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!

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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.

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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!

Olympic Curling Preview

The long awaited curling competition gets underway today at the Vancouver Games. The men’s side begins at 12 eastern on USA (and online) against Germany while the women will start off against Japan at 5pm on CNBC.
On the men’s side, the clear favorite is defending world champion Kevin Martin. Martin is one of the best curlers in the world, if not the best right now. The US men, frankly, have little chance of winning it all. They’re just too young and inexperienced, but hopefully they will be able to build from here and get even better. With some luck, they might be able to squeeze into the medal round, but I’m predicting a 6th place finish. Also, watch out for the Norwegian John Daly-style pants. Stylish!
For the women, Debbie McCormick has been there before. She won the world championship in 2003, and is ready to go in Vancouver. She should at least make the playoff round. However, the other teams in the field are strong as well. I look for Canada to win gold against China, and Sweden to take the bronze.
Curling is one of the high points of the NBCOlympics.com coverage. You can watch every game live online, so be sure to bookmark the curling page and come back at noon Eastern time today to check out the action. You can also check out FULL event replays of the men’s downhill, among others. This way you can watch all the important runs, and not just what NBC thinks is important. They even bookmark the videos to mark the spots when the Americans are featured. Pretty cool.

Fantastic Weekend

We had such a great weekend this weekend that I felt that I just had to write about it. Something other than beer and book reviews for a change, how about that?
It started off on Thursday night. Our curling club has an internal bonspiel designed to get some of the newer players to compete. We had 12 teams playing, and I was vice skip for our team. Our first game was Thursday, and we won fairly easily. Thankfully, I played a lot better than I had played on Sunday, and a bit better than Wednesday. It was a good start to the weekend. On Saturday morning, I woke up to rain and had to drive up to the curling club for our second game. Sometime while I was out on the ice, the rain changed to snow, and it started piling up pretty quickly. We went on to win our second game, and had to wait for the result of one of the later games to find out if we would advance directly to the final via tie-breaking procedures. As it turned out, we did win the tie-breaker, and qualified for the final on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, prior plans did not allow me to play Sunday, but my team did win, and I got one of these nifty wooden “stones” as a trophy! (Mine is the second from the left, that guy subbed for me on Sunday.)

I headed back home in the snowpocalyptic storm, and surprisingly the roads had not come to a screeching halt. After Lisa and the kids got back from the firehouse breakfast and dropping off Ellie’s friend, we went outside to make snowmen/women. The snow was absolutely perfect for making snowpeople. You could roll the snowballs around, and the snow would stick to the snowball and keep building up bigger and bigger. It was so easy we made two! Ellie and Evan had a blast and even toughed it out for quite a while before complaining about the cold and lobbying for hot chocolate. We went back inside to warm up. I managed to hang new IKEA blinds in the kids’ room with a minimum amount of cursing (mainly reserved for IKEA not including screws!). Later on, we had cheese fondue for dinner and roasted marshmallows over the fire to make smores.
The next morning we headed up to Baltimore to see Uncle Bill and Aunt Maria. We got there in plenty of time and took the light rail up to Woodberry Kitchen to have brunch. That was the most expensive brunch I’ve ever had, but it was definitely worth it. We had the Bake Shop Basket (with extra Lemon Glazed Doughnuts) to start. Everything in there was delicious, especially the doughnuts (they even gave us an extra order for free). The kids were devouring everything we put in front of them. Uncle Bill got the “Full Monty”: a Bloody Mary with shrimp, candied bacon and Natty Boh chaser, which he gave a wholehearted endorsement. Bill and I got the Hangtown Fry: shrimp, oysters and bacon with scrambled eggs. Lisa and Maria got the Morning After: two eggs, BBQ pork, potatoes and biscuit. The kids both got the challah French Toast. Everything was very good yet again. And then we somehow found room to share a CMP: ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, marshmallow fluff, and peanuts. Ellie got to crack the hard sugar top and nearly cracked the glass! We all dipped our spoons deep into the glass and pulled out the gooey goodness. The perfect ending to a great meal.
We finished eating just in time to walk up the hill to see the (scandalized) Baltimore Mayor’s parade. A crazy sound wafted down the hill toward us and we looked up to see a big steam calliope going by. We found a nice spot to sit in the sun and watched the many sights, including the “country’s only realistic Lone Ranger look-alike,” some Mummers groups, and more flamboyantly gay black men dancing than I’ve ever seen in one place before. The local Shriners had more vehicles than I’d seen before, including flying carpet cars, balloon wheeled ATVs and dune buggies. There were plenty of motorcycles (and mopeds!), fire engines, but sadly, no bagpipes. And of course, Santa to top it all off.
We rushed back from the parade to drive down to the curling club for my regular league game. I got there just in time, only to find I had forgotten my change of clothes and had to play in my street clothes. We fell behind early, but managed to get a couple of big scoring ends and went into the last end down by one point, but with the critical last rock advantage. When my last shot came up, I had to make a takeout through a tight spot to knock out the opponent’s rock. Instead, I came out heavy and wide, but luckily we adjusted to the shot quickly and played a promote to take out the opponent rock after all, and we won our game by one point in thrilling fashion.
Finally, we straggled home after a long day. I watched the end of the Redskins’ spectacular loss on our DVR, and watched the Giants pull out a victory over the hated Cowboys, meaning I can taunt our seven-year-old neighbor yet again.
Fantastic.

A Satisfying Long Weekend

My weekend started around 10am on Friday, when I left work to make the first trip up to the curling club.  It would be a long three days.

I was playing with two people I had never met before: Alan, a Canadian who lives in Baltimore and hadn’t played in a while, and Sarah, an Alaskan who has been driving around the east coast and Tennessee playing in various bonspiels.  Along the way, we picked up people to fill in for our fourth spot, who was originally going to be Alan’s wife, since she couldn’t make it.

We had no idea what to expect when we started, so Alan skipped us in the first game and I played third.  We ended up losing that game, not surprisingly, since the other team was playing well, and we had never played together before.  Afterward, Alan asked if I would skip the team the rest of the way, since he was just feeling rusty.  So, thrust into the spotlight, I was put in charge for the rest of the weekend.  The move seemed great when we won our 4pm game fairly easily, scoring 5 points in one end and 4 in another, then playing defense the rest of the way to stay out of trouble.  Our reward? An 8am start Saturday morning, lose and go home.

But before that, I hopped in the car and raced home to get changed for the Girl Scouts’ Daddy-Daughter dance.  Ellie was all dressed up, and I even put on a tie for the occasion.  We do have some pictures to share, but in the hubbub of the weekend, we did not have the chance to get them on the computer (there should also be pictures from the curling up soon).  We had a lot of fun, and I was glad that the schedule worked out to allow me to attend the dance.  Also fortunate for me was the fact that Michigan State didn’t play until after the dance was over, so I got to watch a very tightly played game against Kansas.  The local affiliate was even nice enough to realize that North Carolina wasn’t going to lose a 20 point lead, and quickly switched back to MSU-KU for most of the second half.  A great comeback sent the Spartans to the Elite Eight, and me to bed happy.

Up early the next morning, I had breakfast with Ellie before heading out to the curling club once again.  This time, we were on fire and blew the doors off of our opponent, even though we only had three players (shockingly, no one wanted to get up and play with us at 8am!).  Shortly thereafter, I had to head home to try to take care of a plumbing problem.  Our laundry tub had backed up and flooded the basement.  Conveniently, the same drain also services the kitchen sink and dishwasher.  I managed to take apart some pipes to try to get direct access to the clog, but my snaking abilities were lacking, and despite hours of trying and a trip to Home Depot for more gear, I was unable to fix the clog.  It is still not fixed, so we are probably going to have to call a real plumber.

On to Saturday evening, and we played a team of pretty good players from our club, including my skip from previous bonspiels, and one of the players who filled in for us on Friday.  Things were looking grim as we were down by three points (or was it only two? I can’t remember) with only two ends to play.  Through some good shotmaking, we managed to tie the game going into the last end.  Unfortunately, the other team had the last rock advantage.  My lead and second played their shots perfectly, just how you draw it up: two guards on the center line, followed by two draws around in the house to lie two.  The other team never managed to remove more than one of our rocks at a time, so when my turn came, I was throwing up more guards, and they were left with trying some crazy triple takeouts and a tight draw to try to save the game.  They didn’t make them, and we moved on to play again, at 10:15pm.  Did I mention that the previous two games were lose and go home?  Thankfully, the 10:15pm game, coming at the end of a long day that started at 8am, was not an elimination game, because we were worn out.  Early on, we had some momentum, and actually had a one point lead after 4 ends.  But we started to tire, and I missed some potentially game-saving takeouts and the game was lost, and our opponents went on to win the second event the next day.  I stumbled into bed just after 1am.

Back again Sunday morning at 9am.  My buddy Jeremy was good enough to fill in for us Sunday, and if we won, we would get the privilege of being piped onto the ice for a final game at noon, and be assured of winning a pin.  The problem? Standing in our way was a team that had just lost in the main event’s semifinal. Translation: they were good.  But we turned out to be a bit better.  We played a great game, and again it came down to the last two ends.  We managed to take a three point lead after the seventh end, and all we had to do was keep knocking out their rocks until they ran out.  My team did a great job of this, and when it came to my turn I had two chances to get rid of just one of the opponent’s rocks.  Naturally I choked and missed both times.  Ugh.  Unfortunately, the opposing skip sailed his last shot through the house, and we escaped with a one point victory, not the way we intended though.

On to the finals, our seventh game in three long days.  On the other side, a grizzled veteran from Ardsley, NY playing with some relatively new curlers.  I was a little nervous to start, but got the jitters out quickly once we walked out onto the ice following the bagpipers.  The shot of Drambuie probably helped a little bit with the nerves.  The game went back and forth and yet again, came down to the last two ends.  Things were looking rough for a while, and honestly, I wish I could remember what happened a little better.  I do remember that I managed to make a couple of really great game saving shots.  In particular, I really had my draw weight down pat and was putting the rocks at exactly the right distance that I wanted them to be.  In the final end, we had managed to clutter up the front while protecting our rocks in the house, a perfect setup to steal away the win.  The opposing skip’s last rock came up just short of where it needed to be, and we had won the fourth event final, and I had my first gold “medal” as a skip.  What a fun experience!

And yet, the weekend wasn’t over yet.  At 4:45pm, I had to play in the finals of my regular Sunday league.  So I hung around the curling club and watched the conveniently scheduled Michigan State-Louisville basketball game.  Thankfully, after all the drama of the weekend, MSU handily trounced the Cardinals to advance to the Final Four!  Now I just have to figure out how I’m going to watch the games in Ireland.  The places we’re staying all have cable or satellite, but I’m not sure whether they’ll be showing the games live or not.  Once the game was over, it was out to the ice for one last game.  It was no contest.  The team played great and we were up 8-1 when we decided to have some fun.  We let our rookie players call the shots and see what it was like from the other end of the ice.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to end the weekend.  I got home, got the kids to bed and pretty much passed out from exhaustion.  What a weekend!

Curling? Curling!

I haven’t posted too much about curling so far this season. I’m only playing one day a week and haven’t had too much to post about. But it looks like I could be curling in Detroit January 2-4, so that could be fun.
Yesterday’s game was a classic. My team got down 5-0 early, thanks to me coming up short on a draw to lose 3 on a steal in the second end. But we bounced back and were set up well in the third end. Unfortunately, a great shot by the other skip put me back in danger of losing another point to a steal. But on my last shot of the end, I managed to push his rock out and score a big three points. We continued to claw our way back and were down by one in the 7th end. We forced the other skip to make a fabulous shot to barely manage to take his one point, and we needed to score two points to tie in the 8th end. We actually did so fairly easily, and even looked like we might have a shot at 3 for the win. Alas, they took out one of our rocks, and I made a simple hit and stick to score two and send us to an extra end, much to the chagrin of everyone who wanted to go warm up and eat our pizza. So we went into the extra end tied, but without the last rock advantage. We played aggressively, getting two rocks in the house and somewhat covered. From there, my vice and I played to guard those two and get the steal. They managed to take one of ours out, but the other was still protected just past the tee line. My last rock was a good guard that made sure the middle of the ice was covered, and our rock was also under cover. The other skip was forced to go way outside to try to draw around to us, but the rock never curled back in, and we took a thrilling victory. It really was a heck of a game, with both skips making great shots. Well, at least they were great for the usual Sunday league play anyway.
I watched through the window as the Giants beat the Cardinals. Last year at this time, they were still struggling to make the playoffs. This year, they look like (knock on wood) the best team in football, even with the losses on the defensive line, and playing most of yesterday without Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs.
The Spartans are who I thought they were. They still cannot get up for the big game.
And yet, my weekend was made by college football. I never got tired of watching ESPN scroll the stats of how epic Notre Dame and Michigan’s losing seasons have been. Awesome.

Twenty Five Dollars

What a fun weekend. On Saturday, we went to the La Maison Française at the French Embassy to see a Czech performer doing a show with bubbles. Yeah, the soap bubble kind. It was really cool, and Ellie and Evan LOVED it. I came home to catch up on the Michigan State game, and promptly scared the kids with my yelling at the TV. It would have been fine if the MSU receivers could have caught the freakin’ ball a little more often! Still, a win is a win, and we’re unbelievably 8-2 right now, with Purdue at home next, before the big game at Penn State on November 22. It’s a pretty exciting time for MSU football, shockingly enough.
We finally decided on Saturday to pull up the old crappy carpet on the stairs, so that we could get rid of the drywall that’s been sitting around forever. I pulled the carpet up on Saturday evening, and there were actually pretty nice hardwood stairs underneath! A little TLC, and they’ll look really nice. On Sunday morning, I tore down the paneling on one side of the stairs, so I could drop the drywall in. The demolition was fun (Lisa remarked that she’s glad I have protective eyewear: there were a lot of splinters flying around!). It was a little frustrating though, just because there always seem to be gotchas whenever we try to redo something around our house. But we ended up managing to get the drywall mostly in place before I had to leave for curling.
Yes, the curling season has begun. For most people, it even started a couple of weeks ago, but I scaled back my schedule, so I’m only playing on Sundays. My team jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then a 6-1 lead, before wrapping up the win at 12-2. It’s Pizza League though, so I wouldn’t say I played great, or read anything into the results. We could just as easily get killed next week. But it is fun, which is how I like it right now. And it was especially fun coming home and watching the Giants whip the Cowboys. Man, do they need Tony Romo back or what?
So, to the subject of this post. Our local Safeway has a gas station. They give you $0.10 per gallon off for every $100 you spend in the store, or $0.03 just for being a member. We apparently had been racking up the credits and had spent $400 in the past couple of weeks, so we got a $0.40 discount. Off the $2.44 price. So we paid $2.04 per gallon. Wow. We spent only $25 to fill up the tank of our Odyssey, just a few months after routinely paying double that. Crazy.