Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fire Update...

The smoke here in La Jolla seems to be letting up a tad and the weather reports the wind weakening and the normal, onshore flow returning by the weekend. The fires, however continue to burn. So far, 200,000 acres burned, 513, 000 people evacuated, 2,000 structures lost and the largest fire is only 5% contained; up from 0%.

The firefighting aircraft finally got off the ground once the winds subsided and, in conjunction with ground units, the firefighters seem to be making some headway and have saved several neighborhoods. SDFD lifted evacuations in areas of Del Mar and Solana Beach West of Interstate 5. Looks like I won't be evacuated, but yesterday night I stayed up until midnight to make sure that'd be the case and then got up at 0700 to check the progress of the fire during the night. South and East county isn't so lucky and huge areas are still burning and remain evacuated. Good luck to all the residents and firefighters still fighting.

School's been cancelled for the rest of the week. Since the air quality is hazardous and I'm not training, I'll have time to catch up on studying. Phooey.

Up to date fire info: www.signonsandiego.com

Monday, October 22, 2007

"My world's on fire, how 'bout yours?"

Holly and I walked out of the grocery store yesterday afternoon and saw a large plume of smoke in the air. After some digging, we learned about two brush fires burning in East SD County that grew rapidly. When we woke up this morning, 6 more fires had sprung up overnight and now the entire county is maxed out trying to deal with fires all over. So far, 25o THOUSAND people have been evacuated and it doesn't look like the winds will die off until tomorrow and may continue to Wednesday. The National Guard and Military have activated personnel to help fight the fires and Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared a State of Emergency. Emergency agencies are calling this the worst fire disaster California has ever seen. The Del Mar Fair Grounds is being used as an evecuation center and it's full. Evacuees are now being asked to go to Qualcomm Stadium.

As for me, I'm safe since all the fires are well North of me. Still, there's a lot of smoke and ash in the air that's forcing us to stay inside. School (UCSD) has been cancelled for today and tomorrow and one of my midterms has been moved due to the missed class time (woo!). No training, my throat gets irritated if I'm outside for more than 10 minutes. I had a choice this Summer to wok for USFS on a Wildland Fire crew or with State Parks as a Lifeguard. My Dad said he'd feel better with me as a Lifeguard, so that's the job I took. If I had taken the USFS job, I'd be on the fireline right now eating smoke. Crazy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Its life Jim, but not as we know it"

I just posted Monday, but it's amazing how much can happen in 48 hours. Yesterday was my 32nd birthday, so I skipped all my classes and did what I wanted to do all day. My g/f, Holly, came down Monday and we just hung out all day. I went for a morning ride, had some yummy sushi for lunch and then we went and saw a movie. We had perfect movie seats in a practically empty theatre until some guy with no hygiene skills sat behind us. Then he starts making random comments to the characters on the screen ("Watch out!", "Oh God!", "What's around that corner?"). At first it was amusing, but the smell was too much and we had to move. At least the move was good: Resident Evil III. Good crap. Crap meaning it's your typical action movie and there's no deep meaning. It's just entertainment. I liked it.

Now for the downer. I got a phone call early this morning from my sister's boyfriend who had a co-worker go into cardiac arrest in front of 30 people in a meeting. I gave him the best advice I could about what to do and explained to him that the guy probably wouldn't make it. The Captain from the Fire Department that responded said exactly what I did: that the man had suffered a massive heart attack and there is no chance that he would survive. Needless to say, no one in that room had seen someone die in front of them before and they were all pretty shaken. The witnesses did all they could (CPR, immediate 911 contact), but the man still expired. My experiences as a Paramedic were often similar: even if you do everything right, people still die. Kinda sucky, but it happens. The best you can do is: eat right, exercise and get yourself an annual physical. Still, sometimes it's a crap shoot.

Kinda drizzly this morning, but it's clearing enough that I think I'll go hit the trails on my single speed MTB. Gotta shake off this funk I've been in since Xterra Nationals.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Parkfield Results...

They're in, but largely incomplete. Somehow I got missed at the finish to the XC course. Compound that with the Short Track result f*ck up and I'm pretty unhappy with the Mickey Mouse caliber of the race directing. I was way off the back, how hard is it to write someone's number down as they cross the finish line all by themselves? The guys on my team tell me the results are messed up every year, why keep going back? Oh, because of all the drinking. Yeah that's why I patonize races. Phooey.

Birth of "The 'Blog"

I find the whole Myspace and Facebook epidemic to be nauseating. The fact that your popularity is determined by the number of people who request to be added to your page makes me shake my head in disbelief. The sum of a person's existence is NOT the number of hits your account has.

That being said, I find myself reading a few 'blogs that do inspire and or motivate me and I feel my own need to chronicle my experiences. This 'blog will be a personal journal and will include my training and racing experiences, school dealings and whatever else falls out of my ever-running brain.

A little about me: I'm an undergraduate at UCSD, though I'm 32 years old. Why I took so long to go to school is a long story, which I may or may not get to in the course of this journal; it'd take forever to tell my life story anyway. You'd get bored...

Mostly, this 'blog will cover my Xterra (http://www.xterraplanet.com/) and Mountain Bike racing. If you're into the Triathlon and MTB scene, my race reports may interest you. Then again, they may not. Who knows?

Speaking of race reports, I got home last night from a Collegiate MTB race in the lovely city of Parkfield. Calling it a city a gross exaggeration since the population is a whopping 18. I'm not kidding; that was the actual number of persons listed on the sign as you drive into town.

I left Friday after my P-chem class, met up with the rest of the UCSD MTB team (http://www.ucsdcycling.org/), loaded up a bunch of stuff into my '98 Cherokee and started driving. Parkfield is at the junction of highways 41 and 46. Made famous because of the untimely death of James Dean at that exact junction. It's even marked by a sign "James Dean Memorial Interchange". Random.

Traffic from SD and through LA sucked. It took us 6 hours to drive the 300 miles into Parkfield. The event would take place over both Saturday and Sunday and, since it was being held on a cattle ranch, we would be camping. The venue would have a flush toilet (yes, one) multiple port-a-potties and we would be camping. I like camping, but the idea of spending the weekend surrounded by 400 drunken college students was less than appealing.

As we get close to the ranch, it starts sprinkling. We get to the gate, open it, and the drive into the "campgrounds" is a muddy, rutted road. Thankfully, my Jeep has 4wd :). My first time using it since I bought it last week. Cool.

I set up camp in the rain (sucky) and manage to keep one of my two tents dry on the inside. Fortunately, the rain let around 10:30 and we were able to get some sleep. Four of the guys on the team slept on a tarp under the stars ,while one slept in his truck. I was cozy in my tent. Amateurs.

Up Saturday morning (0630) for an 0800 race start and it's still pretty wet. I only brought hardpack tires. Great. I register and find out that Short Track and XC have been switched. I'd be racing short track Saturday and XC Sunday instead of the other way around. I was just there for fun so what did I care?

Short Track:
Very much like a criterium on dirt. The Men's "A" field had about 30 guys in it and I lined up to avoid the big mud puddle directly off the start line. The official starts the race and the pace is expectedly frenetic. The 0.7 mile course has a big bottle neck as it goes from road to single track and the field slows down as we go to single file when some MORON tries to pass on the left 4 people up and stacks into another guy, stopping everyone from 13th place on down. I get caught up in it and manage to get in front of the second pack. I pin it to catch the front pack, but only manage to pull 8 people with me and trash myself in the process. Stupid. Older racers are much more careful than college kids. Not only that, but they'll race you for 20th position. I was in the back of the field, went to make a pass on someone and he threw in a surge! Really? Are you serious? Then he starts blocking. Unbelievable. Ass. Soon after, he dropped his chain and I got around him, stifling a laugh. Karma's a bitch, dude. I reeled in some guys starting to fade and managed to finish without puking. The race organizers had some issues getting the placings right "Um... we only have results for the top 10 riders. We're hoping the NORBA official has more complete results. You guys came in too fast." College kids really piss me off sometimes. Apparently the NORBA official had complete results: I got 25th out of 29 starters with 2 DNF's.

I watched my team mates run Mountain Cross, took some photos and tried to make sure I'd be recovered for XC the next day. Saturday night included the typical behavior you'd expect from unsupervised college students: drinking. Complete with keg stands and a jumping contest on bikes with 16" wheels. The winner would clear a 22 foot gap. Insane.

Sunday Morning:
Cold. Very very cold. I shivered during my race prep and started the race in arm warmers and tights. The race started on the short track course from the day before and you'd imagine guys would remember the bottle neck from the previous race and take it easy so the same thing wouldn't happen again. Nope. Jerks still trying to pass in the first mile of a 21 mile race and stacking up the field. Not to mention missing shifts the first steep climb and making the entire field hike. NORBA guys race so much cleaner...

The XC race was brutal. Two nasty hike-a-bike sections and some of the steepest XC racing I've ever seen. Not technical, very little single track and way out in the middle of nowhere. I ran out of water at the 1:40 mark and limped it home, cramping the last 40 minutes. I was way off the back and I think I finished in 24th or so. Results are still pending.

Watched my team mates race DH, packed up my stuff and drove home. Been out of cell contact all weekend and I get a message that my grampa is in the hospital followed by a message that the 5 FWY is shut down near Santa Clarita due to a major crash and fire. Crap. I had to take an alternate route and made it home in 7 glorious hours. Class today and, thankfully, some recovery time.

Next race is UC Santa Cruz on 11/3 followed by Conference Championships two weeks later. I'll be looking to improve my results.