Sunday, June 30, 2013

Awesome Arizona - What Will You Do for Me, Xanterra?

A cute Southwestern lamp decorates the Maswik Lodge room nightstand.
Dear Xanterra,

You do a fine job running all the lodges, concessions, and restaurants at the Grand Canyon.  Your employees answer every question with a smile, service is excellent, the food is reasonably priced and reasonably good, and the beds are comfy.  David and I are impressed that you do all this so well while making every effort to have your guests conserve natural resources.

We know you're big on saving natural resources because there were signs everywhere telling us how to do that.  At every turn and in every corner was a reminder that the world's resources were in our hands.

And, believe me, we took that responsibility seriously.

You asked us to save energy and water by re-using our towels.  We hung them up every day.  But we just couldn't bring ourselves to follow your other request.  You wanted us to tell the housekeeping staff not to make our beds.  But, gosh, Xanterra, we were on vacation, after all.  We wanted one tiny luxury.  We thought maybe you were going a little too far on that one.

No lotion or shampoo found their way into our suitcases when we left.  And don't think that was because the shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap were mounted on the wall in dispensers.  We could've emptied some of that stuff into plastic bags if we'd wanted to.  If we'd been energy fools. Which we're not.

And when I needed a shower cap, you kindly gave me one at the front desk.  So what if I had to walk several hundred yards from our room in the Aspen building to the Maswik Lodge lobby to get it.  It was my energy I was expending, not the world's.  (You even let me keep the plastic shower cap.)

When we needed to make some notes, we didn't even look for the pen and note pad that weren't in our room.  We dug deep in the briefcase instead to fish out an old napkin to write on.  It worked just fine.
our table/desk

But our contributions didn't end there.  When we ate in the cafeteria, you asked us not to use a straw.  Wow, that was a tough one, and I've got to confess that David did better at that than I did.  But when I read the sign you posted on the table about the schoolbus being full of straws from one day's use, I tried to tough it out.

We're hoping the utility fee for the lights and air conditioning which we gave you every time we ate at Maswik Cafeteria helped compensate for my profligate straw use.  We didn't even know it was legal to charge an additional fee for lights we needed so we could see what we were eating, but, there you are.  The charge was on every receipt, so I guess you know what you're doing.  Sure surprised us though.  We just hope it helped make up for the two straws I used.

But, all in all, we felt pretty good about the energy we didn't use while we visited the Grand Canyon.  The only thing that bothered us was that you kept asking us to make sacrifices, but  y o u  never asked what you could do for us to help us conserve the world's resources, too, in our daily lives.

So, David and I tackled that issue and think we have an idea for you.  We'd like to see you lower the rate of the $176 plus tax room at the Maswik Lodge North, the rooms you say are refurbished. (Did you do more than add air conditioning 'cause the rooms are really pretty small and not luxurious at all and really look just like the rooms at the $97-a-night Maswik South?) We think you might want to consider lowering the price.

What would happen if you reduced the price to a far more reasonable and realistic $80 per night?  Think of the energy people could conserve by not having to work so hard to pay for their hotel room.  They could drive fewer miles, use far less gas, and spend lots less money on lattes and lunches to earn the dollars needed for a night at Maswik.

Truly, this idea could revolutionize the world, to say nothing of the hotel industry.  And just think about all those schoolbuses filled with extra cash!  Extra cash that represents untold quantities of saved natural resources.  Yep, we think it's an idea whose time has come.


Dru & David

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Have a Perfect Tightwad Day at the Grandest Canyon of All

A Perfect Tightwad Day at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and there are at least seven ways to explore it.  You can fly above it in a helicopter, catch the I-Max flick for an eagle's perspective, take the shuttle around the perimeter, hike the canyon paths, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch in the valley below, attend the ranger lectures, or simply sit on the edge and watch the light manipulate the ever-changing shadows on the canyon walls.  With enough time and money, you can use all these approaches, but, if your resources are limited, here's a day I think will please you.  While it is, in typical Tightwad fashion, short on expense, I think you'll find it long on enjoyment.
Continue Reading>>

Friday, June 28, 2013

Awesome Arizona - World's First High-Rises

Seems like everyone wants a room with a view.

In Peru, Machu Picchu clings to a mountain ridge almost 8,000 feet above sea level.  Carved high in the dusky pink cliffs of Jordan, the remarkable city of Petra provides sweeping vistas of the desert.  And in Europe, old cities perch on hilltops.  All of these ancient inhabitants truly had penthouse views.  Of course, they also built "high" to avoid mosquitoes, disease, which was assumed to originate in the swampy flatlands, and encounters with marauders, but I'll bet it was the view that really sold them.

Even the first settlers of North America wanted a penthouse view.  Just an hour and a half north of Phoenix and a couple miles off I-10 lies Montezuma's Castle, a misnomer because there is no castle and the Aztec ruler had nothing to do with the construction, but impressive nevertheless. 

Built by the Sinagua, distantly related to the Hohokam, around 700 AD, the five-story structure was occupied from 1100-1400 by various native American tribes until they suddenly disappeared for reasons which are still not understood. 

The Visitor Center does a fine job explaining the backstory, and a path leads to excellent views of the cliff dwellings themselves.

Now I understand why my dad, a first-generation American who spoke only Swedish until he went to first grade, always told us children to build on a hill.  It wasn't because it was a Swedish tradition or because we lived near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where so many rivers crisscrossed the valleys that flooding was inevitable.  It was because he was following an ancient tradition and wanted his children always to have a room with a view.

Practicalities - For more information about Montezuma's Castle, click here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Be Yourself

I don't really talk a lot about politics, because I know everyone has their own opinions and often talking about them will only lead into arguments and disappointment. However, something happened recently that I think is worth mentioning. California's Prop 8 was overturned. What many people don't understand is how it took Californians, who are supposedly liberal, so long to make this happen.

I live in an area where it is okay to be yourself. Whether you are black or white or any shade in between, whether you are gay or straight (or anything in between), whether you wear a fur coat or nothing at all, you are usually celebrated for your differences, not shunned.

However, there are many rural areas in California. They are generally Republican and/or more conservative. There is Orange County, who is fairly wealthy and a little more elitist. I grew up in a red county. There were some race issues and being gay was not okay to many people in the area. So this is why this decision took so long. There are still a lot of people who feel uncomfortable with the idea of same sex marriage.

2012 voting by county

All I can say is: congratulations to all the people who can now get married, for whatever reason they want to do it. Whatever color you are, whatever your sexual preference, and whatever you are wearing, you should have the same rights as everyone else.

Do you live in a state where same sex marriage is legal? What do you think about the issue?

Friday, June 21, 2013

One Track Mind

I went to a party at a friend's house last weekend and struck up a conversation with a random guest and at one point he asked me if I had any hobbies "besides running". I have to admit, I did stand there with a dazed look on my face for a few seconds.

Of course I do.


Because really, running has taken over a lot of my other habits. That and work. Last week I spent about 10 hours running (not including preparation and/or cleanup) and about 55 hours at work (including getting to and from). But you can't blame it all on these two factors; it is also tiredness, or laziness, or just bad time management in general.

I used to travel. Now I only get 2 weeks off a year and I am mostly using a few days here and there tacked onto weekends in order to, you guessed it, go somewhere to run.


I used to read. Now I read for a half an  hour a day on my bus ride home. Work makes me too tired to read very much, plus I don't have time to use the internet at work, so I tend to do that in the evening instead of reading.

I used to cook. Now I make big batches of stuff over the course of one or two days and then I just eat the same thing over and over (and over). I find it is better on my wallet and my stomach that way. Also it gives me more time to relax (or run).

I used to take photos. With the big camera. Now I ride the bus every day and I don't want to carry it with me so I just use my phone as a camera, if that.


I used to take walks or go to the gym at lunch. Now I have been skipping lunch, eating at my desk and not seeing much of the light of day.

On the weekends I am doing pretty well. I am still making time for a bit of social time, a bit of some of the above, and a little bit of running to boot. But during the week, I would like to manage my time a little bit better. So, in July (because June is almost over), I would like to try to do one of each of those things above for an extra hour a week. Whether it's travel to The Mission for a burrito, or taking a lunch time walk with the big camera, or "cooking" a new type of salad, I want to keep doing the things I love.

Because lately I've found myself focusing on doing one or two things wholeheartedly, and therefore the others have taken a back burner. I don't necessarily need to dial back on the one or two, but I just need to manage my time a little bit better. So hopefully July will be the month of better time management. I do have things planned for every July weekend, so I will not have much extra time, but I do want to make the most of what I have!

Do you ever find yourself putting certain things on the back burner in order to focus on only one or two? If so, what suffers? If not, how do you manage it all?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mt. Diablo

Every time I do something physically challenging, it makes me think of my Dad.

Dad -- Hiking the PCT

(FYI: if it's factually challenging, Mom's the one. In fact, we call her Moogle because when you need an answer, you just call her and she will know!). He used to drag us up and down mountains, to the ski slope on days where the snow was ripping your face off, and into other such situations where we thought we couldn't possibly succeed. I can't say I necessarily LOVED doing much of it, although I don't remember really hating it either (or did I? Dad/Mom? Did I whine a lot?)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

However, I did love the sense of accomplishment, of pride, that you get when you do something difficult and live to tell the tale. I did love the view from the top, the one that I got to see because I had pushed myself to the limit (or past it sometimes) of my capabilities. I did love that feeling of strength that it brought.

And I guess that part stuck.

In two weeks, Broski and I (and possibly Dad and Moogle) will go to Mt. Shasta to once again see if we can conquer the high peak another time.

Shasta Summit 2009

For another training session (see the first couple here), Broski and I decided to run up to the summit of Mt. Diablo, the highest point in Contra Costa county, at 3,849 ft (source). We were aiming to do the "5 Peaks of Mt Diablo" which would be about 16 miles and 5,200 ft of total climb. The five peaks are Twin (1,733 ft), Eagle (2,369 ft), Diablo, North (3,557 ft) and Olympia (2,946 ft) (source). In that order.

You know how I always say how I went up and then down and then up and then down? Well this time...I went up. And up. And up. And up! In case you don't know, Contra Costa county is hot and Mt. Diablo is no exception. As my brother said, it's not called Diablo for nothing! We climbed and climbed and climbed and finally made it to Twin Peaks. Then it was up some more to Eagle.

Unfortunately, there was some down between Eagle and the main summit. You can see it there, right around mile 3. And it was HOT. After the problem I had with dehydration last time, I made sure to drink about 2 - 3 liters of water before we left, plus I ate breakfast AND a snack, plus I carried 3 liters on me. However, even with these precautions, I was pretty tired by the time we started heading downhill from Eagle Peak. In fact, I remember looking at the trail and at the elevation on my Garmin, knowing that I was going to have to do a lot of climbing due to this downhill, and thinking "S**T, I don't wanna!".

mt diablo
Broski on the down between Eagle Peak and the Summit.

I really wanted my sandwich. I had stuffed two of them in with my icy water in my hydration pack, as a sort of cooler system. I was craving that sandwich and some shade, but neither were in the cards just yet.

We make it to the summit, but it was a long, dusty, hot, shadeless, scratchy, poison oak filled 7.6 miles. It was one of those hikes (/runs) where you were trying to look out for snakes and not touch the poison oak and try not to twist your ankle on the rocks all at the same time.

Remember what I said about loving to see the view because I pushed myself? Well, ironically, the summit of Mt. Diablo is one you can drive to. So we made it to the top and it is filled with people, trying to find parking spaces, snapping obligatory photos and wearing white cutoff shorts and cute tank tops and flip flops.

We ate our still cold (and must I say, completely delicious) sandwich pretty quickly and then started to head back down. In fact, looking back now, I realize we did not even take an obligatory summit photo!

The trail went straight down. In four miles, we dropped almost 3,000 ft. It was hell on knees; welcome to Mt. Diablo. After about two miles of this, we decided to skip peak 4 and 5, not because we didn't want to hike up them, but because we didn't want to hike down them! We were tired of downhill already! So we took a shortcut and got the heck out of there.

mt diablo
Still fresh -- this was before peak #1

We finally got to the trailhead and drank some nice cold water and dreamed about ice cream (which I never got. Pity). So, I had plenty of water this time, but I still think that the heat really takes it out of me! I think I will go back to this mountain, as it is yet unconquered, but next time I will do it in January!

Total miles: 14
Total time:4:54
Total elevation gain: 4,300 ft

Well Dad, I think we are ready for Shasta. Who's in?

What gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride in yourself? What obstacle have you faced and beaten? Do you prefer mental or physical challenges?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Awesome Arizona - On the Way

Every day in June in Tucson has been in the hundred degree range. While it is true it is a dry heat, it's been a particularly dry heat since we have gone over 60 days with no rain.  We are waiting for the monsoon and the meteorologists, as well as everyone else, scan the skies daily for signs of  rain.

So maybe you can understand why David and I decided to meander through the mountains on two-lane roads on our way to the Grand Canyon.  We craved pine trees and grass.  Anything green, really.  But along the way, we found something even better.  Something blue.

Continue Reading>>

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Awesome Arizona

It was our dog that determined our vacation destination this June.  Our beloved Belgian malinois is suffering from degenerative myelopathy, which some describe as the equivalent of canine multiple sclerosis or ALS, and she's rapidly losing control of her hind legs.

I ordered a dog cart/wheelchair for her today (from the wonderful people at k 9 carts) which should help her get back to the walks she loves, but David and I know she's not going to be with us  much longer.  Because we don't want to be too far away in case she needs us, we've decided to take a trip to explore our own backyard.

Even though we aren't crossing any oceans, this promises to be an exciting trip.  Some of the most impressive country in the world is in northern Arizona, and we plan to explore as much of it as possible in ten days.

We'll spend a couple days at the Grand Canyon, in Monument Valley, and at Canyon de Chelly exploring all of those places plus the Painted Desert, the Hopi and Navajo Nations, the Petrified Forest, and the Homolovi Ruins.  The laptop will be in the backseat, but Internet reception may not be available everywhere in these remote areas, so blog posts may have to wait for our return.

Still,  I promise to tell you all about it in the next few days or when we get back.  Here's a photo of one of the places we'll explore.  See why we're excited?!
Monument Valley

Practicalities - Don't worry.  Our dog will be in the excellent care of our pet sitters who have become friends.  If you'd like to know how we found these wonderful people who are happy to get a mini-vacation in exchange for caring for our pets, see this article "Free Pet Sitting."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shadow of the Giants 50k

As part of the training for the What's Beautiful Challenge, which is to run a 50 miler, I also signed up for a few 50k races. One of them was kind of an impromptu race near Yosemite. A couple of friends were doing it and I decided to join them for some fun in the Sierras. I grew up in the Sierras but it was roughly about 300 miles north of where this race was. However, the scenery is very similar in many cases. Evergreen trees, granite and clear mountain streams are the norm.

I drove to Fish Camp on Friday evening, which is where the race started. We won't even talk about the drive right now, as it was full of heat and traffic and wrong turns. Actually, I will talk about the heat a little. The thermometer in the car read 113 at one point. The car did not have A/C. I drank a ton of water. The end.

The race director Baz was a crazy really nice English (I think) guy who dropped the F bomb a lot. With your race entry (for a mere 15 dollars extra) you could stay in the dorms at a kids summer camp up in the mountains. Count me in! I arrived late and crept into the nearest empty bunk.

The next morning there was coffee and muffins and we all got our bibs on and got ready to go. The race started at 7 and it was probably about 55 or 60 degrees at this point. The starting elevation was about 5,000 feet. Baz made some jokes and dropped the F bomb a few times and then we were off! And it was straight uphill. I know, I know, if you got a quarter every time I said "and it was straight uphill" you would at least have $1.75 by now! Well it was...straight up.

For about two miles. In this time, my heart was beating like a tom tom. Seriously, it was going to beat out of my chest. My normal average HR is in the 130s. This was in the 150s! It was going crazy. I know it was probably mostly due to the elevation, because that can make a huge difference, but also it was dusty and it was already heating up (or maybe it was my imagination) and I don't know if I had gotten enough water in me the day before.

shadow of the giants
This reminds me of home

The trail went back down and then we did a little out and back so we could see who was in front of us. There were two girls ahead of me. At this point I was running with my friend and we were trying to guess the ages of the girls to see if they were in our age group or not. Shortly after that, I ditched my friend (on the downhill! She beats me on the ups every time and then I pass her on the down) and headed off on my own.

Now when I say on my own, I mean it. I was alone a lot. Except for one girl in a maroon shirt who was keeping just a safe enough distance behind me that I was taking it easy because I didn't always see her back there.We had a water crossing, which was my first, and then she caught up to me at the next aid station and passed me. Then she stopped to pee and I passed her. Sweet.

Next up was a really cool single track section that went through groves of Giant Sequoias. It was awesome. Then I got to the mile 20 aid station where there was a one mile loop through another grove, plus the volunteers filled up your pack and let you do the loop without it so when you got back you had icy cold water waiting for you. Thank you volunteers! As I left that aid station, the girl in the maroon shirt passed me again and then..

I hit a wall. I had no fight left in me.

I blame several things. 1. I was not hungry. At all. I don't know if it was the heat or what, but at the first aid station I grabbed a banana, took one bite and spit it out because it was not good. So I didn't really eat. For the entire race at this point I had maybe a quarter of an orange, 2 gummy chews, 3 pretzels and a bite of banana. Which is not good. We need fuel to move! 2. The heat. Can you say Sluggish? It was about 96 degrees. 3. The elevation. It affected me more than I thought it would.

The hill at this point was an uphill but it was oh so gradual, but nevertheless, it was killing me. I stopped to walk a bit and seriously considered walking the rest of the way. I was calculating in my heat addled brain how long it would take me if I walked. Somehow I came up with a possible 2 - 3 hours. The only reason I started running again was because I wanted to get it over with and 2 -3 hours more was way too much time to be out there.

At the top of the gradual hill (600 feet in about 2.5 miles) there was an aid station. It was like this:


Except they didn't berate me; they gave me food. Food, glorious food. This is the only time I eat Ruffles potato chips and man are they good!

And then it really was all down hill from there! Except for the fact that I fell (again. Oops) and scraped up my knee and hand (again), I felt a lot better after the food and during the down hill. I made it to the finish in one piece and went and soaked in the icy cold creek with a cold beer.

shadow of the giants
The Finish Line

The Verdict? The girl in the maroon shirt beat me by 5 minutes. I finished in 5:04 and change and was the 5th girl overall (I never saw the extra one, I guess) and 2nd in my age group. The kicker? Maroon shirt girl was in my age group. I have to learn to beat those 30 somethings! Young whippersnappers! However, it was a PR for me all the same. But I would have loved seeing a 4: something...

Total elevation gain: 4,078

Would I do this race again? Sure, why not. But next time I would hydrate more the day before and I would plan out my fuel intake a little bit better. And maybe train at a level besides sea level.

Have you ever been affected by the altitude? Or lack of food? Have you ever been to the Sierra Nevada mountains?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nab an Exit Row Seat

George Hobica tells you how to snatch one of those wonderful comfortable-with-extra-legroom-exit-row seats right here.

Then and Now: May

I haven't done a Then and Now post since last November! I have to admit, things have been a little different for me around these parts. I got a new job in August, and it has been a difficult learning curve. For the first couple of weeks, we did a basic training, and then we were put right in the hot seat and were dealing with clients and coworkers and other entities. Days were passing by and then weeks were falling away and then months were gone before I knew it. I was constantly on the move at work, and was always thinking, so when I got home, my brain was like mush.

Then I trained for a couple of big races and my legs were like mush. So basically I have been mush. I wouldn't say that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it has meant that I don't feel so in control of my life as I did at one point. Things like blogging, reading, cooking or thinking about what to eat (hello salad, potato & oatmeal) have gone to the back burner. Hence the lack of Then and Now posts (or my commenting in a timely manner to most people's posts).

But I like looking back and kind of seeing what I have done, because I feel that this makes me feel stronger, and makes me realize that I have done more than I thought I have, instead of focusing on what I did not do. So, here we have the Who, What and Where of May (better late than never).


girls day
Girls Day.



Due to the fact that I took a vacation, I read 6 books this month. This is one of my biggest reading months in a long time! I have to say as well, that they were all good! My favorites on the list were probably the first three.

Wild -- Cheryl Strayed: This book reminded me a bit of home, since I grew up near the PCT, and I loved the stories of the trail. However, I was not super fond of the main character and her issues and journey to self enlightenment.

The Thirteenth Tale -- Diane Setterfield: A woman biographer meets up with a famous author to finally get her true life story from her before she dies. The story ends up having many twists and turns and an intersting relationship develops between the two main characters.

A Thousand Splendid Suns -- Khalid Hosseini: A gut wrenching tale of the strife in Afghanistan and the trials and tribulations the characters go through to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel, this story kept me riveted for hours. I couldn't put it down.

Stuff White People Like -- Christian Lander
The Boleyn Inheritance -- Phillipa Gregory
I am a Stranger Here Myself -- Bill Bryson


In May I ran 160.1 miles, biked 16 miles, hiked/walked 35 miles and swam one mile. I am not quite ready for a tri, but it's kind of fun to add in a few extra activities besides running once in a while.


I ran 2 races: The Cinderella Trail Half and the Ohlone 50k .


west bay

Did my #5bythe5th run on the hottest day in San Francisco. It was 90! Unheard of. But I got to see this. #ggbridge #nofilter
Fort Point


In May, who did you hang out with? What did you do? Where did you go?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Currently: June

Current Book - Lucy Sullivan's Getting Married -- Marian Keyes (it's a total chick flick book but it's a fast easy read, which is what I need)

Current Running Path - Okay well this was on June first, but I am counting it as "current".

Dear paradise, please don't leave me. You're so beautiful. I want to stay with you forever. #roatan #nofilter #beachvacation
Beach running in West Bay

Current Drink - Iced tea with lots of lemon 

Current Excitement - Weekends! The next few are full of friends, running,  hiking, travel and fun! 

Current fashion trend - I see a lot of these chain earrings around lately. 

Current Favorite Blog/Website - I did a history search and some of my top visited pages are...Gmail, Yelp and Reader. I guess I should buy stock in Google!  

Current Garden Item - Green beans and radishes! Not enough to really do much with but they are still good! We also have some green tomatoes! I can't wait for their ripeness! 

Current Love - Long days! I sometimes don't realize it but it's already past 9, which is officially my bed time, but lately I have not even been feeling as tired! 

Current Food - Avocados, cherries, melons

Current Indulgence - I had pizza and coke for lunch yesterday! It's not often I have that but it was brought in for us since we are doing training. They were both pretty good but the coke leaves a weird taste in my mouth that I don't love.  

Currently Pondering - Why no matter how often I scrub the (white tile) floor, it always looks like nobody ever cleans it. Note to self: NEVER use white grout. It becomes grey/brown grout in no time flat. 

Current Mood - Good. Really good. I'm about to burst into, "the hills are alive..." in a minute.

Current New Find - Probar chews and bars. I got them as a free sample, which sometimes doesn't work out that great, but these are really good! 

Current Outfit - Just kidding! This isn't me, but I had to post it. When I went to the Bottlerock music festival, a lot of people were wearing these shorts. A LOT! With the butt cheeks and everything! And if you look close enough (if you dare) you can also see her leopard undies. If you want more pics, I have more. My brother and I had a good time playing "spot the butt cheek shorts" or the "who can take the most inappropriate photos at the festival" game (yes we are weird. Whatever).

booty shorts

Current Peeve - Bus drivers who speed, switch lanes a lot and make comments (or swear) at the other drivers. Chill out, yo. You have dozens of lives in your hands. 
Current Song - ...Put your hands up...turn around...


Current Triumph - A new PR! More about that later! 
Current TV Show -  North America on Discovery Channel

Current Wish-List - crampons and an ice axe

Currently Delaying - (this is a long list...) writing thank you notes, fixing the sprinkler system, taking a load to Goodwill, doing a tune up on the bike... there are more; I am embarrassed to admit...

What are you currently delaying (is it as many things as I am)? Do you play embarrassing fun games with your friends/family when you are in good people watching areas or on long trips? 

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Dipsea

Like I said yesterday, I have to tell you guys about this funny local race we have. It's called the Dipsea Race and it's supposedly the oldest trail race in the nation and one of the oldest foot races in general. It began in 1905 and aside from a couple of missed years during WWII, has been going strong ever since. It goes from a town called Mill Valley to Stinson Beach and is 7.5 miles long.

starting the climb

To get from the start to the finish, you first climb a series of stairs and then a large hill, before heading back down to the beach. The fun thing about this race is you can get there any way you want. If you know a shortcut, you are allowed to use it. There is also a handicap system in place, based on your age, so it's not always the youngest who win the race. In fact, the 2012 winner was 72 years old.

Up, up, up

After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, my family, who lived in the city at the time, moved out to Mill Valley, and my relatives ran this race shortly after that. When I was one month old, my entire family ran this race and I was there to cheer them on.

My Dad and Aunt getting ready to run.

It is difficult to get into. They only allow about 1,500 people and they have a very strange entry system. If you have not run it before, it is really hard to get in. If you ran last year and you were one of the first 500, you get a chance to register early for this year's race. After that, the application is posted online at noon on a Saturday and you have to print it out and send it via snail mail and the first 500 who get there first get in. For the next few hundred or so, there is a lottery and then the remaining slots can be bid on, sometimes going for hundreds of dollars.

Heading down to Stinson Beach

There is a wild card. If you have a "sob story" you can include it in your packet to attempt to get in. We did this. Our story was how three generations of our family have run this and we would like the fourth (my brother and I) to be able to join the tradition.

We did not get in.

The race is this weekend, and like I said yesterday, last weekend my brother and I decided to hike the trail instead, in honor of my Dad and his family who have run it. What I learned is that we probably want to practice, as it is quite a climb (2,200 ft). Also, we need to practice in order to beat the old guys! They were passing us as we were hiking and they really know their stuff. I don't want to get beat by a 72 year old!

So, we will rework our sob story and we will try again next year!

Have you ever really wanted something but didn't get it? Did you try again or give up? What do you think a better "sob story" would be? 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hood Mountain & Mt. Tam

My family likes to scale tall things. I have mentioned before how my Dad and his friends like to climb to the highest points in each state, but we also like to climb anything tall. Or taller than something else. Or not tall at all. So...pretty much anything.

For instance, we have climbed to the top of Mt Shasta before. The last time we did it was June of 2009. So we figured we were about due for another trip. (However, I just read the recap from last time and I realize it's funny how easily we forget how difficult things are!)

Base camp is at approximately 7,000 ft. The top is at 14,179 ft. It really is pretty much straight up on the way up and if you are lucky, it is snowy, and you can glissade (slide on your butt) half of the way down. That's an approximate elevation gain of 7,000 feet. After races like this, it would seem easy, right? It's not. The high elevation really takes every bit of energy you've got out of you.

So Broski and I are "training" a bit. We never intended to train, but I had a free day a few weeks ago, and he and I decided to hike what we thought** was the tallest mountain in his county, Sonoma County. This is called Hood Mountain (#1), and is about 2,733 feet.

1: Hood, 2: Tam, 3: Diablo

It was approximately 3 miles each way and the day we did it, it was about 100 degrees. We did not bring enough water and there was no water along the way. To top that off, I ran into a poison oak bush with my face near the top and so we ran down to try to get to a stream to rinse it before the oils set in. However, it was a pretty cool hike. From the top you can see Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and the Pacific Ocean. (**note: the tallest one is actually Mt. Saint Helena at 4,342 ft. Boy were we off by a few feet!)

hood mountain
View from the top of Hood Mountain

Next up was Marin County, where the tallest is Mt. Tam (#2), at 2,574 ft. As a sidenote, there is a really famous trail race called the Dipsea, which I will actually probably tell you more about tomorrow because otherwise this post is going to be way too long... Let's just say that we took the long way to the top of Mt. Tam (via the Dipsea trail), so our hike lasted all day. It was a great hike though, taking us past the ocean, through the redwoods, and to the top of many a grassy knoll. If we would have went straight up, it would have been about a 2,500 ft elevation gain, but we took a detour, which caused our climb to be about 5,000 ft instead. This hike took us about 9 hours, since we did the detour, which caused our total mileage to be about 22 miles.

This time we brought enough water. In fact, Broski carried about 8 liters (and two beers!) and I carried 2.5 liters. We were so paranoid after the dehydration from Hood Mountain! However, there were places to fill up your water this time. But we were really glad we brought our own because we froze all the bottles so we would have cold water and it was so nice, since it was about 90 degrees that day and was really dusty to boot!

mt tam
From the top -- with view of the TINY city in the background

Up next is Mt. Diablo (#3), the tallest in Contra Costa county, at 3,849 ft (source). We are ready!

I am not sure this will truly ready us for the thin air of Mt. Shasta, but it's worth a shot and it's fun to do regardless of whether or not it's helping! Of course it's much easier to hike with a tiny Nathan hydration vest rather than a 40 lb pack!

Do you like hiking? Do you have a favorite type of hike? What is your weekend hobby?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Memorial Week

Since I had Memorial Day off from work, I decided to take a couple extra days and go somewhere!

After a few hours in the air (and a great sunrise view of the city),

sunrise over golden gate
The City & The Headlands
I was here:

Dear paradise, please don't leave me. You're so beautiful. I want to stay with you forever. #roatan #nofilter #beachvacation
West Bay

I am not going to bore you with stories of lazing around on the beach, reading, or overeating. Instead, let's talk about the ways you can attempt to stay fit while on vacation. I feel a little list coming on!

Beach Running: I tried to go every day, but there were a few obstacles. First, it was HOT and HUMID. I kept going earlier and earlier but once the sun was up (around 6 am) it was pretty much scorching by then. Also, running in sand is hard. According to this article, running in sand is 1.6 times harder than running on solid ground. So I am going to take that to mean that when I ran 2 miles, it was really 3.2. That way it sounds like I really did something! No really though, you supposedly expend 1.6 x more energy. Coupled with the heat, I would say it's closer to 2 times more!

Swimming: It was so nice to go for a few laps in the clear water (see photo above -- that was my lap pool) every morning after my run.

Diving: According to this website, you burn more calories diving than you do walking fast!  It states that I burned about 200 calories in a half of hour! Also, if you are interesting in scuba diving, I wrote a post a while back about my favorite places to go diving.

shiny sunset
Sunset walk

Kayaking: Coupled with the swimming, this made me have some tired arms at the end of the day! I always say I am like a T-rex: strong legs, weak arms. I need to work on that!

Walking: Where we stayed was about 2 miles from "town" although we did have plenty of restaurants and bars nearby. We walked to town every day and if we could, we also walked back. This was also on the beach, so I wonder if walking in sand is also 1.6 times harder? I am going to go with Yes.

Carrying Water:  We really take tap water for granted! When you can't drink the water, you spend a lot of time buying and lugging around big bottles of water. I drink so much that I buy it a gallon at a time, and that weighs about 8 lbs, so I got a bit of a workout every time I bought a bottle (and especially if I had to carry it from town)!

Dancing in the Sand: This a great way to burn some calories and to have fun, but it also gives you really sore calves the next day! I suggest the Samba. Along with this song. It will really get your blood pumping. By the way, there is actually a specific dance to this song; you can kind of see it here. It is pretty fun! Las Manos Arriba!

What's your vacation strategy? Do you just give up trying to be active or do you make time somehow? Do you plan vacations around activities or activities around vacations?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hurry - Get the Last Great American Bargain!

On the way to Saguaro National Park West
Want to be admitted free at any of the United States' national parks for the rest of your life?  Are there three other people in your car who'd like to get in for free, too?  Would you like a 50% discount on some amenities like camping?

Then don't hesitate if you're a US citizen and at least 62 years old to run to your nearest national park and pay $10 for the Senior Pass.  It truly is the last great bargain in America. It entitles you to free admission and use of all national parks (At most of the parks in the west--the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite-- you will save $20-$25 per car.) as well as Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Land (FWS), Reclamation and Forest Service properties (USDA-FS). And the $10 pass is good for the rest of your life!

But you've got to hurry.  The ranger at Tucson's National Saguara Park West (There are two on either side of Tucson.) told me that the legislation making the Senior Pass possible expires in 2014, and no one knows what will happen.  Everyone hopes the program will remain in place, but it may be discontinued or the fee increased considerably.  Luckily, though, the ranger assured me, all passes bought before 2014 will be honored no matter what.  And, if a new program is in place, current Senior Pass holders will be grandfathered in.  So, get your pass now, and you'll be assured of free admission forever.  What a deal!

Practicalities -

According to a pamphlet explaining the program, passes may be purchased at many locations throughout the country.  You can apply in person or by mail.  Note that you must provide proof of age and residency.  For further uinformation, click here.

Note that there are other passes available:  The $80 annual pass is available to anyone, while the Access Pass for US residents with a permanent disability, regardless of age, is free.  All active members of the military qualify for a free pass.

For further information about Federal Lands or to make reservations, click here.