Sunday, July 25, 2010

Destination: Toilet Bowl

I've been attacking my morning runs with a new sense of urgency after realizing how quickly my triathlon is creeping up on me.  Summer is slipping away.  I even kept up with Lola the other morning on a downhill stretch.  She seemed a bit surprised to see me running beside her rather than getting dragged from behind. 

I rode Hall Ranch yesterday which has a longish steep climb and some tight switchbacks and I felt pretty good after Monday's trauma, riding stuff I had to get off and walk last time I was there a few months ago, feeling a bit stronger even than I did on Monday.  I rode all the tight switchbacks on the way down and I remember last time having trouble with those as well.  Was feeling good about it all until Jonny pointed out that this ride was not nearly as challenging as what I'll be facing for my race.  Thanks dear.  I took electrolyte pills and made sure to stop for food and felt perfectly fine afterwards.  Hungry but good hungry.  It's impossible to take in as many calories as you expend, the body can't absorb them, so hunger after a ride is a good and normal thing, much better than nauseous and dizzy and passing out.  I do know how to manage these things (food, water, electrolytes) but I've grown lazy and onto a minimalist kick of sorts so I'd been not stopping for food on short rides under 2 hours.  Those energy bars and gels are full of sugar and not healthy so I try to avoid eating them if possible.  But clearly I can't combine that with a light breakfast and later starting time so I also miss lunch.

Today's initial plan was to head back to Lory to practice the climbs and downhill switchbacks but it looked to be too hot a day and instead I opted for a trip to the high(er) country to ride West Mag where it would be much cooler.  Also the window for riding West Mag is much smaller than Lory because of its high elevation.

I wanted to ride a trail called the School Bus which is a long steep climb of about 2 hours on beautiful singletrack up to a sinkhole affectionately named the Toilet Bowl.  There are many such sinkholes in the area but this one has its own name, probably because it's at the end of a long climb.  But Jonny has somehow decided I'm not in good enough shape to do this and suggests an alternate route up to the Toilet Bowl.  'It's steep but shorter and much easier, there's a dirt road that will be easier than the singletrack plus there are lots of pretty meadows'.  I'm sure I can handle School Bus but I decide to trust him.  It'll be nice to ride a new trail and he had me at the meadows.

Sure enough the trail starts out steeply but it's nice smooth singletrack and I get my fill of meadows.

The wildflowers are bashing away

But eventually the trail turns to this:

Actually the trail turns to much worse than this.  Picture that rooty section at the top across the entire trail and it's so steep that there's no way I can possibly ride it.  I have a nice hike with my bike for awhile and then it starts to thunder and the mosquitoes start getting excited and the ATV people start flying by on their stinky ear splitting smoke belching-mobiles and I'm trying to see how this is easier or even why 'easier' is an issue because what I need to do is push myself on the hills so I can get stronger for my race.  It's not like I'm in a hurry to get to the Toilet Bowl.

Yeah, that's all it is.  It's deeper than it looks and if you're game you can ride a few laps around the top rim.  At least I get to ride down the School Bus trail which winds its way through a Hansel and Gretal-like forest (as Jonny puts it).  There are some tight switchbacks to practice but most are not on par with what I'll have to ride in my race and I have to get off and walk one or two that are way too rocky for me.  It's good to get practice and confidence on the more do-able ones though, not too sure how else to learn how to do the tougher ones.

When we get to the bottom I feel like I need more so we go down to the Shoshone meadows.

Somehow I can never seem to capture the spirit of the wildflowers and the trail, especially with the point and shoot camera.  I did get a few closer up shots that were o.k.

But still not spectacular.  No moose today either.

Feels like I have a long ways to go before I'm ready for that race and too much agility coming up.  Two full days of DOCNA next weekend then one day of UKI the following weekend then one day of DOCNA the next weekend then a 3 day seminar during the week.  Which is why I decided not to go to Laramie for USDAA the weekend after that because that takes us up to the weekend before my race.  I don't even like doing agility in the heat but I feel like we need to get as much ring time as possible before DOCNA Champs.  We'll see if I can muster the strength to make it to the training field tonight.  I think I need to clone myself.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Maybe I should call you an ambulance

Or 'If you're going to randomly pass out in a public place, the Chipotle on 28th St. in Boulder is a good place to do it.'

Today is Jonny's birthday and he takes the day off and I could really use a day off so we decide to go mountain biking in Winter Park.  Except the weather doesn't look so great and we're tired and decide to go somewhere closer.  Jonny suggests Lory State Park and I can get a shot at pre-riding the bike course for my triathlon in August.  This sounds good to me except the weather gurus are predicting 100 degrees for the plains and it would make more sense to go to Ned where it's a shorter drive and in the 70's but I do want to check out the new course and it's cloudy and cool so maybe it won't get as hot as they say and even if it does it should be later in the day.

I've done this race twice before but this year they're changing the bike course so it's only one loop and we don't have a bunch of congestion on the course.  It's a great idea except the new course is a good bit more challenging.  I know this because it's the same course as the run from last year plus a loop of the old bike course.  I remember the uphill being steep and going on forever with lots of false summits and the descent being steep with lots of tight switchbacks but I can't remember if the trail is technical (ie rocky) or not and steep feels different when you're running vs riding.

We come into the park via the back door because it's less driving than going to the main entrance so I'm not doing the course in the exact order and I miss out a bit but I get to do the new difficult loop and that's the main thing I want to check out.  We go on part of the old course to get to the new at the opposite end of the park and it's beautiful this time of year.  The grasses and wildflowers are in full bloom, everything so lush and green.  It's such a gorgeous trail and all nice smooth singletrack.  Then I get to the new part.  The trailhead sports a sign saying the trail is for 'Experts' and this worries me.  I don't remember any horrible technical bits but by the time you get to the run portion of a triathlon your faculties aren't typically at their best.  The trail is steep and the switchbacks tight for a bike and sure as I remember lots and lots of false summits, made worse because each one looks like how I remember the top to look from last year.  I think I've reached the top at the 3/4 mark but it's more like 2 miles until I reach the true summit.  And it's hot.  Doesn't feel super hot and there are periods of cloud cover and cool breeze so I don't notice the heat all that much but it's there.  I doubt it was 100 but could have been in the 90's.  It's so dry though, it's not like the 90's in a place that has humidity but still.  It's a tough climb and there are a few places I have to get off and walk for a few steps but I can ride most of it.  But I'm way too tired by the time I get to the top and for my race I have to come back and run this again?  I'm not even doing it today and the mere thought send me to tears.  What was I thinking when I signed up for this?

Then we get to the downhill.  Holy Sheet.  Sweet Mother of Jeebus is all I have to say.  Steep.  Tight steep switchbacks and lots of them.  Bits of rocks here and there plus the steep.  I have to get off and walk at least 5-6 of the switchbacks and there are a few more rocky bits I also have to get off for.  Funny that the sign for the descent says 'Intermediate' while the ascent says 'Expert' when I think the opposite is true.  I'm not sure how this is going to work during a race and I'm not sure what the race organizers were thinking.  Yeah, it's great to have one loop not to have to worry about passing people on the double loop but how are we going to pass on this trail?  Especially the downhill?  It's all narrow single track and the slope of the hill is so steep that it'll be hard to get out of the way to let people by and it'll be difficult to pass.  Even Jonny thinks it's going to be a challenge and he's got top of the line mountain biking skills. 

It's a beautiful ride and a beautiful day and we see a total of 7 people.  But unfortunately instead of inspiring confidence this pre-ride has inspired panic.  I need to be a lot less fat and more strong and way way better downhill biking skills to pull this one off.  Because did I mention the part about how I have to still finish off the rest of the old bike loop and come back and run that sucker again?  That 3 mile romp on the hill takes 40 minutes and there is another 7 1/2 miles to go which doesn't sound like much but when you're talking about single track, well, it is much.  Yes, sheer blind panic would be a good description for my thoughts when we get back to the car.  We've only been out for 1 hour 45 minutes or so and I'm wondering if we should do more given my newfound understanding of what I'm up against in 6 weeks but it's hot and I'm tired so I don't suggest it.  Also, I'm completely out of water.  I've gone through a full 70 ounces in that short amount of time and barely noticed.

During the 1 hour drive home I neurotically plan out how I'm going to pull this off.  I'll have to come back at least 2 more times to work on those switchbacks.  If I can ride a few more of them rather than getting off to walk that will save me a lot of time and energy.  I need to do more running hill work.  No more chocolate.  Bricks (bike then run), need to do more bricks, heck need to start doing bricks.  Is it to late to enter a race for practice?  Must check the schedule when I get home.  Damn road bike needs repaired so maybe this isn't even an option as any available races would be road tris.  This goes on and on.  I'm so wound up I don't pay much attention to the rising nausea.  It's not unusual for me to lose my appetite and even get nauseous after a long ride, especially if it's hot.  But by the time we hit Boulder I've forgotten my neurotic ramblings because I'm feeling more nauseous than normal, especially for such a short ride, and it's turning into the kind of nauseous that means maybe the contents of my stomach will soon be bidding adieu.  But the sick feeling soon passes and we decide to go to Chipotle to pick up some food for dinner.  Neither of us has had lunch nor stopped during the ride for a snack or energy bar and we didn't have huge breakfasts either.  I didn't have any water left to drink after the ride either.

We get out of the car and the nausea hits again.  The smell of the place, normally a good thing, isn't helping my case and when I see the containers of meat I think it would be a good thing to find the bathroom so as not to put everyone in the joint off their food.  I go around to the far side of the restaurant and it's fortunate that the bathroom isn't there because I go back around to the front where Jonny is waiting in line and stop just behind him because suddenly I'm dizzy and can't walk right.  I grab the low wall that divides the place to wait in line from the place to dine and start swaying a bit.  I hear a voice ask me if I'm o.k. and I lift my right hand and do that 'so-so' motion then the next thing I know I hear Jonny's voice off in the distance calling my name in a panicked voice.  I'm laying on my back looking up at him and he looks so worried and I can't figure out why. Then I hear some other guy going on about calling 911 and I see the phone in the hand of the Chipotle employee and that breaks me out of my stupor.  I tell them all it's o.k., I'm fine, and Jonny tells him the same and he's trying to get me up to get me out of there and I'm right there with him trying to stand because the hell we're going to pay for an ambulance and even worse end up in the ER at Boulder Community Hospital.  Heck I'll crawl out of there on all fours if I have to. I'm a little wobbly and shaky but the nauseous sick feeling is gone and he gets me to the car no problem then goes back for the food.  The Chipotle employee is still worried when  he sees Jonny return and tells him to let him know if I'm o.k.

This has happened once before many years ago after a mountain bike ride except it was after a much longer ride (4-4 1/2 hours I think) and I was way more dehydrated and in need of food.  I'm guessing the heat effected me more than I realized and even though I think I'd had plenty to drink on the ride I hadn't taken any food or electrolytes and didn't have any food or water after the ride.  I wasn't hungry or thirsty but the heat and exertion often kills my appetite.  On a longer ride I'll force myself to eat/drink but this ride was so short, I'd even been out on a ride on Saturday for a similar length of time in worse heat but it wasn't nearly as strenuous so maybe that was all it took.  After passing out the nausea was totally gone and I came home, had dinner and felt fine, maybe a little woozy is all.

Poor Jonny, he was so worried even after we'd gotten home and I told him I felt fine.  He caught me when I fell and saved me cracking my head on the hard floor but still was thinking there was more he should do but he didn't know what.  What a crappy birthday present.  I'll have to figure out a way to make it up to him next year.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A moose on the loose

I went for a hike up to Mitchell/Blue Lake today and since I took a bazillion pictures and posted them last year I decided not to take my nice camera.  This way I could enjoy the hike without the nuisance of taking pictures.  Don't get me wrong, I like taking pictures but sometimes I'm not in the mood especially if I already have a bunch of pictures and today was one of those times.  But I decided I'd better at least take the smaller point and shoot because you know, I might see a moose or something.

Or something.  Or a moose.

Do you people know how long I've been trying to get a nice photo of a moose?  Of course the day I finally have a perfect clear shot of one I leave the nice camera and telephoto at home.  At least I had the point and shoot.  I would have said a lot of bad words if I hadn't at least had that.

Nuthin' up my sleeve

A blow up of one of the photos above

I know, they are not so very fabulous.  It kills me but oh well.  On the other hand, how cool to see such an enormous moose!  Strum's such a good boy, if he noticed it he wasn't the slightest bit bothered.  We watched him for a good while and he never appeared to notice us.  They're extremely near sighted so if you keep your distance they aren't bothered by you.  Also if one charges you you should hide behind a tree because that totally confuses them.  Not the brightest bulbs in the pack. 

An otherwise uneventful but beautiful hike.  I took some photos of Strum at Blue Lake but the camera was acting weird and I attributed it to having been dropped one too many times.  But when I got home and downloaded the photos it turns out I had a bunch of video.  The dial must have turned while the camera was getting tossed around my backpack.  It's pretty lame but it's short.  It's just like being there.

(The video above shows Blue Lake and Mt. Toll.)

Yeah, well, it's probably better than the majority of crap in the theaters right now, this being summer blockbuster season and all.

In total the hike was around 6-6 1/2 miles or so, not very long but steep and rocky and at a high elevation (starts at 10,480 ft. and ends at 11,300).  The trail is challenging and every time I opt to do this hike I forget about it until it's too late to change my mind.  But the views are worth it, you can follow the link above to the photos from last year.  Funny, we did this hike on the very same Sunday a year ago.  Am I really getting that predictable?  Getting old is a bitch.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

All work and no play plus the Haiti Earthquake

All work and no play is wearing me out.  But a big deadline is past and now I have a little breathing room.  I think.  Originally I thought the project would be done on Wednesday but it looks like I'll have at least another week or two of stuff to do.  I'll find out more at a meeting tomorrow.   Work is good, just not 'all work'.

But I'm taking the weekend off and hopefully I can get some weave pole practice in and pay some attention to the dogs.  Because somebody is going a little nutty.

Who needs you?  I have Watering Can.  Watering Can is my new best friend.

Hopefully I can make up for all the lost triathlon and agility training in the next few weeks.  I'm more concerned about the triathlon, the bike course is tougher this year but plays more to my strengths (climbing) when I'm in shape.  But if I'm out of shape and have to deal with all those steep hills on the bike and run-yikes.  It will not be pretty.  In any case it feels good to finally have my life and what's left of the summer back.


This morning I went to a meeting of a structural engineering group I recently joined and the speaker was a forensic engineer who'd gone to Haiti to assist the Army Corps. of Engineers and FEMA with rescue/recovery after the earthquake.  Unfortunately I arrived later than I'd hoped and was just sitting down as the speaker began.  Normally it's not a problem, people can eat during the presentation, but with this particular subject matter, well, it's a little hard to choke down your eggs while you're trying not to bawl your eyes out in front of zillions of fellow engineers.  It was a fascinating presentation though.  The guy had to go in there-before they'd even let the sniffer dogs, he joked-and determine if the structures were safe enough (and could survive aftershocks)  for the rescue/recovery crews to go in and if not figure out how to shore them up if possible.  I can't even imagine the pressure of those decisions.  You don't want to endanger rescue crews and create new victims but you also want to do what you can to rescue survivors.  And there is not a lot of time for thinking about it, you have to make those difficult decisions very quickly and on the spot.  There's no going back to the office to run numbers and consult codes or research journals.  On the one hand it was a bit of a dog and pony show, I would have preferred a more technical discussion about his methodology but to be fair he was condensing a 2 1/2 hour presentation into an hour and it was still very eye opening and moving.  I've long been fascinated with the idea of doing forensic engineering but after looking into it I've sort of gone off the idea and this really put the nail in the coffin of that notion.  I'm far too neurotic to crawl on my stomach in an area so confined I'm scraping my back against a collapsed concrete slab and an aftershock happens and I have to crawl out backwards, still on my stomach, with the whole world shaking around me.  I give huge props to the people who can do that sort of thing but I'll openly admit that I'm not one of them.

 I was hankering to ask him some difficult questions like, 'Did you ever send the rescue crew in and something collapsed and people died?' or 'Did you ever have to leave survivors behind because there simply was no safe way to rescue them?'  But they seemed like insensitive questions and I didn't think it right to ask them in that situation.

One interesting cultural side note that I was unaware of is that voodoo in Haiti is not just a religion, it's also their form of law.  So if you have a dispute with a neighbor over a property line or whatever you go to a voodoo guy and he sorts it out.  I'm thinking maybe the City of Boulder should adopt this idea for petty disputes and code compliance issues and televise it.  Voodoo Court T.V.  And now I'm going to find a dead chicken head in my bed for this sort of blasphemy.  Anyway, it's no wonder there are no building codes being enforced was the point.  And I thought it was merely the corrupt 'government' or lack of government and gripping poverty that was responsible but it turns out the voodoo had a hand in it too.

I'm not sure what the future holds for Haiti from a rebuilding perspective, he didn't talk all that much about it beyond saying that it seemed like people were going to do things better this time around.  Though the bigger problem right now is hauling all the debris away so there even is room to build and that sounds like a monumental project in itself.  He also said there were funds for rebuilding that hadn't been spent yet and they were going to things like orphanages and more immediate needs and not rebuilding efforts.

Lots more interesting stuff but I'll leave it at that for now.  Who says engineers are boring?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Punk rock triathlon gear?

The internet sells everything, it never ceases to amaze me.  Including punk rock triathlon/running crap.  You can get it from the Punk Rock Tri Guy who also has a cool blog.  He looks disturbingly familiar but I can't quite place him, maybe our paths crossed somewhere back in the day.  Or maybe not.  In any case I want one of these t-shirts:

I almost bought one too but I stopped myself because, well, I'm not going to bore you any further with my money/employment woes.  But if you're a Ramones fan you understand the coolness of it.

In other news Strummer has rediscovered his watering can.

I broke it out so that I could play with him in the yard and not have Lola join in.  She's still not allowed any off leash running and the watering can is one of the few things in this world that she won't chase.

I do not like your watering can.
I do not like it Sam I am

Strum sez that's just fine, more watering can for him.

I have to work yet another weekend but I'm happy to do it because my contract work supposedly ends on Wednesday and after that I have nothing lined up.  44% of architects are out of work in the area right now and since they're my main employer it looks like maybe I spend the rest of the summer trying to get into shape for my triathlon in August and finally proofing those dang weave poles and of course keep trying to drum up more work.  It'll be nice to have a little break as long as it doesn't turn into too long of a break.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Mittens in July

Ute Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park

Jonny and I took a short 2 1/2 hour hike on the Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park today.  Starting elevation is about 11,600 ft. and doesn't get much higher, maybe 100-200'.  Not sure how many miles we went and it's not a steep trail for the most part but it is challenging.

It's the worst sort of trail for me because it looks like it should be easy but there are rocks strewn throughout and I drag my feet and get distracted by the mountains so I ended up tripping a lot and even fell once at the start.  The views are totally worth it though.

Top of the world

We saw a lot of marmots.  They still had their fuzzy winter coats.

I didn't blame them, I needed my mittens and fleecy headband for part of the hike.

A freezing wind was blowing like a freight train at the trail head, so hard we had to yell to hear each other, and we almost bagged it in favor of a hike at lower ground but decided to press on for a bit first.  I knew the trail dropped down after a short steep climb at the trail head and was hoping it would be relatively sheltered and sure enough it was.  Eventually I shed the jacket and mittens.  It was still windy but it wasn't terrible and there were places where it was calm.

Despite the holiday weekend we saw maybe 3 other groups of hikers the whole time, it was mostly us, the marmots and the wildflowers.  It's long been a dream of mine to go to Switzerland but I don't know, I can't imagine it's all that much nicer than where I was today.  Maybe some day but for now I'll take 1 hour 20 minutes of driving and gas money over a million hours on a plane and a zillion dollars in travel costs any day.

Friday was a 2 hour, 20 minute ride on the Lair of the Bear trail just up the road from Red Rocks Amphitheater.  I've never been there, again, maybe one day.  The ride was challenging, especially the hellishly steep climb at the start.  I usually do this ride in the fall when I'm enjoying whatever fitness I've gained over the summer but in July I'm battling the Fat and the Out of Shape so it was more challenging.  I made it though and was rewarded with beautiful rolling meadows and wildflowers.  It's such a beautiful trail-woods, meadows, mountain views, steep climbs, rolling descents-and just an hour's drive, maybe a little less.  It was so quiet too, I think a lot of people left town for the holiday.  Boulder was a ghost town this weekend and it was fabulous. 

The only bad part of the weekend?  Last night we had thunder storms and fireworks.  Cody didn't care and Lola spent most of the night in the bathroom but Strummer was a shaking, panting mess.  I bought him a Thundershirt and we've been breaking it in but last night was too much and I can't say that it made all that much difference.  The fireworks weren't too bad but coupled with several hours of loud thunder beforehand it was too much for him.  Even Lola came out of the bathroom and snuggled up next to me on the couch also panting and drooling.  Fun times I tell you being sandwiched between 2 doggie basket cases.  I remember the days when I loved the 4th of July.  Sigh.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Best excuse for a car crash ever

The vampire made me do it.

"When troopers arrived, they found the woman's car in the canal but could not find the vampire."

Really?  I think they just weren't looking hard enough.  They didn't even bother to call out the sniffer dogs.

Tempting as it is I think that blaming traffic infractions on a vampire is maybe asking for more trouble than it's worth.