Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Watching the thermometer tonight

With about three dozen potted tropical and annual plants outside here at Bill's TN Paradise, I'm not really happy about the frost advisory tonight (4/29/08) for Middle Tennessee.

I really don't expect a serious frost tonight, I'd say 37 F. at the lowest. It was 39 last night and the plants did fine. At 1:30 am, it's still 43.3 degrees, so I'm not too worried

I may plant my tomatoes tomorrow. I have 2 hybrid cherry trees to plant as well.

Local gardeners tip - the Mulch Co. on Lascassas Pike in Murfreesboro sells this stuff called "topsoil compost mixture." It sure looks good but I swear the stuff is toxic. I had planted two large healthy Leyland Cypress trees into that stuff last spring and even with all the watering, they both died - $300 down the drain and no warranty (since I bought them from a private nursery). I dumped half a trailer load of it out back and not even weeds will grow in it. Avoid this stuff!

If you want the best for your vegetable garden, use this stuff available at Home Depot called "mushroom soil". I usually till several bags of it in my vegetable garden.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Collins Gulf in spring -- wildflower season

The Collins Gulf Trail on Monday, April 21, 2008.
(click photo to enlarge)

About a mile from Sutter Falls down the Collins Gulf trail near Gruelti-Laager, TN on the Cumberland Plateau, there is one of the best spring wildflower displays in the state. This year was no exception.

I love the Collins Gulf Trail and claim it as part of Bill's TN Paradise because it is the most remote part of the Savage Gulf Natural Area and it's the trail that you're least likely to see anyone. The Collins Loop is my favorite area hike, about 16 miles. (I put up a web page about this hike with photos). Most people that visit Savage Gulf walk the paved mile trail to Stone Door. It's been years since I've been to Stone Door since it's become a tourist spot. Even worse, there is a development going in at Ranger Falls area of Savage Gulf. However, the Collins remains wild, rugged and natural. It was a gorgeous day for a hike with Tana.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pool opens - summer starts

It's not officially summer yet, but for me it is! The regular academic year ends this week at MTSU and my pool is open and heated... so that means summer vacation here at Bill's TN Paradise!

MTSU had their yearly plant sale and I stocked up with annuals: impatiens, begonias, ferns and other tropicals. Plus, I put out all my tropicals for the season, assuming that it's a good bet we won't see another frost.

Not only are the plants great looking, they also provide a screen giving the pool complete privacy. (Much of the time when it's hot, I can't be troubled to wear much clothing).

Heating the pool has become much less expensive with the electric heat pump as opposed to the old propane heater. I keep the pool around 87 F, and it costs only about $50-75 a month with the electric heater. It was 3 times that with propane heater or more.

All things are back to normal at Bill's TN Paradise after the electricians put back my main electrical service that was knocked down by a falling branch (insurance claim) ... and, I fixed a leak in my hot tub by gluing a complex series of PVC connections. Whew, that saved a $250 service call.

Looking forward to getting my tomato garden started. I ordered several of these "giant tree tomato" plants. They're supposed to grow 8 feet in 3 months. We'll see if they pan out.

Happy spring and happy summer vacation!!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MTSU Guitar Student wins - big time

MTSU Guitar student Silviu Ciulei has just been awarded a full tuition scholarship and a $10,800 stipend to attend Florida State University School of Music for his Masters Degree in Guitar Performance. This is the largest package ever offered by FSU to an incoming Masters level student. The award includes a Graduate Assistantship and a Dean's Fellowship. FSU is one of the finest graduate guitar programs in the US and has placed a great number of it's guitar grads in full-time University teaching positions throughout the US... including me.

Silviu also won Third Prize this weekend at the Appalachian State Univ. Guitar Competition, his second consecutive prize in this competition. This is the Fifth consecutive year that an MTSU student or grad has won a prize in this highly competitive national competition. Some of the programs represented by students in this competition include: Cleveland Institute, Peabody Conservatory, Cal. State Northridge, Manhattan School of Music, etc... it is a big time competition, one of two annual national level competitions in the southeast.

I can't believe it's been 5 years since I met Silviu backstage in Constanta, Romania after my concerto performance with the Black Sea Philharmonic. I knew right away that this kid was extraordinary and wow... has he grown. Since coming to the US, he's gained 4 inches and at least 50 lbs... and some guitar chops to boot.

It's great to see another MTSU grad leave the nest with a huge scholarship. He'll be in good hands at FSU with my old teacher, Bruce Holzman.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Season in review - running Nashville 5k races

It's actually pretty amazing I ran a PR with a slight knee strain. There is no doubt that in a week or 10 days it'll feel 100% and I will be tempted to run. Coach ruined his knee by being stubborn and trying to train through minor pain and he doesn't want to see me do the same. That's why he was pretty adamant about giving it at least 3 full weeks. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, my first day in the pool swimming laps.

The reason I wanted to run in the first place was not to win, but to be fit and be able to run all my life. I did enjoy the races but no point in doing it again until I'm 100%. So, when many are getting geared up for the summer running season, I'm quitting!

As a brand new distance runner, it was a decent "rookie season." I know I'll never be an elite runner, but I'm happy to have participated and to have improved with every race. I ran eight 5ks in just over four months.

My season in review:

Age Group GOLD MEDALS - '08:

Nashville Zoo Run 5K
Runnin' to Beat the Blues 5K, Nashville
Runnin' to Beat the Blues Mile (overall Gold)
Nashville Purity 5k

Other Awards - '07:

Second Prize - Jingle Bell 5K, Nashville
Third Prize - Frostbite 5K, Hendersonville

5K personal record - 19:36

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Purity 5K - eighth straight PR, another Gold

But very little gain...
First Prize in my age group (45-49)
(12th overall out of 360 runners)

It was a hard run with a wicked headwind on the second 1.5 miles on the Greenway levee by the river.

This PR was my smallest gain ever, just one second faster than my previous race. It left me a little depressed, disappointed, feeling that even with a hard effort, no significant gain ... a feeling like I've come to the end, this is it, the best I can do.

Again, I ran a dumb race. My first mile was an insane 5:42. It felt pretty easy. I thought I was in better shape, I thought I could hang for the last mile, but I died, as usual. I was passed by several runners and I only passed one myself in the sprint to the end. If it weren't for that last painful sprint, I would not have had a PR. My knee held up ok. It's not 100% but it stopped hurting after the first few hundred meters. I was also around 2 lbs heavier today than last race (142 lbs) , I'm sure that didn't help.

I don't know if a headwind really makes a difference in a racer's time, but it sure made it feel harder psychologically. Maybe I'll do what coach says and get a heart monitor and take a more clinical approach to training. Coach thinks that I should take 3 weeks completely off to give the knee strain a chance to recover.

I can't complain, it's been a great season. Three age group Gold medals in my last four 5K races (Zoo Run, Beat the Blues, Purity Dairy Dash), and a Gold in the Beat the Blues mile (after my 5K). To this day I still have NEVER run a 5K race that was NOT a PR !! So, the pressure is still on if I choose to race again. It will take a lot of hard work and a fast race course to improve. Maybe I'll just retire "undefeated" ... it's not a competition against anyone, I compete with myself and so far, I've won every time. (Again important to note, there were faster guys in my age group that were counted in the overall masters results).

Thanks to Dirk for the encouragement and advice, thanks to Theresa for running with me (miss you), thanks to Zane for the inspiration and advice, thanks to Jimmy for the camaraderie and competition, and to Lisa ... who instigated this life changing pursuit for me on a suggestion that I should try and run my first 5k back in Dec.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Last race?

So, this weekend might be my last 5K race... the last for a while. Whatever ... it would be good to end with another PR.

I had a few good days of training this week but cut today's intervals a little short. 6 fast halves instead of 8 - I jogged 2, ran 6.

Here was my week:

Sunday -
two miles in 12:36 (6:18 pace)
- rest 10 min -
one and a half miles in 9:35
- rest 10 min -
mile in 6:01
Monday - off
some moderate hiking
Tuesday -
6 miles in 43:07
(7:11 pace)
Wednesday -
1/2 mile warm up
6 halves with 3 min rest/walk in between
2:38, 2:49, 2:50, 2:50, 2:52, 2:49
1/2 mile jog warm down
plan for the rest of the week -
Thurs - off
Friday - two miles - easy, one half - fast
Saturday - Moosic City 5k as I push myself in hopes of one more PR.

There are two races closer to home but I think this run will be more competitive and is certified and chip timed so, I'll be up early Sat.

A high school track friend of mine told me that distance running of a mile and up is all about guts and determination, and not much about speed. I disagree. We have a team member who ran a 4:25 mile in high school. I can't imagine putting 4 consecutive 65 sec quarters together. That IS speed. But for old guys like me with mediocre ability, guts and determination can go a long way.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Burgess Falls by boat

Burgess Falls, April 7, 2008.
Can you see the faint rainbow over my head? I was getting soaked. It felt great. The falls were really rippin' today. An excellent way to spend a Monday afternoon.

A rare approach by boat today. It may be the last time I get up there by boat this year. I hope not, but I hear that the USACE will be keeping the lake low for dam repairs.

I love this place, hope I'm able to return. I've never been here any other way than by boat... although I hear some people drive here in cars. (boring... long drive).

Kudos to Tana, for taking the photo and her bravery in climbing the trail from the base of the falls. It was her first time on my boat and we were pelted by fierce spray as we climbed the steep narrow trail to the top. I'd never seen the falls so powerful and so much spray. Awesome.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Back home. Nice trip, good concert - mission accomplished

Saturday, I performed at the Seventh Annual Radford International Guitar Festival at Radford University in VA.

Also performing on the festival were Carlo Barone (Italy) , Jorge Caballero (Peru) and the Mayes Duo (USA).

I was happy my concert went well since I was playing a substantial and challenging program. I was happy and flattered that Joseph and Kathleen Mayes stayed an extra day to see my concert. Joseph is the President of the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society and invited me to pursue a concert on their series. He had positive comments about my playing.

Such a rainy trip, never saw the sun until I got back to TN today. I hauled ass back, making the 400 mile mile drive in 5 1/2 hrs.

I stopped at Hurricane Bridge over Centerhill Lake and took this photo of my MTSU car. The Impala ran good.

The lake looked higher than I'd seen it in a while so I checked and YES!! It is now high enough access Burgess Falls by boat... and since I have tomorrow off, that's where I'll be - right here.

It's really great to be home and to get this concert behind me and few $$ for my efforts. It almost feels like this is the start of my summer vacation even though we have 2 weeks of school left.

Even while on tour I managed to get a 45 min tempo run in with some hill repeats in those beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Today, I did my scheduled ball buster workout:

2 miles at race pace: 12:36
6:01, 6:35 -mile splits

10 min rest

9:35 mile and a half (3:11 avg/half )
2:55, 3:21, 3:20

10 min rest

6:00 mile (3:00 avg/half )
2:51, 3:08

I couldn't seem to put 2 consecutive sub 3 min halves together today. Probably because I'm a few lbs heavier, thanks to Pam Trent's wonderful after concert dinners. I'm really dubious that I have another PR in me if I run Sat. If I do, a PR will have to be a gut-wrenching effort.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

On the road again, two ways

I'm off to perform my last guitar concert of the season at the Radford University International Guitar Festival. I'll be featured among some great players in including the awesome Jorge Caballero.

Radford, VA looks like a gorgeous little town. Happy to have a University car to drive the 400 miles each way.

It's like living a double life...
Yes, and I also hit the road again today with a hard running workout:

3 miles in 19:30
- 10 min rest -
2 miles in 13:18
- 10 min rest -
1 mile in 6:08

Coach calls this workout "AT1 + AC1" - must be a secret torture code.

Ouch! I can't keep this level of training up for too much longer. I think I will stop racing in May and pick it up again in the late fall. Is another PR possible? I guess I'll find out in the Purity Moosic City Dairy Dash 5K on 4/12.