Wednesday, July 31, 2013


My mate Nate runs a business called Buds and Blooms, and he has done a lot of work out at Sierra Water Gardens. I had never been out there, but when Nate asked me to photograph a container he designed for a competition, I dragged some camera gear out there early one morning and walked around in awe of what they've done in their little slice of paradise.

Here's Nate's (hopefully!) prize container:

Today's color is purple

And here's a hanging arrangement he made inside their little handcrafted greenhouse:


Not usually how I would have spent a Saturday morning, but I was super impressed with both Sierra Water Gardens and Nate's living installations out there. Check 'em out!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hidden Beauty

This was my first time making a photo using the Brenizer Method. This short escape to Tahoe (Murphy literally dragged me out of the house) was about the most exciting thing I did during several weeks of convalescence after Boston.

Near Hidden Beach, stormy day (click for much larger)

This is something like ~75 images stitched together with an 85mm lens. I'd do some things differently given another whack at this photo, but hey, learning by doing is cool.


Thursday, July 25, 2013


I suppose it's now officially a habit for me to share a couple photos from flights to interesting places. I've written before about being fascinated by watching the earth go by below, and that's not showing signs of changing anytime soon.

This is the last post from January's escape to New Zealand, and I have to say that I felt a curious lump in my throat while flying from Chch to Auckland and then out of the country. I can't think of any other place that's made me feel so horrible about leaving.

Puffies (and N Island landfall, lower right corner of frame)

Airports never fail to be interesting

So by my count, I've bored you to death with twenty-six posts from this trip. Maybe there'll be one or two more as I go back through the piles of jiggabytes I came home with, but this is essentially it.

26 posts from NZ has made for one GIGANTIC backlog of other material, and wow, is there a lot waiting in the wings.

'Til next time...


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

High Water Line

So I make it to Nelson and get to spend a couple awesome days visiting my cousin Andrew, his wife Jennie, and their lovely girls Ella and Maya.

Andrew's a keen runner, so I am happy to head out with him after a day off after my little mistake in Akaroa, but the legs simply aren't having it. For the second time in my life, I walk home from a run, this time after only making it about a mile. I have something really wrong with my right quad, and cooperation levels are at an all-time low. Andrew is certainly still gloating about leaving me for dust.

Thus, I know that my gleeful running camp is over, but knowing to not do anything stupid(er) is a step in the right direction. Also, it's raining torrentially in Nelson, so hanging out and catching up with the fam sounds way better anyway.

These biblical rains coincide cruelly with the year's highest tides, which already on their own intrude into the waterfront neighborhoods. Andrew takes me for a guided tour of Places Water Shouldn't Be, which turns out to be a nice way to fill the gaps between Snack Time, Coffee Time, and Beer Time.

High tides usually come into this neighborhood...

...But usually not this far...

And this is supposed to be a docile creek (I think it's Maitai Creek?)

Andrew and Jennie claim up and down that Nelson is super beautiful and that it rarely rains like this there, but there's nary a break in three days, so I have NO reason to believe them. Guess I'll just have to go back :)


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

En Route

By the time I finish gawking at Kaikoura Peninsula, the shadows are starting to lengthen and I have quite a few km separating me from Nelson, my destination for the day. Thus, I only allow myself to be distracted a couple of times:

Near Kaikoura

Near Nelson

The day's drive is only a little over 400km, but it's been bucketing rain for most of it, and the road is slow going in places no matter the weather.  The rain (and the road) in the mountains near Whangamoa is...enlightening...and by the time I hit Nelson, I'm ready for a beer.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Madness Triumphs (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 9)

I accidentally ran a marathon the day of Brett and Hollis' wedding. Yes, such a thing is possible.

The morning dawns warm, calm, and clear. I haven't run a whole lot the previous 2 days (12 and 10), and I am kind of itching for a big one. The festivities don't start until 5pm, so I have allllllll day to get myself into trouble. And how...

I am sorely in need of breakfast, coffee, and email, and taking care of those, along with some general route-finding for a run, pushes me 'til nearly noon before I lace up and get underway. I am looking for a ~20mi-ish run, figuring that will be a good way to cap off the previous 9 days of destruction. I know I'll need something to eat, but the best I can do is a bag of sour gummi worms from the market, whom (?) I de-bag and stuff wholesale into the little pocket in my water bottle. I'm already channeling that line from Ferris Bueller (2:43 if the link doesn't take you there).

I figure I'll head over toward Le Bons Bay, snag a nice view of the open ocean from up above, and head home. Once again, I climb up and out of Akaroa, winding through farmland as my view of the harbor grows and grows. The road goes up and up and up. And up. Uh oh.

Akaroa from waaaaay above

Turns out that the climb is a little over 2100' in 3 miles. That hurts A LOT. But hey, I've got sour gummi worms to dull the pain! The road along the top goes up and down and up and down, and that roller coaster is a very welcome reprieve from the horrific climb. When I finally get a view of Le Bons Bay (stunning), I'm rather looking forward to not going the whole way there. When the road leaves the ridgeline and pitches down, its steepness immediately takes a toll; I'm working hard just to keep my legs underneath me. I suppose running down this road in search of a ~20mi run is my first mistake (OK, second; leaving at noon would be the first), and it directly contributes to my next mistake: trusting the nice lady.

As I've seen no water source in ten and a half miles, the little trinket shop in the historic library alongside the road seems like a good bet; the day is now blistering hot at >90deg and, while I've been conserving water, I will eventually need more if my goal is making it home alive, which it is. I stop and chat to the woman running the shop, and she's super friendly. She asks if I've come up from the beach, and she raises an eyebrow when I tell her that I've come from Akaroa. I infer that this is not a normal occurrence.

She says "well if you've come that far, you really ought to see the beach. It's only 2k down the road and it's amazing!" As she's a local, I have every reason to believe her, and hey, what's another mile each way? I refill my water, tell her I'll be back for more, and set out towards the beach and further away from home. My internal distance-meter may not be great, but I know about when a mile's gone by, and there ain't no beach. By now, I'm fairly committed to seeing this bloody thing, so I march on. Subsequent research has indicated that she was only off by a factor of 2 or so:

2k my ass

I arrive at the beach, pull my GPS out of my pocket, and dejectedly eat a gummi worm while I stare at the numbers "13.1" on the screen.

Well, fuck.

Gonna be a long day.

OMFG, aka Le Bons Bay

So in all fairness, the beach is stunning, and I'm super glad to have seen it. But as badly as I want to dive in and douse myself in freezing radness, this ain't my first rodeo, and running half a marathon home covered in gritty dried salt water sounds considerably less pleasant than running half a marathon home already does. So I call upon every last ounce of restraint, turn my back on the ocean, and point myself towards Akaroa.

Home is somewhere this way

The curious thing about starting and ending a run at the ocean is that the climbing to get home is as much as the climbing to get to the turnaround. After a brief stop back at the trinket shop for more water, I begin the slog up this godawful 2100' climb to the ridge road. The day has proven to be baking hot and totally windless, and the landscape is filled with that particular sound of buzzing critters that strongly invokes buzzards picking away at dried carcasses. Like mine.

If I could bottle this special flavor of misery, I'd be a tycoon.

I'm now milling through water, and any hope of conservation ended about 15 degrees and 5 miles ago. At the top of the climb, I flag down a tourist car and beg for water. Knowing that the big climb is out of the way, I feel good about actually making it home, but it's not in the bag yet, even though I can see Akaroa.

Home in sight

Upon reaching the end of the road up top, I stop another tourist, beg for water again, eat my last gummi worm (breakfast of champions), and take a deep breath. Because the 2100' and 3-mile climb to get up here earlier is now a 2100' descent over the same 3 miles. Oh good lord. Within a mile, E-V-E-R-Y-thing starts seizing, and it's not pretty. The toll has been taken, and every stride downhill is accompanied by unrepentant screaming from all available nerve endings.

"Now imagine your pain is a white ball of healing light." If my power animal was a penguin, it would have melted and perished hours earlier.

When I reach the bottom of the descent and begin the last ~mile back to Akaroa, I'm reduced to a rather unattractive hobble. It takes everything I've got to run the last 50m to the house, and my sense of humor has decidedly seen better days. I'm a total shambles. And surprise, the bus to the wedding leaves in just under an hour. YAY!

Lest you think I'm kidding

I rapidly prioritize the requisite tasks to get me to the wedding. In order:
1) Ice cold beer
2) Big glass of water
3) Ice cold Red Bull
4) Hobble upstairs to get towel
5) Hobble downstairs backwards to shower
6) Hobble back upstairs to get dressed
7) Hobble downstairs backwards again to leave house
8) Beg for ride to bus pickup (about 1/4 mile away)

The wedding is lovely, albeit in the beating sun. Afterwards, I drink a prodigious amount of alcohol and remain strangely sober. My body seems to be converting everything to Repair Calories, and the booze kills the pain, so let's call that a win-win.

While I don't yet know it, this glorious destructo-run will cap off my impromptu running camp, totaling 148 miles over 10 days. Woohoo!


Pause; Mute

Here's a photo of Sam. This is not about him, but having a photo here makes all of you Facebook folks more likely to clicky on the linky.

Ohhhhhh yawwwwwnnnnnnn

So not only have I been quiet for the past few weeks, but I've also left my stories from the NZ trip horribly in the lurch. Usually, a quiet blog is a byproduct of being super busy at work, but that's not -entirely- the case this time.

I got scared silent.

I'm going to state something outright that is probably painfully obvious to most of my seven faithful readers, but may need elucidation for those who aren't regulars:

This blog is my greatest opportunity to project a positive outlook on the world I navigate. What I write is the truth, but it is not the whole truth. And, save a handful of editorial exaggerations or downplays in the name of humor or foreshadowing, it's nothing but the truth.

Back to the "whole truth" part: I see no point in sharing (or oversharing) everything about my life. Not only is there no compulsion to do so, but I believe that doing so would be counterproductive, as there's enough bitching, whining, and general carrying-on on the internet to cover the state of Texas three feet deep in bullshit, and the last thing we need is more of that.

I have stress and uncertainty and unhappiness and doubt and anger (and on and on) in my repertoire, but those have no place here. I rather enjoy having the choice and the freedom to write about things I like, things that make me happy, and things that make the world a better place. Go ahead, next time you're REALLY bored, and read back through 6 years and 300+ posts, where you'll see only the tiniest snippets of unpleasantness.

This is no accident. This is by design.

Now that I've explicitly stated that, I get to break form. Betcha didn't see that coming!

Some 50 weeks ago, I got hit by a car on my bike, and by and large, I came through it OK. By "by and large" and "OK," I mean somewhere between "unscathed" and "totally hosed," and I normally leave it up to the reader to interpret that as he or she may choose. In reality, it was firmly between the two. I wasn't hurt badly enough that it made sense to cancel our trip to Europe a week later, even though there was zero chance that I'd get to race.

Mentally, there were some interesting things I spent a few months working through, but we're not here to discuss that today. Physically, I spent about 7 months recuperating between self-care, physical therapy, and manual therapy. During those 7 months, I had a couple relapses that took me back to square one. I carried continual, daily pain through that time, albeit to varying degrees ranging from "annoying" to "grinding." I slept poorly, I worked diligently to recover, and my first big milestone was being able to regain some level of physical activity.

Aside: after reaching that milestone, I discovered that continuing recovery and regaining fitness were oddly decoupled: running was (hilariously) far easier on my back than swimming or biking, and running seemed to neither help nor hinder my recovery. From this realization was spawned the goal of running "fast" in Boston.

Back on track: unfortunately, there are medical bills associated with this whole process, and I'd rather not get into the ins and outs of why getting them paid for has been such a frustrating ordeal. What I will say is that my ~3 hours in the emergency room allowed me to amass well north of $30k in bills. If I were to get left with those bills, I'd be on my way to medical bankruptcy several times over. As theoretically-responsible-parties excused themselves, one after the other, from paying these bills, my frustration rose and rose. OK, so just for fun, that list includes:
1) My health insurance
2) The auto insurance of the guy who hit me
3) The guy himself
4) His employer (this happened while he was on the clock)

Fortunately, the saving grace in all this is that MY auto insurance policy includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage in my policy is what's kept me whole, and I cannot begrudge them that. A minor wrinkle is that the process of paying out everything that's owed couldn't even begin until I got a clean bill of health (in March), so to say that this has dragged along is a mild understatement.

Now here's where it gets curiouser and curiouser. As the insurance adjuster gets around to processing the claim in May or June or whenever, it might seem that a reasonable thing to do is to Google the policyholder (me) and see what he's been up to. She does this, and lo and behold, the first or second hit is this little corner of teh interwebz. Jackpot! And on this blog, I talk about happy things (see above). I wrote about the handful of hikes we went on in Europe (~4 days of our monthlong trip), not bothering to mention the rrrrrrippppping back pain associated with them, opting instead to talk about how awesome it is to be in such beautiful settings. I wrote about running in New Zealand in January, not bothering to mention how I was starting to resign myself to a lifetime of back problems, opting instead to share photos and stories of adventure and challenge. And when I had my big (and utterly debilitating) relapse in February, I didn't make any mention of it at all, as there was frankly no positive spin to put on it whatsoever.

So you see the pattern emerging. From the perspective of an uneducated blog visitor (and I mean that in the nicest possible way, guys and gals), it's reasonable to assume that I lead a charmed life full of unicorns and rainbows and shit. However, we've already established that this perspective is a projection that I've chosen, so to extrapolate too much from the photos, stories, and information I present is as patently invalid a process as I could possibly imagine.

The kicker was when I got word that my own insurance was considering using my chosen projection from this blog when making their judgement about my medical bills etc. INSTEAD of using the provided reams of documentation from medical professionals, my own private first-hand account of the accident, police reports, and so on and so forth. This implication was so stunning to me that I could do little more than shrug my shoulders and act like I wasn't surprised.

And I guess, in reality, I'm not.

In the interest of being Fair and Balanced, I should add that the (pick one) {threat; consideration; suggestion} was defused before it happened after I provided my insurance company with a manifesto not too unlike this one. So in the end, no blood no foul, and I suppose that they get both a tip of the hat and a wag of the finger for dropping the standoff after creating it.

Through all this, I have no reservation in saying that my opinions of the healthcare and insurance industries are at an all-time low. They're run as businesses, and part of business is Staying in Business, not necessarily providing the right care. I know full-well that a grand majority of doctors, nurses, PAs, EMTs, paramedics, etc. care DEEPLY about what they do, and it's a crying shame that the industry that supports them can leave such a bitter impression upon those who receive care. I'm writing this now because it's all done, finally, and I'm thrilled to have the whole ordeal behind me. It's been a year far too mired in the machinations of the seedy underbelly of How to Pay for Medical Expenses When Nobody Wants To.

So if you're reading this, Miss Adjuster, realize that this isn't a personal attack on you. You're just doing what you do. And so am I.

Onwards and upwards! I will now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.


Past Detritus