Once a source of "Not all you want to know about Texas Adventure Racing," but now just some "leisure" adventure through the eyes of "The K-SPoT"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bushwhacked, Beguiled, Bewildered, Buffetted, and Bussed by the Big Chill

rise and shine!"Ready...Go!" No familiar sound of a herd of adventure racers charging to hunt down the first checkpoint of the race. Only silence and some snickering. This is how the 2007 edition of the Big Chill started in earnest. But there is a prequel to this story. Earlier in the week, Thursday to be exact, I went to HART training to get my last workout in before the race. Our team, Hammer Nutrition, had just done a wet and cold training day at Bastrop the weekend before, mostly to familiarize Nikki to the terrain since this was her first time to the area. Jackie was first not racing with us because she had been drafted by Michael Mey, Monty, and Angus(not sure how that happened), then she had to drop completely out of the race because of injury. Interestingly, that same team was now racing in the 12hr version (the one we were racing) instead of the 24hr, with Pricilla Reese. All this time, we were having trouble fielding a 4th for our team, so Rick volunteered his time and graciously raced with us. Out of retirement (again), he would try and help us defend our 12hr title in the same fashion we did last year--slow but steady.

field trip?At training we had discussed the new development in the race--we were instructed to drop off our bikes at Rocky Hill before the start of the race, meaning that we would somehow have to get from Bastrop Park to RHR to do the biking. This was a bit perplexing because, straightshot, it would be about a 15mi trek, and that was not including any possible side trips to CPs. For the 12hr, I could not see this happening--Too Cool is, ummm, too cool to do that. Plus, that would take up most of the race just trying to get to our bikes. So, I also remembered the recent addition to the required gear list: a buff or bandana. That's when it popped into my head: they're gonna transport us, blindfolded, to someplace closer to RHR and then we will have to navigate our way to our bikes! Crazy!

where are you taking us, mister bus driver?Flash forward to the race briefing. At the end of the pre-race meeting, Robyn tells us to report back to the scoring tent in a few minutes with our buffs, UTM plotter and a writing utensil. Oh, its gonna happen! Then when we reconvened, they instructed us to hike over to a set of 3 awaiting school buses and to blindfold ourselves with the buffs when we got in. I laughed, especially when I saw the buses, with all the windows covered up with butcher paper! I love these guys! So we slowly filed in the bus, everyone from what I could tell were in great spirits. As soon as the doors closed and the buses started to move, I started my watch and counted the turns. About 18mins later, the bus came to a stop. I had estimated that we had passed Rocky Hill Ranch and were in some subdivision off of 153. We took off our blindfolds and jumped off of the yellow buses wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Right away we all started opening up the maps and race instructions. From plotting the CPs I knew right away we were heading into RHR, but not knowing where exactly we were in this subdivision, I had to go in general directions first to get my bearing.

chaos!"Ready...Go!" I snickered and so did Robyn. I kept at studying the map--I remembered teachings from Talamini of not to immediately run aimlessly until you have a true gameplan. So I started to walk west and then it became a slow jog. From the layout of the streets in real life compared to the black and white topo, I knew where we were now. There were two real routes you could take from the starting intersection, but both were about the same length...in fact, the route I took was about 0.03mi shorter, according to TOPO. :) So about half a mile into the jog, we joined up with teams that went the other way. CP1 was not that far away--it was next to a barbed-wire fence--this was our entry point to RHR. CP2 was down the east fenceline trail and then down a pipeline easement to a draw. Got it. Teams were still clustered together, but we all started to split from here, as it was a longer run down to the bike TA close to the entrance of RHR. From here we took the jeep trail while some teams took the Miracle Mile. Both eventually met up near Fat Chuck's Demise and then from there it was a straight shot down to TA. Nothing too eventfull here, just trying not to twist any ankles while scrambling down the rock gardens of Fat Chuck.

where the heck are we?!We got down, in pretty good shape I was thinking. Rick fetched our next set of instructions, which were to do the big lap at RHR and pick up CPs along the way. It was a MARKED course, so it should have been straightforward for everyone. With a relatively good transition, we were off...so we thought. "Unbelievable," I muttered. My front tire was squishy, too squishy to be ridden. So we had to now switch out the tube, losing valuable time. We fumbled a bit as the CO2 cartridges were not cooperating. Finally, we got the new tube inflated and we were off. The trails were a bit muddy, but not as bad as I thought it would be--usually the first section, before Fat Chuck's is the worse, caked-mud wise. We got up, using the EZ Way Up route with no real problems. Then it was Karaway. In no time we were at CP3, where Deb was taking down our team number (she was at CP1 too!) Then we continued to Off The Lip and then something odd happened. As we were following the marked course, which had CLEARLY marked off part of Off The Lip, making you take Frontal Lobotomy, we saw at least three teams turn back. They were explaining something to the effect that we are not supposed to go this way and we had to go through the marked taping. Huh?!? The way I interpreted what Robyn said was to follow the marked course. Anyway, I told our team to keep going. They were obviously taking the shorter route, but I didn't care--we were racing our race, the way I thought was correct. The trail was marked off again at the Bottle In Front of Me turnoff, so we again took the obviously longer route, because that's what my interpretation of the rules were.

walking at the speed of light!We finally got to Art and CP4. Then it was off to the Longhorn Loop, Tris Cross, and Omar's Hollow. That's when we saw one of the three teams that short-cutted. They did the right thing, objectively in my eyes at the time, and went back and did the marked course. That was a pleasant surprise. I smiled as they cruised past us again. When we emerged from Omar's Hollow we were enthusiastically greeted by Kip at CP5. We saw a whole bunch of bikes parked there, so I figured, not seeing the leg instructions, we had to stop too and do a trek leg. That's when Kip said we didn't have to and that was just for the 24hr teams. Sweeet! So we kept on going, rounding the farther reaches of RHR. Then we saw a disturbing sight. Monty's team was parked on the side and they obviously were having bike problems and it didn't look good. RHR was up to its old self, satiating its hunger for derailleurs! From then on, we knew we had to take care of our bikes, especially when the trail got really boggy. We turned the corner and headed down Ave of the Pines, back to TA. As we were about to hit the Miracle Mile, it was taped off and we had to instead go down a trail called "Why Not?" I'll tell you why not: MUD! Man, I had never done this trail before but it was obvious that it hadn't been packed down like the other trails yet--it was a slog fest! And here RHR had taken down another team--this time it was the Iron Chef et al. The Warship and Rick had already started taking turns telling us when it was too muddy to ride and to instead get off of our bikes and just walk through the mess. I think that's what ultimately saved our bikes. It seemed like we had to get off every 100ft or so, but we weren't going to risk it.

preparing to ride (walk) Rocky (muddy) Hill RanchFinally we were on familiar trail--I recognized those rocks on the twisty Miracle Mile! But, wait, we weren't done. The rest of the team were about to fly down the Hard Boil...until I spotted green flagging down the Black Trak. Crap. Nice. I remembered there were a couple climbs that would probably impossible to climb with all the mud, and that wasn't counting the Wall! Oh well, we did it. After the wall, it was fun time! Downhill baby! We were done with the mudfest! We got back to RHR TA and proceeded to pack everything...and I mean everthing! We had also taken our bike lights with us and now we were definitely wondering why we did that--those things are heavy! Being the patriarch of the group, Rick insisted to carry everything...probably even the kitchen sink if we had brought one to TA! That made for a very heavy backpack. After I had finished the plotting and we put away all of our gear, we headed out towards Beuscher Park. It was slow going since we had 10s of pounds strapped to our back. It was obvious that Rick was harboring way too much of the team's load, so we took the bike lights from him and volunteered the Warship. A few miles into the park, the Warship surprisingly says, "my butt hurts!" That's how heavy those bike lights were!

plotting our way outta RHRThe next couple of cps were easy enough. CP6 was at a powerline/pipeline/road intersection, and CP7 was the all too familiar Antioch Cemetery. We then took Gotier Trace west towards the next bike drop. This road was not as muddy as I had feared--it was adequate travel, especially since it was less hilly than the main road connecting Bastrop and Beuscher Parks. We hit the powerline (the catch) and then proceeded southward to the bike drop. In the distance we could see Robyn watching the bikes and we soon realized only two other teams were ahead of us: Backpacker (24hr) and Dead Reckoning (12hr). I was a bit amazed! Amazed because we were going pretty slow on the bike. So I was happy with our placing--we just had to keep dead on with the nav and we would have a chance. We dismounted, changed into trekking mode and headed west on the park purple trail. After a few hundred meters, I decided to bushwhack down one draw to the other draw where CP8 was supposed to be. And, yes, there it was. We then continued west, following the main draw to CP9, which was also the ropes section. We arrived to where we were supposed to be, but I couldn't see any ropes. It was back to eagle-eye Warship to point it out to me. Man, I love this guy! So we hiked up the side of the draw to the start of the tyrolean traverse and there was Deb again! Weihan clipped in first so that he could help us out as we got close to the other side. Man, I definitely needed the help! Those darn trees that they strategically planted along the course of the traverse didn't help either! When I finally got to the other side, it was Nikki and then Rick. Ross was there on the other side and he was echoing what we had heard earlier--we were only about 15-20 mins behind Tara's team. Not bad for a bunch of walking and cruising on the bike at 5mph!

We punched and then headed for CP10, which was on top of a hill. I used a trailhead that intersected Harmon road as an attack point and went straight up the hill from there. Got it. Now it was back to the bike drop and then back to main TA. We backtracked a bit, taking the purple trail for a short while then veering off to hit the main park road near Gotier Trace. I wanted to skip all the winding about on the trail. As we hit the power line trail again, we saw Dead Reckoning again--we really weren't that far behind. As we were mounting up again, we noticed Ali's bike sans chain. So apparently they had decided to run the bike all the way from RHR! Suprisingly, they weren't the only team to do that! Amazing! So we got back up and headed west on the park road on the way to TA. More hills, but it wouldn't be long until we were back to TA.

The next section was the paddling leg. On the way there, we had one CP to take out. It wasn't too bad. We took a trail that temporarily went the direction we had to go, then we followed a couple of draws to CP11. Warship spots it, we're off to paddle. As we walked to the boat drop, we wondered if we would be able to clear this section before dark. I was hoping so. I was also hoping the wind wasn't too bad on the water--I still have nightmares from my first encounter with the Big Chill two years ago! It was amazing--so many boats were still there docked, unused at that time. We headed out and the wind was stiff, but nothing we couldn't deal with. We churned north on Lake Bastrop and started to wonder if we had made some time on Dead Reckoning. As we rounded the power plant island, we got our answer--they were already heading back. It had seemed that they had made time on us. Crap. Oh well. We went to CP13 first, east of the North Shore Recreation Area. After a bit of slow paddling through the twisty inlet, we spot the CP and punch it. As we headed west into the sunset, which was very stunning at this point, we picked off CP12 which was in another inlet, next to a highway. On the way there, we saw Backpacker again--they were way ahead of everyone at that point!

We surfed our way back to the boat drop and still no one else in the 12hr race behind us! Of course, Deb was there AGAIN to greet us, this time with Drost. It was dark at this time. The wind was still bearable, but this would soon change...we headed back up the road to HWY21 and that's when we started seeing other teams. They all seemed to be clumped together. We had at least an hour head start on them. We took the back trail into the park and in no time we were back at TA. We had one last leg to finish--a rogaine. I love these because they usually directly incorporate the park orienteering map. But not this time--I had to plot them on the topo map and then transfer them onto the photocopied orienteering map. Trouble was, CP18 wasn't quite on the orienteering map, so I had to depend solely on the topo map...this point almost brought me to a complete meltdown.

We started out first with CP16...wait, CP16?!? Of course, I didn't realize this until we got to CP16 (which was down the main park road and then a short bushwhack down a draw)--CP's 14 and 15 were missing! That feeling of dread started to engulf me--did we miss two cps?!?! We had to break out the emergency phone because we thought that the people at the timing tent gave us the wrong sheet. Actually, they had removed one leg, another bike leg, but the timing crew failed to alert us of this. Whew! Okay, I brushed it off and headed to the next cp. This one looked to be tough as it was on a "point". As we were traveling the trail that lead us to this cp, we crossed paths with Dead Reckoning again--we were close! This is where Messer accused us of using steroids...we responded, "only Rick." Even Lisa said that this would be a tough one for us. I just used my terrain association once we got close to the cp. We headed east a bit too early and I knew since our pacecount was cut short that we were on the wrong finger. So I went north a bit and then east again, keeping the draws on either side of us. There is was.

We headed back out to the main road and still we didn't see anyone coming up behind us. We headed back towards the main part of the park, but instead of taking a right at the stop sign, we continued straight, down the hill, and to the gray trailhead. This was my attackpoint for CP17. From there, we trudged down a draw about 400m and there it was. Woohoo! One left! We bushwhacked straight east to get to the park road again, then headed south. As we were going to jump on the purple trail going east, there was Dead Reckoning again! Man, we were so close! And if this point was like the last 16, this shouldn't take long at all. Boy, was I wrong! My first attempt was from a trail intersection near the top of a hill. I shot it to the draw I thought contained the cp and then followed it down towards the highway. Bad thing was that we should have seen it before we hit the highway, about 150m before we hit the highway. Hmmm, now I was thinking we were in the wrong draw. So after a few minutes of fruitless searching, we headed back to the main trail. This time I shot from the very top of the hill, straight to the cp. Still no dice and we hit the same draw we were in about 30mins ago. Argh. I was starting to get really frustrated--none of the other points gave me this much trouble! Again, we headed back to the top of the hill, this time, I paced south, and then east, figuring the slope of the hill was screwing up our pacecount. Still nothing. I think this is where the cussing ensued. Rick then suggested that we head to the park boundary, close to the highway to make sure I knew where I was. Sure enough, I saw the draw that I thought we were in and in several minutes we were in it again.

I just couldn't understand what was up. I now was thinking (1) the cp was stolen by that pack of kids we saw wandering in the same location as us or (2) I had misplotted. Finally, Rick suggested we stay up higher on the draw and follow each finger in the draw. I was at a loss, so I agreed. At this point my headlamp was dying, so Rick passed me the spare. And as I pointed it skyward, there was CP18. WTF?!? It was not where I thought it should be according to my plot (it was high on a point between draws). I couldn't believe it. As I headed towards it I spotted lights from another team just coming up on the cp. Oh no, did we waste so much time that we had now lost 2nd place?! I told everyone to turn off their headlamps, but it was too late--they saw the CP. And guess what--it was Monty's team. I started thinking, oh my God, did they make up all that time on us?! I asked if this was their last point and they said yes. My heart sunk. But then they asked an odd question, "did you do the paddle?" Hmmm, why would someone ask that? They obviously wanted to put distance on us, so they didn't stay to chat. Besides, I knew we would not win a footrace--heck we hardly ran at all all day! But that's when I saw Art. That's when I asked if they did the paddle. He said no and he also said Pricilla had dropped out--I didn't even notice that! LOL. So, 2nd place was still intact for us.

2nd placeWe were informed of the short-course so we knew there was no longer an impetus for us to rush back to finish. We just walked back in and sure enough we were 2nd. This is crazy considering the caliber and number (18-20) of teams that had decided to race the 12hr! So we were done. What was even better than finishing 2nd at that point was that, Mo, support crew extraordinaire, had already packed all my gear and put the boat on top of Touareg! No joke! All I had to do was change clothes and we were ready to blow that popstand! Before leaving, I scanned the leaderboard and noticed that we had gone from being a scant 15min from Dead Reckoning to finishing about 2hrs behind them. Man, that last CP killed me. Its just that all the cps before that one seemed to have a certain flow and rationale, but that one didnt--it was planted on a nondistinct draw bank that on the map hardly showed at all. Oh well, I guess it could have been worse. We were lucky enough to miss the horrible wind on Lake Bastrop that had capsized Bobby's boat, making them have to drag it 300m to get all of the water out of it. As always, I learned new things at this race. Hopefully I remember them long enough not to repeat the mistakes again at a future race! Great job to all the teams that toughed out this mother!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Big Chill 12hr AR Suunto T6 Log

* altitude not calibrated--values higher by about 300ft
** pods not used due to race restrictions

Monday, January 29, 2007

Big Chill Report: Dog Ate It

Sorry for my tardiness. I usually at least have my Suunto T6 Data Report up by now, but I seemed to have misplaced my data snake. Yes, bad Monday morning. Anyway, I hope to have something up on the blog by this evening...until then, here's a teaser picture from the race!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

HART Training Camp: Lake Houston Reloaded

getting ready for campTo say the least, I'm starting the year off a bit slow. A week ago, on Wednesday, I got all of my wisdom teeth pulled so that put a little pause in training again. I skipped training on Thursday because Dr. Warren heavily stressed that she didn't want me working out...she actually didn't want me working out even through the weekend! But of course I ignored her partially and went for an hour bike ride on Friday. The only bad thing that happened was that I was a little weak all weekend long since I could only really have a liquid diet after the extractions. I definitely felt lethargic during my Friday night bike ride and again during camp.

leaning on the warship's shoulderWe showed up Saturday morning for camp. It was a good showing, about 21 or so souls. It would have been more if there wasn't that little short run called the Houston Marathon going on the next day. Yes, I skipped the marathon this year since I didn't want to start the year off with an injury again. Anyway, we started off with a ~13mi bike ride through the Lake Houston back trails. It was our Big Chill team along with this one girl who did an Ironman or two. She was pretty good, but put a twist and a turn in front of her and she was flying into the brush! But she was a good sport about it. Half way into the ride, Rick decides to stop and give a lesson in bushwhacking. So, he gives us a random bearing to follow and tells us to go about 200m out and then come back. It was right by a little pond, so he was no doubt just trying to get us wet...funny how he didn't go all the way with us! So we go out 200m and then come back and to make sure we get wet, he gives a mandatory "checkpoint", which consisted of a submerged tree in the pond. The water was stinky and cold, but nothing we haven't experienced before. We soon after got back onto our bikes and continued on.

HART biker gangFor the remaining section, he let us ride in our teams at our own pace. We led the way, of course with the Warship spearheading us. We got back to TA and transitioned into running gear. Little did we know, there would be little running in the next section. The next evolution consisted of a river trek up Peach Creek, to the bridge at 1485. Rule was that you could be 10ft from the water, for a max of 10sec. There was a lot of play in this rule, so teams interpreted it in many different ways. I saw a couple of teams that never set foot in the creek at all, while one or two teams were in the water almost for the entire time. Regardless, it was a long slog for those teams who traveled in the water. Upstream, it was sligtly aggravating my back again, but by the time we got to the bridge, waited for the other teams to get there and headed back downstream, it resolved itself. Once we got back, it was to TA again.

wading peach creek is fun!We now transitioned into navigation instruction. Rick went through all the basics and then gave us 5 checkpoints to plot and find within teams. They were the same CPs from the Texas Dare, so I didn't navigate and let the newbie and Nikki get us through this leg. We went for CP1, which I remember was in a creek, on a vine. They tried deadreckoning from the footbridge to the point, but apparently our line was a bit off. So I suggested we take a bearing straight west, to Peach Creek which was a pretty large catch, so that we can get a new bearing to the CP. On our way there, we run into the CP--too funny! So we were off to CP2, the famed "trumpet creeper" checkpoint. We pretty much did the same thing we did during the race, except this time it was daylight. This was the first time ever that I actually saw the CP as I ran into it during our pacecount from the trail. It was a pretty scraggly trumpet creeper, so I could understand how we missed it on our first attempt.

thanks to bobby and tommy, its safe to passWe took a lot of time on the first CP, so on our way to CP3 when we saw Rick, he told us to get that one and then head back, which was fine with me since it was no real fun just retracing the Dare race. We came up to the bridge and then they headed north on the creek and found it and we were heading back in no time. By this time, it was about the 6+ hr mark of the camp. The final evolution was to "try" and paddle sevys up or down Peach Creek. I say try because it was very shallow! When we got down there and started paddling, we were brushing the bottom of the creek for almost the entire time. That's when I said we need to just call it a day because I didn't want us to punch a hole in one of the sevys and have Rick bitch about it. So that was it for our day. We closed up shop and headed back into town. It was a good camp with good camp weather conditions--cold, rainy, and wet.

Warship and SR-71I spent the rest of the weekend getting the house more in order and washing my muddy gear. Around this time, an arctic front was supposed to be coming into town, giving us chance of ice, sleet, and possibly snow. Everyone was freaking out, cancelling school, etc...I just laughed. I actually contemplated not driving to work because I was scared of all the other people out there who didn't know how to drive in those conditions. The best example of this was at 4am in the morning when I was driving to the 24hr Fitness close to work for a spin class, the roads were wet from drizzle. Everyone was going about 50. I have seen so much worse than this! Then at Eldridge there was an actual accident blocking the freeway--thankfully that's the exit I had to get off anyway! The hype was just like the chaos of evacuating during Hurricane Rita...man, take a pill and think rationally. I'm still chuckling inside. Unfortunately I had to miss HART practice during this "severe" weather because a Gonzaga rep came into town and I had to meet up with her. Even she couldn't believe the insanity--she was stuck behind "sand" trucks that took up the whole freeway, being escorted by Houston police! If that happened up in Spokane, no one would ever get anywhere during winter! Too funny.

Anyway, ranting aside, nothing else much to blog about. HART training tonight and then we're heading off to Bastrop this weekend for some Big Chill training. That's it.

PS, congrats to all the HART members who did the Houston half and full marathons! It was tons of fun following your little colored dots on my computer screen Sunday morning while I sipped on my mocha...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Holiday Hullaballoo pt. 2

Ethan 'hamming' it up
It was now back to Houston, and all the related stress it seemed. The first flight to Minneapolis was easy enough, no problems worth mentioning. It was our flight to Dallas that started the headaches. Our flight was delayed several minutes, threatening our connection from Dallas to Houston. We didn't worry much about it until we got to Dallas. We touched down about 30min late and our flight would be leaving in about 10mins. It was running time. I ran ahead to try to keep the door open since the message boards had said the gate for our Houston flight had already closed. Thankfully, other people were scrambling towards the door, so they kept it open for us--we were the last ones on the plane. Whew. Disaster averted. Now, would our checked luggage make it back with us? When we got into Houston, the only luggage that was there on the conveyor was my green bag...1 of 4. Nice. So we went over to make a claim and thankfully they were able to find it while I was making one more check of the conveyor. I just wanted to get home now. We had a bit of trouble getting our car out of the parking lot, but thankfully that too resolved itself. We were finally home. In our own bed. Happy again. Not too happy because we were also returning to the scene of a crime. While we were away, I had decided to take my fish, Unagi, home from work so that the Hyperturtles could feed him when they periodically came by to check on the house. But in a murderous rampage, Nikko had put our poor fishy to sleep. What makes things worse, she tried to make it look like an accident--the CSI report said that the fish was pinned under the glassy rocks, appearing to be an accident. Poor Unagi. Evil Nikko.

Danny and his 'full figured' kittiesEven so, it would still be a fun-filled week because is was the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday! So I went to work Tuesday, all feeling like I was beat repeatedly with a crowbar, then had planned to drive right after work to my friends house in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, traffic was so bad in Houston that night, I couldn't get around to finish all my errands, so I just decided to stay home that night and drive the next morning. Fortunately, that meant I would get some much-needed rest. So the next morning I got up pretty early to make the drive. It was pretty easy--traffic was cooperating and I made it into Baton Rouge in 4hrs. There I hung out with Bill, Tim and Little Miss Moe while Meredith was picking up other ND faithful from the airport. Shortly afterwards, we went to have lunch at a local restaurant, then it was off to NOLA. Driving was uneventful until we got into the New Orleans area--it was packed! And what's worse, everyone was wearing LSU colors...and I mean EVERYONE! Wow, talk about home field advantage! We slowly creeped down Poydras to get to the hotel W, where they would be staying the night after the game--I was going to drive back. On the way, we were able to see the Irish Marching Band cross the street doing their usual pregame parade. It was so cool, I almost shed a tear.

at least our band was better than theirs!We made it to the hotel, which was a bit swanky...and it cost as much! I had reservations at the Queen and Cresent and it was half as much as their rooms! Anyway, they settled in and then we slowly made our way back towards the Superdome. We stopped at the Marriot where they had some ND paraphanalia and then over to the ND pregame party. It was a lot of fun and it was good to hang around other Irish faithful for a little while...before the beating would commence. After having food and drink, we eventually headed over to the Superdome and that's when I said goodbye since they were sitting in a different section and I was going to head straight back to Houston right afterwards. Well, I will not go into the details of the game since there were no real Notre Dame highlights. The LSU fans around me started off nice enough, but when the game turned into a laugher in the 2nd half, they started getting annoying. And I had so much respect for them at first...they started to remind me of Ohio State fans. Anyway, knowing my long drive ahead, I left with about 5min left in the 4th...it was long over before then. Thanks to some good advice from one of the valets I was able to avoid all the blocked streets and traffic and got out of New Orleans pretty smoothly. The only problem was that I was operating on about 4hrs of sleep and it was now around 11pm at night. It was okay for the first couple of hours, but I started to drift a bit. I stopped at a Loves to get some coffee, but that only helped for another 30mins. After blanking out a couple of times, I knew I had to pull over and take a quick nap. Hello Chevron. I pulled up to the side of the gas station and laid back. Next thing you know, it had been almost an hour. I felt a lot better!

one of the few times our team moved the ballOn the road again, but this time my concern was deteriorating weather conditions. It had been raining off and on during my drive, but as soon as I got into Texas, it started to seriously pour! Even so, I kept driving like I usually do and I was passing people left and right...until I did a little hydroplaning. That freaked me a bit and told me that there was quite a bit of water standing on the road. All the water spray also made it extremely difficult for me to pass trucks without running into the concrete barriers. So I took it a bit slowly from then on, and that was a good decision. About another half hour on, the guy in front of me started hitting his brakes something fierce--good thing I saw this in time. The road was flooded...and so was one unlucky car in the middle of the freeway. We slowly drove around it, making sure I didn't flood Audi's engine. I finally got to the I-45 interchange and it looked like it would be clear sailing from there. Just as I'm approaching the N. Main exit, I hit another pool of water. It was deep enough to where I didn't hydroplane out of control, but shallow enough where I didn't get stuck in it--it just kept me on course, thankfully. With that, I was finally, safely home and it was about 5am. There was no way I was going to work now--I decided to take the morning off and then work from home the rest of the afternoon. I was soooo tired!

Domers drinking their sorrows away (and it seems to be working!)I slowly tried to get back into my routine. I went to HART practice on Thursday and felt WAY out of shape, again. But I did get back into my groove towards the middle of training. Saturday I did a brick from the house to Memorial and back--it was my first TE of 5 in a long time and it felt like it! I actually felt really good on the run, but the bike back was really rough with a stiff headwind. I saw a few people along the way: Andrea, Jill, Andrew, and a couple cars I didn't recognize. Sunday was training with my Big Chill team, Nikki and Warship. It was going well, but I was suffering from back pain that started from the day before, right when I was finishing up the 2nd bike leg of my brick. It seemed that the first run we did aggravated it, but then the 26mi bike did me in. On the final stretch back, as the Warship wasn't going to let up on the gas, I finally called uncle. I had to slow down. So we crawled in at a tepid 14mph pace and then finished up with a very short paddle on the lake. Rick didn't want my back to get any worse, so we just paddled to the creek and back. In all, it was about 3+ hrs of training. I took the day off on Monday to rest my back, but then went to training on Tuesday and was feeling good again. The back pain is just a sure sign I'm out of shape. Good times.

Anyway, I think that's it. Life is slowly returning to normal and we're gearing up for another busy AR season. A lot of potential is abound and I'm pretty hyped about it! Until next time, keep your EPOC high and may your TE not be overreaching.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Holiday Hullaballoo pt. 1

Ethan sizes up the presents
So we made it out of H-town for a week or so to spend time with my fam. But before we left, I went on a midday bike ride since (1) the weather was perfect, and (2) I doubt I would get much training done once I got to the Spoke. Our adventure was possible also because of the wonderful generosity of the Hyperturtles: they had agreed to house- and cat-sit while we were away. Plus, we added fish-sitting late on the menu as they were coming up to our doorstep the morning we were to leave. As we later found out, the fish were on Nikko's menu as well...

oooh, Mo got a present from Kenny!Our adventure would turn interesting right away as I quickly remembered that Mo is not too fond of flying. I could feel her tensing up the closer to takeoff we were. We sat in the exit row for the first flight, which is just like sitting in first class--its so roomy! As we take off, Mo puts a deathgrip on my left hand and I let out an almost inaudible whimper. Our first leg was uneventful and we arrived in Minneapolis it seemed in no time. We head over to our next gate and I spot a Starbucks along the way--I of course have to stop by and say hello. After a brief layover, we were on a plane again, this time on to our final destination, Spokevegas. The ride was more bumpy this time around as we were entering our final approach to Spokane INTERNATIONAL Airport. LOL. We landed safely and soundly and I was able to revive my hand which had turned into a scary pale blue.

that was the last time anyone saw FrostyThere was snow on the ground so we were happy at the prospects of sledding and snowball fights and snowmen! Bruce came by to scoop us up late Saturday night. Of course, Mom was waiting we skillet and spatula in hand to cook us up something for late, late dinner! LOL. This was pretty much the summary of our vacation--eat, sleep, eat sleep...ok, so we squeezed in a couple more things into our tight schedule. We got into a nice routine in no time. Every morning we got up, ordered our breakfast :), walked to the Fred Meyer about 8 blocks away, get some Starbucks, and wander the vast aisles of Fred Meyer. That place is so big, we were able to go there every day while were in Spokanistan and see a whole different part of the store! That's pretty much how our days went when we were there. It was Christmas eve, so we had to start and finish our giftwrapping that night (can't wrap gifts beforehand since there's a chance they would get searched at the airport). It was nice to see everyone again and my niece Tanesha was able to make it too! But unfortunately my brother could not get time off of work to make the trip from the other side of the Cascades to join us.

Mo and I hiking Underhill Park, post snowball fightAs Mo and I were finishing up the presents, Bruce calls me upstairs--his car battery had died while he was at a local bar and he needed me to go back with him to jumpstart it. So I go over there, jump the car, and was expecting to head back to help Mo out. Nope, Bruce insisted that I stay with him for ONE more drink...sad thing is, I know that its never ONE more in any circumstance! Even if I say ONE more, I know, subconsciously, I'm saying something more like, 5 more...anyway, I digress. So we belly up to the bar and comisserate with some not so savory clientele at this establishment. Por ejemplo, two guys walk into a bar...no this is not a joke...they order their drinks, sit there for about 5 minutes, then a woman with questionable attire and body odor comes in after them. I look away for one second and by the time I look back, the guys are gone, their drinks half finished, and the woman is walking out the door in tow. Hmmm, comprende? Sad thing was that it was Christmas eve and there were actually a few people there, obviously by themselves. The whole time we were there, Bruce was explaining to me how great Mo is and that I should never let her go...he was saying this so much that even the bartender had to step in and say, "I think he knows, you've been telling him that for the past hour now!" Too funny.

riding the gondolaSo eventually I had to call it and said we had to go and we did, suprisingly with no resistance. By the time we made it back, Mo had already finished wrapping the presents and was in bed. Funny thing was that I woke up Christmas morning remembering that I forgot to wrap Mo's present! So I quietly snuck around and (poorly) packaged her gift and put it under the tree. Man, Ethan must have been a good boy this year because that tree was PACKED! Now it was a waiting game. Mo and I sat in bed and she asked, "so do we wait here until we hear Ethan get up and run around all excited?" I replied, "yup." We didn't have to wait long--we heard the pitter patter, ok more like a herd of elephants running upstairs and we knew he'd be bashing in our door in any second. "Uncle Ken and Auntie Mo, get up!" he exclaimed. How could we refuse? Hilarious. So we trudged upstairs and had a little breakfast before we all opened up the presents.

the loof carouselAs the wrapping and bows flew, it was great fun watching Ethan dole out and open up presents...it made me reminisce about back when I used to wait up in bed for Christmas Day to come! Ah, youth. So, one by one, we tried to make our way through the stack of presents--everyone was good this year. Mo got some nice gifts like a watch from Bruce and Emma, a set of recipe cards from the Hyperturtles, and Sims 2 Pets and Electronic Sudoku from me...I had more surprises for her, but we agreed to open up some presents after we got back to Houston. I got some sweet gifts too, like a modern version of the swiss army knife (it has a memory stick!), a checkers game with shot glasses as game pieces, and a really nice knife set from the Hyperturtles! Of course, Ethan was the one who made out like a bandit, the biggest prize being the Gamecube. We knew he'd be playing that pretty much the whole time we were there, which was pretty much the case. Mo and I played occasionally with him, but we were no match for his superior gaming prowess...at least I wasn't. I was able to beat him a couple times at Naruto, but that was it!

the goof carouselAfter Christmas day it was pretty quiet for us. No hanging out at bars, no going to parties...it was so different for me this year. We just went for our morning coffee walks and occasionally drove out somewhere for some old fashion fun. One day we drove over to Riverfront Park just to get out of the house. I told her about my younger days and how one of my first jobs was working at the park and working the carrousel. So of course we had to ride the carrousel! But first we rode the gondola. It was a bit cold and damp, but it was still a great view of the falls! We went straight to the carrousel and got on our horses the first chance we could! We had agreed prior that I would go for the rings while she took the pictures. I was able to get the ring on every pass, but no gold one for me. Finally, to round out our Riverfront Park experience, we went over to the pavillion. She tried to hoodwink me into ice skating with her, but I resisted and made a deal that I would go skating with her at the Galleria. What was I thinking?!? Anyway, in substitution, we matched skills at putt-putt golf instead. It was a below-par (hah!) course from my experience, but still we had fun.

Mo and the feastThe next day, again to mix things up, we went over to Fairchild AFB to get some exercise in. It wouldn't be anything too vigorous, but something to get my joints moving again. We played some basketball and I went for a short run afterwards with intermittent pullups. In an effort to get the whole family out of the house, we went bowling over at Lincoln Heights. That was tons of fun! Bruce was coming off his victory over us at Monopoly the night before and apparently was still on fire--he won both games with me being 2nd both times. I was pretty rusty, but so was everyone else. Still, good times. We then wrapped up our visit with a huge pre-New Years dinner! Man, I KNOW I gained at least 10 pounds! Danny came over afterwards to have what was left over, which was a lot since there was no way all that food was going to fit in our stomachs, and then he took us over to his house to bring in the New Year. He was also our ride to the airport the next day, so we just spent the night at his compound in the Hangman Valley. I couldn't believe how huge his cats, Jewel (for former Mayor Juliani) and Ty (for former ND coach Ty Willingham), have become! So we spent a quiet night in and had some champagne and turned in pretty much at 12:01am...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Still on Vacation

...in terms of blogging...I know, I've been slacking, but I have been working on my blog. It's just not ready for publishing yet. I should have it done by the end of this week...wow, I sound like I'm at work! ;) Anyway, sorry for the delay, but stay tuned! Until then, check out this Suunto t6 log--my first Level 5 Training Effect in a LONG time!