Open Road
When The Journey Is The Destination,Every Moment Of Every Mile Matters

All I Want For Christmas: Sanity

With Thanksgiving Day in the rear view mirror and the first snow of the season slowly melting, it looks lot like Christmas at our home on the hill, Beacon Hill, that is.

That’s atypical.

Our family’s pattern the last several years has been to delay decorating, shopping, and mailing Christmas cards as long as possible. My wife works retail, which means that, during this time of year especially, the kettle of crazy in which she stews all day leaves little mirth in her frankincense by the time she heads for home.

As for me, the last two years have left me breathless by the time January comes sniffing around. Previously, I procrastinated so effectively that I did all my shopping on Christmas Eve and bought a Christmas tree two days before the holiday another year.

But not this year. No, sir.


On the cusp of December, the tree is up and decorated, Christmas cards are in the mail, Pollyanna shopping is done, my wife’s big gift is on its way, and stocking stuffers have been socked away. I’m even entertaining day trips and family visits.

Wonders truly may never cease this holiday season.

I pledge to myself to exercise, relax, read and write, spend time with loved ones, and take one day at a time. This December will be different.

Please share in the comments any tips you have for enjoying a holiday season while managing work, family, volunteer commitments, etc. I can use all the help you have to offer.

My Week In Pictures, Sept. 14

Dinner at Bricco Saturday night with my wife reminded me once more of how incredible Chef Jason Viscount’s restaurant truly is. I enjoyed the Alaskan Koho Salmon with zucchini, lentil, cauliflower, and squash purée. Truly fabulous.


Sunday meant riding, specifically the Tour de Chocolate Town with Megan and Sam. The weather was truly spectacular, and the course fantastic. While the breaks and markings paled in comparison to the Covered Bridge in Lancaster, a ride through HersheyPark to start the day was a true treat.

The day begins with assembling my bike, a Trek 1.5.


Megan and Sam on Homestead Lane south of Hershey.



A view from the highest spot on the 33-mile ride looking out across Dauphin County.


At the end of the day, smiles all around.


On Wednesday, we held a company picnic at work. I had a chance to grill burgers and hot dogs with Mike Feeley and Paul Thomas in the first shift that day.


Friday night meant it was time for Leadership Harrisburg Area’s second annual Cornhole Tournament. Sal Marone and I played well enough to finish one match from the consolation finals, but most importantly, the organization raised more than $1,500 to support its mission. Well done.


Our team name for the tournament was Veggie Omelet With Ham. On Saturday morning, at breakfast with Kate at Diener’s, I had, wait for it, a veggie omelet with ham. And it was good.


Saturday afternoon, I traveled to Baltimore with Sal and took in the Orioles-Yankees game. After a brief rain delay, I got one final look at Derek Jeter before he retires from baseball at the end of the month.


While I had planned a 40-mile bike ride for myself on Sunday, that never happened. I snapped this shot of contrails on the back porch late tonight after a great dinner with the family. Using my phone’s panorama setting, I panned from about 30 degrees north of the horizon up to about 90 degrees, or straight overhead, for an unusual perspective.


Rambling August Rides

This summer, I’ve been focused far more on cycling than running. Some foot pain likely played a role in deemphasizing running, as well as just really enjoying my time on the bike this year.

Although the season isn’t over yet, there were several memorable moments on rides over two weekends in August:


Riding in the Covered Bridge Metric Century in Lancaster with 2,500 other riders, you can still get to spots during when you are totally alone. While not the intention of the ride, it is certainly one very pleasant outcome.

At one point during the soggy, rainy morning, I was on a road flanked by cornstalks. Swallows swooped and darted over the road, except for one little imp. The bird flew slightly ahead of me on my right for several hundred feet. The swallow dipped and rose, dipped and rose, carving brisk parabolic arcs in the air. It eventually left me behind, but not until we got to spend a few precious seconds together in the middle of a long day.

When you always look for new routes, sometimes you find unexpected treasures along the way.

Leave Boiling Springs from the south end of Children’s Lake, and you quickly find Leidigh Road. It parallels Route 174 through some ideal Cumberland County farm land. On Sunday, I also found a whitetail deer preparing to leap into the road from a field on my left.

Wanting to avoid a bike/deer collision, I shouted a few times to startle the doe. The flash of her tail as she gamboled down the field ahead of me indicated she had heard me. After putting some distance between us, she slowed, crossed the road, and climbed into the cornfield on my right. Safe travels.

Spending two and a half hours alone on a bike gives you more than a few quiet moments to let your mind wander where it will. In the second half of the Metric Century on August 17, my quads cramped twice; unusual for me. Again the following weekend, pedaling up Williams Grove Road towards Mechanicsburg, my leg muscles again begin to constrict.

What had I changed in the last month? I had stopped taking a multivitamin. While I’ll never know for sure, the loss of a daily dose of potassium likely affected me. The following week, I renewed the vitamin regimen. A better, more balanced diet would accomplish the same goal, but for now, this is working.


Oh, and I need to eat more bananas. Thanks, Megan.

With 66 miles to cover in the Metric Century, I was loathe to stop to snap scenic photographs. The following Sunday, though, I paused a couple times.



My Week In Pictures

Last weekend began with a trip to the Lancaster Central Market Saturday morning. As we rounded the corner from the parking lot, we came upon a cupcake truck.


Lancaster Cupcake was preparing for its grand opening in downtown Lancaster. We didn’t get a cupcake, but the shop looks like a blast.

On Sunday, while preparing to grill some chicken for quesadillas that evening, I ran out of gas. After a quick trip down the street to pick up a replacement canister, I was good to go.


Friend Bonnlyn said she thought of me when she saw some seasonal brews in the local Piggly Wiggly in South Carolina. That’s a great friend.





At work, one of the Harrisburg Cow Parade cows has been resurrected outside the front door of the office. Set to get a new name next week, “Sunday Cowmics” basked in some late day sun midweek.



At the end of a busy week, I stopped at Al’s of Hampden to pick up a growler of West Shore IPA. Oh, and a growler. Well done, me.


Where To Go


I’ve been thinking about vacation.

Every place I look the last couple weeks, people are posting pictures of their summer vacations. Beach pics. Mountain pics. Bike pics. Fun pics.

Where, and when, should I get away for a few days?

After last winter, my trip to Florida in early March proved amazingly restorative. From the sun to the baseball to the relaxed pace, I couldn’t have planned a better break.

Walking into work Monday morning, I realized I’m getting the itch to travel again. Soon. Before the snow flies.

I don’t know if the end of a pretty good weekend spurred those thoughts, or the high blue sky hanging over the front door to the office. Regardless, I hope I know myself well enough by now to listen to my better demons.

As two friends recently reminded me, just weeks from a looming birthday, I’m older than I act. By this point of the journey, I recognize both when it’s time to bear down and pedal and when it’s okay to coast.

The crest of the hill is in sight.

I’ve already checked airplane ticket prices.

Time to make time. But where?

Nice Suit

Walking down the street in Harrisburg this morning, having just finished testifying at a hearing, and I met a woman on the sidewalk. About 10 years older than me, I think, and wearing a glimmering green top and khakis, she carried her purse in the crook of her left arm as she walked towards me from under the railroad overpass between the former Patriot-News building and the train station.

“That’s a nice suit,” she said, smiling broadly.

I thanked her, and kept on walking, now smiling broadly as well.

What a simple way to elevate a perfect stranger’s day.
Nice suit.

Thanks, nice lady.

Strange Days Get Stranger

After a week and a half break in my exercise routine, I returned to the gym yesterday morning for a run. I didn’t expect much, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A two mile run went just okay, with a short walk break about halfway through. I worked up a good sweat, stretched out, and returned home to begin my day.

By mid morning, I noticed a pain in my right foot back near the heel that I hadn’t felt before. Funny, but in a, “oh geez, now what” kind of way.

I stretched my feetlast evening, and also stretched my calves, which were extremely tight after the run. They knew I hadn’t been to the gym in more than 10 days.

So went one more day on the road to the Fredricksen Library 5K next month, a 100K bike ride in August, and an 8K in December. I know that, if I were more consistent in my workouts, I likely wouldn’t have these odd new pains that crop up when I start back. Consistency must be part of the plan for the rest of the summer.


That, and likely not ingesting whatever it was that triggered the strange dream from early this morning.

I dreamt I was running, so that’s a good thing. I dreamt I was running well, pain free, really striding and covering some ground.

I came to a five-lane highway. Cars were approaching from either direction, but I had plenty of time to get across, so I headed for the opposite berm, and then I slowed down. Two careening cars missed me by inches, and I made it to the other side.

In the dream, I wore a silver watch. Odd, but it’s what I had. The time was 14 minutes after the hour, and I remember thinking I could know when I’d run for 30 minutes because the minute hand would be at 44, or just under the 9.

I ran on, and came to a set of camps, a compound with barracks set on cement slabs like you see on a military base. People were in meetings outside, and I ran past them. With the meetings behind me, I ran through swarming clouds of flying carpenter ants that I swatted away with a hat. The camp fell away behind me.

Descending a small hill, I ran into a place that felt very familiar. A river flowed on my left bordered by a wide grassy expanse under the shelter of three concrete bridges that ran parallel to the river. Trash dotted the grass: some garbage, and some old, discarded clothing. Barefooted, I picked my way through the junk, and ran on.

The last thing I remember before waking was thinking I needed to call Mayor Papenfuse and report the trash. Very odd.

I jotted this note upon waking: “No pain. Just running. Felt great.”

That is my dream.

A Long Way Back

Written two weeks ago, but the post is still pertinent. Update at the end…

It’s been an interesting start to the year, and exercise has often taken a back seat to other priorities. I’m glad I was able to focus on family, and humbled to have support at work and in my myriad commitments to attend to what mattered most.

With the home fires burning strong, though, I wanted to get back into shape. While I have no runs or races scheduled yet, my sideways glances in the mirror were becoming more and more dreaded, as were the trips to the scale.

Time to Run

I had been adding running miles the last few weeks. Progress has been slow, which is okay, and I thought it was slow enough.

By Feb. 23, I had added enough time to take on my local road loop, lovingly dubbed the Beacon Hill Burn. I kept at it, ran throughout an early March vacation, and dropped my time on the same loop by 2:30 in two weeks; great.

And then the heel twinge.

Looking back over my RunKeeper activity, I failed to note when the pain began. The twinge didn’t usually occur while I ran, but appeared after the run as a dull ache in my left heel. Never too bad, the pain subsided soon after each run, and I usually forgot about it.

Eventually, I felt tightness in the morning when I first put my feet on the floor. Again, it wasn’t bad, and disappeared quickly. No big deal, until last Friday.

Pushing to extend myself to hit a 30 mile goal by the end of the month, I added distance to a treadmill run. When I stepped off the treadmill, I couldn’t walk without limping due to the heel pain. I stretched at the gym, but later in the morning a burning pain intensified. I limped into work; never a good way to begin the day.

By the end of the day, miraculously, the pain disappeared. Fantastic, I thought. I’m good to go.


Not wanting to push my luck, though, I tried a trail run on Sunday. A recent Running World article advocated running on trails to help with form and to reduce the pounding joints endure on a treadmill or from road running.

For the first two miles, that held true. While muddy and uneven in spots, the trail seemed to be good medicine for the heel, until it wasn’t. One more step, and zing, the pain shot up my left heel. I stopped, swore, and walked the rest of the way.

Something’s not right. Who ya gonna call? The internet, of course.

A quick search turned up a diagnosis that appears to hit all the right notes; Achilles tendinitis:

The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis). It makes up 11 percent of all running injuries; eight percent of poll respondents dealt with it this past year.

Runners who dramatically increase training (especially hills and speedwork) and have tight, weak calves are vulnerable.

I didn’t think I had weak calves, but I couldn’t argue with the fact that I’d been adding miles, likely more quickly than I should have. Self diagnosis is to take a few days off of running, ice the ankle, and try to do some calf strengthening exercises. I haven’t run since Sunday, and while I’m not limping, the calf is still tight.

Have you dealt with this kind of running setback? What’s your recommendation for how to add miles after a running hiatus?


A minute or two of morning heel stiffness continues, but there’s no pain. I haven’t run in two weeks, so that likely played a large part in the healing.

Next step is to get back on the treadmill tomorrow morning and see what happens. Wish me luck.

New Year, Same Me, Good Friends

I can’t very well tell my daughter she should write if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain. No, I can’t

A quick glance at the next most recent post will show that I’ve been far less diligent in updating my progress towards the 5K and all other things health related. Forgive me, but it has been almost exactly three months since my last post.

This is the point in the writing process where I typically update my blog theme, scroll through Facebook, respond to a tweet or three, check my inbox, etc. I procrastinate far better than I write.

This is a new year, though. Although I am very much the same old me, I can make new patterns. I can tread upon new ground. And, I can even keep promises to myself.

Promise One? Write more.

First post? What I did last fall.

Briefly, I met my goal of running the SMT Turkey Trot, a 3.1 mile run through New Cumberland at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Although the coldest run I can recall, the SMT Turkey Trot turned out to be a marvelous run. With temps in the low 20s, light winds, and a high, clear sky, I finished the course in just under 31 minutes. No PR, but I was thoroughly pleased with the result.

Considering I violated Race Day Rule One – don’t try anything new – the outcome surprised me even more. I ran in a thermal compression top and leggings for the first time. Along with a black t-shirt, wool knit cap and knit gloves, I felt great when I finished the race, so the outfit must have been just right for the conditions.

Sup Sports TopOpting to not spring for the Under Armor, I instead chose the Sub Sports top and leggings. The reviews sounded good, and Amazon service proved to be super with delivery in only one day. I felt a little silly in the tights, but after a warmup run around the park left my arms and legs toasty, I was a believer.

The best part of the Turkey Trot, though, was having a chance to run with friends Brian Polensky and Steve Chevarria. Brian is a good friend from Harrisburg Tweetup. He and I have run together before, but in far warmer conditions.

I also met Steve on Twitter. We then met in real life a couple times for coffee, before Steve provided me a wealth of encouragement and support while I recovered from a foot injury. In fact, without Steve checking in on me often, I probably wouldn’t have sought out a physical therapist, wouldn’t have recommitted to running, and definitely wouldn’t have been on the streets of New Cumberland with a couple thousand other runners on Thanksgiving Day.

Steve helped pick me up when I was down. That’s what friends do.

Now, Kate, time for you to write. You can do it.