Archive for the ‘Worthwhile Activities’ Category

Hairpin curve in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Distance 5+ Miles out and back
Elevation Change 550+’ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 5+ Stars (out of 5)
Trail Conditions Smooth sandy road in excellent condition, slot canyons require some scrambling
Comments I did some research on this trail before our hike but didn’t find any reliable details on how to find the slot canyons.  We ended up doing a lot of exploring in the wrong areas and were almost satisfied when we found the first (smaller) slot canyon, but I’m glad we decided to go around one more bend in the road.
Latitude/Longitude 32.833277, -116.156338
Directions Take Interstate 8 East to County Route S2.  Take S2 north for 13.1 miles to a dirt road on the right.  It is past mile marker 53 and the Carizzo Badlands Overlook.  This is Sin Nombre Canyon Road.  You can park in a dirt lot just off S2 at this turn off, or if you have a higher clearance vehicle you can drive about a mile down the dirt road to the east to the beginning of Canyon Sin Nombre Canyon.

 

I’m slowly working my way through all the hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I’m not creating posts for all my hikes as the book has everything you need for most of the hikes. I’ve started a page (see Afoot and Afield Hikes on the menu at the top of the page) to track my progress, rate the trails, and post a picture for each hike I do. However, if a hike has changed or if I think there is something I can add or make more clear I am creating a post. For Canyon Sin Nombre, I think the description of the slot canyon is not completely clear in the book.  The biggest thing missing is that there are actually two very nice slot canyons not one.  In looking at other posts about this hike I believe some people have only found the smaller of the two slot canyons, and I don’t see any posts that describe both.

As you turn off County Road S2 onto the unmarked Sin Nombre Canyon Road you will see a sign stating that the road is only for street legal vehicles.   Based on the number of vehicle tracks along the road this is a fairly popular route for off road vehicles.  We drove about a mile down the dirt road to just before the beginning of the canyon.  There was plenty of room to park off the road at this point.  You’ll see the rocky beginning of the canyon as you approach this pull out area.

Rocky entrance to Canyon Sin Nombre

We started the hike in the late morning around 11 am.  It was a cool breezy winter day with a clear blue sky.  At the beginning of the hike we were wishing we had brought jackets, but we were fine after we started walking.  Because I was unsure exactly where the slot canyons were we ended up taking a couple of exploratory trips off the main road that did not find the slot canyons, but they were interesting side trips.  Both were up erosion gullies on the east side of the canyon.  Not sure why I thought to look on this side as the slot canyons we ended up finding were both on the west side of the main canyon.  But the side trips took us through some interesting areas and gave us some great views.

Exploring off Canyon Sin Nombre

We finally gave up on the side trips and decided to walk down the main road.  At about a mile down the road (32.843725, -116.154400) we came on a trail on the left that had 3 posts in front of it and even more encouraging there were lots of footprints headed down it!  Our footprints had been pretty lonely on the other exploratory trails we had followed.  Near the start of the trail it splits into two different trails.

Trail to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

The only accessible slot canyon we found was to the right.  There was also an inaccessible slot that looked interesting but there were very large rocks blocking the entrance and we didn’t attempt to climb through.  The accessible slot canyon was on the right side of the right path.  This was the smaller of the two slot canyons we found off Canyon Sin Nombre and the harder one to find.   There is a rocky path up to the opening of the slot, but it is hard to see.

Entrance to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Although it was the smaller of the two slot canyons, it was still about 150 yards long with lots of interesting twists and turns.

 

We found another very short slot in this area but it was only 20 or 3o yards deep.  But I did get one good shot of the wider canyon on the way out.

View of Canyon Sin Nombre from a short slot in the canyon wall

There was another area that was posted off just south of where we had found the entrance to the trail to the slot canyon.  We decided to explore there next.  There was another wash similar to the ones we had explored on the east side of the canyon.  It went higher up on the canyon walls than the others did though.  I particularly like this picture back toward the main canyon with three Ocotillo Cactus along the path.  These have red blooms in the spring… but still interesting looking plants in winter.

Octillo Cactus along a path up the side of Canyon Sin Nombre

We climbed nearly to the top of this path/wash, and got a pretty good view of the area from where we turned around.

View of Anza Berrego from the near the top of a trail off Canyon Sin Nombre

It was a long way up and a long scramble back down.

Scrambling back down the toward the road in Canyon Sin Nombre

By the time we got back down to the road we were pretty tired.  Although this hike is listed as 550′ of loss/gain in elevation, my GPS route showed a total of almost 1000′ by the time we finished all of our side explorations.  On the way back down I told Sean we would head back when we got down, but by the time we got to the road I decided we should explore around one more bend in the road.  I just didn’t think we had seen everything yet.

As we rounded the bend a high solid looking wall came into view.  I didn’t initially see any openings but we kept going and eventually came to a break in the wall that looked very encouraging.

The entrance to this larger/longer slot canyon (32.847642, -116.154712) at the back of this opening is not immediately obvious, but all you have to do is keep walking toward the left side of the back and you’ll see the path. There are a couple of wider areas near the start of the slot canyon.

And then you’ll come to an area of partial collapse. This was the first spot where we questioned if we would be able to continue, or even wanted to walk through what looked like an unstable area.

Sean in front of an area of collapse rock in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

We decided to go for it the slot canyon continued but not far after the first area of collapse was a second one.

Second area of collapse in the longer slot canyon in Canyon Sin Nombre

We talked about turning back again more seriously this time, but I decided to scramble over the rocks to see what was past the collapse. The slot canyon definitely continued, so I called to Sean to climb on through. As I look at the picture we took before going forward it is hard to see the scale of the rocks. I also took this picture of Sean on top of the pile on the way out that shows the scale.

Sean climbing back over collapsed rocks on the way out of the slot canyon.

We were really glad we climbed through the second area of collapsed rock. At that point we were only about a third of the way through the slot canyon. The trail continued to climb and the walls closed in but were not quite as high.

My favorite part of the slot canyon was in this section. It was a hairpin curve, you could stand with your back against the wall and see down the canyon both directions. I attempted to show how this looked with the picture at the top of the post. I glued several images together but was careful to put them together into one image that showed the perspective you would see with your back against the wall. I really wished I would have just pulled my phone out of my pocket and taken a panoramic shot to show it in one image. Next time I guess!

For whatever reason after the hairpin curve I didn’t take anymore pictures. Not sure why I didn’t. The slot canyon continued for a while, then came to an open area, but the slot canyon continued on the other side of that area to the top of the canyon wall. There was only one branch in the slot and it came after that open area. To the left is supposedly an opening into the canyon (be careful if you go that way). We went right and the slot continued up to another large open area at the top of the canyon wall. It looked like a great place to explore and we might have found entrances to other slot canyons up there, but we decided to head back down and head back to the Jeep.  We did seem to get some better lit pictures on the way back out.

 

I looked back one last time as we left the slot canyon and caught the halo of the sun around one of the peaks of the canyon walls near the entrance to the slot canyon. I also noted the fire ring.  Camping is allowed, free, and no reservations are required in Anza Borrego!

Sun setting behind the canyon wall as we leave the slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

 

I don’t consider myself a desert person, but this was one of my favorite hikes in San Diego County so far. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good example of a slot canyon or who just loves to explore.

Jenny and Sean cross the first bridge on the North Kaibab descent
Our hike into the Grand Canyon started early on the morning of 2 June. The best times to do this hike, the way we did it, would be the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of October. So we were just outside this “prime time” window. The North Rim lodge doesn’t open until the 15th of May so if you want to stay there, you have to go after 15 May. This is an incredibly popular time to schedule a Rim to Rim hike. If you also want to stay at Phantom Ranch in either a cabin or one of the bunk house, then good luck to you. It is very difficult to get through to the reservation line on the 1st of May a year+ earlier. Even for our June trip it took me over 45 minutes of dialing to get through to make my reservations. Although I would have preferred to go on the 17th of May, in order to have the best chance of cooler weather, the reality is that it can be very hot even then. To satisfy my curiosity I looked up the weather reports for the last two weeks of May and the first week of June for Phoenix. It is hard to find a good source of accurate weather for Phantom Ranch, and Phoenix is a very good (but not perfect) match for the weather you’ll experience at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Amazingly it will be 30+ degrees cooler on either the North or South rims. So for May 2014 the weather for the last two weeks would have been… Phoenix May 2014 Temperatures So if I had gotten really lucky and gotten my first choice for reservations at Phantom Ranch, the 17th of May (giving us 2 nights at the lodge), the temperature would have been 104 on the day we hike in. The temperatures for June 2nd were only slightly higher at 110 degrees. Phoenix Temperatures June 2014 Remember these are actually Phoenix recorded temperatures. I think the highest temperature we saw hiking in was 105 degrees, in the shade. The interesting thing is we could have hiked even as late as 21 June without seeing significantly hotter weather. But when you are scheduling a hike like this you want to play the odds, and you have a better chance for cooler weather in May than June. There were some days as low as 90 degrees.

It doesn’t matter whether it is 90 or 115 degrees when you do this hike be sure to be careful, it is not an easy hike, and it is very easy to get in trouble with those temperatures.  If you think you can just “charge on” even if you are feeling the effects of the heat you’re mistaken.  It won’t cool down for a long time! If the heat starts to take a toll on you or anyone in your group, slow down, take advantage of the shade and cool streams next to much of the trail. Manage your time, especially if you are on a schedule, but if you can wait it is much cooler and there is a lot more shade around 4 pm. You should also get a very early start. Before sunrise once there is enough light to see the trail is perfect.

We didn’t start late, but we did start after sunrise. We took the early shuttle from the North Rim Lodge to the North Kaibab Trail trailhead. After a group picture at the trailhead…

Group picture at the North Kaibab trailhead

we hit the trail.  We were all carrying extra water because a leak in the transcanyon pipeline made it very likely that we would have limited water stops on the hike in. We were told that only the first water stop at the Supai Tunnel and if we wanted to go out of our way, the water stop at Roaring Springs would be reliable.

Although starting early is smart, if you start before sunrise you will miss some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire hike.  The start of the trail is a gentle descent, with a sandy/dusty soft trail surrounded by trees and the canyon walls.

Jenny and Sean ahead of me near the start of the North Kaibab Trail

It was cool, clear and the lighting was perfect.  Great day to start our hike.  For me this was a familiar trail, but for everyone else there was a new discovery around every switchback.

Jenny and Sean one switchback ahead of me on the North Kaibab trail

Even though we had left the North Rim behind, we still had a few Aspens to walk through.

Jenny hiking through the Aspens near the top of the North Kaibab trail

I stopped at a large flat overlook just off the trail to catch this view to the South Rim and beyond. Except for being just a little lower, and the terrific morning light, it looked about the same as it did from the lodge.

Large overlook along the North Kaibab Trail

A little further down the trail and we came to one of my favorite photo spots. There are large pillars of sandstone at a couple switchbacks in a row. A good place for a group picture!

A favorite photo spot along the North Kaibab trail

This picture shows the obvious transition from one layer to the next. These layers are what make the Grand Canyon the Grand Canyon. Based on where we were, still fairly near the top, I believe the top layer is Coconino Limestone, and the bottom layer is the start of the Hermit formation.

Obvious division between a limestone and shale layer

You can find more on the geology of the Grand canyon here.

My last Grand Canyon rim to rim hike was in the fall of 2010. I expected a lot more blooming plants this time. We had seen a lot of blooms during our training hikes in San Diego. Although it was greener this time, I only saw a few blooming plants. This New Mexico Locust (best guess) was the most impressive.

A blooming New Mexico Locust on North Kaibab trail June 2014

As we descended further, leaving the rest of the world behind, we noticed one reminder of the modern world…

X marks the spot

Our progress was only slowed by one thing… we were camera happy. I knew this was one of my favorite parts of the trail, and I had really built it up to the others in the group. Two of us were carrying the cameras, me and my cousin Mike. It didn’t take long for the two of us to fall behind!

Mike posing for a picture camera at the ready

The first break was at the water stop just before the Supai Tunnel.

Supai Tunnel water and bathroom stop North Kaibab Trail

Our water was still nearly full as it was cool and downhill to this point, but we topped them off anyway (anticipating unreliable water access due to the leak in the pipe). Unless you are carrying very small water containers this stop is not very necessary on the way down, but I’m sure it is appreciated by anyone going up the North Kaibab trail.

Even if you don’t need to, check out the stairs to the restrooms… it’s the prettiest toilet entry I’ve ever walked through and Jenny looked lovely standing at the top of the stairs too!

Jenny on the stairs to the restrooms at Supai Tunnel

After taking the mandatory group pictures in the tunnel…

Jenny Sean and Mike in the Supai tunnel

Eric Sean and Jenny in the Supai tunnel

We continued down the trail. This was one part of the trail where my memory failed me from my previous hike. When I pictured the trail just past the Supai Tunnel, I pictured it as very red and curved. But that part of the trail was actually 15-20 minutes below the exit from the tunnel. The rocks and trail were red, and beautiful…

Red rocks below the Supai tunnel

and we soon could see the first bridge on the trail below us.

First glimpse of a bridge below us on North Kaibab Trail

After passing a cool overhang,

Jenny and Sean passing under a large overhang on the North Kaibab trail

lots of switchbacks,

Switchbacks on on the North Kaibab descent below Supai tunnel

and some steep descents,

Looking back up a steep descent on the North Kaibab Trail

we finally came to the curved red rock path. It’s obvious why that part of the trail was so strong in my memory. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the North Kaibab Trail descent.

Curved trail cut out of red rocks North Kaibab Trail

After another 20 minutes of descent we paused for this picture above the first bridge on the trail.

Jenny just above the first bridge on the North Kaibab Trail

I waited just above the bridge to take a picture of Jenny and Sean crossing the bridge, which is the picture at the top of the post. As I crossed the bridge I took this picture of the canyon below the bridge. I can imagine the water roaring over these rocks in the spring as the snow melts. I’d love to get that picture!

View of the canyon below the first bridge on North Kaibab trail

We paused for a break in the shade just after the bridge. The trail was switching sides of the canyon and we would be in the sun much more of the time after this break. We started to feel the heat more and began regretting all the pauses for pictures! We headed back up hill for a short distance and then followed the trail as it hugged the side of the canyon.

Eric Rial on the North Kaibab Trail June 2014

One curved section of the trail is obviously being formed by water pouring down the side of the canyon.

Kaibab trail passes  by an interesting formation in the side of the canyon

The rock formation has multiple drops forming ledges that you can climb up or down onto. I climbed up a level, and my cousin Mike climbed down a level to pose for this picture.

Mike stepped down a level for this photo

Then we came to one of the two parts of the trail where my “somewhat dormant” fear of heights kicked in last time… and again this time. I knew this part of the trail was coming and had intentionally dropped back to get this picture.

Jenny and Sean taking a break along the North Kaibab Trail

I shouted ahead for Jenny and Sean to stop so I could get the picture. Sean shouted back that they should be taking a picture of me… that I should see what they were seeing. After a few exchanges of “you should see what I see” with my youngest son, I walked over to hang out with them. As Mike came around the corner, I agreed with Sean that the view he had been seeing was pretty cool too!

Mike pauses along the North Kaibab Trail

Although it was getting hotter, the views were still slowing us down. Another favorite part of the trail for me was next. It is a switchback that goes out away from the canyon wall toward a rock monolith…

Jenny walks toward a switchback near a rock monolith on the North Kaibab Trail

then back toward the canyon wall. This forms a nice platform for taking pictures of people as they go under a rock outcrop and walk along the trail following the curve of the canyon wall.

Jenny and Sean walk under a rock outcrop and along the curved canyon wall on the North Kaibab trail

A little further down the trail I noticed a familiar and memorable view. It was at this point on Day 1 of our October 2010 Rim to Rim hike that I thought I saw a woman carrying an old fashion parasol. Then she seemed to disappear. Although I was still sick (laryngitis) and it was hotter, there were no phantom visions this time.

North Kaibab Trail winding along the canyon wall

The lower you go the warmer it gets! The warmer it got the happier we were to spend a little time in the shade!

Resting in the shade on the North Kaibab Trail

Although we were getting closer to the bottom, the canyon walls and rock formations had not changed much yet. We passed another rock formation formed by water just around the corner after our shady resting place.

Another water worn rock formation on the North Kaibab Trail

About a minute later as I snapped this picture of my son Sean about to round a corner I noticed a large patch of green trees just ahead. We were just about to see Roaring Springs!

Sean about to round a corner with evidence of Roaring Springs just ahead

As we got closer we could see the trail down to Roaring Springs just to the right of the green grove of trees.

The trail down to Roaring Springs to the right of the green trees

This “optional” trail is about a half mile long. Usually by the time you get to this point “optional” trails have lost any appeal they may have had during planning. However, things were different this time. The last status update we got on water stops before we left the North Rim was that water access was not likely to be available beyond the spigot at Roaring Springs. So our 14 mile hike on Day 1 would be extended to 15 miles, and we would get a chance to see Roaring Springs a little closer.

On the way down the “optional trail” I snapped this picture of Roaring Springs (zoomed in quite a bit).

View of Roaring Springs from the trail - zoomed in for a close up

Unfortunately this would be the best picture I got even though we got closer. It’s amazing to me that Roaring Spring flows year around out of the side of the canyon wall. In fact it is the main source of fresh water for the resorts on both rims and There is a fresh water pipe along all 23 plus miles of trail and a series of pump houses used to pump the water up to the resorts. Click this link (An Investigation of Energy Use, Potable Water and Wastewater Treatment at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona) for a good explanation of how the process works.

The extra time we spent walking to and checking out Roaring Springs meant that it would be later/hotter for the rest of the hike but I’m glad we took some time to investigate the area while we were there. Jenny and Sean had some snacks and hung out in the shade while my cousin Mike and I worked our way through some dense (and creepy crawler infested) plants along and across an informal trail that meandered toward the falls below Roaring Springs. We were persistent enough to at least get to a small side falls before we turned around. The transcanyon pipeline cut through the area, but it was still a cool place.

We snapped a few pictures – this is the best one of Mike…

Mike on a rock below Roaring Springs

and Mike took this one of me.

Eric Rial below Roaring Springs Grand Canyon National Park

After we scrambled back along the overgrown path to the watering stop, we filled all of our containers and continued on the trail toward Phantom Ranch. I’m going to continue describing Day 1 of our hike in my next post. My favorite part of the entire hike was behind us, but by no means is the rest of the hike disappointing. It’s just that the North Kaibab trail between the North Rim and Roaring Springs is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!

Next post in this series: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 2: Roaring Springs to Phantom Ranch)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

Sunset over San Diego

The cliché quote is to “Live everyday as if it is your last”. That is good advice, but as with most clichés it loses it’s oomph after a while. I stay very busy, and love my life, but I’m not perfect. I’m not good with the routine things that are necessary if you want to have a full life. I also am easily distracted and end up doing things that are “not according to plan”, unnecessary, and unfulfilling. On a recent drive home from work I was thinking about this propensity for wasting valuable time. I have dozens of unstarted projects, a blog that I’ve been ignoring too much of late, and friends and family that I don’t spend enough time with. I want to be more focused.

My son and I started watching the HBO show “True Detectives” at the beginning of last week. We don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do enjoy watching a few good shows with him. He suggested this one, which is rare, so we gave it a try. It is a very, very good show. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson both deliver great performances. Matthew McConaughey’s character is “a bit off” to put it mildly. At one point in the show he’s explaining his philosophy on life. He believes in no heaven or hell, only that we will all live our lives over again and again. We will live everyday over again. Experience every experience again, exactly as it happened the first time. This got me thinking! To some degree I was doing that already. Not reliving my life, but on a shorter cycle reliving the same experiences over and over again. Not every day, but on those routine, go to work, come home, eat dinner, etc., etc. days. Work is necessary (I owe, I owe, so off to work I go), eating is necessary, but there are so many bad habits that I had fallen into over time. So many good habits that I had let drift away recently.

So I’ve decided to live those routine days with a new philosophy. To paraphrase the cliché quote… I plan to “Live everyday as if I will live it over and over for the rest of my life”.

I am not good at routines. I’m forgetful, easily distracted, and I would rather do something new or entertaining than follow a routine. However, I know that I owe a lot of my happiness and good fortune over the past several years to well established beneficial routines. When you have physical goals like a marathon or long hike routine training schedules are what make it possible. I’m not a neat freak, but I like to stay on top of thing around the house. And I have a lot of projects around the house that I want to do, and I really dislike leaving anything half-finished. A solid daily and weekly routine helps me keep these things on track. If these things are taken care of, it’s much easier to focus on planning fun things and doing them!

Over the past 8 years I’ve been pretty good at keeping up with my daily and weekly routines. However, after I completed the Marine Corps Marathon last October, I fell off on many of my routines. It started as a conscious effort to let my body heal, my hip and both Achilles tendons were very sore and the constant training was not letting them heal. So letting up on the work outs is explainable, but a lot of my other daily and weekly routines suffered too. My blog posting dropped off and I wasn’t as much on top of chores around the house. We’ve been busy, but I have the time I need to do these things.

In addition to slacking off on good habits, some bad ones have gained ground. Too much TV, too much couch time, and my diet has taken a turn for the worse. So far there has been no big difference in my life due to these changes, but over time, if I let this trend continue, my life would change and not for the better.

There is a well-known saying that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I would like to paraphrase this proverb to state one of my strongest held beliefs, “all play and no work makes Jack a bad playmate”. In addition to the preparation required so that you can truly “enjoy play”, you have to do “the work” on yourself and your situation before you can be a good play partner. You need to be financially prepared, you have to be physically prepared, you have to be well rested, and you need a stable orderly living situation before you are really ready to put all that aside for some worry free and well deserved fun. You have to do be prepared before you can be a good playmate.

Establishing beneficial routines and sticking to them is an essential part of living a full life. Do the work to prepare yourself for life and you’ll never regret it! If you don’t have good routines life will eventually overwhelm you and then start to pass you by.

This will be my 5th consecutive Race for Autism and the 10th Anniversary of the Race itself. This event offers a chip timed 5K race, a fun 5K walk/run, and/or a 1 mile family walk. The location could not be better, the course cuts through the heart of Balboa Park.

My first Race for Autism was in 2010, I was injured, arrived at the race alone, knew no one, but I still had a great time! Not long after this race I received some information about the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR) Mens’s Group. I decided to check it out and have been attending meetings ever since. This group is a great resource for Dad’s of children with autism. NFAR has also started a Women’s Group for Moms.

In 2011 I was joined by family and friends for the race and in 2012 we had an even larger turnout.

Our team for the NFAR Race for Autism 24 March 2012

We had a terrific time, unfortunately we were on our way out of town right after the race, so we were unable to fully enjoy the day. Last year our team had a great turn out and lots of fun. I ran with both my sons, one of my daughters and her boyfriend (now fiancée!). We did the family walk with an even larger group. We made up for the quick exit in 2012 by inviting all our friends and family over to our house for brunch following the race in 2013. This was also the first year that my son Sean ran the 5K race. He ran with me and his older brother (putting on a burst at the end to beat us by a hair).

His older sister and her boyfriend also ran the 5K.

Monica and Ricky at the finish

We had an even larger group for the family walk. This is just some of the group.

2013 NFAR Race for Autism Team Running with Sean

In 2014 we are still putting together a team. We’re looking forward to the race and the get together afterwards.

Autism affects each child differently. But with effective therapy and quality education there is an opportunity to improve the lives of every child with autism. NFAR is focused on providing support to the people most focused on making a difference like teachers. From personal experience I know that teachers can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child with autism. This race is our chance to help them make that difference.

Sign up for the Race for Autism at San Diego Race for Autism, and invite your friends and family.

Update 22 March 2014: We had a great turnout for the race/walk and support folks and an even bigger group for brunch after at our house. This year just adds to the fun we’ve had through the years with everyone who has supported us in raising money for NFAR.

Here are a few pictures:

This is the whole 2014 early morning group of runners, walkers, and support folks. More terrific supporters came to the brunch.

Our early morning group at the race/walk

Randy turned in a good time well ahead of the rest of us… we have some more training to do for next year!

Randy turning in the fastest time for the team

Kirsten and Austin finishing up strong!

Kirsten and Austin finishing the 5K race

All of the runners (Trisha, Randy, Sean, Kirsten, Austin, and me) on team “Running with Sean Again” – 2014!

All the runners on the team

We had a great time again and will definitely be out again next year. It was a very rewarding day!

2013 Collage

Last year, 2013, was a very good year for me. Although it will be hard to beat I’m hoping for an even better 2014!

In 2013 I checked a major accomplishment off on my Bucket List, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and had a great time in Washington DC that weekend! In order to make that happen I ran over 500 training miles including two half marathons, the San Diego Half Marathon in March 2013, and the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in San Diego in June.

We had a great time camping near Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park with family. Although I’ve been many times, this was my first trip to Idaho with Jenny. We spent our first anniversary enjoying downtown Boise, went white water rafting, and biked the Boise green belt on the 4th of July, then headed north for a couple days in beautiful Stanley Idaho. For my birthday we had a terrific weekend on Santa Catalina Island. the trip started out fast with my first zipline experience, and we also had a terrific time hiking in the hills around Avalon and just relaxing in our hotel and at the Descanso Beach club.

We enjoyed our third year of Green Flash Concerts at Birch Aquarium and lots of other live music including a few of my favorites Sara Barelles and One Republic at the SDSU Open Air Theater, John Mayer and Phillip Phillips at Sleep Train Amphitheater, Steve Miller at the fair, and Fleetwood Mac at one of my favorite venues – the Hollywood Bowl.

We closed on our new house on 31 December 2012, so we had all of 2013 to get settled in. This inspired me to start a new category for my blog: Weekend Project. Although I got a good start on the house, there are plenty more projects to tackle over the next few years.

For 2014 I will do this a little differently than last year with a top 10 count down of predictions for 2014!

10. Week-end project – install surround sound speakers!

9. Develop an Android App and publish it to Google Play.

8. Weekend Project – Improve the storage in our garage so we can park 2 cars in the garage at once (novel idea)!

7. Our 4th consecutive season of Green Flash Concerts at the Birch Aquarium.

6. Bucket List (progress) – Complete at least 35 new (never been on hikes) in San Diego County.

5. Bucket List – Walk across the Grand Canyon not once but twice on a rim to rim to rim hike!

4. Check at least one item off my Bucket List in the travel section. Need to coordinate this with a few people so I’m not picking one now…

3. Visit family and friends in Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, and even here in California!

2. One of my daughters will get engaged! (OK cheating on the prediction side of things as it happened on January 2nd.)

1. Bucket List – rock a grandchild to sleep in my arms!

I hope your 2013 was unbelievable, and your 2014 is unstoppable! Happy New Year!

I started very early planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2013 in March 2012 after putting this on my Bucket List. This would be my first and possibly my only marathon. If there would only be one, I wanted it to be the Marine Corps Marathon. I ran 3 half marathons in 2012 and 2013 to get my training started, and to see what it felt like to run a long run/race. So the morning of 27 October was the culminating event, but the experience really lasted for more than a year and a half. During that time I ran hundreds of miles in some beautiful places. Most of my training was alone, but my son, who ran the marathon with me, ran a couple shorter training runs and most of the long training runs with me. All in all this was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done!

I have mixed feelings now that I’ve run and completed the marathon. I’m completely satisfied with “the accomplishment” part of it, the memories will be with me for the rest of my life, but I’ll miss having the goal in front of me. I’m glad I can just rest and relax for a few weeks or more without worry, but there is a surreal feeling of something not being right. Does this mean I will have to run another marathon? I don’t think “I have to”, but I may decide I want to at some point. I know I will run more half marathons, but I may or may not do another full marathon. If I chose to never run another one, it will not be because I didn’t love the experience, or because it was so brutal that I never want to do another one, it will be because the training takes a commitment of time that can turn you in to a one trick pony. There are so many other things I want to do.

We arrived in Washington DC on Friday in the late afternoon. This gave us a full day on Saturday to get past the jet lag and to do a few things in DC. We didn’t leave until late in the day on Monday, so there was a little more time Monday to check out some memorials and stretch the legs out. For Saturday we had a short list of things “we had to do”. First was getting our bibs and packets at the DC Armory, this was very organized, but also very busy. The line was long for the bibs, but moved quickly. The line was a bit of a bottle neck even though it was moving quickly. Once we got inside the tent, there were very few runners inside the tent. Many of the volunteers had no one in front of them. They could have pushed people into the tent more quickly. We spent about 45 minutes in line and once inside the tent it took about 2 minutes to get our bib. Since I’m a retired Marine we were able to take advantage of a shorter “Military only” line into the Expo. Security was pretty thorough or the lines would have been shorter going into the Expo. Inside we got our race shirt and a clear gear bag we could use to check stuff before the race. Since my wife planned to go with us to the start of the race, we would be able to avoid checking gear. We got out of the Expo quite a bit later than we expected, so we just had time for a quick visit to the Smithsonian and then headed out for an early pasta dinner.

The instructions for the race said we should try to arrive 2 hours early. That seemed excessive since we would be riding the Metro, so we planned to leave about 90 minutes before the race. I expected it would take about 20 minutes to get there. In fact it was much longer. Luckily we were not trying to get on the Metro at a really busy station. I think a lot of people trying to get on the train at the Rosslyn Station were unable to get to the race on time. By the time we arrived at the Porta Potties near the start of the race, the start was in 20 minutes!

Me and my son preparing for the Start of the Marine Corps Marathon 2013

The lines were very long and only some scrambling to find better lines got all the pre-race business done in time! But we managed to watch the pre-race parachute show, take off our warm clothes, and get to the starting line before the cannon fired.

About 15 minutes before the start of the Marine Corps Marathon 2013

There was a mass of discarded clothing at the start in the center median of the road. I suppose they will pick this stuff up for donating after the race. Our corral walked slowly up to the starting point, then we were off. I had expected that my right hip would still be stiff. I had injured it on a training run about 3 weeks before the race and had not run without pain and stiffness since then. It was stiff and painful at the start, but I was able to limp out to a reasonable 10:30 minute/mile pace that I would manage to hold on to for about the first 15 kilometers. The course was mostly flat, but there was a fairly decent climb near the start on Lee Highway into Rosslyn. Then the course turned back toward DC with a long downhill stretch to the Key Bridge. The crowds in Georgetown were very supportive. Then we turned on to Potomac Parkway for a long out and back stretch. This was one of two very “park-like” stretches of the run.

Running near the start of the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon

My 26.2 Miles of Music playlist was working like a charm! Even though my hip was bothering me, the miles seemed to melt away one song at a time. The Kennedy Center, just before the 10 mile mark was the first DC landmark that I recognized. Then came the back of the Lincoln Memorial. This was where I thought I might see my wife and daughter-in-law in the crowd. I didn’t see them, but they saw me. Although I was starting to feel a bit looser, I was still limping fairly noticeably. My wife told me later she was really worried when she saw me that I would not finish. Somewhere around mile 11 the hip pain finally faded – probably just went numb. The course then passed the Jefferson Memorial, as it would a total of 3 times. I also thought my wife might be there, but she wasn’t. We entered a second “park like” stretch, in this case it was an actual park – West Potomac Park. I passed a couple of porta potties with terrible lines, but finally gave in to “the need” and stopped at a bathroom in the park. The women’s lines were really long, but the men’s line was reasonable. A couple of women must have noticed that because they decided they could endure the use of the men’s room. This little stop cost me 8-10 minutes, but the next 14 miles of the run were much more comfortable! Definitely worth the stop.

Before we got to the half-way point they had what I’ll call the “simulated finish line” painted on the ground. It makes for a good picture, and I’m sure I looked better around mile 12 than I did at mile 26.2!

Eric Rial running the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon

The part of the race between 12 and 20 miles was the most enjoyable to me. The course was beautiful, and I felt pretty good. My pace was slow, but I wasn’t worried about that anymore. When the route swung back by the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, at about mile 16, I finally saw my wife and daughter-in-law. The limp was gone and I was feeling much better.

Happy to see my wife and daughter in law on the Marine Corps Marathon Route

I was very happy to see them. I gave my wife a hug, then back to running! My wife told me later she was very relieved to see me smiling and running more smoothly.

The Mall in Washington DC is one of my favorite places, and I rarely visit DC without taking a run on the Mall. So the course between mile 15 and mile 20 was familiar and motivating! I even got a bit emotional as I turned the corner in front of the Capitol building. The first few times I ran on the Mall you could run up those stairs. I also remember a very rainy day with the family many years ago when we sheltered in an alcove on the side of the Capitol building. Now you can’t come close to the building, but it is still a familiar, yet awe-inspiring sight. As the course turned away from the Capitol we had to run through a gauntlet of photographers. I had a ton of pictures from that part of the course to choose from. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC

Running past the US Capitol during the 38th Marine Corps Marathon 2013

After the Capitol we past the 18 mile marker. I still felt pretty good. I remembered my long training runs and the thought on those runs at 18 miles… “will I be able to run 8 more miles”. Today that question would be answered. The miles did seem to get longer after this point. The 20 mile marker was just before the 14th Street Bridge and the crossing back into Virginia. At that point not only did the miles seem longer, but the pavement seemed harder! I didn’t even think about stopping, but I did start thinking about and hoping for the finish!

Feeling it on the 14th Street Bridge between 20 and 21 miles

The run through Crystal City was a long blur. Although I usually stay there when I visit DC, most of it did not seem familiar. I did recognize some of it though and I was very happy when I realized we were getting closer to the Pentagon. I didn’t see any mile markers between the 20 and the 25 mile point. This may have just been inattention, but it was actually a good thing. I just ran with no sense of how far I had to go until it was just about over. By the time I got to the hill up to the Marine Corps Memorial I was feeling every step. I ran as hard as I could about two-thirds of the way up the hill, then put my hands on my hips and walked up the rest.

Feeling it on the last part of the climb up the Marine Corps Memorial Access road

At the top of the hill I turned right toward the finish line and started to run again. I wasn’t going fast, but I wanted to run across the finish. It was a long tenth of a mile! At that point the race organization kicked in again. They pushed us into multiple chutes to get our finisher medal, a picture with our finisher medal, and all the other goodies. An optional picture was available by the Marine Corps Memorial… but this picture was one of the reasons I chose this race.

MCM Finisher Photo with Marine Corps Memorial in the background

After the race I was sore, the walk through Rosslyn to get a ride back to the hotel was torture. Although we had planned to ride the Metro back to the hotel, there was a very long line just to get into the station, so we decided to get away from the crowd and try to get a taxi. The first taxi we saw seemed uninterested in working, not sure what his deal was, so my son used his Uber app to get us a ride. The driver showed up in about 5 minutes and we were much more comfortable riding in the large Lincoln Navigator than we would have been in a small taxi anyway!

Running the Marine Corps marathon was an amazing experience from the first training run to crossing the finish line! I’m so glad I decided to run a marathon despite being past the age to “do those kind of things”. I’m also glad I chose the Marine Corps Marathon. Although signing up was a nightmare (thankfully they are going to a lottery for 2014), the rest of the marathon operated like a well oiled machine! I can’t imagine a more motivating course and the weather was PERFECT! If I run another marathon it will likely be something closer to home, but I will never forget this experience. It was worth every mile of training, every hour of commitment, and every ache and pain.

All my Marine Corp Marathon Posts are listed on my  Marine Corps Marathon 2013 Posts (Including training half marathons)page.

Only our footprints on Barking Sands Beach for milesI was running by the beach the other day. It was a pretty busy Friday night at the beach. Folks playing beach volleyball, skateboarding, riding bikes. I really prefer there to be some activity. I enjoy dodging a little traffic while I run. But the thing that caught my attention was two guys tossing small bean bags at a slanted board. I looked this up on the internet and found two names for the game: bean bag toss and cornhole. I prefer to say “two guys were playing bean bag toss on the beach” to “two guys were playing cornhole on the beach”. The point and what made this stick with me, is that this is a very simple thing to plan and do, but it’s fun. I’ve played this before in Iowa with family and had a ton of fun.
In our busy lives we make sure to make time for big things… big adventures, big events, and vacations, but we forget to make time for the simple things. A full life should have plenty of time for the simple things!

Some favorite simple things:

  • Throwing a Frisbee
  • Going for a walk or a hike
  • Riding bikes
  • Playing fetch
  • Swimming in the ocean
  • Boggie boarding
  • Playing cards
  • Playing games
  • Watching a movie
  • Reading a book
  • A Picnic
  • BBQ
  • Watching a sunset
  • Playing catch
  • Playing board games
  • Talking with family and friends
  • Happy Hour

I’m sure I’m missing lots of great simple things… any ideas?

I’m adding a new category to my blog to plan and describe some of weekend projects around my house. I’ve been feeling guilty for not hiking or sailing as much lately. When I sat down to think about it I decided that it was a combination of the big running goal, preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon, and all the weekend projects needed to get settled into our new home. Even the running has dropped off lately with my injured calf, so that took the guilt up a notch. But I’m not spending a bunch of time on the couch… I’m getting things done around the house. When you first move in to a new house the number of things on your Honey Do list can be overwhelming. Unpack, organize, donate, fill new spaces, yard, garage, and the list goes on and on. After a few months the surge of immediate to-dos have been taken care of and it’s time for some projects that should be more fun, or at least pretty rewarding. This is the third home I’ve owned and some of the things that sounded like fun before, like landscaping aren’t as appealing anymore. Maintaining and improving the landscape once it’s in will be fun but things like trenching for sprinklers, laying a patio, and other hardscape projects can be done by a contractor this time!

My first “fun” project was coating my garage floor with epoxy. It turned out great, but there were definitely some lessons learned. This will be my first post in the new category.

Rustoleum Epoxy Garage Coat Applied

Next on our weekend project list was painting. The biggest challenge here is picking colors that work for the space, and since our house has a fairly open floor plan, the colors have to work together. We had a good idea of the color we wanted in the guest bathroom, so this was the first one to tackle. In this picture the tape was still up and I hadn’t painted the shower area, but the color was exactly what we wanted in this bathroom.

Painting the Guest Bathroom

Future projects include a shelf for shoes in the master bedroom closet, a built-in entertainment center in the family room, adding the speakers for the pre-wired surround sound in the family room, and putting a wine cellar in the large walk-in space behind our garage. I can think of others, but want to keep the list manageable to be sure I still have time to travel, hike, paddle, sail, work-out, and prepare for the Marine Corps Marathon. However, weekend projects around the house are a rewarding part of a full life, so I will add info about mine to this blog.

Time to think
This has always been my favorite leadership principle (see USMC 11 leadership principles). The full principle is “Know yourself and seek self improvement”. It has always seemed to me that the hardest part is what gets left off… knowing yourself. With our busy schedules, and with 4 kids my schedule has been full for a long time, finding the time for introspection is not easy. But I’ve always managed to find at least some time for it, even in a busy schedule.  When things seemed to be going the wrong way, and the problems started building up, the first thing I would do is look inward to see how I could improve myself to make things better.

I’m not saying that I’ve never blamed others for my problems, that would be a lie. I will say that I’ve never solved my problems that way. Blaming others may feel better, but it is not going to lead to self-improvement, and it is unlikely to make a positive difference in your life. It is a distraction and a barrier to finding a way to change, to finding a solution.

Thinking About itKnowing yourself is hard because it is difficult to really look at yourself objectively. You have to look at yourself through the eyes of others… think back to criticism you have received. Open your mind to the possibility that the criticism was valid. Of course if they say “your nose is not pug enough for me”, don’t run out for plastic surgery. Maybe that is something they should work on! But if they dug a little deeper than that, even if the way they told you was indirect or unkind, think about what they said, think about it from their perspective. Why did they say it, was it valid. Think about your reaction to their criticism. Were you defensive? Let go of defensiveness and take responsibility. You have to own it before you can fix it.

I’ve met a lot of people who seem to think they are perfect, or at least give off that vibe… but I’ve got news for them – NO ONE IS PERFECT. There is not enough time in single lifetime to even come close. But that is no reason not to improve, just be sure you prioritize. I love the fact that no one is perfect. Knowing that no one is perfect makes it easier to admit to myself that I am not perfect. It is easier to know yourself if you accept your imperfection.

The rest is much easier. See the knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses, and imperfections as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to improve, an opportunity to change your life – one improvement at a time. Build on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. The change may not be a 180 degree change in the direction of your life, but if you apply yourself, it will be worth the effort.