Tuesday, September 09, 2008

8000m Challenge - Complete!

The Jansport 8000m Challenge (3 Mountain Challenge) was last Thursday. It's an event that Jansport has been putting on for the last 12 years for it's vendors. We randomly signed up this year. It's a team event where each team member runs the whole course. The rules are each team could have up to 13 people finish. Everyone had to do the entire course (there were check-ins at the top and bottom of each peak). That's pretty much it.

The course included three peaks in the Palm Springs, CA area. The entire course was about 40 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical gain and loss. The first peak, Mt. Baldy, was 12 miles and 3800 feet vert. The second was San Gorgonio, measuring in at 17 miles and 5500 feet of vert. The third was San Jacinto, coming in at 11 miles and about 2600 feet of vert. The top elevations were about 10,000 ft, 11,000 ft, and 10,000 ft, respectively.

The race started at 5:00 am at the base of Mt. Baldy. The strategy was to start out fast to get ahead of the pack and dust bowl of 170 people running up a dirt road. The course started with a small section of asphalt, then a turn onto a dirt road, from which the single-track trail branched off. When we hit the dirt road there was only 3-4 people in front of myself and four others from my team. Our plan backfired when the people in front of us go far enough ahead that they got onto the trail and out of site by the time we came up to it. We (Jamon, Cathy, Brendan, Chris, and I) completely missed it and kept going up the road. We realized our mistake and about 35 minutes later we had back tracked and were on the trail. We figured it was an extra two miles or so to the race. I made it up to the top of Mt. Baldy in 1 hr and 22 minutes from the time we hit the trail and back down (all the way to car) in 49 minutes. With a quarter of the miles, a quarter of the vert, and one peak down, four us piled into the minivan and headed to Gorgonio.

About a 90 minute drive put us at the base of Gorgonio. This was to the motherload, the crux, of the day. Measuring up at 17 miles and 5500 vert, during the heat of the day (Palm Springs was 107 that day) was a very daunting challenge. I loaded up on water, sports drink, electrolyte drink, and snacks and hit the trail with Jamon, Jim, and Seth. Gorgonio was relentless, starting off with a steep switchback section in the first mile. After that the trail mellowed out for a few miles, heading up a ravine passed lush vegetation and massive trees (if there's one thing California has done right, it's the redwoods. Those things are amazing). I kept up a steady pace for most of the way. After the ravine came more switchbacks, followed by a short ridge, steep hiking, false summits, and finally the summit. I made it up in 3 hrs and 24 minutes. After refueling with liquid and food it was time to get going. The downhill was going to be the crux of the crux. It was a long way down, my legs were tired and cramping, and I had to go fast to catch up with the group (Jim, Jamon, Cathy, Colby) ahead of me so I can get in their van for the next peak (if I missed them I would be waiting at the car upwards of an hour or longer for the next group). I put in the headphones, cranked the tunes and started down. I ran for almost and hour and forty minutes before I caught the group (they were movin'!). 5500 ft of vertical loss takes a toll on your legs. Thankfully I made the right call and used trekking poles on this one. I got down in 2 hours and 39 minutes.

We immediately jumped in the van and headed to Jacinto. Jacinto is interesting. You have to take a tram from the base up the mountain to get passed the lower section that is virtually impassable (or so I hear). From the top of the tram its 11 miles and about 2600 feet to the summit. We had time constraints to catch the tram up and the last tram down was at 9:45 pm. You could camp up top, but we didn't want to because the lure of a shower and bed was strong.

It took us about 80 minutes to get from Gorgonio to the tram. Once at the top we started making our way to the peak. We knew we had plenty of time of took a slower pace (Jim and Jamon went ahead running while Cathy, Colby, and I power hiked). Our legs were all feeling very tired so we kept a pace that would get back to the tram with time to spare. It took 1 hr and 54 minutes to make it to the summit and 1 hr and 54 minutes to make it to the tram. On our way back down there was a guy at the camp making soup for everyone. I grabbed a cup on my way by and the warm, salty broth tasted amazing! About half a mile from the tram I looked at my watch and realized if we hustled we could make the finish in under 16 hours.

All counted I did about 42 miles and 12,000 feet of vert in 15 hours and 57 minutes (that includes about 2.5 hours of drive time). It was the longest distance and most vert I have ever done. It was also the most challenging event, both mentally and physically, I have ever done. The shower afterwards and bed were amazing. Even more amazing was the pancake, egg, home fry, bacon, and sausage breakfast the next morning. My IT bands are worked, but I was only sore for a few days (I was completely surprised). Would I do it again? Definitely. Will I line up other ultra events? Definitely.

Here's some pics (I am waiting for more & all photos in the slide show are courtesy of Jim Holland) and a short video (you see my back a lot, I'm wearing a green shirt, blue pack, and tracking poles) of the race. Enjoy.


Mrs. Olsen said...

Wow. That's crazy! We used to hike those mountains, but only one a day for us, please. :)

Jessica said...

Hey, congrats on the baby girl! And congrats on all the racing, that is pretty amazing. Sorry we missed you at the Grill and Chill, it wasn't the same without you guys.

Jessica said...

Man, this guy sounds awesome. Maybe I'll see if he wants to get a Papa John's pizza tonight? :)

John said...

How did you "randomly" sign up for this event? I am curious as I'm not affiliated with one of Jansport's vendors, but would like to participate in this challenge in '09. Congratulations on completing this adventure race - this is a major accomplishment.