To all those who live what they love,

and inspire others to do the same.

Have fun out there.







Saturday, August 8, 2015

Conundrums Continue

I was first introduced to triathlon on a rainy morning standing outside the rec center at Seattle University.  A very awake and strong contingent of folks around twice my age talked excitedly about rides, runs, and swims completed over the weekend.  I was a burnt out soccer player searching for something.  Long story short, I followed them to the pool, was welcomed with open arms, and started to learn about ‘triathlon’.  

People in this group were fascinating.  A chemist, pharmacist, doctor, chiropractor, and real-estate developer, the list goes on.  It was this highly motivated group of great people who welcomed me into a sport that has changed my life.  Tom was a corner-stone to laughter and wit within this group of legends, and though we didn’t log hundreds of miles together, he was a spirit that a person doesn’t soon forget.

Normally anesthesiologists trend towards humor backed by high intelligence, which Tom certainly embraced, but Tom wasn’t normal. Tom bucked the norm in the form of triathlon backed by a positive and lighthearted outlook.  

A best attempt at describing this remarkable individual who defied odds and cranked out Ironmans in the face of a terminal illness does not make sense.  What follows is a race report from Ironman Canada 2010, one of many Tom completed while undergoing cancer treatment.

Enjoy every breath, have no regrets, and take nothing for granted. Live life, love life.

***

Tom’s 2010 Ironman Canada Race Report:

 Finally, finally, finally the time had arrived and I was wading into the chilly waters of Lake Okanagon. The lake had been the source of some anxiety in the days prior, with wind whipped white caps and waves crashing on the shore, but on race morning it was smooth as glass. There were nearly 3000 wet suit clad bodies in there with me, but somehow, as seems to happen every year, I looked to my right and there was my pal Mike Nelson. I don't know what the odds of finding him are, but they are probably improved by the fact that he dyes his god awful haircut pink. We wished each other well and then shared a special moment with all the others who had trained so hard to get here - a nice whizz down the leg of our wet suit. You really don't want to swallow any lake water that first hundred meters.
      The cannon fired and a crowd that was standing in close formation all tried to lay down together with the expected results. Almost immediately someone kicked my goggles off my face, but one thing I've learned is to keep the straps under the cap so you don't lose the goggles. One thing I haven't learned is how to swim, so it was quite a while before I stumbled onto shore, half blind because I could never get those goggles to reseal. I'm sure up front they moved through transition with steely eyed resolve, but the folks in the tent with me greeted each other with the heartfelt emotions of fellow shipwreck survivors. A lot of guys named Gord saying "good to have that over with, eh? thought it'd ever end, eh? lets go get some of them on the bike, eh?"
        So that's what we did. Even a mediocre cyclist like me passes quite a few people when you've flopped and chopped to a 1:38 swim. I managed to pass over 900 youngsters on the bike and run. We have our ages on our calves, so they could see my "59", although to fit it on my massive specimen they had to write something that looked more like an "11".  I felt good on the bike, loved the cool temps, hated the headwinds, and was driven to distraction by ... well no one really wants to hear about an old man's prostate problems. And I figured hell, I'll be pissing my pants everywhere in a few years, why worry about  ... ok enough of that subject.
     I finished the bike in 6 1/2 hours, an average of 17.2 mph, which is pretty good for me. Better yet, the back problems I'd been having the past few months didn't hurt me. I came blasting out of transition like a crab who'd been out on a beach too long but gave Laura a big smile and a thumbs up so she'd know I was doing great (I found out later she went to facebook and posted "Tom just started the run; he looks like shit"). After a soul draining will every step eternity that felt like all I had I looked down and saw the 1 mile placard. Retrospectively speaking this is always my favorite memory of an ironman, because it truly feels impossible at this moment, but as we all know it isn't. People who don't do this kind of thing think the key is to endure suffering, but it's really about maintaining hope and optimism. Very good carryover into life's non elective challenges.
     Anyway, the legs came around and I was running well enough till 10 or 12 miles when my back threatened to spasm, and by the 13 mile turn around I was also running out of gas big time. I thought of that old adage "it never always gets .... what, worse? Or was it always never gets better? that can't be it. Never, always, sometimes? Who the @#$%# thinks up this stupid shit anyway, and what the @#$% good is it supposed to be doing me anyhow? And so it went, inspiration wise, as I put one foot in front of the other and thought up some of my own unprintable adages.
     The tri gods must have been sick of listening ("enough with the adages, you think we're not sick of them too?") because they granted me a miraculous second wind at 20 miles and I ran in feeling pretty good, actually picking up the pace as I ran through town. I had hoped to break 14 hours and as I saw the finish up ahead I realized it would be 13:30. One quick look around to make sure there wouldn't be any fatties or one legged runners in my finishing photo and through the chute I went. The ninth anniversary of piss on cancer day was in the books.

***
How Cancer takes its picks is not well understood, but is sure doesn’t make sense to me. Conundrums continue.

***
Here are some pictures from this weeks of endorphin's:


 Wake and run. The air is thin, dry, and harsh.  Welcome to altitude training where everyday sucks but is scenic.



Loving life.


















Tioga Pass into backside of Yosemite. Nothing like face shots of hail in August; storm looms.



Angry clouds at 9,000ft.  Hammer on.

 ...And spitting rain.
 Tioga Pass: 1. Andrew: 0. I'll be back



 Full intentions of ring fully supported reverse century of Mammoth with local club...turns out it's Sunday...Not Saturday...But then I ran into Seth (5th fastest collegiate 5km at present)...Intervals are fun!




 Nasal cannula please.


 Eastern Sierra  = Underrated 



It's all uphill from here



Until next time.
Your pal,
Andrew

Monday, July 27, 2015

Taking the Detour


DETOUR #1: Driving over the Eastern Sierra was very relaxing after a solid week of work.  I finished work at 2:30pm, arrived in Santa Rosa to race Vineman 140.6 at 11:30pm.  Turns out there is a fire near South Lake Tahoe, which translated into a turd chase on windy county roads trying to get down and around.


DETOUR #2: Exited water feeling pretty good and in 4th place.  Solid bike legs came around and we were cranking in 2nd or 3rd place (pretty strung out and no one giving splits) just past mile 100 of bike.  Head down and hammering a corner full of volunteers shouted left turn, I turned left.  Ten minutes later I realized I'd been sent out on lap 3 of a 2 loop point to point bike.  Missing the "lolly" part of the "lolly pop," was at 120mi and 10mi from the bike to run transition when things hit the fan.


Most days are awesome, so everyday can't be.  It's my responsibility as an athlete to be familiar with the course.  That was the first, and hopefully last, time I've been that close to the front and feeling good then gone way off course.


Vineman is a great race.  I would certainly plan to go back and would recommend it to friends.  Very scenic.



I sorted out my excess energy on the Pacific Crest Trail off Sanora pass with a couple hours of mountain shuffling and silence.  



Solitude and mountains is restorative. 



Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sean Hayes Sandwich: Fresh verse

Miles of trials, the trial of miles.
Time is starting to move faster.
Finding space to slow it down feels good.

A long time ago Nick met Sarah.

Eventually they got married.  Here's a song that sums it up:
Time went on. Happy and moving swiftly.

Then came the most magical moment: a daughter.
Introducing 'B':
In a place as powerful as Yosemite, with friends turned family, the experience can only be described as follows:

***
A couple photos from in between hugs: Day 1 trail run 20ish miles Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite with a huge net loss.  Day 2 ride Yosemite back to car in Tuolumne Meadows with a huge net gain.
 Long rides are longer without coffee.  Sunrise roll-out. Nick and Sarah are on a tea kick...no good.

 'B' and Nick stage right.  Lucky baby, proud dad.
 Post ride after work mid week. 4,000ft to 9,500ft. Not bad California.
 Mountain shuffling


 Psyched.






Until next time.
Your pal,
Andrew

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Going to the mountains is going home: Mediation in competition

A whisper turns to a murmur, a murmer turns to a buzz. Stress.  If they shorten the race to a 70 mile ride and 13 mile run should I still eat this loaf of bread?  


The drive from Mammoth to Reno.  Good morning.

Projected race temp is 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  There was talk of shortening the race for the safety of both athletes and volunteers. Tension and anxiety of athletes in the village builds.  Pro meeting on a hot clammy boat: “No intention of canceling the race.” Tension rises.


Pre-riding run day before race: man playing bagpipes at top of hill. Fitting.

In an odd way, chaos created a sense of calm heading into Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  This race was a reminder at just the right time of why adventure and meditation through movement is healing.  When forced to focus on what is right in front of a person simplifying, trying to control less, and more focus is required.  All consuming moments make ‘life-stress’ melt away (especially if it’s hot).  Assessing risk and working through fear is what makes racing and big human powered objectives meaningful and beautiful; to get that mountain top perspective you gotta put out.
Two spunges by vital organs and three cups of ice down my shorts; Zroom.



In my first year as professional triathlete, in large part, I’d lost touch with my addiction to the grit; a drive to be the best when things are at their worst.  I’d mistakenly started to think people were watching, I was going to make money, and being a pro-triathlete would fill my 401k.  Nope.  No one has been more honest about the initial stages of behaving and performing like a professional athlete than my mentor and coach Kurt, like an older brother he consistently beats me down to reality. Kurt, I’m in debt to you for the guidance.


Tuktuk enjoying stretching her legs. Rest week post IM: cross rides on dirt.

Moral of the story: As I watched Andy Potts race himself into the ground on the second lap of the run, Heather Jackson give her first 140.6 acceptance speech, and my training parter Amber reel in 4th I started to look at this whole thing with a new sense of awe and bewilderment. None of the aforementioned folks came to success quickly.


So what’s the message?  Challenge yourself once every day.


NOTE: I was not at my best when things were at their worst, and certainly wasn't fast.  But finally I finished 140.6, free of cramps/GI stuff, and  within range of current fitness.  Huge thank you to coach Kurt. 15th Male Pro.


Here are some photos from the week of exploring.


Your pal,
Andrew

*Kurt: http://www.pbmcoaching.com
*Andy: http://andypottsracing.com/
*Heather: http://www.heatherjacksonracing.com/
*Amber: http://amberferreira.blogspot.com/






Trail run from door.


Thanks, John.  American.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

First Dispatch

“The simpler you make things, the richer the experience becomes.” Steve House

















Friday, June 5, 2015

Chapter Anew

Do you ever have those moments where you feel like you’re right where you’re supposed to be?  Like the footsteps of your life path sync up with the universe and everything is one?  The perfect song comes on as a confirmation--you were meant to be here now.  These moments don’t come often and the effect is long lasting.  


Several years ago, running a ridgeline east of the Cascade crest, I had one of these moments.  My world had been spinning.  I’d returned from working in refugee camps on the Thai/Burma border and cycling touring solo across the southern tier of Asia.  Tossed up in my own culture shock I wa
s very much alone and lonely, but desperately wanted to be a part of society.  Wanting to be part of something bigger than myself was a new and uncomfortable feeling--often a sign of growth.  I went to the mountains to make sense of my strengths and come to peace with my weaknesses.


In junior high school a friend and his family invited me to stay up at the local ski resort in their motor home.  One night, after the ski lifts had stopped, we decided to hike up the steepest run we could find.  The three of us were competitive soccer players and in good form.  I remember starting up the pitch.  We would go up hill ten or fifteen feet then slide down laughing on our bellies. At some point I turned and faced the hill, front pointing and kicking steps in the most direct line toward the summit.  Something took over.  Cold fresh mountain air deep into my lungs, moonlight, rhythm, and the simplicity of my fast beating heart.  My mind had emptied--right foot, left foot, deep breathe out, and repeat.  When I reached the saddle I turned to realize something extraordinary, I had out climbed my friends by 20+ minutes by simplifying my thoughts and focusing my effort.


It’s taken a good long while to have the confidence to own up to the fact that, with the right attitude and stubbornness, anything is possible.  Several years ago and with the help of my biggest mentor and role model, my dad, we came to the conclusion that being a physical therapist dovetails almost every aspect of my life.  


As I drove up Owen’s Valley toward Mammoth today, where I will work and train for the summer, I had another one of those moments.  I was listening to Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack’s I’m Here to Win book on tape.  Jagged Eastern Sierra ridgelines on my left and broad white mountain peaks off to the right, Chris’s voice and message struck a chord so strong I had to pull over--”We create our own boundaries.  We need to know what they are in order to tear them down.”  Life is hard and dynamic.  In this moment, thank you for rejection letters, failed exams, and crappy sleep--these moments have enabled me to hit the ground running as the best physical therapist and professional endurance athlete I can be.  More importantly, thank you to my mentors, those alive and past, who’ve shown the way by choosing to live deliberately and on their own terms.  Never sacrifice.  Go after what’s yours without any inhibition.  Do work.


Time to hit the ground running in Mammoth.


Your pal,
Andrew

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Morning Jacket



I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing companies over the years.  I feel extremely fortunate to have the relationship that I do with La Sportiva.  They have been a huge supporter of my mountain running and human powered objectives.  In the coming months and years I plan to bring readers along as I work with La Sportiva and other supporters in effort to create the highest quality gear possible.  Without further adieu, a product review.

Product: D-LUX JACKET

Reviewed by: Andrew Fast. Monday, April 13 2015

Test Date(s):  February 2015 - April 2015

Activity:
-Mountain running
-Climbing
-Cycle Touring
-Pizza eating and beer drinking

Conditions:
-Tropic Humidity
-Nore’aster cold mountain temps
-Freezing rain
-Windchill
-Snow
-Dry cold
-Wet cold
-Desert running
-Dry cold AM
-Freezing cold PM
-Gusty winds at high-noon
-PNW Shoulder Season Slop
-Mud
-Rain
-Mold

Abstract:  

I want a windproof sweater. Yeah, I said it.  I want a piece of kit that withstands wearing nothing underneath--and still looks classy.  La Sportiva  D-LUX JACKET says: “I usually run shirtless, wild and free in the mountains but when I’m not, I wear the D-Lux jacket.”  La Sportiva has leveled up and beat competitors to the punch with this simple but versatile mid-weight jacket.

Andrew Fast Rant: I demand an article of clothing that, for once, doesn’t bitch and moan when the going gets tough and the beers get flowing.  I’m talking about a piece for posers and outdoorspeople alike.  A simple coat that says: “yea, I’m kinda into that,” and doesn't go flaccid when it’s time to perform.  Mountain gear doesn’t need to be elaborate, it needs to serve a purpose in as many ways as possible in times of need.  The D-LUX makes it into my pack because it isn’t bursting at the seams with bells and whistles; it’s comfortable to run and climb in, blocks wind, and insulates with next to skin comfort or as a second layer under a third. Simplify, simplify.  Thank you D-LUX, it’s about time you showed up.


Key Features & Benefits:
-Comfort: Very good next to skin comfort and movability while running.  Best used in a dry environment, the jacket was perfect weight, fit and feel for dry-cold or windy days.  

-Construction: The coat will outlive me.  It is built well and it shows care in construction where it counts. Zippers, cuffs, and collar are all well thought out and add to aesthetic of wearing the jacket in many settings.

-Versatility: Like some of La Sportiva’s shoe line, they have created a piece that is for the mountain athlete generalist but can also toe the line with the specialist.  In other words, I can warm up for a race in the jacket, train for a race in the jacket, climb, sit on a patio--you name it--the power of simplicity lends itself to versatility with the D-LUX.

Critique:

-Options: a 2.0: What would this same pattern look like with everything one tick thicker?  We might lose a bit of that movability for running but I think it was originally designed for climbers in the first place.  Like the Oxygen Windbreaker but add a little insulation and subtract the hood.

-Slippery when wet: The comfort of the jacket’s thin insulation layer when it’s dry is the best feature, but is also the biggest fault when wet.  If trying to get the jacket on when wet/sweaty, the insulation tends to stick and slide and bunch, getting all discombobulated.  That said, probably more intended for cool dry days, not wet warm ones.

Conclusion: Perfection isn’t reached when there’s nothing left to add but, rather, when nothing else can be taken away; D-LUX embodies this with it’s simplicity.  I would recommend this jacket for a mountain runner in need of a good stand by for cool dry mornings/nights or long days in the wind.  The jacket also works very well as a base insulating layer for snow or alpine days.