Trip Report: Adventure Horizon

 
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MetalMark Climbing and Fitness GymLast month I completed Adventure Horizon, a self-supported and self-propelled solo 24-hour endurance challenge that I dreamed up myself. It consisted of 7 stages including biking, hiking, climbing, rowing, and running. I arrived home safely with a smile on my face, and many lessons learned.

I asked myself ‘why?’ many, many times during this trip. Especially during the night hike. And while I never got to a definitive answer, I do know that I love the concept of limits. Perceived limits, physical limits, and mental limits. I went out to gauge my limits in emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual realms. I wanted to see how my mind and body react to the pressure applied from endurance activities as well as the solitude of being alone.

I was also motivated and inspired by an article  in Men’s Health magazine interviewing Jason and Chelsey Magness. Jason and Chelsey are elite adventure racers on Team YogaSlackers, and I am a member of their adventure racing club team Y.E.R.T (YogaSlackers Endurance Research Team). In the article Chelsey mentioned going out for a 24-hour training circuit to prepare for a race. Since I’ll be racing later on this summer, I wanted to see where I’m at. Jason and Chelsea are a continuous spring of inspiration that never runs dry.

Preparation

The night before, I assembled gear, packaged food, practiced yoga, and turned in early for a good nights rest. In the morning, I awoke to a heavy downpour. The storm was predicted to pass, so I busted out a little yoga session, devoured a bomb smoothie, and finished the last odds and ends of preparing for my adventure.

I planned on consuming 100 calories every 3o minutes, so I assembled small bags filled with allotted caloric intake. Since I didn’t want to eat the same thing consistently, I mixed it up with 4 varieties of stacks of energy bars, cookies, dried fruit, nuts, and chips.

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In my bag I packed running shoes, climbing shoes, climbing harness, rain jacket, rain pants, puffy jacket, lights and batteries, first aid kit, wallet, water bladder, spare socks, spare t-shirt, spare gloves, wool buff, cycling beanie, hiking pole, 2 dry bags, and food. Everything was placed into a dry bag and then into my pack.

I wore ibex wool 3/4 length cycling pants, ibex long sleeve half zip, compression socks, Smartwool socks, prana running shorts, tech t-shirt, an Arcteryx windbreaker, cycling cap, gloves, helmet, and cycling shoes.

The bicycle has a Swift Industries saddle bag, a cool artisan pannier company that construct handmade bicycle bags. Inside I kept tools, spare tubes, and extra food.

Stage 1: BicycleMetalMark Climbing and Fitness Gym

Distance: 56.12 miles
Elevation Gain: 4236 feet
Duration: 5:27:40′
Average Heart Rate: 125 bpm

I embarked on my adventure at 10:40 am. The rain had stopped an hour before, and streets were beginning to dry…a little. My route headed east towards the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas along Watts Valley Road. Watts Valley road began to climb and continued steadily upward. The first stop was 30 miles in at Tollhouse where I went into the local diner and bought a cup of coffee. I refilled water bottles, used the restroom, and took a little break. I was eager to hit the road though and only stopped for about 20 minutes.

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness GymYou may  be thinking that I’m cheating. Stopping inside. Buying coffee… Yah, Yah. Well, the best part of planning your own adventure is there are no rules! I needed water… wanted coffee… and I’m always happy to support a local business.

I also needed to lube up. Yep, apply another layer of that magical cream, Desitin. When in the saddle for hours on end, if you start to chafe it’s already too late. No, chafing requires proactive measures. Thus, every few hours another layer goes on those places that don’t see too much sunshine. You gotta do what you got to do….

Back on the bike, I continued my journey.  The sun came out and shone down warming me inside and out. Temperature management has always been a huge issue for me. Especially when the weather is finicky. Learning my threshold for hot and cold and when to stop and shed layers is a crucial part of training.

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness GymThe next stop was at Table Mountain Casino. This was the only establishment near the trailhead where I would be able to fill up water bottles and my water bladder. I hit Table Mountain at mile 50 and went inside to brave this alternate dimension. It was such a trip. I took a photo, got in trouble, and then was given lots of water to refill my supplies. All at the same time. I’m not going to post that photo, I don’t want any backlash….

The last 6 miles into the trailhead rolled up and down. There was a serious downhill of about 1000 feet at over 10%. I knew going down that this was going to be serious business on my return voyage…

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness GymStage 2: Hike

Distance: 21.24 miles
Elevation Gain: 4242 feet
Duration: 8:01:03′

I removed my cycling shoes, put on running shoes, grabbed the hiking pole, hid the bicycle up in the woods and locked it to a fence, reloaded my accessible food supplies, and reapplied!

What’s the most embarrassing moment you ask? Well… I made a quick stop in the porta potty to lighten my load before taking off. My gloves were tucked up nicely into the waist band of my pants behind, and after dropping my drawers, I saw two gloves go straight down the hole. Kerplunck! Nassssty. I reluctantly retrieved them and left them outside, hidden in a bush. I couldn’t deal with that right then. Fortunately, I had the spare warmer pair of gloves in my pack, which apparently it was not time to wear. On the return loop, I collected my soiled gloves and packed them carefully in a plastic bag. Leave no trace!

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I set off on foot on the San Joaquin River Trail around 5:40 pm. The trail immediately climbs quickly and I charged to the summit just in time to catch an A-maaaaaazing sunset over Millerton Lake. It was epic. I said some prayers for safety, and continued on. Turns out, the trail I took to the summit is an offshoot of the actual trail, so when I descended off the summit, I picked up a trail thinking it was the SJRT, but wasn’t. I followed this trail unknowingly for about an hour before coming upon a sign saying ‘No Trespassing’ at a gate. The gate was not locked, and I decided to carry on, thinking this might actually be the trail with an old sign. But alas, after another mile I came to a dead end.

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness GymI had my phone, and could get a little service. I located myself and saw that I was very much upslope of where this rudimentary layer indicating where the trail should be. Given the fact that I wanted to be on the river trail, and I wasn’t on the river, I figured if I hiked downwards I would eventually run into it . I could have backtracked, but nah….

I followed a drainage downwards, because water is smart. This was a super fun and adventurous part of the hike. Off-trail. Very dark. Not sure where exactly to go. Then the drainage became so dense with thick woven trees I was stuck. I tried to go left and right, but got cliffed out.

Luckily, I found a small passage underneath the intricate web of trees. For about 100 feet downslope I scooted on my butt under this tree pulling my bag behind me, because the passage was too small to wear it. My heart racing and feeling invigorated, I erupted out of the mass of trees to find very old and abandoned horse troughs. Another 5 minutes downslope and I found the trail! Hooray!

IMG_7372With the trail located, it was time to hike. I hiked and hiked with my headlamp on and spotlight armed and ready. An ever-present half moon created midnight cloud formations that could bring a smile to any sour face (not that I had one). I heard owls, coyotes, quails, came face to face with packs of cows, and saw glowing eyes up the hill that never got closer. Mountain lion perhaps? Makes this story sound cooler… but who knows really.

The trail was muddy and wet at parts, and my feet were soaked the entire way. I’ve never been a fan of wet feet but I’m becoming more comfortable as I experience long stretches in soggy socks.

I decided to turnaround at 4.5 hours in, thinking I could make the return journey in 3.5 and be back at 1 am. I had hiked 11 miles and climbed 2484 feet.

A lot of thoughts went through my head as I walked, but there was also a lot of silence. I contemplated life, thought of others, though of myself, and worked Pranayama (breath control) to find rhythm and steadiness.

21 miles and 8 hours later I was back at the bicycle. I transitioned back into cycling mode in 15 minutes and got the heck out of there!

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness GymStage 3: Bicycle

Distance: 26.92 miles
Elevation Gain: 1273 feet
Duration: 2:33:40′

Just as I had feared, the climb uphill was super serious business. I was in my lowest gear the whole time and pushing. Then, after the summit, I screamed down the other side. I didn’t realize how much fun 1 am pitch black headlamp driven downhill bombing could be after working so hard. It’s awesome!

6 miles back up and over and I returned to Table Mountain. At first, I thought I’d go inside for coffee, but the blue lights on the trees were tripping me out. Then I thought I’d just go to the bathroom, and a building nearby looked good. But NO. That’s not a bathroom. Then I was turning circles in the middle of the road. And suddenly I realized. Yes, I’m having trouble making decisions.

A huge part of my training has been to learn the mental aspects of endurance. Learning how to recognize mental fatigue and be extra careful to make good choices. At that moment, I decided I wanted nothing to do with Table Mountain and I needed to pedal. So off I went. The next 20 miles weren’t the fastest I’ve ever ridden, but I was consistent. I took the time to monitor and observe my mental faculties.

I arrived in Fresno and headed towards at MetalMark Climbing and Fitness around 3:45 am… aaaand it opens at 5 am. Now was a good time to get coffee. I locked up my bike, grabbed my pack, and went on the hunt. I was at the most interesting mental state of the entire adventure. I had decided that Starbucks must be open at 4am… because I needed coffee. And when they weren’t, I again checked into my mental status realizing I was not my sharpest. I walked the streets of Fresno at 4 am. Cars were speeding like madmen, and homeless were out and about. I felt more in danger here than I did out in the woods.

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness Gym

I found a donut store around the corner open 24 hours and went inside to get that coffee I so vehemently desired. All these fresh donuts staring me down in the face. But none vegan. When I asked, the dude laughed at me. I LOVE donuts. LOVE them. Before going vegan, they were an excellent source of instant energy on bicycle tours and a nice treat after adventures. Here I was, feeling crazy, staring at donuts, and not eating any of them. But that’s ok. 5 minutes later I was kicked out, since 4am donuts are only to go. Probably a good thing. I walked back to the gym and felt unusually good and refreshed. I suppose it was the 10 minutes off my feet and caffeine kicking in.

https://touchstoneclimbing.com/metalmark/Stage 4: Climb

Vertical Gain: 1000 feet
Grade: 5.10a
Laps: 7 laps on 3 routes each = 21 laps

After 15 minutes of light yoga outside the gym, the gym opened at 5 am. I had setup a climbing partner to meet, but he was running a little late, so I snuck in a 30 minute slackline session. I could still walk and do a little Slack-asana, but my balance game wasn’t quite as on point as it normally is.

Dustin arrived and belayed me for 21 laps on 3 different routes. I climbed 5.10a for a total of 1000 vertical feet. I also belayed Dustin for the first set of 7 laps, but a previous strain in his finger led him to not wanting to climb more than that. Big thanks to for showing up and being there to catch me so early in the morning! You rock. The last route was very pumpy, and the final 3 laps definitely pushed my limits.

Stage 5: Row

Distance: 3.75 miles
Duration: 30 minutes

Adventure racing often includes pack-rafting. The gym has a couple rowing machines and I thought it would be a good idea to throw in a rowing component to this adventure. I’ve never rowed before so in preparation 3 days prior I jumped on one of the machines for 10 minutes. My goal was to row 10 miles. I thought this would be a good number, and it would likely take around 1.5 hours.

Metalmark Climbing and FitnessBONK. Yep. Bonk. 15 minutes in, my glutes started to hurt. I couldn’t keep my focus. I was in the extreme non-enjoyment zone. At that point, I said 3o minutes. I knew I could endure this machine to the 30-minute mark. …and I barely scraped by.

What a great lesson. If I am attempting to include an activity in any way shape or form for endurance…..I need to train for it. Rowing is the one thing I have little to no experience on. So it’s no surprise that this is where I bonked. Even though my overall fitness is pretty good, the importance of training every specific activity beforehand is huge. Cross-training is beautiful, but to perform well, specificity must be applied.

While I had been inside the gym, another storm had rolled in.

I had just bonked. My head felt crazy. No sleep. Lots of activity. It was time to carry on after successfully completing the gym portion of Adventure Horizon!

Metalmark Climbing and FitnessStage 6: Bicycle

Distance: 9 miles
Duration: ~ 1 hour

It’s a  very flat very straight shot from the climbing gym to my house. This is my usual commute on Delilah, a vintage Motobecane fixed gear conversion (not pictured).

Rain pouring… Feet soaked… Hands cold… But the smile on my face that couldn’t be removed for anything. I was so close. Warmth and hot food lay just ahead. Buuuuuut first…

Metalmark Climbing and Fitness

Metalmark Climbing and FitnessStage 7: Run

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 21:15′

I was stoked to be back home. But I had only been out for just over 23 hours. I had kicked around the idea of a 5k time trial at the beginning of this adventure, then thought against it. But, now that I was home in under 24 hours, it was definitely on.

I must admit I ditched the pack for this one. I also took off my wool cycling pants and rocked the running shorts and running shoes for a fast and light loop around the neighborhood.

While running, my mind would wander off and I would feel my pace decrease. Instantly I recognized this and brought my mind back to one word…RUN. With only the word run in my head, I was able to keep good form and push it.

A solid performance in the final run and BOOM. SUCCESS. STOKE.

Adventure Conclusion

Things went right, things went wrong. I learned a tremendous amount about racing, and played with limits. My goal was safety. I wore a blue rubber bracelet as a reminder to be safe, and I arrived home safe and sound. In my mind, that is success. No matter what happens out there, as long as I am alive and well to share it, then it’s all good.

Metalmark Climbing and Fitness

I love adventure. I also love people. This solo adventure was great, but there is always room for improvement. I’m open to sharing in adventures big or small. Reach out, and we can dream something up! Whether it is your first adventure or your 50th. Let’s come together and create, inspire, and complete.

Thank you all for your love and support!

Jameson Henkle teaches yoga at MetalMark Climbing and Fitness in Fresno. His classes include Vinyasa, AcroYoga Jam, and Acro yoga. Stop by one of his classes to get inspiration on planning your next adventure!