Monday, June 26, 2017

Travel Tips from Two Weeks Out of the Country

Tallinn Estonia
After two amazing, back-to-back trips to Newfoundland and Finland/Estonia, I decided to write some travel tips. But first here's some photos from Newfoundland with my parents:
The iceberg is bigger than a house!


A  surreptitious pic of my parents









All those bergs make it difficult to fish. 

Rent A Car: While most European cities offer good transportation, having the freedom to explore off the beaten path is priceless. Or a few hundred dollars to be exact. But below are a few tips on how I'd recommend doing it:

Pre-pay: Prepaying gas in your rental car will force you to explore more if you want to get your money's worth. For example, when I was in Finland, with gas at $7 a gallon, I probably wouldn't have taken a detour to Turku, but I am glad I did as the town was a fun day trip. And come to find out it actually was Finland's capital for most of Finland's history.

Turku castle


Splurge on GPS: If overseas, having the peace of mind that you won't get dreadfully lost. However. don't be afraid to turn it off like we did in Canada just exploring some cool back roads.

Pay Attention to Speed Limits: After Kenny and my return home from our trip to Paris in April, I received in the mail not one but TWO speeding tickets. Since then I have become aware of how Europeans love to patrol their highways remotely. I almost got caught a couple times in Finland but was saved by my GPS altering me to an upcoming detector. Go the speed limit, you will see more:)

But Take Public Transport When Able: Yes, having the freedom to go off the beaten path is great, but there are certain places and times when a car is unnecessary or cumbersome. For example, when I took the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia, I didn't want to have to deal with finding a place to park a rental car. So instead, I just took the city bus. I got to see a different side of Helsinki and saved 50 Euros by not taking an airport taxi. Also, places like Munich make it tough to get to the city center while driving and public transport is so efficient it doesn't make sense to have a car.

Check Trip Adviser: There is nothing like having open-source reviews of all the sights, and sites cited for you. Check to see what are MUST sees. But then have the confidence to peel off from it and explore. After all some of the best parts of traveling is having your plans throw away haphazardly as you find new and more exciting opportunities.

Also check UNESCO: Don't forget this website. You'd be surprised where you might find a World heritage site like when Kenny and I went to St Louis and unexpectedly found the Cahokia Mounds. Tallinn's city center was a  site and I am certainly glad I made it there.
Tallinn

Bring good company or go alone: I am very lucky that I have a great fiance and parents to travel with. My week with the parents in Canada and my travels with Kenny were great. But that's because we have similar tastes and expectations for our trips. If you can't find someone to travel with who is going to enhance your trip, I'd recommend going alone.

Sample Local Cuisine: I couldn't pass up the herring, caviar or borscht in my time to Estonia, any more than I could(but should have) dried fish in Iceland or the 100 year egg in China. You may never be back and really should try everything. But do it at lunch where it is usually a lot cheaper.

Opt for a Layover: On my way home from Finland, I extended my layover in Munich Germany. I love Munich and certainly would recommend visiting even if only for a day. The amount of architecture, museums, food and, of course, beer halls within a train ride from the airport, makes a visit well worth it. And most times, extending your layovers doesn't end up costing you more and may actually save you a little money.

MUNICH:




Remember: The Best parts of travel are the unexpected. 
"The whole point of travel... is to have my sense of possibility expanded, to see every box in which I like to put things exploded-- and to be reminded that life generally has plans for us much wiser than the ones we might have concocted ourselves. One of the main things bucket lists teach us is the folly of treating places and experiences as collectibles. Happiness is very often commotion recollected in tranquility. On any good trip our expectations will be upended."

I hope your trip plans become upended soon:)


Until next time,

Danny

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rained Out

As you may have surmised from my last post, I didn't necessarily have a lot of confidence in my ability to race this past weekend's Pisgah 55.5k. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that given the opportunity to not start, I would leap at it. And the excuses rained down on me quite literally Saturday night.

We had camped out directly across from the race start and after a wonderful day sailing at Lake Murray and a good night in Asheville, I was thinking the race would turn out okay. I was disabused of this thinking around midnight when the skies opened up and delivered what ended up being over three shoes full of water(every time I got up in the night, I emptied my boat shoes which every time were brimming over). We ended up soaking ourselves because I didn't close the zipper all the way and soon we had a nice little water bed.

I had intended to wake up at 8a to get ready for the race but it was still pouring and because of my less than optimal sleep, I dozed off for another hour only to awaken to no better conditions. We hurriedly disassembled the tent in the downpour and quickly changed into dry clothes in the car. After having almost cracked my skull on the sprint to the car, I was already pretty confident I would not be racing.

We did swing by the start line and I saw about 10 hardy souls milling about before the start. I knew I would not be one of them. Instead Kenny and I explored via car the area, stopped for a short run through the rain to a waterfall in Dupont State park, had lunch, drove home, showered and did laundry and still had an hour to spare before I would have likely finished the race. Some may call it cowardly but I'd prefer judicious or prudent maybe.

But now I'm short for mileage and only four weeks until my marathon in Finland so it looks like I'll be doing the typical Ferreira training plan of holding my breath and flexing my stomach.

oh well, some things never change.

Until next time,

Danny

Friday, May 19, 2017

Pisgah 55.5k Trail Race-Silly Impulsive Decision

Somehow I thought I would be a good idea to enter myself in a 36 mile trail race this weekend. In fairness, I thought it was, as advertised, 33 miles(55k would be about that), not the actual 36 miles I'm now seeing on the course map. But still...

Craziness. But it takes place right outside of Asheville NC so Kenny and I are planning on journeying in to see what all the fuss is about. And camping right at the start line in our hammocks sealed the deal. 

I'm taking this race as a really long hike and am really just trying to get some strength back in my legs and build my endurance a bit more before my Finish marathon in mid-June. I want to be fit enough for that to actually be able to enjoy it. 

Still... This weekend's race looks brutal and I'm questioning my decision. And the 10:30a start time makes for a really hot race. So yes I'll probably be really questioning my decision on Sunday. 

Here's the course profile:






Yep. Awful.


I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Until next time,

Danny

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Oral Health-the Silent Killer

I have some embarrassing news. So much so I'm hesitant to tell y'all. But since we're all friends here, I might as well say. At my recent dentist appointment, it was discovered that I had THREE cavities. That is exactly three more than I have previously had in my life time. And also exactly three more than I was expecting as I thought I was just going in for a routine cleaning; having had no tooth pain or discomfort and no perceived issues. I must admit that after hearing this devastating news, I began wearing sweatpants to work and giving up on life. It is all downhill from here.

Okay a bit of an exaggeration, but only slightly. Oral health is a HUGE deal. It's been linked to so many debilitating health conditions but often only manifests itself when things get really bad and hard to recover from.

And that's why oral health is such an insidious issue. Most people don't even know they have issues until they are pretty advanced. Which is a big problem as oral health has been linked to heart health, metabolism as well as brain function. The mouth is the Canadian border of bacteria freely allowing bacteria inside your body. These germs travel through your swollen gums getting into your bloodstream and wrecking havoc downstream. In fact, researchers have found oral bacteria in the clogged arteries of coronary bypass patients. And a recent article in Circulation estimates an increase of 30% risk of heart attack for patients with  periodontal disease even after accounting for other risk factors such as hypertension, smoking and education. Just as bad is your chances of developing diabetes if you have gum disease. And worst, in my opinion, is the 6x increase rate of cognitive decline with gum disease.


The good news?
A little goes a long way. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who had at least one routine teeth scraping had a significant reduction of being hospitalized. Which means it's not too late!

Make an appointment to for a teeth cleaning as it's only with a dental hygienist that you can remove that tartar which allows for bacteria to accumulate and cause pockets in your gums. Then add in twice daily teeth brushing, flossing and a fluoride-based mouth rinse and you should be golden. Or pearly white.


PS. My dentist blames my year in Guyana without fluoride in the water for my teeth's decline.  It at least made me feel somewhat better.


It definitely got me thinking more about my own oral health.


Until next time,

Danny

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Water Keeps Rising; or A Hike at Congaree National Park

As the water rose to mid-thigh, I started really hoping that the old man had been right about alligators. A few months ago while doing my training to become a hiking guide at Congaree National Park, a few volunteer who'd been at CONG for many years said that the alligators only come once every three years. And they had just come last year so we wouldn't be seeing any this year. Something do to with turtle populations.

That seemed reasonable albeit somewhat esoteric, as I had no intention of being anywhere near the murky swamp that may house them. Or so I thought. Fast forward to this past Saturday and I am now nearly waist deep in water.

I had arrived to do my monthly guided long-hike to a sign saying all trails were closed due to flooding(all except the Bluff trail and a portion of the raised boardwalk). Inquiring at the front desk, I was told that the trails weren't technically closed, just underwater. They weren't sure exactly how deep underwater either since no one had ventured much further than the boardwalk.

After seeing I had no takers for a very much abbreviated Bluff trail hike, I decided to just head out on the boardwalk and see if I could a) help out anyone with trail info/guidance etc, and b) see just how flooded the trails really were.

I actually ran into many confused visitors who must have skipped the signs and headed out only to encounter water encroach on their walk. I was able to answer questions and redirect them so that was a good thing. I also came to the low boardwalk and saw what appeared to only be a few inches of water covering it. I took off shoes and socks and decided to see how far I could go.
 It didn't take too long before the water got a bit deeper.


I decided to retreat to dry ground and put my trail shoes back on so I wouldn't step on anything precarious as I'd now be venturing off the boardwalk onto Sims Trail. I was glad that Sims had trail markers on the trail because there would be no way at all to see the path.

As it was 90 degrees, it was actually quite relaxing in the cool clear water. For the most part it was very clear, but every few hundred yards, I'd come across a patch of clay and the water color would be brown and I couldn't see my feet. That became more frightening when the water got deeper and I saw a water snake scurry away from me. I really started hoping the old man was correct about the alligators.

Luckily, no more snakes and no alligators. Definitely a different hike than I had planned when I set out that morning, but what an adventure!

I volunteer at Congaree once a month so come by next month and I'll take you out somewhere fun:)


Until next time,

Danny

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuckfest Results

What a weekend! Of humility producing activities. Saved by Sunday's weather cancellation of several events, Kenny and I lucked out having to only suffer through a DNF at Friday's adventure race and a LONG and hot trail half marathon on Saturday. Don't get me wrong. The weekend was a blast! The music, food and drink added to all the events and demos we were able to watch was very enjoyable. 

But getting miserably lost and then only completing 2 out of 14 obstacles during the adventure race was an interesting way to start our weekend. Within half a mile into the race we encountered briers with thorns that left cuts for our first souvenir of the weekend. We, unwisely, decided to try to hit the furthest obstacle first so that we could then make our way back home as we ticked off the others. In reality we wandered aimlessly for 3-4 miles before popping out of the woods almost exactly where we entered, without having seen any obstacles. We retraced our steps and did eventually come across one obstacle and then came to a startling discovery. Not all the "obstacles" were obstacles. Our second one we reached was just a stick with a sticker on it for us to punch. We realized that we probably ran by a few without even noticing because we were looking for real obstacles. Apparently this literal interpretation of the challenge was our biggest obstacle. 

Sorry about that. Anyway, after another few miles at which point we intercepted another team running towards us who told us they had been running for miles without coming across a single obstacle, we decided to do the first smart thing of the evening. Quit.

Which we did undramatically and without remorse. We grabbed food, drink and a seat and watched the Revivalists perform. A far better way to end the night than be lost in the dark in the woods. 

The next morning Kenny and I, feeling better about that day's events, suited up for the half marathon. I have run two half marathons at the Whitewater center so thought I knew what to expect. I eyed the start line and saw 3-4 runners that I thought might be an issue but was thinking podium was in the cards. As expected, the race took off fast and I fell, comfortably, into sixth place, knowing that usually a few will slow as we enter the woods and more technical part of the trail. As expected, within the first few miles, I found myself in fourth and feeling strong. Unexpectedly, I was getting thirsty. Very thirsty. I hadn't even thought to bring my water bottle, having done races here before usually the aid stations were more than enough. Not this day. Over the next few miles, all I was thinking about was getting to the next aid station so I could have more water. 

During this time, I also, unexpectedly, came to the conclusion that this course was a)not the same as the previous times I'd run here, and b) long. It was a two loop course and I finished the first lap slightly under 7 miles. Not hugely off, but usually in trail races, my GPS comes up short due to all the switchbacks and whatnot. Certainly not long. This was discouraging but I kept chugging along, passing the third runner with about three to go. As expected. Thinking podium for sure. Then with less than a half mile to the finish, a runner passes me. Not extremely assertively so I thought I could hang on and repass before the finish. Unexpectedly, this didn't happen. Instead of speeding up like I thought I still could, I started seeing stars and forced myself to slow it down. That runner ended up beating me by over 30 seconds and put me solidly in fourth place-first off the podium.
 
Kenny didn't fare much better as one water stop actually had run out of water by the time she made it by. She has vowed never to run another half marathon there again but I think she'll change her mind. After all, she did come in 4th in her age-group so it wasn't like she had an awful race. Just, like me, not what she  had expected.

We spent the rest of the day doing our best to get a nice evenly distributed sun burn, which we did accomplish. We also did some other challenges where we were more successful,like getting a Chips Ahoy cookie from our foreheads to our mouths(easy) and getting two pennies out of panty hose without using our bodies or opposing hands(surprisingly hard). Another set of good musicians topped  the day. 

Luckily for our bodies, we awoke the next day to rain and temps in  low 50's. And my rock climbing competition was canceled. And I had no desire to enter in the kayaking comp with the rain, so we decided we'd create our own contest, eating copious amounts of breakfast foods and then heading back down to Columbia. 

Despite, or maybe because, our losses, we had a really fun weekend and have already put this weekend on our calendar for next year. 

Maybe we'll see you there.

Until next time,

Danny