Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Break Surfing Trip

My wife and I wanted to do something special with our daughters this year for their spring break, and the school district, where my daughters attend school, had their school spring break very late this year. In the past we might have planned a ski trip, but my daughters had spent the entire winter in ski lessons, and were probably ready for a change in their activities. So we decided to take a gamble and try our luck with the weather in mid-April on the Oregon coast. In the past we had camped in a tent on the Oregon coast, and were made very well aware of how bad weather on the coast can make a wonderful place very unpleasant to stay in, so we chose to hedge our bets and make the trip in our new Wolf Creek camper. We have only had our camper for around 6 months, and almost every trip we have taken in it on has been a ski trip, and never longer than 3 nights. Over the winter there had been a few rough times (especially for my daughters) in learning to adjust to living with a family of four in a very small space that sits in the bed of a pickup truck. This was going to be a much bigger adjustment, since we were planning on spending a full week in the camper.

beach swing at Cape Lookout
To keep things interesting I planned for us to stay at 3 different Oregon State Parks along the coast. I organized things so that other than our first day of travel, we would never have more than a 3 hour drive, and we would get to spend most of our time enjoying the parks. We decided to end the trip with a night at the indoor water-slide resort, Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington (this would hopefully give us a chance to get our girls good and clean before we brought them back home).

Beach at Cape Lookout State Park
On our drive down we made a stop in Seaside Oregon at one of the best surf shops in Washington or Cleanline Surf. They have a huge selection of surf gear for sale or rental. We made sure everyone in our family was set up to be able to play in the waters of the cold Pacific Ocean. After gearing up we headed on to our first campsite, Cape Lookout State Park. The park is west of highway 101, between Tillamook and
Pacific City. It is a fairly large state park on a sand spit between that separates the Pacific Ocean from Netarts Bay. Along the Pacific side of the sand spit there is a long beautiful beach that can be accessed with a short walk of a few hundred feed from the park camp sites. The park has full hookups which made life even easier in the camper. The family had fun playing on the beach, but during our stay here the temperature barely hit 50, we had a mix of sun and light rain, and a stiff wind on the beach kept everyone bundled up. No one was too interested in surfing, but my daughters were completely entertained by exploring the beach and hunting for shells.

Looking back to Cape Lookout
After two nights at Cape Lookout we headed a couple hours south to our next location. The second spot we camped at was a tiny campsite, not even large enough to warrant “State Park” in the name: Beachside State Recreation Site. Beachside is about 30 minutes south of Newport, just south of the tiny town of Waldport. We had visited this park about three years prior and stayed in a tent. That visit had been in early summer during a usually hot period when the temperature throughout Oregon and Washington was getting up into the mid 90s; that is until you went to the Oregon Coast, where a mile east of the coast you entered a huge fog bank and the temperature dropped to the low 50s degrees. That trip was rather disappointing, but I remembered the park and wanted to give it another chance.

The best thing about Beachside State Recreation Site is that you can have your campsite literally right next to the beach. Our camper’s back door opened to an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. With the drive south the weather seemed to improve with mostly sun and
the temperature getting up to the low 60s. After getting settled in at our campsite, we all put on wetsuits, grabbed our boggie boards, and enjoyed hours of playing in the very mild surf. We were the only people venturing into the water, so we must have been quite an interesting site, several other campers at Beachside even took chairs onto the beach to watch our pathetic attempts at surfing.

"RV parking" in Newport
The next day we headed back up to Newport to check out a restaurant that my wife had read about, Local Ocean Seafoods. It’s a fresh fish market and restaurant where you can buy freshly caught fish to take with you and prepare for yourself or have their chefs prepare the days catch for you. We enjoyed and incredible meal sitting outside beside Yaquina Bay in Newport. Then it was back to our campsite at Beachside for some more surfing.

Tillamook Ice Cream!
With our week over halfway though it was time to start heading Tillamook cheese factory and a sampling of their cheese and ice cream. Then about another hour on the road and we were at our final campsite Nehalem Bay State Park. Like Cape Lookout State Park, Nehalem State Park also sits on a narrow sand spit. It was probably the largest of the three campsites, and the quietest with very few visitors. I had a chance to briefly speak with one of the park rangers, who told me that this was breif quiet time before May when things begin to pick up, then from July through September just about everything is booked.

Unlike the other two campsites, the beach was separated from the campsites by a tall sand dune that required a brief hike over to get to the beach. Once on the beach you could walk all the way into the town of Manzanita 2 miles away which is exactly what we did to pick up some supplies and get some dinner.

Our Seaside surf stop
The next morning my wife emailed a friend who is a surfing instructor in Seaside, hoping to get information on
where we should take the family for a day of surfing. She suggested “the cove” in Seaside; basically the far Southern end of the beach at Seaside. It was nice to have the camper to prepare a hot lunch and to have a place to change in and out of our wet suites before surfing. We surfed mild but well-spaced waves until my 6 year old daughter was pretty much warn out. Then packed up everything and headed back to Nehalem Bay State Park for the night.

That night we left our wet suits outside under a canopy, hoping they would dry a bit before we headed back North towards our final stop. Unfortunately that night it rained, and rained hard! The next morning everything was soaked. There was nothing we could do other than lay blankets and towels down all over the camper and load all our wet gear in it.

We drove up North for our final night of the trip, this time in a hotel room at Great Wolf Lodge, where (for me at least) the wave pool seemed rather disappointing after several days of surfing. My daughters both had a lot of fun at the lodge, which seemed to me like a Las Vegas casino for children. After a week in quiet state parks, 1 day was the absolute limit I could handle for Great Wolf lodge, so the next day around noon we headed back home to Seattle.

I look forward to getting to make a similar trip to the Washington coast when the weather gets warmer and perhaps spending a bit more time in just one place.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Been Lazy

It's been over 2 weeks since the last time I ran. I really don't have any excuse; I've blamed the weather, my schedule, anything I could. Reality is I've been lazy. And although I already regret not getting in some runs over the past couple weeks, I know that I'm really going to regret it on Saturday, May 26 when I run the Soaring Eagle 50K Trail Run. I am just not trained up for this long race, and it's really too bad because the relatively flat course is conducive to a PR. I use to tell myself that the way to be certain I kept running was to keep signing up for races, I guess that no longer works. I need more than just races, I need real concrete goals like last year when I set (and succeeded in completing) a goal to run 1000 miles.

When the weather is less than ideal, when the schedule is not conducive, when I'm just not feeling like it, that's when I need to just force yourself to get out there and run. Like everyone says, you'll never regret the run you went on.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Practice Run in Chicago

Just got back yesterday from a few days in Chicago for work. This is my second visit to the second city, and I really enjoy visiting that town. Amazing places to eat, beautiful parks, incredible museums, and as major world cities go, it’s actually really affordable to visit. Last time I visited Chicago it was also because of a work trip, but I decided to stay over the weekend and do as much tourist stuff as I could. One thing I had intended to do, but just didn’t do was to go for a run in the city. However on this trip, knowing that I would be coming back to Chicago for a longer trip in October for the express purpose of running the 2012 Chicago Marathon and doing all things touristy, I took my free time on this trip to go on a good run. Turns out you can’t really run the marathon course, since it is literally down some of the city’s busiest streets (which are obviously closed down for the marathon). It took me a while to get the short 1 mile distance from my hotel to the shore Lake Michigan since I had to stop ever tenth of a mile for a street light, but once I got to the lake I really enjoyed running along Lakefront trail heading south. At some point I figured I would need to turn around since I had plans to meet up with some people for dinner, that’s when I found what the challenge is with running in Chicago. As I had been running south I was running with a decent wind to my back, when I turned to head back up north an ice cold wind was blowing right in my face. I still enjoyed the remainder of my run eventually making my way back up the lake and in along the river and back to my hotel.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Good Day

Funny about what makes for a good day. There are lots of things that can give you a positive kick that just puts you in a completely positive mood all day, but today I was surprised what did it for me. Today I had a good doctors visit. Maybe I'm getting old, but going to the doctor and having him totally happy with how healthy I am has kept me on a high all day.

Like most of my family, I have had issues with high cholesterol. For the past couple decades I've tried various things to try and bring down my cholesterol, including Niacin supplements which require a rather large dose to be effective at bringing down high cholesterol, and have some really nasty side effects if you don't very carefully build up to those doses. In more recent history my doctor has prescribed statins for me. In recent years, statins seem to be really popular means for controlling cholesterol. Some doctors I know take statins because they believe its beneficial even though they don't have high cholesterol. However more recently I've seen more information about the negative side of statins, at least if you don't have heart disease or have suffered a heart attack. Statins can be very hard on your liver, and some people (such as myself) can suffer some very unpleasant side effects from statins.

After experiencing negative side effects with my second statin prescription, I decided to try an experiment an just quit my statin. I didn't tell my doctor about this and didn't plan on telling him until our next visit, nearly 6 months after I quit the statin (for what it's worth, I don't recommend anyone ignore their physicians recommendations ever. In hind sight it was probably a bad idea on my part). I was worried my doctor would prescribe a new statin, or more so I was worried that I wouldn't fight for my own opinion and tell my doctor what I wanted to do, and I wanted to see if I could get the cholesterol down myself.

Generally you hear that if your cholesterol is too high you need to try diet and exercise, and if that doesn't work try a statin. But I wondered, how many typical American's REALLY try dieting and exercise at the serious life changing level. Unrelated to my issues with high cholesterol I had taken up a rather drastic change in lifestyle, going from a coach potato to a runner. As I increased my running distance I found that with running came a change in diet (I found I couldn't eat a giant cheese burger and then go run ten miles). Originally, I had taken up running because as I was turning 39, and I was being hit with a bit of a mid-life crisis, and I wanted to climb Mt. Rainier before I turned 40. I took up running as one of the ways of getting myself in shape for the exploit. Ultimately I successfully summited Rainer, but I really took to the running. Later that same year I ran my first marathon, the next Spring I ran my second marathon, followed by my first 50k, and then a three day 93 mile run around Mt. Rainier's Wonderland trail, followed by another marathon and another 50k this past February. As I was running more and more, I was also working on changing my diet. Less meat, especially red meat, more fish, more fresh vegetables and whole grains, less processed foods. I wanted to see if all of these changes would make any difference in my cholesterol. My fear was that genetics outweigh everything else, and that my cholesterol would be super high after taking 6 months off of any statins or any specific medicine or supplement to bring down my cholesterol. The good news is that although my cholesterol was slightly higher than my last visit, it was definitely low enough for my doctor to believe my experiment had been successful; no new medications!

So what's the secret? Well, I'm no doctor, nutritionist, athlete or health expert, (basically I don't know what I'm talking about) but what I've come to believe is that in the past half century Americans have become a bunch of lazy, complaining whiners, who eat crap. I believe the typical American eats food where they don't even really know what's in it. We sit at desks all day long, then sit in our car for a long commute home, then sit in front of a television, before going to bed, and then repeating the whole thing again. Maybe there is 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise completed in a heated or airconditioned gym to interrupt an otherwise sedentary life style. It doesn't take much thought to realize this can't be good. However, I know it's really hard to change out of that lifestyle. For me, I couldn't make a small change, I had to go overboard about it, and then keep pushing further away from that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lord Hill 50K Trail Race

Last Sunday I ran the Lord Hill 50K Trail Race; my second trail race and my second ultra marathon . With nothing planned for the start of the year I needed some encouragement to kick start my running in the New Year. In the first few months of the year there are very few organized races, but the Lord Hill race at the end of February seemed like a somewhat aggressive but attainable goal, and despite the fact they offered a 5 mile, 10 mile, 20 mile and 50 kilometer race, I figured I might as well sign up for the full thing and do 50K. I was surprised to find out my wife signed up shortly after me (but for the much more reasonable distance of 10 miles). The course was a 10 mile course with the 50K races doing the 10 mile course 3 times, then a small 1.1 mile loop at the end.

Immediately I discovered my training schedule was going to be very limited with Tuesday’s devoted to City League ski racing and Saturday’s devoted to taking my daughters up skiing for lessons. I tried to get in as many runs as I could with my usual 6.5 mile maintenance and a longer weekend run when I could pull it off. By the time of the race I had only managed 2 runs on trails, and only one run over 10 miles in length. Add to my severe lack of training, the weather forecast was calling for 1 to 2 inches of snow between 10 AM and 4 PM on the day of the race; this would be exactly the time I would be running. I knew I was in trouble.

As the day of the race came around, I tried to reassure myself that I wasn’t trying to set any records with this race, and that I wouldn’t push myself too far and I would drop out if it was no longer prudent to run. On race day I awoke to pretty much blue skies in Seattle, and I figured my concerns about the weather were unwarranted and the forecast (as always in Seattle) was wrong. We drove on out to Lord Hill Park near Monroe, WA but as we neared Monroe the skies suddenly were filled with clouds. Upon arriving at the start of the race, one of the parking volunteers commented that he hoped we had really good mud shoes, and that the race was going to start with a river crossing.

A pre-race briefing was provided to the 20 mile and 50K racers at 8:15, then the 20 mile and 50K race was to begin at 8:30. However, just before the race was to begin it started snowing. As the race kicked off we ran about 100 yards, before crossing the previously mentioned “river”. The river turned out to be little more than a creek that could easily be jumped over; however I found out that as I did my second and third loop of the course the creek became increasingly more difficult to jump over.

The small creek was the least of my worries during the race. After about half a mile the course turned sharply up “Oh Lord Hill”, a steep series of climbs, straight up a hill on a narrow muddy single track trail. The hill was steep enough so that pretty much everyone just walked it. After “Oh Lord Hill” the rest of the course was a beautiful (albeit very muddy) single track course winding though woods, along creeks, and past a large pond. There was an aid station at the 4 mile point on the 10 mile loop, which worked out to be a great spacing as the majority of the effort was put into the first mile of the course as you climbed “Oh Lord Hill”. The first loop was interesting with snow falling and the course receiving a little dusting of snow, but by the second loop the snow had stopped, and by the third loop the sun was out. I now had no excuse not finish this race.

At the end of my third loop I was greeted by my two daughters and wife (who had time after she completed her race to drive an 45 minutes, pick up my daughters, have lunch with them, do some shopping, then drive back 45 minutes to the race course, and wait 45 minutes before I finished loop 3). After thanking them for meeting me I headed out for the final 1.1 miles (and the most difficult 1.1 miles I’ve ever run).

When the race was over I ended up finishing in 7 hours and 29 minutes and coming in 39th place out of 55 racers. Not a ranking that is going to win me any prizes, but one that I am proud of anyways. And now with a couple of days to recover and some time to contemplate the race, I find myself looking on the internet trying to find the next race and a little bit surprised by the fact that I can’t wait to run my next 50K.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Road

This year the week between Christmas and New Years will be spent in Southern California. When I started shopping for plane tickets for this trip months ago it quickly became apparent that plane tickets and rental car were going to cost a fortune. When I compared the cost of flying to driving it suddenly made seemed to make sense to just drive. So our family has decided to boycott the obscenely high cost of plane tickets and instead do our holiday travel by car.

However this morning, while listening to the radio, I was reminded that tomorrow, the day we depart, is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Tomorrow the family and I will be in the car for 11+ hours and there will only be around 9 hours between sunrise and sunset, and this is just the first of 3 days of driving.

We may be spending quite a few hours during this drip in the dark, but I think it will still be a fun family adventure...

Edit: Had to add one more video

Saturday, December 3, 2011

First Rainier Ski Trip of the Season

With the first days of December, a record setting high pressure system settled over the Pacific Northwest and promised up to a week or more of good weather (and smog in the lowlands). My brother Alex and I decided to take advantage of the good weather and get in our first ski trip of the season to Camp Muir.

On Saturday December 3, we started out at 6 AM, arriving at the mountain 9:30. When we got to the parking lot we realized there were quite a few other people with the same idea. From the parking lot to just below Panorama Point we set a pretty good pace. But as we looked up the climb to Panorama Point it was clear all the other skiers were struggling. At first the climb was easy. Alex stated that he was going to try and skin all the was up. A couple minutes later Alex, who was ahead of me, yelled back to me to put on my ski crampons. A minute later he was hiking with skis over his shoulder. As I approached the area where he had given up skinning I thought I might be able to make it with my ski crampons, and I probably could have, but it would have been a long way to slide down if the crampons didn't hold, so following my brothers example, I put the skis over my shoulder and headed up hill.

After the climb up to and above Panorama Point, the skinning went well up to about 8,000' where the travel required navigating patches of ice with strong gusts of wind coming from all different directions. A couple of the gusts were strong enough that I had to stop and make sure I was well balanced against the wind. Around 8,800' the wind was just too strong, and most of the downhill skiers had warned us that it was extremely icy higher up, and most all other uphill skiers had turned around. So at that point Alex and I decided to turn around. So with high winds, and on an inch of snow on top of blue ice we carefully transitioned and headed down.

Here our GPS tracks from the day's adventure.

Navigating Panorama Point on the downhill turned out to be not as bad as going up. The skiing down was not great, but overall it was a fun trip.