Monday, September 29, 2008

Does it really feel like this area has already seen a year's average precipitation?

I honestly forget where I read this, and can't find it now, but an article somewhere said that at National Airport, where the official totals for DC are measured, a year's average precipitation of 38 inches has already fallen since January 1. I'm sorry but it doesn't seemed like we've seen that much rain this season. It was tougher for me to think of the 2-3 memorable thunderstorms and/or downpours that I've seen than in previous years. I remember the yellow and black sky above my work one afternoon, and the torrential storm that caused a three hour delay in the third attempt to play the D.C. united - Houston Dynamo match. But that's it. Nothing like the storm that I though was going to prevent me from driving the last mile home from Telegraph and Huntington.

I don't even remember all that many heavy rainstorms, maybe a series of them in July? Snow? Are you freaking kidding me? DC area peeps, have we really gotten that much rain this year? Is it ever going to snow here in the winter again?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another Obliterated Personal Record, this time in a 10K!

Okay, this is my first year racing so it's almost a guarantee that Personal Records are going to fall. But I didn't expect my record in a 10K to fall by 3 minutes 39 seconds either. Heck that's a pitching change for some baseball teams (more on baseball later).

I had a goal today to break the 50 minute barrier for a 10K race. In the first annual Dash For Dad race for prostate cancer I broke the barrier with room to spare! Without having to crank it up with a near sprint at the end! Which was a good thing because I was very tired from
the race and crossing the Eisenhower Avenue bridge over Telegraph Road for the second time of the day. This bridge is nowhere near as long as the Navy Bridge was in Annapolis, but it's fairly steep for a benign-looking bridge on the east (start of race) side.

No drama with almost missing the race, needing a portable facility before the race, just a very fast (for me) pace throughout. I didn't really drop off pace-wise until maybe the very end, when I was really tired and knew I had run much faster than 50 minutes. Final chip time, 47:55, a 7:43 pace. I'm ecstatic with that! 3:39 off my previous best time at this distance! I finished 11th out of 33 male runners in my age group, 51st out of 195 male runners, and 57th out of 367 runners overall. Not bad for someone who only wins a race when everyone ahead of me gets disqualified! I rarely toot my own horn, but I'm proud of what I did today.

I'm not going to run as many races next year, I'm going to focus mostly on ones I really liked this year and races that raise funds for charity. The Dash for Dad stays on the list! I want to see if I can beat 47:55 next year!

Baseball note: Congratulations to the Milwaukee Brewers on making the playoffs for the first time since 1982! Ryan Braun's eighth inning home run gave the Brew Crew the lead, hitting it halfway to Green Bay in the process. Viva Brew Crew! Enjoy the ride.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Colorado Pictures are now up online!

COLORADO PICTURES! And yes, Charlotte Harris, they include a picture of the cheeseburger from My Brother's Bar! he he

NOTE: The pictures in their current form are smaller than they need to be. When I get home tonight I will edit them so they are bigger and more viewable. It's all part of a learning process.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Obliteration of a Personal Record (PR) - NOLA 5K

The New Orleans Rebirth 5K Run was this morning in Alexandria. I had also signed up for the ten mile training run beforehand but was legitimately too tired from the week to get up that early and run. Also, I am not a really fast runner, so if I had a couple bad miles at the start of the training run, I would be looking at cutting that short just to get to the race in time. As it turns out I had to hurry up just to get there, more on that later.

I did get about 9-10 miles of running in between the race and running to and from the race location. But, even with a bit of extra sleep, I was running really late to drive to Belle Haven Marina, where I was going to park because it would force me to run to and from the race. I went out of my house, started to drive there, then realized I had to turn around because I forgot my timing chip! Oops #1. Construction forcing me to go around and take another road. Oops #2. it's 8:21, I'm 3 miles or so from the race location, I better haul ass to get there. So here I am, eating a Clif bar while I'm running like mad to make sure I get there. Made it with 15 minutes to spare, stretched a bit, saw a lot of my friends from the running group, and decided to run this race hard.

Hard, as in I'm going to really push to get a great time, instead of running it for fun. I got into the competitive mood after running pretty hard to get to the race: fear of missing the start time, especially for a 5K, is a great motivator!!! So the race starts on a flat stretch of road that I had run south to north plenty of time, this was the other way around. I know I was passing a lot of people, but when I got to mile marker 1, I was under 7:30 in "crossed sensor mat, started watch" time, which is really fast for me. After cruising up the short hill just aftwerwards, I decided to go for broke and try for a personal record.

Did I get it? I got some water at mile 2, a friend from the Fun Run group was handing some out (I will be returning the favor in many events in a couple months). I'm hauling still, with no letup at all pace-wise. That was really encouraging since I have sagged in that aspect in some races, hello W&OD Trail 10K! I looked at my watch as mile marker 3 approached and realized that unless I tore a hamstring, which was slightly tight to tell you the truth, the personal record was mine! It was just a matter of how much I would break it by.

I didn't go into quite a sprint at the end, but I did pick up my pace. I crossed the finish line in just over 24:00, which would be a PR. My estimated sensor to sensor time was 23:12, 1:23 better than my previous record! I was estatic, especially to set it in a race to benefit New Orleans. I finished the day by running back to my car at Belle Haven, joining many of the people from Fun Run group who were getting in extra training miles.

I'm happy with my day. But it's gorgeous out, it's 4:10 pm, so I'm going to head back outside and walk around somewhere, if not run again.

Sometimes you gain by not winning the game

I babbled about whether or not winning is beneficial in certain circumstances three years ago. While Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are still somewhat unproven in the NFL, there are two franchises in a different sport that IMHO gain by losing this weekend. Two of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, the San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals, are playing this weekend. Last night, the Padres won to move one game ahead of the Nationals in the standings. Why should anyone care? Heck, Bill commented in another online forum:

"If 500 people are left in attendance they ought to be given something for having nothing better to do than to sit through this." The Padres had just taken the lead in the 14th inning when he wrote that.

Why? Because Stephen Strasburg, a college pitcher with a 100 mph fastball and a better curveball (his best pitch!) is available to be drafted by the team who ends up with the worst record in baseball. The Seattle Mariners have the inside track right now, they are one half game "behind" the Nationals, and have the play a series against the Angels next week. Yeah, I think both the Padres and Nationals would gain more by losing their remaining games, a lot more. We'll worry about the fact that Scott Boras will be Strasburg's agent when the time comes. That won't be an issue if Seattle has the top pick.

Why do I keep losing stuff?

If someone asks me what one of my weaknesses is, it's a simple answer if I'm not in an interview situation: I keep losing things for no apparent reason. I think I need two hands to count how many Smartrip cards I've lost in the past two years. Not only that, but I've lost them in every way conceivable: Fell out of my pocket while I was riding my bike, sitting down in the Rosslyn CVS re-organizing stuff in my wallet/Camelback (I was returning from running the Georgetown steps). There's more, one fell out of my bag when I was on the shuttle bus to Metro, I realized it was gone after the shuttle was already gone, and by the time I called the complex it was already gone, not to be returned. I lost another one by some method that I forget. I've lost one fob since my complex introduced them in March. And after my first race in March, I lost my car keys.

If anyone sees this, do you lose stuff all the time too?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prayers for Galveston

I'm not religious at all, but I think I need to say a prayer for Galveston, Texas tonight and tomorrow. CNN just reported that residents in one and two story homes are facing "certain death" if they do not evacuate. Sounds like this could really be 1900 all over again. Please, whatever lord you worship, let's hope not.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

If you're a Patriots fan, you may want to read this

I know the blog title is a bit cumbersome, but calling it jeffinalexandria wouldn't really differentiate it from other Jeffs and blogs now would it? is my little blog about the New England Patriots, who I will never abandon. I was on the bandwagon for the 2-14 and 1-15 seasons of 20-25 years ago and aren't jumping off just because Brady's out for the season.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Colorado Trip - Report 5 - My Best Pikes Peak Challenge Yet

Okay so I'm back in VA, back at a computer. Here's Part 5 of my trip. Friday involved driving down to Colorado Springs for the hike. After my struggles to find a bank or just an ATM near the US Olympic Center, where the pre-hike rally was, I was finally able to get my pledges for the hike in and was ready to go. There was a really inspiring presentation by one of the people helped by the BIAC. She suffered a tremendous brain injury during the Salt Lake City tornado of 1999, and still suffers from disabilities from it to this day. She is not deterred from rehab though, and has downhill skied and participated in yesterday's hike.

Before going to the rally, I checked into my hotel in Manitou Springs and got to walk around a little bit. With all the hills and inclines in the town, if I lived there I would be twenty pounds down beyond what I've already lost this year!!!! A great, funky little town, with lots of cool shops, t shirt shops that aren't tacky, a great pizza place called Marylin's (named after Monroe) with an old school cassette deck boombox for the music. And an old school arcade to boot. Dig Dug and Donkey Kong are great ways to kill a half hour on a cloudy day while waiting for check in time. Pictures of Manitou to come.

The hike: All that running I've done in the blast furnace of VA/DC/MD? Even if the hills are small, but often one after another? Paid off. Big Time! Made it to Barr Camp, 7 miles out of 13, in exactly 3 hours hiking time. The next 6 miles are steeper for the most part and at higher altitude. in previous years, it would take me 5 hours or more for this stretch? This year? 3 hours 35 minutes not counting eating/discussion with other hikers breaks. 6 hours 35 minutes total hiking time, nearly, if not more than 2 hours faster than two years ago! The last mile only took me 40 minutes, from mile 12-13 35 minutes! I'm no super fast hiker by any means, but in previous editions of this hike I would take ten steps and have to stop once I got to the last few miles. Not this year. In fact, the one stretch where I was feeling tired came from mile 9 or so to the A Frame treeline shelter. To top it all off, my legs didn't feel heavy at all when I got to the summit. I was tired of course, but a lot more tired after my near 15 mile run at sea level 10 days or so ago.

The cause: Benefiting brain injury research and prevention is something that is very important to me. I've been fortunate not to have suffered one, but know others who have had these injuries. I also work at an agency that works with a lot of returning service personnel with brain injuries and helps them transition into civilian life should they leave the service and/or are getting ready to leave. Hearing about how Pikes Peak Challenge hike participants take part in the grueling hike and other physical challenges inspire me to no end. After hearing about how brave they are to take part after dealing with injuries far beyond what I have ever suffered: yeah, I ain't gonna bitch if my foot hurts or I twist my ankle, or even have a stomachache. Anything I have had to come back from has been extremely relatively minor. I am very happy that the money I raised went to help those who have suffered brain injuries.

The return trip home: locals, please don't get upset with me for what I'm about to say. I did not want to get on the plane to DFW and then to DC today. I realized how much I missed being out west. But I will move forward, back to work tomorrow, spin class on Monday, running on Tuesday, Thursday, and whenver else I fit running in. Back to humidity I guess.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Colorado Trip - Report 4 - glaciers and good times

A bit less total hiking yesterday, most of it near St. Mary's Glacier, near Idaho Springs. I climbed up most of the way to the top of the ice field (it's not really a glacier since it's stationery) off the rocks to the side, but did not go to the top since I really didn't want to twist an ankle going down two days before the big hike.

After a brief visit to the town of Alice, no restaurant there, I ate lunch in Idaho Springs. Then I decided to go to Central City for a bit. Since my rental company gave me a Suzuki SUV (which I normally would NEVER drive but it was my best option), I figured I'd try Virginia Canyon Road, County Road 279, Prospectors Highway, but the unofficial name is Oh My God Road. Well, it's called that for a reason. That used to be the only way to get from the two cities. I chickened out after the first two miles and turned around and went back down another road. It's even scarier going from Central City to Idaho Springs from what I gather.

The link above described the Central City casinos as decrepit. I respectfully disagree. Black Hawk, just down the road, is a lot more spiffy, with facy looking parking garage, newer brick buildings, but notice the new brick buildings. Central City is an old mining city with a lot of cool victorian houses and has a feel of an old town trying to revitalize itself. They even have an opera house. Black Hawk's too new for me.

I rarely gamble but decided to stop in Doc Holliday's Casino to play a couple slots for fun. I only lost $1 gambling in very low stakes slots, and even that was more of a goodwill gesture loss at a slot machine that I had no clue how to play since they found my apartment key that I dropped while reaching for my money. Great staff, they even offered me a drink even though I played slots for less than 5 minutes. I respectfully declined since I had to drive home.

I met up with some more friends at the British Bulldog Pub in Denver. Enjoyed a couple stout beers, some food, and we watched a soccer match, the Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas 1-0 on a perfectly executed corner kick. Good times all around, I head down to Colorado Springs in about an hour for the grand finale of the trip. I DO NOT WANT to go back to VA right now.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Colorado Trip - Report 3 - DNS = Did Not Summit

Two hours into my hike I started asking myself did I really want to push forward 45-60 more minutes, when I was meeting friends later that afternoon? When I started asking myself that, I answered my own question. I turned around after 2 hours, still happy with the climb and with the very limited if any effects of being at 11,500 to 13,700 or so feet above sea level. Guanella Pass is as mind-numbingly beautiful as ever (more pictures), I got down to the parking lot before the weather got dicey, and the Burgers at My Brother's Bar are as great as ever. I took part in the new DC rage of taking pictures of burgers before eating them, and I will add that to the picture library.

Tomorrow's a light hike before meeting up with people in the city. Should be fun.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Colorado Trip - Report 2 - some old favorites

None of the people I was going to meet up with this week are free tonight so I'm going to pass out in a few minutes. Before that, I hiked two old favorite local to Denver mountains today. Mount Morrison is just above quite possibly the greatest place on earth, Red Rocks. The first link is the best description of the trail I can find online, although the barbed wire fence isn't there anymore. This was a tough one hour climb, with more scrambling on rocks than I am comfortable with. But oh well, it was easier for me physically than it was on Thanksgiving Day 2005 when I climbed it last. Yeah, running a lot in the Old Dominioven helps with conditioning.

The way down, let's say I continued my tradition of losing the path, and having to slide down half the mountain on my butt to avoid stumbling, or worse, kicking over rocks that will fall a lot. Fortunately this is the only trail where I was always lose the path. I snapped a few photos that will come soon to a Flickr site near you. Including one of me snapped by a young lady who moved to Colorado from New Jersey and never wants to go back. Heck, can I move back to Colorado?

The second hike of the day was a five minute drive south of Red Rocks at Mount Falcon Open Space Park. I went up and down the Castle Trail with a side trip to the Walker ruins, which was intended to be a Summer White House. Good, quick hike that took just over two hours if you take away the lunch time, 5.6 miles in all.

I must go pass out now at 8:30 after a short swim in the hotel pool if I want to get up early enough to attempt a 14er, Mount Bierstadt. If I don't get up early enough, there are oh about 150,000 other trails I can hike. As long as I keep with the plan to go higher in altitude with each day, and I'm back in town by 4 pm to meet up with friends. It all depends on when I wake up, I'm doing my best to go with the flow and not over-plan and force myself to adhere to an exact schedule like living in DC forces you to over half the time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Colorado Trip - Report 1 - real back roads

SuperShuttle got me there just after 7:30 am, tons of time to spare, flight to Colorado Springs via DFW uneventful. As was getting the rental car. I start driving up into the mountains on US 24, since I decided to take the slow, scenic route to Denver, and I'm already tempted to get out the boots and start hiking. But I decided after 9 hours in/on terminals/plane/rental car lines I'm not going to do that. I did walk around a small town called Green Mountain Falls for a bit, but I did miss the Kermit the Frog Mountain on 24 west. Walked a short road and pedestrian only road to get a limited view of the falls themselves, but had neither time nor hiking shoes to start hiking up the mountain. So on to Woodland Park I went, where I found a City Market to get some bread to make sandwiches for this week's hikes, and some disposable cameras. I took several pictures of an awesome shot of Pikes Peak that I will share when I get back to VA and have them developed.

After leaving Woodland Park, I took Colorado Route 67 north to the tiny town of Deckers. And I mean tiny, a couple houses, one bar, and ice cream shop. Before I got there, I drove through a good part of the site of the Hayman Fire, which was so large and vicious it turned the sky in Aurora, CO, at least miles away, near black at 4 pm the first day it really spread. Six years later, you can still see how the reforestation process is just beginning.

At Deckers, I took a right towards Sedalia then stayed on the road towards US 285. South Platte River Road became North Platte River Road (unpaved) then South Platte River Road (unpaved). This was a real, real, unpaved, narrow back road that followed the South Platte River but went on forever. I passed about 20 camping spots and portable bathrooms. This would be a great road to go 4 wheeling and/or mountain biking on, driving, not so much. But it feels great to be out in Colorado again, and was awesome to be in the mountains, even if I don't start hiking until tomorrow. I even got a shot of the old South Platte Hotel where the north and south forks of the South Platte River meet. Read more about this wonderful river. The hotel was an old railroad hostel, and I have a picture where it's not flooded. When I get back to VA, right now I'm tired and need sleep.