Phortse Tenga (a village of 3 houses)

Today’s trekking was also mostly easy, it took us about 6 hours with a lunch break.
This is the first time we’re not staying in a yard of a guesthouse and eating inside. They set up a dining tent now which can accommodate about 10 people.
We started seeing real yaks on the trail, as well as some wildlife - wild pheasants, mountain goats, and musk deer.
The weather has been pretty consistent, clear in the morning, getting hazy around 10am, and cloudy by 1pm or so. Good thing most of our hiking is done earlier in the day. Still wearing t-shirts while hiking, but that all will change soon as I expect to be wearing thermals and full winter gear in about 5 days.
I’ve been bothered by what I think is a regular cold, worsened by all the dust and smoke from kerosene or yak dung I’ve been breathing 24/7.
Three of us out of the group are from also on Diamox, the drug that is supposed to help acclimatize to high altitudes. We bought it the night before the trip in a Kathmandu pharmacy for about $3. Not sure if it’s making a difference, but other than the cold I feel good. That still means I get out of breath when I take two steps up, but that’s to be expected. That’s why our hiking pace is pretty leisurely, but we still get to the camp fairly early in the day. Since Phortse Tenga is not a very happening place it provides an opportunity to rest and read. The sound of a fast Himalayan river and yak bells are very soothing…

Add comment April 11th, 2008

An easy day around Namche

Today we could even sleep in until 6:30, as our gear wasn’t going anywhere, but we all got up before 6 anyway.
After a very steep climb we quickly got to the Everest View Hotel, which is a pretty fancy place, built by the Japanese at 3880m, and as the name says it has pretty kick ass views.
You can see Kumbila (sacred mountain of the Sherpas), Nuptse, Lotse, Ama Dablam, and of course Everest with its signature plume of snow blowing from its top.
The Chinese government is responsible for stopping all climbing attempts until May 10th from the Tibetan side, as well as Nepalese past Camp II. This might make it tricky for our Japanese friend, as well as a host of other expeditions that now all have to rush the mountain after the Chinese are done getting the Olympic torch up there. Of course, they reserved the best window (weather-wise) for this, but we’ve heard that if they don’t succeed by May 10, they are likely to extend the ban even longer and completely ruin the climbing season for the rest.
In the afternoon we did a host of other things, toured Thupten’s house in Namche, I took a cold shower for 200 rupees ($3) which felt damn good, and I even wrote a couple of emails.
Some Sherpa girl shopkeeper tried to sell Jeff and I razors, we must look pretty hairy by now. Dinner had an unusual ending as the cook made a cake, since it was my tentmate Evan’s birthday. It even had writing on it, and tasted pretty good considering it was made in a shed with limited ingredients.

Add comment April 10th, 2008

Up we go

Namche Bazar, 3440m)

I just got done using a Sherpa toilet. It’s pretty decent, other than the smell. It’s just a raised shed with a couple of holes in the floor. It actually feels a lot cleaner than most toilet seats though.
We got up to Namche at 1:30 after a pretty decent constant climb. The scenery is getting more mountainous, but the hike was still pretty hot (as in t-shirts, shorts). the challenge was more dealing with the traffic on the trail. There are a lot of trekkers, and even more porters and yaks. Had some close encounters with yak horns on a couple occasions, but you just use your trekking poles to push on their horns and turn them away from you.
Namche is the biggest Sherpa village, with a 1000 residents, a ton of guesthouses and stores. Our main guide, Thupten, is from here, and is now enjoying his home. He will show us some of his art tomorrow, he used to be a monk in Tengboche for 10 years, then got into the trekking business. His dad was a climber on one of the ‘63 Everest expeditions where he helped save lives of fourr Americans, and got a medal from JFK. According to Thupten, he might have been the first Sherpa to visit the US.
Thupten is a brother in law to Mingma, the owner of the trekking company we are using. His dad was actually a climbing Sherpa on THE expedition in ‘53 when Hillary and Tenzing summited Everest for the first time.
Tonight we’re sharing a common dining area in one of the guesthouses with a Japanese expedition to Everest, which includes the oldest guy who will try to summit it. He already has the same record, as he climbed it at 71, now he’ll just attempt it at 76.
We’re also probably going to be in their video footage, since we passed each other many times on the trail, and Japanese being Japanese have a videographer and two photographers running around all day.
I’m more than happy with how my body’s dealing with the altitude for now. Although going uphill is definitely harder, I only have occasional mild headaches. We’re definitely eating and drinking enough, to the point that I’m afraid I’ll actually gain weight by the end of the trip.
OMG, one of the Japanese just turned on his laptop and I heard the Windows startup chime, and the Skype chime. Not sounds you’d expect to hear among yak bells and bog barks. But there is wired and wireless Internet in Namche…

Add comment April 9th, 2008

In the Himalayas

Well, I almost can’t believe it, but I’m here. I’m sitting on a rock by a cold river near the village of Phakding (2610m).
After an early breakfast we got to the airport, went through a few very disorganized lines and somehow managed to board our Yeti Airlines Twin Otter with all out stuff, and even left on time.
The flight to Lukla was short but sweet, with everything I expected - the flight attendant hands out mints and cotton (to stuff into your ears), and I was sitting next to an emergency exit that rattled a bit, and I could see the outline of the sky outside through the edges…
After passing through a canyon, flying really close to large cliffs, the pilot heads straight for a mountain. Then you realize there’s a village he’s aiming for, and then spot the short, uphill airstrip.

Today’s hiking was really easy and mostly downhill, and we were in “camp” by 2pm. The camp really is the village of Phakding, and our tents were set up on a lawn under one of the few guesthouses. We’re going to the bathroom and eating indoors. We’re also getting catered at every step, with washing water, tea, etc, and it feels really uncomfortable being served. More updates on that later as the situation develops, but as of now I feel like a lazy tourist pig who doesn’t do any work towards food and shelter, just gets catered to. For example, we had tomato and cheese sandwiches with coleslaw, whereas the staff ate daal bhat (traditional Nepali rice and lentils), which I would have much rather had. I hope dinner is a bit more local.
Other than that weirdness, the scenery is absolutely amazing. It’s warm and green outside, with some white peaks in the distance. Tomorrow we go to Namche Bazar, which is a pretty big Sherpa town, and we’ll also witness the elections as they happen there. We dodge many other trekkers, porters carrying enormous loads on their backs, and yaks which we learned are not really yaks. These altitudes are too warm for the real yak as he’s a very hairy beast, so they breed them with cows to get zopkios, which are the beasts that will be carrying our stuff this whole trip. We will see some yaks at higher altitudes, though.

A view from Lukla, first mountains in the distance

Add comment April 8th, 2008

Ready for the trek

Today we had an organized tour of three places, only one of which was new to me. Still, had a good time, took some nice pictures too.
We had a group meeting about the trek, and it sounds like our Sherpa organizers are really a top notch crew. It’s really a family business, and it seems like they known everybody in the region, and have some famous climbers in the family too.
As I was writing my last email tonight, the guy in the cyber cafe next to me was downloading his photos from the same trek. All I have to say is - if we see only half of that, I’ll be a really happy man. I could even say that without the trek, just experiencing Kathmandu was worth flying to the other side of the world.
Mingma, the owner of the trekking company, thinks that after these elections tourism will see another book, and things will get more built up and crowded, so now’s a good time to be doing this!

Add comment April 7th, 2008

Last day on my own

This morning I went to Pashupatinath, the Hindu temple that you can’t really get into, but can walk around the grounds and see into it partially from the hill on the opposite side of the river. On the temple side of the river there are constantly Hindu funerals in progress, which consist of first bathing the wrapped deceased body with the holy water from the river, then burning it on one of the pyre pedestals provided for that. I think I saw only one other tourist all morning.
Of course there are Sadhus, Hindu holy men who pose there for photos for a small donation. These guys might be totally fake, but I decided to take a few shots, since business was definitely slow for them.
An interesting thing about sightseeing here, as opposed to Europe or the US, is that the places you are seeing have more locals than tourists, as they are actually being used. There are so many holy sites since Hindus have so many deities, and religion plays a big part of everyday life for both Hindus and Buddhists here. In addition, they are used as gathering places for young people to hang out at, and for kids to run and play at.
When I was walking around the Kathesimbhu Stupa, which also has a Buddhist ghompa (monastery) and a school in the same yard, some Tibetan artist talked to me about his paintings, which I told him right away I wasn’t gonna buy. He’s 35, was a monk for 10 years, and now spends half a year here, the other half in Tibet, and paints these Thangka paintings. Very nice and fascinating stuff, just not for my living room (and probably not for my budget either).
Last night I ran into a couple of political rallies with lots of flags, loud music, and lots of police with machine guns watching the whole show. There are also chanting, marching people going through town a lot, normally also followed by armed police. The election is happening in 4 days, it’s been postponed twice due to violence by the Maoists. Now they are actually running for parliament as one of the Communist parties, and I thought they’d only have presence in the south of the country, but they seem to be one of the biggest parties, at least if judged by the amount of supporters here (and theirs is the only insignia I recognize with the hammer and sickle, one other large party has a green tree as a symbol). They also banned sale of booze in the next week, starting tomorrow.

One of the sadhus who patted his crotch cover proclaiming how he is strong!

Add comment April 6th, 2008

Getting better at this

Rooftop cafe at Patan Durbar Square

Had an early start this morning, I was on the road by 7am, so I could ease into the craziness of mid-day crowds. Since I feel so awkward looking at maps in the street, and at times that doesn’t help if there are no street names or landmarks nearby, I attempted to memorize the path I wanted to take to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. I promptly got lost!
But I felt at ease though, I was just milling around with Nepali people who are trying to buy or sell all kinds of fruit, veggies, flowers, dead and live meats, and prepared foods. Saturday is their only day off, so there’s a lot of shopping to be done. I also ran into some kind of festival, but I didn’t know anything about it, other that there were more crowds and music.
After getting a permanent pass for the Durbar Square and checking it out a bit (some stuff was closed, apparently there are much less tourists than normal due to elections, and other than in Thamel, I see very few tourists around), I had a coffee at some hostel in Freak Street, made famous in the 60s by the western hippies, and sat around a very grungy crowd, ranging from college students to the decaying, original hippies.
As far as the “guides”, I learned to shrug them off or just shoot the shit with them until they realize that I’m not hiring them for a tour. I might change my mind by tomorrow and go back to one guy in Kathmandu Durbar Square who I actually really liked, and I wouldn’t mind paying a few bucks for him to tell me about the gazillion temples that all look the same to me, and I can’t remember much about them from the written guides. Due to these guides, the most frequently used word in my daily vocabulary is “Croatia” - their first question is always “where are you from”, and there’s no way I’m presenting my self as an American tourist. Reactions range from “huh?”, to “Davor Suker!”, to actual brief conversations about Croatia.
I’m off to explore a bit more of Patan, then take another scary cab ride to my hotel. NYC cabs are nothing on the scale of scariness compared to these. Driver’s one hand is on the horn at all times, and so many times I thought that we’d collide with someone or run over a dog or a child, but somehow they manage to navigate through them. Fortunately, due to the crowds, nobody can drive too fast…

Having lunch at Patan Durbar Square

Add comment April 5th, 2008

Kathmandu overload

As the dogtown outside keeps barking, and I’m trying not to fall asleep too early, let me try to describe the madness that was my intro to Kathmandu.

I mean, I read some books, some guides, saw some photos, and thought I was ready and knew what to expect. But I don’t think anyone who hasn’t maybe been to a similar place in Asia can adequately prepare for the culture shock. I mean, it’s not like your average US Joe going to Poland and wondering why the pirogies are a bit different, this is a totally new universe to me.
So let’s start from the airport: a really old and musty brick building, but being from Croatia, I was ok with all that, and recalled that we used to have handwritten signs, official dozing at their posts, ashtrays, and a general chaotic disarray, not too long ago.
Two guys that work for my trekking company picked me up, and that’s when the fun started. Traffic here is absolutely nuts (I think I actually saw 1 traffic light!). They are supposed to drive on the left side, but more often drivers just pick the best path and go for it. Smaller streets within the city don’t have sidewalks, are about 12 feet wide, and need to fit all the pedestrians, two way traffic of honking cars, honking motorcycles, cursing cyclists, and taxi-cycles (rickshaws?). Outside of the small tourist district, this is also made worse by playing children, roaming goats and cows, running dogs, and people carrying or pulling all kinds of stuff. Roads that are paved to begin with are so full of potholes that bicycles and motorcycles regularly get stuck in them. A bit of rain will turn dirt into just enough mud to make traveling these streets a true frogger, on the edge of your seat experience.
There are quite a few tourists in the Thamel district but we definitely stick out and I felt sooo out of place. You are so obviously a tourist, that no matter how determined you look, or how fast you’re going (which could easily get you lost since the streets are all tiny and have no names, but that’s another story), you’ll always be constantly approached by people trying to sell you their goods, offer you taxi rides, to be your local guide, try to sell you some hash, etc.
I’m afraid I’ll get much less photos than I thought, at least in the city, as I’m pretty damn uncomfortable even stopping, much less handling a camera or even changing lenses! That’s too bad because there are so many good photos of people in their everyday life on the streets of Kathmandu that would be worth taking. The city is definitely very alive with noise (human, artificial, animal), colors, movement, and smells…

So despite the ominous thunder I decided to walk to Swayambunath, or the Monkey Temple, which was to be about a half an hour walk from here. I started pouring soon enough, so I hid with a bunch of girls in some “not-safe-at-all-by-American-standards” house under construction.
Along the way, after trying to shake off some persistent kid who wanted to be my guide, I finally decided that it would probably be better to pay him $2 and listen to his 5-minute history lesson, then get rid of him. I think next time I’ll learn to be more of an ass, bu it is kinda hard to refuse these people who are actually trying to make a living in a poor country. On the other hand, he’s only slightly better than the guys in Croatia insisting on washing your clean windshield at an intersection, or the guys in Philly holding the door opened for you at the 7-11.
Anyway, the temple was really cool and pretty deserted, so I could enjoy myself for a few minutes with the great view of the city, and watch some dogs and monkeys play (not together).
Oh, the dogs! They’re everywhere, and they all look similar, I guess they evolved into a perfect mutt breed of just the right size and shagginess. Of course that none of them are spayed/neutered, which would explain their abundance. Some of them even had collars and followed the children around, but most are just searching for scraps of food, or playfully wrestling or chasing down the street.
I can’t imagine walking my Pablo here on his leash, after he gets fed his organic food, gets his expensive flea med, and picking up his crap in a baggy. I think he’d feel even more isolated and shunned in the doggy world, than I feel in the human one…
I don’t even fit in with most of the tourists. Hudin, this place is not for you! There are so many damn hippie wanna-bes around here, it’s almost impossible to spot a white person under 35 who doesn’t have dreadlocks or similarly shaggy hair, flowing flowery skirts, beads, hemp necklaces, and sandals. The over-35 group can be spotted by the North Face logo sign on at least one piece of their clothing, as they’re dressed like they’re on a trek at this moment…
Ah, the thought that I could perhaps go for a run while here is making me LOL at this point!!!

Kathmandu in the evening, from Swayambunath

1 comment April 4th, 2008

Goodbye, longest layover

Boarding plane to KTM in 2 hours.

I spent a pretty decent night in the airport hotel room, although I slept for maybe 4-5 hours. At the 11 hour time zone shift, my body is totally confused and just won’t sleep at night. It seemed to want to eat though, so every time I woke up I snacked on some gross dried fruit I had bought.
I was and still am thoroughly confused by the airport departure tax of 700 Baht (about $20) which I was told I have to pay in cash when checking in. But I wasn’t asked for any money when getting my boarding pass, so now I have some extra Thai cash to spend on the way back.
The airport is humongous, I walked it all this morning as my exercise. Cleaning people are all around, and they have “ISO 9001 certified” written on their coats. Didn’t realize that international standards on mopping toilets existed, but I’m glad they do, as everything is spotless here…

Add comment April 4th, 2008

Bangkok Airport

The flight ended up being not nearly as bad as I thoguht. I managed to sleep for a few hours, only waking up a few times and wanting to scratch my skin off due to the very dry air.
Anyway, this airport is pretty decent, clean, ad I’ve already found the “dayrooms” that I plan on crashing in later.
Finding out that Thai food is very big on meats, and that vegetarian means “no beef, no pork”.

It seems to be really hot (34 C) and humid out there. I’m sort of regretting not going through the trouble of getting a Thailand visa. I mean, I’m in Asia for the first time, and I can’t leave the airport. I think it would have been worth it to do even a few hours of walking around Bangkok, then gettin a hotel room in the city cheaper. Oh well, there’s always the next time…

Add comment April 3rd, 2008

And so it begins…

Somewhere over Norway, it’s dark outside

I’m about 6 hours into my flight, so have decided to kill some time by starting this “blog” off.
Last night I said goodbye to spring in Philly, and my limping wife who hurt her foot drove me to the train station with my humongous bag. After crashing at Brad’s place on the Lower East Side, limping Brad who hurt his food yesterday drove me to JFK. Thanks guys!
There didn’t appear to be a huge crowd in the boarding area for my Thai flight to Bangkok, so I was silently hoping for 2 seats. My hopes were soon crushed, as there were a few open seats, but not next to me…
Anyway, the 5 extra inches of legroom is really nice, meaning my knewws aren’t crushed by the seat in front of me, but that advantage is largely offset by a huge video-entertainment unit under each seat, meaning much less foot room.
The first surprise was that we’re not flying “left” like I thought, over the US and the Pacific, nor exactly “right”, but more up. We’ll be flying over Norway, Russia, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Afganistan, Pakistan (I may have left out a “stan” or two), India, Myanmar, then I think Thailand.
The second surprise (very small, but pleasant, and I’ll take anything right now) was that I got my vegetarian lunch before anyone else. This is the first time I rememebred to ask for vegetarian food since not eating land meats last May.

I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to write a list of “things I’d rather do or endure than sit on a plane for 17.5 hours”, so here it is:

  • Run a marathon - most definitely
  • Run an ultramarathon (50 miler let’s say) - yup, would still only take me about 8-9 hours
  • An Ironman triahlon - now we’re pushing it, but it would still take less time than this flight, and be more entertaining, and something to brag about
  • Have a reoot canal or two done - definitely, especially with my new, ex-Navy, super-speedy dentist.
  • 9.5 hours into the flight
    My vegetarian dinner consisted of rice and spicy beans. Expecting some strong tailwinds over Kazakstan…

    Add comment April 2nd, 2008

    Only a week away…

    My big trip is now only a week away, and I’m getting very excited, as well as very freaked out.
    I mean, I always thought of myself as someone who can put up with a lot of suffering while traveling, and am sort of used to long flights. However, flying to Europe doesn’t even compare to flying to the other side of the world.
    I have to leave home on Tuesday night, spend a night with Brad in NYC, in order to get to JFK on time Wednesday morning. Then I board a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok which takes unimaginable 17 and a half hours! That’s like flying to Europe and back in one sitting! Even the fact that Seat Guru claims I will have 5 more inches of leg room than your average Airbus 319 flight doesn’t make things better - it’s still going to be a lot of suffering.
    After I land in Bangkok, I have an 18 hour layover! And I can’t leave the airport since I’m a freaking Croat, and I was too cheap to get a visa so I can do a few hours of sightseeing. It’s looking like I will spend a fortune on a small room at the terminal instead, so I can actually get some sleep. Another 3 hour flight will get me to Kathmandu noon-ish on Friday the 4th, where some friendly Sherpa will pick me up and take me to my hotel.
    From my home in Philly to my hotel in Kathmandu, the door-to-door trip is only something like 55 hours…

    But, as soon as I reread my trekking itinerary and all the amazing stuff we’re going to see, I kinda feel better about the little traveling bit.
    Anyway, I’m taking an old fashioned pen and paper blog, as I’ll have plenty of time to write, and update this blog after I come back.
    There’s also my camera with 10 gigs of flash cards, and an ebook reader with more books than I could read if I didn’t do anything else for 3 weeks. I decided not to take any other electronic gadgets, not even an iPod, since I’m already lugging enough stuff that needs extra batteries, converters, wires, all in a place where I’ll go for 2 weeks without seeing an electric outlet.

    1 comment March 27th, 2008

    An exciting month of April

    I leave for Nepal in less than three weeks, and I’m starting to think how I’m going to miss all these important events while I’m gone. From political events like George W visiting Zagreb (why, oh why?) on April 5th, to the Pennsylvania primaries on the 22nd, I’ll be in the media darkness (spending Earth day flying from Lukla to Kathmandu). Then I’ll also miss early spring in Philly which is becoming my favorite time of the year, along with some good races every single weekend.
    But, on the other hand, I’ll be a witness to a historical election in Nepal, when they will try to completely abolish the monarchy on April 10th (I’ll be away in the mountains by then, which is good as any riots are likely to happen in cities). I’ll also be near Mt. Everest, which now both Chinese and Nepali governments have now shut down for climbing in early May. That means there may be more summit attempts while I’m actually there, a tiny speck close to the Base Camp. There have also been protest by Tibetans in Kathmandu that turned violent. Fortunately I’ll do Kathmandu sightseeing in my running shoes, and will keep my eyes out for any violent Tibetan monks looking for trouble.

    Add comment March 15th, 2008

    Another week, another PR

    Today was the second time I ran a 5-miler, the Leprechaun 5 mile race that has kegs of beer at the end, and quite a few fat drunk guys early in the morning.
    It was cool because Crystal, Brad, and Regan also ran, as well as some of my club members. I managed to finish in 33:09, beating last year’s time by around 40 seconds, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m quite happy with the improvement. I really would like to beat last year’s Broad Street 10 miler time, but considering I won’t run for about 4 weeks in April, I might just have to wait another year.

    Add comment March 15th, 2008

    Strangers in the night (on a train)

    On several other occasions I noticed how complete strangers in certain situations are more likely to share intimate details and personal opinions, than they are with people they know. I’ve seen that traveling, joining the running club, and generally in situations where people are just bored and resort to talking to strangers to kill time.
    I was coming back on a train from NYC to Philly last night, and ended up stuck on it for 4 hours, because someone decided to end their life on Amtrak train tracks in Trenton. All traffic was completely stopped until federal agents, Amtrak engineers, and the coroner could get there. Oh, and the rumor was that the coroner was stuck in traffic, and we had no ETA for the whole situation to clear up.
    People were calm and reserved at first, but as soon as we heard “folks, this might be a while” people started talking and depleting the cafe car’s alcohol supplies. I had an interesting trio in front of me, all sort of living around Philly, all around the same 30-something age, but having very different backgrounds. A girl that I recognized from Drexel, studied fashion design, works for a big firm in NYC but has quit her job yesterday, is about to get married in September and start a family, has traveled all over the world, and is generally very upbeat and idealistic. Chatting her up were two family guys, one black guy who was on his first day of Amtrak training, has done a lot of community work type jobs, and generally nice, but very limited in his experiences. The other was a really chatty Italian guy from south Philly who seems mostly unhappy that he married early and had kids before doing anything else, even though he adamantly denies it, as well as hiding his wedding ring on purpose.
    So I had a privilege of listening to their flirting, opinions on relationships, families, settling down, being faithful, dealing with difficulties in life in general…
    Although it was interesting and funny at times (especially when the older ladies in the car started offering themselves to the Italian guy), I was really happy when the coroner finally came, closed up the scene, and let us get on with out regular lives…

    As a side note, next time you find yourself willing to share things with strangers, and are surrounded by a bunch of others who are trying to sleep, be aware that they can’t help but listen, and might write blog entries revealing your issues :)

    Add comment March 11th, 2008

    Our dirty city

    I always thought Philly was one of the dirtiest places I’ve ever been too. Sure, it’s a big city, blah blah, but I’ve seen bigger places look a lot cleaner. The primary problem is just that the citizens don’t care about it, and litter because it’s somehow more convenient, or it’s not cool for some reason to dispose of your trash into provided receptacles. Or hell, maybe since the city is already so dirty, why should I care about not littering…
    There is also an issue of a lack of trash cans around though, at times you can walk for 10 blocks without seeing one (you notice these things when you’re carrying a stinky bag of dog poo), and the ones that are there are either overflowing because they’re not emptied often, or have been emptied by ever-present wind in the city. I’ve seen only a few of those new trash cans with domed tops that prevent stuff from flying out of them. But still, compared to the cultural issue, the cans are not the problem here. I’ve carried trash all the way home from for miles, as opposed to dropping it on the sidewalk.
    Anyway, it looks like our new mayor is actually doing something about it. Not sure how successful it will be, but he’s trying to get 10,000 people to get out on April 5th and clean specific parts of the city. I remember being in elementary school and having organized cleanups of my immediate neighborhood with my class. After you spend a few hours cleaning up crap that other people threw out, if your parents didn’t teach you otherwise, you’ll definitely think twice before littering next time. Because you might be the person picking it up the next time!
    As a city you can spend tons of money on cleaning services, but I think until the culture changes (or gets introduced to people as a new concept), it will all be in vain.

    Add comment March 11th, 2008

    It’s the season of big PRs

    So yes, the course was really hilly (I thought Delaware was supposed to be flat?!?), the weather was less than ideal with strong cold winds, but I managed to PR (I guess that’s a verb in running-speak) by 10.5 minutes.
    I came in at 1:36:10 which I thought I might be able to do only in perfect conditions. I guess I have to try a flat course next and see how I do…

    Another really cool thing was to see a fellow member from the Philly Runners win the whole damn thing, and our top male and female teams also won the team competitions (at an amazing average of 1:18:40 for the guys, and 1:32:23 for the girls).

    Add comment March 9th, 2008

    Pre-race jitters, rituals

    So I’m running a half-marathon tomorrow, first one in a year and a half, and I’m going through all the familiar nervousness that happens for anything from a 5K to a marathon, just at different levels. I guess the more you do it, the easier it becomes…
    Here are some typical thoughts that go through my head the day before a race:

    • Weather - I keep obsessing with the weather (it will be cold and very windy tomorrow), normally checking sites that have hourly graphs for temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity…
    • Clothes - closely related to the weather, it’s always a question of what to wear for the race. You don’t want to be too hot or cold, so the question is long or short stuff, any layers, accessories
    • Food - this is normally an easy one, at least when I’m at home the day before, just load up with my standard pretty plan pasta with olive oil and spinach. You definitely don’t want to eat something weird the day before or in the morning before the race. I also bought some red wine which I’ll be drinking by myself tonight as Crystal is in Hawaii, and I’ll try to limit myself to a glass or 2.
    • Thingies - I am always obsessed with packing, this is no different. I lay out all the clothes and other crap like fuel belt, nip guards, GPS, timing chip and bib number if I already have them. These are seemingly little things, but if I forgot any it could throw me off mentally, or result in a less comfortable race (as in the case of nip guards let’s say)
    • Strategy - based on my current fitness level, goals, the course, I tend to go over different strategies in my head, so I can hit the right pace to finish strong, but also go as fast as possible

    I sort of signed up for this half-marathon just for fun, and didn’t really train too hard for it, but I know I can beat my PR from 18 months ago, despite the hills and the wind, we’ll just see by how much…

    1 comment March 8th, 2008


    My workouts these days revolve around hills for two reasons - I’ll spend 2 weeks in Nepal going up and down a lot, and I’m running a hilly half-marathon in Wilmington next weekend.
    While the area is generally really flat, I got these two great features close to me - Lemon Hill, and the 10-story tower in our condo. The first one I run loops around, and the second one I climb up and down endlessly, wearing my hiking boots and carrying my pack. Loads of fun, but overall will probably improve my running times, so that’s a good thing.

    Add comment February 29th, 2008

    Bag nazis

    I shop at Whole Foods at least twice a week. I noticed the trend of how they’re trying to push reusable canvas bags harder and harder these days.
    A couple of years ago you’d have to ask to buy a canvas bag. This changed into canvas bags being prominently displayed and cashiers thanking you for bringing your own bag, and occasionally even praising (”wow, reusable bag, you’re my kind of guy”). Then they started asking questions like “paper, plastic, or would you like to buy a reusable bag today?”. Now I feel totally guilty when I go to the store without my own bag (as in I’m coming from somewhere else and don’t have my cloth bag on me), I almost want to offer an explanation and say that I will put my recyclables in the paper bag I get.
    The other day I overheard something that was almost bordering on offensive like “I noticed you don’t have a reusable bag today, are you going to get one?”
    While I’m all for reusable bags, and take mine even to the liquor store these days, that was just a little too much…
    I also read today that the store will completely eliminate plastic bags by Earth Day this year, which I guess will either eliminate some of the tension regarding the choice, or piss people off even more.

    1 comment February 29th, 2008

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