Saturday, June 11, 2011

WS100 Training Camp (Memorial Day Weekend)

In preparation for my shot at the infamous Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, my lovely wife allowed me a long-weekend trip to California to run in the training camp. It was also a great chance to see my Dad; since he lives a mere hour’s drive Auburn, I stayed at his place through the weekend, driving to-from the daily training runs out of Foresthill/Auburn.

I just managed to make a late afternoon flight on Southwest out of Birmingham on Thursday, took nearly 3 hours to get there in storms and major traffic jams. We left BHM a ½ hour late on the long initial leg to Las Vegas. But bless Southwest, they held mine and several others’ connections there so we wouldn’t be stranded for the night. I walked right to the next plane (no bathroom, no get-a-snack, no nothing) and they blasted out for Sacramento. Got into SMF around 2130, only 25min behind schedule. Picked up my rental care and headed to Dad’s place in Browns Valley, finally getting to sleep just past midnight.

On Friday, the sun woke me about 0530, but managed to doze until 0615. After a light breakfast, went down to Marysville and did a WOD with CrossFit Feather River. Turned out to be a great day to make an affiliate visit, owner Debbi Goode treated the 0900 class to the Filthy Fifty of all things! Did it in 25:34 (PR). Good crowd, always fun to see how Marysville has changed in the past 30+ years. CFFR is located on D St and 5 St downtown, I can recall at least five different businesses in there over the years. I hope Debbi is able to keep it going; she gave me the visit for free after I made the obligatory t-shirt purchase. Had some local Mexican food at Tortilleria Florez with Dad, then working from his house on my laptop rest of the afternoon.

Training Camp Day 1 (Sat)

Normally on Day 1 of the camp, we get bussed from Foresthill (FH) Elementary School up to Robinson Flat (about Mile 30 on the course) and run back to FH. However, due to snow and road conditions higher up in the mountains, race management announced an alteration on Wed before I left home that would have us bussing down to Driver Flat near Auburn and running backward on the course past FH to Michigan Bluff and back to FH. I did not like that option very much. After all, the prime reason for flying out from Alabama is to run in the dreaded canyons! After posting on the Ws100 Yahoo groups page, fortunately for me several local WS veterans contacted me offline and extended an invitation to alternate training runs outside the camp. So that morning I had the good fortune to meet up with Bob Crowley and Steve Harrold, among others, at FH. From there we charted a route backwards on the course through Volcano Canyon, MB, into El Dorado Creek, up to Devil’s Thumb and finally across Swinging Bridge up to Last Chance. There must have been 75+ or more folks with similar notions that day, all on ‘unofficial’ training runs in the canyons.

I stayed with Bob and Steve all morning, making a leisurely start form FH about 0615. Made our way down Bath Rd, took a pitstop, then into Volcano Canyon. Fog bank rolling in, actually rather chilly this morning, set of gloves would have been handy. Creek coming thru Volcano Canyon was full, so we were feet-wet within 20min. Long power-hike climb out of that intermediate canyon, linked up with several other locals up top, and made our way to Michigan Bluff. Steve showed me where Carl Anderson/Ann Trason live, and where Scott Jurek buried his dog (stuff only locals would know). They were the most gracious tour guides all morning.

Took a quick stop in MB (1hr27min elapsed), chatted with some others, then dropped down into El Dorado Creek. Long, steady descent with Bob; not trying to kill it, but rather holding back and keeping it under control, lots of running to go today. Bob was playing tour guide most of the way, showed me a spring that marked 1/3 to go (on the climb) back to MB, very cool. Once over the bridge, took another long power-hike up to Deadwood Cemetery. Bob showed me the pine grove that is halfway point between Deadwood and ElDorado. Once past the cemetery, climbed up to the equestrian pump near Devil’s Thumb. That is new from my last time here, a very welcome addition. Many folks up here today on training runs, eschewing the official runs down on Calif St. At the pump we met Matt Keyes from Auburn, heck of a nice guy. Short run from the pump to the Thumb, then made a steady descent (not fast) down to Swinging Bridge at the bottom of the canyon. Chatting with Steve most of the way, very nice fellow. Found out later he is a senior prosecutor from the Sacto County DA’s office, my Dad knows who he is. Got a feeling he is an ass-kicker in and out of the courthouse!

At Swinging Bridge I took my leave from Bob and linked up with Matt. A quad of us (including new acquaintances Ted and Jeff) made a strong ascent out of there and headed up towards Last Chance. Quick stop as the trail emerged onto old mining road to gather everyone up, then made our way to Last Chance. I took a few minutes to identify the spring there for future use. Turned around at about 5hr5min elapsed and headed back to Foresthill!

About 29min to make the descent to Swinging Bridge (all of these are the longest I have made in 9 years!), Matt and I really pushing the pace down the trail and grinding our legs down; that was some fun running. Bob had related his favorite mental imagery of being a frictionless pinball in the race, making the smoothest, faster possible descent down the winding trail I found that very apropos. After the bridge came the 36 switchbacks to Devil’s Thumb (about 39min to make that climb, but cool weather today). We gathered the four of us up on the top and made our way to the pump where I topped off my camelbak (carried far too much water today, knowingly, but oh well). We had been getting short drizzle early in the afternoon, but now we got a hail burst for 10min that turned into light rain for the next 2 hours.

Another fast descent into El Dorado Creek, Matt and I just cranking it down the trail. At the bridge I stopped for a pee, but Matt just rocked on, instantly scraping me off! Oh well, dude is a great runner, glad to have his company for a bit. The climb back up to Michigan Bluff took nearly an hour, just power-hiked it at good pace (but not all out). The aid station for the official training was still set up, so I treated myself to some cookies and soda (hey, I did pay for it). I was starting to get cold in the rain now, temp hovering around 50deg, arms and hands not working real well. So little choice but to pick up a steady run on the forest road and get warmed up again.

Near the Anderson-Trason place, I saw perhaps the biggest darn jackrabbit ever; ears must have been at least 6” tall! Darn thing was huge. It took off running and bounding, made a pleasant sight in the middle of miserable rain. Anyhow, I ground out the climbs, some running and some walking, and then finally dropped back onto single-track into Volcano Canyon. Made a strong descent (not as fast as before, but passed 4-5 folks easily) before crossing through the stream and feet totally soaked again. Long, grinding climb up the rocky trail. Finally emerged onto Bath Rd, picked up the shuffle and ground ran the mile-long climb up to Foresthill Rd, then had a strong pace back to the elementary school. For a while, I had seriously toyed with the idea of continuing down down Cal St after Matt Keyes to aim for 50mi that day. But at FH recognized that I was soaked and cold from the rain, lacking the right gear to keep pushing today (Matt was there in a fresh running jacket) (which I certainly did not have). So called it with about 40mi under my belt, darn fine training day overall.

Took some time to rub ice on my legs, dry off, then helped myself to grilled ham-cheese sandwich. Talked with talked Matt and his lovely wife (Kim) and Tim Twietmeyer some. But started to get cold again, so jumped into car and warmed up. Stopped at JambaJuice in Auburn, back at Dad’s place around 1730.

WS100 Training Camp – Day 2

Got to FH about 0745, checked in and actually got my number this time! Run scheduled to start 0830, but I was ready to go early, so why wait around for it? Just gonna be a conga line if I go with the crowd. So pulled out of FH on a very pleasant morning and headed down the Cal St section of the Western States trail. Took it easy the first 10-15min, jawboning with some others that started early as well. Then cranked up the speed and got going.

Blew thru Cal-1 in about 36min (alas, dumbshit here deleted his split before I wrote them down, so all times today from memory). About 55min to Cal-2. Very fun descent to the river, multiple switchbacks with banked turns. Borrowed Bob Crowley’s imagery again and just imagined myself as a pinball rolling down the race and flowed down them. Reached the river, trail went flat for a bit before a right nasty little climb on the way to Cal-3, worse than I remember, but ground it out. Blew past Ca-3, did not see it, oh well. Came to Ruck-a-Chuck around 2hr45min (15.5mi)

Walked down to the crossing, made a pitstop in the loo there, came back up to aid station and jawboned with Ken Crouse for a while. Ken is another fine gentleman who reached out to me via email to offer options for yesterday’s re-routed training run. Jawboned with him for 10-15 min, great fellow. Found out later he was a US Marine at the Fall of Saigon!

After about 30min screwing around down there, picked up my pack and made the climb out to White Oak Flat. Long switching ascent on the dirt road and some single track. Official finish line up top, about 19mi mark for the mornings. Ate a pair of hot dogs and drank a coke (usually couldn’t stomach something like that, but tasted great today!) Talked with some other folks and chilled for a few minutes. Decided to run back to FH instead of waiting on the bus. After chatting with some local vets, found the historic WS trail, popped out onto some housing, then onto Todd Creek Trail. Had to pull my phone out and check location on the map (that cost me some time), but eventually made my way to Todd Valley Rd and then Foresthill Rd. Climb up to Foresthill (about 3mi) took a bit, but kept it flowing smooth as I could in the rolling fog and intermittent hail storms. Elapsed time at FH about 6 hours, figure 27mi for the day.

WS100 Training Camp – Day 3

Woke 0600, actually had a light breakfast this morning (scrambled eggs, apple) since run won’t start until ~0915. Left house 0645, at Placer HS and checked in around 0800. Run brief 0815, loaded onto the buses and away we go down CA-49, CA-193, then up Sliger Mine Rd to the cemetery. We unloaded and got to running!

Just past the cemetery (~1/3mi) the road goes from paved to rough dirt, and downhill about 2mi to Green Gate (GG). There we typically take a hard left onto the course, and there were two gentlemen out there guiding us that way. But I wanted to go backwards on the course down to the river crossing. So I tried to surreptitiously slip past (unsuccessfully, it turns out) and headed down there. About 2mi descent on dirt road, I had the option of turning left or right near the bottom. Foolishly chose left (wrong way) and down to the river; made a pitstop there. Didn’t seem like the right place, so climbed back up and took the right turn instead. Now I was in the right place, found the aid station location I remember and river crossing location. Made the return climb to GG in 23:06, good pull.

I went past GG and got back onto today’s scheduled/official training route. Turned on the juice and got moving at a solid pace. Had to make guesses at some trail intersections, but got to Auburn Lake Trails around an hour past GG. Farted around there a few minutes making sure I had the right course (the sweeps, now ahead of me, were pulling the course flagging). Finally left here at 1hr7min split.

Once past ALT, I moved strongly along canyon’s edge. Caught the sweeps after about 25min, running hard to get to them and make sure I was going in the right direction (felt right, but just no real confirmation w/o the course marking). They were not happy to see me, evidently discussion about pulling my ribbon/bracelet since I deviated from the official route. I understand their position, but oh well, it is a free country and I’m here to rack up training miles.

Got to Browns Bar aid station location in 29:58. Pushed down the rutty trail to the Quarry Rd along the river, tried to keep a steady pace on the flats, though can tell the training is starting to do it work: can running solid on the flats but not fast! Ground up a short climb to the aid station about 12mi into the official route, then began the climb up to Hwy 49. Rutty, rocky trail but ground it out with 2-3 short (10sec) walk breaks. Got to Hwy 49 with split of 43:31, cruised over the road and got going up the next section (can’t remember the name of it)

Medium climb up and over the meadow overlooking the river and Hwy 49, then hammered the heck out of the last descent into No Hands Bridge. Talked with Jay Freeman briefly on the way down, a gentlemen I met at the Grasslands event and last saw at WS in 2002! Felt fairly good over the bridge all things considered, spent a few minutes in the aid station there getting water refill and drinking some fluids (34:26 split).

Got going on the last section, still shuffling well and able to climb. Came across a 4’ rattlesnake (let it go by), then had to make a pitstop. Made the climb up to Robie Pt, that sucker is a right nasty little spell. Got onto the road and just kept pressing up the steep road into Auburn, dang I had forgotten how bad that section was! Big ass deer (buck) just nonchalantly wandered across the street, kinda surreal. Finally topped out and began slow downhill on the home stretch. Course markings a little scant through the streets, but a nice lady driving by pointed me in the right direction, bless her. Adrenaline flowing now and kicked it good and hard to the track (44:25 split). About 27mi for the day as best I can figure.

Will log 94mi for the training weekend, not too shabby. With the right gear on Day 1, could have pushed that number even higher (oh well). I was fortunate to be contacted by several locals, they got me to thinking that I didn’t necessarily need to follow the masses on the established routes. Having gotten past that herd mindset, it freed me up to rack some miles and push myself more than I would have otherwise. We will see the results on 25-26 June!

Got back to Dad’s place around 1700. Took a while to get cleaned up and gear somewhat packed. Great dinner of lamb/pork meatballs, garlic bread, green beans. Spent some time chatting with Dad, then we were watching Secondhand Lions on DVD late into the evening (among his favorite movies). Caught the 0600 flight out of Sacramento the next morning.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ice Cream for Breakfast: Tornado Outbreak in Alabama

I had been meaning to post some of Clan Kennedy's highlights from our experiences during the massive tornado outbreak on 27 April 2011. While we unfortunately have zero photos from the 6-7 days period in the aftermath, I was able to jot down daily notes on my BlackBerry to keep some sort of record. Fortunately, we suffered no damage at all, though of course had several friends with medium-to-great losses. Amazingly, it marked the first time in my 21-year career with the US Army and Uncle Sam (in various ways) that I didn't have to be at the center of my organization as it went through some sort of disaster (natural or otherwise). During the earlier years of our marriage, Kirsten and I (esp. during active duty years) never saw each other (or were home) as hurricanes approached, monsoons hit Korea, 9/11 occurred, or minor earthquakes caused damage. So in all, a very pleasant time for Clan Kennedy and for me to guide my family through the week.

I woke on 27 April 2011 (Wed) at about 0440 and headed for the gym. Already we had thunderstorm and tornado warning all over the place, which I expected would go on-off all day. Little did I realize how bad they would be; this was just the first (and most minor) of three waves that would come through that day. It was pouring rain during my early weight-lifting workout. By the time I got home around 0610 (typically would wake Matthew then for math team practice at 0700), all the local schools were on 2-hr delay, so let the boys and Kirsten sleep.

I got to the office about 0730 to prep for an all-day meeting starting at 0800. But then that was at first delayed 2hrs, then then cancelled outright. By 1030 we started another series of tornado warning, and my building was evacuated to the basement. Since I work in the basement, this naturally makes for some great impromptu meetings, so I had long chat with others about ongoing technical projects. Little did we realize it would days before we started working on the taskers we gave ourselves! More tornado warnings continued 1130-1300, I got more visitors (friendly), but nothing much getting done now.

By the end of the midday tornado wave, the leaders in our organization began to recognize that another monster storm wave was coming through in the late afternoon. So we kicked everyone out and sent them home. By then I had already seen photos of the tree damage at Kim Susor's place up in the Moore's Mill area in NE Huntsville, half her house flattened by a huge tree. I headed out around 1400, and after battling traffic snarled by tornado damage, got there around 1445 to see the whole neighborhood destroyed by blown trees.

Despite the damage, Kim was in amazingly good spirits, all things considered. She was level-headed and doing a great job prioritizing what needed to happen. Along with other friends that had arrived, we spent time getting her belongings consolidated into standing rooms and out of the rain. Another neighbor arrived with a chainsaw and we got to work on clearing another big tree blocking her driveway. Fortunately, Kim's long time boyfriend (Tim Kerstetter) dropped everything upon seeing the storm damage photos and started driving from Ohio that afternoon, God bless him. By about 1730 we started to watch the third (and most massive) tornado wave come through north Huntsville. Good gracious, I wish I had taken a photo of it. Never have I seen anything like, dozens of lightning bolts going off, far more strikes and far more vicious than any storm I had ever experienced. We waited until it looked like that wave has passed to the north, then I decided to head home before it got totally dark.

I headed back to Big Cove and home via Dug Hill Road without too many issues. Some downed trees but road not impassable anywhere. The problem is that I did not realize that power was no out all over the northern section of the state. I only had about 3gal of gas in the XTerra, and had planned to tank up at Wal-Mart near the house. I got home just after last light, Kirsten and the boys fine but no power. They had been hunkered down waiting for the worst of the storms to pass. Fortunately cool weather, so after checking the house for damage (thankfully none), got the boys fed and hunkered down for the night. I was also able to talk with Tim Kerstetter as he was heading south down I-65 through Kentucky and northern TN at that point. Good man, marched to the sound of the guns (so to speak) and was at Kim's place around midnight.

28 Apr 2011, Day 2: Power Out. Arsenal Closed. Schools Closed. Nearly All Commerce Shut Down. No idea on extent of destruction yet.

So the one morning I might be tempted to lounge around, Kirsten gets productive and starts a to-do list! Sorta funny, sorta not. She had me up by 0600, intent on getting the boys fed and doing some chores. Matthew (our oldest), opens the garage freezer and comments that the ice cream is starting to melt. Then he gets a devious gleam in his eyes and you can tell he has come up with a great idea. "Dad", he inquires, "can we eat the ice cream for breakfast? It's going to melt anyway." Can't fault that logic! Sure kid, ice cream for breakfast. Kirsten and I enjoyed a wry chuckle at the old Bill Cosby comedy routine (Dad is great! Give us the chocolate cake [for breakfast]). What kind of parents are we?!

We were all outside by 0700, busy cleaning out the garage! Neighbors started to emerge shortly thereafter, talking and checking on each other. Heard about the press conference that local leaders were going to hold, so turned on the car radio and several of us stayed in the driveway to hear the news 0830-0930. Turns out Browns Ferry plant shut down, all major transmission lines destroyed. I had suspected we might be several days without power, but this was our first inkling at the extent of the destruction.

I also had to get accountability of all my employees, something I had started on the previous evening with mixed success. Considering I had no power to work on my laptop, I was doing all communications on my gov't BlackBerry, sending text messages to everyone's personal cell phones or calling home lines to those without. Fortunately, by that evening I had contacted all of my folks and all of them were safe. Also got to talk with Tim K again before my personal cell phone died. Only way I could get a charge into it or my BB was via car charger at that point.

So as I mentioned, Kirsten's first chore for us was cleaning the garage. We got both cars out, swept everything, scrubbed out all the cobwebs and dead mosquitoes, etc. With a little "help" from the boys, that and the news conference tied up the morning. Around noon I had heard from just about all of my folks at work, so sat down on the couch to read and eventually took a very pleasant early afternoon nap. Fortunately the weather is pleasant and a breeze blowing through the windows to air out the house.

In the afternoon we took good stock of our food supply, then Kirsten and Matt made a recon (via bicycle) to see if Wal-Mart, Lowe's, or any of the gas stations were oeprating (none at that point). We ate a simple dinner, concentrating on no cooking and eat perishables. Everyone was down by 2100 in the dark, lots of stars to look at with no city lights at all.

Oh by the way: Happy Birthday to me! 39 years old today! Had a couple of cookies from the pantry (ice cream all gone!)

29 April, Day 3: No power at home. Arsenal Closed. Schools Closed. Beginning to understand extent of destruction.

Matthew and I were up by 0600, and wandered down the street to our neighbor's house. We shared a leisurely pot of morning coffee, while charging electronics on the generator (this includes the boys' Nintendo DS systems, which proved to be handy in a few occasions in the next few days!).

Once back at home around 0700, Kirsten had her to-do list ready to go. So me and the boys set about cleaning the entire back porch in detail: sweeping the floors, clearing out cobwebs, scrubbing off chalk marks, cleaning the grill, hosing it all down, etc. Later in the morning, Kirsten and Matt went on another bike recon to Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Publix. Brought back some ice and limited groceries. I spent more time consolidating obvious perishables into available coolers, trying to keep ice alive and not waterlog the remaining food. By midday I got a chance to ready a book and take another long nap (love it!)

This is the day I figured out that a great source of news is the WHNT FaceBook feed. Followed that on-off through the day as more details of the power outage, destruction, and other news became available. Kinda funny that in the middle of a huge power outage, my gov't BlackBerry became the only reliable communications device. I spent a great deal of time getting news communicating with many of my employees and bosses (via text message and/or email). Dinner that evening was a no-cooking affair; easy to eat healthy by concentrating on perishables good without cooking! The boys took colds baths in the back yard, touch less complaining

Dinner was Cold baths, touch less complaining than last night. All asleep by 2130

30 April, Day 4: No power at home, obvious devastation across North Alabama

Up around 0600 again, strolled down to our neighbors' place to charge electronics. We enjoyed a leisurely pot of coffee and conversation on the front porch, boys had some hot chocolate and played horseshoes in the front yard. Got home around 0745, fed the boys some cereal and last remnants of the cold milk. Cleaning tasks for today revolved around emptying both refrigerators, consolidating remaining perishables into coolers with ice, then taking the interiors of the frig/freezer apart and scrubbing it all down in detail in the driveway. I dare say when we got it all back together it was the cleanest it had even been since its delivery brand new!

The lines for gas started to become manageable, so after listening to the daily 0830 press conference on the car radio, Kirsten headed out to fill up the kid-hauler vehicle. She also brought back 4gal of fuel to put into my XTerra so I could drive more than 25mi anywhere. By now it was on the fuel-low light, I had to crank it up once or twice a day to charge our personal cell phones.

This is the day we started to get smart about heating water in the sun for cleaning (dishes and ourselves!). A bunch of containers in the backyard, full of water, laid out in the sun to allow semi-warm baths tonight. This included the kids' sandbox, which turned into an impromptu wading pool, then dishwasher, then bathtub around 7pm. Nothing makes a redneck like cleaning your children in a wading tub in the backyard!

I did manage to go for a short run in early afternoon, good gracious that was rough. The fractured toe felt OK, not great, still can’t jump around or do pushups and put weight on it. But I ambled down past Goldsmith-Schiffman Elementary School and back in 35min. Felt better on the way back as the rust started to break off, but overall shaky! Did some more core strength work on the back porch, then treated myself to a bath via hose before continuing to work around the house

We have a large freezer in the garage, typically holding the remnants of our side of beef (grass-finished, great stuff). But knowing it wouldn't be able to stay cold much longer, I reached and grilled up about 4-5 lbs of ground beef into giant burgers. And thus Clan Kennedy enjoyed its first cooked meal since the tornado, some vegetables and fruit on the side! Fortunately, still enjoying lovely weather, so we ate out on the back porch and played frisbee and catch afterwards.

1 May, Day 5. Power Still Out, Warmer Weather, More Humid.

In keeping for what is quickly become daily rhythm, woke around 0600 and headed to the neighbors for coffee and company. Boys enjoying boiling water on the grill to make hot chocolate and running around in the street; they don't even know what day of the week it is anymore. (For the record, Sunday; we considered heading into church services, but figure the building itself would be stifling without a/c).

I went out for a light run about mid-morning, Kirsten not so quick with the to-do list by now! Still breaking off the rust from two weeks rest, climbed up into nearby Little Mtn estates, paying careful attention to that broken toe. Felt OK, but had to NOT flex off it real hard. Once back at home, went about more cleaning chores through the morning, getting food supplies re-arranged and consolidated. One of the lessons learned from the whole episode is understanding, once again, how to manage perishable food supplies without electricity. It can be done, but takes time and planning to keep stuff on ice, be more careful about not overstocking frig/freezer, and planning meals more carefully so as not to waster perishables.

In the early afternoon, we decided it was time to take a family trip. So we loaded up in the car (now have the advantage of steady gasoline sources) and went up to Maggie Valley Berry Patch on Grant Mtn. What a wonderful spot! I let Kirsten pick strawberries in peace, kept the boys nearby while they "helped" me pick berries from a row 50m away. Together we picked almost 10gal of some darn fine Alabama strawberries, best I have tasted since California. Aftewards we talked with the owners a while, toured their growing blackberry bushes (more picking this summer), and tried to wear out the boys. Stopped at Publix on the way home for 10lbs of ice (fortunately, it was available).

At home, began immediately to make preserves from some of the berries. Re-arranged food once again into coolers, did some throwing away, but able to save off a really large majority of the food from the freezers. From there I went about grilling the remaining ground beef (about 10lbs), 6 chicken breasts, fish, and all of the shrimp. The outdoor freezer wasn't staying cold anymore, so it was time to cook it all or lose it. At the same time, Kirsten making preserves on the side burner of the grill. So we had a truckload of stuff on the grill and lots of pots/pan to wash by hand (in the converted sandbox/dishwasher, of course). After dinner, spent more time rearranging food into containers and putting on ice. Kirsten took a walk around the block to chat with neighbors. The boys and I meanwhile rolled the deep freezer into the driveway and proceeded to give that thing a thorough bleaching and scrubbing. Major portions of this house will never be this clean again!

But since tomorrow is Monday, there is a real question of my employees going back to work. Redstone Arsenal finally announced it would not open tomorrow (turns out it would be later in the week). So had to spent about 2 hours on-off through the late afternoon and early evening coordinating with folks about status of the Arsenal and issue guidance for maintaining continued accountability in the meantime.

And just after sunset, while finishing cleaning the freezer in last vestiges of daylight, something odd happens. I am standing in the driveway, and something is different about the front porch. And something is different about the street lights. Wait, the power is back on! To my amazement and continual thanks to TVA and Huntsville Utilities, about 1945 we were back in business. Much jubilation in the neighborhood (about 98hours without power), neighbors taking a final stroll, shaking hands and wishing each other well....then we all went back inside!

Several days earlier I had turned off nearly all the circuit breakers in the house, save those controlling the lights in the foyer and front porch. I was concerned that a sudden jump in electrical current would fry some items in the house, so leaving those circuits and switches on gave us best indication power was back. I brought on selected breakers over the next hour: lights, receptacles, etc. Cleaned up the boys with boiled water, let them watch a video while Kirsten and I continued to clean up from all the days activities. After about 2 hours, waiting to (hopefully) make sure the power situation was stable, I brought outside frig, washer/dryer, and HVAC online around 2130, wanted to ensure no more power spikes. Left inside frig turned off so we can clean it again thoroughly in the morning.

Then just before 2200 came the big news: Osama Bin Laden killed during SOF raid into Pakistan! Holy shit! Kirsten went to bed, but I was wired, stayed up to watch the President’s address then news and FB until well past midnight. I finally settled down around 0300.

2 May, Day 6. ALL ARSENAL WORKSITES CLOSED; Power back on at home

Woke around dawn, dozed until 0700. Went for an early run, down to GSES and back plus some time on the track there, 40min total. Kirsten and I were busy rest of the morning: making preserves from some of the strawberries, freezing the rest, finished putting the deep freeze back in action, transferring food back into outside frig, cleaning out inside frig and putting back together, and more. Amazingly, still had a great heap of fresh lettuce that we kept alive the whole time, so made a big salad and hard-boiled eggs for brunch around 1100. Took my first shower since Wed morning.

Family trip to Costco 1230-1430. Had lunch in the foodcourt as a break from the past few days. (didn't take us long to get back to American suburbia ways!). Then shopping to do some replenishment of perishables plus use the coupons we had been saving. Once back home, put all the food away, set up the inside frig again, bagged the remaining strawberries for deep freeze, and did about 5-6 loads of laundry!

I went out for another run about 1600. Around Little Mtn loop in the sun (80deg) with 6x1min surges, 6 miles total. While all sweaty, went about task of seriously cleaning the grill, made a mess of myself. Pulled out the grease catch, threw out the heat distribution plate, scraped old grease and remnants from the inside, tried like hell to degrease the cooking grids with minimal progress, even major degreaser didn’t work all that well. Finally wrapped it up around 1830 and had dinner (leftover turkey and greenbeans). Then got to eat my birthday cake! Spent more time through the afternoon and evening communicating with my bosses and employees about status of the Arsenal and work. Power back on? Stayed up late, of course.

3 May, Day 7. MOST ARSENAL WORKSITES STILL CLOSED, Huntsville Schools Closed

Woke around 0600 and headed to the gym to lift weights. Once back home, had breakfast with the boys and watched the rain come in. We were very lucky to have enjoyed cool, sunny weather throughout the power outage. After that I watched the daily press conference about local status on TV for once (instead of car radio) 0830-0900.

Now that laptop is charged back up, was able to look into and clean out all the email that I had been stacking up for days now. After that and a series of phone calls for work, I got Kirsten out of the house for a few hours and away from the boys. Fed the boys some lunch, did homework sheets with them all in turn through the afternoon. Even started to teach Luke how to ride his bike without training wheels. Got extra free time now, so take advantage. Went over to CrossFit Huntsville for a WOD ("Jackie"), then ran another 3mi at the X-C park nearby.

Spent time in the evening answering emails and doing command-control with my folks via text messages and email. Kirsten and I spent more time folding pile of huge pile of laundry (a lot of it with no washer-dryer for 5 days).


By now, having the schools closed and Arsenal closed is getting to be a pain. I went for a run pre-dawn, then took the boys to Brueggers for bagels (say that 5 times fast). From there it was down to the YMCA where I could run some energy out of them for the next two hours.

By early afternoon, news came out out that most buildings on the Arsenal would be open tomorrow, as would Huntsville City Schools.

5 May (Thurs)...back to normal!