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Marathon

After 6 months of training, I only took 20 seconds off my 10K time in the Vancouver Sun Run, and failed to break the 40-minute barrier. 40:33 is now my time to beat. And I seriously couldn't have gone a second faster. My heart felt like it was about to blow out of my chest.

I'm attributing the meager 20 second improvement to the course and the traffic. I think I'll have to try for a PR later this year in the Richmond Flatlands 10K. Sounds flat. Sounds fast.
 

Lots of exercise



I ran the Turkey Trot 10K a month ago, and today I finally bought the picture of me crossing the finish line. After I saw the proof, I knew I had to get it--the expression on my face is so contorted and pained that I have to post it on the site. So I've just got to sample it down and write a story to go along with it... give me a few days.

INPUT: Yesterday I ate leftover pizza and had a fantastic sushi dinner. Today I had spaghetti for lunch and a fantastic seafod pasta dinner. I think I can eat pretty much whatever I want with the amount of exercise I did over the past two days.

OUTPUT: Yesterday I ran 17km with Muris. He was cursing me by the end. Today I commuted both ways to work, for a total of 1:40 in the saddle.

DIMENSIONS: Weight 153lbs

My most loyal following: Other Chris McGraths

Congratulations from Chris McGrath

 

   
I find it curious that among the most loyal followers of my web site are other people by the name of Chris McGrath. For instance, I received this email today:

"Congratulations! Was surfing several months ago and a search on my (our) name led me to your web site. Followed your travels closely. sounds interesting. Stumbled back today and saw pix of the baby. BEAUTIFUL!!!!! Congratulations to you and Gina.

- Chris McGrath"

Back a few months ago, I got this email from another Chris McGrath, this one an 11-year-old.

"Hi, my name is Chris McGrath too. I'm 11 years old. I was wondering if you are interested in other people whose name is Chris McGrath?"

Sorry kid, not exactly. We need a little more to go on if we're going to be friends. Spending a weekend with a club of Chris McGraths would just get confusing. ("And our next speaker will be... Chris McGrath!" [Everyone stands up.])

At least my name isn't David Wong. According to my phone book, there's 43 of them just in Vancouver.
 

On the importance of eyebrows (now with photo!)

Very, very important

While we were in Bosnia, Gina started cutting my hair--for consistency's sake, and to conserve money. She's been getting really good at it, too. No bad experiences, really, save for the time I got a reverse mohawk. She accidently adjusted the clipper two notches shorter instead of longer when moving from the sides to the top. I was left with a racing stripe up the center of my scalp. But we solved it by shaving it all off. I looked like a skinhead for a couple of weeks, but at least I had eyebrows.

I (used to) have bushy eyebrows, so Gina trims them every month or so. It looks better that way. If you have bushy eyebrows, you understand this. If not, take my word for it. So yesterday she gave me a haircut, and then went to do my eyebrows.

"What setting do we use for your eyebrows?" she asked.

"Two," I answered off-handedly.

Bzzzzz. "No, I don't think it's a two," she said. Then she started laughing and crying at the same time.

I dashed alarmedly to the bathroom mirror and looked. The top-right half of my right eyebrow was mostly gone. I cried more than I laughed. Gina was apologizing, but also reminding me that I was the one that said it was a two.

So I decided that eyebrows were just too important to leave to someone else. I would take responsibility for them myself. Just like shaving every day, a semi-monthly eyebrow trim would be added to my ritual of body-hair maintenance. I took the clippers, positioned myself carefully in the mirror, and painstakingly shaved off the entire left side of my left eyebrow.

"Aaaaarrrggghhhh!!!"

As horrified as I was, Gina was actually quite pleased. The damage she had done to my right eyebrow was nothing compared do the utter annihalation I had wreaked on my left one. We spent the rest of the day discussing alternative treatments: shaving both of them clear off, filling in the missing spaces with an eyebrow pencil, visiting a beautician for some professional advice. In the end, we decided to do nothing.

And as the icing on the cake, today I was contacted for a job interview with a tech recruiter. Perfect timing. I decided that the best course of action was to pretend that nothing was unusual or out-of-the-ordinary about my appearance. So I went. And when she was asking me questions from across the table, I couldn't be sure if she was looking me in the eye... or looking me in the eyebrow. If I don't get the job, at least I have an excuse. Eyebrows are important.

I got a new job

I started work today at Playground as their Internet Systems Analyst. I can wear jeans to work, there's a fridge stocked with free drinks, and they give me a season pass to Whistler. Can it get better than this?
 

Backcountry skiing in Nelson

Deep powder

Backcountry skiing is all about deep powder. If it wasn't for the powder, nobody would bother spending two hours slogging up a steep slope under their own power for fifteen minutes of skiing. But the snow makes it all worthwhile...

The snow came early this year in Nelson, my adopted hometown. When we went backcountry last Wednesday (December 5th), the basewas already at 180cm (6 feet). In the picture above, at the mountain ridge 400 metres above our starting point, I'm standing. I clipped out of my skis for a picture and fell straight down. I'm not touching bottom here--the base at the ridge was probably in the 220-250cm range. The top three or four feet is the dry, light, fluffy stuff--the snow dreams are made of.

With that much snow, I started scoping for my favourite aspect of alpine skiing: cliff-jumping.
 

Picking a cliff

When picking a cliff to jump, the most important factor to consider is the landing. You want it steep, long, unobstructed, and covered in deep untouched powder. If it meets this criteria, you can totally screw up and still walk away without injury.

Cliffs always look easier from below than from above. I chose my cliff while hiking up, and it looked sweet... Perfect height, steep powderfield for a cushy landing, and a nice long runout. But it was much more intimidating standing on top. As you can see from the picture, I couldn't see the landing, I couldn't see the rocks or obstacles, and I couldn't tell how high it is. I just had to go for it and hope my estimation from below was accurate.

The approach

It's best if you have no obstacles in your approach. Mine was pretty clean--I just had to start with a jump-turn, about 20 feet above the lip, and then run in. You want to be nicely balanced for lift-off, with your hands and poles forward. This cliff is about 25 feet high.

Lift-off

A little jump right at lift-off helps. At this point, it looks like I'm pretty well centered.

This is a mild drop. My speed will be manageable at landing. 50- to 70-foot cliffs are apparently much scarier--your speed is quite high at landing. Jumping off cliffs of 100 feet or more has you at terminal velocity upon landing.

Airtime

This is where I'm starting to go wrong. My knees are tucked up, like they should be, but my weight is too far forward. My arms are flailing to try to get my body position more upright. If I land like this, I'll plant in the powder, do a double release and flip head over heels.

bcskiing_airtime.jpg

Landing

When you're landing in deep powder, your weight needs to be on your tails so you don't get stuck in the crater you create when you land. Apparently, my weight wasn't on my tails. But it was still big air, and I had a heck of a time.

Winter in Canada is great.



Welcome to my Rectangle

When we were in Italy, a friend of mine there was telling me that he thinks life goes in circles. I pondered this for a moment, and then decided that my life goes in rectangles. You're just going along, doing your thing, and then life takes a huge 90 degree turn. Then you go along again, and just when you're starting to get used to things, your life takes another huge turn. And then, after about four huge turns, you find you're right back where you started.

Case in point: As a teenager, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a computer programmer. I started an I.S. program at college, but then dropped out after six weeks, moved 400 miles and started working in a clothing store. 90 degree turn. After a half year, I moved to a new city and started managing a bike store. Turn #2. Did that for three years, then dropped it like a hot potatoe and started a graphic design business. We're at 270 degrees. Then I gradually morph into doing web design, and within a few years I'm working in the I.S. department at some big bank in the States coding Perl, JavaScript, PHP and SQL. Turn #4. Hey, isn't this where I started? Welcome to my rectangle.