New addition

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So, there’s been a bit of huge news brewing in our little foursome of Grumpersons and Dragonfires (Grumperfires?) M is pregnant! And while I’m not a baby person per se, I’m pretty excited about it. While I’ve had other good friends have babies, M is the first one I’m close to both in terms of friendship and geography. Honestly, it feels more like having a niece/nephew on the way than a good friend having a baby. So, I was thrilled when she invited me to her sonogram to see how the baby was cooking.

I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the baby on the screen (due to some sort of HIPAA violation) so you only get a few not so great low-light pictures. Let’s just pretend they’re all cool and vintage and not just crappy, shall we?

I like this one because it looks like M’s about to flash me:

And this one is about one second after she stuck her tongue out at me:

And then J poked the baby. I love this photo even though it’s super grainy and terrible:

It was very cool to watch the sonogram. There were a couple of amazing moments where we saw the baby open its tiny mouth and move its little hands and feet. Since it’s about 10 oz. and the size of a softball, it was pretty crazy that it has all of its bones and whatnot. (I keep referring to it in the neutral pronoun because M & J have opted not to know the sex of the baby, a decision that I respect despite the fact that it drives this impatient girl a little nuts… ) They got a cute photo/screenshot of the baby where it looks like it’s sucking its thumb. Since the last sonogram she showed me had the baby looking like Voldemort/an alien, I’m glad she got a cute one this time.

So, big changes are on the horizon. And like most big changes they are equal parts scary and exciting. I hope the baby likes sarcasm. And having its picture taken. And that we won’t lose M & J to some fun kid-having friends. Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting journey!

Seattle Century redux, aka “What some people will do for free pie”

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Long time readers of this blog might remember the heady summer of 2009 (also known too many posts about Ironman training) when I last did the Seattle Century. Since I wasn’t doing this as part of triathlon prep, I didn’t have to worry about simulating the race experience (or more accurately: I could eat whatever I wanted at the aid stations and not feel bad about it!) And of course this year I had T’s cheerful company:

And here’s me with my “trademark sulking about the weather” pose (Seriously, I should not have to wear capris and arm warmers at the end of JULY!):

And yes, I’m rocking the Ironman jersey because sometimes I need the mojo. 😉 We managed to get out pretty early and enjoyed the nice flat initial part of the ride. There were the usual head scratching moments of other riders doing mind-boggling stupid/incompetent things. My favorites were the couple of riders who nearly fell off their very nice carbon fiber road bikes trying to negotiate a 90 degree turn up a slight four foot slope onto a footbridge. One of them had to cling to the corner post while the other nearly dropped his chain shifting down about a million gears. Unfortunately, this carnage happened right in front of me and I had to clip out and stop. But T and I had something to make fun of for the next ten minutes, so it all worked out.

Once again we skipped the insanely early first aid station and left that group of terrible riders behind. We did decide to stop at the next aid station for a little potty/water break. They also had a magic donut buffet:

Jen used these kinds of donuts in her Ironman training, so I partook in the hopes that these donuts would give me her awesome climbing powers. Then we were off and running. We rode on a path I’d never been on before, which was cool. We avoided another crash with bad riders not being able to negotiate the crosswalk/intersection area. Aid station number three was on top of a crazy hill in Duvall, which would become a trademark of aid station placement (though if there has to be a steep hill, it’s nice that there are yummy treats at the top of it. Sadly, there were many treatless exceptions to this rule… )

At each of the aid stations they had a map that showed the route, where you were on it and had these awesome notes on the bottom. Can you guess why people do these types of rides?

The pie stop was my favorite feature of the last time I did this ride, so I was definitely looking forward to it. We’d entered the rolling portion of the route, so it went by pretty quickly as there was always something to either be climbing or flying down. And there were pretty trees to look at and so forth. So, before we knew it, we were entering the town of Carnation and nearing the pie stop. Mmmmm… pie:

The pie stop is at this lovely farm and the mood was very cheerful:

The boy took a little rest in the grass (He looks much more in pain than I remember him being at this point, so we’ll just assume the camera hates him or something. Maybe he was in pain and just had his game face on. And wait, is that some blue sky peeking through the gray?)

The next section was probably the only one I was semi-worried about. To complete the full 100 miles, we’d have a little out and back section out to Snoqualmie Falls, followed by a fairly long bit of climbing back into Issaquah. Luckily, I was buoyed by fat and sugar and was feeling pretty good. T & I hadn’t been out to Snoqualmie Falls since an early date of ours back in 1995(!!) so I was kind of excited to see it again. (And picture how shocked I would have been had you told me back then that we’d eventually ride our bikes there from Seattle… )

It still looked pretty cool, but more construction than I remembered:

We tried to take a cute self-portrait with the falls in the background:

And then T took a shot of me:

Some day I’ll have to scan the photo I have of T in a very similar pose from back in the day. He looks sooooooo young.

It was a funny collision of bicyclists and tourists and I heard a lot of questions about “were we in a race?” and so forth. T and I walked back to our bikes to see an Indian family standing in front of Slim Shady and discussing him. They continued this discussion while we put our helmets on and got ready to go. It was kind of like being a zoo exhibit, but they were very polite about it. Then it was onto the next leg of the ride, which involved much hill climbing. It wasn’t fast by any stretch, but I got up the hills without too much trouble.

The last few sections of the ride were surprisingly smooth. We stopped at aid stations for goodies and water as the sun had finally come out and it was getting warm. There was strawberry shortcake at the penultimate rest stop on Mercer Island, which gave me a nice boost for the final leg home. I had one last close call where a rider nearly veered straight into me for no real reason (other than she was probably really tired.) She didn’t actually hit me or even cause me to have to stop, so it was all good. We navigated the last butt-kicking hills into Seattle and before we knew it we were back on the Burke Gilman. Unfortunately, it was now filled with the sunny afternoon riders, so it was a bit of a cluster. I picked up the pace because a.) I was actually feeling surprisingly strong and b.) I wanted to get finished with this crazy ride before someone else tried to crash into me.

After a quick stop at the car to drop off our bikes and change shoes it was time for some more food. (The number of calories consumed greatly outnumbered the calories expended, I’m quite certain.) They had a great post-race spread with salmon, salad, asparagus, some sort of orzo salad, etc. Plus free beer! Win!

Here’s the boy enjoying his post-race beer:

And best of all, I knocked nearly an hour off of my ride time from 2009. (I did ride a little bit longer for that time, due to riding to the start line, but the ride times are exactly an hour different. Since I haven’t felt like I’m in very good bike shape, this gave me a huge boost… ) Hopefully, this bodes well for RSVP. At least we know we can eat a million calories and still ride 100 miles. Specificity, baby!

 

Lunch with the boys…

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RSVP is coming up quickly. And I’m very stressed about it. I haven’t been getting nearly as many bike miles in as I should be. (This has not been a great summer for training. I blame the weather. And my bad attitude… ) So, even though it was yet another crappy gray day, we set out on an 85 mile bike ride. (I must take a moment to bitch about the fact that yesterday, when I had my class, a short run, errands and an indoor project on my schedule it was sunny and 75 degrees. Today, it was 60 and cloudy. GRRRR… )

But we set out from the house on a big long loop. We stopped at that same Krispy Kreme for another magic donut (apparently that was a one-time thing, no magical results this time.) We climbed big hills and only got drizzled a little bit. We had a running joke about eastside bike paths basically being a big F-You to cyclists. If they aren’t slabs of cement that are none too gentle on the squishy bits, they are ridiculously steep. Or end in gravel unexpectedly.

We stopped for lunch at Chipotle, where I snapped this picture of Slim and T:

I was pretty punchy at this point, so I thought it was a hilarious picture. (I do love T’s expression.) I was pretty wiped by the time we finished, which is not really alleviating my worries about RSVP too much. But I got through it, so hopefully it’s building some strength for the big ride. Next week is the Seattle Century, so we’ll get to see what we’re really made of. Plus, there will be pie. Can you guess which one of those I’m looking forward to?

Yes, I can!

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A while ago, I came across a Groupon for a beginners canning class at a place called Seattle Can Can. Ever since my wine jelly experiment, I’ve been wanting to learn more about canning, so this was a perfect opportunity. (Besides, I can never resist a good pun… ) I’d heard good things about the class from Jen & Bryan, so I was pretty excited to get my class scheduled. Even more motivating was the fact that last Friday T brought home this:

Yep, that’s a case of cherries. (Organic cherries at $1.99/lb, minus his discount. Um, yes please!)  Luckily, he’d given me a heads up about it, so I could order a more efficient cherry pitter:

I decided to freeze some of the cherries beforehand and took my new pitter for a test drive:

It’s unsettlingly like a slaughterhouse line (from what I’ve read). The poor cherries wait in the tray on the top before going into the chute and having a bolt punch the pit out. Combined with the cherry juice, it was looking very violent in my kitchen:

But it did pit a lot of cherries quite quickly and I was able to get a lot of them into the freezer, while still saving some fresh ones for a post-class canning project.

The class itself was really interesting. She had a lot of interesting history about canning. This is a mason jar from 1910, the lid is the same size as our modern day ones. How’s that for standardized?

She had some fun historical posters on the wall as well. This one was my favorite:

Naturally, I was super-hyped to try out the stuff I’d learned. So, when I got home, I talked T into going out to get some supplies with me by bribing him with lunch at a fancy hot dog place. (While I’d been learning about canning, T was running 13 miles in the heat. He wasn’t quite as energetic as I was. And listening to me jabber at him about canning probably wasn’t helping… Have I mentioned how happy I am with my decision to not train for a marathon this summer?)

(Dear lord, is she STILL talking about canning?)

I had to go out and do my run after we got home from the store and then it was time to get to work! I made some simple syrup and pitted some more cherries. (Love that new pitter!) Then I stuffed the cherries into some jars with the syrup and put them into the water to boil for 20 minutes. Then they had five minutes of cooling in the water:

I was very nervous that they weren’t going to seal correctly, since when I pulled them out the lids were still making the popping noise. I pushed on them and set then on a towel to cool. And crossed my fingers while watching TV on the couch…

Luckily, when I checked them a few hours later, all of the lids had sealed correctly. The next morning, I did a few more tests that I’d learned in the class to make sure they were really and truly sealed and they passed! I had four jars of canned cherries! Woo hoo! I’m excited about the possibilities for tomatoes and other summer fruit. It will be nice to be able to enjoy some variety in the winter. Not to mention having a plan of attack for the apple tree in our backyard that is about to explode with apples.

Big decisions…

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The shoe fairy came this week:

 

Susan bought me some new bike shoes for my birthday and mailed them this week. (She was supposed to come up to Seattle for some job training, but that got cancelled at the last minute). And when I went to get some new running shoes, there was a pair of Merrill minimalist shoes on crazy sale that I just couldn’t resist. Luckily, my mom had gotten me a Roadrunners gift card for my birthday. Happy birthday in July!

Marathon training has begun in earnest and I’m so not on board. T is excited to get started, but I just am not. He suggested that we get up early for today’s 10 miler and then go to brunch afterwards. I’d been wanting to try Volunteer Park Cafe’s brunch, so I plotted a big loop that started and ended nearby. Unfortunately, this area is up on Capitol Hill, so there was no route that didn’t involve a fair amount of hills. Even with the enticement of brunch afterwards, I was in a bad place mentally as we set out.

T is way faster than me, so he was off in the distance pretty quickly. The first mile and a half is downhill and I plodded along trying to turn my frown upside down. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I decided to modify our planned route so that I was going the opposite direction. That way I could hit the part I was most excited about earlier, in the hopes that it would motivate me. I texted T my new plan and headed out.

The route took me along a path I’d previously never known existed, along the Montlake Cut that connects Lake Washington to Lake Union. Apparently, there’s a path that runs along it:

I’ve been over this bridge so many times. It was cool to see it from a new perspective:

 

The path wound along through muddy trails and wooden docks. There were several places where I had to stop and walk. Which allowed me to get a photo of all of these pretty water lilies:

(Eat your heart out, Claude Monet!)

As I ran/walked along, I thought about how much I just plain didn’t want to do these long runs and all of the marathon training. Remembering all of the training over the winter just depressed me further. I realized that I just really wasn’t excited about doing the race and that all of this training just wasn’t worth it. I felt bad about abandoning T, but what I was doing now seemed so much worse. As I entered the arboretum, I passed the man himself and told him that I was calling my run and walking back to the car.

Hiking back up the hill to the car, I thought further about what I would like to do instead of Portland Marathon, if anything. I decided that I’d really like to focus on a half-marathon in the fall. There’s one in Vegas that I thought would be fun, that goes along the Strip at night. Plus, my brother and I had been talking about how much fun we had when we all went to Vegas as a group for Thanksgiving a few years ago, so I was reasonably certain I could get him on board for a fun weekend trip. Plus, I could still do some run training with T and keep him company.

T took all of these plans pretty well. (I think he’s just happy that I’m not whining about marathon training any more… ) My brother was totally on board for the Vegas trip, so it looks like I’ll be doing the Rock & Roll half in December. A co-worker of mine is running it, so I’ll have at least one familiar face out there. I’m excited about training to race a half-marathon, as opposed to just finishing. My goal is to get as close to two hours as I can. I have a good chunk of time to do it, so I think it’s an attainable goal for me. We’ll see what happens!

P.S. Brunch was delicious, even though they ran out of the french toast I was planning to order RIGHT before me. Jerks!

 

Methow Valley getaway

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*** Warning, this post is going to be long. But the good news is that it will have lots of pretty pictures and while there will be talk about riding bikes, there are also amusing anecdotes about other topics. ***

We were spending the weekend at Jenn & Bryan’s cabin. Because the week was a bit of wash with the 4th of July in the middle, we hit the road Thursday afternoon and took Friday off. (You can imagine how productive the work week has been… ) Jenn & Bryan did a ton of renovations after our winter visit and the place looks amazing. We brought the boys along with us and (amazingly) they were very well-behaved with Greta and Tyr.

We kicked off Friday morning with a five mile trail run leaving from the cabin. We took all of the dogs (and plenty of water.) The girls launched into a good solid pace from the start and we were off. The combo of the heat, dryness and my lack of trail conditioning had me back in the dust pretty quickly. But the rest of the crew were nice enough to wait for me to catch up at various intervals. The first such interval was when we saw some cows off the trail. A mom was on one side with her two calves on the other, so she half-charged at Wally, who was VERY interested in the cows. But we retreated enough for her to rejoin her babies and no one was harmed. I tried to get a picture of the free-range cows:

It was definitely warm and I was huffing and puffing. I had to take a few strategic photo stopping breaks (not to mention more than a few walk breaks). Unfortunately, I had to put up with this terrible scenery and crowded trail. ;-P

And just after this bend, there was an amazing vista where you could see the cabin in the distance:

Smokey Joe had a hard time accepting that he’s not a youngster any more and he tried to keep up with Greta and Tyr, who are way more high energy (and in better shape.) So, he had to be forced to stay back with me and toward the end I just forced him to walk it in. Here was the post-run carnage:

I love tired dogs. They’re the best. Plus we felt absolutely no guilt sticking them in their crates and heading into Twisp for some lunch and a short bike ride for T & I. We had a great lunch at a natural foods place in Twisp and then T and I suited up for our ride. Twisp is an adorable little town:

We didn’t have a solid plan other than to ride out Twisp River Road for a while and then turn around. Naturally, there were plenty of hills and it was nice and toasty. Initially, I just felt slow (but it turned out that we were actually on a slight incline.) I didn’t love the lack of shoulder on the road, but there weren’t that many cars (and the ones that we saw were very courteous.) Did I mention the climbing?

But there were gorgeous views once you got to the top (or the half-way turnout as the case may be… )

And I stalled a little longer by taking a picture of the boy…

And a self-portrait of the two of us:

We arrived back in town safe and sound. We had to stop at the local supermarket for some milk and was entertained by their decor. Nothing makes me want to buy groceries more than random dead stuffed animals. (City supermarkets are so boring by comparison!)

When we got home, we had a little time to chill out and then took the dogs for a little swim. Except for the rednecks and their unleashed dogs sending Wally into a barking frenzy, it was a nice outing. We hung out on the deck while the dogs dried off. Jenn is a dog magnet (it may also have been the dog treats she had with her… )

Here’s a completely random (but adorable) shot of Wally:

After a very delicious dinner of flank steak tacos, we settled in for a game of Mexican Train dominos. After T won five games in a row, we decided that he needed a handicap…

…Of tequilla shots. We didn’t have the lime, so they were more hardcore than usual.

It took about three to even the playing field. Then more shots got added to the rules. I think Mexican Dominos is about to become a drinking game. And get a lot more “racist.”

T still beat us, but not nearly by as wide a margin as he’d had initially. And all of that was on day one! Crazy epic weekend!

Lest this blog post become even more ridiculously long, I’ll give a quick synopsis of the rest of the weekend (since I’ve run out of pretty pictures.) On Saturday, T & I went on a crazy long bike ride. It was insanely hot, but we got to ride the route that we’ve done on previous visits which involves a lot of climbing, but a nearly empty mountain road and gorgeous scenery. Jenn had a horseback riding lesson and then she and Bryan went on a hike (apparently they passed us in the car, but we were in the zone and didn’t see them.) We had a chill evening with another delicious dinner. None of us had the energy for another epic round of dominos, so no rematch for us.

Our drive home was filled with blue skies and delicious food. We stopped at the store in Mazama and picked up a loaf of bread and the best chicken sandwich I’ve had in a while. We also stopped for ice cream at Cascadian Farm for ice cream. We picked up some meats, cheeses, and deli salads at Whole Foods for a nice simple low-key dinner. It was still nice and warm in Seattle, so we were able to relax in the backyard for a while. What a great weekend! Many, many thanks to our hosts Jenn & Bryan for inviting us. I think the boys are going to need a few days to recover from all of the fun they had.

Happy birthday, America!

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Gotta love a Wednesday holiday, right? Poor T had to work a half day, so it was a fairly unproductive morning for me. Then I headed east to meet up with him and his co-worker Dot for an afternoon bike ride. We ended up doing a loop of Lake Sammamish (a full loop this time, rather than an out and back.) Dot is fast, so I could really have used a magic donut. But chasing her and T was good for me and I held a way better average pace than normal, so I was pleased.

M & J were coming over for dinner, so after the ride we hustled home to get ready. We actually had nice weather for a change, so we were planning to dine in the backyard. It was a nice relaxing summer evening, kicking back with some good friends. Inevitably, people started shooting off fireworks, which would send Wally into a barking frenzy sprinting in the direction of the noise. He was getting some good exercise, but we felt like his homemade “Thunder shirt” would also be a good idea:

He still ran around and barked while we were outside, but settled down pretty nicely in his crate. Our plan for the evening was to head to J’s office to watch fireworks, so we crated the boys in the basement with some music on the iPod to camouflage what fireworks noise might reach them. We were a little nervous about it, but there wasn’t much else to be done. There didn’t seem much point in all of staying home and being miserable.

As we drove down to J’s office, it was shocking how many boats were out on Lake Union. I tried to get a picture from the car:

J’s office had a great variety of snacks and beverages, plus a balcony where we could watch the fireworks pretty comfortably. Here are M & T in our sweet set-up (you can’t see the bottle of wine and giant cup of m&m’s, but they’re in there:

The view wasn’t too shabby:

We were concerned about the crane obstructing our view:

But it ended up framing the fireworks very nicely:

And the Instagram version:

It was a nice little display of fireworks. (Especially since we hadn’t been out to see actual fireworks for six years, since getting Wally.) And certainly much better than poor San Diego. And best of all, the boys seemed perfectly fine when we got back home. Except for when he went out to pee, Wally settled down just fine. I am feeling very optimistic about future fourths!