Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ice Breaker Clothes...

Ice Breaker makes awesome merino wool gear. I own a light weight short sleeve Ice Breaker t-shirt that I wore on my bike ride in today. What I didn't know about Ice Breaker was that they've got some of the most bizarre Ads, even the "Ice Breaker and Nature" picture on their web site is, um, different. But that's nothing compared to this commercial that I just found linked to on's blog...

The daily bicyle commute

A few months ago I decided to discontinue my work subsidized bus pass and rely on bicycle and running as my primary means of commuting to work. My place of work is only about 6-1/2 miles from where I live so the commute is short, and the majority of the commute isn’t in traffic, but rather along the Burke-Gilman trail. Besides, it takes longer to get to work by bus or car than it does to get there by bike.

The best part of commuting to work by bicycle is the other cyclists. Seattle is definitely a city of bicycle commuters, and one of the primary routes for commuters is the Burke-Gilman trail. So the daily commute along the Burke-Gilman trail is always an adventure. There are the cyclists who slowly plod along, as well as those who see their commute as their personal daily crit. As for me, I fall somewhere in between. I do tend to see my commute as a bit of a personal time trial (anything under 25 minutes is good), but I have my own rules for my ride:
  • I do actually stop at stop lights.
  • I keep my place at stop lights and don’t jockey for a better position in front of the other cyclists who were waiting before me. This might get me stuck behind some slower cyclists, but I can pass them later.
  • I don’t draft other cyclists during the commute (I might pace them, but there’s a good distance between us).
  • I don’t pass other cyclists then immediately slow my pace (that drives me crazy).
  • I don’t pass other cyclists unless it’s safe to do so (e.g. I’m not passing a cyclist with oncoming cyclists two abreast).
My commute can be interesting when I stick to these rules and try and beat my previous PR for getting home or getting to work. However, being a strict rule follower can lead to road rage and I do tend to get annoyed when others aren’t following the same set of rules. But I try and use that just to make the ride even more interesting; I might suddenly have someone I must catch and pass who is now way ahead of me because they flew through a traffic light while I was stopped.

Today I decided I would just take it easy and enjoy the ride in (I tend to tell myself that a lot, but rarely follow it). My ride started off with all of the lights in my favor as I ride down a mile of NW 24th Ave in Ballard, a hill long hill steep enough to easily keep pace with the cars. As soon as I got on to the Burke-Gilman trail, I knew the ride was going to be a bit more interesting. Everyone seemed to be moving at a pretty good pace, no slow riders. The pace was plenty fast enough so I just stuck ten or so feet behind the first person I came up behind. As I followed I was passed and then the person in front of me got passed by a faster cyclist. The person in front of me clearly frustrated that someone dared to pass them during their commute quickly picked up the pace, and passed the person that just passed them. I kept up with the pace behind the two cyclists following behind just close enough to see how it would end. In the end their were no violent acts of bicycle road rage, one of the riders turned off of the trail and headed in a different direction. However it was enough to keep todays commute interesting and get me to work a bit faster than what I had initially planned on; the daily Burke-Gilman bicycle commute is rarely dull.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day one

I work at a large educational institution of higher learning. I work in IT for said institution. I write software for users of said institution. With all that said, day one of classes at said institution is never a fun day for me. I’m glad day one is over.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Everything I knew about hydrating was wrong!

I remember my first real endurance event, the STP (Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic). It is a 200+ mile bike ride that people do over one or two days in the summer. The first time I did the STP I went to several training events, and I remember being told: “drink before you get thirsty, because by the time you’re thirsty it’s too late”. I took this to heart, since the person who was doing the training must clearly be an “expert”.

A few years ago while trying to complete a guided one day summit attempt of the 10,781 foot Mount Baker on skis I completely ran out of steam short of the summit. No matter how much water I drank I couldn’t quench my thirst. We only made it to the crater, several hundred vertical feet of the summit. Later my guide told me that my problem was likely that my body needed electrolytes, and that this could be done easily by using something like Nuun tablets. After that I started adding Nuun to my water for all my endurance events.

Someone I know told me about becoming dehydrated during a marathon and urinating blood. Stop at every single water stop they told me, you do NOT want to become dehydrated. This furthered my belief that I should be drinking constantly during physical activity.

Recently while trying to complete the 93 miles Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier in three days I wore a 3 Liter Camel Bak bladder in my backpack. I never let it get below 1 liter, and my water always had several Nuun tablets in it.

Hydration and electrolytes have always been central to my physical activities. I’ve preached the importance of hydration and electrolytes to anyone who would listen. It was common knowledge, right? Then I read this article from Adventure Journal and it was like a slap across my face. According to the study, everything I thought I knew is wrong. There are a lot of “experts” out there when it comes to endurance activities, but expertise comes from personal experience, not science.

The article references a recent study by Dr James Winger of Loyola University Medical Center. The study looked at hydration and the performance of marathon runners. What the study found is that we are drinking way too much water. You should only be drinking when you get thirsty. Drinking too much water can be very dangerous; "there have been 12 documented and 8 suspected runners' deaths from hyponatremia". The Adventure Journal article also mentions that Dr Winger says it's unwise to take salt tablets to replace electrolytes. Electrolytes are taken away from the body by drinking too much water, and the only way they are going to be replaced artificially is through an intake of “highly concentrated IV fluids (not normal IV fluids)”.

The first question that popped into my head when reading the article is, "why do I feel so much better after I drink a sports drink?", the article answered that one too. You get that good feeling from the sports drink because you’re "being washed by endorphins when you stop an exercise".

When I find something that completely upsets my belief system citing some “study” but not linking to the actual study I need to do some more research. So I checked the web, and this story is of course all over the place: The Chicago Sun-Times, Science Daily, etc, etc.

I will definitely be looking for more on this study, and asking around anywhere I can get more information on this. Please read the Adventure Journal article as well as the original study yourself, then let me know what you think, will this change your behavior when it comes to hydrating? I've got a marathon in less than 2 weeks and I'm not sure how this news will effect my behavior.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Running in 2011 so far…

At the start of 2011, I set a New Year’s resolution or goal for expanding my new found favorite activity of running. The goal was to run 1000 miles in 2011. At the time it seemed like a pretty lofty goal: average just less than 19.25 miles a week, every week for a year. Then I read about how other runners were shooting for 2011 miles in 2011 (over 38.5 miles a week) and my 1000 mile goal didn't seem like such a big deal. However I am new to running and I want to keep my goals realistic and not overtake my obligations to family and work.

Fast forward to the close of September 2011: I’m currently at 832.25 miles which puts me way ahead schedule, if I look at my total runs for the past 365 days I’m at 992 miles. My resolution that I made back in January should be attainable if I can just keep myself motivated though Autumn in the cold, wet, gray Pacific Northwest. Clearly the amount of running I am doing has dramatically increased since I took up the activity back at the start of 2010. The distances that I can run has also increased from 5K, to 10K, to 1/2 marathon, to full marathon, to 50K ultra-marathon, to 93 miles around Mount Rainier over 3 days.

What hasn’t improved as much is my pace; I did have a few faster paced races in 2011, but nothing close to my little brother Alex is capable of. Then when I get to the marathon distances my pace becomes really slow; the Boston Marathon is not anything that I see myself as ever qualifying for unless I can keep my current pace into my mid 60s. However, I think I’m okay with this. At 40 I know I’ll never be a fast runner, but I do like exploring how far and long I can run, and that exploration should make 2012 an interesting year for my runs.

As I look forward to the rest of 2012 here is what I have left on the agenda:

  • I have Portland Marathon in less than 2 weeks my goal for that is to complete it in under 4 hours. No big deal except that my only two marathon experiences were both over 4:45, and last year when I did the Portland Marathon I limped the last several miles.
  • Three weeks after that I have the Salty's Half Marathon. This should be a fun, flat, fast half that will be a super small group (it's limited to just 100 participants).
  •  Then four weeks after that I have the Seattle Half Marathon. Last year I did this pretty much "off the couch". I was pretty apprehensive about this, since it's at the end of November (not a time known for nice dry warm weather in Seattle), and my physician had forbidden me from doing the full (his brother had ended up in the hospital with hypothermia while doing the Seattle Marathon). When I did it, it was a really fun half marathon. Depending on how I'm feeling as the date gets closer and depending on what the rules allow, I might upgrade to the full (just don't tell my doctor).

Then that's it for 2011. For 2012, I think I want to up the game a bit and do more ultras!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Father and Daughters Breakfast

Last night my oldest daughter (7) requested breakfast at "the place where the let you put things on pancakes". I assumed this to mean Portage Bay Cafe. It's a great place for breakfast, but always requires a wait to get in, and as breakfast food goes it's not cheap. However this is a father and daughters only weekend (mommy is off on a girls weekend) so I want to make sure that the girls had a great weekend.

The girls of course ordered Mickey pancakes and loaded up with fruit and syrup at the toppings bar. After most of the fruit was cleared away from my oldest daughters pancake, all that remained was Mickey's smiling face.

Unfortunately, shortly after the picture was taken, Mickey's face was brutally ripped off. I am sorry to say, Mickey did not survive the event. My girls however, seem to be generally okay with it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 3)

I woke up Monday around 6AM, and laid in bed until 6:30 AM before getting up and heading with the others down to breakfast. I was hoping we could order, eat and go in 30 minutes. But as 7:30 AM became 8 AM, and 8AM became 8:30 AM. We were loosing precious time, and we had 34 miles to go.

I looked at the map for any possible solutions. I had thought that day 3 would be the most isolated section of the trail, but then I noticed the West Side road. The road provided us with a way to skip the first two climbs of the day which covered roughly seven miles and instead trade it for 4 miles of hiking with much less vertical. We would just need Dave drive us up the West Side road to the point where it was closed to traffic and started hiking there. I pitched the idea to Tom S, but he told me at that point was feeling pretty ill, he still hadn't recovered from the previous day. The drive would be about 30 minutes, so it was decided that Tom S would join Tom M, Dave and me and he could decide at the last minute if he really wanted to take on another day with 31 more miles. With a lot of strong encouragement from the rest of us to skip day 3 if he didn’t fully feel up to it, Tom S utltimately decided to back out at the last minute. It was now just Tom M and me.

Dave dropped us off, wished us well, and we headed off hiked along the West Side road from the gate for a couple miles. Tom M and I were enjoying the easy hiking and taking as we hiked at a quick pace, eventually reaching Tahoma Vista. It was there that we realized we missed the trail head for Tahoma Creek trail by at least a mile. We had to backtracked and finally found the trail head hidden behind a barrel that I had previously told Tom M to ignore. The barrel was meant for climbers coming off of the high glaciers to leave their blue bags full of “human waste”.
Before we had started off on this path, Ben had promised the Tahoma Creek trail would be easy. However it didn’t take much hiking before we found the trail to be not in the best condition. As we continued on we moved slowly loosing and then re-finding the trail several times. Finally, 6 miles after leaving the car we caught up with the Wonderland Trail. It was suppose to be 4 miles, but missing our turn off by a mile, then having to hike a mile back had lead us to a bad start for the day. In the end we had given up 7 miles for 6, not really saving much distance.

suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek
Despite being way behind schedule we tracked a short distance just so we could walk the famous high suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek. Then it was back to the trail, only not nearly as quick as the past few days.

As we started our first climb up and over Emerald Ridge and then back down toward the South Puyallup River we were suprised to find far more hikers on this section of the trail than what we had seen on any other part of the trail. At one point we crossed paths with a Ranger who asked to see our backcountry pass. After explaining our plans to make it all the way to Mowich, and yes we realized we wouldn’t be arriving until well after dark, the Ranger told us what sections ahead would be good for running and which sections wouldn’t. He also told us to keep an eye open for the Salmon Berries as we headed down toward the North Puyallup River and make sure to grab a handful or two.

We dropped down to the South Puyallup River and headed back up again. The climb up from the South Puyallup River was pretty difficult, mostly because we had been going hard for so long. We passed a couple of older men who were really huffing and puffing. As I reached the high point before heading down to St. Andrew’s Park I decided to take a bit of a breather. The black flies were quickly finding me and Tom M an interesting target, but we hung out as one of the older men caught up with us there. He said he was 65, and that he started at Longmire. He was on his second day on the trail and was quickly realizing he signed up for a lot more than he was ready for. He said he was going to try and make his way eventually to Mowich, then hitch a ride to Enumclaw, then spend his life savings if necessary for a taxi to take him home. He looked totally defeated. He asked if we had an energy bar to spare saying his were too far in his pack to dig out right now. Tom M offered him one, and we wished him luck and headed on our way.

St Andrews Lake
As we reached St. Andrew’s Lake we found another older man happily swimming in the lake. This guy looked a lot happier. I really wished I could also go for a swim in the very inviting looking lake, but we had far too many miles to cover and far too few hours of daylight left. So we continued on towards the North Puyallup River. As we continued on I asked Tom M if he knew what salmon berries look like. He said he probably couldn’t identify them well enough to feel safe eating them.

view as we headed down to the N. Puyallup
The terrain heading down to the North Puyallup River  was some of the most dramatic on the entire trail. Huge cliff faces, probably a thousand plus feet dropping from the Puyallup Glacier high above on the mountain, with waterfalls dropping many hundreds of feet off of the cliff faces. As we dropped lower and into thicker overgrowth I saw what must have been the salmon berries (looked like a black berry or raspberry only yellow to pink in color), either way it looked good and I was sick of energy food. I ate as many ripe ones as I could find, and they were good!

When we reached the North Puyallup River it was after 6PM. As we took a bit of a break I realized we still had a very long ways to go. I was getting anxious...this was going to be a lot of hours of hiking in the dark. We headed off again up towards Golden Lakes discussing how we would keep our sanity on the miles and hours of travel ahead in the dark. Tom M and I tried to tell stories and stretch them out, anything to keep minds off of the hours left to go. I tried to push for the goal of seeing the sunset from the last high point in the trail, but as we headed up I could occasionally see though the trees the sun getting really low in the sky.

sunset from Sunset Park
Finally as the last bit of the sun was setting, we reached the big open area known as Sunset Park. The setting sun was lighting up the Mowich Glacier on the mountain in a bright orange. Before long we were in complete dark, and this seriously slowed down our pace.

In the open area of Sunset Park the temperature quickly dropped. For the first time on this hike I was actually getting cold. However, as soon as we went back into the protection of the woods the temperature seemed to climb 15 degrees. After about an hour of traveling like this I saw what appeared to be a light in the woods; someone's campsite I thought. As we got closer it became clear that the light was coming from 3 square shaped windows; it was the rangers cabin.

The ranger came out to greet us, and probably question why we were hiking in the dark. We explained our trip to him and that we fully realized what we were in for over the next several hours. He mentioned that the other ranger we had met earlier in the day had radioed him to let him know we would be coming though. The ranger told us we had around 10 miles to go, and that soon the nearly full moon would be rising and possibly lighting up the trail a bit. He wished us luck, and we were off.

The trail went on, up and down, right and left, mostly down toward the Mowich River. Minutes seemed like hours. Everything was darkness. When the moon did rise the thick trees obscured most of the moon light. There were only occasional glimpses of the moon though the tree, but never enough light to help us see our surroundings. I was really hating this.

At 10:45 PM we finally reached the Mowich River. We needed one last refill of water before the last very long push up to Mowich Lake. For the first time since it became dark enough for us to use our headlamps, Tom M and I turned off our lights to sit beside the river lit only by the moonlight for a few minutes. It was almost (almost) enough light to hike by. We got our things together and started our final push of about 4 miles up hill. The crossing of the Mowich River was a bit confusing, because you need to cross 2 forks of the river. In daylight this definitely wouldn't be a problem, but in the middle of the night  your entire world is only what is 10 feet in front of you and everything looks the same. I paused for more than a few moments thinking we had gone in a circle as we crossed the second fork of the Mowich River, but this had to be the right way. We continued on.

Those last miles up hill were pretty bad. I don't think Tom M and I spoke more than a dozen words. We had both been in that world of limited visibility for hours. With our cheap LED headlamps, there was almost no color and very little depth perception. We stopped around 12:30 AM for a break. We had probably been moving at less than a mile an hour. My ankles were really hurting at this point; unable to get any depth perception on the the trail I was constantly misplacing my steps and twisting my ankle, not enough to cause injury, but enough to cause pain when repeated for hours on end.

We decided to really push it until we got to the truck, so we picked up the pace. We were moving much faster than we had in the past 6 or more hours (which probably meant we were moving 2-1/2 miles an hour). Finally at 1:30 AM we reached the parking lot for the Mowich Lake campground. We went straight to the truck. Tom M took a sleeping pad and his sleeping bag and immediately crashed in the bed of the truck. Not wanting to deal with mosquitoes or setting up a tent, I climbed into the passenger seat, moved it back as far as it would go, leaned the seat back as far as it would go, and fell asleep.

early morning moonset on the way home
Five hours later we both got up, and drove back to Seattle. Only stopping once for a much needed Starbucks coffee. As we drove the dirt road heading away from Mowich Lake we saw our one and only bear of the trip. The bear was crossing the road, and he was there and gone too quickly for me to capture a picture. So that I could have one last picture from the trip we stopped on the side of the road so I could take a picture of the low lands around Mount Rainier covered in fog or a low cloud layer. The moon that had provided us so little light was now setting.

When I got home and looked at what my GPS had to report, it ended up shorting me about 10 miles over the entire trip. We had added at least a mile by going over Spray Park instead of Ipsut Pass on day one, then skipped maybe a mile on day two by avoiding Box Canyon and picking up the trail 1/4 mile down the road. Finally we skipped a mile on day three. All things considered I sure felt like I had just gone 93 miles. The trip was incredible, and I would definitely do some variation of it again.

Wonderland Trail in 3 Days?

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 1)
Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 2)

All the pictures from the trip

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 2)

trail up to Summerland
Our early alarm clock failed to wake us, so we weren’t awoken until 5AM, after which we didn’t get started until 6AM. Again tear down the camp, a breakfast of a hard boiled egg and a banana, and we were off. Today was the climb up to the highest elevation point on the entire trail, Panhandle Gap. However the climb was not too bad as much of the trail seemed to only climb 500 feet a mile. As we headed up toward Panhandle Gap we entered the beautiful open fields of wildflowers found in Summerland.

As we continued to climb fields of wildflowers gave way to fields of snow, making the travel fairly interesting. Tom S and Ben were moving along a ways ahead of Tom M and myself. Tom M and I couldn’t seem to get enough pictures up along this high point. As Tom M and I appraoched and crossed over Panhandle Gap I felt great. Panhandle Gap ws the highest point on the trip and it felt like everything would be down hill from here.

Eventually we reached Ben who had found some shade and was relaxing with his shoes off. As we spoke to him he said he had just started getting some pretty serious pain in his hip, but he felt that after taking a break he would be okay to continue and he would then catch up. A little further down the trail we found Tom S who was coming down the trail towards us. He had lost the trail in the snow. After a bit of looking at the map, we decided the trail headed nearly straight up. We ascended a fair ways before we were able to look back down and see where the trail had actually continued along well below us right after a large patch of snow. At that point Ben had caught up and we directed him which way to go, and Tom S, Tom M and I crossed the snow higher up then dropped down to meet Ben.

crossing fields of snow
Ben was moving pretty slowly at this point down the steeply descending trail. The trail heading down to Indian Bar is a seemingly endless series of steps and not a fun section if you are experiencing any leg pain. I swapped my two poles for Ben's single hiking pole hoping two poles would make it easier for him to continue on, then I headed on down. At the Ohanapecosh River Ben caught up and we all refilled water bottles and rested near the Indian Bar hut. As we soaked our sore feet in the ice cold Ohanapecosh River we discussed how to handle getting us all to Longmire with Ben’s leg problems. Ben decided he would head on at his own pace with his one pole and finish up the day at Box Canyon. At Box Canyon Ben would hitchhike to Longmire. We wished him luck and continued on towards Box Canyon.

down to Indian Bar
Reaching Box Canyon was a real boost to my spirits. The three of us took a short break and tried to figuring out where the trail continued on. After studying the map, we opted not to do the little 0.3 mile loop into Box Canyon, instead headed though a car tunnel at Box Canyon and catch the trail on the other side, continuing on from there.

At this point I really wanted us to make it to the National Park Inn at Longmire. We were staying there for the night, but I believed that the restaurant closed at 8PM, and I wanted a sit down dinner. I began to really encourage the others to move fast “pick up the pace guys, this one is about getting steak dinners or having 3 day old un-refrigerated hotdogs”.

We crossed Stevens Creek, but then right before the trail headed up from Stevens Creek to Reflection Lakes rather suddenly bonked hard. I realized I hadn’t eaten much in at least a couple hours or probably longer. I had to stop and eat. I downed a Cliff Shot Gel, a package of Gummy Bears and a Honey Stinger Waffle; I was getting pretty sick of energy food at this point so I had to force myself to eat everything other than the gummy bears (I love gummy bears).

From here the trail started up though thick overgrowth covering the trail. The travel was slow at this point as I tried to ease my way around nettles. Eventually the overgrowth disappeared as the trail went into the woods and headed on up to Reflection Lakes. After a 1/2 hour or so the food started doing its job I was starting to feel better. I picked up the pace and caught up with Tom S where the trail met the road near Louis Lake. I went ahead to get water, but found myself attacked by black flies at the first water stop so I continued on to another. I quickly filled up my Camel Back and an extra Nalgene for the guys, then waited, and waited. Where were they? I was really wanting to get going, I really wanted that sit down dinner at the lodge. Tom S and Tom M finally caught up, they split the extra liter of water and we were on our way.

Around this point the trail actually went along side the rode for about a half-mile. I was so desperate to get my dinner that I tried to hitchhike, but there were no takers. So I tried push the pace as much as I could once we hit the trail again. The trail dropped down to the Nisqually River, we crossed the river and had 1.7 miles to go. At this point Tom S had to stop and to deal with some painful foot blisters. Tom M and I offered to order him food if necessary. We pushed it as much as we could (but that wasn’t much).

Finally at 7:15 we rolled out of the woods to the sight of the National Park Inn. I was really hooting and hollering, and high-fiveing Tom M. Ben was at the entrance all cleaned up and shiny in fresh cotton clothes. Unfortunately Ben had bad news for us: The kitchen closed at 7PM. But with a little work, Ben was able to convince them to keep the kitchen open a little longer so we could get an order in.

my feet didn't look too bad after day two
The restaurant was still very full as we rolled in stinking and covered in sweat and dirt and sitting down with Ben and Dave. I found the fact that people throughout the restaurant were looking and pointing at us rather amusing. I ordered pot roast and devoured it. Then downed 2 beers. It was all so good. However Tom S and Tom M were having trouble eating. Tom M couldn’t handle the hot restaurant which was making him feel claustrophobic, and had to go sit outside. Tom S was bonking hard and not feeling much like eating. A little later on the both were feeling better and were able to eat. I pretty much crashed in a very comfortable bed after a shower and organizing my gear for the next day. I made the decision that for our last day we would sit down at the restaurant one more time for breakfast even though the restaurant didn’t open until 7AM (much later than we had started the previous days). We would eat and try and get going right after breakfast with the full knowledge that we wouldn’t finish the day until well after dark.

Wonderland Trail in 3 Days?

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 1)

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 3)

All the pictures from the trip

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 1)

As the actual date of to do the Wonderland Trail in 3 day my original group of a dozen or so people became just three, then two: my friends Tom S and Tom M (this was going to be confusing). The week before the trip my friend Ben decided to join us "off the couch". We were now four, with a fifth friend Dave providing support.

Day 0 - Getting to the Trail Head

The trip started off with us all meeting early afternoon on Friday September 9th, and making our way to the to Mowich Lake on the secluded North end of Mount Rainier. After several discussions over the phone with park officials, I had a very real concern about our ability to find a campsite at Mowich Lake which doesn’t take reservations. Because of this I kind of rushed the group to get to the campsite, passing up on the traditional pre-trip big meal for quick sandwiches to go at Subway. When we arrived at Mowich there were in fact quite a few people camping there, but it was by no means full. However, as we set up the tent, it didn’t take long to realize that mosquitos were going to be a real problem, so we ended up eating our sandwhiches in the truck and having pre-trip celebratory Rainier Beer tallboys.

Day 1 - Mowich Lake to White River Campground

sunrise on Mt. Rainier from Spray Park
I didn’t sleep well in the small tent 4 man that all four of us were in (assume any tent size is at least 1/2 a person smaller than described). I was awake well before the first alarm went off at 4:30 AM. Then with the alarm, everyone got up pretty quick and we quietly went to work putting our gear away, taking down the tent, and moving everything we wouldn’t be taking with us to the truck.

For me breakfast was a hard boiled egg and a banana. I wasn’t hungry, but I knew I needed to get some starting calories in me. After we all choked down our breakfast we headed out at 5:25 AM (about 2 hours before the sun would come up).

The night before we had made the decision that rather than head over the quicker and easier route of Ipsut pass, we would go up and over Spray Park. About a mile longer, and much more vertical, but much more scenic, and besides, no one wanted to start off right away with over 5 miles of downhill running in the dark.

crossing the snow at Spray Park
Things were bad for me from the start, as my headlamps batteries were dieing, and I could barely see the trail in the dark woods. Not being able to see I was constantly tripping over roots and trying to keep up with the others who were trying to keep it at a fast hike or slow jog. The others headlamps eventually disappearing in the darkness up ahead. Luckily Tom S stopped to check up on me. He tried to get me some new batteries in the dark, but between fumbling with the batteries and being feasted on by mosquitoes, we gave up and Tom S ended up following right behind me with his much more adequate headlamp.

A few miles of hiking uphill and we reached Spray Park as the first light of morning was making it so that headlamps were no longer needed. At that point we picked the pace up to a slow jog. Up around Spray Park we found quite a bit of snow, but the travel on it was quite easy as it was very consolidated and sun cupped. Crossing the snow that was side lit by the sunrise was pretty cool. Ben really picked up the pace the moment he hit the snow, he was in his element even if he wasn’t wearing skis.

crossing the Carbon River
As we cleared the high point, and started heading down to the Carbon River we were all pretty much moving at a good jogging pace. When we reached the Carbon River we stopped for our first real break of the day. I ate my second and last banana and second and last hard boiled egg. Nothing more for me that day other than energy food. As we headed out we encountered the first of two large foot suspension bridge, this being the one over the Carbon River.. It hangs quite some distance over the Carbon River and ominously warns hikers to only cross one at a time. The crossing provides a bit of a ride, bouncing and rocking.

We headed on up again, this time towards Mystic Lake, climbing along side the Carbon Glacier. An ominous sign told of the dangers of the glacier as we heard giant boulders previously frozen in the glacier breaking off of and falling over a hundred feet to the river below. Once past the the Carbon Glacier the trail weaved up amongst fields of very fragrant wild flowers filled with the constant sound of bees.

From Mystic Lake we headed down past the Winthrop Glacier, over the Winthrop River, then up to a high ridge near Skyscraper Mountain. I was a bit behind, and by the time I reached the high ridge the others were already relaxing a bit and taking a break. I was running low on water so I decided that rather than stopping, I would head on down the trail and take my break where ever I found water.

enjoying a beer at White River at the end of day one
I headed down towards a very unfrozen Frozen Lake to refilled my water at a small creek, then shortly after met Dave who had hiked in from White River to meet us. The others soon caught up, we all gathered in some of the sparse shade to say our hellos, and then took off jogging. Dave and I held back a bit and instead hiked on down towards Sunrise Camp then down to White River where the car that Dave had driven down that morning was located. That night he took over cooking and made us awesome carne asada steak quesadillas. After dinner and a Rainier Beer, it was early to bed, for another early start the next day.

Wonderland Trail in 3 Days?

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 2)

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 3)

All the pictures from the trip

Wonderland Trail in 3 Days?

On July 27, 2010 around 8:45 AM, I completed a longtime goal of summiting Mount Rainier. Prior to that trip I had set far more grandiose plans for the "next trip"; things like climbing Denali or Aconcagua. However, the trip up Rainier was a big wake-up for me. Climbing Rainier was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. So I decided to scale down plans for my "next trip", but I wasn't sure what would make a great adventure. It was not until late December of 2010 that I really started formulating an ideal of the "next trip", and my inspiration came from a post I found on the blog "Learning To Do". The post was all about running light and fast around the 93 mile Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier. (Here is a PDF map of the trail and a PDF trail elevation profile from the National Park Service's web site).

I began talking to and emailing friends about my idea. I read the stories of others who had completed the Wonderland Trail in one, two or three days, and emailed some of them asking for advice. The stories definitely did not make it sound easy, but 93 miles split into 3 days, at an average pace of 3mph, that’s just an average of 11 hours a day. It seemed very reasonable. With a light pack I should easily be able to average 3mph. As time went on my enthusiasm for the trip grew and friends began to sign on to the the idea of joining me on this trip (although other, wiser, friends referred to the trip as tbe "Death March").

I sent a seemingly endless flood of emails to friends who would be interested in joining me on this, but as the time for a possible trip approached my wiser friends began to realize the true scope of what I had proposed. The unusually high snow levels on Mount Rainier in 2011 moved our trip back from the traditional time frame of late July/early August until the snow levels could make the trail passable. So the emails continued, and the trip got built up bigger and bigger.

My friend John suggested that everyone who plans on joining me on this trip should have to prove themselves by hiking or trail running 30 miles in one day. I took John's suggestion to heart and signed up for the Grand Ridge 50K in August. During the 50K trail run, I pretty easily managed 5mph over 31 miles with over 5K’ of elevation gain, so 3mph over that same distance during 3 days should be easy, right? Wrong! As I would later discover the Wonderland Trail is a very different path than a nice single track 50K trail run like Grand Ridge. Some of the climbs are far steeper, some of the descents are also steep traveling across loose rocks along a ledge, and crossing rivers (even though all the actual water is crossed on bridges) is not easy...river rocks do not lend themselves to fast travel. Then of course there is the issue of being more worn out each consecutive day, but of our group of four, two of us managed to finish it with a total time on the trail of just over 40 hours over a period of 3 days, that works out to be around 2-1/3 mph (but it sure felt like we were moving faster than that).

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 1)

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 2)

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 3)

All the pictures from the trip