Sunday, September 25, 2011


Do you have a bucket list? Is it something you just think about occasionally or is it actually written down somewhere? And assuming you have one and know where it is, what have you checked off recently? I have a bucket list - and most of the time I know where it is - although mine seems to get longer all the time. However, something that has been on mine for a long time was a triathlon. After some persuasion from coworkers (coupled with a bit of a break in half-marathon training), I signed up for the Saratoga Springs Triathlon. It was a Sprint, mind you (generally the shortest type), but it was nonetheless a triathlon. It was on August 20th. Despite what I considered a pretty miserable swim in Utah Lake (600 meters) and losing my chain and crashing on my bike about halfway into the 12-mile ride, I even placed! I was third of 12 male finishers 50 and over - and I won $15! Okay, it hardly qualifies as "winnings" , since it only paid for a third of the wetsuit I rented and didn't even use during the event, but does that make me a professional? I'll assume for the moment it doesn't, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Possessing absolutely NO competitive instincts or traits, I quickly signed up for another one - the second one being three weeks later in Stansbury Park ( just north of Tooele). I really felt I needed to redeem myself a bit for the swim and was certain I wouldn't repeat the bike chain and crash scenario. Well - the results were mixed. I actually managed to finish 2nd of six in my age group (M55-59), but felt just as unsatisfied about my swim. At least I didn't crash during the bike ride - I just lost my chain twice! Apparently, I am a reasonably competitive runner when it comes to triathlons (and old men) - and that helped considerably in both races.

Despite some dissatisfaction with my performance and results, I don't necessarily feel the urge to do another one anytime soon. Besides, I have a number of half-marathons in the next few months and they take precedence. However, I do feel I learned a few things - should I decide to do another one someday - if for no other reason than to validate my belief that I really am a decent swimmer!
First, I was reminded that swimming is GREAT exercise and a great addition to a training plan. I wish it were a bit easier to do that consistently. I admit, I still get winded pretty quickly in the pool, but I also learned "pool" swimming is much different than in "open" water when you are competing with dozens of sets of legs, arms, feet and hands for the same piece of water! And finesse swimming (with as little wasted movement as possible) just means you'll drink a lot of lake water. Much more important during the triathlon is getting your head out of the water to see and reduce water intake! (I did come up with a good analogy to a triathlon swim start, though - imagine a pond where large fish are occasionally fed; when the food is thrown in there is this mass swirling of fish climbing all over each other going after the food. Yes...that is pretty accurate! And whereas the first two triathlons I hung back and got behind everyone so I had fewer feet and arms in my face - I think next time I'll jump out front.) I was also reminded that when using bicycle toe clips (or equivalent), it really is a good idea to take your feet out of them before stopping! Yeah - I have crash wounds to remind me of that. And finally, despite feeling like you have leaden legs when starting to run after the bike ride - and feeling like you could hardly go slower - there is a good chance you are moving right along. I found that especially on the first Tri. I didn't feel quite as bad on the second, but managed to have (for me) a really good pace both times.

One item checked off my bucket list. The motivation to do another would be if Karen or other family decided they wanted to do one and we did one together. (And perhaps Buggy is ready for a reprise?! I now appreciate her efforts up at Jordanelle much better.) Never say never! Who knows, there may be another $15 out there waiting to be claimed!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Blogger's Note: This blog was written for publication in May, but we lost access to our pictures for several months. It is published now - a few months late - but with no less enthusiasm for the subject!
Trivia question of the day: What is the difference between Palmetto and Flamenco? If you guessed 3000 miles, $12 and an Air Force C5 cargo plane, I would give you credit. And in that question and answer you have the Readers' Digest version of our April travel to Charleston, SC, and the Andalusia region of southern Spain. Since the European portion of the trip was bookended by the Palmetto State, I'll begin there with a blog that - uncharacteristically - has virtually nothing to do with running. Aware of Buggy and Topher's planned move to Charleston, we booked flights to visit them last fall - thinking at the time we could be among the first visitors at their new home. Alas, we didn't succeed at being among the first visitors - but we nonetheless had a great visit with the new residents of the Palmetto State - who were already exhibiting gracious southern hospitality and charm. Buggy, Topher and Grace were wonderful hosts and gave us a great overview of their new city in the five or six days we spent with them. We were treated to tours of historic downtown, southern plantation gardens, Fort Sumter (and some fascinating, albeit tragic, Civil War history), local parks, the beach and southern comfort cooking, most notably the Hominy Grill. We were very impressed by everything we saw and did - and particularly with their new home on Mountain Laurel Circle. It is QUITE a change from Carriage Crossing in Bountiful - with a great yard, quiet, green neighborhood, and complete with a pool, clubhouse and their own alligators, which make regular, but unannounced visits at the local ponds! We enjoyed luxury B&B accommodations on the second floor of their estate - and left convinced that we probably needed to plan another visit before our next scheduled trip there in December. Part of their hospitality was exhibited in helping us with the adventure of military Space-A travel. Knowing that the Charleston military base had regular flights to Europe - and quite frequently passenger seats available on them - we had planned TWO potential trips. The first would be 4-5 day visit to Charleston; the second would insert a 7-10 day trip to Spain in the mix. (Italy was our initial choice, but Charleston has virtually no flights there, but pretty regular flights to Rota, Spain, near the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Many of you will remember a few Space-A "adventures" we have had - and this was not unlike previous trips. On our first attempt to catch a flight we thought we were successful. The flight had seats; we claimed three of them, had our boarding passes and had boarded the plane and even gotten the military version of the pre-flight safety briefings....only to learn 45 minutes later that maintenance issues were going to require the plane to fly to Massachusetts first - and without passengers. Buggy and Topher consented to pick the disappointed travelers up and we spent another day or two with them before we had a second chance - which was successful - leaving Charleston Saturday evening and arriving in Spain early Sunday morning - after a bumpy, sleepless night. However, for $4/person (the cost of a box lunch) - complaining would be the height of ingratitude. We spent the next week in the AndalucĂ­a region of Spain - birthplace of the Flamenco and of the bullfight - not to mention the base from which Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World to claim it for Ferdinand and Isabella - the monarchs of the Spanish empire- and resident in Sevilla - the Andalucian capital. Our travel the next week took us to Sevilla twice; to one of Europe's oldest cities, Cadiz (founded probably by the Phoenicians a thousand years or so BC); Gibraltar - a surprisingly large and vibrant English city on the Rock across the Straits of Gibraltar from North Africa - and home of the Gibraltar Apes, the only members of this species native to Europe; Grenada and the Alhambra - one of the seven man-made wonders of the world - and an amazingly beautiful fortress, palace and garden established by the Moors during their rule in southern Spain; the Alpujarras region of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where ancient cities cling to mountainsides and traditions nearly as old still flourish; and to a string of Andalucian towns that epitomize the region - glistening and whitewashed on hilltops, with narrow, crooked streets of cobblestone never meant for vehicle traffic, but which have outlived countless generations of residents and that bedevil any motorist venturing into them. The day before we returned to the US, we visited Jerez to observe a Spanish equestrian show rivaling the Lipizzaner stallions of Vienna in precision, acrobatic ability and horsemanship. We topped off the night there with dinner and a flamenco show in a small restaurant tucked away on a crooked, ageless street in the back-alley maze of the city. The artistry and especially the footwork were unbelievable. Coincidentally, our time in Spain was the week before Easter and the time of the biggest and most celebrated festival of AndalucĂ­a - Semana Santa. We were able to observe religious parades (weather permitting) virtually every night that brought hundreds of thousands of residents into the streets. Parades included bands, cloaked and uncloaked walkers and the massive human-carried floats of the Virgin Mary and Christ. (Of note, the cloaks were of several colors and included tall, pointed hats - and wherever the color was white, it was eerily similar to the typical KKK attire!)
It seems such trips leave indelible and lasting images - and such was the case with Spain. Our experiences with the Gibraltar Apes, standing on our tiny balcony in Grenada looking directly down on a narrow street lined with thousands as the Semana Santa processions went by, observing - almost reverently - the Moorish arches and incredible stucco-work design of the Alhambra and the Royal Palace in Sevilla, the footwork of the Flamenco dancers, and the courtyards behind the steel-trellis gates of residences that have stood for centuries along the narrow, crooked alleys of cities that Columbus could have visited before he set sail for the New World - are all such images. And - as is frequently the case with such trips - would beckon us to return. Our return trip from Spain was a smooth one - but illustrated a planning principle not to be forgotten. Whereas I had done the research to know Charleston had frequent outbound flights to Spain - I had not tested my assumption that they would have an equal number returning. Unfortunately, we learned they had virtually NO trips from Rota back to Charleston - but rather flew from there to Germany, Dover (Delaware) and Norfolk VA. We ended up in Norfolk early on Easter morning, were able to rent a car and made the 5-6 hour drive to Charleston almost in time for church! An Easter story and Easter egg hunt for Gracie and Rachel capped off the day. Monday's trips to the local parks and beach capped off the trip, as we were forced to return to Utah and reality on Tuesday.
A great visit with Buggy, Topher and Grace - and an incredible trip to Spain - what is not to recommend? We've already alerted the Andersen's that we will be back - and that they should plan to fly with us on our next Charleston-based Space-A adventure. In the meantime - we highly commend Charleston and Buggy's B&B to you. You will not be disappointed. And even if you don't see Flamenco, you just might come back knowing about the Civil War significance of the Palmetto.
Thank you Buggy, Topher and Gracie for a great trip!