Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is it possible to get too much Booty?

For a third year, I have tried to answer this age-old question. This is the sixth year that the event 24 Hours of Booty has taken place in Charlotte. 24HOB is a big fundraising event that focuses on bicycles and cancer research. Hmm, sounds like something I might be interested in!

My first year of doing this event was in 2006. I joined Team Bank of America, raised over a thousand dollars, and put in 65 laps over eight stages (183 miles). At the time I was still riding my small Trek 5200 and I averaged 16.3 miles per hour. It was a goal of mine to bike for over half the time, but the punishing late night cycling (coupled with a few snoozes that went over) I was somewhat short.
Team Bank of America in 2006. No, I'm not an "associate!"

In 2007 I returned the team, raised even more money, but couldn't really dig in for a long goal, as the next weekend was my first Ironman race out in California. Perhaps the most memorable part of this event was the absolute torrential downpour that near floated Bootyville away on Friday night.

Our Kimley-Horn neighbors nearly drowned in 2007

Since my bike had already been shipped, I used the green steel beast and did a leisurely 25 laps over four stages. I covered the 70 miles at a 15.9 miles per hour pace.

Early this year I decided I wanted to run my own team, somewhat based on the fact I don't care for or bank with Bank Against America. I obviously wanted my team name to be "Publius Peddlers." It turned out finding team members wasn't so easy - just because you have 100+ friends on Facebook doesn't mean recruiting members is automatic. Of course bribing people with big tents, extra food, bike racks, and amenities is a lot easier if you have the resources of a large multinational faceless organization behind you. I had nothing and that's what I got!

Okay, so no one wanted to be on my team. That's not the point. The point here is to raise money for cancer research. So I went about doing that, and was prepared to go at this thing solo. I certainly did start the fundraising part later, but this year was not as successful, chiefly due to a precipitious decline of my co-workers' interest. Many thanks though to those that did give! Donations are still being accepted through at least Wednesday - thanks!

Despite all of this, I was determined to raise as much money as I could reasonably expect and then go out and accomplish TWO course goals - first to complete 200 miles of riding and perhaps more difficult log more than 12 hours (half the 24 hours) on the bike.

The one perk from my previous two years that I did require was a lawnchair. So on my way to work Friday morning I stopped off to pick one up - making sure it had to tag to prove it was kept out of the hands of as many Americans as possible to give me a low price. Early Friday afternoon I went to Bootyville, the field adjacent to Queens University and Myers Park Traditional School, to stake out a spot. I left the pop-up shelter there and upon my return it was out. My co-worker Sharon got some help to put it up, and I was to share with a couple of her friends, so that was a nice arrangement! Julie was also able to come for the first 4-5 hours, which was very nice!

For 2008 there was a special area at the front for those who raise over $1000 or are cancer survivors. While I had not met that first qualification, I vaguely seem to recall I am eligible on the second requirement. I lined up with my old Charlotte friends Mona and Dave for the first lap. Here is an interesting panorama shot from the Charlotte Observer at the start (I can tell this was done shortly before I arrived). As 7 PM struck and the clock started it slow churn from 00:00 to 24:00 the process began ... and began ... and began.

For this event, the Booty Loop starts at Queens Road West and Wellesley. The route heads north and descends about 50 feet to the big intersection at East Boulevard. At the bottom is a high-speed right turn sweeping on to uh, Queens. From there is a slight rise until the route goes right up Hopedale, the smallest street on the Booty Loop but also the "steepest," rising 70 feet to the intersection at Queens and Queens and Providence and Providence. At the gazebo riders veer to the right and begin a long 30 foot descent to where Queens turning into Selwyn. The rider then passes Queens University on the right. At the intersection of Queens Road West there is a tight righthand turn. Following that is a 40 foot descent to Princeton. At that point is a rise of 50 feet back up to Wellesley. The route is advertised as 2.97 miles, which is completely long! My bike computer, which is based on the known circumference of my wheel has consistently clocked 2.83 miles for a number of years. New for 2008 was my Garmin Forerunner. I (somehow) managed to measure 69 out of the 74 laps - the average was 14,845 feet, or 2.81 miles. After having taken the Garmin out on a number of bike rides, it has consistently measured around 99% of actual. Since I took my computer in and out immediately after leaving/entering for the stages, this was the official overall time/distance measuring implement.

The general plan was to bike for an hour then rest for an hour. My complex calculations indicated to me that would put me close to the 12 hour mark. The first lap was certainly enjoyable talking with the two of them. I made one comment to Hogeboom about how people slowly lose interest, and he accused me of being cynical. I remarked that he had just called me a cynical and Mona rightly laughed. I have missed seeing Hogeboom for a couple of years now!

The second lap was a huge (bike) traffic mess up at the gazebo. We had caught around the back end of the slower of the 1200 participants. I actually stopped for a moment and then slowly made my way down. It was my slowest lap of the 74, coming in at 11:24 (14.9 mph). From there it eased off. I didn't realize it at the time, but the fifth lap at 9:01 would be the speediest (18.8 mph). During my climbs on Hopedale I noticed my rear gears were slipping - I had started to notice this last week but it didn't happen during the Half Ironman (thank goodness!). The weather was much milder (80 degrees) than last year to start, and without the menace of another super storm. I finished the six laps (16.97 miles, or 8.1% of the total effort) of Stage 1 (out of what would be 11) in 59:34 (9:55 average per lap).

Julie and I then grabbed some of the dinner provided and hung out with Sharon and her friends. At 20:55 (that's 8:55 PM to everyone who needs some translation) I began Stage 2 fairly certain I would bump up to 7 laps this time. By this time it was dark so I had my back blinker and headlamp affixed to my helmet. There are really two magical parts (or things I find interesting about this unique event), one of which is the repeated 10 minute interval of the same spot. By this I mean picking a fixed spot (usually a person or group). Around ten minutes I'm back, and slowly watching the change is always fascinating! The reality that I was trying to convey to Hogeboom was that spectating an event like this it is nearly impossible to stay engaged. People get bored/tired and move on. I'd be no different than anyone else, and even on the bike at least things are moving! Every so slowly the crowds thin out as the darkness envelops - along with the number of riders. I continued to struggle with the slipping gears, but finished the 19.79 miles in 1:07:51 (9:41 average loop time).

I knew I needed to have my bike examined, but Julie couldn't stay around much longer so I opted to spend the time hanging out with her - I did get a great massage! When it came time for Stage 3 I opted to pull out the iPod Shuffle, as it was going to be a long night! I pulled under the banner at 23:02. The temperature had dropped about seven degrees and it was just perfect for biking - minus the ambient light thing. For this stage I toned it back down to six laps. While I didn't see any of the "double-decker" bikes that Charlotte's alternative cycling community has brought the last few years, we did see some large groups of some counter Booty Loop blasting the radio and making noise. There were a few of those bikes in that group - never got the full story on them! There were about 4-5 riders doing the loops on these huge unicycles - and it wasn't just a novelty thing - they were out there for the duration just like the others. The Stage took less than an hour (57:21), which averages out to 9:38 per lap.

That marked the end of riding for the Friday portion of 24 Hours of Booty, but at 5 hours that's not much in the happening. It was then I took Holman into the doctors at Bicycle Sport, who were providing free support - score! He was diagnosed with a fraying cable in the shifter so that was pulled out and replaced. All that for a $3 part. Back at the camp I faced my first break alone, since the ladies had also left for the evening. I set up my lawnchair so I could relax, but I didn't quite fall asleep.

I began the "queen stage" at 00:54, called so because I ended up doing 10 laps around the loop! I believe I had thought to do around 7 but I was feeling relatively good. I knew too the secret (especially for me) was to bank laps/miles/time during the night hours when the weather conditions were optimal. The other neat thing about this event is just the late-night riding, especially with very few bikes and just the solitude to think about everything possible in the universe. It's also nice because Queens Road West has two lanes blocked off, which is the most helpful on the two potentially dangerous sweeping right turns. About an hour and half later I pulled off with a 9:30 loop average - still coming down. I did bring my bike back to the mobile shop because the gears were still slipping some - the improvement was great. He did tighten everything some but said the chain would probably have to be replaced.

It was during this break that marked the only time I actually fell asleep. And that was only for 45 minutes or so. The next stage began at 03:56 and ended up lasting six laps. It was here that we began to see some raindrops, but thankfully nothing nasty. Each time to start I would be cold (strange sensation) and obviously slower than usual. But each time I would warm up and obviously get into some sort of rhythm. I came out at after 59 minutes and 11 seconds, for an average lap of 9:36 which was a bit of a slowdown.

As I hunkered down underneath my blanket, the rain started to drop a little harder but still it was nothing that would wash away all us sinners. I opted to wait a little while longer before wrestling up my body. Stage 6 began at 06:10 - by then it was mostly light and the headlight was probably not necessary. With the dawn of the day it was like coming out of a dark tunnel, a dark time, a dark past. I had to cut things short with 5 laps, my average pace continued to slow again, this time to 9 minutes and 42 seconds. This was the point that marked 12 possible hours of riding - I had gone 37 laps during this time.

Timing was constrained here because I needed to get some breakfast (desparately!), which started at 6:30 before I would join Kathy's Saturday Morning run group. Yes, I had packed my running gear and I am crazy like that. In fact in 2006 I did something simliar, doing a reverse of the loop around breakfast time. Unfortunately, the line for breakfast was quite long. I had seriously thought about abandoning this plan, but I forced those shoes on, used the facilities, got some other food and walked down to the intersection of Wellesley and Sterling. There I sat under a tree and waited - most likely close to passing out.

Around 7:35 I first heard the chatting of runners. They had left from the Dowd Y at 7 so I had to plan my timing well. I first recognized Ma Bell, and then I jumped in when I saw Mark. Behind him were Joe and Bruce. It was strange but oddly nice to get into the run mode versus all the biking that had just occured. We continued up Sterling then over on Westfield and onto Queens Road West. Obviously at this point we could see the bikers coming down the hill into a steady stream. At the water stop I still felt like I was going to pass out, but Joe saved my bacon with a caffeinated gel. That dude is absolutely amazing. It was also at that point that I realized I was mainly surrounded by tons of beautiful women. What planet is this?!? We then continued on the reverse loop, going up Selwyn then Queens. For some bizarre reason Bruce was talking to me. I was rather blunt with him, pointing out the obvious and I would NOT be offended. We then all stopped at the gazebo, there were lots of running/training groups going in and out. As usual, Kathy had our backs with some chillin' G2. The gel is really was made the difference! Most of that group was going straight back. It wasn't all that hot out, but it was extremely humid and everyone was soaked to the bone! I turned around and made my way towards Wellesley. On the way I got a couple of comments (as a biker in 24 HOB) such as "Come back from the dark side!" and so on. The route finished up right at 5K at a leisurely 8:18 pace and I went right into the breakfast line! I was all worried about missing out, since it ended at 8:30 but that was no problemo!

At 8:33 I pulled out for Stage 7 out of the Tour de Charlotte - makes you realize that riding for 12 hours is nothing compared to 5-6 hours a day for 3 weeks and 2,100 miles! Ironically enough I saw Joe later on coming back down Selwyn, so I gave him a special shout-out! I planned for six laps and could truly feel so much better. In terms of spotting additional runners, I also saw Jody and Cantey at two points, during what I would later find out was there 14 mile run, along the course. No doubt they were upholding the strong historical routes of the Booty Loop. I was not all that surprised when I came out at 56:22, which averages out to 9:24 per lap. This would mark the best stage performance of the endeavor.

Speaking of stages and biking, today marked the big time trial dual between Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans in the Tour de France. I was naturally taping the stage (yes, a standard VCR hooked up to a standard 27" TV) but was mainly afraid of overhearing some loudmouth broadcasting the results. As a result of my mostly anti-social behavior, it was a lonely wait before the next stage. I had plenty to worry about, namely being quite tired of this monotonous and quite crushing affair. But for one 24 hour period a year, I can overcome the massive repetition for something quite greater than myself.

Stage 8 marked the slow decline of my average lap time. Once again I was out for six laps and some of the light sprinklings were back, but really the weather could have been a lot worse, especially with reference to searing temperatures. It was only 76 degrees (but quite humid) at the start time of 10:20. When I pulled off onto Wellesley I stopped the clock at 59:11. I would then pull my cycle computer out and coast up to the Expo entrance. After wheeling through I would refill the bottle, and then pick up some Great Harvest bread and then maybe a banana and some bars. The cookies Julie brought were actually the best to eat!

Naturally I was calculating well in advance of what was necessary to reach my goals - even though 200 miles seemed far off it was my least concern versus the 12 hours of biking. So when it came time for Stage 9 I had to go for seven - it was a bit of a stretch and once again my average lap pace continued to slow. I covered the nearly 20 miles with a 10:02 lap average. As I was heading through the expo area I spotted Audra and was delighted to get to chat with the birthday girl! I felt like a heel for forgetting but lately my calendar reminders have not been working. I was invited out for dinner and dancing but it seemed I'd probably have energy for neither. We chatted for a bit then I made my way back for some more forced solitude. I did talk some with the guy next to me - he had the same grey Madone 5.2 bike model that I currently own. His name was David and he additionally had an Ironman Wisconsin jersey - this all sounds like a great fit to me. He had hit the big year with the DNFs, but did finish another. All the training in the world could all be for naught. But at least I will do my best to get there and try.

I was also trying to bury myself and complete this seemingly ridiculous trek. As much as I wanted rid myself of going out again, I was able to convince myself this would put me closer to my goal. Also, it was a HUGE lift to have Audra, Jody, Christi, Julie G., and others I might have missed out there cheering for me!!! THANKS! Stage 10 was another 6 lap sidetrip, but this time the only 6 lap iteration that took me more than 60 minutes (1:01:06 to be exact). That works out to a 10:10 pace. The battery on my Garmin had reached low enough levels, despite one brief charge, that I had to shut off GPS activities for the bulk of the time I was out on my course. The iPod was doing considerably better. So when I was done I got my charger and sat near the REI booth trying to keep down both food and drink. I had obviously overdone the sugary Powerade and Vitamin D water that is given out en masse.

The only way to get myself out again was after I convinced myself this would be the last normal six lap iteration. That was the plan for Stage 11. What a slugfest it was at this point. Numbers had dropped way down and most of the tents were down in Bootyville. As I neared the six laps and 200 miles I realized I might as well pull out the extra laps now and get this suffer-fest over with! On lap 4 I was joined by my Madison Park neighbor and fellow Scott. He offered me some beer from his bottle, but I feared I might be considered legally drunk (or at least out of mind) in at least 20 states. He was also kind enough to ask whether I wanted the Tour update. I politely declined and we chatted some more before he powered out. I was able to hold that lap under 10 minutes because of his pulling. On finishing overall lap #73 I powered through wondering if I could hit it under 12 hours but I was right at the line! Sharon was there with her son cheering me on. I technically did not have to do the final lap but I did it anyway. I bid my absolute farewell to each nook and cranny before pulling off. Yeah!

It was great to have them there to help me break everything down. It slowly dawned on me what I had done and it slowly actually started to feel good. I had mused to Ilan a little earlier when he came to shake my hand that instead of going around a loop a bazillion times I could have almost done Double Down, he seemed to think this would be more interesting. Starting up the car and being propelled by something other than pedaling was a most bizarre sensation! I was naturally itching to get home as Winston had been inside since this morning when Julie let him out.

Somehow I had managed to hang around a thousand rabid bikers and not know the outcome of the decisive time trial. So that was great, I got to watch Sastre hold on.

For some odd reason though I was nodding off while on the couch. Maybe I was tired.

Charlotte Observer Photos

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tour de France Thoughts after Stage 14

Well, perhaps the biggest drag of the whole big Rhode Island trip was being away from the TV and watching the Tour. Not that I was concerned about my fantasy league - talk about blowing some cycling chunks!

Last year I was absolutely excited about Mauricio Soler, so despite all the EPO scandals in 2008 his abandonment was the biggest loss for me. What a shame for a great rider like that to crash out on the first stage and then have to abandon after painfully attempting to finish a few more stages.

In terms of getting points, he and Riccardo Ricco were supposed to be my cash cows. But we all know what happened to Ricco... I can't believe such young talent like that would take such a risk - and we all thought he was the next Basso or Pantini. Looks like he emulated them a little too much? Per the rules any rider kicked out for doping loses all their points. Goodbye!

Of course Cadel Evans has earned the lionshare of points (78) in my pathetic little team, which by the way ranks 3,220 out of 3,842 (83.8%). I have 105 points, while the leader is somewhere just about 500. I certainly thought there would be some more consistent thunder from Fabian Cancellara (14) as well. My gut tells me Andy Schleck (0) will pull out some points in the long run, but this guy is super young! Little disappointed in Damiano Cunego (7) as well - that could change. Kind of doubt anything out of Marcus Fothen (0).

I certainly have to explain why I picked Tyler Farrar (0 - duh). I swear I did my research - on the official site it showed him as a starter. But he did not start. Whoops. The guy is young and quite talented, and even more important he's from Wenatchee, WA!

Mark Cavendish has certainly been the big excitement so far. I remember last year him being so frustrated with that awful start on his home soil. This has been an excellent experience, but the reality is even with his four stage wins he will be dropping out to prepare for the Olympics. Conversely, what the smeg is happening with Robbie McEwen?!? Well, Mark Cavendish is the main answer, and the fact all the Silence-Lotto domestiques have orders to protect Evans, but still. How odd.

The American situation is looking very strong - especially with the successes of the two teams, Garmin-Chipotle and and Columbia. Nothing could be more exciting than a fabulous rider like Christian Vande Velde currently in third! I really like Cadel and think his consistency will put him on the top podium spot in Paris, even with Frank Schleck nipping with just one second. Alejandro Valverde seems to have lost too much time at this point, but who knows with an usually tough stretch of the Alps coming up!

Ride on!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Would you date that trucker?

The journey towards the Amica Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island began in late 2007 when I was looking for a Half Ironman, like last year, about two to three months before the full Ironman experience. Last year I went to Georgia, so apparently the charge would be heading north this time around. I had thought about using my Idaho visit to do the Ironman 70.3 there, but it was a little too early. For those that are curious, these "official" Half Ironman races are marketed as "70.3" because that is the cumulative distance needed to finish (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run).

I had last visited Providence/Rhode Island back in October of 2004 for "work." Every year the land trusts in the country gather in a new location for an event called "Rally." That year Erin (happy birthday!), Dave, Sharon, and myself flew up (in a convoluted style, driving to Greensboro, flying through Atlanta to Providence) for about four days. The highlight for me was a boat ride down Narragansett Bay, which included stops on several of the islands, then a clambake, followed by a tour of Newport and all the gaudy mansions that apparently define it.

October 2004 Narragansett Bay Tour - Leaving Providence

The foliage was spectacular!

Hand over the lobster and no one gets hurt!

I also took two runs on the Thursday and Saturday, going about 3.5 miles at a leisurely 9 minute mile pace. What I do remember about the runs was the nasty nasty hill that Brown University was situated upon. Having looked over the run route for this Half Ironman, it looked reasonably certain some "sadistic #$@&" (as commented by Kevin in his race report) had decided to torture 1000+ people with these hills.

Looking at the logistics right off the bat I had a strong desire to drive, as Baltimore would be a logical place to stop en route both ways. Not only does one of my best friends live there, but I had recently reconnected with an old classmate from University of Washington who apparently was in the area. There was a small group from Charlotte talking about making the journey. Leading the charge was Kevin, a coach for Team in Training, along with John, who I met last year when we both covered the Vineman Ironman in August.

Since I got procured a new bicycle rack, I offered up to transport two additional bikes, and those two answered the call. At least it would help some with the staggering costs of gas. The reality though was that flying into Providence was expensive, at least $400 and then you had to rent a car and ship your bike, which was being offered for $300. And since Julie was coming along, in addition to Winston, that made even more sense.

The actual odyssey began early Thursday morning. After loading the three bikes for the first time, which was a real pain, I put Winston into the car and went to pick up Julie around 6:30. Our first real stop, after getting gas in Haw River ($3.87), was in Durham so I could show Julie around my old stomping grounds! It was like a distant vague memory, mostly good thank goodness! She especially liked the Duke Chapel and I even drove by the home where all the magic began.

819 Burch Avenue still stands - this place defines Duke more than anywhere else

We then continued north on I-85 through the section I call "the tunnel of trees" (Virginia border to Petersburg). After fueling up again ($3.93) and fighting off a pack of rabid dental hygienists to get some sandwiches, Julie took over. We really hit the first traffic jam as we patiently waited to cross the Woodrow Wilson bridge. The little man inside me told me to avoid 295 and take the beltway all the way around to the Washington Baltimore Parkway. That was a good call. We took a bunch of random exits on the parkway in search of a bathroom stop, but all we found was a USDA quarantine area. As with last time, my Google directions once in downtown Baltimore became totally useless, but thankfully my Baltimore-dar was situated enough to work my way to Johns Hopkins. At that point it looked like I knew what I was doing! From there it was easy for me to find Steve's red brick row house.

Shortly after our arrival we took a nice walk in the neighborhood to discuss shoes and other hot topics of the day. We then left Winston behind and went to pick up Margaret from the lab - from there an executive decision was made to do tapas for dinner. The place we ended up downtown was very charming given its adjacent situation - the weather that evening was quite pleasant versus what we had all been accustomed to, so we sat outside and enjoyed a delightful meal, thanks to Hamid Karzai's brother. That night we had talked about watching a movie, but instead saw photos from their recent Italy trip. I was feeling abnormally tired at that point - it was especially bad after the walk, which was quite easy.

Steve, Margaret, Scott, and Winston. Note the absence of Gene Simmons.

In case you were wondering what I was referring to (Halloween 2007)

That morning I shuffled out with Winston and urged him to see the bunny on Steve and Margaret's lawn, but sometimes he just doesn't spot that well. I thought the matter was closed. A little later, after a delightful breakfast, I was outside packing with Steve when Winston caught scent of the bunny in the bushes. As a reader of this blog, you will know that Winston loves to chase bunnies (see June 4th post). Once out of the bushes, the bunny turned up the hill of Dewey Avenue and we watched a spectacular hill chase! Wow! Of course, Winston didn't even get all that close. Also at their local park we had to take in the view of a classically abandoned stray shopping cart!

A true stray!

As we left Baltimore I continued to feel weak, but obviously driving an air conditioned car couldn't be all that taxing - right? Oh, what joy to be back on the New Jersey Turnpike. As I versed Julie about the strange relationship between Duke University and New Jersey, we slowly made our way north. At the last service area we were forced to buy some high priced sandwiches then wait in line FOREVER to get gas. New Jersey is one of a few states that believes the average driver is incapable of pumping gas. I am familiar with this because of growing up near Oregon, which has this horrible fear that unemployment would skyrocket if gas pumpers were to be stricken from their jobs. What a joke! And thankfully New Jersey has some of the cheapest gas in the nation ($3.99) because of the turnpike. Thankfully during this time I finally connected with the Camp Parsons friend in Newport that I was desperately hoping to see!

This was the first time Julie had seen or been in New York City, so she was snapping photos as we ran alongside nearing our showdown with the George Washington Bridge. I was last up this way in November of 2001. Winston was with me and I remember scanning the skyline, which had recently been relieved of the World Trade Center towers. This was my first time, so I couldn't reference the horror of not seeing the towers, but still it was a pungent memory. Not nearly as pungent though as when I was waiting to cross the bridge. I vividly recall seeing a woman panhandling. She was extremely emaciated and had a sign saying she was dying of AIDS. I also remember she had some animals with her, I believe cats. Now normally I never give money to panhandlers, but this was just too much for me. I think I was in a center lane, so I couldn't actually, but I also remember a man giving her $10. That was worse than the traffic, which I recall was horrendous. This time was no different. After losing another $8 of the $37 total I would spend in tolls, crossing the bridge and the next eight miles was just nasty nasty nasty! As we inched over the bridge we caught glimpses of a man walking way faster than we were driving. Even though the traffic continued after touching down in Manhatten, I did feel a beautiful presence nearby. It then thinned out, but once in Connecticut there was a 25 mile stretch of quite possibly the worst lengthy traffic delay I've ever suffered through! I also had a few memories of New Haven as I visited my friend Andy there in 1997(?). I remember I flew into Boston and was staying with my cousin Amy. I proceeded to lose her husband's transit pass, then I got kicked out of the Harvard Library for attempting to locate a copy of Philip Dru: Administrator. Since I knew someone on the inside at Yale, Andy got me a copy which I read then mailed back. Later I would find my own copy. I had taken the bus there, and continued on to DC to visit Steve, who was living there at the time. It wasn't until after New Haven that we really were free of the traffic.

After "jumping in" to Rhode Island all of us were very ecstatic to finally make it to Warwick. Since Kevin and John had already arrived, we met them at a local Italian restaurant, that wanted itself billed as an Applebees, for dinner. We somehow managed to score some free bread - I'm not sure how it happened, but that was all a nice finish. For our first night we had to settle for the Motel 6, but it really wasn't all that bad. Anything was better than that traffic!

Friday morning I was feeling abnormally weak once again. We ate breakfast (the two of us that is) at the adjoining local diner, which was stocked with the stock, gruff New England types. We both enjoyed listening in on their conversations, although I was having problems keeping my head up. Upon finishing I went back to lay down while Julie took Winston for a walk. Apparently she made a startling discovery in the parking and just had to show me. Right in the middle of the parking lot there was a black plastic bag overflowing with porn movies! That must have accidentally fallen out of someone's car? What other explanation would you have?!?

We then took the quick trip into Providence. I hopped out of the car at the convention center to register. At the top I found the line to be extremely long (and slow, go figure). Thankfully Kevin, John, and Tricia were right there so I sheepishly cut into line. Still, it took quite some time. You had to even sit down for an interview. Interestingly enough, I put 181 pounds down as my weight and then they actually weighed me - came in at 180.8 pounds! The lady said I was the most honest person yet! Hmm, am I? Once done I was out of there quick! Before leaving we caught another cart, this one being pushed around. They're everywhere!!

In case you were wondering what a Providence B4 looks like - this is it!

From there we chose to go down the east side of Narragansett Bay, through Bristol, to Newport. The drive was quite pleasant and even better I found a free parking space in downtown Newport - triple score! We then went down to Washington Square where I met Dan Linquist - an old friend from Camp Parsons who I had not seen in 16-18 years!!! How fun was this? I met his wife and newborn daughter, along with his parents who were visiting from Costa Rica. Since Winston was with us (and boy was he pulling - probably looking for some rich bitch...) we had to settle for a simpler outdoor type of lunch but that was no big deal. Dan recently moved here with his family to attend the Naval War College. He is more my brother's age, and was Assistant Hikemaster a few years before I held the position (1993 and 1994). Dan's brother Jonathan "Action!" Linquist was also on staff, so it was great to hear what he was up to as well! Even better, there was another Parsons staffer in Newport - Mike Perkow is also attending the college so Dan was quite surprised to run into him. Unfortunately he was gone for the weekend.

Those on the East Coast who missed the 90th CP Reunion had their own!

After our lunch, the three of us went our own way just wandering a bit up and down the streets of the biggest tourist mecca since Wall Drug. But not as nice as Wall Drug. And then of course what Newport visit would be complete without a spin on Bellevue and Ocean Drives, home to some of the most ridiculously large summer homes on the planet! We also drove around Fort Adams, which is where we had those delicious lobsters and clams four years ago! Unfortunately we were running short on time, so we headed west across the bridge then down along 1A towards the town of Narragansett. Our destination was Roger Wheeler Beach State Park where I had to drop off Holman for the night. Naturally the whole place was a zoo, but getting in wasn't all that bad. I certainly started to feel a little less maladjusted about the race once in this sort of environment. As usual, Winston was the star of the show!

The race hasn't even started and I'm already lost...

Upon leaving I realized I had until 6PM to drop off my run gear in the second transition area (yes, this was a nightmare point-to-point race) and there was only an hour to get there. There just happened to be loads of cars trying to get back in town, so I was really sweating this thing out! We did make it under the wire, but I'm sure they had to keep things open for much longer. We then went up Atwells Avenue into the Federal Hill district, where one can find lots of Italian food. A group of us had gone to eat there in 2004.

Our destination this time around was Constantino's. Since we were so hurried Winston had to hang out on the side street and while Julie was (always) stylishly dressed, I was not. We were the first to arrive, and I didn't know the name of Tricia's friends who had made the reservation. The guy up front was a pretentious jackass to me, so that basically ruined the evening for me. We then waited for John and Kevin, and shortly Tricia arrived with her husband, along with the CT locals Steve, Wendy, and young Alex Wooters. Apparently we were totally hooked up here, through Steve we got the private dining room upstairs and later learned there was a side tab so we could get some expensive bottles of wine. Score. I wanted to go down and rub that in the maitre d's face. But I didn't. Another Charlottean Brad was supposed to join us but never did make it to the hotel. We were there about three hours, but thankfully the company was great and the food good enough to even things out. I turned out to be the only participant opting for some of the wine. I started drinking a glass of red wine the night before the race at the Chicago Marathon. Boy, did I run well that day! But as we know, the wine wasn't the only reason!

John, Scott, Julie, Wendy, Tricia, Justin, Kevin, (below) Steve and Alex

I was extremely looking forward to (mainly) getting Winston out of the car and getting us into a nicer pad - one that had higher quality porn left in the parking lot! The Holiday Inn Express in Warwick was that place, although Winston freaked out major each time he went into the elevator! After conferring we set the alarm for 3:30AM and went to bed.

Come to think of it, for all my big races I have opted to use my reliable mobile as an alarm clock. For some odd reason, I did not. Rest assured our hotel-provided alarm clock went off at 3:30. However, instead of the usual audible noise this model opted to flash a little white light - stellar! Thankfully I woke up at 4:10 - those were some pretty hectic 15 minutes that followed! Thankfully our commute to the swim start was swift and uneventful. With the bikes already in place I just had to place my black bag besides the bike and then work my way towards the start of what would hopefully be my seventh Half Ironman.

Moments after this group photo Winston was ejected ... for being a dog

Water temperature of the Atlantic Ocean at this particular locale was 69 degrees, perfect for the wetsuit. There is nothing more I detest than the close-fitting nature of the suit, but as a below average swimmer the gains I reap are quite noticeable. The professionals left at 6:00AM, the next twenty minutes passed quickly before I left with the red caps, which were half of the males 30-34.

I assure you I started to hate life minutes after this photo was snapped

The only major X-factor in this triathlon was the fact I had never swam a race in the ocean before. The water area was protected, but for the first 15 minutes I struggled mightily with the surf and breakers, not to mention the salt water. It was some time before I was able to calm myself down enough. It sure felt like a long way out to the turn, and then it was a huge fight for me with the low sun to sight my way back to the beach. It was then I started to notice the slight trickle of my age groupers from the next wave catching me. Thought it would actually be earlier! Still I pushed on, putting most of my mental energy into not getting worked up over this part of the triathlon. I swam until the last possible point of my hands hitting the sand. As I hoisted myself up I checked the watch and crossed at 38:25. Considering the initial frustration, I was counting this as decent. With my seven attempts, my average time to complete 1.2 miles of swimming is 44:05 - my best time is 35:38 out in Washington and the worst (my first) at Duke with 57:34.

I am to the right of this woman - and on my way to the strippers!

At these bigger races they have "strippers" - volunteers that help swimmers take off their wetsuits in an expedient manner. When I laid down to "get stripped" I unfortunately got an intense (but thankfully short) cramp. I certainly felt like I took my time switching over to my bike gear, that came in at 4:36.

The first five to ten miles of the bike course was absolutely spectacular! It was mainly flat hugging the bay as I flew through the town of Narragansett and headed north. Without much effort I was pushing 25mph and loving the triathlon life!

Can you see me smiling inside?!?

One of my major obstacles to improvement is having enough left for the run. Last year at my training Half Ironman I had my bike PR (2:54) but suffered on the run. On the ride today I was hoping to be somewhat close, but hopefully positively trade up for a better run. The goal was 3 hours flat, so I had to average 18.8 miles per hour. Very rarely do I ever come close to averaging that on my own during training rides. It has to be with a group - or a race - for that kind of speed. Early on then I was banking in some major time. When the course started to head west on Route 102 I was quickly in hurting mode. Due to the stressful day yesterday I was unable to scout out the course, the exception being the stretch of 1A we came down from Newport on. I had talked with Julie about her trying to get this intersection to see me, but when I saw the backups I realized this might have been a bad idea (it was). Interestingly enough, without even knowing the mileage I nailed my estimate of when I would be there! It was a long hill, and then became the nastier rollers of the course. I think it was somewhere along Route 3 that I received my most pleasant surprise - I came around the bend and there cheering me on was my childhood friend Eric and his girlfriend Katie! I obviously knew they were in town but thought I would only see them in downtown.

Historians extraordinaire Katie and Eric later pose for the Ironman paparazzi

I was still languishing, but keeping the push on and forcing myself into the aerobars as much as possible. I don't own a triathlon bike, or one with shifters on the bars. For me getting down on the bars for long periods is hard on my graft. I know I lose time whenever I'm up, but it's just so hard. The absolute worst hill was around Mile 45 after passing a Providence Water Treatment plant. Whoa! Almost glad I didn't scope it out. I stuck on the lighter gear and made it through. There were some absolutely gorgeous rural stretches of Rhode Island that really made this course. And of course several picturesque small towns. There was one nasty stretch of a poorer area of Providence with some nasty roads though - I don't think I used my bars at all during that stretch, mainly for concern for my safety. And then like that, we popped out above the state house. I crossed the mat for 56 miles at 2:56:24, just minutes off my PR. That put my average around 19 miles an hour. Unreal. My average for the seven attempts is 3:03:32 - my slowest performance of 3:15:40 coming out fighting the high plains above Grand Coulee Dam.

As excited as I was to get off the bike, I knew the real struggle lay ahead. It would be a long 13.1 miles... I switch over to my Garmin watch. I was wearing it with the hopes to keep me at a pace (9:09) to come in at two hours (which is my most elusive Half Ironman goal). This turned out to be a joke, so I just had the damn thing beep at me virtually the whole time. It wasn't long before I hit Angell Street, definitely the steepest leg of a run course I've seen on a Half Ironman. I would like to have reported I gunned up these hills, but I didn't. I walked both times.

Wow - it almost looks like I'm running. I assure you I'm not.

For the amount of effort expended, this may have been a wise move. I did pride myself on refusing to walk any other part of the course. From there it was a long gun east until some meandering onto Blackstone Blvd. This was a divided road with a gentle incline all the way to the turnaround around mile 3.275. The weather was sunny and very warm, but really not too bad - there were also some definitive cool breezes.

One guy that stuck out when I saw him had what looked like road rash on his face. Later I would learn his name was Richie Cunningham and he was hit by a car on the run (!), smashed the windshield, stumbled off, then continued running. Perhaps the most amazing part was that he finished second, clocking a 6:02 minute mile pace for the half marathon! You can read this on This naturally reminded me of my Iron hero, Cheryl Osborn. When I did the Duke Half Ironman in 2005 she was run off the road by a truck during the bike and had nasty road rash all up one side of her body. She finished the bike and then completed a tough run course. Like all the rest, it was just survival to the next aid station.

What goes up Angell Street generally comes down - twice.

Eric was then there to cheer me on to my second lap. I also saw a woman with a dog that looked astonishingly like Winston! The second lap was more of the same nightmare, but really not that bad. My right foot was wet from all the drink I had carelessly spilled everywhere and the left was slightly swollen from my Ultimate endeavors. Coming down Blackstone I did pass Kevin - I don't know why it took so long for him to respond. Maybe he was tired... I did get a nasty sideache, but it did go away as I dreamt my way up the Angell rollers to that heavenly major descent. One last hill to the finish... Eric was there to run alongside for part of the way. I made it up the hill with reasonable gusto then in a very trademark move started running at absolutely breakneck speeds. I whizzed past the finish line at 6:06:10. This was a median finishing time for me, three faster finishes and three slower ones. My first attempt in 2004 was the slowest at 6:37 and the best time came during my second attempt at the flat White Lake with 5:48. My average finishing time is 6:09:37.

You can see me hauling butt to cross the line - a sure sign I really had more energy

It's finally over.

I then started to wander around aimlessly gulping whatever I could drink. Eventually I found Eric and as we wandered down we found the Tricia McCord cheering section. Shortly after that I spotted Julie with (the real) Winston. We did go over and talk to the father who was holding the Winston look-alike, but he didn't seem to care. It was funny though that the dog cared and knocked him off his seat in attempt to get a good smell of Winston! I eventually got something to eat and we milled around some more.

Scott, Winston, Eric, Justin, and Tricia at the foot of the state house

After collecting my bike, we then made our way down to the water to the Wooter Party RV! This was a great way to just relax after the race and just chill out.

70.3 Tailgate Central! Photo courtesy of the Wooters.

This is how to relax after a Half Ironman! Photo courtesy of the Wooters.

It was a bit before the last picture was taken, as it took Kevin a little longer to make his way down. After some time we really started to worry about John. We made some trips up to the finish area and eventually found out he had been in the medical tent, but it wasn't until he showed up that we got the whole story. It sounded like he just got some major dehydration and spent several hours in the medical tent. So he didn't finish but John was obviously a great sport about it. Winston had several moments of zen during our trip. One was definitely when Alex started to scratch his belly.

Proof heaven is available outside of West Virginia.

Eventually the party RV had to pack up and make its way back to Connecticut. The rest of us found spots for the bikes and made our way back to Warwick. After a few showers, the two of us joined Eric and we drove (up, whoops!) and over to Katie's hometown in Seekonk, MA. After picking her up we took a very scenic route to Warren, RI where we had dinner at a local restaurant. The top item to savor was the stuffed quahog appetizer, affectionately called a "stuffie." Except it wasn't exactly an appetizer - it was HUGE! I could have eaten that alone. It was so amazing, along with the clam chowder. When it came time for the fish and chips, I hardly could eat any of it!! I was especially interested to learn that legendary Ironman Jon Blais was from the same town as Katie and she knew his brother. It was sad our visit was so short, but at the same time I only had moments of consciousness left in what had been a long day!

Monday morning, following breakfast with the McCords at the Holiday Inn Express, we began our long journey back to Charlotte. Our main goal that day was to avoid the traffic nastiness. We did encounter a little bit of traffic after New Haven, but once through there our traffic woes for the day were done! We had received several tips to take Highway 287, which crossed the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge. Julie was upset she missed the "Life is worth living" sign, but hey, you can't see everything out there! I didn't realize how long of a swing it was before hitting the turnpike again, but that was TOTALLY worth it. And of course, no tolls westbound!

During the long hours in the car, my third generation iPod served up most of the great tunes. There were a lot of serious discussions, serious questions, and silly discussions, and of course silly questions (the eponymous one being one of them). One interesting question we discussed between ourselves and asked others - would you rather be a toll booth collector or gas pumper on the New Jersey Turnpike?

Our destination was once again Baltimore and some more red brick row homes, but not with Steve and Margaret. Instead I was very excited about meeting up with a friend from college when I was still living in Washington. I last saw her in early 2001 when we met for a hike at Great Falls. She had just moved into a new place with her two dogs, cat, and very young son. One of the dogs apparently would not have been a good match with Winston, but the other was - Winston had the TIME OF HIS LIFE!

Friends together again!

Winston's girlfriend for the night also knows how to beg!

Julie and I went to pick up some pizza for dinner. We did get to see a local parade in action, which caused our first pick for dinner to be unavailable, but everything turned out great. That night my friend regaled us with a most horrific story of what she had endured as a result of her last job. It was an amazing story and for me it started to make a lot of sense why I stopped hearing from her a number of years ago. If you heard this story you would stop complaining about all the petty crap that goes on at your job.

I didn't know cats liked to wear sunhats!

Once again, it was sad to leave after such a short visit but I think I could speak for my companions in that we were looking forward to returning to Charlotte. After a convoluted route back to the Interstate, we came down to the Beltway on I-95 and then down along 295. Unfortunately we hit some hard construction traffic after my usual DC exit (Franconia-Springfield). Thankfully it wasn't all that long-lived. We then stopped in the "Center of the Universe" (Ashland, VA for those of you living in Mos Eisley) for lunch at the Cracker Barrel #248. These restaurants are so ridiculously fake - all the "old time" pieces on the wall are the exact same at each restaurant. Still though, it's a slight step up from McDonald's in that you can get some real food. And yes, we were tired of Subway!

From there we cruised all the way back to Haw River for our last gas fill-up. The price had gone up to $3.93, which was still a "great deal" (have I lost my mind?!?). From there it was cruise control time as we powered in Charlotte. The journey in the car had lasted 1,846 miles. Believe it or not, fuel costs were just around $360, and I averaged 24.4 miles per gallon. Normally it would be in the high 20s, but with the bikes and full car it obviously suffered a bit.

Ironically, shortly after arriving home the neighborhood lost power. After all that money I spent on a new A/C system, and now it was useless! Ha! That did not detract from the fact we had an amazing and quite memorable trip!

Julie's Photos
Wendy's Photos
Official Photos
Official Results
Toll Booth Collector Pay Scales

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Greatest Race in the World Has Begun!

Viva La Tour de France!

Here is my Fantasy League Team

Viewing roster for Team: Publius Peddlers

Is this what John and Thomas envisioned?

Normally I am not an obsessively patriotic person. By total coincidence, I recently watched the HBO miniseries on John Adams. It was well done, and gave me a very particular insight into our "founding fathers," especially who they were as human beings. Let's cut out the romantic crap that Trumball's paintings depict. So this time around I have given much more thought than usual regarding this holiday and what it means.

For me the festivities began on Thursday. Julie and I went back to Symphony Park at Southpark for the Fourth of July celebration concert. Her twin sister Emily and her fiance Will joined us. Unlike the other times we went this year, there were about 2-3 times more people than usual! Since we arrived so late, we found a grassy knoll on the corner of Barclay Downs and Morrison. We couldn't see the performers, but the sound was not lost on us. Of course there were more memories of the high school band experience, this time with Shostakovich's "Festive Overture." Our spot did not end up being all that bad for the fireworks though. The show was much larger than I expected, so I did the honorable thing and enjoyed what had been presented to me. Often though I wonder about what a waste of money they are - these big public showings cost ten of thousands, and often hundreds, of dollars. You could certain feed a lot of homeless people or save a lot of land. Just don't give it to Gloria Pace King.

On the actual day, I rose early and prepared for a bike ride. On Tuesday I dropped Holman off for his yearly tuneup. I was really surprised that I would have to wait over the weekend and lose my companion, but given my cirumstances I had to chose Bicycle Sport and this needed to be done before my Half Ironman, the many centuries to follow, and then of course the big event. I left the house around 6:45AM on my green steel beast, a 1987 LeMans Centurion. This is the bike my dad bought me in high school. Recently I use it weekly for my rides to work. My destination was the city of Matthews, which is south and east of my humble dwelling. My route took me down (and then up - whew! - what a stink!) Tyvola, which then has a schizophrenic moment and changes to Fairview. I furiously peddled up to where Sardis heads south. I remember driving down this road with my old housemate Cesare to pick up the TV hutch I have now. Otherwise I've never spent any time down there. And really, I've never been to downtown Matthews either!

I arrived somewhere around 7:40, just in time to change into my spectator gear and find my friends. I was there for the 4th of July Matthews 5K race, there was a nice community crowd gathering. I knew Jocelyn would be here to race, along local legend Stan, and last year's winner Paul (2007 results). The ultimate irony is that Paul is British! I also spotted fellow Madison Park resident and fellow Scott with his speedy girlfriend May (or Marguerite, depending on who you talk to), who have must have been in town from Louisiana.

The course allowed for me to get some good starting shots and then walk down to Sadie Drive and prepare for runners looping back in. Sure enough Paul was in the lead group with Woodbury right behind the four leaders. With regard to the friendly ongoing duel between Stan "The Man" and Jocelyn "I eat large lunches!" Stan was the next to pick out, with Jocelyn not far behind. After shooting a photo of May that unfortunately did not turn out, I rounded out and took some general shots. Being a spectator now and then definitely gives me a new perspective on the races as a whole, and not just my ultimate 5K suffer-fest experience.

Following that it was a few minutes before the first runner shot back out on to Trade Street, and I could tell right away it was not Paul. This was not a surprise if you had read his blog, as he predicted being at least 40 seconds of his 2007 time. I didn't recognize the dude - apparently he came from Illinois. The Rotarians must have shipped him in to avoid further embarrassment of some British guy winning their American race! Paul was next, needing another 46 seconds to cross the line. Woodbury had held to fifth place spot, then Stan took the lucrative Matthews local award. He bested his mortal enemy (really though, good friend) Jocelyn, although her time was easily enough to win overall female. May was the final person I knew to cross the line, going under twenty minutes and taking third overall. All of them finished faster than I could ever hope to accomplish. At one point I had some strong runs with May, so that leads me to believe if someone like that took me out on a 5K I could very well realize my goal of finishing under twenty minutes.

As everyone else came in I wandered around snapping various pictures of humanity at its best, such as Paul bringing around drinks and Stan doing such a gentlemanly job of introducing me to his friend Jinnie. I watched the begin of the fun run as I waited for the awards ceremony, which took HOURS. Okay, maybe a little less than that. The Rotarian who started the part-tay had to give a diatribe on the signers of the Declaration, but I thought it was a nice touch and gave the event its meaning. He didn't exactly brag about how the good old corn-feed midwest talent beat the crap out of a fish and chips eatin' Brit, but I would hope all of us are beyond that point!

My photo album of the 4th of July Matthews 5K Race

Complete 2008 Results

For the ride home I took a different route, following a not-too-busy Highway 51 east. I had hoped to come up on Rea Road, but neglected to confirm (although I should know this!) that Alexander would have been the correct road to turn on. No big deal - I cruised all the way to the Rea Road I am familiar with. It was certainly starting to get hot! While I was waiting for the light at Runnyemede and Colony another biker stopped and started talking to me because he also had a Centurion! Imagine that.

I did not have too much time to rest. Shortly after my return Julie picked me up and we headed to Ballantyne for Emily and Will's house. From there all four of took the backroads west through Fort Mill and up to Shopton Road. Naturally I had to gab about all the roads I bike so much on! Thankfully we did stop at Sonic for some lunch. We all had a philosophical discussion on how much we would have to get paid to pick up a piece of used chewing gum near the window. I suppose everyone has their price... We then headed down to Terry's Landing via Pine Harbor Road. This road evokes two memories - first our beloved Stewardship czar Jean Woods used to live down this way, but alas, she has moved up to Brevard. And back on April 11, 2004 Winston and I started near here and ran our first 13.1 miles! It wasn't a race or anything special. Why I came out here I can't remember, but we did cover the distance in 2 hours and 3 minutes. Not bad for a first!

This was a fun afternoon! Here is my rough guess where the boat traveled. We first went north to find a quiet spot to eat our lunches. Now my Bacon Toaster Whatever sure didn't look like the one advertised, but if I was paid minimum wage to throw it out the gum-encased window as fast as possible for the benefit of the rich owners, that's probably quite close to what I would prepare... Thankfully it was tasty to eat, and I was starving. My tots were nice, and much better than the fries I got to sample. We then headed south crossing under the Highway 49 bridge. Given the number of times I've biked one way or the other, this was about the newest perspective out there! After getting chided for driving too fast in the "no wake" zone we sped off again and turned into the North Carolina side of Lake Wylie to this "party."

"Low Key" was the key phrase here. It was about 6-7 other folks, no one I had ever met before. They were out on the simple dock drinking and talking. Will no doubt was excited to get the Miller Lite festivities underway! After an hour or so I decided to put on a lifejacket "diaper" like Will and just hang out in the water. Arm with my shades and Grand Columbian hat, I went with the flow. We naturally had to push Emily around on the "Warp Speed" tube. Very different world. It was interesting talking to the three brothers that lived there. It was not one of the many "I have way more money than you" mansions on the lake either - it reminded me a lot of Lake Shoecraft and the times we would go there with the Kents. Except the beer drinking part. I think we were there 4-5 hours. And I drank way more beer than I usually do. Obviously this is what John Adams intended for American citizens to be doing 232 years later!

As nice as that was, I was very excited to get the tubing underway. I volunteered first. I'm quite certain the last time I went tubing was at Camp Parsons at least 20 years ago. I definitely had not drunk heavily beforehand, but thankfully I did have enough arm strength (and sobriety?) to hang out for the duration. Julie's run was almost cut short when the line got tangled in the motor, but I hopped in to unwork that. She also had an excellent run. By then there were some dark clouds gathering so we made our way to back to ugly white and red pinstripe building. By then it was somewhere close to 7PM.

Upon our return I was saddened to learn their home air conditioning had broken! It may be my curse - not too sure on that. I did get the impression their tolerance was much lower than mine in terms of getting it fixed. So we grilled out - had a very taste cheeseburger and a braut. During the course I started to ask if anyone remembered their Fourth of July last year. At the start I couldn't recall for the life of me what I was doing.

It took some time before the whole fireworks close to home mentality reminded me that 2007 had even more action! I left the house at 6:40AM to attempt my third 100+ mile bike ride. I rode with a group of six others in Union County (route) and ended up averaging 17.1 miles per hour, which was not bad! Upon my return, I hopped off the bike and ran 3.1 miles. I have two 5K loops from my house identified. This one was the II version counterclockwise. This meant the finish was up the White Oak Steps. I believe I have mentioned these before. It's a series of hills that for most of my routes, whether biking or running, I have to deal with most every time.

Behold- A sight I get to dread several times a week

Anyway, I ran relatively strong after 100 miles on the bike, finishing in 26:22, which is not far from the average of this iteration (which is mostly done on its own): 25:42. Not too long after I went a few doors down to a very memorable Fourth of July party at Brooke's house. It was out back, and I was amazed I was able to hold on for about four hours and enjoy all the company, food, bocce, and drink. I do vividly recall going home to crash in a big way. They were shooting off fireworks for the event.

Back to 2008, we did catch a few moments of the show from Ballantyne. But not before I entertained stunned audiences on my bottle blowing music! Apart from that we watched some of the US Olympic Swimming Trials on their big fancy TV. Good times. On our way out I thanked them for the hospitality and wished them the best on getting their air conditioner situation rectified sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Big! Olive Drab! Different!

Those that have been reading this blog of been in touch with me recently know this whole air conditioning thing has been rough rough rough. So last Monday Acosta finally came to repair the capacitor. Charlie, as usual, was great and very efficient, and what a relief to feel some cool air coming out of those vents.

I wasn't pretending though that this was anything but a temporary fix. I was just surprised how quickly it was before the unit failed again. Around Friday nothing started to come out of the vents, so Winston and I were back to the open windows, big fans, and just sweating it out. Charlie was back out on Monday and showed me how everything was all frozen up. He diagnosed that the refrigerant was leaking out. Back on May 13th when the scheduled maintenance was done they added more refrigerant that I paid for. This was the bad news - at least $800-$900 to fix and once again he couldn't guarantee anything. I told him I wasn't afraid to decline the repair and replace the unit.

I then picked up the phone, but not to Acosta. They had quoted me $6,100 for a replacement, which was a thousand more when they wrote up an estimate at the end of December. Thankfully one of my wise students had replaced their units recently and recommended ARS. Ironically enough, they were the ones that contributed to the AHS denial. I decided to overcome that issue based on the $3,800 quote. There you go. That's how low I will stoop to overlook your shortcomings. ;-)

They were very quick - Tuesday afternoon I met them at 2PM so they could look things over and go over the schedule. And then they surprised me by calling to say they could come this morning. Uh, sure! As they rolled the old unit away, I was caught up in all the beautiful moments we had shared together... To get the new unit in, they had to take down a section of fence outside my bedroom (nearer to Monte's house, and not the gate).

So here it is!

A Savage Tuesday!

Good thing I chose not to swim Tuesday morning. I needed every ounce of energy for the two games of Summer League that night! Unlike the previous week where we had upwards of twelve men, only six showed up last night. Along with the rest of the team, I played savage (no subsittutes) the entire night. Shoot me now.

Since Rachel had to work, we were faced with the reality of playing down against Cici's team, which was quite stacked with Monte and Whit, quite possibly the most complete female player in Charlotte. Both Travis and Steve were walking wounded the entire night; our "Seven Minute Abs" team was rounded off with JB, Short, and Kai.

I think everyone on the field was genuinely surprised that we went up 8-6 at the half! I don't remember exactly what we were doing right, but I did catch a couple of points in this game. Before the half I was swinging wide in the endzone and would have been quite short, but Whitney errantly knocked my disc well into the air and I came out with the score. I *may* had made a big deal out of this, which was probably unnoticeable given the mammoth-sized egos of Monte and Cici. I later felt bad because I have a lot of respect for Whitney. I kept getting placed on Monte as well. Funny thing, my first few years I couldn't tell the difference between Greg and Monte. Marking an accomplished handler is usually a waste of energy, but at least it cut down on the deep running.

Lisa made her usual halftime appearance. Unfortunately our opponents really put the screws down on us, and late in the game hammered out five or six straight points. We even chose to end a little early, as we wanted to win the war. Besides, the less I have to hear Cici complain (yes, the second one was tenacious D) the better.

Following that loss we moved our rag-tag team across the way and had to remain in dark shirts for our next opponent. We were very well matched with Des' team most of the way, trading points well past the halfway mark. By this time the sun was burning bright on the horizon and causing some havoc - I had one very notable drop. The real stinker was our only real shot at a two point play (cross gender huck from midfield or back). I was involved (so obviously I was the recipient) swinging across from the always amazing Lisa A. Unfortunately for our team I had misjudged the skill level of my defender (and it was a face I knew well). I pull down another catch for our team, and ended the night with four pulls total. I seem to recall only one was terrible. That was stellar given I didn't have an opportunity to throw before the games start (this makes a huge difference!). I handled very shakingly, never flicking. Once again, this can be remedied but I misjudged the traffic coming down Tryon. Rachel did actually show up in time to play some points (Travis was completely out by then) but that was another game in the L column. I was just completely beat, my feet hurt particularly bad.

I then went back to my car in my cleats (despite being ridiculed last week and having TWO opportunities to get my sandals from home beforehand), I decided to definitely hit Moosehead despite being so utterly destroyed. I drove home in my socks and quickly changed, making sure to grab some sunglasses Steve left in my chair last week. The crowd and experience was fun - I was at the end of table and had a good opportunity to talk with Rachel and Steve. My two favorite people who I just LOVE were also there, but they were pleasant to deal with off the field. In fact, I talked some to Cici about playing disc golf. Apparently JB is into it, along with Steve. JB told me today he recognized from the MAP triathlon in 2007. Thus the word spread that I was an Ironman! In reality, I felt like I wanted to go home and sleep. Yeah, free beer and a rather great chicken sandwich. Home. tired. later.