“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's all in the planning

Once a month might be my new schedule for blog posting.  Time will tell.

Life is pretty boring from a running blog standpoint at the moment.  I try to run, my calves tighten up, I speed up, slow down or stop, depending on the day.  I have good weeks of running with about 21 miles in a week, and bad weeks of running with much less.
This was a good week.  Finish Line of the Field of Heroes 5K.
First end of race with both kiddos?
For the first time in a long time, I have no races scheduled or paid for.  No definitive training plan to follow.  I'm running what I can, when I can, and trying to be satisfied with that. Instead, I'm dreaming about running marathons through malls.  Some of these dream marathons require answering trivia questions before you can cross the finish line.  Ha.  What can I say?
Did any involve stamps and hershey kisses at the finish line?  I'd run for that!
So?  How do I deal with this whole no training plan thing?  First, I print out a Calendar that starts in December 2014 and goes through November 2016. Then, I start sketching out a "Baby-to-50 miler" training plan.  Totally normal, right?  I've had a 50 mile race on my short bucket list for some time now, but always knew a pregnancy was hoped for, so I put it off.  For those of you who have run 50 mile races, I'm open to suggestions for races and/or training plans.  At the moment, I'm eyeballing the Chicago Lakefront 50/50 that is scheduled for November 1st this year.  End-of-October, beginning of November time frame seems ideal for my current plan, gives me approximately two years to both rebuild my pre-baby mileage base and then to build to a 50 miler.

Other races I'm eyeballing for post baby?  The Xenia Half Marathon next April followed by the Columbus Marathon in October.   I also hope to pace Cap City again in May, and plan to run Boulder Half in October with my deferred-due-to-floods free entry.
As long as I can fly the plane, race wherever you want Mommy!
While I'm in the dream race-planning mode - what was your favorite race and why?  Any races that I should consider during my 2 year plan?  I could need a few September/early October marathons to run as training runs while building for the 50 miler.

Hopefully, I'll still like running next year.  :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Hello.  I am not dead.  Rather, I'm simply a very bad blogger.  I have always hated it when a blogger I have followed disappears with no explanation.  Irony.  I could offer all kinds of apologies, but that would probably just be annoying rather than making anyone happy.  I will say that I never intended to take an 8 month hiatus from blogging.  It happens as these things do often do.  I went into a bit of a funk post-Rainier and something had to give.  That something was the blog.  I'd meant to take a week or two off.  A week or two became a month, etc.  I also "missed" the cut-off for renewing my web domain address.
Really Mommy?  You expect them to take all that?
I am not going to promise weekly posts or anything crazy like that.  Mostly because my life is just not that interesting these days, but I will make an effort not to disappear for quite so long without an explanation beforehand.

So where have I been?  What has been going on?

Detroit Marathon - I finished in 4:22:27.  I made the rookie mistake of staying with the pacer even though they were going too fast for me to maintain throughout the marathon distance.  I wound up taking 2 potty breaks and walking periodically from mile 16 on in an effort to preserve my legs for a better effort at Philly.
Yes, I made them pose with me like this.
Philly Marathon - I finished in 2:11:17.   I turned at the half.  After an hour in the port-a-potties line, I missed my starting corral and started late.   I quickly caught the corral in front of me and the sudden change of pace along with the rutted Philly streets caused a day that didn't feel good at the start to become even worse.  I was exhausted at mile 9 when I saw the first sign for the half marathoners to turn.  After calculating when I would finish the marathon and whether or not I would have time to shower before I had to check out of my hotel, and whether my hip soreness was something to be concerned about...I made the smart decision and turned with the half marathoners.  Lesson learned?  4 weeks is two short between marathons for me.  I need to stay an extra day for out-of-state races so that hotel check-out does not influence decisions to finish the race.
I told her we had to do pouty faces because we both turned for the half.
Santa Hustle Half Marathon - 2:11:46.  Conditions were crazy and blizzard-like.  After running in inches of snow, I decided to run for fun and not for time.  Definitely the right call.  I did spend the drive back to Columbus trying to convince Lynne that we could run the Antarctica marathon.
Gotta love Northern Ohio in December! 
All of these races were partially impacted by a major medication change that I undertook about a month prior to the Detroit race.  (Hindsight: never change medications so close to a race).  The same medication changes caused me to gain about 5 lbs a month for 4 months.  Nonetheless,iIn December I signed up for the Xenia Marathon that was schedule for the first weekend in April.  Why?  I loved the half when I ran it the year before, and when I went to sign up - it was the same price for the marathon as for the half marathon: $25.

After my 2nd 20 mile training run for Xenia, my legs took almost 2 weeks to recover.  After a few more attempts, I made the right call and emailed the race officials to switch to the half marathon distance.  I ran the race in 2:34:45.  I ran it for fun with a friend and had a blast laughing and chatting the entire race.
Me and the best running wife a gal could ask for post race.
What is the biggest change since my last post???  I'll let Avery tell you.
I am due Nov. 8th, and we couldn't be happier.  Although, I ran that 2nd 20 mile training run shortly after becoming pregnant, the difficulty I had in recovery and in subsequent runs convinced me that a pregnant marathon was a bad idea.  Pregnant half marathons on the other hand...

Luckily, the pace team I run with was able to accommodate my slower pace these days, and I was still able to pace the Cap City Half Marathon at the beginning of May.  I paced the 2:50 finish time, finishing at 2:49:38.  I had an absolute blast. I talked and sang myself hoarse.  I'm sure there were many people who would have gladly taken my pace sign and beaten me with it.  Especially when I was belting out Build Me Up Buttercup somewhere around mile 12.
Who wouldn't want to run with that kind of obnoxiousness?
Where is my running now that I am 16 weeks pregnant tomorrow?  I'm still running about 15-20 miles a week, but I'm running about 2 minute per mile slower than my pre-pregnancy LSD pace.  I'm keeping all my runs to an LSD effort because that's what I'm comfortable with while pregnant.  I'm still strength training 2x a week with my trainer, but I'm resting much more often between sets.  It is what it is.

I think that's enough of 8 months worth of catching up.  I probably should have led with the pregnancy bit instead of making y'all read everything else first.  HA!  For the record, I have been reading the blogs I followed before my disappearance, despite my lack of comments, and will endeavor to actually type comments instead of thinking them from now on!  ;)

How has everyone else been?

Friday, September 20, 2013

This and That

Since I've been back from the climb, getting back into a routine has been tough.
But the celebration dinner my friends put together makes it totally worth it!

  • First, my GI system didn't work properly for about a week.
  • Then, my kiddo's GI system rebelled, she got the full-blown flu and vomited for days..
  • Finally, after a week's worth of running like normal, after my 16 mile run, I strained my mid-foot carrying Avery down the stairs.  Really?  I can tackle mountains and marathons, but the dasterdly combination of a two year old and stairs did me in?
Suck it up mommy!
During all this, I actually participated in two races and didn't recap either one. GASP!  For shame.  The first race took place the second day after I'd descended Rainier.  Yes, that's right, the SECOND day.  God love me, but I can be a real idiot sometimes!  The pace team that I am a member of has two major races they pace each year:  The Cap City Half Marathon and the Emerald City Half and Quarter marathon.  As a member of this pace team, I am expected to pace at least one of these two events each year.  Cap City always takes place the DAY BEFORE the Flying Pig marathon, which we all know I raced this year.  Thus, I knew I needed to pace Emerald City, which took place on August 25th.

Luckily, most of the paces I prefer were already taken by the time I saw the signup, so I only signed up to pace the Quarter (and not the half) and at a pace that is relatively slow for me.  Nonetheless, I didn't sleep the night of the 22nd when I was on the mountain, I barely slept the 23rd because I had to get up for an early flight back.  I was still on Pacific Coast time on the 24th, thus, getting up early to pace this race on the 25th felt like someone had kicked me in the face with mountain boots on.  We won't even talk about how stiff my quads felt or how I was still extremely dehydrated from all those events.  As I got ready for the race, I actually wondered whether or not I would be able to pace the whole thing.
MIT pace team pre-race
I borrowed a tutu from my good friend Laura and paced the race.  Luckily, we pace as two person teams and my partner was awesome.  Our target time was 1:15 for the 6.55 miles.  She crossed the finish line at 1:15:00 and I crossed at 1:15:01.  Not too shabby!
Nothing better than pacing in a pink tutu!
Since the damage was already done, I decided to walk backwards on the course until I found my best friend Sarah who was running the half...and then pace her in.  (Sometimes, you can't fix stupid).  She'd been a little nervous about the race because it was her first half marathon back from having her adorable kiddo.  At least I was smart enough to just walk back and not run back???  I think I went back about 2.5 miles to get her and then had a blast running her in and talking to her like a drill sergeant.  I'm not sure what the official PR time was for her, but I'm fairly certain it was a PR by a little over 45 minutes.  I'd take all the credit, but she's worked really hard.  :)

The other race that involved a recap fail was a labor day 4 mile race.  I paid all of $10 to sign up for it and it was rumored to have lots of fun goodies at the race itself.  You got one raffle ticket for signing up and could get a second one by bringing in three canned goods to donate.  I didn't win any prizes, but they were really awesome.  There were all kinds of booths giving away free stuff and I wound up coming home with 3 new kids books for my kiddo.  AWESOME.

I actually did really well considering I barely ran the week before.  After pacing so many miles RIGHT AFTER climbing the mountain, my whole body rebelled and I didn't run again for 6 days.  I struggled through 10 miles instead of the 18 miler on Saturday, took the next day off, and then had this race to run on Monday.
One of my local running groups, RUN DMC, pre-race.
Sarah was also running this race and wanted to break 40 minutes.  After my bad run that Saturday I wouldn't even commit to pacing her for sub-40.  That morning, though, I woke up and my legs were READY to go!  I feel bad about ditching Sarah early on, but challenged her to keep me in sight.  I repeatedly told her she had at least a 9:45 min/mile average in her.  I was right.

I finished in 33:50.  The course was a tiny bit short, so my true average pace was 8:45 min/mile.  It was hot and felt tougher than it should have, but it felt good to run more effortlessly again!  My age group was fierce, 16 people had sub-8 min mile times!  A gal that I paced with most of the race placed in her younger age group.  It gives me hope that I will get faster as I age.  :D

So, now I've recapped the "races" I've done since the mountain.  Phew.  I know you're all relieved.  Ha.  I was supposed to be running the Boulder Half Marathon this weekend.  The event has been postponed because of the seriously crazy flooding they've been having in the area.

After discussion, my family and I decided that I would not fly to Denver, opting for quality family time at home instead.  American Airlines offered to charge me $200 to change my under $300 flight to another weekend.  Um.  We have not yet taken them up on that ridiculous offer.  I don't know whether or not the event will be rescheduled to a date where I can make it, so far now, I'm assuming I won't be able to run it at all.  While it is disappointing that I essentially threw away about $500 for a race I didn't run, I think the race organizers absolutely made the right call!  With a natural disaster like this, I'd rather the focus be on helping the community recovery.   My thoughts and prayers have included everyone in that area for the last couple weeks.

Other race stuff?  I've been debating the idea of adding the Philadelphia Marathon to my fall schedule.  (With Colorado out, hubby owes me a weekend away, right?)  If I sign up, I would run Detroit as more of a training marathon, and throw my serious racing effort at Philadelphia. This idea came up because of my foot strain and how difficult it has been to come back full strength from climbing a mountain.  (Philly gives me 4 extra weeks to get to racing effort).

At the moment, I am still not doing any speedwork, because my heartrate is still a little higher than normal on most of my longer runs.  I had a quality, solid 10 mile run this Wednesday with zone 2 heart rate and no foot pain at all, however, so maybe I'm turning that corner!
I'm giving all the credit for the strain healing to this fun torture.
Sticking your foot in an ice bucket for 10 minutes sucks more than it should.
I'll probably still stick with a slower pace group for the next couple of long run Saturdays though.  Sometimes I can be smart.  :)

Anyone else race recently?

Anyone else have a physical event take longer to recover from than originally anticipated?  How did you keep yourself patient with it all?

Thoughts on whether I should add Philly to be schedule?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rainier Recap

**WARNING:  Long-winded post ahead**

For whatever reason, writing up a recap of my experiences climbing Rainier has been incredibly hard to do.  So much so, that I've avoided the blog world in general.  Time to put on my big girl panties and fill everyone in.  This may take a while.

August 22, 2013

We were supposed to meet the rest of the climb team at base camp at 8:15 am to take the shuttle to Paradise.  We were a couple minutes late because on the way there Wendy realized she'd left behind her softshell jacket.  I hoped this wasn't a sign for the trip.  We still had time to pose by the summit climb sign before loading up in the shuttle.
My Dad, Wendy, my stepmother and me at Base Camp
At Paradise, the day wasn't as clear as it had been the day before.  It was somewhat cloudy and overcast.  Nonetheless, the team posed for a team photo prior to starting the hike from Paradise.
My RMI climb team, start of climb
My pack pre-climb.  Contents:  avalanche transciever, heavy parka, hardshell pants and jacket, softshell jacket, insulating layer, expedition gloves, med-weight gloves, light weight gloves, trekking poles, ice ax, crampons, harness, food for the next 36 hours, 2 liters of water, coffee mug, trash bag, sun screen, ipod, running shoes, extra socks, blister stuff, goggles, climbing helmet, headlamp,  sleeping bag, extra batteries
For the first pitch, everyone had the option to use approach shoes.  There was mostly no snow on this pitch.  We stretched the first break a bit later to allow the rest stop timing to match when people would have to switch to climbing boots.  This was just past pebble creek.
Crossing pebble creek
I tried to get some pictures of some of the marmots we passed on the way up, but walking and picture taking with my crappy point and shoot don't go well together.  This first pitch was somewhat surreal because we were within an hour and half hike of Paradise, so there were lots of people wandering the paths.  Towards the end of the pitch, we got into the uneven rock stairs.  It sucks being short sometimes.
That's me in the red-pack
First rest stop.  You can see my Dad switching his shoes.
Just hanging out at the first rest stop
I was nervous, but felt pretty good so far.  I kept trying to figure out where it was that I turned around on the trip last year.  It was almost impossible to tell though, what with the no snow and all.  (Last year we had snow from Paradise on).  After the first rest stop, we hit the Muir snowfield.  We were all still chatty and trying to enjoy the hike.  It definitely got more tough once we hit the snow.  I tended to stay towards the front of the group with whichever guide was leading that pitch.  I think I was still afraid of failing, and wanted to make sure I wasn't at the back.

From the second rest stop, we should have had great views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, the Tatoosh range, etc.  The storms coming from Oregon interfered with the views though.  I later learned that the storms coming in were motivation for the lead guide to change us to 3 breaks from 4 to make a quicker ascent to Camp Muir.
Still, not a terrible view.
My Garmin was working from Paradise to Camp Muir.  In the first 3 pitches, we gained about 1000 feet an hour.  In the last pitch to Camp Muir, the section I heard one of the guides say was called the stair climber, we gained around 1500 feet.  According to Garmin, all in, the treck to Camp Muir was 4.59 miles in about 4.5 hour and 5386 feet in elevation gain (actual gains by mile, 941 feet, 987, 1250, 1501, 668. I forgot to stop my watch once we reached Camp Muir, so there is some error as it recorded my scrambling around Muir).
Camp Muir nestled on it's rocky ridge.  Larger building on left is the RMI Bunkhouse.
The RMI bunkhouse at Muir has rules about bringing in your packs or anything sharp.  So we left our packs in a line on the rocks with our trekking poles, crampons and ice axes.  We took everything else inside to claim our bunks.  The RMI bunkhouse client section has 18 bed roll spots.  Since both RMI teams had a 100% success rate for Camp Muir, all spots were taken.

I cannot explain how excited I was to make Camp Muir and get the monkey off my back from last year.  Since I had a Verizon cell phone, I actually had a signal at Muir to post a picture to Facebook and exchange text messages with my husband about the incoming storms.   I was SO glad that I had decided to carry the extra weight of a pair of running shoes to Camp Muir.  This allowed me to take off my mountain boots for a few hours, which was glorious.
The lovely potties.  Those barrels are full of poop.
Using these facilities without gagging required a cloth over my nose.
Still, better than a blue bag.
After we all had a chance to use the absolutely revolting potty facilities (I will never bad mouth a trail port-a-potty again), and get settled with water and snacks, the guides came in to brief us on the next portion of the climb.  We were told that guides were up ahead working on the route, and getting rained on.  We asked if this was good or bad and were told if it was raining hard we wouldn't even leave Camp Muir.  Too dangerous.
Me, Wendy, Janette and my Dad posing in our bunks.
Our fearless leaders giving us the briefing.
After the briefing, they brought in some boiling water for us to make our dinner, hot beverages, etc. and try to rest.  This was about 4:30pm.  I had brought cold pizza, but forgot to bring a hot chocolate packet.  My friend Wendy came to my aide though and let me have one of hers.  Always willing to help a friend lighten her pack!

I laid down in my sleeping back with my ipod.  I'd forgotten to charge the batteries, but somehow it lasted.  Ok.  Trying to sleep in a small wooden bunkhouse with 18 other people is ridiculous.  We also didn't know what time they were going to wake us for the summit attempt, so every time the door opened, my adrenaline kicked in thinking it was time.  (18 people using the potty means a lot of door openings).  I was telling myself it wasn't time yet at the next door opening, when I heard the lead guide saying it was go time.  It was 11:30 pm. We were told we had an hour to eat breakfast, use the potty, load our packs, put on our crampons and get into rope teams.  Even now, just thinking about it gets my blood pumping again.

Luckily, I was able to poop. This is important, because if you poop on the mountain anywhere other than the potties and Camp Muir, you have to blue bag it and carry it out with you.  It was surreal watching everyone get ready to go by headlamp.  What was in our packs for the summit bid?  All of our warm clothing, enough snacks to get to the summit and back and 2 liters of water.  We were expected to be wearing our avalanche transceivers,our climbing helmets, headlamps, harnesses and our crampons.  It was rather warm for Rainier, so must of us chose to wear a base layer and our softshell pants.  Our parkas were in easy access positions for when we got to the rest stops.  My Garmin had been beeping low battery, so I didn't even try to find satellites.
The teams getting ready to go.
I'm ready.  Let's do it.
August 23, 2013 - the climb begins at 12:30am.

The first pitch out of Muir is in the dark.  You can't see all that far in front of you, but you can see groupings of other headlamps on the upper mountain of other climb teams pushing for the summit.  I cannot even begin to describe the sense of wonder and awe that inspired as I left Camp Muir.  My camera was stored in my pocket, it was just too dark to get a good photo here.

This first pitch out of Muir is the one time during the whole climb that I would say I absolutely loved it.  It was one of the easier pitches.  We had a few crevasses to step over about the width of my desk that were awe-inspiring rather than terrifying for some reason.  I just kept saying over and over how awesome it was.  We were in a rope team of 4 people, the guide plus 3 clients.  We had 30 feet of rope (I think) between each of us.  Enough to span a crevasse.  This was all glacier travel so we were required to be wearing long sleeves and gloves in addition to everything else.  This pitch took us over Cathedral Gap and onto the Ingraham glacier.
A view of the Ingraham Glacier from the decent, taken from Disappointment Cleaver.
We'd been told in our briefings that on the upper mountain, at the end of each pitch the guides would be assessing each team member and asking if we wanted to continue.  Our rest stops were timed in some of the few safe places to stop on the upper mountain.  Thus, the deal was, if you agreed to go on, you agreed that you had enough to make it to the next rest stop.  At the end of the first pitch, we all knew that the next pitch was Disappointment Cleaver.  The cleaver is a rock ridge.  It is all volcanic rock, so loose and dangerous.  We were told that leg took about 1.5 hours of mostly upward climbing.  Two members of the other RMI team chose to turn around on the Ingraham flats and did not continue onto the Cleaver.
A picture of the cleaver from our descent, when it was light out.
Look closely, the red and blue dots are members of our other rope team descending and give you a scale of the thing.
The cleaver was nerve-racking to me because I have no experience rock climbing at all.  We are in crampons, but this time of year, the cleaver is mostly rock and the sound of crampons on rock is horrible.  We were short roped in this section.  I'm not going to lie, this section was much tougher physically.  I'll never forget Adam saying at one point, "we're a third of the way up the cleaver," and thinking "that's it???"   A little bit past that, I started hearing a buzzing noise.  I couldn't figure out what it was, but it was driving me crazy.  Not long after that, Adam had us pull to the side to let the other RMI team lead guide and his rope team pass us.  I remember thinking how strange it was that we were pausing on the cleaver and wondering if we were too slow or something.

Adam explained that the buzzing I was hearing was the electricity from the nearby storms causing his metal shovel to buzz.  The two lead guides were discussing whether this was the high point of our climb and whether or not the weather was going to require us to turn around.  It's hard to describe my feelings at this point.  Fear over the electricity and storms, disappointment that this might be it....

After discussion and checking in with teams further up the mountain, the lead guides decided we would go for 15 more minutes and see.  Luckily for us, the buzzing stopped and we continued to the top of the Cleaver.

I'm not going to lie.  I was ready for a break at the top of the cleaver.  Our lead guide told us we were taking a longer break than normal because there was a bottleneck at the ladder section.  (It was better to be stopped at a rest stop with our parkas on).  When we first stopped at the Cleaver, Wendy threw a fit to have her position in the rope team switched.  Then, Adam went through the group one by one to see where we were all at.  I said I was okay and good to go on.   Inside though, I had major doubts.  I had been ready for a break when we stopped.  I was nervous about the ladders section.  The longer we sat at the rest stop, the more I doubted.  I expressed my mental doubts to Wendy.  (Pre-climb I'd told her she had to help me be mentally strong).  She told me that if I needed to turn around, I should.  I doubted myself even more.  Enough so, that I called Adam over to talk about being nervous.

He asked what I was nervous about, I said the ladders.  He asked how I felt physically.  I was honest.  I felt good, but I had been tired towards the end of the pitch.  By now, one of the other guides, Thomas, had also come over.  They asked for a percentage of where I felt.  I said when we first got to the break, I felt 75%.  Now, I felt 85%.   Adam told me he thought I could do it.  He told me I could still turn around if I wanted to though.  My stepmother wasn't turning around, and I really didn't want to go back down the Cleaver yet, so I said I would go on.
The team at the top of the cleaver rest stop
Why did I debate so much?  In our pre-upper mountain briefing we'd been told that from the Cleaver, if we agreed to going forward, we were committing to the summit and down.  Because of the slope at high break, changing up rope teams was very dangerous and they didn't want to do it.

I was getting rather cold before we got moving again, but we did get moving.  It was still dark and the bottleneck still wasn't clear.  When we had to wait at the ladders, I asked if I could try to take a picture anyway.  The guide had to tell the teams that it was camera flash and not lightening afterwards.  That made me glad I'd asked first!
Waiting in the path waiting for teams to clear the ladders section
I'm not going to lie.  The ladders were scary.  These pictures do not do them justice.  First up was a vertical ladder that ended in the middle of the ice fall.  From that point, you had to climb the wall with kicked in steps and your ice ax and a guide rope.  At the top of that, you had the 8 foot horizontal ladder.
During the day and the descent looking back up.  Better view of the icefall climb above the first vertical ladder
The start of the climb over the icefall and the first ladder, a vertical ladder.
Me.  Crossing the 8 foot horizontal ladder, after the vertical ladder and free climb section
We were in a rope belay too.  So, we had to switch the belay at the anchor points.  Each time any rope team member was at an anchor, the whole team had to stop for their safety.  There was an anchor in the middle of the free climb up the icefall.  This meant switching there, and it meant most of us had to stop while in the middle of the horizontal ladder.  While I was stopped there, I heard ice caving down in the crevasse.  I couldn't SEE it, but I could hear it.  I believe my exact words were "oh shit, oh shit, oh shit."  The guide assured me I was okay until I reached the other side of the ladder though.

Once we were through the ladders section, we had to traverse over to the Edmunds glacier to climb the shoulder.  The slope was very steep, but we had a dug out path traversing the middle of it  (Thank you guides!)  The guide short roped us and walked slightly above us.  This inspired me to ask "I take it, a fall here would be very bad."  He admitted that the slope was steep enough that we would be unlikely to be able to arrest our fall with the ice ax.  Yeah, let's not fall.  I believe this is where it was lightly snowing as well.
RMI climb teams on this portion of the route
Headed to high break

Once we turned the corner, we started switchbacks up to High Break.  The last rest stop before the summit.  I was kind of unreasonably pissed off here.  In a rope team, you are supposed to allow the rope to just graze the glacier in front of you.  This keeps you from tripping on it if it's too loose, and it keeps you from free-loading off the person in front of you.  The rope behind me was tight for most of the climb on the shoulder.  It made things much more difficult for me. I think my Dad could tell I was ticked as I came into high break as he tried to tell me how to use my ice ax to dig out a ledge to sit in.  (It was too steep to just sit down).  Luckily, the lead guide noticed too and dug it for me.   When my guide asked me how I was doing, I think my answer was "I'm over this."  He asked if I wanted to turn around and I said no, of course.   The sun was out now and we could see the sky.  A cloud cap was settling in below us though, so the view was some what limited.
High break
Gearing up at high break
From high break, it was about an hour of straight up to the summit.
It's steeper than it looks!
After a while, I worried that the pulling was going to keep me from making it and increased the distance between me and the guide in front of me so that he had to help pull us up.  He started hollering encouragement, and even told the guy behind me to stop "waterskiing".   He also took this fabulous picture of me as I entered the summit crater.
I admit, I was ticked about pulling the guy behind me, and let that make my decision about walking over to the summit registry.  This is probably my main regret of the climb.  We rested for about an hour on the summit for beginning the climb down.
The view from inside the summit crater
My Dad, stepmother and I huddled at the summit
For me, the descent was way harder than the ascent.  We are traveling much faster on the decent, we can see the fall that lies before us if we screw up, the snow was terrible and bunching up under our crampons. It is also very counter-intuitive to lean forward when you are slipping instead of backwards.  I admit it. I panicked.  A lot.  The guide had to slow our team down for me.

Then we got to down climb the chutes and ladders section.  If you want to see my Dad's video of this (it's about 10 minutes long), go HERE.  This was beyond terrifying.  Plus, the bottleneck at this section meant that I was freezing while I stood in the middle of the horizontal bridge.  Shivering.  Nothing scarier.
From above, the start of the chutes and ladders section.
I had to kick in my own steps on the ice fall, and missed the anchor point.  I had to climb back up to switch the anchor.  My guide had to catch me on the belay several times.  I made it though.  The harder part for me actually, was plunge stepping from there to the break above the cleaver. I panicked.  The guide had to slow us down.  For me.  Again.  He wound up short-roping me to try to improve my confidence.  All pulling or anything else from earlier in the climb was completely forgiven as my team slowed for me.

We took our first of only two upper mountain breaks on the way to Muir at the top of the Cleaver.  By now, I was a bit distraught thinking of that down climb.  My team went slow and steady and we made it back to the Ingraham glacier and the section known as the bowling alley because of the danger of rocks sweeping people off the mountain.  During the Cleaver section, I killed both of my big toes because I'd neglected to tighten my mountain boots enough before the descent.  Stupid!
Rest stop just above the Cleaver.
We continued to our second break.  From here, Wendy needed to go to the bathroom and really didn't want to blue bag it.  Our guides were awesome. They were able to shuffle rope teams so that Wendy and a guide could quick-time it to Camp Muir and the rest of us could go at the normal pace.  The crevasses we had to step over were scarier than they'd been in the dark, but not as bad as trying to do that stupid plunge step!
Almost back to Camp Muir. Notice crevasse on my right.
I cannot describe my frustration at struggling with the plunge step so much.  Something that I felt should have been the easiest thing on the climb, and it was the one thing I REALLY struggled with.  And I cry when I'm frustrated.

Nonetheless, we climbed over Cathedral gap and returned to Camp Muir.  The normal plan is for an hour break at Camp Muir.  Our lead rope team beat us to Camp Muir by 30-40 minutes though, so we didn't really have an hour.  I had time to pack all my stuff and refill my water bottle, but not time to actually eat or drink really before we left for the Muir Snowfield.   Here, we were back to trekking poles and no rope team though.  No crampons or ice axes either.  Although I still fell a lot trying to glide down the snow, I was able to keep a quicker pace and halt the panicking. We took one break on the descent from Muir to Paradise to allow people to switch to approach shoes just past the Muir snowfield.  I actually switched to my shoes as well because of the beating my toes had taken from my boots.  From that point, off the snow, I was able to match the pace of the rest.  In fact, when we reached Paradise, we still waited 40 minutes for the other climb team.

In all, including breaks, summit day was 17.5 hours.  (This does not include the 4.5 hours to Camp Muir).  On the shuttle back to base camp, one of the guides asked me what was harder, running marathons or climbing Rainier.  I laughed and said - "Put it this way, I ran my last marathon in 4 hours and 15 minutes.  There is no comparison."
Wendy and I on the Summit.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about the amazing RMI guides on my trip.  I would recommend Mike, Thomas and Adam to ANYONE looking to climb any mountain.  They were fabulous.   I also cannot say enough nice things about the people I climbed with.  You never know what you will get when thrown into a highly physical and dangerous activity with strangers.  They were nice, friendly, funny and willing to help each other out when needed.  Together, the guides and the team made this climb something I will enjoy telling stories about for quite a while.

Special photo thanks.  In addition to my own photos, I used photos from my guide Adam, my Dad and another member of my climb team, Heidi.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rainier Recap - Getting Excited

I'm sure it showed in my blogs posts before I left for Rainier, the fact that I was more scared and nervous instead of excited about the trip.  Throughout the training cycle that was true.  I kept saying to my trainer, "I can't fail this time."  I kept doing these grueling hikes.  After the last one, I celebrating "never having to do a training hike again."   I was positive that I was a one-and-done with the climb.

This climb was a REVENGE climb.  I was getting the monkey off my back, summitting Rainier, and then walking away from mountain climbing forever.  So much so, that I even refused to spend the money on a slightly bigger size of mountaineering boots because I was positive I would never need them after Rainier.  (I wound up wearing Mark's boots on the mountain once I realized his were only 1 European size bigger than mine).

My friend Wendy was so excited about this climb.  So much so, that her excitement almost annoyed me because I was so terrified of failure.  Luckily, once we found each other and embraced at the airport, for the first time, the fear cloud started to lift. We all arrived in the Seattle airport around 6pm PST on Monday August 19th.
Wendy and I at the rental house the next morning - all smiles!
There was an issue with my parents luggage getting left behind in Denver, so we all went to dinner after our flights and did some supplies shopping before returning to the Seattle airport to retrieve luggage.  From there, we were off for the 1.5 hour drive to Ashford, WA.  RMI base camp and the house we were renting for the duration of the trip were both in Ashford.  I was still on Eastern time, so if my stepmother hadn't switched seats with me to alleviate my car sickness, I probably would have fallen asleep!

Check-in with the climb team wasn't until 3pm on Tuesday, so we spent the morning getting excited about Rainier.  We drove up to Paradise (the starting point of the climb).  We didn't get to hike around this waterfall because the trail was closed, but the views there and at a couple other pull-over spots were awesome enough to snap a bunch of pictures.  Finally, these views of Rainier started to get me excited about the climb ahead.
Even without a hike, the falls were gorgeous
There she is.  The ridge where Camp Muir is located on is visible from here.
From Paradise, we went on a short hike out to a waterfall.  The idea was to get me moving a bit at a higher elevation of 5600'.  (I live at sea level, everyone else in our van lives at elevation).  The idea was that if we could get my red blood cells adjusting a day sooner, that would be awesome.  The hike was gorgeous.  This last in the season at Paradise, there are meadows of flowers.  (unlike last year when it was snowy). Plus, it was clear enough to have amazing views of Rainier herself.
Where the hike ended - what a view!
We then drove back to RMI base camp to eat lunch and browse at the Whitaker Mountaineering shop.  I was a little surprised at the complete lack of customer service at the shop.  One of my favorite things with dealing with this smaller mountaineering shop has been the excellent customer service.  I have to say, we had a pretty all around negative experience with them this time around.  Enough to make me reconsider purchasing anything from them in the future, but that is another story.

Team check-in took about 3 hours.  We met everyone on our team and our lead guide, Mike Walters. We watched a slide-show of the route, discussed some of the new parts of the route (the chutes and ladder section), and went through an equipment check.  The guide demonstrated the avalanche transceivers so that we could skip bringing them to mountaineering school the next day.  We got a list of items to bring in our pack the next day (much less than for climb day).  Then my dad, stepmother, Wendy and I went out to dinner.

When we got back to the house, the intention was to bake some pizzas so that we could carry cold pizza for lunch on the mountain.  And then the oven exploded.  No, seriously.  The circuit board in the controls of the oven popped and smoke.  The maintenance guy couldn't fix it even though he came out immediately.  We got a little inventive, and baked pizzas on the grill, half a pizza at a time.  It actually worked surprisingly well!
My Dad - demonstrating how mountaineers cook pizza
Wednesday morning.  Check-in for mountaineering school was 8:15 am.  We re-introduced the team for the additional guide that joined us that day, Thomas Greene.
Wendy and I.  We're a little silly in the morning.
Given that we were late in the climbing season and the snow was cleared at Paradise, we actually had a decent hike to get to snow fields to learn all the needed skills for the climb.
We got a glimpse of some wildlife along the way...this deer, and lots of marmots.
My team headed up to mountaineering school
We set a pretty quick pace and hiked for about 80 minutes to get to the snowfield.  We actually went right by the waterfall we visited the day before.  We were not planning on stopping prior to the snowfield, but Wendy was having major problem with her boots.  They were tearing up her heal.  I actually think she probably waited a little long to ask to adjust it.  What is the answer for blisters in mountaineering?  Duct tape.  I kid you not.
Can't complain about this view at the stop!
We also took a quick break for nutrition and water when we got to the snow field.  During this break, the guide gave us the game plan for the day on the snow field.  Wendy also re-duct taped her foot.
Not a bad view for our break, eh?
Wendy and her duct taped foot
Then we started learning things we need to know for the upper mountain.  Mountain rest step, cross-over step, duck step, plunge step, walking in crampons, walking with an ice ax, walking in a rope team, climbing a rock ridge while short-roped to your team while still wearing crampons, and ice ax arrest, which involved practicing falling.

There is a video of me doing this - that I will add here when I get it!

We also practiced climbing an almost vertical slope while body belayed, and then practiced descending the same slope.
The other rope team practicing the down climb.  It felt much steeper than it looks in this photo while doing it.
This and the rock ridge were both different from when I attended mountaineering school last year and were things tailored to what the route currently looked like.  After a full day on the snow field, we hiked back to Paradise for the shuttle back to base camp.

I feel like I learned a lot at mountaineering school.  More than last year.  I'm sure part of that is that it was my second time in mountaineering school, and part of it was that Mike did more things and explained things very well.  We ate dinner at base camp and headed back to the house to prep for the climb.  We had more pizzas to grill and packs to pack.  The goal was also to get a good night sleep because it was very unlikely we would get much sleep at all the night on the mountain.

Here ends the first installment of my recap of my trip to Rainier.  Next up - the climb to Muir and the summit attempt!