2-Month Running Report

I’ve been running regularly for around two months now. I run mainly in the mornings, two days a week, in addition to my usual bike rides and weekly visits to the climbing gym. My regular route is 5.4 miles long, and in the beginning, I walked about half of it. I’m now up to running all of it except a tiny bit at the beginning and end, so let’s call it 5 miles. Initially, I mainly wore my Altra Escalante shoes, but more recently, I’ve been wearing Vibram V-Runs. I’ve been focusing on form, posture, cadence, and breathing, all of which I think are improving. My pace has been hovering around 10:30/mile. All in all, I’m pretty happy with my progress after just 2 months.

I’m no stranger to running. I did it a lot in my 20s and early-mid 30s, but my form was awful, and as did many others, I suffered from numerous nagging injuries, and eventually gave running up in favor of biking and other activities. I tried to pick it back up several times in my 40s, but invariably, some injury shut me down each time. Now, at 51, I’m hoping I’m finally over the hump. I credit this to three things: proper form, minimalist footwear, and perhaps most importantly, much less time spent sitting. Walking on a treadmill 3 to 4 hours a day at 2mph while working, has made a huge difference. I’ve been wearing minimal footwear full-time for 3.5 years, and have studied proper running form for about as long, but the treadmill is a recent addition, and as I’ve written before, I believe it has been a game-changer.

I’ve had to overcome some minor physical issues over the past couple of months. The plantar fasciosis that I struggled with for most of 2020 is not 100% gone, but it’s so mild that I don’t even notice it any more other than my first couple of steps after getting out of bed. I have some occasional tightness in my right hip flexor as well as my right groin and hamstring, all of which are helped by light stretching and yoga. I expect all of these will improve further as my body continues to adjust to regular running. A month or so back, I developed some nerve discomfort in the ball of my left foot, which was helped by wearing Strutz metatarsal pads over my socks during activity. The nerve pain has mostly abated as of this writing, though I’m still running with pad on my left foot as a precaution.

I don’t really have a running goal, other than to incorporate it as another way to stay active. My biking has fallen off somewhat as my running has ramped up, which I expected, and eventually, I’d expect to split my time about 50/50 between the two activities. Eventually, I’d like to run longer distances. I guess the next step would be to run 10K, and I’m pretty close to that, but am not in a hurry to get there. First, I need to get my body to the point where I don’t feel like stopping at the end of my runs. A lot of that is pacing, and possibly also diet, which is an aspect of long-distance running that I haven’t yet studied. I’ve still got some work to do, but I am happy with my progress so far, and hope I can keep this going.


Kayak Repair

In 2014, I bought my first kayak: a used Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125. Based on my research, I believe it is a 2006 model. It had some wear and tear when I got it, and it’s gotten even more wear and tear in the 7-or-so years that I’ve owned it. Last summer, when the keel sprung a leak, I decided that it was finally time for some long-overdue repairs. I don’t (yet) possess any winter kayaking gear, so winter is my off-season, making it a great time for this. One of my winter goals is to get the old Tsunami seaworthy again in time for spring. Here’s what’s on the plate.

Keel repair: The keel leak has broken me of my bad habit of “scraping” myself into the water on concrete launch ramps. Little did I know, but plastic hulls aren’t indestructible. After some research, I learned that it’s possible to “weld” new plastic onto the hull. The important thing is to get the same kind of plastic used for the hull, so I went online and ordered some Wilderness Systems brand weld rod stock. I used my old Radio Shack soldering gun as a heat source, and a putty knife to smooth the molten plastic. It wasn’t all that hard, and everything was going really well, until the soldering gun died. I heard a “pop”, it went dead, and that was all she wrote. I’m pretty sure the leak is patched, but it still needs a little bit more plastic, and some shaping up. I may try using my heat gun, or my 25-watt soldering iron, to finish the job. Then I’ll do a leak test, and sand the finished product a little bit to smooth it out. We’ll see how that goes.

New bungee rigging: My old deck bungees were losing their elasticity, and getting threadbare in spots, so I ordered some bulk bungee cord and replaced them. That’s a rather easy repair, but it can be tricky to cleanly cut bungee cord without it fraying. Similar to synthetic rope and accessory cord, you need to use heat to seal the ends. My favorite trick is to take an old table knife or saw blade, heat it with a propane torch until it is red hot, and then use it to slice through the cord (don’t forget to wear oven mitts πŸ˜€). It’s quick, easy, and leaves a nice, clean end.

The bungee cord on the carry handles, as well as the paddle holder, has also seen better days, but appears to be a smaller diameter than the deck rigging. I’m going to need to order some of the smaller diameter cord to replace those.

Bulkhead resealing: This one is TBD. My foam bulkheads have leaked for a few seasons. A couple of winters ago, I tried to fix them with silicone sealant, but the repair didn’t last. This year, I broke down and bought a kayak-specific bulkhead seal kit, and am going to see if that does the trick.

This kayak has taken me on some great adventures over the years, and I’m hoping that these repairs will give it a new lease on life.


Frozen Trails Finally

I finally got back out on my mountain bike this morning, for the first time in about a month. My last ride was not all that enjoyable, because the trails were such a muddy mess. I try to avoid riding through mud, both to keep it off my bike, and to avoid damaging the trails. As a result, it seemed like I was doing as much walking as riding that day, which really takes away most of the fun, because you can’t get into that awesome zen state of mind that you get on a long, uninterrupted trail ride.

Different story this morning. In the winter, when I wake up, my usual routine is to check the temperature. So often this winter, the forecast has predicted a dip into the mid 20s, but I’ve woken up only to find it never dropped below freezing. Today was the opposite. I initially didn’t think it was going to get cold enough, but I woke up to a very solid 26ΒΊ. I checked the hourly readings, and found that it fell below freezing around 11pm, and stayed there all night. A perfect recipe for frozen trails!! With mild conditions predicted for the rest of the week, I figured today was the day to get reacquainted with the MTB.

I hit the trails a little after 7 this morning. Conditions were just about perfect. It was mild enough to be comfortable, but cold enough that the trails were frozen mostly solid. None of the streams were frozen, so I had no issues with footing on the crossings (I know I could just power right through the streams, but I still think it’s better for the bike to walk it). I’m happy I didn’t wait too long to get out. There were lots and lots of sections of thick mud with deep tire ruts and footprints. When frozen, you can just ride right over them. It makes for a rough ride in places, but it’s far better than slogging through mud. As I write this at about 11:00am, the temperature has crept above freezing, and I suspect the window has closed. On several occasions this past month, I’ve been tempted to head out despite marginal temperature conditions. Based on today’s ride, I’m glad I held off, and will wait for conditions like this before I go out again. I’m hoping the second half of January brings some colder mornings with it.

In spite of my rustiness, I think I rode pretty well this morning. I rode sections of Morning Choice, Rockburn Branch, and Ridge Extension (Captain John Smith) in Howard County; and “Gunned”, Soapstone, “Starstruck”, and Soapstone Reroute/Bull Run in Baltimore County. Out of all my various modes of exercise, mountain biking is the one most likely to get me winded. Lately, I’ve been reading “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”, and working on applying some of the techniques while exercising. Today was my first opportunity to do this while mountain biking, and I think it helped me power up some ascents with which I’ve struggled in the past. One of these is “Water Bars”, a steep climb up from the Avalon day-use area that joins the trail network on the Howard County side of the park. One of my goals is to make it all the way up this ascent without stepping off the bike. I’ve come close, but the rocky stretch near the top has always tripped me up. Today, I got a little hung up on one of the trail’s namesake water bars about halfway up, but was able to power through the rocky section for the first time ever. I still got pretty winded at the top, but recovered fairly quickly. I think I’m making progress. I just need the weather to cooperate so that I can get more practice now!

Biking Hiking Work

Winter Routine

We’re coming up on a year since everything shut down in mid-March 2020, so this is the first January that I’ve been full-time working from home. For most of 2020, my morning routine several days a week was to take long bike rides before work. I would get out of the house at around 6:30am and ride for anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours. I kind of suspected that the routine might change a bit come winter, and indeed, it has.

The first big change was in October, when I bought an under-desk treadmill. I had been considering getting one of these for a couple of years. I had been using a standing desk regularly at work, but quickly found that static standing didn’t work for me for long periods of time. I had to be moving around. While standing, I constantly found myself pacing around the office, wandering around the hall outside my office, etc. On the other hand, I could hike for hours and hours on end with minimal breaks. So, I figured that if there was a way to walk while working, I’d be able to stay on my feet and out of the chair for longer periods of time.

When the pandemic hit and I started working from home full-time, I found myself getting less exercise. My biking mileage didn’t drop, but it was all concentrated in the morning, vs. a morning and afternoon commute each day. On top of that, I found that I wasn’t getting out for afternoon walks as I used to do regularly at work, and with meetings shifting to Zoom/Webex, I wasn’t getting free exercise from walking between buildings for meetings, either. I needed something to fill the gap, and a treadmill seemed like the perfect answer: I could work and exercise at the same time. The treadmill has lived up to my expectations — I walk on it anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day, and my average daily step count on work days has ballooned from under 10k to over 20k.

I kind of expected my biking mileage to drop in the winter, and it has, but not for the reasons I initially thought. I figured the cold temperatures would limit me to shorter rides, but so far, this has been another of Maryland’s famous warm, wet winters, and we haven’t really had a true cold snap yet. In actuality, running, hiking, and climbing have been reducing the frequency of my rides. Could be worse, I suppose. It will be interesting to see how my routine is affected if we ever get a true cold spell, or a significant snowstorm, but I’m not holding my breath for either of those things to happen this year.

Geocaching Hiking

Geocaching Goals

I’ve been geocaching regularly for 8 years now. While I used to enjoy doing it for its own sake, over the past few years, it’s become more of an excuse to get outdoors for activities such as hiking, kayaking, etc. One of the things that’s really cool about geocaching is that it brings you to outdoor locations you might not otherwise visit. For example, if not for geocaching, I likely would never have visited Liberty or Prettyboy Reservoirs, various remote areas of Patapsco Valley State Park, or any number of other out-of-the-way places in the area.

One aspect of geocaching is the concept of a “challenge” cache. This is a cache that you can only “find” if you have met an arbitrary goal chosen by the challenge cache creator. One simple geocaching challenge might be to find, say, 100 other caches, which would make you eligible to find and log an associated challenge cache.

I have a love/hate relationship with challenge caches. The rules for constructing challenges used to be fairly arbitrary, which led to some interesting and creative challenges. A few years back, Groundspeak, the company that runs the most popular geocaching listing service, tightened the rules for what constitutes an acceptable challenge. While well-intentioned, the result has been kind of a dumbing-down of geocaching challenges, and lately, there has been an explosion of somewhat frivolous challenges, to the point where “power trails” of 20 or more challenge caches have popped up in various areas. Challenge caches by themself are not an issue, but when they begin to saturate a given area, they can become a “barrier to entry” to new players in the area who want to pick up the hobby. I know that, when I was new to the game, I would have been discouraged if I had looked at the geocaching map, and seen that most of the caches near home were challenges that I would be ineligible to “find” until I had been caching for many years. One way that Groundspeak could address this might be to add a special “proximity rule” for challenge caches that is much greater than the 0.1 mile for traditional caches: for example, only allow one challenge cache per square mile. I think that would level the playing field nicely, allowing for challenges while preventing them from becoming too prevalent in a given area. But, that’s just my opinion. I’m sure many challenge cache aficionados will vehemently disagree with me.

Now that I’m off my soapbox, I’ll talk about a type of challenge that I enjoy. Several years back, one of my goals was to find a geocache for each day of the year. It was a very effective motivator to get me out of the house. I finally completed that quest on Feb. 29, 2016. Once that’s done, you can try to find two caches for each day of the year (which I still have yet to accomplish, thanks to Christmas Day), and on and on. I have friends who are working on 5 caches/day, 10 caches/day, etc. Then you can move on to finding one of a specific type of cache for each day. My current project is to find a puzzle or “mystery” cache for each day of the year, and my goal is to do so by the end of 2022. While you could argue that it’s a “frivolous” or “arbitrary” goal, I’ve planned several bike rides, hikes, etc. around finding mystery caches on specific dates, and it’s been a good motivator to get me outdoors during these crazy times. Once I’m finished, I’ll have to find another “arbitrary” goal to pursue, just to stay motivated.


Top 10 Geocache Finds, 2020 Edition

2020 isn’t technically over yet, but the odds of me finding another top-10-worthy cache in the next 10.5 hours are pretty darned slim. This year, I used caching as an excuse to get out on my bike. Bike caching limits me to about a 30 mile round trip from home, and I had no business travel this year, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that all of my top-10 finds were in Maryland this year — the first time that has ever happened. I’ve really missed traveling, but on the plus side, I’ve discovered all sorts of new biking routes all over the area. Prior to this year, I only really biked between home and work. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when I start going back to the office, which presumably will happen some time in 2021, though I’m not expecting it to be before summer. Anyhow, I’m going off on a tangent. Here’s this year’s list of caches. Interestingly enough, 5 of the 10 are multi-caches:

  • CAM 2020: Lone Cedar Point (GC8GPW9)
    I don’t think I’ve ever included a CAM cache in this list, but this is certainly a good one to start with. A wonderful hike on the beach with great views of Assawoman Bay and Ocean City. Strangely enough, the trailhead is in Delaware, but the point (and the cache) are in Maryland. We found this in March, at the beginning of CAM, and right when the pandemic was really starting to kick into gear.
  • Gutzon Borglum (GCRJF4)
    I found this, along with several other caches, in February during a 6-mile hike on the AT. It’s a fairly typical Vizardo hide, but it makes the list because it’s a 2005 cache with its original container and log book, and I have happy memories of hiking on that warm February day before COVID was even on my radar.
  • MoCo Clue – Billiard Room (GC81Z9J)
    This was another pre-COVID find which I made with luvinlif2k and our respective kids. It’s one of my all-time favorite multis. It felt just like playing a larger-than-life-sized game of billiards.
  • MoCo Clue – Final (GC816TP)
    This series probably was my caching highlight of 2020. It was well-crafted and well-executed all around, and the final was the icing on the cake. We found this, as well as all of the prerequisite caches, with luvinlif2k and family. We made 3 or 4 trips to MoCo to complete the series, and it’s well-represented with 2 entries on my top 10 list.
  • Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos… (GC259YA)
    This is a crazy paddle-multi on Zekiah Swamp in Charles County. I’m sure the CO intended it to be a peaceful paddle through calm waters, but when we tackled it, unbeknownst to us, the area had recently flooded and the entire second half of the paddle was against a raging current. Several kayaks flipped over, others got pinned by the current, and we ended up completing the journey by hiking and wading. The paddle back to the launch was fun, though. πŸ˜€
  • Red Run Stream Stroll (GC8NVFT)
    This was a well-executed walk/hike along Red Run in Owings Mills. There was a bit of a weird vibe to the hike, as it was early May and the whole COVID thing was really taking off at the time. But, it was great to get outdoors, and we even saw a few snakes.
  • Tip & Tie (GC8WH5A)
    Another paddle multi that I did solo. I enjoyed paddling on two different reservoirs and finding the cache at the end. I’ve been using one of the photos I took on Rocky Gorge reservoir as my Zoom background. In the past couple of years, caching to me has become more about the journey than the actual find, and this was a great journey.
  • Tracey’s Store (GC1NJH5)
    The second Vizardo cache on my list, this one is a 3-stage multi at Prettyboy Reservoir that is rarely found. I really enjoyed the hike, and the final container had some of the best swag I have ever seen in a cache.
  • Where the Rivers Flow North (GC7QPWG)
    This made the list partly due to nostalgia. It’s a fairly typical ProgKing hide at Liberty Reservoir. It’s not right on the reservoir itself, but has a great view of one of the feeder streams (Morgan Run?). After hiking countless times at Liberty in 2019, I only made it there once this year. I have lots of memories of hiking and caching there, culminating in the great Liberty Battleship series last year. There aren’t many caches there left for me to find, so I savor every opportunity to go back.
  • Who Stole Sammy’s Nuts Adventure Lab BONUS (GC91QY5)
    2020 was “year of the adventure lab”. Several well-done adventure labs popped up in the area, and I enjoyed all of them. It was tough picking just one for this list, but I settled on this one because it was a fantastic hike along Buzzard Rock Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park. PVSP is my home park, and I spend tons of time there doing everything from hiking to caching to mountain biking to rock climbing, but Buzzard Rock is a trail that I don’t hike on often. I completed the labs and the bonus over two visits before work, and had a great time.

That about wraps up 2020. What does 2021 hold in store? We will find out soon.


Henryton Hike

I had a really fun time hiking with the family in Patapsco Valley State Park yesterday. We hiked west from Henryton Rd. on the through trail, for a total out-and-back distance of about 4 miles. I had only hiked here once before, back in 2014. It’s a very nice, less busy area of the park just east of Sykesville. We found several caches along the way, climbed a few trees, and Andrew got to do some bouldering with his new crash pad. I keep telling myself that one of these days, I’d like to through-hike the entire park from Halethorpe to Sykesville. If planned correctly, it could probably be done as a 1- or 2-night backpacking trip.

This morning, I had planned to ride my mountain bike, which I haven’t done since early December. The predicted low was 24Β°, but once again, the actual temperature ended up hovering within 1 or 2 degrees of freezing, so I bagged it and took a road ride instead. When I actually got outside, it seemed colder than my weather app had indicated, and I suspect the trails probably would have been OK. I saw a lot of people in the park, including several groups of mountain bikers, which is unusual for a weekday morning. I suspect things will return to normal next week, when most people will be back at work. I’m really hoping that January will bring some colder mornings that will solidly freeze the trails. In the meantime, I’m going to either have to put up with mud, or hit the pavement instead, as I did today. I ended up going about 24 miles and looping through UMBC. Not a bad ride, even if it wasn’t what I had planned.

Biking Miscellany

Boxing Day

Another Christmas has come and gone. I remember the days when the kids would get all excited and wake up early to open presents. We even have the video to prove it, which I shot on our then-state-of-the-art MiniDV video camera. Nowadays, they are nocturnal teenagers, and it’s hard just getting them out of bed. A few years back, I came to the realization that I enjoy the advent season, or the weeks leading up to Christmas, more than the day itself. This year, however, was probably the most laid-back Christmas we’ve ever had. Times sure have changed. Next year may be slightly more “normal”, but the kids aren’t getting any younger. I’ll miss those days, but I also like our new, lower-stress holiday routine — and when I’m feeling nostalgic, I can always go back and look at our old videos.

With the kids sleeping in, I considered riding yesterday morning, but decided to go today instead. The temperatures were down in the low 20s again (the freeze cycle of our flood-freeze winter), so I kept it under 20 miles, and rode a quick out-and-back to downtown Columbia to find a cache. I’ve gotten quite familiar with this route since I started riding it regularly back in the spring. I wore 3 layers on my upper body, which I think was one more than I needed, as I was sweating a little bit by about 30-45 minutes in. Interestingly enough, though, my toes never really got cold. I wore my usual waterproof Altra Lone Peaks with warming insoles, but added a second layer of socks this time. I’m not sure if the socks did the trick, or if the extra upper-body layer kept my core warmer, thus keeping my body from leeching heat from the extremities. I suspect it was a little of both. That said, sweating when it’s below freezing is not something you really want happening. I need to find the sweet spot where I don’t sweat, but my toes still stay warm. Winter riding is very much a balancing act. I’ve been doing it for 13 winters, but I still haven’t perfected it.

Climbing Miscellany Weather Work

Xmas Break

It’s that time of year again, when work shuts down at the end of December. Most years, this is a complete break from my daily routine, with a 2-week absence from the office, and all of the usual holiday gatherings and activities filling our family schedule. I always look forward to the holidays, but usually, by January, I’ve had my fill, and am ready for things to get back to normal. It’s definitely a tiring time of year to be an introvert. This year is going to be quite a departure, though. My office is right downstairs in the basement, so I’m not really physically leaving it. We’ll celebrate Christmas with a couple of really small family gatherings, but other than that, the calendar is clear. The “holidaze”, as I’m fond of calling them, aren’t going to seem much different from the daily grind this year, other than the fact that I’m not working — and even that isn’t guaranteed, as I’ll be visiting the “office” occasionally to get some time in on my treadmill desk.

After a couple of mild, dry winters, it looks like we’re in for a wet one this year. I’m not sure if we’ll get much snow, as we’ve been in a “flood and freeze” pattern thus far — warm weather, followed by flooding rains, then a deep freeze, then a warm-up, whereupon the cycle repeats. Occasionally, an ice storm creeps into the mix. We’re due for a snowy winter, so it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues into January.

I’ve gotten myself into a pretty good routine of climbing once a week at Earth Treks. This morning, I climbed 8 routes: a 5.7, 5.9, 5.10a, 5.10a, 5.9, 5.10b, 5.8, and 5.9. Two of these routes were new to me, and the rest I had climbed previously. Most had a moderate amount of overhang, but I did tackle one rather slabby 5.9. 8 is a pretty good number for me for the time I was there, and I cleaned all 8 routes, so I’d say it was a good day. I guess I’m slowly getting better at this. I’ve been alternating between my newly-resoled La Sportiva TC Pros and my Scarpa Force Vs. I like them both. In the gym, I haven’t noticed a ton of difference as far as climbing goes. The Scarpas have velcro closures, and are easier to put on and take off. The TC Pros are lace-ups, but are more comfortable than the Scarpas, so there’s less need to take them off in between climbs. I have yet to climb outdoors with the Scarpas, but it will be interesting to see how that goes. I suspect the Scarpas will end up being my gym shoes, and the TCs will be my outdoor shoes. But you never know.

Tomorrow, we’ll be in the flood phase of our flood-freeze weather cycle, but I’m hoping the deluge will hold off for an hour or two so I can get a run in. If not, I guess I’ll be running Christmas morning. It’s not like the kids get up early any more. πŸ˜ƒ

Biking Weather

Ice and Slop

Among many other things, 2020 has had a profound effect on my daily routine. Before this year, I almost never rode my bikes for exercise. 99 times out of 100, if I rode, it was to get to work or get home. Once in a blue moon, I would head out on a weekend morning and bike a loop around the airport. A few times a year, I’d take the bike somewhere to find caches, or to use as a shuttle for a one-way hike or paddle, but that was the exception, not the rule. Almost all of my rides were 15 miles or less. Nowadays, it’s the complete opposite. I don’t commute any more, so I bike to stay in shape. Almost all of my rides are round-trip, starting and ending at home, and most are between 20 and 30 miles. This is kind of how I envisioned life after retirement, except I’m still working.

One thing that hasn’t changed much is Maryland weather. The past few days have been wet and icy. This past Saturday, I ventured out for a ride to Odenton to find a cache. The temperatures were in the low to mid-20s, making it my coldest ride of the season thus far. While I’m no stranger to commuting in those temperatures, I don’t think I had ever taken a ride just for the heck of it when it was that cold out. Strange times indeed.

After a run on Sunday, I returned to the bike this morning. Temperatures were several degrees above freezing, with a chilly fog hanging over everything, turning most of the snow and ice into messy slush. The exception was River Road in Patapsco Valley State Park, which faces north, and was still a solid sheet of ice. The warm-ish air temperature actually made it even more slick. It kind of caught me by surprise. After 12 winters riding through there, I’m aware that it gets icy, but given that the ice storm was 5 days ago, I thought that more of it would have melted. My studded front tire got me through some of it, but I elected to walk other parts of it in the interest of staying upright. I could have ridden most if it if I had had studs on the rear wheel, but I didn’t think I would need them. Live and learn, I guess.