Tuesday, March 29, 2011

XTERRA Guam Triathalon

This past Saturday, we woke up at 4:30a.m., and for once, it wasn't for an airport pickup or drop off. It was because Nick, somewhat on a whim, signed up for the XTERRA Guam Triathalon, a modified sprint distance off-road race that consists of an ocean swim, a mountain bike course, and a jungle run. As many of you know, Nick is a fast runner, a solid swimmer, and generally a fit guy (understatement of the year), so I have always thought he'd make an awesome triathlete. In fact, I've always encouraged him to enter races thinking maybe he could use some of that muscle to win fancy prizes for us (airline tickets, helloooooo!). Problem is he doesn't have a road bike, which most triathalons require... only a mountain bike he used to ride for fun in the San Diego desert hillsides.

A guy I work with at church named Dave (left) mentioned the XTERRA to Nick a few weeks ago and piqued his interest. He hadn't been mountain biking since we got to Guam eight months ago, but as far as races go, it was a perfect combination of events Nick is already good at and owns equipment for. He did one practice run of the bike course and signed up. He then went on a weeklong trip to the Maldives and Sri Lanka and showed up back in Guam just in time for the race. I went along to document everything for this here post. Here we have it, folks, Nick's first triathalon! Enjoy!
Stretching at the starting line

Entering Apra Harbor for the water start of the swim just after a beautiful Guam sunrise

On your mark, get set... Go!

And they're off! Can you spot Nick? Me neither...

There he is! So proud of myself for picking Nick out from all the look-alike swimmers! And getting a picture when his face was out of the water!

Nick finished the 1k (.62 mi.) swim 8th out of all the competitors, including the professional racers and those doing relays who were only doing the swim competition, 93 people total :)

Transition time! The hardest part of the whole race... putting on a tight underarmour shirt after getting out of the salt water. Time for the off-road bike ride up the very steep Nimitz Hill into the technical terrain atop Mt. Alutom and then down to Mannegon Hills (Guam speak for "really hard bike ride"). 

And he's off! Right behind this guy...

There he goes! This is the point when I took advantage of being awake so early and got on my phone and called people in the States :)

2:07:32 later, Nick returned from the 20.2 mile mountain bike race covered in mud! I wish I had some action shots of the bike ride... hopefully the official race pictures will post soon. 

Another quick transition putting the bike up and switching into running shoes. 

Up the stairs to start the 5-mile run through the jungle, where Nick navigated tough terrain, climbed down slippery waterfalls, and waded through chest-high river pools. So yeah, that explains why Nick's 5-mile "run" took about an hour. It was more like a super fast hike/cliffside climb/river crossing.

Got a smile and a high five out of him on his way out! He was definitely having fun.

For the next hour I waited patiently by the finish line. I worked almost as hard as Nick that morning. But I mean, someone's gotta keep Peyt's Island in business.

After 1:03:58, Nick emerged from the jungle and began trudging through the ocean towards the finish line. It reminded me of the moment I first spotted him coming up the trail at the top of the Grand Canyon last May. There he is and he's almost done!

After 3.5 hours of swimming, biking and running, Nick finished the race. Woohoo!

Official race time above. Turns out he finished 4th in his division and 17th overall out of 71 individuals competing! Not bad for not training :)

And he wasn't even sore or tired... uhh....

Moments after crossing the finish line, Nick mentioned doing the race again next year. 

Great job guys... You made it look so easy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

OOG - Only On Guam

Diving one Sunday after church... can't do that many other places either!
Okay, so I am totally cheating on this post by not providing original content, but my friend Caitlyn who just moved off island wrote an awesome post on her blog sharing pictures and stories from her two years here of things that happen OOG - Only On Guam. I'm sure I'll have my own version of this post at some point, but she captured many of the highlights I didn't want you to miss. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Escape to Guam

Mary and Annika are our third round of visitors here on Guam. We thought they were coming in this Friday, but due to the tsunami, they decided an expedited Guam vacation sounded a little more fun than being holed up inside their third-floor flat avoiding radiation level changes, rolling power outages, and food and fuel rationing back in Japan. So they escaped the mess and came to Guam where they are only a three-hour flight back to their home in case this thing blows over and they can be with Da-Da again.

I picked up the girls and headed to Ashley's house, where Mary and Annika got to meet Wyatt for the first time. Ashley moved to Guam about a week before Mary moved to Japan last January and these girls hadn't seen each other since. It was a fun reunion, especially with how much the little ones have grown in this first year abroad. Our first Guam outing together was a new one for me... the park!

After taking a day to get settled here, Ashley (and crew) and I took Mary and Annika on the must-do drive around the southern tip of Guam. I was amazed that we saw four carabou on the drive, including Beshy, who I first met at Spanish Fort when Jenny was here in November. Annika was not such a fan of the big "cow" so she and Mary kept their distance.

Bryce, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the "water bussalo!" She let Beshy take her around for about 10 minutes before we let the Japanese tourists have a chance. Brave little girl!  We also got to try some of the locally grown honey bananas and star fruit. Yummmm!

 Never done so much baby holding in my life as I have this week!

After numerous stops so we could look out the window at more water bussalo, chickens, goats, puppies, etc., we made our way around to the Inarajan Pools. These are such a perfect place for the kiddos to play because the water is divided into different pools of varying depths, some of which are quite shallow. The girls had a fun time splashing around and looking for crabs and fish. Here's Annika getting her sea legs.

We had a great time showing Mary how beautiful Guam is, and we even made it home in time for naptime! This has definitely been a new thing for me this week, planning around a little person's schedule. I'm growing to appreciate this whole idea of having your day built around a nap! I mean, whole countries have figured out this philosophy. It's pretty genius.

Other than a few schedule differences, Mary and Annika have meshed right into our week. They joined us at church on Sunday, have gone grocery shopping with me, and Mary joined in my Bible study on Tuesday. Always fun to have friends tag along, for sure. But even more awesome is that there are certain things I tend to do only while visitors are here. For example, we went up to the Air Force base and I took Mary and Annika to Tarague Beach (right), one of the most beautiful beaches on Guam.
Spying on hermit crabs at Tarague Beach.

In addition to hitting up some of my favorite places, visitors are always the perfect excuse to get out and try new things. This morning we went on a river boat cruise of the Talofofo River.  This was something I'd wanted to do for a while but always seemed to run out of time to do with previous visitors. I know they would have enjoyed it had we gone, but I have to say it was the perfect thing to do with kids! Cruising the river up into the jungle was quite beautiful, and there were plenty of stops along the way to feed giant catfish, harass coconut crabs, stare at more water buffalo, and play with crafts made out of palm leaves.

Here we have Annika eating the bread she should be throwing to the fish. Mary must be so proud. Kind of ironic that the name of the boat is the Proud Mary :)

Speaking of the boat, we were somewhat impressed that the boat captain had been driving this boat up and down this river two tours a day for TWENTY-TWO years. I guess once this becomes your office, no reason to try anything else. Especially when you can fish for your dinner while you are working.  Oh yes, both of the guides had poles in the water throughout our excursion, hoping to catch something tasty to eat that night. At one point the captain said, "Hey, if you don't catch anything it's pretty much just a waste of gas." Just a reminder that despite this well organized and well presented tour, we were definitely still in Guam :)

They did catch a fish at one point, which Annika mustered up some bravery in order to touch:
 After about an hour of cruising two rivers (I had no idea the rivers were long enough to cruise on for that long!), we disembarked to a visitor center that used to be the site of an ancient Chamorro village. Here we got to touch, smell, and learn about many different trees and plants that grow in the wild here. The fruit Ashley is holding is something I'd never seen or heard of before, but apparently this fruit would be sweet and ripe in about a week. We found ginger, hibiscus, and many other types of trees that were utilized by the indigenous people to build homes and cook food. We also saw some original Guam latte stones (below) that have been at this site since about 200 BC. Latte stones were used to hold up royalty houses back in the day. They are somewhat of a Guam local symbol now so you'll see replicas all over the island. Here's a great group shot from the day!
After the stroll through the old village, we enjoyed taro ice cream and lemon iced tea before watching a quick demonstration of how the Chamorros would start a fire using hibiscus bark. I think the kids were way more into the ice cream than they were into the fire starting, but it was pretty amazing how quickly they started a fire from nothing. After the boat tour, we went out to lunch on the beach at Jeff's Pirate Cove. All in all a fun day! I am taking advantage of nap time to put this post up. Now, as my eyelids are drooping, I might go take advantage of nap time for real!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What a week

I had big plans for the blog this week. Nick left on a 10-day trip to the Maldives, and while he's gone I usually capitalize on the extra writing time to catch up on topics I've missed. I was going to tell you about a couple of dives we went on together recently and show you some awesome eel pictures. I was going to catch you up on the rummage sale I have been organizing for the youth service trip to Manila, one that has all but changed my job description from youth director to furniture dealer. And I was finally going to blog about our herb garden, one of my favorite things about our home here. But then the earthquake happened. And then the tsunami happened. And then the potential nuclear meltdown happened. And after that I just couldn't get as excited about parsley and dill. 

Right now American military families in Japan are in limbo as a military assisted voluntary evacuation is in progress. Coast Guard families from Japan arrived in Guam last night to wait out the radiation uncertainty. Mary's friend Mari writes of the horrible decision she had to make... whether to wait for her husband, a helicopter pilot, to come back home from assisting relief efforts, or to leave Tokyo for the States in order to protect their unborn child from radiation. She decided to go, even though she may not see her husband again for 6+ months if he deploys before she gets back. And this, of course, is just the side of the story affecting Americans.

In addition to Japan's utter devastation, CNN is telling of protests in Bahrain, where my friend Mary's in-laws are stationed. And just now I watched Obama's televised address announcing strikes on Libya. A third war. Awesome. Also this week I found out my best friend's husband leaves in a few weeks for a 10-month deployment to a not so awesome place, and two days later I received the joyful news that their child was born, a few weeks early, but thankfully, healthy and beautiful. Our friend will be missing out on most of his son's first year of life.

So I'm sure many of you have felt this too, that it's been a big week. A big, serious week. And I find it no coincidence that this same week my Bible study started a new study, one I have done two other times with the girls in San Diego. It's a study on the book of Ecclesiastes, a text written by King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live. Unlike most books of the Bible, which tell a story or detail a turn of events, Ecclesiastes is written more like a journal entry, which I think is why I like it so much. Today it could even be like one long ranting blog post pondering what exactly is the meaning of life and how can there be a God in control of all of this when there is so much suffering and turmoil? It's a great reminder that we don't have to have all of the answers or understand why things happen. We can only control ourselves. And knowing that, our task at hand is simply to seek God's will for our lives, stay poised for when trials come, and enjoy ourselves while we are here ("Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die...").

So now that I've cleared the air, I feel better about going back to filling you in on all the wonderful life being lived out here on this island. I know our resilient and patient neighbors to the north will one day recover from this tragedy. And nations will continue to live in political uncertainty long after smoke settles over Libya. And my friend's husband will come home from deployment and pick right up where he left off being a daddy. And so as things ebb and flow this way or that through uncertainty and stability, we must cling on to what we know, a reassurance that, as far as I can tell, can only be found in faith. For faith, after all, is "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 1:11). What a great gift to have confidence and hope amid so much uncertainty and turmoil. The mystery continues...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Radiation Vacation

So there aren't many ways to look on the up side of a potential nuclear meltdown. However, I have found one. And that is that my friend Mary and her daughter Annika are coming to Guam a whole 10 days earlier than originally planned!

The situation near their home outside of Tokyo has been pretty frightening the last few days, as I'm sure many of you have been following. Radiation levels were recorded to be higher than normal at their base yesterday and the ongoing gloom and doom news stories about potential reactor explosions is enough to make anyone crazy. That combined with a powerful aftershock at Mt. Fuji (very close to Tokyo) early this morning, and Mary decided she'd braved enough catastrophic disasters for one week. I don't blame her!

After following her updates on Facebook for these last few days since the earthquake, I offered for her to come ride things out here as long as she needed. Going to her parents' home in the States would have been ideal, except for the extremely long trip there and back. If everything clears up in a few days, it would be nice to get back home and resume life as normal. But if not, there are Space-A flights that can get her to the States pretty easily from here. So Guam was a great compromise... all of the safety and not nearly as much of the flying time. Not to mention, a little beach time doesn't hurt either.

She's already out of Tokyo (!) and will make her way to Guam tomorrow after a good night sleep on the south part of the island, far away from the destruction and radiation threats.  The awesome part is that once she gets here, she goes from stressful catastrophe to vacation island :)  I am so looking forward to our time together, even if it was this awful earthquake that is bringing us together sooner than we thought!

Oh, and while I'm on the tsunami subject, thanks so much for your many emails, texts, phone calls, etc., checking in after the Guam tsunami warning. Luckily we happened to be at low tide when the 3-ft. wave hit the island. The only ill effects suffered on the island that I've heard of were that the submarine lines snapped under pressure sending two subs loose into the harbor. Nick and I actually heard the lines pop around 8pm Friday from our house about a mile up the hill from where the subs are docked. It sounded like muffled gun shots. So even if the wave wasn't high enough to come on shore and destroy anything, it definitely had some power behind it. So grateful our island was spared!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Warning

Just a quick update before we head to bed that Guam's tsunami warning is scheduled to be lifted in the next half hour or so, and as of this writing, no tsunami-related activity has been reported on the local news here. We are fortunate to live on a very high peninsula several hundred feet above sea level, so we have not had to worry about our home tonight. In fact, we saw the navy driving some of its vessels on trailers up the hill toward our neighborhood, adding to our comfort level about our elevated location. My main concern tonight has been for our church, which is basically at sea level in the central part of the west coast of the island. I suspect that no news is good news at this point.

We have heard from our friends stationed in Japan that they fared okay as well. However, we have spent the evening watching some unbelievable images on Japan TV. The earthquake itself looked terrifying and the tsunami flooding is inconceivable. I am hearing that several of my friends whose husbands are helicopter pilots in the region are already heading to the area to help with the rescue & recovery efforts. Please keep these guys and their families in your prayers.

Nick just got back from his first trip to Japan a week ago. I had the opportunity to go in September. Having been there, I now have a somewhat greater appreciation for all that may have been lost in terms of life and community. Asian countries used to seem so foreign to me, so far away from everything familiar. Their food, their customs, and especially their language and alphabet. But after spending time there, you realize they are moms and dads, coworkers and students, sons and daughters just like we are. The world won't know the extent of the devastation until the sun rises tomorrow, but I suspect it won't be good news there on many miles of their coastline. Prayers until then... and fingers crossed that the rest of the Pacific Basin fares as we so fortunately did tonight on Guam.

Peace & Blessings,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random Week on Fantasy Island

You know it's a good week on Guam when for five of six days in a row you wake up and immediately put your bathing suit on. Here's how my ridiculously awesome week has gone:

Saturday Nick and I went to a pirate party. A birthday party, you say? A command party? A pre-Mardi-Gras party? No. Just a random pirate costume party at a beachside restaurant on a Saturday afternoon in March. Just for fun (awesome idea, Stephanie!). We had a great time putting our costumes together. I went as a pink pirate and Nick wore this little kid pirate hoodie that prompted people to call him "Spongebob Pirate" all day. This (left) is what we looked like when we got to the party.

Throughout the day, Nick "acquired" pieces of everyone else's costumes, so he ultimately looked like this:

See the parrot on his shoulder?
We had a blast dancing and hanging out with friends. It kind of felt like someone got married because of all the random celebrating we were all doing.

It also kind of felt like his entire command went on a giant vacation, especially when it came time for the sunset... gorgeous!

Sunday we went to church and it was rainy and cloudy all day. Booooring! So we'll just skip Sunday.

Monday afternoon I was getting work done when I got a call from my friend Kate. "Hey, I'm bored and it's beautiful out. Let's go snorkeling." This is why I love Kate. This being Kate's last week, we decided to go for a snorkel outing to one of the classics, Gab Gab Beach here on base. We drove over there, got out, stared at the ocean, which looked typhoonish, got back in the car and came back to my house. We made smoothies with the fancy new Ninja blender I scored for my birthday (thanks April!). After an hour of gabbing, we realized it was beautiful again, so back to Gab Gab! So glad we went for attempt # two. We saw a purple squid that was about a foot long, a really big (and thus ugly) puffer fish, and one of the sea turtles that hangs out there. It was a great last snorkeling trip for Kate. I purposely didn't bring my camera because you are pretty much guaranteed to see cool stuff when you don't have a way to document it. Sure enough!

Tuesday our women's Bible study went to the Hyatt because one of the ladies has a membership to use the gorgeous pool area. It didn't dawn on me to take pictures there at the pool (rather, three pools), but it was beautiful, relaxing, and a perfect place to finish up our study. We have been doing a study called "The Power of a Woman's Words," and it has really opened my eyes to, well, how powerful our words are. I am excited for our next study, which starts next week. We are doing one of my favorites on Ecclesiastes... A Life Well Lived... the study that we named our San Diego Bible study after ("Rocky Road").

Wednesday I hurried back from my staff meeting to pick up Kate for her last Guam hurrah. We went to Inarajan Pools, which is a bit of a hike--about 45-minute drive--but well worth the trek. Once there, we parked it picnic style with our beach chairs, pool floaties, yummy snacks and fun girl time in the sun. We reflected on Kate's two years in Guam, tried to pick a middle name for her daughter Sloan, and raved about how marvelous the pools are. It was a great day up until we dropped Kate off and found ourselves having to say the big goodbye. Kate got on a plane the next day (today... tear*) to move back to the States to have her baby and wait for her husband to join her in a few weeks. I am seriously going to miss this girl. No one else calls me on random weekdays and says, "Let's go snorkeling!" Definitely going to miss that.

Lastly, today, I woke up, threw on another bathing suit (I have a ton of laundry to do!) and joined the Thursday hiking group to a place called Priest Pools. The hike there was relatively short, although steep, and pretty fantastic, as we had a great view of Cocos Island, where I kayaked a week ago. 

 Our final destination was a series of about four pools of water connected by small waterfalls. There was a great view of the ocean in the background. We parked here, ate our lunch, and went for a dip. I was the first one to brave the pools--not because I was showing off, but because I was dripping with sweat from the hot, unshaded hike to get there. The fresh water pools are fueled with rainwater so they are a bit cooler than the ocean... and so nice to get out of and not feel all sticky.
Pretty clear water... you can see all the way down to my shoes!
After an hour of hanging out, we started the trek back to the van. It was another beautiful day here, hotter than it has been. Summer is definitely around the corner, which means it's time to get out and do as much as I can before the blazing sun gets too harsh. I came home to a Skype call from my friend Mary in Tokyo. She and her daughter are coming to visit in just a couple of weeks - woohoo! An awesome end to a fabulous week (for me... poor Nick is home sick today). It's weeks like this when I find myself calling this place "Fantasy Island." Seriously can't believe I live here!