Thursday, November 30, 2006

Arrival in Puerto Natales

The final day on the Navimag was arrival in Puerto Natales. However, first we had to pass through the White Channel which is the narrowest channel that the ship passes through. The view from the edge is hard to convey in picture but it is amazing to see the land so close moving on a ship this size.

You can get a little better sense of the narrowness from the rear view of the ship.

After the narrows, we came around a bend and could finally see the mountains of the southern Patagonia region. My excitement grew immediately. I really do love the mountains.

After this we arrived in Puerto Natales. It isn't a particularly exciting town, but it is the gateway to the Torres del Paine. Natales feels like a definite backpacker/mountaineer sort of tourist town. Filled with outdoor shops and hostels. It really didn't matter what this town held. We were almost there! The Torres await.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shipwrecks, Puerto Eden, Glaciers

After next day on the Navimag started to get a bit more interesting. It started with a wakeup call from the Capitan as he announced that we would be passing a famous shipwreck. Apparently, this ship had run into some rather shallow land bar or some such. It was a pretty impressive, if eerie site.
Ship Wreck

The main highlight of the day, however, was our arrival in Puerto Eden. This is a little fishing village on an island in the middle of the Chilean Fjords.
Puerto Edan

It is also the home to the last Kawesqar community which were a nomadic people who traveled via canoe and populated much of the area at one time.
Puerto Edan SIgn

The really great thing about Puerto Eden is that we were able to get off the boat and walk around a bit. The only way around the island is via these little wooden walkways.
Puerto Edan Walkways

Since it is an island community, all of the supplies are brought in by boat. I was luck enough to catch some of the locals stocking up on the back side of the island.
Puerto Edan Good

What are they stocking you may ask? Well, they aren't that primitive. They have a nice new post office, a really well built school for the children and, of course, a lovely supermarket/liquor store.
Puerto Edan Shop

Later in the day we arrived at the Pio XI Glacier. This is part of the southern ice field and the biggest glacier in South America. As we approached the glacier, everybody donned warm clothes and went up on deck for the view.
Glacier viewing from deck

As we drew closer to the glacier we started to spot ice bergs in the water.
Glacier - Distance

It also became colder and colder. You really get a sense for how glaciers create their own micro-climate.
Glacier - Closeup

Once we were close enough we all had to get out in front of the glacier for pictures. Here's Erin and Sarah doing the "it's cold out here" pose.
Erin and Sarah at Glacier

Of course, I had to get into the action as well.
Me at Glacier

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Enter the Navimag

Well, the second day in Puerto Montt was really just preparation for boarding the Navimag, the famous boat "cruise" through the Chilean Fjords. This is clearly no luxory cruise trip, but rather a commercial ferry that transports goods and people in rather bare bones style down the southern coast of Chile.
Navimag from shore

No mind, this trip was certainly not about luxury accommodations. However, the hearty group of travelers with whom I found myself brought their own style, toasting our departure with Champagne from plastic cups on the top deck.
Toasting our departure

Given that our pre-boarding shopping trip consisted mostly of bottles upon bottles of wine, this would be an interesting trip even if the sites weren't fantastic. And, in fact, it was mostly overcast for much of the boat trip and we even received a fair bit of rain while on board. However, this was just fine as there wasn't much to do outside on this small ship and expending our bad weather mojo on board assured that we had near perfect weather for the remainder of the tour.
Cloudy day at sea

Inside there was a decent sized cafeteria where they also showed movies and documentaries. There was also a small bar where seats were always at a premium. We ended up playing lots of cards in the bar area and tried to always keep someone on site to reserve our precious spots. I think I learned about a half dozen new card games some of which can be played with up to 8 people.
Cards about the Navimag

Aboard ship I really started to get to know my fellow travelers. Here are my impressions:

Alan and Sarah (British couple, Alan has headphones on in the rear left, Sarah is facing away wearing a hat) - Alan is soft-spoken, gentle and tends to understate things. OK, so you can't hear the tone of dripping sarcasm over the Internet, but you get the idea. Really a great guy underneath it all, but is still searching for his "feminine side". Sarah is truly a sweet English Rose, but behind the lilting voice, warm heart and soft demeanor lies a soldier who can fire a sniper's rifle. Both are nurses and have performed relief work and military service in such "peaceful" locales as the Falklands, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think that Sarah's alter ego is either photographer (she must have taken a couple thousand photos during the trip) or veterinarian (she seemed compelled to help any and all stray dogs in Argentina and Chile which is a LOT!) Alan's alter ego is clearly to be a singer in a musical as he definitely has the voice and loves to ham it up.

Ben and Rachel (Ben is in the middle back of picture and Rachel is facing away wearing black&white jacket) - Another British couple, though not (yet) married despite much egging on by the group for Ben to "pop the question" on board the ship. The two of them have been traveling since the start of the year and are on an around-the-world ticket. They had already been to Japan, Australia and New Zealand among other places. They also continued on to the Galapagos after our tour was over. They are both around 30 which means at their age I was working 80-90 hrs/week in a start-up and had never taken a vacation longer than 2 weeks! Ben's alter ego is definitely card shark. He seems to know every card game ever invented and a half dozen variations on each. Rachel is not quite as easy to peg, though I will say that despite all her pre-stated trepidations about the hikes, she didn't miss a step once time came to hit the trails. I'm gonna go out on a limb and call her alter ego "power hiker" :-).

Klemens and Valerie ("The Swiss" sitting together in the lower left corner above) - If anyone is going to belie the stereotype of the stern, reserved Swiss it is these two. Valerie is warm and friendly (especially to stray dogs to whom she only served the highest quality of fresh sausages). Klemens was probably the funniest one of the entire group and really put the supposedly unrivaled British wit to shame with his incredible sense of humor. Klemens is traveling on a sabbatical from work as he somehow convinced his boss that he needed to travel around South America to learn Spanish in order to further his career in engineering. Valerie was simply on vacation, though being Swiss I think they both pick up languages faster than the rest of us learn a new card game. I would say Valerie's alter ego is definitely animal rescue worker. Klemens has already made plans to open the first Swiss International Offshore Bank of Puerto Edan (see next post) and was actively recruiting clients and investors from the group. Of course, both of them also have side jobs as Swiss ambassadors of good will and chocolates which they doled out on a daily basis.

Erin (Dark hair, just beyond Sarah's hat) - My fellow American and fellow computer nerd. Also the only other one taking a "mere" three week vacation. She is from the Seattle area and works at...yes, you guessed it...Microsoft. But, please, don't hold it against her :-). Erin is a true Pac-NW spirit and definitely into the outdoors. Outside of the research labs of the world's biggest software company she is an avid hiker and mountaineer/climber in training.

Robin (Can just see his head behind Rachel) - Yet another Brit! Robin is my fellow runner. Or, rather, I should say that he is the runner of the group because next to him I am a slow, plodding jogger. He is the cheez half (along with Alan) of the singing duo "Hamon y Queso". His 2:45 marathon PR clearly seems to indicate the direction of his alter ego. However, I think his nickname of Sir. Robin may tilt the hidden talent in a more royal direction.

Nigel (Very rare for Nigel not to be in picture though look around the site as his cleanly shaven skull is unmistakable) - Nige is an Australian who has been living in London working as a civil engineer for (I believe) an architectural firm. He was another one on the extended travel itinerary, taking time off after leaving his job to head back down under and work on his MBA. He has been all over South America and this was the tail end of his trip. Nigel lived up to his heritage and did nothing to dispel the stereotype of his countrymen as he was alway the first to hit the bar with beer time starting as early as 11am. Nigel was the first person I met on my trip and I found I got on well with his laid-back, easy-going personality. Were it not for the funny accent he could definitely hail from Cali. While he mostly played basketball as a youth, I'm gonna have to call Nigel's alter ego a cricket player. He definitely took joy in demonstrating his bowling technique as he taunted the English over the spanking the Aussies were giving the Brits in the Ashes Series.

Oana (Not pictured and not surprising, though you can see her standing behind me in the "toasting" picture up further) - Oana is Romanian by birth, but is from Germany. While she at first came across as a bit aloof and reclusive, once you got her one-on-one she was a good person to talk with and definitely has her own very dry sense of humor. In the end she almost seemed the saddest to see our (by then) close knit group of friends each go their separate ways. She definitely had her ideas about how things should be run which is why I think I will give her the alter ego of "tour leader". I say that with a grin that I hope she will understand. The thing I will remember most about Oana is how, even though she was always the last one to arrive at every checkpoint during the hikes, she always had the biggest smile on her face. It was a smile that seemed to say quite simply "I am happy to be here and that's all that matters". I've also never seen anyone quite so excited at seeing her luggage come round on a baggage carousel.

Well, that's our group. You'll probably see more of them throughout my pictures if I ever finish posting them all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chiloé Island

We went to the town of Castro on Chiloé Island via bus and ferry. This is the second largest island in Chile and is home to a penguin colony and one of the worlds few temperate rain forests. Castro is the capitol of the Island, but still seems fairly quaint and touristy.
Chiloe Town

It definitely has the feel of a small fishing town especially down by the water where there are many seafood restaurants. We tried the local specialty called curanto which seemed to be basically just a bunch of different shellfish mixed in a bowl with some odd spongy dumpling like things that none of us were able to figure out.
Chiloe Water

The Island is famous for some of its small wooden churches which date back to the early Jesuit settlers. Unfortunately, we were unable to find many in Castro which is dominated by one very large church in the middle of the town square.
Chiloe Church

Once you have seen the town square, the houses on stilts down by the water and the district of town that seemed to be littered with drunken fishermen (it was Saturday and they need to get their weekend drinking in before before Church on Sunday), there isn't much else to do there. We did discover this very funky coffee shop/lounge that seemed like it would be more at home in San Francisco or London than a fishing Island off the coast of Chile.
Chiloe Lounge Outside

The owner played this really cool mellow techno/house music that he mixed himself, brewed up real coffee (no nescafe!) and served homemade brownies. At night the music turned a little more upbeat and the drinks to Pisco Sours. It would be a really great club except for the fact that our group of northern hemisphere tourists seemed to be the only ones frequenting it.
Chiloe Lounge Inside

We had hoped to go to the rain forest the next day, but it being Sunday and early in the season we were unable to find transport. Instead we visited the town of Ancud where some folks went to the penguin colony and the rest of us just hung out in town for a few hours. We then headed back for another night in Puerto Montt before preparing for our boat trip on the Navimag. Apparently, there was a concert to raise money for disabled children going on right outside my hotel window.
Chiloe to Puerto Montt

We stopped by for a little bit after dinner, but I think I was able to hear better from my hotel room. Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn't going to get a great night's sleep especially since they did the stage tear down at around 1am that night. Ah well...all part of the experience.

Next stop, Navimag!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Quick trip update

Here´s the breif view of the trip so far. Arrived in Buenos Aires and spent a day there before heading to San Martin de Los Andes. This was a cute little Alpinesque town. Got to know the group which was mostly composed of Brits. There is also one other American from Seattle, a German woman, a displaced and soon to be replaced Aussie living in London and a Swiss couple. All in all a great bunch.

In San Martin we took a day trip and hiked a Volcano. Here is the group early on in the hike.
Group at Volcano

The guy to my right is Robin, a 2:45 marathoner who pushed the front of the group with me and then we ran it down. We did stick around a bit before the run to enjoy the view, of course.
View from Volcano

After San Martin, we headed to San Carlos de Bariloche. This was a much bigger town with lots more to do and lots more chocolate shops and steak restaurants. The Argentinians love their beef and I have eaten more in the past few days then I have in the past few months. At Bariloche, the group all split up and people did separate excursions according to their interests. Robin and I decided to do a hike that would allow us to put our runners fitness to good use. Before the hike, I ran with him in the morning where he had a nice easy run which gave me a really good tempo run. I paid him back on the trail by pushing it up the mountain. We hiked at the Catedral ski area up to the Frey Refuge. It is usually an 8 hour hike, but we knocked it off in less than 4 1/2. I think that it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Hiking Catedral

After Bariloche we took a combination of 4 buses and 3 ferrys to cross the lakes and peeks of the Andes to go from Argentina into Chile.
Bus and Ferry Route

The lakes were quite amazing and varied both in size and features. From small lakes such as the second one that took only 20 minutes to cross, to the final that took almost two hours and is bordered by three different volcanoes.
First Lake

Last Lake

After the Cruce de Lagos, we drove to Peurto Montt with a short stop at an amazing waterfall along the way. You can see, I am already starting to sport my "Mountain Man" scrub.
At the Falls

Puerto Montt is a big city without really much exciting except the Port. Tonight we are on Chiloe Island which is a very cute little island resort area off the coast. We may head to the National Parque which is a "mild" rain forest before heading back to Puerto Montt. From Puerto Montt we will catch the Navimag cruise south through the fjords and down to Puerto Natales. From there it is on to Torres del Paine!!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Feliz Thanksgiving

A short message from Patagonia (San Carlos de Bariloche to be specific). Below is an image of the place I hiked to this afternoon. It is called Frey Refuge. It doesn't even begin to capture the full beauty of the place, but you get the idea.

I hope your Thanksgiving was equally as inspiring!!!

Frey Refuge

Friday, November 17, 2006


A little over a year ago, my wife and IDSC00026

attended our friends' weddingDSC00022

in IrelandIreland Driving South 034

My work was pretty much hell during that timeDSC00036
and I had to rush back home soon after.

Zane went on to take a little solo holiday, visiting Norway and Sweden.

We discussed that this year it was my turn to take a solo vacation. After considering various options, I decided that I'm going to Patagonia.

In order to take best advantage of the time (and not have to do much planning myself), I am going with an adventure tour company called Gap Adventures. They put together packages of "loosely guided" tours for small groups (4-12) that are targeted at active people.

There is a set itinerary

that includes some pre-planned excursions, but plenty of time to do your own thing if that's what you want. The particular trip I am taking is called Wild Patagonia and includes time in the Lake District, a 3-day boat cruise through the Fjords, 5 days of hiking in the Paine National Park and a visit to the Moreno Glacier. It starts and ends in Buenos Aires, Argentina so I will get to check out the city as well. It is mainly a sight-seeing and hiking trip, but I imagine I may sneak in a run or two. It will be three full weeks which is the longest vacation I have ever taken. I leave tomorrow morning and plan to take LOTS of pictures to post here when I return in my full-on "Mountain Man Steve" persona.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of doctors and speed work

Finally went to see the podiatrist about my feets. Being very familiar with runners, I believe he has seen thousands of people with problems similar to mine. Since I am actually still able to run at all, he immediately ruled out injections. After looking at my feet, shoes and current inserts he recommended that I try a different "over the counter" insert before deciding on custom orthotics which can run around $400. He recommended the Superfeet (green) which are supposed to be pretty good about supporting the heel. Apparently, the ones I was using may be a bit stiff and there are sometimes issues with the ones that mold to your feet like this. I was told that a problem with them is that if you don't properly position your foot when they are cooling and molding, they can actually form in a way that will exasperate the problem rather than help. Also, they will mainly mold to the arch area which isn't always what is needed and be too much for people with medium to low arches. The Superfeet focus more on supporting the heel and area behind the arch rather than adding more arch to what your selected shoe provides. Also, the doctor recommended I try a different trail shoe. I'm going to try the Asics GelTrabucco IX and see how that feels. Brooks has a new trail version of my favorite Adrenaline shoe, but it is pretty difficult to find right now. Shoe fetish aside, the doctor also recommended I try using inserts in my soccer cleats as well. He said that sports like soccer and tennis with their side-to-side motion can be much tougher on the feet than the simple forward motion of running (of course, he hasn't seen me pound down a piece of technical single track trail :-)).

I've tried the new inserts on a couple of runs and they seem pretty good so far. Definitely feel good while running and I don't have that feeling of breaking in brand new shoes that I did with my other inserts. Both runs have been under an hour with the first a little over 6 miles and the second this morning doing a bit over 5. This mornings run was a sort of "simple speed work session" that I have started recently. Once a week, on a morning where I have limited time, I am incorporating around 8-9 pickups of 1 minute into a 5.3 mile run. I try to make the pace somewhat intense to the point that it is difficult to hold it for the last couple.

The basic routine is as follows:
  • 15 minute warmup
  • 2 x 1 min. pickups with 2 min. jogs after
  • 3 x 1 min. pickups with 1.5 min jogs after
  • 3-4 x 1 min. pickups with 1 min. jogs between
  • a little under a mile cool down
Not super scientific, but good enough to give a nice buzz. I never find speedwork "fun" while I'm doing it and, in fact, it is the antitheses of everything I enjoy about my long runs. However, nothing compares to the intensity of the buzz that I get when it's over. Once I start serious training again I am going to try and keep weekly speedwork as a part of the program. Maybe build up to where I can push 10 x 1 min. pickups and then start lengthening the pickups and the overall distance of the sessions. We'll see when the time comes, perhaps in December. Next week is the start of vacation time and if I do get any running in amongst hiking in the Andes, boating through the fjords and exploring lakes and small villages, it will all be about fun.

Monday, November 06, 2006

2 Miles in 25 minutes

While this pace is really only around a minute/mile slower than my Mission Peak run last night, the problem is that I wasn't running, I was sitting behind the wheel of a car going north on 880 in rush hour traffic. Yesterday, I enjoyed some of the best of the bay, today, the worst. Ah well, I will run tomorrow.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Moonrise, Sunset

Well, I couldn't take it any longer. I had to get out on a "real" trail and return to the hills. I ran Mission Peak on a very beautiful Sunday evening. In fact, it was much warmer than I expected and my extra clothing (and the extra weight I've put on) were definitely felt going up the face. However, it was all worth it after running around the backside on my very favorite piece of trail. The Ridge Trail between Mission and Monument Peaks is about as isolated as one can feel so close to civilization. Running the section below Mt. Allison the view is all hills to the east and the only sound one hears is the occasional airplane overhead. You would never know that the sites and sounds of the greater Bay Area lurk just the other side of the peak. Also, the trail in this section is very runnable with a nice grade both downhill and up. I ran to just beyond the big TV tower below Monument and around to the front to enjoy the other view before turning back. By this time it was dusk and the run back was nice and cool. As I approached the ridge again running towards mission peak I looked back to the east to see a HUGE, full, harvest moon rising above the hills. Then minutes later as I crested the ridge, I was able to enjoy the sun setting in the west. I went up and over the peak on the return extending my view of both moon-rise and sunset.

The run back down was uneventful, but pretty dark. My feet did hurt a bit, but not too badly and I gave them immediate attention after returning home. The total time was a little less than 2 1/4 hours so I will call this my first successful long run since the 50 (my last one put me out for an entire week). Now I just have to keep myself from getting overzealous.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Very Little

That's how much I have been running lately. I've run less in the three weeks since my 50 miler than I ran in the race. I took the entire week off after the race and then did a few runs the following week all on roads (probably a mistake). Around one hour of running and my feet would start hurting again. After a two hour run I was having arch and ankle problems as well. So, another whole week with no running. It seemed like an eternity. Why is it called "taking it easy" when it is so damn hard to do?

I intensified my foot treatment. More ice, more self-message and wearing night splints every night. I started running again this week, but have arranged my schedule to hit up a flat gravel trail near my work. Asphalt is evil. I haven't tried running for longer than one hour at a shot, but feel like things are maintaining. I have finally made an orthopedist appointment with a guy in Palo Alto who is a running specialist. My appointment is a week from Monday. Unfortunately, I leave for my vacation on the following Saturday.

I will be spending three weeks in the Patagonia region of Chile and while there won't necessarily be any running I will be on my feet doing a lot of walking and hiking. Given that I need my feet to be in good shape for that, I should probably limit my running over the next few weeks. However, I can't seem to convince my appetite that I am no longer running 50+ miles/week and I don't want to start my vacation both fat and out of shape! I suppose I could bike or do some other form of cross-training, but I mentally still need to run. I have taken off entire weeks, but have not missed a whole month of running since 2001. Even in 2002 where I was sick for two full months, I still managed to get in one sickly, pitiful mile-long treadmill session. Patience has never been my strong suit.