Tuesday, November 18, 2014

World's Toughest Mudder 2014

Lake Las Vegas was the venue this year for World's Toughest Mudder. A lot of people were excited for the warmer weather and milder conditions, myself included and boy were we mistaken. 
Hot weather during the day on Saturday made it tough to stay hydrated, and when the sun went down it got cold and windy. Very windy. 45 mph winds mixed with the dry desert terrain made for quite a sandstorm. My tent collapsed but luckily I had enough gear and rocks holding it down that it didn't blow away. It was so cold with the wind chill that as soon as I got out of any water obstacle where my head went under I got a brain freeze even with a full wetsuit and 5mm hood. Just the wind blowing on my nose and forehead was enough to freeze my head.The sandstorm made it difficult to breathe so I put a bandanna over my nose and mouth, but it also made it difficult to see so I wish I had brought clear swim goggles. When the sun came up in the morning it was definitely a big morale boost but it didn't get much warmer and was still windy. 


This year I did a lot of longer sustained exercise for my training. I would try to exercise for an hour or two every night of the week and I would do one long training run on the weekend. I would go for a trail run or hike and stop every five minutes to do some exercise to simulate an obstacle. My longest training run before the race was a 45 mile hike in 16 hours running 5 minutes out of every hour and obstacle simulation every 5 minutes. 

Race Breakdown:

I walked the first five laps at a pretty good pace with very limited rest between laps. I would stop to eat a peanut butter sandwich or muffin, drink a gatorade, and eat a can of fruit. As you can imagine I was very full but it paid off later because I had a lot of energy through the night and into the morning. I was just wearing running shorts and a running shirt for the first four laps. I changed into a half wetsuit before my fifth lap as it was getting cold, and it wasn't enough. I changed into my full wetsuit after my fifth lap and put on my neoprene socks, gloves, and hood. Laps six and seven were pretty comfortable as far as my core temperature but then it started to get very windy and very cold. I got back to my tent after lap seven and it was completely collapsed. I didn't even try to set it back up. My food was close to the door so I reached in, got some gatorade and a dehydrated backpacking meal. It was nice to get something warm into my body and definitely gave me some morale to get out there and get a few more laps in. After lap eight I had another muffin and can of peaches. After lap nine I had a cup of noodles. After lap ten I was hitting the wall. I went back to my tent, set it back up, took off my wetsuit, dried off, and got in my sleeping bag. I had a bunch of hand warmers with me in my sleeping bag and after half an hour I had stopped shivering and was starting to warm up. By this time the sky was starting to get light so I dug deep, put my other dry half wetsuit, and headed out for maybe another lap or two. On that 11th lap I was starting to feel a second wind. I started running the flat and the downhill and I finished in an hour and seventeen minutes. After that lap I was doing the math and realized if I kept up that pace I could start my 14th lap just before the cutoff and hit that 70 mile mark. I grabbed a gatorade out of my tent and chugged it on my way across the starting line. I finished my 13th lap at 9:56 am and just kept running and started that last lap at 9:59. Now all I needed to do was finish that lap before noon. I was still feeling strong on that lap and finished at 11:32 am. I didn't think that I needed a pit crew, but after seeing all the help the other athletes were getting I realized how nice it would be and how much time it would save between laps. Also cleaning up my pit area after and taking two trips to and from the parking area half a mile away seemed harder than completing another lap. 

Clothing List:
running shorts x2
running shirts x2
short sleeve compression shirts x2
long sleeve compression shirts x2
compression shorts x2
compression leggings x2
runnings socks x5
mesh back running hat
running shoes x2
2mm shorty wetsuit x2
3/2mm full wetsuit
tall neoprene socks x4
3mm long neoprene gloves x2
5mm neoprene hood
swim cap

Gear List:
9'x7' 4 person tent
10'x8' tarp
camp chair
sleeping bag
space blanked 
space sleeping bag
18 hour hand warmers
first aid kit
towels x5
athletic tape
duct tape
baby wipes
waterproof headlamp x3
strobe flashers x3
foam roller

Food List:
peanut butter
loaf of bread
blueberry muffins
canned peaches x3
canned pears x3
cup of noodles x3
dehydrated backpacking meals x2
24 ounce gatorades x16

Course Breakdown:
There were 26 obstacles depending on how you count it.

1. Walk through a muddy swamp

2. Crawl under tight net over three rows of tires

3. Mud Mile

4. Inverted Wall climb

5. Vertical Wall climb

6. Vertical Wall climb with rope

7. Guess the weight

8. The pit

9. The Birth Canal - army crawl under tarp full of water

10. Island Hopping

11. Underwater Barrels or Statue of Liberty at Night

12. Everest

13. The Grappler

14. Abseil - climb down a cliff using a rope

15. The Liberator - angled peg board

16. More Island Hopping

17. Swim and Slippery Wall

18. Ladder to Hell

19. Pipe Crawl

20. The Gamble - roll for a free pass or a choice between 
electoshock and uphill barbed wire crawl

21. The Swinger - jump to the handle, swing to reach the bell

22. Pipe Crawl

23. Grabbin' Shaft - monkey bars to trapeze swing to pipe traverse

24. Sewage Drop - barbed wire crawl to uphill pipe crawl drop into water
 25. The Cliff

26. Cargo Net Climb

A big thanks to TMHQ for putting this all together. Thanks to all of the volunteers who were out there at the obstacles and aid stations all through the day and night. And a special thanks to all the competitors out there who lent a hand on an obstacle or were kind enough to have a conversation along the course in the middle of the night to help keep me sane. I couldn't have done it without you.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Squeeze

Check out this short video edit descending The Squeeze
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One of two natural bridges in The Squeeze

Potholes, potholes, potholes

Cool chokestone over one of the potholes

Map of the route

Potholes are the name of the game in this canyon.

It had just rained the day before we descended the canyon so everything was full of water to capacity. When one of us would get into a pothole, water would be pouring out the other side. 

Even under these conditions, the canyon was still challenging. I personally would not have wanted to bring anyone along who wasn't experienced. In dry conditions I imagine it would be quite a challenge. 

We started our day from the Hidden Splendor Airstrip and hiked through the Muddy River Gorge which was a beautiful hike. 

It added 2.5 miles onto the trip each way which may not be the best option if you're attempting this canyon mid summer. We each had two liters of water but could have used double that. The muddy river looks like a greyish brown paint so there was no pumping that. There was a small stream running from the exit of The Squeeze down to the muddy river which was mostly clear but I don't know if that is there all the time or only after it rains. 
The hike once you leave the river to the start of the canyon is long and very exposed (to the sun). It's not terribly steep but you will definitely feel it carrying all your gear uphill. We did this canyon the second week of July and didn't need wetsuits of any kind. I would recommend spring or fall however during which times you will undoubtedly need wetsuits. 

We did seven rappels in the canyon, but I've heard of groups doing as many as seventeen. 

We just set up a quick hand line for many of the drops as most were 10 feet or less. It seemed like every drop over five feet had a bolt placed above it barring a few natural anchors.

From the approach we used, our total time was about 13.5 hours. We were taking our time on the approach hike through the Muddy River Gorge, exploring the mine and such. 

We also took our time going through the canyon, testing our 
climbing skills by trying to stay out of as many potholes as possible. 
This is to say, it can be done faster. 


For full details and directions including GPS waypoints, join the circle of Friends at climb-utah.com

Make sure you have the right gear for the current conditions and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Constrychnine Canyon

Sequential video edit descending Constrychnine Canyon.
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Constrychnine is full of rappels, downclimbing, stemming, and very deep, dark slots. 

It is located in the Poison Springs area about 20 miles south of Hanksville, Utah. It is six miles off the highway on well maintained dirt roads. My Toyota Camry made it to the trailhead without any issues.

Looking down into Constrychnine before the start.

Constrychnine Canyon has a 190 foot rappel which is one of the longest of any slot canyon in the area. If the webbing is rigged so it's right at the start of the cliff (which makes it much easier to pull your rope), it is probably more like 170 feet. 
Midway through the longest rappel.

We did four rappels in total but you may do as many as seven, or as few as three depending on your ability and how well you know the canyon. 
This rappel could have been downclimbed but it was dark 
and we couldn't see how it looked below until we rappelled down.

This first rappel can be done with a single 60m rope if the 
webbing is rigged just off the edge of the cliff.

There was only one area in the canyon where we were forced
 to get wet and the water was up to about mid thigh.

Just after finishing the technical section.

If you do Slideanide or Constrychnine this is your turn off 
of the main streambed to go up Arscenic (left) and exit.

The exit hike goes right past this arch.

Driving the sandy road in my Camry.

There are three canyons which all share the same trailhead and exit hike. Arscenic is the shortest distance from the trailhead followed by Slideanide and finally Constrychnine. 

When we went through the canyon there was no trail for the approach hike or the exit hike so make sure to use a GPS and drop into the right canyon. It's possible the rains washed the trail away over the winter, but I'd guess these canyons don't get a lot of traffic. 

There are a few places to camp along the way to the trailhead. The trailhead is probably the best spot which isn't saying much. For explicit route information including GPS waypoints, join the "Circle of Friends" at climb-utah.com.