Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Earthquake of 2010

t was on a sunny and warm Wednesday afternoon that I sat down to finish writing a briefing on my balcony. I had been driven to the balcony as they had been running the monthly fire alarm tests in the building. I decided to escape to the balcony as a way of getting away from the alarm. Around 2 pm my laptop started to shift on my lap. At the same time, my chair started to shift back and forth. The alarm in the nearby car dealership started to wail. It took me a moment to realize that I was sitting through my first earthquake. There was a brief pause followed by three or four minor aftershocks. I did a quick search of twitter and there was nothing. It was a bit freaky. Later in the afternoon, I headed over to the US Geological survey web site to find that we had received a 5.5 on the Richter scale earthquake having an epicentre 50 mile north of Ottawa. I chided myself a bit when it was all over as I had picked the wrong day to work from home as my office colleagues had been sent home for safety reason. But did I really want to have to take fourteen flights of stairs down the fire escape with a bunch of panicking office workers. I think the balcony was probably the best place to spend an earthquake.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cycling in a dryerCycling in a dryer

Most days I cycle to work and occasionally I'll run to the office. Today was a running day. A little after 7:30AM I headed out onto the bike path in my sneakers and reached the office a little after 8:00AM. I headed down to the showers, cleaned up and started my work day. I hang my running/cycling gear in my office. As I was reached over at the end of the day, I noticed my jersey was still damp. The coolness of the office was not enough to dry it out completely. As I put it on it felt wet and clammy. Upon exiting the office, I felt a blast of hot air billowing in from the west. As I pedalled in a westerly direction along the Ottawa River I felt as if I was cycling in a dryer as a wave of hot air would hit me followed by a break then another burst of hot air. I could feel my jersey getting more dry with each burst of air. This would not last long as once I crested a hill I started to sweat again and I back to cycling in a wet jersey.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Groin injury

Every couple of years, I become very familiar with a given muscle, ligament or tendon in my legs due to an injury. Earlier this month, I pulled two muscles in my groin, the adductor longus(F) and the adductor magnus(H) on my right leg. For the past couple of weeks, I've been going for aggressive physiotherapy and massages and these sessions are helping me get back to running. These session are so intense that they have been leaving bruises on my leg. I've cycling to work daily for just over a month as they cycling is good cross-training for these muscles. As well, I've been doing long sessions of indoor rowing machine which are helping to rehab the leg but spending 30 minutes on the rowing machine doesn't equate to say a 30 minute run outside. It sucks when you get injured but since I haven't been injured for a while I guess it was time. I've been doing some very specialized groin stretches which are strengthening the area. The injury has put a damper on a couple of road races in April that I was hoping to do. The running is coming back slowly with each workout getting progressively long and harder. I long for the day when the muscles are fully healed and I can run carefree.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why you can't tell a tea by it's colour?

I have a couple of tea strainer/infusers that I use to brew whole leaf tea. I recently spent part of a lunch hour searching for one that which would be slim enough to fit inside my REI travel mug. I discovered the Luci Loose Tea Infuser which is just narrow enough to fit inside the mug and looks like a gnome is sitting inside the mug. While at the tea store I decided to buy some British tea which is hard to find Earl Grey -- Taylors of Harrogate." Once back at the office it was time to test the new infuser and tea. I loaded up the infuser with tea and put milk in my mug and waited for the kettle to boil. The infuser sat in the mug steeping for four minutes and the tea looked white. I like my tea to have a bit of a brown color. I opened up the infuser and poured in another teaspoon of tea and waited. The tea still looked white. I was getting a little desperate so I grabbed a tea bag and plopped it into the mug and now I have brown tea. It was a highly caffeinated brew and much stronger than I'm use to. The moral of the story is just because your tea has a neutral colour after brewing doesn't mean it won't have a punch of caffeine.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Calendar recycling

I normally buy my wall calendar in the second week of January as by this point they are usually 50% off. This year I decided to try something different. I have a really nice hiking calendar in my office showing people hiking in various locales around the world. Rather than buy a new one, I decided to staple a 2010 calendar page over each month of the year. The benefit of this is that I could pick the picture that I wanted displayed for a given month. In February, I decided to have a pick of a folks hiking in a spring-like setting rather suggested picture of folks hiking next to a frozen glacier. In the peak of the summer heat, I'll switch to the arctic pictures to prep me for the colder months. The benefit is that I saved some cash on a new calendar and can now pick the scenery that I want for a given month.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why you should bag your oranges?

Tonight, I ran to the swimming pool for a workout and stopped by the grocery stores to buy some food for dinner. I grabbed some pita, meat, and dried cherries and headed over to the self-checkout area and waited for my turn. There was an older couple just ahead of me having some trouble. The norm is for folks to put all their oranges in a bag when selecting them from the boxes. This couple didn't know this so they were trying to place all their oranges on the scale but they kept on rolling off and landing on the floor. The eventually decided on the divide and conquer approach which is place as many oranges as can fit on the scale and then to weigh them before weighing the next batch. The machine didn't like this as they forgot a little detail which is that you have to tell the scale in advance what it is weighing before it will weigh it. They eventually got it sorted out but it was comical as they would have a handful of oranges on the scale and then one would fall off and the machine would start beeping and saying that they should see the attendant. The moral of the story is to put all your oranges in one bag and to place them on the scale together.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Phoenix half-marathon with a quick detour to San Deigo, CA

It's time to blog about my latest adventure to Phoenix, AZ with a side tour of San Diego. This would be my sixth visit to Phoenix and my fifth time running in the PF Chang half-marathon. I left Ottawa on Friday morning with my checked luggage and Macbook. The Christmas day travel nightmare prevented me from having any carry on luggage. It was a quick flight to Newark, NJ where I spent much day before my late afternoon flight over to Phoenix. Newark airport has wall plug in various locations throughout the termnal so one you can surf the web (work) and charge up your laptop at the same time. JB and Ashley met me at the airport and our first stop was PF Chang for our traditional pre-race dinner. When I incorporate the two hour time change I headed to bed early on Saturday morning.
I started off my weekend with a filling breakfast at the Hampton Inn. Our first stop was the race expo held in the new Phoenix Convention Center. The race expo was twice as large as last year and I was able to get my race packet and t-shirt quickly. Once again I was starting in the first race corral which brought a smile to my face. We headed to over to REI as I wanted to check out a travel mug that Jason had got for Christmas. Over the weekend I used it multiple times and it kept my tea hot for three to four hours. We next headed over to JB's place and I was able to pick some tangelosfrom a tree in their backyard. They are really juicy. JB, Ashley and I headed over to Qboda for burritos. We spent most of the afternoon walking the various trails at the Phoenix/Desert Botanical garden. I had my pre-race pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant that serves enormous meat balls with their spaghetti.
On Sunday morning, I was up at 5:00 am and headed to the hotel lobby to fill up my travel mug with hot tea. This year I decided to eat my breakfast later in the morning rather than at the hotel. At 6:00 am I caught the hotel shuttle for a 40 minute ride to the start. Your arrive in the dark and there is a buzz to the air with 25,000 people getting psyched for their marathon or half-marathon. I decided to take refuge near the Arizona Senate building to eat my breakfast until the marathoners had started their race. With a little over 40 minutes to the start, I joined that long line of people waiting to use a port-a-potty. It look me about 15 minutes before I could relieve myself. It was then a quick dash over to the UPS trucks to drop off my gear bag. I did an easy warmup as I ran towards the first corral and stretched will waiting for the race to start. The official starter was Senator John McCain and it was great to see him. At 8:30 am on the dot, the gun went off and we started our 13.1 mile journey south towards Tempe, AZ. I decided to run the race at a constant pace and to treat the race as long Sunday run as I knew that setting a course PR was out of the question. As I drew closer and closer to Tempe the crowds began to build. With a mile to go I picked up the pace and sprinted to the finish. It felt good to get my finisher's medal. I picked some food and headed out to meet JB. We attempted to head back to the hotel but got bogged down with road closures so I walked about half-a-mile which gave my legs a chance to recover. Within 45 minutes of finishing the race I had showered and checked out of the hotel which was a record for me. The goal was to see if we could catch a San Diego/Pacific Ocean sunset. It was an ambitious goal. As we headed west the Saguaro cacti and desert transformed into large boulder mountains. Along the way we were gaining elevation and peaked at 4,141 feet. On the other side of the mountain, we found miles and miles of sand dunes which eventually transformed in lush fields of lettuce and cabbages. Once we acrossed the state line the traffic started to buildup and become more congested. We arrived at the San Diego beach within 30 minutes of sunset. It was an awesome sight watching the colors develop and very gradually fade into darkness.
On Monday morning, I awoke to find my legs a little stiff but not sore from the race. This was a good thing. I looked at the heart rate data gathered during the race and it showed I had a hard race but not a stressing one. After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and headed down to the marina. It was a dark and overcast day, not what I would have expected for California. I was expecting warm conditions, perpetual sun, palm tree along the road and miles of beautiful people. I had to settle for the palm trees. As we walked along the marina there were fishing boats with their lobster and crab pots drying out and most boat were birthed for the day. There was a warning that severe weather was coming. One of our goals of the day was to take a boat cruise of the north and south harbor. As we were waiting in line to boat, JB couldn't stop singing the theme song from "Gilligan's Island." We would be out for a two hour tour not a fateful three hour tour. As the boat was backing out of the harbor I could hear a grinding sound. It sounded like gears grinding against each other. It was under a strong wind and light rain that we started our journey. JB opted to have a Bloody Mary to calm his nerves as the boat started to rock in the waves. As the captain shift to full throttle to combat the waves the boat started to shudder and then stopped. One of the engines was dead. We very slowly crept back to shore with one engine and got a refund. Once on shore it started to rain and the clouds looked dark. JB decided I should take a picture of him writing "I love Ash" in the sand. We headed over to the beach and as we stepped of of the car I could feel the rain soaking through my jacket. I grabbed a couple of dog poo bag to protect my camera and phone from the rain. I offered JB one but he declined. I was happy to be on the road taking pictures while we scribed in the sand. He had nearly finished writing in the said when I head a strong expletive like "Oh, F***." His new Android phone had fallen in the ocean was starting to float away. Once back at the car he took out the battery and laid the disassembled phone on a towel. We were sort of screwed as we were Google maps on the Android phone to navigate in San Diego. I pulled to my GPS which only has base map for California and got using going in a easterly direction. Somehow we reached a dead end which lead onto a military base. A very attractive private gave us directions to the freeway. By this time we were experiencing torrential rain and the roads became minature lakes. This was the first time I had seen a storm surge. Most of the road don't have storm drains. We headed east as quickly as we could with thoughts that we could outrun the storm. As we climbed through the mountains the rain abated but was replaced by thick fog. As we descended down the other side of the mountains we found that we were driving in good conditions, a clear sky and a dry road. The drive back to Phoenix from this point onwards was uneventful. As we were driving towards JB's place we checked the phone and it started to work again. I credit this to good design on Google's part. On Tuesday morning I headed home to Ottawa.