Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Madness (of shoes)

It's been no secret that my Adidas Trail Marathon 10s have not been working out.  I had a pair of Adidas Falcon Elites too, but that felt like I was running on two doorstops with the high end on the outside.  Those also had a puncture wound in the top of each thanks to my titanium toenails.  So they got relegated quickly to walking shoes, and even hurt in that capacity, so they are out.  So, not being able to revert back to the TR2's I loved and wore in 2010 training for and running The Crim, because I couldn't find them, I was kind of without a standard running staple.  I'm still sitting on my TR3's for summer trails and the Galaxy Elites (a.k.a. my "Bumblebees") which have been so wonderful on long distance I am saving them in case I can't do better.

However, that's two bad Adidas in a row, and I thought that warranted a shake up.  So I tore through a Dunham's a few weeks back, and, much like the NCAA's March Madness went through a very large field of candidates whittling the field down to my own Final Four.  It took a while, even more time than making this logo...

This Art Says:  "Please Appreciate My Blog's Periodic Silly Logo Making"
Anyways, let's see our current bracket...

On our left side top, in the red, white, and grey we have a pair of Puma Levaios.  I haven't had a pair of Pumas since the late 90s when I had a pair that was burgundy suede casuals.  They were picked in the store because they were light, looked awesome, and felt really close to right (though maybe a little too flat for my foot, but really really close to perfect).

On our left bottom, in the grey, yellow, black, and white we have my first ever pair of Sauconys.  They were the best fit I had in the store and seemed to hug my feet perfectly.  This doesn't always mean everything (last year's Asics), but it was why they got taken home.  The only potential problem I saw in the store was that they had the same slanting issue to them as both the Adidas-gone-bad had.

On our right top, in the black, red, and white we have the Devil, errr, I mean Nike Revolution.  Now I've been avoiding Nike like the plague for years.  I used to like them when I was younger, but a few sweatshop scandals and a solid disliking of Michael Jordan changed it all rather quickly in the late 90s.  Honestly, I think my last Nike's were bought in middle school.  I forced myself into these because they looked sweet, felt great, and I had to make sure I wasn't ignoring some kismet shoe relationship for superficial reasons (like not wanting to give MJ more money to get into gambling troubles...).  I promise I've been giving them a fair shake in my deciding.

On the bottom right, in black and grey we have a pair of New Balance 467 All Terrains.  I loved how they were built like a tank but light as a feather, which are two things I really like to have in shoes.  It doesn't hurt that they have nice, non-flashy regular shoe look about them, either.  "Shoes these days are too flashy," says old man Brent.  They were the last shoe in, and almost lost to a pair of Reebok DMXs, but got the nod due to me feeling I was in between sizes on the Reeboks.  I'm happy I chose them so far, especially upon realizing they're, at least in part, made in the U.S.

So there you have my shoe final four.  It's much better than the NCAA Final Four, because Ohio State is disgusting to me, and so are the other 3 teams.  I'm glad I was too busy playing tennis when my Alma Mater lost, otherwise I would have probably been laying on the floor crying just like a Rick Pitino restaurant date.  It sounded like it was a brutally disgusting choke.  Oh well, if you actually have to watch the rest of the baskethoops, but don't know or care and just want to fit in, here is the Final Four explained by Corgis.

I'll announce a winner sometime early next month.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shamrocks and Shenanigans Part 3

Luckily, when I woke up the Sunday after St. Patrick's Day, my stomach had stopped doing somersaults, but I still wasn't in any mood to get moving any earlier than I had to.  The Al Kayner St. Pats race wasn't until 11:45, and I've been through it twice before.  So I know where to park and where to go, and all that.  Not a lot of sense in getting there too early.

Jason joined me again this year, vowing not to miss his turn and actually run the 8k this time, which I'm happy to say he did.  Some of the others weren't so lucky from what I've heard, and just like every year their facebook has complaints about the split not being properly marked.  I just think too many people run with their headphones in and their head down, and would miss it unless someone stopped them by bib color and sent them the other way.  I've ran the 5K and the 8K and I'm 3 for 3 going the right way.  I don't know, maybe they should start the 5K a little later.  I'm all for that.  Then maybe all the Powerades wouldn't be unnecessarily taken by 5K walkers and I might actually get one, which I haven't the last two years running the 8K, but my slow ass, 34 minute, 5K, 2010 self that probably didnt' deserve one did (ugh, I hate that guy!).

My lady came up with us to root us on as well, which was really nice for a change.  Most of the time she's either working or they are just way too early for her to want to get up and stand around waiting to see me run a few seconds (and I can't say I blame her, because sleeping is awesome, and some of these races take a really long time). 

The weather was a ridiculously balmy 67 degrees at race time, according to the Chemical Bank ticker near the start.  Last year it said 36, and it was 39 the year before.  So, needless to say, I was very happy I decided to roll with some old soccer shorts instead of some long pants.  Jason had a whole St. Patrick's accessorizing scheme going that made him look like runner Bono on St. Patrick's weekend or something. 

Early on the run was really crowded, and it didn't really let up until the 5K split off.  Every single race there are those people that scoot up with the faster pace runners, take off like a shot, and stop to walk less than a half mile in.  These people make the crowded streets much more difficult, and it really gets old after a while.  Know your capabilities and be honest with yourself (own up that you're wussy, out of shape, and a complete failure at running).  I own up to being a fat guy that isn't going to keep up with the 8 minute or less people, and even though I've ran in the 8's and am in the 9's right now, you'll find me back behind that big "10" just in case.  Not that I had a choice, because I couldn't get up any closer, and still feeling a little bit of the hangover I wasn't sure if I belonged up closer anyway.  Tanking was a distinct possibility (although when has a lot of beer the night before kept me from finishing?...not counting the times I didn't make it to the race at all, that is).

I didn't tank, though.  I started out a little fast, and really had to push to hang on to some resemblance of pace.  I still ran the 8K in a 46:41, which was over a minute faster than last year.  I would have liked to be around 2 minutes faster, but you can't have everything.  That just means I'll really have to beat last year Brent pretty badly at the Martian Half Marathon in about two weeks.

Once again the Kayner medals were the same design again (I really should bend them and start fixing them to pint glasses...or maybe in like 50 years make a coat of arms out of them) with a different lanyard.  The shirts varied from the green and white designs of previous years and went for an all black with green print this year (which I was a little less enthused about, but I'm sure they're planning something cool for the 40th anniversary next year and went a little on the cheap this year).

Shirt and 3 years of Medals
Afterwards we had some nice breakfast brunchin' at The Texan.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shamrocks and Shenanigans Part 2 of 3 (Shenanigans Portion)

Every year I give myself a great big St. Patrick's exemption where all things Lent simply do not apply (so I drink...and usually eat pizza and have a shamrock shake).  This year we actually got the holiday on a Saturday, so there were big plans thought out.  Eventually we all settled on the idea of going to Corktown in the early morning and being part of what (at least we had heard) was utter madness there. 

Well, in typical fashion of how plans usually go, people either forgot or dropped out based on other plans.  So it began to look as if it just wasn't going to happen, and my Detroiter friend and I, who were still up for it started to back away from the idea.  However, we seem to both have brains that say "oh no you don't" the second we give up on something.  There's just that little internal voice that tells you "stop being stupid, you want this, go do it."  It's that same voice that makes me want to run a marathon even though it's mentally irregular, or makes me abandon my wife (after she gives me that "go, it's okay" look) in a balcony at St. Andrews Hall so I can go into a black hole of violent moshing and potential leg injuries at an Andrew W.K. concert.  That voice eventually made us get back on the phone and say "screw it, we're still going."  Besides, by the time the holiday is on a Saturday again, St. Pats bar-hopping may be on the Murtagh List.

So, I got up at 6am, got ready, picked up my buddy, and headed to Corktown about 8am expecting things to already be somewhat occupied (Nancy Whiskey opened at 7am).  We had avoided Nancy Whiskey, thinking it would be too crowded already and headed toward the Michigan Ave. strip.  It was dead.  So much for what I've heard about it being insane, even early.  The Lager House was open though, so we filed in and nobody was in there, except the owner (P.J.) and we even had to ask if he was open.  He poured the 3 of us a shot, informing us that the first-comers get a ceremonial shot every year, asking "Is Jameson alright?"  "F*** yes, it's better than alright."  The we chased it down with a fitting Dragonmead Corktown Red

As far as good Michigan brews on tap and also having the pub standards for the basic drinkers, the Lager House is one of the best places in Detroit.  The bar top is decorated with guitar picks under a clear coat, there's a lot of great bands that play there from time to time, there's Jameson bottles being used as hanging light fixtures, and it's basically just a nice laid back atmosphere.  It's just a great hang-out bar in general. 

We followed up with a Saugatuck Neopolitan Milk Stout, Irish Car Bombs, an IPA that I now forget, MilKingIt Brik Red Ale, etc......  Finally we closed the tab and decided it was food time at about 1ish.  Corktown began to fill up a bit, and I figured that Slow's had already be taken by drunken "reavers" at this point, so we theorized that the later, downtown crowd wouldn't have taken over the restaurants yet, and we went to Red Smoke Barbecue, which I've been wanting to try for a while now.  It just seems impossible for us to pass up Nikki's when we're in that area, because it is the known love of the group.  Steering them somewhere else that may not be as good requires some social risk (which is why I also tried Loco solo days before this).  When you're with just one friend, though, it's easier to try something new.  Plus, in our condition I'm sure most anything would have been fine. 

Red Smoke was pretty dang good, though.  While I don't believe the barbecue itself was as good as Slow's, they have a distinct advantage in sides and sauces.  The mac is amazing and just offering a jalapeno cornbread muffin (nevermind the fact that it was incredible) makes you win the battle of sides automatically.  The sauces, especially the Roasted Poblano and the Red Smoke were just fantastic (especially the two alternated or mixed).  As someone who is a total condiment whore, and attempts to drown his food in them, great sauces are highly appreciated.  I even enjoyed the Cherry Molasses, and I rarely like Cherry anything (outside of pepsi, coke, and that "Save Tonight" song by Eagle-Eye Cherry).  I will try to add photos later, but they are all in my friend's possession, so I had to borrow the photo of the sauces below from Rebecca (after it was the first to show up from my google snooping) @ (thank you), who also paid a visit to Red Smoke, which is recapped here.

Rebecca's Photo, not mine
After feeding, we walked back to Corktown, once again laughing at the people lined around the block trying to get into The Old Shillelagh when Corktown bars were still easily in walking distance and empty enough to walk right in and immediately have a beer.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with The Old Shillelagh, because on off nights it's a wonderful bar and it's 'tenders are some of the nicest ladies and gents in Detroit.  It's just that, during game days and drinking high tides, this place is elbow to elbow overcrowded and, to quote Daniel Clamp from "Gremlins 2," it becomes "a place for things."  This was the worst I have ever seen the place, and I get that it's an Irish bar on St. Patty's Day, but waiting hours to have a beer is just inhumanly illogical.
Adios Amigo
We walked back to Corktown, once again saluting General Kosciuszko on the return trip.  Then stopped into Casey's (well known as the spot where Gehrig sat and listened to the Tigers-Yanks game after taking himself out of the line-up, thus ending the streak) for a Guinness.  That pretty much ended our day, with my friend feeling sick, and myself being back to nearly sober, we just walked around for a little bit to chill.  We collected some of the St. Patrick's Day posters/signs that blew off the buildings into the streets and next to the fences as souvenirs for the day.  Then I took him home, and came back to Flint to get my lady who was dropping off a client's wedding photos, play with the puppy, drink a green tea lemonade, and take a much needed siesta.

That puppy wanted a drink too.

Then we packed back up for Ann Arbor where (almost) everyone was finally getting together for the night.  I was having some stomach issues with that curdling Baileys from the ICB's (lactose and I don't agree, and I continue to choose to ignore this), so I sipped some Bell's Two-Hearted really slowly the rest of the night.  We settled in at some bar called The Ravens Club (complete suckfest), while I wished I hadn't bothered making the trip, and eventually cut the night off earlyish (11:30pm), which royally pissed off one of our friends who was just getting free at the time.  Screw it, though.  I had my fun early (about 6 hours of it), and I had to run in Bay City the next day.  I wasn't about to hang out for another hour waiting for him on top of time after when he got there, especially at that awful bar (which makes me vow yet again never to let my former roomie pick bars).  Besides, Renfield was home alone until 1:30am, and that's way too long to leave a puppy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shamrocks and Shenanigans Part 1 of 3

No, this has nothing to do with House of Pain.  Before it turns into April, I should probably recap what's been going on for March.  I last held you hanging on the Corktown Race, which I did end up making it to. 

The thing with the car right now is basically that it has body cancer (e.g. rust) and basically that rust is going to give way to either my bumper falling off or my strut mount going completely through to the top of my trunk.  Sparty1 has had a good run though, serving me for a good 8+ years without hardly any maintence outside of the norm and the low low price of $3500.  I'm half tempted to find a good body shop, drop a grand to shore up both sides with some new steel and just run with it some more, because the engine is still running really strong.  I don't know though, I mean, someday I may want such luxury options as:  A/C, a working gear display, back windows that roll down, power locks that work, a radio that gets stations outside of a 15 mile radius, a heater that works on more than one (high) setting, and a working odometer (it went out around 156,000 years ago, so I have no clue how many miles are on it other than "a crap load").

The scary thing is, with the used car market up, a new one almost makes sense, and I just am not a new car person.  I'm not even a newer used car person.  I like cheap cars I can work on (wish I was a welder), without having any desire to keep them clean (which isn't possible) or safe from being stolen, and can run into the ground.  I'm like a car hospice caretaker that specializes in Buicks, or a cheap old man.  Either way...

So, I ended up driving it down to Corktown races, which I ran incredibly late for, and was the very last car they let onto Michigan Ave.  That green car in the middle of a line of cop cars going down the street, that was me.  They were nice enough to let me around the barricade and through with a little coaxing.  Detroit's finest and I seem to have an understanding, considering the many times I've talked myself, my friends, and my car out of binds down there.  I need to start doing some of the police charity runs just to pay them back for being so kind to me.  After the pass-thru and the escort, I just had enough time to park illegally (followed by a gaggle of other cars), grab my packet, run it back to the car, and race.  I clocked a 27:58, which is respectable at this point.  I'm just going for being faster than me at this time last year, and I had that nailed by about a minute. 

Then, because I'm off drinking until Easter (minus the ACTUAL St. Pat's Day), I got out of there before it got too hectic.  Once the parade starts, Corktown starts drinking like it's their job.  I already witnessed that fanfare last year anyway, so I escaped to downtown, where it was dead as a doornail.  I ate a chimichanga at Loco, giving the bartender her "1st customer of the day," even though she'd been there 2 hours, and headed back home so the puppy wouldn't be stuck in his crate too long.

I still owe 2 St. Patty related entries, and more.  I'm really starting to see the benefits of becoming one of those video bloggers.  The only reason this one's getting cranked out is because I'm putting $21.95 worth of final touches on the complete fixing of this dishwasher from last month.  Its pump seal failed and I had to special order a new one.  I'm running a cycle with some dishes again just to make sure it doesn't start leaking, and then maybe I can finally go to bed.

See what I mean about my penchant for old mechanical friends?  I should probably have pulled it out, taken it out back, went all "Office Space" on it, and then bought a new one.  That's just no fun, though...except for the "Office Space" beatdown part.

Monday, March 19, 2012


There is no turning back now...I'm all signed up and buckled in for the Detroit Marathon.

There's a lot more I need to cover, but I'm kind of sick of myself in blog form.  Maybe I'm boring me, and even I don't want to subject myself to it right now.  I don't know what it is, because I have things to write about.  It's not even that I don't feel like writing.  I just hear this little secondary voice (not an actual voice) as I type that says, "Oh, just shut up.  Don't you have anything better to do?" lately.  I think I had the same problem last March.  Does this ever happen to you?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sweet Hitch Hiker

Corktown, even though I'm registered, may be up in the air now, unless I can somehow borrow the Vibe or bribe Mr. Ken to take me down to Detroit (bribery may include beer, food, listening to him tell me about Detroit history and architecture without interrupting or asking stupid questions like I didn't grow up around here, etc.).  My car has developed a nice engine and a suspension issue each within a couple days of one another.  I'll have to see what the hell is wrong first.  Fingers Crossed...

Damnit, I want that freaking medal

Friday, March 2, 2012

Brent vs. The February

February is gone, and it's time to check up on the resolutions:

1) Pick 12 things of social importance that I've had limited exposure to, but decided I didn't like and immerse myself in each of them for 1 month.

Jazz Music - As much of a music geek as I am, there are a few holes in my knowledge.  Jazz has never really appealed to me, but then again, I've never had any extended exposure.  To be incredibly honest, I didn't know where to start, so I found myself hitting up Pandora and just typing famous names like Herbie Hancock or Charlie Parker.  Halfway through the month, things started popping up that I knew I liked, but didn't think was "jazz," only to find out it was (e.g. 30s Swing).  

So, I'm starting to get a handle on what I like within the genre and what I don't.  I'm finding it very hard to like Jazz that's too driven by trumpet players.  That sound just seems to irk me for some reason (sorry Louis Armstrong, just stick to the singing).  

Either way, we're talking 2 months where I've gained appreciation for something new to the point that I want to continue to explore it.  We'll see if we get another month of that and I have to eat some of my words in March, when I'll be taking on the Harry Potter franchise...

2) Learn 12 new recipes (1/month). 

This month I aimed to make some Pesto sauce, and it was pretty good, but I need to go with less oil and less salt (for starters).  I'll keep modifying until it's really good.  Didn't do the Scotch Eggs that I planned...but maybe for March.

3) Do 12 home improvements (1/month).

Dishwasher - When we were buying our home, we were told by the previous owners that the dishwasher never worked when they bought the house.  I've never had one, myself, other than the one my parents bought that lasted less than a year.  So, I really couldn't say for sure, before this, that I could operate a working one.  It was getting really old wasting so much time on dishes, though, and as head dish washer (and dirtier) of our household I needed a reprieve.

I was threatening to buy one, when my wife made the comment that her best friend's mother is really good with them and maybe she could take a look at it.  Well, I didn't want to look like a complete idiot before she came over, so I started reading and taking things apart the Friday my father-in-law, wife, and I went to Pizza Hut.  When I got near wiring and the motor, I ended up cutting off the breaker, and continued to completely disassemble whatever I could (this happened in spurts over 3 well-spaced days).

Eventually I started to get how everything worked, and developed a theory of what happened.  Before I took it apart, I could hear a light hum of the motor, but wasn't sure it worked at all.  I flipped back on the breaker and looked under the bottom panel with the dishwasher on to see the motor was still running and the wheel still spun just fine.  The wheel going to the impeller didn't have the belt on (which broke beneath there), but it wouldn't spin manually either.  So I figured that it jammed and the belt eventually snapped off.

I already had almost everything apart, and did a nice lube, clean, turn, and grease job on that, and went to get a new belt on primary day before voting and running.  After putting it together and anchoring everything back in place, I ran a few cycles to see that it worked and clean it out.  Then I tried it with dishes, and it worked, but I was getting a leak.  I got that sealed up, but a couple of the rubber washers on the hex screws need to be replaced.  They don't drip much (maybe 3-5 drips for a full cycle) but enough to go back and work on.  At some point I should also trade out the water hoses, especially since one got rubbed by the belt (none of them leak yet, though). 

So our early 80s Maytag dishwasher that hasn't run in at least 7 years works and will soon be good as new.  I'd say that's a pretty decent and unlikely improvement to our home.  Also, it will give me a lot of extra time to do other things.  I'm excited about it.

4) Try 12 new restaurants (1/month). 

Five Guys
Not the most classy addition to my restaurant repertoire, but it's still a new place.  I'll try to get some real, honest-to-goodness sit-down and stay restaurants on here eventually.  Then again maybe not...

As far as the running stuff, I haven't been pushing it enough.  I need more daylight for longer runs, and more time.  March will be better once things settle down around here.  There are a lot of work things going on, we had a little health scare here that, thankfully (and hopefully still), was a false alarm, and then there is this little guy....

They both like the girl most, though

He's adorable, and he's been pretty good most of the time, but it's still a bit of work.  He doesn't live up to the name "Renfield," because he's not feeble-minded and obedient.  He's exactly the opposite (strong-willed and smart).  It's going to take a lot of effort to show him who's boss, and he's going to constantly test the boundaries.  He's definitely smart, though, and I'm enjoying having a dog more than I thought I would.

As far as the running, and the whole marathon resolution.  I'll get there.  As soon as the days are longer, I'll be out there more.  I'm in dire need of some speed training right now.  I feel slow.  I tried to ramp up every couple blocks yesterday until I was losing my breath and then I'd back off.  It didn't make me run my route any faster, though.  In fact I got the same exact time that I did just a few days prior.

Other than that I'm now pretty convinced I'm running on a broken toe.  Not a lot to do about it now.  Oh well.
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