Saturday, February 27, 2010

Olympic party!

GO CANADA!!! Yesterday afternoon Roanne and I drove up to Vancouver, arriving just in time to head over to the medal presentation that we had tickets for. It was held in BC Place, and after making our way through the X-ray scanners and other security measures that were reminiscent of an airport, we found our way to our seats just was the first medals were being awarded. It was pretty fun to watch the medals being handed out, even though there were no medals being awarded to Canadians. One medal was awarded to the Netherlands which was great, because I self-identify as a dutchman.

After the medals were handed out the East Canadian band "Great Big Sea" took the stage and played a few sets, and after listening to this for a while we decided to head out and see if we could catch the last period of the Canada-Slovakia semifinal Men's hockey game. We had success immediately after leaving the stadium, finding some outdoor television screens broadcasting the game outside the Alberta House. This was fun to watch, and quite suspenseful as the Slovaks came back from 3-0 to close within one goal of the Canadians by the final few minutes.

After the game concluded (with the Canadians victorious) it was pretty fun to wander the streets (most of them closed to traffic) and take part in the ensuing pandemonium. We had the pleasure of taking in some fireworks and laser shows along the way, and finally ended up in a bar where we downed a few frosty pints and drank to the success of the Canadian Olympians. Tonight we will head to the bronze medal hockey game where we will see the tenacious Slovaks challenge the wily Fins. Should be fun!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Predictably Irrational

This week I finished reading my fourth book of 2010, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It was a pretty interesting book, and a quick read. The author is a professor in behavioral economics (a hybrid of psychology and economics), and the book is a summary of the research he has done over the last number of years, with each chapter more or less based on a paper he has published and the research it was based on. They found some interesting results, and some of it gives insight into how people can make better decisions. Not a 5 star book, but recommended if you are bored and it happens to be lying around.

This past week I returned from Toronto late Monday night, then have been putting in some extra time at work in order to be able to take this afternoon off to head up to Vancouver for some Olympic action. We are going to a medal presentation (officially called a "Victory Ceremony", which I think sounds really lame) tonight, then tomorrow afternoon we are attending the bronze medal game for Men's hockey (where we won't see Canada since they will hopefully playing on Sunday in the gold medal game!), then on Sunday we will see the Men's 50km classic nordic race up in Whistler. It should be a good weekend, I am looking forward to the festivities!

On the weigh-in front, my trip home wasn't as devastating as I thought it would be be, as I clocked three 161.0 weigh-ins in a row (Tuesday - Thursday) before taking a bit of a hit today at 162.4. I probably won't do weigh-ins this weekend again as it counts as vacation, but hopefully I can restrain myself from eating too much Olympic cake!

Finally, Roanne had a meeting with her surgeon on Tuesday, he thought the ultrasound results looked goo and discussed how he would do the operation. When they did Roanne's biopsy they placed a metal marker in the middle of the tumour, the surgeon will use this as a guide to excise a chunk of tissue at a particular radius around this marker. He won't be able to tell if he has gotten all of the tumour since it appears identical to the flesh around it, but what he removes will then sent to a pathologist to identify where the cancer cells are within the sample. We hope it has "positive margins", meaning that the cancerous cells of the tumour are completely surrounded by normal flesh, but they are not ("negative margins") then he will have to operate again and go in and remove more tissue. The surgery will be scheduled for 3 weeks after Roanne's last chemo treatment (which occurs on March 8), then she will likely need about 4 weeks of recovery before starting her 6 weeks of radiation therapy. So, we are looking at a best case of being totally done with treatments in mid June. It is a pretty long road, but Roanne has an amazing attitude and I am really proud of how well she is handling everything. We have already started planning a trip to Europe in July to celebrate the conclusion of her treatment and ride some of the cols in the tour!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gatineau Loppet

We woke up early on Saturday morning with help from Mason and Brenna, who decided that they would be starting their day off at 5am. We were feeling a little tired from the late night waxing session the night before, but luckily we were revived by generous servings of oblong pancakes and Trev's patented 5-fruit smoothies with spinach added as a secret ingredient. After helping out with morning baby duties we were able to pawn the little dervishes off to Jod, who had agreed to a full weekend of baby wrangling so that Trev and I could fulfill our loppet aspirations. We packed up the Red Rocket, and we were off!

Off to Tim Horton's that is! Realizing that it would be futile to start a road trip without some strong black coffee and a half D (half a dozen donuts), we stopped at our former place of employment and stocked up on sour cream glazed donuts (the best donut in the Tim Horton's line up), blueberry fritters, dutchies, and of course, maple dippers. We were now fully outfitted, and we headed north on the 400, loppet bound.

Gatineau, Quebec where the Gatineau Loppet was taking place is about a 5.5 hour drive from Barrie, Ontario where Trev lives. We could have taken a southern route along the 401 through Kingston, or a northern route on some smaller roads that would take us through Algonquin Park. Since it was a nice day and the roads would be clear, we decided to take the northern route. This was a good choice as it was a really nice drive on quiet roads that wound through snow covered conifers and alongside frozen lakes. The roads looked like they would have been fun on a bike as there were lots of twists, turns and rolling hills, but that adventure would have to wait until summer time as it was a little too cold out.

We eventually rolled into Ottawa, past the parliament buildings (long live Stephen Harper!), and across a river and into Quebec. We pulled up at the Mont-Bleu Secondary School at 3:45pm, with plenty of time to pick up our race packets before registration closed at 5pm. There was an expo area set up in the school gymnasium, so we spent some time browsing there after getting our packets. They had some good deals on skis and clothing, and we were both sorely tempted to purchase skin suits at rock bottom prices. The things that prevented this were: I already have a skin suit, purchased after the Birkie, and Trev was forbidden from doing so by the Nordic Skiers Code of Conduct, which says that one may only own a skin suit after completing a 50km loppet in non-skin suit attire (and preferably finishing in front of a few skin suit-clad skiers).

We left the expo area empty handed (other than our race packets and a few vanilla energy gels that we had purchased) with our credit cards still in their holsters, and walked over to check out the start/finish area which was just outside a nearby stadium at the edge of Gatineau Park. It was still pretty nice out, and we stood gazing down the finishing straight that we would ski down the next day to the deafening cheers of thousands of adoring fans.

Suddenly, a flash of prescience snapped us out of our dreamy reverie: we are standing at the edge of Gatineau Park (renowned for its skiing), there is plenty of snow, the grooming looks good, and there is still daylight … what the stink are we standing around for, let's go skiing! So we dashed back to the car, changed into our ski gear, and then returned to the start area and headed out for a short ski on the race course. The snow seemed nice and fast, having been packed out pretty well by the classic skiers who had raced that morning. We only skied about 7km or so, but it was nice to get our legs going a bit after sitting in the car for 5.5 hours. We returned to the car just as it was getting dark, and headed to our hotel.

We were staying at “Auberge de la Gare”, a nice establishment that was a 5-10 minute drive from the race. We checked in, and then walked to a nearby restaurant called “Cafe Cognac” that had been recommended by the lady at the front desk of our hotel. It was pretty fun being in Quebec with everything being in French, and plenty of opportunities to practice staring blankly when someone addressed us in that language. I also really like hearing people with French accents speak English, I wish I had grown up with French as my first language. The restaurant was pretty good, though I was convinced that the buns they brought out for us had dirt on them. Trev finally convinced me that it was some sort of blackened flour, but I had never seen anything like it and I still think they might have all been dropped on a dirty floor or had dirt sprinkled on them (maybe to spite the two bearded anglophones) before being sent out. They didn't taste too bad though, so we decided not to inquire further. We shared some bruschetta as an appetizer, and from there forth our nutritional strategies diverged widely, with me ordering grilled vegetable pasta and Trev ordering a flank steak with fries. Only time would tell which pre-race fueling strategy was a better choice.

We elected to skip dessert (although the “Chocolate Avalanche” cake sounded quite appealing) and we headed back to the hotel room where we showered, laid out our gear for the next day, and watched some Olympic coverage before drifting off to sleep. The alarm went off bright and early the next morning at 6:30am, and it took some doing to haul Trev (a sleep-deprived father of 2 year old twins) out of bed.

We groggily suited up in our racing clothes, all the while questioning the garment decisions we had made the night before due to what looked like a very cold morning. It was -6 C out, with light snow falling and the temperature forecast to rise to -4 C by noon when we would be finishing. In the photo below I am looking thoughtful with my freshly trimmed racing beard, wondering whether I should put some long underwear on under my leiderhosen. Trev and I had both been working on loppet beards in the months leading up to the race, but from the photos you have probably noticed that Trev was able to manage a full blown Unabomber Loppet Beard while I could only muster a Junior Loppet Starter Beard due to my wispy facial hair.

We had a quick breakfast at the hotel before loading up the car and heading back to the Mont Bleu Secondary School. We managed to find really good parking (an advantage of a smaller race like this as compared to the Birkie is that the logistics are way easier to sort out) and then headed into the gymnasium to warm up and stretch before walking over to the start line for the 9am departure. On the way in to the school we dropped our skis off with Franz, our Austrian wax technician, to have him give them a final roto-corking before the grand depart. Inside the gymnasium we soaked up the nervous energy of the hundreds of skiers assembled there while making final clothing adjustments and listening to race information being announced in french.

With about 15 minutes to go until the start we joined the line of skiers proceeding over the start line to take their places in the starting grid.

Trev was starting in the final wave since this was his first loppet and he didn't have a qualifying time, but I had somehow finagled my way into the first wave using my Birkie time from last year. It wasn't entirely clear to me that my time qualified me for the first wave, but I figured that I might as well ask and it was up to them to deny my request if they deemed it misguided. Either my time really did qualify me for the “A” wave or they don't bother checking the times very closely, but in any case after wishing Trev good luck I found myself toeing the line with a bunch of lycra clad greyhounds. Being in the front wave meant that I had to go through a bunch of extra routines (getting my skis marked so that I wasn't able to have Franz pass me a new set out on the course, filling out a form for a temporary racing license in case I wanted to collect FIS points, etc.) that made me feel like a real professional. I was hoping that a random doping control might be administered after the race, but alas, this never materialized.

With 5 minutes to go I took off my down jacket and stashed it in my clothing bag to be picked up after the race, and began to wait for the starting gun. In these final moments of reflection the race announcer was reminding us over the loudspeakers that since this was a freestyle race we were not obligated to use skate technique, and if we wanted we could use classic technique or even slither on our bellies like snakes. This was certainly helpful information, though most people that I saw elected to use skate technique despite these attractive alternatives. At exactly 9am the gun sounded, and we were off!

The race started across an open field before funneling into a short narrow section that climbed a short hill through some woods. Things slowed down a bit here but it wasn't too bad, as everyone in this wave (possibly with the exception of yours truly) was an able and competent skier. Soon after the course opened up onto some wider track and gradual climbs (much of the race course is on a road through the park that is not plowed over the winter) where it was possible to do some passing. The conditions felt a little bit slow since some fresh snow had fallen overnight, but by staying on the part of the track that had been most skied on it wasn't too bad. If you wanted to pass the person in front of you it was necessary to move out onto the slower untracked snow and expend extra energy, so I tried to be careful about only passing when I had to. My skis seemed a little slow on the downhills compared to the people in the groups I was in, maybe next time I'll have to try some high-fluoro wax or figure out what a roto-corker is.

The skiing was really nice, with a good mix of narrower sections through the woods and wider parts out on the parkway. I was usually in a small group of a few people, but moved between groups as some surged ahead and others fell behind. I was definitely at my best on the climbs, and that is where I was able to do most of my passing. The feed stations were well-equipped with warm gatorade, though I wished they had food to hand the skiers since I didn't want to stop and pick up food from the tables. As a result I don't think I ate quite enough, only consuming one gel at the 2 hour mark and whatever calories were in the gatorade that I drank. I began to feel a little bit of hunger knock coming on at the 45km mark, and at this point I was thanking my lucky stars that low snow conditions had forced the organizers to shorten the race from the planned 53km to 49km. Thankfully it wasn't too long after that I saw the welcome sight of the finish line, with the sprint lanes divided by little pine boughs stuck into the snow.

I was feeling pretty wobbly by this point, but luckily the only person I was sprinting against was an older lady from the 29km race who I was catching. After handily dispatching grandma in the sprint to the finish line (with the roaring approval of the crowd in my ears) I made a secondary sprint to the refreshment table where I staked out my territory and feasted on chocolate raisins, cookies, and gatorade. I had finished in 3:00:06 which I was happy with, though if I had been checking my watch out on course I might have been able to muster that little bit extra to dip under the 3 hour mark. I collected my clothing bag from the stadium, and then worked my way back to the finish to cheer Trev across the line. I didn't have to wait long, as at 3:30:35 Trev came roaring down the sprint lane, successfully completing his first loppet in a time a blew away his expectations.

We both collected our finisher's toques and pins, and then headed back into the Mont Bleu Secondary School to change out of our ski clothes and warm up. Our race bibs entitled us to a free lunch in the school cafeteria, which was like a time warp back to grade nine, right down to the juice boxes, zip-locked sandwiches, and steaming bowls of vegetable soup. Despite the somewhat pedestrian post-race feast, it was really fun to be relaxing in the cafeteria amidst the throngs of happy skiers excitedly trading war stories from the morning's loppet.

After finishing up the chocolate chip cookies we were given for dessert, we headed back out into the frozen hinterlands to start the long drive back to Barrie. After finding the nearest Tim Hortons we hit the road, and despite our sore legs loppet fever was already setting in again as we began planning our next adventure on the world loppet tour.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Off to Gatineau...

On Friday afternoon my Mom and I visited my Oma (the Dutch version of a Grandma) in Brampton before heading up to Barrie to see Trev, Jodi, and the twins. We arrived around 5pm and had a good evening hanging out and watching Mason and Brenna's antics. After the twins had gone to bed Trev and I retreated to the basement for a late night waxing session. We first waxed, scraped, and brushed using low fluoro Moly, then again waxed and scraped using low fluoro red, going off some waxing recommendations from the Toko website. We omitted the last stream of roto-corking jetstream blue since we didn't know how to roto-cork and we didn't have any jet stream blue.

We finished off around 12:30am, and then headed off to bed for a good sleep. This morning Mason and Brenna decided that everyone would be waking up just after 5am, so it was an early morning. Here is a morning shot of Jod supervising the young vagrants who have decided that they want to spend the morning sitting in their car seats.

For breakfast we had some delicious longcakes (an oblong pancake, very delicious, one is seen on the griddle in the shot below) and fruit smoothies, this should be good fuel for our skiing exploits to come. We are now loading up for the drive to Gatineau which is apparently about 5.5 hours, we are hoping to get there in time to pick up our race packets before the registration closes at 5pm. It should be a good adventure, I'll post more details after the race!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Sorry I have been bad about blog posting lately (this apology is directed to Roanne, the one person who reads this)! There are two excuses that I have for this: first, I have a job now and it turns out that spending 8 hours a day working really eats into one's leisure time, and it also turns out that when faced with a choice between writing a blog posting or getting out on my bike or roller skis I will almost always choose the latter. And second, I am back in Toronto for a visit this week, so I have had to spend a bunch of time packing and traveling lately.

Anyways, here is a quick rundown of the exciting recent events in my life: on Monday I weighed in at 161.8, slowly recovering from the weekend bakery blowout. Monday was a holiday, but I actually spent the day at work because I really want to prove myself. Just kidding! It was actually because Roanne had to work (Microsoft doesn't believe in holidays) and I was taking most of this week off so I wanted to lessen the blow of working for one week at a new job and then asking for the second week off, so I worked Monday to count against the days I would be taking off later in the week. Monday night I got into the climbing gym which was good, though my elbow is still giving me problems which is a real stinker.

Tuesday I had a good weigh in (161.0) and got out for an early morning roller ski which was super fun, roller skiing is the best possible way to start off a day. It also helped that it had rained all night but then the sun came out in the morning, it is so awesome when the sun makes a rare appearance during Seattle winters! I spent Tuesday night packing for my trip back to Ontario, getting to bed pretty late and then up early the next morning to catch my flight.

Roanne dropped me off at the airport Wednesday morning and I caught my 8:00am direct flight from Seattle to Toronto where my Mom picked me up at the airport. We then drove back to Georgetown which took well over an hour due to crazy traffic on the 401. It is always mindblowing to me when I come home to Ontario to visit and see the insane traffic that people here spend hours each day sitting in. I would go nuts doing that, I can't believe that people don't move. Another crazy thing is that the 401 already has about 10 lanes in each direction (including the express and collectors lanes), and they had signs up announcing a new road project to widen the 401. Huh!?! How about building some better public transit options, making carpool or dedicated bus lanes, or regulating some of the urban sprawl that causes this problem? No, let's just make the roads wider, that should fix things! At least for another few years, until we need to make the roads wider again!

Today was a super fun day spent hanging out with my parents and visiting people. My Mom, Dad, and I hung out for the day, then in the late afternoon I visited with my Grandma in Toronto, then in the evening I met up with Dave, a good friend from highschool and undergrad. It was good to meet his girlfriend, see his new place in Toronto, and reminisce about our glory days in Waterloo. Tomorrow I will do some more visiting and then make my way up to Barrie to see Trev and start preparing for the trip to Quebec to take part in the Gatineau Loppet. It should be a good race, and most of all I am just super excited to ski on something other than Snoqualmie Slush!

(No weigh-ins while I am back in Ontario, there are no scales around and when I am on vacation I eat a lot of dessert and prefer to stay in a dream world where I am ignorant as to how heavy I am getting)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Home Improvement Weekend

Today I woke up early and did the 7:30am Mercer Island group ride that leaves from our street, composed of cyclists who live in our neighbourhood. It was good to get out on a group ride since I hadn't done one in a while, and we didn't get rained on too much. When I arrived home I got to work on home improvements, with my first accomplishment being the installation of a door knob on our bathroom door. This took a long time (4 hours!) as I had to drill and chisel out the space for the lock set that we had purchased. In the end it looks good, as you can see on the left.

Last night I had finished the trim around the window in the bathroom (shown at left) so it is now nearing completion, with the only outstanding points being installation of towel racks and the poo tape holder, and painting the trim. After finishing the door knob I managed to sneak out the back door for a 1 hour roller ski in Volunteer Park which was pretty fun except it rained like crazy and I got completely soaked.

Upon returning home I was once again drafted into home improvement detail, and we began work building shelves and racks in our new hall closet. This went pretty fast with both of us working, and by 8:30pm we had a functional closet (less the door)! It is nice to now have a place for coats and shoes in the front hall.

Finally, another terrible weigh-in this morning at 163.6 (thanks Bakery Nouveau!) but due to my strong performance early in the week I still managed an average of 161.3 which is almost a pound less than last week. Bene!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bakery Nouveau

Today was a rainy day here in Seattle, and Roanne and I took advantage of it to run some errands and eat some delicious baked goods. We had a lazy morning playing scrabble and reading, and then headed out on a Home Depot run with a detour to Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle. Several years ago this Bakery won an award for "Best Croissant in the World" at a competition in France, and they have the huge trophy on display above their showcases of delicious treats.

We ended up arriving at the Bakery just after lunch time, so we enjoyed some of their Sicilian pizza before moving on the main event, the double-baked chocolate croissants (shown at left). Mmmmm! I had a pretty lackluster weigh-in this morning and I'm sure this little trip will result in an even worse one tomorrow morning, but if its a rainy day and you find yourself at a bakery, what choice do you have?

After Bakery Nouveau we continued on to Home Depot where we purchased some materials and tools to build shelves in our new closet on the main floor where the chimney stack used to stand. It looks like more rain tomorrow, so stay tuned for another boring blog post!

Weight: 162.8

Friday, February 12, 2010


The other day I was walking to the restroom at my new place of employment, and what did I see leaning against the wall but some sort of turbo-charged pogo stick (shown at left). Needless to say, I was sorely tempted! Since my last pogo stick problems had stemmed from a wooden 1850's pogo stick, maybe I would have better luck with this super robotic pogo stick from the future?!? I felt a powerful force drawing me towards this wonder of modern technology, but in the end my self control won out and I continued on to the restroom. I'm not sure how long I can hold out if I continue to spend 8 hours a day in the same room as this little beauty, maybe I better ask one of my colleagues to hide it so that I don't get tempted on a daily basis.

Weight: 160.8

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Last night I rode my rollers for an hour and did some core exercises, not much else that is interesting to write about. This working thing is cramping my blog entries a bit! I will keep posting shorter ones during the week, and then longer ones on the weekend when I have interesting adventures and more time to write.

Weigh: 160.8

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Group Run

Last night I went on a group run with the Seattle Running Company. Lately I have been trying to run once a week since I have read a lot about how beneficial it is for maintaining bone density, and I thought if I am going to force myself into going for a run I might as well do it with other people. Emily had told me about this run and was also there, so it was nice to see a familiar face and have someone to chat with during the run. It ended up being a 5.5 mile run, pretty fun, though I would say that group running is lacking some of the merits of group cycling, since people splinter into smaller groups without drafting playing such a big role. My first day at work was good also, speaking of which, I need to leave for work now so I'll have to write more about that another day! Another record weigh-in this morning, I just shattered the 160 barrier!

Weight: 159.8

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hi ho, hi ho ...

... it's off to work I go! If you haven't been reading my blog lately you might be asking yourself "Why is a man of leisure writing a blog post at such an uncivilized hour?". Well, last week I got a job and today is my first day of work. Of course, I got up early to sneak in a roller ski work out in Volunteer Park and now I am savoring my last moments of freedom before heading in to work.

Roanne's chemo treatment went well yesterday, and on the way home we stopped off at Top Pot Donuts to sample their Apple Fritters and Old Fashioned Lemon Glazed donuts. Delicious! After that I headed in to the climbing gym for some bouldering. I haven't climbed at all in the last few weeks since my elbow had been bothering me (tennis elbow, but not from tennis) but it felt pretty good last night so hopefully those problems are behind me.

Weight: 160.6

Monday, February 8, 2010

3/4 of the way!

This morning we are at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for Roanne's 6th (of 8) chemotherapy infusion. So, it is pretty exciting to be approaching the 75% done milestone! We just met with the Oncologist who said that everything was looking good, next week Roanne will have some ultrasound imaging done in advance of her meeting the surgeon on Feb. 23, it will be exciting to get the surgery scheduled (hopefully in late March after the last chemo treatment on March 8).

Yesterday Roanne and I went "back to school" shopping, since I now have a job (that I will start tomorrow, I would have started today if not for Roanne's chemo appointment). Roanne thought that I needed some new clothes so that I can look respectable. The back to school shopping was a resounding success, with trips to several Nordstrom Rack stores and lots of clothing tried on. I learned that about 95% of size Medium shirts have arms that are too short (darn this positive ape index of mine!), but pants are a little easier if you look for ones that are designed to be hemmed before wearing (the only drawback here is that these are usually the more expensive ones). After we finished the shopping marathon I got out for a bike ride around Mercer Island.

Finally, I hit another 2010 record on the weigh-in this morning, if I can keep this up I should be able to meet my goal even before my first ski race of 2010 (the Gatineau Lopppet)! Just to clarify the rules of the game, to have met my resolution I need to have a weekly average that falls at or below 160 (not just one day where I have tremendously lucky weigh-in).

Weight: 160.6

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mount Margaret

On Saturday Emily and I decided that it was time for a backcountry ski adventure, so she stopped by our house in the morning and at 8:30am we packed up and headed for Snoqualmie Pass. We decided to do a tour up Mount Margaret, so we exited at Hyak and crossed the highway to the Gold Creek Sno-park. We were delighted to find that the trail head was over run with snowmobilers, and so our first pleasurable moment of the outing was opening the car door and breathing in the hazy fog of blue smoke and hearing the musical sounds of them all rev'ing their 2-stroke engines.

We suited up and headed down the trail, happy to leave the noise and stench behind (at least temporarily, until the went roaring past us). The route starts by following an unplowed road for about 3km, which is a little unpleasant since it is about 20 feet from I-90 making it very loud. Eventually the trail switchbacked up and away from the highway, and the snow quality started to get a little better also (it was pretty warm out and really slushy where we parked).

Eventually we left the road and headed up through a clear cut which was a lot more fun, since we were no longer on the snowmobile tracks. Here is a picture of Emily heading up, with Keechelus Lake visible in the background below:

It had been a sunny day when we left Seattle, but as per usual as soon as we neared Snoqualmie Pass it became socked in with fog. Ah, the joys of the PNW! We continued through the clear cut, and at about 3900 feet the forest began again and we reached the ridge that would lead us to the summit. All of the trees on the ridge were completely encrusted in snow, making for some splendid white scenery as shown in the photo below.

We continued along the ridge, which first led to a false summit then descended briefly and continued on to the true summit at 5600 feet. It was pretty foggy, but we could tell that the ridge was heavily corniced and dropped off sharply to one side. Emily is peering over the edge of the abyss in the photo below:

The guide book we were using had instructed us to start our descent before reaching the summit, but I immediately recognized how ridiculous that would be so we continued on to the summit before de-skinning and prepping for the powder feast that lay before us. We then headed down through the trees, traversing towards our ascent route when the trees were too tight and then making turns down through open sections. The snow was pretty good considering how warm it had been down low, there was definitely good powder to be had though it was considerably heavier than other deep snow I have skied in (after being spoiled by the dry and fluffy champagne powder in Utah, this was my introduction to the soggy cascade concrete). Here I am with a big smile on my face since we just found a nice steep open shot through the trees that was just begging to be skied:
Here is a shot of Emily freeing the heel and freeing the mind:

And then finally one of me heading down with my patented pole flying pole technique:

Eventually we emerged back at the base of the clear cut, which we headed down to connect with the snowmobile track that we had taken up. We then bee-lined it down this section, skinned along the final flat section of road, and were back at the car. What a great day! Shown below is a topo map of our route with our GPS track plotted on it. We started on the left by I-90, and the loop near the top is because we descended along a different route than we had climbed up.

The total elevation gain for the day ended up being 3100 feet with 17.5km covered, not too bad for leaving Seattle at 8:30am and being back at the house before 5:00pm. The elevation profile is plotted below:

This was a lot of fun, much better than the previous tour I had attempted in Snoqualmie Pass (Mount Amabalis with Fras and Beno over Christmas) so it left me excited to explore more of the Snoqualmie backcountry options. We drove back to Seattle where we met Roanne back at our house and then were joined by Andrew who drove up from Tacoma for a really fun dinner. Good times!

Finally, it is time to sum up the weekly weigh-ins, I had a 2010 record weigh-in this morning with a 161.0, so that was good news. However, the weekly average was a little lackluster as I came in at 162.1, just 0.4 lbs less than last week. Oh well, I will redouble my efforts for the coming week. The one thing that may work in my favour this week is that I now have a job, and during the week I will no longer be able to sit around the house eating cookies all day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Celebratory Cake

In my post on Tuesday I talked about how I had a job interview at Synapse, which had gone well (at least from my perspective). I didn't hear anything back until Thursday morning, when they called and asked if I could come in for another interview at noon (I guess they were sufficiently impressed by my misguided application of Laplace transforms). This was definitely more of a personality test, and involved going out to lunch with five other people from the company, a mix of mechanical engineers, software engineers, and project managers. We went for sushi which was fun since I rarely experience it (Roanne has a general dislike of fish, so convincing her to eat raw fish is tricky business indeed). The only drawback was that I didn't get to eat much since I was talking the entire time, but it went well and they were friendly and easy to talk to.

I received another call from Synapse that afternoon, a few hours later, asking me if I could come in again the next day for another interview. So I showed up on Friday at noon (by now it seemed like I already worked there since I was going there every day), and was ushered into a conference room where I met with the CEO who was one of the founders of the company (back in 2000). He was a really nice and well spoken guy and we had a good conversation. One cool thing about him: he is married and runs a 50 person company, and he doesn't even own a car! He uses the bus and/or his longboard (skateboard) to get around, pretty awesome! He asked a lot of higher level questions like "What skills will you bring to the company that we don't already have", "What was the last book you read", "What is the worst mistake you have ever made", etc. He seemed happy with how I handled the questions, and about 5 minutes after he left the VP of Engineering came in and offered me a job! After a little back and forth on the details we arrived at a point we were both happy with, and I left with the offer in hand to think it over.

I called Roanne with the good news, and after talking about it for a while we agreed that it was a great opportunity and I decided to accept the job. They actually wanted to me to start Monday, but since I Roanne was a chemo transfusion that day I called them back to let them know I would start on Tuesday.

So, another New Years Resolution ticked off! There are a lot of great things about not having a job (riding my bike all day, skiing all day, etc.), but there are also some not-so-great things (expectations that I will actually work on our home renovations during the day, having a one-way back account, etc.), and since this sounds like such a great company to work for I am actually really excited to start. Since my "No dessert" new years resolution has a Special Occasions clause, I took full advantage last night and enjoyed a large slice of chocolate fudge cake to celebrate. Delicious!

Yesterday's weight: 161.4
Today's weight: 161.8

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Most memorable moments of 2009

As we move further into the year 2010, I think it is a good time to reflect on my most memorable moments of 2009. While 2009 had a lot of exciting events, perhaps the most memorable was my run-in with an 1850s replica pogo stick. Many of you have already heard this story, but even if you have, you likely haven't seen the photos so feel free to skip ahead to those (Warning: Graphic Content!). Here is my recollection of this most exciting moment of 2009:

A few weeks after we moved into our Seattle house, I noticed a wooden pogo stick in the alleyway leaning against our back fence. We suspected it had been left behind by the previous occupants of our house (along with myriad other bits of flotsam and debris), and I gave it a few bounces and then moved it into our backyard since you never know when a wooden pogo stick can come in handy. It had a brass plate mounted on it that was inscribed "1850 replica pogo stick" or something to that effect.

Anyways, the pogo stick lay dormant for a few weeks until American Thanksgiving weekend (at the end of November, not the real Thanksgiving which happens in early October) when Fras and Carla were down visiting us in Seattle. We spent Friday doing some yard work outside, and since the pogo stick didn't escape our notice Fras and I took turns putting it through its paces, with one of the more notable moments being Fras attempting to pogo up the steps leading to the back gate (a valiant but unsuccessful effort). The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and at 10:30pm we were in the living room getting ready to head up to bed when I happened to glance outside and see the pogo stick lying on the ground. At this moment I had a flash of inspiration: wouldn't it be uproariously funny if I were to sneak outside and then go pogo-ing through the back yard so that the others would have the unexpected delight of viewing a late night pogo-man through the back window? Brilliant!

So, I headed outside and began bouncing on the pogo stick. This had the expected effect as Fras came to the window and was obviously very pleased with my course of action. However, on about the 8th bounce something went wrong: at the bottom of the compression phase, the block of wood holding the top of the spring in place split in half, and instead of the spring transferring its compressed energy back my 165 lb mass to propel me back up into the air, all of the energy stayed in the 1.5 lb spring as it shot up off the shaft, and hit me directly in the face. Well, not directly, as I was afterward able to ascertain: it first hit me on the chin (as evidenced by the gash that needed a few stitches), then hit me in the mouth (as evidenced by the chipped tooth that I spit out after I picked myself up off the ground), and finally hit me in the right eye.

Let's take a short side trip through Newtonian Physics and calculate how fast the spring was moving when it hit me in the face:

Mass of Cam: M_cam = 74 kg
Mass of Pogo Stick: M_pogo = 2 kg
Potential Energy of Cam and Pogo at top of bounce phase (assuming a bounce height of 0.5 m): PE_cam = (M_cam + M_pogo) * G * H = 76 kg * 10 m/s^2 * 0.5 m = 380 J
Assume all of this potential energy was transferred to the spring, as I ended up on the ground and the spring shot up to hit me in the face (at a height of 1.85 m)
Mass of Spring: M_spring = 0.6 kg
Potential Energy of Spring at height of 1.85 m (at my face): PE_spring = M_spring * G * H = 0.6 kg * 10 m/s^2 * 1.85 m = 11 J
Kinetic Energy of Spring at height of 1.85 m (at my face): KE_spring = PE_cam - PE_spring = 380 J - 11 J = 369 J
Now, since KE = 1/2 * M * V^2, we can solve for the velocity of the spring: V_spring = sqrt(2 * KE_spring / M_spring) = sqrt(2 * 369 J / 0.6 kg) = 35.1 m/s
Finally let's put it in units that we can relate to a bit better:
V_spring = 126.4 km/hour


It was a really hard impact and I must have been in a mild state of shock, but I remember being pretty worried that I wasn't going to be able to see out of my eye. Fras quickly sounded the alarm and came out to help me into the house so we could head to the hospital, while Roanne came running downstairs where she had been getting ready for a quiet night of sleep. We started out the front door for the car, but I was feeling pretty lightheaded at this point, and I fainted just as we were about to head down the front steps. Luckily Fras caught me (thanks Max!) and sat me down on the front step while we figured out to do. We decided to call 911 for an ambulance since we didn't know how serious the injury was, and in the meantime Carla ran next door to knock on the door of our neighbours (John and Josie) who both happen to be doctors. John came out looking a little sleepy, but immediately took control of the situation by lying me down, putting gauze on my eye, and advising us to ask the ambulance to go to Harborview Hospital and ask for a plastic surgeon since they have a Level 1 Trauma Center. I must say that those words were not music to my ears, but it was at least good to know what we should be doing.

The ambulance arrived pretty quickly, and the EMTs helped me down the stairs, onto a wheely-bed, and into the back of the ambulance. Roanne rode up front, Fras and Carla followed in their car, and we headed off the hospital. This was pretty exciting since it was my first ride in an ambulance (which cost $800 in case anyone is thinking of using this mode of transportation, thank you Microsoft for my health insurance!), the EMT shone some light in my eye and asked me some questions like "What is your name?", "What year is it?", etc. I remember thinking "Man, these questions are stinkin' E-A-S-Y, is that all you got?" but I guess they were just trying to make sure I didn't have any memory loss. We arrived at the hospital (about 10 minutes away) soon after, and I was wheeled into the emergency room. Roanne mentioned to the ambulance driver that it was my first ride in an ambulance, and he apologized profusely for not putting the flashing lights on for me, he said if he had known it was my first ride he definitely would have used the lights and siren.

We didn't have to wait too long before an ophthalmology resident came by to have a look at me, he quickly ascertained that I had a serious cut to my eyelid which had a section that was "flapping in the wind" as it were, attached only by a small string of tissue (good thing I didn't lose it on the way to the hospital!). Here is a photo of me soon after arriving at the hospital, with some preliminary cleaning efforts having been performed on my face but still looking a bit messy:

In the photo above you can see the cut on my chin which had been the initial impact but wasn't nearly as troubling as the final impact to my eye. Since I know you want to see it, here is a close-up view of my eye. You might be thinking "Hey, something doesn't look right!", and you are correct: if you look carefully you can see that one section of my eyelashes is perpendicular to the others.

The ophthalmologist was really nice, and performed a number of tests to confirm that my eye had not been damaged (at which point I breathed a huge sigh of relief, this is why I look so happy in the photos shown above). He then assured us that it was a simple matter to fix, and he would just need to put in a few stitches to put the section of eyelid back in place. He put in a number of lidocaine shots around my eye, which had the effect of making my eyelid puff up a lot so that he could commence sewing without worrying about hitting my eyeball. The shots were pretty painful as the eye happens to be a sensitive area, but he did a good job numbing it and then went to work. After about 10 minutes of work he tried to open the damaged eyelid, only to have the section he had just repaired invert on itself. At this point I heard "Hmm, maybe this is a bit trickier than I had thought", and I began wishing for a more experienced eyelid tailor. He must have read my mind, because he decided to call in a more senior resident to have her do it.

This second ophthalmologist was sleeping at home (on call), so it took a while for her to arrive. When she did finally arrive she was all business, first complimenting the first ophthalmologist on his wonderful work before ripping it all out and starting over again. The effects of the initial lidocaine shots had worn off by this point so I once again had the pleasure of having multiple needles jabbed into my eyelid. She then began stitching, and seemed to be just finishing up when I heard the following verbal exchange:

Opth. #2: "Wait a minute, is this Vikrol thread?"
Opth. #1: "Yes, I think so."
Opth. #2: "Actually, I think it might be nylon."
Opth. #1: "Oh stinker, I could have sworn it was Vikrol."
Opth. #2: "I guess I'll have to take it all out and start over. Oh well, there were a few stitches I wanted to change anyways."
Cam: $%&#*!!!!

Just kidding about the last line, I maintained my pleasant disposition and made a good-natured remark about what a lovely time I was having. So ophthalmologist #2 tore out all her stitching, and by the time she was done the second round of lidocaine had worn off, so for the third time I had a series of needles thrust into my poor eyelid, which was by this time begging for mercy. She then proceeded to sew the eyelid up for the third and final time, and seemed pleased with her work when she finished. Here is a picture of the results of her handiwork:

We then had to wait around for the results of a CT scan that I had had earlier in the night, so when we finally headed out it was about 5:30am. Here is a photo of me on the way out to the car, looking pretty tired but happy to be all stitched back together again:

It felt great to go home and get into bed, the stinker for Roanne was that she had a Doctor's appointment that morning at 8am, so she only slept for about an hour before heading off to the doctor (sorry Rosie!). My eye stayed sore for a while, but I was really happy that my vision had not been affected. Here is a photo of our protagonist with the reminder of his folly, the now 2-piece pogo stick:

Weight: 163.0