Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

Mt San Antonio

Of the things most people associate with Los Angeles, tall mountains are not among them. This is I’m sure in no small part due to the fact that it takes so long to get free of the city to get to them, they might as well be in another state. Not to mention that for a significant portion of the city’s history, the air was so bad you couldn’t see them if you were standing on them.

Among the tallest peaks is San Antonio, locally known as Mount Baldy, one of the few peaks tall enough to reach above the treeline. Baldy is something of a local test piece, the third highest peak in Southern California, and closest of the three to Los Angeles. From the trailhead, the direct route via the ski hut and Baldy Bowl climbs just around 4000′ in about 4.5 miles. While this makes it a serious lung burner starting the day at sea level, it makes the entire hike one long scenic viewpoint. Most people opt for a round trip via the Devil’s Backbone trail, but having done the loop last year I found I really didn’t care for the tedious hike along ski slopes and access roads, so I decided this time to take the ski hut trail both directions.

The day got off to a slow start, and I didn’t even get up to the trailhead until just after 11am. With clouds hanging low over the entire LA basin and backed up against the mountains, I’d actually somewhat hoped the mountain would be socked in by clouds and would thin the weekend crowds on the trail. That hope dried up with the clouds as I started to wind my way up into the mountains, and by the time I was parked the sky above was brilliantly blue, and the road lined with cars for a good quarter mile. I wouldn’t get a lot of alone time on this hike.

Having only just gotten off the couch a week or so ago following my wreck, I figured I might be a bit slower than the last time I did this hike, but I optimistically set out at my usual brisk pace. Unfortunately my body was not as optimistic and within the first mile I found myself sucking wind, hard. Thankfully for this trip I had brought along two new pieces of gear that I wanted to try putting fully to use: my trekking poles, and a new 3 liter water bladder in place of my usual Nalgene. I’ve always dismissed trekking poles as at best an old man’s accessory and at worse a hindrance equivalent to trying to hike while assembling your tent poles, but now as I wheezed my way up I was happy to have something to give my legs a little backup and to simply lean on whenever I had to stop long enough to put out the fire in my lungs. The water bladder I found to be a mixed blessing, as I’m notoriously bad at drinking enough water, however given it was buried in my backpack I had no concept of just how much water I had left and wound up drinking a fraction of it. Still, by the end of the day, I would be one of the only people who still had water.

Burning legs and lungs notwithstanding, I still made good time up the final ridge above the treeline where last year I had bonked hard. Swallowing my pride and not taking long, rangy strides in favor of short, rhythmic steps let me fight my body’s objection to oxygen deprivation up the last 1000′, and I finally crested the summit along with the steady stream of other groups. I immediately propped myself up against a rock, pulled out my meager dry lunch, and sat back to the sounds of the rush of the wind, the distand call of birds, and the endless chatter of people comparing selfies.

After an hour of resting up I decided to forego the longer Devil’s Backbone trail back, which eventually devolves into trudging along dirt access roads, and headed back via the ski hut. Only a dozen feet or so from leaving the summit I found myself followed by a trio of hikers who had no idea where they were going, and suddenly became an impromptu guide. The descent was fast and increasingly quiet as everyone’s energy and enthusiasm waned, and eventually the silence was only occasionally punctuated by grunts and groans of discomfort, including my own. The dirt road I had turned my nose up at from the summit was a welcome sight as we hit the home stretch, and we reached the parking lot tired but all in good spirits. Since my trail groupies had landed a little ways down the mountain from where they started I gave them a quick lift back in my car then headed home, stopping briefly for gas and grabbing coconut water and a protein shake in a desperate but futile attempt to placate my very, very upset leg muscles.



Posted: August 11, 2013 in Fitness, Personal
Tags: , ,

The past couple months, my body has been nothing like what I’m used to. With no real provocation, my achilles and my shoulders pretty much gave up on working without a fair amount of pain, and the physio appointments became more regular than my meal schedule. The physio of course laid it out as the inevitable result of youthful exuberance mixed with missing the youthful part, along with the fact that over the years I have been my shoulders’ worst enemy. I had no choice but to suck it up and calm down, at least for a while.

It’s weird to not feel like I can rely on my body. Even when I screwed myself and got injured, even when I had to get my shoulder repaired 20 years ahead of schedule, I knew I’d be able to bounce back and go back to kicking ass. I’m less sure of that now. I know I can build myself up to good shape again, but I’m walking a tenuous and gradually eroding cliff edge. It’s hard to be positive when you feel like an invalid without the pleasure of even earning it.

Busy as

Posted: October 3, 2011 in Fitness, Personal, Social
Tags: , , ,

With my renewed sense of purpose firmly in place since my US trip, I’ve hit the ground running back in Australia. While I was languishing more weekends than not before, now I barely have a free moment. Parties, concerts, lectures, dinners, I’ve been on a frenzy to fill up all the blank spots on my calendar. And whether it’s lucky timing or simply the fact that I’m looking in the right places, people and events are coming out of the woodwork to oblige.

The one downside is all these things have left little time for exercise and promoted WAY more eating and drinking, something I have to get back into balance. Luckily one of the things I definitely plan to make a regular event is the Sydney Hashers, a “drinking group with a running problem”, something I’d heard plenty about from Lucy and her friends, and finally went and found last week. While there’s a fair amount of booze consumed as the post-run part of it, everyone’s at least putting in a pretty good run to counteract it. And best of all, the group is far more social than most of the climbers I’ve met here, which is both a relief and a disappointment. My climbing tribe may be totally absent in Australia, but I may have found another one to fill the space.

I’ve got the runs

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Fitness
Tags: , ,


I’d been running for a while even before I came to Sydney, but in the past couple years I’ve started to pick it up a notch. After my shoulder surgery last year, when I was dying for any possible form of exercise I could get, I really began to pay closer attention to it, not just because it was my only outlet for months, but also because it was becoming tragically apparent that I was no longer endowed with the superhuman healing abilities of youth. My body was beginning to show faint signs of that slow, steady decline, and I did not want to help it along any further than necessary.

I’ve toyed with any number of different things: clocking my miles with a Nike+ monitor and setting goals, barefoot running, different warm-up and strengthening exercises, changing my stride and the way I land my feet, and even reading about running. I’ve by no means become a spectacular runner, but I’ve begun to amaze myself at how far I can go. I’ve started to become one of those people who runs not because it keeps me fit, but because it feels good.

This last Saturday I took advantage of the rarer winter daylight to run the trails near my house, a fantastic series of ribbons of almost primordial gullies and sandstone cliff edges along quiet backwaters of the harbor, all snaking through the middle of urban Sydney. I ran somewhere around 7 km (~4 mi), and at the end charged my way up the hill to home, energized by the feeling of strength and defiance against a hill that just weeks before had me walking and sucking wind. Sunday morning I slept in while the rest of the city packed together to run the City2Surf, but instead of taking my usual rest day, I decided that afternoon to run my own version and logged 12.5 km (~8 mi). And again, rather than staggering to my doorstep, I practically sprinted. I ran 20 km in two days and my body barely noticed.

I may have learned some lessons of getting older the hard way, but one thing it has helped me appreciate: brash, raw enthusiasm may only last so long as you careen through your teens and twenties, but you don’t have to slow down there if you pay attention to the details.