Exit stage left

Well I’ve started my exit procedure for the Arab games… So far I’m a little freaked, not that I’m leaving, but that they’ve taken all forms of identification that I can use to be recognized as a US citizen… I have no ID card and no passport in hand; since rule #1 when traveling internationally is no never relinquish your passport for any reason I’m a little paranoid. Also given my luck with legal system in Qatar I’m freaked even more than usual.

How do I deal with this freak out? I go to the one pub that doesn’t require a form of ID to get in and have a few pints.

My bags are replaced and mostly packed, I have a weeks worth of clothes laid out and ready, I’m planning on getting rid of some more things before I do my final pack. Right now I’m looking at to checked bags and a single carry in. I’m hopefully going to learn from my last trip to Doha and pack my gifts into my carry on so they don’t get lost at sea like they did the last time I traveled from the sandbox.

March 1st I should be home enjoying the company of good friends and a special someone at I can’t wait to see!

Suitcases….

Packing for home and discovering your two suitcases that have traveled the world with you have developed quirks you can’t live with anymore are ready for the scrap heap. I’ve retired my large Samsonite and have traded it in for a North Face wheeled duffle. It’s not perfect and it’s not what I usually go for, I know it sounds as though I’m dating the thing, but my luggage have been with me for quite some time and it’s like anything else you own for many years, it’s comfortable and you know all the quirks and tricks to make it better. Tis time to move on and get a new suitcase :-).

Doha – Part Deux

Well, I’m back…  I never thought I would set foot into the sandbox again and yet here I am, enticed by a friend to come here to work on the Pan Arab Games.  The last time I was here I was running from things back in the states, this time I’m looking for a challenge and I think I may have found it.  The Games are a little behind in planning, not by any fault of anyone here, just a lack of experience it seems.  That’s ok, everyone has to start somewhere and it’s best to start somewhere like Doha, where you get the support of your team to help you find the best ways to get things done!

When my friend asked me to be a part of these games I was interested, the challenge this time is being the head of competition venues for logistics.  It’s a huge step for me, and I hope I’m up for the challenge.  I’m writing this on what is supposed to be my first day, I’m already awake at 4:30 AM, not because I’m nervous, it’s more a lack of sleep on the flight here, coupled with the 10 hour time difference from home…

Last time I was running, this time a challenge, and part of that challenge is being in touch with someone back home.  I’m looking forward to the work challenge, the keeping in touch is going to be hard with the lack of holidays.  I will get a brief one at the beginning of September, but it looks like based on the amount of work that needs to be done and the short time it needs to be done in, my leaving for any part of my holiday is not going to happen…  Maybe I can entice the certain someone onto a plane for 19 hours to come visit me…

Triathlon… No really I tried!

Ahh a nice relaxing weekend in Kelowna, it’s a paradise for boating, hiking and triathlons!  That’s right I competed in a short triathlon called the Apple Triathlon.  The distance was called a Try a Tri, something shorter than a sprint and it’s designed to be a good introduction to the world of triathlons.  Well it worked for me!  I loved it, minus the run.  Since I only run when chased it was a bit of a stretch for me to try and get my shit together enough to run 3k.

Friday the 21st…  I got up early enough to pack my things and double check I had everything I would need for the competition.  Bike, gloves, helmet, bathers, goggles and running shoes are all needed for the race.  Check, I had everything I needed and I was ready to go, well I was ready but my ride was running a little late, which was alright since we didn’t need to be there till 5pm…  Once my ride got there and I had everything down to the car, we needed to get the rack installed so we could transport my bike, the other two had bikes as well but they were able to fit in the back of someone’s truck, so it was just my bike that needed to go on the car.  While attaching the rack one of the other people "helped" me slam my middle finger in the door, the same middle finger I’ve broken two times in the last three years.

After my eyes had finished watering and some choice swear words I finished putting the rack on the car without any further "assistance" from anyone else, got the bike on the rack and we were off!

When we finally arrived in the beautiful city of Kelowna we couldn’t check into the hostel until a little later since the rooms weren’t quite ready yet.  So we went for a bit of a wander to get the layout of the city and eyeball some of the areas of the race.  After walking for a bit and just enjoying the sun we headed back to the hostel and finally got all checked in.  Once that was complete we needed to get to the race office to check in and get our kit into the transition area for the race on Saturday morning.  Part of the check-in process included a mandatory equipment check which means my bike and helmet needed to be gone over and approved by the safety folks.  Well my bike is in excellent shape and is well looked after, but it seems that my helmet wasn’t.  A large crack in the back of my brain bucket was noticed and since you can’t get out of the transition area without a helmet they wouldn’t let me race without it.  Turned out that the person who I was traveling with and racing with the next day had the same problem, we went back to the hostel, picked up the car and headed to the local bike shop to pickup new helmets.  In theory it should have been an easy task, but in the end it included three separate attempts to find a non-broken helmet and get my credit card to swipe in the payment machine.

Finally, with new helmet in tow we got back to the race transition area to check our bikes in…  I went to put my bike on the rack at my appointed space and guess what?  Someone had the same race number as I had, that meant instead of just moving the other person, I had to go back to the race office and get them to assign me a new number.  Once that was complete I had to wait another 45 minutes until someone finally would come around and install a small sign with my number on it.

One could say bad things happen in threes and they would have been right and laughing at my Friday, first it was my hand, then it was my helmet and finally it was the race number.  Finally everything was sorted and seemed to be ok!
Saturday the 22nd…  Between having really bad pre-race dreams and sleeping on the bottom bunk of the squeakiest bunk bed on the planet I was up at 5:30 AM and was going to be racing on three hours of sleep.

When I used to swim competitively as a kid I had a routine.  Put some music in my ears and zone out in an attempt to find a center before getting to the starting blocks.  I tried to do the same thing here, but some people took the no iPod during the race rule a little too literally and kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to listen to the damn thing in the pre-race area.  After telling a few people to mind there own business it was time to get ready for the race to start.  Water and I have been together for a long time and there’s something calming about it in a race environment for me.  I’m lucky that the swim is the first part of a triathlon, since it’s my strongest portion of it and it built my confidence up for the rest, which is good since the ride is my second strongest part and the run is the worst.

It was funny, looking at the rest of the field of competitors as we were wading into the lake for our swim, I thought I looked the most out of place.  That and I had a different color swimming cap from the rest of the guys.  Mine was the only gold cap, which from what I understood was meant for a higher end race the next day, but that’s what you get when you’re a late registrant like I was.  After hearing some of the guys complain about the temperature of the water, I thought it was just right for racing / swimming laps.  It wasn’t too hot or cold, it was in that zone of just right to keep you going the longest.  I got my shit together and made my way to the starting area.  There wasn’t the normal starting gun I was used to as a kid; it was a megaphone blast that got us off the mark.  There were maybe 10 people in front of me at the start, but I wasn’t having any of that so I pulled my way through the guys in front, some I couldn’t catch and I was fine with that, but I could tell the ones I needed to be in front of and made sure it happened.

I was 9th out of the water, that’s 9th out of 137 people overall, and ran up to the transition area while others walked.  I guess I wasn’t supposed to be taking this too seriously, but I know better, I’m a competitive person by nature and if I can I will go for a win no matter what.  This is kind of funny considering what kind of gear I was racing with.  The swim is all the person who is doing it.  No gear will help you swim faster than your body will let you go.  While running is similar there is some gear that will help you run a little better or faster, whereas the bike is all about the equipment I feel.  I know I can ride fast, but without the ride gear I was being passed by so many people.  In the end I was 23rd out of 137 people on the ride.  Which I can honestly say I was happy with, I know I can do better but without the right gear I’m going to be passed.  The ride on the other hand was something I knew I was going to struggle with and I did.  It’s not a matter of mind games or anything silly like that, it was a combination of the wrong gear and my lack of desire to run any distance longer than a sprint from home plate to first base in softball.

After the run was finished I was dead, or at least that’s how I felt I should have been.  It was a great high to have just crossed the finish line, but I was dead to the world and felt like I had been run through a wringer backwards.
Overall I was 75th out of 137 people, for a first timer I’m told that’s pretty good.  I’m happy with my performance and I can see room for improvement on all three segments of the race and I will try my hardest to improve before I race in another triathlon!  Which I guess means I’m going to race in another triathlon some day…

Camping, or how to make yourself as tired as possible by doing as little as possible

Pre Day 1, or the night before I decided it would be a good idea to not pack, go to dinner with friends and go to a concert that one of my co-workers was performing in.  So I stayed out late, had a great time and got home before midnight.

IMG_0353Day 1, after being out late and getting up at 5:30 so I could get my packing done, which was made a little more difficult from the lack of sleep and the lack of prep work on my part made the morning a little more difficult than it needed to be.  Of course from the night before I had a few beers and that didn’t make the hand eye coordination that much better, but I did it to myself.

We made it out earlier than anticipated and made the ferry just in time.  The ferry boats here are a lot better than the system I’m used to in Washington, the boats are larger, and better equipped for longer journey’s.  We were able to grab breakfast on the boat and it was so good.  I was able to have bacon with a side of bacon on top of my bacon.  It sure made the hangover go away pretty fast. 

We got off the boat, and made our way to the beach, which was a three hour drive from the ferry landing, but it was a nice drive and we saw some awesome vistas on IMG_0355the way.  Once we got the campground and got everything setup, you could tell during the setup what we do for a living.  First we moved tables to make space for the “village” and while some went to go get water and firewood, others setup “FAB”.  Something tells me that we packed more food than necessary, but I was sure we had packed to many beverages.  We had a great night, and made our dent in the food and beverage. 

Day 2, I got up at the dawn and wondered why I was in a tent and not in my bed, IMG_0363but than I figured out where I was any why I was feeling the way I was.  Which is to say we enjoyed as many beverages as we could safely enjoy.  It’s a great group of people I went with, we all do our own things on our own schedules.  C and I were first up and we sort of lounged around the remnants of the fire from the night before and contemplated the rest of the morning.  I decided to go shower, which I couldn’t tell if it was a mistake or not, it was definitely a shower, but it wasn’t satisfying by any stretch of the imagination. 

Once everyone was up and fed, we decided to head into Tofino to get some provisions and see if there was a surf shop to get some rental boards for the next day.  We found out that the bottle shop was going to be closed on Sunday so we decided to stock up for the rest of the weekend.  In other words we were out of beer and it seemed to be the drink of choice for everyone so we needed more.  After the bottle shop run we headed to the beach, having no knowledge of this coast, I wasn’t sure what to expect, that and I’m used to something a little different from the time I’ve spent on the Washington coast.  Needless to say my expectations were a little lower than usual, but it turns out that I shouldn’t have worried.

IMG_0365Day 3, getting up was easier now that B figured out we all needed ear plugs since sleeping on the ground + alcohol = lots of  snoring.  Thankfully we were sleeping outside, since beer farts are not something you want have in a closed space.  Getting going we ended up renting some boards, packing an eskie and heading for the beach for the second day in a row.  B, B, M and C were the only ones brave enough to head out into the water and try their hands at surfing, but since B knows how to surf and the others were keen to learn it was a good setup.  G, N and myself were content to just lounge in the sun and watch the others surf.  At one point N and I went into the water and after I found my testicles in my throat heading for my brain to do some damage I decided to get the hell out of the water and back into the sun to warm up.

Day 4, we packed our things up in record time and made our way to the ferry.  We had booked into the 3 o’clock ferry, but we managed to make good time from Tofino and made it in time for the 12:45 boat.

All in all it was a great weekend and there were some really good times with great friends.  I look forward to doing it again!

Holidays 2008 – post production report

The 2008 holidays started with my having to purchase new tires for my car…  It was needed but at the same time I was hoping to avoid doing it until after the first of the year, but as the quote goes, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans".”  So I accept the fact i had to put $900 into the car…

I started the week of Christmas at work, it was a pointless exercise as my entire venue team was gone and I think the department I work in was the only that had more than 5 people there.  I couldn’t really get anything done, so I helped where I could and left a little early on Monday.  By 5:00 pm I decided I was going to drive down to Seattle on Tuesday, so I packed the car and a bag.

It was also decided I would give another couple of friends a ride to the airport on my way out of town, I don’t mind, it’s on the way to the border!  Speaking of the border, on the way there I passed by 7 accidents, mostly people just driving to fast for the conditions.  Something to remember, four wheel drive doesn’t equal four wheel stop on ice.  Thankfully none of the accidents looked like there were any fatalities, so that’s something.

Crossing the border is always a challenge and I especially like the question, “what are you doing in Canada and why are you visiting the us?”

After a very uneventful, but long drive to Seattle I met up with S and her friends.  They were a good bunch of people and they not only know theatre and darts, but they can drink with the best of them!  I’m glad to have met them and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in the future!

Christmas eve is always a bit of a challenge, but it was good to see everyone and especially my brother, the last J.  Having his birthday on Christmas eve is a little bad, but it’s life and you can’t get away from it!

The big day started with a phone call at 4:30 AM from E, she still has problems with the whole time difference thing, but it was excellent to hear from her!  If someone has to wake me up at 4:30 AM on Christmas day at least it was her and not some niece or nephew and the whole “Santa’s been here!”  Yes, I know I was the first one up for years, but I’ve grown out of it so leave me be in the morning!  It was great to have a quick catch up with E and I hope to hear from her again sometime soon!

The day itself was good, a nice little nap in the afternoon, a huge turkey dinner and a showing of The Dark Knight!  I’m not sure my aunt knew what she was getting into to, but it was fun to watch with my sister, her husband and my brother.  Of course I think I’m the only one who watched the whole thing, everyone else fell asleep sometime during the movie.

Boxing day found me driving back to the other side, the other side is the non-island side of the water as my folks live on an island.  I headed back to S’s house and a boxing day party.  It was a little exciting getting there, but I had a blast with S’s friends and the two who I had met at the beginning of the trip were at the party, so it was good to see them there and have a few more words before I headed north. 

I managed to get back to Van on Saturday and didn’t leave the house until New years eve.  It was great to just relax and not have to be anywhere or have any plans.  Some would call it lazy, but I would just call it a holiday in my own apartment.

New Years Eve was a bit off, I wasn’t feeling like partying much, but I made the effort.  I guess I hit a stride at about midnight and went a little nuts at the pub.  I’m pretty sure we closed the place down and I didn’t get to be until at least 5:00 AM…  I didn’t manage to get out of bed until Noon and I didn’t feel right until about 8:00 PM.

I’ll give the 2008 holidays a 8 out of 10 for an overall score.  It’s really an average, but I’m glad I was around this year for the family as who knows what will happen for the 2009 holidays, after all it’s going to be pretty busy for me as well as a lot of friends.

Snowboarding round 2

Not sure about this holiday… It’s feeling a little forced this year, as in I’m forcing myself to be happy, even though I’m not really feeling it.  Oh well, I’ll make nice and go through the motions for everyone else, but it might be difficult.

On the plus side I went snowboarding for the second time in my life yesterday and I didn’t manage to injure myself or anyone else, which in my mind is a pretty good accomplishment.  The day started a little off as two of the three other people in my car had a transit problem and we had to divert to go pick them up, although after everyone was in the car we started making our way to Cypress Mountain.  The roads for the most part were pretty clear, even though it had been snowing all night, it wasn’t that bad to get around in.  There were a few hills that required me to move a little faster than everyone else, but my car made it like a champ.

I had originally thought I was going to hit the snowshoeing area and take some pictures, but once we got up the mountain I didn’t think the weather was going to be very cooperative with that plan, so I said “What the hell, I’ll give snowboarding a go!”.  Course it wasn’t with that much enthusiasm, but I was pretty happy to be heading out with K, B and M and since I wasn’t the only complete beginner I had good company to laugh at my efforts.

The board was a rental and while it wasn’t the greatest on the planet it wouldn’t matter to me as I had no idea what was good or bad.  The whole time I was getting my kit together from the various counters I was constantly hopping someone wouldn’t recognize my complete lack of skills or knowledge of the terminology and kick me off the mountain.   Would it matter that I didn’t know what I was doing?  Would I injure myself or hurt someone else?  All of these thoughts were coursing through my brain as I kitted up and was becoming more and more nervous about getting on the board and in turn getting on the lift then mountain. 

Luckily for me I went with a bunch of Aussies, I’m constantly ribbed by these guys, but in reality they’re dead helpful and made me feel like I could do it with little or no trouble.  Kudos to B and K for helping me get over my fear of flying down the mountain uncontrollably and not being able to stop.  The advice I was given was to stand like a monkey with a beach ball between my legs.  At first I laughed, and the serious look on the face of the person giving the advice made me change my tune.  I listened and paid attention to what the others were doing and did what I always do, figured out the mechanics. 

The first run was a test of agility, strength and humour as I barrelled down the hill.  This was the bunny run, or the smallest shortest run of the mountain.  I managed to stay upright and stop without doing a face plant, which I was told is a great sign since I’ve only been boarding once before and that was more than two years ago.

The following runs became easier and easier to the point at the end of the morning I was doing pretty well without falling too many times.  Of course after lunch and a few beers it went a bit pear shaped, and I wasn’t able to do the same things I was able to do prior to lunch and beer.

All in all I think I’ve decided if I go again I’ll remain sober for the duration and have as much fun as possible.  Since I had no fear on the slopes I was able to have a pretty good time, and I just might go again sometime soon!

Shoulder torture… But it was worth it…

Kayaking Lake Union-8160005

In an effort to torture myself and my injured shoulder I met up with C this Saturday for a little bike ride and some kayaking.  The ride didn’t hurt, the kayaking did.  Not only that but I was up way to late last night, and it turns out so was C, to be out on a Saturday morning doing foolish things like riding a bike and paddling a kayak around lake union.

We started out at Moss Bay, which is just a few doors down from my office so parking the bikes was made much easier then trying to find a bike rack.  Then we paddled our way out into the lake, first heading north along the East side and into Portage Bay and then on to the arboretum.Kayaking Lake Union-8160017

The protected waters in the arboretum are easy to navigate and a pleasant area to spend a few hours.  We managed to see some great looking birds of both the feathered and the non-feathered varieties.  After all the arboretum is close to the UW and it’s freaking hot out today.

There are more pictures up on Flickr, so go there to see the rest, and if you need a cheap way to spend some time on a weekend, go check out the folks at Moss Bay and rent something human or wind powered and enjoy yourself!

Oh yeah and the shoulder is now on ice, drugs and some wine in an attempt to help the injury heal, even though I seem determined to not let it.

Weddings… why can’t I ever just attend one?

A long time friend got married this weekend and it was a great ceremony.  The location was nice, the food was alright, the random attendees were friendly and the photographers seemed nice.

In the build up to the event we got there early enough to help put some decorations, programs and flip flops together, yes we had to assemble flip flops for the bridal party to wear after the ceremony.  Then out of left field came the shopping list: 8 bottles of the cheapest champagne we can find, a bag of burgers to snack on (since most of the people setting up hadn’t eaten anything) and something lingerie like for the bride to wear last night…  My friend who was the driver and I was the slightly buzzed passenger (as I had drank a couple of beers while tying ribbons on programs).  After being the two nicely dressed guy in an outlet shop sifting through discount women’s underwear we decided to use our combined intellect to find a naughty shop, which given the area the wedding was, is not an easy or close shop to find.  We ended up driving down the freeway 15 miles and walking into the naughty shop, the clerk was very forgiving given two guys, who are both friends of the bride in question and have both said to one an other at some point in our lives “can’t help you following the ass” as a descriptive of said bride. 

We asked the clerk for some help and I think we made it work in the end by simply asking ourselves, “what would we want to see on her?”  Of course we had to get past the strange look of why are two guys who are not part of the wedding, and are certainly not either of the people getting married asking for lingerie for the bride to be?

J and D, congratulations on the wedding and thanks again for including us all.

I think the next wedding I get invited to I’ll just arrive 5 minutes before curtain…

Chicago

Chicago (10 of 31)I just got back from Chicago, we had to attend a conference for people who are in our industry.  It was surprising the kinds of things we discussed and how open we all were in sharing information.  It’s not like we directly compete with each other, in fact we are all working towards keeping the industry alive and well so anything we can share that might work for others is good…  Right?

The time was spent between conference and fun, we had a drinks and dinner reception on Monday night.  Ended up having a fantastic dinner Chicago (17 of 31)and drinks at a little restaurant near the Richard J. Daley center (where the final chase scene of the Blues Brothers happens).  The food was fantastic, the wine was great and even the company was pretty good.

Tuesday we had more conference and then dinner at the Millennium Park Grill, the food was a little too rich for my blood, but good nonetheless.  We got to wander the park a bit before dinner and there are some pretty cool sculpture installations there.  Drinks afterwards found us at three different bars and my getting the phone numbers from a bartender whose thinking of moving to Seattle and another girl I was apparently chatting up for a good hour.  The last one I don’t remember all that well, but I do remember the girl who might move to Seattle, she was pretty in a punk kind of way…

Oh yeah and if I travel with B again I will insist she take some sort of valium or other type chill pill and I mean that in the nicest possible way…