"For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it." ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Monday, January 30, 2012

11 Random Facts About Me and More!

Technically Mike invited me to this challenge and then Kate made it official so here goes.  But first I won't be tagging anyone because everyone I know has been tagged already and since I won't be tagging anyone there really isn't a need to create new questions.

  1. The Rules:
  2. Post these rules.
  3. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
  4. Answer the questions set for you in their post.
  5. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
  6. Go to their blog and tell them you've tagged them.
  7. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this.  You legitimately have to tag 11 people.

A couple years ago I made a conscious decision to stop saying "excuse me" and start saying "pardon me" because I think it sounds better.

I taught myself to throw left handed by throwing the paper towels used to dry my hands after going to the bathroom into the trash with said hand, complete with major league wind up if no one was around.

I finished 2nd place in microprocessors on the State test my senior year in high school.  This is more a testament to how well I test than how much I knew about microprocessors.  I was shocked and my mom was proud.

I will never answer a phone on the first ring.

I won an award from the Philosophy dept. at SIUE for my work on comparative religion.  I used to be really smart and know a lot of stuff.

One Summer in my teens I was kind of depressed and barely left the house.  During that wasted Summer I learned to juggle.

I enjoyed performing a few decent magic tricks until YouTube ruined everything.

Skateboarding is largely responsible for who I am today.  When I started skating I stopped giving a crap about whether I was popular.  Not giving a crap about what other people thought gave me freedom to express myself anyway I chose.  A valuable lesson to learn in adolescence.

The first time I ever saw my wife I knew that she was special.  It wasn't necessarily love at first sight but I had a feeling that I had never had before and here we are 23 years later.  I told you that I used to be smart.

I consider my self a Buddhist, but not a very good one.  I am a Buddhist in the same way a Christian who never goes to church is still a Christian.  I have always identified with eastern religions more so than western.  My religious friends ask me a lot of questions about Buddhism, some out of curiosity, and some out of concern for my soul.  Sometimes I wonder what makes them so certain that there can be only one path...but I digress.

I am an administrator for the Metro East Atheist Network.  Bet you didn't see that coming!

Okay that's eleven!

Mike's Questions:
Why do you blog? To chronicle my adventures.
What is your favorite meal? Don't have a favorite meal.  Weird!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?  Serving 8years in the Army.
What was your favorite subject in school? In college, Religion/Philosophy.
What is your favorite sport?  Anything on the X-games.
What is your favorite team?  The Rams
What is your favorite snack to eat while cheering for your favorite team?  Potato Chips
How old were you when you got married?  19.  My twin daughters were almost 2.  Use your math!
Do you grill with charcoal or gas?  Charcoal
What is your favorite month?  April
What is your least favorite month?  November

Kate's Questions:
Did you have a favorite teacher in school? Who and why?  Greg Fields.  He taught me a lot about philosophy and religion.
Suggest a great new blog for me to read.  Not a question Kate.  Weren't you an english major?
What's a favorite race memory?  First one that came to mind was the soul sucking mud at QQ 2years ago.
What kind of car do you drive?  The Adventure Truck!
What do you imagine doing when you retire?  Long adventures.  Maybe the AT.
Tell me a happy memory of yours.  Also not a question.
What's something that has surprised you about yourself?  How much weight I have let myself gain.  Damn!
Do you have brothers or sisters? If so are you close to them?  One sister, and we are close.
Patrick assures me he'd come rescue me if I ever again got lost in the woods. Can I count on him?  Sure, with a name like that he can't be bad.
What's something you like to make for dinner?  Adventure Burritos
What's a good piece of advice you've received?  Never try to lift anything you are standing on.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Giving Back

The trails out at SIUE have been my training ground for the last few years.  I've run and mountain biked them until I know every twist, turn, root, and stump like the back of my hand.  Although sometimes it seems like just yesterday when I couldn't turn around without getting lost out there.  To say that I am thankful for this trail system is an understatement.  So when I heard that the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists were having a workday in my backyard I jumped at the chance to lend a hand.

Actually I had been harboring a fair amount of guilt for not helping out in the past.  GORC holds a couple of workdays out there during the year and I have always had a scheduling conflict, until now.  I was informed about the workday at the January Metro Tri Club meeting and made sure my schedule was clear.  One of our members always makes the argument that since we use the trails so much  for training we should help maintain them as well.  Agreeing was a no brainer.  GORC is a volunteer organization that maintains many trail systems in the area.  I'm not sure how many exactly lets just call it more than 10 less than 20.  They are faced with a tremendous amount of work and the only compensation is being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

We worked hard for about 3hours with almost 40volunteers 12of which were Metro Tri Club members including fellow bloggers Mike and Kate (visit Kate's blog to see pictures of the trail in progress).  We used tools I had never heard of before.  Pete our crew leader told us to grab a couple hazel hoes, a fire rake, and some pulasky's.  "Excuse me but I have no idea what you just said".  He explained it and we were on our way to the section our group was to work on.  We did some raking, grubbing, benching, and clearing., Yeah, I didn't know what benching and grubbing were either.  At the end of the day we had completed a brand new half mile section of trail, and I will admit that when I ran that section the next day I was proud of what we had built.

Seriously, do not use this as a guide.

If you use the trails in your area find out who maintains them and see if you can lend a hand because as Pete said "it helps your trail Karma to give something back".

Monday, January 16, 2012

Free Diving

I don't remember who posted this video, or where I saw it originally  but it is so bad ass I thought I would share it too.  Free Diving is something I have always been impressed by watch the video and find out why.

Told you it was bad ass!

Friday, January 13, 2012

(Mountain) Lions, No Tigers, and Bears!

A week or so ago I read in the paper that a mountain lion was trapped and later released near Centerville,  Mo. located in the Southeast corner of the Mark Twain National Forest.  Mountain lions and bears have been rumored to live in Missouri for some time now and the evidence has mostly been anecdotal until recent years when mountain lions have been caught on camera and now in a trap.  The recent capture is a reminder to be safe and take precautions while out in remote locations.  I have read that an encounter with these animals is a rare occurrence but it does happen here is what to you should do.

For black bears according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (It came up first on google) you should:

  • If the bear is not paying any attention to you, slowly and quietly back away while watching the bear to make sure it isn't following you
  • Do not approach the bear to get a better look
  • If the bear obviously knows you are there, raise your arms to let the bear know you are a human. Make yourself look as big as possible. Speak in a firm but non-threatening voice while looking at the bear and backing away
  • Watch the bear to gauge its reaction to you. Generally, the noisier the bear is, the less dangerous it is, providing you don't approach the bear. If a bear huffs, pops its jaw or stomps its paws on the ground, it wants you to back away and give it space
  • If a bear closely approaches you, drop any food you are carrying and continue backing up
  • If the bear continues to try to approach, stand your ground and be aggressive - use your whistle or air horn, yell, stand tall, wave your arms and throw objects
  • If a bear keeps advancing and is getting close, continue to stand your ground. Use your bear pepper spray and anything else to threaten or distract the bear - bears will often first test to see if it is safe to approach you
  • Do not run or climb a tree. Bears can run faster and climb better than you
  • If the bear makes contact, fight back with everything you have


    For mountain lions according to the Missouri Department of Conservation you should:

    • STOP. Back away slowly if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the mountain lion, stand upright and maintain eye contact.
    • DO NOT APPROACH A MOUNTAIN LION, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
    • STAY CALM. Talk to it in a calm, yet firm voice.
    • DO ALL YOU CAN TO APPEAR LARGER. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you’re wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won’t panic and run.
    • If the mountain lion behaves aggressively, THROW STONES, BRANCHES OR WHATEVER YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. You want to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may, in fact, be a danger to it.
    • FIGHT BACK if a mountain lion attacks. Mountain lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and bare hands. Remain standing or try to get back up.
    Now you know what to do in the unlikely occurrence that you encounter one of these animals.  Remember they aren't looking to eat you but they can be dangerous and unpredictable.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    2012 Goal #3: 12 Nights in the Bag

    Some years ago when I had a subscription the Backpacker magazine I read about the term "bag nights", a term to describe the number of nights you slept in your sleeping bag.  People would write in saying things like "last month I had five bag nights" or "last year I had 35 bag nights".  It all sounded so great to me and I thought that I would love to be a bag night person.  Fast forward to the present day and I have probably logged less than ten in the past five years.  The idea of sleeping outside (camping style not homeless style) really appeals to me so this year I decided to challenge myself to log 12bag nights.  One night each month should be easy, right?  The challenge won't happen that way though because I don't have the gear to camp in cold weather and have no plans to buy it because as the temperature rating goes down the price goes up, up , up.  I am more of a Walmart/Target camping supply shopper unless I can find a sweet deal somewhere.

    The number 12 came up because I knew that there were already a few nights on the schedule (see below) so it had to be more than was already planned otherwise there would be no challenge and since it was 2012 it seemed right.  Plus I didn't want to pick a number that was unattainable and 12 seemed like a fair amount.

    My old tent and Chuck's old legs
    So here is the breakdown so far for 2012:

    • 3nights on the KATY trail (May)
    • 2nights during the MR340 (Jul-Aug)
    • 1night during the Berryman AR (Sept)
    That is six nights accounted for, so that only leaves 6more nights for me to get out into the wild.  Should be a piece of cake.
    For the sake of clarity I should point out that in my book at least, sleeping in an actual sleeping bag is not a prerequisite to logging a bag night.  My requirements are flexible depending on the situation.  During the MR340 for example we won't be "camping" but we will be out in nature on the Missouri river for up to 88hours (fingers crossed that we finish sooner) so that has to count for something. Not to mention the 34hours Team POW/MIA spent wandering around the woods at last years Berryman Adventure, that has to count as one night.  It is not yet decided if sleeping in a tent in the backyard will count though.

    Bottom line is this, I have never found the time spend time outdoors the way I want to and this year things are going to be different.

    Thus the telling of the goals was concluded.

    Leave a comment below and share some of your goals for the new year!

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    2012 Goal #2: Increase Fitness

    My second goal for 2012 is the thing I have struggled with the  most, in the past.  Eating right and exercising regularly are not things that come easy to me at all.  Just as I typed that last sentence I felt a powerful disturbance in the force.  It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out with a collective WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! and then fell silent.  Yeah I get it, everyone has this problem.  There are things that I want to do that I am unable to do because of my level of fitness, so I have begun to make some changes.

    Maybe that's the problem.
    I have recently become a member of the wellness committee at work.  Personally I feel more like the prime example of someone that needs the help of a wellness program than someone on the committee, so I was surprised when they asked me to join.  People outside my immediate work area know me as the guy who runs and does all sorts of crazy races (clearly they haven't read the blog lately) so they thought I would be a good person to have on the committee.  Maybe if people still see me as that "fit" guy I don't have as far to get back as I think.  In conjunction with the Wellness committee there is going to be a weight loss contest starting at work and I volunteered to coordinate with the participants.  Usually when things like this happen at work it is anonymous, people sign up do their thing and never know if anyone else is participating unless it is being discussed around the water cooler.  We are a large hospital and have hundreds of employees so even if there is a leader board it is possible to not recognize a single name.  I saw this as a huge deficiency in the program and suggested that participants have an opportunity to get to know one another, giving them a sense of camaraderie working toward a common goal.  I was told that if I wanted to lead it then it would be a great idea.  Seems like an actual wellness professional would be a better candidate to lead a wellness group rather than an air conditioning mechanic but if they don't have the time to make the program a success then I will gladly do it.  After all it was my idea.
    I have also started cooking more so I have left overs to bring for lunch (saves money too).  Often I go to the cafeteria and get whatever seems like it might be good, and by good I mean taste good, not necessarily healthy.  I am still struggling with my Dr. Pepper addiction, and maybe addiction is a strong word but it seems I have the least willpower to resist a couple Dr's appointments every day.

    So I am making progress.

    I don't want to dwell too long on this one since everyone has their own issues with food and exercise.  I just wanted to put it out there as a goal.  Maybe it will help this time.

    I know many of you might have a similar goal for the year so I wish you the best of luck, and if you need a hand let me know, maybe we can help each other. 

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    2012 Goal #1, Resume Transmission:

    There are probably hundreds of goals that I could set for the new year, but as I stated in the previous post I am  keeping my focus on three, and because I am a nice guy here they are so you don't have to go back and look at the last post to jog your memory.

    1. Build on the foundation of the 100+Project.
    2. Increase my level of fitness
    3. Spend 12nights in the bag.
    The second half of 2011 was pretty much a waste, as far as training and racing was concerned.  I won't go into the details of why, but if you don't know the reason take a look back at some of my other posts to get an idea of how things fell apart.
    One of the good things that came out of 2011 was the creation of the 100+Project (click the link for details).  It seems like so long ago it was just an idea.  The project allows me to add a bit of adventure to my life while raising money for the St Louis Asthma and  Allergy Foundation.  I remember contacting them for the first time thinking that they would not want me to proceed with my plans.  I found that the exact opposite was true.  They seemed more excited than I was.  Jessica (from the foundation) and I appeared together on a local AM radio station WBGZ 1570 to talk about the foundation and the 100+Project.  I was invited to speak at a board meeting (an invitation that I have yet to take them up on), and I was a guest host at their annual trivia night along with some other local celebrities.  So our relationship has been one thousand percent better than the flat NO I was half expecting.
    Skate 100+ was the first of the 100+Projects, since the whole idea was inspired by Dave Cornthwaite who first skateboarded the length of Great Britain, and then across Australia I though it would be a fitting homage for the first event to be skateboarding.  The true benefit though lied in the fact that I already knew how to skateboard.  I had never ridden a longboard before but the mechanics are the same, bend right leg, push with left, repeat.  I did a few loops on the Madison county bike trails labor day weekend.  The day started early and the temperature was cool, but it soon rose to over 100degrees.  I had some relief in the late afternoon when severe thunderstorms moved in, and as the sun went down the temps became cooler again.  My wife and daughters were my support crew for the event and I think I underestimated how hard the day was going to be on them.  It took me a little under 19hours to skate the 107miles from the MCT trails on up to Grafton, IL and they were out on the road the whole time taking care of anything I might have needed.  I received tons of emails, text messages, comments on facebook, and tweets to encourage me along the way, and they were very much appreciated.  I met some of my friends along the route too.  Cheri met me at the halfway point which was also the hottest part of the day.  I was really doubting if I could finish, it was just so hot out.  I had just left my family at Horseshoe lake where we had lunch, and I hid how much the heat was beating me down because I didn't want them to worry.  Cheri rode alongside on her bike (the bike that she ran me over with in the past) and we talked about the heat and how far I had to go.  Talking through it made it seem more manageable.  I would go as long as I could and if I succumbed to heat I would figure out what to do at that point.  The crazy thing about the heat was that the temperature the day before and the day after was about 25degrees cooler making the heat a non-issue.  I happened to pick the freak September day was a heat wave.  Cheri turned and rode home when her husband called and told her that there was a severe thunderstorm was on the way.
    The storm was good news to me because when the leading edge rolled in it brought cooler temperatures with it.  When I turned the corner on the Schoolhouse trail I could see the thunderheads in the distance, as well as the lightening strikes.  Beating the heat was such a triumph but now I was faced with another potentially hazardous weather situation.  The success of the first project was very important but was I willing to ignore some very real danger in order see it through?  Checking the weather on my phone I found out that the storm was very narrow and fast moving.  A message from Jackie who was at the Cardinals game said the storm would be very intense for about 15minutes and then gone.  The decision to keep going was not an easy one but it seemed that if the storm was too bad I could find somewhere to ride it out before continuing on my way.
    After making three loops on the MCT trails it was now time to head north making my way to Grafton.  I almost made it to the Wanda park and ride lot before the the skies opened up and the rain drenched me to the bone.
    Arriving at the Wanda park and ride it was time to take this show on the road, for a few miles at least.  The shoulder of the road was fair but the road itself was smooth as could be so I skated toward traffic and moved to the shoulder when cars came toward me.  It was fun to skate in the rain until I got to New Poag road when the storm really got going.  The storm got really ugly when I made the turn.  The wind was blowing me toward traffic so I switched sides of the road and fought the wind as it tried to push me off the shoulder into a ditch.  It would be an understatement to say it was tough going.  Tornado sirens could be heard in the distance and the very real possibility that I had made a mistake by continuing was upon me.  It was then that Beth and Sarah pulled up in the car, I hopped in and rode out the storm.  Safe in the car another check of the weather revealed that the storm was almost over.  When it passed I was back out on the road.  The shoulder at this point was not very good but there were too many cars for me to ride in the road.  I pushed to the top of a pretty steep hill hoping to enjoy the freedom of the downhill side but again the cars were too frequent and the shoulder to littered with small deadly pieces of broken asphalt and gravel.  Anyone who has ever ridden a skateboard knows that even the smallest piece of gravel can stop your board cold causing a sudden and immediate fall.  So I spent the entire way down the hill checking my speed instead of freewheeling and enjoying the ride.  Beth and Sarah were waiting for me at the Lewis and Clark visitor's center in Hartford so I resupplied and grabbed my headlamp since the daylight was fading fast and it was time to get back on the trail.  After it got dark I kept my light off because I didn't want to attract the wrong kind of attention.  I was still feeling strong and kept on pushing.  Near Alton I noticed a runner up ahead and tried to figure out the least frightening way to pass.  I guy on a skateboard at night on the trail is an unusual sight indeed and I didn't want to freak her out and get pepper sprayed.  I rolled by with my light on and wished her a good evening and went about my way relieved to not have been pepper sprayed or taken out with a few handy techniques from a women's self defense class.
    Once again I met Beth and Sarah, resupplied and made my way to the Vadalabene bike trail.  I stopped for a minute to explain what I was doing to a couple of curious on lookers.  They seemed to think what I was doing was cool and not stupid so I was pretty pleased with myself.  The way to the bike trail was very difficult, the shoulder of the road was very narrow and covered in loose gravel.  After such a long day I was very frustrated almost falling every time I got going.  The cycle of pushing and stopping myself from falling was a low point for sure and made me wonder how long I could go on like that.  Luckily though it didn't last too long and once I hit the bike path it was smooth sailing, except for the spiders.
    Yes spiders!  By this time I was starting to feel the effects of the days journey and was really looking forward to finishing.  But what I was really looking forward to in a more immediate sense was not riding face first into giant spiderwebs.  My headlamp let me see quite a few webs before I got to them but most of the time I didn't have time to react.  The worst ones were when I could see the spider in the web right before I rode through it.  Now where did that spider go?  Eventually I switched over to the shoulder next to river always thinking Raging Rivers water park was around the next bend.  Moving very slowly I still couldn't believe that it was taking so long to get to the water park.  It was like my mind was playing tricks on me.  I stopped to rest for a minute watching a tree up on the bluffs burn.  I guessed that it had been struck by lightning when the storm blew through earlier.  Finally, Finally, Finally I made it to the water park.  Raging Rivers was important because it was a big landmark on the way to Grafton, a sign of progress that the end was near.  Even though I have never actually been there when it was open that night it was my favorite place in the world.  As happy as I was though I still had a ways to go.

    Grafton, dead ahead.

    Beth sent me a text saying there was a patrol car heading in my direction.  I had no idea what the police would think about me skating up the River Road in the middle of the night but I had a feeling that I was about to find out.  I had visions of being hauled off to jail not being able to finish.  Being hauled off for skateboarding may seem a bit extreme to some of you but I was around for the second revival of skateboarding in the 80's where the battle cry was "Skateboarding is NOT a Crime".  In my experience when you combine law enforcement and skateboarding the outcome is not good.  Soon the patrol car pulled along side me and I summoned enough strength to speed up and look strong.  The car slowed down to match speed with me, and I swear I saw the cop look at me shake his head and drive off, or maybe I just imagined it.  Either way he drove off and left me to my finish my journey.
    Not long after the close encounter with the law I arrived in Grafton, 107miles from the start and almost 19hours later.  Beth and Sarah were so tired after spending the day (and night) on the road.  I was over 100miles and Skate 100+ was a success.  I raised some money for a great cause and I was feeling pretty good.  The day was long and full of highs and lows and I am glad I did it.

    I was glad to get the 100+Project started in 2011 and I was trying to fit another project into the schedule before winter but it just didn't work out.

    In 2012 the 100+Project will include Cycle 100+ on the KATY trail over Memorial day weekend (May 25-28) 200+ miles of cycling and camping.  I am inviting anyone that wants to come along to join me for the adventure.  We will cover about 70miles each day.  There will be more details coming soon.
    Also 2012 will see Kayak 100+ when I paddle the Missouri River 340 (July31-Aug3), a 340mile race across Missouri from Kansas City to St Charles.
    Sometime in the Fall I plan to embark on Unicycle 100+ I don't have a route or a date but I do have a unicycle and time to learn how to ride it!
    There is a lot to look forward to in 2012 for the 100+Project hopefully a string of success as well as a rising donation total!
    A huge thanks to everyone that donated in 2011, without all of you my fundraising efforts would be a total failure.  I do these things for the love of the adventure and to help out a great cause.  By reading this terribly long post, or by following me on twitter or liking the facebook page you are telling me that what I am doing is worth while and that you feel that we can all do something to help out those that are less fortunate.  In a nutshell that is what the St Louis Asthma and Allergy Foundation does, they help those that are less fortunate deal with conditions that at times can be life threatening.  They are the ones that deserve your support and I am looking forward to helping bring awareness to the work they are doing in 2012.

    The 100+Project is just getting started and there is much work to do.