The summer of 2014 has officially begun for me. I just got home from my last class of the spring semester, I’m not taking any summer classes, and we’ve started packing for our first road trippin’ adventure.
This milestone gave me the opportunity to reflect on my last couple of summers. It was a nice trip down memory lane. I’ve had some pretty incredible summers. Monumental. They’ve included travel to exotic locals, outdoor pursuits, laughter, joy, pain, tragedy, love, family, friends and so much more. I’m so excited for this summer, and we’ve got some crazy cool plans for the coming months.
Taking a look back, 2012 gave me the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the continent of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in an effort to raise money for the Cancer Climber organization (founded by my buddy Sean Swarner.) I met the most amazing people and was humbled by the beauty and challenge of Africa.
At the summit: 19,304′ above sea level.
Approaching high camp, a.k.a. garbage camp.
Truly a life changing experience. That summer was liberating, challenging and mind-blowing. I also went skydiving, gallivanting with old friends and explored several 14ers in my backyard.
The summer of ’13 was similarly impressive. I rafted the Grand Canyon. Yes, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I spent 16 beautiful days with 16 beautiful people in one of the most amazing places on earth. We hit the tongue and rode it straight (mostly! Oops, Lava!) for over two weeks of laughter. Thanks to LBK (Josh Kruger) for giving me the opportunity to take the trip. It was another one for the books.
Head first into the spray! Face shots for dayz.
Exploring the countless side canyons was a true highlight.
We live here right now?!? COOL!!!
So what does this summer hold for Joan and I? Sooooo many things!! Five trips back to Colorado, including a bachelor party (sorry Joan, I’ll be going solo for that!), the Dolores River Festival and 100 Miles of Nowhere, and a Rockies Reunion. We get to enjoy our family in Colorado a couple of times and play with our nephews, siblings, parents, cuzes, etc. We’re performing several times and teaching a three-week circus camp (Funtown Circus!) and exploring our new home in Flagstaff. We’re leaving for a week long camping trip in the vast deserts of Utah tomorrow. Life is good and summer is just beginning. Here we go!
This June, I’ll be observing my 10 year cancer-free anniversary. That’s a big deal. It’s crazy to think how much I’ve been through in that time, much less to think about what I was going through during and in between treatments. I endured six years of chemotherapy and in June, I’ll be 10 years out of the woods.
The amiable Fat Cyclist has a pretty cool tradition that he started in an effort to raise funds towards cancer research called 100 Miles of Nowhere. Every cycling destination seems to have a gimmick for endurance racing, with centuries, 24 hour, multi-day epics and a hundred variations on those themes. Fatty, in his typically absurd nature, decided he’d do a 100 mile race…
-in his basement.
And thus, 100 Miles of Nowhere was born.
It became a tradition that his faithful followers began doing in their basements, and then around their blocks and in other ridiculous locations for a race. The key was creating a crazy specific race category for your event, one in which ONLY YOU could possibly win (eg; 27-28 Male half way through grad school and 10 years off chemo).
I want to invite you to join me to celebrate, raise some money and ride some great trails. My 100 Miles of Nowhere will take on Sunday, June 8, in (an admittedly, non-ridiculous and actually really, really incredibly fun location) Phil’s World, an ideal location for group multi-lap rides. A few things to point out about the gathering and the riding:
- Don’t be intimidate by “100 miles”! The great thing about a loop system like Phil’s World is that you can make laps as long and as short as you like. Teams are encouraged for 100 Miles of Nowhere, so if you don’t think you have 100 miles in your legs, share the distance with a partner or two. The idea is that every gets to ride as much as they like and have a good time doing it.
- We want a festive atmosphere! Please come with fun things for the “pit zone”, aka the parking lot, the destination that all laps will pass through before heading out for me. This means bbq’ing, tasty treats, beer, music, (we might even bring our aerial dance rig!) etc.
- Phil’s world requests a $3 donation at the trail head for all non-annual members of Kokopeli bike club. Let’s throw them some additional cash for maintaining such awesome trails. You’ll understand why when you ride there…
- Unfortunately, there’s no camping allowed at the Phil’s World trail head. According to the BLM website, there’s camping “just back from the access point for Phil’s World” which is where we’ll probably end up.
- While this blog post, RSVP process and donation system are all very sophisticated, this is going to be a relatively bare bones event. The spirit is to get together, ride and have a good time. We’re not catering this thing. Bring food, gear, costumes, everything you’ll need for 100 miles in a somewhat remote location!
- The Dolores River Festival is happening Saturday, June 7 and if you’re coming for 100MoN, you might as well come early and watch Joan and I perform at DRF!
We haven’t established a fundraising goal and I don’t plan to get an official donation site up and running. I do ask, however, that if you decide to participate (and please do!), please make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Heck, if you’re reading this and can’t participate, please donate anyway! I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at ages 8 and 13 and the research successes seen by this organization are partially responsible for me being here today.
More instructions will follow as RSVPs start to come in.
We hope to ride with you in June!
This Friday at midnight, hundreds of brave souls will voluntarily venture into a cold, hostile, barren environment. Many of them have been looking forward to the adventure all year long. Their collective goal? Travel, by ski, 40 circuitous, snowy, back-country miles and climb over 7,800 vertical feet to arrive at the Aspen base area smiling.
The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse (aka EMGT, aka GT, aka “the Traverse”) is an annual ski mountaineering race from Crested Butte to Aspen, CO. In the racing world’s seemingly endless search for “furthest”, “fastest” and “highest” superlatives, the GT is America’s oldest ski mountaineering race. It’s one that I’ve competed in four times and finished only twice.
The race can be brutal. It requires navigation of serious avalanche terrain in the dark. The race rules stipulate mandatory two-person teams rather than individual racers, as the dangerous nature of the event is somewhat decreased by traveling with a partner. Frostbite, gear failures and whiteouts have caused countless evacuations over the years, and occasionally the race changes format to an out-and-back loop due to treacherous, impassible conditions.
I’ve never had a really good race run in the Traverse. Twice my team had to turn around because of gear or body failures. The two times I’ve finished, my partner pulled me across the line (I was dragging ass) and I pulled my partner to Barnard, at which point he had to be evacuated on a snowmobile (he was dragging ass). In sum, none of these conditions were ideal and none left me with a satisfied, accomplished, “I (and my partner) really showed that race who’s boss” feeling.
That’s why, all the way in Flagstaff, Arizona, I’ll be watching at midnight on Friday. Racers are required to carry tracking devices and fans can watch their progress live online. I’ll be watching Smithy and Wick, JB, Billy, Ryter, the Western State Colorado University endurance ski team and all my other friends from back home, as they sprint up warming house hill and venture into the cold, dark night. I’ll feel their elation as they crest Star Pass and steel themselves in preparation for the decent into the basin below. I’ll feel the anxiety as the leaders take their mandatory 10-minute respite at Barnard Hut, nervously watching the trail behind them, strategically gauging their lead. And I’ll celebrate, with my hot coffee and fuzzy slippers, comfortable on the couch, as each of my Gunny/CB friends glides across that finish line in Aspen.
I’m looking forward to the night that I can once again step into my skis and try to raise my finishing average over .500.
Planning and packing is half the excitement in taking a trip. The possibilities are so vast and the potential experiences seem endless. I’m deep in this stage currently.
- What do I need? What can I leave? Is this the right gear? What would I really like that maybe I’m forgetting? The constant checking and double checking of gear and supplies is a daily chore, a light humming in the back of my mind. I’m glad I already love gear, cause I’m starting to accumulate a bit more. And luckily, I have tons of friends who have offered the use of some bits and pieces.
- Flights. Security. Bags. All fun stuff. Yes, a big part of my job is travel related, so I’m pretty used to navigating airports and packing efficiently. Still, that bit of anticipation comes through and gives me a mild case of the jitters. Passport doesn’t expire for five more years, so I should be good.
Taking care of home
- Oh! I have a dog! What should I do about little miss Friday? Luckily I have an awesome roommate in SJohnson and my family lives in town. Add to that a landlord who loves Friday and she ought to be well taken care of.
- Mail, bills, work, etc. Most of those things can be put off for an opportunity like this. Hello, “Out of office auto-reply”, you’re my new best friend. Automatic bill pay is a close second.
As my friend LJ says, “There’s so much to feel in the beginnings and endings.” I’m feeling it all now. More to come.
As a very influential mentor has told me throughout our relationship, “It’s all about the gear.”
In a recent presentation at work, this sentence came up: “You wouldn’t hit the trails without the right gear, so why would you prepare for (x) without being equipped with the right (y)?”
Both true statements. Gear is an essential part of any outdoor pursuit, especially one as extensive and grueling as a 19,000 foot peak. But gear is not just material. Many (most?) atheletes consider their bodies a piece of equipment as well, something they’ve sculpted and altered over the years in an attempt to get the most efficient and well-tuned machine possible. Hence, training.
This post is more about material gear. I’ve been sent a detailed equipment list by the folks at Cancer Climber. I’ve been collecting gear since I was on training wheels, but I’ve still got a few items to pick up:
- Trekking boots- Embarrassing. I’m selected to go on an expedition such as this and I lack proper trekking boots. I have great trail runners and solid approach shoes. When I go on a snow climb, my plan is to ski and thusly, I wear ski mountaineering boots. I currently don’t have a pair of water proof, warm, hikeable boots. I need to get these, and spend some quality time breaking them in.
- Fleece/Synthetic pants- I need clarification on this item. I’m not sure if I’m looking for a downfill pant or something else. They need to be full zip, and I’m guessing pile works.
- Shell pants- The theme of this post seems to be my bottom half lacking necessary equipment (don’t make that into a joke). I have solid bib shell pants, but I don’t think that’s the type of pants that should be lugged up the mountain.
- Glacier glasses- Function over fashion, right? I have good wrap around polarized perscription sunnys that should work for this UNLESS glacier glasses are absolutely necessary.
- Closed cell foam pad- I will also use my self-inflating Exped SynMat Basic 7.5, but in addition to this I need a closed cell foam pad as a ground layer. Should be easy and cheap to pick up.
That’s it for gear I’m lacking.