Sunday, April 29, 2007

Great Western Loop - Part Dos

On Saturday morning, Greg, myself, Pat, Jess, Jaybuddy, Marty and Brian met up to do the great western loop bike ride. We did it backwards compared to last week, so that meant of course that we were met with a long climb in the beginning: 7 mile, 900ft climb, brief downhill followed by a 10 mile, 1400 ft climb. Here is the course profile (but we started on the right side and worked our way left).

Needless to say, it started getting warm on the climb due to the minimal breeze, and being in warm east county. After peaking apx. 13 miles, we enjoyed numerous downhills...
and vista's ...

before stopping for water at the trading post, and saying hi to my friend from last week.

Unfortunately, as the mule and I were getting reaquainted, jaybuddy took a nasty fall, breaking 4 ribs against a guard rail. Unfortunately, he will be out for a month, and his Ironman race, which is in 2 months, is still in limbo. Let's hope for the best for Jay and a very speedy recovery!!!
Sunday, Pat, Jess, Greg and I ran 10 miles in Penasquitos Canyon, and it was a very good base building workout. It always helps to have someone to run with on those long runs!!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The seed has been planted...

I spoke to one of my friends yesterday, Dan Altobello, and he told me the good news that he is signed up for the 2008 Cal Half-Ironman race in Oceanside, CA. This is exceptional news since Dan has been out of "the game" for quite some time, and was partly responsible for getting me into cycling and triathlon. He also said that he is planning on signing up for Ironman Lake Placid. Completely shocked by this, I tried calling him out, but he seemed intent on signing up.

I spoke to Jeff Hartnett shortly thereafter, and he also said that he was planning on signing up for IMLP in 2008. During the conversation, he was making statements to the liking of "I don't want to add any pressure or anything". This, of course, comes 2 weeks later after he was throwing jabs to the tune of "Dude, if bello signs up, you can't bitch out!".

Rumor has it that Dave Wilcox is gonna sign up to?!

Oh man....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Alcohol is detrimental to physical performance

Last year when I made the decision to join the lavaman team, I told myself that I wouldn't drink a sip of booze for 3 months. I held true, and made it 3 1/2 months, and then I succumbed to the pressure's of joining jaybuddy at the cat lounge :)

This year, I made a similar pact with myself, holding out until my birthday party where plenty of debauchery ensued. I had a few after that every now and then, but nothing to get excited about.

Last friday night at the lavaman finale party, let's just say I never had an empty pint glass. When we made our first steep climb (similar to torrey pines inside) on the great western loop ride the next morning, my lungs and body were feeling the effects of the previous night's carb loading/dehydration/bar food extravaganza. Sunday night, I cooked myself up a feast, and thought a glass of wine would go perfect with it. I opened a fresh bottle of vino, and it went well with dinner indeed. However, practically finishing the entire bottle solo (with a little help from Greg J) was not in the plans, but it happened. I slept like crap sunday night, was a zombie all day monday, and was completely out of monday night at TCSD swim practice.

I have been saying it for months: "Alcohol is detrimental to physical performance", and it's time for Ryan revert back to his old ways and curb the bottle until after Vineman. (Note the irony that vineman is named so due to the course going through numerous vineyards in the heart of california's wine country.)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Great Western Loop in Jamul

When you tell most people in San Diego that you are going out to Jamul, you are usually greeted with one of the following responses:

* Where the heck is that?
* Start singing the Sycuan song "Minutes away, miles apart..."
* Damn, that's WAY out there in east county

After some celebratory toasts friday night at the lavaman finale party in downtown San Diego, Greg Kurras, Damian Esparza, Troy Gorostiza and myself made our way out to Rancho San Diego/Jamul to ride the Great Western Loop. Why they call it the western loop when its way out in east county is beyond me, but let me tell you, the loop was indeed great!

40 miles, ~4700 ft in elevation gain!

It was also one of the more scenic and beautiful rides I have ever done (as noted by the number of times we said "Man, it is beautiful out here!"),
and coupled with little traffic and perfect cycling weather, we enjoyed it so much that we are already looking forward to doing it next weekend (only backwards next time). We also saw the TNT Vineman training team (Ginger, Tina and Emily!)

To non-southern californian's, Jamul is pronounced like Ha-mool, not Jam-ul. However, the "mul" part of Jamul was definitely the main theme of the ride:.

Meet Ryan's new friend (a mule):

Ryan hanging with his new friend:

Ryan running from his new friend after he gnashed it teeth at him

and the product name of Greg's Camelback. (M.U.L.E.)

(Pay no attention to the crankset in Greg's back pack, unless your name is Dan Altobello!)

But one of the great parts about this ride was doing a ride I have never done before in an area I have never been to before. Now that I am post lavaman, and most likely developing my own training program leading up to Vineman, I am certainly looking forward to checking out a lot of new areas in San Diego county that I have never been to. It was also nice to get out of the metropolitan area and get into "the country" and remind ourselves of other communities and ways of life. However, out here in the country, they do things a little differently, and I leave you with this parting picture:

Somehow the lyrics from 'Welcome to the Jungle' that go "Where do we go now?" come to mind.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back in the saddle again

Vineman training has commenced.

On Saturday, Greg Kurras, and my buddy Dan (to a small extent) did the Elfin Forest 50 mile bike ride. It was pretty long, and the only thing I could think of was "Man, I hope these 50 mile bike rides get easier since Vineman has a 56 mile bike ride on it!" I also realized that I need to educate Greg on the concept of base building if we are going to do any future rides together!

Sunday was no easier doing Iron Mountain Brick (28 mile hilly bike ride, and 6 mile run up and down a mountain). As if that wasn't bad, there was about 10 of us that battled cold weather, wind, and wet roads, but we all managed to have a great time!

Big thanks to Greg for having a bunch of us over for a huge feast afterwards!

The Ukelele

Hawai`ins play the Ukelele, which to the casual observer, looks like a small guitar, but really is an instrument that makes beautiful music.

Check out this guy absolutely jamming on it (in central park NYC of all places)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pictures from Hawai`i

They are in 2 folders called "Lavaman/Hawaii 2007" and "Lavaman/Hawaii - 2", but the easiest way to look through all of them is to type any one of the following tags into the "Tags" search box on my yahoo pictures site. Most are pretty self explanatory, but I did include some descriptions below:

hi07 (all 2007 hawaii pictures)
botanical gardens
ca sunrise
city of refuge
craters (craters at hawaii volcano national park)
group (people at house)
hotel (5 star resort)
hvnp (all hawaii volcano national park photos)
im (anything Ironman related)
imbike (Ironman bike course turn around)
lava (yes!)
south point
start (Ironman start)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lavaman - Part Deux

This is a long post, so bear with me.

I need to preface this post and say that this race .... was more than a race... it was a physical and emotional experience. As you probbaly know, I totally caught the triathlon bug last year, and found a competitive spirit in me that I didn't know existed. Lavaman was my first triathlon ever last year, and since then, I have learned a lot, and made numerous changes to my training this year so that I could see some significant improvements in my quest to being able to place in my age group in triathlons.

The days before the race were a bit stressful. I normally don't like to travel with more than 1-2 other people when I travel, so being a mentor, I had some responsibility to try and coordinate group of 85 triathletes to make it through a very packed weekend. Unfortunately, this causes stress for me, in addition to all of the running (literally) around I had to do. Most triathletes take it very easy the last 3 days or so leading up to a race. I, unfortunately, did not have that luxury, and with some jet lag, dehydration, not eating enough, blah blah blah... I was not a good person to be around. It wasn't all bad though. We did have some good times hanging out with teammates, I read a letter to the team from my buddy Jeff about his experience with cancer, and plus, it was HAWAI`I, but I digress...

If you don't want to read the entire thing, the break down from last year to this year is:

Swim: 28:59
T1: 2:34
Bike: 1:14:58 (19.5 mph)
T2: 00:27
Run: 50:25 (8:08 min/mile pace)
Total: 2:37:22

Age Group: 12/28, Overall: 100/507

Swim: 26:55 (2:04 improvement)
T1: 01:53 (41 second improvement)
Bike: 1:07:25 (22.1 mph) (07:33, 2.6 mph improvement)
T2: 00:28 (I demand a recount!)
Run: 47:04 (7:36 min/mile pace) (3:21, 00:32 improvement)
Total: 2:23:43

Age Group: 8/46, Overall: 49/606

Anyhow, onto the story....

Alarm went off a bit on the early side, we cleaned up, and made our way down to the front of the hotel where everyone met so that we could ride to transition. I got to transition, and I promptly got marked with race numbers on both my arms. I made my way over to my bike to finish setting up my transition area (planned out meticulously), and my buddy Paul came over and asked me if I was gonna do a warm up (of course I was), and he said he would join me for the 20-25 minutes I would spend on the bike (at an easy pace of course). We did our warm up, and unfortunately, Paul had some mechanical difficulties, so he had to go off and get them fixed (which he did). I wished him luck, and little did I know, that would not be the last time I would moving along side him that morning. I racked my bike again, and made my way out to do a little run warm up on the lava fields to get used to them, since we start the run on them. I got back to transition just in time to run down to the beach to take the team photo. Gurujan did his customary "race vision" spech (which always calms the nerves), and then I did my swim warm up.

I opted to swim with my race top on this year. Last year, I swam sans shirt, and had some issues putting on my TNT singlet at T1 (swim/bike transition). I puchased a singlet this year, and got the TNT logo silk screened on the shirt so I could show my colors (even though they weren't TNT colors :)) I finished my warm up about 3 minutes before race start, and then quietly calmed myself, and did a little stretching before the the gun went off.

The race announcer start yelling into the mic "30 seconds until the 10th annual lavaman triathlon gets underway!" and the yells from the crowd picked up. There wasn't a lot of comotion from the participants in the water... I dont think anyways, either that, or the crowd just drowned us out. We heard the customary "10 seconds!!" and...


Whatever stresses, anxieties, worries... whatever I had before the race... was gone instantly. As soon as the gun went off, I started with a clean slate like I just flipped a switch. I let the person in front of me go, and then I started off.

The swim has never been my strong point, but I'd say I am respectable at it. Since the swim start included relays, pros, and about 300 age group men, this certainly qualifies as "the human blender". This is what it looks like from shore:

This is what it feels like:

The swim course has got to be my favorite part of this race, not because its my strongest, but because its in 78 degree, crystal clear water with tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle, with beautiful coral reefs below. However, the swimming during this race is in 2nd in terms of enjoyment while racing. At most races, the human blender for usually 200-500 meters, but here, I was battling with people for the first 750 meters (half of the swim), and on the second loop, I was still surrounded by people, and making a half-ass attempt to jockey for position. One major complaint I had about swimming was that it seemed like NUMEROUS people hadn't cut their finger nails in weeks. I felt like at times I swimming through a cactus forest. Ouch. I made my way towards the beach to exit the swim, and tagged the mat at a time of 26:55. SWEET! My goal was 27 minutes, so I made my way off into T1 happy.

For whatever time I lost due to wearing a top during the swim (due to drag), I certainly made up for in T1. My biggest problem T1 at any race is I dont run well after swimming. But, I didnt have to deal with getting my top on, and I also made the decision to leave my bike shoes ON my bike, so I would just hop on and strap in, rather than trying to clip in. For more details, check out this post.

My favorite/strongest part of the race. Last year, I thought the course was boring (which it is), but this year, I was looking to make up some serious time on the bike, so I wasnt going to focus on the surrounding area. I also developed an appreciation for the Queen K and that may be because I am a total tri geek who watched for the first 9 hours of the ironman championship back in october (same bike course) adn watched in awe as Normann Stadler AVERAGED 26mph for 112 MILES (UNREAL!), but whatever reason why I liked the course is because I wanted to kicked people's butt.

After turning on the Queen K from the resot, I could see a pack of people ahead of me. Determined to pass every one of them, I quickly got in a rhythym, and started passing them. I nestled myself into a comfortable spot a few people behind Jay Pedersen. I also realized that I had already drank 1 bottle of my carbo-pro/gatorade/salt elixir about 3 miles into the bike, and considering it was 1 of the 2 bottles I planned on consuming, I decided to ease off the fuel for a little.

Suddenly, this, what I perceived to be a guy, passed me on the left. This person had a Argon 18 tri bike, a zipp 404 front wheel, and zipp disk. For those not familiar with those products, this person had about $8000 worth of bike gear under them. But after this person passed me, then never moved back to the right - they stayed on the left, which is illegal by USAT standards. We went back and forth a little bit (with me passing "it" on the right"), and finally the frustration mounted when "it" looked like "it" was going to pass Jay. I finally said "Screw this", got out of the saddle, dropped the hammer, yelled "On your right jackass!" and said to Jay as I passed him "Kick this guys ass!!!" Jay happily obliged.

I continued on at a great pace, and about 10 minutes later, this person passed me going up ahill. Being taken out of my rhythym, I said "nope", and got out of the saddle to pass "it" again. Now, of course, I had to pass it on the right. As I passed, I realized it was a female, and I mentioned that I guess USAT rules dont apply to her. She didnt even acknowledge me, and I took off. About another 10 minutes passed, and she came up along side me again. I thought to myself "this is the last time this will happen". I changed a few gears, got out of the saddle, and just hammered the hill. I didnt care if I would pay for it later, but I was so p'd at this person, I didnt want them bothering me anymore.

I had already emptied my second bottle of carbo-pro/gatorade mixture into my aero bottle, and my stomach started feeling weird. I soon realized that the mixture it was too concentrated. I approached the turn around point on the bike (it is an out and back course), and grabbed a water bottle. I poured half through my helmet to cool off, and put the other half into my aero bottle. The aero bottle is the aerodynamic looking bottle between my aerobars.
I felt like I was making pretty good pace, and nearing the end of the bike course. I looked ahead, and could see a purple singlet on someone, which meant a TNT participant. I wondered who it was. I saw the 4 spoke race wheels, and knew.... it was Paul Jesse.

Paul was on the lavaman team last year. We are about the same age, and about the same ability overall. But he beat me by 23 seconds last year, and I wasn't going to accept anything of the like this year. I knew he improved his swim quite a bit, but now we were in my territory - the bike, and he was in my sights. As I started making ground on him, I saw coach Dave on the side of the road cheering people on. He told me "Good Cadence DenDen!" and I kept trucking. I later learned that when Paul passed him, he said "Nuno is right behind me". He had no idea I was closing in. I kept him in my sights and kept making ground on him.

I pulled into transition (shoes on the bike again), and knew I had to pass Paul's transition area on the way to racking my bike. He was putting his running shoes on, and when I was behind him, I gave him a "Hey Pauly!" in a sarcastic "I right behind you!" type of playful voice to let him know I was there. As he ran past me putting my shoes on, he naturally gave me a huge slap in the arse and yelled "Get on it Denner!". I quickly got my stuff together, and started making my out of transition.

I had Paul in my sights. He seemed like he was 10-15 seconds ahead of me, but I had no clue. We both started off strong, but I told myself not to lose the ground I just made up on him. At the mile 1 aid station, it's a cul-de-sac/out and back, so Paul had a good glimpse of how far (or close) behind him I really was. Zero words exchanged.

I ran through the aid station, and juggled putting more water in my hand water bottle, and putting ice in my hat. The run is so hot at lavaman, that I opted to put ice in my hat to help cool me down. The water in my bottle wasn't for drinking, but for spraying on myself to help regulate the body temperature.

We started making our ascent (read: up hill) to the mile 2 aid station, and again, I knew I couldn't lose ground on him, especially on a hill. He was looking strong. As we reached the summit, I started feeling the effects of the heat and humidity, but I trucked ahead. We made the right turn to get to the mile 3 turn around. As we started down the hill, I felt like I was able to make up a little bit of ground on him. Now, even though this is an endurance event, and 10 seconds doesn't sound like a lot, it is hard, especially when you are pushing yourself. I started realizing that it was going to be hard to catch up. I didn't want to risk picking up the pace, only to burn out doing it, so I told myself to relax.

This was a fairly long road that seemed like it went on forever. I could see the turn around at the end. As I entered the turn around, Paul was on his way out. I slapped his hand, made my way around, looked up ahead, and could see Paul was stopping for water. Taking advantage of this, I opted not to stop, but to just run through the aid station, and just get ice in my cap.

Which meant that I had caught him.

Although this was good at the time, it also meant no falling back now.

We ran shoulder to shoulder, and exchanged a few words about how miserable the run was becoming. It was hot. It was humid. It was miserable. As we made our way up the hill, we saw Nuno making his way down the hill. We both knew Nuno was a fast runner, and I wouldn't have been surprised if he caught us by mile 5. Paul started pulling away at the top of the hill, but I would only allow myself to be a few steps behind.

and then it started.

I yelled.

Not anything coherrent - I just yelled. I almost didn't even mean to. I just opened my mouth, and something came out. It was more like a yelp... or something. I really don't even remember. and then about 5 minutes later... some type of moan came out of me. I think it was my mind/body willing myself forward, and not letting me lose ground. It was kinda scary too... this noise that I made.

We approached the mile 4 aid station, and both stopped for water to fill up our water bottles. I squirted some in my mouth, and actually drank it. I knew this was bad. I normally can't drink water on the run since my heart rate is so high - it just causes a side cramp. But it tasted so good. I took another swig. I realized that I was dehydrated (probably A LOT), and it was because I didn't take in as much water as I should have on the bike due to my way to concentrated elixir's. DAMN.

We took off from the aid station, and went up a slight incline. The yell came back. In fact, it came back twice. It was HOT, and my body needed fluids. It was also in pain. So, I just started spraying it everywhere on me. I caught a second wind, and started moving ahead. I passed Paul, and kind of got into a zone for a little bit. I focused, and got into a rhythym, but it was short lived. I quickly came back to the painful reality that is: mile 4.5 of a hot olympic distance triathlon in hawai`i. We got to the coast at this point, and the coastal breeze was a god send. We came up onto the lagoon, and Coach Gurujan's words ran through my head:

"If you are overheating on the run, and you need to cool off, there is nothing wrong with going off the course, taking off your shoes, and going into the water for a bit to cool down your body temperature. In fact, you may need to do it in a race like this".

I am not gonna lie. It crossed my mind. In fact, it kept on playing like a broken record. I almost opened my mouth and said "Paul, dude, seriously, we should hit the lagoon". But I opted not to, and instead, let out a moan. A loud one this time. We went through the single track, and then over the bridge. Paul had caught up to me, and he was feeling everything too (he is just a lot more quiet about it than I).

We got to the part of the resort where there were families around. So, here are these nice, innocent families enjoying some nice R&R in Hawai`i, and here comes a triathlon runing through the resort. Paul and I were shoulder to shoulder with minimal words exchanged still. There was people ahead, and I yelled out at them to move. We continued on the trail, and I let out another yell (of the incoherrent variety), and I think I was starting to make Paul worry a little. I know that if I was him, I would be like "WTF is wrong with this kid!".

As we approached the downhill leading up to the mile aid station, I yelled to the volunteers "Water... Ice.... Times 2" so that Paul and I could refill our hats and bottles. Unfortunately, my ability to juggle a hat to put ice into, a water bottle to put water into, and a water bottle top didn't work at this aid station, and I accidentally dropped my top in the middle of the trail. As if that wasn't bad enough, there was a stampede of 3 people who came out of nowhere and were in the process of passing us, and running all over my water bottle top. Naturally, I let out a "Oh, F%&k!" For some reason, Paul said the same thing. I figured he had a similar unfortunate event happen, but later learned that the only reason why he said it was I said it! This is what happens when your body takes over and your mind is long gone!

Then we started "the tease" portion of the race. As you make your way back to the coast, you can see the finish line 1.2 miles ahead. Unfortunately, you are such a state of disarray, that its like being lost in a desert and you come across an oasis, so it kinda messes with you. I quickly looked away, and focused on the task at hand. This part of course is particularly difficult since you are running on a combination of sand, lava rock and coral, which can lead to some unstable conditions. At this point, I wanted to ask Paul, but didn't have the energy to, "Why does it feel like I am going at a base building pace (slow), yet my heart rate is through the roof?" This, of course, was in addition to the feeling of the ice cream headache caused by the ice in my hat, accompanied by the overheating feeling of my body. My mind just didn't know what process at that point!

It should also be noted that look on Paul's face says it all (and how we truly felt), and that I was just "smiling for the camera" (Hey I guess I have a good poker face) in these run pictures.

Paul and I trudged through, and finally hit the mile 6 marker, which starts the beach run portion. As if things weren't bad enough at this point, it's on very loose sand, so you work twice as hard to go half as fast. As soon as we hit the sand, I said "let's finish this together", and after about 30 ft, I decided to drop the hammer. Paul tried to keep up, but couldn't, and then said "You go man... I can't finish like this" it just so happens that I happened to be thinking the same thing, so I backed off for a little bit, and then we finally just "sprinted"... or, what felt like a sprint, but in reality, looked more like a fast walk to the finish line! I literally felt like I was going to explode at this point, and the finish line photo shows as such!

As soon as we crossed, I literally almost collapsed. I bent over to catch my breath, and a few volunteers came over to grab my timing chip. I gave Paul a hug, and got a huge congratulations from Coach Dave. I snagged 2 freezing cold water bottles, and proceeded to dump both on my head/in my mouth simultaneously. Finally, the water my body was searching for since mile 3. I quickly grabbed 2 more, and repeated. Everything after that is gravy.

In the minutes and hours after the race finish, Paul and I had some good laughs about everything. As for my yelling and moaning, he literally didn't think I was going to finish the race. He started to contemplate that if I happened to collapse, would he continue on, or stop and help? He was smart to realize that if that did happen, and had he stopped to help me, he probably would have collapsed himself. He also mentioned how when we approached the lagoon, he totally wanted to jump in as well, and also was thinking of mentioning it to me. But one thing is certain, we both have a tremendous amount of respect for one another for pushing ourselves, and one another through the pain, heat, yelling and competition between ourselves and everyone else. It truly was more of an experience, than a race. Coach Gurujan says that for those racing for time, leave everything out on the course. That was most certainly the case on sunday, 4/1/07. It was a very gratifying experience to know that I COULD NOT GO ANY FASTER, and that I gave it my all. The other day, I read a quote by Mark Allen (6 time IM World Champ) that says: "When you go for it 100%, when you don't have the fear of "what if I fail", that's when you learn. That's when you're really living."

Mark couldn't have summed it up any better.

Other notable things:
* Pat Drain falling off his bike and getting a serious case of road rash, and still getting a 2:38!
* Damian for placing 1st in his age group!
* Greg Kurras for having the funniest quote of the day 5 minutes after he finished:
Me: Hey Greg, congratulations man! How'd it feel?
Greg: I had 2 thoughts during the last part of the race: 1. I am never doing a triathlon again, 2. How can I give my wildflower spot away?... but then I finished, and I can't wait to do the next one!
* Nafiseh taking 15 minutes off of her PacGrove time!
* Jaybuddy for taking 15 minutes off his time from last year!

The first few hours after the race were incredible. Everyone was totally AMPED about how much fun (fun???) that really was. What's even more incredible, is the race, and the run left such a lasting impression on me, I literally couldn't stop thinking about everything for about 4 or 5 days. It was like being a cloud 9... only your entire body was sore :)

Other Race photos:
Bike 1:
Bike 2:

Thanks for reading!!!!!

Next Race: Vineman 70.3 on 7/22/07!!!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The week after

I just spent a week and a half on the big island of Hawai`i doing a triathlon, exploring the isle, and getting back to "island time".

I look and feel like I just spent a week and a half in Hawai`i.

Technically, I haven't shaved since March. I just saw Coach Gurujan at the LLS office, and he didn't even recognize me until I said "what up guru!"

I took the red eye flight from Kona to San Diego, and haven't even been on the mainland 3 hours yet.

When I see exit signs, I am still looking for the accent marks on words to pronounce them correctly (example: Anhaeo`omalu, Honoka'a, Ali`i, etc).

Is there a more inspiring time to write? I think NOT!!!!

What can I say... the trip was incredible. Here's the rundown:

A large group of us led by teammate marine geologist geophysicist Greg Kurras made a trip from Kona to the Hawai`i Volcano National Park with hopes of seeing Lava up close and personal. It was a pretty long trip - 4 hour drive each way, and an hour's worth of hiking over black lava fields. Seeing as though we weren't planning on staying on the side of the island, we also had to hike back an hour, and drive back another 4. Unfortunately, we didn't see any lava up close, nor any at all really. We just saw the ocean entry up a ways, and since we got to the park a little later than we wanted, it would have been a long dark hike for at least another hour to see it. None of us felt like doing it, so we just hung out in the lava fields.

It felt more like a road trip/camping trip. All in all, it was pretty cool just hanging out with people. Wish we coulda saw lava though. We made our trek back afterwards, and didn't get back to the house until 2:30am (that's 5:30 am west coast).

One thing that was neglected during the past 5 months of lavaman training was letting loose. I always tell people "alcohol is detrimental to physical performance", so going out kinda takes a back seat during training/racing season. Although Tuesday wasn't a total catch up day, it's suffice to say that I was handed a memosa at 930am when I woke up, and didn't stop until... ah, whatever, who cares! It's vacation!

The house we stayed at had a pool, 5 putting greens, and Alana provided a limbo dance station, so, needless to say, we made the best with what we had and got a little bit loose :) After some sobering up, we made our way down to Hapuna Beach, one of the nicest in the state/country, for the sunset, and ended up body surfing until we couldn't see the waves coming from the horizon anymore. We cooked up a feast back at the house, and with all the activities during the day, called it an early night.

Today, Ryan played tour guide leading Alana and Nelson down to Waipi`o Valley in late morning/early afternoon. Waipi`o Valley is one of the more beautiful places to visit on the big island:
After checking out the ocean vista's, we decided to take Nelson's 4WD SUV rental down the no rental car down this 25% grade 900ft hill down into the valley. We made our way through a few rivers, and were greeted by a few of the locals.

Little did I know that chevy steering wheels were appetizing to the locals:

After our little social event, we made our way down to Kona afterwards to meet up with people for a Manta Ray Dive. Thankfully, my roomate Greg reminded to bring my underwater housing for one of my cameras, and for this, I was glad.

We did a pre-sunset snorkel to check out the fish and reefs. After that, we had some dinner (and I started to get a little sea sick), and then after the sunset and it got dark, they turned on the lights for the manta rays. Manta Rays are 1500-2000 pound animals, and feed only on plankton in the water. It is estimated that they eat 10% of their body weight in plankton each day, and with plankton being on the near microscopic scale, these things basically eat all day (where do I sign up for that?) to get in their calories. By turning on special lights underwater, it attracts the plankton, and accordingly, manta rays. Unfortunately, there was only 1, but even with only 1, it was incredible. These animals are immense - reaching up to 20ft in wing span, and very graceful and beautiful. With the low ambient light underwater, it was tough photographing the ray feasting, so I had some fun with some underwater photography:

Thursday was a chill day for Alana (by the way, Alana is my girlfriends "white" name. (Her real name is Nafiseh (prounounced: Nah-Fee-Seh), or "Naf" for short). We went into Kona, and picked up our rental car, and hung out in town for a while. I made my customary stop at Island Lava Java (I love that place), and then we went back to A-Bay and hung out on the beach for the rest of the afternoon.

Dave and I were looking to do some surfing on the island, but unfortunately, there wasn't any surf at all! Bummer dude. We headed back to the house for sunset, and to cook up some grub for dinner.

Everyone from the house was gone at this point,

so Naf and I made our way down the kohala/kona coasts to the town of Captain cook to check out some sights. We stopped at the much heralded "Super J's" for some authentic Hawai`in food:

Talk about authentic. This was a restaurant/some family's living quarter. It wasn't obvious at first, but after being there for a few minutes, it started looking like the family lived in this restaurant. It was really hard to describe. Think: one big, dimly lit room, with a TV/recliner with woman rocking a baby on one side, a counter in the middle with a stove/oven behind it. Rather than displaying food menu items in the glass under the counter, there was family pictures and heirlooms. On the other side, was a large, friendly Hawai`in woman preparing food (chicken or pork rolled in fresh taro leaves) on a table, which happened to be same table we ended up eating at. Naf and I ended up chatting with Janice ("Super J" herself and her daughter(?) Jenna Marie) about the island and, of course, the Ironman. Jenna has volunteered at the Ironman 3 years in a row, and I was very intrigued by this. She said that it is just mayhem. Absolute craziness. She said that she insists on only volunteering for the run portion because people are pretty rude and are going very fast on the bike. She said she did Faris Al-Sultan the year he won it (2005), and that he was a very down to earth and cool dude. I gotta say, this was one of the coolest experiences on the island to really sit down and speak with native hawai`ins, especially ones who seemed to have deep roots to the island. (side note: I really really like the hawai`in accent on the natives)

After Super J's, we had another cultural experience by going to the city of refuge. This is a historical site for hawai`ins who were seeking - you guessed it - refuge, from attackers.

I forget the exact history of it, but the place was amazing. It was absolutely beautiful down there, and you could tell it had a sense of peacefulness, yet with the stone walls and tiki's guarding the place, you always felt guarded.

We made our way down to south point, the most southern point in the US,

hung out for a bit, and then made our way up to HVNP (again). We drove down to chain of craters road (Side note: Driving to see lava is not like going up the road to the convienence store to grab some milk. After entering the park, its a good 45-60 minute drive down a long windy road) to see if there was any lava activity that we could hike to in a short distance. Well, there wasn't any activity, but we could see some ocean entry from afar. Little did we know, it was a small taste for tomorrow. We headed to volcano village afterwards to crash for the night.

Satu... err Lavaday
The day dedicated to HVNP. This marked my 4th time to the park since last year, yet I had never seen anything other than chain of craters road and ocean entries from miles away. We hiked through old volcano craters (kinda spooky), walked through rain forests, saw natural steam vents (side note: hawai`ins dont drill for oil - they drill for steam on the island as a natural source of energy, which goes to show you how many holes in the ground there are that just have steam coming up).

This was going to be the last day in the park for the trip, so I told Nafiseh that we were going to hike to see lava today - I didn't care how long it would take. I figured it would take about an hour and a half each way. Now, hiking over a lava field is not like hiking on a dirt trail in the woods. It's constant up and down, and watching your feet to make sure you don't trip and fall and end up with lava rock in your hand that has to have a doctor from the ER remove after injecting you with a very painful dose of lidocaine, but I digress.We had been hiking for an hour and 15 or 30 minutes, and we saw a group of people walking back. We asked them if they saw any lava, and they DID. I was so excited right now. I didn't care how long it would take to get there, I wanted to see it. They gave us some general directions, and we followed. After about 20 minutes, I noticed the temperature started to increase. I looked up, and I could see the heat from the lava field actually blurring the landscape (similar to if you looked just above a candle while it's lit - look closely - you may have to click on the picture [and no, it's not edited]).

I continued on for about 5 minutes, then it just started getting hot. The sun was about to set, yet it felt like Miami in mid july. I saw about 4 people standing up on a ridge just standing there, and figured they could see something. I started walked up to them, and was about 2 feet from them, and said "Man, it is toasty up here!" One guy turned around and looked at me with a "who brought sherlock" look on his face, and I looked past him and BAM!

Wow. I was like a kid in a candy store. It was incredible. and it was incredibly HOT. The temperature of lava is about 1200 C, which is well over 2000 F. I could get about 2 feet from it for about 3 seconds, and thats about it. It is comparable to when you are broiling something in your oven, and when you go to open the door to check on it, you accidently leave your face right next to the door not realizing that the temperature in there is in the hundreds of degrees, and you jump back because you think you just seared your eye brows. All that, times 10. It was almost unbearable.

After hanging out for a bit, we opted to hike down to see the ocean entry. With the lava fields, its hard to gauge how far it would be. We started on our way, but were pretty timid about it at first since the first 20 minutes of the hike was very warm. Warm, as in, well, there is a surface flow a couple hundred feet from us, and we have no idea if we should hike across this really hot surface and risk... I dont know... FALLING THROUGH!?

So, of course, we trucked on through. We met up with a few people, and they said it was one of the most incredible experiences, and was totally worth the additional 45 minutes. We decided to move on, got to about 75 yards from the ocean entry. By the time we got there, it was completely dark out, and with the inconsistent flow, no pictures would do the justice. We kinda just sat there and marveled land being formed in front of us. The only sounds we heard were the crashing of waves against the cliff, and the SSHHSSHSHSHSH of lava meeting ocean water, along with witnessing the random explosions of seeing rock shot in every which direction.

It was a very... surreal, dare I say, magical experience.

After a while, we realized that we had a long hike ahead of us... in the dark. It was kinda spooky honestly. There were 2 very stressful times:

1. walking back over the really hot portion of the lava fields and wondering if we were gonna make it back
2. one of our flashlights going dead on us

thankfully, Nelson let us borrow his headlamp, which seemed to have the power output of the HID xenon headlights on my car, and lit up the path very well. It was a very long hike back (2+ hours), but we made it, and decided on our way up to Hilo that tomorrow was sleep in day.

Sunday & Monday
Definitely a sleep in day. After a much deserved slumber, we of course had to have brunch at the best place this side of the pacific at Ken's House of Pancakes. After carbing up, we made our way checking out the east isle's beautiful waterfalls:

and botanical gardens (Yes, I was dragged into this against my will :)

We ended up staying up in Hawi that night for 2 reasons:

1. I have never been to that part of the island
2. Most importantly, it is where the bike turn around is for the Ironman course, and I of course had to digitally document it (yes, it looks boring when there isn't a race going on)

3. I wanted to get an impression of what the "climb up to Hawi" is like.

Apparently there was a few other people who wanted to do it too, and saw numerous cyclists making the trek up the hill(s).

After we departed, we started driving down the coast. As we came to a clearing, we were greeted with a huge vista of the island of Maui. It kinda of took a second to register, but it was neat to see another island... and it was huge (it may be hard to make it out in the pic).

We drove down to A-Bay for the rest of the day to work on our Hawai`in tans (some more than others) and relax before our flight at 9pm.

Red eye flights are never fun, but we were greeted with a nice california sunrise at the ripe hour of 6:30am.

Being back hasn't totally hit me yet, and I definitely hope to milk this island time thing as much as I can before real life starts to come back and settle in!

Thanks for reading!

NEXT UP: VINEMAN 70.3 on 7/22/07!!!!