Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hub on Wheels: A personal journey and an optional view (9/23/12)

Starting Line

Distance: 50 Miles
Location: Boston, MA

This year there was a little sign atop the road on Pete’s Hill.  “Optional View.”  Indeed.  Two years ago when I rode the Hub on Wheels everyone kept riding past the turn off.  I figured if I had forced myself all the way up that damn hill, I better get the view.  This year many people were at the turn off.

The Ride starts at Government Center right next to my current office.  In fact, I went into my Dunkin Donuts for coffee and the woman behind the counter was pouring my XL French Vanilla black before I even asked.  After, tt rides straight down Cambridge Street to Storrow Drive (which was closed off to traffic so that the thousands of riders could make the trip).

Unlike two years ago when I rode it by myself, Urvi and I rode the ride together.  It was great to share my city with her.  The Hub on Wheels is a journey both around the city, and for me a journey into my own past.  The whole ride was an optional view for me.

Down the Esplanade we rode past the route I ran over and over again for my first marathon in 2009, the University I’d finally graduated from in 2008, and the ball fields I and my parents (and once or twice Joe McCombs) had played softball on my mother’s department team in the summer of 1994. 

In the Fens we saw my high school, the track practice loop I tried to beat John McLaughlin every year, the basketball court that was my second home (and where, despite Peyton’s protests, a bunch of us got suspended during finals in 1990), the field where we had Friday football practices, the building where we took our first homemade Christmas card in 1991 and the Queensberry Street apartment I lived in for Senior Year of High School (and was my official address through the wandering years of 1992-1995).

We took the left onto the Riverway by the Parking Garage, Gabe, Marc and Jesse X. climbed and Brookline Water and Sewer lot where Dan Handy and I had to ditch his ’67 Lincoln Continental that had lost all electrical power after pushing it all over Brookline where there is no overnight street parking.

Across Huntington/Boylston we rode along the backside of the Emerald Necklace that Ian and I had mapped in the Winter of 1989-90, the former skating rink down the street from the Apartment I lived in in 1989-1991, Jamaica Pond (a longtime running site of mine), and past the former home of the Arborway Natural Foods I worked at in 1996-7.

Up the Corkscrew

The first rest stop was in the Arboretum.  A place that is so close to me.  We saw my “cliff” if not my favorite tree.  We rode to the top of Pete’s Hill and I showed Urvi the sledding spot, Dan, Dennis and I went to that snowy winter of 1990-91.

In West Roxbury we went the backway I would go to my job as a stock boy at Value Village.  In Roslindale we rode through the Stony Brook Reservation where I rode my first “group ride” in the summer of 1991 with Rich Deguzman.  I rode my Columbia 10 speed and he rode a Peugeot Mountain Bike.  After Mattapan, we rode along the other side of the cemetery Joe and Jay and I lived next to on Mt. Calvary in 2000-2.

The next rest stop was after a jaunt through the Forest Hills Cemetery (where I still couldn’t find that damn eagle).  Following the stop was riding through Franklin Park and past my high school football stadium and the Doyle’s 5 miler route that I shared with Urvi and all my SRR compatriots.  Through Roxbury and Dorchester, we stopped in Codman Square where I always remember Jose realizing that Kazim still had his car keys.  (somehow Jose’s car operated if it didn’t have keys?).  We rode along the Neponset and by the Adams Inn where they wouldn’t let us into Dennis’ room the night after prom.

From the Neponset we went North along the harbor, (another running route from another age) and by UMass and the field I got pepper sprayed by the Boston police during the 2000 Presidential debate…

The last part of the ride before the finish was Southie – my first Boston home from 1987-1989:  Carson beach where I would swim, M Street Park where the gang from Emerson and H would play the baseball against the kids from M through O.  We passed where I worked through my second stint at college and the site where Richie wished the tire chairs could become mobile.

Before the finish downtown, we got stopped at the light next to 60 State Street.  While it was home to Fred Savage’s “Working”, it is also a building Urvi and I share.  Both of us had worked there.  She finished just recently and I worked there toward the end of the last Century.  We finished with shared memories of different times.

I didn’t want to bore Urvi with each of these memories and the millions more (and it would have taken us 15 hours to finish the ride), but each of them came back to me in fluid time. August this year was the 25th Anniversary of living in Boston; November will be my 20th year reunion; and next October will be my 40th Birthday.  And I wanted to thank all of those who have made it a wonderful life and who will make it continue to be so.

Atop Pete's Hill Arboretum

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tour de Stade: One Stade (9/19/12)

37 up; 37 down 

New goal: Run 100 sections of stairs at Harvard Stadium

Yesterday made the first step.  1 Stade - 37 up; 37 down (34:55 - a new Personal Record)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kings of Beer: Lake Winnipesaukee Relay (9/8/12)

Kings of Beer (back, Tim, John W., Marc, John O; front Dan, Seth, Jesse, Aaron)

Race: Lake Winnipesaukee Relay
Location: Lake Winnipesaukee, NH
Goal Time: 1:08:00
Actual Time: 1:09:37 (4 minutes faster than last year)
Relay Time: 8:26:17

“He was a wise man who invented beer”
Something Plato never actually had Socrates say

Dan and John at the 1/2 Exchange

I don’t get the picture that anyone actually “invented” beer anyways.  In fact, I picture some woman in Mesopotamia realizing her fruit and barley drink had gone bad and then making her sons pour it out. 

-          Son #1: “I dare you to drink it”
-          Son #2: “Oh yeah, I triple dog dare you to drink it!”

What normal person would drink something that has microbes growing in it?  Most of the time that means your food has gone bad!

Regardless of what pair of teenage sons in Iraq first triple dog dared each other in Akkadian to drink the first beer, it has come down to us as staple drink.  However, in the US there was a virtual dark ages in beer.  Between the end of Prohibition and the early 1990s, virtually the only beer we could get was crap.  So crappy that Miller could get away with calling themselves the “Champaign of Beers”; Schlitz could claim it “made Milwaukee famous”; and a St Louis company with crap beer and a big ad budget could claim they were the “King of Beers.”

Kings on their Thrones

Alas, from such advertising came the Clydesdale division of racing (190 lbs +) and the great relay team “Kings of Beer.”  In a continuation and extension of the Mill Cities team, we ran this year’s Lake Winnipesaukee relay:

John on Leg One
LEG ONE – John W.
Distance:  10.7 miles
Time: 1:10:38

Distance: 11 miles
Time: 1:20:54

Dan and Jesse at the 2/3 exchange
Distance: 9.3 Miles
Time: 1:09:37

Distance: 4 Miles
Time: 41:59

Distance: 10.4 Miles
Time: 1:15:13

At the 7/8 Exchange

LEG SIX - Seth
Distance: 6.4 Miles
Time: 51:01

Distance: 8.5 Miles
Time: 1:14:33

Distance: 4.4 Miles
Time: 40:09
Aaron running in the last quarter mile

Kings of Beer finished in 12th and 8th in Men's Open

SRR other teams also took high finishes:
1st Overall (Quadzilla)
3rd Overall and 1st Seniors (Redenbachers)
4th Overall and 3rd Men's Open (Thigh Popping Success)
1st and 2nd Women's Open (Stud Chicks and Chafin' the Dream)

On the Goose Again: Run the Goose 7K (9/3/12)

My third place prize - goose-shaped candy

Race: Run the Goose 7K
Location: Gloucester, MA
Goal Time: 30:00
Actual Time: 29:41 (3rd Age Group, PR!!)

I have to say the purple goose-shaped candy was pretty gross…

2012 was my second year running the Goose which is the 7K companion race to the Around Cape Ann 25K – one of the New England area’s marathon training monuments. Last year, with an undertrained runner and undermarked course, it was a bit of a disaster.  This year I was determined to rectify that.

My racing buddy – Mariah – was on hand for the race.  And, like me, it was her first race since the Reykjavik Marathon – where she took second overall and along with her husband and me won the team competition.

While the 7K and the 25K are at two different start lines and two different courses, they still start simultaneously.  At the united start everyone went off like a bat out of hell.  It took me a while to catch up with Mariah.  By then it had coalesced into two leading packs:  one with 6 or 7 guys running 5:30 miles at the front and Mariah leading a second pack at 6 minute miles. 

About a half mile in, we came to the first noticeable hill.  Mariah and I took it a little easy going up.  Unfortunately, a woman from Cambridge Running didn’t.  She charged up the hill passing both Mariah and I. 

*** DOMESTIQUE time ***

I determined: I can’t let this woman get a big lead.  So I went for the cycling tactic of “false pace.”  I sprinted up to the woman and got a little lead.  Then I slowly eased down the speed until I was running from           around 6 minute miles to 6:20.  Surprisingly, the woman kept pace with me.  As we were about to approach the big downhill toward the park, Mariah caught up and I started to charge down the hill with Mariah following.

As we entered the park, the course is over a bike path that is slightly uphill.  I proceeded with the same tactic as before.  As we made the left, at mile 1.5 or so, it turned briefly into trails and I noticed Mariah was right behind me.  I knew there was a narrow dam like structure at the end of this trail and figured we had to get there ahead of the other woman.  We did; over the dam structure and back onto the bike path I led. 

That was about mile 2 and about it for me.  Good Luck, Mariah, I said in my head.

I spent the next 2.2 miles attempting to run as fast as I could without vomiting. 

With the finish line in sight, I failed.  I had to stop and vomit.  This allowed 3 people – including one in my age group – to pass me.

I finished my duty and then ran the last 200 yards to still bring in a 4 minute PR and third in my age group.

Mariah won the women’s overall.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

50K from Reykjavik: Reykjanes Volkvangur (8/24/12)

Trip: Reykjanes Natural Park
Distance: 80km

If you didn’t look at the porous volcanic rock that made up the ground and only stared down the road over the nearly flat plain to the bluish outlines of mountains near the horizon – you’d think you were in Wyoming looking at the Tetons.  Yet 50K from Reykjavik, I didn’t know what to do.

The rest of the gang was either in the Western fjords or glacier hiking on Mýrdalsjökull.  Earlier in the week, Brandy had rented a tandem bike at “The Bike Company” behind the tourist information on Bankastræti.  I went down and picked up a Trek Mountain bike to make the trip.

The plan was to hit the nature park, the bird cliffs and then come back through Selfoss (and the “Sausage Wagon”) to take the big long hill over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge along Route 1.

I rode out of the city along one of the numerous bike trails that run parallel to most of the major roads.  It wound through the neighborhoods in Garđabær and Hafnafjördur along routes 40 & 41.  About 5k outside of Hafnafjördur, the road to Reykanesvolkvangur turns off.  My guide book stated that this would be a largely unpaved road.  However, for about the first 8k this road is paved and busy with large trucks heading each way.

It turns out that right before you enter the Reykanesvolkvangur, there is a huge quarry.  After the turn to the quarry, the road immediately goes gravel and you have to climb over a couple steep short hills.  The second hill was especially challenging as it was too steep to sit but the road to slick and tough to get traction while standing.

As I came down from the second hill, the terrain opened up to the left to Lake Kleifarvatn and the road ran on a ridge to the right along the side of the lake. Somewhere in the almost lifeless lunar landscape that the lake sits upon there is an alien, awesome beauty.

Lake Kleifarvatn

After passing the lake came the indisputable smell of Hot Springs.  The Krýsuvík area sits on the fissures of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  There is a parking lot for the largest of the hot springs, Sultan.  In 1999, one of the springs became clogged and exploded so there is now a bilingual (and awesome) warning sign: 

I parked the bike on a sign post and headed onto the boardwalk.  The boardwalk wanders through, over and around hot springs that look much like the Paint Pots in Yellowstone.  Seth and I had earlier commented that in Iceland they just put up a parking lot and a bathroom and say: Park here, see the sites but don’t expect any services.

Indeed, in the States they would never have built a site like Sultan.  The boardwalk goes over springs and has sulfuric steam rising between the boards.  I remember being at least 25 feet from any steam pot in Yellowstone.

After wondering the hot springs (and listening to Austrians – probably Karinthians – complain that all the signs were in English and Icelandic but not German), I got back on the road past the old farmstead and to the “Green Lake” of Lake Grænavatn.

After taking pictures of the lake - that didn’t really bring out the green-ness – I continued south toward the Krýsuvíkberg birding cliffs.  I got off the road and headed up an open hiking trail that took me about 2k up to a small knoll (is there any other size of knoll?).  From the knoll I could see Route 427 at the T intersection 4 km down the road.

I made it back to the road and made it maybe ½ km before I felt slipping from the back tire.  At first I thought nothing of it but then realized: uhh…ohhh! I have a flat!  With no flat kit or pump – I was screwed! 

So, I’m 50K from Reykjavik in this deserted plain.  I started to walk back towards Hafnafjördur.  I figured at worst I could try to hitchhike.  For about twenty minutes I saw zero cars going my way and only 3 going the other – all packed with tourists that would never have fit me AND the bike.

Where I popped my tire...

Finally one car came my way.  It was a primer-grey painted Opel pick-up truck.  The driver, Peter, stopped.  While he did not speak very good English (Waaay better than I speak Icelandic…), I was able to get a ride, putting the bike in the back pickup.

Quietly we drove back the 30km over gravel and quarry to Hafnafjördur which I had ridden while he chain-smoked Salem Lights.  We drove into a mini-mall with a KFC in it where Peter made a joke that I should eat there despite not being from Kentucky.  Then he stopped and said:

“He fix it,” pointing to a window in the shop (it was a BIKE SHOP!!!).  I thanked him, got the bike out and he drove off.

I walked my bike into the shop.  There two younger guys were more than happy to fix the tire.  (And, put more air in the front and grease the rusty chain…)

As I left the bike shop, dropping a hefty Kr 2500 for the work, I realized I couldn’t do the bike trip I planned (already 30K in the hole), nor did I want to without bringing a pump.  So instead I decided to ride back to Reykjavik.

Reykjavik is on a peninsula, so I rode around the city along the paths that follow the sea coast until about 3 when I decided to return the bike – in better shape than I had received it…