Sunday, December 06, 2015

October 25, 1985 - The Circle of Life and Death

Despite the photos I post here and elsewhere, I'm more than just a goofy face with a bad sense of humor. Deep down, there are raw emotions. This is going to bring up some of them, so if you're prone to crying, get a box of tissues. If you're like me and have a heart of stone, grab a few tissues anyway.

I recently wrote about "the accident" I was in when I was a kid. I covered a lot of the basics of the story and it's a good place to start before reading this. So go ahead, read it, and then come back.

Just before Thanksgiving, I went to the office and started my day like I normally do. Because I was in a rush to get to work, I didn't check my phone for emails, messages, Instagram posts, etc. So when I got to work, I was surprised to see a new Facebook friend request. Surprised because it doesn't happen often. It wasn't anybody I knew, not a member of the KREndurance Team, and the only common thread I could find between us was that we've been to the Biltmore. I was about to delete the request when I decided, on a whim, to read the message she had sent.

Juliet's first Facebook message:

I just about shit a brick.

Her message gave enough detail to make me about 90% sure she was who she said she was and more importantly, she was somebody I've been looking for for decades.

After a few messages and emails, I was 100% sure of not only her identity, but I was also sure of her character. It was pretty easy to skim through her Facebook history and verify the details in the accident report. It was also easy to find the newspaper articles and death certificate for her mother. And reading about her story just made everything firm up. It was clear she wasn't a spammer.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let's pause for a moment. My memory, my dad's, my mom's, they've all changed over time and there are conflicts. It's been 30 years, so I expect that. So if there's an inconsistency, well, time happens. But if you have first-hand knowledge of the event, then please feel free to chime in and clarify things. After all these years, I'm sure somebody got something wrong. Even in the past few weeks, I'm sure I've re-told things here incorrectly.

The Accident
Now, let's rewind to 1985. It was October 25th, a Friday. It was dinner time and my dad and I were eating at Roma's, a local restaurant in Dahlgren. I'm sure I had a gyro with Mr. Pibb and my dad had wing dings (aka chicken wings). This is the first discrepancy in the story. My dad remembers going across the river to get a new headlamp for the van. It's possible both versions are true because both would have put us on the same route back home. But I do know the lollipop came from Roma's so that part can be verified.

We traveled up the hill on Route 206, heading west toward home. As I said in my other post, I remember my dad shouting "oh shit" or "oh fuck" or "hold on." I looked left and saw headlights. I knew instantly from his tone of voice that we were having an accident and we'd hit the car. It was one of those moments where things are moving too fast to do anything but time slows things down to make everything vividly clear. I may or may not remember hitting the car itself. That part is a bit blurry. But I do clearly remember seeing the headlights. I was knocked unconscious by the impact.

This is a satellite view of the intersection. We were the green arrow. They were the grey arrow. The red circle and arrow show the point of impact and direction of travel afterwords.

When I came to, I tried to get out of the van. I couldn't. That's where I panicked a bit. I couldn't open my door. The van had hit the other car hard enough to slide the front quarter panel over top of the door, making it impossible for a 9 year old kid to open. Probably impossible for an adult to open too. I don't know if this was the moment I developed that claustrophobic fear of being trapped or if it was always there. But that split second of being trapped in the car is what scared me the most. Or at least what I remember scaring me the most. I'm sure watching all those Rambo movies and the A-Team with exploding cars didn't help.

I remember my dad having a calm and cool head and had me get out on his side of the van. Neither of us seemed to be seriously injured and were able to walk away from the crash. We got out, walked somewhere, and the rest is blurry to me. I'm pretty sure we walked over to the parking lot of the plumbing store/NAPA store.

From what my mom and dad tell me, the driver of the other car got out to check on us to make sure we were okay. He then went back to his car. I vaguely recall an EMT checking me out to make sure I was okay. My dad and I got a ride to the hospital from a friend. It was a husband and wife. The wife worked at the school as a secretary or in the cafeteria and knew us. The wife didn't want to take us in their car and wanted us to ride in the ambulance. I think my dad wasn't that worried about our injuries and thought it would be better to ride with them than in the back of the ambulance. More than likely, we would have had to ride with the passengers from the other car since King George County didn't have many rescue squad units at the time. Knowing my dad, he probably just wanted to get us to the hospital to be checked out but didn't want me to see the other people and he didn't want to wait for another unit to arrive. So the husband drove us. I remember none of that.

I do remember hearing the baby in the other car screaming at the scene. It bothers me even now but thankfully the memory has faded. You knew the baby was scared but I didn't know if it was hurt. I don't remember much else about the scene of the accident. I know I was moved to safety and we probably stood in the parking lot of what was then a plumbing store and NAPA store. I wasn't allowed near the other car. I'm sure there were lights and sirens but I don't remember much about them.

At the hospital, I vaguely recall getting an x-ray. I'm pretty sure I was on a gurney sitting in one of those hospital gowns. I think it was either here or at the accident scene when I felt embarrassed about my under-roos. Stupid Incredible Hulk.

My parents kept a personal record of my health. It's in a green journal book that has traveled with me for years. This is the entry for that night.

After the hospital sent us home, I called my mom. She knew right away something was wrong because it was late, like 9 pm, and she was on the west coast (she had recently moved to Madera, CA). She asked if I was okay, I said I was, she asked if dad was okay, he was, then she asked about the people in the other car. I told her the driver, the dad, had a few broken ribs, the daughter in the back seat had a broken pelvis and leg, and the baby in the car seat was just fine. But there was a "fatality." She asked me if I knew what that meant, I said it meant the lady died. She was surprised and asked more. She said I had apparently read it on the accident report. I don't remember reading an accident report and just assumed I had overheard the conversation between my dad and the police officers or fire/rescue workers either at the scene or at the hospital. Again, there's a discrepancy in the story here because my dad says he didn't fill out any reports at the scene and only filled one out for the insurance company later. I don't remember reading any report but suppose I could. Either way, I knew what "fatality" meant.

She knew something was wrong right away, partly because of my voice but mostly because of the time of day. She said I started the conversation with "I'm okay and Dad's okay but..." and then I went on to tell the story of the accident. She said I was amazed that the baby "didn't have a scratch." My mom also said I had marks on my hips from the seat belt and that dad had bruises on his arm. Mom wanted to talk to dad but my dad called her later after putting me to bed. She knew he was shaken and it had been a long and hard night. After getting a similar report from my dad, she specifically asked him if she was going to talk to me about death and the lady that died. He said I didn't know. My mom said he (meaning me) does know because I knew the word "fatality" (although it could have been the word "expired," again, another minor discrepancy). Even though my dad had done his best to shield me from seeing her body, reading anything that talked about it, or even overheard anything related to it.

A few days later I was talking to my mom again and she wanted to know how I knew what that word meant. Apparently I had seen my dad fill out the form and he put a 1 down and I somehow knew that meant the woman in the other car. Both of my parents thought that was stunning. So again, more discrepancies. Either way, it doesn't really matter.

The After Story
At some point after the accident, my dad and I went to see the two wrecked cars. I remember both the van and the car being in a lot off of 301, near where the ice cream shop is now. But the photos show the van in our driveway and only the other car in the grassy junk yard lot. After some discussion, my dad and I think he had the van towed to our house because he assumed he could repair it. After finding that the body had moved off the frame, he had it towed to the same lot as the other car and that's where we took more pictures. However it happened, I'm not sure. Of all the photos I've been able to look through, I only found four Polaroids, two for each car.

I do remember emptying out our belongings when the van was in our driveway. This is when we learned that I was knocked out because I hit my head on the dash. I used to ride on the edge of the seat and kept my seat belt loose because I liked to look out over the front of the hood at the road. When my head hit the dash, it left a crack a few inches long. We also learned that I had a lollipop because it was on the floor. I was a little freaked out about being a few inches from a more serious injury.

Because the van was so damaged, it was totaled. I remember my dad fixing his small black Ford Currier pick-up so he would have something to drive. He remembers borrowing a friend's truck to have something to drive.

These are the notes I took in about 1998 after looking through the photos. This is how I recalled the story back then. So a historical account of a historical account.

The Growing Mystery
Over time, I was always curious about the family in the other car. I wanted to know if they got their lives back together. I wanted to know if they healed after their mother died. I wanted to know if they held any hatred towards us for what happened. I wanted to know if they hated us or blamed us for what happened. I just wanted to know something.

I've talked to both my parents over the years about the accident. Nothing major developed and the stories were always the same. But the curiosity was always there. I think it's the same curiosity that drives me to learn more about my own family history. And based on the impact this accident had on my life, it made the family in the other car almost feel like cousins or a long lost branch on the family tree. But I could never figure out a name or put any sort of story behind their family down on paper. It was just a mystery.

October 26 and 29 articles from The Free Lance-Star newspaper. There was no Sunday paper in 1985 and no further articles could be found.

About a year ago I gained access to the state of Virginia's death records on Ancestry. I quickly spent a few days looking at how and when people died. People I knew. Childhood friends. Children of neighbors. It was a quick way to feel really shitty and depressed. So I quickly took a break and only occasionally searched for the mystery woman that died that night in the 1980s.

I knew the accident was in the 1980s, I knew roughly how old I was, I knew where the accident occurred, I knew it was the mother that died, I knew a lot. But I didn't know key details. I didn't know the exact date and I didn't know her name. When I searched, I learned that even though you may die in a certain place, sometimes your death certificate lists your place of death as the nearest hospital, especially when you're involved in a car accident. Despite learning about other people and about how to search, I still had an unsolved mystery. I couldn't find my family in the other car.

Until Juliet sent a friend request.

Mystery Solved
After getting Juliet's friend request and reading her email, I knew the mystery had been solved. She was the person I was looking for and I was over the moon that she found me. It was like a puzzle piece had been lost in 1985 and she found it.

That Tuesday before Thanksgiving was emotional on many levels. I was profoundly happy that she found me and that I could now learn what happened to those in the other car. But I was also deeply saddened to read her side of the story. I sat there at my desk and cried three different times as I learned more about her, her family, and what happened to them in the last 30 years.

An excerpt of the February 2013 Glamour magazine article about Juliet, her sister Jen, and her daughter Emma.

The Other Car
So what happened in the other car? I really should let Juliet tell this story but I'll fill in what I know so far.

Russell Wallace was the driver of the other car. His wife, Tien Kim Wallace was in the front passenger seat. Their daughters, Juliet and Jen, were in the back. Juliet was sitting behind her mother while Jen was in a car seat. Despite being the most fragile, Jen was remarkably unharmed by the impact. She was in a car seat. I remember telling my mom about how amazed I was that the baby was fine. That was a point in the story she reminded me of several times during our many conversations.

Mr. Wallace had some injuries, primarily broken ribs. Juliet had a broken pelvis or hips and I think a leg. She also said her head and face had injuries. Mrs. Wallace died. A wife and mother of two. According to the police report, the accident occurred between 8 and 8:15 pm. Virginia State Trooper D. F. Hatfield responded around 9 pm. Tien Kim Wallace was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead by Doctor Paul Hine at 9:38 pm.

Leading up to the crash, the Wallace family spent time at Ocean City and then Assateague Island. I would go into detail about the last few days of their lives before the crash but frankly, they make me want to weep just reading them again. So I'll move on.

I'm confused about how they ended up in King George. They lived in Woodbridge, VA at the time and our little po-dunk county isn't near any direct route back home from the Ocean City area. Even if they went down to Virginia Beach and then back north. We may never know the truth but the working theory I have is that they were lost and rushing to find a way back to a major road to get home. Route 301 was nearby and if he had continued on the road he was traveling, he would have gotten there near the bridge into Maryland. It wouldn't have been the best way to get home but it would have worked eventually.

Whatever the reasons were for being on that stretch of road are moot though. The dad ran the stop sign and we hit him. We can't change the past, only learn from it.

Juliet said the local fire and rescue members that responded to the scene would visit her in the hospital frequently as she recovered. Her mirrors were covered in newspaper so she couldn't see her face. She was transported to Fairfax for an MRI but spent most of her time at Mary Washington Hospital to recover. She was released from the hospital for her mother's funeral at Quantico National Cemetery. But she couldn't walk and had to stay in the van. Her mother was buried with military honors, presumably because her husband was in the military although some records I found show she was a Staff Sergeant in the Marines. She was listed as a "consultant" for Revlon "beauty products."

Commonwealth of Virginia - Certificate of Death - Tien Kim Wallace

Moving On
This is where the Wallace family's story takes a turn for the worse. After the accident, Juliet ran away from home. Her father was abusive so she left. She ended up homeless in Washington D. C. before finally coming home. Only to find her dad and sister gone. She went through the foster care system and got her life back on track thanks to a great foster family.

She lost track of her sister and father but eventually found them. When her father died, she reconnected with her sister who had also gone through the foster system for the same reasons. Once reunited, they ended up bonding in a unique way. Jen donated an egg so Juliet and her husband could have a child. Bizarre, amazing, and true.

Video from The Jeff Probst Show.

From what Juliet has said, it sounds like her dad didn't move on or heal very well after the accident. And while I don't think that was the right thing for him to do, I can't fault him for being distraught over the death of his wife. I don't know what I would do if I had to walk in his shoes. Sadly, the story he gave his children was that a drunk driver was driving the van and caused the accident.

Meeting Juliet
I just got back from meeting Juliet and her daughter Emma. It was surreal. I think it's not only surreal in the sense that we met, but that we found each other or even cared enough to want to meet. Dad and I met them at the local Sheetz and talked. I wasn't sure if it would be a 5 minute talk or a 5 hour talk. In the end, we spent about two hours there. We talked about the accident, life before it, and life after it. The conversation ranged from light to heavy and every where in between.

After a break all around, I led Juliet and her daughter down the road to the scene of the crash. Doing that was even more surreal than meeting her. After pointing things out and chatting, the weight of it all began to settle in on me. Not just that her mom died, but more that we've both been looking for each other and we've both been looking for answers to our questions. Our families came crashing together, literally, and here we are after 30 years meeting each other for the first time.

Some people surely think we're crazy for wanting to meet each other. But I think because we were both kids at the time and both needed to heal old wounds, and were ready to heal them, it was something we wanted, or even needed, to do. Some people may not understand why we would even care about what happens to each other. But there again, we both felt the need to find out what happened. And while I think we've solved the mystery behind a lot of things in this story, there are a few more questions that have come up.

Sunset at the scene.

The Mystery Returns
After doing some quick research and learning more from Juliet and my parents, there are new questions that come to mind. Even though it isn't my family or my truth to seek out, I wonder about things. Why was the family driving on that stretch of road? My guess is that they were lost and in a hurry to get back on track. Why was the mother buried with full military honors? My guess is that she worked for the American government during the Vietnam War and had earned it. What will happen next? This is the biggest pill to swallow for me because I've had this question hanging around for so long I don't know what to do now that I have the answer. My guess is that I'll keep in touch with Juliet and maybe find an answer to a few other smaller questions I have.

Video of the intersection the day before meeting Juliet.

Missed Connections
As time passed, the accident became a defining moment in my life. Not good, not bad, just a moment that has been with me ever since and still connects me to other people. Two years after this accident, my neighbor's wife died near the same area. My family and I moved into his house last year. I know where she's buried and have visited her grave to pay my respects. Because of her death, I almost always check to see if traffic is going to run a red light as I cross Route 301. Because of the 1985 accident, I have rules about lollipops. Because of every accident, I wear a seat belt.

Roma's used to be owned by the Kufadakis (sp?) family. We loved her bougatsa, a Greek pastry dessert. My family now frequents King George House of Pizza. The owners know the Kufadakis family and last year they made bougatsa for me. It was amazing. Roma's is now run by my childhood friend Scott Coleman.

Because of the lollipop, I do not allow lollipops to be consumed in the car. My son gets one after every haircut but he knows he can't have it in the car. Sounds like a crazy rule but it's one that's stuck with me. I don't think it was a rule for me after the accident but I do know I never really allowed myself to do it anymore.

Juliet's birthday is in between my daughter's and my wife's. Her husband's name is my mom's maiden name. We both like The Goldbergs. Sometimes it's the neat little things that connect us all.

About six or seven years after this accident, my dad had another one at the same intersection. Nearly identical scenario. This time he was in the Ford Currier pick-up, traveling in the same direction, when a guy pulled out of the NAPA store on the right side of the road. Again both cars were totaled, but this time nobody was hurt. I think about both accident every time I drive through the intersection. My dad tries to avoid it now, especially since VDOT has made improvements that actually make it more difficult and dangerous to drive through.

Video from December 5, 1991. The aftermath of the second accident.

Technical Details
A summary of sorts of all the specifics I could find. In case somebody else down the road is looking for information.

October 25, 1985 - Friday - 8pm

Owens, King George, VA
Intersection of Route 206, Dahlgren Road, and Route 218, Windsor Drive, and Route 624, Owens Drive

The Wallace Family:
1979 Honda CVCC four-door sedan - BSF-985
Russell C. Wallace
Tien Kim Wallace
Juliet (Wallace) Pearrell
Jen (Wallace) Kimble

The Richard Family:
1975 Ford Econoline Van - YJY-763
Gary Richard
Neil Richard

Other Individuals and Groups:
Virginia State Trooper D. F. Hatfield - 3518
Virginia State Trooper C. W. Carrico
King George Sheriff's Office
Dahlgren Rescue Squad
Dr. M. J. Goeden - Emergency Room, Mary Washington Hospital
Dr. Paul F. Hine - Pathology Department, Mary Washington Hospital
Richmond Low - Commonwealth's Attorney for King George County

Virginia State Police Report - October 28, 1985 - # 85-21-5175

If you have information about the accident, please contact me at tk42one @

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 Gobble Wobble 5k - Race Report

On a bit of a spur of the moment decision, I ran the 2015 Gobble Wobble 5k in Westmoreland State Park. So I set my alarm for a regular school day and headed out. With my coach's approval (for a change).

The race had about 90 to 100 runners. The course started and finished at the main Visitor Center. Most of the course was flat and on grass, pavement, or gravel. Only a small section was dirt trail. The first mile was downhill and mostly paved. The second mile was uphill and about half dirt and half paved. The third mile was flat with a few ups and downs and was gravel, dirt, and paved. It was well marked and had markers for every K (kilometer) and water tables every mile. The markers every kilometer threw me for a loop but I dealt with it. And there were plenty of course marshals around to keep on the right path.

I started in the middle of the pack and quickly settled into a fast pace. As we headed down hill, I passed the 1st K mark in 6 minutes. I hit the first water table in 9:55, 2k was at 12:30, and 3k was in 20 minutes. 4k was about 26 or 27 minutes. Mile 2 was 13:08. Finish was 34:30. So way speedier up front and certainly not the time I expected. The finish time was about on par with what I figured I would get and I expected to fall off pace towards the end, partly because of the course but mostly because of the training. I'm still working on that change from ultra-runner to 5k runner. So in the end, I felt too fast in the first mile, tried to stay on the bucking bronco for the second mile, and finally felt semi-smooth in the last mile.

The fountain in the park.

Course map.

Is this real? Did I really win?

Yes, I really did win.

Temps were about 45F but warmed to about 50k to 55F. Wind was light. Sky was clear and sun was out.

Fluids and Fuel:
Had coffee and two slices of toast for breakfast. Plain water during the race. Recovery was more water and a banana.That was followed by a lunch of chili, BLT, and cherry Coke.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing really.

Wore shorts, pants, thermal top, t-shirt, two Buffs, and gloves. Took the Buffs off about halfway through.

Today's Motivation:
Getting a pre-training time on the books so I can measure my progress down the road. That was my sole motivation. And maybe because I felt like running a race.

Naughty Neil:
I had a burger and fries yesterday for lunch. Yuck. I mean, they tasted great but I felt dirty after eating them. Should have had a salad or a sandwich or something at the house.

Mile 1 - 9:55
Mile 2 - 13:08
Finish - 34:30
Place - 3rd (30-39 age group)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Home Alone - A Classic

The family and I recently went to a limited showing of Home Alone in the theaters. It was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the movie. But for us, it was a celebration of family time as we enjoyed one of our favorite Christmas movies.

We weren't the only ones in the theater but it was surprisingly empty. The small theater was maybe 25% full and most of the viewers were older, like my wife and I, putting them in the age-range of having seen it in the theaters as children when it was first released. Our favorite fans in the screening with us were the family of four that wore matching shirts that read "Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal," but in different colors of course.

As we sat down to enjoy the show, there were no previews. I really wish they had shown something like Rocky V, Look Who's Talking Too, or even Kindergarten Cop. Something from that era of the early 90s that would have set the tone for a great movie.

I think the lack of media coverage was due to everyone focusing on Back to the Future Day. Or maybe they were hungover or overdosed with nostalgia to think of another classic having an anniversary. Thankfully, I read the USA Today article, found a local theater, and bought tickets. THe rest, as they say, was history.

The most I got out of the showing, besides the family time, was catching some of the scenes and dialog that I missed after all these years. So let's walk through them.

The man at the desk.
In a great camera shot, we see Joe Pesci ask for the parents of the house by seemingly talking to every kid that walks by him. But did you notice the guy at the desk in the background? In the same window where we see the lamp move near the end of the movie, there's a man, sitting in a chair, at what looks like a desk. Who is it? Uncle Frank is my guess. He looks a little bald and is wearing a sweater vest.

"You probably have the kind of traveler's checks that don't work in France."
I remember the scene distinctly, it's when Buzz chokes on the pizza in the kitchen. And I remember them trying to get money to pay the pizza boy. And I remember Uncle Frank claiming he had no cash, just traveler's checks. But I've never heard this line before. It's in there, but it's in the background, hard to hear, and I think Peter, the dad, says it under his breath a bit.

Was Kevin's mom a seamstress?
Check out the basement. Notice all the mannequins? You may remember Kevin using them in his first attempt to deter Harry and Marv from breaking into the house by hosting a fake party. But I never really paid attention to where they came from. Then my wife mentioned that the sewing machine in the Master Bedroom was older than the sewing machine in the basement. Which got me to thinking, was Kevin's mom a seamstress? There are mannequins, sewing machines, and even a dressmaker's mannequin in the house.

Marv swears.
Again, I knew this. But in the theater, it was much easier to hear. Sure, Harry says some stuff that sounds like swearing, but it actually isn't. And Kevin says "ass" at least once. But it's the Marv scene that stood out. If you're not sure of the scene I'm talking about, it's when Marv checks out the kitchen door by himself, sticks his foot in the dog door, then looses his shoe. He says "shit" but you can't hear it clearly on the DVD. It's pretty clear in the theater.

The deeper link between Kevin and his neighbor.
It never dawned on me before, but there's a deeper link between Kevin and his neighbor, Old Man Marley (aka The South Bend Shovel Slayer). It hit me when they were in the church talking before Kevin heads home to defend his house. Kevin admits to saying things he shouldn't have and thinks that it has driven his family away. Mr. Marley then goes on to admit essentially the same thing. They have the same family issue and I never noticed it before. I always glossed over this scene because it was light on action and only had a few good jokes.

Old people as friends.
About the same time I caught on to the link between Kevin and Mr. Marley, I realized that in the second movie he befriends an older woman. Not much else to say here but thatjordangirl has a nice image to share.

The lamp moves.
I knew about this one. So did my kids. But did you? Check out the last scene or two from the movie where Kevin greets his mom and the rest of his family. In the background you see the lamp in front of the window. Then as he goes to the window to look at his neighbor, The South Bend Shovel Slayer, the lamp has moved.

This wasn't really a scene from the movie itself, but a scene in the theater. The audience was laughing at something, there was that lull in the laughter, and my son says, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "Classic!" Indeed it was son, indeed it was.

Not only was the movie a classic, but his reaction and the experience is classic. I can only hope your holiday season brings about positive memories and scenes to remember for years to come.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Living Vicariously and Coaching

This fall I took it upon myself to organize and coach a small group of kids in the hops of starting a middle school cross-country team. It didn't work out as well as planned but it certainly could have been worse. With a decent start and lots of interest, I was happy as kids showed up once a week to practice and I did my best to guide them through the basics of running trails.

Sadly a late start, a lack of school support, and some bad weather killed the vibe. I think the kids had a great time and I know I did. Even though I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I was glad to learn from them and about the process.

Later in the already late season, it ended up just being Elizabeth and I running together. I could have pushed her more and ground her through some intense training but I wanted her to have a good time and enjoy running. I mean, she's only in 6th grade so I didn't expect her to go out and break records.

Anyway, I had a blast every time we ran. We'd talk about serious stuff, like growing up, and not so serious stuff, like goofy jokes, and everything in between. But it was nice to enjoy the run and live vicariously through her eyes and her experiences. Granted, I probably could have skipped the memories of my own awkward pre-teen years, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

Moving forward to Saturday's race, I knew Elizabeth wasn't going to be performing at the top of her game just because she's only training once a week. Sure, she's gotten older and stronger, but she doesn't play a sport on a regular basis so I knew she wasn't in peak condition. My goal was to have her focus on doing her best while having fun.

I think she did both. We got to the race start, checked in, got a bib, and generally tried to avoid the rain. On the drive in, we discussed some of the family history she's researching so we kept doing a little of that as well. My dad showed up so we chatted with him a bit. Saw a few other runners we knew and generally hung out until it was time for our warm-up.

We did a short jog and a few stretches before the race. Hit the bathroom one last time. Then we headed out into the fog to go run. I gave her some last minute words and headed off down the road to catch her going by. She passed by looking comfortable the first time. Looked good around the one mile mark. Looked a little tired at the two mile mark. And crushed it at the finish. She kept her splits but deleted them before I could tell her to pass them along to me. But her finish time was a new PR of 28:59, roughly two and a half minutes off her old PR.

She was so excited she jumped up and down. I did too, but on the inside. After lots of praise, we headed headed out for a walking cool down, forgot to stretch, hung around for a few minutes, then headed home. She wasn't in the top of her age group, which was loaded with a ton of runners, but she enjoyed the donut on the way home.

While I generally save the data section for my own reports, I figured I'd put it in here just for posterity.

Some of the murals that were in the school/church/building where the race HQ was located.


Temps were about 60F. Sky was overcast. Light rain before and after the race, none during the race. No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Soy milk and Pop Tarts for breakfast. Plain water before, during, and after the race. Recovery was a donut with vanilla icing and fall sprinkles.

Aches and Pains:

Wore capri pants and short sleeve shirt.

Naughty Elizabeth:
Probably shouldn't have had a donut, but what the hell, she's a kid and did a great job.

Today's Motivation:
Dad and the desire to run a half marathon.

Finish - 28:59

Friday, November 06, 2015

Underoos - Are They Deadly? Or Just Bad Luck?

To steal a line from The Goldbergs, way back in 1980-something, I was just like any other kid out there wearing Underoos.

It's okay to feel weird watching a bunch of kids dancing around in their underwear. But that's not the point here. My point is that I have a theory that Underoos are deadly. Or at least bad luck.

You see, it all started when my wife pointed out an ad for grown-up Underoos. I think there was something Star Wars related to what she was showing me but my reaction was a big fat no. Because I have a history with Underoos and it isn't a pleasant one.

Way back when in the 1980s, my dad would drive us around in an old Ford Econoline van. It was pea-soup green straight out of the 70s. It was huge. It was old and clunky. It had captain's chairs in the front and a bench in the middle and nothing in the back. That's about all I remember.

When we drove it around, because it was the only car that was functioning, I would always ride on the edge of the seat up front so I could see what was going on and so I could see the road. This meant that I had to wear my lap belt a little loose. It was never a big deal.

Until the accident.

I've been in a few car accidents in my life. But this is likely the most memorable for me. I can remember my dad and I went to Roma's, a local eatery, for dinner. As usual, I got a lollipop for dessert. We were on Route 206, heading up the hill after crossing 301, when there were headlights coming into view on the left side of the van. The top of the hill had a road that crossed over and it was the source of the car. My dad yelled something like "oh shit" or "hold on" and that was it. We hit the car.

I was knocked unconscious for a few seconds at least. We would find out later that I hit my head on the dash hard enough to crack it. I only had a small spot of blood on my forehead. We would also find out later that the lollipop I had in my mouth flew out and landed on the floor. I was very lucky I hit my head and not the lollipop. To this day, our family bans lollipops in any moving car.

When I came to, I tried to get out of the van. My door wouldn't open. The front fender had moved backwards to cover up the door preventing it from opening out. So I had to get out on my dad's side of the van. I don't remember smoke or flames or even bright lights. But I do remember the screaming baby. The sound doesn't haunt me. Never did that I can remember. It scared me in the moment though. My dad moved me off to the side and I think I stood somewhere near the scene but far enough away to be safe and be out of sight of the other car.

And that's the part that doesn't haunt me but does stick with me. The other car had four people in it. The screaming baby was in the rear on the driver's side. It was thankfully in a car seat and survived with barely a scratch. There was an older daughter in the rear passenger side. She had a broken hip, pelvis, leg, or a combination of. The driver was the father who suffered injuries but I don't know what or how many. The wife was in the front passenger seat and she died.

It gives me chills to think about that, especially now as I'm a father and husband. Death scares the shit out of me and when I dwell on it I get anxious and a bit panicky.

After the accident we went to the hospital to get checked out. We rode with a friend I think but he kept trying to get us to take a ride in the ambulance. Once at the hospital, we were checked and cleared. I think my dad has some bruising on his arms and was sore while I had the minor scratch on my forehead and scratch on my waist. The loose seat belt worked but the buckle dug into my hips. I remember wearing my Incredible Hulk Underoos and being embarrassed when they checked on me at the hospital. I guess I felt like a grown-up for having survived the wreck but here I was wearing little kid underwear.

In the end, my dad and I lived to drive again another day. The other driver ran a stop sign and unfortunately there were consequences. I'm sure my scars are nowhere as deep as the other family.

Speaking of which, if anybody out there has any information on the other family, the date of the accident, or even an official police report, I'd appreciate the information. I've always wondered what happened to the people in the other car. My dad doesn't remember the date or even the year of the accident. I'm doubtful the police have a copy of the report but I can't search for it until I know more about the accident.

2015-12-06 - Update - You can read an even longer, more detailed version of the story here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sunrise Services

Was feeling a bit blue this morning and not really in the mood to run but once again, the idea of going back to bed and skipping a simple 2 miles is just too ridiculous. So I go out and run instead of going back to bed. Kind of like, here, have a cookie. It's tasty.

Anyway, today was foggy and blurry and fit my mood as I started down the road. But the fog started to lift and the sun started to rise and the run, and the day, started to look a little bit better. So I carried on down the road and finished my run and began my day.

It's getting spooky out!

Temps were about 65F. Lots of ground fog and heavy humidity. Light wind. Sky was mostly clear.

Fluids and Fuel:
Had a little coffee before the run. Plain water during the run. Recovery was three slices of toast, three sausage links, two eggs, and coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Some lingering numbness in my left foot but nothing major. Comes and goes. No pain, just feels like my sock is bunched up in my shoe sometimes.

Wore a long sleeve top and shorts. Also sported my headlamp since I was tired of carrying a flashlight in my hand.

Today's Motivation:
I sound like a broken record but really, this short distance stuff is the bomb. I also thought about delaying my run until this afternoon but I wasn't sure if I'd be running with the kids or not. So I knew I had to get it in this morning.

Naughty Neil:
Did better with eating yesterday. Didn't hit my mark on everything but convinced myself to eat a BLT instead of a big ass burger. And I skipped the fries but went with mac and cheese. In the end, I ended up just 25 calories over my mark. Not perfect but better than the day before.

Lollipop 1 - 12:49
Lollipop 2 - 13:23
Finish - 26:13

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 Oil Creek 100k Race Report

I'm not sure where to start. Maybe with "I finished" or "I'm still alive."

But let's get into the nitty gritty details. As usual, be warned, I may talk about some bodily functions that may not be appealing. And I may talk about some body parts that are peeling.

I started my trip with a long drive to my mom's house. About halfway there, I realized I had forgotten my GenUCAN hydration and fuel mixes. I nearly panicked but stopped at a bike shop, Dicks, and running store to come up with some weak alternatives. I've used Hammer products before but I wasn't going to buy a giant sized container of Perpeteum and their Perpeteum chews make me want to eat dirt. But they had Fizz, which I like, but only in Grapefruit, which I don't like. So I got a tube anyway. And they had NUUN, which I've never used before. But I was desperate enough to try something new on race day.

By the time I got to my mom's I wasn't as panicked about my electrolytes and nutrition. It was going to be whatever it would be. I would just need to deal with it and live off of the aid stations. And that's what I did.

Friday I packed my drop bags, got my gear ready, and went to see THE MARTIAN. Solid movie but the book is better. Isn't it always that way? Then it was time for the pre-race dinner and packet pick-up. As usual, the dinner was pasta with salad. Not gourmet but better than what I could  make. And they had a company there that gave away ice cream. Handmade ice cream. Way tasty. Then it was home to bed.

Race morning I stopped to pick up fellow 100k runner George. It was nice to have some company on the short trip to the Start line. There was the usual pre-race brief, adjustments, bathroom breaks, then off we went into the night. The first loop went fairly well. Pretty much walked all of it. Did a little bit of running but not much. Before I got to the first aid station, I passed an older gentleman who was also doing 100k then shortly after that I linked up with Christine who was also doing the 100k. I passed her shortly before the first aid station but she caught up to me by the time I got ready to leave. At the first aid station I had a boiled egg and a couple of pieces of boiled potatoes with salt. I knew electrolytes would be an issue so I wanted to stay on top of that

Anyway, as I was leaving the first aid station Christine was just coming in. I don't think she or the older gentlemen finished. Although it's distinctly possible they passed me later in the night but I know based on my pace and theirs at that time in the race, they probably didn't make it.

After the first aid station, I headed out into Section 2. I knew it was easier but also knew it would eat me alive if I didn't take things easy. So I cruised along feeling good. Stopped at the water table for water, then headed on to Aid Station 2. This is the halfway point in the loop so I knew I'd have my drop bag there if I needed anything. I got lucky and had extra clothes in my trunk because I put a long sleeve thermal on for the start and was able to take it off here and just wear my t-shirt and shorts. I changed socks, re-lubed my feet, put a little pain killer gel on my left foot, ate two slices of pizza, some grilled cheese, and I think some chips.

Then it was into Section 3. The sucky section. But I knew it coming in. Hit the first water table. Hit the Boy Scout water table. Then made it to Aid Station 3. This was my first dose of pickle juice. It tastes like hell but damn, it's exactly what you need when your electrolytes are jacked up. Don't think I had any food here and only stayed a few minutes before moving on to Section 4. Again, another rough section that included my Quitting Rock. I told the rock I'd sit on it when I came back around the second time.

At the Middle School (aka Aid Station 4), I saw my mom. She helped me get some food and drink and hovered over me while I took care of my feet (new socks, pain killer gel, lube, lancing a blister). I tried to lay down for a few minutes to elevate my feet but I was too worried I'd get stuck there and not want to leave for my second loop. So after a few minutes I gave up on resting my feet and headed back out for more.

I had my long sleeve shirt back on and also added pants and a kilt. It sucked going back out. Especially when I had to start using my headlamp as soon as I got back on the trail. That was a major mental blow knowing that it would be dark nearly the whole second loop. But I was determined so I moved on.

Section 1 was the same as before. I made it to Aid Station 1 again and laid down to put my feet up. The volunteers were awesome but a little worried something was wrong. I reassured them that no, I just wanted to elevate my feet. Unfortunately, I put my hydration pack in a chair, then put my feet in the same chair, and ended up getting my headlamp band wet. And the seat had a giant puddle. Sorry.

I had more pickle juice, half a hamburger, then moved out to Section 2. Hit the water table. Made it to Aid Station 2. Talked a little to a semi-local runner I know from my area while I took care of my feet. I didn't lay down here but did change clothes. I knew laying down here was dangerous too as it would be an easy place to quit. So I moved on to Section 3.

This time around it sucked. I swear that trail grows and grows and gets longer every time you go by. Just before making it to the first water table, I ran into Lucas who was moving about my speed. He was in the 100k too and I figured we'd be in it to the end. Until he pulled up short and said he was going to be sick. He barfed a good 5 times but I kept going. I felt bad for leaving him there but I knew if I heard more barfing I'd be doing the same thing. We'd eventually play leap frog a big through Section 3. He caught up to me at the first water table where I managed to take a short wrong turn. Then it was on to the water table at the Boy Scout camp. Somewhere after that, I found him laying on the side of the trail taking a nap. We were both so tired that we were trying to figure out how to take a nap without a bench and without getting cold. I saw no rock or stump or log that looked comfy enough so I kept staggering forward. When I passed him I asked if he was okay. He said he was so I kept moving to Aid Station 3.

Once there I took the best worst nap I've ever had. I sat in a camp chair by the fire and told the volunteer to wake me up in 20 minutes. I fidgeted for awhile then dozed off. My head was either way back like a broken PEZ dispenser or way forward like I was trying to lick my belly button. But I got some sleep. At some point Lucas had come in and was doing the same thing, napping by the fire.

I had some coffee, pickle juice, food (I think) and carried on. I knew this section would suck too but also knew that it wasn't as long as it looks on paper. With only 6ish miles on the trail, I knew the 8ish miles to the Finish wouldn't be that bad. Well, I was wrong as usual. It sucked. I walked and walked and walked. Made it to the water table and kept walking. And walking. Finally, FINALLY, I made it to the hiker check-in box which I knew was only a mile from the trailhead.

Well, it still dragged on and on, even after knowing I was that close. By this time the sun was coming up. It was just about light enough to see without a headlamp so I turned mine off and stowed it. I also started taking a layer or two off but would eventually put some back on as I got on the shady side of the hills.

Once off the trail, I had one mile around the Drake Well Museum and a mile on the bike path. And wouldn't you know it, after 60 miles, I needed to take a dump. I couldn't wait to make it back to the porta-potty so I did my best to crawl into the woods out of sight and off the path. And, wouldn't you know it, shortly after that my monkey butt flared up so much I needed to address it. No worries, I threw the mini-stick of Body Glide away after that session.

Then it was a zombie shuffle to the Finish on the bike path. I made the final turn, tossed my hydration pack in the grass, and shuffled across the finish line in 28:35:40 (that's 28 hours, 35 minutes, and 40 seconds).

Temps were just about perfect. About 45F to 50F at night and 60F to 65F during the day. Sky was clear the whole time. Saw the Moon and Mars rising as I started. Only had a smidge of wind at the very end. Stopped just before Aid Station 3 on my second time through and turned my light off and stared at the night sky through the trees. Swear the sky glowed. Maybe I was seeing things again.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the race I had a small coffee and a banana. During the race I took 3 GenUCAN Hydrates, about 5 Hammer Fizz, about 5 NUUN (which didn't work), about 5 to 8 shots of pickle juice (worked great), plain water (kept it at a minimum), half a hamburger, one boiled egg, two boiled potatoes, two slices of pepperoni pizza, two grilled cheeses, one slice of avocado wrap, a few chips, some perogies, and I'm sure a few other things to eat and drink that I don't remember. Oh, and about 2 cups of coffee. Recovery was a bacon Whopper, lousy fries, and a little Coke. I've been trying to not eat everything under the sun since then.

Aches and Pains:
This is the remarkable section. Sunday, the day I finished the race, I struggled to walk. But generally speaking, was in good shape. I had one blister on my right heel that I lanced after I finished and some butt chafe and that was it. Since then, my left foot/ankle/lower leg has swollen a little but nothing too terrible. Each day I've been getting better and better and by Tuesday I was able to go up and down the stairs in my house with minimal effort and pain. I had some minor stiffness in my upper back from the hydration pack but I think keeping my posture straight during the race helped a ton. Oh, and let's not forget about my taint shedding a layer of skin like a gross snake. But that's normal. At least for me.

Wore North Face shorts and my KREndurance t-shirt, and Nathan hydration pack the entire time. When it got cold, I would add an UnderArmour long sleeve top and some pants as well as gloves. Once again my BUFFs saved me so many times. So easy to take on and off as needed. My Smartwook socks were awesome and even though I rarely change socks during a race, I'm glad I did. Felt nice. Finally, my Altra shoes kicked ass. One small blister after 62 miles is hard to beat!

Today's Motivation:
I finished in 2012. I DNF'd in 2013. I joked in 2013 that I was there to get a new sticker because my finisher's sticker from 2012 got scraped off my car window (totally my dumb ass fault). Since then, I've been a bit haunted by the DNF. One odd tidbit of motivation, I didn't wash my light jacket from 2013 since my DNF. Well, I may have washed it once, but it's gone at least a year without being washed. Not a terribly big deal since I don't wear it much. But it helped motivate me.

Naughty Neil:
My recovery meal was from Burger King. But, I restrained myself and only had a little Coke. But I did eat a lot of food before and after the race. I wish I could blame my mom but I'm a sucker for having somebody cook for me.

Splits are going to be broken down by Sections (1 through 4), Aid Stations (AS1 through AS4), and water tables (WT), there was one in Section 2, two in Section 3, and one in Section 4 - these were unmanned tables with just water. And all times are listed as HH:MM:SS (hours, minutes, and seconds).

Start to AS1 - 02:23:29
AS1 - 00:05:07
AS1 to WT - 01:20:50
WT to AS2 - 01:12:01
AS2 - 00:18:08
AS2 to WT - 01:09:03
WT to WT - 00:35:17
WT to AS3 - 01:30:41
AS3 - maybe a couple of minutes
AS3 to WT - 01:10:11
WT to AS4 - 02:11:04 - 50k - halfway point of race

AS4 - 00:30:19
AS4 to AS1 - 02:58:41
AS1 - 00:23:41
AS1 to WT - 01:28:21
WT to AS2 - 01:37:02
AS2 - 00:24:22
AS2 to WT - 01:32:14
WT to WT - 00:48:49
WT to AS3 - 02:07:48
AS3 - 00:44:05
AS3 to WT - 01:19:20
WT to AS4 - 02:44:54 - 28:35:40 total

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Burning Bush

Not the miles planned but more than I could have hoped for if I had gone back to bed instead. And I wanted to go back to bed but somehow dragged myself into some running shorts and headed out the door.

Speaking of bed, I could really go for a third coffee right about now.

The run was fairly uneventful as expected. The weather was a bit cooler than I expected but aside from that things went well. I did wear a long sleeve shirt but really should have worn gloves.

Don't know what kind of bush this is, but it's about as bright as my shirt.

Temps were about 55F to 60F. Sun was out. No wind. Humidity was low.

Fluids and Fuel:
Had a little coffee before the run and plain water during the run. Recovery was two eggs, two slices of toast, four sausage links, yogurt, and more coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Toes hurt a bit after yesterday but that's my own dumb fault for not trimming my nails. Always seems to happen.

Wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt and a BUFF.

Today's Motivation:
Just keeping my streak alive. Just passed the halfway point. Getting a little nervous about making it through to the end of the month.

Naughty Neil:
I totally ate a bowl of cereal last night and had zero guilt about it. I was strong enough to not put a brownie in there.

Outbound - 33:17
Inbound - 32:14
Finish - 1:05:31

Friday, September 11, 2015

Meet BARC - Introductions and Review of the Star Wars Bike from Huffy

Okay, so we're all a little weird or damaged or just plain crazy, right? Well, here's a wee bit of a story about how I continue to meet those requirements. But before you read on, this is broken up into two major parts with photos at the end. The first is where I prove and disprove how crazy I am. The second is getting into the more technical aspects of the bike and a bit of a review.

I'm Crazy Not Crazy

I won't go into the long backstory of my Star Wars fandom but I'll set the record straight by telling you that I'm a fan but not a fanatic. Some family members and friends may disagree but I do have a life outside of Star Wars. Or at least I think I do.

Anyway, with the recent Force Friday excitement, it was no surprise that William and I were both like kids in a candy shop at Target last weekend. Elizabeth was only slightly amused and Yvonne, well, she just left us the three of us there acting like kids. There were a lot of toys and clothes that looked neat but nothing really struck me as something that I absolutely had to have.

Except for the bike. I had to have the bike. I hemmed and hawed about it because it was a lot of money to spend. I didn't want to spend it but I also knew I had to have it. It isn't often that you find something that's Star Wars AND has a Stormtrooper. And it's pretty much impossible to find anything with TK-421 on it. Trust me, I've looked.

Now let me pause here for a minute. Way back in 2000 or so, I got a personalized plate in North Carolina that was "TK 421." When we moved to Virginia, I had to settle for "TK-42ONE." I do a lot online with that name and I am always on the lookout for it in toys and other merchandise. With Star Wars movies taking a break, there was nothing new. And the Clone Wars cartoon didn't help because TK-421 was a Stormtrooper. He didn't have the Sandtrooper pauldron, he wasn't a Speeder Bike Scout, or a Snowtrooper. Just a plain old boring Stormtrooper. Trust me, there's a difference. And no, he wasn't even close to a Clone Trooper.

Now, back to the story. So I recently got a Star Wars shirt with TK-421 on it from a cousin. It was awesome. I love it. It's so rare to find that name on anything that I was happy to have it, and even happier that it was something I could wear. So seeing the bike in Target with TK-421 on the front forks made me squee like one of those Star Wars fanatics I claim to not be.

I left it in the store on Saturday but called Sunday to see if they still had it. They didn't. So I ordered it online and it was delivered yesterday. As I assembled it, a massive rain storm was going through so I couldn't ride it. Which meant I couldn't name it.

And that's where I get even weirder than you thought I was. You see, I name my bike (now bikes). And my shoes. And some of my equipment. If I recall correctly, it was born out of necessity when I had several pairs of Altra Instincts that were the same size and  color and I couldn't keep them straight in my running shoe rotation. So I named them. I've been naming them since. Booger. Snot. Slick. Yela Wolf. Silver Back. You get the idea. My bike is Shifty because, well, you have to shift the gears.

As part of the tradition of naming my shoes and bikes, I only name them during the run (or ride in this case). It feels natural to not have something picked out until you're out there. Sometimes I don't come up with something until after the run or ride but that's just my brain moving slowly. The key is, I may have great ideas before, but I don't decide until during or after.

Which brings us to the unveiling of the newest member of the .... family? No, it's not a member of the family. It's important but not that important. So without further ado, here's BARC.


So a bit of a review on the bike itself. First of, it's not a bike I would recommend using for any sort of training. This is a casual bike for casual riding. Not anything even remotely close to something I would use for any sort of high performance races or sporting events. Think of it as a cruiser, not a tri bike.

I ordered mine online and paid list price ($349.99) plus shipping ($42.79 - but shipping was free) plus handling fee ($40.00) plus taxes ($20.76) for a grand total of $410.66. I could have paid more for shipping to get it here sooner but I'm glad I didn't because it arrived pretty quickly. I ordered on my phone on Sunday night and it arrived that Thursday. Not too shabby on speed.

The box arrived surprisingly intact. I've worked in shipping before and I know how things get beat up. Aside from a few dings, things looked good. The bike inside was also packed fairly well but not great. At first glance it looked like the paint on the frame was scratched but it was actually just how it was painted to look weathered. There were plastic caps on the point parts, foam around the frame, and cardboard placed in certain spots.

Once out of the box, the front tire was loose and the handebars were only attached by the cables. The pedals were also not installed and the seat was loose. The seat was an easy fix. Simply tighten the speed release and you're done. The handlebars were a bit tricky. The instructions stated to put the disc brake on the left side but I didn't see that until I already had it installed. So I loosened it, flipped it around, then tightened it back down. And to clarify, "it" was the handlebar stem that sits on that post which is the top of the forks when they come through the threadless stem.

Okay, with the handlebars installed and the brakes on the right side, which was the left side as you sit in the seat, it was time to move on to the front tire. Pretty easy install and only took a minute.

The pedals were just as easy to install thanks to convenient left and right stickers.

Then we had some issues. The bike was fully assembled but the front fork stem was wobbly as it went through the threadless head. Because it was threadless, I had to do some research on how to fix it. I just needed to tighten the bolt that goes through the top but only a quarter turn at a time. There still needs to be play in the front tire so it flops left and right. Do a quick search and you'll see some good videos on it.

Then there was the seat. It was at the right height but the front was angled way too high and would have given me a high voice if I didn't fix it. A few minor adjustments and I was able to tilt it down enough to make it comfortable without feeling like I would slide off onto the top bar.

Finally, there was the chain. I still haven't fixed this but it rubs on the rear tire when it's in 1st gear. Gears 2 through 7 work fine (it only has seven gears). But when you shift down to first, it gets too close to the tire and rubs. Not good. A washer or some adjustments to the derailleur may fix it but I'm not smart enough to figure that out yet.

After a test ride this morning, another issue cropped up. And it was further exaggerated by my father giving the bike a short test ride too. You see, they just don't work. Again, I'm not smart enough to know how to fix it but I know what the problem is. The front brakes are disc. But when you apply them, two things happen. First, you have to pull the lever way too far back to make the bike stop. Second, as soon as you apply just a little pressure on the lever, the piston comes out, and bends the disc on the wheel. Not good. And it bends it a lot. The rear brakes are just pads, which I guess is the bike version of drum brakes. Well, they squeek like a cat and a rabbit are both in a bag fighting a bird and all three are squeeling like a dog whistle. It's painful to listen to. And it's apparently starting to take some of the paint off the rim. Not what I want to see on a brand new bike. But any which way I look at it, I think it will need to go to a bike shop for a tune-up before I start putting any extended miles on it. Especially any route with hills.

There were a few other minor tweaks but for the most part they were easy to fix. I will say, having the right size allen wrenches and open-end wrenches make things easy. It took some searching and trial and error but I finally found some that worked. If you have those on hand already, you'll be a step ahead of the game.


Yep, that's my license plate. And it's on the forks on each side. You can also see the weathered paint job on the frame.

Small Star Wars sticker on the handlebar. You can also see the screw that needed to be tighten in the middle of that round disc where the stem comes up from the forks and through the threadless head.

Nice little Imperial logo on the frame.

Detail of the TK-421 on the forks.

Never knew it until I saw this but it's a limited edition. Only 2,500 made!

Because the Empire is a pain in the ass.

Giant tires make it a little hard to steer sometimes but I think I'll get used to it. Besides, Stormtroopers can't hit anything anyway, right?

PS - If you don't get the BARC Star Wars reference, that's okay. You should at least get the BARC Lumberjack reference.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review - Armada by Ernest Cline

Movie choices from September 9, 1985. Back to the Future. Teen Wolf. Rambo. Gremlins. Key movies of the 1980s.

It pains me to say this, but this book wasn't that great. I had some seriously high hopes for it, even after reading the review that started off with something along the lines of "this book sucks." That's right, even after reading that the book sucked and that it was a total rip-off of other stories like The Last Starfighter and Ender's Game. Despite the negativity, I leaned heavily on Cline's performance in Ready Player One.

And that's where I was disappointed.

You see, I had glowing words for Ready Player One. It was a good story and the 80s theme was a key part of that story. But in Armada, the 80s theme was forced. In fact, the whole story felt forced. At times it felt like the ending was just randomly shoved in there because there needed to be an ending. Kind of like there was this process of writing and writing and suddenly the editor comes along and says "hey, you need to tell the readers what happens to the hero."

Movie choices from September 9, 1986. The Karate Kid Part II. Aliens. Top Gun. Things aren't looking too hot.

So yeah, I was disappointed in Armada. A lot of writers, TV shows, movies, and so many other things suffer from the Sophomore Slump. And from how this book read, I really do think that Cline had a slump.

Which could be a good thing so hear me out.

You see, think about a movie that you like. Then think about it's sequel. Then the third installment. It's usually the first and third that totally rock while the second one leaves feeling "meh." Well, I think Cline will impress us with his third novel. I'm holding out hope that he'll redeem himself by going back to what he did right in Ready Player One, fixing what was wrong with Armada, and crossing the finish line with his best book yet. I'm hoping the next book will be Back to the Future III because Armada was totally a Teen Wolf Too.

Movie choices from September 9, 1987. Summer School. The Big Easy. Can't Buy Me Love. Now we're back to normal.


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Mile 99 - The End

Today marks the end of my podcast. It was something brewing in the back of my mind for some time but it was a bit of a instant decision this morning to pull the plug. So I recorded the last episode and will now put it to rest.


Temps were about 80F. Humidity was high. Sun was out. No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Half a coffee before the run. Plain water during the run. Recovery was eggs, sausage, bacon, hashbrown, and toast. And coffee. Not good choices.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing hurt but my back has been a bit tight the past few days. Sleeping patterns aren't quite what they normally are so I'm trying to adjust.

Shorts and a t-shirt.

Today's Motivation:
I knew I couldn't get the miles in but made do with the time I had. Just a desperate attempt to get something in the books.

Naughty Neil:
Breakfast. ::sigh:: I don't know if I'll ever be able to make the right choice all the time.

Loop 1 - 7:22
Loop 2 - 8:10
Short Break - 00:53
Loop 3 - 9:01
Loop 4 - 8:36
Finish - 34:03

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Sun Rise Over Soy Beans

Today's run was a bit tougher than expected. More of a mental challenge than a physical one. But I got dressed, got out the door, and finished it.

We went to Colonial Beach and took a picture with their Virginia LOVE sign.

Sun rising over the soy bean fields.

Right next to the mattress is an old RV. Just in case the mattress isn't big enough.

Temps were about 70F. Humidity was high to moderate. Sun was out. Not much wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Half a coffee before the run. Plain water during the run. Recovery was more coffee, a banana, two egg whites, three sausage links, and two slices of toast.

Aches and Pains:
Right calf felt a little tight but I've been noticing that I'm not drinking as much as I normally do before bed time. I'm guessing this is why I'm a bit parched in the morning and drink so much on my runs recently.

T-shirt and shorts.

Today's Motivation:
The fact that I needed 6 and knew I could land 5+ before starting work. As long as I got up and got dressed at least.

Naughty Neil:
I had a burger and fries yesterday. And a grape Nehi. It was delicious.

Outbound - 31:42
Inbound - 31:45
Finish - 1:03:27

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Day of Neighbors

Felt good about today's run. The weather stank but I still felt good by the end. Along the way today I recorded another podcast episode, took a picture or two, saw a couple of deer out for breakfast, and saw about 10 or 12 of my neighbors out and about. I didn't think I saw that many until I was in my last loop and started counting in my head how many I had seen. Sometimes it's nice to see neighbors but it's always great to live in such a great neighborhood.

Let's see, what else. Nope, that's about it. Oh, if you get a minute, go give @busankevin some love. He's getting back into running after a long break.


The fog today was thick.

These were from this weekend's run.

Temps were about 75F. Humidity was high. Sky was probably clear but there was some dense fog so you couldn't see it. No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Had some coffee before the run. Plain water during the run. Recovery was a breakfast burrito (a healthy one), a banana, yogurt, and coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Right leg felt a little janky for a mile or so in the middle of the run. Aside from that, things felt good.

Nothing special. Just a t-shirt and shorts.

Today's Motivation:
Busan Kevin and his running challenge for the month of September. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up with his daily runs, but heh, worth a try, right?

Naughty Neil:
Whoever it is on my team that suggested I try the frozen yogurt ice cream bars is evil. But also my savior. Instead of eating a bowl of ice cream goodness that's full of calories, I'm now able to control my serving size and make things a tiny bit healthier.

Loop 1 - 18:51
Loop 2 - 17:27
Loop 3 - 17:00
Loop 4 - 22:25 (about half was walking recovery)
Finish - 1:15:45