Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My Favorite Beers of 2005

Has anyone tried any commercial beers of note, this past year? Here are some of my favorites that I've enjoyed in 2005:

Local: This year's Nutcracker Ale by Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City. It's a bottle-conditioned ale that they produce for November and December only.

2005 Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada. Always a good bet. If you can find their Harvest Ale on tap somewhere, you've just got to try it, as well. It's brewed with "green" hops, fresh from the hop harvest.

Yeti Oak Aged Imperial Stout by Great Divide (in Colorado).

Duchesse De Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe (a traditional Flemish red ale).

Most of the beers that I tried while in Seattle at Elysian Brewpub and Bigtime Brewery & Alehouse. These are two of my all-time favorite beer establishments in the Northwest US.

All of the fresh beer on tap at The Rogue in Portland, Oregon, Especially the Imperial India Pale Ale, Menage Frog Belgian Style Tripel, and the Morimoto Imperial Pilsner.
Also, some of the beers I enjoyed and the relaxing time I had at Tugboat Brewing in Portland.

My favorite lager of the year: Leavenworth Friesian Pilsener (similar to those brewed in the Friesland region of Northern Germany) by Jenn Gridley of Fish Brewing Co., Olympia Washington. I'm going to try to reproduce a version of this in "Sputnik", my new fermenter.

These were just a few of my faves. How about you?

Great Trail Run in the Cold, Last Night

Six of us showed up to run our normal Tuesday night trail run, last night. The surface was glazed with mud that was half-way between frozen and wet, making for slick conditions in a few spots. It seemed darker than usual, because the wet mud is darker than the surface we are normally used to. My flashlight seemed dimmer, because of it.
I was leading the charge and started off slow, but felt crappy on the first 5-mile loop. On the second loop I started getting into a rythym, and felt pretty good. I slowly poured on the speed through that whole loop, and we finished strong. I didn't think that I was going that fast, but was told otherwise by some of the usual suspects.
All in all, a great 10-mile trail run.

When I got home, I had a great surprise. My daughter had come to our house earlier in the day and made some great soup out of Thanksgiving leftovers. My grandson was also there to greet me, (we were watching him 'til about 11:30pm). I sat down in front of the TV and poured myself a Boulevard Nutcracker Ale, which is especially good this season. A wonderful evening.

Side note: On Tuesday my son worked-out with the personal trainer (Igor) at my place of employment's wellness center. He will have a dietary consult with him on Wednesday, and plans on working-out 5 days a week. He told Igor that he is tired of having his dad being able to out-run and out-lift him. Maybe he will give up smoking. We can only hope. :-o

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Recent Photos

I just wanted to post a couple of photos from this last week. First, my grandson used his tree climbing expertise to pick one green orange and one almost ripe grapefruit, while at his Great Grandma's in Yuma, Arizona.

Also, the Wyandotte County Park trail crew at work last Sunday.
Shane, Eric & Daughter, and Good Ben.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Busy 2 Weeks: Beer, Texas, Yuma, Trails, & "Double-Pulls"

The past two weeks were busy for me.

First, Texas:
I spent 6 days in Texas for a certification refresher and test; (work related). It was tough this year; a lot of studying to pass my board certification, etc. I got to run for an hour and a half in Huntsville State Park, where my event in February will be. I also got to reserve a campsite there. I spent my last night in Houston and hit the Flying Saucer for a few good brews. (I was within walking distance from my motel, so no driving was involved). No beers of note, but I had a good time.

I came back that Saturday, and on the way back from the airport we decided to try the new (chain restaurant) Granite City Brewpub at Zona Rosa shopping center. I tried the IPA, and it had some problems, but was drinkable. The staff knew nothing about the beer, though. I asked what the "specialty brew" tap handle was, and the only answer I could get was, "all of our beers are special." So I went to the bartender and got the same answer. Then I wanted a sample of the Maibock. She poured half of a shot glass of Maibock, and the other half with light lager. I said, "what the hell are you doing?" She said, "I'm giving you a double-pull." She explained that they give double pulls on all of their beers that are "more powerful" because the general public can't take the extreme nature of the tastes involved. You can actually order all of their beers that way. Cross this piece of shit operation off of my list. I'm a Beer Snob! A person has to have standards, though. Any "brewpub" in this day and age that thinks they have to "protect" people from complex or wonderful tastes by dummying-down their beers, should NOT BE IN THE BUSINESS OF BREWING! Fug off, Granite City. Go back to Planet Mediocrity, or where ever the heck you came from.

Then I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at home last week; I took last week as vacation, leading up to our trip to Yuma to spend Thanksgiving with the in-laws. Before I left, I transferred my first batch out of the new fermenter, a Belgian Tripel. to kegs and force-carbonated. I also transferred 10 gallons of Kölsch to kegs from a secondary fermenter. Both beers turned out marvelous! The Tripel is really complex, and you shouldn't drink more than a brandy snifter at a time. It started at a gravity of 1.085 and ended up at 1.012, and I used 4 different yeast strains and various temperature ranges during its fermentation cycle. The Kölsch is very refreshing with some pronounced noble hop notes. It was the lightest gravity Kölsch that I've produced, with an a final ABV of 3.1%. I created this batch for a friend of mine that I owe a couple of favors to.

We took my grandson with us to Yuma. This is the 4th plane trip for this fun little 3-1/2 year old. It was a pretty laid-back time, and I only ran once for about 90 minutes on the canals. A very relaxing trip to a sleepy little city. On the way back during the plane trip, I figured out a unique recipe for an all-grain, "Multi-Grain IPA" which will include Maris Otter malt, Pilsener malt, wheat malt, rye malt, and oat malt. More on that later. We got back late Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday, in lieu of trail running, I had scheduled a trail-building day at WyCo Park. Five of us showed up, and blazed about 1/2 mile of new singletrack trail in about 4 hours. I had scoped it out the previous Tuesday with my dog. I put down surveyor's flags behind him as he walked the natural path of least resistance through the woods. I named this section of trail after him, of course. The new trail will ultimately add 600 ft of elevation gain with 600 ft of loss, and a lot of beautiful switchbacks up and down the hills. I'm hoping we can finish it next Saturday, so that we can run on it by Sunday morning.

This week I'll spend time getting back in shape. I'll be back to my normal routine of 5 to 6 days of trailrunning and 5 days of weightlifting (per week). I'm sure I'll be sore, but I think the "rest" that I had the past 2 weeks will do me good, in the long run.

I'm only a couple of months out from running my next 100-mile trail run. I checked to see who had registered so far, and was surprised to see some new names from my neck of the woods who I've never heard of. I "Googled" them, and it appears one of them has at least one 50-miler under his belt. The other person has never even run a marathon, or so it appears. Good luck, guys!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

T-Shirt Design for Psycho WyCo

Jason Crosby designed the new shirt for the latest incarnation of the "Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run." You have to check it out; it's awesome! Jason is quite the artist, and has become an avid trailrunner. He just completed his first marathon on October 23rd.

The Pyscho WyCo race is a tough course; you have a choice of running the 50K, the 20-miler, or the 10-miler. Come and join us on February 11th, for some wicked fun.

Friday, November 11, 2005

College Station, Tejas...Bummer it isn't Austin

I need to pack-up my stuff for Texas. It's my once per year, six-day business trip to A & M in College Station. At least it won't be too hot in November. My flight leaves Sunday afternoon, so I will at least be able to get in a good trail run Sunday morning.
I dislike that town immensely, but I get along OK while I'm there. The running sucks down there, so I will join a gym for the week and be fine...(or so I tell myself). I'm also within staggering distance of some decent restaurants and bars; (I don't have to drive to them).
Here's my schedule while I'm down there:
4:00am: go to gym and workout;
5:30am: shower, eat b'fast, brew some coffee for the day & put in thermos...(the coffee at my conference sucks);

7:00am: drive to my class, learn something, and bullshit with the bumpkins;
5:00pm: get out of class, shower, and go eat;
7:00pm: 3 possibilities: 1) study, 2) go for a run, or 3) get shitfaced.
10:00pm: Hit the rack.
Repeat 4 more times.

That'll be my week. I usually am pretty disciplined on business trips, so I won't get into too much trouble. (That comes with age and experience, I guess).

Craft Beer Post

When I get home from work and done with everything today, I'm going to enjoy a small bottle of Duchesse De Bourgogne. It's a Flanders Red Ale brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Belgium. This oak-aged beer is so good, it should have a song written for it to the tune of "Mickey, you're so fine" something like this: "Yum, yum, it's so fine, hey Duchesse, hey Duchesse!"
Speaking of Belgians:
I have a Belgian Tripel that I just jacked-up the final fermentation temperature on, to attenuate it some more. I should be able to drink it in a week, when I get back from Texas. It's the first batch in my new stainless steel fermenter. Here's a photo and story about that. I've since added an electrically-heated wrap, because I keep the temp of my house between 63 - 66 degrees during the cooler months. That's too low for proper (Belgian ale) fermentation.

Good, Cool Night Trail Run

We had a nice, cool run at Minor Park on the BuRP Trails last night. The temperature was right at the dew point, so it felt much cooler than it actually was. I wore shorts with a long-sleaved lightweight top, and gloves.

James called and said he couldn't run...he had almost gotten there, then realized he had forgotton his running shoes. I've done the same a few times, as well. Work and a busy lifestyle gets in the way of memory, sometimes.

Doug, Jason, and Good Ben showed up, so we had a 4-person crew to tear up da woods. Jason was feeling fully recovered from his marathon; Good Ben was chomping at the bit to run (after his wine country vacation); and Doug is always ready for some fast trail running.

So, I set a faster pace than normal right from the start. We were playing leapfrog with some night MTB'ers. We would race ahead of them on the technical stuff, and they would catch us on the faster, less rocky trails. By the first crossing of the Blue River, we had lost them for good. The water wasn't as cold or deep as I thought it would be. The trails on the west side of the river are very fast, and I set a steady, but fast pace. I let Good Ben lead from the 2nd river crossing to the finish. We finished the 7 miles of rocky, rooty trail in about 1-hour even. Fast enough to kick some Mountain Bike Ass, I'd say.

Side note: I shouldn't eat barbeque at lunch, and then LEAD a trail run. The "Flatulence Factor" was tearing-up my running partners. I mean it...their eyes were burning. Sorry dudes!

Tomorrow morning I have to go into work, so I won't be running at WyCo. I'll lead the group on Sunday at SM Park, though. We should be able to crank-out at least 15 miles on the trails; the weather and trail conditions will be perfect.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Running & Training

We had a good group trail run, last night. It was dark and and unseasonably warm - about 75 degrees F, or so. Seven runners showed up, and only 2 runners dropped out at the 5-mile half-way point. Kyle led for most of the run. He pushed the pace right up until the end. Only one runner, James, fell down on the trail (without injury).

Afterward, I showered and played hide and seek with my grandson and dog. We watched him until about 11 PM. I had settled in front of the TV by 9:30 PM (to start reading Humboldt's Gift, again). I haven't read this book since 1992, and am looking forward to getting into it, again. I relaxed with a nice homebrew of mine, (a black India Pale Ale), and a bottle of Sierra Nevada's latest version of "Celebration Ale."

My 100-miler training schedule is working out well, so far.
Check out my "normal" average training week, for the last few months:

Morning: Weights for 1 hour: Chest, shoulders, Tri's, calves, abs
Evening: 4 - 6 mile "recovery" run (sometimes on pavement)
Morning: Weights for 1 hour: Back, biceps, calves, abs
Evening: 10-mile "tempo" trail run w/flashlight
Morning: Weights for 1 hour: Legs, abs
Evening: 6-10 mile pavement or trail run
Morning: Weights for 1 hour: Chest, shoulders, Tri's, calves, abs
Evening: 7-mile "tempo" trail run w/flashlight
Weights for 1 hour: Back, biceps, calves, abs
No running
Morning: Long & slow trail run 12-30 Miles
Morning: Medium-distance & slow trail run 10-15 Miles

It may seem excessive, but overall fitness is very important in the later stages of a 100-mile trail run; especially core body strength. I'm pretty sick of running on pavement, so I've almost completely switched to trail running. No surprise there, I've been moving in this direction for years.
So far, I've been able to balance family, friends, work, reading, homebrewing, and the other things in my life, as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Solo Night Trail Run

I had a really nice trail run, last night.
I had gotten off from work a little late, so I couldn't meet and run with my Monday night pavement buddies. I like social runs, but I'm becoming quite an "anti-pavement activist" runner, of late. I put on my (recently dried) trail shoes and drove to Shawnee Mission Park. The Earthriders MTB Club have recently put in some new trails at SM Park, so I ran on them alone.

I love running alone, (at night), on trails. The sounds of deer and other animals are everywhere, but just out of sight, and you have this self-produced "tunnel of light" to run in. You would think that it would be spooky, but I find it naturally comforting. I usually run all night without company on my 100-mile trail runs, so it's good to get used to running alone. Rocky Raccoon is only 2 months away, after all!

I hit the trails pretty hard, and cranked-out 5 miles quickly. It was unseasonably warm, and I sweated through my clothes by the time I finally stopped back at the car.

Afterward, I drove home and showered. I then went with my son and his out of town buddy to 75th Street Brewery, to meet up with my regular Monday night running group. It was Cooker's 57th birthday, and his wife was there with a cake to celebrate.

Today is Tuesday. I will meet and lead the "usual suspects" on an after-dark 10-mile trail run at SM Park. Fun, Fun! We've been averaging 9 people every Tuesday night. Night trail running is great training, and darn fun, too.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Let's Catch Up

I haven't posted for a while, so, I'll catch you up with the last week and a half of events.
A couple of Sundays ago, on October 23rd, Kyle and I decided at the last second to do the Blue Springs Trail Marathon. We had also run it last year (as a training run), and thought it would be a great (and cheap) training day marathon. We had another intent, as well: to push/pull our newbie trailrunning buddy Jason Crosby, to his first marathon finish. Jason designed the shirt for the race. The pace we kept was slow, steady, and fun.
How I felt: I could've run about 30 to 45 minutes faster in the race, but that wasn't the was supposed to be a long, slow, distance training run. I'm happy with how my training is going...I barely felt the marathon after I was done, and ran hard & fast two days later, on a 10-mile trail run.
The night trail runs are great! We've had 9 people on average show up on both Tuesday and Thursday nights to run on rocky, rooty, and hilly trails. I even had a special Halloween Costume Trail Run last week. I called it the "Boo River Parkway Trail Run", and it was run on the Blue River Parkway Trails. James Barker showed up as Alex, with a tree branch stuck to his head, a vodka bottle in his hand, and a dog chomping onto his arm. "Good Ben" Reeves showed up as Little Red Riding Hood, red dress and all. Kyle Amos was Darth Vader, and I was a dead runner, wearing bib numbers "666" on the front, and "1313" on my back. Newbies Chris, Caleb, and Doug showed up, as well. Good fun and a fast trail run. We ran the 7+ miles of dirt trails and water crossings in 1:02! Not bad. I had brought some appropriate homebrew for afterward: Drive-By Malt Liquor and Bitch-Slap Black Ale.
We ran long the next morning (Saturday) at Shawnee Mission Park, then had a trail maintenance day on Sunday at Wyandotte County Park. Five of us worked for over 5 hours adding some decent singletrack trails at WyCo.
I ended up getting strep throat from my grandson (or son), and missed almost a full day of work on Monday. The antibiotics are kicking in, and I had my first run since Saturday on Wednesday night. We ran on the paved streamway trails for the WNR. We met at 103rd & State Line, and Jeff P and I ran for about 6 miles. It felt good to run again. We had a little tailgate party afterward. I hit the weights this morning. Back into the swing of things, again! I'm well on my way to another training buildup for the Rocky Raccoon 100-mile Trail Run in February. It will be the 4th year in a row that I've run in the Rocky Raccoon 100.