In the end, the blackberries will take over

In the end, Tom Robbins may be right about blackberries.

The woman who checked me into the hotel at SEA-TAC pointed me down the hill to the DesMoines Creek Park trail to get in my daily 5K. Lovely run, except for the almost 250′ of climbing over a quarter mile between the hotel and the trailhead.

Nice paved bike path type trail; not a whole lot of people, but a ton of beautiful ripe blackberries sitting there waiting to be eaten. Made me happy.

Ankle felt good. Slow and steady.

Posted in Run

Maybe it’s the altitude

Wow – Four whole posts this year.

There’s a little bit of reason for that, but first, some running.

I’m away for work, previewing New Mexico for the troop trip to Philmont next year (and some real job stuff, too), and staying on east coast time means getting up at 4 AM local and getting on the treadmill. ‘Cept today I didn’t get on the treadmill, I headed outside.

Great pre-traffic run. Little bit of gravel through a park, no twinges in my foot.

Sometime back in February or March I sprung the crap out of the tendon on the inside of my left ankle. So, it’d hurt one day, feel good the next, and I’d go out and put, say 4 or 6 miles on it. Then it’d swell up and hurt like heck for a day, I’d rest for a day, and then run when it felt marginal. Eventually, one day of recovery stretched to two or three.

Finally, in late May, I went and saw a doc. Nothing broken. Went to the podiatrist, and “Hey, the left foot’s way flatter than the right foot!” Great.

June was spent in an ankle brace, July’s been spent walking in orthotics and doing short jogs. August will be spent underway, so by September I should be somewhat back. And singing Bad-a-yah.

Two days in, I think I did get a light case of altitude sickness – woke up with a headache, nausea, and drymouth this morning that couldn’t be explained by too much beer last night. Wish I were staying here – coffee, exercise, and exposure to altitude would cure that in the long run.

It’s good to be back running.

Advent Day 10 – Travel

My lovely bride and I are currently up in North Adams, Mass, while our kids are at YMCA Winter Camp (Yep, we’re those parents who drop our kids off in the woods in the dead of winter then sneak off for a weekend at a fancy hotel and good meals. Terrible, terrible people.)

And, I know I hit on it before, but there’s something grand about being able to explore on foot. Sneakers and a single outfit are all you need to pack, and roads with sidewalks and decent shoulders are all a place needs to support the run.

Missy and I were up here (1) ’cause we didn’t have kids for the weekend, but if we just stayed at the house we’d end up finding stuff to do and not connecting with each other; (2) Because, despite being an engineer and absolutely artless, I’m actually very intrigued and fond of those who are creative; and (3) Wilco. Worth the trip for the day – the leisurely drive plus the museum got us to the hotel for a couple hours of R&R, then a quality supper walking distance from the hotel. Burned “The Philadelphia Story” from the hotel’s movie library, and then slept for 9 solid hours. Wow – must be vacation.

This morning, Missy managed to sneak off to the elliptical trainer in the hotel gym without waking me. I sat bolt upright in bed about 8, completely confused about when and where I was. Figured it out, and went to explore the town. A couple minutes with Google Maps, and I figured out I could do between 3 and 4 without getting lost and see most of the town, so I was off.

If only it were easier to travel with a bike…

Posted in Run

Forgiveness – Advent Day 9

The body’s both unforgiving and forgiving at the same time. Unforgiving, because a minor error in form can lead to injury just before a big race, and (in my case), a tendency to go just a couple calories over (just ONE cookie) every day leads to being consistently 20 pounds (10 kilos) overweight.

But, the body’s remarkably forgiving. I spent the first 25 years of my life not really caring about staying in shape. Then I did. Then I’ve been pretty streaky ever since. Despite severe personal failings, I’ve done several marathons, a half-Ironman, and more small races than I can count, plus wore out many, many more bike tires than car tires. No huge palmares, but I’m happy.

Today? Great example of that. I’ve been slacking on the run (last run was 10 days ago). Been to spin a bunch, but no running.

Got out the door this morning, and had an awesome run. Just down to the sheep pasture and back, ~6K, but the sun shone, the breeze blew, and the miles passed underfoot.

And my body said thanks.

Posted in Run

RoadRunner, I’m in Love With Massachusetts – Advent Day 6

Until about 6 months ago, I’d never heard of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Then, Wilco does a night of covers at Solid Sound 2013, and once I’d gotten over the brilliance of “Get Lucky”, I picked a new favorite song. Roadrunner, with its name check of Stop and Shop (Groceries) and cold weather, and driving past neon lights full of angst.

Obsession again, would’ve worn out a cassette tape of the concert if we were still living back in 1987. Then, my internet man-crush on the cataloger of complete world knowledge doubles back on itself, with John Hodgman getting involved with the Bay State’s legislative process to make Roadrunner the official state song of Massachusetts.

Oh, yeah – running.

One of the joys of my work is that I get to go talk to folks who are like wicked smart on a pretty frequent basis. Friday, I got to head up to MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory for a day of getting my mind blown. On my way out, a colleague who knows I like to go strange places and run says “Hey, are you running this afternoon?”

“Sure”, I say.

So, we trundle off to the base gym, change, and he points me over to the MinuteMan Trail.

And for the next 40 minutes, I, like Jonathan Richman and John Hodgman, was in love with Massachusetts.

New England late fall is gloriously gloomy – dark early, grey skies, biting cold – and yesterday was about as textbook as it gets. Whisps of fog blew across the ancient track, past the spot where Paul Revere was captured by the British, past stone walls older than the country, and past anything other than the sheer joy of oxygen, gravel crunching underfoot, and feeling coming back into my cold fingers. The ghosts of the Regulars and Minutemen came into mind from the fog, and the hoofbeats of horses carrying news of a single lantern were echoed in my sneakers.

Running in a new place is a joy. No better way to get a feeling for a location. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over the world, and my finest memories tend to revolve around sneakers and exploring. Even places I know take on a new look when the ground’s passing underfoot at 80 steps/minute.

Finished up the run as the last light faded and the fog turned into rain. And spent a quality drive out of the state with rock ‘n’ roll cranking out of the speakers.

(At the risk of too much Masshole-ism, don’t forget to listen to “Case Your State“, which is NSFKids, but is comedic genius.)

Friends Push – Advent Day 1

Sunday dawned grey and misty. Not terribly cold, not dry, not wet. Yay.
image

I’m rounding a corner mentally. Work’s back to being a place I want to be, home is good, and volunteer life is excellent – I’m at a place where I feel I can say “no” on occasion, and have a network of other volunteers with which we’re really clicking.

And part of the rounded corner is routine. I’ve needed for a long time to make getting out a top priority, and seem to have rounded the corner on keeping it there.

A big part of that has been using friends and colleagues to stay motivated. Sunday morning, Steve R. was my motivation to be standing in the Haley Farm parking lot at 0630.

Steve is one of my heroes. A couple of years ago, we were both training for a marathon, and Steve had just started cycling. Now, he’s faster than I am in every possible medium, and much, much better than I am for just getting out there.

Anyhoo, we did the traditional loop – Haley to Bluff out to the point, back to Bluff parking lot, and back to Haley. And, having Steve there kept me moving – longest run since I gave up on Hartford Marathon back in September.

Yay Steve!

24 to go.

Follow us for the funky behavior

Thanksgiving.

May be my absolute favorite holiday EVAH.

Good food, time with good friends and good memories of other friends, and none of the guilt about gifts associated with Christmas. No bad music.

We had the office Thanksgiving lunch today – community turkey and potluck sides, and way, way, way too much dessert. Tryptophan coma after lunch, which was OK as I was clicking through some annual training for the dozenth time.

About 3:45, the sun was almost gone, so I realized that if I was going to have any sort of workout, I had to hit the road. Perfect late fall run – high 30′s, sky spitting moisture, and every shade of grey from silver through soot.

The beginning of the evening commute traffic hissed along the road, headlights and taillights blending into each other.

Then – the transcendent.

I passed a grove of trees for the umpteenth time, and finally realized that the two straight rows of cedars marked an ancient street – almost an alley, but lined with green and carpeted with needles, connecting one main street with another marked as a dead end.

Dead end to cars, maybe, but a throughway for foot and bike traffic.

100 yards of unexpected trail running, and a good run becomes a great run.

Thanksgiving.

Posted in Run

So, that didn’t suck

Good news, everybody – looks like Sunday’s tough run was due to the flu vaccine rather than anything actually serious.

Yesterday – beautiful day. So, what did I do? Hit the pool for the first time in like freaking forever. Only 500 yards, but pushups and situps after.

Today? Humid but cool. Snuck out of the office before a late lunch, cranked out 4 miles. Felt great. Can’t wait for long run on Saturday.

Finally – USA! USA! USA! I won’t claim to be a terribly knowledgeable soccer/futbol fan, but watching the World Cup(s) is like watching the World Series, Super Bowl, Tour de France, and NBA Finals all rolled into one. You’ve just got to do it – excellence in anything is worth investigating. Regardless, it’s always more fun when the home team’s doing well. And in Brasil, I won’t even have to switch time zones to watch.

Good times.

Posted in Run

The miles flu by

Glorious weekend. Absolutely glorious weekend. Crisp, dark nights, bright pleasant days – just doesn’t get any better than this.

Of course, I worked Friday and Saturday, but still managed to get in a great run Friday evening, and a good run and bike* on Saturday afternoon, followed with some beers with friends in Newport before heading home.

This morning, I woke up early, strapped on the sneakers, and headed out for a run. Three miles in, felt like absolute and complete dog meat. Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t turn over the legs – nothing. Which was very odd, considering A) I’d had a great weekend running last weekend at New Haven 20k, and B) I’d had great but not terribly draining runs the previous two days.

I cut the run a little short, slowed way, way down, and suffered through. Got home, made breakfast, went to church…

About halfway through church, it hit me – my government-provided health care (Navy Medical) had given me a flu vaccine on Saturday afternoon. Me, being the brilliant guy I am, had gotten the spray up the nose, and then immediately proceeded to do 2 hours of pretty solid workout making sure I was sucking that virus down into my lungs. BRILLIANT!

Napped instead of having lunch, still feeling about 50%.

Stupid flu.

*So, the bike ride, as always, was awesome. Riding Ocean Drive never, ever, fails to bring a smile to my face. There was a little bit of breeze out of the southwest on Saturday – not so much that heading south to the point was super tough, but enough so that the ride from the Southwest corner of Aquidneck Island over to the mansions had a sweet tailwind the whole way. 20 MPH without breaking a sweat is always fun.

Anyway, we’re heading down Bellevue Ave back towards downtown, and there’s bumper-to-bumper tourists trying to find parking for supper in a town that was laid out in the 17th century, instead of just walking or riding. Bellevue’s pretty wide, and there’s usually plenty of “Bike Lane” between the cars and the curb – very pleasant place to ride, even in traffic.

Saturday afternoon in high tourist season – not so much. Drivers are pretty happy to give you the gutter when they’re passing you, but when you pass them …

We’re about two blocks from the stoplight on Memorial when all of a sudden a BMW SUV executes a perfect “Right Hook” in front of me. Traffic wasn’t moving, and the driver, I’m sure, figured they could take the side street around the light. Good plan, except he didn’t signal, just threw over the wheel and hit the gas.

I grabbed two fistfulls of brakes, heard the pleasant screech of Contis on concrete, and simultaneously put my left shoulder into the Beemer and unclipped both feet. I hit the car decently hard – good solid “Thunk”, bounced off, and managed to stay upright with my feet on the ground.

To their credit, the occupants of the car stopped, rolled down the windows, and asked if I was OK. Quick check of me (Nothing in pain, a decent amount of adrenaline, no blood) and the bike (No wobble in the wheels, handlebars still aligned), and I said “Yeah, I’m OK – didn’t see you signal the turn” with the “Jerk” left implied.

They asked again, I said “No I’m fine, please signal next time”, clipped back in and rode off.

Takeaways:

  1. Be Alert – can’t be said enough to both cyclists and drivers. Signal turns, know where you’re going to bailout, make eye-contact, check 6.
  2. Practice – Bike handling needs to be learned. Go to a parking lot or field and practice grabbing brakes and unclipping at the same time. Play some hoops or soccer, and practice making contact and staying upright. Jump curbs.

It didn’t make me feel lucky to be alive or anything – ultimately, it was a slow speed bump, not an “accident” or anything. Preventable, sure, probably by both me and the driver, or by better construction of roads – a painted bike lane would at least remind drivers that there may be cyclists cruising past when traffic backs up.

Good to get shaken up occasionally; but also a chance to think about the riders who don’t bounce off the car that hits them.

New Haven 20K / 2014 Bike Epic

Still the best run of the year. No question. Ran with Jon, saw a smiling Dianna at the finish, and I managed to get myself on the TV News talking about beer. Not a bad outing.
New Haven 20K start
The weather wasn’t nearly so flawless as usual, but the course was awesome, only had one person waiting for runners tell me to “F- Off”. But, despite the mist, we lingered on the green longer than we had in years. Youngest kid ran the kids race in a sub-7; oldest kid got caught in traffic in the 5K but still finished in sub-9′s. I managed to finish the 20K in under 2 hours, making 27 miles for the weekend, and showing I’ve got a decent Hartford base. And, I did get Pepe’s Pizza after the race.
Pepe's Pizza Post 20K

Big topic of conversation was how to do a big bike ride, outside of an organized event. It’s a continuation of a thread that I’ve had going on with Jeff and Warren ever since we did Mooseman back in *harumph*.

200 on 100, the classic Vermont Route, is the inspiration. It’s got a couple of great things going for it, such as:

  • being reasonably close to a critical mass of folks with whom I want to ride;
  • having all sorts of great beer on the route
  • Tough course but clearly doable

There is one chief disadvantage:

  • It’s freaking 200 miles
  • (Which is a long, long way)

So, in brainstorming, we came up with the brilliant idea: Why not make it a two day ride?. ‘Cause, y’know, two hilly centuries back-to-back, that’s super do-able.

Right now the rough outline is:

  1. Pick a date
  2. Find a place to stay about halfway up Vermont (Both Canadians and flatland New Englanders coming up)
  3. Arrive Evening of Day 0 (Geeky crews start with a clean register)
  4. Supper, beer, awards, and tea
  5. Wake Up
  6. Coffee and Bacon
  7. Ride to Canada on Day 1
  8. Have our awesome SAG drivers (who will likely be someone’s spouse/significant other) drag our bikes and sweaty us back to our HQ
  9. Supper, beer, awards, and tea
  10. Wake Up
  11. Coffee and Bacon
  12. Ride to Mass
  13. Have our awesome SAG drivers (who will likely be someone’s spouse/significant other) drag our bikes and sweaty us back to our HQ
  14. Supper, beer, awards, and tea
  15. Wake Up
  16. Coffee and Bacon
  17. Ibuprofen
  18. Return home, sleeping as the SO’s drive, and promise that we’ll do what they want on the next vacation
  19. Route map should be easy – “Follow VT 100″

    Anyway, there are details to work out. But, it’s giving me incentive for many more foggy bike rides next spring

    Foggy Bike