The Normal Life Blog

Here is our ongoing story of our life off the trail, off the bike, and off the road. We try to keep the adventuring spirit, even in between our more adventurous adventures.

 

Ready for Rocky Raccoon
1/29/15
Interestingly, as I type this, “One More Time” by Daft Punk is playing on Pandora. Not saying this is my last Rocky, but here we go again, for the fourth time. I’ve yet to have a good one. I’m feeling better heading into this race than I have for any previous 100 miler. I feel like I’m in good shape, logistics are in top form, and I feel mentally ready for the experience that is ahead. There is good competition in this race, but not out of my league. I love racing and can’t wait to get to Texas for another shot at this distance.

Our friend Eric has said it best:

 


 

Garmin, Strava Geek
12/29/14
Our holiday gifts to each other this year were GPS watches for our running. First, I bought a Garmin 220 Forerunner. I loved it from the first run. Julie started asking about using it. I wasn’t ready to share. We ordered hers two days later. We are both in love with our new toys.

Link the new Garmin data with the social running/biking website Strava, and I am now part of a worldwide friendly competition, where people locally and globally compare workout stats. I am partial to the distance metric right now as I’m trying to run a ton leading up to Rocky Raccoon 100 at the end of January. Garmin and Strava arrived at just the right time. Love it.

Interested in a GPS watch? Check out DC Rainmaker’s site. He reviews all watches and he does so very thoroughly. If you are even thinking about a watch, this guy has some data for you.

http://www.dcrainmaker.com/

 


 

An Ultimate Adventurer
12/26/14
We’ve watched this National Geographic Live presentation about Andrew Skurka’s Alaska/Yukon Expedition three times now. Every time I sit in awe as he tells his story. It stokes my adventure fire each time and the 33 minute presentation zips by as I sit with mouth open dreaming of new experiences.

 


 

Almost a Nurse
12/16/14

I’m 34 years old and still enjoying winter break from school! Thankfully though, I have completed five quarters of my seven quarter RN program and hope to graduate this coming June. New experiences, new friends, new perspectives. Lots of new! There have been some growing pains, but overall, rewarding life experience.

I don’t go back to school for a few more weeks. Perfect. I can plan 2015 adventures!

After the 4th quarter of classes I took the LPN NCLEX exam and passed officially making me a nurse. While I'm not likely to practice as an LPN, it feels good to know that I could and that I've cleared the first barrier to entry.

After the 4th quarter of classes I took the LPN NCLEX exam and passed officially making me a nurse. While I’m not likely to practice as an LPN, it feels good to know that I could and that I’ve cleared the first barrier to entry.

 


 

CIM Marathon Breakthrough
12/11/14

Best marathon I’ve run. Ran smart, got faster as the race went, and I PRed. The course was ideal, the weather ideal, the competition the best I could hope for, and I had my favorite support team (Julie and Jeff). As I ran toward the capitol in the last mile in Sacramento I thought, “This is so great. I love running and I love my life”.

I know there are only so many opportunities to have these experiences in life and I’m fortunate to have had this experience in particular.

Specific highlights of the race:
-Negative splits
-Ran first half with Orin Schumacher from Bowerman. Had a good time with him and he is a steady runner, great pacer.
-Got many comments from crowd that I was the first they saw smiling, or that I had the best smile in the race.
-Joked with Orin that he wouldn’t want to lose to “smiley”. I also apologized knowing it could be annoying running next to Smiley. We had fun with it and laughed, stayed relaxed.
-Only got passed by one person the entire race after mile 2 (and it was someone I had passed around mile 15).
-Loved not carrying water (benefit of road versus trail). My papercup-pinching technique was still strong. Also enjoyed dropping my used Powergel packets on the street rather than carrying them all around. It’s the little things.
-69th place with a 2:33.37 is awesome. I love fast races.
-Michael Wardian beat me, after running the North Face 50 miler the day before!
-Splits: 5:59, 5:53, 5:56, 5:49, 5:56, 5:55, 5:56, 5:57, 5:56, 5:55, 5:55, 6:01, 5:55, 5:51, 5:47, 5:49, 5:37, 5:48, 5:43, 5:51, 5:47, 5:59, 5:49, 5:42, 5:45, 5:42, 1:09

Here are some pictures Julie took from the race:

Orin and I early in the race. He thankfully didn't seem to mind that I ran behind him most of the way. There was a slight breeze. Plus, I like zoning out running behind people.

Orin and I early in the race. He thankfully didn’t seem to mind that I ran behind him most of the way. There was a slight breeze. Plus, I like zoning out running behind people.

Still following Orin (he finished in 2:35). Went through the half together in 1:17.50.

Still following Orin (he finished in 2:35). Went through the half together in 1:17.50.


From 15 on I was moving up. Stuck with this guy for a couple miles. Good to have him to work with around mile 20. It also got foggy as the sun came up; perfect.

From 15 on I was moving up. Stuck with this guy for a couple miles. Good to have him to work with around mile 20.

Kept it together the entire race and finished strong. My last mile was my second fastest (5:42).

Kept it together the entire race and finished strong. My last mile was my second fastest (5:42).

Always feels good to be finished! Feels better to be finished after a good race though.

Always feels good to be finished! Feels better to be finished after a good race though.

 


 

The Big Movie Post
12/10/14

We’ve watched so many movies since August and I don’t recall a bad one or one that I wouldn’t recommend. So I’m going to list all our favorites of the past few months along with links to Rottentomatoes for reviews and trailers. Enjoy.

Amour – Wow. Intense. Felt very real. Addressed an issue that impacts most people yet is rarely ever talked about. And it had a typical weird, thinker, French finish.
Jagten (The Hunt) – Another foreign film and another one that addresses a social issue that seems way too real. Scary because it seems like this could happen, and the community’s reaction seems real.
Dallas Buyers Club – Injustice and bureaucracy suck. Matthew and Jared were awesome.
Nebraska – Spending time with and caring about making people’s lives around you better. Appreciated the story, the feeling, in a bleak, black and white setting.
Omar – What a trapped, difficult experience it must be to be living in war torn areas. Basics like trust become even difficult to count on.
American Hustle – Put off watching this one for a while because it is long (close to 3 hours). Got wrapped up in it from the get go. Engaging, fun story.
Frozen – “Let it Go” really is a catchy song. We love happy cartoon movies.
The Great Beauty – What is the point? What are we doing here? Do our lives mean anything? Got me thinking about death, meaning, big picture stuff. Also left me thinking when it was over because it had a typical Euro ending.
Gravity – Put off watching this for a while too, just wasn’t excited for it. Engaging story. Maybe I’m an easy sell but I got into this one.
Finding Vivian Maier – Well-told story.
Jodorowrsky’s Dune – One of those stories I would have never known, but am glad I learned about.
The Missing Picture Unique. Powerful. Can’t believe I knew nothing about the Khmer Rogue in Cambodia. Glad they shared this missing story.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Typical Wes Anderson. Fun. Outrageous. Entertaining.
The Lunchbox – Hindi movie. Feel good, emotional. Went for something a little bigger and they got some of it.
Ernest and Celestine – Super cute. Also insightful on a bigger level. Again, we love cartoons.
Zero Dark Thirty Anything but cute. Enjoyed the movie, but leaves me questioning. Hunting and killing people doesn’t feel right.
Stories we Tell – Get a bunch of people to tell their version of an important family story and what do you get? A well told story.
Inside Llewyn Davis – Left me questioning and thinking. I think that’s a sign of a good movie. Another one of those that made me think, “What am I doing?” type of movies.
Wadjda Preview seemed a little hokey. It probably was. It was also fun and feel good. Hit on all the stereotypes, put them in our face, and made us say, “really, this is how it is?”.

In listing all these, it appears as if we have had a lot of time on our  hands. These have been hours well spent; they’ve been productive, thoughtful hours spent together. Movies have kept us thinking about our lives, the lives of others, and meaning in both. Feels like a good habit to be in.


 

My new Instant Crush
12/2/14
I go through phases with music, I get fixated on a song or two, sometimes for weeks at a time. I happened on the “Instant Crush” video by Daft Punk a few days ago and have been listening to it multiple times per day ever since. I was amazed by how the mannequins in the video were able to evoke emotion in me. They are simple statues yet somehow the video coupled with the music made me feel for them. The entire album, Random Access Memories feels good.


 

Seattle Marathon coaching day
11/30/14
Cold, cold day on the marathon course today. 27 degrees cold. And there was wind along Lake Washington to add to the frigid race. Julie, Dan, and Dionne were up for the challenge though and each put in solid efforts, with Dan (3:31) and Dionne (4:01) gaining new PRs and Julie (3:29) running her second fastest marathon of her career (21 total).

As a coach, I was nervous for them. Dan and Dionne have been working steadily since July and while on a warmer, less windy day, I think they could have gone quite a bit faster, they both knocked off nearly 20 minutes from their previous bests. It has been a pleasure to watch them become stronger runners. They worked really hard and I am happy they were rewarded for it.

Here are a few pictures from the day. It was beautifully cold.

Pre-racing at our place. It worked out perfectly for them as they could jog from our apartment to the starting line for their warm up.

Pre-racing at our place. It worked out perfectly for them as they could jog from our apartment to the starting line for their warm up.

The run on the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington was quick and pleasant for them. They were about to be pummeled as they made their way north a short while later along the lake.

The run on the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington was quick and pleasant for them. They were about to be pummeled as they made their way north a short while later along the lake.

It was sunny, but the wind made the middle miles tough. The hills were still ahead of them.

It was sunny, but the wind made the middle miles tough. The hills were still ahead of them.

They kept smiling and pushed on.

They kept smiling and pushed on.

So happy to be finished.

So happy to be finished.

And warm!

And warm!

Congratulations Dan, Dionne, and Julie. You all trained really hard, you pushed yourselves on a challenging day and course, and you all performed well on race day. I’m really happy and proud for all of you. Cheers.


 

Twenty feet from Stardom
11/30/14
Fun, entertaining, informative. They tried for some depth and emotion, I didn’t really feel it. Glad I watched it and it made me want to sing. Somewhat amazed at how I never really notice the background singers, and even more so that a lot of background vocals have been done by a small group of people.


 

Feel good movies
11/29/14
We’ve been on a movie tear the past couple months. We don’t have cable and we only get two stations with our rabbit ears. However, with our Seattle library card, we can get almost any movie out there, and it’s only a few blocks from our home. Our primary source for choosing movies has been rottentomatoes.com. They conglomerate critic reviews and rank movies. We’ve been going through the best ranked movies of the past few years. As a result, we’ve thought new thoughts, we’ve had our emotions charged, and we’ve laughed. It’s been good entertainment but also insightful and motivating.

Two of our feel good favorites of the season have been The Lego Movie and Short Term 12. Both made me want to cry at times, both made me laugh, and both made me feel good about people and life. They motivated me to be an individual, to be creative, to try to make a difference in the world, and to be a better person. Plus, The Lego Movie managed to get a catchy song hook “Everything is awesome” stuck in my head for weeks. Highly recommend both movies.


 

Cross Country racing again

11/28/14

I haven’t raced a race shorter than a marathon in nearly four years. I’m training for the California International Marathon next weekend so I thought a shorter distance race, working my aerobic threshold sounded like a good idea. Plus, sporting the 7 Hills jersey and getting out on a local cross country course at the USATF Pacific NW Cross Country Championships sounded like a fun idea.

The summary is that I was really happy with the run. I finished 24th out of 41 runners, mostly younger than me, I ran 35:38 (5:44 pace) for 10k on a rolling cross country course. I had fun chatting with some of the local runners I’ve come to know, and I felt the burn of pushing hard for a shorter race. I think it’s a good thing to experience every now and then; I’m guessing there will be more of these in my future.

Here are a few pictures from the event taken by Julie:

Chatting it up with the young bucks at the starting line in Woodland Park, Seattle.

Chatting it up with the young bucks at the starting line in Woodland Park, Seattle.

I tried to stay steady throughout. These two from the Seattle Running Club tailed me the entire race.

I tried to stay steady throughout. These two from the Seattle Running Club tailed me the entire race.

It was a perfect fall day. It smelled like mud and falling leaves.

It was a perfect fall day. It smelled like mud and falling leaves.

I followed this guy for almost the entire race. My last lap was my fastest, I kicked at the end, but he still held me off.

I followed this guy for almost the entire race. My last lap was my fastest, I kicked at the end, but he still held me off.

I love racing. It's challenging work, but it feels so good at the end.

I love racing. It’s challenging work, but it feels so good at the end.


 

Between a Rock and a White Blaze book promo

Beginning Thanksgiving morning, Julie’s book on the Appalachian Trail will be specially priced on Amazon (kindle edition only). Through Monday 12/1, the book will be available for download for only $0.99.

Between a Rock and a White Blaze


 

Grand Canyon Bachelor

After spending this past weekend at my brother’s wedding, I think it only fitting to post a few pictures from his epic bachelor party in the Grand Canyon that took place the first week of October.

The short of it is that Jeff and I ran from the South Rim of the Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail across the Canyon and up the North Rim. We then turned around and ran back, coming up the South Kaibab Trail to finish. We estimate that it was around 44 miles total for the day. It took us almost 13.5 hours to complete. We started at 4:15am and finished before dark. Weather was perfectly beautiful. It was chilly in the morning, got hot in the afternoon along the bottom of the Canyon (~90’s), and throughout the day, the sky was clear, the views phenomenal, and the people friendly.

The morning was absolutely perfect. Running was easy, temperatures were just right, and we were feeling fresh.

The morning was absolutely perfect. Running was easy, temperatures were just right, and we were feeling fresh.

The climb out the North Rim was challenging and left us feeling a little haggard.

The climb out the North Rim was challenging and left us feeling a little haggard.

Crossing the muddy Colorado River for the second time was motivating, especially given that we'd run the entire way down from the North Rim.

Crossing the muddy Colorado River for the second time was motivating, especially given that we’d run the entire way down from the North Rim.

The climb out kicked our butts.

The climb out kicked our butts.

I was running low on food and doing my best not to bonk. We resorted to eating Gatorade drink powder given to us by a friendly hiker.

I was running low on food and doing my best not to bonk. We resorted to eating Gatorade drink powder given to us by a friendly hiker.

Eric joined us for the final few miles of climbing. His presence was a much needed boost after a long day.

Eric joined us for the final few miles of climbing. His presence was a much needed boost after a long day.

We were both proud, and tired, after reaching the South Rim of the Canyon.

We were both proud, and tired, after reaching the South Rim of the Canyon.

An inspiring day, and one I am fortunate to have had with my brother. Thanks Eric and Jason for the adventure, and thank you Jason for the Pringles when I reached the top.

An inspiring day, and one I am fortunate to have had with my brother. Thanks Eric and Jason for the adventure, and thank you Jason for the Pringles when I reached the top.

After this epic run, we spent the next couple days with Jeff’s groomsmen, Eric and Jason. We played cards, they drank beer, we sat by the fire, and we had fun being away from work and school for a few days. Top-notch bachelor party stuff; definitely a memorable one too.


 

Dreaming of Guatemala

“Fuiste tu”, a song by Ricardo Arjona has been playing nearly every day at our home for the past few weeks. My recent passion for Latin pop music is no secret. As Julie mentioned in our book A Long way from Nowhere, I wiggled down the road and trail to Juanes, another Latin pop artist for much of our hike. My three main artists currently are Mana, Juanes, and Ricardo Arjona.

This video (recently removed from Youtube as of 11/25/14!!!) has me longing for a life in Guatemala again as various clips from the video take place at Lake Atitlan, which is where Julie and I lived for six weeks back in 2012, living with a family and working on our Spanish. I think some of the roads are actual roads I ran during my epic 38 mile run around the lake. So for anyone into this kind of music, or anyone wanting to see some of Guatemala, this video is for you.


 

Trail work party

This stump was our adversary. For over four hours, four of us worked to get this thing out of the ground and off the trail. It was quite rewarding when it finally came down and we tossed it off the side of the trail.

This stump was our adversary. For over four hours, four of us worked to get this thing out of the ground and off the trail. It was quite rewarding when it finally came down and we tossed it off the side of the trail.

Julie rocking the hard hat! It was cold, low 30's when we headed up the mountain.

Julie rocking the hard hat! It was cold, low 30’s when we headed up the mountain.

We’ve walked nearly 20,000 miles of trail together and finally, we’ve joined our first trail work party. On Sunday we spent about 7 hours with other volunteers and the Washington Trails Association at Tiger Mountain near Issaquah for our first ever trail work. We got hard hats and tools and headed maybe a mile up the trail.

Slow work! We spent hours removing a huge stump that resided in the middle of the trail. My arms and back are still sore from swinging the axe. We then built some rock steps on a steeper portion of the trail. It took a lot of human power to do minimal work on the trail.

Disclaimer: I have a service requirement for a school scholarship I earned. We’re not simply doing good for the sake of doing good. However, if I were doing that, I’d want to go all in and do some serious trail work on the CDT. NM and WY need some love; definitely on the list of future adventures. Tiger Mountain was a fine introduction to the world of trail work though, especially given that we don’t have a week or two of time to get away at the moment.


 

Pushing me to think about social justice issues 

Two movies over the past month have revved my social justice engine: 12 Years a Slave and Blackfish.  Throughout each movie, I felt upset, angry, and introspective. I thought about what are the current slaveries that we’re overlooking, just as so many people were able to look past slavery 150 years ago, accepting it as the norm. I thought about how I walk right past begging homeless people everyday, knowing something needs to be done, but willfully ignoring the obvious injustice and problem in front of my face. I thought about animals raised for slaughter for people to eat or to have their skin worn as clothing, and how in general, using animals for our benefit, regardless of how we treat them, seems questionable to me. Heavy stuff. Thank you for pushing me to think.

For years, I’ve stated my case on social justice issues such that I have been focused on making myself a better person and that I’m not qualified or ready to make a stand on issues. I may not be ready to act just yet, but my views are becoming clearer and the feelings inside are welling up. The wave feels like it’s building and at some point, I think we’ll both be compelled to get involved in social justice issues. Like we do with so many adventures, I imagine that whatever we get into, we’ll go big.

Both good movies. I recommend them both. I’m sure there are other points of view to be taken, as there are on every issue, but the way these views were delivered worked on me.


 

Our first big step toward living our sailing life that we’ve talked about and dreamed about for a decade 

Last month we took our first sailing lessons. We’ve been on boats a few times, crewing in local sailboat races in Annapolis and in Seattle. The races were always low key and we were never doing much more than moving from one side of the boat to the other depending on how the boat was heeling. Yet, we have talked about wanting to sail around the world and live on a boat consistently for years.

The rubber is finally meeting the road rudder finally met the water. For Christmas this past year, Julie researched sailing schools and offered the first course as my Christmas gift. Finally, in October, we redeemed the gift and got out on the water.

Julie smiling, probably after we let the main out and leveled out the boat a bit.

Julie smiling, probably after we let the main out and leveled out the boat a bit.

We chose the Seattle Sailing School because it was close, it had the American Sailing Association (ASA) certified courses we were looking for, and the cost seemed reasonable. Cost has always been a bit of an issue, but after briefly considering buying a boat earlier this year to live on, we both agreed that we wanted to learn from experts prior to jumping into boat purchasing.

We chose ASA certification without a ton of research. First, we figured that if we’re going to pay to learn sailing, we might as well have some kind of certification that may be helpful down the road. With ASA certification, it’s our understanding that the certification will eventually help us be able to rent boats. I think it may also help with insurance when we buy a boat. We went with ASA, probably because it was the first sailing certification that I had heard of (and therefore anchored to)

This is the actual look on Julie's face most of the time out there. She was excellent at the helm, and very focused.

This is the actual look on Julie’s face most of the time out there. She was excellent at the helm, and very focused.

We got really lucky on our sailing weekend. The class was 9-5 Saturday and Sunday. The weather was on our side and absolutely gorgeous. It was warm, there was a nice wind, and we had sunny skies. We had a few hours of classroom work and then it was hands on practice time. The first day was on a J-24 and the next day a 27 footer. We were at the helm and managing the sails as soon as we got out of the marina.

Julie was a natural at the helm. She didn’t necessarily look comfortable all the time, and our instructor was continually trying to make Julie feel more at ease. However, she commanded the tiller with a steady hand, and when it came to maneuvering for our man overboard drills, she was a pro. Comparatively, I sucked. I would push the tiller when I should pull, over and over again. I think that by the end of the weekend, I was getting better, but I’ll need way more practice.

We were both pleased with the weekend and we feel like we learned a good deal. We’re both more comfortable on the water. We know we need a lot more practice and we need sailing gear for foul weather. As with much of learning, we learned many more of the things we don’t yet know. But now we can make a plan to keep learning so maybe we’ll eventually realize our dream of living on a boat and sailing the world.

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