Wednesday, December 30, 2009

McQ's FAVORITE PHOTOS OF '09

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite photos 'n' memories from 2009.

Here's a primo campsite at the foot of Sahale Glacier in the middle of the North Cascades. Jim Robbins (now of Maine, dammit) and I went on an awesome hike there last August. To get there, head to Cascade Pass and just keep going. Up and up and up ...

The lovely Jen McQuaide snapped this photo just after I finished the Padden Mountain Bike duathlon. Perfect composition: she managed to get Team Unattacked's Titanium Cowboy and Mellow Johnny in there as well. (Not to mention my fringed cowboy shirt.)

John Clark (Mellow Johnny) rides the Little Summit Trail near the top of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island.
 
Cool shot taken by Baker McQuaide at the Bellingham Skatepark.
Some really cool guy racing the Padden Mountain Pedal just moments before his dang chain busted. Photo by http://www.adamleahyphotography.com/.

Scott "Titanium Cowboy" Young joined the 29er ranks this past year and, to noone's surprise, proved to be a fat-tire stud right off the bat.

Swans near sunset in the Skagit Valley.
 
Chiropractor nice guy Steve Noble ripping up a descent on Lower Bob's up at Galby, as the kids call it.

And lastly, the McQ family wishin' y'all a Happy 'n' Healty 2010!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

FIRST EPIC IN A WHILE

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Epic ride today, first one in a while. Stopped to shoot a quick vid wherein we recreate the scene of da' Assaulting Alder incident and shortly thereafter came across Laura Todd and Val Thompson who were so helpful that day.

Then it was on to the ride: down Interurban, up Fragrance Lake Road, Lost Lake Trail to the Dictionary, down So Easy (which isn't) and around like we're doing the Samish Loop. Then up the helatious climb to the Pine and Cedar Lakes end of the world, down Hemlock and on toward home.
The lovely Glenn Gervais was with us, rockin' his new Motobecane 29er with flat pedals. That's burly. (I'm digging the way I'm hunched over in the below pic; that's Glenn in the middle and the Clark man on the right.) The ride has two mega climbs, probably totally about 3,500 feet, but the Hemlock Trail descent from Pine and Cedar is so cussing fun. That one, and the Alternate Incline Trail over on Blanchard might be this cross-country rider's favorites. So great to get out today!

Friday, December 18, 2009

RANDOM RANDOMNESS


I admit, I've been pretty poor with the blogging lately, what with the no races going on, and the tree incident of six weeks ago that knocked me out of riding and running for about three weeks and general holiday season messiness and crummy weather.

But I did go cross-country skiing last weekend up at Manning Park, about three hours east of Vancouver B.C. Even took a lesson for a Seattle Times story I'm writing that'll appear New Year's Eve, I believe. Great fun, that was. Snowed almost the whole time I was there.

Last night, by the way, I laughed so hard I almost had my first asthma attack in 20 years! The Upfront Players http://www.theupfront.com/ did a benefit for Whatcom Middle School that featured Ryan Stiles. All my favorite Upfronters were there--Galen, DK, Billy, Sally--and it was just crazy, crazy funny. If you ever get a chance to see Stiles with these guys, you gotta go--it's a no brainer. You'll laugh like nobody's bidness.

Also, been wondering about this blog. About blogs in general. Has facebook killed the blog? Unless it's a blog about say, Tiger Woods chasing tail or whatevuh, are the blogs dead?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

EARLY SEASON SNOWBOARDING


Headed up to the Mount Baker Ski Area to give snowboarding another shot. 'Til now we hadn't quite dialed it in yet as a family. I board, Jen boards, and Baker liked to think of himself as a snowboarder but betwixt you and me, he'd not quite gotten there yet. Still way too frustrating for him. Until ... yesterday!!!

Great time had by all--that's Bake in the lower right, Jen way up in the upper left, me behind the camera, Mount Shuksan livin' large there in the middle. Bake's a fifth grader (fifth graders ski and board free at Mount Baker), almost 11, and I think now has the strength and patience needed. Hung out mostly on Chair 7 with some blue run forays off Chair 8 and Chair 5. Super cool, super fun, super cold.

Below is the view just off Chair 5.


And this is the Nooksack Ridge, also in view from up there.
 
Today, the Clark Man, Glenn Gervais and I were going to ride to the top of Lookout Mountain just beyond Galbraith, but when I woke to 30-degree temps and 30-plus mph winds--and a high wind advisory for the next 24 hours--I wimped out with nary a second thought. The Assaulting Alder incident is still less than a month ago and I'm real tentative right now about heading back into the woods when it's windy out.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

CHUCKANUT RADIO HOUR - JANUARY


On January 12, I'll be doing a live reading of a humorous (I hope) essay at the Leopold for a live taping of the Chuckanut Radio Hour (http://villagebooks.com/chuckanut-radio-hour). To whet your appetitie, as it were, here's a humorous essay I read on the show about a year ago. It's called "Remomeling" and is the story of a man, a wife, and their little (annoying) home remodeling project. Please enjoy. 

It all began with a simple rearrangement of furniture.

“What if you move your couch over there?” suggested our friend Deb. She’s a kind-of Feng Shui-Declutter Nazi.

That sounded harmless enough so my wife, Jen, and I swung the couch over this way so it faced the front window, shoved the TV-cart thing in the corner, slid that chair over there. Ten minutes work and our lives were transformed. Woo-hoo!

But no. It doesn’t stop there. Scanning our living room, Deb reminds Jen how much we hate the carpet—it is pretty gross I admit (still, it’s not hurting anyone)—and quicker than it takes Jen to nod in agreement, they’re both down on their hands and knees with prybars and claw hammers yanking up carpet tacks to see what’s underneath.

What are they possibly hoping to find? Honduran mahogany floors fit for some fancy-pants photo spread in Sunset magazine? Come on, I love our house, but let’s be honest. It’s a low-slung bungalow that has apartment-grade carpeting written all over it. And that’s OK with me.

What they do find under the carpet is some icky, spongy, underlayment; enough dirt to cover the infield at Safeco Field, and below that, some vague flooring of unknown composition.

“Quick!” I say. “Put the carpet back. Something might crawl out.”

But no, Deb proposes we rip it up and replace it with laminate wood floors that we install ourselves. Let me repeat that last bit: That we install ourselves. Jen leaps up and down like a contestant on “The Price is Right” while I scan my memory banks trying to figure out whatever I might’ve done to make Deb suggest such a plague upon our house.

***
The problem is that, unlike, seemingly every single person in Bellingham who’s not me, I do not possess the gene that predisposes a person to find home improvement projects the least bit enjoyable. I’m not a do-it-yourselfer; I’m more a you-do-it-while-I’m-off-doing-something-fun-er. I’m not lazy; it’s just that when it comes to doing stuff around the house, I’m averse to any kind of work, activity, or exertion. OK. I’m lazy.

Still, I enjoy being married to Jen and if installing laminate floors is what it takes to stay that way, I’d suck it up. Thus, over the following weeks our lives were filled with ripping, sawing, measuring, pounding, drilling, cutting, installing; complaining, loafing, whining, clock-watching, faking injury—each of us bringing our own unique skills and talents to the project.

When it was over, we had fresh, easy-to-clean, sorta-wood floors and our home was purged of all gross, icky carpet. Purged too, I’d hoped, of any future home improvement whims.

Wrong.

“A claw foot tub would look perfect in there,” Deb says one afternoon upon exiting our bathroom. “Maybe a new vanity too, and some nice new flooring, and a bright sunny paintjob to match—what’d’ya think?”

I think you should have your mouth wired shut, is what I think, but don’t say.

Bathroom remodel it was.
***
Twenty years ago, when Jen and I first moved to Bellingham, we’d see this handwritten sign taped to the darkened window of a downtown tavern that had long since gone out of business. “Closed for remomeling,” it read, which tickled our undergraduate funny bones to no end.

The misspelling suggested a remodel gone horribly wrong. As did what we saw through the window: piles of sawdust, three-legged sawhorses tilted on their sides, holes punched in walls. I’m reminded of this because for a while that’s exactly how our house looked.

Bathroom remodels involve plumbing and thus a whole level of gross, disgusting, nastiness that makes me woozy and cross-eyed just thinking about. So we called in a contractor, who called in his plumber, who called in what I gathered was his fugitive nephew desperate for a few bucks so he could stay on the lam. It was a mess.

Our lives were closed for remomeling.
***
But you know, things always get better. That darkened tavern? It’s been reborn—remomeled as it were—as a vibrant retail-residential spot, a cornerstone of Bellingham’s downtown renaissance. And eventually, the contractors went home and quit treating our bathroom like it was their personal ATM, withdrawing money with the frequency of gambling addicts at a casino.

And I have to admit: our house does look great. Our fresh, wood-like floors give our home a charming cottage feel. The bathroom is impressive too. Even if, being a man, I’m not capable of appreciating the wonders of bath-taking the way a woman does. No matter. Jen’s happy; I’m happy.

All is well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

THEY'RE NOT "BOO!"-ING, THEY'RE YELLING "BRUISE!"

As this holiday season commences I'd like to take this moment to share with you the fetching bruise that has just in recent days shown up. It's an after effect of the Assaulting Alder incident from two-and-a-half-weeks ago. (See posts below.) Besides its ickiness, what strikes me is how this single bruise has shown up on the inside of my right leg when the tree hit the tops of both quads fairly equally, as I remember. Perhaps I should consult with a professional bruisologist. And man, I'm losing quad muscle mass but fast!

Hey y'all, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SEATTLE TIMES SNOW SPORTS STORY

Check out today's Seattle Times Northwest Weekend section for my story on five winter things to do that have absolutely nothing to do with the Vancouver Olympics. It's here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/outdoors/2010302014_nwwunolympics19.html?cmpid=2628
In other news, I went back to New Jersey last weekend for my 30th high school reunion. (I know, I can't possibly be that old, right?) Great time and, though my recovery from my tree incident of a couple weeks ago is going rather slowly, I got in a nice 30-mile road ride with classmate Chris Kunkel. But lookee what we came upon (see below): a recently fallen tree just barely being held up by power lines. Talk about giving me the heebie-jeebies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TEAM UNATTACKED TAKES BACK THE TRAIL


I've been feeling surprisingly good the last couple days so today Mellow Johnny Boy and I headed down the Interurban to revisit the scene of Saturday's clobbering. Beautiful sunny day, the trail couldn't have seemed more peaceful and harmless. Caught myself looking treeward a lot, thinkin' OK, next big wind, that one's coming down. And that one. And that one. And so on.

As you can see, the tree-slash-guillotine has already been cut and removed to the side of the trail. Looks like it was about 25 year old, maybe 30 feet high and plenty heavy enough to have caused serious damage, if not death, if it'd been a direct head or neck smacker. I know I'm lucky as hell and am extremely thankful for my family and friends and just everything and everybody, dammit. But apparently no smarter. We ran into Charlie Heggem and guess who takes off after him on the sprint up the Taylor Dock. And of course John and I got into our usual tete-e-tete up out of that "hole" on the Interurban by Cleator Road.
That's John and me with the fallen tree behind us. We cut off a slice for--I'm not sure why, make a coaster out of it?--then peed on the tree to show it who's boss. (Or who's a tasteless boor.) All I can say is that it felt great to be back on the trails!
                                  

Sunday, November 08, 2009

CHECK OUT THE FRICKIN' TREE



Here's Mellow Johnny Clark today standing by the tree that yesterday made like a guillotine blade and landed us on our arses. Might not look like much but she did her damage, that's sure.

We're still trying to figure out what happened: I was slightly ahead of John so it only grazed my face--missing my head by inches--but slammed into my quads with I assume a direct hit--or pretty close to one. But how did it miss my arms completely, unless, in the instant the log passed by my face I quick yanked my hands off the handlebars? I could've had two broken arms with no problem. (Not to mention a crushed skull if I'd been six inches further ahead.) John's front tire bore the brunt of it, and so luckily he shows no ill effects. In fact today, he and Scott "Titanium Cowboy" went for a long run down to where the incident took place, sort of to exorcise the demons. (Thanks, Scott for the photos.)

Thanks to everyone who's e-mailed me and facebooked me (or whatever the verb is); I'm feeling much better. Even went to Clean Green and my improv class today.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

AREA BOY FELLED BY FRICKIN' TREE!


That's me this afternoon in the ER sporting a bloody soul patch-goatee thing. This morning, Mellow Johnny Clark, Steve Vanderstaay and I headed out for a quick out-and-back on the Interurban. Quick, because it was pouring rain and windy. About a half-mile before Cleator Road, I heard a loud crack, yelled "Look out, guys!" and was thereupon struck by a falling tree. Clark caught it on his front wheel, flipped over his handlebars, and other than a flat tire, was unhurt.

I, however, got a pretty deep hole in my cheek, bit through my lower lip and had two seriously deep contusions in both quads. A number of chipped teeth too. I look like a frickin' hockey player. Steve, luckily, was unhit. Both Steve and John were amazing in helping me back to Cleator Road--I couldn't really walk on my own so they propped me on my bike and pushed me along--where my wife met me and took me to the ER. What great friends! Four hours later, I left the ER with 30 stictches and a bagfull of drugs that I'm hoping to sell on eBay. (Just kidding! I'll probably do craigslist.)

Thanks too to Val Thompson and Laura Todd who totally interupted their run to help us get John and Steve's bike back to Cleator. The Bellingham endurance sport community is da' bomb!

And of course, thanks to Jen, Baker and me sister Kath, who offer endless emotional support.

Hey kids--if you're doing tomorrow's Padden Mud Run in the forecast rain and wind, be careful!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

SEATTLE TIMES SHOULDER SEASON STORY

Above, Mount Baker overlooking Bellingham, Lummi Island and lotsa water--the view to be had from the top of Orcas Island's Mount Constitution. See today's http://www.seattletimes.com/ for my story on things to do this time of year, including mountain biking on Orcas. It's in the Travel/Outdoors section and includes a cool photo of Team Unattacked's Mellow Johnny Clark.

Monday, October 12, 2009

PADDEN MOUNTAIN BIKE DUATHLON VIDEO


video

Here it is, the RunningShoes.com Duathlon vid. Funny, how there're very few bikes still around by the time I get going. Wonder where they all went. By the way, this is the same course as is used on the Padden Mountain Pedal races. Enjoy!

Found these pics of Team Unattacked members John Clark and myself on themickeyd's photostream on www.flickr.com. Lots of duathlon photos there.


PADDEN MOUNTAIN DUATHLON PHOTOS AND HELMET CAM VIDEO

Here're a few quick pics (photo credit: the lovely Jen McQuaide) from yesterday's RunningShoes.com Duathlon. Great fun, great friends, great workout esp. on the 29er single-speed. Above, check out my shirt. Fetching, huh? Below, Johnny Boy Clark heads out on the ride. Speaking of the ride, I shot video with my helmet cam but can't seem to post it here. So here it is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LpoHSLL7gk.youtube.com/watch?v=_LpoHSLL7gk
Team Unattacked including the Titanium Cowboy complete with new scaphoid McNugget cast. Great to see the boy.
Again, the shirt. Actually, Tammy Bennett told me that John and I each won pint glasses for our attire. Sweet!

Friday, October 09, 2009

TEAM UNATTACKED NEWS


This past Wednesday, Team Unattacked strongman Scott "Titanium Cowboy" Young underwent surgery on his broken scaphoid on his left hand. As you can see from the photo above, in which his hand bones resemble Chicken McNuggets, they put a screw in that big McNugget on the left. Always thinkin', Scott texted me that he made sure it has an Allen head so that he can use his bike tool to tighten it on rides if he has to. Get well soon, Scott!

Meanwhile, Mellow Johnny Boy Clark and I scouted out a locale for a future training camp. Yesterday, we went mountain biking on Orcas Island which, come Sept. 15, opens up about 20 more miles to the fat tire crowd. The trails are really nice--mostly wide and smooth with long, long descents (and climbs) and, on sunny days, probaby the most spectacular views around.

Above, John rides the Little Summit Trail, just below the top of Mount Constitution. That's Lummi Island, Bellingham (and Bellingham Bay) and Mount Baker in the distance. The weather and views were terrific and it felt like we had not only Moran State Park, but the whole island to ourselves. (Perhaps one of the few advantages of a tanking economy.) While John was shirking his responsibilities I was actually working, as this ride will be part of an upcoming story I'm writing for The Seattle Times. 

Riding Orcas Island reminded me of what a great place it is to run too. I'm considering running the Orcas Island 25K in February. (There's a 50K too for the John Clarks and Scott Youngs of the world.) Below, John and I strike a pose behind his Niner Air9. (I had my own bike, really I did.)

Sunday is the RunningShoes.com Duathlon in which I'm planning to ride (and push where necessary) my 29er single-speed. May wear my helmet too.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

RACE REPORT: IRONMAN ARIZONA

It's that in-between season. Summer's over, weather's starting to get crummy and since I'm not cyclocrossing this year, there's not a whole lot going on for me in terms of specific training. Just kind of a fun mix of mountain biking and running. And world championship watching--how 'bout that Cadel Evans? Nice to see him finally win a big one. And Fabian Cancellara--Madonn! Unbelievable what that man is capbable of on two wheels.

Anyway, since there's not much going on with me, I thought I'd re-run this blast from the past. My race report from my first-ever Ironman, Ironman Arizona in May 2005. Please enjoy.

Unzipping my wet-suit after a half-hour frolic in the chilly brown waters of Tempe’s Town Lake, I was near giddy with excitement. “This thing is definitely doable,” I kept saying to myself.

“This thing” was Ironman Arizona, which was two days away. It would be my second try at an Iron-distance triathlon, but my first since 1984, the summer of “Beverly Hills Cop,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” That first attempt was the long-gone Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon. This was in the days before triathlon wet-suits, and the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean didn’t think twice about spitting me out after mere minutes. Walking back up the beach to my car, I was a shivering, blue-lipped mess spewing a string of profanities that’d make Eminem blush. It’s stuck in my craw ever since.

At Tempe, I didn’t want to repeat that. I knew this wasn’t Cape Cod, but it was April and regardless of what race directors insist (“water temps should be in the low 70s”), experience has told me to subtract about five degrees from R.D.’s estimations. The week of the race, the city’s public works pegged it at 64 degrees.

Thus my barely contained excitement after my practice swim. Yeah, the water was chilly, but not take-your-breath-away-and-never-give-it-back chilly. If I was patient and, as long as my bike didn’t snap in half during the race, I had a strong feeling that once this race was over I could plunk down $40 sans guilt for one of the Ironman Arizona hoody sweatshirts I lusted over at the expo. I’d know I earned it.
***
At 4:30 race day morning, I sat in the motel lobby waiting for the van that would take myself and about five other athletes to the start-finish-transition area. Mentally, I was willing the night manager to quit with his observations and prognostications about the weather.

“It’s gonna be a windy one out there today,” he said. “It’s been howling like the devil out there all night.” And he shook his head as if in disbelief.

At the start area it was chilly, mid-50s—nothing like the 96 degrees it hit three days earlier—and like the night manager said, breezy. I took care of all pre-race necessaries—body marking, transition bag checking, tire inflating, etc.—and then just kinda killed time. A buzz of pre-race anxiety filled the air, which officials tried to temper with mellow Enya-type music. Perhaps a little too mellow. I was itchin’ for something to pump me up, like “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters, which I’d heard the day before at the expo.

At 6:45, almost 2,000 of us made like penguins jumping off an iceberg and began dropping into Tempe Town Lake. The in-water start was 15 minutes away. Several helicopters hovered overhead but with my neoprene swim cap on I couldn’t hear anything. I conserved energy, floating on my back until I heard the unmistakable cannon boom and thousands of flailing arms began churning up the water. We were off — a pod of 1,816 neoprened mammals chasing a dream, or an age group award, or Kona spot, or just another Ironman finish to add to their list.

With so many swimmers, I’d expected it to be rough going, but it was surprisingly civil. I got clobbered a couple times and doled out my share of unintentional bashings but nothing unreasonable. I found my swim rhythm—as much as I’m capable of while swimming—throwing my lead arm far ahead of me, visualizing what the swim models did in Total Immersion DVD, and letting my lime green ProMotion wet-suit do most of the work. Open water swimming like this is great: no laps to count, boisterous spectators cheering you on for the first few hundred yards, and prominent landmarks to gauge your progress—a shiny Smith Barney office building, the pointy peak with the Arizona State University “A” near the top, Sun Devil Stadium, a smaller baseball stadium, the Rural Street bridge and finally the turnaround buoy. Landmarks were essential because the murky lake’s visibility was nil.

The turnaround made, we now headed into the wind with its accompanying chop. I personally had no problem with it, but afterward I spoke to a racer who told me he got so seasick, he threw up three times. What a surprise for those lucky few fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the vomiting man! The same landmarks led us back which was good because they distracted from a growing discomfort in my hands and feet. I was getting cold, that pins-and-needles, I’m-losing-feeling feeling.

But I kept at it, until finally I was rounding the last buoy. About 100 yards ahead, I could see swimmers exiting the water. I was going to finish the swim! I was nearly as excited as if I’d finished the entire race. This would be no repeat of Cape Cod. At least my family and I didn’t come to Tempe for nothing.

My swim time was 1:26 and change, a good 12 minutes faster than my most optimistic guesses. (And truthfully, if it’d been 2:19:59, I’d have been happy; just so long as I could continue.)

Out of the water, one of the many wet-suit strippers unstripped me of my suit pulling so hard I found myself sliding 15 feet across a rubber mat on my butt. He yanked with such force, I feared he’d unstrip me of my swim trunks as well, but alas that didn’t happen.

Dazed and thrilled that I’d finished the swim, I walked to T1 like a Hollywood star on the red carpet, taking my sweet time. Meanwhile, all around me was mayhem. Yelling, cheering, screaming spectators rang cowbells and whacked plastic handclappers and those noisemaking baseball bat-looking balloon things. Athletes sprinted by—running like their hair was on fire and the only place they could put it out was the transition tent. I strolled leisurely along scanning the crowd for my wife and son. “Did you see that? I finished the swim,” I wanted to say.

Out on the bike we turned right onto West Rio Salado Parkway and got our first real taste of what the motel manager was carrying on about—the wind. It was a relentless 25 mile-per-hour blast with gusts to 40 mph. (The next day, one of the top finishers was quoted as saying the winds reminded her of those at Kona.) It howled. It whipped. It was like someone pushing back on your handlebars every time you pedal forward, and every once in a while jerking them back and forth for a good laugh.


The bike route was three, mostly flat loops with the bulk of each loop being a 15-mile (one-way) foray out into the desert northeast of Scottsdale then back into Tempe. Laws of physics (or geometry or something) would dictate that we must’ve had the wind at our backs at some time but it sure never really felt like we did.

While pedaling into the wind, I tried to convince myself that I was riding a very long hill. Somehow this made it seem more manageable. Hills, I train on and even seek out—I’ve ridden to Artist Point near Mount Baker a couple times, I’ve done RAMROD, etc.—whereas wind is something I always avoid. Too demoralizing. My mind game seemed to work for I never got so discouraged that I considered quitting. (It’s lucky for me too that I’m not too bright. It was wasn’t until a couple days later that I realized the major difference between relentless wind and a long climb—after a long climb you get to coast and recover somewhat on the descent. No such luck with wind.)

As with all first-time things, one tends to make rookie mistakes. Mine was drinking way too much. Or as the magazines might say, excessive hydration. When planning my strategy, I took too many things into account: Southern Arizona is the hot sunny desert, I live in the rainy and saturated Northwest, the dry desert heat and arid winds will suck all manner of moisture right out of me, etc. My antidote for all this was to drink like a fiend. Thing is, it wasn’t that hot. Seventy-two degrees for a high is kinda pleasant. And while it was windy enough to yank a superglued toupee off a helmeted rider, the course had well-stocked aid stations every 10 miles, and I started out with two big bottles full of GU2O—there was no way I was gonna be thirsty short of pulling over and eating a couple handfuls of sand.

So, what happens when one drinks too much? (Or hydrates excessively?) Anyone? Right; one has to pee repeatedly. Excessively. Over and over. Starting at about mile 65, my Ironman turned into a version of Monty Python’s marathon for incontinents. I was stopping every 10 miles to use the porta-john. Then every five miles to use a bush—dodging tumbleweeds and keeping a wary eye out for scorpions, rattlesnakes and cactus prickers. Then every three miles, cringing in embarrassment by this point. Ah well, what’ya gonna do? At least I could ride with confidence knowing that dehydration wouldn’t be a problem.

Throughout the ride, I ingested many bananas, Powerbars, Gatorade and Fig Newtons. At about mile 80, when I felt I could take no more of such fare, I reached for my secret weapon—a Wendy’s Homestyle Chicken Fillet sandwich that I’d bought the night before and had stuffed in my back pocket. At this juncture, real food tasted dreamy.

Then it was on to the marathon. I’d heard that it wasn’t uncommon for folks to walk almost all of it and still finish within the 17-hour time limit. That sounded fine to me. I’d run for a mile or two then walk.

The winds were still nasty but they didn’t slow you down as much as they did on the bike, where at times I swore I came to a complete stop. And with there being no penalty for drafting, I admit I was guilty of seeking out taller and wider runners who could block the wind. Also, the two-loop marathon loop was protected much of the way as it followed canal-side trails through Papago Park. Reducing my fluid intake (drinking less) and sweating more—it was now the hottest part of the day—I was no longer plagued by copious pee breaks. (Perhaps too much information. Sorry.)

As it turned out, I ran much farther than I anticipated. I didn’t take my first walk break until just after we started the second loop, just past 13 miles. From there it was mostly three minutes of running followed by one minute of walking. I took the time to smell the roses, as it were. After the sun went down, the night sky was lit by runners sporting neon green glow necklaces. It looked magical. Some wore them around their heads like haloes. As we passed the otherworldly sandstone buttes of Papago Park, we were serenaded by howling—the coyotes and wolves at the Phoenix Zoo. Hundreds of poster boards lined Rio Salado, offering encouragement. “Go, mommy!” “Iron Curtis!” “Vaya Miguel, Angel.” Throughout, spectators and volunteers were terrific—always there with a smile, a cup of chicken broth, a “You look good, 1256!” How do they do it for so long, and why? (Thank God they do.)

Originally from New Jersey, I’m an avid Yankee fan and from mile 17 on, I counted down what I had left by going through Yankee numbers—i.e 9 miles to go was number 9, Craig Nettles; 8, was Yogi Berra; 7, Mickey Mantle; 6, Joe Torre; 5, Joe DiMaggio; 4, Lou Gehrig; 3, Babe Ruth; 2, Derek Jeter and finally, 1, Bobby Murcer, my favorite player when I was growing up.

When I could finally hear the loud, pounding music and cheering at the finish line and knew I’d be there soon, I was of course pleased as heck. But a little bummed too; I wished I’d had a cell phone to let my wife and son know that I was just about to finish. I would love to cross the finish line with my 6-year-old son, but Baker was not the kind of kid to hang around in the children’s pen for who knows how long waiting for dad.

As luck would have it, at the final turn with about 100 yards to go, I saw my wife, Jen, in the shadows. She’d not been standing there long. “Mike!” she said in surprise. Then a quick, “Do you wanna run with daddy?” to Baker. When he said yes, the icing had been spread upon a cake that couldn’t have been any more perfect.

I grabbed his hand and we were off down Rio Salado and the finish line. The monkey that’d been on my back since 1984 when I had to pull out of the Cape Cod race was about to be come off. “Rock the Casbah,” a song I love, blared from the loudspeakers (what’re the chances of them playing a song I love?) and when I saw my time on the finish clock (14 hours 8 minutes and change), I started shaking my fist like Tiger Woods after draining one of his impossible chip shots.

I held Baker with my left hand though in truth, it really felt like he was pulling me along. For a fleeting second I considered asking him to slow down. A jumbo screen projected us to the crowd, which cheered wildly and up ahead, the finish line tape was lowered so that Baker could break it with his chest.

This was good. Very, very good, and all so worth it.

PS: I’d earned that hooded sweatshirt I so coveted. But alas, so did a lot of other people. The next morning they were all sold out.

PPS: I contacted Inside Out Sports and they made one especially for me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

GROUP DOES ENCHANTMENTS IN A DAY


Got an e-mail today from B'ham's Val Thompson who, along with four of her pals, hiked-ran the Enchantments in a day this past weekend. Lucky (and burly) them. That's like 18 to 20 miles with a hefty amount of elevation gain including Aasgard Pass. Here's what she had to say:


"Wow, truly an amazing place...it was sad to be cruising through it so fast, but the thought of having a huge pack on my back made me glad I was a daytripper. I completely understand why they call it 'The Enchantments'."

Looks like the larch are just about to change color. Give it a couple weeks, it'll look like it's on fire up there. Here's the squad (Laura Todd, Christine Bosa, Ruth Sofield, Stephanie Smith, Val Thompson). Great job!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

WASHINGTON'S TOP OUTDOORSY TOWNS STORY HITS TODAY'S SEATTLE TIMES

See my story in the Northwest Weekend section about the best places to have fun in Washington State. See it here. Below are some photos I shot for the story but which didn't make the final cut.





Sunday, September 20, 2009

CHUCKANUT CENTURY


I didn't used to be such a neurotic morning person but these days when it comes to rides and runs and the like I like to get at 'em early, get 'em done with, and get on with the rest of my day. Only downside is with events that have soft start times (any time between 7 and 10, or whatever), unless I show up with a friend, I sometimes end up riding by myself. Last year, I soloed the entire Apple Century in Wenatchee which, after 5 hours or so in one's own head, can be a bit of overkill.

Likewise, today after my 7 a.m. start, I rode about 55 miles on my own before hooking up with nice guy Rick Nolan (above). Nonetheless, it was a beautiful ride down to Skagitland, out to Samish Island (see post below for pic of Samish Island), down to Bayview, on up Bow Hill and back to B'ham via Samish Lake. No wind, so I didn't really mind riding by myself but after a few solo hours contemplating life and the Skagit chip seal, I talked myself into calling it a day when I got back to Boundary Bay, where we'd started. My odometer said 72 miles in almost exactly 4 hours.

The above shot is a snip from  Hovde Productions, the ride photographer. As I'm wont to do when I spot the camera I go for my Tom Boonen finish line pose but he got me as my hands where on the way up. (Which of course makes no sense because I'm behind Nolan in the shot.) 'Least I was rockin' the Belgian national champion jersey.

Cool story on Velonews.com here about the single-speed world championships in Durango, Colo. Sounds (and looks, from the photos) like a crazy event.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LAST WEEKEND

Just now catching up to last weekend which atchully began Friday when I ferried over to Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival. It features in an upcoming Seattle Times story about Washington's top outdoorsy towns. (Boat photos and list of towns to be revealed next Thursday, the 24th.) But whilst I was there, I came across the Renovo booth. They're from Portland and make these amazing wood and bamboo boats that are called bicycles. (I think that's what they called 'em.) Incredibly beautiful. Their site is: http://www.renovobikes.com/.

The weather was spectacular and on the ferry ride back to Keystone, Mounts Baker and Shuksan were large and in charge. Though as you can see Shuksan, on the right, appears to be a mere nubbin compared to the great white watcher.
Saturday, the John Clark and I hit Blanchard Mountain on the 29ers as was discussed and shown in a previous entry and video. It's an amazing place with two lakes--Lizard and Lily--that are a mile apart and that look almost exactly like and each has an overlook that's too steep to ride up. So it's very easy to be at Lily and think, 'I've been here before' when really you were at Lizard and then you go and get lost trying to find your way out. Which has happened to me several times. So these days I never go near Blanchard without my trusty Chuckanut Recreation Area map (http://www.squareonemaps.com/).
Above, Jonny Boy Clark checks out the view of Chuckanut Mountain, Lummi and Orcas islands and a bunch of others from the northernmost viewpoint, above Lizard Lake. Below, the view toward Samish Island and Anacortes from the top of Oyster Dome, above the Bat Caves and Lily Lake.
After the ride the family, including me sister Kath who now lives in B'ham, hit the St. Sophia Greek Festival where Bake scored a cool hat.
As for this weekend a couple Sunday events I'm considering are the Capitol State Forest Classic mountain bike race (www.capitolforest.com/races2009) near Olympia or the Chuckanut Century ( http://www.mtbakerbikeclub.org/ ) right here in town. Hmm ... one requires a three-hour drive, the other I can pedal to. What's it gonna be?