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Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

Finish time -- 1:39:39 (Personal Record)

The inaugural Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon was another well-run event run by Destination Races. For their first event in Oregon, I was suprised by how well everything was put together -- the expo was small, but grabbing packets couldn't have been easier; there was a wine tasting at the expo and the finish lines with tons of wineries pouring; the starting line was easy to get to and there were various parking/transporation options available for participants to ensure getting in and out without hassles.

I ran this race with scary number 666, but I finished in my best time without having to sell my soul to anyone named Damien, Beelzebub or Lucifer. The number of runners was fairly small -- approximately 1600, making it easy to grab a spot at near the front of the pack. I love doing this because it means I expend less energy weaving around folks who think they're faster than they really are. Unfortunately, I had to stop at the first bank of port-o-lets, or as they're known in Oregon -- Honey Pots. After the bus dropped us off at Stoller Vineyards, I made a quick pit stop, but I must have either had too much water to drink or the butterflies got the best of me because when the race started my bladder was ready to explode. Fortunately for me there were a couple of potties near mile 3 in the town of Lafayette. I think I lost about a minute taking this break, but it sure beat having to scramble out of view behind a shrub along the course.

Weather for the race was absolutely perfect. A little chilly and overcast at the starting line before 7am and it remained that way until about 9am when I crossed the finish. I haven't spent much time in Oregon in the past, but it was what I considered the perfect Oregon weather -- cold and gray. The cooperative weather also provided a pro against the two big cons of the course: crazy hillage and a 3.5 mile stretch of gravel/dirt road with a washboard surface. The elevation maps provided gave no indication there would be so many rolling hills along the entire course, by about mile 6 I figured there was no reason to expect the remainder would flatten out so I made sure not to push too hard. The other crazy part of the course was the long stretch of dirt. I typically run on a dirt course near my apartment, but this road had so many rocks, which were occasionally kicked up by other runners and hit me in the shin. The other drawback were the ridges in the road which made it impossible to develop any type of rhythm. I struggled to find the flattest part of the road and when I thought I had it, the little ridges popped reappeared. After a few miles of battling against the dirt road it got sort of fun trying to the flat portions, even if it did mean having to use up tons of energy. The distraction of having "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" playing on my shuffle definitely helped me get through this awful part of the course.

The final 1.5 miles were back on paved roads with a slight uphill all the way to the finish. It was here that I figured I needed to kick it into gear to make up for lost time on the dirt road of death. Several older runners passed me by, which kinda sucked, but I kept telling myself they were part of relay teams, so it was natural for them to have extra energy given that they only ran half of the race. Hey, whatever works to keep me in the competitive mindset, right?

Except for the unexpected hills and the dirt road that went on for too long, this was among my favorite races due largely in part to Destination Races putting on such a wonderful event. They're definitely learning from their past events (Napa to Sonoma, Healdsburg and Santa Barbara) and it's making for races that are set in gorgeous locales with little to no hassle from a logistical perspective.
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Mammoth Mountain hike

Mammoth Mountain -- 11,053'
Trip length: 6.94 miles
Trip time: Approx. 5 hours

This past weekend a group of friends and I drove up to Mammoth Lakes for a weekend at Camp High Sierra for lots of eating, drinking and hiking. Some trigger inside me has gone haywire and every mountain I encounter seemingly beckons me to climb to its summit. Having Mammoth Mountain about a mile away made this hike almost a no-brainer. Only problem was that my friends don't particularly share this peak-bagging enthusiasm with me. They enjoy a good hike, don't get me wrong, but spending half a day inching up a giant lava dome only to be windswept and chilled to the bone isn't at the top of their "weekend fun" list.

We drove out to the trailhead at Twin Lakes campground after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage and arrived at 9:30am.

Eager to get started, I darted up the trail only to hit a wrong turn about 10 yards after we got started. Haha. After this initial error, I let my buddies guide the group along for the most part.

We reached a cool lookout at what's called the Bottomless Pit three-quarters of a mile into our hike. After the pit, the Mammoth Mountain Trail splits up. One (harder) path leads up the Dragons Back, the other is an easier route known as the Twin Lakes trail. We opted to take the faster, scarier Dragons Back trail for the ascent.

Following the climb up the Dragons Back, we began to slow down. Our fingers puffed up and energy levels began dwindling. The elevation and upset tummies were trying to keep us from reaching the summit. We plugged along taking many breaks, snacking on jerky, trail mix and granola bars and reached the summit a little over three hours after we started the hike.

Scott and I celebrated with a couple of beers inside the Top of the Sierras gondola station. (It's really kind of bizarre to reach the summit on foot only to find families and mountain bikers chillin' up in an interpretive center and café. Sort of makes you feel shafted.)

The descent along the trail was unbelievably fast. The trail is so well-maintained that hiking almost lends itself to jogging as you glide along the switchbacks down Mammoth Mountain. We took the Twin Lakes fork of the Mammoth Mountain trail to the Bottomless Pit and completed the trip back to Twin Lakes in about 90 minutes. One odd thing I noticed during the hike was how few people we encountered along the train. We came across a mother/daughter, a couple of older hikers and a Scandinavian family were climbing down while we climbed up, which I thought was kinda sad because the trail provides some stunning views of the Mammoth Lakes basin and the surrounding Ansel Adams Wilderness and John Muir Wilderness.

Atop Mammoth Mountain
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Mt. San Antonio (Mt Baldy) hike

Mt. San Antonio -- 10,064'
Trip length: 10.61 miles
Trip time: Approx. 6 hours
Elevation tracker:

In an attempt to spend more time outdoors, I'm taking on a somewhat ridiculous attempt to hike to the summits of as many peaks in Southern California as possible. There are so many mountains with accessible trails less than an hour from Downtown LA that it's almost a shame I only see them as the occasional piece of scenery when the skies are smog-free. If this plan was to have any traction, I decided I'd need to hit the ground running and take on the highest peak in Los Angeles County -- Mt. Baldy.

We drove out to the trailhead at 6am and arrived shortly after 7. Driving out, I thought my summit attempt was surely doomed as I neglected to purchase an Adventure Pass to park in the Angeles National Forest. Would the absence of a silly little $5 pass prevent me from enjoying a day out on the trails? Perhaps. Luckily, as we drove through Mt. Baldy village, a small shop with a giant "Adventure Passes sold here" sign caught my eye and it was open.

The ascent was a gradual 6-mile climb up the Devil's Backbone Trail, which took a little under three hours to complete. Along the way there were some nice vistas of the Cajon Pass and the High Desert.

The trail becomes totally exposed about a mile from the summit and the landscape takes on a lunar quality. Fortunately, temperatures were mild and the sun's rays weren't too fierce.

I had a quick snack on the summit, snapped more photos then began the painful and (sometimes) scary descent along the Baldy Bowl Trail. Without the aid of trekking poles to keep me from sliding down the face of the mountain, my toes were engaged in a 3-hour long battle against the tips of my shoes. Dusty and slightly dehydrated, the hike ended back at the Manker Flat parking area. Maybe it was a fluke, but I enjoyed spending half my Saturday out in the wilderness, passing the occasional group of outdoor enthusiasts.

Atop Mt. Baldy with a hazy view of the Los Angeles Basin behind me.
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Ragnar Relay 2010

I've been riding on the most incredible runner's high for the past three days. My friend Raul invited me to join his running pals on team Prefontaineous Combustion to race in this year's Ragnar Relay. This year's course covered 200.6 miles from Ventura to Dana Point, which we totally clobbered by finishing in 28:02:51, or about 8:23/miles.

The whole thing I can only describe as some weird fraternity initiation/summer camp on wheels. Teams of 12 split up into two 15-passenger vans and take turns running a total of 36 legs across Southern California. Naturally, the idea of simply running for 30 hours straight isn't enough incentive for most folks. Fortunately, the crew I was with totally made the entire experience some of the best fun I've had in a long time. We dressed ourselves in some kelly green short shorts and tanks from American Apparel, threw on some sweet headbands and socks and proceeded to take no prisoners.

While Van 1 began the race at 11am on Friday, Van 2 and I didn't join them up until the first big exchange about 35 miles into the route that same afternoon at 4-ish. Sporting my tiny clothes, I prepared to run my first leg (#10) in Agoura. It was a rolling 5.5miles down a major artery (Kanan) and along the 101 Freeway. Starting later in the day gave me both the advantage of preparing myself mentally beforehand, but it also allowed for more butterflies to build up leading to my hand-off. I took the slap bracelet baton close to 6pm and took off. I was passed early on by a skinny high school kid. Discouraged already, I reminded myself to take it easy and maintain a consistent pace. About 2 miles later, I caught up to the same kid on a hilly portion of the route and proceeded to pass about 4 more people before completing leg 10.

I changed into my sweatpants, jumped back in the van and played the role of navigator until we reached major exchange 12 (at 9ish), at which point we said "hi" to our Van 1 buddies, snapped a few photos and then took off to grab dinner at the Canoga Park CPK. After dinner, we hopped back into the van -- which was starting to take on a mild funk at this point -- and zoomed down the 405 to the Santa Monica Pier to sleep for a while for the Van 1 crew to arrive. At roughly 2am, with lots of tossing and turning in the passenger's seat in between, Van 1 called to let us know they were about 6 miles away in Santa Monica.

I changed back out of comfy clothes and into my damp running gear. Van 2's first runner, Frank, took off for a 7 miles run along the beach and I once again resumed my role of navigator. We arrived in Torrance at around 5am and I hopped out to wait for Scotty to hand me the baton for leg #22, a mild 3.3 mile run on PCH. At this point I was running on anxiety. The effects of sleep deprivation were beginning to set in -- twice I imagined seeing people who weren't there, in addition to a 20-foot ball that turned out to be a tree. Thankfully, my second leg was brief and before I knew it I was back in the van, sprawled out on the last bench seat. I stayed awake long enough to see the sun begin to rise at exchange 24. Then I passed out.

3 hours later, I woke up and we were parked at Huntington Beach, where the Ragnar organizers had a breakfast tent set up and a small crowd was cheering runners on as they handed off the baton at exchange 30. I ate an egg sandwich my teammate's grabbed for me while I was dead to the world and started getting ready for my final leg. Raul, having finished all of his legs by this point, jumped into Van 2 and hung out with us for the remainder of the race. (Van 1 leapfrogged ahead to meet us at the finish line).

Weather conditions were looking rad at 9am. Overcast and cool. I must have annoyed some weather god because the marine layer soon burned off and by 10 it was a perfectly clear day with lots of sun. We reached a small park in Irvine at around noon and I was dreading leg #34 -- 8.8 miles on a hilly, shadeless stretch of Highway 133 ending in Laguna Beach. The first half was simply awful. I hadn't hydrated properly and my legs felt like lead, but I was still able to pass 4 people. A little over halfway into the leg, I spotted the first of two water stations. I pulled over, rinsed my mouth and drank two small cups of water. ::fanfare plays:: I regained my energy and took off to complete the remainder of the leg. I climbed one last hill, passed another teenager and it was all downhill the rest of the way. In the end, I finished ahead of my estimated time and passed 11 people before passing the baton for one last time.

Exhausted, hungry and thirsty I devoured a Snickers bar, a Gatorade and relaxed in the back of the van while Katie finished the final leg of the relay. We were all waiting on the beach in our skimpy costumes and crossed as a team (minus Paul and Heidi). I hope I get invited to join this fast-ass group of runners next year :)
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winter gardening

I must confess, I am terrible when it comes to sticking to a hobby. I planted my winter garden late in the Fall and I've basically neglected my poor planties every since. Fortunately, the weather has been good and the seeds sprouted and are now beginning to reward me with fruits. I get the reward, yet I let the poor rows of plants become overgrown with invasive onion grass things and random debris that blows in from the back alley. I apologize plants, I promise to take better care of you.

This seems to be the case with most of my "interests"... I stick with them initially, only to abandon them shortly thereafter. I can't even count how many books I've started only to stash away in a bookshelf after getting through 20-30 pages. Must improve my follow-through.
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Jugo de naranja

I went to my parent's house over the weekend and raided the orange tree in their backyard. Rather than peel and eat about two dozen oranges, I decided to juice them instead. If I were more of a solo drinker, this juice would be perfect for screwdrivers. Instead, I'll probably drink this stuff in the middle of the night when the midnight snack monster attacks.
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New Year in San Francisco

Traveled up to SFO to celebrate the New Year with Barry, his family and a bunch of his high school friends. On New Year's Eve I worked out of CG's San Francisco office, (the SFO). As promised by the receptionist, the office was a ghost town. I used the tranquil environment to take care of some performance reviews and check in on a lot of year-end projects remotely.
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The one where I thought I was gonna die

24th Annual Great Race of Agoura Hills
Chesebro Half-Marathon

Finish time -- 1:45:13
Average pace -- 8:02
Overall place -- 141/1236
Age division place -- 11/58

Barry and I ran our first ever trail half-marathon at the Great Race of Agoura Hills. It was a hybrid trail/road race that seriously tested my endurance on hills.

We got up at the crack of dawn and printed out instructions on the race website. The race people advocated arriving early to park and pick up bibs (if you opted for race day pickup). We got to Agoura soon after 6am and found a parking spot at Ralph's on the corner of Thousand Oaks/Kanan then headed over to Chumash Park to grab my shirt and bib. Good thing we arrived early because we had to walk back to the lot to put stuff away. No equipment drop-off available for this race. We trekked back up Thousand Oaks Blvd to the start of the race... on a random residential street above the park.

What a crazy starting line. I imagine the residents on the street probably don't appreciate having thousands of runners trample their lawns and pee on the sides of the their houses while waiting for air horns to signal the start of the race. On the plus side, the narrow street kept everyone tightly contained behind the giant balloon arch. All those bodies close together easily increased the temperature in the mass by about 10 degrees -- good thing, because it's freezing in those hills at dawn... when you're in shorts... and a tank top. I climbed to the top of the hill with enough time to stretch my calves and shoulders before the race suddenly started.

Clearly, other runners hadn't budgeted their time well because I could see orange bibs climbing the hill to the starting line as I was already racing down, trying to break out of the pack. I guess with chip times, it really doesn't matter. The downhill start propelled a lot of folks to a quick pace and the mass began breaking up near the first mile marker. Aside from the cold, things were smooth for the first three miles. Horse ranch here, houses there... easy.

The course eventually wound its way into the Santa Monica Mountains recreation area and Chesebro Trail at around mile 3. The trail initially starts out fairly wide and flat for a mile or so. Then, kaplow! -- gullies, rocks, and mud puddles are thrown into the mix, in addition to a much narrower trail (2-people wide with an ever so gradual ascent).

For all the obstacles that runners must navigate, the course itself is pretty danged cool. If you're easily moved, the feeling of running in the hills with wilderness all around on a Saturday morning is reason enough to make you all misty eyed. Or wait, maybe that was just sweat and dust getting in my eye. The trail is impressive -- a few challenging climbs, tall grasses, bright sunshine.

I was starting to get into a nice rhythm and could just about forgive the rocks and gullies that nearlycaused me to eat it twice on the trail when I saw the hill from hell. On its slope I could trace the line of tiny shirts and shorts trudging up to the summit. I can't lie, this is when I thought I was going to lose it and either cry or stop completely. Runners passed me by like crazy and my legs felt heavy. I knew I was moving, but it felt like I wasn't advancing. I caved in and walked for about 25 yards up the steepest portion before kicking it into gear again.

Once I hit the top and began the descent, I began tearing shit up to make up for the time I lost climbing the hill. I grabbed a bottle of water at the station and zoomed downhill. Too fast, almost. The good thing about having a little paunch is that it provides me additional weight in front to make descents go by even faster. But at one point, I felt myself feeling I would tumble head over heels as my legs were unable to keep up with the inertia from my upper body. I slammed on the brakes just a bit and slowed down enough to prevent myself from taking a spill.

Oh yeah, there's a section of trail after the downhill where you run through some pretty thick sand. As if you haven't gone through plenty of obstacles already.

There's a second hill (are you kidding me?!) close to the end of the trail where I started to feel cramping in my legs. At the top, there was a guy spraying folks with anti-cramp/cooling spray but he must not have seen me, because I didn't get any of that shit.

The final three miles of the run are back on mostly downhill residential streets. As soon as you exit the trail, there's water, electrolytes and Clif energy gel blocks. I didn't grab a block cuz I thought it was a giant bowl of grapes. I had an electrolyte drink boost and enjoyed the last few miles being out of the sun trying to move as fast as I could to go for a fast finish.

I finished about 5 minutes slower than usual, which I understand is typical for this race. Hey, I'll take it. The reward at the end was a massive post-race party with tons of freebies, pancakes and El Pollo Loco. Challenging course? Yes, but the event is well-run and the limited race field meant minimal dodging and weaving on the course.
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the one where I repeat myself

This Facebook 25 random things about yourself list is slowly taking over my life. I've learned more about people I've known for years in the two minutes it takes to read these lists. Here's the one I posted.

1. I used to stare at bare light bulbs in my room in a vain attempt to ruin my vision and convince everyone I needed glasses.

2. I really like Barry's cat Patchy, but I tell her I hate her so she won't take advantage of my feelings.

3. Hey Moose! As a kid, I used to play You Can't Do That on Television with my cousins in the summer months. I would mix grass clippings and water to make green slime and dump it over my cousins' heads when they said "I don't know."

4. Even with all this news about over fishing and rising water temperatures, I am cautious about swimming at the beach because I fear the water is crawling (swimming?) with sharks.

5. A girl made fun of me in the third grade for tying my shoes’ laces together. I tried kicking her and I fell, landing on my back.

6. I am unable to whistle, roller skate, rollerblade, skateboard, snowboard or ski. I don't know what whistling has to do with any of the others.

7. You may occasionally find me conducting along to recordings of British marches. Yes, with a baton.

8. A secret service agent once told me I was standing too close to President Jimmy Carter and asked me to step away. I nearly bumped into him while waiting for coffee in the breakfast tent at the Jimmy Carter Work Project in LA.

9. I am unable to resist playing with stickers and/or tape. Sometimes I will adhere scotch tape to my lips without even being aware of what I'm doing.

10. Thanks to Mr. Wizard, I can slice a banana without peeling it using a needle and thread.

11. Yes, I really did see a UFO once. It flew over the small town in Mexico I visit every summer.

12. My first email address in 1993 was a CompuServe address. It looked something like this: 37372, (And no, that comma is not a typo)

13. I've never broken a bone in my body—but I have sliced around my right index knuckle and opened a gash in my head by washing dishes and running into a metal box, respectively.

14. In AmeriCorps, I learned to cook a rockin' meal for 9 with only $18.

15. In drum corps, I learned: Wisconsin summer + Casserole lunch + Brass breathing exercises = me yacking in the bushes.

16. I accidentally swallowed a fly in Akela, New Mexico. My mom insisted I induce vomiting. I opted to wash it down with a swig of Coke.

17. It disturbed me to see people wear pajama pants to class in college. It disturbs me even more to see people wearing pajama pants to the store.

18. In college, I learned to operate 16mm and 35mm projectors. I had a film melt only once and another time I loaded the reel in backwards.

19. I pull out my eyelashes when I'm bored.

20. If it can be helped, I avoid blowing my nose. I am prone to nosebleeds.

21. When I worked for the Dodgers, a jerk customer made me cry during my first week on the job. I would tell subsequent jerk callers that I was selling them seats in good locations, but I was actually selling them awful seats.

22. Nerd alert! As a kid, I repeatedly watched WarGames, Flight of the Navigator and Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

23. I used to spend recess in 2nd grade doing forward flips on a bar in the playground. I loved doing forward flips. The time I tried a back flip, I fell off the bar and landed face first in the sand.

24. I gave myself Giardia in Spartanburg, SC while working on a trail building project. I was too lazy to hike out for fresh water and drank from a nearby stream. The water was cool, refreshing and, evidently, polluted by goat farm runoff.

25. I drove cross-country from LA to Charleston, SC in two and a half days, subsisting on a tub of salted peanuts and 99 cent store energy drinks.