June 2009

Friday, June 26

Finally got out of bed at 4:15am to make it to a HARD workout….and after only a few hours of sleep. (I still had to unpack from my last Colorado trip last night before I could pack for this one.) Went to circuit training with the HARD group. Holy cow. I’m gone for a few weeks and they up the ante on me. Got my butt kicked. It’s going to be a mighty painful next few days when the full soreness kicks in…especially after sitting all curled up on planes all day.

Made it to Denver at 5pm after only 1 delay. There was bad weather around Denver and we were put in a holding pattern for a while. Got a few glimpses of the mountains around Steamboat Springs when the clouds broke for a few minutes. Also saw another rainbow from the plane. Woohoo!

Saturday, June 27

“Do what you like, Like what you do” – That’s the slogan for the Life is Good brand and the theme for this weekend. I’m attending a Drupal conference in *gasp* Colorado. Yup. Back in Colorado in less than 2 weeks and this time with the added bonus of a Drupalfest. It don’t get no better. I’m in my element. With my people. Geeking out with fellow developers. Planning world domination with Drupal. Solving life’s problems with jQuery and pre-processing functions. Although, I’ve discovered you’re not a true geek unless you have a Mac OSX laptop and an iPhone. The iPhone is tempting but I’m not willing to go with AT&T to get it. Verizon’s been too reliable. The Macbook would be tempting if it didn’t require shelling out another $3K for a laptop and then another $4K to buy all my software all over again. That ain’t a-happening! I’m not THAT anti-Microsoft.

There is one aspect of this trip that sucks….the hotel. I was this close – | | – to walking out around midnight tonight and heading to another hotel. For starters, the toilet was stopped up when I got here. And no, Dave, I didn’t do it. I complained 3 times till they finally unclogged it. The bathroom sink drips constantly, the light in the bathroom doesn’t work and it’s party central outside at the pool. Oh and the air conditioning doesn’t work. I was expecting low budget but dang, it ought to be a little better than this for the price. But the bed is comfy and the shower’s hot and the kids stopped screaming shortly after midnight.

On a brighter note, I’m glad I was woken up ’cause Kathy J pinged me. She got to Frankfurt at midnight (2am eastern time and prolly around 8 or 9am in Germany – can’t remember if they do daylight savings time). She’ s safe and sound and didn’t barf on the plane. She said they flew at 40,000 feet at 600mph and could track the flight the whole time. Wild! Can’t wait till she starts posting pictures.

Met some neat people. Went out to lunch to an Argentinian pizza place (who knew?) with some interesting people from a Boulder-based Drupal company. Learned what Sangria was. Mmmmmmm!!! I normally don’t like the taste of anything with alcohol. But this was gooood. I could get used to it for lunch every day! Had so much fun we forgot to watch the time and didn’t make it back for the 2pm sessions. Woops!

Also met some Drupalers from PA. Go figure. Fly to Colorado to meet people from PA. We talked about setting up a Drupal usergroup for central PA. That may be a project for the fall. We’ll see.

And darnit…I’m sucking air AGAIN! Geez. So much for acclimating. It started all over again with the breathing-stale-air feeling. Walked back from the conference center SLOWLY while trying to talk on the phone…probably sounded like I was running. I was so out of breath.

Sunday, June 28
A few months ago I attended DrupalCon in Washington D.C. At the conference, one of the sponsors, Lullabot, introduced their new Drupal training DVD’s. I went home and immediately bought the videos. When I watched them, I was mesmerized by the eyebrows of one of the trainers. He had the most expressive eyebrows I have ever seen. The first time through, all I did was watch his eyebrows. It took a second time through the video to actually pay attention to the content.

Yesterday morning I ran into this guy that looked familiar. I thought maybe I had run into him at DrupalCon D.C. It turned out to be eyebrow-guy from the video. We ended up at the same table for lunch today. He was hilarious…and super knowledgeable about Drupal. It was interesting listening to him talk about the little Colorado town of 800 people that he lives in that has no cell phone service and about Lullabot and Drupal…and of course, I was once again captivated by his eyebrows.

Nate explaining Drupalese by writing on a napkin

Nate explaining Drupalese by writing on a napkin

Monday, June 29
Time to fly home. Bummer. I enjoyed DrupalCamp Colorado even more than DrupalCon in D.C. because it was smaller. You actually started recognizing people by the end of the conference so it was easier to meet people. And yet most of the sessions were still high caliber. So I really wasn’t ready to leave. I could have hung out a few more days with these people. But real life was calling.

So boarded the plane for 3 uneventful flights back to Harrisburg. Finished another Drupal book – Drupal 6 Javascript and JQuery – and then napped the rest of the way. I need a vacation from my vacations!

Colorado Adventure #1 – (1 of 3 in summer 2009)

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Sunday, June 7

Made it to Colorado on Saturday early afternoon after a LONG but uneventful drive across country. And realized too late (forget who jokingly mentioned it) that I could have totally broadcast the entire drive live over the internet, complete with webcam and chat. I had all the equipment to do it but nothing set up in advanced. That would have definately taken some of the boredom out of the drive.

Set up camp Sunday afternoon. And to those of you who think I’m roughing it…hah…I’m living it up compared to backpacking. Take a look at my home sweet home:

Home Sweet Home
view from campsite

Charlie’s been really good in the car and at the campground. Didn’t find out till I got here though that dogs aren’t allowed on trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park. :-(

So far I’ve spent most of my time sleeping, reading, and eating. I’m hoping to get some hiking in once I can start breathing again. Tomorrow morning if the weather’s good. Just took a drive through the Rocky Mountain National Park today:

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

Monday, June 8

Took a 6.5 mile hike this morning that turned into a 10 mile hike….missed a crucial turn. It rained most of the time but that’s cool for a trail hike. Running in the rain sucks and backpacking in the rain sucks but a short hike in rain…woohoo…bring on the mud. Here are some pictures:

Elk-chewed Aspen trees
Elk-chewed Aspen trees
Roaring creek. Fortunately, I didn’t have to cross it.
A fort in the middle of nowhere?
Which way do I go?
My wrong turn took me another 1000 ft up in altitude and into the snow. What I wouldn’t have done for a topo map!
There are some nice peaks in the background.

Alternated between reading and napping all afternoon. And discovered something interesting. There is no cell phone reception up here at the campground. In fact, I have to drive 5 miles into town before I get reception. HOWEVER, there is literally a 2X2 foot square in the center of my tent where I get 1 or 2 bars. No joke. That’s not enough to hold a phone conversation but it lets me get email and chat on the Blackberry instant messenger. Oh and I can also tether my Blackberry to my laptop and get internet access for it. Blackberries ROCK!

Went into town in the evening and t-shirt shopped. Found some great ones. Then went to dinner and got this awesome vegetarian pasta meal. I’m not a vegetarian. (The best I could do is be an aspiring vegetarian. I’m just not committed in that area.) But this dish was incredible. I think it’s going to be my pre-race meal on Saturday night. The restaurant was fairly empty, thankfully, because I was chatting with Kathy J. and had a few LOL’s. I’m sure people were wondering.

Oh and BTW, Chuck, the shop is all yours and Kris, you get my house. Sell it or make the payments on it. I’m staying in Colorado.

Tuesday, June 9

Went for a trail run this morning…on the trail I hiked yesterday. I’m definitely making some progress in the acclimating area. Saturday and Sunday I was lightheaded and I felt like I was constantly breathing stale air. Monday was ok during normal activity, but I was sucking some serious air on a fairly easy hike. Today’s run was pretty good except for the uphills. At home I could have run the moderate uphills but here, I was huffing and puffing just hiking them. Level ground was doable and downhill was good. So I guess if the race were tomorrow, I’d kick butt on the level and downhills but die on the uphills. That means I’d have roughly half of the marathon licked. Thank goodness I still have 4 more days to acclimate.

I think my sleeping has finally leveled off (hopefully). I’d been sleeping 10-12 hours a night every night since Friday night plus a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Only got 8 hours last night though. And didn’t nap today despite reading all day long. Maybe it was my body’s rebelling at the lack of oxygen.

Went on a very short hike into Bear Lake. Views sucked because all the peaks were behind rain clouds. And then there was the couple that insisted on making out two feet from me. Get a room!

Charlie’s been a real gentleman. I didn’t know he had it in him. He’s been friendly and QUIET! I can leave him in the tent or tied outside and walk away and he doesn’t wine or bark. Just waits for me to come back. And he’s been friendly…ok, maybe just tolerant… with other dogs. And best of all, he’s gotten some serious snuggling in.

And lastly, finished reading one of the many Drupal books I brought along. Drupal (or Gerbil as they call it at work) is a framework that I build websites on. I’m on a quest to become an absolute expert in the framework and have bought every book on the market for it. See?

Drupal books

I just finished one of the more important ones on Drupal security. While I knew of many of the security aspects of coding, I learned a lot about ways to find bugs from contributed modules. Guess what I’ll be doing first thing next Wednesday morning when I get back to work. Oh, and my favorite quote from the book, “A big part of finding bugs is simply being paranoid…”. LOL. Love it!

I’ve also decided on next year’s adventure. I’m really digging Colorado but the amount of hiking and exploring I’m able to do is limited by the marathon on Sunday. I’d like to actually survive it so I’m holding back and not doing some of the longer hikes I’d really like to do. So next year…screw the running…I’m going to do a 2 week backpacking trip either on the Colorado Trail or the Continental Divide Trail.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to include a house picture…it’s a very important piece:

The furnace

Wednesday, June 10

Slow news day here at Micksville. It rained most of the night and rained on and off all morning. Not gonna be getting any great views today. So I stayed in and vegged out, read, and spent some time in my “happy place”. That’s what Kathy J calls my 2 square feet of Blackberry reception I get in my tent:

My Happy Place

Also finished the Drupal Multimedia book and started the Drupal Social Networking book. Then watched a Netflix video I brought along. Real party animal, I know. Sorry to disappoint.

The only other news…and this is actually BIG news…
I found a cap!!! HARD, you no longer have to listen to me whine about my favorite 8-year old Yamaha baseball cap that fell apart on that cold, WINDY 11-mile Mt. Pleasant-322 loop. Take a look:

Life is Good hat

Back to reading. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow. I have a hike planned that should give me the mother of all views. Cross your fingers.

Thursday, June 11

Wow, if yesterday was a slow news day, I’m not sure what to call today. It rained all day so I stayed in the tent and read. I think the boredom may have gotten to me. Or could I possibly still blame it on the altitude? You decide:

charlie-hat.jpg charlie-shoes.jpg

Friday, June 12

It FINALLY cleared up this morning (after torrential downpours half the night. Holy cow. There were several tents at the campground that were demolished. My Walmart tent stood the test with only a few minor leaks. All excited about the clear skies, I got up at 5:30 and headed over to the Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the views. I got about 1/4 of the way through the park and was stopped by a gate. Road closed. Ugh. Apparently all that rain that we got at 8,000 feet was snow up at the 11,000 and 12,000 feet. *sigh* Back down to the teenage brats that have taken up residence across from my site. They bicker constantly…and loudly. Fortunately, they are leaving tomorrow morning. I can stand to continue to wear my headphones till then.

So I read and played on the computer all morning. Got a good start on a video I’m making of this trip. Just need some footage from the marathon and the way home and I’m set. About 1pm I couldn’t take the brats anymore. I packed Charlie in his crate and headed back to the park to see if the road was open yet. Yup! Headed on up….straight for the Alpine visitor center, the high point on the road. You park at the visitor’s center and then hike up some steps for a few more hundred feet of elevation, topping out at over 12,000 feet. There were two buses of German speaking people there. Really cool! I felt like I was back in the Swiss Alps again. I even tested out my German with some woman when I asked her to take a picture for me. Boy am I rusty speaking it! But I can still understand most of it. Here some pics of the journey:

dsc02744.jpg dsc02743.jpg dsc02741.jpg dsc02739.jpg dsc02738.jpg dsc02734.jpg dsc027351.jpg dsc02736.jpg

Saturday, June 13

Preparations for tomorrow’s marathon are complete:

Pick up race packet checkmark.gif
Painstakingly pin bib number
on shirt (Al would be so proud)
Configure Blackberry for easy
texting and video taping
while running
Headphones to listen to the
same 13 songs for 4+ hours
Gatorade checkmark.gif
Electrolyte gummies checkmark.gif
Lay clothes out checkmark.gif
Clip toenails checkmark.gif
Hydrate checkmark.gif
Carb up checkmark.gif
Set alarm checkmark.gif
Acclimate to elevation checkmark.gif
Confirm insanity checkmark.gif

Tomorrow’s the big day. I’m as ready for it as I’m going to get. I feel better prepared physically than for the last marathon although the altitude may cure that. Mentally, I’m not sure what to expect. The last marathon was an absolute life-changing experience. I spent 3 days afterwards on a euphoric endorphin high and then the next 3 weeks bawling followed by a couple months of a roller coaster ride. Hopefully this marathon isn’t quite so…uh…eventful. We’ll see.

Sunday, June 14 – A Good Butt-Kickin’

A marathon at high altitude? No problem. I’ll just get there a week early and acclimate. Hah. Showed up at the start along with about 75 others. Beside me are Grandma and Grandpa. So cute:

Grandpa and Grandma
Grandpa and Grandma

An account of the marathon, Sandy-style:

Mile 1-3: Hey, this isn’t TOOO bad. Could be worse. I feel the altitude but I’ll just take it easy here on the inclines.

Miles 3-6: Hmmm…this 3 mile hill didn’t seem this steep when I drove it. Reduced to run/walk till the top of the hill.

Miles 6-9: Woohoo! What goes up must come down. Flying along losing the altitude we just gained.

View from the top of the hill

Mile 10: Oh…not feeling so great. I’ll lay off the Gatorade and grab water at the next aid station

Mile 12: Lookin’ at a 5:20 finish. I’ll take it.

View of mountains from park in Estes Park

Mile 13: Mmmm…really not feelin’ so good. Better walk before I barf. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 14: Try to run the downhill….ohhh…lightheaded….better walk or I’ll pass out. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 15: Trying to decide whether to barf or pass out. Not sure I’ll have a choice in the matter. Emotions getting raw. I’m seeing months of preparation going down the drain. If I have to finish this at this speed, I may not make the cutoff. Tears well up and spill over. Quick, wipe tears, there’s an aid station. Don’t want to be pulled for what is clearly altitude sickness. And more importantly, don’t want to look like a wuss. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 16: SOS to friends on chat…thinking of dropping out… can’t continue another 10 miles feeling like this. HELP! Friends text back, getting my mind off feeling green. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 17: I really should just barf and get it over with. NO! I have this rule about barfing. It goes something like this: Avoid barfing at all cost. I went for over 20 years without barfing (except for once because of anesthesia). That’s my claim to fame. No barfing if I can prevent it. Carry on. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 18: Still walking and holding chat conversations up long 3 mile hill. This one didn’t seem as steep in the car either. Rethinking next year’s backpacking trip. Why do I need to backpack in Colorado. I think Indiana or Illinois or Iowa would be great places to backpack. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 19: Ahhh…aid station and porta-potty. I really should try to go. Ohhh….watch it…almost lost car keys in porta-potty slurry. That was close. Aid station volunteers were the local high school track team all decked out with costumes and a nice spread of fruits and beverages. Don’t barf on them. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.


Mile 20: Try to run a downhill. Stomach sends warning. Forgive me HARD for I have sinned. I am wasting a downhill. Don’t barf. Don’t pass out. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 21: Haven’t been able to get anything in my stomach since mile 13. Chewed some ice earlier but had to spit it out. Wouldn’t go down. I’m getting dehydrated. Take orange slice at aid station. Either the orange juice is going down or everything’s coming up. Juice goes down. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 22: Inhibitions gone. Start singing aloud to The Climb by Miley Cyrus. Chat on Blackberry.

Mile 23: Feeling a little better. Starting to run/walk again on the downhills. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 23.5: Grandma passes me. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 24: I go off course. Apparently missed a turn. End up in downtown Estes with all the tourists. I am clearly lost. I tell them, “I’m the first, the rest are coming soon.” Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 24.5: Police officers stop traffic for me to cross busy highway. Back on course. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 25: Run/Walk. Chat on Blackberry. Listen to The Climb by Miley Cyrus on Blackberry.

Mile 25.5: Donna posts on Facebook, asking how Colorado is and if I’ve run the race yet. I tell her .5 to go.

Mile 26.2: DONE! Get finishers medal. Talk with Grandma. This is her 40th marathon. She and her husband are doing a marathon in all 50 states. Her husband is on round 2 of this. All the marathons of round 2 have been completed since he turned 70.

Head back to campground. I wasn’t sure what shape I would be in after the marathon…didn’t know if I’d be up to driving. So I made tentative arrangements for another night at the campsite. Felt fine though. Actually, my legs were good. I could have run another 5 or 8 miles no problem if it weren’t for the altitude. So I started packing up…but none too quickly. Still lightheaded from the race. Bending over and standing up again had some negative effects. Took a couple breaks but finally got the tent down and everything packed into the car. Took Charlie for a short walk and headed downtown to grab a pizza before I left. It was almost 5:00, I had run a marathon in the morning, and I STILL hadn’t eaten anything all day. I was famished. But my stomach said “fat chance”. Nibbled on a couple slices of pizza for a few hundred miles until I got to Colby, Kansas and turned in for the night.

So…moral of the story: No more races at altitude until I’m LIVING at altitude. Made for a great story though, didn’t it? :-D

Monday-Tuesday, June 15-16 – The Perfect Ending to the Perfect Vacation

My Rescuers!

The drive back slowly went downhill. Literally and figuratively. Got down to a lower elevation and the lightheadedness disappeared. Stomach queasiness persisted though. Plus a couple other things cropped up. Made it through travel day 2 to just inside Illinois. Exhausted, I stopped for the night and slept 10 hours which should have rejuvenated me but didn’t. I was just drained. But I continued on, chatting occasionally with friends to keep me focused. When I talked with Carol and Sally they suggested they come meet me and drive me in. I brushed it off jokingly. No person in their right mind would consider doing that. I was barely in Ohio. They’d be driving a good 250 miles till we met. I was right. They weren’t in their right minds. They were completely insane! They called me back half an hour later and said they were on their way. OMG!!! This was too good to be true. I stopped at a gas station to walk Charlie and grab some high test caffeine for the last push of the day – to meet Carol and Sally on the eastern border of Ohio. What a wonderful sight for my sore, blurry, tired eyes. We met in the pouring down rain, grabbed some soup at Bob Evans and then headed back with Carol at the wheel of my car, following Sally in hers. What an absolute relief! I was really dragging and I don’t mess around with driving tired so probably would have had another night out on the road if it weren’t for their rescue mission. Carol and I talked and laughed our heads off the rest of the way back. Got home around 1:30am till I went and picked up my other dog. Whew! What an adventure every second of the past week and a half has been – even more than I bargained for. You two rock, Carol and Sally!!! Thanks for making my trip that much more special!