Saturday, December 28, 2013

December Morning at Ridley Creek State Park

It was a gorgeous day for what is likely my last trip to RCSP in 2013. The temperatures are supposed to reach 50 today but at 8 am it was still 34. I could see my breath as I started out on the trail. It was  a perfect December day. Besides being cold and mostly clear while I was out it was also that perfect time when there are no leaves to obstruct the view. One might argue that this takes away the mystery of the trail because you can see all the twists and turns before you get there. But there are plenty of other days in the year to be 'surprised'. 

Today you could see things you normally wouldn't see - the contours of the park; the views from the top of a climb; the extra paths of the creek (many of these were frozen while the creek itself was rushing); lots of birds - all of this is camouflaged during the other seasons. The sounds of the park are different on day like this too. You can hear sounds from farther away. Yet, despite the location of the park you really don't hear much in the way of traffic from 252 or Gradyville Road which surround the park. 

I don't have many photos.I took some but they just look gray and brown muting the beauty of what I saw today. Here are two you might enjoy though. 

I was by myself today. Originally there were 4 of us. Two were sick and one had unexpected holiday company. It may have been just as well. My back spasmed yesterday. I got out of the car (a simple task that I really have mastered in my old age) and BOING! my lower back was pulsing. I tried to baby it all day; stretching and trying not to give in to the hunchback formation it wanted. I took an alleve before bedtime and this morning it felt a little better. No more pulsing but still sore. So I ran slower than my usual slow pace. About halfway in I just gave up running and walked the rest of the way. My back wasn't happy and my left hip started bugging me too.

I did wonder to myself whether I should just give up running and stick to hiking. I shook that off pretty quick though. I had such a wonderful time last weekend and today's issue is just one of those things. I'll be fine. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jingle Bell Run 2013

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Today, a group of fitness buddies completed a Christmas eve tradition by running and walking the Valley Forge Loop. As I drove to the loop for our 8 am meet-up I tried to remember when I ran the loop last. I'm pretty sure it was Christmas Eve 2012.

What a perfect day. On the way there I heard Snoopy's Christmas. A must hear for the season to be complete for me. I was getting worried as I hadn't heard it yet. So when it came on I fist pumped, turned the volume up high and sang along. I can't carry a tune to save my life, btw, but I don't care. I bee bopped along happy as a clam and, as happens every time, I got choked up when the Red Barron says "Merry Christmas, my friend!" Every single time. If it were only that easy to make peace.

So on to the run. The sun was shining brightly and the skies were clear. It was cold. A welcome relief after Sunday and Monday's warm rainy dark weather. And good thing too because if it had been warmer I would have been uncomfortable.

The puzzle was a thoughtful gift from a friend.
As we waited for all of our group to gather another group was also coming together. One of them arrived , windows down blasting the radio and singing "All I want for Christmas is you!". It was awesome. One of their group took our photo before we started.

I was not looking forward to the loop. I haven't run much pavement lately and their is always the mental challenge of this loop's hill after hill after hill. But I was looking forward to spending time with friends and that always makes a difference. We started - as we often do - walking the first hill. At the top we kept walking which was fine with me because if we got to a mile I could add Roy and Brian to my list and I knew they were not planning to run today. Roy has an aggravated achilles and Brian planned to keep him company. I'm not sure we made it a full mile before someone suggested we start running but it was close enough. I'm now at 44 people. I need 6 more in a the next 8 days. It's going to be close.

We finished the run with a shadow picture. After some Merry Christmas high fives we were on our way. I love this tradition and hope we can keep it up in years to come.

Note the santa hat pom in the photo! :) 
Nutrition, training, fitness PS -
We ran 3 and 1 intervals. I did ok until the last mile and a half or so. My tank emptied again. This is the second time in a row this happened. I had peanut butter on a piece of toast and a banana which normally would be fine for 4-5 miles. I wasn't that surprised when I crashed on Saturday. I chalked it up to the extra work of the snow and the terrain. I was surprised today. I'm so out of practice with these things. I'm not sure if it's calories or electrolytes I need.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Survived a "5"

I love trail running. I know I say that after each run but I can't help it. I'm in that totally infatuated stage of the relationship where the trail can do no wrong! I'm most disappointed in myself for the Saturdays of late where I let my old lady brain roll over and go back to sleep. Today as I ran I thought I should just hang a note from my bedside lamp that says "You love trail running, dork, get up!!".

Pete White planned a run at Evansburg State Park that he titled "The Oasis Of Nowhere" with the following description.
"Back to that secluded gem, Evansburg State Park, with a lot of varied advanced beginner terrain-creeks, bluffs, fields, forests and geysers. Or at least most of these.
MLC Rating: 4"
When we (Julius, Maggi, Russ and I) arrived he gave us the good news-bad news "The good news is that these trails can get very muddy", he says smiling grinning, "And that can be a lot of fun. The bad news is they are not so much muddy today. There is a lot of ice and snow mixed in. Don't step in the gray parts." Yak Trax probably would have been a good idea today but by the time we got the 'news' we were ready to go so I left them in the trunk.

Quote of the day "How can you not like snow! This is fun". Said just a spit second before my  foot slipped out from under me causing me to flail wildly to stay upright. A 6 on the flailing scale for sure. My hands never touched the ground!! :) Well, not that time anyway. That came later after I decided to remove my gloves because I was warmed up and my hands were feeling uncomfortable in the gloves. Sure enough, not a half mile later BAM! Hands first in to the snow and mud! LOL

Up and down we went trying to align ourselves with Pete's definition of 'significant hill'. I reminded myself that this run was rated a 4 so there had to be some, but Pete had commented as we ran slid down one at the beginning of the run that that one was the only 'significant' hill on our route. When called on this later, he informed us that the others were 'rises'.

I have to stop here a moment and say that we tease him mercilessly about the difference between his and our perception of difficulty but it's just talk. If it weren't for his encouragement, people like me wouldn't be out there. He is an awesome pacer. He managed to push our little group just enough today so we worked hard but still loved the run.

Another benefit of running with an experienced trail runner is going places you probably wouldn't go on your own. I commented on this as we zigzagged our way up the side of one hill where the path was barely wide enough for one person and - today at least- was half ice and half snow. I felt like one good slip and I'd be rolling down the hill into the creek. I found myself leaning left away from the creek. I wasn't afraid - I really was having too much fun to be afraid - but I really did not want to go for a swim either.

On another section we came around the bend to find a hunter sitting quietly, gun across his lap, waiting patiently for a target. He didn't acknowledge us at all. He was probably not thrilled at our presence since our shouting and laughter likely kept his targets away.

So back to the advanced billing of today's run? I'd say we did get the creeks, bluffs, fields and forests. And you could say we had geysers every time one of us mis-stepped a creek crossing and went splashing down in the water. I think we all did that at least once.

Back in the parking lot, safe and sound ..... well safe at least, Pete said "If you did this, you can do Tyler!" And he upgraded the run to a 5 because of the snow!

I survived a 5.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


If you can't have snow falling (think blizzard) for your birthday, having snow on the ground from the third significant snowfall in a week the day before is pretty darn good. :) The snow on the ground made for an awesome trail run at Ridley Creek State Park as well.

I had originally planned to meet some friends at 8 am for 54 minutes  ('cause I'm 54 today get it?) on the Blue Trail at RCSP. Last night, however, the forecast showed rain through 8 am. I messaged my friends that as much as I wanted company I really did not want to run in a cold rain. As it turned out, about 8:30 a.m. this morning the sun was shining brightly so off I went.

The park was open but not all of its road were. The road to picnic area #9 where the Blue Trail leaves in a lollipop loop was closed. I headed to the mansion parking lot instead. I grabbed the park map and plotted a route that took me on the yellow-white-blue and back to yellow again instead.
Most of the trails in the lower parts of the park looked like this. The ice was covering pockets of cold water. My feet were numb within 10 minutes. After a while I didn't notice anymore. 
Many of the trails had been visited before me by the park wildlife. It made me smile to see how they followed the path. I saw few hearty birds along the trails but nothing bigger. 
The best parts though were the unbroken trail sections just waiting for me! Here began a longish section of flat and gentle climbs which meant I could run the whole stretch.

My natural slowness was made slower by the snow and the fact that I haven't been running a lot or very long lately. It took me almost an hour and a half to go just over 3.5 miles. The downhills were tough due to the slippery wet snow and the uphills well they are uphills! :) Still I got my heart rate up and gave my legs a good workout and my feet have forgiven me now that they are warm again. 
I have a long way to go to Tyler 10K but I'll get there. 

I saw very few people and none of them on the trails. I came off the trail onto the multi-use trail at one point and a gentleman making his way along that path said "You got your chains on?". "As a matter of fact, I do" I said and lifted my foot so he could see. The look on his face was priceless. We both smiled and went on our way. 

Oh and as for not running in the rain? The sun was melting the ice off the trees at a fantastic rate. I was 'rained' on most of the way. But with the sun shining through the trees and everything so sparkly it was ok. I was drenched when I got home but very happy. 

Tomorrow is a rest day. Tuesday we are going out for my birthday dinner. Hopefully I'll get out again Wednesday either to the trail at Haverford College or to do some hill work in Media. 

Happy Snowbirthday from me to you! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

2014 Challenge

In March of 2013, I began an effort to walk, hike, bike or run with at least 50 people by the end of 2013. Actually it was supposed to be 30 by the end of March but all kinds of things got in the way of that so I modified the plan. With 17 days left I have 8 more to go. I think I’ll make it - even if I have to walk the streets of Media on December 31st with random strangers!

I’ve had a lot of fun with this challenge. I got a kick out of  the number of people who thought it was cool and asked me about it. The challenge was a great ice breaker too. I set out to make sure I spent time with as many different of my fitness buddies as I could and I ended up meeting lots of new people as well.

So what can I have some fun with in 2014? The theme  “Learn Something New Everyday” keeps coming into my head. But I don’t want it to be that easy. Since I was a kid I’ve loved looking things up. Early in life, I spent hours and hours at the library and now I spend a lot of time on the Internet looking up random things. Left at “Learn Something New Everyday” by itself, I wouldn’t get the awesome interaction with others that I got from this year’s challenge.

The first modification then is this - “Learn from”  - or - “Try Something New With “- someone else.”  My friends and family (and random people) have lots to teach me or can encourage me with their company to try new things.

The second modification is to take out the “Every Day” aspect of it. Realistically, I won’t be able to accomplish something everyday. 52 is a good number. The equivalent of one thing a week but I’d allow multiple things in one week and zero in others to stay sane. And since I am 54 on Sunday why not make it 54. But that's a high number if I want these things to have some quality to them or I don't want to end up hedging with things that are only partially new so I can get to 54. So I've decided to halve that and make it 27.

A combination of 27 instances of Learning Something New From - OR - Trying Something New With - Someone Else. There do not have to be 27 someone else’s in this challenge. That might be fun but why pigeon hole my friends and family with only having one thing to share. Many of them are quite talented afterall.

Time to start thinking of things I’d like to learn or do. In the meantime, if you are reading this, “What would you like to teach me?” OR “What would you like me to try that you are willing to do with me”? BTW, the something to try can be new just to me or something we will try together if you like. Maybe there is something you want to try and need a buddy to hold you accountable? :)

I will probably draw the line at bungee jumping, zip-lining and things that involve long periods of time in an elevator or a submarine. Just so you know.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014

Misery Loves Company read to rock n roll

Today I volunteered/cheered at a trail run called "The Dirty Bird". The race is a post Thanksgiving 15k on trails at French Creek State Park. Many of the Misery Loves Company crew were running it. Maggi and I volunteered. The race director encouraged us to come out and volunteer although it was clear when we arrived that he had everything more than covered. We were able to help at the water stops.

After the race Maggi, Julius and I went to have a bite to eat together before heading our separate ways home. Julius ran the race today. It was his last race of the season/year which led to a discussion and the idea for today's post about what I'd like to do next.
I am registered for the Tyler 10k trail race for April as I've mentioned before. Here is where I'm at besides that:

* In general I want to run trails, hike and cycle a lot. Just do it as the slogan goes.

* I want to be a more consistent and flexible exerciser. One that does not end up doing nothing because out-of-my control forces cause me to have to skip what I had planned.

* I want to ride my bike to and from work at least one day in 2014. I don't see myself as an everyday bike commuter. It'd be cool if that were possible but the nature of what I do and the lack of shower facilities make that highly unlikely on a regular basis. Still, I'd like to try at least once.

* I want to have an adventure(s) on the bike. It doesn't have to be a century but it could be. It could also be a multi day ride of my own planning or an organized event. It could be something as simple going longer each weekend to new/fun places.

* I want to run in MLC's Rode to Joy II event on May 10th.

* I more or less committed to helping to organize volunteers etc. for MLC's ultra (50k/50mile) event April 12th. I want to do a good job at that, learn more about how ultra races work, and give back to this group that has encouraged and inspired me to keep trying.

I'd also like to come up with some kind of challenge for myself along the lines of this year's effort to run, walk, hike or bike 1 mile with 50 people. I'm still working on what that might be.

I'm not a new year's resolution person. Goals like that tend to be recipes for failure. However, on a non-fitness personal note in the vein of this post:

* I would like to pursue my desire to become a mediator.

* I want to be a better listener everyday. I am good at shutting up and letting others talk but that does not always mean I listen well. I want to practice better listening.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's All a Mind Game

I had everything laid out and ready to go. Layers laid out, hydration pack topped off, electrolyte tabs, sunglasses, camera (cause I knew it would be a pretty day), shoes, socks, hat and headband (it would be pretty AND pretty cold). My alarm was set for 5:45. I skipped the Nova-Kansas game (in which Nova upset #2 Kansas!) because it started too late for my 5:45 wake up. I was excited for the potential to add 5 (!!!) people to my list, to learn about some new (to me) trails at Valley Forge, to see some friends I have not run with or seen in a pretty long time.

I went to my bedroom to read near 10 pm and lights out shortly thereafter. I fell asleep for about an hour. Then I tossed and turned and turned and tossed. I couldn't shut my brain off. At 3:15 or so I got up and left a message for the group that I would not make it. I came back to bed and fell sound asleep until just before 8.

It wasn't the early hour that had me in knots. Heck, we were up and out at 3:30 for parade duties and it was just as cold. Colder because we had to stand around.

It wasn't the trails that scared me. I love running trails. I've discovered that I really really do. And I discovered years ago that I enjoy cold weather running too. Here was a chance to do both.

It's all a mind game. I know that but knowing that isn't helping. I feel out of my league - because I am out of my league - with the trail group. They say they don't care and I believe them. And truly if I got separated it wouldn't be a big deal either. We were meeting at Valley Forge. I'd eventually end up somewhere that is familiar and find my way back to my car.

Still, I'm afraid. I feel like I'm pretending to be something I'm not and I feel like everyone knows it and I feel like they probably wish I'd go away so they don't have to babysit me ......... so I do. I thought running, in general, had helped me get over that but I obviously still need work. I want to blend into the background but instead I'm standing out worse because I keep say I'm going to show up and then I don't. Not a very proud moment for me right now.

And worst of all. I'm missing out on stuff I really want to do. The same thing is going to happen in the Spring when I try to cycle with a group if I don't get over this.

I have things to do today. Can't dwell on this right now, so I write it to get it out of my head.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past

First off I want to thank my brother Thomas and my nephew Robbie for scanning old family photos. It's an arduous process at best and they are doing an awesome job bringing back lots of great memories. The photos of Thanksgiving past in today's post are of my family's trips to the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1974 and 1975.

Let's get something straight right away now. While, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade gets all the press - and I'm sure is a fine parade in it's own time and place - the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade was FIRST. It kicked off in 1920 with 50 employees from Gimbels. Ellis Gimble, one of the four brothers who founded Gimbels thought it would be a great marketing tool for his store. It wasn't until four years later that New York and Detroit copied Philadelphia's idea. Today there are parades in many large cites including Chicago and St. Louis to name two.

A lot of Macy's fame likely stems from its marquee role in "Miracle on 34th Street". The movie (released in 1947) about the defense of Santa Claus as a real person (which he absolutely is by the way) contains a subplot about the competition between Macy's and Gimbels.

For the first 66 years of it's existence the Philadelphia parade started at the Art Museum and travelled to Gimbel's at 8th and Market where a fire truck ladder allowed Santa to climb to the 8th floor to take his place in Toyland for the holiday season. Here he is in 1975 doing just that as the parade goers follow.

It's unlikely you'd find Captain Kangaroo
in the New York parade (1974)

And if there are soft pretzels at the New York parade they
are likely not Philadelphia Soft Pretzels
and therefore by definition - inferior (1975)

These guys could be in either parade but this is definitely Philadelphia
Notice Lit Brothers Store in the background.(1975)
So in 1985, Gimbels was acquired by Allied Stores Corporation and renamed Stern's. The new owners declined to continue sponsorship of the parade. So does anyone even remember Stern's? I think not and I'm sure Allied wonders why. Hmph! Now that Gimbels was no longer Santa's destination, in 1986 the parade switched directions to what we know today from 20th and Market to the Art Museum. Instead of climbing a fire truck ladder, Santa climbs the Art Museum steps. One of these days they should have Sylvester Stallone join him. I'm just saying. :)

A lot has changed over the years.

The balloons have come a long way. I'm really not sure
what this is from 1974
Sponsorship has changed. After Sterns passed on the parade WPVI/6ABC - who had been broadcasting the parade since 1966 with our beloved Jim O'Brien as the original host - took over and co-sponsored with Boscov's until Boscov's declared bankruptcy in 2008 and couldn't afford it anymore. Ikea stepped in for a year or two and now it is co-sponsored Dunkin Donuts.

From 50 Gimbels employees for the whole parade in 1924 to
25 random fun loving strangers on just one balloon in 2012

Some things never change though -----

Smiling faces of my family 1974

Smiling faces of a random family 2009
In 1975 the kids in my family (includes cousins here) were thrilled
to have their very own helium balloons from a street vendor

Kids still love to hold Helium Balloons! (2009)
Letting random kids hold the balloon while the parade is on a commercial break is one of my two favorite things about being a balloon handler. The other is spinning the balloon to the delight of the  crowd. But it's hard to take photos while spinning. (Trust me, I've tried).

Traditions are awesome. I'm really glad Dave and I answered the call for balloon volunteers on Action News one September evening back in 2007. Look for us this year on the Olivia Balloon.

Credit for some of the Thanksgiving Day History goes to this article.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Art of Being Flexible

Or in today's case opting for a trail run because it felt too windy for a bike ride.

I planned to meet Emma and Arron at the Erlton Bike Shop for the last group ride of the season this morning. I woke at 6:30 and heard the wind blowing through the trees outside my window. Since there are no leaves left the noise it was making was a sign that the gusts were in the teens at had been predicted. I texted Emma that I didn't want to ride in that.

So I went to Ridley Creek State Park (RCSP) for a trail run instead. I planned to run for 45 minutes. I set my timer for 20 minutes out and 25 minutes back. I figured I would go out too fast (typical) and would be tired on the way back. I chose the Yellow trail. I don't run or hike this one often. This became obvious when I could not remember where the trail goes when it crosses picnic area 17. I ran around the parking lot once looking for the pick up only to remember as I came around that the trail comes up along the washrooms; circles around and goes back down the other side. Signage is not great in this spot. In the end I arrived back at my car 4 minutes early. I didn't need the extra time on the second half. Cool! (and just to be sure I ran around the parking lot on the way back through 17 so the distance would be equal)

I'm taking this as a victory. I didn't slow down as much on the second half as I thought I would. In the interest of full disclosure though you should know that the yellow trail is not as steep as the white or blue trails (red is the flattest although nothing is entirely flat at RCSP). And without the MLC trail rabbits to chase I was able to keep my own pace leaving me a bit more energy to tackle the hills. Still, this is really good and the entire outing gave me a boost of confidence. My right glute/hip did make noise about a quarter of the way through but unlike Wednesday night's run I was able to run through it and felt great at the end.

I have kinda, sorta made a schedule for myself to get ready for Tyler 10k in April. I built the schedule to run for time not distance. Trail running is slower than road running and all the trail running articles recommend letting go of distance so as not to get discouraged. So my schedule is based on how many minutes I run each outing.

I have lots of time until the Tyler 10k so the schedule is not very aggressive. I know with the holidays and the sister birthday cruise I won't be able to run every weekend and lack of daylight will make my weeknight choices slim as far as trail running goes until February when after work light starts to return. Hence, it's a kinda, sorta schedule. I will not be running Tyler 10k for time. I will be running to finish. However, to make sure I can train well enough to finish I estimate that 100 minutes is sufficient time for me to finish a trail 10K. That's a 16 minute mile. I can hike 20 minute miles so this feels reasonable to me. Today I ran 45 minutes (I made up my 4 around the parking lot which only served to remind me how much I love trails over pavement now). My kinda sorta plan is to build slowly each week to 100 minutes 2 or 3 weeks before the race. I may or may not run for distance a few times before April I haven't decided yet. The upside is to see where my pace really is, the downside is maybe finding out it's really horrible and getting discouraged.

It was a nice day for a run. Cold and sunny to start. I saw my shadow but didn't take a photo and by the end the winds had brought in thick cloud cover so the chance had passed. Instead I took this photo

I couldn't see the reflection on the phone screen with my sunglasses on or I would have lowered my hand away from my face. So it's goofy photo but I kind of sums up theme of my morning. Me after a trail run superimposed through the window over my bike in the back of the car which didn't get out today.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let's Go Fly a Balloon

It's that time of year again. The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is one week away and once again Dave and I will be there. This year we are escorting Olivia the Pig.

I had no idea who Olivia was until we received our assignment. Shortly after posting a message to Facebook however, I discovered that she is big among the toddler and older crowd that have heard the book or watch Nick Jr. We will wear red jumpsuits and have a scarf as the accessory. The weather forecast for now is for sunny skies and cool temperatures. The dress code for balloon handlers calls for no hats or ear muffs, black socks and black shoes. I hope the scarf reaches my ears. :)

This will be our 8th year in the parade! If you'd like to see what happened in the other 7 years you can click the links below. For this year, tune in to ABC at 9:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.

Parade 2012; Snowman
Parade 2011; Cornucopia
Parade 2010; Tom the Turkey
Parade 2009; Garfield
Parade 2008; Elmo/Fireman
Parade 2007; Barney

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Other Side of the Marathon

Today was Philadelphia Full and Half Marathon day. I ran my first marathon here in 2008 and after that I ran one more full and three half marathons at Philly in November. This year I was a spectator. In each of my 5 years running the event, Dave has faithfully supported me and my running buddies through all kinds of weather for hours on end. This year I got to see the marathon from the other side - from Dave's point of view. Dave knows the route, the best places to cheer, to have breakfast and to travel from one cheer spot to another. This year I got to learn from the master. It was a very long yet enjoyable and inspiring day.

As a result of the Boston Marathon bombings in April, Philadelphia instituted extra security measures this year requiring runners and spectators to pass through limited screening check points near the start/finish line. We arrived at 5:15 am having hitched a ride with a runner and after sending him off we started roaming around the outskirts of the protected area.

We climbed the Art Museum steps
for an early morning photo of the city
We watched the volunteers dress rocky in a marathon shirt
specially made for him for the occasion
It was at this point that we began to see the holes in the security plan. There was no access to the secure area from the Rocky Statue. Everyone knows this is a favorite photo op of not only tourists but runners in Philadelphia races. There should have been an access point here. The runners however were unperturbed by the lack of access. They simply jumped the fence. (roll your eyes and shake your head moment here)

One of our group had a backpack which - according to the news and race website - would not be allowed in the secure area. So we continued to skirt the edges trying to take in as much of the atmosphere as we could. This is how we completely by accident discovered another flaw in the security plan. If one wanders long enough there is (I won't say where it was) a place to simply walk in. So we did. Still with an extra fence creating a cushion of space between spectators and the runners it was even more difficult to spot any runners when the gun went off so we didn't stay there long. Before we left though we saw a runner toss their throw away clothes toward the fence only to have the clothes head straight for a police officer. He made an nice catch, laughed and tossed them over the fence. (For those that don't know, runners wear some extra layers to keep warm while waiting for the start and the tossed clothing is washed and donated to shelters in the area).

Since we knew we wouldn't be able to pick out any of our friends in the crowded start we followed Dave over to Spring Garden Street and then to 34th and Hamilton where he gets his breakfast on race day. Kimmy's Deli wasn't open yet as - we found out from the owner later - they got stuck behind the barricaded streets. Breakfast was as good as promised, the coffee hot and much appreciated!

We stayed here to cheer runners just short of the 8 mile marker. Two more from our running group joined us to cheer here. And from here we saw the entire race contingent. As we arrived we saw the wheeled participants, the first runners and stayed through the last of the walkers. We missed maybe a dozen of them. We tried to cheer as many folks as we could helped along by names printed on their bibs. It's awesome to see someone smile when you call out there name and some encouragement. There was only one flaw in the plan. We were so focused on reading names off bibs that we almost missed most of the people we were there to cheer for. Fortunately one of our cheer section had good eyes and called out when needed. So although we saw many of them as they were almost past us we did see just about everyone we had hoped to see.

We were not the only cheer group to miss their runners. At one point a runner came running BACK toward us to the group standing next to us. He jumped around waving at them until they finally saw him! It was pretty funny.

We also saw a man at this point in the race who offered to sell us his bib to finish for him. I'm not sure he was all joking. Toward the end we saw a woman who 'wished it was over' but mostly we saw a lot of smiling and determined faces. Lots of tutu runners and of course the Joggler. That's him in the white below.

From here we wandered back toward the Art Museum and on to Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive. We stopped briefly on the Spring Garden Street bridge to wave and cheer runners going under the bridge. I've always loved running under this bridge and one year my friend made me cry with emotion when she screamed my name and took my picture from up on the bridge as I ran under. It's my favorite running photo.

At Lloyd Hall (#1 Boathouse Row) we cheered for a few minutes on the outgoing side and then crossed over to see our friends returning from Manayunk. Our spot was about a half mile from the finish and we tried to offer as much encouragement as we could. The ranks of runners has thinned out considerably by this time so we were able to spot our runners much easier and I think we caught all but one who actually passed that spot before we got there! She finished the marathon in under two hours.

We stayed until about 1:25 and then began making our way to 30th Street Station for the ride home. On our way there we had to cross back over an earlier part of the race course about a half mile from the half marathon (13.1 miles) finish. Here we saw a man with a half marathon bib, bent over in pain walking toward the finish. This was at least 6 hours after he started. I really hope someone saved him a medal.

The train ride home was uneventful. We were back in the house by 2:30 and quickly went out for Wawa hoagies for dinner. It had been a long time since breakfast. We were VERY hungry.

I had a wonderful time today. I thank Dave for showing me and sharing his marathon experience. I've said this before and now I know I'm right.... being a spectator or volunteer at a race is long, tiring work. I have always tried to appreciate spectators and volunteers. I'm not sure I've appreciated them quite enough!

Keep smiling and keep moving all. And to my friends who raced today "You are awesome! Congratulations!"

Saturday, November 16, 2013

4 Is Just A Number

This morning I ran with Misery Loves Company (MLC) at Ridley Creek/Tyler Arboretum. The day began wet and cloudy but the rain was over before we started and by the time I headed home blue skies and sun prevailed.

I waffled many times this week about whether to go for this run. In my head the MLC group is a little intimidating. In reality, though, the people are awesome and truly believe in no one left behind. I'm just trying to get comfortable with being one of the one's not being left behind. :) I have to look at it as incentive to get stronger and pay it forward someday.

There were lots of reason to go; not the least of which is the aforementioned awesome people. Other reasons included - the meeting spot is less than 10 minutes from my house and I am registered for the Tyler 10K in April so spending time on these trails is something I should be doing to get ready. The icing on the reasons-to-go cake was the messages flying around last night in favor of starting an hour later at 8 a.m.

The only remaining hitch in the plan was the rating Pete had given the run - 4. Pete has a comical but lovable way of underestimating trail ratings. A 4 for Pete can turn out to be 5 or more for the rest of us. I wondered if I was ready for a 4. Admittedly I struggled with this way more than is probably healthy during the course of this week. In the end - as in minutes before I almost bailed again this morning - I decided that 4 means it will challenge me not that it's impossible.

So off I went. And very glad I did.

The trail starts off uphill. A fairly significant hill for me. Somehow I was in the middle of the group of as we started. I pulled over halfway up and took up a more realistic spot at the back.

When I first decided to sign up for Tyler 10K I turned to MLC for support and training advice. Awesome as ever, they gave me lots of support and advice - even the folks I haven't met yet. The theme of that advice was to have fun and just go out and run trails. "Run the flats and walk the hills" they said. Today's run had a fair amount of up and down. I pushed myself on the hills so as not to get too far behind. My legs held up very well but my lungs wanted to explode. So while today's run confirmed that I still have a lot of work to do it also showed me I'm stronger than I think. I may have been last but I was there. Thank you MLC.

After one go-round which I estimate was 2.5 miles? I broke off to the RCSP multi-use trail. Maggi, Julius and Mike came with me allowing the faster MLC folks to find their own pace on the trails. Mike is training for the Space Coast half marathon Thanksgiving weekend so he ran the multi use trail. Maggi, Julius and I powered walked and talked. It was a great morning!

So there were 8 in the group today including me. Three of them I have not run, walked or biked with this year and although I spent most of the time in their dust I'm counting it and adding John C. John H. and Ryan to my list. I'm up to 40 since March 1st. :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall at the Wisshickon Gorge

I was 1-2 weeks late to really experience fall along the Wissahickon Creek & Forbidden Drive. Still, I had a great hike today. My plan was to hike the Orange Trail along one side of the creek; cross over to Forbidden Drive at Valley Green and walk back to NW Ave and my car. Before I started out I stopped at Cedars House and picked up a trail map for the area. With that I was able to see how to return on trails on the other side of the creek instead of Forbidden Drive.

I remembered a run with Pete and MLC crew last fall/winter where we were able to access the Orange Trail without having to go out FD to Bells Mills road. I took that route. The trails at Wissahickon here are frequented by hikers, runners, mountain bikers and horses. I even saw a boy on a unicycle once! The Orange trail however has mostly hikers and runners as most of it does not allow bikes or horses. It's a little too rocky including one spot with virtually no sign of trail. One must sort of scramble hand over foot.

I saw quite a few hikers as I made my way out to Valley Green. I was really excited to see the number of small children hiking rather than being carried. One man was accompanied by two toddlers. They couldn't have been more than 4. I smiled as I watched them hike. What really made me smile though was realizing Dad was carrying their tiny tricycles! I pointed and asked "Future mountain bikers". He grinned, "You bet!".
I could have sat in this spot for hours!

At Valley Green, I crossed over and began to take the yellow trail back toward NW Ave and my car. I missed a turn and ended up on some single track trails high up on the ridge. I was passed in both directions multiple times by horses and mountain bikers. Some of the curves were tight. I had to be extra alert for oncoming traffic that - at least the bikes - would have mowed me down. At one point bikes met horses. I stood off to the side to watch them navigate past each other. I didn't take a photo because I was too focused on not becoming collateral damage! The wrong turn added time and distance to the hike and I've made a note to go back earlier in the month next year to see the colors. I bet it was awesome a few weeks ago!

I had a really nice time today. 2.5 hours in a gorgeous area. I'm looking forward to going back and exploring more of the trails I've not been on before.

In other unrelated to the hike stuff:

I've discovered that Dave and I are not jigsaw compatible. Here is what I came home to earlier this week.

I need my pieces messy. I like looking for them. I had just gotten used to his tendency to group them and not THIS (what you see in the photo) Beyond crazy! :) For better or worse I guess. :)

Also, the End to End Hike I mentioned a few posts ago? Probably not going to happen. My friend Kristi Y helped me with a reality check on that and - although doable - it is a stretch to be ready for that by April 2014. I'd basically be trying to train for an ultra marathon after having done nothing for so long. Maybe another year. Still, I hope to keep adding hiking to the mix of activities. Today was so nice!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Trail Run

Tonight I headed out to Haverford College for some night time trail running. it is fast becoming a standing date for a small (and hopefully growing) group of runners. I was last there two weeks ago and I want to make it regularly.

We meet at 6 pm which is a bit awkward for me. I finish work at 4 and even taking my time changing and driving there I arrive before 5. Perhaps by Spring when my endurance is back and it is lighter longer again I can go for a solo loop while I wait. For now I make sure I have something to read.

November has been its typically roller coaster like self swinging from cold to warm. Two weeks ago we had extra layers tonight it was still in the low 60s at 6:00 p.m. and a little breezy. The loop is just over 2 miles of dirt, gravel and short stretches of pavement. In the daylight it offers peaceful views of the campus and it's duck pond. The trail meanders through the trees over bridges and past ball fields. It is very pretty. In daylight.

At night the trail is still peaceful and the pitch darkness on some parts make it mysterious, challenging and fun. It also makes it unwise - in my opinion - to run it alone. Alone it's scary. With company it's an exciting challenge.

So tonight the group consisted of me Mike and Levi. Mike I know is faster than me right now. Levi I only met for the first time tonight but if he's 25 I'd be surprised. Not hard to guess he's faster than me. There was only one way this would work for me. Honest begging. LOL I told them I knew it would be a struggle for me to keep up but that the only way I could run this tonight - and I really wanted, needed a run - was if they stayed with me. In true running-friend fashion they did and made it feel like my pace was cool for them. I thanked them after one loop and let them go the second loop on their own.

I was gasping for air at the end yet feeling refreshed and glad that I didn't go home. Here's to getting back out there, getting stronger, with luck getting a little faster and looking forward to the chance to pay Mike's and Levi's patience forward some day. :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

89 days, 6 hours, 57 minutes, 38 seconds....

..... Until sister #3's birthday cruise. It's fun to countdown as we wait to celebrate yet another of our 50th birthdays. That's not what today's post is about really but I can work it in.... watch me ;)

Not much has happened since my last post - hence the lack of words. Halloween came and went without a hurricane (2012) or a snow storm (2011) which allows fall to give off color in ways we've missed lately.

Downtown Media - November 2, 2013
Naomi, Mike, Sara and I had a great time on the Horseshoe Trail on Sunday October 20th. You can see photos here.

My attempts to run trails with Misery Loves Company were thwarted once again although this time for something I really wanted to do. I am taking a mediator training course. It's a four day program- two consecutive Fridays and Saturdays So I missed "Lace up the Mountain" this week and I'll miss the "Newbie Run" next weekend. But the mediation course is awesome! In the litigious/combative culture we live in mediation is, IMHO, a better way to go by leaps and bounds. I'm psyched to use what I'm learning to beef up our mediation program at work and to develop a niche for myself outside of work. Completion of the program will allow me to work as a volunteer community mediator.

Through all this great stuff, the fitness part of my life is all over the place again. Kind if like a yo-yo on steroids. So despite my hesitance to sign up for events - having to bail on three in 2103 - I am officially registered for the Tyler 10k on April 5, 2014. I bailed for health not laziness and maybe having a goal is really what I need to keep moving. This will by my first trail race. It's also the first time I've ever registered for something with so little confidence that I can actually do it. Even for my first marathon (2008) I had more confidence - even before I found a group to train with. Life is an adventure though so here I go ......

I've also set my sights on the Brandywine Trail End to End Hike. The Brandywine Trail connects the Horse Shoe Trail at Ludwig's Corner to the Mason Dixon trail 36 miles south in Chadds Ford. According to its website it is accessible only to members of the two groups that maintain the trail - not sure how they police that - and to participants in this event. A 12 hour time limit for 36 miles with SAG wagons at mile 13, 23 and 29 to take you back to the start if you aren't going to make it. Judging by the pace of our Horseshoe Trail hikes I think I can manage this. Anyone care to join me? by the way, trail buddies, I noticed from the results page of the race that some folks run it. :)

If I'm going to do any of this, I need to get my butt training for trails. Can't think about that now (although I know I must soon). For now I need to set a manageable and beatable goal just to keep moving. So a minimum of 2 miles on my feet every day for the next 89 days, 6 hours, 57 minutes, 38 seconds....(See I told you I'd work it in.) 178 miles minimum on my feet by cruise time. And to keep my cycling skills from disappearing a minimum of 10 bike miles every weekend. Without a light yet it's foolish to set a daily goal on the bike right now. I'll run or walk in the dark (I can carry a flashlight if needed) but not bike. Plus if we have a week long blizzard (I wish) I can always do 10 on a trainer. I won't like it but I won't die.
Thanks for all who are still with me despite my constantly moving targets, do-overs and restarts.
Keep smiling and keep moving folks.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Today I went for a bike ride

Today I went for a bike ride. I wanted a destination and decided the soccer game my sister was coaching was a good destination again. However, I didn't want to do the same circuit and I wanted to add some miles. My total two weeks ago was 20. 

I plotted a route that would take me the reverse of my home route last time ending up on Baltimore Avenue heading into the city. I mapped a route to the Art Museum but that seemed too far so I backed it ip to 30th and Chestnut - the post office. 

I left the house a little after 10 a.m. When I got to PlushMill road it was blocked off for a 5k race that was happening through Wallingford. The policeman at the barricade waved me through anyway. When I got to Brookhaven road there was another barricade at Avondale. I didn't want to be in the way of the race so I decided to head to the Leiper-Smedly trail intending to pick up my route where the trail meets Avondale at Yale road. I had wanted to avoid the trail because it is narrow, windy in spots and must be shared with chipmunks and squirrels who don't look before they cross. It was the best way now to get where I wanted to be so I figured I'd go slow and carefully.

But when I got past the arts center and crossed over the runners were coming up off the trail. I knew they would not appreciate sharing with me. So I ended up having to wiggle my way through the streets of  Swarthmore to pick up my route on the other side. This added lots of ups and downs to the route. 

I almost turned around and went home. I don't mind wandering when I plan to wander but I was getting frustrated because this was not my plan. Once I broke through onto Yale Avenue and rejoined my original route I calmed down and really started to enjoy the ride. The streets I was on are a designated bike route alternative to Baltimore Pike. They are wide and comfortable. 

Once I got on Baltimore Avenue there is a bike lane. But it's between parked cars and the trolley so between car doors opening and cars moving over for trolley ....well you get the idea. I made it through just fine. :)

 Now I was on the route I followed for my walk to Independence Hall on July 4th. The same set of houses that were decked out for 4th of July were also gussied up for Halloween. I took photos here and again in the city. I'll edit this post later and add them as well as a link to my route. Don't have access to my PC right now. 

So on I went to 30th and Chestnut. Here I stopped to eat half my apple and enjoy the view and hustle bustle of the city. From here I headed down Walnut street toward Upper Darby where Christine's soccer team was playing. This part of the ride was mostly uneventful although I was a little confused by the bike lane and the left turn lanes every other block. It is a one way street and the bike lane is on the left. I wasn't sure where I was supposed to be when the bike lane morphed into the left turn only lane. I decided to hug the right side of the bike/turn lane at these intersections. No collisions and no horns blowing at me but I'm still not sure I was where I supposed to be. I'll have to check with my biking friends and family. 

The only thing that kept this stretch from being entirely uneventful was a silly fall where I banged up my knee a little. I'm still not sure what happened. I was slowing down to stop at the light. I put my foot down to balance on the curb and instead went over sideways on the sidewalk. My left knee took the brunt of the fall. I 'll probably have a bruise tomorrow but no real damage. 

I arrived at the soccer field too late for the games but watched a second team my sister coaches do some drills. I finished my apple and stretched a lot and went on my way home. 

I was at 21+ miles now and it wasn't long before my legs were asking me to stop. In hindsight, I should not have gone as far as 30th street on the first leg. But I had to get home so I plugged away. I did ok until I got to the hill coming up State Road just past the route 1 ramps less than a mile from home.  I was struggling and weaving as a result of my leg fatigue so I decided it was really safer to get off and navigate this curvy climb walking on the other side where there was a nice wide shoulder. 

I had a great time today . I passed by several neighborhood block parties. There were lots of tents, bbq grills and people enjoying a nice- if cloudy - fall day. I'm sorry I missed my sister's team's games but they tied one and won the other so I'm happy for them. I should have done shorter miles. 22 - 25 would have made more sense than 30. But I feel good and after lots of stretching when I got home my legs have forgiven me. Grudgingly, perhaps, as they are still a bit cranky but nothing that will keep me from the Perkis People hike tomorrow! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

From Sweet Apples to Green Lagoons

Tonight's run was at Linvilla Orchards. I met Maggi and Kristen there at 5:30. The trail map says the Linvill Trail is 3.5 miles and the Indian Orchard spur off the Linvill Trail is 1.5. Either we missed a turn or the 3.5 includes the 1.5 or the trail map mis-stated the length. No worries, though. 2 miles is 2 miles. I got to add Kristen to my list and tonight was my fourth exercise day in a row- something I haven't done in a very long time. :)

The trail goes around the apple and pumpkin orchards that are bounded in part by Linvill Road and Knowlton road. There were some open fields as well that likely held some other crop long since harvested. The smell of the apples was very strong and quite pleasant. Kristen and Maggi are doing the same 5k on Sunday (Hero 5k in Collegeville); Kristen is doing a 20 miler on Saturday in prep for the Philly marathon; and Maggi is going trail running with Ryan and Sophorn on Saturday. So they were content to take it easy and chat which of course suited me just fine.

My hip, which was bothering me again this morning, felt good the entire time. I'm sure some of the pain this morning is old age morning-ness. Keep moving and keep smiling right? And I did do a lot movement and stretching as I could throughout the day and that helped. Still, I think it was wise to avoid the orchard trail which is a bit steeper. Having said that Linvill was not as flat as advertised but we managed.

While my hip was good my breathing not so much and now as I sit at home writing this my throat is thick and I have a cough. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It's humid out and we haven't had that first frost yet. I'll be fine once the pollen dies and I get my endurance back.

We did make one wrong turn - the angle of the trail marker was goofy. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. We ended up circling a very ugly looking bright green swampy pond. Kristen was spooked and I have to admit that it did have the look of something that could house a creature of some sort.

As we returned to our cars the rain drops started. The weather forecast was off by about an hour in predicting the start of the rain. So all in all the length of our run was perfect.

I arrived home to find Dave on the phone with Verizon. We have no Internet or TV so this will have to post tomorrow. Friday is a rest day and date night. Popcorn for dinner and a movie! :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Spider webs, a goose and loons

Oh my! We ran again tonight at Haverford College. This time though we were armed with headlamps, flashlights and reflective gear so we could manage two loops. Seriously, it was like night and day from one loop in the setting sun and one in complete dark. It felt like a whole new trail the second time around. It was awesome!

Having learned my lesson from last week I hugged the right side of the trail tonight so the only thing I collided with was SPIDER WEBS. Strange too they were not there the first time around. Someone theorized that the spiders were using us for target practice in the dark. On one particularly tree root filled segment we were laughed at by a GOOSE. It was more of a cackle than a laugh actually and this prompted Maggi to tell a story about LOONS at her aunt's house. The story came complete with sound effects. I can only imagine what others on the trail must have thought when they heard that....or what it is they thought they heard.

I was a little annoyed on the first loop when my stupid left hip flexor started acting up. I tried to warm up before we started but obviously not enough. By the start of the second loop - a little over 2 miles - it felt better. More warming up is necessary and more regular stretching every day I guess.

Tonight I met Destrie a new runner with MLC. She is a very fast runner but stayed with us long enough for me to count her on my list of people I have run, walked, biked or hiked with. I also ran with Sara for the first time ever and added her to the list and realized that Naomi wasn't on my list either. We haven't run together since March! Hard to believe. So I could have added her last week. I'm up to 35 now with a 75 days left to hit 50 by December 1st.

Tomorrow some of us are meeting at Linvilla orchards to run a trail there and then Friday is a rest day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stupid %#$@! Redneck Pick-Up Driver

Ok if you know me well you know that I do not generally curse or call people names (at least not out loud) but tonight was one of the exceptions. Grrrrrr...But let me start at the beginning of what was mostly a very nice evening.

Dave and I were headed to the Chipotle in Havertown to help our friend Kristie raise money toward her efforts to go to Nicaragua with Buildon. I wanted to get some bike time in tonight as well. So I left on my bike and asked Dave to time his arrival for 45 minutes later. I mapped a route and off I went.

There was no way around spending some time on Route 1/Township Line Road for a bit but I had been on this same stretch of road on Saturday when I rode to my sister's soccer game. 5 pm on Tuesday has a different traffic volume than 9 am on Saturday but the shoulder is wide for most of the ride and I never felt unsafe. Drivers were courteous and I was paying attention to where I was. Still, I was happy to make a right on to quieter residential streets shortly after passing the State Road cut off.

Then I travelled mostly Marvine Road which runs parallel to Township Line (RT 1) through to Lansdowne Avenue. Every intersection has a stop sign which was a nuisance but every driver I met there was courteous and let me go on my turn. Two actually waved me ahead of their turn which they certainly did not have to do and I appreciated it all the more.

The left turn onto Lansdowne Avenue was not fun. I got off and walked across, then went right back on to Route 1 and - according to the mapping program - the restaurant should have been a block down on the left.

It wasn't.

When I first saw the map I had trouble picturing a restaurant where it said it would be. I called Kristie to get help. She wasn't sure where to go from where I was so she was going to check and call me back. Before she was able to do that, a kind woman pedestrian stopped and offered assistance. The woman told me I wasn't the first to be sent the wrong way. The restaurant was brand new as was the shopping center and the mapping programs weren't quite on board yet. No worries I turned around and headed the right way. Again on Route 1, again having to cross Lansdowne but never feeling unsafe. I was very aware of the traffic but everyone behaved so it was all good.

I arrived at the shopping center and navigated my way through it. I came to a stop sign and stopped. The car at 90 degrees - which was their first - went through. I looked one more time to be sure and saw a pick up coming the other direction to the  stop sign. He wasn't close to the stop sign yet. I proceeded through. Pick up not only decided to ignore the stop sign AND cut the corner so when I reached halfway across he was headed right for me. I shouted, he stopped. Then he proceeded to roll down his window and scold me. I was FURIOUS. (and scared and shaking). I yelled right back at him. "I was there first!" (by a long shot) "Yeah, well you are gonna be the first to get killed" was his reply and he drove off.

Sheesh! Dave arrived shortly thereafter. We put my bike in the van, had a nice meal with friends for a good cause and Dave drove me home. I was calmed down enough by the end of dinner to cycle home but it was getting dark and I don't have front light yet. Plus the temps tonight were right on the edge of where my ears hurt in the wind. I needed covering.

Still with the messed up direction to the restaurant I put in 8.5 good miles. Riding was the perfect follow up to extended hip opening work we did in yoga class last night that left me a bit sore this morning. It was a good ride and a good evening ... except for Stupid %#$@! Redneck Pick-Up Driver.

There were way more nice drivers on the road than him. Thank goodness.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What's Next......

Back in June I spent 30 days trying to develop new eating habits which basically involved cutting out grains and processed foods. I did well and have more or less stuck with the concept since. I'm not perfect - nor do I want to be. Those 30 days did create a habit that has served me well through what I've decided to call the Summer of the Blerch.

Recently I broke through my mental haze on both the bike and on foot. So on Sunday, after Canadian Thanksgiving on Saturday - where all nutrition bets are always off - I embarked on a 55 day attempt at strict (er) adherence to better eating. Why 55? Why not 8 full weeks or 56 days? Because December 6th-7th is annual family cookie bake weekend and December 7th (which would have been day 56 or the end of 8 full weeks) involves breakfast at Shady Maple. Enough said? :)

In addition to strengthening my seat on the better nutrition bandwagon I am also going to take advantage of the haze breakthrough and get back into a fitness routine. It will be neat to see how the two work together. I'm not going to write a "must stick to it" fitness plan. I'm not up for that. Instead I'm going to do my best to balance trail running and biking from week to week. I will add hiking and at home body weight exercise to keep things interesting.

Weekdays will be tough with sunlight waning but I am getting a new headlamp that I can switch onto my bike helmet so I can get in some miles or minutes on foot or bike a few days a during each week. I am not the only one who likes night running and I know others who will join in which is a great for accountability.

For motivation, on November 1st I will sign up for the Tyler 10K Trail Run. It's scheduled for April 5, 2014. It's run at Tyler (duh) Arboretum right here in Media. It will be my first trail race. For cycling motivation through the winter, I have set my sights on joining at least one local cycling club for group rides starting in April.

So 2014 is shaping up to be the year of trail running and biking. I have been fearful of both in a group setting. I have to remember that very few of my fitness buddies care if I (or anyone) is slow or awkward or whatever. And I'm cyclists are the same. There is a time and a place for everyone. I used to be the first to tell everyone that.... time to start taking my own advice.

Stay tuned. Oh and I've already been tested. The hardest thing for me is controlling my sweet tooth. If I can resist I'm good but once I give in... it's a fast downhill spiral. Today at work someone dumped a humongous bowl of Halloween candy on us. It's loaded with Reese's Peanut Butter cups. I did not touch them. 2 days down; 53 to go. :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

And Then There Is Fred

Saturday (October 12) was the family's celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving. I am always asked what's the difference between Canadian and US Thanksgiving. The food is the same and the reason for celebrating is basically the same as well. The differences lie in two distinct areas.

1. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. We originally celebrated it here in 1999 when I surprised Dave with a visit from his daughter, husband and their infant son, Cole (from Canada as is Dave originally). It was such a hit with everyone including my side of the family that we now have as many of them as can make it in October; leaving everyone free to visit other family sides in November.

2. Canadians however need lessons in making long weekends. US Thanksgiving is on a Thursday and most people (except retail of course) have off for four days. Canadian Thanksgiving is on a Monday (it's actually tomorrow). I don't get it.

CanThan 2013 was celebrated by the return of "Hats" otherwise known as "Four on a couch". We haven't played it at CanThan for several years. However, given Uncle Dave's supply of baseball hats we do have a good setup for it.

The rules: Each player dons a hat or does not don a hat. You sit around the room alternating hat wearer, no hat wearer, hat wearer, no hat wearer. Get the idea? If you don't you will likely get picked last to be on someone's team. (Fortunately we don't use playground rules so you're good).

By the way, there is one more chair/seat than people in the room. That's n+1 seats with n being the number of people in the room. If you didn't get alternating hats don't bother trying to get that one. Just stick with me I'll get you through.

Next, the names of everyone in the room are written on separate pieces of paper and placed in a... well this year it was the salad bowl. ( Yes, the salad was gone and the bowl cleaned. ) Each player then picks a name from the hat. You may get your own name or someone else's. We used to play you couldn't get your own name but then it took way too long to even get started.

The person sitting to the left of the empty chair/seat goes first and calls from someone to sit in it. If I went first for example I might say "I want Dave to come sit next to me". The person who has Dave's name on their paper comes and sits next to me. It might be Dave or it more likely (and for more fun) will be someone else. Now you have to remember who is "Dave". The person to the left of the now vacated seat calls another person. And so on.

The object is to move people around the room to negotiate four members of your own team (hat or no hat) onto the couch.

Now if it weren't difficult enough to remember who is who when they aren't who they 'appear' to be we have to deal with knowing and remembering which names were put in the hat and who calls who by what name. An easy example is that my dad's name in Paul. But in the hat he is "Gumpop" because that's what the majority of the people in the room call him. But there were at least three people in the room who would call him Dad and one who would call him Paul - outside of hats of course. And then there is Fred. Fred's birth name is Erin Claire and - as I learned just this weekend - may also be known as squeegee. Now of course all of this is easy to figure out if you are part of the family or part of our 'extended friends of family'** plan and have attended at least one game of hats before.

This year we had a newbie. Meet Sara, part of the friends of family plan by way of Fred.

Newbies get a cheat sheet. This lets her know which names are in the game since most of us she had just met that morning. Sara gets big high fives though. She played sportingly well for a newbie and was - in my humble opinion - a key player in at least two of the no-hat team's three wins.

Here are the requisite (although forgotten of late) group photos.
Kids (it's all relative...
well except for friends of family plan members
but you know what I mean)

** The friends of family plan is easy to join. No fees, no secret handshakes. You just have to know one of us and get yourself invited. On that note, I will leave with a story that I meant to but neglected to share with the family yesterday. When sending an email confirmation to everyone about Thanksgiving advising of the totals and who was bringing what, I mis-entered Jimmy's gmail address and it went to a different J Pollum. I received a very nice reply from a Ms. Pollum who lives on the west coast informing me that my message did not reach the intended recipient. I thanked her and let her know she was welcome to join us if it weren't for the distance. Maybe next year :)