Friday, June 30, 2006

Shock and Awe

Hopefully none of our neighbors was trying to get a start to holiday weekend sleep-ins because at approximately 8:20 this morning loud yells could be heard eminating from our study/computer room. The source of these cries of disbelief can be found here.

(Okay, I'm going to give you a little space to read and to process.)

!!!! The two undisputed favorites out of the Tour !!!! (Well, Bob Roll picked Hincape, but that's because I think he's a paid employee of the Lance Armstrong and All Things Associated with Lance Fan Club.) How do riders respond to this right now? People have been preparing all year for this race, and Ulrich has been waiting 7 years for a Lance-free shot at the yellow jersey. I though Basso was going to destroy the field this year. It was to be the first race of the millenium with a handful of favorites rather than one clear one. It's still this way, of course, but it won't be quite the same.

Odd, isn't it, that a Spanish doping scandal implicates dozens of Spanish riders with only one German (Ulrich) and just a few Italians (Basso). And funny, isn't it, that Lance's former first lieutenant is now at the top of the list of favorites to win, closely followed by two other Americans. Now, I'm not saying it's a conspiracy, just because certain famous Texan Republicans have gone on chatty bike rides and have a lot of military-industrial complex sway...

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

And the Countdown to la Tour Continues

For any other Floyd Landis and/or Dave Zabriskie fans out there who don't have a subscription to Bicycling Magazine, you must pick up a copy of the August issue, just out. FL and DZ grace the cover, and inside is a hilarious transcript of DZ interviewing Landis. If you thought DZ's little one line peleton interviews were funny, you'll love the extended remix of the two friends' repartee. Apparently, Lance Armstrong called the pair "dumb and dumber" when they rode together on the US Postal squad. "Hot and hotter" might be more appropriate. "Fun and funnier?" "Fast and faster?" We'll find that out soon enough.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Looking for another good reason to run a marathon?

The Portland Marathon has instituted 26.2 Miles for a Cause, where you can donate as little as $26.2 to a charitable cause and you get a special bib to wear on your back. Donate more and you get more thank you gifts.

This is just making me an even bigger fan of the Portland Marathon. Of course, it doesn't hurt that this is where I PR'd (probably a lifetime best) and qualified for Boston, but aside from all of that, it's a great course (pretty flat, but not boring flat), well supported, terrific fans, and usually perfect running weather. They automatically put your first name on your bib, which gives the crowds the ability to cheer you on by name, and they do. If anyone is looking for a fall marathon, I highly recommend this one.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Goodbye, June Gloom!

There is really only one time per year when Seattle's weather gets to me. Sure, the short, dark, and wet days of November through January are a bit tiresome, especially when commuting via bike, but it's winter. It's dark and cold everywhere, and at least here it's never too cold to bike to work. I love that spring here comes in February and that fall really starts in September. It's just that period between Memorial Day and July 5th that can get me down. We get a few weeks of beautiful warm spring weather in May, often enough to convince ourselves that summer has really arrived, just to be chased by grey skies and cool temperature come Memorial Day weekend. When I was a kid in Virginia, Memorial Day weekend meant the first trip to the beach and/or the pool where I'd get my first sun burn of the summer (yes, I know I'll be paying for that soon). Here, it means pretending that it's warm while the grill is the warmest thing about Memorial Day and 4th of July barbecues.

That all ended on Friday, however, and summer is here! By the time I took a shower, the sun was already high in the sky, and I was sweating as I ate breakfast. I'm excited about swimming for the first time in months and am planning a swim in Lake Washington after work tonight. Now it really feels like Tour-de-France-watching, ice-cream-eating, hefeweizen-drinking, Mariners-watching, long-bike-riding, open-water-swimming, ferry-riding, island-road-tripping time.

Welcome, Summer, to Seattle!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous an Entertaining Thing

I just went to to buy a long overdue gift for a friend and decided to check out what Amazon's recommendations were for me based on its intimate knowledge of my psyche and needs. Numbers 1, 3, and 5 were all economics books while number 2 was a corporate finance text. Obviously, they've gotten word that econometrics make for great summer reading. Number 4 was Pride and Prejudice, which I actually should probably buy since I haven't read it since high school, but how did they know that?

Isengard strikes again...
Potty Mouth

My office shares a rest room with the other offices in the building: a real estate office, a consumer marketing firm, and a dentist's office. I could never go to the dentist next door: every time I'm in the ladies and I see someone in a white coat I'm extremely conscious about how much time she spends washing her hands. I like to maintain the illusion that my dentist and hygenists don't really ever use the rest room.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wisdom from the side of a bus:

"Make your car more fuel-efficient: stop driving it."
Trail Note: Race for the Cure

Another week, another 5k... Fortunately, this is my last one for a while. I was reading an article about training tips for 5K's and 10K's and they quoted a champion 5&10K runner who stated that the thing about a 5K is that you are uncomfortable the entire race. It's true. Unlike a longer race (10K, half marathon, marathon) where you run pretty comfortably for most of the race, a 5K hurts from the very beginning if you're giving it your all. I used to finish them with a lot left in my legs because I avoided that pain, but now I have a better guage on the right pace.

As always, the Race for the Cure is an amazing and moving event. Also amazing to me is how well organized the Seattle version is. There are multiple events, starting with a kid's race, then the women's only competitive 5K, the co-ed 5K run, a 1 K walk, and then the main event, the 5K walk. Because of all the different categories, the actual runs aren't that crowded. There were no lines for packet pick-up, we made our "in celebration of" signs without having to wait for pens or table space, and there were no lines for the actual indoor restrooms. Yeah, Seahawk's Stadium!

I did the women-only race and Jeff ran the co-ed run. The course runs from 1st avenue by the stadiums north onto the Southbound lanes of the viaduct, off the Western avenue onramp, then back south on the Western avenue offramp onto the northbound lanes of the viaduct. While the course is mostly flat, those on- and off-ramps have a painful incline. After the first hill the crowd thinned out and we were mostly running single file or in small clumps of 2 or 3 runners. After the second hill, I was marking another runner, and we passed each other a few times on the subsequent ups and downs until we were past the halfway point running south. We then ran side by side, not talking, for the next mile or so. At one point she said something about 23; I though she was asking what pier we were running by, but then she repeated "let's finish under 23."

About the point I passed the 2 mile marker, I was really starting to hurt and was seriously thinking about slowing down. At that point, however, with only a mile left, it was too late to slow down. I could hang in for another mile. And so the mental game played out for the next mile: "Okay, you'll be done in less than 5 minutes, can't slow down now." "Just that downhill and a bit left; you can make it." My running buddy took off as we hit the off-ramp and the final click or so of the race. I kept her in sight, though, and finished in 22:50, 20 seconds slower than last year's PR, but still pretty fast for me (7:22 pace), especially considering that I haven't been running that much the past 2 months.

After passing the finish line, I kept running toward the stadium where all of the sponsors were located with their giveaways. I was determined to get a bandanna after last year's disappointment. After circling around the tents, I finally followed the crowd and picked up a couple of this year's version: really pretty pink bandanna / scarves. I was then able to make it back to the finish line in time to see Jeff finish his race. Overall, a great morning.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fraunch Fries, Fraunch Dressing, Fraunch Bread, ....

All spring we've been watching bike racing on OLN Sunday afternoons/evenings. (Well, until last week usually just Jeff watched while I scrambled to get a little more homework done before the end of the weekend). This week they were showing the end of the Dauphine Libere, one of the last tune-up races before la Tour de France. In honor of the French race, I thought that I'd make a lovely simple but elegant French meal: perfectly roasted chicken, fresh green beans, a light Burgundy, and crepes Suzette.

For recipes I turned to the master: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I've been making sauces, quiches, omelets and souffles for 20 years, so I wasn't intimidated by Ms. Julia or her book.

I read the section on roasting chicken, which reads something along the lines of "you can always tell a good cook by her perfectly roasted chicken, which requires skill and great patience..." That sounded a little trickier than I was thinking, but I'd made chicken before. We've roasted a number of turkeys as well, most of which have turned out pretty well. How hard could this little chicken be? Julia's recipe required stuffing the bird and turning it every 5-10 minutes for the first 1/2 hour or so. That wasn't going to happen. I cooked it breast-side down for the first 45 minutes and then flipped it on its back. She then described how to know when the chicken was done: by the sound and the look of the bird. Right. I used a timer and a meat thermometer.

Green beans were easy: I've steamed them dozens of times, we're focused on simple, so no recipe necessary.

I was most worried about the crepes. I've made crepes for my mother many times, but she has an electric crepe maker. I had a feeling it would be much trickier using a normal pan. The recipe also involved flambe, which seemed a little dangerous, but fun.

I made the crepes first, as they could be made in advance. I used one of our nice stainless skillets, which worked beautifully after the first 1 or 2 (even Julia said that the first one was really just to test the temperature of the pan). While I was not about to pull out a second pan and have two going at once (Julia says that with just a little practice you can easily make 24 in under a half hour), I made pretty good time. Soon (less than a half hour, in fact), I had about a dozen lovely crepes.

We put the bird in the oven and I had several adventures with the orange butter for the crepe sauce (there are times when you should take the recipe literally, and times you shouldn't). After turning the bird, we insterted the thermometers which quickly climbed in temperature. After a few minutes it had reached the done temperature after only an hour in the oven. I had thought it would take at least another 20 minutes, but if the thermometer said done, who were we to argue? I started the beans while letting the chicken rest. After about 5 minutes, Jeff started cutting up the chicken and noticed that it was looking a little bloody. Hmmm... The French may like their chicken medium rare, but I don't. Back into the oven it went and the beans were turned off. We cooked the chicken for another 20 minutes and then started the beans again. By the time dinner hit the table, it was almost 8 o'clock (we'd been shooting for 7), the beans were overcooked and the chicken was still a little pink around the edges (we saved those for microwavable leftovers). But the wine was good (I substituted Oregon Pinot for the Burgandy) and we had beautiful crepes to look forward to!

The crepe recipe involved making the crepes, making an orange butter with sugar, zest, juice, and liquor, dipping the crepes in the melted butter in a chafing dish (why I was instructed to be so careful about whipping the butter when it was just going to be melted is a mystery), pouring on some liquor, and then lighting on fire. I didn't have a chafing dish, so used a saute pan. I turned it off after placing the crepes in it, afraid of mass conflaguration, so the liquor/butter mixture wasn't hot enough to light on fire. I turned on the burner, heated the crepes/sause combo to boiling and tried again to light the dish. This time we did see some flames, but just a few as I quickly let them burn out rather than keeping it going until all the alcohol was cooked off. We piled the crepes on our plates, which were very pretty, but tasted a little too strongly of alcohol and got quickly soggy.

So much for cooking with Julia. I'm usually a pretty successful cook, although I think that's because I usually cook the same things over and over. Chalk this one down to a good experience and a lesson in never trying more than one new dish at a time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Flag Day!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trail Note: The Best Race Ever

Well, except for the running part of it..

Last September, the organization I work for relocated to an office across the street from Gas Works Park. It also happens to be smack dab in the middle of the course for the Fremont 5K run and Briefcase Relay. My boss (who we'll call M), who ran the 5K last year, decided that we needed to field a few teams for the relay. The relay is 5-leg race where runners must wear "office attire" from the waist up and carry a briefcase containing a copy of the yellow pages as the baton. Those who didn't run were required (by aformentioned M) to cheer the runners on. We managed to field 2, 5-person teams for the race, after numerous team trades, reorganizations, consolidations and strategy sessions. (We had originally placed M as the lead-off runner, but every day she'd update the order placing herself later in the relay order. After she left the office we'd then return her to position #1. Then all of the other runners would position themselves in order to run alongside the person they thought they could beat or cajole into running slowly. This happened daily for about a week; it never got old...)

By about 4 pm Friday afternoon, work had stopped, the first beer was cracked open, and we started getting dressed for the race. Our office is very casual, but wearing the t-shirt that you might realistically have worn to work was verbotten. The men donned dress shirts, ties, and jackets with their shorts while the ladies all put on blazers, shoulder pads and all. It was like dress-up Friday and the first time I'd seen many of my co-workers in ties.

At the race start we had to check our teams in by showing that our brief case did indeed contain a copy of the yellow pages and was free of a strap (the rule was the brief cases had to be carried by the handle or clutched under the arm, football style). It was hilarious seeing all of the dressed up teams. Medical organizations wore lab coats, engineers wore hard hats, there were many blouses with bow ties, and there was a team comprised all of Elvises. There were also a few teams from local running stores wearing t-shirts; we called them cheaters.

I ended up being the first runner along with a friend who had run track in college, but was just getting back into running after a 15-year asthma-induced hiatus. We agreed that we'd run at a reasonable pace together for the first 1/2 mile, and then at a designated point take off into an every-woman-for-herself sprint to the handoff.

I have never enjoyed those leading minutes waiting at the starting line as much in my life. There were 36 of us in all, stretching in our dress shirts, ties, and jackets waiting for the gun. When it started we all sprinted off, not sure of how to pace a 1K distance. My friend and I quickly realized that we'd started way too fast, especially once we started climbing the hill that was in our leg. We slowed down, already out of breath by the time we were only halfway through our leg. While I managed to get to the hand-off first, the lead was quickly cut later on in the race and my team finished 26th, just over a minute behind the other team which finished 22nd (with a speedy anchor leg run by Jeff). One of the finishers as he was running in was heard talking into his cell phone "so, I'm running just a little late." A group of us later ran the 5K together in normal running clothes, but with the initials of our organization taped to our backs. It was great passing by the office where everyone was out on the deck cheering with funny signs and banners with funny puns linked to our mission. We're already trying to figure out better outfits for next year that better represent what we do.

All in all, a terrific race, one that I highly recommend to any group.

Friday, June 09, 2006

No more pencils, no more books...

School's done for the year, so now I get to start doing all of those things I've been putting off all year. Perhaps I'll even post now and again.

First on the list: sleep.