Monday, July 30, 2007

Going a Bit Slower than the Peloton

Friday night as I was biking home I ran right into Critical Mass. They were turning north on Dexter as I was stopped at a traffic light, so I was able to jump right into the group. Despite several years of bike commuting, I've never taken part in this before as it mostly takes place downtown and I've never gone out of my way to take part.

It was amazing. Only a block or so after I joined, the group headed onto Highway 99. For those not familiar with Seattle, this is a pretty major road. It's a primary alternative to I-5 and the average speed is usually ~ 50 mph at this point. We had probably several hundred riders and were able to take over the entire 3 lane road going north. It was amazing to see cars surrounded and then overtaken by the swarms of cyclists. Car drivers coming the opposite direction were waving and honking their support. "Ride the Duck" amphibs full of tourists cheered and waved as their drivers explained what we were doing. There were cyclists of all kinds: people dressed up in odd outfits, people in commuting gear, those in road cycling garb, bike messengers, decorated bikes, some with sidecars or radios, young, old, crunchy, conservative, and lots of tattoos and piercings. We slowly biked a few miles this way and I passed my exit to the house (the easiest commute ever) in order to have the chance to cross the Auroura Bridge in the middle of the road by bike, watching the sites. We exited after crossing the bridge and turned into Fremont. I looped around with the group and then headed home as we passed the Fremont Bridge.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun on a bike. It reminded me of all of the reasons I ride; worth every dark and rainy winter ride.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Three Weeks

These last three weeks (blog-free) have been spent:
- Working (new job! fun, but very tiring)
- Working out (just beginning to taper before next Sunday's Half Ironman Tri!!)
- Watching the Tour of France. I'm very ready for it to end.

I don't go online during the work day, so my internet access has been brief and uninspired. Hopefully, I'll develop a regular routine soon.

Keep on blogging! I'll keep occasionally reading and posting!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Trail Note: Lake Padden Triathlon Race Report

Last Friday night, Jeff and I drove up to Bellingham to participate in our first of several triathlons for this, the Summer of the Tri. A friend of mine from school/work lives in Bellingham (her husband is a professor at the university there) and thought that this would be a great first triathlon for her to do and was looking for others to join in; I was happy to oblige. Considering that my friend had a baby 8 months ago, this was a pretty impressive feat for her and a great training opportunity for me.

When I first decided to do this particular race, I thought it would be this little event with a small and not-very-competitive field of participants. After all, it's being held in a pretty small town; how many triathletes live in Bellingham, anyway? Then we arrived at the race Saturday morning to find hundreds of incredibly fit-looking people armed with expensive road bikes, wet suits, and "tri-talk" (those overheard snippets from experienced triathletes exchanging past race stories that begin something like: "last time I did Ironman Hawaii...." ). Since Bellingham is about halfway between Seattle and Vancouver BC, it attracts a lot of Canadians as well as entrants from the Seattle metro area. And now that I've raced this one, I'll be adding it to my annual race calendar as well.

The competitive race course is longer than a sprint tri and shorter than an Olympic; the run and bike seem to be dictated by the geography of the lakes we run/bike around. The lake is small (1/2 mile swim), and thus pretty warm by late June, the 24 mile bike course rolls through quiet and scenic roads, and the 5.2 mile run is entirely on a path that circles the lake (we ran around twice). There is also a recreational race held later in the day that is half the distance of the competitive race.

There are three points at which I don't like tri's: (1) that moment when I register and/or tell someone I'm doing a tri; (2) just before the race starts as I stand, shivering, in front of whatever water in which I'm supposed to swim; and (3) the first mile of the run when my legs feel like wooden blocks. These are the points at which all kinds of fears, some irrational (I'll be the slowest person here; everyone will laugh at me; I'm not going to be able to finish) and some rational (what do I do if my goggles leak and I lose a contact lens? get a flat tire? crash my bike?), arise and hit me in the stomach.

Once I get going, however, I forget these fears and have a great time. My goggles did leak this time (first time in a race), but I just kept stopping to empty them out until I finally squished them on tightly enough to stop the leaking. Contact lenses were fine. I had no problems with my bike, but Jeff had a major tire blowout, losing him at least 20 minutes or so on the bike-portion, which is his most competitive leg. He managed to make a temporary fix for the tire using dollar bills that he had stashed in his patch kit, and won a consolation "MacGyver" prize that included a nice jersey for his efforts.

I was pleased with my times: about 19 mph on the bike, a sub-15 minute swim, and a 7:50 pace on the run, but my transition times were very slow (you can rank yourself on each event as well as transition times). Next up: the Seafair tri (a sprint) next Sunday, possibly the Whiskey Dick on 7/22, and Troika, the biggie, on 8/5.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

... Yeah, only a few days late. Because, you know, I've been too busy to post. (I still haven't figured out how to indicate sarcasm on blogs/email..)

Jeff and I continued our annual tradition of taking advantage of a mid-week holiday to go for a long bike ride. This year, despite the long-standing Seattle joke that summer begins July 5th, we had amazing weather: not a cloud in the blue blue sky and highs in the 80's. Jeff took me on a tour of some of the hills on the east side of Lake Washington that he rides on his Sunday-morning-crazy-rides. We rode 46 miles with about 3000 feet of elevation climbs: about 2/3 the distance and speed and 1/2 the elevation that he does on these rides. I was pretty exhausted by the time we were done, though; clear indication that I will never be joining those Sunday rides. We then went for a swim in the lake before driving the bikes home to fill our starving bellies with burgers followed by champagne cocktails, lemon pie, and reruns of Top Chef. We were so tired we almost missed fireworks, but considering that we can see a great local display from our bedroom, we managed to stand up long enough to watch them.

All in all, a terrific holiday! Now, there is only a weekend between me and a Real Job. It's been 2 1/2 years since I've had to make it through an entire work day in an office, so here's hoping I can make it through...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Word Play

Last month, Max wrote a post about these "100 words every high school graduate should know." Now, the Yeti has created a fun little game you can play to see how many of these words you really do know. As he states, just looking at the word and thinking that you know the meaning isn't the same as actually being able to define the word, as I discovered when I tried to define 20 of them. Play for yourself!
Why my cats stay indoors

About a month or so ago, someone hit my car's driver side mirror when it was parked outside my house with their car and cracked the mirror. I finally got it fixed on Friday. Less than 30 minutes after I got home from the shop, I went outside and found a note on my windshield informing me that someone had just brushed against my rear view mirror and hoped that it wasn't damaged.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Rocky Mountain Road Trip: Part IV - Finally Finishing

We spent a rainy Sunday morning in Banff browsing through shops and doing laundry. Banff is currently "Refreshing." This means massive amounts of construction, mess, noise, and inconvenience. They've marketed the whole project in a very cute way, with signs like "Please don't mind our mess; we're Refreshing!" and some squirrel mascots with paint brushes, tape measures, and the like. After lunch the weather appeared to be clearing a bit, and we headed up to Lake Louise. We rented a canoe and explored the lake that way with an amazing view of the glacier and the Fairmont Chateau. We then decided to take a little hike and accidentally found the trail to a tea house. I remembered reading that this was something one could do, and it was terrific. I never realized how refreshing tea could taste, but it's the perfect beverage at the end of a very steep climb that includes tramping through snow and ends at a semi-frozen lake.

Monday, we left the Canadian Rockies and hit the prairies. We drove around (but not through) Calgary. They also had a lot of constrution ("keeping Calgary moving"), but as it made us move very very slowly through a lot of traffic, I was not at all charmed as I was by the Refreshing. After our last boarder crossing into the US where it took us an hour to crawl through, we were a bit surprised by the almost deserted cross into Montana. We then camped at Rising Sun on the east side of Glacier National Park. We finished our dinner just in time for a Ranger program on wolves. As he was walking through camp telling everyone that he'd be giving a program, I was dubious that anyone would go, but it looked like just about everyone in the camp was there (except the girls out partying who would loudly return later; they really missed out as the park ranger was pretty cute). Despite being told that bears frequent that particular campsite, we didn't see or hear any that night and I survived my first camping experience of the trip.

The next morning we drove around the south end of the park as the road through was still closed and entered the west enterence to the park where we managed to get a campsite at Sprague Creek, a small campground right on the lake. We then went on an amazing hike, about 8 1/2 miles round trip with a 2200 foot elevation gain. We saw at least a dozen deer, some from as close as 20 feet away. We made it to the Continental Divide, although we didn't have the time or the energy to tramp through more snow along the divide. On the hike we spoke to a few fellow hikers who had recently completed a 50 mile trail run. Nothing like a little hike as a cool down to a race like that. After our hike, we were pretty grimy and managed to find showers at a KOA campground then stumbled upon an amazing restaurant where we had a delicious gourmet meal (pork chops and white fish), not the iceberg-with-ranch and overcooked chicken and baked potato we thought we'd be getting.

Wednesday, we headed home. A long drive made longer as we crawled the last 10 miles home through traffic. The end.