The Batteries Are Recharged – Cruisin’ The Caribbean

First Day At The Beach In San Juan, Puerto Rico

First Day At The Beach In San Juan, Puerto Rico

For the past couple months I’ve been on overdrive, working many 10 to 12 hour days. I was no longer accumulating vacation time because I’d maxed it out, but was unable to take it. Usually, sometime around midnight I would somehow find my way to bed, curl up exhausted, but the mind still reeling from the items waiting for the morning. Welcome to the American dream. The walls were closing in. It was time to step away. So we packed our suitcases and headed to Puerto Rico for a 7 day cruise through the Caribbean.

Day 1 thru 3: Puerto Rico

Before we left, Nicole checked the weather and the entire week predicted rain, but getting away was still going to be a treat. We took the redeye from SFO and made it into San Juan with enough time to enjoy an afternoon at the beach. Our hotel was next to the airport and right across the street from the beach and the water was that warm and almost glowing water along soft powder sand beaches that I think only the Caribbean has. We spent our first afternoon just playing in the water and having a good time together. Pretty soon the clouds started to roll in and it wasn’t too long before we enjoyed a good old-fashioned thunderstorm.

The next day we took our rental car and drove over to the El Yunque Rain Forest. This kept Dylan entertained as we told him to keep a lookout for Diego (Dylan’s favorite cartoon explorer and friend of Dora). Since Diego lives in the rain forest, we kept telling Dylan we might spot Diego rescuing an animal. We were planning to take a ferry over to the island of Culebra for the afternoon but we didn’t plan it too well. Arriving at the ferry, we learned we would have had to catch the 9 AM ferry, the one that left a few hours earlier, to get back the same day. So instead we found Seven Seas Beach, only a short drive from Fajardo, and hung out and then decided to take a night kayaking trip to Bio Bay. As we kayaked under the stars, the water filled with bioluminescent organisms and glowed underneath us. The kayaking trip was one of the highlights of the trip.

Paddling Out For A Night Kayaking Trip To Bio Bay

Paddling Out For A Night Kayaking Trip To Bio Bay

For our last day in Puerto Rico, before boarding the cruise ship, we took the rental car the other direction on the island and went to the Camuy Caverns. This turned into another pleasant surprise as we were amazed at the size and different climate near the floor of the cavern. Lots of bats stuck to the top and some of the rock formations gave a silhouette human figure off in the shadows. We explored the caverns for about an hour before heading back to San Juan to visit the old fort near old town and then catch our cruise ship.

Rio Camuy Cave Park

Rio Camuy Cave Park

I needed to drop the rental car back at the airport and so decided it was be perfect to work in a little 8 mile run back to the cruise ship from the airport. Normally, 8 miles would have been a breeze but the humidity of Puerto Rico on a Sunday afternoon brought me to a stop after only 6 miles. The air felt so heavy and had sucked the energy out of me that I was begging a few of the local gas stations to accept, please accept, my American Express Card. “Go ahead and charge me $10, make it $20 for that Coke. Just let me buy it before I pass out!” I finally made it to the ship and our room.

For all our previous cruises, our room was deep in the bowels of the ship. We would always have the smallest inside room with no window, not even a port-hole. But we had found such a good deal on this cruise and it included a balcony ($700 for each of us plus airfare). Let me not downplay the difference a balcony made. We don’t spend very much time in the room but being able to enjoy the views from our own room made the mornings a little extra special.

Day 4: St. Thomas and St. John

The first port of call was St. Thomas. For us, one of the exciting parts of taking a cruise is being in a new place every day and getting off the boat on our own, making the day an adventure by finding something interesting to do and see. So we decided to take the ferry from St. Thomas over to St. John and spent the day at Trunk Bay, one of the best beaches in the world. We took an open air taxi with Lisa, Cameron and Brenda to the ferry and then it was a short and relaxing 30 minute ferry ride over to St. John. This had to have been one of the most relaxing days of just hanging out on the beach and playing in the crystal clear water. The snorkeling was fantastic, not a lot of reefs, but there were enough fish (and some squid and rumors of sting rays) to keep us occupied for a few hours.

Dylan Jumping Right In At Trunk Bay, St. John.

Dylan Jumping Right In At Trunk Bay, St. John.

Day 5: Day At Sea

From Dylan’s point of view, one of the best parts of the ship was not the food, not the service, not having someone clean your room twice a day, but having a giant water slide on the ship.

We stopped counting the number of times he went down the slide after 21 times. The day ended with the movie, Rango, on a giant screen on the deck of the ship, under the stars, while we sailed towards Barbados. Life was, you can say, pretty relaxing. And one of the experiences of the cruise is after a long and exhausting day playing, sitting down to a delicious 4 course meal. It was during these evening dinners that Dylan tried all types of new foods: shark, frog legs, clams, scallops. One night Lisa and Steve hung out with Dylan while Nicole and I had an alligator and lobster dinner all to ourselves.

Day 6: Barbados

This stop turned into another highlight of the cruise. In Barbados, we walked off the ship and walked to the bus depot no more than a mile away and paid $2 for all of us to take the bus out-of-town to one of the beaches. At the beach, we started noticing a couple large boats anchoring off shore about 100 yards and then dozens of snorkelers would jump in the water. We heard this was a good spot to see sea turtles. So Dylan and I swam out and sure enough, we swam with some pretty good size sea turtles. The water was about 50 – 60 feet deep and clear enough to see all the way down. I was really proud to see Dylan take to the ocean right away and have no fear of the fish swimming around us or the deep water or being a good distance from shore.

Day 7: St. Lucia

The 3rd port of call just kept getting better. On St. Lucia we found a tour with about 15 other people that left near the port and would take us near the Pitons and up to the sulfur springs at Soufriere and finally we would have a couple of hours at one of the black sand beaches. The tour started on a small fishing boat that took us along the cliffs. Unlike some of the other islands, St. Lucia didn’t seem to have a lot of open beaches. The coast was more rugged but the bright blue water against the rocky cliffs made for a picturesque trip along the coast. The sulphur springs are supposed to heal just about every ailment. And to the touch, the black water would nearly scald the skin. In fact, the locals make hardboiled eggs by just wrapping them in cloth and dipping them in the water. It is that hot. After about 1 minute, I was cooked.

Dipping Into The Black Volcano Water On St. Lucia

Dipping Into The Black Volcano Water On St. Lucia

After the bath, it was time to shower off under the Toraille Waterfall down the road.

The Toraille Watefall in St. Lucia

The Toraille Waterfall in St. Lucia

For our last stop in St. Lucia, we boarded the fishing boat and found a beautiful black sand beach and spent the afternoon just snorkeling and building sand castles. The colorful fish and reefs looked spectacular against a black sand backdrop.

Day 8: St. Kitts

Had we not already been to some of the other islands, St. Kitts would have been a fantastic vacation spot. But after visiting some of the other islands, St. Kitts seemed to have the fewest beaches and the water wasn’t the best for snorkeling. Even so, we still had a terrific time. With no plans, we walked off the boat and took a taxi to the tip of the island to Cockleshell Bay where off in the distance, we could see the Caribbean flowing into the Atlantic. We spent the entire day either in the water, under a tree or searching the beach for shells. Dylan snorkeled for hours, his head under water as he looked for fish and seashells. By the time we made it back to the ship, there was still enough time for me to take a run through the streets of Basseterre. Running around town gave a different view of life on the tropical islands. Narrow and crowded alley streets with boarded windows and doors covering up tiny homes and shops.

Sitting On A Dock In St. Kitts

Sitting On A Dock In St. Kitts

Also in St. Kitts, some water found its way into my Sony TX5 waterproof camera, killing it. Typical, about a month after the warranty expires, the device magically starts to develop problems.

Day 9: St Maarten

Our last stop is one we had been to before, almost 10 years ago, with my parents and Nicole’s parents. Besides a trip to Disneyland with my parents when I was 4 years old, it was the one and only vacation I can remember ever taking with my parents. That day in St. Maarten almost 10 years ago provided such good memories: hanging out on the beach and watching my dad burn himself to the color of a lobster as he fell asleep floating on his back. We all had some good laughs that night at dinner as he kept saying he thought it would turn into a nice tan.

This time around, we took a small water taxi with Steve, Lisa, Cameron and Brenda up the coast near the airport. St. Maarten is the only place in the world where you can stand at the end of the runway and feel the jet blasts of a 747. After watching a couple smaller planes land and one larger passenger jet, we stopped at the Tiki Hut for some snorkeling. At the Tiki Hut, we snorkeled above a snuba course. Snuba is this odd-looking activity where people wear a helmet that feeds them air and they walk along the bottom of the ocean. It was like watching people in space, except underwater. Our little boat then motored towards the beach and we enjoyed our final afternoon playing in the waves and watching the thunderclouds roll in.

Enjoying The Last Day In St. Maarten

Enjoying The Last Day In St. Maarten

All in all, I think this was our best family vacation to date. We had a fantastic time together and were able to share the vacation with some friends.

Advertisements

Blogging At 30,000 Feet

Flying Over Desolation Wilderness

Flying Over Desolation Wilderness

I find travelling tends to be the time when technology and gadgets shine and also when they create the most headaches. Take even the fact of writing this blog post. My laptop is too big to pull out of the bag during this flight so I tried using my smartphone to write a post. But the Android WordPress app doesn’t cache any posts. This means without an internet connection during the flight my phone has no access to WordPress. This left me with my final out: the iPad, where I can compose in the WordPress app while offline. So although it would have been an interesting experiment in blogging on my G2x smartphone, it just wasn’t going to be easy.

The process of making it on the plane can be a challenge. How I long for the days when technology actually simplifies life. Emptying my backpack through security reveals this love/hate relationship. Laptop. Tablet. Phone. GPS watch. And that’s only the first grey bin. I enjoy the iPad but I find it a consuming device that lacks most of the production tools that I need. Steve Jobs called the PC the truck, but a lot of people want smaller, more efficient vehicles. But I still need a truck. So I’m very interested in Windows 8 on a tablet that was shown at the Build conference a couple weeks ago.

Even though I haven’t posted the past two months, a lot has been going on. For one, work has been consuming most of my time and energy. The work demands have always been constant but I don’t remember being this busy in a long time. Definitely positive but by the end of the day I’m pretty much exhausted. And Nicole has been keeping busy with her photography. The past few weekends we’ve been on the road for photo shoots and weddings. Her pictures are amazing yet they continue to get better.

Last month we had a fun time celebrating Nicole’s birthday rafting down the Truckee River. As one of her presents this year, I took Dylan to the Dollar Store for a little fun. I gave him $5 so he could buy mom 5 presents, “things you think mommy would like.” The shopping took a while and we had some fun but the best part was Nicole opening them: Dora the Explorer towelletes, a gardening shovel, Whoppers and pink and purple “girl” socks.

A few Saturdays ago, while Dylan and I were hanging out in Santa Rosa, I wanted to go for a run in Annadel and take Dylan with me. We parked at Howarth Park and he rode his bike up Canyon, almost to the Lawndale trail, and that’s about where we turned around. I never imagined that my 3 year old son would be hitting the trails with me on his little bike but man was I a happy father in the park that Saturday. And he keeps pedalling a little farther each week. Ever since he was born, I would usually take him once a week with me on a run and push him in a jogging stroller. I always thought I would keep at it, every day lifting him in the stroller over a little gate on our route. And every few weeks, after he gained another pound or two, it would be like the story of the Milo of Croton who every day lifted a calf, day after day, while the calf grew so did the man’s strength, until one day the calf had grown into a bull and the man could still lift the bull. But now our boy is over 50 pounds and wants to ride his bike instead of being pushed in the jogging stroller. So last week was the first time we did a route close to our normal weekly route while he rode his bicycle and I ran. I think we averaged close to a 9 minute mile pace for 6 miles.

Dylan comming down Canyon in Annadel

Dylan comming down Canyon in Annadel

As summer has come to an end, I’m looking forward to the fall weather and not having to worry about the rattlesnakes on the trail. This year I’ve seen more than any other year. I’m starting to take pictures of all the wildlife I run into. Last week I tried taking a time lapse of running up in Tahoe. I’ll do this again after ironing out some of the issues.

Well, the pilot has announced that we are making our final approach. This has been a decent flight. I learned a little and did a bit of writing. And luckily I didn’t have my laptop on my lap with the 15″ screen open when the guy in front of me decided to recline his seat. Now let me cross my fingers as I hit the Update button…

Squeezing 3 Weeks Into 1

Times Square - Before The Evening Rush

Times Square - Before The Evening Rush

I unlock the door and step outside to a sun that wasn’t supposed to be here. It’s cold as I exhale. Tiny flakes of snow shoot from my mouth and fill the air in front of me. These are the lost days between October and November. A frozen mist floats in the air. Not sure where I am going or exactly how to get there, I follow the road back the way I came last night. The constant tone of traffic makes me reach for my headphones to quiet the city noise with something a little louder.

Within a couple of minutes I’m reminded why I would never survive in this city. The millions of traffic lights I encounter break the rhythm of the early morning run. Not just a stop and go, it’s an endless wait for the hundreds of cars that need to go from left to right, right to left. I’m exhausted just waiting for them. Impatient and itchy, I briefly considering making a dash for it. A minute goes by. The sights, the sounds, the smells the city has to offer seem to be intersecting at the corner where I am now stranded. New York is not the place for me.

On the subway. Riding the train. Passing through the alleys. Times Square on a Friday night. Up and down a thousand steps. Head back, eyes staring up at another skyscraper. Bundled up and keeping each other warm. Pushing the stroller over the Brooklyn Bridge. Finding another favorite new place to eat lunch. Running through the airport, almost missing our flight home. Our little boy doesn’t even know how far from home he is. But even in New York, I’d call New York home to be with you.   

We are back from our East Coast trip where we successfully squeezed in a 3 week vacation into 10 days. First we flew into Washington, DC and attended the Rally to Restore Sanity, took a tour of the White House (Obama flew away just as we arrived) and did the typical tourist walk up and down The Mall, making stops at The Capitol, The Library of Congress and The U.S. National Archives. Then on Sunday I paced the 3:20 group for the Marine Corps Marathon. I’ve written about this marathon before but it is one of my favorites. There are just so many sites along the course: from seeing the soldiers running, some of the wounded soldiers competing, the Marines at the aid stations, the landmarks and the finish in Arlington Cemetery. The Marines run this with such precision that when my watch flipped to 8:00:00, the canon sounded. An 8:00 AM start means 8:00 AM EXACTLY. Here’s the data from my Garmin.

The meaning and significance of this marathon can be lost in the moment of the run. But as you run and look around and see someone running on one leg or pushing a wheelchair, and mile after mile hundreds of Marines line the course, you realize the price so many men and women pay to serve our country.

After the marathon, we had some time to get out since we weren’t catching our train to New York until 3 AM the next morning. We took the subway over to Arlington Cemetery and walked along the paths and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I had been talking to Theo the day before and he had mentioned it is a must-see and he’ll never forget seeing the soldier that guards the tomb and marches back and forth. Theo said every now and then he’ll be doing something and maybe it is raining and dark and he’ll realize that guard is marching back and forth guarding that tomb. No matter how cold, how dark or how wet. For me, it was a surreal experience to visit the tomb. There was the feeling that you were witnessing something sacred, that you really didn’t deserve to be standing in their presence.

We tried to get a few hours sleep before getting to Union Station around 2 AM then caught the train to New York and then caught another train in New York to Niagara Falls. That was a long day on the train but we finally made it to Niagara Falls only to sit on the train for almost two hours while the Canadian customs agents grilled a number of passengers on the train. One passenger was led off and we were finally allowed to disembark on the Canadian side and found our hotel within walking distance of the Falls.  

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

We spent a couple of days in Niagara Falls and then took the train back to New York City. The first day it rained all day and Nicole went to see the filming of Regis and Kelly while Dylan and I ducked into one corner Starbucks after another. First, it was early in the morning and we needed a place that was open so we could keep dry. Being from California, it had never crossed my mind to pack an umbrella. Second, it is nearly impossible to find a bathroom in New York. Dylan doesn’t give advance notice he has to go so when he says he has to go there’s not a lot of time to locate a bathroom. We’ve had this discussion while driving and we talked about it again while going from store to store along the streets of New York searching for a bathroom. Finally, at 10 AM, the Childrens’ Museum opened next the Central Park so we spent the rest of the morning in the Dora and Diego area.

New York Marathon.

New York Marathon.

Before I knew it, it was time to run another marathon. The New York Marathon tested me a bit. I led the 3:30 Orange pace group. The pace was a nice and easy 8 minute per mile pace but I’ve run New York twice now and both times my legs felt pretty beat up towards the end. Meb Keflezighi spoke a bit at the start about hoping to repeat but in the end Gebre Gebrmariam finished first in 2:08:14, probably crossing the finish just as we were crossing the Queensboro Bridge.

Nicole and Dylan hung out around mile 11 with Jordan. Amazing with around 2 million people watching the race, I spotted them as we passed through Brooklyn and the course was still pretty congested. I find New York a more difficult one to pace because it is impossible to get on pace until a few miles into the course and even then you are still having to work to get through people. The course doesn’t really open up until the Queensboro Bridge.

But there’s nothing like running down 1st Avenue and then finishing in Central Park. Last few miles the legs were feeling a bit heavy but crossed the finish line just over the 3:29 mark at 3:29:07. Had a lot of good runners in the group and enjoyed talking with quite a few at the start and along the course, especially Mohamed Belkhir who finished in 3:27:24. Another one of the guys in the group was Michael Mendes, the CEO of Emerald Nuts. Here’s the data from my Garmin.

After the finish it took nearly one hour for someone to locate my drop bag so I could put on a jacket and warm up. Then it was back to the hotel to meet Nicole and Dylan and catch our flight back home. And we barely caught our flight. It took us over 2 hours to take the subway from the hotel near La Guardia over to JFK. We got off the subway at 6:50 PM for a 7:25 PM flight from Terminal 4. We still had to take the tram to Terminal 4, check our bags, get through security and find the gate. There was no way we were going to make our flight. I was running through the airport, pushing Dylan in stroller to the Jet Blue counter, begging them to let us on the flight and we would happily forget our bags. “They can go tomorrow. We just need to make this flight.”

“There’s no way!” they said. But in a few minutes, our tickets were printed and they rushed us through security and we made the flight. Always an adventure. Always.

Soon It Will Be Forgotten

Putting Things In Perspective

Putting Things In Perspective

It doesn’t look real. I stand at the edge of the North Rim and stare across to the other side and realize what I’m looking at exists nowhere else on the planet but under my feet. Miles away, down the canyon wall, across the river and then up Bright Angel trail, the South Rim whispers my name and entices me to put the running shoes and run the 20+ miles to the other side to see what’s there and then turn around and come back. Maybe next year I will take my camera, a couple of water bottles and run the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim. It didn’t happen this trip.

I’m weeks behind in sitting down at my desk and writing whatever flows out and hitting the Publish button. It’s not as if life has been idle. All the wheels have been in motion lately and there’s been plenty to show and tell. But after days of coding, my fingers complain of being tired and they lack the creative inspiration I think I need before laying out that first word of that first sentence. Instead I could sit through a cup of coffee, editing every thought streaming out and end up with nothing when I should have just let it flow. So I’m trying something new and have created two working areas at home. One is a true designated working space for work and coding. I know when I am there I am focused on work and have no or few distractions. My other working space is where I can be more creative, blog and try to let my thoughts flow uninterrupted and unedited. This space does not have the demands of work staring at me on the other monitor and pulling me in their direction. Hopefully, this will help me foster the need to process less internally and more externally.

I love to drive. I hate to drive. To me the car is not much more than a necessary evil. My perfect mode of transportation would consist of two skinny tires and would require pedals and make less noise than a whispering hybrid. Before I worked from home and went to the office Monday through Friday, I would ride my bicycle to work and avoid taking the car. Avoid trips to Home Depot and Costco and most errands can be done by pedaling a bike through the city streets. Years ago, Nicole and I visited Amsterdam and nearly everybody, from the kindergarteners to grandmas and grandpas, uses a bike instead of a car to move around the city. It is beautiful not to hear the sounds of honking cars but the soft sound of pedals turning in the morning air.

But why is it that driving the family Jeep for hours and looking over at Nicole asleep in the passenger seat and Dylan quietly napping in the back makes me feel, like for those quiet minutes, with the world passing outside the windows, all is safe and perfect in our little family as we drive to some destination that in 20 years will be one of those “Remember when…” conversations.

We were back in Utah for the St. George Marathon a few weeks ago. We drove our long-suffering Jeep on the trip, passing through Area 51 in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Nevada around midnight. It was a little eerie when you see a sign “Next Gas 126 miles” at 11 PM at night and there are no cars and no lights and no cell coverage for miles and miles. We eventually pulled into St. George at around 3 AM.

This year I paced the 3:20 group but with temperatures warming up early, my group started evaporating quickly the second half of the marathon. Normally, the start in the desert borders on freezing but this year even the start in the dark was mild and comfortable. By the time the sun came up a few miles into the marathon, you could tell it was going to be a hot one. Many of the water stations seemed to be out numbered by the runners and when they were handing out cups, the cups were only half filled. A couple of times, I ended up just grabbing some water from the tables. I think the marathon wasn’t prepared for the conditions and I think those finishing later had it far worse. Click here for my Garmin data.

On this trip, our little 8-year-old Dianka from Russia came with us to Utah and then after the race we drove over to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to see what all the fuss was about. Dianka was here probably 10 years ago and we hosted her for the summer along with her younger sister. Now she is in college in Prague, speaks countless languages and was in the US for the summer. She was able to visit us for a few days before going back home and Dylan loved having some company in the backseat. He took full advantage of the situation and chatted with her for the first 500 miles until poor Dianka’s ear was about to fall off. We broke down and gave in to allowing Dylan to watch a rear DVD movie on the laptop during the way back just to give her a respite.

One of the things about this blog is it brings joy to me every now and then. I’ll just sit and go back through some of the old pictures with Dylan and we will try to relive the story. There’s probably some level of self obsession going on but I think it is a shame to go through this life at such a pace that you cannot stop to reflect on the journey. Because soon it will be forgotten. Time always marches on and while I fail to notice the signs of aging staring at me in the mirror, I am reminded daily of our little Dylan’s rapid metamorphosis. You have grand visions of molding your son, teaching him to be strong and fearless, protective and caring, creative and funny and to see the world in a way you did not. But before you know it, 3 years have marched right on by.

At 10:10 on 10/10/10, we and Dylan’s friends celebrated his 3rd birthday. The Terrible Twos weren’t so bad. With some luck, we won’t have a late bloomer and The Terrible Two stage will have passed without any major incidents. Not to say he isn’t growing. We just started to notice that most of his pants only reach the top of ankles. He’s over 40 lbs which explains why my runs behind the jogging stroller are consistently 1 – 2 minutes slower the past few months. We’d come home from a run and I thought I was pushing hard the entire 8 miles only to look at my watch and see I set another new PW (personal worse). My idea of mimicking Milo of Croton and his feat of lifting a bull by starting with it as a baby ox and lifting it everyday until it had grown into a bull doesn’t seem to be working.

Dylan In Full Pirate Costume Theme For His 3rd Birthday

Dylan In Full Pirate Costume Theme For His 3rd Birthday

On the heels of Dylan’s birthday, Bob and Amanda had a wedding. We had a full weekend at the house with Nicole’s parents, Kevin and Bob visiting and then capped with a perfect wedding on Sunday afternoon. We were lucky to be a part of their day and I had a lump in my throat seeing them standing up there together. Their photographer posted some pictures. Many are indescribable and you just need to see them: http://www.torreyjamesphotography.com/blog/2010/10/25/b-a.html

Amanda and Bob Saying Their I Do's

A final thought that also deserves it’s own blog. My buddy Jody Stange, a master with the bike wrench, who crewed for me at RAAM in 2009 and also paces with the Clif Bar Pace Team, is right now pedaling his bike somewhere along the coast of California. He and a couple of his friends are riding their bikes from Canada to Mexico and blogging about their journey at http://border-2-border.blogspot.com/. Read it even if you aren’t a cyclist. You’ll enjoy the journey.

It’s Not Wilderness – It’s Desolation Wilderness

Lake Aloha

Lake Aloha

The summer before going into 7th grade, I went backpacking with a friend and his family for a week in what is known as Desolation Wilderness. The week before the trip, I was jumping in and out of a swimming pool and caught my big toe in a crack in the railing on the side of the pool just as I was jumping into the water. There was a crack, a sharp pain and I walked away with a broken toe. Yet, not even a broken toe was going to stop me from going on that backpacking trip. That week in August, hiking in the mountains and swimming in the clear, ice-cold lakes and hanging our food high in the trees to keep the bears away was a favorite memory that has stayed with me after all these years. 

Then one day you wake-up, you wander out of bed and discover life has happened. What happened? I realized I have reached the point in life, the age, when I look back and remember seeing my dad when he was 40 and how old he seemed to me. Well, not really old, but I was 16 and he was 40 – he didn’t seem young. But now that’s me. You suddenly realize you have reached the age of your parents. You don’t see it coming until suddenly you’ve passed it. It’s the moment of truth when you’re staring back at yourself and the truth is there for you to see. It’s unmistakable. You’ve crossed that line in life. That hike, that week in Desolation Wilderness, that week that is so vivid in my memory, was nearly 30 years ago and I hadn’t been back since. 30 years! That’s a lifetime. So one of my goals this summer was to run some of the Pacific Crest Trail through Desolation Wilderness and bring those memories back to life. 

Nicole and Dylan dropped me off at Echo Lake and I started my 20 mile trek to Emerald Bay, mostly along the PCT/Tahoe Trim Trail until Dicks Lake where I took the Bayview Trail and then connected to the Eagle Lake Trail. Eagle Lakes to Lake Aloha was a terrific section with fantastic views of the mountain peaks looming ahead and the lakes just below the trail. It’s nearly 3 miles around the lakes and if you want you can skip these miles with a nice relaxing boat trip across the lakes for a few dollars. I’d pay to skip the boat ride and take the trail. 

In The Heart of Desolation Wilderness

In The Heart of Desolation Wilderness

After nearly 7 miles you start approaching Lake Aloha and the scenery starts to change to a very barren moonscape look with a few trees shooting out of the massive granite boulders. Putting my feet in the lake and taking a look around, it felt like being on another planet. My favorite section had to have been from Lake Aloha to Dicks Peak, and although the trail had a lot of large rocks that slowed me down, the small lakes and views were why I enjoy trail running and mountains. Heather Lake would be a perfect destination for a family picnic and swim one of these summers. 

Heather Lake - A Perfect Spot

Heather Lake - A Perfect Spot

Around this point, I started to really appreciate what Tim Twietmeyer and Kilian Jornet accomplished by running this section and the entire Tahoe Rim Trail, all 160 miles, in 45 hours for Tim and 38 hours for Kilian. That’s really impressive when you’ve “walked in their shoes” and when I ran into Tim a couple days later in Auburn, I had to tell him how impressive his feat looks now that I’ve seen some of the harder sections of the course. All the intersections were marked and every now and then I would encounter a backpacker and make sure I was pointed in the right direction. If you love granite mountains, trees, crystal clear lakes, blue skies and fresh thin air, I think you would enjoy this section. I posted some pictures on Flickr. I quickly drank my 2 water bottles and was out of water after about 17 miles and the last couple miles were not very runnable, so give yourself between 4 and 5 hours to cover the distance.

Here’s the data from my Garmin. 

My shins were so sore from the Desolation Wilderness run, I skipped the Tuesday night track workout and instead we went and looked at the 2011 Ford Edge. This weekend the odometer on our Jeep went over 150,000 miles. We bought this car new in 2000 with the goal of driving it for at least 10 years. Recently it’s been moaning and groaning so we may be saying goodbye to our Jeep pretty soon. 

Sunday was the Disneyland Half Marathon and I paced the 1:40 group. Weather was perfect but my nipples were gushing blood by mile 12. Only when pacing in Southern California do I have this problem. I’m not sure if it’s an allergic reaction or something in the air but I really need to start wearing band aids when running in LA. So I ran the last mile Krupicka style, minus the long flowing hair, bushy beard and short shorts sliding off the hips. With balloons in one hand and my red and white shirt in the other, I crossed the finish line just as the clock clicked 1:40:00. Like Stocker says, “this isn’t pacing this is stealing.” It was too easy. And thanks to James Wood from Virginia for keeping me company the entire course. Had a good time connecting with all my Clif buddies and reconnecting with Julie McGough (Beckwith) from Junior High. One of the benefits of Facebook!

Here’s the Disneyland Half Marathon data from my Garmin.

Running Through Angel Stadium

Running Through Angel Stadium

While at Disneyland, I had a chance to test out my new camera – in the pool! Underwater! I recently traded in my Sony DSC-T500 camera and upgraded to the Sony TX5. A couple major advantages are the TX5 is that it’s waterproof up to about 10 feet, drop-proof from about 3 feet, and can handle the bumps and dings I routinely put my electronics through on a daily basis. I definitely agree with being drop-proof as I must have fallen 3 or 4 times on the PCT trail and during one fall the camera’s LCD screen slammed against a granite boulder. That would have been the dagger through the heart with most cameras but the TX5 came away with just a scratch. It’s also a whole new experience to see underwater pictures.

The Sony TX5 Captures Dylan Underwater

The Sony TX5 Captures Dylan Underwater

I thought Dylan would be doing the breaststroke on his own by the end of the summer and he is close. His accomplishments thus far have impressed me. He can swim underwater. Dive off the diving board. Perform a forward diving flip. I’ve let go of him a few times in the pool and he has popped back up and started to swim but the fear in his eyes when he realizes he is starting to sink and I’m not grabbing him goes against every parental instinct in my body. Just about everything in me is yelling to grab him but there’s a faint (cruel?) voice saying, “Wait…Wait…Let’s see if he surfaces…Wait.” And he always does. Nicole and I are both amazed at his capacity to learn and we are trying not to hold him back with our preconceived limitations.

Back From Alaska

Black Bear In Denali National Park

Black Bear In Denali National Park

By car (Auburn to Seattle). By train (Seattle to Vancouver). By boat (Vancouver to Seward). By RV (Seward to Anchorage). By train (Anchorage to Denali). By bus (Denali to Wonder Lake and back). By train (Denali to Anchorage). By plane (Anchorage to Auburn). The scenery in Alaska is like nothing else as you stare up at incredible peaks lost in the clouds where you can see fresh snow dusting the mountains. From where you stand, you are knee-deep in the greenest ferns surrounded by a temperate rain forest. Parts reminded me of Lake Tahoe or Colorado but so many areas are like places you’ve seen in pictures but never actually been. I was surprised at how much of it is like a rain forest surrounded by towering, snow-capped mountains. We would pass the shores and visits the towns and just admire the beauty of the land. But there is no doubt that when you are in this part of the world, you are far from the rest of the world. So much of it is incredible to see yet so much of it is void of human existence. That’s a summary of our Alaska adventure. Toss in a 2 ½ year old surrounded by a ship full of senior citizens and you can see the other part of the picture. 

I had been working some long days the weeks leading up to our vacation and I paid the price the first 5 days of the trip. Plus, registering for the Auburn Triathlon or “World’s Toughest Half” the day before the event with minimal training didn’t help the immune system. After coding up to the minute we needed to leave on Friday, I ran over and picked up our rental car for the drive to Seattle. We left home around 6 PM on Friday and drove to Medford, Oregon where we stopped for the night around midnight. Saturday we drove the rest of the way to Seattle, dropped the car off at the airport and then took a shuttle to the hotel in Renton. By this time I was coughing and feverish so we decided to skip going downtown and I just stayed in bed. Not a good sign for the first day of vacation. 

However, one of the unexpected things that happened on the drive to Seattle, was Dylan started telling us when we needed to stop the car so he could use the bathroom. It was like a switch flipped in his brain and from that point forward he started using the bathroom without us pestering him to sit on the toilet for long periods of time until one of us cracked under the pressure. Plus, now that he is now sleeping through the night means you have some happy parents. 

Seattle to Vancouver, BC 

On The Train From Seattle To Vancouver

On The Train From Seattle To Vancouver

One of the highlights of the trip was the train ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC. For under $30 each, we bought tickets for the Amtrak Cascades route. This was a perfect way to travel from Seattle to Vancouver. Our train left around 8 AM from the station right next to Qwest Field. The train followed the coast for much of the way up to Vancouver. Along the way we had great views of Puget Sound and had a front row seat to watch some bald eagles flying along the coast. Dylan chatted the entire 4 hours with the passengers sitting around us and was on a first name basis with many of the passengers in the car. 

Vancouver, BC 

We had been to Vancouver once before when Nicole and I drove up the coast probably 11 years ago. So when we got off the train, we dropped our luggage off at the ship and then had a couple of hours to walk along downtown and the Sea Wall before our ship, The Statendam, left Vancouver at 5 PM. We both enjoyed the lively and active Vancouver atmosphere. People were out playing music in the Gaslight District. A lot of folks just strolled up and down the tree-lined sidewalks. The city had bike and running paths both in downtown and along the waterfront. As we walked along the Sea Wall, we would watch one sea plane after another take off from the bay. If it wasn’t for all the rain, it would be a fun place to live for a while. 

Along The Inside Passage

Along The Inside Passage

We sailed from Vancouver and spent the entire next day at sea, working our way up to Ketchikan. We’ve been on a few cruises and have always had an inside, windowless room but Holland America really surprised us with the size of our inside room. The room had enough space for a couch so the 3 of us had a little extra room for bedtime pillow fights. 

Ketchikan, AK 

Creek Street In Ketchikan

Creek Street In Ketchikan

We got off the boat in Ketchikan with no plans. We asked one of the locals about places to see and he recommended Creek Street (a part of town built entirely on stilts) and the Salmon Fish Hatchery. So after 2 hours, we had seen most of Ketchikan and still had a few hours left. Another local recommended taking a city bus to Totem Bight State Park about 30 minutes outside of town. For $1 each way, we were able to see a lot more of the area and saw some of the most amazing totem poles. 

Juneau, AK 

The next morning we arrived in Juneau. Again we had no plans when we got off the ship in Juneau. The skies were pretty clear and we were going to visit some of the museums in town when we saw a number of booths selling bus rides to Mendenhall Glacier for $7. Nicole had heard that Mendenhall Glacier was a “must see” stop so we decided to buy tickets. What a find! The bus driver gave an entertaining narrative bus ride out to the park. We spent a few hours walking along the shores of the lake and taking lots of pictures. The park is free and has a 5 story waterfall to which you can hike. There are also lots of sights with the glacier, waterfalls, icebergs and wildlife. One highlight was Nicole noticing a beaver and the 3 of us watching him build his dam for about 20 minutes. If you go to Juneau, make sure to visit this park. 

Some Boaters On Mendenhall Lake

Some Boaters On Mendenhall Lake

We when got back to town, it was time for Dylan’s nap so I took this opportunity to do a little trail running and ran up the Mount Roberts trail to the top of the tram. It was only about a 2.5 mile run to the top but it took me 30 minutes. It seems so many of the trees in Alaska have their roots above ground so trail running can require a little more focus. They say you can ride the tram down since they don’t check tickets at the top but I decided to run back down just as it started to rain. 

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

In the afternoon, Nicole and Dylan took the tram and then we walked through downtown and past the capital and the governor’s house. Some Alaskans have tried to move the capital out of Juneau but many fear the city will be ruined if they lose the capital. 

Skagway, AK 

White Pass Summit

White Pass Summit

In keeping with the theme, we had no plans when we got off the boat in Skagway. The town is tiny with only a few hundred people living there in the winter months. We heard one of the only things to do is the train ride to White Pass Summit and so we thought the train sounded new and different. Let’s do that. It was a 3 hour train ride where we followed one of the original routes towards the Yukon. The ride went up for the first 90 minutes, then we flipped our seat around and the engine connected to the other end of the cars and we went right back down the same way. As we sat there looking out at some fairly harsh terrain, we started to realize just how difficult the conditions many of those people had to endure when chasing their dreams of striking it rich during the gold rush.   

Glacier Bay 

Global Warming In Glacier Bay

Global Warming In Glacier Bay

After Skagway, we cruised all night and by the next morning we were floating into Glacier Bay. Here we saw a number of whales and even spotted a bear roaming the shore. Also, lots of icebergs floating in the water, some rather large and often drifting only feet from the ship. I had to wonder what size iceberg sunk the Titanic and if we were in any danger. When we reached one of the largest glaciers, the ship turned off all the engines and we just floated a few hundred yards from the glacier and could hear the sounds of the ice cracking and huge chunks of ice falling into the ocean. Then it was off to College Fjords before the cruised reached its final destination in Seward, AK. 

Anchorage, AK 

Dassah, Scott, Shepherd, Brianna, Talyse, Nicole, Sierra, Dylan and Me

Dassah, Scott, Shepherd, Brianna, Talyse, Nicole, Sierra, Dylan and Me

My brother Scott and his wife and their 4 kids picked us up in Seward in an RV and took us to Anchorage, where they live. We stopped for lunch at Kenai Lake and spent some time hanging out at their place. The drive from Seward to Anchorage couldn’t have been better. Blue skies with puffs of white clouds. Green valleys with snowy peaks. 

The Drive From Seward to Anchorage

The Drive From Seward to Anchorage

One of the things about Alaska in June is that at 11 PM, the sun is still out and it feels like 6 PM and time to go out for a little run. So I headed out to Earthquake Park along Northern Lights Road and then ran along the Coastal Trail to Kincaid Park and then back to the hotel. What I thought would be about an 8 mile run somehow turned into a 17 mile midnight moose encounter. 

I didn’t make it back to the hotel until almost 1 AM, just as it was starting to get dark. Trying to sleep meant all the curtains had to be shut tight so we would think it wasn’t late afternoon. With the sun still out, it felt like there was more time left in the day. You are walking around and you feel like it is around 7 PM and look at your watch and realize it is 10:30 PM. That can’t be right. But it is. It’s 10:30 PM and people are out walking, kids are riding their bikes. I wonder if there is just a natural case of insomnia in the summer. It might be a good idea if you need to dedicate a lot of time and focus to a project for a few months, work out of a hotel in Alaska and you could probably put in some very long days. Just make sure to pack that mosquito repellent. 

The next morning, Scott picked us up and dropped us off at the downtown train depot and we took the Denali Star, about a 7 hour train ride to Denali. We opted to book the train on our own instead of with the cruise ship. This was a good call. Not only was it less money but the cruise ship cars were packed while the Alaskan Railroad cars had lots of extra room and we could go up to the viewing deck as often as we wanted. Other than incredible scenery and wildlife, there’s not much in Denali besides some hotels, a general store, some supply stores and some restaurants. If you go, try to bring some food with you. 

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

In Denali, we got up early on Tuesday and joined a bus full of other adventure seekers and took the Wonder Lake 12 hour bus ride provided by Denali National Park. We spent most of the day, from 6:45 AM until almost 7 PM, riding a converted green school bus 65 miles into the park on a gravel road that took us to Wonder Lake, one of the best spots to see Mt. McKinley on a good day. On average, you can see the mountain only 1 in 3 days. Unfortunately, the clouds and rain didn’t help us on this day but we did see a lot of wildlife throughout the day. If you see something, you just shout out: “STOP! Bear at 3 o’clock.” Hopefully, it’s not just a big brown bush moving in the wind. We saw bears, caribou, Dall sheep, coyotes, a wolf, foxes, rabbits. Dylan handled the bus ride perfectly and again made lots of new friends on the bus. The very friendly couple sitting behind and heading to the North Pole after Denali promised to send Dylan a postcard from Santa when they get there.  

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

The next day meant one final 7 hour train ride back to Anchorage, spending the evening with Scott and his family before catching a red-eye home and then a full day at work. 

If you still have a few minutes, put some popcorn in the microwave, sit back and take a journey to Alaska with my slide show of some of the pictures from our trip.

Excuse Me. Pardon Me. Right behind You. Sorry. Excuse Me. Coming Through.

Chris Cavanaugh Is All Smiles

Chris Cavanaugh Is All Smiles

26,000+ runners packed the start line at Dodger Stadium to run the new LA Marathon course – Stadium to Sea. I was reminded why I enjoy some of the local ultra trail races after trying to get to the start of the LA Marathon.

Nicole, Dylan and I were in the car and on the road by 5:30 AM Saturday morning heading down to LA and made the traditional photo stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s. We arrived in LA by 2 PM and then I walked over to Dodger stadium (much farther than the reported 1 mile from the hotel) for the marathon expo. It didn’t look like I was going to make my 3 PM shift so I started jogging only to start to melt in the 80 degree afternoon. I didn’t look so fresh arriving at the pace booth dripping in sweat.

Marathon morning is always a little hectic but this one was classic. We met in the hotel lobby at 5:45 AM to catch a shuttle to the start. But after waiting on Figueroa for almost 30 minutes, it was clear there would be no shuttle. So we said our goodbyes to the other waiting marathoners and decided to walk. Good call. As we walked across the 10 overpass, traffic on the freeway was at a standstill and many people were getting out of their cars on the freeway and walking.

After making it to Dodger Stadium, I had to work my way through most of the 26,000+ runners and push my way close to the front of the pack. Excuse me. Pardon me. Right behind you. Sorry. Excuse me. Coming through. As luck would have it, they announced many were still stuck in traffic and they were going to delay the start by about 30 minutes. I chatted with Bull’s Eye Bob and a couple women while we waited for the starting gun. A completely different experience than showing up 20 minutes before the start of a 50K trail race.

Along with the pace balloons, I carried my camera and took some pictures and videos along the way. First half of the marathon had some small ups and downs. During the first half we saw the Dorothy Chandler Music Center around mile 6, Echo Park Lake around mile 7 and the Hollywood Walk of Fame around mile 12. But a couple highlights were some old friends that ran with the pace group. One of the guys was Kurt Goetz, a strong sub 3 hour marathoner and middle grade history teacher from Southern California. Kurt ran with the group for the first 20 miles wearing his Kids Run LA shirt. Another guy was my Semper Fi buddy from Marine Corps marathon. I had been looking at him and wondering why he looked so familiar. Then around mile 10 or so, I asked him if we knew each other and he said, “Yes, you paced me last year at Marine Corps.” Of course, he was the guy calling Semper Fi to all the soldiers we passed during the Marine Corps. He was my inspiration that marathon and, again, he finished with me and demonstrated some heart and guts. We also had a barefoot runner who ran and finished with us.

We did hit the halfway point right on the 1:40 mark. Second half the marathon provided better scenery and finishing at Santa Monica pier was so much better than previous years finishing near downtown LA and skid row. Finishing time of 3:19:44 was almost perfect for the 3:20 Pace Group.

After the marathon, we hung out with Jody, Lily and Oleg by riding the ferris wheel on the pier and then having lunch at Yankee Doodle in Santa Monica. Leaving lunch, there was a guy playing a nice set of drums on the street. You could tell he was talented and probably in his 40’s. We started watching him as people passed by and his hands moved around the set with ease and he would spin and flip his sticks. We watched for a few minutes and then all of the sudden he stood up, sadly walked to his collection bucket and poured the money in the street and started packing. A homeless looking guy passed and started collecting the money and handed him some dollar bills but the drummer said no thanks without a smile. If he only knew how much I stood there wishing I had half his talent. He packed up his drums and left. Why didn’t I get closer so he could see us watching him and he would know people were amazed at his talent?

Then Nicole, Dylan and I made it to Solvang for the night and drove home  next day. The drive up the 101 had some great scenes with the wildflowers blooming and we loved Pismo Beach and the town of San Luis Obispo. Here are a few of my pictures from the marathon.

Dylan enjoying Pismo Beach

Dylan enjoying Pismo Beach

Then it was off to Houston for business and my first solid 6 hours sleep at night in months. Dylan continues to sleep solid until about 1 or 2 AM in the morning so any solid sleep is a big bonus. Business trips usually mean the meetings, plus hours in the hotel on the computer trying to do the normal daily work. So a running tour through a city is a plus but could mean a run in the dark. Whenever I have gone to Houston, I’ve always enjoyed roaming through Buffalo Bayou Park and some of the River Oaks neighborhoods near downtown. But this time we flew into Hobby and stayed right next to the airport. So around 10 PM at night and in the light rain, I took a run from the Drury Inn around Hobby Airport and I discovered the airport is almost 9 miles round – not the most enjoyable part of the city. The clerk at the front desk questioned my judgement and said “Watch out for the hookers and don’t carry any cash.” Dangers are everywhere.

For you data junkies, here’s the data from my Garmin watch.