Saturday, March 29, 2014

Isn't technology wonderful!

I grew up listening to LPs.  Vinyl disks that played just fine at at 33 rpms.

Then along came cassettes, and 8-track, and reel-to-reel; oh, so much better.  In college I converted all my Rolling Stones LPs to 8-track cassettes thinking I was advancing with the crest of the historical curve.

Yeah.  I threw those 8-track cassettes out recently.

What was the next perfect thing?  CDs!

Yeah.  I have lots of CDs, all of "albums" from the 60s 70s & 80s, but you know what, they practically all skip.

My LPs hardly ever skipped.  This is progress, right?

Or maybe it's merely hype.  I understand that there is burgeoning a return to turntables and LPs.

I shouldn't have thrown out all those clunky LPs in the 90s.  I threw out my turntable earlier, thanks to my "understanding" of "progress."

So now I'm assiduously rubbing my skipping CDs with toothpaste (a mild abrasive) and hoping they don't chunk-chunk-chunk next time in my CD player as I sit waiting to be reminded of when I was young.  I wish I was back in 1972 loading up my turntable with LPs, of which maybe one would develop and repeat a scratch on one track.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Like Mother Like Daughter

Even though it happened over twenty-seven years ago, the moment is seared into my memory indelibly.

He was only one and it was his first birthday party.  Adults were in attendance, as well as other one year-olds staggering around unsteadily on short stubby legs that were not yet sea-worthy.

I stood in in our house's great room watching the compact kitchen area, on the living room side of the breakfast bar, sealed off from the kitchen space by the six-foot long porcelain counter top.  Entry into the kitchen was four feet to my right where the portal area was, which gave access to the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and sink all lined up, left to right, across the six foot wide tile floor.

I was alert as any parent with toddlers would be, a sense of awareness further heightened by the fact that I was a State Patrolman at the time, fully used to analyzing situations and subconsciously rating dangers and mulling options every single waking moment.  My child was in the crowded kitchen by the fridge, wandering around in tiny circles.  I had my eye on him, although he was a few feet beyond my immediate reach, and I was habitually scanning the kitchen area even as I spoke with our guests, several of whom were milling about in the kitchen.

Also in the kitchen was the child's Grandmother, who was preparing an adult appetizer.  The cake and ice cream for the toddlers would follow later, after the presents were opened.

The Grandmother, who hadn't supervised young ones in decades, had her back to me as she bent over, opened the stove, removed a dish from within and took a step to her left to place her burden upon the counter top just past the stove top burners.  I couldn't see that she had a potholder in her hands but I instantly saw the unattended stove door that she had left down.

"Grandma, is that hot!?" I immediately asked, starting to move to my right.  "Oh no, dear, it's not even warm," came the reassuring reply.

I relaxed slightly and my continued movement into the kitchen lost its quick urgency.  But I was talking about the open stove, and she was talking about the contents of the casserole dish that she was removing. 

Upon such miscommunication catastrophe can ensue.  The child, seeing something new, tottered over to the open stove door and placed his left hand upon the low horizontal surface.  And instantly bellowed in pain.

I died a little as I hurtled into the kitchen and swept him up and away from the hot surface before he could put his right hand down upon the stove door too.  I really don't think I could have reached him in time to prevent the accident but the Grandmother's bland, unconcerned assurance that "it" wasn't even warm had made my rescue pace fatally deficient and quelled any urge to stridently yell, "Look out!"  Adults do keep prepared foods in cold ovens sometimes, to bring out at the propitious moment, but I had allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the Grandmother's sang froid which masked her grotesque lack of adult awareness.

I was an EMT at the time and I knew that clean cold running water was the only palliative at that moment and I forcefully held the child's hand open under the open kitchen faucet for several minutes, pouring cold water over his palm while he screamed and cried.  Then it was off to the ER where they bandaged his fully blistered palm, which fortunately contained no charred skin.  This was followed by several visits in the ensuing fortnight that included a couple of debridement procedures.

The pain my poor boy endured was surely intolerable.  His hand recovered fully but he always had a redness thereafter to his left palm and fingertips.  I blame myself for allowing another adult's soothing but hugely mistaken "sensibilities" to interfere with what should have been my intolerant bull rush into the kitchen, bowling over adults as I went.

Young man whom I haven't seen in ten years, I am so sorry, and I love you now as I did then.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I started running again in 2011 after taking two years off from running when I got injured, a cumulative, debilitating ankle injury (an "extra bone" in my left foot which was abrading my tibial tendon) after almost a  decade of highly satisfying recreational running during the new millennium during which I dropped 50 pounds and had a lot of life changes, most for the better.  This period of rebirth can be told in running shoes, mostly Aisics although some pairs of shoes were Brooks'.

I used to run 30-40 miles per week and go through three or four pairs of shoes a year.  So when I laid off running in 2009 for two years, I had a backlog of about six pairs of running shoes I'd purchased on discount sites.

When I came back in 2011, I opened a pair of Brooks Addiction as my main shoes and ran through two pairs of leftover used running shoes as well.  In 2012 the process was exactly the same.  Now I had integrated two new pairs of shoes into my bigger system of ready running shoes and gotten rid of four thoroughly worn out pairs.

In 2013 I opened a pair of Aisics Foundations, but alas they were size 12 1/2 and I absolutely am not that size anymore.  They hurt my big toes and I only ran in them two or three times and wore them walking about occasionally.  What do you do with new shoes that don't fit and you can't return?  Anyway, two more used pairs of shoes went out and I used up a seldom-used pair of Reeboks that were hardly ever used because they're ugly and I never trusted their structure.  However they did fine until they literally fell apart on my feet and now they're my knockabout shoes.

Two days ago I opened a pair of Aisic Evolutions, size 13, and they're sharp looking and fit great.  My last two runs have been dreamy, with my feet feeling like they're wearing pillows.  2014 is going to be a great running year.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting in some miles

It was a good weekend for running.  On Saturday I ran westbound on the W&OD Trail from my house for two and a half miles and returned, burning up an extra three quarters of a mile in my neighborhood before I drove over to Bluemont Park in Arlington to run two miles with my old running buddy David, who is trying to return to running after some serious injuries.  (The sky over Arlington on Sunday;)

We accomplished the two miles on the W&OD Trail in about eleven-minute miles talking about our woes with our children and divorce.  The two seem to be related for men our ages whose family lives are ripped asunder when the woman gets a divorce lawyer and determinedly sets about eviscerating the father of her children like slicing up a butterfly, pinned wings outspread to a plywood board, with an exacto knife.  Yep, that's how I still feel about it after all these years.  (Bluemont Park on Saturday.)

On Sunday I ran 6.55 miles through Arlington, starting out on the W&OD Trail and then running through the parts in Northern Arlington where I used to live.  I'm signed up for a half-marathon in September so I wanted to get in a run that equaled half that distance.  (Charles A. Stewart Park on Sunday.)

Two weeks ago I ran five times for 25 miles total, and last week I ran five times for 29.7 miles total.  So far this week I have run 14.5 miles in two days, projecting ahead to thirty miles for the week, and we'll see if  my chronically injured left ankle will stand the strain.  (Tuckahoe Park on Sunday.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seven Miles

This week I ran five days and went 25 miles.  That's the furthest I've gone in a week for at least nine months, maybe for two or three years.

My running is in a sweet spot right now.  I've been keeping my chronic left ankle injury in check (an "extra bone" in my foot which abrades the tibial tendon) and have been slowly, very slowly, pushing my total miles each week out past about twenty miles per week.  I have permanently reduced my pace.

I've also dipped out of the Clydesdale class, hopefully for good, after several years of being so overweight I was approaching obesity, brought on by two years of not running when I developed a cumulative injury in 2009 after nine wonderful years of running "fast" and "far" (it's all relative).

Today I ran seven miles on the W&OD Trail with a friend from work, the furthest I've run since late 2011 when I topped out at an eight-mile run and a nine-mile run before falling back to long runs of under six miles for the next two years.   In the good ol' days I could run 12 miles in the morning and throw down a 24-minute 5K race in the early evening.

I picked up my running buddy and put the top down in my newly purchased used convertible which another friend from work laughingly calls my "roadster."  But it only has 11,500 miles on it and it's sharp so I love it.

And I like my running buddy too because we can talk shop on our runs, she's smart and she offers me advice on things.  She doesn't know American pop culture in the same sense that I "know" it because when I say things like, "What we have here is a failure to communicate" or "We need a bigger boat," she doesn't know what I'm talking about, but I think that's an age thing because those are movie quotes that go back a long way.

We drove to MP 3.5 on the trail and set out for its eastern end as my friend's getting ready for a HM in six weeks and her schedule called for a 7-mile LSD.  That's apparently within my conditioning, and hers, as the run went fine.

The W&OD is flat, being a paved-over railroad bed, although I found a couple of short, sharp hills (spurs off and onto the trail) for us to run on.  We huffed and puffed along and reached the turnaround in Shirlington at MP 0 in 36:50 which included at least two 30-second stops at intersections.  A ten-minute per mile pace was more than satisfactory.

We lost a minute on a water break at the turnaround and then came back the hard way after being held up for a minute or more at at least two more intersections, by cutting across Four Mile Run (a creek) to the Four-Mile Trail, which runs parallel to the W&OD across the way.  That trail is much narrower, rarely used and extremely hilly.  My workmate doggedly kept on going up hill and down dale, and we finished our seven miles in 1:21:38 after a detour to peer into a parked classic VW Beetle and a water break after a killer hill.  She's a good sport and didn't complain about my "diversion" to the "far side."

It was far from a negative split but I think it was an excellent, adventurous run which is what I love about running.  As for me, I'm thinking about doing a HM in the fall.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hill Running Around Town

I love running the hills around my little home town.  Although the 40-mile rail-to-trail bike path gem cuts right through town (across my back-yard line) and there are quiet residential streets to run on, there are plenty of hills too.

I have a 2.5 mile route to a distant schoolyard that takes me up a half-mile hill on its front leg, which means it's downhill coming back as I'm tiring.  I try to do each leg in under ten minutes to keep up a sub-8 pace, or at least I did before I got injured.

But  the best hill in the region is half a mile from my front door, Highland Avenue, a half-mile long steady climb in one direction and a tenth of a mile precipitous climb on its other side.  It has a steep side spur that, coupled with the steep climb on Highland, makes for a quarter mile "track" that enables you to run what I call boomerangs--a heavy unrelenting hill workout that absolutely saps you if you do twenty of them.

Next to Highland is the next-best hill in town, Oak Street, a fabulous incline that leads up into a dead-end where an elementary school is that also offers two sets of stairs to run on, and its end point--the furthest distance out from my front door before you have to turn back, is exactly one mile.  It's also my alma mater, I went there as a kindergartner in the fifties.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Slip Slidin' Away

It's been a rough winter.  This is my fourth snow day of the season, the government closed again.

I went out intending to do a 2-mile run in the blowing snow this morning, but the whipping wind made it too cold so I reduced my run (with plenty of pauses to take pictures) to one mile mostly on the pristine W&OD Trail.  There was about 3 inches of powdery snow covering an undercoating of sheer ice from last night's freezing rain and sleet before it turned to snow.

The going was okay, but my ears and face were cold.  Gotta keep up the five-times running per week, you know, or all order might disrupt in the world and bad things could happen like WW3 in the Crimea (tone down the rhetoric, prez).

On the street leading back to my house the snow plow was operating.  His scraping of the roadway exposed the ice sheet overlaying the asphalt so I had to walk it in the last quarter mile, but it was an invigorating run.