Weeks 5-7: Settling into a groove: Crazy bike rides, training hard, and eco-hydrological modeling

After the initial honeymoon phase, we are settling into somewhat of a routine, albeit a much more exciting one than I would otherwise have in the states. We have been training really hard for the Vuelta Cotopaxi, with intervals, weights, and cross training midweek followed by ruthless, 4-8 hour ascents into the high peaks on the weekends. We are finally getting more acclimated, but riding and training at these altitudes is still much harder and more painful than at sea level. The weekend trips have been a great way to explore the surrounding area, riding as far as Papallacta and as high as “El Segundo Virgen.” We had planned to ride the Quilatoa loop, but got rained out. After the weekend rides, we have been getting together for parties and BBQs at Pericles’ house where we keep meeting more and more friends. Its great to have so many like minded folks around. Other notable rides we’ve done include Lumbisi, Antennas, and el Teleferico.

The weather pattern has also shifted into what Ecuadorians call “winter.” The only difference is that it is more cloudy and rainy, as the temps are pretty much stable year around ranging from about 45-75 F. As I had been longing to escape the gray, wet weather of upstate NY, I was initially unsettled by this new pattern. Fortunately, the sun is out in force almost every morning and we get to enjoy the strong tropical rays, keeping vitamin D levels high. The clouds tend to build over the course of the day and culminate in either a steady hour long rain or a nasty thunderstorm. The day we tried to ride Quilatoa was the only day that it rained all morning and afternoon. Even that day, we were able to get out and do a 3.5 hour ride and only got rained out at the end of the ride.

We really like our neighborhood. After living in a rural area for so long, we forgot how convenient cities can be. We have our gym, grocery shopping, a huge fancy mall, a community swimming pool, our local fruit and veg stand, tons of restaurants and bakeries, about 8 bike shops, and a few outdoor stores all within a 20 minute walk! We also have the Ecovia (a dedicated busline much like an above ground metro) a 5 minute walk down there hill that takes us anywhere in the city. To get down to USFQ, I just have a quick 10 minute walk to the inter-parochial bus line that takes me down to Cumbaya in about 15 min. Couple that with all the bike trails in our backyard at Metro, a 4500′ ascent up the antennas just a 20 min ride across town, and access to countless options for longer rides into the higher peaks and rural areas and it starts to become evident that we live in a really great place.

Work and research has been great. I have more responsibilities here than I did while I was writing my dissertation, so my pace has slowed. I really like my lab group, and I enjoy being able to help out with statistics and modeling on a wide variety of projects. The group is tight knit, largely thanks to Andrea’s efforts to make sure we have weekly meetings and she hosts great dinners at her house.

The initial Napo classification is nearly complete, and I’m starting to get my datasets prepared for interpolation using SSNMs. I’m learning a ton about ecohydrology, and really hope to have the opportunity to continue with this line of research. I’m super bummed that NSF changed the Postdoctoral Biology Fellowship and cut the Math-Bio program which would have been my best funding source to continue this project.

All in all, things are still going really well, even after the honeymoon phase is over! I am looking forward to doing some more travelling after Vuelta Cotopaxi, and hopefully start to climb some peaks!

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