Month: August 2012

  • A different way to remember...

    Dang, the summer is almost over. Looks like I won't have time to raise funds for the Los Angeles Area Council via OTE, so I won't be rappelling off the Bonaventure this year... that is disappointing not only because inner-city Scouting is a vital cause that I support (as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 848, as a Campmaster for the LAAC, and as a committee member and participant in this annual fundraising event "Over The Edge"), but also because I did that rappel in honor of my mom, Florence Nelson, who passed away September 25, 2009.  

    But the Tough Mudder can be an equally valid way to honor mom's legacy: she certainly could be one tough mom! I will come up with a way to represent her somehow. 

    I suppose participating in Tough Mudder, twelve miles of muddy madness, is a strange way to remember one's mother.

    But completing a Tough Mudder-- that is an excellent way to honor her.


  • Disambiguation Dismay: Diablo Canyon, not Northstar-at-Tahoe

    Okay, I am embarrassed: there are actually TWO Tough Mudders in NorCal, and I signed up for the one on September 29... which is NOT the one in Tahoe. The Tahoe Tough Mudder will be held Sept. 22-23, a weekend that's been booked firm for a long time on my calendar.

    The NorCal Tough Mudder on the 29th will take place in Diablo Canyon in the vicinity of Mt. Diablo, the tallest peak in the San Francisco/San Jose neighborhood.  It sounds like it will be one of the more difficult Tough Mudders (tho none of them are exactly easy)-- a full twelve miles in what seems to be very hilly terrain. But it's a three hour drive from Fjeldheim!  My start time isn't until 10:40am, but still, do I want to drive (i.e. sit bent and still) for three solid hours right before a Tough Mudder?!

    ...Well, this will work out fine. I will train for a week in Tahoe (at 7,000', at least 1,000' higher elevation than Diablo Canyon!), then drive to my brother and sister-in-law's house on Friday for dinner and a good sleep.  Saturday morning it will be just an hour drive from JP and Julie's house to Diablo Canyon.

    I'll bet running along the Tahoe Rim Trail will be good training for this Tough Mudder. Or, thinking of the 165-Mile Club, might it be the other way around? 

  • Exposition Park circumnambulation

    Interesting trivia: Los Angeles' Exposition Park is encompassed by four noble thoroughfares: Figueroa on the east, Martin Luther King on the south, Vermont on the west, and of course Exposition Boulevard on the north (a border it shares with USC).  Each of these four sides is almost exactly half a mile long. So if you start at one corner and run all the way around it, you will have run two miles. 

    When I began Crossfit around the end of last year, I was able to run (really run: not jog, not sprint) about a quarter mile without having to slow or stop for a breath. With the ToughMudder looming nearer, and my Crossfit workouts eerily consistent at just twenty minutes (not including warm-up and "skills & mobility" training), I was beginning to worry about translating 20 brief minutes of firebreathing-intense effort into 12+ long miles of sustained effort punctuated by 20 obstacles that will each be a physical challenge of its own.

    Kathryn has been running the two-mile perimeter of Exposition Park almost weekly for some time now, and is gradually improving her time since she joined me at Crossfit. But I had no idea how my endurance or stamina might have improved during these past nine months (I missed the GB25, remember, but beat my old time on the Fletcher Loop at Campus By the Sea).  With many weeks of summer travel and camping behind me now, during which I tried but did not really maintain my workout frequency or intensity, I was getting worried. So yesterday I gave it a shot.

    But since I'm training for a twelve-mile-plus event, I decided to try three laps around Expo Park-- six miles, almost half my target distance.

    And since it's a ToughMudder I'm training for, I decided to stop every mile and do something in place: burpees, or box jumps, or pullups, or mountain-climbers, or something.

         I learned a lot on that run today.

    First, I learned that high-intensity interval training (e.g. Crossfit) does indeed improve your cardiovascular endurance (oxygen transport to your muscles) and your stamina (long-term metabolic energy for those muscles).  I ran the first mile without feeling any need to slow down or stop to catch my breath!

    Second, I learned that brief high-intensity exercise (e.g. a set of five burpees or five pullups as fast as possible) will really drain your low-intensity endurance and stamina.  I did nine burpees at the end of the first mile, six burpees at the end of the third mile, and ten burpees at the end of the fifth; I also managed six pullups at the end of the second mile, and four pullups at the end of the fourth and sixth miles.

    That first set of burpees surprised me, the way it rattled my running rhythm for the second mile.  And that first set of pullups, after running two miles punctuated by a burst of burpees, was much harder than I expected, even when I allowed for the fact that I was doing them from a tree branch.

    Third, I learned that those 20 Tough Mudder obstacles might actually make the 12+ miles easier that it otherwise would be. After the first complete lap of Expo Park, the later sets of burpees nearly killed me, but the pullups were actually an opportunity to catch my breath: doing those pullups "as fast as I could" was pretty slow, and though my arms were trembling when I left the tree, my lungs and legs had gained a second wind each time.

    My total elapsed time was 63 minutes. Considering that the three sets of burpees (the last one pretty slow) and the three sets of pullups (all of them embarrassingly slow, but strict) must have taken about ten minutes total, that means I averaged nine minutes per mile in my running.  Not too shabby for someone who couldn't run one full mile just nine months ago.

    So, I have hope regarding this Tough Mudder. Hope, but not much confidence yet.  It's a good thing I've got a couple more months of training to go...

  • ToughMudder Gear!

    Never pay retail for outdoor adventure gear. That's my new motto. The past couple of months I have shopped around and gradually accumulated some good stuff to add to the good stuff I already have.  At this point, my Tough Mudder gear looks like this:

    • generic-brand quick-dry synthetic runner's shirt and shorts (on sale at Target: they feel just like the good ones at REI)

    • Vasque trail-runner shoes (already had these)

    • Dahlgren trail-running socks, so amazing you can watch them wick and shed water while you rinse them out under the faucet! Comfy too. They blend synthetic fibers and merino wool, but not all in one uniform fabric: different parts of the sock are made of different things, strategically connected so as to pull moisture out of your shoe and let it evaporate from around your ankle. No kidding. (clearance sale on

    • UnderArmor underwear (clearance sale on

    • UnderArmor long-sleeve compression shirt made of some alien fabric that actually does make you feel cooler than wearing nothing at all (clearance sale on

    • SwissGear slimline hydration pack and reservoir (on sale at Target: fully $110 LESS than the price I almost paid for very similar pack at REI, although I admit the REI pack was better quality and had some cool added features and was about 2 ounces lighter... but I'm good with it)

    • IronClad Box Handler Gloves, the grippiest ones I could find (purchased online, direct from manufacturer, found via Google)

    • Helly Hanson full-length baselayer bottoms: they wick and evaporate fast, to keep you cool and dry if you are sweating, and they also keep in warmth if you are cold. Like the UnderArmor compression shirt, I don't know how it works, but it really seems to work well (clearance sale on

    • "FJELDHEIM" headband to keep the sweat out of my eyes (free: I cut up an old T-shirt and used a Sharpie to write "FJELDHEIM" across the front of it. Also stitched a "Tahoe Rim Trail" patch on it, and added "Florence Nelson: 1931-2009" in fabric paint. Saved $15 to $20 that way)

    Since four out of seven of the products I purchased all came from the same source, I ought to say something about it. The Clymb is a members-only online liquidation store for lots of name-brand stuff that for one reason or another just has got to go. Most stuff is about 50% off retail. Some things, usually in unusual sizes or limited quantities, are 70% off. Some brands, though, seem to use The Clymb as just another sale outlet, and only discount by 20%, but that's better than full retail price, at least. Although I suggest you refuse to buy anything that's not discounted to at least half its normal price, just to keep the sellers hungry.

    The sales don't last long (a countdown timer on each sale page will keep you updated), the selection can be a bit random-seeming, and sometimes size ranges are limited, but it's a great chance to buy top quality gear at otherwise-impossible prices.

    I am also a fan of thrift stores. But they rarely carry adventure gear.  So if you're looking for tents or sleeping bags or slacklines or esbit stoves or climbing harnesses or crampons or cook kits or negative-30-degree parkas or river-rafting shoes-- or an entire raft-- you might want to sign up for The Clymb and just see what wanders across the radar screen over the next year or so.  I think you'll be surprised. I was.