Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year In Review

As if I felt I didn’t punish myself enough in 2007, this past year featured a rather aggressive medley of athletic endeavors. The one tried and true favorite of the new year is the Uwharrie Mountain Run – I was back in 2008 for another shot at the 20 mile version. As usual, the weather was clear and crisp. I delighted the most in encouraging on the runners returning for the 40 mile portion, which this year featured a handful of friends. My time wasn’t as good as the previous year, but I did appreciate the first-class shuttle service and company!!

Coming through at Mile 8 - another crisp and beautiful day in the Uwharries!

Another prime satisfaction was raising money for work at the Gaston County 5K race – this year our team took the two top places and raised $4,000! My goal of breaking a 20 minute 5K took a bad shot though as lagged almost a minute behind my time from the previous year.

Shortly after I was delighted in the yearly appearance of the Bodien parental units in Charlotte. As usual we accomplished a host of fun activities and it was very special for them to meet Julie and spend some time with her as well! Right after they left I flew to Boise, ID to visit with my friend Dave and run the Famous Potato Marathon. My parents, en route to Kirkland, also stopped in to watch me swelter in the heat. The potato I won for placing in my age division was cooked equally well, and Julie made sure it was part of a balanced and delicious victory celebration.

That potato tasted so good!

The first fun road trip of the year was in July when Julie, Winston, and myself headed north towards Rhode Island for a Half Ironman. Julie got to meet a host of my great friends, including a friend from Camp Parsons I had not since in almost 15 years! The race itself was okay, my first foray into saltwater swimming, a bike tour that encompassed pretty much all of Rhode Island, and a run with the most insane pitch ever you had to do TWICE.

Julie, Winston, and Scott hanging out with the Wooters in Providence post race

Later that month I was back to raising money for cancer research at 24 Hours of Booty, this time putting in a record 209 miles in 12 hours. Shortly after that I was off to San Diego for the super-mega GIS conference . The only PR I put in this year was at the their 5K run, crossing the line at 20:27. The best part of the trip was staying with my UW band friend Jay and his wife. We ate SO MUCH great food – just thinking about four months later makes me feel full. Between eating we did do some fun stuff, including betting at the horse races. I financed my investment by scalping the conference dinner ticket I was supposed to be attending and ended up picking a Quinella in Race 7 – too bad I squandered most of it on Race 8, but I still walked away ahead.

Once again, Scott drinking an Arrogant Bastard in California

The rest of August was mostly training and dreading/anticipating the big Ironman for 2008 – Ironman Wisconsin. My brother and I drove with Winston to Madison, seeing dead presidents along the way. There my dad joined us by plane. My favorite part of the trip was seeing my friend Alice again and making a new with Dave. Oh yeah, there was an Ironman race too – weather conditions were near PERFECT. I was battered around heavily on the 2.4-mile swim, slugged out the 112-mile bike, and then ran a negative split on the marathon to finish a few minutes slower than the Ironman last year. Following that my brother left by plane and my dad provided crucial driving services back to Charlotte.

Finishing Ironman Wisconsin in style - at least I looked good at the end

In late October I did several athletic events to help with the charities of several of my friends – that was certainly a rewarding experience and definitely less work than 13 and half hours of Ironmaning. Perhaps the real challenges this year were the two classes I taught. The first was at the big community college here – it was this summer, mostly online, and entitled “Advanced GIS Methods.” If that wasn’t a crash course for me teaching at the University level, then the Environmental Science class I taught at Queens University of Charlotte was! It was SO MUCH work, but I did enjoy my students and the actual teaching part.

I smell a new disc golf shark!!!

The last major athletic event for this past year was the Outer Banks Marathon. We rented a fabulous house that we shared some great Charlotte friends. I kept up with my friend Monica through the halfway mark, and then kind of glided like the Wright Brothers the rest of the way.

I declare this island for the Bodien nation!

In a desperate attempt to take an actual vacation with no biking, running, or swimming I headed to Puerto Rico over Thanksgiving with my entire family, which was indeed an experience worth remembering! From the fortresses of Old San Juan to the El Yunque Rain Forest to the Arecibo Radio Telescope to the Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo – it was a wonderful time to spend with my family.

Chillin' with the neph at El Yunque Rainforest

While that was the Christmas with my family, my actual Christmas was in St. Augustine (photos) – this was my opportunity to meet Julie’s mom and spend the holiday with some special people. For the record, I did bring my bike and did run, but it’s okay, I can stop whenever I want.

Winston in Florida learning the hard way that armadillos are protected

I don’t think I can say the same about Facebook, but it has been spectacular to find so many old friends, not to mention family members!

Scott and Winston

Downloadable PDF of this letter

Tuesdays with Holman

Hmm, can't say that Tuesday (yesterday) was all that great, considering I started out by biting my tongue badly the previous night during dinner. The damn thing bled for ten minutes and by the morning it hurt to chew and swallow. Even worse was my food had no taste! For my day off I had to get up early and go into work for my annual review. It wasn't exactly a feel-good experience, especially given the overall larger economic situation. I'll readily admit I overstressed myself with teaching this Fall at Queens, but it still hurt. That said I am genuinely thankful to have the job I do and hope 2009 will bode well for not only my organization, but others as well.

One bright spot was that upon my return home I prepared my bike Holman for a special ride. I remarked in a previous entry that I had ridden Holman ZERO times on a Tuesday - well today that would change. Another interesting note about today's ride was that for the first time since June, I actually drove Holman to the start location (this applies to non-races). I suppose that's a mark of the plummeting gas prices, but day traffic around my area made me feel a little less comfortable.

My destination was (soon to be?) the old Charlotte Knights stadium, which is actually located in South Carolina off the Gold Hill Road exit. It's about ten miles south of home and I've ridden a number of variations. Normally it's a clockwise loop, so I decided to head against the grain with a route going counterclockwise. The initial climb out over I-77 along Gold Hill was quite windy, but then heading south on Pleasant/ Sutton was a little more manageable, but with more noticeable climbing were I to be heading northbound. After crossing over I-77 along Sutton, I continued up to the town of Fort Mill and then dinked around on some side streets looking for the alternate route I found some time ago to hit Doby Bridge. For some reason I really dig this road, although the pavement isn't that great. That's what South Carolineans get for less of a gas tax!! Normally at 521 I would turn around, but I decided instead to try my hand at heading northbound. I cruished this section hard. The real new experience was heading east on 160 - the road was crappy with lots of traffic. Hmm, probably wouldn't do that. After crossing the river I was back in familiar territory, as I labored up the hills and then tried the new sections of 21, finishing with a little old school section on Gold Hill Road.

For the ride I put in 31.64 miles with a time of 1:48:50 - that's an average speed of 17.4 miles per hour, above the whole average of 17.2 miles per hour over all 105 rides on Holman.

For the year I rode the bike 56 times, with an average distance of 43.73 miles, range 10 to 112 miles. I covered 2,448 miles with about 143 miles on the saddle, averaging out at 17.1 miles per hour.

My absolute fastest average was not suprisingly at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where I averaged 22.8 miles per hour over the 10 miles. For an actual triathlon race, this year at the Latta Sprint I eaked out 20.4 miles per hour over the 17 mile course. Obviously I am most proud of averaging 17.4 miles per hour over the 112 miles of Ironman Wisconsin.

My best solo performance in a non-race situation was actually last Friday, when I did a 52 mile route in NE Florida where I averaged 19.2 miles an hour. Besides the time trial and Latta, there was only one race that featured a faster average (Take Flight).

Leaving for my Florida Ride Last Friday. Yes it is flat there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Puerto Rico Thanksgiving


It was over a year prior that our family talked about meeting somewhere "in the middle" for Thanksgiving rather than the traditional Kirkland homebase. Both Costa Rica and Puerto Rico were discussed, and in the end the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was the more logical choice.

Leading up to the trip, I really didn't know a lot about Puerto Rico except you always hear it mentioned as being a "voided" location for free shipping and contests. Quite honestly, the last I really thought about this place was back in 1999 during the whole protest over the Navy on Vieques.

We all arrived and left at slightly different times. My sister and her husband Miguel arrived with their two children first.

Operation Puerto Rico Thanksgiving Team Members came from far and near!

Then my brother arrived in San Juan midday on Sunday, and he was in charge of the rental car and our condo. I was next to arrive Sunday night.

My journey began with my little adventure getting to the airport. Since I did not have a ride, I opted to explore what it would be like to take Charlotte's public transportation. This consisted of three transfers. I began by wheeling my bag out to South Boulevard where I caught the #12 bus, which because of our Lynx light rail system, no longer goes uptown. Instead, it dropped me off at the Woodlawn Lynx station. I then got on our light rail which took me uptown. With the sparse Sunday schedule, it was a cold wait in the uptown transportation center for the last leg, a #5 bus all the way down Wilkinson.

It was unbelievable quiet at the airport then. My experience was quite pleasant as I had the opportunity to see my friend Michele one last time before she moved to my great homestate of Washington. Thanks to the miracles of Facebook status updates (Scott is currently picking his nose...) I knew she was coming to CLT to pick up her boyfriend. So I got to meet him and rap about the Oly P for a minutes!

This also marked the first time I paid ($15) for my first piece of luggage... Oddly enough, my flight down was on American, and that went through Miami. But the return would be direct on US Airways. The plane was a small one and I thoroughly enjoyed following HWY 521 south, and then as we hugged the Florida coast. About 30 minutes before descending to Miami I suffered a NASTY sinus infection or something - unlike anything I'd gone through before. Departing Miami was a nightmare, as one of the pilots' indicator lights failed. But given the alternative, I had to gun it out. Unfortunately I was forced into a window seat on a large plane, so my legs were crying - but I did have a fascinating book that I burned through with utter delight.

I was keenly interested to know why Puerto Rico denizens were okay with being a part of the United States - maybe this was brought on by watching The Wind That Shakes the Barley the other night.... With the hour tacked on, I arrived late and was quickly uncomfortable in the long pants and long sleeves I needed in Charlotte. Since my brother continues to resist the mobile phone craze and my I can't dial my sister's Spanish number directly, I had to patiently wait and hope things worked out for the best with the late flight. Of course they did, with my siblings be the ones to officially welcome me to what I found to be a very odd place.

From the airport we eventually made our way east towards our condo in Loiza. Even though it was dark, I got my first indoctrination heading north and then east on 187 on how poor this area was. The "upscale" condos were naturally located in what I came to term "the compound," gates and concertina wire everywhere.

Our home operations for the week in Loiza

Sunday night marked the only night that my brother and I slept in our room with the air conditioner off.


In the morning we went out to the narrow beach to meet up with the four Codes-Bodien clan members. This marked the first time in almost a year I had seen any of them in person! I didn't bring my bathing suit that mornng but figured the time would come soon enough. That afternoon we picked up my parents and then did some grocery shopping for the upcoming week. Yay - all eight of us were finally together!


Today was the big journey into Old San Juan. After independently finding the same parking deck, we began the walk along the old city wall by going through an amazing environmentally-themed set of photos that even featured the Palouse! We then made our walk below the massive walls. Before going through a gate we took our first family photo then made our way toward the Fort San Felipe del Morro (called El Morro), which was built to fend off attacks via sea.

Hey look - it's everybody! El Morro in the background

After having our own picnic lunch, we entered the massive structure and explored away. Let me tell you about the view from the men's room - you can't beat it!!

Does your can have a view like this?

Codes-Bodien Clan getting all the attention at El Morro

My dad, brother, and I then made our way past some colorful houses towards Castillo San Cristobal, which was built later to fend off land attacks. We all then met in a square where Oscar, myself, and mother all got the chance to feed some pigeons!

Dani stone cold tired - that could have easily been me at the end of the day


Today was centered around the visit to the USFS's only tropical rain forest, El Yunque. It is technically called the Caribbean National Forest, but that seemed to be sidelined. Reaching the rain forest was not that difficult from Loiza. The visitor center, El Portal, was quite impressive (architecturally) and almost looked like where a James Bond villian would have his headquarters.

Future James Bond villian? I don't think so.

From there we stopped at La Coca Falls before huffing it up the Yakahu Tower. The views were impressive both ways, looking up towards El Yunque and then down to the coastline of Luquillo.

Yours truly hangin' with the nephew Oscar (5) on the top of the tower - El Yunque in the background

Even further up we all had a picnic lunch before the Spanish contigent went on a small family-friendly walk. The four of us descended down the paved trail towards La Mina Falls. The scenery was exquisite, and I especially liked some of the rest area structures that were built along the way. When we got to the falls I managed to snap a shot before people were crawling all over it. After watching this crazy fool attempt to climb up, I was the first family member to remove the extra clothes and jump on it - it was only cold for about ten seconds. Andrew then joined me.

Refreshment city! Note Darwin Award candidate in the background

We then hiked out on the Big Tree trail. There our car awaited us. We drove all the way up to the Mt. Britton trail. After climbing up tower, I managed to convince everyone the climb to the granddady peak, El Yunque himself, wasn't that far off. Unfortunately it was a bit of a rush as we had a deadline to get out of the park before it closed. The views from the top were rather amazing - we then plummeted down the steep tower access road to get out in plenty of time! That evening we watched Oscar and Dani as the parents took a well-deserved dinner on their own in Isla Verde.


Today obviously was the big Thanksgiving day. We all went down to the beach and then the pool, taking it quite easy.

Everyone should have this opportunity on Thanksgiving...

As if the beach wasn't relaxing enough, the hot tub also helped
Also a wonderful shot of Tanya and her husband Miguel

Preparing for the big American meal took a little planning, although the main obstacle were kitchens that were a bit lacking. Thankfully items like a potato masher and other seasonings helped us pull of the big task!


The four Bodiens hit the road west, laying out some of the $18 they spent in tolls to reach the town of Arecibo. Driving in Puerto Rico is weird, the signs are in MPH but the markers are by the kilometer.

Who wants some cheap gas? Oh wait, those are liters
Actually, it's still cheap gas (1g=3.78l -> $1.73 a gallon)

ALSO NOTE the 7/10ths on the price - a Puerto Rico original!

It's this pervasive blend that always flips you between wondering if you are in the USA or not. For virtually the entire trip, I felt like I was not. After briefly viewing the $0 admission area for the lighthouse, we headed south up into the rough karst country to the famed Arecibo Observatory, which recently had been featured in movies like GoldenEye and Contact. This was a special treat for me, and the tough steep pitch up to the nice Visitor Center was not a problem! They had a short film about a "day in the life" of everything that happens there which, despite the corny acting by scientists, was well worth the watching. Afterwards you go out to the viewing platform (not the same platform as shown in Contact, which must be further up) the view is finally yours. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to get a photograph that does the place justice.

Getting my science geek on at Arecibo

From there we took our first real rural winding mountain road directly east towards the main Highway 10. We stopped for a rural lunch of sorts, then saw a few of the big reservoirs that help provide infrastructure on the island that is only 100 miles by 30 miles. From there we continued east past San Juan and past Loiza towards Fajardo, which is on the east coast and the ferry jumping point to Vieques.

Just northeast of Fajardo was the Laguna Grande, a very special place on this planet home to the rare bioluminescent dinoflagellate, Pyrodinium bahamense. There are apparently five of these locations of year-round bioillumination in the world. There is a decent writeup on the Vieques site, which is essentially similar to Fajardo, here that outlines the conditions that must be met for these millions and millions of dinflagellates to flourish. We chose one of the ten tour guide companies that must vie each night for all the tourists flocking to see this really amazing display.

The route started at the park and then most of the work was going down a narrow (and dark!) mangrove channel to the actual lagoon. All the kayak were doubles so my parents took one and then Andrew and I manned the other. There were about a dozen kayaks in our party and we were led by our perpetual smart-ass guide Emmanuel, who apparently just saved a lot of money on his car insurance.

About halfway up the channel dipping the paddles begun to elicit a bluish glow. By the time we were in the lagoon it was quite a sight - most likely the highlight of the trip. Just so damn amazing.


On a self-proclaimed "rest day" most all of us headed a short distance west to the beautiful beach stretch just east of Isla Verde and ventured on the boardwalks of the Pinones.

Just another beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Only my mother could have the brilliant idea for these shirts...

Uncle Scott showing his nephews a crab

On our way back we stopped at one of the zillion roadside stands.

This restaurant has a lower Health Inspection Grade than the old Waffle House on South Blvd

Scarfing down some awesome food with some cold beer!

We all then went to the pool for one last time - it was certainly sad to see the Spanish contigent take their leave and head back to Madrid.


We were up quite early to drop the wave off (Andrew). From there we headed down the center of the island over a magnficent pass and on to the (dry) southern side of the island. Our primary destination was the Guanica Dry Forest, and not Ponce. This was a rather interesting experience. I chose a loop that began with the descent down the Ballena trail towards the Caribbean Sea. Off in the distance was Gilligan's Island (I kid you not), but we opted out of that adventure! On our way down we started to see some very interesting cacti, and then went off the trail to see a very old Guayacan tree.

Mom and Dad checking out the local flora in this unique ecosystem

A very special mom hugging a very special tree

According to Lonely Planet, this is the Spanish Dildo Cactus.
Maybe the woman who wrote the guide was lonely, or actually telling the truth. I don't know.

Once down on the road, we walked past some amazing beaches to the end of the road. There we hit the Meseta trail walking across an expanse that was unlike any other.

Mom amidst the stunning vegetation and views!

Dad looking out into the Caribbean - the winds were monster!

At about mile 4 we turned around and went back to the road dead-end.

This was my trip "money shot" of the largest iguana we spotted
I could only imagine what would happen if Winston was with us!

Our loop was finished by taking the Cueva and Lluberas trails back. It was a bit (just a bit) of a death march, and it wasn't even as hot as it was normally in these parts!!! Once done we went into town looking for some cold beer, but we couldn't find any! We then went back to the road we descended upon and chose a beautiful beach for our lunch.

Would you endure the tortures of eating lunch on this part of the Caribbean Sea?

One had to admit there was quite a bit of trash though with the driftwood. I was going to change into my swimsuit but as I went back into the copse there was this random dude smoking his cigarette. How weird! We then went to the next beach over for our post-lunch dip (and so we could say we swam in the Caribbean). I chose to change into my suit in an old pit toilet facility. There were two choices, and I thought I pick the worse the first time... After letting the sea toss me around a bit, I chose the other and was greeted by a rotting corpse of some large animal that went in there to die. The logical choice was a dog, as there is a massive problem here with stray dogs. It was super brutal.

From there we had some interest in hitting a few parts of the La Ruta Panoramica, which is a string of some 266 km mountain roads that connect the west and east coasts. Unfortunately we were going to run short. We erred in trying to go through Ponce as a shortcut, and by the time we got up to Highway 10 where it continued west (towards Highway 52, which we came down) it would be too late. Our adventure for the day was not over as we learned Highway 10 wasn't exactly a fast bypass through the mountains. Once past Adjuntus the road was super curvy and more and more improbable as we continued north. We finally did hook up with the Highway 10 portion we hit on Friday.


For my final day in this bizarre place the three of us went back to Fajardo but then continued down the coast. The weather had reverted back to some cloudiness. We stopped in Naguabo at the Playa Naguabo then continued down towards Tabucoa. There we hit a coastal part of the La Ruta that climbed up for some amazing ocean views! After going down a one-way street in Maunabo, we climbed up a tough pass on Highway 3 and then back down Yabucoa. It was at this point that we got on the "real" La Ruta Panoramica on Route 182. Not far into our journey there was a detour on Road 918. This was the most amazingly steep road we experienced on our trip, it just BLEW US AWAY how tough it was - my dad and I remarked no one could ride a bike up these roads, as it put to shame any route on the Tour de France. I am sure all of us had a sigh of relief once back on the main road, but it still was nasty slow work, but featured up some amazing scenery. We were hoping to hit it all the way to Highway 52, but we jumped off after the Bostal and stopped for lunch.

Our rental car after the Ruta Panoramica and Route 918...

By this time I had completed broken down and started feeding the stray dogs, including the short little guy that lived at the Loiza "compound." It wasn't too long from there that we were back in San Juan and once again I was at the airport.

As predicted, I was very excited about the direct flight back to Charlotte! And even happier to see Julie!

Public Facebook Photo Album - A Puerto Rico Thanksgiving