Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beer Olympics . . . Round 1 (a.k.a.- Battle of the Transportation Beers, get it?)


Cue The Fanfare for the Common Man (or other Olympic inspired music) Round One of the Beer Olympics is in the books.  Last night pitted two Excellent Colorado Brews against one another, and the result wasn't surprising (at least not to me).  The contenders included "Mass Transit Ale" from the Bristol Brewery in Colorado Springs vs. the long standing "Fat Tire" from New Belgium.  Here's how it went down:
Beer A: Mass Transit Ale
In order to remove any preconceived bias that might sway the decision, I enlisted the help of my lovely wife to assist with the process.  She poured each of the selected beers out of my sight, so that I would be able to sample each without knowing which beer I was drinking.   She also provided refills and a glass of water so that I could clear the palette from time to time.  The competition required that each beer be rated on a scale of one to five in four categories: Aroma, Taste, Mouth Feel, and Finish.  Only after careful sampling, and a decision about which beer was preferred, was I told which beer was which.  Until then, they were simply Beer A and Beer B.
Beer A had a great aroma.  Slight honey smell, and quite bright.  The taste of the beer was also very satisfying.  There were some caramel overtones in the malt, but it remained fairly light.  No one flavor really overwhelmed the beer, leaving a nicely balanced taste.  The mouth feel was very crisp, and somewhat light for an amber ale.  Finally, the finish started slightly bitter, and grew stronger.  This was easily remedied with another sip, but the bitterness would linger for several seconds.
Beer B also had an equally nice scent. There were more grassy, lemon-like notes to its aroma.  The taste was remarkable.  Caramel flavors and a deep coppery sensation, but still remarkably balanced.  This was a beer with a combination of flavors that was near-perfect for an amber ale.  Complex, yet not distracting.  The mouth feel was slightly more full-bodied than Beer A, but it remained quite crisp.   There just seemed to be a little more depth to it.  Lastly, the beer had a slightly bitter finish, but unlike Beer A, it dissipated more quickly.
Beer B: Fat Tire
 It took some time to reach a decision about these two.  They both were very close in character, so determining a preference required some patience and careful consideration.  I had to sample both "several times" in order to be fair and objective.  But after contemplating these two for a while, I was finally able to reach a decision.  In terms of aroma, they were both equally pleasing.  This resulted in a tie score.  However, in the other categories of taste, mouth feel, and finish, Beer B got the honors by a small margin.  Both beers were very enjoyable, but in the end I preferred Beer B.  I shared my findings with the Mrs. and she revealed that Beer A was the Mass Transit, while Beer B was the Fat Tire. 
So congratulations to Fat Tire which moves on to the Semi Final Round of the Beer Olympics.  It seems appropriate.  Don't get me wrong, both of these beers are excellent, and I would happily drink a Mass Transit Ale, a fine beer in its own right.  Comparing the two of them however, the Fat Tire tastes a bit more balanced and mature.  In Fat Tire, New Belgium crafted a really fantastic beer that in my opinion (and in this Olympics, it's the one that counts!) is a strong contender for the Finals.  As for Bristol Brewing, I wouldn't be surprised to see them in another round of the Olympics (perhaps for their Compass IPA).
Sticking with the Colorado theme, next up will be a contest between the 90 Schilling and Avalanche Ale.  In the meantime, Happy Drinking!



Thursday, July 25, 2013

A dollar makes a difference


I've signed up for the Boulder Sunset Triathlon (Olympic Distance).  This event is organized by a group called "Your Cause Sports"  and they do something kind of unique with their races.  Each participating athlete selects an organization that they are racing for, and commits to fundraising on their behalf.  As part of the sign up process, athletes create a fundraising page to assist in collecting donations.  There are dozens of organizations that benefit from these events, and it's a simple way for triathletes to do something positive while participating in a race. This year, we learned that a close family friend and colleague was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so I wanted to use my entry to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of her.  Anyone that would like to donate can do so through the link listed here.  I'm accepting any donation (even $1) and thank you in advance for your help.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mountain at Breckenridge


This weekend we wrapped up a trip to one of our favorite hangouts . . . Breckenridge, Colorado.   Almost every summer, we manage to spend a few days there enjoying the sites, shopping, swimming, and of course, running.  One of my traditions each year is to challenge myself by running on one of the mountains (usually it's Peak 10 since we stay at the base).  This year was no different.  I like this run for a number of reasons, but certainly, the breathtaking views of the mountains is one of them.
Looking back down on Breckenridge
 After prepping the night before with Pizza and Beer from Downstairs at Eric's, I woke early on Sunday morning, and laced up my new Mizuno's for a run up the mountain.
My new Kicks: Mizuno Wave Creation 16
 As a Coloradoan, I pride myself on being altitude adapted, but the extra few thousand feet in Breckenridge compared to home definitely had an impact as I set off from our condominium at Beaver Run.  Within a couple of minutes I was already huffing and puffing.  The first part of the run follows a service road, and while steep, it is manageable when run at a  slow, steady pace.  My goal for this particular morning was to see how high up  on the mountain I could get.  I had hopes of getting above tree line, but I also set about an hour time limit before I would turn around (this was our family vacation, and so I did not have plans to spend the entire day on a solo trek).  I managed to run up the road for about 20 minutes before I turned off and began ascending one of the trails that snakes upward beneath the chair lifts.

 Almost immediately, it became so steep that I was forced to slow down to a walk.  I did my best to keep a steady pace and pushed up the hill for the next 30 minutes.  Along the way, I paused from time to time to snap a few pictures.  As you can see from this photo, I was hiking along a "Black Diamond" trail on my way to the top.

After some continued climbing, I crested a small hill to find myself directly beneath the chair lift on a run called "The Burn" which seemed quite appropriate given the way that my lungs were feeling.   The run was surrounded on both sides by a couple of snow fences, so the only option was to keep going up.  After a little more "hiking" I reached the end of the lift, and as it turned out, the ski area boundary.  It's hard to see in this photo, but that's what the sign says.
Ski Area Boundary
 Fortunately, there was also another service road, and I was able to run down this road and back to our condo.  Later that evening, as we dined at the Hearthstone Restaurant, I was able to get a picture.  If you look at the mountain on the left, you can see a couple of "snow fences" high up on the hill.  This was just below my turnaround point on the run.
 Today it was time to return to the flat lands and so we ended our day in downtown Breckenridge at the Kenosha Steak House.  We also happened on a running shop called Vertical Runner where we picked up a new pair of Kinvaras for my daughter, who will be running cross-country this fall.  Mountains, Good Food & Drink, Running.  It was a fantastic trip to Breckenridge!
Future Cross-Country Runner w/ her sister!
Friday: Breckenridge Brewery~ Sampler.
Saturday: Oskar Blues~ Momma's Little Yella Pils
Sunday: Great Divide~ Rye Lager, O'Dell's~Levitation Ale
Monday: Boulevard Brewing~Saison, Ska Brewing~ Mexican Logger

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Announcing . . . The Beer Olympics Project


I like beer.   Whether it's a Porter on a crisp evening in October, a Mexican Lager served in a plastic cup at the all-inclusive in Mexico , or a session offering at the local brewpub,  drinking a beer imparts an experience that is to be savored.  To sit and drink a beer can be a rite of passage into manhood (see National Lampoon's Vacation when the Griswold men enjoy a beer),  the mark of sophistication (I don't always drink Dos XX . . .), or a post race refreshment.  But mostly it's about enjoying a simple pleasure.  I mean, who doesn't enjoy standing in front of a sizzling grill with a pint in hand?   I am admittedly partial to Colorado Beers, but I am always willing to sample beers from beyond the state borders.  Clearly, it's a great time to be a beer drinker in the United States.
The Griswolds share a beer 
Lately I've been thinking about "Flagship" Beers.  By this I mean those beers that are the signature beer of a  craft brewer (a brewery that produces less than 6 million barrels annually).  Although they may have limited distribution, they are usually available in many restaurants and sold at liquor stores within a given region. These are go to beers so when the choice at a restaurant is  limited to Bud, Bud Light, Shock Top, and say, Fat Tire, well . . . there really isn't much choice, is there.
 So I'm announcing a special project for the coming weeks and months called the Beer Olympics.  It will be an opportunity to sample and compare some of the more popular "flagship" beers being produced in a tournament style format.  I'll start with eight beers and have them face off in a head to head competition, with the preferred beer moving on to the next round.  In the end, there will be only one.  One victorious and glorious beer.  The Champion!
In truth, this Olympics isn't really about finding the "best" beer.  It's about drinking beer and reflecting on the qualities that make a particular beer enjoyable, but mostly just about drinking beer.  I chose beers based on the extremely scientific process described below:
1) I've had the beer before and I like it.
or . . .
2) I haven't had the beer before, but it's one I'd like to try.
and . . .
3) I know that I can find it at my local liquor store.
and . . .
4) I'm sure that it's pretty popular.
In an effort to be as objective as possible, all beers will be sampled in a blind taste test.  They will be evaluated on a short set of criteria including: aroma, balance, mouthfeel, and finish.  Here are the contenders:
Fat Tire (New Belgium Brewing, Ft. Collins, CO):  If the Columbine is the state flower for Colorado, then Fat Tire could very well be the state beer.
American Amber Ale (Rogue Ales, Newport, OR): A popular beer with a large distribution in the Western United States.
Stone Levitation Ale (Stone Brewing, San Diego, CA):  San Diego may have the best concentration of Craft breweries of anywhere in the United States.
90 Schilling Ale (O'Dell Brewing, Ft. Collins, CO): This beer doesn't get the same amount of attention as New Belgium, but it produces some of the finest beer in the state.
Alaskan Amber (Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, AK): The Beers from the Alaskan Brewing Company have enjoyed increased popularity and distribution over the last several years.  The company web site says that the Amber is an alt style beer that is the result of a slower fermenting process that occurs at lower temperatures.
Mass Transit Ale (Bristol Brewing, Colorado Springs, CO): A nearby brewer with a variety of quality beers (Compass IPA comes to mind).
Avalanche Ale (Breckenridge Brewery, Breckenridge, CO): The Breckenridge Brewery's best selling beer.
Red Rocket Ale (Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg, CA): A self-described Bastardized Scottish Ale brewed in Sonoma County.
The seedings are random and break down as follows in this illustration:

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting the results of the head to head competitions.  When they are completed, I'll move onto the semi-final round, and so on.  Once this category is complete, I'll be doing some other "events" in the Beer Olympics.   Possible categories include: Holiday Beers, Fruit Beers, Stouts, Hoppy Beers, Mexican Beers, and Belgian Style interpretations (there seem to be a dearth of these out there these days).  I'm always open to category or beer suggestions, so fire away!



Monday, July 8, 2013

Cancer Sucks Freedom Swim Race Report


Keeping with my trend this year of "going long,"  I found myself driving down Wadsworth early on Sunday morning.  My destination was Grant Ranch and the inaugural Cancer Sucks Freedom Swim Race.  There were three distances available to participants: 800 meters, 1.2 miles, or 2.4 miles.  Each distance was also divided into two categories: Wetsuit/ No Wetsuit.   I decided that if I was going to swim 2.4 miles, I really wanted to make the most of my $25 entry fee, so I opted for the no wetsuit category. 
We stayed the night with some friends who lived only about 15 minutes away as it turned out, and I arrived well ahead of time.  At least this allowed me to grab a patch of concrete next to the pool to spread out my towel and other things (Tip: when spreading out your towel with the soul purpose of sitting on concrete for 30-45 minutes, fold it into fourths and sit on it this way.  By being folded, it provides much more cushioning than a fully spread out towel).  I sat down and spent the better part of an hour just people watching.  There was an interesting mix of folks at this event: High School Swimmers, Triathletes, and well, just plain swimmers.  There were a lot of folks that were with their families which was fun to see.
At about 7:15, the race organizers had a brief meeting.  The swim was planned as a fundraiser for their 16 year old daughter who was diagnosed with non-hodgkin's lymphoma this past year.  She was also swimming and said a few words just prior to the start which was met with great applause.  All told, there were over 200 participants at this event, which is just awesome.  For me, this race wound up having added meaning because a close family friend was also diagnosed with this illness just a couple of weeks ago.  This is something that I think is really special about the endurance athletic community.  They are always stepping up to rally around a cause.
The race started in waves and they allowed us 2.4 swimmers to have the honor of going first.  This kind of makes sense given the time limit for swimming at the lake, but I also knew that it would be somewhat humbling as I would be passed by the 1.2 mile swimmers and the 800 swimmers a few minutes after we got going.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that the overall winner of the 2.4 mile swim, a woman who started 5 minutes after I did, passed me twice since the course was a 2 lap swim!
I jumped into the water with just about 3-4 minutes before the start of my race.  I adjusted my goggles and took a few strokes just to get a feel for the water.  My goggles were leaking just a tad, but I tweaked them and called it good.  I positioned myself at the very back of the group and waited for the start.  And then, we were off!
Within about 100 yards, it was clear that my goggles were going to be a problem.  I rolled onto my back and drained them, and attempted to get a tighter seal on them.  No luck.  I kept swimming but every few minutes, I would have to pause to drain the lake water from my goggles.  Finally after nearly 3/4 of a mile, I managed to get a good seal, and they didn't bother me for the remainder of the race.
 In a swimming pool, I have probably covered this same distance a handful of times, but I had never done a OWS swim of this distance before, so I really didn't know what to expect in terms of how hard or easy it would be.  I knew that I had the aerobic conditioning to do it but I wondered how sore or exhausted I might be from swimming that far.  It probably didn't help that we were out at a party until after midnight on Saturday, so I was operating on about 5 hours of sleep.   I took my time on the course, and really tried to focus on getting into a rhythm, and being sure that I had good technique.  For the most part, this worked well.  I believe that the rhythm aspect of an OWS is perhaps the most difficult of all.  Apart from trouble with the eye wear, there are kayaks, other swimmers, seaweed, etc. that can knock you off of the steady routine of swimming.  I did have some trouble with this at times, but if I worked to stay focused a little more, I was able to keep distractions to a minimum.  I was pleased because I was swimming in a straight line, and sighting fairly well.  As a result, I was able to put my head down and swim for a good chunk of time without having to look up and check my whereabouts.  In fact, there was only one point in the entire race where my line was off a bit, but that wasn't because  I was swimming crooked.  It just happened that I overlooked one of the midway buoys and so I had to swim over about 30 yards to correct myself.  I doubt if that cost me more than a few seconds time.
I passed through the first lap after about 42 minutes.  Not very fast, but I didn't mind.  I had been taking it easy, and without a wetsuit, I wanted to be sure that I conserved some energy for the second lap.  I also had a slight pain in my left ankle, which was making it a little difficult to kick properly, and so I'm sure that wasn't helping with my pace.  At any rate, I pressed on and got into the second lap.
About halfway through (just after my slight course correction), I noticed that I really wasn't breathing very hard, and I wasn't all that tired considering that I'd already been swimming for over an hour.    It occurred to me that I must really be "taking it easy" on the swim, so I decided to push a little bit harder.  I did this for the rest of the swim, although by that point it was too late to generate a negative split.  I reached the finish of the race around 1hr 27 minutes.  Not very fast, but I wasn't really trying too much.
11th out of 12 in this category.  But hey, who's counting?
 It's always fun getting out of the water after swimming for a long time, and even more so when most of the other swimmers have finished and are just standing near the finish line waiting for the awards ceremony to start.  It isn't uncommon for people to experience some dizziness, due to the fact that the body is in a horizontal position during swimming and the heart hasn't had to push the blood vertically up to the brain.  I could be a poster boy for this phenomenon.  As I moved into a standing position, it was a struggle to walk, and I felt this incredible forward momentum, as I stumbled forward out of the water.  This sensation continued for the next several minutes, as I made my way to my towel, and into the locker room to clean up a bit.  By the time I left, the awards ceremony had started.  It turns out the overall winner of the swim completed it in 49m 26s!  By the way, SHE wasn't wearing a wetsuit either.  Simply awesome!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Harvard

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Cambridge, MA for a one week summer institute at Harvard University.  While most of my time was occupied in classes and seminars, I did manage a few early morning runs and a bike ride (more on that later) before each day got busy. 
Saturday:  Unfortunately, due to plane delays, my arrival didn't occur until about 10:30 at night on Friday (Note: I won't fly with Delta again if I can help it).  Saturday morning, I awoke early and headed out to explore the area around Harvard.  I brought my phone along to take some pictures, but I've also taken the liberty of "borrowing" a few shots from Google Images (thanks to everyone that is a better photographer than I am).  There was some type of problem between my phone's GPS and Strava so after standing around for a few minutes with no ability to locate a signal, I scrapped the application, and just started running (I also tried using it on my second run with no success).  My original plan was to run for about 30-45 minutes, but the total time out wound up being closer to 65-80 minutes due to the fact that I eventually became completely lost.  It took a bit of time to get my bearings again, but eventually I managed to find a familiar looking area, and found my way back to the hotel.  Apart from getting turned around, the run itself was magnificent.   
Looks like a guy with a funny hat!

Tower: Really, really tall
 I started near Harvard square and within the first ten minutes I ran by a cemetery with tombstones dating from the 1700's, and an historical house that George Washington had used as his headquarters (Oh yeah, some guy named Longfellow also lived there).  Not a typical running route by any means.
This Cemetery included the graves of Slaves, Revolutionary War Soldiers, and many others
Nice digs: GW's house while staying in town for the Revolutionary War
 Monday: I went for a shorter run on Monday morning of only about 30 minutes.  I didn't see quite as many historical sites as I did on Saturday morning, but my run took me more into some of the neighborhoods around Cambridge.  Just before I turned around, I came across a large park that had a nice track located inside.  I stopped to get a quick shot.

Tuesday: Early on Tuesday, my colleague and I rented bikes using the Hubway, the bike sharing system for the greater Boston area.  These were just cruiser bikes so there wasn't really any hard core riding going on.  Still it was great to be able to cover more ground in a short amount of time.

We found a path that followed the St. Charles River and rode alongside it for a few miles before returning on the other side of the river.   There were several rowing teams out on the water as well as a few folks that looked like they were getting a lesson.   Wish there had been more time to try that out!
Lots of practice on the St. Charles
 Since I finished my class, I can now tell folks that not only did I attend Harvard, but I was able to do it in only a week!  It just goes to show you, how smart I are.
The Harvard Library, a good place for Book Learnin'