Friday, January 30, 2009


Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Argentina... flying via JFK and Buenos Aires to Mendoza. About a 24hr journey altogether so we arrive Sunday evening local time. A day to sort stuff out and then the trek begins...

I am pretty excited about it. Especially now that I have finally got everything packed! And it did feel rather nice putting my out of office on my email :)

Cerro Aconcagua
Looks quite benign from this angle. All 6962m of it...

For anyone interested I thought I'd post the day-to-day itinerary:

Feb 1 (Sun): Arrive in Mendoza, hotel

Feb 2 (Mon): Sort Gear and get permit, transport to Pentitentes (2720 meters), hotel

Feb 3 (Tues): Drive to Punta de Vacas, hike 8k to Las Lenas (2700m), easy trail, mules carry baggage (this part I like), camping

Feb 4: Hike 18k to Casa de Piedra (3200m), easy trail, mules carry baggage, camping

Feb 5: Hike 15k to basecamp, "Plaza Argentina" (4200m), steep trail walking, mules carry baggage, camping

Feb 6: Rest in basecamp

Feb 7: Carry loads (what, no mules?) to Camp 1 (5000m), scree and melted ice mixed with rocks, 4-6 hour hike, return to basecamp

Feb 8: Rest day in basecamp

Feb 9: Return to Camp 1

Feb 10: Carry loads to Camp 2 (5900m), scree and melted ice mixed with rocks, 6-7 hour hike, return to Camp 1

Feb 11: Return to Camp 2.

Feb 12: Rest in Camp 2; prepare for summit attempt

Feb 13: Climb Traverse to connect with normal route at Independencia to Summit (6962m), descend via Normal Route and traverse back to Camp 2

Feb 15-16: Extra days allowed for inclement weather/acclimatization, as well as for multiple ascents of the mountain (yeah!)

Feb 17: Descend to basecamp, Plaza Argentina

Feb 18: Descend to Punta de Vacas, transport to Pentitentes

Feb 19 (Thurs): Back to Mendoza

Feb 20 (Fri): Mendoza

Feb 21 (Sat): Fly Mendoza-Santiago-Dallas-Mpls

And as I head south, a few others are heading north... to the Canadian border... to the Arrowhead Trail... to compete in one of the most challenging events anywhere in the world:

Good Luck & Be Safe!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Running on Snow...

... is so much fun! After a last bit of mountain-trip shopping at Midwest Mountaineering today I decided to head out to Afton for a few hours on the trails. It was a fabulous run. The snow was packed but not hard or icy. Started out with the snowshoe loop, back to the car for water, then followed the race course for several miles down around the loop at AS#1 and back up on the open prairie. Cold but no wind at all. Perfect conditions for a winter run. Back to the car again for water and a few clif blocks and then the snowshoe loop again. Ended up running for 2.5hrs so I'm guessing around 15 miles or so. Felt good though I'm having a few issues with right heel and ankle area. Not really painful but definitely some tenderness there.

Today's run ended the week at 42 miles, the most since IM in November, after getting in a nice 2hr run in much different conditions on Friday. I was in Sligo for the day after a few days work in Galway. Weather wasn't the best with a mix of hail, rain, wind and sun - sunny showers as the weatherman would say. But the views more than made up for it... ran from the pretty seaside town of Strandhill into Sligo town and back, with a detour up towards Knocknarea on the return leg. Despite the overcast day the views of Sligo Bay and across to Ben Bulben were fabulous. Ended up at 14 miles and felt like I was keeping a decent pace for most of it.

Finished off the weekend with a swim this evening. Tanya and Pam were in the pool also so the time flew by. And the cold water felt great after today's run.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bitterly cold?

Q: When does running in 4 degrees feel good?

A: When it’s on the centigrade scale.

Back in Ireland for the week where the weatherman’s “bitterly cold” means it might get below freezing so wrap up warm if you absolutely have to leave the house. Mind you the near constant rain sort of balances the mild temperatures so that it doesn't actually seem any better than Mpls!

But I was lucky to hit on a break in the clouds and even had some sunshine for a run on Sunday evening. I stopped off on my way from the airport to home at the park where I did a lot of my training for the Dublin marathon in '04. I remember all the mile markers that I clocked in my car so was pleasantly surprised to be able to average 7:15's. I was sucking wind but it felt good to push it without the risk of freezing the back of my throat!

In Galway now for work and got out with Dee this evening for my first track session in about 2 years. After a mile or so of warm up we did 6 x 800's at around 6:30 pace with a 90 second rest, and then a few miles cool down.

Now, back to Obamamania - full on coverage of the big day here also. Of course, with his Irish roots I wouldn't have expected anything less!!

Stay warm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Need more sleep?

I had a wonderful unplanned sleep-in this morning (guess I forgot to set the alarm) - resulting in about 3hrs more sleep than usual. So I missed my run (not to mention a meeting or two...) and decided to hit the gym after work instead. And had a wonderful 7 mile run (in the sense that running my first sub-8's since Nov felt smooth). And then a solid 2000 yard swim. Felt totally energized. Which got me thinking that maybe I would benefit from more sleep than I am used to (~6hrs). Which means I should be in bed already for a 5am start... but that would mean missing the Daily Show. Not sure I'd be able sleep!

Check out the 2008 Ultra Runners of the Year:

Congrats to Joe Z getting his name in there!

For me, 2008 will be remembered for Kyle Skaggs performance at Hardrock. I think we all look forward to see what he is capable of in the years to come. Considering both #1 slots went to 41 year-old runners (Jorge Pacheco & Kami Semick) I suspect the 23 year-old's best years are yet to come.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Famous last words...

During his last press conference in office President Bush made a wonderfully defining statement in his opening comments this morning:

"Sometimes you have misunderestimated me..."

One wonders why.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I am officially knackered. What a weekend. Got outside quite a bit ahead of the week to come. -2 for a high? I guess on the bright side anything will feel like Spring after that...

Some more snowshoeing fun - Saturday at Afton and today at Hyland. I carried my pack for Argentina both days (though it's only about half as heavy as it will be for the trek) and wore my new hiking boots. Good thing I have a few weeks to break them in... they are a good fit and I am sure they'll work out great but I ended up with 2 huge heel blisters after yesterday and despite being well bandaged today the skin came completely off! Lovely.

It's been a while since my heels looked this bad - probably last summer playing soccer back in Ireland with my sister's team in boots 2 sizes too small. But I'll bandage them up and just try to wear the boots a lot the next few weeks. Toughen 'em up...

Between the snowshowing, another decent run this morning, a 3hr spin yesterday morning, and a threshold (for me at least) swim this evening the legs are well and truly fatigued. No, I haven't suddenly started to enjoy biking to go along with the swimming (no more IMs for me, really...) but Tanya is off to New Zealand in early March to do the Ironman there so I said I would keep her company for some of the long indoor rides. Though I think my limit will be 4hrs! Casey & Anthony (fellow IM AZ folks) are spending the next 3 months touring NZ and are also doing the IM so Tanya is taking a trip out there for the race and a vacation. Sweet!! I had the chance to visit Taupo, where the race is held, last year while I was on hols in NZ - fab, fab location for a race.

I was pleasantly surprised by the temperature when I popped my head outside this morning before heading off to meet Bronywn and the girls for a run around the Lakes. I think we got in around 9 miles - felt pretty good though I am having a bit of pain along the outside of my left heel just under the ankle bone. I think it started yesterday at spin or maybe it was running on Friday. Both inner and outer sides are a little tender on both feet so I'll just have to take care of that. I am blaming everything on tight calves these days and it seems plausible here also... more stretching and strengthening should help.

You learn something new everyday... I am a terrible speller so if I'm writing a word I don't use too often I'll check it on - never really thought about the origin of the word 'plausible' - though I guess it seems kinda obvious now...

Origin: 1535–45
plausibilis deserving applause, equiv. to plaus(us) (ptp. of plaudere to applaud ) + -ibilis -ible

In other news I managed to continue to spend an inordinate amount of money on gear for my trip. I had better climb a mountain every year for many years to come in order to get my money's worth! At least it's a good time to be buying gear with all the sales. And if I have to be giving money away it may as well be to two great stores... Midwest Mountaineering and REI.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Races, races, races...

It feels like there's been an explosion of local races this year - both trail and road. Check out Steve's blog for the Fab 5 Fifties races and also the UMTR website for the full details on the local trail series'. And then there's the new road marathons in Stillwater and Minneapolis. Although... I have decided to opt for Grandma's! The timing works much better for me given that I will need some recovery from Chippewa and then a decent stretch of speed and tempo work as well as the long runs. Hopefully I'll find a few other willing souls to split the ridiculous cost of 2 nights hotel...

I've been getting back into the swing of more regular workouts this week. The early mornings have not been as bad as I expected though I am making a better effort to get to bed early so that helps. Still not running much which suits me just fine right now. I might venture outdoors later today if the temps creep up to 20. Swimming has been going well, which continues to surprise me. Some days the strength training gets easier and other days lifting the same weight as the previous day seems impossible... but I'm finally able do more than a few girly push-ups so something must be working! As for spin... I nearly died last night. Thursday's 2hr class includes stair running and walking lunges and whatever else Johnny J decides to throw in the mix. We did a 30 minute time trial also to get a baseline for the year. Even though I most likely won't do any triathlon this year it's a killer workout and since he's great with teaching form I feel like I'm building good overall strength with very low injury risk. Having said that my shoulder hurt like hell going to bed last night. I think the aero position for the time trial did me in. But an adjustment this morning seemed to release it. Often I find no difference when I get an adjustment but something definitely moved the right way today.

It's snowing a little now - some nice fresh power for the weekend... Snow shoeing is on the cards again. I think I'll strap on the backpack this time and get some training in for the big mountain hike.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Top 100 100s

Congrats to all the locals who made the Top 100 finishes of the year - Wynn, John S, John M & Julie! Nice work folks.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Let it Snow...

As pretty as the white carpet looked when I got back to Minneapolis earlier this week (after a not-at-all white Christmas in Ireland) I was soon complaining when I had to clear my icy steps (my very kind neighbours took care of the footpath while I was out of town). But this weekend I had a blast snow shoeing 3 times in Hyland Park so I'm all about more snow...

After sweating more than I thought possible at Johnny J's 2hr spin yesterday morning, I headed out with Val and Ginger, her golden lab, who along with us had loadsa fun. Then this morning, after a swim and despite the -15 windchill Pam, Kami and I had fun catching up after the holidays as we meandered around the trails including a few trips up the old ski jump trail to warm up - it worked. I got back and got myself organized for the return to work tomorrow (ugghhh) and then Val called to say she was heading out again - the feeling had returned to my fingertips so of course I said I'd join! As well as Ginger we had neighbour dog Jack along also - who is about twice the size of Ginger who is not a small dog... so you know it when Jack steps on the back of your snowshoe :)

Started off the weekend with 'Candelight Yoga' Friday night so I figured it was a good way to finish it when I realised there was an early evening class at the Edina studio. Great way to stretch out while at the same time seriously relaxing!

So, a fun active start to the year. Too bad work has to get in the way tomorrow though I guess it will be nice to get back into a routine. At least for 2 weeks. Work trip back to Galway in mid-January which I think is a sign of the year ahead. Last year I did a good job of prioritizing my running over my job (hope the boss isn't reading this!) but I don't think I'll have the same luxury this year. BUT of course I need to remember I am lucky to have a good job - not to mention one I really enjoy!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009. Already. It's come way too fast but at the same time you can't beat that feeling of a fresh start... out with the old, in with the new... For me the 'old' are a few bad habits including sugar, chocolate and over-training! I have to say for the first time in my life I think I actually over-dosed on chocolate while back in Ireland for Christmas. It was pretty bad. So that's my first resolution (along with 90% of the population) - Healthy Eating!! As for over-training - I think (hope) I have learned my lesson from the past few months. Everything went great up to Sawtooth but Oct/Nov/Dec were a bit of a mess. Sure, I had a good time at TCM and IM AZ but I was bordering on hurting myself and ended up doing just that over Thanksgiving. Which resulted in 3 weeks off running. Which of course turned out to be a great thing - got me back swimming - and finally got my ass to the gym for strength training. Susan put it best when she said that she didn't know me anymore - I was enjoying swimming, actually using my gym membership - and was bemoaning the fact that I couldn't use my new treadmill!! I'd been thinking about investing in one for a while and because I seem to have lost all interest in running outside this winter and mostly because I want to train for an early summer marathon I decided to take a look in 2nd Wind on 'Black Friday'. And sure enough I found a good deal on a 2nd hand True, trading in my completely under utilized stairmaster while I was at it. And then proceeded to look at it lovingly for a few weeks without being able to use it! The first week of no running was the hardest. But then it was the Holidays and things were busy back in Ireland. And I still getting my anerobic threshold buzz in the pool. I wanted to wait until I had zero pain in my shin walking/stretching/jumping etc and by last weekend that was the case. So Monday I ran the mile down to my neighbours house (my family live in the countryside!) and back again. Then I got back here and christened the treadmill with a 5 mile run on New Year's Day. I like it! And the squirrels outside the window were equally fascinated with my new toy...

The next few weeks will be all about building up a base and easing into the New Year. I don't think I'll run further than 10-12 miles. Then at the end of the month I leave for a trip of a lifetime to climb Aconcagua in Argentina. It's something I've wanted to do ever since a trip to Kilimanjaro just before moving here in 2005. Even though I feel out of running shape right now I should be fine for the climb. The altitude of course might be a problem but altitude doesn't care about fitness. I didn't have any problems on Kili until the summit climb once we got over 18,500 so I'm hoping it will be the same here. And then I'll just have to take it easy the last few days to the top (unlike Kili where we were trying to keep up with the cute French dudes who were making a documentary). Hopefully the weather will cooperate. It's 18 days on the mountain which includes a few days at camp for inclement weather. Once I get back I'll have 9 weeks until Chippewa. Thrown in there for my long 'training' run is a trip to Virginia (had to use the Hellgate flights for something...). Still undecided on which marathon I'll do - the timing (and past experience) of Grandma's are compelling but not the cost. Stillwater doesn't look as bad a course as I was expecting. And then there's the Minneapolis one. Madison, Rochester... funny to have so many choices all of a sudden!

So with resolutions of better diet, more focused training and less racing I guess a few goals for the year are a marathon PR (3:12 would be nice!), beat current CR at Voyaguer (and yeah a win would be nice too!), and run AC-100 in under 24 hrs (ambitious but it's January 2nd so I'm allowed to be!).

Hope 2009 is a good one for you all.