Categories
Climbing Miscellany Weather Work

Xmas Break

It’s that time of year again, when work shuts down at the end of December. Most years, this is a complete break from my daily routine, with a 2-week absence from the office, and all of the usual holiday gatherings and activities filling our family schedule. I always look forward to the holidays, but usually, by January, I’ve had my fill, and am ready for things to get back to normal. It’s definitely a tiring time of year to be an introvert. This year is going to be quite a departure, though. My office is right downstairs in the basement, so I’m not really physically leaving it. We’ll celebrate Christmas with a couple of really small family gatherings, but other than that, the calendar is clear. The “holidaze”, as I’m fond of calling them, aren’t going to seem much different from the daily grind this year, other than the fact that I’m not working — and even that isn’t guaranteed, as I’ll be visiting the “office” occasionally to get some time in on my treadmill desk.

After a couple of mild, dry winters, it looks like we’re in for a wet one this year. I’m not sure if we’ll get much snow, as we’ve been in a “flood and freeze” pattern thus far — warm weather, followed by flooding rains, then a deep freeze, then a warm-up, whereupon the cycle repeats. Occasionally, an ice storm creeps into the mix. We’re due for a snowy winter, so it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues into January.

I’ve gotten myself into a pretty good routine of climbing once a week at Earth Treks. This morning, I climbed 8 routes: a 5.7, 5.9, 5.10a, 5.10a, 5.9, 5.10b, 5.8, and 5.9. Two of these routes were new to me, and the rest I had climbed previously. Most had a moderate amount of overhang, but I did tackle one rather slabby 5.9. 8 is a pretty good number for me for the time I was there, and I cleaned all 8 routes, so I’d say it was a good day. I guess I’m slowly getting better at this. I’ve been alternating between my newly-resoled La Sportiva TC Pros and my Scarpa Force Vs. I like them both. In the gym, I haven’t noticed a ton of difference as far as climbing goes. The Scarpas have velcro closures, and are easier to put on and take off. The TC Pros are lace-ups, but are more comfortable than the Scarpas, so there’s less need to take them off in between climbs. I have yet to climb outdoors with the Scarpas, but it will be interesting to see how that goes. I suspect the Scarpas will end up being my gym shoes, and the TCs will be my outdoor shoes. But you never know.

Tomorrow, we’ll be in the flood phase of our flood-freeze weather cycle, but I’m hoping the deluge will hold off for an hour or two so I can get a run in. If not, I guess I’ll be running Christmas morning. It’s not like the kids get up early any more. πŸ˜ƒ

Categories
Climbing Running Weather

Winter Weather Fun

It’s been a fun week of weather here in central Maryland. As predicted, we got an icy, slushy mess on Wednesday. NWS did a pretty good job forecasting this storm. Earlier models showed the potential for more snow in our area, but predicted amounts were dialed back as the low pressure center showed signs that it was going to track farther inland. Ultimately, we got pretty much exactly what was predicted for the area. A few days back, I read an interesting article that explained one of the reasons why snowfall totals in this area are so difficult to predict. Apparently, it’s because we live along the Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line, which is where the Piedmont meets the Atlantic Coastal Plain. I hadn’t really thought about that before I read the article, but it makes a lot of sense.

Wednesday morning, before the weather, I managed to get out to the climbing gym. Weekday mornings are always a good time to go, and I feel like I climbed pretty well, tackling a few overhanging routes rated 5.9 to 5.10a. I still need to work on my upper body strength so that I can climb longer on these kinds of routes without getting as “pumped”. Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out onto the mean streets of Elkridge for a run. It was my first afternoon run in awhile, as I usually go early in the morning; but yesterday, I was concerned about icy roads. There were still some icy spots in the afternoon, mostly in shady areas, but it was not as bad as I had feared. I was able to follow my usual 5-mile route. I brought YakTrax along for insurance, but didn’t need them. Yesterday was also unique in that unlike my morning runs, I had already logged a couple of hours on the treadmill desk before I went out. I was definitely a little more tired at the end of the run than I usually am.

This morning, I was hoping to get out on the mountain bike, but unfortunately, it never got quite cold enough to freeze the trails. The predicted low was 26ΒΊ, but when I woke up, it was still hovering at 31ΒΊ. I went outside and saw that the puddles in our driveway were still liquid, so knew the trails would be a mess. I think the overnight cloud cover is what did us in. Next week is not looking promising for frozen trails, so it might be awhile before I get back out there. Maybe we’ll have a Christmas miracle. πŸ˜€

Categories
Biking Climbing Geocaching Running

Longer than planned

With temperatures still pushing into the 60s, and Old Man Winter slated to arrive this week, I really wanted to get some outside time today. I already had a 5-mile hike planned with our Scout troop, but also wanted to get some biking in before tomorrow’s predicted washout. So, I headed out of the house in the predawn twilight and biked a loop through Columbia, Savage, and Jessup. The route took me past Lake Elkhorn, along the entire length of the Patuxent Branch Trail, through Savage, and back home via Corridor Rd and Dorsey Run Rd. I even found a couple of caches along the way. I ended up notching over 31 miles, which was more than I had planned. When I left the house, the temperature at BWI was 53Β°, and based on that, I decided to wear shorts. I was regretting that decision for about the first 10 miles of the ride, but things soon warmed up enough that I was comfortable.

By the time I got home, it was after 10:00, leaving me about an hour to rest before I had to round the teens up to head to PVSP Hilton Area for our troop hike. We hiked a loop that took us along Santee Branch Trail, down Vineyard Spring, west on the paved Grist Mill Trail, and up Sawmill Branch, where we rejoined Santee Branch and followed it back to the starting point. The park was (predictably) busy, with Grist Mill being the busiest of the trails we hiked — nothing like it is on weekday mornings, when it’s just me and a few regulars. Other than that, though, it was a great hike, and the other trails didn’t feel crowded at all. There’s a lot of room out there in the woods.

Based on the weather forecast, tomorrow is shaping up to be a treadmill day. I’m hoping to get a ride or two in this week, as well as a run, and maybe some climbing at the gym, but we’ll see how much of that the weather will allow.

Categories
Climbing Pool

Pool Shoes

I finally got around to winterizing the swimming pool today. I usually do it around the second or third week of November, but this is the first year I can remember it dragging on until Thanksgiving. It’s been a mild November, with only 2 or 3 nights dipping below freezing. As long as it’s not a hard freeze, I can protect the equipment by running the pump overnight on cold nights. I suspect it seems like I’m closing the pool late partly because we had a very cool September, and didn’t swim much past Labor Day. Every year is different.

I finally got back to the climbing gym yesterday after about a 4-week break due to a strained pinky finger. It’s not 100% yet, but it’s improved enough that I’m comfortable climbing again, and I’m just going to take it easy for the time being and focus on improving my hand/finger strength and holding technique. I also tried out my new climbing shoes. I’ve been climbing with La Sportiva TC Pros for a year or so, and love them, but they are presently somewhere in California being resoled. (Hey, at least my shoes get to travel this year.) I picked up a pair of Scarpa Force Vs, with the intent of using them mainly as gym shoes. They have the same stiff Vibram XS Edge rubber as the TC Pros, and a similar flat-ish sole, but are about $40 cheaper. They also have velcro closures, and are much easier to put on and take off. The trade-off is that they are not quite as ridiculously comfortable as the TC Pros, although that’s not really fair, as they haven’t completely broken in. The fit seems good, and I had no problem tackling an array of routes in the 5.6-5.9 range. I think they’ll work out well.

Categories
Biking Climbing Geocaching

2020 Memories

I’ve been reading through some of the stuff I wrote here back in 2005 and 2006, and it has brought back memories of things that happened back then that I had subsequently forgotten. 2020 has been such an extraordinary year, that I thought it would be worthwhile to write something about it while it’s fresh on my mind, so I can wax nostalgic in another 15 years or so.

I have been working from home since mid-March. I never thought I would do well as a full-time telecommuter, because of my ADD, but it has worked out better than I had expected. Having a dedicated office in the basement has helped, and over the past 8 months, I’ve slowly improved it, to the point where it’s now a better workspace than my office at UMBC. In early October, I bought an under-desk treadmill, something I had been considering doing even before COVID struck. It has been a real game-changer — it took a week or so to get used to it, but I’m now able to walk for several hours a day while working, which I find really helps both with concentration as well as my overall mood.

I’m obviously no longer commuting to the office by bike, but I am still riding a few days a week. One of the happy consequences of the pandemic (if there is such a thing) is that it has taken a lot of traffic off the local roads, which has made road biking much more pleasant. Some mornings, I ride my regular commuting route to UMBC and back home before work. Other days, I’ll ride somewhere else, like Columbia or the BWI loop, or I’ll take the mountain bike out and do a loop through Patapsco or Rockburn. On weekends, I’ll often head out early, take a longer road ride, and find a geocache or two. I haven’t been caching nearly as much as I did during my heyday of 2014-2018, but I still enjoy the hobby. Now, though, it’s more about getting exercise or spending time with the kids than it is about caching for its own sake.

In summer 2019, we joined the local climbing gym, and have been going pretty regularly (with the exception of 3 months it was closed this year during the shutdown). It’s another great way to stay in shape, but when you’re my age, you really have to take your time and focus on learning correct technique to avoid getting injured. I’m kind of jealous of my 14-year-old son, who is on the advanced climb team and can easily climb circles around me with seemingly no consequences. I hope he enjoys it while it lasts. πŸ˜€ We’ve also done top-roping outdoors, which carried a bit of a learning curve, and required an investment in equipment. Once I got to the point where I could safely rig top-rope anchors, the kids and I have been able to go out and have some fun at various local crags. That is something I had been wanting to do for quite awhile, so I’m really happy we eventually got to that point.

We got a LOT of use out of our pool this summer. Someone was in the pool almost every day, and I myself probably used it more times than I did the past several seasons combined. Swimming proved to be an effective substitute for my afternoon rides home from the office, particularly on hot days (and we had a lot of hot days this year, especially in July). I tried a swim tether this year, and found that I liked it a lot. Our pool, while on the large side for a backyard pool at 40′ long, is still a little too short for swimming laps, and the tether let me swim for long periods of time without having to keep turning around.

Well, that’s enough for now, but I am going to try to get back into a habit of writing here regularly again. We’ll see if it actually happens.