Monday, February 14, 2011

The Day of Fun

With the arrival of warmer temperatures, I promise a return to the regularly scheduled programming. But before that, I wanted to share another kind of adventure I had yesterday.

For those who don't know, I have been a part of a pair of people (a couple, you might say) for quite a few years now (seven...but who's counting?). We've never been big on Valentine's Day. We had a long-distance relationship for the first three years, and we weren't always together on what many couples might consider the "major" milestones or holidays (i.e., anniversaries, Valentine's Day, etc.). On top of that, our relationship has encompassed the end of college and the beginning of our lives as "regular" adults, so we haven't always had a lot of money to throw around. I imagine another reason we aren't big on it is that we're just not very sappy, especially in ways that might be considered "public."

A few years ago, we came up with our own non-sappy and wallet-friendly alternative to V-Day. We call it Brian and Kelsey's Day of Fun (title shamelessly stolen from an episode of Friends in which Janice convinces Joey to have Joey and Janice's Day of Fun in an effort to win him over). This year, Day of Fun (or DOF, as it shall henceforth be known), was yesterday, February 13. We did it a little different than in years past, when we've had a full day planned from the outset. This year, Brian took the morning and I took the afternoon, and we planned activities without telling each other what they were.

So, at 9:00 am on Sunday, we were up and at 'em and on our way to our first destination. Brian had told me we would be about an hour away from home, so I really had no idea what we were doing. We ended up in former capital of the United States, current capital of Maryland and home to the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.
I had no idea Annapolis was so cute! I'm a little mad at myself for living in DC for five years and never venturing out US 50 to check it out. Nerds that we are, the first thing we did was check out Annapolis Running Shop, where we bought new kicks and I got new running knickers...because we didn't already have enough athletic clothing hanging out in our apartment.

Then we walked around the City Dock for a bit, dropping into boutiques (I had to acquire an Annapolis shot glass...I'm one of those classy collectors) and admiring sailboats.
Us, in front of sailboats
Brian's ultimate goal was to tour the Maryland State House. It's the oldest state capitol building in continuous legislative use, and just like the US Capitol or any others, you can go inside! It also was the US Capitol temporarily before the capital moved to DC. The outside of the State House can be seen in that first picture up there.

State House, sideways-style

They are in the process of doing an "archaeological investigation" inside the building right now, and they are restoring the original Senate chamber to what it would have looked like back then in colonial times.

You can see Brian perusing the original draft of George Washington's speech resigning as commander of the Continental Army, which he delivered right in front of that blue cubby hole in the wall.

The governor of Maryland at the time also adopted the Articles of Confederation in this room, making them the 13th and final colony to ratify and establishing the "perpetual union" of the United States. I get a tingly, historical feeling just thinking about it.

Current Senate Chamber

Of course, the Maryland legislature still meets in this building (although not in this room). Their digs are pretty spiffy, in my humble opinion. I also liked the prolific trash cans, presumably to keep the chambers as spic and span when occupied as when they're vacant for the weekend.

On our way out, I saw a sign in a hallway that admonished "No Lobbyists Allowed." I'm registered as a federal lobbyist, and not registered to lobby the state of Maryland, but I felt a little unwelcome nonetheless...

I was unable to find my REAL camera before we got in the car to leave and only had my iPhone, so taking pictures of the stuff around the State House wasn't as exciting as it could have been, but I got some nice shots of Brian playing with a cannon that dated from the 1600s (which also apparently sat at the bottom of the St. Mary's River for like a century...oh, if that cannon could talk).
And right at this moment, the flung cigarette butt of an
absent-minded tourist lit the long-dormant gunpowder...
We also looked at the governor's mansion (of which I did not take an acceptable photo) and the legislative buildings (of which I did).
The other MD government buildings.
Terrible photo of the
governor's house. It's behind
the gate, trust me.

Our next stop was the Ram's Head Tavern and Fordham Brewery, which has been around in some form or another since the 1700s. We naturally tried the Fordham Brewery sampler.

After lunch, my part of DOF began...and the first stop was decidedly less high-brow than our tour of Annapolis. I discovered this crazy place up in Columbia, Md., thanks to a January post in the Going Out Guide at It's called Monster Mini Golf. And it's hilarious. How do I describe this? The picture on the website gives you a glimpse, but is really not sufficient. It's indoor miniature golf, on a course full of monsters and gravestones, painted in neon and lit up with blacklights. We had to wait about a half hour before it was our turn to hit the links, so we entertained ourselves with a round of Guitar Hero (I wiped the floor with Brian) and a few rounds of Skee Ball. Just enough to earn us 23 tickets, which we promptly exchanged for a handful of Tootsie Rolls. This is the stuff of DOF heaven.

When we got on the course, it was a complete blast. There was a DJ in the corner playing songs we all know and pretend not to like, and there were dance contests and trivia contests and just general happiness all around. We weren't the only 20-somethings taking it all in, either. There were a few kids' birthday parties going on, but it wasn't really the complete kindergarten sh*tshow I had sort of expected. What WAS a sh*tshow was my golf game. Brian beat me. Sad day...I hate losing. Which is why I challenged him to a second round of Guitar Hero and once again proved my dominance, restoring some of my dignity.

Our final stop of the day was the only romantical one, and really it has an unhappy ending so it's not all sunshine and roses. The AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Md., is a national treasure. It's an artfully restored theater first built in 1930s that is also the home to a film and cultural center of the American Film Institute. The theater shows first-run major motion pictures as well as documentaries, arthouse films and classics. (There is a Ginger Rogers retrospective going on right now, and a Hitchcock one coming up...must-see.) We went to see a 50th anniversary showing of West Side Story, which Brian had never seen. West Side Story was based on the stage musical of the same name (which was in turn based on a novel), featuring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by the unmatchable Stephen Sondheim. To this date, it holds the record number of Oscars for a musical, with 10 total including Best Picture. For those who aren't familiar, it's also based on that oft-copied and much analyzed Shakespeare drama, Romeo and Juliet. I warned Brian of that beforehand...didn't want him expecting a warm and fuzzy end...

With the movie over and the sun going down, we headed home to watch the episode of Jersey Shore we missed on Thursday and cook something for dinner. Our day wasn't expensive or flashy or even particularly romantic, but it sure was fun :).

Friday, February 4, 2011

5. Fort Totten

Google Maps shortest distance: 4.1 m
Distance run: 4.84 m

Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you smiled just to yourself? Not when reading a book or a blog, not when surrounded by your friends, not when watching a sitcom (preferably the kind without a laugh track), but just by yourself, doing something that you love.

I did that this morning. I was running down the street like a complete idiot grinning from ear to ear. I saw some of the coolest things I've seen in this city yet; things I didn't even know were IN this city. AND I took all the photos with my handy-dandy new WATERPROOF Kodak Playsport camera/camcorder (which also has a wrist strap, handy for when you slip and fall on ice. Not that I EVER did that on Feb 4, 2011 at approx. 7:45 am). In case you can't tell, I'm excited. To start, the route, after the jump:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Great Knickerbocker Storm

I've been planning on running home from my next stop for DAYS now. DAYS, I tell you. But on Friday I ate some questionable seafood, which made for an...interesting...Saturday. Sunday I could pretend was tainted with further food poisoning, but really it was around 12 degrees outside and I had imbibed a few too many litres at the Biergarten Haus the night before. By the time the temperature warmed up to reasonable, it was Tuesday. I decided to wake up yesterday morning and git 'er done, as it were. I woke up to an inch of snow. And sleet coming down out of the sky. For anyone who doesn't live in Washington (and even then, if you haven't watched the news all day), we just had a fairly epic snowstorm. Epic not because we got an insurmountable amount of snow, but because we definitely experienced the phenomenon known as THUNDERSNOW and because the snow (as it usually does) has caused mass chaos in the entire DC metro area.
You can't really see what's going on in this picture, but it's a sort of stalemate between three buses. Two of them are going up the hill, or were trying to, and the third is going down. Really no one's moving anywhere, and the DC DOT trucks are blocking the entire street. This is a really positive situation.
I know from personal experience that all major snowstorms in DC cause some sort of problem, from power outages to Metro being shut down to stranded cars and closed bridges from VA to MD and DC (see: Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, etc). What you don't hear much about is the history of storms in our area, and what sort of havoc these storms wreaked in times past. I've been reading a lot of Capital Weather Gang recently, due to the recent snowstorm in all of its glory. (For what it's worth, the CWG guys were right on the money with their forecast of this storm.) It was while reading one of their storm-related blog posts that I saw a reference to something I had never heard of before: the Great Knickerbocker Storm.

The title of the storm alone raises questions. What did the storm have to do with a basketball team from New York? Nothing, of course. In 1922, DC had a storm that for all intents and purposes developed much like the one that hit the region even hit on almost the same days of the year. However, this one ended quite differently: it was the largest single-day snowfall in DC history, at 28 inches. It also did a lot more than snarl up traffic and leave people without electricity (not that those would have been major problems in 1922). It caused one of the worst disasters in Washington history, which I doubt many Washingtonians even know about. The Knickerbocker Theater, then located at 18th St and Columbia Ave (where there is a bank now, across the street from the worst McDonald's in history), was a shiny new movie house with an unfortunately flat roof. During a screening of a movie on January 28, 1922, the roof collapsed, weighed down by the feet of snow that had accumulated during the storm. In all, 133 people were injured and 98 killed, including a congressman. The architect and the owner of the theater both later committed suicide, no doubt blaming themselves in some way for the incident.

This story, while terrible in its own right, has also made me realize the potential shortcomings of my project. Even on a run that crossed 18th and Columbia, I would never have photographed the nondescript bank that stands where the Knickerbocker once stood, and likely wouldn't have discovered this story if it weren't for my obsessive weather-checking habits. DC isn't even a very old city in the world scheme, but there are still so many pieces of its history and character that I may not uncover, even in a decade of exploration. Sad face. But I'm not discouraged...I'm only one person and I just set out to see things I'd never seen before and learn a little along the way, so that will have to be enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On peanut butter and sexuality

Anyone who's ever lived with me can attest that when I'm training for something, I eat. A lot. Like, it's kind of sick (but also pretty awesome, don't get me wrong). One day while I was training for my last marathon, I was sitting on the couch with my hand deep in a box of Cheerios, ready to eat my umpteenth handful. My old roommate/best friend (we'll call her Miller Time for these purposes) looked at me and said "Every time I look at you, you're eating." I didn't know if I was being judged, and therefore didn't know how to react. So I said what any normal person would say in that circumstance: "I'm hungry!" And then I continued eating cereal right from the box.

Besides cereal, one thing I eat a lot of is peanut butter (and those of you who paid attention to the Van Ness run probably noted that I have a thing for Taco Bell. Don't judge). Anyway, peanut butter. It's delicious, it goes on a lot of things, and if you buy the kind with lower sugar it's actually fairly healthy. I started eating peanut butter as athletic fuel in college, when we would go to Florida for training trips, and we would pack five girls in a van with like eight jars of peanut butter for the week. I usually buy the organic, natural kind that you have to keep in the fridge so it doesn't separate into peanut paste and oil (or as I like to call it, nut fat). That's really a pain in the ass, but for some reason it makes me feel's probably the lack of saturated fats. Or clever marketing.

But none of this is the point of this post. The point is simply to share with you the childishly disturbing label on my current jar of peanut butter. Maybe I am just too impressed with my own devastating good looks, but I swear the bear on my peanut butter is trying to seduce me (I'm not even going to delve into the fact that my peanut butter has a bear on it. Dear peanut butter: you're not honey!). I've had several people in my office weigh in on this, and the jury's technically hung, but Miller Time agrees with me, for what it's worth. I warn you, if you still love Care Bears (but not in THAT way) or if you still squeeze Teddy Ruxpin in your arms at night, maybe don't look at this.
Hey there, gorgeous

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

4. Van Ness-UDC

Google Maps shortest distance: 0.7
Distance run: 2.56

So, I realize I said that I was going to be tackling Northeast DC this time, but alas I slept through my alarm this morning and consequently didn't have time to get all the way to the other side of the Red Line and back before work :/. Never one to want to be behind schedule, I just settled on something closer to home: Van Ness-UDC. Like Woodley Park, the shortest route is 0.7 miles along Connecticut Ave. Also like Woodley Park, that sounded incredibly boring to me. So I took a longer way. Observe:

I tried to capture the sheer idiocy of this route, which will be explained in due time, but this is an approximation, especially over there in the green part, aka, the "forest of illusion." Please tell me someone besides my brother gets that reference.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ice ruins lives

That MAY be a bit dramatic, but here in DC ice certainly puts a damper on the best-laid plans. I had a glorious plan for this morning that involved the 4th Metro run (from Northeast DC, as promised) and a bagel-and-coffee-celebration upon my triumphant return. Alas, last night DC was hit with a ridiculous ice storm of sorts, so I was relegated to just a bagel-and-coffee celebration of a two-hour delay at work. What can I say? I try to see the positive in everything.

We'll see what the weather (and by weather, I mean the sidewalks of DC, which are my true nemesis in this situation) have in store for tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I will have to use that most ancient and dreaded of torture machines, often used in the Tower of London to force false confessions out of Catholic idolaters, the treadmill.

I know, I know. It's gruesome. It's boring. It's noisy and you can't spit because there's nowhere TO spit, except on the gym floor and really that's not going to win you any fans or blog readers. But if you're going to train through the winter in the majority of the USA, it's a necessary evil (someone needs to explain this to the boyfriend, who is currently training for a marathon but is allergic to both winter AND the treadmill). I have a few little games I play on the treadmill to keep it interesting and keep me from falling asleep out of boredom and rocketing off the back of the belt, like my iPod has been known to do from time to time.

Anyone who has done any internet searching for run training has probably come across the word "fartlek." Swedish for "speed play," all it really means is stick some fast intervals in the run from time to time to mix it up and get the anaerobic system involved. Intervals are great for your running in general, building strength and speed, and burning more fat than a steady aerobic run. In a fartlek, they don't have to be even intervals, but for the sake of keeping my OCD in check, I do them evenly on the treadmill. I usually do a 10-minute warm-up, then 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds regular pace, or maybe one minute of each, or maybe 30 seconds fast one minute all depends on where I am in my training or how tired or unmotivated I am feeling in general about the treadmill. Sometimes I also go by distance, especially if I'm on one of those treadmills that has a little quarter-mile track on it and a blinking light indicates how far you've gone and how many laps you've done. Using the treadmill like this helps the minutes tick by fairly quickly and gives you something to concentrate so your mind can't wander off into space dreaming about not being on the treadmill.

For a longer run, I found an interesting post on one of my favorite women's sports blogs about a little game to keep your mind occupied when speed intervals aren't part of the day's training. Haven't tried it yet, but looks interesting enough and I'll try to put it to use this evening after work.

If anyone has any other ideas for staving off treadmill boredom, I'd love to hear them (and I WILL entertain suggestions like "Don't run." or "Watch TV instead." These are all viable solutions in my book).

Also, if anyone has specific suggestions on things I should see when I hit their neighborhood, I welcome those...this is a daunting project and expertise from those who know an area is certainly appreciated.

Friday, January 14, 2011

3. Clarendon

Google maps distance: 5.4
Distance run: 5.61

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I didn't actually run HOME from the Metro :/. I know, I know. It's the POINT of the BLOG! But before all four of my readers stop reading in contempt, hear me out. I have a car. A cute little blue jelly bean of a car. And it was sick so I took it to the car doctor. (More correctly, the boyfriend-type person took it to the car doctor, because he is nice like that.) So little blue jelly bean car has been sitting at the car doctor waiting for me. The car doctor is located approximately 1.5 blocks past the Clarendon Metro station, and closes at 5 pm, so my only option was to pick up the little car before work one day. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. So, I ran TO Clarendon, and was immediately reminded why I do not commute to work in my little blue car...rush hour is horrifying.

But about my run. It started like any other: Planned my route, checked the temperature (wind chill 16...oh boy this will be fun), put on some clothes (lest anyone should think I forgot that step) and I was off. Route planning is already starting to get a little difficult, because there are so many things that could be easily repeated, and so many things that I don't want to miss! But in the end I settled on this, the most obvious route (to me) and one that offered lovely scenic views of the sunrise over the Potomac (but more on that later).