Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The exciting news from here at the Golden Hour Ranch and Circus is regarding the ducks. The ducks have a purpose: They eat slugs. Slugs eat young sprouts and just about anything that grows. Nobody but ducks eat slugs and the slugs can destroy a garden in a night. Without the ducks the only way to grow a garden is to create a nasty chemical defensive barrier and a lot of diligence. The GHR&C is slug haven.

The ducks also lay a lot of eggs that are considered a gourmet item and people pay me good money for them or I barter with them. I also make a lot of egg noodles with them too. So my three ducks are valuable items. 

Ducks periodically lose their feathers and grow new ones, called molting. My ducks recently did that and discovered that they could fly so yesterday we clipped one of their wings. I always clip the right so I can have only left wing ducks on the ranch. Clipping the flight feathers doesn't cause the ducks any pain but there is always a bit of drama around getting a hold on them to do it. 

Well yesterday after we had clipped them I heard a flapping of wings and a ruckass so I went to find out what was going on. I couldn't see the ducks right away but what I did see was a lone bald eagle low to the ground right above where the ducks we last seen. Now there's a big bird. Anyway it didn't have duck but we could only find two of the three. Abdul was missing. We named the duck Abdul because it was the biggest but he turned out to be a she too. 

We figured that there must have been a pair of eagles and the other one had already taken off with Abdul. We thought about looking in some of the big trees to see if we could find him but then we figured it would be too late and who really wants to see their pet duck get ripped to shreds and not be able to do anything about it. You get a one way ticket to jail if you shoot an eagle. So we locked up the other two - Custer and Elli and wrote Abdul off. 

On the way back to the cabin I noticed something crouched underneath the stairs and low and behold there quaked Abdul. He must have fought off the attack and escaped. This time. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Mad Marmot

The guy framed by his equipment is Brien Thomas, operator of the Mad Marmot Mills. Brian showed up the day we arrived back from Florida. This particular shot was taken when we were well into our project but it really is typical what he does best - getting the most out of a hunk of wood.  

The Mad Marmot is a great name. When Brain isn't sawing logs, he's telling you how the world should be... how it could be a better place if only, well, that would be a long story and it's his story not mine. Mine is the story of how downed trees turned into lumber.  To be continued...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Steve Jobs RIP

Steve Jobs died yesterday, he was 56. If that had happened to me my son, Seth would be only 18 and daughter, Kate, 13. I would have missed Seth's HS graduation. I wouldn't be a grandfather. I wouldn't have this second life with Alison either. No glistening drops of dew in my headlamp, no walking the dogs in the cedar grove. No sound of the surf while atop my waveski. No feeling of being wrapped in love by family and friends. It's not really a just comparison to say who's the richer but it makes me appreciate being here now.

Ormond by the Sea October 2011

We arrived shortly after an unnamed tropical storm rolled through, that's why the upper part of the beach was dark with debris and dirt?

The other things that arrived with the storm were lots of bugs. We have never been to OBS when we were the target of so many biting critters. It had been dry for a long time then they got like 6 inches of rain. The grass in the back yard, the park, the running trails were not places a person wanted to stand still for long. Most were of the "no-see-um" variety so were never really sure what they looked like and most of the time when you felt them on you it was too late.

Alison and I walked the neighborhood most days covering 5-6 miles. The asphalt was insect free but too hard a surface to run on. We did run one day and we both got blisters which is quite unusual for us trail runners. Walking we found ourselves picking out favorite trees, shrubs and flowers. The best way to know what will grow in our yard is to see what others can grow in this salt-laden air so close to the beach. We made a list and dreamed a bit on what we could do to improve our own landscape. A landscape that currently has no curb appeal or comfortable sitting area in the back.

We couldn't go to Florida with running the Bulow Creek Trail. Like the beach no one was on it and we did well until we stopped just for a moment to talk about our route. Well, my route went straight back to  the car - we got nailed by some heat seeking fast biting somethings and we got the hell out. And no we didn't see the wild hogs, again.

The waves on the last day were perfect little curls, just the right size to body surf. Long lazy rides, go back out, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Before we knew it we found ourselves driving home to Kendall in the middle of the night, wipers flapping in a cold light rain.  Trip over, a few new memories and a couple of fun pictures to show our friends.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The First Annual Dirty Farm Trek Oct 2, 2011

The Dirty Farm Trek – Who could resist a race with a name like that? Not me, especially since it was practically in my own backyard. Well, it was about 10 miles down the road but that’s pretty close for out here.
The race was organized by the VZ Foundation a local non-profit whose goal is to have fun and raise money in support for other local charities. The winners of the race get to choose a charity of their choice to donate some of the proceeds to so it’s not just about winning for themselves.
This was an “adventure” race, something that’s becoming the latest fad in popular non-elite racing. This particular race had a set of obstacles, a variety of riddles to solve and a challenge – if you could carry and egg throughout the whole race and not break it, 5 minutes would be deducted from your overall time.
Race day was cloudy and cool, looked like rain but it didn’t happen till the race was over. Alison and I had a plan, since neither one of us ever tried anything like this we decided to not push it but just to have fun.
A lot of racers dressed up for the event. There were pink pigs, black assassins, super heroes in golden tights and capes, and plenty of farmers in bibs. The start was like a gala and it continued throughout the race.
We clamored over 4 foot hurdles and crawled under fences, slogged through water and mud, hit a slip and slide, carried tires, walked balance beams and tried to solve riddles. They were tough, some of them at least. Maybe it was because we were a bit tired and stressed but some of those riddles were pretty basic (once we were told what the answers were) and we still missed them.
We each had our own method for the egg. I tucked mine in a tiny pocket at the back of my shirt and Alison wrapped hers in her windbreaker tied around her waist. The overall winner of the race packed his egg in Twinkies. Best of all tho was the girl who tucked her egg in the crotch of her men’s underwear, which she wore on the outside of her bibs.
We arrived at the finish with our eggs intact, riddles half solved but happy. Since I was the only person over 60, I won my age category. The prize was a twenty dollar gift certificate to Ryan Styles’ Upfront Theatre and of course we all got a “Dirty Farm Trek” T-shirt. All the adults also got a free beer from the folks at Boundary Bay Brewery so it was all good. Next year – costumes!
Check out the start on Youtube. Just Google Dirty Farm Trek. 

Work or Play?

Outdoor Life requires work, or does it? I spent the summer tearing out an old rotten deck and replacing it with a raised concrete patio. In the process I shoveled 30 tons of rock and gravel and sweated over details in the pouring of concrete and the laying of pavers for the finish surface. I worked with new tools like wet saws and new materials like concrete boards (for texture on the concrete).

Most of the work I did myself, slowly. The old deck was so decayed that it went into a long-term compost pile or to the dump. Ugly old landscape block, mossy and mildewed had to be moved and eventually placed inside the new retaining wall for some of the fill. The forms were built of recycled plywood, a lot of it anyway and the design itself while inspired by the deck on Deming Rd (which I also created)  but came from within.

Once the old deck was demolished and the area was leveled I formed and poured the footing. The day was hot and the concrete hardened before I was completely finished. Good thing no one sees the bottom, (except the ducks)  it was sturdy but not pretty. 

The day of the pour couldn’t have been done with out help from relatives and neighbors. My forms weren’t as solid as I had hoped and after they were reinforced we tip toed around on pins and needles fearing a blowout at any moment.

The result was a bit rustic but it does resemble the cabin itself so I can’t be too particular with the outcome.

After striping away the forms the interior of the wall had to filled in with drain rock gravel and sand. Everything had to compacted before putting down the pavers. 

Oh the pavers! Unbeknownst  to us the company that made the pavers had a major change in coloration. The first set of pavers went down well enough but when I went to pick up more, the same brand and color of pavers were completely different. The good folks at Northstar Concrete tried to tell me it was just because the pavers I had were exposed to the elements longer but I wasn't buying it. It turned out I was right but in the process I had to remove the pavers I put down and redo everything with the new ones. We really liked the old color better but now that the new ones are down, the lighter color is "cheerier".


I then built supports for pouring the stairs. A purchase of a cement mixer and another pile of sand and gravel allowed me to avoid the cost of a concrete truck and enable me to mix the concrete myself.

With the stairs in place we partied on the deck to celebrate its completion, Alison’s birthday, and Amber’s beginning week of med school. Then I built the stairs leading up to the house door. I used commercial outdoor flooring – funny plastic stuff – to try to avoid the mildew and mold that sunk the old deck. I just hope it doesn’t get too slick.

A few days ago I used the last of the pavers to build a little flat space in front of the lower steps. Each time I form up concrete I learn something. The border for the pavers, while not perfect, is an improvement over the previous concrete work.

Surprisingly enough, for me anyway, is the increased upper body strength I attained during the process of building this edifice. I suppose I could have spent a bunch of money (which we don’t have) to have someone else build it and spent my days indoors pumping iron to achieve the same result BUT it wouldn’t have been so much fun, or brought people together in the same way.
The deck still needs landscaping, that will have to wait till next spring. Gutters were installed to keep the roof run-off from splashing up against the house and door. The hole in the left front will eventually be a planter for some delicate looking tree.  Work or play? I can’t decide. 

Dialogs Unlimited Inc 2011

Alison’s last words were “Don’t forget to hydrate” so at 3:10 AM I had a beer.

Dialogs Unlimited, Inc. is a group of men who have met annually for over twenty years to renew their friendship and test their physical prowess by climbing mountains. Colorado 14ers (Over 14,000 feet in elevation) being their favorites. September 14 10:00 PM I jumped in a car with some of them at the Denver Airport and headed east towards the Collegiate Mountain Range. 

Way past midnight I found myself two and half miles up a forest service road, one that looked like a washed out creek bed, we’re still looking for that stunning mountain home we saw in the pictures on the internet. We literally had to move boulders to find it.

The other car had left 2 hours earlier so we thought we were following them but we weren’t. Thoroughly disgusted we met them coming up as we were coming down. They had dinner, they got lost. Facing each other, neither car having enough room to pass the other, we all decided that the house we rented was an Internet scam.

House on a creek, big enough to sleep 12, free wifi, cable, washer and dryer, only ten minutes to town: It all seemed too good to be true and maybe it was. The $2,000 plus rental fee that was wired upfront was gone and we were standing around freezing in the middle of nowhere.

At 3:10 AM, on the way to Buena Vista, I had a beer. The first thing I had eaten or drunk in 8 hours.  By around 4:00 I pulled the covers over my head in a dumpy little motel room with no heat. No plush mountain home for us. Mid morning wake up and I looked around to see the ugliest surroundings that I’ve been in since, maybe, that first trip to New Orleans when I was nineteen.

Some may be polite and call it funky but imagine a room furnished with stuff purchased from a flea market. About half the light fixtures were merely empty sockets; the ceiling in the bathroom had flakes the size of silver dollars and black mildew creeping from the edges. My bed stand light was actually a canning jar filled with buttons with a metal top holding a light bulb, it didn’t work.

Crud aside at least I had a hot shower before a late morning breakfast. With the help of the chipper waitress we were directed to a rental agency and looked at a condo to rent for the remainder of our stay. We met up with the other half of our group at the Rooster’s Crow Restaurant. Just so happened the local police captain and county sheriff were there and we reiterated our tale of woe to them. They were friendly but not much help, however, it got me to thinking how we might as well see if we could gather more information about the people behind the internet scam. Also in the back of my mind I just didn’t want to believe that it was all a hoax.

I went outside of the restaurant and called the two numbers listed on the Internet site. No answer but I left a message telling them my name was Robert Lee, that I happened to be in Buena Vista and wanted to rent their cabin as soon as possible.

Not long after that I received a call back from a woman named Elizabeth who told me I couldn’t go see the rental because it was being occupied until Sunday. I told her it was OK, would she please give me directions and I could at least drive by. The directions she gave me were quite different than the ones we followed the previous night.

So off we went. The directions lead us to an area much closer to town and as we turned a corner, there it was, a most beautiful mountain home, near a creek with a fantastic view of the Chalk Cliffs – not a fake Internet scam at all.

I called Elizabeth back, identifying myself as to who I really was and explained why I had resorted to such a subterfuge. She was put out that we would even think she was involved in something fraudulent.
The place was everything the Internet ad said it was and more. Beautifully appointed, roomy, craftsman built. She even called back to tell us she would refund the previous night’s rent or let us stay another day. We opted to stay another day.

So it wasn’t until the second day we packed up our gear to go climb a mountain. Like many of the 14teeners, Mt Belford was a relatively benign climb with little technical climbing. We did miss a stream crossing and had to bushwhack a bit, but it was the elevation that wore me down.

Mt Baker Ski Area near home, along with other climbs nearby, had only put me up to about 4,000 feet. Mt Belford started us out at roughly 10,000 and then added another 4,200 feet to the top. I wasn’t used to the thin air and my progress was eventually reduced to a few hundred steps before I had to stop and catch my breath.

Along the way we saw mountain goats and broad mountain vistas, very dissimilar to the forested mountainous views of Washington State. The marmots and picas were out gathering their final goodies before winter’s onset and much of the short vegetation had begun to turn to autumns’ colors.

The ultra running training helped me a lot on the climb and based on Alison’s admonition I packed a lot of water laced with an energy powder, I had some Shot Blocks and I saved my solid food till we were about two thirds up. I was going slowly but I was ready to summit with energy to spare. About 600 feet from the top the weather turned nasty. Wind and icy snow pellets blanketed the summit and visibility was reduced to a few feet. We decided to turn back.

At the upper elevation we had climbed switchbacks composed of rocky steps, they seemed much taller and steeper on the way down. I was grateful for my recent purchase of trekking poles. Overall we hiked about seven hours and I was pretty spent by the time we returned to the car. I hadn’t bagged a 14teener by reaching the summit but it was close and a real accomplishment for me. A beer or two and a great dinner with a bunch of good guys was my reward.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hannegan Peak August 2011

Hannegan Peak  All the details on this hike can be found at this site, including pictures.
However, my personal experience of the peak was enhanced by Leif Swanson, neighbor and fellow hiker.
We hit the trail before seven, the overnight campers at the trailhead still had sleepy voices rumbling from their sleeping bags, the sun slanting only across the peaks of the nearby mountains.
All those peaks had names and most of them were summated in the past by Leif. He was the proverbial fountain of information.  Leif was also scouting the trail for his wife, Heather, a horse packer for the National Parks. We weren’t that far up the trail before Leif decided that it wasn’t the downed trees or narrow twisted stream crossings the would be a problem for a string of horses but the fields of snow that were still in abundance across the trail.
The snow was hard, ice like, difficult to kick your foot into to get a grip. Leif encouraged me to mentally put my mind into my footing and physically how to carry an ice axe and then to use it to self arrest when my head went elsewhere and I started to slip and fall.
We passed on climbing Mt Ruth when we got to Hannegan Pass. We tried but without crampons I could see myself sliding into oblivion with or without an ice axe. Hannegan peak was the obvious choice.
The peak itself stands in the middle of a ring of higher mountains with a number of valleys dropping away from its flanks. Leif had a story for almost everyone of them, of climbs past and trail info of which headwater winds up in what river system.
With our early start we didn’t see any other hikers or black flies till we were about half way down. Leif was able to point out the type and quality of the trail work as we went along. An unused blast hole and the shattered remains of one used to break up a boulder blocking the trail. The difference between a water bar and check dam to protect the trail from runoff, and some intricate rock work almost hidden under moss and detritus.
Wild flowers were in abundance in the open areas, glacier lilies lifting their yellow petals right through the snow. Each slope, depending on its solar orientation, had its own set of dominant flora. Most of the stands of huckleberries we passed through had hardly leafed out at all causing me to wonder if they would get a chance to fruit at all.
We saw a bear below us the valley, a big one but non threatening. I can’t imagine there was much to eat but grass and leaves. But even more interesting was the marks of a porcupine on the bark of a newly fallen tree. The teeth marks were at various levels, which as Leif pointed out, were made as the porcupine returned to the same branch as the snow levels dropped.
For a ten mile hike I learned a lot. I also discovered a few things on my own. I had overlooked taking a hat and sun glasses. The reflection of the sun on the snowfields was unpleasant almost painful and I was glad the crossings were not too long. Surprisingly I ate and drank everything I carried. Between the plodding on the icy snow and the duration of the hike my energy and water consumption was more than it would have been had I been running on a snowless trail.
Fortunately Chair Nine, a new restaurant and bar, was twenty minutes down the road. An aptly named Elysian IPA frothy pint full of tasty flanvanoids hastened my recovery.

Neskowin July 2011

Alison’s family has a rich tradition of gathering at a funky resort at the little town of Neskowin Oregon the last weekend of July. I’ve been there maybe 5 times already.
Most of the old vanguard has passed, Alison’s Aunt, Annie Lousy, as she is called is the last one, frail enough to require a full time care person to come to the “beach” with her.
Friday night is Mexican night for the Allen section of the family and Saturday evening is a big potluck and group pictures of everyone. Sunday morning is a drawn out affair of lengthy goodbyes and standing around the parking lot.
BUT the rest of the weekend, the daylight hours, are spent on the beach – except of course Saturday morning, early. A group goes golfing and the others who aren’t sleeping in, meet in the parking lot in preparation for a hike/run up Cascade Head.
Cascade Head isn’t a long hike, it’s just up. Stair stepping through a Sitka Spruce forest and on to long switchbacks through hilly meadows only to arrive breathlessly at the top to a grand view south along the Oregon coast way down below.

Only this year was a bit different. Great views of the ocean and the beaches to the south as we left the forest but the top was socked in, windy and a bit too cold for me in my T-shirt and running shorts. We stayed long enough for a group picture but we high tailed it out of there as fast as the slope and rocky trail would let us.
The main event of course was the beach and the surf.


First Day of Crab Season July 15

Were you ready? I wasn’t. Friday afternoon found me a bit behind. No crab pot or fishing license. I pulled it all together though and the pot was down in Chuckanut Bay at 5:15 PM.

High overcast skies and calm seas, I luxuriated by just bobbing around near Teddy Bear Cove. My day had been full of shoveling gravel so I was content to drift and not paddle for exercise.

For entertainment, aside from watching the motor craft zoom around checking their pots, I was plunking a baited crab catcher with cables to snare crabs. I had this attached to a short fishing pole, the line dangling in about 30 feet of water.

Crabs were curious about it all right, good old chicken parts attracts them every time. I caught a few but realized I wasn’t willing to drop the crabs between my legs and the bucket I brought was the wrong one and wouldn’t fit in the cockpit very well. I let a couple of tasty critters go.

Surprisingly enough a 3 foot dog fish (shark) got entangled in the snare and put up quite a fight. I didn't have a fish bonker to kill it nor a knife to free it so I had to sort of play with it to loosen the snare.

The shark manage to get the snare behind is pectoral fin and wasn’t happy. He splashed a lot and got me all wet. They have a row (or two) of razor sharp teeth and a stinger on their back so grabbing the thing was out of the question. The water was clear so I could see that I was making headway or tailway I shoud say and he finally slipped through the noose.

Shortly after that  a good sized tour boat came by closer than I would have liked. No one was out on the deck looking at the view, there were just a bunch of old people sitting down inside feeding their faces. I could have mooned them and no one would have noticed. The idea of mooning someone from a kayak is a rather humous thought, since so much could go wrong doing it.

Then the weather changed and I hadn't paid attention because I was too busy releasing MR Razor Sharp Teeth and laughing at myself and my stupid ideas. I quickly pulled the crab pot and made it back to where I had parked the car just as it began to really rain.

I only had two keepers but that's OK, they are always the best fresh. Alison had the water boiling when I came home so I plunked them in and we finished them off before we went to bed. Can't get much fresher than that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mountains to Sound Relay (MTS)

Mountains to Sound Relay – June 26 2011
After a week of wet weather, Sunday, the morning of the race was just beautiful.  All of us were ready to go. In order to fully appreciate the implications of this race, a little background is needed.
Our first attempt at this race was in 2006, the inaugural event. It was an extremely hot day for Seattle and it was also Amber Chambers' (Alison daughter) first race ever.
MTS for us was a team event and consisted of 5 legs – Mt Bike, Road Bike, Kayak Paddle, a half marathon run and a 5 mile run.
When we cheered Amber off on the last leg of the race we were in a very competitive overall position. Since we all like to take home some hardware we were feeling pretty chipper. Amber had a practice run on the course and we could tell chances were good that if she ran at her pace we might be able to clinch third place.
At the finish at Golden Gardens Park, huge flags were flapping in the breeze and the rockin roll music was pumping up the crowd watching the runners come in. A few runners came in, no Amber. A lot of runners finish and still no Amber. Mom is worried.
Alison knew from running the half marathon that the heat was oppressive. The race directors hadn’t included enough water stops, Alison even (inadvertently?) stole a glass of lemonade from some kid’s stand she was so thirsty.
As we were deciding to split up to look for Amber, we see her pull up to the finish in a car!
According to Amber here’s what happened: Pumped with all the adrenaline that comes will race day, Amber set out on a much faster pace than here practice run. Heat and fatigue wore her down, she became confused, went off the poorly marked race course and momentarily passed out on the railroad tracks near the Ballard shipping locks.
Someone saw her, wanted to take her to the hospital or call 911 but she convinced him to take her to the finish.
Fast forward to 2011 and Amber wants redemption. She’s been running a lot and running well. We couldn’t convince our Road Biker to do a redo so we switched things around a bit. We found an 18 year old Mt Biker who had never raced but was eager. Amber decided to run the half marathon and Alison the now 10K. Nick our first Mt Biker decided to do the road bike leg, even though he hadn’t raced on the road before either. Well well here we go again, says I.
Race day was a 3:00 o’clock get up, pick up the Mt Bike kid in B’ham and be at the start near Snoqualmie Pass. MOUNTIANS TO SOUND – 1 DAY 100 MILES!
At the start I look at the bike our mountain bike racer was using, it’s way different than almost all the other bikes around. His has drop bars (low slung handle bars), green skinny tires, and a purple and orange frame. He said he looked at the website and noticed that it was technically not a mountain bike course but a trail ride. We watched the start and our guy is in 6th place when they bike up the hill, and a steep one at that. Some of the bikers are walking their bikes.
Next over at the start of the road bike leg a few of the pros have their bikes on stands and are warming up riding. Their Mt Bikers come flying in and they are off. Our biker comes in in 9th place, bloody leg and a flat tire. He road that bike for more than half of the 17 mile course on that flat. Very impressive.
Once our Road Biker got on the 48 mile course we all head towards the start of the kayak leg. The kayak leg is a 12 mile paddle down the Samish Slough, a slow moving river that ends up in Lake Washington.
Nick, the Road Biker, tells us his story like this: He catches up to some guys, a few others catch up to him and they form a group. Nick, not a bike racer, quickly catches on to the idea of drafting one another and motors along with the group. He doesn’t understand the biker’s hand signals but takes his share at being in the lead. He figures he is going to powerhouse towards the end only to realize that all the other bikers have the same idea. They arrive at the kayak put-in all in a big group.
We discussed earlier how we would put the kayak in the water but as we all bunched up, somehow, the kayak was going in backwards down the ramp. By the time we squared that away, four or five of us jumped into our boats all at the same time.  I passed two boats in the first 100 yards and the next guy in front of me was steering wildly from one side of the river to the other. Before I could figure out which side to pass him on, he overturned and the last view I had of him was of him walking his boat down the river.
The next boat up ahead was a double with two guys doing a decent job getting downstream. I eased up behind them and paddled in their wake. Like biking, a kayaker can benefit from drafting another boat.
When I tried to pass them, they picked up their pace too and we paddled neck and neck for awhile. Luckily for me they couldn’t hold it for long. I don’t think they had as much experience in picking out the current in the river either. I focus on keep the kayak in current as much as possible and I think over the length of the course it made a difference.
Later I did get passed by three boats - two surf skis and a double outrigger. I can’t keep up with boats like that. Overall it was a pretty lonely race.
At about and hour and half I could feel my energy level drop. I reached for the tube of my hydration pack and all I got was a bunch of air and a teaspoon of liquid. Somehow the valve was left open. I hate to stop paddling so I decided not to fuss with it.
The river empties out into Lake Washington and the finish is around a buoy to the right. I had two run-ins with power boats who just weren’t looking. One dude I had to yell at, he would have hit me if I hadn’t. So much for non-motorized boats having right away.
The picture of me at the finish looks like I am having trouble walking on the gravel. Not so, I was just having trouble walking at all. Paddling for two hours there just isn’t any circulation in the legs.  
Originally I had some real misgivings about my portion of the relay race. My practice sessions didn't go all that well (other than being scenic) but there is something about the whole race thing that makes me want to do well and push limits. The best thing I did for myself before the race was watch videos on youtube of Olympic kayak racers and their paddling style. Form carried me through.
My time was 2 minutes faster than what I did five years ago, but I was more than a little concerned about how long it took my heart rate to drop after the race. Thirsty and wiped out I was.
I tagged Amber for her start of the half marathon and it was with great joy that we saw her finish her leg of the race with a smile on her face and a time that was under her predicted pace. Yeah Amber!
The day was getting steadily warmer and Alison once again had a hot run on an asphalt trail. She had the unfortunate experience of watching a runner turn around before actually reaching the halfway point. Chump! Still Alison turned in a strong performance under adverse conditions. We’re trail runners and running on hard surfaces is a lot tougher on our bodies.
We came in 5th in our division, 11th overall out of nearly 70 teams. We had by far the largest age spread of any team. Just being around so many other competitors and the positive vibes that get generated makes training and racing so worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kauai & The Rash Shirt

Early June found us at the Lawai Beach Resort in Koloa Kauai. AHHH LO HAA!
80 degree days, low 70s at night. LBR is located just across the road from one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island AND some excellent wave breaks where the locals show off their skills.

For us though we hit Brenneke's Beach for some bodyboarding and body surfing. Seemed a bit weird getting to the beach before 8:00 AM but we found that it was the only time to have the waves to ourselves. And what wonderful waves they were. Some were a little too big. What I learned:

If you try to dive under a big wave but you are in the wrong spot, it will suck you up from the bottom and roll you over numerous times. I used to think that a rash shirt would be useful to keep your arms and chest from chaffing on the boogie board. After skidding on my shoulder and back, helpless in the throws of a big wave, I think a rash shirt would be useful to protect one's skin from the ocean floor. I have a "floor" burn on my shoulder to prove it. There goes my even tan.

Unlike getting a "souvenir" race shirt for being on a team for Ski to Sea, I bought a rash shirt for the next time I play in the bigger ones.

Overall though the waves came in many sizes and we all had a ball. The less adventurous (or smarter?) could ride the wash of a big wave after it broke and still get a great ride all the way to the beach. Turtles could be seen in the surf and of course the sound and the sight of a big wave in full curl right in front of your eyes, the diving under and the feel of the wave rippling your body as it rushes past was down right memorable.

While there we ran, we hiked, we marveled at all the lush vegetation and we cooked some great meals from local seafood and fruit and veggies from the farmer's market. Ahi, Marlin, Shrimp, heaps of papaya and little tasty bananas.

Napali Coast from the Awawapuh'i Trail

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Kayaking on Silver Lake, the south end was so calm I skimmed over  clouds and tree tops.

Feeling stupid was sort of how I felt last night at Silver Lake. There was an old guy in a canoe, pale, white of leg in his bermuda shorts and t-shirt,  just slowly paddling around by himself enjoying the evening sun and breeze. He looked very content as if he was savoring Summer Solstice. Every once in awhile he would stop paddling and just drift. 

Me? I'm flailing the water in the kayak till my arms ache and I'm a ball of sweat under my life vest trying to keep up a racing pace. There must be a happy medium. I was so tired I could barely lift the kayak back on the Trooper when I finished. I recognize that by genetic chance I have a healthy body and staying fit is really important but sometimes I feel like I'm going about living all wrong. 

The Mountains to Sound Race is on Sunday, a 12 miler. I need to get my head into it because the longer I'm out there, the longer I'm out there. Go too fast in the beginning and I'll bonk before I'm done. Go to slow and finish really strong and I'll regret it. It's all about proper pacing cause it's not just a sprint. If done correctly, I can reward myself with a well earned massage on Tuesday. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ski to Sea Race

Ski to Sea Race is a local multi sport race that received a lot of national attention last year. For the history of the race you can Google Ski to Sea and get on the website.

My involvement this year, which was the 100th anniversary of the race, took many twists and and unfortunate turns.

The family team that I was on two years ago finished in third place that year - a plaque and a photo of all of us on the podium can attest to effort all of us put in to successful completion the race.

This year we couldn't get enough family members to commit so I posted my name on a bulletin board, offering my kayaking skills for any other team needing a racer.

I was contacted by team "Puppy Cradle Grave Syndrome" - a team name with  origins that remain shrouded in mystery still. The teams kayaker had recently been in a severe accident - car vs semi - and had not recooped sufficiently to paddle.  They turned out to be a group of university students with very limited racing experience and not much interconnection between one another. Quite the opposite of our family team who were fairly close-knit and quite knowledgeable of the course. And I should mention very competitive in our approach.

For many years I have opposed the direction that the Ski to Sea Race was  heading - that the Race directors were promoting the race more as an elitist race for nationally  ranked competitors and less of a local race for folks who enjoyed competing with each other all within a framework of having a good time. Well, here was my chance to support my feelings. "Puppy Cradle Grave Syndrome" certainly didn't take itself too seriously.

 The race meeting was an absolute last minute affair with many of the racers meeting each other for the first time. Introductions were brief and logistics were kept to an adequate but minimal level. I left feeling a little apprehensive that these young men and women could actually make all the necessary connections to race but also found myself laughing at the whole concept of racing on a team with such a casual attitude.

I took it to heart though. On race day I skipped the mandatory kayak race meeting. It was at noon and I calculated that my racers wouldn't make down the course until 4:00 or 5:00 PM.  That would be a lot of wait time for me. Fortunately the race had an iPone/iPod Touch program that allowed me to follow their progress and my estimates proved to be correct. I didn't leave the ranch until almost two o'clock.

With 500 teams in the race some of the elite teams were already finishing by the time I reached town. There were however still hundreds of kayaks lined up on the park grass at the put in point when I arrived. Of the seven legs in the race my team was still on the Nooksack River canoeing with a Mountain Bike leg needing to be completed before I could get to paddle.

Meanwhile the wind on Bellingham Bay was picking up, more and more whitecaps were appearing and some of the less experienced paddles were having difficulty turning around the breakwater into the wind.
I was looking forward to the challenge thinking that I could out maneuver and paddle faster than a lot of boats on the water.

In order to contain the overall time of the race the idea was to release all remaining boats at 5:00 PM regardless of whether or not the teams' mountain bikers arrived. I was beginning to realize that I would be part of that group and the group would be huge.

I received calls that our Mountain Biker was on the course so I lined myself up for a last minute pee. By chance I heard some nearby folks with Ski to Sea Official tags on saying something on the phone that they had a "Situation" here at kayak put in point. They expressed concern of the number of boats still remaining to launch and of the deterioration of the conditions on the bay.

Not long after returning to my kayak there was an announcement that due to unsafe conditions in the bay the kayak leg would be cancelled immediately.  After watching numerous kayakers dumping themselves in the 50 degree water just outside the breakwater I was thinking it was a good idea. I would have enjoyed the challenge but I realized that there would be considerable risk. (Maybe my new ID bracelet would get some use.)

The sad thing is that the race directors literally folded the tent when they called off the race. The 200 teams remaining were left on their own to welcome their Mt Bike teammates when they finished their leg. There were no more announcements as to who was coming in which is sad because those riders deserved the recognition as much as the ones before them. Maybe more so because the race was over them then and there.

My rider came in at 5:15 and I was glad I waited to cheer him in. So it was a no go for me, all I got was the shirt.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Florida - The Hoop & The Waveski

Rained in the Great Pacific Northwest for almost the whole time I was gone. No rain in Florida, 80 degree days and oh should I mention sunshine, my GPNW neighbors didn't even want to hear about it.

I went there to work and when I say work it really was because it was Indoors. I won't write about that, but I will mention that I took time of to run a sandy trail, walk the beach, play tennis and shoot hoops. I also hit the waves body surfing and using the waveski.

When I was a kid, not knowing how poor I was but pretty poor, most of my time was spent playing sports. Grades came easy so I was usually found with a basketball in my hands. My dad welded a support for a plywood backboard that we attached to a tree in the backyard. My playing surface was hard packed dirt. It sounds so pathetic when I write about it but it wasn't to me at the time and still isn't.

Anyway last week in Florida I went to the local park and played on the cement courts and worked up a sweat. Low sun, humidity, and just me the ball and the hoop.  I don't "swish" the ball through the net as much as I used to but the feeling is still there. Peace and tranquility through movement.

Some New Age (for lack of a better term) engage in various free form creative dancing. I'd like to try that some time but I think I get pretty close to where they want to go out there on the court. I've played organized basketball from the fourth grade up through my early fifties so I also know the feeling about being in sync with others but I still know a sense of completeness when I am out there by myself.

The same feeling is there on the waveski - sometimes at least. My first morning on the ski left me frustrated. The waves were breaking close to each other and getting out beyond the surf was a chore. Dumping and trying to get back on was difficult because it had to be done quickly before another wave broke on top on me. The waves themselves were steeply pitched and I found myself getting tipped up on the nose of the board before I could pull it up to plane on the wave.  I left the beach feeling a little beat up.

On the last day I was there I went out just after dawn and saw neat rows of waves spread pretty far apart with a glassy surface and an offshore breeze. I sprinted back to the house for the ski and paddle. What difference. I caught wave after wave. The newest sensation for me was the sound of the waves. Sitting on the ski outside of the zone where the waves were breaking the sound that the waves made when they did break was completely different than the sound one hears when you are in front of them. I think you had to be there to appreciate it, it's that hard to describe.

I have a long way to go before I'll be comfortable on the waveski, I learn, or I should say, my body/mind acquires a greater sense of what needs to be done to ride a wave every time I am successful out there. What fun.

Garden Time

Funny I should write about gardening. I don't really have one. And maybe I should take a step back to say this isn't really a gardening blog. It's just that Outdoor Life is more than just trail running and exercise. It encompasses everything outdoors, including periods of stillness and contemplation AND days of what some people might classify as "work".  With that in mind this blog has a wide range of topics.

Nature's engines are in full swing right now, so why not hop on board? Unless a gardener deals solely with native plants that rely on local weather cycles, a little creativity is required here in the Great Pacific Northwest.  Cool temperatures and wetness doom many a gardener's attempt to an early start. But to really boost one's chances of growing garden variety vegetables protecting them from slug and mice attacks are a must. Mice dig up seeds and a small slug or two can sweep over a seedling bed and wipe out the whole thing in a night!

How do I know this? It happens to me more than I would like to admit. This year I started seeds on an eight foot ledge in the cabin only to discover that a mouse was up there eating all my eggplant and most of my pepper seeds. He/she's dead now but not before my early start was ruined this year.

The spinach and lettuce starts all made it and so did my tomatoes so the situation isn't totally hopeless. The greenhouse, small cheap, protected them - lettuce and spinach going outside today and tomatoes will remain where they are all summer.  Gardening is a challenge, an opportunity, as they say. I'll post some pictures later.

The property is pretty much on an alluvial fan - that is debris from an old creek bed - so it's pretty much gravel with a strata of clay here and there. My only outdoor planting bed is composed mostly of composted wood chips and chicken shit.

Oh and the ducks. The ducks are my slug catchers. The also like to eat young starts but they are my natural defense against the dreaded slugs. Already they have saved my lilly of the valley that were shredded by this time last year.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Winter's Almost Over

Too Few Days Like This 

March, Spring is usually here already but it's not. Life here at the Golden Hour Ranch and Circus is still in the winter mode. Runs are short and usually wet. Snowboarding during the week rocks with very few people on the runs. Most of my exercise revolves around cutting, splitting, and hauling wood.

The exception has been a couple of weeks in Florida. My partner Alison and I started the "Bulow Creek Wild Hogs Trail Running Association" while running trails near Ormond by the Sea. We haven't created our signature belt buckle yet but this trip we initiated Alison's daughter, Amber, to the trail and awarded her honorary membership because she actually saw the wild hogs!

The amazing thing about running these trails is that it's like running through Jurassic Park AND there is no one else on them. A run out and back equals a half marathon and there are many side trails that we still have yet to explore.

The wetsuit came in handy this trip as the ocean temps were in the low 60's. I had one day on the surf ski and as a beginner, I had a big rush by catching some waves on an outer sand bar quite a ways away from the beach. It's kind of weird writing this on the day a tsunami inundated Japan but I was really able to feel the push of the wave and get out in front of break.

This is the first year in a couple of years that I am not running the Chuckanut Ridge 50k.  Alison opted not to run either, it's been that bad of winter. We're now looking for a summer time goal.