Saturday, August 29, 2009

Record Player Needle!

Hey everyone - guess what? I finally got a new needle for my record player! I broke the old one back while school was still in session, and even before that the speed setting on the player was broken. In essence, it's been forever since I've been able to listen to any of my records.

I had hoped to be able to find a needle for my record player while I was in Chicago; I had no idea how hard of a task that would be. See, I was under the impression there were a few different kinds of needles, but they were basically universal. Boy, was I wrong. After being rejected at a few different stores, I decided I would just try and find one online - again, a very difficult task. I discovered a nice company that "carries every needle made since 1930", and set out to find mine on there. This involved running up and down the basement stairs about five times, because I kept forgetting either the company's name or the model number. Eventually, I found the manufacturer and started browsing inventory. Of course, they didn't have my exact model. I gambled and got a look-alike, with a similar model number.

Despite the site saying it would take 1-2 days after shipping, a week later I still had no needle. I was getting upset, and relieved to see an email from the seller. Turns out the guy misread my address, and I had to spell out all the numbers for him. Fast forward 5 more days, and I got the needle! Yay!

Needless to say, I'll be spending a lot of my time hanging out in the basement, listening to the awesome sound of vinyl and playing pool and video games. Hey, it's better than playing "bejeweled" for four hours straight!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cedar Point

Hello, BW readers. Lots has happened in the past few weeks! Of course, you all know I went to Chicago, but it's been almost 2 weeks since then - I'm afraid I waited too long to write a post about going there.

A more recent, very awesome event was going to Cedar Point this last Wednesday. For those who don't live in the Mid-West, Cedar Point is an amusement park known for having one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world, the "Top-Thrill Dragster". They also have the record for most coasters in one park, 17. In other words, they are incredibly freaking awesome.

I went with my mother, one of her teacher friends, and Courtney. The four hour ride there was uneventful, but still fun. Once we got there, we headed over to "The Mantis", one neither my mother nor I had been on yet. The sign at the end of the line said it would be an hour and 3/4 to the ride, but it barely took and hour. A good thing, too; it wasn't that great of a roller coaster.

I don't really wish to bore you by describing each and every ride we went on, so I'll go with only one: the last one of the night, the one they're known for. The "Top-Thrill Dragster". My mom wouldn't even go on it with us, and she's not exactly a wimp when it comes to rides. I wouldn't have gone on it at all, but Courtney forced me to. The line was about an hour long, and it was a long hour indeed.
It may not look impressive in that picture, but let me tell you - it is. 420 feet tall, and gets going up to 120 mph almost as soon as you start moving.

I spent most of the wait panicking, because the closer to the actual ride you get the more you can tell about it. We timed it: it was less than 10 seconds from start to finish, and after half a second the car was already up to top speed (they had a radar gun thingy display on a screen).

The worst part of the wait was definitely a sign seen halfway through the line, with various safety instructions. The final one wasn't concerning safety, however; it was about "rollbacks". Apparently, sometimes they don't get it going fast enough on the first try, and it stops at the top. They then lower it back to the start slowly, and send you back on up again. I think the sign was there to reassure you this was normal and safe, but it didn't work for me. The only thing making it seem like you aren't perpendicular to the ground is the speed, and being lowered to the ground slowly would counteract that. Scary.

We finally got on, and were moved toward the starting line. It's supposed to have a drag racing theme, so it has a "1,2,3, GO!" light system set up and lots of noises. We had to wait for the car in front of us to be launched, and then got to sit and wait. The lights were really fast, so by the time you saw them you were pretty much already moving.

It...was...AWESOME. I loved it. I loved the feeling of acceleration, I loved slowing down at the top enough to be able to talk to Courtney for a split second ("My ears just popped - OH SH-!!!"), and I loved plummeting straight towards the ground at really high speeds.

The only thing I didn't like, actually, was the fact it twisted on the way down; it would have been much more dramatic had you seen the ground rushing towards you the entire time, instead of being spun towards the boring steel supports. Still, an awesome ride.

After the thrill of a lifetime, we headed home. I valiantly tried to stay awake the whole four hours - and keep Courtney up against her will, for company - but I wound up crashing around one. I slept in until about 1:30 in the afternoon on Thursday, too.

I can't wait until next time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Half-Marathon

WOOHOOO!!!! I ran the half-marathon on Sunday. For those not in the know, my mom and I (as well as a few of her friends) have been in the training for a half-marathon the last 6 months or so. The training has been brutal, but it's also paid off.

It was the Rock & Roll Half-Marathon, with live bands every mile. Of course, that really sweetened the idea of doing this run. I love rock, and what better way to run than while enjoying it?

I'll admit this right away: I didn't run the whole thing. Bummer, but I made it all the way to the 11th mile marker before having to stop for a walking break. Considering the furthest distance I had ran previous, without walking stops, was 3.2 miles, 11 miles is absolutely insane. In all, I ran about 12 of the 13.1 miles, with a time of 2 hours, 33 minutes, and 22 seconds. Yes, the seconds matter.

This is the course of the race, for reference:It wound through first the streets of downtown Chicago, and then along the water. At points, you could see the fastest runners on their way back from the loop, which was cool.

They had 21 delayed start corrals, each with about 1000 people in them. I was in corral 20, along with my mom and a few of her friends. By the 10K mark, I had passed a person we knew in the 17th corral, meaning I had moved forward 3,000 people. I started with a pace group of 3:15 (we would finish at three hours and 15 minutes). I ended with the 2:30 group, an incredible span of time to move ahead.

Actually, it was a really enjoyable run until the 10K mark. I had no trouble breathing, my legs didn't hurt, and I didn't get any cramps from lack of breathing. unfortunately, around that point, I started to have horrible stomach cramps, the kind many get when they run long distance. It was bearable, but made what could have been a fun run not so much fun.

I stopped for a walking break at mile 11 because my legs hurt incredibly bad. They had started aching around mile 8, but it was practically unbearable by that point. I walked for about half a mile, but the pain in my legs wouldn't go away. I started to run again, figuring I could make up for a bit of lost time. When my heart started feeling really funky, like it was missing a beat, I stopped again. Scary, huh? I walked another half mile or so, with a few little bursts of running here and there.

Finally, during the last half mile, I had a realization: my legs hurt just as bad whether I was running or walking. I figured running would just get me to the end, and end the pain a little, faster. I ran from that point on, but kept close watch on how my body felt, especially my heart.

When I got to the final stretch, surrounded by families of runners and people who had already finished, I was incredibly relieved. Despite that, the race wasn't over yet.

The P.A. system was blasting rock songs, tying in with the theme of the marathon. All of a sudden, the song "Pinball Wizard" by The Who came on. It's one of my favourite songs to run to, and it inspired me to use up that last little bit of energy I had to sprint the last 100 yards or so.

I finished, as mentioned, with a time of 2 hours and 33 minutes. Everyone who was with me kept telling me how amazing that was, and how amazing it is that I made it 11 miles without stopping. However, I'm not going to say it was amazing. I say it was an amazing tribute to the stupidity and stubbornness of a 14-year old boy. Only one of us could manage to do something so incredibly painful and dumb as this, without stopping and realizing that at some point.

Finishing was, well, an incredible relief. I was tired, in incredible pain, but I did it. My legs still hurt, three days later, and I move like a 70 year old man. But it was worth it.