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.

Rest in Peace, Max Dauernheim

We first met Max at an adoption event at a pet store in DC. I don’t even remember why we were downtown, or why we decided to stop in to this particular pet store on this particular day. But there we were, and there we met the little fur ball that has been a big part of our lives for the past 14 years.
Max was, quite literally, the runt of the litter. While the other puppies were barking and jumping to get attention from all of the onlookers, Max was just standing there and waiting for someone to notice him. We picked him up, and it was like he knew we were meant for him. He was quiet and patient and at some point, we knew.
After the Partnership for Animal Welfare approved our adoption, Max came home to our little apartment in Falls Church. He lived in the kitchen and a cardboard box as he was being potty trained, and I came home from work every day at lunchtime to let him out for some play time.
He was always a smart dog. Before we had human children, Max was passing obedience tests with flying colors, and became a “therapy dog,” visiting nursing homes with us and bringing smiles to the faces of all the residents. Max even won a silver medal at one of the local dog festivals for running the bases with me.
The years rolled on and we had two human kids, and Max was a great companion for them too. He was never a great watchdog, he never stuck his head out of the car window, and he wasn’t the most enthusiastic fetcher of tennis balls. But feeding Max and taking him for walks became chores for the kids, and so in his way, he taught them responsibility.
Last week, Max suddenly got sick. He wasn’t able to eat anything, and when we took him to the vet, it was clear that something was wrong with his liver. The vet did what they could for a couple of days, and eventually we took him home. It looked for a while like he might be okay: he was eating some food and drinking some water, and the jaundice in his eyes was receding. Unfortunately, he took another turn for the worse and he pretty much gave up on eating. Over his last few days, we did our best to keep him comfortable and surrounded by the people who loved him.
Max died today. He was 14 years old. Rest in peace, buddy.

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.