Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Week of Low Stress…..

Breath deeply....Low Stress week is upon us. Because the week leading up to a Marathon should be free from distractions… the Marathoner focuses on their goal.   That is what all of the training books say.   And it makes sense!  Who wants to have their mind clouded with nonsensical , trivial things leading up to a culmination of months of hard training.
So,  Of Course,  This means that this is the week where everything will go wrong.  Ah,  so many things…..let me take a deep breath and recap for everyone…..the low stress things that are cropping up this last week leading up to the Marathon. Unless it happens during Low Stress Week.  
I’ll start with the simple things first.   Stockings!   Last week was a fairly simple easy week of sewing stockings.  One or two every day…..trivial!   Easily done in just a few hours…..No weird questions.   No strange Orders or requests.   And then….
The Gallery…from two years ago puts in a rather large order ( 49 stockings!)  This may not sound like too much….but this many this early could mess up our current supply of materials.   Any other week, and Cheryl would be methodical and calculate exactly what we need,  how much,  what time, Etc.    But this week….Well,  Cheryl has he mind on other things…  Add in several custom orders for dogs and “whales” and various other zoo animals we have not done before and Cheryl’s mind begins to spin.   We have been chipping away at the Gallery’s order slowly as the week progresses….And will probably finish it  after the Marathon weekend is over.   But the lingering thought is still there in the back of your mind….A job unfinished……Boston Marathon 2015 Qualifying Times
Then there is the pressure of Qualifying for Boston.   News has  surfaced that the Qual time for Boston has been moved up…The times are still the same, but as more and more people qualify,   this means that the “First Come/ First Serve”  standard gets tighter.  People who qualified a full three minutes faster than their cut off still may not have been selected.  So…if Cheryl wants to actually GO to Boston…she will have to better her Qual time by a HUGE margin if she wants to make the grade.  Luckily, they allowed me to defer it to January....
Before I forget,  Jury Duty!   That is right…I was selected a while ago and was supposed to start calling in for selection this week!   LUCKILY!   I was able to defer it back to the month of January…after stockings and before the scoring season begins.   hopefully I will not get selected…as I do not desire to stand in judgment over someone’s livelihood. 
Subaru says...Look Under Hood!Then today,   Subaru gave us a bit of a scare.    One of his Boots on the front Axle had cracked,  leaking grease all over.  The Twin Cities is a decent number of miles away and having an axle exposed to the elements that long concerned me. Subie's Cracked Boots!    The CV BOOT cracked, leaking grease.    I looked it up on the internet and You Tube and discovered it was kind of a serious problem!   Add in that I was unaware just how long that crack had been there and what has been going on under the car.   We have been going down some gravel roads lately, and the thought of sand and dust wearing away the U-Joint was troubling. 
Not wanting to add in any more stress to Cheryl’s already Fractured Zen,  I tried to keep things to myself and tried to figure out if I could fix it.   No way!   All the forums and videos pretty much told me to purchase a new axle…..and without the proper tools,  it would have to be a professional for this one. 01-03_subaru_legacy_3l_axles to the Rescue!  
Luckily,  the shop that did the wheel alignment before Grandma’s Marathon took us right away and fixed it!   I was impressed!   They also replaced the other side as the boot on the drivers side was beginning to crack as well,Disaster avoided!  YEAH! just not as badly as the passengers side.  The entire episode took only 2 hours….Not bad for a random Walk-in/non-appointment day.  Aside from the financial hit, I think Subie feels a little better.   As well as myself, knowing that I’m no longer driving a ticking time bomb!  
black_lives_matter  Human Chain around the Finish.And Lastly…..The Professional Protest group “Black Lives Matter”  are planning on disrupting the Marathon itself!   Just when we thought the problems were just on our side,  the Twin-Cities Marathon is having its own set of problems.   Cheryl's Reaction to this News...Apparently,  Black Lives Matter plans on forming a human chain around mile 25, preventing marathoners from crossing the finish line!  They are turning this normal communal  and family event into a political one.   You can imagine how this is unsettling Cheryl. 2011 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon - large lead men's pack during the early miles of the marathon. 2011 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Now I’m all for peaceful protesting, but I’m not sure if the Leaders for BLM really have given this as much thought as they should have.  Don’t they KNOW that the top finishers are all BLACK?     The Africans always are the Elites here….why mess with them? 
At mile 20...people change.....its scary! Additionally,   I know FIRST HAND what happens to Marathoners after mile 22!   It gets UGLY!  Civilized filters humans keep up during social interactions are DESTROYED!  Leaving Pure Human Emotion….and that is not an entirely good thing.

12dbf3db2a37ab078608c05731eda487We humans like our filters….Teenagers Say they want people to be honest and say  things to their face…and not behind their backs…but we adults know better.   You need people to be polite….even if they are being jerks.  Without filters…well,  everyone would cause a scene every time they waited in line at out for the MARATHON STAMPEDE!
And that is what will happen when the Human Tidal Wave of Exhausted Marathoners struggling to qualify for Boston meets the BLM Human daisy chain. BLM Human chain meets Marathon Tidal Wave.....  It could be bad….it could be nothing.   It DEFINATLY will cause stress this last week leading up to the Marathon. 
So,  There it is!   Marathon week has become so stressful,   that I’m exhausted just writing about it!  And we have not even begun to run ( Hey! That rhymes!) And I was planning on using that mass transit to get around.... I’m hoping that the BLM thing gets resolved peacefully.  There will still be plenty of stress for me trying to navigate the city to take pictures.  Overloaded stress already.... I don’t need any one laying across the green line tracks to get me any further confused or lost. Heck,  I’ll probably get lost WITHOUT BLM’s help.  Add in the Bomb sniffing dogs, officials escorting me off the field, and high parking rates of the Twin Cities and our plate is already overflowing! 
So now the Joke will be:   What is the difference between a white and a black marathon?    The Black marathon is only 25 miles!  ( Hey!   It’s their Title, not mine…)   Why won’t the Black Marathon go the extra Mile?  Does it still qualify for Boston?   Do Kenyans Qualify as black people?  Will Subie enjoy his new boots on race day?    ( Ok, the jokes are getting lame now)  Hope everyone else's weeks is less worrisome than ours.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Full Lunar Eclipse!

Sure is  bright for an Eclipse! If you missed it,   There was a FULL Lunar Eclipse last night.   I tried my best to capture the event with our lowly Nikon….but the camera’s “safety feature” ( to keep you from taking bad pictures at night) Open shudder plus wobbly Ethan makes for "Shooting Star Moon!" would kick in and leave the shudder open for 3-5 seconds longer than normal.  This would cause me to wobble and distort the image.   I did manage to capture a couple of “almost decent” shots.  But the NASA web site had much better pictures  ( and video!) of the event as it happened.  

 An even BETTER picture of the eclipse Finally, a picture that almost turned out! It was a sight to behold.   Even though I’m technically not a astronomy geek,  it is cool to look up at the night sky and see something that will not occur for another 20 or so years.  ( last one was in 1986,  I think….)   The moon never really disappeared behind the shadow of the earth.  Instead, it turned a deep orange/red.  One of the last ones.   Looks brighter than it really was.   Shudders let too much light in..

Cheryl was outside with me for this one…at least for the first two hours of the shadow.   We decided to call it after the moon went completely dark.   I continued to monitor it online in real time….occasionally darting out to check the progress here in Iowa.    After the Moon moved behind the large tree by the apartment,  the visibility was compromised.  Not that it mattered much as I simply could not capture it with the camera. 

So…if you missed it….you will have to wait for another 20 yeNASA's Photos are better!!ars for the blood moon full lunar eclipse to happen again.   Then again…perhaps you really do not care about the night sky much as you tend to sleep during those hours. Total-Lunar-Eclipse-in-Athens I hear ya….not everyone is a  night owl like myself.   However,  sometimes you are rewarded for staying up past your bedtime.  Sunsets, Northern Lights,  Falling Stars and Lunar Eclipses just to name a few.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When in Doubt…Try Flying A Kite…

Look at the JOY a Kite BringsWith little to write about lately,  I decided over the last couple of days to fly a kite.  I purchased one at the Omaha Half-Marathon and have been itching to give it a go on these wonderful fall days.  A couple of things…..

One…I have not flown a kite since Grand Haven…..along the beaches of Lake Michigan.  To say I’m rusty might be a bit of an understatement. Not that I was ever a “Pro” to begin with….I can count the number of times I flew kites during my childhood on one hand!  Why is the Wind " Just Wrong" all the time.Perhaps the desire to fly one in my later adult years has something to do with trying to capture a previously unrealized childhood dream.

Second…..a key ingredient for flying kits… need WIND!   You would think living in Iowa, there would be a SURPLUS of wind.  Heck,  when I purchased my toy helicopter several years ago…I could not even attempt it outside because the wind would blow it all over.   But the second I purchase a kite to adapt  for the location…Woosh!   Gone!RC Copter flying!

  Ok, perhaps my inner Skeptic is taking over.   There IS wind here most of the time….just not enough to fly a kite I guess.  RC Copter falling.....Just enough to keep you from playing with toy airplanes and RC helicopters  outside, though….The Wind represents that perfect spot in life that keeps simple humans from achieving happiness.  I’m used to it. Life would be too boring if happiness could be achieved on the cheap.  That was why I spent the money to buy the “expensive” kite…..

Is a balloon as much fun as a Kite? You see,  simple kites just float up in the air and drift off like a helium balloon….yeah!  Look at it float up and up…

But like helium balloons, after the initial “Wow!  It Rises!” feeling has subsided,   it gets pretty darn boring.   That is why I purchased a “STUNT KITE!”  One where I could control and dive and dart around the air!   RRRROOOWWWWW!   WHOOOOSH!  ( Dive Bomber sounds.  Similar to  the Light Saber sounds I make when Playing Jedi….)  Heck NO!  Kites are WAY more fun...even thoug I have never flown one personally....

Unfortunately,  Stunt Kites require a second person….and most importantly…WIND!  Lots of  steady Wind!  With enough wind I could skip the humiliating step of asking Cheryl to help me fly a kite.  Not that she would do it anyway.   I’m Pretty Almost Positive sure that she would refuse…..and even though I know this..I would STILL probably most likely beg for her assistance….where, IFThis is why kite flying is a TEAM effort...., in all unlikelyness she DID assist me…it would be ugly.   She would throw the kite up upside down or backwards and then announce that I have, “one more try before I go back home.”  putting additional pressure on me.  And I simply can’t handle that burden of expectations.  Especially when there is no Wind.    So… I sit….inside on a wonderful fall day…..Because the wind in Iowa has let me down. 

Other than that….we have a Marathon coming up next weekend. ONE WEEK TO GO!!!!   Only 5 more days until things begin to get crazy.   Cheryl will be chasing down that Boston Qualifying time and I will be chasing down Cheryl with the camera,  Trying to get the best possible race photos.   AND  I hear there are TONS of Mascots to capture…..the Hunt will be on.  Mascot-Marathon

Hope everyone is enjoying their Fall Afternoon…..even if you live in Iowa  and are NOT flying kites today.  Maybe there is more wind in your area.   My guess is that the “FUN” in flying kites must be Awesome, because I have yet to experience it to the MAX as an adult.   And we Humans make things out to be mythical whenever we can not experience or capture them.      

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Little Taste Of HOPS

A small cluster of the hops I gathered from our run. Small cone..see how the tips are turning brown already...  I have been meaning to blog about this for several days now.   On our last Long run,  I decided to gather up a small handful of Hops from a wild plant that is growing along the trail.   The poor plant has to really struggle to compete with the native flora of Iowa….But the Idea that there are Hops Growing WILD here in Iowa…got me thinking.

These guys smell like a combination of Pine and Lemons.First….What could I do with them?   Well,  Brew Beer!  Of Course!   But I have NO idea on how to brew beer….  BEER! Sure, I read up and watched several hours of You Tube Videos…but the Equipment and investment to make  two cases worth of beer just seemed like a pain.   You would have to have a Large Dose of Passion to justify the effort you would be making for that small of an outcome.   True…You could say that beer you brewed yourself has a flavor like no other, but for the same amount of  money…you could explore the endless number of craft beers that seem to come out every day lately.   They all taste different…and many are simply wonderful! All the stuff you need for BEER!

Similar to Baking, there are “Secret Ingredients” that can be added to make things “interesting”, ( spices, ratios, brew times, etc.) but there is a learning curve….and a mess….and we live in a small Apartment in Wellman, Iowa…I have turned my entire Apartment into a Woodshop before…and we all know how well that went for us. ( look up Pre-2010 posts on this blog!)

 Large Hops Producers    So, What about Growing them?   Wild varieties might offer something the larger commercial versions do not.   So…I did a little more research.   Turns out,  Hops farms are exploding as the craft beer industry takes off.   In fact, it appears the hops are behind in their efforts to meet the demand.  And then I stumbled upon something interesting….

Michigan…remember Michigan?   Good Ol’ Michigan….Michigan finds salvation in HOPSFinancially disastrous, toxic wasteland for employment of College Graduates.   Once the Auto Industry took a hit,  the housing and everything else had a domino affect on the economy.  ( And we had a “Governor”…but that is another story)  Now that the Cars are gone, (and most of the college Graduates….)  Michigan is trying to redesign itself into the Land of Craft Beer.   ( Good Luck competing with Wisconsin!) 

However,  It appears to be bearing fruit, as they have had several success stories AFTER we left  Michigan Hops Producer Video( Did I mention this economic surge came after we basically fled/got kicked out of Michigan?)   We have sampled a few of their beers and they are very Rich in flavors, colors, and textures.   Many are award winning…and we even have several offerings here in Iowa.  Nice to know that Alcohol can SAVE a STATE that is floundering.

In hind sight…it seems like a “AH HA!  Why did we not think of this BEFORE????” moment.   Michigan is surrounded by vast amounts of some of the best tasting water in the US.  ( water being a key ingredient)  Then there are the cereal producers that can grow the grains locally.  Sugar from Beets, Yeast from the various fruit producers lining the coasts.   The last ingredient…is the hops. 

Large equipment is needed to process these guysHop farms are a wonder to watch ( check them out on You Tube)  They grow as vines, and the farmers dangle them off  lines up to 7 meters tall!  The Group of Farmers who purchased the processing equipment. click to watch the Video....I guess there is a “short” version of hops  that grows lower to the ground, and this is what Michigan has invested in.  They have a “unique” flavor of garlic, green onion, and oranges..that give them a golden niche market for small breweries trying to set themselves apart form the “Big Guys”.  Farmers in Michigan had to Pool their resources to purchase the processing machinery from Germany so they could harvest the hops mechanically.  

Hops growing from Rhizomes.   Easy to transplant.Another cool fact I learned is that Hops are Rhizomes!  They grow not by seeds, but rather by digging up the root and cutting it into smaller sections.   Then re-planting them in the desired location.   I guess it is best to start them in a greenhouse before just transplanting them anywhere.   Since I am not much of a “gardener”,  I would probably leave this to someone else.  But the thought of digging up those plants and moving them closer to our house does sound appealing.  

So,   I’m still not sure what I will do about my discovery of Wild Local Hops…most likely, nothing.   It appears they may have gone past their harvest date for this year.  ( brown tip on the cones) but it is amusing that Michigan discovered the financial gains of beer only after we figured it was a doomed state.  Hmmm.   Can Iowa do this?Hats off to the guys who came up with the idea!   Michigan already produces some awesome wines.  Beer seems like just another logical step. 

So..If anyone from Iowa is reading this and desires HOPS for their own private production of micro beer….Check out the Kewash trail 4 miles from the Keota Trail head. Chances are everyone already knows of them but simply ignores them since it is only 2 small plants growing in the wild.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Omaha (Half)- Marathon Results!…with A Police Escort….For Me.

Another Official Race ...completed! So   Cheryl set yet another Personal Record for her Half Marathon distance.  That is 13.1 miles in 1:42:25!   A full minute and a half faster than her previous PR.  She came in 4th in her age group. ( so close!) Cheryl shows off the New Tech Shirt  20th Female to finish with a average pace of 7:49 per mile.   Not bad!  The purpose of this “Training Race” was to work on the marathon pace for Twin Cities ( Anything under 8 minutes per mile) and that was accomplished.  Yeah!  Now that we got the “unimportant stuff” out of the way…..let’s continue with the interesting stuff….   Let’s go!

'Twas an early Start Another Early start for us….The weather was great for running!  50 degrees at the start.   A Little cold....but a "good" kind of cold. We  found the $8 parking lot and set up shop.  (Rip off!  We could have parked for free!) 


Cheryl checks out the Crowd Checks out the Competition....   Cheryl and I walked around a bit, scoping out the area and checking out the crowd.   You can tell a lot about a race by eyeing up your competition. 

  Checks out the Start Line....Cheryl came away with the sense of  confusion.   Cheryl is now officially....comfused.

The crowd seemed smaller…just over 1100 runners….most running the half marathon.    I guess there were only 50 people running the full marathon!   ( And a female won it!) But we were here only for the Half as well.

The Crowd Parts for the Mighty Ethan! The Crowd makes sure NOT to block awesome Pictures of Cheryl A smaller crowd is good for me…because I can find Cheryl in the crowd easier.   Check out how the crowd parts for me, allowing me to get a clear shot of Cheryl while she is imbedded in a cluster of runners.   It was like I was being allowed special treatment!

The gap between the “elites” and the average runners was pretty striking in this race.  Cheryl was pushed toward the front with other “serious” runners ( due to her planned finish pace) .   However, no one was from Kenya; Cheryl leads the non-Elites And….the gaps between runners was pretty huge in some cases. ( The skill level among the runners that were there was quite different)   Example…the TOP three females in Cheryl’s age group were almost 5 minutes ahead of her!   ( But hey!  Cheryl was closing in fast!)

Not even a challenge..! I managed to get a couple of Mid-Course shots of her as she closed towards the finish.  I knew she was on pace for a new PR about a mile and a half out from the finish. 

Running through the gate I wondered why I have the whole area to myself.... And here is were the fun begins!   I ran to the finish and found that they were diverting people into the stadium.   I followed some people and “finished” runners into the tunnel and was able to capture even better close-ups of Cheryl as she ran past.  I could hardly believe that I had such a great place to take pics from.  I could not understand why there were not more people here….Then I thought most of the spectators were still out on the course waiting for their runner to come in.    Cheryl was in the front with the “faster people”.  

Cheryl doing the last lap... Passing one last runner before the finish. I then followed Cheryl down as she ran a lap around the field.   I snapped a few moments as she kicked towards the finish.    (I was cheering kind of loudly)  I looked around and saw that I had total access to the finish line.    Unlike Grandma’s Marathon,  these smaller races tend be slightly friendlier…..or so I thought.     This was going to be the first time I could capture Cheryl finishing! An Official Finish Crossing ME! Time to get that Official Finishers Medal  

Moments after I captured these semi-blurry shots,  I heard a voice asking if I had credentials to be here…..

This Medal is Heavy!At first I thought it was the camera man taking “official” pictures.   But instead it was a Racing Official!   At least I Think he was a race Official,  He looked Official….and we were at a race.  Come to think of it…I can’t remember much about him other than he had glasses..( I think…)

My first thought was,” Yeah, I’m taking pictures of her….See my camera?”   I guess that was the “wrong” answer….Cheryl barely got her medal before seeing me get “escorted” off the field. Cheryl's View Point....Ethan being Escorted off the Field! Kind of embarrassing….But I got my finish photos…..And how was I to know that I was not supposed to be there?…..There were no signs

Cheryl thinks that no one stopped me because I was dressed in my official “coach” outfit.   ( Khakis with a black button-up shirt)   I must have blended in with the rest of the “official” people.  Perhaps I blew my cover when I began cheering for one specific runner.  Ah well!  At least they did not think I was a terrorist….(I left the Hello Kitty Satchel Charge in the car!)

Cheryl poses with the Loot!So,  Being a little shell-shocked about the faux-pas, I shuffled along towards the outside where Cheryl showed off her HUGE OFFICIAL Finishers Medal.   Omaha's race might be small, but their medal is HUGE! And by HUGE I mean it is the largest medal in her collection thus far.  I hear that Arkansas has the largest finishers medal for a Marathon.   Perhaps that is their draw.  After all, only 50 people showed up for the official Marathon here in Omaha.  Sometimes you have to give non-local people an incentive to drive out to participate.

Finisher's Medal with Ribbon...So, in passing,   it was a good race, though possibly not very memorable ( aside from the “misdemeanor trespassing” experience for me!) We accomplished a training race at a desired Marathon Pace;   Achieved a new PR finishing time; AND ran a race in a new State,  (Nebraska.)  I have never been in Nebraska before, so I can cross another State off my list…Bummer there were no mascots to pose with this time.  ( I would have been happy with a giant ear of Corn)

In addition,  it was a fairly close race, (meaning:  Close to home)  even though it took us longer to get back home than we had thought.   Ah well,  a safe trip is always a good one.   Cheryl is now ready for the Tapering weeks leading to the Official Twin Cities Marathon in two weeks.   Hopefully the anticipation will not derail the experience….we shall see.   In the mean time, enjoy the additional pictures. 


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