Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Horse is a Horse (of course?)

So I recently decided I would not let it bother me that Julie has neither eaten oatmeal or seen a James Bond movie. It certainly is not my place to intercede, but when word came around that she had never seen Amelie, I had to do something! So after a nice dinner cooked in Friday we watched the movie. The title was a surprise, but she was very excited to see it as she had heard many good things. What is it about the infectious good nature of the movie that moves you?

Now that she has gotten over that hump, I need enough people out there to tell her about the MOST INCREDIBLE porridge in the world, Red River. For you unfortunate folks that aren't even close to the Canadian border or live their full time, you can now even order it from Amazon!

One might say "but I digress" at this point but that's really what this blog is about!! Before I get blown away (literally, not by the taste of this fabulous cereal) I should relate the contents of the remainder of the weekend!

I was a little unsure about how far I would run on Saturday. I ended up sleeping in because my body is still recovering from the Uwharrie Run and the flu which I no doubt got because I pushed the limits on Saturday. I was also excited about starting to run with a new group from the Dowd - yes Cummins its true, I am most likely leaving you and your superfast freaks. I really need a group of real people who I can run with and not be left behind. Why would I bother showing up instead of running from my house if I wanted to run alone?

However, given the late hour which I could finally devote to doing something, I browsed through my previous runs from 8 to 11 miles and decided to a nine mile route, this time in a clockwise motion. The weather was absolutely sunny and gorgeous, perhaps the warmest temps I've run in sometime. Departure time was around 10:15. The route began with a slight variation of my standard northern escape heading north on Murrayhill snaking my way to Marsh. From there I descended towards Freedom Park. Around 4 miles at that point, normally I would stop at the southern fountain, but I decided to at least push to the parking lot fountain. I was duly punished with a non-functioning unit, but thankfully the fountain near the tennis courts awaited me. I nearly spaced on turning to Maryland. After stretching through a bit of Queens West, I turned off on Croydon. It was here I lost the spatial vision in my head I needed to exactly duplicate the route. It is quite rare for me to do this, but I obviously knew how to compensate. My heart pained ever so slightly as I turned up the Montford stretch. Once back in my hood of Madison Park, on the last Montford hill I was effortlessly passed by another runner. Thankfully I had the will push the last stretch of hills, which included the dreaded "White Oak" double step. I covered about 9.1 miles in 79 minutes, averaging about a 8.7 minute mile pace.

Before I left, I did have a chance to catch the first half of the Boston College vs. Duke men's basketball game - it was a little alarming how they were unable to shake the Eagles. As much as I "enjoy" seeing things on TV, I happily left knowing living in my present was a much better option. That afternoon Julie took me up to Latta Plantation for a trail ride at their Equestrian Center. While driving up Beatties Ford we caught the tail end of funeral procession. We certainly tried to be respectful of the individual dearly departed, but didn't want to be late either! Also of note, I spotted what I thought was a B-5, but Julie argued was a B-4. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, please wait for an upcoming post.)

Once there, it was certainly an eye-opening experience for a multitude of reasons. The place was packed with kids participating in a horseshow. So this is how other people spend their Saturdays? Also, I have not ridden a horse in many years. This experience brought back memories of riding horses at Bryce Canyon National Park. Naturally I was a little nervous about the whole, maybe a little bit because Julie has so much riding experience and I do not, but it mainly had to do with my graft and whether riding a horse would work or not. So they sized me up physically (I'm tall, I'm "big," okay, I get it) and talent-wise. I naturally got the biggest horse they, aptly named Big Charlie.

Big Scott and Big Charlie at the Big Latta Plantation Nature Reserve

As I learned, this was "western style" riding. At one point when I took this picture, they had given Julie this horse. But then they switched out to a horse that was more styled for English style riding named Mike, which was more of Julie's proficiency.

If she could, she'd take them all!

Second time's a charm; Julie and Mike

It was a magnificent experience for me, but it certainly was tame in that the horses were trained to walk and follow, very little input was needed. This was, however, what I needed before attempting to try anything that will require some skill. The only lame-o part of the ride was being subjected to the preppie guy in front of me that had his UNC hat turned backwards. Oh well, I just relished in this past Wednesday some more!!

Home, Home on the ... WE KICKED YOUR ASSES AT HOME!

I did see a couple of guys running/training on the trails. See, most of my experiences with Latta have to do with the popular Tri Latta Triathlon, which I will be returning to after a two year hiatus. I wondered a bit why I have stayed away - mainly because of a slightly traumatic experience in 2005 when I witnessed a car slam back into a triathlete. Focus - focus - just being a tourist and not talking about the importance of Mountain Island Lake as our drinking water source, etc, etc. JUST BE A TOURIST and enjoy. Thank you.

After the ride we watched a few of the competition - the kids showcased were about 9-10 years old. I was slightly irritated by all the harsh parent types out there haranguing their kids into perfection on the horse. We then drove down to the end of the road so I could show Julie the transition area. I then showed her the McCoy home, which is adjacent to our Gar Creek Conservation Area. Julie then insisted on stopping at Starbucks, both to get a frappuccino and harass me about losing my "Seattle-card." HEAR YE, HEAR YE, I'm from Seattle and I don't like coffee (or Starbucks for that matter). So please, continue to harass me.

Once back at her place, it was a relief to see that Duke did win out by 10 points. Julie was then subjected to a string of the worst-ever Jack Black movies. Poor thing. That evening we spent with my friends Lisa and Jin Woo, who also live in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. We first went over there and then had dinner at Creation. Of note I choose a bottle of House Wine, a blended Washington state chardonnay. Here I go, turning my Washington apple fixation over to wine!! The food was very good, the conversation and company much better! We then went back to their place and chatted until 1AM. Unfortunately I was having a very hard time staying awake, as that run (and perhaps drinking a lot of wine?) had taken more out of me than I had. After taking Julie home I headed for my own, just dead tired.

Once again I was conflicted about my morning activity. I needed the sleep so I slept in too late for any organized ride (that I know about). The main concern today were high winds - the thought of being blown into a ditch with Holman was a little too much for me! It was just too nice and sunny to stay in though, so I ended up leaving from my house to peddle seven times around the Booty Loop.

Okay, so some might not even know what the "Booty Loop" is. It is a well-established loop in the upper-end Myers Park neighborhood quite near downtown (or "uptown," if you believe the propaganda). It is about 3 miles in length (the 24HOB website calls it 2.97, which is also preposterous, my research indicates 2.85 miles maximum). It technically starts at the intersection of Queens Road West and Wellesley. From there it heads down the hill. You then curve onto Queens Road (WELCOME TO CHARLOTTE!) The toughest section is the climb up the sidestreet Hopedale to the intersection of Queens/Queens and Providence/Providence. At that point you hug right and take a long decline past Queens University (legend has it that the name derives from the guys who originated the ride and commented on all the co-ed joggers from the University). Queens "turns into" Selwyn, but then you finally take a hard right to get back onto Queens again (confused yet?). This takes you down the hill, where after passing the ultimate expression of greed on Princeton you climb back up to the starting point. The video on the website talks a lot about the actual event, but shows also a good deal of the course.

The route to connect with the Booty Loop from my house usually takes 10-11 minutes; today's "performance" was 10:11. Overall the winds were moderate with only a few severe gusts during the duration of 90 minute ride. Before the completion of the second lap I stopped to take off my arm warmers - it was way too nice out. There were astonishingly few bikers out, perhaps because most went on actual rides and others were concerned about the wind speeds forecasted for later today. I did lose count, but eventually figured out what I needed for seven laps. The only incident occurred right before finishing the loops at Selwyn and Croydon. A female jogger, about my age, stepped out right in front of me to jaywalk across Selwyn. She had her iPod blaring (did you know I'm a hypocrite too as I had my iPod Shuffle doling out tunes?) and did not even see me. Thankfully an accident was avoided. The only humorous part was her male companion, about ten feet back. He gave me a "sorry dude, she's just stupid like that" look! For my seven laps I averaged about 9.75 minutes, which was slower than my last go around. The toughest part was ascending Woodlawn to Park, the crappy road coupled with the increasing winds made it torture!

That afternoon the winds really started to pick up. I chose to relax by watching the movie Donnie Darko, which some unknown friend recommended to me several years ago. If that was you, let me know! I really enjoyed the movie, perhaps it had to do with the "darkness attacking suburbia" theme made famous by David Lynch. As for the actors and actresses involved, I couldn't care less for the whole lot, with the BIG exception of Mary McDonnell. Yes, the rumors are true, I am a big Battlestar Galactica fan. It is without a doubt the most superb drama I've seen in years - gritty real Sci-Fi that goes beyond the flashing clean doors and transporters. Anyway, her acting style in the movie was similar to her role as President Roslin. I wonder if that's what got her the role? Perhaps it was that defining moment, like when Hugh Laurie stopped being the bumbling idiot in Blackadder and had a small part in Sense and Sensibility that launched him into his wonderful role in House.

How about this - my alma mater Washington just beat #4 UCLA!!! GO HUSKIES!!!

During that time the winds continued to mount. My current flag (Spain) came unraveled shortly before dark. It is these few days when all the big trees on my property make me very nervous. I had some pizza for dinner, started culling/filing emails, and then finally watched Munich. It was not the tour de force I was expecting, but still gritty and real. For me it was a story about our actions and their often unintended consequences. I also savored the historical aspect, especially Golda Meir. I thought a lot about an excellent book I poured over recently by Michael Oren, called Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present. A really great investment to understand the Middle East from the America "perspective." Anyway, the movie ran a little long, so I finished up with my usual video conference with my parents in Washington and then was in bed by midnight.

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