30 March 2009

Seattle to Portland by Bicycle
(210 miles)

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man.
Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.
Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."  

- Iris Murdoch, Irish-born British author/philosopher (1919-1999)

July, 2006. Woke up at 3:00 AM in order to stretch, have coffee & eat a light breakfast.

I clicked into my pedals in front of my house at 4:15 in the morning, up the street a few people were just getting home from a Friday night of partying. As I rode past them, they looked at me as if I was insane. It was still full dark.

I rode over to the start line at the University of Washington campus and met up with my co-worker, JJ. It was just the two of us together, as all the rest who had said they were going to ride with our group had dropped out for various reasons. We joined the 9,000 other riders milling about, and we ended up rolling out for the start of the ride just before 4:45 AM. The first 25 miles or so wound along Lake Washington Blvd, past Seward Park and along the route I take when I ride to work...

We stopped at a rest stop near my office in Kent for a couple of minutes to get rid of the early morning coffee and have some energy bars. We got to "the Hill" in Tacoma (as the ride organizers like to call it) before 7:00 AM. It was a fairly steep, mile-long ride - but no different than many of the hills we ride all the time. A few people were walking their bikes up, but not many.

We got to the rest stop at 50 miles and had some bananas and more energy food. As we rolled out, we jumped on a train of about 20 bikers and picked up the pace. We flew over the next 50 miles without stopping and arrived at the half-way point, Centralia, 100 miles into the ride, at 10:50 AM. Our goal had been to be at 100 miles by noon so we beat that by over an hour. It was the easiest hundred miles I had ever ridden - we averaged 19mph for the whole hundred, and that included the hill and the rollers.

JJ's girlfriend was driving support for us along with his dog, and met us in Centralia. Most of the 9,000 riders who participate in the STP ride it in two days, and Centralia is where most of them stop for the night. We were among the (foolish?) minority who had determined to ride it all in one day.

We relaxed in Centralia, rested, had a big spaghetti feast, lots of water, stretched, and then rolled out again just after noon. We had planned on going somewhat easy for the first 10 miles or so after Centralia, but it was clear pretty fast that JJ wasn't feeling good. We stopped at the next rest stop and he laid on the ground, complaining of a stomach-ache. After a bit I convinced him to get back on the bike and continue on. I kept hoping he would ride himself back into form, but he continued to get worse. He said the food was sitting in his stomach like a rock. We stopped in Winlock and he laid in the shade for about 20 minutes.

We mustered on. He would seem to look better and so I would pick up the pace and then look back and find him about a quarter mile behind. It seemed to take us forever just to get to a mini-rest stop at mile 137. Again he laid in the shade for about half an hour. I felt bad for him, but was getting antsy and frustrated at our slow pace. We had been cruising so well for the first 100 miles, but our momentum was now broken. We nursed ourselves to the rest stop at mile 145 and met up with JJ's girlfriend again. We told her she had better stop at every rest stop from now on, just in case.

I wouldn't have pushed him so hard, except that this wasn't the first time he had gotten sick on a ride. We had ridden the Flying Wheels Summer Century a few weeks previous. It was a 100-mile ride around northern King and southern Snohomish counties, with over 3,000 feet of climbing. After the first steep climb, just 8 miles into the ride, JJ had puked. He had had a triple latte and an egg McMuffin before starting (idiot!) and that didn't sit well with the exertion. After throwing up he felt better and was able to continue and finish that ride. With that memory in mind I just assumed he would eventually get better and be OK.

JJ rested again, ate a bit, and laid down. He said he thought we was feeling a little better. This would proof false however, as soon as we started again. He was still feeling pretty bleak & weak, and our slow pacing had really brought my energy level down as well and I began to feel the miles a lot more.

We passed through Longview, Washington and crossed into Oregon at mile 152, over the huge, steep Lewis & Clark bridge across the Columbia River. I paced JJ up and over the bridge and we continued on. The rollers were a little less steep now, but our pace was still well below where I wanted it to be.

Eventually we made it to mile 175 and I told JJ I thought he had better call it a day. He had had the dry heaves for the last few miles and was wobbling on his bike. Since his stomach was so upset he wasn't able to eat and drink enough and so that compounded his problems. He had come to the same conclusion, that he was done, and crawled into the back of his girlfriend's Blazer. I told them I would see them at the finish line.

Extremely tired and sore at this point, I decided to try to ride the rest of the way in as fast as I could. I jumped on the wheel of two really strong riders and drafted behind them at about 24mph for the next 15 miles, then stopped to refill my water bottles for the final push. Riding solo, and basically trying to time-trial home to finish the damn thing as fast as I could, I tried to stay between 18 and 22mph, I finally crossed the bridge into Portland and rolled across the finish line sometime after 8:00 PM.

Even with all the meandering and rest stopping, I still managed to average about 17.5mph for the entire 210-mile ride. Just over 12 hours of actual saddle time.

I met up with JJ and his girlfriend and went immediately to the beer garden. A cold one had never tasted so perfect. JJ was feeling a bit better - he had eaten and napped - but was still not well. After resting a bit with some more beer, we climbed into the car, got some food, and began the long drive back up to Seattle. Got home about 1:00 AM, took a long, hot shower, and fell into bed...

KJT - Seattle to Portland (2006)

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28 March 2009

Suite - uh, Sweet Game!

"Looking through the bent backed tulips
to see how the other half lives
looking through a glass onion"

- The Beatles, "Glass Onion" (1968)

One of our (Raleigh's) vendors scored me an extra ticket to tonight's Seattle Sounders FC game. Turns out it was in the club level. Got to see how the "other half" lives. 

Apparently they live with cushy chairs, carpeted floors, free beer (which I declined - see previous post), free appetizers (antipasto plate), free prime rib dinner cut & served by our personal chef, free coconut pie (chosen from our personal dessert cart), and a private bathroom. Not a bad effin' way to watch a soccer game.

Seattle beat Real Salt Lake 2-0. The crowd was amazing once again. Another sell-out with almost 30,000 fans in attendance. And that was with very cold weather and constant drizzle - of course, that didn't bother me - being in the club level and all.

Nate Jaqua scored first in the 17th minute, and the wonderkid Fredy Montero scored his third goal in two games in the 77th.

Two games, two wins, two shut-outs, two sell-outs. Not a bad way to start your inaugural season.

Extra special thanks goes out to Dean and the guys at ESP - thanks so much for the ticket, the hospitality, and the great time!

KJT - Seattle (2009)

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24 March 2009

Liver Worries

Semi-Teetotaler from here on out.

Just got back from the doctor's office.

At the end of January I had a doctor's appointment during which the doctor mentioned that in 2007 a blood test had noted that I had an elevated liver enzyme, Gamma-glutamyl transferase or
GGT. The GGT is the liver enzyme involved in the transfer of amino acids across the cellular membrane (among other things). The normal range for me should have been between 7 - 64 IU/L (International Units per Liter). The 2007 test had the GGT at 90 IU/L. She had said the elevation could have been due to having alcohol a day or two before the test. She suggested then that we retest it, and I agreed. It would be a good time to test since I'd had the flu and hadn't had anything to drink for a few days. I had another blood draw.

The doctor called me at home a couple days later, around the first of February, to tell me the test had shown a GGT level of 201 - extremely elevated! 

She also said another liver enzyme, alanine aminotransferase or ALT, was at 101. The normal range for this should have been 10 - 60 (in 2007 it had been 51). She was concerned and suggested we schedule a re-test. 

That freaked me out. I looked it up online and discovered that the causes of elevated GGT and ALP levels include scarring of the bile ducts, fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic liver disease, liver inflammation from medications or certain herbs, liver tumors, and gallstones or gall bladder problems.

I immediately stopped drinking all alcohol, and decided to wait a month before taking the retest. A friend of ours got married on February 14th, and I had one glass of wine to toast the nuptials, but other than that I haven't had a drop of alcohol since January 25th. No Guinness or Jameson on St. Paddy's Day, no beer at the soccer game - nothing. On February 20th I also quit drinking coffee. I started drinking green tea and mint tea. Went through a couple weeks of headaches with the caffeine withdrawl. Also began mixing
organic apple cider vinegar with water and drinking that throughout the day. In the mornings, instead of my normal espresso, I'd boil water and squeeze a half a lemon into it, a capful of the apple cider vinegar, and I'd cut up a bit of fresh ginger and steep that in the water.

I also began running a bit more regularly, as in at least 5K five or six days a week. Some days I'd run a 10K, some days I'd run a fast 5K, some days just a mellow jog - but at least 5K everyday. Usually on the treadmill in the weight room at the office before work, since the weather has been shite lately, but also at home outside with the dogs.

I've lost 15lbs since January, and I've got more energy. Last Thursday I went in for a blood draw for a full liver panel and hepatitis panel and this morning I met with the doctor to see the results.

All hepatitis results were negative.

The GGT level was back down to 71. Still a bit higher than the normal range of 7 - 64, but the lowest it's tested since 2007.

The ALT level was 43. Back within the normal range of 10 - 60.

ALP (alkaline phosphatase) was 46, within the normal 
range of 42 - 121.

A bunch of the other tests came back with good results as well: my
HDL Cholesterol (the good kind) was 40 (barely within the normal 40 - 59 MG/DL range - this one should be a little higher), and my LDL Cholesterol (the bad kind) was 117 (in the near optimal range). My Cholesterol index was 4.3 (in the average range of 4.0 - 6.7). My Triglyceride was at 82 (normal is anything below 150).

She was very pleased with the results, and I was quite relieved as I had been running through worst-case scenarios in my head and in my dreams: liver disease, liver failure, transplant lists, cancer, etc.

She said she didn't think I needed to give up alcohol or coffee for the rest of my life (another fear of mine), but that it would probably be wise to use them in moderation much more than I had in the past. Good enough for me. I'm thinking I'm done with hard liquor, except for maybe very rare occasions and then just one little shot to sip in celebration of something. I was given the green light to have an occasional beer or glass of wine or espresso, and so I will. Rarely. Looks like I'll no longer be going by the nickname
"Two Pints", but at least I don't need a liver transplant.

Palpable relief.

KJT - Seattle (2009)

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19 March 2009

Sounders FC

"The Beautiful Game" comes to Seattle.

View from our seats.

First half action.

Fredy Montero about to score his second goal.

We took Sennet to his first soccer game tonight, though I doubt he'll remember it.

The Seattle Sounders FC opened their inaugural season against the New York Red Bulls in front of a sell-out crowd of almost 34,000. Our good friends (Karen & Greg) have season tickets, but unfortunately (for them) they couldn't go to the home opener. Their bad luck was our good luck. Karen emailed me and asked if Stacie and I wanted to go? Umm, YES!! We jumped at the chance.

It had been raining all week, but as we drove downtown around 5pm the skies were overcast but dry. The temperature cool, but not cold. Perfect game weather.

We found free parking on the street several blocks away and walked to the stadium. Their seats were great, about 15 rows up from the field in the SW corner.

We stayed for the entire game (a slight worry before-hand, with Stacie being 6-months pregnant) and had a blast.

Seattle scored two goals in the first half (Fredy Montero: 12´, Brad Evans: 25´) and another in the second (Fredy Montero, again: 75´). Final score 3 — 0.

The crowd went crazy. Actually they were crazy even before the game, with a rally and march from downtown to the stadium, including the full 53-piece "Sound Wave" band. MLS Commissioner Don Garber later said said he had only seen atmosphere like this at Toronto FC in Canada, but never in the United States until Thursday night.

This won't be the last time we go to a game. We're thinking of buying the half-season package for next year. And later this year we'd love to see the Sounders play the L.A. Galaxy at home May 10th, and an exhibition game against venerable English Premier League team Chelsea FC on July 18th.

Seattle welcomed Major League Soccer with a bang - setting a new standard for soccer and the league in America. Here is more on the story from www.MLS.net.

And much love and thanks to Karen & Greg!

KJT - Seattle (2009)

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16 March 2009

Big Baby

Placenta prævia is an obstetric complication in which the placenta is attached to the uterine wall close to or covering the cervix. It can some times occur in the latter part of the first trimester, but usually during the second or third. It is a leading cause of antepartum haemorrhage (vaginal bleeding). It affects approximately 0.5% of all labors.

We just returned from another ultrasound, and the news was all good.

In an earlier ultrasound, we discovered that Stacie had placenta prævia, where the placenta is covering the cervix, potentially making for a complicated birth or a C-section. On today's ultrasound the doctor said the prævia was diminishing on it's own and would probably be gone in a few more weeks. That was the news we were hoping for. We'll have one more ultrasound at about 34 weeks.

We also got a couple more pictures, and learned that Sennet looks like he's going to be a BIG BOY. We're at 26.5 weeks right now and he's already 13 inches and over 3.5lbs. Not overly surprising considering his father (moi) is 6´5˝ and about 230lbs, my father was about 6-foot, Stacie's father is 6´4˝ and I've got two cousins who are over 6´6˝. Big runs in the family.

To date we've had four parenting classes: Infant Safety and CPR, Conscious Fathering, Breast Feeding, and Newborn Care. I now know the proper rhythm for giving CPR to a baby (the same beat as "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees), the correct way to swaddle and sooth a baby, the proper way to 'latch on' to the breast, and how to (try to) have the Happiest Baby on the Block. I think we're ready to move on from the classes and try it for real.

Three months left to go...

KJT - Seattle (2009)

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05 March 2009

The Clap

The new U2 album (No Line On The Horizon) 

was released (or 'dropped' as the kids say...) yesterday.

I've heard a bit of it, and I imagine I'll check out the rest. 
I like quite a few of their albums, particularly "Boy" and "The Joshua Tree."

Which takes me to the point of this blog:
This is surely fiction, but it's a great story. Hilarious.

At a U2 concert in Scotland, Bono asked the audience for total quiet.

Then, in the silence, he started to clap his hands slowly, 
once every few seconds. Holding the audience in total silence, 
he said into the microphone, 
“Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.”

The crowd was silent as Bono continued the slow clapping.

Finally from the front of the crowd a drunken voice 
with a deep Scottish brogue shouted,
“Well, fookin' stop clapping then, ya evil bastard!”

KJT - Seattle (2009)

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03 March 2009

Mix & Match, or Separate but Equal?

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like 

and let the food fight it out inside."
- Mark Twain, American humorist/writer (1835-1910)

I was having lunch the other day at a little Mediterranean cafe on Capitol Hill (falafel, baba ghanoush, hummous & dolmathes). I observed a young woman with her lunch across the restaurant. It looked like she had ordered a gyro sandwich and fries. She ate all the fries on her plate before even unwrapping the gyro. This struck me as profoundly odd. I've never understood people that eat one item at a time on their plates. I usually go around the plate sampling everything, trying to leave a little bit of what I like best as the last bite. I have NEVER eaten just one item at a time for any meal in my life (unless, of course, the meal was just one item - like Phad Thai or something). What makes one do such a thing?

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, or wrong. I just don't understand it. Perhaps I'm the odd one.

How do you eat? A bit of one thing after another until the plate is empty, or just one single item until it is finished, then moving on to the next?

And why? That's the million dollar question. Why do you eat the way you do?

No judgements here, just curiosity...

Got a few comments already...
Red, your tale of bread barriers reminded me of this 
fantastic illustration from the hilarious kid's book, 
"What Are You So Grumpy About?" by Tom Lichtenheld. Genius!
(Sennet will be introduced to many of this man's great books...)

And CAE, I think we've discussed that before. 
A huge, 50lbs bag of Purnia "People Chow" was also mentioned 
at the time, if I remember correctly... (which, 

KJT - Seattle (2009)

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