The Worst Thing About Vacation

The worst thing about going on vacation, I’ve decided, is coming back.

Don’t get me wrong, I am always eager to be back in my own bed at the end of a trip, and in my own home. But it’s just as hard for me to then get back into the swing of things. I’ve joked before that at the end of the day I need a vacation from my vacations, but of course that never quite works out. But still, I could use the extra time. My home is a disaster area, if nothing else, and that needs to change pronto.

Still, it’s hard to not find myself looking out the window and wishing for a view more like this:

Reaching to the Sky

Yeah, don’t hold your breath, Greg. Still, maybe when I win the lottery that sort of home away from home can be provided. Until then, I get to deal with all the little things. Like coming home last night and discovering that thanks to a power flicker my television was seriously scrambled. It took almost two hours to finally figure out how to reset everything, and in the future if that happens again it’ll be easily fixable. But it was a major mess, even down to things like a security code being set for some of the features. Yikes.

Oh, and annoyingly, the component cables for my Wii seem to have died; there’s now a nasty yellow tinge being transmitted by them. At least, I hope it’s the problem. I hooked up the standard cables and that’s just fine (if not as good a display), so I ordered a new set to arrive next week and hopefully that will be that. But the whole two-hour ordeal meant that by the time I got to bed, even if I could get up in time there was no way I would actually be able to go for a swim. Instead I did the next best thing; I got into work early, then for my lunch break went for a swim then. It was actually fairly deserted, which is nice to know; no fighting for lanes or such. (And of course, it made me all misty-eyed for the idea of actually hitting the lottery so I could go and do things like swim in the early afternoon.)

(The trip itself was just fine. It’s always nice to see relatives, especially my grandparents. And I can’t remember the last time I sat outdoors and made s’mores over a fire.)

Meanwhile, it’s both sunny out and raining, with rumblings of a storm in the distance. Yay for crazy mixed up signals.

Warm Pre-Summer Nights (and Other Things)

Last night I finally finished my Artomatic installation for this year. I’ve been around 95% of the way done for a week and a half; my wall was painted, my lights were installed, my photographs were hung, my business card holder and guest book holder were both attached to the wall. Happily, the last piece of the puzzle showed up yesterday—yellow vinyl lettering for my name—so I placed it last night (along with labels for the photographs themselves) and it went up with no problems.

I wasn’t smart enough to bring my camera with me, but I did snap a quick photo with my cell phone, enough to give an idea of the finished product. (I suppose I should’ve turned on the lights and taken off the yellow registration card on the left-hand side, but oh well.)

Artomatic Setup

Afterwards, I took the metro back over to L’Enfant Plaza (there was a Nationals Game next door to Artomatic so getting parking there just wasn’t going to happen) and I just kept marvelling at what a beautiful night it was. I can’t remember the last time I’ve walked around DC at night where it wasn’t a busy city street; just a stroll through the monuments, or around the Mall, that sort of thing. It’s so beautiful and peaceful then, and you really feel like you have the whole place to yourself. I need to make time to do just that over the summer.

But more importantly, walking back down the street, looking at the Capitol up ahead, I remember thinking how great it was to still find myself in a real “work in progress” stage of my life. My photography is still in its early stages but it’s been really uplifting to feel like I’m learning. I’m still finding new things I enjoy to do, or rediscovering old forgotten ones. Over the past few days I’ve gotten some really nice e-mails regarding reviews I’ve written. It’s like, yeah, it’s starting to fall into place.

In unrelated news, I had my first allergy serum shot this morning. So far there has been no mutation into some sort of supervillain. Very disappointing. But it did give me time to read 80-odd pages in John Kessel’s The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories, and I’m enjoying the anthology so far. I’ll almost certainly finish it and several other books on my trip up to Indiana, PA this weekend for a family reunion. This reunion closes out two months of craziness when it has come to my weekends. I have almost nothing on the calendar for June and I’m making a concerted effort to keep it that way. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be really nice to see a lot of the extended family this weekend, but I’m going to be happy once it’s over and I’m home and getting to focus on little things, or doing nothing at all.

Isn’t that what warm pre-summer nights are for, after all?

Internet Killed the Chain Letter Star

Am I the only person who misses chain letters?

No, not the current, “You must forward this onto 35 people for good luck, otherwise your house will be crushed by Cthulhu” spate of chain letters, or even the “tell me 25 things about yourself” series of questions (although at least the latter makes the person write something). I’m talking about the old school chain letters, where you added your name onto the bottom of a list of six people, and sent something like a recipe to the person at the top before sending the new letter out to six more people. If that chain went somehow unbroken you’d end up with over 46000 recipes, but of course the reality was never that good.

I was overjoyed, then, to recently get an old school chain letter mailed to me from a friend and former co-worker who lives up in the wilds of Wisconsin these days. It’s a much simpler chain, one with only two rungs. You send a paperback book to the person at the top, add yourself to the bottom (and do so by adding in mailing labels, which is an elegant solution so that there’s no retyping or such), and if it ends up unbroken you’d end up with 36 books in the mail.

The letter referred to it as an informal book club, and I love the idea of it. I actually spent a bit of time trying to figure out who to send my six letters to. They had to love books, of course, but I also didn’t want to send the letter to friends who knew each other, so that  it wouldn’t get stuck on the same people. (So for example, I sent it to only one person in my book club; that way he has the option to pass it along to other members.) I also tried to spread the locations out a bit; one letter went to Oakland, another to Boston, still another to Williamsburg.

Now, of course, I’m waiting to see if I get anything in the mail. How far will the chain reach? Will all six people I’ve sent it to break the chain? (Hopefully not, I tried to think of people who would be equally enamored with the idea.) If nothing else, hopefully the person I sent Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book to will love it. It’ll be fun to see what if anything arrives here. Mind you, I love getting mail that isn’t a bill or junk. So hopefully, I’ll hit the jackpot before too long.

Until then, though, I’m going to be dreaming of chain letters involving chocolate chip cookies arriving at my home. Mmmmm, cookies.

Allergic to Life

Miserable [365portraits: 131]Well, as promised earlier, I had my allergy testing yesterday. Honestly, up until Monday being off the medicine wasn’t too bad, but Monday itself? Utter nightmare. So much sneezing and blowing my nose that two days later my nose is still tender and sore from it all. All the Sudafed in the world, it seems, wasn’t enough to stop the bleah.

Now that the testing is over, though, I’m back on my Allegra and things are much better. Most of the results weren’t much of a surprise, either. Trees, grass, ragweed, dust mites, and cats. Yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep. The dust mites in particular caused a rather alarming reaction, so much that I wish I had my camera with me. It looked like I’d burnt my arm on the stove, it was so red and puffed up. Yikes.

In a few weeks I get to start allergy serum shots, which is exciting. Over time, in theory, I should become less allergic to some or all of these things. Not so crazy about how after getting the shot you have to wait for 30 minutes to make sure there isn’t some sort of horrible reaction, but on the bright side I guess that means I’ll get some reading done.

The only real surprise was a complete non-reaction to dogs, according to the test. To be fair, I’ve been wondering if my dog allergies have been fading the past few years, it’s not been as bad as when I was younger and my eyes would get red and itchy just being near dogs. Still, I can’t see myself rushing out and getting a dog. (Mind you, my current apartment doesn’t allow them so that also makes it a bit easier. Charlie has dog allergies, which also makes the non-dog-owning decision a snap.)

Best of all, though, is that (knock on wood) now that I can start breathing again, I can also get back on the exercise bandwagon. Somehow I suspect spinning class tonight is going to be brutal. Hopefully I can hit spinning, run over to Artomatic and quickly install my business card and guestbook holders, then get home in time for Lost. Since I have to be up pretty early tomorrow, it’ll be interesting juggling all of this plus dinner…

Strangest Marathon I’ve Run

What do you do when your race is cancelled halfway through the experience?

I suppose I should backtrack a bit. After scratching the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2008, followed up by gallbladder removal surgery in early December, I more or less had to start over when it came to training this January. I knew I would need about four months to really get the distance back up, so I signed up for the Potomac River Run Marathon scheduled for May 3rd. It’s a small marathon, in its sixth year, with less than 1000 people signed up.

I got up to 18 miles in early March, then ran the National Half Marathon with pretty good results. Since then, though, I’ve been having some slight issues between a strained tendon and just general free time. After the marathon I tried the run-two-12-milers (instead of one 20 miler) plan, and while I’d hoped to get one more long distance weekend in between it and the marathon, other problems kept it from happening.

So, I knew going into the marathon that I wouldn’t pick up a PR. It was a little disappointing because while 2007’s PR was a good finish time, I also knew I could’ve done better had it not been for the infamous “Greg almost gets hit by a car” incident and I was looking forward to break it. But it just wasn’t in the cards, and with feeling sick and run down the day before, it more or less cinched my feelings that I shouldn’t even try to do so.

Meanwhile, in what was a strange turn of events, seven days before the marathon, the race director sent out an e-mail about the start of the race. It was scheduled to start at 7am and run until 1pm. However, the National Park Service had issued them their permit and instead they had to be done by 11am. So, the start time of the race was changing; there was now an “open start” and you could head out any time between 5:30 and 7am. (The sun itself doesn’t rise until a little after 6am, I might add.) Now, I knew I wasn’t running a sub-4 hour marathon, it just wasn’t in the cards. So, I talked it over with Charlie, and we got to the race site (he was running the half marathon) a little after 5:30, and headed over the start line at 5:44am even as we were drizzled on.

The Potomac River Run Marathon is a slightly odd course; you run along the Mount Vernon Trail, and if you’re tackling the half marathon option you head out approximately 6.55 miles, turn around, and run back. If you’re running the full marathon, you do that twice. Once the rain stopped about two miles into the course, it was actually really pretty. Just a lot of beautiful scenery involving the Potomac River and wildlife. A lot of rolling hills, unfortunately, but oh well. Also, bizarrely, no mile markers aside from miles 1, 13, 14, 25, and 26. (And of course, me without my Garmin.) So, I just look my time, and enjoyed the experience.

I got back to the start and prepared to head out a second time, when Charlie ran up next to me and started jogging along side. “I need to let you know something,” he said. “They cancelled the race.”

Continue reading Strangest Marathon I’ve Run

Pre-Race Jitters

There’s nothing quite like trying to figure out if you’ve got pre-race jitters, or if you’re generally not doing well. I think anyone who’s had the pre-race jitters will agree that they are awfully hard to tell apart from one another!

But yes, I have a marathon tomorrow. I won’t lie, I don’t feel prepared. Several stumbling blocks were hit along the way, plus for my final long run I did the whole “two shorter runs over two days instead of one huge run,” which is a movement gaining a lot of traction in the running community. Really, that was more or less what I was doing for the Philadelphia Marathon last fall, but of course that race never happened so the experiment was a wash. I could end up rocking it out, we’ll see. But add in that the start time of the race got shifted from 7am to 5:30am, and the threat of rain, and I am feeling even less confident than ever. In my head I’m not even shooting for a personal record tomorrow; just finish under the new time constraints and get it over with.

Hydration [365portraits: 122]

In the meanwhile, though, I’m trying to stay hydrated while my body does its best to make me not hydrated. If nothing else, I do like this photo that I took (using a lens and a tripod that were both birthday presents!) so see, it’s not a loss.

Also, I have accomplished absolutely nothing today. Normally that’s ok but I suspect tomorrow might be a lot of the same. Oops. Oh well.

It’s going to be an odd, odd morning tomorrow. Hopefully if nothing else I will get a good story out of it all.