Thursday, August 30, 2007

Football is Back

The week is winding down as we head into what is the traditional last real weekend of the summer. After Labor day, the kids will be heading back to school. While i don't have any more in the school system, it does sort of set the rhythm for the neighborhood as the school buses return and the three schools close to out house fill up again. I've already seen the high school marching band practicing in the school parking lot.

The first football games are this weekend. Friday nights while walking the furry kids, I can hear the PA and the band during home games. I went to a college where football rules. As they say there are two seasons - fall football and spring football. If nothing else, Auburn taught me that on Saturday afternoons you watch football. Preferably in person. The University of Maryland is only a 40 minute drive from our house in northern Virginia. The Virginia schools are two hours (UVA) and four hours (VA Tech) away. Consequently, we have season tickets to UMD games. We've had them now for over 20 years. Originally we bought four seats with my sister and brother in law. He being the only one with any connection to Maryland at all. They ended up divorced and moving away so we ended up with all four seats. For over ten years now we've sold two of the season tickets to friends we know from work. The wife having been one of the bridesmaids in our wedding. The first game is this Saturday evening against Villanova. The weather is suppose to cooperate and it should be a fine time for tailgating before the game. There is something about being on campus and watching the game. You can feel the energy. I'm looking forward to going.

Practice on Tuesday was a little different. The first 30 minutes was spent watching video of us rowing from Saturday. Its so much easier to make corrections when you can see what you're doing wrong. We all seem to have something wrong with our stroke although in my defense, our coach didn't specially address anything with my stroke as he did with several other of our rowers. So that's a good sign. We then split into an 8+ and a 4+. The 4+ having four of our strongest rowers. We did some drill work up to Fountainhead Park and spun the boats. the 4+ was given a slight lead and we on the 8+ were suppose to run them down. We never did over a almost 3 mile row. I realize they had a lead and probably cut some of the corners, but an 8+ should easily track down a 4+ and we didn't do it. That's pretty embarrassing. We need to get better and fast.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quite A Busy Weekend

As I alluded in an earlier post, when we're with daughter#1 there is no such thing as down time. As Type A and anal retentive as can be, our event planner has each day planned to the hilt. Time is precious. She is in town to take care of a little skin cancer problem, i.e. to get one removed from her forehead. You can see the bandage in the picture below. She trusts a local Dermatologist here in DC to not scar her as one nearly did in Connecticut. After my practice on Saturday morning (more on that a bit later), we were looking for someplace in Fairfax to eat. We don't head north that often on our days off, but I remembered seeing a Joe's Crab Shack off of the Fairfax County Parkway. So we loaded up the car and headed off. Below Daughter#1 and I enjoy some shrimp at Joe's.

After lunch we headed to Burke Lake Park to hit some golf balls. Note the Tiger Woods type swing.

Daughter#1 has just taken some lessons and wanted to show us what she had learned. Note the position of the golf club with its baseball type finish. Not recommended.
The Son and Ann each took a turn at it also although neither has played any golf in their lives beyond Putt-Putt at the beach.
She's left handed so it was a bit awkward.

Our day was finished yet. We barley got home long enough to walk the two furry kids before we were off again to watch the Potomac Nationals take on Myrtle Beach. Below is Potomac's mascot. Uncle Sam I believe.

Unlike our 4th of July disaster, we managed to get box seats behind home plate and enjoy a beer or two (except Ann who is our DD) and some Hot Dogs.

One thing about minor league baseball, they always have some promotion regardless of what day you go. Sunday it was Bring Your Dog to the Ballpark Day. They walked on the field between games. Sunday was a doubleheader as Saturday's night game had been rained out. Cute dogs. The club was actually sponsoring the Prince William County SPCA. It was kind of neat. The dogs were much more well behaved than out two furry kids.
The first game was shortened to seven innings so they could get in the second game and still get everyone home by a reasonable hour. The Nationals won 4-1. Yea! While waiting for Game #2, it started to rain. We hadn't really planned on staying for the entire second game anyway so we bugged out. One hot dog a piece left us still a little hungry so we opted to stop for some Chinese at the House of Choy on the way home.

After that we went home and I collapsed into bed. Its a good thing Daughter#1 no longer lives here. I'd be in an early grave.
Saturday's practice was quite intense. We had enough for two 8+s and more importantly two coxswains to go out with. The early part of practice was a lot of rowing by sixes so our coach could film out technique. We'll get together and review them sometime soon. Next we practiced doing more of the Occoquan Challenge turns. Than it was off to do some head to head racing. We started out headed up river toward Jacob's Rock from the race course. Both boats started out even. The task was for one boat to get open water on the other. At that point the boat that was ahead could drop out four rowers while the slower boat had to keep rowing by all 8 and take over the lead. We were the first to take the lead and get to rest half the boat. After that it was easy to continually catch and overtake the other 8+ since we were not only the faster of the two boats, but more rested as well. On the last piece from Jacob's Rock back to our boathouse, they actually were ahead at the end by a boat length, but more because they had cut the final corner so badly, they easily saved themselves several boat lengths, but also badly violated the traffic pattern. they were lucky no other boats were heading up river and coming around that turn. It could have been ugly. I was surprised our coach let them get away with it. My legs and butt were really sore/worn out by the time we reached the dock. Saturdays' row combined with Friday's row of 11 miles pushed me to my limit, which i actually a good thing. My hands have a few new blisters to show for it.
Sunday before we started our all day marathon courtesy of Daughter#1, I went for a bike ride on the W&OD Trail. I did the Rt 28 to Leesburg ride. 42:10 minutes out and 39:10 minutes back. The ride the entire trail is on for Sunday assuming we have good weather. Daughter#2 hopes to come up for it and The Son is also considering trying it. I'm getting excited about it. Right at the end of the trail is Magnolias where we hope to have lunch. heck out their beer selection. Mmmmmmmm. Just what we'll need.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Summer Is Back

All of a sudden, summer is back with a vengeance. I decided to go and row a single this morning as I hadn't been out in one for a while. I got to the boathouse and launched around 8:30. The temperature was right around 70 although it was quite humid. By this afternoon, the temperature was into the 90s. We haven't seen that in a while even though it is August and this is Virginia. Tomorrow is suppose to be even worse with a heat index around 105. I'm glad our practice will be in the early morning.

The row today went well. The first two miles I felt like I was putting in a lot of effort and not getting much run to show for it. After taking a break at Jacob's Rock, I started off slow and easy and lo the boat started to run. I slowly added pressure and increased the rate and I was off to the races. I did a total of 11 miles and my hands show it. They're sore and I have a few new blisters. Overall it was a good row and I enjoy being out in a single from time to time. On Fridays there is hardly anyone out on the Occoquan so its always very peaceful. The weather co-operated with flat water and moderate temperatures.

Daughter#1 is in town for the weekend and its always fun having her here. She took golfing lessons at a community college in Connecticut and wants to go hit some golf balls over the weekend. We use to have a number of driving ranges in the area, but slowly over time, they've all disappeared victims to the continuing development in the county. Now the only one I know of is at Burke Lake Park so I suspect that where we will go. She's spending the night with old high school friends and will be back in the morning.

The search for a place for The Son has come to a screeching halt. After talking to a few lenders, he can't qualify for anything close to what he would need to find something livable. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Baseball and Erg Tests

Sunday with my toe still swollen and black and blue, I decided to give it a rest and neither bike or row. We had tickets to the nationals game against the Mets so I just chilled in the morning until it was time to go to the game. One of the nice things about RFK Stadium if you live in Virginia is the easy in and out off of I-395 via parking lot 8. We got there in about 30 minutes and walked into the stadium to find our seats. We had seats in the mezzanine level by third base. We had a pretty good view of the game and easy access to food, beer and bathrooms. It was an entertaining game as Shawn Hill dueled El Dukey of the Mets. It was tied 2-2 going into the top of the 8th when the Nationals relief pitchers collapsed and the Nats ended up losing 8-2. Ouch.

Tuesday's rowing practice didn't come off due to weather. Its hard to complain when it does rain these days as we've been in a serious drought condition all summer. It wasn't lightening, but it was raining hard enough that we decided to call it and go to the nearby gym where we have our ergs and do some erg testing. Since we're now training for head race season, the distance was set for 5,000 meters. Since I've been able to get out on the water, I've neglected the erg and rightfully so. I'll see enough of it during the winter. I wasn't expecting much, but I managed a 21.08.1, which I believe, without going back to check, a personal best for me. By .7 seconds, but still a best. Even so I was the slowest of the men. Of course I'm the shortest, lightest and one of the oldest so it comes as no surprise. Not another good omen for making the Charles boat though. We'll see how things go from here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Seat Racing and A Broken Toe

The most important race on my rowing club's fall calendar is the Head of the Charles in Boston. While we are always practicing for that next race, the Charles is always in the back of our minds. Its easily the most prestigious Head race and everyone wants to race it. Because of the demand they hold a lottery to see who gets in. At best we'll get to enter one boat, probably an 8+. There are probably twelve of us competing for those 8 slots. Its up to our coach to pick who goes. To that end he had us seat racing on Thursday. We had four 4+s out and took turn racing first by pairs and then by fours. Again and again and again, First two minute pieces and then three minute pieces. Racing by pairs just drains you since you have two rowers out and their weight plus that of the coxswain can easily total 500 lbs of dead weight. By the end of the practice I was exhausted and my quads ached. My boat didn't do particularly well so that's not a good omen for going to Boston in October.

Saturday our coach was off getting laser eye surgery so we had a fill in. It was a cluster fuck from the beginning. We took an 8+ and 4+ out with me stroking the 4+. The first 4 we pulled out and put in the water was a mid-weight boat, but the shoes were too small for one of our rowers and the boat was sitting too low in the water with all our weight. So we had to put it back and get out the heavy-weight boat. We didn't push off the dock until 7:45. 45 minutes late. We rowed up to Fountainhead Park as a warm up and spun the boats. As we rested before we started our piece, the women's boats came past us from the direction of Ryan's Dam. They stopped just downriver from us at the big turn at Fountainhead. Our substitute coach, if you can call him that, wanted the piece to start at Fountainhead and end about a mile past Sandy Run at the first power lines. That's neither a HOTO course or a Chase course. Its about 2,000 meters longer than the HOTO. I'm not sure if he just wanted us to row a long piece or he got his finish lines mixed up. I'm betting on the later. Anyway, we started about 90 seconds before the 8+. We hadn't gone more than a 100 meters and as we went between the women's coach's launch and the women's quad we heard that sound no rower wants to hear - the scrapping of the bottom of the boat on the bottom or over some underwater obstruction. The reason the women's quad and the women's coach had stopped was both had also hit bottom. In fact the coach was out of the launch standing in the water getting his outboard free. He suggested we do the same. I told my boat just to sit tight and I'd push us free. We really hadn't run aground but hit a rock or stump so I was able to push us into deeper water pretty easily. I also stubbed my toe on a rock as I was doing so. It hurt, but I didn't think anything of it and climbed back in the boat and we finished our piece. It wasn't very pretty rowing. Our set was off and the boat seem heavy the whole way. Except for the exercise, it wasn't a good day on the water. After I got home and undressed, I noticed that the toe I had stubbed was very swollen and a deep purple. I suspect it may be broken, but since there isn't much they do for such things, I haven't gone to the Doctor about it. Its just sore and ugly looking.

We went and looked at a few condos with The Son on Saturday. One was pretty nice and reasonable, relatively speaking for the Washington area. We still need to see if he can get financing otherwise he's stuck at home for a while longer. After looking, we tried a new restaurant on the Occoquan. One I didn't know even existed. It was located at the Prince William Marina and called The Eagle's Nest and it's located just downriver from the town of Occoquan. It looked fairly new so I don't think its been open very long. There are no signs for it and I haven't seen anything promoting it. Maybe they're relying soley on boat traffic for business. It had a nice view of the river, but what surprised me was their lack of seafood dishes. I guess when a restaurant is on the water, I expect that. Except for a few appetizers, there was none. They were advertising a red snapper special, but that was for evening dining only. I'm sure we'll go back at some point, but it wasn't what I expected or wanted.

Tomorrow we're off to watch the Nationals take on the Mets. Its suppose to be a beautiful day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Challenge and House Hunting

The Occoquan hosts three head races during the fall. The Head of the Occoquan, the Occoquan Chase and the Occoquan Challenge. The first of these is the Challenge, which will be held on October 7. The Challenge course is unique in that it starts and ends at the same place. For most head races, you launch close to the finish line area, row upstream to the start, get in line, and row the course. The Challenge incorporates a 180 degree turn at the halfway point and the race finishes where you started the race although on the opposite side of the river. Being able to make an quick turn is the key to the race. As you might imagine, getting an 8+ to turn 180 degrees is not an easy task. 8+s are 60 feet long with small rudders. They are designed to go fast in a straight line so they do not turn well. My club has a definite advantage since the Occoquan is our home water. We can practice the Challenge course and the turn numerous times. And so that's what we did during Tuesday evening's practice. We again took out an 8+ and a Quad. I was bow in the Quad and responsible for the steering. My other three teammates are basically novice scullers so we did our best rowing hard, but at a lower stroke rate than optimal for a head race. We practiced running the course a few times. The first and second times, I was late entering the turn and we went wider than we should have. Going wide in turns loses you time and distance which equals bad if you are racing. The third time we got it right making a nice tight turn without losing boat speed. Plus the more we practiced, the more comfortable my teammates were in the Quad and by the end of practice the boat was running much more smoothly and we were able to give the 8+ a bit of a run. The weather forecast for tonight's practice is calling for thunderstorms so I don't know if we'll make it out or not. It will depend on the timing of the storms.

As I've mentioned here before, The Son is living at home since he graduated from college. Its not that uncommon in these parts since housing prices are a bit past ridiculous. However, it seems that The Son does endure some ribbing at work for still living with his parents so he has expressed an interest in starting to look for a place of his own. Now living at home and being gainfully employed for the last year and a half, one might think that The Son was able to amass quite the little pot of savings. Ah if only this was the case. Its only in the past few months, with a goal clearly defined of getting his own place, has he started to save rather than blow his paycheck on lord knows what. Therefore, coming up with a down payment might be a bit of a sticking point. He looked at his first place Tuesday evening, a one bedroom condo. It lists for $200,000. Apparently it was nice and he liked it. The downside, its only a mile from us. It wouldn't shorten his commute any. The hunt will continue over the weekend by looking at some places closer to where he works. He's also scheduled to talk to our Credit Union about what he can really afford in terms of a mortgage payment. This should prove interesting.

Ann and I have some vacation time to use up before the end of the year. Tuesday night we booked a flight to Orlando for November. My Dad has a lovely girlfriend that lets us use her condo in Cocoa Beach. I'm so ready to go lay on the beach during the day and consume large amounts of seafood food and beer in the evenings. Ah the good life. Its like a Corona commercial.

Monday, August 13, 2007

An Average Summer Weekend

It was a good weekend as weekends tend to be. The older I get, the more I cherish my free time. Friday was a day off, but I wasn't able to get out on the water or go ride my bike. Ann had scheduled a Doctor's appointment for Friday morning so I agreed to go with her. It was a consult for an upcoming colonoscopy, which she scheduled for Wednesday. There is some history of colon cancer on her side of the family so now that she is of that age, she needs to get scoped every couple of years. So far nothing has ever turned up. Knock on wood. If you've ever had one and really its no big deal, you know the prep is worse than the actual test itself. At least in my book. So she'll be spending a lot of time in the bathroom with a good book on Tuesday evening preparing. After her appointment we stopped by the local Original Steakhouse for lunch before going home and zoning out till The Son got home and then running out and having our usual Friday night pizza. We've recently gotten into a bacon, onion and jalapeno combination that is tasty with a bit of a kick to it. At our local pizza joint, they have a 3 topping special that makes it the same price as two topping so that's what we usually get. Along with a few cold beers, of course.

Given the heat and matching humidity that invaded last week, after Tuesday and Thursday's rowing practices, I literally could wring out my shirt it was so soaked. So having Saturday dawn cool and humid free, I looked forward to practice as I headed to the boathouse. The air was calm and the water flat. It doesn't get much better than that. As we are now out of sprint season, practice has shifted to longer pieces of three miles or more and away from the short 500 to 1,000 meter pieces we have been doing. Thursday, we ran the Occoquam Chase course that runs from Jacob's Rock down river past Sandy Run to the first set of power lines on the race course. We raced a Quad and an 8+. I was bow in the Quad and we had the Quad with foot steering this time. Thank God. We got a 30 second lead and the race was on. From rowing a single a lot, I pretty much know when to start turns and when I have the turns complete so I don't have to turn my head around a lot to see where we are on the course. There are, however, unlike race days, other boats we have to stay clear of plus there is a traffic pattern on the Occoquan that you have to adhere to to avoid running into one another. As we raced, I tried to make sure we had the inside on turns and tried to force the 8+ as wide as possible. It also helped that the 8+ had a somewhat inexperienced coxswain. From time to time our coach did call me on forcing the 8+ too wide and messing with the traffic pattern. Every time I got called, I had to readjust my course, which cost us some time and distance. The 8+ finally caught us just as we entered the race course with about 700 meters to go. They opened open water on us over the next 400 meters or so, but with our final sprint we were able to make up ground and finished bow to stern with the 8+ at the finish. On Saturday the coach had us run the Head of the Occoquan course. The HOTO as it is known, runs from Fountainhead Park to the flag pole at Sandy Run. This time I was stroke on the 8+ versus the Quad. Unlike Thursday where the Quad held off the 8+ until there was less than 800 meters to go, my 8+ caught the Quad with about 2,000 meters to go. Over those 2,000 meters we steadily pushed away and had at least twelve or more boat lengths of open water on the Quad at the finish. Even so, our coach was less than pleased. He got on us about our conditioning or lack thereof and how we got sloppy at the end because we were tired. All of which is true. Over the next 30 minutes or so we did a lot of leg only drills to drill into us that the power from the strokes comes from the legs and not from trying to muscle the boat using our arms. He's not satisfied with the run we are getting and I'm sure we'll be working on that over the next few practices. The run refers to how far the boat travels after you finish one stroke and before you get your oar in for the next stroke. The more run you get from each stroke, the more efficient your stroke is. In the longer Head races coming up, run is all important. After practice, it was our Fitness rowers turn to provide breakfast at the boathouse. It was a beautiful morning to scarf down some pastries and talk rowing. Our Women's racing group was absent as they were racing down in Oak Ridge, TN at the Master's Nationals. Overall they did quite well and we're proud of their accomplishments. We men wish we were as competitive as they are.

After practice and a shower, The Son treated us to steamed muscles and steamed king crab legs at Tim's Rivershore. We weren't as lucky in the past as securing a waterside seat, but there was a private party of 50 taking up a fair amount of those seats. Still with the comfortable temperature and a few Coronas, all was right with the world as Ralphy would say. After lunch we just chilled on our deck with a few good books.

Sunday after getting the laundry started, I headed out for a bike ride on the W&OD Trail. I decided to see what the first part of the trail, which begins in Shirlington, looked like. I've never ridden on the first 13.5 miles and i was curious to know what they were like. In addition I have a goal of riding the whole 44 mile length from Shirlington to Purcellville one morning over the Labor Day weekend and this was a good opportunity to check out this portion of the trail before my big adventure. The first mile or so you pass a lot of body shops and whatnot so its not very scenic, but then you enter Four Mile Run Park and it instantly becomes much more pleasant. Its as if you're instantly transported to Loudoun County. For a little while anyway. Going through Falls Church was just ok. Its a bit more urbanized than most of the Trail. After crossing the Beltway, the Trail becomes what I'm use to - lots of foliage on either side which give plenty of shade and the illusion of being in the country even if you are cruising through Vienna. I noticed there was a Whole Foods store adjacent to the Trail in Vienna. Might make a nice place to take a break and refuel on a future ride. Once I got to the 13.5 mile marker I had planned to turn a round and ride back to my car. There is a detour there because a bridge has been undermined and isn't safe for traffic. Once there though, I decided to ride another mile and a half and make it a 30 mile ride. I also made that decision knowing that most of the ride going back was either flat or downhill. Now conceptually I know the Trail goes up in elevation as it heads west out of Shirlington toward the mountains that ring the Shenandoah valley. However I was surprised by how much of this part of the ride was noticeably uphill. I found it much more challenging then the part of the trail that runs from mile marker 13.5 to Leesburg (mile marker 34) that I've done a number of times in the past. The thirty mile ride was the longest I've done all summer and my knees really felt it. I really need to take more time to stretch not only after the ride but during it as well. After my morning ride, Ann, The Son and i went to the Hard Times cafe for lunch. Partly because we hadn't been there in a while and partly because The Son's cell phone wasn't working properly and he needed some one at the AT&T store close by to look at it. They weren't able to do anything with it at the store other than to confirm the screen really wasn't working and he would have to send it in to have it repaired or replaced. if its still under warranty. A big if. Right next to the AT&T store is a store that caters to runners. I'm not a runner at all, but The Son did offer to buy me knew sneakers for my birthday (belated). I desperately needed new ones so we went in to have a look. This store has some special program that analyses your running style and based on that will fit you with the proper shoe, but since I don't run and in fact hate to run, I decline the analysis. I didn't care for most of their selection, but one pair caught my eye. The young girl working in the store promptly told me the pair I had picked up were special supportive type running shoes that only like 3% of the population really needed. Great. I liked how they looked and just decided to get them Hopefully they'll be comfortable and won't screw up my feet. So far so good. After all that I took a long afternoon nap and then grilled some chicken for dinner. All in all a good weekend.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Birthdays and Stuffed Bunnies

So Tuesday was my birthday and it passed without much fanfare. I got a card from Daughter#1 and from my Dad along with a very generous check. i called him and thanked him for that. Ann sent me a e-card and Daughter#2 and Daughter#1 both called to wish me a Happy Birthday. So all was well with the world. No cake and ice cream to celebrate after work since I had rowing practice and did not get home until 8:30. A little late to celebrate when you get up at 3:30 in the morning to get ready for work.

August has really brought the heat. Apparently our coach got the memo and headed to the beach for the week leaving us to more or less coach ourselves. Considering sprint season is over and our first Head Race isn't until September 15 when we race around Wye Island, its not that big a deal. We ended up with 12 rowers and only one coxswain so we took out an 8+ plus a Quad. I was in the Quad again. In the bow seat. We got the Quad without the foot rudder. Apparently being a lightweight, its hard for me to bring enough strength to bare to turn the boat around the tight turns on the Occoquan. Consequently it takes us so long to complete a turn we spend 85% of our time trying to get the boat to turn. That means applying pressure on on oar and light pressure on the other instead of equal pressure on both. needless to say we didn't keep up with the 8+ very well. Plus it was HOT and HUMID. We looked like we had jumped in the reservoir we were so soaking wet after practice. We're suppose to have more of the same this afternoon. I've been slugging down water all day to get ready.

After posting the previous entry, Daughter#1 called to tell me I forgot to add in two things that were fun about our many trips down to Children's Hospital. The first was the cafeteria and the other was the Velveteen Rabbit. The first thing we would do when arriving at Children's was to go get blood drawn from the lab and then head to the cafeteria for breakfast. It took about an hour for the lab to run her blood and have the results ready for the Doctor. We would kill that time in between by going to the cafeteria. There we would snarf down donuts, bear claws and blueberry muffins until we had sufficient sugar highs and full bellies. another ritual was our reading of the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. We originally picked this book to read because it was literally the only book still in once piece. I guess the other kids hadn't gotten around to ripping it up. We loved it and read it over and over or more exactly I would read it to her. Daughter#1 gave me a copy for Christmas a few years ago and after all the presents were opened we sat down to read it again. I could barely make it past the point where the old bunny is turned to real by the fairy and nursery magic: "I am the nursery magic Fairy," she said. "I take care of all the playthings that the children have loved. When they are old and worn out and the children don't need them any more, then I come and take them away with me and turn them into Real."
"Wasn't I Real before?" asked the little Rabbit.
"You were Real to the Boy," the Fairy said, "because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one."
Its still one of my favorites and it made the many hours we spent at Children's a little more bearable.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Special Anniversary

No August 6 isn't our wedding anniversary. That's next month. August 6 is the anniversary when Daughter#1 received her new kidney. In 1989 surgeons at Children's Hospital here in Washington transplanted a kidney into her from a donor from Tennessee. We know virtually nothing about the donor other than she was a three year old and was from Tennessee. Everything else was kept private. While providing a nearly normal life for my daughter, the downside to most transplants is that some family has to endure the loss of a loved one. Usually some one much too young to have past away. While they endure their loss, we get to celebrate a life reborn.

We never realized that Daughter#1 has any kind of problem until a routine physical at age five disclosed that she had excess protein in her urine. Sure, she seem tired more than the twins and yes she looked pale, but then being mostly of Scottish ancestry, heck, we all looked pale. Follow up tests were ordered. Her pediatricians tried to alley our fears saying it was probably nothing as they arranged appointments with Doctors down at Children's. There after many tests and scans, they confirmed that Daughter#1 was in the early stages of renal failure. One kidney had apparently never formed properly and was more like a shriveled walnut and not functioning at all. The other, while barely functioning, showed extensive scaring the origins of which were unknown. Her one functioning kidney was barely keeping her at acceptable levels and she needed to be monitored monthly. As her kidneys were not functioning as they should, it also affected her growth and production of red blood cells. Jobs, Ann and I had no idea, the kidneys controlled. At her Nephrologists suggestion, we also enrolled her in a study being conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University. We viewed the study as not only being of some eventual value to other kidney patients down the road, but also a way to see her Doctors on a more regular basis. While that was true, it also involved getting blood drawn every month. To say Daughter#1 hated giving blood is quite the understatement. It took two nurses plus myself to hold her, while the Doctor drew blood. More then once she got so agitated from the experience and the crying that she threw up all over me. Funny thing is, you get use to it after a while and its not nearly as gross as it was the first few times. From ages 5 to 7, her kidney slowly deteriorated. She would get listless at times and getting her to concentrate was a problem. Working math with her would literally take hours to complete. A couple hours of whining and crying and dropping her head on the kitchen table with exhaustion were the norm to complete about 15 minutes of homework. By age 7 she needed to go on dialysis and she was also put on the registry for transplant patients. Then as now, there is an acute shortage of organs available for transplant and the wait can be long. At least dialysis was an alternative and her life wasn't at risk.

Ann and I both volunteered to donate on Daughter's#1 behalf. We decided that I would be the one to donate. Given the thinking of the day, the Doctors began a series of transfusions from me to her. Not really blood transfusions, but more a combination of white cells and plasma. Unfortunately the procedure backfired. Instead of making her body more receptive to receiving my kidney, it had in fact, triggered antibodies in Daughter#1's system making transplant of my kidney impossible. Unfortunately after testing on Ann, the same was true for her. It was a huge disappointment for us all. We were now in the position of having to wait for a donor kidney.

While we waited, Daughter#1 started dialysis. As a little dialysis primer: There are two types of dialysis available - hemodialysis and peritoneal. Hemodialysis is probably the better known of the two. For hemo, they hook the patient up to the machine and the blood is circulated through the machine, cleansed and returned. It requires treatment 3 times a week for about 3 hours per visit. In peritoneal dialysis, the blood is cleaned inside your body. The doctor does surgery to place a plastic tube called a catheter into your abdomen (belly) to make an access. During the treatment, your abdominal area (called the peritoneal cavity) is slowly filled with dialysate through the catheter. The blood stays in the arteries and veins that line your peritoneal cavity. Extra fluid and waste products are drawn out of your blood and into the dialysate. There are two major kinds of peritoneal dialysis - continuous and cycling. Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) is the only type of peritoneal dialysis that is done without machines. You do this yourself, usually four or five times a day at home and/or at work. You put a bag of dialysate (about two quarts) into your peritoneal cavity through the catheter. The dialysate stays there for about four or five hours before it is drained back into the bag and thrown away. This is called an exchange. You use a new bag of dialysate each time you do an exchange. While the dialysate is in your peritoneal cavity, you can go about your usual activities at work, at school or at home. Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD) usually is done at home using a special machine called a cycler. This is similar to CAPD except that a number of cycles (exchanges) occur. Each cycle usually lasts 1-1/2 hours and exchanges are done throughout the night while you sleep. The above descriptions come courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation. Given Daughter#1's age we chose option 2 of the peritoneal dialysis. A machine was delivered and enough medical supplies to set up our own Urgent Care Clinic. Every night we would hook her up to the cycler. In order to do this we would first have to clean and rebandage the site at which the catheter entered her body. This involved scrubbing in much like a surgeon does, masking and putting on sterile gloves. It quickly became routine and we got rather good at it. We did do the continuous peritoneal from time to time like when we went on vacation. When we traveled to Disney World, our first stop would be the First Aid Station where we would talk to the Nurses on duty. drop off the supplies we needed and every three of four hours drop by for a transfer. We even did a Show and Tell about it at Daughter's#1 school. Along with the dialysis, Daughter#1 also needed blood transfusion every three months to prevent becoming anemic. We had several friends that stepped forward to donate blood for her, which we truly appreciated.

As we learned, organs for transplant, like babies about to be born, all come in the middle of the night. Children's gave us a beeper so that they could contact us in the event a kidney became available. This was before cell phones were widely available. For each available kidney, a prime and back-up were called in. We were called in two times in the middle of the night as the back-up. Finally the third time was the charm. The call came about 3:00 in the morning and we were at the hospital by 5:00. Around 7:00, they gave Daughter#1 something to relax her and she became quite the chatty Cathy. This from a kid that the Doctors had to literally bribe in order to get her to talk (Note that is so not a problem now). The staff was greatly amused. Around 7:30 she was wheeled away for her operation. Everything went well and she was released after a week. There was a period of adjustment. Her face swelled in reaction to the steroids she had to take. The so called Moon face we had been told to expect. Over time, the swelling went away as the steroids were scaled back and eventually eliminated. She is, of course, required to take immune suppression drugs for the remainder of her life. A small price to pay. She's now had her new kidney for 18 years. She's in unexplored waters now as most kidney transplants fail after after 12 to 15 years. Knock on wood in that she hasn't even had a rejection episode. The only down side, if you can call it one, is that given her age when she received her new kidney, her growth plates in her bones had mostly started to close and she was never able to grow to her full potential. Not that we're a tall family, but her sister is 5'5" and Daughter #1 is only 4'10". The upside of being 4'10" is you make a great coxswain. So here is to another 18 years for her kidney (or more!) and a special thanks to the family in Tennessee who made the tough decision 18 years ago to donate their daughter's organs.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bonding with Daughters

Pictures from this year's Diamond States Regatta can be viewed here. For the men's boats, I'll be the one in the stroke seat (i.e., closest to the stern). Please ignore the geeky one were I'm pushing my glasses back up on my nose. As you can tell, the weather wasn't nearly as nice as two years ago.

Practice on Thursday and Saturday were a nice break from our usual routine. About half the club was preparing for a race in Philadelphia (Thursday) or actually racing (Saturday) so those of us not racing had to mix in with our Recreational rowers and the few novices not racing. The rec coaches put together mixed boats - mix of abilities and mixing men and women. Thursday practice was mostly drill work. Necessary, but boring. Saturday they put together a race. We had enough rowers for two mixed 8+s. We rowed up to Fountainhead Park, spun the boats and raced the Head of the Occoquan course. HOTO runs over 3.2 miles from Fountainhead to the flag pole at Sandy Run. I was selected to stoke our 8 and I got a great boat. Having three college age rowers ( 2 girls, one guy) didn't hurt and we won with about 12 boat lengths of open water. It was a fun practice to say the least.

Daughter#2, her husband and the Black Demon came for a visit this weekend. This makes back to back weekends I've had the opportunity to bond with my adult daughters. They came up to visit/party with friends and crash at our house. There was a bit of a scramble to rearrange Daughter#1's old bedroom, which now doubles as a guest room, to get it ready for them to sleep in. We had stripped out the box spring to take up to Connecticut last weekend so we had to drag one up from the basement to replace it. I swear after having three kids in college, we can outfit several new houses with the leftovers from their various dorm rooms and apartments. Lord knows how many microwaves, vacuums, and various mattresses, etc. reside down in the basement these days. I've lost count.

This morning I woke up bright and early to the sounds of the various furry kids begging to be let out. Since the Black Demon requires full time attention, I got up at 6:30 to help Ann with the dogs. Our dogs are pretty old and we don't take them for very long walks. The Demon is only 5 and is a Lab/Border Collie mix and needs lots of exercise. So after our usual walk for our dogs, I took the Demon on a two mile walk before either of us, the Demon or I, had breakfast.

Daughter#2 and I had talked about taking a bike ride when she came up, but I wasn't sure she'd be up for it after partying with her friends the night before. She surprised me by getting up before 8:00 and wanting to ride. We decided to stay closer to home and ride the bike path up Rt 123 to Fairfax. The pictures at the beginning of this post document our ride. From top to bottom: 1. Loading the bikes 2. Unloading the bikes in Lorton. 3. Stopping for a water break at Burke Lake Park 4. Taking our pictures with George on the campus of George Mason University. During Mason's run to the Final Four in 2006, the students adorned George with various Mason attire like t-shirts, hats and signs. Please shield your eyes from the sight of me in my bike shorts. 5. Breakfast at the Main Street Bagel and Deli in Fairfax. 6. The Black Demon 7. Enjoying some Thai food for lunch with the rest of the family afterward. The Son treated us all to lunch which we all very much appreciated.

There was some excitement during our 24 mile round trip ride. On our way back, we again cut through the George Mason campus. Upon exiting the campus, we were waiting to cross Braddock Road. We were at a traffic light waiting for it to change. The traffic on Braddock finally got a red light and the traffic on the side opposite us got a green. When the lone car there had turned on to Braddock, we started across figuring our side would now get the green light. Wrong. Just as I started across the far lane, I heard Daughter#2 yell, scream actually. The light on Braddock had turned green. Braddock is a 4 lane divided street at that intersection and impossible as it sounds, none of the drivers had noticed us crossing and were starting to move. I slammed on my breaks and did a slide stop in front of the nearest car. Luckily my bike and I both survived although not without a scare. Another lesson learned yet again.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Diamond States

Its been a busy week at work hence the lack of posts. Daughter#1 has been on me to put something up so here we go. We drove up to Connecticut on Friday to see her and help her move into a new apartment. She has been living in a studio apartment and sleeping in a loft so one of the things we were bringing up to her was her box spring so she could set up her bed in a normal type way. That loft from Ikea was a bitch to put together and I can't say I was sorry to see it go. Thanks to her boyfriend I didn't have to take it down and dispose of it. We made good time driving up to Connecticut. We made it in five hours including one quick stop for breakfast. After we arrived, we had lunch at Tigin's, a local Irish pub where I managed to enjoy a Bass and a Black and Tan along with a nice Shepard's Pie. After dropping off the box spring at the new apartment, we went and checked into our hotel and to get ready for the evening's festivities - a baseball game at Shea Stadium with the Mets taking on the Washington Nationals. I'm old enough to remember when the Mets were an expansion team, Casey Stengel was the manager and they played in the old Polo Grounds. Now they're building a new stadium right behind Shea. Amazing how time flies. Daughter#1's bf bought us all tickets, which was really nice of him. We insisted on paying for the parking and the food and beer at the game. It was a fun time even more so since the Nationals won.

Saturday was moving day. I figured once the kids were through with college, my moving days were over. Little did I know. Actually Daughter#1 had already moved a lot of the little stuff so all we had to move was the bigger items of furniture. The one problem we had was, the person whose room Kim was taking over, hadn't moved out yet. He was due to be out by early Saturday morning, but after loading up our minivan with the first of several loads and drove to the new apartment, low and behold, he was still not moved and in fact was just arriving with a U-Haul truck. Ann suggested we just leave and stay out of his way. I suggested we help him move and speed the process along, which we did. After we had his things out, he and his gf and another friend helped empty our van so it turned out to be a win-win for us all. We got Daughter#1 moved in, set up her room, and met her roommate. Next we were off to have dinner with the bf's parents.

Ann and I were both a little apprehensive about meeting his parents. The kids seem to like each other so they don't need parents screwing things up. What if we didn't have anything in common? Nothing to talk about? All our worries turned out to be for nothing. His parents were delightful. We had a great time. As Daughter#1 said later, you four were so busy talking we (she and (bf)) couldn't get a word in at all. Well kids should be seen and not heard.

Sunday Ann and I packed up and left Connecticut and headed down the NJ Turnpike to Delaware and the Diamond States Masters regatta. The pictures above are actually from two years ago. As this years become available, I'll link to them. As soon as we hit Delaware, it started to rain. Upon arriving at the regatta site (St Andrews school), I donned a rain jacket and searched out our boat trailer. We arrived around 9:00 and my first race was at 9:45 so I needed to find out when we would be launching. I found the trailer and noticed all the boats were still on the trailer. Turned out no races had started due to the rain and some lightening in the area. The hosts kept pushing back the start and it looked like they would finally have to cancel the entire regatta. In fact some clubs left figuring just that. Finally the rain let up and the races were on. My first race was in a 4+. Our coach chose me to be the Stroke. Somehow we ended up an the A and B category. So in essence we old guys (average age 40) were racing a bunch of 20 and young 30 somethings. Needless to say we got our butts whipped. Another DFL. I had about an hour to rest until my second and last race for the day, which was in an 8+. Our coach surprised me by assigning me the stroke seat. I haven't stroked the 8+ but a few times all season. Plus he asked me to run the race at a 37 stroke rate. We've rarely raced much above a 34 in other races or practice so that was a bit of a surprise. I'm not sure we could do it and still row efficiently. There comes a point where despite rowing at a high rate, the boat won't go any faster and might actually be slower is everyone isn't rowing together. Lining up at the start, our coxswain had a problem backing us in to the starting platform. Actually that isn't quite true, out first attempt we backed right in, but the stakeboat holder couldn't hold us and we drifted off. Because of a slight breeze, further attempts ended up without success and since we were on the outside (Lane 1), they let us do a floating start. We reached a 41 stroke rate on our start and managed to settle into a 37 much to my surprise. We managed to hold it most of the race although about the 700 meter mark it started to drop down to a 34. Our coxswain started calling for our final sprint (we race 1,000 meters) and we got it back to a 36, but no higher. We finished third in our heat of four boats. Not a last place! Something to build on. After docking, I left the de-rigging and trailer loading to my teammates and headed home as I was beat. As it turn out, only a few more races were held before the rain returned and wiped out the rest of the races. The team will travel to Philadelphia this coming weekend for our third sprint race. I decided that three weekend traveling to race was more then I wanted to do plus I'm sure Ann wouldn't appreciate it either.