Monday, March 23, 2009

Orchard to Ocean 5k

I ran my first 5k race this last Saturday. I had no idea what to expect, how to act, or how fast to pace myself. I just picked some dude who looked reasonably quick, and stayed hard on his heels. Before I knew it, we were in the top eight or ten runners, and keeping a blistering pace. I resolved to finish the race still breathing, so I slowed up a bit, and did my best to approximate a "steady" rhythm. Note: I had NO detailed conception of what constituted a quick 5k time. All I knew is that back in high school, during my track career, there was a guy who ran a 14 minute 5k and an 8:41 2-mile. His name was Dathan Ritzenhein. He currently cleans up at races all over the world, but back in Michigan, during the 90's, he was a demigod. His coach would have him run numerous events—even ones Dathan "sucked" at—because he knew we didn't have a chance against his little prodigy.

But that was then.

By mile three, I realized that I was still—inexplicably—at the front of the pack, and keeping my breakfast down. I sprinted into the finish rather tired, but still alive. I felt like I strategized pretty well, made moves at the right junctures, "drafted" the right runners, etc. My time? 20:24, which placed me second in my age group, and tenth overall. I suppose it was an okay time—for a newbie. Basically, I ran 6.5 minute mile splits. Now I have a good idea of what to shoot for at my next 5k race. I'm thinking sub 19 minute. If I can get into the low 18's by the end of the summer, I'd be stoked.

Oh, and by the way, the Orchard to Ocean run has stupendous baked goods at the finish line. Well worth the effort.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yair Kuperstein

Tonight, at Vertical Heaven, I climbed with the typical Ventura crew: college students wearing i-pods; Prana clad bums; ten year-old loners deposited at the gym by harried mothers looking for a break. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary.

Then I met Yair.

At first, I thought he was just another Euro climber styling all the V-easy problems veeery slow, with comically precise footwork, as if to show us Amerikanskis how it's REALLY done. And he talked—alot. I almost left, hoping to climb in solitude. But as I watched him float everybody's projects (skipping holds to make them more challenging), I understood that I was in the presence of a fabled Euro-mutant. His name? Yair Kuperstein, from Israel.

Yair has a fair track record: 46th at the 2002 European Bouldering Championship, and 56th in the 2004 Championships. Yeah, yeah, I know: that's not first. Or second. Or even fifth. Still, the fact that he even competed with the likes of Malcolm Smith, Daniel Andrada, and Daniel Dulac places him in a seperate—if not transcendant—class of climbers. He laughed off his blatant cranked-ness, complaining about his "being out of shape" and "nagging injuries". I say bull-shit. This guy climbs with preternatural aplomb, and almost scary control. Yair and I will be pulling down at Lizard's Mouth on Saturday afternoon. He says he "hasn't climbed in a while", but we all know what that means.

Monday, March 16, 2009


While Elijah was cranking elsewhere in Joshua Tree, I was busy administering the Boy Scout Rock Climbing Merit Badge for a Boy Scout Troop from Ventura. Elijah himself, believe it or not, is an Eagle Scout, so based on his experience, the Rock Climbing Merit Badge=5.13 climbing. Obviously.

Try it for yourself. The Scouts are waiting...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lizard's Mouth

Heralding in a new season of post-work sessions, Justin, Elijah, Marcela, Kristy, and I hit up Lizard's Mouth in the waning hours of sunset. Temps were frigid—for here. That meant skin and rock—inexplicably—stuck together, resulting in a slew of rad sends. Elijah repeated Gangsta Hippy, and I added a low start to the problem, making it even radder. At least for me. The rest of the day was spent on "Top of the World, Ma" boulder, which has become my favorite Lizard's Mouth locale for hard, sloper problems. I accomplished Bernd's Red Line (Vhard), the sit-start to Top of the World, Ma (Vawkward), and began work on a dire direct line between the two. Think: same jug/crimp start, go straight up. Those pics of me in a heinous heel-hook position? Yeah, that's the one...

Even Bob Banks made an appearance, camera in tow. Thank him for the images.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lizard's Mouth, at long last...

I hadn't been to Lizard's Mouth since the Gap Fire, which was a long time ago. In fact, it was TWO fires ago, which makes me feel a little bit like an old timer. I'm sure my arthritic cronies and I will wax nostalgic about "dem fires" in years to come. Anyways, instead of making the drive to Vertical Heaven to get a workout, I took advantage of the good weather and drove the all-too-familiar drive to Lizard's Mouth. Immediately, I was reminded of how many people go there on the weekends; I had no trouble finding climbing partners, and I wiled away the afternoon with some extremely quirky UCSB kids. Again, I felt my age, especially when I recommended a bar and they all said "uuhh, we're not 21 yet". Nevertheless, they were hilarious, and eager to climb.

Having not been to a legitimate bouldering locale in AGES, it was fun to feel strong and confident. I easily dispatched Gangsta Hippy (V6?) on my second go, and very nearly did the sit start to Gangsta Hippy (V7?). I also second-goed the sit start to Top-of-the-world-Ma, an exceedingly awkward V6 or 7. To the left of the aforementioned problem, I worked a rad sloper line that felt desperate—but very doable. Probably V7 or something. I don't know, nor do I really care. The climbing was, as I remember it to be in years hence, spectacular.

I'm anxious to go back, actually. If anyone is interested, I'll be thrutching on Thursday from the hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Alabama Hills

In a word: slabtastic.

Opting for convenience over notoriety, Bret, Jared, Mara, and I went to Lone Pine for the weekend instead of Bishop. Bret's Dad owns a small cottage just off the main drag, and we bunked up there for a weekend of climbing in the Alabama Hills, a clump of Joshua Tree-esque formations. Apparently, during the Civil War, Lone Pine had significant sympathies with the South, so, naturally, they named the piles of queerly shaped quartz-monzonite after the Alabama, a Confederate Ironclad.

The climbing wasn't world-class, but maybe national-class, or at least west-coast class. I climbed a shit-ton of routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.12, with quality ranging from great to gawdawful. The approach for the Alabama Hills is unbeatable. The crags were literally 4.5 minutes from the door of our cottage (no joke), and we could almost belay from our car. And there was no human detritus from L.A. roaming about; I've rarely climbed in such an area with so few people.

Like I said, the climbing here was slabtastic. As I write this, my hands are not the least bit pumped from two days of climbing, but my calves and quads feel a bit sore. I haven't climbed this much slab and face in a long, long time. And I guess I can still stand on my feet, because I onsighted my first 5.12 face climb (Diamond blade, 5.12a, 6 bolts). Apart from that, I accrued tons of mileage on mostly 5.10 terrain, onsighting a bunch of routes. I know it's kinda silly, but here's a list with do's and don'ts:

Bananarama, 5.8: do
Banana Split, 5.9/5.10: not that great. Don't.
Tall T, 5.10b: do
Dream On, 5.10b: the hardest 5.10b I've ever done. Definitely do.
Diamondblade, 5.12a: do
High Plains Drifter, 5.10b: do
Hang 'em High, 5.10a: do
Shark's Fin Arete, 5.7: awesome. do.
Pirateson on Horseback, 5.10b: eehh. okay.
Fat Black Mama, 5.11: do.
Pop, 5.11a: definitely do
Fizz, 5.10b: do
Slab Route, 5.10a: dirty, but do.
Open Project, 5.13?: effing impossible.

In short, the Alabama Hills are (per the guidebook) "the poor-man's Joshua Tree". The view boggles the mind as well. Mount Whitney towers RIGHT behind you—a la' Buttermilks view—instead of the pervasive L.A. basin haze, like in J-tree.