Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday Charleston Edition

USS Yorktown

Cooper River Bridge

Charleston Marina

Dinghy's at the marina

The Yorktown with the bridge in the background

Of course, Kelley found eye candy walking around

Post race in front of the Yorktown!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lowcountry Splash Race Report

This race report may be more pictures than report because it was more beautiful than race. I was looking for a challenging long distance swim that would push me in the water longer than an Ironman swim. After checking out a few 5k swims, the 5 mile Lowcountry Splash seemed to fit the bill. It was in Charleston, SC so we could go down and visit my brother Michael for the weekend, and it looked like a fun race.

I took Friday off from work, again, and after a fantastic slow yoga practice Kelley and I packed up and hit the road. After taking Evil Genius to Indian Princess camp and Ella on the Epic Mountain Adventure the last few weekends, this was time with the wife that I had been looking forward to for a while. We needed it, and it was wonderful. We hit the packet pickup first, and hit some traffic on the way, but eventually we made it down to see this little one

My adorable niece
Saturday morning came not too early. We executed the plan and made it out to the USS Yorktown in plenty of time for me to take the bus out to the starting line on Daniel Island.

Once out to Daniels Island, we got the prerace instructions. Lube up everything. Keep the buoys on the left until you see a green one, then cross the channel and turn right at the next green buoy. Give your number to a coast guard guy on a boat, and when he calls your number back, keep swimming with the buoys on your right until the finish. Seems simple enough.

We started out in waves of 10 people at a time, I had bib #73 so there were plenty of swimmers in the water by the time I jumped in. I was told beforehand that #75 was going to win, he was a local guy that absolutely flies down that river. I jumped in and tried to follow his line to the first buoy. And just like that my race was started!

On the grounds at the USS Yorktown
Swimming race reports can be very boring. I jumped in and started swimming, then eventually I stopped swimming. This one was in a river with a strong current, so swimming straight wasn't really an issue. Sharks, now that could be an issue. But there was a kayak every 10 feet or so, and there was always a buoy in sight. So logistically this race was pretty hard to screw up.

I started out keeping the buoys on my left as instructed. Before you know it, there was that green buoy so it was time for the channel crossing. Kind of caught me by surprise. The crossing was the hard part of the race. Missing the 2nd green buoy would be an instant DQ. Did I mention that this river was about 400 yards wide? It's the major shipping channel going into the port that the freighters go into to unload their containers. HUGE. And about halfway across, I couldn't see the 2nd green buoy. I stopped, took my goggles off, and got my sightline established. It was the only time during the entire race that I broke my stroke.

HALF of the cooper River Bridge. huge river!
When I finally got to the 2nd green buoy, it was being towed by the boat! I called out my number and got a callback, so I kept on swimming even though I did not make the right turn as instructed. hoping that since there was no space between the boat and buoy I could escape the disqualification (I was right). After making the turn we could sight on the bridge, and that was the one part of the course that seemed a bit long.

I didn't think I was ever going to get to that bridge! The current kept pushing me closer to shore, and I tried to stay out more towards the buoys. Finally crossing under the bridge was really cool. That's not the kind of thing you get to see every day.

After the bridge we had 0.9 miles to go until the finish line. A volunteer told me to aim for the Yorktown. It went by incredibly fast. Before I knew what was happening the Yorktown was in sight and it looks huge from the water. On the other side of it was the finish line.

There was a rope with pool noodles to corral the swimmers towards the dock for easy extraction from the water. The current was so strong right there I had to grab the noodle rope and hold on tight while apologizing to the dude in front of me for sexually assaulting him. I mean, we're both in speedo's and all. The current was incredibly fast.

How fast? I swam 5 miles in 1:18:21. Now, I'm normally about a 25 to 30 minute miler in the pool so my 5 mile time should be between 2 hours and 2:30, not half of that time. I finished 91/138 swimmers, and 7/9 in my age group.  Normally, I'm also one of the stronger swimmers in the field so finishing in the bottom third of my age group is also strange. These long distance swim races only attract the strongest swimmers and I can't control who else showed up to race, so that is what it is.

But it's still kind of odd. There were two other swimmers from the RAM team that came down to race. Laura was the 3rd overall female with a 1:06 finish, and Tom finished 4th in his age group with a 1:10. So 8 minutes over a 5 mile swim race shouldn't be much at all. The top 3 in my age group all put up a 1:07. So really I was only 11 minutes off from an award. And that's not much. That was such a strange race and odd finishing time!

In the end, I was looking for something stronger than an Ironman swim. My Ironman swim splits were 1:14 and 1:05, so a 1:18 in double the distance isn't much more. I may look for another long swim race to try later in the summer.

USS Yorktown

Kelley found some eye candy

Walking back after the finish

Happy to be done!

The finishing chute with noodle rope

Me at the finish line

That's a big bridge!

We swam around the Yorktown
Then it was time for the after party. We walked around the marina some, got plenty of food, and just enjoyed an unbelievably nice day in Charleston. It was sunny and around 75*, a perfect morning for hanging out drinking beer at 9 am.

Got some IPA

Hanging with my sweetheart was the most important part

Pretty good sized finish line event!
The rest of the weekend we were just hanging out with my brother and his wife & kid. All three families of the RAM swimmers got together Saturday night at Bowens Island Seafood for some good eats. We had a blast, and the food was amazing. Sunday we came on home and that was about it. 

This was a great weekend all the way around. The race was cool, I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a less intimidating long distance swim. Charleston on Memorial Day weekend is always fun.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Epic Mountain Adventure - the Peripherials

The days around Ella's Epic Mountain Adventure - Blowing Rock day and Boone Day - were pretty hectic too. Lots of wild stuff going on!

The stage at Goodnights Comedy Club

Date night!
For Mothers day this year we got tickets to go see Dave Attell, one of our favorite standup comedians of all time. The show was Friday night before the Epic Mountain Adventure, and it did not disappoint. It was quite entertaining! The opening acts were great. Dave, well, he's getting a bit old now, and I think he's sober so he's not as pissed off and funny as he used to be. Plus he wore a hat and jacket through the whole show, and I think that made it a bit harder to connect with the audience. Some of the other fans in there turned out to be loud jackasses, so that kind of ruined it for everyone. Dave didn't seem like he was having fun up there, at least at first. But that could just be my perception. could have been because the show started before the sun went down, but since we're old too that worked better for us. It was still pretty hilarious and we had a wonderful date night.

Then saturday morning Ella and I went to Blowing Rock, and Sunday was Boone day. Needless to say I was pretty tired by the time we got back to Raleigh. It's a 3 hour drive each way to the mountains.

Monday I had to fly to Cincinnati and back for work! Met some co-workers at the airport at 6:15 AM for an early flight. We just had the one day there to do some meetings. I claimed to be working remotely from the office in Ohio!

Bengals Stadium

Home of the Reds
Some things I didn't realize about Cincy. It's right on a river, with a huge downtown. We saw the stadiums for the NFL Bengals and the MLB Reds from the plane and in the rental car, and they are only about a block apart. I'm hoping the next time I have to go up there (not scheduled) it can be when the Reds have a day game, I'd love to go. Huge baseball fan.

The return flight got delayed, and of course we didn't know that until we were through security already. I do have friends in Cincy that I would have gotten together with had I known it was going to be such a late flight. Instead we just hung out in the airport, and got back to Raleigh about 11:30 pm. That's a long day. Seemed really long because the sun didn't set until long after 9 pm. Here in Raleigh we got sunset about 8:30 that day.  Still eastern time zone, but cincy sure is farther north and west. That was unexpected.

So the moral of the story is that a great show and a fun trip were immediately surrounding the Epic Mountain Adventure. If you think that sounds hectic, you're right. If you're concerned about how much we've all had going on around here lately, you're right. I have been stretching in a lot of different directions lately. It's fun and exciting to me, and I've been looking forward to this part of the year for a while. Now I'm getting tired, and ready to settle down for a long hot summer of Ironman training. Time to start getting some of the long weekend workouts done.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Epic Mountain Adventure part 2

It's Boone Day! Wow, looks like about 35 pictures from Blowing Rock day on Saturday. Boone day didn't generate quite that many, but it was still really adorable. Waking up to that fresh mountain air is always amazing.  We grabbed a quick breakfast to start out.

Waterfall behind Boone Bagelry

The waterwheel shot
Boone Bagelry has been in the high country forever. Ella seemed fascinated by the place. She does love bagels, and they do it right. This wagon wheel used to be in front of a restaurant named Geno's that was surrounded by a hotel. Now the hotel has been converted to condos and Geno's moved about a block down the road so BB took over the restaurant space.

You may have seen this wagon wheel on the blog before... maybe not. This was 2004.
Me, it was a little colder then. and I was a little bigger.

After breakfast we headed over to the ASU campus. Again I know Ella got tired of me telling stories about the places I used to live and play, but I kept them coming anyway.

In front of my freshman dorm
I got to show her the football stadium. When she was a baby, we had season tickets to ASU football, but there's no way she would remember going to any of the games. But my first two years I was in the stadium side dorms so we got to check those out. Then we went walking over to the music building. I was a music major for the first half of the time I was there, then switched over to Radio & TV production.

Chasing ducks near the duck pond

In the 4th floor practice rooms teaching my girl how to play
I got to show her all around the School of Music, the concert halls and practice rooms. Even found my old fraternity room and billboard with pictures of the current brothers up there. Very cool. Then we got to walk through the rest of the campus and up to King street.

in Jimmy Smith Park

We found Jimmy Smith Park right across the street from the music building. This tiny crappy little bench has been made fun of on youtube. Somebody even ran a 5k inside the park. There was 1 aide station and a 10 runner limit, the park won't hold any more people than that. Took about 100 laps around the park to get the 5k.  Hilarious! But there was a stream that ran on the back side of the park that Ella really fell for. The next trip up there I'll have to plan for more hikes and waterfalls, she really loved it. She even grabbed a selfie down in the creek.

Babies first selfie
After that we went up to King Street, and ended up getting lunch at Macado's. That was my favorite place when we lived there. Getting Ella in for a sandwich was great!

We also bought that horse necklace on King street. She loved it!
After lunch we walked back through campus, I got to show her the bookstore and the big Sanford Mall. Lots of the buildings have changed around since I was a student there, but the overall layout is still the same. We had a great time just walking around campus. Graduation was the weekend before, so it was pretty empty of students at least.  Eventually we found the tunnels under Rivers St, and came up on this statue in front of the Duck Pond.

Student art sculptures on campus

The landscape is beautiful this time of year

On the Yosef statue

Taking care of Yosef in the mountains!
She was so excited to just be walking around the campus. There is a lot of construction going on there right now. The beauty of the mountains and the bubble effect of the college are very evident, it's not one of those downtown colleges where you can't see the edges of campus. The funniest thing happened when we were walking back to the car. I pontificated quietly that I wanted to find a bathroom to pee before we got back on the road, so Ella screamed as loud as she could "Yes... I... Have... To... Poop" and some groundskeeper looked at us funny. I was doubled over laughing so hard, but she didn't care. Then it was back to the school of music to teach her the secrets that all music majors learn while there: what the 3rd floor is used for.

On our way out of town I made one other detour to show her the first apartment I ever had, a little one bedroom that Kelley eventually moved into as well. She was barely interested. But as we were heading down the mountain, she did grab a pic of the views from the road.

Boone Day rocked. It turned out much better than I had hoped it would. I think Ella had a really good time walking around and enjoying the beauty of the mountains and I really enjoyed sharing so much of my past with her. It was special bonding time that I will always treasure, and I hope she will do the same.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It was an Epic Mountain Adventure Part 1

Saturday morning Bigun and I took off about 9:30 am heading for Boone. Plans had been made. Reservations had been made.  These people were ready for a road trip.

This would become a theme. I got so many pictures.....

 We stopped along the way in Winston-Salem at a Waffle House and grabbed some lunch. We had plans, so it had to be expeditious.

This year, her Indian Princess tribe had a lot of fun at their 3rd year Spring Outing. Since the date was the same as Morgan's wedding, we had to miss it. To make it up to her, I tried to put together a trip just for me and her to get out on the road. I wanted it to be something special and memorable for her, fun for me as well, and in easy driving distance. What I ended up putting together, well, I think I got more out of it than she did. She must have gotten sick of the endless stories about stuff we did 20 years ago.

I settled on an overnight trip to Boone NC. First up was a reservation to go horseback riding, then dinner reservations at the restaurant where Kelley and I met (18 years ago last month). Then we could tool around Blowing Rock for a while, and Sunday could be Boone Day. Just tool around town and see what kind of trouble we could find on a cool sunday morning.

It all timed out perfectly. We got checked into the hotel just in time to change clothes and get out to the farm. Dutch Creek Trails is this amazing horse farm about 15 minutes outside of Boone. We got there about 10 minutes before the ride started at 2 pm. There were 8 of us in the group, and the guides were hilarious. The trails were all on the farm property, and the whole ride was about as perfect as could be. Some of the other people riding had never touched a horse before and they loved it by the end.

on the tractor ride to where the horses are

Ella getting on her horse

It was a beautiful day to ride

Big horse for a big girl

Riding on the trail. Ella stayed behind the lead guide.

Selfies on horseback

The dogs went the whole way

We stopped to rest in a clearing

My horse had to pee here

Happy on horseback!

Can't ask for a happier kid

Beautiful country up there, great day to ride

After we got back, Ella was feeding the horses

Real cowboys with working mustaches and everything

Not a real cowboy. Thanks for the ride, horse!

Happy to be done

Cool farmhouse
It was only $100 for both of us to ride for about an hour and a half. The guides were real cowboys with working mustaches and everything. They were funny and knew how to keep us all safe. Ella's horse kept farting and they smelled really bad. I mean, regular farts are funny, but horse farts take it up to a whole new level. I actually had to tell somebody "I'll get out of your way as soon as my horse finishes taking a shit" one time. The other people riding were from New Jersey, so it was a fun group.  I really can't say enough good things about Dutch Creek Trails.  But I think I am done with the poop jokes.

We had just enough time to get back to the hotel and clean up some before dinner. Since Saturday was Blowing Rock day, we headed out to show her some of this charming small mountain town.

mind = blown

This is known as the "Fantastic View". When Kelley and I first met, she lived at the Fantastic View apartments, and we used to hang out on the deck there all day long just playing guitar and being goofy. Now the apartments got bulldozed, but near there is a restaurant with a webcam. So the Canyons Cam still shows the same view we had from that deck. We stopped in the restaurant parking lot because she was totally blown away by the view.  Imagine waking up to that every morning!

Outside Twigs

She was fascinated by the twig wall behind us
Twig's Restaurant is only a few blocks away. In 1996 I worked there as a dishwasher. After my shift was over one night, I hung out in the bar drinking an adult beverage with a friend when I accidentally stole a barstool. When the woman came back to claim her barstool back, well, the rest is history. So Ella and I sat in the same barstools that I stole way back when. $6/hour went a lot farther back then too, and that was a pretty good job for a college kid. This time, the 2 of us ran up a $55 bill, so Twigs ain't cheap. We should have sat at the bar and gotten the cheap menu. But it was worth it to show here where I met her mother. And I got to tell her lots of stories about the place and how the kitchen was setup, stuff like that. Totally worth it.

She'll never get to sleep now
After dinner we went to walk Main Street Blowing Rock. Kilwin's Ice Cream was the first stop, of course. Ella tried some fudge, she was really open minded about trying new flavors or foods. Kind of impressive, since she's usually a pretty picky eater. This time she fell for sea salt & caramel fudge.  Eventually we got her out of the candy store and ready to see the rest of main st.

This is a store called the Brass Exchange. Back in the day, Kelley was the assistant manager then the manager of that store, and I was the assistant then. The same guy owned another store on the same block, so we did a lot of work at that store as well. I'm sure Ella got quite bored listening to me tell stories about working retail as college students, but that's what she was in for.

Who doesn't love a giant foam cowboy hat?

Boler for the win!

She flipped over this skunk hat

I like this style

skunk... not so much
Eventually we found a t-shirt and hat store that was open and had a lot of laughs trying on hats and just being goofy. It really was a lot of fun.

Afterwards I wanted to find a bar and grab a few beers before going to the late night drunk eats restaurants in town, but she wanted to go back to the hotel and watch movies. So we settled on that. Blowing Rock Day had come to a close, and it was amazing. This was the start of a truly epic mountain adventure!