Recently I found myself in San Jose, CA with a couple hours to spare before hopping on a flight back home to NC. I figured i would have about 4 hours to spare so i called ahead and rented a bike from UDC Bike Rental. I was able to pick up a sweet Specialized Roubaix, with everything I needed for a good solid ride.
So i met a couple friends from work at 7a.m. sharp, and set out on Mt. Hamilton. I rigged a GoPro Hero 4 to the bike and set it to Time-lapse mode to take a pic every 1 sec or so. Throw in a little Foo Fighthers, and we’re off. Good Times!
In my limited travel experience to any of the mountains near San Jose, I failed to pack any warm cycling gear for this ride. It was about 50 when i started, and about 35F and really windy when i got to the top of Mt. Hamilton. At first, it wasn’t too bad, but on the descent, you’re not actually doing any “work” on the bike, so you start to cool off really fast. In the end, it wasn’t anything that a hot cup of coffee couldn’t fix.
Here is a video from my first Scuba Dive. We took a trip down to Florida Springs with Gypsy Divers from Raleigh to get certified as Open Water Divers .
In short, I absolutely loved the experience of scuba diving.
The experience is different:
Breathing under water is something that you just have to experience. It does take some getting used to, but seemed pretty natural after a couple of minutes. Floating effortlessly is an awesome experience. Its like being an astronaut just floating around out there.
The people are different:
I really enjoyed meeting everyone on our dive trip. Everyone just seem to be good people, looking to just relax and have a good dive trip. There was no competition or ego’s or any of that nonsense, just good fun underwater.
The sounds are different:
No cell phones, emails, text messages, car traffic. All you hear is bubbles floating to the surface and the sound of your own breathing as you inhale and exhale slowly and rhythmically. This is a great place to escape.
The sights are different:
I think your sight becomes more keen as you become less distracted and more aware of your surroundings. You start to notice all the small critters that live under water, along with all of their colors, movements, etc. Tarpon, Gar, Bass, Manatee, Turtles, just to name a few. Under water, the grass and plant life takes on this living rhythmic movement from the current passing through.
Things that I learned that are the most important for scuba enjoyment:
Hover – Don’t ever stand on the bottom, much less touch anything. I saw several people touch the bottom or flip their fins excessively near the bottom. In short, this just destroys the view for everyone else because of the dust/particle cloud created from all of the sediment.
Visibility – is probably the most important factor on any dive for me. Since I like to take photos & videos, I am there to actually see as much as possible. If you can’t see more than 5 feet around, how good could that particular dive be? If you’re trying to be a good dive buddy and keep your dive buddy in sight at all times, this gets pretty difficult in low visibility. Let’s be honest, you’re just a hundred times more comfortable when you can see 50ft around you vs. 5ft.
Buoyancy Control – is perhaps the most important skill you can learn. This goes back to not touching the bottom and stirring up debris. If you can become proficient in this one skill I’m certain you’ll never have a shortage of dive buddies. Learning to just hover horizontally in the water and effortlessly flutter/frog kick was the main thing that i noticed all of the more experienced divers could do well.
Repetitive Diving – I definitely understand the importance of keeping track of surface interval time, bottom time, etc. However, I feel this is more for the hard core diver that is looking to get in as many dives as possible in 1 day or 5 days worth of diving. For me, I would tend more towards doing 2 dives in a day, and then spending the rest of the day above water exploring whatever interesting location I am in. This is not to say scuba diving isn’t amazing, but it would be shame to be able to go to Hawaii only once in my lifetime and not also explore the rainforests, beaches, cliffs, wildlife, sunsets, etc.
As I write this I am somewhere over the U.S. Yay for in-flight wireless! Over the past few months. I have had quite a bit of practice becoming “proficient” flying the DJI quadcopter to see what things look like from above. My favorite things to video by far are remote areas and the untouched landscapes. I have been all over the NC inner-coastal areas…not the beaches that most people know about. The inner coastal areas are very sparsely populated…the kind of place where people still wave when they pass by in the car.
Here are some of the scenes that I captured, with a little Green Day thrown in as well.
My experience with flying around people has been one of curiosity. People who see you fly are very interested, and want to know all about it. So, the cool thing is that I have met people that I would have otherwise never met. I had a nice chat with one of the DOT crew members from the NC Ferry boat in the video. Along with another photographer for Yacht Shots, in Oriental, NC. He told me about another couple from area that is sailing all over the world, while taking the DJI quadcopter along for the journey. You should check out the videos. Some of them are simply stunning like this one from Iceland.
A couple of months ago I picked up one of those Quadcopters from DJI that you have heard about in the news recently. The “media” likes to refer to them as drones, so they have a much more exciting & negative association. The media would have you believe that these things will be buzzing outside your window, snooping in on every conversation you are having, and threatening world humanity as we know it. In reality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. These machines are just plain FUN toys. If you attach a decent GoPro camera, have a small bit of patience(acceptance of failing at first), you can capture some of the coolest video footage that would otherwise cost you the price of whatever it takes to rent a helicopter.
Here is a quick snippet of some footage I captured recently just testing some things out.
A couple of things that I have learned so far:
Practice Practice Practice! Don’t think that you will be flying around buildings and other objects right off the bat. Find an open field and practice there for at least a month. Otherwise, you will either crash your quadcopter, or you will hurt somebody else.
Don’t try so hard to fly low around cool trees, etc. You’ll just crash. Fly high, above the trees, there’s plenty of room above the trees.
Understand that most of your crashes are self-induced. No need to bash the manufacturer. Just admit that you suck at flying at first and practice getting better.
Landing: Don’t worry about landing. Just let the drone( I mean quad) hover at about eye level, and just grab it by the landing skids, and throttle down. Landing is just an opportunity to crash or drive the props into the ground.
Take-off: Take off from a grassy surface or field, if at all possible. If you lose the signal and you fail back to the fly-home feature, I would rather the quad fly back and land in a field, rather than a parking lot. Just another opportunity to crash.
Don’t fly over people. I know, you can probably capture cool video at an event, but just imagine if things go wrong.
Fly early in the morning. The light is better for video at this time of day. There are less people out and about (see #6). In my area, wind is usually minimized as well. This is a great time to practice.
Update your firmware on your Quad. DJI is often fixing things in software. So if you are noticing problems with the way your Quad flies, it can likely be fixed with a firmware upgrade, or you just suck at flying(See #3)….and Practice.
Re-calibrate from time to time. When you take off, try to hover about 20 feet in the air. If your Quad cannot hold this position, and starts drifting off while in GPS mode, you should try re-calibrating using the DJI software. Else, when DJI says you may experience unpredictable flights, just know that this means you will crash into something.
Have Fun! By all means. Just get out there and have fun practicing.
Lightning has always fascinated me. Every time I see a big lightning strike, I am wondering if anyone else saw it. The flash of light and the strike is so momentary. Illuminating for split second and then forever forgotten….that is, unless said lightning hits the Pecan tree in your front yard and creates are gnarly scorched, burnt stripe all the way down to the ground.
Recently, Ann and I were across the river from Bath, NC when this spectacular light show of storms was rolling through. The view was perfect. We were on the south side of the Pamlico River, and there was a ribbon of storms skirting over the north side of the river. We had a clear line of sight across the open water.
Here is what we captured.
I only had my camera phone with me at the time, so some of the shots are a little grainy. But, I’m not sure if my handycam would have been any better, as it has a tendency to keep auto-focusing, especially as it is getting dark.
The below picture is the saddest picture of my bike you will ever see. It’s almost embarrassing. Look closely… there are no pedals. The pedals have been resting in a ziploc baggie since late June….of 2013. The last time I rode my bike was in Coeur D’Alene Idaho, but it was awesome!
In the days and months since, I had this crazy idea to see how fast I could race a marathon. Not just run it, but race it. So that is exactly what I did for the next 286 days. I’ve always had this idea of someday qualifying & running in the Boston Marathon, preferably before age 40. So, I created a plan based off several of Hal Higdon’s Plans. This was a 6 day per week plan for 20 straight weeks. In the past I honestly didn’t want to train as hard as it would take to qualify for Boston. This year I decided would be different. The Line was drawn. The time to beat was 3hrs 10min 00sec. I think I only missed 2 days of training.
Things that changed over the next 286 days of running:
I didn’t really worry at all about Heart Rate Monitoring, Zones, etc.
The only thing that mattered was getting to where I could run a marathon in 3:10:00, averaging 7:10 pace.
I focused on running much slower on my long runs.
I focused on running much faster on my short runs/hill repeats, intervals.
I had more fun. Long gone were the death march long runs. I knew I could complete distance. My motivation was on the speed workouts, hill repeats, etc. I looked forward to it.
I had a near catastrophe on race morning. Driving downtown on race morning, I was only 4-5 blocks from race start line when I realized I had totally forgotten to grab my race nutrition and put in my gear bag. For a split second, I contemplated the possibility of running without nutrition. I put the car in reverse and drove backwards up the exit ramp shoulder in standing traffic back onto Western Blvd. A quick couple of sketchy U-turns and I was heading back home to grab my EFS nutrition out of the fridge. Long story short, I parked at a church and quickly jogged about 1 mile to the starting line, arriving with under 2 min prior to start time.
So, typically it works best if I break things down into chunks. For a marathon it helps if I split it up into 4 x 6.55 mile segments. Mentally it’s just easier; and easier from a pacing standpoint to correct things if your pace starts to slip. So at each split, I just reset to target my goal pace.
First 6.55 Miles: 7:05 Pace, Check!
Second 6.55 Miles: 7:14 Pace, Check!….Avg 7:09
Third 6.55 Miles: 7:30 Pace, Oh Damn, trouble ahead! Trouble with math at this point….Avg 7:15ish pace. Need to push the last 6.55
Fourth 6.55 Miles:7:37 Pace. No!!!! You can see how relatively smooth my heart rate was during the first 3 splits. I pushed a bit harder from mile 19-22 to try and get back on pace. At about 22 miles in, the wheels start to fall off. At this point I was in a real situation…heart rate was dropping even as I tried to run faster, then I would slow down, and my heart rate would elevate, just like a yo-yo. In short, I was bonking. I took my remaining salt tablets, electrolytes, and a gulp of some sugary sports drink from the nearest aid station.
Somewhere around mile 23-24, the 3:15:00 pace runner passed by me. He asked if I needed a pacer. I said yes, and said I was shooting for 3:10:00 (even though I knew this was evaporating before the road in front of me. He picked up the pace, and I went with. A short but agonizing 2-3 miles later I rounded the corner and saw the finish line ahead. The clock was ticking 3:13:XX and change. 3:10:00 was out(total Boston bummer) today, but my old PR of 3:16:13 from 1998 was going down today!
Finish Time was 3:13:53, Woot! Good enough for a top 3 in my age group, 25th Overall.
After the race I double-checked the Boston Qualifying Website and noticed in the fine print that the qualifying times for Boston are based on the age that you will be on the race day of the Boston Marathon in which you are attempting to qualify. As luck would have it, I will clicking the big 4-0 this year. So, I thought my time to beat was 3hrs 10min 00sec (for 35-39 year olds on race day). But, for 40-44 year olds(on race day), the time to beat is actually 3hrs 15min 00sec. GOAL!!!
The last three months I have been incredibly busy with work, so I have not had much time to post anything. I’m not complaining, as I don’t handle boredom very well. In addition, over the last 4 months we have spent pretty much every weekend at the coast, fixing one thing or another at the Anntique. I tried to keep my camera by my side or close by if at all possible. Many times I would just set the camera up for timelapse, and continue working on whatever project(hard manual labor) was underway. Every once in a while, I would end of up with a sequence that was a keeper. There was even an instant where a bear came within 20 feet of the house.
After recording several hours of video, and thousands of photos, here are the 4 minutes that turned out pretty good.
After three days at Yellowstone, we headed south for about an hour into Grand Teton National Park. This country was simply stunning. I can’t really describe the things we saw in a way that would do any justice.
I nearly drove off the road on numerous occasions because I just could not stop looking at the mountains in the distance. The view was spectacular.
Once I got my head around the incredible views of the mountains, I started to look closer and notice all of the wildflowers in bloom right under my feet. This was not planted for show in someone’s garden, but rather just a wide open prairie. Everywhere you looked seemed to be straight out of a postcard. The mountains were perfectly placed in the background with the colorful valley below with all of the flowers in bloom.
Hiking one of the trails near Jenny Lake. Perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen. When I saw this, I just wanted to jump in and swim all afternoon.
This was taken from the old empty Cunningham Cabin. Makes you wonder why one would ever leave a cabin empty with a view like this.
All in all, we drove about 2000 miles(and flew another 5k) in our little rental car and hiked/walked whenever we felt like it was a good area. I am really happy I was able to see the Northwest part of the United States, though I still want to check out Washington, Oregon, and check out more of the Pacific Coast. We still need to figure out a way to explore Utah at some point as well.
I hope everyone enjoyed the pictures/video. We sure did.
After three days at Glacier, we had to pull ourselves away and convince each other that there were other cool places to see outside of northern Montana. So we loaded up the rental car with all of our gear and headed on the seven hour drive south to Yellowstone National Park. I failed to mention earlier that part of our rental car excitement in Glacier National Park included a boulder rolling down the mountain and smashing into the car as we were driving on one of those windy narrow roads. The scary part wasn’t so much the microwave size boulder that hit the side of the car, but rather not knowing if there were other rocks hurtling down the mountain towards you at the same time. Lucky for us it was just the single boulder and not too much damage to the car.
Anyway, eventually we arrived at Yellowstone, and here are some of the amazing things we saw.
Yellowstone is one of those places that has something for everyone. Tons of wildlife to see, beautiful river canyons with waterfalls, open views that are hard to imagine, and the world’s largest collection of geysers.
Here are a couple of random pictures that turned out well
I was kind of surprised by how tame much of the wildlife was. They didn’t seem to care in the slightest about people walking by. This elk just plopped down in the grass on the side of the road.
Honestly, my favorite part was looking at all the geothermal areas of Yellowstone. I expected to see geysers, because everyone has heard of Old Faithful. But I didn’t expect to see so many hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. These things were everywhere, and they are constantly changing. Walking around here and seeing the contrast in colors was like being on another planet.
The day after Ironman Coeur D’Alene, we packed up the rental car and headed Northeast for about 4-5 hours to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. The drive through northern Idaho and Montana was great, but nothing like what we saw when we arrived at Glacier. There is a spectacular road that basically traverses the park called Going-to-the-Sun Road. Lucky for us, this road was just opened about a week prior after plowing all of the winter snowfall for the year. This road is an incredible scenic drive and has some of the most dramatic mountain views I have ever seen. The road is only open for 3-4 months out of the year.
Below is some of what we saw along the way over the next 3 days.
Most of the park sits in the 7000-8000 foot range. Not too bad in terms of hiking, but we were a little fatigued in the first few days after the Ironman just walking up gentle inclines. But who cares, we weren’t in any hurry. The thing I found so interesting about this place is how dramatically different it is from one side of the park to the other.
First, on the western side you have dense evergreen forest like you seen in the Pacific Northwest.
Next, you can drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the Western side to the Northeastern side. On the way, you cross over the Continental Divide(Logan Pass ~8000ft), where you still have significant amounts of snow on the ground. This is only about 30-45 minutes away. Quite a bit colder and at least a foot or two of snow on the ground. This area is much like the Colorado Rockies.
Once you get down to the other side to a place called St. Mary, you can go to two other parts of Glacier National Park. If you drive south about 30-45 minutes towards Two Medicine, the climate and the scenery change to that of the open prairies of Montana. Just amazing…open…vastness(and lots of wildlife).
However, if you drive north 30-45 minutes, towards Many Glacier, the climate and scenery change back from prairies to that of the Colorado Rockies.
We spent almost three days at Glacier driving and hiking all over the place. The first day and a half it seemed to rain quite a bit, but I really didn’t mind at all. It was fascinating to see how fast the clouds would roll in, dump some rain and wind, and then clear right up in 30 minutes. This would repeat itself over and over, rain, wind, sun, etc. I guess this was the last stand of spring as the rains were finally giving way to the summer sun and warmer temperatures. In the days after we left, I heard that the skies were clear and that the Northern Lights were really starting to fire up. We’ll have to make a special trip back some day.