Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Never Forget


Never Forget


60 years ago this very moment (22:48 EST on Jan. 31st 1958), approximately 100 days after the Soviets launched SPUTNIK-1 (the world's first artificial satellite), the U.S. took the lead with the launch of EXPLORER-1. This satellite, the inspiration for my daughter's elementary school name, had great scientific value in proving the existence of the Van Allen Radiation Belts. It was also a shining moment for the "Rocket City" of Huntsville, Alabama, where a relatively new company (Brown Engineering) provided the systems engineering needed by Wernher Von Braun and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to outfit a modified REDSTONE rocket to carry our nation's first satellite into orbit. EXPLORER-1 was also the first satellite to transmit collected data back to Earth (which it did for another four months until its batteries died) and remained aloft more than a dozen years. #EXPLORER #TBE #Teledyne #EverywhereYouLook



Happy Birthday, Marines!

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress.



Never Forget


Never Forget


600 years ago today ...

On the morning of 25 October 1415, shortly before the Battle of Agincourt, young King Henry V ("Harry") roused his beleaguered troops -- weary from their march back to Calais for convoy to England -- to achieve one of the greatest military upsets in history. Outnumbered 5-to-1, over fields freshly planted with winter wheat, the English victory proved decisive in the Hundred Years' War and crippled the French army.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!


Never Forget


Never Forget


Never Forget


Reagan's "Star Wars": 30 Years Later

In February 2011, my blogfriends at Chicago Boyz hosted a "Reagan Centenary Roundtable" in honor of the 100th birthday of our 40th President. My contribution to that Round Table was a celebration of President Reagan's "Star Wars Speech" -- a speech that he gave thirty years ago today.

It is ironic that Sequestration (per the Budget Control Act of 2011) risks "...trimm[ing] to the limits of safety" our defense budget -- which is exactly what President Reagan was trying to undo. His logic was simple: a strong military was a credible deterrent, and deterrence was the basis by which weapons of mass destruction could become obsolete.

So to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Reagan's compelling speech on global security, is a blast from the Wayback Machine:


"A new hope for our children in the 21st century"

{Crossposted from ChicagoBoyz.net, which is hosting a "Reagan Centenary Roundtable" in honor of the 100th birthday of our 40th President}

Tomorrow afternoon (Monday, February 7th, 2011), the first Monday in February, President Obama will deliver his Fiscal Year 2012 Presidential Budget to the Congress.  This is the opening act of our annual budgetary tango, with copious debate over the coming months of the necessary trades between programs.

On March 23rd, 1983, a few weeks after President Reagan presented his Fiscal 1984 budget to Congress, he gave his famous "Star Wars Speech" to a national televised audience.  Although "Star Wars" was the derisive name opponents used to mock the fantastic nature of the President's vision, President Reagan's speech was singularly focused on restoring American military strength and credibility -- and to "... pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the [nuclear] weapons themselves."

Ironically, unlike President Kennedy's 1962 speech at Rice University that was fully focused on the seemingly-impossible challenge of putting a man on the moon (and Rice defeating Texas in football), Reagan's "... call [to] the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents ... to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete" warranted only a couple of sentences in an otherwise lengthy speech.

Rather, this speech was part of “…a careful, long-term plan to make America strong again after too many years of neglect and mistakes,” and (when coupled with President Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando just two weeks prior) was a deliberate escalation of Cold War rhetoric.

President Reagan was rightfully concerned that the defense budget had been “trimmed to the limits of safety” by Congress.  This decay of U.S. armed forces led Reagan “…to improve the basic readiness and staying power of our conventional forces, so they could meet - and therefore help deter - a crisis.”  But his confidence in the logic of deterrence had limits.  The Star Wars Speech presented to the world Reagan's realization that deterrence based solely on commensurate offensive capabilities was fallacious.
“Over the course of these discussions, I have become more and more deeply convinced that the human spirit must be capable of rising above dealing with other nations and human beings by threatening their existence....  Wouldn't it be better to save lives than to avenge them? Are we not capable of demonstrating our peaceful intentions by applying all our abilities and our ingenuity to achieving a truly lasting stability? I think we are - indeed, we must!”
The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO, precursor to today's Missile Defense Agency) was founded the following year, 1984.  Reagan realized the complexity of the task, noting in his speech that it “... may not be accomplished before the end of this century.”  Yet the U.S. Army PATRIOT terminal defense system performed admirably in early 1991 during DESERT STORM, and today's U.S. Navy Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) has been used to destroy a failing satellite (Operation BURNT FROST, February 2008) as well as form the future foundation of land-based European missile defense and our nation's "Phased Adaptive Approach". [Addendum: As of March 2013, SecDef Hagel has announced a nearly-50% increase in our Ground-Based Interceptor arsenal at Fort Greely, Alaska, as a hedge against a nascent North Korean threat.]

The magnitude of the technical challenge caused many to blanche in 1983, and to ridicule the President.  Yet today's successes would never have been possible if President Reagan had not had the faith to "... [launch] an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history."

For that, we have "... a new hope for our children in the 21st century."


Open Letter to Congress

Now that the Sequester -- the by-product of the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- has been invoked, I have sent an open letter to my Congressman (Cong. Doug Lamborn, CO-05) and Senators (Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall) explaining the negative impact of their delayed implementation of such a drastic measure. While I do believe a 10% cut in discretionary spending accounts is a good idea, waiting until the waning months of a fiscal year to invoke it profoundly magnifies the consequences:

Dear Senator Bennet, Senator Udall, and Congressman Lamborn:

I am writing as a constituent, a federal employee, and a concerned citizen.

Our current state of Sequestration is a dangerous condition that risks derailing our tenuous economic recovery.

The delays in enforcing the Budget Control Act of 2011, while seemingly good in the short term, are compounding the effects on those who serve our nation as civilian employees.

Now that the Sequester has been invoked, my employer (the Missile Defense Agency at Schriever AFB) is planning 22 days of federal furloughs in the final few months of the fiscal year.

The only way to be compliant with the law as now written is one-day-per-week furloughs of civilian employees. In my case, that 20% reduction in duty hours translates to a 27% net loss in take-home pay (since health benefits and life insurance costs are constant).

I urge you and your fellow Senators and Representatives -- on BOTH sides of the aisle -- to consider the ripple effects of such a drastic cut in take-home pay for the tens of thousands of federal employees in Colorado.

Please work to resolve this issue on behalf of ALL of your constituents.

Sincerely yours,

Shane Deichman


Starbucks FAIL

I admit it. We're addicted to caffeine. Trimethylxanthine. Freshly pulled espresso with a layer of coda del topo crema.

Nearly 12 years ago we made a major appliance upgrade, dropping $175 at Starbucks in early 2001 for their "Barista" espresso machine:

This "Barista" model was based on the "Vapore" brand from Italy, and for years we have relied on the pre-tamped, filtered "Espresso Pods" you see in the foreground of the Barista. A package of 12 (regular or decaf) has always been $4.95, or less than 45 cents per pod after taxes.

Unfortunately, the introduction of the recently-released "Verismo" system has made finding my old Barista pods a challenge. Having tried the Verismo espresso at a store demo, I was very impressed: perfect coda del topo stream of delicate light-brown crema, cascading into a perfect shot of espresso.

However, I was reluctant to make the plunge due to the steep price point: $1.07 per pod after taxes -- compounded by the fact that each Verismo pod only produces one (1) fl. oz. (+/- 10g).

Now those of you who know a fluid ounce is just 29g must be marveling at that variance, but it is exactly what we observed at home once we bought the system. Starbucks sweetened the deal by tossing in FOUR boxes of pods with the purchase of the system.

And for the first week, we were quite pleased -- I even took it to a neighbor's party, burning through a good portion of our inventory.

But then we started to see the "warts" on this system. Pods inserted into the top slot and then mechanically inserted into the brewing housing would slip and fall (unused) into the internal waste bin. The Latte pods (which I did not sample during the earlier demo) tasty tinny and bitter. And we noticed the variance in the final product volume -- which was ALWAYS less than expected. In fact, it took 3-4 pods to replicate a grande latte.... (>$3.00 each -- not very different from the price at Starbucks, and I'm not getting any "stars" on my GoldCard!)

When I called the dedicated Verismo service center, they told me that the faulty feeder mechanism is a "known issue" and refused to exchange my system for that purpose. They also said that if I wanted to return my system through them, I would have to PURCHASE a new system, plus shipping, then use their provided return label to ship my old system back -- and only after their receipt of the old system would they credit my account. Yeah, uh ... not.

So yesterday I cleaned our Verismo, repacked it in the box (which CINCHOUSE saved, despite my initial enamored state), and took it back to the Starbucks where I bought it. And we're now back to searching for Barista pods....


Veterans'/Remembrance Day

(Reposting from my Veterans' Day post of 2007)

The armistice that ended "The Great War" (World War I) was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: November 11th, 1918. Europeans commemorate this day as "Armistice Day", Americans as "Veterans Day", and citizens of the Commonwealth as "Remembrance Day".

Poppies grow in profusion in Flanders (northern Belgium), where many many casualties of the war were buried. The poem "In Flanders Fields" was written by a Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in the trenches on the battle front a day after he witnessed the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. The poem:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
As we honor the service of those who ensure our security, let us also remember those who gave their "last full measure of devotion" -- in Flanders Fields, and elsewhere.


Happy Birthday, DevIl Dogs!


Liberty Marching Band claims 2nd among Colorado 4A bands

The Liberty High School "Pride of the Lancers" Marching Band did their best performance of the year in the Colorado Bandmasters Association 4A Final, winning 2nd place for the first time in school history. GO LANCERS!!


Go A's!


The Oakland A's swept the Texas Rangers to win the American League West -- overcoming a five-game deficit just a week ago! Now if the Red Sox can get it together and beat the Yankees, then Oakland will become the #1 seed in the A.L playoffs for this 2012 season!

(And props to the Baltimore Orioles -- here's to an Oakland-Baltimore ALCS in a couple weeks!)


Never Forget


United States of Arrogance

U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's frown on the podium following her silver-medal women's vault performance represents a common theme in America these days: Nobody likes "second best"! (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, referenced from WTOP FM in Washington DC [ http://wtop.com ])

In track and field, Team USA sprinters who came in second cried in anguish at "losing" -- rather than elation at being the second fastest in the world.

And Michael Phelps, who has won more gold medals than anyone in Olympic history has won medals, was also visibly amazed that he didn't add to his Fort Knox haul of Olympic precious metals in one of the early events in London last month.

While USA Basketball fields an all-star lineup of NBA professionals, I must admit I get bored with Lebron and Kobe trouncing opponent after opponent (and would have been thrilled to see an upset). So that's the other extreme -- coupled with an expectation of utter dominance.

Given the superhuman dedication these athletes commit to their sports, I suppose it's understandable when they discover that their tens of thousands of hours of sweat and tears isn't good enough for a Wheaties box or a cover photo on Sports Illustrated (though McKayla seems to have cracked the code for going viral even with silver).

But this underscores an irony in American sports today. We want shut-out victories with wide margins to proclaim our significance, yet we disdain those who take performance-enhancing drugs -- at least that's what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would have you believe.

Check out the USADA website. Their banner proclaims they are "Protecting the Rights of Athletes" and
"Inspiring True Sport", and their logo truncates two stripes of the American flag into a equal sign. Yet their behavior demonstrates otherwise.

Which is why I applaud Lance Armstrong for challenging their legitimacy in international competition -- especially when USADA's charter specifies that their role is to serve as "the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sport in the United States." They are a non-profit, non-government agency that is a subcontractor to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. I had the privilege of sharing an office floor with them when my team was in a commercially-managed, government-leased site (we had Suite 210 of Tech Center II in the Colorado Springs Technological Park, while USADA had Suite 200). So this is an "Agency" I've been aware of for the past couple of years (when they first moved into their 18,000 square foot class-A office suite at "TC-II").

USADA is admittedly working in an evolving field, where prohibited substances are frequently added to and removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA's) list. In fact, WADA updates their list annually -- with easy-to-access search tools and even iPhone and iPad apps. But USADA has taken on an attitude of entitlement and authority that is well beyond their "Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic" charter.

Bottom line: the list of banned substances is dynamic. What may be acceptable one year could be at the top of the WADA Prohibited List the next. Yet every single test that Lance Armstrong has undergone has been clean.

That alone is the most damning evidence against the U.S. Olympic Committee subcontractor's witch hunt. Their only evidence is from third-party testimony, not from empirical observation. And today's Washington Post Opinion blogpost by Sally Jenkins underscores their history of (a) increasing penalties when their legitimacy is challenged, (b) their ability to "plea bargain" with lesser-known athletes who may be the worst abusers in order to build a stronger circumstantial case, and (c) their thinly-veiled collusion with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

When the U.S. District Court in Austin threw out Lance's case earlier this week, it was acceding to the boundary conditions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) -- saying they appear to have due process. But if that is indeed the case, what other body has a batting average of 0.967?!? Athletes going before CAS against USADA have lost 58 of 60 cases, which does not demonstrate "truth" to me but manipulation of the process.

So my question is: When will Gatorade be added to WADA's Prohibited List? Or Succeed! S-Caps (which provided me the electrolytes I needed to avoid cramping on last year's Pikes Peak Ascent)? Or bananas for that matter? (They are loaded with potassium and other essential compounds for aiding performance....)

We Americans share in USADA's hypocrisy, demanding success at all costs -- but willing to retreat behind the spectre of obfuscation and conjecture.

USADA represents all of the worst practices of the ill-begotten War on Drugs, fixing blame on high-profile athletes (ostensibly the "user" community) in order to garner more attention for themselves and their misguided causes and budgetary needs.

And in the end, we all lose.

USADA's budget is one item that should be stricken from Congress's FY13 Appropriations Act for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. I intend to write Congressman Lamborn and Senators Udall & Bennet urging they investigate USADA's potential violation of their charter, and cancel their federal budget immediately.


To Wonderland and Back

Summer 2012 featured our second-longest family road-trip ever (in terms of duration): "To Wonderland and Back", where Sophiepeanut got to meet all of her favorite Princesses at Disney World -- and we visited many friends and family. It also logged Sophiepeanut's 36th, 37th, and 38th U.S. states visited (SC, NC & IA). Her new Electoral College map:

(Note: My Facebook post citing NC as her "40th state" was erroneous; I added the three states she would visit this trip, then started adding them again. Blasted database polyinstantiation...)

The rest of us remain unchanged on our "States Visited" counts (me at 50, Renee at 49, Shelby at 48, Jarrett at 47). That will change in two years, though, when we make a New England loop in Summer 2014. Summer 2013 will be a return to Southern California for a wedding.

We'll post more pix of our CO-FL-GA-VA-TN-MI-MN-CO road trip later. Some stats:
  • Total Miles: 6,243 (third behind MoART [12,902] and SWeAT [7,416])
  • Total Days: 25 (second only to MoART's 31)
  • Total Fuel Cost: $1,417 (cheaper than airfare!)


Memorial Day


Cross-Cultural Worries

In the early morning hours of May 2nd, 2011 (Pakistani time), Operation NEPTUNE SPEAR (a kill-or-capture mission targeting Osama bin Laden) was successfully conducted. And now that we are nearing the anniversary of that operation, the Homeland Security channels are buzzing with warnings of "retaliatory acts". Nothing substantiated, of course, but warnings nonetheless.

Isn't it odd that our security and intelligent apparati bring this up now, one Gregorian year after the event? Rather than the Hijri anniversary, which came and went uneventfully a couple weeks ago?

The death of Osama bin Laden was on May 2nd, 2011 -- which is the 28th of Jumada al-awwal in the Islamic Year 1432. And the 28th of Jumada al-awwal, 1433, occurred on April 20th, 2012.

A colleague aptly characterized this as our penchant for "worrying cross-culturally".


Happy Patriots' Day!

Killed in Action in America’s first battle:
  • John Brown
  • Samuel Hadley
  • Caleb Harrington
  • Jonathon Harrington
  • Robert Munroe
  • Isaac Muzzey
  • Asahel Porter
  • Jonas Parker
God bless America.

H/T Lexington Green


The Newest Joint Chief

On Saturday (Dec 31st), President Obama signed into law the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  While most of the coverage of this year's NDAA was about the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists, there was a surprise addition to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  From the Defense.Gov news article:
Section 512 of the act creates a new member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which currently includes the Army and Air Force chiefs of staff, the chief of naval operations and the Marine Corps commandant. The new member will be the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who will have responsibility for “addressing matters involving non-federalized National Guard forces in support of homeland defense and civil support missions.”

So from now on the Joint Chiefs of Staff won't just be the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, but the National Guard Bureau as well.

A great development for the foundation of our liberty, the Citizen-Soldier!


Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day

In Flanders Fields  
by Lt Colonel John McCrae, MD, Canadian Army (1872-1918)
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Pride of the Lancers "New World"

The Liberty "Pride of the Lancers" Marching Band placed 17th in the Bands of America Super-Regionals last weekend in St. Louis, MO -- missing the finals by 1/10th of a point! The video above is their 2011 exhibition performance "New World", featuring music from Dvořák's "New World Symphony" and Björk's "New World" from Dancer in the Dark -- complete with all the props used in the BOA Super-Regionals (boat, tarps, scrims).



Never Forget

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Pride of the Lancers Marching Band: "New World"

Liberty High School's "Pride of the Lancers Marching Band" show off their 2011 exhibition performance "New World", featuring music from Dvorak's "New World Symphony" and Björk's "New World" from "Dancer in the Dark".  GO LANCERS!



Today, Labor Day 2011, marks the day we have been residents of the Centennial State longer than we were residents of the Volunteer State.

It doesn't feel like it -- probably because I've been a LOT busier in Colorado than I ever was in Tennessee, or perhaps because I had such a strong connection to Oak Ridge thanks to my alma mater Cal (the source of those Calutrons in Bear Creek Valley's Y-12 plant that purified the fuel for the LITTLE BOY bomb during the Manhattan Project).

We've been a nomadic family.  In my youth, I moved a dozen times before High School -- and have moved a nearly a dozen times since College.  I've lived in seven states and four Time Zones, while my Bride has lived in six states and five Time Zones. (I've never lived in the Central Time Zone, where she was born....)

Our brief stay in Tennessee was professionally tumultuous: starting a new office for a late-stage startup firm, then leaving that (after 18 months) to start my own LLC, then rejoining the federal workforce.

In contrast, Colorado has been stable: by the time we actually moved to Colorado Springs, I had been with the Modeling & Simulation Directorate of the Missile Defense Agency more than six months -- working out of the Huntsville office while churning through Defense Acquisition Univ. courses.  And now, nearly 30 months later, I'm still in the same Directorate (albeit with a brand new contract to leverage) with many of the same people.

Here's to hoping my kids can complete Middle and High School in the same school district....


Pikes Peak Ascent Post-Mortem

Yesterday (Saturday, August 20th 2011) I began my 2nd attempt at ascending Pikes Peak: 13.32 miles, with a net ascent of 7,815' vertical (though the actual ascent is closer to 8,000' due to a couple of brief-but-blissful downhills between No-Name Creek and Barr Camp).

Last year's attempt (in my inaugural Pikes Peak Ascent) came to an abrupt end due to a timekeeping error at the A-Frame (mile 10.2, at 11,700' elev.).  However, in hindsight, had I made it even a minute sooner last year, I was wholly unprepared for what lay above the timberline....

So this year I entered the race wiser, more respectful of the mountain, and with a balanced hydration - nutrition - electrolyte strategy.

Mi dos amigos, Peter Molik (triathlete and fast runner) and John Veautour (endurance of a mule and a very fast walker), were able to best the Peak in under 4-1/2 hours.  I wasn't in as much of a hurry....  My only goal was to finish in less than 6-1/2 hours -- which is the cut-off for medals and finisher shirts.  Nothing else mattered this year, since I have no intention of ever running another marathon (Denver 2010 was my 7th and final).

Preparation for this year's event was predominantly spent in planning.  After hiking Mt Sherman in early July, I knew I could walk above 13,000' elevation with little impact.  And I also knew that, since I turned 40, my speed has tapered off dramatically -- so no amount of endurance training was going to make me return to my sub-8:00 mile pace of my 30s.  Most importantly, I knew I had to plan for sustenance on the mountain more deliberately than I did last year.  And after my near-disastrous mountain bike ride down the Barr Trail last month, which resulted in five endo's and a still-scabbed gouge on my left shin (even three weeks later), I at least had seen the trail above timberline....

The top issues in my planning:
  1. Attire: What you wear will affect your performance.  Last year I wore a windbreaker for the entire ascent -- which very likely overheated my core and sapped my endurance.  But too little and you'll be unprepared for weather changes above the timberline.  So this year I opted for my NYC Marathon long-sleeve technical shirt, running shorts, running shoes (vice trail shoes), no gloves, and a light running ballcap.  I also rolled up my Marmot windbreaker and kept it in the webbing of my CamelBak.  The start line temparature in Manitou Springs was in the low-60s F.; the finish at Summit six-plus hours later was in the high-50s F. -- so I never needed the windbreaker.
  2. Hydration: Last year I relied on SmartWater in my CamelBak, which is insufficient for the level of exertion ascending 8,000' of vertical.  So this year I had a 2:1 mixture of Gatorade G2 and SmartWater.  Also, I took Gatorade at every aid station if available -- water if not.  At Barr Camp I refilled my CamelBak with pure Gatorade, and at Mile 12 I filled with plain water for the final mile and a half and the ride down the mountain.  Net intake: approx. 150 fl. oz. (or just under five quarts), which is consistent with my body's 16 fl. oz. loss per 30 minutes of exertion (calculated several years ago during my peak marathon days).
  3. Nutrition: Last year I took a dozen Gu vanilla bean gel packets -- one for every half-hour.  But I did not consider the caffeine content in most Gu packets (it's in the fine print at the tear-line), so by my seventh packet I couldn't stomach any more.  This year I added a Pemmican Bar (a mixture of bread, nuts and fruits packed into a small dense package) and only took six Gu packets -- one of which I gave away, and one I didn't use.  Net intake: 4 Gu, 90% of a Pemmican Bar from Barr Camp to Cirque, a few pretzels, grapes and half-banana at Barr Camp, and one (1) plain M&M (a red one) at A-Frame.
  4. Electrolytes: This was the biggest gap in my planning last year, and the primary reason for my calf cramping before Barr Camp in the 2010 attempt.  The one "Succeed! S-Cap" another ascender shared with me helped for about two miles, so I knew I needed to supplement my marathon-honed hydration/nutrition strategies with an electrolyte strategy.  Rather than rely on a Gu every half-hour, I slowed those down to one per hour and split the difference with one "Succeed! S-Cap" (also each hour, at the half-hour mark).  I upped my intake above timberline when I felt the first twinges of calf cramping, so my net intake was seven (7) S-Caps.
  5. Safety: Several years of volunteering with American Red Cross Disaster Action Teams (DATs) and two as a Cub Scout Cubmaster have taught me to anticipate the unexpected.  Since I saw some people in bad shape last year (bordering on hyponatremia -- severe loss of electrolytes), I packed my mylar "space blanket" in the event someone on trail needed assistance before El Paso County Search & Rescue could arrive.  I also packed my self-adhesive athletic tape (which I did need just past A-Frame, as a 66-year-old participant had severe cramping in his calves) and did a quick refresher on lightning safety (since above treeline, you have little to no cover -- and a likelihood of electrical storms after noon).  Thunder above timberline sounds really impressive, so I used that opportunity to tell the others around me -- if they saw lightning -- to crouch low with feet together so you have only one point of contact with the ground; and to do this close to a medium-sized boulder (not the tallest around, which is more prone to be struck).  Lastly, I packed a small tube of 30 SPF sunscreen -- which I reapplied twice to my face, ears and neck.
These five factors led to a very enjoyable and fulfilling Ascent.  Even if I was a bit on the "slow" side (finishing 191st out of 194 finishers in my age bracket).

I made it to Barr Camp (mile 8, elev. 10,200') in 2:29:00 -- about 20 minutes faster than last year.  So I took a ten minute break, sitting by the fence while eating 1/3 of my Pemmican Bar (plus a couple pretzels and some fruit).  Cut-off at Barr Camp was 3:00:00, so I was comfortably ahead of the cut.

Though it was only 2.6 miles from Barr Camp to A-Frame, I was concerned about this final "cut off" -- especially because this was where I was turned back last year!  And since the whiteboard at Barr Camp still listed the clock time of 11:45am as the A-Frame cut-off (even though gun time was about two minutes after the scheduled Wave 2 start), I kept a close eye on my watch.

With so many switchbacks in the high-timber forest, it was impossible to gauge just how far you had to go to make it to the A-Frame aid station.  So I made announcements at the 30-minute mark so we'd all know we had that long to enter the aid station.  I passed the A-Frame cut-off at 3:59:00 -- 80 minutes after leaving Barr Camp (a pace of about 30 minutes per mile).  This was 15 minutes faster than last year, and left me 2-1/2 hours to ascend the final three miles to earn my finisher shirt!

After another ten minute break (and another 1/3 of my Pemmican Bar), I set off for the final leg -- my first time ever hiking up the Barr Trail from timberline!  Though we were above 12,000' elevation, the trail was wide and mostly clear.  The gradient was not as bad as the lower portion of the Barr Trail (especially the "W's"), and the views were truly extraordinary.  Looking up (as the photo at the top of this post shows, as we cleared the last trees) was a bit unnerving, since the summit never seemed to get closer.  But looking down, especially above treeline, gave a huge morale boost -- "Look at all those people way down there -- and look how high I've already climbed!"

I modified my Galloway-style walk-breaks (since I was only walking) to "breath-breaks" -- every few minutes I sat on a boulder for a minute and took some deep, deliberate breaths.  And for those first few steps, I felt like a new man.  This continued all the way up to the summit, so my mile pace slowed to about 35-40 minutes.  But I was also continuously calculating how far to go in how long to ensure I finished in "shirt time" -- faster than 6-1/2 hours.

When I reached the base of the 16 Golden Stairs (of which there are MANY more than 16; it's really about 300 yards with 400' of vertical, so the net gradient is above 40%), the volunteer said "Welcome to the Stairs -- you need to keep moving in order to make cut-off!"  I asked her "We still have 28 minutes, right?" She said yes, so I knew her recommendation was premature.  14-1/2 minutes later, I crossed the finish line (even with three breath-breaks) -- official final time: 6:16:32.

As for my well-being, I had no cramping, no blisters, no sunburn, very minor chafing (from my shorts), and feel excellent the day after.  My faster colleagues (who all beat 4-1/2 hours) had to push themselves, but my goal was not to make it as fast as I could force my body to go.  I simply wanted the shirt....


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