Kayaking on the James

On Saturday afternoon, Andrew and I pulled out the kayaks for the first time this season.  The weather was warm, but mostly cloudy, the river level was high, and we knew we were in for a good afternoon.  But before removing the kayaks from the garage, we had one of those arguments about nothing.  When we bought the house, Andrew built a pulley system on the ceiling of the garage to store the kayaks (perk #107 of marrying an engineer.)  We currently use our garage to store lots of things that are not cars, so in order to get the kayaks down without dropping them on anything, we needed to turn them as we lowered.

Andrew: “Okay. I need you do hold the center of the kayak and rotate it as I lower.”

(The kayak is still at head level for me, and I have to lean over a work bench to reach the center.  Andrew lowers one side so I have some more slack to work with.  A watering can is knocked off a shelf after a failed attempt to turn the dang boat.  Andrew gives me an exasperated look.)

Catherine: “I’m trying!  I don’t know what you want me to do!” 

Andrew: “Turn the kayak so it’s facing that way!”

(Something else is knocked off a shelf by the hanging kayak.)

Catherine:  “I can’t do that from the middle!  I need to pull it over from the front!”

Andrew: “Then do that!”

We lowered the kayak to the ground, and the argument–more of a discussion with raised voices–blew over as quickly as it started. 🙂  Do you ever have arguments like that?  Ones in which you are frustrated with a situation but take out your frustration on another person?  I am definitely guilty of it… and I have a feeling I’m not the only one.  Still, I probably need to work on that.

We loaded the kayaks on top of the car, and headed to the riv-ah.  We started at Huguenot Flatwater;  Andrew dropped off me and the boats, drove downstream to Pony Pasture, dropped off his car, and biked back to where I was.

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There’s not a lot of river between the two spots, so we paddled upstream for a bit before going down.  The river was really high, and the “beach” where we usually stop and eat lunch when kayaking was mostly under water.

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We explored the land, paddled around for a while, then eventually headed downstream.  Other than feeling a few drops of rain from the upcoming storm, the weather was great–warm, but not hot, overcast, but not completely grey.  There is a dam along that stretch of the James, with plenty of warning signs instructing boaters where to get out of the water and walk.

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Just after the dam…getting back in the water!

The best part of the trip was the end.  Pony Pasture has lots of rocks and rapids, so it was more exciting than a gentle downstream paddle.  Andrew, the more seasoned kayaker, led the way, and I followed at a distance through the rapids.  When I encountered the first rapid, my boat went entirely under water–still upright, but fully submerged.  Once we made it through, I told Andrew, “I am soaked!”  He laughed and said that he was as well.  When we took the boats out of the water, however, he compared the two and said, “Whoa… you took on a LOT more water than I did!”  I will have to work on my rapid-navigation skills. 😉

We ended a great day with dinner on the back porch–beet greens & kale, polenta, and chicken sausages with a rosemary-mustard sauce that Andrew created:

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Andrew is back out in the kayak today with a group of coworkers!  They are attempting a longer, more rapid-filled stretch of the river.  I am going on a bike ride for as long as the rain will hold off (the sky looks threatening at the moment…)

Happy Sunday!

What’s been the highlight of your weekend so far?

The Bacon Festival and Parking Deck Prison

This weekend Richmond held its first ever Bacon Festival.  I typically enjoy festivals–and our city holds a lot of them: Greek Food, Folk, Wine, Vegetarian, etc.–so when we saw ads for the Bacon Festival (basically Andrew’s dream come true,) we decided to attend.  Admission was free, food and drink tickets were relatively cheap, and who doesn’t love an afternoon of people-watching?

Well, from start to finish, the afternoon was a disaster (though admittedly, many of our complaints were completely out of the hands of the event organizers.)

The festival was held at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market downtown.  Street parking in the area is tough when the aroma of bacon is not luring people in, so we decided to pay to park in a parking garage a few blocks away.  We pulled in, grabbed our ticket, and noticed the line of cars backed up at the exit gate.  The festival had been happening for a few hours at this point, so I assumed there was a wave of people who were leaving around the same time.  This assumption was quickly put to rest when I saw that our line (those entering the garage) had stopped, and people were getting out of their cars.  We asked a man walking by what was happening:  the exit gate to the garage had broken, and despite calls to the owners over the last hour (yes, people had been sitting there for an hour at this point,) no one had come to fix it.  Plus, because no one could exit, there were very few parking spaces available or accessible to those who had driven in, so everyone was just waiting in their cars.  I could feel my blood pressure rising.  There were three parking spaces very close to us, but they were blocked off with caution tape and paint buckets.  After about twenty minutes of sitting, the girls in the car in front of us got out and moved the buckets.  The spots looked fine, and we decided that any ticket we might receive for parking there would be worth not being trapped in the garage for another minute.  As we walked down the stairs to the street we said, “Okay, we’ll go get some good food, probably a drink at this point, and by the time we are ready to leave, the gate will be fixed.”  After all, many calls had been placed notifying those in charge that the gate was broken.  Surely, help was on its way.

Now, in fairness to the organizers of the festival, we were already irritated when we finally arrived, and as I previously stated, many of our complaints were not things they could control.  The parking garage incident.  The fact that it was 90 degrees, but felt hotter because people were so packed in to the Farmer’s Market.  The crowds: the event was so well attended that we could see lines of people wrapping around the perimeter like bacon around a scallop, but could not actually see the front or end of any line due to its length.  Step one was finding where to purchase food and drink tickets.  We saw signs, we followed them, we reached the other end of the market (after saying, “Excuse me… excuse me…” to push through the aforementioned lines,) and saw no tickets.  We ran into a few friends who also could not find the tickets.  I was sweating, hungry, still worked up from the parking garage (and now more worked up from the chaos,) and looked up at Andrew and said, “This sucks.”  He responded, “Yeah.  Want to leave and just walk up back up to Shockoe Slip?”

So we left…  baconless.  On our walk we passed our parking garage and saw one car exit.  Hooray!  That put our minds at ease, and we continued walking, stopping in a bookstore for AC and a bit of browsing entertainment.  A little while later, when we were ready to head home, we walked back to the parking deck and, looking up at the second and third levels, saw tail lights and people standing around outside their cars.  (Not a good sign.)  We arrived at the entrance/exit and saw, once again, a line of cars backed up, unable to exit.  A few people were standing there with their cell phones, calling the number listed at the booth. (As a side note, that’s great that you have an automated payment system, but when there is a large event happening, and you know that deck is going to be a popular parking option, pay someone to work in the freaking booth!!)

At this point people were angry; some had been waiting for hours, with no response from anyone who might be able to help.  Andrew and another man decided there was only one option:  free the people.  Using nothing but brute strength, they lifted the gate and directed people out.

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Drivers were flying out of there like it was a jailbreak at Alcatraz (and cars were boats, of course ;-)), and people sitting on the patio of the restaurant across the street cheered.  Someone called the parking deck’s helpline again and said, “Hey, don’t worry about coming down here.  We’re lifting the gate and letting people out.”  And you know what happened after that call?  They finally sent someone to help!  When the man arrived he walked up to Andrew, and said in a very stern voice, “Sir, put the gate down.”  Andrew, riled up from the injustice of the whole situation, said, “Sir, OPEN the gate.  People have been trapped in here for hours, and NO ONE has come to help.  You can’t do that.”  No argument.

We returned to our car and still had to wait almost thirty minutes to actually get out of the garage (and if I believed in karma, I’d say the fact that my debit card didn’t work at the gate, so he let us out for free was good karma for Andrew rescuing the oppressed… but I don’t believe in karma.)

On the drive home, we had a very stimulating conversation:

“That was a complete waste of an afternoon.”

“I hate bacon.”

To redeem the day, we parked ourselves on the couch and watched a few episodes of Parks and Recreation, went out for sushi, then watched a few more episodes of P & R.

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Cucumber rolls and Leslie Knope to the rescue.

Have you ever been trapped in a parking garage?

Richmonders: what did you think of the Bacon Festival?  Was anyone else in that parking garage?

Friday Cheers, Hay, and Mother’s Day

It’s Monday morning, and Andrew and I had another full, but awesome weekend.

We kicked things off by heading to Friday Cheers–a summer concert series on Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond.  $5 lets you enjoy good music, nice river views, and excellent people-watching.  There are food trucks, and people park themselves on picnic blankets all around.

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(Source)

The bands playing this Friday were The Lone Bellow and Radical Face–I was excited about the former, Andrew the latter.  The music was good, as was the company (we met up with a few of my college roommates but ended up seeing about 30 other people that we know, including my brother!)  The only downside was that, in addition to the food trucks, a cigar store parked its truck on the island (I say that as if it just drove up and decided to stop, which I know isn’t the case;  it may have been a sponsor,) and so many people were smoking.  <Begin smoking rant here> Now, I know smoking is not illegal, and we were at an outdoor event, but as a nonsmoker it stinks to leave a family-friendly event with a sore throat because people decided to light up while standing in very close proximity to other people.  Be kind to your body, but if you aren’t going to do that, at least respect the fact that I am trying to be kind to mine.  <End smoking rant.>

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Playing with the panorama feature on my phone before the concert

Saturday morning I went with a group from our church to work with Shalom Farms.  We spent three full hours putting straw around the potato plants.  That’s a lot of pitch-forking, walking, and squatting!  Also, to add to the week of wildlife I’ve been having, we found a few giant spiders and a nice little snake.  By the end of our time there, I was itchy and never wanted to see straw again.

When I arrived home in the early afternoon, Andrew informed me that he had purchased straw that morning to put in our garden.  Hah.  He had no idea that I’d been doing that all day, but I told him that our little 10 x 20 garden would be a cool down after everything that morning!

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I have no idea how he determined the amount of hay we would need, but he better not quit his day job in favor of farm math;  we used maybe a quarter of one of those… bales?  (I better not quit my day job either in favor of farm terminology…yes, I’m sure that’s a paying job ;-))

Saturday night we went to a graduation party for our good friend Gabe after her graduation from VCU.  The party was held at the Center of the Universe Brewing Company up in Ashland.  We were given a brewery tour, enjoyed time with friends, played Corn Hole, and celebrated Gabe.  We are proud of you, my friend!

For Mother’s Day on Sunday we went to church in the morning with Andrew’s mom, then took her out to lunch to all of our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnam Garden.  Sunday evening my mom and brother came over to our house, and we cooked burgers on the grill.

I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday in honor of my mom.  It’s one of my favorites from our wedding that I think anyone who has taken part in a wedding can appreciate:

Tudor & Storey Wedding

We were all so tired of taking photos, but desperately trying to get the Christmas card shot.  Whitney’s best friend Jeanine was behind the camera trying to make my nieces laugh–or smile… or just look in the general direction of the camera–and her strapless dress fell down, leaving her a bit exposed.  This photo captured everyone’s reaction.

My brother, however, posted the winning photo that captures the coolness of our mom.  When Ross was about ten, he got really into WWF wrestling.  He’d watch the shows on TV regularly, so my mom decided to take him to see it live.  This photo was taken before the show, sporting their WWF t-shirts, and honoring one of Ross’s favorites with the wrestler’s signature move:

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Hah!  Awesome.  Not much else can be said about this one 😀

We had a wonderful day celebrating our mamas and a great weekend with friends!

What was the highlight of your weekend?  

Active Dates

The way I see it, working out with one’s significant other accomplishes two tasks at once:  1. strengthening the relationship and 2. staying physically fit.  You get all the benefits of exercise–lower risk of heart disease, better mood, lower stress, better sleep, etc.–plus the added benefit of spending quality time with the person you love and knowing they are reaping those benefits too.  While we certainly do not work out together every day (Andrew does not share my passion for running,) we try to squeeze a few “active dates” into our weekly routine.

Yesterday afternoon we pulled the bikes out of the garage for the first ride of 2013 (with the exception of riding my bike to the start of the 10k last weekend, but that was for transportation purposes.)  There is a great park a few miles from our house, so we biked there, cutting through neighborhoods to avoid the main roads.  This particular park has a paved path as well as some dirt and root filled trails on which to ride–it’s a pick-your-own adventure park. 🙂  We opted mostly for the trails.

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In some places the trail was so narrow and had so many roots that it was less of a ride and more of a “keep your hands on the brakes and your butt off the seat” controlled downhill. 🙂  To add to the adventure, it’s inchworm week!  Okay, I don’t think “inchworm week” is a thing, but right now there are tons of those little green guys hanging from trees.  As we rode through the park we’d have to lean one way or the other to avoid running into them, and we stopped periodically to pick them off ourselves.  Hah!  (And just in case you were wondering, our wedding occurred during inchworm week last year.  As my grandmother often reminds me, “It was a lovely day… even with all those green worms everywhere.”  Thanks, Grandma 😉 )

In just a couple of hours of biking yesterday, we accomplished great things for our hearts, marriage, and general well-being, which may not have occurred if we’d chosen to sit on the couch watching TV all afternoon.

Here are some other ideas for active dates that can easily be incorporated into your week (especially now that it’s warm outside!):

      -Taking a walk after dinner

      -Hiking on a Saturday

      -Throwing a frisbee in the yard

      -Kayaking

      -Taking a yoga class

      -Playing tennis

      -Swimming in the river/lake/ocean (whatever is nearby)

      -Rock climbing

      -Exploring downtown

So many great possibilities!  Whatever you like to do, just get out there and move with your sweet thang 🙂

Do you have any active dates planned for this week?  

Monument Avenue 10k 2013

On Saturday I went head-to -head with the Monument Avenue 10k, and… here’s how it went down:

Friday afternoon Gabe and I went to the race expo to pick up our numbers, t-shirts, and lots of free samples.  (Gabe is a girl, by the way, in case I don’t know you in real life :))  That evening I laid out my race outfit, just to make sure I had everything together.

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We had Gabe and her boyfriend Jeff over for a pre-race, pasta dinner (brown rice pasta for Andrew and me, whole wheat for Gabe and Jeff.)  Using a basic canned tomato sauce as the base, we sauteed in olive oil some mushrooms, garlic, onion (saving some without onion for me,) and ground beef, then added bay leaves, basil, cayenne pepper, oregano, and thyme and let simmer for a while.

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The pasta + salads + garlic sourdough toast made an excellent meal!  We ended up eating on the back deck because it was such a beautiful night.  It might be time to purchase some deck furniture…

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Yep, we set up four TV trays and took our kitchen chairs outside.  Hah!  A little ghetto, but it worked 😀

After loading up on carbs and getting a good night of sleep, it was race time.  The weather was absolutely perfect: mid 50’s and sunny.  To avoid traffic and parking issues with local races, my preferred method of arriving at the starting line is to drive close, and then bike a mile or two to the start.  It’s a good warm up, and it reduces the risk of arriving late due to traffic and/or parking (which I did once, and ended up running a mile to the start of a half marathon, which started while I was running there.  Stressful to the max.)  Anyway, we parked about two miles away, where Andrew was planning to spectate.  The course is more or less an out-and-back on Monument Avenue, and there’s a large, grassy median where Andrew stood so he could catch us around mile 2 and then again at mile 4.

Gabe and I met up, made our way to our corral, and before long we were running!  Our plan was to start slower than goal pace (which, to run under 50 minutes was about 8:03 min/mile,) then make up the time in the second half.  There’s a strong tendency on race day to get caught in all the excitement and start running too fast, so we had to make a conscious effort to hold back a little.  (Andrew’s thoughts on this plan?  “You should start running fast, run fast in the middle, and run fast at the end!” ;-))

We ran the first mile at an 8:08 min/mile pace.  Mile two was 7:59 min/mile.  When we passed Andrew we were going strong!

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Why are so many other people in the photo looking at the camera?  Because Andrew was yelling, “Goooo!  You’re running so fast!!!  Run faster!!!”  😀  My mom and Walter came to cheer us on too, and we saw them at the halfway point!  It’s always so great to have people rooting for you!

We ran mile 3 at an 8:04 pace.  Somewhere in the next mile, Gabe told me to run ahead.  I yelled at her to stay with me, but at some point I looked back and couldn’t find her, so I kept going (we talked about this scenario before the race… it’s what she wanted. :))  Soon after that I passed Andrew again and gave him my best, “I lost Gabe!” face:

IMG_4314Some people look really attractive when they run.  I’m not one of those people.

Mile 4– 7:57 pace.  Mile 5– 7:47.  At this point I had made up the lost time from the start and felt confident that, unless something crazy happened, I’d break 50 minutes!  My legs and lungs still felt strong.

Mile 6 I ran in 7:31, and the .2 home stretch took about 1:37, which means…

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I BROKE 50 MINUTES!!

Kind of crushed it, in fact 🙂  My official time was 49:00.  My average pace was 7:52 min/mile.  I was ecstatic (still am, really.)  Gabe finished in 50:41, which was a PR for her, so we were both very pleased.

It was a fantastic day, and I am so relieved to finally break that darn 50 minute mark.  Time to set some new goals and keep running!

New Shoes and Muddy Trail Runs

I purchased a new pair of running shoes over the weekend, and yesterday was the day for their debut run.  The weather was so beautiful that I decided not to waste my run on a treadmill, or even the neighborhood roads–I drove to a local park to enjoy the trails.

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The weather was so beautiful, in fact (70 degrees and sunny,) that I blocked out the memory of all the rain we’d received the day before.  A few hours of sunshine aren’t enough to dry a day’s worth of mud, as I soon discovered.

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The trail started out nice enough–shade, soft surface, roots and logs to hurdle–but soon  those logs became bridges over mud puddles.

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Thankfully, I had a fair amount of success keeping the shoes clean, with the exception of a few mud splatters.

I love being in the woods, mud and all.  It reminds me of my childhood, when our house backed up to some fantastic woods.  Every chance we had we’d play there with all the kids on our street, building forts, jumping over creeks, attempting to catch tadpoles with “fishing rods” made from sticks and long grass.  Every section of our woods was named too:  Skull Fort, the Lagoon, Nazi Crossing (there was a swastika spray-painted on a tree and what we swore was a grave nearby.  It was unwise to visit that area alone. )  When the neighborhood on the other side of the woods began to expand, we would rip the neon orange ribbons off the trees, certain this would sufficiently confuse the builders, and we could keep our woods.  <Sigh>

All that to say, I love being in the woods.  Sitting, running, hiking…it’s all very therapeutic, I think.

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My less-new, now broken-in shoes agree. 🙂

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Are you a fan of trail runs, or do you prefer to stay on the roads?