Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I took a crazy fast trip to Panama this past weekend.  The trip was work related, but I got a day to go check out the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks, as well as the old town of Panama City.  Saturday night, I went out to a wonderful little restaurant in Panama City, with friends, and had a 10 course meal of Panamanian food home cooked for us.  In this case, Panamanian food included mango wontons, fried plaintain cups filled with marinated beef, tamales, sea bass, and other fine treats.  The 80 degree sun and beach was terrific, when I wasn’t in a meeting.  The travel though was a bit overwhelming, at 17 hours door to door.

Panama is an exciting place right now.  Twelve years ago or so, the country took control of the Panama Canal, and they are not looking back, while experiencing break neck economic growth.  Since there’s only one Panama Canal, it seems like things will keep going that way as long as there’s shipping. There's a real tension between old Panama City and new Panama City--a sharp contrast in wealth and poverty can be observed, from one block to another. The wealth seems to be winning, with redevelopment projects everywhere.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to really get into the rainforest, or any long runs. Still, walks on the beach and near the neighboring woods produced sightings of diving pelicans, white egrets, swarms of snails on rocks, some large iguanas, at least one green parrot bird, a dead blow fish, and other stuff completely out of my northwest world. Another trip to Central America is just going to have to happen--you can't help but trip over all the biodiversity down there.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chuckanut Ridge Run

I made it out to Chuckanut Ridge on Saturday for a nice winter run.  The valley was shrouded in a persistent fog, but up high it was crisp and clear. I ran into a few runners, presumably preparing for Chuckanut. I spotted a pileated woodpecker (the big one with the red head), a couple sapsuckers, some witch's butter (above), and a frozen Lost Lake. A winter view of Mt. Baker.

My run was pretty much a hike to the top of chinscraper, followed by a nice amble along the ridge, with a mix of running and hiking back by Lost Lake. Big icicles hanging off the ledge as you approach Lost Lake, and frozen, dusty white ground on that side of the ridge. Nothing impressive running-wise, but just the same,  a really good morning. Time on the feet.

Congrats to all my friends running in far-flung places this past weekend. Such amazing stories!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nookachamps Runs

Instead of running, I helped out at this year’s Nookachamps Runs.  The Nookachamps Runs start and finish at Skagit Valley College, five minutes from my home, and is one of the older running events in Washington.  About 800 runners showed up to run either the 5k, 10k, or a half marathon.

This year was perfect running weather. The night before was one of the colder nights of the year, but there were clear skies come morning, with temps in the thirties. Several friends showed up to run or volunteer, and so it was a good time hanging out. Afterwards, I got in my own run around town.

Good news--I made a bit of progress this past week with my left leg troubles, by finally getting into to see my doctor.  I've been putting this off too long. He went through all sorts of range of motion tests, and then prescribed me physical therapy time. He noted with age the loss of elasticity in some muscles, and the increased need to stretch. Basics, I suppose, and I suspect there’s more at play than this, but I’m giving myself a gold star for finally seeking outside professional assistance.

1/2 Marathon Winner

Stanley - pulling tags

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best of 2012

Two Thousand and Twelve was not a great year for running for me, as I struggled with hip and knee issues.  Still, I traveled a great deal, and got outside a fair amount in some remarkable places, while getting a few miles in, where ever I was.

Having traveled more than usual, let me say, there's no place like home. I love the Skagit Valley, the North Cascades, and the Pacific Northwest. I chose a sunset picture from Blanchard Mountain for this post, only twenty minutes away, which seems apropos for an end of the year post. I was also fortunate to get a fair number of great trips in locally with friends.

Highlights of the Here and There from 2012:
10.  Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  Work took me back to Washington D.C. in the spring, where I got a chance to see my family in Virginia, and run this very popular run. Starting beneath the Washington Monument, the course runs by the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and many other iconic D.C. sites.  A crowded race, with some 15k runners, and short. It’s always cool riding the subway to a start line.

9.  Mount Dickerman.  Mount Dickerman sits midway on the Mountain Loop Highway, near the Glacier Peak wilderness area.  One Friday, I decided to cut out of work early, and try to get some mountain miles in before midnight.  Pleasant memories of a warm summer night with the headlamp on.

8.  Artist Point Snowshoe.  I closed out the year with an annual favorite, the full moon snowshoe up to Artist Point up by Mount Baker Resort, with friends Dean and Ruth and company.  This year seemed a little different, as everything seemed just a bit more wintery.  For a short time, I felt like I got just a taste of winter in the wilderness, which seemed strikingly unforgiving.

7.  Maui. What’s not to like about the beach?  Just a time of rest with my sweetie during what was otherwise a very very busy year.  I want to make it to Hawaii at least once every two years.  

6.  Nashville. I got out and ran with a friend, but honestly, I wish I had ran more while in Music City.  Still, this was one of my favorite trips of the year, and I got a taste of what I think would be good running, at least when it’s not too humid. And I got a taste of great music and barbq. Great city.

5.  Mont Royal.  Yet another work trip found me in Montreal.  Montreal is named after this big hill, which looks over the city.  I got a nice run in through McGill University, up and around Mont Royal, and then decided to tour the Museum of Fine Arts on the way back.  A little bit of trail and urban running, with some French signs and long city views.

4.  Lake Twenty-Two.  This is a popular Mountain Loop highway hike, which I returned to with friend Mike early in the year, before many were taking it on.  Pretty cool to see 8 feet of snow on bridges, the lake frozen, and the water running fast off the cliff walls surrounding the lakes.  And to get out with Mike.  Honorable mention to our other effort up to Heather Lake, and detention time for me for missing the Mount Adams circuit.

3.  Hidden Lake Lookout.  Friends Craig and Greg met me very early in the morning, and we were the first up to this gem of a lookout in the North Cascades on a Saturday morning early in the hiking season.  The views here are extraordinary, and the air is very still up high. 

2.  Ragnar SoCal Relay.  My friend BJ got me down to San Diego to run around the Southern California area in one of those crazy all night van races.  The first day was blistering hot; the second day a fine finish.  BJ also scored some great seats for a Padres game.  Just a great time in a different locale with good friends.  Might have to do this again.

1.  Birds in Skagit.  The year was marked by quite a few hikes and drives out to saltwater front locations, in search of snowy owls.  As was widely reported, snowy owls came further south this year than in many a year previous, due to something called an irruption, which I think had to do with a leming shortage.  While many were easy to be found in Boundary Bay, north of the border, I found it more fun to look locally at various DNR sites in the Skagit Valley, where I live.  I did find a snowy or two, but I also saw and learned about all sorts of other birds, such as snow geese, swans, bald eagles, falcons, and short eared owls. 

Lists like this are tough.  I left off almost all the races.  I only raced a few marathon distance races this past year, but I managed to weakly keep my streaks alive with the Baker Lake 50k and the Seattle Marathon. I also toed the line for some old faves, like Loggerodeo, First Half Half, Honeywagon, Mazama10k and probably a few others. Can’t forget the spectacular Deception Pass 25k. Other honorable mentions  worth remembering here include a quiet, early morning run in February through Pike Place Market; Watson and Anderson Lakes above Baker Lake in the summer; and a chillier late October run out and around Millennium Park and Soldier Field in Chicago.

I’m hopeful as always for 2013.  Today I got out and ran around my old favorite, Blanchard Mountain.  I’ll see how things go, but I’d like to get the physiological kinks worked out, and knock out a few great adventures come summer.  I’m already hearing good chatter.

Happy New Year friends! My best wishes to all.