I’ve run races on roads, on trails, and I’ve certainly done plenty of stair races. The race I did on Saturday, though, combined all of those disciplines, and more! My finishers medal was well-earned… and earning it required doing things I’ve never done before.
I needed a change of scenery on Saturday. I wanted to go someplace new, see something different, have an experience. So I jumped in my car and headed south to Orange County, and ended up on an epic hike that took me from mountaintop to beach, and up and down plenty of stairs!
I researched hiking options before I left, and settled on Aliso Peak, a small mountain in Laguna Beach. I liked the idea of Read the rest of this entry »
I had never been so nervous to be at the beach. It was 7:45am when we parked, and my heart was racing. It was a beautiful day – pretty clear (for southern California standards), hot, and still. We started off across the sand at Venice Beach, towards a collection of tents in the distance.
It started clicking in my brain as we crossed the warm sand: it’s finally here. I’ve been training all summer for this one event, and it’s finally here. I was going to be competing in the Distance Swim Challenge. No – scratch that – I am competing in the Distance Swim Challenge, and it’s happening right now, this morning, in an ocean that’s right there, laid out in front of me.
I have a feeling this post will set a new Keep It Up, David record for having the most photos. No time for dilly-dallying – let’s get started!
I had the pleasure of trying a bunch of new things I’ve never tried before on this cruise. Let’s jump right in, because all of these activities (and there are four) were documented photographically.
1) Stand Up Paddle Boarding. We rented a stand up paddle board for an hour at the beach in St. Thomas, and all six of us had a turn giving it a try. I wasn’t too familiar with Stand Up Paddle Boarding, although I knew the general idea: you stand on a surfboard-type thing and use an oar to paddle around. My cousins took to it like they’ve been doing it all their lives. Here’s Camille, on her knees, which is how you’re supposed to get started:
Then you shift to a standing position, as demonstrated by Olivia:
And then you take off and paddle yourself wherever you like, as demonstrated by Isabel:
And then there was me. Let’s just say I didn’t take to paddle boarding like my cousins did. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t even manage to transition into a standing position:
I paddled out a few dozen yards, then turned around, paddled back to shore and got the hell off. I was on it for a few minutes, tops. It sounds so weird to admit, but I didn’t feel safe on it. The board messed with my sense of balance and it made me really uncomfortable. It’s silly, because I’m a great swimmer, and I’d be fine if I fell off, but I still disliked it. No, I hated stand up paddle boarding (or, in my case, kneeling paddle boarding), and now I know I hate it. And like they said at the end of every episode of G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.”
2) Rock Climbing. Our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, had a three-story rock climbing wall on Deck 14, and during our first day at sea, Isabel and I went to check it out. I had to pretend to be her father to sign her waiver, since she’s 13, which made me realize that I really could have a 13-year-old daughter – if I knocked up some girl when I was 18. And who’s to say I didn’t?
The rock climbing wall looks tall when you’re standing directly under it!
It’s on the back of the ship’s smokestack, so it curves slightly over your head, which makes it more intimidating.
Rock climbing is one of those activities that had never really entered my mind as something I’d ever want to try. Only when I saw a 60 Minutes story a few months back about a certifiably insane 26-year-old guy who climbs sheer cliffs with no ropes or harnesses did I think, ‘yeah, I don’t need to try that.’
And yet here I was, spending a week on a cruise ship equipped with a rock wall. When in Rome, right? So I went rock climbing.
I put on special shoes, and they strapped me into a harness and helmet, and we went to the base on the wall. I had the choice of four upward paths, each marked with different colored foot- and handholds. I chose the easiest path, blue. I was advised to push myself up with my legs (as opposed to pull myself up with my arms), stay close to the wall, and always be moving.
It was fun! Halfway up the wall there’s a bell – it’s below my right elbow in the picture on the right – and after ringing it, I kept going to the top, where there’s a second bell.
Rock climbing is a freakin’ intense few minutes, and a great workout. It was hard for me to resist pulling myself up with my arms, and it wasn’t long before both my arms and legs were shaking and burning.
I rested for a few minutes while Isabel ascended the blue path (very quickly and monkey-like), and then I tried the next path, in order of difficulty: yellow.
OH! I forgot the best part! You don’t have to worry about climbing back down – they lower you down in your harness!
The yellow wall definitely seemed more difficult: the foot- and handholds were slightly more spaced and a little trickier to navigate. I was slightly past halfway when trouble arose: my hands got really sweaty, and the problem was exacerbated because I had, about 30 minutes prior, coated them with sunscreen. I started to slip from the handholds. It got difficult to hold on.
So I bailed out of the situation. I called down to the nice staffer that was monitoring my harness that I had to come down, and she lowered me. I later learned that climbers use chalk for situations like that one, but I didn’t see chalk lying around, and didn’t know to ask for it before my ascent.
I vowed then and there to return to the rock wall before the week was up to conquer the yellow, and, a few days later, that’s exactly what I did, with the help of some chalk. Here I am seconds before ringing that second bell:
Woohoo! And you’re welcome for all the photos of my ass.
3) Ice Skating. Our cruise ship had, of all things, an ice rink, and one night we saw an ice show there. It was called “Hot Art, Cool Ice” (it was vaguely art-themed), and it was pretty impressive: they had 10 or 12 professional figure skaters doing spins and lifts and jumps all over this rink that was 1/8th the size of a standard rink. One skater did hula hoops tricks, at one point keeping about 20 hoops going at once while skating. Not too shabby!
The rink was open during the days for passengers to skate, and on our second day at sea, Isabel and I headed down there, with my Uncle Philip on hand to get some photographs. Ice skating is new to me – it’s something I’ve never had the desire to do. My general feeling is that I’m enough of a klutz on my own, so strapping anything to my feet, whether it’s an ice skate or a roller skate, seems downright stupid. An engraved invitation for a broken bone or a cracked skull.
But that “when in Rome” mentality won out, and I found myself signing the waiver and strapping on skates. First, I asked one of the pro skaters (who ran the open skate sessions) for some tips. “Hold on to the wall, and just move like you’re walking or marching.” Philip joked that if my ice show had a name, it’d be “Bad Art, Hard Ice” – and the sequel would be “No Art, All Pain.”
I’ll be honest: I was terrified when I stepped out onto the ice. I don’t think my hand left the wall for the first 2 laps around the rink:
But as I felt slightly more confident, I ventured away from the wall for short bursts:
That’s Isabel to the right, who must’ve been positively bored at my glacial pace. My confidence continued to grow, although I did have my moments where I felt a fall was imminent. Here I am, mid-flail:
But I never fell! Ever! I challenged myself to go the entire length of the rink without touching the wall, and I did it! Then Isabel challenged me to do a complete loop without touching the wall, and lucky for all of us, because Philip switched to camcorder mode, so my shining moment was captured on tape.
This video of me ice skating is embarrassing. After I successfully completed the loop, Philip goes, “That was painful. All that’s missing was a walker, because you look like a grandpa.” And it’s true. Take a look for yourself, and try to decide if I’m even moving at all, or if it just appears that I am due to, oh, I don’t know, continental drift:
Laugh if you want (I am), but hey – I ice skated. I’m an ice skater now. I spent about 25 minutes out on the ice, and now I can say that I’ve done it. And I never have to do it again.
4) Horseback Riding. Confession time. I have ridden a horse before, on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, but not in over 20 years. I’m lumping horseback riding in with the other activities in this post because it’s something I’ve never done in my adult life, and something, up until very recently, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do, because of my weight.
A general rule of thumb is that if you’re going to ride a horse, for the safety of you and the horse, you should weigh no more than 20% of what the horse weighs. A 150-pound person, therefore, shouldn’t ride a horse smaller than 750 pounds. A 400-pound person (which is what I weighed a couple years ago) shouldn’t ride a horse smaller than 2,000 pounds – do they make horses that big? The ranch we went to in Aruba had a rider weight limit of 250 pounds, so I squeaked by with only 14 pounds to spare. (Keep it up, David!)
Meet Ringo. He’s a Paso Fino horse, and he was my best friend for about two and a hours:
We got a brief lesson (5 minutes) at the ranch from our guide, Judith, on how to ride, then we all got on our horses and took off. We wound through some residential streets before starting on a narrow trail. We soon found ourselves winding our way up a beautiful hill covered in cacti and shrubs:
We crested the hill, and on the other side was an amazing view of the ocean – a beautiful rocky coast, nearly untouched in every direction:
We descended the hill and headed towards the coast. So. Beautiful.
Once we were all out in the open (our group had around 15 people total), we got the horses moving, and Ringo and I cantered a couple times (that’s faster than a trot, but not quite a gallop). We ended up at a beach that had a natural bridge…
…and one of the guides took a picture of all six of us:
From left to right: Isabel, Philip, Camille, Mary, Olivia, and Yours Truly.
We trotted/cantered down the beach a little ways to some ruins, were we tied up the horses and took a 20 minute break. This is where I got one of my favorites pictures from all week:
Then, back on the horses, back over the hill, and back to the ranch.
Horseback riding turned out to be much more physical than I was expecting. Judith summed it up at the beginning: “It’s not the reigns that keep you on your horse, it’s your legs that keep you on your horse.” My legs were sore the rest of the day! And it was a blast – both being on a horse, and being on a horse in such a gorgeous part of the world. I’m so thankful that Philip and Mary invited me to join them and their daughters on this cruise, and I’m so proud of the hard work I’ve done that have allowed me to make the most of that week. It crossed my mind, during each of the above activities, that two years ago I would’ve only been a spectator.
I don’t want to be a spectator ever again.
KEEP IT UP, DAVID!
PS. Did you make it this far? This post has nearly 2,000 words, 19 photos, and 1 video. Phew!
PPS. Tomorrow: My final cruise recap, including my run-in with… a 5-foot nurse shark. AND I’M NOT KIDDING!
Remember at the beginning of my last post when I said that it would be the only post during this long Labor Day weekend? Well, I lied. Enjoy this bonus post!
Is it sad that I can’t remember the last time I was on a bicycle? I mean an actual bicycle – I use the stationary and recumbent bikes at the gym a couple times a week. But an actual bicycle, with two wheels and the ability to take me places… well, it’s been a long, long, time.
The last bike I owned as a bright yellow Schwinn that I got in middle school. I had an odomoter/speedometer on it, and I loved it. I clocked some pretty impressive rides on that bike – going to the movies about 5 miles away, and even, a couple times, riding to Tel-Twelve Mall about 7 or 8 miles away. I never told my parents that I rode my bike on Telegraph, a major six-lane, sidewalk-free divided road near our house, because I’m sure my mom would’ve freaked out. But I did. And since they’re both readers of this blog, they know now!
When I got my drivers’ license and gained access to a car, my bike usage plummeted to pretty much nothing. My older brother, in college at the time, borrowed it to use on campus, so it went to Ann Arbor, where the odometer was promptly stolen. I ended up at the same college as my brother (Go Blue!), and we overlapped by a year, so I got the bike back from him when he graduated, but never really used it that frequently. By my junior year, I had a car on campus, sending my bike usage plummeting back to zero, and when I graduated and packed my things to move to California, I ended up donating the bike to the student-run theater group that I was involved with.
That was 2002. It’s very likely I haven’t ridden a bike since. I can’t remember an occasion where I would have. I didn’t really miss it, either. I got heavier after college, and had decided that biking, like so many other physical activities, was something best left to other people. Skinnier people.
Now it’s Labor Day weekend 2011, and my parents and I met up with my sister Laura in St. Joseph, Michigan, right near the shores of Lake Michigan. And guess what was waiting for us in the garage there?
My parents told me they’d gotten bikes this summer so they could ride around St. Joe, but it had slipped my mind until I saw them. Laura was down for some biking, so on Saturday morning, we headed out for a ride.
It felt great to be back on a bike, and the old saying is true. You don’t forget how to ride a bike.
St. Joseph has a really cute downtown on a bluff about 4 miles away, so a round trip would make for a nice 8 mile workout, and that’s what we decided to do. Along we way we passed…
…nifty old houses…
…St. Joe’s main downtown shopping district, which is paved with bricks…
…and best of all, some of our route was right along the edge of the bluff, overlooking the water…
Laura and I did the 8 miles downtown and back, and tacked on a few miles on top of it. It took us a little over an hour, and I was tired and sweaty afterward. Here’s our route, which totaled 11.3 miles (“E” marks where we started and stopped):
Laura left that night to return to Chicago, but since I wasn’t leaving until Sunday afternoon, I decided to take another bike ride, solo, on Sunday morning. I planned a route ahead of time, and it was designed to take me by a very special landmark:
That’s the house that my grandmother lived in for all of my childhood. Lots of memories. Great to see it again.
Here’s my 14-mile Sunday route:
My thighs were aching (in a good way) when I was done!
25 miles of biking in 2 days? Not too shabby!
Lots of other fun was had in between the two bike excursions. More family joined us in St. Joe, including aunts, uncles and cousins, and later in the day on Saturday, we headed to the best feature St. Joe has to offer. I’ll give you two hints as to what it is:
It’s the beach, dummies!
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 9 years, and can count the number of times I’ve been to the beach on both hands, and still have some fingers left over. I’m just not much of a beach person, normally. But I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the beaches in west Michigan. They’re spectacular! The sand is really fine and rock-free, the water is refreshing, and it stays shallow for a really long time – I went swimming with my cousin and uncle, and we went all the way out to the swimming boundary, and the water was only up to my chest.
We weren’t the only ones who had the great idea to head to the beach:
The beach, by the way, is sponsored by Taco Bell – can you see their ad on the side of the lifeguard stand in the second picture? Nothing says ‘beach’ like a Crunchwrap Supreme!
One final photograph from my weekend in St. Joe – actually, it’s a little photo montage:
That’s me and my doggie nephew Conrad!
I’ll end by saying that I ate pretty well all weekend long. I abstained from the cupcakes that my aunt made, ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and drank a ton of water, both flat and sparkling.
Keep it up, David!
Bienvenido a México!
Yesterday I arrived in Playa Del Carmen, México. Today is my sister’s birthday (Feliz Cumpleaños, Laura!), and she invited family and friends – 9 of us in total, I think – south of the border to celebrate. It’s a fantastic idea, because with a birthday three days after Christmas (Navidad), she kinda gets the birthday shaft every year – Christmas/birthday combination presents, friends out of town because they’re with family, that sort of stuff. This year we’re all together, and we’re together to be with her. We’ve been here 1 day, and so far, so good!
It’s beautiful (hermosa) down here. Here’s the view from our hotel room:
It wasn’t a great beach day, because it was cloudy (nublado) and a little chilly, but I love the beach here because there’s a little cliff between the sandy part where people lounge and the water’s edge. I walked along it at high tide:
Besides being my sister’s birthday, today was also notable because I got my first ever massage. There’s no good reason why I’ve never gotten a massage before – I just haven’t. But I’ve been wanting to get one for the better part of this year (año), after hearing multiple friends rave about them, and you can’t throw a stone (piedra) here without hitting a massage parlor – or a sunglass store, or a T-shirt shop selling really hilarious t-shirts that say things like “I Heart To Fart” – classy! So, earlier today, Sarah, my other sister, and I scouted out a couple massage parlors and picked the one that looked the nicest to us. They offered 2 massages for $50 USD, which we bought. We then explained that we weren’t a couple, because we wanted to be “separado.”
The massage parlor was tucked away a cute courtyard lined with shops, and we were led through a building into a second, lush, private courtyard with individual massage rooms with curtain walls and canopy roofs. It was very peaceful and quiet. The massage itself was really relaxing. I was kinda thinking before it started that I wouldn’t be able to fully relax because I’m ticklish (cosquilloso), and I tense up when I get tickled. Yes, I know the masseuse wasn’t going to tickle me intentionally, but the feeling might be similar, especially to a first-timer. And that did happen a little bit, twice – when she was working on my neck and when she was working on my knees (mis rodillas). I haven’t experienced other massages, so I don’t have a point of comparison, but she seemed thorough and it felt good.
Oh – another noteworthy part of the day: A bunch of us joined a gym that’s only a few blocks from the hotel. I bought a 5-day pass (the total number of days I’m here) for $30 USD. It’s a nice gym, appropriately named The Gym At Playa. I’m going back tomorrow, so I’ll take a few photos (fotografías) for the blog. Don’t know if or when I’ll blog again from Mexico, but at some point I’ll post them!
And my workout today was 50 minutes on the Arc Trainer – I burned over 800 calories!
Keep it up, David!