Thursday, February 26, 2009


A couple of days ago I had that moment that comes once a year. The moment where the world become fragrant again. 

There are a number of houses in my neighborhood that have a bush that reminds me of jasmine and when the air is still their scent hangs in the air. 

For me this is an important milestone, a harbinger of spring. 

And then this morning I awoke to  . . .

This is all prettily inconvenient. The sun on the Olympics was, well, just spectacular though and I am enjoying watching the snow-dust whipping around in the wind. 

When will the world become fragrant again?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Race Report: Race 6-Winter Grand Prix 2-Mile Handicap Road Run

The last race of the 13th Annual New Balance/Super Jock 'N Jill/Club Northwest Winter Grand Prix!

Time to retire my series bib (#44). :-)

The Bottom Line (at least until the official results are out):
Distance: 2 Miles
Time: 15:05
Pace: 7:21
The Blow-By-Blow:

I did NOT want to get up this morning. The bed just felt so warm, soft, and comfortable and the prospect of running in 30-degree weather, even if sunny, was a bit much. So I slept in until about 7:30 and got out of bed something of a reluctant runner. Left about 8:15 to get to the park and realized I forgot my Garmin (Oh boy), came back, got it and went on down to the park.

Got there and checked in.  I  listened carefully as another check in person explained the process. This was a Handicap race which meant that we were assigned start times based on our times in the previous races. There were 5 start groups with the "E" group being the fastest. I was assigned to the "B" group with a seed time of 15:33 and was the second starter in my group. I chuckled at being a member of the Golgafrincham B Ark for the day, quite an odd thought to have really. The clock would count down backwards from 14:10, the seed time of the first runner. I was set to go when the clock counted down to 6:06. 

Start ticket in hand I trotted off for my warm-up at about 8:30. It went well but my hands got really cold. I did some accelerations which also did not feel good and some high stepping. My chest felt fine but my legs were still a bit asleep and I began to worry if I was going to be able to kick it into the high gear during the race. The sun felt wonderful though and I felt pretty warmed up by the time I finished.

The line up was interesting. I was right behind the one person who I had been trading places with the whole series and right in front of one of PuddleThumper's nemesi. We chatted a bit and I mentioned to CP, runner #1,  that it felt strange to be up at the front. JF, runner #3, and I started talking about the Rock-n-Roll Marathon. She has signed up for the full already and I will be soon. We talked about the course a bit as well (it is a doozy). I mentioned that I really enjoyed the Sea Fair Half, especially the run across the 520, and she told me I was nuts as it was hot, hard, and hilly. Grin! That's me, lovin those nasty conditions. 

Then 9:00 rolled around and Group A started launching according to the clock. Pretty soon they were all gone and it was time for B to start. CP went off at 6:20. I watched her go and then the clock hit 6:06 and off I went. Immediately things felt smooth and I figured I would be able to do this. I closed within about 20-feet of CP and we both passed someone from group A before the first turn and then started reeling in people from that group along the top straightaway. CP was ahead of me for the first mile. I took a manual split for the first mile (screwed up the watch I think as it took and automatic split on its own) and kept going.

The second mile felt better than the first. I caught more people on the top straightaway and then caught CP just before the parking lot we park in. As I did she asked if I was sandbagging her. I said "No" and that I was really running about as fast as I could go. She said that I was a good pacer for her and I returned the compliment. At this point I was running somewhere between a 6:50 and 7:10 pace. CP dropped behind me but I think she also was close as we went. I have to admit that the "sandbagger" comment kind of stung. I really was running maybe just a little under what I could do all out but not because I'd underestimated what I could do but because I really seemed to have improved over the course of the series. This is a nice realization. 

I got passed for the first time at the turn near the dog park. Someone from the B pace group maybe or the C group went striding past. Two more people also passed me in the last .3 mile going in towards the finish. I recognized another B runner from his height but not the other runner.

As the finish line neared I sprinted for all I was worth, going around a clot of A runners and hitting the chutes running a 4:52 (12 something mph) and then just kind of doubled over and tried to breathe all the while trying to get to the back of the chute as everyone was finishing. CP finished right behind me to and I congratulated her as we exited the chute. I held off JF as well.

Now I know that this really doesn't matter because I had a head start on this one, JF was 18 seconds behind me, but I have this deep sense of accomplishment.

15:05 moving time for a 7:21 pace on my watch (the official time will be slower I know, it always is). 

Drank some water than then trotted up over the hill for a cool down.

Didn't go to the awards and pizza as I've too much to do today. Lots of grading. M and I are going off to a tea house with wireless to work. Seems a shame though as the sun is out.


What a great run and one in which I did not repeat the mistakes I've made in the past. This was a good start followed by a controlled first mile with enough to have a nice finishing kick. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting Home

Oh boy! Here is a Whale of a Tale!


0300—I woke up to the soft sounds of the ocean and no wind! Can't fall back to sleep. Finished The Lies of Locke Lamora until 0530 and generally agree with this review. I had ambition to read more on this trip but it did not turn out to be that kind of trip. 

0530-0700—Got packed and checked out.

0700-0830—Drove down the Lahaina Town and we walked around for one last time around the Banyan Tree and the beach just to the South of the main square and found some more cultural areas. Quick stop at Livewire Cafe and we got on the road. Both of us are ill. 

0830-0945—Drove from Lahaina to Kahului Airport. Turned in the rental car and had a nice bantering conversation with the return agent who was curious (fascinated?) about my last name. 

0945-1050—Checked in for United 4989 which was operated by Island Air. Got boarding passes only for this flight (hmm.). The check in agent seemed confused by what was happening and said that we should get the rest of our passes in Lihue. We checked our bag all the way to Seattle. Had my carry-on bag searched because they did not like the looks of the chocolate bar I was carrying, a Green & Blacks Caramel, and they checked my toiletries bag for explosive residue, in the process opening one of the shampoo bottles which has now leaked all over everything. They miss a container of liquid hand lotion in M's backpack. Waited at the gate. No plane and it was very quiet. It finally comes and a few passengers get off. We get on.

1050-1150—The flight to Kuai is spectacular. The flight attendant, however, seems really "thrilled" to be working. No really, I have never seen someone look so bored and I guess I would be too if I had spent my day hopping from island to island. 

1150-1250—Get into Kuai Airport and deplane. Walk to the gate for United 62, LIH-SFO-SEA, to get our next set of boarding passes and to confirm our upgrade (put through via phone call with a United ticketing agent the previous night). There is nobody there AND there is no United Customer Service Counter. Nothing.  I ask about UA Customer Service at the gift shop and the nice woman there said that they were only on the outside of the airport and that it was unlikely that anyone was there yet. Oh well, it is early and we have time. Lunch at the airport diner. I had a Terriyaki Plate (beef, white rice, and canned corn) and M a tuna sandwich. Neither of us have much energy. It is sunny with that strange occasional rain that comes down and temps in the mid-70's. M, again, comments on the "open air" design of the airport. We sit in the central area for a while. I called W for some advice. What would he do? Go out of the airport, see a ticketing agent, and come back in through security. Why? Because it would be likely that we would get "hassled" at the gate if we don't have boarding passes. 

1250-1330—There are people at the United counter AND a line (thanks Gift Shop Lady). I go up the First Class line and explain the situation to the sorter person. She points us to a machine we can check in and I start the process. It cannot handle the bag transfer and the process quits. An agent starts working with us, tries to multi-task with some other passengers (including a woman whose bags were so big I had to lift them up onto the scale for her). The situation gets a bit chaotic. Our Island Air baggage tag is passed to another ticketing agent who seems to be the "go to" person behind the counter and she starts working with us (all the while multi-tasking as more and more problems crop up). Then the check in system crashes and has to be rebooted which makes the situation just a little more chaotic. Once it comes back up she prints our boarding passes for coach. I said that our upgrade to First had been confirmed. She looks again, ah yes, but by this time it is too late for us to get seats together. Turns out that the ticketing agent I spoke with on the phone did not cancel out our initial reservation so we actually had 4 seats on the plane. She prints out our new boarding passes and we turn to go to the security line. M is looking at the passes. How come, she asks, I am going to Seattle and you are only going to San Francisco? I look again. I have someone else's boarding pass, try taking that through security. We turn around and go back to the sorting agent. I show her, she looks horrified, up to the main counter again and ten minutes later we have the correct boarding pass. Getting to be an old hand at security now. Lihue security is not at all concerned with my chocolate bar or the fact that my toiletries are oozing shampoo. Yay! We are back in. Hang out in the central area for a few minutes and then head out to gate 10, there is no plane. 

1330-1424—The gate is filling up and there still is no plane. A 757 HAS pulled up to gate 9 though. I suspect that there has been an unannounced gate change. There are lots of people coming in: vacationers, business people, kids. One local traveling with his wife and Keiki is talking loudly on the phone to his "Bra" about the fact that yesterday he missed his plane because it left early (Left early? Does that happen, ever?). We board and try to get reseated. The guy sitting next to me does not want to move but another couple has also been split and we work it out. Sitting next to me guy agrees to move one seat forward. I explain what had been happening with all the boarding passes to the cabin attendant. She apologizes and it is obvious that she feels sorry about all the bother. When they run out of the meal options she makes sure that I get my first choice (Chicken, Risotto, and Spinach). The seat in front of M is still empty but is soon occupied by Todd Rundgren. He stows his guitar in the locker and orders a bloody mary. I am thinking "He looks familiar" and "Hey Look! He is a 'Mac' Guy too!" Big and old hands on that guy. Then I heard the worst thing I could have heard at that moment, my name being called over the plane's intercom system. They had some paperwork for me, could I please identify myself by pressing the attendant call button? I do but am thinking "Now what could possibly be amiss?" I pressed the call button. Nothing. They call again. I press it. Everyone is now looking at me with some sort of interest. Nothing. They call again. This time I flag down a passing attendant and tell her that I am being paged. The gate agents were looking for me in coach and I found out later that there was some concern that I was not on board. What did they need to give me? My original Island Air bag check. OK. 

1424-2150—The flight is nice. Really relaxing. We read, ate, watched TV, looked out the window, sneezed, coughed, read, slept, etc.. Found out that we were going to have to change planes in SFO. Same flight, different aircraft. We left LIH late and had a weather delay of 10-minutes outside of SFO before landing and taxiing to gate 86, our next flight was going out of 89 so no worries either. This crew was so nice that they made up for all these little aggravations and I have to formally thank them. 

2150-0105—United 62 from SFO-SEA is delayed. We are supposed to land in SEA at 0035 on 2/17/09 but don't leave until 2306 for an 1 hour 38 minute flight. Went to the ticket agent to see if our boarding passes from the first leg were still good and if we could be reseated together. A pretty competent guy actually. He looks, moves a couple of people around, and puts us in 1 A and B. Two South Asian guys with very heavy accents start complaining that they cannot understand the Cantonese accented English of the gate crew as they make announcements. Uh, guys, have you listened to yourselves lately? 

This flight was a little less comfortable. The legroom in the bulkhead row is a bit short but I can stretch out sideways. There are a lot of deadheading flight attendants on this flight. Two of them are sitting next to me and they are chatting up a storm, the whole flight through. The front locker is filling up including someone's wedding dress which I inadvertently kicked as it was carried by. No worries though, it had already been used. It is pouring at SFO and I can hear the rain hitting the plane above the din of the cabin. I sleep, watch some of the same TV, and read a book called Banana, I may not be able to eat bananas after this. We both just want to be home. 

We land at 0105 and rush out to the train to the baggage claim. On the way I overhear a guard telling another passenger where the best place to sleep in the airport is. Terminal C seems to get the nod and the passenger can come back to N when the trains start running at 0430. 

The bags start coming off the plane. M asks me why I don't mind this. I am not sure. Waiting for bags seems to be part of the ritual for me I guess. Sort of a magic. Oh look there is the bag. Except that it isn't. Our bag does not turn up. 

The United baggage agent is in a jovial mood. I am not. Turns out that UA did not even get the bag from Island Air (at least this is what she said). Perhaps it turns up today. Otherwise we have lost some important stuff and I'll need new running kit and my GPS. 


Shuttle Express. Yes, I prepaid a round trip that was to give us priority. I go and check in. The guy asks me my confirmation number I say "I really don't know". We figure it out. The van is going to be at least 30 minutes. What!! It is cold, we are tired and sick. After a few minutes of waiting I cancel the reservation and request a refund (I am getting something back) and we take a $55 cab ride home. 

The pets are weirded out by our arrive and we have a note from the house sitter detailing some of the buttheaded things "The Boy" had been doing, breaking things and generally making a mess. This on top of his pasta feed on the day we left. I was so quiet in our house. No sounds of the sea and we were both too wired to sleep. It did eventually come though as did the 0700 alarm. 

Not the way I wanted to end this trip, not Planes, Trains, and Automobiles bad, but we are home. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Maui Day 4: Spinners, Lanai, a Maui Mugging, and a trip to see FISH!

On the Sea:

Our last full day in Maui and I got up bright and early to go on a snorkeling/dolphin experience out at Lanai Island. M wasn't feeling well and elected to just rest and I, despite still feeling the Kahana Cough, elected to go ahead. It, the Kahana Cough seems to have evolved into a chest cold for which I have a little boy on the plane out here to thank. They sure love Keiki out here but, you know, sometimes all those lovable children need to be taught to cover their mouths when they cough. In any event I felt well enough and excited enough to be going back out onto the water especially since I would be using an "optical mask"—I could see without my glasses. 

This time I got there early enough to check, sit and have a coffee (even better than the one I had yesterday as it was made with "care"), and to see the local artists set up their Sunday market under the Banyan Tree. As I walked through a couple of the artists were killing some sort of lizard or snake (I remember reading something about the necessity of this given invasive species but it was not a pleasant sight). Then, back to the sea wall to await the boat. 

Soon enough the boat turned up and it was time to board. There were 20 of us on a boat meant to hold over 100. One less and the trip would have been cancelled. Loading went fast and off we went. 

We had barely cleared the harbor when the excitement began. Whales were all around us and close too, under the boat and we 
had to stop for them (by law). 

This fellow spent a good 15 minutes or so investigating us with pass after pass under the boat. Surfacing, blowing, flipping over, showing us his fluke. 

It took us a while to get back underway . . . 

As you can see, Kaanpali is still close on the horizon as this one leaves us in its wake. 


We finally made it to Lanai and learned a few interesting things too:
  • This is where Dole Pineapples used to come from and they were shipped over to the cannery in Lahaina
  • In the 1800's a cowboy raised the height and water retention of the island by planting pine trees
  • Islands sink under their own weight
  • There is such a thing as a sideways blow hole

We were heading towards Manele Harbor on Lanai for our first snorkeling excursion but found ourselves delayed yet again, this time by a large pod of Spinner Dolphins. About the size of an adult human they look so very small and delicate in the water. They cruised the boat and we followed them for a while, watching them leap, splash, and , yes, spin. They were hard to photograph and this was the very best shot I got. 

And then it was time for snorkeling.

Boy was that water chilly. Not Puget Sound or Lake Washington cold but chillier than one would expect from the tropics (OK, it is February). Sea conditions were a bit choppy as I stepped backwards off the swim step and plunged down into the water. Good thing I had a wet suit top on. 

It has been a while since I've swum with fins and it took some getting used to along with cramping feet and calf muscles but once I got that all worked out everything was hunky and dory. The first thing I saw was a medium sized Sea Turtle moving around. I let it be as we have been warned to leave them as much room as we could. Tried an experimental dive too and found that my lungs did not have enough air to clear the snorkel when I surfaced (thanks Kahana Cough!). Lots of fish to see, you know the drill. I did shadow a Puffer Fish, the first one I have ever seen in the wild and not stuffed or on someone's sushi plate. Pretty neat, so I hovered over it for a while until it decided it did not like to be watched and hid in a hole. 

We had about an hour in Manele Harbor and I was out for about 45 minutes when I started feeling a bit queasy. Could have been the chop, could have been the optical mask I was using which, though it allowed me to see fairly clearly, was obviously not the right prescription for me. Same thing happened during the second snorkel session and I cut things short. 

Pretty neat to see and hear all the fish eating and making noise. 

The Captain decided that it was too choppy to remain out at Lanai so we headed back to Maui towards Mala Wharf just to the north of Lahaina. Hurricane Inki put paid to a significant portion of the wharf and what remains has become an artificial reef. But I get ahead of myself. First we had to get there. 

Remember the Mother, Baby, and Escort trio from the other day? They mugged us. Not a quick "give us all your money" either or a "drive by", this was a lingering investigation that went on for about 20 minutes or so. The three were under the boat, beside the boat, and around the boat. They investigated the propellors and rudders, they blew right next to us, they waved their flukes and blew bubbles at us. The mother (I think) even looked at us. This was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and I was simply wishing that M had been along to see it all. She wasn't, so I did the next best thing. I took some video . . . 

From Whales

Eventually the trio took off at the approach of two other whales who buzzed under the boat and kept on going. You know you are seeing something special when the entire crew of the boat stop working and actually try to take pictures as well. What few Keiki there were screamed with glee and the adults, well, we were just amazed as we clicked the shutters. The captain explained that we had been through a "Maui Mugging" and off we went. 

Could the day get any better?

Yes. We finally got to Mala Wharf and I jumped into the water to begin my exploration and immediately ran into three Sea Turtles moving slowly around. I also discovered that, like bird watching, you should just sit still and watch for movement and all kinds of things will pop out. Different fish, a Trumpet Fish hung out about a foot below me for a time and there all kinds of Sea Urchins and interesting corals to look at. Three divers went by as well and I tracked them on the surface, noticing what their guide was pointing at. I was a little disappointed that we didn't see any Black Tipped Reef Sharks. THAT would have been something to see as well. 

Then I started getting nauseous again and decided to call it a day after 5 slow passes over the reef. 

Getting back into shore was happily interrupted by this fellow who breeched about 200 yards from the boat and then took a look at us. (You can see the white water from the breech to the left.)

Needless to say we pulled in a bit late with lots of happy memories and some spectacular pictures. 

Back to the condo where I showed M some of the videos and then we went out to the Maui Ocean Center (yep we paid the fee so that M could actually see more than what I was able to). There was a young wahine keiki who was so excited that she kept running around yell to any adult "FISH!!" Pretty funny. Any adult would do and she wrapped herself around my legs a few times before we moved on. Made me feel quite wonderful to see someone experiencing all of this with such excitement and wonder. Sort of like me during the earlier part of the day. The ocean center is quite nice taking you, as so many of these places do, from the surface down through the mid-ocean and then the deep ocean. There is a huge tank through which a tunnel runs and you can see the many sharks and rays in their collection. We even got caught in a "bubble net" and were congratulated on being eaten by a Humpback Whale. First mugged, now eaten. Yay!


We stopped for dinner on the way back to the condo, Penne Pasta, the creation of Mark Ellman, one of the local celebrity chefs (maybe). A little on the bland and uninspired side if you ask me but still carbs were much needed, the portions were ample, and the price was right. The other Ellman restaurant that we ate at, Mala Ocean Tavern, was excellent (and we paid for that too) and deserving of your custom should you find yourself in the neighborhood. Just make sure to make reservations if you want a table as it seems quite popular with the sort of people who are not used to waiting. 

Sunset at the North end of Kaanapali Beach, the small space that hasn't been sucked into the resort universe and where beach picnics, surf fishing, and canoe launching still occur. 

Tomorrow we leave for home. M said in the car that "Seattle will be a real let-down after this." She is right. It is hard to leave sunny and 80-degree weather for temperatures in the 40's, even if it has been sunny. I expect that getting off the plane will be a shock as will all the exams that are coming in on Monday night and running in the cold and mud. 

Now, I just hope that United gets our upgrades right!

Me ke aloha pumehana! Mahalo for reading!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Maui Day 3: Lahaina Run, Haleakela, and the Kahana Cough

I awoke with a cough this morning, sounding a bit like Golem actually, from all the dust in the air. It has been fiercely windy over the past couple of days, and though the winds have abated somewhat this afternoon they are still strong enough for serious windsurfing and, judging from what I see out my window this evening, some not-so-serious windsurfing. It is not just me that has this cough. I am hearing it everywhere. Sleeping last night was difficult from all the noise and I found myself imagining what a hurricane might sound like. I would like to go on record as being so thankful that the two drunk women who were Fresh of the Plane seemed NOT to be our neighbors (either that or they passed out from too many Mai Tai's).

A pretty stunning day and we are both collapsed in exhausted heaps with more fun on tap for tomorrow. 

Lahaina Run

As you know, I am sick of running the road by the condo. It is noisy, gritty, and crowded but it is also fairly pretty in spots too. This morning M and I decided to get up early and go run an orientation run around Lahaina Town. A very easy three mile circuit of the town in a kind of run/walk configuration, good for M who is restarting running after quite some time and good for old beat-up me. 

It is always interesting to experience places as they wake up from the previous day and evenings activities (or debaucheries as the case may be). Restaurant deliveries are going on, garbage is being removed, a few hardy souls are walking their dogs (foggily in some cases with cups of coffee in hand), and then there are the early-bird tourists checking in for their various ocean excursions cluttering the dock area looking quite like they are not sure exactly what or where they should be (I know about this having experienced it yesterday). We found free parking next to the main clinic and set off on a brisk walk .25, run .5, walk .5, run 1.5 things that M wanted to do. It was warm and not at all windy (thankfully) and I felt my legs warm up nicely. Things would have been spectacular had it not been for the Kahana Cough. 

Yesterday evening M wondered aloud where all the people who work in the hotels and in the area live and I think we might have found some of that out towards the South Eastern part of town, along Shaw Street going towards Wainee Street. Gone were the clean resorts and updated buildings of long ago. Instead there were old broken down shacks and cabins, all seemed cosily asleep, and the Salvation Army Depot. Turning Northwest on Wainee Street we passed all kinds of churches, temples, and grave yards stopping on Prison Street to see the reconstructed prison walls (built by the WPA no less) and to wake up a dog inside there who, in the course of warning of the approach of two ghosts, deeply annoyed its master. 

Not much else to tell about this run except that it was nice to get beyond the gilded resorts and the showiness of Front Street.

Tomorrow I'll attempt a run from the condo up towards the mountains, probably up Akahele Street. We'll see as this will be in the afternoon, AFTER a full day of activities AND it is totally uphill. 


I am not sure that words can really describe Haleakela. Simply amazing comes to mind. 

It took about 2 hours to drive out and up the mountain, not including stops at the various visitors centers. Once we headed towards the volcano the drive became stunning, just stunning. In my mind I was comparing the driving and the scenery to similar drives I have done in the past and even that does not do it justice. It began a little like driving in Big Sur, then changed to the kind of twisting and turning on Figeroa Mountain behind Santa Barbara, and it finished sort of like the Beartooth Highway, complete with lowering clouds and mist. The temperature dropped a couple of degrees with every 1000 feet we climbed and the wind picked up too (the forecast called for 20-30 mph sustained with gusts of 50). 

The higher we went the more stark the scenery and the lush sugarcane fields so far below looked soft and inviting. The occasional Silver Sword popped up as did some green leafy plan I cannot find the name of (yet). 

The summit was very windy and very cold. We didn't bring food with us (stupid mistake) and so a hike down was not in the cards for us. We did do a short hike that took us higher up and it was on this walk that I realized I was in no shape to run a long run down through the crater, even if it was downhill. My HR was a bit up and I was a bit light-headed. Let me let my pictures speak for themselves.

Cows! Yes, there were cows all over the place, lounging in the sun, and occasionally carefully crossing the road as this crew did. They look both ways before crossing. The last pair over were a mother and calf and M who started playing (M was able to get the last shot). 

The descent went much faster and we stopped to eat at a general store midway down the mountain. I was so hungry and inhaled a piece of pizza, half a veggie wrap, some potato chips, and some cheese cake before we headed the rest of the way down. 

Our next stop was to be the Maui Ocean Center which is reputed to have a wonderful aquarium but it was $25 a head to get in and we didn't feel like paying that. I did, however, reserve a snorkel trip at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning out to Lanai to see dolphins and other kinds of interesting things. 

Both of us are tired and feeling a bit under the weather this evening and are spending it in eating fresh papaya and pineapple. I read a bit by the pool but it was a bit uncomfortable as the clouds were obscuring the sun. I think I am finally tanned. :-)

Tomorrow, our last full day on the island, awaits!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Maui Day 2: Whale Watching, Art Buying, Iao Valley, Run, Napili Beach Sunset

That is what it is according to the DJ's at Kapa Radio , the Hawai'ian station we've permanently set the station too for the duration of our stay. M commented a little bit ago that it was too bad we only had two more nights. She is really enjoying herself.

And how could we not when the morning greets us with scenes like this?

Not a cloud in the sky.

Today was a rush.

Watching Whales

Up early to get into Lahaina for a 7:45 check-in for our whale watching trip. We just made it. We had to park in a pay lot and while I did that M went down to check us in. I ran after her, picture me in Teva's running down the streets of Lahaina Town and you can imagine why heads were turning and, perhaps, people were laughing and smiling. :-P I caught her and we made into the check in line on time.

I've been on quite a few whale watching trips and have seen Humpbacks and Greys mostly along with scads of dolphins. The closest I ever got was while paddling off Isla Vista. My friends and I were out testing some new kayak safety equipment and a Grey with its calf surfaced right behind me. Scared the willies out of me!

Today's trip wasn't like that but it held its own excitements.

It was brilliantly sunny when we left the dock. We shared a table on the top deck with a rather jovial (and tanned) couple from Chicago who were experimenting with a pair of those binocular cameras, their results had not been good thus far. As we cleared the harbor area we were seeing whales blowing all over. It really was a matter of pointing the boat in a direction and go. Eventually we were going to see whales. And we did. Two special things.

First, we saw a mother and a calf swimming along side-by-side. The naturalist said that judging by its coloration the calf was about a week to ten days old, a "2009 model" she said we were seeing. 

There was a male accompanying them too but that was not, as we were informed, what it seemed either. 

The male, it seems, was waiting around for the off chance that this female would immediately be ready to mate again instead of going off for two years. 

Things got even more exciting as we left this trio. 

Almost immediately we saw quite a bit of activity ahead of us (more rushing of the rails to get a good picture, etc.). 

We spent the better part of an hour shadowing this group of whales and they were not playing, they were fighting

There were at least four whales, possibly five, forming what the naturalist called a "competition group" in which the males were duking it out to see which one would be the female's main "escort", if you catch that drift. We could only imagine what it looked like under water but to my mind it could be something like a WWI Dogfight  in which large powerful beings maneuver for the best hit using their weight and barnacles as weapons. 

This situation was pretty disturbing at first given the fact that we have been taught that whales are "gentle" and "wise" creatures rather that what they are, living beings with the same basic agendas as us all—life, food, and sex—for which we are prepared to do violence (even, as happened a few years ago we were informed, to the death). This fellow (below) has just been hit hard from below and forced to the surface. 

And then there was a chase to the surface (I apologize for the fuzziness of the photo but things were happening fast and my camera is, well, not really set up for speedy shooting).

Amazing how time flies. Our two hours on the water was almost up and we had to head back but not before seeing the winner seeing the "losers" off and then he and his paramour swimming slowly off to parts unknown. 

Buying Art

Yesterday we saw some pieces in the old Lahaina Jail cum non-profit art gallery that we liked and decided to stop in again to see if they still stuck. They did and we have two new pieces of art to hang and M has a new turtle pendant hanging from her neck by an artist named Lundquist (who will be doing a workshop in the Seattle area this coming summer). I met another artist who does his art by burning designs using candles and then painting them. Very interesting effect and though I didn't see anything that captivated me the technique is intriguing. I also learned that there are those who do not hold the Pacific Whale Foundation in high regard who question the earliness in the season that they start making trips out there. Ah, politics even here in paradise. Or perhaps I should say "Especially in paradise!"

Walking Back In Time

After a quick lunch at the condo (I seem to be eating nothing but sandwiches on this trip) we jumped back into the car and headed out to the Iao Valley State Park. Kind of a long drive and I was pretty tired by the time we got there but the walk was pretty neat. We had some clouds but were able to see "The Needle" quite clearly. 

Can you image climbing that in a last ditch effort to survive the great battle that took place here when King Kamehameha invaded in 1790?

If you come to Maui you should see this little park and go on the walk therein. There are a number of pools, streams, traditional plants, all set up in the manner in which native Hawai'ians would have used the space. A nice walk (and we did not need the bug spray we were advised to purchase). But I would combine it with some of the other mid-island areas rather than making a special trip.

I did stand on a rock and do my best Haka face. M just laughed and said that I simply don't have the right temperament to pull something like that off. I think it is because I have no desire to kill someone (or even make them think I am going to do so) AND that my neck is simply not thick enough. 

By this point we were both tired and so we headed back to the condo, hitting Friday afternoon beach traffic in the process. But the sun was out and the views beautiful—the wind was so high, gusts up to 38 mph, that driving became challenging due to the cross winds. 

Got back to the condo and I put on my running kit and went off for a very easy 7-miler in the heat and the wind. I ran towards Highway 30 and discovered a "Beach Walk" in which I had the following experiences:
  • I was greeted by the cutest pit bull puppy whose wiggly demeanor belied the spiked collar its owners had outfitted it with (funny how that happens). I couldn't help but stop, squat down and get showered with enthusiastic puppy kisses.
  • I was surprised to see a public beach amidst all the resorts that surrounded the track AND to be running on a path made of Trex
  • Running though resort after resort feels kind of strange. They were all strung together and it was only possible to tell the difference by looking at the architecture and the various signage as the people lounging around all looked the same and were doing basically the same things
  • People look at you funny when you run through a line to get into the Luau. They look at you even more funnily when you repeat the performance 10-minutes later on the return journey
  • Did I mention that running from resort to resort feels strange yet? It didn't get any better on the return
  • Bucking into a 23 mph wind is not a lot of fun. Even less fun is when it is a hot desiccating wind that dries your sweat so fast that you cannot us evaporation to cool off
  • Gatorade really tastes good when you are very hot and running into a wind
  •  I do not need to run along Lower Honoapiilani Road anymore. Enough sucking exhaust, dust, and barbecue smoke
Actually, it was a great run and finding the Beach Walk access was a bonus. Here is the track —

Tomorrow, however, I am going to run around in Lahaina before heading out to Haleakala for a hike. 

In the meantime, I leave you with the sunset at Napili Beach, a little north of Kahana. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Maui Day 1: Walking Around Lahaina Town

The night never seemed to end! 

Both of us crashed after having a quick meal of sandwiches in our home for a few days (#903 at the Royal Kahana). The condo is an efficiency, clean and basic, with a view of the water (you have to be on the right side of the balcony). 

The sun rose a few minutes before 7:00 and with it the chirping of various birds and the beginning of the general business of the day. School buses, commuters, etc.. I, of course, had been waking up every 20-minutes or so straining to see if the sun was out and what kind of day we would have. 

This sure is a pretty place although I think one thing that I will remember the most is all the traffic. There is a bus system but most everyone drives cars. Few bikes but there are bike lanes.

The run this morning was actually pretty good although I certainly was working hard. It was warm and I was still a bit messed up from the flight despite drinking water, etc.. The nice thing was that M came along with me and had a nice time. We ran .5 miles, walked .5, ran another .5, and then she walked the rest of the way to the condo and I continued on my merry way running. Managed to get 4 in but, again, my heart was going. Can't say that the route was great though, along the main access road along the beach, and so I need to find a better place to run.

Saw lots of whales out in the channel as I was stretching on the balcony.

For the rest of the morning M and I went into Lahaina Town and walked around. Lahaina is like every other beach town I've to—Edgartown, Provincetown, Huntington Beach, Santa Barbara (especially lower State Street). Front Street, the main tourist drag, is really just that, filled with your standard touristy things (no fudge though). It wasn't so crowded when we got there but became progressively so as more and more people came in from the surround AND more and more people came off the cruise ship anchored out in the channel—there were these tenders just shuttling back and forth from the ship to the harbor off-loading people who could barely move, some of whom reminded me of the blob people in Wall-E. I hate to be unkind but it was really scary. Seattle is one of those destinations too but I never really see such things in Seattle where there is enough space and people to dilute the influx (that, and the fact that I generally prefer the wider open spaces). 

At the center of the waterfront is the 136 year old Banyan Tree that served as a central shaded space. Very impressive (the last time I saw one of these was in India) and full of people taking advantage of the shade—a whole group of painters, a couple of guys with their laptops, a homeless man sitting on a bench listening to music on his headphones and concentrating very hard on his Bible. A beautiful setting. 

We wandered through some art galleries including one in the basement jail of the old Court House (imagine art being displayed in jail cells if you would). There were a couple of artists whose work we saw, liked, and may be visiting again. 

By this time I needed lunch, badly. We ate at the Maui Swiss Cafe ("Good Food—Good Mood"), a place that was highly recommended in our guide book. My spicy roast beef sandwich on a Swiss bread roll was quite tasty. M's veggie sandwich was a little strange but she said it was "OK" (which could mean that is was good or that it was just "OK"). More walking around visiting old buildings and churches. 

After lunch went to the Wo Hing Temple and watched a short film presentation that included some films that Thomas Edison made of the island in 1898 and also a short discussion of Chinese immigration to the islands. The Baldwin House, a missionary/doctor who came with his family to the island, and in whose home I should have liked to live. A Catholic Church (I think) and its adjacent cemetery within which are buried many sailors and members of the leading families of the island. The most poignant graves, however, are those that read something like "Born May 1898/Died September 1899". Quite a few of those, testament to the riskiness and tenuousness of life back then. 

We were going to drive up to one of the beaches up north this afternoon but decided to sit on the beach at the condo. M is already winning the tanning contest (she just tans faster than I do). I went for a swim, through some fish, and stepped on a sharp rock (no worries though) and then spent some time reading and chatting. Normally I cannot sit still on a beach, today was no real exception, it was just nice to have company.

This evening we are going to dinner at Mala Ocean Tavern , another place with more local foods.  

Tomorrow morning? Whale watching with the Pacific Whale Foundation and then ???

But here are today's pictures.


Which Island Is This?

Outside our window there is the cloud shrouded island of . . . ?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Race Report: Race 5-Winter Grand Prix 2-mile Track Race

I left it all on the track!

What: Club Northwest Winter Grand Prix Race #5 2-Mile Track Race
Heat #4: 14:25-16:15 Pace
Time: Approximately 15:20 (unofficial)
Place: 12 out of 14

First track race, ever! I've seen track races on TV, run speed work on the Green Lake Track, but have never run a race where you just just keep turning left. Honestly? I am not sure I like it as much as being out in the woods or on the roads. But, hey, new experiences are always nice and this turned out to be really fun. 

Boy was I nervous. PT picked me up at about 8:30 and we went out to the event at the Nathan Hale High School track (no "Raider Pride" for me but what a nice track, puts the Green Lake Track to shame). We got there with about 12 minutes to spare before the start of the first heat, sub-11-minute 2-milers, and I signed up for heat 4, 14:25-16:15 pace, figuring that if I could run 7:45's like I did during the last race I'd be fine. My confidence was not high though and there were a great many butterflies fluttering in my stomach. Heat 4 was, by far, the smallest with only 14 runners signed in (heats 1-3 had at least 35). PT hadn't decided whether or not she was going to run but decided after warming up a bit to go into heat 4 as well (Darn it! There went my chances of winning. ;-) )

It was interesting to watch the first heats from the stands and also while I was warming up. These runners make it look so easy as they fly by but the whole run actually seems to be happening in slow motion and goes on forever. I was struck by this while watching the Olympic distance races this past summer. Today just drove the point home. They were so fluid. It was interesting to see the runners at the end too—faces pale masks of concentration and effort, the occasional rope of drool coming off the mouth or snot from the nose, and the hacking coughs of those who are leaving no iota of effort untapped.  Watching all this my amazement grew as did my nervousness. Could I actually do this? Eight laps of the track going as all out as possible? 

Warming up on the football field was pretty fun actually. There were runners whizzing all over the place, little kids playing with balls, etc.. I ran around for about .85 miles before doing some drills and stretches. Running high steps on the hash marks on the field felt like a good thing to do to increase my leg turnover speed and to wake them up. 

Pretty soon heat three was wrapping up and heat 4 runners were called to the field. Off with the sweats (brr!) and down to the field where my nervousness just increased. PT said that I looked cute when I was all nervous, that made me laugh and I noticed that the closer we got to the start the less nervous I was actually getting, especially as I began to recall Sj's advice to me earlier in the AM, "it might be good to not have your head on the game and just let your body do what it knows how to do?" (My mind is often my own worst enemy and turning it off is one of the hardest things for me to do.)

Call to the track. We are on the track. The starter is all business-like. Three commands: 1) whistles to get our attention, 2) runners on your mark, and 4) BANG!

It felt weird to be standing there with 14 of my newest and closest friends on a spongy track on a cold gray day in Feb waiting for someone to fire a gun. There it came, BANG!, and I jumped out of my skin and just went. 

I was with the pack at least through the first turn, close enough to hear one of the faster leaders complain about how slow we were going and then things started stringing out once we got to the first straightaway. Here are my quarter-mile splits:
  • 1:47 (7:08)—felt strong and had only a few yards away from the middle pack. One runner was close behind me (I could hear him but not see him) but I lost him/her on the back straightaway
  • 1:50 (7:20)—still felt strong and still maintaining contact with the middle pack runners (a teenage boy and a young girl)
  • 1:52 (7:28)—still strong though I can begin to feel my energy dropping and the middle pack starts pulling away from me (the young girl passes the teenage boy). I can see what is happening in the front and am happy to see that PT is up there with the leaders, in third I think.
  • 1:57 (7:48)—the wheels are definitely coming off at this point and I am wondering whether I have another 4 laps in me. Still can see the middle pack and hear the announcer calling off the names of the leaders, PT is 3rd or 4th. I am beginning to disassociate and cannot really feel my legs. My breathing is also pretty hard too, belly breathing is not working as well.
  • 1:55 (7:40)—burst of energy at the start of the second mile as I realize that I can do this. It isn't suffering and the track is feeling a bit short to me that this point. I like running on the soft surface of the track too. 
  • 1:59 (7:56)—just a grind. I can hear that something exciting is happening up in the front but I cannot see it at all. Have now lost contact with the middle pack and am just running out by myself (something that usually happens). 
  • 2:01 (8:04)—"Can I stop now!?" I actually am thinking that it would be nice just to not finish and actually become conscious of my stomach bouncing around, sort of like Rerun's in "What's Happening". The middle pack is in the middle distance. It is getting so hard to breath and my mind is wandering.
  • 1:58 (7:52)—One more lap to go! I CAN do this!!! Pushing now, with everything I have got. PT is at the chute cheering me in (thanks I needed that!). Sprinting the last 15 to 20 yards across the track and into the chutes where I see my time (I think, 15:20) on the clock and get handed my finish card with the number "12" on it. I am not last! I can't breathe but I am not last! 
  • Jumping up and down time! Well, actually it is first bending down and catching breath time and then jumping up and down time. And then I found out that PT beat her nemesis and had quite a duel for 1st, loosing it only at the last moment. Big grins everywhere and NO DESIRE to run a cool down. Ambled over to the admin table to submit my finish card and then some stretching while watching heat #5 start. 
Yes, I left it all on the track today and even though I was generally slowing down I still managed to run my fastest. The degree of happiness I feel at this moment is really hard to describe and I started crying happily when looking at my data from this race. 

My students are really lucky that I am grading their midterm exams today. :-)

Next up? Running on Maui! I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

22 Weeks

OK, here we go. 

I have now committed in my mind to running the Inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon on 27 June 2009, the replacement to the SeaFair Marathon (2009 is a good year for Inaugurations methinks). 

Working on customizing a Daniels Running Formula to my needs. So far I like what I see in its flexibility. But this means getting some ducks in a row like figuring out my base mileage and training intensity. I've also been looking back at the training plan that Coach T came up for me for the 2006 Portland Marathon

  • I would like to run at a minimum a 9:30 pace which will have me finishing no longer than 4:10:00
  • I HAVE to beat my 4:20-something time for the Portland
And the fun begins . . .