2018 Race Recap: #7 Old Fashioned Ten Miler

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I’ve known this guy since 1984.  34 years. Hard to believe that there was a time that neither of us had gray hair. 

February races in New England are always a crap shoot. Last night, there was a predicted 3-6″ of snowfall expected in Foxborough, Massachusetts but temperatures by race time were expected to be in the 40’s.  Crap shoot.

Come race time, it was as predicted.  Snowfall had been pretty on point, temps had been on point, and therefore the expected snow melt and patchy streets were pretty much on point.  To be perfectly honest, I was actually really impressed with the work the Foxborough Highway Department had clearly put in to street clearing.

The OFTM is but one race today. I wouldn’t call it a “running festival” (like anyone really likes running or considers it a festival), but it is a combination event: a 5k, a 10-miler and a combination event. So you have a choice between the “Flat 5k,” “The Old Fashioned Ten Miler,” or doing them both for a combination half marathon dubbed the “Badass Combo.”  I do wonder how the residents feel about having “Badass Combo” signs plastered about, but that’s not my circus (or festival as the case may be).

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It’s good to have friends .

I did the “Badass Combo” last year: Crushed the 5k for what was then a personal record, but bonked hard on the ten miler.  I hadn’t eaten properly so my nutrition was off, I was cramping up and it felt like I walked far more than I actually ran.  I don’t know if it was the 20-25 minutes or so between races or, more than likely, a combination of a bunch of deleterious circumstances. The end result was a 1:36:00 (or so) finish for the OFTM and just over 2:00:00 for the combo.  I was trying to decide what to do this year, but in the end decided that I wasn’t going to spend $40 on a 5k entry just to get a swanky medal, so I went strictly with the 10-Miler.

I ran at a pretty quick pace for the first 2 miles or so, settled into my pace for the next five miles or so, but at mile 8 I just hit a mental block and decided I had to walk for a bit.  No real explanation: I was running at about an 8:48 pace for the previous 2-miles, the first of which was generally flat, the second was a gain of all of 26′, mile 8 had a gain of 26′ as well, but I just couldn’t carry myself over that hump.  By mile 9 I had pulled myself together back to an 8:40 (downhill again!) and mile 10 was my fastest of the day at 8:05.  It was a struggle at the end though, because I knew I was burning fuel pretty good, but I really wanted to smash the finish.

There were a  few finish line shots I could have used here that were technically better pictures, but this one doesn’t show my pudgy belly quite as ostentatiously as the others. Also, it does a nice job of demonstrating I didn’t finish last.

At days end, it wound up being my third fastest 10-mile effort (according to Strava), so not a complete bomb. Not as fast as I had hoped to be, but even my half-assed effort at mile 8 didn’t keep me from hitting that.  I really needed to be at about 8:20 pace and that wasn’t happening today.  I feel good about it though, I haven’t been running nearly as many long runs as I know I should, so this was a personal victory. My muscles felt good, and I still had some juice after 9 miles to hit that 8:05 pace – no small victory for me.  In the greater scheme of things, I finished pretty much in the middle of the pack. I’ll take it.

 

Weather: Averaged about 40-degrees, clear, breezy, but sunny.  Some melting snow.

Place:  174 of 435 (39.7%)
Gun Time: 1:26:33.84
Chip Time: 1:26:17.85
Gender Place: 115
Age Grp: M 40-49  30 of 49
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2018 Race Recap: #6 CMS 52-Week 5k

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This is the first time this year I’ve raced the course counter-clockwise. I’m usually much faster going clockwise: the first mile or so is downhill, and then the elevation gain is slow and gradual. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a relatively flat course anyway, but there is some elevation change.  Running clockwise gives me that pronounced elevation loss to get my pace up and just burn through the first half of it.  Running counter-clockwise has always posed me some issues.  It starts out pretty flat, the elevation loss is gradual (the reciprocal of the clockwise course, obvi) and then a half mile of the last .8 of the course it just up.  Again, not “UP”…but up.  Suffice to say, the better runners in the group seem to like the counter-clockwise better; the less well heeled runners, the clockwise direction. As you’ll see below, my track record going in this direction is spotty and erratic.  At least one of the times – February 11, 2017 – was affected by a snowpacked course: I wore obstacle course specific shoes to maintain some traction on the street, but even without that outlier my paces are uneven.

It was pretty chilly to start – about 28 degrees: when you’re standing around a sweatshirt leaves you still a little cold, but warm enough that choosing gear is a bit of a challenge. Should I take off the Under Armour? Will a cold weather shirt suffice?  Gloves? No gloves today, sweatshirt and cold weather shirt.  Athletic pants.  All of which seemed to be the right choice for me as I was neither overheated or cold.  One caveat: while running the Upton State Forest Half Marathon last year,  I wiped out and skinned my knee and (I think) broke my left pointer finger. It hasn’t felt right since, and it has been the first finger to get noticeably cold since.

On the “go” command, I was off at a decent clip.  I had my watch under my sleeve as I was using the sleeve to cover my hands in lieu of gloves so I really couldn’t see the pace or time. I was just running.  I kept up with the fast kids for a short moment, but they were gone pretty quickly.  At the first mile the watch vibrated, so I pulled up my sleeve to see and it was about a 7:20 pace.  That astonished me.  The second mile was about a 7:40 pace, quite astonishing to me.  Ah, but June Street.  That point when running clockwise is a nice shot down, is much less friendly to me when it’s a harrowing shot up.  I just couldn’t maintain my pace, and slowed way down.  I finished that mile with an 8:20 or so pace, so not horrible in terms of my usual pace, but certainly enough to kill my shot at a sub-24 minute race.

The upshot is that I ran a pretty strong race overall, faltered a bit toward the end, but still wound up with a personal record for the Counter-Clockwise direction and truly for the course in either direction overall.  It was a good race day.  Overall, I finished in the middle of the pack, 10th of about 21 or 22.  9th was within my grasp, but I was outflanked by a far better runner – finishing as close behind him is a personal victory to begin with,  never mind having had the chance to finish ahead of him.  So, I’ll add that to my awards case too.

Weather

28 Degrees and Clear.

Clockwise Direction (Last 5):

February 17: 24:22
October 21, 2017: 25:13
March 18, 2017: 24:42
February 11, 2017: 26:17
January 28, 2017:  24:48

Learn to play in the tall grass.

Image result for “If you want to play with the big boys, you’ve got to learn to play in the tall grass.” tom brady
“If you want to play with the big boys, you’ve got to learn how to play in the tall grass.”

The evening of February 3, 2002 was a magical time, truly one of disbelief.  That was the evening the New England Patriots became Super Bowl Champions for the first time, led by 24-year old Tom Brady. This is a guy who truly lived the embodiment of what I preach to myself all the time: do the things you need to do to put yourself in position when that big break happens.

He was the 199th draft pick in the 2000 draft: he was never the #1 guy, but he worked incredibly hard and kept working hard.  He even had a back up plan in case football didn’t work out for him.  He was a 4th string QB for the Patriots that 2000 season.  Think about it: the team which almost never carries three QBs carried four. They liked him.  They liked his drive, his intelligence, but also knew he wasn’t quite ready to carry the load.  He earned his shot and he kept earning it.

By that fateful game in 2001 that ended Drew Bledsoe’s run as starter in New England, Brady had worked his way up to second on the depth chart. Work ethic, and determination at play.   All the reps with the practice squad, all the time studying film.  Everything he did positioned him to be there when fate called.

My wife and I went to game 10 on the season, the St. Louis Rams at the New England Patriots, and I remember saying to her that this would be the Pats’ Super Bowl – the Rams looked unbeatable, world class.  Indeed, the Pats lost that game by a touchdown, but on the way home we agreed that they looked really good and had a decent chance to win.  They wouldn’t lose again that season.

Why, some 16-years later, on the eve of Tom’s 8th Super Bowl appearance, am I writing about THIS game?

It serves to highlight what I hope to be. I hope to best position myself to take advantage of that big break should it come.  I hope to be positioned through doing the work I need to do to be ready.  One doesn’t just wake up and run a marathon, or even ten miles as I learned this morning after having taken too much time between long runs. It’s a reminder to keep doing what I need to be doing, to set my goals, do the work toward those goals, and if I’m comfortable that I’ve done the work, the results will speak for themselves: I’ll either be up to the challenge or I won’t, but there will be no excuses for failure.

The one vignette that sticks out to me as highlighting emotional intelligence, the complete confidence that comes with being prepared, and the recognition that all the prep work has been done and no more worry or work can improve the outcome – indeed may serve as detriment to accomplishing goals – is this one: before  biggest game of his life, Super Bowl XXXVI, this 24 year old (let that sink in for a moment) took a nap in the locker room. Not because he was overtired, but because he was relaxed.

I ran a half marathon in October. I went to bed early, but within a few hours I found I couldn’t sleep. I was so amped up. Eventually I found I was tired but afraid to go back to sleep for fear of oversleeping. So I drove to the city, parked and tried to sleep in the front seat of my car.  Like that was a thing that was going to happen.

I didn’t eat well, I didn’t sleep well. I was a hot mess and the results show it.  This for a half marathon that I didn’t even pay an entry fee for.  Brady, on the night he would define his career with millions of people world wide watching, with millions of dollars in future earnings on the line and a legacy to be had, he fell asleep because he was just THAT prepared.  There is some debate as to whether it was 20-30 minutes or if it was a couple hours, but it doesn’t matter. He was so relaxed in his preparation, on the biggest stage he could nap.

I had a 45-minute presentation I had to give to leaders in my organization this week. I was nervous, I was prepared but nervous. There was no way I was going to take a nap, though. I have to imagine in those moments leading up to the start of Super Bowl XXXVI, TB12 just felt confidence, conscious competence.  When you do the pre-work, you’ve spent the time studying, you’ve worked as hard as you can work, you know nothing else you can do will make your performance better. Could I have made my performance better? Absolutely. I can think of a hundred things I could have done beforehand that would have yielded incrementally better results.  I didn’t take the time to do them, and as a result I was amped up and nervous.

“By the time you spike that ball, you’ve got 40 seconds and you’re thinking ‘this is for the World Championship.’” That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.  Its about doing your job day in and day out at a high level without thinking about what could happen at some other point. It’s about making incrementally better decisions, better outcomes, and with those outcomes putting yourself in position to achieve your ultimate goal. Seven seconds left on the clock as he spiked the ball on the 30 yard line to set up the Vinatieri field goal was the point at which he said, “this is for the World Championship.” Not with a minute-thirty left. Not in the locker room. After his work was complete. With the spike, and a confident out reach of his hand, the ball lands softly and his work is done.

Every day isn’t the World Championship, not every job has a world championship hinging on the outcome of the smaller tasks during the year, but excellence, preparedness, execution those are the hallmarks of putting yourself in position to best achieve when called on.

I’m trying to remember that. Study, prepare, anticipate, prepare, know the goal, prepare, work, prepare… EXECUTE.

That’s why it’s important to not only find something you like to do, but to find something you’re passionate about doing. Put the time in, work it. Done consistently, you will be in position to do the most with that next opportunity, whenever, and wherever it comes.

This Is Not A Love Song

On the heels of what I would consider to be one of my worst days of my working life, I came across – quite by accident – exactly the thing I needed at exactly the time I needed it.

Yesterday had been led up to for over a week: some mumbles, some stirring, then a confirmation.  The ominous news came in dribs and drabs, and slowly put a couple of months of activity into sharp relief.  The policy change here, the meeting there, the strange disparate directions somewhere else. All of those things started to add up.

And then the cinderblock came crashing through the roof. All questions, any ambiguity washed away.  For me, I’m fine. A little rattled, but fine. Rattled in very much the same way I can imagine I’d respond if a cinderblock actually did come crashing through my roof.  Anticipated as a possibility, but honestly not considered as a probability.  And certainly not handled in the way I’d want to be associated with it. In this case, my situation is unaffected. My work life will remain pretty much in tact – perhaps with some additional responsibilities or roles, but sometimes it’s about the way things happen and not what happens that affect you most.

So, my day yesterday ended and my day today began with all kinds of questions and doubts and wonderments regarding what, if any, next steps should be taken.

I often go for a walk in the morning, a little before starting work for the day.  It helps get the blood pumping, the brain active. On these walks I’ll listen to a podcast or two to catch up with the news of the day or to explore an idea or two.  Podcasts are phenomenal things.  When I was traveling a lot, I’d listen to audiobooks – 4 hour stints in the car turned into listening to half a book.  Now that I don’t travel as much, podcasts wind up being a better bet for me: easily digestible chunks of information or ideas dissected in 15, 30, sometimes 45 or 60 minute chunks.

On Tuesdays the NPR Politics Podcast lands in my feed, so I listen to that on my walk for some coffee. That usually runs out on my way back, so I’ll listen to the Up First podcast, which is basically the morning top of the hour news broadcast.  This often leaves me with a little additional time before I’m back at home base with nothing to listen to.  It just so happened that today I happened upon a podcast from December 20, 2016. I’m not entirely sure how, but it looked just interesting enough that I decided to give it a listen.

It was on the “All Songs Considered” podcast and entitled “The Martin Atkins Minute.” Growing up, I was a bit of a pseudo-punk.  Not a hardcore Sex Pistols guy like some of my friends who wore leather jackets and spiked hair, but I enjoyed it and at the mention of the band “Public Image Ltd.” Caught my attention.

This was the story of how Martin Atkins went from being with a successful band, to digging ditches, ultimately to be planting trees on the property of Bon Jovi’s drummer. The culmination of consequences of bad choices, to wind up in one of the more strange and humiliating situations one can imagine, and being reminded of it.  None of this was part of my experience the past week or so – until the last few words. He says something to the effect that he wanted to share his story in case You [the listener] were having a Sh!**y day too.  Things will get better.

That spoke to me.  A message sent some 13 months ago was finally received at the time I needed to hear it.  Things will get better.  For my affected colleague, for me, for my team, and my company. I don’t know how it will, just that it will.  Every day isn’t the past day, or even the past few days.

Here’s the podcast: https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506298934/506298965

XLVII: Random to Semi Perfect

Image result for number 47The number 47 is something called a “safe prime” number.  Now, being a social science guy myself, I really can’t wrap my mind around the “safe prime” definition, other than to say it has something to do with other prime numbers – 2p+1 – and that its useful for cryptography.  How? I cannot say.  I’m just leaving it at “it’s a thing” and moving on.  In some circles, it’s regarded as the quintessential random number – apparently when asked to pick a number at random, 47 is the most likely one picked.  That’s a concept I can more readily accept, perhaps because it’s decidedly a social science study about people and less about the inherent value of the number itself.

And hence the rationale for the post.  Today is the last day of my 47th year.  It’s been an interesting year, one in which I challenged myself to bigger things. I demonstrated endurance and, to a lesser extent, resilience.  I screwed some things up wildly. I did other things very well.  Much like the “random number” that 47 is, Mo at 47 was a bit of a mixed bag. It definitely wasn’t “safe.”

I took some calculated chances this past year and tried some things I wasn’t sure I could complete.  I completed some, failed at others.  I think I was a better friend this past year than I have been in the past, I hope I have been a better parent and partner.  I try to be the best me I can, but I fail at that sometimes.

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The Flag of New Mexico

New Mexico became the 47th state in January 1912, about 9 months before the Red Sox beat the New York Giants in the World Series. That’s relevant because ’47 brands designs some of my favorite Sox lids; Recently acquired starting pitcher Tyler Thornberg currently wears the typically un-baseball number 47 for the Sox.  Alas, they’re not playing this time of year; The Patriots are, however, and little known rookie Jacob Hollister, a Tight End, wears 47 for the Pats.  Over the last two decades, it has been a not uncommon feature of my birthday to get Patriots gear – 8 times since my birthday in 2002 I’ve gotten AFC Champion or Patriots Super Bowl gear.  It’s mind boggling, and as a fan I love it.  I know it’s not common and I cherish every time it happens because you never know when or if it will happen again.  The Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII (47) after having knocked off the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, which was a drag.

We took a trip I never expected to take this past year – a week in Italy.  It was an amazing experience, and I’m so thankful for having had the opportunity.  A week in an ancient mountainside castle in Umbria with amazing views; we spent Easter Sunday in Assisi. We drove the Italian countryside, visited a vineyard and made our own Italian dinner.  You never know when or if that will happen again; if it happens to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me, it will absolutely be one of my favorite memories.

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Umbria, Italy. As an aside, I also got my only international traffic violation while driving around the Coliseum on this trip.

Apparently, 47 is the new “Middle Age.” Apparently, according to this article, I can be expected to live to about 86.  While, that’s all well and good but that bit of information reminds me that I am on the clock…at least there would seem to be a little more time my clock.  I’ve made it farther than Alexander Hamilton who died at 47 years, 183 days (showing you shouldn’t play with guns), Jack Kerouac at age 47 223 days from complications of cirrhosis (kind of not a shock, really) and Francis Gary Powers at 47 years, 349 days when his U2 spy plane was shot down. The difference between those guys and me, though, is that while I’ve outlived them in terms of how many days on  the calendar I’ve been on the Earth, it’s hard to say I’ve “outlived” them in terms of how they lived.  We still talk about these guys no less than 49 years after the last one passed away. I’m pretty sure no one will be talking about me.  I still have some time to give back, but I am on the clock. Time to step it up.

It’s also harder to keep what you’ve gained.  I started exercising regularly at 45.  I’m not likely to ever be the fastest runner out there, but I have gained speed, I have gained strength. Now, comes the hard part: keeping it.  That’s part of what freaked me out when I was hurt a couple of times this past year – I was afraid I wouldn’t get it back.  I found that it was a lot harder to get back than I expected. This last time I’ve found it’s more difficult than it had previously been to lose some of the excess weight I had packed on.

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I’m also pretty far behind saving for retirement.  I can chalk that up to all kinds of things, but at the end of the day, I made choices.  So there are two choices now: sit around and hand-wring or do something more.  I’ve chosen to do more.

The last time I wrote an entry like this it was for year 38.  It was 9 years ago today to mark the passing of my 38 years, the year my father had passed away.  I can’t believe this July will mark 10-years – almost 20% of my life – that he’s been gone.  I miss that man and his influence more than I can say.   I don’t know that I ever adequately made sure he knew what he meant to me.  A significant regret, but I’ve come to find regret to be a powerful motivator to being a better person.  My hope is that I’ve become a better person in that time, and that the people close to me know what they mean to me.  That’s a regret I never want to have again.

I very clearly have a lot to work on and a lot to look forward to in the coming year.  And perhaps that’s the key: giving yourself the opportunity to be proficient while building additional capacity.  In a sense then its good I’m headlong into middle age, in theory I’ve got some time to figure out that which I haven’t figured out and to learn what I don’t already know.  Who knows where year 48 will take me, but I feel like I’ve given myself the opportunity to make something good and different from it.    48 is what’s called a “semi-perfect” number, a number equal to the sum of all or some of its proper divisors. In way, then, it’s fitting I find myself at this place in life. Not quite perfect, room for improvement, but not wholly imperfect either.

Here’s to what 47 was and to what 48 will be.

2018 Race Recap: #5 Blizzard Blast

Blizzard Blast is a winter themed 5k(ish) obstacle course race, “No Offseason.” Winter themed and also happily, winter run.  Obstacles include the Christmas Tree carry and Christmas light crawl.  There’s a heavy emphasis on beer kegs – monkey bars, carries – and the named sponsor is Shock Top beer, so it’s hard to know which came first although I did note that “Anheuser Busch” was stamped on most (if not all) of the barrels.

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No Offseason!

Some obstacles are expected – what would an obstacle course race be without wall climbs, for example – but some were novel: there was a paintball target, and a saucer-sled element.  The course also made use of elements within the park where it was held. Overall, I’m glad I finally did this race, but I’m pretty sure I won’t do it again; it was great to get out and do an OCR this early in the year, but it was a little more low-rent than I would have hoped and not quite as challenging as it could be.  If I do it again, I’d have to do the multi-lap option to increase the challenge.

 

There were plenty of shuttles from the parking to registration and to the course, and I know I’m going to sound like a curmudgeon here, but I just really hated the logistics of parking at the Cawley Stadium, taking a bus a few miles down the road to register/bib-pickup and then get on another bus to head back off in the other direction to the event…and to repeat that at the end.  Fine, I get that there’s no parking at the park and I’m used to shuttles, but four rides is just a bit much.

Now, about the experience of running the race.  Running with my son, we didn’t really push too hard with running but he did challenge himself on the obstacles.  This was more about the time together and much less about the overall competition, but it was really good to see him exert himself.  He grabbed a pretty heavy tree for the tree carry, attempted every obstacle and finished most of them. The only one that I truly had an issue with was the keg kingdom, aka monkey bars with hanging beer kegs.  I got two swings into it and for whatever reason decided that it wasn’t going to happen today; I’m not entirely sure what was in my head there.

Overall we did have fun, and we came across the finish line together.  A very nice bonding time.  We finished 1:22:18 – right about middle of the pack.

1:22:18   A little overcast, about 45-degrees.

2018 Race Recap: #4 CMS 52-Week 5k

cms_logo_smallToday stood for the proposition that sleep, good nutrition and perhaps a bit of rest during the week are helpful to running a race, but also that a healthy, positive internal dialog is probably THE most important aspect of good performance.  Hardly news, indeed, but sometimes reminders are helpful.

I got a really good night sleep after an emotionally draining day of work – such a good night that I woke up a little too late to work my planned run to Worcester State to volunteer for the weekly race, and run back. I took my time, ate breakfast, took the dogs out, and then headed over.  I even stopped at Starbucks on the way.

How come when I look in the mirror I don’t look this fat?

Since Clearwater last week, I hadn’t run at all, to my shame.  My plans have been to do 28-miles a week, and to this point I’d been either on point or close and had missed only two days of running this year.  I basically missed all this week and I was feeling guilty about it.  Arriving early today, I took the opportunity to do a quick warm up run of a mile or so and was surprised by the pace I clocked myself doing: a 7:49 pace.  Unusual in that I don’t usually push myself that hard warming up or really outside of a race – and oftentimes not even then.

Then there was the crowd today: a lot of fast looking people showed up.  It’s an informal gathering, so people show up on a whim, and the people who felt the whim today “LOOKED” like the kind of people who run fast.  I know, a total stereotype or so it would appear. More on that in a minute.

A few announcements and what seemed like a quick “GO” we were off.  I ran the first mile at a ridiculous pace – a personal best for a mile.  I knew I had gone off too fast, but I’m working on my internal dialog to keep myself on task, to keep my thoughts positive (“if we can keep this pace…”) instead of the negative (“You’re going to bonk out if you keep this up…”), so I kept reminding myself of the distance I’d come, and that a personal best awaits so just keep going.  I was feeling reasonably strong, but the second mile was considerably slower.  First Mile: 7:09. Second Mile: 7:57.

As soon as the second mile clicked off as completed on my Garmin, I had to slow down.  I was zapped.  Picked it back up and ran…and slowed to a walk again.  I did that a few times, but ultimately sucked it up.  I had lost focus on my inner dialog: it’s not that I was saying “I Can’t,” it’s that I wasn’t having one. As soon as I realized that absence, I was able to control my pace again. I picked up my pace and hit mile 3, finishing with a rather surprising 8:20 pace for the mile.  When I was running I was running strong.

I finished the course in 24:24 or a 7:49 overall pace.  The last 0.1 mile was 7:29 – I’m guessing the last 0.6 mile of the race was actually about that pace.  It was tough carrying my carcass over the line, but it felt good when I did.  My friend Mike had finished perhaps 90-seconds ahead of me and he was waiting at the finish to cheer me in…a fact to which I was apparently oblivious as I came across the line.  It was a bit of a struggle bus ride, but I finished with a personal best for the course and my second fastest 5k.

Now, not to take the shine off my pace today, there may have been something in the air; the top finisher came seconds away from a course record with a time just under 15-minutes, and second came in about 45-seconds later at 15:36.  Perhaps a good rest, decent nutrition and positive internal talk all influence race performance, but sometimes the day just carries itself.

Clockwise (last 5):

January 27, 2018: 24:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 2018: 25:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy
November 25, 2017: 24:55 Sunny and 28 degrees.
October 28, 2017: 24:53 Sunny and 56 degrees.
September 16, 2017: 25:56  Cloudy, humid, 60’s.