A Winning Weekend

I’ve been trying to run the EX2 Adventures Hemlock course for at least 5 years now, but something always seemed to get in the way. One year, I had to curl that day and decided to skip it in favor of that. Another couple of times, it was rescheduled due to rain or snow and I couldn’t make the rainout date. This year, it turned out I had a potential curling conflict again, but I was running that course no matter what!

The theme for the Potomac Curling Club‘s Embassy Row bonspiel this year was Scotland. I was playing with the team that I am planning to play in the mixed playdowns with in 2019, and it was our first spiel playing together. We ended up playing pretty well for the first three games, leading us into a matchup with Courtney and Melvin Shaw’s team on Saturday night. If we lost, we would drop into the D event semifinals on Sunday morning at 9am, directly conflicting with the race. Win, and we’d play in the A finals at noon instead. I managed to line up a spare to play just in case we did lose. Luckily for us, our opponents didn’t have a great game and we played well enough to move on, and for me to run my race.

I was originally planning and training to run the 10 mile course, which is essentially two loops of the same 5 mile course. But with a tight window to get up to Laurel from Hemlock Overlook park, I decided to drop down to the shorter distance instead. Since I knew that I was in shape to run 10 miles, I went out hard and tried to keep my petal to the floor the whole way. The hills kicked my butt and I got passed by a couple of folks, but I managed to hang on for 4th place overall and 1st in my age group!

44847217_1812700405519835_3688951834639305623_n

After a quick shower, I headed up to Laurel for our final against another Potomac team. Alas, for this game, we needed a lot of shots to go our way and it seemed that few of them did. Still, managing to finish second in our first bonspiel together was quite an accomplishment! We’ll be playing together again in Philadelphia in January to continue to tune up for the big event in February.

43985322_1224552607682748_5432775947994612383_n

Hard to beat a good weekend of trail running and curling!

Curling Season Begins!

After a long summer, it’s almost time for the curling season to begin once again. The Potomac Curling Club has a whole lot of new members this year, thanks to Team Shuster winning gold at the Olympics. In fairness, we always get a bump post-Olympics, but this seems bigger than usual. All but two of our leagues are completely full, so we basically have seven days a week of constant curling opportunities.

For myself, I’ve already been out on the ice practicing a few times (still need to fix a bit of drift in my slide) and helped teach a Learn to Curl on Tuesday as well. I’ll be up there again tonight to practice with my teams, and will be volunteering tomorrow at our first bonspiel of the year. After that, I’ll be participating in our Embassy Row bonspiel in November, and heading up to Rochester for the GNCC Men’s club playdowns in December. I will probably travel to another bonspiel in January or February before participating in the GNCC Mixed playdowns back at the Potomac club.

My son is also curling and looking forward to the season. He’s probably going to come with me to practice tonight, and juniors will start next weekend. I’m hoping to get him to participate in a junior bonspiel as well, if we can find the time between soccer and basketball.

If you’ve ever wanted to try curling, just click the link above to head over to the Potomac Curling Club website and see what we have to offer. There are open houses coming up on October 20 and again in March. See you there!

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.

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.

Game Four Memories

When it was clear that the Washington Nationals were going to make their first postseason this year, I could not resist getting tickets. I took a chance that Game Four would be “necessary,” and managed to get two tickets to the game. (If there had been a sweep, I would have gotten my money back, so no big deal.) As it turned out, the game would end up being at a perfect time of day: 4:07pm. I could take my son, Evan, to the game with me to experience our first playoff game together.

The butterflies started building in my stomach around noon, and when I couldn’t take it any more, I left work and went home to get the boy from school. He excitedly changed into his Nats shirt in the car and we hopped on the Metro to the stadium. At 1:30pm, the train was mostly full of early bird Nats fans heading down to the game with us and at one point, we spotted two teachers from his school. We gave each other a wink and a nod and went our separate ways.

Hopping off the train, I picked up a new red Nats hat for the boy, a bag of peanuts, and we headed inside and got our “Natitude” rally towels. The crowd was still sparse, but the excitement was in the air. Behind the center field scoreboard, kids were getting their face painted and Evan got a balloon sword, which he somehow managed to get all the way home without popping. We found our seats and headed down to the right field wall to watch batting practice and hope to catch a ball. We had no such luck though, in spite of the cute guy with the little glove begging for the ball. Finally, we settled into our seats and waited for the game to start.

The National Anthem was sung, and out strolled the giant Frank Howard. Howard is still a beast of a man and is most famous for hitting mammoth homeruns at RFK Stadium. There are white seats in the upper deck where Howard hit particularly monstrous homeruns. Who knew that having this slugger throw out the first pitch would be so appropriate?

Finally, the game got underway. Our seats in right field were directly in the line of the sun for a good portion of the game until the sun finally ducked behind the upper deck. On many of the early hits, we had no idea where the ball had gone, save for the reactions of the players. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the field in that situation. Ross Detwiler was the last hope for the Nats. The first three pitchers in the Nats’ rotation – Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson – had let the fans down with their efforts. Detwiler stepped up from the first pitch and did little wrong. Only an error from Ian Desmond (followed by a foolish but overlooked throw to home from Bryce Harper when he should have thrown to second) allowed the Cardinals to put up a run. The Nats had trouble hitting as well though. Only Adam LaRoche managed to get the fans out of their seats with a solo homer to give the Nats the lead in the second. That’s not to say that the fans weren’t on their feet. We were all excited and itching for something to happen, but over and over again, we had to sit down and wait for another moment.

Evan did pretty well throughout the game. There was a moment in the fourth inning when he asked when we were leaving (“When the game is over, buddy.”), but that quickly passed when I told him that the Presidents Race was coming up. Then he spent the next inning and a half talking about that. We grabbed some hot dogs at one point and we managed to stay in our seats for most of the rest of the game until the top of the ninth. Two outs, man on first, Drew Storen pitching to Matt Carpenter. Storen runs it to a full count, and Evan says he has to pee. I manage to hold him off until Ian Desmond corrals the popup for the third out and we make a mad dash to the bathroom and make it back to our seats just in time to hear the PA announcer say, “Now batting, Jayson Werth.”

And then, this happened.

By this point everyone was standing for the entire at bat, and with each narrowly foul ball we held our breath. Finally the last crack sounded and the place erupted. We knew. The Nats had lived to see another day.

Jayson Werth was ostensibly the hero, delivering the walk-off homer. But don’t forget Detwiler’s six solid innings. Jordan Zimmermann’s electric three strikeouts out of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard striking out the side. Ian Desmond’s defense saving a fine inning for Drew Storen.

What a game. And how awesome to have my son there with me to see it.

Merry Strasmas!

A couple of weeks ago, I took a flier on a long shot. No, not the Kentucky Derby. I took a reasonable guess that the date of Stephen Strasburg’s Major League debut would be June 4. I turned out to be wrong, but we went to the game anyway and had a good time. The kids played on the playground, had ice cream, and we managed to escape without buying any souvenirs.
Last night was Strasburg’s actual debut, and you’d have to say he lived up to the hype. 7 innings, 94 pitches, 2 runs, 4 hits, no walks, and 14 strikeouts. FOURTEEN! Including the last 7 batters IN A ROW! After giving up a homerun, he retired the next ten batters, including eight by strikeout. Phenomenal.
At least I will have a better idea of when he’ll actually pitch from now on. Every five days, mark it down.