Sunday, February 15, 2015

Running, Running, Running!

My willingness to go out and exercise in the cold is still boosted from my recent visit to the Adirondacks. Yesterday morning I went out for a run despite the 25 degree temperature. I was just so excited to be able to do it. Last November I strained my Achilles tendon and I've been largely avoiding running since except for our monthly 5K's to let it heal. Now it's mostly better (I still feel it when I stretch) and I was happy to get outside for a run - something I've really missed.

I'm glad I did this yesterday rather than putting it off until today. This morning's weather (eight degrees, wind gusts to 60 MPH, plus snow and ice on the ground) is a beyond even my boosted cold weather exercise threshold.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February 5K

Yes, it was time for our monthly 5K. My Achilles tendon is finally feeling better; however, I was worried about my knees which were still aching from my previous day's bike ride. I put a knee brace on one knee. I didn't have a second knee brace and so I wrapped the other knee in an ace bandage, held in place with duct tape. Oh, for the days when my body was reliable and it was my car that was held together with duct tape. Thanks to years of kaizen and aging, these days things seem to be the other way around.

Today's run was right here in Arlington, at Pentagon Row. A big, fun race with a Valentine's theme and free bloody marys afterwards at Champs. Hillier than I expected. Still, duct-taped knees and all, I turned in a decent time of about thirty two minutes even. Valerie turned in a personal best, actually running part of the way!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Cold Start to the Biking Season

My recent visit to the Adirondacks somewhat reset my definition of "cold". For some reason I've really been hibernating this winter, always figuring it was too cold to do anything outside. But, I figure, if I can go out and have fun cross-country skiing with temps in the single digits, certainly I can get on my bike and ride with temps in the 50's, right?

Well, the high was forecast to be in the 50's. I set out in the morning when it was still in the high 30's. The temperature was slow to rise, never actually reaching the forecast high, and the day was grey. No problem - I was well bundled up and, with the exception of my feet, stayed warm. My bike apparently likes the cold even less than I do. The front derailleur was balky, hesitating to shift up due to a sticky cable. I used it as little as possible, shifting mostly through the rear gears.

I rode about 25 miles, heading west from the W&OD parking lot at Rt. 28. My original goal had been 30 miles but based on my freezing feet, the way my body was feeling, and my malfunctioning shifter I decided to cut it short. Good thing. At about the 20 mile point the outsides of my knees started to hurt and by the time I finished my ride I was in some significant pain. I'm not sure if this is an IT band issue or something else. I have had this problem at time from running, though never this severe, and never on both knees. I've had this happen before on the bike too. Maybe I'm pushing my distance too hard too soon. I creaked through the last miles at about 10 MPH, seriously contemplating getting off and walking. But I made it. Back at the car I warmed up with some tea from my Thermos, then headed to the nearby Wegman's to restock my coffee K-cup supply. While there I warmed up further with some lunch: spicy tuna rolls (fake crab maki topped with choped tuna bits, topped with three spicy sauces) and a hot cup of coffee. Rejuvenated, I toddled home, considering the ride a success despite the discomfort. I do need to figure this knee problem out - I don't want it to quash my nascent bike riding focus.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Very Cold Adirondack Weekend

Just like last year, a group of us headed up to visit Jen and do some skiing in the Adirondacks. This year the group was Rob, Gina, Suzanne and me. The first auspicious sign occurred when Rob and I pulled into the gas station in Speculator, New York and realized that Gina and Suzanne were at the next pump getting gas. This wouldn't have been noteworthy had we been caravaning, but in fact the two cars started in two different states and each went to a different place (again in two different states) to pick up its passenger.
Early Morning Driving

With a cold forecast in mind the four of us raided the gas stations' convenience store for hand warmers - bought out most of their supply. Rob and I then stopped in the liquor store across the street because while he had brought bourbon with him to make his famous Bufala Negra cocktail, it wasn't the right bourbon. Jen had dinner waiting for us and the five of us settled in by the fireplace for an evening of relaxing, catching up, and sampling craft cocktails. Jen's house has plenty of room. Gina and Suzanne each had their own rooms while Rob and I bunked together in the downstairs family room, which we shared with Jen's fancy new Hornbeck canoe. The downstairs has very little int he way of heat. Fortunately we had been warned of this and so I came prepared and was comfortably cocooned in a sleeping bag and blankets.

Yes, it was Cold
When we awoke Friday it was -16 degrees out. That's the temperature without wind chill, mind you. Minus eighteen. We collectively decided that we were in no great rush to hit the ski trails. Instead we had a leisurely breakfast (some sort of baked oatmeal thingee topped with my home-made yogurt) and lots of coffee. The temperature brave (Jen and Gina) went out and split wood, while the temperature wimpy stayed inside and did the dishes. Finally we got motivated and drove to Lapland Lake Nordic Ski Center, about an hour away. I hadn't been there before. It's a very nice XC ski center with a Finnish flavor (the founder has a Finish background). The ski trail names all sound like items out of the Ikea catalog (Naapa Piiri! Karhu Polku!) and the place even has a resident reindeer, whose name is Viimi. We did some west side trails first, since that side of the resort was going to be used for a high school ski competition in the afternoon. We took a lunch break in the resort's cozy restaurant (are veggie quesadillas Finnish?) and then skied some slightly more challenging trails on the east side including going out onto the lake ... which being open to the wind was very, very cold. as the sun began to get low in the sky we headed back to Jen's and sealed ourselves in for the night, returning to our routine of fireplace, drinks, dinner, and relaxing.
Into the Woods at Lapland
Viimi, not Rudolph
By the Reindeer Pen

Bundled up on the Lake
Saturday started out slowly again because of the cold. In fact, it wasn't until after lunch (Gina's awesome tomato soup, based on the Whitegrass recipe) that we got motivated and headed to Garnet Hill, a fairly close by XC ski area. Jen, Suzanne and I had skied there last year. The trails at Garnet Hill are a little hillier and more challenging. Rob and Jen are excellent skiers. Suzanne had just skied three weeks earlier, so she had her "ski legs". That left me as the stumblebum who was always lagging behind, particularly because I always seemed still to be fussing with my gloves in an ongoing attempt to keep my hands warm while everyone else was taking off down the trail. Again we skied until late afternoon, at which time we retired to Garnet Hill's very nice lodge for a beer. When we had called earlier we had been told there were no reservations available for dinner as they were having a special wine tasting dinner that night; however, we asked again while we were there and when they realized it was Jen and not some stranger (it's a small, tight knit community) a table suddenly opened up, as long as we finished by 7, which we did. Another point about Garnet Hill is that they have a piano in the dining room. The owner often plays during dinner but they apparently don't mind if other people sit down and play. At my friends' encouragement I sat down and played a number or two, yielding accolades from other diners (it's a small, apparently culturally unsophisticated community).
Goofing Around on a Very Cold Lake

Pretty Setting

Sunday we had reservations in Lake Placid to do the Olypic bobsled run. This is a ridiculously expensive and sort of touristy thing to do, but it was fun nonetheless. Our day started with a mad rush to get packed. A check of the weather showed a major storm bearing down on the area which threatened to make the roads impassible on Monday and so we decided to head home a day early rather than risk getting stuck. We were therefore late getting out the door, but no worries. The bigger challenge was seeing where the heck I was going. They salt the roads pretty heavily up there and it was cold enough that my windshield washers were frozen and so the longer I drove the more opaque my windshiled got as a thicker and thicker layer of salt accrued. I was so focused on trying to see out the front that it took me a while to notice the cop behind me with his light on. What?! What?! Heart racing, I pulled over. The good news: he kept on going. I wasn't being pulled over. The bad news: he was after the car in front of me, which was Jen. Her registration was expired. Fortunately he let her off with a warning and we were all soon on our way again to drive the last 200 feet or so (really!) to the entrance to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg complex and our bobsled experience.

To tell you the truth, the bobsled thing isn't that well done. Unlike a theme park, there's no build up or introduction. Just pay your money, get driven to the top (they make a point of the fact that you're riding in a Chevrolet Suburban - the ride is sponsored by Chevy) and go down. That's it. But it was still a cool experience. We didn't have the equipment to film our run, but someone else's GoPro video is here.

After lunch we strolled the town of Lake Placid, checking out the Olympic ice oval, the 1932 Olympic skating rink (where there was a kid's hockey game going on), and the lake before heading into a restuarant for lunch. Decent food with a fantastic view of the lake and surrounding mountains.

After lunch and a stop at the gas station for windshield cleaning, gas and coffee, we all parted ways. On the ride home Rob and I saw lots of warning signs with messages like "Winter Storm Warning: Avoid Travel Monday". We pretty much beat the storm. We hit a little snow just south of Baltimore but as we drow on it turned to sleet and rain. Suzanne and Gina, who had to drive home via Harrisburg, PA to pick up Gina's car, hit a lot more snow.

It was sad that the trip ended a day early (just like last year), but a good time was had by all.