A Couple Random Pictures

Day’s Verse:
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!

Ecclesiastes 9:8-9ish

Birthday Sunset
The sunset on May 23, with only a little digital enhancement. Some compensation, I suppose, for creeping another year closer to the big 3-0. That, and Ian’s

The Top of Cougar Mountain
This is the view from the very tip top of Cougar Mountain, in an as-yet-undeveloped future neighborhood. Pretty spectacular: Even with my lousy camera phone, when you zoom the picture to 100% you can make out (from left to right) the Puget Sound on the far left, Seattle (through trees), Lake Washington, Bellevue, Lake Sammamish, Factoria/Issaquah, and (through more trees, just barely) the Cascade Mountains on the far right. On a clear day, with a good camera, this view would really knock your socks off. The caveat is that it’s at the top of a 1500′ climb, with numerous 15% to 17% pitches and even more 10% to 12% pitches. It’s not trivial to get there by bike, let me tell you, but well worth it when you get to the top.

A baby update:
This week has been a bit rough with Benji; we’ve had no grandparental help, which is rougher on me than on him. He’s working hard on getting his tummy off the ground to crawl for real, but he’s also become a master of the Army crawl and can scoot around alarmingly rapidly when he wants to. One of his top teeth has just started poking through, too, and the other’s nearly there, although we’ve thought that for a couple weeks now, so who knows. But based on the continuous fussing, refusal to nap, and copious drool volumes, I’m guessing it’ll be soon. Can’t be soon enough, if you ask me, although I know that’s only four teeth out of 20. Gah. When those two come in, we’re still only 20% of the way there. But on the bright side, he sits really well unassisted when motivated (spinning the globe is a particular favorite right now, as is reading peek-a-boo books) and spends a lot of time screeching loudly in happy excitement.

At Benji’s 9 month doctor visit, the doctor told us he didn’t need to eat overnight for nutrition; he gets plenty of calories between solids and formula during the day. Right now Benji goes down about 6:00 pm and wakes up between 6:00 and 7:00 am, with one wake-up for food in the night — the exact time varies, but usually between 1:00 and 3:00 am. He sucks four to six ounces of formula down in 10 minutes and usually goes straight back to sleep. Ian and I aren’t sure if we want to change this status quo yet; I’m mostly leaving it to Ian, who does the night feeding (I always still wake up for it, so it’s still disruptive, but at least I don’t have to get out of bed). I’m kind of hoping that Benji will wean himself from that final feeding, but if he doesn’t do it soon, I suppose we’ll have to step in.

Overall, Benji has gotten increasingly challenging as he’s grown older, but commensurately delightful. He babbles, he laughs, he noms on food, he blows raspberries, he crawls and investigates things… In short (I know, too late!) he’s slowly turning into a little person, and that’s truly amazing to watch and participate in.

Cougar Mountain Hill Ride

Day’s Verse:
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6-ish

I haven’t mentioned my bicycling lately because by and large it’s not real interesting. I do intervals, either on my trainer in the garage or on my bike on Tuesday nights with my team. Once in a while I do a race and place between 7th and 9th. My last race, Ravensdale Road Race, was on May 11 and without a doubt my heart wasn’t in it. As with any individual (or semi-individual) sport, so much of biking performance depends on your mental state, and that day, two days after Ben died, I couldn’t summon the drive and focus to ride as I could have.

Yesterday I didn’t race, but my ride was interesting enough I’m going to take a moment while Benji mutters unhappily in his crib and talk about it. I’m training for the North Shore Road Race, which is in mid-June, and known to be a hilly race. With my high power-to-weight ratio (read “because I’m skinny and can occasionally ride hard”), I tend to climb hills better than many other women. So I like to target hillier races.

That means I get to ride up lots of hills to train. Years ago, when I first started biking, I remember a bike racer I knew in Massachusetts complaining she couldn’t find any “five-minute hills.” She wanted hills that took at least five minutes of hard riding to summit, and frankly, Massachusetts is woefully lacking in such climbs. At the time she said that, I couldn’t imagine wanting to ride up a hill for five minutes or longer. Now I can, and do.

Which leads us to yesterday’s bike ride, in which I specially went to Issaquah to ride up Cougar Mountain four different ways. Now, properly this is probably a foothill of the Cascades, but it stands alone and rises over 1500′ from base to summit, a common reference for Seattle-area cyclists seeking a “really big hill.” Riding up it once in a ride is an accomplishment. I set out to ride it four times, four different approaches, and honestly I wasn’t even sure I could. Seriously, when cyclists around here talk about Zoo Hill or Montreaux, it’s usually with hushed voices tinged with pride and a memory of suffering. These are long, steep, hard hills.

Here’s what I did:

That first 25 miles I rode with Dad. He, alas, was recovering from a cold and didn’t join me for the hard part, but having company down to Issaquah did make the getting there part more fun.

I started with Zoo Hill, the shortest and therefore (on average) steepest climb. It went well, going steeply but through pretty wooded areas with minimal traffic. I stayed seated almost the entire time and rode to as close to the radio towers at the top of the hill as I could. The temperature dropped about 5° from base to summit. In July there’s a race up this hill called the Cougar Mountain Hill Climb, which I would do at the drop of a hat, except the very next day I’m doing the biking part of the Lake Stevens Half-Ironman. Darn.

Then I rode up Montreaux, where my Garmin battery died partway up and caused me great disappointment. That was overall easier than Zoo Hill, but ended with an incredibly steep section that I had to stand up for. The rest of the hill just softens you up for that part. I passed a guy who complimented me on my bike, which showed his excellent taste in bicycles.

After that I rode up Lakemont, which is longer and less steep, and also had a stoplight I got stuck at for an absurdly long time. Bah!

I finished by riding up 164th (an approach whose name I don’t know, if it has one), the longest and shallowest of the climbs.

Each climb took me about 25 to 30 minutes, so I spent about two hours going up and down — mostly up — Cougar Mountain. Then I rode home through Bellevue, a shorter and more direct way than the way Dad and I took on our way south. Thank goodness the wind came from the south/south-west, so some of the time it felt almost tailwind-y. A headwind would probably have doubled my ride-home time, which even so took an astonishingly long time. Riding up Market Street, which one of my teammates once described as “a big roller” (to all our scoffing), my poor tired legs barely managed to turn the pedals. Throughout the ride, the initially heavy clouds started breaking up and turned to partly sunny skies and much warmer temperatures than I expected: a nice bonus. I got home quite pooped and amazed I’d ridden 70 miles with 7300′ of climbing.

In short, although I rode alone most of the time, I had a really enjoyable, challenging training ride, infinitely more interesting and fun than yet another set of intervals. Sadly, I don’t have the time to do a ride of that magnitude on a regular basis, but Ian gave me an excellent late birthday present by watching Benji while I spent the morning riding.

When I’d gotten fed and showered, I took Benji off to see his great-grandparents. He was fascinated with the gold in Great-Grandpa Fred’s mouth and kept trying to grab that shiny stuff in there. Ha!