Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014-2015 list

Here it is folks, the next list and an thisanation of what it is and why I'm doing it. This list has only 1 carryover from last year's.

  1. Randomly help 2 strangers - this means taking time out of my schedule to help someone else's day suck less
  2. Develop a meditation practice - I've heard so much about it and wasn't too somehow incorporate it into my everyday life.
  3. Call extended family once per month - I recently lost an aunt and I didn't like how that was the only time I talked to my cousin on the phone.
  4. Come up with and execute a photography project - I'd like to be more creative, but it's not something that just randomly comes, you need to work at being creative (I think).
  5. Learn to speed read - there's a lot of stuff I want to read and not enough time. So, let's do it faster! I currently read ~1 books a month, so let's turn it up to 3 books per month after I learn.
  6. Troll a bunch of people in a positive way - I heard about this online where a guy just sent a bunch of text messages to people saying "you're wonderful" and got a bunch of cool responses.
  7. Stage a roller coaster picture - I need help with something creative here folks!
  8. Don't buy anything for a month - this means anything that I'm buying just for me and consumer purposes is off limits. My mortgage, utilities, and groceries are still okay to buy. Gasoline, clothes, Kombucha, etc are off limits.
  9. Don't eat any added sugar for 30 days - I've tried this and failed numerous times, time to dominate. 
  10. No internet outside of work for a week - way too addicted to the tubes, time to scale it back.
  11. Read a book by someone with opposing views - it's easy to be convinced that you're right if you only read stuff that reinforces it.
  12. Spend at least one night with the Amish - completely stolen from a buddy. I want to learn how to live a simpler life. Who better than the Amish to learn from?
  13. Give a public presentation - sounds a bit scary which means it's a good thing to do. I do presentations at work, this will be outside of work.
  14. Fruitarian (raw fruits and veg) for a week - see what it does to my bowels and how it affects how I feel. Angie will love this one...
  15. Learn to do a freestanding handstand - this will take strength, skill, and accidentally breaking things while practicing.
  16. Don't drive for a month - driving costs you money and makes you fat. Biking runs on fat and saves you money. 'nuff said
  17. Interview my grandma - she has a lot of life lessons to give, let's harvest them!
  18. Get a colonic - time to clean out those bowels. This will likely be the worst thing on the list. I am awaiting approval from Ben Greenfield first.
  19. Ride a mechanical bull - not everything needs a good reason. Also, hicks....
  20. Be naked in public - this might mean streaking, skinny dipping, or who knows what. However, it doesn't necessarily mean I have to do it in front of a crowd.
  21. Volunteer 20 hours - 100 hours last time was pretty ambitious since I managed to get in about 5 hours. Time to stop being selfish.

Monday, June 30, 2014

30 before 30 in Review and GIVE ME SUGGESTIONS

As I posted previously, I finished 50% of my 30 before 30 list. Some of them were super hard, some I just didn't care about completing, and some of them I just thought were too expensive. All-in-all, I loved doing The List. As I look back on the previous year and think about the things that I enjoyed the most, they were the ones that I never would've done had I not had my list.

Here are some of the highlights of things that I wouldn't have otherwise done:
  1. Milk a cow
  2. Use a sensory deprivation tank
  3. Decide that I probably want to become a Quaker
  4. Go to an AA meeting

Because of the overwhelmingly positive and live changing experiences I had as a result of the list, I am going to make this a yearly thing. This time, however, I am just going to add items that sound interesting and not force myself into a certain number.

So, GIVE ME YOUR SUGGESTIONS. Here is what I'm looking for:
  • Outside of my comfort zone
  • Makes a great story
  • Something I wouldn't have done without this concerted effort
  • Doesn't cost a ton of money
Oh yeah, a bouncy castle was a pretty solid way to wrap up the year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'm 30, how far did I get on The List?

I'll write up a longer post later on reflecting on this past year, but it's my 30th birthday so I feel obligated to post how far I got. I'm happy to have completed exactly half.


  1. 50 mile ultramarathon
  2. Milk a cow
  3. Visit top 10 things in Nebraska
  4. GoRuck Challenge
  5. Try out 12 new churches (I changed this to "find a good spiritual practice")
  6. Sensory deprivation chamber
  7. 150# bench press
  8. 200# squat
  9. Take a survival course 
  10. Hit 30 states visited (must have at least driven through them) and make map
  11. Smile more
  12. Spend $75 per person on a meal for me and Angie (turned this into "spend as much as possible")
  13. Grow a beard
  14. Take a cooking class
  15. Catch up with 1 friend every month that I haven't talked to in 1+ years


  1. Volunteer 100 hours - that's a lot of time
  2. Climb a 14er - tried and failed
  3. 4-pack abs - too much cake
  4. Lift Angie overhead - I hate Travis
  5. 250# deadlift - boy howdy I'm weak
  6. Build a simple orrery - boy howdy I'm lazy
  7. 60 push-ups - this is hard
  8. Hot air balloon ride - cost to me caring ratio is too high
  9. Skydiving - cost to me caring ratio is too high
  10. Visit a psychic - did you know psychics cost $100 for 30 minutes?
  11. Learn to lucid dream - uhhh, lazy?
  12. Artist's way for a month - gave up after 4 days. Took too much time
  13. Not available publicly (NAP) - didn't care
  14. NAP - didn't care
  15. NAP - didn't care

Embrace the Suck - GoRuck Challenge (part 4 of 4)

This is part 4/4 on the GoRuck Challenge. Make sure to check out parts 12, and 3.

The Pedestrian Bridge

As we got to the pedestrian bridge, we asked what our toll to cross the bridge was. The toll was to carry the ties above our heads across the bridge. I was concerned because my upper-body strength is subpar, so I felt that I was going to be a drain on the team. Both teams (tall group and small group) had rotations of 4 people and would swap out 2. We ended up going 1 or 2 squares of cement at a time and then we would take a break and swap people out. It was slow and exhausting work.

Look how much the big guys are struggling
Eventually we got to the Iowa/Nebraska border at the middle of the bridge. We stopped and our Cadre said that if we could hold the ties above our heads for a solid minute, then he had a treat for us. He also did a little shaming saying that we were grown men and should be able to hold these for a minute. Holding it for a minute wasn't actually too bad. I learned to just bend down a bit and lock out my elbows instead of using my muscles to hold it.

Once the minute had elapsed, the Cadre went into some diatribe about something or other without telling us to lower the ties. The tall guy group slipped a bit and he proceeded to berate us a bit more. He kept talking and talking while we held it. Finally, he said we could throw the ties in the river. Dammit that was fun. This was the 2nd best part of the event. Hilariously, the railroad ties came together in the river and didn't drift 6 ft apart.

Eff those things
To go across the rest of the bridge, we had to do an elephant walk where you grab the hand of the person in front of you through their legs (see picture below). Stupidly, I got behind the shortest guy, which meant I had to bend over a lot. One guy's lower back started cramping up enough that he almost dropped out. This had to have been a sight to see. The rest of the city was waking up and numerous people saw the most awkward group going across the bridge.

Is that your hand or are you just happy to see me?
To get back across the bridge, we then had to do a two-man casualty carry. I helped carry the lightest guy, so I had an easier time of this compared to the folks carrying 210# guys. This wasn't too terrible and we got back over the bridge much faster than it took to get across the first time.

Random biker got an interesting story to tell. Giant John was being lazy as usual...

Wrap it Up - Paying the Penalties

Over the course of the night, we accrued 5 penalties for various infractions. To make up for these we made our way back to the Gene Leahy mall and got to do 50 modified man makers. This involved throwing our backbacks into the water, doing a "push-up", and then lifting the bag overhead. Our packs were already 30-40lbs and they would fill with water every time we threw them into the water. This made the packs 50-60lbs.

Not particularly having fun here...
At about 18, I started to think that I was going to have to drop out. There was simply no way I could do 30 more. I told myself that the Cadre had something up his sleeve at halfway, so I just needed to get to 25. I got to 25 and there was nothing. So, I said I just needed to get to 30 and he would have something. We got to 30 and he told us to pause. I was so so so so happy that I didn't have to drop out right at the end.

We were given the opportunity to try to eliminate some man makers. Our first way to eliminate some was to have everyone sit in the water, link arms and then roll backwards to touch our feet behind our heads, and then roll back forward. We could eliminate one man maker for each one we successfully completed.

Notice both ends have a late start
Being on the end, this was actually pretty difficult because I didn't have anyone to pull me on one side. These kind of sucked because you got a bunch of water where it wasn't supposed to be as well as hit your head on the bricks under the water every time. We tried about 5 times and successfully did 2.

Next, could do an underwater leap frog sort of thing to eliminate 3 man makers. Everyone had to get into a downward facing dog sort of position and then each person would take a turn swimming through the line of people. This was actually pretty easy. You just had to be comfortable opening your eyes underwater.

Grab the wrists!
All-in-all, we eliminated 5 man makers. That wasn't the important part, the important part was that we had 20ish minutes of rest. I picked up my bag and started hammering them out. We got to 45 and the last 5 were switched to 8 count body builders. For me, these were immensely easier than man makers, so I was happy to switch.

Finally, he said we were finished. Everyone was all smiles. I wanted my dang patch for my bag. We went through a little patch ceremony and received our patches. Everyone then went to Wheatfields for breakfast and stunk up the place because they wouldn't let us sit outside. It was an exhausting, but fun night.

Best Velcro patch ever

Embrace the Suck - GoRuck Challenge (part 3 of 4)

This is part 3/4 on the GoRuck Challenge. Make sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 4.

Grabbing Some "Wood Fusion"

Our first mission was to go grab "wood fusion". We headed along the railroad tracks and grabbed 2 railroad ties, each of these weighed about 200lbs. We essentially carried these the rest of the night. We had a set of rules that applied to carrying these:
  • They don't touch the ground unless told to
  • They must not ever be more than 6 feet apart
  • If we pass a body of water (ponds or fountains), we had to soak the wood
  • If we go over a bridge, we have to pay a toll
  • If we go over a bridge, but forget to ask the toll before heading over, we pay the toll twice.
We then headed off towards Freedom Park with the railroad ties. It took us a little trial and error to figure out the best way to carry the ties. The issue was having people of different heights made carrying them a bit challenging. We first split into two groups of tall and short (I was on the short group). The best method we ended up with was 2 people carrying each tie and regularly swapping people out. The swapping was actually pretty easy and didn't cost much additional effort. So, we would switch people out every 3-4 minutes. With this rotation, it wasn't too bad.

Our standard railroad columns throughout the night

Submerging the Railroad Ties

After awhile, we came across our first "body of water", which meant we had to soak the railroad ties. This happened to be a fountain in front of Gallup. Unfortunately, the fountain was only 4" deep. The first way we tried to soak the ties was to have everyone lower the ties into the water and then rotate them in the water. This didn't work well. We then realized that we could just run them through the fountain.

After we were done, the cadre inspected the ties but we didn't get the ties completely wet. So, this time we got to get ourselves completely wet by doing flutter kicks in the fountain. We then repeated our fountain strategy and made damn sure to get them soaked.

We got on our way again and came across a pond where we had to soak the railroad ties. This time, we realized the best way to do it was to just own up to getting wet. A few of us jumped into the pond and then had people on the shore hand us the ties. Once in the water, we just shoved them under and we were good to go.

Opportunistic Actions

We finally made our way to Freedom Park and got to set the railroad ties down while we took part in some "opportunistic actions". Opportunistic actions are a special ops term for when you already have forces on a mission and you want them to do an additional action while they're in the area.

No fishing going on here officer...
Our mission was to take out a boat. To do this, we had to take out the "guard house" first, before moving on. At this point our only light is the moon, so I had no idea what the Cadre is referring to, but other people seemed to know, so I went with the crowd.

Watch out ghost of Osama
We broke up into Alpha and Bravo (I was on bravo) teams and mimicked a raid on the "guard house". The guard house was simply an abandoned mobile home. This went down like the police raids you've seen on TV with people running up to the door and then busting through the door. Once inside we learned that the abandoned mobile home was primarily used for booze and pornography based on what was scattered on the floor.

After the guard house, it was time to take out the boat. I kept thinking that this wasn't actually going to be a boat since the "guard house" was a mobile home and we weren't really around any water. As we got closer, I saw that it actually was a boat. We ran up the gang plank and once I was on the deck there was a "holy crap" moment where I realized this was a legit boat. there were anti-aircraft guns and other types of firepower. It was the USS Hazard, which is an old WWII anti-submarine boat.

If they didn't want to be boarded, why did they leave the gangplank down?
This was easily the highlight of the night. Running around on top of an old school military ship in the middle of the night after many hours of exhaustion was a nice break. It was now time to head back.

Watch out Germany

To the Pedestrian Bridge

We hoisted up the railroad ties again and started to make our way to the pedestrian bridge. We passed the same two bodies of water that we dealt with before but did a much better job of soaking the ties. The ties seemed to be getting heavier and heavier, but I'm fairly certain that it was exhaustion setting in.

We got to a clearing and got to do some bonus activities with the ties. The first was to push a tie in groups of four about 75 feet. The key was that we had to push it, not roll it.

We then had to carry it back the other direction by doing a leap frog sort of thing lifting it above our chests.

The next section was an interesting bit of teamwork. We had to do 10 burpees, sprint down 50 yards, do 10 more burpees and sprint back. Our first one sucked, so the Cadre didn't count that one. Our second one set our team's target time. We then had to keep doing them until we beat that time. Unfortunately, we had one guy slowing us down every time. After about 3 more of not getting faster, we realized we needed to help the slowest person. This meant someone grabbed his ruck bag (remember, there's bricks in there) and carry it for him so he could keep up. Eventually we got it done.

On our trek to the pedestrian bridge at one point, I noticed the birds were singing. I was ecstatic because I knew the birds started singing at about 4:30am. Someone happened to see the Cadre's watch and said it was actually about 5:30. I was pretty happy about this news and was confident that I would make it through the event.

Check out parts 12, and 4.

Embrace the Suck - GoRuck Challenge (part 2 of 4)

This is part 2/4 on the GoRuck Challenge. Make sure to check out parts 1, 3, and 4.

Welcome Party

Starting at 9:00pm on Friday night, the welcome party was the first 2.5 hours of the night. This is where we were "introduced" to our Cadre (our instructor for the night). I can confidently say this was the hardest part of the night. We had 2 people drop within the first hour. The welcome party is the "individual" portion of the night. After this point, it was entirely team oriented.

Our welcome party was at the Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha. This was a fun little spot because the Taste of Omaha was going on just a couple blocks away, plus it was a Friday night; so, we had a lot of onlookers. First there was a simple inspection of our bags to ensure we had the necessary additional weight (6 bricks), proper safety lights/reflectors, ID, cash, and water.

Opening our bags for inspection. Notice the water to the right
After the inspection, we were all told to get into the water. Most of us got into the water with a little more trepidation than our cadre liked (if you've seen the water at the Gene Leahy Mall, you would too). We were instructed to get back in, but this time like we meant it. Thankfully, we learned this lesson quickly and we all more-or-less canonballed in. After this, we were told that anytime we heard "INCOMING", we were to stop what we were doing and jump in the water.

Now it was time to start our "calisthenics". Remember, all of these exercises were done with our 30-40lbs packs on. The Cadre chose our first team leader which was, thankfully, not me. Later on, I realized that this team leader had the hardest stretch of the night. She had to deal with figuring out the group (other team leaders mimicked some of the stuff she did) as well as keep us in synchronization through the calisthenics.

A few guiding rules for the calisthenics:
  • If we weren't synched up the Cadre would call out "zero" and we would have to start at the beginning.
  • Our team leader needed to make sure to keep an appropriate pace for the group
  • If we needed to rest, we needed to let the team leader know

The calisthenics consisted of the following (in no particular order):
  • Jumping jacks - I'm fairly certain we did over 400 jumping jacks. My quads started to fatigue after the first 100 or so, but they weren't too bad.
  • Hamstring stretches - These were a nice little break from the other activities, nothing crazy here.
  • 8 count body builders - The hardest part of this exercise was keeping in synch with the rest of the class.
  • Squats
  • Lunges - these were walking lunges where we had to hang on to the person's pack in front of us. This is where we started having to work as a team because 2 lines of 8 people each need to work together to move in such close quarters
  • Pushups - We had 25 pushups, these were the hardest part of the night. I thought for sure I was going to have to quit simply because of these stupid things. We weren't allowed to break these up. The resting position was still a plank, not on your knees. So, the only option was to bust them out. I saw several other people "snaking" in their pushups, so I started to as well. Without doing this, I couldn't have done the 25 without resting. Thankfully, these were the last strict pushups we had for the night.
Lunges across the bridge
During this time, I felt a little like puking and a lot like quitting. One of the main things that kept me going was that I had come with a friend and I was the one that had this dumb idea in the first place. I kept thinking about how I had kept going during my 50-miler and my strategies for that simply didn't work here. In the 50 miler I just had to keep telling myself to put one foot in front of the other and I would make progress. I didn't have that here.

A bunch of "incomings" and their corresponding canonballs were thrown in the mix here. Eventually we got through it. It was time to go grab some water.

Indian Run

We had two modes of transportation during the night, indian runs and carrying railroad ties (more on that later). We worked our way through downtown to the closest place to buy some water, all the while doing an indian run. This was interesting doing it at midnight in downtown. As we were doing this, I kept thinking about how many girls military men must get. We weren't even military, but a lot of girls thought we were and were fawning over us.

We made our way to Cubby's, I peed in an alley, and nothing else much happened. Once we got some water and Gatorade (something I haven't drank in years), it was time for our next mission. We were to get to our destination within 20 minutes, otherwise we would get a negative mark (which we pay for at the end of the night).

Along our way, we came across some grass with the sprinklers going. The Cadre felt the best way to go by these was to get on our bellies and army crawl along the grass. I disagreed with his assessment, but got down anyway. We made it to our destination but were 2 minutes shy of our time goal, giving us our first demerit of the night. Time to get some "Wood Fusion".

I think you underestimate the sneakiness...
Check out parts 13, and 4.

Embrace the Suck - GoRuck Challenge (part 1 of 4)

Before I did the GoRuck challenge, I had a tough time describing what it was (largely because I didn't know). Afterwards, I still have a hard time describing it, but here goes. The GoRuck challenge is a 10-12 hour team event (not a competition) of special forces style exercises/drills where you will test your physical limits, learn about teamwork, and embrace the suck.

Best picture that encompasses the event
I first heard about the GoRuck challenge from the Art of Manliness blog. If that link to the AoM blog is right, I've known about the challenge for over 1.5 years, but I feel like it's been longer. I had never really taken the initiative to sign up, so The List was a good reason to do it.

Before the night began, I knew that I would carry 40lbs the entire evening and to go along with thatI could expect pushups, running, water, carrying additional heavy things, and pain. However, I didn't know to expect trespassing, borrowing, and a partial prostate exam. Put simply, it was a fun night.

The night was full of varied activities that are worth sharing, so I am going to break this into 4 posts to not leave anything out.

Summary (TL;DR version)

This was a wholly different experience than I'm used to. I'm used to individual sports where I can rise and fall on my own. It also usually covers a lot of horizontal distance. This was a team event that ended up only covering ~7.5 miles. I can't carry railroad ties by myself, I needed my team's help. I loved this event because it was unique and challenging. I don't want to sugar coat it though, it sucked. This is definitely top 3 hardest events I've done. This was more challenging than the Ironman I've done. I won't be doing another one simply because of how hard it was. However, I still HIGHLY recommend people do one. Sign up, test your resolve, and embrace the suck.

Our Cadre was great, he didn't get in your face and wasn't a pain in the ass just to be a pain in the ass. I equated him to the disappointed parent. If you weren't putting in the effort, he would calmly tell you to do it again with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.
The finishing 1044 class
Check out parts 2, 3, and 4.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tried to Climb a 14er and Failed

Despite having grown up in Colorado, I had never gone to the top of one of the state's 53 mountains over 14,000 feet. I thought the list would be a good way to remedy that fact. I had initially thought about doing this back in December, but climbed The Incline instead.

This memorial day weekend, I headed out to go after Pikes Peak with a couple friends. Back in December, I was worried about the snow that had accumulated over the winter and hadn't melted from above the treeline. Unfortunately, this ended up being the case and we heard reports of waist deep snow above the treeline. Additionally, for several nights before our climb, it snowed down in Colorado Springs, which meant it was likely snowing at the top of Pikes Peak, so there was fresh snow as well. Our plan was simply to head out and get as high as we could.

Start to Barr Camp

We got up at 3:45am in order to get to the trail early enough so we wouldn't be out there when storms came in the afternoon. The first half of the hike was pretty uneventful. We started in the dark using headlamps to light our way. It was pretty much your standard mountain hike: good trails, trees, not very tired, peaceful, simply fantastic. We stopped about every mile to just rest, eat, and pee. Pretty laid back.

First break, sun wasn't up quite yet

Barr Camp

Barr Camp is about halfway up the trail (in terms of distance, not time) and has a surprising amount of accommodations despite being at 10,200 feet. There's a little cabin with food you can buy as well as an outhouse. I was surprised to learn that you can camp there for pretty cheap (note to future self).

View of the backside of the camp
There are two caretakers that live there year round. That seems like a pretty solid way to live, I think. Waking up in the mountains every day and spending time talking with nice hikers. Yeah, you probably have to deal with more poop than the average person, but every job has its downsides.

We grabbed some water, a bit of food, and most importantly some info about conditions further up. The caretakers said that above treeline there was consistently ankle deep snow and plenty of spots of knee and waist deep snow. This was a bit disconcerting, but we pressed on.

Sutulas being lazy-pants as always...
We somehow ended up staying here for almost an hour doing who knows what. I still don't know how we wasted this much time here, but it was time to head out again.

A wrong turn

The blue canadian mountie
The next 1,000ish vertical feet were pretty uneventful. Eventually, we came to a spot in the snow where there were tracks in the snow leading both left and right. We took the left path, which was a huge mistake.

This left path almost immediately directed us into waist deep snow, but we soldiered on (stupidly). By following the other footsteps, we could kind of find where the good places to place our feet were so we would stay on top of the snow. But every couple of steps you would place a foot, sink in, and struggle out.

Bob struggling to recover after falling in
I had the least amount of waterproof clothing so, I stayed at the pack and followed in everyone else's footsteps and probably had the easiest time. It was also the funniest position because I got to watch everyone else randomly sink into the snow and swear a little bit each time. We eventually decided that this was either the wrong trail or if it was right, it was going to be very difficult going; so we turned back to try to find the right path.
View from our first turnaround point
Back on Path
We headed back the way we came and found the clear path we should have taken. We proceeded on this path as it started to snow. Or, at least, I thought it was snow. We later learned it was essentially tiny hail. We followed the trail until about 11,700 feet (essentially treeline) when a suggestion arose that we should choose a hard stopping time to turn around so we don't get stuck on the mountain during bad times.

It was about 11:00 am at this point and we started to realize that pushing towards the top was not going to be the safest thing to do. Given the information we had about snow above the treeline, we knew it was going to be hard going. If we got to the top, we were golden, because we had train tickets for the cog railway down. So, the issue was if we didn't get to the top and had to turn around. This decision was where making the wrong turn earlier helped us out because we knew how hard it was going to be to get through that snow.
Just 5 more minutes...
We thought if we pushed on for another couple of hours and turned around at 1:00, it would take us about 6-7 hours to get back down the mountain. This would have been bad news bears because we would be on the mountain during the typical storm time and would potentially also be out there after dark. So, given the low odds of making it to the top, we decided to turn around.

Headed Back Down

Going down was pretty uneventful. We stopped at Barr Camp for about 15 minutes which is where we learned that we had essentially made it to treeline. There were also nice piles of pea sized hail everywhere, so we had lucked out and had gotten the tiny hail and not this deluge. Headed back down was one of those times where time went by so slowly. It ended up taking about 5 hours to go back down, but it felt like it took longer than it had to go up.

Pikes Peak in the background
I was actually feeling pretty bad on the way down because of a growing headache and my foot was acting up. The headache was likely from the altitude and lack of salt in my body (I forgot to pack any salty snacks, so water was just passing right through me) and the foot has been an issue for the past couple of months that the downhills really aggravated.

Once we got below the level where The Incline joins the trail, the traffic on the trail picked up. We secretly hated all these people because they were so fresh and happy. We eventually got back to the truck and headed back. I struggled not to vomit in David's truck and looked forward to a refreshing shower.

Summary (TL;DR Version)

I failed at climbing this mountain. While this wasn't the hardest physical adventure I've done, it was definitely taxing. I gained a great respect for true mountain climbers and have even less of a desire to ever do that sort of thing. Over the next day in the Springs, I had resentment in my heart every time I saw Pikes Peak mocking me in the distance. Regardless of the failure, I got to spend 11 hours with some of my best friends, catch up, have fun, and get in a good hike. This was the true value of the trip. Keeping friends after college is a challenge and scheduling things like this help immensely. I will go after Pikes Peak again sometime, but probably not anytime soon. One thing is for sure, I will do it with great friends.
James and Bob at the top via train the next day

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silver State 50 Miler Race Report

My first 50-miler, my first "traditional" race report. Check out my Garmin data here.

It was nice to be nervous about a race again. I wasn't super nervous, but I certainly wasn't over confident. Up to this race, the furthest I had ran was 31 miles. So, this was going to be 20 miles further than that. I knew it was going to be a challenge and didn't really know what was in store.

Beat the Blerch!
I'm going to break the race down by the drop-bag locations simply because that's how I had mentally broken up the course for planning purposes.


The race started at 6:00am and our hotel was less than 10 minutes from the race start. So, I got to sleep in and got up at about 4:45. The joys of a running race vs. a triathlon, no need to be there super early! Pre-race was pretty uneventful. Angie put on some sunscreen and I talked with some other folks about the course. The most important thing I learned was that going to the bathroom on a tree was acceptable and expected. Before I knew it, it was time to line up.

Peavine Summit 1 (mile 12.5)

The beginning of an ultra feels so much different than anything shorter than a marathon. You can just feel everyone holding back. I don't really know how to describe it, it's just a different energy of the group. The first 8 miles were really just getting a feel for the trail and filing in line with similar pace folks. People started walking the hills immediately; I was glad they did this because it really highlighted how this race was going to go. I mimicked them and started walking even though I didn't feel the need to. The downhills at this point were tiny, but I started to hate them because I knew I was going to have to go right back up that same distance.

Good view of the type of terrain for the course

I actually started getting pretty worried during this part of the race. I was getting a headache, wasn't really feeling my stride, and started having difficulty breathing. I was a worried that the altitude (only about 5,000 feet at this point) might be affecting me more than I thought it would. But, the only thing to do was to keep on going.

At about mile 8, I started to learn the difference between the hills on this course and the hills I run in Omaha. At this point there is about 3-4 miles of uphill. Thankfully, I was able to run with a couple of guys that made the time go by faster. At this point, I also started to find my stride and my earlier worries about elevation were gone.

There was a lot of walking but I made it to Peavine Summit feeling really strong. I was about 30 minutes ahead of where I had planned to be and didn't feel like I had pushed it too hard.

Ranch Creek (mile 27)

This section of the course is where things started to get hard. This was especially bad because it was downhill so I thought I was going to gain a bunch of time.

I had planned on the uphills being pretty hard and attacking them accordingly. However, I hadn't really given much thought to the downhills. Going downhill is easy, right? Just don't fall. Well, after Peavine summit, you come to essentially 7 miles of downhill, the first 2 being especially steep and rocky. I still don't know how I could have descended this section better. If you go slower, then you use more muscles to slow down. If you go faster, you pound the ground harder and risk tripping and killing yourself. Those first 2 miles I went at about an 8:30 min/mile pace, nothing crazy, using gravity to help. I could feel at about mile 17 that the downhill took a decent toll on my body.

From about mile 8 to 20, I was running with a couple people off and on. At 20 I decided that I was getting too tired to keep up with them and had to back off. This essentially was the last time I ran with anyone the whole race and just pounded the trails on my own for 30 more miles. This section also had the most confusing aid station. I walked in and there's a guy in overalls with no shirt on underneath, a woman with curlers in her hair, booze, and some other weird hillbilly stuff. As someone who isn't familiar with Reno, I wasn't sure if these were real hillbillies or if it was an act, so I just kind of ignored it. After I left the aid station, they had a couple signs that solidified that it was an act, thankfully.

Mile 20ish was probably the prettiest part of the race. It was running through forest, which was unexpected because I thought the whole thing was uncovered desert. It was also the time where the race started to get "real". The hurting started to mount and I began to understand the magnitude of 50 miles. On one hand, I was happy because in my previous longest runs, this same feeling came at about mile 15, so I was 5 miles further this time. On the other, I had another 30 miles to go. It was going to be a long day.

Some sightseeing around the park Angie did while I was out
The rest of this section was essentially me just trying to convince myself that even if it's a slow run, it's a run and would keep me moving forward. I also made a point to pee, more as a "dip stick" test to see if I'm hydrated enough. Thankfully I was doing well on that front.

River Bend (mile 33)

This 6 mile section of the course was simply cruel. It was all downhill and much of it technical single-track. I was already pretty fatigued by this point and the downhills were hurting a lot. This is where I regretted my effort on the downhill at mile 12. The cruelest part is that at the bottom of the hill you keep going down, you know that you had to turn around and head back up.

Cold sponges, yeahhhh buddy
The thing that made this part bearable was knowing that the only spectator access was at River Bend and Angie was waiting for me there with some cold Blue Monkey coconut water. Dag nabbit I love that stuff (and my wife too). I took a little longer at this aid station than most, just to get some rest before the next terrible section of the course. I sat down, ate a bit, and dumped a bunch of cold water on myself. I was getting a little worried because I had completely lost my appetite. Oranges and Oreos were about the only things that were palatable.

On to phase "Ain't nothin to it but to do it".

Headed out of the aid station

Peavine Summit 2 - The Revenge (mile 39)

Put simply, this was the slowest 7.8 miles I've ever done. 7.8 miles with 3,000+ feet of elevation gain.  It took my about 2:45 to cover the distance. That's slower than 20 min/mile. Just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Before the race started, someone told me his nickname for this part of the course was "pigfucker hill". Boy howdy he was right. I swore numerous times simply because it seemed like it would never end. I kept looking to the top and when I finally saw the top, I was in a little disbelief that I had to keep climbing that far. I kept looking around for a different hill that might be more palatable. But alas, it was the hill right in front of me. Eventually I got towards the top. I was so so happy when I got close enough and realized I didn't have to go up another 200ish feet that I thought I did.

Angie was unexpectedly waiting for me at the aid station which was a welcome surprise. I got some water, drank a smoothie (got a brain freeze), and took a seat again. The next 11 miles were essentially all downhill, but I had done enough downhill to know that I was not looking forward to the next section.

Headed out from the top

Finish (mile 50)

Mentally, it was all about time at this point. I just kept calculating over and over how much longer until I was done. Thankfully, even the conservative estimates put me in before the 14 hour cutoff so I was fairly certain I was going to finish. This was all downhill and once again a lot of single-track. All I really wanted at this point was to not get last. I had been passed by a lot of people and could rarely see people behind me, so I kept thinking I was the last place person.

I got to mile 50 (according to my watch) and I wasn't at the finish. I knew this was going to happen given the nature of these types of races, but I was still pissed. Nothing to do at this point but to slug through it.

As I got to the park, I could hear people cheering for the person who finished a little ahead of me. When I heard that sound, I almost broke down crying because that sound meant I was essentially done. These sorts of races just rub your nerves raw, and any sort of emotion can almost push you over the edge.

I crossed the finish line and was never happier to be done with a race. Angie was there to take care of me. I took a seat and just kind of zoned out for awhile. At the end of it, it took 12 hours 24 minutes to finish. I came in 56th place (out of 66 people), not a stellar finish, but a finish.

Just crossed the finish

Summary (Tl;DR Version)

Overall, I'm glad I did this race, but wouldn't recommend the course for anyone's first 50 or if you're not used to mountains. The aid stations were amazing with both the food and the volunteers, the course was well marked, and the course itself was beautiful and challenging. Will I do another 50 miler again? Probably. Will I do a 100 miler? Never say never.
I guess the toe box doesn't block much dirt...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

KC Culinary Indulgences

Cooking Class

A growing passion of mine over the past couple of years has been cooking. In reality,  the passion is around eating; cooking just allows me to make delicious foods to shove in my face. I simply love the act of eating. This is actually one of the unforeseen benefits of rocking a plant powered diet; I can simply eat more volume because I don't have to worry about the calories associated with the food.

Despite enjoying cooking and the food that comes as a result, I had never really tried to learn how to do it. Enter my list item of taking a cooking class. Once again, this was one of those things that proved harder to do than I initially thought due to living in Omaha. Thankfully, I have friends that live in larger metro areas that have these sorts of services. So, off we went to the Kansas City Culinary Center with our friends Meghan and Joji.

The class we took was basic knife skills. I thought this would be great because knife skills are the building blocks of any type of cooking. Additionally, I thought that if I got better with a knife, cooking might take less time.

We walked into the class and I immediately noticed that it looked like I knew more than I did simply because I brought my own knife block. If I was going to learn how to use knives, I was going to learn how to use my own. The room had a nice setup of mirrors and a camera that gave you good visibility to what the chef was doing regardless of your position in the room.

The first part of the class was him showing us how to sharpen and then demonstrating the techniques for various vegetables (onions, carrots, etc). The next part of class was where we got to use the techniques ourselves. We were making a big ol' vegetable soup to eat at the end of class. Angie and Meghan both stated that this wasn't a competition; Joji and I informed them that they were wrong. I feel that I beat Joji in the speed department, but he beat me in quality (this is par for the course for me). The good quality elevated Joji to chef's favorite. The chef would come over and demonstrate advanced techniques to Joji while we just looked on. I guess I lost the competition. I've got to say, I was a bit jealous.

Joji demolishing the celery
All in all, it was a fun experience and I did learn how to use my knives better. Unfortunately, it's one of those things you need to practice regularly, so I had already forgotten some of the stuff a day later.

Fancy Pants Dinner

Later in the evening, we went to try to cross off the most difficult item on my list, spend $150 on a meal for Angie and myself. I had no idea that this would be so difficult to do. Not eating meat and not drinking alcohol keeps the price down. I still don't know if it's possible and not feel like you want to vomit everywhere.

Our fancy pants dinner was at Cafe Provence, a French restaurant that seems to actually be ran by French folk. I thought our waitress was just throwing out a couple of random words in French to complete the atmosphere, but then I later heard her conversing with another employee in French.

Fancy pants bathroom decor
Angie and I each ordered an appetizer, main course, and dessert plus I gave a larger tip than I normally do and we only got up to $120. Of course it was a very good meal, but I can't really stomach spending that much money on a meal any time soon. So, overall, kind of "meh" would likely not go again.

Meghan more terrifying than usual

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do in Nebraska

After completing my top 10 things to do in Nebraska and living here for the past 8 years, I feel qualified to make my own top 10 list.

Senator Mitch McConnell is coming right for us!
Here it is, Matthew's Top 10 places in Nebraska (a bit Omaha centric, but whatever):
  1. Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo - The zoo here is simply fantastic. I don't really remember the San Diego Zoo from when I was a kid, but I've heard that Omaha's zoo is at least on par if not better. As they expand, it's only going to get better. My favorite part is the aquarium.
  2. Memorial Stadium - As a non-Nebraska fan, it's a little odd to put the Huskers stadium on my list. But, it's a pretty great experience to be in the 3rd largest city (on game day, the stadium is the 3rd largest city) in Nebraska and hear the crowd chanting Husker Power.
  3. Holland Center - I've only been to the Holland Center once, but it's a beautiful facility. It's a nice modern facility. The theater itself is actually built for sound quality so anything you see here is going to sound amazing.
  4. Lincoln Haymarket - The Haymarket has a soft spot in my heart because it has some of my favorite eateries, and I love eating.
  5. Orpheum theater - The Orpheum is where the Broadway shows play when they're in town. It's an older theater than the Holland and has that type of feel. It feels like I imagine an 18th/19th century theater would feel.
  6. ConAgra Foods Campus - The campus of ConAgra foods is one of the most beautiful business complexes I've seen. The Omaha marathon used to go through it which made that little half mile in the middle a nice little mental detour. I get quite jealous of my wife because I would love to be able to run here over lunch.
  7. Hot Shops - Hot shops is one of those places that I keep meaning to go back to but have only made it once. It's a collection of different types of art studios that includes glass blowing, metalworking, carpentry, painting, etc.
  8. Branched Oak Farm - While you wouldn't really consider a dairy an "attraction", but I really enjoyed it and think more people should go. You can read more about this in my earlier blog posts.
  9. Sandhills cranes - The Sandhills cranes were a pretty cool site. I would like to go back and see them at dawn sometime.
  10. Barn Anew - Again, a B&B isn't what you would typically call an "attraction", but it's a pretty relaxing place. You definitely need to go on a Friday so you can listen to the bluegrass jam session.
There you have it, my favorite things in Nebraska.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Western Nebraska Tour (Part 2)

The second day of our western Nebraska trip (see part 1) was filled with snow. I had a grand ol' plan of running 10 miles or so. I was pretty excited about the run because it was going to be on back country roads with views of the bluffs. I managed to make it 2 miles in the blowing snow and called it quits.

Once back in the warmth of the B&B we had a delicious breakfast served in their sun room.

It was then time to get underway for our day of sightseeing. First up was Scotts Bluff (after grabbing more coffee in town). The bluffs had high potential for good hiking, but the snow ruined that for us. Additionally, the road to the top was closed, so we couldn't even drive to the top. So, we poked around in the museum a bit and learned about the settlers and the trails that ran through here.

Next up was Chimney Rock. Thankfully, we drove by this the day before because it was essentially completely obscured by the snow. If you stared long enough, you could barely make out the outline.

Treat it like a magic-eye, just stare long enough and you'll see it.
Chimney Rock is such a great symbol for Nebraska (it's even on the state quarter). Honestly, it is a super boring and unimpressive site. The only reason it has significance is because everything east of there is utterly desolate. So, as settlers were headed west, anything beyond flat plains was exciting as the Blue Angels dive bombing some Apache helicopters (I couldn't think of a better analogy). Once again, we checked out the museum and learned even more about the trails and settlers that came through these parts.

Our final site of the trip was Carhenge. For those of you who don't know what Carhenge is, it's exactly what it sounds like. A replica of Stonehenge made out of cars. As I parked I started giggling at the absurdity of the site. One, how laughable Carhenge itself is. Two, we drove about 1.5 hours through a snowstorm to see it. We didn't spend much time here due to the snow and wind and there's not much else to say about it.

Who knew they had a problem with the world's fastest hedgehog around here...
We then drove to the Roadside Inn in Thedford, NE. When we originally planned this trip, we thought we were going to get to the hotel at around 8:00pm since we thought we were going to be hiking and whatnot at the various sites. But, because of the snow, we ended up getting to the hotel at 4:30. Instead of recognizing our sunk costs and just heading home that night, we stayed in Thedford and increased the town's population by over 1% (Thedford's population as of 2010 was 188). The restaurant next door to the hotel was closed, so we asked the woman at the front if there was any other place to eat dinner in town and she suggested the two gas stations or the bar. We decided to just eat the food we brought with us.

Cool pattern of ice that developed on the wheels while we were driving.
I was then planning on running 20 miles in the forest nearby in the morning, but wussed out due to the cold and wind. And we just drove back a bit earlier than we planned.

Overall, it was a fun trip. It was good to see some of the better parts of Nebraska since I pretty much had only seen the I-80 corridor. We will definitely be doing this type of trip again in the future as it was fairly low key and relaxing.

Cold sunrise in Thedford