February 28, 2009

The Lemon

Melissa already posted this photo, but I think it's good enough to be posted again.

15 weeks into this thing, Fig should be about the size of a lemon.

February 26, 2009

The Masters Time Trials

Last night at Masters Swimming we had time trials of various events, just like the practice meet we had last December. I took some time off in December and January so I'm just starting to get back into the swing of things in the water, but that didn't stop me from swimming a few events and having a good time.


Since I'm mainly interested in endurance events I chose to swim 500 yard freestyle. I also chose a couple other random events just to mix things up, 200 yard individual medley, and 100 yard breaststroke.

The 100 breaststroke came first for me. I finished in 1:26, which is frankly faster than I expected, though not terribly fast. Interestingly, it was my muscles that were holding me back. My breathing was barely elevated by the end.

The 200 IM came next. I've only done an IM this long one other time (last week in practice). My time of 2:57 was better than last week's 3:07, though to put that in perspective, the guy in the lane next to me was almost finished just as I started the final freestyle lap. This took a lot out of me.

500 Free
500 freestyle start. I don't know why my legs always separate as I jump.

After a short (too short) break came the 500 freestyle. Just as in December I was the only person swimming this far. Since I really only have one speed it felt kind of like a sprint to me. The good news was that the coach had a lap counting sign he stuck in the water after each lap so I knew how far I'd gone. I have a problem with losing count of my laps. The bad news was that after only one or two laps my upper arms and shoulders were burning with lactic acid. I swam as fast as I could and finished in 7:10, a good 17 seconds slower than in December. This was also a slower pace than I swam for 1000 yards last September, shortly after peaking for the national triathlon championships. It wasn't great, but it's still very early in the year.

100 Fly
100 yard butterfly

100 Back
my friend Scott starts the 100 yard backstroke

50 Free
the fastest 50 yard freestyle finisher tears through the water

The event was fun. To be honest I'd like to do this more frequently to be able to gauge on my progress (or in this case, lack of progress).

February 23, 2009

The Keytar

I was in 5th grade in the 1988. Sure, it was the late 80's, but it was still the 80's. MTV (which used to actually play music) was all the rage. The music was wild, the hair was wild, the clothes were wild, and even the musical instruments were wild. Nothing was quite as ridiculously excessive as a keytar.

A keytar is just what it sounds like, a cross between a keyboard and a guitar. More specifically, it is a keyboard, but it's worn on a strap over your shoulder like a guitar. With a keytar in hand a keyboard player could look as cool as a guitarist (though clearly the keyboard player would never actually be as cool as the guitarist). Well, that was the idea at least.

I was channel surfing one day when I flipped past the Home Shopping Network. There on the screen was a beautiful red keytar, a Yamaha SHS-10. I had to have it. It was fairly reasonably priced. I don't remember the exact number, but it was somewhere between $50-100, perhaps around $70. Regardless, I was a 5th grader and I didn't have that kind of money. It was also a bit pricey for a random middle-of-the-year non-birthay non-Christmas gift from my parents, so it appeared as if all hope was lost.

Within a matter of days I was sitting in Mr. Gholson's class at the end of the school day when the principal began some school-wide announcements over the intercom. The announcements were related to the school fundraiser we had just finished. As usual I had big plans to sell the more items than anyone else in the school, and as usual I didn't. At the very end of the announcements the principal reminded all the students that everyone who sold at least one item had their names entered into a drawing to win $50 cold hard cash. It seems like I never win anything like this, so you can imagine my surprise when he read my name as the recipient of the $50. Jackpot.

With my $50 in hand I was able to convince my parents to use it to order the keytar for me from the Home Shopping Network. I loved that thing. It was so cool I even brought it in to school to show all my classmates what I bought with my $50 prize.


I started numerous bands with my friends throughout middle school where I played the keytar (poorly). Someone else would beat some sticks on buckets or something because nobody had a drum set. Everyone else just kind of stood around because they didn't have any instruments either. But they were my friends and they were in the band. We had big plans.

I didn't know very many songs, so I usually just hit the Demo button and it played by itself. The demo song was Wham's Last Christmas, though I had no idea what it was at the time. I don't recall ever hearing that song until maybe seven or eight years ago, at which point I exclaimed THAT'S THE DEMO SONG FROM MY KEYTAR!


The keytar has also has survived many years and many moves to different apartments and houses, much to the chagrin of my wife. I've tried to get rid of this thing, but it seems nobody I know seems to want it. I'm not sure why. This keytar is now considered vintage, and they're going on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Now might be a good time to cash in. Who thinks I have the guts to go through with it?

February 22, 2009

The Easy Hooker

We noticed a small wet spot in our ceiling a couple weeks ago when it was raining frequently. I assumed the gutters were clogged with leaves, as something similar happened last year. A few days later we noticed the spot again, except this time the spot was worse and this time it wasn't raining.

After a quick resurvey of our house I realized I miscalculated earlier and the wet spot in the ceiling was not far away from our upstairs toilet. Crap. Literally. Fortunately, there was nothing wrong with toilet itself. The supply line was leaking very slowly, so I closed the valve. I went to the store and bought a new supply line, and, after several days of putting it off, I finally installed it today. The toilet is back up and running.

In the process of fixing the toilet I went to the garage to grab some teflon tape. There I noticed I actually already had a toilet supply line. I suppose I wasted a trip to the store. But, as I had a difficult time explaining to Melissa earlier, this supply line wasn't to be used. It was a souvenir. Yes, a souvenir.

I believe it was my third summer working at ASP in southwest Virginia. I purchased many toilet supply lines that summer at the local hardware store. These supply lines were particularly hilarious due to the product name and packaging. Behold, the "Easy Hooker"

Easy Hooker front
Easy Hooker back

I bought one at the end of the summer so I'd always have a funny memory to laugh about. This supply line has stayed with me through numerous moves to new apartments and houses. It's never been used, but it came awfully close today...

February 17, 2009

The Insight

In 2002 Melissa & I bought our first new car, a Honda Insight. The little two-seater hatchback has a hybrid 3-cylinder gas/electric engine. The funny aerodynamic shape has the lowest coefficient of drag of any production car available in the U.S. (at least at the time of its introduction, and possibly still). It also has the lowest emissions and best fuel economy of any car, then or now. This thing is great. I would say that it was ahead of its time, but I think it would be more accurate to say all other cars are behind their time.

Buying Iris

Melissa named her car Iris, after her favorite flower. It was originally our second car, so the lack of a back seat wasn't a problem. When we moved to Nicaragua we got rid of my Civic and since we've been back in the U.S. we have only the Insight.

Melissa with Iris

There have been a couple of times were it would have been nice to have a back seat (e.g. picking up people from the airport), but we've always managed to get by.

As you may or may not already know, Melissa & I are expecting a baby Ragfield this summer, so the lack of a back seat in our only car isn't going to work for much longer. That's why we've decided to sell our beloved Iris and replace her (probably with a much more luxurious, yet fuel-economy-inferior Toyota Prius). We test drove a Prius on Valentine's Day... it was very nice.

So I've decided to pay tribute to Iris, who has been like a member of the family the past seven years...

Iris in the Smokies
Iris in the Smoky mountains

Iris packed for vacation
I still don't know how we were able to fit all of our clothes, food, camping gear, and two bicycles completely within the tiny car.

Rob a little cramped in a very full Iris
Okay, so it may have been a little cramped in there

Iris packed up to move
Here she is packed up to move out of our old house

Iris with Christmas tree
Here she is with a Christmas tree

Iris with skis
and skis

Good fuel economy
We've had good fuel economy

Not as good fuel economy
and terrible fuel economy

That's a pretty accurate range of the real world fuel economy we saw with Iris. In the summer it would regularly be in the high 50's to low 60's. In the winter it would regularly be in the mid-40's. The seven year average is just over 50 miles per gallon. In the summer of 2004, when I was bicycling nearly everywhere and Melissa was in Nicaragua, I spent around $20 on gas the entire summer.

One of the great things about this car is the instantaneous fuel economy gauge (the Prius has this too) that shows you exactly how good the gas mileage is at any given time. This has helped me learn how to drive to best conserve fuel. Surprise, surprise, the most important thing to do is slow down. But it's a little more complicated than that. It takes a light touch to get it just right. You have to connect with the car and feel how it reacts to the slightest changes.

Even with all the things we love about this car, she's not perfect. I found her lack of cruise control frustrating at times, but I made due. How does a car produced in this millennium not have cruise control? Also, the gas tank is on the wrong (right) side of the car (now I'm just nitpicking, but seriously, all gas tanks should be on the left/driver side of the car). Fortunately, the Prius remedies both of these shortcomings.

We'd love for Iris to go to a good home, so if any of you are even the slightest bit interested in buying her, let us know soon.

Iris at night
Good night

February 8, 2009

The Epic Double

Illini Chill

Saturday morning was the annual Illini Chill winter bike ride in St. Joe. I rode it last year for the first time in some horrible weather. It was a pleasant surprise to see the forecast for this year indicated the high temperature would be in the 50's.

I learned the hard way last year that the included lumberjack breakfast actually isn't pancakes. Luckily, Melissa and I filled up on pancakes Friday night at IHOP.

Short stack
Melissa & I ate our own "lumberjack breakfast" the night before the ride at IHOP

The ride start in St. Joe is only 12 miles from my house in Urbana. Since the weather was so nice I just decided to ride over there. I had a nice cross-tailwind to help push me along the whole way.

Illini Chill
Don, Karl, Greg, & Gene at the ride start

The regular route was a 22 mile loop from St. Joe to Royal and back. There was a 20+ mile long route addition, which I assumed we would do. We started heading north with a strong tailwind. Before I new it we were in Royal and we kept going on the long route--still heading North. We were 15-20 miles north of St. Joe when we finally turned west and hit the first headwind. It was tough. Eight of us took turns leading the way, but our speed still slowed from 25 to 15 mph.

Illini Chill map
my Illini Chill route

We wound our way back to St. Joe, mostly into the headwind. I realized that 20+ miles actually meant 28 miles. That put me at 60 for the day... so far. I was fairly exhausted by the time we returned to St. Joe for the pasta lunch and I was dreading the final 12 miles into the headwind back to Urbana. Fortunately, one of my friends also rode over from Urbana and we were able to ride back together.

It took 4:30 to travel 72 miles. Not great, but it's only February. This one ride was more than half as far as my total January mileage.

Clinton Lake

I returned home, showered, took a 30 minute nap, ate a snack, then started to prepare for my second adventure. A different group of friends was planning to run 10 miles at the Clinton Lake trail on Saturday night. Clinton Lake is one of the harder area trails to run under normal circumstances. At night (using headlamps and flashlights) it was going to be a new challenge. Additionally, we realized pretty quickly that the entire trail was covered in several inches of mud.

Clinton Lake trail map
Clinton Lake trail

There was a big turnout--18 or so runners. It was kind of neat in the early miles to turn around and see 15 flashlights lining the trail behind me. We slid all over the place. A few people fell. I managed to stay upright, though one time I took a step and when I lifted my foot up my shoe stayed in the mud.

Trail running
my muddy shoes this morning

Somehow I was way overdressed. I started with pants, a long sleeve shirt, and gloves. I took the gloves off almost immediately. Later I pushed up my sleeves and unzipped my shirt. Then I pulled up my pant legs above my knees. I was on the verge of taking my shirt off. I don't know what the deal was... I've never been that hot when it was 45˚ before.

This trail usually takes me less than 1:30, but last night it took 2:20. There was an awful lot of hiking going on at times rather than running. After 6:50 of aerobic exercise in one day I was utterly exhausted.

After the run we all grabbed dinner at Dos Reales, where I consumed copious quantities of chips, salsa, & water. While I was nearly the last person to receive my order, I'm pretty sure I was the first to finish.

Needless to say I had no trouble sleeping last night.

February 1, 2009

The End of January

Photo of the Day

January calendar



BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi69.7 Mile164.35625 Mile
Big Red2. Mile12. Mile
El Fuego23.06 Mile45.765 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird44.65 Mile144.65 Mile
Total139.41 Mile226.33682 Mile

The weather has been too nasty to do much recreational cycling. These miles were mostly commute. I got in one road ride and one mountain bike ride the entire month.


Red arrows mark the trail

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January109.34 Mile1010.934 Mile
Total109.34 Mile1010.934 Mile

This was my highest monthly run total since I started running again.


MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January1.87452 Kilo Meter30.62484 Kilo Meter
Total1.87452 Kilo Meter30.62484 Kilo Meter

Not much going on here. I'm going to start swimming regularly again tomorrow.

Cross Country Skiing

Skiing Schroth Trail

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January26.67 Mile64.445 Mile
Total26.67 Mile64.445 Mile

What the heck, I spent a lot of time skiing last month. I still don't think I'm quite as good at it as I was last year. It hasn't come back to me quickly enough.