I wish I could say the nine months since my return from California were a wonderous and magical time full of incredible beer tasting and amazing trails in western Tennessee, but they just weren’t. If anything, as COVID cases rose with the autumn and winter, we isolated and hunkered down once again in the closing months of 2020. Let’s just call this the dark ages.
Alright, maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic here. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but the days were monotonous, the weather dark and brooding, and the pandemic rolled on. Ok, there were some good beers in there such as Crosstown Brewing‘s Solstice Stout, a mint chocolate stout, and Hatch Me Outside, a delicious blonde ale made from Hatch chilis. (seriously, it tastes a lot better than in sounds). Beyond all this though, the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal period was my Christmas present of an Ooni Koda 16 gas fired pizza oven. Now up until this point I used my old school Weber charcoal grill to cook pizzas. My Ooni was a game changer. Now I was making pizza at the next level. It was like going from playing Pop Warner football to being in the NCAA. And my pizzas, well, were nothing short of delicious ALL THE TIME. Not to mention all of the ingredients were hand selected and usually originated in Italy. It was sheer pizza heaven. In order to fully enjoy this carb explosion, however, I would clearly need to up my training game.
I found the solution to the Ooni’s carb avalanche in the form of low heart rate running, following the training methodology of Dr. Phil Maffetone and his “Maffetone Method”. Essentially, his concept follows the idea that you don’t run above a certain heart rate based on his formula of 180 minus your age, which in my case is 135 beats per minute. It seemed like a challenge; I didn’t have any races to run; and besides, why not try something new? So I did. For the next few months I focused my runs on that magic number of 135. Anytime my heart rate hit or went above 135, I stopped and walked. Talk about humbling! I went from 8 minute miles to 13 minute miles as I slumped along my usual run routes in Tennessee. While I never quite mastered the concept, I did become quite humbled in the process and learned a thing or two about gratitude and running. I can’t really explain it or provide any scientific data, but on the runs I thought of and focused on what I am grateful for, my heart rate usually stayed lower for longer. I don’t know if I will be a faster or stronger runner in the long term, but I can say because of this period, I am a more grateful runner as a result.
As I dabbled in low heart rate training the months marched on. Winter roared into the mid-south by February 2021 unlike anything our family had experienced in six or seven years. Within a week temperatures plummeted to nearly 0 degrees Fahrenheit, snow piled up in feet with multiple storms barreling through, and I retreated to the now nearly freezing garage to ride my bike trainer. Then it hit me—I own cross country skis! Yes, despite not having used them for over a decade, I still had my cross country skis that I bought in Germany over 20 years ago. When we arrived in Tennessee, my wife gave me an ultimatum: use them or lose them as we’d dragged them around for the last 6 years. I thought they were gonners. Then mother nature intervened. For four days I went out and cross country skied my old running routes, getting my ski legs back and having delusions of nordic skiing grandeur. If anything, cross country skiing broke up the monotony of running the same loop again and again on our little base. It was a nice reprieve and saved me from nearly killing myself on the snow-ice mix that lay on us. Then as quickly as it came, winter departed with all of the snow melting within 48 hours leaving a big wet mess. Finally March arrived, and once again we prepared to move.
Another move? Yes, another move. This time completing our trek back to the east coast with orders to Norfolk, Virginia. Once again we prepared for movers; once again they came, packed us up, and we drove east. Not much fanfare this time, no great cross country odyssey to detail. In two days with two cars (fully loaded up) we made our way across Tennessee and North Carolina to take a week’s vacation in Duck, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks. It was a welcome rest after the stress of the month’s move and transition east. The highlight however, was the legendary Duck Donuts, which we naturally migrated right to. Words can’t begin to explain how good these donuts were. Let the pictures help. Of course there was also beer, as we checked Outer Banks Brewing in Kill Devil Hills and Northern Outer Banks Brewing in Corolla. The highlight by far, however, was a visit to the local Brew Thru, drive through liquor store in Kitty Hawk. This marvelous and efficient creation allows drivers to pull up into a hangar, order, pay, and receive their beer without ever leaving the comfort of their car. Talk about sheer genius! We picked out a six pack of another local beer from Lost Colony Brewing, their Kitty Hawk Blonde, to try. We weren’t disappointed either. The light, crisp taste was a perfect beach-playing, vacation-resting beer watching the girls play. Then before we knew it, the week was over, and we headed the two hours north to Norfolk and to our new home.
Since the beginning of April it’s been all about getting things put together, unpacked, and organized. The girls go to in person day care and kindergarten, the wife went back to work, and I found myself home alone with the dog for the first time in over a year. Life really returning to normal once again. Just when I started to get comfortable again, the Army Reserve called. I was needed to observe an exercise for my annual two weeks of training. Having served in the Army for over 20 years I was use to this sort of thing, but what I wasn’t use to was the location. I would be going to the island of Oahu in Hawaii for 14 days. It was time for another great adventure!