Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Run 24

I'm leaving in a few minutes to head up to LA. From there, we fly out to Seattle tomorrow and then drive to Portland for the Hood to Coast on Friday. I don't know what to say really. I can't believe it's finally time. After my training was torpedoed the last week by a strange cold, I don't know whether I'm ready to go or set back enough to suck as bad as last year. I'm still getting over whatever has been bugging me for the past week, but I felt I had to run today. It's been over a week and to run the Hood to Coast after not running for 2 weeks seemed like a recipe for suicide. So I headed out and ran the shorter loop around my house.

Yikes. I'm still optimistic going into the race, but this final run was bad. I was definitely feeling the effects of taking a week off. Still, I think it was better to get a bad run over with today and feel like I still have some good ones left in me before race time.

It's now time to go. My next post will be about the race itself. It's finally here. Ready or not.

Russian River Brewing Company - Damnation

Russian River Brewing Company makes some of the best beers you will ever try (if you can find them). The names of their beers range from Sanctification to Beatification and from Pliny the Elder to Little White Lie and the styles this brewery tackles are just as interesting. Having tried Pliny the Elder (a Double IPA) and Supplication (a Sour), I decided to go for another one of their beers.

Damnation is labeled a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. I don't know that I've ever tried one of these before, so here goes.

The head swells up in the glass as soon as the beer touches it. I haven't seen one like this since the Saison Dupont. The color is a pale golden hue with a nice foamy head that had good retention.

The smell of the beer is really different. I definitely got a bunch of the yeast, but it doesn't smell as full and in your face as a lot of beers that use Belgian yeast. It also doesn't have that sort of bready smell that some yeast-strong beers tend to have.

The taste is a lot like the smell- full of yeast, but not in a way that's overpowering. To me, it almost felt like I was drinking a cider. This beer is no slouch at over 7%, but you wouldn't know it from the taste. It does a remarkable job of feeling light while not tasting light. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the almost total lack of carbonation. I could see bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass, but there was almost no carbonation in the taste. I don't know, maybe there was just something wrong with my bottle. Still, I enjoyed this beer a lot. Can't wait to try more from Russian River.

Final Grade: A-

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coronado Brewing Company - Mermaid's Red Ale

When I first moved to San Diego four years ago, I wasn't exactly crazy about it. I knew San Diego had Sea World. I knew it had a nice zoo. I knew the water at the beach felt warmer than it had in Santa Barbara. But that was about it. After 4 years down here, I've discovered that San Diego has a lot more to offer than I had originally thought. And if I had only known about the beer... As I learn more and more about the beer culture in San Diego, I want to leave this place less and less. There are so many amazing breweries down here and the best part about it is that they're some of the most innovative breweries in the world. Ballast is probably the best example for me, but there are a lot of other breweries down here that are never happy to settle with making a few "safe" beers. Despite trying a lot of beers down here, there are still a few breweries that I haven't tried yet. Green Flash, Lightning, Alpine, and a bunch more. Soon that will all change. On Saturday, I took one off the list- Coronado Brewing Company.

Coronado Brewing Company is located right on Coronado Island- a beautiful island across from downtown San Diego that is part naval base and part residential area and beach town. I hadn't heard much about their beers, but I saw one of them, Mermaid's Red Ale, at a restaurant in North Park and decided to try it.

The beer pours a deep ruby and chestnut brown color. The head quickly fades to a slight off white cap. Hops and malts definitely dominate the smell. So far so good.

Usually, I'm not a huge fan of red ales. I've had a few good ones, but for the most part, I've been pretty disappointed. This one didn't blow me away, but it was much better than most. It had decent complexity with notes of chocolate at the beginning and some smooth caramelized malts and then faded into a bitter hoppy finish. The mouthfeel was a little weak, but not bad. I think if nothing else, this beer opened my eyes to reds again. I'm definitely going to have to try a few more after this.

Final Grade: B

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brasserie d'Achouffe - Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

About a week ago, I saw a new beer at Bristol Farms. I'm a sucker for good looking labels and this one had it- a gnome picking hops out of a field. Being a fan of hops (and a fan of gnomes), I knew I was going to have to try it. Today, I went to The Yardhouse for the first time and saw it on the menu. Sold!

Alright, first a little about this beer. I didn't know any of this until I read up on it later, but still, I think it's good to know. First of all, the beer is made by a Belgian brewery- Brasserie d'Achouffe. They make a few specialty beers that they export to the states and a few find their way to Southern California. This beer in particular is a mix between a Belgian Tripel and an American IPA. Strange, but definitely intriguing. Until today I had never tried a Belgian IPA. On to the tasting...

The beer pours a very pale straw color that seemed to have pale green tinges to it. It is obviously unfiltered and very hazy and capped by a thin head. The smell is full of bright citrus notes: apple, pear and lemon. As the beer warmed, the smell was all pear and delicious.

The taste was well represented by the smell. It's full of light fruit flavors and a lot of malty smoothness. The finish has a bit of pepper and a decent hit of hops. The hit isn't quite as hard as it probably should be for a double IPA. Still, this was a pretty solid beer.

Final Grade: B+

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Lost Abbey - Avant Garde

For a few months now, I've been wanting to try some of The Lost Abbey's beer. Lost Abbey was started by two of the head brewers from Pizza Port (a really awesome pizza and beer place down here in San Diego) who wanted to start a brewery that specialized in Belgian style beers. Most of their beers have pretty amazing names (Duck Duck Gooze, Judgment Day, 10 Commandments, etc.) and I had heard nothing but good things about all of their beer, so it was time. On Sunday, I found one of their beers, Avant Garde, at Bristol Farms and it was go time.

There are some beers that you have to drink fast. Usually, these are beers that taste terrible once they get warm (A.K.A.- Anything with "Lite" in the name, almost any beer that would be good with sushi, PBR). Avant Garde is not one of these beers. As soon as you pour it, you just know that it's a beer that you'd like to spend a little time with before it's gone. The beer pours a hazy gold with a fairly large head that recedes lazily to a light foam cap. The aromas coming from the beer are wonderful. Light malts and freshly baked bread make up the majority of the smell, but there are other things present and it takes a while for them to come out.

The flavor of this beer was wonderful. I can't pinpoint why exactly, but this reminded me a lot of a saison but without the "funk." There was something very earthy about the taste that had "saison" written all over it. The hops were present but pretty subtle and very earthy. There was also a little sweetness from the malts and a lot of that fresh baked bread flavor that was present in the smell. There is so much going on in this beer that drinking it too fast would be a sin. It's a wonderful beer, but one you need to have some time to drink. I can't wait to try some more of their brews. This one was special.

Final Grade: A

Run 23

It never fails- anytime you I have a good run, I know my next one is doomed.

On Monday, I set out to run the Regents loop (3.25 miles) around my house after work. For some reason, I really felt like I was going to kill it. I had been thinking about running all day at work and I had been counting down the minutes until work was over so I could get out there. Still, when I started, something didn't feel right. I don't know if it was something I ate or the lingering effects of the long run on Thursday, but when I started running, I felt sluggish. My tank felt like it started at 10% instead of full and it dwindled quickly.

I decided that I had been waiting too long to run not to give it my all, so I charged the first mile with a full head of steam. By the time I reached the mile mark, I had set a new personal best, but also had nothing left for the final 2 miles. To make matters worse, the sun decided to up its intensity right at the moment I was feeling the worst.

The last 2 miles were a blur in slow motion. It felt like it took forever to reach my place again and by the time I did, I felt like I had run a marathon. Really bad.

I'm going to write this run off as nothing. I've had a few of these runs before and it usually just means that the next run is going to be better. Now I'm just hoping that my last run before Hood to Coast isn't a really good one.

Run 22

On Thursday, I set out to try something new- run 10 miles. Up until 2 weeks ago, I had never run more than 7 miles at a time and the run that broke that record for me barely did so. With 2 weeks until race time, I decided it was now or never as far as trying a really epic run. So I called Cesar up and asked if he was up for trying to run 10 miles- he was.

Before the run, I decided to try something new. Gatorade just came out with a "performance system" that involves three different drinks that you use while exercising. We decided to try the "before" one (a pouch of syrupy liquid you take 15 minutes before exercise) right before we ran and the "after" one (a slightly chalky drink in a smaller bottle that's full of protein) once we were done.

Whether it was mental or not, I think that the "before" stuff really helped. After the first 6 miles, I was still feeling pretty fresh. The cramp monster was strangely absent and my breathing felt way too normal for what I had just done. After a short break, we headed down the boardwalk again.

Surprisingly, the next trip up the boardwalk wasn't bad either. By the time we made it to the end, we were both definitely feeling the mileage, but it was still better than I had expected to feel. Knowing that our final mileage was going to be closer to 11 miles, something inside me wanted to head back out for an extra 2 miles once we made it back just so I could say I had run a half marathon. Sadly, I overestimated my abilities once again.

On the way back to the Pacific Beach pier, things took a turn for the worse. All of a sudden, we both hit the wall. Without Cesar there, I probably wouldn't have made it. It wasn't that anything terrible like a cramp hit me, it was just that the miles finally caught up with me. By the time we hit the 10 mile mark, we were both struggling and realized that we still had a mile to go. We could see the finish in the distance but no matter how long we ran for, it didn't seem to be getting any closer.

Finally, after the longest mile I've probably ever ran, we made it back to the pier. It was pretty bad. Everything hurt and I felt about to pass out. People walking by were giving us strange looks and I knew that I would be doing the same if I was in their place. Slowly, we walked back to my car and drank the Gatorade "after" drinks. They didn't taste so great, but I felt my senses slowly coming back. A few minutes later, I felt better and by the end of the day (besides a few sore muscles), I hardly knew I had run at all.

So what did I learn? Most of it was encouraging. I learned that my body can take 11 miles of punishment and not explode. I learned that all the training I've put in may actually be helping. I learned that it might not be a bad idea to bring a few of those Gatorades on Hood to Coast. And I learned that I would probably run the Hood to Coast a lot faster if I had Cesar running with me.

We leave in a week. This year I'm ready.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Plzensky Prazdroj, a. s. - Pilsner Urquell

We've carried Pilsner Urquell for a while now at Trader Joes, so I decided that it was time to give it a try. I feel like lighter beers have been underrepresented on this blog, so I might as well change that up a bit.

Pilsner Urquell is one of the most (if not the most) famous of the Czech beers that makes its way to the U.S. It is "the world's first pilsner" and is now brewed in a few different locations in Europe. I was reading some reviews of the beer on beeradvocate and it seems that the recipe has been dummed down a bit over time to suit more people. Bad move, guys. From my experience with beers, they never seem to taste as good once you change something that was already tasty.
Alright, time for a try.

The beer pours a clean and clear golden yellow with a quickly receding white foam head. It smells the way I've come to learn pilsners should smell- clean, hoppy, a little funky and a little skunked. This one's definitely not skunked, but has that slight skunky smell.

The taste is clean and crisp. The hops make up the body of the flavor and there is a very earthy quality to them. The finish has the bitter flavor that most European beers do. It definitely represents the style well. The beer's flavor even remind me a bit of a saison. For beer that is produced this much, it's actually not bad. Definitely way better than a Beck's or a Budweiser. I don't think this beer is anywhere near the top of my list, but it was better than I was expecting.

Final Grade: B

Run 21

The past few days, I've been car-less, which hasn't been so fantastic. My car broke down about a week ago and it should be all fixed (hopefully) by this afternoon. While it hasn't been the end of days or anything, it's meant that I've had to walk the 2 miles home from work everyday which also means that I haven't felt like running a whole lot when I get back. Yesterday, I decided that with two weeks left, I really had no choice but to run, so I ran the last mile home in my work clothes (box cutter and all) and then changed and went back out and ran the 3.25 mile loop.

Not so long ago, I dreaded running after work. It wasn't that I didn't want work to be over, I just didn't want to run after working an 8 hour day. Things have changed a lot in the last few months though, and now, I find myself constantly looking out the window and wishing I was running. This went on for the entire day yesterday, so when I finally started running, it felt like a spring had been winding inside me the entire day. I took off down the street a lot faster than I had meant to and almost tripped over the uneven pavement a few times. I was still in my work clothes and I could feel my box cutter smacking against me with every step, but I had been waiting too long for this to stop. By the time I reached home, I had worn myself out and hardly felt like running again. Still, I realized that a mile wasn't going to do a whole lot for me and my training, so I changed into my running clothes and went back outside.

The weather had warmed considerably, but it still felt good to be out and running after being at work all day. I could feel my legs protesting after being asked to exercise again in such a short time, but I felt surprisingly good. After cresting the first big hill, I went into a steady tank mode and never really drifted into the torpedo or T-Rex zones, which was a good thing. I think the important thing was getting back out there, not pushing myself too hard. I'm saving a bigger run for Thursday.

It's now 2 weeks until we leave for the race. As far as the progress I'm making goes, I think I am light years beyond where I was last year, but I still feel there's a little ways to go. I feel like if the race was today, I would be ok (which is a really great feeling), but I still want to improve and make sure that I kill my end of the race when the time finally comes. I think Thursday is going to be a really good test of where I'm really at. Let's see how it goes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Unibroue - Ephemere

So finally, it was time to try the last of the Unibroue taster pack. Sadly, I cracked open the last of the beers, Ephemere, and poured.

The beer pours an apple cider gold with a lot of carbonation. The beer is unfiltered and has a lot floating around in it. Right at the end of the pour, something brown sloshed out of the bottle and into the glass. Total buzzkill. I didn't find out what it was until the end of the pour.

The smell of the beer is pretty much all granny smith apple. This definitely carried into the taste as well as a slight pepperyness and spiciness. The feel is a little thin and the sweetness is a little off. Definitely not my favorite of the Unibroues.

When I got to the bottom of the glass, all the sediment had settled there and I just couldn't bring myself to drink it. It had become a brown glob at the bottom of the glass. Really, I've seen more appetizing things in vomit. I wasn't a fan. I kind of wish I had saved a better beer for last. Not a total waste of time, but definitely not the best.

Final Grade: C

Uehara Shuzou Co. Ltd. - Koshihikari Echigo Beer

Yesterday, I went out for sushi with my girlfriend and one of my best friends, Dylan. While we were there, I noticed that the restaurant had just gotten a new beer- Koshihikari Echigo. It sounded interesting enough so I decided to try it.

The beer comes in a very traditionally Japanese looking bottle. Most of the writing is in Japanese on the bottle and the label has a watercolor on it of some people picking rice in a field. It almost looks more like a sake bottle than a beer bottle. Something told me right away I was going to like this beer.

The beer pours a very pale and clear yellowish color with almost no head. The smell of the beer is pretty similar to that of a Kirin or a similar Japanese beer with a lot of maltiness coming through. As the beer warmed a bit, I could pick out a little steamed rice in the smell.

The taste of the beer was also pretty similar to that of a Kirin and was malty with a slight bitterness. However, whereas the finish of a Kirin or Asahi is all bitterness, the finish of the Koshihikari fades into an almost sweet smooth finish. Probably my favorite part of the beer. It's absolutely perfect with sushi. Definitely worth a try, just make sure you find out how much it is before the check comes. Oops.

Final Grade: B+

Friday, August 6, 2010

Run 20

Everyone has a different mantra while they run. Last year during the Hood to Coast, I read Haruki Murakami's book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." It was probably the best thing I could have read at the time and I really think that a lot of the nuggets of wisdom from the book helped me through the race. One was Murakami's mantra: "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." Whenever I was in pain during the race, I told myself this mantra and I'd like to think it helped. For a while now, I haven't really had a mantra of my own, but if I have, it's probably been something like this: "The faster you finish, the faster you'll be done." While this has worked for a while, I feel like it's not really the best approach as it really does nothing for me when I'm in a rough spot.

Maybe the most optimistic mantra I've heard is that of my friend and teammate Bryce, whose mantra is this: "Hills are your friend." I wish that this could be my mantra, I really do. I just can't do it though. As much as I tried to like them, hills and I have never been on good terms. I'll be in the middle of a decent run (or near death like I was during the last leg of the Hood to Coast last year) and then a hill will come along and make things worse. So this year, I decided to try something different- train for the hills.

When I ran the 7 mile loop around my house, the most brutal part was towards the end of the run when I came to the large uphill by the Mormon temple by my house. So yesterday, I drove to the bottom of the hill and ran it. The uphill is part of a 1.5 mile loop that I used to live on, and it goes steadily uphill for about 3/4 of a mile before turning back downhill.

I went out to the loop planning to do it 3 times without stopping. Not only would this get me in shape on this hills, but it would get me out of my usual pattern of having to stop at a ton of traffic lights, forcing me to run the 4.5 miles nearly non-stop.

As it turned out, this was easier said than done. I made it through the first lap without much of a problem. Then the sun decided to make things interesting and warm up about 15 degrees. Suddenly, I was nearing T-Rex mode on only the second lap and being absolutely baked by the sun. Somehow I made it up the hill, but I didn't think I would be able to do another lap without a break.

I've noticed a pattern in my train of thought when I'm running. I always tend to make the worst decisions when I'm running downhill. Decisions like "10 miles is totally doable today," or "I can definitely do 3 more laps of this." Then I come to a section of the run that actually tests me and I start to hate my life and my poor decision making skills. It's a vicious cycle.

On the run yesterday, I started downhill on my second lap and decided it would be a good idea to just go for it and run a third lap. After all, it was what I had set out to do at the start of the run. Of course, I got to the start of the hill and remembered how badly I had felt on the last lap. Still, I wasn't about to turn back, so I steadily made my way back up the hill. Soon enough, the run was done and so were my legs. Still, I felt like I was a step closer to liking hills. For now, we're still not friends. Frenemies maybe.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Run 19

I've discovered that I have 3 different running styles. Which one I use can either depend on the day in general or on the way I'm feeling at any given point during a run. I'm going to call these "Walker's Three T's."

T1- Torpedo Mode: It's rare that I'm in full torpedo mode, but when I am I feel like there's no stopping me. There have only been a handful of runs, including the one last Monday, during which I felt I was in full torpedo mode. Usually, I go into a short stretch during any given run where I feel like I've gone into torpedo mode. Feeling like I'm in this mode is pretty much the reason I've come to love running. Torpedo mode means "full steam ahead" and it feels great. If I can have a few good stretches of torpedo mode during Hood to Coast, I will be a happy panda.

T2- Tank Mode: This mode is what probably 80% of my running falls into. When I go into tank mode, I try to find a pace that's not too fast and not too slow. For the most part, this is about a 7:30 mile pace, but I'm trying to knock that down a bit. Tank mode isn't quite as exciting as torpedo mode, but I still feel like it's going to take a lot to bring me off my steady pace. Nothing wrong with tank mode. But there is something wrong with our last "T."

T3- T-Rex Mode: Bad news. When I'm running in T-Rex mode, I feel like my arms are way too short for my body. For whatever reason, when I'm struggling, my arms pull up close to my chest and swing diagonally rather than moving backwards and forwards along my sides. I don't know exactly what a T-Rex would look like running down my street for exercise, but I can imagine it would look a little something like me when I'm in trouble.

Usually when I go running, it takes me a minute or two to warm my muscles up and get into tank tode. But once I'm there, I usually feel pretty solid throughout the run barring a few dips into T-Rex mode or highs that reach into torpedo mode. Sadly, Run 19 began in T-Rex territory and never really made in out.

I could feel something was wrong pretty much right off the bat. It wasn't that any part of my body really hurt, it was just that I felt really sluggish. Maybe it was because I had already worked a full shift at work. Maybe it was because I worked really early the day before and had ingested enough caffeine in the past 24 hours to put down a small animal. Whatever the reason, my body just couldn't get in the groove and soon enough, I felt my arms shrinking up against my chest. T-Rex mode was in full effect.

Despite struggling for the majority of the run, I was able to finish less than 2 minutes slower than my fastest time. So now, I feel like I have my range established. The pace I should be running is somewhere right between as fast as I ran last Monday and as badly as I did this Monday. Even though this run was brutal, I feel like I'm still making progress. I'm just hoping that T-Rex mode decides to stay in California when we go up for Hood to Coast.

Rogue Brewery - Chocolate Stout

In a few short weeks, we will be embarking on our trip up to Oregon for the Hood to Coast. In case we have some extra time up there, I looked up some of the breweries in Portland and found that Rogue has a brewhouse right in downtown. Score! Not only that, but the airport happens to have a bar in it that is run by Rogue. I don't know for sure yet, but something tells me this trip needs to be extended a few days.

To get in the spirit, I've decided to try and get my hands on a few of their beers before we go up there. So far, I've only tried their Dead Guy Ale and their Hazelnut Brown Nectar. Then, a few weeks ago, I spotted their Chocolate Stout in the market and had to pick it up.

Rogue's Chocolate Stout pours a deep and thick brown with an almost Abyss-like dark brown foamy head. The head had really great retention and left a lot of lacing down the glass. When you smell the beer, it smells like cocoa. And not like Swiss Miss cheap cocoa, but the best cocoa you can imagine.

While the smell of this beer pretty much sticks to "chocolate," the flavors locked in it are a bit more complex. There is definitely a lot of chocolate in this beer, but it's not as sweet as the smell leads you to believe. The chocolate is definitely bittersweet with a slight hoppiness coming through about midway in the taste. The finish is a hard hit of bittersweet chocolate that is perfect. The mouthfeel of this beer is really smooth and almost milky. A very smooth beer and a solid offering from Rogue. I'm excited to try more of their stuff before I head up there.

Final Grade: A

Monday, August 2, 2010

Unibroue - Blanche de Chambly

Last night, I finally got around to trying the third beer from the Unibroue taster pack. I have to say, I really wish these beers were easier to find around here. Maybe it's time to move a little closer to Montreal.

Blanche de Chambly pours a murky straw color with a thin white head. The smell is definitely full of citrus of some kind, probably lemon, and the yeast is definitely present.

The flavor of the beer is definitely one of the best in a wit I've ever had. Very smooth, very drinkable. There is a slight peppery flavor towards the finish that blends really nicely with the citrus flavors. This beer reminds me somewhat of a Blue Moon, but definitely one that is better made (no offense to Blue Moon). Overall, this was a really fantastic example of the Belgian Wit style and I'm a little sad there's only one more of these Unibroue beers left to try.

Final Grade: A