Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hiking the Fiery Furnace in Moab

Fiery Furnace in Utah

A natural labyrinth of narrow passages  -- that’s how Arches National Park in Utah describes the Fiery Furnace. Other websites describe the 3-hour hike as an extremely rugged scrambling area.  And then there are the photos of the red sandstone walls and pillars that make up the trail. For a desert lover like me, it’s irresistible.

Then there is the whole limited access thing, which only makes it more tempting.  First of all, they only let 50 people into the area each day.  And getting a permit is difficult as they do sell out – so you can’t just wake up and say “hey, let’s hike the furnace today.” 

Secondly, there is a whole untouched aspect to the Fiery Furnace – mostly because there are no marked trails.  There is nothing like checking the “trail condition” and see the words “nonexistent.” In other words, getting lost is extremely possible - and happens often.

Discovering the Fiery Furnace

I planned to hike the furnace in June - naturally during a heat wave because that's how I roll and a little scorching heat has never stopped me from doing something. And I had a 4 pm flight that day. Both these things meant that getting lost in the Fiery Furnace was not a good option for me.  

Plus, I read on forums that cell phone reception was a little sketchy in the area. 

Thankfully for people like me whose internal compass is not always reliable, there are guides who will take you through the furnace.  

I hired a guy from Moab Hiking ( to take me around and he was fantastic.  He had me jumping over crevices, scrambling up rocks and stretching myself over large cracks so that I didn’t fall in. 

We started at 7 am when the park opened and by 10 am it was already 110 degrees so I was happy for early start. The hike is not long in terms of distance, and my guide said he customizes it based on the fitness levels of the person – so less scrambling if you aren’t used to it and more intense if you have been training for a marathon like was.  

However, regardless of your fitness level, the Fiery Furnace is a beautiful hike. 

Getting to the Fiery Furnace

One of the reasons it took me so long to make the trek to the Fiery Furnace is that it is in the middle of nowhere.  From Phoenix it’s an 8-hour drive.  From Las Vegas, it takes 7 hours. And from Salt Lake City it takes a little over 4 hours.  Yeah... it's far no matter how you look at it. 

I decided to do the Grand Junction option. 

There’s a direct flights from Phoenix to Grand Junction.  And from Grand Junction, it’s takes just over 2 hours to get to the Arches National Park and the Fiery Furnace. It's a pretty drive.  I did it at sunrise which made it spectacular.

Because I was arriving at Grand Junction at 9:30 pm and needed to get up at 4:30 am to meet my guide at 7 am, I rented a room through AirBnB.  My host was Pat, a woman in her 70s who is an inspiration to all of us with adventurous heart – and those who want to be.

She’s been a ranch hand and a trail rider.  She’s also an author and a poet.  Anyone who thinks getting old is boring needs to spend a few days with her and you will be cured of that misconception.  Especially when she tells you she just did a horseback riding trip in Australia and had a book published.  

I'm just saying, when I grow up, I’m going to be just like her.

Here’s her airBnB listing:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Stockholm Marathon: Known as that time I didn't train

Waiting for the Stockholm airport bus to take me to the city.

As you know, I run many half marathons and am addicted to Ragnar Relays.  But I've only done one full marathon and that was in January this year while in Dubai (See blog post on Dubai Marathon).

Outside Karolinska Institutet's new lecture hall complex - the Aula Medica where we set up the Tinnitus interview.

That one was surprisingly easy.

Well...maybe not super easy. I'm not going to say that I sailed through it, but I was able to get up the next day and go sailing without feeling any pain.


So when I went to Stockholm to interview a scientist on the latest tinnitus research on the same weekend as the Stockholm marathon, I thought, "Why not?"

One of the many bridges in Stockholm that it's over.  I can tell you "Why not." I didn't train.

Apparently, training for a marathon is really helpful.  And you know how they say your muscles will remember? Ha, ha, ha, ha...I think my muscles did remember -- and instead of running, they were thinking "hell, no!".

Beginning of the Stockholm Marathon

So did I complete it? Absolutely!

In Dubai, my time was 4 hours and 29 minutes. So I figured this time, I should run with the 4:20 team.

Remember, I have not trained as it's been a rainy spring in Switzerland and I've been traveling for work a lot.  But, I am obviously a little delusional about how fit I am.

These were people who were still running after I was done. They look as miserable as I felt.

So off I went.

I'm going to tell you straight off that the Stockholm course is a little harder than the Dubai course.  First of all, it's not at sea level.  Secondly, they have hills and bridges. Thirdly, they have wind. All three of these are excuses for why I sucked, but I'm sticking to them.

Surprisingly (maybe it's because I'm too stubborn to admit defeat), I did keep up with the 4:20 pacer until about Mile 18. Then my legs decided they were done with this and I had to slow down to the 4:30 pacer...and then at Mile 23 to the 4:40 pacer.

By then, I no longer cared about my time. I just wanted it to be over...but wait... what was that coming up? Another stupid bridge with a hill? Man.

There was also a can of beer which I left at the pick up area and a protein shake which I drank hoping it would miraculously take away my pain. Nope. Just loaded with empty calories.

I finished the race, but barely.

Then I had to walk the 2 miles home which were the longest two miles in history. Really. You know those stories about how your grandpa had to walk 2 miles in the snow, dragging 50 pounds of books with him? Well, this was harder. I had to drag my tired butt home AND a bag of free race goodies.

My only condolence was that I got to walk past all the runners who were still running (suckers!!!). They looked as bad as I felt - thankfully.  I really do love company when miserable.

Thankfully, Stockholm is a great place to sit and watch people - when your legs no longer want to move.

The next day, I was still feeling the marathon. I could barely walk and when trying to jaywalk across the street, I told my legs to run, and they refused.  Running was no longer an option. I didn't just hit the proverbial marathon wall; it collapsed on me and pinned me down. I was going to have to move in painful slow motion if I was going to move at all.

On the bright side, my interview with Chris Cederroth and his returned turned out fantastic.  See below.