Monday, April 27, 2009

Over Doing It

Ah the weekend. As usual the Washington area decided we've already had enough of spring and moved on to summer. Today will mark the third straight day the temperature will be in the 90s. Pretty amazing. As far as my activities, this weekend was a lot like last weekend. To recap:

Friday - It was a workday, but I did make it over to Sandy Run during my lunch break and worked in a quick row up to Fountainhead Park and back. It was an ok row, but my endurance is way down. I need to work on that. Friday evening The Son came over for pizza and we watched the Capitals play the Rangers. The Capitals scored early and often so it made for a fun time if you were a Caps fan. We're Rocking the Red here.

Saturday - My day for a bike ride since the high schools were on the Occoquan for a regatta making rowing impossible. Ann decided she's done with bike rides, at least for a while. Since I was on my own, I decided to up the miles from 20 to 25. I luckily got one of the last parking places available in the parking lot off RT 28 where I pick up the W&OD Trail. I headed east toward Herndon figuring I'd go 2 1/2 miles that way before turning around and riding to Leesburg. I started off about 9:40 and it was cool and not hot at all. Heading east, I missed the mile marker 21.5 and ended up at mile marker 21. So no problem, it would just be another mile. No sweat. I turned around and headed west. Have I mentioned that I love the new bike. It can get up and go.The ride to Leesburg was pretty uneventful and no near accidents this time. Heading back, I hooked up with a couple also heading east. They didn't seem to mind I was drafting off them so all was good. By the time I was returning to the car, it was in the 11:00 hour and the Trail was butt crowded. I know the Trail is open to all, but walking with those huge double strollers that take up almost half the trail just seems to be an accident waiting to happen. They are a pain to get around and it's one of the reasons I eventually lost the couple I was riding with around Smith Station. I'll also mention that the last few miles were tough on my butt. My bike seat is not built for comfort and i was feeling it. I had to stand up a lot more than I would have liked to give me some relief. I need to look into getting a new seat. Besides having a sore butt, my legs were not quite sore, but more stiff. I had to keep stretching them out on the ride home in the minivan. I also missed a turn on the ride home what with the daydreaming and ended up riding around western Fairfax County before getting back on track. After getting home and changing, Ann and I headed off to grocery shop and stock up for the week. We ended the afternoon watching the Nationals get pounded by the Mets. Blah. The Son came over again and we grilled some ribs. I had also made some baked beans to go with them. I'm not that handy in the kitchen, but I can make some tasty baked beans. After that heavy meal, all the three of us wanted to do was lay around. I ended up going to bed at 8:30. Pretty lame.

Sunday - Ann guilted me into going to early Mass instead of heady over to Sandy Run for an early morning row. By the time mass was over and I got changed and the laundry started, I didn't arrive at the Park until 9:30. When I pulled into the parking lot, there was a lot of cars filling the lot. Seeing as this was the first really nice weekend we've had, I figured everyone had turned out to take advantage of the nice weather. As it turned out, almost all the cars belonged to members of the George Mason Men's Crew Team who were having a Sunday morning practice. The crew team wasn't the only ones out on the water. There were plenty of fisherman and kayakers. Kayakers aren't usually a problem. They are pretty easy to spot and they're slow and tend to stay close to shore. The fishermen are another story. Some, although not all, seem more intent in rushing in their power boats from spot to spot rather than fishing. They are oblivious to their wakes or just don't care. I got waked twice before even getting off the dock. They also don't seem to see the need to let rowers know when they are moving across their path. As we rowers are moving with our back to our forward motion and yes, we look over our shoulders to check to make sure the way is clear from time to time, they still move across our path without telling us. The row itself was a bit hurting. I think a 7 mile row on Friday, followed by a 26 mile bike ride on Saturday and then another 7 mile row on Sunday may have Bern a row too far. My lower back screamed out as i started away from the dock and my legs were still stiff from the day before. My back eventually loosened up a bit, but it was still a slow row up and back to Fountainhead Park. I'm glad the weather was nice and hadn't really gotten hot yet. It was easy to track my path through the water as the water was covered in tree pollen. It was like God had sprinkled a light yellow powder across the water. After struggling through that row, and was putting the boat away, the George Mason Women's Crew showed up. It looked like they were having some sort of party. Good for them. Later that day, I had my own party to go to. the Occoquan Boat Club was having its annual membership meeting as well as celebrating their 30th anniversary. I dragged Ann along for a club paid Italian buffet. Both Ann and I are not great in making small talk with people we don't really know, but we ended up at a table with some nice women so all was well. The wine didn't hurt either. During the proceedings, one of the members transported the club's new lightweight Quad to the restaurant for a christening ceremony. They named the shell after the original founding member of the club, which I thought was a nice touch. He got to pour pure Occoquan reservoir water over the bow. I think half the club is salivating to take it out for a row. It looks really sweet. Black with gold lettering.

After dinner, we came home and just crashed in front of the TV. Another full weekend - tiring but fun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A First Row and a Fun Weekend

Finally a spring weekend worthy of mention. It was warm and sunny on Friday and Saturday and at least warm, if cloudy, on Sunday. A perfect weekend for my various hobbies.

On Friday I finally got to go on my first row of the season. Friday morning dawned sunny, but cold so I had to wait for it to warm up. I left for Sandy Run around 10:00. The park had more activity then I expected at that time for a Friday, but it turned out to be a high school rowing team from Erie, PA practicing for Saturday's regatta. I signed out my single and got the oars and pushed off the dock. I'm always a little leery my first row of the season expecting to immediately flip the single. It didn't happen, thank goodness, and off I went. Actually rowing a single is a lot like riding a bike. There is a steep learning curve, but once you learn it, you never really forget it. I tried to keep the beginning to a nice leisurely pace so as to have some energy left for the return row once I turned around. I rowed up to Fountainhead Park and turned for home there. I actually felt pretty good for a first row. The single was moving really well and I wasn't having to go all out to get it to run. During the row back, I picked up the pace trying out short sprint pieces. It went well and I was tired at the end, but a good tired. The high school kids even help me dock at the end, which was nice of them and given the fact the wind had picked up considerably.

Saturday was the nicest of the weekend days. Highs in the upper 70s and sunny. A perfect day for the first ride on the W&OD Trail. It was nice enough that even Ann was up for a ride. Like Friday though, we went later in the morning then we would normally do just to give it a chance to warm up a bit. We arrived at the trial entrance near Dulles around 9:30 and the parking lot was filled. We parked along the drive (not really a parking space per se) and unloaded our bikes. About this time, a few cars left and I moved the car into a regular parking space. We headed out and the Trail, as you might expect, was being used by a lot of people. i wouldn't say crowded, but there was a lot of people out, some walking, some jogging, some rollerblading and the rest of us biking. I rode at a pretty slow pace so Ann wouldn't fall too far behind. After 3 miles, she was ready to call it a day, but I convinced her she could do it (we were doing a 20 mile ride), and after a short break we continued on. On the way out to Leesburg, we both came close to wiping out other riders. As I turned to look back to see where Ann was, a rider was almost abreast of me without letting me know. As I was looking over my left shoulder, my bike drifted left and I almost took him out. Best to let other riders know when you are overtaking them. For Ann, we were stopped behind a father and son waiting to cross a street with some fast moving traffic on it. When clear, the son (about 10) was having trouble getting started and the father motioned us around them. From the opposite direction, an obviously experienced but stupid rider shot across the road without (a) stopping as required and (b) without looking to see what was going on across the street. I was halfway across the street when the guy whizzed by me, Ann was just starting to move around the father/son and the other biker almost ran her down. Fortunately, no one was hurt in either incident. What I thought was strange was that neither rider even acknowledged what had happened, but rode away without saying anything. We did finish the ride although at a much slower pace than normal. I'm not sure if I'll get Ann back out on the trail even though she finished the 20 mile ride. As we exited the trail to get back to our car, we were met by employees of Jet Blue who were handing out bottles of water. A nice gesture I thought.

Sunday was all about my rowing club. We had to be at the boathouse at noon to watch a safety video. Our club requires it and actually I did learn some things from watching it. Next up at 1:00 was our Learn to Row Day. We had a good turnout. About 40 people showed up to learn about the club and take a turn at rowing. Hopefully many will chose to come row with us starting in late May. Then at 3:30 we had our general membership meeting. That went fairly well and didn't last too long. I had to present our budget and recap how we did for 2008, but no one had any tough questions so all was well.

It was definitely a fun weekend with lots of fun things. We grilled out on Saturday and just generally enjoyed the weekend. Hope yours was as fun as ours.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Learn to Row

This Sunday the Prince William Rowing Club is hosting the first of three Learn to Row Days this Sunday at the Oxford Boathouse located in the Lake Ridge Marina. If you ever had a passing interest in what rowing is all about, this is your opportunity and best of all - it's free! The fun starts at 1:00PM and continues until 3:00 PM. You can find directions to the boathouse by following the link for the Lake Ridge Park and Marina above and click on Find Us. We break down your visit into four areas.

The first stop is a tour of the boathouse. We'll show you the shells, which are owned by the local Prince William high schools. We'll explain the sport of rowing, show you the equipment and tell you about the Prince William Rowing Club.

After the boathouse tour, we;ll take you out on one of the docks to learn the basic rowing stroke on an erg. We'll have instructors to show you the basics. The catch, the drive and the recovery. Hint: It's all in the legs.

After the ergs, we'll move you to the barge. The barge has sliding seats just like a racing shell, but provides a much more stable platform to learn on. We'll strap your feet in and give you an oar and you'll practice the rowing stroke you learned on the erg, but with an oar this time. You'll learn to follow the person rowing stroke. The idea is to get your oar in the water at the catch when your stroke does and drive with your legs, then back and finally your arms before exiting the your oar from the water when your stroke does. It's all about learning to row as one. We'll have coaches on the barge to help you out and teach you.

Finally, now that you have all the basics mastered, we'll actually put you in an actual 8 man shell for a short row out into the Occoquan. We will row four guests at a time along with four experienced Prince William Rowing Club members. We'll row by 4s to start out with and depending on how that goes will move up to rowing by 6s and maybe even by all 8.

It's a fun way to spend some time and the weather forecast looks promising (sunny and 70). If you can't make this Sunday, our next Learn to Row Day is on 3 May, which will also start at 1:00 PM.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Scans and Treats

It has been so gloomy, drizzly, overcast, cold and rainy for the past month I was beginning to think that some transformation had occurred that had dumped me in England. Finally, today, the sun is shining and it's beginning to warm up. Warmer temperatures cannot come soon enough to suit me.

Yesterday I went to our local X-Ray/Imaging Center for a bone scan. I have what I like to think is a mild case of osteoporosis in my upper hip/lower back area. I'm not prone to breaking anything, but the bones are not what they should be. I take calcium supplements and Fosamax and it seems to be doing the trick. My last bone scan was better than the previous one and hopefully the trend will continue with this scan. I would have totally missed the appointment if I hadn't loaded the date and time into my cell phone. When the alarm went off, I was grumbling that someone had the nerve to call me when I was at home until I saw what it was and then had to scramble to get out the door. It didn't help that I couldn't find the referral from my Doctor. I had given it to Ann for safekeeping. I called her at work, but of course she wasn't at her desk. She never is, it seems, when I really need to reach her. Talk about adopting a new dog? She's always available. Need to reach her in an emergency? Forget it. You are so out of luck. After ripping apart our office and the file cabinet, I located it sitting right next to where my wallet was. Oops. I did make it there in time. Well 3 minutes late, but that's close. The scan itself was pretty uneventful. You just lay back and let the machine does whatever it does. In and out in about 45 minutes including doing the paperwork.

Thursday is the one day I actually look forward to coming to work. At least I do once I manage to drag my butt out of the beg and quit begging the alarm for just 5 more minutes. The reason I look forward to Thursdays is its Treat Day. Today's offerings were bagels, donuts, three different cheeses, crackers and muffins. All quite good and I had my fair share. Yum.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow, finally, I might get out on the water for my first row. It's suppose to be warm enough and as long as it's not too windy, it should be a go. We'll see how out of shape I really am.

For anyone curious about rowing and would like to experience it first hand, the Prince William Rowing Club is offering the first of three "Learn to Row" days this Sunday starting at 1:00PM at the Oxford Boathouse at the Lake Ridge Park Marina in Woodbridge. I'll try to post more information on it tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Annual Physicals

This past weekend I had two annual physicals. One for me and one for my minivan. Mine was fairly mundane, other than the prostrate exam, which is always a show and not in a good way. Except for my eyes, I seem to be in pretty good health for my age. My blood pressure is still a little higher than the Doctor would like so he tweaked my meds again adding a third medicine. This whole blood pressure thing bugs me because its more about my genetics (Thanks Dad) then a lifestyle thing. If your a male in my family, come your 40th birthday you'll have high blood pressure. It's just how it is. Other than that, nothing exciting. Of course I'm still waiting to hear the result of my blood tests. Things could change, but I tend to think not. The other annual physical was for my minivan. In Virginia, there is a requirement for an annual safety inspection on your car. The minivan didn't fare as well as I did for my physical. The front tires were too worn to be passed. Given that the van still has the original tires and it has 62,000 miles on it, I can't complain too much. Two new tires and I was out of there albeit $400 poorer.

Our Easter was fairly quiet. Ann and I attended services on Good Friday and Easter morning. Then basically relaxed the rest of the weekend. Saturday it was rainy and windy and Sunday it was cold and windy making rowing or biking out of the question. I'm itching to get on the water and the weather has not been cooperating at all. The Son joined us for Easter dinner and our annual Leg of Lamb. It was very tasty although lamb is so rich I can't eat that much.

All weekend I was having problems with my eyes. On Friday and Saturday, my eye lids were so swollen I could hardly see out of them. Saturday I actually spent most of the afternoon with a cold washcloth over my eyes. That seemed to help a lot, but being so swollen I couldn't wear my contacts, which means I couldn't see hardly at all. I certainly couldn't read anything. I took Monday off from work because I didn't think I could wear my contacts. If I can't read there isn't much reason to go to work where 99% of my job involves reading. It was driving me crazy enough on Monday that I finally put my contacts in around 11:00. I figured I would wear them for just a few hours so my eyes wouldn't get irritated. As it turns out, putting in my contacts actually made my eyes feel better and I left them in for 8 hours. I have an appointment in May with my eye Doctor, but I probably should go in in the interim and see if he can figure out why they are so swollen all the time. The worst part of it is my glasses appear to be totally useless. I can't see any better with my glasses on then with them off. I definitely need to get them looked to as well. Now let me get this posted while I can still see.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hard Times

I'm a Government employee and proud of the fact. I feel like a do a service for my country and in return they compensate me. It's a fairly well documented fact that Government employees (at least in my line of work) receive far less in pay then their counterparts in industry. I knew this going in and have no problem with it. In return for the lower pay, I also received far greater job security than my counterparts. It's part of the reason I joined the Government. That and their very decent retirement benefit. It's a trade-off and given my personality, it has worked out well for me and for Ann as well.

Our kids did not chose to follow in our footsteps, which is fine. Everyone should feel free to chase their own dreams. But with today's economy they have begun to see the downside of working in the private sector. The Son is currently unemployed and has been for the better part of three months now. He's been living off his 401(k) from one of his previous jobs. He was shown the door with little or no warning and no severance. He has a pretty marketable degree and experience in the IT industry, but gives the impression he's content to ride out his savings before he gets serious about looking for another job. I think once he loses his condo and car he might have wished he started looking a bit harder and a lot earlier. Daughter#1 just recently became unemployed also. She probably faces the hardest task in finding a new job. she has a Communications degree and has worked as an event/travel planner. The job market in Connecticut appears to be a lot bleaker then here in the DC area. Throw in her upcoming wedding and the need to find a new apartment and her stress level is over the top. She's the most anal of the kids and will work the hardest in finding a job even if it's not exactly what she wants to do. In today's world, a job is a job. Finally there is Daughter#2. Daughter#2 still has a job. Daughter#2 works for the state of Virginia. A Government agency to be sure. A state that is facing a large budget shortfall and the Governor has called for employee cuts across the board. Her agency, VDOT, will do it by seniority. Guess who sits on the bottom of the list? She won't know for sure if she'll get the axe until later in the fall. It seems a bit unfair given she is covering an area normally handled by two people in her specialty. We're hoping for the best but fearing the worse.

When I graduated from college I wanted to work for one of the airlines. That's what I studied for in college. Unfortunately when I graduated we were in the middle of an oil embargo with the long lines at gas stations and being only able to buy gas on odd or even days depending on your licence plate ending in either an odd or even number. Needless to say, airlines weren't hiring, rather they were laying off workers. It took me about seven months to find the job/career I'm in now. I've never had to live under the threat of losing my job. Government service is looking pretty good again in these days.

Monday, April 6, 2009

First Ride for 2009

Yesterday was one of those spring days that you live for. It was sunny and warm without being hot. The humidity was low so you didn't sweat standing in the sun. The warm sun just felt so good. The weather forecast had called for such a day so I had planned on hitting the Occoquan for my first row. However, Ann indicated that she wanted to go on a bike ride so I changed my plans and we decided to go for a ride on the W&OD Trail. Come the actual day, Ann backed out on the ride so I changed my plans again and planned to go for a row. I had originally dressed to bike so the change in plans necessitated a change from bike shorts to rowing shorts. I started grabbing everything I needed to go for a row. Usually as Spring rolls around, I manage to forget a thing or two until I'm use to the new routine. So I grabbed the keys to the boathouse, my seat pad, a bottle of water, cell phone, wallet and car keys. Right before I was to drive away it occurred to me that I might want to check the Internet to see if George Mason was hosting one of the two Regattas they run in the Spring. I sat down on the computer and checked in with Row 2K and lo and behold, the Occoquan Sprints was being held. Oops. No rowing for me. So it was back upstairs to change back into my bike gear. It was also getting to be late morning making the ride out to Dulles to get out on the Trail a no go. So I pumped up my tires and took out the Felt on a local ride. I did about 15 miles and it felt pretty good. I didn't have any real problems getting my feet in and out of the pedals although I did almost have an accident just waiting at a traffic light. I had my left foot out of the pedal with my right foot still clipped in. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but the bike started leaning to the right and I felt it slowly move past the point of no return. By this time a car had pulled up behind me and I'm screaming inside my head "Get your foot out! Get your foot out!" I did mange to get my right foot out, but just barely. I'm sure the driver behind me thought I was a real spaze. Except for that incident, the ride was uneventful and enjoyable. Finishing up my legs did feel a bit sore and tight. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not in mid-summer shape yet or it's because I'm using different muscles as I pedal. Time will tell I suppose. After the ride, I had a a lunch of leftover beanie wienies (yum) and then went out on our deck to enjoy the sun. This weekend marked my switch over from the darker beers/ales to lighter beers, specifically Corona. It certainly hit the spot. Ann joined me for a bit, but she's the type that always has to be doing something. The idea of just sitting enjoying the warmth of the sun on your face is just foreign to her. Her loss. I certainly believe in the slacking off, especially on weekends.

For dinner, Ann whipped up a Thanksgiving type dinner with a turkey breast (it was suppose to be a whole turkey, but I grabbed the wrong thing at the grocery store), mashed potatoes, gravy, the whole deal. Between the big dinner, the bike ride, the sunning and the beer and the fact there was nothing on TV, I ended up going to bed by 9:00 and I was still tired this morning. I cut some major Zzzzs on the van this morning on the way to work. I expect more of the same on the ride home.

Friday was my day off, but didn't manage to do anything "fun". I paid bills and made a run to Target and watched some TV on the DVR as it was getting very close to being full.

Saturday was warm but very windy. Not counting gusts into the 30s, it blew steady at 17 ro 18 MPH. Not conducive to rowing or bike riding. I did go the grocery store for our weekly groceries. Not too exciting. For our evening I tuned in to watch the Final Four games. I was pleased to see Michigan State eliminate Connecticut. I can't really put my finger on it, but I just don't like Connecticut. Maybe it's all the hype they receive year after year. Not that it isn't deserved, but it gets old. So it was good to see them go. Go Spartans! The second game was over pretty quickly. Villanova was cold and UNC wasn't. I fell asleep before half time.

That was my weekend. What did you do for fun this weekend?