Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No bike rack necessary!

A few years ago I heard an episode of Car Talk where a man called in asking why his gas mileage on his fairly fuel-efficient car dropped about 10 mpg when he had his bike on his rear bike rack. Tom and Ray were pretty sure it was because he was disrupting the carefully designed aerodynamics of his car. They felt certain that if he just took the front wheel off his bike and put it inside the car, he'd get the same great gas mileage he was supposed to get.

Ryan and I transport our bikes inside our car with the back seat folded down. Obviously if we needed to transport more people that wouldn't be possible, but it does work for us most of the time. And it's really not very hard to take the wheels off a bike, especially not the front wheel. My bike actually fits in the car with both wheels on. With both of them in there, we take both wheels off my bike and just the front wheel off Ryan's.

I didn't see anybody else at the triathlon with their bike in their car; everyone had a bike rack. Gas is so expensive here that I don't know why you wouldn't put your bike inside your car if you had the space! And ditto about skis and snowboards; a roof rack or rocket box also kills gas mileage. We can fit four people and four sets of skis/snowboards inside our car and sure, it's a little cozy in the back seat, but it's not like we take two extra people skiing everyday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Onion Man Re-Cap

Getting set up in the transition area before the race

In the weeks leading up to this triathlon I started to think that maybe I'd made a mistake signing up for this one; maybe I should have chosen a triathlon with more recreational triathletes like myself: triathletes not worried about winning or really even about their time - triathletes just interested in finishing the race and having a good time. The Onion Man Triathlon website even said something about "competitive" which is definitely not me. But I had already paid the registration fee so it was happening!

When we got to our motel in Walla Walla the day before the race, every bike I saw in the parking lot was waaaaay nicer than mine - another sign I might have signed up for the wrong race! That night I didn't sleep well. I kept having dreams that I had forgotten to do one leg of the race and kept waking up thinking I'd overslept. When I looked at the clock at 5:15 I could hear people showering elsewhere in the motel and car doors closing. I was sure all the serious triathletes were already up and about drinking their energy-packed super breakfast shakes and riding a few miles before the sun was even up. When I finally got up and went down to eat the continental breakfast at 7:00, I finally found all the other "recreational" triathletes. I was so relieved I wasn't the only one!

Ryan dropped me off at the start of the race with my bike and all my gear and then went and parked. The transition area already seemed pretty full so I wandered around for a minute looking for space on a rack to park my bike. The first two spaces I spotted looked promising until I got to them and saw the fancy bikes parked around them; I got intimidated. I didn't want to be parked next to some super serious racer! So I wandered to the back row, parked my bike, and was immediately relieved when the people around me were chatting about how they were intimidated by all the fancy bikes and wished they had trained a little more. I had found my crowd! The three people to the left of me in the photo above were all awesome. I'm glad I was parked near them and it was fun to "know" some people when we passed each other on different legs of the race.

When I did my first triathlon two years ago I didn't use a wet suit and neither did about half of the people in the race. I thought it would be similar this time. I was wrong! I only saw one person not wearing a wet suit besides myself! I apparently stood out so much that a reporter came up to be just before the race started and asked why I didn't wear a wet suit. I said "I'm from Alaska" and my quote made it in the Walla Walla newspaper. All of this also made me think I shouldn't have signed up for this race.

When I started the swim, I seriously thought for a few seconds that it was going to be too cold. It was after all, a 1500m swim and I knew that would take me 25-30 minutes  - a long time in cold water! But after a few minutes my core warmed up (and my extremities went numb) and I was fine. The most difficult part of the swim (besides occasionally being kicked/hit/swam over) was that it was fairly windy (10mph with gusts up to 20) and the lake was a little choppy. Combine that with 250 swimmers and you get a lot of waves and splashing. I swallowed A LOT of water. I'd come up for a breath and get hit by a wave. It was gross. If I get sick, I know why! My breathing was a little more frantic than I would have liked, but I'm still happy with my time, even if the swim course was a little shorter than they'd intended.

Here I am finishing the swim and about to pass all these suckers who have to unzip their wet suits

My legs were pretty numb and cold when I started the bike. Luckily the sun had come out by then so it didn't take too long to warm up (and by that I mean 5 or 6 miles). The bike course was really lovely. First we rode through the community college, then past vineyards, houses, fields, and then onto a country road in the trees before turning around. On the way out I felt like I just couldn't get going fast - my legs were tired and my feet were numb. Once I hit the turn around, I had a surge of energy. I hadn't realized that we had been gradually climbing uphill. Even the slight descent on the way back made a huge difference. There had also been a serious headwind on the way out and I thought that meant I would have a tailwind on the way back. It didn't. It felt like a headwind both directions! I know that's not possible; it was actually a side-wind, but it still sucked.

Finishing the bike leg
While I was in the transition area changing into my running shoes, I was sure I was going to forget something. Luckily I remembered to take my helmet off before I tried to run out of the transition area (barely). As I was leaving the transition area I heard the announcer say that the seventh place finisher was coming in - six people had already finished the entire race before I'd even started the run!

During the first half mile of the run I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other. My legs felt like lead but I knew they'd loosen up after a while. I felt pretty good between about 1/2 mile into the run and the turn around point at about 3 miles. I hit a bit of a wall after I turned around. We'd been running into the wind and when I turned around, the volunteer at that end said "You'll have a tailwind on you're way back!" For a second, I thought, "Oh, awesome, I hadn't even thought of that!" But I quickly realized it also meant it just felt hot not to have the breeze in my face. By mile 4 I was feeling good again and was just telling myself all I had left was an easy 2 mile jog.

At the end of the race, we ran along the edge of the parking lot - right past the post-race BBQ. The great part was all the spectators and racers who had already finished cheered everyone along while they ate, but the mean part was we had to run past all that delicious-smelling BBQ chicken!

Heading into the last stretch
I ended up being very happy with my time and did not regret choosing this triathlon. There was a good mix of competitive and recreational athletes and a lot of really friendly racers and volunteers. With the exception of the rough pavement and speed bumps at the end/beginning of the bike route, it was a great course.

Here are my official stats:

Final time: 3:10:44
Swim time (1500m or less): 26:01
Transition 1: 2:38
Bike (40k): 1:35:19
Transition 2: 1:16
Run (10k):  1:05:29

Age group place: 4/8
Overall place: 197/223

And this is what I ate for a mid-afternoon snack after the race

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Onion Man Triathlon

I survived the Onion Man Triathlon! By all of the measures I care about, my performance was a success: I didn't get hypothermia, I didn't get any flat tires, I finished the 10k run without walking (besides one bathroom pit-stop), and I was under my goal time of 3:15. These were all serious concerns as the lake wasn't exactly warm (60 degrees 8ft from the shore, definitely colder out there in the middle) and I was only one of TWO people without a wet suit. Being from Alaska, I didn't think a wet suit was necessary. And it wasn't. I also have fairly worn out tires on my bike AND the first/last mile of the bike portion of REALLY rough pavement (it was just chip-sealed recently). There are also several speed bumps - none of which are good for old worn-out skinny road tires.

I was not really sure what my time would be like, but I REALLY wanted to be under 3:30 and I thought 3:15 was the most reasonable time to expect so I was pretty happy when I crossed the line at 3:14. Since the women started 5 minutes after the men - and that's when the started the clock - my time was probably about 3:09. They haven't posted the results online yet, but I'm interested to see them. I think my bike time must have been a little faster than I had predicted. Oh, and the swim course turned out to be a little shorter than they had planned it to be, but I'm sure I biked faster than I had expected. =) More tomorrow after I recover...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rhubarb Muffins

When I was a kid, Judy P. made rhubarb muffins that I loved. I always looked forward to being at her house when there were fresh muffins and when I used to work at her fishcamp, we made these muffins all the time. For years I've been thinking that I need to just ask her for the recipe because I still think about those muffins.

Last summer when I was in Kodiak I finally asked, and Judy copied the recipe onto a lovely postcard for me when she came out to Chiniak for my mom's birthday. I've been looking at that postcard all winter and finally got around to making them today with the last of my rhubarb from last summer (I really don't know why it took me so long). They are just as good as I remember. Now I just have to find some people to help me eat the remaining 19 muffins.

These muffins are from Cooking Alaskan and apparently won second place at the Tanana Valley Fair Bake-off in 1980. Judy has always used 1/2 cup less brown sugar than what the recipe calls for and doesn't add a topping. I did the same. I also substituted half of the oil with applesauce and used only 1 1/2 cups white flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour. Next time I will also use more rhubarb. You can never have too much rhubarb.

Rhubarb Muffins

1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour milk (or yogurt)
1 1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1/2 cup walnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp melted butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Beat brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, and sour milk. Add rhubarb and walnuts.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add liquid ingredients and stir only until moistened.

Spoon into greased and floured muffin cups.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Makes about 20-24 muffins.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Painting the boat

Before the paint job

After the paint job

Sharp looking fresh white paint job

Now we match the C-Quest which we share the dock with.
In the south almost all the boats are white, and it's for a good reason.  It's only May and the sun is extremely intense and hot.  A white boat reflects more light and thus absorbs less heat from the sun.  Our boat was built in Vancouver, Canada and before this job and never left the Pacific Northwest.  It was originally painted gray but the clear coat was flaking off. In a few places it was worn down to bare aluminum.  The obvious thing to do was to paint it white but it seemed unlikely that we would have the opportunity.

Because of a mix up with work permits we got the chance to paint today.  Hand painting a small boat like this is not easy.  After hours of scraping and sanding and masking we finally starting painting.  It was not a big area area but it took three of us a couple more hours to cut in all the windows and edges with a brush and roll the larger areas.  Much of it had to be done while precariously balanced on the narrow gunnel hanging one handed from a railing.

It needs another coat or two but it does look great.  We also added a special ceramic dust that is suppose to make it reflect more heat; it's the same idea as the ceramic tiles that kept the space shuttle from burning up on reentry into our atmosphere.  Not only do we blend in better with the local boats now but we will hopefully stay cooler too.  It was a good use of a sunny day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Offshore in Louisiana

Jack-up barge at a platform

Jack-up barge in the river channel

Crew boat

Offshore vessel with Helo deck

Jack-up platform

For the last two weeks I have been working in Louisiana.  This is my first survey in the Gulf of Mexico and it should be of no surprise that the end client is a large oil company.  For this survey we are attempting to locate abandoned power cables between offshore oil platforms.  These cables are scheduled to be removed but there is a lack of accurate documentation as to their location.  

We trailered a survey boat from Seattle and mobilized our survey equipment onsite.  We have a dock to tie up at each night that is walking distance away from our “home”.  This may be a long term project so the client has arranged for a mobile home for us to live in.  It’s not the nicest accommodations but it is very convenient and a lot more social environment than staying in a hotel.

We are working out of Port Fourchon which is a major hub for the offshore oil industry.  There is a constant stream of crew boats, ships and helicopters moving people and supplies to offshore platforms.  We are working in an older oil field that at is very close to shore and in shallow water. I am amazed by the variety of large and strange work boats.  In shallow water the oil industry uses a lot of “Jack-up” barges and “Jack-up” platforms.  These mobile structures have large legs that allow them to lift out of the water turning them into stable work structures.  For deep water operation the industry relies more on large vessels that can be self-sufficient for long periods of time.  It is also shrimp season so the shrimp boats of all sizes are out among the platforms trying to bring home a catch. And then there is us, a bit of an odd duck in our busy little aluminum boat. 

Being small makes us affordable and makes it easy to work around offshore well heads and platforms. It also means that we can’t work in all weather conditions.  Yesterday and today we have been in port waiting out the weather and catching up on boat maintenance and data processing.

I think I am going to enjoy the complex challenge that this project presents.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Olympic Discovery Trail

Finally some smooth, flat pavement!
My favorite part of the trail
Toward the beginning of our ride
The Dungeness River Bridge
After tidepooling on Saturday we headed in to Port Angeles to check out the Olympic Discovery Trail. It was not exactly what I expected, but we had tons of fun anyway. I thought it was going to be a lovely rolling smoothly-paved bike trail passing through fields full of cows and hay. We started five miles outside of Port Angeles (toward Sequim) and the trail was pretty much exactly the opposite of that - it was steep, ups and downs, the pavement was rough (like chip-sealed pavement), and it was mostly forested. Once we got over the fear of the steep descents into creek bottoms with hairpin turns onto bridges at the bottom and the steep climbs out, we started having a great time. And about eight miles in, there was actually some beautiful smooth, flat pavement through fields full of cows (it didn't last long though).

We turned around at the Dungeness River - 24 miles round trip. That was actually quite a ride on the rough trail on my skinny tires. It didn't feel particularly good and I am still shocked I didn't get a flat. We had a great time on our ride back though. We were familiar with the trail so we knew (mostly) where we could pick up some speed and where we needed to be cautious. There were still a couple of steep inclines that caught me off guard - ones that started after a 90 degree turn - there was no way you could see them coming!

It's an awesome trail and I would definitely recommend it - just not for really skinny tires and not if you are looking for a fast ride. Unfortunately the website for the trail isn't particularly informative but there are kiosks along the ride with map pamphlets - although they were all taken late in the day. And it might be useful to know that there are outhouses conveniently located every couple of miles along the trail - don't expect them to be at the parking access points though. I think the trail crew specifically puts them out of sight of road access points so that they don't get used by non-trail users or vandalized - a great idea!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Underwater photos from Salt Creek

I went camping on the Olympic Peninsula this weekend with some friends. We checked out the super low tide this morning at Salt Creek. It was even lower than it had been last winter when we went there. This time I also had my waterproof camera and it was above 20F.

It was fun to take some photos underwater while tidepooling because my camera actually captured some things I couldn't see from above the water. Check out  the photo of the limpet "walking" below and the green anemone devouring a mussel. I think the photo above is my favorite though.

Green anemone up close
limpet foot

Caught eating a mussel
Purple sea urchins

The sunset last night

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A tiny piece of glass

My first week of Bike to Work month didn't go so well. Last Thursday I got a flat tire on my way to school. Luckily I was only about 3/4 mi from school, but it was completely pouring rain. I was in a hurry to make it to a meeting with a student, so I opted just to walk my bike the rest of the way rather than change it in the rain. I don't really like changing bike tires so I just left it in my office that night and went to the pool to swim. I had planned to take the bus home after swimming. But after one ONE lap, my goggles broke (there is no way I will swim laps without goggles). So I got out, walked all the way back up to my office, changed my flat, and rode home. I didn't ride my bike again for a few days because I wanted to buy another tube so I'd have a spare. Of course, as soon as I bought a spare tube, I got ANOTHER flat riding home on Wednesday. Ahhhhhh!

I was only seven blocks from home, and it was raining again. So I used my mom's favorite flat tire technique: I just aired it up with my little hand pump. That was good enough to make it the rest of the way home.

Why does it always seem like flats happen in pairs? At least to me (it was the same wheel both times). Ryan suggested I very carefully check the tire and my rim and see if anything was stuck in there. I should have done this when I changed the first flat, but I just wanted to change that tire as fast as possible so I could get home.

He was totally right. There was a tiny piece of glass stuck in the tire and poking through just enough to puncture the tube. So hopefully I've fixed the problem for now. I did pack two spare tubes and a patch kit for this weekend though. I'm heading over to the Olympic Peninsula tonight to camp and tomorrow we're going to check out the Olympic Discovery Trail.