Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A topless Jeep, happy dogs, and many presents

This post is going to cover three "events" of the last week. (It's actually been kind of boring, so what passes as an event may seem a bit dull to normal people. Sorry.)

The Boy decided winter was over (and to his credit, we had a whole week without rain and temperatures in the low 80s) and it was time to remove the top from his Jeep. Somehow, he managed to do this on his own. This picture gives you an idea of what the lift kit did - he is able to almost sit up under it.

Here he is installing the last part of the lift kit - some sort of steering support sort of thing that was to take 30 minutes to install that ended up taking a whole lot longer. Also note his wearing of highly specialized and completely appropriate mechanic clothing.

But this is his Jeep today. It has been raining off and on all week. He is now talking about putting the top back on tomorrow. (Which we all think is a great idea since that would almost certainly mean that summer would show up the next day.)

Completely unrelated, we had a stunning dog-related occurrence: Idiot Dog Teddy met a large dog that he did not immediately want to pick a fight with.

Actually, there are three dogs in this picture: Sophia is the one sitting on The Boy's lap (the dog of Irbua - not her real name) and the white dog is Pearl (the dog of Anomar, Irbua's mom).

Pearl is an amazingly pretty German Shepherd. IDT is almost 12 years old, and in those 12 years, he has never tolerated any other dog larger than a bread box. It is hard to overstate how stunning it was that Pearl and IDT got along so well. My guess is that IDT was in love.

Completely unrelated to this, but still having a bit of dog in it, we finally had our Pansy Day last Saturday. Pansy Day is when we celebrate our wedding anniversary. In this case, we are a bit over a month late, but that didn't make it any less fun.

Riley and Darci were extremely excited.

So were Chicken Hawk Dove, the grandkid's dog, and IDT. I cooked them each a beef rib to gnaw on so they would stay of out of trouble while the presents were opened.

Back inside, presents were being opened.

The Boy with a shirt pulling for the German team in this summer's World Cup.

Mrs Notthat modeling a scarf sort of thing made by Weird Haired Mom.

Weird Haired Mom taking a picture of Needs Cool Name.

Darci with a fun shirt.

Riley with a Wall-E hat and Speed Racer sunglasses.

WHM showing her true colors, and Chicken Hawk Dove wearing a truly embarrassing outfit.

And finally, an actual pansy sort of thing (it's actually an orchid that looks a lot like a pansy).

And that's about it. I guess it wasn't such a dull week after all. And I can't wait for the summer that will get here once The Boy gets that top back on.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The thing is I thought I had already done hard hills

Today's SJ Stay Fit long walk has been threatened for a long time. I have heard Eave (really not her real name) and Werdna (not his real name - you probably get this by now, right?) talk about the misery of Sierra Azul and the torture that is Priest Rock since I started the summer SJ Fit program last spring.

It terrified me then.

Coach Luap has talked about doing this walk for a long time, and finally, today was the day. The difference is that I am now a hill-climbing stud and was not afraid. The last couple of days, however, shook my confidence a bit. People whose walking opinions I value kept saying "you'll see." But the trail we were going to take is nicknamed the lollipop trail (since you head out for four miles, circle around on a couple of trails and end up heading back on that same trail for 14 miles total) - how nasty could that be?

Three of us took on the walk: Coach Luap, Uidualc, and myself. The starting line is pleasant and does not give the game away.

The obligatory porta-pottie shot (and this was a particularly nasty one - no chance of anyone lingering tin there).

Shortly after leaving the starting area you start going uphill. For four miles. It's a relentlessly moderate uphill, but I was able to easily keep going the whole way. This guy on the bike would pass me and then a bit later I would pass him. I never saw him stop, but until he reached the top (the same time as us), he never even vaguely risked a speeding ticket.

There were a lot of bikes on this trail. The most impressive though was as we were almost done - a guy towing a trailer with a toddler in it. I would be extremely impressed if he made it all the way to the top.

Needless to say, the views were stunning. It was a wonderful day that got a little warm towards the end.

This was the most muddy spot I could find.

Here is Luap coming up to the top of Priest Rock.

Followed by Uidualc.

There was a little bit of time spent looking at a map, although this was a very uncomplicated walk. See the hill, climb the hill.

Priest Rock is where the stick meets the candy part of the lollipop. At that point you circle around on a couple of trails, mostly going downhill. A lot downhill (which is not a good sign since you know you will eventually have to make up for that). At the halfway point there is this nice little place to water your horse.

And what passes for a majestic waterfall. (It is actually cooler than this makes it look, but in the end, it is just water pouring from a couple of culverts.)

All good things come to an end, and you finally hit the uphill bit, climbing back to the top of Priest Rock. (I've got no idea why it is named this, but it seems wildly inappropriate since by the end of this climb, most people are muttering words not fit for a priest. Or sailor for that matter.)

If you look closely at this picture, you can see someone on the trail. I could tell it was someone with walking sticks, so I assumed it was Uidualc. It turned out to be some guy, probably in his 60s, who was climbing this hill shockingly fast. We talked to him a bit on his way back down - he does this climb every Saturday morning. This conversation was as Luap and I were sitting in the shade of a tree about two thirds of the way up the hill, catching our breath. He was not breathing hard at all.

The shady tree spot with a convenient bit of dirt to rest on.

Once we reached the top, it was four more miles of mostly downhill trail back to the start. The only interesting thing (other than the guy towing a trailer with his bike), was me rescuing a snake from the trail. I hate snakes. They really creep me out. But this one was obviously a bit stressed being in the middle of the trail, and was likely to get run over by a mountain bike wildly careening down the hill.

Oh, and the snake was a tiny baby - maybe three inches long and black with a long orange stripe. I've fished with bigger worms that this thing. I scooped it onto a leaf and set it over in the grass. Before I could get much of a picture, it was gone. (It is that vague black thing in the upper-center of this picture.)

And that's about it. I cannot use the word "fun" to describe this hike. I can use "challenging" and "insane" though. I can also say that a great goal would be to fly up that last hill (seriously, who ever designed that trail needs to study the art of switchbacks) as fast as the first hill. An interesting thing would be to go the opposite way around the lollipop. I suspect this wouldn't be as challenging, but maybe more dangerous with the steep part now going downhill, and the trail filled with sharp rocks ready to gouge you if you slip and fall, which you probably will.

And then there is this interesting bit of Priest Rock lore - last year Werdna hauled a small keg of beer up that hill for a party up there. Werdna is as nimble and athletic looking as an elephant seal, but that dude can do some serious hiking.

I would have loved a beer up there, especially if Werdna carried it for me.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hair, garden, and a Dove

Mrs Notthat got a haircut a few days ago.

She shocked us nearly a year ago when she got it cut pretty short just before heading to Germany, but this is much shorter. And it's great looking! And it's low maintenance, which is a good thing when the grandkids are around.

The weather has been nice, so lots of time has been spent outside. Here the grandkids are pulling weeds in the garden. For whatever reason, they both seem to have more fun stomping on the weeds in the bucket than actually pulling them up, but it all helps (although there are a LOT of weeds to pull - the winter rains were very kind to them).

To make things a bit more exciting, the grandkids now have a new dog sort of thing named Dove.

This is WHM holding Dove at this weekend's Diablo race.

And here Dove is patrolling the backyard, protecting the kids from random wildlife, real and imagined. Our own dog, Idiot Dog Teddy, is really being tested by this new addition. Dove is a LOT like our old emergency backup dog, Belle - high energy, fearless, willing to bark at anything, and dumb as toast, but about twice as big as Belle. She reminds me more of that chicken hawk in those old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons than any dove I have ever seen.

Teddy mostly ignores her, but Chicken Hawk Dove (CHD) is determined to not make that easy. Hopefully she will mellow a bit as she gets used to him, but for now, I would not blame IDT for enjoying a tasty snack.

That's it - move along...

PS: The Boy, in an effort to guarantee rain, took the top off his Jeep this weekend. It is now cloudy and has cooled off by 10 to 15 degrees.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Volunteering at the Diablo Trails Race

Today was another Brazen Racing event, this one at the very challenging Mt. Diablo State Park. I chose to volunteer at this event (I get a free future race, so it wasn't all just from the goodness of my heart), and ended up assigned to the last aid station for the 50K (31.1 miles) course.

Weird Haired Mom and Needs Cool Name (parents of the grandchildren) both ran the 5K course. I met them at the starting area fairly early. WHM is holding their new attack mutt Dove. Dogs were not allowed in the state park (the starting line was actually in a county park), so they left her in their car for the hour or so it took them to do the race.

At about this time Mas (not his real name) from Brazen saw me and asked if I had a car - they needed to have some 50K maps delivered quickly to one of the early aid stations, so I grabbed them and this was the last I saw of these three. (I did also see Uidualc, Coach Luap, and Coach Werdna - none of these are real names - briefly as I was heading to my car. Uidualc and Luap walked the half marathon course and Werdna walked the 10K course.)

This was the aid station that I delivered the maps to (I managed to get there before the first runners did).

I then drove to where I guessed the aid station I was working at was going to be set up. Since this station was 28.1 miles into the race, we did not need to have it set up all that early. (As it turned out, the first runner got there about four and a half hours after the race started.)

These were the three main aid station people, and they were very good at it. From right to left, they are Eizus, Mit, and Evad. They are all ridiculously fit and do 50K runs like this for training for what they really like to do - 100 mile runs. They were volunteering at this race to meet a requirement for entrance to a 100 mile race in June out of Lake Tahoe. They were excellent at handling the runner's needs as they came through, and were great at making them laugh and feel good about being so close to the end.

This is the view coming up the hill towards the aid station that the runners would have to take. It was (mostly) the last hill they would face. It was great to be able to tell them that.

For most of the day we had at least one and up to three sheriffs on site. We also had four search and rescue volunteers and a radio guy that kept tabs of which runners had crossed which checkpoints. They really did not want to lose anybody in this event.

A scary moment was when a report came in that a half marathon runner had just had a heart attack at one of the other aid stations. This is one of the sheriffs heading over there. (They brought in a helicopter, but the guy said he would be fine with the normal ambulance - apparently he has had health issues and this wasn't his first heart attack. I was relieved to find it wasn't any of the guys I knew out there.)

And here we all are waiting for our first customer. It was a beautiful day with hazy sunshine and a perfect temperature.

The buffet. There was quite a spread of food for the runners (and bored station workers). The thing that surprised me was how popular the Coke was (it was the only thing we ran out of) - apparently runners like it because of the caffeine and sugar, although they generally like it flat. We also went through lots of water, electrolyte drink, and ice.

Those are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the sign that every one of the runners really liked. Especially when we added that it was all downhill from here.

Finally at 12:30 our first runner arrived. He didn't even seem tired and was really enjoying himself. The next runner showed up 14 minutes later. That was a cool thing about this station - we never had more than three runners at a time. This made my job, taking pictures, much easier.

This is an example of the number of support people we had with us. It was really impressive.

There were two different people tracking the runners on these charts. (There were 64 runners in the 50K event.) They really took this seriously - nobody wanted a runner to be unaccounted for.

I have many pictures of the various runners passing through, but I liked this one with the colorful gators (the things around his ankles to keep pebbles and such from getting in his shoes) and especially the smiley face drawn on his left calf.

The funniest story was of a woman that had signed up for the half marathon (13.1 miles) who's boyfriend had signed up for the 50K. The 50K people had to be there by 6:30 to catch a bus to their starting line. He talked her into going ahead and doing the 50K too, since otherwise she would have to just sit and wait for her 9 AM start time. He never told how far 50K is, and like most Americans, she had no idea it was 31.1 miles (her longest previous run was 14 miles). Amazingly, she was in great shape and was handling it well. The boyfriend probably had some explaining to do later though.

And then we had the last runner come through (along with two "sweepers" - runners who make sure there is nobody behind them and who collect all the trail marking ribbons, which this woman has fashioned into a hula skirt).

And that's about it. We all got a mild sunburn, but nobody seemed to mind. According to WHM, even the 5K course ended up crossing three formidable creeks (twice actually, out and back). Werdna said he counted 29 crossings on his 10K. There was some mud as well, but nothing like we have seen previously.

Working with these ultra marathoners has made me decide that I would really like to be able to do hill-infested 50K events like this. (There is a 10 hour cutoff. I could probably manage the distance, but no way could I do it in 10 hours.) So I am going to make a concerted effort to get to this point during this summer.

Which means I probably should not have enjoyed as much of the "aid" as I should have.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hospital updates (man I hate doing these)

This week had two hospital-related incidents - one was not too surprising and the other was me.

Grandkid Riley started having breathing issues on Wednesday and ended up in the hospital for two nights. He responded well to treatments and is doing fine now. I suspect this is in large part due to the "bucket of 400 things" I brought him on Thursday.

It was filled with craft things like pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, beads, puffy balls, and most interesting to Riley, two bottles of glitter paint and a bottle of white glue. The nurses smiled the smile of those who know this can't go well. In any case, I suspect they will be finding bits and pieces from that bucket in that room for the next few weeks.

(For those keeping track, this was his first hospital stay since last November, which is pretty good for him. Even once a year is still way too often though.)

And now about me.

About ten days ago I hurt my left side playing cricket during lunch at work. (Note that this is not even vaguely proper cricket. It's generally three of us on the tennis court taking turns smacking a ball.) I was trying to get Mit (not his real name) out. He is really good at this game, and opportunities to get him out don't come up very often. I ended up falling in sort of slow motion during the effort (which failed) and felt a bit of a "muscle strain" in my left rib cage. It wasn't a big deal and I finished the game, took some ibuprofen, and didn't think much about it.

The pain did not bother me during the next day's hike (at least not as much as the poison oak and tick did), and by the middle of the following week, it was healing nicely and all but forgotten. Until Friday night, when I tweaked it trying to get out of the Race Car. Again, ibuprofen worked fine at managing the pain and yesterday's walk was pretty much pain free.

After the walk I was harmlessly sitting on the couch, writing up a blog post, when all of the sudden I got a sharp pain in my left shoulder, well above the "muscle strain" area. I took some ibuprofen but that didn't seem to help. So I ended up taking one of Mrs Notthat's leftover vicodins, which helped a lot and allowed me to sleep (sort of).

Early this morning I could feel the pain coming back and got up to take another vicodin. But the pain was different, and was much worse. There was no comfortable position I could get in and it was extremely painful to breathe. I was now ready to say "uncle" and took Mrs Notthat up on her offer to drive me to the ER.

At the ER they gave me a shot of something, took X-Rays, and decided that I had cracked a rib ten days ago, and getting out of the Race Car probably aggravated its healing process. There is nothing they can really do about it though; just prescribe pain medications and tell me to take it easy(ish) while it heals.

So for today I am living on vicodins. Tomorrow I can hopefully switch back to ibuprofens. I'll be skipping cricket this week, and next Saturday does not include a long hike in its plans, so hopefully all will heal well and I won't have any more incidents like this morning.

And to Mrs Notthat - a HUGE thanks for dealing with all this so early on a morning you should have been able to sleep in a bit. You were awesome!

That's it - move along...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A view and coyote infested walk

Today's SJ Stay Fit walk was at Windy Hill Park just outside of Palo Alto. We had some moderate rain on Friday, but today was clear and crisp (which is code for "cold," at least at the start). This meant that we should have some fantastic views (we did) and be able to spot the mud on the trail (we did this too, but it didn't always help).

We start with the traditional porta-pottie shot. And yes, that is Coach Luap (not his real name) who has just finished freshening himself up a bit. This weekend Coach said the heck with being a good husband, and actually came out with us. (For those not following very closely, Luap has missed that last two weeks due to scoring "good husband" points.)

Yes, there was mud. Sometimes you couldn't get around it and just had to power through. That's Evae (yes, I know that's not her proper name in my secret code, but I'm tired of her name breaking my rules) and Coach Truc (none of these are their real names).

Sometimes you could get around the mud.

Here are all of us at a trail intersection, completely oblivious to the fact that we were being stalked and in danger of getting eaten. (Well, maybe just the slowest of us may have gotten eaten.)

Mrs Notthat had spotted this coyote on the trail a while back, but it quickly ran off into the woods. The ever observant Coach Truc was the one that noticed him coming up behind us. The coyote probably would have gotten us except I think he had enough sense to stay out of the mud. (For those of you that actually believe we were in mortal danger, the coyote scampered off when it was startled by a runner coming up behind it. We were not even vaguely in danger, or I would have been screaming like a little girl.)

One of the trails up Windy Hill is pretty open, which is not a bad thing this time of year. The views were stunning.

There were also some heavily wooded sections.

As you may have noticed, the first part of this walk was almost entirely uphill.

A rare picture of me (on the right).

Once you get to the top you see the Pacific Ocean in the west (that white line near the center is a wave crashing on a beach).

And if you look east, you see San Francisco and its bay. It was wonderfully clear today.

Coach Luap is removing a handfull of small rocks from his shoes. Evae (she's going to hate this name) looks on.

Here, Coach Truc, with his posse of Mrs Notthat (on the left) and Uidualc (on the right), is demonstrating the gang sign he flashed at the coyote.

Being in a posse made Uidualc hungry. Here he is eating one of his legendary sandwiches. Evae is trying to get him to share, but she was not part of the posse.

A picture to prove we were at Windy Hill Park.

At this point the short walkers headed down a different trail. You can see they were broken up about it. Mrs Notthat, Coach Truc, and Evae headed down the Hamms trail.

Coach Luap, Uidualc, and I headed down the Schlitz trail. (No, that is not really its name. But a cold beer sure would have been welcome by this point.)

The short group ended up covering about seven and a half miles while the long group covered thirteen miles. The walk was very good - it was encouraging to see so many other people, including families with small kids, out on the trails once it started warming up a bit. (There was one family with a tiny white fluffy dog sort of thing. I would have loved to see that dog after a mile or two on the muddy parts of the trail.)

And that's about it. Next weekend is going to be a bit odd - some are walking the Brazen Diablo Trails Challenge (I'm volunteering for an aid station there) while others will be walking elsewhere. With the predicted dry and warm weather for this week, it appears today may have been my last shot at mud for a while. Hopefully some shady trails will hang on to their mud for a few more weeks at least.

That's it - move along...