Sunday, October 25, 2009

Music Update

The sign below was sighted this week at the Lutheran Church in Indio, California near the site of next week's Festival 8 -- the most recent Phish festival. In case anyone was wondering about the band's status with "the higher ups." Meanwhile, the residents of Indio, who have grown accustomed to the "Phish people" already in town readying the site of 8 for the legions of phans who will be arriving this week, have taken to referring to the site as "Little Vermont." I'm sure everyone will be talking about 8 for years to come...

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I have had the same email address on AOL since Al Gore first invented the Internet. And there are advantages to never having changed your address: for example, people all know your address. There are also disadvantages, like my Inbox is full of spam. Also, if you are an AOL user, you know that, unless you are diligent about saving messages, you lose them after a few weeks. Also, AOL's address book is really not user-friendly.

So I'm looking to change my address. But here's the other disadvantage: all the cool new email names are taken! Like, is long-gone. I am looking for a new address that is simple and that people will remember.

So I'm taking a poll. Please leave your new email name suggestion in the "Comments" section of this post. If I use your suggestion, you will be recognized in a soon-to-be-posted segment of "AikenAction"!!! There's incentive if I've ever seen it. Now, get thinking!

Victoria Running Report

In the words of Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, a good photographer eats, drinks, and sleeps with his camera. They are never separated! Which, folks, is why I am not a good photographer, and it is why I have no real race-day photographs of October 11's Royal Victoria Marathon. I just never remember the camera! (The photo, incidentally, is of Ali and me at the ferry dock near Vancouver on our way to the marathon. We're so bad, we didn't even take any shots on the ferry!)

The marathon was the culmination of a summer of training. I can't speak for Ali, but it was the most focused marathon training I have ever done. I have always thought it would be nice to qualify for Boston even though I didn't really think it was a particularly realistic goal. But in my last marathon, I missed the qualifying time by 2 minutes. So I thought about what I could do to cut 2 minutes off my time. The answer: focus on pace. I trained just 3 days per week this summer: a long day, a tempo day, and a speed day. Alison ran with me every time, and, I'll say that without her, I definitely would have blown off some of the speed days at the Burlington High School track when it was 85 degrees. Also, she always ran with Oscar on the tempo days when I needed to run at a consistent pace. In short, I just couldn't have done it without her.

Ali also set the Boston qualifying time as her goal -- pretty ambitious, since it meant cutting 8 minutes off her personal best time. In the end, she just missed, but she ran her fastest marathon ever (her 5th PR in a row) by over 5 minutes -- nearly 40 minutes faster than her first marathon 7 years ago. I have a fast wife!

Victoria was billed as a flat course. I' wouldn't call it "hilly," but it was way more rolling than I expected. The course was beautiful -- 12 or so miles went along the Pacific with views of Washington's Mount Baker and the Olympic Mountains -- but it was crowded. A half-marathon and all marathoners who planned to run in over 5 hours went ahead of the rest of the marathoners. I found I had to constantly weave through people. Alison had trouble negotiating the water stops. Otherwise, it was a beautiful day. My race day strategy was to go out fast to build a cushion. I did this and, with 7 miles to go, realized that all I had to do to qualify was run 8-minute miles the rest of the way. Which I did, and I came in 3 minutes under my goal. I'm a little annoyed with myself now for not continuing at the fast pace I started with; but try to explain that to someone at mile 19 when the goal he set for the day is in reach by coasting. Oh well. I'll try for 3:10 next time.

John Gallagher was our host and trip planner -- and he also ran a great marathon, finishing in 3:45. He did a fabulous job choosing restaurants over the next five days in Victoria and Vancouver; despite running 26.2 miles, I gained 7 pounds on my vacation. Also present was Chris Gallagher, who didn't run because of a sore leg. But he provided plenty of moral support; in fact, he was the first one to join me at the bar after the race to watch the Patriots game.

We had a fabulous trip, and we really accomplished something while we were at it. It feels good to work at something all summer and to see results at the end. Now that we're home, we can officially call summer a wrap. It's time to tape up the hockey sticks and get out the ski equipment!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Friendship on Hold

All is fair in love and football.

For three hours this Sunday, Mark Aiken will be forced to put on hold any friendships he has with fans of the Denver Broncos. Between the hours of 4pm and approximately 7pm, and wearing throwback uniforms from the Sixties (the Broncos duds are seriously ugly), the Broncos will play host to the New England Patriots.

Aiken's friendships aren't the only ones being placed on timeout Sunday. Denver head coach Josh McDaniel is a protege of Patriots coaching legend Bill Belichick, but don't expect to see Coach B getting all choked up when the Patriot defense stifles McDaniels' new offense. Sure, McDaniels learned alot from Bill -- who wouldn't? -- but let's not forget who's the master around here.

As soon as the game ends, all friends can return to amicability... depending on the outcome of the game. If Denver wins, I may not be able to be friends again until I feel better.

Go New England!

(And may the best team win.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Death Racers Tackle Aiken Woodpile

The Death Race, an extremely unappealing event (unless you find crawling under razor wire, digging up tree stumps, and running while carrying a bike frame appealing), is held in Pittsfield, Vermont in June. It's not an event I'm interested in; they don't even tell you what the events are until you arrive at the start. How would you even know how to train?

Two Death Racers, Neil and Andy, have answers to these training questions. And they involve wood-splitting, one of the events from last year's Death Race. When Neil and Andy heard I had a woodpile to split, they arrived pronto (see picture above, courtesy of Ruth Penfield). They tested various axes, mauls, wedges, and splitting tools, timed each other, and generally chopped and chopped and chopped and chopped. (Please don't anyone remind them they they don't even know if wood-splitting will even be one of the events this year...). On the other hand, it might not matter; at one point, Andy looked at their progress.

"It's incredibly satisfying," he said.

He thinks it's satisfying? He should try standing there watching two Death Racers chop their way through your woodpile. Now that's satisfaction.

The only problem with the experience was that, once I had splitters, I wound up doing all the stacking. As my dad will attest (and he would know; I stacked wood for him for like 12 years!), I have never liked stacking. I much prefer to split. Still, the Death Racers saved my back and lots of time. And if there's anyone else looking for "training" opportunities, please give me a call. I have the tools you need to train for your next Death Race.

(Photo below: getting there...)