Altitude training in Whistler, BC

The second week of September I traveled solo to Whistler, BC , the famous ski resort town to do high altitude training for a couple 10k’s I had coming up.

After a two-day drive, I checked into a hotel and headed out for a run. Not a hundred yards into it, I realized I made a big mistake. Because Whistler is a ski-resort town, I assumed it was high elevation. Not so, as this ski lift station shows.Whistler lift

So my two-day drive to do some altitude training was worthless. My house in Spokane, at a little over 2,000 feet, isn’t much different in elevation. After my run I decided to focus on hiking, which is the real reason why I went to Whistler.

Whistler hike2

Whistler hike3The next day I left town by foot and hiked into the high country to explore. I covered about 23 miles by the time I got back.Whistler deer

I came across a couple deer that I wanted to wrestle, but they refused to participate.

Whistler hucklesAs I gained elevation, I came across huckleberries, and couldn’t believe how huge they were. I picked a bunch, and when I popped them in my mouth, realized something was wrong. They weren’t huckleberries. They were blueberries, a close relative, which are very bland compared to huckleberries.

Whistle huckles2Though I stayed on a trail most of the time, I went off-trail to explore interesting features or areas. On a lonely knoll above timberline, I came across a marmot sunning itself on a rock. I was surprised how close he let me get.

Whistler marmotAfter three days in Whistler, I spent a night in Kamloops and then Nelson, BC as I made my way back to Spokane. I used to take road trips frequently when I was married and had kids, but after divorcing, I worried I wouldn’t like doing them solitary. But I enjoy myself just as much as accompanied trips.

I want to apologize, not fight

I’ve written often about the National Institute of Running Sciences and several of the researchers and scientists who work there. However, I haven’t mentioned them lately because of an incident that soured our relationship.

In a September phone call, I accused lead researcher, Dr. Ayer O’Beck, of shoddy methods which I detailed in the post, I’ve had it up to here with them. He got so mad that if we’d been face-to-face, fists would have been flying. I decided to make amends by traveling to the Institute in Washington, DC to apologize in-person.

I’d lent out my suitcase, but good fortune occurred when I pulled a new printer I’d just bought from its box, and it was wrapped in plastic marked “packing bag”. Nowhere on the box did it say I’d get a free packing bag with my printer purchase.

My free packing bag is ready to go to Washington, DC

My free packing bag is ready to go to Washington, DC

When I arrived in DC, I caught a cab and went directly to the Institute. Several times I had been rude and inconsiderate to the receptionist on the phone. I went straight to her desk, brought up every incident, and apologized profusely for each one. When I finished, she asked if I meant to go to the National Institute of Running Sciences. “It’s the building next door,” she said.

Next door I went and presently was sitting in Ayer O’Beck’s office being contrite, humble, and complimenting his exceptional research skills over and over. I could tell Ayer was very appreciative of the lengths I’d gone to repair our relationship. Lunchtime arrived, and he offered to treat me in the Institute’s cafeteria.

Their spinach salad looked delicious, and I love spinach. I grow it in my garden and eat spinach all the time. I really can’t stress enough how much I love spinach. So what did I order? The spinach salad, of course.

Ayer must have been in a great mood from all the compliments I’d given him because he was smiling at me and trying to stifle joyful laughter the entire meal.

spinach eating


Runner kicked out of restaurant

I was very worried about joining an early morning run and breakfast last Sunday. My table manners are not the best. I was also afraid of blunders and gaffes that would cause speculation among my peers that my birthplace is a common farm building that houses cows.

Runners heading out, warmly dressed in 4 degree F. temperatures.

Runners heading out, warmly dressed in 4 degree F. temperatures.

I was one of sixteen people who went to breakfast at Italia Trattoria, pictured below, after a five-mile run. However, because I suffered a minor calf muscle tear a week earlier, I walked with another attendee, Eric Cameron, who’s also recovering from an injury.

ItaliaPictured below is part of our group, enjoying breakfast and good conversation. Everyone is a member of the Manito Running Club, and most of us have been running together for a few years. Gary Lewis, who’s wearing the long sleeve white tee, organized the event.

runners eat3Things started off fairly well for me. I didn’t cause a dishslide by tilting the table as I sat, and when I took a sip of orange juice, none dribbled onto my shirt. However, I dropped my napkin on the floor under the table, and when I reached for it, I bonked my head on the table, causing a clatter of dishes and silverware. Nothing fell or broke, and I laughed it off as most of the restaurant’s patrons stared at me.

Only later did I realize I committed a minor faux pas. In the photo below, I’m wearing my coat and cap, which I failed to remove the whole time I was there. I also discovered that Lensa Etana, with the purple coat, and Julie Wilson, who’s sitting across from her, put their coats on to support me, lending credibility to restaurant coat-wearing as if I were trying to start a new trend.

runners eat4After our group shared an appetizer, my meal came, and the server warned the plate was hot. Though I heard his warning, it didn’t fully register. The food looked so delicious and was so attractively arranged that I grabbed my plate and tilted it to show my friends. My hands were instantly seared, and when I dropped it on the table, really, really, hot sauce splashed in my face. It was like drops of molten lava hitting me. The pain was so intense that I let loose the loudest scream ever scrum by human vocal cords. The entire restaurant went silent.

It didn’t take the manager ten seconds to come to the table, tell me he’d had enough, and point at the door. Leaving my spilled food untouched, I walked out of the morgue-like restaurant.

runners eat1Later, I was heartened to learn that my fellow Manito Runners Club members, feeling bad about my misfortune, held a group toast, shouting out, “Jim Johnson – he’s still an okay guy.”


How an orange saved my skin

Ever faced the possibility of spending a winter night outside because a locked door left you stranded? It nearly happened to me, but thanks to an orange, I found shelter.

When I was a college sophomore, our track team traveled to Washington State University, the school I transferred to after my two years of junior college, for an early season indoor meet. A couple teammates had a friend who lived in a dorm, and we arranged to stay the night after the track meet to have some fun.

In the photo below, I’m running the two-mile for Spokane Falls CC at the meet. I still remember my time – 9:46. The track program at SFCC has since merged with Spokane’s other junior college and today is called CCS (Community Colleges of Spokane).SFCC track

In the evening following the track meet, the three of us went out. Our last stop was at a large dance club. I made a new friend there and when it was time to leave, I got a ride with her friends and ended up at her place.

I had a fifteen minute walk across the quiet, desolate campus after saying good-by to my friend. Arriving at the dorm, I found the door locked. It was 3 AM and after hanging out at the entrance for a while, it appeared I’d have little hope of someone entering or leaving anytime soon.

I searched for something to throw at the dorm room window, and the best I could do was an orange I found laying in the shrubs.

It took a strong throw to reach the window because it was five stories up. I had to stand close to the building, which meant even if I was on target, the orange would only tap the window lightly.

I threw the orange a bunch of times, but it took a while to get some accuracy. I also had to catch it coming down so it wouldn’t get smushed. The third time I made contact on the window, a light went on and our host looked out. He came down and let me in.orangeThe orange pictured above is not the actual one used, but it has an amazing resemblance. It’s the same color and shape as the one I used, and it even smells the same. Just for fun, I sometimes throw oranges high into the air and catch them to celebrate my orangey rescue from that cold, winter night.