Thursday, October 30, 2008

I wanna believe

Thursday, 30 October

Of all the athletes brought down for use of performance-enhancing drugs, the one who disappointed me most was Marion Jones. I thought it was beautiful to watch her race. She had so much poise, such a race face, so much emotion....and speed. So when the voice across the room last night told me she was on Oprah, I had to watch.

Marion the arm-chair interviewee was a much different person. Maybe she was trying to be a much different person. I think six months in prison certainly gave her time to put together her story and repeat it like a mantra until it was her only story and the one she believes 110%.

A newspaper column this morning said that Oprah only asked "softball questions," but I thought the one that Oprah kept coming back to, kept not fully believing Marion's answer, was "how could you as an elite athlete not know what you were putting into your body?" On the surface, that seems like a valid sticking point in Marion's story. But embedded in our society, it's totally plausible.

Marion wanted to believe her training was making her better, faster, stronger. The "supplements" she was taking would help her recover faster, build more muscle, all those things that we take supplements for. Her job was to focus on herself; she had coaches to help her with the details. And maybe, just maybe, at some level she just didn't want to know what it was exactly that she was taking.

Still don't believe it? You wanted that $875,000 house, even if it was beyond your means. Your lender said "I've got this great adjustable rate mortgage and we can make it happen." Maybe you asked what happens when the ARM "adjusts," but look how many Americans did not. Or you hear that eating fish is good for helping to prevent heart disease. And look how much fresh fish is available at the supermarket. Those reports that it's laced with flame retardant and heavy metals and other toxins? You don't worry about them; fish is good. It's so much easier not to ask questions, especially if you are otherwise getting something you want or like.

Marion does not deny that she took performance-enhancing substances but says she did not "knowingly" take them. She knew something she was doing was making her faster, but wouldn't we all like to believe that good training was bringing the promised results? I'm not trying to defend her or say she was unjustly punished. I'm just sorry her career ended the way it did. The saddest moment during the interview for me was not when said she'd missed her children's birthdays while she was in prison but when she said she'd never run again. She was a cover girl, and she could've been a role model. If she finds the right theme, maybe she still can be.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Wednesday, 29 October

[ This is my 360th blog post. Does that mean I've come full circle? ]

Here's what passes for excitement in my world today.

I have only two days left on my bizarre, ban-the-refined-white-stuff diet. It really only seems weird when you try to "eat out." I've learned how to make cheese sauce and pie crust without flour and many, many things without sugar. I'm trying to restrain my excitement so that when I get up on November 1, I don't immediately consume all the leftover Halloween candy for breakfast and then go for a bike ride to a bakery where I'll have to have two 16 oz. cups of coffee to go with at least two white-flour pastries. For the WSBA meeting that afternoon, all that white stuff would either leave me with such an incredible sugar buzz that I would get, um, passionate about some very obscure item of discussion or send me crashing from the aforementioned sugar buzz to sleep through everyone else's passionate discussion. Since the venue for this year's meeting also offers retail therapy, I need to stay awake.

I have, however, already done my part to stimulate the (relatively) local economy. My brand new, custom, handbuilt frame is in the mail. It weighed less than two pounds pre-paint. I think this is my first new single bike in four years. At Ring of Fire in September, Brian said "I can't believe you're still riding that K2." It was the perfect follow-on comment to the initial contact about a new frame just a week earlier. It's supposed to arrive on Halloween, and you can be sure I'll post pictures.

I am thankful that my excitements are on the happy end of the scale, and I wish for good news today for Michele, Ed, and Amy, each of whom could do with a healthy dose of happy excitement.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Planning ahead

Thursday, 23 October

Eight more days and I'm done with my diet of no refined white flour and no refined sugar. So where should I go to celebrate (?) a month of healthful eating? In the entree department, I miss pasta the most, but that's an easy fix. The more challenging question is where to go in Seattle for the best dessert? Not the biggest, but the best. Not the fussiest, but the tastiest celebration of flour, butter, and sugar (sorry, TB!). While the Sweet Life in Eugene is calling my name, even I can't drive that far for dessert. There has got to be something similar in Seattle, something I have so far successfully managed not to learn about for good reason. Suggestions, please!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Newspaper surprises!

Wednesday, 22 October

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find not one but two items connected--if remotely--to cycling on a single page of my PI (that's the Seattle Post Intelligencer for you non-locals).

The front page of the Life&Arts section has a blurb at the very top about expansion at the Garage--more bowling lanes, pool tables, etc. Congrats to the Garage crew for their success! Good to know that the business is growing just like the cycling team!

And in the bottom right corner are some extremely nice props for Craig Hetherington at Taste restaurant at SAM with many kudos for his great October all-local menu. When was the last time you saw such a laudatory restaurant review? Way to go, Craig!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tandem fun

Sunday, 19 October

Another fun day on the tandem. Coincidentally, we ended up in a group with three other tandems. It was cold at the start and took a long time for the sun to come out. But another good day for riding nonetheless.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Saturday, 18 October

Dessert. The most important meal of the day. Also the most difficult one to prepare when you're on a no-flour, no-sugar diet. But what I assembled this evening was pretty tasty.

A handful of late blackberries hanging over the back fence this afternoon was my inspiration. I spread them in the bottom of a small baking dish (the perfect size for serving two people--found at Avoca Handweavers in Kilmacanogue, but I digress) and sliced two apples on top. The usual topping for apple crumble definitely includes flour and sugar (brown sugar, in my kitchen) plus some sugar on the apples. I finely chopped some oatmeal and pecans, added a little cinnamon and about a tablespoon of finely cubed butter, and then bound it all together with maybe 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. I poured a tiny bit more syrup over the apples, put the topping--you guessed it--on top, and baked it until the apples were done. It was definitely not overly sweet, but it wasn't tart either. There was no maple flavor, and the pecans and the oatmeal held together perfectly. You could make this fancy by putting some maple-glazed pecans on the top before serving, but it was also pretty good with nonfat vanilla yogurt on top.

This was definitely better than the broiled bananas with honey and walnuts that I tried last night. Not sure what tomorrow night will bring, but I know lunch has some butternut squash and carrot soup. No curry in it this time, just leftover fried rice.

Tandem ride in the sunshine tomorrow. That's almost good as being 5 years old and knowing that tomorrow is Christmas!

Friday, October 17, 2008


Friday, 17 October

I was greatly saddened yesterday to learn of the demise of not one but two of my favorite establishments in the town of Monroe.

Years ago I made so many stops on training rides at the Fiddler's Bluff coffee shop that the baristas would have my order started before I even spoke. I bought a framed piece of art there once, done in chalk, by a local artist; since I was on my bike, I couldn't take it with me, and the shop owners eventually delivered it to my doorstep (32 miles away). It was hard for them to compete in the baked goods department with the Sky Valley Bakery across the street, but they were a local source for Fidalgo Bay coffee, and in their heyday, Fiddler's Bluff was a perfect stop on a 65-mile ride.

Just a few years ago, the Wicked Baking Company opened out on the west edge of town in an old yellow house. Their cinnamon rolls were to die for. It was many visits before I could forgo one of those in order to try something else. It was (as far as I could tell) a women-owned and operated business. All the pastries were amazing, and they did wedding cakes and bread too. My sources tell me the building is now a BBQ joint. So sad.

Another sad demise yesterday was the demolition of yet another perfectly nice house on Riviera Place in northeast Seattle. Odds are that it will be replaced by a garish, ugly, 3-story box with no redeeming features that stretches from one property line to the other. Is this progress, or just greed?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Wednesday, 15 October

It's a good thing I have to watch where I put my feet when I run stairs. If I kept my eyes on where I was going, I think it would be a little daunting/discouraging/demoralizing. On the stairs I run, you can't see the top from the bottom. This photo makes them look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie: covered with moss and leaves, and ivy vines creeping over everything. Hadn't noticed that in person! The view from the top is wonderful, and it's so quiet in this neighborhood that you can hear the wind blowing off the lake and rustling the trees--before you start breathing hard, that is!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Last of the . . . .

Monday, 13 October

Grapes. For lunch today, I had the last clusters of fat, juicy, purple grapes out of our garden. About half a pound of them, I think. And they are just about the last things to be harvested out of the garden this year. There are still the herbs, which go on forever and would take over if I didn't clip them back, and some green lumps on the tomato plants which might be induced into ripeness with a few days in a paper bag. Oh, and one of the raspberry canes set some late raspberries that will probably never get ripe. But the days of meals with mere minutes from plant to table are gone. We now select from the summer harvest stored in the freezer, which is just not the same, or hidden away in jam jars.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin time

Saturday, 12 October

What a great day to ride the tandem! All I had to do was pedal along and admire the great foliage. Those trees down at Coulon Park in Renton have started their annual show. Another week or two and they will be on fire with color! Lots of shrubs and trees in other places are already at their peak. Add in the sunshine and a mellow tempo, and it all made for a grand ride. We wanted one last spin on the tandem before it might be forced into hibernation by the weather.

And when we got home, we had one of my cooking experiments. Curried pumpkin soup with quinoa. No added fat. Curry, ginger, garlic, and a little cayenne gave it some zing; the blender smoothed out the stock before I added the cooked quinoa; and a little nonfat milk made it sort of creamy. Tasty and healthy both, and warm in more ways than one. Mmmmmm!

Friday, October 10, 2008

One third

Friday, 10 October

At Carol's Big Birthday Bash about a month ago, TB was lamenting her upcoming time with her inlaws because they seem to subsist on food comprised solely of "flour, sugar, and butter." Unlike TB, I happen to like FSB, but her comment made me realize I'd been indulging in rather too much of them. I was then 36 hours away from my second 12-hour time trial of the year, and when you know you're going to be pedaling for that long, you figure you can eat anything. And a week later, I did a 104-mile ride, which only reinforced that thinking. All that time on a bike, though, gave me lots of time to think, and I put together my training plan for the autumn and the beginnings of a nutrition regimen.

My goal for October is to eat no refined wheat flour and no refined sugar. (The original plan was to also eliminate caffeine, but for the sake of my husband--who has to live with me--I ditched that element.) Neither of those are things your body needs, and they're hard to digest, so it is an attempt to eat more healthfully for a little while and to maybe strengthen better eating habits. So far, I have made it about one third of the way to my goal. While a few things have been challenging, it's not too bad.

Breakfast cereal is the number one stealth location for sugar. Some form of sweetener is the second ingredient in almost every cereal I checked. I already eat a lot of oatmeal and I need/want something else occasionally, mainly as a vehicle for milk or yogurt.

I forget sometimes that there's a little bit of sugar or flour in things I cook. I had to put maple syrup (the stuff from trees, not high fructose corn syrup disguised as "maple" syrup) in applesauce instead of sugar, and we couldn't tell the difference. I tried using a mixture of soy flour and cornstarch in place of flour in scalloped potatoes, and it didn't work at all (not a bad result, just no effect). One of my favorite things about the off-season is being at home for weekend breakfasts. While my husband could live on cereal and toast, day in, day out, three meals a day, my parents always made something special for weekend breakfasts, and I confess that I love to make (and eat) pancakes, waffles, or muffins when we're not racing (provided there's a big training ride on the agenda). So I've missed those, both making them and eating them.

One thing I hadn't thought through was how much protein I get from the white flour that's in pasta. Wheat has a lot of protein, and we usually eat a lot of pasta. Quinoa has become my new best friend. A neighbor tells me you can cook it and eat it like oatmeal, but I haven't gone that far yet.

For me, it's easier to lay down basic rules like this to guide my eating than to take on a diet where I just intend to eat "less." I know from the get-go that there's absolutely nothing inside a Starbucks that I can eat (on principle, I refuse to pay $2.50 for 25 cents worth of oatmeal). Eating out would be a bit of a challenge, but I am looking forward to yummy Thai curry with rice soon. I'm hoping a side effect of this nutrition plan will be a few pounds lost, but that's not the goal. I am, however, thinking of trying a super low fat diet for November to try to accomplish that. As a vegetarian, though, it would be really tough for me to get by without nuts or cheese. I'll just be sure not to start that until November 2 so that I have one day when I can indulge in Halloween candy!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Today is, as expressed following U.S. convention, 10082008. Not such a good date in my family, but hopefully somehow happily significant for you and yours.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hat therapy

Friday, 3 October

I've made three hats in the last week, all given away now. A therapist would probably have a heyday with how therapeutic they are in the making but also how comforting I hope they are in the receiving.

The first one went to an expectant mom at work. Her firstborn is a boy and she was ecstatic to have something pink to go in the nursery. All the time in making a baby hat is spent thinking how much joy there is to come in the tiny little person who will wear it.

The other two went to cyclists who've been enduring extraordinarily tough times in their personal lives. In a way, these are meant to be like hugs when there's no one around to give a real one. Both women have both suffered from pain that can't really be shared, no matter how much the rest of us reach out in support.

The yarn in the pink one is all acrylic; baby stuff has to be highly washable. The green one is nubby stuff from Co. Donegal that I picked up in the basement of a shop in Dublin last year. I loved the way the color and texture aren't uniform; I don't think it was spun by hand, but it had that feel. And the yellow one (representing a team kit, not my fashion sense!) comes from Peruvian sheep. This yarn is a staple in my hat making--it has so much body and stretch and is wonderful to work with.

Next up I think is another baby blanket. I haven't picked out the yarn yet, which is always a fun step in itself.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Winter weather

Thursday, 2 October

Forecasters are saying our last flirtation with summer weather is about to come to an end, so I spent yesterday afternoon painting some more of our fence (it was installed last summer) and then after dinner I did a spin around the front yard with the lawn mower in "low light conditions." It was still warm this morning--62 degrees when I rode past the digital thermometer by Counterbalance Bicycles on Blakeley at 7:05. But just in time for weekend training rides, the wind and rain will spread all over western Washington. Reality arrives on a big wet, heavy cloud.

Cyclists rate winter weather by how much of it you can ride in; different people have different tolerances for icy conditions and monsoons. Not much good is remembered about the winter of 2007-2008. We had floods, ice, and snow. I remember a lot of days when I couldn't ride to work. Now the forecasters are out with their predictions for 2008-2009....sort of:

"Relative to last year, it's likely we'll stay a little drier this winter." But there's also no sign of the El Niño conditions that usually bring an exceptionally warm and dry winter to the Pacific Northwest. That leaves the region in a kind of meteorological limbo, where it's very hard to predict how the upcoming season will play out. "We can have crazy weather here anytime." Computer models suggest temperatures might be slightly warmer than usual this winter. But when it comes to rain and snow, the models are deadlocked: They show equal odds it will be wetter or drier than usual. But that doesn't mean the weather will be bland. Some of the region's biggest floods and windstorms have hit in years when there is neither an El Niño nor La Niña.
"We could see a fairly significant amount of severe weather." (

I think they don't have a clue....imagine that! Time to put your fenders on!