Steve's Wanderings ...

§ Reading

Books I like.

  • Book #1
  • Book #2
  • Book #3

§ Listening

Songs I like.

  • Song #1
  • Song #2
  • Song #3

§ Viewing

Videos I like.

  • Movie #1
  • Movie #2
  • Movie #3

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mongolia - The Land One Can Never Leave …

Mongolia is a land of wonder and great beauty - and once you have been there, a part of your soul remains behind, never to leave ... I had heard similar sentiments from others but only after my own visit did I discover how true this really is.  I am home in California, but there is a part of me that is at home in Mongolia too.  In a sense I won’t be whole again until I return to Mongolia to reunite myself with that part of me that lives there now ...

Belle has echoed similar sentiments to me, in almost the same sense she feels that a part of her has taken residence in Mongolia and will never leave ...

I know the reasons why I was drawn to visit Mongolia - I am curious as to what drew Belle to go there ... I will ask her.  I wonder if its for similar reasons ... I wonder if she too dreams of returning as I do ...

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/12 at 03:34 AM
Mongolia • (13) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nederlands vs. Vlaams

Belle wants me to learn Flemish, i.e., the Flemish Dutch dialect (at least for spoken Dutch).  I’m looking at some possibilities to make this work.  In the meantime I hope that she might make me some .mp3 files of her using common phrases, counting 1-10, etc., so I can hear what it sounds like ("Please, Belle?").  I think once I have the basic pronunciation it will help me progress from there ...

This looks interesting - a software package for learning Flemish which I can download - Flemish - Languages of the World

Tot ziens ...

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/11 at 08:57 PM
Languages • (15) CommentsPermalink

Een Grote Verbazing!!!

Een Grote Verbazing! - A Big Surprise!

I found a huge parcel on my doorstep last night - sent to me by Belle. Inside were many wonderful goodies - a Chinese-English translator (perfect for my Chinese lessons!), some Chinese language flashcards, CD’s of Mongolian music as well as DVD’s of the Roaring Hooves festival (a music festival held in Mongolia over the past several years), a Beijing Olympic pin (to add to my Olympic pin collection), and finally - Belgian Chocolate!!!!!!

Christmas in September!

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/11 at 01:52 PM
Friends • (20) CommentsPermalink

The Sounds of Dutch …

For the past few weeks I have enjoyed learning bits and pieces of Dutch - especially since Belle has encouraged me by writing to me in both Dutch and English - and she has been very patient and tolerant of my frequent mistakes!  Buying a Dutch-English dictionary has helped me immensely since now I am free to try to construct sentences and phrases on my own instead of relying on the Google translator to do it - often with hilarious results!

However, there is one thing I realize now that is missing - hearing the pronunciation of Dutch.  When I write in German I can “hear” what I’m writing as I go.  Of course the same is true with English.  But with Dutch at the moment I cannot do that - I have SOME idea of how things should sound but often its an educated guess - and that in the end isn’t really good enough ... (at least for me ...).  Even with my Chinese lessons I have opportunities to tie words and sounds/pronunciation together.

So ... I will work on remedying this.  I need to hear the sounds of Dutch so I can read most any word and know how it should be pronounced.  I also need to learn basic grammar, but knowing German grammar I believe will be a great help since there are similarities between the two.  I have some audio CD’s which I will listen to, and I will look for a Dutch tutor if possible (not forgetting my Chinese of course, which is important!).  With those possibilities I think this will make the Dutch language come alive for me ...

A nice website which I plan to use ... -

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/11 at 01:24 PM
Languages • (11) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tour de Tahoe

The Tour de Tahoe (72 miles or 116 km circumventing Lake Tahoe) took place last Sunday, September 9 2008.  I drove up the day before and met my friends Amy and Stuart for dinner at the Horizons hotel, site of the start/finish and also where the three of us were staying.  This hotel is one of several on the Nevada/California border (on the Nevada side) and site of a casino (for which the three of us had little interest).

We set off at 6:45 in chilly temperatures - around 7-8 degrees C - cold enough that my fingers were becoming numb and I was having a bit of trouble operating the shifters and brakes.  As soon as the sun rose, however, it quickly warmed up to more comfortable conditions.  Despite the altitude, I had little trouble with the course, and found it actually easier than the 100K ride I did at the end of August.  The scenery around the lake was beautiful and I felt pretty good throughout the ride.  Finish time (elapsed) was about 6 hours.

Riding around a scenic mountain lake brought back some fond memories of time spent in Mongolia ...

Garmin data can be viewed at

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/10 at 02:28 AM
Cycling • (3) CommentsPermalink

Friday, September 05, 2008

Rebuilding My Running Base - … I Have Promises To Keep …

For most of the summer (going to Mongolia excepted) I have largely limited my training to cycling and spinning.  I’ve managed to get myself in rather good condition, and have noticed that I can train at a “decent” level for a number of days with relatively little trouble, unlike with running which required frequent days of reduced training or time off.  This I have thoroughly enjoyed ...

However, this is NOT training to run!  I had a taste of what that meant in Mongolia as running the marathon was unexpectedly difficult - at the time I attributed it to various factors including travel fatigue, tight muscles. etc.  The sobering reality came a few weeks after my return when I rather impulsively decided to join some friends to run about 20 miles (35 km).  It was largely on a familiar, beautiful course over the mountains to the sea.  For the first half of the run I was feeling a bit slow but reasonably fit.  It was only after cresting the top of the long climb that I felt everything below my chest tighten up and become sore - basically my lower back, hips and legs.  The last part of the run was a brutal downhill descent about 4 miles - 8 km - long.  By this time even walking down this hill was rather painful and running was almost torturous.  I fully expected some of this to occur, but the extent of it was a bit of a shock ...

Belle and I are now talking of running a 100 km trail run together next summer in either California or Mongolia - her first 100 km, which for anyone is always something special.  I have promised my full support for her to see her finish and to help her in any way I can, first and foremost by running with her and being there when she experiences the magic of crossing the finish line.  But this entails responsibility as well as pleasure - I must be able to fulfill my promise in the best way that I can, which means among other things, being in the best possible shape to run as I can be so I can help, not hinder her.

At one time when I was training for the WS100 and other ultras of a similar ilk, I almost disdained going out for short road runs of something like 5 km or so.  I can’t afford that attitude any longer.  What I didn’t let myself realize at that time is that I was slowly letting my training base erode, and that all it would take would be a layoff of a few weeks to lose it all.  That happened late last year and again in the spring due to injuries ...

Fortunately I haven’t lose my aerobic base - this I’ve managed to maintain - even enhance - with regular sessions of spinning and cycling.  But as I have found out all too well, it is NOT run-training ...

I have watched Belle’s training for the Berlin Marathon from afar with a mixture of admiration and envy.  Admiration since I know what she has endured and overcome to get to where she is, and envy since I quite frankly can’t train like her at her level right now ... But I will get there - one short 5km run at a time.  And I will be there for Belle at that special moment when she is about to cross the finish line ...

“… I have promises to keep ...”

P.S. - My new Garmin Forerunner 405 arrived today ...

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/05 at 12:28 AM
Running • (13) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tour de Tahoe next Sunday

This Sunday I will ride in the Tour de Tahoe, a 72-mile (116 km) ride around Lake Tahoe, a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern California and Nevada.  At one time there were six of us planning to go; as of now only three (and I’m not entirely sure about the other two ...).  Regardless I will go ...

I had a couple of spills on a short training ride last night - the usual problem with clipless pedals (which are like ski bindings): problems getting out of them quickly when having to suddenly stop.  Fortunately only scraped knees and a bit of soreness ...

I plan to wear my new Garmin so I can post a map of the ride next week.

View Larger Map

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/04 at 11:39 AM
Cycling • (9) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ni Hao Hallo Hi

I have always loved and been fascinated by languages.  Even while in high school I wanted to translate French novels into English (in this case, Camus).  Later I became fascinated with German - I had a German girlfriend at the time, and wanted to be able to converse with her as well in German as she could talk to me in English.  I also felt a challenge since many people told me that German was “too hard”.  I didn’t believe them and set out to learn the language well enough to be able to rely solely on it when traveling to Germany or Switzerland.  At one time I even wanted to read Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg” ("The Magic Mountain") in its original German (but later realized that this was perhaps beyond what I really wanted to do - and that was to be able to carry on a conversation about almost anything ...).

I believe that languages are, in a sense, windows to our souls, as that is how we express ourselves to others and to the world beyond gestures and body language.  In a sense I feel left out if someone else I interact with can speak a language that I either don’t understand well or perhaps not at all.  My latest challenge is learning Chinese.  I don’t expect to become proficient easily but at least be able to have a simple conversation.  I am taking the first in a series of Chinese classes at a local community college.

Likewise my friend Belle speaks Dutch (actually Flemish, but close enough ...).  Another challenge.  Her English is very good and there is no need whatsoever for me to learn any Dutch at all.  But that’s not the point; I want to be on at least somewhat of an even keel, so ideally a conversation could happen in either English or Dutch without missing a step.  I’ve come close to that in German, and similarities in vocabulary and grammar will hopefully make this task easier - certainly easier than Chinese!  Unlike the Chinese class this is entirely a “home” project with no classes, schedules or deadlines, though I did find a jovial Dutch colleague at work with whom I can practice when I begin to become a bit proficient.

I learned German basically by endless self-drilling of grammar and vocabulary.  This (at least for me) is the way to transform oneself from merely a “parrot” to a true speaker of the language.  Its also a nice mental challenge and a way to keep the mind sharp!  Now two new languages to learn!

Tof!  Spass!

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/03 at 03:47 AM
Languages • (3) CommentsPermalink

Monday, September 01, 2008

Running 100km

For many years I had a dream - run and finish the Western States Endurance Run (WS100) - a rugged 100-mile (160km) trail run through the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.  Finally in 2004 I did it!  Barely ... Less than 6 minutes under the 30-hour cutoff time (29:54:46).  Finally I managed to overcome several years of grueling training followed by failed attempts to finish the race.

However, that left a void in my running life.  Since then I have never seemed to recapture that zest, energy, and desire I had while training for the WS100.  That is until I was drawn to the Mongolian Sunrise to Sunset 100km.  But just as I was getting my training in high gear - this time supplemented with spinning and cycling workouts - a series of injuries forced me to “step down” to the MS2S marathon (42km).  Even that proved to be a frustration as the nagging injuries kept me from running much of a race at all ...

I have enjoyed being able to help others reach some of the same goals as me - in particular I was thrilled to help my friend Cath Worth overcome her own demons and run to a fabulous WS100 finish in 2007 after a frustrating DNF in the prior year - her finish time?  25:31!

So when I got to know Belle in Mongolia and her desire to run the 100km I not only wanted to help her, but this rekindled my interest in conquering my own frustrations of not being able to run a decent race, let alone run the 100km.  Belle’s experience in Mongolia is not unlike my own experience at the WS100, and I sensed a similar desire to succeed as I saw in myself at that time.  For me this created a strong bond, as I understand these feelings well.

Since then we have become good friends, keeping in frequent contact with each other.  She is now training to run the Berlin Marathon (which I ran some years ago - a wonderful race!); as for me, I don’t have anything on the horizon.  I am in very good condition but this is from cycling and spinning, not running.  Recently I ran a 20-mile (35km) trail run, after which I felt quite trashed - likely made worse due to the fact that fatigue was not a factor in limiting how much I could do.  It is perhaps the lack of a goal that I don’t really feel the motivation to switch back to so much run training ...

Before leaving Mongolia, I promised to help Belle realize her own dream of finishing 100km, and to be there when it happens.  It is my intention to do whatever it takes to keep my promise!  At the very least offer training help and suggestions and be able to support her on the course if possible.  But my own dream is to run the race with her and have us both run and finish together, so we both can realize this dream together as well.  The ultimate dream would be to do this someday in Mongolia, but that remains to be seen ...  We will see how things go in the coming months ahead - perhaps a race in California ...

WS100 site -

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset (MS2S) site -

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/01 at 09:45 PM
Running • (5) CommentsPermalink

Garmin Forerunner 405

I just purchased the Garmin Forerunner 405 (with the optional Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)). I have enjoyed using the Garmin Forerunner 305 (the previous generation device); I was wearing it to generate the course map in my prior MS2S Course entry below.  However, after seeing Belle’s latest entry on her site regarding her use of the 405 in her weekend training run, I saw that it had capabilities which my 305 does not..

First and foremost, the addition of Garmin Connect, which allows users to share data collected from various workouts. Since Belle is my “virtual training partner” this had instant appeal for me. I had tried in vain to set up a much simpler logging facility on the old version of my site, and this seems to be a MUCH improved method of logging workouts!

Secondly there is the ability to upload data to my PC using a wireless connection - I had always managed at one point or another to inadvertently disconnect the USB cable - usually by kicking it!

So why am I entering this in the Cycling category? Because my first use of it won’t be in a run. Instead I will wear it in this weekend’s Tour de Tahoe, a 72-mile (116km) ride around Lake Tahoe. I don’t know if I will wear the HRM that comes with the Garmin or with my bike speedometer, but I like to watch my heart rate on long-distance events to keep myself on more or less an even keel ...

I will post whatever data I collect in a follow-up entry sometime next week, hopefully including a few photos.

Belle has posted a nice example of how to use Garmin Connect to log a workout; this is from her recent 26.77km training run -

Tour de Tahoe site -

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/01 at 09:05 PM
Cycling • (30) CommentsPermalink

MS2S Course

ms2s course

The first 42km of the Mongolian Sunrise to Sunset (MS2S) 100km is quite spectacular.   Featuring two passes - the Chichee Pass (2300m or 7550ft) and the Khirvesteg Pass (2100m or 7000ft) - the course winds it way along Hovsgol Nuur (Lake Hovsgol) before crossing the two passes.  Unlike most of Mongolia which is grassland or desert, the Lake Hovsgol region in the north is located in coniferous forest - the southern extent of the Siberian taiga. It is relatively lush and very green (and beautiful!)

Above you can see a satellite map of the course.  The course is marked using data obtained from my Garmin Forerunner 305 which I wore during the run.  The dark area on the right is Lake Hovsgol.

Posted by Bigfoot on 09/01 at 10:29 AM
Running • (9) CommentsPermalink

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mongolian Dreams

This is a video featuring photos taken by Belle and me while we were visiting Mongolia.  It brings back a lot of fond memories ...

Posted by Bigfoot on 08/31 at 01:45 AM
Mongolia • (9) CommentsPermalink

Steve’s Friend Belle

Smiling Belle ...

At last - I’ve got my new site up and running!

This is my friend Isabelle de Vos, my wonderful traveling
companion while I was in Mongolia.  She has a number of aliases -
Belle, Bella_Clava, Little Foot, Kleine Voet.  She is obviously excited
about helping me set up my website (among other things ...)

You might want to visit her website -

Posted by Bigfoot on 08/31 at 12:48 AM
Friends • (6) CommentsPermalink
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