Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gerald's Pumpkin

1 BRS point to the first person to correctly identify the neurologic disorder demonstrated by this pumpkin.

Happy Halloween BRSers!

The Ventoux family pumpkin:

We'd also like to announce that we are upping the ante for NMN. We had been saving these for Baby Ventoux's college fund; however, in the spirit of competition, the winner of NMN will become the proud owner of these collector's edition cards.

Seek and Ye Shall Find! SWIG.

K - So Guth, Gerald, & I also believe Papa V all have their beloved scotch. My pops is a devoted vodka martini man. Even 1st Class is all about Jack Daniels, but I was always fronting. Although I could put down a shot, I never ever really liked any hard liquor or mixed drink. Until now...

Gin & Tonic! Damn. Where have you been all my life?

bike, run, SWIG!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 NMN

CDs for 2010 NMN will be due by Nov. 19. I will make copies, and re-distribute by Thanksgiving weekend. Select a five letter animal this year. You choose the order of the songs. Categories are:
  1. Song about death
  2. Song by an artist introduced to you by your parents
  3. Song about a place (references city, state, or country)
  4. Song you’ve repeatedly gotten drunk/high to
  5. Song to make sexy time to
  6. Good early song by an artist who should retire now
  7. Song with animal noises in it
  8. Song for secret cutters
  9. Song that makes you nostalgic
  10. Song to work out/run to
  11. 2 song combo - a) group b) solo artist from group
  12. Jerry Maguire's Free Fallin' equivalent (song you would sing aloud alone in your car)
  13. Song with lyrics meaningful to you

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Lonely at the Top (actual Newman Song)

Goodbye Randy! Your reign at the top for BRS' NMN is over. We'll miss you...

This year's mandatory category will be a "song about death". Other potential categories include:

songs with clapping
children's song
song in 8 bit/midi format
Non-hip-hop song with repeated profanity
song embarrassed to like
song to kick down a door
song to make sexy time to
good early song by artist who should retire now
van halen v van hagar
pop song that could have inspired kurt cobain to kill himself
overly pretentious pearl jam song
solo joint by ex-NWA member
song you could drive 105 mph across montana to
texas song
song with whistling
song with long/short pause
tv related song
song from film
meaningful lyrics to you
first song you got drunk to (or remember)
artist introduced to you by your parents
randy newman song

These are the potential categories. As current champion, Crow will pick all the categories. Any other suggestions should be commented. Voting closes 10/30. Final categories will be posted by 11/1.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mt. St. Helens 10-17-10 (It’s a VOLCANO!)

I noticed this odd pain behind my right knee at the Chicago marathon expo last weekend. Oh well, nothing more advil can’t kill, ran the marathon, hopped back on the plane, but the next 2 days, something was not right. By Tuesday I was limping and my calf felt swollen. I could not comfortably dorsiflex my ankle and hadn’t resumed running yet. I diagnosed myself by the dreaded Homan sign. “Larry?” I asked my coworker. “I think I have a DVT.” He gnashed on my popliteal fossa and I nearly hit the ceiling. “Yep, I think you do”. Unfortunately, I was right this time. 9 hours later I lay on a stretcher in the ER, where I swore I would never go again until I was on the verge of death. But I needed to know, “doc, when can I run again?” I don’t think he really knew the answer, but gave the casual reply, “in a month”.

I saw my life flash before my eyes. In an instant I realized, I have no life outside running. I already knew I had screwed myself into being banned from OCPs/ HRT for life and from Ranger Candy (aka Advil) for at least 3 months, had to take lovenox injections and Coumadin and repeated INR checks, but a month without running? I would go insane. I was feeling pretty damn sorry for myself.

My PMD was able to convey to me that there was no convincing evidence that exercise with a DVT while therapeutically anticoagulated was dangerous (wink, wink), but that I should not run just yet, probably skip the 50k trail run I had planned for Saturday, and definitely try not to fall on my face (I’m extrapolating here). She didn’t say anything about HIKING.

So when SPC emailed me that he and Guth were planning to summit Mt. St. Helens this weekend, there was no question I had to go. I had tried and failed once before, it was April 2007 with SPC and Ventoux who had both done it before, but the freezing rain and sheet of solid ice was too much, and so packed up our ice picks and crampons and hung out in Portland at the Poser Café instead. (photo lost on dead hard drive)

Mt. St. Helens is a volcano in southwest Washington. I still remember the big explosion of 1980, when it was all over the news, but it has been active as recently as April 2007. SPC has told me stories of how he and First Class got stuck in a zero visibility storm near the top and that is why he carries walkie-talkies now on every climb. He heard someone died slipping off the lip of the crater just last month. According to the website, it is a beginner-friendly climb: “Most climbers use the Monitor Ridge Route from Climbers Bivouac. This route gains 4,500 feet in five miles to the crater rim at 8,365 feet elevation. Although strenuous, this non-technical climb is suitable for people in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling on steep, rugged terrain. Most climbers complete the round trip in seven to twelve hours”.

We drove 4 hours down to Cougar, WA, listening to Lady Sovereign and discussing whether time really exists or is just a construct like living in the Matrix. Picked up our climber permits, bought a refrigerator magnet and a pen filled with volcanic ash from 1980, but restrained myself from buying the T-shirt that read, “I kicked ASH on Mt. St. Helens”. Check out the digs at the Lone Fir Lodge: bunk bed and Kleenex/ holy bible at bedside! We ate broasted chicken at the Lodge restaurant (braised + roasted = something that looks exactly like fried chicken) and reviewed the geography of U.K. and Ireland. N.B. Sweet & Low = Scotland, Stevia packet on left = Rebublic of Ireland, and Stevia packet on right = Wales. U.K. = packets on right + Northern Ireland (the sugar packet on left). Then prehydrated with fine Washington beer. Tried unsuccessfully to get a perfect tritone by blowing across 2 beer bottles filled to different levels. Then it was up at 4:45 AM to get ready for an early start.

We started in the dark with our headlamps. Waaaay overdressed (we couldn't ask for a better weather day) due to my recent experience on Ben Lomond, but better safe than sorry.
The worst thing about seeing the rocks is knowing how going down will actually be harder than going up. That's where we're going? But it's worth it to catch the Buttcrack of dawn....

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Every time I scraped my shin or bopped my head on a rock I kept picturing the giant SDH that was forming, and everytime I felt a calf cramp I pictured the massive PE or MCA stroke I was going to have from throwing a clot from the yet undiagnosed PFO I had. In the end, I think I just had a hard time because I had not exercised for a whole week, and because I’m a klutz at baseline. But once you start thinking about nothing but where you're going to grab the next rock, it's all good. Thanks guys, for waiting for Slow Ass again. And stopping to smell the roses... I marvel that the best Nalgene bottles Guth can find to hold his water is old FBS bottles from his dad's lab...
but at least he has cool socks

It is really like being on the moon.

Then we hit the ash at the top, only 1000 more feet to climb. 2 steps forward, 1 step back. 10 more yards, 5 more yards, 2 more yards, then .... BOOM! the crater!
There's actually smoke coming from there:

Of course, we had to claim the mountain for Scotland...

While at the top, we paused for 30 minutes to eat lunch. "Look at that runner", I heard. I looked up and couldn't believe my eyes, an ultra runner wearing nothing but shorts, sunglasses, and trail shoes, and carrying only a 22 oz handheld bottle, was RUNNING up to the crater and past us to the other peak. As he ran by my jaw dropped and I gawked openly. Later we saw him chopping down the hill which I was crawling down on all 4's, like it was not a bunch of loose sharp rocks at 8000+ feet elevation. I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!

The descent was fabulous, all the colors we didn't see climbing in the dark:

It was not as bad as I thought until I bonked big time, just a few hundred yards from the treeline but it felt like 26.2 miles. Luckily SPC talked me out of the quicksand and we made it to the treeline.

We now have some fur on our chests, like the fur Guth photographed growing on the trees, and another rock for the collection.

I still have over a month to train for the QUADZILLA!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicago 10-10-10

Not quite at BUI level but not enough time to get plastered before returning to work in AM.

I'm not sure when my youngest cousin Eric, (yes, you're YOUNG) told me he decided to pursue the full marathon. I think it was even before he ran his first half at Carlsbad in January, and I met him there to run the full. I think it was my idea to recruit him, cousin Roger from Fairfax, and my brother Steve to run Chicago 10-10-10. Steve, being the busy 3rd year med student and father of 2 bailed fairly early on. Roger injured his foot 3 days before the race, so despite having bought a plane ticket and trained for months, decided last minute not to come. So it was me & Eric.

Eric looked in good form; he has taken up boxing. Like actual punching and being punched out, jumping ropes and doing knuckle pushups in grey sweats in some overheated gym in LA where the jocks push their renal function to the limits. We went to the expo to get our packets and met up with my old friend Chris Z from Forest Park whom I'd met in Barcelona and last seen over 3 years ago when I lived in Chicago and we ran the Downer's Grove 5 miler together. You've come a long way, baby!

The Chicago marathon is huge, with 45,000 runners; I think it is only behind London and New York in size. It filled to capacity 6 months in advance this year; that's how many crazy people there are. I think it was because it was 10-10-10, a magical date on which thousands of Chinese are undoubtedly eating spicy food or having C-sections hoping their child will be born lucky. (SPC, I know it's not as cool as yeven yeven) The first time I ran it, I had just moved back there from Boston and it was my first non-bandit race. The 2nd time, it was 42 degrees and I was going for time. The 3rd time I was just trying not to die, it was 92 degrees and they shut the course down early due to heat, the day before I moved to Seattle. This time, I realized for the first time how scenic Chicago is...

It was projected to be 83 degrees. That is Chicago. I advised Eric not to do anything new race day, have your usual long run breakfast and wear your usual long run clothing. That mean steak, eggs, pasta, and salad! Unfortunately, that also meant a 9 minute pit-stop at the Golden Nugget (how poetic is that). Code Brown barely averted... for what was apparently the most exquisite #2 in marathon history.

We plowed along, and I was transported along memory lane. When I worked at Rush and went to Moretti's after. Eating at Golden Nugget with K2 and Kristina, the Germans from the OA lab. 16 years ago! An undeserved sense of kinship with the Koreans beating their traditional drums at mile 20? A sighting of the Eiffel Tower at mile 16? Vive la France...

Met up with Chris after for photos.
Eric & I had planned a stop at White Castle after, but he said he only wanted healthy food. What's up with that?

Congratulations, boys. Anyone up for Amsterdam October 2011?

Monday, October 4, 2010

One Perfect Scottish Day 10-01-10

How much can you pack into one day? My already limited time in Glasgow where I was attending a neurology meeting was further limited by spending the first half of the week in bed with a cold, probably from sleep deprivation and traveling from Seattle to San Luis Potosi Mexico to give a lecture, then back to Seattle, then to Southwest England for a marathon, then hopping a train to Scotland, all in 5 days.

I had hoped to “bag a munroe”, which apparently means to climb a large hill/ small mountain of >3000 ft. This was named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919), who produced the first list of such hills, known as Munro's Tables, in 1891. And apparently there is a club of nutty Scots who make it their goal to bag all 283 munroes, the record was in 40 days. I also learned that “Highland” refers to both being the northern part of GB, but also that the land is actually higher, with munroes everywhere. They look kind of like buttes, actually. I stopped in to a tourist bureau one afternoon to inquire. The gent at the desk, who like pretty much everyone I encountered in Scotland was unusually friendly and helpful, was at a loss. I got the impression that munroe bagging was not something tourists typically asked about, particularly given the foreasted rainstorms of the week.

Luckily I had met an actual Scotsman, M, who despite having a killer schedule of medical rotations and night shift jobs, not only planned out the most action-packed day but actually came and picked me up at 6 AM after pulling an all-nighter to show me the sights personally.

6 AM: Drove to Loch Lomond national park with the goal of summiting Ben Lomond. The initial part was lovely, but just when we were thinking we were safe from the forecasted torrential rainstorms, it hit about 1/2way up the 3196 ft climb. Sideways rain and wind so hard I nearly blew over; we tried to warn a guy we passed on his way up, who just shrugged. This is Scotland, and what do you expect on a munroe in October?

10:40 AM (thereabouts): finished sloshing down the mountain. The thing about waterproof boots, they are also waterproof on the inside, which means any cold water which gets in from your soaking pants (which kept falling down because my belt was on my jeans, N.B. “pants” apparently means “panties” in British, and “jumpers” are not little girl dresses, but sweaters. I felt a little like when I had to turn on the English subtitles to understand the subtleties of “Trainspotting” because I couldn’t understand some accents) stays inside the boot. Nowhere to change clothes except the car. No time either, had to get to the Scotch distillery for the “scotch masterclass” reservation at 11:40. "White knuckle” might be a bit strong to describe the nascar ride up and down a rolling single track road in the rain.

11:45. Arrived at Glengoyne distillery, the southernmost of the Highland distilleries. Luckily was able to finish changing clothes before the masterclass since we were the only 2 people signed up for that session. There I saw my very first “crapper”, so named for Thomas Crapper, who according to Wikipedia was not actually inventor of the flushable toilet, but popularized it. It took me awhile to figure out British toilets- like spasticity they are velocity dependent. If you press the plunger slowly it just fills up with water for 2 seconds and stops; must be depressed briskly (in case any of you finds yourself in Britain and starting to wonder why every toilet you pick happens to be the broken one).

11:45-4:30: I could not imagine there was so much to learn in a 5 hour scotch masterclass, which was not much like a flute masterclass. Learned every step of the manufacturing process in excrutiating detail, including handling the malted barley and tasting the yeast used to make the mash. Apparently, whiskey is distilled from a beer-like substance and aged in oak barrels primed with fancy-pants sherry from Spain.

We sniffed component flavors, learned to distinguish "vanilla" from "honey" notes, how to “blend” a whiskey from a bunch of single malts + 40% grain alcohol, and drank a whole lot of scotch, not to mention the sherry used to season the casks. Learned that “smokey” refers to malt that has been cooked with peat, which imparts a flavor reminiscent of bacon, or at least bacon vodka. Apparently this is a feature predominant in western or island scotches, whereas lighter more “pure” flavors come from Speyside. You're supposed to swish it around in a special stemmed glass (can't recall the name...), "nose" it, and see the "legs", how viscous it is dripping down the sides, before actually tasting it. I think the ploy was designed to get the high rollers piss-drunk so they will buy all the expensive scotch in the gift shop, and it was not hard to get the masterclass instructor to open up 21-year old bottles of single cask serial numbered bottles just because we asked; luckily Scotch does not get older once a bottle is opened; aging stops when it leaves the cask. My blend I called the “Flying Scotsman” after Graeme Obree, though I was nearly flying myself after that: it will be the prize at the HTTM challenge!

5 PM: All you can eat buffet dinner at the Carvery. I didn’t get to try any haggis, a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach or sheep's intestine for approximately three hours, which every Scot seems to insist is tasty, but I did find out what a Yorkshire pudding is. It looks like a puff pastry shell; where is the pudding in the pudding? M has a badminton tournament match at 7 PM, and was nice enough to include me. Worried at all about having pulled an all-nighter, climbed a mountain in torrential rain, then downed 20 shots of scotch before the tournament? Nah, all just a typical day.

6:45 PM: Arrived at the country club where the badminton tourney was to be. Learned that it is true that tennis players (OK I’m stretching here to make a point) make lousy badminton players. It is like tennis combined with fencing- the racquets weigh like 65 g and swish way faster than tennis raquets, the reaction times seem faster yet the projectiles slow down exponentially as they travel. I got to play with some of the club players, who were all ages and all levels, but rotated so everyone got to play everyone and they were very inclusive. In between, I surreptitiously openly filmed the players.

9:30 PM. Tournament over, plan is to pass by the “car park in the sky” to see the lights of Glasgow on the way back to the hotel. More speeding along single track “C” roads, with some Scottish bands playing on the stereo, but by now the rain was gone, the skies clear. Was able to see the stars as well as the city, it was really like when you see city lights from a plane only it goes on because, well you’re not on a plane, you’re on the ground.

10:30 PM: Too soon they day is over and it’s time to shove a bunch of wet clothes into my bags and leave for Inverness and the Loch Ness marathon at 6 AM, and after that even sadder, back to reality. I try not to be sad for the end of a perfect day; try as I might, I can’t make a perfect day last forever. Sometimes it helps to have reminders that there is more out there than you thought- life is short.