Monday, August 25, 2008

Another tri-state area

When one hear the term Tri-State Area or Region, I believe most people think of the well-known New York-New Jersey-Connecticut (NY-NJ-CT) tri-state region. Well, at least the two are synonymous for me probably because I've spent ten years living in Jersey.

Of course, other tri-state areas exist but I was astonished to discover there are actually as many as 38 officially-marked "tripoints" in the United States. Moreover, the NY-NJ-CT tri-state region does not actually possess a tripoint. (See this authoritative Wikipedia entry.)

Last week, I visited one of these real tripoints on my drive home from Boston to Tucson. As seen on my iPhone 3G map display, this is where Virgina, Tennessee and Kentucky meet. (The blue GPS blob marks the point where I was standing.)

Although it's a nice 1.2 mile walk up to the Tri-State Peak located inside the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, it's a bit of a disappointing hike: trees and other vegetation block any chance of a scenic view.

Nestled in a clearing lower down, however, is the surprisingly photogenic (almost Mayan temple-like) remains of an Iron Furnace:

Given my recent interest in 360° spherical panorama photography (see recent blog entry tech and subjects: The Stata Center and The Getty Museum Los Angeles), I couldn't resist the opportunity to make a panorama at this spot. Download here. (Warning: 12.1MB file. You can view this using Quicktime player.)

Anyway, I was here to visit my good friend Jim Montgomery who has recently moved to this hilly and very rural - let's just say dining-opportunity-limited - corner of southwestern Virigina bordering Kentucky and Tennessee. The upsides are the gorgeous scenery and almost empty roads in pristine condition (a consequence of the lack of real winter, population and truck traffic I reckon). In short, a perfect "secret" location for bike training. On Jim's porch:

jim led me on a perfect 25 mile training loop from his home in Rose Hill VA with about 1700 ft of climbing. The GPS tracklog recorded on my Garmin eTrex Vista Cx:

I wish I had more time to explore the region on my bike but the start of a new semester in Tucson cannot be delayed. For example, the Cumberland Gap tunnel "crosses" - or is it also appropriate to use the semantically-bleached terms "bridge" or "thread"? - the mountain ridge that can be seen in the background. In particular, I'd like to try the (presumably abandoned) mountain road it replaced. Another Wikipedia entry states:
The tunnel replaced a 2.3-mile (3.7 km) stretch of U.S. 25E between Middlesboro, Kentucky and Cumberland Gap, Tennessee that became known as "Massacre Mountain" due to the large number of travelers killed on the twisting mountain road over the Cumberland Gap pass.
Anyway, some pictures from the ride are shown below - I'd have to rate the route as equal or better to my favorite Valley Forge PA area hill route I used to ride but without the traffic and with far better roads.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Swim milestone for real

I keep trying but I truly suck as a swimmer. (Previous entry: swim: freestyle.)

Finally, I feel I've achieved something tangible in the pool: I mile continuous. To help you understand why I'm so enormously proud of this tiny achievement, here is an underwater picture taken with my Olympus 720SW:

(Link to the video clip at the end of this entry.)

I am as horizontal as I can get. But my entire body is under water! I'm a sinker. As a sinker, I have to overcome a lot of extra water resistance. (Compare with a normal swimmer - who, when lying flat, has their butt and head poking up above water. Obviously, water resistance trumps air resistance.)

Another efficiency disadvantage of having to swim underwater (instead of normally) is that to be able to breathe I need to over-rotate and tilt my head a bit to get my mouth above water to suck in air. Basically looking at the ceiling instead of horizontally at the divider.

I only learned to swim a few years and have had trouble banging out the laps ever since.

Technique-wise, I've benefited enormously from advice since my first adult-learn-to-swim class. But progress has been painful slow. Definitely my worst "sport".

Some chronology of my sorry battle with the pool:
  1. Needing to breathe every half stroke. Basically thrashing.
  2. Swim noseclip era.
    Embarassed to say it took a while until I could swim without it.
  3. Wearing neoprene long shorts to aid buoyancy.
    Hey, I was desperate!
    Managed my first 20 laps this way. Only years later, could I manage 20 laps unaided.
  4. Bilateral breathing. Every 1.5 strokes.
    A breakthrough. No more thrashing but limited me to 100 meters max at a time before I ran out of breath.
    Managed my first sorta "swimmer's mile" this way with breathing breaks every 100 meters. (See previous post swim milestone.)
    Doesn't really count...
  5. Breathing on the right side only.
    Another breathrough. 20 laps unaided finally.
That brings me to this past weekend. I finally achieved my milestone, i.e. 1 mile continuously. I swam 38 laps (76 lengths) or 1900 yds sans breaks. A mile is 1760 yds but I did extra to make sure I didn't miscount.

It was done in a 25 yard pool though. (Theoretically, I should be able to repeat the feat in the main 50 meter pool as well.)

Here is the previously mentioned clip from which the stlll was taken. (Warning: 640x480, 27.5MB.)

My next goal? To swim 1 mile without having the lifeguard come around and ask me if I'm okay :-)