Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 8.080: (Not) making room for the next one

When Exile #3 (as she would later become) was big enough to move out of her cot (or crib for US readers), we bought a compact and low-to-the-floor toddler bed. It was not long before Exile #4 would need the crib. Similarly, Exile #4 vacated the small bed to make room for E5N1.

Since he has remained the youngest - while getting quite big - E5N1 has been coping with this bed but sometimes noticing that this twelve-year-old never-very-good mattress is not as comfortable as the ones on other beds he occasionally lies on.

Last week, we were finally able to do something about it:

So now he has a regular-sized bed, taller than anyone else's and with a load of new storage. He is quite happy about it - and we managed to get him out of the toddler bed before his eighth birthday - that's the official end of toddlerdom right?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 8.079: There's a lot of it...

...stuff to catch up on, that is.

But also snow. To be fair, this photo is a week old, but it still looks much like this.

The kids discovered that the highly compressed snow, glazed by a few weeks of thaw-refreeze cycles, is completely solid and rather easy to walk, and even run around on. It was hard to get them to stand still long enough to take this photo.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 8.078: Exile #2's Sunday Column #50

Exile #2 writes...

This morning I got up at 10 pm, half an hour before I went to bed and ran 75 miles before breakfast...only kidding, I did nothing of the sort. In fact, even Exile #1 took a break today.

It's been a full sort of week. On Wednesday, Exile #3 took a day trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The class went to view works by artists they had been studying (Exile #3 has been studying Pollock). Judging by her photos, however, she was very taken with the museum's painted ceilings and developed a fascination for Boston's many cement trucks.

Since Friday evening, we have been fully occupied with activities ranging from the sublime (planning and dreaming with our church community at HopeGateWay) to the cheerfully ridiculous. In particular, the sight of a rink full of people doing the Hokey Pokey (or Cokey, if you're on the other side of the Atlantic) on roller skates at a 8 year old birthday party. E5N1 was new to being on wheels and looked a lot like Bambi. Exile #4, however, seemed delighted to be rolling again and spent a happy couple of hours going around and around. After all that, they'll be pleased to only have a 3.5 day week ahead.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 8.077: 70 mile week day 6: Done

I've been documenting my first attempt to run a 70 mile week. It started on Monday.

The running forum I post to to discuss marathon training had a conversation a week or so ago about the dangers of "process goals" - artificial milestones in training that are not directly related to the goal of the training (i.e. to run a fast marathon). You could argue that the 70 mile week was one such goal and therefore I should not care whether I achieved it or not. On the other hand, it was a regular week in my training schedule and, as one of the peak mileage weeks, it was fairly important to complete it if I could.

So could I?

Yes I could, thanks to 18 miles including 12 at marathon pace this morning (5 am alarm).

So there it is, 71 miles in 10 hours with a day to spare. I will be enjoying my scheduled rest day tomorrow.

As for next week - it's another 70 mile week - but I promise to try my best to write some posts about other things - but bear in mind that I'll probably be a little tired at blog post writing time.

"Running" total: six days, seven runs, 71.2 miles. I'm done!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 8.076: 70 mile week day 5: Change of plans

I'm documenting my first attempt to run a 70 mile week. It started on Monday.

I have a rule about running which is never to change my route part way. The reason is, after a few miles I seem to lose the ability to make sensible decisions about secondary things like route-planning. I wrote about some of my lack of clarity once. Of course, I already broke this rule this week for my speedwork on Tuesday.

Today, I set out to do a six mile loop. This short run meant I set my first alarm for 5 am - it felt like a lie-in! Just before the three mile loop I was approaching a level crossing when the lights started to flash and the barriers came down. I waited to see the train. If it was a passenger train I could probably wait and continue. It was not.

As the freight train came into view I decided to turn around and retrace my route to complete the approximately six mile route that way.  About a mile later I crossed under a bridge under the railroad - the train was still passing. I guess I made a good call.

Here's my week in context. I only plan for one more run this week - will I make the magic 70? We'll all find out tomorrow!

"Running" total: five days, six runs, 53.3 miles.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 8.075: 70 mile week day 4: T is for...

I'm documenting my first attempt to run a 70 mile week. It started on Monday.

...ten miles, toe chafing and trouble getting out of bed.

It took me twenty minutes to drag myself out of bed after my first alarm went off at 4:30 am this morning. Still, I eventually got out of the house and did my assigned ten miles - to the beach and back.

I arrived at shore at about half an hour later than I had yesterday, but the view was rather less spectacular - just a flat blue light and I don't think the 30 minutes was the decisive factor.

I didn't notice my toe was hurting until later in the day. I've wrapped it up and cut my nails - hopefully that will prevent any further damage.

It's been quite a week outside of running too, but perhaps you're beginning to see why I don't always have the energy to tell a compelling story at the end of the day.

"Running" total: four days, five runs, 47.3 miles.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 8.074: 70 mile week day 3: Halfway there

I'm documenting my first attempt to run a 70 mile week. It started on Monday.

My training programme called for a fifteen mile run today. The main problem with these midweek medium-long runs is getting up early enough to fit it in before work. My first alarm went off at 4 am today and I was out of bed before my second one would have gone off at 4:05 am.

Fifteen miles is far enough to go somewhere and to keep it simple for a run that would take place half in complete darkness, I did an out-and-back route.

The mid-point, which was either all-the-way-there or halfway-there depending on your point of view allowed me the chance to take a few bad pictures of the sun rising over the sea. Instead of choosing the least bad one, I did this:

You can see a piece of ice floating out to sea and a lighthouse flashing. Then I ran home again.

Oh yes - I'm also halfway to 70 miles: "Running" total: three days, four runs, 36.8 miles.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 8.073: 70 mile week day 2: Intervals

I'm documenting my first attempt to run a 70 mile week. It started yesterday.

Once again, my day started with a 4:45 am alarm. This time I dragged myself out of bed five minutes later. I spend the next few minutes getting dressed each morning in the dark by the light of my iPhone flashlight so as not to disturb Exile #2, but first I have to find out how cold it is outside. This morning it was 16°F with a wind-chill resulting in it feeling like 9°F, but knowing I was doing speedwork I dressed more for the former.

The first five miles of the fun were one of my normal loops at easy pace. I was thinking about how nice it was to run on dry roads after many icy/snowy runs and that there is so much sand at the sides of them at this time of year because it's used to treat the icy roads and ends up like a small beach by the early spring. It felt pretty cold and a few miles in, my hands started to get pretty cold despite the two pairs of gloves I was wearing.

I had planned to do the loop again, but I realised that there were several potentially difficult road crossings to navigate while running at 5K pace, so I made a risky decision to change my route mid-run. This is normally a disaster as my processing power is diminished as the miles wear on, but this time it worked out OK. I decided to run my intervals around a loop about 1.5 miles long with no significant side-roads and no major road-crossings.

My interval workout was five repeats of 1200 metres (0.75 miles) at 5K pace followed by a jog to recover (0.35 miles or approximately 3 minutes). They were hard, but I certainly warmed up doing them. You can see my pace and heart-rate in the chart. After a short jog to complete my 11 miles, I arrived home a bit tired, with very cold fingers but otherwise fine.

Stretching, showering, breakfast and to work around 8 am and now it's time to get some sleep so I can do it again tomorrow.

"Running" total: two days, three runs, 21.4 miles.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 8.072: 70 mile week day 1: A double

If all goes according to plan I will run 70 miles this week. Of course there is every chance that things will not go according to plan!

A couple of years ago I was talking to a friend at work about marathon training and we were discussing how many miles you had to run to really run a marathon to your potential and he mentioned this: seventy miles a week. It seemed ridiculous at the time - I was peaking my training for my first marathon at around 40 miles in a week and really concentrating on the long runs and getting them up to 20 or more.

Now, in my fourth marathon cycle, 70 miles in a week definitely does not sound crazy - I've got pretty close in the last few weeks and this week my training programme calls for me to hit the number, so I thought I'd share how my week goes - whether it goes right or not.

This picture is from my long run on Saturday - not from today!

So day 1 started at 4:45 am - well, if you count snoozing my alarm as the start of the day. It took until just about 5 am to get up. Exile #3 was due to run the first mile with me, but she emerged from her room to say she was not well, so I set off to run six miles for my first run of the day.

I've never run two runs in a single day. Once, I ran one evening and the following morning, but that is the closest I've come, but the training schedule called for one today, so I thought I would give it a go. So, as soon as I got home from work, I climbed back into my running gear and hit the roads again. It's strange to run in daylight and when it's so busy on the roads when darkness and early-morning twilight have been the whole winter's running environment. Still, it was just a short loop of four miles - easy for me and not too much of a delay for dinner.

And we're done - 10.3 miles in the bank. Tomorrow is the first of two paced workouts. See you then!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 8.071: Exile #2's Sunday Column #49

Exile #2 writes...

School reports for the second trimester came home this week. We thought the young Exiles had done so well that we needed to celebrate, so after spending the morning at HopeGateWay, we headed off into downtown Portland.

Portland has so many interesting choices when it comes to food that we were nearly derailed at the discussion stage but in the end we plumped for the Flatbread Company. There was a slight hiccup with our order but it was quickly set straight and we enjoyed our delicious flatbread with a great view of the bobbing ferries. There was much to enjoy inside too, watching the pizza ovens in action and singing along to the eighties playlist - sorry kids...

We suggested they might need to leave a bit of room for something else and it didn't take them too long to figure out our next destination. Gelato Fiasco was a slightly curious choice considering the eye-wateringly cold temperature but when we were confronted with the 60 or so flavors for the day, we soon forgot about that. You can taste as many as you like and can choose as many as they can fit in your dish. Apparently some customers take them very seriously but we usually settle for 2 or 3. Exile #3 didn't mess around, picking out a trio of chocolate flavors. I went for the Espresso Chip and the Sweet Resurgam, which is apparently a tribute to Portland in the form of ice cream, full of roasted almonds, burnt sugar, chocolate chips and caramelly goodness. It was a yummy and very well-deserved reward!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 8.070: T-shirt weather?

Soon after I got back from my long run on the first full day of spring, it started to snow. At least one member of the family was not too impressed.

However, by mid-afternoon it had brightened up a bit and Exile #2 persuaded us all that we should get outside. Although it wasn't a popular idea, everyone seemed rather pleased to be outside and not entirely surrounded by snow:

"I found this, it's dead but it's still beautiful!"

Exile #4 eventually decided (after a certain amount of running around) that it was t-shirt weather. Then was rather surprised to find this snow bank that's still quite a lot taller than she is.

No-one else was tempted to bare their arms, but all in all I have to confess that it did feel a bit like spring.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 8.069: First day of spring

This morning it was still winter...as you can see:

but the vernal equinox occurred at 6:45 pm, so why did the day end looking like this?

It's spring now - maybe tomorrow, the first full day of spring will bring an end to snow covered ground and the arrival of flowers and leaves...?

No, apparently there's a good chance of more snow.

But of course.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 8.068: Littoral litotes

I mentioned the other day that I'd been for a run along the coast and hadn't seen the sea because it was still dark. What I missed were views (looking out over the littoral zone) like this:

That was on Saturday during my long run - not too bad.*

* This is an example of litotes.

One of the words in Exile #3's rather tricky-sounding spelling test today was "hyperbole" (it's the best thing ever!) which started a conversation about examples of hyperbole and litotes. Our kids have the most fun at the dinner table!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 8.067: Stereo types?

No, no, no!

To be fair to the manufacturer of these appealingly coloured guitar strings for kids, they do not appear to put any gender-specificity into their marketing, but this store did. Black and "rockin" red are for boys and "pinkalicious" is for girls. Either boys or girls can select blue - but still from gender-specific displays.

Why would you do that? The packets have the colours shown on them - just let the customer choose the one they like best!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 8.066: Failure and its rewards

We were happy that there was no leprechaun to deal with this morning - just some gold-ish chocolates and a cheeky note in the trap.

In other news, I ran 15 miles this morning - some of it along the coast - and didn't see the sea, but the sky was starting to get light by the time  I got home. This is the down-side of the time change, but getting home after work in the daylight is a fair compensation.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 8.065: Museums on standby?

It's been two years since I was home on St Patrick's Day. Last year I was nearing the end of my exile-from-exile in my apartment in Portland and the year before I was in Korea. So I had an excuse for forgetting the annual excitement of leprechaun-trap building.

Everyone else will have to furnish their own excuses, because as of dinner time nobody in the house had remembered.

Exile #4 and E5N1 gave it their best shot in the time we allowed them - decorating a box, baiting it with gold paperclips and cunningly making them sticky with double-sided tape even the one in the middle with the arrows which at a glance appears to be free of tape.

So, it's a tricksy trap, but will it work? If it does E5N1 told us he will scoop up the trapped leprechaun in a bag (with some air holes) and take it to a museum. Although after that he wasn't so sure how things would go, "They'll probably have to kill it so it can go on display..." Yikes! Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 8.064: Exile #2's Sunday Column #48

Exile #2 writes...

Today is Mother's Day in the UK which, as our poor mothers have found out, we do not always remember because Mother's Day in the US is in a completely different month. Sometimes, we have observed US Mother's Day instead because at least then we can pick out a card but the cards say Mom rather than Mum, so that doesn't really work either. Anyway, Happy Mother's Day to our long-suffering mums and to all who mother in some way.

This week, I was invited at the last minute to join Exile #4's class as a chaperone to see a production of The Little Mermaid at the local private school. I was strategically placed next to a group of chatty 5th graders, which made it all the more exciting. I began to wonder if the two chaperones who dropped out thought better of it for that very reason. Still, the show was nicely done by the middle school and it was interesting to see inside the school, as it is where all of the town's children go to high school.

Meanwhile, having celebrated St David's Day and Pi Day (and national tortilla chip day but that was stretching things a bit), this week we can look forward to celebrating St Patrick's Day, the day when everything turns green and everyone is Irish. Top of the morning to you!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day 8.063: Pie, pie and pi in the sky

It was the day of many vouchers today.

The second one to be cashed in was part of Exile #4's Christmas raffle winnings. It was lunchtime and appropriately enough for Pi Day (in US date form today was 3/14/15 even more pi than March 14th usually is!), we had a pizza pie:

After that we used the other part of her prize to go bowling, after which we were ready for dinner, and some more pie!

But before all that, E5N1 spent his winnings from being the No Cavity Club winner at the dentist on an excellent engineering kit that makes six different "kinetic machines". Here is number one in action, launching a ball (surface area 4.pi.r.r, volume 4/3.pi.r.r.r) into the air (if not actually the sky):

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 8.062: Growing up so fast

The kids are all growing at surprising rates. I know this because, seeing them every day, we are usually immune to the "haven't you grown" effect but recently even we have been noticing.

Just look at this picture of E5N1 from about ten weeks ago - he was only as tall as a game of Suspend:

On the other hand, as you can tell, I am not growing up at all.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day 8.061: Snow and ice

We were getting tantalizingly close to seeing some areas free of snow yesterday. The picnic table on the deck (admittedly having been largely cleared of snow a couple of weeks ago) was just holding on to some sinewy ribbons of gravity defying snow.

Then, when I woke up this morning the skylight was covered in fresh snow. Yes - I ran in the snow again this morning. It was falling hard but was short-lived. I blamed it on Exile #4 assuming she had been doing her snow-dance in the night. It turns out she fell out of bed several times, so even though she denies any actual knowledge of sleep-dancing, the truth of the matter is pretty evident.

By the end of the day, the fresh fallen snow is gone except where it is brightening up the aging snow-pack and our formerly-impressive ice dam above the garage is now just a fist-sized ice lump.

We must be due another storm. Oh yes - we are - over the weekend. Whether it will be snow or a mix of snow and rain appears to be in doubt...watch this space!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 8.060: Art show

The school district currently has an art show at the local museum. It is huge and pretty amazing:

(this is just a small section of it). Grades from K to 8 are represented including two of the Exiles (Exile #3 would also have qualified, but she has not had an art class yet this year):

It wasn't too hard to spot E5N1's space scene thanks to his characteristically expressive faces and a TIE fighter despite being very high on the wall. Exile #4's was harder to pick out, but we should have realised it was hers by the amount of blue!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Day 8.059: Beach (toy) weather

Yesterday it was really starting to feel like we'd turned the corner and things were warming up. The snow started melting too, although we still have plenty. Still, I was surprised to trip over a bag of beach toys in the garage when I got home from work.

I assumed it had just been dragged out of some dusty corner by mistake, but I was wrong!

I gather that Exile #2 did most of the building while E5N1 burned some calories with more active pursuits. One benefit of the clock-change was that I could photograph the creations in daylight after work.

It was even warmer today. Really spring-like as long as we didn't open your eyes.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 8.058: Winner!

I hope you enjoyed the image I created for yesterday's Sunday Column post as much as I did, but since Exile #2 visited the dentist today, here's the photo that would have been on that post if our time machine was working today (or do I mean was working yesterday?):