Lucky number thirteen…

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Today was T’s & my 13th anniversary. It’s kind of unbelievable to realize you’ve been married for that long. That’s a junior high-aged kid length of time. Even though it was on a Tuesday, we decided to go out to dinner to make it a little special. We chose a sushi place in our neighborhood that we had walked by/admired the decor of and had been wanting to try. It turned out to be Seattle’s Restaurant Week, which meant they had three-course menus for 25 bucks. Score!

We splurged on some fancy cocktails, which were very pretty:

As was my octopus salad starter:

(mmmmm… tentacles… ) T gave me a hard time about taking pictures and earned himself a shot on the blog:

The rest of the food was too delicious to pause in eating to take pictures. The rolls were good and the green tea creme brulee was heavenly. (There was also a lychee panna cotta that I had high hopes for, but the flavor of the lychee was a little too delicate to be paired with the grilled pineapple… ) My favorite thing about the decor of the restaurant is this huge sculpture/lighting fixture in the center that looks like a Japanese cherry blossom tree. It’s particularly spectacular from the top floor:

We capped the evening off by picking up cupcakes and watching the copy of Juno that I’d borrowed from the library. A nice low-key way to kick of year #14.
Happy Anniversary, babe!

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Going to town

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Today started with gray clouds and wind, which made any thoughts of bike ride go right out the window. I can ride in crappy weather at home, so I saw no need to do it here. The fast kids (Francois, Phl & Andi) braved the elements and went out, proving why they are the fast kids. The rest of us lollygagged around the house for  a little while and formed a plan to go for a swim at the local YMCA in town, followed by some lunch and young Lucky’s first trip to the dog park.

The last time I swam at a YMCA pool was in NYC and I can’t say it was a pleasant experience. This of course was a completely different situation as it started with us getting to use the pool for free (thanks, guy at front desk) and then walking into a pretty nice pool with six lanes divided into three really wide lanes. There were a few people in each one, so we weren’t exactly sure how to seed ourselves. A nice lifeguard came over to advise us. Jenn inserted herself into the fast lane, while Erin & I shared a side of the slow lane with another lady. The lady in our lane left about five minutes later, so Jenn came over to join us. It’s always fun to swim with really good swimmers, I like to watch how effortless they look and I don’t have to worry about them doing crazy crap in front of my like the people I end up in a lane with at the local community pool.

After a nice swim, we met up with JenHS & Lucky dog outside. We opted to take him to the dog park first and then go into town for lunch. Watching a dog experience a dog park for the first time is probably a lot like taking a kid to Disneyland for the first time. He had a great time playing with all of the dogs and didn’t want to leave.

Our group favorite was this really cute fuzzy puppy named Dharma:

She looked like a little ewok. After we persuaded Lucky to leave his dog-friends for another fun filled trip in the car, we headed into town. The town of Walla Walla is really cute:

As we were stopping for gas, we saw this awesome exchange right outside the gas station:

The “chopper-bike” belongs to the guy in the green vest at the right-hand side of the picture. The kid was admiring it so much, he let him take it for a spin!

Erin tried to get me to go out and try it, but I was not up for it. Call me a wuss. We then headed to Olive, where we were meeting up with the intrepid riders, who had survived a very windy and difficult ride. The food was really good at Olive, even if they were slammed and the service was a little slow. It was nice to relax a little and the riders were on board for a little wine tasting before heading home. I knew I still wanted to do a run, so I only tasted a few wines and generally behaved myself. But it was fun to see some of those little airport wineries and listen to the wine people talk. I have no knowledge of wine and will pretty much drink whatever, so it’s fun to hear people who know about wine discuss it. Especially if they aren’t being pretentious a-holes about it.

When we got back to the house, JenHS was also game for a run so we did a forty minute out and back. The route from the house has a long uphill, which kind of sucks but is more than made up for by the lovely downhill on the return trip. One of the farms that we passed had a bunch of whimsical sculptures in their yard, including this fun sculpture of a fisherman being followed by two cows:

I actually saw a lot of fun “found-object” sculpture in the fields around Walla Walla, it was pretty cool. While this wasn’t as hard-core a training weekend as we’ve had in the past, I must say it was a lot of fun. It was nice to shake up the routine and go someplace different. And not having to pack all my crap onto an airline was pretty nice. I’m hoping we can keep these training weekends going, it’s a great excuse to get together and it usually sparks some nice motivation to train when I get home. Thanks ladies, for another lovely weekend!

Breathtaking

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Today was the nicest day in the weather forecast, so it was generally agreed that a ride was in order. JenHS is just running now, so she agreed to doggy-sit Lucky and act as SAG wagon. We made a loose plan to do a ride that would end at the Walla Walla airport, which housed a bunch of cute wineries and a coffee place. Then if people wanted to continue on, they could and JenHS could meet us there and bring home anyone that was done riding. We also had a map of local cycling routes, being capably managed by Erin & Jenn:

Right out of the gate, Walla Walla let us know who was boss with a nice big hill to climb. It was followed by an even bigger downhill, that I immediately dreaded having to climb on the return trip. But the pain provided by the hills was more than compensated by the gorgeous scenery. There was also a healthy amount of wind in the mix. Unlike Seattle though, the wind out here would vary – sometimes an awesome tailwind, sometimes a sucky headwind but wind did seem to be largely a constant. And who cares with views like these?

This was my first training weekend where I’d actually been biking during the winter, so when I heard all the other ladies saying things like “I’ve only been on my bike three times since September.” I actually thought maybe I could hang with them for a change. Ha! Either they’re sandbaggers or I just suck, but it was a struggle to stay with the group sometimes. Although, in my defense I am not that comfortable drafting, so there were times that I would have been able to keep up had I been in the paceline. I also managed to keep the group in sight for the whole ride, so I am definitely getting better at this whole riding thing. Now if I could just get faster on those damn hills!

We ended up riding in two groups – the fast kids: Francois, Phil & Andi

And then Erin, Jenn & I bringing up the rear:

But there was one equalizer – the flat tire. At one point, as we were climbing up this long gradual hill and approaching the top, we saw Andi & Phil at the side of the road. She’d just gotten a flat. There wasn’t really any safe place for all of us, so we continued to top to wait for them. It took a surprisingly long time, so Erin went to check on them only to discover that moments after changing Andi’s flat, Phil got one of his own. Crazy! We decided to head on, knowing they’d catch us easily.

The last stretch was a pretty brutal headwind. There was a general consensus between those of us in the slower group that we would end the ride at the airport and have JenHS pick us up. This was evident in the tone of Jenn’s voice as she called JenHS to let her know when we’d be arriving and that she DEFINITELY needed to come meet up with us/pick us up. Heading into the airport, you can see all of these old WWII bunkers that have been converted into smaller-production wineries. I particularly liked the clever way this one made themselves stand-out:

We congregated around a local coffee place and descended on it for a little ride sustenance. The poor lone hippie was ill-prepared for our onslaught and it took quite a while for him to make our drinks. While we waited, we sat at a nice sunny table and watched Lucky make friends with some of the winery dogs, which was awesome:

As we were packing up/heading out, some middle-aged guy rolled down his window and asked us if we knew where the McDonalds was. When we said “no” he bellowed “It’s three blocks that way” and drove off snickering with his three passengers tittering in the backseat. Apparently, he thought he was being hilarious. We, of course thought he was sort of pathetic and said. Not to mention baffling. Sigh. The rest of the day was very pleasantly spent napping then doing an easy run with Andi, followed by a delicious fajita dinner and a soak in the hot tub. First day of training camp was definitely a rousing success!

A new venue

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As some of my long-time readers know, I usually go down to Southern California for a training camp. This year not only was I trying to save money by staying local, it turned out the camp didn’t happen due to the man who usually hosts it getting married and putting the house up for sale. So, there was some discussion amongst some of us of trying to do a local version. (I am still trying to figure out when I’m going to get down to SoCal to see my friends down there, since I counted on that camp to give me an excuse and someone has adorable twins, but I digress… ) After some massive e-mail threads, we picked Walla Walla, WA. I’d never been there before and had heard it’s beautiful, so I was excited.

Packing for these trips is always a challenge. Triathlon is a fun sport but it definitely requires a lot of stuff. Stuff for swimming/biking and running. Plus clothing for non-training time. Then we add in  food. You see where I’m going. It’s a lot of stuff. Three of us were carpooling up together and I was feeling embarrassed about how much crap I’d packed while I waited for Jenn to pick me up. Luckily, she was in the same boat and we could commiserate about how much stuff we were bringing. Then we picked up JenHS at the park & ride and she too was bemoaning how much stuff she had. When all was said and done, here’s what the car looked like:

Impressive, no? That’s three girl’s stuff AND two bicycles…

The drive up was pretty uneventful and we stopped in Prosser to meet up with Erin and meet her new dog Lucky – a red doberman who she’d rescued from a neighbor, who’d kept him tied up outside without shelter and usually insufficient water/food. Needless to say, his fortunes have changed for the better and he’s a happy, sweet doggie who was very excited to meet all of us. (Many pictures of him to come.) We split up into two cars and caravanned the last way, with a quick stop at Starbucks to fuel us.

The house was gorgeous and huge. The layout was a little funky, but there were five full bedrooms and a little closet-sized room with a foldout bed for one of the special-guest boys. With the cancellation of one of our “campers,” it worked out that each of us got our own rooms, which was kind of nice. After exploring the house/unloading the cars, we thought it would be good to get Lucky some exercise before heading into town for dinner.

We first went to investigate the emu that Jenn and I saw as we turned into the driveway. (Which, when you aren’t expecting it, is a very shocking thing to see next to a driveway… ) He was unimpressed with us…

And you know you’re a city girl when you and two of your friends are taking pictures of an emu in a pen:

Across the street was this cool grain elevator that we later learned had been converted into a house:

Here’s the house, as seen from the top of the driveway:

The front yard featured the obligatory piece of charming antique farm equipment:

And a very dangerous pipe that Lucky valiantly tried to protect us from:

Erin tried to broker a peace between Lucky & water pipe by smearing peanut butter on it, but he was unimpressed:

(I also imagine the owners of the house will wonder why there is peanut butter on the water pipe in the front yard… ) The backyard was huge and gorgeous and this view was what the living & dining room windows of the house looked out on:

Lucky was a big fan of the yard:

We weren’t always sure if we were glad he was such a fan, as he ferreted out a lot of questionable snacks…

The land went pretty far back, but turned out to be fenced, which was really nice:

Lucky dog ran back and forth like the 8 month old puppy that he is…

JenHS actually tried to get an action shot. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way…

I did get an awesome shot of Jenn:

After our explorations we went into town to meet up with the rest of the group at Saffron, a local Mediterranean inspired restaurant. The food was delicious, the wine even better. During dessert, while cutting up a piece of dessert to share, a piece of nut brittle went flying across the table and landed perfectly on Erin’s arm. It was hilarious, so I had to get a picture:

So far training camp was off to an excellent start!

The great food experiment

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So after my preachy post about meat-eating and whatnot, I decided to do a little experiment and see what a week of veggie cooking would look like. This experiment was prompted by a couple of factors, the first of which was the fact that pasture-raised meat is much more expensive than feedlot meat, so we were going to have to eat less of it. Second, we’d been in a bit of a “food rut” so adding some new recipes into the mix would be nice. And third, I had a bunch of veggies and dried beans that I’d needed to use, so it all timed out perfectly. To assist me in this endeavor, I had Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and a crock pot cookbook that I’d gotten at the library from this woman. On Sunday, I went to the store and got the additional ingredients we didn’t have and got the dried chickpeas ready to use. (Sorry in advance for the lack of pictures, most of the dishes were pretty ugly, so it’s probably for the best!)

Monday: Pearl Couscous Gratin with Pesto & Goat Cheese
(from Bittman)
The original recipe called for mushrooms & asparagus, which would also be delicious, but we subbed in canned artichoke hearts and frozen peas. A very yummy dish that we’ll definitely add into our regular rotation. They sell the pearl couscous at our bulk foods place, but I’ve also seen it at Trader Joes. This week is off to a great start!

Tuesday: Veggie-fried rice with tofu
(from Bittman)
This one was less successful. I couldn’t get the tofu to brown properly, so it was just sort of soft and bland-tasting. I also used brown rice, which absorbed more of the sauce and added to the blandness. I think if I try this again, I’ll do it with white rice and  with more veggies sans tofu.

Wednesday: Noodles with Peanut Sauce, Tofu & Spinach
(from Bittman)
I don’t know what I did wrong but I totally messed up the sauce. Not only did separate, but it had no flavor of any kind. And considering it had lemongrass, turmeric, shallot, coconut milk and yummy Trader Joes peanut butter as a base, I found this totally unacceptable. I ended up running it through the blender to help with the separation but the taste remained disappointing. I was trying to multi-task, so I will try it again and see if I can get it to behave itself with some one-on-one attention. On the plus side, I did successfully brown the tofu so at least that part was tasty.

Thursday: Crockpot Moroccan Lentil Soup
(from Crockpot book – recipe here)
After the disastrous long run, I was in no mood for any catastrophes but thankfully this soup was awesome. The Moroccan spices were amazing and I liked the combo of lentils, pinto and garbanzo beans. T made a bread to go with it, as well as a green salad. And best of all, I didn’t have to cook since the crock-pot (and T) did all the work!

Friday: Baked Chickpeas with Cauliflower & Fresh Cheese (from Bittman)
This was probably the most ambitious dish of our week, which is why it got pushed back to the last day. I ended up going to IKEA with M, so T had to cook this one on his own. It’s an Indian dish that came out a little spicy for my taste, but still pretty yummy. It probably tasted the most like what you’d expect “vegetarian cooking” to taste like – you’d probably use the phrase “It’s very good for a vegetarian dish” rather than the preferred “Wow, that’s good” reaction I was looking for, but I’d like to play with it and see if we can improve upon it in future versions. I think I’ll try a different cheese as the paneer is hard to find and a little blah.

All in all, it was fun to add some new dishes into the mix so I think we’ll pick a few nights a week to do experimental veggie dishes. It will lower our food bill and expand our cooking repertoire. Not to mention help me fit into my wetsuit in a month or so, which is a pretty powerful motivator right now.

Sucktastic run

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This year’s training motto has been “shut up and do the work.” I’ve been trying to just run-bike-swim and not get all mental about it. Today, however, was a bit of a setback. I had a long run on my schedule which I’ve been doing as my commute home. This is nice from a time-management standpoint and as a work decompression standpoint. (This week has been crazy at work, so I was definitely in need of some decompression.) Unfortunately, the crazy day at work made me somewhat frazzled and I managed to put just my drivers license, health insurance card and the only cash I had (a whopping dollar) into my pocket, but not my ATM card. (Mistake #1)

It was a nice day, so I wore a short-sleeved shirt for the first time this year. It turned out to be even warmer than I’d expected, so even with the short-sleeved shirt, I was pretty warm. I’d neglected to bring water or any food with me, since I hadn’t needed them for my last few long runs. (Mistake #2) From the very beginning of the run, I just wasn’t feeling the love. When I have these runs, (and we all do from time to time) I try to turn them into race day mental toughness practice, because the run is nearly always where the wheels fall off. Today was no different, I just made myself keep running with a series of barters – just make it to point A, then make it to point B, etc. I decided that if I made it to point B, I’d allow myself to take a slightly shorter route home, which I ended up doing.

As I got closer to home, I started feeling worse and worse. I definitely was feeling the lack of food and water and just felt like crap. I stopped to take a walk break and get my wits about me. I called the boy to see if I could get him to pick me up, but he was playing racquetball and not answering his phone. I made a plan to run to the Fred Meyer that was a little over a mile away and then buy a candybar or something and hope I could get in touch with T. Fifteen minutes later, I was staggering across the parking lot when he called me back.

A pair of Reeces Peanut Butter cups and some iced water from Starbucks later, and the boy showed up. The boy wanted a beverage, so we went back into Starbucks. I ordered a decaf iced tea, but they messed up and made me a regular black tea one. T offered to take it off their hands since they were just going to throw it out, so he somehow ended up with three beverages:

Such a dork! But after a shitty run, there’s no one I’d rather have rescue me. 🙂 After all is said and done, I made it eight miles and lived to tell the tale. Hopefully, after a run like today race day will be a breeze!

Thwarted!

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I’ve been having one of those weeks (months) where my mojo’s just not working for me. Nothing big, just a bunch of little things that are popping up to annoy me. Today we were promised sunny skies and when I woke up, this was indeed the case. Not only that, but the flagpole on the hospital building across the street looked like this:

Unheard of! So, I made quick plans with M and got ready as quickly as I could. But naturally, as I was riding to her place the wind was up and running (and damn chilly to boot!)

My plan was to ride uphill to M’s house, do a nice flat Burke Gilman ride with her, then ride back to her place and then do some hill repeats in her neighborhood. We had a nice downhill ride to the BG, enjoyed the pretty scenery along the path until we ran into (almost literally) the MS Walk. Now, I know I’ve ranted about this before, but seriously – how hard is it to put up a sign warning the users of a huge multi-use path that you are about to put thousands of walkers on said path. On a Sunday. That happens to be sunny. I know you’re trying to raise money for charity, (and more sympathetic to this cause I cannot be, what with my dad having MS and all) but surely you can spare the 2 bucks for some posterboard and a magic marker. I’m all for you having a successful and fun event. I think it would be more successful/fun, if the walkers didn’t have to contend with a bunch of cyclists/runners trying to navigate the throngs of people with no warning. Just sayin’…

So, we tried to continue our ride along a frontage road, but soon realized that the Walk was going to make it very difficult to rejoin the trail so we decided to turn around early and ride around our neighborhood in Ballard. (GRRRR!) After M almost fell going over some train tracks on the frontage road, we were not in the best of moods. And the dodging the crazy brunch people as we headed toward Golden Gardens didn’t help. It was still really pretty out, so we tried to console ourselves with the gorgeous views of sailboats/blue skies/blue water, etc. I decided that I was going to change my ride plan and go to Cafe Fiore in M’s hood for a little treat/sit in the sunshine and invited her to join me.

The last hurdle was to climb the hill to her house/Cafe Fiore, which starts with two short steep hills and then has a long not-terribly steep incline. The first two hills suck and I was proud that M made it up the first one before walking up the second. Then it was time to climb the long hill, which while excellent mental/physical training is still a long, slow climb. When we neared her house, I had to rally M with promises of latte and assure her that no, she really wasn’t going to die. (As a non-climber, I totally understood where she was coming from – that was me not too long ago.) But she kicked ass and we made it Cafe Fiore with no problems.

We found some outdoor seats and enjoyed some lovely iced coffee drinks in the sunshine. M’s husband J passed by as he was headed out for a long walk, so he stopped by to chat. So, it wasn’t the ride we were planning for, but it turned out pretty nicely in the end. Take that, mojo!