Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just lost

I miss my dog.

Work is pretty intense right now.

My workouts are very intermittent. I lifted yesterday, I ran last Saturday, and that's it for the last week.

My commute is wearing on me.

I recently calculated that despite the hours I work for my start-up company, I'm only making 93% of the real income I was making when our previous President took office. I also get way fewer benefits and work in a company with way less stability, but I have way more work and responsibility, not to mention ten extra years of experience.

Other things are also wearing on me - things I'm not going to write about here.

I have front row seats for a dream rock concert on Sunday, and even today, that isn't thrilling me.

Maybe it's the rain outside today, but I'm just not feeling anything but apathy lately.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good and Bad

The Good:
I had a really nice run last night, mostly on trails in Red Rocks Park in Burlington after work. I planned to run easily for an hour and spent about 70 minutes out there at an easy level of effort. It was one of my first truly fun runs in a while. Maybe I need to spend more time on trails and less on roads when I am running.

The Bad:
I've been fighting allergies the past few weeks, sneezing like crazy. Sometime last week, I either broke a rib or pulled a muscle during a sneezing fit. Moving can be tough, stepping wrong while running hurts, and coughing or sneezing is brutally painful. I could go to the doc, but at most I'd get an X-ray and some pain meds I don't really need. Or, worse, they'd take my co-pay andjust send me home and tell me to give it time to heal.

So far, the only lift that seems to bother it is bench presses, alth ough I'm planning deads tonight, which might also hurt. We'll see.

Today is the last official day of summer and we are getting a warm, muggy day with thunderstorms due later. But, it's been autumn-like for a while now, and the trees are starting to change. I love this time of year and I plan to get in some more train running over the next few weeks. Of course, I wish Rocket was here to enjoy those runs with me.

I don't think my children ever read my blog, but we have been in contact with the breeder who sold Rocket to us. She might have a litter of pups in November if an artificial insemination worked, and these dogs would be related to Rocket. If the litter works out, the kids may have quite a surprise for Christmas this year. My wife and I are kind of scared about the concept of a puppy in the house, but we feel like we've become a two-dog household - a household that currently seems to have a big empty hole.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rest Day

I rested yesterday after running on Friday, lifting on Saturday and sort-of racing on Sunday.

My plan for the rest of this week is running today, lower body lifting tomorrow, sprints on Thursday, upper body lifting on Friday and an easy run with my wife on a rail trail on Saturday morning.

Oh yeah, plus I have to work in there sometime.

Some areas had frost last night. Winter is coming. Well, at least autumn, which starts officially tomorrow evening. My favorite thing about the first hard frost of the year is that it signifies the end of lawn-mowing season. If I time things right, I should only have to mow one more time until May or so.

The bad thing about frost is that it can quickly end our growing season, ending the tomato season that is going so well right now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn in New England - a beautiful weekend

Friday night, I got out for a run in the cool weather, running along the bike path on the edge of Lake Champlain. It was an amazingly casual and fun run. After the events of the past few days with the loss of our pet, it felt good to exercise. On the way home, I met my wife at my favorite watering hole, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier. My wife had one drink (DD), while I enjoyed a few seasonal beers. After that, we left one car in Montpelier and headed home in the other.

On Saturday morning, we returned to Montpelier to pick up the car. And, instead of visiting the tiny famers' market in our hometown, we went to the "big city" market in Montpelier. I really like supporting our local farmers, but the market in Montpelier is so much more diverse than our local market.

We got lots of veggies, including Chinese long beans, one of my favorites and something that I rarely see. We got some Elba potatotes, a rarely grown variety that is perfect for mashing. We got some great cheeses and great bread. I bought some local wild yellowfoot chanterelles mushrooms. We got some local guinea hens and some local pasture-raised and nitrate free bacon. I was cooking dinner in my head as we shopped. We added a bunch of other fresh fruits and veggies for the coming week. Tomato season is at its peak right now and it's time to enjoy all of these that I can.

After the market, we headed home for our workouts. I lifted, with a 5K scheduled for Sunday, and my wife did a walk/run with the dog. After that, I had a couple margaritas while watching college football.

After the game, I hit the kitchen. I had a homemade chicken stock that I'd recently made. I added some dried porcini and began reducing the stock. I put the guinea hens in a pot to poach slowly, adding some salt and veggies for some additional flavor (and a future stock). I cut the bacon into lardons and cooked it. I then sauteed the chanterelles in some remaining bacon fat.

I made a salad from all local ingredients and prepped some local snow peas. Even the butter and bread I was working with were from Vermont.

By the time I was done, this was dinner:

Poached breast of guinea hen in a chicken-stock demi-glace with chanterelles and bacon lardons.
Mashed Elba potatoes
Steamed and buttered snow peas
Salad with a homemade vinaigrette (the vinaigrette ingredients weren't local)

1989 Leoville Las Cases Bordeaux - Some people claim this is the winery's best wine ever, but even at age 21, it seemed a bit young. Luckily, I have another bottle to re-visit in a few years.

The dinner was simple but amazingly tasty, and something that just came together from what I found at the market that morning.

After dinner, I stayed up too late watching football, while my wife, who was more interested in a good race on Sunday morning than I was, went to bed early. And, it paid off for her.

We ran the Mad Dash in Waitsfield, VT on Sunday, opting for the 5K over the 10K. I mostly wanted to hang out with friends and after some wine and margaritas on Saturday, I just wanted to finish, and hopefully not be last. The course was almost a cross-country course, with trails, puddles of mud, and a long uphill on a dirt road. At the 1 mile mark, I was behind just about everybody I knew. My wife passed me about that point and asked me how I was doing. I told her I was fine and she took off. She beat me by at least a minute and I was very happy for her. One of my former ski students even beat me, running her best 5K ever. (Please note that I'm not posting my time. It must be on the interweb somewhere, but it was my slowest 5K ever, and I see no reason to admit how slow I am).

After the race, we enjoyed a nice cook-out with the families of two other ski instructors from Sugarbush. By the time we got home at 6:00 p.m., both my wife and I were ready for bed. It was a fun, but full, weekend.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day by Day

There is still a lot of sadness in our house. My daughter seems most upset by the suddenness of it all, and her inability to "say goodbye" to Rocket. I have to admit that I feel the same way. By the time we found him, I don't think he recognized us anymore. He was just too close to death. So, while I was there, it doesn't feel like Rocket was really there, and it feels like he died alone.

What I find myself thinking about is every time I refused him some more dinner, wouldn't let him take my couch spot, moved him out of my way when watching TV, etc. You know, all the little times I could have been a bit nicer to him. Of course, I should remember all the times he stole food from the counter or ate garbage or chewed up clothing. That would make this all easier to deal with.

Everyone seems to be making up for the absence of Rocket by showering love on Nikki, our other ridgeback. She seems to be taking it all in stride so far. Nikki has always been fairly aloof and indifferent, if not rude, to Rocket, and she doesn't seem disturbed by his absence at all.

Last night, my daughter suggested we get another dog immediately and name it Rocket Junior. I said I didn't think I could deal with another dog named Rocket, but that just "RJ" might work. But, I also said that I needed some time before we have another dog. Ski season starts in a few months and we are gone from the house almost all day every weekend for months. That's not a good environment for a puppy.

But, perhaps, by springtime, things will align and we'll find another ridgeback puppy.

Nobody in the house worked out the last two nights. I have to say that this isn't really surprising. I'm hoping to run a little bit this evening. I'm entered in a 5K on Sunday (don't ask me why - it will be my slowest ever), so I need to take it fairly easy tonight. Tomorrow morning, I'll do an upper body lifting session before watching some college football.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rocket - a Tribute

This is the last photo taken of Rocket, taken last Saturday evening. The children in the photo are not mine. They are the children of friends who came over for dinner. I took the picture because it captured everything anyone needs to know about Rocket - he simply loved people. He loved his family, but he would show love to anyone wanted it. It was not uncommon for him to just walk up to someone sitting on the couch and lick them in the face for no apparent reason.

I don't even know where to start. My best friend died very unexpectedly yesterday. Rocket was not a human. He was a "defective" Rhodesian Ridgeback - a ridgeback without the ridge.

Please forgive the writing style. I seem to just be recalling random events from our life with Rocket, writing them down as they come to me.

It was a decade ago that I read Call of the Wild to my son. We read a chapter a night until we got through the whole book. For some reason, my son and I re-named Buck to be "Duck". It made us laugh. My son was 7 at the time.

By the time we finished the book, we both knew we wanted a dog. But, we both have asthma. We needed a dog who wouldn't cause allergy problems. I spent a lot of time researching dog breeds. We needed a non-allergenic breed. I wanted a fairly large dog rather than an overgrown hamster. We wanted a breed that would be good with children. We came down to a final list of breeds - Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Weimaraners. We started looking around for breeders and dogs.

It was a grueling process, to be honest. When we finally found out that a breeder near Syracuse had an available ridgeback, the interviews started. It was more intense than buying a house and as personal as the pre-marriage counseling I remember from 25 years ago. At times, I wanted to just call it off and buy a dog at a pet store. But, from all of my research, I had decided I really wanted a dog from a breeder who would support us if we had any problems. And, after numerous phone calls, a contract arrived in the mail. A contract? To buy a dog? But, we signed the contract and sent a check to the breeder.

Rocket was born on 3/23/2001. He would be ready to go to his new home in late May of that year. But, already, we had a problem. We were going to CA for vacation for almost two weeks in June. We didn't want to put a puppy in a kennel, so we arranged to pick Rocket up after the trip.

We were so eager to get Rocket that we planned to drive to Syracuse as soon as we got off the plane ride home at the end of the trip. We flew home on a red-eye and our daughter wouldn't sleep, so my wife got very little sleep. We headed out on the six hour drive to Syracuse despite being tired. When we arrived at the farm where Rocket was born, we were immediately surrounded by what seemed to be a herd of ridgebacks. One of them had no ridge and we knew immediately that it was Rocket.

And, the last 9+ years have been an amazing blur, with Rocket as our constant companion. My daughter told us last night that she doesn't even remember life without him. I can't imagine life without him, to be honest.

Rocket was a lap dog - a 110 pound lap dog. I'm convinced he thought he was human as well. When we got a second Ridgeback a few years later, Rocket seemed miffed. Why did we bring a dog into the house? The second dog made Rocket share couch space. The second dog would take the best spot on the bed. She would eat his food. She just had no manners.

Rocket was also true to his hound heritage. Twice, while out running with me, he took off after a deer and hit a barbed wire fence at high speed, requiring a trip to the vet to get stitches. Another time, while running with my wife, he lost an encounter with a porcupine. That required another expensive trip to the vet.

Once, after I had just run a 5K race, my wife was walking Rocket back to the car and he saw a squirrel. My wife ended up on the ground as Rocket took off after his "breakfast". Another time, a groundhog barely escaped with his life after Rocket got between the groundhog and its den.

Rocket was big and scary looking to people who didn't know him. But, he had the sweetest soul of any dog I've ever known. If you were a wild animal, he might have bad intentions towards you. If you were a human, after a few barks, the biggest risk was an unexpected kiss on the face.

Rocket never developed great dog manners. He was fine with humans, but not realizing that he was a dog, he wasn't quite sure how to play with other dogs. Mostly, other dogs were annoying to him. He wanted to be with his humans.

My wife tells me that when I traveled, Rocket would sometimes sit on the couch, watching the driveway and waiting for me to come home. This would go on for days.

Rocket loved to be on trails. He would run with me on trails and dirt roads. My son and I once did an 18 mile hike on a bike path with him. Once, Rocket and I hiked straight up Sugarbush's most difficult ski trail in the autumn, before the snow started to fall. During hunting season, I would put fluorescent colors on him so that hunters would (hopefully) realize that he wasn't a deer. Trail running here in Vermont in the autumn is one of my favorite activities. The trails are usually dry, the bugs are gone, and the smell in the air reminds us that winter is coming. Rocket couldn't wait to go on these runs.

As Rocket got older, his endurance seemed to wane. It happens to us all, as I can attest. He also tolerated heat less well than in his younger days. Rocket hated water, yet he would sometimes jump into a pond or roll in a stream to cool himself off during a longer or warm-weather run. Then, we'd have to clean him off before he could go back into the house.

I talked to Rocket's breeder this morning by e-mail. This is part of the message she sent back to me:

"I know how your family is grieving right now. Try to remember all the funny, wonderful things about Rocket and know that eventually time will turn the grief to warm memories. Not soon, but it will happen. Please pass on to your family my heartfelt Thanks for giving Rocket such a wonderful life and so much love."

I could probably write a book about all of those memories. And right now, I'd spend all of that writing time with tears in my eyes.

Rocket was fine yesterday afternoon, or at least he seemed to be fine. But, when we got home from my daughter's soccer game, my wife notice him lying in the grass in the backyard. Rocket never laid down on the grass. My wife called to him and he didn't respond. We hurried outside, knowing something was wrong. He was breathing, but he wasn't responsive at all. His eyes were rolled back in their sockets a bit. My wife wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew. I didn't know why it was happening, but I knew what was happening and I told her "He's dying." I didn't want to believe it, but I was sure it was true.

We called the vet. I knew that it would be a trip in vain, but the vet agreed to meet me at the office. We loaded him into the car and I took off for the office. Suddenly, while driving, it all hit me. I was in tears. I actually yelled at Rocket a couple times, asking him what I would do without him. I still don't know the answer to that question.

By the time we got to the vet's office, he was gone, and he took a little bit of everyone's heart with him. Or, maybe a lot of everyone's heart.

He was a mischievous dog. He would steal food from the counter or get into the garbage any time he had the chance. He would sneak upstairs and eat the cats' food. He chewed up slippers. He chewed up my son's glasses when he was a puppy. We would yell at him every time, but he didn't seem to notice. I'd give just about anything just to yell at him one more time.

I hope he knew that we loved him as much as he loved us. What more could anyone ever want from a pet but undying love?

Rest in peace, my friend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Even worse

Last night, on the way home, I felt like I was going to fall asleep while driving. I got home, skipped my workout, took a nap, ate some dinner, and went to bed early.

Pathetic, but work isn't letting up at all right now.

Tonight, lower body weight work. Tomorrow, after my daughter's junior high soccer game, I'll get in a run.

This time, for sure...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another week starts well and fizzles out

The pattern seems to just be continuing. Last Monday was a great bike ride. Tuesday was an upper body lifting workout that went really well. Wednesday was a track workout - 4x100, 4x200, and 4x100 - an old favorite workout that I haven't done for years. My speed (or lack thereof) is pathetic, but it was a fun workout. And then, on Thursday, I had a chiropractor appointment (he released me, thinking that the Synvisc injection has helped me a lot to keep my stride more event) and I needed to get groceries.

Friday afternoon, the fire alarm went off at work mid-afternoon. It turned out to be a bomb scare and we were locked out of our building for hours. I had my phone and wallet with me, but no car keys, so I was stuck in Burlington overnight. I spent the night out with friends of mine.

By the time I got home Saturday, I had to start cooking for a small party we were having on Saturday night, to watch the Penn State vs. Alabama football game. So, once again, a workout didn't happen.

On Sunday, I simply slept in, did some lawnwork, and watched some movies - no valid excuses there.

So, I worked out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then let the rest of the week slide. This is happening way too often.

Lifting tonight, if I ever get out of work.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What not to do in the gym

I deliberately took about a month off from lifting, including the time I spent in CA on vacation. I had a few parts of my body that were complaining from all the lifting I've been doing, and some rest from the gym seemed like a good idea.

Last Monday, I returned to the gym. On Friday, I did my first lower body workout in the gym in about 6 weeks. I thought I'd do a nice, simple workout to re-adapt myself to these lifts:

5x3 squats
3x10 walking lunges
5x3 deadlifts

On the squats and deads, I added weight each set, so that my last set was relatively hard, but the early sets weren't very hard. But, after not doing these lifts for a while, my body was not ready. So, I have been sore all over for days now. On Saturday, I could barely walk, but it was a college football day, so that was OK. On Sunday, I could barely move, but it was a long weekend, so I didn't worry about it too much.

On Monday, I forced myself outside for a bike ride - nothing too long or strenuous - just over an hour at a moderate pace. I felt no better after the bike ride, but no worse either. But this morning, both of my hamstrings were unhappy.

So, I clearly way overdid things on Friday. Tonight, I'll be in the gym, doing an upper body workout, but I'll be sure to be a bit more careful than I was last week.

And then tomorrow, I'm hoping that my legs are finally recovered enough to go for a run.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Busy Days Again

On Wednesday, I was too beat up to run.

Last night, I took my son to a concert (Weezer, who I wanted to see, and Coheed and Cambria, who he wanted to see). The Weezer show was excellent, albeit kind of short. My son assured me that C&C were great as well.

We got home at midnight. No workout. No good excuse for not working out in the morning either.

Tonight I'll do lower body lifts after work - squats, lunges and deadlifts. Tomorrow morning, I'll do a short running sprint workout.

And then, at noon tomorrow, Penn State's football season starts, with a true freshman at QB. Tomorrow's opponent isn't really strong (but upsets can happen!). But, next week, Penn State travels to the defending national champions - the University of Alabama. I'm expecting an ugly outcome from that game, given the state of Penn State's offensive depth, especially on the line, and a freshman QB who is likely to get rattled.

Sometime this weekend, if it doesn't rain all weekend, my wife wants to go rock climbing. And, after we get some rain, I'd like to do some fly fishing.

And, I'll probably end up working some this weekend.

I'm hoping to take advantage of the rain in the forecast to get back to practicing my guitar.

Working five days this week has been exhausting after taking a lot of vacation time in the previous five weeks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I'm sore from lifting on Monday.

Last night, I ran an easy 45 minutes downhill to the local pool and it seemed like my legs were made of lead.

It's over 90F out there today.

My lower body is too sore to lift. Ditto for the upper body.

It's too hot for just about anything outside.

I think it's a rest day.

Apparently, I'm going to see Weezer tomorrow night. Their opening act is Coheed and Cambria, one of my son's favorite bands. I guess it will be interesting; I sort of like Weezer.

And, any show at this year's fair has to be better than the Friday night Bieber-fest.