Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hebrew School Dads

I've got to say I was nervous as hell going out biking this morning. I'm not generally comfortable in a setting with lots of new people. I would much rather hang with folks I know. Things like Deb's High School Reunion blow me away. I want to be more attached to her than my kids are to her during a nasty thunder storm right at bedtime. Once I get to know people, I'm good to go. So, it took a lot last week for me just to approach these guys, but I did. Today, I knew I'd have to go beyond meeting, to conversation and showing off my very new bike riding skills.

As soon as I got out of the car with kids in tow, one of the guys asked if I was going to ride. Okay, not to overstate the obvious, but I've got a bike on the back of my car and I'm dressed in spandex and a yellow bike jersey. Whaddya think? "Sure, If you're open for another." "Absolutely."

Knowing that these guys ride much faster that I normally do was intimidating too. It's also about the gear -- I was comforted to see at least two guys wearing street shoes (or so they appeared) with toe clips. Not everyone was wearing clipless. Ahh, I thought, there may not be a "C" group, but at least they're probably not all "A"s.

One of the guys asked me if I knew their route. No clue, so he gave me the low down, including Murray Hill. I was warned about Murray Hill. I've never ridden or driven it, but about three of they guys warned me. So I was prepared. For what, I didn't know, but I was on notice.

We headed out at about 9:15 and there were seven or eight of us. For the first mile or two, a few of the guys rode with me and we talked and introduced ourselves. I was pretty comfortable with the group. At about that point on a slight incline, I started to fall back. Not far, but not able to keep up. Over the first hill and down to the light, we were all able to cross at the same time, but on the next hill, I again fell back.

As I caught up again, Charlie warned me that Murray Hill was just around the corner at about the five mile mark. Charile was going ahead but he'd wait for me at the top of the hill. Murry Hill is a country road that runs about 7-8% for a mile or so. Just when you think your at the crest, there is a short flat portion followed by another 1/4 mile up hill. It's a bear, but I was doing okay -- slow but okay -- until I dropped my chain about 3/4 the way up. As I was fixing it, Charlie came back to check on me and I was able to ride the rest of the hill.

By this time, the rest of the group was long gone so Charlie rode with me. We hit some familiar areas and at one point he said that there was one nasty hill that he's had to walk. I thought no problem for me, even though I'm new at this, I've been able to tackle every hill I've seen since I got my new wheels. There is a very nice down hill leading up to this steep incline which would be great, except for the hairpin turn at the very bottom ensuring that you will get almost no help heading back up. This one slayed me. At about a 1/3 the way up the 3/4 mile slope, I started to walk. Honestly, I'm not sure my walking was much slower than riding at that point. As I got to the top, Charlie was again waiting and announced "17%". Wow, I don't feel so bad.

At this point, the "A" group caught up to us. Seems that they had taken a longer route and wound back around to where we were.

The rest of the ride was good, but I was pretty whooped so there wasn't a lot of speed.

When we got back, there were more we talked as we got our bikes ready to go and I definitely felt welcome. Can't wait until next Sunday!


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Food Court at the Mall

I'm not a big fan of the food court at the mall. Kids love it, though. It's a virtual plethera of fried and other high-fat foods. For some reason, what I always think will be an inexpensive meal winds up costing more than going to a chain, espeically if it's just me and the kids.

I needed to stop at the mall tonight at around five with kids in toe and Deb out to dinner with some girl friends. After a painful thirty minutes in the sporting goods store with the 40% off coupon they e-mailed me that included one interim trip to the men's room and 419 sentences that started with "Dad, will you buy me. . .", I mercifully gave in to the food court.

#2 son is easy. . . always. I'm thinkin' this kid was born somewhere West of Hawaii. . . maybe China or Japan, cause there is no Asian food the boy won't eat. Chineese, Japaneese, Thai, he eats it all and the sesame chicken at the Chineese place is his ticket.

#1 headed to Popeye's -- home of everything fried -- chicken, potatoes, nice buttery biscuits (not fried, but maybe I'll suggest it,) too. Since we had spent the afternoon at a birthday party with all the requisite treats there, I suggested that he might look for a more healthy choice. Much to my surprise, he quickly gave in and ordered up a subway meatball sub. A much better choice.

After the kids settled in with dinner, I headed to Bistro Sensations. They do a great job with salads, baked potatoes and soups. Certainly one of the better choices in the mall. As I stood in line, I was fourth behind three other guys. It struck me as odd that four guys would be in line at the salad station. You know, for chick food. Anyway, I got my salad, a bowl of crab soup and a water and joined the boys.

After fending off a few hundred more requests to stop here and there, we were finally, mercifully, out of the mall.

Time to start looking forward to the "Hebrew School Dad's Bike Ride" in the morning. Sweet dreams!


Friday, September 28, 2007

What's for Dinner?

Once upon a time, in a land way too near, dinner was a major discussion point in my house. Deb and I would banter about all different kinds of proteins and different ways to prepare them. Fried, baked broiled, grilled, sauced, sauteed, spiced, rubbed. Always a new and different experience. Deb is quite the cook, too, so that didn't hurt. Unfortunately, my relationship with food certainly did keep me at 400+.

In the old days, Deb would call and ask what I wanted for dinner. I might throw something out, maybe not, but we'd pretty quickly come up with a plan. Definitely some potato and a veggie to go along. She'd also cook for 8. Well, 8 normal sized people. Seconds were guaranteed. Leftovers were not.

Today, she still asks what I want for dinner, and I almost never have a preference. Lately, I'm into chicken and fish more than beef and pork, but any derivation of those will do. My indifference has created a bit of stress between us, too, as the task of selecting the meal falls entirely on her shoulders. I am totally grateful for her flexibility in this department as my preferences have changed over the years as I'd go on and off various diets.

We talked about this indifference a couple of weeks ago and realized that my relationship with food has changed so dramatically over the past 14 months that sustenance has become more important than selection. I'm good with just about anything she puts on the table -- it's all good. Seconds are limited to the green of the day, which she still prepares generous volumes of, but if we're having burgers -- It's 4 on the grill, not 6 or 8.

Mike commented a couple of days ago: "It is funny to see how people like us have now replaced food with exercise." It couldn't be more true. When I get out on my bike or go out for a run, I try to think of more exotic places to run or ride. (Well, as exotic as suburbia can get, I guess, like which Starbucks will I stop at along my route for a jolt.) I definitely spend more time thinking about that course that what we should have for dinner. Some nights I feel like I'd rather go out and ride than eat. If it weren't the only family time we spend together most week days, I might actually do it.

I spoke today to a friend that I haven't seen in a couple of years. He asked me if there is anything that I miss from the old diet. Truthfully, no. The killer for me is the smell. Last night Deb cooked some cookies and cake for a meeting that she was going to today and the smell through the house was delicious. That was painful. But. . . I survived and didn't cave. I learned how to deal with goodies at the beach in August as previously detailed.

So the catharsis continues and I'm in a really good place and feel better every day at my chances for long term success.

Deb just called: "What do you want for dinner?" What ever you want, my love.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

What's for Breakfast?

I overheard this converstation in my house yesterday morning as Deb was breakfasting the kids:

#2 son: What's for breakfast?
Mom: Waffles.
#2: Your waffles?
Mom: No, Aunt Jemimah.
#2: Aunt Sherri's making waffles?
Mom: Do you see Aunt Sherri here in this house?
#2: No.
Mom: Aunt Jemimah's waffles.
#2: Who's Aunt Jemimah?

Just struck me funny. Kid's been eating the same damn waffles since he was two.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Back to My Old Friend

I really enjoy running outside, but with Baltimore coming up way too soon and needing to get some training in, I still don't want to risk any further injury before the race. The best way to train, then, is back with my old friend, the treadmill.

Since I did 2 mi pain free on Sunday, I decided to bump to 2.5 on Monday. As I got to about 3/4 mi, my left thigh started to tighten up. Walked a bit, then shut it down at a mile. (Stretching? I don't need no stinkin' stretching.) Total of 1 mile. Bummer.

Yesterday, I got some stretching advice and spent about 10 minutes stretching before hand. While watching The Biggest Loser, headed down to the mill. Running was fine, but started to feel nauseous as I approached a mile. The thigh felt okay -- still a bit sore, but much better than Monday. Unfortunately, I had to deal with the other issue. Did 1.3 mi. and felt queasy the rest of the night. I've rarely run at night, so maybe I was running too close to dinner. I dunno.

Today I went back to the old stand by -- a morning tread. After stretching again and with ESPN2 and Mike and Mike on the tv, I again planned for 2.5 miles, hoping to run the whole distance. Again, some very slight, but noticable pain in the thigh, but nothing debilitating. No bad belly feelings, so I was set to go. As I got to 2 1/2 miles, I felt good enough to finish out 5K, which was my minimum run in the months before injury. Was able to finish running about 80-85% of the distance. Felt good. A few minor pains, but I seem to be much more aware of every little twinge. Averaged 11:50/mile -- quite good for me, especially considering my treadmill pr is 11:20 and I haven't been on it in almost 3 months.

This was a great test and I feel like I've passed it -- on the third try. I'd like to work up to at least 5 miles leading into Baltimore and I'll declare myself ready to go. Feeling good about that. Feels good to feel good!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Baltimore Marathon

It all started about a week ago when my buddy Dave told me he was asked about running a leg in the Baltimore Marathon Relay. Then he sent me the link for the medal, which, I think, sealed the deal for him.

I suddenly got a case of medal envy.

I started to think . . . hey, if I could do 13 miles a couple of weeks ago, why couldn't I do 5, 6 or 7 in three weeks?

Last night, Deb said -- "so are you going to do anything with the Baltimore Marathon -- you know they have a half marathon and a 5k". Door open. . . walk right in. "As a matter of fact, I've been thinking. . ."

So, I check the Active board for the race and found a couple of posts for people looking for one or two runners. I e-mailed one and they're still looking. Did the full disclosure thing -- make sure they're not looking for someone that will give them a shot a something fast.

THEN, Deb tells me she's got plans that day. Dad comes to the rescue to watch the kids and hopefully will bring them to the finish line.

Looks like I'm in -- 4th leg is the longest at 7.3 miles, but will get to cross the finish line at Raven's Stadium! Better figure out a quick 18 day training plan.



It has seemed like I would never break through the scale plateau that I've been on for the past six weeks or so. I first hit 257 point something on August 10 and since then, I had gone as high as 261.8. On 9/6, I hit 256.8, and had hoped to see a sustained breakthrough, but it wasn't meant to be. Today, the scale showed 256.2. Hopefully, this will represent the first of many new lows soon to come.

Before you comment about not worrying about the scale, this is definitely easier said than done. For my entire life, my level of physical fitness has been measured by the scale. I was reminded of my younger struggles with the scale when I read the obituary of my childhood pediatrician over the weekend.

The annual visit to Dr. Blue was dreaded as soon as mom put it on the calendar. Imagine the level of stress in a ten year old when, despite my parents best efforts, I knew that the scale would go too far in the wrong direction and, unfortunately, I was rarely wrong. After the exam, I would be excused so that Dr. Blue and my mom would be able to confer. In those days, the doc never seemed to communicate care to the minor patient as my kids' doctors do today. Mom would come out and we'd leave and I'd anxiously await "the discussion." If I was lucky, we'd discuss my weight on the way home, in the car. If I was unlucky, dad would be involved. Regardless, once we had the conversation, I was safe to start bulking up again until the next year.

Wow, amazing what skeletons pop out of your mind when an event jogs your memory.

Back on topic of the scale, despite my stagnation, I definitely feel more fit over the past couple of months. No doubt it has been due to the increased weight work and cross training. Also, I'm truly not stressing about the scale as I had earlier this year when I stagnated. I feel good and getting better every day. I won't hit my 2007 goal of losing a second 100 pounds, but I will feel better and fitter than ever before.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Brick

It's been a solid week since I've had a chance to exercise, since the Philly half. It's been two weeks since I've been on the bike. I've really missed it, too.

With a relatively open day, I wanted to try to run again, given last week's success, and get back on the bike, too.

Not wanting to push the ankle too much, I decided on just a two mile loop near the house. Heading out around 7, the house was still quiet. Outside temp was probably in the low 70's and humid -- pretty warm for that time of day and this time of year. As I started to run, every little twinge alerted me. I felt a few twinges here and there, but nothing lasting. The most pain was on the back of both thighs. Probably should have done a better job stretching. In the end, I finished two miles in about 25 minutes. It felt good to get out there and not feel the ankle pain. Something now to build on.

After the run, I went to drop my kids off at Hebrew School. On the way out, I saw a bunch of dads in the parking lot getting ready to head out for a bike ride. I asked one of them about their pace -- said 16 mph. I'm no where near ready for that, but one of the other guys said I should come out anyway, only way to get better. Maybe I'll check it out next week.

Deb and I had a brunch at the school at 10, so I had already planned to bring my bike and ride afterwards. I headed out at about 11 and did 20 miles in about 90 minutes. At around mile 12, I was exhausted and thought about heading home, but changed my mind. Made a left turn down a street I hadn't hit before. Correction . . . made a left turn UP a street I hadn't ridden before. For about four miles it was almost entirely up hill. I made it, slowly, but I made it. Felt really good.

It was a really good day, capped off by the Ravens beating the Cardinals in a much too close finish, but a win is a win.

Now, what should I do for an encore?


Friday, September 21, 2007

Yom Kippur

Tonight at sundown, the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur will begin.

Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement and is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. Jews worldwide will fast from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow and attend synogogue to ask God for forgiveness for their sins committed over the past year. We also ask that God inscribe us in The Book of Life for the coming year.

It is a very solemn and thoughtful period.

I wish all of my Jewish friends and family an easy fast.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pain, Pain Go Away

With out a doubt, this is the longest I have felt pain from a particular athletic endeavor. Though the vast majority of the aches are gone, still have some outer thigh pain and, unfortunately, my right ankle again. Was hoping I might be beyond that.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Wine-O-Sphere

My brother (aka jobrotha) posted this thread on his favorite bulletin board.

Click here.

While it's not exactly Runners World, it is very cool! Thanks, Neil.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More on Philly

The Pain

Let me begin with the pain. The following is an inventory of the parts of my body that hurt today:
  • big toe on right foot -- where the blister was
  • ball of my left foot
  • right achilles
  • right ankle
  • inside/back of my knees
  • outer thighs on both legs
  • inner thighs on both legs
  • lower back
  • upper back
  • shoulders
  • both upper arms

I'm sure as the day goes on, I'll find some additional ailments.

But, it's a good kinda pain. I'm sure if I'd have actually trained, I'd be in much better shape, but it is what it is.

Good day for a sick day today.

The Race

More thoughts on the race.

I forgot to mention the cow bell guys yesterday. At about mile four, I started parrying with a couple of guys that were wearing cow bells. One of the vendors at the expo were giving them away. Now, I'm all okay with cow bells, particularly if they're on a cow or if someone in the crowd is banging them, but I was going back and forth with these guys for about two miles. Every time I'd pass them, I'd get just to where it stopped being annoying, then I'd slow down or they'd speed up and those damn bells would be back in the annoyance zone. Finally, they passed and I was able to enjoy the other sounds of the race.

Music was a big part of this race. The Elite Racing folks promote all of their races with lots of live music. They do the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego and Arizona, the RnR half in Va Beach and a bunch of others. For this reason, I decided to go without my mp3 player. In the end, this was one of the down sides of the race. There were large gaps between the bands and at one point, two consecutive bands were on break -- though I did appreciate the Led Zep that they were playing in the interim. The second band decided to talk during my run by. Someone yelled at them to shut up and play. Well put.

I was also disappointed by the somewhat sparse crowds throughout the race. At no point, other than the final finish line, were there lots of people lined up. There were no high school bands as I thought I had read, and from mile 4 through 12.5, there were almost no spectators at all. Very disappointing.

For these two reasons, if I go back to Philly, I'll be sure to bring the mp3.

On a positive note, it was amazing to be in a field so large. It was my first event of this magnitude and it was great to be there with lots of other people at the back of the pack.

Also, they did a great job with the kid's run. My boys were totally stoked to get metals, bibs and t-shirts, just like dad. (Too bad those t's now have permanent Accelerade stains. Not like dad.) For $15, a worthwhile investment.


My final placements:

Overall: 11,307/11,629

Men: 5,918/5,978

Age Group: M 40-44: 894/898

More Pics

My youngest made two pics from the official PDR site.

Here, he is #75 on the right: link here

He's dead center here, with sunglasses on: link here

More Friends

Congrats to Scott and Stacey. Scott ran his first half in a blistering 1:53. Stacey finished not far behind in 2:09. Way to go guys. Sorry we didn't see you.

That about does it from Philly. Now where can I find a nice Ben Gay bath?


Sunday, September 16, 2007

I AM a Distance Runner

Wow, what a weekend!
To get started, without too much info, we left home at about 4:30 Friday. Unfortunately, just in time for rush hour through Baltimore. By the time we hit the Delaware line, the kids were whining and we needed to stop to pick up something else, anyway, so we hit Christiana Mall, and wound up at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner. by the time we rolled into our hotel in Philly, it was almost 10 pm. We checked in and hit the hay.

Saturday started with a visit to the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute. What a great history lesson. Deb and I missed the exhibit when it was in Washington DC about 20 years ago (for free), so it was well worth the visit, not to mention the Franklin Institute is a fantastic place to go, especially with kids. One of the best science center type museums anywhere.

From there, it was off to the expo. First off, we signed the kids up for the 1 mile kids run, then piled as much crap as my goody bag would hold into it. The bag was huge, so we got quite the haul. Then, lunch at the Reading terminal. There must be 50 different stalls to get everything from southern food to sushi. It was quite good.

Then, back to the hotel for a swim before dinner.

Dinner was at a place called the Italian Bistro. A pretty unimpressive meal. Service sucked and what I really wanted was a huge plate of pasta. That just wasn't on the menu. A bit more up scale that I had thought it would be.

We walked back to the hotel and we got ready for bed.

I was exhausted and fell asleep fine, but had a restless night as I usually do before a race.

Having awakened during the 1, 3 and 4 o'clock hours, I was up getting ready to go at about 5 -- half an hour before the alarm. Deb and I had a nice quiet chat before I left at about 6:15.

The chill was evident immediately as soon as I walked out of the hotel. I understand that the starting temp was about 49! Perfect weather for shorts and a t-shirt. Brrr. What looked on the map like a 4 block walk to the start area was closer to a mile. No biggie, plenty of time. I walked around, picked up a banana, some water and hit the oh-so-popular port-a-pottie before the lines got started.

Dan from NJ and I had planned to meet up at 7 near his assigned starting corral. We ultimately met a few minutes later and had a chance to talk right up until race time. It was great to meet Dan as we had posted on each other's sites for months, emailed and have many things in common. Turns out we had worked at places about a half mile away from each other when I lived in NJ (though maybe not at the same time). Small world.

As the clock ticked down toward race time, I had pretty much decided that I would start off running, despite my conservative plans to walk the first 10, then run the final 5k. It was just too tempting and, frankly, too cold to not work on a sweat. I thought if I just ran a mile, I'd be warmed up and good to go.

Starting with Dan in corral 12, we finally crossed the start line 7:10 after the "elites". Dan was off and so was I. (Congrats to Dan on his scorching 2:10:46 time!) At first, I paid attention to every feeling in my lower extremities. Every twitch, every ache, every feeling was cause to evaluate my continued run. Although I did have some twitches and a few aches, none were in the ankle I was most concerned about. I decided to alternate running and walking every mile, as long as I was relatively pain free.

The first part of the course took us by historic parts of Philly, including the Liberty Bell (well, actually, just the building that the Liberty Bell sits in. Can't see it from the street.) I was able to run miles 1, 3 and 5. Then, I walked most of the next two as my legs were starting to feel pretty heavy.

At about mile 7, there was a heard of 20+ geese walking single file from the park toward the street. Those geese were determined to cross the street, despite the hoards of people running toward them. The first goose stepped into the street and had to dodge a few runners. It's pace certainly picked up as it realized that it might get run over. Goose #2 said "screw it" and took flight just before the curb and set down just past the runners. No clue what the rest did, but I was past them, now. A nice bit of levity in the midst of the run.

I ran from about mile 6 3/4 to 7 1/2, then a few other bursts, planning to run the last two miles. Ultimately, my feet and thighs were killing me. My thighs particularly felt like lead. The race organizers promote the fact that the course is very flat. This is quite true. What's missed is that you actually spend mile 4 through 12 going slightly down hill leading up to the final mile at a medium incline. A cruel finish for those who believed the press.

I continued to walk up to the last half mile when a woman that I had been jockeying back and forth with over the last couple of miles yelled out to me: "hey red (see picture), you gonna let a fat chick beat you?" Well, I got a nice laugh and then got back on my horse and jogged up the rest of the hill.

As I turned the corner into the finishing chute, I immediately saw Deb and the boys waving. I smiled the whole way down to the finish.

Yes, I did say finish. Three hours, eight minutes after crossing the start line, I crossed the finish line.

Now, this is not exactly speedy, but:

  • I beat my goal of 15 minute average with a 14:21;
  • I hadn't run in almost 2 months;
  • My 10 mile race in May was at 2:21:22, today's 10 mile split was 2:20:07.
  • I hadn't run in almost 2 months;
  • My longest training run before the injury was just 4 miles;
  • Despite the injury, I was able to run almost 5 miles;
  • Did I mention that I hadn't run in almost 2 months?

Once I crossed the line, Deb and the kids came to greet me. The kids had run the 1 mile race and were both stoked to have received medals. (I got one, too!) We took some pics, went to refuel, then off to buy a finishers t-shirt.

Then, the long, long, long painful walk back to the hotel. Felt like 5 miles! Boy do my feet hurt. One big blister on my right big toe, otherwise, no obvious signs of abuse. Shower and off for reward -- cheese steaks at Geno's! Mmmm. As the pain continued to set in on the ride home, I couldn't help but to feel a bit euphoric. It's been just 14 months since I began to exercise and I just completed an event that had the word "marathon" in it. 13 miles by foot, just amazing. I feel great. (My feet don't, but I sure do!)

I've got to thank Deb for being the ultimate in support. She was great making recommendations, moral support, sleeping support (she took a kid each night in Philly so I could have a bed to myself -- we also had a pull out in the room,) cheering section, pain relief -- I've got my feet in a massager and a warm bean bag thing around my neck. Thank you, my love, you're awesome!

It's been a whirlwind day, and it's time to relax. I think an adult beverage is in order.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Cheese Steaks and King Tut

It's hard to believe that the Philadelphia Distance Run half marathon weekend is finally here. It's been almost four months since I signed up and almost two months since I shut down training due to the ankle injury.

Although I've been pretty down about the weekend, I'm definitely more psyched now that it's here. The big question will be if I can keep myself from running early and save up for the end. My plan is to walk the first 10, then run the last 5k through the finish. Problem will be watching everyone else go out running and not speeding out with them. I certainly don't want to head back on a bus.

It's been a good month since I've attempted to put any serious pressure on the ankle, I've got extra support in my athletic shoes and I've been taking the anti-inflammatories religiously. Not much more I can do.

Although the training plan went up in smoke, I've definitely worked on overall fitness at the gym and on the bike. My biggest disappointment, though, has been with the scale. Barely a budge in the past month. I was sure I'd be below 250, but I'm still hanging in the 257-262 range.

We're heading up tonight after I get home from work. Tomorrow, we have tickets to see the King Tut exhibit, then off to the Expo. Hope to meet fellow blogger Dan at the Expo. If not, we should be able to meet up before the race. Then, hopefully, a good night sleep and off to the starting line for the 7:45 gun. Weather will be chilly -- high Sunday of just 70, so race time should be below 60. My kids will be doing the 1 mile fun run. If all goes as expected, I expect to finish in 3:10 to 3:25 range.

After the race, we've promised the kids cheese steaks. Last time we were in Philly, we did a taste test between Pat's and Geno's. Honestly, I can't remember who won. Guess we'll have to do it all over again!

Good luck to Dan and some other friends running in Philly, Scott and Stacey. Also, best wishes out to Mike and Jenny running their first half marathon's tomorrow in Janesville, WI followed by a duathlon on Sunday. (Does that add up to a tri?)

Stay tuned for a full report on Monday.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Remembering 9/11

Will September 11 ever be the same as it was before 2001? No, it won't. It will be one of those dates that we will remember forever. You will remember where you were and what you did.

I remember being at the office, getting a call from my friend Howie in NJ to tell me that a plane hit one of the twin towers. I found our little black and white office tv with no antenna and turned it on. Through the haze on the tv, there were Katie Couric and Matt Lauer watching the second plane hit the other tower. I sat there with a few other coworkers watching stunned at the sights we were seeing.

My company provides environmental services. We were quickly called to NY, where we had offices in Brooklyn and NJ near by to assist with the clean up. Several days later, we had a command center set up in a trailer about 10 blocks from ground zero where we were working for a number of agencies and companies.

The first thing you'd notice is the signs posted everywhere -- not only near ground zero, but throughout Manhattan. Mostly 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper with names and pictures begging for news, plastered on every flat surface in Manhattan, from people looking for loved ones and friends. Most, desperately, went unclaimed.

One day in October, I took a ride on a golf cart with one of our supervisors into the "zone". I recall being on my cell phone with a co worker as we rounded the corner to the big hole. "Todd, I'll call you back." The memory of turning that corner seeing the dust still in the air, the huge hole in the ground, the huge piece of iron sticking out of the 40th floor of the nearby American Express building runs through my head like a movie that I've just watched. It was hard to believe that this was a man made ruin. Although there were a thousand or more people working with heavy machinery, there were few voices, just the clang of the yellow iron moving through the site. It was eerie.

From there, we went to one of the ferry's set up to feed the workers. Many firemen and policemen were there. Red Cross workers manning the stations. Still, eerily quiet for a place with a hundred or more people eating lunch.

The restaurants in the area opened their hearts to the workers. Just about every restaurant, whether white table cloth or carry out, fed the workers for free. What more could they do?

I spent about 45 days in NYC during the end of 2001. I fell in love with the city and it's people.

I will never forget. We will never forget.

May the heroes rest in peace.


Opening Day

Finally. . . opening game at 7 tonight. Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Riding Around Town

I have spent the past week thinking about little other than getting back on my bike. Where would I go? Trail or roads? When I was running, there was really a pretty finite distance that I could go. Only so many streets. Only so far from home. But the bike, man, you can just go. On a 20 mile ride, you can go almost anywhere.

Today I headed out toward Dave and Jill's house. Not really a planned route, but I had been wondering if I could do it -- the route is very hilly and the terrain is a fairly heavily traveled country road. The ride out was about 10.5 miles. I showed up and chatted for a bit with Dave and Jill, then headed out. (Deb accused me of just wanting to show off. Not me. No way. Never!)

From there I took a much more country route back. Lots of farms and hills. It was really a beautiful ride. Started with about a half mile down hill then just rolling hills. At one point, there is a good half mile up hill. Started to cringe just looking at it. It was tough and I wanted to stop, but just kept going in 27th gear (or is it first gear? I really don't know which way to count.) Moving about 5 mph up the hill, I finally came over the crest and did pull over for a water break.
The crest of the hill was just past the Doughoregan Manor. The Manor is the 800+ acre property of the Carroll family, the direct descendants of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. I share this only because I think it's pretty cool that this property is here, just a few miles from my house, even though it's completely closed off to the public.

While I was stopped, another bicyclist rode by and asked if everything was okay. It was and a few minutes later, I was back in the saddle for the last three or four miles back home. About two miles from home, I was on Rt 40, a very major three lane in each direction road. Some a-hole comes speeding by and honks his horn for 3-4 seconds as he goes buy me. What a jerk. Shortly after that, I was back home, jazzed by the 22 mile ride, feeling like I can ride anywhere.

It was great to be able to conquer all the hills without stopping. I can already feel the difference in my abilities to handle the hills in just three or four rides. Unfortunately, I'm not sure my butt will be back in the saddle for a couple of very busy weeks coming up, including next weekend in Philly.

Biggest Loser Contest

Blogger Pat from Arizona is having a Biggest Loser fantasy game. Kinda self made, but should be fun. If you're a fan of the show you should check this out.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Totally Unprepared

In just nine days, I will be participating in the Philadelphia Distance Run half marathon. Although I'm not planning to run, but walk, it struck me yesterday that I'm totally unprepared for this event. I haven't put any pressure on my bad ankle in over a month, though the doctor cleared me to walk this event. Still, I haven't trained, and I'm not gonna start now.

Am I concerned? Well, maybe a little. I'll do the best that I can and that's all I can do!


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Biggest Loser

Did anyone know that The Biggest Loser was back on last night? I sure didn't. The show is something of a reunion. If you don't want to know what happened, stop reading NOW!

Okay, here's the poop:

First of all, Caroline Rhea is gone. Allison Sweeney is the new hostess. She's some soap actress. I miss Caroline already! Found this link that talks about the hostess change: click here.

Here's the results in the following order: Contestant, original weight, season end weight, original loss, new weight, new total loss, change from end of show.

Marty, Season 3 -- 365 -- 219 -- -146 -- 240 -- -125 -- +21

Erik, Season 3 Winner -- 407 -- 193 -- -214 -- 231 -- -176 -- +38

Pam, Season 3 -- 247 -- Didn't Show -- 187 -- -60 -- Can't calculate

Pete, Season 2 -- 401 -- 198 -- -203 -- 241 -- -160 -- +43

Poppi, Season 3 -- 232 -- 115 -- -117 -- 126 -- -106 -- +11

Kelly, Season 1 -- 223 -- 151 -- -72 -- 160 -- -63 -- +9

Andrea, Season 1 -- 215 -- 156 -- -59 -- 151 -- -64 -- -5

Wiley, Season 3 -- 370 -- 178 -- -129 -- 210 -- -97 -- +32

Amy, Season 3 -- 260 -- 154 -- -106 -- ??????

They never showed Amy's weight. They just had Marty come up to propose to her. She said yes.
Of all the people, Pete and Andrea looked best. Pete gained weight, but it's all muscle. He insisted on taking off his shirt for the weigh in. He's totally ripped. Andrea looked tiny.

The show was poorly conceived and poorly pulled off. There was no suspense. No drama. Before each weigh-in, they tried to get everyone to say in unison "did you keep your weight off?" Gag me. Obviously, they didn't show anybody that put significant weight back on. Waste of an hour.

That's it. The new biggest losers to be are on Tuesday's at 8 ET. They will have three teams and Jillian is going to be back to lead the third team.

And that's the poop, and the conclusion of my career as a tv critic.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Monday Update

I don't even want to talk about the scale today. To be honest, I was pretty disgusted when I stepped on this morning. Needless to say, it didn't go down.

Fact is, I found a bag of trail mix that Deb had socked away. I've never been a trail mix kinda guy, but this had peanuts, cashews, raisins and . . . M&M's. Deb was gone and I was all alone. Well, me and the bag were all alone. Now, there are many fewer nuts and M's to be alone with. It was good, but not worth it.

So, not a good start to the day. I got off the scale, got on my bike shorts and headed out on my bike at about 8. What a beautiful morning -- sunny, maybe 65 at that hour. Nice crisp chill in the air. Starting out, I was actually cold in a short sleeve tech t-shirt.

Amazing how friendly people are when they're exercising. I say hi to every runner or bicyclist on the road and more often than not, they say it first. (Question: is one who rides a bicycle a bicyclist or a biker? Biker is quicker to write, but it reminds me of a guy riding a Harley.) There's something cool about this public exercise fraternity.

I rode out to my old hood once again. Again, nobody out and about. Guess they were all still in bed. From there, I headed to the mall. Though the mall is not open, the Starbucks is. I've developed a bit of a Starbucks habit lately. I could blame Deb, but I won't. It's me shucking out a couple of bucks a cup. With the chill outside, it was a grande house blend with a shot of espresso, as if I needed the shot of caffeine to keep the blood flowing. Sat there for 15 minutes or so, then headed home. A great 22 mile ride.

When I got home, the kids were vegging on the couch watching tv. Hey, wanna play catch? Usually, I get asked before I ask the question. Kids were way too lethargic. Told them no more tv. Too nice outside. That did the trick. Suddenly, there were three of us outside.

I had been looking for a place to ride with the kids to get breakfast or lunch. Our neighborhood is very hilly and the outskirts of the neighborhood are down hill, so I need to find a path somewhere where the hills are not too bad so that the kids can get back home without passing out. On my ride this morning, I found just such a place.

Told the kids that we could go to this particular Subway for lunch by bike. They were stoked. We set out on the trek (me on my old hybrid) and it turned out to be just 2 1/4 miles each way. No problem. Seems to be a popular spot for bicycling families, too. We weren't alone.

By the time the day was out, I finished off almost 27 miles on the bike. Jobrotha and family came over for dinner.

All in all, a day that started out down, turned out to be pretty great.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Support Your Local Bike Store

I must say, the thought of spending more than a few hundred bucks on a bike just a few months ago seemed very much against my grain. I had a very nice hybrid bike that did just what I needed and I got a great deal on it to boot. So spending what I did this week on a two wheeled self-propelled vehicle seemed way out of character. (I'm sure that the egging on of the like of jobrotha, Mike and Jenny had NOTHING to do with it!)

As I've chronicled here, after three rides, I've had chain problems on each one. I'm notoriously lazy when it comes to returning things or fixing things so taking the bike back to the store not once, but twice is, too, out of character for me.

Nevertheless, I did take it back again yesterday.

This time, the folks at Race Pace really took care to fix the problem.

First of all, I knew going in on a Saturday afternoon would be a challenge. They were packed. I found a repair tech who said he'd look at it right away. I left the store and came back an hour later. When I got back, the tech said he was going to take it on a test ride. Sure enough, he was able to replicate the problem, even after his tweaking.

In comes Earl, the head mechanic. Earl explained that my problem is not uncommon for Trek's, that the fix is to replace a clamp that holds the derailleur, which he has now done. He also took the time to give me some lessons on changing gears. I took the bike out for a spin and could not replicate the problem. Yeay!

The folks at Race Pace have been terriffic. I have really seen the value in the service that they provide. They are helpful and knowledgeable and it's great to know that they stand behind what they sell. I often wonder where customer service has gone these days. For sure, I've found it here!


Saturday, September 1, 2007

My First Marathon

I picked up my bike yesterday and was assured that they recalibrated the derailleur and I'd have no more problems, so jobrotha and I set out this morning on a ride. We decided to hit the B&A trail that goes from Glen Burnie, MD (south of Baltimore) to Arnold, MD, near Annapolis.

We'd done the trail once before and I like the fact that it's paved, relatively flat, much of it is shaded and you can and the at-grade crossings are mostly traffic free.

So, met up and set out about 9:30 after jo had a chance to ogle over my new wheels.

Things were going well until the chain came off again at about mile three! This time, I quickly stopped pedaling and pulled off the trail. No problem to fix, but now I'm pretty much relegated to the middle nine gears.

From where we parked to the southern end of the trail, it wast 12.67 miles. We completed the southern "lap" in under 55 minutes, an average of 13.8 mph. We took a 5 minute break at the end of the trail and then back in the saddle. One other nice feature of this trail is that the park office is dead center at about mile seven. Very convenient for facilities and help if you need it. There are a number of business that back up to the trail that have set out tables for coffee, diners, etc. There's really a lot going on here. As jo sped ahead, I pulled off for a quick visit to the head and then we finished up the ride.

This morning, my youngest asked how far we'd be going. I told him about 25 miles. He asked why we wouldn't just go 26, "you know, dad, like a marathon." "Don't know, son, we'll see." Anyway, we got back to the lot where we were parked and about 25.4. What's another 8/10 of a mile. So there we were, my first marathon complete in 1:53, an average of 13.9 mph.

For comparison, we rode this course on July 8. I was riding my hybrid and we averaged 11.1 mph, and I recall a very difficult final 4 miles or so. Not so with the new Trek. It was a great ride, even with only nine gears!

I'm having trouble remembering why I liked running so much!