In Seattle, folks have a tendency to label any snowstorm “Snowmageddon,” or “Snowpocalypse,” or any number of other clever names due to Seattleites’ inability to cope with an inch or two of snow, let alone many inches. In February 2019, the Puget Sound area has faced upwards of 14” of snow in a few days, prompting residents to clear out grocery stores, schools and businesses to close, and folks to take time off to play in the snow. I’ve sen a couple other Seattle snowstorms get close to this one, but never with the longevity or quite the coverage. It was treacherous and beautiful.
My wife, Ting, has a thing for owls. Owls figurines of various types adorn many flat surfaces in our home; they’re hidden all over the house. We knew of the existence of “owl cafes” in Asia, so when we just stumbled across one on the edge of Kyoto, I told her, “We’ve got to go in.” Have you seen the video of Kristen Bell’s sloth meltdown? It wasn’t that awesome, but it was close. I took some pictures of the incredibly expressive owls for her to enjoy.
I run a lot. Running a lot is a requirement for running trail ultramarathons; being on vacation is no excuse not to run, but I’d do it even if I didn’t have a race the week after! Running - and especially trail running - is an incredible way to see a country or city. I ran a total of 76 miles during our vacation in Korea and Japan, most of it in the mountains. On almost all of my runs, regardless of where I am, I carry an iPhone X, which has really exceptional cameras. Here are a collection of photos from those runs on: Bukhansan, Ansan, Namsan, Han River, Achasan (Korea), and Inariyama, Kamo River (Kyoto).
Staying in Kyoto for our trip to Japan, we only took a quick day trip into Osaka to check it out. Osaka castle, as expected, was beautiful but intensely overrun with tourists (like us). As was pretty much everywhere else. But I caught three frames that I think showed three sides of Japan’s third-largest city: Feudal, traditionally old, and modern.
Although Korea is a second home, or even a second country for me and my wife, Japan is one of our all-time favorite places to visit. We’ve rarely gone to a country more than once, and typically only because we happen to know someone there. We returned to Japan because the holistic experience is off-the-charts good; the food, people, beauty… Almost nothing compares.
We decided to go to Gyeongju as part of our wedding anniversary/Return to Korea/Japan trip because we knew our friends Justin and Emma would appreciate the history of the place. An ancient seat of kings and home to many hill-like tombs, Gyeongju is full of culture, history, and these days, even craft beer!
My wife and I met in Korea 9 years ago; she was there teaching English and Chinese, and I was writing text books. I don’t want to speak for her, but it was a hugely formative period of my life, and I think it was close to being that big for her. Regardless, although I’d been back to Korea for a very short trip a few years ago, we hadn’t been back together since we left in 2011. We planned this, one of our longest vacations together, as a wedding anniversary present to ourselves. Along for and enhancing the ride were our two best travel buddies, Justin and Emma.
One of my best friends, Miranda has been running half marathons for quite a while, but her white whale has been the sub-4 hour marathon time. Not that it has been outside her grasp; far from it. She has grown leaps and bounds, bringing that time within her grasp, but past attempts have been difficult due to injury and other events outside her control. With a solid training block behind her, she felt so good, she decided to abandon her plan for the Bellingham Bay Marathon at the end of the month, pinned her ears back and said "screw it!" She ran the Skagit Flats Marathon in roughly 3 hours and 52 minutes, with ease.
Ting and I traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina, home of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Carolinas (VCOM) to watch and celebrate as Ting's brother, Matthew, and his girlfriend, Emily, graduated as Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. Spartanburg was a charming little town!
My dear Aunt Shelly passed away last year. Some of my family finally managed to get together to say our goodbyes. I tried to convey how I think of her every time I run; she was, surprisingly (to me) one of my biggest supporters, constantly talking about how she wished she could run like I do and how much she enjoyed the pictures I took as I ran. We threw rose petals (her favorite) off Magnolia Bluff in her honor.
My friend Emma needed a quick portrait for a new job, so we met in a local park and snapped a quick mugshot. A puppy decided to play, and I made some classic benchkeh.
Hong Kong describes itself as Asia's "World City." That may be true. Its unique blend of colonial Britain and China is unlike any other city I've visited, even vaunted, nearby Macao (which I found much less impressive). With off-the-charts density, amazing food, lively markets, and impressive hills, Hong Kong offers quite a lot to explore in such a small area. I'll be back.
Beijing was mostly what I had anticipated: Crowded, smoggy, and surprisingly capitalistic. My wife, having lived there for a year ten years ago, was disappointed with the changes rendering it near-unrecognizable to her. Gone were the dirt roads and half-completed subway lines, replaced with fancy cars, shops, and even more pollution, rendering the skies a permanent washed-out blue at best; a dim, orangey-brown at worst.
Even seeing wonders such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City were somewhat tainted. The portion of the Wall we visited was freely admitted to have been rebuilt in the '80s, with a (rather fun) toboggan ride from the top to the bottom of its hill; the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square completely overrun with tour groups and Starbucks.
I spent many hours training, running up and down, around and over Cougar Mountain, but I'd never hiked there. My wife needed some nature therapy today, so we did a five mile loop through some of my favorite running trails as well as some new trails I'd not hit before. On a rare, sunny winter day in Seattle, the moss on the vine maples shone.
It has been nearly four months since my last post - from my time at the Oregon Coast 30k, then the longest race I'd attempted - to now. Over 160 hours of training in the last year, roughly 1,200 miles run, and nearly 100,000 feet climbed in preparation for one thing; something I'd seen as impossible, despite so many idols and regular folks doing it time and time again: Run a 50km trail race. But not just any trail race - the vaunted Orcas Island 50k.
The race has between 8,000 and 9,000 feet of climbing and somewhere between 30 and 32 miles of travel throughout the eastern lobe of Orcas Island in the San Juans of Washington's Puget Sound. In the month of February, Orcas Island's Mounts Constitution and Pickett receive rainforest-levels of rain, sometimes even snow. It features three climbs up Mt. Constitution's slopes (including the infamous Powerline: 2 miles of pure hell straight up the mountain, covering nearly 2,500ft of elevation), a couple doozies up Mt. Pickett, and many more smaller inclines to burst runners' calves. This year, due to increased rainfall, it included a slightly longer starting section and dozens of deep puddles, including an example up to our knees and roughly 25' long.
My amazing wife arranged a group of friends to come stay in a cabin for the weekend. I ran with two of the primary men that introduced me to the sport of trail ultramarathoning. It was the most mentally and physically challenging event of my life; it was pure joy with deep chasms of misery and doubt; it was 6:45:50 of fortitude-testing highs and lows. Perhaps some new test will beat what I experienced this weekend, but it's hard to imagine such a thing.
I fell in love with trail running last year, but a late-season injury sidelined me until early 2017. After dozens of 30+ mile weeks and 5 races, I traveled to Yachats, Oregon, with my wife, my friend Mac (who convinced me to sign up for this race), and his wife, so I could race in the longest, most brutal race yet of my short career: The Oregon Coast 30k (which ended up being nearly 20 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing). It was a beautiful, inspiring event. From simply walking around Yachats, to dinner with the race director, to meeting ultrarunning legends, to watching Mac complete his second 50k in as many weeks, to running with amazing people in primeval woods along roaring coastline, this weekend was the best.
My friend Eric and his new wife Felicity decided to host a "friendeymoon" - instead of a honeymoon - at a villa in Tuscany. Just our best friends, dozens of liters of wine, insanely good food, and Tuscan mountain towns for a week.
The awful Jolly Mountain Fire burning near Cle Elum, WA, has turned the skies of Seattle to a sickly orange, with ash fallout dusting the streets of the city.
I was out watering our plants this morning and heard a ruckus - it was this Steller's Jay, cavorting on and around our apple tree. A handsome bird, and now I know his call. I've heard him around before.
Although I was not able to make it to Oregon to witness totality, I did get to step outside with my coworkers (and post this on my lunch break) to see the eerie dim light of 92% solar eclipse. I can only imagine how disquieting and special totality must have been.