Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trader Joe's is coming to town (Carson City, NV)

Trader Joe's now seems to be opening on 8th December. This is superb. I think we should welcome them to town by camping outside all night and forming a line to be the first customers. We could burn walmart icons (walmart is nearby) and chant a welcome.

Who's in?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Planning ahead for a run - Bay to Breakers in May - starkers

There is a curious and very famous race in san francisco called the Bay to Breakers run. It's only 12k but it is Very San Francisco.

A very special club participates in the event, they are the Bare to Breakers club (this link is not entirely workplace safe) and have a mission to do the race starkers, naked, in the noddy, as nature intended, in your birthday suit (you get the idea). They advise wearing running shoes and there is a compulsory hat, not to mention a race number. But apart from that - nada.

So, who's racing? What an opportunity (well, a dare)!

My co-worker James the stuntman...

I think James is training to be a stuntman. An impressive wheelie indeed though I wish he had gloves on.

"There is nothing to fear but fear itself (and spiders)"

Monday, November 27, 2006

blogging elsewhere

Been catching up on my blogging and website stuff elsewhere...

kiwiwinter.blogspot.com - added my 2004 NZ coast to coast cycling trip

Impington Swimming Club - added a race report that Alan sent over (also done using blogger)

uxp.blogspot.com - revived my User Experience Blog

Hmmm, now better sleep...

New investment - a race horse

I have finally arrived. I own a bit of a race horse. Sophie owns the most of it but me and Doug have a bit too. Cool.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ultra Ironman

I wonder about an ultra ironman event in the UK. How about a channel swim (19+ miles); cycling end-to-end of the UK (1000 miles or so) and running the west highland way race (95 miles). I wonder how long it would take...

A regular ironman is 2.4 mile swim; 112 mile bike; 26.2 mile run.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving - 5 invitations so far

I've just had my 5th invitation to thanks giving. People around here are something else. I haven't even started walking around looking forlorn yet.

I've decided the fairest way is to go with my first offer from Brian and the climbing lads. That way I'll be able to contribute a bit. This approach risks the wrath of Mrs Roby so I'm hoping she'll forgive me.

Thanks ALL for the invites, very much appreciated. There are lots of very nice people around here.

I quite like thanks giving. It's like christmas without the stress of presents. The priority is to eat a lot, chill out (involving watching football for many) and be a bit thankful. At least that's what I think it is all about. Pretty neat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Training run - prision hill - 20.5 miles

To prepare for our 50k High Desert Ultra Run in Mojave in December, Scott Sager (Sienna's husband) and I had to get some miles in today. We set off in Carson City, near their house, and did a couple of laps of the 'dog park' by Carson River before heading up Prison Hill to follow the route of the Escape from Prison Hill Half Marathon. After quite some time Scott told me it was the hardest half marathon in America. Although we were walking the hills, it was easy to believe.

I ate some gel at 7 miles and a cliff bar at 14, where I also took ibruprofen and an enduralite capsule to replace the lost salts. The pain in my legs was starting to come on around now, especially in my gluts but it was nothing like last weekend and I could run through this pain ok.

We finally got back and went to Reds, my usual thursday night karoke bar, for some welcome food.

After today's performance I think we are ready to try the 50k (31 miles) in less than 6 hours. Neither Scott or I have ever run a marathon before, so it's a bit odd going straight to an ultra trail run but as ultras go, it's not supposed to be too difficult (though I still have a hard time imagining a 31 mile run can be easy).


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Snow-Shoeing Mount Rose (8 miles?)

Sienna led this Bently Adventures trip to Mount Rose and it was just Rich and me who showed up.

We're not had much snow yet so were not too sure we would need the snow shoes. Making our personal decisions, Sienna took nothing, Rich took snow shoes (both left!) and I brought trekking poles. I figured if someone got in trouble the other 2 would have a snow shoe each and would carry the third person.

We took the entertaining and shorter way up towards Rose and soon lost the path amid the small sprinkling of snow that was there. We continued on up and up and finally along a snowy ridge, which we had the decency not to slide down. The snow eventually gave way to a volcanic looking surface (which looked especially funny with Rich standing on it in snow shoes). Sienna used to work for the USGS and knew a bit of geology, so I asked about the rocks. She switched into Mrs Scientist mode and started explaining all about rocks with geological jargin, including some I had never heard before, such as when the rocks 'blurp' up in the molten magma and sometimes form 'nubbits'. I really should have paid more attention in school.

From the ridge we got a bit lost and had to drop down a few hundred feet before heading for Rose proper.

We encountered a little ice including a dodgy section on top of a little river but it held ok. Then we started up Rose proper. We found some pretty slippery snow on a narrow trail but managed to not slide to our deaths.

With getting lost and suchlike it was getting a bit late so we picked a lunch spot in the snow and sat on some rocks. I had my foam sit mat, which was very nice on the snow. I got out my stove and made some hot chocolate which was pretty welcomed. My only mistake was bringing little paper cups left over from some party or another. I hadnt realised they were waxed. So, we had a nice few servings of chocolate and wax and a little rest.

By now it was getting late so we gave up on our quest for the summit, some 1,500ft above and plodded home. We'll, we plodded back to the car and went to eat mexican food at a little place in Incline village. Pretty nice, especially the ESB beer.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

James Connaughton (Climate Criminal) - Chairman of Whitehouse Council on Environmental Quality & Senior Environmental Advisor to President Bush

As I sit here watching a press conference on the environment by James Connaughton I am struck and sickened to the extent to which this spineless, weasley, disingenous, liar commands the senior position in the USA on the environment. I'd better not write more since I'm spitting teeth. I wonder how he sleeps at night.

Take a look at someone we will assuredly look back on as a climate criminal.

It's hard to even begin to summarize elements of the total bollox he was talking only this evening. For one thing he claimed there is already a price on carbon emissions, that being the cost of energy. Well, digging up coal and burning it surely does have a cost associated with it but perhaps that pales into insignificance with the cost of the utter destruction of our planet from so doing. What a twisted monster this man is.

He talked also about the fact that it is no good cutting emissions here if the problem only moves overseas. It's an interesting point. When we see tables of the worst countries for carbon emissions we have become used to seeing the USA as the worst of them but the next sentence nearly always mentions China's growth. What seems to be missed in looking at the absolute emissions from China is that 14% of their carbon emissions are from making products FOR THE USA. Perhaps that 14% should be tacked on to the USAs total.

What we need is more scientists leading these issues, not political, spineless weasels pushing junk information. I can't believe we are prepared to listen to this kind of crap with a crisis like global warming on the table.

christmas box for troops

OK, i've signed up to fill a christmas box for a lucky US soldier. It came with a list of suggested contents. Let's set that to one side and see what else we can think of....

...suggestions welcomed (that's you too Mum!).

I guess I could make up a comedy UK box with those old favourites, nut roast, spotted dick, a jumper, perhaps some marmite, a guide to the english language perhaps.

So, apart from Pop Tarts, what would be a nice gift for a soldier from an english outpost in nevada?

Uncovered - the great pomegranate conspiracy

Pomegranate's originate in Iran. Funny that.

Today I think I was inadvertantly sucked into a conspiracy aimed at taking down the US economy. Things seemed innocent at first. The work cafe had a bowl of Pomegranates instead of the more normal Apples and Bananas but this, it seemed, was just a bit of diversity. Sienna pointed these fruit out, thinking that as a person from a faraway land I would not know what it was. Actually, it looked suspiciously like a Tunisian Cactus Fruit for my liking so I was prepared to let it go. I believe Tunisian Cactus Fruit is a very much once bitten twice shy kind of food, well, more like, once bitten, mouth fills with gravel kind of fruit. It is easy to simulate eating a cactus fruit, simply fill an old sock with gravel and bite into it. You may wonder where the 'fruit' is, and that would be the same thought you would have eating an actual cactus 'fruit'.

Anyhow, after Sienna had been messing about with this Pomegranate in the interest of educating the alien I thought one of us should buy it. She explained that was unnecessary since they have a hard skin but nonetheless I have been brought up not to play with my food, and certainly not to play with food and put it back, so I bought it.

After a pleasant sandwich I approached the Pomegranate with the plastic utensils supplied in the cafe. They were clearly no match for the tough skin on the fruit. I resorted to using my swiss army knife to cut through the leathery outer. After a while i got to some fruit. It was a little messy but tasted ok. By the end of the meal I noticed that I'd really not got far through eating it so I took it back to my desk to finish it off. This is where I made a concerted effort to finish it off quickly.

Quite some time later, after considerable cutting and splashing I made some headway on the fruit. My hands, knife, keyboard, cubicle and desk were splattered and my face was similarly covered. It looked as if I had just slaughtered and eaten a deer in my cube.

As I cleaned up I pondered the effect of spreading this fruit across American works cafes. I began to get suspicious about this fruit of Iranian origin.

My theory is that the Pomegranate will gain a reputation as the fruit that took down the US economy. I presume that the Iranian govenment is flooding the US economy with with cheap and plentiful supplies of this seemingly innocent fruit. It is quickly accepted under the "eat 5 bits of fruit or die a painful death" mantra of the US govenment and so gains a place in our lives. This is somewhat ironic because the amount of time required to eat a whole Pomegranate is so vast that we will not have time to eat other fruit, so will not make our 5 pieces a day and are likely to see a re-emergence of scurvy in the population, further stressing the healthcare system (such as it is). It seems that those Limys in England may have been onto something with their convenient fruit of choice, likely leaving the English clear of "pomegranate plague".

Malnutrion is only one of the multifarious effects of the fruit. The inordinate amount of time required to eat it will surely cause US worker productivity to dive and the economy to collapse.

Even the most innocent street bound pomegranate consumer will be left looking like they have been chewing on a fresh animal carcass which will surely lead to a steep rise in wrongful imprisonment. Other petty criminal activities in the US, such as murder, seem set to thrive in the predicted window of opportunity afforded by the mass police effort wrongfully arresting blooded pomegranate consumers.

I propose that the US government warn the public that the only safe condition in which to consume a pomegranate is whilst seated naked in the bath with a sharp knife, lots of running water and anti-splash surround. It should further be recommended that others avoid the vicinty of pomegranate consumption. The "5 fruits a day or die a painful death" should be amended to "5 fruits a day (but not pomegranates) or die a painful death - consider limes instead"

Sienna considered the impending doom from this conspiracy thus, "dead deer or not, aren't pomegranates yummy???"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Clarksburg 20 mile run

Julie recommended this 20 miles Clarksburg race near Sacramento. My friend Terry at work, who used to be ranked 32 in the world for Marathon running, used to do this event as a professional. She thought I might like it since it was flat and low altitude. I thought it would be a good training run for our forthcoming 50k (31 mile) race in Mojave in December, which I'm doing with Scott Sager.

I set out from Nevada in not great weather at just before 7am. I hadn't checked the map but I thought the event would be just over 2 hours away. It turned out to take a bit longer than that. I registered for the event at 9:27 and was running by 9:35. Not the most laid back start to a race but I was extremely glad to have made it and to finally get running. Pinning my number on and my timing tag under time pressure was a little frustrating when I would have rather been stretching.

The field was pretty packed and I unconsiously ambled towards the back of the pack. This is a bad habit which probably cost me valuable time at the start of the race. It took some time before I crossed the start line which is probably not accounted for in my race time. I quickly noticed that I could cut through the crowd and gain tens of places by running up the sidewalk whilst almost everyone else was on the road. This was pretty satisfying but still slow I thought.

I was very surprised when my GPS watch beeped to tell me I'd done the first mile in 7:07. This was too fast and I think was partly due to the GPS losing connection in the trees or something. I had set my virtual partner on the GPS to pace at 9 minute mile pace, so I was doing well against that! I think I convinced myself that 7:07 was a GPS mistake.

I ran on, running light like Terry and Dave do, and feeling GREAT. Starting near the back gave a very motivating opportunity to pick off the next person in front, and then the next. Sometimes crusing past people who are only a little slower is disrupting because it's tempting to fall into their pace when you could really go quicker. One such group were discussing their pace and it became clear they we're moving around 8:10 pace. I couldn't believe it, these were slow people in front of me and they were going faster than I usually do but today I was cruising ahead.

A couple of miles passed with more gradual overtaking. Then someone drew up on my shoulder, a lady in her 40s. She looked strong indeed and seemed keen to pace a bit faster than the folks in front of me as well, so we both cruised past them.

For mile after mile we stuck together in that strange way that runners sometimes do when they find someone running at just the right pace. Sometimes she would edge forward and sometimes I would. Mile after mile the GPS would beep and indicate a pace of 7:20-7:30. Each time it did I was really surprised at how easy it felt. I think this is the first time I have ever noticed such a huge difference from living at high altitude and racing at low altitude, I was hardly breathing at all. The pace felt like 8:30 min/mile pace.

After a while the folks in front got harder and harder to run down. I threw in a few 'pick-up' spurts to get one guy in front about 7 miles in. I was surprised that in doing so I seemed to drop my new running buddy. By the time we got to the next aid station I turned to throw my cup and nearly threw it at her - she'd caught up. We didn't talk much at all but I managed to point out that I was not surprised to see her again. We ran on and on through fields of tomatoes and vinyards in this flat countryside.

I was starting to feel quite elated realizing that if I continued at this pace I would be on for a staggering and very un-carl-like time. Even then, feeling good and moving fast I felt that I would probably not manage to run the whole race at this speed but as I crossed the 13.1 half marathon point I was staggered to see a Personal Best time of 1:42 or so (7:47 min/mile pace). I never thought I would be able to run that fast for that long.

After about 14 miles I noticed I was failing to stay with my new running buddy. I was constantly slipping back and then needing to do pick-ups to get back on terms. Eventually when I got back on terms I couldn't hang with her at all (I think she went on to win the Female 40-49 category). This was my hanging on phase. A couple of guys I'd recently passed got back on my heels. One made quick work of me, which was ok. The other was struggling to catch me. Each time he did I did a pick-up for a short stint and showed him my heels. After 5 or 6 times of doing that he finally caught me by the Red Bull aid station, where I had to grab a can of the draught and drink whilst walking.

About now I hit a kind of wall. I didn't lack energy buy my legs muscles were screaming at me, my gluts and thighs being particularly painful. My run turned into a painful shuffle and my GPS tortured me with readings like 9:30 for a mile. It's inaccuracies were painful enough but despite those, i was going slow. People I'd passed started to come by me again as I tried desperately to hang on to my pace when my legs were clearly saying stop.

The last aid station handed out water complete with bits of limescale amid wildly screaming teenagers - not the best to improve my mood as I gritted my teeth for the last 2 miles. Even the '400 yards to go' sign didn't lift me much but then I heard footsteps getting closer behind me. Someone was going to sprint me for the line. From somewhere my sheepdog instinct managed to buck me up and get me moving again. With a 100 yards to go I was flying towards the line. I think she pipped me at the post but someone later explained she hadn't run 20 miles (there were several races going on at the same time).

At the end it was all I could do to get myself onto the grass and lay down. My legs were extremely painful immediately. I saw Julie walking around by the finish line and it took a while to get over to her and say hi. She'd done a very consistent half-marathon taking 10 minutes off her last time. I on the other hand had positively flown for miles and miles and then reached the absolute limit of what I was trained for and suffered for it, deservedly so. At the end I was feeling slight sick and prioritized getting a massage over food. Julie was the other way around so we got food first and then a very helpful sports massage.

I think i'll need to start a bit slower on the 50k. This was a different race strategy for me than usual. I often try to save too much energy for later in a race. No danger of that today, it felt easy going fast ab ovo. Sadly, this was too much. I left with stiff legs but secretly pleased that I was able to run 7 something pace for so long. I think I was motivated over the last mile by thinking of many and various ways I could DESTROY my FORERUNNER GPS with all of it's inaccuracies and lies about my pace - sometimes those things mess with your mind.

It's nice to run but I do feel that this took a lot out of the tank. I'm going to need to take it easy for a couple of days, which will hurt in a different way.

Results of the Clarksburg 20 miler : I was 65th of 292 entrants; 28th Male of 66 in 30-39 category. My official time was 2:48:12 which gives a pace of 8:25. If I had managed to hold my half-marathon pace of 7:47 i would have finished in around 2:35, been 14th in my agegroup and 29th overall. I used to think that thoughts like that were just silly but having run 13 miles at that pace I'm inclined to think I can train to do that pace for longer. The addiction continues...

Splits are interesting, albeit inaccurate due to Forerunner GPS problems with signal and thin tree cover:
1 7:07
2 7:27
3 7:56
4 7:26
5 7:25
6 7:20
--------10k approx 46.25 (1 minute 25 slower than my 10k Personal Best)
7 7:25
8 7:36
9 7:41
10 6:52
11 7:47
12 8:43
13 7:32
--------13.1m approx 1:42 (my PB for a half marathon - 7:47 pace)
14 7:20
15 9:19
16 9:26
17 9:16
18 9:52
19 10:14
20 ?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yoga with Tim Rice

Awoke early to get to my 4th yoga class this week. Sonja from All About Yoga in Carson City had arranged for Tim Rice from New Orleans to come and teach again.

Tim's yoga classes are quite something. He seems to specialize in using simple yoga positions but adaptes them slightly to really isolate and challenge particular muscles. With simple adjustments and good breathing techniques it was great to really sink deep into some of these simple but challenging positions and then hold them for a while. An excellent yoga class and one in which it was easier to leave the ego outside (mostly).

If you ever get the chance to do one of Tim's classes in New Orleans, I'd recommend jumping at it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Finally saw a Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle
Originally uploaded by sombraala.
I've been here over a year and today is the first day I've seen a golden eagle.

We were out running at lunch and saw it glide in and land on a telegraph pole. Absolutely huge with quite odd looking feet. At first we thought it might have been a turkey vulture but this was much more distinctive and crouched in that way that golden eagles seem to.

(this picture is someone else's - I nearly took my camera today but decided against it for some reason)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

added photos to day 6 below - saturday

added photos to day 6 below - saturday

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Summary

I'll write a quick summary here a bit later. For now, here are the complete shots from our Tahoe Rim Trail epic.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Finishing off

The South Kingsbury trailhead is about 4 miles from the North Kingsbury trailhead and my house is in between. So, this morning, a little reluctantly we got running gear on again and set off for a run along the road, up a couple of big hills, to complete the circuit of the lake.

Strictly speaking, we had done all of the Rim Trail within the 8 days but we wanted to join up all the bits between the trail heads, and this was the last of them.

Adam finished first, although was seen walking up a hill - allegedly to wait for Natalle since a loose dog was chasing him. At the end though, they stopped at the car, I was the first to touch the trailhead sign and make the complete circuit! Nonesense aside, it was a team effort and we were rather pleased to have finished. We diddled around with the camera to get a final shot of us looking pleased with ourselves and then went for pancakes, eggs, sausages and bacon at Red Hut, only to be served by a girl who was embarassed to be dressed as Paris Hilton (she explained that she didn't normally dress that way).

This was also the final day of our Rim Trail Beard Competition. I think you'll agree it was too close to call.

The rest of the day was devoted to shopping at REI and Eclipse Running in Reno. Then we explored America's best burgers at Inn and Out burger (the veggie burger is quite simple - just the bun and salad!). The meat burgers were said to be very good. I certainly liked the simplicity of the menu at Inn and Out - you only get about 3 choices!

On return to Minden I showed Adam and Natalle around the GE facility here, well, mainly the gymn.

Then we went to a 'trick or beer' Halloween Party at the Roby's amid "sugared children" zipping about. Great beer on tap as usual and lots of snacks. Fun to all meet up and clash the US and Brit cultures together.