Monday, September 22, 2014

Volunteering also rocks

Last weekend, I spent a day volunteering at the lower dressage rings for the Fair Hill unrecognized event.  This is much easier than at the recognized because I don't have to check bits.  On the other hand, I did have to remind one rider that draw reins aren't allowed at events (not even in the warm-up ring at unrecognized events) and had to do more wrangling of inexperienced riders (some of them with inexperienced or just somehow less organized trainers) than at the upper levels where 2/3 or more of the classes are professionals.  I also had a co-steward, Lea Purcell who both rides and works at Christiana Care (although our work lives haven't intersected thus far). So mostly, I got to hang out, pet cute dogs and chat with friends and acquaintances (or random TB owners).  Molly Kinnamon is riding a new project that Denis Glacum owns.  I looked at him, really liked him and when I checked the pedigree, found that he is a Danzig grandson - no surprise there!  We did run on time all day and only had about 4 minutes of rain, so it was great.  We even finished early enough for me to have a lesson afterwards.

This weekend, I spent volunteering as cross-country control at Plantation Fields, the Best.Event.Ever.  I really like the control job, as I get to hear exactly how horses are doing at each fence.  Of course, at Plantation, everyone gets to see how horses are doing around the course as all but 2-3 fences are visible from the top of the hill.  There were also great food booths, rockclimbing, a bounce thing, alpacas, excellent shopping and face painting, so even if you didn't just want to watch horses, it was a worthwhile weekend.

I did have to miss the big dancing with the stars party which was ok, as I got to spend Saturday evening celebrating the wedding of our good friends Jason and John.  There must be something about the 3 weekend of September.  Last year, I attended Kaiti and Rob's wedding (which I apparently didn't manage to blog about) and missed Steph and Keith's. This year, in addition to Jason and John, Jen and Andrew got married down in Florida.  So I'm expecting to hear about September weddings for 2015!

Back on the Plantation front, Sally and Wes were third in the Advanced and Gus and Brevan both had great outings.  Brevan is going to be super cool.  Apparently he and TigerLion (one of Buck's many rides) are full brothers. It was most excellent that Jennie and Cambalda won the advanced in excellent fashion and that three of my favorites Caitlin, Sharon and Erin were 5th, 6th and 7th in the CIC***.   Some Blue Hill Riders and alum were also competing.  It was great seeing Stephanie Cauffman, Maggie Deatrick and Megan Lynn out on course (and at various points through the weekend).  I missed visiting with Snuffle (it was her birthday weekend), but got to spend some time with my buddy Brody and with Snoopy.  I met Ryan Wood's mum and watched Justine Dutton win the bareback puissance (at 5'11") as well as having a great weekend on Jollybo (who also is Danzig on her dam's side).  There were many more things that made it both a wonderful weekend and the Best.Event.Ever.  Special thanks to Katie and Cuyler Walker and to Mary Coldren keeping it all together and to Melissa Wright for giving me the Best.Volunteer Job.Ever.

And while I was doing that, the Eagles managed to win to start the season at 3-0.

Weekends are good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beijing quickstop

When I was invited to lead a short course, "Outcomes Research for Medical Devices and Diagnostics" at the ISPOR (International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research) Asia-Pacific meeting, I thought it sounded like fun, so I said yes.  I got my slides in after some conversations with my (Beijing based) co-instructor and then pretty much forgot about it.  In August, I realized I should make travel arrangements, so I booked a flight and hotel pretty much the same way I do for all meetings and then forgot about it again.  A couple of days before I was to leave, I thought I would check out transportation from the airport to the hotel and also what the good things to see might be in Beijing and realized, OH SH%*^!!!  I totally forgot that I would need a visa... Luckily, this was a moment of brain death that it was possible to throw money at, so I did that (using a Los Angeles based visa expediter) and was told I would have the visa via FEDEX First by 8:30 Friday morning.  This was cutting it a little close as my flight was to leave Philadelphia at 10:15, but it was to Dulles before going on to Beijing so I thought it would be OK (no checked luggage). As it turned out, FEDEX arrived at 7:40 (go FEDEX) and I headed to the airport with plenty of time. And then I arrived at the airport and discovered my flight to DC was cancelled (fog at Dulles or something).  I was rebooked on the afternoon flight, but this did me no good as the next flight to Beijing would get me in 2 hours after my short course ended.  Luckily the guy that happened to be at the United counter was a manager and once he understood the issue, worked hard to get me onto a PHL to ORD (Chicago O'Hare) flight and then on to Beijing, which worked perfectly.  There was even an empty middle seat on the flight to Beijing.  The guy in the window was Grand Rapids, a Ferris state engineering grad who lives in China, works for a Canadian company and works all over the place (currently in Papua New Guinea).  I was able to get a ton of work done on the plane, both reviewing information for my upcoming PCORI meeting and reading a bunch of papers. Thing that surprised me #1  - they fed us on the airplane.  Not once, but 3 times and the food while definitely airplane food, wasn't all that bad.  Lasagna first, a little sandwich roll second and an egg dish last.  Getting out of the airport was very easy and I decided on a taxi to the hotel, although the train and subway seemed feasible, it involved some transfers and I wanted to get the lay of the land first.  Thing that surprised me #2 - the majority of people had no to little English.  Yes, I understand that it is China, but it surprised me that at the airport information station, at the hotel check in, the taxi drivers, later the security guards and ticket sellers at the Olympic Park, Tianamen Square, the Great Wall, etc. spoke no or very little English at all. Everyone was friendly and through gesturing and pantomime, it was possible to figure out what I needed. Those who did speak English were interested in having conversations so that was fun.  I got to the hotel, where there were many rules in the elevator
and took a nap (arrived around 4 pm Beijing time and napped until 8) and then went to the welcome reception.  I chatted there with Adrian Towse (current ISPOR president from UK) and Jalpa Doshi (from UPenn) and enjoyed the entertainment which was brief performances by the China Beijing Opera.  

I then went back to sleep and got up early, did some core work in the hotel room and then got ready for the short course.  The course seemed to go very well.  People were fairly engaged and asked questions and at the end, we were able to have a good group discussion.  My co-instructor, Libo Tao is a health economics PhD who works with Becton Dickinson in Beijing.  He was able to provide some very interesting insights on the Chinese health market and market access, but also on the view toward urbanization, economic growth and public health in China. Thing that surprised me #3 - there was only coffee and premade Lipton tea at the meeting, no other kinds of tea, no decaff coffee and no food on short course day.  Food otherwise was not very good, nor plentiful and at the receptions, there was only canned soda, bottled water, orange juice, bad red wine and not very good beer (in small tumblers). During the lunch break, I went over to Olympic Park and checked out the stadium and some of the exhibits. 
I then attended the first Plenary session at ISPOR.  After that, I headed downtown to the Forbidden Palace, which was interesting, but not really my kind of place.  
I found Tianamen Square much more interesting.  I was not surprised that there was no mention whatsoever of the 1989 events, although apparently, in Beijing leading up to the 25th anniversary, there were peaceful protests.  I was particularly impressed by the trees and park like setting of Tianamen Square. 

I walked around outside a bit before heading back to ISPOR for the evening podiums, posters and reception and then early to bed. Thing that surprised me #4 - the car distribution is much more American than European.  Cars are mostly midsized with plenty of minivans and SUVs (compact and mid size for the most part).  The taxis are all Hyundai's which wasn't so surprising, but the number of Volkswagons was. There were plenty of Nissans and Hondas, but also very plentiful Audis, Mercedes, Fords and Buicks.  There were fewer BMWs than other German cars.  I saw no cars by Great Wall or Geely.  I did see a couple by FAW and one Merek Mobil (Indonesia).  I also saw a few Bentleys (I think they build for the Chinese market specifically).  Thing that surprised me #5 - very few dogs.  I saw only 3 or 4 stray dogs and less than 10 on leashes with people in all of my walking about. This may have been due to a recent rabies incident. The nearly 5,000 dogs that were killed were in Baoshan though, not Beijing. 

Monday morning, I got up early (earlier than planned as my wake-up call came at 4 am, not the requested 6 am). So I did a couple hours of work, then headed off to the Great Wall.  I went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, slightly less popular than the Badaling section, but apparently greener and less crowded.  There were definitely people, but it wasn't too crowded.  After a breakfast of yummy dumplings in the park, I walked up to watch tower 6 and then walked from Tower 6 to Tower 23.  I believe it is about 3 miles round trip, but almost all either up or down.  It was very awe inspiring and a perfect morning, cool and sunny.  

I got back to town for the education symposium and workshops at ISPOR then took the subway back to the airport.  The subway was not surprising.  Apparently, subways are much the same everywhere and I had no trouble getting around, despite 2 transfers from the Olympic Park station to the airport. 
The flight from Beijing to Dulles was long, but uneventful.  A chance to do some more work and watch a couple of movies.  I decided to just stay awake as I would get home at night and then just sleep to get back on time zone track.  Upon arriving in DC, clearing customs and immigration was all easy, but my flight was delayed two hours.  The downside - I was going to end up awake for a long time.  The upside - I got to watch most of both games of the Monday Night Football doubleheader.  The Detroit win was most excellent and the San Diego-Arizona game was an excellent match-up.  I also tried a new cider, the Virgina made Bold Rock Apple Cider.  I got home around 1:45 and went straight to bed.  I managed to get up at 6:30 in time to head to work to teach my 8:30 class and actually was functional through the day.  I slept for 11 hours last night and now feel ready to be back on track and on ESTime.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

in which I hit some trails

Not with Keegan, although he is great out on the trails, but running some trail races.  Of course, in my world race isn't really the right word.  We'll call them trail adventures.  August 16th, I headed first to Chicago and then to California to share important milestones with great friends.  In Chicago, we celebrated Dan and Patrick's wedding taking place on their 25th anniversary together.  I also got to meet some of Dan's colleagues and students and hear more about his life after St. Louis. 
Then on to California for Hilda's birthday celebration.  It was great to meet Ken's family.  The drought was very evident at Folsom Lake.  It was a lovely celebratory weekend for both Hilda and her brother-in-law Bob (both big milestone birthdays one day apart). 
While I was in California.  I decided to do the Cinderella Trail run.  This was not a Disney themed event, rather it was in the Oakland Hills and steeper than expected.  I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea 
but the views were great and the organization top notch.  It was pretty hot, but most of the run was in the shade so not too bad.  It seemed pretty straightforward at first despite a pretty steep descent and climb that weren't too long. At first, I thought this was the massive gap I saw on the map, but no. That chasm was really tough. Unless you're crazy and/or hate your calves, it takes time to go down it, so you're constantly looking down at this giant drop and then, I had to go back up. I wasn't the only one who never really picked up my pace during that climb. And there were a few points where I really had to work to keep moving. Usually these moments occurred when I reached the top, only to discover that it was "a" top. SO MANY FALSE SUMMITS! But after that it went pretty well and the food at the finish line was awesome.  The track was also really well marked so while worrying about getting up and down, at least there were no concerns about getting lost. 

This weekend, I went for the https://Pretzel City Labor Pain 12 hour ultra.  My plan was to go for about 10 hours not 12, as start time was scheduled 7:30 (and actually 7:45).  It went pretty well, but this was really hard. There was a mixture of surfaces, small bits of paved road, some dirt/gravel road, a fair amount of grass fields, and the majority single track trail with more than enough roots and rocks to keep it interesting.

There were steep downhills and steeper uphills.  This track was a 5 mile loop, which I completed 6 times and then did the small out and back for a 50k finish.  It was a very slow 50k finish.  The 5 mile loop was pretty good, long enough to not get boring, but nice to have a sense of what was coming.  As I was finishing the last loop, we got about 20 minutes of torrential downpour, which wasn't too bad as a hydrating cool-off.  The worst of it was the bugs.  Gnats, midges, biting flies, mosquitos and other than the mosquitos mostly impervious to the bug spray.  My bug bites are more bothersome than my sore muscles this morning, although I'm surprised that my abs are sore. I'm looking forward to the Bear Chase Trail 50, but hoping for a little less of a "true trail" adventure than these last two.