Category Archives: Thoughts

First day of school – 2016

I’ve been absent on here unfortunately, but today marks a big event in our house…the return to school!  School continues to start earlier and earlier, and typically, I don’t really care.  For some reason, this year, I am really bothered by its early return.  Summer just passed by too quickly!

School!
School!

We have had a busy summer I guess which explains it all.  We took a tour of a lot of WV.  We visited family in Montgomery Alabama…in July (it’s hot and humid…don’t do that).  We worked on the house and caught up on doctor visits.  Last week, Isaac was away at band camp all week which definitely signals the end off Summer!  And now, here we are back to school!

School?
School?

Per tradition, I interviewed the kids asking them what they want to be when they grow up, who their friends are, what excites them about starting a new year, etc.  I promised them I wouldn’t post the videos, but I love to look back at them from earlier years and see what changes and what stays the same.  My kids are growing up into wonderful people and I am so very proud of them…of what they think about and what the see for the future!

So, even though getting back to school might seem like a drag to me sometimes, it is the marking of another year forward toward such exciting futures!

Another teen in the wild

Earlier this month, Abigail, my precious little baby, had another birthday.  It was a big one…the big thirteen!  My adorable baby has turned into…a teenager!

In Chicago on her birthday
In Chicago on her birthday

I do not know if I am lucky or what, but aside from first thing in the morning 🙂 , Abigail is an absolute joy.  We were out of state on her birthday so didn’t get to properly celebrate, but we will remedy that this weekend.

Like most teens, she loves to listen to music and see movies, but where she really shines, I think, is that she is capable of and really enjoys thinking about all sorts of interesting subjects.  She has opinions on politics and the future, and the world around us and can elucidate her thoughts very well.  I always say that I don’t think I ever progressed, mentally, beyond age 13, but then I see how mature Abigail is, and I think I over-estimated my mental age.  She makes me so proud and I am happy to welcome another teenager into the world!

UC Half Marathon

Last weekend was the University of Charleston (WV) half marathon.  I like to run, but I have typically only run in 5K races around the area.  I had never run a half marathon, so when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to run.

UC Half Marathon
The map generated by my running watch

 

I wrote this race report for /r/running on reddit:

 

Race information

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A < 2 hours Yes
B No injuries Yes
C Don’t die Yes

Training

I am a fairly new runner, having started in March of 2015 to run with my daughter. At the time, we were planning to train together to prepare her for X-C season. She does nothing in the off-season but I kept running. I didn’t follow a plan per-se, but I run 3-4 days per week for an average of probably 25 miles per week. About 6 weeks ago, I somehow screwed up my posterior tibialis so my mileage dropped some. I ran a mix of hills and flats which is probably what messed up my leg. I have run a number of 5Ks locally since starting running.

Pre-race

The race was managed by students and faculty as part of a sports management class. As such, they seemed to really do things cleanly (with the exception of their website). I had a lot of communication via facebook and email regarding the course, volunteers, aid stations, etc. They took great pride in advertising that local artists were making the finishers medals and prizes…it was very cool. Packet pickup was easy the night before and ran smoothly. On the race day itself, I wanted to be onsite at 7am for an 8am gun. As I said, I am inexperienced but I like to be early even though this was not a huge race. I needed to pee 25 times before lining up, etc. The weather was pretty crummy…40 deg F and rain at 7am. Snow was forecast for later in the day so the expectation was for miserable conditions. I got to the University of Charleston at 7 and we were greeted by a ton of volunteers. I may be making this part up, but I swear I heard there were 300 volunteers. Inside the student union where we waited for the start, the crowd was good though thinner than expected. At packet pickup, I asked how many were regsitered and was told around 300. Earlier in the week, they had advertised that they had crossed 200 runners, so I assume they were correct in the 300 number. I later found out that there were 127 finishers. I am certain the weather kept a number of people away…seems odd that 180 didn’t show but who knows? A few people I know who I saw at packet pick-up were not at the race so at least a few stayed home. Anyhow, about 15 minutes before the gun, the rain stopped and the temp help steady…so it was sort of perfect for racing.

Miles [1] to [3.1]

I didn’t know what to expect, never having raced a half so I found a 2 hour pace group and started with them. It was ok, but within a half a mile, I knew I wanted to speed up. I increased my pace to around 8:40 per mile and found a friend. We talked for a mile but he started to slow and I was feeling good so I speed up to around 8:20 per mile. The rain started although not bad…it was one of those rains that makes you wet but you don’t really notice it. I settled in on that pace and found a woman right ahead of me who was very steady so I just ran with her. About 2 miles in, the first water station came up and a large number of university students were having a great time listening to 80s music. They were playing my song (well, it seemd like it was being played for me) as I ran by…Danger Zone. I give the volunteers a lot of credit…they came out in good numbers with great signs and cheered on everyone! Basically, the course runs from the university along the Kanawha River so it was really pleasant to watch the river flow by. There were 3+ volunteers at every intersection and every turn so it was very clear where the course was. Miles were well marked and actually corresponded with my gps watch. The course was USATF certified which was pretty cool for such a small and new race.

5k time: 25:50

Miles [4] to [7]

I was concerned that this race was going to be a little boring as it was through neighborhoods and was a double loop course. I don’t know what possessed me, but I chatted a little with a few people as we ticked off miles in the middle of the course. I am usually pushing pretty hard on a 5k so don’t talk at all, but I didn’t know what to do here so I decided to pass a little time. Generally, people were happy to chat and they made more conversation than I did…2 miles flew by and I didn’t have any problems. My pace had stayed pretty steady around 8:10 at this point

Miles [8] to [10]

I decided to try to drink a little gatorade at around mile 9. I never drink gatorade as I am a water guy and generally not a drink-on-the-run guy at all. Something possessed me to try though so I grabbed a cup and put it to my mouth and promptly spilled it all over myself. I think I was more tired than I realized. The woman with whom I was pacing was feeling it too and we traded the lead back and forth a few times. We stayed pretty solid at 7:50-8:00 pace. The course was very flat which was nice, but the wet was starting to bother me too I think. Being a dummy, I forgot to tape my nipples so I was getting raw around this point. I won’t have to learn that lesson again…rain + cold + distance = blood spots on my shirt. Anyhow, I still really commend the race volunteers and police officers…they were great about cheering and played some great 80s tunes…some Cindi Lauper tune was blaring as I ran through the second time!

At the finish!
At the finish!

Miles [11] to [13.1]

I was all turned around as we wove through the neighborhoods along the river so I only had a sense of where I was based on my watch…my pacing woman and I were both pretty tired at this point and I could feel both my hamstrings and my calves starting to fade/pull. I figured that worst case, I could walk depending on what happened so I decided to keep pushing. We both ran the last mile or so into the finish about as fast as we could…we kicked it down to a 7:30 or so pace. She faded about a quarter mile out but I was still ok…ok being a relative term. Rounding the building in front of which was the finish line, I caught a guy and passed him which gave me mixed emotions…I hate when people do that to me, but I loved placing one spot higher than I would have. Originally I told my wife to expect me around 2 hours, so when I rolled in at 1:47:38, she was not exactly expecting me but she was able to get her phone out to get a few pics.

After the race...headed home
After the race…headed home

Post-race

I grabbed a banana, a water and a cookie after they hung my finisher medal around my neck. It was a really cool medal made of ceramic by a local artist (and some university students). I was sort of sad in a way to finish. As this was my first half, I was over the moon excited in the days and weeks leading up. My saintly wife had to have been done with me for all of the talking about my strategies and questions about how I should run, what to wear, etc. I guess you never forget your first time and this half will always be sort of a cool memory. I didn’t know what else to do at the end so I lingered a little bit and we finally decided to just go home. I iced and put on some compression socks and generally relaxed all afternoon.

This report was generated using race reportr, a tool built by /u/BBQLays for making great looking and informative race reports.

Driving…level 2

It’s hard for me to write this, not because I am displeased, but rather because I cannot believe it is possible.  Yesterday, Isaac passed his driving test making him our street’s newest driver.  It seems like he is still my precious little boy, but he has gone ahead and grown up (into a fine young man…who now has a driver’s license!) and is finding his freedom!

In WV, as elsewhere, a person can earn their driving permit when they are 15.  Isaac was kinda interested, but not really.  I sort of had to push him to take his permit test because I wanted to have plenty of time to drive with him while he was still at home.  Lots of kids these days are disinterested in driving I guess, and some parents don’t make their kids get their license until they are older.  That’s ok, but for me, I wanted him to have more experience under my tutelage so we got his permit soon after his 15th birthday

His first solo drive!
His first solo drive!

We drove a lot under different conditions as I wanted him to experience many aspects of driving with my eyes helping him merge, see hazards, etc.  Isaac has a car for his use and has spent a good bit of time getting used to it and has done an absolutely fantastic job of learning how to drive.  He seems to be very conscientious and aware of things around him.  I knew he was ready to take the next step.

I was most concerned with whether he could pass the parallel parking test.  We put it off quite awhile, but it was time.  I gathered a step stool and a large box to work as markers to practice and asked him to watch a few quick youtube videos while I got the stuff loaded into his car.

We measured out a parking bay near our house.  I figured the youtube video would give him some general info, but that I would have to explain and demonstrate how to properly parallel park.  We decided to just let him try it once, and lo and behold, he parked beautifully on the first try!  I kid you not!  I didn’t believe it so I jumped out and made him do it again…and he did it again.  All-told, he did it 15-20 times with only 1 failed attempt so we called it a night.  Two nights ago we went to the actual testing location to practice on the space the tester uses…same story.  He parked several times flawlessly, so we knew it was time.

On the road!
On the road!

Emily took him after school and he passed beautifully.  The tester said he was the first person she had passed all day…and that was at 5pm…that’s rough.  Anyhow, we went out to eat and celebrate, but Isaac was anxious to get back home to dump me off so he could drive around some.

He can’t haul friends yet until he is accident-free for 6 months, but he wanted to go out on his own.  It was one of the harder things I have done recently, watching him drive off all by himself.  He rolled his eyes when I went into Dad-mode, “You’re gaining freedom and I am giving up control over you…and it’s hard…be careful”  Eye-roll, “Yeah Dad, I know…” Eye-roll.  It’s all good though.  He drove around our area for an hour and returned, obviously excited and a little tired.  I can still remember both the thrill and exhaustion of the first hundred times driving solo.  He’s growing up though and learning to manage both very well.  If you see him on the road though, don’t honk or wave…I need him to focus on the road!

Running

We have been busy with lots of stuff as I mentioned before and most of what we have been doing revolved around my coaching soccer again, the kids doing stuff in band, and work related obligations.

Pre-race selfie
Pre-race selfie

One thing, though, that I have been doing is a little different from that.  Back in April, my company sponsored a 5K to benefit the local chamber of commerce’s scholarship fund.  I ran a lot in high school as a member of the soccer team, but after that, I really didn’t run again.  I decided to give running another try so I could train with Abigail who is on the middle school cross country team and so we could both run the 5K.

Pre-race...I still look alive
Pre-race…I still look alive

As I posted before, we ran the 5K which was pretty fun.  What surprised me, though, is that I really enjoyed running.  My first race nearly killed me as I pushed probably too hard, especially for the shape I was in.  The thrill of racing and actually not embarrassing myself made me want to do it again though.  My time in that first race was 27:30…not a bad time and it piqued my interest.  I wondered if that was my max or if I could get better.  I know I am not old yet, but I am not young either.

Finish line from a race on July 4...in the rain
Finish line from a race on July 4…in the rain

Since then, I have continued running and have come to really enjoy it.  I tried running with music but it drives me crazy.  I prefer to listen to my breathing and to the birds and the squirrels.  I like to look up at the sky at the clouds or keep count of just how many people pick their noses when they drive.  Someone asked me what I think about when I run (assuming I must get bored).  Sometimes I think about this or that, but most times, I literally think about nothing.  I sort of zone out and occasionally take in a sound or a sight, but I don’t really ponder life’s deeper meanings or worry about stressors.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

A hard run
A hard run

I sort of like running after dark through neighborhoods.  I quietly cruise by homes and hear people talking or watching tv.  I can smell a steak cooking a mile away and people make a lot of popcorn in the evenings.  I run 2-3 nights during the week and most times it is after dark.  It’s quiet then and even easier to zone out and the stars are pretty amazing when I take the time to look up.

Everyone has a running watch
Everyone has a running watch…I’d be naked without it!

I try to do a longer run on Saturday mornings.  Emily and the kids sleep in most weekends.  I have always been an early riser so it sort of works out perfectly.  I may run 8 or 10 miles on Saturdays before they wake.  When I start to smell bacon cooking on my trail, I know people are waking up  and it’s about time to head home.

I really like racing and my best 5K time from a few weeks ago was  22:10.  It’s a little harder to zone out on race day as I get pretty wound up waiting for the starting gun.  During the race, it’s all about keeping myself from running too fast the first mile and then having nothing left for the next 2 miles.

I do not think my goal in running is only to race, but it’s a nice side benefit.  What’s better, though, is that I have met some pretty cool people and stand amazed at what people can do, physically.  I ran my most recent race with a 60 year old man, a new friend of mine.  We talked about our plan for the race as we stood in the starting chute, but we both had doubts about whether we could pull off what we had discussed.  We ran a pretty fast race and he and I stayed together throughout and we ran just under the pace we had decided on.  Before running, I never dreamed a 60 year old man could run a race, let alone a pretty fast pace.  Older men then he ran even faster than we did though and did it with apparent ease.  Of course, they were not new to running, but age didn’t hold them back one bit.

This is a meandering post, but I think it sort of mimics my thoughts on running.  My mind wanders about how I will age and what I think about (and what I don’t think about).  I like to be exposed to new people and especially people who don’t fit my stereotypes.  I also like an occasional shot of adrenaline that comes on race day rather than during rush hour!

One thing I like about Winter

I know I have said it before, but I will say it again…I really hate winter.  It’s dark early, it’s not just pleasantly cool but really cold.  Winter means snow which means slush and muck everywhere.  It means waiting on the car windshield to defrost.  As a lifelong cheapskate, it also means higher gas bills to prevent Jack Frost’s nipping too hard at our noses.

Cold Spoons
Totally unrelated, but I like pics in my posts and these utensils look cold. That makes it related, right?

But one cool thing that happens in the Winter because of both the heat and dryness of Winter is my bath towel dries out quickly.  I typically use my towel for several days before laundering it.  Of course, that means I hang it to dry between uses like most people.  In the summer, though, it doesn’t always dry out between my shower and when I wash my face or whatever.  I don’t know why, but using an already wet towel is a real drag.  That’s never a problem in the Winter though!  I can wash my dry, cracked and chapped hands as often as I want and never have to worry about using an already-wet towel!  Ah, glorious Winter…sort of…

I needed a break

It’s been quite awhile (almost 3 months) since I have written anything and I am sort of bummed about that.  This space has always been sort of my diary, albeit a public one.  But it’s how I hope to keep track of stuff we have been doing, share pics with friends, and make new friends.  It’s just that things have gotten so busy that writing has just sort of fallen by the wayside.

Basically, we have been very involved with band, sports, and life…some of the very things I like to write about.  But this time around, it seems like those things are all we do and I cannot possibly write about the same three or four things over and over.

Anyhow, things have slowed down a lot and I am going to try to catch up.  I am not sure who I am addressing and I hate those random vague thoughts sent out to the Internet that people seem to do far too often on facebook, but I needed a chance to just log in again and write something.  Maybe I am just writing to myself as a sort of kick in the pants to get back into writing…

The rest of the trip

So a few days ago, I mentioned a trip we took and how it changed because of rain.  As you may remember, we had planned to tube the Potomac River on day 2 but the rain was so bad that the river was not going to be fun.  Still, we wanted to save the weekend so we decided to visit Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, WV.

Cass Scenic Railroad
Cass Scenic Railroad
At the Company Store
At the Company Store

The Cass Railroad used to service a series of lumber camps on top of the mountain.  The town was a company store kind of town which has been pretty well restored.  The rail line is also well maintained and has covered train cars so it was perfect for a rainy day!

At the Company Store
At the Company Store

The trip to Cass requires a winding trip through some beautiful scenic territory in the Eastern Mountains of WV.  It’s amazing getting to Cass and even cooler once you get there.  We wandered about the town waiting for trip up the mountain.  I love trains and this trip reminded me of the several trips my family took when I was a kid.  We rode several steam engines around NY and PA on trips just like this one.

Shay locomotive at Cass
Shay locomotive at Cass
Ready for our trip up the mountain
Ready for our trip up the mountain

I think I irritated Emily, but I just couldn’t get enough of looking at the trains and the dirty coal-men and the company store.  I know it was a hard life and definitely not a romantic era for working folks, but for some reason, I sort of visualize the turn of the century as a special time that is intriguing to me if I had a time machine.  Goofy, I know.  Anyhow, I stared at the trains and imagined the people who used to live and die in the forest cutting massive trees with hand saws.  I imagined the raucous parties when the men had a chance to go to town and I wondered if the life that seems so simple in my mind was something I would want to live.  And then I remember that the average lifespan was poor and the time between birth and death for many of those guys was no dream…at least not a good dream.

Huge drive arms
Huge drive arms

Anyhow, we rode the specially built train up the mountain where it traversed an 11% grade.  For modern locomotives, a 2% grade is steep.  The train travels a series of switchbacks to climb and descend the mountain and I cannot imagine the guys who used to haul huge loads of timber down the mountain, counting on the brakes to keep them from rolling down the hill out of control.

One of the switchbacks
One of the switchbacks
Selfie on the ride up
Selfie on the ride up

06_30_2015 257

Almost to Whittaker Station
Almost to Whittaker Station
Touring the logging camp
Touring the logging camp

I guess this train ride will be one I won’t ever forget.  It was just special.  The kids and I sucked on hard candy we bought at the company store and found ourselves chatting about…stuff.  We took silly pictures and had absolutely no cell service at all so had to resort to conversation and our imaginations.  We jabbered and day-dreamed as the scenery passed us by on the trip.  In my mind, it was just perfect and without the rain, we would never have seen this part of WV!

The family at Whittaker Station
The family at Whittaker Station
CassVideo
Click for a cool video with the train whistle…wait for it

(If the video above doesn’t work for you or if you want a smaller but lower quality version, try this link)

After the train ride, we decided to go to Snowshoe Mountain Resort which is a well-known ski area in the winter.  In the summer, it is sort of nothing I guess.  There aren’t too many people around, but the mountain and scenery remain beautiful.  We were fairly near the Greenbank Radio Observatory, a national radio quiet zone.

Greenbank Radio Observatory
Greenbank Radio Observatory…in the rain

Cell service was sketchy and the resort facilities where we stayed were even sketchier…summer visitors have to endure repairs and upgrades from the ski season I guess.  Anyhow, the technology-free weekend was a lot of fun.  Of course, the rain continued and storms rolled in as well.  We jumped into the pool at one point and 5 minutes later, they booted us out because of impending lightning.

In Lewisburg

In Lewisburg
In Lewisburg

We survived the night, had a great and greasy breakfast and drove to Lewisburg, WV where we ate lunch and walked around in town a bit.  Lewisburg is an awesome town and we love visiting, even if we just walk up and down the street.  It has a small-town-America feel…back to that romantic vision of a different time I guess!  Anyhow, we ended up having a fantastic trip, even though our plans were so significantly different from what we originally planned.  I think those sorts of trips may be the best kind!

It’s been awhile, but let me explain

I don’t really have a good explanation. This Summer has been busy and wild and rainy and I feel like we just cannot get ahead of stuff going on! Band camp has started for Isaac and will continue this week at the school and next week away at their “away camp”.  Abigail starts next week as well with camp at the school and then we are back in school…or so it seems.

Strawberry pie!

We haven’t been to our executive deer stand, I haven’t harvested the honey yet and I am not sure you could call what was a yard a yard any more…more like a jungle.  And so, here lies my blog, lonely and abandoned.  I had trouble with it being attacked and just in general sucking from a hardware and infrastructure stand-point.  It was hosted on an aging server in my office.  As it grew in size, the server balked more and more often and then knuckle heads from places unknown slammed it hard (though it didn’t have to be hit too hard to bring it to its knees).  Finally, I decided to migrate it to a paid service where I get better machines, better storage, better maintenance, etc.  I hate paying but it should just flat out work better now.

Strawberry pie!
Strawberry pie!

So, hopefully things are settling down some and I can get back to posting.  It’s been a fun Summer in spite of rushing around.  I’ll have to tell some of the stories we accrued.  In the meantime, please enjoy this pic of the strawberry pie Emily made me…she made me about 4-5 this summer and they were incredible!

He’d probably chuckle…

As I posted last week, my Uncle Bill with whom I was very close, passed.  He was not a young man, but his passing was still somewhat unexpected.  My aunt called the morning before he passed and told me the progression of things as they happened over night.  I immediately packed and headed for Erie, PA where he had been life-flighted.  In my home town where they also lived, there is no hospital.  The closest hospital is a half an hour away but is not really equipped for anything serious.

Uncle Bill

Anyhow, as I left WV, the weather was mostly ok, but I knew it was supposed to be bad as I traveled north.  Somewhere in the middle of PA, the weather turned from ok to total junk.  It started raining and then the rain froze.  I had a good cake of ice on my windshield and all over the car.  I knew I would not make it to Erie as the weather is always bad in Erie due to the lake effect snow they always get.  It had snowed 8-10 inches before the freezing rain so the situation was pretty bad.

Uncle Bill

I aborted the push north and headed to my hometown…where the weather was also terrible.  The roads were terribly icy and the snow was 2 or so feet deep…and now covered with ice.  My mom who was also in WV followed me in to their place.  We had to hit “the facilities” as soon as we got there.  Mom tried to turn on the lights but they didn’t come on.  I checked the breaker box and discovered water running through the panel.  That of course had tripped some of the breakers.  It also provided a serious hazard as far as I could tell.  Having jumped in the car in a hurry, I hadn’t packed adequate snow gear and my parents’ ladders were in WV…and besides, I am no expert on water in the breaker box.  My Mom called a local handyman who immediately came out and, with a torch, melted the ice dam off of the roof above the panel box.  The ice was at least 10 inches thick under a foot of snow.  It’s a wonder there weren’t worse problems.

Uncle Bill

As the repair man tried to leave, he got incredibly stuck in the deep snow which we hadn’t yet plowed off.  After digging and pushing for at least 30 minutes, he broke free.  He basically floored it kicking snow and slush all over me as I pushed him up onto some pine branches we had cut so he could get traction.  Not having winter gear, I was a complete mess…soaked to the bone.

Uncle Bill

We were exhausted from everything so ate quickly and went to bed.  The next morning, we headed to the hospital in Erie where we made it just in time to say our good-byes.  It was very difficult to say goodbye and even more painful to watch my Aunt as they were probably the most closely knit couple I know.

Uncle Bill

When we made it back to Tionesta, I followed the footsteps of the repairman from the night before.  I got my Subaru stuck up to the tops of the tires.  Luckily, my brother arrived later int he day with his Jeep.  With a little work, he was able to yank my car out of the snow.  I have always been pretty stupid with what I expect my Subaru to do and it has always excelled in stupid situations…deep snow/ice/slush was just too much for it I guess.  It was too much for about any car that didn’t have knobby tires I think!

Uncle Bill

We spent a few more days with my parents, brother and sister-in-law and my aunt reminiscing, talking, and drinking a few beers in my uncle’s honor.  It was a good time considering the situation.  The night before I was to return to WV, I returned my aunt to her house.  She walked in to find no heat.  It was still pretty cold…single digit temps at night so that wasn’t going to work for her.  She called a furnace company who would send a guy to help.  Like everything up there, the company was an hour and a half away.  His ETA was 1am.  I actually had a really good opportunity to spend time with just my aunt until he came.  We talked and remembered and talked some more.  It was good.  The repair guy came at 1 and by 2am had her patched through until he could get parts.  I returned to my parents’ home but still woke up at 7 am for my return trip to WV.  That sort of sucked.  I had a thermos and an insulated cup of coffee so I had plenty of “fuel” for the return trip.

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill

You might be thinking that it seems like a lot went wrong on an already stressful and sad trip…you’d be right.  It wasn’t much fun in many ways.  In other ways, though, it was just the sort of craziness on which my Uncle thrived.  He was generally happy and laughed a lot…about everything.  Crap happened and he chuckled about it.  Good stuff happened and he chuckled about it.  While all of this stuff kept piling on,  I kept thinking about how he always responded to things in life that just happened.  In a way, it was the perfect way to mourn his passing.   I chuckled as things heaped on.  That’s how Uncle Bill would have handled it….