Monday, March 10, 2008

Stay in touch!

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And of course a very happy birthday to my wonderful mom!

Monday, March 3, 2008

A "Think Different" Kind of Monday?

Since May 23, 2005 I have logged 78 Monday evening runs in the Eastover neighborhood. The original route actually started a couple of months earlier from Providence Sundries, however, parking was an issue so the run was moved up near the Harris Teeter - the actual Sharksbite name derived from the Wolfman Pizza that we were ceremoniously kicked out of, just like all the other restaurants before.

The route was 5.55 miles and we began at 6:30 sharp, noted by the bells from the church across the street. So that was a nice run of about 433 miles! Ever since being too big for a parking lot the run has dwindled down to next to nothing, I have run alone for several iterations over the past few months. Why? It may have all disintegrated over one horrendous event that took place in that parking lot. I missed the damn thing by a couple of minutes, but apparently its effect has effectively destroyed the Sharksbite club that I knew. A real shame. I will say no more.

My average pace over the duration was an 7:42 minute mile, with one standard deviation of 18 seconds. That rolls to an average time of 42 minutes and 39 seconds - one standard deviation of 1 minute 40 seconds. My glory PR (personal record) came on September 19, 2005 when I held on with a lead group for a time of 39:40. I did manage to break forty minutes on four occasions - one of which was my favorite of the 78. It was January 29, 2007 when May King and I pushed each other to a great finish. Winston joined me on the run twice, one of which was my slowest time (46:26) during a sweltering 89 degree run. The temperatures during this tenure ranged from 35 degrees to 92 degrees. Average temp was 71.3, with a one standard deviation of 14.9 degrees.

Why am I spouting all this nonsense? Well, I think it's likely I will run again there no more. Why go out of my way to run alone? I never had any of those fast times by myself! The final determination came from developments at my place of employment. We are taking over the remainder of the second floor, and one of the spoils is a shower! So why not be more efficient, and make a statement about being environmentally conscious and run to work?!?

So today was the big day. Of course last week I had planned ahead by leaving a change of clothes, everything I needed to shower, and extra food for my Monday lunch. I was up at 7:00 this morning, not in a particular hurry but aiming to leave at 7:50 to give me plenty of time before the 9:00 staff meeting.

I decided the northbound route would be as straightforward as possible. That meant instead of snaking up via Murrayhill and Poindexter I would go straight up my beloved South Boulevard. The temperature was perfect that morning, about 40 degrees and sunny. I had never run straight up before. It wasn't as bad as Pat McCrory would have you believe. It was definitely like a rollercoaster, just that sort of appreciation you don't get when pushing a gas pedal and brakes. It was like learning about someone you thought you knew! But maybe like a weird uncle you don't like, because as soon as Tremont came I crossed over to follow the path that runs adjacent to our new light rail line, Lynx. I then came to our door with a time of 36:15. I later learned the route was 4.4 miles, so that put me about an 8:12 pace. I had to stop at four major intersections to wait for a light to cross.

There was a secret hope that I would be the first staff member to use the shower but that honor was taken by my co-worker Rich. He reported a fairly high overall grade for the experience, citing the water pressure as fine, but apparently there was some sort of funky smell. Thankfully I am known to be hard of smelling. Usually I like to cool off more, but I didn't have too much time. To throw in a Seinfeld reference, I was worried like George Constanza that my shower "wouldn't take" but thankfully that was not a concern. And then a few minutes before the business at hand began.

By the time 18:00 rolled around I was ready to leave. I had a crappy day, but did have a few minutes to think of another route home. I wanted to at least complete 10 miles for the day, and throw in some new streets I had never run before on. My southbound route began in a very familiar way of heading down Morehead and up Dilworth. After crossing East Boulevard I jumped over to Charlotte Lane, which was new for me. I then crossed over Kenilworth/Scott at Lattimore. This area brings back two particular memories. The first involved my first-ever trip to downtown Charlotte. I came down to participate in my first-ever triathlon, back when the MAP Sprint Triathlon was at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. I came down from Durham with my dear friend Alice. We got lost as hell trying to find the Run For Your Life store (I totally laugh at this nowadays). Anyway, I believe we were on Lattimore when she accidentally turned onto incoming traffic. The other memory was when I was running along Scott with Winston. Before getting to Dilworth Gardens this ferocious dog came screaming out of nowhere and grabbed Winston by the throat, rolling both into the incoming traffic. I later learned the dog's name was Comrade, and he had spotted Winston for the greedy capitalist that he is. As crossed this time I did see another one of my co-workers out for her evening run.

As I swung down Floral it brought memories as this was the route I took to get to Freedom Park when I lived on McDonald Avenue. And then memories of the Thursday night run climbing up Cumberland. Instead of Forest Park I took Idlewood, which is a lot more gentle than its steep neighbor. When going down Willow Oak I cannot help but think of the Mary Lou and George Buck! What was new was taking a right and continuing past Park on Hillside. I had never been back in this neighborhood. The twilight was now on me as I fought my way up Heather back on to Park. From there it was a standard return trajectory on Montford, finishing up with all three White Oak steps. Unfortunately I left my watch behind at the office, so I don't know exactly how long it took me. Taking my pace from the morning and adding a little I figure it was in the neighborhood of 56 minutes - I did later learn the route was 6.5 miles.

So when I got home I may have confused Winston, who saw me leave this morning in my running attire. Perhaps I was running ALL DAY!

If only.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Remember Chalk Hill?

Okay, this past week an unnamed individual accosted me in person for not posting anything for the previous weekend. When this person suggested they might have to camp in front of my house to get the inside scoop, I decided it was probably worth my time to post something!

Work has certainly been keeping me quite busy, these past weeks I've been stringing cable for voice and data in our new offices, which will mainly be used by the Carolina Thread Trail project. We are all, well most of us, excited about this great project. On Friday I was putting on a lot of the finishing touches. I brought in a lot of my own tools and was very disappointed to "remember" my drill no longer works. Thankfully I'm not the only person who likes to carry around power equipment. That reminds me of the great band of yesteryear, Power Tools for Women, that was quite celebrated by my circle of friends growing up. Trust me, it would mean a lot more had you been there!

Thankfully I wasn't completely trashed when work was over and had not stapled my forefinger to the wall. That night Julie and I walked over to our new Panda Express for some take-out. To complement such sophisticated fare we paired it with our favorite chardonnay, Chateau Ste. Michelle. I was the one that naturally introduced the wine - the winery/chateau is located just minutes north of where I grew up in Washington - though the vineyards themselves are in the eastern part of the state.

We watched the movie The Last King of Scotland, which came out in 2006 and told the true story of Idi Amin's brutal dictatorship in Uganda from the fictional perspective of a young Scot doctor. I must confess I have somewhat of a problem with these stories, although they do give a perspective that may be true and perhaps never would have been documented. The movie itself was outstanding! A few notes on the actors involved - we both are huge fans of the novel Atonement, and breathed a collective sigh of relief that the movie lived up to the hype and quality of the novel. It's a shame it did so "poorly" at the Academy Awards though. Screw 'em! Okay, the obvious connection is James McAvoy. He acting was superb in both. And then the blast from the past- you know I'm talking about Gillian Anderson! I often feel bad for some actors who get wrongly typecast - some deserve it, others don't. It wasn't a huge role, and I didn't recognize her at first (a good sign!) and she nailed the part. But the real award (my award!) goes to Forest Whitaker - just out of the park!!! I won't be a history snob pointing out the inconsistencies, as I was only vaguely aware of who Idi Amin was to begin with, but the movie did weave in some actual events like the hostages at the airport, etc.

Saturday morning brought fantastic weather for the group run from the Dowd. I was hoping to see my buddy Franco before he was deployed to Mexico City for two months, but apparently he couldn't make it. This is the new group I run with, although some of the old Sharksbite regulars like Bruce and Chris were there. Kathy, the fearless leader, knows apparently every runner in Charlotte! We went out thinking about 12 miles - I was just following for a change. The route started with a new flip along Tryon, which obviously took us very close to my place of employment. And when you're close to there, you're close to Uptown Cabaret!!! (for the record, I have never gone in nor am I a "registered" online member). One section new to me was running down Park the whole stretch. From there it was down East towards Freedom Park. We then swung back up Roswell and at that point Kathy had to peel off. At the Kindercare on Providence (apparently a huge strategy point for these runners) we went up Providence, continuing past my favorite Charlotte theater The Manor. Their route then dipped into our Monday night run, which delves in the Eastover neighborhood. Once Chris peeled off it was down to Tom, Bruce, and myself. From there it was the dreaded climb up Morehead back to the Dowd. When I later mapped out the distance, I was satisfied to learn we had just clipped under an eight minute mile pace, which is great for me on these longer distance runs.

Once home at noon the Duke/NC State game was on. It was hard to watch because NC State outplayed them pretty much the whole game. Amazingly enough they found a way to win and give Coach K his 800th win. For the record, I am not a blind Coach K worshiper. I think he's a total asshole, but he is a fabulous coach. One of my favorite memories of Cameron Indoor Stadium was being close enough to hear him swear. In Durham I lived near his church, and for the record I thought they were a**holes too (bad neighbors acting like the 800 pound gorilla in the room). And WTF is up with the Bob Knight worship crap? I seriously dislike that hothead. I think he tosses a mean chair and salad, but that's about it. Then again, it is about perspective, and apparently at the time that Krzyzewski played for Knight he must have made a positive lasting impression. People do change. Knight must have. Did I mention college basketball is better off without Knight? Amen!

The real game to watch that afternoon though was North Carolina/Boston College. Holy cow. BC was ripping up UNC by a stellar performance of one Tyrese Rice. It's a shame UNC found a way to contain him and limit him to 46 points. Oh well. We'll just wait for the UNC/Duke rematch which is coming up shortly! I think the moral of the story is clear from both games; just because you think you're a big talent doesn't mean you are going to win the game. These things are earned by hard work and determination.

That evening was certainly memorable. Julie's father and step-mother were in town, so we met them for dinner at the swanky new steakhouse Del Frisco's, along with Julie's twin sister and her fiancé. When I got there I realized in the rush (we had to find Julie's watch) I forgot to change out of my sneakers. Wow, how tacky. It reminded me of the time at the spring 2002 Duke graduation when I realized I was wearing two different shoes. Thankfully though, they weren't showing most of the time! Everything was absolutely delicious, starting with the bread, shrimp & crabcake appetizers, and salad. When Julie was looking over the wine list I was perusing the Sonoma varieties and was delighted to see a chardonnay from Chalk Hill Winery. And it wasn't because I had tasted the wine before! Chalk Hill is the major hill on the 112 mile bike course of the Vineman Ironman Triathlon which I completed last August. In fact, I climbed the hill twice, once at Mile 45 and again at Mile 100. In the fact, the title picture you see above was taken quite near Chalk Hill! So this was just another savoring of completing this event! I thought it was so cool too I took the bottle home with me.

Maybe I should start collecting bottles from all the wineries I passed along the way? As for the main course, I followed Helen's advice and went with the 22-ounce bone-in Prime ribeye. I think it was an understatement that it was the best steak I've ever had. Wow. For dessert we had some creme brulée (how could i not think of Amélie?), which had a little more cinnamon than usual. Most importantly, the company was absolutely delightful! I did go to bed wondering if I would ever eat again or be able to bike in the morning!

I did feel better in the morning, excited that the weather was supposed to be even warmer! I had to get up earlier than usual, mainly because the server was down at work. My call to Windstream yesterday, the evil company that took over CTC, was not helpful at all. I was on hold as I walked around preparing for my ride. I had the last of my biscuits and gravy (a shame compared to the wondrous biscuits and gravy served at Camp Parsons). Thankfully I did learn that morning this was the weekend they were switching broadband to Windstream. Go figure. I left shortly before 8:30 decked out in way more clothes than last weekend (I nearly froze on the figure-eight loop ride). The route today towards the Dowd was more orientated towards South Boulevard since I had to stop at the office first. Once there I rebooted the firewall and launched up the server. I was running against the clock but thankfully the Inside Out Sunday ride members (there were plenty today!) were still mulling around. Thankfully I told Ma Bell yesterday when I saw her at the Dowd I was interested in riding!

We started by riding through Uptown, which is fun because it's mostly vacated. I did have an opportunity to talk a good deal with Lat - sounds like we both struggle to find time in our lives with work (unlike another individual we know whose workweek consists of reading books) to find time to train for an Ironman. He and big crew are doing Ironman Couer d'Alene this June. That might have been my first choice, but I was too late to sign up. From uptown we climb up to Rozelle's Ferry and then out Oakdale, which is a lovely road. I am always reminded of my co-worker who lived for a little bit out there near where I-485 now comes through. We then made our way to Brookshire to cross the Catawba River. Only a couple of sprinters for the "Welcome to Gaston County" sign. I was most surprised at our first rest stop. During the interim that I've been away from this ride, there is a new power station! Then for something new we coursed down 273. I was definitely feeling good. At Mt. Holly the main group turned in towards Belmeade. I was wondering if this would be too short for me.. I definitely opted out of going back down Wilkerson, Melissa shared my distaste for this super highway. We had a great talk about her school work as we approached the hill of Old Dowd that always get me. I put in a hard effort to make it up with the group. No new routing on Walkers Ferry. The group splintered again at Dixie River, now it was down to just two other riders. This is definitely the most desolate road in Mecklenburg County. We wondered aloud when we saw a yellow Porsche scream by what it was doing "out here." Once at Steele Creek, I decided to do some snaking to make sure I had at least 50 miles this time. I came in at 54 miles, with an average speed of 17.7 miles per hour - a HUGE improvement versus my solo rides at the unmentionable average I get from other "social rides."

That evening I watched a movie that was a huge punch in the gut - Dirty Pretty Things. It is a story of the underside of London, specifically the plight of well meaning illegal immigrants. The center of the story was a hotel that appears to be nice but is rife with illegal activity, specifically a scheming night manager who harvests kidneys in return for a passport. I thought Audrey Tatou was hardly believable as a young Turk, but then again it was interesting to see her in her first English-speaking role. I enjoyed the dark message much more than any particular actor.