Thursday, December 22, 2011

Charge Of The Forehead Light Brigade

We have discovered a strange phenomenon in our neighborhood. In the hours before dawn, around 5:30 a.m., week after week, season after season, there are people who voluntarily roust themselves from warm beds not only to go outside into what are currently below-freezing temperatures, but to run for an extended amount of time. Of course, running in the pre-dawn darkness carries certain hazards, given that there is actually no light in the sky and little useful light from irregularly-placed streetlamps. That means anyone daft enough to be outside at that hour needs to bring their illumination with them. The generally accepted means of doing so involve strapping a light to your forehead. It may be a fancy set of LEDs that puts out more light than the typical 1960s-era automobile headlight, but in the end, it is still a getup not far removed from a minor's torch.

I know all of this because I am one of those people. So is Cheryl. In fact, she is to blame.

Back in July, one of our friends convinced Cheryl that a successful exercise regimen did not have to mean going out and running a marathon every day. A simple commitment to a combination of running and walking for relatively short (but increasing) durations would yield health benefits while staying within our physical limitations of endurance and fitness.

We are an unlikely pair to take up running as a regular routine. At least I was a runner once upon a time, but I have tried without success to resume the practice since high school. Cheryl has been a committed non-runner her entire life. Nevertheless, since late July, we have arisen at 5:30 a.m. three times a week to run and walk a nearly three mile loop in our neighborhood. Over the summer, we were privileged to enjoy the early-morning sunrises. As winter approached, however, the days got significantly colder, and even more significantly darker. After following this regimen for more than a month, we felt committed enough to the practice to justify some dear appropriate for exercising in the cold and dark. We rewarded ourselves with new running shoes, reflective apparel, and cold-whether running gear. And, in a final, unmistakable symbol of our resolve, forehead lights.

After almost 5 months, we have only missed a couple of regularly scheduled running days, mostly due to my work schedule. Amazingly, I think we have missed only two days because of rainy weather. Over that time, we have steadily increased the length of the run portions of the loop (which are interspersed with regular intervals of walking). I have even kept up with the routine while on a business trip, and took a another run on my own to test my limits and found I could run a mile again (baby steps, granted, but it has been a long time since I could do that). Maybe in a couple of years we will enter a 5K race. That won't happen anytime soon, but against all odds, we are enjoying the commitment, the afterglow of the effort, and the demonstrable benefits of the consistent exercise regimen … dorky headlights notwithstanding.

We are either rationally coming to terms with the increased effort required to stay healthy as we age, or we have completely lost our minds. The jury is still out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We Are The Champions, Local High School Edition

Against most if not all of the odds, Moraga's Campolindo High School, Kelly's alma mater to be, won the North Coast Section football championship at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday night. Campo, projected to finish last in its own league, continued a true Cinderella season by knocking off heavily favored Marin Catholic 20-18 on a last-second field goal to go 14-0 on the season.

We managed to watch the last part of the game through a video feed online (the internet age is great for this sort of thing), and were able to witness our local boys work for the winning score after giving up their game-long lead with only two minutes to go. Campo had stopped Marin on fourth and two at Campo's 10-yard line halfway through the fourth quarter, but allowed Marin to go the length of the field on the next drive to set up a go-ahead field goal. On that drive, Marin survived a fourth-and-eight play, but also dropped a pass in the end zone. Campo returned the ensuing kickoff well to about their 35 yard line, but still had to go the length of the field with two minutes left and their starting center out of the game with an injury. On the first play, Marin had Campo's quarterback in their grasp, but he wriggled free, running for his sporting life to his left. Stunningly, he found a teammate (the older brother of a boy with whom Michael plays baseball) 45 yards down the field to immediately put Campo in position for a game-winning field goal. Campo milked the clock with a series of runs to put the game on the shoulders of the sophomore kicker. After a timeout with two seconds remaining in the game, enduring what had to be the highest-stakes moment the kicker had ever experienced, he coolly put the ball through the uprights, setting off a joyous celebration among the team, their families and fans.

Kelly, who has no real love of football, got an unexpected charge out of the winning kick. As it turns out (but she had not figured out until she heard his name announced on the webcast), the kicker is not only in her biology class, he is her lab partner. We went to one home game earlier this season, which she did not find all that interesting, but stuff like this could make a girl start to enjoy football a little bit more.

Campo has won NCS before, but not since 1986. To put that in perspective, that was when I was a junior in high school. Our football teams were terrible in those days, though, so I didn't pay too close attention at the time to what anyone else did (although I did go to the CCS final game in 1984 with a friend to watch his St. Francis beat Bellarmine 5-3 at San Jose State ... and Bellarmine is the CCS champion this year). With Kelly now a freshman, it truly has been a generation since Campo last reached this lofty height.

The magical season is not quite over. With its win, Campo earned a trip to the Division III state championship game in Los Angeles. Campo will match up with Washington-Union of Fresno ... the city where Kelly was born. We might have to figure out a way to watch this game.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Fall Fell

We are very efficient around here. Autumn may be a season on the calendar, but we take care of Fall in one day. Over the last 24 hours or so, most of the southwest of the country, including the Bay Area, has been subjected to heavy, sustained winds. The windstorm caused serious damage to the Los Angeles area, but around here it has simply taken care of denuding the trees. It was strong enough that when I stepped out for lunch with some colleagues yesterday, we put our conversation on hold until we reached the restaurant because the noise of the leaves swirling around us was too loud.

Nearly overnight, we went from enjoying colorful foliage to being ready for winter. Oddly, nearly every time we experience wind conditions like this, unlike Nor'easters on the Eastern seaboard, our temperatures pick up. We will be back to freezing nighttime temperatures and foggy mornings soon, but for now, we get to enjoy mild days with crystal clear air and blue skies.

I'm not looking forward to cleaning up the yard now, though. Drat this wind.