December 21, 2008

WFR (Woofer)

I am now 8 days through a 10-day, 80-hour Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. The course teaches students how to respond to medical emergencies when the urban practice of calling 911 and waiting is not an option. I'm amazed at how much I've learned in the last several days. This course is definitely something I should have taken a long time ago. For anyone considering taking this class, I highly recommend taking it from Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI). Their teaching format, style, and organization are incredible with lots of hands-on, realistic scenarios to deal with throughout the class.

. . . and it's so much more fun than work!

December 14, 2008

It's cold out

With cold temperatures (a high around 15 degrees today) and snow on the ground, all biking has moved indoors. Biking on the trainer is incredibly boring. Especially when I can't find anything to watch on TV and none of the movies we own sound appealing. So, Josh came home earlier this week to find me playing video games (on the classic Nintendo, of course) while biking. I have since perfected my Super Mario 3 interval workout.

December 09, 2008

Winter Fun

I survived yet another furious two days of being a weekend warrior (albeit sans camera, so I've no pictures to share).

On Saturday, Ashley and I went up to Eldora for the first time this year. They had 4 runs open and more snow than I had anticipated. After about 5 tele runs on groomers, we were ready for a workout. We found what we were looking for 200 yards away at Eldora's Nordic Center, where we skate skied for about 45 minutes. The first skate ski of the year always turns into a wheez-a-thon for me, and this year was no exception. It was good to see that Ashley also had to breathe, although not as aggressively as myself. I'm growing so used to her beating me at endurance sports that it really doesn't even bother me anymore.

On Sunday Keith and I barely found enough motivation to stumble into Rocky Mountain National Park and attempt an ice climb on Thatchtop Mountain. We climbed a classic 4-pitch route known as All Mixed Up. After a 2.5 hour approach, we found that another party had beat us to the climb, so we decided to climb a variation to the right of them to avoid their ice fall. This ended up making the climb much more difficult and challenging than it should have been. The final crux pitch (WI-3+ or 4 depending on who you talk to) ended up being the easiest of the three that it took us to complete the route.

I stole this picture from Mountain Project and added our "non-standard" variation to it.

After flailing on my first lead while experienceing mixed climbing (climbing with crampons and ice axes on rock) for the first time, I was a bit demoralized. Keith then had a similar experience on a noticably more difficult mixed climbing pitch. I finshed things off on the supposed crux (straight up ice climbing with no rock stretches) which turned out to be the easiest pitch and very, very enjoyable.

November 29, 2008

Turkey Day

This year, Josh and I stayed in Boulder for Thanksgiving. We were joined by friends from Boulder/Denver area (Keith, Melanie, Alison, Corey, Ryan) and those traveling from California (Jake, Louis, Jasmine).

The holiday festivities around here start the day before Thanksgiving with the celebration of Wild Turkey Wednesday. This is a pretty simple holiday that involves gobbling and taking shots of Wild Turkey.

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Wild Turkey Wednesday had a bit of the twist this year as it turned into an 80's Dance Party.

I am thankful for 80's music and dancing.

Cota does not enjoy dance parties.

We planned to run a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Somewhere amongst all of the Wild Turkey we decided to wear costumes to this race. I was very disappointed in the Boulder crowd as we appeared to be the only runners out 1044 that were cool enough to wear costumes.

Best dressed Turkey Trotters.

Thanksgiving dinner was amazing. Everyone pitched in and we had all of the Thanksgiving favorites and then some. Much more food than needed. Josh cooked his first turkey, deep-fry style, which turned out delicious.

There is still more food that needs to fit on the table.

At Jake's suggestion, we added a new element to the holiday overeating. We had a contest to see who could eat the most, based on pre and post dinner weight. While I did not gain the greatest absolute weight (Josh and Jake tied at 6 lbs), I did gain the greatest percentage of my body weight (4.2%), thereby winning the contest. My prize was 45 minutes of laying on the floor unable to move as a result of the sharp pains in my stomach. Turns out that chugging multiple pints of water as a final effort to gain weight was a very bad idea. However, my win is somewhat dampened by the fact that the Louis, the pre-dinner favorite who had the dangerous combination of light weight and ability to eat large quantities of food, decided to withdraw from the competition due to questionable scale accuracy.

November 24, 2008

I Found Ski Season!

Just as I was getting unbearably tired of waiting for ski season, I got a call from a buddy (Andy) who was feeling the same way. We decided to go up high into the mountains and try to force a turn or two, thinking there was a good chance we would simply end up going for a long hike with skis on our backs.

We started early on Saturday morning, heading for Jones Pass (near the more famous Berthoud Pass) just above the Henderson Mine. We drove until the 4-Runner got stuck in the snow and were happily surprised to be able to put our skis on and begin skinning right from the car. There's no denying that the snow was sparse and thin, but we both simultaneously spotted the best line as soon as it came into view as we skinned up the road.

Our run, from the high saddle down the gully that collects all the windblown snow

Not too much later, we arrived at the top of our chosen ski run.

Andy on the windy summit ridge

One and a half turns later, it was like I hadn't missed a day of skiing since last season. It was a tad windy, but the weather was otherwise beautiful. The snow conditions were variable while still somehow remaining fun and forgiving. Oh, how I love skiing!

My first tele turns since the 4th of July

Jakey Wakey

Jake arrived to Boulder the day before I returned from Saskatchewan. Since then, I've done an uncharacteristically poor job of updating this blog, which is entirely Jake's fault. It was non-stop fun until he and Keith left for Red Rocks and Las Vegas, so now I have a bit of time to try and remember what it was we did. I'll stick to the most memorable events that are also suitable for family audiences.

The weekend before last we went climbing in Eldorado Canyon State Park (Eldo) with Keith, Melanie, and Cota. Keith and I put up a few single pitch climbs and we all had about twice as much fun simply because Jake was there.

I took Wednesday off of work and the weather was beautiful. Jake and I climbed the 2nd and 3rd Flatirons in Boulder and it felt like about 80 degrees all day.

Jake at the first belay on the 3rd Flatiron

Me leading up the 3rd

Looking back at Jake on the first pitch of the 2nd Flatiron

Jake on his first trad lead (last pitch of the 2nd Flatiron)

Thursday night a bunch of us went out to see Old Crow Medicine Show at the Boulder Theater. This was my first bluegrass concert, and I found it to be a real hoot (short for hootenany). It really was a lot of fun, and the drinking didn't stop there.

Keith and Jake left on Friday for Vegas, and they both return with Louis and Jasmine on Wednesday in time for Wild Turkey Wednesday and Thanksgiving!

November 08, 2008


A belated Halloween picture:

David Bowie (Jessica), Juno (Melanie), Troll doll (me), Flapper (Brooke)

Yes, that is my real hair ... plus a lot of hair gel, hairspray, and orange hairspray.

November 01, 2008

A weekend together

Last weekend, something very rare occurred. Josh and I decided to spend time together ... outdoors ... something that hasn't happened since June. The weather wasn't good for Josh to climb a mountain and I decided to take a break from the swim/bike/run craziness. Saturday, we headed to Boulder Canyon to rock climb. The weather was fantastic and we found a nice area with many climbs in our (or more accurately, my) ability level. The rest of the weekend was spent carving pumpkins, taking jello shots (while carving pumpkins), and assembling Halloween costumes. Obviously Josh disliked this time together, as he promptly ran off to Saskatchewan.

Josh trying to find our routes.

Josh climbing

Me rappelling

Pumpkin carving party. The result of pumpkins, knives, and 250 jello shots.

Josh's Cartman pumpkin is on the right. Unfortunately you can't see the chin definition in this picture.

My horrified pumpkin is on the left. Needless to say, neither Josh nor I won any awards for our carving abilities.

October 31, 2008

As some of you may already know, I'm currently working at a mine camp in northern Saskatchewan (McArthur River Mine). We're about 100 kilometers from the Northwest Territories and it's pretty cold and snowy up here.

Mine camp

Arthur the camp pet

October 19, 2008

Denver Half Marathon

This morning was the Denver Marathon and Half Marathon. I headed down to Denver with a co-worker, Jessica, to run the half marathon. Josh and Erich, Jessica's boyfriend, also came along to spectate/photograph/support. The conditions were pretty nice, with temperatures in the low 50's at the start. Normally I would say this is a bit cold, but I ran in below freezing temperatures earlier this week, so today felt nice and warm.

Jessica and I headed out for a short warm-up jog about 40 minutes before the race. We then headed to the porta-a-pottys for one final stop, but the line was about 100 people long. So, we jogged a couple blocks to the Sheraton, where only four people were in line for the restroom. By the time we handed off our warm-ups to our spectator boyfriends, we had about 10 minutes to the start. We walked to where we wanted to be in the start line, but unfortunately were on the wrong side of a fence separating the spectators from racers. We then realized we would have to walk through the crowds (spectators) about a block to make it to the end of the starting corral and then push our way back through an even bigger crowd (racers) to be in the 7-minute/mile starting zone. The fence was too high to jump over and too wobbly to climb over. I contemplated attempting to slide under the fence, but this would be a bit close and it would be awful to be stuck under the fence when the race started. Then I saw a man help a woman over the fence. Left with no other option, I asked this stranger if he could also give me a lift. So with the one guy on the inside grabbing me by the armpits and one on the outside boosting my legs, I safely made it to the start line with time to spare. Jessica made it over the fence in the same fashion. Thanks kind strangers ... I really owe you.

The start.

I started the race much faster than I should have at 6:40 min/mile. At mile 2, I realized that although Jessica insisted that she was going to slow down, she was obviously lying. So I let her take off in front of me. The rest of the race wasn't too exciting. Just put one foot in front of the other, repeat.

I finished the run in 1:31:04, which is a bit faster than I expected. However, this just makes me want to run another half because I know I can go more than a minute faster and break 1:30. Jessica finished 2 1/2 minutes ahead of me and won her age group. It's probably for the best that I didn't try to stick with her as she never did slow down much.

October 10, 2008


The tri team puts on a 5K race series as a fundraiser. After volunteering the last two weeks, I decided to join the fun and run the race yesterday evening.

Finally, after 10 years, I was able to PR in a 5K. A real PR. Not this post-high school stuff I was blabbing about. It was only a 2 second PR, but who cares.

Nine days until the Denver Half Marathon. And since this is my first (standalone) half marathon, I am pretty much guaranteed a PR there too.

October 05, 2008

Bloody Christ! It's Fall!

This weekend I went back down to the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains to hike yet another 14er. I knew the weather would be questionable, so I carried enough clothes and gear to be prepared for anything.

I decided to do a quick trip on Friday evening, leaving Boulder after dinner and arriving at the trailhead at 12:30 Saturday morning. I slept for a few hours before starting the approach. I felt quite out of shape after taking it easy for a few weeks to let my foot heal. After an hour of walking, I felt like I should have been at the top, when in actuality, I had just reached a point where I could see the mountain for the first time.

First glimpse of Mt. Lindsey

The top 1,500 feet or so were a bit snowy, with verglass beginning to form on many of the rocks. I avoided this by taking Mt. Lindsey's Southwest Ridge route (the normal trail stays well below the ridge where the snow tends to accumulate), only to encounter another of the mountain's defenses, 40 mph wind. One stretch of about 100 vertical feet was quite steep and exposed. I was really enjoying myself on this bit when a stronger-than-average wind gust slammed into me. I remember thinking "Whoa!" and then taking a second to remind myself that I was somewhere that falling really wasn't an option, and I needed to be careful. I embraced the wind and took my time through the rest of the steep section, only to finish and wish that more of the climb to the top was like that last stretch.

Final steps to the summit

After the fun stretch, it was a windy scramble-stumble to the top (I'm sure I would have appeared drunk had anyone been there to see me). I spent about a minute or two on the cold, windy, and generally inhospitable summit. The clouds came and went quickly in the high winds, providing an occasional view down into the surrounding valleys. It was now that I realized it was fall and that there were bright yellow aspens all over. On the way up I had passed through the entire aspen zone in the dark. Not so on the way down.

October 03, 2008

Tri Babes

Like many people (particularly women, sorry for the stereotype), I like to buy things on sale. I can't pass up a good deal, even if it is something that I don't actually need and sometimes don't even really want. This usually happens for things like clothing and outdoor gear, but is not limited to material items. Current example: triathlon. How could I pass up the opportunity to enter a race for 77% off the normal registration fee? Forget that I wasn't planning to do a tri this fall. And that I stopped swimming and biking so I could focus on half marathon training. And that the normal triathlon prices are so astronomically expensive, that this really isn't an amazing deal. These details are not important, what is important is that I was getting a good deal.

So, that's how I found myself at the starting line for the Tri Babes race weekend before last. This was an all-women sprint distance race (750 m swim, 12 mi bike, 5 k run). This was my first all women's race and I didn't notice too many differences from a normal triathlon, but I was pretty happy to not have men molesting me on the swim and sprinting by me in the bike and run.

I should go back and explain the real reason I was at this race. After swearing I would not do so (because hanging out with undergrads makes me feel old), I finally caved in and joined the CU tri team. I decided that this winter should be devoted to staying in shape, rather than drinking beer and eating junk food and pretending that skiing will keep me fit (which it might if I did it more than once a week). It was through the team and by volunteering at a race a few weeks ago that I got such a good deal on this entry fee. Ten women from the team competed in the race, many of them new to the sport.

The race went fairly well. The swim was uneventful, but the bike was not. Early on, I took a wrong turn when I followed the person in front of me. It is rather amazing that I succeeded in getting lost on this course because it was incredibly well-marked and there were volunteers at every intersection. There were even two volunteers at the intersection where I made the wrong turn ... they just neglected to say anything. After I realized my error, I re-traced my path and probably only lost about a minute.

Then I had an energy gel catastrophe ... again. I was squeezing the gel into my mouth when I felt a chunk. Josh and I have both had chunky Clif Shots recently. We don't know if this is because they are old or if they went through a freeze-thaw. When we return from a trip, all unused gels get thrown back into the drawer, so it is impossible for us to track the history of each gel. If anyone knows the cause of our chunky-gritty gel problem, please enlighten us, as these are really unappetizing. But this is off topic, because it was not the gel that was chunky, but the fact that I had a dime sized piece of wrapper in my mouth. I am pretty sure this wrapper chunk came from inside the packet because I inspected the packet afterward and determined it was not a piece that was torn off while opening. Because gel is nearly impossible to spit-out and I didn't want to risk swallowing this piece of plastic/foil, I was left to stick my finger in my gooey mouth to remove the offending wrapper piece. This led to stickiness all over my fingers, then handlebars, face, shorts. However, I have not found any gel on my helmet ... yet.

But I guess my issues on the bike did not hinder my run, as I ran an 18:06 5K, besting my PR by 2 minutes ... just kidding. Obviously the course was much shorter than a 5K. Which I am kinda bummed about because I have been feeling pretty fit, light, and fast lately. I thought I might have a chance to break my post-high school 5K PR (because the HS PR is still too fast to even contemplate breaking), but I guess that will have to wait for another day.

I ended up in 3rd place overall (out of 222) and 1st in my age group (out of 38). The CU team had a pretty good showing with 2nd and 5th place overall finishes as well. Even more important, the girls new to the sport seemed to have a good time and may be headed toward full triathlon addictions, which are easy to get and impossible to break especially with reduced entry fees as temptations.

No pictures this time. I carpooled to Longmont for this race and left Josh at home. I figure I drug him to enough races this year, although I think he may have been a little more excited for this one as a result of the multitude of fit looking women and the absence of men in spandex.

September 27, 2008

6 Days on the Apúrimac River

For the third and final leg of our trip to Peru, I signed us up for a 6-day rafting trip on the Apúrimac River. I had expected a very popular and crowded trip on par with the Grand Canyon or the Pacuare in Costa Rica. On the contrary, Dad and I were the only two clients in our group, which was supported by a head guide, a gear boat oarsman, a safety kayaker, and a cook. By the end of the trip, we were quite surprised to have only seen one other rafting group in 6 days, and they were camped out near one of the rapids looking for a body that had disappeared about 2 months prior.

I found the first day of our trip to be extremely entertaining, despite the fact that we only rafted for about 1.5 hours. The six of us plus a designated driver packed into a medium sized van with the remainder of the inside and top of the van maxed out with deflated boats and gear for 6 days. Up until this point, we had not been off of what I would call the "tourist trail'. We drove for a little over 3 hours from Cusco, and before we even left the city we were seeing Peruvians engaged in common activities, immersed in their own culture without the overwhelming influence of tourism. I was excited to see Peruvian culture, and things only got better the further we drove. After about 2 hours we stopped in a town that was having a huge festival, complete with ancient ritualistic dances and music. And the best part was that they weren't doing it just so tourists would throw them a couple dollars (we were the only two tourists in the town, and they weren't expecting us)!

After losing several thousand vertical feet while descending into the small village of Naywa in the bottom of the Apúrimac River Valley (this bit of driving was the scariest part of the trip), we got out of the van and spent the next couple of hours hauling our gear from the town to the river (about a 20 minute walk each way). The Naywa locals, including the 60-year-old women, put us to shame as they carried about three 60-pound loads each. One of the men, who weighed about a 120 pounds, made three trips in which he managed to carry two 100 pound dry boxes and the 110 pound raft. I think Dad and I combined to carry a kayak, a pump, and a small backpack.

First camp site

The guide, Boris, was a good boater, but he seemed to lack organizational skills. There was a lot of dirking around while they tried to figure out how to load their boats each morning. The best episode of dirking occurred in the first class 5 rapid. The video below shows the safety boater's run, which was very smooth. As the guide made us walk around the rapid, he was tasked with getting the raft down by himself.

He shot for the middle slot, same as the kayaker, only to find that it wasn't wide enough. He ended up getting out of the boat and pushing the raft over from the barely covered rock just to the right of the boat in the photo below.

After pushing the raft over while holding onto the bow line, the boat proceeded to go downstream with more force than Boris could handle. Had his foot not been wrapped around the tail end of the bow line, I'm sure he would have just let it go and let the kayaker run it down. As it was, letting go was not an option. What happened next was such a cluster I can't describe it. Suffice it to say that he eventually got his foot untangled, let the raft go, and escaped with only rope burns on his hands.

Over the course of the trip, there were 6 5th class rapids and the guide made us walk around all but one of them. I thought this was bull s@*! and basically told Boris so, but he wouldn't let us paddle them anyway. I've done enough rafting with Keith to know when something is runnable, and all of them were runnable in my opinion.

On the fourth day we stopped by a side creek and hiked up it a short ways to a waterfall. This reminded both Dad and me of the side hikes in the Grand Canyon.

Classic example of a Peruvian road switchbacking down a steep face

Early on the morning of the 5th day, two British clients joined our group as we had come to the first road crossing since we started. They did surprisingly well over the next 2 days, considering that neither of them had ever rafted before and the final two days were non-stop class 3 and 4 rapids.

When we started the trip, the rock was mostly black granite and conglomerate. About half way through the trip it changed to this white granite, coinciding with a steepening of the canyon walls.

This class 5 by the name of Toothache looks really fun. Unfortunately, the guides were once again selfish and made us walk around. The rock sticking up to the left of the raft in the photo is the tooth.

Everything went very well and was basically too safe. We remained healthy and uninjured all the way to the take out. Upon carrying the raft up the hill at the take out, I had a vicious encounter with a mean stock of bamboo. I came out victorious after breaking the bamboo stock clean in half, and all it managed to do was slice the top of my foot open.

After setting the raft down I took a look at the top of my foot, and immediately knew something was wrong when I noticed that I could see 1/4 inch into my foot. Luckily we had beer and Dad brought his 1st aid kit. A week later, after returning to Boulder, I decided that my foot was hurting more than it should and went to see a doctor. The doctor opened up the wound, pulled an inch of bamboo 'debris' out of the top of my foot, and sent me home. The wound is now healing well, and the nerve damage seems to get better every day.

September 26, 2008


My dad bought these shirts for Josh and I. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to where our shirts as we are still celebrating last nights Beaver victory and tonight is the first debate.

Go Beavs!

Go Obama!

Manu - Response to Comments

There seems to be some question as to what Macaws sound like. This video should help clear things up, so long as the sound on your computer is turned on. And I didn't bring home a monkey because you explicitly told me not to, rashly claiming that that they have diseases and Cota would just eat it anyway.

September 24, 2008

The Amazon - Manu Wildlife Reserve

The second leg of our trip involved flying east from the middle of the Peruvian Andes down into the Amazon jungle, about 40 minutes away. This sub-trip lasted 4 days, and the amount of wildlife and biodiversity we saw was nothing short of spectacular.

After arriving on a primitive landing strip cut out of the jungle, we took a boat for an hour and a half down the Madre de Dios River to the lodge where we would spend most of our time. On the boat trip to the lodge, we saw many birds, a river turtle, howler monkeys, and lots of evidence that we were at the tail end of the dry season. The river in this area reportedly rises about 15 feet in the wet season.

Giant log that floated down the Madre de Dios River when the water was just a tad higher

Howler Monkeys on the side of the river

Whenever we weren't doing something else, we were either eating or walking around the jungle in the vicinity of the lodge, looking for whatever wildlife chose to present themselves.

Fist-sized butterfly

Perhaps the main attraction of this particular lodge, and the primary reason we chose it, is due to its proximity to one of the largest Macaw clay licks in the Amazon. Macaws are large parrots with about a 3 foot wingspan. They, along with a few other species in the jungle, eat a regular diet of toxic fruits. In order to counteract these toxins, the parrots take part in an unbelievable clay-eating ritual every morning at the exact same spot. The content of the clay neutralizes the toxins, allowing the parrots to live to see another day.

Macaws as they inch towards the clay lick

The daily ritual involves meeting up in the treetops above the preferred bank of clay. Smaller green and blue-headed parrots take their turn first, as they seem to be less afraid of the eagle and hawk threat. The Macaws slowly inch downward toward the clay, praying that another of them will be the first to make the move to the more-exposed and dangerous clay lick. We watched them take over an hour to inch towards the lick, just to have an egret fly overhead and scare them all back into the treetops. Another hour and a half later, the bravest one began the festivities, with the remaining couple hundred quickly to follow.

More Macaws

Mmmmmm, clay

Video of the ritual

On the boat ride from the clay lick back to the lodge, we saw a capybara on the side of the river. He was a goofy looking critter (as seen in the photo) and happens to be a member of the largest family of rodents in the world.

Capybara (extra large rodent)

We spent the following night sleeping out at a clay lick belonging to the tapirs. Although the tapir has a similar diet to the macaw, thus requiring the neutralizing clay lick, they are nothing alike. Tapirs are related to both the rhinoceros and the horse. We got to see one for about 5 seconds via a spotlight around midnight. Hiking back to the lodge, we saw several frogs and our guide managed to coax a few tarantulas out of their holes.

The primary event of the following day was to tour a nearby lake in search of more wildlife, in particular the 6-foot-long giant otter. We never saw an otter, but the trip was still quite eventful with monkeys all over the place, more birds than you could shake a stick at, and a rare and brief sighting of a tree-dwelling ant eater. I had fun pretending to be a wildlife photographer.

Huazins at the lakeside


Great White Egret (I can't figure out how they stay so clean)

Weird lookin' duck

Lilly pad bird, for lack of a better name

On the boat ride back to the landing strip, we thought we had seen all the animals we would find for the trip. Not so. An unusual weather pattern, or perhaps it was just something in the air, brought the caiman out. We saw nearly a dozen on the 2 hour boat ride, every one of them holding real still, looking like a log, and smiling.