Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Search and Rescue Mission Report

This is the link to the Inyo County Search and Rescue Mission Report detailing our rescue from their perspective.  Those guys were awesome and are all my heroes.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Helicopter heroics

This is the conclusion of my previous post.  If you missed it and you care to read them in order scroll to the the bottom of this post and start there.

Inside our cubby, the temperature was probably close to 40 degrees, I only can guess that because our slushy water was slowly getting less slushy.  Forty seems warm considering the night before it was in the teens, but there was no way to avoid touching the cold rock and we were still shivering more than we weren't.  It was still cold enough that when Roman peed into a empty bottle he chose to snuggle with it until it lost its heat.  I'd like to say I thought it was gross but I was jealously wishing I could pee as well. 

We got in the cubby at 1:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday.  It was a long uncomfortable night of wondering how many days we might need to stay in there and how long we could make our food and water last.  We passed the time by trying to get someone on the radio.  We could hear other people clearly talking back and forth but for some reason they could not hear us.  Hoping for the smallest cell signal we prepared a text to our wives that had our GPS coordinates and said that we were going to need helicopter rescue.  At 5:00 AM on Thursday, after 16 hours in our claustrophobic cubby, Roman turned his cell phone on to check the time and saw he had a signal.  He immediately sent our text.  Within minutes we got a text back.  It said that a search and rescue team had already been assembled and that a helicopter was available weather permitting.  We started to celebrate.  Roman's signal turned in to 2 bars so he called Michelle.  Michelle had to pinch herself to make sure she was not dreaming.  Like most wives would, she had been fearing the worst.  

Roman and I's anticipation of the sun to rise now was like that of kids on Christmas morning, except our Santa was going to be flying a CHP helicopter.  We talked about happy things like helicopter rescues, Churros and Disneyland, but mostly helicopter rescues.  We wondered how exactly it would go down.  Would a search and rescue guy be lowered to us?  Would they simply lower us a rope and harness?  Would they lower us a stretcher of some sort to strap into?  It seemed we were only hours from being reunited with our families and we couldn't think of anything sweeter. 

Around 7:00 the sun started to shine onto our little doorway.

I immediately broke out a window to see a glorious sunrise.  It looked like perfect conditions for a helicopter rescue.  Our rope still hung outside from the last rappel the day before.  It was frozen.

This is a short video I took upon realizing our good fortune.

At around 8:00 the helicopter started buzzing around.  I was hanging out the window of our cubby waving Roman's red backpack.  I was naive enough to think he may have seen me on his first pass over us.  I had no idea how hard it must be for them to spot us on the huge mountain face, but after watching him buzz past us 10 or 20 times I started to realize.  Luckily we had a signal again and I called the search and rescue team.  They put me through to the helicopter copilot and I started giving directions as to where we were. 

It seemed like it took longer than it should have but I eventually guided them to just about 100 yards in front of me exactly at eye level.  I was furiously waving the red backpack.  They still could not see me.  

"I'm looking straight at you!  I am waving a red backpack!"

The pilot could sense my frustration.  Finally when they were only about 50 yards in front of us, the pilot spotted me.  I realized that if we didn't have cell phone service it might have been days before they actually spotted us. 

Once the helicopter did find us the pilot immediately told us we were in the worst possible spot for a rescue.  He told us there was no way he could get close enough to rescue us from our current location.  

In this video the pilot is surveying the cliffside for a location in which he could rescue us from.

The pilot found an finger of rock that stuck out from the cliffside far enough he could get the helicopter in for a rescue.  It was only enough room that he would barely be able to put one skid down but it was the only real option to get us off the mountain.  The spot was about 3 pitches away from us.  He flew the helicopter to it and asked if we could get to it.  My immediate response was no.  Two days ago, when the cliffside was a rock face it would have been no problem, but now the face of the mountain was 70% snow.  We didn't have any gear to protect ourselves on snow and I didn't really have much experience on it.  I was definitely scared at the thought of going out on the exposed snow.

Search and Rescue had a team ready that had all the proper gear for protecting the snowy pitches.  The pilot said he would come back, drop them off at the pick up spot, they would then come to us and then guide us back to the pick up spot.  He figured the whole process could take up to 8 hours.  Which didn't seem that bad until he explained to me that the morning was the best time for a rescue, often in the afternoon the wind picks up and they can't do the technical flying that would be required to pick us up.  Basically there was a decent chance we would be spending another night in our cubby this time with two more guys.  I knew there wasn't room for anyone else in the cubby and I really didn't want to be there another day.  I talked it over with Roman and called back the pilot.  I told him not to bring up the Search and Rescue team we were going to attempt to get there ourselves.

I have been asked by everybody, "Did you have enough food and water?"  The honest answer is we took enough food for one full day of climbing and after being up there for 3 days we still had 3/4 of it left.  The stress was so great that I never once thought "I'm hungry, I'm going to eat something." instead a few times I thought "I should try to eat something" and was never able to actually stomach much.  

The water was similar.  We took enough to go up and down the technical sections only, but after 3 days still had about half left.  The reason for that was it was either frozen or slushy and we were so cold already that neither of us could bare the thought of drinking ice cold slush and making our body temps that much lower.  

This combination of not eating or drinking had to be taking a toll on our bodies ability to cope with what was now to be required of us for the rescue.  In the cubby I didn't care about our bodies weakening states because once we got in there, I was planning on staying in there until rescue came.  I had shut it down mentally and physically.  Now we had to get it going again for one last push.

We started to organize our gear.  Our rope was frozen and I was wondering if we were going to be able to pull it down or not.   I remember secretly wishing that we would not be able to get the rope down and I could call back the pilot and tell him he needed to bring up the rescue team.  The rope was stubborn but we worked it down.

The first pitch was a horizontal traverse along the shear face.  I set it up as a rappel and managed to get in only two pieces of protection in the hundred feet.  I was about half way through the pitch when Roman yelled to me, "I can't find my belay device."

"Are you kidding?"

"No I can't find it."

"I'm not coming back there.  You better find it!"

Roman is notorious for misplacing things, however this was not the time to lose your most valuable piece of gear, but he had lost it nonetheless.  

I finished the pitch and fixed the other end of the rope so Roman could traverse across the fixed line with just his personal anchor.

The next pitch was a straight forward rappel.  Or at least it would have been straight forward if we had two belay devices.  I have read a million different ways to rappel without a belay device but never actually done any of them.  Of course they had all run together and I was having trouble coming up with just one legitimate way.  Roman rigged up some kind of triple rope wrap of his locking biner and it was going to have to do.  During the rappel Roman knocked his radio loose and it fell.   I was expecting to hear it hit against the wall a few times and then here it explode when it hit the bottom, but the wall we were on was so shear and so tall that I heard it hit the wall one time and then nothing, I waited for an explosion but nothing.   

Here I am on the rappel.  Notice the helicopter in the top of this picture.  Like myself, Search and Rescue wasn't convinced I had what it took to do the pitches in the snow, so the helicopter stayed constantly near us in case something went wrong.  You would think that would have given us a sense of reassurance, but really it made the situation feel like a Hollywood production and definitely added a level of stress. 

The second rappel deposited us about 80 feet below the pick up spot.  The finish line of our epic was finally in sight.  Eighty feet of what was easy climbing before the snow was now going to be a formidable test.  

Roman was light headed and having dizzy spells.  My hands had been painfully cold and now didn't have much feeling left in them.  I was far from 100 percent, but the best thing about climbing is the challenge it presents.  If it were easy there would be no reason to do it.  Most climbers favorite climbs are the ones that push them closest to their limit and Roman and I were getting very close.   

Starting the last pitch the first move just to get off the ground was very steep.  As I did it I wondered if I still had enough in me to get up it.  The pitch had some good old fashion climbing stress, very different from the "lost on a mountain in a snow storm stress" we had dealt with the day before. 

Even in the stress of the last pitch, the beauty around us was undeniable.  The fresh white snow, the crystal blue sky, the gorgeous alpine peaks, then throw in the drama of a helicopter circling over head and you have probably the most memorable pitch of climbing I have ever done.  I am embarrassed to say I loved the last pitch.

Finally we arrived at the rendezvous point.  It felt like I had just finished an ironman.  It wasn't quite over we still had the unknown of jumping into a mostly moving helicopter.

The pick up was everything we feared it might be.  Roman said it was the scariest part of the whole ordeal.  We crawled out 3/4 of the way to the end and hoped that was as far as we needed to go.  The pilot made a pass and signaled to us that we needed to go all the way to where the arrow is pointing.  He told us to lay flat and hold on as there would be gusts of 120MPH that could blow us right off the snowy rock to a certain death.  We laid there in the snow for about 20 minutes waiting for the pilot to burn off fuel and then we heard his siren and knew it was go time.  We tighten down our grip on the rock.  To add a little more Hollywood flare the pilot came up from the below us.  It felt like he magically appeared out of thin air and our environment turned instantly violent.  He went up about twenty feet above our heads and then lowered back down ever so slowly.  The wind was too fierce to watch what was happening and we could only peek every couple of seconds.  Finally he put his skid down just barely onto the rock.  The door already open, the copilot yelled for us to go for it.  I jumped in and scooted across to make room for Roman.  I looked back just to see Roman land safely in next to me.  We were safely inside.  During our 3 days I had wanted to break down crying at least 3 or 4 times but had managed to kept it together.  Neither me or Roman could refrain any longer and both of us let our tears of gratitude flow freely.

After getting checked out for frostbite by the paramedics we were released to go and take a picture with our rescuers.  We will be forever indebted to them both for their great skill and their willingness to risk their own lives to save ours.

We also got to meet and thank our would be rescuers, the Search and Rescue Team.  Who despite being simply volunteers were also willing to risk their own lives to save ours if they had been asked.

Needless to say there were more than a couple of heroes there that day.

Thank you California Highway Patrol and Search and Rescue!  And a special thanks to the taxpayers of California who make helicopter rescues free for boneheads like myself.  I promise not to need another one. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In need of a helicopter

When you have resigned to wait on a cliffside for a helicopter rescue, you have a lot of time to think about what went wrong.

When Roman was coming to town and thought he could spare a day of his trip to go climb a mountain with me, I was tickled.  We both really wanted to do the East Face of Mt. Whitney.  Having two or three days to do it would have been better but we knew we could do it in one long day.  It would be 20 hours or so but we could pull it off.  We had done a similar outing on the Grand Teton and it had turned out to be one of my best days ever in the mountains.

The East Face of Mt. Whitney is a long route of 13 pitches with a rating of 5.7 (a grade we were both comfortable with).  What got us in trouble was the commitment level of the climb.  Once you get about half way through the East Face there is no longer a retreat option.  The only way off the mountain is to finish what you started.  The other problem was the route finding, which had been reported by many as difficult and had rendered many climbers lost.

We got to the trailhead at about 1:30 AM got our packs together and laid down for an hour before our 3:30AM start time.  The hike in was a little longer than we anticipated. We got a little lost in the dark and that cost us about an hour of light.  We had planned to be to the technical climbing around 7 but it was closer to 9.
During the last hour of the hike we could look up at the face we were planning on climbing.
It is an intimidating looking face. 

                                          The first pitch was exciting with lots of exposure.

It was a beautiful day and we were both enjoying the thrill of having such a classic climb to ourselves.  The climbing seemed more difficult than we had expected which made the climbing all the more enjoyable.  After the fourth pitch we realized the reason for the increased difficulty was we were off route.

    It took us two traversing pitches to get back to the route, and cost us more precious daylight.

We were to the famous Fresh Air Traverse pitch where the guidebook said was the easiest place to get lost on the route.  We could not afford to get off route again.  It was getting late in the day and we were worried about possibly having to spend a night on the mountain.

We took a good look at the guidebook and were pretty convinced we could see the Fresh Air Traverse. We went for it.  It required a rappel that we could no way go back up on.  If it wasn't the Fresh Air Traverse we were certainly going to be spending the night.

I wanted to record the Fresh Air Traverse with the GoPro so I got it out and turned it on.  When I realized we were not at the Fresh Air Traverse I hit a new low in Mountaineering.  The stress of the situation was tangible.  I never would have recorded it on purpose but turning off the GoPro was the last thing on my mind.  Below is some high mountain drama.  Warning: my wife says it is boring and could be rated PG-13.

After finishing the plan formulated in the video above we had time for one more pitch before it was mostly dark.  We talked about trying to continue on with headlamps but decided it would be safer to man up and wait for morning.  It was time to put on our thermals (thank goodness we brought them) and get ready for the longest night of our lives.

We were on a small sloping ledge, too little to dare sleep without being harnessed into the rock.  We dressed, tried to eat and drink a little, and sent a text off to our wives that said we were going to be out another day.  Remember we had only slept one hour the night before, so I figured we would get some sleep despite the horrendous conditions.  By 8:00 it was pitch black and we were getting into our warmest position.  I fell asleep and woke up 50 or 100 times.  I snuggled with Roman.  I spooned with Roman.  I went through cycle after cycle of "shiver, violently shiver, shiver, violent shiver.  I felt Roman do the same.  I dreamed I was falling off the edge 10 times.  It had to be almost morning.  I finally dared to look at my watch.  It was 9:45!!  How was that possible?  It had already been the longest night of my life and it had only just started.  The rest of the night I never dared to look at my watch, I couldn't have handled that kind of disappointment again.

Oh how we were looking forward to that sun coming out and warming us up, when it finally got light there was no sun to be seen.  Clouds had rolled in during the night.  We forced ourselves to get up.  Roman couldn't feel anything in his feet.  I didn't realize that he had slipped into the river the day before and his shoes and socks were still wet so he had only had his climbing shoes to wear that night.  Despite the daylight my body still just wanted to stay in the fetal position and shiver.  It was very difficult but we forced ourselves to rack up our climbing gear.  We were both so cold that our bodies were barely working and we wondered if we even could climb.

We climbed one pitch and my body started to work again.  I warmed up to the point that I wasn't completely miserable.  During our second pitch it started to snow.  I simply ignored the snow and kept climbing, refusing to admit that it was really happening.  The climbing was more difficult than it should have been and I didn't know if it was because of the snow or because we had never really gotten back on route after missing the Fresh Air Traverse.  We climbed a third pitch and the snow continued to fall harder and harder.  The snow was impossible to ignore now.  Drifts were gathering at the top of the wall and every few minutes the drift would get blown off the top and we would watch it roll down the cliff face and then brace ourselves for it to hit us.  The barrage of snow drifts would push the snow down even the tiniest of openings between clothes and skin.  I was getting wetter and wetter.  I was climbing in a light pair of belay gloves and my hands were freezing.  The thought of spending another night on the mountain, this time wet, was enough to scare the heck out of me.  I had seen enough episodes of "I Shouldn't Be Alive" to know the misfortuned mountaineer is most likely to lose his fingers, toes and nose.  It felt like that fate could realistically be ours if we didn't make good decisions.  The pitches were getting increasingly more stressful, and the snow was making them harder and harder.  We did a fourth pitch and I got to a point that I should have been able to climb but with the snow it wasn't happening.  I wanted to cry.  I was getting scared enough that it was hard to think straight.  I lowered off on a cam and started up a different crack.  After another 70 feet of climbing I was right in the same predicament.  I really don't like wasting gear but our situation was getting desperate.  I lowered off on another cam.  Roman had noticed a small hole in the rock he thought we could take cover in at the start of the previous pitch.  He suggested we go back and take cover from the storm.  It was the right thing to do and I was glad he suggested it.  I am a little bummed that we were so stressed on day two that we didn't take a single picture.  The conditions were the gnarliest mountain conditions I had ever witnessed, by a lot.

We rappelled back to the shelter.  I was the first one down and when I saw it I didn't think we could both fit in it, but we cleared some rock out and it barely housed the two of us.  It was only 1:00 in the afternoon. It was going to be another long night.
One guy would have to lay in sideways and jam himself in as far as he could so that the other guy could sit in the fetal position at the front of the door way.  Both positions were bad and we debated which was worse.  We took turns switching every two hours.  It was miserable, but it literally may have saved our fingers and toes.  That hole in the rock was a tender mercy of the Lord.

It was embarrassing but we knew with the amount of snow that was falling we were going to need to be helicoptered off the mountain. We had no reception on the cell phone.  We tried to call out an SOS on the radio, but could not get any one there either.  I assessed our food and water supply and figured we could hold up in the "crack" for at least a week if we had to.  We figured we would get reception on the cell when the storm broke whenever that was. 

We watched as the doorway filled to the top with snow.  The snow made it like a little igloo.  It wasn't warm but it was a lot less cold than we had been the night before.   

We finally manage to sleep some while we waited for the storm to break.

Story of the rescue to come. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Don't Tell Mom!

Sadly enough these days I mainly watch the SuperBowl for the commercials.  This year our family's hands down favorite was this one below.

This is now one of our favorite phrases when I am alone with the kids, probably when Sara is too.  Usually I am joking but not always.

Last summer me and my good friend Aaron took our three oldest kids canyoneering.  When Aaron's youngest Macie chickened out on the rappel we had to fudge our usual safety standards.  We invented what I now call the Daddy Daughter Rappel.  It was successful in getting the whole team to the ground safely, but maybe not something you want to tell Mom about.  I waited a year and hopefully now the statute of limitations is up and Mom can enjoy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Salt Flats 100 Race Report

Rhett and Bram and I had signed up for the Wasatch 100 trail run.  It is without a doubt one of the toughest races in America and maybe someday I will do it.

I jumped into the training full bore and within a month of dedicating way too much time to running Sara had had enough.  I had asked her permission before I signed up and tried to warn her of the amount of time I would be spending training, but until we were living it neither of us really understood the amount of time dedicated to doing something like running 100 miles.

Neither I nor Sara could handle 8 months of legit training.  Sara thought I should just run the 50 miler I had already signed up for and call it an ultra marathon career, but I had started this training to run 100 miles and would be disappointed in anything less.  So I found a race that was only a month after my 50 and promised Sara that I wouldn't need to train much in between them.

Enter the Salt Flats 100.

The Salt Flats is a really cool backdrop for a race. 

 Bram and Rhett and I spent the night before the race carbo-loading at Pizza Hut and talking race strategy.  The best thing about getting together for any challenge is always the build up and the aftermath.  We had a blast imagining what the next day would bring.

At 7:00 am the next morning, in a totally surreal landscape, on a perfect April morning 54 runners set out to tame the Salt Flats 100.

We started out with ten miles of straight salt.  It was smooth sailing and we were all feeling good.

Here are the three of us running in formation.  This is around mile three.  Notice the smile on Bram's face and the grimace on my face.  It is freaking mile 3!  I should not be grimacing yet!  The bottom line is I am just a miserable runner and I can't really hide it.

When we got close to aid stations I always made us walk into them to get us ready to stomach some calories.  My 50 miler had taught me the importance of continuing to put calories in.

The three of us ran together for the first 25 miles.  That was the best part of the race for me.  Being with my good buddies and feeling strong all while being in a totally unique setting was about as good as running can get.

 At mile 25 we were at the top of our first mountain pass.  My knee had been bothering me for the previous 10 or 15 miles.  (Now I know it was my IT band, but at the time I didn't know what it was.)  I only knew it hurt less when I ran faster than when I ran slower.  So I told Rhett and Bram I was going to run at a little faster pace for the next 4 miles as it was all downhill.  That was the last I saw of Rhett and Bram.

From there it was a lot of easy miles on nice rolling dirt roads through mile 35 or so when we had our second significant climb over another mountain pass.  I got another good burst on the downhill but when the trail got really steep my knee was starting to bother me enough that I would have to hobble down the trail.  Not a good sign considering I still had over 60 miles to go.

At mile 40 the elevation chart showed a long 7 or 8 mile flat section.  I think most people were anticipating some easy miles, but that was not the case.  The dirt was really weird and crusty and every time you stepped on it you sunk in 3 or 4 inches.  It made running difficult and not getting crap in your shoes impossible.  The landscape made you feel like you were in a Mad Max movie and the endless straight desert line started to play with your mind.  When the race was all over I heard the most complaints about this section.  I was actually enjoying it quite a bit until my ipod died.

Around mile 46 I noticed a hot spot on my left foot from some of the dirt that had got in my shoe. I didn't want to stop to get it out because I had been jockeying back and forth with some girl and I was finally opening up a little more distance on her and I knew she would pass me again if I stopped.  I pushed it to mile 48 and finally decided to clear my left shoe of debris.  It was too late I could tell I had a blister started right on the ball of my left foot.  To make it worse the girl passed me again at mile 50 anyways.

 I was around mile 53 when the sun set.

 It was about the same time I picked up my first pacer, Roxanne.  It was great to have someone to run with after being alone for the last 25 or 30 miles.

Her first question for me was "Do you feel like Forest Gump?"
Roxanne and I made good time and I passed the girl responsible for my blister again for the last time.

At mile 57 I picked up Danny and put on a head lamp.  I think up until mile 50 I was towards the back of the pack, but I felt much better than I had at the end of my 50 miler and my confidence was high despite my knee which was bothering me more all the time.  Danny and I kept a good pace and we started to pass a lot of runners.  I kept my stops at aid stations short and when Danny and I finished at mile 75 I had moved up to be the 21st runner and was on pace to be under 25 hours.  I was tickled especially because I was just hoping to finish in under 30 hours.

One of the aid station workers at mile 67 told Danny and I we had a beautiful section ahead of us but this was all we saw.

At mile 75 I picked up Roman and we got on the trail quick.  Every leg after mile 75 felt long.  I would be looking at my watch wondering why we weren't at the next aid station yet.  In hind sight I had obviously dropped my pace but my mind was not sharp enough to realize that and instead I just complained about the mileage not being accurate.

The mile 80 aid station finally came and I had moved up to be the 16th runner.  I was excited about that but not excited to still have 20 miles left to go.  I was still hoping to be under 25 hours but could sense it was slipping.

At mile 81 I felt a rock in my right shoe.  I knew my sense of distance was warped when I thought to myself, 'You don't need to get it out, you only have 19 miles left.'  Then I really didn't get it out.       

After the mile 80 aid station the next station was mile 90.  That was a heck of a long way to go without an aid station at that point in the race.  Seven miles of it were uphill and I was running on empty.  

Around mile 85 we passed a runner who was literally barely moving.  He actually looked more like a zombie than a runner.  When we passed him I asked him if he was alright.  He looked at us but didn't appear to see us.  It was like he was staring right through us.  We asked him again if he was all right.  He finally said, "If you see my partner will you tell him I had to take a rest."

I asked him, "Are you talking about your pacer?"

"No my partner, will you just tell him I had to take a rest."

After we left him I turned to Roman and said, "There is no way we are seeing that guy again.  I'm not doing that good but I am doing a lot better than him."

I was sure that he was going to lay down for a rest and be on the side of the trail at least until the the sun came up.

We came around one bend in the road after another and I just kept expecting to see the mile 90 aid station.  Finally when it was just barely starting to get light enough your eyes could play tricks on you, we came around a bend and I saw it.

"Yes, we made it!'

Roman's reply "What?"

"Right there see that black thing over there that's a trailer, we'll be at the aid station in a couple of minutes."

"That black thing right there?"


"Uh.....that's a bush."

I looked a little closer, "Dang it..... that is a bush."

We went five or ten more minutes and came around another bend.  

"Yes, we made it!"

Roman, "What?"

"Right there straight ahead you can see the shape of a tent right across the way."

"Umm..... I don't think that is a tent."

"No it is totally a tent.  Stand where I am standing look were I am pointing that is definitely a tent." 

"Uh......that's not a tent."

"Yes it is man.  I can see it.  You will see it in a second too."

Five minutes closer it was obviously not a tent.  Roman was smart enough not to give me an 'I told you so', I was probably pretty volatile at that point.  I was pretty much at rock bottom. 

We went another five or ten minutes and came around another bend and the dirt road we were on just looked like it went straight up forever with no sign of the aid station.  Turns out I was pretty volatile because at this point in the race I said some not very nice things.

Roman lightened things up by saying they should have a camera set up right there to get runners reactions as they come around.

After an eternity we made it to mile 90.  During the ten mile section I only passed the zombie guy so I was now in 15th, but as we were arriving we saw runner 14 leaving the aid station.  I was trying my best to put in some much needed calories when all the sudden another runner came in to the aid station, to my astonishment it was the zombie guy.  I said "Man you made a heck of a recovery."  To which he gave no response.

I tapped Roman and said "Let's hurry and get going I don't want him to pass me."  We got out of the aid station and I figured he would definitely need to spend some significant time there and get some calories in him after the 10 miles without anything.  I thought at least five or ten minutes maybe fifteen or twenty.

We had gone about 100 yards when Roman said, "Man your not going to believe this but the zombie dude is leaving the aid station."

"What? No way!"

Out of the aid station we had a long downhill.  I usually tear up downhills, but my knee was not going to allow that.  I was trying to hobble along as fast as I could, but it was not fast at all.  Meanwhile Roman was continually looking back to keep a watch on the zombie guy.

"Is he gaining on me?"

"Yeah he's definitely gaining on you.  In fact you better scoot over and make some room for him."

He honestly passed me like I was standing still.  He was running like I would have been 80 miles ago.  It was pretty disheartening to see him crushing the downhill, and myself being reduced to a hobble.  We could see the trail forever in front of us which made it that much more painful to watch him go.  I was back in the 16th spot and losing my motivation.  I obviously wasn't making it in 25 hours and just a mile before I was envisioning moving up to the 14th spot but now was back in 16th after having been destroyed by a guy who I seriously doubted was going to finish just 5 miles ago. 

Getting to mile 95 aid station was probably the most miserable part for me.  Everything was hurting.  The blister that I felt start back at mile 46 now felt like it covered my whole foot.  My joint pain had been limited to my right knee, but now my left ankle was hurting and swollen.  I had been told by many people that I would feel better when the sun came up but that turned out to be a lie.  I just needed this to end.  Around mile 94 runner 17 came into the picture.  I did not want to get passed again.  Finally some much needed motivation to pick up the pace.

When we got to the mile 95 aid station, runner 17 was closing and I didn't have much to hold him off with.  In NASCAR fashion I told Roman I was going to gamble and not make a pit stop and see if I could lengthen my lead a little.  Roman refilled my water and grabbed me a piece of fruit.

The last 5 miles was completely flat and just like the race had started.  You could see the finish line forever but it just didn't seem to get any closer.

Don't be fooled by these pictures I was strictly power walking and only managed to get this run going  because Roman wanted to take some pictures.  I just kept asking Roman to check on runner 17 and see if he was making a move.  If he did, I was going to try to hold him off but that could have gotten ugly very quickly.  It is really pretty pathetic how competitive I am.  Luckily he didn't ever make a move.

Finally after 27 hours and 8 minutes, the long awaited finish came.  It was a very rewarding moment.  I ended up in 16th out of 54, with number 17 only 3 minutes behind me and the zombie guy finishing 48 freaking minutes ahead of me.

 Sara couldn't be there to hug me but I got the next best thing, Cher.  She cried for both of us.

 The Smart family never disappoints in supporting each other.  It meant a lot to me to have them all there.

I had not sat down once the whole entire run.  Towards the end of the run I think if I would have sat down it would have been impossible to get going again.  Once I finally sat I could not believe how fast the soreness set in.  Within ten minutes my legs were literally rigid.  I could not stand up.  It was like nothing I had ever experienced.  

I told my supporters to come check out the bottom of my feet as I took my shoes off, if they wanted to see some serious carnage.

The feet did not disappoint.  One of the other runners asked if he could take a picture of my foot and post it as his.  "Sure, knock yourself out."

One hundred miles is a long way.  It is exponentially longer than 50 miles.  I was shocked at how beat up all the runners looked as they finished the race.  It wasn't just me.  Rhett and Bram were no exception either.  If you look close in this picture you can see how swollen Rhett's right knee is in comparison to his left.  Rhett and Bram finished the race together like real buddies should.

The race was quite an experience.  Though I didn't enjoy the last 20 miles much, the end result brought me a lot of satisfaction.
 I keep getting asked the same thing now, "Are you ever going to do that again?"  To which I always give an honest answer, "I hope not."

Monday, April 22, 2013


I have confidence issues.  Don't believe me, let me give you a few examples.

Exhibit A- "Double Molar Off"

When I served in France as a missionary we had a challenge known as a "Molar Off."  This challenge was a right of passage that existed among missionaries long before I arrived in France and hopefully still does today.  To successfully complete a "Molar Off" a missionary only needed to eat 50 chocolate covered granola cookies and drink a liter of French milk without blowing chunks.  Often times the cookies went down easy enough but once they mixed with the milk, they expanded in ones stomach and the result was good for a cheap photo and boosted the missionary's district's morale.  Who doesn't like to see their peers get sick and loose their lunch.

As a new missionary, I heard a few of the others experiences and was asked when I was going to try the Molar Off.  I saw some of the guys who were successful and just figured I was capable of more than them.  This is the kind of confidence issues I am talking about, instead of just being content to be successful in the traditional Molar Off, I announced that it was too easy for me, I would instead attempt to be the first person in the mission to complete a "Double Molar Off": one-hundred cookies and two liters of milk in two hours time.  Word of my announcement traveled fast and soon I was scheduled to do it with my whole district there to witness.

When the day came I was ready to bring it.  For the 24 hours previous I had not eaten anything only drank large quantities of water to stretch the stomach.  I was starving and couldn't wait to get going.  The first 50 cookies and liter of milk were a breeze.  I downed them in 30 minutes and was all smiles.  I started right into the next 50.  I was at 70 cookies before they started to taste less appealing and was convincing most in attendance I was going to pull it off.  I ate five more cookies that I did not enjoy, 75 cookies in 45 minutes, then the wheels started to come off.  In the next 15 minutes I willed myself to eat 8 more cookies.  I had an hour left to go.  I had finished 83 cookies and 1.5 liters of the milk, but I had hit a wall like none other.  Seventeen cookies did not seem possible.  I calmed myself with the following self-strategy.  "You have a whole hour left, relax for 30 minutes, let your stomach digest a bit of that and then the 17 cookies will be a cinch."

For the next 30 minutes my stomach was not my friend.  I sat in my chair sweating and squirming from the violence going on inside.  Before I knew it the 30 minutes was gone and I felt worse than when it had started, but I knew I had to get going on the last 17 cookies.  I suffered through 4 more cookies and then during my 88th cookie the moment came that everyone, except myself, was hoping for.

Exhibit B-  Ultra Marathons

When I got invited by Rhett, my superhero cousin, to try my luck in one of the toughest 100 mile Ultra-Marathons in America, it didn't take me long to decide I would fork out the 225 bucks to see if I could do it.  I should have instead remembered the absolutely horrendous experience I had in my only marathon (that is worthy of a blogpost itself) and said are you kidding me, no thanks, but that is not what happened, and instead my confidence has led to me being in way over my head, like usual.

I luckily had an Ultra-Marathon acquaintance at school and he was happy to have me start training with him and all of his buddies.  I soon realized I was in with a group that was far more dedicated to this cause then I was, not to mention had a lot more free time to train than I did, but really our biggest difference is they like running and I don't.  Regardless of our differences I have been grateful for their help.  I have trained with them when I could and lied to them about the mileage I was putting in when I couldn't.

They told me I really should at least do a 50 before I attempt a 100, and having learned a lesson from the "double molar off" I decided they were probably right.  So they signed me up for the hardest 50 around, 50 miles of trail with over 26,000 feet of total elevation change.  That was a long day.  At mile 20, I thought there was absolutely no way I could do 100 miles and wondered how in the heck I was going to do 30 more miles.  At mile 40 I actually felt good and started to think I could really do 100.  I finished the last 10 miles strong and passed a bunch of people for good that I had been jockeying back and forth with all day.  I crossed the finish line, hugged my wife and kids and within 10 minutes of being stopped sunk to a physical low that I hadn't felt for a long time.  The thought of putting on a headlamp and starting out in the night to redo what I had just done was literally a terrifying thought.  For days I really didn't think I had what it took to do 100 miles.  I again probably should have just been happy with a being a "single molar off" Ultra-marathoner, but when you have confidence issues like I do this isn't what happens.  Eventually my stupid confidence toppled my doubts and I started to believe I could do it again.

The time to find out if I can do it has now come, and the only good thing is I have two friends that have just as big of confidence issues as I do.  That's right, Rhett and Bram will be standing next to me on the starting line.

 Here I am finishing my 50.  One of my goals was to not need a head lamp.  I barely made it. 
Notice the banner above the finish line.  It is hard not to like a sport with a slogan like that but I don't.

Here are the stats:
I finished 82nd out of 120ish that finished.  I think there were about another 40 or 50 that did not finish.  Thirteen girls beat me. 

Does it look like I have 50 more miles in me? 
Actually, don't answer that question I need all the confidence I can get.