Ultrarunner fighting Atrial Fibrilation (AF)

This blog has pretty much always been about running ultras, mostly Hardrock. It still is but now it is also about running with AF. I was forced to miss Hardrock in 2011 due to my AF but my long term goal was to get back to a level where I could enter the lottery for 2012. And hopefully help any other runners with AF who stumble upon this site. I never made it into Hardrock in 2012, or 2013, or 2014. I didn't have a qual for 2015. I ran Fatdog in Canada instead. That was tough. Now back to Hardrock.

The heart problems all started back on May 25: http://howmanysleeps.blogspot.com/2011/05/out-of-hardrock.html

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Fat Dog for this Skinny Whippet

I tried to look up to see where I was going but the rain stung my face. The visibility was down to a few metres and the wind was gale force. My nose was running and the wind was creating a stream of snot trailing over my shoulder, metres long. Lovely. I had my light jacket zipped up over my chin and I was breathing down onto my chest to capture some warmth from my breath. I was freezing. I was dangerously cold, and things were getting worse. My hands were numb, clenched like frozen blocks of wood with my fingers wrapped tight around the handles of my trekking poles. My lower legs were bare and the skin was burning where the wind whipped against it. Not just the icy wind. The pelting hail was stinging as well. I could hardly feel my feet. They were just sodden lumps moving mechanically forward on autopilot. I was soaked through. The temperature had plummeted and the wind was ripping right through me. This was getting serious. I was genuinely concerned for my safety. It might sound melodramatic but it was the first time in an ultra that I believed my life was genuinely at risk.

What the hell was I doing out here? And why the hell did I decide to throw my waterproof jacket in with my night gear rather than carry it with me, like I would normally do? The day before the race had seen a record high temperature for the region. Race morning had dawned hot and sunny. The only mandatory gear for the day was a water-resistant jacket (ie a windshirt). Our waterproof jacket and warm clothes had to be in our night drop bag. Runners had started the race in tshirts, singlets and some even bare-chested. There seemed no possible reason to carry the extra weight of a waterproof jacket and a thermal top in such conditions. They were all safe in my drop bag at Bonnevier.

This was Fat Dog120, 2015. And there were times when I really believed I might not live to tell the story. But this is it.



Fat Dog120 drew my attention because of its remoteness, the small fields, it was relatively new on the scene, had lots of singletrack and was apparently very tough. It was often compared to Hardrock. Those who had run both Fat Dog and Hardrock described it as not being as tough but ranking probably second to Hardrock in North America. The bonus was it also served as a Hardrock qualifier (and Western States I believe). It took little effort to convince my regular partner in crime, Phil Murphy, to join me.

We flew into Vancouver a week before the race and spent a few days sweltering in high 30s after leaving a bitterly cold Melbourne winter. After a short stay in Vancouver with Craig Slagel who had run Fat Dog a couple of times and was entered again this year, we drove several hours to the small town of Princeton, which serves as the race headquarters. A quaint little old mining town in central British Columbia, we had a few days to settle in, explore some trails and try to buy bear spray. The streets were filled with huge four wheel drives, or pick-up trucks and it wasn't unusual to see wild deer wandering down the main street. Literally.



Thursday was race eve and we drove our drop bags over to Manning Park, less than an hour away, which is where the race finishes. Race rules changed this year adding extra mandatory gear for the night sections after some runners had issues with hypothermia last year. The gear list was not unlike what we get in an aussie ultra except most of it wasn't required to be carried until the first night section. This night gear had to be at Bonnevier aid station. Fortunately, I put my heavy headlamp in the drop-bag prior, at Cascade, as I was likely not to get to Bonnevier until well after dark. Having my warm night gear at Bonnevier and not in my pack, came back to haunt me later and nearly cost me the race.

We left our car at Manning Park, a short ride from the finish line, and hopped on a bus back to Princeton for the mandatory briefing. A simple, efficient, no fuss affair. A bit like the rest of the race organisation.

The logistics of this race must present a huge challenge to the organisers. Hats off, they manage it very well. We had buses provided again on race morning. It took about an hour along some bumpy back-roads and we were finally deposited just south of Keremeos, deep in the bush. A large crowd of runners, supporters and crew milled around, burning up nervous energy, until it was time to go.

A 10am start is eminently civilised. But we pay for that by being robbed of daylight hours late on the first day. Any race where you are facing two full nights on the course is very scary. That second night is a killer. I hoped not to be out there for all of it. A 36 hour finish scores you a coloured buckle. They are very funky and worth shooting for. Realistically, I knew that was probably well out of my reach. But just maybe 38 hours was possible. My plan B was a sub 40 finish and that would be more than acceptable. Plan C was to just get to the finish under the 48hr cut. With limited prep for such a big race, I always knew Plan C was where I might end up.

The start was fashionably low-key despite the overwhelming sense of anticipation mixed with a healthy dose of trepidation.

The first climb is brutal. Simply brutal. In fact I could cut this whole story short and just summarise Fat Dog with one word: brutal. They warn you that you are never finished climbing a hill until you get to the other side. There are lots of false summits and they crush you mentally when you think you have achieved a summit only to find the climb keeps going. Basically, you just go up and up for hours on end. From the start, runners were bunched up with some singletrack conga-line action but a wider carriageway eventually allowed runners to spread out. The sound of heavy breathing was loud in the still, dry, hot sun. Shirts were off. Dust was rising. It was hot. Bloody hot. But that wouldn't last.

I was taking it easy, in no hurry. I was hoping to find Crystal Shiu and Gary Pickering, the two other aussies in the field and try to hang with them. But with nearly 200 runners crammed into the narrow start area, I had lost them on the start line. I knew Phil would be well ahead of me. I just settled into a steady rhythm, punching out slow kilometres, tapping away with my trekking poles.

The first aid station, Cathedral, was a rudimentary affair and I passed straight through. The day was unfolding and still getting hotter. Eventually we climbed well above the tree-line and just as soon, we started descending again. I held back, saving my quads for the long, long journey ahead. Fat Dog is 120 miles long. That is 20 miles longer than a regular miler. With 8,600m of elevation gain, you have to respect this course.

The long ride down to Ashnola aid station is one I would love to run without the 100 miles that follows hanging over me. I reigned in my ego and let runner after runner file past me. I hooked up with another runner from Alberta, Canada, and we talked trail stories and compared notes. Ashnola was an elaborate set-up. I took advantage and loaded up, topped up my Tailwind bottle and checked out. I couldn't see Alberta but found him further down the road at his crew car. He joined me again on this long, runnable, gravel road section. I welcomed the company.

After a section of flat easy running, we eventually left the road and started climbing long solid switch-backs through dense conifers. I got into a rhythm with my poles and pulled ahead of Alberta. And once again I was alone, climbing mountains, deep in the Canadian wilderness. Out of nowhere the rain started. At first it was just big splotches of rain so far apart you could almost dodge them. Big drops, like tropical rain. Then it got heavier. I put on my light, water resistant jacket. The rain got still heavier. My light jacket was wet through in minutes. The rain kept getting heavier, the wind started shaking the trees and the temperature plummeted. And then it really got cold. And the wind continued to pick up. I could hear the tree-tops crashing about high above me. Leaves and sticks were flying around. And then the lightning flashed followed closely followed by deafening claps of thunder. The ground shook. As they like to say, all hell was breaking loose. And it was right here, right now and I was right in the middle of it. In the middle of nowhere.

I kept climbing. There was nothing else to do. I passed a runner who was coming back down the path. He said "This is crazy, I am not going up there", gesticulating wildly at the trail ahead that led to the open ridgeline. Another runner stopped in front of me and asked of no-one in particular 'Should we be thinking about this?' I was the only person close by so I responded: 'Yes', but then I continued on past him. Yes, I was giving it plenty of thought but I wasn't stopping. No way was I quitting. How bad could it really get? I figured this was just a summer storm and it would blow over.

By the time I reached Trapper aid station I was a sodden mess and bitterly cold, soaked to the skin. It was a remote aid station with 4wd access and only and a few flapping marquees and tarps. A volunteer asked what I needed. He was hard to hear over the flapping tarps, pelting rain and howling wind. I said I was going to wrap my space blanket around my torso and put my jacket back over the top. He told me to save my space blanket for later and ripped open a new one from his stock-pile. We peeled my jacket off like it was cling-wrap. The cold wind ripped at my wet, bare chest. I was starting to shake uncontrollably. We wrapped the space blanket around my torso and duct taped it in place. Jacket back on and I was off, a shivering mess, rustling with the silver paper sticking to my wet skin. Another volunteer had pulled his truck in close and had the engine running and the heater on in the cab. He was offering to warm runners up. I declined, fearing once in that warmth I would never come out again. Possibly my second mistake of the day to pass up that offer. I found some strips of space blanket strewn on the ground that had blown off other runners as they left the checkpoint. I gathered these up and randomly stuffed them up my sleeves and into my bike gloves to help with the little insulation they could afford. I felt like a scarecrow with tufts of silver foil poking out of all my orifices.

The next section was a blur of cold, wet, wind, hail and rain. The course was well marked, thank goodness, as visibility was down to just a few metres. I passed Trapper Lake, barely visible, and cleared the trees again, this time I was crossing an open grassy ridge. But still climbing. By now I was dangerously cold. My teeth were involuntarily chattering. I was genuinely worried I might shake loose a filling in one of my teeth. I had my jacket hood pulled tight over my cap but the near horizontal rain and hail was coming in under the brim and still hitting me in the face. I had a buff up over my face so that my warm breath was helping to stave off some of the cold around my chest. I couldn't look up so simply followed the track on the ground right in front of me. One tortuous step after another. My nose ran like a stream. About now my plan changed from finishing to pure survival. Forget Plan A-C, it was now Plan D! Don't die! As far as I was concerned, my race was over. The race meant nothing now. I just had to get to safety, to somehow get off this mountain and warm up. I was in survival mode.

I caught a glimpse of two runners just ahead of me, similarly hunched over and pressing into the wind making little progress. I desperately wanted to stop and curl up and try to get warm but knew this would be disastrous. I was almost beyond being cold. The noise of the wind all around me was deafening. There was nothing to do but dig deep and keep going. Eventually there must be an end. Either for me or the climb.

It seemed an eternity but finally there was a change in contour and I crested the blunt grassy ridge and traversed towards some sparse tree cover. Amongst the trees the wind gradually relented, punctuated by howling blasts when the trees parted. Feeling somewhat reassured, now I had to try to warm up and get feeling back into my extremities. As the trail started to descend, I broke into a pathetic shuffle. But it generated enough energy and warmth to keep me from getting worse. Only just. I was still on autopilot, concentrating on survival and still convinced my race was over.

The focus now was on just getting to the next checkpoint and safety. I stared at the ground right in front of me and it was one foot in front of the other. Much of this section is as foggy in my mind as it was in reality. I was still perilously cold. As the trail turned downhill I picked up pace and started to really run and gradually circulation began returning to my feet and hands. I was still soaked through but at least the dampness was not freezing me anymore.



By the time I reached Calcite, the next checkpoint, I was almost back to normal. Almost. I was still a soggy blob. The hot, dry wind of the preceding morning was like a distant dream.

The night had started closing in. I pulled out my headlight and got a volunteer to help me get it on as my fingers were still not functioning properly. Somehow the thought of pulling out subsided once I was back in the realm of safety and had people all around me. I had some food and refilled bottles with Tailwind and headed off into the night like it was business as usual.

With the night comes tiredness and cold. Not good ingredients on top of already being wet. There may have been more rain. Or maybe I was just still so wet and cold it seemed like it rained on me again. I simply can't remember. Parts of the track were just boggy mud. We had to slide down this muddy embankment and then cross a stream. The embankment was near vertical and  with the rain and the many runners ahead of me, any feature that could offer traction had been washed away. It was only just a controlled slide on butt and heels and then splashing through the icy water to help wash off the clay stuck to my shoes. I found out later that a runner had broken his wrist sliding down that embankment.

After crossing a bitumen road, escorted by a volunteer, I found myself at Bonnevier aid station. It was a buzzing hive of activity. Being on a road there were lots of crew as well as volunteers. I have never been so glad to get a drop bag. I emptied the contents onto a chair and proceeded to put on all the additional clothes that were in my drop. I ate all the while and left the checkpoint feeling like the Michelin man. But I was confident I was back in the game again now.

A long gravel road that followed seemed to climb forever. There were some lights in front of me but I lost them on a bend. And then I was descending and then I reached a bitumen road intersection and there was no race signage. Crap. This is wrong. I shouldn't be at another road. I shouldn't have been descending. And there should definitely be flagging at an intersection of this size. I hiked back up the hill, retracing a couple of kilometres before finding a fork in the road and a couple of non-reflective markers lying on the ground. I have to assume the storm had washed them down from their place of visibility but I cursed my mistake and the lost time and energy it had taken to get back on track.

Night number one continued the theme of extreme alpine weather. Eventually I was up on the plateau renowned for bitter winds and freezing temperatures endured overnight. Tonight was no exception. My whole world was reduced to the narrow focus of my headlight in the misty rain-come-cloud. After stumbling along a narrow singletrack hemmed in by low brush for what seemed an eternity, I finally reached the Heather aid station. This was made up of a pitiful marquee, literally being held down by generous volunteers who had packed in all the supplies. The walls of the marquee flapped so loudly people were shouting to be heard. A bunch of cold, tired runners were huddled inside for what little shelter was on offer. I grabbed some soup but was out of there quickly realising this was a death zone for cold, wet runners.

I followed a couple of other runners with pacers into the misty fog. The trail dispersed as it started to descend and we lost sight of the markers in the poor visibility. We found ourselves spread out on the gravel mountainside trying to pick up the next marker. I'm not sure how long this went on for. Time had lost all meaning but it felt like forever. Finally, someone found a marker and shouted and the rest of us followed thankfully.

The dawn crept up on me, almost begrudgingly as the dullness of the low cloud made it feel like it was still night. Pre-dawn light lasted well beyond dawn. We ran around the edge of a haunting lake, the water still  like a mirror, framed in fog and flanked with fallen dead trees. I stumbled into a small camp site with a basic back-country hut. Nicomen Lake checkpoint. There was a film crew here, trying to dry their equipment. They were filming a promotional video for the race but hadn't anticipated the apocalyptic weather we had encountered. Some volunteers had a small fire going but they had nothing I could eat so I didn't stop, knowing I still had a full day and possibly another night ahead of me.

I am sure this part of the course was quite scenic but I had lost all interest in everything except the trail under my feet.

At Cascade aid station Craig came out to greet me in civvies. He had missed the cut at an earlier aid station and was now just a spectator. He helped me reload and then came a long section of bitumen that I actually ran. Hard. I had been saving my quads all of day one to capitalise on this next section that showed as fairly flat on the course profile. But the profile lies. Leaving the road the trail followed Skagit Creek for hours of continually undulating technical trail that defied getting any run rhythm going. Once again I am sure this section was really scenic but my world was only as wide as the trail. Even in daylight. Sleep deprivation was kicking in and my feet were getting sore. Day 2 was a long day knowing there was another night on the trail still to go. The mental games you have to play to keep your body moving forward when it just wants to stop are a big part of making that finish line.

Late in the day the hallucinations started. At first I saw a few wombats on the trail side. Turns out they were just the blackened ends of sawn off dead fall trees. Next I could see a checkpoint up ahead. Complete with volunteers. Turns out it was just huge tree ferns. The golden retriever in a tree was a novelty. Counting wombats helped the miles tick by. Just on dusk Gary caught up with me and told me how he had had to leave Crystal around 100km when foot issues were slowing her to the point she ended up dropping. Bummer for Crystal, but it was great to have Gary's company for a while.

Night number two began. This is always dreaded in an ultra. I can survive two days and one night without sleep but add in a second night and things get very ugly. Very quickly. The body's self defence mechanisms kick in and try to get you to stop and sleep. Or, as commonly happens you sleep while walking. Don't try this at home.

The thing that separates Fat Dog from other 100 mile races is the last 20 miles. Which makes it 120 miles. Sounds simple when you say it fast enough. Skyline is the last big checkpoint before the finish. It sits right on the 100 mile mark. When you leave the Skyline aid-station you have just 20 miles to go. The average time from here is around 8 & 1/2 hours to reach the finish. That's around a 16 min/km average pace. If Fat Dog finished at 100 miles it would be a tough and scenic ultra. But that extra 20 miles sets it apart. Way apart. Those extra 20 miles makes it simply brutal. It is hard to adequately describe this section of the course in words. I focused on just getting to the finish. They tell you to just keep on climbing. And that there will always be another climb. Until you are done. They are not wrong.

After leaving Skyline the first climb goes on forever. And then when you think you have reached the top, you climb again. And then repeat. This series of steep pinches is unrelenting. They call them the needles. That has something to do with how they appear on the course profile. But even that doesn't do them justice. They would be tough fresh but coming as they do after 100 miles they are unimaginable tough.

It was inky dark out there. I started climbing with Gary. He is much stronger than me but waited at the top of each climb. We passed a few runners struggling with their pacers. But eventually I was struggling myself. I kept falling asleep on my feet and staggering off the trail. I told Gary I was going to try to nap and that he should go on. I collapsed in a ball on a wet bush beside the track. I closed my eyes and my mind swirled and whirled. I couldn't fall asleep. With everything else now switched off, the pain in my foot became intolerable and I realised I had been ignoring it. I couldn't sleep with so much pain. So I took my shoe off. There was bloody mess across the front of my ankle. Wtf? My sock had bunched up and chafed right through my skin. I cleaned it up and put some tape over it. My little toe had been screaming at me but it looked fine. I put some tape over the callous on my big toe that felt blistered even though it wasn't. And the ball of my foot felt macerated so I taped that as well. My new sock had worn through and the shredded threads had pilled up to feel like gravel. I scraped the crap off and put my sock and shoe back on and back to business. I was now wide awake again and my foot felt so much better. For a while at least.

The night was a jumble of ups and downs. I passed through the two small pack-in aid stations. I was ticking off the kilometres in a haze of hallucinations and pain. Just as the dawn was creeping across the sky I found myself traversing a wide gravel-scree slope. I hadn't seen a marker for some time and when I got across the slope, there was still no marker to be seen. I was getting worried. I was inside the cut but couldn't afford to get lost and lose any more time. So I back-tracked until I met two young women coming off the scree slope, a runner with her pacer. They were happy that we were still on track so I followed them up the next climb and eventually they yelled back that they had found a marker.



The light gradually spread and with it the world opened up around me. Suddenly I was alone on a ridge with a sea of clouds below me. I was literally up in the clouds. Distant snow capped peaks jutted out through the fluffy clouds, looking like islands. It was like I was on an ocean in a sea of clouds. The view was simply spectacular. Stunningly beautiful. Despite being close to the cut-off I stopped to take pictures that could never do justice to this panorama. This made it all worthwhile. The third sunrise, two nights without sleep, well over 100 miles travelled. The most horrific alpine weather. And with this visual feast of mountain vistas made it all melt away. I actually managed some running as the trail started descending. Just before the real descent began I came across a small tent. A volunteer poked his head out and wished me well. He told me how far it was to go but my mind had trouble comprehending english yet alone understanding numbers at this stage.





The final descent began, and in true Fat Dog style, it was so technical that my beat up feet couldn't manage a trot of any type. So more hiking. But it was downhill. And headed towards the finish, and that filled me with renewed vigour and resolve. Finally the rocky trail gave way to a more groomed brindle path and I could get some momentum going. I saw a few more wombats beside the trail. Not unsurprisingly they didn't move much as I passed them. I even heard a couple of supporters cheer and clap but when I turned the corner there was no-one there. My mind was really playing tricks on me but these hallucinations were so overwhelmingly real at the time.



Finally I reached the lake and knew I was close to the finish. But Fat Dog doesn't let go that easily. Once it bites you it won't let go. After what seemed like kilometres I reached a big wooden bridge decorated in race ribbons and now dead glowsticks. I thought I must be close to the finish. But I was now on the opposite side of the lake and had to run all the way to the end of the lake and then loop back around to the finish line. Oh, to be so close but yet still so far. I managed a shuffle for most of this, wanting to just get it done. The finish arch seemed a little surreal as I passed under it and the end was almost anti-climatic. I think I was emotionally and physically spent. I had given Fat Dog more than I thought possible. But this now very skinny dog had scored himself a new buckle. And still there were several hours more of vivid hallucinations before I could get some real sleep.








Postscript:
I finished in 46:18 and I was nowhere near last.
Gary finished in 44:20
Spud finished in 37:06
Crystal had to drop after 100 odd kilometres due to ankle and leg swelling.
Craig DNF'd due to missing a cut.

If you want a challenge and love mountains and singletrack you really should give this one a try. I can't imagine there is another race anywhere with as much singletrack as Fat Dog. The weather we encountered was particularly bad. The organisers admitted during the presentation that they wanted to stop the race but they couldn't because the communications were down because of the weather. I am just glad no-one died out there! It is the kind of race that you should put on your list as a must do. But for me, once is definitely enough!

The added bonus was that Fat Dog is a Hardrock qualifier. Spud and I threw our names in that lottery and we were both drawn to run Hardrock again in 2016. Another road trip. Another big adventure.







Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cradle Mtn Run aka The Overland Track in a day - Feb 4, 2017

Okay, there is an unwritten code that says don’t promote the Cradle Mtn Run on social media. It is near impossible to get an entry so we don’t want it advertised. Well, clearly that has gone out the window this year. So why not join the fray?

And after all, I can tell it like it is. I finished last so clearly I had a crap day out there. And likely won’t bother coming back anyway, so why not talk it up, even just a little.

The Cradle Mtn Run is after all, one of the longest running trail ultras in Australia. Maybe the oldest? But who cares? Surely it doesn’t resemble anything near what it used to be like. What’s with all those duckboards, it is like a walk in the local park. Well, maybe not quite. Okay, so there was some mud. And it did get a bit rooty and rocky in a few places. In fact it was hard to tell what was trail in some places. And there was plenty of perfect ankle twisting terrain on offer. In fact, if you have any tendency to roll your ankles, don’t try this one. In fact, even if you have good ankles, don’t try this one.

And did I mention the mud? OMG the mud was so deep in a few places I almost lost my runners. Really. In fact, I reckon a couple of times it was only my gaiters that kept my shoes on when the mud tried to suck them off.



Navigation? There is no course marking. So if you can’t navigate stay home. Just forget it. But what’s with the signage. Not the race signage, as I said, there’s none of that - so if you think you will be following ribbons on a marked course, stay on the mainland. I’m talking about the Parks’ signs. Most of them are so old and weathered they looked like they were remnants from the last ice age that carved out those big rock formations. While they blended in nicely with the natural environment, they were a bugger to read on the run.

Scenic? Well yes, it can be but don’t count on seeing anything.  Even the classic landmarks like those big rock formations, e.g. Cradle Mountain. Most times like this year, they are covered in cloud. Those spectacular craggy peaks like Mt Ossa and Barn Bluff aren’t so spectacular when they are draped in misty cloud and you can’t see them. Better to just buy a postcard at the local tourist shop in Launceston. And head back to the mainland. Of course if and when the sun does break through the clouds, you get totally fried because you are so high up on the plateau and they have a big hole in the ozone layer down there. Really, what was I thinking heading down there?

At least there was plenty of water around this year. Just be aware that all the huts have signs saying boil the water before drinking. So if you haven’t got time to boil your water before filling your bladder, again, you might as well stay at home. In fact this year there was so much water around that even the usually dry stretches were bogs. My feet were wet from start to finish. And my shoes, socks and gaiters were trashed.

It’s not all bad, though. There is a great camaraderie amongst runners and organisers from meeting in the leafy park in Launceston, the bus trip to Cradle, briefing, breakfast presentation and bus trip back to Lonnie. There’s just the little issue of an 80km slog in the middle of all that. Maybe try a parkrun instead.



This was my 5th run over the course (plus once hiking it). I DNF’d at Narcissus in 2014, blamed that on a foot injury but really I couldn’t cope with the terrain. I nearly DNF’d again this year. Blamed that on a dodgy back injury. I was the last through Narcissus with 4 minutes to spare. The president of the race committee who was there asked if I was going on or getting the boat ride out. Really, you need to ask? But a lot of better runners have come unstuck and caught the ferry out from Narcissus.  So what keeps bringing me back? For me it is the challenge, and the spectacular course, and the community vibe of the regulars and organisers. But I guess if people keep talking it up on facebook then my chances of getting in again will go out the window. So heed my warnings and try something a little less onerous. I might still try anyhow but don’t take that as any endorsement.




What worked:
Altra Olympus 2.0. Loved them, handled the rugged terrain and provided grip in the slop when there was any chance of gripping. The chunky vibram outsole held on over endless roots and rocks.
Grivel 12l pack. First real run with this nuggety little gem. Loved it. Sits high and holds 2 bottles firmly on the chest with holders that are designed for hard bottles (my preference).
Car windscreen sun visor: perfect lightweight foldable mat to release my back spasms on the side of the track.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Gear reviews

Technically not a formal gear review, this will be an ongoing place to reflect on what worked and what didn't. As much a response to my fading memory as a constructive contribution to gear seekers.

After 10hours on the slopes of Mt Buller yesterday in atrocious conditions on a technically challenging, steep slope for an out and back of just 27km (yep less than 3km/hr gives you some idea of conditions), I can easily reflect on what worked.

Pack: Aarn Marathon Magic 11 which is out of production. It is actually about 20l and I have modified it adding the front pockets from the larger models. Brilliant. There wasn't much actual running but it rides great and having front pocket access means I rarely have to take it off.
Cons: Not waterproof.

Waterproofs: wore my new Z-Packs cuben fibre poncho nearly the whole day. A great test given the muggy conditions down low and cooler up high. With a mix of drizzle, hail and heavy rain it deflected everything. The breezy nature kept me from overheating but kept me warm when the hood was pulled up. The trail style kings would hate this one, looking like an oversized caftan in bland grey, it stood up to the test. The long, loose back draped over my pack (meaning no pack cover was needed). Very light when scrunched up and stashed and doubles as a tarp if needed. Carried ultralight (<90gm and="" anorak="" berghaus="" case.="" in="" just="" montane="" p="" waterproof="" windpants="">Cons: baggy tail snagged a couple of times and pulled the stitching away on one side zip. Will add an elastic waist band (2XU bib belt will be ideal) to counter this. Arms are exposed and got soaked. Will get some water-resistant arm warmers to add.

Nav: used my iphone with the Avenza maps (from GSER) and the course from the RD for the Hut2Hut overlayed. Worked perfectly and with the iphone 6s on airplane mode used bugger all batteries. Kept in pocket in Kathmandu small waterproof pouch. (Not suitable for picture taking.) Also had new Garmin Oregon 650 handheld gps. Worked great except need more practice on knobology and check plotted course is not in yellow! Ran it on rechargeable batteries and was showing only half used after 10hours. Carried a Sunto battery bank and cable. Rooftop 'waterproof' map. Didn't use much and ended up like paper-maché. Contact covered course notes. Were handy and survived the deluge. Carried Silva compass of course.

Food/fluid: Started fasted with just a guzzle of water before. Went 2 hours before starting sips on water-carb mix. Got to turn-around in 5 hours on just half a bottle (300mls). Had a Shotz bar and finished the bottle here. (Refilled untreated water from Howqua after leaving Steripen in van deliberately.) Only drank another couple hundred mls on the return 5hours and ate a cherry ripe. So total about 800mls + 2 scoops of powder, a Shotz and cherry ripe for 10 hours. Felt OK and didn't bonk or really get hungry.

Poles: Black Diamond Ultra-Z. Perfect. Have the wrist straps removed. Given the climb could have used them but prefer the ease of release and grab.

Clothes: Macpac you-beaut thermal. Excellent. I have got a but cold in this when wet before but layered up this time with merino worked great. Helly-Hanson merino blend zip neck top. Excellent. Groundeffects merino short sleeved bike jersey with foam padding in back pockets. Always a winner. Only removed the Helly at the river when it cleared and warmed up for an hour. Otherwise wore everything all day. (Carried Macpac merino skivvy and merino tights, merino balaclava, merino under gloves and Macpac ultralight puffy jacket.) Wore bike gloves that got soaked and would have been cold overnight but had OR warm gloves to slip underneath. Usually wear Macpac merinos underneath. Would like waterproof fingerless gloves. Would not be able to swipe phone for nav if wearing fingered gloves. Kathmandu Dri-motion boxers-awesome. Aldi bike shorts. Awesome. DHB bike shorts without liner. Got a bit loose when wet, need a belt to tighten if needed.

Shoes: Altra Olympus 2.0. These are the bomb. Amazing traction, even on wet rock, within limits of course. Great cushioning. Plenty of toe room. Hard to beat.
Socks: Injinji over calf. No dramas. Never is with these.
Gaiter: Kathmandu waterproof jobs. Worked good. No under shoe straps (removed) and rode up some.



This was the finish photo on the summit for the second time. That's the cairn beside me. Limit of visibility is not much beyond arms length.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's time for the big dance in the San Juans.

Wifi has been worse than patchy at our motel room but meanwhile the Hardrock juggernaut has rolled into town. Runners became more conspicuous. I won't say we now outnumber the all-terrain vehicle fraternity but at least you can feel a little more comfortable in running kit. You know it's real when the actual Hardrock appears outside the gym and you meet Kilian Jornet outside your motel room. Literally.

Monday 11th: while conscious of needing to wind it back still, after getting all cranky after having a rest day on Saturday we decided to go for a short run. We headed back out past Kendall Mtn ski hill along the final few kilometres of the course. I love that singletrack. The sun had just climbed over Kendall and was piercing the tall spruce and lighting up the wildflowers in the grassy clearings. Pinch yourself.

We took a few obligatory pics (will add when I get home) but they never seem to do justice to the scale, the colour, the brightness, the sheer grandeur of the place. We turned around at the white hut. This signifies just 4kms to the finish and I love going past it during the race, knowing I am on the home straight. Well as straight as Hardrock gets. About 8km. Stats 92% O2 & 64bpm on rising. Feeling good. Ready to run.

Tuesday 12th: just for something completely different and to turn the legs over (and burn up some nervous energy) we trotted down to the local athletics track. The term applies pretty loosely. Basically it is a 400m bitumen track with a few weeds growing through strategically on the bends. I jog-walked in true Hardrock style. Spud ran a few wind-sprints down the straights to see how his heart rate compared to his altitude gym sessions back home. I felt breathless watching him and I think he lapped me 4 times. I guess that's the difference between a 35 & 45 hour runner. Easy 4 or 5km. Stats 95% & 66bpm. Importantly heart behaving.

We drove over to Durango for some groceries. And look for any last minute gear additions.

Wednesday 13th: official activities kick off with registration. Tim Olsen wanders past our window. Kilian checks out of our motel to move in with the Salomon team. I say hi to Joe Grant and give his dog a pat to get my dog homesickness fix. I head out for another very easy trot on my own to the beaver dam again. I run into 2 of the legends of the past out clearing the trail with a small chainsaw: Jim Ballard and Rolland Perry. That's what really makes this race so great is the way people come back year after year even when they can no longer run it, just to help out and be a part of it. I chatted for a while until the mossies became a pest and continued onto to the dam. That fresh pine forest scent just filled the air. I drank it in, picturing myself coming through here on Saturday night.

The school gym has been transformed into Hardrock central. I got my wrist band, hiking permit, picked up my goodies bag, purchased some new Altras and spent ages catching up with old trail friends. The hall was a buzz and the energy was infectious. We went to the Tailwind talk and got a bunch of sachets off Gavin and Rebecca who will also crew for Phil during the race. We sat in on the "meet the board" session and were surprised how few attended. But it was a great opportunity to hear about the behind the scenes decision making processes. We caught up with Dale, the RD and had a great chat.

The day ended with a premiere screening of Kissing the Rock, mini doco about last years race. It was a great film capturing the real motivation and sentiment behind a few runners including Anna Frost and Billy Simpson. The prelude was a preview of a mini doco about a winter ski traverse of the Hardrock course. By the end of the 2 films if you weren't freaking out about what you were in for, you hadn't been watching! Stats 97% & 64bpm.

Tomorrow, Thursday is briefing and informal dinner. And drop bags of course. I am as ready as I can be. 4 months of solid training. Incorporating regular pilates under physio supervision to help rehab my back. Weekly massages with Bengt. Solid weekly totals over 100km. As many 50km plus runs as possible. With plenty of double weekends. 2 weeks acclimatisation including a week of solid 4hr mountain hike/runs. There is a common saying that you arrive at the start of a 100miler in you best shape and arrive at the finish line a day or 2 in the worst shape of your life. I have been in better shape but not after the hiccups I have had. So I am happy as I can be with my prep. My pacer pulled out today with a family emergency. But that happens and I kind of prefer to do it the old school way without crew or pacer. Time will tell if that bites me on the arse but that is the nature of this run. There are so many unknowns and it will challenge me beyond comprehension but that is part of the attraction. Here's hoping I can rise to the occasion one more time.

Ed note: I can't edit this due to crappy wifi so please excuse typos until I get home and can edit and add some pics. And hopefully a race report.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Taper time

Saturday 9th: rest day. We drove over to Durango and had the buffet lunch at the Tibetan restaurant. If ever in Durango be sure to try it. We checked out the gear stores and did our grocery shopping. Lazy day.

Sunday 10th: we went for an easy jog along the first 3km of the course to the Mineral Creek crossing. About 7.5km with minimal elevation gain/loss. And some stretching. And lots of eating. Including lots of rhubarb pie.   Morning obs: O2=93 & HR=67

We are already getting impatient and just want to get out there. Only 5 sleeps.

Ouray Bear Creek Trail - 7 days to go

Friday 8th: Wow, if you want to choose part of the course that epitomises Hardrock, visit this nationally recognised trail. After crossing Highway 550 (Silverton - Ouray Hwy) on top of the tunnel over the road, the trail climbs steeply. The path is strewn with loose flat, slatey stones of varying sizes, from 50cent piece to dinner plate. You climb 13 steep switchbacks with the slate tinkling like broken crockery under your feet, being careful not to send any rocks down on those below.

Every time I run down this trail (or hike up it), and I can't run down it without a smile, I hear Annie Lennox in my ears ('Walking on broken glass'). We started and stayed with the trail marking team today. With James Varner leading, the pace was much faster than I remembered for marking days. The traditional leader, and course director, Charlie Thorn, brought up the rear.

Once through the switchbacks the trail follows the Bear Creek (hence the name) on the side wall of the steep rocky canyon. The path is literally cut into the wall of the canyon. It is hundreds of feet sheer drop from the trail to the creek. At points the trail is less than a metre wide. Windy and rocky. Twisting and turning, hugging the very face of the cliff. And during the race I will climb this in the dark. At least then you can't see the drop-off. But in the hot morning sun we marched up the twisty trail respectfully. Pausing to take in the view and take the odd photo. Which never really do justice to just how hairy this trail is. One trip and you are gone. The ultimate DNF. On the run back down I joked to Phil: if I go over the edge tell them I died happy, and made someone on the wait list happy.

Once through the tight part of the canyon it opened up to a tree-lined valley plastered with wildflowers. Picture postcard material. After passing through the Grizzly mine site and then the Yellowjacket mine remains we crossed the valley and climbed through the tress to the broad basin that forms Engineers basin.

We had a cliff bar break at the site of the Engineer aid station before leaving the group who were continuing up to the pass and Oh Point, and turning around and running back down the trail.

The return was a treat. We cruised, soaking in this spectacular  course. 17km in 4hrs. (O2=94% and HR=67bpm so acclimation coming good.) Only hiccup was when I kicked a tree root and somersaulted onto my back in the long grass beside the trail. This was before entering the canyon so no damage done and really sharpened my focus for the run through the canyon.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Virginius - 8 days to go

Thursday 7th: the trail marking crew were marking the Virginius Pass section of the course. This is a spectacular pass separating two of the main towns on the course: Telluride and Ouray. It also represents one of the most challenging points of the course. The pass itself consists of a break in a massive geological formation that looks like spiny back of a Brontosaurus, with craggy peaks of a rocky ridge line giving way to a small flat platform. This exposed platform is only a matter of metres wide but serves as the Kroger's Canteen aid station. This checkpoint is famous for many reasons, not the least the regular offer of a shot of Tequila to runners as they pass through. 

But the real notoriety stems from the location. Perched precariously with a sheer drop-off on both sides, all supplies are packed in and the volunteers spend the night sheltering under a flapping tarp in temperatures that can dip below zero with wind chill. 

Which means any snow on the northern slope freezes to solid ice. In the clockwise direction this year we will have to slide down any residual snow (ice) after scrambling up the steep loose scree on the southern approach. After the initial steep drop, runners then transit the currently snow covered basin before descending the second, shorter slope. Which leads to another bench before the final very steep and treacherous slope.  

After driving through Ouray, Phil and I continued for about 6 km to near where the Governors aid station will be. Here we parked and started the long, tough climb up the jeep road. Being ahead of the trail marking team, we managed to take a wrong turn that didn't add much distance but did treat us to an encounter with 4 magnificent deer. 

We had to cross a couple of snow banks but eventually reached the end of the road above an abandoned mine. This was the start of the lowest pitch. All 3 pitches took a lot of work to climb. Each step required kicking your shoe into the crusty snow to gain traction. Several times I would slip and threaten to slide all the way to the bottom. A potentially dangerous slip. 

But we made it to the top, with elevated heart rates, as much by the fear of falling as the exertion!  The marking team started arriving soon after us. After something to eat, we turned around and butt-slid the top pitch somewhat out of control down to the basin. The middle pitch was uneventful apart from dislodging a big rock that crashed onto my shin taking plenty of skin with it. 

The final, lower pitch was dodgy and I ended up sliding out of control into a melted wash away of a small creek. With one foot in the ice water I came to an uncoordinated stop. No damage this time though. 

Back on the road we jogged very easily back to the car. Only 12km total but 3:45hrs and reached over 13,000ft with 800m climbing. (My O2 was 90% and heart rate 72 on rising.) It was a good section to revisit. These conditions take me out of my comfort zone and better to be reminded if that before race day.

Another pinch-yourself day or two

Yesterday (Tues 5th) we slept in after the late night return to Siverton. The course marking was going over Handies which at 14,000ft + is the highest point on the course. I have been up there on all my previous visits but given the length of the day and the altitude gained it was too much for Phil to undertake and possibly a bit early in my acclimatisation still. So we opted to do our own thing instead.

We headed up Kendall Mt. At a touch over 13,000ft it is still a solid challenge. And you start climbing from the get-go. And it never let's up. All jeep road peppered with lose rock, it is pretty typical of much of the course. The crisp cool air and clear blue skies made for cliche picture-perfect views back across the valley.

Feeling good, we pushed all the way to the top where we were treated to a magical view straight down on Silverton. We kept going to the true summit and soaked in the spectacular 360* vista.

We opted to try the rougher descent off the opposing face of the summit. After a little rock-hopping we found ourselves sliding down a really steep, rocky slope. And when I say steep, I mean steep. I skated, slid and stumbled largely out of control until I actually flipped into the rocks off the side. With grazed shins and bloody knuckles I was a bit more speculative for the rest of the slide to the bottom.

After 3hrs climbing we easily descended in 1.5hrs, keeping it relaxed to avoid trashing the quads. 4:33 for 21.6km and over 1100m elevation gain.

Weds 6th: again we skipped the course marking. Mainly because it involved a long, long rough 4wd
drive and then a long day across the high part of the course from Sherman to Maggie's and another long drive out, with car shuttling.

Instead we headed out to Arrastra Gulch to cover the final part of the course (mostly already marked).
The Beaver lake trail never fails to impress. And again the creek crossing was icy cold.

Conscious of only being just over a week out from race day, we opted not to go all the way to the top of the pass. After grinding out a solid 10km to reach the singletrack junction just above the mine site at around 3,600m, we turned around and literally ambled back down.

Walking back into town a jeep pulled up beside us and Carol Erdman, one of the HR Board members, offered us a giant chocolate-chip cookie to share. Great timing, we were both starving hungry. Carol was heading over to Kendall for her daily hike/run. We had passed Carol on our way back down yesterday and she was looking amazingly fit for a septuagenarian.

Easy day: 20km in 4:13 for around 900m elevation.  This is a great training run to include as it familiarises you with the last section of the course. For me that has always been in the dark. For Phil it was light and will hopefully be so again.




Tuesday, July 05, 2016

July 4, American style

Americans take their July 4 celebrations pretty seriously. Think parade. Think novelty floats. Think red, white and blue. Think flags. Think old cars, fancy pick-up trucks, massive all-terrain vehicles and fire trucks festooned with firemen spraying huge plumes of water over the crowd.  Think lots and lots of all of the above. Then line the streets with hundreds of people sitting in deck chairs, standing or perched on the back of pick-up trucks. All waving postcard sized American flags.

Part of the Hardrock tradition involves marching in the parade. Marching is probably a bit of an overstatement. A bunch of runners and volunteers walk behind the Hardrock banner, waving Hardrock and American flags. And throw candy to the sugar hyped kids lining the streets. Or dog treats to the many dogs. Remember Silverton is a classic old west town with gravel streets and rustic 18th century buildings. It helps to set the scene. So it is all good fun if a little more parochial than I'm used to.

The marching involves periodically busting a move behind the banner. At someone's shouted command we all start running in a circle led by the banner. Or we will break into a trot to catch up to the float in front of us. The 'burrito' is the most interesting one where one of the banner holders gets rolled up vertically inside the banner. The spectating kids love it. By the end I was worn out. In fact Jim Sweat who has 11 starts and never finished, commented that many a Hardrocker had put too much into the parade and suffered on race day. I had to ask if he was speaking from experience. He didn't say no.

Another option is the 10km fun run earlier in the day. I have done that once and nearly burst a lung so now avoid it. Instead I headed out early up Kendall Mountain. It is all hard packed, rocky, jeep road. But it climbs from the town fringe and never lets up. Perfect Hardrock training.

My O2 sats were 87% with a heart rate of 72 when I woke up. O2 a bit lower than I would like. The aim of my training sessions is to keep my heart rate low, preferably below 130bpm. This is hard to do at 3,000m of elevation and climbing fast. So my pace is slow. Only jogging when the gradient flattened out. I got up to 3,800m in 2hrs for about 8km.

By that time the sun had climbed over the nearby peaks and bathed the valley below me in bright, warm light. It was cool when I started, a salient reminder of what to expect overnight during the race. Another mental note to throw calf guards or tights in my Ouray drop bag. By the time I turned around I had warmed up.

The temptation on the descent is to cut loose but with just 10 days to go I showed restraint and
slipped into cruise mode. A couple of runners came towards me looking fresh and crisp and running way too easily considering they were at least 5km and running uphill! We stopped for a chat. Darla and Chris were both entered. Darla for her 4th and Chris for his first.

Lower down another runner was running faster up than I was going down! I soon recognised Anna Frost and that explained the pace. Again I stopped for a chat. I was curious that Anna was spending time down at Durango to improve her recovery from hard sessions up high. I have always thought the idea was to spend as much time as high up as possible. I do like Durango though, so it is an attractive proposition. And I'm certainly not questioning her method. She won last year.

Got back in plenty of time for the parade. 15+km in about 3hrs. 2hrs up and 1hr down, despite the stops on the down. Felt good, no headaches.

Durango tonight for dinner at my favourite Tibetan restaurant then pick-up a Spud at the airport.
Course marking resumes tomorrow after July 4 holiday and I would like to join in.

July 4, American style

Americans take their July 4 celebrations pretty seriously. Think parade. Think novelty floats. Think red, white and blue. Think flags. Think old cars, fancy pick-up trucks, massive all-terrain vehicles and fire trucks festooned with firemen spraying huge plumes of water over the crowd.  Think lots and lots of all of the above. Then line the streets with hundreds of people sitting in deck chairs, standing or perched on the back of pick-up trucks. All waving postcard sized American flags.

Part of the Hardrock tradition involves marching in the parade. Marching is probably a bit of an overstatement. A bunch of runners and volunteers walk behind the Hardrock banner, waving Hardrock and American flags. And throw candy to the sugar hyped kids lining the streets. Or dog treats to the many dogs. Remember Silverton is a classic old west town with gravel streets and rustic 18th century buildings. It helps to set the scene. So it is all good fun if a little more parochial than I'm used to.

The marching involves periodically busting a move behind the banner. At someone's shouted command we all start running in a circle led by the banner. Or we will break into a trot to catch up to the float in front of us. The 'burrito' is the most interesting one where one of the banner holders gets rolled up vertically inside the banner. The spectating kids love it. By the end I was worn out. In fact Jim Sweat who has 11 starts and never finished, commented that many a Hardrocker had put too much into the parade and suffered on race day. I had to ask if he was speaking from experience. He didn't say no.

Another option is the 10km fun run earlier in the day. I have done that once and nearly burst a lung so now avoid it. Instead I headed out early up Kendall Mountain. It is all hard packed, rocky, jeep road. But it climbs from the town fringe and never lets up. Perfect Hardrock training.


My O2 sats were 87% with a heart rate of 72 when I woke up. O2 a bit lower than I would like. The aim of my training sessions is to keep my heart rate low, preferably below 130bpm. This is hard to do at 3,000m of elevation and climbing fast. So my pace is slow. Only jogging when the gradient flattened out. I got up to 3,800m in 2hrs for about 8km.

By that time the sun had climbed over the nearby peaks and bathed the valley below me in bright, warm light. It was cool when I started, a salient reminder of what to expect overnight during the race. Another mental note to throw calf guards or tights in my Ouray drop bag. By the time I turned around I had warmed up.

The temptation on the descent is to cut loose but with just 10 days to go I showed restraint and
slipped into cruise mode. A couple of runners came towards me looking fresh and crisp and running way too easily considering they were at least 5km and running uphill! We stopped for a chat. Dar and Chris were both entered. Dar for her 4th and Chris for his first.

Lower down another runner was running faster up than I was going down! I soon recognised Anna Frost and that explained the pace. Again I stopped for a chat. I was curious that Anna was spending time down at Durango to improve her recovery from hard sessions up high. I have always thought the idea was to spend as much time as high up as possible. I do like Durango though, so it is an attractive proposition. And I'm certainly not questioning her method. She won last year.

Got back in plenty of time for the parade. 15+km in about 3hrs. 2hrs up and 1hr down, despite the stops on the down. Felt good, no headaches.

Durango tonight for dinner at my favourite Tibetan restaurant then pick-up a Spud at the airport.
Course marking resumes tomorrow after July 4 holiday and I would like to join in.

July 4, American style

Americans take their July 4 celebrations pretty seriously. Think parade. Think novelty floats. Think red, white and blue. Think flags. Think old cars, fancy pick-up trucks, massive all-terrain vehicles and fire trucks festooned with firemen spraying huge plumes of water over the crowd.  Think lots and lots of all of the above. Then line the streets with hundreds of people sitting in deck chairs, standing or perched on the back of pick-up trucks. All waving postcard sized American flags.

Part of the Hardrock tradition involves marching in the parade. Marching is probably a bit of an overstatement. A bunch of runners and volunteers walk behind the Hardrock banner, waving Hardrock and American flags. And throw candy to the sugar hyped kids lining the streets. Or dog treats to the many dogs. Remember Silverton is a classic old west town with gravel streets and rustic 18th century buildings. It helps to set the scene. So it is all good fun if a little more parochial than I'm used to.

The marching involves periodically busting a move behind the banner. At someone's shouted command we all start running in a circle led by the banner. Or we will break into a trot to catch up to the float in front of us. The 'burrito' is the most interesting one where one of the banner holders gets rolled up vertically inside the banner. The spectating kids love it. By the end I was worn out. In fact Jim Sweat who has 11 starts and never finished, commented that many a Hardrocker had put too much into the parade and suffered on race day. I had to ask if he was speaking from experience. He didn't say no.

Another option is the 10km fun run earlier in the day. I have done that once and nearly burst a lung so now avoid it. Instead I headed out early up Kendall Mountain. It is all hard packed, rocky, jeep road. But it climbs from the town fringe and never lets up. Perfect Hardrock training.


My O2 sats were 87% with a heart rate of 72 when I woke up. O2 a bit lower than I would like. The aim of my training sessions is to keep my heart rate low, preferably below 130bpm. This is hard to do at 3,000m of elevation and climbing fast. So my pace is slow. Only jogging when the gradient flattened out. I got up to 3,800m in 2hrs for about 8km.

By that time the sun had climbed over the nearby peaks and bathed the valley below me in bright, warm light. It was cool when I started, a salient reminder of what to expect overnight during the race. Another mental note to throw calf guards or tights in my Ouray drop bag. By the time I turned around I had warmed up.

The temptation on the descent is to cut loose but with just 10 days to go I showed restraint and
slipped into cruise mode. A couple of runners came towards me looking fresh and crisp and running way too easily considering they were at least 5km and running uphill! We stopped for a chat. Dar and Chris were both entered. Dar for her 4th and Chris for his first.

Lower down another runner was running faster up than I was going down! I soon recognised Anna Frost and that explained the pace. Again I stopped for a chat. I was curious that Anna was spending time down at Durango to improve her recovery from hard sessions up high. I have always thought the idea was to spend as much time as high up as possible. I do like Durango though, so it is an attractive proposition. And I'm certainly not questioning her method. She won last year.

Got back in plenty of time for the parade. 15+km in about 3hrs. 2hrs up and 1hr down, despite the stops on the down. Felt good, no headaches.



Durango tonight for dinner at my favourite Tibetan restaurant then pick-up a Spud at the airport.





Back to Durango myself  Course marking resumes tomorrow after July 4 holiday and I would like to join in.