Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Exchanging recipes

Wednesday, 26 September

OK, Allison started things off with her recipe for raw ravioli. It must be warmer in Pullman than it is in Seattle, because I really needed soup tonight. Here's my homemade recipe du jour, which is not raw but features no added fat:

Split a delicata squash in half the long way, scoop out the seeds, and place the two halves face down on a baking sheet. Bake for about an hour at about 375. Let cool.

Scoop the squash out of the rind/peel and place in a blender or food processor. Add vegetable stock, chicken stock, water, or any combination of these and process until it's a soup-like consistency. (If you want a zing to your soup, add a couple of minced garlic cloves at this stage.)

Transfer this concoction to a big saucepan. Peel and grate a parsnip (you know, one of those things that looks like a beige carrot on steroids) and a carrot, and add those to the soup. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 4-5 chopped green onions and whatever fresh herbs you have in the garden, along with enough ground pepper to give it more zing and a little bit of salt. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes. You may have to add more water/stock or milk to keep it from getting too thick.

The squash and the parsnip are sweet, and the pepper and garlic make a nice warm contrast. One big delicata squash made enough for two big bowls of soup. With a green salad and a little raw gouda from Ferndale, this made a nice autumn dinner.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Full moon or weird 'hood?

Tuesday, 25 September

When I walked home from the gym one night last week, a car drove slowly past me in the first block after I left the parking lot. Then, while I was waiting for the light to cross Lake City Way, it came by again, honked when it was about 100 feet away, and went past me very slowly. I was wearing shortish gym shorts, but lots of fleecy layers on top and running shoes (not 4-inch heels) and certainly could not have misled anyone about my motive for standing on that street corner.

Tonight was weird too. There was the couple sorting squashed aluminum cans on a sidewalk and loading them into plastic bags (not sure why you need to sort cans). This was in front of one of Bill Pierre's many back lots, nowhere near anyone's house or recycling bin. There were two guys pruning shrubs and trees, in the dark, in September (you usually prune in the winter). There's the house with the skateboard park in the side yard and the shopping cart in the front yard, even though there's no grocery store within a half mile. There was the guy out of your worst nightmares with stringy grey hair and bundled up dirty clothes coming out of the small little park that's mostly a ravine around Thornton Creek. I have never walked through there, and if he's what I'd see, I'll stick to the long way around on the street, thank you very much. The 20-pound cat with the 2-inch tail didn't come out to see me tonight; he'll chase you down the street if you don't stop to pet him.

I did find 6 cents and had a nice little conversation with a guy who's remodeling his house and was admiring his handiwork from the street while smoking a cigarette.

Is it the full moon?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

HP Challenge

Sunday, 23 September
(updates added 25 September)

Last time I went to a cycling event called the HP Challenge, it was the biggest-money bike race in the country. And it was only for women. And no, there was no separate cat 3 or cat 4 race. I didn't race, but I stood in feed zones in some pretty spectacular country: Stanley and Galena Pass come to mind. I also met some pretty amazing people. I know of only one woman who did that race who's still racing, and she lives in Pullman.

Today's HP Challenge was put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club. It started in Packwood, went about 15 miles down SR 12 to Randle, then turned south on forest service roads and eventually wound its way up through the Mt. St. Helens blast zone to the Windy Ridge lookout. The high point of the ride is only at about 4100 feet, but the road rolls so much that the total elevation gain over the ride was probably more like 6000 (update: Garmin says 7755). There are some amazing trees in the Gifford Pinchot forest, but it's the 12 or so miles of road through the blast zone that are jaw-dropping. I had to keep reminding my tandem partner to keep his eyes on the road and his hands on the brakes as he was trying to point things out while the rollercoaster road dropped away from us (whoever thinks you can't backseat drive on a tandem has never ridden with me--downhill!).

My Mt. St. Helens guidebook says that "Windy Ridge is possibly one of the most breathtaking panoramas in the world." In addition to the crater, lava domes, and steam plumes, we were supposed to see Mt. Adams towering to the east. The clouds were hanging too low today: we could see just a bit of the red ridges on the east flank of the mountain but no "breathtaking panorama" from that particular spot. And the spot is aptly named. In spite of the abundant stock of food Cascade provided for us there, the temps were estimated in the low 40s (update: Garmin says average temp on the day was 38.6F) with a steady wind, and there was no lingering with the hope of a better view of the mountain. I schlepped the camera up and back, but it was too cold to get it out (take off jacket to find jersey pocket, take off gloves to find camera, take camera out of get the "picture").

That road through the blast zone is amazing both for itself and for what it transports you through. It is perched along the edges of a steep ridge and follows the contours of the hills, making it roundabout and very rollercoaster-like. I'm not an engineer, but I sure appreciate where those folks can put a road. It transports you through a land of ash and pumice and trees laid over like toothpicks--past tucks and pockets in the terrain that were sheltered in the blast and now seem verdant green. Some of the hillsides today were raging red and yellow and orange as the leaves on the huckleberries and scrub maples turned color--colors you only see on ornamental landscaping here in town. And since there are no trees to block your view, you look east (I think) at a huge expanse of forest and river drainages. Truly spectacular. Priceless, even.
Since Cayuse Pass is missing huge chunks of roadway that disappeared in the 18"-of-rain-in-24-hours storm last November, there is no good way to get to Packwood. Our route took us through Eatonville, and I now have a new bakery on my list of places to stop on road trips in that direction. Anything tastes good after 110 miles on a bike, but the blueberry muffins fresh out of the oven were luscious. Further commercial endorsement: my Stungunners performed flawlessly again today. Put 'em on, forget they're there, ride all day in arctic blasts with nary a tear. I guess while I'm promoting PruDog's efforts, I should mention that Ohop is very near to that bakery in Eatonville.... And of course I would be remiss not to mention the great performance by our Co-Motion Macchiato. We are getting more and more confident about how it handles on all kinds of terrain, which means more and more fun. (Update: Garmin says our max speed was 146.5 mph. See how fast you can go on a Co-Motion!!)

When we signed up for this ride, OAD and I figured we'd be tired of the tandem after Ring of Fire and would do this one on our single bikes. But the more we thought about it, the more the vain, snooty bike racers in us came out, and it seemed like it might be fun to pass a lot of people on a long, relentless climb...on a tandem. Oh, we were so right about that. :)

Friday, September 21, 2007


Friday, 20 September

Free at last, free at last. Free to move about the world. It took just over three months, but my passport renewal finally came through. Time to visit the in-laws!

My passport has a chip, my cat has a chip....I don't think I want to ask what's next.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Post-ride coffee

Sunday, 16 September

If you've been bad and not eaten anything or drunk anything on a 35-mile ride, and then stop for 2 cups of coffee and a pure-white-flour-and-sugar scone, is the coffee (on an empty stomach) likely to exacerbate symptoms of dehydration? A nutrition-free 35-mile ride is no biggie for me (notice that I did not report this year on what or how much I did--or didn't--eat during the 12-hour TT), but having some coffee and then feeling like my head is detached was a new experience. Who needs beer? Don't give me the old bad-research line that says coffee isn't hydration (they threw out that hooey last year--liquid is liquid). I'm just curious about the odd caffeine-on-an-empty-stomach kick.

Moving on to less-hyphenated writing, have you noticed that fall is here? The cat has reappeared from his summer prowls and wants to sleep on the bed all day, except when he's begging for more food. He's eaten more in the last week than he did in the last two months! And the green beans in the garden just poof! quit making more green beans. But yummy yummy, the delicata squash are in. Tonight was the first batch of delicata soup of the year, and I got an idea for a tasty variation. Recipe to follow, if it works.

And have you noticed that when you park your rain bike for 3 months over the summer, it gets out of shape, loses fitness, and refuses to go more than 14 mph when you take it out for its first spin?

Friday, September 14, 2007

In the email inbox

Friday, 14 September

This was a nice closing sentiment in a message I received at work this morning:

Good luck on your everything.

Hope it applies to your weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In the mail

Thursday, 13 September

Well, if almost nobody got excited enough to comment about 200 miles on the back of a tandem or my new Axley eyewear collection or even eating totally local and organic, this will be a real snoozer. You might not be able to tell from the preceding sentence, but I've been busy lately. Hats for the PruPuppies, hats for the newborn daughter of a friend of my husband (pink and lime were the colors they asked for; I chose some super-bright yarns, which were fun to work with).
Today I mailed a baby blanket to a racing couple in Olympia and some hats to folks in Hood River. The cool thing(s) about those last two hats are: (1) The yarn was a prize at Ring of Fire--what other promoters do you know who tailor their prize list to suit the interests of their competitors? (2) The yarn came from sheep raised not 50 miles from the Ring of Fire venue. (3) The yarn is going back to Oregon to somebody who probably rides right past the Imperial Ranch on half his training rides. I might have to go stop in some time. At the ranch, I mean.

Okay, I'm not contributing anything here to boost us out of our collective blogging doldrums. Allison and Ted are promoting a cross race in Pullman, which is almost enough to get me to try cross racing (but not quite, sorry). I made some interesting observations about friendly and oblivious riders and their respective teams on the trail on Tuesday night, but the team I'd diss has already blasted me once here, so I'll refrain.

One last thought. I'm not sure how I could possibly have mustered such a big smile at this point in our epic ride last Saturday. It must be because Tina has such a great smile herself, and when she grins at you and points the camera, you're inclined to grin back. Thanks for the photo!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Accidental national champion

Sunday, 9 September

Here is my view for the 12 long hours of Ring of Fire. This was early in the morning, before the salt patches appeared. His race report is here. And there are some pictures of us on Kenji's blog here.

Watching this for 12 hours while co-pedaling our tandem earned me a 2007 national champion title. Ring of Fire was the 12-hour national championship for the UltraMarathon Cycling Association. We also set a tandem course record at ROF (2 miles would've been a tandem course record), and my 2006 women's record still stands. A great weekend for stroking the ego.

Among the many wonderful features of this course are the varied views of Mt. Hood. When you start in the morning, it's a little peak off in the distance. At different spots, you can also see Jefferson and Adams. Then you climb through the trees for a while...a long while...and then a blissful descent and Hood pops into sight, completely dominating your view.

You also ride past many farms outside Dufur and Tygh Valley. Some are what you'd call "going concerns." Others, like this one, are remnants from another time.

Tandem FUN

Saturday, 8 September

Tandems aren't everyone's idea of fun, and most people would probably see 12 hours on one as punishment for some horrible crime and not fun at all.

But the only way I could think of to improve upon the fun I had at the 12-hour Ring of Fire TT in 2006 was to do it this year on the tandem. O.A.D. was agreeable, although I think he secretly wanted (note past tense) to do the 24-hour version instead.

The course was just about the same as 2006 (they replaced the awful highway climb with a back road through farms--with the same elevation gain), and the weather was better (clear but cooler). Our goal was to beat my single-bike distance of 183 miles, and 200 miles seemed like a nice round number. The specific goals you set in bike racing never happen exactly as you plan, but we did end up riding 200 miles. 16.67 mph for 12 hours. Slow, you say? Factor in 13,500 feet of climbing on the tandem, short stops for various reasons, and you'd better think 16.67 mph over 12 hours is cruising.

Last year I had no issues with saddle, feet, or stomach, but my back was shooting pains down by legs by the last 50 miles. This year was just about the exact opposite. My back got tired but didn't rebel (thanks, Erik Moen!), my feet got hot spots, and I had stomach cramps for a couple of hours. The biggest drawback to riding tandem is the lack of choice in how you sit on the saddle. You can't fidget or get off the saddle for even half a pedal stroke. And eventually you pay the price. But I daresay that nobody's "private parts" would be "issue"-free after 12 hours on any saddle.

Proof of the "be careful what you wish for adage": one of my hopes for this weekend was to get to captain our tandem. When we hit mile 200, O.A.D. had to get off the bike and just about passed out right there on the side of the road. Amazingly, Mike R, the other Seattle rider in the 12-hour race, rolled up in his car. (His race ended after 114 miles because of flu symptoms.) He gave my captain a ride back to the finish (7 miles), leaving me and the bike out there at twilight in the middle of irrigated fields with voracious mosquitoes. Rather than stand there and hope somebody would pick me up before the bugs sucked me dry, I climbed on the bike and rode it in. Remember that (1) I'd just ridden 200 miles without steering and (2) a tandem is a big, awkward bike to drive. The first 1/4 mile was wobbly but after that it went well. The saddle was only about a centimeter too high, but the bars (especially the drops) were out in the next county, so riding in the drops down the 4-mile descent was, um, interesting. But I got to captain a (stokerless) tandem.

Postrace fun: You've got to read some of the live updates on the ROF website. Promoters Terri and George sit at the start/finish line in front of the Imperial Lodge and add running commentary between riders coming by to check in. George got night duty this year and was having a great time doing "interviews" with riders--and deleting much of what he wrote before it got posted. Terri and George put on amazing races here in Oregon, and they have such great one-on-one rapport with their riders that we didn't even have to wear numbers. Come race with them sometime!!

Shameless product promos: Somewhere around mile 120, we were up on top of the plateau out here in eastern Oregon, and the white Cytomax van came flying down the road in the opposite direction. Figuring it had to be Kenji and Tina, we both waved. The van did a U-turn, and they came back to chat. Everybody always asks what O.A.D. and I talked about for 12 hours, and this conversation was by far the longest we had all day. It was great to see familiar faces out there! And of course I have to mention the Axley Stungunners again. These are ultra eyewear. I put 'em on in the morning and never thought about them again. My eyes never got watery, even on the 15-mile descent. In spite of sunscreen and sweat, they didn't slip and I never had to push 'em back up my nose. They didn't rub the tops of my ears, and they didn't interrupt my vision. They were perfect. What else can I say? Thanks, PruDog!

Boring ol' pictures to follow. And probably Garmin data too. We're off to raft the Deschutes today!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

N.F.B.O. *

Wednesday, 5 September

When I read the pre-release hype for these new Axleys, I have to admit that I figured they were just not intended for old girls. After all, "Stungunner" doesn't have the ring of something with huge marketing appeal in my demographic. And having to be defensive about "sweet pink trim"? I live by "sweet pink trim."

So when I had to stop by the local Axley USA office today to drop off some StokedHats for PruPuppy 1.0 and PruPuppy 2.0, I was in for a big surprise. As soon as I put on the Stungunner, I knew it was a great match. They are light, comfortable, and in spite of their incredible hulk appearance, they really fit my face. There is enough of a wrap effect to the shape of the lenses that the sides of the frames--even the sides of the "full orbitals"--disappear out of sight. The lenses in mine have a green tint, which made Mr. Axley look a little sickly and sort of flatten out the contrasts outdoors, but they were plenty dark for riding on a sunny summer afternoon.

There are two more features of this model that you seldom find in cycling eyewear. The first is peripheral vision. When you do a little head check to make sure you won't get clobbered by a garbage truck if you try to dodge that pothole, most glasses give you lousy peripheral vision because some part of the frame gets in the way and you can't see the truck around a few millimeters of plastic frame. Not so the Stungunner. Don't ask me how, but you get a clear shot when you turn your head the littlest bit and look back.

The second is eye and sinus protection. No, nobody advertises that their eyewear protects your sinuses. But if it doesn't, then on a long descent or a cold ride, your nose gets that perpetual drip. And without good eye protection from the wind, this problem only gets worse. Alright, so it was 75 degrees on my first ride with these babies, and the Burke Gilman Trail lacks any significant descents, but I could still tell that a great defense shield was in place.

Going into this afternoon, I was facing some tough decisions about my big race on Saturday. If only the answer to "which shorts?" becomes as crystal clear as "which glasses?" The Stungunner is * Not For Boys Only * and I might just have to wear my pink jersey to tone with the "sweet pink trim."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cheery glasses for a dreary day

Tuesday, 4 September

My new Axley Ginnys with the pink/red lenses were perfect for the dark foggy misty morning today. Any opthalmologist will tell you that you should wear eye protection (a.k.a. glasses) any time you're on a bike, and with these, I've got something to turn to when the bright sunshine goes away. The fastest guy at Eugene Celebration told me he loves pink lenses for his long rides through the forests around Mt. Hood to help pick up the contrasts under the tree canopy. And the Ginnys passed my test on the ride this morning: most of the time I was not even aware I had them on. I think they're gonna see a lot of off-season time on the bike....


Tuesday, 4 September

The Eugene Celebration stage race is a funny thing. The fields are always small, but they typically include some of the strongest riders in the region. And not necessarily the same folks you've been racing against all season. So the racing is hard, the outcome is not predictable, and there's nowhere to hide.

This year's celebration was a flattish road race on Saturday, TT and crit on Sunday, and a hilly road race on Monday. There were about 20 in the combined women's field at the start--same size as the pro-1-2 men's field! The first road race was a pack finish, I won the TT, one rider got away in the crit to take the GC lead away from me by 3 seconds, and then I had a brief moment of extracurricular activity in Monday's RR that didn't do me any favors and I ended up slipping to 6th overall.

About 15 miles into Monday's race, the road starts to get a little bit like a roller coaster. There's one sharp downill left hander that's tricky on the tandem but not bad on the single bike if you take it at less than the 25 mph the chief referee recommended. I was at the back of the front group going around that bend. The road immediately goes uphill, I shifted, the chain shifted and then jumped some more, the bike lurched into some loose gravel on the road, and suddenly the bike was completely out of control and I was absolutely sure I was going to be sliding across fresh chip seal. I managed to keep the bike more or less upright as it went across the road and was able to get a foot down when it slowed when it hit the grass/weeds/brambles in the ditch. I stopped without hitting the ground, thankful too for that little gap behind me to the next groups of riders--who all passed me while I was trying to get out of the ditch and back on the road. This was at the bottom of about a 1-mile climb, and I managed to chase back on to (and pass) one group. My knee was really sore from where it had whacked the top tube when I lurched to a stop. I tried to rub it out on the next descent, but that didn't work so well. We finally all regrouped with the front riders literally 50 feet before the bottom of the long, 4-mile climb that's the heart of this loop. I managed to stay with the front group about halfway up but got popped. The rest of the race was a 20-mile TT for me. I needed to keep the time gap below 1'30" to stay "in the money" but with five of them up there and me by myself, that didn't happen. Still, I rode hard, I made up time on the second descent (local knowledge helps), and I didn't get caught. It was an absolutely beautiful summer's day--93 when we drove through Creswell on our way back to I-5.

One more race to go....