Saturday, January 30, 2016


I've had the good fortune to spend the last week in Amsterdam, visiting the Brooks offices and working with our EMEA e-commerce team. I have also done a bit of running, a bit of sightseeing, and a bit of wandering around. 

Arrived on Sunday feeling pretty destroyed; yet again I didn't sleep on the flight, though I did watch THREE COMPLETE MOVIES. 

Was met at the airport by my friend Matt and his little grommets, who took me home, let me get cleaned up, and fed me  for a couple of hours before pointing me toward my hotel a hundred yards away. 

I stayed at the Bildernerg Garden Hotel; nice lobby, weirdly bland hallways, but a comfy if street-noisy room on the top floor. 

I was desperate for a shower o wash the travel off me, but also knew that I needed to stay awake for several hours. So I changed into my running clothes and heard out to the Vondelpark. 

Vondelpark is often described as Amsterdam's Central Park, and it's a good comparison. It's a big park right in the city, filled with runners and cyclists and strollers and lots of city folk enjoying the outdoors. It's pretty close to my hotel, so I did a tiny run to the park, around the loop, and back. I somehow managed not to take ANY photos in the park, but I did snap one shot of the canal on the way back to the hotel. 

Then I showered, got changed, and decided to visit the Rijksmuseum. After all, what better way to while away a few hours? That said, I was a complete zombie by the early afternoon. Sure, most people would have spent time with the Night Watch... but my favorite was this "sleeping bunny" from a massive feast painting: 

I have zero recollection about Sunday night. There was some sleeping, and then a whole lotta WIDE AWAKE at 2:30am. 

Minas met me downstairs in the morning to walk me to work. By the way, how cool is it to have your office inside the historic Olympic Stadium from 1928? So cool. 

The office is cool inside, too; there's nice artwork:

some cool furniture:

and, of course, THIS VIEW:

The working week had lots of highlights, including getting to know my counterparts across the pond, going to Blauw for an amazing Indonesian rijstafel, having two great dinners at Minashuis,  and even a n early morning run around the canals in my 'hood. 

I also fit in a visit to the Anne Frank Huis, enabled by my playing hooky one afternoon and slipping out at 3. 

The Anne Frank Huis was both interesting and depressing ... especially  when you realize that she and her family were refugees turned away from the US. 

On Friday night I went to the late opening at the Van Gogh Museum. A slightly strange mix of hundreds of people drinking beer, listening to music, or sprawled on the gallery floors drawing. Oh, and a whole bunch of Van Gogh paintings. 

I found two new favorites, Portrait of a Skull Smoking a Cigarette (so rock 'n' roll!): 

and Almond Blossoms:

Let's just admit, right now, that I spent a good deal of time and money in the gift shop. 

Then this morning I went on a "running tour" of Amsterdam, but I'll write about that in a separate post!

After the tour (and a hot shower!) I decided to head into the center and beyond, taking the free ferry over to Builsloterweg. 

and then walking along a canal, through Noorderpark, and onward to catch a glimpse of a windmill. Why? Well, duh. Meet d'Admiraal, a working gristmill:

Windmill? Check. 

As I walked back the couple of miles to the ferry, I remembered that I hadn't eaten since before the run. Luckily, I also remembered a great-looking cafe right next to the ferry dock: Cafe Du Pont. 

Seriously, this place is perfection. Cozy, with a bright and airy farmhouse / diner sort of feel, with a sweet menu. I don't know if its traditional or "the real Amsterdam", but I could seriously spend all day and all evening here. 

I had a sandwich, a Vedett Witbier, and am just enjoying a very mellow afternoon.

More soon.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend event guide is up!

Greetings from Amsterdam (more on that later...), where the time shift has me idly looking at the Internet at 4:30am. The other day I suddenly remembered, hold on, the Princess Half Marathon isn't far away. So this morning I took a peek at the runDisney site and ... IT'S UP!

The event guide tends to echo the color scheme of the weekend ... and, since there's an "Under the Sea" / Little Mermaid theme, I am hoping we'll have green or blue or purple event shirts. I mean, if I can't have a black shirt, a purple one is great!

Now, the race guides don't really change all that much race by race, or year by year, but the publishing of the event guide is always what makes things feel "real", like the race is just around the corner. Exciting! Now, I guess I should start really thinking about those costumes... any ideas?

View the Princess Half Marathon Weekend Event Guide

Friday, January 8, 2016

Seattle Half Marathon race report... FINALLY

This is what it looks like when you are banged up and super relieved that you "only" have to run a half marathon today.

This was my third Seattle Half Marathon... and I just realized that I have never run it fresh. My first time, in 2010, I had run the Seattle Ghost Half the day before. The second time, in 2012, Wil and I had completed the Widdle Waddle, the Half Bone, and the Seattle Ghost Half in the previous days as part of the Quadzuki.  And, of course, this time, Wil and I had run three FULL marathons in the days before.

Saying we were footsore, aching, and dead tired just doesn't say enough. But we were still ABSURDLY HAPPY that we just had to get through 13.1 miles. Let's do this. 

As usual, got great street parking on the northwest edge of the Seattle Center -- easy to get out after the race. Kept warm in the Armory while we killed a little time before the start, and then headed out. I did my usual "trick" of crossing the median to line up on the far side of the road, and somehow ended up reasonably close to the start. Besides the traditional pre-race pic above, I snapped one pick of the crowd. One major highlight? There's a guy wearing "my" 2014 Brooks Ugly Sweater Tee. Sweet.

run happy, my friend, run happy
No changes on the course; the gravitational vortex I witnessed in 2010 remained closed, the tunnel was, again, much nicer to run in this stage of the race, and -- WAIT! Did they actually spruce up that horrid little trail? I think yes??? 

Nice left turn to head to Leschi, though the lack of candy at the aid station remained disappointing. 

As we turned to go up the first big hill, we saw a gang from the November Project cheering and "running" people up the hill. We saw our pal Jess, who can running over, and she gave us big hugs and walked us up. (Yeah, we were most definitely walking at that point!) I was again slightly amused by walking past people who were running up the steep, steep hill. 

Then back down into Madison Valley, then right into the pretty, autumnal Arboretum, and then back and forth across, under, and over the freeway into downtown. 

With all the construction in South Lake Union, I think we might have run down a different road (maybe not?), but there was a really wide section where the Hashers had set up a little beer table. I almost missed it -- it was right before the Mercer underpass, and we were on the left side of the street while they were on the right -- but it was worth a detour, a high five, and a sip of beer.

I will say that it's super fun to run into a stadium for the finish -- even a high school stadium. So it's always a tiny thrill to run down the ramp and across the turf to the finish line in a slow but steady 2:56:34.

We picked up mylar sheets, our handsome medal (I love the little touch that the Space Needle extends past the bottom edge of the medal), and braved the finisher area. Maybe because we were slower than average, but still came in ahead of the first marathoners, it wasn't too rammed in there. But we still didn't linger -- we had a bottle of chocolate milk (seriously, I need to drink chocolate milk after EVERY race!) and then made our way up to the street. 

One BIG bonus of parking on the NW edge of the Seattle Center is that, well, we had to walk past T.S. McHugh's anyway... and since it was a Sunday during football season, they were open. So we went in, saw two seats (one of them Garth's seat) at the bar, so it was clearly meant to be. But the crowd was very football-focused, we were a bit cold and stinky, and we knew no one... so after one pint, we decided to just head home and eat there. 

2015 Seattle Half Marathon medal
When I run this race I always say that I enjoy it, but that I probably won't run it again. And now I've run it three times. It's a good one, seriously. I just wish it wasn't over Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Ghost of Seattle Marathon race report.... Finally

I can't believe it's been OVER A MONTH since this race... and since the craziness of the Quadzilla.  But a race is a race ... and especially when it's a freakin' marathon... well, it deserves at least a brief writeup. And -- SPOILER ALERT!! -- this is a great little race that I can highly recommend. 

Dragged our poor little, aching bodies out of bed early ... again ... to make the early start at 6am. SIX.A.M. That said, I do love when a race offers an early start. 

We wore our "bear hats" from the Wattle Waddle again, smiled and nodded at our fellow maniacs, and shuffled around in the dark and the cold. Nice pluses: the organizers had heaters and a tent set up ... but we didn't actually have all that much time to kill. 

We had a little course talk, but this was my third time running the event, so I wasn't worried. Then, in the dark dark dark, our little band set out. 

First we ran toward Seward Park, making a loop of the outside edge. It was... DARK. I should be clear from the outset that we really didn't RUN this race ... it was a swift hobble, no more than that. We had a few fellow travelers with us, including our friend Clint from Mainly Marathons, but we were pretty much on our own. So it was quiet and atmospheric. As we made our way around the park, the sky started to brighten and turn pink. 

We made it back to the start (about 3 miles) as the regular marathon starters were getting ready to go. It made things a little rough through the start village, but wasn't a big deal. I grabbed some candy (because, candy) and then we continued on to the out-and-back. 

I do love this course, following the lake shore, then going up and over the rise to Leschi. I'm always a teensy bit sad when I remember just how far AFTER the BEST AID STATION IN SEATTLE the turnaround is, but clearly I manage to block that out after each race. 

It goes without saying, we were caught well before aid station by the fastest marathoners. We were good race citizens and stayed off to the side ... hopefully earning some karma for future races!

Let me just highlight the aid station that they set up in Leschi. Running this race (the half marathon version) back in 2010 was my first experience with "ultra kibble": pretzels, potato chips, gummi bears, jelly beans, soda pop. I mean, if you're running 50K or 50 miles, EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT. It's such a thrill to have a handful of Ruffles, a cup of Coke, and some Red Vines before I head back out. 

Then out to the turnaround which, as I said earlier, seemed SO FAR AWAY. 

turnaround bright eyes
Then back back back, past the Leschi aid station again (more chips! more candy! more soda!), and back to the start/finish. Of course, this was just the first lap! That does feel a little cruel, I'm not gonna lie.

So we set off, again, for the loop of Seward Park (thank heavens, no big hill!), back through the start/finish (more candy? sure!), and then out to Leschi. Then to the turnaround, where we really felt we were in the home stretch ... despite having around 4 miles left.

But the weather was really nice, and, well, we do like to hang out with each other!

Wil just after the turnaround, heading in
As we got closer and closer to the finish, our moods brightened along with the day. Pretty!!!

I'm not gonna lie, this was one of the hardest race days I've ever had. Maybe not as hard as the Run Like the Wind Half Marathon, but this day was very, very long. How long? Well, it was my longest run ever ... just under 7 hours.

Yeah, that's right. SEVEN HOURS. It took us seven hours. Painful.

We received our very handsome medal and went up to the food tent, where we feasted on, seriously, some of the best post-race food ever. Did I mention that Field Roast was a sponsor? We had Field Roast hot dogs slathered with vegetarian chili, and a pint of beer from Odin (another sponsor). We chatted, a little shyly, with some of the other runners. Being day three, we finally introduced ourselves to people who we had had nodding acquaintance with for three long days... and, in some cases, for years.

I don't think I'm really going to run the marathon distance of this race again, but as I've said before, this is a great choice for a fall race in Seattle. It's reasonably priced, is charmingly small, has a nice course, fantastic food both during and after the event, offers handsome medals, raises money for local charities, holds a blanket drive, and even offers a nice cozy sweatshirt as the event shirt.

Heading home from the race we were both a little giddy ... I mean, the worst was over ... only one half marathon left ... which is a little absurd to feel "relief", but there you go.

2015 Seattle Ghost Marathon medal