Monthly Archives: February 2008

oughta do this more often

So, my back is still hurting a bit, limiting some of my activities.  Yesterday, after not sleeping well I went to my twice-weekly swim workout (with low expectations).

At the beginning of each four week session, the coach has us swim three 100 yard intervals as fast as we can.  As with running, the idea is to find a pace you can maintain, or even increase for the last interval.  I generally swim the first one the fastest, and sputter to complete the last two close behind.

My neck was very stiff as I warmed up.  I tried doing an interval at threshold pace to get an idea of how bad things would be.  I expected to be 5-10 seconds off my peak (which is significant).

Turns out I was right.  Only I ended up being 8 seconds faster than before.  Wow!

When I swam the first interval, I concentrated on doing long strokes and keeping my breathing very steady.  Apparently it worked.

I did the first 100 in 1:21, the second in 1:24, and the third in 1:23.  The coach had me down a couple of seconds faster than that for each of them, averaging out to a 1:21.

I celebrated by doing some short speed intervals on the treadmill.

Other than not believing I had this in me, I’m noticing that a couple of guys in the session still blow my doors off in the 100s.  I’ll swim as hard as I can and lose a couple of body lengths per pool length.  Also – Kris is still faster than me.

the kids take the stage again

Last week, the kids attended theater camp.  They had a great time being a part of a "Little Red Riding Hood".  They did one of these last summer as well, and that was also a rousing success.

Family and friends can check out all the pictures I got at the show on our photo-sharing site.

It’s an interesting process.  Obviously the emphasis is on having fun (as it should be).  Still, they had four days to assemble as a cast, learn their lines (and many kids did have lines), learn their cues and blocking, rehearse, and still have enough time to run around and play outside.  Along the way, they learn poise and teamwork, while having a ton of fun.

The first time I watched one of these unfold, I was really struck by what happens when you ask kids to do something fun and ambitious.  Often, they’ll exceed their own expectations – and maybe yours too.


good morning

What a sunrise this morning!


I shot this from our deck at 200mm.  I did a bit of post-processing on this picture, increasing the contrast a bit to emphasize the mountains, and notching the saturation up on the highlights.  The colors were pretty much as you see them here though.  When the mountains come out like this in wintertime, it’s like a veil lifts on everyone’s spirits.

we interrupt your training for a brief moment of kharma

When I was training for tris last summer, I attended a transition workshop run by a local chiropractor, triathlon coach, and firefighter who goes by the moniker "Doctor Tri".  He’s a really nice guy, pleasant, knowledgeable, and a champion of strength training as a key part of one’s program.

I hung out for a while after the workshop and chatted with him about this.  It made sense to me then.  I’d recently introduced squats into my regular routine, and had noticed a marked decrease in Tendinitis pain in my left leg.  Reluctantly I will admit that this seemed more or less like Magic to me.  The Good Doctor explained it thusly : "you’re getting all of those muscles to finally fire correctly, so the combined support they’re providing has allowed your inflamed tendon to heal".  Or something to that effect.  I believed it then, and still believe it now, although with a more measured attitude.

This morning after completing my twice-weekly swim workout, I went up to the gym to engage in a bit of said strength training.  I don’t do much, just some stretching, some squats, lunges, and today for the first time, some deadlifts.

Since I was deadlifting for the first time, I did the first set with the bar only.  I was also uncertain of the correct technique.  We’ll come back to that important point in a second.  I got through the first set just fine, and decided to add some weight.  I had been feeling pretty good before that – my squatting was going very well, and I’d done some nice speedwork in the pool too!

As I stood there getting in my 45 seconds of rest between sets, I realized that my lower back was hurting.  A lot.  Undaunted (foolishly) I began the second set, and got in exactly three reps before gently setting the weight down and going upstairs to stretch (and cry).  Ouch ouch, and ouch.

By the time I finished stretching, I was in real pain.  I called our family chiropractor, Dr Scott Hammons (the only link I could find for him is an interview he did about shoe inserts 🙂 ).  They managed to fit me in later this morning, and I limped into his office and explained what I’d done, right down to attributing the strength training ideas to Dr. Tri.

It had been a while since I’d been to see Scott, so we had a bit of ground to cover in terms of various aches.  At no time did I specifically blame Dr. Tri for my injury.

Ten minutes later, after two Doctors had buried there elbows in my lumbar and buttocks (nearly causing me to cry), who limps in for an appointment, but Doctor Tri!

Now – had he also misused a barbell while deadlifting, I’d have had a laugh at his expense, and this blog entry would have gained some moral gravity.  But he’d injured himself doing brave firefighting stuff.  Also – I can blame no one but myself for proceeding with an exercise without really knowing the right mechanics.

Therefore – the kharma is mine and mine alone.

I’m hoping to be back running tomorrow or Wednesday.  Definitely feeling a pang of regret too, as the sun is shining, and Ben and Landy are out running now.

a walk (run) in the park

Had a really nice trail run this morning down at Cougar Mountain.  I bucked tradition today by not getting horribly lost too.

I like running there a lot, and although I’ve been out there a bunch, I don’t go often enough to remember my way around without bringing a trail map along.  When I go out with the running club, we amuse passersby because we stop at every trail junction, pull out all of our maps, and point in different directions.  And get horribly lost anyway.

The last time out there, I ended up running with Nina – who is typically quite a bit faster than me.  She slowed down for me that day, and we had a really nice run.  I think it amounted to about 10 miles, including the famed De Leo Wall trail.

Today, I set out with the goal of running for about 3 hours, and hopefully covering around 15 miles.  I planned a route that took me around the mountain clockwise, with so many turns I couldn’t possibly remember them all.  Instead I marked up a map and took it along.  Somewhat deliberately, I planned to do most of the climbing on the second half of the run, just as a good challenge.

It was beautiful.  I think the temperature must have climbed from about 35 up above 50 in the time I was out there.  The trails are mostly under trees, but I definitely felt a boost of vitamin D from today’s sunshine.  I took it pretty easy, shuffling along in no particular hurry.

It was a pretty easy run until I went down along the Wilderness Cliffs trail.  The descent was steep, and I started to feel it in my quads.  The trip up Wilderness Creek was a lot more gradual, so I should probably try the difficult 1 mile ascent the other way next time. 

I also figured out why people consider De Leo Wall soooo difficult.  Today, and also with Nina, I took the trail of that name.  For a really good time, you should venture over the wall via the viewpoint trail.  The ascent is wicked – looks like about 350 vertical in less than a quarter mile.  I started to come down from the top to take a peek, and made it about a third of the way before turning around.

I did walk on the more difficult ascents, so clearly have some strength-building to do.  When I finished though, I felt like I could have gone on another hour if I’d wanted to (or had gotten lost 🙂 ). 

So – I’d planned this particular run to determine whether I might be able to do the Free State Trail Marathon in Lawrence Kansas in a couple of months.  I don’t know very much about this race other than that it is small, looks like fun, and is in a state I’ve not visited, let alone run a marathon in.  Need to make travel plans soon, but I might just mail the race director to get a sense of what the course profile is like first.  I suspect the heat might be an issue, and would hate to get hit with a bunch of climbing during a 70+ degree trail run.  Even without climbing, I’m not counting on a PR, just a good time and a reasonable challenge.

All things being equal, the timing looks good, and my training has gone pretty well so far.  Gotta do more hills and strength training though!

new york, NY

So last week, I was in New York for work.  I flew in for the weekend, did some sightseeing and visited with family in the area.

It’s funny – although I’ve not lived in New York since I was nine, I feel a sense of ‘home’ going back there.  That usually lasts until I’m trying to hail a cab in freezing weather though.

This time, I stayed down in lower Manhattan for the first time.  On Saturday I walked around a lot and took pictures.  I visited St. Paul’s Chapel and Trinity Church, both near the World Trade Center site.  This is the churchyard at St Paul’s, looking out towards the WTC site :

I’d not been to "ground zero" since October of 2001, when the WTC ruins were still smoldering.  Now it looks like any other huge construction site.

Back to the churches though – these are real treasures.  They’re great for taking pictures, because there’s so much to them, and because the light’s so great.  Here are some handheld, natural light photos taken inside of them :

Dating from the mid 19th century, they’re a look back to a day when there were no skyscrapers.  Here’s a look down Wall Street at Trinity :

After that, I continued on towards the Woolworth Building :

Along the way, I snapped some street scenes, and some pictures that emphasize the great architecture and geometry of the buildings :

I walked up past Mulberry Row, and through Chinatown to the Lower East Side and the Tenement Museum.  Some of these "tenements", or apartment buildings date from just after the Civil War.  Finally, I ducked into a small restaurant to grab some lunch.  The interior of this place was great for trying out my new-ish 12-24 mm lens !

I brought the 12-24 and my 18-200 mm lens on this trip, leaving my nicer 70-200 VR f2.8 and 50 mm f1.4 at home.  This was kind of a tough decision, but I wanted to try taking Ken Rockwell‘s advice to schlep along less.  It worked out great.

On Sunday, my cousin Sandy picked me up and we drove to visit her brother and his family up in Connecticut.  Mostly we hung out, and visited, and then went to watch their son play basketball.  This was a very nice, low-key day.

I took in two shows while in the city too.  November is a political farce starring Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf.  This was light, pretty funny, not a classic, but definitely worth the half-price ticket I bought (front row!).  the other show I saw was the revival of Pinter’s The Homecoming.  This was not light, but excellent, and definitely a classic.

An interesting footnote to sightseeing was running into Curly Neal and "Sweet Lou" Dunbar of the Harlem Globetrotters in a deli near Times Square.  Despite approaching 174 years old, Curly still looks the same.

focusing on the next thing

Since doing the Marine Corps Marathon back in October, I’ve had some trouble deciding on my next marathon.  Since it’s difficult to do quality training without a clear goal in mind, my running has sort of floundered.

I don’t really mind this sometimes, as it can be good just to run for fun.  Over the years, I’ve come to know that I really need a goal to focus on, something to get me to do track workouts, hill repeats, and long runs.  Especially in the cold and rain.

So after hemming and hawing again when someone asked me whether I was training for anything, I decided to sit down and take a look at (a great resource for finding out about races).  I figured that I’d be able to build from my current base of 15 miles by late April.  I could do one a month sooner, but it wouldn’t be a good effort.

I looked for US marathons between April 15th and May 31st.  The ones that looked interesting included Big Sur (which is most likely full), the Running Fit Trail Marathon in MI, and something called the Free State Trail Marathon in Lawrence KS.  I looked at some others, including one in Minot ND, and several closer to home.

I’m still not decided, but am leeeaaaaning towards the trail marathon in Kansas.  Huh?

See- my secret goal is to someday have run marathons in all 50 states.  It’ll take me until I’m eighty at my current pace, but I’m not feeling too much urgency about it.  I like going to new places, especially ones I didn’t think I’d ever visit.  I like running.  I’ve never, ever been to Kansas.  Also – what I can glean about the race is that it’s small and entirely on nice single track trail.

We’ll see.  One thing that gives me pause about this race is that there are no reviews from other runners.  Before I pop for an airline ticket to KC, I think I want some assurance that there’s likely to be a race.  I’d also like to know what I can count on in terms of total ascent over the course and what kind of support there will be.

But just charting out the long runs until April 26th has given me a new focus.  I even ventured out into a cold rain to do hill repeats tonight.  It wasn’t pretty – I only made 4 trips up an amusing climb of 150 foot in about .15 miles.  It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s about an 18% grade.  Try it.

enjoying the weather in the north cascades

The weekend before last, Rachel and I decided to enjoy the weather a bit, by driving up to the Upper Skagit River to see the bald eagles feeding on the salmon.  We had a great time, and it turned out to be a pretty full day.


We got an early start, and made good time until I took an ill-advised turn off onto state hwy 530 at Arlington.  Ordinarily, this is the way to go, but there was a bunch of snow and ice that slowed us down.  Eventually Rachel dropped off to sleep, and the road straightened.  The sun came up as we wound through the woods, following shallow tire tracks in the snow.

There were two or three eagles hanging out under the bridge over the Skagit River when we got there.  We walked down to the river’s edge and watched them for a while.

20080127-DSC_3131 20080127-DSC_3138 20080127-DSC_3149

I was shooting with my 70-200 f2.8 w/ VR, and a 2x multiplier.  This is great glass, but I need something more in order to get closer.  These pictures are cropped to make them look closer, and the image quality just isn’t there.  Still – it’s a big deal to watch these big birds fly around.


Rachel got wet up to her knees hopping around near the water, so it was time to move on.  A rafting trip wasn’t going to happen with her getting colder, so we decided to head east up the highway, to look at more birds, and see some salmon.

20080127-DSC_3178 20080127-DSC_3281

By now, the birds had finished feeding, and were all way up in the trees.  So we toured the Salmon Hatchery in Marblemount, took in the beautiful day, and looked through telescopes at the eagles.  Then we ate a big lunch, which included some delicious rhubarb cobbler.

20080127-DSC_3207 20080127-DSC_3267

Finally, we headed over to the Bald Eagle Festival in Concrete.  This is a pretty modest affair, with some science-fair type exhibits, some stuff for sale, and an ongoing set of demonstrations.  Rachel played with some worms in a worm bin.  She likes doing that.


We also ended up watching a Native American Flute Circle, which was pretty nice.  Rachel asked lots of questions.


By now it was time to head out.  When I talk about this, it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s hard to convey how full the days are when you’re out with a six-year old.  They’re smart enough to move slowly, watch, listen, and take everything in.