Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quotes of the Week

After a two-year hiatus, NCT and I joined forces once again and headed to the mountains, gigantic backpacks in tow. This year our destination was Yosemite's High Sierra, and over the course of five days we looped forty miles through the Park's gorgeous backcountry. I'll write more about this trip once I've uploaded all of our photos, but in the meantime, I'm posting some of the more memorable quotes that emerged during our time together. Some of them are even funny enough to rival our quotable backpacking jaunt through the Alps three years ago.
While looking at some flowers after hiking through the Jane Mansfield Pass
MC: "Look at that pretty aster over there!"
RM: "Actually, there are no real asters here. They were re-categorized into other genera a few years ago".
RC: "First Pluto and now asters? What is the world coming to?!"
While hiking towards Merced Lake
MC: "Do fish hibernate?"
RM: "They enter a state called torpor".
CGC: "It's like what happens to you after you eat a burrito".
RM: "Kind of. Except it's the exact opposite".
While hiking towards Sunrise Meadow
CF: "Do you want your pocket zipped closed?"
SC: "I zipped it all the way closed".
CF: "Well, if you consider an eighth of the way all the way closed."
About to leave Tuolumne Meadows for Cathedral Lakes
RM: "Believe me when I say that for the next five days this pole isn't coming out of my hand unless you have a broken leg".
Overheard through the supply hut door at the Merced Lake High Sierra Camp
NCT: "So have you ever used a washboard before?
While hiking up to Vogelsang Pass, discussing a friend's dogs
CF: "Basically all the dogs are named after where they were found. So one dog is called "yonque" because it was found in a junkyard, one is called "tacho" because it was found in a bucket--you get the picture".
While driving between Chinese Camp and Manteca
CGC: "Apple fritters and bear claws are not even close to being similar".
NCT: "Yes they are, they're almost exactly the same".
CGC: "No they're not. Apple fritters are like doughnuts. Bear claws are like danish".
NCT: "No, apple fritters are like bear claws. Both are deep fried."
CGC: "No they're not. That doesn't even make any sense. The filling in a bear claw would be all messed up if it were deep fried".
NCT: "How do you explain jelly doughnuts then? Or doughnuts with any kind of filling?"
CGC: "Apple fritters and doughnuts are in the same family. Bear claws and danish are in the same family. These families do not intersect. They're parallel, like cousins".
NCT: "No they're not."
CGC: "This is the dumbest conversation we've ever had".
NCT: "It is--because your position is dumb".
And finally, NCT and I were responsible for writing the staff serenade at Vogelsang. What follows are the lyrics we composed (with a hefty dose of help from BS):

To be sung to the tune of "Edelweiss"

"Vogelsang, Vogelsang
We're so happy to be here
Food and drink, time to think
Chicken potpie for dinner

Vogelsang Camp may you always be
A hiker's refuge forever

Vogelsang, Vogelsang
For Tuolumne we must leave you!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Perfect Game

With all the excitement of the Olympics, le Tour, and marathon training, I've been remiss in writing about one of the most amazing sporting events I've ever had the privilege of witnessing: the perfect game Matt Cain threw on June 13th. Back in April, my Dad sent me and JAR two tickets to the Giants-Astros game, and we assumed June 13th would be an evening of mellow baseball, a casual demolition of Houston by the mitts and bats of San Francisco. Oddly, at the same time we also received passes to a VIP event on the executive level that evening, but opted instead for artichokes and french fries at Ironside. In other words, when we entered the Park by the water just before game time, we had no premonitions, no prescience, no foresight of what we were about to witness.
It only took a few innings, however, before we realized we were watching something special; by the sixth inning, everyone in the ballpark had fallen silent. In fact, except for the full-throated cheering that followed each strike-out--not to mention Gregor Blanco's incredible diving catch in the seventh inning, and the announcement of free bratwursts for everyone seated in the arcade level after Cain's thirteenth strikeout--it was so quiet that I was terrified to make any sound at all. And when he threw the final strike, it felt as though the ballpark were being struck by an earthquake of stomping, screaming, and the sparkling flashes of thousands of camera phones.
I too remembered to take a few photos before we left, including one of fans on the arcade level lifting up the K signs for their own self-portraits. And as we made our way home, eating churros and high-fiving every person we passed, and cheering along with hundreds of other fans on the BART platform when the train operators started shouting about Cain's game over the loudspeaker system, it occurred to me that if I had to miss the World Series in San Francisco, at least I was home--and at the Park--for the Giants' very first perfect game.    

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Deuxième Semaine et Troisième Semaine: le Tour de France

Another July ebbs, another Tour ends. I wish I could have watched more of the coverage in these last two weeks, but what I did catch was, as it is every year, amazing, unbelievable, and inspiring. Since I have no memory of the first American winning the Tour (I was seven), I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to watch the first Englishman win. To see Wiggins stand alongside his compatriot Froome on the podium is remarkable; even more remarkable was seeing all four members of the British Olympic cycling team win TDF stages! (The other two being David Millar and Mark Cavendish, bien sûr).

Other highlights included Valverde's stunning solo breakaway and stage win in the Pyrenees, Wiggins leading out his sprinters in several stages (I like seeing the maillot jeune put himself in this position), Thomas Voeckler winning the King of the Mountains jersey, Tejay Van Garderen win the best young rider jersey, Jens Voigt leading a breakaway on the Champs-Élysées, Clean Bottle boy in the Pyrenees, and Cadel Evans proving himself to be the ultimate exemplar of good sportsmanship, every single day, no matter how much time he lost and how many arbitrary misfortunes he suffered.
A soon-to-be victorious Valverde, Norwegian fan club in tow
(photo credit Sirotti, 
As for the tacks on the road, Frank Schleck's positive test sample, the specter of USADA's investigation, among other stains on the 99th TDF--it's hard to know what conclusions to draw. Both good and bad phenomena occur on every Tour, and there's no predicting what shape they will take or whom they will affect. Ultimately, however, the spirit of the Tour prevails, and I can think of no better example to prove my point than the sight of George Hincapie, riding in his seventeenth and final Tour, leading the peloton onto the Champs-Élysées, an honor reserved for the team of the maillot jeune, but conceded to Big George by Team Sky today in honor of him and his tremendous career.  He never won a Tour--or a Giro, or a Vuelta--and he never led a team as a GC contender. He served instead, for nearly two decades, as a domestique...which is another way of saying that Lance, Alberto, and Cadel are Tour champions because of George Hincapie.
Hincapie leads a true victory lap
(photo credit Casey B. Gibson, Velo News)
Fifty-two weeks sounds like an eternity, but I know that time will fly between now and June 29th, 2013, when the Tour commences in Corsica. In the meantime, I will remember--and this is perhaps the sweetest memory of all--that Phil Liggett lived to see and to call a Brit win the Tour de France, and to hear the dulcet notes of "God Save the Queen" soar above the Arc d'Triomphe. Vive le Tour!
God Save Phil and Paul
(photo credit NBC Sports)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NYC Marathon 2012: Training Begins

The NYRR sends me one of these every week
Tomorrow morning, I begin my official training for the New York City marathon. Sixteen weeks lie between me and November 4th. I feel like it's the night before the first day of school.

My last weekend of pre-training training went well, fitness-wise. I ran a wonderful 9.5 miles on Saturday morning, a combination of my Continental and History 101 runs (yes, I name my runs, and yes, it's strange that this is the first I've blogged about the habit), through the Inner Richmond, and basically along the full perimeter of Golden Gate Park, with the western stretch directly on Ocean Beach. As I ran alongside Big Rec, around mile three, I was almost run over by a herd of fleet-footed high school cross country runners; I could hear them coming for a few minutes, and their exuberance was infectious. Some of my happiest memories of Golden Gate Park are of running in it as a high school student with my cross-country teammates, especially in the sunshine and crisp air of a San Francisco fall. I couldn't stop smiling for the next several minutes, and a couple of miles later, after passing the Chain of Lakes, I hit an awesome runner's high that lasted all the way until I was running east past the angling pools, when I started to get a little hungry. Fortunately, I soon ran into my dear CMA, who was out for her Saturday long run! I flagged her down in my funny way, and we stopped to catch up for about fifteen minutes. Our chat was just the boost I needed, and although I was almost run over again by the same herd of high schoolers, I quickly ran the few miles home to my favorite post-run green smoothie and chocolate milk (not combined, just side by side).  

This morning I tried to sleep in, but woke up at 7:00 and could tell I was awake for good. The omnipresent summer fog seemed to call for a swim, so I walked over to Rossi and swam a very (very) slow half mile in the bathtub that is the Rossi pool. I can't complain too much; if I'm not doing a real swim workout, then I want to be warm. Still, my goggles fogged up every few laps, and I started to feel like I was sweating in the water--not a pleasant feeling. A quick shower and walk home, and I stretched out on the couch with my second breakfast and the paper, with no other workout obligations until Monday morning. 

And soon, Monday morning will be here! I decided on a training plan--I'm going with Peter Sagal's--and thought about my goals for this particular marathon. There are three. First, have as much fun as possible while training (i.e. train hard, but don't take it too seriously). Second, don't train at the expense of the other things I love in my life (i.e. fit training around my life, don't fit my life around training). And third, run a great race in New York (i.e. enjoy it!). 

Day One starts in eight hours. The schedule calls for five hilly miles. Allez!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Doug Glanville, I Salute You

Because your lucid yet plainspoken essays concern everything from road trip roommates to tipping pitches to team loyalty to the inevitability of growing old. Because your essay about curve balls is really an essay about getting back up when life knocks you sideways, and because your essay about R.A. Dickey's knuckleball is really an essay about a man who found himself after fifteen years of straight pitches, subdued expectations, and the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Because even though you played for the Phillies, I still like you. 

Doug Glanville, I salute you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going for the Green

The recent increase in my weekly mileage meant my fuel, so to speak, needed to be re-scrutinized (which is another way of saying that anyone who's reading this blog and doesn't care about food or running is about to be bored out of his/her gourd). Healthy fats, omega-3s, calcium, iron, vitamin C, Vitamin D, protein and a host of other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed to be integrated into my diet in as tasty a manner as possible. I basically do this already--witness my kitchen full of kale and ice cream--but I'm upping the ante. This week has been all about green things: spinach, lettuce, kale (of course), green apples, green beans, giant green salads, and avocados. My dear funky produce stand (which would be perfect if it sold organic fruit and vegetables, but which at least sells delicious versions of those that are relatively safe to buy conventional), is currently stocking the best crop of avocados I've had since returning to California.  It's literally been an avocado-a-day out here in the Richmond District, and now that I've re-discovered the joy of Cholula, I feel like I'm living in a gustatory paradise.

I also demonstrated, once again, that I am my mother's daughter, and finally embraced the green smoothie. Featuring one to two cups of spinach, these yogurt-based smoothies have been vehicles for some combination of blueberries, bananas (yes, I've finally embraced those, too, due to a spate of hip cramps), unsweetened cranberry juice, almond butter, honey, and last Sunday, a cup of fresh sweet corn (courtesy of the funky produce stand. Three ears for a dollar!). Despite the fact that they look totally freakish, the smoothies taste amazing (perhaps because they aren't too sweet?).
Finally, and to JAR's horror, I was the lucky recipient of several tins of anchovies packed in olive oil and capers. If the dominant smell in my kitchen is any indication, I've been averaging a tin a day--great for the omega-3 consumption, probably less so for the sodium. I've been heating the anchovies and capers in an iron skillet with a low flame, then tossing them in the pan with cooked pasta, kale, and red pepper flakes once the oil starts to sizzle. 

One of the best aspects of my green things-and-tiny briny fish diet is that it counter-acts the perma-fog, and reminds me that it's actually summer in Northern California. I certainly don't miss the oppressive heat and humidity of summer in New York--or even summer in Ithaca--but I do wish sunny, windless days and warm evenings could happen a *little* more frequently. KP and I had a funny text exchange about our particular weather predicaments a few days ago. As diligent Freckle readers know, she's also training for NYC, and currently lives in DC; because of the massive heat wave gripping the East Coast, she ran her long run (twelve miles) on Saturday on a treadmill. I, however, ran my Saturday long run in thick, drippy fog, in a long-sleeved running shirt, and then ran my errands in a down vest. 

Hopefully this weekend we'll both be luckier. In the meantime, however, at least I have lots of summer foods to keep up my summery spirits.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strava: Greatest Cycling Commercials Ever?

Since everything I watch that's TDF-related is pre-recorded, I fast forward through all the commercials. This is fine by me--I'm not a fan of the canned din, drama, and sturm and drang of commercial advertising. Still, I do love my television, so every now and then a commercial break slips through the cracks. And last week, while zoning out watching one of those flying flat stages across northern France, NBCSports cut to a commercial break, and suddenly I sat up. I can't even describe exactly what I saw--hence, the video pasted below--but as soon as I saw it, all I wanted to do was jump on my bike and ride up Tam. Immediately. Then the next day, I saw a different one, also by Strava, that was also amazing. Trust me when I say that these commercials show what riding is; how a long ride feels, how your mind zones in and out, how you process one thing after another. I'm wandering off into ambiguous language land, so for your viewing pleasure, I present two of the greatest cycling commercials ever, courtesy of Strava:

Featuring Tim Johnson:

Featuring Jesse Anthony. And PINK SNO-BALLS! Possibly the best post-ride recovery snack ever: