Thursday, December 18, 2008

Masters Indoor Track - 'tis the season

Well, I've been threatening to do this for a year now and finally, the time is now. I'm planning to sprint competitively for the first time in 30 years on Dec. 27 (pending weather) at the Upstate Holiday Classic at RIT in NY. Of course, I've not really been training for this specifically, but I have been running. Like last year, this was a last minute decision. I will be in NY for the holidays and this year, I'll be bringing my Adidas. I plan to run the 55m and the 200m at RIT. If all goes well and I do ok, I'll likely run in the Ed Temple Indoor meet at TSU on 1/11. I've already registered but not yet paid.

I tried out my sprint legs yesterday at the Murphy Center. I ran two 300's with some of the elite college runners. Yea they smoked me but I was able to stay with them for 150m, not bad for an old white guy. I also did 4 full power starts out of the blocks with my spikes. Felt fine! No leg issues except that I'm a little sore today. Amazing that I can run 2:45 half mile repeats for days and feel no soreness, but just sprint two 300's and I'm sore. It's a totally different running experience.

For my first meet, I'd love to be around 7.5 in the 55m and under 25.0 in the 200m. I'd like to 'get on the board' at the Masters Rankings website. On the other hand, if I can't break 8 in the 55m and 26 in the 200m, I think I'll just hang it up.

Maybe if I get two meets under my belt with decent times, I'll get the balls to bug Dean Hayes again to let me run in a college meet at the Murphy Center. Last year he was kind enough to put me in but I had to scratch at the last minute. I don't want to ask him again unless I've actually done it before ...
I mean sometime since 1978:

UPDATE: I scratched from the 12/27 RIT meet. It was 3 hrs away and I entertained at my parent's 49th Anniversary party the night before and didn't feel like getting up early to drive the 3 hrs to race. I would not have been able to run the 200m and the 55m would have been risky since my left quad has again been strained since the last workout. I hope I'll be ready in 2 weeks to run the 55m at TSU.

Do the right thing - spay/neuter your animal

I saw him again... that cat.

My woods are full of feral cats. They seemed to be breeding out of control.
I've always suspected a particular large black and white tom cat was the father of many of these young cats. I also suspect he has fought with my cats. I see him all the time, walking around my property, drinking from my pool - like he owns the place. I saw him again last night. So, I decided to try and trap him. I've learned that having him neutered will take away that instinct to fight and also control the cat population around here.

After less than an hour, the trap was sprung but empty. Drat, that cat is too smart to get caught. So, I reset the trap in a different location and caught a cat, but not the one I wanted. This little female tabby looked to be less than a year old. The ear wasn't tipped* so I knew she hadn't been fixed. I called the Beesley clinic and they said they could take her today so I got my coat on. As I was looking at this cat, she didn't seem feral. So, I stuck my finger through the cage and touched her. She immediately began purring. I took her out of the cage and held her. She was clearly not a feral cat. I called my neighbor and found that she had just taken these 2 kittens, neither had been fixed, it was her cat. So, I returned her cat and encouraged her to have them fixed. It looks like that cat, the big black and white tom cat will have to wait for another day.

Thanks to Tana who has educated me on this subject and has done more to help control the cat population in Mid TN than anyone I know. At great personal expense, Tana has saved the lives of many animals. She has personally trapped, fixed, and released several cats in my neighborhood. I've learned a lot from her. Tana is a hero and champion of animals. Her actions could even help preserve the health of my own cats:

As my cats get older, I don't want to have them fighting for their territory and being infected or injured by these feral cats.

*If you're unfamiliar with Snip and Tip, it is a trap/neuter/return (TNR) program that will help control the population of feral and free roaming cats. All cats will receive a left ear tip to identify them as a spayed or neutered and vaccinated cat. Probably best that you read about how to trap cats humanely if you plan to do it.

Be responsible, have respect for life and don't be a Dick:

Spay/neuter your animals!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A different motorcycle culture: high on adventure, low on chrome and noise

The mint condition 2001 Kawasaki Super Sherpa.

I have to remind myself to drive this bike every month or so. It is nearly eight yrs old and has just 1170 miles on it. It just sits in the shed covered and shiny. Today I put a few miles on it, polished it up, and put it away.

I have an identical twin to this bike that I use a lot for commuting and off road adventure. So, why do I have two?

Well, this bike is ideal for me and they stopped selling it in the US in 2003. They replaced it with the KLR 250 which is nearly 30lbs heavier and 3 inches taller. A WORLD of difference on the trail. So, I thought that I'd kill one with my rugged off road riding and and keep one in reserve after I ruined the first. Guess what. This bike has proved to be extremely tough. It fell off the back of my truck last month and even that didn't hurt it much (slightly bent handlebars but I was able to correct it). Yea, it has a dented gas tank, ripped seat, and scratched up fenders ... but it spins like a top. Extremely reliable bike.

Well, guess what (again)? Kawasaki is reissuing the Sherpa for 2009. I guess they realized what a great bike this was.

I'm not impressed by the big custom Harleys and road bikes I see. I guess I'm more utilitarian in my perception of mechanical beauty. Unlike those bikes that sound like highly amplified farting going down the road, I'll stay with my quiet and nimble Sherpa, thank you. No chrome, noise, tattoos, minimally protective helmets and gray pony tails for me. Not my culture.

In fact, I feel sorry for those guys... confined to the pavement, trying to be cool like everyone else. They'll never be able to go where I do.

This is my motorcycle culture:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Moon Room

My upstairs sunroom has a glass ceiling and it becomes a 'moon room' on these nights of the brilliant full moon.
(click pictures to enlarge)

The white moonlight gives this room full of tropical plants an ethereal glow when the lights are off at night. It was really ethereal watching the snow come down last night and then see the moon break through the clouds directly overhead.

This is also a great 'rain room.'

In fact I like it best in this room when the sun is not shining.

Next to the little gas fireplace in this room, I'll be drinking lots of Assam tea and practicing guitar for my upcoming concert season.

This is a great room to practice in. I learned two Rodrigo concertos in this room. I like it especially at night and when it rains. A great room to watch lightning from as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bill's New Myspace Music Page

I finally created a myspace music page with music clips, photos, videos, and my concert schedule.

It was hard to decide on which six MP3s to put up, so if you don't like the clip that's playing, try the next one.

Here it is:

Here's an old photo I found of a concerto I played back in the 90's.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Day '08: 18 mile hike in Savage Gulf

It was too nice of a day to sit inside and EAT! I'm so non-traditional. I knew it would be the last warm day for a while, maybe the rest of the year. So, I set out for an exceptionally challenging solo hike, since it seemed that I was the only person in the world without family obligations. I did get a few invites but again, sorry, too nice of a day to plan to sit inside and eat. I hit the social groups that evening in time for dessert.

I decided to try a new route. Since I was hiking alone, I could go for it. Do a long challenging hike to enjoy the beautiful day and get some great exercise to complement the running and swimming I had been doing. Savage Gulf is the premiere hiking spot in the South Cumberland in TN. Along with the Fiery Gizzard, Savage Gulf provides nearly 16,000 acres of wilderness hiking trails. (BTW... you can tell the non serious TN hikers from the real avid and adventurous hikers if they ask you "where's Savage Gulf"?). I always like hiking the Collins Gulf Loop at Savage Gulf because it is truly the path less traveled. Since they paved the first mile of the Stone Door trail more than a decade ago, I stopped hiking from there. Just too many people.

I decided to go from the Collins West access to Stone Door. I estimated it would be 14-16 miles roundtrip to Stone Door and back. I was wrong. With the short side trips and the walk to the parking area, my GPS said 18.2 miles.

I started at 10:25 am and looked at the the log book at the trail head. Good! No other hikers. I descended the rocky path down to Suter Falls to find that whoa... they built a new bridge across the creek. It was never really difficult for me to cross without the bridge, so on principle, I didn't use the bridge and scampered across the creek on the rocks. "This place is getting too civilized," I thought to myself but little did I know, that bridge would be a most welcome sight 7 hrs later.

Hiking past the cliff walls and through some of the most rugged terrain of the hike, I descended into the area near the creek best know for its beauty during wildflower season. Since the leaves were down, I had great views of the surrounding cliff faces and the creek was running strong.

About five miles into the hike, just past Decatur Savage Cabin on the Connector Trail, literally in the middle of nowhere, I met a lone hiker, the only hiker I would see all day. A man in his mid 50s who was out prepared to stay for a few days, fully loaded with tent pack on his way from Stone Door to Hobbs Cabin. I'll never forget the first thing he said to me... "If your looking for a Starbucks up ahead, you're outta luck." I almost fell on the ground laughing. This guy was an experienced hiker. We talked about Savage and he seemed to know it just as well as I. I asked him if I could make it to Stone Door in an hour and he said no. But that didn't stop me from trying. I jogged when I could on the flats. I had decided that 1:30 was my absolute turnaround time if I expected to make it out before dark. I made it to Stone Door cliff tops at 1:18. I relaxed, changed my socks and took a few pictures. I was surprised that even on these exposed cliffs, no cell phone service. I doubt there is any cell service in the entire Savage Gulf. I started back down the stone staircase at 1:50.

After crossing the swinging bridges on the Connector Trail, I decided to take the short side trip and check out Cator Savage Cabin. It had been a while. The thing I most remember about that place is the large Asian pear tree that is just busting with fruit every July/August. It now seemed I was destined to walk at least a mile in the dark. I planned fairly well with lights and cold weather gear, but my 1 liter of water was barely sufficient and I took my last swallow in the last mile of the climb out. Stupidly, I took no food and was hiking on an empty stomach. For me, there is a big difference in hiking 14 miles and 18 miles, especially when the last mile is steep and rugged.

As I watched the last golden sun fade from the tops of the cliffs, I knew my day light was running out. I passed Horsepound Falls at 4:20, just before sunset and by the time I got to Suter Falls, I was totally in the dark.

Around Suter Falls is a jumble of boulders and rhododendron, very thick and the trail hard to find. I did get momentarily lost but the sound of the falls kept me oriented. Things look totally different in the view of a flashlight than in daytime.

Damn I was so happy to see that new bridge at Suter. I knew I had less than a mile to go but it was going to be difficult. I was near exhaustion with 17+ miles behind me, it was 5:10 pm and I hadn't eaten all day and was out of water. My feet hurt and the footing was really challenging with the rocks covered with leaves. I had to stop and rest many times and be extra cautious because my normal level of agility was compromised by fatigue. I know how Tana must have felt when she hiked that part for the first time with me in April. It is a rugged trail and even more challenging in the dark and wet. I finished the hike at 5:25, the Garmin GPS said it was 18.2 miles.

I was real happy to reach the car and was delighted that the local convenience store was open. What a delicious chocolate bar that was! What a Thanksgiving to remember!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Run easy? -- Updated

UPDATE: I will be running in masters sprint races this season.

I hope to run the 55m and the 200m at the Holiday Classic at RIT on 12/27. and the 55m at the Ed Temple Classic in Nashville on 1/11.
I've returned to running a bit.
Not the ambitious 5 day a week training I did last season, but the knee seems ok to run 2 to 3 times a week. I'm alternating running with swimming. I doubt I'll run any 5k races this year since I don't want to train the way I did. Don't think my knee would stand up to it. I did want to run in some masters sprint races this season but was really disappointed that the AL Track Club is not offering meets this year at Priceville.

Anyway, despite my lack of training and weighing 10 lbs more than I did during last racing season, I've had a few good workouts this week. Hopefully this is just the beginning and I'll get back to my racing weight of 140 - 142, then we'll see.

1 mile - 6:42
6 min rest
3 miles - 21:36 (7:12 pace)
10 min rest
1 mile - 6:32

3 miles - 21:32 (7:11 pace)
6 min rest
quarter mile sprint - 1:06

6 x half mile intervals - 3:04 avg
3 min rest in between

I can't seem to run slow easy distance. Since I want to limit myself to no more than 10 miles a week, I need to make them count. Coach says I could still be fast by cross-training, doing good cardio training in the pool. I did my first set of intervals in the pool on Sat and I think he's right.

Anyway, speaking of running fast, I saw this ad for Pearl Izumi running shoes in USATF mag and I wanted to copy it here for those of us who endure the pavement:

What is it about running that scares people so much? Why do people feel they have to put friendly modifiers next to running so everyone can feel good about it? Well, here's the ugly truth. Everyone shouldn't feel good about running. It's hard. It hurts. Running requires sacrifice, heart, and guts. Any attempt to water it down with feel good adjectives is a slap in the face to those of us who still hold running sacred. In fact, if you're running easy, odds are you're not running at all. You're jogging! So, do us a favor, don't run easy. Run hard. Run like an animal.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

I spent 4 days at the southern tip of the
Baja peninsula last week, Cabo San Lucas.

(click on photos to enlarge)

My parents and I stayed in the PlayaGrande Resort , an incredible place. This was one of the nicest resorts I've ever stayed at. We got the closest room to the ocean that the resort offered. Cabo is always warm, it's about 1000 miles south of Los Angeles, on the same latitude as Havana, Cuba. The weather was perfect. Mid 80's day, mid 60's at night, no rain, mostly sunny. Most of the activity around the beach was during the morning and evening with most preferring the shade by the pool during the heat of the day. I liked the mango daiquiris.

The beach was way different than the gulf coast I'm most familiar with. On the Gulf, we have powdery sugar-white sand strewn with shells and seaweed, a beach that's sloped very gradually to the sea, gentle surf, friendly for swimmers. The Pacific coast of Cabo was steep with a more powerful and fast surf breaking close to shore. The sand was light brown and more coarse, made up of a multitude of colorful granules on close inspection. Due to the scouring action of the waves, generally between 5 and 10 feet, the beach was pristine and clean, devoid of large shells and seaweed.

From our room, we could hear the thunderous surf. It was a kaleidoscope of sounds... crash, whooosh, rumble, thunder, etc.... Looking at Cabo on a map, you realize how exposed this place is to the Pacific Ocean. I slept with the door facing the ocean open at night, just so I could hear the sounds, even though I'd get woken up every night. Every hour or so, the surf would generate some mighty waves that would literally shake the building. It was awesome. I could feel the low frequency vibrations and the door frame would rattle.

The whole time I was there, I never saw one person swim on the Pacific side. There were some swimmers on the bay side. I had to try it so I went in between on an isolated beach near the famed arches. Wading in up to my chest, I was knocked off my feet immediately and sucked out toward the sea. This would be a problem for a weak swimmer because it became deep rapidly. I simply treaded water and waited calmly for the next wave to bring me in and when I hit the beach, I dug in with hands and feet in the sand so I wouldn't get sucked out again. I can see the danger. No wonder the riptide warning signs and no one swimming. In the video, notice the slope of the beach and how quickly the waves run out.

This trip was great to spend time with my parents. My dad and I enjoyed some great drinks by the pool and some awesome dinners. I spent some time wandering into the shops in town with my mom. I brought back a few souvenirs. I even sat in with the band at a local restaurant and played a few tunes at another restaurant, borrowing the guitar of the Mexican singer who was playing a gig there.

The beaches were separated by stands of cliffs and boulders. This was a boulder scrambler/ rock climber's paradise. Going from Playa Grande W/NW to the beaches directly below the cliff top mansions of Sylvester Stallone and the elite, one has to climb across some very challenging boulders. It was quite fun but required a great amount of agility, strength, and good judgment. A fall could be serious in this terrain since one had to stay up about 20-30 feet above the crashing waves so as to avoid the slippery slimy rocks. When things get difficult, it kept me going to see 'what was around the bend'... and I wasn't disappointed.

Around the bend, I saw an amazing rock formation. Carved by a millennia of wind and water, it was an arm shaped rock that curved away from the surf and stood about 30' high. It stood above a V-shaped inlet in the rock that magnified the surf. When waves came in, a particularly large swell would cause a large burst of spray, sometimes 30' high. I made a video of the surf.

The final day, Sunday, I was up at daybreak in search of one final adventure, and I found one. Heading southeast toward the mountain that separates the bay side from the Pacific, where the famed Cabo arches are, I started climbing, not knowing if I'd be able to reach the summit.

The terrain was mostly solid, devoid of vegetation save for a few cacti, and provided excellent traction. Most of the climb was what you would call "class 3" - requiring constant use of hands, but near the summit, there were some sections of "class 4". Definitely territory where if you fall, you die, game over. I took my time in the golden morning sunlight. It was less than an hour after sunrise and the weather was perfect. I was climbing shirtless and as I neared the top, I saw a cross planted at the summit. It was an awesome sight, and very 'exposed' ... adding to the thrill. As I climbed higher and became more committed to the summit, the terrain became more difficult and that made me a little nervous but I kept my cool and stopped to take photos as the morning fishing fleet was going out. I pondered climbing down and I reasoned that there must be an easier way to get down. I know it would be even more difficult to climb down the way I came up. I neared the summit ridge and saw one more scary ledge to climb, a nearly vertical fissure in the rocks. I made it no problem because of the abundant hand holds.

On the summit ridge, I scrambled over to the cross and thanked myself for not falling. The view was tremendous. I could see all of Cabo, Playa Grande, and the marina. The back side of the mountain, as I had expected, was an easy descent. It was green with vegetation and there were trails the led down to a dirt road. The only problem was that I was obviously trespassing as noted by the signs. I came out at the end of the road to a compound that housed several vicious sounding dogs that were going crazy and I expected any moment to be attacked by a dog or confronted by security. Fortunately, they must have been still sleeping since it was before 8 am. I quickly hopped the fence and got outta there. It was worth it, another great adventure - boldly going where few have gone before.

The following series of photos follow the progression of my climb at sunrise from the beach.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Cabo to the Cumberlands - 2 days in November

How's this for two days?

Sunday - climbing a mountain from the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Monday - off road motorcycling to the high cliffs above the TN River Gorge

Yes, "the life less ordinary."

I'll post more photos later and a story, here's just a few.

Click to enlarge photos...

Friday, October 17, 2008

More photos: Fontana Lake and the North Carolina mountains in October

More photos from my 5 day trip to Fontana Lake and dual sport cycling in the NC mountains.

(click on photos to enlarge)

The first photo was taken on my way home at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Since I'll be writing an article about this trip in Adventure Motorcycle, I brought along a tripod to take the compulsory 'ride photos' of myself on the bike.

These next 3 photos are taken at high elevation, well over 5000'. The amazingly red colored ground cover is blueberry bush. They create such a heavenly color to these mountain peaks and meadows.

The first 2 cycle pics are at Cheoah Bald in the Nantahala National Forest. The Appalachian Trail crosses this peak. Of course, I did not ride the bike on the AT (sacrilegious and illegal!) but just to the end of a forest service trail that took me to the peak. I admit some of these trails were gated but the network of ATV and hunting trails made it easy to bypass the gates. I certainly wouldn't do this in the GSMNP, but the National Forest was open for hunting and many gates were open. Monday was the first day of bear season, glad I was wearing red!

The third cycle photo was taken northeast of Cullowhee, NC where I rode dozens of miles to the high country west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I actually rode to and onto the Parkway but did so unwittingly on a brief portion of the Land to Sea hiking trail (oops).

BTW... my bike, the lightweight air-cooled sleek and quiet 2001 Kawasaki Super Sherpa 250 performed beautifully. Not only did it take an occasional beating on the trail, but it took me dozens of highway miles at 70 mph to get to these awesome places... as well as to work the day I returned home. Kawasaki discontinued this bike in the US in 2003 but has now reissued it in it's original design for 2009. (I guess they realized what a mistake it was to pull this wonderful bike from the market).

The next two photos are of the shoreline at Fontana. Not quite at peak color, but an occasional splash of color made it nice. You can see how low the lake is. Fontana routinely varies 50 feet a year, really a drop in the bucket for such a deep lake. The water depth is often over 100' just a stones throw from shore and over 200' in the channel. No worries for hitting rocks. These 2 lake photos are from Eagle Creek at the west end of the lake where I spent the first night.

The most remarkable thing you first notice about being on this lake is the near total silence. You can hear waves lightly washing ashore a mile away.

The next two trail photos are also from the Nantahala Forest. A forest road just south of Fontana that winds 15 miles into the mountains and, like many such trails, simply ends. This trail is on Deep Gap Mountain. There were wild mountain grapes along the trail and some really healthy looking bear scat. That's one thing I don't have to worry about while riding - bear. Bear obviously would fear the sound of a bike and it's impossible to surprise them, even with the relative quietness of this particular bike.

These next photos show the progression of morning from predawn fog, to the crack of dawn, foggy morning daylight, sunrise, the lifting of the fog and a windy morning that brought whitecaps and spray.

The weather was unbelievably good. Near 80 during the day at lake elevation, and 50's at night. It was considerably cooler at higher elevations.

This trip reminded me how great it is to live on the boat. I started and ended every day with a quick dip in the lake (which was a chilly 70 degrees) then a brief hot shower and dry off in front of the propane heater. That followed by a hot cup of tea in the morning and dinner at night. In the evenings, I watched a few movies on DVD, did my taxes, and learned a new guitar piece. Mornings were relaxed and slow. I never made it to the dock to start my ride much before noon. I enjoyed cruising slowly up the lake while playing guitar and drinking tea, waiting for the fog to rise which sometimes didn't happen until 10 am or later. Other boaters were very very few. 100% of them were fisherman or bear hunters. I think I saw only 2 or 3 boats before noon on Saturday morning while covering 10+ miles of lake.

Truly a paradise few get to see, and I hope it stays this way.

I was encouraged that this route through Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN is far quicker than the way I used to go through Maryville and on that crazy winding mountain road that cyclists call "the Tail of the Dragon". I made it home from dock to door in 4 hrs and 15 min. The Ford Expedition towed that boat at 75 mph down the highway, and 60 mph up Monteagle mountain, no problem. The front mounted motorcycle carrier was an idea I had in a dream. I found they made a front mounted receiver hitch specifically for my truck where I attached the cycle carrier with auxilliary headlights. Visibility is no problem. The bike remains secure as it is locked to the carrier. The setup works well and I hope to do this trip again.

These last photos are of the trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love this trail, a carpet of red and gold leaves.

I'm looking forward to the fall colors to come to Middle TN. I know some really special places I want to photograph in the glory of fall colors. Summer is my favorite season but fall is great too.