Friday, July 26, 2013

A Celebration of the Pedroia Deal

As you know by now, Dustin Pedroia signed an extension with the Red Sox that will keep him playing in Fenway until he's 38. At first glance, this seems like another one of those absurd long-term baseball contracts that never seem to pan out at the end (A-Rod, Pujols, etc.). But there's a couple of mitigating circumstances that seem, to me, to make the deal a good one. They are:
  • The compensation is a bell curve. Rather than the most expensive years of the contract coming at the tail end, Dustin will be making his most money in the middle of the deal (2017-2019) and only (only?) 13 and 12 mil respectively in 2020 and 2021. This becomes even more important when you take into account the endlessly escalating salaries for players. if Pedroia is an average player at the end of this contract, the Sox will most likely be paying for an average player.
  • The Sox are averaging out the cost of his early years. Most arguments against these types of deals is that the teams are "paying for past performance. While i'm sympathetic to that argument, the fact is that Pedroia was a steal for many years. Fire Brand of the American League took at look at his 2008:
    In 2008 he had 213 hits, 54 doubles, 17 home runs, 20 stolen bases (and was only caught stealing once), and an outstanding .326/.376/.493 slash line. He posted an outstanding 6.9 WAR and was the starting second baseman for the AL All Star team. In addition to that, he took home the Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and MVP awards. All of this from a player who celebrated his 25th birthday during the season, and pocketed a salary of just $457,000.
    So we can see his bigger salaries as evening out the cost of his earlier years. Of course, there's no guarantee that Pedroia will continue to be the excellent player that he currently is. But even if he becomes average, the value of the contract can be averaged out by looking at how much of a bargain he was for many years.
  • He'll be the face of the franchise. Currently, the only reason Dustin is not the main man on the Sox is the presence of one certain Large Father. But as impressive as Ortiz' late career resurgence has been, he won't be wearing the B for much longer and then Pedroia will be the main man on the team. Does this make sense from a baseball perspective? No. But from a business perspective - from the eyes of the owners who need to sell the team - it's a big deal to have a much-loved role model as the face of the franchise. I love the fact that "our guy" will be a 5'8" firecracker rather than some "perfect" player that has half of his personality.
  • Attitude. As a fan, I love how Pedroia plays the game. With passion, spunk, and unrelenting effort. I love the fact that he has never once talked or complained about his contract or how much money he has made. I love the fact that despite he's one of the best players in the league, he actively pursued a new deal that made him a Sox for live, regardless of the money. As he put it himself:
  • It was a no-brainer to me. This was a place where they gave me an opportunity to play professional baseball. I want to make sure I do all I can to prove to those people who take a chance on me right. I'm not here to set markets or do anything like that. I want to make sure the team I'm on wins more games than the other team's second baseman. That's the way I look at it.
Anyways, that's just details. In the end, I just love watching the guy play. I'm excited to know that Pedroia will be in Boston until he retires - it's just no fun watching your favorite players go to other teams. So for the next 10 years, you'll find me wearing my #15 shirt and rooting for the little guy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Grandeur Peak

While taking a trip to Utah last week, I decided to hustle my way up to the top of Grandeur Peak, using the steeper trail from the west.  Eric has generously encouraged me to call this activity "running."

I decided to hit the trail before dawn, figuring that nobody would be around to see this slow East Coaster make his way up the mountain.  But as I got out of my car and got my bearings, a couple of trucks pulled up, and some guys jumped out, started their watches, and began running toward the trail.  There was no chance I'd be keeping up.

I nearly did turn my activity into a real run, though, when I missed the Grandeur Peak trailhead and just kept jogging along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.  After about five minutes, it hit me that this wasn't what a 29% grade was supposed to feel like.  I turned around and found my way to the single track trail that went straight up that mountain.

Within 1/2 mile I was huffing and puffing pretty hard.  I looked at my watch and found I was only 800 feet.  2,500 more feet to go.  I decided if I was going to make it to the top, I'd better stop and take more pictures along the way.  Luckily, 2013 has been an unusually wet year for Utah, and the trailside was covered in green and flowers, so I had plenty of opportunity.

A half mile from the the top, I spotted the two dudes who had beat me out the gate, now tearing down the trail toward me.  I stepped off the trail to let them pass, and they stepped off at the same time to let me pass.  "I don't like to let strangers see my fall on face," one of them offered.  "That's why I came alone," I countered.

Still closer to the top, I heard a click-click behind me, and turned around to see a guy speeding to toward me using mountaineering poles.  How long he had been following me, I had no idea.  I was grateful to take yet another break and let him pass.  I would see him again on his way down.

Other than some amazing views, the top of the peak was pretty unremarkable.  I lingered for a while, looking at Salt Lake City from a kilometer up, then turned back down the trail.

Coming back down didn't take much energy.  It was all about coordination, trying not to fall while letting gravity do the rest.  I did fall once (not on my face, luckily) but that's because I was trying to take a drink of water while running, instead flailing my arms around to the sides like a maniac.  Of course, I also took more pictures on the way down.

Other than the steep grade, the trail was not overly technical.  It had its rocky moments, and was grown over with scrub oak in a few place.  My Brooks Cascadias did a great job of biting into the loose trail and keeping me from sliding down the trail.   Impressively, I didn't see even the tiniest piece of trash on this popular trail.  We in the East could take a lesson from Utah.  (Now, if only Utahns would learn the meaning of switchbacks...)

Summer Running Gear

Here in the nation's capital, we've been having an unusually hot, humid summer.  It started the first weekend of June -- the weekend of The North Face Endurance Challenge -- when temperatures reached 91 degrees with an average humidity of 57%.  Since then, the temperatures have kept and rising, and so has the humidity, which often hovers in the 80-90% range during the day.

So, what running gear works in this kind of weather?

So far, I've been happy wearing the same shoes and socks.  My road shoe are Brooks Launch, and my trail shoes are Brooks Cascadia 8 and Inov-8 Roclite 295.  Drymax Lite trail running socks continue to be go to socks, whether I am on the road or the trails.  But what about the rest?

Salomon trail running shorts are absolutely the best shorts I've found.  They are super light, comfortable, don't bunch up, and don't chafe.

On top, I've taken a page from fellrnr and am wearing the Under Armour long sleeve shirt.  It evaporates sweat quickly, and it keeps the suns rays from beating directly on my skin.  Whenever there is even a slight breeze, it feels icy cool.  I've also been impressed by my North Face technical T-shirt with FlashDry technology.  It does what it says.

My Maui Jim Hot Sands sunglasses absolutely rock.  I wore them on the 50-miler and they never felt heavy or tiresome, never too dark or light, crystal clear vision the whole way.  Love them.

I have a love-hate relationship with headwear in general.  I'd rather not have anything on my head, but a visor does keep the sweat from dripping all over my face.   The Patagonia visor I wear has a nice wide headband, and comes in white, which can get a bit grungy looking, but reflects the heat.

On long runs I continue to use a Nathan HPL 020 race vest.  Super comfortable, very light, very breathable.  It never gets hot or sweaty on my back or underneath the straps.  I love having the multiple pockets up front.  No wonder its the favorite of ultra runners everywhere. My only complaint is the slightly leaky reservoir that came with it, which I've since swapped out with a Camelbak reservoir.

Questions about any of the above gear?  Favorites of your own you want to share?  Leave a comment!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Block Island Running 2013

Block Island is a small island off the coast of Rhode Island that is only accessible by ferry. Perhaps for that reason, it is, in my opinion, the perfect ecosystem; a perfect mix of town, open space (over 43% of the island is protected from development), beach, and shrubland.

On my vacation the last two years, I focused on running on the road or beach. This year, however, I really wanted to take advantage of Block Island’s trails. The Greenway, named after the famous UK walking trails,  consist of ~25 miles of trails that wind all over the island – a lot of coverage for an island that’s only about 10 square miles. Since I knew from previous experience that the trails were not well marked, I spent a lot of time studying the maps before I headed out. I was helped by the fact that our rental home was in the heart of the island right next to a major trail (near Turnip Farm).
Trail Entrance
Block Island trails feel incredibly remote, even when paralleling roads. The only other beings I saw on the trails was one runner, numerous deer (BI has a serious deer overpopulation, countless birds, and an a rooster defending his chicks.

My first outing was a combination of roads and the Fresh Swamp Trail. This served as my introduction to the themes of Block Island trail running: extreme humidity, lots of bugs, rolling terrain, and lots of brush to duck and weave around.

On my second run, I hit the beach around the southwest corner of the island. As you can see, the bluffs are dramatic and served as a nice backdrop as I labored through the sand. I had assumed there would be a trail up the cliffs to the Elizabeth Dickens Trail, but this did not exist, so I had to run to Black Rock Point where I found a path up to what turned out to be Black Rock Road. Unfortunately, there were no markers and I turned left when I should have turned right and ended up hopelessly lost in the meadows.  (It didn't help that I had no GPS signal!) Eventually, I made my way Lewis Farm Road (with a minimum of bushwhacking) which lead me back home. The lesson: verify your beach access points before you start out!

The third run I hit up the Rodman’s Hollow loop, a dramatic basin that's only 20 feet above sea level. Despite laboring up and down some intense hills in massive humidity it was a nice run with a fantastic view north towards the end. Afterwards, I ran down Black Rock Road - a disused dirt road perfect for hiking - and enjoyed the views of the southern part of the island.
Path down to the Beach
My favorite run was heading north through Turnip Farm past the Island Cemetery and all the way to the Coast Guard Station. These trails were the most poorly marked, mainly because there are a large number of small spur trails. Still, these were perhaps the most fun, and led to at least one amazing view over the airport towards Old Town. These trails were diverse, and mainly went along the stone walls that you see wherever you look.
One of many Stone Walls
As much as I'd like to say I finished off with a bang, by the end of the week the hard living was catching up with me, so my last run was a short a short run to and from Dories Cove for a (extremely cold!) swim. On the way back the trail took me past old Dodge Cemetery which lived in the bushes above our house.

The Trail past Dodge Cemetery
In conclusion, if you find yourself on Block Island, there's no doubt you should explore the trails - they're fun, challenging, and lead you to areas of the island that feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the town and famous beaches. Just be sure to take along a map and a compass!

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