Saturday, September 10, 2016

"The Poster Boy for things I wish I brought"

About 7-8 years ago, I decided to try a hike up South Sister. 10,358 feet, a popular destination for the masses. So I gave it a shot, alone and with lousy sneakers.

It's a 12 mile round trip: 2 miles serious uphill thru the forest, then 2 miles on the flats, then the bastard 2 mile final push via exposed rock faces and tons of loose stuff that's a nightmare from a footing and thrust perspective.

That day, I got to the 4 mile mark, around the place where the path went dramatically up and onto solid rock. Then Dirty Harry whispered in my ear: "A man has got to know his limitations." No aerobic base for 15 years, suspect footing....Yes, I turned around and saved it for another day.

Which took 8 years to arrive. As in, today.

Couple buddies wanted to climb, with one major stipulation: leave town at 0400. As in, wake up at 0315. Ouch...I was hoping for a slightly later start, but I was hitching a ride with them, so I'm either in or out.

I'm in.

Oddly enough, the parking lot was already half full at 0445. Lots of folks with the same idea.

First two miles; amazingly dark and amazingly uphill. A big grind right out of the gate, with no time to warm up those sleepy muscles. Very peaceful...and then we started seeing sky thru the trees. But no other hikers yet.

Just as we broke out of the forest, we saw some lights way up on the final part of the climb. Some folks evidently got an earlier start than we did! Though I'm not sure I'd want to be on the rock faces before daybreak, with low lighting. Just sayin'.

Second two miles; across the fruited plain. Fairly flat, nice to settle into a rhythm.

Broken Top, as the colors change from night to day

Okay, now it's time to get real...the final push up the last two miles. Emphasis on the word 'up.'

Pete and Dan setting the tempo
Those two miles were just NASTY: murderous slope over loose rocks and 2,500' of climbing that took almost two hours. If you weren't judicious in your foot placement, you'd slide backward on every step.

I was judicious...every possible rock that looked like it had roots was a foothold for me. But it was still a grind.

The last mile included the worst of the scree, but with a nice red hue. And once the trail headed left, we knew we were close.

At this point, I was the last of three. Just keeping my own pace while maintaining contact. Pete went ahead a bit, then hollered, "40 feet."

I REFUSED to attempt any understanding, not wanting to create false expectations. One thing that helped along those lines was my refusal to repeatedly stare at my GPS watch in anticipation. We'll get there when we get there.

The 40 feet was the final steps to the glacier just below the summit.

Two options: walk across the snow and ice, or go around on the path with steep drop-offs. Note: the drop-offs can be minimized by staying toward the snow, so that's what we did. And we were also rewarded with a nice, flat pathway. That felt incredibly good at the tail end of over 3.5 hours of climbing.

Up here, we met the crew that we saw from way below in the early hours. They were finally coming down...there were also 2-3 guys who camped overnight at the glacier; what a great adventure that must have been. It helped that the overnight temperatures were in the low 40s, actually warmer than at the parking lot. Some industrious types had also built three rock enclosures to shield climbers from the wind, so i could absolutely see spending the night as a goal.

The trail around the glacier became spotty at times. By now, my watch chimed 6 miles, so I knew we were close.

One last outcropping, and then....

Middle and North Sister, at your service

Probably not more than three miles away. Amazing view!

South toward the glacier

Mt. Bachelor...that water in the distance (near the brown) is Sparks Lake, fairly close to our parking lot. It looks very, VERY far away. But it's all downhill...

Broken Top from above
We spent a leisurely half hour at the summit, with no one else interrupting our solitude (except some tiny chipmunks who wanted our lunch).

But alas, all good things must come to an end; it was time to head down. And truth be told, I was probably more nervous about the descent than the climb. It's this gravity thing that causes problems with hard craniums and bones in accelerated contact with rocks.

No worries; while my legs were pretty well shot by this time (running was out of the question), I adopted a downhill ski motion that kept me from shooting down the fall line. I did fall a couple of times, but right on my butt, with no damage.

By 10am, the weather was plenty warm. Not a problem if we're descending and not building body heat, but a HUGE problem for the masses now headed up.

Which brings me to the title of this post...after one person asked me about my gaiters, another asked about the walking poles, and someone else asked about my water pack, Pete laughed and dubbed me "The Poster Boy for things I wish I brought." We had good gear, light/warm layers, and plenty of fuel, but we saw many/MANY people in heavy jeans with a single water bottle or sometimes a massively oversized rucksack.

I'll say it again: I'm THRILLED that we started early. Cooler temps, no parking issues, and NO TRAFFIC on the trail going up. Since we were descending at twice the pace of the late climbers, they were more than happy to step aside and let us pass. Besides, most of them were gassed and ready for a break.

That butte immediately to the right of the water is on the left side of the trail, and it marks the final 2 miles down to the car. 
I can't remember what this was, but it's pretty high up: maybe looking west toward Eugene

Broken Top from below, and a little brighter than at 0600

Moraine Lake, halfway up: some people camp here, and then do the summit on the second day

That big bitch in the rear view: in the red rock on the upper left, you can see the trail heading up and away from the snow.
That last couple of miles down thru the forest were tough; our legs were giving out. But we made it down intact, and smiled at the sheer number of cars now parked along the road (the lot was now completely full).

Afterward? An epsom bath, and pizza incoming. 

This was a good day. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Olympic Trials - Final Day

Last night, I skipped dinner with some co-workers. Turned out to be a good call: dinner took 3 hours, and I had things to do this morning.

Like my second run with the House of Run podcasters. And Eugene did what Eugene does: massive deluge. I kept looking for an ark floating down the Willamette.

We ran about 5 miles on Pre's Trail. Jason probably had it the worst; recovering from a bum knee, he was on the bike while Kevin and I ran. You can't generate any body heat while riding a bike at 7 mph in a cold rain.

But you can definitely run faster than you think you can when you're being nudged along by others. We talked track the whole way, and the time flew.

Oh, and a Phil Knight sighting out there. He didn't stop to chat, probably because I was wearing adidas.

There was a last minute officials/volunteer brunch held at Autzen Stadium, right where we finished the run. So I simply bounded up the stairs to the Club Level in search of good eats.

First time for everything: a fried chicken and waffle sandwich. 

Just in case I forgot where I was...

 From the "It's a Small World" category: an official at the brunch told me that someone who knew me 33 years ago in high school was there shortly before I arrived. This unknown person recognized me on the track, but didn't bother to leave their name! Now I'm very curious...

Back to my room for a quick shower, then off to Cheshire, about halfway to Corvallis. Old friends Corey and Bretagne recently moved there with their four kids to a great place out in the country.

A greenhouse for the ages

Wine-worthy grapes

Japanese hot tub

Byron and his buddy

Awesome table/fire pit combo

C, B, and my man D

Great seeing them again!

Now, back to 'work.'

Jogging down the practice sprint track behind the stadium, en route to that tent in the distance...

On the head of another patron...The Olympic Creed

Not to be confused with Apollo Creed

Ah, the medical tent and another massage. Get there before the athletes arrive, and the physical therapists practically fight over you!

Great likeness, eh?

Yes, that's my nose...

Below the West Grandstands, the last umpire briefing of the year.

Umpire Sue is wearing a sweatshirt that says "Track", but with her other gear obstructing some letters, it looks like 'Teaneck.' Since she's from Long Island and I'm from New Jersey, I rib her unmercifully over this.

Only a few races today. Molly Huddle gets her 5k/10k double, running away with a lap to go. Shelby Houlihan uses her 1500 speed to take a close second, and is probably helped by the black and red kit that matches her black and red hair. After making her first Olympic team, she looks almost distraught for at least 10 minutes. Right before she's interviewed, I walk behind her and whisper, "Jeez, smile Shelby!" I think she heard me.

Edwin Moses was recognized for his 122 consecutive victories. Impressive feat, though many athletes of that era noted that Ed was notorious for ducking tough competitors to keep the streak going. Regardless, two Olympic golds looks pretty good on a resume.

After her collision in the 800, Brenda Martinez is definitely the crowd favorite for the 1500. She works her way into 3rd with 50m remaining but has nothing left. She sees a runner about to edge her out, so she dives and secures her spot. Took her awhile to realize she made it, but the look on her face made the bodily damage worthwhile!

Jenna Prandini rigs up in the 200m homestretch and follows Brenda's lead by diving at the line to nudge out Allyson Felix, who can't be too disappointed since she already has a slot in the 400.

Kendall Williams makes the team in the heptathlon, making her the 2nd most famous resident of Marietta, Georgia, following in the footsteps of my Annapolis classmate Ken D.

Great meet. As we disbanded, I asked a fellow umpire to again thank his wife for hand-crafting my flag holder last year. He looked at me for a second and said softly, 'It was the last thing she sewed.'  No other words needed.

A Brazilian troupe did a little 'Welcome to Rio' piece.

Sigh. No more track.

Back to the real world.

I love track.

Day 1
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Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Olympic Trials - Day 7

Just an ordinary day at the long as your track is somewhere other than Eugene, Oregon. The track here was on ye shall soon learn.

Last night, as we were disbanding for the evening, we were told we had to oversee an 'extra' event at 0730 Saturday.

Strange: the Trials schedule is set months in advance, and it's not like there's a lot of improvising going on.

No, the support groups decided they wanted to run a 4 x 200m relay. The organizing team, the timing crew, the video judging folks, a butt-ton of interns, etc...Great, except I planned on swimming at 0730. Had I known with more notice, i could have adjusted my workout schedule. Oh well...

This morning, it was POURING. And the security gates weren't open. And none of the starters were  notified....I swear, if this group decides to cancel now....

A 4 x 200 alley start, a one turn stagger, 14 teams...yes, it's amateur hour. I won't go into more detail. In a sheer and blatant act of defiance, I climb onto the backstretch bleacher wall and sit there with my legs dangling, a clear breach of Hayward Field protocol. Funny, I don't care much...At least it finally stopped raining, and the race wasn't more than 3 minutes long.

Heck, my back is tight this morning, so maybe today's workout will simply be some stretching.

Dinner tonite?

Carson Hall dining room
Not sure what I'll do for dinner: some folks are going out. I'll see how I feel later.

Before the women's heptathlon, I swing by the Nike retail tent to do some window shopping. $30 for a regular t-shirt....not horrible, I guess it could be worse.

Remember my tight back? After the 100m hurdles, I stroll up to the medical tent. There were no athletes around, but lots of physical therapists. I treat myself to a 45 minute free massage courtesy of a powerlifter....ah!!!

Looks like the rain might actually hold off for the afternoon. And the winds are light. That's always good.

All that precipitation sure does make things green around here...

The line to get thru Security...

The line below (on the right) is for important people with me.

I love track.

National Anthem, courtesy of some American Idol contestant. What does "land of the fray" mean?

Before the events begin, I'm standing next to a national official who is several levels of importance above me. We are prohibited from using electronic devices on the track during meets. He looks at the full stadium, then grins and says, "the meet hasn't started yet." And he starts snapping pictures.

That's good enough for me!

Bowerman Balcony

Record capacity today
Standing room only

East Grandstands

Just sayin'
 Yesterday, I mentioned that Fred Newhouse and Herman Frazier were on the winning 4 x 400m relay at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Here's Mr. Frazier...


He said they ran 2:58 on a rainy day: that's a 44.5 average split. 40 years ago...those guys had serious wheels. 

As the high hurdlers are in the blocks, Ishmael the marshal asks the people on the Bowerman balcony to be quiet. Even that frizzy-haired old guy in the UO ballcap...yes, this means you, Phil Knight. 

Hurdler Ryan Fontenot has your typical sprinter's build: densely muscular, strapping. And the most un-strapping baby face.

The TV production trailer has a guy who signals the starter to begin each race. I assumed that the producer is also the person who gives orders to the cameraman who get in the face of the runners before each start. Nope; two different producers, two different agendas, and either person can hold up the race. Are you kidding me? Tonite, the TV scheduling producer gave the green light to start the race, but the camera man was rooted in lane 4 and wouldn't budge. Meanwhile, the two producers cuss up a storm at each other, all just to see exactly whose is bigger.

The men's 5000m starts slow. How slow? After two laps, the leader turned to say something to the other guys, and then started laughing. In an Olympic Trials final!!!

Rupp takes off with maybe a mile left and gets 20 yards on the field. Why did they let him go?

Answer: because they knew they'd catch him with 300m left. And Bernard Lagat, 157 year old Bernard Lagat, is hanging on for dear life. He's a crowd favorite here, and received an enormous ovation on the starting line. He is a ridiculous longshot to make the team, not with all the young legs in this race.

Except everyone else chases Rupp down, with Lagat sitting in and letting the kids do the heavy lifting. Down the final backstretch, Lagat tightens up the gap...halfway thru the last turn, he moves into third with room to spare. I think, awesome..he's on the team.

He's not done. The man has always had a good kick, but lately the youngsters have run it out of him with a hard pace. Not tonite; he hits the jets, showing the best sprint eyes in the business.
Lagat Eyes
The eyes are typical. What isn't typical? He's running right at me, and I swear it looks like he's about to start bawling when he hits the front. And he still has 50 meters to run!!!

At this point, neutral umpire decorum goes out the window. I'm screaming...but no one can hear me because the stadium has gone nuclear, and no one is looking at me anyway.

Just perfect tactics, as usual. He had something extra tonite. After the finish, he was giddy like a 10 year old at Christmas.

Did I mention that Lagat is 197 years old?

Chills. Just chills.


Taking a huge 4th and barely missing a spot on the team was Eric Jenkins, a 2015 UO grad. He stuck his nose in there and hung with the big boys, showing incredible guts. I think he just cemented his running sponsorship for the next 5 years.

Wow. Still hyperventilating  (me, not Lagat).

200m final: the two high schoolers runs a very close 4th and 5th. These kids today: no respect for their elders.

110 hurdles: during introductions, the video screen very briefly shows an anatomical view of the human body, highlighted by two red pulsing kidneys. Aries Merritt won World Championship bronze last year, 4 days before a kidney transplant...

I note that 2008 Trials champ David Oliver was a no-show, and I jot a note that UO's Devon Allen now has a better shot at making the team.

I'll say. He scorches a 13.03, huge PR, and wins by daylight. Merritt misses third by a whisker.

Winner's protocol is thus: you pump your arms, shake hands with competitors, then wave your little flag respectfully. Devon didn't get the memo...he stops, looks into the stands, then VAULTS over the fence and gives his dad an enormous hug. Devon had a tough childhood, broken family, little money, but God gave him wheels and no fear, which is what an Olympic hurdler needs.

A trip up to the press box at the end of the day...

A few shots of Olympian Devon Allen...

The back of his head to the right of the green striped shirt

A little better

About as close as I could get
In the media tent, someone was getting interviewed...not sure who. I just liked the rugby scrum vibe...

Justin Gatlin climbing the stage...

LaShawn Merritt...

200m 3rd place Ameer Webb, followed by sprinter emeritus Darvis 'Doc' Patton

Mr. Allen with Jody, TrackTown meet organizer...

I'm an awesome photographer...

Veronica, Tracktown troubleshooter and babysitter of officials...

Oh, I forgot: KISS is at Matthew Knight Arena tonite. Figures!

I need my rest.

And I love track!

Day 1
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Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6