New Shoes

Through some weird confluence of coincidences, I recently found myself needing to get a few new pairs of shoes. I really like them, so I figured I should share what I got, and why.

On occasional weekends, I work for a trail race company called EX2 Adventures. A lot of what I do is mark the course and then take down the markings after the race. Plus, one of the perks of the job is that you can run any races you aren’t working for free. After a not-so-fun experience demarking the extremely muddy and wet Fountainhead course earlier this year, and preparing to race the tough Hemlock course this fall, I headed up to the newest Potomac River Running store in Vienna. Ray, one of the staff members there, is also an EX2 runner and had also run the Fountainhead race, so he knew exactly the conditions that I was trying to tackle. He recommended the New Balance Hierros. (I also picked up another pair of the Hoka One One Cliftons, which I wore for marathon training, since I’m also starting to train for next year’s Boston Marathon.) I had the chance to try out the Hierros last weekend at Pohick Bay. The course wasn’t too bad, but given the amount of rain we’ve had in the DC area this year, there were some extremely muddy and wet spots along the way. The Hierros got through and kept my feet nice and dry, even after an early morning running and verifying the course. Thanks Ray!

My new job with Esri has a pretty loose dress code. Just don’t wear shorts and t-shirts and you’re probably fine. I had been wearing some cheap Old Navy shoes since I started but wanted to get a pair of shoes with a bit more support and comfort. Enter the Adidas Advantage with Cloudfoam. They are super comfortable and feel like I’m walking in pillows but still are solid underfoot. Love them.

That was a lot of words about shoes, but sometimes, it’s the little things that can make you happy.

Resurrection

I am taking a bit of a social media breather and decided it was about time to resurrect the old website. I have always had a hosting plan with various blog software installations, from MovableType back in the day, to standalone WordPress most recently. Now I’m moving it over to WordPress.com, where I won’t have to worry about software updates or backups. Hopefully there will be more to come, but in the meantime, you can walk down Nostalgia Avenue with me and check out the old stuff of Ellie and Evan. So cute!

Take a Vacation

Inspired by Free Money Finance’s post, I thought I would share our upcoming vacation plans. Everyone should take a vacation! Here are our plans for the year so far:

  • Spring Break to New York to see Hamilton and a Yankee game
  • The girls are taking a Girl Scout trip to Georgia
  • Summer trip to the Great Smoky Mountains to see the eclipse
  • Trip to Orlando to go to Harry Potter World and for my daughter to go to a dance competition

That doesn’t seem like nearly enough, and I’m sure we will also do a long weekend here and there to keep things balanced. What are your 2017 vacation plans?

Carry On

Today was something of a strange day. I am still feeling a bit under the weather, but I went to an interview with EX2 Adventures to see if I could start a side gig working on their races. Jim Harman runs the show there, and I already know it would be a great fit for me if they decided to take me on. I thought the interview went pretty well, but I’m always a poor judge of these things, if my past “real job” interviews are anything to go by. At any rate, I absolutely adore the EX2 races and would be honored if they decided to let me work for them.

After I got home from the interview, Evan had a basketball game, and his team earned their first tie of the year. They had previously not won any games, so they have definitely gotten a lot better as the season has gone on.

After we got home, I finished installing the backup camera on my car. Our replacement for the totaled Civic hybrid, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra, has been treating me well so far. But the rental car we had with a backup camera really spoiled me, so I decided to put one in the new car. I bought a Pioneer AppRadio4 stereo from Crutchfield, which added Apple CarPlay to my display. Then I ran some cables to the back of the car and added in a cheap-o Chinese backup camera. It is so freaking cool, I don’t even know how to describe the sense of accomplishment I got that I was able to install it all myself!

And then. And then. So many amazing citizens of this country of ours came out to our airports and told our President that we are a nation of immigrants, and that we stand behind our diversity as a country. It’s so amazing to see people just show up at the arrival terminals and welcome strangers to our country. I hope that we will emerge from this stronger than ever.

Training

Last fall, I finished the Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon in 1:29:19. I had set a goal for myself: if I finished under 1:30, I would theoretically project to running a full marathon in under 3:10, which would be a solid time to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In that case, I told myself that I should make the attempt to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I even had a race all picked out: the Potomac River Run Marathon is a nice flat course with a limited number of runners and would have been great for my attempt. Alas, scheduling doesn’t look like it is going to work out. But on the good side, delaying to the fall will let me run the same course, and I will be attempting to qualify for the 2019 edition. Since I will be 45 at the time of the 2019 Boston Marathon, my qualifying time can be 10 minutes slower!

I pitched a New Year’s resolution story to The Billfold a couple of weeks ago. At this point, it looks like they aren’t going to run it, so I figured I would post it here. I thought it ended up being decent, but maybe a little short for what they wanted, based on what they have run so far. Still, it felt good to write things again, which is why I decided to start writing here again, I suppose. Plus, just writing it fell in to the “taking chances” theme of the piece.

Taking Chances
Being a parent can make you extremely risk-averse. Not just in the sense that you don’t want your kids to get physically hurt, but you also tend to shy away from making choices in your own life that could negatively affect them. At the same time, you want to teach them that failure is a part of life and things aren’t always going to go your way, and they can learn from their mistakes.
That’s how I found myself last October, trying to decide whether to leave my job of 18 years. It was a difficult and scary decision, but I decided to take a chance and accept a position with a much smaller company. The move wasn’t even that risky; the job paid more and was on a 4 year contract, but I still felt really nervous. When I was in high school, my father lost his job twice in the course of a few years, and the resulting gap in income put a lot of stress on the whole family. In contrast, this was a voluntary move. I know I could have worked in my original job for many more years with very little risk of losing my job or taking a hit to my income. Ultimately, it’s frightening to think that I’ve been doing something for nearly 20 years and I’m not even sure if it’s the right career for me. The thing about being risk-averse is that you can too easily get stuck in a rut with no way out.
How do you know what you’re made of without testing your resolve? As 2016 came to a close, I found that I didn’t have an answer to that question. I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I decided to take more chances in 2017 to put my mettle to the test. The job change was just the beginning. Perhaps I’ll find that the problems with my old job have followed me to the new job and I’ll want to make a more radical career change. Maybe I’ll want to move from the high cost-of-living of Washington, DC to a more affordable area. I already have some things lined up to challenge myself in the upcoming year. I’m going to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon in the spring fall (see above). In the fall, I will try again to qualify for the Club National Championships in curling. Both of those goals seem destined for failure, but that’s okay! Despite my introverted tendencies, I’m going to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people at events like Creative Morningstech talks and group running. I’m also going to branch out and find a new hobby, maybe even something that can turn into a side hustle. This week, I even applied for a “side job,” if you can call it that, helping to run a series of trail races that I love.
As my kids have grown, I’ve noticed that they have followed my example and have become overly cautious and wary of trying new things unless I really encourage them. I’m hoping that, by taking chances in my life, they will start taking chances in theirs too. They both decided to try curling this fall, and my daughter joined the backstage crew of her middle school’s play. We’re even going skiing together for the first time in March. I’m proud that they are trying new things outside of their usual routines.

Trying New Things

The Silver Line is open after a long, long wait. On Monday, I had to drop off the minivan at the Honda dealer for some recall work. Since the dealer is literally right next to the Silver Line’s Spring Hill station, I decided to ride it for a couple of stops to McLean. My train’s car was full, but not packed, when I got on. People were boarding at every station in the Tysons area, a bit to my surprise. Also surprising was how long the short tunnel under the high point of Tysons was.

Eventually, I hopped off the train at the McLean station. I probably could have walked the rest of the way to work, but with ongoing road construction on Anderson Road, I decided to try out the Fairfax Connector bus instead. Buses were arriving fairly frequently, and there were quite a few people hopping off and heading to the Silver Line to commute in to DC. I expect there will be a lot of those to start off, but that the reverse commuters (especially those who work at Mitre right next to the McLean station) will start picking up in the next few months. Oh, and that nifty Park and Ride lot at the McLean Station? Total ghost town. So much for the parking apocalypse.

On my way back to the dealer, I took the Fairfax Connector again, this time the one that was replacing the old 24T Metrobus route (which is still signed along the route, but I let Metro know so they can fix it). The bus, as the 24T always was, was nearly empty, making me wonder why they are still running this line with huge buses. It’s certainly not for my couple of times a year I use it when dropping my car at the dealer. The route ran right back up to the Spring Hill station, and I walked across the station bridge to avoid trying to cross the umpteen jam-packed lanes of Route 7. Overall, it was a pretty decent commute, made convenient only because of where my car dealer is currently located.

Yesterday, I rode my bike to work and decided to check out the new “upgraded” Route 7 bridge over I-495. What. A. Nightmare. First off, I forgot how steep the hill up Magarity Road is, and my quads were burning, big time. Then came the moment of truth, the attempt to cross over five separate highway ramps. The first two were easy, as the light at Magarity and Route 7 was in my favor, and I was able to get across them without any trouble. In addition, one of the ramps actually has a signal, so I could be sure it was safe to cross. However, that single ramp was the only one with a signal out of five I had to cross. The first problem came when I tried to cross the ramp from I-495 northbound to Route 7 westbound. A steady stream of cars came off the ramp, with no break to see, all proceeding too fast for me to try to get anyone’s attention to allow me to cross. With the clover leaf approach, most cars didn’t even see me until they were 50 feet away. Finally, after several minutes of waiting, a wonderful gentleman in a Honda Accord stopped and wave me through. PHEW! The walkway on the bridge is nice and wide, but then came the ramp from Route 7 westbound to I-495 southbound. The sidewalk there veers to follow the ramp, then forces a sharp left turn across the ramp, with very difficult visibility of the traffic approaching from behind on Route 7. Luckily, the traffic there was all proceeding westbound on Route 7, and I was able to scoot across quickly. The last ramp also had difficult visibility, this time due to the vegetation growing between the sidewalk and the ramp itself. Honestly, if I was going to ride this route again (which I am not), I would probably wait for a favorable light at Route 7 and Magarity, and ride in the roadway, rather than try to navigate the ramp crossings on the sidewalk. If I was taking this route with any regularity, I would likely choose to ride one of the buses to cross I-495 on Route 7 rather than put myself at risk with the extremely dangerous ramp crossings.

Proceeding west down Route 7, I considered taking Towers Crescent Drive over to Gallows Road, but instead decided to continue west straight to Gallows Road itself. Alas, the sidewalk after Fashion Boulevard was closed, and I was forced to cross near the Fairfax Square shopping area (home to Chef Geoff’s). I then cut over on Aline Avenue to Gallows. Here, there was a short, but harrowing ride in high speed traffic before I reached the relative safety of the Gallows Road bike lane which inexplicably starts after Madrillon Road, rather than connecting all the way up to Route 7. Again, if I rode this route again, I would certainly take the Towers Crescent route, which would drop me on Gallows Road in the middle of the bike lane. The bike lane could use some sweeping, as there was lots of gravel and debris in it, but was a smooth ride that allowed me to pass several cars stopped at lights. Room for road education: those dotted lines in the bike lane leading up to right turns? Cars are supposed to cut into the bike lane at that point prior to making the turn. Really, it’s okay, it lets me know that you are turning at a more gradual pace, rather than cutting across my path in a right hook. All the cars I saw stayed in the car lane, even when I was pretty close behind them. One more side note, there was a little hill down Gallows near Idylwood Road, and I totally blew past a sputtering moped, highlight of my ride for sure.

This post shows there is still a lot of work to be done in the area to accommodate pedestrians and bikers. Even when transportation engineers and planners try to add facilities, as they did with the commodious walkway on the Route 7 bridges, they fail to consider the big picture of how people are going to get to and use the facilities. In the case of Route 7, no one is going to try to regularly cross those ramps without signalized crossings like the ones provided by the HOT lane ramps. Unfortunately, VDOT is continuing to ignore these basic realities while touting its new pedestrian accommodations, like the planned Route 123 sidepath and the Idylwood sidewalks to nowhere. (P.S. It would have been really nice to put in bike lanes when you repaved Idylwood Road, guys!) I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since they still haven’t even added needed crosswalks in Tysons during the YEARS they had to prepare for the Silver Line opening. Tysons has a long way to go before it becomes the idyllic walkable Arlington-esque paradise planners envisioned. I am optimistic that it will happen eventually, but if I were new to the area and looking for somewhere to live, I’d go to Dunn Loring over Tysons right now. The Mosaic District is great, and once the construction surrounding Dunn Loring station is complete, it will be extremely easy to access for pedestrians and bikers alike.

Ginavit Complement

I’ve been enjoying New Columbia’s fall/winter seasonal “ginavit” quite a bit the past few weeks. They’re having a cocktail contest, so I figured I would throw out this easy yet complex cocktail as my entry. It’s adapted from the “Complement Cocktail” served in Copenhagen. I chose to flip the ratios to accentuate the ginavit over the straight gin. The sweetness of the maraschino helps to counter all the savory sensations from the caraway, dill and star anise.

Ingredients:

Ice
1 1/2 ounces Ginavit
3/4 ounce Green Hat gin
2 dashes maraschino liqueur
1 star anise or sprig of dill

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice. Add the gin, aquavit and liqueur; shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with star anise or dill and serve.