Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A running gift.

Since the Eugene Marathon in May I had hoped to run another marathon or a half marathon in Dalls, TX. Why Dallas? I had friends from the internet who both live there or like me were planning on traveling there from all over the country. Really? Internet friends?

Yep. I've known many of these fellow runners online for some years now and it was wonderful to meet (in person) such a diverse group. My plans were nearly derailed by the silly stress fracture but eventually I figured I could run a half marathon just as a fun run. I didn't know that until around Thanksgiving and by then the half marathon race had sold out. Anu (my host in Dallas) suggested running the marathon relay with her, her husband and the husband of another running forum member as a team. I'd run two legs of the marathon and the goal would be just to have fun.

It turned out to be a fantastic weekend and I'm so glad I did this. I was super busy in the weeks leading up this event so i didn't realize just how many people would be there. There was a veternarian from virginia, a lawyer from Kansas, a stay at home mom from New York plus lots of folks who live in the Dallas area. It was fun to see some of these people in person again and for the first time. Immediately, I felt comfortable with all of them as we've shared all the various running and life trials and tribulations through the years.

I've never been to Dallas and that was a trip. I knew I was in for some different scenery when at 5:30 am while waiting in the Albuquerque airport for my flight to Dallas Love Field, a few women showed up with the biggest hair and the most bling I have ever seen. I nearly fell over laughing but just managed to keep it to a snort into my coffee.

Once in Dallas I was struck by how much time one had to spend in the car driving everywhere. This sort of thing used to feel normal to me when we lived in Southern California. This just wasn't a few miles, it was at least 30 miles and all the development seems to be new within the last 10 years.

The scenery itself looks a lot like Albuquerque but I was surprised by all the lakes around. It looked desert like so where was all this water coming from? My host said that all the lakes were artificial. Speaking of artificial, probably the most startling thing I noticed was the big fake boobs.

Most of the people I met who live in Dallas can only say they enjoy the non-winters. Otherwise they moved their for jobs and there isn't a lot more to say about Dallas. All runners complained about the unfriendly running and biking streets. I'd have to agree. There was tons of space on roads but never a bike lane or a pedestrian path. You must drive!

Race day ended up being hot, humid and windy. I was delighted that I was only running 10 miles (two legs) around the White Rock Lake. The winds would be the worst around this lake but it sure was pretty. Relays are great fun for getting you pumped up so once Anu came in, I took off like a bat out of hell. Since I'm not in bat out of hell shape right now, i slowed down and started to enjoy the scenery and getting passed by all the marathoners. Our first relay leg runner had run fast and put us ahead of the 3:10 pace group. I was going to do my best to slow us right down!

It was in the mid-60's with 70% humidity and 15 mph sustained winds. I was so hot once I was running that I'd hope for the headwind. Around mile 3 for me, a fellow forum member who was running the marathon caught up with me at her mile 13. Donna had run NYC Marathon 5 weeks previously and set an awesome PR and was hoping to ride that PR wave to a faster marathon time in the flat Dallas marathon. The heat and winds and possible injury had by mile 13 made her realize that she really should Do Not Finish. I happened to show up at a great time to help her through that tough decision and we ran the next 7 miles together. it made an already memorable experience even more memorable.That's Donna giving the Dolly Partons a squeeze as we made our way through the hilly section of the course. There are two hills and they are called "The Dollys" after that famous singer. I haven't laughed so hard in quite a while!

After finishing running, we made our way back to the start/finish area and had quite a crowded wait. There were so many people and all the marathoners were taking longer to finish than expected because of the hot conditions. There were some new personal records set on this day but not too many of them. We all adjourned to Donna's house for pizza and cookies and chat. It was a great way to end a really fun weekend.

I'll say it again. Running has taken me a lot of different places that I never expected to go. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I do sit sometimes.

I've realized that overall I'm one of those people who are active. When I worked with kids, we called those kids "busy." Movement was constant. I do sit sometimes, really. But I like to stay busy when I'm sitting. And what lately have I been doing when I sit?

I knit.

Sj started the Injured Runners' Knitting Club. Sj just had meniscus repair surgery recently on her knee. She agrees with me that me of the worst parts of a running injury is not seeing your running friends. So, knitting is a great way to meet up when you aren't running.

I learned to knit back when I was in college. I've discovered it is rather like bicycle riding. you don't really forget although you may need your memory jogged (ha!) just a bit. I had started a scarf oh back in 2006 probably and just finished that. I wanted a scarf to go with my cool pea green jacket (given to me by friend JHL). I thought my mom might like a fancier scarf to wear to the opera.

That's the thing about knitting. It tends to multiply. I'd like to try knitting a hat. Heck, I'd like a fancier scarf to wear to the opera too. Knitting is soothing. There is the pleasant tactile sense of the yarn going through your fingers and the of the sound of the knitting needles against one another. Visiting yarn stores is also a friendly (and dangerously expensive) experience. Everybody always seems so cheerful. They are creating after all.

Before I was knitting when i lived in Southern California and it was hard to justify wool when it was 70 degrees out. Now, when it's below freezing wool is just fine. I'm happy to be a knitter again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Catching up.

Work. Has sucked the past few weeks as a new system debuted and there was chaos.

Running. Hey! Pretty good. Plantar Fasciitis in the foot? Uh no. bursitis and a cortisone shot in the heel has helped tremendously. My shins feel 100% too.

Knitting. Fun! I'm enjoying it again a lot. Will post more about that.

I took a little holiday to go run a super hot and humid and windy relay in Dallas so i'll write more about that in a bit.

I'm in Albuquerque now for a bit more and it snowed yesterday. The baby doves are all huddled outside the window.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The last rowing class...

The last time I was off of running for a substantial amount of time, I swore I'd sign up for a learn-to-row class the next time I was off of running. Why rowing? After some years of running around Green Lake and along Lake Union I'd seen the rowers out at the same time I'd be out very early in the am. I'm sure they were enjoying the same exact things I was enjoying. They were getting a workout but also an almost spiritual workout. Dawn. Stillness. Effort. Sweat. Peace.


Tomorrow I have my last learn to row class. I knew absolutely nothing about boats and haven't been on anything much smaller than a cruise ship. Bow. Port. Weigh enough. It was a foreign language so much so that I had to make flashcards to help me remember the terms. I grew up swimming and I'm very comfortable in the ocean body surfing or a swimming pool but an iddy biddy shell in the middle of a lake in winter in Seattle? I watched the safety video about "catching a crab" and freaked out thinking about getting in that little shell.

but I'd paid my money and I was going to learn to row, dammit! We learned the basic stroke in a tank. We practiced on an erg in the gym. We learned the calls the leader of the boat (the coxswain) would use to coordinate 8 people to get a 165' foot shell out off of the stacked racks and into the water. Then we learned how to get in the boat. The 20 people who had signed up for the class dwindled as it got cold and windy over the course of a month.

And we learned to row. I sit port in a sweep boat (one oar) and have sat at the bow of the boat. You do a lot of setting the boat so it is level in the water when you sit bow. lately as our numbers have dwindled and we just have enough to fill an 8seater boat, I've sat stroke. Stroke? it means I'm the first rower and sit right in front of the coxswain who directs the boat. Every rower takes their lead off of what the stroke does. I count my pull and my recovery and don't really think about anything but the effort of what I'm doing and what my oar is doing in the water. When I sit listening to the coach I take it how beautiful it is on Lake Union at night. It's stillness, effort, sweat and peace.

I got into a discussion with our coxswain, Bill. A dedicated rower and oh so patient with a bunch of newbies in a very tippy boat. He's been off rowing since June because of a bad bout of tendonitis (possibly a tendon pulled off the bone) in his elbow. He's been grounded and just started back to rowing last week. Oh did I so understand the pain physically and mentally he's been going through. there is nothing like rowing according to him and now I can understand that.

There is also nothing like running and I'm very glad to be back at it. However, rowing is waiting for me. At some point I'll need to do more of it...

P.S. The last class was fabulous. Only six people showed up. I got put into a two-seater sculling boat and we were able to row together. According to one of the coaches we did very well for such newbies.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

PSA - Helmets save lives.

Helmets are fine.
Helmets are good.
They help your head
when you go boom.


I took a tumble on my bike this week commuting into work. I was not going very fast but I felt my head hit the ground hard. And once it hit all I could think about was "I am so thankful I am wearing a helmet." I picked myself up, put the chain back on my bike and finished going into work. Sorry for the slightly blurry photo. Once I got to work, I checked my helmet and saw the crack through the helmet. There was a nice dent and scrape on the shell of the helmet to show right where I hit.

I stopped by REI on my ride home and got a new helmet. And reading the instruction manual, they suggest that the materials in helmets do degrade with time so replace your helmet every few years. mine was a number of years old and still worked just fine for the low speeds I was going.

I have just a couple of very minor bruises on my knee, my elbow and possibly my dignity. I have reported the bad pavement area to the local authorities and hope to see it fixed and soon. And my bike is just fine.

This ends this public service announcement.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The First Ride...

It was a perfect day for a bike commute. I had added my rack to the bike so I could carry a trunk and pannier, added my light, put on my pedals, guestimated my seat height by measuring my bike fit from my Bianchi and was (finally) ready to ride.


I looooove Ginger the bike.

It's just a comfortable fit and so easy to go uphill compared to my mountain bike. I don't think the new bike is all that much lighter than my mountain commuter either. Ginger even compares favorably to my road bike on this issue. One of the complaints about my road bike is a bit too flexible when you are out of the saddle climbing and I have noticed that. I tend to climb hills seated more often because of this reason. It is much more comfortable being out of the saddle climbing on Ginger; it's more solid feeling and gives me the feeling of more power. The mountain bike, of course, had front shocks so being out of the saddle climbing was just a waste of energy and I never did it if I could help it.

I go over some gnarly pavement in the downtown area and I was worried about that feeling rough when on the new bike. The mountain bike has wider tires and a front shock which does help with that. No worries! Ginger handled it just fine.

With my pannier on my mountain bike, I would sometimes hit my heel on the pannier when starting off. I think the wider wheel base of Ginger stops that from happening which is nice. I'd often be surprised by that when on my mountain bike. Surprise and bicycling don't go all that well together in my experience.

Stopping power was phenomenal. I was really pleased and think maybe I need to switch out brake pads on my road bike.

The ride home seemed so much easier! The commute home is mostly uphill for me so it just was so nice to feel like I was flying up the hills.

It was a perfectly dry day but I am (maybe) looking forward to how the fenders work!

What needs to be tweaked?

The handlebars seem very large to me and I have not measured the difference between the road bike and Ginger. This could be because the handlebars are up high right now as Free Range Cycles does not cut the downtube down to size until the bike is sold. I did not want that cut until I'd had a chance to ride for a bit. I will bring the handlebars down a bit and that will change the large feeling for the better I suspect. I really like being in the drops on the new bike too. The relaxed angle is so comfortable.

Still need to tweak seat height a bit and figure out if I can get the seat level. It tips forward just a bit right now and I don't think that's adjustable.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Bike - first commute.

More about the ride later. The sunrise was stunning! I had to stop at the entrance to the pedestrian tunnel above I-90 to soak in the view. Chatted with other cyclists doing the same. This photo just taken with my camera phone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The (Bike) Realization.

I've been riding my bike to work regularly for a few weeks now and really enjoying it. With gas prices higher overall and a general mindset to be greener, I've also been trying to use my bike for short errands. Sure my commuter bike has been fit to me but I hate the mountain bike positioning now. Hate it! After some years of mostly riding my road bike, I am just not comfortable on the mountain bike. My back gets sore, my wrists and hands bother me and it's just so clunky feeling (different than heavy because it isn't for a mountain bike).

When I first started commuting, it seemed like there weren't very many choices for commuter bikes. I had never ridden a road bike before so I naturally ended up with a mountain bike because that's what I was comfortable with. It was hugely better than my former hybrid bike which must've weighed as much as our car and didn't have the gearing necessary for the hills I climb every day.

Every single ride I have been envious of those on their road bikes (cyclocross, touring, road) set up for commuting. After multiple rides last week in the rain and no front fender, I was feeling so done with my trusty mountain bike. it was time to go bike shopping!

What did I want?

steel frame
more relaxed geometry than my road bike (less twitchy) and fits me well
wide commuter tires
fenders and rack capable
components just needed to be good enough
no weirdness (i'll explain later)
already built and not so pricey that I wouldn't want to leave it locked up somewhere

This list ended up being a little more difficult to find than I thought. Right now bike stores are selling out of 2008 bikes in my size but don't have 2009 bikes in yet. I could have a bike built up but that ends up being very pricey.

First off, we went to Free Range Cycles. K bought his bike here a few years ago and loved the service that he got here. The standout bike for me here was the Salsa Casseroll. See picture below:

It fit me so well and was so comfortable to ride. I took it up and down some hills and over some bumpy pavement and was amazed at how light and responsive it felt for not a real light bike. I had some qualms about the color (so shallow of me I know!). The only real drawback was that it was just a bit more than I was hoping to pay. I tried a couple of other bikes here including the Jamis Aurora Elite (felt clunky which was surprising) and the Surly Cross check (more about this one later).

Next we headed to Greg's GreenLake Cycles for a quick spin of the Bianchi Volpe.
It's a nice color (dark blue) and a good price for what I'm looking for in a bike. My fun zippy road bike is a Bianchi as well but not capable of handling fenders and a rack and has skinny tires. And? It was too close to my road bike. Twitchy. The reach was a little long and I'd have to switch out the stem (just like I did on my Vigorelli). Don't get me wrong. This is a nice bike and I've been seeing a lot of them on the roads but it is not what I am looking for in a commuter bike.

Next we went on to Recycled Cycles. I'd not been in this store in some years and was impressed with how they've expanded their inventory and lessened their junk yard feel. It was pretty busy but I got to try quite a few bikes. I tried a couple of different versions of the Surly Cross Check:
It's a very common bike in Seattle and I can see why. A nice solid bike but it had some big strikes against it for me. Bar end shifters are just awkward for me (this is the no weirdness cited above). Yeah I could have them switched out but why bother? The reach on this bike is a bit long for me so the stem would have to be shortened. It was an eh for ride feel which surprised me. I expected it to be a more comfortable ride but it was not.

Next the guy trotted out a used and new version of the Kona Paddy Wagon.

I was pretty tempted by these bikes. Eventually I decided the used bike was too small for me and the newer version had weirdness in the form of downtube shifters. I was too afraid to even try to shift the bike let alone go climb a hill. The tires weren't as wide as I was hoping and at some point I knocked my foot with the front wheel which made me wonder if the fit was a little off. And still compared to the Salsa Casseroll it just wasn't as comfortable.

This brings me to the biggest pet peeve I have about bike shopping and bike stores in general. I mostly had good help but you often run into some pretty serious attitude from bike store people (read: it's mostly men I hate to say). The guy at Recycled Cycles kept putting me on small bikes and then once we had established that i probably rode the same size bike he did (unsurprising since I was an inch taller than he was), he was unwilling to put the seat high enough for when I was test riding.

When I asked him to put the seat up higher he gave me all sorts of bull crap about how I must be used to the bike seat too high and blah de blahda blah. My road bike was fit by an expert in this area and I loooooved what it felt like after he was done with it. Eventually I told bike store dude that was all well and good but put the seat up higher so I can ride (dammit). The dammit part was unspoken but he may have heard it anyway.

It can be pretty challenging to find a bike for a woman. If you are small, your options are limited and you run into trade off with shoe clearance and wheels (scary stuff actually). If you are taller like I am, generally your legs will be longer than a male of similar height but with a shorter torso so any bike will fit just a bit off. You must keep trying different bikes and try to imagine what would happen with some tweaks to fit (this is hard to do if you aren't used to biking). Add in some attitude at bike stores and it's not always a pleasant experience.

After stomping around a bit after that experience I had to think about it for a bit. We stopped by Montlake Cycles where they really didn't have much else but I did get a longer ride in on the Casseroll. Monday I commuted in on my mountain bike again and had a long hard think.

Salsa Casseroll in ginger beer color here i come! We went to Free Range and got the bike yesterday. I got to meet the owner of Free Range (Katherine) and also thank the gentleman (?name) who helped me over the weekend. I am currently prepping the bike for commuting and cannot wait to ride it!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Strangest election discussion with someone at work:

Me: So did you vote today?
Person: Oh no!
Me: (puzzled look at her vehemence) Really?
Person: I refuse to vote until my vote is really counted. When they do away with the electoral college then I will vote.
Me: :-/ I think you are going to be waiting awhile.

Best moment:

Walking out of rowing class after some fun on the erg (lightning sighted so didn't get out onto water) and hearing the election had already been called. Relief and joy and a hug with SG who was tearing up.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Some firsts...

It's been a strange year. Last year at this time I was just coming back to running after taking some time off for shin splints (sound familiar?). And now a year later, I find myself about to come back to running after a stress fracture. However the year has still been memorable but just not how I would've expected it to go.
  • I ran my first track race and cross country races in the Super Jock N Jill Winter Series.
  • I ran Eugene Marathon. I wasn't too pleased with my time but still it was a sub-4 marathon which is nothing to take for granted.
  • Ran a fantastically fun trail run with friends to Wallace Falls and lake.
  • I ran as a team member in the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage.
  • Acquired my first stress fracture. :-/
Ok those are all running related. I have a bunch of firsts that are not running related but only would've happened since I am in shape from running and want to maintain some of that hard won fitness.
  • First time biking 50 miles.
  • First time biking over 100 miles in a week.
  • Adventure Ride - biked Seattle to Columbia River via The Iron Horse Trail.
  • resumed bike commuting for the first time in years and biked in the long way three times in one week. I remember commuting three times (the short way) once when I was a regular bike commuter and I was wiped from the effort. This week it was no big deal and I'm planning on doing it again.
  • signed up for my first row class and today actually got in a boat with 7 other people and rowed on Lake Union today. What an experience!
So, I am really looking forward to the test runs that are coming up late next week. Running has opened up a lot of possibilities for me even when I can't run. it is good to remember that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sentence continues...

Sigh. Met with the doc this past week and he wants me off of running for another two weeks tomorrow (but who is counting?). This was not unexpected news and there is no reason to rush back to running unless the stress fracture is healed. I've not had any pain for weeks and had gotten hopeful. No pain is really the best news however and doc was amazed that I was already pain free.

Road biking in the dark and bike on the trainer has gotten old real quick so I thought I'd resume commuting in by bike as an easy way to get in miles. I last did this regularly in 2002/2003 so it has been awhile as I've only commuted in very occasionally since. I use my trusty mountain bike with commuter tires, upright bars, a rack and panniers to ride in. Now that I'm used to going longer distances, I add onto my commute by doing a longer ride in which is fun because I can do different routes.

What have I noticed bike commuting to work this week?

Hauling the heavier bike with panniers is a good workout. It's certainly building strength and makes going back to the zippy road bike with skinny tires ever so much fun.

There are so many bicycle commuters now! Ok, this week has been gorgeous and dry for the most part but there must be 100% more cyclists out there than I used to see when I commuted if not more. Hoards of cyclists on all kinds of bikes (too many fixies though..) on all routes. I am amazed! I took a longer way home and was on the Burke-Gilman for a couple of miles around GasWorks Park and it was like being on a biking freeway which isn't really a good thing.

Kudos to Seattle for the sharrows and new attention to bike markings on the roads. Practically every street I ride on has had some changes to it with bike markings. I used to commute up 11th street but now Stone Way is better. It is nice to have some choices.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the ferry boat - Not my bike.

Orcas Island was really great but both K and I were a little frustrated about not trail running and not biking. Another reason to go back! The goal is to go to the island sans car.

Orcas Island!

is just a ferry boat ride away? How come we've never been? We've been missing out!

We left after a leisurely morning in Seattle on Friday and arrived early evening on the island.
We ate at Chimayo, a New Mexican restaurant, which as K pointed out was appropriate. 10 years ago, we had gotten married and had our wedding dinner with friends and family at our favorite New Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque. As with most Mexican food in Seattle or the Northwest, the food was not quite what you'd expect but it was very tasty.

K had found a great B&B in Eastsound called the Kangaroo House. It was a beautiful craftsman and we had a wonderful suite. It was so wonderful that i think I slept 9 hours that first night because it was so quiet and comfy with no distractions (ie Dex the Duck!) and no responsibilities.

the next day started out clear and cold. We had a lovely breakfast provided by the B&B and set off for Moran Park and Mount Constitution after stopping by the store for picnic supplies. Mount Constitution was a little cloudy on top but it was still a stunning view. The drive down the mountain, we found a great spot to stop and admire the views north. We were treated to watching four (4!) bald eagles circling upward on thermals right in front of us. We could hear them calling to each other with an interesting chittering which I've never heard before.

On the recommendation of the Charles and Jill, the B&B owners, we went on an easy walk around Mountain Lake and up towards Twin Lakes still within Moran Park. That was the best! Very few people out and about and it was just beautiful with fall color, still waters and lots of interesting nature. We had a picnic of salami, cheese, yogurt and pears and were happy!

Since Charles and Jill's recommendations had been perfect, we decided to follow up on their beach recommendation. They had suggested hiking along the short trail in Obstruction Pass State Park to get to the pebble beach on Obstruction Pass. This was more of a hike over trails but nothing difficult and a beautiful beach as a reward.

Well after all that hiking about, we were tired and ready for dinner rather early. But it was too early so we made it into Eastsound to wander about the touristy shops. We did enjoy the Crow Valley Pottery "in town" store. It had pottery, artwork and various other items and we liked some enough to buy. Always a sucker for preserves, we got some pear and blackberry preserves for us and our neighbors who were cat sitting for us. The shop owner told the interesting story that the pears were from his orchards which were all over 100 years old and were Orcas Pears. Orcas pears weren't planted for prettiness but for taste and used to be shipped all over the country. I cannot wait for pancakes this weekend!

I slept another 9 hours that night. There must be something about island time. Breakfast was a more ornate affair and we caught up with the other guests at the B&B. They were determined to make an early ferry to leave the island and bolted quickly. We enjoyed our breakfast and thanked Charles for the excellent suggestions from the day before and did he have any more?

Being the great host, he did and recommended checking out the new park on Turtleback Mountain. An interesting success of opening a new wild area and I cannot wait to see what they do with this park in the years to come. It just opened in 2007 and there are only a few trails right now. We did a quick mile hike up 900 feet onto Shiprock and then right back down.

Then off to Orcas Village to safely make it onto the ferry we wanted and hang out and wait. Orcas Village is rather dull unfortunately. WE got onto the ferry and found our B&B breakfast companions. After bolting from breakfast, they missed the earlier ferry by 5 cars and then were stuck waiting in line for four hours. Ugh! We were pretty smug about the hike we had managed to sneak in.

Orcas was great. K and I can't wait to go again. It felt far away and yes, it can be tricky with ferry rides but all the great outdoor activities were fantastic. As the mark of a great getaway, it felt like we were gone a week for only a long weekend. Love it!

Full photos are ----> click here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lake Washington Loop

This is a very common ride in these parts. I've never done it and have always had it on my list to do. Today was the day! For four plus hours of riding, here is what goes through my brain:
  • Chemical hand warmers are da bomb! It was below 40 degrees when I started. I tucked one on the top of my road shoe but under my booties and that worked very well to keep my feet comfortable. Usually if it is under 50 degrees, my feet go numb on a ride. Not today!
  • I hate the Burke-Gilman. There I said it. The clueless pedestrians/runners (Hey! I'm a runner and I know how to behave on that trail), the washboard effect of tree roots, the annoying street crossings, those dillweeds in Lake Forest all get to me. So I decided to try the Sand Point Way detour for "fast riders" which only makes me snort a little bit. I am not a fast rider at all. Sand Point Way was hilly, with a fair bit of traffic and torn up in places but I liked it better than the good ol' B-G. This route put me on Highway 522 for a little bit. It's a bit dicey just north of 145th but I just held my line and soon enough a wider shoulder opened up.
  • Juanita Drive Hill. I've heard of this hill and I climbed it today. It seemed to go on for quite a while but it was never very steep. Looking at the elevation map, it ends up being a mile and a half climb and the elevation is the same as the hill that we live on top of. Hunh. I guess I'm used to climbing that everytime I go out for a ride. No biggie.
  • Buzz. A huge white suv buzzed me around Kirkland. There was no other cars on the road and the gleaming tank made sure I knew it was going by as close as possible on the wide road. I was shocked but not scared and then pissed.
  • Bellevue. Uh that just sucked. I chickened out of climbing up the NE Points Drive which is just to the north of 520 and south of Kirkland. I've run up that hill many times but the thought of biking it was a bit much so I ended up riding right through downtown Bellevue. I couldn't remember the turn off to hit a quieter street nor where I'd have to make my next connections. I should've brought a map. Traffic was light so no problem and then I got a little lost trying to figure out where to turn off to the Mercer Slough area. I found a really bad place to cross a very busy street. Oh well. I made it. I won't go that way again.
  • A Happy Surprise! The washboard area on the bike trail paralleling 405 just north of Renton has been repaired. Smooth pavement is a joy.
  • Emergency Pancake Call. At mile 42, I was at Seward Park and realized I was out of food and really hungry. I called K to ask that he have pancakes and coffee ready when I got home. I figured it would take about an hour. That kept me focused!
  • Lake Washington Shore. If there is a happier sight than watching large dogs bounding into the lake water to fetch things, I can't think of it. Lots of joyful dogs out there having a blast.
  • Lycroids. There were large packs of those similarly lycra clad cyclists out and about. I find them quite snooty. Please don't let me ever get a bike jersey like that.
  • Form check. There were tons of runners out along Lake Washington as usual on a sunny day with the Seattle Marathon looming. I sometimes want to yell at runners when I am riding past to stop running like a sack of potatoes. Form! Run like you mean it! I don't think it would be appreciated.
  • Lake Washington Blvd switchback climb to the Arboretum. This has gotten easier! I was really nervous the first time I climbed this road earlier this summer. No problem today.
  • Montlake. I tried crossing Montlake instead of the University Bridge. It's a little confusing in that area even by car. The well placed bike trail signs were much appreciated. Uh. Do you think they'll fix those roads. Ow!
  • Pancakes are the best post ride eats!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How distractible are you?

I've been making good use of my bike and starting to add in ellipticating this week. (Ok, I don't know if you can use that term but I am using the elliptical machine at the gym which is a pretty good running substitute.)

It was quite stormy and windy here for a few days this past week and in those conditions, I prefer to ride my bike on the trainer in my living room. No, really. To ride my bike on the trainer or to use the elliptical requires much entertainment to keep me on the machine and focused. Riding, in particular, for longer than about 45 minutes inside requires movies, music, podcasts, reading books and magazines, more music and I still always get off sooner than i would wish.

This brings up an interesting point to me. RPD suggests that I don't particularly lose myself when working out on the trainer or the elliptical. No. I do not. I am always aware of every freaking minute and only by distracting myself with entertainment am I able to keep the focus on the workout. Overall, I will enjoy sweating buckets and listening to music and whatever but while in the midst of the workout I am counting seconds and playing with intensities to give myself a focus. It is purely mental stamina and not physical stamina which keeps me going on these workouts.

Running outside lets me put my busy brain on automatic and I am unaware of time passing. I am anti-music/entertainment when running or biking outside. I don't need the entertainment. Just the sensation of my body working well is satisfying and occupying. I'm always aware of my pace, my stride, my breathing and I revel in it. My brain is entertained as well. I plan what I want to focus on at home, at work, at life. I work through things that are bugging me and enjoy the scenery passing.

It's an interesting revelation to me. the gym in general has never appealed to me and now I know why. It takes a lot to keep me distracted. The gym environment alone doesn't cut it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Crosstraining Issues

It has been a summer of biking and I really have enjoyed it. With Fall here now, it's harder to plan biking however. I don't like riding in the rain and since it's completely dark when I ride in the morning I have to limit my routes or ride on the trainer. The trainer is ok for me because I like to listen to music and I can read but (or butt) it is more comfortable to ride outside.

This am on Day 2 of no running (but who is counting?), I had planned on riding on the trainer as it was supposed to be rainy. When I got up I was pleasantly suprised to see dry pavement outside and it was warm so I decided to head on outside for a time trial around Green Lake. I contemplated doing my usual loop but after just a mile I realized my headlamp was dying. I had forgotten to charge it because I hadn't been expecting to have to use it. I don't particularly need it to ride on lighted city streets as it is more a safety item so cars can see me. So I decided to limit my ride to just the Burke- Gilman and around Green Lake which has few hazards.

I had finished my second time trial loop of Green Lake and was lazily riding along heading home when I see a cop car ahead of me at the stop sign. Uh oh.

Revised Code of Washington State46.61.780 Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.(1) every bicycle when in use during the hours of darkness as defined in RCW 46.37.020 shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the state patrol which shall be visible from all distances from one hundred feet to six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.

Sure enough, the cop car pulls me over and says over their speakers that i need to get on the sidewalk and walk my bike because I have no headlamp. I am three miles from home, idiot. Fortunately I manage to keep my mouth shut. He finally rolls down his window to talk to me and I say the light has died and I'm far from home. Doesn't matter according to Mr. Cop. I turn the light back on and it puts out a feeble glow. He is grumpily satisfied and takes himself off either for a shift change or more coffee. The light dies within a mile but hell if I'm walking home.

I know I am in the wrong and my light needs to work. I am riding in a bike lane on a lit street. Last week there was a shooting in our neighborhood. On my bike I see the remains of car windows which have been smashed because of theft. How about pulling over the cars which drift into the bike lane because the driver is on a cell phone (illegal now in WA)?

Can I go back to running yet?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A New Accoutrement.

It goes really well with my wardrobe. :-/

Stress fracture confirmed with a bone scan on Monday. Off of running for 6-8 weeks but could be less because I have a magic bone healing machine. I'm trying not to get my hopes up however. I can bike, I can use the elliptical and pool run. Considering how little I have been running this summer in general, I know I can stay in shape with not any trouble. I'd still rather be running.

I've moved past the teary sad stage to the pissed accepting stage. Have I mentioned I'd rather be running?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Part 3 - Iron Horse Trail - Thorp to the Army East (Columbia River)

After the ride the day before, Lorrie B and I hopped in the van to help Coach T mark the course through Ellensburg since the Iron Horse Trail disappears for just a bit through town. We had spotted a bike shop in our wanderings and T is not one to turn down a bike shop and neither am I so we popped in to check it out.

T also wanted to ask about the trail we were going to ride the next day. He'd never been on it and after countless hours spent researching and googling kept getting mixed reports about trail conditions, permit restrictions and army exercises blocking the trail (!). Some reports said it wasn't passable even. Even the dude at ReCycle Shop couldn't give us a straight answer because he'd heard all sorts of conflicting reports as well.

So. The Iron Horse Trail was a big unknown for our third and final leg. We knew it would be flat and easy for the first 20 miles but then we may not be able to go further and conditions might be challenging. It was a good thing that the day's ride had been so easy as who knew what was coming the next day.

It was a gorgeous morning. Sunny and comfortable with a fairly stiff breeze which would be a tailwind the entire time we were riding. After the cooler temps and clouds of the day before, the sun was wonderful. Everybody was in a good mood and off we went. We'd spotted a farm growing pumpkins and I had to go check it out for a little detour at the beginning. To get back to the trail I had to go into the wind. Even for that quarter mile on the gravel road, I was very thankful we would have a tailwind.

The trail from Thorp to Kittitas was very uneventful 14 miles. Flat and pretty with nice famland vistas. There was really no one else out and about so I made sure to bark at the dogs and moo at the cows I saw. I called out "good morning!" to the horses in the fields too. My legs were feeling great and even my seat was fine which really surprised me.

From Kittitas, the trail has a super soft sandy/gravel surface which was really challenging to push through on bike. It was easy to bog down and have to walk. I kept looking longingly at the road which paralleled the trail. I was so tempted! But no, Coach T ever the joker had come up with the idea of completing this three day ride meant riding every inch of the trail (which is open) otherwise you wouldn't be "certified." We'd all had a good laugh at that and it was keeping me on the trail (the laugh is on me!).

The trail is actually closed in a short stretch along here because the Renslow Trestle Bridge is unrideable. We took a rolling road detour which was fun to ride after all the sand. I did manage to hit 32 mph going downhill on my knobby tires and I wasn't even pedaling! Up and down, up and down and you could see the trestle in the distance.

The road runs under the trestle and it's a quick turn to get to Army West Trailhead. I could see the support van parked here and I could see a bunch of Stryker army vehicles around. These are the huge armored transport vehicles! Uh. Ok. What are they doing? Well, it seems like they are conducting some sort of exercise as they are yelling at some people dressed in civilian clothes and firing at them. I ride up to T and start howling with laughter. We might be done for the day!

T has been talking with the men after initially being told to "Halt!" and "Stop right there!" They are contacting their command about the feasibility of a bunch of bicyclists riding on the trail. Eventually someone comes over and lets us know that the trail is open and points out exactly where to get to it. He does suggest that the army drivers are used to driving around like maniacs out there so you might want to be careful and do not get off the trail.

Ok then! Since the trail goes through this restricted area there is no support vehicle access for the next 20 miles. I fill up my water bottle, have a gel and prepare to ride on. The terrain has changed from valley farmland to dry scrubland. It really looks like Albuquerque much to my surprise and has the same vegetation.

After a short hill to reach the trail, I hop on my bike and start to ride and quickly bog down in even worse sand/gravel than the earlier section. And to make matters worse the trail is slightly uphill. I have to crank on the pedals to get going and keep going and I'm barely moving along at 7.5 mph. I can tell other cyclist have gone through this area by the tracks and I can see when they lost control of their bikes on the loose stuff. This is tough, tough riding when I'm even riding. It's even hard to walk through this stuff pushing the bike. 20 miles of this?

I do start to get better at riding this stuff though. It's almost like surfing on sand and I am getting a great core workout controlling the twitching, fishtailing bike. The tailwind has picked up and seems to help move me around on the trail when I don't want to be moved. It seems like forever but this section was only about 4 miles long and took me about 50 minutes to ride.

The trail started to become more packed and a little bit more rideable and then the final tunnel of the ride appeared unexpectedly at the end of a very narrow, dark chute which you couldn't see the end of. I knew this tunnel was not very long (1980 feet) but it curved because I couldn't see the end. The surface of the tunnel is super loose sand with huge boulders dotting the ground. Not too far into the tunnel I start to hear twitterings. Uh bats? No worse. Pigeons! My light and movement startle them and they keep flying around me and in front of me and probably above me. I'm yelling "crap, crap, crap!" and thinking that is exactly what they are probably doing. The surface of the trail gets worse the farther into the tunnel you go with big sections of large loose rocks. I am determined to ride through because there is no way I'm stopping. I think this tunnel is worse than the 2.4 miles Snoqualmie one!

The Boyleston Tunnel marks the elevation high point of this trail. From here the next 15 miles are all downhill to the Columbia River. The surface is a lot better but there are still sections of the loose sand. What becomes even more challenging is the cuts through the hillside that were made to keep the railroad grade constant. Those cuts are very narrow and the rock lining them is extremely friable. The ground of these cuts is littered with piles of sharp rocks some even bigger than a, as the term goes, baby head. Loose scree and big rocks and going downhill means this is a dangerous ride. Often you could hear the wind building behind you and whistling through the cuts and when that happened you knew it would push you around. This was challenging riding for me. I've never done anything like this before.

And of course, I did see the army boys driving their Strykers around. I'd wave and they waved back. I, of course, was carefully waiting for them to cross. And I had a laugh at some of the signs warning to stay on the trail. Army conducting exercises plus rattlesnakes and no roads or other trails in sight? Yep. I'm staying on the trail!

The wind started to get stronger and stronger. The final 5 miles are on curving trails with a mix of the loose stuff. The wind would push you over so much that I'd be afraid of falling off the high banked trail. Even so, it was exhilarating riding at such speeds and leaning into the wind and controlling the fish tailing. I was having a blast and there were sweeping views of the Columbia River.

Done! 41 miles later and my quads and hips were screaming about the abuse I'd put them through. Turns out that some of our riders didn't really have the strength and/or bike skills to do the final section and had to turn back. Others who could do it reported having some emotional breakdowns while in the midst of the challenge. And it was a huge challenge!

We drove back to Ellensburg to shuffle bikes, gear and riders between another vehicle and drove back happy and tired to Seattle. Iron Horse from Seattle to Columbia River for 155 miles? I'm certified and certifiable!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Part 2 - The Iron Horse Trail - Hyak to Thorp

After spending the night at the Summit Lodge at Snoqualmie Pass, we awoke to drizzle and cool temperatures. I'd heard from K that it was raining in Seattle. I fully expected to ride in cold and wet for the next section of the Iron Horse Trail. This section was going to be 47 miles from Hyak to Thorp (just east of Ellensberg). Oh joy.

I had felt completely done after the long and grueling bike ride from the day before. But after a huge, carb-laden dinner and a huge, carb-laden breakfast plus some decent sleep, I felt a whole heck of a lot better. We knew that this section of the trail was going to be easier and I planned on keeping it as easy as possible because I didn't think I'd make it a third day riding if I had another ride like the first one.

I'd had some problems with focus the day before probably because of fueling issues but also because I was by myself the entire ride. I planned on bringing along my ipod to help keep me focused. I'm normally anti-music when running or riding because of safety and rudeness issues. I was on a trail by myself with no traffic and nobody around so this seemed like a good time to break the music rules.

Miraculously, by the time I started riding most of the drizzle clouds had lifted and it wasn't raining. Almost immediately past the trail head, you ride along side Lake Keechelus. It was flat and easy for the first five miles and a complete relief after the uphill grind of the day before. I was totally enjoying the music and realizing that my legs felt great after warming up a bit. After that warm up, the trail took a steady drop all the way to where we would end. It was amazing to be out on the trail with a tail wind and downhill! I was having a blast.

I'd occasionally see a group of bicyclists coming towards me. They were battling uphill much like I'd been doing the day before but they were also slowed by a strong headwind. I cheerily said "Hello!" to everybody as I blasted by them.

I'm embarrassed to admit that even though I have lived in Seattle for over 10 years and consider it my home that I have never been to the eastern side of Washington. I have never been past Snoqualmie Pass. And on this ride, I was finally making it to the Eastern side and I was doing it first by bicycle.

The scenery from Hyak to Cle Elum was really gorgeous. We crossed the Yakima River numerous times and I liked seeing the forest as we rode along. Some early shrubs were just starting to change color. There was no denying that fall was in the air.

This is a former railroad track and there were some very evocative moments for me when I was riding along. We passed a few different former train stations in Easton and Cle Elum. There were four different tunnels along this section. I picture the men who toiled in latter part of the 19th Century to build these tunnels and I get chills. After crossing the river yet again, I came to a high sided rocky chute which was very narrow for a train. Honestly I could smell engine oil and I had to look around to make sure there wasn't a train coming behind me. I got chills again but decided to blame it on the wind this time.

It was just after this point that I started catching and passing other people on the ride. We all met up at Cle Elum around mile 30 to have lunch and take a group photo. After the bonk fest of the day before, I had decided I needed to find a better fuel for lunch on the bike. I had an extra pancake at breakfast and peanut butter and jelly in my room. Voila! PB & J pancakes are now my new food choice for this sort of thing. Bread gets all dry and gross but pancakes stay nice and moist. Try it! I think this would work for events like Ragnar too.

After Cle Elum the scenery changed. It became dryer and more desert-like. There were cool looking rock formations which looked like volcanic activity to my non-geologist eyes.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful except for some heavy gravel/sand on the trail which made riding very hard. As I was coming in towards Thorp, the wind had really picked up and sometimes would come at you from the side. It's something else being pushing along sideways on your bike by the wind. Coach T was coming towards me on his bike the last mile and was cursing the wind for the short section he was riding. He gave me the keys to the van and I finished my ride. Truthfully, I was sorry to stop. I felt like I could've gone on forever. Shortly Coach T and LB arrived at the van. We loaded up and got a ride into Ellensberg to check into our hotel while Coach T went back to the Thorp trailhead to pick up the rest of the riders.

What a different feeling finishing this ride compared to the day before. It wasn't as far and was far easier and I was better fueled (PBJ Pancakes!).

Dinner was at The Ellensberg Pasta Company and it was quite tasty. Everybody was pretty cheerful after the easier ride and good food makes everybody happy too.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Iron Horse Trail - Seattle to Hyak - 67 Miles

I've suddenly become (relatively) bicycle fit and what should I do about it? Oh I know, I'll bike 150 miles over three days from Seattle to the Columbia River via the Iron Horse Trail. Coach T has been talking about this one for a couple of years and it finally happened this year.

I got dropped off at Myrtle Edwards park in Downtown Seattle and meandered my way through downtown (see rant from last weekend). Hooked up with the I-90 trail and instead of turning right after the Mercer Slough, I continued west on the I-90 trail. I'd never been this way before and was excited to try a new route. Newport Way was great fun on a bike. I was quite nervous about this ride as it was going to be the farthest I'd ever ridden and with a huge climb to Hyak and the Snoqualmie Pass so I made sure to keep it easy and try to fuel well.

After going through Issaquah I finally had the fun of riding on the Mountains to Sound regional trails which allow cyclist onto I-90 past Issaquah. I'd seen crazy people bicycling on the freeway before and swore I'd never do that! What can I say? People change and now I was one of those crazies. It was a good thing I didn't know that I'd be riding on this part until the last minute as I think it would've given me something else to stress about. And really, it wasn't bad at all. I even got a nice shout out of approval at one point from a car whizzing past. At least that's what it sounded like to me.

After a bit of road ups and downs, I came to the Preston Snoqualmie Trail which I didn't know existed. A short trail with a few bumps and there was no one on it at all. Very remote feeling and it had a screaming downhill to get to the Preston Fall City Road to go to Fall City. They were doing road paving on this stretch and had the road just to one lane and holding traffic. The flagger waved me up to the front and sent me on ahead to the next flagger where I waited and chatted with the lady. She was amazed I'd come from Seattle and then reported that she'd seen a bicyclist crash in front of her before. That's really what I want to hear at this point. She redeemed herself by letting me go first of all the cars on new pavement. Man, that was fun!

I was expecting to climb the road to Snoqualmie Falls but I took a quick turn left before there and found an even worse hill to climb (Coach T is really good at this sort of thing). I didn't think I was going to make it up but I powered and grunted up the hill and was a quivery mass for a bit after that. Here I had lunch and traded my trusty road bike for my also trusty (but not as well loved) mountain bike. It's just not as comfy and I had changed tires to my monster grip ones so the mountain bike felt even stranger. I was now on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and it would take me to Rattlesnake Lake.

I've been on the SVT countless times as a runner and racer and occasionally as a cyclist. It's rather dull in a leafy, calm sort of way. K has seen a bear before along this stretch of the trail and sure enough, there are signs posted about bear activity. This did keep me slightly more focused.

At Rattlesnake, I stretched a bit and started up the Iron Horse Trail. It was here that I realized with 20 miles still to go that I was really hungry. Not a good sign when it's literally all uphill from here.

I'd been riding all by my lonesome but I did start to pass other folks on the ride here. It was fun to chat and compare various aches. Everybody had a smile on their face however! See that smile of Laura E's face?

My back was aching, my hamstrings were hurting, the little area between shoulder blades was screaming protest and yet even though I was close to being done, there was still one very big hurdle left. Dunh, dunh, dunh. The Tunnel, my nemesis. Yes, i was going to be facing it again and truth be told, I was thinking about it for at least 60 miles.

I could try and go through by myself or wait for another person to come along. After 60 miles of mulling it over I wanted to go through by myself. I had brought K's fantastically bright light and hoped that would make a difference. And it did! It made a huge difference being able to truly see the ground in front of you. I had no troubles going through it at all. I was still tense at that moment when the light behind you vanishes and you can just barely see the pinprick of light ahead, but it was bearable.
Coming out of the tunnel is usually like coming out into a whole 'nother world and it was no different today. While it had been cloudy and sometimes drizzly on the other side, as soon as I cam out of the tunnel it was warmer and sunny in Hyak. You could look back and see the clouds retreating from the pass. It seemed like we were being welcomed after our long trek.

PP and I loaded our bikes on the van and went to the hotel to quickly unload stuff so she could go back to the trailhead for the next group of riders. We both realized on the drive to the hotel that we were fried. I was starving and not able to focus and barely able to even form complete sentences.

I chowed well at dinner and poured the liquids in. It was like I'd never eaten before! I kept thinking of Tour de France riders and how many calories they have to take in daily to sustain their exertions.

It was a pretty amazing day. 67 miles is definitely a new biking high for me for one day and the elevation chart just makes me laugh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Adjustment Run

I have one of these runs every year at about this time when summer is transitioning to fall. I normally run before work and try to be out running by 5:30 am.

During the summer this is great at it is usually the perfect temperature, the sun is rising or already up, the birds are chirping and yeah it's just sickening how lovely it all is.

And then we hit that magic point of the year when it is dark at 5:30 and I realize I've lost the running in the dark skills I had acquired over the previous winter. The birds don't chirp and there are creatures (real and imaginary) out there.

Today was that adjustment run. I went and ran what's called "Campus Loop" which takes me strangely enough through the UW Campus and along the Burke-Gilman trail. Right away I notice that along Ravenna Blvd. that the sidewalks seem particularly dangerous as it is dark and they are cracked. I have a flashlight with me but I still have to be careful. This goes on for a mile or so and I'm getting annoyed at sidewalk maintenance programs in Seattle. Hint: there are no programs.

The campus is well lit at night so that's not a problem but I'm jumpy about trash cans which seem to be lurking in the corners. And that electrical box, that could be somebody waiting to jump out. This is when having a very active imagination is not so useful! The next time I do this run in the dark, I'll have a better sense of where these gremlins are hiding and I won't be so nervous.

One of the last miles is an uphill mile which goes through Cowan Park on a tree covered trail alongside Ravenna Creek. It's always very peaceful in this little treed oasis in the city. As I came along side an area along the creek, there is a huge rustling noise in the creek. I turn off my flashlight and speed up! what the heck was that? I'm calling it a raccoon at this point. At the time, I pictured boogey men, gremlins and bears. Oh my!

Soon it'll be cold again. Soon it'll be raining again. I'll have adjusted and running in the dark, wet and cold won't be such a big deal. Now, it's a very sad good-bye to summer.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bike Plan

Recognize the above image? If you've biked in Seattle, you've probably come across this free city map available online and in hard copy. This image is cropped to show the route through South of Downtown to get to the I-90 shared use trail which then goes to the Mount Baker Pedestrian Tunnel. It looks straight forward after you get through the mess which is Jackson St (blue horizontal line towards the left top of the image) and the International District. Go west on Dearborn which although busy does have a bike lane. Then you need to cross Rainier Ave S to get to Hiawatha Pl S, turn right and you'll end up on the path after a couple of blocks.

It's been some years since I've done this route through here on my bike. I was all ready to go last weekend as I wanted to join a couple of my typical bike courses to get some more miles in. No biggie. I checked the map as a refresher. What is that little purple jog which the route takes around Rainier/Dearborn? That intersection is busy so I figured it was just an easier little re-route to take you to a better way to cross that intersection. (Route based on Seattle bike map is here.)

Uh no. No! NO!

This route is even signed with helpful little images like the one below:

So as I was riding along Dearborn headed towards the intersection, I see the scene below. I'm standing on a sharrow sign with my bike and it looks very clear that I need to turn right at the next intersection (Poplar Ave S).

Great! This makes me feel a little more secure about where I'm going and it's pretty clear that I should turn. Immediately after I turn right there is another sign directing me to turn left (onto S Dean St) and matching the bike map. Here is the scene and notice the bike sign at the far right
directing a bicyclist to turn left.

And what do you get when you turn onto S. Dean St as directed by signs and map? Chewed up pavement, gravel and sheer bewilderment about what you are supposed to do next. I turned that corner and my jaw dropped in disbelief.

This is what the road surface looks like and yep, that's just chunks of pavement and piles of gravel arranged in a most artistic pot holed sort of way.

This is the broader scene.

And that's it. I didn't see any more signs and no obvious way to go through the intersection. I guess I was supposed to use the crosswalks with my bike (! No way!)but I ended up riding on the sidewalk (! No Way!) of Rainier for a block. the sidewalk was narrow, pitted and full of driveway cutouts like many sidewalks are in Seattle. I got to the next street down and waited for a bit for traffic to clear and bolted across.

What the hell?

By myself I'd just ride in the through lane and go through the intersection acting like a car. Keep in mind that when I was riding early on a weekend morning it wasn't that busy. Still when it is busy, it's almost easier to behave like a car as traffic isn't going as fast. I deliberately checked the bike map as a reference to see what was recommended through this area. I checked the Cascade's bike forums too trying to see what were the most recommend routes to get to the I-90 path.

This is what makes me crazy about biking. Yep, there are recommended routes and various ways to get places but looking at bike maps and checking online for bike routes doesn't give you the little details needed. And then you come across routing instructions which are plain dangerous. Hmmph.

Don't get me wrong. There are some really nice mapping features out there. I like but any route is only as good and detail-oriented as the person who put the route into the system. It's the little details which are really valuable to a nervous cyclist like me. Maps put out by the city are instantly out of date or just plain nuts about routing. What about the efforts to get Google to add bike routing to their maps? This seems like both a good idea and a disaster waiting to happen. Where would Google get their bike routing information? From city maps which aren't up to date and often seem to deliberately pick the busiest street to ride?

After some googling about a bit. I did find this bike route planner for San Francisco. It has some mixed reviews but it is an interesting program. Is there anything like this for Seattle yet? Not that I can tell. And no, there isn't the detail needed especially for newbie cyclists.

Seattle did pass a "Seattle Bicycle Master Plan" recently and I know I have been seeing the sharrows painted in the most unlikeliest of places. Yesterday I biked to work and followed new bike signs which directed me from Downtown to the Interurban trail via Fremont. This time, the signs worked! It was a clear route with easy to navigate sharrows, bike lanes and good road conditions.

With gasoline prices not likely to go down anytime soon, I only see busing and biking rates increasing. I'm not sure Seattle is at all ready for this.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dinosaur Kale

Also known as Italian Heirloom Kale.

We like the stuff. It is really a beautiful and striking plant in our garden. Tall and spiky with dark blue-green pebbly (dinosaur skin like?) leaves. When it gets wet, the water has an iridescent quality on the leaves. The neighbor E who has an amazing flower cutting garden and way too many tomatoes commented on what a beautiful plant it was and what was it again?

Dinosaur Kale. You can eat it. Would you like some?

K and I picture dinosaurs munching on it when we aren't looking. When K goes out in the dark to get the am newspaper, I fully expect him to report back startling a dinosaur out of the garden enjoying it's greens.

And they are enjoyable. Easiest (and laziest) way to prepare is just snip off some leaves, wash and chop. This variety's stems are more tender than others I believe so the stems require no special handling. Mince and then saute some garlic in olive oil. Throw in the chopped greens, stir and watch them turn a beautiful deep green. Add a bit of water until they are tender which just takes a few minutes for me. Splash some balsamic vinegar on them and you are ready to eat like a dinosaur. And oh yes, these greens are nutritious enough to feed a big ol' dinosaur.

And dang these plants are easy to grow here in the Northwest. We bought 4 plants for cheap through the Olympic View Elementary School plant sale. It's a worthy cause and now our few bucks are paying us back. 3-4$ a bunch in the store. Organic? Yes. Way to lazy to do anything about the moths and/or slugs which are munching on the leaves (with the dinosaurs). I prefer to pick it from the garden.