Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I symapthize with 99.999 percent of the homeless

Because heck I've probably been closer to being homeless than I care to admit. I am very sympathetic to those without a home to go to. There are a lot of people who lost jobs, their health failed, and/or were battered, et al. I empathize with them, but someone today is why I said 99.999 and not 100. I went into Au Bon Pain near the Archives / Navy Memorial / Penn Quarter Metro station in DC on my way to work. I went in there to get a coffee and a bagel, ended up with an adventure.

A presumably homeless man was wandering around and practically accosted people who were going into Au Bon Pain. I'm in line trying to get a coffee, and right in the middle of ordering, I notice they guy was within a foot of me asking me for money in an "I'm gonna mug you when get get outside" manner. Now, I'm just trying to get a coffee and I need to guard my wallet in anticipation of him trying to take it from me as I'm putting my change into it. Fortunately, the manager saw this, and walked right over towards him and in a cool, stern but not obviously threatening manner, and told "You can't do that in here, leave." After babbling at her for a minute or two, the guy finally left. When I was about to leave, I walked over and thanked her for doing that, she apologized to me for putting up with it, a very cool gesture.

Whenever I go for coffee or food before work from now on, it's to that Au Bon Pain. A potentially scary situation to great customer service to me a being a frequent customer in the future.

Souvlaki in Vienna!

I know The Tragically Hip wrote a song called "Springtime in Vienna" which was cool. But Skorpios in Vienna is much cooler, even if it doesn't come with a State Orchestra or an opera. I know, when I left my appointment with an excellent chiropractor I needed something to eat for dinner. My friend Lisa who works at the chiropractor office recommended Skorpios. It's in a strip mall on the Eastbound side of Virginia State Route 123, near a 7-11. But that only goes to show you never know where you're going to find some great eats.

Fast, but not too fast that the quality suffers due to a rush cooking job, service, and a very good size souvlaki plate. For $8.95! The pork was very well done and tasty, the cheese was just right, as was the rice. I can't say enough good things about the place. Humble from the outside, but I'd rather sit at a just a couple simple tables, a small tv, and one stack for trays with great food than somewhere fancy but with mediocre food anytime. If you're ever in Vienna and want an excellent meal, go here. Thank me later.

So I return to blogging about restaurants in Fairfax County. No opera, no orchestra, no classical music composers. But I had a good chiropractor visit and a fantastic dinner.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I stand corrected about participant numbers

I looked at previous years, and maybe the reported number of finishers is nearly accurate - for some reason I thought there were 20,000 people registered for the race today.

Tomorrow after I get some sleep I may blog about how much I like the new NFL Draft time format.

3 5K races in just over 60 hours - I'm still not on the DL

Earlier this year, I decided to run 3 5K races within just over 60 hours: One on Thursday night, one yesterday morning, and one today. Crazy, yes. But I accomplished many things, on personal, athletic, but especially charitable levels.

Thursday night was the Run for Julia, a charity run for a foundation created in memory of Julia Campbell, who was tragically killed in the Philippines while working in the Peace Corps. For me, this was strictly for charity. While I did not know her, I was touched when I learned about what she was doing with the Peace Corps, and very saddened to hear about her death. I wanted to at least be able to contribute to the foundation via a registration fee, and was able to do so via the run. We all can do a little more to help others, I hope the small amount of $$$$ I was able to give helps build the foundation. My time in this race is quite frankly irrelevant, even if I mention it later in the context of the next race.

Saturday I ran a race called the Spring 5K at Hains Point in DC. I didn't realize how big East Potomac Park actually was. I thought I was going to be late because I drove a couple miles after getting off the highway, I thought it would be about 1000 feet. The run itself, I surprised myself again. I thought I was sucking wind even more than in my first 5K back in March, but ended up running a personal best: estimated time from start line to crossing the sensor at the finish was 24:44, my second sub 8 minute a mile race. Thursday was the first as I clocked in at 24:58. What was great about Saturday was I thought I was sucking wind even more over the last mile than I thought I did in my first race.

This morning I ran in the George Washington Parkway Classic 5K, the only race that I know of that has permission to run down the parkway from the Mount Vernon Estate (great place for an afternoon visit, BTW) into Old Town Alexandria. I knew this would be my slowest run of the weekend for various reasons. I was tired from the last week or so, there's more uphill running on this course than in many I've raced, and my best times in my limited 5K and 10K career have happened in smaller races, not ones with thousands of people like this one. My good old, $10 watch bought at Burlington Coat Factory While Looking For Something else, race time starts when I cross the start line, state of the wannabe art timing system gave me a time of 26:15, which put me 154th out of 877 5K participants. Except for one thing, as of 8:45 pm I did not officially run the race since I am not on the printed, tabulated from the timing chip, results. I may find out otherwise tomorrow as I'm sure more than 877 people out of over 20,000 ran the 5K with me.

Note: The official results have under 3000 people running the 10K, so now I know neither list is complete.

I'll rest........on Wednesday or Friday. Not injured, not on any DL, just tired.

Personal Bests:
5K Time: 24:44
8K Time: 45:06
10K Time: 51:36 (approximate)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Do You Know The Way To San Jose? Lord Stanley's Cup Needs To Know

Possibly my favorite sporting event, make that is my favorite event when I don't havea dog in the hunt, starts Wednesday night. The NHL Playoffs. Nothing in North America's professional sports is as rugged, as nasty, and as grueling as the chase for the Stanley Cup. 16 teams in, one will get the 16 wins they need to drink from Lord Stanley's Cup in June. Who will it be? Well, the title of this post offered a clue.

Eastern Conference predictions (seed in brackets):

[1] Montreal over [8] Boston 4-1: I may be kind to the Bruins' chances given their 16 points to 1 loss in the season series.

[2] Pittsburgh over [7] Ottawa 4-1: Tempted to pick a sweep should Bryan Murray not be lying up his ass when he says Fisher and Alfredsson will be out for weeks, but the youthful Pens will drop one early.

[3] Washington over [6] Philadelphia 4-2: Maybe the toughest opening round series for me to pick. Both teams come in on a bit of a roll, Washington's been playing desperation playoff hockey for months now, and Huet has some post-season experience, Biron has none. I'll take the Caps and the best player in a struggle.

[4] New Jersey over [5] New York Rangers 4-2: Maybe wishful thinking given that the Devils beat them for the first time all season today. But give me New Jersey's team system and Marty Broudeur over the jury's still out on the Rangers defense now that it's postseason time.

Second round: [4] NJ over [1] Montreal 4-2, [2] Pittsburgh over [3] Washington 4-3 (Crosby shines just enough more than the Caps to win in the marquee series)

Third round: [2] Pittsburgh over [4] NJ 4-2, Brodeur can only perform so many miracles vs the more talented Penguins.

Western Conference predictions (seed in brackets):

[1] Detroit over [8] Nashville 4-2: Not convinced Detroit is well suited for the playoff grind, but they'll be able to knock off the surprising Preds.

[2] San Jose over [7] Calgary 4-1: One of these years the Sharks will actually do what everyone thinks they can do and make a very deep playoff run. It starts with an easier than expected win over the Flames.

[6] Colorado over [3] Minnesota 4-3: Wild are tougher than they have been in the past, but the Avalanche pulls off an upset in a payback for 2003.

[4] Anaheim over [5] Dallas 4-3: A repeat is too much to ask for, but the Ducks will outlast Dallas in the longest, most drawn out, first round series.

Second round: [1] Detroit over [6] Colorado 4-1 (Not good enough on defense and in goal to pull off two upsets), [2] San Jose over [4] Anaheim 4-2

Third round: [2] San Jose over [1] Detroit 4-2, Sharks are balanced, tougher, and I'll take Nabokov over Hasek or Osgood in goal this late in the playoff grind.

Stanley Cup Champion:

SAN JOSE SHARKS over PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 4 games to 2. Sharks finally live up to their promise, Crosby, Malkin, et al give it their all but are at least one year away from winning it all.

Playoff MVP: Evgeni Nabokov as the Sharks play so balanced so there's no obvious, clear cut pick from their forwards.

My first 10K, Richmond, and I missed live soccer

Yesterday the day finally arrived, my first ever 10K race. I ran Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, and finished a lot better than I expected. A great, relatively flat course that went up and down historic Monument Avenue. I was very impressed with the whole organization of the race, the setup, how they started 32,000 participants in waves, you name it. Music selections were great too: at the start of the race I heard a cover of Iron Maiden's "Running Free". As I ran, bands played many songs; "Wild Flower" by The Cult and my favorite Tom Petty song "Mary Jane's Last Dance". Good times, and I finished the race with faster mile splits than I started, as I expected because of the crowds at the start.

I enjoyed my brief stay in Richmond, from my post-race beer at Capital Ale House to seeing the Virginai State Capital, to my room at the Crowne Plaza, and to the hill I walked up twice on Main Street. Nice little downtown area, the "Fan" is a great little area filled with what seems like great shops and restaurants, and plenty of hills if you want to get in a running workout. I'm going back in November for the half marathon or likely 8K. And perhaps sooner.

I didn't have a proverbial dog in the hunt in last night's game, but I went to see DC United dismantle Toronto FC, who no offense to the Canadian Fans, is not very good. Not really a competitive game, heck DC scored in minute two, aided by some disorganized defending. But I realized that I hadn't seen a live game since July and missed it. If last night is any indication, Santino Quaranta has actually decided to be a professional player. I didn't expect that. I'm going to another game Wednesday, DC United vs Pachuca of Mexico.

Another 10K next Sunday. Running is my new skiing.