Saturday, June 30, 2007

Going Yard
Hired a couple of kids to mow the small lawn I've got in front of my house. These are guys I saw tooling around the neighborhood on their bikes the day I arrived—in fact, they offered their lawn-care services right then and there. I told them I'd get back to them. Today, I saw them riding by and I yelled out that I thought my lawn needed a trimming. The lanky one of the two said, "Yeah, I'd say it's beginning to look a bit tropical."

That was Josh, maybe 13. His sidekick is Brandon, whom I'm guessing checks in at 10. Befitting his elder status, Josh is the "manager of the lawn mower," except when it comes time to push it across the lawn, at which time Brandon is called to the fore. But if the little guy runs into a gnarly, knobby spot, Josh jumps in. I offered them five bucks for the job, which took them all of 15 minutes (including 5 minutes to get the mower over here). Turned out I didn't have 5-even on me, so I gave them a 20 and contracted for three more mows, every two weeks or so. I like stoking the fires of young entrepreneurs. I'll just assume the money isn't going for beer or tobacco.

A word about Portland lawns: I don't get them. They all suck. I'm wondering if this is a nature thing and just the way lawns grow up here, or if there's a law, or if it's by informal agreement or peer pressure (among the citizenry, not the blades of grass). In my short time in town I've walked and run through the tending-toward-hoity neighborhood of Laurelhurst, as well as the nice, dependable neighborhood Mount Tabor and several, shall we say, more mixed areas, including my humble 'hood. I've driven about a bit. I have seen exactly one well-trimmed, wholly green lawn of the sort that is standard-issue in California, the so-called Golden State. (I'm not talking about the less common but still plentiful lush, rich, deeply green spreads that suck up an acre-foot of water every summer month. Just your standard decent lawn.) Here, they're mostly brown and scruffy; you find some splotches of green, particularly around the edges, but even a cursory examination reveals that's just weeds. Dandelions abound. This doesn't bother me, mind you. In fact, it's great—it'll be no problem keeping my lawn looking just as "nice" as the neighbors'. Heck, after Josh and Brandon's work, I'm probably the shining star on this stretch of Hoyt Street. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. In the end, this might be the answer.
Go Blazers
I guess I need to rename this blog (in addition to reinvigorating it). But then again, Whine Country is nothing if it isn't a state of mind, right?

So, yeah, I moved to Portland, the Oregon version for those of you checking in from the Right Coast. I was a little disappointed not to receive any kind of official greeting, let alone a house-warming gift, from the city, especially after seeing the welcome that new kid from Ohio got. But I'll get over the hurt.

Portland is by declaration of pundits, magazine city-rankers, environmentalists, geeks, goofs and professors of urban planning the Coolest City in America. The other day, a fellow in the Wall Street Journal said it felt not so much like a major city, but an incredibly large college town. Or maybe that was the woman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's a good line. There are a few colleges around town, but Oregon's big universities are down the Willamette Valley, in Corvallis and Eugene. But Portland nevertheless seems overrun with youth, and it feels vibrant, idealistic and disheveled.

I don't know what all these twentysomethings and thirtysomethings-not-acting-their-age are doing here, beyond depressing wages. (I saw an ad on Craigslist for an editor with a college degree, 3-5 years' experience, a full range of technical knowledge and (of course) "the ability to think creatively and strategically." The salary for this exceptional package: $27,000. Maybe I've really moved to Bangalore.)

I like Portland, so far. Mount Tabor Park is a mile south of me. It's a weird and wonderful place, an extinct volcano and home to several strangely beautiful reservoirs. Plus, for my purposes, it's a great place to run. I found, too, an enjoyable, easy-to-navigate 20-mile bike loop right from my door. And the Montavilla Park Pool is a mile directly east on Glisan, with a lap lane that appears mostly not to be too crowded. So at hand that's good running, biking and swimming—almost everything a guy needs to stay sane.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Update: Official Pacific Crest Results
Swim 44:26 (378/481)
T1 7:01
Bike 2:46:22 (260/478)
T2 2:14
Run 1:54.11 (148/472)
Total 5:34:14
(203/442 overall, 35/63 40-44M)

(213/443 overall, 68/173 under 8, 131/249 boys)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Early, Unofficial Sunriver Report
As tapers go, it's not like any I've seen spelled out in the triathlon manuals and mags. This is the A-race taper that involves spending several days packing up more than seven years of belongings, cleaning the house for the next occupant, and then driving all that accumulated stuff 600+ nerve-wracking miles in a 24-foot Budget rental truck. (You should have to pass a test before they let you behind the wheel. But you don't.) Oh, and then you move onto three days of unloading and unpacking, all the while worrying a good deal over whether the house purchase you made in this new city was a smart move.

Swimming, biking and running? No swimming for nearly two weeks. No biking for nearly two weeks. But two or three short runs--and some walks!

That was the state of my game as I arrived in Sunriver for the Pacific Crest Half Iron Triathlon. Weird thing was, as I walked the mile or so to T2 setup and the buses to T1 at 6 a.m. this morning, with the temperature just above freezing, it struck me that my legs felt fresh and strong. Hmm. So I wasn't sure what to expect, though I had told my family the night before that I'd finish no earlier than 3 p.m. (a 5:45 effort, given my 9:15 a.m. wave start) but probably closer to 3:30.

Prerace: As I said, it was crazy cold at dawn, not shocking at 4,200-feet elevation, but a big change from last year's much-talked-about heat misery. Arrived at T2 at 6:15, 45 minutes early (nerves), but got on the 6:30 bus to Wickiup, about 25 miles up into the hills. At Wickiup, T1 was in the shade, so with nearly two hours to spare before race start, most everyone migrated to the boat launch area (where the swim would start) to soak up the early-morning sun. It was just generous enought to keep us from freezing. Pity the fool who wandered up and cast a shadow on you.

Swim: Wickiup has got to be the most beautiful lake I've ever competed in. It's surrounded by forest and old barren volcanic ridges and snow-capped peaks. The water is cold--62 was the race-time temp this morning--but I wasn't bothered by the chill and actually found it refreshing. Not that my swim benefited. Don't have the splits yet, but I think I came in over 42, at least four or five minutes off my Vineman swim split PR. That would have been OK, if I didn't flounder in getting my wetsuit off, taking a whopping 10 minutes or so at T1. Pathetic.

Bike: Because of road construction, the bike course was modified this year; the big climb was lost. The revised route was fast. Unlike Vineman, with its ceaseless short, just-steep-enough rollers, Pacific Crest 2007 featured very gentle grades, and most of them of the downward variety. Given the serious lack of cycling I've done this season, I was surprised to find myself at 29 miles at the 1:30 mark, which inspired me to push on harder. Finished around 2:46, my half-iron best bike split ever. Cheers for the roads of Central Oregon; them were some smoothies. And what weather for the ride! 50s and 60s and sunshine up to your eyebrows.

Run: The decent effort on the bike, plus the elevation, seemed to take a bit of a toll on me on the run. I have a run half-iron run PR around 1:50, but never found that kind of grove today. But I put in a steady effort, around 1:56 pending official splits, under increasingly cloudy skies and with midday temps hovering only in the 60s. When I went through the finish chute, I believe the clock showed 5:49:05; with my wave going off 15 minutes after the first wave, that puts me at 5:34:05, a half-iron PR.

Best part of the weekend? That was watching my little guy do the Kid's Splash, Pedal and Dash. Hey, he had an unorthodox taper - he moved, too! - but he killed in the race, working hard all the way. He told that at one point during the run, he told himself, out load, "Remember, it's supposed to be fun." Good job, Niko!

Oh, and special thanks, too, to Mom & Dad for coming up all the way from San Jose, and sister Debbie and hubby Greg from Hillsboro; it was a joy to be surrounded by family.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Woeful PR Jobs
From a news story: "Barbara Negron, president of the North American Natural Casing Association in New York City, said casings are safe to eat."