Thursday, May 31, 2012

summer fun: kayaking

Hey Everyone! I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I was going to post about today. Summer is usually a slow season for me when it comes to sports and paying attention to them. I love baseball but as I've said before, being in an area that's mostly Braves territory, it's difficult to be able to watch my home team, the Baltimore Orioles (who are on fire this year) play.

I started thinking about activities I love to enjoy in the summer. Most aren't that athletic, due to the horrible heat here in Northern Alabama and the fact that well, to be honest, I'm quite lazy when it's this hot out. 98 degrees is no cake walk, am I right? They also weren't a very good boy band either.

When the heat is on, and the activity levels are low, my husband, friends and I like to take to the creek. Most of our pals own kayaks or canoes and like to spend the day floating in our local streams. I will be the first to say that our route is anything but tough. It's a leisurely float often times met with a few spots where you'll have to paddle like hell, not because the water is rough but because come mid summer when it hasn't rained in weeks, the water gets very low and you often get stuck. That being said, there are lots of other great places to kayak in our area, we just usually stick close to home. I hope we will venture out a bit this year but that will have to wait until after vacation.

If you've never been kayaking I can assure you that unless you're going to some rapid filled body of water, it's super easy to pick-up the sport. My husband and I purchased new kayaks about 3 years ago. We originally purchased a canoe to float in, but after a few years of that finally figured we were ready to go out on our own and pilot our own personal water vessels.  A quick trip to the local sporting goods store during their "Big Boat Sale" they have every year and we were able to pick-up 2 new kayaks, 2 paddles and 2 life vests. (Life vests truly aren't a must for the stretch of creek we go down, but it is the law to have one in your boat so we take them with us wherever we go, so as not to piss off the park police in our area).

The best advice I can give to a new kayaker is to take some time to get familiar with your kayak. Before I ever went floating for the first time, I actually got into my boat, on dry land. Yes I was the idiot in her front yard rocking back and forth in my kayak. Entertaining, but also effective. Why do you think they train you to surf on dry land first? It's science, or at least fun to watch the kook in her front yard, right?

I figured I'd compile a quick list of must haves, must do's and must think of before hitting the creek for a water adventure be it on a kayak or canoe.

Helpful Tips For A Fun Kayak Trip:

  • NAME IT: If you purchased a kayak or canoe, congrats! Now you have to name it. It's bad luck to own a boat with no name. I named mine Lemon. First after Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, and second because well, it's bright yellow.
  • TEST IT OUT: Being on land is way different than water obviously but getting used to how far your boat will tip is a must in order to feel OK in the water. This goes double if you have a kayak or a canoe with a keel (a point that runs down the length of the boat, this will effect how you hit shallow areas, objects and rocks so it's good to get used to tipping left or right with out spilling out of your boat, OR taking on too much water.
  • DECORATE IT: "Put a bird on it!" Cover your kayak or canoe in stickers. This isn't a vital safety tip, but it's one of my favorite things to do with my kayak, you know other than float in it. I like expressing myself through stickers.
  • PROTECT YOURSELF: Cover your body with SPF. I can't stress this enough. You don't realize when you're kayaking or canoeing how much sun you will get. The water reflects the rays straight to your face, and the sun will beat down on your shoulders and head. A hat is a great way to cover up and please reapply regularly. Sweating is also a big thing on the creek and even though you're wearing water proof SPF, it still runs, and still needs to be put back on, especially if you're like me and wipe your face, a lot. Note: It also is smart to do this even if you like to get a tan, because I'm here to tell you only your FRONT gets tan when you kayak. And most of the time it's only from the knees up. Yes, my shins, lower legs and back of my legs rarely get sun. If you don't want to protect yourself from sun cancer, at least realize you're going to look uneven and silly. (Water shoes also make a lovely pattern on your feet but they are necessary! Read on).
  • PROTECT YOURSELF PART II: Sunglasses - bring 'em. I am horrible about keeping them on my face though. 90% of the trip I have them on my head and my crows feet love me for this. Sometimes it's hard to see the water and where you are going during certain times of the day. Shades will help this, as will a hat. I will also suggest if you worry about losing your specs to purchase a chain or foam sunglasses strap to keep them on your person. If you flip, they will be lost unless they stay on your face.
  • FOOD: We always pack small snacks in our coolers. Some days we might take a quick float down stream and it will only be for about 3-4 hours. Other days we've left at 12:00 NOON and didn't pull back into our final port until 6:30 pm. It makes for a long day, and after wearing my workout watch one day and realizing that I do burn a lot of calories, you might need some fuel for the last leg of the float. Sometimes the water stops moving, and you have to paddle, and paddle and paddle.. and sometimes when the creek is low, you will get stuck, and use a ton of energy to paddle and try to shimmy your way free. Trust me, a granola bar, some pretzels or something "sturdy" in your bag like almonds or trail mix will be just the ticket. If we go for a long day, we take sandwiches too. Your biggest issue is having the room for all this in a small boat AND that you don't want to smash everything. In a pinch something like Lunch-a-bles will workout well too.
  • TRASH: If you bring wrappers, cans, bottles etc. be sure to bring a bag to house it all while you float. If not a bag, have a pocket in your dry storage OR cooler to house the trash. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing cans and other careless floaters trash polluting up our water ways. It's rude, and it is not right.
  • COOLER: If you are in a canoe, you can bring the biggest cooler you like that will fit into your ride. Mike and I used to bring 2 coolers. One for beer (or soda/water) and one that we could keep food in. Thankfully with all the extra room in our boat we could afford to do this. Often times we'd have 2 coolers and a dog in there as well. Our pup, June loves to canoe. Since we have downsized to kayaks we are met with more restrictions. We can carry one of the small 6 pack coolers and fit maybe some beer, a bottle of water and small snacks. My biggest issue is that we don't have storage behind us in our kayaks (see notes about purchasing one below), so we have to store items at our feet, which can often times get kicked. This is why I say bring "sturdy" food. Don't bring a bag of chips and expect those things to survive, it won't happen.
  • DRINKS: Yes, I said beer above. We drink beer on the creek. The most important thing to remember is that you should always try to bring CAN drinks, or plastic bottles. You don't want to deal with the possibility that your glass bottles will break. I have gone with bottles before, but honestly, they are horrible and hard to hold on to. Note: Most kayaks and canoe's don't come with cup holders - you better get your thighs ready to squeeze them. Beer in moderation obviously, and if you're going on RAPIDS or a wild ride, I wouldn't even bring it. Trust me I've had times in our canoe that I wondered how we did OK with all the drinks we had during the day. It's not wise, so don't attempt it, I speak from experience. Bottom line, stay HYDRATED! Water and Sports Drinks are great!
  • KOOZIES: For your drinks - keeps them cold and makes them easier to grip with your thighs. ALSO they make handy ones that can hang around your neck. Sure you'll look silly but you'll have both hands free to use your paddle and control your boat. And if you're inventive like my husband  you also can rig a koozie through the straps that come on most canoes so your beverage will sit steady and strong on the top of your kayak.
  • PURCHASING: If you are going to get a kayak, from experience I can tell you 2 big things to look for. 1) See if you can get a model that has storage behind your seat. I would much rather store my cooler and food back there so I don't kick it. Mine only has front storage. 2) Make sure you feel like you have enough room, and you also might want some room for dry storage too if need. I have never needed it on my trips. I don't take a phone, or electronics and I don't carry towels in the kayak, only in my Jeep at the pick-up point.
  • TRANSPORT: You want a good vehicle to take your kayak to the water. I own a Jeep with racks on the top which is perfect, but you can still get away with kayaks or canoes when you have a car. I used to drive a car and used foam blocks and straps to protect my paint. They also sell expensive kayak and canoe racks. Either way be sure you protect your vehicle.
  • DRY STORAGE: If you DO want to bring things like your phone or electronics or a dry shirt, or maybe a towel, then invest in some dry storage bags sold at sporting goods stores. They come in really handy. They might not always be 100% dry so be warned. You may want to double up if your cell phone is a prized possession.
  • TOILET PAPER: We are women after all. To the men reading this, welcome, thanks for making it this far and we know, it's awesome you can piss anywhere! Don't forget the TP. Store it in your dry storage bag and you will thank me. If you think of it and have time, check out the travel section at the local Target. Often times you can find travel TP all rolled up. 
  • MOTHER NATURE & THE GREAT OUTDOORS: It's a pain in the ass, but can be done. Again, DRY STORAGE IS YOUR BFF when it comes to keeping your cotton ponies safe!
  • PREPARE TO GET WET: I always try to wear my swimsuit under my shorts and tank top. And it doesn't matter how careful you are, you're going to get wet so get over that issue quickly.  You can lean too far to one side and get some water in your boat (wet butt) or you might hit some waves and get water over the front (wet front butt)... bottom line you're going to get your ass wet, you'll probably get your face wet and frankly if you don't want to be wet why the hell did you sign on to do water sports? 
  • FOOTWEAR: You want your feet to be protected, it's as simple as that. Tennis shoes are not going to work, they take on water. At the same rate, flip flops are foolish, unless they have an ankle strap to keep them on. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people kayak/canoe with flip flops on, only to tump (flip) and lose 1 or both of their shoes. My best suggestion is getting yourself some water shoes. If you don't want to spend an arm and a leg (because they can get pricey) you can totally go to Wally World and get yourself some of those cheap, slip on shoes. The reinforced toes on those shoes aren't half bad. I personally try to stay away from open toed sandals. My biggest fear is stubbing my toe or cutting it on a rock at the bottom of the creek. I purchased some KEEN water/hiking shoes about 6 years ago and while they were expensive, they are still rocking and holding strong. My biggest advice is to test out the shoes before going for a real kayak trip. I got a pair of Teva's recently that are super cute, but... with the open toes my feet tend to slide all over the base when they get wet, this equals frustration and not having firm footing on the creek bottom can be the difference between falling down in the water, and/or spraining your ankle.
  • STOP AND TAKE BREAKS: Sometimes it's nice to stop on a rock beach and chill with your friends, have some lunch and or just soak in the water. On the hottest days my friends and I find a place to relax in the water, under a shaded tree and it's the best.
  • BEWARE OF WILDLIFE: There will be snakes, turtles, and other critters. Respect the wildlife and brush up on your snakes. Some water snakes are poisonous in some areas, others are harmless. My best advice when in doubt paddle AWAY from the snakes. I've had one come right up to me, almost lurch at me when I was relaxing and standing in the water. My gut reaction, run. I think it's a great one. But seriously, I'm not an expert, research and make yourself aware of issues with animals in the wild.
  • BUG SPRAY: Load up and bring it with you. Bugs are all over and they bite and you'll thank me for saying this later. Ticks are also heavy in the summer and no one likes those.
  • SPF LIPBALM: Just like the SPF for your body, your lips will thank me for telling you about this too. I get really parched out there on the creek. And sometimes adding MORE water to my cooler and lots of lip stuff makes all the difference.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF - this is the most important rule. Kayaking and Canoeing is SO fun.
  • FINAL ADVICE: If you are floating... and you hear banjos*, PADDLE LIKE HELL! 
I hope some of this was helpful to you! And while a lot of it was stated for comedic value I do feel like all points I made were valid ones. If you have any questions let me know.

What is your favorite way to spend a hot summer day?
(If you say  hang by the pool I'm going to be SO jealous!)

* Deliverance is the scariest movie of all time. I am so thankful I watched it for the first time, AFTER my first canoe adventure. If I hadn't, I would NEVER get in the water in Alabama.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Love to hate . . . yeah, that's about right.

The Miami Heat. . . . my blood is already pumping with disdain. My team is out of the playoffs. No big deal, I've said before that I was ready for basketball season to end. But, I can't handle the idea of the Heat winning, of Lebron winning. There is just too much wrong with that.

I'm not a Celtics fan, but I'm cheering like I'm from Boston. (Okay, maybe not that loud. My buddy I watch the games with is from Boston, and he's LOUD.)  I don't know the players that well (except the few big names), I don't know the game strategy, and I don't know their true strengths and weaknesses. However, I do know that if the Heat go to the Finals, I might flip out and curse the Celtics . . . depending on the outcome, for years to come.

I don't like hating a team. I don't like hating anyone for that matter. But I'm surprising content with my absolute hatred for the Miami Heat. I know every person that plays professional athletics has an ego. I understand in that type of atmosphere you have to. You have to be able to say "I'm better than you", because that atmosphere (not only other players, but the fans themselves) will eat you alive. However, there is a limit. Lebron James has no limit on ego. Dwayne Wade isn't as bad, however, don't let the calm face fool you. If you think these boys don't trash talk and are willing to throw each other under the bus for a good shot, you don't know professional sports. Chris Bosh, well, I just laugh every time I see that Velociraptor on the floor. I actually kind of like watching him. Unfortunately, he's part of the trio and therefore, I can't support him. I'm sure he understands.

But anyone who is a cry baby (like Lebron) doesn't deserve to do as well as he unfortunately does. And I understand why people love him. From a true technical standpoint, he's an amazing basketball player. However, it's like Jerry Jones, from a true technical standpoint, he's an amazing business man. And everyone knows how that one ends, it doesn't matter how good they are, they will never have my support.

I don't like Greg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs coach), but don't think I won't be cheering for them if they end up playing Miami. Ugh, my skin may have crawled just a little bit. Maybe I just need to turn the channel, and have a stiff drink to wash down the bad taste in my mouth.

PS. Lebron - Lose the glasses. You look ridiculous.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains...

The perfect description of baseball.  And on Monday night, when we headed out to Yankee rained.  A lot.

We arrived at the train station...

To find a very soggy stadium...

The field was covered and there were huge puddles everywhere...

But we put on our rain ponchos and hoped for the rain to stop...

Eventually it did and the field came out from under the plastic tarp...

And so did we...

And we got to watch the game...

We also learned a really valuable lesson...

I think that's good advice even when you aren't at a baseball game!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Even Summers

I love this time of year as shows are winding down to their finales and baseball season is finally picking up.  I tend to read more and be outside without worrying about triple digit heat (although we could use some to kill the pollen count around here).  I'm reminded summer is almost here and even year summers are the best!

Forget about baseball, every even summer you're guaranteed a big international soccer tournament. While this year isn't the World Cup, and Deco won't be playing for Portugal, there will be plenty of hot, shirtless, players for my enjoyment during Euro 2012.  I was in London when England won in '96, not knowing what the craziness was all about. Now, I wish I had understood.

As much as I've tried to convince you otherwise, most of you are not soccer fans. I understand, kind of, sort of, not really.  Between the insane skill it takes to reach this level, and the gossip, there really is something for everyone. But fine, soccer isn't your thing?  Don't worry, this summer we've also got the Olympics!

I go back and forth every two years over which Olympics I like best.  Speed Skating or Track and Field? Gymnastics or Ice Dancing (not ice skating, that's clearly rigged)?  Basketball or hockey?  Ski Jumping or...? Actually, I don't know what can compare from the summer, maybe pole vaulting? Regardless, each year I say that season is my favorite.  Summer it is!

But can we talk mascots for a second?  Who decides these things?

Meet Wenlock and Mandeville

Apparently they've created short, animated videos based on the characters which represent two drops of steel from steelworks in Bolton.  Um, yes that's clearly obvious.  One eyed monsters are not at all what I think of when I see this.  Or maybe the Malcolm in the Middle power walking episode?  I'm all for mascots, I can even accept the slightly absurd, I am a Cuse grad after all.  I'm just hoping there will be more appearances by Hot Harry than Wenlock and Mandeville!  Am I right?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fan Photo of the Week: Rangers Game

This week's Fan Photo(s) of the Week comes from AuntBT.  She attended a Rangers game, after which she decided she was more than OK with being a bandwagon fan.

To submit your photos for the Fan Photo of the week, email Hutch at hutchfromthesidelines [at] gmail [dot] com. They will be featured here as well as on our Facebook page.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

take me out to the ball game!

With my Capitals out of the running for the Stanley Cup (Congrats Rangers on your wins... I suppose *insert disappointed grumble*), I've started to turn my attention fully to baseball. Baseball has always been a game that I mostly understood. Not to say the sport is easy, because I can tell it truly isn't. For me it was easier to understand the rules, how you scored and how you advanced. For years in my youth and still often times today I still get a bit lost in football, hockey and other sports but my understanding of these sports is leaps better than it used to be only 4 years ago. I give credit to my husband and to watching more college football, not being afraid to ask questions and taking it all in like a dry sponge. Baseball was a different story, you get a run, you get a point, simple as that. You got three outs and it's the next teams turn to try again to do the same thing. Now, please don't ask me how to tell the difference between how the umpire decides if something is a strike, a ball, or a walk because frankly I haven't got a clue.

For years I didn't realize how lucky I was. I was working at a local printing company and often times as a perk our paper sales people would bring us free tickets to local sporting events. Every once in a while our head pressmen wouldn't want the tickets and lucky me would get two free tickets to a Baltimore Orioles game! Not too shabby for an office assistant/graphic designer if I do say so myself.

I didn't know at the time how awesome the tickets were. I knew that most days you could get affordable seats wayyyyyyyyy up in the nosebleed section of the stadium. That's fine with me, I could still tell what was happening and sat in those seats many times before. The first night I was able to go with some free tickets from our sales rep I was floored. My best friend and I headed to Baltimore for the night, got our prime parking with special passes and entered the stadium. Not knowing what to expect I sort of figured we'd have to climb some steps to get to our seats. I was only half right. Instead of climbing up steps, we were walking down them. We showed an usher our tickets and he directed us to walk further down the bleachers. I kept saying to myself "No way... NO, WAY!" When we got to our seats we were approximately 12 rows from third base. It wasn't until the O's took the field that I had my full on freak out. I started punching my pals leg and making noises that could only be described as grunts of disbelief... there he was, my silver fox Cal FREAKING Ripken, Jr. After my friend finally told me "OW, YOU'RE HURTING ME!!! WHAT?!?!?" I was able to get it out... "It's Cal.. He's RIGHT THERE!!!" It took all the composure I had not to run down the rest of the steps and jump the fence and tackle him.  At the time I will be honest I had a huge crush on Brady Anderson and his insane side burns (remind me again why that was hot?), but he was wayyyyy on the other side of the field. Security would get me before I got to him, and to be honest, Cal has always had my heart. He was my favorite baseball hero, and still is.

I don't remember a lot from that game, mostly the excitement, and I can't tell you if we won or lost. I was probably quite a few Miller Lites into the game, and totally preoccupied with people watching. If I could go back in time I'd kick myself into paying attention to the game. We weren't the best team back then, but I will always bleed Orange and Black for my local Maryland Baseball team.

I was able to return to these amazing seats a few more times of the course of my employment and I tried to make the most of it every time. It's one thing I miss about being home in Maryland. To this day if I see someone in an O's hat it makes me giddy and smile, especially being so far from home.  My husband and I plan to take a trip home this summer and will hopefully catch a game while we are in town. And I can't wait, have you seen the O's record this year? They are still #1 in their division. I thought it was a fluke early in the season, we've been here before but we are still hanging strong and I'm so proud of the team, the franchise and I'm so happy for the community. True O's fans have waited a long time for a feeling like this and they, I mean WE deserve it.

My husband has never really followed baseball, but with the anticipation and the desire to hit up a game while we are home, he's tuned into every game on his smart phone and often gives score updates and play by plays when we can't watch the game on TV.  (Being in the Atlanta Braves market you can see where this would be an issue right?). I really love that he's getting so into it, for years we sort of neglected keeping up with the O's and I've felt guilty and much like a fairweather fan and that was never my intention. I love the team and will be honest when I say it's pretty much the only Maryland team I follow and cheer for. (Sorry Ravens). Shameful for a Maryland girl born and raised but it's true.

I'm ready for my vacation, and even more ready to step foot back into what I feel is one of the most beautiful MLB stadiums around, Camden Yards. I am ready for cold beer, good times, and hopefully seats that aren't too far at the top of the stadium, but that are jusssst right for my husbands first O's game.

Did I mention he's already been shopping online for the perfect O's shirt. I really love that we've bonded and started to support the same teams. Some were his first, some where mine. It makes for a happy home.

So how any of you are loving baseball season?

NEWS JUST IN: The hubby emailed me to let me know the O's just won again, SWEET!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ah, America's pastime . . . .

I like baseball. I played softball growing up and was always hanging around at my brother's baseball games. Hello, boys in tight baseball pants!! However, I'm not a big supporter of the MLB. It's not that I don't like the game, I actually really enjoy it, but I can't watch baseball on tv. It bores me to no end. It's a strategy game, but I don't see the strategy (probably because I've never tried). It's a slower game, which is fine, but as a basketball girl, I like the fast pace. It keeps my attention. I can go make a sandwich during a MLB game and then forget that I was watching it.

I'm fully aware that I'm a bandwagon MLB fan. I don't mind being termed that, because we all know that I'm a Mavericks fan through and through. So to be a bandwagon fan in a completely different sport, I'm okay with that. Judge all you want. So when the Rangers went to the World Series I watched. That's about it, and I wasn't about to pay to go see them in the Championship series.

Now, I'll go to a mid-season game just for kicks. I enjoy the ballpark (it's amazing), and I love the atmosphere. Plus, in person baseball is really enjoyable. The games are longer so you get to enjoy talking and laughing with friends. I'm all for that (it's completely different than a basketball game). So when I end up going with a big group of people and it's in the cheap seats, do I care? Nope. I know I'm going to have fun and enjoy the game.

Heck, Yu Darvish is scheduled to pitch, and apparently everyone needs to see that boy pitch in person.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fan Photo of the Week

Starting this Friday, we're launching a new weekly feature, the Fan Photo of the Week.

With the phone apps and cameras available today, I'm amazed at the photos an everyday fan can take at sporting events.  Here are two of my favorites, both from my phone, edited with a little help from instagram.

Giants - Dodgers. Vogelsong pitched a beauty. July, 2011.

The Red Sea. Taken after the Niners - Saints Instant Classic.

Now I know they're not perfect and will never be sold by a major outlet, but each of these photos instantly take me back.  I can still remember the feelings from that moment, awe, relief, excited, disbelief.

We want to give you a place to showcase the sporting event photos that take you back, whether they're beauty shots or cameos.

To submit your photos for the Fan Photo of the Week, please email me at hutchfromthesidelines [at] gmail [dot] com.  You will be featured here, as well as our Facebook fan page.  I highly recommend watermarking your photos (although, clearly, I don't follow that advice very well).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Post-Derby Depression

Here it is, the "every other" Thursday and I finally find myself (after months of disappointing football, followed by months of exhilarating basketball) out of topics for this blog. I will give you what I've got, which is a Derby hangover.

I have never been to the Kentucky Derby. I've only be in Louisville (pronounced "Lul-vulle") during the Derby once and that was as a freshman, finishing finals at the University of Louisville (or U of L, pronounced "U-vel"). It's not for lack of desire to go. It's for lack of funds. And for the diminishing desire to be herded into a stadium to buy $6 beers, to wait 10 minutes every time I have to pee, to watch the race through binoculars instead of in high-definition from my hammock. But it, like all sports events, is an experience and one that should be added to the to-do list...especially by a native Kentuckian. So, we've decided to set aside the hundreds of dollars for a grandstand seat and actually attend next year, just to say we went.

As for this year, though, my money has been handed over to a friend who came to our Derby party (as I watched my chosen Gemologist fade to the back with each turn in the course), I've been snacking on Derby pie and ham biscuits for 5 days, and the hot brown bites are dwindling to the last couple in the baggie. The fresh mint is turning brown in the fridge, a hot-glued rose fell off my wreath, the bourbon balls were finished off days ago, and the last of the Derby 2012 napkins and plates are stacked in the cupboard until Derby 2013. It's a blue, green, and gold argyle wasteland around here. And my list of fun and wacky Kentucky Derby facts is 5 days too late.

It's with a sigh of contentment, but also apprehension, as I hit publish on this post and prepare for 2 weeks from now...when it's too soon to talk about basketball season, too depressing to talk about football season, and too foreign to discuss baseball. The summer Olympics are coming, there's that. And Churchill will continue to race through the summer, but I rarely keep up with it as it only reminds me of all that I'm missing by being in Georgia. I will find something...perhaps it's finally time for me to embrace the Atlanta Braves...out of necessity, of course.

Did you have a Derby party? What was on the menu? Was there a hat involved? Or bourbon? There HAS to be bourbon. Jack Daniels is not invited to the Kentucky Derby, y'all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Say it ain't so, Mo...

Those were the first words I thought when I heard that Mariano River, the Yankees closer, had suffered a season ending...and possibly a career ending...injury.  It was a freak thing...a fluke.  A misstep suffered while doing something he'd done hundreds of times before.  One little slip...a twisted knee...and just like that the season was over. 

I was heartbroken.  I love Mariano.  Not only is he the greatest closer in baseball, but he's a classy guy.  He's a true leader in the Yankee organization...mentoring young pitchers and teaching them to be better...and helping his teammates whenever he can.  He doesn't seek the spotlight for himself and focuses instead on his team.  My favorite quote from Mo was when someone asked him to describe his job he said "I get the ball, I throw the ball and then I take a shower."  He does so much more than that.  But he's humble and gracious and he really cares about his team and he loves the game. 

He's also a big family man.  He's married...not to his high school sweetheart...but to his childhood sweetheart and they have three children.  He's very involved in his church and his foundation, which builds schools and churches and buys Christmas presents for underprivileged kids. 

Seriously...he's a good guy. 

I met Mo once.  Several years ago...during the playoffs, a friend and I were eating lunch in White Plains when Mo and his wife came in and were seated at the table next to us.  We didn't want to bother him, but when we were getting up to leave we wished him luck in that night's game.  He smiled and thanked us.  And they did win the game that night. 

Mo was planning to retire after this season, but he's vowed to come back and play again.  He refuses to go out like this and for that I'm glad.  It would be very sad to never get to watch him pitch again. 

Brian Robertson, who is taking over in Mo's absence, is a good pitcher.  He gets the job done...but he likes the tension of full bases before he does so.  When I was discussing this with my brother he said "It's going to be a long and stressful season without Mo...but I know he'll be back."

So Mo...we are all wishing you a speedy recovery.  Baseball is just not going to be the same without you this year. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Inspiration From The Relay

What did you do this weekend?

Oh, you know, just participated on a 12 person relay team that ran 199 miles from Calistoga to Santa Cruz.  No big deal.

When a running buddy first asked me to be on their team for The Relay we had just finished a speed workout during our half training. Here's a secret, you can pretty much ask me to do anything after a good run and I'll say yes.  At the time, running 3 legs totaling 14-17 miles over 34ish hours seemed doable.

By the time Friday rolled around I wasn't so sure. After the half marathon in March, I focused on completing P90x2.  I will fully admit to losing interest in running.  I liked the overall fitness results I saw from X2 more than what I saw during my training. Since the half I ran a handful of times with the longest distance being 4 miles. I knew my strength had improved, but I wasn't sure my endurance would be there for all 3 legs.  I don't mind being the slow one, but I also didn't want to let the team down.

Would you want to let down a team with the best name/shirts ever?

My first leg came Saturday morning around 8:45 am.  I ran on Silverado Trail in Napa, a few rolling hills, lots of turns and gorgeous scenery.  It was one of those humbling, spiritual moments where I realized just how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful state.  I also really wanted to stop at Rombauer for some Chardonnay, but I kept my focus.  I turned on the mile cues with my RunKeeper app, but kept the pacing off, I just wanted to run.  After finishing, I looked at my app and realized my mile pace was almost a minute faster than what I predicted.  7 months from when I started running, I was beyond ecstatic to finally see improvement!

The 2nd and 3rd legs were marked as Hard and Easy. The hard included a crazy "hill" and the easy was not quite as easy as I hoped, but I finished.  After each leg, I remembered what I liked about this whole running thing.  The calm that can be found out there on the road combined with the sense of accomplishment when finishing.  I definitely enjoyed the fact that it felt more like going for a run on my own than an actual race.  I think I needed The Relay to spark my motivation again.

We did have a minor setback during my 2nd leg, when our van decided to stay in the mud for awhile (knew something would happen during the crazy full moon), but our team pulled together and we found a way to make sure each runner made it to their legs.  No one wanted to give up.  The ladies I ran with, and our driver, are amazing.

The overall experience was incredibly inspiring.  Our van finished better than predicted and van #2 totally crushed their legs.  I really don't know how people run that fast.  The Relay goes beyond my running "reawakening" though.  Put on by an amazing group, Organs R Us, the money raised will save lives.

I can't wait to be a part of it again next year!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Only Claim To Fame.

I'm by no means a celebrity, well maybe in my own mind I am, but in reality I am just an everyday person. I know some people in the world have one great claim to fame. They have talent, they can sing, they sell millions of hit songs. Or maybe they can play a sport very well and have tons of rings, trophies or recognition into various major league sports hall of fames. I don't have any of these things and this is probably why I'm such a huge music and sports fan. As a fan I have the ability to live through my teams wins and losses. To celebrate both the great and outstanding accomplishments and sulk during the loses.

I come from a family of semi passionate sports fans. My dad for years pledged his support to the Washington Redskins. He's a Pennsylvania born and raised man, yet had no qualms about picking a team not from his home state when he moved to Maryland many years ago {He still gives me crap for being a Steelers fan and HE'S the one from PA}. My mother, she could have cared less. Which is really funny considering she was in the best position for a sports fan with her employment in the years before I was born.

Many moons ago My mom, being an employee of the Washington Capital Center had first dibs on any tickets she wanted, for any event being held at the center. Her favorite tickets to snag were concert tickets and boxing event tickets. She always picked the same spot, fairly close to the action and off to the right side.  I've been told that while I was in my development stages of life aka a bebe in her belly, I witness great musical acts such as The Who! Kicking in time to the beat of the music and moving uncontrollably. I still do that to this day when I hear that band. I'm not sure if I witnessed any boxing or sporting events, if I did she never spoke of it.

In the winter of 1976 {yes I just said the date}, I was born. The first day of December I came into this world, the first and only child in my family, and the first child born to an employee of the Washington Capital Center. My mother's boss and the owner of the center sent her a dozen red roses and some champagne to say "Congratulations!".  We received another bundle of a dozen pink carnations, addressed to me, it was a warm welcome message and it was signed "Love, The Washington Capitals".

When I was old enough to realize the awesomeness of this gift I vowed in my youth to always be a Washington Capitals fan - and I still am today, even though catching them on TV is increasingly hard here in Alabama {although I did watch most of last nights game against the NY Rangers, sadly we lost in triple overtime}.  My mother wrote a sweet note about this event in my baby book and until further notice this will be my only claim to fame.

From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU to the 1976 Washington Capitals Team! And to every team since them - thanks for all you do! I am still supporting you 100%! And will until the day I die!


 The groovy men that sent me flowers over 35 years ago • via 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Because sometimes videos speak louder than words.

Would love to know your thoughts on this, because I'm at a loss.

I understand frustration, I understand that losses are hard. I also understand that you are a professional and that your hands are more important to your team that you throwing a hissy fit. And I'm very aware that this is coming from a chick who has thrown things, kicked walls, and pushed items out of frustration. Of course, I don't get paid millions.

What do you think?