Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mt. Finlayson Madness

July 16, 2011

I heard about this charity event though facebook and it peaked my interest. Not only does the money raised go to some good causes, but it also served an enticing challenge for me. I've always wondered how many summits I could do in a row - the most I'd ever done before was 4 (two from from the front and two from the back). This was the perfect opportunity to test my mettle. The event challenged participants to see how many summits they could do in 12 hours (8am-8pm).

To prep, I packed a whole large duffel with food and drink: bagels, sandwiches, jujubes, hard boiled eggs, potato chips, steamed potatoes, bars, gels, carrots, water, Gatorade, etc. I basically didn't know what I would feel like to so I came prepared. I also brought another bag with extra changes of clothes and shoes.

Unfortunately, when I got up in the morning to head out to the mountain, it was raining and looked like it had been all night. Descending on Mt. Finlayson is not fun when it is wet as it is quite technical. I came very close to heading back to bed for a few hours to see if it would dry up, but I decided to go for it anyway. If it was totally miserable, I could always just do a few summits and then head home, but if I didn't go for the 8am start I wouldn't have the chance to go for the full 12 hours.

I arrived with a little spare time and signed up and got my number. It was still raining. Two other runners I knew were also there: Hayden Earle and Rob Goetze so we started out together just after 8am. Since the plan was to go for 12 hours, I knew that being conservative was extremely important. If it didn't feel ridiculously easy to start with then I was going too fast. The first climb took about 26 min and the first descent about 19 min for a total of 45 min. I was soaked within a half an hour and going down the wet rocks wasn't too fun, but the shoes I used fortunately had pretty good traction. Throughout the day, I didn't take exact splits for my climbs since I spent some time eating, drinking, changing socks, etc. and the top and the bottom and didn't record those transition times. I continued climbing with Hayden and Rob for the couple of more summits, completed in a similar time. During the 3rd and 4th climbs, however, first Rob and then Hayden started to slow on the climbs and I grabbed my mp3 player and headed out solo. I continued at that steady pace, making the return trip in 45-50min including the transitions - not fast, but consistent and something I felt I could sustain for the duration.

A few climbs in. Hayden Earle, myself, and Rob Goetze

I had to stop for a few minutes after about half a dozen summits to change socks and apply some moleskin on my left heel which was suffering some rubbing due to a shoe that wasn't tight enough. One thing I had forgotten was moleskin, but a friendly volunteer had some that she gratefully let be have. I was also getting a bit of groin chafing from being so ended up changing my shorts to a dry pair. It helped a bit, but still continued to annoy me.

Garth Campbell joined me for reps 8 & 9 and it was nice to have company for a bit during the long day. Over 40 people did at least 1 hike throughout the day and there were a couple of other full day participants other than myself. Other the the chafing, things were feeling quite good and I wasn't really suffering much so I knew that my pace had been conservative enough for me to survive the day. After 10 summits though, the downhills started to be uncomfortable. The quad muscles used for braking (required a lot on this mountain) were starting to fatigue out and running downhill started to be hurt.

I did some time calculations and figured that I could definitely do 14 summits as long as I didn't totally crack. So with that in mind, I pushed on, knowing exactly what I had to do. I'd been drinking and eating and felt very solid for energy. My times continued to stay fairly consistent although I did slow a minute or two on the descents. On my 12th decent, I went down with Hayden who was finishing his 10th and final summit. He suffered during some of the middle reps, but finished strong and ended up doing more summits than most sane people. At that point, I kind of wished I was finished as well. Even though I knew I could do more, I was getting to the point that I didn't really want to. I saw Chris Calendar a few times near the end as he was volunteering for a couple of hours at the summit.

It was a relief to finally be on my last summit. Surprisingly enough, my climbing legs still felt pretty good, and I was able to push the last climb, actually clocking my fastest time of under 21 minutes from the parking lot to the top. Still feeling so strong after so much climbing meant that I probably could have pushed the climbs a little harder and still maintained to the end. I know for sure that if I really wanted to I could actually do 15 more more summits on a dry day, pushing a bit harder on the climbs, and being more efficient on my transitions. Weather I even want to try again is another question...four days out and my legs are still quite sore.

Thanks to Andrew and Lisa for organizing this event. Hopefully next year the weather will cooperate.


A few stats:
11:19 total time on the mountain
14 summits
Horizontal Distance: 56km
Elevation Gain: 5,600m
Elevation Loss: 5,600m

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