Thursday, December 13, 2012

Malibu Spartan Run

Our Spartan Team (minus Michael, who took the shot).  See my google plus page for more photos
Melch has a co-worker (Michael) who is really into the Spartan races.  The events are basically trail runs with some obstacles thrown in.  They're a bit pricey but well-run and they offer them throughout the year and country at different locations and distances.

We chose to sign up for the Malibu sprint with a few folks from RingRevenue: Michael, Chris and Anna.  The sprint is the shortest race of the year at a little under 4 miles.  The course is set in the hills overlooking Malibu though, so there was more than enough change in elevation to make even that short of a distance challenging.

Adding to the difficulty was the fact that it rained for a few days leading up to the race.  That meant running in the mud rather than on dirt.  Always a challenge.  Surprisingly though, the mud was more a challenge for the hands than the feet.  It was really hard to keep one's hands clean, and there were a bunch of things that you had to do with your hands like climb ropes, pull weights, throw spears, navigate monkey bars, etc.  Some of the tasks were true tests of grip strength.

Failure at a task meant burpees.

It's a mutual distate at least
Really, just about everything was achievable.  I ended up doing burpees for slipping off of the last rung of the monkey bars and again for slipping off of a board that we were supposed to hold onto while scaling a horizontal wall.  Definitely obstacles that would have been very doable in non-slippery conditions.

Everyone's "ugh" moment of the race came towards the end, when we had to navigate under some low barbed wire fence for maybe a 100 yards or so.  The terrain was uphill and muddy, so normal strategies like rolling were difficult and even army crawling resulted in some trouble.  The real issue though was that the obstacle took a while to get through in the wet conditions and became a bottleneck.  There were lines for many tasks, but they were rarely long.  By the time we got to the barbed wire, it was gridlock.

It's really not much of a complaint though - the Spartan race is SUPPOSED to be about challenges, not bitching because you have to wait for the guy in front of you to claw his way up the hill.  At the end of the day, a great and muddy time was had by all.

And man if those weren't some enjoyable burpees.

5 Million Servers Launched

We recently celebrated a milestone at my company.  To celebrate, we filled the CTO's office with a bunch of balloons commemorating the day.  The following ensued:

Here's to 5M more.

Hour 59

Hour 59 saw me back in 4637G, Above All's trusty four-seater C172.  I had done a portion of my flight training in 37G, but opted to take my check ride in 17L meaning that I hadn't flown it in some time.  There might be a bit of a difference in stall-performance or short-field landings, but straight-and-level flight isn't really too different and I had quite a bit of time in 37G so I wasn't at all worried about making the trip with pax onboard.

37G (Photo: Oura)
The destination: Oceano Airport (L52) in Pismo Beach.  Pismo has a small county airport with which I am rather familiar. My second cross-country was there (with Vadim:  It was also my first solo cross-country flight.

The pax (passengers): Melch and Oura.  Melch is blossoming into her roll as co-pilot ("here,
hold this iPad").  Oura is a friend of ours who hadn't been up in a small plane before but was excited for the opportunity.

We had planned to go to either Santa Monica or Pismo, but the weather down south was hazy and yucky, so we chose to go north to Pismo.  We ended up getting to the airport about 45 minutes late due to the Redskins game going into overtime and me waiting for the haze to clear up at SBA to the point where I could legally take off VFR.

Oura took a shot of the pilot/co-pilot duo
The flight was pretty un-eventful.  I remembered how much more right-rudder the more powerful C172 requires on climb-out, and how much faster it can sink when all 40 degrees of flaps are used (17L has only 30 degrees available).  The latter lesson resulted in a bit of a bump on the landing in Pismo, but nothing that would stress the passengers or the airframe in any way.  The SBA departure was the first time I'd ever taken off on 25 from the end - I usually opted to use the intersection departure from taxiway M instead.  It was neat seeing all 6,000+ feet of runway stretching out ahead of me.

Lake Cachuma (photo: Oura)

Due to our late start and sluggish pre-flight, we didn't have a ton of time to enjoy Pismo once we got there.  We wanted to see the pre-sunset from the air over Gaviota rather than from the ground in Pismo, and we had to have the plane back by 5pm.

So we walked around the airport for a bit, stretched our legs, went to the bathroom, and then hopped back into the plane for SBA.  We used the ocean-facing runway 29 for both our landing and our take-off.  Like SBA, it was nice to take off over the ocean before turning for a left crosswind departure down the coast.

We were getting kind of close to sunset and I needed to have the plane back, so we took the fastest route to SBA.  Even so, I had a little time to teach Melch a bit about the GPS unit in 37G.  17L has no GPS, so the Garmin unit was new to her.  She's also learning a little bit about Foreflight, the iPad app that I use for route planning.  It's great not having to handle the flying and the paperwork at the same time!

The landing at SBA was pretty smooth on trusty old 15R.  After a quick taxi and some amusingly terrible attempts at pushing the plane back into its space, we packed up, paid our tab, and headed home for eats and some Sunday Night Football.
It was a great day that began with the Redskins winning an exciting game against the Ravens, continued through my first cross-country as a PPL, and ended with good food, beer and football.  What more could you ask for?

 Here are some sunset shots from Oura and a video of the adventure:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Running of the Santa-Grunions

It's a tradition among my rugby squad to all dress up as Santas and go on a pub crawl downtown.  I'd had a big day with the Spartan Race (that's a story for another post), but this sort of event was right up my alley.

We pretty much got back from Malibu, showered the mud off of ourselves as well as we could, got re-dressed and headed out to the bars.  To the best of my recollection, good times were had by all.

More photos are here.

Hour 57

My 56th hour of flight as a pilot ended with our noble heroes home safe and sound, but our trusty steed tied down on the ramp of the wrong airport.

These things happen and the FBOs that rent planes are accustomed to these things happening, but these things are still a pain in the butt.  When you rent a plane, you're only paying by hour for the hours that the engine is running.  If the plane is sitting at another airport somewhere, you're not paying... and neither can anyone else.

In this case, the plane we were renting is used as a trainer, which means that folks had booked it for Monday evening classes.  I'd really be helping out if I could get the plane back to the school before that

There were two problems.  The first was that it was still cloudy.  The second was that even if the weather cleared, I was in Santa Barbara, the plane was in Santa Ynez, and the plane needed to be in Goleta.

There was nothing to be done about the weather, so I went about solving the second problem first.  If I drove to Santa Ynez and flew to Santa Barbara, I'd fix the problem with the plane, but create two new
problems: my car would be at IZA and I would be in Goleta (where SBA airport is), not in Santa Barbara, where I live and work.

This is like the wolf-cabbage-goat problem (as XKCD notes, the solution there is to take the goat and cabbage with you and leave the wolf, because WTF did you have a wolf for anyway?).  In this case, the answer was my lovely wife, who would drop me off at IZA and pick me up at SBA(or IZA, if I couldn't get back).

I called the FBO I rented the plane from and explained my plan.  They were all for it, and said they'd call if it ever looked like there was a big enough gap in the cloud cover over SBA that I might be able to get the plane in.

A few hours later, the call came and the game was on.  I picked Melch up at work and we drove to IZA, looking at the sky the whole way there.  It didn't look too encouraging on the ocean side of the mountains, but Bill from Above All had assured me that things were more clear out in Goleta
than they were in Santa Barbara proper.

I checked the weather at the two airports, looked at the latest RADAR for the region, did my pre-flight, re-checked the weather, went to the bathroom, re-checked the weather, and then re-checked the weather.  It looked like there might be some big holes over El Capitan beach to the west, or Oxnard to the east.  Things were clear as could be on the inland side of the mountains, so I figured I could take off with no danger and look for a path down on the other side.  If I found a good one, I would take it.  If not, I would return to IZA.

Bill agreed.  I told Melch to drive halfway and I'd text her from wherever I ended up.  That would guarantee the shortest time for us to get back to work, even if it might mean that she went halfway from IZA to SBA, then back again.

The wind was pretty calm and coming right down runway 26, so I took off heading west but turned around shortly after takeoff to climb out toward the east.  I figured I'd get some altitude over the ridge line and see what I could see.  If it was the other side of the mountain (the other side of the mountain), then I'd be good to go.  If it was a sea of white, it was back to IZA again.

It looked a bit like a sea of white at first
As I crested the ridge, I initially told Santa Barbara approach that I was planning on looking for a gap between Ventura and Santa Barbara, to the east of the airport.  As I got closer to the ridge though, I found a straight shot between me and El Capitan beach (to the west of SBA).  I told the tower that I preferred that option and was given a clearance to enter over the 101 and land on my trusty home-turf runway: 15R.

A hole!
Visibility was definitely VFR but a bit hazy.  The wind was light and the approach was uneventful as I basically glided the plane in all the way from the ridge.  My 169th landing was reasonably smooth, if perhaps a little further down the runway than I'd like.

I taxied back to Above All, tied down the plane, paid my tab and met Melch in the lobby.  Christmas was saved, I got a fun flight in on my lunch hour, and it was time to head back to work.