Friday, May 29, 2009

Phish at Phenway

It's been a long time since the five of us have been together in one place -- since August 15, 2004, in fact. I am speaking, of course, of Trey, Page, Mike, Fish -- the four members of Phish -- and me. That's right, this Sunday, Phish performs at Boston's Fenway Park, and I will be there.

In the words of the latest issue of Relix magazine, they're back -- older, wiser, and geekier. And I am excited, to say the least. It will be my first visit to Fenway, and I can't think of four better hosts to show me around. I'm sure the Phab Phour, in the opening night of their summer-long tour, will not disappoint.

PS If you don't hear from me for a few months, you can just assume I joined the Phish road crew and went on tour for the rest of the summer. Cheers!

Aiken's Latest in Best of Burlington

Check out my latest article in Best of Burlington magazine put out by Coffee Table Publishing. It's about everyone's favorite interest... Doorknobs! Okay, okay, maybe, on their own, doorknobs don't capture all readers, so I'll tell you the piece is actually about a local business owner, Frank DeAngelis, who sells doorknobs (lots of 'em), bath fixtures, and decorative hardware. I must say he was a very interesting fellow, and it was a highly entertaining interview!

You can check out Best of Burlington online by clicking here, but they don't have the current issue on their website quite yet (cut them some slack... publishing magazines is hard work, sheesh!). So you'll have to pick it up someplace -- probably at a Burlington-area bookstore or newsrack -- unless you live in Burlington, Charlotte, Jericho, Mallett's Bay, Shelburne, South Burlington, South Hero, Underhill, or Williston. Those lucky communities get Best of Burlington mailed for free.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vermont City Marathon 2009

Another Vermont City Marathon has come and gone. It's my 5th consecutive hometown race (the second longest such streak in the Aiken household... Alison has run the last 6), and it was a good one. Here are some notes from this year's event.

The Weather. Pretty much perfect from a running perspective. It was nice and cool -- like 50s and low-60s with a slight drizzle. The drizzle, however, did turn into fairly steady rain during some parts of the race, which weighed down clothing -- particularly socks. My feet felt heavy, and I could feel my toes rubbing starting around mile 6. By the time it was over, I had a nasty crimson-colored blood blister on my second toe. It hurt, but it didn't slow me down.

The Crowd. This year's VCM crowd was the best ever. Maybe people like rainy cool weather for cheering -- I don't know. But where the crowds were huge, people were loud. And there were not many places where there were no spectators. People were out, and they were cheering us on. My personal supporters were just as good as always. Knowing there are going to be people cheering you on up ahead is a major motivator to keep going (at least for me). And every now and then, you'll see people you know that you didn't expect. Those are big lifts. One of them happened at mile 19.5, when I really needed it. Thanks!

Personal Records. Both Ali and I recorded personal best times at this marathon. This is becoming a regular occurrance -- we've improved on our personal bests in each of our last 3 marathons. I'm sure one of these days one of us will have a bad race, but it feels good to have your best race. For me, I don't think I could have run much faster on Sunday. However, I intend to run faster next marathon!

What it all means. The Vermont City Marathon is just a great event. And, for me, it means summer is here. The VCM is something that motivates me all year round. I don't really care how I finish. But just knowing there's a marathon on the horizon keeps me active, eating right, and staying fit all year round. Now I'm ready to enjoy summer and get ready for the next big event!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hitting the Links

Let me tell you about today’s golf outing. First off, don’t mistake me for someone who is good at golf. I admit it; I’m terrible.

I met my dad at the course a little early so we could hit a few shots at the range and at the practice green -- a great idea for me. I’ve played once in the last 8 months. My dad and his golfing cronies at “the club,” by contrast, have been playing 6 days a week since the place reopened 3 weeks ago.

My dad is about to turn 66 this month, but he has the physical conditioning of a 50 year-old (a statement which, I’m sure, will offend him, but may I remind him that I’m only 12 years away from 50 myself, so it’s a compliment, really). You should have seen the other two members of our foursome, though. My dad and I walked the course. The other two guys rode in a cart – which, at their age, I have no problem with. But the first thing I noticed when they came driving up to meet us was that they displayed a handicapped flag on their golf cart. Was it a joke? I’m not sure; I just hoped nobody keeled over during our round. (Note: I know that when it turns out that there's a health reason for the flag, everyone'll think I'm a big jerk; hey, I'm just telling the story as I saw it.)

Apparently, however, there was nothing to fear. Although the two partners did seem to struggle a bit climbing in and out of their cart. One guy didn’t use golf tees because it hurt his back too much to bend over and pick them up after his tee shots. Their swings were more cutting motions than golf swings, and they shuffled as much as walked.

Again, make no mistake. They kicked my ass up and down that golf course. All three of them consistently out-drove, outplayed, and out-putted me all day long. One of them even started giving me advice after I’d lost a few balls. “You’re rushing your backswing,” he told me. And “swing down on the ball – you’re not swinging down on the ball!” What does that mean, I wonder? As a non-avid golfer, by the way, I’m not really receptive to golfing advice (it’s part of the reason I stink, but I don’t care) -- especially this early in the season and especially before my first beer (note: my erratic play did settle down a bit after a beverage). Besides, in my frequent forays into the tall grass and the woods, I found way more balls than I lost. Nice ones too – members at this place use the best.

I can run a marathon, and I can outskate kids half my age in a hockey game. I can climb 5.10, and I can make hop turns in tele-gear on a 50-degree slope. But I couldn’t even come close to beating three little 60 and 70-plus year-olds in golf. As they limped and shuffled to and from their cart and hacked their ways around the course (and, although their shots may not have gone far, they went straight every time), I can tell you, I felt pretty pathetic. On the other hand, the weather was beautiful and, after awhile, even I hit a good shot here and there. My golfing partners were very patient and very nice (and, every once in a great while, they flubbed shots too, which made me feel better). They’re probably glad they don’t have to wait around for me every day though.

All in all, it was a pretty good day on the golf course.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Article in Vermont Sports Mag

Check out my latest article -- about running a marathon in a foreign country -- in the May issue of Vermont Sports Magazine. Also, be sure to pick up your copy of Vermont Sports at SkiRack, PetraCliffs, or any Vermont sports shop. Enjoy!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Canyon

When I lived in the West, every ski season was followed by an almost obligatory trip to the desert. The trip would serve as a symbol for the warm weather to come and for the imminent change of the seasons. Skiers spend three seasons waiting for winter to come. But each year there is one brief period in time -- the end of ski season -- when, not without some bittersweet feelings, we long for the sunny days of summer.

I have been an East Coaster for 10 years now. Several of those years I still made it to the desert. But not since 2006. This year, however, Ali and I returned loaded our packs, met the Frenches, and hiked 20-some miles over 4 days and 3 nights in the Grand Canyon.

I will mention that I personally covered 24 miles. I handled the car shuttle, which is to say that I dropped my partners at the trailhead, drove back to drop the vehicle at the terminus of the trip, and then ran the 4 miles back to the trailhead. The trip wasn't overly physical, but it covered plenty of rough terrain and through a variety of zones. We camped one night on the trail, one next to the Colorado, and one on the Tonto plateau. We got water from the river, from a side stream, and from a beautiful spring -- and otherwise encountered nothing for water sources. Above all, we found ourselves amazed and confounded by the vastness and beauty of the place. No matter how often you visit, you'll never fully grasp the magic of the Canyon. You just learn to accept that it's beyond human comprehension.

(Although this doesn't necessarily mean I have skied my last run of 08-09), now that we've made this year's foray to the desert, I officially deem the ski season closed.