Monday, July 25, 2011

Going to Canada, eh?


So after getting fed up with another cold, rainy day in Seattle I decided it was time to find some better weather and a change of scenery. My buddy had recommended Victoria and when I checked I found I had a perfect weather window to go see Victoria and Vancouver in ideal conditions and so I started planning the trip. Luckily, I came across the information that Vancouver is the worst city in North America for car break-ins, and since I have everything in my car I decided driving up to the city was not a good idea. And that's when I found out about the ferry from Anacortes just an hour north of Seattle. The cost was very reasonable at $22 with a bike and $30 for 4 days of parking so I booked my hostels and stayed overnight in the Anacortes ship harbor parking lot to take the ferry the next day.

On the ferry to Sidney with my pack and my bike.

The ferry ride is full of beautiful views of the San Juan Islands which have quite a bit of cool stuff to do and see as well.

Lunch can be found right off the boat from a guy by the docks. Dungeoness crab was the only thing he had that was cooked, but even though it had just been boiled it was absolutely delicious!

 Victoria is just a short 20 mile ride away and is full of cool, old style buildings such as the famous Empress hotel.

My favorite was the Parliament building. With a horse in the background, it makes an excellent backdrop for a great picture!

Biking around the southern coast of the city offers great views of the San Juan Islands as well as awesome riding. Roads are wide and often include bike lanes and speed limits are so low that several times I was exceeding them and passing mopeds and the like!


After seeing a good portion of Victoria it was time to head to Vancouver for the other part of my "vacation" from travelling. Ferries move between Swartz bay next to Sidney and Tsawwassen bay about 20 miles south of downtown Vancouver almost every hour and just like Anacortes, advanced purchasing is not necessary. However, because of a tunnel between Tsawwassen bay and downtown Vancouver, a $3.50 bus ride is not a bad idea. I did find out later though, on my way back out of town, that there is a free shuttle through the tunnel for bicycles that operates almost every hour during the daytime. I lucked out on the way there though as the other cyclist on the boat had a bus ticket he gave me which got me into the city and from there took a skytrain across Fraser river (which a lot of locals do not pay for from the sound of things...). From there it was Marine drive all the way around the western part of Vancouver, which is a very popular route for cyclists as I saw many team kits out (and a lot of them young, fit women), to my hostel. And for those that are interested, there is a clothing optional beach here on the far west side by the University of British Columbia, however, it did not look like a safe area to lock an expensive bike such as mine up at for any length of time. If you are doing this same route, plan for this to be a long day, as I logged 50 miles of biking, even with taking the bus, and ended up spending pretty much the whole day travelling.

Biking into downtown from my hostel on Jericho Beach was only a short ride away

Downtown even has it's own separate bike roads in one section!
Complete with separate lights and everything!

This convention center was built for when the Olympics came to town. 

You can jump on a cruise to Alaska and other cool destinations. 

 There is great biking and running trails around and through the very big Stanley park on the west side.

 A big city isn't complete without some absolutely strange sculptures.

And an excellent fresh food market can be found just minutes away on Granville Island,
a very cool, though touristy destination for any traveller.

Long Road Back to Anacortes

The next day it was time to head back to the harbor in Anacortes, 105 miles away, the inexpensive and fun way! By bike! Getting out of Vancouver and Canada in general was tough, as data service was way too expensive to use, so I didn't have maps; however, stopping and asking people and generally using the sun as a guide eventually got me down to the border. Which then required going in and waiting around in a line that did not move until I finally spoke up and was called to a station. Oddly, they made me give up my orange, which was my last piece of nutrition, but apparently some fruits and vegetables are OK. Once across the border though, it was time to roll, as there were nice stretches of roads to take me straight towards my destination without having to worry about the next turn for miles. I put my head down and grinded, as the 40 miles to the border had taken up half the day already.

 Bellingham was a cool town about 60 miles in that had a nice, relaxed feel to it.
Seemed like a great place for a quiet vacation for people in the area.

The views from Chuckanut road down by Larrabee state park were stunning and the riding was spectacular. I'd been going into a headwind all day and to finally have trees and hills to break up the wind gave me the revitalization I needed 70 miles into my ride.

From there, however, the roads into Anacortes got rough, the weather started to turn south, and the headwind was relentless. The last 20 miles were a real grind, and by about the last few miles or so my pace had slowed to a crawl. Thankfully though, another cyclist happened to pass me and ignore my greeting, obviously too busy with his hard ride he was in, which was just the mental refreshment I needed to find that other gear and rev up to chase him down and stay on his wheel. He noticed. But as much as he tried sprinting away, I was too close to my destination and thus unshakeable, no matter how expensive his aero wheels were. I would have liked to keep following him and check out more of the area, as Anacortes, like Victoria, was a town with light traffic and great bike trails, but after a full day of travelling, I was more than ready to get back to my car so I peeled off at my exit and coasted down to the harbor. Just before I turned off, he had looked back and seemed to be more than a little surprised at my relaxed non-expression, as I sat right there with him, a couple bike lengths back to show that I didn't need to sit right behind him to keep up.


In Canada, I decided to stay in hostels to check them out and try to meet other travellers.Though they cost between $30 and $40 a night in Canada, I figured this to be well worth it to meet some other people and because the locations are typically very good, being either right downtown or on a beach of some sort. This worked out quite well in Victoria, where I ate dinner with two lovely girls from Scotland, and had a few beers at night with some guys from Germany and Switzerland, however, the scene was much tamer where I was at in Vancouver as I was too late to get into the central or downtown locations in that city. That is not to say that the hostel I stayed at on Jericho Beach was bad, by any means. In fact, I still was able to get great conversation and information from the people there, it was simply that most seemed to be there to find an apartment in the city and not to see it and experience it like I was! From here I learned that not all hostels are the same, and that some can be quite the party scene, particularly ones in Banff and Jasper, which, after looking at pictures, are places that should be on everyone's travel list! One thing I also noticed was that I seemed to be the only American at the hostel in either location! This certainly reinforces my theory that Americans need to travel more, particularly out of the country when possible. Though Canada is so close to America, it distinctly has a foreign country feel to it somewhere closer to that of Europe than America. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Sights- From Colorado to Washington
My last day in Colorado Springs was supposed to start off with a nice group ride with some very fast fellows leaving from Acacia Park in the downtown area. However, before I got to see how long I could hold on before I inevitably got dropped, my knee happened to knock my speed sensor into my wheel at a stop light, and by the time I realized what I did and fixed it, the light had turned red. And then I proceeded to get stopped at the next 10 lights, which just happened to be green for the group, at each point where I thought I was finally going to catch back up. And then they took off… so at about 25km in (where I could no longer see them) I decided to stop chasing and head back into town to find somewhere else to ride for the day. And this is what led me here.

Riding through Garden of the Gods
On our third day hanging out in Roosevelt National Forest, me and Danger Carrie decided to go check out Rocky Mountain National Park, which was just right up the road a few miles. I figured a 10 mile hike sounded about right so we got on our way to go see Ouzel Lake, supposedly just a scant 4.9 miles away… and 3 hours later, after trekking through snow, rocks, mud, streams, rivers, and losing the trail for a good while we did actually finally make it there!

 Me and Danger Carrie on our way up

 Hanging out at a waterfall

 Playing in the snow!

And finally there!

And then a storm rolled in, and with my feet already freezing cold, the race was on to get back down the mountain as quickly as possible. Thankfully, it didn’t pour on us too much and by the time we hit the trees again, it was actually quite pleasant.

Some of the better trail runs I've run into were in the “primitive” sections of Broken Arch and Windows at Arches National Park. Unfortunately there weren’t any pics from Broken Arch, which was absolutely stunning, but Windows was quite nice as well
 The view from Windows

One of the Window arches

Took the scenic route to Moab and here are some of the pics I got. This was by far the most scenic drive I’ve taken yet!

 Just one of the spectacular views of the river inside the canyons with the mountains in the background

Spectacular canyon views such as this fill the whole drive

In Mt Hood National Forest I ran over to the old Elks Lake Trailhead, crossed the river and hiked up some gnarly stuff to snap this excellent shot.

To get this picture, I'm actually standing on a log that is hanging over a very big drop.
Luckily there were some small tree branches to hang on to...

In Mt Rainier National Park, I decided to stop and run as many trails as possible so I could see as much as I could while there.

 I think this might have been a fox of some sort? He was hanging out with me for a bit.

 Reflection Lake

 One of many very cool falls areas

This shot of Mt Rainier (hidden in the clouds) was taken from the
drier Northeast side. Several people on these trails were hiking to the top.
The trip usually takes a few days and ice axes and various glacier equipment is mandatory.

In Boise, I took some time to run the Greenbelt trails along the river, and was thoroughly impressed with the off-road paths connecting to neighborhoods and weaving in and out along the river. In Seattle the many parks were absolutely gorgeous. Several even had lifeguards posted for open water swimming. I went to Green Lake park one balmy morning. Air temp was under 60, but the water temp had to be above 60, so it wasn't terrible with a wetsuit.

 It was a rainy and cold morning when I swam here, but a quick
run and coffee beforehand helped warm me up to it.

And a good tip from a lovely Starbucks lady led me to this spot at
Golden Gardens Park for a beatiful sunset.

Free Camping
On this trip I have had a goal of not paying for camping. Oftentimes, this means traveling WAY off the beaten path and likely spending more money in gas occasionally than saved on camping, however, the secluded spots and amazing views that are found thus far have made this approach definitely worth the extra time and effort required, even if it does result in the occasional overnight stay in a Walmart parking lot... I think I shall have a future blog post detailing free camping vs. fee camping once more research is done and experience gathered. For now, here are some of the views I have woken up to.

Rabbit Valley on Colorado-Utah border. Only a half-mile drive off-road to this site.
Free restrooms, picnic tables, grills, etc and I had it all to myself. 

 To get here, head past Ontario, OR on Snake River Road and once the paved road ends,
head past the fee camping and pull over on any spot by the side of the road and enjoy the
beautiful view of the Snake River.

In the lower parking lot of Paradise inside Mt Rainier National Park. It got too foggy to drive so I pulled in here to stay the night. Someone shined a flashlight inside my car, but if they saw me, they left me alone. Woke up to a clear day and this breathtaking view.

In Mt Hood National Forest, I went looking for Round lake, but the road was washed
out so I found this great secluded spot on the river by Elks Lake trailhead.
If it hadn't been so cold, I would've stayed here awhile I think.

Also of note, there is no law against "urban camping" in Seattle. I simply parked in a neighborhood next to a park that I wanted to go run or swim in the morning and camped out there. I've never seen so many cars parked by the side of the road in a town, so I'm guessing one more isn't really noticeable.


For those of you thinking my adventures have been all fun and games, I have some news for you! When I returned from Rocky Mountain National Park, I noticed some itching which was starting to spread. When I looked, I could actually see white specks hopping around! Now since I’d never experienced this, I turned to google. And everything that popped up in the search for “bugs in hair” was lice! So, I freak out, buy lice shampoo right then, wash all my clothes and bedding at a Laundromat while I’m using the lice shampoo in their bathroom, and later on down the road find a nice quiet place to shave my entire body sans head, and then vacuum out the whole car. Turns out, it was just fleas, but I sure got rid of ‘em good!

Independence Day

For the Fourth of July weekend I met up with Reed and Danger Carrie again, this time in Boulder, and we headed up towards Allenspark and off into the mountains. We finally settled into a beautiful camping spot in Roosevelt National Forest that took a very gnarly dirt road to get to. It was here, on Independence Day, that I began to realize how Independent and free I now am. Not just of my work and career path, which is now wide open for my choosing, but also of all the everyday distractions of TV, internet, and movies, and even quite significantly the feeling of pressure to workout as much as possible whenever I am off work and the weather is good. Being out in the wilderness and free from having to go back to anything really gives another meaning to one of my favorite quotes by Henry David Thoreau.
"Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind"

Though I didn’t see any fireworks, I think it was most decidedly my best Fourth of July in memory.

Slowing down

And with that feeling of Independence and freedom to go anywhere and do anything because I am, for the moment, able to more effectively utilize the time God has given me, I am finally starting to slow myself down a bit to have time to think, reflect, enjoy, and hopefully soon, create. For instance, coming out of Salt Lake City I ran into a traffic jam. However, instead of pout and let my impatience drive my blood pressure through the roof, I simply pulled off to look for something else to do. That is precisely when I noticed an amazing sunset and a big hill in the distance. Once at the top of the hill, I popped out my handy camp chair, opened my last Belgium brew from Tom, and enjoyed one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen as it set over Salt Lake with the mountains in the distance.

In Bountiful, UT, enjoying the sunset over Great Salt Lake

It did not stop there. The next day, I stopped at a nice little Idaho rest stop for not just a quick, simple breakfast, but an actual cooked one with nice fresh vegetables along with my early morning dose of Japanese green tea of course! And that afternoon I hit up a nice park in downtown Twin Falls for lunch, where I think the weather and bug situation was as close to absolutely perfect as I’ve seen. And that’s not all. When in Roosevelt National Forest, hanging out and drinking a beer with my fellow camping partners, I saw a group of runners pass. Normally, I would have let them go because I didn’t have time or I had a fairly structured workout planned. Not now! I went chasing after them and thus met some new people I likely never would have! This relaxed pace has led me to many a great conversation. Even in Seattle, the town my friend warned me did not have "nice people", the first person I met showed me around and even bought me a beer!

Next up, I look forward to meeting the great people of Canada as I take ferries up to Victoria and Vancouver with my bike.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rev3 Portland

Coming into this race I had heard it was supposed to be flat and fast. After pre-riding the course, I thought for sure I was going to bike 23+ mph (maybe 24!). It was all just too easy! My legs were fresh, my last ride had been at 6000+ feet and the elevation change was so slight it was hard to tell when you were going uphill or downhill and to top it all off the roads were all glass smooth! Well imagine my surprise when I'm 50 miles in and boom! This ride just got a lot tougher! My legs didn't blow completely up, thankfully, but I did have to back my pace down a good 2 mph instead of picking it up a little like I had planned! At this point, I'm thinking I've just blown the race, however, the race turned out, as always, to be far from over.

Let's start at the swim. It was slow. Very slow. I felt fine. My swimming seemed to be quite fast going in, though I hadn't been doing much of it. It was wetsuit legal. Perfect water temp. I started off too easy though, and for some reason, the whole race I just could not stay on anyone else's feet. I just kept getting passed the entire time! Even late in the race by people who started at the same time as me! Yet I felt like I was going the same pace. Every time I surged to grab feet I just couldn't hold them, and sometimes couldn't even catch someone swimming the same speed slightly in front of me with a surge! I'm not sure what happened. I think the course might have been a bit long since the pros also seemed to be a few minutes slower, however, I talked to several age groupers that had their best swim ever! Either way, the swim is something that needs work. A lot of it!

Coming out of the swim was a transition consisting of about a half mile run, so I stashed my wetsuit in a bag and grabbed my running shoes to ensure my legs didn't take too much pounding trying to run barefoot for that long. It was a good idea. I cruised through transition and flew onto my bike feeling great and ready to rock it. I paced the first couple of miles conservatively to be safe and then settled into my groove. And it was all gravy until about mile 10 or so when the "rough section" of the course popped up. It was really only very rough when passing, but when I say very rough, it really was quite "leg abusing rough", and unfortunately there were still lots of people around to pass... And this is about when my lower right achilles started aching to no end. I got scared. Since I'd been doing a ton of hiking and downhill running in minimalist footwear (so I didn't have to get socks dirty...) lately, I had aggravated it quite badly and been wearing compression sleeves around the last few days hoping for it to heal. That's when I came up with the brilliant idea to just stop using it. I consciously made my quads do almost all the work of pedaling and voila! A few miles later, I've completely forgotten about it and am hammering away again. More on that later...

Now, around the 2nd loop of the bike, I find a pacer to play tag with and I pick up the pace slightly and surge to catch back up whenever I fall asleep and end up 20+ bike lengths back. We keep this up until someone else, much stronger, joins in and the pace quickens a good bit, though since the wind had picked up (don't know which direction it was blowing, but I swear it felt like slight headwind every direction), speeds stay much the same. This carries on for the next several miles until, for some reason, I decide I need to push the pace up a bit since we are nearing the end of the bike and I was still feeling great, so on the wonderful rough section of the course, I found myself trying to make a pass at roughly 26mph... and boom! Ooops. There goes my legs. After I settle back in and get some nutrition in me, I quickly realize that it was not nutrition related but most definitely one surge too many and my bike pace is done. I'm now soft peddling in the last few miles at around 21mph just hoping somehow my legs can recover for the run.

And when the bike leg finally ends, I stumble through transition to find the person next to me racked their bike incorrectly, making it a pain for me to get mine in as well, but I calmly and patiently figure things out, put on my socks, and run out of transition snacking on some sort of granola energy whatever bar I had laying around. After a few steps, I can't believe how fresh I feel and how easy running is! But to be safe, I take it easy for the first couple of miles, or rather until I finally see my buddy Bradford, who I'd been looking for the whole time on the bike but was apparently miles ahead. He's flying along on the run with a big lead and so that's when I decide it's time to kick up the pace and go about catching him. And as I'm doing just that, before I even hit mile 4, my quads lock up like I've ran completely out of electrolytes and I'm about to fall over dead. However, it's not that hot and I know I've been fueling properly. And that's when I remember my nice little plan to use nothing but quads to save my achilles and calves for the run (they feel fine now!) and that little piece about my legs falling apart at the end of the bike. I slow down. After awhile it helps, but in no time, they are back to hurting just as bad. That's when I realize they are the ONLY thing hurting. If that stays true for the rest of this run, then screw it, I'm gonna push through and still have a great run! And that's what I do! Though my pace felt too easy on my aerobic system much of the way, the last few miles definitely started to get difficult and with a half mile to go, I knew for sure that I had paced it perfectly for the situation I had put myself in.

I didn't break 1:30 like I had hoped, but I wasn't far off, and with a properly paced bike, I think I would have shattered the 1:30 mark. The bike definitely should have been a minute or more slower, mostly with far less surges. My bike fitness was right on the mark of where I thought it was going into the race a few weeks ago and not what I thought it was the day before the race when everything felt so easy. However, I think my run fitness might have jumped another level (weight loss maybe?). I wouldn't be surprised if a 2 minute slower bike time would have gained me a 4-6 minute faster run. Overall, it was a good race, where I did several things right and a few wrong. And now that I'm finally recovering from it, I can't wait for the next one! Splits are below!

Swim: 38:12 (1:59/100m)
T1: 4:49
Bike: 2:28:02 (22.70mph)
T2: 0:59
Run: 1:31:27 (6:59/mi)
Total: 4:43:31
OA: 41/228
AG: 6/19

PS Be weary of wearing the compressions suits they have at the race immediately after you finish. Despite my legs feeling great, my whole upper body started tingling and I had difficulty breathing for about 20 minutes... Not fun when you combine it with all the other great after effects felt after a race of that distance.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fire in New Mexico


After my last day of work at FlightSafety International, a party was thrown and then the fun began. It took a solid, very busy 5 days of packing, moving, cleaning, and throwing all manner of needless junk away along with a total of 5 car loads of stuff to get everything from my house in Tulsa to my parent's house in Moore. And then, another 3 very full days of organizing, building of shelves and storage racks (for my bikes and wheels), and more throwing away of needless junk to get all the stuff that previously filled the living room, my old room, and it's huge closet into a black hole that sucked it up into some semblance of organization and cleanliness. It really was a feat of incredible magnitude of which credit is due to my dad's excellent ingenuity and manufacturing capabilities. Follow this with another busy two days of packing for the trip, and by the time I was ready to go I felt like I needed a vacation on the beach, not the rigorous hiking and adventure I had planned!

On the Road 

However, once I got on the road, the stress quickly started to shred and I began to feel renewed with energy and purpose. I made a quick stop in Amarillo for Jimmy John's and a quick run at dusk to keep the legs loose.

Weather was perfect for this run.  I was glad to find that the previous week in Oklahoma's heat and humidity was the reason for my exceptionally poor workouts.

On the way to Santa Fe, I was having internet connectivity problems (found out later, I had to turn roaming on and then restart the phone) so I stopped at a dark gas station and asked a trucker where the exit I needed was. Turns out, it was just up the road, and truckers know they're directions and distances, so I made it to Santa Fe without a hitch. Once in Santa Fe, I stopped for gas and asked someone who didn't speak much English if they knew of a good place to crash in my car. He didn't. The next guy, however, was more helpful. He was a security guard doing rounds at a hotel and due to the mass exodus of people from Los Alamos due to the huge wildfires threatening the city, there wasn't a room in town to be booked if I wanted one. And I wasn't the first to ask that night either, so he was cool with me parking and sleeping there for the night.

The next day I woke up and decided to bike around and check out the town. The weather, of course, felt great after coming from Oklahoma, and the jump to altitude was barely noticeable at easier effort levels. However, I soon found most of the places I wanted to visit were blocked due to fire hazard and the air quality to be quite poor from the surrounding fires, so I quickly decided it was time to move on to Colorado a little sooner. On the way, I ran across some great scenery and a good trail run.

The town of Truchas on the scenic byway to Taos

View of the River Gorge from the West Rim Trail just outside of Taos

Crazy cool houses nearby. This was an "earthship".

Great Sand Dunes National Park

It was getting dark by the time I got into Alamosa and it was now time to find a place to crash for the night again. I decided to head to Pueblo. However, along the way, I ran into a sign for the Great Sand Dunes National Park... Perfect! I bought that national park pass, so it's time to use it! The sign at the entrance to the park said I needed a free permit from the already closed visitor center to camp, though, so I turned around and parked in an alcove on the side of the road right in front of it for the night. The next morning came gorgeous views as the mountains blocked the sunrise, yet allowed enough light to see them, the dunes, and the stars for a brief few minutes. Once on the dunes, and trudging across endless amounts of sand to get to the view at the top, I ran across some fellow travellers who also happened to be going anywhere, doing whatever and so we quickly made friends.

Quaint and quiet downtown of Alamosa. Very cool train station here too.

Sunrise at the Dunes was breathtaking.

On my way to the top!

A boy scout troup running (and rolling) down the top of High Dune.

Fellow travellers Reed and Danger Carrie at the top.

Zapata Falls

After a nice run back down the dunes (much easier than going up...), my new friends, Reed and Danger Carrie told me about a waterfall close by that sounded like a good place to go next so we headed that direction, and after what seemed like forever on the rockiest, roughest gravel road I've been on yet (only 3.6 miles supposedly...), we had arrived. The water was freezing cold, but my new Keen sandals worked perfect to quickly drain the water away and the view of the falls was worth it.

Hiking thru the water to get to the Falls.

Chillin at the Falls!

Colorado Springs

Once we had breakfast, we parted ways for the moment and I headed on to Colorado Springs to meet up with an old racing buddy who is currently stationed there with the Air Force. I told him I'd like to check out his favorite trail and so he took me down to Manitou Springs close to Pikes Peak to a nice little hike that was... Straight up the whole way! The best way to describe the experience is doing lunges for 37 minutes with no break! And I thought the dunes this morning were tough! But as immensely painful and tiring as that was, my legs didn't really start hurting until we ran the 2.5 mile trail back DOWN. Needless to say, I am surprised I am still functioning this morning after and am awaiting the soreness that is sure to come.

Thankfully, the rest of the night was much more enjoyable. We went driving, top off, in his Honda NSX, ate some tamales sold from a Mexican in a truck by the side of the road, and polished them off with a Leffe Seasonal Christmas Ale brought back from Belgium which was one of the best beers I have ever had! And to top it all off, I got a shower and bed for the night! Big thanks to Tom for his hospitality!

At the top of that horrificly long hike!

Tom getting the NSX out

Tom is also an excellent photographer. Amazing pictures of his NSX and more can be found at