Monday, December 21, 2009

Missing 'The Big One'

I watched it all unfold far away. I tried to be involved but found it impossible to be there. You see, the Northeast of the United States had one of those 'snowstorms of the century' this past weekend and I missed it.

I was in Florida for a few days helping my parents as my father had surgery for a bonespur on his spine. He stayed in the hospital a few days longer than expected. Not from any complications from the surgery but something unrelated and more for a precautionary standpoint. But, he is back home now. It wasn't the case for me, however, as my flight was cancelled on Saturday as the storm hit the Philadelphia area.

Mind you, I was feeling a bit guilty as my wife was now stuck with a house full of dogs and had to shovel the driveway as she didn't know how to use the snowblower. And, I was 'stuck' in 70 degree (F) weather with the sun shining brightly. (Oh, ok, it DID get down into the 50's (F)overnight one night and I had to put a long-sleeved shirt on. I'm taking it I'm not getting any sympathy for that).

So, on Saturday, I went down to Orlando airport and changed my flight for 5p to Ft. Myers to Philadelphia on Sunday. In the meantime, I was able to help my father in the house (something I didn't think I was going to be able to do based on his extended hospital stay and my travel schedule) and get him settled down and into a routine.

Sunday came and it looked like the flights were on. Except when I got to Orlando, my flight to Ft. Myers was rescheduled to 5:20p instead of 4:50p which would make me miss my connection to Philadelphia by 5 minutes. No, wait. The flight from Ft. Myers to Philadelphia has been changed to 8:15p. I got on the flight out of Orlando and hoped for the best.

As I got off the plane in Ft. Myers, I turned on my phone and instantly two messages popped up. My flight to Philadelphia was now 12:35a. UGH!!!! But, wait!!!! The second message said it was now taking off at 6:35p. I looked at my watch and it was 6:15p!!!!! Where the freak do I go? I found the first Southwest airline person and ask where do I get the Philadelphia flight? 'Well, right here!', he said. 'And, we are leaving in 15 minutes!!!!' Good thing I ate in Orlando as my original plan was to have dinner in Ft. Myers.

I took off at 7p and arrived in Philadelphia around 9:15p. And waited. And waited. A gate was not available. But, my thinking was, I, at least, was IN Philadelphia. I looked outside of the plane and saw the snow piles on the side of the runway. That IS a lot of snow out there. We found a gate and deplaned around 10p.

Got down to baggage claim and saw stacks and stacks of baggage. Patience, Joe, patience. You've gotten this far. Luckily, none of those bags were mine. But, I have no idea whose they were as there was lots of suitcases and lots of people around but not lots of people taking the already piling up bags of suitcases. A half hour later, the luggage off of my flight came out and there was mine!!!!!

After getting my car, it took about an hour to get home. My wife shoveled out just enough of the driveway to get two cars in and that was good enough for our needs. I walked in my house exhausted from the day's events but too wired to fall asleep right away. I was lying awake thankful that my father was doing better and proud that my wife handled the difficult situation of the 'snowstorm of the century' by herself. For the first time in at least a week, I was able to sleep knowing that everything is allright.

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and I hope you all have a great 2010. I anticipate many changes for me in the decade to come but let's take it one year at a time. Peace to all and I look forward to writing more in the coming year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009--A Year in Review

At the end of each year, it is a time of reflection of what we have done. Below are some of the highlights of my 2009. I'm not quite done for the year as I hope to post once more before Christmas. But, if I don't, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for the New Year of 2010. Happy Holidays!!!!!

Overall: Wow! What a year it has been. I wanted this to be a different year for me as I celebrated my 50th birthday last May. I participated in 14 races in 5 different states and 3 different countries. I ran in 8 different states (PA, FL, MA, IL, NV, CA, NJ, KS) either in a race or just for fun. This time last year, I thought I was going to do 2 marathons in 2009. I did 2 half-marathons instead. (Philadelphia and Nova Scotia) I ran my first international race in June (England) and then another one in October (Canada). I participated in my first triathlon. I ran, essentially, injury-free. (Yes, I had the flu in June. But, that wasn't due to running.) And, my friend George and I drove from Philadelphia to Kansas City, watching a baseball game in the cities of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. This year will be one for the ages.

Best Race: When Steve (Runner) and I started the Valley Harvest Half marathon together and after the first mile and he said to me, 'this is a slow pace?', I knew I had him that day. It's not often I can brag and say I beat Steve in any race. As a matter of fact, only a month later I lost to him in the Whiten 5 mile race on Thanksgiving. But, on that day in a land far, far away from home, I was in peak enough shape on a course that described itself as having 'rolling hills' (if you consider a one mile incline a rolling hill), to notch another victory in our friendly rivalry. I had run a half marathon only a few weeks before this race and took those lessons learned into this race. It was fun to rub it in to Steve that a 50 year old broken down man could still beat him once in awhile.

Worse Race: I believe, when you toe the line for a race, you should be ready for the race. Doesn't matter if you recently were fighting the flu and have driven halfway across the country to be in this place. Doesn't matter if it was hot and humid and most likely, dehydrated. If you are there, you are racing. The Terri Tough 5k in Olathe, Kansas proved to be the worse (time-wise) 5k I ever ran. Not by a little. But, by a lot. And, I remember going out in a reasonable pace for the first mile. But, that hill. That hill that suddenly appeared on the course about halfway through the race. It was my undoing. They don't have hills in Kansas, do they? After getting up that hill, I mentally (and physically) fell apart. The way I felt the last half of that race was I how I usually feel at the end of a marathon. Don't get me wrong, I loved the course. And, if I'm ever in the Kansas City area again in late June, I would do that race again. I just didn't like it that day.

Biggest Surprise: When Steve and I stood in line at customs at the Halifax airport, we began talking to a local of what to do in Nova Scotia. 'Don't drink the wine here. It's awful', he said. 'That's too bad', we replied. But how many wineries are there in Nova Scotia? Turns out enough to satisfy a weekend visit. And, you know what? The local was dead wrong (or a wine snob) in his assessment of the local harvest. Steve and I had a chance to visit a few wineries in the Wolfville area and were very pleased with what we were served. So much so, I brought a few bottles back for the holidays. What was most interesting was talking to the people at the wine tasting and finding out these particular wines are only grown and served locally as it is too expensive to export them. It was something we didn't expect when we decided to participate in the Valley Harvest Half marathon.

Proudest Moment: I never, ever thought I would participate in a triathlon. But, last year at this time, I was coming off an injury from marathon training. And, quite frankly, I was looking for something new to do to get my juices flowing. So, I decided, for good or bad, I was going to find a triathlone that was right for me in 2009. And, with the help of Sharon, Skip, Chief and my tri classmates at the Central Bucks Y, I was able to achieve my goal and finish a triathlon. Mitch, Mike, Joan, and Kelly were at the race as well cheering me on. And, when I crossed that finish line, I said it was the stupidest thing I did with a huge smile on my face. After a marathon, it took awhile before I would agree to do another one. Within a few days of the Lake Lenape tri, I knew this is the thing I wanted to do to replace that 'marathon finish high'. That day, I wanted to prove you could teach an old dog like me a new trick.

Biggest Disappointment: If only. If only I learn lessons from the past and finish a race properly. I was beating Steve one year in Falmouth and let my foot off the gas with a 1/2 mile to go and he wound up passing to beat me. I vowed something like that would never happen again. Except it did. The last 1/4 mile of the Gloucester Township Scholarship 5k in April, in the corner of my eye, I saw someone gaining on me to the finish. Looking at him and judging his age, I didn't think he was going to be a threat for any chance of 'bling' I might be getting in the Clydesdale division of the race. I was wrong. I finished second in my division. Guess who was first? The guy who passed me at the end to beat me by 1 second. Yes, one second. Where's the competitive fire? I should given him an elbow. :-)

Biggest Thrill: Two weeks ago, I would have said running a race in England was my biggest thrill of the year. Except, when I ran the Ferry Building 4 mile along the Embarcadero, passing Fisherman's Wharf, in the shadows of Alcatraz in San Francisco only to see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance as I crossed the finish line, well, it's hard to find a better setting than that for a race. I remember standing around at the start and just smiling. This was cool. Way cool. And, in truth, the low tech aspect of it was kind of fun too. I thought I was going to come from the farthest distance to run this race. Until I was talking to the couple from England. And the guy from Ireland. Oh, and there were people from Australia. And New Zealand. Did I mention South Africa? And, is Hawaii really further than Pennsylvania? At least, I travelled further than the people from Wisconsin that were in this race. I still stare at the picture I took of the finish line with the bay in the background. Can't believe I had the chance to do that race.

Scariest Moment: I came out of Lake Lenape and ran towards where the bikes were kept. I stood there ready to put my shoes, helmet, etc. on. And, I suddenly felt I was ready to pass out. I staggered and needed to sit down before I fell down. I honestly didn't know if this was normal. An adreneline rush? A heart attack? I didn't know if I should continue with my triathlon or call for medical attention. I had worked so hard to be in my first tri that I knew I was stubborn enough not to give up and someone was going to have to drag me off the course. To this day, I'm still not sure what happened or how to prevent it in the future. Talking to different people, I have some ideas. What I think happened is the way I breathe in the water and not getting enough oxygen in my system as I transition. Over the winter, I want to practice to see if I can improve on this as I plan on doing more tris in 2010.

What I Will Remember Most From This Year: From a non-running perspective, I still think back on my baseball trip I took in June. In some ways, it was so non-stop going from stadium to stadium day after day that I didn't really appreciate it when it was happening. All I want for Christmas this year is a collage to hang up on my wall made up from the momentos I picked up along the way and the pictures I had taken during the trip. From running? About a quarter mile from the finish of the Lake Lenape Triathlon, you have to make a right hand turn to the end. As I was coming up to the corner, Mike, Mitch, Kelly and Joan were calling my name, cheering me on. As I turned the corner, Joan and Kelly began to run with me, encouraging and coaching me to finish strong. Does it sound similar to my experience at the Harrisburg marathon the previous year? You bet!!!! I can never find the proper words to thank people who run with me, coach me, mentor me, and cheer me on. And, at the end of that race, to feed off the excitement Joan and Kelly had in cheering me on, was immeasurable. And, seeing how happy Sharon and Skip were that another one of their 'students' had 'graduated'. That is what I will remember.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ferry Building 4 mile Run Race Report

The entry fee--$5. No T-shirt given out (but I bought two to support the club). No race numbers. Just little tags to identify us when we finished. No police to hold the crowds back. As a matter of fact, not really any crowds. Just a few people out there cheering the ones they knew running. Racing at it's bare bones. And, this race was as it fun as it gets for running.

The Ferry Building 4 mile race, held in San Francisco, starts at the intersection of Jefferson and Hyde Streets, (if you are familar with SF it's where the cable cars turnaround by Fisherman's Wharf) heads down the Embarcedaro for 2 miles going past Fisherman's Wharf along the way, turns around at the Ferry Building (there is a chalkmark on the ground that showed the turnaround. No one was there to instruct us) and heads back from whence we came to the finish. The finish? A view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The swag? A Finisher's ribbon from the San Francisco Runners Club.

It was a very chilly morning with the wind off the water blowing hard. I raced in layers similar to what I wore at the Valley Harvest Half. And, like the Valley Harvest Half, I was overdressed about 1/4 mile into the race. Once the buildings along the Embarcedaro blocked the wind and the sun came out, it warmed up and so did I.

We ran in the streets and on the sidewalks. We had to run around tourists and other runners not in the race. But, the views were amazing. The experience was amazing. And, to top it all off? A Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa from Ghirardelli at Ghirardelli Square. What a great way to end my race year.

Below are some of the pictures from the morning. Enjoy!

(A view of the Golden Gate Bridge at the start area of the race)

(The sign-in table)

(Looking at the course at the start of the race)

(Fisherman's Wharf)

(The cable car turnaround with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background)

(At the starting area of the race)

(Me with my 'race number' on)

(Another view of the harbor)

(People gathering at the sign-in table)

(Trying to stay warm before the race)

(Waiting for the race to start)

(The start line)

(View of the TransAmerica Building on the course)

(The course about 1.5 into the race)

(The Ferry Building where we turned around)

(The Finish Line with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background)

(Runners gathering after the race)