my expected 2AM start time. A phone call from Van 1 confirmed they were running about 20-30 minutes ahead of schedule, so I needed to be ready to run by 1:30AM. Stan and Pete kept me company at the start while the ladies tried to catch some sleep. I shivered in the wind waiting for the hand-off from Goat. Most runners were wearing long sleeve shirts and I questioned whether my skinny body would be OK in short sleeves. Nevertheless, the temp was mid-fourties, so I knew I would be OK after a mile or so.

The Goat looked tired as he handed off to me and I wondered if he was still happy he joined the team this year. Few words were exchanged as I ran off into the dark. Most people think it's crazy to run at 2AM, but it's the leg I usually enjoy the most. This year, my leg was only 4.4 miles, and I was truly disappointed by the short duration. I decided to run this leg hard since my first leg was a bit off pace (although I was quite pleased with 6:40ish pace) considering my fitness level. After a mile or less of uphill, I cruised a long downhill with a few bumps along the way. There weren't many runners to pass, but I did manage to catch a few. It's always fun to see a headlight in the distance. After a pretty easy leg, I was pleased to see that my time was within 20 seconds or so of my predicted time. Yeah! I felt good!

After changing into dry clothes, I slept in the van for part of Stan's and Tammy's legs. Sorry guys, I needed it! Note: Stan had the toughest individual leg for our van and possibly for the race (although Rich had a mother of a leg as well). After waking, I drove the van while Flo ran and Pete prepared for his leg. We usually stop halfway on every leg to provide water/gatorade, and moral support to our runners. Flo carries her own water, so we just cheer her on when shes runs. We rolled on into the dawn of day, and Jane was running in full sunlight for her second leg. We handed off to Van 1 in the early morning, and went off to find a Dunkin Donuts for obvious reasons. After the DD stop, we drove to the next transition zone, and I found a nice spot for my sleeping bag under a shade tree. The transition zones turn into tent cities in the early mornings as people do anything they can to get some sleep. I dozed on an off as van doors slammed in the background.

Around noontime, I prepared for my leg and then stood in the porta-potty line for and endless amount of time. My last leg was 6.7 miles, and I took some Ibuprofen (vitamin I as Dawn refers to it) to ease the pain in my aching legs. Van 1 arrived, so I knew the Goat was getting close. At this point, Van 1 has completed their race, and are happy and excited to cheer us on. The beach is not far now! I take the baton, and hear my teammates cheer in the background. With adrenaline pumping, I sprint off to catch the first few runners in front of me. I know I've run this leg in the past (year 1), but don't remember all the details...I know there is a hill at mile 3 and then a big downill to a turn at mile 4, then rolling terrain to the finish. I run hard as there are many people to catch and I have no reason to hold anything in reserve. There's plenty of beeps and cheers as vans go by and people cheer on the side of the road. Everytime someone yells "Looking good", I dig down deeper for more.

Van 1 passes me as I cruise up the big hill. When I hit the big downhill, I see my Serenity Van teammates going crazy...dancing and screaming with music blaring. I had made a special request for super cheers and these guys were exceeding all expectations! It was a special moment, and I soaked in every second of it. I love this team! How often do people over 40 get to act like teenagers again? I ran down the hill with my arms over my head and my head in the clouds!

I ran onward, passing runner after runner, and admiring the beautiful farm country around me. Beauty all around me as our inspirational leader, Rich, would say...

I was so happy as I handed the baton to Stan. My leg was complete, and life was perfect!

We rolled onward toward the beach. As each runner finished their last leg, the smiles grew. You could smell the salty air, and we filled our bellies with food and laughter. We cheered Jane as she ran the last leg toward the beach. We were stuck in traffic for some time, so my teammates made a run for it to meet Jane and the rest of the team as I parked the van. It's tradition to all run across the finish line together.

The race was over, and we shared our post race meal and told stories of our final legs. On the beach, Captain Bill provided us with our t-shirts and post-race medals. We put our feet in the water, and prepared for the ride home. It was time to re-join society again.

As I pondered the weekend, I thought about why I enjoyed this race so much. These are my conclusions...

These are my friends. They have no expectations of me other than for me to have a good time. There is no pressure to do anything other than complete my leg, and they would be there to pick me up if I couldn't fulfill my task. They are interested in hearing about my life as I am to hear about their past year. It's a time to catch up with others and to reflect on life. It's a barometer for our aging bodies as we try to maintain a level of fitness. As each year goes by, the runners seem to get younger, but our finishing times remain a constant.

It's another chance for me to brag about my grand daughter too! Maliyah is awake now and ready to have some fun with GRAMPY! She hit the caps lock just then, so it's time to finish this entry.

Bottom line: The Reach the Beach Relay and the Red Eye Runners are one of the best things in life, and I am so happy that this event and these friends are in my life every year!

Until 2010....Go Red Eye Runners!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I love running! Yes, it’s Fall, the temps are dropping, the days are getting shorter, and the leaves are starting to turn. Our Reach the Beach Relay team members, the Red Eye Runners, are packing for the big race this weekend. Life is good.

It’s weird. After Vermont 100 last year, I dedicated this year to climbing, and despite working like a mad dog at my new job this summer, I managed to get in some good climbing. On Labor Day weekend, I had a great time climbing with my friends in the Adirondacks. The climbing is always hard in the DAKS, and I love every minute of it. After an incredible weekend, I felt strong and felt like I had finally returned to my old form. It was a magical weekend…as so many of the DAKS trips have been.

Running has been on the back burner. The Goat and I manage to get together about 1 day per week and then 1 day on the weekend this summer. Over the past month it’s been even less. I didn’t run at all while in Colorado, and I even think I lost my Garmin Forerunner on the trip (ouch!). I ran once with Goat since returning from Colorado, and was a bit concerned about being ready for this weekend’s race in NH.

So, I guess I forgot how much fun running can be….

I read “Born to Run” by a guy named McDougal on my trip to Colorado, and was captured by it. It’s a “must read” for any serious distance runner. The book discusses our genetic development as runners and how we are a running people and provides some good history on ultrarunning in Amercia. It also talks about how running shoes have been detrimental. Barefoot (or nearly barefoot) running is the way to go according to sources in the book. I was curious and decided I would give it a try at some point.

While I knew I needed to get a couple runs in before the race this weekend, it was hard for me to get motivated without a running partner yesterday (Goat is in Utah playing in canyons or something). So, I was surfing the internet and decided to check out AJW’s blog. Andy Jones-Wilkins won Vermont last year, and he is a great guy. He ran 3 100’s this year with his last being Leadville. His pacer at Leadville, Kevin Sullivan ( I think he was second at VT100 last year), took a video of Andy during the race. In one clip (, Andy is puking his guts out. As I watched it, it brought back memories from my Vermont race. The sick thing about it is that it got my psyched to run! Is that sick or what? I mean it got my animal instincts going like you wouldn’t believe! If you get a chance, check out the clip…not for the puking…but for what Andy does afterwards. He has such a positive attitude, it blows me away! Ultrarunning is as much a mental challenge as anything, and that is one reason Andy is so darn good at it!

So, I started running at the reservoir and felt like a slug. My right ankle starting hurting from the start, and I was afraid that too many days off had made me susceptible to injury. I ran on, hoping things would improve. The first 4 miles felt like work, and I hoped my super powers would kick in at some point. Keep your head up, run with good form…run like the animal that you are. I peeled off my shirt, and let the beast come out. Damn…it feels good to be a runner again. The last 3 miles were sweet, and I had a big smile inside. Yeah, I’m a runner!

Today, I met Dawn for some early climbing. It was nice to see Dawn, but I honestly wasn’t into the climbing. After Colorado and the DAKS, toproping in CT is hard to get psyched about… I was thinking about running. Dawn talked about training for Boston and I was happy for her. I wanted to run.

Afterwards, I went for a run on a flat trail in Farmington. It’s single track through fields and around a river, then onto a bike path. I ran easy as it was my first back-to-back run in awhile. It was pleasant, and I thought how cool it would be to try barefoot running. With about ½ mile to the car, I decided to peel off the shoes and go native. I ran on a hard packed single track section around a corn field, and was amazed at how good it felt. I was moving much faster than I expected. A lady walking on the path said, “That looks like it feels good!” and I acknowledged that it did indeed feel good. Flashes of Zola Budd (remember her) in the Olympics ran through my mind. I was feeling great!

Then, I hit the crushed stone/cinder path. Ouch! It was like running on needles. My feet are as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom, and the stones were having their way with me. I opted to run in the grass next to the path. This worked well until I realized a lot of people were walking their dogs along the path, and I guessed I was probably running through dog poop. Ewwww! Gross! So much for running like an animal! Time to get a pair of those Vibram Five fingers. Have you seen them…they look like rubber gloves for your feet…run like a frog, my friends!

Anyway, I finished the run and felt great. I really think that doing a little barefoot running is a good thing to strengthen your feet and improve your stride. Give it a try!

Looking forward to seeing my friends at RTB this weekend. It should be a blast!

It’s good to be a runner again!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Petit Grepon

After two great days of climbing at Lumpy Ridge, Alex and I were ready to tackle our main objective, Le Petit Grepon, an ultra classic 1,000 ft. pinnacle in Rocky Mtn. National Park. We were both climbing well, and this climb was well within our range, but we wanted to be sure to make good time to beat out any potential thunderstorms. I had set out to do the Petit about 5 years ago with my partner, Mark, but Mark was having altitude issues. We opted for an easier climb, the Sharkstooth, which has a great view of the top of the Petit. We saw several parties top out on the Petit as we struggled to stay electronically neutral as lightening struck all around us. It was a terrifying adventure, my first alpine ascent, and I was addicted. I pledged that I would come back and do the Petit at some point, but I always wondered when that day would come.

Alex and I both get a little edgy before tackling a big climb, and I had to chuckle as we both negotiated a 1:30AM start time. Alex wanted to get up at 1:30 and I figured 2:00 would give us plenty of time to get to the trail head, hike in the 4.5-5 miles, and start up the climb by daybreak. In the end, I conceded, and we were hiking in by 2:30AM. Alex was flying down the well groomed trail, and I was wondering what we would do at the base of the climb at 4AM. As it turned out, we ended up getting lost a couple times searching for the cathedral spires in the dark. We plodded past what we thought was Sky Pond a couple times, and finally started to see the outline of the Cathedral Spires in the dark. I got excited at the sight, and immediately focused in on the peak I knew was the Petit.

We traversed through the talus slope without much trouble, and easily found the base of the climb. We had agreed to simul-climb the first 2 pitches, and Alex asked if I wanted to take the lead. Since this climb was my idea, I was really anxious to jump on the lead. We had read though the description the night before, and I practically had the climb memorized from years of looking at it, but I could not remember which pitch was the crux. Regardless, I just wanted to start climbing, so off I went.

After 200 feet of easy climbing (Pitch 1 and 2), I arrived on top of the chockstone in the big chimney. The climbing was fairly easy, but I was still a bit cold as the sun was not helping much at this point. We noticed 2 more climbers approaching the base of the climb as Alex started to lead the 3rd pitch. Pitch 3 and 4 were uneventful, and I thought pitch 5 looked more like 5.8 climbing. Alex came up and led pitch 5 without any trouble, and as I followed I though the pitch was fairly easy for 5.8. In fact, I thought the rest of the climbing should be easy if this was the hard part. Famous last words...

Up to this point, the climb was very easy to decipher, but now ALex and I were unsure where to go. I asked Alex to read the description as I prepared to lead the next pitch. Alex read, "200 feet of wandering and sparsely protected climbing". Ugh, I thought, as I remembered him reading the same line the night before...I figured I would end up with this pitch. I'm usually pretty good with run out pitches and am generally pretty bold, but the pucker factor increases with altitude, and here I stood on an exposed pinnacle, over 1,000 feet above Sky Pond where the altitude was around 12,000 feet. The air was thin, and my balls were shrinking!

Nevertheless, I remained stoic in front of my partner...the last thing you want to be is a wuss at 12,000 feet. So, off I went trying to stay "30 feet from the arete" (outside edge of the wall). I wandered all right. I wandered left, then right, then left, then waaaay right, and over a roof, and then did a really cool traverse back left. The protection was OK, but after 200 feet I had very little active pro left. I stood on a ledge with an ad hoc rappel station tinking this was the end of the pitch. Alex's next pitch started with a nice finger crack, and I was looking at one directly above me. The problem was that the book indicated that the belay ledge was supposed to be the size of a "pizza pan". This ledge was much bigger. We also thought we were supposed to be back on the south face at this point, and we were still on the east face. Ugh! I agreed to press on to see if I could figure out where we were.... After leading the 40 foot crack with 2 pieces of gear, I looked up to see easier climbing, but no obvious place for a belay station. I was standing on a ledge the size of a pizza pan, and figured I had enough pieces left to build an anchor.

I brought Alex up, and we both realized we were in the right place and I had climbed the first half of Alex's pitch as well. So, Alex combined what was left of his pitch with the last pitch and we topped out with big smiles on our faces. Yee haa! I stared up at the Shark's Tooth as if to say, "Hello, old friend, it's been awhile!". We took some pictures, and quickly prepared for our descent. After leading the wandering pitch, my brain was fried, so Alex took the lead on finding the rap stations. After two hours of rappelling, we were back on solid ground, and regrouped for the hike out.

Life was good, and we chatted on the walk out. The view was much better than the approach in total darkness, and we passed many tourists having their big adventure for the day. It rained for 20 minutes or so, and then it stopped as we approached the last mile. With about 0.3 miles to the car, I asked Alex if he wanted to race to the trailhead. Alex is always up for a challenge, so with full 35 pound packs, we sprinted like little kids in a 100 yard dash. Alex is wicked fast on technical descents and went off trail to pass an elderly couple. I scooted past behind him, but could never make up the lost time. Eventually, we stopped as we approached the parking lot and smiled and laughed. The perfect end to a great climb!


Alex received an email from his wife, Olga, that evening indicating that she was in the hospital. Alex quickly made plans to leave that evening to return to Russia. We spent the rest of the day doing the tourist thing in the park, and then headed over to my cousin Paul's place for a great salmon dinner. Afterwards, I drove Alex to the airport in Denver.

I haven't heard back from Alex on his wife's condition, but am hopeful that she is well. Alex is moving to Seattle when he returns to the states, so I will not be seeing him as often.

Since Alex is a regular reader of this blog...

A great climbing partner is hard to find. You trust your life to this person, and share a lot over time. It's been a great pleasure, my good friend. I have the greatest respect and admiration for you, and wish you all the best in future adventures. I hope we can manage to rope up again in the future. It's been a blast! Thank you for some great memories!

All the best!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park (Lumpy Ridge)

So, after 2 great days and nights in Boulder, CO, the super hero duo (Alex and me), made the 1 hour journey to Estes Park, home of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the famous EuroMan, a good friend and seasonal Law Enforcement Ranger.

We were scheduled to get to Estes by 8, pick up the local guide books at the climbing shop, and head to Lumpy Ridge. The mighty EuroMan got there around 8:30, but we didn't roll in to the climbers lot until about 9:30. We got up a little late and had breakfast at a cool coffee shop in Lyons, the Stone Cup.

Anywhooo, we picked out a cool climb on The Book called Pear Buttress (5.8+). The approach took about 1 hour, and then we spent at least 30 minutes trying to figure out the best way to start the climb. Once we got moving, the climb was really great. Nice crack climbing! Alex did a great job on the crux pitch, and I had fun on my 2 pitches. We were getting used to granite crack climbing, and trying to trust our feet to the great friction.

Afterwards, we met EuroMan for great Mexican at Ed's Catina, a famous climber hangout. Unfortunately, the EuroMan was called into work about the time we finished dinner, so we wandered back to the cabin, and pondered our next climbing adventure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rocky Mountain High - Part 1 (The Bastille Crack)

I've been waiting to get back to Colorado for some rock climbing ever since leaving here about 5 years ago. There are a few climbs that I've held in my memory banks...hoping for the chance to jump on them when time allowed. My old climbing partner, Paul (a.k.a. EuroMan) is a seasonal law enforcement ranger in Rocky Mtn. National Park this year, so that pushed me a little. My good friend and climber, Pam (a.k.a. GoBike), now lives in Boulder, and my cousin Paul also lives in Estes Park. Lots of friends to visit...I just needed to convince a climbing partner to join me. My main alpine climbing partner, Alex, was the man I wanted with me, and it didn't take much convincing to talk him into a big climbing trip.

We arrived at Pam's in Boulder around noon on Thursday. It was great to see Pam, and she took us straight off to a Vietnamese Soup (Pho) place for lunch. Yum! Afterwards, she gave us a tour of Boulder Canyon, and Alex and I were already itching to jump on the rock despite some serious jet lag. After circling back to Pam's to pick up our gear, we were back at the Canyon in sweltering heat, racking up for an easy 2 pitch climb (5.7). The climb seemed much harder to us than 5.7, but it was different rock and we're not used to crack climbing. Either way, we felt a lot better after getting a route under our belts and it definitely helped with the jet lag. After a nice dinner with Pam and her boyfriend, Steven, we planned to climb at Eldorado Canyon the next day.

Pam was anxious to join us on Friday, so we climbed as a party of 3. The plan was to get there early to see if we could get on Eldo's classic climb, The Bastille Crack (5.7-5.8). When we arrived at 7:30 there was already a party roping up in front of us. Bummer! It was too cold and windy to wait for them to get through the first pitch, so we decided to do a climb that I had been on about 8 years ago on the Wind Tower. I led the first pitch of Calypso with the thin 5.9 start, then Alex led the second pitch of Reggae (5.8), and I led the scramble to the top. The views were amazing and after a short walk-off and rappell, we were waiting to jump on the Bastille again. This is a shot of a climber (white dot near bottom) on the Bastille from high on the Wind Towers.This time, we were able to get on the climb and I was a bit shocked that I was finally leading the way up this phenomenal climb. I decided to combine the first 2 pitches to help speed things along. The guide book practically insists (IN BOLD LETTERS) that protection be placed before moving from the right flake into the left crack, and I can understand the logic. About 20 feet off the ground, the crux of the first 2 pitches is definitely a bit intimidating, and requires a cool head. After getting 2 decent pieces of pro in the crack, I made the moves and worked my way up to the first belay ledge. The second pitch was a blast with some really cool stemming moves through an overhang. At the second belay ledge, I set up an anchor and brought Pam and Alex up. Pam struggled a bit, but managed to get up the climb. I was impressed since she hasn't climbed in 2 years. Alex led the next pitch which was a long wandering pitch. It was reportedly easier, but seemed to have some very challenging sections. The last pitch was an easy chimney, and then we were done. Pam headed back to the house while Alex led the first pitch of WorksUp (5.8+). He did a great job with it, and I enjoyed following the climb as much as I did last time I was here.

After finding our way home with Alex's new GPS, we had a great dinner with Pam, Steve, Chris (Pam's old boyfriend whom I remember from climbing back east and the Mighty EuroMan! EuroMan, my old climbing partner, went skydiving nearby and met us afterwards. After a great meal and a few beers, the stories were flowing, and a good time was had by all. Pam was a great host to us, and the next morning we were off to Estes Park. Our main objective for the trip was the Petit Grepon (5.8)...a climb I have wanted to do for almost 5 years now and one of the 50 Classics in North America.

Thoughts - Alex and I agreed that we were feeling more "human" after getting some climbing and fresh air. I was checking the blackberry less, and had a great nights sleep. It was good to see some old friends, and the adventure was just beginning!

That's it for now. Need to get caught up on other stuff. Stay tuned for Lumpy Ridge and Petit Grepon photos and more!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


How appropriate I thought when Goat suggested a climb called "Anguish". I thought it appropriate because it is a feeling that I have felt all too often lately. I won't whine about why I have felt that's just the way it's been.

After working 12 hour days all week, I sat like a Zombie watching the Red Sox game Friday night. Goat and I had tentative plans to climb on Saturday, and the weather was looking quite good (i.e. - No rain). We could have climbed locally, but the weather forecast seemed too good to skip a chance at climbing at the Gunks. So, we made plans for a 6:30AM rendezvous.

I was tired and dozed as the Goat drove toward the motherland. I was hoping a day at the Gunks would be what I needed to get my life back in balance.

Things started out poorly for me. Goat led a moderate climb called "City Lights", a climb had had lead many times. Today, I struggled to pull the crux move. I'm getting old...I thought. After several attempts, I finally figured out a way to make the move. I led the second pitch easy enough, and then we looked for another climb. Goat asked if I had ever climbed "Anguish", and I had to laugh. "Doesn't sound very inviting!", I commented. Goat told me how he had met Bert Angrist, the person who had made the first ascent and for whom the climb is named. Bert, evidently, had hit his thumb pounding in a piton and lost his glasses in the same move while attempting the climb. Sounds like a rough day!

After a bit of scouting, we thought we had identified the start of the climb. It didn't look like it was climbed much, but the book gave it two stars. I decided to take the first pitch. The climbing was moderate and seemed easy enough, but it was my first on-site lead (a climb I had never attempted) in awhile so I was cautious. We combined the first two pitches as the book recommended, and I set up an anchor below the crux pitch for Goat. It was very hot out and the pitch looked steep and intimidating, but the grade was moderate and Goat was climbing well. I figured we would get through it.

We talked about the easiest line and then Goat started up. He set in a few good pieces, and then went for the first overhang. After a second or two, he said he didn't feel good about it and was coming down. Before I could take in much line, the Goat was swinging about a foot above my head. Whoa! I lowered Goat to the ledge, and he decided to give me a shot at the lead.

The climb looked straight forward enough, but did look hard. I geared up and started to climb. I was able to get an extra piece of gear in below the first overhang to minimize the swing and length of fall, and then went directly for the move. After pulling through the first overhang, I realized why Goat retreated. There was no place to set in gear. I, then spotted an old rusty piton to the left under a big roof. This must be the famous Bert Angrist piton, I thought. It looked horrible, but I clipped it anyway. Then, I was able to get a small piece of gear (black alien) in next to it. I felt better, and looked up at the work still to be done. It looked hard, but doable. I thought about how I would approach this if I was 1,000 feet up, and decided to rest on the gear before attempting the next section. I knew I could have climbed it clean, but didn't really care if I rested. My main concern was safety, and I didn't really want to fall on an old piton and tiny cam, so I played it safe.

After a few minutes, I moved up to the next roof, and set a big cam in. Now, I felt confident, and pulled the roof move without any trouble. The climbing got easy until rope drag and a poison ivy patch made life interesting. Luckily, I rarely get poison ivy, and am not showing any signs of it right now :-)

Goat topped out, and we retreated to some shade. It was Goat's turn to lead, and I was happy to take a break for a bit.

The sun went behind the cliff, and we started feeling better. Goat led Snooky's Return and I led the first pitch of Columbia. We both started feeling better as the temps cooled. Goat then led Sente and I wrapped up the day on Absurdland. We both seemed to climb better as the day went on, and part of me wanted to keep climbing. It was getting late though, and there were other things to do.

We stopped for pizza on the way home, and life was good again. We worked through "Anguish" both literally and figuritively, and were back in balance again. I can't wait to go back and do that climb again!



Sunday, July 26, 2009


I left work at 7:30 Friday night after 5 straight 12-hour days. It's been this way for months now, and there's no sign of relief. I drove north on I-91 heading for a weekend of climbing with friends in New Hampshire...wondering if I was pushing myself to do too much...

Still dressed in business clothes, the tension in my back and neck was not dissipating fast enough. I was hungry and had a 3 hour drive in front of me. I drove into northern Massachusetts and stopped for supplies, dinner, restroom, and a change of clothes. By the time I was getting on I-91 again, the transformation had begun. I was no longer a I was a rock climber on his way to meet some very cool friends. The ride was long, but I was greeted by an old friend when I pulled into the weekend retreat. Matt told me about the anticipated arrival of his first child, and I was happy to hear the good news. Neither of us had arranged for a climbing partner, so it looked like we would be partnered for the weekend. Life was good!

Inside, I saw some old familiar faces and some new ones. In the morning, I was greeted by even more new faces. There was some ackwardness amongst us while we tried to get to know eachother. While I was still very tired from the week, everyone seemed anxious to get to the rock. I didn't understand the rush because the rock was still wet from the previous evenings rain, but we headed off nontheless. The trip leader, Natasha, asked if Matt and I would take two young ladies with us since they were relatively new climbers and didn't know the area. We were happy to oblige as we had both been new at one point, and now it was our turn to give back. The girls were college-age, so it was like climbing with my daughters. A little awkward, but we were all there to climb, and climb we did!

Matt had not climbed in awhile, so I did most of the leading. I led an easy first climb since the rock was wet and I wasn't sure what the girls could climb. I put up a second climb, somewhat harder, 5.9, and was feeling pretty good. Matt and I watched the girls to assess their skill level. I continued to push myself on harder climbs, but was careful to pace myself to get through the day. Sophia, one of the new climbers, told me she wanted to try following a 5.10 (harder climb), so I led one of my favorites, Lonesome Dove. It seemed surprisingly easy to me, and I enjoyed the balancy, thin moves as I moved up the clean rock. Everything seemed good, and I found myself being much more pleasant and sociable as the day went on.

We did one more climb and then headed back toward the car. It was great to hear the voice of an old friend call out my name in the parking lot, and I was able to chat with Larry for a few minutes before we headed into town for beer.

Back at the house, friends gathered to tell their climbing stories over chips and salsa and their beverage of choice. The pizzas arrived and we toasted the Chief and Dennis in traditional style. We thanked Natasha and others for their efforts on this trip, and the room was buzzing as we all told stories. I chatted with a couple from India who I hadn't met previously. We talked about running, climbing, and interestingly...about their arranged marriage. They had only met for 15 minutes before they were married 1 week later. Amazing! They've been happily married for 8 years...maybe we should try it in this country!

By the end of the evening, I don't think I had a stressed nerve in my body.

There wasn't much climbing to be had today as we woke to rain. A few of us tried bouldering, but the options were limited. I was still quite tired, and decided to head for home. I wished Matt luck with the new baby, and said goodbye to old and new friends alike. Heading down I-91 was a much different drive from the one coming up on Friday evening.

I was transformed from a stress-ridden being to one in peaceful coexistence thanks to the company of friends. The climbing was excellent on Saturday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it...but the social aspect made it that much better.

I'm at peace tonight as I type this note. Wishing you all the best for a wonderful week, and hoping we all get to spend time with close friends very soon!



Sunday, July 12, 2009

The life of a Super Hero

As my good friend, EuroMan, would say,"The life of a super hero is not easy!"

Working 12 hours each day is starting to wear on me. This week has been rough! I worked most of Saturday and part of today as well, so not a lot of playtime for Bonzo. I don't mind the hours, and I love the job, but the stress gets me all out of whack! Time to adjust...

Lately, if I can get in 3 good runs each week, I am happy. This week, the Goat dragged me out for runs on Tuesday and Thursday night, and I was glad he did. He's now on vacation with Seabiscuit, his girlfriend (not the horse), so I had to fly solo today. My stress level was as high as it's been in awhile, so I was hoping the run would do me some good.

I planned a nice 9.5 mile loop, and set off at a snail's pace. One year ago I was feeling giddy as a thoroughbred entering the gate at the Kentucky Derby (since it was 1 week prior to the Vermont 100). Today, I felt like the weekend warrior that I have become. I consoled myself by saying that I had 2 good runs this past week, and the Goat seemed to think I was flying on Thursday. Still, 20 minutes in and I was still huffing and puffing. I was tight, and the air felt thick and warm. Nevertheless, I knew it was doing me good.

I enjoyed being alone for a change, running at my own pace, feeling the stride start to become more natural. 40 minutes in and I was still feeling tightness in my upper body. Hmmm, perhaps I need to run more...back and chest muscles are tight from climbing and work.

I told myself to press on and things would improve. Sure enough, as each step went by my body, mind, and spirit felt better, stronger. Concerns about work seemed to disappear, and I was pushing the pace. Magically, the tightness was gone.....but we all knew that would be the case.

The last half mile was sweet, and I enjoyed some well earned water back at the car. It was a great run...not because I ran fast...the pace was average and the effort was above average. It was a great run because it paid huge dividends. It got me back to where I needed to be mentally and physically. I am thankful that I can run, and appreciate everything about it.

Now, back to being a super hero...As Green Lantern would say, "In brightest day and blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight....beware my power...Green Lantern's light!"

Ha! Have a great week everyone! ...And for those of you running the Vermont 100 this weekend, may you realize every goal and dream you have in your mind and heart! Tear it up!



Monday, July 6, 2009

A week to remember: A.K.A. Northeast climbing vs. climate change

Vacations...most people take a vacation to relax. Me, I need a day to relax AFTER my vacations.

I spent the past 5 days rock climbing in various places, and partying with friends between rain drops. It was good!

One of my climbing partners, Natasha, says that we are "Adrenaline Junkies", and I think she is right. Yesterday, I was barely awake until it was my turn to lead a climb. The climb was not terribly difficult, but the protection rating indicated that it was not a very safe climb if you fell (Rated "R" like the movie rating: X is bad, G is good). The person who was gearing up for it decided not to do it, so I roped up and led the climb. Afterwards, Natasha said, "You look awake now". I not only felt awake, I felt ALIVE! Everything was more in focus and I had a smile on my face.....

A couple hours later, I was falling asleep on a ledge 70 feet off the ground. I wanted to lead a hard climb, and the day was getting long. I was trying to wait patiently for my turn on the sharp end of the rope, but I'm not so patient. Finally, near the end of the day, it was my turn, and I threw myself at Ants Line. I had led this climb on two occasions, but the last time was about 3-4 years ago. I was curious to see if I had the guns to pull through the crux this time around. Since everyone was seeking shade on this day, I had a decent crowd of on-lookers as I negotiated my way up the steep open book. I was pleased with my stemming and gear placements, and all seemed to be going well. I dropped a big cam in just below the crux roof, and felt pretty good despite the lack of decent feet and my arms were starting to tire. I started into the move, but felt myself getting tired. I backed off a little, but realized I couldn't easily down climb to a decent stance. At that point, my friend Mobes, shouted, "Come on, you know what you have to do..." He seemed to have no doubt in his voice that I would make the move. With that positive reinforcement, I took a deep breath and pulled through the crux with my friends all yelling silly things like "Yeah, you go Dude!" Such things that are music to your ears when it is directed at you, but may seem silly when you hear other people yelling it at their friends. I finished off the last 30 feet of the climb and was basking in my adrenaline rush. After I lowered off, "Natasha said, "Good job, you look human again!" Wow, am I that much of an adrenaline addict? ...or was it the stress relief from a good workout?

Either way, I quickly went and flashed another hard climb on toprope (no real risk of injury) and then spent the rest of my effort on a climb that was at my limits in terms of finger strength for the day.

It was a good end to a great 5 days of climbing.

As for the the other 4 days...It all started with some sport climbing at a local crag with Mobes and Natasha. On that day, I did an on site lead of a new 5.9/10 sport climb that got me thinking it could be a good week.

On Thursday, we only got in 1 short climb due to the rain in the Adirondacks, but we persevered through the rain on Friday to bag some great climbs. The rock dried quickly in between rain bursts and I managed to lead an easy classic, The Sword, and then we toproped a new 5.10d (hard). I flashed the 10d, and started thinking maybe I had my Mojo back. Hmmm...this could get interesting. Despite the on set of more rain, I was damned if I was going to stop climbing now that my mojo was back. We would just climb something moderate that we could hopefully pull through if the rain got worse. Ged let the first pitch of a classic, and I started on a long thin traverse with sparse protection. I was fine until I got to a wide wet streak that was quickly turning into a river. I clipped an old manky pin and went for it knowing that conditions were just getting worse. I finished off the climb with a smile on my face which was flush with adrenaline. Ged had terror in his voice as he shouted to me as he followed the pitch. I had a sick smile on my face knowing that I had just won a hand of Russian Roulette once again and listened intently as Ged played his hand.

After rappeling off the climb, the light rain turned into a full on downpour as if the Gods were saying, "OK, you've had enough fun for one day". The rain continued all night and into the next morning.

A few of us decided to head south to the Gunks, since the weather forecast showed no sign of relief and we wanted to climb. My days off are precious these days and I needed to get my fix.

After driving 3+ hours, we were back in action at my home crag, and life was good. I found a nice cam stuck in a crack and managed to get it out...a nice piece of booty to replace the pair of new shoes I seem to have lost. We got a few good pitches in, and I led a climb that I had never been on. It was scary looking, but much easier than advertised. Natasha and Mika seemed to think it was harder than it's grade, so I started thinking, "Maybe I really do have my mojo back".

That night we had a great happy hour and dinner in New Paltz. I saw several old acquaintances at the crag the next day, and life was good.

Yes, we're back to the point where this tale started.

It was a good trip despite the fact that we didn't get to do much climbing in the DAKS. I love the new DAKS guidebook (Thanks Dawn!) and am glad it didn't take too much of a beating from the rain. Can't wait to use it again! Had so much fun hanging out with Mobes, Arie, Natasha, and the rest of the gang. Mobes brought a case of Black Label, and beer never tasted so good at Happy Hour. Haven't had that beer since college.

My fingers are hurting as I type this note. I guess a rock climber knows that had a good vacation when that happens...

Hope you all had an awesome 4th of July!



Sunday, June 28, 2009


Haven't written in a couple has been keeping me extremely busy. I was planning to take all of this week off to climb in the DAKS (short for Adirondack Mountains in New York State...near Lake Placid), but feeling guilty about missing too much work has led me to go in on Monday and Tuesday. Nevertheless, I'm hoping to have some great adventures to write about when I return.

In planning for another adventure, I picked up 3 new pairs of shoes from Evolv to get ready for a trip to Colorado at the end of August. I'm getting psyched, but still need to buy the plane tickets. Just call me Mr. Procrastinator. In fact, I should be finishing up my packing for the DAKS trip now.

On Saturday morning, Christine and Pete called to see if I wanted to go climbing. Christine, "Hey Steve, what are you doing?" Me, "Picking up my dry cleaning." Christine laughs and says, "We thought you'd be out on some crazy must have gotten a long run in already this morning." Me, "No, this is what my life has become...picking up dry cleaning on Saturday morning." HAA! After very little nudging, I agreed to meet them at the cliff near my house.

Christine is 9 months pregnant and looks like she is ready to pop. Nevertheless, there she was strapped into her full body climbing harness. Wow! She climbed like a trooper...climbing stuff harder than many people without a baby ready to pop out. We had a good time climbing with Janet and Gary. Gary had surgery on his hip 3 weeks ago and was out climbing already. Hmmm, are we super healthy or super addicted or both? It was a mellow day, and I had fun trying out my new shoes. I climbed well, but didn't get in too much of a workout. Afterwards, Pete and Christine came over to see Jamie and my granddaughter, Maliyah.

Saturday night was a big tango dance at our local dance hall. I saw some climbing friends there. My partner, Alex, said he is going to a tango festival in Chicago instead of going on our annual DAKS trip. Wow! He;s more addicted to tango than climbing. I'm in disbelief. Although, I can understand a bit when I'm out there dancing with a beautiful lady. Still, I gotta climb.

This morning, the Goat and I went for our usual 9.5 mile jaunt at the reservoir. I was thinking that last year we were in taper mode for the Vermont 100 at this point. The race is 3 weeks away. Wow! What a difference one year makes...

Tonight, Tara and I had breakfast burritos on the deck and had a wonderful conversation. The weather was perfect and for once I was not in a rush to go somewhere or do something. She's going to Spain in the Fall for a semester abroad. I'm excited for her, but will miss her terribly.

It was a nice, mellow weekend. Hope you all enjoyed it too.

Have a great week everyone!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast of Fools

To say life has been insane recently is an understatement. I could list all the weirdness that has been happening in my life, but I'm sure you could probably trump me if you tried hard enough. So, let's focus on some good stuff. Shall we?

Despite all the trials and tribulations of life, I really wanted to get out for a good day of climbing this weekend. I connected with one of my favorite partners, Alex, for a day at the Gunks on Saturday.

Alex indicated that he hadn't climbed much over the past couple months, and I haven't climbed much either. The difference is that Alex is almost 10 years younger and is as strong as the Terminator on steroids. I don't know if it's the 12 hour workdays, becoming a Grandpa, or just plain getting old, but my climbing has been a bit off this year. I'm putting my money on the former because I know I was climbing damn well earlier this year before accepting this new job. Gotta think postive, eh?

Anywho0000, the Gunks were increibly muggy Saturday morning as we searched for a warm-up climb. We say Dawn's friend, Steven, at the deli, and then again at the base of the Mac Wall. Steven was climbing with Mike, another Gunks addict. They were pondering Higher Stannard (5.9-), one of my favorite climbs...It's about as thin and bouldery as you can get for the first 20 feet and it takes BIG ONES to just get off the ground. It's my kind of climb. Steven pondered alternate starts while Alex and I eyed up Something Interesting (5.7+) which is a nice warm-up if dry, but today was seeping wet. Alex said, "Let's do it", so I offered him the lead. I have done this climb many times, but was in no mood for leading on wet rock. Alex took his time, and was fine on the lead. In the meantime, I think I probably ticked off Steven by offering unwanted advice, and they opted for MF (5.9+), a harder but more protectable climb.

After we finished our climb, I watched Steven pull the crux on MF, and then we moved on. I wondered why they picked such a hard climb on such a muggy day. I figured we would just take it easy on moderate stuff and get in a lot of climbing. As usual, I was wrong, and it was primarily my doing.

Before I knew it, we were standing at the base of City Streets (5.10a), an easy climb if you are tall, and nearly impossible if you are short. It's a one move wonder that Dawn and I had worked on sometime last year. We managed to fumble our way up it, but it was not exactly free climbing. In theory, I can reach the key hold, and had done so following last year. Unfortunately, I fell several times that day trying to lead it, and stood there thinking, "Perhaps today?" despite being less fit than last year. Nevertheless, we started roping up for the climb.

I worked my way up to the crux move without any issues. I protected the heck out of the thing, but the real protection is an old piton below the roof. After a bit of scoping out the moves, I gave it the old college try, and failed. I was about 3 inches short of the key hold and couldn't reach it. I came close a couple times, and then started losing strength. Alex lowered me off, and then he gave it a try. Alex is tall enough to reach the key hold without much trouble, and then I fumbled my way up it to pull out the gear.

Alex offered me the next lead, since he had pulled off 2 nice leads. I was spent from all that effort of City Streets, so opted for a nice easy climb with great features, Hans Puss (5.7). In the meantime, Alex watched a couple young guns do, Feast of Fools, a hard, pumpy 5.10c rated climb. 5.10 is about our limit for leading, and I shuddered knowing that Alex might want to try it. Dawn had described an epic to me that involved this climb, and it looked damn hard (5.10c is quite a bit harder than 5.10a if you are keeping score). She had led the 2nd pitch on this last year, and I enjoyed following it. It was hard, but didn't look nearly as hard as the first pitch.

After following me up Hans Puss, Alex decided to try Feast of Fools from the ground. Ughh! "I think this is harder than he realizes", I thought to myself. Being a good partner, I did not try to discourage him, and figured he would find a way to get up it. I also wondered how I would get up it. Alex seemed to struggle on this one from the beginning, and belaying him became a full-time job. He had to hang a few times below the first big roof, and I thought we were in for an epic. Nevertheless, he made it through the first crux roof and pressed on after a smart rest. The climbing seemed to get easier, and he moved up the rest of the way without much trouble. Great job Alex! Now it was my turn. Despite being wiped out, I managed to climb the darn thing without falling. I surprised myself completely, but still not sure I would have the guts to try leading it. It is one tough climb.

Now, it was my turn. I stared at the second pitch and wondered if I had enough strength. I was very tired and shaky, but it was my kind of climbing...thin climbing, barely adequate protection, and a clean fall. Despite my better judgment, I found myself leading the pitch. I did a reasonable job of protecting the crux move, but had no gas left in the tank. I worked hard to pull the crux, but kept getting weaker. I was complete spent. After multiple tries, I felt like the real "fool" and let Alex take the lead. He pulled off the move without any trouble, and then I fumbled my way up it. I was truly done for the day.

So, what do I make of all this? Well, I definitely got in a great workout, and learned a lot. Alex has turned into a top notch rock climber, and is starting to realize his abilities. Thanks to Alex, I was able to get on a hard 5.10 and follow it cleanly. I love climbing and trying new routes...time to start climbing hard again.

I also learned that I need to find a new regular climbing partner. Alex informed me that he is moving to Seattle in July to open a new office for his software business. I know he is going to love it there, and I wish him the best of luck. We have a 10 day trip planned for Colorado in August, so it may be one of our last big adventures together. I'm looking forward to it!

For this week, I will leave you with a thought...actually a request. Can I impose on you a bit?

Here is my request:

Try something new this week...push yourself a hair beyond what you might think is possible...even if you fail as I did on Feast of Fools, you will have an adventure and learn something new. Heck, what's the worst that can happen? Think about it! You may not get the results you desire, but you can still feel good about making the effort. It's worth the attempt! Give it a try...

Have a great week everyone!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why I really run...

Sometimes I think I run for the competition....with myself and with others... and sometimes I think I run to socialize with friends. I could also rationalize that I run to enjoy nature. There are many good reasons to run, but today I was reminded of why I really run. I run for health reasons. Sure, many people run to stay healthy and in shape. It makes sense, right? I think my health reasons are specific to a concern I've had for years now, and I was rudely reminded of it today.

Today, unfortunately, after a great 3 hour run at the reservoir with some friends, I was soberingly reminded of why I run when I received a voicemail from my Mom indicating that she was on her way to the hospital with my Dad. He had chest pain and had lost feeling in his arm. After some tests, it was confirmed that he had experienced a heart attack. Fortunately, it was not severe, but the doctors have indicated that there is some muscle damage. The pain and numbness are gone, but he's going through more tests to determine the next steps.

My first reaction was anger. Anger because his father, my grandfather, had several heart attacks and strokes and was paralyzed on one side for the last 10 or so years of his life. I worked at my Dad's shop in those days which was at my grandparents house, so I had lunch with my grandparents on many of those days. It was hard to watch my grandfather struggle and eventually decline. It was hard for everyone involved, and those memories are etched in my mind forever. I decided I didn't want to have the same experience in my life, and I know my Dad didn't want to go through that process either. Unfortunately, I think our approach to dealing with that concern has been very different.

I really started to pay attention to my health and stress level in my early 20's when I would get stressed to the point where it would affect me physically. I knew I was wired like my Dad and his Dad, and I also knew that I needed to get my stress under control before it killed me. So, I started running. I had run in high school, but did not have the discipline, ability, or desire to perform at the highest level on our track team, so I did it more for the socialization. Now, I was running to stay healthy and keep my stress under control. It worked, and I was hooked. I started runing by myself, then with a neighbor. After awhile, I joined some friends at work for lunchtime runs. I was getting faster, and stress-induced physical pains were no longer an issue. I was having fun, letting go of stress, and feeling good about life. It's become part of my regular routine, and my quality of life has been better because of it.

In the late 70's and early 80's people really didn't know all the reasons for heart disease. My grandfather's generation didn't worry about eating healthy or getting exercise. Only recently have we realized that heart disease can be avoided through serious diet and exercise.

Unfortunately, my Dad does not take diet and exercise seriously. Part of him knows the right thing to do for his health, but he also grew up in the generation that thinks there is a pill to cure everything. To make things worse, he's the type of person that cannot be told how to do something.

So, I knew I would be getting that phone call someday. I've dreaded the day I would get the call, and was actually happy that this one was just a warning. I hope and pray that this is a wake up call for my Dad, and this will bring on a lifestyle change for him that will keep him with us longer.

I love my Dad, and will love him regardless of whether I agree with his decisions. I just hope we have more time together. He recently became a great grandfather, and it would be great if he could get to know my granddaughter, Maliyah, and watch her grow.

As for me, I wonder whether there is a life-limited part inside me that has been passed down from generation to generation or whether all my running and diet will help extend my life a few more years. It would be nice to stick around a bit longer, but I will run regardless. Running has improved my health and quality of life. It has enabled me to form bonds with people and accomplish more than I ever imagined.

So, my dear friends, enjoy your run this week or do whatever helps keep you stay in balance, and take a moment to put my Dad in your thoughts and prayers. I appreciate it.

Take Care,


Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Last year, I ran the Pineland Farms 50 miler in New Gloucester, Maine, and had a great time. Dawn ran the 50K to make it her first ultra, so it was a big weekend for both of us. I think we had broken up a week prior to the race, so the weekend was a bit weird, but fun and we ended up not broken up at all.

This year, I have been determined to enjoy some climbing, and especially on this particular weekend where Carol Ann and Frank host the Ct. Climbers and Mountaineers at their home in North Conway, NH. Their place is within walking distance to the cliffs at Cathedral Ledges, and we all have a great time. I really wanted to go this year, since I had missed the big event last year while running up in Maine. There was one small issue though. Dawn was running the Pineland Farms 50 miler, and I wanted to be there to support her. She was there for me at the Vermont 100, and I wanted to be there to help her at her first 50 miler. Funny thing is that we are not technically together, so friends kept wondering why I was going up to the race since I was not running in it myself. Well, it's just what people do for eachother regardless of "relationship status". It's why we are here on this planet as far as I'm concerned.

Anywhoo! It all worked out in the end. Our corporation gave us a Furlough Day on Friday, so Chris and I headed north on Thursday evening to get some jamming in on Friday. Cathedral Ledges is a big Granite face with many splitter vertical cracks for hand jamming and finger locks. I'm not the most experienced crack climber, so it always takes me a little while to get used to this type of climbing. After working about 12 hours everyday for the past week, I was completely stressed and wiped out. I needed a break. Chris, Paul G., and I headed to the crag, and I was happy to follow (vs. lead) on the first climb. Paul G. lead us up Toe Crack, and I was a bit wigged out by it since it was supposed to be a fairly easy climb. I decided to lead a face climb called "Still in Saigon" next, and took a small fall at the first bolt. I'm blaming the sunscreen on my hands, but who knows lately. Anyway, I managed to lead the rest of the climb without incident, and then Paul took over for the second pitch. We finished off the day with Paul leading Turner Flake and me leading Diagonal, both very cool climbs.

The next day, I had to do all the leading since Chris is a fairly new climber and Paul G. had teamed up with Ged for the day. I was feeling a bit better after a good nights sleep, and we put in an excellent day at the cliff. I was even a little surprised by myself when I decided to lead the first pitch of The Book of Solemnity, one of my favorite Cathedral climbs. After finishing off the day on Bombardment, we had logged 6 solid pitches, and Dawn was waiting at the house for the drive to Maine.

We stopped in Portland for some great Indian Food and managed to get to the hotel in Freeport at a reasonable hour. Dawn's race started at 6AM, so we needed to get up at 4:30AM to make it to the start. It was weird being the one in the supporting role, but I took my duties seriously. After seeing her off at the start, I promptly rolled up in my sleeping bag to take a nap :-) Seriously, what do you do when your runner is going to be out there for 10 hrs. or so?

Anyway, the 50K runners were funneling in, so I didn't sleep long. I got up in time to see Dawn come through at the 15 mile mark. She looked good, and seemed to be in good spirits. My work being done for the moment, I decided to eat breakfast and take another nap while she did the 5.5 mile loop. I figured I had about an hour, and then made it back to my cheering post. I saw some of the runners that had been in front and behind her, but no Dawn. Hmmm, she either came through beforehand, came through while I was chatting with folks, or is back there struggling somewhere. My guess was that she had come through already.

I had been planning to go for a run, so decided to run the course in the opposite direction to check on her status. This strategy really confused most of the runners expecially those that know me as a fellow runner. The cool thing about it was that I ran into fellow CT runner, Bruce, along the way. I didn't realize he was running the race, and was happy to see him. Go Bruce!

After running a short way with Bruce, I headed back on my route. About half way through the loop, I found Dawn walking up a hill (that's what you do at ultras unless you are super fast or stupid), and she was again in great spirits. Cool. My mission was accomplished and I continued to confuse competitors by running the wrong way.

After 10 miles, I decided to stop and get some water, and then watch for Dawn again. While I stood there, I wondered how the heck I ever ran so much and so far last year. I saw last year's second place finisher, Ron, cheering for his wife, and we both wondered why each of us was not running this year. We exchanged stories and then cheered for Daniel who was 3rd place last year. The 3 of us had duked it out last year and I was the one who ended up 4th. Oh well! Daniel was the real winner because he came back for more this year, and eventually finished 4th or 5th. Anyway, Dawn continued to run on her goal pace of 10 hours, but was getting chilled by some light rain. She asked for me to have another shirt for her at the next 10 mile interval, but I was a little worried when it really started to rain hard. Yikes! I put on my Superman costume (actually yellow rain jacket) and ran down the course to find her. After going a couple miles, the sun came out and I was sweating in my yellow raincoat. Well, I guess she doesn't need me now. Nevertheless, I spotted her walking up a hill and decided to wait there for her to come back around a short 1 mile loop. We chatted a bit when she came through, and off I went back to the car. At some point, I showered and ate some food and waited for Dawn to finish. When she came through at 10 hours and 5 minutes, I was incredibly happy for her. She seemed pleased with herself and headed directly to the beer tap to fill her well earned 50 miler glass. I had to smile as this was something I would never do. You go girl!

After stopping in NH for a nice dinner, Dawn dropped me at my car and I gave her a big hug. I told her I was happy for her, but asked her not to do another one for awhile. People always say that to me after a big race, and I always thought it was for my safety or something. As it came out of my mouth, I realized they say it because the whole event is so exhausting for the support crew. Ha! Anyway, I was happy to be on the supporting end for someone that has been there for me. I'm not used to that role, but I think I represented the duty well.

Today, I watched my Granddaughter while she teethed on her first tooth, and then took my daughter and her boyfriend climbing. Afterwards, I shared beers and stories with a couple climbing friends, and checked on Dawn to make sure she was feeling OK. She was doing great.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I had a chance to unwind, enjoy nature, share some time with friends and family, and recharge the batteries. Hope you all had a great weekend too!