I've continued taking yoga to loosen up my back some more and work on building "core strength". At the same time, I'm reducing the amount of mileage I run and how I often I run. I've cut back from about 40 miles a week, running 5 times a week to running 3 times a week and only running 3-4 miles at a time.
The core strength classes are helping a lot in terms of overall physical health. They're helping me to focus on keeping my abs engaged when I run, which takes pressure off of my back. Running less makes sure that I stay focused when I run. When I used to go out for a long run, I must have realxed my stomach muscles and settled into a grove where they didn't have to do any work and the weight of my head and shoulders sat over my lower back. Now I try to keep better posture when I run and in everyday life and it seems to be helping.
If you're looking for a good core strength building class in Cambridge, MA, Yoga Karma Studios has a good one with Jesse.
I ran the New Bedford Half Marathon today against all common sense. My back was pretty tight but I made it through the run OK. On Wednesday morning, I woke up and my back was in knots; I don't know why -- mabye it was the way I slept on it. But I hadn't been able to really loosen it up all week. I couldn't bend forward or backward and was having difficulty walking. I didn't run at all for the rest of the week.
Lea took me to yoga twice this week and it helped my back loosen up temporarily. I learned a few stretching exercises that I could do on my own and worked on my back for most of Saturday. Yoga was an eye-opening experience -- I was amazed to find out how inflexible I am. Straightening either leg in almost any position was a real challenge. I hadn't realiized how one-dimensional my training had become and hadn't been aware of the deleterious effects running was having on my body. Fortunately, this week, my back spoke up and told me.
I went ahead with the half anyways, partly because I was already signed up for it, and partly because of the way I felt this morning. When I woke, up my back was just kind of sore and not in knots anymore. I took this as an encouraging sign and figured I should try it out running. If I was going to go running today, I might as well run in the race I signed up for...
It took a while for my back to loosen up during the race. I took the first 4 miles very easy, about an 8:00/mile pace. During this time there were a few scary moments when I thought my back would lock up mid-stride, but I would adjust my stride to make sure I wasn't stressing my back unnecessarily. At about 4.5 mi, I decided to pick up the pace a little bit and see how long I could stand it. Between miles 6 and 7 my back loosened up and started to feel pretty close to normal. I picked up the pace a little more and cruised to the finish line telling myself that I was really only running a 10k.
The course was relatively flat except for a decent hill at mile 3 and then another one at mile 12. There's a stretch from mile 9 - 11 along the waterfront where we encountered a significant headwind. Other than that, the course seemed pretty fast. I, however, was not fast: I finished in 1:41:00 for a 7:42 pace. But I was thankful just to have survived it and to have cured my backache.
The post-race meal at the Sgt Carney school was heaven (once I found it after wandering aimlessly away from the finish line) -- fish chowder and fish sandwiches and ice cream. Sadly though, there was no beer and no hot chocolate to be found. The only thing they could improve at the New Bedford Hlaf are the post-race refreshments. At the finish line there was a choice between Aquafina (public water supply) and some new Gatorade concoction (with plenty of artificial sweeteners in it). Neither was appealing, so I went with the oranges instead. At the school afterwards, they had several different kinds of soda, which was an odd choice. But other than that, the meal was fantastic.
Last weekend, I imported my posts from my blogger blog into my active.com blog. You can import postings into your active.com blog if they've been exported in the Moveable Type import format. Blogger doesn't have a facility for this; however Geoff showed me a method
for exporting from blogger and then importing into Moveable Type and
then exporting from Moveable Type and then importing into active.com.
Lea and I went to the Tropicana Juice Bar for breakfast. I had the eggs breakfast with their South American secret recipe juice; she had the waffles and ice cream with the cherry smoothie. I could taste lemon, açai, and carrot in the secret recipe in preparation for taste descriptions that I'd have to make up in the wine country. The South American juice was made from fresh ingredients and was outstanding! Lea read that the Southie juice gives you a natural high for a few hours, and I noticed I was wired for several hours afterward, so apparently, I wasn't able to identify everything in the South American smoothie. I'm sure there's a good reason the recipe is secret, and it may not have anything to do with intellectual property. We went twice to the Tropicana while in Melbourne and I found myself missing it when we left.
The juice bar is right around the corner from Hardware Lane a collection of stores specializing in hiking and outdoor gear. They had specials on New Zealand merino wool sweaters, since it's their summer, so we picked up a few. It was a shopping day, which is a popular thing to do in Melbourne as the streets were packed. We met up with Roger and Blair and Kat for lunch and ducked into and out of various sporting goods stores checking out the Aussie Rules Football and cricket gear that we couldn't get in the states. We were missing Greg and Ruthie already who had left the day before to go back home for a wedding.
We took New Year's Eve dinner at a hotel a few blocks down from where we were staying that was pretty much the only thing available on short notice. The meal itself wasn't that bad; Kat and I both tried the bugs. The bugs are odd creatures we couldn't piece together exactly what it looked like as we were each only served half of a tail. But from what I could tell, it looked like a horseshoe crab with a rounded shell body and protruding from that a long protected tail. It was described to us as a mixture between a lobster and a prawn. I couldn't identify any prawn in it, but the tail did resemble a lobster tail and the meat had a similar texture and taste to lobster. The rest of the shell is more reminiscent of a horseshoe crab than a lobster. It must be the language barrier.
From dinner, we headed to the Westin on the river, near Federation Square, then we went into the mass of people at Federation Square to watch the fireworks. The turnout was supposedly low because of the scorching heat. It was 42 C during the day and the temperature at midnight was predicted to be over 90 F. The fireworks were impressive I think the Aussies consider New Year's Eve their holiday, and I wouldn't argue with them.
I think they enjoy New Year's so much because they are one of the first to experience it. For Christmas, it seemed that we were on the outside looking in, because the Australian Green Christmas is very different from the Christmas that most of the rest of the former British colonies, turned English-speaking predominantly Christian nation experiences. You must find yourself often looking elsewhere for the images that are considered symbolic of Christmas, at that time of year. But, when New Year's comes, things are different now the whole world turns it's eyes towards the International Date Line in anticipation of the arrival of the New Year to come, and Australia knows it and puts on a beautiful, eye-catching display. In Melbourne, the fireworks were nearly continuous, the show itself was dizzying as we watched it from the river with our necks craned up towards the flashing lights. Afterwards, we were all exhausted and went back towards the hotel. Roger, Blair and I tried to make a foray to another bar as Lea and Kat each retired, but we soon realized, we'd already squeezed every last drop out of 2007 and should get to bed to rest up for 2008.
The Hunter -- Part 2: Wine Country Tour in the Afternoon
From the SWC, we ventured out to Ivanhoe , which was Greg and Ruthie's favorite when they did the tour before they met us in Cairns. It is a big winery and seems like it has received a lot of press. Unfortunately for us, three gigantic tour buses pulled up and disgorged themselves into Ivanhoe 's eager beak, just as Vinny was pulling us into the parking lot. So, we had some time to admire the grounds before trying any wine the view is truly impressive.
Like Bimbadgen , the buildings at Ivanhoe sit up on a ridge, but unlike Bimbadgen where the vines occupy a graded slope down towards the valley, at Ivanhoe , the drop-off is more dramatic and the vines sit in the floor of the valley. The mountains in the background and the ornamental trees selectively placed around the grounds frame the shot nicely.
We saddled up to the counter inside and we were also impressed with the wines. I thought the Shiraz's were good, including the Second Pressings that Greg brought to Cairns. I liked the whites as well and started to get into the Semillion, now that I was becoming more coherent. Roger, of course, couldn't bother with the whites, skipped them altogether and hit the reds right away. I think Blair was doing pretty much the same thing, although occasionally, he would try a white. Lea and Kat and I were the only ones giving the whites any consistent business. The region is supposed to be known for its whites: Semillion, Verdelho, Chardonnay. The only red it is really known for is Shiraz fortunately for Roger, that's his favorite.
We asked the woman who served us at Ivanhoe if she had any recommendations on other wineries to visit and she suggested Briar Ridge , which we tacked onto the end of the trip . We couldn't do it next, because next we were headed to the marketing crown jewel of the day Poole's Rock , home to Cockfighter's Ghost.
Who is the marketing genius who came up the Cockfighter's Ghost brand? I don't know, but he landed me hook, line and sinker. As soon as we burst through the door, I was gobbling up every piece of merchandise I could find and there was plenty to be had. Clearly, they had anticipated my arrival, slightly off-balance, with the giddy giggle of a teenager just saying the words, Cockfighter's Ghost. After wading my way through the paraphernalia, having the presence of mind to decide that I didn't need both the sweater vest and beanie to go with the parka and T-shirt, I finally found my way to the tasting counter. I guess the wine was tasty as I found myself paying for a bottle of Chardonnay when it was time to check out. When in my life have I ever drunk Chardonnay? I guess the logic was, if I'm going to buy a Chardonnay, it's going to be a Cockfighter's Ghost Chardonnay!
The only effective tourniquet to stop me from hemorrhaging cash at Poole's Rock was to move onto our last stop of the day Briar Ridge . We met a very friendly and perhaps the most helpful person we'd encountered on our trip behind the counter at Briar Ridge Bonnie. Bonnie used to work at Ivanhoe and still has a few drinking buddies over there, hence the recommendation. She was energetic and enthusiastic and handled our questions very gracefully. I know for sure at this point that my questions were not getting anymore intelligent, so she must have been a saint to put up with me at the end of a full day of wine tours.
We sat at the stools, five in a row, and placed ourselves in Bonnie's charge. At this point, even Roger was willing to try the whites, so we just let Bonnie take us through the entire list. I'd been developing an inclination towards the Semillion's probably because it's just fun to say. I was gushing over our second wine, the Karl Stockhausen special. What was I saying? Well, my analysis was insightful, eloquent and nothing if not original. I believe it was along the lines of, It's good, very good! repeated over and over again. Every now and then I would sprinkle in the even less popular, Yep, tastes like wine!
We moved onto the reds and Bonnie explained some of the odd descriptions you'll find for Shiraz in the region. Since it is aged in oak casks that are scored on the inside, sometimes the wine takes on a flavor that reminds the taster of those grooves and how they were burned into the wood. Earth tones is a common expression. She related a whole laundry list of more colorful expressions that included roadkill and motor oil. I guess this is why when we asked a waiter in Port Douglas for his opinion on a particular Shiraz, he replied with, Yep, that'll start your car for you. As it turns out, this is not condemning the wine, but instead commenting on the richness of the flavor.
We picked up some cheese on the way back and headed to the Hermitage with more calories than we knew what to do with. A few pizzas from the restaurant and a deck of cards helped pass the evening with the bottles we'd collected. We woke up the next day and headed to Sydney.
I haven't yet found a way to directly import blogger posts into my active.com blog. It looks like there are ways of doing this for typepad, etc.., but not blogger -- I guess since it doesn't have an export feature, it could be a little difficult...
I adjust rediscovered my active.com account and found that they have a blogging feature, so I decided to give it a try. I've been writing about my running on my personal blog, but it's intermingled with a lot of other crap.
I can't say that this is the most streamlined blogging interface. I had to click on a couple of different items to get to a post. And adding a hyperlink to a few clicks too. These seem like pretty basic elements of a blog and ought to be more streamlined.
I ran the Hyannis half marathon today. It was not my best run ever. I didn't even look at the time as I crossed the finished line, but I think I had about a 7:30 pace.
The conditions were great. The roads were cleared from the snowstorm on Friday and the temperature was in the high 30's -- and very sunny. The course was relatively flat and it seemed like all of the ingredients were in place to best my half marathon PR, which is from the same race last year.
However, I made a grave tactical error in pre-race meal planning. I failed to notice that Lea and I had agreed to meet people at a Chinese restaurant the night before the race. I don't think my stomach is used to seeing that amount of oil before a race and my meal sat like a brick in my stomach the whole run. Towards the end, I started to feel better, but that meal didn't provide much energy for the finish. Oh, well, it could have turned out a lot worse.
The Hyannis half has a full marathon, 10k, and relay race and is for the most part, a pretty well-run event. There is one glaring exception to this and that's the logistical trainwreck that is the start of the race. Registration is in a hotel ballroom and the start is in the road a few dozen yards away. The amazing part of this is:
1) The start comes back through the natural path most runners take to go to the start from the ballroom, so you have to go across the start line and then get ready to turn around and come back.
2) The start encompasses all of the road and there is very little shoulder off of the road for one to pass to get back to the end of the starting group.
These two hiccups seem innocuous enough, but when you get thousands of runners trying to head to the starting line at the same time, they all basically have nowhere to go and the start turns into a big mosh pit. This is pretty easy to solve, either turn the start around and change the course, or move the start up and add a little extra onto the course.
I went to Maine this weekend and checked on the Pressey House in Deer Isle. The progress there is amazing. Ken's done a great job putting my room together -- I put a few pictures in a Picassa album online .
The first picture included in this post is of a window sill. This is a great example of how Ken is paying close attention to detail to make everything just right. First of all, there is an actual base to the window casing now, before there was just a random piece of stock jammed in there. This sill extends out past the trim and the face of the piece that forms the sill is angled slightly (Ken estimates about 13-14 degrees) to give it a nice finish. Also, the edges of the sill have been chamfered to form a smoother, rounder edge, instead of a sharp corner. In addition to looking better and being safer, Ken points out that the chamfered edge will actually hold paint better than a sharp edge which could be prone to chipping. Instead of using a router to do the chamfering, Ken used a plane, which is consistent with the time period of the house, since routers weren't around in the 18th century.
The second picture shown above is of the ceiling. It shows the main beam that runs the length of the room and the two side beams that join it. The two side beams have been covered with pieces of rough-sawn lumber to make it easier to mate the sheetrock up to it. The way Ken did this is ingenious. For each beam, he took two thin rough-sawn planks and joined them together with a miter joint . The joint is held together by glue and you can't even see that these are actually just facade pieces. He added in some really nice touches like lining up knots to give the illusion that it is one beam.
In the album, there is a picture of the new floor and doors. The floor is a drastic improvement over the sub-flooring that was there. Ken resecured the sub-flooring to the ceiling below it, adding more smaller screws across it and driving in longer screws where there was a beam below to hold it. He also added a layer on top of the sub-flooring (plywood?... I could be wrong) and a layer of sound-deadening material, before putting the actual floor down. The floor hasn't been secured yet, but it will be with special nails. These nails have a rectangular head and are an oiled silver color. They will be driven perpendicular to the grain of the wood as driving them with their length with the grain would probably split the wood. The wood used for the floor has beautiful long grains in it. The whole flooring operation raised the floor enough to meet with the entrance to the bathroom, eliminating the awkward small step up.
Ken has also done a great job with the walls. He's painted them in kind of a stucco fashion to recreate the plaster on latheboard feel of old 18th century New England homes. Paint spreads much more easily than plaster; it's designed to -- it wants to be flat. Plaster, on the other hand can be thick and lumpy and difficult, if not impossible, to make totally uniform over a large vertical surface. To make the paint emulate plaster is a delicate balancing act of smoothing and unsmoothing the paint applied to the surface. I had the impression that Ken spent a lot of time trying to figure out if he got this right, which in itself is difficult to do as the light in the room varies dramatically throughout the day. In the mornings in the winter, sunlight floods in through the streetside window. By the afternoon, the sun is blocked by trees and the rest of the house. I'm sure your interpretation of the stucco on the wall rises and falls with it throughout the day. To me, it looked great.