Due to El Niño, the 2015-2016 snowboarding season has been spectacular. Some of my memories (before I forget):
Finding the Candy Cabin at Beaver Creek
Taking 3 days of lessons at Beaver Creek and learning how to surf the side walls
Smacking into a tree in the kid’s fun run at Beaver Creek
Losing my nerve, and getting stuck in the trees/powder at Heavenly
Getting rained/hailed on at Northstar
Discovering untouched runs in the trees at Heavenly
Buttering in knee-deep snow in Vail’s Back Bowls
Looking at the view after hiking up to the summit at Breckenridge. With the steep slopes and lack of air, I thought my heart was going to explode during the hike. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other. After getting to the top, the drop in was a bit scary.
I’m in the Bay Area for work quite a bit. Every now and then, I make an effort to stay over a weekend and see the sights. (To get on the field at Giant’s stadium, I ran a 10K. I don’t recommend running 10K’s if you haven’t run in 3-4 months.)
The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting had been on my bucket list for some time. So, we booked tickets and headed to Omaha. The audience was a fascinating mix of nationalities, and I was surprised Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger answered questions for so long.
As soon as I heard I had Thanksgiving week off, I booked tickets to Colorado for the week. As luck would have it, Colorado is having a great season of snow, and we had tons of trails open. We spent a few days at Breckenridge and stopped by Arapaho Basin and Vail. We have several great dinners, including Thanksgiving, at Modis on Main Street.
A few weeks later, we headed to Beaver Creek. With recent time spent in the mountains, I had enough confidence to try the baby jumps at the terrain park. I got air! (Maybe 2-3 inches, but it’s still air.)
I started a new job recently, and the company sent me out to Cupertino for the week. I had a great time meeting with smart, friendly and dedicated folks. I also brought out my road bike and explored South Bay. Many of the major streets had bike lanes, and the hills were a short ride away. Originally, I was going to stay in Palo Alto and ride the hills on Saturday morning, but decided to head into the city with my [high school] friend Cathy instead.
I woke up with the sun on Saturday and convinced Cathy to get some food and head for a run. We went to the Ferry Building and grabbed a waffle from the Blue Bottle company and then went on our run. After our run, we went to a farmer’s market and TCHO for a chocolate factory tour before heading to brunch. I’ve been on a Rickshaw Bags kick lately, so I convinced Cathy to walk to the factory store about 3 miles away. After customizing my new bag, we walked around the neighborhood and stopped into Chocolate Labs for a quick bite. The soufflé and chocolate cake were my favorite meal of the trip. We went back and forth a bit more and ended our day with about 15.5 miles of walking.
It took a few years, but I finally got around to finishing another Ironman. I signed up for it a year in advance, and when it came time to really train, my heart wasn’t in it. I came up with the bare bones minimum plan for training and did even less training. To be honest, I rode my bike a lot. I rode my bike around Croatia and Slovenia. I rode my road bike all around Austin. I rode to the bakery with some friends. I rode by myself. I even rode to the F1 track. I didn’t really ride my tri bike though. My run training was atrocious. I managed to do a 10 mile run once. My swim training was a bit better. I did a couple of long swims at the Pure Austin Quarry, and I swam with Texas Iron Master’s around 10 times. I basically had no expectations going into the race.
The one preparation I did do well was figuring out where to stay. I booked a boutique hotel from Airbnb. Location location, location. We were 2 blocks from the convention center (registration) and 3 blocks from the finish line (I even walked back after the race). It was right by town and the grocery stores. The owner’s son picked us up from the airport, and she arranged a taxi for the athletes the morning of the race. Staying away from the hubbub of the race really helped calm my nerves. (After all, I was going into an Ironman undertrained.)
Race morning, I knew I was going to have a slower swim. So I stuck to the back when entering the water. As luck would have it, they allowed the late comers to jump into the water from the pier, so I quickly made my way to the shallows. There was quite a bit of current, so I hung onto a line to conserve my energy. When the gun went off, I stuck my head into the water and tried to get into a rhythm as quickly as I could. I expected the washing machine effect, but I lucked out. Most people stayed closer to the turn buoys, so my path was relatively clear of arms and bodies. The water was so clear, I was able to sight off coral below. I could also see anyone that tried to get in my way.
With previous diving experience, I instinctively knew how important it was to stay on course and not get swept away. I put some extra oomph into my stroke on the last two turns into the current to make sure I kept the line. Some of my other friends weren’t aware of this, and they lost about 10 minutes when they drifted away on this turn. Aside from the turn, the swim back to shore was uneventful. It was long and tiring, but given my lack of swim training, I was happy with my time. I found out later that at least 100 people didn’t make the swim cut-off due to this year’s strong currents.
My plan on the bike was to start easy and put progressively more effort into it as the day went on. The bike course was 3 loops, so I thought I could do 125, 135 and then 145 Watts. Seemed easy enough, but I’ve been nursing a right hip injury for some time. As it turns out, my left (and weaker leg) was able to keep up to plan, but my right leg was about 20 Watts down. I just wanted to finish and ride another day, so I didn’t care to push it.
Nothing exciting happened the first loop. On the second loop, Mel passed me in a flash, and then Rhonda caught up to me. I paced off her for a while until the bike special needs stop. She went on ahead, but I sat down and had my lunch. On the way out of special needs, I ran into Mark and rode with him for a bit. I accidentally lost him as we turned out of the headwind. My plan of taking it easy worked well until the last loop. My right IT band started to tighten up, and some awesome athlete handed me a roll-on bottle of Biofreeze while we were riding. It took the pain away, and I was able to finish the bike with plenty of time to spare to walk the run.
It takes a long time to walk a marathon. I had done some calculations before, and I knew that a 20 minute mile would have bored me to death. So I walked fast. The run course was a three loop out-and-back, so I got to see a lot of my friends along the way. I wanted to bank as much time as possible in case I slowed down, so I walked about a fourteen minute mile the first two laps. Vegas caught up to me midway through the second lap, and we walked together for a bit. She went on ahead with her run-walk. At the end of the second lap, I decided I couldn’t take another 2.5 hours of walking by myself, in the dark, incredibly bored. So, I started run-walking. Since I wasn’t beaten up from the day, it was a real run. I passed Maggie as she was running her steady pace, and I finally caught up to Vegas half way through the last lap. We ended up finishing the race together.
7:14:32 (15.46 mph)
I loved all the support on the course. There were people out on all parts of the bike course: a DJ spinning on the southern end of the island and tons of families on the outskirts of town. The run course was just a big block party. People dancing to music, and many people cheering. There was never a truly lonely section of the course like in Arizona and Couer d’Alene.
Monday after the race, we packed up our bikes and took the ferry over to Playa del Carmen for the relaxing part of the vacation. We did a tour of Tulum, climbed the ruins at Coba, hung out at Mamitas Beach and had a couple nice dinners at Yaxche.
After writing all these posts for Europe, I noticed that I neglected to write about some other weekend trips I made this year. Apologies for having them out of order – but better late than never!
I scheduled a trip out in March to visit some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. There was still snow on the mountains, so I packed the snowboard. My friend Sahala and his girlfriend were heading out to Crystal Mountain with their friends that weekend, so I tagged along. As it turns out, cycling tightens up my right hip and psoas, so I had some pain trying to control the board. After a miserable first run, I logged into work and saw there I was a minor emergency. I spent the afternoon working while the others rode. All wasn’t lost, there was a REI company party sponsored by Marmot, so I got some Marmot schwag. I’m not giving up cycling, so I’m just going to have to learn to ride switch (with the opposite foot in front). It will absolutely suck the first couple days, and it will feel like learning to ride all over again since I don’t have muscle memory for it.
The next day, I got to hang out with my high school roommate, Maaike. It was a good time walking around Seattle with her and catching up. She’s an architect, and she lives in a flat with a fantastic rooftop view of Seattle.
That evening, I had dinner at Spur Gastropub with a bunch of Trilogy and TAMS friends. These folks across different periods in my life clicked, and it was a nice feeling to introduce them to each other.
Pigging out in LA
Some of my college friends and I decided to do a quick getaway to LA for a weekend in April. This was the eating crowd, so we spent all of our time eating, discussing what to eat and then eating again. I managed a run from Venice to Santa Monica beach and back, but not much else. Highlights included Newport Tan Cang, Korean food and Umami Burger.
At Newport Tan Cang, we ordered a huge plate of lobster. Most of the folks weren’t willing to do the work to get to the lobster meat, so Judy and I cleaned up. Hours later, I ended up with pretty bad hives, and thought I had developed an adult onset allergy to lobster. Months later, I was still breaking out in hives and eventually figured out I was allergic to dyes in laundry detergent. I can safely eat lobster again.
At some point in time, my friends and I decided to do a trail half marathon at Leadville at the end of June to see how we would feel at altitude (some are ascending Kilimanjaro in fall 2013). I signed up and promptly forgot about it. Typical me, I didn’t run for the months leading up to it. Race day came, and it was rather miserable. Leadville sits at 10,000 feet of elevation, and the race (a heavy half at 15 miles) has us going up to 13,000 feet. I walked most of it (slowly at that) and was just happy to be done with the race.
Being us, my friends and I also decided to go whitewater rafting the day after the race. We weren’t the most nimble folks, but it was nice to be active without using our legs. I actually stood in the river for a bit during lunch for a much needed ice bath.
Of Montreal (and Mont Tremblant)
I traveled to Quebec mid-August to watch several friends compete in the inaugural Ironman Mont Tremblant. It was nice to get out of the stifling heat in Austin and head to a cooler climate. The town really took to the event and made us feel welcome. They repaved most of the bike course, displayed Ironman banners on the small businesses and installed Ironman street signs along the route. We later found out that the banners were sold by the Chamber of Commerce to the businesses at CAD 200 each.
After four years, I finally made use of the S&S couplers on my bike and brought my bike along for the trip. It took about two hours to break it down the first time and then another hour to put it back together. It was interesting to see how far I’ve come in understanding how my bike works – I don’t think I could have done it alone four years ago.
The bike course was gorgeous and was broken up into segments: 1) transition out to the highway, 2) an out and back on a fast and mostly flat section, 3) a short in/out of St Jovitte (where I stayed), 4) rollers from (1) back to transition, and 5) an out and back on a nice hilly section that went up in steps. The road back on the hilly section was net downhill – I had a stupid grin on my face every time I rode that part of the course.
Race day itself was long, but my friends had great races (especially for the tough bike course).
I also managed to have Timmy Horton’s (the Canadian donut shop) every day. We also had poutine and beaver claws (fried flat donut with cinnamon, sugar and lemon) as a treat.
In the end, I only had 12 hours in Montreal, but I managed to get a nice run up Mont Royal from my hotel. I did a nice jaunt up the stairs, but hurried down as it was getting dark. I’ll definitely need another visit to Montreal to get a feel of the town.