Monday, April 29, 2013

4th Dan Testing

Here is the video of my 4th Dan Testing last Saturday. This was one more step on my journey with Grand Master Han's Marital arts.  It has been a great 7 years, so far and hope that there are many more great years to come!

4th Dan Testing from RJ Maguire on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Ouachita Challenge Tour

Last weekend, I rode in the Ouachita Challenge Tour.  This ride is part of The Ouachita Challenge weekend.  On Saturday, they have a 60 mile tour and Sunday is the 60 mile race.  The route uses parts of the Womble Trail, Ouachita Trail, some gravel roads, and pavement.

I woke up around 3:30 on Saturday for the 2 hour drive out to start point at Oden, AR.  The drive out there started out adventurous.  When driving in the middle of nowhere at night, you have to keep your eyes out for deer in the middle of the road.  I saw more deer on the road down there then cars!

I got to Oden around 7:00.  I went and picked up my packet and found a couple of people that I knew. The race does offer a breakfast for free, but I ate along the way.  The one thing that a lot of people do is that they sleep in the High School gym.  I was told that it was part of the experience, hmm maybe next year.

After breakfast, I got everything ready and waited for the start!
Right at 8 it was go time!  We rolled out along some asphalt roads and then hit the gravel about a two miles into the ride.  The first 9 miles are asphalt and gravel.  You start the climb into Big Brushy along the gravel roads and at 9 mile mark you hit the single track.  The first part of Big Brushy is uphill and not that technical.  The second half however, is a combination of some small climbs, rocks, roots, and just about anything the ride can throw at you.  I'm not a very technical rider, so I ran into many spots where I had to get off the bike.  However, it was because people were already off in front me.  This helped take some of the pressure of because I didn't have to worry about being in someone's way.

Even though this a tour, you still have to make certain time cuts or you will be removed from the course.  The time cuts work to where if you just barely make one, you probably won't make the next one.  The first time cut was at Big Brushy aid station 15 miles.  You had to be there by 11:00 am.  I arrived to aid station filling pretty good about 9:50 am.  The race has a cut off of 10:30.  The aid stations were stocked with HEED, pickle juice, pickles, pb&j, and many other goodies.  The one concern of mine was cramping, so I decided to hit the shots of pickle juice and headed on my way.

From Big Brushy, you get back on some single track for about 2 miles which most of it is climbing.  You finally pop back out at the intersection of a gravel road or head towards Blowout Mountain.  Because I was riding the tour, we skipped Blowout and would go around on gravel roads before the next section.

The next section is Chleybate Mountain.  The only thing I knew about this section is that it goes uphill and when you think it's done it really gets steep.  The description was correct.  I was sure enough pushing my bike uphill for about 1/3 of this section.  Overall this section wasn't to difficult, but the climbing was tough!  Once you finish this section it's back on the road for about 10 miles heading towards the Womble Section.

At this point, I was just over 30 miles into in the ride in about 3.5 hours!  I was feeling good and ready for the next section.

The Womble starts off with some great flowing single track.  The trail is clear and flat in this section.  You can sit back and enjoy the ride.  I knew following this section was Mauldin Mountain.  I had not gotten much description of Mauldin but I was ready to tackle it.

This section is constant climbing!  You go up and when you think you can't go up anymore, you still go up!  The climbs were not that steep, but they were relentless.  You could get a short downhill, before finally going up again.  You finally get a longer downhill before hitting another aid station.  I was still feeling good here, but realized that it was still uphill!  This is the Gaston Mountain section.  I was feeling good for the first mile, but by the second mile frustration started to set in.  In the uphills, were getting to me and by the time I got to the downhills I was clearly ready to be off the trail!  We finally get to the last section where you ride on gravel roads for about a mile, get back on the Norfork Lake section of the trail and finally back to the last aid station.

The Norfork section was not very technical. It was smooth and flowy.  Once you back on the gravel, it is time to head to the finish, but before  you get there you are treated to one last climb!  I was ready for this climb.  I started slow and rode my way to the top.

I tried to smile for the camera at the top, but it appears that it didn't work out so well.  I could call that a combination of pain face with an attempt at a smile!  It was all smiles from the top.  It was downhill for a bit and then back on the roads and back to the school.

There is a short climb for the finish which is a nice touch to end the day!
I was glad to have crossed the line 7 hrs and 30 minutes.  I didn't get hurt, felt good throughout the race and had no major issues.  I really enjoyed this race!  The volunteers, the aid stations, and the feeling of the race was great.  It is no wonder that this race sells out in 12 minutes.

During the ride, I was thinking I wouldn't do this again next year, but now a week later I kind of want to do the race next year.  I would have to tackle Blowout Mountain and have stricter time cuts, but I feel I could be up for the challenge!

Below are some videos from Saturday and Sunday that give a feel for the race/tour!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Ouachita Challenge On Deck For Tomorrow

60 miles of mountain biking along the Ouachita Trail, Womble Trail, gravel roads, and roads.  Should be an epic day!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Looking at Dream Trips - Cycling Tibet to Nepal

I always enjoy looking at various destinations on the internet/books/magazines and find ideas for trips.  Well this one trip that I would have never considered. 

I have a couple of group travel sites that I like to explore time to time and see what trips are available and for the first time I saw the trip on Gap Adventuresfrom Lhasa to Kathmandu.  Sounds simple right!  Well this trip involves cycling from the start to the finish! 


The trip is 23 days long and you get the chance to cycle over passes close to 16,000 ft on your way to Katmandu.  You spend a day in Kathmandu before flying to Lhasa to spend 3 days getting used to altitude.  Starting on Day 7, you begin your trip back to Kathmandu.  Imagine spending your time cycling through some of the most remote regions of the world and seeing the highest peak in the world!  This would be an amazing trip! 

Looking at this trip cost here is a quick estimate.
Flight Little Rock to Kathmandu - $1892 - Not bad in my opinion
Trip Cost from Gap - $3699, includes most lodging and meals.
Bike - They recommend bring your own bike.  No prices listed for rental.  To fly with a bike overseas is probably another $400 RT.
Incidental Costs - $1000?

Here is the itinerary from the web Gap Adventure web page.

You can get the trip overview by clicking here

Day 1 Kathmandu

You may arrive at the joining-point hotel at any time on Day 1 as no group activities are planned for today except for a group meeting in the early evening followed by an optional dinner. It is important that you arrive in time for this meeting as we will cover important aspects of the trek. Please check the entrance of the hotel for a notice from your CEO detailing the location of the meeting.

Day 2 Kathmandu

Today we have some time in Kathmandu as we need to process our Chinese visas to get into Tibet. This means there is plenty of time to wander around Kathmandu, where there is plenty to discover.

Lord Pashupatinath Temple dating back to 400 AD is the Nepal's holiest Hindu shrine. With its astonishing architectural beauty, it stands as a symbol of faith, religion, culture and tradition. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'. The richly ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. You can mingle with the holy men or sadhus on the banks of Bagmati River, and see the daily chores of Nepalese people paying their homage to Lord Shiva. Often you can see the traditional cremation ceremony on the riverbank, which occurs all through the day at the shrine.

On the other hand, Boudhanath, is one of the world's largest stupas (Buddhist shrine). Boudhanath (also called Bouddhanath, Bodhnath or Baudhanath or the Khasa Chaitya) is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner, passes by Bodhnath Stupa to the ancient and smaller stupa of Ca-bahi (often called 'Little Bodhnath'). Join the pilgrims who gather to circumnavigate the enormous dome, beneath the watchful eye of the Buddha which gazes out from the gilded central tower. Join the pilgrims in lighting butter lamps or candles on the shrines of the stupa, and send the prayer wheels spinning their prayers up into the heavens.

Days 3-6 Lhasa

This historic city is situated in a small valley, 3700m above sea level. Lhasa rose to take an important role in the administration of the country over 1300 years ago. At this time, the grand temples of Ramoche and Jokhang were built to house the Buddha images and religious artifacts brought into Tibet as dowries from China and Nepal.
Although little of the 7th-Century Lhasa survives, the 1600s saw a second stage of renovation and development, which included the building of the Potala Palace (included in our tour). Perched on Red Hill overlooking the town, this massive structure dominates the landscape with grace and dignity - a true architectural wonder. The Jokhang Temple is the spiritual heart of Tibet and also the most active. Prostrating pilgrims circle the temple endlessly, day and night, some of them traversing the extremes of the Tibetan landscape by foot to celebrate and express their faith. Nearby are the huge monastic universities of Drepung and Sera are still active institutions.
We will begin our time here with a tour of the Jokhang and make a kora (circumambulation) of the Barkhor, the holiest devotional circuit, which surrounds the Jokhang and houses a market bazaar where people bargain for Buddha images, yak skulls with ruby eyes, woodcarvings, carpets, prayer wheels and the odd goat's head.

Days 7-9 Yamdrok to Gyantse

The first day out of Lhasa is the first test of our cycling skills, as we gradually begin our climb high up into the Himalaya. Today is also our first camp – a good night’s sleep before beginning the tough ascent of the Khamba La (4750m) – rewarded at the top by spectacular views of Yamdrok Lake against a backdrop of snow-topped Himalayan Peaks. Then it’s a winding descent to camp by the lake (4420m).
From here it is a stunning ride below the towering glaciers of Mt Nojin Gangzang (7191m); alongside glacial streams, small villages and across the Karo La (5045m).

Day 7 - Maximum Altitude: 3617m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 3600 m
Distance Cycling: 80 Kms

Day 8 - Maximum Altitude: 4807m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4300 m
Distance Cycling: 75 Kms

Day 9 - Maximum Altitude: 5032m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4500 m
Distance Cycling: 50 Kms

Day 10 Gyantse

Cross the Simi La (4330m), then it’s a relatively gentle descent into Gyantse – in some seasons they valley floor is a blaze of brilliant yellow rape flowers. In Gyantse and Shigatse we take a break from camping to indulge in hot showers, beds and the local restaurants.

Once of major importance as a wool trading centre on the routes between India, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet and China, Gyantse retain the feel of old Tibet. The imposing hill fortress, Gyantse Dzong, dominates views of the town and is a great place for sunset views over the town. In the morning of Day 10 we will visit Pelkor Chode Monastery, founded in 1418, and the unique Gyantse Kumbum (meaning 100,000 images) which forms a 3-dimensional mandala containing a seemingly endless series of tiny chapels full of Buddhist images – Buddhas, demons, protectors and saints.

Maximum Altitude: 4516m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4048 m
Distance Cycling: 59 Kms

Days 11-12 Shigatse & Tashilunpo

It is a relatively easy ride to Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest town, and the seat of the Panchen Lama who ranks second in importance to the Dalai Lama.
The huge complex of Tashilunpo is visited daily by hundreds of devotees, armed with yak butter to feed the lamps, who prostrate themselves around the stupas or walk up to the chapel that houses the 26m-high, gold-plated statue of the future Buddha. We will tour the monastery in the afternoon. Then perhaps join the pilgrims on their evening kora (circumambulation) around the perimeter of the monastery.
Shigatse bazaar also buzzes with life. Stalls, selling everything from slabs of yak butter to yak wool, prayer wheels and rosaries, line the streets and Tibetans vie with each other to win a sale. Be tempted by the antiques, jewelry and fur hats with elaborate gold brocade designs or perhaps visit the carpet factory where hand-woven carpets are made to traditional designs.

Day 11 - Maximum Altitude: 4048m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 3852 m
Distance Cycling: 90 Kms

Day 12 - Maximum Altitude: Around 4200m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4200 m
Distance Cycling: 95 Kms

Days 13-14 Lhatse & Shegar

Back on the road, the route leads across the Yulung La (4950m) and the Gyatso La (5220m), the highest point of the ride.

Day 13 - Maximum Altitude: 4533m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4100 m
Distance Cycling: 90 Kms

Day 14 - Maximum Altitude: 5253m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4408 m
Distance Cycling: 65 Kms

Days 15-17 Rombuk & Everest Base Camp

Turn off the Friendship Highway for a stunning ride through Qomolangma Nature Preserve to the top of the 5200m Pang-La (pass) for a superb panoramic view from Manaklu to Shishapangma. Then its a downhill stretch to Tashidzom. As you climb barley fields give way to barren valleys of glacial debris. Finally reach the tiny Rombuk Gompa at 5000m. The view from here is utterly spectacular! It is then 7 kilometers to Base Camp at 5200m.

Day 15 - Maximum Altitude: 5205m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4213 m
Distance Cycling: 65 Kms

Day 16 - Maximum Altitude: 5009m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 5000 m
Distance Cycling: 35 Kms

Day 18 Lao Tingri

The route down from Rombuk is a rough, but scenic one. There are a couple of short, but steep descents.
The guest house in Lao Tingri is basic, but hot showers are available.

Day 18 - Maximum Altitude: 5101m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4350 m
Distance Cycling: 60 Kms

Days 19-20 Yarle Shung La & Nyalam

Back to the Friendship Highway where another two high passes give a last, spectacular view of the Himalaya before leaving the Tibetan Plateau - Lalung La (5124m) and the Yarle Shung La (5100m).
Our last night in Tibet is at Nyalum – right on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

Day 19 - Maximum Altitude: 4563m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 4500 m
Distance Cycling: 75 Kms

Day 20 - Maximum Altitude: 5149m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 3775 m
Distance Cycling: 50 Kms

Day 21 Last Resort

From Nyalum the road descends sharply towards the Nepal border, some 40kms and 2000 meters below. Moisture returns to the air, the colors change, trees appear, lush green vegetation and the Bote Khose river thunders below.
After completing border formalities, transferring luggage to the Nepalese vehicle and saying goodbye to our Tibetan drivers and guides, it is a short ride down to the Last Resort, a luxury tented camp and relax in the beautiful gardens, herbal steam bath or plunge pool.

Day 21 - Maximum Altitude: 3776m
Sleeping Altitude: Around 1065 m
Distance Cycling: 80 Kms

Days 22-23 Kathmandu

The road continues its winding descent, hopefully unhindered by landslides, towards Kathmandu. Rich in cultural and artistic heritage blending the traditional and the modern, Kathmandu is a vibrant, chaotic, colorful city - one not to be missed.
You may depart at any time on Day 23