Friday, October 24, 2008

Live Wine Blogging!
At the Wineblogger Conference in Santa Rosa.
1: 2006 Small Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast: These guys are all about high-density planting and low-input in the winery. "Do as little to the wines as possible." No fining or filtering. Bright, alive, acidity. Shy fruit on the nose right now. Hiding?
2: 2007 Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay Central Coast: They want to make a wine that reminds you of the cupcakes your mom used to make. (Do I want wine to remind of cupcakes, in any way, shape or form?) Indistinct. Tastes like your standard mass-produced Cali Chard.
3: Kanzler Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 Barrel Sample: Stephen Kanzler keeps talking about this as a "big wine." I guess I'm not too interested in big wines right now. To me, this was more a confection than a wine.
4: Lionheart 2007 Roussanne Santa Barbara County:
5: Sean Minor, Four Bears, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa: Great energetic articulate fun husband-wife team trying to make a Napa Cab for $17. Not bad, but I wish it were better.
6: 2004 Bonterra The McNab: 60 merlot 26 cab 14 petit from Mendo
I like this wine. I like the pretty nose of black and red fruits. I like the tannins.
7: Yellow + Blue: Trying to build a sustainable wine model. Ship to U.S. in insulated steel, packaged in tetra. 2007 Malbec in Mendoza. Certified Organic Torrontes coming soon. Not bad. You get a liter for $10.99.
8: Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast: A ballsy Cab, can taste the French oak
9: James David Cellars 2008 Muscat (Dry - Barrel Fermented).: The guy's first wine. He got out of the banking business. (Good move.) Why don't more people make Muscat? Very appealing, in a simply, fruity, slightly tuti-fruiti wine.
10: Dark Horse Zinfandel Dry Creek 2006: I think it's OK. I also think I'm getting tired of tasting. I'm a three or four wines a day kind of guy. Seriously! Give me an hour or two with a wine, then I might be able to say something meaningful about it.
11: 2005 Bink Wines Pinot Noir Yorkville Highlands Mendocino Weir Vineyard: Might be my favorite Pinot yet. Nice wood/fruit balance, a firm streak of tannin running through it with the suppleness of Pinot Noir surrounding that.
12: Twisted Oak The Spainard 2006 Calaveras County: Mostly tempranillo, with some grenache and graciano I think I heard him say. Good stuff. But $49? Good luck.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Well Said
Iron Wil on eloquence, eloquently.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race Report: Run Like Hell 10K
That’s it. (I think.) My last race of 2008. (Maybe.)

Run Like Hell is an annual mid-October event here in Portland, with – as the name suggests – a Halloween theme. (I saw people dressed as bumble bees, Ghostbusters and Dick Cheneys. I went as a middle-aged wannabe runner.) In the past, Run Like Hell offered a half-marathon and a 5K, but this year a 10K was added to the roster of races. That’s the one I picked, along with about 1,000 other people: the good ol’ 10K.

Once, 10Ks were the standard weekend-warrior race, right? My memory is a little fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure my first organized run, a quarter-century ago, was a 10K, at the Zucchini Festival in Hayward, Calif. And if you’ve ever been to Hayward, you’re as confused as I was then as to why it was home to a Zucchini Festival.

(That's the thing, these days. You can never leave a mystery a mystery. There's always the Internets. So here's what I found, after writing that last sentence: According to a 2006 Oakland Tribune story, back in the early 1980s, Hayward's politicos and power brokers - imagine that - had gathered to discuss ideas for raising money for struggling nonprofits. "When a plate of grilled zucchini offered during a brainstorming session led someone to jokingly suggest a zucchini festival, the idea got laughed off. But in the end it stuck, and the festival was born.” This was back in 1983, and amazingly, this summer Hayward celebrated the 25th Zucchini Festival. So the Zucchini Festival lives on, though without a race.)

There are still plenty of 10Ks, but there might be more 5Ks. And there are a lot more half-marathons than ever before. It’s as though the 10K runners graduated to longer races, like the half-marathon and the marathon, and the 5K became the more sensible race for the masses, a race pretty much anyone can do either walking or running.

A few months ago I myself couldn’t have imagined choosing a 10K over a half-marathon, but that was before The Injury Thing convinced me that short races might be a little painful, but long races could be dangerous.

* * *

I always try to go into a race thinking about how fast I might run it. That’s just the way I am. It’s part of what I love about racing. Having done a 19:41 5K last weekend, at Run Like Hell I thought I might have a shot at challenging my 10K PR of 41:35. Sure I hadn't been running much lately; but I think I needed the rest after a pretty busy season. And sure there was the injury; but as I've said, for short races it had been a minor factor.

Since it was held on typically busy city streets, the race began early, at 7:30, while most of Portland was sleeping in after staying up late guffawing at Sarah Palin on SNL, or hanging out listening to indie bands at clubs where 10 percent of the take went to Obama for President, or whatever it is non-runners do with their Saturday nights. I was out the door and into the darkness by 6:20 a.m., seeking the 6:30 Red Line train to Beaverton. It arrived at 6:32, a few scattered souls aboard but apparently not a runner among them, and dumped me out in the foggy, breezy, 40-degree downtown chilliness 20 minute later, a half hour or so before the race start. Just the right amount of time to hit the Honey Bucket a couple of times, jog for 10 minutes, strip down to shorts and shirt and check my bag.

I lined up near the front, hoping to avoid getting hemmed in by slower runners. It’s just the opposite of the strategy I employ for the swim part of triathlons, in which I go off to the side or the back in order not to get plowed over by faster swimmers. Getting to do this at running races doesn't quite cancel out the embarrassment that is my swim, but it's still kind of cool. The announcer guy said he would give us a 30-second alert before the start, then a minute of silence later he said, “OK, 15 seconds.” After a countdown from 10, off we went.

The course took us from Broadway, which runs more or less north-south seven blocks west of the Willamette River, down Salmon toward the river. It wasn’t a precipitous drop, but it was steady and real. Then we'd head north for a mile or so, staying near the river. We'd hang a left for a little detour into the north end of the Pearl District, and on through the the warehouses and industrial areas farther north. Then back toward the river, then south, finally retracing the opening 1.5 miles to finish the race.

Which meant we’d have to run up Salmon Street right at the end. Nice. (More on that in a minute.)

* * *

I’m always unsure of my pace until I start hitting mile markers. As we got off Salmon, maybe a third of a mile into the race, I figured I was just a little off my 5K pace from the weekend before – just right. And the first mile marker confirmed that (although you’re never 100 percent sure those markers are placed accurately): 6:37.

So I’m running along, working hard, trying to put in a performance that has meaning to me. And I’m thinking about things. I’m thinking about keeping it right there or maybe just a little faster, say, 6:35. I’m thinking about how this doesn’t feel too bad right now. I’m thinking about how it might feel after four or five miles and wondering what I’ll be willing to put myself through. I’m thinking that the damp morning air is cold, and we’re headed into the breeze, but it's not bad, it’s pretty good, it’s keeping me fresh. Before we make the turn at 9th I notice the 5K out-and-back turnaround. I deduce that we’ve now run 2.5 kilometers. One-quarter of the way. I was around 10:15 there. Often, my in-race calculating doesn’t work out too well; I lose the thread before I get a result. But this is easy: 10:15 times four equals 41 minutes. Shoot, I’d take 41 minutes.

I reach the Mile 2 marker in 13:10, giving me a 6:33 split. I’ve been hearing, barely, some runners behind me, and I periodically notice their steps, breathing and occasional words becoming more audible. And then they go past, four or five of them. I wonder if I’m falling off the pace. I am working hard. I try to concentrate on keeping my effort right where I want it – as hard as I can go while still ensuring I’ll be able to finish without falling apart. I pick my line carefully – What do they call it? Working the tangents? – and make sure not to get tripped up by railroad tracks and all the other hazards that come with Portland’s crappy roads.

There’s a bit of zigging and zagging, a turn here, a turn there. The couple dozen or so racers in front of me have woken up some homeless folk crashed on a loading dock we pass. I spend a few seconds wondering what they’re thinking, seeing us. Maybe they’re wondering what we’re thinking, seeing them. Fleeting and random, these are race thoughts.

Mile 3: I’m at 19:46, after a 6:36 split. I know 6:36 equals 41 minutes. I’m on that pace. Around 3 1/2 miles, we turn and head south on Front, parallel with the river again. Front morphs into Naito Parkway, a long crescent-shaped stretch that takes us all the way back to Salmon. I reach Mile 4 at 26:23, a 6:37 split. The woman in orange who had been 10 yards in front of me is now 25 yards in front of me. I feel like I’m hurting a bit. Well, I am hurting. I read somewhere that in a short race, if you don't constantly feel awful, you're not pushing hard enough. But this is a little different: My legs are beginning to tie up a bit. I tell myself to relax, run easy. It actually seems to help. Huh. Now I should be at Mile 5, but I see no marker. A good half-minute later, a lanky dude comes astride me. “Did you see a Mile 5 marker?” I ask. He says no, and speculates maybe we haven’t gotten there yet. I’m about to assure him we’re past five miles, but he’s already put distance between us. He’s gone.

Past the Fremont, Broadway and Steel bridges, I notice orange-shirt girl coming back to me. Ha! That’s what you get for trying to defeat Pete when there’s still so much race to go! But wait: We’re finally to the turn back up Salmon, and orange-shirt girl is continuing straight – with the half-marathoners. Ah. So she’s kicking my ass even though she’s running twice as far. Got it.

* * *

Up Salmon. And I do mean up. MapMyRun puts the climb at 100 feet of elevation gain. I’m not quite buying that. Still, it’s unyielding, and after nearly six hard miles, it’s a sinister seven blocks. I think about the Mount Tabor hill repeats I did on the bike on Friday. Those were harder and I killed them! I try to tell myself that if Obama loses a key state – Ohio, specifically, comes to mind – it will be because I wimped out on Salmon at the end of the Run Like Hell 10K. Do it for Barack, for the country, I tell myself. I push the button on my watch at the Mile 6 marker but don't take the time or energy to look at it. (Afterward, I saw: 39:40, so the previous two miles - remember, no Mile 5 marker - were covered in 13:17. Off the 6:36/41:00 pace by a few seconds.)

Finally off Salmon and toward the finish, just a half block after the turn onto Broadway. I go as hard as I can through the chute. Crossing the timing mat, I hit my watch and see: 41:01. I walk forward, catching my breath, and offer my left shoe to a girl sitting on a chair with a milk crate in front of her with a scattering of timing chips in it. “I need your other foot,” the girl says, giggling hysterically. You see, my timing chip was on my right foot! I guess you’ve got to pounce on your opportunities to be amused when you're clipping chips off a few thousand shoes.

Run Like Hell was a hell of a good race. Notice what I didn’t talk about much? The Injury Thing. Barely noticed it – and, in fact, at the end, it felt better than it had in two months. Maybe the cure for what ailed me was a hard 10K. I think that’s pretty funny. May it always be the cure for what ails me.

The official data...
Time: 41:01
Pace: 6:36
Age group (M45-49): 3/21
Men: 24/266
Overall: 25/751
Full results here.

(By the way, isn’t it interesting that there were 485 females in the race, and 266 males. I don’t even have a theory about that.)
Maybe John McCain is right. Maybe we do need to talk more about those allegations of voter registration fraud. Let's start here and here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blind Pilot

The Portland band Blind Pilot is terrific. I've been listening to them constantly the last few months. Finally cranked up the Googler to find out a little bit more about them and how cool is this: They just finished a West Coast tour and they did it on bikes. For the second time. Awesome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blue Oregon, Red Oregon profiles the Oregon electorate.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hey, Look Over There
At the narrow column on the left side of this page, I mean. See the first entry on that roster of PRs? Notice the date? That's right, I got a new one this past weekend! (The old 5K PR was 19:57, established in August this year.) And Niko was great in the kid 1K. Pictures and a few details later this week.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Abbreviated Race: Report
Would it be a DNS or DNF? I'd known for a while that, barring a miracle, my 2008 Portland Marathon would be one or the other: I'd either sleep in and the race would go in the books as a Did Not Start, or I'd give it a go and end up with my first Did Not Finish. Clearly, this Achilles/ankle/heel injury was only going to get better with an extended break from running (among other therapies). I kept testing it every week or so, only to find the pain rearing its head – yeah, just like Putin in Alaska's air space – after five or six miles.

Today, I felt pretty good through eight miles. By nine miles, there was aching in the ankle. By 10, the Achilles was stiffening. By 11, my stride was off-balance, my Achilles hurt, and it was time to go home. There was no point to putting my long-term health at risk in order to turn in a mediocre time. I'm not wigged out by the letters DNF, the way some runners are. I want to keep doing this stuff for many years and a torn Achilles (or whatever) would be very bad indeed.

I jogged the two miles back to the start line to fetch my clothes, then jumped on the train for the quick ride home. Along the way, I gained some clarity about what I want out of athletics in the next year. I want to run a faster marathon. I want to run a 3:10. That wouldn't win me a prize or get me on a podium but it would be nearly nine minutes faster than my current best, and it would be a fine personal achievement at age 46. I really want it.

So that means:

(1) Mixing regular cycling in with the running, because over the past couple of months that did help my injury. I'd always feel better the day after a ride, and even better after two consecutive days of riding. If I'd been on the bike exclusively during the time period, I'd probably be fully recovered by now.

(2) No ultra running. That 50 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in July was fun, but on top of everything else, was too much. Next year, after Coeur d'Alene in June, I rest for a few weeks, then spend the latter part of July, all of August and the first half of September completely and totally intent on getting ready for Portland. That doesn't mean running like crazy. It means three or four keenly focused runs each week, mixing tempo running, speed work and a long run, along with two or three stints on the bike. Yep. That's the ticket. I can't wait!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Morning After
During the primaries I wrote some political posts. I took them down because, well, I wasn't impressed by them. Just more spouting off in a world long on opinions but painfully short on wisdom. I'll probably come to see this fresh rant in the same vein, and it may be gone before any of my three or four readers sees it. But ridiculously, right now, it is important to me....

Nothing that happened last night wasn't anticipated. His performance, her performance, the reaction ... it all fell easily under the heading Most Likely Scenario. And the net result is that our hope -- that Obama will win and we'll have a sane Democrat in the White House -- is just as viable now as it was before the debate began. And yet I find myself profoundly depressed. And here is why: Once more, the public and the press are carrying on as though the past seven years didn't happen, as though the election of a "plain-spoken" president who "connected with regular people," talked mostly about the need for lower taxes and "getting government out of the American people's way," all the while demonstrating little curiosity, depth of knowledge about issues or sense of how America's place in the world is changing didn't lead us to disaster.

I see everyone earnestly joining in on the debate after the debate, trying to determine whether Sarah Palin for 90 minutes pulled off looking sort of like someone who could (if we make sure to keep the answer period short, and don't ask follow-up questions) play the part of world leader. I'm aghast that none of the endless number of experts on the post-debate analysis shows -- CNN alone must have had a dozen -- climbed onto the desk in front of him and shouted, "Have we all lost our minds? Does anyone really think this woman truly has the depth of understanding to lead our country in a time of grave crisis? Does anyone really believe that John McCain showed good judgment in selecting her to be his vice president? The winks and nods, the scripted little zingers, the regular-gal shtick -- whether it was appealing to you or not -- how does it have ANYTHING to do with anything? Even now, at this juncture, are we STILL unable to behave seriously? Am I living in an alternate universe? Our country's future is not assured, OK? And we reporters and pundits, by playing the ridiculous games we play, are as responsible as Wall Street, Congress, Bush and the public for the state of the country. Do I have to say it again: We are in financial meltdown. We are fighting two hopeless wars. It's not simply that we're not addressing the social problems that for years have plagued us; no, we have gone so far and so quickly in reverse in the past seven years that simply staving off utter disaster appears to be the best we can hope for. And we all sit here and happily play the role of TV critic? This is reality, people, not a reality show." And with that, our hero falls to his knees and holds his head, his face the very picture of defeat, now dissolving into tears.

Am I done? Not quite.

What infinite power of pretending does it take for David Brooks in the New York Times, to write, "She was surprisingly forceful on the subject of Iran (pronouncing Ahmadinejad better than her running mate)." How is it that I even have to say, the question cannot be can she spout a few talking points and pronounce the name of a practically irrelevant Iranian politician. The question must be -- for our future depends upon it -- "Does this person have an impressive, nuanced read on the world that inspires confidence that the choices she will make will keep us and the world safe?" Right? Isn't that what we desperately need to know? Or are we going to go through the same stupid, devastating, deadly charade we've gone through since 2001? I guess we are. I guess we are.

F--- you, David Brooks. F--- you, all the punditocracy last night and this morning. You pontificate about Congress failing us, the president failing us. F--- you. You have demonstrated again your complete and utter lack of courage and sense of obligation. None of you deserves or has my respect.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Up in the Air
Damn, I'm finding it difficult to give up on running the Portland Marathon this coming Sunday. I'm signed up and paid up. It's right here in my hometown. I've got to run! But I'm injured. It's "the Achilles thing" I mentioned several weeks ago. Except, now I'm not so sure it's the Achilles. Might be a "posterior heel thing." Whatever: I run for a few miles and there's pain and weakness. The pain isn't excruciating; I can keep going. But I can't run very fast. And my fitness has clearly fallen off. So what would be the point of getting out there on Sunday and risking further damage? I don't know. It's just hard to let go. I was thinking PR for Portland. Bummer!