Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hello City!

Like begets like and sitting in my chair on a beautiful day today would have meant more of the same in the near future. No run was scheduled for today, but I had the camera and workout clothes, so I changed out (to keep my work clothes from getting icky) and decided to talk a walking photo tour of my current favorite short run route in Downtown Richmond. Sadly, as soon as I got to the top of the floodwall, the most scenic spot on the whole route, the batteries in the camera died. Go figure.
14th and Cary Streets
14th and Cary Streets. The former home of These Four Walls and 10,000 Villages. This section of Cary Street and 14th have been hit very hard recently by closing businesses.
The Turning Basin
The Turning Basin at 14th and Dock Streets. One day I am going to take one of the Canal Boat rides they offer in the Spring and Summer here.
14th Street Flood Wall
This is the gate for the Flood Wall at 14th Street. It is kind of hard to imagine that they can close that gate and keep the James River at bay if necessary. I hope we never see the need to do so.
Mayo
Crossing the Mayo Bridge. The Bridge passes over Mayo Island in the middle, so this is the first half, the northern side of Mayo Bridge. Lots of birds use that sandbar in the river for shelter.
Looking West
Still on the northern side of the Mayo Bridge and I am looking west on the James River, towards Belle Isle and way off in the distance, directly behind the train bridge, is the Lee Bridge.
SouthSide
This is the southern side of Mayo Bridge, south of Mayo Island. You can see the rapids and the southern flood wall in the distance.
Looking Back
This is how the City looks as you approach it from the south on the Mayo Bridge. It was such a beautiful day.
End of the Bridge
This is the end of the Bridge and my destination. The paved switchback-like path is my goal. It takes you off the bridge and inside the flood wall to a paved path along the River.
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This is a great spot to put in a canoe or kayak or just to walk along if you want to explore the southern bank of the River.
Under the Bridge
Peering under the bridge just to make sure no trolls are lurking under there. The Mayo Bridge is one of the oldest in Virginia; you can tell. No one decorates a bridge like this anymore. The concrete details are beautiful.
Bridge
You can see more of the bridge and its details, including the concrete obelisks in this shot, as well as the City looming up over the River to the north.
Looming
The flood wall looms large over you on this route. It is both comforting and slightly disconcerting. In the distance, you can see the top of the Southern States grain elevator behind the wall. I cut through the Southern States parking lot on the loop back to the office. The grain dust is a definite downside of this route.
Lonely
One of the reasons I love this route is it is very quiet. As you go along the paved path in the cool shade of the flood wall, you are sheltered from wind and noise. The sound of the rapids have died away. The cars that seem so loud along the bridge are hushed. The only noise I heard today was the chirping of birds and the hushed sound of large vehicles off to the east on I-95.
Train Gate
Trains have gates in the flood wall as well. Just beyond the train tracks, the solid concrete wall comes to an end and the flood wall becomes a massive hill of rocks and earth, leading east towards I-95.
Steep
I am not kidding when I say the flood wall gets steep. This is looking up at the top of the rock/earthen flood wall from the lowest point on the paved path.
JRB
This is the I-95 James River Bridge that I cross twice a day, every day. Since I started running this particular route, I watch it keenly when we head home and can see it as we drive south. The bridge looks smaller from my perspective on my runs, and the path I run on looks miniscule from way up there on the bridge on the ride home.
Flood Wall Hill Part 1
Now it is time to go from River Level to the top of the flood wall. The hill is climbed in two parts. This is the easier part.
Road to the Sun
I call the second half of the climb the “Road to the Sun.” I have yet to run up this hill without having to stop to walk.
Hello City
This was the last photo I got before the camera died on me. I am almost on the same elevation as the James River Bridge, and it was a nice view of Richmond on a particularly beautiful day.

While the route is a lonely one, it is not too isolated. I see a couple of people along the way every time I go; tourists, runners, and today, people out fishing and canoeing. Two weeks ago, a bald eagle soared above me as I closed in on the Southern States grain facility. Today, one of the peregrine falcons tailed along behind me for much of the distance. Almost impossible to see in the view screen, I took several desperation shots to see if I could score just one decent photo. Here are the only two that you can even tell are the bird.
Falcon Falcon
Days like today make me particularly appreciative of my city and its surroundings.

The Neglected Blog Looks Back

I have had nothing to say. Nothing to show you. Nothing to share. Not that there hasn’t been an abundance of words, potential photos, or knitted projects, it’s just that it is the time of year where my brain is overwhelmed and I just don’t feel like talking. I have neglected the blog and I am sorry.

2011 has been a year for wild ups and downs. It will go down in my memory for several momentous occasions.

First, it was the year I found my feet. I started running in the Spring of 2010 a few months after gastric bypass, but it wasn’t until this year that I found the confidence to run races. It began in January when I learned that Warrior Dash was coming to Virginia and I signed up as a way to motivate myself. Then I discovered the SuperHero 5K; a perfect race given my ability, my fondness for superheros, and the charity appealed to me. In total, I ran 3 races this year, finishing the year with the Jingle Bell Run, and even before 2012, I have signed up for two more races, both 13.1 mile distances. I am already well into training for the half marathon I am running on March 17, 2012.

I will also remember it as the year I received my Pelican in the SCA and as a year in general where I gave most of my spare time to the SCA, at least up until about October. Between autocratting, gate keeping, and general event support staff, I put a lot of time, sweat, and work into the SCA. I have committed to making 2012 a lighter year for the SCA for myself. No jobs, no event staffing, no offices; nothing unless I am taken hold of by some bolt out of the blue and inspired to do something.

It was the year of car repairs and cash hemorrhaging in general. Things were looking up early in the year, but then the van needed work, then the washer gave up the ghost, then we bought a new t.v., then my truck needed $1000 in work, then the van again, then the truck broke down the day before Thanksgiving, and finally, the van needed a new radiator just last week. It has been brutal, but we have held on and received a lot of blessings too; just the fact that we aren’t deeply in credit card debt still puts us in a better place than we were 3 years ago. I hope things will improve in 2012.

Also in the hardship category has been the breakup of my parents’ marriage after 32 years. As I told my dad a couple of weeks ago, this has been a long time in coming, so long in fact that I just stopped believing it would actually happen. But at long last it has, and we are picking up the broken pieces of my family and trying to figure out how to make a new puzzle out of it all. Some pieces are missing. Some pieces don’t fit together anymore. For better or worse, I suspect it is only the glue that is Grace Elizabeth that is preventing total disintegration.

I confess that I always assumed that divorcing parents would be vastly easier to manage as an adult than as a child. In fact, I thought I would have no emotional fall out whatsoever. I was categorically wrong on that front. This is hard. It hurts. And there is not a quick end to the hurt in sight, but I will push on to do right by all of my family, even though that balancing act is difficult at best and leads to hurting others sometimes at worst.

2011 was the year I began to earn some culinary chops. I have enjoyed experimenting with food, flavors, cuts of meat, and preserving food. The surgery I underwent almost 2 years ago has totally transformed my interests in food. Gone are the days when fried chicken and French fries made a meal, and all for the better as far as I am concerned. Yes, almost everything I cook has to have some kind of sauce with it for my own benefit, but the great thing about sauces is you can cook the same type of meat 10 times (hello boneless, skinless chicken breast) and have a different take on it every time. I have truly begun to enjoy cooking to the point that I frequently prefer it to eating out at a restaurant a lot of times.

It is also the year where I began to really care about what is in my food and where it came from. Websites I follow like Well Preserved and Fooducate have opened my eyes to possibilities and problems with our food. Sites like Food Freedom and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense have opened my eyes to the incredible power wielded by the large food corporations and how they influence government policy to their own fiscal benefit, though frequently to the detriment of the general public (remember, this is the year that tomato paste made pizza qualify as a “vegetable” for the purpose of school lunches).

It was not a big year for knitting for me. My Corrie Vest was the only really impressive project I succeeded at. The well-intentioned Self Created Sock Club flopped in May when it was supposed to be a pair of socks for my dad; this was simultaneous with the discovery of the divorce. Between the insanity of getting ready for Sapphire and the tumult of the early days of the divorce proceedings, I just couldn’t bring myself to knit his socks. And once I was off a month, I never got my sock mojo back. I have a new plan for 2012 and for knitting that I will describe in a forthcoming post.

It has been an incredible year with my daughter. Watching Grace become a little kid who can write her name, her numbers up to 10, who can spell C A T, who can color in the lines, who can draw pictures, and can remember and sing entire songs back to us has been uplifting and amazing. She has been the light and joy in my year.

I feel like I am ending 2011 a very different woman than I was when it started. I feel much older, more care-worn than I was 12 months ago. It has not been an easy or light year in any way, which doesn’t expressly mean it was a bad year overall, just a very intense year across the whole spectrum. I feel like I changed more in just this year than I have ever before, in some ways for the better, and in other ways, not so much.

I am closing out my third decade of existence very soon as well. My twenties were an awesome set of years, to be sure, but I am entering into my thirties in better health than I have ever had and with an amazing family I didn’t have at the beginning of my twenties. I don’t know where I will be at 40 in the same way I could never have predicted where I am today when I was 20, but I hope and pray that the coming decade will a decade of action and doing. I want to use these years to do rather than to hope to do. I will never be any younger than I am today, every day, and I learned very acutely this year that if you want to do something, you better hurry up and do it. Opportunities come far less frequently than excuses.

On that note, I will be closing out 2011 by running seven miles on Saturday morning. That is something I definitely could not have done on 12/31 a year ago. I can’t wait to see what I can do a year from this Saturday.

I wish you and yours an amazing 2012.

Jingle Bell Recap

I like reading race recaps and I can’t be the only one, so I do try and submit my own, partly for the amusement of others, but also partly so I can look back on these moments, good and bad, and remember where I have been.

I picked the Jingle Bell 5K because it was for a good charity (Arthritis Foundation) and because the price and date were compatible with my needs. Because it was themed, I had promised that if I met my fundraising goal, I would wear something themed for the day, thus with the jingle bell antler headband and the bells on my shoes.
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There was no communication that I could find on where the race was starting at the mall, so we just followed a car that had euro stickers for half, full, and 50K races on it, figuring they probably had something like a clue.
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One factor that had not occurred to me until Saturday morning was that the mall itself would not be open yet. I had been counting on there being warm stores for Byram and Grace to wander around in to stay warm. Fortunately, Panera Bread did open and they had warm drinks and a loveseat by the fire that was perfect for them.

The race itself did not feel especially organized. I know the Richmond Road Runners put out a desperate plea for volunteers last week, but there was not much communication on the website and the one email I sent with a question about packet pick up only was answered late on Friday. That is the downside of doing charity runs. It is all volunteer work and I can’t complain about that, really.

Byram had the camera and used it well.
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I saw race numbers in the 600’s on people but it didn’t feel like there were that many attendees. I also chose to line up fairly close to the front this time, unlike the CASA run. I knew I wasn’t the speed bump this time and wanting that sub-30 PR, I needed to get out of traffic as quickly as possible.
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Byram and Grace were able to be right next to me at the starting line. The race marshal yelled “Go!” and we were off.
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I was pumped and being at the front with the faster runners, I broke out very fast at the start. I knew I was too hot but didn’t try and pull it back until we were about a quarter of a mile in. My MP3 player’s ear buds quit that morning, so I was running without my musical companions, just the raucous jingles of all the bells the runners were wearing. Those bells turned out to be a hazard because in almost no time, they were flying off shoes everywhere and were like little marbles all over the course. I lost my little bells on the Big Mama-Jama hill.

Oh, the hills. I suppose that whole commercial zone was built into a bowl around the James River. The steepest feeling hill was the Big Mama-Jama I mentioned above, but that one was relatively short and brutal and over, with a lovely fast downhill when we turned around in a cul-de-sac at the top. Then, up another hill, through an office park, and back down a gentler slope, until we got to the run-killing half mile hill. MapMyRun shaded the hill when I mapped the course for its elevation change. The course leveled out a bit, but still was slightly an uphill battle the rest of the way in.

There were cars in the course, as I suppose there had to be since we were running through a mall at Christmas time and an apartment complex is right next to the mall. The police were very friendly, but one driver was not. Sorry we ruined her day. The bells were a nuisance on the road as well, and fortunately I only stepped on one, and even though it was right in the middle of my instep, it wasn’t as painful as it could have been. My main complaint was that the Dog Walk took place in the last half mile of the race route, so after the hill from hell and being close to gassed, I had to contend with walkers, dogs, people pushing wheel chairs, and kids. I managed, but I wish that maybe they had marked off a separate route for the walkers and dogs, or timed it so they were in that section while the racers were off in the office parks and off the mall property.

Without music, I focused intensely on a visual I had in my head of the race clock at the finish. I kept imagining it with random numbers like 28:50 or 29:10 or even 31:52 (though I kept banishing that one). The hills were so painfully slow and I felt time slipping away from me. I began to make myself accept that I had not accounted for such a hilly race, and maybe this wasn’t the race for a PR. As I turned back into the mall parking lot for the end, I spotted Byram and Grace pretty easily and tried to smile at them, but just as I saw them, I realized I could actually see the clock.
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It had something in the upper 28 minute on it and I lost any focus or control on my pace and breathing. I WAS going to make a sub-30 minute 5K if I would hurry the hell up! I pushed hard and tried to sprint for the finish but I really was gassed. I am sure I looked like I was running through mud, but it felt like I was flying. As I passed the clock, it read 29:30 as I hit the line and went into the longest chute ever, and they were yelling “Don’t slow down! Keep going!”

Ugh. It took me a minute to regain composure and controlled breathing but by the time I hooked back up with the family, I was beaming. I saw 29:30 as I passed the clock. I made my goal.
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I don’t know if I will run this race again. I disliked the course, and it had minor annoyances like the water station had its trashcans so close you only had time to grab a cup and splash water in your mouth before passing your only opportunity to toss the cup. I would encourage them to place the can a good 40 or 50 feet beyond the station in the future (I know how minor such a nit is to pick). It would have been nice if there had been water at the end of the race too. It was halfway across the parking lot and not in the direction of where we were parked. The dogs and walkers were a bigger annoyance, but not unbearably so.

It was inexpensive, very local to me, and I liked the DJ and the fact that Panera opened their doors, making life nicer for my family. I certainly appreciate the cause as well.

I learned my lesson about the end of the race though. Losing my focus and control left me feeling completely blown up after the race and I am not sure I gained any benefit in my speed. I also learned that gloves would be a lovely thing for all these Saturday morning training runs I am about to embark on. I hate when my hands are so cold they are stinging. Yeah, they were warm by the end, but it took a long time. I love my ear warmer sweatband! Yes, I might look ridiculous, but see the picture of me and Grace walking above and realizeā€¦I already DO look ridiculous and that is okay. Other than my hands, I was well prepared for the cold and also for the inevitable sensation of TOO WARM later on. I love that my pull over hoodie has a zipper for venting purposes and I had it all the way down at the end, and it came off after the race.

It was a hard race but a wonderful feeling to achieve what I set out to do and run the race in under 30 minutes. I am thankful for my family and their love and support. After the race, Grace told me she wants to learn to run with me. I could not be more proud.
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***CROSS POST*** Getting Ready To Run

***I am cross-posting from my Muddaubber training blog since so many of you contributed to my fundraising efforts, you might be interested in my race efforts. I promise some knitting-centric posting soon.***

Jitters. I has them.

I wonder if pre-race jitters ever go away? This is really only my third start in a race, and being such a newb, jitters are understandable, I suppose.

What do I have to be nervous about? I have trained well. I have pushed my distance much further than the 3.1 miles I am running on Saturday morning. I am not worried about winning or not finishing. But the thought of standing in the chill air in a big crowd on Saturday morning still gives my stomach little flutters. Maybe it is 1 part excitement and 1 part anxiety. I don’t really know.

I feel very unprepared for this race. Not over my training or ability, but there has been no pre-race communication so far about where the race will begin, if there are packets, or anything. Writing this made me go check and packet pickup is tomorrow and Friday at a location on West Broad Street. My wonderful and incredibly supportive better half has volunteered to go and pick up my packet for me. Hopefully the packet will have more details in it, and I think just knowing the basic details will improve my jitters.

I really wanted to run a sub-30 minute 5K. That would mean a race pace of 9:30 or so a mile but I have not successfully achieved that pace for any real distance in my training runs. If the course is fairly flat and I am in optimal shape that morning, I might be able to dig deep and go all out to meet that goal. We will see.

I am going to run at lunch today, an easy 2 miles, and then rest tomorrow and Friday. I am watching my hydration and figuring out nutrition and all. My biggest challenge is eating Saturday morning. If the race goes off at 8:30, I probably need to eat no later than 6:30.

I realize this is just a fun run for a charity, but can you tell I really, really want a PR? And I want it to be a significant PR. Not, you know, 5 seconds better. I guess I really want to cut 3 or 4 minutes off my standing record.

Now I know the source of my nerves.

My brain is trying to prepare myself for disappointment and my heart is telling my brain to go bugger off.

Occupy Christmas

(Oh yes, I went there.)

Here’s an Occupy Thought:

The holidays are coming, specifically Christmas, the biggest gift giving holiday of the year. Regardless of religious beliefs, the vast majority of people give gifts to family and friends on Christmas.

If you are pissed off at Corporate Greed, then vote with your dollars this Christmas season, and don’t buy gifts from Corporate Giants. You know all those Black Friday deals at Wal-mart? You know the $6 coffee pots, the $10 DVD players, and whatnot? You know why they are so cheap? They are made with essentially slave labor, by a company so large as to be able to leverage the entire market down, keeping wages and benefits at those same “rock-bottom” levels as their much celebrated prices.

Buy gifts from local artisans, craftspeople, and producers. Or, try non-local sources like Etsy, or Artfire for beautiful handmade gifts.

Or, try making your own gifts. Baked goods, canned/jarred preserves, jams, and jellies, baking “kits” (all the dry ingredients necessary for a special recipe, like cookies, layered prettily into a Mason Jar with the recipe and instructions printed on the side), are wonderful, inexpensive options. More extravagant options could be buying someone a share at a local CSA. If you have a knitter or crocheter in your family, another extravagant option would be a subscription to an independent dyer’s “sock club” or “fiber club.” I am sure there are similar options for Quilters and other needle artists out there.

Do you have a family member who has everything they could possibly need, and cannot think of anything they truly want? Make a donation in their name to a charity foundation you know they would approve of, and make a beautiful card or letter telling them of your donation.

If you have a friend or family member who has jumped on the growing Do It Yourself movement, and they have interest in making some of their own foods from scratch, consider getting them a home cheesemaking kit, or a nice book on artisan bread making.

Are these things much more expensive than the $6 coffee pot at Wal-Mart? Absolutely. But just because you can get more stuff to show your love, does not necessarily make the gifts more loved or more meaningful.

This Christmas, vote with your dollars. Make your gifts count in the way your conscience dictates.

Quiet Time

My October Unprocessed challenge is ending, in theory, today. I committed to a hard-core first week and succeeded in it, with my major exclusion of artificial sweeteners, and then after the first week, I tried to continue it without going overboard or making myself (or anyone else) crazy.

I learned that really, I do pretty well already in terms of whole, low-processed foods. My major stumbling blocks came from my sweet tooth and the sacks of candy that one of the attorneys here always keeps in his office. In the last week, I just couldn’t keep my hand out of the candy jar and there were a few Snickers mini-bars and one or two Reese’s Cups. I had only one excursion out for fast food, which was the morning of the yard sale and I could not resist a McDonald’s McSkillet Burrito.

I really did try and at the same time, I tried to be subtle about it, I tried to be easy on my family about it, and most of all, I tried to be flexible about it and not let it stress me out. It seemed to work well.

I think I am going to try and make November a quiet month. I genuinely feel like I need to pull back, regroup, and heal my own spirit a bit. This year has been difficult and I am going into the holiday season at a very low point, mentally and emotionally, and I am going to focus on taking care of the issues in my life that need working on, and get myself right in my heart to begin the Advent season that I do love so much. I have some phone calls to make and some actions that need to be taken.

I’ll be around if you need me, but I expect a quiet spell for a while.

Writing My Way Through It

Here is a very simple, very true, and very hard fact about life. For the most part, we all outlive our pets.

On a sunny spring day in March of 1997, my Dad came off the road from an extended trip out west and in his arms was a little brown and black puppy, picked out of a litter in a box in Kingston, Arizona (if I remember correctly). She was known to be at least a mix of Lab and German shepherd, and based on her small size, we anticipated her becoming a medium sized dog. Mom named her Cheyenne, reflecting her American Southwestern roots.

It wasn’t until later that the Greyhound and probably Great Dane mix appeared; it was about the time she could stand on her hind legs and look me in the eyes at 5’7″.

I was fifteen when Cheyenne came to live with us. I will be 30 in January.

Cheyenne loved to run and she was lightning fast. She could sail easily over a 4′ fence, leaping like a deer, leading to many occasions where one or several of us would have to go out on a search mission for Cheyenne back in the old neighborhood in Hampton.

Cheyenne formed an incredibly intense bond with my Mom, and she thought she was a lapdog, even at 80 lbs. It was quite funny to see Mom sitting with Cheyenne in her lap.

She is also the most intelligent dog I have ever met. She communicates with us by jingling her collar, and there are times she will directly into your eyes with such intensity that you know if she had the ability, she would speak and tell you exactly what it is she is trying to say. She has an uncanny sense of what day of the week it is. When Mom first started spending the weeks with us in Richmond, she always went home on Friday evenings. After a while, on Friday evenings, Cheyenne would start wandering away from the house in Suffolk, looking for Mom to be coming home. She knew when it was Friday.

For being so big, she was also amazingly deft. She is amazingly gentle with small children; I never had the slightest fear of her interacting with Grace. Many years ago, one night, Mom and I had gotten tacos from Taco Bell, and then were called away to go pick my brother up from a friend’s house. When we came home, the six wrappers were laid out, perfectly flat, completely undamaged, no tacos anywhere to be found, and Cheyenne was asleep with a pretty satisfied look on her face. To this day, I have no idea how she got those wrappers open without damaging them.

She is now closing in on 15. We estimated her birthday to be around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, putting her birthday within a week of mine and my Mom’s. Large breed dogs are not known for their longevity, so we have been blessed to have had her for so long. However, in the past couple of years, her health has been in decline. A golf-ball sized cancerous tumor was removed from her face last November and the vet said then it would definitely come back. She has been plagued with incontinence and worsening arthritis, her eye sight is fading, and now she is fighting frequent infections.

The time has come. It might even be overdue. But how do you make this call? We have never had a pet live to old age; every previous pet we had either became severely ill or injured to the point where it was blatantly obvious what the next step needed to be.

Cheyenne does not have a severe illness. She doesn’t seem to be suffering other than her aches and pains in her hips and back legs. We have only now reached the decision to go ahead with the final visit to the vet because Cheyenne seems to be developing a nearly neurotic level of anxiety whenever my Mom leaves her alone. We are talking loss of bowel control and it happens even in cases where Mom is gone for less than 10-15 minutes. And it is becoming an almost daily occurrence.

We think it’s time, but it is so hard when occasionally she gets a little prance in her step and springs around outside a little. We thought it would happen while the family was at Pennsic and Mom was in Suffolk that week, but the vet put Cheyenne on estrogen (to help the incontinence) and antibiotics for her skin infection, prolonging her life, but also told us then that she had early stage kidney disease, and we knew then that time was growing very short.

She has been the most amazing companion to my Mom, the best “little sister” to me, and a wonderful protector to my daughter.

I know it is the right thing to do, but I am not okay. And I am not going to be for a little while. And it will be much worse for my Mom. So think kind thoughts for us over the next week or so. Please be patient with me if you have to interact with me.

I am so thankful that we have had her, and it hurts so very much that we have to lose her.
With Baby Grace

Cheyenne

Little Sister