Monday, April 20, 2009

Quite a day

Today turned out to be quite an idyllic vacation day for me. Of course, I realize that it wasn't the kind of Big Fun that most people might expect on a day off.* Originally I was just going to take off enough time in the morning to watch the Boston Marathon, but the schedule was light so my secretary just marked me out for the whole day. Well, okay....

Activity number one: The Boston Marathon. I had complained about the switch from the Versus television channel to Universal Sports, but once I located that channel on the TV I was perfectly satisfied with their coverage. In fact, I think this channel might have a lot to offer in future running events (last night I watched some of the men's Rotterdam Marathon, which had a tight finish like the women's marathon this morning).

Coverage started at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, so I didn't get to sleep in or anything, but on the other hand I didn't have to get dressed to watch either, so it sort of balances out. I love watching marathons on TV, even though some might think 2½ hours of running on TV would be boring. Not so! Although I think I dozed off for a little bit about an hour in, that is more a function of me reclining on a couch than anything I was watching. I saw more of this marathon than of many movies I've tried to watch on TV or DVD.

Everyone already knows the results, there's no point in hashing over that again. I must say, though, that I felt so bad for Kara Goucher. It was so close, up until that last mile. I can certainly understand her tears at the finish.

After the marathon finished I continued to lounge about, watching parts of the Today Show and The View. I wanted to go for a run, and intended to (and eventually did), but even though I put my running clothes on it still took a bit of will power to get myself out the door! I finally headed out around 10:30.

At least for today, it was truly springtime in the Pacific Northwest. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the air was warm. Very warm, to someone who is used to running at 6:30 a.m., often in the cold and drizzle. I wasn't really prepared for running in the heat, gear-wise, so I had to keep my jacket to carry my key, money, and phone. Unlike yesterday, I just tied it around my waist straightaway. That actually worked fine; it wasn't so hot that this would be a problem for me.

I decided to run a four-mile loop that I had done with a friend recently. In fact, I decided to run it twice (though keeping the option of ditching or shortening the second loop if I felt like it).

The "loop" is actually almost rectangular in shape, with each "side" about a mile long. Because of the heat, I decided to pause for a drink of water after each mile or so, which also concurred a turn into the next segment. The first stretch is actually a little longer, about a mile and a quarter, then the second section is shorter. That second section is, however, home to a long, moderately steep hill (about half a mile, I would guess), which for today I called "Heartbreak Hill" in consideration of Boston. I also considered it good practice for Doomsday Hill which I will face in Spokane less than two weeks from now.

The third leg, however, cruises back downhill nicely and that particular mile came in around 9:15 (the others were slower). Finally, another curvy stretch took me back to the starting point for my second loop.

Although I was very hot and sweaty, I felt up for a second round. In the beginning I felt a little sore in the hips and legs from yesterday's run, but that eventually went away. I was, however, quite a bit slower than yesterday. My Doomsday Hill was even more punishing this time around. My pace was about 10:15 to 10:30 going up the hill, but I was still able to average under 10 minutes for the mile.**

I took a turn about ¾ along and headed towards Safeway. I managed to hit the eight-mile mark across the street from Safeway and so I turned off my watch and went in to buy a salad for my lunch and some unsweetened green tea lemonade from Starbucks. (No cinnamon scones today! I am now officially being good.)

I cooled down a lot in the store and walking home, but my running clothes were still soaked and my face was grainy with salt from evaporated sweat. Stepping into a hot shower was pretty much heavenly! After I was dressed in clean, dry clothes I ate my lunch.

Soon I was ready for a nap. But I didn't! But I also didn't clean house or do anything noble or useful. Instead I called my mother and it didn't take much for her to suggest we take a trip up to Skagit County to look at the tulips and buy a few bunches, for her to give to her lunch group ladies (several very old retired teachers), and perhaps I would bring some for the folks at the office tomorrow.

Since the weather around here has been so cold, both during the winter and in the recent spring weeks, the tulip fields are way behind schedule. Usually by this time, mid to late April, they are in full bloom and close to being cut down. (After they bloom, growers slice the heads off of most of the field tulips so that their energy can go into developing the bulbs, which is the major crop of the tulip fields. A small percentage are sold as cut flowers, but those are taken early, before the buds open much. A beautiful tulip in full bloom is, technically, past its prime.) Anyhow, this year the fields are just starting to show lots of color, and there are still entire unopened fields. Unheard of!

Since this was a rather spontaneous trip, I didn't have a regular camera with me, but I did take some nice pictures with my BlackBerry. I love walking in the tulip fields. There are dirt roads winding through the fields, so you can walk out into the middle of a sea of tulips. The dirt in the roads (when it is not muddy and drenched with rain) is a strange spongy hard pack that gives gently when you walk on it. It has got to be easier on the legs that anything. Running on it would probably be wonderful, although it would take a lot of loops through the fields, vast as they are, to build up any mileage!

After my stroll into the fields (my mother had a sore knee so stayed back at the edges), we bought armloads of tulips to carry away. Even though the price per bunch has gone up over the years, they're still a pretty good deal. Each bunch has 10 tulips (twice as many as bunches in the store) and costs $4.50, although if you buy five, the fifth bunch is free, which brings down the average nicely. We had no problem getting several multiples of five, in pink, orange, purple, yellow, and variegated red and white.

After our tulip excursion, we headed into LaConner for an early dinner at Seeds, a charming bistro-like cafe with a garden theme. The restaurant is in the building that used to be Tillinghast, a venerable seed and garden store that was a fixture in LaConner for dozens of years, until the owner retired several years ago. The owner also runs the Calico Cupboard Cafes and Bakeries, and the food is delicious at both.

All in all, it was a very lovely day.

*Nor was it the "great accomplishments around the house and garden" that other people might achieve on a day off.

**My average pace for the entire run was 9:45, a bit slower than yesterday.

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