Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First Race

Our first race of the season is now behind us and we're gearing up for our next two races over the next two weekends. Then sprint season will be over and we begin preparing for Head Race season. So how did I do? Did I tell you what a nice day it was? Sunshine, low humidity and temperatures in the low 80s? I didn't? Well it was. Actually the club did very well overall. My boats not so well. I stroked the Men's B 8+ and rowed bow on the Men's B Quad. B being the designation for our second boat in the category and not an age designation. Anyway DFL for both. The men's 8+ was my first race. We were in lane 2 between two Alexandria 8+s. My boat was not prepared for the start, which was our fault and not the referee's. So half the boat started to row and the other half did not. We were a good boat length behind right from the get go and in a 1,000 meter race game over. Plus we didn't row all that smoothly. It was more 8 individuals rowing as opposed to 8 rowing as one. We finished a good 20 seconds behind the third place boat. The good news is our Men's A boat came in second missing first by less than 2 seconds based on adjusted time. In Masters racing you are handicapped by the average age of your boat. The younger the overall age of your boat, the more time you give up to your older competitors. The Quad race was just a disaster. We were over in Lane 4 next to a Capital Rowing Club Quad. They were the heavy favorites since they were much younger and row Quads on a regular basis while our club more or less dabbles in Quads as a way to row some extra races. We don't practice a lot in them. My three teammates in the Quad with me barely have any sculling experience at all. In the times that we did practice, I noticed we had a tendency to pull to the left. Consequently in aligning for the start, I pointed the bow slightly right toward the center of the course. Amazingly we had a fast strong start. The bad news was with the point we had, we were merging with the Capital boat to our right. The referee was right behind us telling us to move over, which we did although it totally broke our rhythm. The rest of the race was just a struggle. Our blades were dragging on the water during the recovery, the boat was down on our starboard side causing us to dig deep with our starboard oars and miss water with our port oars. It was one ugly race. One I'm quite content to forget about. So no medals for me personally, but the club did earn medals for Its Women's 8+ - First; Women's Double - First and second, Men's A 8+ - Second, Mixed Double - Second. Overall a good day's work. The host club, Capital did supply burgers and dogs for all us plus various cold salads and deserts. We supplied our own adult beverages of choice, which in my case was some Yuengling Amber. You can check out pictures of the races here. Next week we row on Noxontown Pond in Middleton DE next to the St Andrew School. Its one of the bigger Masters Regattas and very competitive. I'm glad we were able to have a tune up first.

The Son returned from his two weeks in California. His flight was due in Friday evening at 7:30, but was an hour and a half late. Thank goodness for Flight Tracker so we weren't sitting in Dulles's cell phone waiting area half the night. Still United took a good 45 minutes getting the luggage unloaded. Going home I first missed the exit from the airport to Rt 28 south necessitating another trip around the airport ramp. Then I missed another turnoff heading through the wilds of northern Virginia requiring another turnaround. My eyes really are going down the tubes. At least we got to see a number of deer munching on the side of the roads.

Sunday I decided that I had enough rowing for one weekend and went for a bike ride along the W&OD Trail. I did a 22 mile ride from Rt 28 to Leesburg and back. I started at 7:30 and the trail was unusually empty except for a few joggers. By the time I turned around in Leesburg, the trail traffic had picked up considerably. It took 43 minutes out and 40 minutes back. Another beautiful day.

Since I took up all day Saturday with my rowing, I did promise Ann that I would do some yard work on Sunday after my ride. I was back by 10:00 and spent the next two and half hours trimming back our various shrubbery. Except for one big expanse of holly bushes that were left for next time, I got it all done. Then we let The Son treat us to pizza and beer for lunch. Yum!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tough Week for Commuting

I missed my practices on Tuesday and Thursday because I got stuck in traffic on the way home from work. Missing the two practices leading up to your first race, a sprint race at that, is not good. Even on good days I'm literally changing clothes in the parking lot of the marina where our boathouse is located so any kind of traffic backup just screws me. Both times the delays were caused trying to cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Coming from southern Maryland where I work, for the most part, we're going against rush hour traffic so getting across the bridge is not usually a problem. This week it was. Three to six mile back-ups. Its frustrating to sit in that traffic after a long day at work. Tuesday I didn't get home until 6:40. Thursday I reached my car at 6:10 about the time my boat would be launching. So I headed out to Sandy Run instead and grabbed a single to row. I figured, the men would be down practicing on the race course, but I didn't see anyone at all, which was strange. I figured the men or the women would be practicing there. I headed upriver figuring to row to Fountainhead Park and back. I didn't see any of the club out practicing as I paddled up river. We had a thunder storm come through earlier so maybe practiced got cancelled although the storm had moved out well in advance of our practice time. When I reached Fountainhead and was preparing to turn around, I finally heard our coach yelling instruction over his megaphone to two 8+s. I turned around and waited for them to finish practicing some race starts. I rowed back down river with them and practiced whatever they were doing - race starts, high 20s, settling and final sprints. It was a good workout, but seeing as I'm suppose to be one of the strokes on Saturday, I really needed the practice time with my 8+. They need the time to get use to following me as each stroke tends to row a bit different. Its possible I might get bumped out of the stroke seat, but our coach didn't say anything last night. I'll check with him this evening when we get together to de-rig our boats and load them on the trailer.

Speaking of which, I'll have to leave the boat loading early in order to go pick-up The Son who is returning after two weeks in California. As we speak he's on a lay-over in San Francisco waiting for his flight into Dulles. I'm sure he's looking forward to coming home.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. I'll let you know how the race goes and hopefully have some pictures.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Fun Weekend

Our rowing practices are ratcheting up in intensity as race day (this coming Saturday) gets closer and closer. On both Thursday and Saturday I was in a quad. Both days our Quad was second to another Quad and a 4+. On Saturday we did mange to beat one of the 4+ in each race (we did four race pieces). In the very last one we started first in a staggered start and manged to hold off the other three boats, which gave us a bit of a lift. Its been difficult rowing in this particular Quad. Its actually a 4+ that been converted to a quad by swapping out the rigging. Unlike most true Quads, it doesn't have foot steering so we've been trying to steer with just oar pressure and frankly it hasn't worked out very well. All during Thursday's practice we kept drifting to starboard. It seemed like we spent half the race pieces trying to get back on course. It turns out that the rudder had been taped down off center and that why the boat kept drifting on us. We re-centered it for Saturday's practice and it was a bit better, but it still drifted to starboard consistently. The finish at the Capital Sprints requires you to go under two bridges. It could be interesting to see if we can get under the correct supports and not actually hit the bridge. The boat is difficult to turn at best. I'm not looking forward to it. we're not the fastest boat to begin with and to be constantly correcting the heading just costs more time. Its just frustrating.

Because I didn't get enough rowing on Thursday and Saturday. I also took out a single on Friday. It was a perfect morning for it with comfortable temperatures, low humidity and flat water. I did an 11 mile row - 5 1/2 miles out and back. As what seems to be a recurring pattern in both my sweep rowing and sculling, the first couple of miles seemed a bit of struggle and then something clicks and it comes together and the boat starts to jump during the stroke and runs during the recovery. Of course the trouble with this is i can't go out and row a few miles before my races. Its row to the start line, line up and go. That means at best 1,200 to 1,500 meters before the race. On Saturday, it wasn't til out last piece that it all started to come together that allowed us to hold off the other boats. Its all for fun, but its always nice to be able to row a clean race.

Daughter#2 came up for a visit on Saturday. Daughter#2 was quite the soccer player in her day and played from age 5 through high school playing on both her high school and middle school teams along with her club teams or as they're known as her travel teams. Her first travel team was the Prince William Classics. I was an assistant coach for her team for a number of years. My duties were more on the administrative side - registering the teams in WAGS (Washington Area Girls Soccer) and for various tournaments. All the girls had to have picture IDs and their birth certificates were all scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. I'm sure there must have been a cheating scandal somewhere along the line that required this kind of process, but I have no details. Before every game, the referees would have the girls line up and they would match each girl with her picture ID. For practices I was more a ball chaser than anything else. I also kept stats during games. Because she played for so long with the same team, you develop friendships which you miss once your daughter stops playing. So it was that Daughter#2 and three of her old Classics teammates arranged a dinner for themselves and the coach and two of the assistants. Unfortunately, the other assistant couldn't make it, but it was nice to see the girls and the former coach and his wife. We had a really nice dinner catching up. something we need to do more of. The girls made a night of it heading down to watch DC United take on FC Dallas at RFK.

Sunday morning Daughter#2 and I headed out for a bike ride. She has this old Peugeot bike that we had renovated. Its super light. We went to my usual haunt - the W&OD Trail. We parked on RT 28 and headed east. Daughter#2 had never been east of Rt 28 on the trail and wanted to see what it was like. We rode to just east of mile marker 14. There is a detour there as the bridge at that point is closed for repairs. The bridge supports were partially eroded during a storm sometime back. being an employee of VDOT, she was interested to see what they were doing in terms of repair. Being an environmental specialist, she was a bit surprised to see the lack of erosion control around the work area, but I guess this being a park its not subject to the same strict controls a VDOT project would be. After a 25 mile ride we headed back home to get some lunch. It was late for lunch and everyone was hungry. Daughter#2 is a vegetarian and also somewhat lactose intolerant, so picking a restaurant that appeals to everyone is sometimes an undertaking. someone had recently recommended a Thai restaurant to me not far from where we live. Daughter#2 loves Thai food and I can live with it so we decided to try out. The Siam Bistro turned out great. the food and service were great and the prices very affordable. we started with some crab rolls and each picked out something different from the menu. i had a spicy seafood dish with mussels, shrimp, scallops and squid with various vegetables served with jasmine rice. I washed it down with some Thai beer. The three of us (Daughter32, Ann and myself) really enjoyed it and I'm sure we'll go back.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Race Starts, Crime and Yellow Jackets

Someone flipped a switch here in Virginia and we went from the high 90s with humidity to match to what feels like a fall day - bright blue sky, no clouds and very little humidity. Hopefully this will stay with us for a few days.

Practice on Tuesday concentrated on getting us ready for our first race, which is a week from Saturday. We did a lot of race starts and built on that adding first a start and high ten (ten strokes at a very high rate), to a start sequence with a high 20, a start sequence with a high 20 and a settle 10 (slowing the stroke rate to race pace) and finally to a race start with a high 20 and settling with total time of 2 minutes. if anything the practice showed we still have work to do. Complicating matters was that we were a rower short in the 8+. We had taken out and 8+ plus a 4+, but we had only 11 rowers. We borrowed a novice guy to fill out the 8+. Now this guy is pretty athletic and he'll be a very good rower, but not yet. To throw him in a boat doing race starts and high 20s wasn't fair to him. He's only been rowing for a month and he's never been asked to row in the high 30s. The first couple of starts were a disaster to the point where he had to sit out a few. Eventually we worked him back in and he started to get it so kudos to him. I suspect today's practice will be much of the same, but with slightly longer pieces, but in Quads and a 4+ rather than an 8+. I've been told that I'll be in an 8+ and a Quad for next week's race. From what I can tell I'll stroke our 8+ "B" boat and row bow in our "B" Quad. I predict DFLs for both boats, but maybe I'll be surprised.

Like most suburban families, we have two cars. A newish minivan and a much older Chrysler Concorde. I use the Concorde as our commuter car such as our commute is down to our local commuter parking lot. We haven't had but one problem all these years parking the car there. Someone broke a passenger window and proceeded to steal our radio. The police and insurance were very nice about it all and we got it replaced. When I got in the car on Tuesday I reach in the glove box for the removable faceplate. Not there. I looked under the seats. Not there either. Looked in the trunk. Not there. Hmmm, strange. I didn't have time to look further and drove on to meet the vanpool. After practice I looked again. Nothing. Ann looked when i got home and she found nothing. It appears that someone has made off with the radio faceplate rendering the radio and CD player useless. Why anyone would do this since having the faceplate does them no good is beyond me, but then such petty crimes usually are. Certainly we are partially to blame for leaving the car unlocked (apparently) and leaving the faceplate on rather than removing it, which I always do. Our routine was somewhat messed up returning home on Monday so I forgot to d both. You never know how much you always listen to the radio/CD in the car until you don't have it anymore. What a pain to have to replace it.

One of the recurring problems we seem to have with the house is hornet nests. Every year they seem to build one either under our deck or under one of the roof overhangs. One year we had one bigger than beach ball before our neighbor pointed it out to us. This year we found one before it got too big - somewhere between a softball and bowling ball. It was in a place that my ladder wouldn't reach and frankly I don't like messing with stinging insects. I wasn't thrilled with the company we used last time as they didn't seem to want to do the job and then it took them two days to do it. One day to spray and the next to come take down the nest. This year Ann did some Internet checking and came up with the Beekeepers. They're located in Frederick, MD, which is a hike from out house, but they said they did northern Virginia so she set up an appointment for yesterday. They were great. Came when they said they would, removed the nest in no time, guaranteed their work, offered to come back if the insects did (turned out to be a yellow jacket nest). I highly recommend them.

Time to enjoy some birthday cake for two of my co-workers. I love Thursday's (burp).

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tour de Leesburg

There is nothing more depressing than the first day back at work after a week off. With the 4th falling on a Wednesday and with out compressed work schedule, it was easy to take over a week off with minimal vacation time taken. We didn't do anything special, but oh how nice not getting up at 3:30 or long ass commutes.

Yesterday I got into a celebration of the Tour de France and sort of did a Tour de Leesburg. I usually bike on Sundays to give myself a break from rowing. Originally it was also something Ann and I could do together although that seems to have come to an end. Anyway, The Son needed to be dropped off at Dulles to make an 8:30 flight. He's off on another two week business trip to that place in California that has actual missile silos. I dropped him off around 7:10 and continued on to my usual parking place off Rt 28 to access the W&OD Trail. Have I mentioned how nice it is to have a place where you can bike to your heart's content and not have to worry about sharing the road with cars? If I haven't, I do. I started out just planning my usual ride to Leesburg and back, which is about a 20 mile round trip (mile markers 24 to 34). However, it was a gorgeous day (well it was before it warmed up in the PM), I had gotten to the trail earlier than usual, so I decided to ride further out. I rode through Leesburg, past the townhouse that Daughter#2 lived in for a year and over Rt 7. I had been on this portion of the trail just once before. I obviously forgotten that coming out of Leesburg heading west, its a steady climb as you head toward Purcellville. The scenery in Loudon County is just gorgeous, which took some of the sting out of my tired legs. I biked to mile marker 39 before heading back to my car. I made the 30 mile trip in just over two hours. I've been telling Ann and The Son that sometime around Labor Day, I like to ride the entire trail from Shirlington to Purceville. I figure if i started around 8:00, I could finish the 44 miles in about 4 hours or so, including breaks. I'm up for it, I just need Ann or The Son to drop me off and pick me up.

In two weeks we have our first race (rowing) or regatta as its known. Its the Capital Sprints hosted by the Capital Rowing Club. Its held on the Anacostia River. Its not nearly as much fun as racing on the Georgetown Waterfront, but Capital puts on a good show. Its not a regatta heavily attend by out of town clubs, but consists of mainly the local clubs. Every one brings some food and drink to enjoy after the races and Capital fires up the grills and provides hamburgers and hot dogs. They use to have kegs of beer, which made it really fun, but I didn't see them last year although plenty of us brought out own adult beverages. We, the men, don't usually fair all that well, but at least we know how to party. In preparation for the sprints, we did four 2,000 meter pieces during Saturday's practice. We had an 8+ plus two Quads. I was in bow in one of the Quads. If your in the bow, besides rowing you're also steering the shell. The rudder is attached to a steering mechanism in the boat attached to your foot stretcher. I use my right foot to steer the boat. I turn my foot in the direction I want the shell to turn. I like to think I do pretty well at it. We didn't hit anything out on the water - oops let me correct that, we sort of hit one of the water monitoring stations that Fairfax County has put out. Not really hit so much as a glancing blow with our starboard oars. Nothing broken and we made a good docking at the end of practice. After practice we had one of our social get togethers with the men supplying the goodies. We served pancakes (plain, blueberry and chocolate chip) cooked to order along with the usual bagels, donuts, fruit, juice, coffee, etc.

This week weather is promising high 90s all week. Summer really is here. Rowing should be fun this week.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Day of Reflection

Its been a lovely couple of days in the Commonwealth. What happened to the humidity? During our morning walk so the dogs can do their constitutional before they have breakfast, one of our neighbors out walking said, accurately, that it feels like Maine in August. Actually I've never been to Maine, but I'll take their word for it.

Daughter#1 had a wonderful birthday as her bf spoils her rotten. They went to Newport for the weekend. She called before they left to tell us she had been featured in a local Connecticut magazine. if you promise not to stalk her, you can read the article here.

Today was a day for refection for those that have gone on before us. Specially Ann's family. Her Grandparents are gone, her parents, her brother and sister-in-law. We interred her Mother at Arlington last fall. She has been wanting to visit the graves of her father and brother for a while now. She grew up in the Maryland suburbs and that's where they are buried. They are buried in different cemeteries, but both are by the house she grew up in. So that's what we did today. I was afraid traffic on I95 and the Beltway would be chaotic due to the pending holiday, but it was better than normal. We drove by her house first. Its really kind of nice although the shrubbery really needs some attention. Next we drove to the Catholic cemetery on Georgia Avenue to visit her Father's grave. After stopping by the office to get the location and a map we drove over to where the site was suppose to be. We were given some misleading directions and it took about 15 minutes of searching to find his marker. I remember his funeral and how the Army sent out a unit from the Old Guard, the same unit that guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. They performed the flag folding and gave a 21 gun salute and said the word:"On behalf of a grateful nation...." It was very moving. Ann's parents divorced when she was 13 and she only saw her dad on occasional weekends. As we all do, she was feeling guilty as we stood at his graveside, about not spending more time with him. We said a prayer and left some flowers. Next we headed to Parklawn cemetery. Its the first time I had been there. I'm not sure any one's been to the grave site in years. Her brother and sister in law died in a car crash. He was 24 and she was 29. Very tragic and very sad. Like at her father's grave, we talked about them (I never met them as I was only 16 when they died). Ann shed some tears as you might guess not at only at what had been but what was lost. It was a day to reflect on our losses, but its something we have needed to do for far too long now.