I suppose this could really is confluence of two posts - On The Oregon Trail (Part 3) and Half The Man I Used To Be (Part 2.) Seems appropriate that the focus is a place where the confluence of the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers takes place - the city of Eugene, Oregon.

One of the big bonuses of this new fitness lifestyle has been the chance to travel to far off places and meet newfound friends for races and for just plain good times together. I can't imagine that the original inventors of the Internet ever envisioned social networking as one of the major effects of their creation, especially when you add in websites like youtube, facebook and their cousins.

Cincinnati and Philadelphia had been host cities prior for my destination races in 2007, and Eugene ended up being my first destination race of 2008. The city itself has a great running tradition and is truly a mecca for the run-oriented individual. I didn't do too much touring of the city itself, but it seemed like a place I wouldn't mind living in if I ever moved away from California.

Friends are just simply invaluable. This trip, and for that matter, the past trips to other parts of the country, wouldn't have been half as good as they were if it weren't for the people I got to meet. For this week, these people included Chris, whose hospitality was truly incredible. In my case, he not only gave me and my other friends gathered the royal tour of the University of Oregon facilities (if I ever have a son who has any athletic talent, especially on the football or running front, I'd recommend U of O in a heartbeat based on what I saw) but also allowed me to stay a couple nights in his humble abode with his truly wonderful family.

My 5K effort on an individual scale was a lot better than I had envisioned EVER running, but that wasn't nearly as satisfying as meeting up with another friend Larry, who I had met at the Philadelphia gathering, during his marathon effort to run with him for 10 miles until the end. He had had a spate of injuries leading up to this race, and it was evident it was going to be a tough race because of the lack of training. But Larry persevered to a sub-4-hour effort, and I was glad to have been there to help in some way. The smile on his face after he realized he had broken that sub-4 mark is something I'll always remember.

There were many other people here I had the chance to meet for the first time as well who perhaps I will cross paths with again in the future. And that's perhaps what all this has brought. I don't mean to sound dire, but sitting around as a couch potato isn't exactly a prescription for a prolonged future. Granted, a focus on running and things fitness-oriented isn't a 100% guarantee to a prolonged future. I suppose you can spend your life plopped down on a sofa munching on value meals every single day and outlive quite a few people for whatever rhyme or reason. But I'll take the odds in this case, especially if this means I can make trips around the country to meet up with friends, both old and new.


A Year Lost?

On a totally separate topic, I'm beginning to think 2008 might be a "lost" year of sorts, at least on the run/triathlon front.

I've got a wicked case of peroneal tendinitis that I've kinda' let go for too long. My PT said I should really avoid anything that will irritate the area right now (especially running...ugh) and my motivation to do anything else (save for the strengthening exercises my PT has prescribed for me) is a bit muted

I've got two pretty much set-in-stone interruptions coming up to any training that I can get in the next month or two.

Later this year, there may be a work-related opportunity that would be exciting on one front, but it would throw any run/tri-related goals I had planned for late this year out the door

This is more of a reality check than anything. Something tells me 2009 could be a great year on the fitness front if I play my cards right. But motivation is a pretty tough thing to hold for something so far off in the future.

Who knows...there could be another fork in the road I haven't even contemplated. But we'll get to that if it comes

Ads And Dads

The last three weeks have been nuts. In fact, it made me forget I had a blog going until earlier today.

Much of it was a special project for my dad that I promised I'd help him with last year: putting together a program for a big local festival for which he is the acting chairperson for this year. A deadline of mid-April had ostensibly been set for submission of messages, ads, etc., but material was coming literally the day before the whole shebang was to be sent in to the printer.

Three all-niters in five days might be de rigeur for most college students. It's certainly not recommended for middle-aged adults...unless you're having a LOT of fun in return.

It was annoying at times. Hectic. Brain-deadening. Sometimes all at once.

But I saw the finalized product today. 80 pages worth, and pretty good looking. Better than last year's edition by far (I should know - I was given that thing last minute to try to rescue it when the person who had been in charge of it was out of town for the holidays.)

I'm glad it's over for certain - the lack of sleep plus the spare-time hours spent on the project from mid-May onward certainly has taken a toll on my mental sharpness as the month has marched onward. Early sentiment is to have me back to do the program again next year. I'll have to think about that...


On The Oregon Trail (Part 2)

Once you pass Redding and head into extreme northern California, the predominant feature is Mount Shasta. In fact, it's impossible to ignore this sleeping giant of a volcano, whose last recorded eruption occurred roughly 200 years ago (lately, the mountain has averaged an eruption every 600 years.)

As impressive a sight as Shasta was in passing, my glances were drawn to the tinier cinder cones and similarly-shaped rock formations that dotted the valley north of Shasta, as well as some of the smaller features such as Black Butte (there is another Black Butte mountain up in Oregon as well, as I found out later.)

I began thinking how cool it would be to go climbing on these things or just ramble around and examine the rocks and plants and things on the landscape. Maybe one of these days when I have a lot more time on my hand.

Also impressive in a future CGI/Lord Of The Rings way was when I caught sight of the top of Castle Crags National Park. The top of the mountains here are impressive, and I was thinking that some smart Hollywood studio would grab a camera crew to shoot some film, and then some CGI crew would super-impose a real intimidating, creepy castle face on these slabs as an imposing obstacle for their stalwart heroes to overcome.

Crossing into Oregon, I noticed immediately that at least on I-5, there isn't much in the way of flat ground. You're either going up or down for most of the route. Most of the first southern Oregon towns you drive past like Ashland and Talent are awfully long and slender because of the mountains on either side.

An interesting historical sidelight is the Republic Of Jefferson which was established during the early 1940s. I had previously heard the story behind the republic several years ago on TV, so it was interesting to see the barn pictured in the link while driving by on I-5 as well as listening to NPR Radio stations in the area, which refer to themselves as "Jefferson Public Radio."

Driving through the town of Grants Pass in search of dinner, I passed by a very lively scene. School was out for the weekend, and the downtown was filled with the local youth cruising by various local establishments in their autos with many others just walking out on the street en masse, hanging out and enjoying each other's company. Not sure if this is the case in other small towns nowhere near a huge metropolis around the country, but it definitely was a new experience for me.


On The Oregon Trail (Part 1)

I took a race/vacation trip this last weekend up to Eugene, OR, to both meet up with some running forum friends as well as get in a little sightseeing.

Google maps out the journey from my house to Eugene, OR, at right about 500 miles (anyone want to break out the Proclaimers song right about now?) My plan was to initially was to ease on up there, bunk down at a hotel in extreme northern California or southern Oregon, and ease into Eugene in the morning to the expo first thing to sign up (I had missed the deadline for online registration.)

The trip started off in herky-jerky fashion. I got going about an hour later than I wanted to, and ended up having to backtrack to my house when I found out the AAA map vending machine I had tried to proffer a Northern California map from indicated I had an expired membership card.

Amazing that I had been traveling with my expired card pretty much since last September, so it was fortunate I discovered this before heading off for more remote parts of the country. I was even more fortunate to actually locate my newest membership card (still glued into its cardboard template in the original mailing...kinda’ embarassing, actually.)

Can you imagine being stuck 20 miles out of Weed (cannibis jokes aside, the town was named for Abner Weed, who owned the local lumber mill) pleading my case before with a skeptical tow truck driver staring at my expired AAA card that I did fork over the annual membership dues?

The northern Central Valley of California is much like its southern half in that it’s something of a boring drive. The first eye-catching thing that grabs you, though it is a little hard to see from the interstate, is in Redding where the Sundial Bridge resides.

The Sundial Bridge is a pedestrian bridge designed by Spanish architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava and closely resembles his Puente del Alamillo bridge he designed for Expo 92 in Seville. The bridge, which resides at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, has a deck surface consists of greenish, translucent structural glass; apparently, it provides quite a visual at night when the deck is illuminated from underneath. Below is a slideshow of the pics I took at this rather striking landmark

Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA