Granite Man Triathlon…Fun and Difficult

When I was seriously considering participating in the Granite Man, I didn’t find that many thorough or helpful reviews on the race, so I thought I’d put my thoughts together, from a novice triathlete’s perspective.

As I get older, I find it’s much easier to get out of shape and much harder to get into shape.  Sprint triathlons have been recent goals that have helped me get in shape a few times over the past couple years.  They’ve also stoked my love for swimming, and they’ve made me appreciate bicycling more.   My first attempt at a sprint triathlon (sprint, meaning shorter than a full triathlon but not necessarily easy for someone like myself) was our local YMCA triathlon which consisted of a 10 lap pool swim, 3 mile run, and a 10 mile bike ride.  This was all on roads, except the swim of course.

I skipped the YMCA event last year, and this year the timing for trying the Granite Man at Applegate Lake in June fit my schedule better.  However, this triathlon was a step up from the YMCA.  It features a 0.75 mile lake swim (~26 laps in a pool), 12 mile mountain bike ride, and 5 mile run that’s mostly on trails.

Site of Granite Man, Applegate Lake, OR

Site of Granite Man, Applegate Lake, OR

So here’s 4 things I can pass along about this race.

Better Training: My training got interrupted by an ankle injury in soccer (soccer and triathlon training don’t mix), so I was able to train continuously for about 1.5 months before the race.  In short, I should have trained more in race conditions.  The swim portion was in a lake, which is a little different than a pool because it’s dark.  Also, I wore a wetsuit since I read that most people wore them.  I don’t know if there are differences between a 3/2 surfing wetsuit and a triathlete wetsuit, but I wore the former, and I didn’t swim very well.  I found myself short on breath, and I did the breaststroke on multiple occasions when I got winded.  In hindsight, I would have taken a swim in a lake once or twice before the race, and I would have not worn a wetsuit since the water temperature was above 71 degrees according to race directors.  Not having to take off a wetsuit before the bike would have saved several minutes of time too.

The next aspect of the race I really wasn’t prepared for was the mountain biking portion.  I did practice on some trails a few times before the race, but the Applegate Lake trail was narrower and just more difficult than the Jacksonville trails I trained on.  I fell a few times on the race trail, partially because I just wasn’t accustomed to the narrow trails and some of the rocky and steep sections.

Distance: The overall race distance was perfect.  It was about all my body could take, but I didn’t feel broken afterwards.  I have no desire to do a full triathlon, but the distance was longer than the YMCA sprint, and I enjoyed that.

Fun:   The scenery was beautiful.  I nearly wrecked my bike a few times as I gazed out at the clear, blue-green tinted lake.  Even though most people there seemed to take this race seriously and looked like it, the vibe was friendly and there were plenty of smiles.  I even won a cool little REI backpack at the raffle after the race!  This race was so fun that I’m planning on doing it next year.

Difficult:  When asked to tell someone about the race, I’ve definitely characterized it as fun and difficult.  It’s probably the most difficult physical activity I’ve ever done.  The biking was tough.  I walked for most of the really steep section.  One fall left a hand pretty cut up, and my bike nearly went over a ledge before I grabbed it by the wheel and brought it back up to the trail.  After the bike, my legs were pretty beat, so the first part of the run (which was on the road) felt like I was in slow motion.  Once I got on the trail I felt better, but I was definitely fatigued for most of the run.

I’m so glad I did this race, and the training was totally worth it.

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The Black Jacket

Though I am not blessed with a multitude of amazing stories to tell, I do have several–few of which have been written down.  So I think I’ll start with one of my favorites.  The details of this story have changed my life in a wonderful way–they led me to my wife.  No, this is not the classic answer to the “How did you meet?” question that is asked thousands of times a day across the world.  This is is the answer to the question, “How did you stay together?”

We had been on a few dates.  They were nothing spectacular, our first date was at a local Thai restaurant (which would eventually become our shared favorite cuisine), another watching a movie at home (now a pasttime that we enjoy twice a month).  The third date has connotations in some realms of society, but for us it was an abrupt ending to an otherwise enjoyable fledgling relationship between two strangers.  She left without really saying goodbye that night, perhaps full of nerves or just overwhelmed by my sometimes inane banter.  In any case, she departed my Subaru Outback so quickly that she left behind her black jacket that was keeping her warm on that cold October night in Western Washington.

I didn’t hear from her for a few days.  I thought this meant that the relationship was over, and I was back to the life of a single person…which wasn’t so bad in many ways but did feature the low point of frequently eating whole boxes of Stove Top dressing and considering it dinner.  So I was surprised to see her number pop up on my cell phone as I was driving home one day from work.  This was not a call to exchange pleasantries or to see how I was doing.  She had a single purpose with this call–retrieve the black jacket.  I said that I’d make sure I was around the next evening so she could pick up her article of clothing.

I was not totally head-over-heels for this girl after our first few dates, but she was a very enjoyable presence in my life, and the conversation was rarely awkward, save that abrupt departure from my wagon.  Therefore, I wanted to keep her in my life if at all possible, and I knew this wouldn’t be easy given the recent turn of events. So, I began to brainstorm.  I thought, “I have just one more chance to convince her that I’m worthy of her time”. Knowing that we are mainly visual in our approach to things, I began to think of what I could be doing and wearing to get her attention.

Two things I knew–she was diligent at her job and she liked Halloween decorations. I had some evaluations that I could take home to work on, so I thought that might impress her. “Look at him”, she might say, “He takes his work home because he is so industrious”. Next, I set out to create a jack o’ lantern based on one our conversations we had on our first date where she indicated her zeal for decorating pumpkins.  It was football season, and I was overambitious, so I decided to engrave “Go Penn State” into one pumpkin with a traditional pumpkin face to accompany it. The next aspect of the meeting was appearance.  I wanted to be casual yet nice looking, so I thought a pair of black Adidas warmup pants and a hooded sweatshirt would do the trick. Let’s call it athletic chic on a budget. Music must also play a role in the evening, so I thought Bob Marley could add some calm to an otherwise nerve-racking situation and perhaps spark some romance as his songs speak to love on so many fronts.

The last, but perhaps most important aspect of our could-be-last meeting, was conversation.  I knew this much going in–if she came in and was all business, simply focusing on retrieving her jacket and not interested in chit chat, then there was no hope.  If, on the other hand, she provided enough pause for me to interject some questions and commentary, then perhaps I could win her over.  So, I planned some talking points, focused mainly on my newly carved pumpkins and whether she watches “The Office” or not, as it was quickly becoming my favorite new show.

The time arrived.  It was a crisp Autumn evening, and she arrived looking very cute, all bundled up and sporting a pink scarf that made me want to keep this thing going even more.  Here’s the scene she was greeted with.  Pumpkins were lit on the front porch, I had the reggae playing, the lamp shed light on the paperwork I was completing–all embodying a casual yet diligent approach to a workday evening.  This was an approach I hoped she found satisfactory and perhaps remarkable.

I believe I was complimentary at first, noting how nice she looked.  Then, I went to get the black jacket that I ashamedly had taken deep whiffs of to enjoy it’s perfume scent during its residency at my house, wondering if that scent was fleeting or something that would be a permanence in my life.  I gave it to her, and I noticed she was not running for the door. This was good, very good.  So, I used this opening to talk to her about my favorite new sitcom–one that would eventually become our favorite show.  The conversation carried from there as if held up by invisible forces that were unknown to either of us.  After a while we said our goodbyes and I had a good feeling that we would be seeing more of each other.  It all came together that crisp October evening.  A touch of that tv show, a splash of divine intervention, and a spoonful of that black jacket saved my marriage-to-be.

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Why Do We Travel?

Why do any of us travel for vacation?  Of course the whole concept is a luxury, just being able to travel and see different parts of the country and/or world.  So I can’t complain about the general idea of it, but I want to have reasons for going somewhere.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons of travel.  The cons are immediately apparent in several words and phrases–airport security, long hours on the road, not sleeping in your own bed, airport delays, expensive, time-consuming, uncomfortable.  Are the reasons we travel as easily recognizable as the things that may prevent us?  The most obvious ones that come to mind are relaxing and doing.  I think I’ve heard Adam Corolla describe his weekends as “having a hiking boot on one foot and a slipper on the other”.  It’s usually my goal to balance the “doing” and the “relaxing” in some type of pre-determined ratio that’s likely never to turn out like we planned.  When we recently hit the road on a vacation to Vancouver, B.C., we had a few goals in mind that we wanted to meet during our time with our neighbor to the north, a.k.a. Canada.  I’ve italicized the parts of the trip that best met these goals.

  1. Relaxing
    • I’ve heard phrases before like, “You can relax when you die”.  But for me, a good vacation away from home requires some quiet times of reading, listening, and even a nice afternoon slumber every now and then.  I want to come back to work refreshed and ready to go, and relaxing is an important part for me.
    • We stay at bed and breakfasts occasionally, and we came upon some good reviews for the Thistledown House on the North Shore of Vancouver.  Toward the end of our stay, we ventured down to a common area in the house which was full of plants and windows to the backyard…to read some.  The innkeeper stopped by and asked us if we wanted some tea and cake in the main room, and she said she’d start a fire for us.  I am not a reader, and I don’t really drink hot tea, but this situation was so ideal that we sat in front of the fireplace for a couple hours enjoying our books and relaxing.
  2. Doing
    • Nature
      • We hoped to stay some distance from the city for part of the vacation, closer to the lush forests and snow-capped mountains.
      • A nearby park called Lynn Canyon was a short drive away. Here there was a suspension bridge across a 150-foot deep canyon, and the forests were thick and colored with that vibrant green that only occurs somewhere that gets 50 inches of rain a year. The walk through the woods was serene and definitely made it feel like we were 1000 miles from any other humans.asfasf

        Vancouver Harbor

    • Culture
      • We are aware that there’s likely a rich history of North American Indians and Asians in Vancouver, and we hope to learn some about these cultures and how they are still relevant in the area today.
      • Suprisingly, I learned more about the culture of Vancouver and Canada in general by just talking with the innkeepers at the Thistledown House and some of the guests that were there. We learned about the various phases of Asian immigration to Canada, the healthcare system there, and taxes.  These things are both political and cultural, but the discussion of these topics really gave me some insight into our neighboring country and provided some parallels to the good ol’ USA.
    • Cuisine
      • Usually, you can get the real feel of a place by eating food that is unique to that area. And when I think of Vancouver, I think of freakishly great seafood and amazing Asian food.
      • We found a place called the Raincity Grill that overlooked English Bay on a busy street called Denman.  The place was mostly empty when we arrived, the sun setting amidst much mostly cloudy skies, yielding just enough color to enhance and otherwise gray day.  The menu described the farms where the restaurant got most of their ingredients, and the wine menu featured maps and descriptions of each viticultural area to include BC, Oregon, Washington, and California.  The food and service was amazing, and we left feeling like we tasted what people in Vancouver taste regularly.

        British Columbia Salmon, Parsnips, Lentils w/Bacon

      • The bed and breakfast we stayed at also had some amazing food…like four course breakfasts!  Here are a few pics from a breakfast we had there…

        What are your reasons for traveling?  I’d love to hear other perspectives on venturing into the known and unknown.
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