To all those who live what they love,

and inspire others to do the same.

Have fun out there.







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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lost Nut and the Broken Tooth


Piglet the farm dog
This can’t be happening.  Droplets of sweat slide brow to brim, then ramp off my nose splattering on concrete hot enough to boil.  With a shirt like a damp wool blanket in an overheated house, uncomfortable and oppressive, I start unpacking my gear. It’s busy and loud just outside the rural airport, no goats on the runway but not far from it. The exit of baggage claim is a cocktail of energy; cowboys lean over a metal guardrail to welcome arriving family, women laugh and talk loudly in small circles, and kids are running around everywhere. I’m the sweaty dude dragging a bucket load of gear through the open air terminal.

Escaping the masses to a nearby parking lot, I carelessly rummage through my cardboard bike box.  Lifting my head momentarily like a dog in a dumpster--just long enough to realize my surroundings.  I have an audience.  A short stubby guy leaning into his shovel rifles something off in Spanish, too fast to understand, and I’m too frantic to care.  Cars glare slowly at the explosion of gear taking up two spaces; a bicycle, street clothes, food, helmet, repair kit, passport, local currency, and mountain run stuff all on display.  Aside from three missing CO2 cartridges, which TSA has gotten pretty good at finding, everything made it in one piece--almost.  I’m missing a nut.  

Where is my nut?

A nut is the piece that holds a skewer onto the bike.  A skewer then goes through the bicycle wheel, and thus holds the bicycle wheel on the bike.  No nut means no bicycle wheel staying on bike, which makes accessing the highest peak in the West Indies for a mountain run via bicycle a very difficult proposition in scorching afternoon sun.  

With enough duct tape, zip ties, and a spare bike lock key anything is possible.  I rolled out of a small airport in the interior of Dominican Republic a couple hours behind schedule, makeshift skewer and a wobbly wheel, but rolling nonetheless; I suppose that’s when the adventure really started.

***

From the cocoon of a desktop computer and in the comforts of home it’s easy to plan a human powered trip.  Perched behind Google earth with strong coffee in hand, riding forty or so miles from an agricultural valley, up and over a coastal range, to my buddy Zach’s place in Cabarete was seemingly simple.  Add gear malfunction, language barriers, heat, and towns with one way streets that are much larger in real life--shit gets real in a hurry.  Don’t even get me started on mopeds, Jesus, absolutely no spatial awareness and so many of them!  Simple things, like food and shelter, become very important when controllables are limited.  

***

After circling the same round-a-bout on three separate occasions I exit the town of La Vega, alpenglow setting on the foothills.  Only twenty five kilometers northeast of the airport and it took three hours.  Stray dogs, a sweaty map, and my bad Spanish added spice.  Muy caliente.

Endorphins flowing but temps dropping, I can feel the dark blanket of night chasing my shadow.  Daylight is a bastard.  Old trucks packed with people struggling up the mountain road are less frequent.  The road snakes and a radio tower punches the skyline.  Instead of a dramatic sun dropping into warm water with shoulder high waves and a light off shore wind, I see nothing but jungle mountains.  Angry clusters of dark popcorn clouds are making me nervous.


After a sketchy descent on the boy-scout skewer another steep climb ends on a broad ridge top with a guard station.  In my shitty Spanish:  “How much further to Cabarete?” The two guard men with rifles laugh and motion a long sweeping distance down the road with their arm.

“Mucho mas?” I ask pedaling away.
“Si.” One of the men responds plainly.

Cardinal Rule of cycle touring: don’t ride at night.  

It’s dark, I have no idea where I am relative to the Atlantic Ocean or Cabarete, hell, I don’t even know if I’m on the right road; this feels alive.  

Fishing out chincy headlamp with a grumble I set the timer on my watch: “one hour of night riding, then you either bivy or ask to sleep on someone’s floor,” I say to myself.  

Unfortunately I’m in the middle of the damn jungle, there are no floors to sleep on and the roads are lined with with barbed wire, likely to keep cattle in--I hate cow shit, and certainly don’t want to sleep with it. Three hours and an incredible isolated rainstorm later I reach Cabarete; broken bike, and wetter than a cow pissing on a flat rock.  It’s 11pm, everything is closed.

***
I spent several days surfing and training with Zach in Cabarete before continuing the tour.  Extreme Hotel/Rogue Fitness Cabarete was an amazing base: minutes from good morning surf, the best kite surfing right out front, yoga loft overlooking the ocean, and mountains to run near by.  Couple this with a restaurant serving food from their farm, a half pipe with ten foot walls, and a circus trapeze, and you've got yourself one hell of a base camp.

But all good things must come to an end, and I’d heard rumor of trails leading through the mountains to secret coves where drug smugglers lay over while hopping up the island chain.  The urge to run through the mountains and spy on modern day sea gypsies was too much to resist.

Riding down the coast before heading back inland toward Cordillera Central and Pico Duarte, the ultimate objective, I wanted to see the Samana Peninsula.  Las Galeras is where the sidewalk ends, there are no all inclusive resorts, and the beaches and terrain are what the brain creates when it imagines the perfect tropical beach backed by harry jungle peaks.  

***
Chilling with Dutchman pre-broken tooth
“Crack, crunch, crunch” Biting violently into my first piece of pizza.  My upper right jaw feels light and numb.  Wanding back with my tongue something doesn't feel right.  Spitting out what looks like a chunk of tooth I lean forward and put my head in my hands, waiting for the pain to set in and calculating next steps:  I’m a long way from the nearest hospital on the outskirts of a dead-end town at the end of a peninsula I accessed by bike in a foreign country.  Even if someone can get me to a hospital do I want to go in there?  
Las Galeras


I’d ridden eight hours down to Las Galeras, dropped gear at a bungalow six miles out of town and run towards the rumored secret beaches.  The approach was 4 miles, but after getting turned around for 7 I came back defeated and dehydrated; pizza time.  Fortunately no jaw pain, just a long ride the next day tongue-coddling a crater in my upper right jaw.  I’m en route to Cordillera Central!

***


The summit bid, like most of the trip, had a couple unexpected turns; some uncontrollable, some a pain in the rump.  In short, the park Pico Duarte is located in requires all entrants, including locals, be accompanied by a guide.  I’d read reports of being able to drop the guide and go after a speed ascent upon entrance.  I’d also read of accommodation being $7-10/night during the time of year I was going.  Paying $300 for a guide who does not carry or provide gear or food, speak English, and demands three days for an ascent that I’m confident would take ten hours or less was one variable.  I was working through options while paying $40/night, not $10, for a wobbly fan on a busy street.  
Cordillera Central


Fortunately three days of bad weather made the decision for us.  I stayed up in the range for five days, on the two non-storm days I had some of the best jungle mountain running I’ve ever experienced.  Lush valleys, sweeping views, zero crowds, and broad jungle peaks define trail running in the Dominican Republic.  Ultimately there are only so many things a person can control while playing in the mountains, weather is not one of them.


***
The trip to DM was a gentle reminder of why drumming up an endurance project in a foreign country is what I love about life; unexpected things go well, and things you expect to work won’t.  It’s in the midst of all the challenge, foreign culture, new terrain, and physical demand that I feel most alive.  


Above all else, just keep pedaling.  Simple.


Enjoying the journey.
Your pal,
Andrew

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

VIDEO: GREAT CORE EXERCISES FOR CYCLISTS AND TRIATHLETES BY ANDREW FAST



La Sportiva Mountain Running Athlete Andrew Fast goes through some of his favorite core exercise to help build the base strength you’ll need to go fast and hard in the mountains, cycling or racing a triathlon. Even though Andrew is a mountain runner for La Sportiva, these are great workouts for any endurance athlete.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chapter 9: Enjoy the Ride

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain... To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices - today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.
     -Kevyn Aucoin

After three days of bad weather at the base of Pico Duarte (the ultimate objective), it was time to retreat to sea level.  Piglet, the farm dog, was in rare form as river rat/raft guide; all good things come to an end. 


Chapter 8: Live life love, love life.

       -Jamais Cascio

Zach and Extreme Hotel Cabarete have a farm on the north coastal side of the interior mountain range.  Aquaponics, bees, goats, chickens, star fruit, cacao from the tree, peppers, mint, and eggplant; these guys are driving around old Mercedes Turbo Diesels on veggie oil and living proof that, with creativity, anything is possible.




Chapter 7: Terrain

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.      -Albert Einstein 
There is a saying: “God is everywhere, but he lives in Costanza.”  With jungle peaks as far as the eye can see, and sitting smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic and Caribbean, it’s not a bad place to hang out