Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Zamami's Unknown Festival

There's this festival that happens, where there's a "parade" and all the kids play eisa, then there are Hari boat races. At night everybody gathers and drinks a lot. I don't know what the festival is, but I think it has something to do with old people. This year I photographed and raced in a boat (we won, which I publicly attributed to me). Last year I got suckered into going to the evening gathering, but this year I went through my pictures instead.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Running Log 9/22 – 9/28

9/23 5:33am: 13k 1:12.50
9/24 4:48am: 21k 2:04.01
9/25 6:17am: 5k 28.05.9
9/26 6:18am: 5k 28.12.1
9/27 5:25am: 26k 2:24.32 (1:14.30 and 1:10.02)
Total: 70km

Most mornings when I walk towards my starting point I pass a construction worker waking himself up outside the barracks by smoking a cigarette. I can’t help but think that I am adding days to my life while he is doing the opposite.

On Wednesday I probably should have smoked. The humidity was high and there was zero air movement. I was sweating heavily before even leaving my apartment. In the three-hour period from when I woke up until I went to school, I drank six liters of water (just over 1.5 gallons). It was a dreadful, slow 21k and I barely made it to school on time (and even with a/c, didn’t stop sweating until 10am). But there were also lasting effects: for the next three days, whenever I stood up suddenly (or just stood up), my entire torso felt like it was being attacked with glass shards and I became woozy. That run really, really weakened me and I wisely followed it with two 5k's. Saturday's run was both great and it purged the tingliness - a good ending to the week.

[Two cups of sweat wrung out of my shirt at the 13k mark. Did I taste it later? Of course! (it's a little less mild than urine.)]

Friday, September 26, 2008

Aka Undokai

Aka's undokai (sports day) fell on the same day as Zamami's. For a reason I didn't quite understand, I was selected for attendance at Aka's event. While I was a little disappointed not to be running on a Zamami relay team, the photography opportunities were much greater at Aka because the kids don't play the 'let's hide from Dave when he has his camera' game. Which is kind of a dumb game.

Geruma's undokai was rescheduled from two weeks ago (typhoon) to this weekend. Just today it was canceled and rescheduled again for next weekend due to a possible incoming typhoon. Poor Geruma.

Here are some pictures from Aka's undokai:

[that second guy is the English teacher]

[every kid participates in the unicycle show]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whitewater Paddling

I’d made a poor choice and decided to kayak around Kuba-jima before dusk, camping on an easterly beach. But as I rounded the southern tip, the wind was coming out of the east. It was getting pretty dark when I braved the crashing waves and dove into the first beach I came to. I set up my tent and ate dinner in the dark since I forgot my headlamp.

Monday morning (three-day weekend) I awoke in time to catch the sunrise. I noted that the incoming waves were mostly too much for me to handle in my kayak, but I thought I’d give them a couple hours and a difference in tide. I went on a 2-hour beachcombing trek to the north, but returned to find that the waves were now barreling – not a good sign. As I packed up I started timing the breaks between wave sets and came up with an optimistic 58 seconds I’d have to make it through the 40m or so to freedom, provided I could guess correctly when those 58 seconds began.

I loaded my kayak up and tied everything down tight, expecting a flip as a very real possibility. I waded out to where I thought my best starting point would be and waited until a break. But from water level, even the breaks between sets looked scary. Coming in with the waves provides the disadvantage of being unable to see the what’s coming down on top of you from behind, but it does have the advantage of being able to ride the incoming water. Going out to sea means fighting against the incoming waves.

I made a couple false starts and, an hour after starting, decided to go back ashore and reanalyze my situation. The more I watched the waves, the more I realized I probably wasn’t going to make it out safely. So I moved on to Plan B, which I’d developed while beachcombing earlier. The next bay to the north had a much smaller reef to cross to reach the deep water. This meant more violent waves, but less distance to cross. So I hauled my kayak through little waterways and tidepools and over some big rock formations before getting it lodged on some rocks so I could go watch the waves. While watching – and timing – I heard a commotion. A rogue wave coming from the other harbor had dislodged my kayak (and battered my fishing rods on the rocks) and it was quickly making an escape out into the crashing waves. I had no other option but to jump into the shallow water from up high where I was standing to save my kayak, which I did. I decided this was my cue so I kayaked around the corner, faced the waves, thought I saw a break, and made a run for it. I went up and over three big waves that had already broke (my kayak slapping down on the backside of each wave) before going up the face of a fourth. At this point, I remember actually saying “uh, oh” aloud, but when it didn’t break, and I rolled off the back, I knew I was probably safe. This didn’t keep me from furiously paddling a few more minutes, but it allowed my mind to catch up with my racing heart.

And as if this wasn’t enough, I actually got turned back by waves again as I came around the south side Geruma Island. I had to paddle back around the island and come through the passage between Geruma and Aka.

Remember in that movie, Castaway, when Tom Hanks builds his raft and decides to head out to sea, only to be crushed and returned to shore by big waves? That was how I felt. (Except I made it out.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Running Log 9/16-9/21

9/16 5:19am: 13k, 1:12.22
9/18 6:22am: 5k, 26.08
9/19 5:24am: 13k, 1:12.38
9/20 7:40am: 5k, 26.10
9/21 5:25am: 26k, 2:26.17 (1:14 and 1:12.17)

Total: 62km

I gave my right knee all of my attention this week and it performed well. I allotted 80% of my stretching time to the right leg. Nice consistency this week, albeit a little slow. Sunday’s long run was easily the hardest physical thing I’ve done since February’s marathon. I changed my sweat-drenched shorts and socks and wrung out my shirt at the halfway point. Shoes were squishy the second half. Chafe was as bad as it gets. My three sticks of Bodyglide are finished so I’m using my fingernails to dig out the remainder, hoping it can be rationed for a month until I go home.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beer Vending Machine

[near a school on the outskirts of Osaka]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Typhoon Bonus

Typhoons aren't all bad. The cool people (seasonal workers) on island all get a couple days off. They hang out in large, circular, beer-drinking groups in the evening and look for waves during the day. I regrettably didn't pursue surfing enough in Palau to say I'm a surfer. I'm still in beginner stage. It would be a bit presumptuous of me to pursue a borrowed board for learning, so instead I volunteered to be the photographer. Not exactly where I wanted to be, but hopefully an 'in'. It seemed to work - that evening I think they pinned down a guy who has a board 'big enough' for me. Just need some more waves. (The typhoon has turned back and hopefully some waves will be coming in again tomorrow.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Running Log, 9/9 - 9/15

9/9 5:22am: 13k, 1:10.17
9/10 6:08am: 5k, 27.04.2
9/11 5:23am: 14k, 1:14.01
9/12 5:24am: 13k, 1:10.01
9/13 7:22am: 5k, 26:18.6
9/14 5:36am: 13k, 1:10.07
Total: 63km

I was scheduled to run 26k on Sunday, but I’ve had persisting knee problem the last couple months and it was really hurting for the last 10k, so I quit. This is obviously really scary, but I am not sure what to do. I gave it a couple long breaks during the summer but they didn’t seem to help much. Visiting a doctor isn’t easy so I decided to run on it and see if that helped (my thought process: I'm ‘strengthening’ it). My plan is to keep running with a lot of extra stretching (how do you stretch a knee?).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Typhoon Preparation

I went home on Wednesday and sat on my balcony, watching the typhoon preparations and feeling like a bit of a jerk.  There I was, feeling sorry for myself for all my wasted beach cleanup party plans, when I really was losing nothing from it.  I still get a paycheck this month, I still get my weekend.  The economy of Zamami, however, which is based almost entirely on the sea, suffers immensely from the lost income of a September three-day weekend.

Today is Friday and it's looking bad.  All of the high-speed ferries will be canceled and the big ferry probably will be as well.  As far as I know, nearly everybody at every hotel and dive operation has canceled.  That's thousands of dollars for each place.  A big hit.  But also Mother Nature.  Your business is sure to encounter occasional tough times when it is weather-dependent.

[Nearly all boats are pulled out of the water by now. Only a couple sailboats remain and they are tied up well away from the sea walls with tons of anchors and ropes to various points ashore.]

[Just before the rain]

[Heavy rain, severely limited visibility]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Typhoon Sinlaku

[Zamami is under the 9 in '9pm, Friday']

It's a September three-day weekend this Saturday, which means a typhoon will be landing. Last year a typhoon hit on the Friday/Saturday of this same weekend, as well as the next three-day weekend two weeks later. Last year I had a party of sorts planned on Zamami that was scheduled, rescheduled twice, and finally canceled - all due to weekend typhoons. I currently have a beach cleaning party scheduled this weekend on Zamami, with ten people coming out. I've made lodging and food reservations as well as organized the beach cleaning details. The consolation is that after the typhoon the beaches will be somewhat cleaner. A common misconception is that typhoons wash garbage ashore, but in fact their big waves wash all of the recent accumulation back out to sea. (So not such a consolation.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Running Season

My year is divided into two seasons: running and fishing. Conveniently, they don't overlap. This week I kicked off the training plan for my first marathon of the season, the Iheya-jima Moonlight Marathon on November 15th. I’m going home to the U.S. the last three weeks of October, so this will be a ‘fun’ marathon. I want to experiment with some different eating strategies and break up the fall training before things really step up for the Okinawa City Marathon in late February.

My plan is to post a weekly running log. There are a couple other runners whose [b]logs I follow and it’s fun to track progress and see what it takes to achieve [X] time in a race. I don’t want to replace other posts so the running log post may be followed immediately by something else. But if you’re interested, know that most Mondays the running log will be up.

9/3, 5:50am: 13k – 1:07.55
9/4, 6:29am: 5k – 26.31
9/5, 5:54am: 13k – 1:07.09
9/5, 6:07pm: 1k, race pace – 3:35.5
9/7, 6:13am: 21k – 1:55.14 (last year on 9/15 I did this in 2:05)
Total: 53km

Today was my first long run since last February’s marathon. It hurt. Mostly where the chaffage persisted despite a heavy dose of Bodyglide. I just consider it this year's initiation, it’ll callous up soon enough.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Women In Waders

Two winters ago I was working on a cattle/sheep ranch in a small town in Montana. Two brothers own the ranch, one is single and the other has a wife and two kids. I always stay with John, the bachelor, when I work there. He’s older but is very spry and has amazing wit. We went in to the annual Townsend Christmas party, which was a collection of service clubs and local businesses selling hot food and Christmas wares. At one of the stores we made a huge discovery, something we’d never expect in Townsend but only expect in Townsend: a Babes and Billiards calendar. The photography wasn’t spectacular and neither were the girls, so we agreed it would be best to wait to purchase until late January when the calendar was heavily discounted.

It was while I was at the ranch that winter that I drove into the school every day for a week to work on my JET essays. I completed my application at the ranch, including an overnighted letter of recommendation from Washington, DC that arrived the day before the application was due (so I overnighted it right back to DC). John likes cooking so I promised him that if I got into JET I would buy him some fancy soy sauce from Japan. I did that in April when my parents visited and they took it home to mail to him.

When I returned from my mainland Japan trip I had an unexpected large envelope from John. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Women in Waders calendar inside. Lacking professional photography, attractive models, and graphic design, the calendar makes up for its shortcomings by showcasing some nice steelhead.

[even a centerfold!]

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Angry Bears

This sign was in Akita -ken, where my sister lives.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Thirty Years Old

Yesterday was my 30th birthday. Kind of a big deal, right? Well, not really. Last year my office bought me a cake a couple days before August 31st, making that the first ‘celebrated’ birthday of mine since Laura Miyakawa organized a crew party on my 21st birthday in college.

So it wasn’t a surprise yesterday when nobody remembered. The best interaction happened when I made myself a cake and took a few pieces to my boss, who asked me whose birthday it was.

I think a 30th birthday is worthy of a little reflection, so here are some stats and thoughts:

Birthday height: 182cm (5’11.5”)
weight: 84.5kg (186 pounds)
heart rate low: 34 beats per minute
I didn’t want to see how high I could get it.

Coolest thing I’ve done in my life so far: hike the Pacific Crest Trail
Uncoolest thing: traveling SE Asia (not that it’s uncool, it’s just not for me)
Most interesting job: winter sheepherder in Montana
Least interesting job: health club desk attendant
Most life-changing experience: Peace Corps
Serious hobbies: hunting, fishing, running, photography, letter writing (the last three weren’t on my list ten years ago)
Places lived (defined as having received mail): Japan, Palau, Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia), Alaska, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C.
Most surprising life evolutions: playing [cheap] Blackjack, no further interest in the financial industry, the extent of my commitment to using less, eating raw fish, running fast(ish) marathons

[Will you look this good when you`re 30?]

Ten years ago where would I have envisioned myself now? I know I thought of such things, but hesitated to speculate. I think I would have dreamt of adventure, but not to the extent that I’ve lived it. The only glaring difference between the vision and my current reality is the lack of a wife and kids. I didn’t hope for such a situation, I think I just expected it. Twenty years old was back in the day when I thought the American Dream was what happened to everybody.

Where will I be in ten years? I know better than to answer that. The only tangible goals I have are to hike the Continental Divide Trail and New Zealand’s Te Araroa trail. I’d like to go on a long bike ride someday. Perhaps spend some time in South America. Maybe buy a piece of property somewhere so I can have a home base. Plant some food, live semi-sustainably. I want to remain competitive athletically, though I am depressed that in four-five years I will pretty much be out of my athletic prime for everything. That is the only reminder I have of being older. Well, that and pretty soon girls graduating from college won’t be in my range anymore. Right?