Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hobnobbing with Politicians

Now I'm not someone who typically hangs around with politicians. I usually try to stay away. But for some reason, I'm totally engaged with politics this election season. Note that I'm also ready for it to be totally over (two years is a bit too mouch). But when I found out yesterday that one of the presidential candidates was holding a rally less than a mile from my house, I just had to go. I've never attended a political rally and it doesn't get much better than being able to walk to it.

The "gates" opened at 3:00 and the speechifyin' was supposed to start at 5:30. Tom and I walked down to the eventat 3:00 and spent the next hour and a half standing in line. There were a lot of people there (traffic started picking up in town around 1:00). I made two large tactical errors: I didn't bring any knitting and I didn't have any snacks.

So we waited and waited and eventually the line began snaking towards the security area. Before too long (relatively speaking) we were in. Surprisingly enough, we found several people we knew. The speechifyin' started right on time. One of the candidates for Senate talked, then the governor of our fair state, and finally the candidate himself.

What can I say? He made the usual stump speech, appropriately substituting "Virginians" for "Ohioans" or "Floridians." He talked about taxes, the economy, health insurance, and a little bit about foreign policy. The crowd was appreciative, but not nearly as fired up as I thought they'd be. But then again, given that both Tom and I go out of our way to avoid crowds, we positioned ourselves far away from where the action was happening.

The people were interesting to watch and everyone seemed to be happy and open to possibilities (unlike some of what I've read about the opponent's rallies). I did take pictures, but the candidate is just a little tiny spot. As the rally went on, it became more and more difficult to take pictures; my fingers were so numb with the cold (hmmm...if my candidate loses, maybe Canada is not the best country to which to flee).

Was I galvanized to action? No. I think I'm too much of a cynic. Was my choice reinforced? Yes; the candidate didn't do or say anything that I thought was reprehensible (not exactly a ringing endorsement but nonetheless I think he stands head and shoulders above his opponent). Will I vote on November 4th? Absolutely.

After the rally was over, we walked back home. It was kind of cool to see thousands of people walking down the middle of the street, chanting the candidate's name. It was particularly cool because that end of the street has pretty much declared for the opposition. And even more cool, the candidate's motorcade drove right by my house a little later! So, if said candidate is elected, I've got pictures of him before he was president and I can say he drove by my house.

That and $3.50 will get me a latte.

No matter what, be sure you vote on November 4. Even if you are voting for the opponent.

(This is not a paid political ad.)

P.S. It's a very good thing I decided to work from home today. Our street (which is a main thoroughfare through town) was gridlocked in both directions until about 8:00 this evening. I would have been so angry not to have been able to get to my house.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Wow...once again it's been ages since I've updated this blog. A lot has been going on. I've written blog entries in my head (and let me tell you, they were brilliant!) but I never had a computer available. Ah well...

So...I've been running and knitting (I needed something to do during the presidential debates). These are both very good things.

At the end of September, I ran the Great Eastern Endurance Run 50K. Actually, it was 50K plus 1.5 miles, with 8,800 feet of elevation gain. I was a bit worried going into this run. How would I do? Will my fueling strategy work? Will I finish? Will I survive?

I finished, and believe it or not, I had a blast, which surprised me, given that two out of three of the marathons I've run weren't a lot of fun. Race day started early (the alarm went off at 3:30 a.m.) and at 4:00, I was staring out the hotel window watching the rain come down in buckets. This was not the way I wanted to run my first ultra marathon and I added an hour to my projected finish time (fortunately, by the time the race started, the rain had dwindled to a mere drizzle). At 6:00 a.m., the figurative gun went off and approximately 200 runners (for the 50K and 100K) started their journey through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I ran the first seven miles with another runner from our running club, but she left me at the first aid station (she's fast). The first section is allegedly the most technical part of the run (by "technical," they mean "very rocky" and "steep") and it wasn't long after we turned off the road onto the Blue Loop Trail that we started walking. (It was steep. And dark.) We turned onto the Torrey Ridge Trail and the trail leveled off. It also was much more rocky. This is the very same trail where I fell during a training run in June, incurring a bruise the size of a grapefruit (I still have the scar). Fortunately, I managed to stay upright and made it to the first aid station without incident. I ditched the headlamp, changed to a short-sleeve shirt, ate some boiled potatoes and continued on. The next section of trail was gorgeous, and took us past a waterfall (and through a stream). My foot slipped on a rock on a downhill section, but I managed to stay upright (if I hadn't, I would have fallen backwards onto a rock, which would have been very bad).

The second aid station presaged the start of a section that I knew would be very difficult psychologically. This section of the race included 2.5 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, followed by 4.5 miles down a gravel road. And by down, I mean down. Four and a half miles downhill. That's some good running. The problem is that you have to turn around and come back up the selfsame hill and run the same section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fortunately, I met Bob early during that section and we ran together (along with Dolores) for the rest of race. I had company and someone to pull me along. And that made all the difference in the world.

We quickly passed through the third aid station (where I ate more boiled potatoes) and headed back up the falls trail to Slacks Overlook (also known as Camp Marty, which was the first aid station). After ingesting more boiled potatoes, we started up to Bald Mountain Summit. This section of trail runs a close second to being as technical as the first section. At one point, we came to what looked like a rock fall. It was brutal. We eventually made it up to the Bald Mountain Summit aid station (25.4 miles), where I ate (you guessed it) boiled potatoes (are you beginning to detect a theme here?). This time I added a side of chicken soup (Campbell's soup never tasted so good!). We turned around and headed back the way we came and back to Slacks, where the heavens opened up and graced us with rain. At this point I knew that I would finish and I would finish well. According to the nice folks at the aid station, it was only three or so miles to the finish. They were wrong. It was more like 4.8 miles. We ran and walked and walked and ran and finally we reached the road, which wound down to the finish area. Finally we were in the finish chute and Bob, Dolores, and I crossed the finish line in 8:01:41, well within my original estimated time.

Tom also ran and finished in 6:45 and was 25th overall. Two of the women from our running club placed first in their respective age groups. And the club's lone competitor in the 100K placed first overall, setting a new course record.

It was an amazing day. I did something that I never thought I would do. I ran well and ran strong (relatively speaking). And more importantly, I had fun. And it doesn't get much better than that.

Other Happenings
Last week was an interesting week. I celebrated a milestone birthday (I can no longer claim to be forty-something). I was just about to post a rather philosophical entry about reaching a half-century when a close friend sent me a text message telling me that her sister was just diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer (it's rather ironic that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month). My intended post at the point seemed too frivolous. I know too many people who have either had breast cancer or who have been touched with it in some way.

Knitting News
I finally finished the Gumdrop socks (but not in time for GEER). They turned out well. The stitch pattern (combined with the hours that I spend on the computer at work) was a little rough on my wrists. The Socks That Rock yarn was a dream to knit with. And the socks are a pleasure to wear. They are warm and soft. Yummy!

I spent this weekend at the Hunt Country Yarns PJ Party. The weekend started Friday afternoon with everyone gathering to knit through the afternoon and evening. The room was buzzing with speculation as to who the guest speaker would be. Alas, Bob and his wife Valerie refused to cave despite the sliest of questions. We'd just have to wait until Saturday morning to find out.

I walked into the breakfast room Saturday morning and there he was: Barry Klein of Trendsetter Yarns. The rest of the day was spent swatching a variety of Trendsetter yarns. Barry showed us how to use stitch patterns and color for dramatic effect. It was a blast, although quite a few knitters found the process to be rather intense. Fortunately, the 35 pounds of chocolate (for 40 people) that Bob provided helped take the edge off. The day closed with Bob giving away a variety of door prizes.

I took a variety of projects with me: a shawl that I started several years ago, a more recent shawl, as well as three sock projects. I wasn't very organized with my packing and forgot the Monkey sock pattern, couldn't find the stitch counts for the socks that I wanted to make for Tom and didn't have the correct needle size for my socks. That meant that I could concentrate on the old shawl. I'm happy to say that I've finished all but three rows, which I hope to finish this evening.

Next Up
What's next? More running, of course. The JFK 50 Miler is just over a month away. I've got a couple of more long runs and then it's time. Fortunately the course is much easier than GEER, but it's 17.5 miles longer. It's been said that your body will go the distance that you need it it to. I'm hoping that will be the case. But when you come right down to it, it's just a long day in the woods with friends.

I've got another pair of socks in mind for post-JFK, but I'm not optimistic. I suspect that the Gumdrop socks will end up on my feet instead. And my feet will be very, very happy (especially when they stop running).

That's it for now. Until next time!