Saturday, December 3, 2011

2012 Race Calendar--First Draft

Milford Road Runners Winter Wonderland 5 Miler
Sun., Jan. 29 - 9:30am
Platt Regional Tech School, Milford, CT

YMCA Sweetheart Run (4M)
Sat., Feb. 11th – 10:00 am
Booth Hill Memorial Park

WSSAC St. Patrick's Day Classic (4M)
Sat., March 17 - 11:00am
Fairfield, CT - (203)481-7453

Brian’s Beachside Boogie (2/10/2)
Sun., April 15 – 9:00 am
Hammonasett State Park

34th Annual Minute Man Race (10K)
Sunday, April 29 – 8:40am
Compo Beach, Westport

Ten-Penny Shamrock Duathlon
Late May
Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury

Trifitness Seaside Sprint Triathlon Sunday, June 10 – 6:30 am
Seaside Park, Bridgeport, CT

Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon
Sunday, June 24 – 8:30 am
Jennings Beach, Fairfield, CT

Greenwich Point One-Mile Swim
Saturday, July 14 – 7:30am
Todds Point, Greenwich

CT Bike Challenge (25, 50, 75 or 100-mile)
Saturday, July 28 – 8:00am
Fairfield County Hunt Club

Tour of Litchfield Hills
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Coe Park, Torrington, CT

Westport Kiwanis Triathlon
Sunday, Sept. 9 – 7:30am
Compo Beach, Westport

Simply Du It Duathlon
Sunday, Sept. 23 – 8:00am
Fairfield County Bank, Ridgefield, CT

Hartford Half-Marathon
Bushnell Park, Hartford, CT

Kent Pumpkin Run (5-Miler)
Late October
Kent, CT

Pequot Runners Thanksgiving Day Race
Thanksgiving Day
Southport, CT

Thoughts on the Season:

I race primarily because racing gives focus to my training.  Each workout has some purpose.  String them together, and you can begin to build weeks and months of focused effort that over time come together to form a cohesive whole.

For me, this coming season is about riding and especially running.  I started last season with a lingering lower back and groin injury and then developed a plica in my right knee, all of which prevented me from doing much run training in the offseason—all the way to about mid-summer.  So I swam a lot and focused my season, at least in part, on the Greenwich Point One-Mile Swim.  I got on the podium there, but afterwards, I struggled to shift my effort towards a more-balanced approach, all of which resulted in good overall total fitness but mediocrity of results.  Which is to say that I trained well but couldn’t close out my races as strongly in the run-leg as I wanted.  Moreover, I felt burnt by the end of the season.  The sheer difficulty of holding my swimming form while pivoting the majority of my effort to riding and running wore on me.  I didn’t feel like I actually ran well until triathlon season ended and I started training for the Hartford Half-Marathon.

Somewhere along the way, I also started to enjoy running—for the first time in years.

So here’s the plan: I’m going to run more.  Then, once the winter snow thaws, I’ll start working in more time on the bike.  Right now, my plan is to focus my efforts on the Fairfield Half-Marathon, followed by the Connecticut Bike Challenge, which will be my “A” race for the season, and then holding form through the Tour of Litchfield Hills.  After that, I’ll try to balance it out and peak for the season at the duathlon in September.

The beauty of this plan is that it’s a little easier in terms of training and racing.  The transitions are easier in-race.  Also, Sally says I need to put some meat back on my arms, so I’m gonna get back in the gym and try to get a little bigger and stronger.  That won’t help me race—it especially won’t help me ride—but it’ll be more fun than swimming, and anyway, as Billy Crystal used to say, it’s better to look good than to feel good.  Heh.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Awesome beer

Sierra Nevada's hand-crafted Estate.  Note the green wax sealing the bottle.

Best beer I've ever had.  Mmmmm...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dear Wizards of the Coast,

Can you please publish some new upper Paragon or Epic Tier articles in Dungeon Magazine?  Maybe a side quest or two and/or a little campaign through the Hells?

Look, I run a game that's headed to the Hells, and yes, I can design a campaign to do what I need it to do.  But I don't feel like I'm real great with setting up the traps and terrain features, and I HATE drawing the battle maps.  It takes for-freakin'-ever!

Here's the hook:

The drow wizard Asterlix sold his soul to Asmodeus for power but then used that power to turn himself into a lich, preventing Asmodeus from collecting Asterlix's soul.  Asmodeus wasn't happy, but before he had a chance to send the repo man to collect Asterlix's soul, Glasya hired my PCs to go kill Asterlix themselves and take his soul for her instead.  So now my PCs have to deliver the soul to Glasya in the 6th Circle without Asmodeus's minions getting in the way.

Awesome, right?  I know.

So.  What I need you guys to do is to write that up as a big old article in Dungeon Magazine, complete with maps.  Awesome maps.  That would save me HOURS of planning, and to be honest, I really could use that time in other ways.

Got it?


Dan Head

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Lich's Phylactery

Paragon Artifact (Head Slot)
This small crystal skull contains the immortal soul of the lichdrow Asterlix.
Property: You gain +2 to Arcana and Dungeoneering.
Property: You gain +2 to Perception and Insight checks made against undead.
Property: You gain resist 10 necrotic.
Property: Utility Power (STD Action) * Daily
 ----- Effect: Until your next extended rest, Asterlix can answer up to 3 questions as if you had used the Consult Oracle ritual.  You can spread these questions out over the course of the day.

In life, Asterlix was a minor mage of House Despana, a minor noble house in the famed drow city Menzonbarrenzan.  Dissatisfied with his lot in life, Asterlix sold his soul to Asmodeus, the King of Hell, for vast arcane powers.  But though Asterlix received the power that Asmodeus promised, he cheated the King of Hell by transforming himself into a lich, thus preventing his soul from ever passing into Hell so long as his phylactery remains intact. 

Upon his defeat in battle, Asterlix’s phylactery passes into the hands of his conquerors, becoming a powerful arcane artifact for one strong enough to wield it.

Ideally, Asterlix would like to regain control of his phylactery, reconstitute his body, and slay the phylactery’s wielder and his or her companions.  Failing that, Asterlix fears being consigned to Hell.  He will serve his phylactery’s wielder if he must in order to stay out of the hands of Asmodeus or one of the arch-devil’s ilk.  Thus, this artifact’s concordance states should not be thought of as agreement and/or liking for its possessor.  Instead, the wielder slowly comes to dominate Asterlix, gaining control of the lichdrow’s powers despite Asterlix’s best efforts to thwart the wielder’s efforts.

To use the Lich’s Phylactery, one need only hold it up to one’s forehead.  The phylactery then embeds itself, melding with wielder’s skull above the brow-line.  Once emplaced, the Lich’s Phylactery is visible and obvious to casual observers.  After emplacement, the Lich’s Phylactery can only be removed only during an Extended Rest.  If its wielder removes it, the Phylactery immediately resets its Concordance score to zero.

Concordance Factors    /    Effect
 - Owner gains a Level    +1d10
 - Owner is undead          +2
 - Owner is drow               +1
 - Owner is Evil                  +1
 - Owner is a Ritual Caster     +2
 - Owner is an Arcane Class   +1
 - Owner kills a Devil    +1 (max once/day)
 - Owner is Eladrin                     -1
 - Owner is knocked unconscious by a devil (max once/day)         -2
 - Owner is planning to turn Asterlix's soul over to Asmodeus or a rival archdevil.        -5

Pleased (16+)
Property: You gain resist 15 necrotic.
Property: Attack Power (STD Action: Charm, Psychic) * Daily
-- ATK: Ranged 5 (1 creature you can see); INT, WIS, or CHA + 6 vs. Will
 ----- Hit: The TGT is stunned (save ends).
 ----- Aftereffect: The TGT is Dazed (save ends)

Satisfied (12 - 15)
Property: You gain darkvision.
Property: Attack Power (STD Action: Charm, Psychic) * Daily
-- ATK: Ranged 5 (1 creature you can see); INT, WIS, or CHA + 4 vs. Will
 ----- Hit: The TGT is Stunned to the end of your next turn.
 ----- Aftereffect: The TGT is Dazed (save ends).

Normal (5 - 11)
 - The Lich's Phylactery functions as written in the intro.

Unsatisfied (1 - 4)
Property: You gain resist 5 necrotic instead of resist 10.
 - You cannot use the Phylactery's Consult Mystic Sages property.

Angered (Concordance < 1)
Property: You gain vulnerable 5 necrotic instead of resist 10.
 - You cannot use the Phylactery's Consult Mystic Sages property.

Moving On
If the Lich’s Phylactery is Unsatisfied or Angered for more than two levels, Asterlix regains control of the artifact and uses it to reconstitute his body.  He then attempts to kill his former host and rebuild his powerbase in the most convenient local location.

If the Lich’s Phylactery is in the Normal or Satisfied state at the time when it moves on, it leaves its host with a permanent +3 to Arcana checks made during divination rituals as well as permanent necrotic resistance (resist 5 necrotic).  If the Lich’s Phylactery is Pleased, the necrotic resistance is Resist 10 instead of Resist 5.

If the Lich’s Phylactery moves on because its wielder gives it to Asmodeus or another arch-devil, the wielder still gains the permanent +3 to Arcana checks made during divination checks.  However, instead of necrotic resistance, the Arch-devil should award the wielder with fire resistance or a specific divine boon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trying to Get Back on Track: NPR’s Top 100 Sci Fi & Fantasy Novels

Wow.  I’ve been way busy.  Busy at work, busy at home, busy with my game The Sellswords of Luskan.  I broke the cardinal rule and split the party—5 ways!—for a series of vignettes, and managing that has taken all of whatever time I usually have for posting to this blog.  So, while I’ve been meaning to write a full Race Report for the Hartford Half-Marathon, I just haven’t been able to find the time, and at this point, the race is starting to feel like old news.  It was a good race, I’m glad I ran it, and I feel like I ran well, but by now we’re now almost a full week into a planned two-week hiatus, and I feel like I’m not only mostly recovered from the year’s training, I’m actually itching to get back out there. 

Weird, I know.

In past years, I’ve just loved this time of the season not only because it’s nice to rest but also because it’s nice to reconnect with my family.  But this year is different.  The kids are a little older and more independent this year, I ran my last race as a partnership with my wife, so it’s not like I’ve not seen her lately, and anyway, managing the training regime is just easier with the bike-commute as an added daily occurrence.  They’re my simple, non-goal, oriented maintenance-type workouts.  Having them in the schedule made this year a lot easier to manage—which was good because there was a lot to balance at times.

In any event, it’s the offseason, and I didn’t come here to write about running or triathlon.  Today, I want to talk about NPR’s list of the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books.  This list has been a matter of some debate around my office, and I thought that writing about it a bit might make for a kind of an easy post. 

If you’re wondering, I’ve read almost half of the books listed.  Not half of the entries but rather most of the series and fewer of the single-volume notables.  I’ll underline those that I’ve read and comment where I think appropriate.  Your comments are also more than welcome, especially in reference to the ones I’ve not read.  I commute daily on the train and read at least as much as anyone I’ve ever met, so I’m always looking for recommendations.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.  Adams is a worthy second, I think.

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.  This might be a little high for Ender’s Game, but it is a modern classic.  Still… more classic than Dune?  I dunno about that.  It is, however, on the Army’s list for novels about leadership, and it made Card’s career.  Also: several of the sequels are notable in their own right, especially Speaker for the Dead.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert.  I liked the first book tremendously, but the rest is garbage.

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin.  I’d read the first two books before this became a thing.  Now with the HBO series, the books are impossible to find at the library, and I don’t want to buy them because I know damn well that every library in America has a copy in its collection.  Still, it might be three more years before I finish these.  *sigh*

6. 1984, by George Orwell.  I loved 1984.  This is one of those “required reading”-type books that I think folks actually ought to read for themselves.  Don’t settle for the Cliff Notes.  1984 is incredibly relevant to today’s world.  In fact, in many ways, it’s more relevant now than it was when it was written as an allegory of the dangers of Communism.  It’s a very serious warning about the dangers of the War on Terror.

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.  In contrast, I think you can get Fahrenheit 451 from the Cliff Notes.

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov.  As with Dune, I liked the first book and thought the others were unnecessary sequels.

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.  BNW is another all-time favorite.  It spoke to me when I read it in high school, and I liked it even more when I re-read it as an adult.

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.  I’m not the biggest Gaiman fan, but I’m planning to read this sometime in the next six months.

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman.  Great movie.  Can the book really be any better?  Frankly, I’m skeptical.

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan.  The first book is amazing.  The second book is very good.  The third book is good.  After that, I strongly recommend the book summaries on Wikipedia.  Then you can pick up the new WoT-concluding trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, which is based on Jordan’s notes but otherwise superior to all but the very first book in the series.  I have great respect for Jordan as a man and as an author, but folks, there’s a reason why virtually everything Sanderson has ever written is included on this list.

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson.  This book was the basis for the film “Johnny Pneumonic”.  Also the first work of the sub-genre “cyber-punk”.  I made my librarian order it.

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore.  Argh.  I hate Alan Moore’s work.  Besides which, how can you include Watchman but leave off The Dark Knight Returns?  It defies all logic to include the deconstruction without including at least one prime example the basic source material.

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein.  First time I read this, it blew my mind.  Then I read it again a few summers ago and didn’t think it held up so well.  Not sure what that proves.

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss.  This is supposed to be a thinking man’s version of Harry Potter.  I’ve not read it but plan to.

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.  How is Slaughterhouse-Five sci fi?

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.  I love this book, having read it maybe thrice.  Also: I dated a direct descendant of Mary Shelly briefly when I was in high school.  We didn’t really hit it off, but I will still say that I think that she was both very pretty and very smart.  Finally: this is considered to be the first science fiction novel.

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King.  I’ve read a few of the Marvel comic adaptations.  To my taste, they are wildly inconsistent in quality.

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.  I’m reading Snow Crash right now.  I like it a lot, but it dragged a bit through the middle.  Still, the high concept is amazing, and the execution is both smart and snarky.  With that said, I prefer Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon by a good bit, and frankly, I’m a bit scandalized that it’s not on this list somewhere.  Ten books by Neil Gaiman and nothing by Morgan?  What the Hell is wrong with people?

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury.  I loved the TV mini-series.  The book is also well worth reading.

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman.  I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve read enough to know that it doesn’t speak to me.  Also: in no universe would I ever describe this as a more seminal work of sequential art than The Dark Knight Returns.  Frank Miller got jobbed here.  Twice if you include Sin City (though I wouldn’t) or 300 (which I would).

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess.  This was a book?

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein.  ‘Nother of my all-time favorites that’s on the Army’s official reading list.  Like a lot of Heinlein’s work, there’s a Hell of a lot of other books out there that owe their existence to Starship Troopers.

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein.  I would’ve ranked The Puppet Masters above this, especially given the iconic stature of the movie it spawned, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller.  Got this in the stack for next week.

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings.  I’ve been meaning to get his series for my daughter Hannah.  I read it when I was ten and LOVED it.  Been looking forward to re-reading it with her.  It’s classic genre stuff, but still very, very enjoyable.  That said, I’ve not seen it in either the library or the bookstore lately.

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Tried to read this but couldn’t finish. It’s a little dry for my tastes.

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson.  The first two books of this series are truly remarkable.  The first one is an industrial good-vs.-evil story with a few very novel twists.  The second is to that what the “Godfather II” is to the “Godfather”.  More than worth your time, trust me.  The third book is okay, but a little High Fantasy for me, especially given where the series started.

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin.  My favorite thing about this book was the Foreword.  I liked the rest okay, but the Foreward was just terrific.  That might sound anti-climactic, but I didn’t find it so.  I just think that LeGuin framed her story very nicely with that bit of introductory work.

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White.  ‘Nother Arthurian book I couldn’t get through.

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks.  Soon to be a movie with Brad Pitt.  For a zombie book, this is quite the rah-rah patriotic crowd-pleaser.

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett.  Never read this book, but there was a really excellent comic series from Image that was also called Small Gods.

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson.  Been meaning to read this for years.

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett.  Prachett has a lot of books on this list.  Between her and Gaiman, there’s a lot of stuff on here that just doesn’t appeal to me.

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.  Also on my shelf right now.  And yes, I’m aware it’s a movie.  I’ve not seen it.

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist.  I didn’t love this series, but I’ve been thinking of re-reading it because I’m wondering if I missed something.  I was like ten when I read it the first time, and some of the Krondor-based sequels have been pretty good.  So it seems hard to believe that the actual basic source material wouldn’t be better.

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks.  Argh.  Don’t read this one.  Who even likes this crap?  Brooks wrote a very nice novelization of the first Star Wars prequel, but I’ve always thought the Shannara series was derivative garbage.

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard.  I’ve read maybe a half-dozen of the stories, but they’re devilishly hard to find in a library.

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb.  Apprentice assassin with super powers.  ‘Nuff said.

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. Amazing stuff here.  By the time Sanderson finishes this series, it’ll easily eclipse Jordan’s WoT.  The comparisons are inescapable, but Sanderson is a much better writer.

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore.  This is hit-or-miss, but when Salvatore is on, he’s really entertaining.  Still, there are better Forgotten Realms novels out there, including both Ereviss Cale trilogies and anything by Elaine Cunningham.

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury.  Didn’t like this one much.

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire.  Didn’t like this one much, either.

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher. Codex Alera but no Dresden Files?  WTF?  Dresden Files was a TV show.  A good TV show!  That said, I agree that Codex Alera is the better series.  Butcher’s scene structure is always right on, and the way he turns the typical Hero’s Journey plotline on its head is simply unbelievable.  The hero’s power is that he has no powers?  Brilliant!

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn.  These were the first Star Wars expanded universe novels.  The first two are pretty good.  The third one ends with a discordant CLANG!

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock.  I’ve read a few of Moorcock’s books.  I quite liked them.  Moorcock’s stuff is sword-and-sorcery with a side of drug-induced-hallucination.  Awesomely strange, but not to be taken in large doses.

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle.  This is supposed to be good military fiction.

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony.  I’ve read maybe half of these.  After a while, they’re spectacularly groan-worthy.  It’s astonishing that they sold as well as they did.  I much prefer Bio of a Space Tyrant.

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

So there you have it.  There are some notable absences here (The Dark Knight Returns, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon trilogy, the Harry Potter series, David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series, and David Weber’sHonor Harrington series to name a few), but I still find this list to be full of worthwhile stuff.  Certainly it’s given me a way to direct my reading for the next six months or so.

If you want to see a map of the list, consult SF Signal’s flowchart.  Huge but brilliant.  If nothing else, it’ll give you a clue about what some of the books you’ve never heard of are about.  Plus, they also have one for Netflix.

Happy reading.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Little Tipsy

Half-Marathon + Day out with the Kids + 2 Beers + 1 very nice Pinot Noir, albeit one from California.  I'm a little tipsy.  *sigh*

Hartford Half-Marathon

I'm not gonna write a full-on Race Report today, but Sally and I ran the Hartford Half this morning, and I think we both did very well.  I know I was certainly pleased.  I finished in 1:57:45, which works out to be just under 9:00/mile.  My goal was to go under 2-hours, so... hooray!

Sally came in at 2:01.  That's easily a PR for her at this distance, and that's totally awesome.

And now it's the off-season.  That is also awesome.  Yeah, us!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Weekend Update--A Few Days Late

I’ve scheduled vacation days in any number of different ways these past few years, but this year was a little more challenging because I had to use so many of my days early due to my mother’s hospitalization and passing in the spring.  I nevertheless managed to squirrel away enough time for a week’s outing on Green Lake in Maine, but after that I was pretty much done.  But then we had Hurricane Irene, and my company obliged me by calling me in on a crappy Sunday afternoon and keeping me around for three days straight.  So I wound up with an unexpected bonus-day in lieu of a day spent housebound during a hurricane.  I took that day on Friday, making this past weekend a four-day weekend.

If you’re wondering, I’d thought about waiting to take that last day around Christmas but decided to go ahead and take it now because, bottom line, the weather in Connecticut is usually crappy at Christmas time, and more to the point, Christmas is a fine time to be in the office.  No one else is around.  It’s usually quite and relatively peaceful.  So I’ll have to work on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but I got to take off on a day when the weather was good, and we didn’t have anything in particular that we needed to do.  To me, that trade will be worth it nearly every time.

The main reason that I took Friday off was that Sally and I needed to get in one more long training run before the Hartford Half-Marathon.  The Half is this coming Saturday, so Friday was our scheduled rehearsal.  By taking an actual vacation day for it, I not only ensured that we had enough time to fully recover, I also made it so that Sally and I could run together. 

We got up around regular time, got the kids fed, dressed, and off to school, and then we stretched and headed out around 9:30 or so.  We ended up running not quite eleven and a half miles, and it took us just over 1:45 to do it.  I was pleased with the overall effort.  Running with Sally kept me well below any kind of working pace, so that I still felt pretty good, even at the end of an hour’s effort.  With about four miles left to go, I was legitimately ready to start picking up the pace and bring it home hard.  Unfortunately, Sally was getting tired by then, so I just sort of kept on keeping on—probably not a bad thing, all things considered.  The whole thing was quite a confidence booster, especially given that Sally is actually good at the half-marathon distance.  Unfortunately, my left ankle started getting a little gimpy at about the one hour and fifteen minute mark, but though I was able to push through it, it remained a bit tender all the way through mid-week this week.  Still, this is why you give yourself plenty of recovery time after the rehearsal.  I ran on it a bit yesterday and don’t seem to be suffering any ill effects.

After the run, Sally and I came home, showered, changed, grabbed some snacks, and headed back out.  The rest of the afternoon kind of felt like a date.  We only went to the chiropractor and then to the Whole Foods deli, but it was a beautiful day, the kids were stuck in school, and we weren’t on any particular schedule.  That kind of freedom is an absolutely unknown thing in our marriage any more.  By the time we got home, it was early afternoon.  I got the kids, and we eventually ordered some food from the local Chinese/Japanese take-out place.  I can’t say it was the best dinner I’ve ever had, but it was easy, and that sort of set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was more of a typical weekend-type day.  We got up around regular time, got the kids some breakfast, and I took them to swim lessons while Sally worked around the house.  After that, I think we spent most of the afternoon working around the house while the kids played outside.  I ironed and watched a couple of episodes of Alphas on Hulu

Sunday was similar with the caveat that I was really fired up about the Titans/Steelers game and made sure we were home from our errands in time to catch it.  We started the day by heading out to Sleepys where we bought a new mattress and then Sears where Sally bought a new dryer.  Exciting!  Heh.  Seriously, it was kind of fun looking at mattresses, and we let them use their new-fangled computer analysis machine to tell us what our optimum mattress would be.  How many different ways are there to say, “Firm, but not too firm”?  I don’t know, but we must have heard fifty.  The mattress industry has definitely done some work on up-selling the average consumer.  Still and all, I’ve gotta admit that the sales pitch was both logical and somewhat entertaining, and I left Sleepys feeling like we’d done okay.  There’s something to say for that.

Of course, the Titans game was a debacle of the worst sort, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch the whole thing.  I did.  And when I got disgusted with it, I flipped over to the Giants/Seahawks game, but that game was, if anything, even worse than the Titans game.  Fortunately, my friends Jeff came over for the 4pm Jets/Patriots game, and while I can’t say that that game was great, I can at least tell you that we drank a lot of beer and laughed a lot.  And that was great.

By the way, with all the weird-ass beers we’ve been drinking lately, I’ve been considering a beer-review post.  Anybody interested in seeing that?

Monday was by far my favorite day of the weekend.  I made pancakes, and after we finished cleaning up the kitchen, we packed up the bikes and headed out to Hammonasset State Park.  We rode for maybe two hours, had a picnic lunch, read about some of the local wildlife, and then drove out to an orchard for apple picking.  By that time, though, both Sally and the kids were absolutely smoked, and worse, the apples were pretty much all picked!  The weather here has been so beautiful lately that everyone in the area had already been out to get apples.  There were barely any left, and those we found were so high that we had to climb for them!  Work!!!

Eh.  We did finally manage to get a little bag full of apples, but I was happy when we eventually got home.  Sally and I cracked open the dry Riesling I’d been saving since last month—it’s incredibly hard to find a dryRiesling, if you’re wondering—and I watched TV with the girls while Sally worked on dinner.  And boy, that Riesling was worth it.

Overall, it was an awesome weekend.  But then again, that’s true of pretty much any weekend that ends with a day spend on the bikes with Sally and the girls.  Those day are, by far, my favorites.