Sunday, November 17, 2013

Clear Creek

Clear Creek

"Men hang out their sign indicative of their respective trades: Shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe, jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth.  But up in the mountains of New Hampshire, God almighty has hung out a sign to show that there, he makes men."
                           -Daniel Webster, famed American statesman and scholar

     "If I jump in the cold water I won't get Hepatitis B."  Stripping down to boxers and sox, for a second I believed him.  Shivering on a ledge covered by a sheet of ice and fresh dusting of snow, something didn’t feel right.  The flat mid-November light was turning to dusk and water gushed through a tight notch thirty feet below.

     “You just have to jump in the middle of that dark green spot, I've done it before.”  Alarm bells were ringing.  He was confident, then he was gone—and in that moment of weightlessness looked truly alive.

     I walked on numb feet to the edge.  Eyes gauge the drop, epinephrine drips, and the body recoils.  Half expecting a body floating faced down and pinned against an icicle stalactite, it was warming to see nothing but cold moving water.  Tracing the slot canyon thirty feet downstream the lean runner had muscled himself to the top a slippery rock. 

     Shivering and grinning a country mile wide: “It’s not that bad,” he shouted back upstream.

     My legs felt disconnected from my body—not because we’d just gone on a four hour mountain run and not because we were just at the microbrewery on an empty stomach—because it’s almost December, another year is drawing to a close, and all my senses are still awake, firing, and craving adventure. 

     Just as I move towards the ledge someone comes running down the hillside from the road and pops out through the trees.  “Uncle Ned?” the jumper shouts from downstream.

     “What are you guys doing here?” Uncle Ned shouts back.
“Cliff jumping.” As if it makes sense, nearly December with snow on the ground.

     Turns out Uncle Ned had just finished the same mountain loop, saw folks parked in the gravel pull-out, so stopped to have a look.

     Ryan, Amber, Danny, Nacho, and the lean runner on the rock downstream are home grown New Hampshirites.  Nacho says he’s a Spaniard but I don’t believe him.  For certain, these long lost friends and nationally ranked pro endurance athletes have taught me just as much about life as the books in school.  A person can make any place awesome with the right company.

     On average grades and a good story I was accepted to Franklin Pierce University’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program in Manchester, New Hampshire.  A few weeks back was almost removed because average grades and a good story weren't good enough, and yesterday learned that I had learned enough to join them for term II.  With an incredible amount of respect and admiration for the FPU faculty, I am blown away by the amount of information they have been able to cram into my hyperactive brain in just twelve short weeks.    

Lesson#1 from PT school in New Hampshire: You can take my life, but you can’t take my freedom.

Live free or die.

Your pal,

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Exploring new terrain via human power

‘Exploring new terrain via human power’ Print
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Written by Deborah Stone   

Andrew Fast
Andrew Fast
Andrew Fast claims there are no big secrets to being an endurance athlete. The local man, an elite trail runner and triathlete with an oh, so apropos last name, says it’s basically about showing up and putting in the work.
Most importantly, he adds, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh often.”

Fast, who was born and bred in Woodinville, recently set the speed record on Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak and dormant volcano.
He ran the 18-mile trail that goes from sea level to 10,000 feet in 3 hours and 37 minutes. 

To give you an idea of how impressive this record is, previous attempts by others took double that amount of time.
Fast’s achievement and recount of the run is featured in the February issue of “Trail Runner Magazine.”

The local man’s interest in endurance sports was first ignited when he was a student at Seattle University.

Accustomed to waking early to train from his days of playing soccer, Fast headed to the rec center, where he met a group of lively older people waiting outside for the pool to open.

He learned they were triathletes and among them were some local legends, including Ironman Ed Wong.

“My background had been in surfing and rock climbing; two sports with a lot of ego,” explains Fast. “I was blown away by how welcoming the endurance community was, and before I knew it I was getting invited on bike rides, open water swims and trail runs.”

The Woodinville man took to trail running in a big way after he moved to Leavenworth, following a year where he lived and worked in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border.

During his time in Southeast Asia, he dealt with his thoughts by riding a bicycle from the camps across the southern tier of Asia, pedaling into remote villages of Laos where tourists are never seen. When he returned to Washington, Fast decided that Leavenworth would be a good place to reside while he dealt with his culture shock. The small community and access to the outdoors was ideal for his pursuits.
“I could get to trails from my door, float the river, ski and get solitude within five minutes,” he says. “I stayed there for two years to train and write and earn money for my next trip and races.”

One of those adventures was in Chile, where Fast cycle-toured from Santiago down the length of Patagonia.
Now back in Woodinville, the local man is continuing to train and race, getting support from such companies as Powerbar, Orca, Nuun and Woodinville Bicycle.

He comments that his success is motivated by endorphins, discipline and community.
“To wake early and get fresh air in your lungs, endorphins flowing and new blood in your brain is a very good quality of life,” he comments. He adds, “Someone once told me ‘endurance is a blue-color sport, hard work pays off’ and I suppose that stuck with me because the discipline required to enjoy endurance sports creates a disciplined lifestyle. The determination, drive and engaging characteristics transfer well to anything you take on in life.”

As for community, Fast spends much time with others involved in the sport and is appreciative of the many mentors he has had over the years who shared their knowledge and served as an inspiration to him. With a number of wins under his belt and a skill-set that is well-honed, Fast feels he is in a position to give back to the community. Together with Woodinville Bicycle, he has started a triathlon team to provide an opportunity for local triathletes to learn from one another and train together.
Additionally, he serves as an announcer and volunteer at various events, as well as a mentor to others.
Fast strives to continue to improve his performance, averaging about 25 hours of training a week, which includes swimming, biking and running.

He enjoys competing, but emphasizes that the sport is more about fun and exploration for him.
“It’s exploring new terrain via human power,” he explains. “The element of exploration really set me up well for harder racing; control what you can control — don’t stress about things you can’t control — it’s inefficient.”
Bitten by the travel bug as a teen, courtesy of his parents, Fast doesn’t see borders, language barriers or political unrest when he looks at a map.

He simply sees terrain, and if the land is new and the culture is foreign, then it presents the ideal situation for him, combining two of his passions — human power and travel. In running Haleakala, he notes that Maui is one of the few places in the world where a person can go from the tropical waters of the Pacific, through the jungle and up to high country ranch land, into one of the most unique alpine environments in existence. In describing the volcano, he comments, “The belly of the crater is lifeless and moon-like in a beautiful way.”
Fast’s love of sport and pushing physical boundaries has created a deep sense of empathy for all ability levels, which drives his interest in the field of physical therapy. 

He says, “From someone with a disability to an Olympic caliber athlete, as a therapist you have to be able to connect with them in order to problem solve. The problem solving element of being a PT is very exciting to me.”
The local man strongly feels that his story can serve as inspiration to others.
He notes that people tend to be creatures of habit, but he emphasizes that there’s a big, beautiful world out there, ripe for exploration, adding, “An expensive bike and brand new pair of shoes is not a prerequisite. All a person needs to do is get out the door and run or walk around a corner they haven’t gone around. The endorphins will start to flow and a sense of adventure will reawaken.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Here's to Now


Training plans: weekly/monthy

Price: $199-$299 per month depending on plan.  Hourly consultation also available.

Philosophy: Every athlete is unique and everyone has to put in the effort to race well.

Background: I have ridden self supported across the southern tier of Asia, the length of Patagonia, and in many other beautiful desolate places.

My knowledge base is centered on half iron and iron distance triathlon, mid distance trail races, and human powered expeditions. Member of prestigious La Sportiva Mountain Running Team.  Nuun Ambassador.  PowerBar Team Elite and Nutrition Pro.  Co-captain Woodinville Triathlon Team.

Recent acomplishments:
*1st O'all ChelanMan Olympic Triathlon
*2nd O'all Yakima Skyline 25km
*2nd O'all King of Sting (100km Mountain bike + 50km Trail Run)
*7th O'all Vancouver International Triathlon (Half Iron)
*FKT Haleakala (18 miles; sea level to 10,000ft) 3:37

Andrew Fast
(206) 799-5374  

Haleakala: The Fast Way

*Photos: Eddie Gianelloni


Haleakala: The Fast Way

“Mainland, yea?”  Biting the top of her knuckle, the old wooden desk creaking as she leaned in heavy.  Pressing the phone to her ear and tripoding her elbows on the desk, she listened close for a few more seconds then looked up at me and asks: “So the dogs came after you?” her tanned forehead crinkling into the shape of a ‘V’.  
“Well, no.  Not really.”  Pausing mid sentence and putting myself in the ranchers boots on the other end of the phone line; this must sound ridiculous.  A runner from the mainland with no shirt and short shorts wanders off his ranch into the Kaupo General Store and wants to know why his dogs, specially trained to protect the livestock, come after him when he runs towards the livestock.
Meg presses the old phone back to her ear then leans back in her springy office chair: “Okay, thanks John, got it.”  I wander aimlessly in the cubical sized store.  Meg tilts her head, pinching the phone to her shoulder and shouts, “Just don’t try and steal any goats and the dogs won’t bite you.”  Loud enough for the neighbors to hear it. 
Leaving camp early that morning with the plan of running from the Kaupo General Store, at sea level, to the top of Haleakala, a ten thousand foot volcano on the island of Maui, things had not gone as planned.  With livestock spread across the route at three thousand feet and big white dogs ready to protect, retreating to find out if they bark or bite was the only option.
I’d met a lot of interesting people since pedaling out of the open air baggage claim in Kahalui.  An Olympic caliber runner and sometimes artist living upcountry on three hundred acres of ranch land, he chases down goats, oddly enough, on long runs from his door and sells them on Craigslist to get by; a group of long hairs that’d turned grey as they watched the world change and develop around their tent-beach community; and a Dutch man training full time to become a professional iron distance triathlete who’s never raced an iron distance triathlon—he’s strong, it’ll probably happen.  The people you meet from the saddle of a bicycle or pair of trail shoes defines the journey.  Going after three big human powered objectives unsupported and solo, the trail, ocean, and open roads bring great solitude and clarity.  It starts like any good adventure—with strong microbrew and detailed topo-maps. 
With a couple pairs of running shoes, a bicycle and Bob Trailer loaded down with camping gear and three pounds of quinoa, collectively known as Tuktuk, I bought the cheapest airfare I could find.  On a budget of twenty dollars per day I aimed to (1) set the fastest known time (FKT) trail running from sea level up ten thousand vertical feet to the summit of Haleakala Volcano; (2) ride Tuktuk around the one hundred and sixty mile circumnavigation of Maui faster than anyone has ever recorded; (3) swim across the nine mile Auau Channel from Lanai to Maui.  The bike ride was long and arduous and the swim was too windy and crossed a whale migration path during whale migration.  This is a story about running from the tropical waters of the Pacific, through jungle, ranch land, tree line and to the top of Haleakala’s moon-like crater.
10:00 AM December 14, 2012:
I’m tired and the dogs look angry.  Quickly scrambling to the bottom branches of an old tree, I could see the double track winding through two big knolls dotted with goats—seemingly aesthetic until I heard the barking.  Climbing steeply to four thousand three hundred feet in the first three and a half miles after an hour and a half ride to the trailhead from camp; the clock was ticking and I was tired.  Perched and sweating from the humidity, all I could think about was stories from Colorado: “…if you are in the high country and come across a group of sheep with big white Burmese-mountain-type dogs, turn, and run like hell in the opposite direction.”  Unfortunately I’m like a kid touching a hot burner for the first time—it’s not real until you experience it firsthand.
Retreating back to the Kaupo General Store my effort was thwarted.  The first section was hard enough, navigating head-high jungle grass through a maze of wild pig trails, looking for tree trunk colored sign posts with small white arrows.  There is no established trail until four thousand seven hundred feet, where a person goes through a chain link fence that signifies the Haleakala National Park boundary.  The lower half is pure cross country on Kaupo Ranch land.  The rancher opened the route as a courtesy to hikers, but let it be known he is still ranching and has dogs trained to protect the livestock from predators or the like.  Back at camp I fell asleep dehydrated and over trained—for the past two weeks I’d been riding Tuktuk from trailhead to trailhead loaded down with all her gear.  If I was going to complete the route I needed a different approach.
Breaking the budget and renting a car for a day, I set up base camp at Hosmer Grove near seven thousand feet on the other side of the crater.  Figuring the most efficient way to do the run would be duel sport; lock the bike to a fence post at the summit, watch the sunrise, drive around to the opposite side of the island where the trail starts, run the route, and ride fifty miles back to the car into the setting sun.
7:00 AM December 17, 2012:
No matter where you start, 10,000 feet is still ten-thousand-feet.  A marshmallow of weather squished the summit on run day.  Forty mile per hour gusts, sideways rain, and less than twenty feet visibility left me grinding my teeth with crossed arms in an overcrowded visitor center.  The summit parking lot was an ant hill of tourists from sea level who’d come from eighty degree weather in Kihei wearing tank tops and flip flops; there was frost on the ground.  The three mornings prior had been a blue-bird sunrise with a full moon and bright stars fading to calm weather and views of adjacent islands.  Frustrating, but today was not the day—I extended the rental car and drank overpriced coffee in beach caf├ęs.
4:30 AM December 18, 2012:
The stars are close enough to touch from the door of my tent; recovered and anxious, it’s time to run.  What took ninety minutes on recon took forty.  Moving quickly but conserving energy, I met two Peruvian guys who tend to the goats.  We talked in Spanglish for a couple minutes, I told them about my first encounter with their dogs, now sitting obediently five feet away and ready to work.  I nick named the dogs Pica and Rico.  The Peruvians offered me a ride on their four wheeler, I gave them a high five, and ran up the hill.
Steep double track with bowling ball lava rocks slow progress, but soon gives way to more gentle fell style running across wind exposed fields with long range views of the Kaupo Gap; the long ramp exiting the crater through sheer walls and leading down to the ocean.  Knee high sub alpine grass-land and eucalypt forests defines the middle section of the run.  The route sees little traffic below the crater—if there ever was a proper trail the jungle ate it a long time ago.  Around five thousand eight hundred feet a pristine alpine trail emerges and it’s time to hammer.  Climbing nearly six thousand feet in the first five miles, steepness backs off, the wind dies down, and the crater walls close in protecting the runner from weather systems crashing into the West side of the volcano.
Low hanging cloud bands hover around three story cinder cones and the trail gives way to a lifeless moon-like sand box.  I’m thankful for the moisture in the morning air making the sand play dough.  The sun aluminates the stacked ridge lines of red, orange, and brown lava rock.  The route hugs the left wall through the belly of the crater via Sliding Sands Trail.  This upper section is one of the most unique alpine runs a person will ever experience.
The final three thousand feet is dry, on deep sand, climbing sustained switchbacks, and it hurts.  From the bottom of the crater I start to push hard toward the distant ridge—what I thought was the finish line.  Six miles and three thousand vertical feet later the number of tourists multiplies and I reach my bike.  Eighteen miles, ten thousand vertical feet, three hours and thirty seven minutes made for one of the most dynamic and varied runs I have ever done.
Unlocking my bike a grin spreads across my face—I was about to coast down ten thousand feet of brand new road as the sun set.  As luck would have it, my pedal broke at mile thirty and it starts to rain just as the road turns to dirt and cobblestone.

Photos: Eddie Gianelloni

Washington Coast