Monday, March 17, 2008

Making Progress

After spending several hundred dollars I'm starting to feel like I'm making some progress on collecting gear. Earlier last week I went to REI with Mihae determined to find a Gregory backpack to buy, because I figured that was the best pack for me after trying them on. I got fitted for a Gregory pack that I thought I'd be interested in getting and it just didn't feel right. With some good upselling from the REI lady, I tried on the nicer Arcteryx backpack and fell in love. It was more than I wanted to spend, but I figure that boots and a backpack are two of the most important pieces of gear comfort wise. So a few days later I came back to REI and had the backpack fitted for me with at least 30 pounds of weight. That 30 pounds felt like nothing, thanks to the backpack's comfort so I decided I needed to buy it. Luckily I was able to use my Dad's 20% off discount at REI so the cost was a little more reasonable.

I put the backpack to its first test immediately after buying it. Rachel, Rich and I headed over to North Bend to hike up Little Si. This is not a long trail - my hiking guidebook says 5 miles roundtrip with a 1200 foot elevation gain. This made for a good first test for both me and Rachel with our new backpacks. I also tried out the new boots, which are very stiff. Other than the last 15 minutes down the mountain, the boots were great. The backpack was awesome the entire trip, where I was carrying around 40 pounds. We made our goal of reaching the top in less than an hour, right around 58 minutes.

I took the last week off most exercise in order to let my knee get a little better and I think the time off helped do the trick. I decided not to run for an entire week, which was very aggravating to me since running has become a huge part of my life. I did run in the St. Paddy's Day Dash yesterday and felt pretty good overall. I'm ready to get back into my regular routine of working out this week, which will definitely be helpful in my training for Rainier.

The more I talk about Rainier with people, the more excited I'm getting about it. We're just over three months away now from the climb. There should be a lot of really great training hikes between now and then.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gear and Running

Yesterday was a really productive day for me. Even with my bum knee (from the Rattlesnake hike the week before), I completed my first half marathon. I always said I wasn't interested in running half marathons because I didn't think I could run for that long. I decided around New Years that this year I would challenge myself to do things I either never considered doing or never thought I could do. I'm feeling pretty great today knowing that I accomplished my first goal of this year. Rachel and I ran somewhere around a 10 minute mile for the 13 miles of the Mercer Island half marathon (we're still waiting on our official time). It was a beautiful run and I'm definitely interested in trying a half marathon again!

The endurance aspect of doing the longer runs will likely come in very handy for my overall conditioning for Mt. Rainier. After the race, Rachel and I were already moving on to plans for our upcoming races - the St. Paddy's Day Dash in Seattle next weekend and Bloomsday over in Spokane in May.

After the run, we decided to head to REI to look into boots for climbing Rainier. REI has their 20% off one item promotion with your membership going on for the month of March so I thought it was a good opportunity to purchase one of my more expensive items for the trip. There aren't many choices (at least for women) in mountaineering boots, but I found some that I think I'll be happy with. The La Sportivas I picked up came highly recommended. I wanted to get them soon so that I could decide if they were the right boots for me and so I could start breaking them in long before the actual climb.

After getting the boots we headed on to OR (Outdoor Research) to check out their current sale. I'm glad we decided to go there as I was able to find some good mountaineering gloves at a really nice discount and pair of base layer pants. I'll be doing some more research and/or shopping this week. I'd like to find a backpack and some other clothing layers fairly soon.

I felt like it was a pretty successful day all around. :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Yesterday was a nice day for a hike, so a few people from my Rainier group and I decided to go hiking. Due to conditions on Mt. Si and Granite Mountain, we decided on doing an easier hike up Rattlesnake Mountain. Rattlesnake ledge is one of my favorite quick hikes close to Seattle (just south of North Bend). It's easy and the view is rewarding when you get to the ledge. The trail actually goes on for several miles, but I've never gone much farther than the ledge. I have a fear of the woods, especially when hiking alone, so in the past I've always stuck to heavily populated trails. A majority of people stop at the ledge so I've never ventured too much farther up the trail. After seeing the view up higher yesterday I'm kicking myself for not going farther up in the past. I guess that's the really nice thing about all the training I'll do for Rainier - I'll have hiking buddies!

Before leaving Seattle, Bram made sure that those of us training for Rainier had plenty of weight in our packs. We stopped at a gas station to buy gallon jugs of water. We'll be adding more gallon jugs for future hikes. The more weight we carry now, the better we'll be in the long run for the actual climb.

The hike was pretty easy until we hit some deeper snow. We did our fair share of postholing, which made me regret not packing along my snowshoes. All together we hiked about 8 miles and had an elevation gain of about 2400 feet.

After the hike, Bram showed us all the gear that we'll need to have for the trek up Rainier. It reminded me that I still have a lot of shopping to do! I think my next major purchases will be a backpack to help get used to carrying a lot of weight and boots so that I can get them broken in.