A slow start -- but a start

As I committed to publicly on January 25, I ran the Magnuson Spring Series 5K last weekend. It was a cold and windy day (25+ knot winds -- lots of wind surfers out). Waiting around before the race was pretty uncomfortable, but fortunately the race wasn't super crowded so I was able to park close to the start (and wait in the car).

Once the race started, things felt better. The sun came out, and hills blocked the wind for part of the course. As usual, I started out too fast (even though I was trying not to). I was hurting by the end, but I managed to push out a 30:56 overall time. This was slower than my goal of 30 minutes, and slower than all of my previous 5K runs nine years ago, but I was happy to average just under 10 minute miles (9:59/mile). My splits were 9:29 (too fast!), 10:10, 10:12 and (on track for) 9:10 for the last .1 mile.

Being older definitely makes things harder, and to be frank, I didn't run nearly enough over the last two months to expect anything else. The friend who signed up with me bailed, so I wound up doing this alone. In the end that was probably better, so no one I knew saw the agony on my face.

According to the official results, I finished 56th overall out of 142 runners. Unfortunately, they didn't report results by age group.

All that aside, it was fun to test myself and motivational to have the goal of running the race. I need to figure out my next goal race now.

Magnuson Series sign with starting line and Lake Washington in the background


GPS track of Magnuson Park 5K

Getting off my fat ass. Again.

Long time readers (hi, Mom) know that I've done some long distance running and biking events over the past few years like the Mercer Island Half Marathon and the "Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party" bike ride. However, I fell off the wagon once we moved to China and never really picked it back up. More than ever, I need work out, so I've decided to use the same formula I did nine years ago - signing up for an event with friends and committing publicly to it. I seem to need a clear goal and some accountability to motivate me.

This time, I've signed up for the Magnuson Spring Series 5K on March 21. It should be a flat 5K (I ran there before); I mostly just need to get out and start running to get this one done.

Anyone else want to join me?

Duck Dodge!

As I've written about previously, I crew on a racing sailboat in the summers. Maybe once a year, we skip our regular race on Lake Washington and do the Duck Dodge.

This race is a Seattle institution (apparently, it's listed as one of Fodor's Top 100 Things to Do in North America). It's held on Lake Union, just on the north edge of downtown Seattle with the Space Needle in the background. Each week there's a wacky theme (we went out on Egyptian Night); many crews dress up or even decorate their boats, although we didn't. There are typically a ton of boats out, so it can be quite lovely and fun.
Duck Dodge fleet in front of the Space Needle

It's a pretty casual race with loose rules, but the one special rule is that you can't make a duck change course; if you do, you have to do a penalty turn. The first three finishers in each class (there are three, roughly divided by how fast your boat is) get a gold, silver, or bronze duck sticker. These are highly coveted in the Seattle area; winners typically put the stickers on their boom.

We've won a sticker in each race we've entered, but we had never won a gold first place prize. Despite the shifty, tricky winds, this year we finally won our class, by quite a big margin actually.

The funny thing was that we thought we were in second the whole race. It's a little difficult to tell which boats were in which class. We thought we were in the same class as a J/80 ahead of us (we had taken second to a J/80 last year - it's a much faster boat than our J/24), but when we finished, the committee boat staff told us we had won. The J/80 crew had apparently decided to join the faster class.

So, we looped around and picked up our sticker from the committee boat.
Bobby picking up the gold sticker from the committee boat.

We promptly stuck our first gold sticker on the boom. (We have a bronze and a silver duck on the other side of the boom too.)
Our gold duck sticker, next to an older bronze duck sticker.

Our merry band then motored back to our dock, quite happy. (It didn't hurt that we had an amazing bottle of rum onboard: a Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 - perhaps the best rum I've ever had and one that many commenters on my "Best Rum in the World" post mentioned. Highly recommended.)

A Nice Hike Up Little Si

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Since the weather was so nice today and since they spent most of the day playing video games and watching TV yesterday (for Michael's 11th bday), the boys and I got outside today and went for a hike on Little Si. This was the first time I'd been there, although Michelle had taken them there before.

Little Si is a nice hike about 25 minutes from our house. It's around five miles round trip from the trailhead with 1200 feet of elevation gain. Most of the hike is through the woods with some scrambling up rocks in sections. The views at the top are great. It took us about 1:15 up and :50 down. It was a popular hike today, so the parking lot was pretty full. Andrew (14) enjoyed it and wants to do more hiking; Michael (11) was inexplicably grumpy today (as you can see from the photo below).

Here's us at the summit (actually standing at the highest point:
Michael, Tony, and Andrew standing on the top of Little Si

You can see the breathtaking view here behind Andrew (this is looking SE, I think).
Andrew standing in front of a great mountain-and-valley vista.

RoadID - Don't Leave Home Without One

I've been meaning to blog about RoadID for a while. As longtime readers of this blog know (thanks to all four of you, especially my mom!), I run and bike on occasion. I have a long standing paranoia, though, of being found dead or injured on the side of the road, and first responders not knowing who I am or how to reach my family.

My RoadID

So, to address this concern, I always wear a RoadID (usually on my ankle because it's out of the way). These are bracelets with your emergency info engraved on them. They have a few different varieties (e.g. one that you can lace into your running shoes). I now have one for China and one for the US. They're inexpensive and well-made -- I whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone who runs or bikes.

(As a side note, when I'm on the road or vacationing, I usually slip a note with my name and hotel info into my pocket. It's not as durable, but it's better than nothing.)

RoadID logo


Fun Sailing Season

We wrapped up our sail racing season this week with a perfect evening: sunny, warm, and breezy. To top it off, we sailed really well, taking a 5th and a 7th out of 28 or so boats (and beating some of the top boats in the fleet).

Not sure what I'm going to do to scratch my sailing itch now that we're moving to Beijing. Hopefully, I'll be able to squeeze some in somehow.

The fleet on a downwind leg
J24 fleet on a downwind leg

Rico, the skipper/owner, smiling since most of the fleet is behind us.
Rico driving the boat, fleet behind us.

Warren taking it easy after a race.
Warren relaxing against the lifelines.

Rode from Seattle to Vancouver and Partied (A Little...)

Well, I did it. As promised, I did the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP) last weekend with my friends Eric, Jason, Chris, Clint, Whitney, and Gregg. We had excellent ride support from Chris' wife Leslie and son Zack, Eric's girlfriend Sam, and our friends Kellie, Barbi, and Juli; they kept us well hydrated and fed the whole time.

The crew at the starting line: Chris, Clint, Whitney, Tony, Jason, Gregg, and Eric.

To be honest, I didn't feel great the first day. Even twenty miles into the ride, my legs were bothering me. We separated into two groups for most of the ride: the "varsity" fast riders (Whitney, Clint, Gregg, and Eric) and the "JV" slower riders (me, Jason, and Chris). After a hot, thirsty start, a long climb to Lake Stevens, and then a brutal push into a heavy wind in the Skagit Valley, I wanted to quit, wondering why I was doing it. I rested a bit in Bow and then pushed on for the final ten miles or so -- a big climb up Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. This turned out to be a highlight of the first day -- a great view and not nearly as punishing as I had heard (certainly better than windy flats) plus I rode by my favorite oyster farm -- Taylor Shellfish. At the end of the 105 mile/7:20 riding time first day, Michelle and the kids met me in Bellingham where we stayed at the very lovely Chrysalis Inn and had a nice pasta (gotta get more carbs!) meal at D'Anna's. I slept very well indeed.

Jason and Tony on Chuckanut Drive.

RSVP Day 1 Route

I felt much stronger the next day for the next eighty miles. Jason and I caught a long line going through the countryside at a good pace for us with four pretty girls and a guy rotating the job of leading, so we just drafted along for the first twenty miles (drafting in a line cuts about 30% off your effort). We stopped in Lynden at the Dutch Bakery for a late breakfast. Jason has had a long, passionate affair with banana cream pies from this bakery. Apparently, they don't always have them so he ordered one ahead. We picked it up and bought another chocolate caramel pie, eating them both on the street in front of the store -- way better than Gatorade and Gu! (The whole crew at the pies, not just me and Jason...)

Jason and the amazing Dutch Bakery banana cream pie

Shortly after Lynden, we rode to the Canadian border. At one point we were separated from Canada by a little ditch; there was a road running on each side (the Canadian side looked like it had much nice roads) and telephone/power poles on each side with the lines facing into the appropriate country. Odd. We had a painless border crossing at Aldergrove and then proceeded on our ride.

US on the left, Canada on the right. Little ditch between the countries. 

About twenty-five miles into the ride (just after the border), while I was drafting behind Chris, I bumped up against his back tire and went down. Fortunately, no bikes or cars were behind me. I got unclipped from my pedals pretty well and managed to roll a bit, so the damage was contained to two skinned knees, a frayed glove, torn up bar tape, and a smashed rear flasher. This was the first time I had really crashed; I feel lucky it went down as well as it did and that I didn't take Chris down with me. I brushed off my bike and ego, and we continued on.

Tony, Jason, and Chris just after the border (photo courtesy Leslie).

As we rode, Chris' bike started acting up, dropping his chain and making a lot of noise. At a stop in Port Moody with about twenty miles left, a ride mechanic proclaimed Chris' bike dead and told him he was done. Jason and I rode on while Chris threw his bike onto his car and drove on. With the end near, Jason and I picked up the pace the powered along the Barnet Highway and into Vancouver. We climbed up and down through the residential neighborhoods in Burnaby (really? more hills?!) and then sprinted light-to-light in downtown Vancouver. Unfortunately, the finish line was a bit anti-climactic at the Coast Hotel; you sort of just pulled into the garage. The finish at STP was much nicer and more fun. Still it was great to finish. I felt really strong the whole second day. (I don't have accurate data for the second day, but I think the riding time was about 5:30 -- I forgot to turn my GPS back on for a little while.)

RSVP Day 2 Route

We had a nice group dinner at Glowbal Grill in Yaletown that evening -- lots of sangria and stories. I turned in after dinner to recoup and spend time with the family. The next day, I felt fine except for my knees which were bugging me after the crash (they're still giving me trouble as the skinned parts heal.)

RSVP was definitely a harder ride than STP despite being short; there's just tons more climbing. I liked that it was way less crowded (I think there were 1000 riders vs. the 10000 for STP); at times it felt like just another weekend ride with my friends (albeit a really, really long ride...).

I'm glad I did it. Time to find my next goal event...

(Check out Chris' account of the ride.)

Time to Ride

RSVP-08-sm Back on January 1st, I said I'd ride the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). Well, tomorrow morning at 6:30am, we take off. A bunch of us will be doing the 183 mile, two day ride together up there so it should be fun. I didn't ride nearly enough to prepare for this, but I think if I keep a good pace, I'll be alright. I am more concerned about the warm temperatures forecast - 85-90 degrees F (and maybe a little higher!) We'll have to drink a lot the whole way.

Anyway, much to do tonight before I leave, so I'll see you on the other side.

(P.S. Here's the route if you're interested. No, we're not riding up I-5.)

Wild Night of Sailing

We had another windy night for our regular Tuesday night sail race. The wind was probably 20 knots/hour+, so all of the boats were carrying their jibs instead of the larger genoas. The deck of our J/24 and all of us were pretty wet, even before the first race, just from the spray splashing up.

We sailed pretty well all night, managing to avoid the collisions, round-ups, and sail handling mistakes (with accompanying penalty turns) we saw on the other boats, but I did have one scary moment.

The boat was heeled over quite a bit when the skipper called for us to tack. When we tack, I duck under the boom over to the other side of the boat. I started moving a little too quickly and started sliding feet first across the wet deck toward the water. My feet and legs went under the lifeline and into the water. I caught myself on the lifeline with my arms and dragged in the water for a second. I managed to kick my legs up onto the boat, but now I was wrapped around the stanchion (one of the posts that hold the lifelines up), with my torso on one side and legs on the other. I was stuck for a bit until some of the other guys helped me back on board, and we continued the race.

Through all this I didn't even get wet (since I had my foulie pants and sailing boots on), but it was definitely a spooky moment. I never want to see the boat from outside the lifelines again. I promptly put my inflatable life jacket on after that (which, like most idiots, I wasn't wearing at the time.) Apparently, someone else on another boat wasn't so lucky and went overboard. Fortunately, another boat picked up the wayward crew member.

I managed to finish the evening without any other incidents aside from bruises on my hips and knees from scurrying around plus another briefly scary moment as I pitched into the cockpit spinnaker bag (just barely catching myself before dropping headfirst into the bag). It was perversely a very fun evening, exactly the kind of evening I love sail racing.

I'll just be sure to wear my life jacket from now on.