Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Thoughts

You never know what you are going to run into when trail running. And it's usually not what you expect. Last week I logged 21 miles and encountered a rattle snake, a tarantula, a coyote, a deer, and a few rabbits. None of these really even startled me...well maybe the rattle snake because I didn't see him until I almost stepped on him. But so far, no real life-threatening encounters.

I've even been running in the mountains after dark. I wasn't really my intention but I'm going on longer runs now and if I leave too early, it's too hot. But then if I leave too late in the afternoon it turns dark on me. At least I brought a flash light with me the last time I went. The one advantage is the incredible views at the top of the mountain. My run from La Tuna Canyon brings me high up to the radio towers. From there you can see all of Burbank, downtown LA, Sunland, and Tujunga. Sunsets are gorgeous up there and the city lights are really cool looking.

But today I encountered the unexpected. A vicious dog. To me, dogs are actually more scary than coyotes. The coyote I encountered didn't have any interest in me. But the dog needs to prove something.

This particular dog lives in a house off the fire trail so he is pretty isolated. Normally he is behind the gate and I remember this dog as being the one dog I wouldn't want to come face to face with. He had always seemed to be the one that would go for the kill had he been let out. Well today his gate was open. He was running up to me barking incessantly. I didn't even have time to think about what to do. Some instinct told me to just validate him. So I started saying "good boy, good dog," in a very cheerful tone of voice without any sign of fear whatsoever. Actually I didn't even have time to be afraid. He didn't attack me. Hmmm. But I noticed that as he was barking at me, he had his eyes on my wrists. It's like he wanted me to reach for him so he could chomp on them. I got the message and kept my wrists up high, away from his mouth. He was drooling. He really wanted to bite me but he seemed confused. I kept really good eye contact with him and slowly started moving again, continuing to validate him with "good dog." Once I got around the corner, I spotted his owner who yelled to his dog. While he was distracted I quickly made my escape, sprinting away from the situation.

Luck was on my side again. I realized that I applied the principal of "happy thoughts" and that it worked--a successful action to remember.... And the best news of all was that I PR'd (personal record) on this particular run. It was only 4.1 miles, but I wanted to see how fast I could do it. Time was 42:06, 22 seconds faster than the last time I ran it. My longer runs are really helping speed up my shorter runs. And yes, 4.1 miles seems short to me now. Funny, I wouldn't have thought that a few months ago. Pretty soon 10 miles will seem short, then 15, then a marathon! I just have to keep finding longer trails. At least there are an abundance of them here in California.

However, my flight to Florida is on Sunday. I'll be there for 9 weeks. The only wildlife I'll have to worry about there are the careless drivers who aren't used to crazy runners like me running around town. When possible I'll hit the beach barefoot to avoid them....

Monday, September 29, 2008

No Wind in My Sails

Some adventures just don't turn out quite the way you planned. Take this weekend's sailing trip to Catalina island. My friends and I had planned this trip over a month ago. Mark, the captain, (shown below) had made the trip several times and guessed it would take about 4 hours from Marina del Rey to Catalina as long as we had decent wind. The plan was to get to the island, romp around for awhile, go back to the boat for dinner, stay the night and head back the next morning.

We all arrived at the Marina eager for our weekend getaway trip: Me, my roommate Stacia, new friends Crena and Herman, and Mark. It was surprisingly cold--much colder than our cozy home in Tujunga. No worries, though because we all brought jackets. Although Mark and I have been friends for years, he needed to give us all the obligatory rules and instructions, including "posts" for each of us. Stacia got to be the galley boss--meaning it was now her kitchen! Herman was 1st mate as he has had a lot of sailing under his own belt and Crena and I were deck hands.

Our boat, "Day Dreams," was a 36-foot sailboat and was a good size for a party of five. Any more of us and it might have gotten a little tight. After getting all our gear and food on the boat, we were ready to go. "Port clear," yelled Stacia. "Starboard clear," I yelled. Mark smoothly pulled the boat out of the slip and we were off.

At first it was fun. Something new. Something different. Fresh air. It was just cloudy. Very cloudy. We kept thinking it was a morning fog that would burn off. It was even predicted to burn off by 1pm at the very latest. But lo and behold, it didn't. And the wind never came either. Hours went by before we even attempted to sail (We had been motoring this whole time). Along the way though we saw a lot of wildlife which kept us quite entertained. First it was the seals. They were napping like the one pictured below. Some even wrapped themselves in seaweed to float easier. Silly seals.

Next we saw the most amazing event of all (unfortunately I have no pictures). Dolphins. Dozens of them. Possibly over a hundred. It was one of the most awesome events in nature to see....kinda like seeing a herd of wild horses. They were jumping really high in the air, swimming along side the boat, and just generally having a dolphin good time. We were all in awe. For a couple of minutes the sun even came out. But then, back to reality. "Are we there yet?," Crena asked. It was 3:00pm. No, we still have hours to go. Bummer.

Around 5:00pm the sun came out again, this time for a little bit longer. And out of the blue the island appeared. Wow, we actually made it there. Next we had to get the boat moored. Another 45 minutes to get there. And guess what? No mooring available. Bummer. Back to white cove where they had mooring but no taxi access. Didn't look like we were leaving the boat. Hmmm. We all talk about getting drunk. Thank goodness we had brought plenty of food! Stacia (below) prepares chicken with peach salsa. Yummy. We make the most of our situation and start drinking. Actually it was really nice. You should have seen the stars. At least the sky finally cleared up!

The next day had an interesting start. I don't drink coffee anymore, but Crena and Stacia do. The power outlets in the boat weren't working so the coffee maker didn't work and they had to make it the old fashioned way. What was funny was how badly they needed their coffee! It was like "get out my way, I need coffee right now" kind of thing. It made me laugh and I wondered if I was like that when I used to drink it. Amazing how we get so hooked on these things... And of our course it could have been the confinement of being on a small craft, not being on stable ground for almost 24 hours now, or a number of things. But as soon as coffee was consumed, everyone was happy again. It's the little things, you know.

Today we had some wind--about 10 knots per hour--so we set sail right away. The waters were a bit rougher though so the ride wasn't quite as smooth as the day before. Mark, Herman and I all took turns today sailing.

What was really fun was trying to prepare food below or even go to the bathroom. We laughed every time someone went down below because we'd see them holding on, then flying across the room as we hit a big swell. And of course you couldn't stay down there too long or you'd start feeling a bit nauseous. My stomach was on edge for most of the trip, but I never got sick. I just kept drinking Ginger ale and eating ritz crackers. Definitely not zone food, but better to cheat than be sick. Crena probably had the worst sea stomach, so she slept a lot to keep it under control.

Although hard to believe, we had a repeat of the dolphin party again. Not as many as yesterday, but these swam much closer to the boat. It was so exciting to see. It was the highlight of the whole trip. You can't always plan the perfect trip, but no matter what happens, you make the most of it. And that's what we did. And it was fun, despite the obstacles.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big Blue Sprint Adventure Race 08

As Team Tone 40 crossed the finish line, heavily panting, with our lungs burning fire, and our nostils filled with dirt, all Shannon and I could think was, "Wow, what fun!" We had just covered 2-3 miles kayaking on Lake Tahoe, 10-13 miles mountain biking on a variety of terrains (single track, double track, fire trail, pavement, and even a wood chip covered trail), and 3-5 miles running on this gorgeous mountain at Lake Tahoe. It was a tough course for both of us, and a real eye-opener as to what we needed to work on. But we were jazzed. We completed it without injury (and believe me there was plenty of opportunity for that!) and with a new fire in our bellies. Well, maybe we were just really hungry. In any case, it wasn't the end of an adventure, but the start of a new one.

This adventure started weeks ago: running as much as we could, going farther and farther distances until we could do 10 miles; taking the mountain biking intro course; visiting the local sporting goods stores several times to gear up and to test out energy gels, electrolyte shot blocks, and clothing options; getting bikes rented; a campground reserved; securing a tent, camping items, and as a bonus, a support crew (Shannon's boyfriend); and lastly, learning how to use our brand new compass. (Thanks E!)

It was an 8-hour drive with stops to get to Lake Tahoe. We hit the bike rental place first where we got these great Trek bikes with full-suspension. Then it was off to the lake to check in for the race. Todd Jackson, the race director was there so we got to clarify one of the mandatory gear requirements regarding wearing a fleece undergarment AND an outer shell windbreaker. Our windbreakers were fleece-lined so we didn't have to have both. It was cold, but it was hard to believe we'd need both on in a race where we would more likely be sweating! Once we were all checked in we headed over to Donner Memorial Campground where we set up camp for the night. Dan--our support crew--was awesome! He set up the tents while Shannon and I went over our gear list and got everything organized. Being an avid cyclist who builds his own bikes, Dan then prepped our mountain bikes with a tool kit, spare tubes, and pump, and showed us what we needed to know in case of a flat.

After a nice hamburger dinner, we put all our food and toiletries in the bear locker and got ready for bed. The forecast was for temps of 29-39 degrees overnight. Not wanting to be cold, I brought my ski outfit to sleep in. Along with gloves and a hat, this worked out really well to keep warm and cozy in the freezing temps. After all, it was important to get a good night's sleep.

Shannon and I woke up ready to race. I think our adrenaline started pumping from the moment we woke up!

After a big yummy breakfast it was time. "Uh oh, we lost our bib number safety pins. Let's get some more. Oh look, we can get the map now. Let's figure this out." At first we were completely stumped. The course instructions just had stuff like:
1. run up the multi-use trail, run around the staff member and run back down
2. bike down big tree
3. left on buzzsaw
4. right on flameout
5. right on knicknak
6. etc.

We were so confused because on the provided map none of these names appeared. We realized we needed the mountain trail map (duh). Ok, so now we have our maps. Now what do we do? The instructions weren't entirely clear and there were quite a few of us wondering what we are supposed to leave in the transition area, when we are instructed to take EVERYTHING with us up the ski lifts. Oh well, let's downsize. No extra stuff. Oh and during this time it is FREEZING cold. Now we know we'll be running first and have everything on, leg warmers, fleece-lined jackets, etc. Turns out neither of our camelbaks are big enough to fit our jackets so we wrap them around our waists and ditch the leg warmers. Ok, it's time to go up the lift. Shannon decides to memorize the instructions. We are both now shaking from the cold going up the even colder ski lift while Shannon is repeating the instructions over and over. We probably looked pretty crazy.

Ok, we get to the top and the race is about to begin. Suddenly I'm starving. We get a banana out of my camelbak and give Dan the peel to deal with. We just learned that the run is only 1-2 miles so we decide to wear the bike helmets, gloves, and jackets so we don't waste any time transitioning. I notice Shannon has her race bib safety pinned to the outside of her jacket. "What if you want to take it off?" I ask. She says she'll just keep it on the whole time. Seconds later I see her moving it to her shorts just like I had done minutes ago. Oh my god, "5,4,3,2,1. START!"

We start running up the multi-use trail with full gear on. Within minutes we were sweating. I'm estimating that we started at about an elevation of 8,000 ft, maybe went up 200-300 feet and then back down again. Neither one of us had run at this elevation. It was seriously hard on the lungs. We had tow lines attached to each of our camelbaks so I had Shannon grab the tow line while I ran as hard as I could up that mountain. We passed quite a few people, but as we would realize later this was actually one of the most crucial moments of the race, because he who got to his bike first had less people in front of him and wouldn't be subject to the bottlenecking that occurs on single track bike trails.

Coming back down the hill was great. Both Shannon and I run really fast downhill so no time was wasted there, except when trying to pass in tight areas. When we got to the bikes, we quickly got on and started heading down the hill. We were going to go down to an elevation of 6229 feet where we would pick up the kayak section. First was the scary single track. The turns were tight and the trail was extremely rocky. Big boulders were on the sides of the trail. One bad move and you could get really hurt. The trail bottlenecked. Better riders would just pass. When I looked at the map later, I realized these were pretty advanced trails. Hmmm. None of my training had prepared me for this. However I just applied the basic concepts I did know which were 1. relaxed arms 2. butt off and back so the thighs are gripping the seat 3. body very low 4. feet position horizontal to the ground, not vertical, 5. don't look at what's in front of you, but look way out ahead of you. That worked. Shannon got about 5 people ahead of me during this, but as soon as the trail widened I caught up to her.

Next was miles and miles of top speed downhill on a wide rocky trail. I remember for a lot of it, feeling like a human vibrator, going "vrrrrrrrrr, bababababababbooom, bababbooooom, vrrrrrrrrr, yikes, sandy area, yikes other bikers, vrrrrrrrr, babababbooooom, vrrrrrrrrr, uh oh, Shannon is getting too far ahead, I better catch up! Oh this is scary. Minor detail, no time to think about that. Just keep going as fast as you can." Three quarters of the way through the race, I realized I had my bike gloves on upside down. No wonder I felt like I could easily lose my grip. Mine have that slippery material on the outside. Oh well, I know for next time.

Finally we get down to the kayaks. Take off running shoes, put on water shoes, take off camelbak and put on jacket. Grab paddle and kayak. Earlier I had told Shannon to just follow my lead because I had some kayaking instruction on power strokes. So I sat in the front. It was one of those inflatable kayaks, not very comfy I must add. So we get in and push off and start paddling. Boat goes to the right. Now boat goes to the left. Ok, what's happening we can't seem to go straight? I've done this before and know how to compensate. Why is this not working. Our paddles clash. Two female kayakers pass us up.

Shannon notices that they aren't using the same power strokes we were. So we try it their way, brushing the water and not digging in like we were before. Hmmm. We started to go straight, although not very fast. We both decide we need kayak lessons. After we reach the orange cone floating in the water we decide to try with Shannon leading by verbal command. Left, Right, Left, Left, Right, Right. That's better. But oh, another female team passes us up. We suck. Later we realized that both of us like to be leaders. Obviously that doesn't work in a kayak, so as soon as we can, we are going to get that sorted out. But for now, it's back to the race. We get our passport signed and go back to the bike. We are going to go almost all the way up to where we just came from minus the single track trails.

Initially it wasn't too bad, but after awhile the uphill battle became increasingly more difficult. It got to the point where I couldn't breathe. Shannon had to remind me to breathe through my nose, but by now, my nose was stuffed full of dirt and didn't seem to have a clear air passage. I started walking the bike up the hill. That was actually faster than my riding the bike up the hill. It was during this portion of the race where we lost the most time. Shannon actually did pretty well with the uphill biking--probably from her years of cycling--but I burnt out on it. I just didn't have the conditioning for it. Even with all the uphill running I do, it just wasn't enough to get me up the hill on a bike. So I would bike some, walk some, bike some, walk some, never stopping until we got to the top. Here the signs were confusing. We were on our own at this point. Racers were either way ahead of us, or way behind us. We see the sign for our trail, start to go on it, then see another sign with our trail with an arrow pointing the opposite way. There were a bunch of fully-padded downhill mountain bikers going by so I just asked them if that was Village run. They said yes. I also verified it on the map because it pretty much ran parallel to the ski lift. OK, good we could get going again. It was all downhill from here.

Once back to the transition place, we shed everything. Dan took a couple shots at our transition and asked us how it was going. We told him we just had a crash course in extreme mountain biking, With no time to waste, we checked into get our passport signed, drank as much water as we could and we were off running. It was back up the hill again. This leg was longer though. Up, up, up. We passed an all male team. Good. A sense of hope returned. We weren't going to be last! Amazingly enough we were able to run pretty strong after going hard for what seemed like hours. The body can take a lot. Finally it started going downhill, then got straight. We passed a co-ed team, a team we saw a lot of. The guy was always towing the girl, both on the bike and on the run. Poor guy, he probably did all the kayaking too. We are getting closer, I can sense it. Let's run faster. We pass another team. "Come on Shannon, keep up with me! We are almost there! There it is. Faster, faster, we've got to finish together. Sprint! Yes, we did it! Woohoo!" Time was 3 hours 50 minutes. We came in 36th place, 8th in our division. A fellow racer, "Old Goat," informed us that this year's race was much more difficult than the same sprint race last year. In any case, we know what to work on, and will only get better from here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Destination Tahoe

What a beautiful place Lake Tahoe is. I can't wait to get there. We leave in the morning. For me at least, it will be an escape from the increasing number of life challenges I've had this week. Just how many more things could have gone wrong, I don't know. And I really don't want to find out.

Yesterday I went out of town to train for a job I was going to take during the holidays and discovered that it just wasn't for me. So I quit before I even started it. Then the stress of what the hell I was going to do started setting in, and rather than smoke--which is what I felt like doing--I resorted to the Michael Phelps diet and a small amount of alcohol. Bad ideas I know, but it seemed to help for the moment. (Yes, I have weak moments, but fortunately they are pretty rare). Then today it seemed like everything I touched stopped working...my computers, my iphone, my GPS. Something was really "off" with me and it was not good. I walked into the grocery store with my list in hand and still didn't know what I was there to get, and on the way home I literally fell asleep while driving. I should actually be dead right now. But amazingly enough I'm here. When I woke up it scared the living shit out of me.

I felt much better when I got home and went for an easy 5-mile trail run. Running is such a great way to chill out the mind. I can see why ultra marathon runner Dean Karnazes loves it so much. More and more I think about these long distances (26+ mile) runs because I feel like that's where I'm headed. Longer runs are getting easier, especially the longer I go. It seems to be merely a matter of conditioning the body to take on the extra miles. One thing I wondered while running is, "how many marathons would be good training for a 50-mile run?" Or "how many for a 100-mile run?" Dean's book has really inspired me to go for it. I've already got my 1st half-marathon and 1st full-marathon planned out. My biggest concern is my shoes. I love my trail shoes so much, but I don't think they are going to support me enough on the road. The upcoming half-marathon should be a good indication.

As far as training on the bike, sadly Shannon and I haven't enough. A couple of nights ago, we took one of the borrowed bikes out and traded off running and biking to get used to the feel of transitioning. It wasn't bad. We just had a lot of trouble slipping in the sand on our inclines and later learned we had the wrong kind of tires on the bike. It was a good experience to learn this and also get more comfortable on the downhill parts. We started a little late so on the way back it turned dark. We weren't prepared with lights, reflectors or anything, so basically I rode the bike back on the trails completely in the dark. Interestingly enough it was much less scary, because you don't see what you are running over. The mental part of "oh no, I'm going to fall" wasn't there and made the ride a lot more fun. I realized just how much of the sport is really in the mind. And better bikes are really important. We're upgrading our borrowed bikes to full suspension rental bikes for the race. It will be worth it.

Oh, and it looks like I might have some better work options coming my way which don't include traveling! That means I'll be able to go skiing and snowboarding this season...Woohoo! Some things happen for a reason.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Introducing Team "Tone 40"

Ok, so you are probably wondering "what does Tone 40 mean?" And no, it doesn't refer to a bunch of toned 40-something year olds, although that's fine if you want to think that. It' a specific term used in my religious philosophy. The definition that applies to our team name is:


Team Tone 40 members so far are Shannon (on the right) and myself. We are about to have our very first adventure race this upcoming weekend and we are psyched! Already we have had quite a few obstacles to overcome and we still have some more preparing, but our intention is solid and there's no turning back now. The race we are doing is the Tahoe Big Blue Sprint Adventure Race. We are driving up Friday, camping overnight (in 29-39 degrees), then racing on Saturday. We may even squeeze in a little gambling fun! For the race we are borrowing most everything....camping gear, bikes, coolers, etc. But are already thinking about sponsoship plans for future races. (Shannon is a great salesperson!) We just need to be able to perform!

Who knows how we will compare since it's our first, but we are going to go for broke. We've even planned on minimizing our transition times by not changing from running clothes to bike clothes or shoes. If anything the bike section will be our weakest leg. We only learned mountain biking this past weekend by going on an REI outdoor biking class up in the Santa Monica mountains. It turns out that uphill climbs use a different muscle group than uphill running and my legs burned bad. But that's okay, I'm up for a bit of torture. It's the mental "oh, am I going to crash?" thing that is a little harder to deal with.

Our instructor had us do some pretty crazy things like biking over logs, big rocks, and fly down the hill, so at least we have more confidence. It's just going to take some more practice that's all. For me, the correct body position on the bike felt completely natural, more natural even than a street bike or a unicycle (yes, I did that when I was kid). And boy was it fun! Shannon and I are totally addicted to mountain biking and can't wait to get our own bikes and hit the trails! We're even thinking ahead to 24-hour races. By the way, I've heard that mountain biking is an excellent way to meet guys ;-)

Saturday, we did a 10-mile run in the Tujunga mountains to test our endurance. This was probably the longest run either of us had done. The first 3 miles were straight up, then 2 miles slightly downhill, then the reverse of that. We took the camelbaks this time so we could get a feel for running with a load on our back. Ten miles was tough, but totally do-able. I've already realized a half-marathon is within reach. Afterwards my knees were like rubber and I had two huge blisters, but the recovery was not bad at all. Shannon learned that she MUST EAT beforehand and then again afterwards even if she isn't hungry. The body needs fuel and needs to replenish its stores. Thank goodness I've been reading about what athletes need before, during and after workouts. One can bonk pretty easy if you aren't properly fueled.

Aside from our training-packed weekend, we've been pretty consistent with CrossFit too. The past week's workouts were:

Monday, September 15, 2008
Four Rounds For Time Of:
-400m Run
-21 Kettlebell Snatch (R)
-21 Kettlebell Snatch (L)
-15 Burpees
Time was 27:57 using an 8k kettlebell

Friday, September 12, 2008
Three rounds for time of:
-Run 800 meters
-50 Back Extensions
-50 Sit-ups
Time was 21:17 (beat my last Michael of 21:59)

Thursday, September 11, 2008
“The Murph”
-1 Mile Run
-100 Pull-ups
-200 Push-ups (jumping)
-300 Squats
-1 Mile Run
Time was 59:58

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Deadlift 1-1-1-1-1-1-1
Upon completion or failure of the Deadlifts:
-1000m Row for PR Attempt
PR of 145
I didn't get my row time but my pace was :30 faster than ever before.

6.5 mile evening trail run

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Something Like Daniel
For Completion:
-200m Run
-50 Pull-ups
-400m Run
-21 Squat Thrusters (2x 25lb dumbells)
-800m Run
-21 Squat Thrusters (2x 25lb dumbells)
-400m Run
-50 Pull-ups
-200m Run

Monday, September 8, 2008
Lightening Bolt Variation
-4 Rounds For Time Of:
-400m Sprint
-15 Hang Power Snatches (M-75lbs, W-45lbs)
-10 Push-ups
We did this a a 3-person team where the runner set the pace. The result was that each of us did a LOT more power snatches and push-ups than called for! My team of Shannon, Kellie and me completed in 28:00 using 25lbs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Flying the Big Kite and Cracking Nuts

It's so good to be back home in California. The last 8 weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and it doesn't seem to be stopping now that I'm back. I arrived Friday, went straight to REI (sports store) to gear up for the weekend, had to pass on dancing with friends due to my early morning the next day, went for a short nighttime run in my hood, drove down to Lake Hodges in San Diego on Saturday (a 2 hour drive) to go orienteering, mountain biking and kayaking as part of an all-day Adventure Race course, went for a 6.75 mile trail run just because I didn't feel I had quite enough exercise for the day, would have gone out on a date if I wasn't so exhausted, finally unpacked on Sunday and resumed my CrossFit training on Monday.

I am sore and I love it. Sore is better than pain from injury although I still have a little of that too. I gave up on docs for now. Mostly because they drained my pocketbook. What I realized is that one's form is crucial when working out so as to avoid injury. So if you are reading coaches, feel free to give me a hard time when I'm not doing something right.

This really hit home when I discovered the differences between running on the beach, running on the street and running in the hills. Running on the beach barefoot was the best. I did this for 5.5 miles and felt great afterwards. It's the most natural way to run and was almost completely pain free (except the chafing on my inner thighs from wearing the wrong shorts!). Next best was running in the hills. There's something about running up the hill that keeps the feet in the right position. And downhill is great just because it's downhill! When I went on Saturday it turned dark when I reached the top (a 6.75 mile run). And since I like to book down the hill I had to raise my legs higher so I didn't trip on anything. Running in the dark with no light is interesting and boy do you see the strangest things. There was this guy walking up the hill when I was about half way down carrying a guitar and singing. Weird!

Anyway, I digress. Running on the street is the worst. The last time I did any length of running on the street I was in a lot of pain afterward. So for now, I'm sticking to the trails and will try to get to the beach occasionally.

Speaking of the beach, I had the opportunity to take a couple of kite surfing lessons while in South Florida. It was a blast. The first lesson involved just the kite and getting used to it. We used a small trainer kite which is actually harder to manage than the normal ones which are much larger. This is one of those things that looks a lot easier than it actually is. The wind has a mind of its own and the idea is to be able to control the kite regardless of gusts, lulls, or direction changes. Because when it comes down, it whips down, crashing hard, damaging anything in its path. That's why we train away from people.

My second lesson was much more fun. First I practiced with the trainer kite to get a feel for the winds that day (it was a much more constant wind than the last time) and then get a handle of the larger kite using only one hand. The wind was about 20-25 miles per hour--perfect for kite surfing. Next it was time to get in the water. Instead of going straight to the board we took the next gradient which was body surfing with the kite. It was actually a lot to manage because the seas were rough--4 to 6 feet--and you need to keep the kite up in the air while you swim through all these waves. Actually it was hard enough to keep my head above water! And I'm a strong swimmer! So the idea was to dive the kite to grab the wind and keep it at the 2:00 position and pull you as if body surfing. Fun stuff! We had to do this quite a few times.

The instructor kept close by, and actually too close because I kicked him in the nuts once by accident. He now calls me the Nutcracker, which I can now add to my list of nicknames.....Warrior woman by my Muay Thai instructor, Dude by my friend Socrates, Crazy woman by my coach in Florida, VGBG (very good bad girl) by a friend in Florida, Gorgeous by my roommate Shannon, and now the Nutcracker.

So I haven't officially kite surfed yet. But I've had a blast learning. When I go back to Florida in October I'll continue lessons and probably even buy the kite and board. After all, I'll want to get into kite skiing and kite boarding too! But when I get to Florida again, the first thing I'm going to do is rent a boat with my dad so I can do some wake boarding. It's great practice for kite surfing and most likely a lot of fun. Hopefully my water skiing skills will translate. Any friends in Florida reading this are welcome to come.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Saving a Life

It's been weeks since I've written anything on this blog. Work has been insane, and because of my injuries I haven't been able to work out until this weekend.

Friday we worked really late so we could take off the entire Labor Day weekend. It was so worth it! There's actually a lot to write about, but I'll save it for later because something incredible happened today. I helped save a boy's life.

Around 4pm I decided to go to the beach for a run. It was a beautiful sunny and windy day and I just couldn't waste it. So I get to the beach, find a nice spot to put my things, and start stretching. I notice there are a lot of surfers out today and quite a few kite surfers too. The conditions were perfect. We had a nice 25-30 knot constant wind and good surf. But I did remember hearing about the riptide warnings on the news earlier in the day.

Now I'm just waiting for my training watch to pick up the satellite signal so I can get going. But I notice some activity on the beach. Boys are pulling a body out of the water. Then another group about 100 yards further away start pulling another body out of the water. Two young boys apparently got pulled in by the riptide. Neither was breathing. In the corner of my eye I saw someone performing CPR on the body farthest away. I go towards the first boy. People were just standing around him doing nothing. The surf was coming up over him. He wasn't pulled up onto the sand far enough. As I approached I couldn't understand why no one did anything. Are these people stupid? or what? This boy was dying! He looked dead but it seemed we might still want to try to do something.

So I did what any normal person with a brain would do. Try to help him. I don't know CPR nor do I know the first thing about saving a person, but I do know that the wrong thing to do is nothing! First I made sure someone had called 911. Then I got some guys to help me put the boy on his boogie board so we could get him farther away from the water that was coming over him. As we were moving him he started to cough/vomit. Good, he was alive! But, yikes! He might choke on his own vomit! So I maneuvered his body so he was on his side and not on his back. More water started coming out. I helped move him so it would go out. Someone handed me a bottle of cold water and said to pour it on his face. I did. And then, the boy tried to speak. He asked me for water which I gave him very carefully. He was now at least breathing, but going in and out of consciousness. He still seemed in critical condition, so I just stayed and comforted him, holding him and rubbing his back. He looked to be only about 14 years old.

A woman near me had the sense to find out who was there at the beach with this boy and get the family's phone number. She got them on the phone and told them what was happening. Emergency personnel arrived but they went straight to the 2nd boy. From reports, he seemed to be the worse of the two. Next a kite surfer came over who had some kind of emergency training background. He helped assess this particular boy's situation and took control of the situation until emergency personnel came over.

Once the emergency personnel were handling this boy I knew he would be taken care of. He at least seemed like he was going to make it. I was satisfied with that. And therefore continued on with my run. I later learned from a friend that these 2 boys were on the news and that luckily both of them made it through.

The run was quite incredible. I went for five and 1/2 miles barefoot on the beach. Incredible isn't even the right word. It was more like insanely pleasurable...Splashing in the water...A constant 25-30 knot wind blowing on me...The wide open space...The smell of the sea air...The feeling of my toes going deep into the sand...And not a moment of tiredness.

There was so much to observe...Like the dozen or so kite surfers flying through the air making 20-30 ft. jumps...The little girl flying a regular kite on the beach looking nervous because she didn't want her kite to crash into me...And the 60ish year old couple waiting for me to pass them so they could closely embrace...the pregnant woman taking an early evening stroll...the man fishing on the beach far away from everyone else.

You see so much life when running. It's quite amazing. When I finished running I sat down and started reading a new book I got, "Ultra Marathon Man - Confessions of an all-night runner." It was such a great ending to my day. The first chapter in that book is so funny it had me in stitches. Picture this: So here I am sitting on the beach as the sun is going down--after my five 1/2 mile run, after saving a little boy--and I'm laughing uncontrollably all by myself.

Life is beautiful and it is very precious. Every second counts so enjoy it. And if you ever see someone in trouble, help them. Don't be one of those cowards sitting on the sidelines.