Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultramarathon Race Report

The past couple of months I blogged some about the training I was doing for an upcoming 24 hour race.  The goal was to cover as much distance as you could over 24 hours.  The morning started off as a chilly one, but had warmed up by 9 am.  The race course was a loop of about 1.18 in distance.  This was great because it meant you passed by an aid table for food and drinks, plus a bathroom, every single mile.  And I was able to park quite close to the crushed gravel track so when I needed to get supplies from my car (I removed and added layers throughout the day) it was convenient and didn't eat up much time.

My friend, Gloria, came down from Northern Virginia to do this race.  She had a goal of at least 50 miles (which she met!).  I didn't have any set goal.  I just wanted to push myself and hopefully run further than ever before.

Here's a picture of Gloria, Pam Rickard, and I taken in the first hour of the race (photo credit: Matt Ross).

As the day (and miles) wore on I started having a lot of calf cramping, which was unusual for me.  I think this was a fueling issue.  In a marathon I would've eaten Gus every 3 miles.  But I was craving salty snacks and they had the table of food so I was eating stuff like a handful of pretzels here or a handful of olives there.  In retrospect, this was not substantial calories.  I really enjoyed some salted baked potatoes in the afternoon. 

Two of my running friends, Trina and Steve, came out in the late afternoon to offer company and motivation.  I was just walking at this point due to the calf cramping.  Although I was bummed I couldn't run any longer, I was feeling good mentally and was having fun.  I was so thankful to have friends willing to come brave frigid weather just to cheer me along. 

I saw a guy who had what looked like stickers on his calves and I talked to him for a bit about it (he had calf cramping too).  He recommended Salonpas (which is what the stickers were) so Paul picked some up for me at CVS.  I think they may have helped a bit.  I also took arnica, which is a homeopathic remedy for sore muscles. 
I took breaks for stretching and rolling out sore muscles a few times, plus changing layers.  It became extremely cold and windy as the day went on.  The wind gusts were so huge they blew whirlwinds of crushed gravel and dust at the runners (the next day, my eyes felt gritty and were swollen as a result).  They had warm pizza for the runners around 6 and it really hit the spot (and after dark, they also had some soups).   

My furthest run prior to this was 34 miles.  I ended up covering 46 miles total.  Much of it was walking.  I loved when it got dark and there were glow lights all around the track and you could see the bobbing headlamps of all the runners.  Plus, the stars were amazing.  It was a magical feeling, despite the cold and wind.  I wished I could have kept going, but a muscle back behind my right knee started hurting at a level that suggested injury, and my knee was starting to give with my steps as a result.  In addition, I had long ago lost the battle to some significant chaffing issues.  So I decided to head home, which luckily isn't far from this race.  Once I got in the car, I realized I was starving, and had to stop at Bojangles for a chicken biscuit.

I loved this race!  The camaraderie among the runners and the race volunteers is amazing.  I met so many interesting people and learned a lot from my own performance.  I think I'll give this another shot next year, and try to at least hit the 50 mile mark.  I've run a lot of races over the years, but this one really had that extra something special. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


When I was about 11 or so, I got a pogo ball.  It was purple and green, and I immediately invested massive amounts of time in becoming proficient.  We lived in a neighborhood at the time, and I practiced going up and down the sidewalk in front of my house.  I was relentless.  So perseverant that I pogo balled until I had massive blisters on the insides of both feet from gripping the ball (even though I'd been wearing tennis shoes).  But my persistence paid off.  Soon, I could pogo around the entire block.  I could pogo uphill and downhill and even up and down the curb. 

Not long ago, I was in a thrift store and came across a pogo ball for $1.25.  It was the same color as the pogo ball I had in the 80s.  I hopped on, not expecting much.  But my mind and body?  It remembered how to pogo ball, all these years later.  I was hopping all over the store.  A child in a forty year old body.

I brought the pogo ball home.  My boys were very impressed with my mad pogo skills.  And, as you might imagine, they're working on some mad pogo skills of their own.

Readers, do you have any skills from your youth you'd like to revisit?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Little Drummer Boy

Pierce is old enough this year to be in the steel drums club at school.  Last year we watched their concert and they were fantastic.  They use huge steel drums that actually came from the Caribbean.  I'm excited he has this opportunity.

He was working on a school project where he had to make an instrument from recycled materials.  He built himself a drum set from Pringles cans.  We had to eat a lot of Pringles over the weekend in the interest of this project.  It was quite the sacrifice. 

For whatever reason, the Pringles cans all sounded slightly different, so he organized them by pitch and then duct taped them in order.

He'd been banging around on the cans for a few days.  I was really good at tuning out the racket.  After all, I did survive twin toddlers.  But then one day the sound filtered into my consciousness and I realized I recognized the song.  I went in to Pierce's room and said, "hey, Pierce, I recognize that song."  He said, "Yeah, it's the Fishers of Men song from church."  I was a little surprised.  I suspect the kid is going to have a lot of fun in steel drums this year.  Maybe after the spring concert I'll even have a video to share. 

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Vomit and Ghosts in the Classroom

I've been teaching a lot lately, and the classes I teach are long - either 5 hours or 6.5 hours.  Day classes start at 8:00 and tend to end at 1:00.  Night classes run from 5:30 - 10:30.  A few weeks ago I was teaching a night class and my students had taken their finals and went home early.  The other classes had finals as well, so the building was quiet as I set up my classes online for the following term.  I started to hear someone wretching.  I could tell it was a male.

My classroom was a good amount of space down from the men's bathroom, so it seemed weird the sound would travel so far.  It went on and on.  After a while, I started getting concerned that the guy was very seriously ill and in trouble.  So I walked around the building trying to find him.  The two classrooms set behind mine were empty.  Beside my class was a hallway and then faculty offices, which were empty.  The classroom next to mine was a nursing lab, but as I walked by I could see there were just two students in there with an instructor, and it appeared they were studying vitals. 

I finally walked down to the library, and explained the situation to the night librarian.  I asked if he would mind going into the men's bathroom to make sure the person was okay and didn't need help.  When the librarian walked past my classroom, he, too, could hear the violent vomiting.  But when he went into the bathroom, it was empty.

We walked up and down the halls, searching for the source of the dreadful sound.  I certainly didn't feel like eating any dinner that night, after hearing twenty minutes of heaving.  Eventually the librarian and I roped another instructor into searching for the ill person.  Now there were three of us.  And she finally located the source.

Remember that nursing class right next to mine?  The one that seemed to be studying vitals?  It turns out they had a vomit app on an ipad and had spent the past thirty minutes playing with the app.  I guess if you're a nursing student, vomit apps just never lose their fun!

When I told my boys about how the nurses got me good, they thought this was just hilarious.  I'm pretty sure they wish they had a vomit app.  Yuck.

One more story from the classroom - I do teach some basic level statistics in my Introduction to Psychology class.  I saw this little math joke around Halloween, so as I was teaching what a normal distribution looks like, I drew it on the board.  All my students were drawing right along with me.  Then I drew the paranormal distribution, and they drew that too.  It took them a minute before they realized that was a joke, but when they did, they were all amused.

Here's hoping that all of you are finding much amusement in life lately.  Have a great week! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Halloween 2016

The boys had a fun Halloween.  Here they are waiting for the bus on the day they had their school Fall Festival.  Cort was Mario, Pierce was Edgar Allan Poe, and Reid was a "Super Banana".  On Halloween itself they wore different costumes.

Signs that your child may be on to your candy pilfering habits:

I have been working more hours, and I've been blogging for 7 years come December, so I'm feeling a little burned out.  This is why my blogging is spotty for now.  I'll try to still write something at least once a week, but it may be a while before I resume 3 days weekly. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Pierce is Ten

Last week Pierce turned 10.  Gone are the days when I crafted theme cakes for him.  This year he said he is too old for that.  Instead, he wanted a "caramel Frappuccino" cake.  I crafted a two layer cake with espresso and caramel.  It had structural issues, but it tasted good.
Pierce loves electronic gadgets.  He has a particular fondness for old Polaroid cameras and old telephones.  His favorite food is anything with salted caramel.  He still loves anything dealing with robots.

In addition to a couple of small things, Pierce got a mummy sleeping bag for his birthday.  Now he'll be all set next time we go backpacking. 
He has wanted a mummy sleeping bag since the twins got theirs for their birthday, so he was pretty excited.  We'll have to plan a backpacking trip soon, before it gets much colder.

I'm taking a little blogging break, but I hope to see you some time next week! 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Autumn Olive Jelly

We have what are called autumn olives growing on bushes in our area.  They aren't an olive at all, but instead a small, edible berry.  We went and picked a bunch recently.  They have little stems on them and a fairly chewy seed.  Because of this, I thought the easiest way to use them would be to make a jelly.

I picked out as much debris as possible and then rinsed the berries.  I just left the little stems on, as it seemed like removing every little stem would take me all day long.  Then I put them in a pot and cooked them down with about half a cup of water, mashing them with a potato masher.
 I don't have one of those sieve stand things, but I made good use of a cabinet handle and some cheesecloth for straining out the juice.  Once things cooled, I squeezed out as much juice as possible.  I got 4 cups of juice from the berries.  I brought it to a high boil with some sure-jell.  Then added 5 1/2 cups of sugar.  I returned it to a high boil and cooked it until it passed my firming test in a glass of ice water.  Then I filled jelly jars and processed in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. 
I was pleased with how it set up overnight.  It also has a really nice rosy color, which is surprising since the juice was sort of beige.  A good use of an invasive species, don't you think? 

Hope everyone has a Happy Halloween!