wordless Wednesday

August 6th, 2014

red face

a correction

August 5th, 2014

At least one of the things I stated in this recent post is no longer true. (Or at least potentially no longer true.)

I got nothing

August 4th, 2014

cauldron

. . . not even decent grammar (though grammar is for chumps).

Mostly lousy weekend behind me. Although Rachel and Travis were in town for his sister’s wedding, they were (reasonably) busy with his family, so I didn’t get to see them very much. The wedding was very nice; the weather cooperated. It was not too hot and not too humid. The rain stayed away (until Sunday). But I ate far too much. And I had a head cold so I was tired and barely present even when I was present.

Which added up to a horrible run on Sunday morning. I had originally hoped to grab 18 miles, which would have been my longest run thusfar, but several seasoned runners suggested I cut back rather than burn myself out too soon before the marathon in October. So I laced up with the intent to run 13 miles instead. Being full of cold medicine probably did not help. I gave up at 3 miles, calling in the support team to get me home. There was no run in me Sunday. Perhaps just as well. The rain began just as I finished, and while I don’t mind running in the rain, it was cooler than expected for August, and I was wearing my new kicks, which I’m trying to keep in relatively good shape for the marathon. Running through puddles and mud would not help that.

The photo above is from a bronze casting class I took a decade ago. You can see the result of the class in this old post.

 

random musings

July 30th, 2014

apothecary

Here I go again. Rambling about stuff in general because I have no Roundrock nooz for you.

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On Friday I will observe my eighth anniversary with my current employer. My current longevity record is 11 years, and perhaps I’ll surpass it with this job. Or not. Work is insane. At least being a wage slave in a cube farm for an international company where change is the only constant is insane. But it pays the bills, and I can mostly leave it behind at the end of the day, so, whatever.

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Monday runs are my speed work runs. I get out on the (nicely paved) trail and just run as fast as I can for as long as I can (generally about a half mile). And then I stop and gasp and question my devotion to this new mania of mine. And then I go again. On Monday this week I did 5.5 miles, and I was so pleased with myself that I drank five  four beers in recognition of my achievement. (Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that my Monday runs seem to always end at a brewpub where Libby meets me.)

Let’s not overstate my achievement though. My ultra-fast pace is just about stall speed for many of my running friends. But the nice thing about the running community is that everyone’s efforts and achievements are respected and celebrated. And the fact that I can say I have “running friends” at all is quite an achievement in itself given the person I used to be.

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My lovely daughter, Rachel, and her fine husband, Travis, are in town this weekend for his sister’s wedding. As usual, I am the least informed about the schedule of activities, so until I’m told otherwise, I intend to get in my runs (naturally it would come back to running, right?) and then show up where and when required. They will then be in town again later this month for his grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration. (I may be 90 before I even have grandchildren.)

Rachel and Travis are putting a bid on a brownstone in Brooklyn. I’ve never understood the real estate market, much less the NYC real estate market, to know if they have a realistic chance of getting the place, but it will about triple their living space if they do get it, and it will make visiting them much less costly.

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Number 3 Son, Aaron, and his lovely wife, Amber, have closed on a house in Lawrence, Kansas. They’ve been renting an apartment for several years after returning to the KC area after a stint in far western Colby, Kansas. Aaron will be a special ed teach in the Lawrence school district, so this will be convenient for him. It will add some miles to Amber’s commute, but she’s in law enforcement, so she can do her own kind of speed work on the highway and probably get away with it. I think.

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The photo above is of the apothecary chest I recently awarded myself with to stow all of my running clothes and gear. They say that all you need to run is a good pair of shoes. But then there are the socks (a whole drawer devoted to them), and shorts and compression shorts (another drawer for them), and a closet full of shirts, and headlights and blinkers for early morning runs, and Gatorade (that’s fruit punch you see there, though I favor the lemon-lime — it’s all nasty, but at mile five in a hot run, nasty works). And all kinds of stuff you never knew you needed to get out and run but could never run without. The top three drawers are individual, but the bottom two layers are actually only two drawers.

I found this at a second-hand furniture store, though it turns out that this piece is new and was added to their inventory because it gets snapped up quickly by hapless buyers who are tired of scouring antique stores looking for exactly this piece. I paid more than I had intended for this, but I looked and looked for months and never found one (of quality), so everyone wins. Right?

in retrospect

July 29th, 2014

stomach clinic

Even the blog itself now must become subject material for the blog. Sad times I’ve descended into. Sad times!

Here is the very first post I made to Roundrock Journal, back in 2006. I was being coy then about our identities. Not sure why that was important to me at the time.

Nine years ago today I wrote about the primary overflow drain in the dam. The outlet looks much different now since I’d had some expensive work done to it a few years ago to stop the erosion too close to the base of the dam.

Eight years ago I was lamenting, and then not lamenting, the state of my pecan plantation. (Good thing I found some acceptance of the thing given its “progress” through the years.)

I touched on this and that in my post of seven years ago today.

Six years ago I gave the first half of an account of an unsatisfying visit to Roundrock. Right now I’d be happy even for an unsatisfying visit.

Interlopers, that perennial “problem” I have in my forest, were the subject of this post five years ago.

On this date both four and three years ago, this humble blog was on its Great Hiatus.

Two years ago I was rambling and cursing my fate in general. Nice photo though.

Last year on this date I was musing about the red buckeye I’ve planted before the cabin. They were looking sad then (as they probably are now), but I was hopeful.

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The photo above was one I took in Nairobi many years ago. It was at a restaurant serving people who were between trains at the nearby station. The restaurant was packed, as I recall, but my son advised against a Western stomach from eating there.

fishing, desperately

July 28th, 2014

cannon

I haven’t been to Roundrock in so long that I’m getting desperate for blog fodder. The cannon you see in the photo above was (and may still be) at the entrance to the natural history museum in Nairobi. I took that photo in 2006, I think it was. Seth and I had gone to the museum (walking across half of the city to get there as I remember) because the Lucy skeleton (or perhaps a replica) was on display. Unfortunately, because of funding, the museum was not only closed, but the entrance was guarded by two soldiers with rifles. I understand that in the time since then, several religious leaders have petitioned that the skeleton and all references to human evolution be removed from the museum. I don’t know the outcome of those efforts though.

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In other news, I did a 17-mile run on Saturday, which is my longest effort thus far. It wasn’t pretty. I’m still no good at regulating my pace and, like when I’m driving on the highway, I find myself going too fast. I can’t sustain that pace, and I either slow to a walk or stop and gasp. I’m trying to build my distance for the full marathon I’m running in early October, and I’m pretty sure I’m behind schedule in my training.

I did, however, finally get the apothecary chest I’ve been wanting for a long time. Now all of my running gear can be collected in one place rather than scattered about several rooms. Curiously, it’s not easy getting a decent photo of a piece of furniture.

 

wordless Wednesday ~ pale

July 23rd, 2014

pale

break

green

Great Balls of Fire 5K 2014

July 22nd, 2014

Let’s get this part out of the way first: The Great Balls of Fire 5K benefits research into testicular cancer. Great Balls of Fire. Get it?

I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had done a run over the weekend. This one was it, though the matter isn’t as straightforward as that. Between Saturday and Sunday, I had done 6 runs, totaling 17 miles. That’s an ambitious weekend in terms of running, especially with family in town, extra work at the office, and the usual weekend chores and activities.

I had been invited to this 5K by a friend in the running club; her friend’s son has been diagnosed with the cancer, so she had a personal connection. I signed up because she asked me to; I’ve already said how I am not so much interested in running 5Ks any more (though I have two more on my calendar). You’ll recall that I had run a 5K two weekends ago, turning in my fastest performance ever. So my ambivalence to the distance is a little confused.

This race was being held relatively close to my house, and I got the notion that I could run to the 5K as a warm up so that I could run the 5K well. That would give me a 3 mile run before a 3 mile run (and then a 3 mile run home). Brilliant, right? So I enacted my plan, leaving the house about two hours before gun time to give me plenty of time to get there and mill about, looking for my friend (who had my bib and timing chip), and generally fretting. I did manage to get there with time to spare, but my legs were weary. (I had run 8 miles the day before, all tolled). It didn’t seem then like I had made a prudent choice. Adding to my anxiety was the apparent late start of my friend, who finally showed up about 15 minutes before gun time. I pinned on my bib and tied the timing chip to my shoe, and then I felt ready to run.

They herded us all over to the start (about 250 runners) and I told my watch to find itself some satellites quickly, which it managed to do a few seconds before GO time. (Once the watch finds the satellite signal, it will hold it for a few minutes, but if I don’t engage it to use the signal, it will cycle out and I have to find the signal all over again. Thus I try to wait until just minutes before the start.) And then we were off.

I had driven the course the day before, but the map I had wasn’t detailed, and I soon found that what I thought was the starting half mile, wasn’t. That didn’t matter much. What did matter was a mile near the end that was one long ascent. Not steep: only 50 feet of elevation gain. But a mile long. That part of the map and my drive by were correct. (I had also run this hill on my way to the 5K a little earlier that morning.) This hill was ahead of me. I had started out trying to keep my pace relatively slow, in part to marshal my energy and reserve some (for that hill and) for the finish, and I managed to do that. Other runners were passing me, but I was also passing a few myself. I could feel my weariness asserting itself, but I kept going.

The morning was cool. The sun was behind some clouds. But the humidity was high. I was sweating as I ran, and the sweat ran in my eyes. There was a water station at the halfway point, and a pack of guys in front of me decided to walk through the station. Now, this is a valid method to manage a run, but they were in my way. I had to dart around them, then dart back to grab a cup of water to throw in the general direction of my mouth. And then the ascent of that mile-long hill began.

And I met it. I managed to run up the entire hill, and I kept my pace more or less steady all the way to the top. And I was passing people. Most of those were runners who had run out of energy and were walking. (I had passed all of the full-distance walkers long before.) At the top we turned onto a level stretch and the last third of a mile to the finish. I decided to open up a little here and run in the rest of the way as fast as I could manage. That wasn’t a whole lot faster than what I was already doing, but I could feel my lungs complaining, so I knew I was pushing.

If someone were to ask me to design a 5K course, at least one thing I would ensure was that the last thousand feet were straight and flat. This is where a runner can really kick it in and have a fast finish. Somewhere early on in my running life, I learned that I almost always have a last shred of energy to call on in these glorious final stretches. That straightaway was not the case on this run. I had to make three right-angle turns in the last thousand feet, and the final straightaway was only about 150 feet long. Still, I did it, crossing the finish mats at a really great speed, trying hard to look untrammeled for the photographer I knew must be somewhere around. I slowed, turned off my watch, had the chip removed from my shoe, accepted the bottle of water someone handed to me, and then accepted the medal they gave me. I hadn’t known we were to get finisher medals. For something as short as a 5K, a medal seems more like a novelty than a recognition of achievement. (But it will go on my wall nonetheless.)

When I looked at my watch (and later verified the official time) I found that I had run a PR. I had just achieved a new record for my fastest 5K by 44 seconds. I hadn’t expected to do that at all. I really hadn’t intended to, and the weariness in my legs (from my run to the race and from the 8 miles I ran the day before) persuaded me that I was having merely an okay run. But I had done really well.

I found my friends and we hung out, waiting for the awards ceremony. I ate a bagel, but mostly for the salt on the top. We milled about and talked about stuff. And we waited. Finally a young man mounted the platform and started speaking. First he introduced a mother who had lost her son to this cancer. She had inspired the run originally and came back in its second year to encourage and thank all of us. Then came a mother whose son had recently beaten the cancer. This mother was the friend of my friend who had invited me to run with her. This woman had also brought her 17-year-old son onto the stage with her as she shared his story. He seemed like a good sport about it, but I imagine he must have been squirming inside as his mom was telling a crowd of strangers all about her boy’s testicles and how to conduct a self examination and so forth. It got worse, but I won’t go into that.

After this, they began announcing the overall winners and the age group winners. In all of the races I’ve been to, age groups have been divided into 5-year spans. 10 to 15 year olds. 15 to 20 year olds. And so on. For some reason, this race had divided the age groups in 10-year spans. Thus an 11-year-old runner had to compete with a 19-year-old-runner. There is virtually no way a youngster that age could run as fast as a trained late teenager. As it turned out, the 19-year-old male winner had a full beard and stood over six feet tall. My friend came in second in her age group, but had the groups been divided by 5 years, she would have been first in her age group. That was a disappointment. My other friend got second in his age group and would have gotten first if the breakdown had been more traditional. (I got ninth in my age group, and had the breakdown been different I would have gotten seventh. Not stellar but certainly better than last in my age group, which was a position I had defended for a long time.)

Soon after that, we split up. And that’s when I had to engage the third part of my brilliant plan. I had to run home. Three miles. On weary legs. I could have begged a ride from my friend, but I had already boasted about my clever plan to her, and I didn’t want to look like a quitter, especially about running. So I bravely gave her my medal and asked her to keep it for me until we met again at our usual Wednesday night run (which is why I don’t have a photo for you today) then turned on my watch again before trotting away.

Wow. I did not have the energy in me to run another three miles, especially with a huge hill waiting for me in the last mile. Libby said she would come get me if I asked, but I was too proud for that too and just kept plodding along. I stopped a few times when I found some shade and rested. Then pushed on again. I finally made it home, sweaty, exhausted, and gasping. And after having completed the fourth fastest three miles I had ever run. So my legs continued to surprise me, just as they have for the last two and a half years.

too long away (and a question)

July 21st, 2014

egg rock

Another weekend has passed without a visit to Roundrock. This is getting difficult. I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without a trip to my woods. Yes, I’ve been busy and active with my free time, so it’s not as though I’m sitting on the couch, lamenting my fate. But the woods and waters there are so much a part of my mental make up that it just seems wrong to be without for so long.

The most recent weekend included a visit from my brother and his family as well as yet another 5K race. This coming weekend includes a visit by Libby’s niece and her family. The weekend after that: my daughter and son-in-law are in town for a wedding. Opportunities for a trip to the woods are not abounding. Plus, I must get my miles. You may remember that I’m running my first full marathon in October. My goal between now and then is to run 230 miles, which is completely do-able if I stay on task. If I can grab those miles, then I will complete 1,000 miles for the year during the full marathon. I did that last year when I ran my first half marathon, and it proved to be both a motivator to persevere and a reward for having done so. Weekends are when I can grab the longer miles, weekends when I might be at Roundrock. Thus are my troubles.

I do wonder about the status of the phoebe nest. Surely she’s done bringing off her broods. If so, if the nest is empty, I will then face the dilemma of whether or not to remove her mud nest from the front of the cabin. The neat and tidy part of me would want to do that, but the nurturing steward in me believes that if I leave it, she’ll return each year to use it (as I understand phoebes will do). But if the nest is not empty and I find eggs still in it, I face a different dilemma. Do I conclude that the eggs are old and will never hatch? Or do I give her more time and solitude.

I also wonder about the status of the mouse in the cabin. Surely by now it’s died of starvation and lack of water. Right? Or did it gnaw a hole through the side of the cabin so it (and all of its friends) can come and go as they please? I suspect the former, but not knowing is what bothers me the most. And not getting out to Roundrock to find out adds to that.

What about the lake? It never filled fully this most recent spring. And though there has been a lot of rain until recently, I suspect the lake is low and looking sad. Add that possibility to another thing I just don’t know.

So sorry for this lamenting post. Here’s a question for you: What is your common name for the piece of furniture that many people call a couch? Do you say sofa. Divan? Davenport? Crash pad? (I knew someone who said it should never be called a divan, that that was low class. How is that kind of judgment even possible?)

wordless Wednesday

July 16th, 2014

fossil

 

Happy Birthday, Adam and Aaron. 30 years!