8000 meter Challenge

A different type of race field, a different gathering but similar enthusiasm for time on the trails and personal challenge exploring mountain peaks in southern California.  Through Patagonia I was invited to be the guest speaker at the pre-race event Wednesday evening.  After an exciting meeting at the Ventura office (more on that later) I jumped back in Simba and headed southeast to the Mt Baldy lodge where I met up with our Patagonia reps, the Pasadena Patagonia team as well as the busy race director John.

The 8000 meter Challenge includes the summits of Baldy, Gorgonio and San Jacinto.  The athletes that make up the field are specialty retailer staff from all over California and Nevada.  The race is 18 years old and has grown from 36 to over 150 participants.  Participants compete as teams to finish the distances and the teams include those that journey to the top of each summit and the supporting crew members that transport the runners/hikers from peak to peak.  Arguably the biggest challenge is getting in and out of the cars after summiting each of the peaks.  There is also a fundraising component that benefits the Big City Mountaineers.  All in all a great event on many different aspects. 

I sat in the back of the room during the prerace briefing feeling mellow and even a bit sleepy, likely from all the road time the last six weeks.  But as soon as the mic switched hands to Kris who would be making my introduction, without fail my heartbeat raised and was audible in my own ears, my senses heightened and body temperature rose.  All nerves firing and before I was handed the mic I forced myself to take a deep breathe in an attempt to calm the system.  Without fail I noticed myself speaking quickly and soon having to take another gasp... forcing me to truly calm down and settle in to the energy of the awesome people in front of me.  No need to be nervous.  

* I loved how many new participants were in the crowd.  There were some great resources, people that knew the routes and event and they would bring that support and information.  The newbies - their job was to keep the psyche.  To keep everyone pumped as if it were everyone's first time out there.  The sparkle of the unknown that is so fueling and inspiring. 

* FKT's.  With the recent Wonderland Trail run fresh in my mind I shared a bit about Fastest Known Times and my favorite bits of sharing trail time on a self picked adventure. 

* And then we opened it up to questions.  The next 50 minutes flew by as we shared information and got people excited for their upcoming event and hopefully future goals.  All awesome questions and incredible engagement.  Made my "job" fun.  

* My Sponsors came in big with swag for this crowd, so everyone that asked a question received something from one of the following... Patagonia, Pro-Tec, Ultraspire, First Endurance or Julbo.  Everyone went home with Flora's new Seven Sources samples and with extra Oil samples left over I encouraged the race volunteers to take them to the pancake breakfast on Friday morning - better than butter!

Fellow Patagonia Reno employee Sara and I camped at Manker Flats Wednesday night and made our way up Baldy behind the runners Thursday morning.  Their 5am start meant that by the time we were headed up around 7am we started seeing the teams making their way down - huge cheers for the Patagonia Pasadena team leading the charge.  Our run up the Ski Hut trail on Mt. Baldy was incredible.  We were a little pressed for time and wondered if we should go for the top, but convinced ourselves that the decent on Devils Backbone would be faster so pushed up through the altitude and were hugely rewarded with a calm, quiet summit, all to ourselves and views spreading as far as the LA haze would allow.  Our only regret was that both of our phones (cameras) were back in the car.  No photos... only shots with the mind. The run only improved from there with the amazing terrain that is aptly described by the trail's name.  The drastic rocky drops on both sides as we traversed off the summit kept interrupting our conversation as either one of us would point out the beauty surrounding us.  A wonderful breakfast and awesome shared.

A full day traveling back into LA, dropping Sara off with her family and making time to catch up on some work to-dos before making my way to the ocean to soak my feet and finish reading Kilian's new book Run or Die.  The summit of Baldy to the Pacific Ocean, California has many wonderful places to take in.

I wonder the stories found on the three summits of the 8000m challenge.  Were the newbies able to keep the spark for the teams?  What percentage summited all three peaks?  What team raised the most money?  No doubt there will be experiences talked about for years to come.