Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The San Francisco Peaks

Its a Flagstaff classic.  One of my favorite running loops in Flagstaff takes you around, up, over and down the San Francisco Peaks.  You get a little bit of everything and see it all.  The loop is almost 19 miles long, reaches 12,000' above sea level and gains 4,000 feet in elevation.  Couple this with a bunch of friends and you have the ingredients for a great morning's jaunt!

The Peaks as seen from Baderville.

The Crew: (left to right)  Eric Bohn, Josh Brimhall, Shad Mickelberry, Trent Briney, Andrew Middleton and Zoroaster (down in front).

The Boundary to the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area

Shad and Zoroaster make tracks on the Kachina Trail.

Middle (in yellow) and Briney run through one of many meadows on the Kachina Trail.

Early morning sun shines through the aspens.

Middle and Z part an aspen grove.

The Kachina Trail is known for its huge fern fields.  Here middle and Zoroaster blend in.

Leaving the Kachina Trail behind, we start up the Weatherford Trail.

The Weatherford Trail was built in the 1920's.  The now closed roadbed served as scenic access for many Model-T Fords.

Shad nears Fremont Saddle.

Briney, Middle and Bohn gather themselves at Fremont Saddle.  Our trail will lead us to the pass located just above Bohn's head.

The Weatherford Trail continues to traverse mountainous slopes.

Now at near 12,000' feet even the nearly level trail becomes difficult.

Looking back at Fremont Saddle (just left of center) with the Inner Basin between.

Briney and Middle start the five-mile descent as northern Arizona spreads out below.

Down into the saddle between Agassiz Peak and Humphrey's Peak.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Flagstaff: A Land of Fire and Ice

I love Flagstaff.  Ever since I traveled here from Pennsylvania with my college track team during Spring Training in 1993, I've been captured by it's mountains, it's people and it's curative energy.  So when the Jif hit the fan last month I felt something in me snap then slowly sadden...which brings me to this cathartic blog post...

“Fires are neither evil or good. It’s not black and white, not all good or all bad. They do what they do—burn. They get carried by the weather and pushed into fuels…but we are resilient and have the capacity to recognize we make mistakes. Preventing a fire like this requires continued thinning on the landscape and education about how to put out campfires.” -Daniel Laughlin, from InsideNAU

"If economics and human selfishness continue to trump the values of the natural world, then the future of humans on Earth will look much like the blackened forest of Flagstaff, Arizona." -Paul Torrence, from his OpEdNews piece "Igniting the Southwest"

January 2010

January 22, 2010:  Almost 54 inches of snow.

One of the worst winter storms Flagstaff has witnessed since 1967.  I so wanted the sun and warmth during this time and now, today, all I wish for is a little of that white stuff to return.

Six Months Later
June 2010

June 20, 2010

Lesson 3 (Lessons 1 & 2 are below, but follow along):  The 2010 Schultz Fire.  Cost:  $9 million and counting.  Looking up at the San Francisco Peaks from the once threatened/evacuated sub-divisons below.

The Waterline Trail (once one of Flag's most popular trails) can be seen as a faint line that crosses the slopes.  Rumors are that this trail is gone for good.  Burned, eroded, and littered with downed trees and debris.

A mountainside gone!  As are 15,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat, wilderness character, miles of hiking, biking and running trails, and a community's water supply.  What remains, however, is what elicits even more sorrow:  A mountainside ready to collapse onto subdivisions below during the next monsoon, millions of dollars of mitigation funding, and a legacy of mismanagement and human selfishness.

Only moist patches of aspen held their ground as the fire rolled through and around.  Let's hope these guys are aggressive and establish themselves quickly on slopes barren of ground cover.

The Schultz Fire caught at night.

Clearly Not Learning the Lesson nor Getting the Message...

Lesson One:  The 1977 Radio Fire (as seen today) on Mount Elden still remains visible for all to see.  Eerily located not two miles from the Schultz Fire perimeter.  Visible from Flagstaff, but clearly not big enough or young enough to evoke the emotions of care or worry.

The Radio Fire burned 5,000 acres 33 years ago.  As you can see, the scar remains and a mountain was changed forever.  The 2010 Schultz Fire was three times larger.

Lesson 2:  The Hochderffer/Horseshoe Fire Complex.  What remains today after this 1996 fire.

The Hochderffer/Horseshoe Fire Complex charred 25,000 acres.  Located and well hidden on the backside of The Peaks, only miles from where the Shultz Fire was stopped.  Now that we've scarred our front-side and can see it every-time we awake in the morning, hopefully we'll come to terms and talk about this issue.  Please, I for one, do not wish to witness/experience Lesson 4.

Here are two points-of-view that bring to light the circumstance and discuss its finality:

From Northern Arizona University and the Ecological Restoration Institute:

From my father and former Flagstaff resident, Paul Torrence, a rather raw and engaging piece:

Sorry folks, no Moment of Zen can be found here today...
This is all there is left to say...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Toasted! Done and Done!

Assuming the position at the finish of the 2010 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run...apparently my favorite 100-mile posture (see below)...(photo by Larry Gassan)

Special thanks to Larry Gassan and his 100-mile Finish-line Photo Project for capturing us all at our most weakest moment.  More Western States 100-Mile finishers can be seen on Larry's photo site here.

See...told you!  Finish Line shot by Larry Gassan at the 2004 Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run 

And once again at the 2003 Western States 100 No Hands Bridge. (photo by Gary Gade)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run: Its just a long way to go.

No Hands Bridge.  Where our story begins and ends...

“Brian!  Don’t look!  Look away man, look away!”

I was able to squeak out those words to my somewhat freaked-out pacer and friend, Brian Tinder, before I vomited for a third time as we crossed No Hands Bridge (mile 97), the fifth time since leaving Green Gate (mile 80).

A perfect topping, literally, to a not-so-perfect day…

100 Brutal Miles:  From Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA. 

Looking dapper for pre-race check-in.

Minutes before the start.  Sharing some quality time with Brian Tinder, from Flagstaff, AZ (my crew and pacer) and Tim Olson from Ashland, OR (crew at Robinson).  (Photo by Shahid Ali)

This year’s Western States was like no other I had previously witnessed.  The competition had arrived with a fury.  And, as billed, competitors challenged each other all day long.  Looking back, I could tell I didn’t exhibit the same frame of mind as many of runners who toed the line in Squaw Valley Saturday morning.

Ideally things would have played out differently for me over the weekend of June 26th-27th,, 2010.  I had grand visions of racing closer to the front of the pack, but I discovered early on that this wasn’t going to materialize.  

The Start (photo by Glenn Tachiyama)

Running up the Poppy Trail on the Snow Altered Route.  Note French Meadows Reservoir in the background. (photo by Glenn Tachiyama)

After a conservative but decent feeling climb up to Emigrant Pass, I found myself quickly struggling, slipping and sliding in the snow, slush, water and mud along Lyon’s Ridge.  Once I reached this year’s special “Snow Route” course alteration things didn’t improve.  During the descent to Talbot Creek and the fast road miles to the Poppy Aid Station I struggled to keep a decent pace.  I watched as many runners whipped on by and disappeared down the road ahead.

Once on the Poppy Trail, a undulating single-track that followed the shores of French Meadows Reservoir, I knew my race strategy clearly had to change.  I took the opportunity under the big trees to slow things down, regroup and adjust my attitude and goals.  I decided that this would be a race I would have to run consistently and smart.  I’d have to maximize the strength and speed I had on this day, not that of what I wished I had.  My milk was spilt and I was determined not to cry over it.  Pity parties suck, and besides I didn’t have time to send out any invitations.

New socks for wet feet at Robinson Flat (mile 30).

Passing through Robinson Flat Aid Station.  Wishing that 30 miles was all that we needed to do today. (photo by Shahid Ali)

So, I set out, like the other 328 finishers, and weaved in and out of canyons, crossed streams and ridges, ate dust, hid from the sun and ran through the night all while passing through aid stations filled with caring and dedicated volunteers.  Along the way I found plenty of great things to make this a most memorable race experience: 
  • I was able to spend several miles with old co-worker and Rogue Valley Runner Chris Rennaker.  We complained about the snow (one step forward, two steps back) on the trail out of Robinson Flat (mile 30) and then shared a few miles on the climb to Michigan Bluff (mile 56).  He went on to finish his first Western in an outstanding 20:03:08.
  • I was paced from Foresthill (mile 62) to the Finish line in Auburn by my good friend and fellow Flagstaffian Brian Tinder.  Tinder, an Auburn native, finally experienced Western for the first time.  I was happy to spend nine hours with him as he took in the whole show.
  • I had the pleasure of setting the pace temporarily and getting to know New York’s Oz Pearlman on Cal Street and Massachusetts’s Todd Walker from Green Gate to Brown’s Bar.  Being an east coast native myself, it was a good to spend some quality time with a couple fellows that frequented my old haunts.
  • Before, during and after the race I enjoyed catching-up with and being cheered-on by a large and good-hearted contingent of folks from Ashland, Oregon.  My last home before I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona.  Reacquainting myself with these friends helped me move along the course.
  • And finally, this year I continued past Green Gate confidently where I pulled the plug during my 2007 race.  And I was able to finish my sixth Western States, my 153rd ultra and 23rd 100-miler.

Coming into Dusty Corners (mile 38). (photo by Jamie Donaldson)

Vaseline!  Liberal use of this petroleum product is a good thing. (photo by Karolina Wyszynska)

Awaiting the Buckle.  Flanked by east-coaster Todd Walker (left) and Rogue Valley Runner Chris Rennaker (right).

This is what all the clatter and chatter's about.

Showing off some hardwear.  Flagstaff's Eric Bohn is there to congratulate.  Bohn paced 7th place finisher Glen Redpath (photo by Sara Wagner).

Congratulations to all of 2010's Western States runners!

And Now My Moment of Zen...
Thinking about November...