Sunday, April 25, 2010

Too Cool race at Lake Georgetown

Fun at the lake and another "Too Cool!" race: Team Vignette did the long course at Lake Georgetown yesterday. Kip raced with us for once, yay! And except for rain on Friday night making for slick bike trails first thing Saturday morning, we had excellent weather. Throw in a tough but entertaining race course, and it made for a memorable day.

This photo will be explained below, but Facebook shows the first picture in my posts, so I chose this one as the lead-in :)

The race started with a short run to a bunch of flags stuck in the ground. We had to find the one with our team number, so John ran ahead, scanned the numbers, and grabbed ours almost immediately. Nice!

The first leg was a paddle, and we were glad to get started on it because the wind was due to pick up at any time. I thought it might be good to get the biggest open water done first, but later on I was second-guessing that choice. We had nice, flat water for our first two checkpoints. The second one was up an inlet and there wasn't a great spot to land the canoes. John hopped out to scramble up the bank and Dave followed from his boat. They soon came back with the CP punched, just as Kip was managing to "draw" himself into the water. I looked up to see an empty boat, huh. He and Dave recovered quickly and soon we were headed across the lake.

The westerly wind was revving up, but still not too bad (which was good since we were going perpendicular to it at that point). Dave tried to explain which inlet we were looking for, and we ended up pulling into the one with the Cedar Breaks boat ramp. That turned out to be one inlet too soon, oops! Our gaff allowed Team Werewolves to jump ahead of us.

We got the third checkpoint in the correct spot and found #4 without incident along with a couple other teams. As we headed back toward Russell Park, John and I had a discussion about where we were aiming and where the "river" part of the lake was, since our last paddle point was upriver from TA. I was pretty sure I had that part wired, and we took a mostly-direct route toward the point at Russell Park. Team Werewolves veered a bit too far left but soon corrected and stayed ahead of us.

As soon as we made the corner, the full force of the now-strong westerly winds was upon us. Wind and waves conspired to keep us from getting to the opposite shore, but at least it was a heading directly into the wind. Much easier than from the side. It seemed to take a really long time, but eventually we all made it to land. Kip ran up to find the checkpoint near a pond.

John jumped out too, and I used the opportunity to swap places with him in the boat. I generally prefer to steer, especially since I'm not a strong "motor" which the front of a canoe needs. But when we get challenging conditions like paddling downwind while surfing waves, I yield to John's expertise.

That didn't make it any easier to deal with the slightly-nerve-wracking crossing. The only good part was that it happened a lot more quickly than the upwind trip. I tried to focus on getting my blade in the water for support, but occasionally the water wasn't there. The canoe lifted up and dropped down, sometimes riding a wave, other times almost getting overrun by one. John worked hard to keep the boat straight, because any sideways forces would cause problems. I felt completely unstable only once, but was really glad when the opposite shore showed up!

Just a bit more maneuvering got us back around to Russell Park, across an inlet, around a motor boat that decided to cut us off for no apparently reason, and back to TA. Phew, that was an experience.

Time to bike! We were told to bring our digital camera and take photos of various mile markers as we made our way along the bike trails and then below the dam toward the town of Georgetown. Cool!

But first we had to deal with the slick bike trails. I was in no mood to deal with the slipperyness, so I got off and ran quick a bit of the first couple miles. Good training for our running races... We passed mile 18, then a marker without a number on it. Not far past that, Team Werewolves had stopped to figure out why their odometer read just over one mile since mile 18 without a sign of a "19" on a mile marker.

We continued onward, taking a quick shortcut up a switchback where we met a man and his son out hiking. He confirmed that we were headed toward mile 19, but seemed to suggest that it was "right up there". Well, it wasn't close. We kept going and going, and soon we were second-guessing whether the marker might have been in the switchback? It was a really stupid move to cut a switchback when we needed to find a mile marker, and we paid the price with a bunch of angst. Finally we found the mile marker and I did a celebration dance. Phew!

We cut across Jim Hogg park to continue on the bike trail. This section had fewer trees and more open fields, so the rocks were drier and less slick. Plus it was less technical overall, so I started riding better and our pace picked up. We found mile 22 in this section:

Lots of bluebonnets along the trail!

We jumped onto the paved bike trail that led below the dam and along the creek. Here there were mile markers almost every 0.1 mile. Here we are at mile 4.0:

John snapped this one over his shoulder while riding:

Mile 2.1:

When we got to the town park we found Art and Richard waiting for us. They checked our photos so far and gave us our next clue sheet. It was an urban section on foot - cool!

We started with this dino in the park across the creek:

Then a specific tombstone in a nearby cemetery. The locals were very helpful in giving us directions:

We had a couple checkpoints at the "Red Poppy" festival going on downtown. Every single person we asked knew exactly where that was, so we didn't have any trouble locating it. Here we are with red poppies:

The other "festival" photo is at the top of this post - us with someone eating funnel cake (we all had to be in the urban race photos, but not in the mile marker photos along the bike trails, FYI). The woman was excited to help us out with our scavenger hunt. People in Georgetown are nice!

We located the firehouse bell and a nice gentleman in a kilt took our picture:

Over to Southwestern University and to the chapel for this photo of a statue:

We spotted the Werewolves heading the other way from the chapel, getting the points in the opposite order. Back to our bikes! Art verified our photos and we were on our way back upstream after stopping to put some water in our camelbaks. We kind of misunderestimated the length of this leg, so we ended up a bit short on liquid and fuel. Luckily Dave and John were feeling good enough to tow me and Kip, so our pace up the paved trail was good.

Mile 1.0 heading back (John took this on the fly):

Mile 3.2 (duh):

Another "on the fly" bluebonnet shot for the heck of it:

I was feeling a lot better about riding on the trail now that it was dry. Kip did great too, so we didn't suffer as much going back. We found mile 21 without incident:

By the time we got our final mile marker photo, we were all pretty tired of the rocks, mostly because of the concentration that it took to focus on them mile after mile. But everyone did great and we FINALLY got back to TA. Phew!

Only one more leg! This one was a trek to several points in the woods. There were all relatively close to trails, so we jogged along until we needed to bushwhack. Actually, we took the long way around to the first point instead of following the bank of the lake near the TA like would have made better sense. After that we started hitting the points with a better plan.

One checkpoint was in a creek, so we stopped where the trail crossed the draw. We weren't sure if we should turn up or down. John scanned upstream and spotted the flag - nice catch! We didn't have any issues with the next couple other points either.

Our last point was in the "middle finger" of three reentrants and we were wishing we had brought the camera for a fitting group shot (but I couldn't have posted it here anyway!). We pushed through some vegetation and found a neat little drop down some slick rock. I scanned further down the hill, but when I finally looked right below me I saw the flag under a tree branch. Nice! John scrambled down to punch the passport.

We headed back to TA to learn that we had finished in first place at about 8.5 hours, yay! Fun, tough, interesting race - huge kudos to the Too Cool directors! Thank you to my awesome teammates!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Birding part 3 of 3

More photos from the birding trip are now up on my website (some repeats from the first 2 blogs posts plus a bunch more):

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Birding part 2

More photos from our amazing birding trip!

Mom and I had such a fun week and it's hard to believe that it's over already. I've never seen so many new (to me) birds in my life and may never again. Especially if Bryan's not around to tell me what I'm looking at.

Here we were looking at the camera :)

I got a chance to play around with taking photos through a scope - it turns my little camera into a megazoom. One of my first attempts, looking at a couple of gulls (possibly Laughing Gulls?):

A better shot without the dark corners of the scope in the image - this time of a Black Bellied Plover (the bird in the back) and a couple of Dowitchers - at least I think that's what Bryan said :)

Bryan stalking a Red Knot:

I didn't know what this was when we saw it (and it made a pink bubble with its throat - cool!) but now I think it's an Anole:

Here's a Texas special - we called it a "TV", I'll leave the ID for anyone who wants to figure it out for themselves:

Hanging out watching the water drip area that attracted thirsty, tired birds that had just crossed the Gulf:

Bryan doing his stuff - fantastic teaching, answering questions, identifying birds, and helping us all become better birders (or in my case, a birder):

Cormorants at the Rookery:

Great Egrets (white) and Roseate Spoonbills (pink) at the Rookery:

Roadside birding:

Bench birding:

2 cents to everyone who figures out what's wrong with this sign:

It's a turtle?

One of many, many Scarlet Tanagers - beautiful, colorful birds!

Mom got to ride the Goldwing with Jerry - maybe almost as big a thrill as seeing Painted Buntings for the first time!

Group shot on our final night - what a wonderful bunch of folks! Thank you all for making me feel welcome and not a dumb beginner!

A link to Bryan's blog and some gorgeous photos:

Thanks again, Bryan!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Birding part 1

A quick post just to get a few photos online...

My Mom and I are on a birding trip to the Texas coast. Very cool! We have been on the go for the past 2.5 days - so many birds (and other creatures) to see. Yesterday we went to High Island and Mom saw her first Painted Buntings, yay! Today we did a Rail Walk at the Anahuac refuge and flushed a Yellow Rail. I didn't know what that meant before today, but trust me, it's a special thing.

Many more photos coming eventually...

Houston, Mom has landed:

Kip checking out a woodpecker (Kip drove me to Houston and humored us with a bit of birding at a north Houston park):

Our guide Bryan finding one of many, many species for us to gawk at (he's really good at it):

A dragonfly encounter during lunch:

A green heron hanging out (don't worry, I'm not really trying to take photos of birds with my simple camera, I just figured I try it out on a large bird a few feet away - and it's still not a great shot):

Sounds like rain and wind tomorrow. Adventure racers would be dismayed. Birders get all excited. Definitely a different type of crowd. But still fun to hang around with!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

CSUR Dallas race pics

Yesterday John and I plus Kip and Dave did an urban race in Dallas. High Trek Adventure has been renamed CitySolve, and this year the national championship will be held in New Orleans. The top 3 teams in the local races win free entry, so that's what John and I were playing for.

We were relatively patient at the start, waiting until we had the answer to the multiple choice question about the number of people in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and then making note of the street intersection that corresponded to the answer (17). John booked it down Leonard Street and we got our clue sheets.

We noticed one checkpoint located close to the Cotton Bowl, which meant we could take the green DART train in that direction. I worked with our crew while John asked a local for help finding Exposition Ave. We got a couple answers in that area, including checkpoint 5 right at the Fair Park train stop:

The "Detour" checkpoint required finding specific items related to "cotton" or "gin". While we were standing right next to the Cotton Bowl, we decided we ought to get our photo with it (slight zoom may be required to see it!):

Then we ran back toward town on Exposition until we came across this likely NCAA conference name (Big Sky) for checkpoint 1:

Sheila helped us locate the Orange Salon for checkpoint 9 where we passed Kip and Dave heading in the other direction - hi guys!

We headed to the Baylor DART stop, but belatedly realized that it would be another 10 minutes before the train arrived (containing Kip and Dave, as it turned out!). Instead we ran back toward downtown where we located "Joule" for checkpoint 10:

Then slightly north to the Backbeat Cafe as checkpoint 3:

We made a slight detour over to the Asian Art Museum where we needed to fold a piece of paper into an origami lotus flower. It seemed straightforward until the "pull the corner through itself" type of instruction, which stymied me. The lady there took pity on me, showing me how to do it on one corner of my paper. That still didn't help, so she did another. Finally I shmushed the other 2 corners into a bit of a mess and she called it "good enough!" Phew, that was rather clumsy. Thank you, nice lady!

John led the way north from there, over the freeway toward the American Airlines arena. Luckily our crew is on the ball, because I had it in my head that the Dallas Mavericks still play at Reunion Area. I'm not sure I can imagine going there and finding that it had been demolished...

Instead we went to the right place, where we found checkpoint 6:

We made a tour of the arena plaza until we finally got ourselves oriented across the street to find checkpoint 4, the Ghost Bar:

Interestingly, we just missed Kip and Dave who had passed by only a couple minutes earlier. They left for the mural in the West End, while we started for the finish line. The next 15 minutes involved a communication snafu that left us backtracking to a CVS where we located the remaining "cotton" items for checkpoint 7:

Finally it was time to head to the finish! Even with the backtrack and extra 15 minutes, we were the 2nd team across the line (after Kip and Dave). Way to go, teams! Well, except that one team came in soon after us with 25 minutes of bonus time for two extra photos: One person with a lasso and cowboy hat, plus 3 photos of people wearing Dallas sports teams paraphernalia. That put them into 1st, Kip/Dave in 2nd, and us in 3rd. We still got free entry into New Orleans, so mission accomplished!