Thursday, December 27, 2007

Toll House Pan Cookies - "Healthed" Up

The original recipe:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup of chopped nuts

Heat oven to 375 F degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts.

Pan Cookie variation: Grease 9 x 13 pan (or 15 x 10 jelly roll pan). Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

I substituted 2 1/4 whole wheat flour and 2/3 cup of egg whites for the 2 large eggs. In addition to the vanilla extract - add 1 tsp of almond extract. I added 1 cup of rolled oats, used Hazelnuts and threw in whatever chocolate "morsels" I had in the house to make 2 cups (mint choc chip, white choc w/red and green "holiday" colors and the basic semi-sweet choc morsels). I got the OK that the cookies turned out alright from a holiday gathering.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis The Season To Be Baking, fa, la, la, la, la

Both these recipes are from a recent Cooking Light magazine.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1 c sugar
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c low fat buttermilk
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
2 tbs canola oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped

Combine the 7 ingredients; stir well. Combine sugar through egg in a large bowl; beat well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat well. Fold in cranberries.

Place 12 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups, coat liners with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups. Cook at 375 for 25 minutes. 199 calories (14% from fat), 3.2g fat.

Pecan topped Pumpkin Bread - Makes 2 loaves
3 1/3 c flour
1 tbl baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice

2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c egg substitute
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c low fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
2/3 c water
1 can pumpkin
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Combine 7 ingredients - stir. Beat together sugar through and including the buttermilk. Add 2/3 c water and pumpkin, beat until blended. Add flour mixture, beat until combined. Spoon batter into two 9x5 in loaf pans coated with cooking spray (a 9x13 pan worked well, too.) Bake at 350 for 1 hour. 1 slice: 198 calories (30% from fat), 6.6 g fat

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yangtze Giant Soft-Shell Turtles

NYTimes video on the last two known Yangtze giant soft-shells. I think I am in a "Debbie Downer" funk and this video tops it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Trains, Planes and Automobiles and Buses

The Bemis's and I headed into London by noon so I could catch my flight home and they would spend a day at the museums. We thought I had plenty of time as I did not see any construction, or engineering as the Brits say, on the railways when we checked online. When we got to King's Cross where we would separate, Dale thought since I had over 3 hours to get to Heathrow and I was a hop, skip and a jump away, we could wander to the new railway, St. Pancras Train Station. Little did I know I would be in for a travel day from hell. The newly renovated train station was fantastic. Even the locals were ooing and awing taking pictures. Now Europe is a hop, skip and a jump away. We then wandered the streets of London to walk to a different Underground station just so I could take in the city-feel of London. All the monuments and statues are lined with wreaths of poppies for Remembrance Day. As we walked to Euston station, Dale points out the street where the 7/7 bombings occurred. Great. That's all I need to know I as will be traveling in crowded trains and planes and I didn't know yet that I would be running to catch a crowded bus.

With many big hugs, I was on my way. I nervously positioned myself on the steep escalator descending to the Tube. No problem. I get off the Victoria line to get the Piccadilly Circus line. I eyed up all the people waiting to board. As I started to sweat, I could not take off my jacket because I knew I would have little time to board if I wanted to catch this next train. It came and was packed. It didn't seem like there was any space to board even though people did exit the train. I moved with the masses and I needed to be a bit aggressive to board as I had my luggage with me. Packed like sardines, the air was thick and people were surprisingly friendly as my baggage were up their arses. Two stops later, most of the people departed the train. I took off my jacket and stuck my head out of the train's doors to breath. I relaxed for the rest of the journey nibbling on my animal crackers and salty pretzels from home. At the Hammersmith platform, I failed to listen to the announcments. The doors closed and heard a familar platform, Cockfosters, which was heading in the direction I came from. I had a panicked look on my face and I must have been mumbling to myself as a mother asked if I was alright. I asked if I should have gotten off at that stop as I needed to get to Heathrow. The next stop came quickly and they, all in the family, encouraged me to get off and go back to the Hammersmith stop and look for the replacement buses that were taking travelers to the Acton Town to get back on the Underground to get to Heathrow.

As I mentioned in a post from November 24, 2007, King's College Chapel, where I just posted it today (December 18th), I am a little behind on my postings.

I will continue this saga with another post. Of course, you know I survived but I must rant about the rest of the departing transportation adventure later. Tootaloo!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moggerhanger Park Ride

Wednesday, Cory and I rode through Comberton, Toft, Gransden, Gamblingay (video), Blunham arriving at the Moggerhanger Tea House in little over an hour.

Moggerhanger House Tea - a specialty tea blended for Moggerhanger from Chinese Yannan with vanilla, apple and pecan scones with jam and butter, and tea cakes.

Cory had traditional English tea and tea cakes.

Please forgive my amateur video shooting as I had the camera mounted on my handlebars and it must not have been tight enough so it bounced a lot. Once the helmet mount expansion kit is released by GoPro, I hope my video shooting will be better. You may notice that I tried to get all sides of my "views" by swinging my bike back and forth and riding from side to side. Quite dizzying and dangerous. I luckily did not crash into Cory, cars or off the road.





video

King's College Chapel


Five kings, four master masons and loads of craftsmen took over a century to build King's College Chapel.

Since you must buy the King's College Chapel guidebook for the history of the chapel, I may have to post more details later as I have succumbed to the winter doldrums and work has zapped my energy to sit in front of a computer at home. It is really December 18th and not November whatever when I initially saved this post in draft. Sorry! I really couldn't sit in front of the computer at home anyways since Brad is busy working on his rating playing Bridge online. Yup, that is Brad's off-season; sitting in front of a computer yelling at it when his 80 year partner from Australia plays the wrong card.

So, King's College Chapel - the snipet.

Three different periods of construction occurred because of interruptions due to the War of the Roses (1455-1485).

The stained glass windows are massive with intricate details. The north, south and east sides of the Chapel tell the stories of the old testament (upper windows) and the new testament (lower windows). The woodwork and carved stones are just magnificent, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chips and Pints

The kids have French class on Monday nights at a community center in Cambridge. Alyssa was still not feeling well so Nathan would go alone.

Dale took Nathan and with a little begging, I rode along. We had to make a stop along the way home for bread so we detoured to The Boathouse for a pint and chips. I think the chips will do me in by the end of my vacation. They are much like "French" fries. Any nationality of fries; British fries. I rarely eat French fries like this at home.

Dale had his usual Stella or the posh saying is now "Artois", I had a draught of XXXB; Bateman's Triple XB. A bitter pale ale with 4.8% alcohol. I am not much for bitter ale but when it is a fresh draught, they have been mighty tasty.

Tuesday, Cory and I had a pint of my favorite for lunch, a draught Hoegaarden. The Punter seem a bit more posh of a pub as they did not have any fish and chips on the blackboard menu. We each ordered butternut squash soup and split an order of bacon and brie baguette with chips. As usual, my eyes were bigger than my belly so I ordered a side of chips. The meal at the Punter was very lovely. Our soup arrived strewn with drippings of olive oil. The bacon was thick and the baguette warm, flaky and crispy. We hung out at the cozy pub warm and dry as commuters rode and drove in the rain. I saw one woman riding that wore a lovely white wool coat without any road grime up her back. The mud guards (fenders) do wonders keeping the riders clean and dry.

Adventures having kids

Dale drove Alyssa and Holly to the Corn Exchange and we followed an hour later with Holly's family. As we drove in the car park, Cory received a call from the head mistress that Alyssa was sick.

We collected Alyssa's things and Dale fetched the car in the drizzly rain and that was that. No children's concert at the Corn Exchange.

Monday, we walked Nathan to school and attended to Alyssa at home for the day. We did venture north to Lakenheath for some American Thanksgiving grocery shopping. Cory and Dale will be treating their British friends to a traditional American feast.

Since the weather has been cold, wet and damp, we have not ridden the bikes yet. Oddly enough, a friend of Cory's invited us to join her for a spinning class at the local gym; Comberton Leisure.

The local gym is owned by Comberton College (high school). They do have memberships and a specific weight room with a few cardio equipment. It seems very similar to a YMCA. We dragged our 1990's spin bikes out of the closet into a gymnasium. It was as if the bikes had down tube shifters on them! The instructor, Joe, checked in with us to make sure we knew what we were doing. I made the mistake of telling him that I taught spin for many years. I became a target in the class. He did not overtly point out that I was not working hard enough and not following his instructions. It was those traditional spins moves that we never do on a road bike, that got me into trouble. Who sprints with the upper body upright?! And without moving the hips?! When Joe shouted; sprint as fast as you can! He also shouted in our direction; "keep those bodies upright." as Cory and I had our heads down and arses back sprinting. We had a great workout so we did not go pubbing after class.

Alyssa survived her virus and went to school on Tuesday. Cory and I met a bunch of mums at Comberton Leisure for a power walking class. What fun. :-) My damn hips and ankles are stiff today. It reminded me of my second cross race. I got dropped so fast by all the mums (about 12 of them) and I even started in the second row. "Wiggle those hips and swig those arms!" yelled Hannah. She was in a car following us. At one point on a country road, she had to pass us as we were too slow. Eventually my partner, Denise, and I ended up jogging. We power walked 5K to Toft and back in an hour. Now I was ready to tour Cambridge again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cambridge

After seeing the sun rise from my bedroom window, I fell back asleep so we missed out on a ride as the rain did not fall until 4:30 this evening. I did not actually see the sun but I did experience blue and pink skies with a smattering of clouds as the wind whipped through the tops of trees.

In the afternoon, we walked around Cambridge enjoying a cloudy, windy day as I hopped in and out of stinky, red telephone booths exposing my touristy nature. I try to disguise the tourist in me but after a while, I cannot hold back and the camera comes out and there is no stopping me.

Later, we ate at The Eagle Pub. I had a pint of Abbot Ale and shared an order of fish and chips with Nathan. Cory and Dale order a Ploughman, the British version of a plate of salad with cheese or deli meat and each had a Stella Artois.

The pub is famous for the announcement of the discovery of DNA. Also, the back room ceiling is covered in RAF, American Air Force and World War II pilots' signatures.
We wandered to Fitzbillies and the family had to hold me back from ordering everything in the bakery. Chocolates, truffles, pastries, oh my. I had a chocolate rum truffle the size of a tennis ball, Cory had an almond meringue poofy-thing; Nathan ordered the same as me except it was without the rum and in the shape of a mouse; Dale - I do not remember as he ate it so fast he did not share it with us. I thin it was a pecan tart. Right.

Later, we will return to Cambridge to hear Alyssa and her friends sing in a gathering of local young singers sponsored by Chambridgeshire Music at the Corn Exchange.

Pictures will be posted on my return to the states.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trains, Planes and Automobiles-in the UK for the Holiday

I had a horrible seat for my SEVEN + hour flight to London. Row 40 seat J. I would think I would know better with all the flying I have done this year. But No!

I managed to have a fairly pleasant guy from Denver sit next to me. Around 12:22 EST over St. John's, New Foundland, we hit horrible turbulence and I started doing that breathing thing that pregnant women do when they deliver. I held on tight to the arm rests and thought, all this energy is stupid but I could not stop. The plane dropped, I heard the engines cut back, cut in, the plane shook like a wet dog, then I heard a mother tell her child to get on the floor if it made her feel better. So that lasted chaos lasted for about 2 minutes. Okay maybe it was for one minute but we were barely two hours into the flight and we had the lilly pond to deal with for the rest of the flight.

I managed to sleep sporadically as the turbulence woke me every time but nothing as bad as the St. John's turbulence. The crew were pretty good about waking us every hour or so for food and drinks. I thought they said they would only wake us if they could not see that our "seat belt was securely fastened." Grrr.

When I arrived in London around 10 a.m., I had to manage to take the Tube and a train to Cambridge. I am visiting my best buddies, the Bemis's, and they had activities in the a.m. and to drive into London to pick me up would have been a whole day's affair. I am always up for an adventure so I had no worries about the trains. I did, however, worry about using the pay phone to call Cory as I did not know if I need coins. I decided not to get any pounds as I hope to be charging everything during my stay.

All in all, my adventures with the trains and phones worked out as I am not shy to ask anyone questions. Even after I had gone to the information desks with my questions, I would still ask another travel what to do, where to go, as I did not trust my listening skills. "Did he stay turn right?"

Cory picked me up after my 2 p.m. arrival in Cambridge in her riding kit. "Activities", right? I was okay with that of course. I sat in the front left passenger seat trying to dodge traffic. Jet lag had set in hours ago as I fell asleep for a bit on both train rides. I cannot wait to ride on the left side of the road to see how many people I take out if we happen to ride with any of Cory's club rides.


Friday, November 9, 2007

There's No Place Like Home


After dragging Brad out for a date night, I could not wait to get home to watch the Wizard of Oz from start to finish on our new HDTV.

So I sat in front of the tv multi-tasking. And I thought Las Vegas was excessive.

Another Date Night with a Date

I have been working the 6 a.m. shift this week supporting the help line with early registration so I was ready for a night out. I took advantage of an early rainy afternoon to check out a discount grocer in Quarryville, PA.

It was my first time to shop at BB's, "bents, bumps and bargain grocer". Most items may have bents or be slightly beyond the expired date. Since it is in the heart of Lancaster County, the store happens to be run by the Amish. The store closes at 4 p.m. due to the lack of major electricity. Thankfully I arrived at 3:30 so I had very little time to buy tons of ice cream in bulk.

The best purchase was 3 gallons of Turkey Hill "lite" Vanilla Bean Ice Cream for $6 and it doesn't expire until May, 2008. I think it will be gone before then. Everything else were silly purchases of marinades, pounds of animal crackers, baking chocolate and some good things like fruits and vegetables.

The Amish girl bagging groceries got all excited with my tub of ice cream. "Whoa, where'd you git that? I love ice cream. Oh, no, it's lite though. Still good, don't you know."

As Brad said, I came home like a tornado. I surprised him with his favorite - ice cream and the request for a date night - now! He about cried as he thought he would do great avoiding ice cream. (Last weekend he forced me to go to the store to buy "us" some ice cream even though I gave him a hard time that he "told" me not to buy any for him.)

I demanded that we go to happy hour at J.J. Jeffries (aka Lancaster Arts Hotel). From there we could go elsewhere for dinner if we chose not to stay there for dinner.

We had a fabulous beer from a local brewery; Fat Dog Oatmeal Stoudt. It started out great but had a bit of an after taste. My favorite stoudts are Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stoudt then Guinness. Although, Fat Dog wasn't too bad for a local beer.

We decided to wander to the restaurant next door for dinner. It has been hit or miss with the dinners at Rosa Rosa. The ambiance has always been enjoyable. They usually have live Jazz. Tonight was soft piano music. Cat Stevens, James Taylor and the Beatles were very pleasant for a fall evening after our loud and noisy happy hour. We slowed down for dinner, each other's company and ESPN at the tiled wrap around bar. We cleaned all our plates and headed home for our pjs and a movie.

Plates:
Fagottino di Caserta - thinly sliced eggplant wrapped around fresh mozzarella, with tomato sauce. Misto alla Brace - Salmon, Swordfish, scallops, our fresh lemon garlic and olive oil Pollo Siciliano - Chicken breasts breaded and lightly sauteed, finished with artichoke, mushroom and onions, flavored with marsala wine

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Spiced Banana Muffins with Cinnamon & Walnut Topping


While the guys moved to the basement to watch the game, I baked six, big arse muffins. They were so big, they overflowed in the oven. I forgot about the nuances of baking and I had to clean the oven halfway through. I knew I should not have filled the over-sized muffin tin to the top of the rims. I absent-mindedly thought they would "puff up". Even though they came out with flat tops, they still tasted awesome.

Spiced Banana Muffins with Cinnamon & Walnut Topping
1/2 cup of butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/8 cup water

3 large bananas

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
3/8 tsp nutmeg
3/8 tsp cloves

1 tbsp cinnamon sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I didn't have any so I used hazelnuts and pecans!)

Beat together first 4 ingredients until mixture is nicely blended. Stir in the bananas. Stir in the next 6 ingredients until blended. Fill muffin cups (any kind of muffin cups should be filled no higher than 3/4s full) or make in a 10" tube pan. Sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar and walnuts. Press the walnuts lightly into the batter. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

Lancaster Bicycle Club Ride

Saturday was a beautiful fall day in November. Karen and I rode a LBC ride in the morning. We choose a B ride so we would enjoy the scenery of Lancaster County instead of the wheel and arse in front of us.

As with most club rides, a group of riders push the pace one or two miles higher than the prescribed pace. A good number of riders should be riding the A group (16 mph and up) but do not for whatever reason (start location, "out of shape", timing-need to get errands done, etc). Most people ride the B rides and the group splinters from there.

We had a bit of a head/cross wind for our 34 mile ride to New Holland and back so it was great to have people to ride behind. Or so we thought. With about 30 riders showing up for the 10 a.m. ride, the ride leader ran out of cue sheets by the time we rolled in. The ride started two blocks from my house and at 10 a.m. compared to one of my favorite LBC rides, the Harvest Ride, a 54 mile ride that started at 8:30 a.m. and about a 10 minute ride away.

We hogged the roads for about three miles until the group did some self selecting. Eventually, about 18 riders were up the road with stragglers in between the tail end of the true "B pace" riders. Karen and I rode with a nice group of about 3 or 4 guys that varied as some of them dropped back to the ride leader. Before we knew it, we set the pace and averaged an "A pace" into the winds. I whined to Karen that we could have ridden the Harvest Ride but she reminded me that it would have been a smaller group with nowhere to hide, at an average of 18+ mph for three hours and I would not have been able to sleep in. As with my eating, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, so I tend to take on more than I can handle. My girlfriends always know that if I say; "Hey, lets ride for four hours tomorrow, that usually means two 1/2 hours!

I love how riding in the wind wipes me out. It is such a great feeling. If I am not pressed for time, I love riding in the wind. Two hours were enough as it allowed me time to go food shopping with my homebody, Brad, at Costco buying last night's dinner.

Pork loin baby back ribs. Hmmm. We marinated them with barbeque and grilled them. I peeled and cut up sweet potatoes for sweet potato fries. Oh, I am getting hungry for the meal again. I toss the sweet potatoes in a big bowl with my homemade Cajun seasoning or even season salt would work. This time I used some seasoning that I bought from a home party for Tastefully Simple. I have been slurring my words lately (and that has been without alcohol) and I usually say, tastefully sinful. That's probably what it is since a lot of the products have partially hydrogenated oils and that is a no, no in our house. I am a sucker for the home parties my friends and family host. If I attend, I feel guilty not buying something. So I bought a seasonal seasoning (it's not on their website anymore), Si Si Cilantro, spicy dip mix and it is tasty (and without partially hydrogenated oils). Ingredients: jalapeno pepper, cilantro, salt, lime powder, onion and garlic.

We heated up fresh sweet corn we bought frozen from a local Amish woman. Then Brad whipped up some margaritas for his dad and I. We feasted around our new 20 inch flat screen tv and watch Eli's alma mater, Michigan State play well in the second half to turn around and lose.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Octoberfest Ride - The Mini

video

Be warned. My first iMovie with the GoPro - soon to be helmet camera (waiting for the helmet mount to be produced).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Octoberfest Ride 2007

We rode in a NW headwind for an hour-twenty to arrive at the trail head of Colebrook Road for a 1 p.m. departure.

My plan was to ride to the meeting place and maybe the first bar then turn around and ride home.

We rode west to T.J. Rockwells for our first stop. Brad gave me sh*t as we hopped on the bikes to the Black Gryphon as I whined; "It's only a quarter mile up the road." And the guys chimed in that the rest of the stops are on our way home, too.


We bee-lined on the main drag from the EndZone Bar to Henningan's Bowling Alley. From there, Brad reeled me in and said we are going home! We did not have anyone to pick us up unless Rob's wife was given a call after their last stop at Bube's Brewery.


With a tailwind/crosswind from the west, we cruised home bleary-eyed. Brad kept me at my limit while I mumbled in my head about his pace. I watched my computer go from 24, 27 to 30. I could sense the smirk on his face as we pedaled in silence. I never quit or yelled at him. He did the right thing. We did not need to play with the boys any longer and we needed to ride as fast as I could. We rode for about three hours for 51+ miles, not including all our stops. I was glad to be home, making a shopping list for the week.

A mini movie is forthcoming. The last clip is all I saw for the ride to Colebrook and the ride home. I am not sure if the guys want Brad to ride any more Octoberfests. Octoberfest is for fun riding. The HMB rides are for hammering.

My legs are going to pay for the fun as we did not ride all week because of the rain. Trainers? I am the only one that rides a trainer and I don't touch the thing until late winter, if I absolutely must.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

1986

The SNL I missed while I was on vacation.

No, I am not a Bon Jovi fan. (Maybe back in the 80s I was)
Yes, I was in high school in the mid 1980s.
No, I really don't like the music from the 1980s. (Okay, maybe a few tunes)
Yes, I love to make fun of the 1980s.
No way the fashion is making a come back. I burned all my leggings, cut-off sweat shirts and bangles.

The SNL video cracked me up! (and I used to be a gymnast)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

John J. Jeffries

I took myself out on a date night after a long day at work on Tuesday. Initially, I was going to eat at Carrabba's and eat my favourite bread and olive oil dip with a wood-fired pizza and beer (I love carbs) but somehow I steered towards the Lancaster Arts Hotel.

I could not talk Brad into trying it out lately as the restaurant is pricey so I said; "What the hell. It might be a while until I can drag him out to eat at JJJ". The name of the restaurant within the hotel is called the John J. Jeffries. I just got back from vacation and decided to splurge one more time on me. (Denial that I am not on vacation anymore.) The best part is the restaurant is all about sustainability. The chefs purchase almost everything locally, farm-raised, organic, no pesticides, no steroids, etc. If you are every in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, you must dine here. They also take care of their full-time employees by providing health care and family-style meals from 4:30 to 5 for the restaurant employees working the evening shift. The bartender told me the restaurant thinks about everything they use right down to the trash bags and pens. Any unused drinking water is poured into a bucket and used to water the plants. My kind of living. "Food with a conscience."

I had a local brew on tap, Stoudts Triple Abbey. Great for the first couple sips but then it got bitter. I must have been thirsty. I had two appetizers for my dinner; cauliflower and leek soup (with saffron and sumac reduction) and Mac and Belly (penne, aged cheddar, Bavarian Swiss and pork confit).

The bartender knew I had no idea what I was ordering and what kind of portions I would receive when I asked if I could have the Mac and Belly without the "belly" - pork confit. He recommended that I have the "pork confit" with my Mac. I am glad I did as the portion was an appetizer size. Mmm. Pork fat! Every dish had a great presentation. Homemade bread from A Loaf of Bread with fresh butter came with the soup.

I heard the fresh press coffees are incredible. Brad and I drink fresh press coffees at home often. I don't know what it was but the Mexican Chiapas Fair Trade Fresh Press Decaf Coffee was pipping hot and delicious. Of course I had to order dessert. The Brulee'd Maple Goat Cheese Cheesecake (with carmel sauce and gala apples compote) caught my eye.

As I sat at the bar having my meal, I thought the music selection was odd for what I considered an upscale restaurant. I loved it, though. Remakes of the Who, the Beatles, live Neil Young and then Romeo Void played. The bartender probably thought I was hitting on him when I asked about the music selection as "Never Say Never" played. I just thought it was an eclectic mix of music. He mentioned it was someone's Ipod section. Interesting. I am not sure if the music also played in the restaurant. I was too embarrassed to ask anymore questions.

Despite the small portions, I left content with a full belly. I did have appetizers so I should not complain. I had to unbutton my pants as I drove home. The budda belly has returned tonight as my cats have been trying to sit on my belly while I post (the computer occupies my lap). I may post another time about the behaviors of my cats. They are peculiar.

Okay, I will quickly post about my cats. I call them retarded but in a nice way. Just tonight, they had been pacing the house waiting for me to come home. Brad would talk to them like kids letting them know I would be home soon. (How do they know what he/we are saying?!) When I do arrive home, their eyes widen and they run around the house like the easter bunny just came in with a basket full of pure Belgian chocolates. They follow me where ever I go. So as I sit here and post, they have been walking around, circling my chair, sitting on my receipts on the side table, knocking off my notes, pens, etc., letting me know that they exist. They are just silly cats ready for bed and they will not go to bed until both of us are in bed. It is three hours past my bedtime so I must - as the Amish say; "outen the lights".

Flagstaff

After mountain biking in the morning on Wednesday, I filled up my travel mug with wine and we traveled to Flagstaff for a little excursion to the Lowell Observatory.

We took the scenic drive north on 89A. I bought some sterling silver jewelry at a Oak Creek Vista (elev. 6,419 feet) then we continued to Flagstaff.I got to stop at my favorite coffee shop for some beans and chai. We roamed Flagstaff window shopping for an hour + and met for dinner at the Mountain Oasis.

I had shiitake spring rolls, light alfredo pasta with shrimp and indulged with a key lime cheesecake for dessert.

The village of Oak Creek Canyon has less artificial light at night than Flagstaff so the night sky is more beautiful. We did get to look through a telescope but I forget what star cluster I got to gaze at.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Waning Vacation

We almost crammed in a lot on Friday as it was our last day in Sedona but we did not. The guys each went off on their own to take pictures, hike, bike or sleep on a rock. Us women wanted to rock and roll one more time on the mountain bikes. We did the same trails from our first day but came back on Llama and part of Bell Rock Pathway differently. We just soaked in the sun and had a fabulous ride for two hours.

We rode North on Bell Rock Pathway to Little Horse trail, got turned around a bit, carried/walked the bikes up some rocky trails and eventually found our way to the Llama trail heading south. I fell more than ever and eventually had the rental bike on top of me with my head towards the bottom of the climb - stuck under the bike. Laughing but stuck. Here is Little Bell Rock off of the Llama Trail.We shopped the main strip of Sedona in the afternoon. In the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, Brad and I grabbed some margaritas and chips after walking the cobble-stoned walkways and through arched entryways of some galleries. This trip, we did not see any Javelinas, just artsy ones.

I think they are the cutest little buggers. When I saw them in Phoenix in 2005, I jumped out of the van running towards them to take a picture. I had everyone concerned. Although, I think the poor javelinas were more scare of me than me of them. I felt sorry for them as they were roaming in an industrial park. So much pavement, not much livable natural environment. (whan, whan)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jerome, AZ - Copper Mine Town


Monday afternoon we took a drive to our favorite town (climb), Jerome, AZ. Last time we visited Brad's mom in February 2005, we brought our road bikes and road to Jerome from the Village of Oak Creek. It took us about an hour and a half to hit the base of the climb of Mingus Mountain. This time we drove the 100 + switchbacks to the top; 7200' (picture from 2005 - Connor Hotel) The town has lots of character.


We spent the day shopping (me-eating), in Jerome. My favorite restaurant of the vacation was the Red Rooster Cafe. I had a special; the Southwest Quiche with a side of salad. I had creamy feta dressing. Wow-amazing. I worried that I would be stuffed and could not eat any homemade desserts. As I mentioned earlier, the little blackboard listed four fabulous desserts. Stoked that I had room for at least two desserts, I restrained myself and ordered the four-berry crumb pie. Karen had an apple bread pudding. I don't like bread pudding, but I would have eaten that bread pudding. It came out hot and gooey. I had the second to last slice of four-berry crumb pie. I made the table to the right of me cry as they tried to order a slice after I moaned and groaned about how wonderful the pie was and there were none left by the time they ordered dessert. The table to our left had ordered the last slice of pie. They too had some bread pudding. I think our table was very expressive about our desserts. Gotta love it when you have dessert for lunch.

Karen and I wanted to have some peach cobbler but held off to maybe come back for "dinner". I forgot to read the fine print as the restaurant closed at 3 p.m. and we finished lunch at 2 p.m. The desserts were going fast so it was probably good for our waistlines. Oh, but do I regret not ordering the peach cobbler and homemade something-so-yummy-and-probably gooey-brownie for later. I think we would have wiped that dessert blackboard clean, with pleasure.

Checking off the To Do list - Mt. Bike Everyday


Thursday, we packed the van with six bikes and riders, four crammed in the back to ride the Jim Thompson Trail. This was the only ride we had to have transportation. Thank goodness as I lost some hair in the back of the van. (Probably from all the farting and drinking I had been doing all week!) Ha! I could not resist. Come on. We're human, right?

The trails on our out and back ride: Wilson Canyon, Jim Thompson, dirt road to Jordan to Teacup. Teacup had winding paths with drop-offs so we bagged it and turned around.


Can you see the guy on the top of the rock? It may be hard in the blog but he his on that little ledge. Amazing.

I pooped out again after 3 hours of riding and took the road-Jordan Road to the tourist stretch of Oak Creek Canyon's Uptown Sedona and had a malted vanilla milkshake with Brad as we waited an hour for our buddies to ride back the trail. Our ride after we split from our friends took us 5 maybe 6 minutes and it was all downhill. Here is the other pooper in the Plaza.



Thursday, October 18, 2007

Turkey Creek Trail


Wednesday we road the road-Verde Valley School Road to Turkey Creek Trail; an out and back ride from the house. It was a nice open trail, not much rock climbing until a few miles from the summit. Again, I pooped out and turned around about a mile from top after I popped off my bike one too many times on a rocky uphill.

The dual suspension bike was to blame! Ha! Not quite. I was just a little weak in the upper body and tired from wanting to ride EVERYDAY. I really did, Sedona and the Red Rocks are so beautiful. I was so tired I bombed the downhills more than I would normally. I hate walking. And I consider myself a climber - oh yea, my blog title. I kept my belly in check with drinking about two bottles of red wine a day, ate at least four pastries/desserts a day - Oh desserts. I did not write about Jerome, AZ, yet did I?

That was our Monday excursion after our early morning run and ride. Hmmm. Four Berry Crumb Pie. When the blackboard reads "homemade desserts", I am having one of each! I should have but did not.

So Wednesday's three hour ride was mellow like the big-eared Mule Deer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hiking

Since I cannot truly take a rest day, I rode my mountain bike to the Desert Flour Bakery on Tuesday. I bought a belly-load of pastries, muffins and bread. My backpack was filled with cinnamon nut buns, chocolate croissants, almond croissants, strawberry cream croissant, a dozen rugula cookies, jam-filled shortbreads, cranberry nut, blueberry and banana nut muffins and a loaf of rosemary walnut bread.

I wanted a few snacks for our hike. Thank goddess I made the trip to the bakery as our hike lasted over four and half hours. I jokingly packed the cinnamon nut buns and a croissant. Who wants to eat gels and cliff bars when we have pastries?! We devoured them two hours into our hike on Airport Loop Trail. We think the vortex made our pastry break on the rocks magical.

We hiked with a lot of consultation with the Sedona Trail Map (Emmitt Barks Cartography), each other and anything else that would guide us. We crossed Red Rocks Crossing through the Crescent Moon Picnic Area, traveled the road for a while to a dirt road that led us to the Ridge Trail. We somehow ended up on Table Top Trail and finally came upon the Airport Loop. We were hiking N and took the Airport Loop clockwise. I am directionally challenged so don't trust what I say but I think we hiked that loop NE. We had fantastic views, especially when the loop headed S. Hopefully my pictures will tell a story.

I am not really a hiker, especially after 4 and 1/2+ hours. That may be a WHOLE different post in itself (hence, feet in very cold and refreshing stream! Great recovery for the next day as I will need it.)

Jack's Canyon

Monday should have been a rest day. I ran with Karen on Bell Rock Pathway to Courthouse to Big Park Loop. Doing the adventure race ill-prepared for the run trashed my left ankle and right knee/IT ban. Even on a trail, I lasted 15 minutes and had to walk. I jogged and walked for an hour. The morning light and silence was incredible.

We saw a jack rabbit with the biggest ears. I will post some pictures when I return home but no jack rabbit as I did not jog with a camera.

Karen and I jumped on the bikes to ride with the guys to do Hot loop. It is supposed to be a climb through Jack's Canyon but we could not find the trail head for mountain bikes.

Karen and I were tired after our run and the ride on the road to Jack's Canyon so we decided to ride the loop we ran in the morning (Monday). Our bodies quivered like jello as I could barely ride an easy trail. At one point my wheel got stuck between two rocks and I just fell over, wedging my knee between the frame and a rock. I have a nice shiner on my knee. We eventually made it back to the bike shop to ask for tune-ups for the rest of the week. Thank you Absolute Bikes as I tweaked my rear derailleur on my fall.

In Jack's Canyon in search of the trail head we did see five beautiful coyotes. Brad and I have been the only ones who hear the coyote songs at 4 a.m. each morning. Our room with a sliding glass door that we leave open faces Jack's Canyon. I pop up at 3:59 a.m. and wake Brad up to listen to the coyotes. Early Tuesday morning they started singing at 1:24 a.m. We think they cornered a dog or some animal as we heard howling, yipping, dog barks and it went on for half an hour. It got a little eerie after a while.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sedona

Arrived Friday evening, October 12, 2007. Dragged our bums into Brad's mother's home in the lovely Village of Oak Creek around 11 pm AZ time after a Costco stop for LOTS of wine and dinner at a steakhouse.

We rented mountain bikes at Absolute Bikes Saturday morning. Road trails the last two days. I am in HEAVEN and I am a die-hard roadie.

Saturday: Easy trail to acclimate and to keep all six of us together. We rode Bell Rock Trail to the end where there was a trail system map (and bathroom). Rode back Bell Rock Trail to Little Horse Trail ?? to Chapel Trail. A bit too much walking up rocky, sandy trails and I asked to head back home. Road Llama Trail back to Bell Rock. Two hour ride. Just awesome.

Sunday, rode Bell Rock Trail to Templeton Trail to the dirt road of Verde Valley School Road. Off of Verde Valley Road Karen, Barb and I turned off to do the Baldwin Trail loop counter clockwise. I could have ridden ALL day. Just fabulous weather and amazing rocks jutting out of the earth. We were riding/walking our bikes/taking pictures for five hours. Again, heaven.

Heaven includes lots of wine after the rides. Thank goddess for my typing skills as after five glasses of Oregon Pinot (Erath) and something Syrah (Waterbrook-Columbia Valley), my fingers are a bit numb.

I must go as they are calling me for the prayer before a fabulous Cuban dinner Nancy (Brad's mother) has prepared for Sunday night football! Okay, she prepared an awesome meal to introduce us to her neighbor, Rob, who owns a roofing company. His second home is here in Sedona next door and Bob and Karen are staying in his guest room.

Cheers and blessed be.

I am back for a respite. Pulled pork, black beans and rice (lots of olive oil and a bit of cilantro), sauteed plantains soaked in rum and the guys switched from the flowing red wine to rum and coke with lime with dinner.

After our ride today I was talking of running early in the morning tomorrow so we can do a long climbing ride around 8 a.m. with the guys over at Jack Canyon. Hummm. Luckily I am able to correct all my typos as I go. Not sure if I will be able to do a long, challenging mountain biking ride but my heart wants to keep on riding.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Homey Life


I am 5' so the kitchen counters are too high for me. I bought cheapy shoes that add 3" to my height. We also got a new hot water heater that I have too hot because I am a germ-a-phob. Hence, the fashionable dish gloves and sexy kitchen shoes. Meow!

One item checked off the honey do list - painting the "cappuccino-in-bed"; room. We take care of our guests. The color we use: Behr's Sage.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Off Season 2007

It is the off season for road racing when Brad has a "honey do" list for me, I watch baseball because it is the playoffs and football plays in the background as I cook in the kitchen. It is the off season as I am not a "fan" of any of the teams that played tonight.

I agonized watching the Indians beat the Yankees 6 - 4. Agonized as it went WAY past my bedtime; woohoo Indians! While I was up, I thought I would finish the Monday night football game. I catched the last 18 seconds with the Cowboys down 22-24 to the Bills. Nike Folk came up BIG having to kick TWO 50+ yard field goals back-to-back because of the timeout rule. Since I did not watch the game, you can read about it here. Or listen to AM sports radio. Brad got me into listening to sports radio years ago when Lance was on Jim Rome's show, the Jungle. I actually cannot stand Rome's program but I enjoy Out of Bounds on Fox with Craig Shemon & James Washington as my background noise at work. They LOVE football season and that is when I mostly listen to their show. I also turn them on when some big sports story breaks or if it is a Major Championship.

Interbike Day 3

Jenette and I made one more visit to the Expo to return the Felt with many thanks. We checked out the CyFac booth to get fitted for bikes. It will be interesting to see how off we may be with the bikes we ride.

Jdub's flight left at 5 p.m. so we were off to the hotel for her 2:30 shuttle to the airport. I then ran back to Interbike one last time to win a camera from GoPro.

Not enough business cards could help me win but screaming, "GoPro!" and jumping up and down would do just fine. They mixed up their drawings with noise. Whoever screamed the loudest, longest, most obnoxious, got picked. Yeah!! GoPro gave out many cameras that they would have to send mine and others to us lucky winners!

Had a fabulous end of Interbike at the Aquaknox in the Venetian before other East Coasters had to catch their red-eye flights. I know I would not want to fly drunk.

Once everyone left around 10 p.m. (my flight was on Saturday), I hobbled back to my hotel room. Wow. Vegas is not for me. Too many drunk people and I was sort of one of them. I two-fisted with water as I knew I was on my own eventually. I became an old maid and turned in at midnight.

My flight home got delayed and I was bumped to a later flight. The winds in Vegas howled at 35+ mph. We took off around 3 p.m. and I thought I was going to die. I felt like I was in a martini shaker. The plane twisted, dropped and rocked for at least three hours. The flights do not offer meals anymore, which is fine because they sucked in the past, so I bought a wrap for my dinner home. I had no idea that I would barely be able to eat it. Oh, and because I got bumped, my cush aisle seat became a middle seat in the last row with a baby in the other last row. We were shaken and stirred; along with fumes. I felt badly for the guy next to me. He was hungover and the martini flight back to Philly did not sit well with him. Thank goodness he was able to watch a movie and sleep. If he got sick, all hell would break loose. That would be why I could not fly drunk. With the kind of flight I had, I would have been obnoxious, silly or sick. I am bad enough sober. So we got free drinks, not because of the baby but because of the sucky last row. Since I was going to die, I had a Heineken?! Go figure. The guy next to me got his own liter of water; no little plastic cup, the whole bottle. The baby did better than I. I cried and screamed at least three times.

I survived and drove home tired and hungry so I ate the cookies I forgot for my plane trip to Vegas. The parents on my shuttle said, "My kids eat 6-month old crumbs out of the car all the time. You will be fine eating five day old cookies!" So I munched and boy were they tasty.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Interbike - Day 2, School Girl Gitty

I returned alone to Interbike on Thursday morning to see if I could borrow a bike for the last race of the season for the USA Crit Series. As I hung out in the lobby, I met John G. from Felt, told him about my situation and asked him about what floor bikes he had at Interbike. When the show opened at 9 a.m., he told me to talk to Dave K. He would know if they had anything available for me. Both gentleman were super helpful and friendly and the convention center filled for the busiest day of the show. Dave told me to come back around noon and he would let me know if they had a bike available. Felt had a trailer from the outdoor demos many blocks away storing demo bikes and Dave thought there might be a "small" road frame for me.

I wandered the show again, picked up more swag and as I walked around the media center, I saw Mario Cipollini. I about peed my pants and I called my best buddy at home. She squelled on the other end of the phone and screamed, get me an autograph!! I'm like "there's no way. He's protected in the Media Center." I did not know how long I could linger as I had to work on getting a bike for the crit. So I hovered for a while. And since I did not really pee my pants, I decided to go to the bathroom and chance missing Cippo. I returned with Mario getting ready to leave the Media Center. Woohoo! I hit the lottery. I danced around like a little school girl waiting for Mario to exit. It was all for my buddy at home. Really. She loves Mario; me not so much. Although, meeting Mario was one of my highlights of Interbike. The other was Stuey saying "You do not have a belly." We got autographed posters the other day and I asked if he could sign it to "Bellie". :-) I just melted when he said I did not have a belly! Jenette just laughed her arse off at me the whole time.

Could my eyes get any bigger?! I wanted to grabbed his butt but I am a silly old American.



















Another highlight - riding the strip in Vegas, before and after the race. Here we are on our way to the Mandalay Bay parking lot crit. We were a site on the strip. Jdub heard people say, "picture, picture" "gimme your camera!"

Back to the bike situation, Felt came through big time! THANKS FELT!! After my exciting encounter with Mario, I skipped through Interbike to the Felt booth like a girl skipping through a field of flowers. It was before noon but I was a bit anixous about finding out if they had a bike for me or not. Otherwise, my back-up plan was to rent a bike from a local shop. The bike Felt let me borrow was at the Saris booth, displayed on the roof racks. It took me a while to work out the logistics and with trust and super friendly people, I was off and riding a Felt. Check the link; the bike I raced was a 2008 Felt FW2, 700cx47. Dave thought I should be on a 45 but all they had was a 47. I knew it would be fine as I have been racing bikes for the last 7 years on bikes a smig too big. I would have like a shorter stem but I did not want to mess with switching out any parts.

I ran back to the hotel to work on adjusting the bike and slap on my pedals. Jdub was relaxing for the evening's main event. I gave her more swag and showed her Mario. I reminded us to drink, drink, drink. It was unseasonably hot and it's usual dryness. I went to my people to borrow tools. They thought I wanted to do my own repairs in our room. "What room are you in? We come fix it." No, no. I'm working on a bike. Tape measure in hand and a wrench, I am off like superwoman. When I return the tools in my race kit and bike, I looked like superwoman to these guys.

USA Crit Finals: Parking lot crit at Madalay Bay. I hate parking lot crits. Since we were the first race of the evening, we had the course to warm up on. FW2 sailed on this course. We dialed in the course lap after lap. No brakes course. It actually was a pretty awesome course. We lined up with rock star music and super star call ups. Jdub raced well just on the end of the main pack for the first few laps then settled in with the top third. I surfed the tail feeling comfortable; that deceivingly comfortable feel. Three laps later, I tell myself to move my ass up. Riders left and right were getting popped from the tail. The pace was hard and fast, but I fought my way to stay in the race, still surfing on the whipping tail. It took me half the race to get on the end of the pack, probably because the tail snapped.

The FW2 was a sweet ride. No brakes unless some silly goose of a woman hit her brakes or flicked her bike through the turns. I used the course to my advantage, mainly racing on the left side. I felt like I was on a roller coaster and in control. For example, I would coast into the first left turn after the s/f and roll up the left side of the pack into the top third of the pack a couple times. It would be the third turn that women would fight for position and I would filter back. Then I would use the sweeping right bend to roll up again into good position, taking a tight left turn like a race car driver, inside left, jumping out of the next left turn. Sweet. No brakes just floating the turns and rolling up in good position. It was somewhat magical because it was Vegas at night and my FW2 rode awesome. With three to go, after that third turn where those women kept fighting for position, someone crashed on the right in front of me. I luckily kept racing on the left side of the pack and the FW2 guided me around the meyhem. My heart jumped out of my chest as I could not afford to crash a full carbon bike. Cheerwine dominated the race and buried themselves for their rockstar, Laura VanGilder. Jdub and I survived crashes and she duked it out in the sprint for the finish. Check out Cyclingnews for a race report from the front end.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Interbike - Day One


Breakfast on the way to the Sands Expo Center was a Starbucks and an almond croissant. Being well rested, Jenette followed my lead. We took the long way to the expo center through the construction site along the way. The short cut was through the Venetian - but even shorter, especially since we were staying in the ghetto part of our hotel, was through the parking garages of the Imperial Palace and the Sands. I would find that sweet short cut on Thursday.

Off to will call for our badges, grabbed Show Daily magazines and maps for the exhibit. I scanned the floor for superstars and spotted Lynne Bessette. She would go on to win Cross Vegas in style. We sadly missed the event.

I buzzed around for all the free swag (I am the swag queen and major pro-cyclist groupie) and dragged Jdub with me. Later for the Vegas crit, she would be dragging me around!

We walked back to the hotel, grabbing lunch along the way at a Chipotle. Our legs throbbed from all the walking and standing. Jenette had some work she had to address and as she was making phone calls, I flipped through the show daily. Then I came across the full page add for FREE BEER and CAMERA from GoProCamera at 3 p.m. daily.

Brad wanted a helmet camera since the spring. He saw one in Excel Sports for $250. If I could get a helmet camera, it would be the best swag and surprise from my honey. I paced as Jdub worked the phone. She was to come with me to the show but the time ticked by and it was 2:55. Jdub was cool with me leaving as her back was trashed from all the swagging in the morning. She knew I had too much caffeine and she would not be able to keep up with my crazy energy.

I was off and running. Literally. I went through the Venetian as I didn't know about the garage shortcut yet. I arrived at the GoPro booth by 3:15, sweaty. They drew business cards for cameras and I had not dropped one in the "helmet" for the day. I hung out for the sales pitch and would come back Thursday BEFORE the crit.

I would wander for the next two hours as this was when the beer began to flow. I picked up more bags, bottles and multi-tools as I waited in line for beer. I met Magnus Backstedt. Most stands had American beer or a "light" beer like Heineken. The Speedplay booth had BELGIAN ale. I was so excited they had Belgian ale (and did not realized it was for staff only), I think I startled the guy tapping the beer. Doaph!

I checked out the Polar booth as they were giving away computers to the highest wattage male and female for the day. I watched in amazement as guys pushed the gears for two minutes. There was only one woman who had done the challenge so I had a 50/50 chance to win a Polar computer. The bike was too big for me as the "small" tri frame had too long of a seat post so the seat could not be lowered. Plus, I would have not touched an average of 400+ watts for two minutes as that was what the other woman clocked. Whew! I did not want to ride hard after a few beers in front of a bunch of people.

Just before the first day on Interbike ended, I decided to take a chance to see if one of the bike companies would loan me a bike for tomorrow's race. My bike did not arrive and initially I was going to rent one from Las Vegas Cyclery. Kurt from Kinetic rolled me around on a
four-seater surrey. We rocked as the convention hall emptied. His rock and roll trainer also rocked. It was very cool to spin out the legs from all the walking on a trainer that was smooth and allowed the bike to rock back and forth. It felt like I was on rollers. We rolled to Colnago, Redline, Hawley Co. (Storck). They did not have frames small enough for me. Kurt gave me names of other sales managers to check in with Thursday morning.

It was 7 and we needed to eat. I had not organized a ride for Jdub and I to see VegasCross and I regret it. We had dinner at the Imperial Palace "Mings" and headed to the party of the evening - sponsored by Sinclair Imports (Thanks Rob for the passes). We stood in a huge line to enter a dark and thomping, pole dancing club. Humm. Not quite our scene. If we found our buddies to hang out with and socialize, it was too loud and dark to enjoy each other's company. We spotted Phil Liggett and Magnus. I heard Mario was there, too. We spent $15 for two 4oz Evians. Chugged them and left.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vegas Baby!


I traveled to Vegas on Tuesday night for Interbike 2007. My flights were uneventful, thank goodness and I arrived in Vegas at 2230.

My shuttle had many stops and I made it to the Imperial Palace around midnight. Then it took me another half hour to figure out how to get to our room. We stayed in the "Capri Building" of the Imperial Palace aka the ghetto. Fitting. I was with my people. I borrowed tools from maintenance and shared stories. Our room was on the second floor left of the garage. It actually wasn't too bad. The location to the Sands Expo Center and the price were perfect. It seemed as if our long block in Vegas was always hopping with people. The Mirage, Harrahs, Venetian and Treasure Island were all nearby.

I was a wuss so I did not go out that night. Sitting here now, I should have called some people to drag my ass out on the town. Oh well. Old and a wuss and better off as the next few days took a toll on my body. My legs never felt so awful from all the walking. Although, I forgot I had completed my first adventure race four days ago. I don't think I was fully recovered from that event and I had to race on Thursday night for my last criterium for the season.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

I am blowing off painting trim as I only go out of bed a noon for the first time in a LONG time. Brad is consumed by all the awesome sports on tv today. I need to catch up on my blogging so I am at least enjoying the fabulous East Coast fall weather. Every once in a while I hear Brad and others in the neighborhood cheering. Jim for the Cowboys, Brad for the President's Cup (golf), Phillies or Steelers (3rd and 26 throw!)

Two weeks ago our tv in the kitchen died so Brad picked up our first flat screen, HDTV at Costco. I stressed a little on the cost for a 20" and was trying to figure out a way to protect our budget from the next HDTV being purchased too soon or without my consultation. :-)

Basically, I want to make sure we get the best bang for our buck. I know the next one is coming soon as all we do is watch tv at the bar. The Vizio has spoiled us.

I have a bit of posting to do so bear with me. I posted the Adventure Race as a draft so I can get caught up. After the adventure race, I worked for a few days with all kinds of pain cream, ice packs and popping ibuprofen before I left for Vegas and Interbike on Tuesday night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Captial City Challenge - Final Long Post





















The day has come and gone for my first adventure race. The Capital City Challenge took place around the Harrisburg, New Cumberland, Lemoyne, the Susquehanna River and on City Island.

Our Sponsor, Ted Hoffman, General Sales Manager, Sutliff Hummer; The coed-masters team pre-race: me, Dr. Drew Wellmon, Karen Weissman

The Challenges:
The eggs
Catapult
Lizard egg (bowling ball and ropes)
Egg toss into a colander on top of a teammate's head or do a damn tangent puzzle that would eat up time.
Planks with circles
Climbing wall
Ping pong ball and tubes
2 Planks with steps - had to prop up as high as the rope between trees.

The race started with the mountain bike in two waves; the all-male, master male teams went first and the second wave were the rest of the 95 teams. We had to carry an egg during the event. It was ideal not to break the egg as we needed it for a future challenge. We started in the top third. It was a fast start off City Island, along the Susquehanna, into a trail that turned to road and switched back and forth from trail to road. We set a steady pace and stayed together most of the time. The first challenge has us as the 2nd master's co-ed team on the road. We had to sling-shot a little red ball across a soccer field to a partner. Karen's shoulders ached with my pulls. I could not rocket the ball far enough. There was a line that the ball had to pass for us to catch it. We had 2 tries and if no catch, we had to go to the end of the line and do again. We did this at least 4 or 5 times with me catapulting the ball not far enough. We never had a line to stand in but we lost time. I ask Drew to catapult the ball as Karen held the sling shot. His first shot flew beyond me. Yea - but no catch. I prepared for the second ball, watched it like an outfielder and caught it with my body. We got another egg and I added it to my Serfas eyeglass case. Perfect for holding and protecting the eggs.

We rocketed on the bikes again as I knew I was going to die on the run. I had only trained up to three miles a week. With one run on the road at 40 minutes and another one a week before the race for one and a half hours on trails.

We finish the bike about an hour 40 later, returning to the transition area, changed shoes and off running. I had a bungee to be towed but I was doing okay for the first mile. The second challenge was to carry a lizard egg (bowling ball) with ropes. We could not touch the ball. Once we created a cradle for the egg, we walked a few steps to drop it in a basket. We get a third egg that barely fit in the eyeglass case.

Off running again for a few minutes to the canoes. Karen has better upper body strength than me so she was up for paddling in the front, Drew captaining in the back. I was the middle driver as I sat in water in the middle of the canoe. Hmmm. I had a hard time not giving directions even though I had only canoed once in my adult life. The river was low and we navigated well. Toward the end of the canoe leg, we had to walk part of it through a pathway between two little islands to get to the dock on the other side of the river.

Third challenge: The egg toss. I opted to be egged. I wore/held a white colander on my helmet and Drew threw the egg. Since we had three eggs intact, we had three tries. If we missed or did have broken our eggs, we would have had to complete the tangent puzzle. One team said it took them 15 minutes to do the damn puzzle. Drew made the second egg land inside the colander. 15 seconds max. With egg on my face! for real, we began the run from hell. It was ALL on the road. I was warned that the run leg would be long because it has not been so in a long time. I had hoped for trails but none would be present to save my legs. I had an excruciating pain below my right knee that I thought it was going to snap anytime. So I said no to the bungee. I did not want to be towed faster than my body could handle.

Challenge four after at least five miles of running. I sort of looked forward to the rest waiting in line for the challenge but I feared the run afterwards. We had to stand on a plank with two circles on either end. One person handed two other planks over for one to be placed on the ground matching circles painted on the pavement. Halfway through, we bobbled and one of us fell of the plank. There was a line and off we were to stand and wait to start again. We switched positions on this second round, took our time and completed the task.

Running. I kept imagining the transition area. I kept guessing that the bridge to City Island was near. I swear we ran another three miles. Many of our friends said once we did an adventure race, we would be addicted. Not me. The run had cracked me. I was miserable. I had to mumble to myself to keep jogging. I started dragging my right leg and let the left carry most of the work. The impact of the road was killing my tibia/IT band. We finally saw City Island. We ran down the stairs to the parking lot near the transition area but we had to continue running up the other side of the damn bridge to cross the river.

Cracked. Drew was the constant as he had done this particular race many times and many other adventure races, too. Although she worked through injuries and a painful start to her run, Karen, too was consistent as she does triathlons and runs often.

We make it to the other side of the river to face three climbing walls. Karen is afraid of heights and we both have not done any climbing, ever. Karen hyperventilated as she is guided into the harness, I stared at Drew climbing the wall. We had to climb to a certain height and touch the line and drop. The "rope" (wire) was on a pulley system so the set-up was totally safe. But after watching Karen hyperventilate, climb part way and drop, I trembled as I attempted the climb. We had three tries each (except for Drew-he made it up in the first try) and could move on. Karen tried two more times and dropped. There was no penalty for not making it to the top. I should of have climbed a bit and dropped but after racing for four hours, I thought I had to climb the wall. My third time around I was in tears. Tears out of anger. We had to go to the end of the line for each try. Luckily the line was non-existent. But I was so mad and frustrated, I walked around the volunteers to the imaginary line and turned around huffing and puffing with my eyes all welled up like a three year old.

I had been guided to each wall for my tries. The third try was on the shortest wall on the left. All heights were the same to climb but I think having the shortest wall helped me mentally. My body felt empty. On the first try, I could not go to far as my right leg gave out trying to climb the rocks. I cracked on the second try not making it too far. My body was exhausted. I could not believe how weak my upper body felt. I was told climbing was all in the legs but mine were shot from a hellish run and had snapped at the knees.

I tried to keep my butt tucked in, use my legs as much as possible and with much encouragement from the volunteers, I made it to the top. Yea!! I guess. And dropped. Karen overheard some volunteer ask why would anyone would sign up to do this if they never climbed or were afraid of heights. With adventures races, one does not know what is in store. We figured we would do the best we could when the challenge presented itself. Now Karen and I will practice climbing just in case we do another adventure race.

We had to run to another challenge - I hobbled. Not knowing what categories were around us, we had to keep moving. Three small PVC pipes and one ping-pong ball that we had to pass to each with the pipes. Out the window goes the germ-o-phobia in us. Two tries and done.

Hobbled to another challenge. Poor Drew. I was cracked from it all and this wasn't even an adventure race with navigation and maps (thank goodness). We had to propped up two - 2x4s with blocks for steps on the 2x4s. We made Drew climb the 2x4s over the rope to the other side. Oh, we could not hold the wood for him to climb. More time passed. We finally created a cantilever pushing against the wood. Karen yelled; "push, push, push" to make sure I pushing against her push. When Drew made it to the other side, I think I released and Drew jumped/fell to the ground and the 2x4s just about crashed on Karen.

Go, go, go. I had no idea where the finish was. I was going to cry if we had to cross the river to the transition area for the finish. Drew talked me through most of the run and continued during this last bit. He saw the finishing tent. I did, too, and wanted to walk. Then I heard some guy saying; "both calves are cramping" but I never heard the person that was trying to push him to run pass us. I realized what was going on and I told Karen to run faster. She did not hear me so I had to pick up my hobble and "sprint" to the finish. Karen had no idea why was was running pass her so she ran with me. The guy with both calves cramping ended up being a competitor team that we out sprinted second place for the master's co-ed team.

We also finished 27th overall out of 95 teams. After icing and massaging my legs for two days, I was pleased. I am not sure I would do an adventure race again. If I can keep up the running (It is now a week later and I have not touched the sneakers yet) I just may try again. But be wary - if we have to navigate or use maps - I suck.

4 hours and 40+ minutes. Winning time for Coed Masters: 4 hrs and 7 minutes.

Nothing broken, just over worked and strained. I thought my leg was going to snap at the knee. My training did not prepare me for the 8 miles of running on road. Hydroworx had a trailer so all three of us climbed into the trailer to get a massage in a pool and Karen and Drew ran on the treadmill. I was done running. Even if the treadmill was in a pool. For $28,000, not including installation, you could have one of these recovery pools in your house. I bet if I did not use the Hydroworx, I would not have been able to walk at all for a few days. Since I had a plane to catch Tuesday night for Vegas, I jumped in that pool with my full kit on.