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.

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