Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hilton Area Hike

I drove up to Patapsco Valley State Park, Hilton area, to meet the hiking group for a mid-week after-work hike. Since I enjoyed myself on the previous trip, I bought a state park pass and got to use it for the first time.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

The hike was a nice short 2.5 mile loop with a few decent hills. The trail went from a forested area across a utility right-of-way, back into the trees and then back across the clearing again. It was a nice sunny evening with no bugs and low humidity, a great time for a short hike.

Fallen Tree
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Celebration Sprint Tri

I looked forward to this event, the Celebration Sprint Tri, my first tri in about 2 years (I missed the 2009 season in Florida for various reasons). It was a challenging, hilly bike course, and I'm happy with how I did.

2:10:39, 51/104 in M40-44, 329/667 M, 548/~1400 overall

  • Swim - 0.62 miles (1000 m) in 28:25, 67/104 M40-44

    Yeah I'm a slow swimmer, finishing in the 65th percentile. The swim at Centennial Lake was okay overall, low visibility, but the water quality was much better than expected. Race officials clearly skimmed the surface of algae and plants before the event.

  • T1 - 4:03

    Transition was a flat field, but the bike exit was up a grassy hill. Had to step carefully or slide.

  • Bike - 17.5 miles in 1:05:27, 64/104 M40-44.

    I've been biking the course nearly every week since the middle of April, so there were no surprises. It is a hilly long course for a sprint tri, making it fairly challenging overall.

    On the bike course...

  • T2 - 2:17

    Had to be careful again, this time going down the grassy hill without sliding.

  • Run - 3.3 miles in 30:30, 31/104 M40-44.

    I was able to hold a good pace for 2 miles, at which point I had to slow and walk for a few seconds. It was sunny and hot, but it was the hill on the way back in that did me in. Despite these problems, I somehow managed a run time in the top 30th percentile of my age group!

    Running in the shade...

A net result in the middle of the pack is good for me - I seem to remember a lot of bottom 20th percentile finishes previously.

The Mid Maryland Tri Club had fantastic support, everything from bike pump patrols in transition before the event, to tons of volunteers, to a very nice tent near the finish line, with smoothies and refreshments, BBQ, snacks and drinks. WoW! On top of that, two club members took photos of every competitor they could, put the pictures up on Flickr, and are tagging them bit by bit.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hang Gliding

One activity I always wanted to try was hang gliding. So when I saw the DC/MD/VA Adventures meetup group plan a trip out to Highland Aerosports for tandem hang gliding, I signed up!

I arrived a few minutes late, but in time to meet the group and receive the flight briefing, which covered the basics of hang gliding including how to steer. 14 or 15 people signed up to hang glide so we split into two groups. I was in the 2nd group which turned out to be six people.

hang gliding group
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Saturday's second group of pilots.

Since Highland Aerosports is located on the Eastern Shore near Ridgley, MD, and the area is flat in general, our hang gliders were towed aloft by ultralights. No running launches off the side of a hill or cliff! Instead, the instructor lay in a hammock-like bag, we got in our own on top, and were towed to the right altitude.

hang gliding launch
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Waiting to be towed aloft.

The tow line is basically fishing line, and once we hit the proper altitude (I chose to do 2500 ft), we disconnected.

hang gliding ascent
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Soaring above Ridgley, MD.

At this point, the instructor did a few turns and let me practice a bit. With a hang glider, shifting your weight controls everything. Pull forward to speed up, push back to slow down. Pull right to turn right, pull left to turn left. In the picture, I am holding the frame and doing the moves as he called them out.

hang gliding steering
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Grabbing the frame to control the glider.

After getting comfortable with steering, I flew over farms, taking gradual turns and heading over other landmarks. Steering wasn't too difficult, but I found accuracy was tough - the glider takes a few seconds to react, so I would continue to turn past the heading I wanted. More experienced pilots can compensate for this oversteering by coming out of a turn a few seconds early and make smaller adjustments.

I had 12 to 15 minutes aloft since the glider constantly descends. If you are license to fly solo, you can try to find thermals and stay aloft for as long as possible.

The overall experience was a lot of fun, more enjoyable to me than the tandem skydiving I tried - that was all adrenalin, where this was calmer. I felt like a bird, soaring over the countryside and making slow turns to change directions.

hang gliding descent
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Coming in for a landing, circling the airport.

Once we dropped to low enough altitude, the instructor took over controlling the glider and landed us. Tandem gliders have a frame with wheels, so we didn't need to land on foot, stalling the wing and the right height and dropping. Instead we landed like a plane and it was very smooth.

Everybody really enjoyed this trip. Sunday's group is larger, with 40 or so people signed up, and I bet if the feedback continues to be so positive they'll schedule another trip out.

Baltimore 10 miler

I've lost a lot of money over the years, by registering for and paying for events I've wound up missing (sick, out of town, etc.) Many events give a discount if you register early enough, to tempt you to commit (plus race directors want to fill their events). But, some events hit their registration limit and close, so it becomes a balancing act: save money vs. risk not being able to enter due to the event filling vs. risk not attending an event some weeks/months away. So it was quite nice to be on the other side of this for once - a friend of a friend wasn't able to attend the Baltimore 10 miler, and I got their race number!

The race itself was well organized, 4000 runners, and had really nice "premiums" (race gear). Not just some mere cotton T-shirt, this race included a very nice logo running jacket. I just had to do a little swaperoo in line since I needed a different size.

I did 1:28:47, pretty good given the hills on the course, and the hot conditions. Living in Florida hasn't given me much heat tolerance, although it is possible I am slightly better off than the average runner.

The 10 mile race is very popular in this region, with so many events around: Cherry Blossom 10 miler, Army 10 miler, Baltimore 10 miler, Annapolis 10 miler, probably many others I just haven't seen yet. I don't remember this being a common distance in Washington or Florida.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

McKeldin Area Hike

I've become a big fan of, which is a "network of local groups" and lets people with various interests organize activities. It is great for somebody new to an area, like myself.

After a little searching, I found a local hiking group that offers several hikes a week, including short ones during the week. So rather than sit around Thursday evening, I decided to attend a hike in the McKeldin area of nearby Patapsco Valley State Park. I could have biked or run but sometimes it is nice to mix it up and be active in a different way.

Six of seven of us met at the trailhead and started out for a short hike before dusk. Everybody was pretty friendly, including the hike/group leader Kellie, who coincidentally lived in Central Florida for a number of years!

River Bank
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

The terrain was rolling hills with one major descent to a path along the river. After some small rapids, we climbed back up to the starting point.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Kellie brought her dog which had a lot of fun running back and forth between hikers. At the top of the rapids her dog went in for a drink but stepped a little too far and was afraid to come back. He just froze up and looked at us for help. So Kellie and another hiker Steve got close and were able to reach and help him back. Her dog is a German Shepherd, but is getting old (12 years or so)... plus with the rapids nearby I think he just got nervous. The good thing was the rapids were short and slow so I think the dog would have been fine had he slipped - he would have just had a ride for 100 feet and then come to shore thoroughly soaked!