Posts Tagged ‘richmond’

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.

Unapologetic

I was going to go to the Y for another murderous upper body weight lifting workout when I opened my bag and realized I had not swapped out yesterday’s cold weather running gear for clean, not soaking wet, short-sleeved, indoor appropriate anything to wear.

Rather than wear soaking wet, long-sleeved, outdoor, dirty clothes to lug around heavy weights, I bagged on my workout and decided to go for a walk. I headed east on Main Street and decided since I had my camera with me that today was as good as any day for another round of Photos Around Richmond. I think I only do this in January, when the city itself is not especially pretty, and when the weather is not especially fabulous, but then I am unlikely to waste a perfectly beautiful lunch hour trundling around with the camera.

As I headed east, I decided the top of the hill on Main Street where Rte. 5 and Main St. intersect would be my destination. Being a non-native Richmonder, I am not sure whether this is actually Church Hill or it is one of the other hills (I have also seen it labeled Union Hill on a map). Either way, this is where I was going. This is the hill I run up on my hill training days.


And this is how it looks from the runner’s perspective as you are just getting started going up.

Fortunately, today I was not running up the hill, just doing the aforementioned trundling (in 3 inch high wedge boots…my feet are very unhappy with this poor planning on my part). From almost the top, looking east, you can watch the James River drift lazily by.
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Looking back west, I could visually measure the almost exactly one mile between my current spot I was standing and the building I had walked from to get there.
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This gentleman is looking out over the City from atop his very tall pedestal.
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Everything below seems very tiny from my vantage point. I feel both insignificant and very large at the same time from up here. Cars look like Matchbox toys from up here and I can see all the way to the Chesterfield Power Station that is south of my house along the James River.
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And then I took this.

It is the first picture of myself since I turned 30. Unadulterated. Unaltered.
I got to the top of the hill feeling distinctly and intensely unapologetic about who I am. I did something silly today and wore some silly peacock feather earrings I bought for $2 last week. I like peacock feathers and I liked the earrings, and I didn’t care if they were fashionable enough to wear to work. I was feeling a bit rebellious and wore them.

Even more rebellious are the little stud earrings in my upper ear cartilage. I can’t remember the last time I wore earrings in those holes at home, much less to my rather conservative workplace.

I wear glasses. I have crows feet (too many years of playing outdoors in the sun without sunscreen). I have never intentionally plucked a hair out of my eyebrows. I don’t frequently wear makeup. The smile lines around my mouth have gotten very deep since I lost 120 pounds. My eyes can’t decide if they are blue or green, or gray. I do all kinds of unfashionable things, like wear my hair almost to my backside and only bother to color it once a year or so anymore. Or wear peacock feather earrings (actually, I think that is fashionable for the 13-17 year old age group right now…). I keep my toenails painted 100% of the time, but I have worn polish on my fingernails maybe 4 or 5 times in the past decade.

I run. I knit. I cook things my family likes to eat (we are having grilled Bessie Cow tonight!). I sing badly, but sometimes I do it out loud anyway. I sew poorly, but have enough basics to keep Byram and I at least somewhat decently garbbed in the SCA. I excel at washing dishes. I can plunge a toilet like no one’s business. I am either a horribly conservative democrat or a ridiculously liberal republican, depending on what day of the week it is when you ask me. Or maybe more accurately, I am a libertarian who appreciates some law and order, but really just wants to be left alone.

And you know what? I love all of those facts about me. I even like that self-portrait, taken at an odd angle with an odd, Mona Lisa-like look on my face. I love who I am and I don’t want to apologize for that.

Speaking of love…meet Melpomene.
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I am right at the half way mark with it and my progress has slowed (so typical of me). I came up a little short on yarn because I used larger needles than the pattern called for, but it worked out just fine. The first ball ran out just as I finished the last repeat of Chart B, so I just began the decreasing charts (Chart D) next and skipped over the middle point (Chart C). There should be no change in the effect on the shape of the scarf, just shortening its overall number of repeats.
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I adore the soft, solid texture the stitches create. I love the simplicity of the garter stitch short row sections, and enjoy the not too challenging, but not mindless twisted stitch patterns as well. I find the whole thing to be very soothing on my frayed nerves these days. The rich hue of the blue helps too. It’s a shame, but I couldn’t get a good true-to-color shot of the blue. Yesterday’s late afternoon sun threw off the color, and today’s lack of sun washes it out to gray when it really is an unapologetic sapphire blue.

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 realize…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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That Thanksgiving Challenge Again

Eat Local Thanksgiving Challenge

We are closing in on a month away from Thanksgiving here in the States (happy belated Thanksgiving to my one or two Canuck readers) and my challenge hasn’t left my mind, but I am realizing the significance of the challenge, or really, how many challenges this encompasses.

Challenge No. 1 — Avoiding “Weird” Foods
There are very few “weird” foods to me, however, when dealing in particular with my older family members who have very deep rooted food “comfort zones,” serving unfamiliar produce that is in season locally is going to come across as “weird.” A roasted root vegetable salad like I made several years ago is the perfect seasonal produce dish that I can serve, but when I made it a while back, it was definitely not the most popular dish on the table due mostly to its unfamiliarity.

Challenge No. 2 — Handling “Traditional” Expectations
We always have corn on the table at Thanksgiving, therefore, it must be traditional, right? If I want to serve local corn, I have to hope there is still some around right now and de-cob it (is that at word?) and freeze it. Otherwise, I either will miss that window or make an exception for the table. Further, I will have to be okay with traditional non-local foods like cranberries being there because it just “wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.” That’s okay too.

Challenge No. 3 — Being Okay Not Being Perfect
I frequently set myself a goal and when I see that I cannot perfectly execute said goal, I tend to give up altogether. I recognize this as the character flaw that it is. So when I see myself having to make exceptions (like Sweet Potato Casserole with locally grown sweet potatoes but HFCF-dense marshmallows and maple syrup from Vermont), I wonder why I am even bothering. Instead, I am trying to focus on two things: a) alternatives to the objectionable ingredients (like the maple syrup) or b) barring any alternatives, accepting that this is supposed to be fun, not make me insane and my family unhappy.

Saturday morning, I intend to make a visit to the South of the James Farmers Market and see what there is to see. I would like to make my roasted root vegetable dish again, though it has been some years since I last did it, and serve it. Those who don’t try it will miss out. I am looking for interesting apple dishes to try since apples are so easy and abundant locally. And I will see what fresh remaining summer-type produce I can get now and preserve in ways to put them on the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Soon, particularly after visiting SotJ this weekend, I hope to start scratching out a menu, which I intend to share here.

Believe

Something really cool happened to me this week.

My office often runs health challenges through the James Center YMCA. Last year it was a Biggest Loser challenge. It has been exercise challenges before. It always involves being a part of a team and working towards some healthy goal.

I have never been invited to a team before. Let’s just say I have never been the poster child for health and fitness around my office in the past.

Well, this week, that apparently changed. The YMCA is running a “Battle of the Bulge” 8 week challenge; teams of 4 have to log their exercise and food habits on a special calorie tracking website for 8 weeks; points are awarded for logging, for doing at least 3 30-minute workouts per week, and points are deducted for not logging or not exercising. Weight loss is not the goal here; consistently exercising, logging your food and water intake, and being accountable are the goals. Extra points are awarded for working out more than the minimum 3 times. Extra points are awarded for drinking water. There will be Bonus Point Challenges too.

And I was invited to a team; we had 8 people from the office who were split into two teams, and between our two teams, we have one endurance cyclist (he rides about 300 miles on a regular week), two marathon runners, and the rest of us are more “regular” runners. I am one of them.

I am one of them.

Let me repeat that one more time.

I am one of them.

These attorneys, as a group, believed I am responsible enough, fit enough, and motivated enough to be a contribution to a team for 8 weeks. This is powerful ju-ju for my Former Fat Chick’s brain. People believe in me.

That is pretty cool.

Half Dreams

13.1

November is a long way away and I am feeling particularly inspired.

Thoughts? Is 5 months enough? Would I be asking too much of my family? Asking too much of a summer dedicated to Sapphire Joust and Pennsic camp?

Of myself?

I will let you know if I sign up. First, I need to check up on their refund policy.

A River Walk

We had some serious rain over the weekend in the region, which has translated into minor James River flooding. I decided to take a short hike down to the “wrong side” of the Richmond flood wall, which is to say, outside of those protective concrete boundaries, to get a better view of just what is going on with the River that Runs Through It.
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The Christopher Newport Cross
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The Pipeline Overlook Warning Signs (in case you thought walking over a 4 foot wide walkway that was under rushing water was a good idea).
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One of two Great Blue Herons who were fishing for their lunches.
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They were relatively unimpressed with me, even if I was thrilled to get within 20 feet of them. Blue herons are some of my favorite types of birds. They really remind me of growing up in the Tidewater of Virginia, in between the marshes and beaches of Hampton. I have always thought they were incredibly elegant and I love their coloring. It made me really happy to get this close to them today.
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Walking on the pipe. It is literally only (comfortably) a one-person-wide walkway, and several times I had to sidle sideways to pass other people. I forgot that to get to the walkway, you have to go down some steps, then climb a ladder. This is best done in tennis shoes. I have chunky 3-inch high heeled, calf-high boots on today. It was an adventure. Anything for a good photo.
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The River was quite energetic. And muddy.
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A pretty gull of some type or another. I have always thought of sea gulls as winged rats, but I liked this one’s coloring. He had a surprising wingspan of probably nearly 4 feet which he displayed when I came a little too close to him.
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I am on the Riverside of the floodwall. That is the symbol of the Army Corps of Engineers, but a few SCAdians I know will see it completely differently.
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Railroads abound in this area. I actually have to walk over them to get back to the city side of the floodwall. If I hadn’t seen Stand By Me at an impressionable age, this wouldn’t even be noteworthy enough to mention.
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Speaking of trains, I don’t know what is the deal with the vintage looking rail cars sitting there, but they certainly were pretty.
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A pretty view of the Turning Basin I rarely get, since I am usually walking along the Basin rather than passing over it. It made for a very pretty and well-spent lunch, and I am glad I ventured out onto the River.
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(This one is just so we don’t forget this really is generally a knitting blog.)