To all those who live what they love,

and inspire others to do the same.

Have fun out there.







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.

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