Home from the Caribbean – 60 miles on the bike, and one felled tree

27 Nov

It's way past fall now, and my sailing days are over for a while. Mia and I got back from Tortola last Sunday after an awesome week running the Caribbean 1500 cruising rally finale. We had a blast at the prize giving ceremony, the highlight of which was when Martin, skipper of the Australian-flagged JAC,  came onstage to present the 'Best Bruise' award (quick aside: Mia had created an Excel list of prize distributions before the event. I was reading down the list preparing my speech, and came across the 'Best Bruce' prize. Excuse me? I thought. Ironically, there was indeed a Bruce in the event, one of the other guys on JAC. She meant 'bruise' of course. I'm sure I couldn't spell that word in Swedish either. We had a good laugh about this).




Martin began his speech with a good old 'Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!' chant to get the crowd riled up, then proceeded to invite one crew member from each boat to come onstage and plead their case for Best Bruise. Larry from Saudade won when the audience let out a collective GASP! when he pulled up his shirt to reveal his nasty mark from the passage. I'm not sure what was better – the bruise itself, or his story that went along with it.


Anyway, we're back now in the northeast. I'm writing from the Leeward Market in Annapolis and it's rainy and about 45º outside. I discovered that I indeed had left my HH foul weather jacket on the boat, which was a nice surprise this morning. The weather suits me just fine. I was sick of the heat.


Mia and I made a list of things we wanted to accomplish during the three-week break we have back home before we return to the islands for the finish of the ARC in St. Lucia (they're actually departing Las Palmas today. For the first time since 1989, the fleet was delayed due to strong winds. The racers left on time and dealt with 35+ knots in the acceleration zone between the Canaries, but the cruisers were set to wait it out. They should be at sea right now in fact). Ride bikes. Walk the dogs by Blue Marsh Lake. Take a spinning class with our friends Dana and Ben. Hang out at Garage Strength, my friend Dane's fantastic gym in an old barn. Go to my 10-year high school reunion. Make a gingerbread house. That kind of stuff. The kind of stuff you can only do in a house in the countryside.


We hadn't been training or exercising much in Tortola. It was too hot, and we didn't have much time to kill. In the eight days we were there, I ran hills three times across the road from Nanny Cay, and did some pushups one night while I waited for a boat to come in around 2am. We found out about the BVI Half Marathon from Joel, one of the crew members from Keep It Simple, the J/42 skippered by Joe Reed that actually won the overall in the Cruising Division (check out my conversation with Joe in this week's 'Two Inspired Guys' podcast episode!). Joel overheard us talking about cycling and running one day at lunch and came to sit with us for a bit. He'd found out about this half a while back, and had brought his shoes and planned to do it all along. We said we'd run with him. The day after the prize giving we woke up at 4am (can't we be like normal people and sleep I? I begged Mia), hitch-hiked into Road Town and joined about 75 other islanders for a pre-dawn half marathon along the coast road. By 7am it was about 100º (or felt like it), and we were soaked through by the end. I ran the whole thing in my Five Fingers, the longest run I've done in them (it's all I had along with me), and paid for it with sore feet afterwards.


When we returned to PA we got back into the training routine full-time, boosted by our impromptu half marathon. I hit the roads on my bicycle as soon as I had the chance, riding a quick 15 miles one day before going to Garage Strength in the afternoon. I rode again the next day, about 25 miles around my old school district (and past a couple old girlfriends houses), and had the bright idea to try and get in a Thanksgiving 'Metric Century' (100km – get it?). The plan was to go on Wednesday, before Turkey Day, but my legs were spent. So we saved it for Friday, a day to work off the meal Mia and I cooked on Thursday.


I mapped out a ride all over Berks County – passing Blandon, Fleetwood, Topton, Kutztown and Lake Ontelaunee before heading home through Leesport – and we planned to be gone all day. I brought along a backpack with a little Thanksgiving leftovers, and we stopped by a pond up in the hills behind Topton for a picnic. It was a slow ride – we covered 60 miles in about six hours – but then that was the point. We stopped again in Kutztown go Mia could get a bowl of pasta and re-energize for the last 20 miles home. I broke my chain on White Oak Lane, only about 2 miles from home, and my dad had to come rescue us in the car.


Saturday was windy and cloudy, normally a day to remain inside and read a book. I was invigorated by the bike ride, and wanted to get back outside. A big pine tree had fallen down in the yard some weeks ago, and my dad had tasked me with getting rid of it. We have a small chain saw up in the barn at Pappap's house, but I was looking for some exercise and meditation, so decided to tackle it by hand. I started with the handsaw, cutting off all the branches, before I realized that the small hatchet we keep by the fireplace was probably better suited (and definitely more fun). So I hacked away, one branch at a time, left hand, right hand, left hand, trying to stay symmetrical to get some exercise. By the time all the branches were cleared, I had left a 30-foot stump, about 12 inches around at the base, and need a bigger tool.


I jogged down the hill to Uncle Scott's, by now very invigorated and in that sort of mental state where I was on autopilot, really feeling energized. I had the song 'The Trees' by Rush in my head all morning (and occasionally the Lumberjack Song). I didn't have headphones on, so I sang to myself. I borrowed the big axe from Scott's garage and returned to my tree, hacking and whacking for another hour or two until the trunk was in 6 pieces. I would have kept going but I looked down at my hand and saw that I'd ripped a callous off, which was now bleeding, and thought it time to quit. I was satisfied.


We kept up the training yesterday back in Annapolis, and took advantage of a bright sunny (but chilly) day to run intervals around the Naval Academy. It was one of the first times that we've run on campus there (they check your ID to let you in) in the evening, and it was an experience. I've heard that one of the requirements for going to school there is to play a sport (or be on the sailing team), and I think every student on campus was out yesterday afternoon running, doing pull-ups, playing flag football, lacrosse or something. It was awesome to see, and really inspiring. Most of the sailboats are hauled out of the basin where they moor them in the summertime, but a handful of Navy 44s were still there for some winter training. 


The next task back home is to actually fell a big dead oak tree in the front yard. I'm determined to take that one on by hand too, a fair fight for the tree and another day (or more) of exercise for me. The trunk on that one is about four feet around, and unlike the pine tree, it's still standing. I might need a bigger axe.



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