Ran a Marathon!

I finally get the 26.2 sticker!

I had been signed up for the OBX Marathon, which was somehow still not coronacancelled… I think because it’s generally a smaller race (300 ish people in a typical year) perhaps they were banking on figuring something out… alas, no.

When I found out the race was going to be “virtual”, I immediately started thinking about options… three months into a four-month training plan, did I really want to maintain that level of work another month, for a virtual race?

I knew the experience (and my performance) would be compromised anyway. A virtual race, even if it is scoped out to the same distance, is missing the aid stations, the nutrition and hydration support every two miles, a closed and controlled course, and the psychological hype of a major event with tons of spectators and friends cheering you on…. it’s just not the same.

Further, training for a marathon has been a LOT of time… running five days a week and an additional day of light strength and yoga. I was looking at heading up to the Great Smokey Mountains next week, for example, worrying about maintaining a training plan while camping in the mountains. Doable, but not desirable.

Early Autumn in the swamp! Taken from the Jamestown HS connector trail, just before it reaches the VCT proper.

In the end it was an easy decision: truncate the plan, forget any time goal, focus on recovery from the previous week, go simply for completion without injury, and look forward to the next time I can run a real race.

I ran 13.1 miles from Jamestown HS up the Virginia Capital Trail, where my friend Richard was parked, warmed-up, and ready to go. He resupplied me and we ran it back together to hit 26.2! For most of the way, it was a really pleasant run… nice fall weather and a light, cool rain sprinkling down to keep things refreshing and open up the scents of the forest.

My time of 4:49:04 includes all stretch, pee, hydration, and refuel stops. It’s slower than I had been originally aiming for, but again, goals were rescoped and I was also trying to be pretty conservative for the first 18 miles or so… Too many stories of first-time marathoners coming out too strong and bonking at 22!

Now that I’ve done one, I’m super pleased! It’s a big milestone in my running and now I have a baseline to build off of. Here’s hoping for real races in 2021…

Whoa

Last post May of 2019? Probably because this site was focused on my writing, and I haven’t actively written fiction (or been involved with the scifi community) in a looooonnng time.

Some changes:

  • theme and appearance altered to emphasize the blog, and not my writing / author persona (though the Biblio page is still there if anyone’s interested)
  • new category added: Personal, with subcategories for outdoors and nature, DnD, running, and food — the pastimes that are actually where my time and energy go these days
  • phone app to quick post photos (may need to switch to a theme with post types to better accommodate photo-only posts)

This will all probably result in more posts! Probably. Maybe? We’ll see.

False Cape State Park (7/17/20 – 7/18/20)

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Virginia State Parks

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There are only two ways in to False Cape State Park: kayak in by water, or hike in through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge! No vehicles are permitted. The relative difficulty in accessing the park keeps out most of the crowds, and you can expect a more solitary and remote experience, especially if camping deeper within the park.

We backpacked in about 6 miles through the open wetlands and swamps of the wildlife refuge, only encountering three cottonmouths… not ominous at all. Summer is great weather for the beaches, but given that there only small islands of shade in the open wetlands, the summer heat and humidity can be quite oppressive, so plan your hike accordingly — we did not, especially on the way out.

Beach camping comes with beautiful views and a whole lot of sand in everything! Gotta just accept it. We traded sand in everything and no shade for being right on the ocean and avoiding the snakes in the shady grove that harbored the official campsites. Reservations are required, even to camp on the beach away from the sites!

Gorgeous sunset and sunrise, drinking and looking up at the stars, and an early morning beach run + ocean swim with not another human in sight. Pretty awesome.

A bit too awesome in fact… we got so caught up in our morning swim and lounge that we didn’t even consider that we were setting outselves up for a hike out in the hottest part of the day. We didn’t even start back until noon… and by then it was far too late to avoid the heat. The open skies and awful humidity made us broil in the summer heat. We slowly made our way out a mile or so at a time, stopping at every tiny scrap of shade to rehydrate and rest. We soaked our hats in cold water from the taps and sweated constantly through our clothes and packs.

When a thunderstorm loomed in the distance, we welcomed it with open arms — the sudden drop in temperature as the front hit us and then the subsequent drenching in cool water felt amazing. I’m sure the cars driving by us for the last mile stretch to the parking lot at Sandbridge, Virginia Beach thought we were crazy. Torrential rain, carrying loaded packs, and laughing the whole way.

Westmoreland State Park (7/11/20 – 7/12/20)

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Virginia State Parks

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Birthday camping! Since my usual “get a bunch of people together food lots of food and drink” approach was prevented by Covid this year, instead I decided to get out to the outdoors. I took a solo one-nighter up to Westmoreland State Park, which is located on the Northern Neck on the southern bank of the Potomac River.

The terrain varies quite a bit within the park, from pine forest on the high ridge lines down to sandy beaches closer to the river. Boardwalks allow trekking over the wetlands of the river valley. Amazing amount of waterfowl.

For such a large and well-visited park, the campgrounds felt nicely spread out enough for some solitude.

Staunton River State Park (6/13/20 – 6/14/20)

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Virginia State Parks

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Just two weeks after my trip to Occoneechee State Park, I found myself just a little further up the river at Staunton River State Park. Laura and I had intended to camp at Pocahontas State Park further north, but the campground was full. The waters were still high from late spring rains, but we managed to explore quite a few trails.

Occoneechee State Park (5/31/20 – 6/1/20)

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Virginia State Parks

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A quick one-nighter out to Occoneechee State Park, on the southern edge of Virginia near the North Carolina state line, about halfway across the state to the west on the banks of the Roanoke River.

After several days of hard rain, the waters had risen to inundate several campsites and trail segments. The photo of me pointing is of me indicating where the trail should be for the run I was on! Very pretty sunset on the water’s edge though.

Shenandoah River State Park (2/14/20 – 2/17/20)

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Virginia State Parks

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I’m grateful for friends like Jason and Heather, who were just crazy enough to join me in heading out to the mountains in February. Spoiler: it was really cold.

We had originally intended to camp in Shenandoah National Park. All three of us being originally from out of state and relatively new to the area, none of us knew that SNP actually closes its campgrounds in the winter. So there we were at the Swift Run Gap entrance station on US-33 staring dumbfounded at the CLOSED signs on the campground status board.

With light fading and temperatures dropping, we looked at a map and made a few calls and settled on pushing further west into the Shenandoah River Valley to a state park off of US-340 that none of us had ever been to, Shenandoah River State Park. Given the cold, we quickly discarded the original plan of multiple tents — body heat was declared a communal commodity in a single tent dogpile.

Though starker without the lush green leaves of the warmer months, the valley was still beautiful. We did some hikes, ran some trails, and were quite grateful for the free hot showers (excellent for thawing out).

Afterward, one the way home, we explored nearby Luray Caverns (might do a post just for that, pretty awesome photos) and some wineries off of US-3.

Review of “A Turn in the South” by V.S. Naipaul

I picked up V.S. Naipaul’s travelogue of the American South in a used bookstore in Charlottesville for a few bucks. It looked interesting, especially in the context of my recent binge of listening to the Bitter Southerner podcast and the associated thinking about the past and changing identity of the South

I loved it.

The writing is beautifully descriptive of the people, landscapes, and buildings that grace the South, yet manages to keep the prose clean and economical as well. Naipaul is clear-eyed about a history steeped in slavery, segregation, and multi-laterial racial resentment; yet while the racial past permeates the lived present, he never lets it detract from or overshadow the beautiful things either. He also doesn’t run from examining ideas and identities for which great care is required to preserve the essential truth, in whole range from nuance to outright contradiction

It had been hot from the beginning, from mid-April, that is, when I had gone south in Howard to see the place he thought of as home; and had been surprised by the colors of the Carolina spring, the new green of trees, the purple flowers of the roadside grass, the yellow-white dogwood blossoms; and had been further surprised by the beauty — in rust, wood-gray, faded green, and Indian red — of abandoned tobacco barns and derelict farmhouses and barns with peaked and spreading corrugated-iron roofs.

A fine piece of writing. It had made me want to not only read the Naipaul’s other works (I had never heard of him before this book), but also to start planning my own road trip around the region, to which I’m a recent transplant and have relatively little exposure.

My RavenCon 14 Schedule!


RavenCon 14 starts in less than two weeks (April 5-7)! I’m very happy to be appearing at this convention not just as a programming guest, but also having helped put together the first Science Track at this con, which will be in Room G the whole weekend.

I will be live-tooting (still haven’t quite gotten used to that term) on Mastodon as @quantumcowboy in the Wandering Shop instance. (If you are unfamiliar with Mastodon, the site JoinMastodon has a great introduction.) Expect the usual rolling commentary and photos on Masto, and (ideally) daily summaries here on the blog. See you in Williamsburg!

Friday

  • 5 pm – 7 pm (Private, Optional) Meet and Greet for Guests / Green Room
  • 7 pm (Opening Ceremony) Large Auditorium
  • 8 pm (Panel) Space Does Not Work That Way / Room G: A discussion of the most commonly used incorrect space and spaceflight tropes in science fiction, and where they go wrong. What are some alternatives? How could real constraints spur new creativity?

Saturday

  • 2 pm (Panel) Going to Mars to Colonize It / Room G: A long-standing dream within science-fiction and science fact alike is to not only explore Mars, but to go there to stay. The panel will discuss various governmental and private ambitions for settling on the red planet in real life, as well as discuss how science fiction has played a role in shaping how we view our planetary neighbor.
  • 3 pm (Panel)  What Are the New Questions Science Fiction Should be Asking? / Room G: SF in particular is meant to be a forward-looking genre. What questions should contemporary SFF writers be asking that they are not? Which sciences are being overlooked, even in Hard-SF? What imminent issues are not yet being sufficiently addressed?
  • 7:25 – 7:50 pm (Reading) Room 4
  • 10 pm (Panel)  How Can Science Fiction Inform Science Policy? / Room G / Moderator: From ET to GATTACA to Star Trek, science fiction stories foster reflection on a range of social and technical issues. Scifi has long been a source of thought experiments and inspiration for current and aspiring scientists and engineers, but how should these stories influence the work of politicians, social leaders and activists? This panel will discuss the increasingly influential role of scifi in policy-making and activism, and ways your fandom can help shape the world around us. Come discuss scifi stories that influenced you, societal implications of upcoming technologies, and visions for a better future.
  • 11 pm (Workshop/Presentation) Ask a (Mad) Scientist/ Room G:
    Our science guests answer audience questions on science and science fiction. Always a favorite at RavenCon!

Sunday

  • 11 am (Panel) National Novel Writing Month / Room 8: Our NaNoWriMo veterans share their experiences with the annual writing exercise and offer tips that will help you start and finish your NaNoWriMo novel.

Review of “The Andromeda Strain” by Michael Crichton

Great premise and I love that it’s bio hard science fiction, a sub-genre that I wish there were more of. Especially given recent advances in genetics, neuroscience, and prostheses, I feel as though there are lot of questions related to the intersection of science and society that the genre could be addressing, but isn’t.

The novel was written in the late 60’s, and some aspects of it haven’t aged well. All of the characters with any agency are educated, scientifically-minded, white men, and it was honestly difficult to tell them apart by anything other than their names and blunt descriptions. Counterpoints were Peter Jackson and Officer Willis, who had unique and well-crafted dialogue that I enjoyed reading “aloud in my head” if that makes sense.

The exposition is fairly heavy-handed, with technical (but at least interesting) info dumps roughly every other page. Like many thrillers, this novel is overwhelmingly plot-driven, with little in the way of introspection, reflection, or emotion shown by any of the characters. However, at least the hooks are laid well throughout the story — I definitely wanted to keep reading to find out what happened, and though the ending seemed a little too easily and quickly tied up, the journey was thought-provoking.

I’m glad to have checked off a classic I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time. Overall: enjoyable but dated, interesting but hardly enthralling.

3/5 Stars