Crazy Storm

I don’t know if this storm has a name or not. I’ll find out when the power comes back on. I’m sitting by the fire at 6:10 A.M. on Sunday morning (ignore the time of this post-I wrote this in Word and just pasted it into the blog). We haven’t had electricity since this storm started, and I can’t sleep.

There are going to be a lot of stories after this crazy October Nor’Easter, and mine isn’t very special, but I won’t be able to get back to sleep until I get this blog post out of my head. I’ve got some life left in my MacBook’s battery, and I figured that I would document this epic for future generations, or at least so my kids can read it when they learn how.

This was supposed to be the GTD weekend. GTD stands for “getting things done.” We pre-arranged to have our 2-year old and 5-year old spend Saturday night with Grandma and Grandpa Schieffer. We were pre-registered for Sunday’s Busa Bushwhack 10-mile trail race in Framingham, Massachusetts, but as you’ll hear later, the race was postponed. The first blog post of the weekend was supposed to be about the legendary Richard Busa, so I’ll be sure to mention him, even if we aren’t going to the race when the sun rises.

Saturday morning started normal in our household. Our kids were irritable, probably because of Friday’s night’s chaotic Bolton Women’s Club Halloween Party at Center School. 300 kids running around is enough to wind you up, and then let you down.

Regardless, we did our morning ritual. Debbie got out for a short lap of Rose Farm, and I fed our little ones. Upon her return, I got dressed and rolled out of the house on my Cannondale road bike. I’ve been working every Saturday this fall, and riding there has been part of my ritual.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a normal commute. I stopped at Tierney Funeral Home in Manchester to attend the wake of a friend. James Hodges was a renaissance man. He was the spouse of Janit Romayko, who has been one of  my lane mates at the East Hartford High School early morning swim. Ever since I started swimming in early 2009, she has anchored lane one, even if it is only for the last five minutes of the session.

In recent months, she hasn’t attended. James’ cancer had worsened and she was swimming more frequently at a different pool in Tolland. Anyway, Janit has been a long time friend through the running community, but since I started triathlon, I have gotten to know her better.

James obituary doesn’t say it all. Several people told me that it was shortened and wasn’t comprehensive, which is amazing. I love that about the man. Since GTD was the theme of the weekend, James Hodges seemed to epitomize the strategy. He got stuff done. From running, to ski patrolling, to dog rescue, to MG restoration, to boat building, to HAM radio, it was quite a list. Even his career, as a professor, engineering department head, and NASA rocket scientist (no kidding!) was full of activity.

I sadly paid my respects to Janit, his widow, and spouse of 36 years. She will “be tough,” which is my mantra for all things in life. At the end of an Ironman or an ultra, when I can barely speak, that is what I mutter to motivate myself to the finish line. That’s what I told her yesterday.

It was a thrill to meet her mother, who must be in her early-90’s. My grandmother passed away at 95, earlier this year, so these lovely ladies are dear to my heart. I also had the pleasure to meet Zofia Turosz, who is a local running legend and multi-time Boston Marathon 70-74 age group winner. I asked her if she was running the 75th Manchester Road Race this year, and she said, “Of course.” But, she then, in broken English, she said that she was running the New York City Marathon next weekend. So, she had a “little race” to run before Thanksgiving Day.

I didn’t know when I shook her hand that I wasn’t going to see 84-year old Richard Busa on his birthday (today), so I’m glad I saw one ancient runner for inspiration. After meeting her, it was hard to believe that I had just attended a wake. She was so full of life and it left me feeling pretty positive. However, my thoughts go out to Janit and her family at this time of loss.

The funeral procession headed to Hebron for a service, and I remounted my bike and headed to East Hartford. The plan was to work until 2:00 P.M. I knew that snow was in the forecast, but the forecast said starting in the early afternoon with light precipitation, maybe even rain, and then changing to snow and getting heavier by evening. I planned to be home by 4:00 P.M. so that Debbie and I could start some house projects without the kids around.

I was at work by 10:00 A.M. and immediately started cleaning out my Outlook inbox. I retrieved messages, did some desk cleaning, and sent a bunch of e-mails. The time flew by. I ate some nuts to keep me going and before I knew it, it was after 1:00 P.M. Debbie called me. She had gone to Prospect with the kids, made a trip to Ikea in New Haven with her Mom, and returned to Prospect to have lunch. She said that it was snowing like crazy and the roads were treacherous. Hmmm, I was thinking,  “that happened fast.” Prospect is a suburb of Waterbury and is up at almost 800 feet elevation, so when early storms hit, they get hammered.

It looked like this storm was rolling in faster than forecast and was catching people off guard. She asked if it was snowing in East Hartford. I said I didn’t know. She offered to pick me up, but said that it was going to be an hour or two because the traffic was horrendous. I was focused on riding home, so I declined the offer. I told her I would get going soon. I got up, and looked outside. The roads were wet, but it didn’t look like any flakes were coming down. Maybe they did for a little while, but it seemed to have stopped. Maybe it started as rain, and predicted.

I went back to my desk and finished the list of stuff I was working on. I layered up, locked the building, and went outside. It had started to snow lightly again. I had ridden in conditions like this many times and figured that it would snow and melt for the next couple of hours, which would give me adequate time to ride home on a longer route through Glastonbury. I wanted to avoid East Hartford and Manchester traffic.

I rode along the river and then over to Main Street. I headed for Glastonbury and by the time I got to Pratt & Whitney, it was snowing like crazy. The flakes were falling behind my glasses and getting in my eyes. The flakes were huge. The one adjustment I made was to ride faster, so I put it in the big ring and just kept rolling.

By the Glastonbury town line, I was amazed at how much snow was coming down. This was the proverbial “one inch per hour” kind of snow that causes gridlock on city streets. Before I got to Main Street in Glastonbury, there was ½ inch layer of slush on the road and I had only been riding for 20 minutes. I stopped under a bridge to clean the ice off of my eyeglasses and snap a few photos.

I got rolling again. Cars were driving by and splashing me with the slush. Every soccer Mom in Glastonbury was out. After all, Saturday’s in October are about soccer, pumpkins, and Halloween preparation. Through the whiteout, I could barely make out an SUV pulled off the opposite side of the road. The driver was flashing her lights and had her window down. I was listening to my iPod under a hat with ear flaps and a helmet, so I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but I knew she was yelling. I assumed she was offering a ride, but I waved her off and kept rolling.


I got to Main Street and crossed over on the backside of Whole Foods. There was a lot more traffic than I expected. Things were getting hairy. Before I rounded the bend towards Hebron Ave., the same SUV pulled up alongside me. She had her passenger side window down and through the blinding snow, I could see her yelling. I pulled the earphone out of my ear and clearly made out that she was offering me a ride. I thanked her profusely and waved her off again, but doubt was setting in.

She had a bike rack on the back. I had 8-10 miles to go, depending on which route I took. I had already decided against going up Hebron Ave. to Birch Mountain. I had settled on Spring Street. She turned around in a parking lot and headed the other way. I waved and thanked her again.

Then, I thought, “What am I thinking.” This is nuts. I turned into the Whole Foods parking lot and considered going in. Then, I went back to Main St. and cut over to Cycling Concepts. I racked my bike in front of the shop and went inside. I cleaned off my glasses and pulled out my Blackberry. My thumbs weren’t working on the touchscreen. I was getting chilled. I was able to dial with the keyboard (mercy!) and called Debbie. She was on the road, but she said she hadn’t even gotten to I-84 yet and had to re-route three times already because of stuck vehicles.

I didn’t want to stand there for another 90 minutes wet and cold, so I told her that I would continue on as far as I could and then call her again. I told the one guy in the bike shop that I was “going for it.” I put my wet gloves back on  and headed up Hebron Ave. My goal was to at least get to Highland Park Market II and then call Debbie. Going up Hebron Ave. was insane. There was so much traffic. By the time I got to Addison Road, my chain was skipping. My cogs had become a block of ice. There were piles of leaves lining the streets that were now covered in snow/ice/slush, so the shoulder was very short. I thought to myself, “idiot.”

I slip-slided my way into the Rockville Bank parking lot and spotted Piatti restaurant. I had never been inside, but it looked welcoming. I went in and asked if I could hang out in the waiting area until my ride came. The two servers in the desolate restaurant, said, “Sure.” I think there were patrons at two tables. I couldn’t get phone reception, so I walked around the parking lot until I got “one bar.”

I got a hold of Debbie and we could barely hear each other. She told me later that all she made out was, “Glastonbury…Rockville…Bank.” I crossed my fingers and went back inside. I read some e-mail on my phone and then the waiter asked if I was a triathlete. His name was Benjamin. We had a nice chat, though for the first five minutes, I was slurring because my jaw had frozen.

The chatting made the time go by quicker. I was shivering, but glad to be inside. After an hour or so, Debbie pulled into the parking lot and spotted my bike leaning against the restaurant wall. She used the restroom and I got the bike into the back of the car. We bid farewell to the Piatti staff after I plugged the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes with Benjamin.

The drive home was slow and slippery. We arrived to a house without power. I used some of the remaining well water for a hot shower (don’t tell Deb!) and put on four layers of fleece and a pair of wool socks. I started our propane fireplace for the first time this year. It took some work to get the gas to flow. In the two hours since I left the shop, more than four inches of heavy, wet, snow had fallen.

After a candlelight dinner, we set to work. We donned our headlamps and cleaned our bedroom closet. This had been on the to-do list for some time. It took nearly three hours to purge the stuff I was going to donate. I filled two bags with race shirts and other items. I reorganized and dusted all of the shelves.

When we were done, we packed up our stuff for the Busha Bushwhack. We planned to leave at 6:30 A.M. this morning. Debbie had very little power left in her iPhone, but enough to check the Framingham Running Club website. The Bushwhack was postponed. Bummer. Then we checked the Hairy Gorilla website. The Albany Running Club posted that the park had cancelled their race. Double bummer. We need two more races to get our minimum six required for the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. Busa was supposed to be five and Mt. Toby, in two weeks, was supposed to be six. We were already lucky because Toby, was postponed from August because of Hurricane Irene.

Irene may be a saving grace. In August, we only briefly lost power, when others in Bolton were out for nearly a week. Debbie said that we were paying the price now. We went to bed by 9:00 P.M. but dejected about the race. We had child care lined up so we could both run. Triple bummer.

We did some reading and went to sleep. I figured that I would go for 10-12 hours, which I needed. Without kids to get us up at 5:00 A.M., I dreamt that there was a silver lining in all of this storm stuff. At 5:15 A.M., the battery in our CO2 detector died and started beeping every 30 seconds. At first, we thought it was a smoke detector. With our headlamps, we got out our ladder and checked the first smoke detector before realizing our error.

I trudged to the basement for a 9-volt battery and made the change. Since I had the ladder out, I cleaned some cobwebs and dead bugs from the inside of a lamp. We returned to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I started this blog post in my head. I told Debbie I was going downstairs to sit by the fire, and that’s where I am right now.

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