Monday, July 28, 2008

End of Sprint Season

Yesterday I left my house at the ungodly hour if 5:00AM (ungodly for a Sunday Morning anyway) with two friends in tow so we could row at the Diamond State Masters Regatta on Noxonton Pond just outside Milddleton, DE. The pond is actually part of the St. Andrews School. It's a beautilful ride up once you cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and enter Maryland's eastern shore. We made the trip in two hours. It looked to be a beautilful summer day. Plenty of sun and warm.

The reason for the early start, was that I had a race at 9:15. We normally are on site about two hours before we race in order to get our boats rigged and give ourselves time to row up to the start and gather ourselves before we start. I had two races scheduled for yesterday - the first race was in the Quad and the second was in the Men's 8+. There was the threat of afternoon thunderstorms and given last years weather, the organizers were anxious to keep on a strict schedule. For our first race, the row up was uneventful. It was the first time the four of us had rowed together. We all know how to scull (a quad is a sculling boat - each rower has two oars as opposed to a sweep boat where each rower has just one oar), but knowing how to scull and rowing as one fluid machine does take some practice. Some rowing clubs emphasis sculling and others sweep rowing. We are a sweep rowing club for the most part, which dabbles in sculling as a way to maximise our members time on the water. That said, my crew felt relaxed rowing into the start and hooking up with the stake holders. We didn't have grand expectations and knew this was more or less a throw away race. Just an opportunity to compete in more than one event. I call them my crew as I was in the bow and would be responsible for steering and giving the commands. The referee gave us a really quick start and we were ready. We had practiced our start a total of three times all on the way up to the start. So we were off and running. As we rowed I noticed the boat in Lane 3 (we were in lane 2) seemed to be getting closer and closer. we had a good two boat lead of open water on them, but the referee started flagging us to move back to our left (starboard). I checked my foot position (yes in a Quad you steer with your foot as there is no coxswain) and it was centered properly and I checked my point (the stake holder) and it looked to me as if I was ok, but apparently not. Our Quad is old and gets used a lot. Apparently the neutral foot position, in fact will cause the boat to drift to port. I adjusted the rudder to get our boat to turn to starboard and oops, I over corrected. I corrected back and so it went. Back and forth. I finally figured out were the true neutral rudder position was, but it did cost us time and distance. We finished strong and for us it was a decent, if not toally satisfying race. We finished 4th in our heat. When they posted our results, it showed us third after handicaps were applied and we were thrilled. Today I checked the results and we're listed as fifth. Not sure what happened there.

After our race, we hot docked with some our women who would be racing the same Quad in about an hour. So we didn't have to hual the boat out of the water. The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent watching others take their turn racing, eating lightly and trying to stay hydrated in the heat. I can't say our club did that well. We had a lot of 4th and 5th place finishes. As the Regatta lunch break began, so did the threat of thunderstorms. Big black clouds began moving in from the west. We scrambled to get our boats de-rigged (those that would no longer be used racing) and back on our trailer and strapped down. The others not going back on the trailer were strapped down on the slings they were resting on. At first the organizers said there would be a 30 minute delay, then one hour, then two hours. At that point we had a decision to make. Wait and see if the weather improved or pack and leave. With the threat of additional lines of thunderstorms coming through, we decided to bag it. We de-rigged the remaining bots and loaded them on the trailer and went home. Checking the results, I see our 8+ race did get run. I wonder how late it went off. It was disappointing not to get a chance to compete in the race we had our (i.e., the men) had their best chance, but on the other hand waiting around in the rain, soaking wet and cold, isn't much fun either. As it was I got home at 5:30PM. Had we stayed, I probably wouldn't have gotten home to past 8:00PM, so I'm ok with the call. Next week is our last sprint race. I will be on vacation, so yesterday was the end of my sprint season. Now we'll transition into Head Race season, which I prefer. I just wish work wasn't so crazy so I could just slide this week going into vacation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Birthdays and Weddings

On Sunday we traveled down to Williamsburg for a wedding. The Groom is the son of good friends of ours. We (the parents) all started work as interns around the same time. We've played on softball teams together (well the guys anyway) and we've had season tickets to University of Maryland football for over 20 years. The Groom, in recent years, has been coming to more of the games then his Mom. I'm not sure that will continue now that he is married, but we'll see. Here is a picture of our friends, parents of the Groom.

The Bride and Groom. She's a teacher and he an architect. They both attended the University of Virginia. She is his roommate's sister. I would have loved to ask them if that was a bit awkward at first.

It was a lovely ceremony and we had fun at the reception. I've never seen a bride so excited to be married. She reminded me of a little kid about ready to open her presents on Christmas Day. We were fortunate to be seated at the same table as our friends (parents of the groom) since as it turned out, we didn't know anyone else there. Ann and I are not the best minglers, but the other people there were nice and made us feel welcome. Plus there was an open bar! We spent the night in Williamsburg so we didn't have to worry about partying and then having to drive home. Speaking of driving, the trip to and from was much easier than expected. It took us only two hours each way.

Yesterday was also the twins birthday. Daughter#2 and The Son turned 26. They are getting old. LoL. Anyway Happy Birthday Twins! Here is a picture of the birthday duo from our Shirlington to Purcellville bike ride last September.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Party Weekend

It must be July in the Washington area when its only 9:30 in the morning and the Heat Index is already at 90 and climbing. Luckily that wasn't the case yesterday for our Saturday morning practice. It was a bit muggy, but only in the low 70s. We had a good turn out and the Men took out an 8+ plus three 4+s. I stroked one of the 4+s, moving back to port rowing for at least one practice anyway. We had a substitute Coach for the day as our regular Coach was off taking his Teacher's Certificate test. I use the phrase substitute Coach liberally. He's really one of the rowers, although he does Coach for one of the High Schools. We did a pyramid piece heading up river starting at a 22 strokes per minute for 5 minutes, then 24 for 4 minutes, etc. That lasted 15 minutes and put us up past Ryan's Dam. For some reason he had us paired with the 8+ rather than the other 4+s. Needless to say we fell behind and had to struggle to keep close. Also his wake management sucks. He continually went from boat to boat waking all the other boats in the process. That caused me to cut my thumb on my boat when his wake caused our boat to pitch down to port as I was coming up to the catch. The pitch to port caused my thumb to be smashed between my oar handle and our winged rigger. Bled quite nicely. Coming back we used the 8+ as the rabbit and the 4+s played leap frog with it. We started a bit behind due to the need to fix a loose top nut. Therefore, it took us about 2 miles of racing hard to finally catch the 8+. Tough row that.

After practice we had one of our monthly breakfasts at the boathouse. It was the Competitive Men's turn to provide the goodies. I brought cinnamon buns and others brought fruit, breads, yogurt, doughnuts, water, juice and coffee. We also cooked pancakes - plain and chocolate chip. Its a fun way to mingle and socialize while pigging out.

In some disturbing news, our next door neighbors were robbed on Thursday. Someone kicked in their back door and made off with jewelery and some cash. These neighbors are the nicest people. They were on vacation when it happened so they had to cut that short and return home. This is the third house in the neighborhood that has been burglarized. The MO seems to be that the robber pretends to be going door to door to sell something and when they find a house with no one home, breaking in and grabbing jewelery and cash. Stuff they can get, carry and dispose of quickly. With our neighbors, no attempt was made to loot any electronics for example. We do feel badly for them.

We are going to a wedding today. It's the son of friends of ours. We've known the parents for ages since way back when we were all interns. We've had University of Maryland season tickets with them for over 2o years. Its down in Williamsburg, which is part resort and part historical tourist destination so that should be nice. And it's inside so we won't wilt in the heat. We're taking Monday off to recover. Party on!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Commute from Hell

I cover a lot of miles in my daily commuting. 160 miles a day on those days when I have to actually go into the office. Due to the distance, I take semi-public transportation - I'm in a vanpool. A company owns the vans and we do the driving. The vans are not new, which is an understatement. They all seem to have close to or over 200,000 miles on them. They look good, but they do have some mileage on them. As with any vehicle sooner or later they will betray you and yesterday on the way home was that day. And it's not the first time. Apparently the alternator gave out and shortly thereafter so did the battery. All the gauges went first and then the transmission cease to function. We literally coasted down a small hill for about 1/2 mile and made it to a gas station. Albeit one with a convenience store and not a true service station. Time - 5:00PM. The company that owns the van is located in Fredericksburg. We were stuck in Waldorf, MD. For those not familiar with the local geography, we were on one side of the Potomac River and the van company is on the other. A good 70 miles away during rush hour and only two bridges to choose from. We were screwed any way you looked at it. It took the van company until 7:50PM to show up with a replacement van. Almost 3 hours. Suckers. Did I mention that the temperature was 96 degrees? Double suck. Needless to say I missed my practice and the Happy Hour the club was having after practice. Triple suck. And the convenience store didn't sell beer either. Stupid Maryland.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Capital Sprints 2008 and Becoming A Federal Marshall

This weekend was our first race of the season. We loaded up our boat trailer and traveled a short distance up I-95/I-395 to the Anacostia waterfront in the shadow of the new National's ballpark to compete in the Capital Sprints hosted by the Capital Rowing Club. We used this race as a tune up for the Diamond State Master's Regatta in two weeks. Given that Masters Nationals are being held in Long Beach, CA this year, Diamond State becomes all the more important as THE Masters Regatta for those of us in the east. The one thing about racing and attending regattas is that it's a long day. We left at 7:45 in the morning and didn't finish up until 6:00PM and by the time we arrived back at our boathouse, unloaded the trailer and rerigged the boats it was 8:00PM. Another thing about regattas is there is a lot of down time between your races. For example, I rowed in two races - an 8+ and a Quad. The 8+ race was at 10:40AM and the Quad raced at 1:00PM. I didn't leave the course until 6:00PM waiting while others that I carpooled with raced. That's a lot of time to kill. In the picture below, the men relax in the shade waiting their time to race. We were located close to the finish line good for viewing purposes and cheering on teammates. It was also right by where boats launched so we could give encouragement to our teammates as they headed off to the start line. You'll notice that none of our female teammates (save one) are visible in the picture. Most were either on the water racing or back at the boat trailer getting their boats ready.
My first race was in the 8+. The experiment to switch me from a port to starboard rower continues. The most important thing is I didn't catch a crab and I did feel that I contributed during the race. Our start is our weakest element and it showed in the 8+. We were in last place after our start sequence (not that I looked out of the boat). We eventually passed one boat pulled even with a second boat only to fall back 3 seats in the last 100 meters to finish 3rd on raw time/placement. Where you finish on the water, however, is not always where you finish once adjusted times are posted. In Masters rowing, time handicaps are assigned based on the average age of your boat. Our average age was 52, I believe. The boat that finished first, from Alexandria, after adjustments stayed first. They were much younger than the other three boats in our heat, but won by enough to hold first. The second place boat from Thompson's finished second on the water, but dropped to last (4th) after the handicap was applied. The last place boat on the water, also from Alexandria, moved from last on the water to second and we stayed at 3rd - by 0.6 seconds. That hurt. We really need to fix our start. My Quad race was sort of anticlimatic. The four of us had not rowed together as a boat before even though we all have sculled at some point. There was only one other boat in our race, from Capital. They gave us a time handicap of 10 seconds given their average age was much younger than my boat. I drew the straw for rowing bow in the Quad, which means I was also responsible for steering as Quads don't carry coxswains. Sculling and steering at Capital is a challenge as the course isn't buoyed and there are two bridges to be negotiated right at the finish line. Our race didn't go all that well. Our two seat caught a crab during our start sequence, which more or less ended the race for us. Masters only race over 1,000 meters and if you catch a crab there just isn't enough time and distance to really catch back up. After recovering from the crab, we more or less used the rest of the race as a practice for upcoming sprints. Experimenting with different stroke rates to see what moved the boat best for us. The good news is I didn't hit the bridges or pilings. Always a plus.
Our club did well overall. Our Women's 8+ finished first as did one of our Men's 4+. I don't have the complete results yes so I'm not sure how some of our doubles and mixed 8+s did. I do have some photos to share. Here one of our Men's 4+ bringing their boat down to the launch area.

Here is another of our Men's 4+ (not the ones that won) pulling away from the launch dock. See one of the bridges and pilings behind them. That why steering the bow in the Quad makes me nervous.

Here are our novice Women returning to the recovery dock. We were all proud of them even though they came in last (in a two boat race). These women have only been rowing for about six weeks. For them to step up and ask to be able to race was a testament to them. Most of our novices won't race until September. So well done to them.

The best part of Capital Sprints is they feed you afterward! Capital provides hamburgers and hot dogs and the visiting clubs bring side dishes and deserts. One nice thing about Masters Rowing is after you're done rowing, you can kick back and enjoy a beer with your teammates. Overall it was a good time and great effort.

A funny thing happened after we packed up and were ready to head home. Capital's boathouse is located next to the Washington Navy Yard. The Navy is nice enough to let the rowers use their parking garage as there is really only street parking available otherwise and frankly the neighborhood leaves something to be desired. Now to park in their garage the police at the gate did require a parking pass (provided by Capital) and an ID (i.e., driver's license). Getting in was no problem. I was driving and had the required paperwork. Because we were in a car (minivan), I was the only one required to produce and ID so we proceeded in and parked. On the way back though, we were walking in through the gate and everyone had to have an ID. Something we didn't know in advance. Since most of us were wearing spandex rowing shorts under athletic shorts with no pockets, wallets, for the most part had been left in the car. I was the only one that had brought an ID. We tried to talk the guard into letting everyone in (there was me and four others traveling in my car), but no go. It was decided that my passengers would just wait outside the gate until I brought the car around. The Guard suggested an alternative and had me raise my right hand and swear to uphold the Constitution and take the responsibility for the conduct of my passengers and was made a Deputy Federal Marshall for a fifteen minute period. Long enough to get to the van and leave the Navy Yard. We all thought that was extremely funny, but also kind of cool. It was a fitting end of our trip.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stamford Miscellaneous

Just a few miscellaneous photos of things around Stamford that I found interesting. First up is a picture looking straight down into a cup of Irish Coffee as prepared at Tigin's. Very artistic.

The Donald is also coming to Stamford with a new Trump Tower. Units now selling.

All around Stamford are these statues. When you catch them out of the corner of your eye you think they are real. It's only when look closely do you realize what they are. Some of them recreate famous photographs like this one of Marilyn Monroe. Its located in front of the local theatre, which seems appropriate.

Some are just cute.

I thought hits would be fun. One of me photographing the statue photographing me. Actually I'm standing in front of the other half of the statue of his wife and daughter.

That concludes the recap of our 4th weekend. I hope yours was as much fun.

Stamford Part III

Saturday dawned grey and overcast as it had most of the 4th weekend. We were scheduled to take in the Round Hill Highland Games in Norwalk. Matt checked the website and discovered yet again that dogs were not allowed. Ann volunteered to stay at daughter#1's apartment while the rest of us headed to the games. We all felt really bad that she didn't get to come with us.

When we arrived at the park, the opening ceremonies were just beginning with the introduction of the Clans and their War Cry. Disappointingly neither of our clans, the Campbells and Duncans, were represented.

They also had these cut outs for picture taking purposes. Here Daughter#1 becomes Nessie.

Daughter#2 as Mary Queen of Scots and losing her head. Although I'm sure Mary didn't wear sunglasses.

And Matt in appropriate Highland gear.

In between competitions we took advantage of the beer tent (10 Penny Ale!) and chowed down on some authentic Fish and Chips. This outfit from Kearny, NJ is fairly well known for their Fish and Chips. I'm glad they made the trip. They were to die for.

After eating we settled in to watch the piping contests. Is there anything finer than Bagpipe Bands?

We had a great time and again the rain held off. After leaving the games we went back to Stamford to rescue Ann, We wandered back to the downtown restaurant area and had dinner at Tigen's, an Irish Pub.
After eating ourselves silly , we took a walk down at the local beach, which does allow dogs! Yea!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stamford, Part II

Here is the little bugger that basically dominated the the weekend. Our weekend revolved around where we could take her and where we could not. She's cute, but she was a royal pain with the whining whenever Ann wasn't around.

The whole weekend forecast called for scattered showers and thunderstorms. Luckily we managed to avoid them all. Friday, the 4th, Daughter#1 and her now fiance, took us for a tour of Fairfield County. This picture of the Long island Sound from CT is the place where Matt proposed to Daughter#1. It's actually on a piece of property once in his family, but now gone bought up by a neighbor.

We had lunch in Norwalk. The original plan was to eat at a place called the Ginger Man, but see above with the dog. We did find a place with outside seating Baccus. Good food and it was comfortable being outside. The overcast kept the heat reasonable. We (minus Ann and the dog), did run into the Ginger Man for a quick beer after lunch. There was a scotch beer Daughter#1 wanted me to taste. It was a Inness and Gunn Scottish Ale. Apparently it's aged in oak casks, which give it a distinctive taste. It was pretty tasty, but at $10 a bottle it's not a beer you'll sit down and knock off a six pack.

Next up in the tour was Westport and the Saugatuck Rowing Club. Daughter#1 was a coxswain here for a few years before her new job made it impractical for her to continue and make the morning practices. She did mention about possibly trying to cox again in the fall so as not to miss The Head of the Charles. It's a gorgeous boathouse. I'm quite envious. Saugatuck is also one of the few for profit rowing clubs. Most, like the two I belong to, are non-profit clubs.

This is the view heading down the Saugatuck River from the boathouse. One of the things I noticed about all the water, including this river is how tidal it is. There is a big difference in the height of the river between high and low tides. That's not something I even have to think about rowing on the Occoquan or even on the few occasions I row on the Potomac.

Another view of the club. Daughter#1 is seriously thinking of holding her wedding reception here if we can swing it. I think that would be way cool.

Literally a block away is the church they where they will be married. The Assumption Roman Catholic Church. It's a beautiful old church. We didn't get to go inside, but it has some beautiful stain glass windows behind the altar. We're thinking of having a bagpiper lead the guests from the church to the rowing club. That would be cool too.

After the tour, we ended up at the future In Laws house for dinner. We had met his parents once before so it was nice to see them again. In addition, we got to meet his two older sisters, their husbands and assorted nieces (4) and nephew (1). The family is a delight and Daughter#1 is lucky to marry into such a wonderful family. Matt's father and mother are former restaurant owners and prepared quite a feast for us all. I was quite stuffed by desert time. Not that it kept me from having desert mind you.

Next up we travel to a Scottish Highland Games festival.

She's Engaged!

I hope everyone had a fun filled 4th of July weekend. For us the 4th meant heading to Stamford, CT to visit Daughter#1. She has just moved into a new apartment and wanted us to see it. Plus we were way over due for a visit anyway. Daughter#2 decided a visit would be nice and drove up with us. Also making the trip was our dog Rosie, a move that we would regret mightily as the weekend wore on. We drove up on Thursday to avoid the holiday beach traffic. Our halfway point is the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Traffic was relatively light and we made it to Stamford in about 5 1/2 hours.

We drove up and parked behind her new apartment and we admired the new digs, we were oblivious to the one detail she wanted us to really notice - a new ring! Daughter#1 and her bf Matt got engaged just prior to our visit. Needless to say we are all thrilled that they are getting married. Matt is all you could hope for in a son in law and we wish them the best.

After congratulations all the way around, we headed out for a late lunch. It was at this point that we learned that Rosie would not be left on her own in a strange apartment and continually barked. So as not to upset the neighbors, we took her with us. It was just a two block walk to a cafe with outdoor seating and was also dog friendly.

After our late lunch, Ann and I checked into our hotel and met back with the rest at Daughter#1's apartment. The plan was to head up I-95 a few exits to catch the fireworks in Westport. Seeing as our brains were not working, obviously, we took Rosie with us, but since we were watching the fireworks from a beach location, dogs aren't allowed on the beach. Duh. We didn't have to leave, but Rosie had to stay in the car. Ann stayed with her. The rest of us headed out on the beach and had a dinner of subs, chips and beer. From our location we could see both the fireworks from Norwalk and from Westport. Both were great shows and we had a good time. Despite the crowd at the beach, we were able to get out rather fast (as opposed to trying to get in which took us a good 45 minutes after exiting the Interstate). We dropped off the two daughters and Matt at the apartment and Ann and I went to our hotel. About 1:30 in the morning we got the first call from Daughter#1 complaining how Rosie was keeping everyone awake with her whining and pacing. They were also running her outside constantly as she was having gastrointestinal problems owing from stress and feeding her too much people food. The next call came at 2:00 again from Daughter#1 complaining how she had just stepped in some dog poop in her bedroom. It was hard not to laugh, but hey it was funny. They did manage to get through the night, but no one, Ann and I excepted, got much sleep. Clearly something needed to change. I'll cover the rest of the weekend in the next few posts.