Intro

This blog as might be apparent from the title has to do with running, biking and basically other outdoor individualistic sports, sometimes extreme, such as rock climbing . But don't be surprised if you find articles on work, personal life, music and even philosophy, this blog is an exception in this aspect in the blogosphere of running blogs and I am trying to revamp the blog to make it more runner friendly. You might want to look at the sidebar titled 'categorised', which as is obvious, categorizes my posts into different areas of interest.
The other thing that might interest many people is a section on 'running videos' and 'general videos' on the side bar, which I keep updating now and then.
I plan to bring in more posts on running and biking, with some added colour, so as to make them 'complete'. That's about it for now.
As a post-note, I have run a half-marathon, but I am yet to attempt a marathon, which through some concerted effort and time should happen in the future, but that ofcourse is not the culmination of this blog, it would on the contrary be something to jumpstart this blog onto new vistas.




Monday, December 31, 2007

Long time

It looks like my blogging frequency has come down quite a bit. I don't want to go into the specifics of it, but the good news is I am picking up from where I left off...I am talking about "running" (he he). Its been atleast three months since I have run regularly (or even sporadically) and this is primarily a running blog, so this year ending post is to say that I am optimisitc about my running and I am hoping that I will get back into solid running shape next year.
I am not a big fan of resolutions, but I do want to see myself running a marathon or two next year. Here's wishing everyone a happy new year and happy running or whatever makes you happy.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hiking Mount Si


Atop Mount Si
More to come... :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dominant Federer

The video below is from one of the matches at the Shanghai Masters cup which Federer won with sublime dominance. Enjoy......

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hiking Tiger mountain

Intro
Last Saturday, on a chilly and cloudy afternoon, my roomie and me set forth to scale this beauty of a peak, a glorious 2500 ft asl. For most part this peak was steep, but it wasn't like I was crossing streams or going through dense undergrowth; the path was well laid and well marked, leaving no room for confusion or getting lost in the dense and picturesque old-growth fern-fested forest.

Duration
It took us 1.5 hrs to get to the top of the Tiger mountain III(yep, there's II and I hiding just across from the peak). Coming back, we were on auto-cruise/run mode and it took us a shade less than 45 minutes.

Getting there
We exclusively used bus and strong legs as the mode of transportation. 271 takes one from the university district to Issaquah (1hr ride). 209 from the transfer point, takes around 20 minutes to Highway point, the first stop on the freeway. From there, its around 20 minutes walk to the Tradition lake trail head.

Overall, it was a quick but refreshing trip. We got good views of the Tiger II, Squak ,Cougar mountain, and ofcourse the gorgeous Mount Si from the Tiger mountain III view point.

PS: Maps and pics to be posted soon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It feels good

It feels good to be alive, to be able to wake up every morning and not worry about what's coming. It feels good to be able to say this, it feels good to have overcome misery in life and comeback strong. Miseries and struggles can't be avoided on the one hand, and make us appreciate the good things in life on the other hand. Its only when you are really miserable can you know what it means to feel good in life. It feels good right now, believe me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Irony of it at US open

The man who had won all his matches so far in the US open without losing a single set, lost to Federer in straight sets at the semi final!! But, as Federer mentioned in the post-match interview, it was a major battle for every point in the match. The third set saw 6 breaks between the two players; each player was breaking the other and losing the game on the serve. Federer was down 3-5 in the third set, but made an amazing comeback to win the match 7-5. 6-1, 7-5. Davydenko is an amazing base line player, but on this occasion he was playing against proabably the best tennis player in the history of tennis. Also, the record of 9-0 match wins that Federer has against Davydenko might have been a psychological adavantage to the former in the match.
Federer faces a tough opponent on Sunday, against whom he has a record of 4-1, which is pretty impressive. But, the only loss occured at Rogers cup 2007, Montreal, a few weeks back. So Federer would need to be at his best(which often happens at grandslam finals) to win the final tomorrow hopefully in 3 or 4 sets, Djokovic's antics notwithstanding.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tennis: US open

This US open has had a lot of upsets on the men's side. Hewitt, Nalbandian and Nadal have been ousted. The latter two upsets have been by David Ferrer, who is really persistent in his game and brings out amazing returns complemented by his amazing agility on court. Other upsets, include a real tight 5 setter loss for Blake against Hass, and though not an upset, a straight 3 set loss for Hass against Davydenko (who might be the only player to have not lost a set so far).In the other quarter final matches, my bets are on Federer, Ferrer and Djokovic going through for obvious reasons. The semis seem to be well poised, my take is that Federer goes through to the finals and a surprising upset by Ferrer should get him through to the final as well. And ofcourse, the final would see Federer winning a 4 or 5 setter. Now, back to reality.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pleasing music

.
Gananayakam

I have always found Mandolin Srinivas's rendition of Muthuswamy dikshitar's compositions (Mahaganapathim, Kamalambal Bhajare, etc) particularly delightful. U srinivas is ofcourse an accomplished player of the modified mandolin, but a lot is left to be said about the creative genius, the composer.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hiking up Squak mountain, Issaquah alps



I was looking for some elevation and narrowed down on Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains, the three mountains which are very close to the city of Issaquah on the outskirts of seattle.
I finally picked Squak mountain, since it is supposed to(although I didn't find the viewpoint!!) give a good view of Mount Rainier from the top and has an elevation of 2000ft plus it's also easily accessible by bike. So here's how I went about the trip:
1) Take a bus (M 271) from university district to Issaquah (This takes around an hour).
2) Bike 5 kms to the Squak Mountain Trail head on the mountain driveway, 700ft above sea level(This took me around 30 mins)

3) Start hike at the Mountain driveway trail head. Hike 3 miles to the top of Squak mountain (2050ft)

The hike took around 1.5 hrs. But since I had some more time to kill, I went around other exploring other nearby trails.
I started at 1:30 pm and was back by 8:30 pm (thanks to missing a bus and waiting for another 45 mins).
The trip was really enjoyable in that I was right in the middle of an evergreen/deciduous forest with ferns and firs. There wasn't any view from the summit, since it is surrounded by tall trees. After coming back, I checked a map, and the view point is further down and not marked, that explains why people don't get to the view point.


Pics/Slide show


Sample video (How this works)
video

P.S.
This hike has definitely been an eye opener into hiking in the middle of the forest. At first, I was a little scared of venturing into the trail, but then mustering some courage I went back. Meeting a few people along the way helped, and after a while I was comfortable being alone in the middle of a dense forest!

For my future trips, I have many options. Tiger mountain is next door to Squak mountain, and from what I have read, it has three peaks!! Then there is Mount Si, North-east of Tiger mountain. Mount Si,which gives good views of Mount rainier and other nearby mountains, is supposed to be the most climbed mountain in Washington and some claim in US too. Looking to the North, there is Mt. Pilchuck. This month is going to be fun if I can get a few more hikes.

To get to know the sheer number of mountains in Washington, look at this page. Seattle in summer with cool temperatures (June, July) is indeed a heaven for hiking.


Links
1) Squak mountain good info
2) Squak trail description
3) Squak on Seattlepi
4) Photos

Tiger mountain resource

I have pooled up some links from the web on hikes to Tiger mountain from different trailheads including the poo-poo-point trail. I will update this page when I find a new link.

Poo poo point hike:
http://www.niffgurd.com/mark/hikes/2004/june/12th/content.html
http://washingtonhikes.com/2004/poopoopoint/index2.html
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/getaways/122399/hike23.html
http://www.kuresman.com/2004/Trip_Reports/PooPoo_321_Loop/Report_PooPoo_321_Loop.html

http://www.washingtonhikes.com/2004/poopoopoint/

West tiger hike:
http://www.eskimo.com/~pinyon/bushike/Hike32-1.html
http://www.eskimo.com/~pinyon/bushike/Hike33-1.htm
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/getaways/021397/hike13.html


East tiger hike:
http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Gorge/4424/Winter00/LunarEclipseEastTiger.htm

South tiger hike:
http://www.wnps.org/cps/walks/nov_walk3.html

Friday, August 03, 2007

2 hr ride

I usually get the emails from the UW cricket group as a digest. So, when I got an email about cricket practice at 6:30 pm today, I got ready to go. When I reached the place, I saw that no one was there. After waiting for 10 minutes, I realised the reason for their absence: the digest email was from the previous day!! So much for cricket.

Now I didn't want to go back home, so I decided to do a 2 hr ride to nowhere. 1hr up and 1hr down. The route was simple, go up along 15th avenue for an hour and come back the same way. I took a liter of water (I only consumed half-litre) and a few bananas. The road progressively became worse and to add to that there were these hills.. I would rather call them monsters.
Coming back I stopped at an Indian store and got a few things. Just when everything seemed fine, a climb with a steep grade (200ft climb in 300 metres) almost knocked me out (I started cramping on my heels). Anyway, this hill training is good for me since, if I plan on going anywhere near mount rainier, I better ride on some tough hills.

Stats:
Going - 15kms - 1hr
Coming - 15kms - 1hr 2 mins.
Total time on bike - 1hr 45 mins
Average speed - 15kmph
Net average speed - 17kmph

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Biking to Marymoor Park, Redmond

So I was getting all worked up that I haven't ridden in a while. Hence I took off at 5 pm yesterday on a 72 km (45 miles) roundtrip to Marymoor Park located at Redmond, and close to I believe Microsoft. This trip had the combined charm of Burke-Gilman trail(lots of trees and greenery) and the Sammamish river valley trail (lots of open spaces and fields).


Food and fluids
I carried along with me two litres of water, two biscuit packets, a few bananas and one snickers pack. As I found out, the water was just sufficient and the food was more than sufficient. I consumed water every 15 minutes and that kept me well hydrated.



















A few canadian geese grazing near the sammamish lake





































The Sammamish trail has quite a few trail facilities which include restrooms and drinking water



















The trail sticks close to the river and makes the ride delectable
















































































Para sailing from the ground??

















The guy finally managed a small lift but not quite

















On the way back the roosters were going great guns



Stats:

Going:
1) 0 - 20 kms - 0:00:00 - 0:50:00
2) 20 - 36 kms - 0:55:00 - 1:50:00

Coming back:
1) 0 - 16 kms - 2:20:00 - 3:05:00
2) 16 - 36 kms - 3:10:00 - 4:10:00

Total trip time: 4:15:00
Time on bike: 3:30:00
Average speed: 17kmph
Net Average speed: 20 kmph
Max speed: 35 kmph

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Christian yoga???

Seriously, what is that? This is one of the websites that advocates christian yoga. According to one blog, "Practitioners say that Christian yoga fills a need for believers who want the health benefits of yoga but are put off by the practice's ancient Hindu roots." This really says something about the parochialness and the lack of tolerance of christianity towards other religions. It also reflects a sense of insecurity among the practitioners of christianity. And yoga as known to the world is actually Hatha yoga, which along with Karma yoga (Yoga of action), Bhakti yoga (Yoga of devotion), Jnana yoga (Yoga of Knowledge)and Raja yoga(the king of yogas) form a part of the yoga sutras of Patanjali.
The sad part is many Indians today aren't even aware of the different forms of yoga, let alone knowing more about them from literature. Karma yoga, for example,has more to do with identifying who you really are through action or work than worrying about accumulating good karma or bad karma.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Biking beyond the gilman trail

Thought of doing the burke gilman trail + sammamish river trail, a round trip distance of 72 kms (45 miles). But since today's a week day, I had to be back before my advisor starts looking for me. Hence I just went 8 kms into the 16km-Sammamish river trail, a beautiful trail actually. Unlike the Gilman trail, which is surrounded by a canopy of trees, the Sammamish trail follows the kutty Sammamish river all the way to Marymoor Park, Redmond and affords great views of open fields all around. Reminded me of the dainty town of Orting on my previous biking trip to Kapowsin. So I managed the whole trip(56 kms or 35 miles) in 3 hrs and 15 minutes including breaks. Probably this weekend, I might do the full distance and get some pics too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The chain that asks me to speak...

... About myself. It's also called the 'tag'. I was tagged by Priyank a week back but research work, books and erratic sleep times have put me on hold. So here goes..
Despite being lazy, I like to do un-diluted research whenever I can and in doing that I border on being a masochist. I like to borrow books from the library and read the prefaces and forewords, before returning them back. I am an idealist with changing ideals, but I do stick to a few core ones for long periods of time. I am, as many human beings would be, constantly looking for a sense of purpose in my life, and the questions which come about through such deliberations take me through myriad books in philosophy, long excursions on bikes and of late, through meditation, into the varied realms of silence. I believe in the limitlessness of the human potential and would be more than happy to see a minute nano-glimpse of this infiniteness in the smallness of my human experience.
An extrovert during my childhood days, an introvert during my adolesence to being an ambivert right now, I have traversed three-fourths of the circle.
Now for some real facts:
The time when I hit the sack during the past 9 months have spanned all of the 24 hrs.
I have run a half-marathon.
My weight has been a constant 65 kgs over the past 5 years.
The first big thing I bought when I came to Seattle was my beautiful road-bike. The cell-phone came 6 months later. The lap-top is yet to make an entry!
The chain ends here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sammamish river park

Intro
This week was cloudy and I was starting to get worried. Why? Because once it starts raining in Seattle, it becomes an everyday affair. Summer is still going to be around, maybe till August end, but that's just a month away from now. Hence I decided to do kutty training rides of around 30 - 40 kms a little regularly. Hopefully, these training rides would get me geared up for bigger biking trips of 100 - 120 kms which should be in August.

The place
Sammamish river park is located 12 miles or around 20 kms from university district, Seattle. The going was damn easy since it was mostly downslope till Kenmore, after which it was a flat road till Bothell, where the park is located.








I noticed a lot of kutty wildlife at the Sammamish river park, just around the point where the Burke-Gilman trail converts into the Sammamish river trail (which goes upto Redmond).
















Roosters and rabits abound.




I didn't have much time to do any sightseeing. Just hung around at some places, took a few pictures and returned through the Burke-Gilman trail.






Now if I had taken the SR 522 back to Seattle, it would have screwed my body, since all the downslope while coming converts into massive upslopes while returning back.
Luckily, the Burke-Gilman trail comes to the rescue.




SR 522























The ride back
The burke-giman trail is an awesome trail, since it passes by the washington lake and has some big trees and variegated vegetation along the trail.











But there are also down-sides to the trail. There are many bumps on the trail as in the picture below.




These bumps can harm a road bike going at a good clip. So I had to slow down unwillingly at many places. But unlike last time, these bumps have been marked with pieces of chalk at most places and this would definitely keep the riders alert. I applaud the effort of whoever it is that took upon this job.
My fitness on the ride back was good. I wasn't getting tired, though my legs were. Does that make sense? I have been having problems with my left and right knee which has prevented my running, but hopefully crosstraining through biking should help the knees heal well.

Stats
The going was pretty quick, thanks to the downslope. It took me around 40 minutes for the 20 kms.
Coming back: The burke-gilman trail - 55 mins for 19 kms.

Future trips
This ride was upto Sammamish river park, which is the start of another trail - Sammamish river trail which goes upto Marymoor park, Redmond, a distance of 10 miles. This river trail is supposedly very scenic, so Burke gilman + Sammamish river trail might be my next trip, a round trip of 70 kms.

Another trip that I have already planned for, but am yet to execute is the trip to Granite falls (round trip distance of 90 kms), North of Seattle (North-east of everett).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Flats

Have had 4 of em in the front tyre(recent purchase) in the past two months and one on the back tyre in the past 9 months!!! Apparently, the front tyre(ultra-sport brand) is suitable for "smooth-road" biking but not for the roads of seattle, what with glass pieces strewn randomly on many minor arterial roads. 3 of those 4 flats have been due to a glass piece. Hence I got a tyre that has a much rougher surface and kevlar inner-lining. No flats so far (it's only been a week). In the long run, I am going to get a mountain bike for city commuting and use the road bike exclusively for long-distance trips. Makes a lot of money and time sense.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The good side of a trail race

I got a virtual glimpse of the good side or what I imagine is the good side of the Hardrock 100 mile race which was flagged off in Silverton, Colorado on July 13th. It's a gruelling, extreme 100 mile endurance race with lots of dehydration, altitude sickness, hypothermia and injuries (the bad side) on one hand but also with exotic and scintillating visuals on the other hand. The good side of this 100 mile race can be seen here. This year's winner was Scott Jurek, who also set a course record by finishing the race in just over 26 hours! I can't fathom what it means to finish a 100 mile run, let alone compete in one. How is it that the same guy(Scott Jurek) particiaptes in similar races of 100 miles (Western states and Hard rock) but takes around 15 hrs to complete the first race but 26 hrs to complete the second, all the while setting course records in both? Maybe that's why they call it the hard rock race(I guess it has to do with the amount of climbing involved in Hardrock(33000ft) as compared to Western states(18000ft)).
Coming back to the good side and visual effects, its interesting to see that the scene in LOTR with all that running for days together could actually have been a part of an ultra-marathon such as the Hardrock 100 mile run.
As of now, Hiking - yes, running - no (its not like I have a choice!).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The runner

Amazing beginning. Watch it here by Stuart Jones.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ultra Marathon Man

I bought this book yesterday evening on my way to dinner at a Thai restaurant. I had been meaning to read this book by Dean Karnazes for quite sometime. This book is ofcourse an autobiography that centers primarily around the running or ultra-running adventures of a Greek descendant-American born athlete.
The book, if you ask me could be organized much better, but given that it's an out and out running-centric and egotistical yet inspirational book, I didn't mind it at all.
Great people should write inspirational books that brings the far-removed 'greatness' right back into the common-man's experience. The central theme of this book is that
'Suffering is spiritual'. The book has a great start, but sort of gets into discrete event-based sections as you go along, losing a bit of the coherence, but nevertheless being inspirational. I finished the book in two readings - the first 'three quarters', just as I fell asleep yesterday night and the rest today morning after I woke up.

The one experience that Dean narrates, where he is a bit drunk at a bar on his 30th birthday and decides that his life needs to change, was really a profound read. That night, he ran till dawn break the next day, for the first time in 15 years and this experience got him into what this whole book is all about - Testing the capability of body and mind through physical and mental exertion - a.k.a running ultramarathons.
I have a similar theory on what life is all about :- Psycho-physical-spiritual experiences. The word spirituality has been taken for granted, my definition is quite simple - Any experience that uplifts your being or spirit is spiritual; be it meditation or Tai-chi or running 48 hrs non-stop as Dean Karnazes does. Since the medium for spiritual experience could be a physical activity such as running, hiking or mountaineering or simple house-hold chores such as cleaning or mowing - the experience is physico-spiritual. Bring in the mind either through research or mental exertion or intellectual stimulation, it becomes psycho-spiritual. Club it all together and it becomes psycho-physico-spiritual, the experience called life.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Federer gets the Wimbledon 2007

7-6,4-6,7-6,2-6,6-2 against Rafael Nadal, and ties with the great Bjorn Borg for five consecutive Wimbledon titles. Great going Federer! Here's to your rivalry and camaraderie with Rafael Nadal.


A synopsis of the match


The last set of the match

Federer's interview post match

A report of the match.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What's near seattle?

Man, I have been in the dark so far. I was expecting enthusiasm from my friends here for road trips or biking trips. Sadly, not many have a bike here, and their idea of fun is a little different. Even I have been ignorant of many beautiful places in and around seattle.
Seattle, so far for me, has been small spots north of seattle. I haven't looked to the east and I just went on a biking road trip to the south. East and North-east is the place to be. The cascade ranges, part of the coast ranges that run from North to South along the coast have innumerable trails(many passing through mountains) to hike, run, bike, ski on.


When I say innumerable, it's mainly from what I have read on other blogs and what I have seen on google earth.
I am sure many other cities in US have a rich trove of places to go around and have fun, its just waiting to be discovered.

Let me just rattle out a few hills/mountains from memory:
From West to east starting at Issaquah (south-east seattle): Cougar mountain, Squak mountain,
,
Tiger mountain, Rattlesnake ridge/mountain, Washington Mountain, Mount Si, Granite mountain, Humpback mountain, Snoqualmie mountain and falls. The good thing about these mountains are that they are of different heights and can accomodate all kinds of nature junkies: the family hikers, the serious hikers and climbers, the runners, etc. For example Squak mountain is just over 800 ft, while Snoqualmine mountain goes upto 5000 ft.

Iceberg lake, Glacier national park, Montana
Heading north-west from Mount Si: Index mountain, Mount Pilchuck, Baker mountain and Mount Shuksan (which goes across the Canada-US border).
Mount Rainier(14000ft asl) down south is the largest stand-alone mountain of the cascade range.
Mountains which are above 14,000 ft are called fourteeners. The state of colorado has 52 fourteeners, which are mostly contiguous.
Behind mount rainier and bordering state Oregon, there are mount adams, mount hood, mount St. Helens and a few others.

Mount St. Helens
This region has active volcanoes including rainier. A huge fault infact passes through the heart of seattle.
And finally to the west of seattle and along the Pacific ocean, Olympic mountain.

Olympic mountains
The olympic mountain range is infact responsible for the unusually rainy weather that Seattle experiences most of the year(except summer). Basically, moisture laden clouds from the Pacific hit the olympic mountains, which receive a quite a bit of rain. But a significant portion of the clouds deflect around the olympic mountains and converge in the Puget sound region. This convergence area is called the Puget sound convergence Zone (PSCZ) which makes Seattle cloudy year round. It doesn't rain much in seattle, around 1000mm, less than in Newyork infact, but it rains for twice that many days as in Newyork.

Miscellaneous links:
1) Mount Si
2) Granite mountain

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Biking to Kapowsin, WA

My friend who is also an avid amateur biker like me made a trip to seattle for a couple of days with some others. We decided to rent a bike for him and go some place. We thought about Snoqualmie falls, located east of seattle, further ahead of Issaquah. But apparently, his group was headed there. Hence, we thought of biking to the base of Mount Rainier, whatever that meant.

Kapowsin, which is a rural hamlet, located around 95 kms from Seattle downtown seemed to be the closest point from Tacoma to Mount Rainier national park and hence we decided to head there.

Since we had little time to plan, we didn't go into other alternative options that might have made better sense. The idea was to do some good biking on some of the steep roads in the country, get to the destination, possibly get a good view of Mount Rainier and be back before the end of the day. Since a 180 kms round trip seemed impractical, we decided to make it a 90km roundtrip by taking the bus till half-way, i.e. Tacoma.


We started out at 5 am and reached Tacoma dome by 6:30 am.


Since there were very few food stores open, we had to go around till we found a place to buy lunch. We started biking at 8 am and immediately noticed the elevation gain.

After the initial elevation gain, the roads were more or less flat all the way.


















We took regular breaks every 20 minutes.

The mistake we did on this trip was not to carry a full blown map. We just had directions from Tacoma to Kapowsin.

What we didn't anticipate was that our curiosity in exploring new places or roads might get us lost or frustrated.
We had to abandon our initial route since the road we had chosen was unpaved. Luckily for us, mount rainier was the guiding sage. I mean, we were headed over there and when it towers 14,000ft asl, its hard to go in the wrong direction.

When we left a town called Pullyap where it seemed like everything (schools, sports fields, shops, houses) was put in just the right place (model town), we were in for a shock. We had to do non-stop climbing for 10 minutes so as to gain an elevation of 400 ft. That left us beat.

Luckily, it was all downhill or flat from there on till Graham, a town before Kapowsin.


A vintage train by the road
From Graham to Kapowsin, we got some of the best views of Mt. Rainier on the route. Its difficult to describe how it feels to see such a huge mountain upclose (from 25 miles away!) and without cloud cover.. simply elevating.

We were really tired when we reached Kapowsin after 5hrs of biking and we took a break for around 2 hrs. I caught up on some food, fluids and sleep.


















Lake Kapowsin


Boating are there




















Beyond: Electron reservoir and village
We couldn't do much sightseeing around Kapowsin because we were too tired from biking and lack of sleep.
Instead, we decided to take another possible route back to Tacoma and that turned out to be good decision.
















Map showing the onward and return routes


Peaceful country roads
We took the Orting-Kapowsin road all the way to Ortin, a hamlet south-east of Pullyap. The scenery on the way to Ortin was pretty beautiful.

The landscape was an eye-candy even after we passed Ortin with yellow-green grass in the foreground and the dark green pines in the background.



















We did some fast biking on this stretch till we reached Tacoma, but we did get lost on the way and were asking too many people for directions. The return journey was faster (4.5 hrs) despite being a longer route.
Overall it was a "decent" experience. Kapowsin is a cool place by the lake but it doesn't have any known trails that take you to Mount Rainier base camp. The most well-known trails (hiking, biking, etc) that approach Mount Rainier national park are ones from the north( carbon river road trail and mowich lake trail) and one from the south (paradise road trail).
However by car, there is the SR 410 that goes upto 8000 ft high.

Quick directions: From Tacoma, take the Portland avenue all the way till it joins Meridian Avenue and 112st. Head down as you pass by Graham till you come across the Kapowsin Hyw rd which takes you to Kapowsin. (We ofcourse didn't follow this route for many reasons).

Route on google map

We had some good and bad experiences on the trip which made us think on what's important for a biking trip -
A "biking road trip" has many components, a few important ones are:
a) The place you are headed. You can have high expectations of the place provided you get to know of the place from some one... Not otherwise. Researching the place and its surroundings will help a lot, especially if the place is not a popular destination.
b) If the idea of the trip is to not just bike but also explore the destination or the route taken, the biker needs to make sure that he is fit enough for the ride. Training frequently helps.
c) Maps. Very important especially if you are going to explore places or roads. Maps also ensure that you don't get 'lost'!!
d) Food and water: We didn't have any problem here since we had enough food and water was available at '7-11' stops on the way. But some rural roads might not have stores and hence in those cases its good to take more water for the trip.
e) Guiding device: GPS, compass, etc. This will work when maps don't or when you don't have maps of some particular region you want to explore. Some examples are forest cover with dense bushes, hills with no clear trails, places with little information on the web.
f) Riding safety: When riding on shoulders on main roads such as arterial highways, take note of the traffic on the road. If the traffic seems congested or is too fast it is better to slow down and move to the sidewalk or focus more on riding parallel to the shoulder line.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Recent shootings

A week back, 5 guys tried entering a night club near the university but were denied entry by the night club personnel. They left but came back 5 minutes later and one of them shot the night club personnel using his hand gun. Since I came to Seattle last september, I have read in the news atleast 3 such shootings that happened near a night club and mostly in the same block or area!!! On another ocassion a few months back, a stalker entered a university building and shot dead his ex girlfriend and then himself.
And then the virginia tech incident happened. Imagine having gun-culture in India or China, countries with a population of billion plus. There would be massacres at the slightest of provocations.
Gun laws maybe a political issue in the US, but the frequency of shootings either in schools or at night clubs should be an urgent indicator to both the politicians and the general public that holding of guns legally should be banned. A new gun rolls of the american assembly line every 10 seconds according to one video on the web. According to Wikipedia, 59 million adults in US personally hold a gun. And, roughly half of the US adult population live in households with guns. Why do so many people own guns in US? Maybe its got to do with the history of gunculture in US either for hunting game or for self-defense.
Whatever it maybe, the current reality calls for a different course of action...stricter gun laws or better, banning guns in civilian hands. It's obvious that the use of guns to defend oneself comes at a heavy price... its easy access to kids and criminals alike.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What?

"I am that. You are that. All this is that". So, what exactly is this 'that'?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A case for healthy living

My uncle (mom's elder brother) is a really amazing man. 65 years old, he is fit as ever. What's amazing about him is not just that he walks 2 hrs a day and wakes up at 3 am to do that. What's more amazing is that he is a man of strong will power and has influenced our family's and relatives' lives immensely.
Mama had a heart attack right around the time I was born, 23 years back. He was a chain smoker before that. A simple change in life-style and a strong will brought him back to life and healthy living. The number of days he has missed walking in the past 23 years have been few, which shows his dedication to walking regularly and towards a healthy lifestyle.

I believe there's a lesson to be learnt here. It's not enough to live long. You must also enjoy living in old age.
The argument given by smokers is that we are anyway going to die someday, how does it matter if we die a few years earlier.
The point is not just to live a few years longer, but to live all of these years with a healthy body and mind. A habitual smoker 20 years down the line would have done a lot of damage to his lungs. Agreed, he might have cut down his life time by just 5-10 years, but his/her last few years or decades might just get really miserable due to health problems. Making a life-style change then might have little improvement on the sense of well-being and health.

So at this point, the focus is on living longer and healthier. Let's just look at a few factors that affect positively or negatively the life-span of a human being:

1) Exercise: Some kind of physical activity is a must in today's world because it's easy to get caught up with work and lead a sedentary lifestyle. The human body is an amazing creation. Tweak it the right way and it will become stronger and more robust.
Today, there are infinite choices on the kind of physical activity to pursue:
Gyms; individualistic sports such as running, walking, biking, etc; group sports such as volleyball, soccer, etc; spiritual-physical disciplines such as yoga, tai-chi and other martial arts, etc.

2) Sleep: It's a simple observation that you are less active and alive when you have less sleep. There are general guidelines on how many hours to sleep and the right time for sleep, but I think one should sleep as much as the body requires, which could vary depending on the type of activity being done during the day. And my personal observation has been that the earlier in the night I sleep, the more refreshed I am during the day. Plus, nothing beats waking up in the early morning and taking in a whiff of fresh air.

3) Drugs: Substances that change the chemical make up of the brain temporarily or on a long-term basis are definitely not conducive to a healthy life-style.

4) Alcohol: There's a debate from what I have heard and read on the right amount of alcohol for consumption with some studies showing alcohol in moderation can be healthier, etc. I have nothing further to say here other than that one needs to be watchful and observant of the effects.

5) Stress: Its been said that stress is one among the many pressing health issues that we face today. I term stress as a lack of mental well-being. Stress, though being a mental affliction, can strongly affect the body. Hence it's all the more important to have a healthy level of stress. A steady, stable and equanimous mind, that is not affected much by life's ups and downs is one way towards reducing stress and improving mental well-being.
It's important to know today, how to relax when needed and that too in a healthy way (people give stress-release as a reason for smoking). Meditation and better breathing techniques that form a part of Pranayama would greatly help stress release. I personally used to do the shavasana (corpse-posture) when I used to get really stressed out during my first year in my under-grad.
The basic idea in shavasana is to relax every tiny muscle in the body through auto-suggestion and controlled breathing. It worked well for me.
Also, taking deep breaths from time to time is an effective way to relax and recharge the system.

6) Food: Last but not the least, the kind of food you consume can affect your mood and your sense of well-being, not to mention your productivity at work.
In America, people associate eating healthy food with being 'hippie'. That I think is ridiculous. Healthy food doesn't have to be bland or tasteless. If you find it bland, then you haven't yet learnt the art of cooking tasty food (Hint: Try inclduing spices into the food).

Now, the question arises, if one has the six factors above and other relevant factors (social life - family and friends, etc) under control, how long can one live - i.e. the ideal scenario. Is there a limit at all (of course, pollution imposes a limit)? The longest I have heard a person live is 160 years. Observing the life-style habits of these people should give an indication of what factors have influenced their longer life-span. Infact the following video does just that:

Another video can be found here
Surely, its worth following and living a healthy life-style to be able to live another 100 years!!!
Here's wishing all the readers of this blog a healthy life made through better life-style choices.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Racism or what??

I have just purchased a few groceries from safeway and I am heading back home on my bike, riding close to the sidewalk, when a car slows down by my side, a guy juts out of the window and lunges against my body. A quick second and the car is gone, leaving me fuming and helpless as I struggle to gain balance. Do I call this an act of racism? Do I call it a prank by college kids? Or is it a combination of both?
This is not the first time an incident of this kind has happened to me. This car slowing down business, cracking some cheap jokes and speeding away has had me frustrated a couple of times in the past. But this time it was physical. Is it something these guys have against someone riding a bike? Or is it something they have against non-whites riding a bike, i.e. a racially motivated prank? I am not sure.
But what I am sure is that if this happens again, I am definitely going to take some action.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Federer vs Nadal

Who's it gonna be at the French open final? I am a royal fan of Federer for his amazing shots (remember the one where he got the racket behind and between his legs) and movement across the court and ofcourse for his big serves. A nice compilation of some of the best shots of Federer ever, I found on youtube:


Nadal is more of a powerhorse and a clay god. And Nadal has defeated federer on several occasions in the past. But Federer is a class apart and I am sure he will get Nadal soon, if not tomorrow.

On another note, I was wondering if there is no one to rival Henin Hardenne. She's just a one woman force at the grand slams.

Friday, June 08, 2007

More climbing

Today's session was good. Looks like I am becoming a regular here. Don't know how long that will last. I was able to do stuff which I couldn't the last time. People were a little amazed and puzzled that I wasn't using shoes. I just want to see how far I can go on bouldering(rock climbing without ropes or support on boulders or small monoliths as against free-soloing - which refers to rock climbing without ropes on any structure - big or small) without shoes. But it definitely is fun because bouldering as such is a challenging sport and not having 'climbing shoes' (which are especially useful because they are sticky, prevent scratches from sharp edges and give a better grip for small sharp cracks and footholds) is a disadvantage but also a challenge.



Confidence - This plays a big role in climbing atleast. I found that I am able to climb better in front of a group of people than when I am doing it alone. This maybe because when people watch what I am doing, it gets me focussed as I don't want to goof up!
I think the ideal climber is one who can climb the monoliths easily and fluidly as if they were just walking up the monolith. Infact I am starting to see some similarities between our primal ancestors and the pros at the place :).
To illustrate my point in the previous statement, I have included a wonderfully badass video of Dan Osman free soloing Lover's leap, California. (Ignore the music if it sounds like trash metal).

In the end it all comes together: Hatha yoga or yoga (including pranayama), swimming, taichi, kungfu, gymnastics, rockclimbing, running and biking. Though the goals seem to be different (apparently), at the highest level, all the sports aim at one thing: High flexibility and high strength.
Rockclimbing from my experience, not only develops high flexibility and strength, but it also requires high flexibility and high strength if you want to 'decently manage' some climbing routes!!! To elaborate on this, let me give a hypothetical example.
Lets' say that there are 5 levels in climbing skills with the successive levels being better than the previous level. Then the flexibility and strength of level 2 will not be enough to tackle level 3. In that sense higher flexibility and strength is a requirement for level 3. So you are in effect forced to do some weight training or some thing like that in order to do better climbing unlike in running, where one does weight training(to look good) because running (long distance) reduces muscle mass for efficiency!!

I am not done with running yet, though I haven't run in a long time (months). Running real fast or speed training is an altogether different experience as compared to regular running. Even long slow runs come under a different genre of experiences in life. So the memories of these experiences should bring me back to running, though I am not sure when.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rock climbing near husky stadium

The place is right next to the Husky stadium.
I was actually looking out for a friend who said that he had come by 7 pm to IMA(Intra mural association) building to play racket ball. When he didn't turn up, I did the next best thing, which turned out to be THE best thing!

The place

That is plain vertical!



The plain vertical I was talking about


I went up without much of a hassle. But I was stuck at that place for a minute, as I made some unsuccessful attempts to get down before summoning the courage to do it. Like some one said at that place, its like going to the next level (not really).

Nice moves by an experienced guy.

Gymnastics and rock climbing!

An overall view of the place. Though the place looks small, you can spend a lot of time (months) mastering moves on a single monolith. The experienced climber in the photos above told me that he comes to this place many times a week and never gets tired or bored of doing it. I have tried out successfully (atleast partly) every piece here except the tallest one. It is too technical i.e. not having many footholds and many of them too tiny for my bare foot. If I need to make progress on that big one, I definitely need shoes, but I am yet to replace my worn out running shoes. So it will have to wait. :(

Kennenisa Bekele with the WR

Robbie Mcewen and steve o'grady - The 'Nudge'