Sunday, October 4, 2015

Danny's Top Five Hikes/Trail Runs of 2015

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Today was a good day. Kenny ran a half marathon in preparation for her marathon in three weeks. I had told her to take it out steady and really focus on just running her 5-10 seconds faster than marathon goal pace. She finished averaging 8:01s which is exactly 10 seconds faster than Boston qualifying and 5 seconds faster than what I think she will do for the marathon. All told a very good and evenly paced run for her. She has one more high volume week than is starting her taper. 

Meanwhile in Guyana, I awoke early and got in my longest run to date in here(60 minutes), went to the hospital for a 2 1/2 hour church service for the residents, spent some time practicing Portuguese with Duolingo and reading, and then went for bike ride and trail run. The bike ride was better than yesterday because of the copious amounts of duct tape that now envelops my bike. It may not look pretty but it held up. On my ride yesterday, I spotted some cool trails so I rode to one, locked up my bike and went for a short but relaxing run. In addition to being in nice trails and shaded and away from cars, riding home allowed me to cool off somewhat so I didn't need to stand in my shower for 30 minutes until I stopped sweating profusely.  

So was this trail run one of the best of 2015? Not even close but it got me thinking about all the awesome trails that I've been on this year and I decided to compile a list of the top five. I truly have been blessed with the spectacular and diverse So without further ado, here's my 2015 list:

#1 Fimmvoroudhals Trail-Iceland
Hands down the best trail that I went on this year. Not only did it have 22 amazing waterfalls, but it's terrain was so varied there was no way you could get bored. And if you were really ambitious, you could make it an overnight and camp on the far end(20+ miles later).   

#2 The Otter Trail- South Africa
Another trail that you could turn into a overnight. The Otter Trail actually is designed as a hut-hut 5 day excursion. As we didn't have that kind of time while we were there. We did just the first day. The hike to the waterfall. The whole first day parallels that ocean, except if you take a wrong turn, as we did and get up climbing 1000 feet of elevation while being stalked by a troop of baboons. Beautiful and very enjoyable.
The waterfall

#3 Dipsea Trail-North of San Francisco
There is a reason why this trail is host to the oldest trail race in the United States. Lined with Redwoods, it is spectacular and awe-inspiring. Plus if you time it right you still have plenty of time to either head to San Fran for a micro-brew or head over to Sonoma for some wine tasting. 
Can you spot Kenny running? 

#4 Mourne Wall Challenge-Newcastle Northern Ireland
Now this is 4th on my list because I did this one solo. I bet if I had the good company I had with the other trails on this list it may have gotten a higher ranking. Despite that and the energy sapping muck, this 22 mile trail tracing a 100 year old wall traversing several of Northern Ireland tallest peaks. It's beautiful and the challenge is to complete it in a day. The drive to/from Dublin and the hike can be done in a day if you are moving. 

#5 Mount Washington-Jefferson, New Hampshire
How could a list be complete without some mention of the many New England hikes that rival anywhere in the world. I was tempted to put in the Precipice Trail in Acadia but realized that I didn't have any pictures from that hike. As I always talk about how much I love the Little Haystack-Lafayette Loop, I decided I'd be Washington some respect and give it props. We went up Jefferson which I would recommend everyone do. It's a short hike to the summit and then you have nice views the whole time over to Washington. Warning: That also means that it's exposed the whole way so be vigilant about the weather. 

Guyana has some major potential for epic hikes closer to the border of Venezuela and Brazil. Once I get my Brazilian visa I plan to make my way over there. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Bike to the Dike or Danny's First Bike Ride in Guyana

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

So I bought a bike yesterday. I figured that although it was pretty much my entire month's living allowance it would be worth it. My walk to/from work is just long enough that I lose about an hour from my day(which is pretty short since it gets dark here at 6p). Plus I wanted to use it to ride to the ocean and explore more than I would be able to do by running. 
Sugar Cane field

Today would be my first expedition. I was planning riding the road along the Berbice River until it ended. I google mapped it and it seemed to be about 25 miles or so. So I prepared myself for a 50 mile ride. On a mountain bike. I packed plenty of water, sunscreen and sandwiches and headed out. Within three minutes, my chain snapped! I then had to walk it to the store where I just bought it yesterday, had to argue with the salesperson who was trying to charge me for "servicing the bike"(i.e. fixing the chain that apparently has a lifespan slightly shorter than a fruit fly), and wait about 40 minutes to get a new chain put on. 

Okay so I'm finally off! I was sailing smoothly for about 15 minutes or so until I hit a small pothole and my seat pivots 90 degrees so now the tip is facing vertically right into my crotch. Suffice it to say this is not a pleasant feeling. I quickly re-positioned it and continued riding. Then pothole and SMACK! This went on for about 5 more times before I got off my bike, pulled out my leatherman and tightened the nuts(on the bike-keep your mind out of the gutter). I then was able to look around and enjoy my environment.

Finally no cars!

As I rode away from New Amsterdam, the area got nice and nicer. 

The road isn't exactly right on the river but there were some times that it was pretty close and it was pretty cool to see the rapids as the water moved quickly to the ocean. Also of interest were the kokers. A koker is the gate at the end of the canal. Much of coastal Guyana is below sea level and protected by dikes. At low tide the koker can be opened and water will drain from the canal, through the dike and into the sea. But at high tide the koker needs to be closed or the land will be flooded with sea water. It was pretty cool to see these rickety things were the only things keeping Guyana from being flooded. 
The Berbice River
After a while, I turned around and was greeted with an unpleasant finding. I had been riding with a tailwind. Guyana is blessed with nearly constant wind which is the only thing that keeps the temps somewhat tolerable. Unfortunately when you have to ride directly into this wind, it becomes unpleasant. My ride home took almost twice as long. And during this time, both my saddle and handle bars came loose. Oh well, I guess you get what you pay for. 

Next purchase is going to be a bike tool to tighten them up enough that I don't get any more nut bails. If I can fix the bike, I'd like to ride into Suriname. That would be pretty cool and totally doable. I just have to get a Visa to cross the border. 
Horses, goats, and cows-more plentiful than people in this area. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ultra-Eating Boy

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

There is a very likely chance I will be chubby and out of shape when I return from Guyana. As I mentioned yesterday, I am struggling with getting out and running. I also have been sitting a lot more with work and during my leisure time. I am NOT however, having a difficult time getting out and eating and drinking all that Guyana has to offer. I thought with a very tight living allowance, I would be eating nothing but Ramon(which I have had), but I actually have gone to the market on several occasions and loaded up on some good local veggies.

I do eat most of my meals at home, but my landlord and I have gone out several times and had many local delicacies. As well as plenty of good-cheap local beer, Banks, which is made with barley and rice(definitely not following Germany's purity laws). And today I ran out of my sandwich stuff so I walked across the road from work and got chicken, chowmein and this amazing chick-pea concoction for $2!!! And it was super-filling. Last night I had a fried egg. Not like a pan-fried egg, this is a hard boiled egg that is then put in a batter(like stuffing) and fried. It's delicious. Each one only costs about 70 cents.

For that price, it actually may be cheaper to eat out! But not as healthy. I'll probably still pack a lunch and stick to those treats for the weekends! Otherwise I'll be ultra-eating boy. Hmmm. Actually that's probably already closer to the truth:)

Two of the dishes I've made. Rice is almost always the main ingredient in most meals with local, fresh veggies.

This is an eggplant stuffed with garlic, onion and tomato roasted. Eat it with a spoon:)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Running in Guyana

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

How to run in Guyana:

Okay so I shouldn't complain. I have an awesome job working in a department that right now I spend my days instructing yoga, doing aerobics, and playing cricket. It will get harder once I have to promote sustainability and get others to do what I'm doing but for now it is really fun. Also, here's the good part of where I have been stationed: I have running water(albeit not potable), I have a two bedroom apartment(albeit one that is infected by ants). I live in a town where I can get anything that I want from home(albeit for about half of my monthly allowance). It never rains here(albeit supposedly there is a rainy season).

Okay, I realize those are pseudo-positives, In reality, It hasn't rained once and I'm the only runner on the road. However, I do share that road with donkeys, cows, goats, pedestrians, fast-moving taxis and cars. In addition, with the humidity close to 100 percent, running at all is pretty difficult. My mileage so far has suffered as well as my speed. I probably should not have signed up for marathon only a month after coming to Guyana.

What is done is done. I have signed up for it and am starting my training. Most of my runs have been under 30 minutes. Not due to lack of time but because pure and utter fatigue due to the heat. Plus, I am not totally motivated by the two choices of direction that I have to run.

Okay negatives aside!!!!

  • It hasn't rained yet!
  • I run faster than I would anywhere else. Solely because of the constant-why you go so slow, white boy? from the peanut gallery.
  • If I had some Infit nutrition, I probably could make it another mile... haha. Sponsor plug. But True in that they provide awesome well-balanced electrolytes. If only my friend, Rich Lavers, had used them during Bear Brook...
  • I love that I can go running whenever and it's the same temperature- this is also a curse. It's 80+ degrees at 7a and 80+ at 6p. So go whenever. As long as you finish in the daylight.
  • You get to see more birds that you have ever seen. So this is a real positive. There really is so many bird species that I have never seen. I wish I knew more about them because some of them are beautiful. Either way: worth it.

The real best part of running in Guyana? Once you get out of the coast(where I live) nobody is there and you can run where-ever you want for as long as you want. I cannot wait to get out and see the hinterland(as they call the areas way from the coast).

Until then,

My best,