2013 Year in Review

Last year I had this to say about 2012.

“2012 was such an amazing year I’m not sure how I’m going to prevent 2013 from being a letdown.  How do you follow up that act?”

Well, needless to say 2013 blew 2012 out of the water.

The Move:

This was the biggest thing that happened this year so I might as well mention it first.  On May 28th, 2013 (a day after my birthday) I got in my car and started driving.  I would drive for the next 4 days nonstop through 10 states and all four time zones.  Until that day I had lived in North Carolina for my entire life.  I arrived in Portland on Friday May 31st at about 7PM local time (by that point I had no clue what time it was anymore, my body still thought it was 10PM).

There are two major “life changing” aspects of this move.  The first is that somewhere (and I still don’t know where it came from) I found the guts to uproot everything and leave everything behind, for all intents and purposes jumping off a cliff and hoping someone at the bottom would catch me.  The fact that a multitude of people, including Lisa’s family, friends and church community did catch me is astonishing and leads me into the second aspect.

From June until November I was essentially “homeless”.  Yes, I was not the traditional “sleeping on the streets” form of homeless, but I had no place to call my own and very few possessions.  I cycled through a series of “foster” homes and couch surfed while I looked for jobs and looked for places to live on my own.  If it weren’t for the people who opened their homes to me I wouldn’t be here.  To know that everything you have at a certain moment in your life, food, warmth, roof, bed, access to a phone to call loved ones, is provided by someone out of only the goodness of their hearts is incredibly humbling.  It is a debt I can never repay, and one that will never be called upon.  No repayment was asked or is ever expected from these amazing people.  Lisa’s church preaches to help the poor and those less fortunate.  These people surely took that to heart and “practice what they preach”.

You can read about the Westward Journey HERE.


After “The Year of the Race” in 2012 with 15 races in four different distances, 2013 was certainly a step back, but not in a bad way and certainly for good reasons.  2013 featured 7 races including 3 half marathons stretching from Florida to Oregon.

2013 started the same as 2012 with the Running of the Lights 5K at Tanglewood park.  The run through the Christmas lights that started at midnight on New Years day was a repeat for me.  However, this year Lisa had flown out from Portland to come visit me and happened to be here on race day and so she ran this one with me and this was our first race together.

A few weeks later I would travel down to Orlando Florida to run in the Walt Disney World half marathon.  This was a pretty amazing race but unfortunately was marred by a serious knee injury.  I was able to finish the race, but had to walk from mile 9 to the finish in the surprisingly hot Florida sun.  My parents and brother and sister were there to support me and cheer me on and also cheer me up after my disappointing finish.  3:36 was my worst finish ever, but I finished.  I suppose I had plenty of points where I could have dropped out and told the race crew I quit, but I plodded along and made my way to the finish.

In February, I would suffer my first DNS (Did Not Start).  I had signed up for the Pilot Mountain Payback “Heavy” half marathon before I was injured at Disney and I decided I was going to try my best to still complete it.  I had completed the 3 in 3 months I needed to qualify for the Half Fanatics, but now was going to try for 6 in 6 months.  Due to my injury I was not able to run for several weeks and not able to put in any serious mileage at all.  The “Heavy” was about 14 miles so longer than a half and would have been my longest run to date.  I was still dead set on running it until the night before the race.  I was literally in a panic.  I wasn’t sure I could do the distance, it was snowing that night and conditions on the course were going to be horrible.  After a long conversation with Lisa, who told me that if I was so upset about the race I should skip it, I decided not to go.   A few days later, I found out how awful the course was, with creek crossing that were waist deep, and how many people skipped and how many people did not finish and I knew I had made the right choice.  I wasn’t happy with it, but I was at peace with it.

In March and April I ran a pair of 10Ks, a repeat of the St Leo’s 10K and then a new race, the Hope for Hospice 10K.  The first one I merely wanted to finish, which I did in a respectable 1:13, while the second one was part of the training for my second half marathon and I finished a tough course in 1:11 which was only 3 minutes slower than my 10K PR from last year.

In late April I ran my second half marathon of the year, the Kings Mountain Half in Kings Mountain SC.  I was excited to run this race since it ran through a Revolutionary War battlefield, but that ended up being a huge disappointment since the “cannons and monuments” portion of the battlefield was nowhere near where we ran.  An out and back on some access roads with nothing by trees to look at was a HUGE letdown.  Also, towards the end of this race my calves cramped up really bad and I ended up walking from mile 11 to the end.  My 3:08 finish was better than Disney, and slightly better than my first half in New Orleans, but nothing close to a PR.  About the only saving grace was this was my first race in South Carolina, so it was a new state for me.

At this point, the rest of my 2013 race calender got completely erased.  The races I had planned for the Fall were not going to happen and the races for May and June I needed that money for my move across the country.  It would be a while before I would race again, but me and Lisa started running together as often as we could once I got settled in Portland.

In November we ran our second race together, a 10K, and my first race in Portland.  The Cause and Event 10K was a fantastic event that supported many different causes.  The course was mostly greenway through west Portland/Beaverton neighborhoods.  Of course, being Portland in the fall, it rained on us during the race, but it was mostly just a slight drizzle.  I got to meet some of the people who help run Camp Lutherwood and raise some money for them so that was all good!

In December, we finally ran our first half together in Portland, the Foot Traffic Holiday half.  A nice run through Northeast Portland, it was COLD and rainy, but a really nice course and well supported.  Other than my bad cramps for the last two miles it was also a great run.  Lisa rocked it! We finished in exactly 3 hours which was not a PR for either of us, but not our worst finish either.

The next run for Lisa and I will be another midnight New Year’s Day race, but that’s for 2014!


While we didn’t do as much running over the summer as we planned, we certainly took advantage of the gorgeous weather and Lisa introduced me to one of her favorite past times.  Hiking! What else does one do in a place full of mountains and trees? I was quickly hooked.

We started out with an “easy” hike that turned out to be quite a journey.  The loop around the Trail of Ten Falls was about 7 miles or so of mostly flat terrain, but then at the end there was some steep switchback stairs and a steep uphill climb to the last falls which really took it out of me.  I was completely exhausted by the time we finished but it was totally worth it.  The scenery was unbelievable and you couldn’t believe you were just a short drive outside of the city.  It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The next hike, merely a week later, was the shortest in distance, but by far the most challenging.  We drove up to Timberline Lodge, which is about halfway up Mt Hood (roughly 6000 feet elevation) and hiked out to Zig Zag Canyon.  It was only about 2 miles there and two miles back, but it including dropping down into several smaller canyons, as well as the terrain shifting as we skirted along the edge of the timberline.  At times we were deep into an old growth forest bushwhacking through underbrush and giant ferns and then at other times we were sliding through a sandy/rocky type landscape with not a tree in sight.  We lost several hundred feet of elevation on the way out to the canyon and while the way out was a nice “walk” the way back to the lodge was suddenly extremely uphill and turned into a “climb”.  This however, was an incredibly rewarding hike.

About two weeks after that we embarked on our third hike of the season which started out innocently enough but turned into quite an adventure.  We had planned on hiking up to Wahkenna Falls and then taking the trail back down along Multnomah Falls.  Unfortunately, through a combination of a poorly marked trailhead and a confusing printed map we ended up parking and starting at the wrong place.  We got onto the Angel’s Rest trail and of course we were several miles into it before we realized it but we continued on to the top of Angel’s Rest. We climbed about 1400 feet along the way and were rewarded with an amazing view up and down the Columbia River.  Across from us was Washington State and we could almost see all the way back to Portland.  At this point we continued along the trail which we thought would take us to Multnomah Falls.  We crossed a creek and then lost the trail and were a few minutes away from becoming very lost.  A couple and their dog emerged from the brush and warned us not to go that way since the trail was overgrown and faded.  It turned out they had just come from where we wanted to go, so they showed us the way.  We parted ways at the top of Wahkenna falls as they headed to Multnomah but without them we would have been seriously lost.  We made our way down the side of Wahkenna falls which was absolutely breathtaking and made our way back down to road level.  Now because of where we parked, we had about a 2 mile walk along the side of the road to get back to the car.  This was terrifying since there was no shoulder and warnings to NOT do what we were doing, but we had no choice.  What was supposed to be an easy 4 mile hike turned into a very challenging 9 mile hike, but we survived it and made it.


Lisa loves to travel and we’ve done our fair share of it even if only in the local area.  Shortly after I arrived in Portland, we headed out to the Oregon coast and took in Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay and Newport.  The Oregon Coast is not like anything I have ever seen before.  Rocks and cliffs and lava flows and trees right up to the water line.  It resembles close to what I expect the Northeast looks like up around Maine.  Also, a month ago we went to Seattle which was a really cool trip and a place I’ve wanted to go for a long while.  We will certainly be headed back there soon I’m sure.


Changing jobs is never fun, but moving all the way across the country meant quitting my job and then trying to find a new one.  After 3 months that felt like FOREVER I landed a job in Vancouver at a company that makes vitamins and herbal supplements, so I got back into the Food Science industry to a certain degree.  I’m doing quality work but also a decent amount of paperwork and regulatory responsibilities.  They weren’t kidding that the job title “Lab Administrator” is a “little bit of everything”.


This part hasn’t gone so well this year, but I’m not too terribly upset about it.  I started the year at my lowest weight ever at around 235, but my Disney injury sidelined me for a long while and I ended up putting a little weight back on, probably close to 245.  Then after I moved I’ll admit that I put on several more pounds as I ate my way around Portland (no regrets AT ALL).  I’ll be finishing this year in the 260’s so I’ve actually gained weight, but I’m still way under where I was in 2011 and most of 2012, so I’ll take that and jump into 2014 with both feet.

Can 2014 build on an incredible 2012 and then an epic 2013? Stay Tuned!!!!!!


Hiking the Pacific Northwest

I haven’t been doing nearly as much running since I’ve moved to Oregon, something I need to get back into, especially now that Lisa and I have registered for the Foot Traffic Holiday Half here in Portland on December 15th.

However, one thing we have been doing in some serious hiking! In the last month we’ve gone on several pretty intense hikes.

The first hike was on August 4th at the Silverfalls State Park near Silverton Oregon.  The trail we hiked is called the Ten Falls Trail and is a long (approx 7 mile, we weren’t sure the exact distance) loop that passes by (you guessed it) ten waterfalls along the North and South Forks of Silver Creek.  I have to say, despite the name “creek”, the water is very wide and very deep in parts and would certainly be what I would consider a “river”.  It is small by comparison to the nearby Columbia and WIlliamette rivers, but a “creek” is something 2 feet across and ankle deep you can cross on foot (which we will later in this post!).  Here is a map to the trail system at the park – MAP We started at the South Falls Day use area and took the Rim Trail east until we got to North Falls (we did not go all the way out to Upper North Falls, so we didn’t see all 10) and then followed the trail counter-clockwise to join the Canyon Trail which took us by 8 of the waterfalls (we also missed Winter Falls on the side trail in the middle) and then back to the parking lot area.  This hike took us about 4 hours to complete and I felt really good the whole way, until the very end we had to climb some very steep stairs and then a steep uphill climb to the last falls which took the last out of my legs.  The coolest part of this hike was that the trail went behind at least four of the water falls into caverns that had been hollowed out by the water.  The parts of the rock that stayed behind is basalt from ancient volcanic eruptions.













This is the view from the cave behind North Falls.

The following Sunday, August 11th, we headed up to Mt Hood for our first Alpine hike.  We drove up to the Timberline Lodge which is at around 5000 feet elevation and about halfway up to the peak which is around 11,000 feet.  From our starting position on the south face of the mountain we headed west on the Timberline trail, which circles the entire peak at or around the timberline.  Our destination for this hike was ZigZag Canyon, which we had read about in our hiking book and seen on the map, but we weren’t really 100% sure where it was.  So we struck out and tried to see how far we could get.  As the trail meandered along we would dip above and below the timberline and we would be for several hundred yards of rocky ground with nothing growing but sparse hardy wildflowers and then turn the corner into a dark thick forest of evergreen trees and moss, then emerge back out into a landscape that I can only describe as “lunar”.  It was like hiking on the moon.  It was so interesting to see where there was no top soil the ground consisted solely of small rocks, some as small as beach sand.  We dipped into a canyon with a very small creek at the bottom that we could cross on foot, and we weren’t sure if that was the canyon we were looking for (if it was we were sorely disappointed) and so we continued up the far face and continued on.  As we continued to wonder when and if we were going to discover the canyon we soldiered on.  We turned a corner and we could hear water and looked down to see a strong rushing river several hundred feet below us but we couldn’t find the source of the water, and we hadn’t crossed another stream.  As we debated whether it was emerging from beneath the rocks somewhere beneath us Lisa suggested that at the very least, we should continue up to the next large ridge we could see in front of us and see what kind of view we could get from there.  We kept going and as we approached the edge of the ridge you could tell the ground dropped off sharply on the other side.  A few steps from the summit as I was trailing behind Lisa I called forward to her “I have a feeling this is about to be amazing” and then as we stepped to the top all of a sudden the ground fell out from under us and we could immediately hear the roar of rushing water from the river below us.  Now THIS was ZigZag canyon! We had found it! We stopped along the ridge for water and a snack and to enjoy the views before we headed back to the lodge.  This hike was only about 4 miles round trip, but with some pretty severe elevation changes and what felt like “flat” trail on the way out to the canyon was actually a gentle decline as the canyon rim was several hundred feet below the timberline lodge, and so we had to regain all that elevation on the way back.  The way out was smooth and effortless, the way back was a serious hike.













The pictures will never do it justice, but that “tiny” stream of water in the middle, is actually a large glacier fed river some 700 feet below where we were standing.

The third in this series of hikes was the past Friday, Aug 30th and this time we headed out to the Columbia River Gorge area to the Northeast of Portland.  Our intention was to hike from Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls and then back.  This would be an easy 5 mile loop. Multnomah Falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the US according to the US Forest Service.  However, the hike we intended is not the hike we got.  Based on faulty directions we ended up starting our hike at the wrong trailhead.  Lisa thought we could get to Wahkeena from the Angels Rest trailhead (and there may be a way but we didn’t find it) rather than from the Wahkenna Falls trailhead.  So we set off from the trail and a couple miles in realized that things were not going as planned, but we continued on.  Lisa was trying to remember landmarks and turns from a previous hike with some of her friends but was struggling to make the connections.  After several miles she finally realized we were headed not for Wahkeena falls but rather to the peak of Angel’s Rest.  While this was not our intended destination, it was a still  a very worthwhile goal.  The exposed bluff about 1400 feet above the river gives a remarkable view of the entire Gorge east to west along the Columbia River than separates Oregon from Washington state.




























What a view right?

We left Angel’s Rest and continued on along the trail to the east towards Wahkeena falls and this is where things got interesting.  First, we had a glorious walk through a wooded trail that was shaded and cool and offered more great views of the river and few hills as we walked mostly along the top of a ridge.  Then the trail started to narrow and become overgrown and we were starting to wonder if we were still on the main trail or not.  As we nervously debated about whether we should continue or turn around we came across a fork in the trail and a sign with a man standing there.  We asked which way he had come and he told us he had come from Wahkeena Falls, which is where we were headed, and the fork led up to Devil’s Rest and straight ahead was the way we wanted to go.  So we continued on, we saw a few more people, but this was very obviously a less used trail.  We got to a point where we had to cross a much wider creek and there was a temporary bridge made of boards and logs that hikers had built after the original bridge got washed out.  It was a little dicey but we both made it across.  The trail appeared to go to the right and dead end and then continue on to the left.  We went left and had just turned the corner when a barking dog suddenly ran at us which startled us both pretty seriously.  The owners ran up and grabbed the dog and apologized and as we caught our breath they told us we didn’t want to go that way as it was seriously overgrown with vines and stinging nettles.  We talked about where we were headed which ended up being where they had just come from and they said they would help us find the way.  We headed back to the creek and along the path that appeared to dead end and then climbed under one huge log and climbed over another one and suddenly we were on the trail again.  Without the help of our new found friends we would have NEVER found this trail.  A short while later and we intersected a large major trail and it was the Wahkeena Return Trail #420, the trail we had been looking for ALL DAY!  A short while later we parted ways with our new friends as they took a branch of the trail that headed out to Multnomah falls, which was part of our original loop, but now would have to wait for another day.  We had already gone nearly 5 miles just to get to this point.  Our hard work, some good luck and some saving grace would be rewarded handsomely though.  The path we were now on started at the top of Wahkeena falls and worked it’s way down the side of the mountain in a series of steep switchbacks to return down to street level.  The views were amazing each time the switchbacks turned back towards the falls, and the force of the rushing water pushed a blast of cold air in front of it that was like standing next to an air conditioner.  Very refreshing midway through a long hard hike.  I even stood in one of the smaller falls and very much enjoyed the cold water.   We finally made our way back to the street level and the Wahkeena Falls trailhead and the end of a 7 mile fairly intense hike.  However, our adventure was still not over.  We now had to walk along the road to get back to the Angel’s rest trailhead where we had parked.  Consulting a trail map, it didn’t look that far and so we headed out.  For both of us, this was the part of the hike that made us both nervous, even more so than the sheer drops off up at Angel’s Rest.  We slowly approached the curves, unsure whether cars could see us and crossed the road several times to make use of a wider shoulder or a better angle to see along the curves from the other side.  What looked like a short distance on the “not to scale” map turned out to be a little over TWO MILES.  Taking the grand total of the hike to 9 miles and the last part was very much mentally exhausting.  But the good news is, we survived to toast our accomplishment at the McMenamin’s Edgefield pub.  Food and beer was very much the order of the day.

One of our next future adventures will be to head up to Mt St Helens which famously erupted two weeks before I was born in May of 1980.  Apparently the moon like terrain of Mt Hood is nothing compared to that.  Lisa has told me several times “Just wait until we go to Mt St Helens”… well.. I can’t wait!

Hiking in Willis Virginia

The original plan for this weekend was to do some trail running, but after some consideration of both of our virgin status as trail running we decided a nice slow hike would be much better suited (and it suited the terrain better as well). I brought my Garmin and HRM strap to track our distance, my calorie burn and also to track our path.  I wasn’t logging my food or anything this weekend, but was just curious.

The view out of the front of the cabin.  Sadly pictures can never do it justice.

We headed out the back of the cabin and immediately began climbing up.  We followed an old logging road until we got to gate into the pastures.  We had been up here before to go shooting once before.  At one point I realized there were cows in the pasture, and we were inside the fence, but they left us alone and we just went along out merry way.

Gray and I at the top of the first hill.

Our new friends the cows.. thankfully they left us alone.  And we gladly left them alone.

We headed up a little further up the hill and found an old barn which we were looking at and managed to see two wild turkeys before Gray’s dog Matty took chase and they buggered out as quick as they could.  I managed to catch a picture of one before they flew off.

Wild turkeys about to fly off.

At this point we decided to take a break and eat lunch.  We had grabbed some deli sandwiches at the grocery store and carried them up with us.  Mine was an Italian sub with salami, ham and pepperoni and provolone cheese, it was very good.

After lunch, we got back onto the logging road and followed it across the ridge to another pasture and then we came out upon a old family cemetery that Gray said he hadn’t been to in a long time.  The oldest stones dated back to the 1890’s, the most recent one was from 1961.  After that we cut across a different pasture and then came to a ridge top at the edge of some woods.

View of Buffalo Mountain from the ridge.  Absolutely stunning up there.

At this point we started heading down the hill through the woods and winding out way down to the bottom of the valley to follow the creek back to the cabin.

If a tree pose falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it still Om?

The story with the gratuitous yoga shot, is my friends in Alabama always post pictures of themselves doing random yoga poses either mid- or after morning training runs.  So I had to have one of myself.  Tree pose seemed quite appropriate.

After this we followed the creek back up to the cabin for some post hike refreshment.

When I got home I was very excited to plug my Garmin in and see what the stats from the hike were.  We went very slowly and we were not trying to break any land speed records, but we hiked 3.31 miles in 2 hours and 52 minutes.  According to my heart rate strap, my max heart rate was 157 BPM, and it was in the last lap (which was a steep hill climb back up to the cabin) and my average heart rate was 107.  I burned 695 calories over the course of our hike, which actually compares to a spinning class or a weekend long run.  So even though it was long and slow it had the same effect.  Garmin also gave me an option to place my path onto Google Earth and this is where things get interesting.  Garmin tracks changes in elevation, and Google Earth gives me the true elevation, so I can compare the two.  The elevation at the cabin is about 2700 feet.  Our highest elevation was up on the ridge top where we at lunch at about 2900 feet.  Our lowest elevation was down at the creek in the bottom of the valley, at 2599 feet.  So a total elevation change of about 300 feet.  200 above the cabin and about 100 below.  Get this though, from the Garmin our total ascent was 4,449 feet and our total descent was 2,430 feet.  That’s a lot of up and down to cover 300 feet, and most of it was up! Totally crazy.

Here is the path of our hike from Google Earth.  The cabin is about in the “7 oclock” position in the mid-lower left.  The very bottom is the ridge we at lunch at and the rest of the path we followed up and around counter-clockwise back to the cabin.

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.