Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

24 hours of booty - Riding with Lance Armstrong

This weekend, I have the honor of riding with my man Lance Armstrong at the charity fundraising ride, the 24 hours of booty. My booty will be in the saddle for the majority of the 24 hours, or at least that is my goal. How many miles can I bust out on the wheels in one day? Who knows. Who cares? Support this cause to figh back against cancer and be part of this adventure, and hang on for the ride! Cancer has touched each of our lives, or of someone we know.   Donate to the Lance Armstrong Foundation by clicking here. Already made a donation? Come out and support the riders from Friday 7pm to Saturday 7pm on what should be a party all night Friday and all day Saturday!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tahoe Rim 100m

Tahoe Rim Trail 100.4 miles - 32:57 PR

It starts casually.

My Thursday flight to Reno touches down in the arid lands of Nevada. I find myself in a desert again. I have just returned from Morocco, where I spent a few days in the Sahara Desert, hoping that helps with this run. Mom and Dad join in on this adventure and we make Carson City our home for the night. The next day I check in, drop one bag at Tunnel Creek, and walk around town as my lips and nostrils begin to dry up, and I feel like I am turning into a lizard again. We eat at the Bigwater Grille at Incline Village and try to get as much rest as possible before the 3:45am wake up call.

Dad got up early and dropped me off at Spooner Lake, the start of the Tahoe Rim 100. I had another drop bag which I would leave at the start/50mile/finish area. 5am and we take off. I feel sluggish, sleepy, and not very well rested from the very first mile. It doesn’t get any better until the second aid station, Tunnel Creek. I dropped five pounds. I eat a little and drink a lot. The arid heat will slow you down and knock you out if you don’t manage your hydration and salts properly. I slowed my roll and descend to the Red House, and inferno hotter than 40 hells. I met Gretchen here briefly, and I unsuccessfully tried to start conversation here. I slowed my roll even more.

The Tahoe Rim 100 is one and half figure eights, lets see if I can explain this. It looks like a three leaf clover, the middle leaf is the Red House loop, which is also the lowest elevation of the run, hence the heat. I return to Tunnel Creek, and am weighed again. The doctor’s advise me to keep drinking, which I was doing as much of as possible. I swap out a bottle for a three liter bladder pack, which I stashed in my drop bag, this saved my run. Over the next 12 miles I drink more than 4 liters of water, and manage both my hydration and electrolytes well. This is not easy to do, and is better practiced in advance. I pass the Bull Wheel aid station (mile 20.3) and keep truckin along to Diamond Peak. The last 4 miles before Diamond Peak are some gnarly downhill mountain biking trails. I picked up some speed here, and made it to the lodge by 11:21am.

Not hanging around for too long, I down some calories and take in fluids. I still had not taken a single leak, and this concerned me a little. Temperatures broke 90 degrees high up on Diamond Peak Lodge, and I continued to bake in the alpine sun as I ascended the ridiculous new addition to the race, Crystal Ridge, a sandy ski slop fully exposed with no switchbacks. This couldn’t be happening. No way they would add this new section to the already challenging course. This section added 2,000 feet of gain for each loop, giving the entire 100 mile distance an even 24,000 feet of climbing. I duck walked and side stepped this two mile section in 1:15 and looked back at the most stunning view of Lake Tahoe when I reached the top. The view eased my pain, and gave me strength to push forward as many cussed at the climb. My body had taken a beating by the sun, the exposure made it exponentially harder for me and my stomach began to twist inside, I was zapped. I tried to eat.

Once you reach the top of the ski slop your back at the Bull Wheel aid station (mile 32.3). I grabbed a few pretzels and bumed a few vitamin I’s from Joy who I met on the climb up who was running with Olga at the time. I practiced my Russian with Olga. After Bull Wheel, Joy and I ran together to Tunnel Creek. I had a grilled cheese sandwich here, which was heavily, and the stomach gave me the green light to continue eating. My ears perked up when I heard the word burrito, I have a soft spot for burritos. These guys were fully stocked, and even had cilantro to garnish with, whoa! 5 star service here. The volunteers rocked and made sure every runner had all they needed and some. Thanks guys!

I moved onward slowly, trying to allow my body to digest all the calories all while I was uploading as much fluid as I possibly could. I knew from here to the Hobart aid station would be 5 miles, and I made small talk to Joy. We kept each other motivated and ran the trails together for 20 or so miles, while soaking up amazing views of Marlette Lake. I dreamed to swimming in the lake, and lied to my mind that I would. It was pristine blue, and stunningly beautiful when you contrasted it with Lake Tahoe and the snow capped mountains in the background. Joy was a joker, and managed to make me crack a smile here and there. I observed positive energy, which is something I tent to gravitate towards in life.

Once at Hobart, I had one of their famous Ensure shakes. Basically they take vanilla Ensure and blend it with some fruits and ice to make a milkshake smoothie type of cold drink. I couldn’t resist, but my stomach wasn’t on the same page as my pallet. I downed a few of those and threw back some watermelon, and moved on. From Hobart to Snow Valley Peak is 2.8 miles
of mostly climbing. The last .8 miles can be very windy, and offers full range views of Lake Tahoe and Marlette again. You roast in the fully exposed sun, but enjoy some of the best views on the coarse and the wind is refreshing during the day. Joy takes off here as she anticipates her husband waiting for her at the half way, after which he will pace her for the second loop.

Fortune shines upon me as the rest of the first loop from here was downhill. I finished the first 50 miles in just over 13 hours, and still had not peed once. I was getting worried and wanted to make sure my plumbing system was working properly, so I drank even more. I was also very surprised to see so much sand on the course, 90% by my estimation. This run could be called the Tahoe de Sable! You really do feel like your running in an alpine desert. I strongly recommend trail gaiters on this one. I cleaned out any rocks, sand, and pebbles out of my shoes, refueled, and took off alone for my second loop.

I run alone in the sun, and run back to Hobart. There around mile 55 was the first time my plumbing system began to work. I was thrilled. What was odd was that every sip I took out of my bladder, almost instantly I would pee crystal clear out the exact amount I took in. My system worked like a machine, I would sip in and ounce or so, and pee out the exact same amount perfectly clear. This went on all night. As if the body had retained the maximum amount of water it would tolerate. I have experienced this
before, but not to this extreme, and certainly not like clockwork. Sip in, 5 seconds later, pee out, the exact same amount. I reached the state of hyper-hydration, beyond super-hydration...whoa! I pushed on thru the night, and ran back to Tunnel Creek, and took off to the Red House. I thought I could take advantage of the cooler weather and pick up my pace. My body had been spanked pretty good by the sun, and I couldn’t run at a comfortably faster pace without having my heart rate jump up. I wanted to allow my cardiovascular system to recover, so I kept moving slowly. I ran with various runners, who all seemed to have pacers, until I couldn’t keep up, and they would pass me.

Linda McFadden shows up at the Red House with her pacer, Catra Corbett. Linda and I ran together for miles at my very first 100 miler, the Coyote 2 Moons. Who would have thought we would reconnect once again at mile 65 at the Tahoe Rim 100 in the middle of the night? We exchanged few words, and they were in much better shape than the beat up, hyper hydrated, sleepy Sultan. I kept moving in the night, and struggled to stay awake. I reloop back at the Tunnel Creek aid station at 1:16am. I’m a zombie at this point, and can hardly keep my eyes open, so I down a café, and then another! I try to not spend too much time here, as I know the body is vulnerable, and I didn’t want to get too comfortable. I take off alone again towards Diamond peak, which is 13 miles away.

Its only a half marathon away right? It takes me 4:40 to cross this section, which I would consider my lowest low of the entire journey. I tried to keep up with any runner and pacers, just to chat and stay awake. One offered me caffeine gu’s which I took, but inevitably I wasn’t able to keep up, so I pushed on again alone in the darkness high above in the Sierra Mountains in the Nevadan lands of Lake Tahoe. It was a relief when I reached the left hand turn which indicated the downhill section. I tried to run, but only managed a fast shuffle at this point. My condition wasn’t ideal, but I wanted to finish this beast. My will overcame my pain, and I decided.

That’s what hundreds are all about. You have to want it bad enough. It will always be painful to run this far, and it may get to a point where you are beyond your threshold of pain tolerance, but if you want it bad enough, if you have the will, if you dig deep down when there is nothing left, you will finish. You must decide. Even trick your mind. The ability of the human body will surpass expectations.

I stumbled into the Diamond Peak aid station at 5:54am. The new day began its glow, but the sun was hiding under the mountain range of Lake Tahoe. I was greeted by a volunteer who surprisingly responded back to my Bonjor with fluent French. I often speak to random people in Spanish, Hebrew, Portuguese, Arabic, French, or classical Southern to keep things interesting. Where else can I practice? They usually get a kick out of it, and it keeps me going. Well, needless to say, I couldn't keep up with the perfect French, Je ne parle pa Francais tre bien! Ya know what I mean?

I downed a liter of fluids, had a volunteer podiatrist help me tape my feet, re-loaded on the calories with egg burritos, and I was off. Awesome aid station!! I knew I would not break 30 hours at this point, but wanted to finish bad enough that I would fight the next 20 miles in the blistering sun for a second day. I wanted to get this 2,000 foot climb over with before the sun peaked over the mountains. This time it took me 1:05, a little faster than the first time which I don’t attribute to stronger legs (they now have 50 more miles on them) but to the lack of sun beat down. The sun was fully out when I reached Bull Wheel. I kept a speed hiking pace and shuffled when I could. I was with David Wronski and his girlfriend pacer Dawn. This dude was running the entire distance in 5 fingers. I was jealous in more ways than one. He managed a strong pace, and I was often finding myself trailing. I wanted to keep up with these 20 year olds as much as I could to the finish, it was David’s first 100.

We both crank it out to Hobart together and really wished we had a camera up higher above where the views were again spectacular. The sun did not let up, and baked me again. I lathered up in the sunscreen on day 2 to keep the basil cell carcinoma away. Your dermatologist would bitch you out if they knew you ran the Tahoe Rim. The sun was ridiculously scorching hot. I kept telling myself on the climb up from Hobart to Snow Valley Peak that this was the last climb. The body wanted to shut down, but the mind was driving here. Who's in control yo?

Surprisingly Joy pops out of no where with her husband and brother all jolly, laughing and moving along at a fast pace. High fives and passes me, and let me know she has come back from the dead. She spent 3 hours at Diamond Peak, and was determined to get her buckle! She was in high spirits, and I knew I wasn't about to try and keep her pace. She rocked it out, and finished strong. Awesome work Joy!!

David and Dawn were off in the horizon, and now I get passed by John Machray and pacer. This dude looks soo familiar. I have little energy to make small talk and I knew I was getting closer to a finish, and I wanted to be put out of my misery. David reaches Snow Valley 6 minutes before me, and John reaches Snow Valley 4 minutes before me. I get into the aid station, have a raspberry sorbet, and grab a handful of pretzels and knew it was downhill from here. I didn’t stay long, and took off running. Finally my stride was being put to use. I took off and passed a few including David and John, and told them I would see them at the finish.
After what seemed an eternity, I reached the very last aid station, Spooner Summit. I was home free at this point. John catches me here and passes. I didn’t care, I wanted a finish, but I kept moving. With just over a mile to go, I kept my shuffle and eyed my watch. Could I break 33 hours? Sure, if I just kept this up for a mile.

Dad runs the last half mile with me, we leapfrog John letting him know we were on mission to break 33 and I cross the line at 32:57. I was beat, toasted, roasted, fried, baked, rocked, trashed, whipped out, zapped and totally spanked. Holy crap that was hard. I didn’t run a fast 100 but managed to cross the finish line of yet another journey into the 100 mile distance. What an amazing experience.

To date, this is my fastest 100. I enjoy big mountain 100's and have never finished a flatter, or dare I say, asphalt 100. Coyote 2 Moons was my first, Hardrock second, and TRT finishes off the trifecta!

John finishes 1 minute after 33 hours, David crosses the line at 33:19, Joy runs a 32:19, Olga DNF'ed, and Linda McFadden runs a 32:11. A huge thanks to all the volunteers that make this event possible, especially Tunnel Creek. You guys rock!

various photos by: Catra Corbett, bou, Dr. I, & Gerorge Ruiz.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Canary Islands - Mt. Teide 12,198ft

Summer adventures have taken me across the pond. I spent the last few days of June landing in the city of Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria. US Airways flys here, so this was my destination by plane. I then took a ferry to the island of Tenerife. Here I would rent a car and spend the night, resting and planning my adventure to the top of Pico de Teide (12,198 feet), a volcano, and the tallest peak of all seven of the Canary Islands, and taller than Mulhacen Peak (11,414 feet) in the Siera Nevada on the Spanish Peninsula.

I visit the mystical lands of Morocco year after year on a pilgrimage that sends back in time to ancient lands where Sultan's ruled. I could fly into Casablanca, but then again, I’ve done that many times over. So I find interesting routes to get to the lands of the ancient Berbers and Arabs of the far West. This time, the Canary Islands, some 180 miles off the coast of Africa, deep into the Sahara Desert was my approach. No visit to new lands can go without foot exploration and climbing to the tipy tops.

I started my day casually in Santa Cruz, and enjoyed a scenic drive on this magical island they call Tenerife. I made my way to San Cristobal de la Laguna, which is where I pit stopped at a supermarcado and stocked up on some hydration and calories and practiced my Espanol. I bought locally grown fruit, french bread, cheese, water, and a can of tuna.

I took off on the main highway and hung a left of TF21. Tenerife, like Gran Canaria, is very densely populated, about twice is populated as Hawaii. Many of the residents live on the coast, and very few live on the jagged mountains. This explains the miles and miles of high-rises in the major cities of Tenerife, and the 5 lane highway that climbs up to the ridge of the mountains and back to the other side of the coast. The summer time brings out many lobster pink European tourists which only add to the over population. This made me retreat faster to the hills.

The Island itself is less than 2,000 square kilometers, but has several different micro-climates that are evident. The North sees many clouds and keeps the island very gree, and the South is opposite, giving off a desert like arid climate. The West is very mountains, and is home to some Jurassic Parkish like views. Absolutly stunning. More on that below…

I reached the town of La Orotava and began driving up the steep windy roads until Teide was in clear view. The fresh mountain island air brought strength to me. The green quickly turned into black volcanic rock as I was climbing higher and higher. This terrain is harsh, dry, and arid. I parked my car at the trailhead, which is about 2km away from the gondola to the East. Yes, there is a gondola that will take you close to the summit, which is frankly ridiculous.

The Tenerifians have noticed that many want to reach the summit of this massive volcano, and now require you to file for a permit before attempting to climb. This reduces traffic to this delicate landscape, and it is a good idea to plan ahead if you dare to travel to the land of the exotic. My plan was to also stay at the Refugio Altavista, and I had reserved a spot here. Not know what to expect, I figured a place to spend the night high up on the mountain would be called for.

The first 3 miles up this hill was on a dusty double track jeep road that switched back and forth and had a light brown sandy color. I ran and hiked up this section, until I reached the single track volcanic rock, which is where I took my time speed hiking uphill. I passed many, and greeted all with an “hola, Buen-Dia!”

I reached the Refugio faster than I thought, and climbed a bit higher and took a lunch break. The views of the Atlantic Ocean on both sides of this mountain, with La Orotava and the entire North coast of Tenerife from 11,000 feet was absolutely fantastico. I was making good time, so I headed for the summit.

The entire time I was on trail #7, and when I reached high above, near where the gondola would terminate I hung a left onto trail #11 which took me to a gate that was unlocked, and then turned right onto trail #10 which climbed up steeply. Sulfuric steam oozed out of this active volcano which last erupted in 1909, not very long ago. From here there was about 750 feet of climbing to the top. I reached the summit at 6:10pm and spent 15 minutes or so soaking up the views, which again were plentiful on both sides of the Atlantic. I stood on top of Spain, and paid respects to the summit with a loud coyote howl. I did not suffer any altitude issues despite being at sea level for several nights before.

I then ran back down all the way to the car in less than two hours, passing the Refugio and letting them know I would be taking a pass. I was in the car by 8pm, and drove West thru the road that takes you to black volcanic rock all the way to the town of Los Giganties, and as the sun set, I saw the Giants.

Los Giganties, the Giants, are massive Cliffs that rise over 2,500 feet straight out of the Atlantic Ocean. This view is mesmerizing, and as such, a resort town has flourished. German and English speaking pink people swarmed the beaches. So after breakfast I fled to the town of Masca. After passing thru the town of Santiago del Teide I turned left on what appeared to be a one way road up a steep mountain that switchbacked several times. This road was very narrow, and any mistake would take you down a steep cliff and your life would end. The views were again, Jurassic Parkish.

A tour bus raced down this road right at me! My life was going to end, as there was no way the bus would pass. Had I made a wrong turn on a one way road? I slammed my brakes, and reversed to car to a wider patch of asphalt and the bus roared down the mountain. I proceeded with caution, and realized that the road was very narrow, but was intended for two way traffic. I reached the ridge, and enjoyed a café con leche at the top, just looking around in all directions seeing ocean, and steep mountains and cliffs. The village of Masca is home to 150 inhabitants, which is in the Teno Mountains, ranging in heights of 600-800 meters, and extend up to the northwesternmost point of Tenerife. The village in the 1960s was accessed only by paths and was inaccessible by roads. The centre of the village features a small square and a small church.

I planned to hike down the Barranco de Masca (Masca Gorge), and hike back up to the car, a total of 9 miles round trip. It was hot, and dry. Every step my feet took, I could hear lizards dash away, they were everywhere. I took my time running down here, making sure I would be able to find my way back. I passed two Spaniards that were lost. They were clearly unprepared to go down this gorge, one in flip flops, both with no food or water. They asked for directions and water. I gave them an apple to share, and 8 ounces of water, and kept pushing thru the gorge. The streams and bamboo shoots were a change of scenery. I paid attention to my time, ensuring to budget enough of it for my return. The gorge winded around many times over and I saw massive cliffs with layered rocks resembling many sections of the Grand Canyon. I finally reached the Atlantic ocean. I walked over to a small pier and met two local Tenerifians and two German chicas. I asked them if they would take a photo of my jumping in the Atlantic, I needed to cool off.

After drying off, I asked them if they were too going to return up the Barranco de Masca. They thought this idea was crazy, surly they didn’t think they had enough time. They were waiting for a boat to pick them up, and take them to the resort town of the Giants, and offered me a ride. We saw many dolphins along the way. We all had dinner, and then I hitched a ride to Masca, and drove all the way back to Santa Cruz, and catched the ferry to Las Palmas the next morning.

I spent the entire day of July the 4th touring the Island of Gran Canaria and was able to see much of the mountains, and very little of the coast. I sipped on some cafe con leche in the small mountain village of Tejeda, and saw views of Teide on Tenerife in the distance. A smaller island compared to Tenerife, but just as densely populated. Tourist flock to the south...