Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Golden Gardens

Today was gorgeous in Seattle: clear skies, sunny, low 70's. Oh yeah, if it were reliably like that May - September the population would boom from all the people moving in.

Francesca and I ate a great lunch overlooking Lake Union, and then opted to bike since the weather was so great. Eve was able to join us, and the three of us left Francesca's toward Ballard where we met Sandy. We continued on to Golden Gardens, a beach on Sound, and stayed to admire the view for a bit. On the way back we stopped at Coldstone Creamery where I was able to satisy my extreme strawberry milkshake craving. Mike and Alexandra couldn't resist the draw of ice cream and also met us.

I took it easy and after Indian food for dinner, I drove off to the airport. My rental vehicle was a Jeep, because they were out of compact cars and I got a free upgrade. It was fun to drive, but a bit loud because of the soft top. During the weekend I experimented and put the Jeep into 4 wheel drive, and found (to my surprise) that tight turns - a U-turn for example - felt really squishy, for lack of a better term. Maybe that is what 4 wheel drive feels like but it felt less precise than 2 wheel drive, so I put it back. My next vehicle will be a hybrid so I probably won't have to worry about this anyway.

Monday, May 29, 2006

7 Hills of Kirkland

This ride seems to be getting bigger and bigger, which is good because it is a great event. It is a fun and challenging bike ride, winding through Kirkland, Redmond, Carnation, and Duvall (and maybe some other small cities!) featuring several good hill climbs. Last year I was training for IMCdA and did the century (a 100 mile bike ride) with Chris, and this year my plans were far more modest. I planned on either the metric century (62 miles) or the original 7 Hills Route of 40 miles, depending on how things went and if anybody else was doing the metric.

I met Rod, Francesca, Jen, Sandy, and Chris at the Kirkland marina and we pedaled off to climb Market hill and then Juanita Hill. I was pleased I was able to hold my own with the group, since I'm now a Flat Lander. ;) At the top of Winery Hill we passed a sign that gave its elevation as 380 feet (I think), which is a good 70 feet higher than our local "mountain" SugarLoaf. Winery Hill features some on course entertainment: a solo bagpipe concert.

At the 25 mile rest stop Jen said she was feeling burned out from her previous insane training camp, and wanted to do the 40. Sandy and Chris split off for the century - they are both in serious training mode for big events - and the rest of us followed the 40 mile route. We rode along streets so familiar to me, passing less than a mile from my old house and right by my old office...

We finished up after about 3 hours of riding. In the meantime, Mike and Alexandra setup a barbecue and invited us and several others over to chow down. All food tastes great when you are hungry from a bike ride, but this food was even better. :)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Formula 1

Sandy hosted a brunch featuring blintzes, crepes, and lots and lots of fresh strawberries. After stuffing ourselves, we settled into watching the Monte Carlo Formula 1 race.

I'm not that knowledgeable about Formula 1 or car racing in general - my only experience with that comes from various video games. ;) However, unlike the Daytona or Indianapolis style races where the cars are on an oval track, this race was through city streets with lots of turns and hairpins. So it was quite interesting to watch. One of the top competitors, Michael Schumacher, was accused of blocking the course during a qualifying round, and was penalized by starting at the back. Meanwhile the reigning champ Fernando Alonso started at the pole position and kept it throughout the race.

Sandy helped out by printing up a chart of the drivers, a map of the race course labeled with the various turns and average speeds the cars take through them, and a glossary of racing terms, like what a chicane is or what the blue flag is for, etc. This was extremely helpful!

I know Formula 1 is extremely popular in the rest of the world, and I can see why. The race was fun to watch and the series travels all over to various exotic locations for the races.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Seattle Biking

I met Sandy and Chris near the Burke-Gilman trail on the UW campus, just down a path from Drumheller fountain. I misunderstood and actually went to the fountain and waited, and after a few minutes I called up and found out they were on the trail. So I rode down, met them, and we rode towards Mercer Island.

Unfortunately, Chris got a flat near Leschi, so we stopped and changed it. Later on Mercer Island, something odd happened to his chain - one of the links seized up and refused to bend, which caught on the derailleur. We turned back early and went to a bike shop at Leschi where they made it better. By this point we were ready for a snack so we settled into the Starbucks at Leschi and took a break.

Overall we rode about 30 miles. It was an average end-of-May day in Seattle: mid 50's with a light drizzle. ;) This didn't stop Chris and I from running two laps at Green Lake in about 44 minutes. We're on vacation but still getting some workouts in!

Friday, May 26, 2006


Late last night my mom called and said Dad had a stroke! My aunt was there, and the ambulance had just arrived, so they rushed to the hospital. About an hour later mom called back and said they got him stabilized and things looked OK, or as well as they could look at that time.

This morning I called up and talked to Mom. They ran a battery of tests, and he is doing fine. I talked to him a bit and he sounds strong - he just can't remember last night. Now it looks like a fainting spell and not a stroke. It was a bit nerve wracking though. Later they should find out more when more test results come back.

Mom said things are OK and I didn't need to make any travel plan changes. Still I'll call up daily over the weekend and check on how things are going. I will plan to visit over Father's Day, maybe take an extra day or two as well. Or earlier than that as well.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Weather Change

Francesca reminded me that it will be a bit cooler in Seattle than what I'm used to, around 30 to 35 degrees cooler. So I went to check out the weather forecast for the area, and sure enough I saw highs in the mid 50's and lots of rain. Oh man I'm going to freeze this weekend. I'm a Floridian now and if I can't wear shorts, it is too cold. Geez, it is the end of May!

The difference in degrees Celsius sounds much better: only 20 degrees different (30 versus 10). But that's only because I'm not really used to metric temperature.

I started packing, and dug out all my long sleeve running and biking clothes. And gloves, liners, jackets, arm/leg warmers, undershirts, etc. Okay okay, to be fair I had to use the arm/leg warmers here in Florida. It gets chilly here too, in the winter. Still, it will be fun to visit my friends in the frozen tundra again. There's really too much sun here, so several days of rain will be a nice change. At least there will be a coffee shop on every block so I can get a warm drink. Hehe, how else can I tease my friends, they will probably laugh at me shivering the whole time. ;)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Florida Half Ironman

This race is either the Ironman 70.3 Florida or the Florida Half Ironman, depending on where you look. I think the first name is now official due to the WTC's push of the Half Ironman (i.e. 70.3) series.

I was a bit concerned going into the race because my swim and bike preparation was quite a bit off. But I decided I could race conservatively and still have a fun time.


This was a tough swim, from a contact point of view. It was three sides of a rectangle, and on each side I had a battle or two for positioning. Another problem was an error of mine - I forgot to take my bike jersey off beforehand, and couldn't get back into transition to leave it. I thought about hanging my jersey on a railing and getting after the swim, but if the jersey were stolen, I would get a horrible sunburn. So I tucked in the jersey as much as I could and made the best of it. Swim time was 49:59 - ugh!

Exiting the swim, wearing my bike jersey. Ouch.


The bike course was mostly flat with a few rolling hills. I decided to keep between 16 mph and 17 mph and not exhaust myself before the run. I did the 56 miles in 3:21:39 which is an average of 16.7 mph, just exactly like I planned!

Cruising along on the bike


At my other half ironman, I had a tough time on the run stemming from heat and/or bad nutrition during the bike. This time around it went much better. I was able to run about 9 min/miles through mile 6, and then 10 min/miles to mile 10, before I had to stop and walk. It was very hot, above 95 degrees, and the course didn't have much shade at all. The run course was about a 4 mile loop with an extra section for the finish, half along roads and half along a dirt/gravel trail. I picked up some ice and a sponge at most every aid station and did my best to keep cool. The 13.1 mile run took me 2:25:43 for an 11:08 min/mile.

Total time was 6:51:00.

So, not exactly an earth shattering performance, but I am happy about a few things. The first and puzzling was my swim. My swim was only 5 minutes slower than at the Florida Challege, but I had trained more for that one and wore a wetsuit, whereas I had a drag suit on for this event. The bike was reasonable given my training. The run also went well - no teetering on the edge of heat exhaustion, and I ran the first 10 miles before the heat took its toll.

Finished at last!

Now that the track program is over, I need to get my bike mileage back up there. A good way to kick that off will be the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride I will do on Memorial Day. :) My goal of 6:30 at a half is still within reach, and I'd like to hit it at this year's Florida Challenge.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Debanding doesn't appear in the online Webster's dictionary, but it is a word. It is the orthodontic term for removing braces, which I had done today. At last, after a year and a half!! This appointment was setup for several weeks, but I didn't want to think about it too much in case it got moved back after an exam.

That didn't happen, and this morning I went through the removal process. It wasn't really what I expected. When they put the braces (the proper term for each one appears to be bands) on each tooth, they used some plastic dental adhesive. The process was: dry the tooth, paint on the adhesive, add the band, then shine some ultraviolet light on it to dry out the adhesive and cement the band. I sort of figured the removal would involve some magic plastic dissolver. Nope, band removal was a lot like nut cracking.

After taking out the wires, the orthodontist came over with a tool that sort of looked like a garlic press, except it had a razor blade. After fitting the tool over each band, he squeezed the handle and the band either snapped off, or shattered (I had ceramic ones). Afterwards, all the bands were gone but the dental adhesive was still left.

To get that off, they used a regular dental drill, but fitted with a burr (as they called it). Actually they had two drills, one probably bigger and rougher than the other. After this came a regular dental polishing, and then I brushed my teeth.

It was over yet. Next up was adding a small metal support wire behind the middle four lower teeth. I guess that helps keep those small teeth from getting pushed around. That was added with the same dental adhesive process for the bands, except it was so much less time since the wire is only anchored on two teeth.

Then came impressions for the retainers. This is a short but somewhat unpleasant process where they mix up some pink goo (er... quick drying plaster) and poured it into a mold that was used to make a model of my upper and lower teeth. What is unpleasant about the impressions is drooling while it is being done. Each one only takes a minute, so it wasn't too bad.

I'm not done visiting the orthodontist. I have a retainer to wear at night, and a followup appointment in 2, 4, and 6 months to check that everything is fine. Still, 98% of the process is over with and I'm pretty happy. :)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Muddy Buddy

I've been looking forward to the Muddy Buddy for months, because I knew it would be fun with minimal athletic expectations. The race format is: off-road/trail bike and run, where partners alternate and switch at various checkpoints. There were five segments, so one person was designated the runner (me) and one person was designated the biked (Terri-Lynn, who goes by TL). In between the 5 segments were obstacles to overcome, and then at the end buddies meet up and crawl through the mud pit together. :)

Here we are before the race, still clean:

Me and TL

We lined up by combined age, and slowly shuffled our way to the front as they launched the various waves. Within each wave, the bikes started first, and then about a minute later the runners started.

Muddy Buddy Sign

The run and bike was on the same course, which generally was dirt or gravel roads winding through forested areas on the Disney property. There were a few sandy spots, and some turns from harder packed earth to white rocks, but the course would certainly not at all be considered a technically challenging mountain bike course.

I ran segment one to obstacle one which was a large inflated mountain/slide with a cargo net for climbing. Once over it, I grabbed our bike and pedaled to obstacle two, an eight foot tall cargo net hill. Then I ran segment three to obstacle three which were monkey bars.

At this point I got to rest a bit waiting to TL to arrive, so I just watched people struggling with the monkey bars. ;) TL showed so I took the bike and sped off to obstacle four, a four foot high barrier to climb over. The final run segment was tough since part was along a road embankment - the kind of terrain that would be easier to run if say your left leg was an inch or two shorter than your right leg.

I arrived at the Muddy Buddy holding area and waited for TL since the race rules specifically say buddies must crawl through the mud pit and finish together.

The Mud Pit!

Ah yes, the big draw of the race. The pit was expertly prepared, with a net on the entry side which forces you to crawl in, and flags crossing the pit you have to go under. There was a nice inch or two of water on top of the mud so we got real dirty. I didn't have my camera with me at this point, but some coworkers at the finish did (they didn't race) and took a picture. I'll try to get a copy of that... let's just say the last time I remember getting that muddy was in 2nd grade!

Crawling through the mud pit

We did it!

Afterwards we went to the wash area where we waited for our turn at one of the hoses. Mud oozed out everywhere I sprayed, and then I'd move my clothes a little and more would ooze. I cleaned up as best as I could, knowing I'd need a shower plus maybe a dip in my pool when I got home.

This event was tons of fun. Total distance was 6 miles or so, not too hard to get in shape for. The obstacles added some fun and how can you not look forward to the mud pit! The race offered a free Mini Muddy Buddy event for kids, which was basically a 50 yard run and U-turn into the same mud pit we crawled through. I stayed and watched a few waves of kids, and every one looked like they were dying to get in there. Hehe.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

SeaWorld Run

Sarah told the track group that SeaWorld was holding a small "education fund" run this morning, and invited everyone. The race was cheap at $10, and that included a T-shirt! Of course, the only size they made was Large. Five of us from the track group signed up (Chris, Mark, Sarah, me, and coach Dave) and met in the parking lot.

This race was small - 40 to 50 people or so. I'm not sure it was advertised much outside of SeaWorld employees. The age divisions were (male and female): under 18, 18-30, 31-50, and 51+, which goes to show how small this race was!

The course was a loop around the parking lot, and then a loop through the park. We started and I found I was in the lead by the first turn in the parking lot, and was still in the lead entering the park. However midway through the park 2 guys passed me and I struggled to keep them in sight. They wound up finishing 10 or 15 seconds ahead of me.

My time was 15:50, and someone's Garmin measured the course to be 2.3 miles. That's a 6:53 pace, pretty good. We all joked afterwards we were pacing ourselves for a 5K, and if we had known it was really only 2 miles, why then we would have pushed harder.

Still, I was very pleased. I finished 3rd overall, and 2nd in my division. Chris, Mark, and Sarah also finished in the top 3 in their division, so all in all it was a very good outing for the track training program. :)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Julius Caesar

I met Amy and some of her family at the Lake Eola Amphitheatre, where we watched Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. It had been many years since I read the play in high school... and my memory had slipped as to what happened after Caesar was killed. I only remembered two quotes from the play ("It was Greek to me" and "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war") and those were relatively early.

The costumes took a little getting used to - all modern. No togas! Brutus wore a suit and tie and carried a briefcase. Others were in partial military gear, and Caesar wore a black sweater and sorta looked like a African dictator outfit. I'm sure the actors would probably have preferred togas since it was fairly warm in the evening.

As for what happened after Caesar was assassinated, how could I have not remembered. In a Shakespearean tragedy, everybody dies! A civil war ensues and eventually the main conspirators feel guilty and commit suicide. And they say modern TV shows are violent. ;)