The Chances

How a 250+ Pound Couch Potato Got Healthy

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mt. Shasta 7/1/12 to 7/2/12

I started a new job a while back, and one of the first things I mentioned was that sometime this summer, I was going to climb Mt. Shasta. Immediately David, who I work with, piped up and said he was interested in going.

To say David is fit is an understatement: he works out 7 days a week for a couple hours at a time. Needless to say, I didn't say no.

So when Al told me the tentative dates for a Shasta climb, David came onboard. Originally we were going to climb on June 24, but a week before, I dropped a heavy computer on my toe and had to postpone. As luck would have it, the weather wasn't good for a climb that weekend anyway, so Al ended up cancelling the trip.

Day One
Rini met Al at his house, they picked up David, and met me at 6am. We took the long drive up to Shasta City, grabbed our gear at 5th Season, and drove to the Bunny Flat trailhead.

A bit of background, I originally attempted to summit Shasta two years ago, but turned around at the top of the Red Banks. Rini was with us on that trip, but didn't summit either.

In 2011, I went with Al to Shasta, but due to my bone bruise, only made it to Horse Camp before turning around. I ended up waiting in Al's van until they made it back, and yes, both he and the other person we went up with summited on that trip.

Needless to say, I had to finish the job. When we got to Horse Camp, I felt great, and had none of the pain that kept me sidelined the year before. We ate lunch there, and took care of whatever boot issues we were having at the time. David had a few hotspots, as did Al, who was breaking in new boots he'd purchased.

Once finished with lunch, we were on our way up the trail towards Lake Helen, and making pretty good time.

David was having some issues with his boots, saying his shins were hurting, so Al stopped to help him. Rini took a more difficult route up a snow bank, while the rest of us hiked up the switchbacks. As we were on our way up, people were glissading down the bank that Rini was hiking up. This was a guided group from 5th Season, who had gone up the day before.

In my 2010 trip, we didn't have any snow to cross until Lake Helen, at 10,500 feet. This year, however, the snow started at the beginning of the switchbacks, making it a lot faster (but more difficult) to climb. Al was in the front, digging his crampons into the snow, while the rest of us followed in his footsteps, so to speak. This gave us a more solid footing.

Once at Lake Helen, we set up our base camp.

At some point over the past few years, the rangers on Shasta decided that there was too much human waste being spread around, so in addition to their requirement to pack solid waste out, they set up designated restroom areas. They even put up signs to direct people.



Before boiling water for our dinner, Al wanted to go over climbing and glissading techniques before it got too late. We did this for about a half hour, and David started having elevation issues. His head started to hurt, and he was having a slight problem with expressing himself, both problem signs. As we made our dinner, David rested in the tent. As the sun was setting and the temperatures started to drop, I joined him. Al, of course, felt it necessary to document the event.

Day Two
I didn't sleep very soundly, which isn't an indicator of anything except the fact that I rarely sleep soundly when away from home. Al woke us up at 2am, and we dragged our sorry selves out of bed to gather our gear and have breakfast.

After much effort, at 4am we were off! At a snail's pace because, of course, it was steep AND we were at an elevation none of us were very acclimated to. Before we even started up, David was having similar problems to the night before. He finally decided to stay behind at base camp.

After about an hour, I started having trouble with the crampon attached to my left foot, which had detached from the boot. I reattached it (a chore that took 20 minutes at least), but a short time later, it happened again. I finally had to readjust the thing so it would stay put.

As the sun started to rise, the famous shadow that Mt. Shasta cast on the terrain was visible. It was quite a sight. In this picture, notice how small the climbers are below.

It got really steep closer to the Red Banks, so steep that we found it easier to just trace the steps of the climbers who had gone before us. They had created switchbacks in the snow and ice to the point where it almost (and I do mean almost) didn't feel like climbing anymore. It was a longer path, but beat heading straight up the mountain.

As we got to the top of the Red Banks, Rini sort of wandered off by herself, while Al and I hiked together. We crossed the snow bridge and took a 15-minute break right around 11:30. I took video from there with a friend's GoPro camera, but have been having difficulty getting it to YouTube for sharing purposes.

As we finished our snack and started to move on, Rini rounded the corner to where the snow bridge was. Al told her to take 20 as we kept going.

As with many other mountains, from the Avalanche Gulch route (and for that matter, from Shasta City), you can't see the peak. In fact, there are two false summits, the first of which took 20 or 30 minutes to get reach from the snow bridge. This was our first glimpse of Misery Hill.

Misery Hill took 45 minutes to climb. It was another opportunity for a break, and for my GPS batteries to die. Wouldn't you know it? I had left my spare batteries back at base camp. After a good amount of begging, someone gave me a couple of AA's.

Summit Plateau had an interesting terrain, which reminded me of some science fiction film I'd seen at some point or another.

Rocks! Yes, Summit Plateau was the second false summit. What's interesting to me is that the trail to the summit had been shoveled to a nice path. We were met with the smiling faces of all the people who had previously been in front of us as we climbed.

The top of the mountain was mostly rocks, which were difficult to climb. There was a couple taking pictures at the summit of the woman doing a plank on the guy's legs. I waited for them, and when they were done, I climbed the rocks. Just before noon, we were on the summit!

Two years after my first attempt, I finally made it to the summit. My second 14'er!

After signing the logbook, we headed back down. The original plan was to glissade from the bottom of Misery Hill, but it just wasn't safe enough to do so. We hiked back the same way we came up, and glissaded down starting at the end of the snow bridge.

45 minutes later, we were back at Lake Helen. David had watched us glissade some of the way, and told us that he had spent a good amount of time talking to the people in the tents next to us. That was a good thing, since we were probably gone 6 hours after he woke up.

We were able to glisade another half mile or so, which made the hike back a lot easier. David was still having boot issues, so Al let him use one of his poles. Rini went ahead of us at a pace probably twice that of what we had.

Once back at the trailhead, we drove back to Shasta City, dropped our equipment at 5th Season, then had dinner at the Black Bear Diner. The next morning, David told me all about how he can't wait to make another summit attempt. I just might tag along when the time comes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

You did what?

Change is afoot.

Not being able to run as much as I would like has caused me to rethink things like fitness and how to get to where I want to be. Where do I want to be? As healthy and fit as I can, but that's pretty ill-defined. I think I'll figure it out when I get there.

In the meantime, things have been changing a bit, and now seems the perfect time to get back to the blog. I should have done this when I started Crossfit, but that's fine. I started Crossfit!

I've been going since August, and it's made a huge difference. When I started, I weighed 182 pounds and was about 18% body fat. All these months later, I'm 162.4 and 13.9%. But that's not all, I've lost 2.5" around the chest, 5" around the waist (around the navel), and 4.5" around the hips. Apparently Crossfit works.

Just before Christmas, I lost my job of 11 years. I was able to find another one after a few months, and they're extremely positive about being fit, working out, running, and just spending time staying healthy. This makes lunchtime a lot easier.

It only took me a year to figure out that if I completely backed off running, I might heal. I've been feeling quite a bit better, so I've started running a little bit. A few miles at first, but the past few weeks I've run 5 miles, 3 times per week without pain. But that's not all.

Yesterday, I bought a road bike, my first bike since Chico State 20 years ago, and a road bike at that. I've never owned a road bike before, so this is a new experience for me.

It's a 2011 Specialized Secteur, and I'm extremely pleased with it so far! I can't help thinking how much I couldn't believe spending $450 on my mountain bike way back when, but it served me well for more than 15 years. I didn't blink an eye at spending $850 for this one.

Today, I brought it with me to work and rode at lunch. With great nervousness, I let the Garmin sync, and waved at people as they drove out the parking lot while I stood there like a big doof. My worries went away the minute I hit the road.

I really enjoyed myself! Of course, there are quite a few differences from running, and I had a plenty of observation along the way.

Spin Class Training: Over the past year or two, I went to spin class pretty regular. Lately it's slacked off, but it's really interesting how the instructors telling us, "OK, there's a hill, add a gear", helped out on a real bike. In my previous life with a bike as primary transportation, I never would have stood on the pedals, but doing so in spin class made it second nature to gear up and stand up during the course of hills. It made a huge difference!

Garmin: It took me about 5 minutes to figure out how to switch sports! No wonder they had to update models, what a pain. I know where it is now, but it was anything but intuitive to make the switch. After running, I realized that changing sports changes the entire profile of the unit, which meant Auto Laps were turned off. BOO!

Sporttracks: I need a cadence sensor, that's all there is to it. The Calculate Power function seemed pretty reliable while running, but on the bike, it got confused and converted the 598 calories reported by the 305 to 245. 245 calories for an hour of work, plus wind and hills? I don't think so!

Handlebars: I spent a good amount of time figuring out where I wanted to hold my hands the majority of the time. I tried going down low in the wind and up hills, but the problem was the brakes were such a distance to apply from that position that it was uncomfortable for me. Braking was fine in the upright position, but of course, I wasn't exactly aerodynamic that way.

Hydration: It was windy, but I couldn't believe how thirsty I got! That was a problem, because I had trouble getting the water bottle out of the holster and up to my mouth for a drink while in the midst of riding. That particular problem can be resolved with practice, but also while wearing a hydration pack.

Gears: Surprisingly intuitive! At the bike shop, they demonstrated how to downshift by turning the brake handle, and upshifting by pressing the thumb button, but I was afraid I'd have trouble downshifting while riding. As it turns out, I was able to shift with my right pinky pretty fast. I also found that downshifting BEFORE stopping at a light is important. At one point there was a longish (1/4-mile, maybe longer) hill, which I'd added a heavy gear and was standing on the pedals with. I stopped at the top where the light was, but had forgotten to shift, so I thought ok, better shift. Mmm, not the best idea while at a stop, and when the red light changed, guess what happened? Yup, the gears switched and here I was, in the middle of an intersection (and traffic), trying frantically to get going again! Learning experience. :)

Pedals: Sometime in the near future I'll need to go clipless. I found myself quite a few times not pedaling, but sort of STEPPING on the pedals. I caught myself and changed the behavior, but attaching my feet to the pedals would make a big difference, plus add the ability to lift while pedaling.

In the end, I rode 12.15 miles in 56:54, at an average of 12.8MPH. There were a lot of stop signs and lights, which tells me that a work commute could easily average 14MPH.

I also recently found out that GAP (Gauche Aquatic Park) in Yuba City is open year round with a heated olympic pool. Interesting...

That's it for now. I'll have lots to talk about in the coming weeks.