"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Italian Memories

(L to R) The Ultimate Hill Town - Civita, The Cantina Gattavecchi - Multipulciano, The Trevi Fountain - Rome, Me in Charles' Back Yard - Mezzanelli, The Amalfi Coast, The Duomo - Orvieto, Don, KOM & I at the Cathedral of Santa Maria dell'Assunta - Spoleto, Beth & I in front of the Basilica di San Marco - Venice, The Pietà by Michelangelo - The Vatican

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Italian Memories

Last night we got together with our dearest friends for another incredible wine dinner event. For the past seven years, we’ve been gathering on a regular basis to share a gourmet meal, exquisite wines and the pleasure of one another’s company and as the years have passed, the bonds of our friendship have grown ever stronger.

Last night was made all the more special as we received a telephone call from Charles, our friend from Italy.

In May 2005, our group (4 couples) set out on a 2 week Italian adventure. One week was spent independently, each couple going their own way and visiting different cities. Then at the end of week one, we all rendezvoused in Rome and headed north to the Umbrian countryside for a week together in a restored villa (circa 1600). From there we alternated between taking day trips by car and relaxing at the villa.

It was on one of the “relaxing” days that Calvin, Beth and I decided to take a leisurely run through the countryside and in doing so, happened upon the small hill town of Mezzanelli.

Like many of the ancient Etruscan hill towns we saw throughout our travels in Italy, this one consisted of beautiful stone houses and cobbled stone streets but there was one feature which made this town unique. At the very top of the hill, high above the town itself, laid the ruins of an ancient church or castle. Jutting skyward, were huge stone walls and the remains of the original structure.

At Beth’s urging, we headed in the direction of the sight before us and were soon rewarded with one of the most spectacular views of our trip. Below us lay lush vineyards and olive groves and above us, was a clear blue sky. It was in a word, beautiful.

As we descended back into the village, we met Charles, an American expatriate who after graduating from Oxford, remained in England and taught at the University of Sussex for 30 years. Upon retiring, he moved to Mezzanelli.

We immediately made a connection with one another and spent the next hour talking away. That evening, Charles joined our group at the villa for dinner and on the day before our departure we returned to Mezzanelli and sat in his back yard enjoying Fragolino and a glorious sunset.

Our newly formed friendship, we were sure would not end with our return home. And it hasn’t. We’ve stayed in touch over the past couple of years and his call last night resulted from a recent email correspondence.

As you can imagine, it was wonderful to talk with him again.

There are many points to this story however there are three I want to mention.

They are:

· If we had not gone for a run that day, we would have missed out on one of the nicest experiences of our trip.

· This was more than a coincidence.

· We had such a good time last night we went through 11 bottles of wine.

As I cranked out 7 miles this morning, my mind was in the Italian countryside.


“This isn't coincidence, there's no such thing” – Brandon Boyd

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Close Encounters

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all shared a similar experience.

We’ve all wondered why.

I’m speaking of the inevitable encounter each runner ultimately has with a certifiable, card carrying a**hole behind the wheel.

I had mine today.

There I was just a couple of miles into a nice run, passing through the historic Grandin Village, a quaint little neighborhood district featuring a restored theater, bookstore, restaurants and shops, when this maniacal motorist suddenly decided he needed to liven things up by speeding through this pedestrian friendly area.

In addition, he also apparently determined his lane was shrinking and therefore proceeded to bear down on me as he hugged the curb.

Fortunately, a quick step to my left put me on the sidewalk and out of harm’s way but as he passed, I couldn’t help but notice the look (and universally recognized gesture of displeasure) that was forthcoming from his vehicle.

I was sorely tempted to return said gesture along with a discarded brick I saw on the sidewalk but instead, I continued on and as I did so, I wondered what might have caused him to behave in this manner. In an effort to give him the benefit of the doubt, I surmised that perhaps there were unknown circumstances which contributed to his actions.

For example:

* Perhaps he burnt his toast earlier in the morning. We all know how badly that can impact one’s day.

* Or maybe, when he left his house, he inadvertently stepped in a recently deposited pile left by an unleashed wondering mutt.

* It’s possible, I suppose that he isn’t a Saturday Guy and therefore harbors deep seated resentment towards those who are.

Whatever the reason, I didn’t let it ruin my morning.

6.1 miles today.

“The human brain is like a railroad freight car -- guaranteed to have a certain capacity but often running empty.” - Anon

Friday, January 26, 2007

Team In Training

Last night I attended a Team In Training meeting.

This was an informational meeting concerning the events the Virginia Chapter will be involved with in the first half of the year. In late April or early May, another meeting will be held for the events scheduled for the second half of ’07.

At that time, I intend to sign on for the Chicago Marathon.

As my son served in the U. S. Marine Corp, I originally hoped to make the Marine Corp Marathon my first however TNT has opted to forgo the MCM this year and do Chicago instead. I was at first disappointed to learn of this decision however I’ve gotten over it as participating with TNT carries a higher priority with me.

As you probably know, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training® is the world's largest endurance sports training program. The program provides training to run or walk marathons and half marathons or participate in triathlons and century (100-mile) bike rides. Since 1988, more than 295,000 volunteer participants have helped raise more than $660 million. By helping to raise funds for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research and patient services, each participant helps to insure a cure draws ever closer.

I have two very close friends who have both participated with TNT in marathons. My running partner Bill Lawfield ran the Marine Corp marathon in 2005 and Beth Bell, my fellow RFWDG member, ran the San Francisco marathon in the mid ‘90’s. Both found their involvement with TNT to be an enriching and life changing experience. Their stories are truly inspirational and have certainly weighed heavily in my decision.

However, the main reason for my desire to be a part of TNT comes from my brother-in-law, William (Billy) Obenchain. Billy a lifelong firefighter, devoted father and great husband to my sister, has battled lymphoma for the past 6 years. And throughout his ordeal, he has consistently demonstrated a degree of courage, determination and faith which is as admirable as it is inspiring.

I want to run a marathon for myself. I want to do it with TNT for Billy.

“Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.” - Plato

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's All Relative

Roanoke, VA
Light Freezing Rain
Wind: E at 8 mph
Humidity: 55%

This is what I awoke to this morning.

It seems a weather front decided to hang a right and finally pay us a visit. As I've indicated before, our winter this year has pretty much been justification for the global warming theories which abound - upper 60's just last week.

But not today.

And so, it would have been very easy to call Bill and bail on our scheduled run. But then I recalled a recent post by one of my blogging buddies - Lisa, from Michigan.

Michigan as you know, is much further north than Virginia and has Canada, along with 4 of the 5 Great Lakes for neighbors. As a result, the regular Arctic blasts and renowned lake effect weather patterns create a unique climatic phenomenon whereby only three seasons exist - June, July and Winter.

They actually have snowmobile road signs there for crying out loud!

So anyway as I reflected on her post and the conditions she has to run in, I realized I was being a lightweight. And so out the door I went and as Bill and I covered the 4 plus miles in the steady rain and sleet, I recalled Lisa's profound observations:

* Don't try to breathe through your nose in 14 degrees. You could kill yourself from the frozen snot stuck in your nose.

* When dodging ice, who cares how you look? The point is to stay upright. If you manage that, the hell with everything else.

* Don't mind those who stare at you from their warm cars. They don't get it.

* Hot chocolate is a powerful motivator.

* Buy a neck warmer. My chin was frozen.

* Be careful when removing your frozen ski cap. I almost put out an eye when my hair became frozen and sharp.

Thanks for the tips Lisa!

“He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.” - Cesare Pavese

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

It's Saturday and I'm still adjusting to being off from work.

I woke up at 6am and initially felt the urge to jump in the shower, get dressed and head out the door. But after an anxious moment or two, I remembered - I'm a Saturday Guy now and so I lay in bed a bit longer, then got up and had coffee and read the paper.

Then Garmin and I headed out to meet Bill for what was supposed to be a 6 miler.

I say 'supposed to be' because it turned out to be 7.08 miles due to the fact I could not out run a Norfolk Southern locomotive ... and therefore could not make the crossing ... and therefore had to turn around and loop back ... and therefore tack on an aditional mile on this brisk 32 degree, windy as hell morning.

Oh well, whats an extra mile amonst friends?

Cest la vie.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A User's Lament


My name is Tim and I am a crossword & sudoku puzzle addict.

Like a lot of people, it began innocently with my first crossword. I thought it was nothing more than harmless experimentation. That was over 30 years ago. Since then my addiction has grown to include sudoku as well.

This insidious addiction has cost me dearly. I can't begin to tell you all the times I've neglected my responsibilities in order to work puzzles. Or the financial costs I've incurred replacing ink cartridges as a result of downloading and printing countless puzzles day after day after day.

I'm ashamed to admit it but I've even used my wife's printer without her permission.

As a result of my insatiable desire, I was like a kid at Christmas last Sunday when our local paper ran an Extra Puzzler section. Seizing my "user's kit", i.e. ink pen and lap desk, I got comfortable in my favorite chair and entered into my private world of puzzle induced euphoria.

Coming down from Sunday's high was unacceptable and as always, the ensuing week was spent on a puzzle binge; all this in anticipation of my next BIG fix, this weeks' Extra Puzzler.

But when I tore open my Sunday edition this week, my hands shaking with anticipation, I discovered the much desired extra puzzler was not there. Instead, In it's place was the regular, single puzzle Extra Section, looking up and mocking as if it knew of my disappointment.

Why have they teased me so.....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Today Adversity Lost

Often, perceived adversity seems excruciatingly difficult, completely uncomfortable, wholly undesirable and sometimes insurmountable. It can present the most logical and rational arguments for forgoing the task at hand and as a result, is frequently successful in dissuading us from our intended mission.

But sometimes we choose to buck up to adversity and in doing so, always emerge the victor (regardless of the outcome).

That was me this morning.

Stepping out into the pre-dawn darkness, I considered the temperature. After all, 22º is by anyone’s definition, damn cold.

“Go back inside you fool,” screamed adversity.

But I didn’t listen.

Instead I waited a moment while Garmin found her satellites and then off we went. And in a very short time, I found that thanks to my new warm suit Santa picked up at Fleet Feet, I was perfectly toasty on my run this morning.

It’s good to win.

“Adversity has its compensation; that in falling and in failing, we rise.” – Mark Helprin

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Glad I Did

As today progressed, the temperatures dropped into the 30's. The wind picked up as a cold front moved in bringing more seasonable weather to our area. I suppose it was inevitable that the unusually mild weather couldn't last indefinitely.

However this morning it was still quite nice out and so I took advantage of the situation and got in 5 miles before work.

Glad I did.

“It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain” - Mark Twain

Monday, January 15, 2007

24 - The Season Premiere's Opening Scene

Tink Tink Tink

The scene is Los Angeles California, a C-130 taxies onto an unnamed military airfield. Federal Agent Jack Bauer steps from the rear of the plane having just returned from a two year stint in a Chinese gulag.

He looks like crap, matted hair, scraggly beard, baggy Mao type Chinese clothes – no sense of fashion, these Chinese.

With him is CTU Special Agent in Charge Bill Buchanan and Director of Field Ops, Curtis Manning.

Neither of these men ever smiles.

Not ever.

Its part of their CTU training and they’re pretty darned serious about it. They also, like all CTU personnel, never go to the bathroom, reload their weapons, forget anything, eat, sleep, bathe or go home. They’re all a bunch of freakin’ robots. So are the freakin’ terrorists.

Bill and Curtis inform Jack of the reason President Palmer (not David, he’s dead – but his hot head brother, Wayne – not a very presidential name if you ask me) has finally got off his ass and bought Jack’s freedom from Hop Sing and his gang.

“Great News Jack – President Wayne finally ponied up and plucked your sorry butt out of the cesspool you’ve been wallowing in for the past two years so he can hand you over to another psychopathic Middle Eastern terrorist killer fanatic who thinks he’s going to have 72 virgins waiting on him if he but only blows himself to smithereens and in the process kills as many innocent people as he possibly can.”

“Welcome home.”

“I know what’s expected of me Bill but before you hand me over to some shit for brains maniac, I’d like to shave, get a hair cut, brush what few teeth I have left, take a box of Q-Tips to my ears, blow my nose, take a freakin’ shower, eat something besides cold rice, take a nap, watch some TV, have a beer and if possible, get laid.”

“No problem, Jack. We’ve got an area set up for you right over here.”

“Thanks Curtis … and Curtis, if it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer a woman.”

“Sure thing Jack.”

Tink Tink Tink

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mission Accomplished

After my first full day as a Saturday Guy, I awoke much later than what is normal for me, even for a Sunday. And upon arising, I leisurely enjoyed my coffee while casually perusing the newspaper prior to heading out into the unseasonably warm (63°) January day for a quick run.

As I got into my groove and my mind began to wander, I thought about my friend Scott Cowan. When Scott and I first met last year, I discovered he was training for his first marathon and having just completed my first half, we immediately hit it off.

As the months have passed, he’s continued to encourage me as we’ve stayed in touch via email. And in October while both in DC, we ran together.

Well this past weekend, Scott joined that elite club of runners by completing his first marathon; the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando.

Congratulations my friend on a job well done and please, keep up the encouragement for Chicago is only 265 days away!

“The virtue of achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat.” - Anon

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Saturday Guy - Finally

For the past 20 years I have, for the most part, earned my living selling cars. And while many may consider me, as a result to peg only slightly higher on the scumbag-ometer than a lawyer, I would argue that my industry is not so different from most in that within the ranks, there exists both good and bad. And in my opinion, there are always more good than bad.

I like to believe I am one of the good ones.

And while all jobs have both positive and negative aspects, one of the inherent drawbacks of the car business (or any retail business) is that to be successful, you must be open when others can shop. This includes extended daily hours along with Saturdays and holidays. As a result, those on this career path often are either late in arriving or completely miss out on a multitude of social and family activities that the non-retail world takes for granted, i.e. festivals, football games and regular dinners with one's family to name but a few.

A Saturday off normally requires substantial advance notice and a considerable amount of negotiation. Excessive grovelling and forgoing other scheduled times off are also not unheard of. And depending upon the importance of need for the Saturday, bribery is not out of the question.

As a result, Saturday's take on a unique aura for those like myself. We wonder what "Saturday People" are like, what they do, how they live. It has been a topic of many a conversation throughout automobile showrooms around the country since the days of Henry Ford. And I have participated in, conducted, speculated on and opined about it for a long, long time.

Well no more my friends. For as of this past Monday, I became a Saturday Guy.

I'm still in the car business but my role has changed. My responsibilities are more on a corporate level now and one of the unexpected perks of the job is, it's Monday through Friday. So today was my first day as a Saturday Guy.

I went for a run, which was not unusual.

But it wasn't 5:30 in the morning and I didn't immediately dash home, jump in the shower, get dressed, down a pot of coffee and head for the dealership.

Nope, didn't do it.

It feels a bit strange ... but I think I'm gonna like it.

“To change and to change for the better are two different things.” - German Proverb

Monday, January 08, 2007


After my last 'date' with Garmin, I began to experience an unusual muscle tightness and pain above and behind my left knee. In fact, for two days I was limping about like Chester from Gunsmoke (those younger ones perusing this will likely not make the connection).

So after several days of rest and a plethora of icy hot, put over your knee things, it finally seems to be returning to it's normal state, albeit still somewhat noticeable.

I've tried to explain my absence to Garmin .... I hope she understands ....

"It's not you," I said. "It's me!"

She's got to take me back - she just has to!

I need her now more than ever beacuse I've just made the 'mental' commitment for my first marathon - Chicago 2007

Thanks to all who have offered inspiration, knowingly and unknowingly.

"Speed is a gift from God, endurance is an achievement." - Anon

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Budding Relationship

Garmin and I went out again tonight ...

We stayed out for about an hour ...

The moon was nearly full ...

I showed her one of my favorite routes ...

A 6 miler ...

She liked it ...

She's really smart ...

Able to remember all the details ...

And never gets lost ...

I feel so close to her ...

I think I'm in love ...

What's Beth gonna think?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Test Drive

Got home from work, fed the dogs, changed into my running clothes (including my spiffy new reflecto vest) and took the new Garmin out for a 5.42 mile test drive!


Monday, January 01, 2007

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I have just returned from my run/walk/stumble/stagger/crawl UP Mill Mountain.

I don't have any figures as of yet but I would say there were around 50 or 60 of us crazy enough to get out there in what became pouring rain in order to carry on this time honored tradition. We gathered in the parking lot of the Ramada and set out in groups, everyone meandering at a leisurely pace.

Up past the hospital and onto a short flat stretch we ran until we reached Laurel and cut across to Walnut. Here we began the ascent.

Now for those unfamiliar with this mountain, there are two routes available. The first option is to continue up Walnut until reaching the access road to the star. This is a gradual steady grade, interspersed with a few semi flat spots but becomes significantly steeper once on the access road.

Option number two is the old road; the one dating back to when the wheel was first invented. This Romanesque iter features the classic switch back design made popular by mule trains. Not only is the grade continuously steep, but it keeps going and going and going ... This of course was the chosen route.

And as we gained elevation, the precipitation which was evaporating before making it to the ground in the low lands where we started, was pelting us in all its soaking glory.

About halfway up, I decided to switch from stumbling to staggering as my shoes now had that nice squishy feeling which comes from extended liquid immersion. As I stopped in transition and gazed out into the rainy mist before me, I wondered if I might very well be insane.

I mean here's the choice I had this morning:

A) Stay in a nice warm, dry, comfortable bed until such time I am inclined to arise, lured from the comforts of the covers by the tempting aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafting up from the kitchen.


b) Run up (and down) a freakin' mountain on New Year's morning in a torrential downpour!

Ironically once at the summit, all my concern regarding my mental capacity quickly faded as I joined the others in the group - most veterans of this event for numerous years - for the prestigious group photo.
Here I saw, felt and was gratefully part of the camaraderie, the sharing of a passion, the tradition that is what it is because we make it so. The mountain itself, the weather, the route all contribute to the experience.

And the experience gives back to all who share in it.

Happy New Year!

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” - Anon