Archive for March 2014

Running Update: March 30th

This month has not been so good for my running, what with the getting hurt and then going on vacation, but I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. My left knee/right hip haven’t been hurtin’ too much the last few times that I’ve gone out, which is good. Also, I got new running shoes on Friday! We drove out to the Brooks outlet up in Bothell and I got a pair of their Ravenna 4’s. They were relatively inexpensive and these ones definitely have a bit more support than my old shoes did, so hopefully that’ll keep me from tweaking anything in the future.

new running shoesFlashy shoes make a person run faster, right? (These are blue and orange.)

With my ~7 mile run tonight, I surpassed my running total from last year. That’s great! But I need to do a bit better about running consistently if I wanna reach that goal of 544 miles. Taking two weeks off certainly set me back… right now I’m only on pace for 444 miles! I’ve got the Seahawks 12K coming up in two weeks. Hopefully I can stay healthy for that and run fast!

running mar 30 2014I just passed over the border into Pennsylvania!

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Miles run in 2014: 108.2
Books read in 2014: 23

Southwest Vacation: Day Eleven

Today was our last full day in Tucson. We decided to go spelunking (which for us means walking around on a guided tour in a cave for 90 minutes) and visited Kartchner Caverns State Park. This place is one of the most extensive living cave systems in the country (more than 2.5 miles of passageways!) and has a ton of rules/regulations in place to keep it as pristine as possible. You’re generally required to buy tickets ahead of time and need to arrive at least an hour before your scheduled tour, so once we arrived we had some time to kill. We peeked in to the little museum and walked around the butterfly garden until it was our turn to spelunk. There are actually two different tours you can sign up for at Kartchner Caverns: The Big Room and the Rotunda/Throne Room. We had tickets to visit The Big Room. Once the tour guide learns everyone’s name (so she can yell at you if you try to touch anything), you board a little tram that takes you several hundred yards up the hill to the entrance, where you descend into the mouth of the cave…

As we progressed on our tour, the guide pointed out many of the particularly impressive features (there were a lot!) which ranged from massive stalagmites to tiny, delicate “soda straws” that descended tens of feet from the ceiling. To think about how long it took these structures to form boggles the mind. Also, because it’s a living cave, several of the stalactites were currently wet and dripping; you wouldn’t expect a group of people to be excited about patiently/quietly standing in a circle for several minutes just to watch a single drip of water, but that’s totally what happened. Everyone seemed to be absolutely captivated by the complete majesty of the cave. It was nuts. It may seem like I’m being hyperbolic, but I promise you that I’m not. And the overall size/scope of this place! It just kept going and going… and from the outside, you have literally no idea that something so rare and beautiful and inspiring and mysterious is right below your feet; it just looks like you’re standing on some whatever hill in the middle of a cattle range. It’s crazy. If you’re ever in the Tucson area, I’d definitely recommend checking this place out.

KartchnerCavernsCameras weren’t allowed in the cave, so this is all you get to see.

Once we got back to Tucson, it was time to meet up with two of Stephanie’s friends for dinner. We went and got Mexican food at La Indita – a small restaurant downtown near the U of A campus. I got… a chile relleno. But this one was actually pretty disappointing! The breading was way too dense and the sauce was entirely lackluster. I’d actually been to this place on my last trip to Tucson and it was quite good, so maybe their food prep is just really inconsistent?

After dinner, we walked across the street and went to Mr. Heads (art gallery and bar) for trivia. It was actually their first official night hosting trivia, so turnout ended up being a little sad, but that just meant less competition. Because there weren’t a ton of people, the four of us ended up splitting into two groups. Ashely and I formed one team while Stephanie and Jessi made up another.

Andrew+Ashley trivia

Ashley and I were ‘The A-Team’. This led to these (unfortunate) hand gestures. We’re also 100% badasses.

The questions were pretty random and a lot of them were fairly dumb. There were eight rounds, so trivia was a little bit intense and went on for quite awhile. Ashley and I completely bombed the music section (bands/songs with insects in the title?), but we crushed the visual round where you had to identify the Sean Connery film by looking at a still from the movie (thank you Campus Video!). Overall, Ashley and I didn’t do very well (I think we got maybe 55 out of 80 points), but we still managed to win. Woo!

Jessi and Stephanie triviaJessi and Stephanie came in second place.

There wasn’t actually a grand prize for taking first place (because they were so disorganized), but I did win four “penny pints” by being the first person to answer four of the “bonus/lightning round” questions. I shared these with Ashley and Stephanie and Jessi because I’m such a nice guy/I didn’t wanna get crazy tipsy. Stephanie also won the door prize (a squirrel coffee mug; it’s not as cute as it sounds), so we were all ~big winners tonight. It was fun and although the bar was a little skeezy I would definitely go back again for trivia. (I should note that these last two photos are particularly low-quality because they were stolen from the Geeks Who Drink website. They were the group that hosted trivia.)

This San Diego/Tucson vacation has been a lot of fun, but I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow. We’ve been doing so many things! I kinda just wanna curl up for a few days and read a bunch of books and drink a bunch of coffee/tea…

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Miles run in 2014: 96.4
Books read in 2014: 22

Southwest Vacation: Day Ten

Today we went and hiked around Sabino Canyon. Like Mount Lemmon, Sabino Canyon is part of the Santa Catalina Mountains and is located in the Coronado National Forest. In fact, if you look at the map of the Catalina Highway that I posted a few days ago, you can see Sabino Canyon (located several miles south and a little west of Mount Lemmon/Summerhaven). Instead of hiking up to the top of the canyon, we decided to buy tickets for the tram which takes you up the 4.5 mile road to the “end” of the canyon. The tram ride takes about twenty minutes; on the way, a guide tells you a little bit about the history of Sabino canyon, as well as the flora/fauna you could potentially encounter (mountain lions!). Once you get to the top, you can either hike out or stay on the tram for a return trip back to the entrance. We opted to just hike back out (despite the fact that we were accompanied by Stephanie’s five and eight year old nephews – it did all work out, though).

Sabino canyon 1Thumbs up for cacti and fairly bleak landscapes.

The views are pretty severe (lots of cactus and rocks and small shrubs), except right along the creek bed, which has a surprising abundance of life (Sabino Canyon is designated as a “natural desert oasis”). In addition to the flora, there are also lots of interesting geological features. Sabino creek has flowing water ~10-11 months of the year and has eroded away large portions of the canyon. About two-thirds of the way up, there are a series of natural waterfalls/pools that are highlights of the hike. We (slowly) made our way down the canyon. The kids dragged their feet a little and stopped and splashed around in some of the pools, but they were real troopers about making the hike back towards the trailhead. It was pretty hot and I was impressed by their (relative) resilience.

Sabino canyon gneiss 2Sabino Canyon cliff face

Veins of gneiss are prevalent in the canyon (left). Also, that cliff face (right) is ~500′ tall. Perspective!

Once we made it back to the car, after hiking/walking around in the sun for ~three hours, everyone was thirsty and hungry so we drove over to El Charro for some iced tea/soda and Mexican food. I got (surprise!) a chile relleno. It was delicious! Their verde sauce was amazing. I think I liked the relleno I had at La Parrilla Suiza a teensy bit better, but they were both SO good. If I lived in Tucson, I would eat these all the time and get so fat. But it would be worth it.

Later that evening, instead of going out again to watch basketball, we decided to just stay at Stephanie’s. The University of Arizona was playing tonight, so it was A Big Deal. (Tucson is very much a basketball town.) One of Stephanie’s friends came over, as did several of her family members, and we all watched the game together. There were lots of chips and guacamole and vegan chili cheese dip and popcorn and vegan chicken tenders… I was also drinking some moderately fancy hard cider from Fox Barrel (Pacific pear and blackberry pear). When you think about it, the joy of watching sports is at least 50% related to eating delicious snacks and drinking tasty drinks. Arizona lead for the whole game and ended up winning by a lot, so the evening was very enjoyable.

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Miles run in 2014: 96.4
Books read in 2014: 22

Southwest Vacation: Day Nine

Today was a little more low-key because we were pooped from driving/sitting in the sun so much yesterday. As such, we mostly just bummed around Tucson. After a leisurely breakfast, we decided to go play some putt-putt at Golf N’ Stuff in town.

This place had two courses that were full of both classical/whimsical holes where you hit the ball around/into obstacles (castles/windmills) and also simpler, more straightforward holes where the only features were strategically placed blocks or bumps/valleys in the turf. It was fun. It wasn’t toooooo crowded and we only had to wait to play about half of the time. The last hole on the first course had that thing where you shoot your ball and then it’s lost/collected by the course operator, but of course we just skipped this hole and snuck around and played the second course, too… Our scores were pretty close after the first round, but Stephanie faded down the stretch and ended up losing by ~10 strokes. We did, however, each get a couple of holes in one because we’re secret golf pros.

GolfNStuff mini golfGolfNStuff basketball

Shooting a ball at a castle (left) and a basket (right).

After we finished our two rounds of golf, we went inside and spent one whole dollar on a couple of arcade games. I opted to shoot some basketballs and Stephanie decided to race a race car. We were tempted to play some air hockey, too, but there were about fifty million kids running around, so we opted to leave.

GolfNStuff racingShe came in 3rd place despite never shifting out of first gear…

After we left Golf N’ Stuff, we were pretty hungry, but we decided just to go and get gelato instead of getting real food. We went to Frost, which is a cute/modern gelato shop, and got scoops of peach, blackberry, and chocolate hazelnut to split. That may sound like a somewhat odd flavor combination, but it was actually pretty tasty. The blackberry was my favorite. We also split a large iced Americano. Basically, it was the best lunch ever.

For dinner, we went to Lovin’ Spoonfuls, one of Tucson’s only vegan restaurants. We went with a couple of Stephanie’s friends, one of whom is whole-heartedly vegan. It’s always so easy to eat not meat when we hang out/eat with her. I really appreciate it. I ordered the Country Fried Chicken Platter. Although the “chicken” was only okay, the mashed potatoes and stuffing were both particularly good. After dinner, we went to Risky Business (a local sports bar) to watch some March Madness. We saw Michigan State beat Harvard and Connecticut upset Villanova. Both games were close/exciting. We also enjoyed a lot of beer (so much drinking on this vacation!) and french fries and chips and pitas and several varieties of hummus. It was a good night.

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Miles run in 2014: 96.4
Books read in 2014: 22


Southwest Vacation: Day Eight

Today was all about baseball.

Stephanie and I bought tickets to see two spring training games: Cleveland vs. Colorado in Scottsdale at 1:05 pm and then San Diego vs. Seattle in Peoria at 7:10 pm. We got tickets to sit in the grass in the outfield because those are much less expensive (~$8) and it’s usually pretty easy to snag a seat once a few innings have passed. We left Tucson at ~10 in the morning and arrived at Salt River Field a little after noon. This is the newest stadium that’s used in the Cactus League (built in 2011) and it’s quite nice. The grandstands are large and the concourse is open to the field. The main stadium is also surrounded by a ton of practice fields/batting cages. It definitely seems like a top-notch facility.

ST RF grassLawn seats from the right field berm.

Spreading out a blanket and sitting in the grass is a lot of fun. You can lay down or sit back and relax and are treated to a pretty unique perspective for watching the game. But it was SO HOT. There were no clouds and no shade and it was easily 90 degrees in the sun. We did our best to tough it out (via liberal application of sun screen and water consumption) but we only lasted two and a half innings before we had to go looking for shade. Unfortunately, the stadium was PACKED, so we couldn’t find two empty seats together. However, we were able to find a nice spot to stand inside along the main concourse between home plate and first base. There was a raised concrete bench for standing on, which provided a pretty great view of the action, and a large column just to our right that both prevented people from standing in front of us and gave us something to lean against so we could recover from the sun. After drinking a lot of water and standing in the shade for ~15 minutes we both felt a lot better. The only veg-friendly entrée in the whole stadium was the cheese pizza (lame!), so Stephanie and I just got some snacks to share (nachos and a soft pretzel). We watched the rest of the game from our new spot. Cleveland ended up pounding the Rockies, so while the game wasn’t particularly close/tense, it was a lot of fun.

ST 1B lineShade + a breeze made for a much more pleasant vantage point.

Getting from Scottsdale to Peoria is, in theory, fairly simple. It’s a drive that should take less than half an hour, but traffic ended up being miserable, so it took significantly longer than an hour. Fortunately, there was plenty of time between the first and second games, so we didn’t miss any baseball. Stephanie’s dad met us in Peoria to watch the second game with us. We had a chance to walk around before the game started and take in some of the sights and sounds.

starting lineup MarinersvsPadresAndrew ST Ms ball

Mariners 3/21/2014 batting order (left) and standing by the GIANT Mariners baseball (right).

The second game was SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE. The sun set right around first pitch and it was ~72 F and just perfect. It was also a bit less crowded, so it was easier to walk around and find good spots from which to watch the action. During pre-game warm-ups I was standing right behind Paxton as he was doing some long-tossing out in left field. That was pretty neat.

ST left field lineWe watched the first couple of innings from the left field rail.

Although Peoria isn’t as fancy as Salt River, I actually like it a bit more. It’s a little smaller and cozier and has a much more laid back vibe. The food offerings were also a lot better (their menus included thai food and falafel/gyros and salads and burritos and veggie burgers and veggie dogs) and less expensive than Salt River. I was really excited to try a veggie dog… loading up a hot dog at the ballpark with a bunch of mustard and ketchup and sauerkraut (and relish and/or onions, if you’re gross) is such a “baseball” thing… Unfortunately, they were all out of veggie dogs. This was moderately upsetting, and because I had been so looking forward to a (veggie) hot dog, I ended up just getting a regular hot dog instead (meat #18!). It was wonderful and gross and everything that you’d expect from a stadium hot dog.

ST sunsetArizona sunset at the ballpark.

As a Mariners fan, the game wasn’t particularly exciting. Seattle fell behind early and then pulled all of their regulars after the 4th/5th innings (they were already losing pretty badly at this point). Despite this, going to the game was still a lot of fun. It was neat to see Paxton pitch for the first time and weird seeing Cano in a Mariners uniform… Also, a bunch of the Seattle starters stopped right behind where we were standing to sign autographs as they were walking back to the clubhouse. I’m not a cute little kid, so I opted not to go beg for an autograph (even though a small part of me really wanted to). Some of the players seemed to be really good with the kids (especially Brad Miller) and asked questions/told jokes/offered words of encouragement as they were signing.

The game ended up being realllllllly slow, so we left a little early (in the 8th inning) and made the ~140 mile trek back to Tucson. We arrived at Stephanie’s a little after 1 am and fell asleep hard. It was a long, good day.

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Miles run in 2014: 96.4
Books read in 2014: 22