Sunday, June 28, 2015

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

Didn't manage to get out of town on Friday, since I was exhausted after my first week of teaching and writing an RFP at work, so it turned into an overnighter to Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Saturday wasn't amazing, as Lake Alpine is crowded and the trails near there were either non-existent or just hard to figure out near the campgrounds. I headed south past Duck Lake, Rock Lake, and over to Elephant Rock Lake and back, a burn made navigation difficult, but the lakes were pretty. Just wasn't really feeling it--hadn't fully recovered from the race last week, and didn't eat enough breakfast or lunch before starting the run, so it turned into more of a hike.
Rock Lake


Dardanelles off to the south, I think

Duck Lake

Looking south from Cape Horn, on HWY 4.


Sunday was better. Drove further east to Highland Lakes, which are really pretty. Not at all crowded, and I picked a decent 21-mile loop. George saw his first bear, but not until after I grabbed his collar, so he didn't get to chase it.

Highland Lakes

Hiram Peak from Highland Lakes

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hornstrandir Reserve Circumnavigation

Since a friend is in Iceland right now, I was reminded that I never blogged about the second portion of my trip to Iceland last summer. You can read about the first portion, where I walked from North to South across the island with Nano, here.

Day 1-July 20, 2014 [blog entry]
I flew from Reykjavik to Isafjurder. I walked from the airport into town, stocked up at the Bonus grocery store, and made my travel plans with West Tours, which is right in the same building as the information office. To take the ferry to Hornstrandir, you have to book a ferry, and you have to tell West Tours your exact itinerary. They were nice, and didn't put up a fight when I told them I hiked 50km a day, so that was fine. I really wanted to walk all the way around Hornstrandir, and then all the way down the Strandir coast to Holmavik, and then catch a bus back to Reykjavik, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to pull it off in time for my flight home. (In retrospect, I should have gone for it, but everything worked out fine.) It was Sunday, so everything closed early, but I was lucky to get everything taken care of for a ferry departing the next morning.

In the afternoon I walked the road to Bolungarvik (there are multiple Bolungarviks in Westfjords, but this was an easy few miles. There's a new tunnel through the mountains that you can't walk, but the old road that goes around is intact, and the weather was gorgeous, the sunniest day of my entire trip, so it was enjoyable. I finally got divebombed by territorial terns, which everyone seems to talk about, but it wasn't all that special, to be honest. Camped in the public campsite in Bolungarvik.
Sunny day in Isafjurder

The old road

Lighthouse just outside Bolungarvik
Day 2-July 21
Managed to buy a new pair of hiking socks at the hardware store in Bolungarvik (there isn't much other than fishing in the way of commerce) but I also got a nice breakfast at a B&B across from the ferry departure. Caught the ferry to Hesteyri, where the ranger station is, and started my hike clockwise. Up and over to Saebol, but then there was a tidal crux near Hvarfnupur and I didn't want to wait, so I climbed back up to a pass and down a different marshy but beautiful valley. I enjoyed the midnight sunset due north, and kept hiking until 1 or 2am, when I had to cross a tidal estuary that was at most knee deep and felt a mile wide. It was a little creepy when the wind picked up, but it wasn't actually dangerous.
My Ride

Other people's guided kayak tour

Hornstrandir isn't uninhabited, it's just not inhabited year-round by anyone

Midnight northern sunset

Here's me walking across the estuary.

Day 3-July 22
I hiked  up and over a few more fjords today, and camped just shy of Hjornbjarg, a famous vertical cliff full of bird's nests. I was tired from having hiked until 2AM, but still got in a good day of hiking. 
Day 4-July 23
I hiked up to the sheer dropoff overlooking Hjornbjarg, and stared off into the arctic north on a spectacularly beautiful sunny day. Then I got some excellent waffles at the Latravik lighthouse, lost count of how many waterfalls I saw pouring directly into the ocean (with rainbows!) Then I slept on the porch of an unoccupied house from 8pm-11pm or so to wait for the tide to go out.  When rounding the lowtide-only point between Bolungarvik and Furufjordur, I saw three arctic fox!
OK, sometimes Iceland is gross.

But mostly it's beautiful. Staring off a sheer cliff into the Arctic.


Watch the playlist of my arctic fox videos. So damn cute.

Day 5-July 24
Finished today. From Furufjordur, I crossed west over a pass, and crossed my third and final tidal estuary, this one with freezing glacial flow that was briefly waste deep (Leirufjorudur). After doing so a local family in their vacation home who had watched me doing the crossing invited me in for snacks. At the very end of the day it started to rain, but I'd quite a stretch of amazing weather. I set up camp near the ferry landing in Grunnavik and saw another gorgeous north-facing sunset.

Day 6-July 25
Today was a zero day in my tent in Grunnavik. My phone battery died, the weather was gray and rainy, and the bridge over the river had been removed, so I couldn't explore very easily, but I wasn't much in the mood anyway.
Day 7-July 26
The ferry took its sweet time getting to us, and actually had an engine failure on the way back, but I made it back to Isafjurder. I walked around town, and camped up in the hills outside town.
Then I flew back to Reykjavik, mostly wasted a day shopping for gifts that I should have spent bike riding (instead I waited till just before the downpour to start riding), caught an evening showing of the disappointing Icelandic film 101 Reykjavik, and flew home to the US.

Back in Isafjurdur

Camping above town

Westfjords. Hornstrandir is the very top part.

The best vegan restaurant in Iceland

Books. My kind of hoarder.

Back in Reykjavik

Biking around Reykjavik
The Hornstrandir reserve was definitely my favorite part of the trip to Iceland. The Fjallaback trek and a half day on either side of Nyidalur had similarly spectacular views, but Hornstrandir was the only place that felt remotely like wilderness. I saw essentially all of the actual reserve in four full days of hiking, but I could definitely go back and do a longer trip.
As with the rest of Iceland, I recommend against the Ferdakort brand of maps. You'll definitely want a 1:100K map, though. I used one that I bought from the ladies in the West Tours office. I can't really tell the brand name, but it's #1 Vestfirdir & Dalir, Utivera/Outdoor Recreation, and it has brief trail descriptions as well as distances. It's 1 of 7 in a series that cover all of Westfjords.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Never Let Me Do This Again

Finally, on the third try, I managed to run more than 100 miles at the Crissy Field 24-hour fixed time event in San Francisco. And finally, after sixteen* 100+ mile races started, I managed to run 100 miles in under 24 hours.

The course is a USATF-certified 1.061** mile loop around Crissy Field Marsh. It's half asphalt, and half dirt/crushed gravel/sand. I first ran the event in October 2008 (race report), after having only one regular 100-mile event under my belt. I figured it would be "easier to run 100 miles in under 24 hours than it would be to run a 100-miler in under 24 hours," but I was totally wrong. The flat is torture on the muscles, as is the asphalt, as is the monotony. I took a short nap or two, and eked out 82 miles, with an 83rd after the official cutoff.

Despite the pain, I came back again in October 2009, and did a little better. I didn't nap, though I did still take my sweet time on a few rough laps in the night. My recovery when the sun came up was ridiculous. I went from 30 minute laps to 20 to 10 to 8 to 7 to 7, each time with the RD yelling "One more!" At the end, everyone else had lined up and was counting off the final seconds for my sprint to the finish.

I missed it by a half a second! So I officially ran 94.4 miles, not 95.5. And I still had to come back and break 100 miles.

I had a coupon, I needed to be in town this weekend (a summer course I'm teaching starts Monday), and I wanted a crazy race calendar this year, so I signed up again. The race company is under new management, and it's now held on the solstice, which is obviously great for longer daylight hours. My goal was to definitely break 100 miles, and maybe get to 120 if everything went right. However, I had food poisoning Wednesday/Thursday, so it wasn't perfect from the start; I was the opposite of carbo-loaded. My strategy was the same as always, start out doing easy 9-minute miles, bank enough time, and just hang on for dear life.

Serenity Now.
Thankfully my stomach settled, and I got in my fast early miles. But I was running in a brand new pair of Hoka Cliftons. They are absurdly light, but something wasn't right, and my right foot started hurting plantar fasciitis-style. So I switched to my older Hoka Stinsons, which felt like lead weights by comparison, but the pain didn't subside. So I switched to a relatively new pair of Altra Instincts (which happen to be my walking-around-shoes, since they're the least-dumb-looking pair of actually good running shoes I can find.)

Despite all this, I did 25 miles in 4 hours, but then hit a small low. I did about 33 in 6, recovered a bit, and did 50 in 9, which is close to my PR. I had some veggie burgers, and soon it was 10PM and my buddy Yuch showed up with George. I don't know what it was like for him, but I felt like I was pretty chipper compared to when my other friends have come out to pace me in this in previous years. (Though, when my sister called me to wish me well, my response was pretty much "leave me alone!")

After Yuch left, I had done 82 in 17, so I had reached the point where all I needed to do to break 100 was maintain 3mph, so I knew it was in the bag. Still, time went really slowly. There was a cold headwind all day and night long on the asphalt section, but thankfully it was at your back on the dirt section. My last calculation was to maintain close to a 4-mph pace so that I would break 100 with 2 hours to spare. I did almost that, breaking 100 after 22:17.
Finally, 100 miles in under 24 hours
And the resulting look of pure joy
 I kept on trudging, eventually stopping with about 10 minutes left after 100 laps, and 106.1 miles. I didn't have the kick to go for a final sprint lap, and 100 laps felt like a nice round number. It was fun to stand at the finish and cheer the remaining finishers like everyone had done for me in 2009. One guy left to get another lap with 7 or 8 minutes left, but like I did, he missed it by a couple seconds.

Views are not too shabby.


 Anyway, the race was pretty painful while it was happening. I repeatedly told myself that I would ask friends never to let me do this again. But now that it's over...

I'm kidding. Partly. I mean, I do feel much better about it now that it's over, and I'm glad I broke 100, and I could see myself trying to set another personal best, but not for at least five years. Crissy Field is absolutely gorgeous, but there are just too many hillier, non-repetitive, non-asphalt courses out there that I haven't seen yet.

Next up on my race calendar is the Tushar 100 at the end of July. Or at least, it was. The 100-mile event was canceled this week due to lack of interest. The 95K is still going on, and I can get the price difference refunded, plus get free entry into any other of Matt Gunn's (mostly excellent) Utah races, no expiration, so I'll probably take him up on that. The 95K is far less repetitive than the 100-mile would have been, so I'll probably like it even more. But maybe now that I'm only running 95K I could add the Big Basin (Skyline to the Sea) 50K the weekend prior? 5,000 feet of elevation loss means I would probably enjoy myself.

*I've finished ten 100's, one was canceled mid-race due to weather, one I walked off the course in protest of how poorly organized it was, the 4mph challenge, and three 24-hour fixed time events, all at Crissy Field.

**Oddly, Coastal Trail Runs, which is run by the same man who started the event for PCTR, says the loop is 1.065 miles, and even gives their USATF cert number. It's possible that the courses are 21 feet different, but I don't think so.