All posts by Will

BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES!

From this afternoon’s marine forecast:

NE winds 20 to 25 kt with gusts up to 40 kt. Waves 2 to 3 ft…except 4 to 7 ft at the Outer Harbor entrance. Patchy fog. Rain. Vsby 1 nm or less.

Now, we are safely landward of a huge rock breakwater, tied securely to a great big dock, and nothing short of a hurricane could hope to dislodge us. But it is still pretty exciting to have an actual storm on its way in. We prepared by sitting belowdeck all day long today, listening to the patter of torrential rain on the roof and googling the MPH equivalent of 40 knots of windspeed (it’s 46). I unnecessarily retied all of our docklines twice, in preparation. So now if there’s a quiz, I’ll do pretty well on the “hauling docklines” portion.

One of the great joys of being on board so early in the season is that the marina is almost completely deserted, so there are few people around to see our continual un-yachtsmanline efforts to do everyday things. Attaching the sails yesterday was the most obvious, but even tying up docklines is pretty challenging. The other boats all sit peacefully, lines slack, while we seem to strain against one squeaking line no matter how much I fidget. I assume Steph and I will figure it all out eventually.

Today was my first day back working, which went great on the EvDO-wifi router although I am pretty worried about the 5GB monthly cap. I doubt we will be able to handle such restricted usage for long, but there’s no other solution available for now, so we’re going to grin and bear it for at least a little while. Maybe we’ll find municipal wifi in Rhode Island. Or 4g. Or something!

We made it!

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We were without internet access for the first couple of days after launch, so I did my best to document our progress on twitter and flickr. I’ll give you the executive summary now: it is awesome. So awesome I can hardly believe it. It’s even better than I anticipated, and I anticipated a lot of awesome.

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After purchasing a CO detector, we spent our first night aboard on Friday. My dad and stepmom visited, and they brought us champagne, and we toasted to an exciting new chapter. Awesome! The furnace kept us toasty warm inside the boat while the outside temperature dipped as low as eighteen degrees with a 25 knot wind.

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Yesterday we did lots more shopping; spare parts, hoses, ropes, clips, wrenches, shackles, clamps, and some normal things, like shampoo, soap, food. We’ve tried EVERY DAY to buy a dinghy, so far without luck. We will find one, I’m sure of it. And it will be great. Spacious, lightweight, big capacity, fast, fun, folds up to fit in a pocket, the whole deal. It will be our main method of exploring new harbors, so it needs to be great. Yesterday night my mom, stepdad, and three of our dear friends visited for dinner. That means we had SEVEN people eating dinner comfortably (well, *I* thought it was comfortable) in our living room. Rad.

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Last night it was hardly cold at all, only 25 or so, with hardly any wind. We were toasty warm, and woke up to another idyllic morning. My sister visited for breakfast and a nap after an overnight flight, and Steph made scones in our little propane oven. They were indescribably good, even moreso done in our floating kitchen (I mean, “galley”. It’s called a galley now.)

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Then Steph and I bent on the sails (that’s a nautical term. It means “attached the sails to the boat”). After two hours wrestling one onto the boom, we realized it was the genoa and had to start from scratch. Even we know that the genoa goes on the front; once we realized which sail was which (they’re devilishly hard to recognize in their little bags, especially when the bags’ labels are reversed) it took only an hour to attach both. Protip: the genoa is heavy! It was no match for our combined strength and cunning, though, and after a brief but exciting time with the sail up and drawing, we furled it in textbook style.

So in short, everything that could possibly be going well is going well. We finished today’s big projects:

  • Figure out how to attach the sails to the boat
  • Set up the internet (for reference, it’s a Verizon 3g data card hooked up to a Cradlepoint MBR-1000 with a DC adapter cord. The router draws 1.5 amps, and to ease the pain of a 5GB monthly cap, we will probably piggyback a Pepwave Surf Mini onto the Cradlepoint so that we can use WiFi where it is available, only falling back to the 3g where there is no WiFi available.)

And most importantly, we’re having a BLAST. Even Euonym likes it!

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Splash

2,022 miles after we left Boulder, we arrived at Marina bay yesterday morning three minutes before Megatron went in the water (NB. still no resolution on “the Megatron” vs. “Megatron”). I have a video of the blissfully anticlimactic launch, with the travelift whirring away.

Steph and I jumped aboard for the ride over to “B Dock”, which will be our home for the next few days.  Soon the surveyor and the previous owner arrived, and we were able to complete the survey begun last month by running the engine in the water, checking the water pumps, and noting that there were no visible leaks.  Awesome!

After they left, we set about unpacking the car.  Steph and I were shocked to realize that everything that was in the car fit inside the boat pretty comfortably.  We may yet realize that there is nowhere to store all of it, but so far we have at least been able to cram all of our boxes belowdecks.  We also tested our new heater, and found it to work well although it emits a foul odor (“Ah, that new heater smell,” noted Peter, the surveyor).

The smell of the heater and nervousness about carbon monoxide poisoning combined to send us back to my mom and stepdad’s house in Lexington for the night.  There, instead of worrying about dying in our sleep, we instead worried about our unattended boat sinking at the dock.  I twittered our biggest current dilemma (“How on earth can we christen this boat?  If we smash a bottle of champagne over the bow, we will get broken glass everywhere and probably break a host of environmental regulations.  If we pour a glass of champagne over the bow, we will feel like hopeless sissies.”) in the hope of new input, and we fell asleep.

On The Road

Erie, PA is 1450 miles from where we began our journey two mornings ago, but still 548 miles from where we hope to join the Megatron (Note To Self: is “the megatron” correct usage, or simply “megatron”? Must find this out before talking to yachties) in Quincy, MA.

We left Boulder early Monday morning after a nice but emotionally difficult weekend in Boulder where we had to say goodbye to our friends and family. We expect to be back for a long visit soon after Thanksgiving, so it is not as though we are parting with any kind of finality, but the mere fact that we plan to base our lives from another side of the country makes us feel as though we are leaving the community, even though we will certainly return.

The first day’s driving was pleasant. 675 miles is a long way, but with it we cleared the eastern plains of Colorado, all of Nebraska, and made it to Des Moines, IA in time for dinner with our good friends Karen and Ben. Karen is a college professor at Iowa State, and a nursery school classmate of mine. She and Ben live in the coolest loft apartment I have ever seen in real life, and they had us stay over with them, which was totally awesome. Des Moines is having a flood right now, so when we walked across the river bridge we could see the submerged waterfront amphitheater, submerged waterfront bike trail, submerged lightposts, and quite a lot of submerged grass. It was an awesome treat to visit with Karen and Ben, but we had to press on early yesterday morning to continue the journey.

Continuing east, we crossed into Illinois and then Ohio.

Since Euonym was taking the day’s journey fairly well, we briefly considered pressing on through the night, but a short break for dinner outside Cleveland made us realize that we were too tired to make it, anyway. We pressed on to Erie, where we collapsed into an extremely convenient roadside hotel, of which I will shortly become the foursquare mayor.

In other news, after much back and forth with the boat yard, we seem to be about 75 percent likely to meet our target launch date of tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping!

Packing the house

With just a couple of days remaining here in Boulder, it’s a frenzy of activity. The movers are coming tomorrow to move everything we own that’s bigger than a shoebox to a long term storage facility in Longmont.

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See you later, desks, beds, and coffee table!

So far it’s quite a lot like a normal move in terms of all the “should we keep this” and “how should we wrap this up so it doesn’t break?” kinds of decisions, only with the additional distinction between “should we bring this with us now” and “should we keep this for The Future House.” Practically all of our dress clothes, for instance, are going in to long term storage. Along with Euonym, if she’s not careful:

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It’s very exciting, but it’s also stressful and sad. We are doing things this week that we wanted to be sure to do “one last time before we leave.” Last night we went out to Steph’s favorite bar downtown, and tonight after the show (we’re both in the chorus of Aida) we will have a chance to watch a movie with friends from the theatre. It’s a pretty challenging time; both of us are psyched about the adventure that lies ahead, but part of having that chance means that we need to leave our friends and family. We are trying to be very clear with our invitations (“ANY TIME YOU’RE FREE, WE WOULD LOVE TO HOST YOU”) but it’s a long trip from Colorado to the ocean so we know it won’t be an everyday thing to see our friends from home. We’re very excited to see more of our friends and family who live on the east coast, and very much looking forward to reconnecting with them, and it is still hard to leave Boulder.

Anyway, one glance out the window easily shows us that it’s time to break out the bermuda shorts and floppy sun hats. Obviously, nature is trying to give us a sign. Thank goodness the heater is all installed.

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Moving Day Approaching

In a break from previous moves, I’m taking two days off from work for this one, even before we start the process of driving across the country. It seems like a good idea; in addition to the standard packing all of our stuff in to boxes, we also need to significantly pare down the amount of stuff we live with on a daily basis. Because we don’t plan to become seven-seas vagabonds for the rest of our lives, that means lots and lots of stuff in storage.

Other than the destination, though, so far it’s a lot like all of our other moves: storage, packing, goodwill, phone calls to the new destination to make sure the various legalities are lined up, etc. There are some differences:

  • Documentation. Marine documentation is handled by the coast guard. On the plus side, documenting your vessel with the Coast Guard is seen as A Good Thing by our bank, and it allows us not to have to register with the state DMV in every state we visit. On the minus side, we paid someone a bunch of money to make sure we did it right, because there is a significant fine for doing it wrong. Now that it’s done right, we have to get our boats name and hailing port (Megatron, Boulder CO) painted on the boat, and an engraved plaque with our documentation number mounted somewhere. This has to happen before we move the boat at all, or we risk a $10,000 fine. Whew!
  • Living Comfort. We take certain things for granted in an apartment, like heat, fresh water, and electricity. No more. We purchased a big device that is basically a marine furnace to keep us warm, since pleasure boats aren’t generally built with them preinstalled. Fresh water lives in a 100 gallon tank, which seems like a lot until you shower twice in one day. We’ll be able to refill at a local dock, hopefully not too often. Electricity lives in one huge battery that has to be recharged whenever its level of charge drops below 70% or so.

There are lots more things, which I hope to get to eventually. Tonight, I’m shipping fourteen eBay packages. I sold most of my triathlon equipment on eBay, and we are using the proceeds to buy a dinghy:

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I have no idea who that lady is, but I think she’s in our future dinghy.

The maiden voyage of the S/V Megatron

I kind of regret not blogging for the past year and a half, which has been one of the most exciting times in my life. Someday I will discover the perfect balance between pure experience and keeping good records. It hasn’t happened yet, though.

So what happened?
If you were following along, I *did* race in the Hawaii Ironman, and it was a kick. It was the most stressful tropical vacation I ever hope to have, and I had a solid race. I stopped on the bike to give eventual women’s winner Chrissie Wellington a CO2 cartridge to fix her flat tire, and went on to finish 35th or so on the back of a 3:01 marathon. Lots of my family and friends were there, and it was awesome.

Steph the captain Steph and I got married in June of 2009, which was every bit as amazing as we had hoped. We scored the only sunny Saturday of the entire summer to share with our family and friends, got married outside by the ministers of the churches each of us grew up in, and talked the country club into letting us have a 400 square foot inflatable bouncy castle at the reception. Every part of the planning, ceremony, and reception went better than we had dared to hope, and we were overwhelmed with the awesomeness of sharing that time with our family and friends.

Then we took a sailing trip, just the two of us on a 32 foot sailboat. It was a blast. The photo on the right shows Steph with windblown hair at the helm, sailing on the Caribbean trade winds.

s/v MegatronWhen we got home, I had viral meningitis and decided to quit triathlon to give both of us a chance to do some of the other things we both wanted to try. We started boat shopping in September. A few weeks ago we closed on the boat on the left here, a 37 foot sailboat we are re-christening “Megatron”.

This is a new chapter Steph’s and my life, and a big adventure that we are excited to have together. The chance for this kind of adventure doesn’t come around every decade, so we are grabbing it and making the most of it. It’s sad to be leaving our friends and a community that we know and love, but it’s also exciting – we’re moving on board a boat! With no clear idea what to expect! I mean, what could be a bigger adventure?

Our apartment lease expires next Monday, March 22, and we’re driving to Boston to move aboard. AHOY!

A summer photo essay

When we last spoke, I was coming down off of the high from the best race of my life, and preparing for a summary ass-kicking at a pair of classic half-ironmans.  As it turned out, I wasn’t even ready for that – I pulled out of the 5430 half ironman 30 miles in to the bike ride.  After 45 minutes of sitting in the grass feeling sorry for myself, I went home and slept for the rest of the day.  So much for that quick recovery from an Ironman race!  I elected to sit out my planned race on the following weekend, since I was feeling quite sick, and spent the intervening week doing more or less no training.  That helped a little.

This first photo is actually from July – in the six weeks since it was taken, he has grown approximately two feet.

So after not racing (or, at least, not finishing) either of the two races I alluded to when we last spoke, it was off to Home Depot, Office Max, and the grocery store for a few last-minute supplies for Star Island, where Steph and I led the Senior High youth group.

For the second year in a row we did human powered waterskiing, pretty much the best activity in the history of ever.  Our youths built waterskis out of plywood (thanks, Home Depot!):

And then, with a combination of brains and brute strength, hove each other several hundred feet up to the swimming beach.  I want to reiterate that this actually worked, and I cannot recommend it highly enough, both for its entertainment value and the sense of accomplishment it brings:

We also played an amazing variant of speed scrabble (shout out to Sarah Day, if you ever read this, thank you for teaching me this game) – Steph decided we could play human speed scrabble.  Imagine fifty people running around with letters on their heads, trying to form themselves into a crossword.  We also played scandal jeopardy (“This depression-era scandal was short and stout.”), and had The Mother Of All Scavenger Hunts.  This last item deserves revisiting, another time.

Stephanie and I also got engaged during polar bear (that is, dawn) swimming on Monday morning.  Truly I never thought I would have the following conversation:

“Will you marry me?”

“Are you bullshitting me?”

But it turned out for the best, as she did, after the initial shock, say yes!  Sorry, Steph, for catching you so off guard.  Actually, I take that back, I’m not sorry at all, it was awesome.

Naturally, all of that excitement left me with a prodigious apetite, so I tried to eat her head. NOM NOM NOM.

And now it’s fall, we’re back home and working.  I am deep in to my preparations for the Hawaii Ironman now, but I will try to update a little more often!

Last year it was just dumb … this year SUPER-DUMB!

Last year at this time I was telling you about the not-so-smart choice I had made to race the 5430 half ironman and Timberman 70.3 on back-to-back weekends.  This at the tail end of a summer where the most strenuous event of the previous eight weeks had been an Olympic distance race here in Boulder.  It turned out alright – it turned out well, in fact, and I managed to squeak into sixth at the 5430 half and seventh at Timberman 70.3.

This summer, I’m signed up for both of those races again!  But instead of several weeks of solid training underneath me, I have three desperate weeks of post-ironman recovery.  The first two weeks felt fine, surprisingly, but this past week has been awful.  I’d heard that the post-IM fatigue was going to hit pretty hard eventually, and it sure did.  But I dragged myself through a lackluster training week and I’m now ready to have a go at my hometown half ironman.

Also, because I’m not really ready to let go of the cool stuff that’s been happening since IMLP – here’s a photo of a newspaper vending machine in downtown Lake Placid the Monday after the race.  Yep, that’s me on the ground.

And, the fine folks at slowtwitch.com interviewed me as part of their series on pro athlete interviews! You can read the interview here.

Ironman Lake Placid – In which WILL KICKS ASS

Wow, I have to say I was not expecting this. I had surgery in February to repair a hernia, and although I got back to racing in May, my results have ranged from “strong but unexceptional” all the way down to “bad”. Because I like racing, and demanded that Paulo let me do some races, and because you (or, anyway, I … maybe you can) cannot just train right through a competitive half ironman race, I arrived in Lake Placid with all of three weeks of solid ironman training and a two week taper underneath me. I did not want to race, because I did not think I was especially fit, but I knew it was time to suck it up and race, because that’s part of the process of getting fitter.

So. I went to the lake fifteen minutes ahead of the start time and warmed up. At some races, you cannot tell when they give the start signal. Someone yells “go”, or presses the “siren” button on their toy-store megaphone, and all the athletes in the water kind of look at each other. This is not an issue in Lake Placid, where they detonate an army surplus bomb to signal the race start. I started hard, and then ramped that up to quite hard for the first 500 meters. I was with Hilary Biscay’s group, which I figured was awesome since she is a way faster swimer than I am. Then she (or someone) surged at the first turn buoy and me and two others were gapped. We held the gap at about ten seconds, but we could not catch them. Anyway, I couldn’t catch them. After the fastest 1900 meter swim of my life, I ran around the dock for another lap. It was nice to have my buddy in the green cap just ahead of me on the second lap, since we went through some huge groups of swimmers from the AG wave I had a much easier time spotting him while trying to weave my way through without getting dropped. (SIDE NOTE to the dude who was swimming breaststroke in the middle of a tight pack and kicked me squarely in the hip, I will pay $25 toward a private swim lesson for you, provided it focuses on your learning to swim freestyle).

Out of the water in 52:15, a 1 minute PR, not sure of my official time. T1 took less than an hour.

The bike was cold and rainy at first, especially downhill in to Keene the first time. After that, though, I got onto my race watts and figured it would warm me up. It did. A pile of people passed me on lap 1, and I went up the hill back to LP looking for the fabled “three bears”. I counted at least 19 bears, but I kept my watts steady and eventually made it to the top of the hill. At the beginning of lap 2, two more guys passed me, but then they slowed way down, so I passed them back. That was the last time that anyone passed me all day. On lap two, I rode downhill into Keene at around 900 MPH and then back onto the race watts. I rode 2:30 and some seconds the first lap, and I think six guys went by me. On the second lap, I rode 2:30 and some seconds and passed them all back. My average power was 223 watts.

Arrived in T2 in ninth place, T2 took less than an hour.

I ran for a little while, and then near mile 1 a crazy man was shouting at me. He knew my name, and he was telling me all sorts of crazy shit like “Those guys are just ahead of you! You need to catch them NOW!!! Come on Ronco!!” etc. I ran past him four times, and every time it was the same stuff. Kurt, it was nice to meet you after the race and I appreciate your putting the fear of god in me. FYI, I did catch one of the two guys who were just ahead at mile 1, but I did not catch Petr Vabrousek. Sorry.

The run was really, really hard. No, I take that back. The run was actually kind of mellow for the first eighteen miles. I just ran at a “normal” running pace, which (thank you, sea level!!) was around 6:45 per mile. I started drinking coke around mile eight and I guess I slowed down gradually until mile eighteen. At mile eighteen, I had to start drinking quite a lot of coke but I stayed on 3 hour pace. At mile 22, there started to be – who knew? – these huge hills. I ran up the hills by the ski jumps pretty hard, then back past The Crazy Guy Who Turned Out To Be Truckweaz, then back in to town I passed Paulo and Jodi at the bottom of The Really, Really Steep Hill. Paulo was shitting a brick. I think he must have then tied it to my back, because although I ran up that hill as hard as I possibly could, it took about a week.

I kept running on that ragged edge of “oh-crap-I-am-going-to-black-out” until I saw that I had a good half mile on the guy behind me. This gave me time to think to myself “holy crap! i am going to finish fifth!” as I entered the oval. It was raining and I was laughing, I slapped a bunch of peoples hands, screamed, jumped up and down. I crossed the line and turned around to scream again, fell over. When I got up, I think I tried to hug Mike Reilly. He asked me some questions, but I do not know what they were. I saw Paulo and Jodi, and went over and hugged them. I am pretty sure I made a giant fool of myself in the finish chute, but it was worth it.

This morning, my picture was on the front of the local paper. I bought eleven copies.

In summary, WHOA, big breakthrough race! If you did not catch it in all of my verbage, I was FIFTH! And I am GOING TO KONA!