The last few weeks have been much more work than play. Although compared to work in years past, this work is still play.
The days are filled with culling and moving the belongings as well as researching and planning for the long walk. Other than cataloging items or recording other items before disposing of them, I hadn’t grabbed the camera in almost a month.
It was time to get out for a shoot that wasn’t about working. Although it was long walk related.
We drove the approximate route of a possible self-imposed deviation from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that we’re considering taking this summer. It doesn’t really increase or decrease the length of the walk, but might make a minor resupply easier while getting us more consistent access to water on a 30-mile stretch of the trail.
That access means that we’d have to carry less water, which is less weight. But more exposure to mosquitoes. It’s a tradeoff we’ll consider along the way and likely not make a call until we’re back here in Oregon.
All while keeping in mind a quote from a much faster thru-hiker than us when referring to part of the trail that we would bypass:
“As soon as we crossed the highway, it was like walking into a wall of mosquitoes. There were hundreds at a time all day every day. Carry DEET and a gun to shoot yourself with”. – Straight Jacket
And we’re considering a route with more water.
Granted, we’ll be later in the season, around mid-August, when the mosquitoes really die off up near the mountain lakes, but they’ll still be an issue. Perhaps those will be the days that we get in 30 miles per day to just try to get through it.
A bit of manic hiking, perhaps.
Once we covered part of that detour, we hiked, following the PCT north into that bit of what would be mosquito hell in a few months, then turning back south, crossing the highway and hoping to get a good view of Mount McLoughlin. The day had been clear and I was hoping to get some good late afternoon shots of the snow-covered mountains.
Of course, once we got into a clearing, we could see the clouds moving in. Mind you, I like the clouds. They give some interest and texture to what could be otherwise boring.
But these clouds were getting thicker to the west and really cutting down on the sunlight. I rushed ahead, tramping over the crusty snow and bare trail to find a good vantage point. I left Goddess behind and she wasn’t too pleased with that. But we were losing light.
The view turned out OK. Not quite what I was hoping for, but it was part of a few hours out on the trail. That’s always a good thing.
Plus we were able to attend a viewing of a new movie covering the John Muir Trail (JMT), a 210-mile trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains. During our long walk this summer, we’ll cover about 160 miles of that trail, as they share tread.
The movie is a documentary of two ultra-marathon runners who set a “fastest known time” for the trail back in 2013. It just so happens that one of the runners, Hal Koerner, owns our local running shop and is a certifiable badass.
This trailer gives a glimpse of some of the beauty that we’ll be walking through.
It’s not too often that I talk about companies or products here. I have talked about some cycling, running and triathlon related products over the years, especially once I’m confident that it’s something that I like.
This is one of those times.
Actually, a moment to rave about some phenomenal customer support from one of the companies.
The company is Light & Motion, creators of personal lighting systems for pretty much any activity you want to engage in, on ground, in the air or in the water.
I bought a set of Stella 300 Dual headlights back in autumn of 2009. I needed them for my bicycle commute to/from work in Germany. If you’ve lived in Germany, the winters are cold and dark. Very dark. Especially if you spend a large amount of time riding through the forest, hoping to dodge any deer or boar that want to cross the trail.
They treated me extremely well through 3.5 brutal German winters, including two in a row that the German weather service declared “the worst in 40 years”, followed by “the worst in 41 years”.
Days like this:
Except when I was commuting, it was pitch black except for what the Stella would illuminate. Which on a snowy ride like this, pretty much everything was illuminated for a good 30-40 yards ahead.
Like I said, brilliant riding.
Here in Oregon, I don’t need them for daily commutes, instead breaking them out on occasion, like every Monday to get home from the bike polo game. A couple of months ago I realized they were not working as they had, or should. So I contacted Light & Motion.
A bit of talking back and forth and they suggested that I send it in for a look. Which I did.
They arrived back at my front door today, an almost completely brand new set.
Looking at the work order, it mentions that they replaced the cable (that runs between the battery and the lights) as well as changed out the lights. In other words, they rebuilt a new set, which is great since they no longer make this model.
So the lights are almost five years old and completely rebuilt.
They covered it under warranty work!
The quote that they gave me prior to the work was extremely reasonable, coming in at around 1/10 the cost of buying a new light kit. I was pleased with that, knowing that their standard warranty length is two years. But three years after that point, they still covered it.
Amazing service that was completely unexpected. Unexpected, but greatly appreciated.
Broadcasting their excellence to the world is the least I can do.
So if you’re in the market for headlamps or headlights or dive lights, buy from Light & Motion.
I know any lights I buy in the future will be from them.
From the looks of things, it was quickly put together on short notice. But no matter. Kudos to the organizer for spending the time to pull it off.
Goddess and I, after a busy day, decided to head downtown to get a look. We walked to the main street and headed towards the meeting point. About halfway, we realized that we were almost in the middle of the small turnout. Mostly kids with their parents, some teens, a smattering of adults. Walking way too fast for zombies, but enjoying themselves nonetheless.
Goddess and I were on the road this week. A wide loop through Bavaria, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. A route filled with landscapes that we love.
Plus this new one, which Goddess had never visited.
And acknowledged that it is not a bad place in which to wake up.
We even discussed the feasibility of my staying there while she drove up to Germany to “rescue” Skinny, our greyhound, while I looked for a place to live.
Never mind the fact that we would have to live like paupers here.
But it was still an interesting exercise.
That is the view of Lago Como (Lake Como), Italy, looking southward on the western shores from Menaggio.
It was a glorious morning, clear and +5C. The roads were full of cyclists and runners, the shoreline full of fishermen, the cafés filling with patrons as they got ready for church.
Our kind of place.
Especially considering that some four hours later, we were exiting the north end of the Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland, where it was snowing at a rate of 4 inches per hour (10cm/hr) and visibility at best was 100 meters.
As I mentioned yesterday, winter showed its face a bit earlier than normal this year.
It was a lovely drive through the highlands of the Rhineland Pfalz, enjoying the snowy carpet. But we also knew that it would disappear quickly as we dropped down into the Rhine River valley. And it did.
But the big surprise was, as we crossed the valley and approached Heidelberg, the snowline had dropped low enough that the Odenwald had a nice cap on it too.
That quickly changed our plans. Actually, I changed our plans and Goddess was gracious enough to go along with it. Which meant that she dropped me off while she ran the errands solo, then came back to collect me after sunset.
I’m thankful she did.
And if you click on the image, it will take you to a page where you can go back and look at the different faces of this scene.
I find the spot quite interesting, changing character with the changing light.
And changing characters.
So is it any wonder that during my weekly run up and along this hill I always have to stop and walk this stretch ?
But that’s not a race. Although there was some racing. Mainly me trying to catch up to the pack every time the road moved off of level or we hit a secteur pavé.
Although I could leave the fellas scattered by the wayside once I got the diesel engine wound up and started the sprint from a kilometer out.
And while that’s all great, great fun, it’s not an organized race.
And the reality was, as I posted in February of last year, I was athletically rudderless, not really interested in pursuing a specific athletic goal. Mainly because most of the ones that interest me take so much time away from Goddess. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite keen on the Goddess. That means I am quite protective of my time with her, so I wasn’t wild about the 4-6 hour (or more) weekend training days that marathons, ultra-marathons or grand bike tours require.
So I just kept an unfocused training regimen, focused on having fun and staying fit, while not demanding too much time from Goddess. And I kept a thought in the back of my mind, which I did verbalize to a few folks, that I wanted to remain fit enough that I could fake my way through a half, whether that be a half-marathon or a half-Ironman triathlon.
That brings us to today.
On a lark a couple of months back, I signed up for the Heidelberg Half Marathon. It was to be interesting, since I had no plans to specifically train for the race, just rely on my fitness and see how it worked out, since my training at the time was focused on a grand bike tour. Plus, considering that I have not run greater than seven miles in the past two years, save for one other lark of a 14-miler that involved running straight up the side of the Alps, then back down, running 13.1 miles was going to be a stretch. Especially this one, with some pretty steep sections and 3,400′ of cumulative climbing.
I was going to have to rely on the diesel engine and hope that the suspension held up.
Here’s the race map, overlaid on terrain:
That gives you an idea of the terrain. But it doesn’t tell the truth like the profile does:
Like I said, this was a lark. In the previous week, I had run three times, including a fairly fast 1.5 miles for my fitness test. Before that, I had not run in a month, thanks to a combination of things. I had injured myself playing frisbee, which halted any running. Then I went on the grand bike tour and didn’t have time to. Then I got back and came down with some crud that kept me down for over a week.
And that led into this week. Monday was a slow 5-miler to make sure everything still worked properly. Wednesday was a hill run which included the same set of stairs in PR; this time I set a new PR and ran up the entire set of stairs without stopping, although the pace was decidedly slower than 9:35. Then on Friday was my PT test, so basically it was a short race.
In short, I didn’t train for this half-marathon, nor did I taper.
I was walking into it cold.
When I signed up, I took a stab at a finishing time and selected two hours. I based that on the terrain and hope. Unfortunately, hope is not a technique.
I seeded myself appropriately in my corral (#4 of 4), towards the back. I cracked jokes with a few first-timers that I’m surprised we weren’t surrounded by people with walkers, complete with tennis balls. We were only there a few minutes, then the gun went off for our group (some 850 people). It was time to settle into a comfortable pace and see how the day worked out.
It wasn’t long before I was passing people. That turned out to be the theme of the day. I started out near the back of the 3,445 that finished and I finished 1,416 overall. The math is simple – I passed over 2,000 people in 13.1 miles. On this course.
Luckily a good portion of this run is on familiar ground, with the first large hill being part of our normal Monday run. So I knew what to expect. However, the course splits from where we normally head back down to the valley and continues upstream, then crosses further up than I am familiar with. Then heads straight up the other side so that we can loop behind the Heidelberg Castle. So after the midway point, it was all new territory. And that kept my effort in check.
The only spots I walked were the water points. No sense in trying to run and drink, instead sloshing water all over myself. Although plenty of people did and gained nothing from it. I did find it interesting that so many thought that they were saving time, although they had to slow down so much to prevent the sloshing that they might as well have been walking.
The flats were OK. The uphills were great, probably because that’s where I passed huge chunks of people each time. At one point, in the closing miles, we were climbing a series of cobbled switchbacks that were steeper than 20% grade and I had a flashback to the grand bike tour. And the downhills were fun, cruising past many folks who just weren’t comfortable with letting go. I was amazed at how many were walking the gradual downhills, even only halfway through the race.
As you can tell, I had a great time.
But there was one significant annoyance, for which I’m partially at fault. The race is capped at 3,500 registered participants, mainly due to the narrow streets in Heidelberg as well as the narrow trails through the forest. My fault was ignorantly seeding myself way at the back. The annoyance were the many, many, many runners who could not hold their line while running, instead darting side to side even though they gained nothing from the maneuver. I spent more time than I cared guiding people with my forearm, especially when their erratic movement threatened to push me off the trail and down the hill or into a ditch. Or gently guiding someone forward who would dart into an open spot, but not overtake the people around him, while many of us were flying downhill at a much greater pace than they were. But once we got past that section (and ran straight up a wall), the crowds were all but torn apart and the running became smoother.
My piriformis started talking to me at about the eight mile mark, but nothing more than a gentle reminder that I was abusing them. In the closing miles, my calves started twinging, telling me that they were close to cramping up. I’ve been there before, so knew how hard I could push it, keeping right at that point where they would twinge, but nothing more. In the last half mile, a time where I’m usually flying past other runners, I didn’t. But none caught and passed me either.
So the time?
Without training for it.
Just keeping myself fit with a good mix of high intensity and endurance training, mainly on the bike. And that time fit nicely within the cluster of times for the half-marathons that I trained specifically for.
The trick will be seeing how I walk on Tuesday morning.
The fall colors are amazing. The history is amazing. The people are amazing.
Our Thanksgiving dinner in 2005, after a full day of sightseeing and acting like paparazzi with the Geisha and Maiko in Gion, was in an Irish pub.
Fish and chips, Guinness and a few shots of Irish whiskey with some great friends.
And it’s those memories that we’re thankful for.
Philosophenweg Fall Color
Speaking of thankful, this is the view from one of my favorite local runs, overlooking old Heidelberg. Although usually at this point, which is near the top of 400′ of climbing in just over a mile, I’m sucking too much air to really enjoy it.
And the really fun part is the descent, losing the same 400′, but in only 1/2 mile.