Drippy Park Run

We seem to be stuck in a humid, overcast, drippy, chilly weather pattern after Ophelia passed through on Saturday. With schools back in session today, I decided to shake my Tuesday morning running routine up a little bit. I drove and parked the van on Levering Ave. near the viaduct, and ran into Patapsco Valley State Park, following River Rd. out past the swinging bridge to near the former Bloede Dam site, and back on the Grist Mill Trail. It ended up being about 7 miles, but if I wanted to, I could extend it to 8 or 9 pretty easily. I may start doing this more often on school days, as it seems to be a good way to avoid school-related running inconveniences (mainly traffic). As for the run itself, it was okay, but not great. I’ve been dealing with an extremely mild G.I. thing the past couple of days, which slowed me down a little bit, but I think the main thing was just the dreary weather and the wet feet.

This weather also brought an abrupt, early end to our 2023 pool season. I had hoped to get a couple of swims in after I returned home from Minneapolis, but it wasn’t to be. My final swim of the season was September 15. Hopefully, next year will be better, but as this year illustrates, September weather can be fickle.


Still dealing with some off-and-on nerve pain in the ball of my right foot, which cropped up around the third week of August. It’s close to the same area where I had a neuroma back around 2016-2017, and while I can’t rule that out, the symptoms aren’t quite the same. In 2017, when I saw a podiatrist, I got a cortisone shot in that area, which I don’t think did me any long-term favors. Oddly, it seems to bother me most when I’m sedentary, and in particular, in bed when I wake up in the morning. It’s just a generic kind of aching pain, and the nerve feels kind of “weird” when walking barefoot and when swimming. Running does not bother it at all, but I’ve aggravated it a couple of times while climbing. On Monday, I did a bunch of lead climbing, and I could tell I tweaked it on the first route I climbed. This morning, I climbed 6 routes on top rope, and had no problems. I was really careful with the foot, sticking to mostly overhanging routes with juggy holds, using the bad foot mainly for balance and trying to avoid putting too much weight on it. I also wore a metatarsal pad on the right foot, which I think helped. It definitely helps while walking on the treadmill and with static standing. It looks like I can keep climbing for now, but I’m going to need to baby it like this until the issue clears up. I suspect I’m going to have occasional issues there for the rest of my life, and the key is going to be to manage it to prevent flare-ups. The silver lining here is that the whole experience with the neuroma is what convinced me to start wearing minimalist footwear and “Correct Toes”, which was a long, tough transition from conventional footwear, but absolutely worth it in every way.

Notwithstanding our current September heat wave, pool season will be winding down for us in just a few short weeks. According to Apple Health, I took my 48th swim of the season this afternoon. That’s about 20 fewer than this time last year, but I never intended to match last year’s total. My first swim this year was June 2, so I’ve managed to average about one swim session every other day this season. That average will drop a bit, as I’ll be missing a week this month due to travel, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with how the season went. I’m swimming more strokes per session this year as well (703 strokes for 2023 vs 651 for 2022). One really weird statistic: for the first time in the 22 seasons we’ve owned the pool, this is the first year that nobody outside our immediate family has been in it. Times have definitely changed since the days when we used to throw a massive pool party every summer…

This and that

My dream of running 10+ miles on Saturday mornings is going to have to wait at least another week, as it’s still oppressively humid out there. Today, I settled for 10K, and probably sweated out about 30% of my body weight. If I’m able to consistently run longer distances through fall, winter, and next spring, then I’ll figure out what I need to do to keep it up this time of year. At a minimum, I’ll need a way to carry 1.5 to 2 liters of water, as well as a strategy to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating.

On the pool front, after malfunctioning twice so far this season, my SWG temperature sensor has been working correctly for the past several days, but I now have a tri-sensor simulator that I can use to troubleshoot it the next time it acts up. For now, though, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I just ordered a new Skimlite R16C leaf rake to replace my old one that I bought in 2007. That’s right — the old one lasted 16 years as my only leaf net. It had a few holes in the mesh, but was still usable. Recently, though, the frame has started flopping back and forth, which is inconvenient enough that I finally took the plunge and ordered a new one. They are not cheap ($70 in 2007; $100 in 2023) but they are made to last, and when you consider that the cheaper nets only last a season or two, the Skimlite basically pays for itself over time. I expect that this will be the last one I ever need to buy.

Late-season swimming report

It’s that time of the year where I’m wondering where summer went. I figure we have at worst 4 weeks of swim season left, and at best 6 weeks. Our record for latest swim of the year (October 9), was set in 2007, and still stands after 16 years. Will it ever be broken? We’ll have another shot at it in a few short weeks.

I would guesstimate that I have been getting in the pool and swimming laps about 4 days a week on average this year, which seems like plenty to me. It’s less frequent than I swam last year or the year before, but I’ve got more going on nowadays than in 2021 and 2022. I am still swimming with a tether, and tracking the workout by counting strokes. I typically do 720 strokes, which consists of 3 sets of 60 breaststroke, 60 freestyle, 60 butterfly, and 60 backstroke, in that order. It takes me a little over 30 minutes. This is the first year I’ve swum backstroke regularly, and it is still decidedly a work in progress. For some reason, I struggle with coordinating the arm movement and the leg kicks. It reminds me kind of like trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I also occasionally splash water into my nose, which is not the most pleasant sensation, and staying straight (with the tether perpendicular to the pool wall) can be a challenge. I expect that I will improve over time, but it may take a couple of seasons.

We have a new winter safety cover this year. The old one lasted a long time — I installed it in fall 2002, and we used it through this past winter. It was in rough shape by then, and we really should have replaced it last year, but I’m not going to complain about getting 20+ winters out of it. The covers have more than doubled in price since 2002, but with any luck, this will be the last one we have to buy while we’re in the house. Next season, it’s looking like I may finally have to replace the pump. The current pump is a 1hp Hayward Super 2, and the previous owner installed it, so it’s at least 22 seasons old. It’s on its second impeller and second or third shaft seal, but now, the motor is finally starting to go, so I’m going to have to replace it before it gets loud enough to annoy my neighbors and then eventually freezes up. I may try to take care of that in the early spring, but I first need to decide if I want to swap out the entire pump, or just the motor, and then there’s the question of whether to go with a variable speed (VS) motor. Lots of stuff to think about there.

Morning Update

Not a pleasant morning at all here in central Maryland, so I opted to run in the pool. More storms later today in this already extremely stormy and wet summer. How long until autumn again? 😀 I’ve written before about how the benefits of owning a pool don’t quite make up for the expense and hassle required to maintain it, but I will say that it’s great to have the pool as an exercise option on days when I don’t feel like doing anything else outdoors. If the storms hold off long enough, I also hope to get out to swim later this afternoon.

I’ve settled on this recipe for what remains of my bag of dark roast beans I bought last May:

  • Beans: Lost Dog “Mocha Sidamo” Ethiopian dark roast
  • JX: 2.5 turns (75 total clicks, or 25 on the grind chart)
  • 80°C water
  • 14 grams coffee / 180 grams water (around 1:13)
  • One new paper filter (pre-moistened)
  • Recipe: “Basikairoo” (inverted: add 50g water, swirl aggressively for a few seconds, top up to 180g starting at 1:00, invert at 2:15, press for 30s starting at ~3:00)

This is only slightly tweaked from when I first brewed this recipe. It produces a good cup fairly consistently, with only slight variations in strength. I wonder if the length of time spent “swirling” makes any difference in the finished product. The recipe specifies 3 seconds, but I haven’t been timing it.

This and that

I had hoped to take a bike ride this morning, but ended up sleeping until almost 9:00. It was probably just as well, as it’s very hot and humid today, and would have been a rather sweaty ride. The reason for my oversleeping was that we got a call around midnight from our alarm monitoring company because of a “trouble” condition. Turns out that the newer Vista panels have “trouble” reporting enabled by default, while the older ones didn’t, and I didn’t think to turn it off when I programmed the new panel. Earlier in the evening, I had popped the cover off one of the wireless contacts to check the battery, which caused the zone to go into “trouble”. I’m not sure why the alarm company called at the time they did, but it does confirm that reporting is working! The panel is still showing “AC Loss” this morning, in spite of the power being just fine. When I get to messing with it again, I’ll try unplugging it, running it on battery for a few minutes, and plugging it back in, to see if it resets. If not, I may try swapping out the transformer, and if none of that works, I’ll contact the alarm company.

The pool SWG is still reading an abnormally high temperature today. At least it’s consistent. When I get to messing with that, I’ll try re-seating the tri-sensor cable and see if it corrects itself. I may also pull the tri-sensor itself out of the manifold and take a look at it. If none of that works, I’ll test it with the tri-sensor simulator to narrow down the source of the problem, and contact my Autopilot dealer to see what he recommends. This is a rather easy issue to work around, either by calibrating the temperature reading down, lowering the Chlorine output, or turning off the setting that automatically adjusts the output based on the water temperature. Assuming I can’t fix this easily, I’m inclined to ride it out for the rest of this season, and buy any needed replacement parts over the winter.

I brewed yesterday’s dark roast coffee recipe again today, exactly the same way, except I used 180g of water instead of 200g. Truth be told, I didn’t notice much of a difference from yesterday. It was a pleasant cup of dark roast. I have enough beans to make 7 or 8 more cups, and I’m probably just going to be boring and stick with this recipe until they’re gone.

Broken stuff

The abnormally-high temperature reading on my pool’s SWG that I noticed 10 days ago is back. This morning, it was reading 94°F when the actual water temperature was 80°F. The reading was consistently about 14-15° too high every time I checked today, all the way up until 7:00 or so, when I went out to swim. I’m going to try disconnecting and re-seating the cable that connects the tri-sensor to the controller, and I’ll take a look at the contacts to see if they’re dirty or oxidized. Maybe it’s just a bad connection. I went ahead and ordered a tri-sensor simulator, which is a little widget that plugs into the controller and generates a fixed temperature, salt, and flow reading. If cleaning and re-seating the cable doesn’t do the trick, then I can use the simulator to determine whether the problem is with the tri-sensor or the controller.

In other news, we are preparing to get rid of our landline phone service, but before we can do that, I have to convert our security system to use cellular and/or internet monitoring. The problem is, the panel’s firmware was too old to work with the new communicator, and to make a long story short, I had to swap out the entire panel. It’s kind of amazing that the panel is still in production, and is practically identical to the version that was produced 21 years ago when I originally installed it. All I had to do was move all the wires over and then reprogram the new panel (a tedious, but not difficult, job). That was today’s project. Now, the weird thing: the new panel works perfectly, except for one thing: for some reason, it thinks it doesn’t have AC power. The alpha keypad flashes “AC LOSS”, and the fixed keypad says “NO AC”. This is normally what it does during a power outage, when it’s running off the battery. Get this, though: it does this even with the battery disconnected. So, if it doesn’t have AC, I don’t know how it can possibly be working. Induction? Hamsters? Who knows. The voltage from the transformer is fine: I read 16 volts AC at the transformer itself and the connection terminals on the panel. I’m wondering if maybe I can just ignore this, as everything seems to be working, but I’m concerned that it may not be charging the battery. If it’s not, I’ll find out in the next few days once the battery runs down. As a last resort, I may try unplugging the panel to simulate an actual “NO AC” condition, and seeing if maybe it resets itself when I plug it back in. But I’m not holding my breath, as the problem has persisted through several power cycles. I’m also going to reread the manual and see if there’s anything I missed with the initial setup. If all else fails, I’ll contact my alarm company, and see if they have any ideas.

Running etc

Pool update: after yesterday morning’s weird SWG behavior, I returned from work in the late afternoon to find everything ostensibly working normally. The temperature readout had corrected itself, and cell volts/amps looked good as well. The Free Chlorine this morning was identical to yesterday’s reading at ~4.5ppm. Not sure what the issue was. This morning, I pulled the cell out and inspected it, which is something I try to do every year around the end of July. There was very little scale, which indicates that the controller’s self-cleaning function is working correctly. The manifold inlet screen was clean, and the check valve looked good. Some of the cell plates (particularly the ones in the center) have worn down a little bit more, which tells me that the cell might finally be nearing the end of its life, but it seems to be good for now. Since I had it out, I went ahead and acid-washed it for good measure. Next spring, I’ll have to decide if I want to retire the cell and put my new one in service. I bought it in 2019, thinking I’d need it a lot sooner.

It was another pleasant morning, and I got up with my 5:30 alarm, so I left at 6:40 and ran for 6.8 miles. It was a great run, and I would have gone farther, but I had to be home at 8:00 to take delivery of a new winter pool cover. Weather permitting, I am going to try to take an 8 or 9-miler on Saturday morning.


We took the “kids” (age 20 and 17) for an overnight trip out to far western Maryland Monday into Tuesday. We visited Swallow Falls State Park, the Maryland Rock Maze, Sideling Hill Creek State Park, Cumberland Narrows, and Washington Monument State Park. We got some hiking in and found several geocaches. Even though we were away less than 36 hours, it was nice to get out of the house for a while, and brought back memories of trips like this we used to take back when the kids were smaller. Who knows if we’ll ever be able to drag both of them out for something like this again!

I rode my mountain bike to work today, for the first time since June 7. Although I’m no fan of mountain biking in the heat and humidity, the main thing stopping me this summer has been the wet and stormy weather we’ve had since the second half of June. My schedule is most conducive to mountain biking on Wednesdays, and most weeks, the trails have been too muddy. Currently, we are in the midst of a several-day dry spell, so conditions were pretty good. I stuck to familiar trails, and they were in mostly good shape, but there were lots of muddy patches in areas that aren’t usually muddy. I passed around 8 hikers on the Howard County side between Belmont and Rockburn Branch, which is 8 more than I usually see in that area weekday mornings. I guess the beautiful early August weather brought everyone out of the woodwork. Temperatures were in the upper 60s, with low humidity.

On the swimming pool front, something seems to be wonky with our SWG today. This morning, I went out and noticed that the temperature sensor was reading 5-8 degrees higher than the actual water temperature. I calibrated it to match, but I’ve never had to do that before. I ran a test, which showed normal cell amps, but then after I exited the menu, the display started flashing a low amps warning. Not sure if the two issues are related. The temperature thing is usually related to the tri-sensor, but the low amps thing usually points to the cell, so I’m not sure what to make of this. I power-cycled the controller and also backwashed the filter, but neither helped with the temperature anomaly. The low amps display went away after a minute or so, but the Chlorine has been running a little lower than expected this week, so I wonder if this has been happening for a few days. This evening, I’ll pull the cell out and inspect it, and I’ll also look at the check valve and see if there’s anything impeding flow through the tri-sensor. The cell is 14 years old, and has outlasted the original controller and tri-sensor, so it could be that it’s finally time for a new cell. However, it doesn’t seem like a bad cell would cause the issue with the temperature reading. I’m sure I’ll get to the bottom of it, and I’m sure it’ll end up costing me more money. That’s just life with a pool.

Hot Day Hybrid

Day 3 of the heat wave: after skipping Thursday’s run in favor of the pool, I wanted to run today, even if it was only a short one. I hit the road at 8:15am, when it was still below 80°, and although it was plenty humid, it did feel slightly less oppressive out than it did yesterday or Thursday. It might just be that I’m getting acclimated to it. Whatever the case, I ran 4 miles at 10:00/mile, and felt pretty good. When I was finished, I put on my swim gear and ran for 30 more minutes in the pool. It was the first time I have done regular running and pool running in the same session, and I think it worked out well. Four miles is long enough that I felt like I got a decent run in, but short enough that I didn’t overheat and lose a ton of fluids, and the pool was a great way to cool off afterwards. Ideally, I’d like to get out about an hour earlier, but I didn’t wake up until close to 7 today. I must have needed the sleep.

My experiences with running in the heat and humidity this summer have convinced me that I’d like to pick up a running-specific hydration vest, but there is a mind-numbing variety of them to choose from, so I’m going to have to do a little bit of research. I’ll probably hold off on buying anything until REI has their next sale and 20% off coupon (maybe around Labor Day).

Here’s something that has never happened to me in 22 years of pool ownership: I walked outside earlier and saw that the Polaris tail sweep hose had come disconnected from the main unit. I retrieved both of them, and nothing looked broken. I was able to easily push the tail back onto the ferrule, but it was kind of obvious that whatever secured it there was missing. I found a parts diagram and saw that there’s a plastic clamp that’s supposed to go there, but it was nowhere to be found. I’m guessing it just broke. A new one costs about $3.50, but I jury-rigged it with a zip tie for now, which seems to be working. I don’t expect it to last too long, but who knows.. maybe it will surprise me.

Update (9/13/23): The zip tie fix lasted until today, or just over 6 weeks. I just put a new one on, and will add the $3.50 clamp to my list of items to buy for next season (it might be cheaper over time to just keep sacrificing zip ties, but it would be much more annoying 😀).