Running the Harvard Stadium steps is definitely one of my favorite alternative/free ways to work out. I went with my buddy Dan who coincidentally was the last person I did this workout with way back in August. It certainly crushes your calves and quads, but in a good way…
A view of the Harvard University Stadium from the first of 37 bleacher sections.
Just as I was about to leave for Harvard, I realized that I had left my running shoes at work so my best bet was to take my hiking boots. If you can manage to see in the picture above, there are two different ways to do these stairs. There are short stairs which are technically the isles that are good for “running” and then there are the bleachers which are twice as high and twice as deep as the isles that are good for “hiking”. We decided to hike the bigger sections which I’ve done a few times before in training for various events (Presidential Traverse, Spartan Beast Race, etc). Running the short isle stairs in my hiking boots just didn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do. When we arrived we saw a group of three who were just finishing up the 37th bleacher section while wearing large hiking backpacks. The Harvard Mountaineering Club must be getting ready to crush something this summer, cool.
A picture of me just over halfway through the workout. All we were missing was the song The Eye of the Tiger blasting from a boombox.
Sometimes in fitness training nothing compares to just going upward; getting your body to the top of a set of stairs, ski slope, or mountain is hugely gratifying and very hard to replicate in a gym. In a workout like this there’s no gear, clothing, or equipment that will help give you an advantage; it’s just you, your will power, and a set of stairs. You can run all day long and have great cardio but if you don’t “go upward” in your training then hiking mountains or running races like the Spartan Beast and the Tough Mudder (both on ski mountains) will murder your quads. About halfway through my legs started shaking but after doing a few more, the shaking went away. We did 37 stair sets in about 45 minutes and I had an average heart rate of 150, a minimum at 84, and a maximum at 170. Loved it.
I definitely want to read the rest of John Muir’s short stories throughout this book. Muir was an absolute legend in the earliest days of Yosemite valley around the turn of the 20th century. He is ultimately responsible for saving many national park areas in the U.S. as well as starting the Seirra Club, a totally epic conservation organization that still exists today. The story “A Near View of The High Sierras” starts with him meeting a couple of painters in Yosemite Valley who wished to be taken to a beautiful landscape deserving of a painting. He had just been in an amazing area just above the Tuolumne Meadows so he took them there. After he got them set up he took off for an attempt to summit nearby Mt. Ritter, likely his last chance before winter set in. It was a day’s walk to the base so he took a blanket and a loaf of bread and set out. Muir is incredibly descriptive in his writing, at times it was hard for me to follow because he took two pages to describe a meadow. I often read a few pages twice just because I felt myself zoning out while riding the train to work. Coming from a time without GoPro cameras to capture 60 frames per second for an upload to YouTube, he had to be incredibly descriptive to even get the gist of what he was seeing, thus the need for complex and lengthy descriptions, at least by our standards today. He commented a few times throughout the story that he should teach himself how to paint so that he could show the world this amazing place that he lived in for most of the year. His attempt at summiting Mt Ritter was thwarted by poor weather and even poorer climbing conditions. He had to down-climb several sections because the rock was covered in a thin layer of ice and without crampons or ice axes it became impossible, so he bivied out two days with just a blanket and a loaf of bread and made back for painters’ camp. I wish I were half as badass as the mountaineers in that time. With all of our high-tech gear I feel like we’ve become increasingly soft, attaining a pathetic state relying more on our gear than our skill and ability to learn from nature, something I’m sure that our mountaineering ancestors would laugh at.
John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to save theYosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. Read the rest on Wikipedia…
I decided to read this short story in order to bring some adventure into the mix of this month’s selection of short stories. The first time I heard this story was in my junior year of college while riding up to NH in a blizzard with a car full of guys ready to go ice climbing for winter break. It was a very fitting scenario to hear Jon Krakauer’s voice narrating the short story of his defeat on the legendary North Face of the Eiger.
Krakauer and his friend (8 years younger) spent about a month camping out near the lodge at the base of the Eiger just waiting for a streak of good weather. Each day they would walk to the payphone to get the four-day forecast and each time it involved storms and high winds on the Eiger. He mentioned that his younger friend often equate sentiments of dangerous climbing with fun climbing but he was a supremely good climber so he was excited to get on the face with him He mentioned several times his partner’s summit fever, an attitude that can surely get you into trouble on mountains like the Eiger. Which was more important, climbing the mountain or coming back alive? Krakauer wasn’t sure his partner had fully considered the latter. It reminds me of a great book I read called “On the Ridge Between Life and Death” by Krakauer’s life and climbing mentor David Roberts.
Avalanches, blizzards, and dangerously high winds (170km/hr) kept them off the mountain for several weeks. One night a strong wind blew in and sent their tents a quarter mile away from their campsite despite the fact that each tent had about 250lbs of food and gear inside as well as it having been tied down to large logs and an ice screw sunk securely in to the icy ground. Once they tracked down their tents, which were tore mostly to shreds, they simply went into the lodge and got drunk with all the tourists. Why not right?
Finally, they got a streak of good weather and headed up onto the wall. The ice was in poor condition and they soloed many pitches (i.e. no anchors to protect yourself from a fall). After two days on the wall and a forced bivouac they decided that they couldn’t make it any further and they turned back repelling where they could and down-climbing everywhere else. It was a pretty epic short story and I’m definitely interested in reading the rest of the stories in the book of Eiger Dreams. I highly recommend the audiotape versions as well.