Robbie the Robot has a considerable film career that spans fifty years. He has been starring in film since just after being born (in 1955) all the way up until appearing in Pamela Anderson’s television show last year and an AT&T commercial this year. Many humans would kill for that kind of success, although I doubt they’d mess with Robbie. He is a robot, after all.
I hope everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. My mom has been visiting with us since Tuesday and we’ve had a great time. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog, so I’ve just been adding a little here and there. Here’s the past few days in one post.
We met up with our next-door neighbor, Terri, to go to the annual Turkey Trot 10k at the University of Richmond. Mom had been looking forward to this one since last year, but unfortunately the weather was nearly as favorable this time. It was about 40° F and rainy, making running seem just a bit more silly than usual. The weather only added to the abundant medical issues: mom has had knee pain, Angela has a recovering hamstring and stitches in her knee, Terri has pain in the bottom of her feet, and I am now convinced I have a stress fracture on the top of my right foot. Nasty weather, running with injuries, and a very hilly campus were tough on all of us, though. Anyway, we all did our best and certainly earned some turkey for that evening.
When we all got back home, we cleaned up and Angela started making a huge brunch. Our friend (and Angela’s co-worked) Ross came over to play some Wii games and join us for brunch. We had mimosas with waffles, sausage, and eggs, all of which were delicious.
After Ross left to go to his Dad’s, we all took short naps before beginning cooking some more. Angela had a great spread for dinner this year: turkey (of course)1, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans (in olive oil), homemade dressing, and pumpkin creme brulée for desert. Terri joined us for dinner that evening (just as the turkey set off the smoke alarm, which it seems to do every time we make one). It was really nice getting to hang out with our newest neighbor.
Terri even brought us a great looking and even better tasting pie. It was cherry filled with a chocolate crust and all homemade.
We didn’t try and brave any of the large crowds early in the morning this year. I had had my fill of waiting in line the previous weekend. Also, there just didn’t seem to be any killer deals on anything we wanted to get for anyone this year (or even ourselves, really). Angela worked Friday, but mom and I did get out some to got to a few stores. The shopping is limited in Jamestown, or even when she drives to Cookeville, so it’s a nice chance for her to find some clothes and such. I was looking for a cheap router for her birthday present since she is getting DSL next week, but the price on Amazon is just too good to pass up. So much for "Black Friday" and all the great deals (although Staples did have really cheap SD cards, but still no cheaper than Amazon).
Mom and hung out most of the whole day until Angela got off work. That evening, we made apple-chicken sausage in spaghetti for dinner. Angela played Rayman on the Wii until late in the evening. She’s getting really good at whomping bunnies.
Mom and Angela work together to drown some bad bunnies in Rayman. This is one of the games where you can actually sit down, although you definitely can’t sit still. This particular challenge almost made my left arm fal out of its socket!
After a short stop at the mall to pick up some works shoes for Mom, we headed up to Northern Virginia to visit Mom’s cousin Barbara and her family. We rarely get to see that branch of the family so it was good to get to spend the afternoon with Barbara, Jacque, and three of their five children. Greg, the oldest son, is a member of the Army Special Forces (just like his dad was) and after serving in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and four trips to Iraq, was home for a couple of months (he had been home several times in between). He had come up to Virginia for the holiday and we were glad to get to see him, as well as his sister Chantel (their brother Michael couldn’t stay for long). Seantel is a chemist, so she and Angela had all sorts of things to talk about that I can’t really follow along with. After a really nice dinner, Greg showed us a lot of the photos he’s taken while on trips to various places in Iraq. He and his outfit have gotten a chance to seen almost the whole country, taking in both the beautiful and the ugly. While some of his photos make it look wonderful, I know I don’t have the guts to visit anytime soon. Well, anyway, people like Greg are smart and professional and it’s good to know that there are men and women like him throughout the armed forces, even though they never seem to be the ones getting the press (for better or for worse). It was great to spend some time with them and we did our best to convince them all to come to Richmond sometime so we can return the hospitality they showed us.
Greg gave us a slideshow of some of his favorite photos from four trips to Iraq with the Army SF team he is a member of. Chantel then showed us all her dog’s Halloween costume, since Greg hadn’t had a chance to see it yet, either.
One Last Thing
We all give thanks for many things this year, and I should be first in line since it seems like I have everything I need and sometimes more than I could ever even want. However, I think this year I have to say I’m most thankful for my aunt Martha, who has done such as wonderful job of taking care of my grandma in Birmingham. Grandma Edith is still with us and has been in good hands thanks in no small part to my aunt.
- The turkey here is always prepared by our standard high-heat-oven-roast method, which is from The Joy of Cooking. [↩]
Okay, so we’ve had the Wii for a couple of days and I’m finally trying to find some time to blog about it. I’ve really just been being occupied with playing, but I’m going to say that I wanted to Angela to have a chance to play some as well before I wrote much.
I guess the short review is: this thing is insane amounts of fun.
Now, Angela wasn’t as convinced as I of this fact before we had played the system. I had been following quite a bit of news about the Wii ever since Nintendo’s announced that its code-named "Revolution" was going to have a very different controller. It was mostly just out of general curiosity about what the big N was doing, as I had thought that the DS was a really innovative handheld and the fact that Nintendo was making games for people of all ages and interests seemed really cool. Each new revelation about what would eventually be named the Wii got me more and more interested. Sometime a couple of weeks ago, I found myself getting excited about November 19th. I hadn’t ever planned on buying a gaming console ever again, as PC games were much more my speed and interest (plus the fact that console emulators are easy to find for classic systems like the NES and the Sega Genesis). However, I found myself getting really excited about the Wii. This past week I decided: we were just going to have to get one. At first, Angela really was against the idea, citing the fact that we already waste way too much precious time doing non-active things.
At dinner on Saturday at Joe’s Inn, I told her: you’ll thank me later, but I have decided I want to buy as Nintendo Wii. She calmly said: "Okay, but you’ve got to sell me on this thing. Give me five reasons. You can think them up while I’m in the ladies room."
"Can the first one be because it’s insanely fun?"
"No. Five real reasons."
So, here are my five reasons as I listed them to Angela:
- It’s entertainment that will require us to get up off the couch. You have to move to play the games on the Wii.
- There are a lot of classic console games that we download for a small fee each and play in our living room again (just like when we were kids).
- The system comes with a bundled game, Wii Sports (most systems don’t come with games anymore).
- We can download the Opera web browser to surf the web in the living room.
- The Wii will eventually be able to play DVD’s, allowing us to have one less device in our living room (our current, much larger DVD player).
Okay, I’ll be the very first to admit that there are surely better or more interesting reasons that these1. The Wii has built in WiFi (with WPA encryption) and it also has some really great games at launch, just for starters. However, I was under severe time constraints and wasn’t trying to sell this to you or anyone else; I was trying to sell Angela on it. Anyway, after me talking it up here and there over the past month or so and then giving her some of the detailed low-down over dinner, she agreed it sounded like a lot of fun.
She then wanted to know my game plan for getting one the next morning (or at midnight, whichever). I explained to her that all accounts on the internet made Target sound like the best bet to score one but that there were already three or four people lined up outside the Central Richmond store. Further, one person had been outside the Short Pump store since noon that day! She agreed Central Richmond Target sounded like the best bet, but she felt like it was going to be necessary to get there that night and just camp out in line.
Okay, just in case you are reading this fast, let me stress this point once more: Angela, my rational and sane wife, wanted me to camp out in line at a Target store all night in freezing temperatures to get a game console the following morning.
We went home and I got some cold-weather clothes on, grabbed a couple of books, and packed up my sleeping bag. I went over to Libby Place, first stopping by the Starbucks and Barnes and Noble to get a venti coffee and then into Target before the closed. I wanted to get one of those camp-style2 folding chairs to keep my but off of the freezing sidewalk. I got out of the store just a couple of minutes before eleven o’clock, just as they were closing. I got my bag from the truck and found my spot at the end of the already growing line, about fifteen people so far.
The crowd that was there all night was really tame. I think most everyone I talked to anyway was there to get a system for themselves, as opposed to just flipping it on eBay for a profit. These were real Nintendo fans and they had been looking forward to this since before I had been, even. We all chatted the night up, getting to know one another and even more so, what games everyone was looking forward to getting in the morning. One of the guys waiting in line with his fiance was a Target employee and as the night went on I realized that all the stuff I had read online in the week previous was exactly how this was going to go down. From the number of Wii systems this particular store had (39) to the vouchers they would pass out an hour before opening to the fact they were planning on serving everyone in line soda and popcorn the following morning just before opening; it was all spot on.
The thirty-ninth person showed up in line sometime around 5:00 am, I think. My original plan to show up at 4:00 likely would have gotten me a Wii but, to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed hanging out all night and meeting lots of friendly people. I think I brought up the average age of those folks out all night be at least a couple of years all by myself. Even so, everyone was really fun and I enjoyed getting to make some new friends. A couple of girls even picked up two boxes of donuts during their hunt for a civilized bathroom (something about the drainage ditch beside the store didn’t appeal to them). I shared some brownies I picked up earlier for us and everyone was doing their best to make sure that everyone else didn’t freeze (loaning blankets, chairs, and sweatshirts). Even the next morning, when Target employees handed out the console vouchers, the 40th person and on in line didn’t make any big fuss that they didn’t get one. There was no pushing or shoving and certainly no need for the police to use non-lethal weapons to subdue the crowd. Probably the exact opposite from my previous experience of waiting in a long line elsewhere in Henrico County.
The Console Itself
Okay, so not too long afterwards, I was home and warm and ready to unbox my new toy I’d waited so long to get. First of all, the packaging is really very nice (Angela said it really reminded her of an Apple product). However, once it’s out of the package, the first thing that struck me was just how small this console is. For all the talk of how "underpowered" the Wii is, it is still an amazing work of engineering. the entire device is roughly the size of a 5-1/2″ external drive enclosure (like a USB DVD burner, for example). This is slot loading drive, motherboard with processor and graphics chips, Wi-Fi… all of it. It’s really just a very handsome and sleek device that doesn’t scream "I frag!" to anyone who walks into your living room.
The longest part of hooking up the Wii was just pulling out our rather weighty A/V head to hook up the video and audio cable. I think it took less than five minutes and I really anal retentive about this sort of thing, so normal people could probably do it in about a minute. The Wii menu, or home page, is a pretty nice UI. It’s well laid out and intuitive for anybody. I still haven’t even opened up the user manual and really don’t know why I would unless I ever needed to contact Nintendo. I got the latest firmware updates3 and then got online to see about downloading the Opera browser. It’s not yet available, but it will be free through June of next year once it is available.
I got a second controller and nunchuck so we could at least play two-player games, which was also a big deal to Angela (probably should have been one of the five reasons, since the DVD capability might not happen for a while in the states). I played most of the games on my own to begin with, though, since Angela had gone to work by the time I got home that morning with my scored loot.
The first game I gave try was Wii Sports. I wasn’t expecting too much from a bundled game but this thing is loads of fun. I actually enjoy golfing and bowling. There are some practice/training sections which are okay, but the actual sports are where all the fun is at. That night I boxed the computer for three matches and was actually sweating by the end of thirty minutes. The controllers are a little sluggish in boxing, but I was still able to win all three bouts. Tennis matches are also a lot of fun and my Mom (who is currently visiting for the holiday) was able to beat me in two straight matches. Golf and tennis are loads of fun and although I cannot actually play those in real life (nor do I really have any desire to), the controls seem like a very good simulation. I’ve not played a full baseball game yet, but batting practice seems to be what I am the least good at so far.
I’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess some and so far I really enjoy it. I’m not really far enough into the game yet to really say much about it, though. I’ve spent most of the time playing with another person and Zelda is single player only. However, I figure that game is a long term investment. I know that some people have already beaten the game, but I don’t mind spreading out over weeks or even months. I really want to feel like I’m exploring that world and not rushing through it, kind of like I was getting vacation there.
I had gotten Rayman’s Raving Rabbids since it had a lot of quirky mini-games thinking it might interest Angela. However, after I got home I was almost regretting spending more than I had initially intended to (I hadn’t planned on buying but one additional game and that was Zelda). However, I am glad I decided to break it out. Angela and I are having a blast playing all of the very stupid yet incredibly addictive mini games. We absolutely love whomping bunnies in the face with plungers. I don’t know if this qualifies as a first-person-shooter, but we love it.
The Wii’s Have It
Well, Angela has now played the gaming console, along with my Mom and we all agree it is so much fun we almost feel guilty. I spoke with my brother Dave earlier tonight and he jokingly asked me if I was a gamer now. I honestly answered no, I’m not. This is really all about entertainment and fun with friends and family. The machine itself (and it’s controller) is more than just a novelty, though. This is what gaming can be. I still don’t consider myself a gamer, at least not that it is a serious hobby. However, I am glad that I have a fun new device in the living room that is much more than just sitting on the couch and pushing some buttons.
Penny Arcade weighs in on the Wii Remote’s attempt at getting gamers off the couch. Angela and I and continue to look like toolboxes, regardless. Thanks to Bit-Tech‘s Will Harris for point this out on this week’s TWiT.
- I probably should have considered consulting Glamour as apparently they have a different take on five great reasons a girl would want a Wii. [↩]
- No one actually takes those camping, unless they are doing it out of the back of their pick-up truck, though. Those things weight like ten pounds. [↩]
- There have been a number of reports about some people getting serious Error Code messages and essentially bricking their consoles. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me. However, it would have been too late by the time I learned about any of that. [↩]
I waited in line overnight at the Central Richmond Target for the launch of the Nintendo Wii console. It was loads of fun, and the Wii is even better. However, I’m really tired and need to eat and go to the office for a couple of hours this afternoon. I’m also using the TS defense for that cheesy title, but it seems that I’m not the only one doing that sort of thing. Anyway, blogging about it is just going to have to wait
a few hours until tomorrow (I’ve been playing some games and hanging out with some friends).
In the meantime, you can check out photos at Flickr from the past night. Oh, in case you’re wondering, it was a really quite and low key evening. Not at all like this (and yes, that’s the exact same store):
Henrico County police attempt to control a rowdy crowd outside of the Central Richmond Target with talc powder guns (not pepper spray as some are shouting. You would hear loads more screaming it that was pepper spray, and it isn’t usually shot from a gun). There were over 250 people in line for only eight PS3’s.
One game that apparently isn’t yet available but Angela and I are really anxious to get is "Big Brain Academy," which is essentially "Brain Age" for the Wii. We’ll leave all this sword fightin’ and shootin’ up to the young whipper-snappers.
I’m going to a post-marathon party at some friends’ house tonight so we can all celebrate not dying last Saturday morning. Angela took some great photos of them, so I’ll Flickr ’em1 and have Target print them for me. At ¢20 for a 4″x6″ 2, combined with the fact that Target is only about 3/4″ of a mile from our house, it really beats trying to print them ourselves. For comparison, 4″x6″ photo paper goes for about ¢9 – ¢21 per sheet at Staples (which is, incidentally, just about six blocks from our house). Essentially, we use Web 2.0 to outsource our printing. How cool is it that we can do that?
Anyway, here’s a couple of non-Angela shots from last Saturday. Just about every race with over a few hundred people (and some even that small) have professional photographers at them now who hope to sell you a photo of you running. I’ve bought a few, but they tend to be very expensive. That, plus, who doesn’t look like total crap when running that far? Oh yeah.
If you don’t have the time or desire to read a fairly long post from me, let me give you the short & sweet: don’t try and run two marathons in two weeks time. More importantly, the next time you hear me talking about doing something like that, slap me and then make me read this first paragraph.
Okay, on to the rest of this entry…
So, I felt that I was able to recover from the MCM fairly quickly. I had a sports massage the day afterwards and within just three days of running, virtually all the soreness was gone. A week ago (Sunday evening), I went out and ran a fast five-miler and my legs felt good (other than chafing from the cold wind, but that’s easy to correct for). That evening, I made the decision to go ahead and run Richmond this year. Thursday evening, Angela and I went down to the James Center to pick up my race packet and our t-shirts1. I also got my Sportsbackers Training Team race singlet, which although I’d have preferred a t-shirt to prevent some of that nasty chafing I had during last year’s marathon, I figured I’d just put it over a thin t-shirt. The next day I picked up an iPod arm-band and sport headphones, both for cheap, so I could have that during the race if I felt like I needed some extra boost. I ate well and got to bed early that night, although I’d been a space-case at work all day and was glad just to be able to get ally things in order for the following morning.
Angela dropped me off near the James Center (where the race finishes) so I could make it to get in the group photo for my team. I found a few friendly faces I hadn’t seen in over a month (since my training schedule had to be altered for an earlier race). I headed up to the start area and got my bag all checked in. That morning was great weather for a race, but we all knew it was going to get a lot warmer (the previous year we had to start in jackets and wearing gloves). I saw some more familiar faces in between the 4:00 and 4:30 pace2 groups that I decided to begin in and having some people to talk to always makes the race go by faster.
Before long, we were all heading across the start line and down Broad Street. The first few miles of a race like this are so filled with anticipation and adrenaline that they go by very quickly. I remember looking at my Garmin every few seconds to force myself to a 10:00/mile pace. After a few miles, my pace becomes steady enough I don’t have to check so often, but in the excitement at the beginning, it’s too easy to run fast and burn out too early (not that it was going to make a lot of difference today). At around mile four, I came up on Angela who was taking photos with the D50 and cheering everyone on. I felt really good at that point and was so glad to see her. She was waving her "Go Jason" sign and rattling a noise maker, both of which she’d gotten at the expo. I stopped for just a few seconds to discuss where she’d be next on the course (Main and Boulevard). I headed on down the street, passing our friend Karen (who was acting as a course marshal). Karen’s the one who convinced Angela and me to sign up a couple of years ago for the training team, so it was good to see here out there as well. The training team coaches, many of whom had been acting as pacers for us, dropped off at mile five. That’s right about where my right foot started having some pain, just under my shoe laces. It’d happened at the MCM, just three miles later into that race. I decided I’d take some ibuprofen after the mile six water stop to deal with it, hoping my first energy gel would help to offset any nausea associated with ibuprofen on an empty stomach.
Downhill on River Road to the first ‘party stop’ at the Starbucks and the first really large crowd since the starting line. It’s an amazing feeling for your neighbors to come out and cheer for you like some sort of rock star. While the crowds seemed a little thinner than last year, I appreciated all the people calling my name out. A little later in the race, one fellow runner asked me if I was the mayor or something because so many people kept shouting my name. I just pointed out that it was written in large letters across my (brightly colored) shirt. I caught up with some fellow team mates on Riverside Drive and kept up with them for quite a ways, until I stopped to stretch out my calf muscles on Forrest Hill Road. I was hoping to avoid the nasty muscle cramps I had gotten at the very end of last year’s marathon and that had plagued me during the last 10k of the MCM. Around the 14 mile mark, on Semmes Boulevard is where I (and apparently many others) began to feel the day getting warmer. I had put on my headphones at this point and could even notice the heat around my ears. I had made the decision before the race to up my intake of energy gels to one every 30 minutes, but by the beginning of the Lee Bridge, just past mile 15, I could barely even get half of one down. Having the pain killers along with extra doses of energy gel (which is like cake frosting with the consistency of honey, if you’ve never had one) was beginning to make my stomach turn and the heat only made it worse. There’s almost no shade for nearly two miles while heading back north to Main Street, and that’s when I began to feel the sense of exhaustion that would beat me down for the next two-and-a-half hours.
The smile’s not fake, but the look of running hard sure is. Glad to be able to ditch that t-shirt with Angela, I tried to recover from fatigue at mile 18, but it was short lived.
I was having to stop and walk a block or so at every mile at 17, and Angela busted me in a couple of photos coming around on to the Boulevard. I was able to jog a few steps to fake it, but it was more of a joke on me than anything else. I was looking beat and I felt it. However, after running that far, you sure can’t just give up just because you see a pretty face cheering just for you. I stopped and stripped my t-shirt, stretched, and got a pep talk from Angela. We cheered some fellow runners together before I got back on the road up the Boulevard. I luckily grabbed a handful of pretzels from a guy on the sidelines a couple of blocks away and shoved them in my pocket. After all the sweet stuff all morning long, some salty pretzels were a perfect source of energy. I trudged on for a couple of more miles, finally catching up with one of the fellow teammates I’d ran with for three miles earlier that morning.
"I had a plan." Ruben quipped, "But that got dashed today. So I’m just going to walk for a bit here and there. I’ll still get my same medal."
"Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll just walk some with you."
…and that’s just what Ruben and I, along with some other training team members we caught up to along the way, did for the last 10k of the race. Many of the team coaches were there along the last couple of miles, running along side people and cheering them on (and cheering them up, in many runners cases). As tired and lousy as I felt, the last half mile in Richmond is really awesome. You can see the finish line from quite a ways back and it is down Cary Street, which for those who don’t know, is quite a steep hill. I did my best to pick up some speed and finish as best as I could muster (having long since blown away my hopes of finishing under 4:30).
My final time was 4:52:16.
I could barely even keep standing after crossing the finish line. I found someone to remove my timing chip, hoping I wouldn’t ruin their day by vomiting on them. The volunteers at these events are likely to be blissfully unaware just how quickly they could regret their decision to help out. I got my medal placed around my neck and, while very proud of what I had just done, it really hit me all of a sudden just how different I felt from the previous two marathons. Rather, how I didn’t really feel nearly as much. The first race was filled with a sense of pride of accomplishment that I had really fulfilled a life goal. The second was a sense of awe and respect for my surroundings, fellow runners, and the Marines putting on the whole affair. I simply didn’t have the emotional investment in this race as much as I had previous ones, and that simply cannot be discounted. You’ll hear it time and time again: running a marathon is a mental effort as much as a physical one. I simply didn’t have the desire which gives me those little adrenaline rushes throughout a race that keeps me pushing on this time. Maybe just as much as the heat affected me, my heart just wasn’t into this one.
Angela found me at the exit area for runners and walked me to get signed out (the training team keeps track of all their runners on every run). I grabbed a slice of pizza and once I got my bag back, changed shirts and shoes. Afterwards, it was home for a shower and a nap with the dogs. Angela took me to get a sports massage that evening and then out for a reward dinner at a local seafood and steak place. I can’t say that really did anything to earn any of that, other than just being bull-headed. However, it sure did make me feel nice. Having people in the city come out and cheer me on was great, but having Angela around during and after the race was even better.
- Part of signing up for the Sportsbackers Marathon Training Team is the entry fee to the Richmond Marathon, even if you plan on running a different race. Lot’s of people here use the training team to get ready for Chicago, New York, Marine Corps, and even races as early in the Fall as San Francisco. So, even if you don’t run Richmond, you can still get a nice, long sleeve t-shirt, so Angela got hers even though she didn’t run this one. That smart girl. [↩]
- That’s total time for the entire race, or four-and-a-half hours for the entire marathon. That boils down to about a 10:15 minute mile on average. Hopefully that will give some background on the two different "pace" meanings I use often. [↩]
Yeah, saw this on Kottke and jumped right on the bandwagon.
Okay, so we actually had some primaries and such earlier in the year, but today is the day that really decides who represents and leads us. I’m such a nerd when it comes to voting and I never miss an election anymore. I got up at about 6:00 am to walk over to the polls, although it was closer to 6:30 when I finally made it over there (I’m so sluggish pre-coffee, and I spent some time trying to convince Angela to go with me). I brought my pocket digi-cam to take some photos, partly for the Polling Place Photo Project, but also to get a record of my vote. Our electronic touch-screen voting machines don’t produce a paper receipt, so I figured some photo documentation would be the next best thing. I’m not trying to be on of those paranoid techno-phobes, but things do go wrong and I figured this was an easy way to have some evidence of my intent.
I walked in and reviewed the sample ballot. No surprises there on the races that were I would be voting on, nor for the three ballot questions. I was glad to see plenty of information on the three ballot questions, particularly the first regarding the so-called ‘definition of marriage’ since anyone reading the whole amendment can see it goes way too far. Gay marriage is already illegal in Virginia and that’s just not likely to change anytime soon. To pretend that I need the state to step in and help define my marriage is a complete crock. My marriage is between Jason and Angela and we determined that all on our own without the help of the state or federal governments. We’re smart and in love like that.
Anyway, upon walking up to the election officials, I proudly declared my full name and address, in very dorky fashion. There’s just some sort of rush I get out of publicly stating my name at the polling place. I don’t know why. It’s far from an act of bravery in today’s climate, but I can imagine what it must have been like during the first national election here in the newly minted U.S. and that kind of makes me proud. Anyway, I got my ticket and headed over to the pair of voting machines. I voted on an AVS WINVote [.pdf] machine, which are widely used here in Virginia and I’ve used a couple of times already. The machine itself is pretty well designed and I don’t have any real complaints, other than it’s a closed, black box and there’s no paper receipt (this is where you came in, isn’t it?).
The whole experience was actually very painless and only took me about 15 minutes, including walking time (we live about 110 feet from the polling place, as it’s moved just down the street). However, there is news of some problems happening here in Virginia of voter intimidation. That however, doesn’t seem to have affected the public here. News reports claim record turnout for a mid-term election, which is good no matter who wins, I think.
Well, the big day kind of snuck-up on us. Angela had been getting over a hamstring injury pretty much all of October and we had gone on vacation earlier last month. Therefore, when the end of the month came out of no where, we almost felt surprised that an entire month had gone by without either of us running all that much. I had run my second twenty-miler before our Alaska vacation and really hadn’t run much since during my taper period. Poor Angela hadn’t run any distance since her fifteen-miler back in late September. We both went out and ran a six-miler the Sunday one week prior to the MCM and Angela determined that her leg felt good enough to run on, though. Having Dave in town the day before the race really helped distract us though, which was probably a good thing.
We had reserved a room at the Sheraton very near the start of the race, a couple of blocks from the new Air Force Memorial. This would prove to be great the morning of the race, but disastrous afterwards. We parked at Pentagon City and took the Metro to the Armory to get our chips and bib numbers. There was actually a line out the door of the Armory and down the block, which was sort of alarming. People were streaming in from everywhere to get in before 7:00pm (some people had come straight from the airport via taxi, with luggage in tow) when the race expo shut down. We made it in and picked up our stuff and proceeded to wander around the expo for a little while. We bought a couple of those throw-away Tyvek jackets since it would be cool and very windy the next morning. We loaded up on free energy snacks and other swag1. Clif was doing some pace-groups and handed out pace bands, which proved to be pretty handy. I enjoy using my Garmin GPS (a lot), but having the mile splits written out helps on over-all pacing a great deal and reduces the amount I have to keep checking my watch2 We finally decided we’d filled up our tote bags (mine actually started ripping), so we headed back out to the Metro to go find some dinner.
We had broken out our D.C. travel guide books in hopes of finding some great Italian restaurant for our pre-race calorie-fest. However, there didn’t seem to be any that really stood out to us, although D.C. has some of the greatest places to eat and I’m sure the ones we read about are fantastic. However, being tired and really just wanting to get checked into the hotel, we opted to just eat at California Pizza Kitchen. We enjoyed our relatively soul-less, chain restaurant food well enough before driving past the Pentagon to our hotel. I would recommend the Sheraton National for anyone traveling to D.C. since it is very nice and the bed was insanely comfortable (we decided we wanted that very bed for our home), except for one thing: it’s no where near any Metro stops! The nearest is the Pentagon, and that is still nearly a mile away. We regretted that most of our time in the hotel was spent looking at the backs of eyelids, since it was pretty nice. We didn’t get to partake in breakfast, either, since that’s a bad idea before running a marathon.
The following morning we got dressed and prepped for the race, and then headed out into the cold to walk to the starting line. It was a very chilly hike downhill around the cemetery and past the Pentagon to the bag check, at the Pentagon’s north parking lot. We met up with about 32,000+ other runners there and headed into the masses to find our spots in the queue. Angela got in near the 6:00 pace group and I kissed her goodbye after we wished one another a good race. I found my way into the 4:30 pace group and waited. Even though we had gotten there just as the first of two waves was to start, there was an Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy made an short statement just prior to the beginning of the race. He mentioned the MCM Forward in Iraq [.pdf], where 600+ men and women of the armed forces there would be running a marathon along with us (obviously not at the exact same time, since it would be the middle of the night there). That kind of got both my mind and my heart racing, and it was clear I wasn’t the only one. It was exciting to know that those men and women would be doing something ‘fun’ and ‘normal’ along side us in spirit. Sometime later, the second wave finally got moving forward and before I knew it, I was running in my second ever marathon.
The first part of the course, through Rosslyn, was somewhat dull although at one point a incredibly large American flag was hanging between two large buildings. It was just the first of many, many reminders of where we running this race: in the nation’s capitol. The crowd was so thick, it became difficult to get anywhere near my goal pace of 10:18 per mile. However, after three miles or so, running downhill to the George Washington parkway, I heard shouts from behind me:
pace group, coming through! I realized this was the 4:30 pace group behind me (I had started off just behind them) and was determined to try and stick with them. I let them blaze a trail through on the way into Georgetown, where the path widened some and I was able to pick up pace to where I wanted to be. Over the course of the next few miles, we ran fast. So fast, in fact, I went from about two minutes behind pace to over four minutes ahead of pace. At some point, I lost the pace group, but figured I could just stick to about a ten minute mile and keep my four minutes in my back pocket until later. Around mile ten, the course comes into the mall area, near the end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. If there is a ‘proper’ way for one to enter D.C., I’d say that L’Enfant had to have intended this to be it. The mall was absolutely stunning. I just wanted to keep running up and down it over and over, to tell the truth. Usually, I enjoy looking around while running but I was in awe the whole time. Not only had it become a beautiful day, but here I was part of the center attraction in D.C. It was as if the mall was all ours to enjoy. I think I nearly strained my neck looking at all the buildings and monuments as I ran by. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t seen all of them before, but this was just something so much more special. Today, these all belonged to me in a whole new way. It reminded me why I enjoy running crazy things like marathons: it’s a huge ego trip to be in such an amazing city among the most incredible buildings and statues while all the people are cheering for you. I’ll never know what it feels like to win the World Series, an Oscar, or a Nobel Prize. However, when running through a city that has opened up for you, it feels just as good.
Well, if all good things must come to an end, mine did somewhere around mile seventeen. I was away from the mall now, running along side of the Potomac (inside Potomac Park) heading towards Haines Point . I noticed I was slipping off my pace quite a lot all of a sudden and needed some extra energy. I had just done an energy gel, and it was going to have to be something else. I decided I’d stop to pull out my iPod Shuffle and give music a chance to pick me up. It seemed to the do the job quite well for the next three+ miles, until the battery died! I hadn’t charged the USB stick up enough to have it play very long at all (30 minutes or so). Much to my disappointment, this happened right around mile 21, when I really began to hit the wall. My upper calves, which had been twinging for the past few miles had now begun to cramp up. Nearing mile 22, sudden ‘charlie-horse‘ cramps forced me over to the bridge guard rail to stretch out my calf muscles. Unfortunately, it was about this point when I had slowed down so much that I had already eaten up my four minutes (part of which was spent messing with the iPod, though). I had little hope of regaining that time since the cramps in my calves weren’t going anywhere (there still there, actually, nearly a week later). Any hope I had of keeping my 4:30 was gone.
I made it through Crystal City and around the Pentagon, but I was having to stop more and more often to stretch out my calves. The cramps were getting so bad near the end, near mile 26 actually, I could barely stand. My foot was being pull down by the intense spasms in my calf muscles, to the point that even walking was getting difficult. At the turn uphill to the Iwo Jima Memorial, right at mile 26, I nearly cried when I saw just how steep a climb that last little leg was going to be. I tried to keep my head up and just plod up the hill, maintaining what I was now calling a run. However, I simply couldn’t maintain even that pathetic shuffle and was reduced to walking the last 50 feet of the hill until it leveled out, right in front of the bleacher seats. It was humiliating, but I picked up pace for the last 200 yards to the finish.
I came in at 4:42:05.
I suppose after almost five hours of exertion, I was a little weary, but I thanked the Marine who placed a finisher’s medal over my head when he told me congratulations. I mumbled out that we all ought to be giving them medals and he just laughed a bit. The Marines certainly always had my respect, but the way they put on this event (yes, it is mostly staffed by Marines), cheering us on and congratulating us was fantastic.
I hobbled forward with the crowd, gathering up some food and such on my way to get my checked bag. After finally making it through what seemed like a mile of crowd, I found a spot of curb to sit down on and eat. I changed to a dry shirt, as is my custom after a long run, only to notice I wasn’t really all that sweaty. Funny, didn’t I just run a marathon? Why am I not dripping with sweat? It had been so windy, it had kept me dry. However, I was covered in a thick layer of white powder; salt crystals, actually. It was almost as if I had been rolling in salt all morning. I sat and waited for Angela for a while, and eventually got up to move around. I made great use of the little aluminum foil blanket a Marine had thrown around my shoulders (which was done for everyone as they passed the finish line) while hobbling back to the bag check, and then on to the Netherlands Carillon near the memorial, our agreed upon meeting place. Unfortunately, I had just missed Angela and while heading back towards the bag check, I happened to catch up with her. She had finished about 20 minutes earlier and had been waiting on me. However, both of us were too tired and too glad to see one another to be really upset.
Angela had run a heck of a race for the first 20 miles, in order to ‘beat the bridge.’3 Given the fact that this was 30% further than she had run at any time since last year’s Richmond marathon, that alone was quite a feat. She had promised herself she wouldn’t have to push herself so hard beyond that point, and once you’ve made that kind of bargain with yourself, you’d better damn well keep it if you plan on your legs carrying you for another 10k. She walked and ran on and off the remainder of the race and finished in 6:43:42. A respectable time for someone who wasn’t even sure she could run six miles the week before. Angela really put forth a heroic effort on her own part to just attempt this race and I was really proud that she toughed it out and finished. I know she is proud, too.
We caught the Metro at Rosslyn down to Arlington Cemetery, hoping we could walk back to the hotel. However, traffic was now on the Jefferson Davis Highway and it was getting dark (and colder). We walked over to the entrance gate of the Cemetery to ask a security guard if there was anyway to cut through the cemetery. There isn’t, but the gentleman standing next to the security guard offered us a ride, saying it was on his way and he was about ready to leave. It turns out, this fellow is a trumpet player for the Army Band Ceremonial Band. Angela enjoyed not only the short drive back to the hotel courtesy of our new friend, but also getting to ask about playing music with one of the countries most prestigious bands.
We had checked out that morning, but were still parked in the hotel garage. We ‘borrowed’ the lobby restrooms to change into some warmer street clothes before leaving. We agreed a nice dinner would be great, but didn’t really have the energy to find some place nice. This meant that we agreed to just stop in Fredricksburg and eat at Outback (yet another chain restaurant, but oh well, we didn’t go to D.C. for the food this trip).
That night, neither of us slept a wink, even after loading up on ibuprofen and Tylenol. Some muscles are just that sore. My calf muscles are still killing me. However, Richmond is in one week and I’m thinking: what the hell?
Note: Although I brought my camera, I didn’t take any photos the entire two day trip. Although Angela and I agreed it was some of the most amazing sites we’d ever seen, we didn’t have the ability to photograph it. We may post up a few race photos we’ve ordered, though.
- Did you know? Swag is actually an acronym; short for stuff we all get. Oh, sure, some people spell it schwag, but does that really make any sense to anyone? [↩]
- It didn’t make too much difference in the end, but I think wearing a pace bracelet is something I’ll do for now in races. I also circled the times when I would take an energy gel (it just so happens, I like Vanilla and Orange Cream Clif Shots), which reduced the amount of thinking and made sure I didn’t miss one. I don’t take quite as many as Clif recommends, apparently, though and had to make my own marks. [↩]
- The 14th street bridge is re-opened to traffic five hours after the start of the race. A pair of buses are driven along the course and anyone who hasn’t made it past the bridge at that point, is put on board and driven on to the finish. [↩]
The Coal Men were supposed to be playing in Ashland tomorrow night (the fourth), but as things happened, that show fell through. However, Tuesday before last, Dave called me up to let me know he’d be in town with Stephen Simmons to play a show on the 27th. I really enjoyed Stephen’s show last time and this time even more so, since I had been listening to a couple of his albums and knew the music. I tried to take a bunch of photos, but I still really suck at low-light stuff. The best of them made it to Flickr. Speaking of photographing live music, if you haven’t seen Scott’s photos of Mojave 5 from that same weekend, you should check them out. I’m going to have to hit him up for some advice.