Thursday, November 25, 2010

Drumstick Dash 10K Race Review

Before I get to the race report, let me give you a little background first.  The Wife has been down in Florida all week visiting her dad, so I've been home alone.  How does that affect my race?  Well, when I'm home alone, I tend to stay up too late and eat, well, let's just say that I eat irresponsibly (hamburgers and Oreos anyone?  I've also been filling in some late shifts at work, so last night I didn't head home until after 9pm, and didn't get to bed until well after 11pm.

As a result, I wasn't particularly enthused to get out of bed this morning to tackle a 10K.  It's funny how your bed can feel its most comfortable after you're done using it.  In any event, I got up, hopped in the shower to warm up a bit, and then headed to the kitchen to get some breakfast.  That was when I saw the current temperature.

You have GOT to be kidding me.
Single digits.  Yay.

When I told my dad I would be running on Thanksgiving, he said, 'Oooh.  Make sure to keep your junk warm'.  Good call Dad.  I started by putting on two layers of compression shorts and then my running tights.  For good luck, I put my green Covenant Pines shorts - the same one's from the Monster Dash a month ago. Remember....?

On top, I went with a long-sleeve base layer and a running t-shirt over that.  For a shell, I used the same jacket from the Monster Dash.  It's not too heavy, but really keeps the wind out.  For my noggin, I went with a plain old winter cap.  I have a skullcap, but it can't soak up too much sweat, so if I got overheated, things could get messy.

I learned my lesson at the Monster Dash that there's no point in getting to a fun race waaaay ahead of schedule, so when I got to the Lake Harriet area, I just sat in the car until there were about 20 minutes to go.   I walked/jogged about a half a mile to get to get to the band shell, and did a few pick-ups to get my blood flowing.  The band shell provided some protection from the wind, so I could do some light stretching without getting blown around.

With a few minutes to go before the start, all of the racers shuffled over to the course.  Most of us hopped in place or did some high-knee kicks to keep warm.  At 8:01 on the nose, the race started.  There was no gun, no horn and certainly no Ironman cannon.  It was just a nice, casual 'Okay....GO!' from one of the race officials.

My goal pace for this race was a sub-9:30 mile.  Okay, it really wasn't a goal, but more of a prediction.  I haven't been as motivated lately to bust my rump for a good time, plus, I had no idea how my asthma would be impacted by the cold.

Mile 1 - 9:44   As with most races, the 1st mile was the slowest.  The road was at it's most crowded and everyone's legs were still warming up.  I hopped onto the running trail to get a little more room to maneuver, but only stayed on for about 1/4 mile.  My Minnesota High School Geometry education told me that staying on the path would mean running a shorter race (Circumference=Pi x D, and all that).  In other words, I didn't want to be a cheater.

Mile 2 - 9:09   There were a couple steep hills on the back side of the lake.  Sure, they weren't fun to get up.  They weren't long, but they were steep.  The downhills on the other side though, well, they were long and shallow, which probably aided in speeding me up.

Mile 3 - 9:12   As we finished our first loop around the lake, the road conditions got worse.  Basically, you had two options.  You could run on the firm ground and risk hitting an ice patch.  Or, you could run on the snowy ground where, you wouldn't slip, but each footstep would sink down an inch or two.  Either way, it was hard to run efficiently.  Lots of effort was wasted on slipping or sinking feet.

On a side note, there was a water station at the 1/2 way point, but all of the water was freezing in the cups.  I've never had to chew my water during a race before.  Sweet.

Mile 4 - 9:13  At this point, I thought, "cool, only a few more miles to go".  This chunk of the race was fairly uneventful.  Although, I did have to take off my shades.  They were so fogged up that everything was a big gray blur.  I guess I must have been generating a little heat.
Mile 5 - 8:48  I was still feeling pretty good and could keep a faster pace, so I decided to push the last couple of miles.  Surprisingly, the asthma was behaving itself too.  I was a little warm, and probably could have done without the short-sleeved t-shirt, but it never got to the point where I was uncomfortable.

Mile 6 - 8:46   I kept pushing through the last mile.  The footing was a little wonky from time to time.  My lungs were really starting to burn from the cold air, and my quads were barking too. 

Mile 6.25 - 1:54   As with most races, the last little bit is fueled purely by adrenaline.  Having a downhill finish helped a bunch too.  I hit the line and stopped my watch - 56:45.  That meant I averaged 9:05 per mile.  Not too shabby for being under-motivated.

I didn't stick around long after finishing, and neither did many other people.  Once my heart slowed down a bit, I knew that all my sweat was going to start to give me the chills, so I headed for the car.  That's cool though.  Not every race has to have a party afterward. 

When I got back to the car, I snapped this photo.  Behold, the season's first beard-cicle:
Also included: the season's first eyelash-cicle, sideburns-cicle and 'stache-cicle.
I felt good about the race.  No, that's not quite it.  I feel good about the RUN. It was nice to get in a good winter workout that wasn't on the treadmill at the gym.  Hopefully, I can stay motivated to run more outside, regardless of temperature.  With some changes to my work schedule, I'll have the opportunity to do some morning runs every Wednesday, at least for a little while.

For tonight, I'll be tackling the late shift at the office, so that everyone else can snarf down some bird.  Don't worry about me though.  I've got a family dinner with my name on it on Saturday.  I'll even have a new 'Fun in the Kitchen' post tomorrow as I prepare my portion of the meal.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

Oh, and Dad - my junk is just fine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drumstick Dash 10K Race Preview

As far as race previews go, this one won't take too long.  Honestly, I signed up for this race yesterday on a whim.  Back in high school, I did the Arena Club 5K (which has since morphed into the Lifetime Fitness Turkey Day 5K) along with the rest of my buddies on the cross country team.  With The Wife out of town this week, I figured now was as good a time as any to renew the Thanksgiving race tradition.

The Drumstick Dash 10K will follow a 2-lap course around Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis.  You may remember this from the Monster Dash a few weeks ago.  Like the Monster Dash, the activity will be centered at the Harriet Band Shell.

What am I expecting for the race?  Well, for one, weather conditions will be unfavorable.  The forecast is predicting snow from tomorrow afternoon until early morning on Thursday.  Temperatures are aiming to be in the teens for the race.  We'll have to see how the weather affects my performance.  Cold weather can really wreak havoc with my asthma.  Some days, there's no effect.  Other days, it can really be a little bastard.

I've also been pulling back on the training volume lately.  sure, I still get some kind of workout in about 5 days a week, but I haven't done many runs lately over 6 or 7 miles.   Do I feel prepared to run the 10K?  Heck yeah.  Am I taking this race seriously?  Heck no!  I'm approaching this the same as I would a tough workout during the summertime.  I'm not going to get bent out of shape if my time stinks.  Heck.  I'm not even going to bother predicting a time.

"No time?" you ask.  "Why bother racing?"  you say.  Well, there are lots of reasons.  For one, it'll give me a kick in the butt for running in the cold.  It's a long winter, and the sooner I get used to it, the better.

For another, there's the Wow Factor.  When I tell people that I ran a 10K on Thanksgiving, they'll say "Wow.  You're nuts!".  For some reason, people thinking I'm nuts feels good. 

Still not good enough for you?  Fine.  How about knowing that the calories I burn at the race will help to offset that extra helping of turkey, or 2nd slice of pie?  If PIE isn't a good reason to race, then I don't know what is. 

What?  You STILL want a time goal?  All right, all right.  If the course hasn't turned into a luge run, traction isn't a problem and the asthma behaves itself, then I'll be aiming for mile splits around 9:30.  Yeah.  I know.  That's significantly SLOWER than my splits for the Monster Dash.  Like I said, I haven't put in the longer distances lately.  Hopefully, my recent speed work will help keep the pace up, but who knows?

I'll do my best to get that race report up on Thanksgiving, but I'm not making any promises.  Whether you're hitting the road for a race, spending the weekend with friends and family, or celebrating the holiday solo like me, I hope you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving.

Later dudes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen #7 - The Bacon Eruption

Lisa: “I’m going to become a vegetarian”
Homer:  “Does that mean you’re not going to eat any pork?”
Lisa: “Yes”
Homer: “Bacon?”
Lisa: “Yes Dad”
Homer: "Ham?”
Lisa: “Dad all those meats come from the same animal”
Homer:  “Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!”"

Yes.  The Bacon Explosion was just the beginning.  Just to review, the original explosion was essentially a sausage patty filled with onion, bacon, barbecue sauce and wrapped in a blanket knit from bacon.  Take a look...

Disclaimer: I'm not a chef.  I'm just an average dude that likes to goof around in the kitchen.  Be smart.  FULLY COOK YOUR MEAT.  If you make dumb choices in the kitchen, you're probably going to regret it.  Don't come crying to me after getting your stomach pumped.

It all started when I was asked to create another bacon explosion for a group of friends this weekend. Not being one to rest on my laurels, I decided to turn up the volume this time around.  I give you....drum-roll please...the Bacon Eruption.  It's a spicier, more savory and, dare I say, MEATIER extension of the original recipe. 

First - the ingredients.  I started with 3.5 pounds of thick-cut bacon, 2 pounds of Italian sausage, 1 pound of hot Italian sausage, 2 white onions, 6 cloves of garlic, chipotle chiles, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce and thin-sliced honey ham.

The first step is weaving a blanket of thick-sliced bacon.  Now, the last time around, the lattice was 1 bacon slice wide by one bacon slice long, or 12-inches square.  This time, the lattice is going to be 18-inches square.  This means doubling up your bacon strips for each row and column in the blanket.  You'll want to keep a bit of overlap where the slices meet in the middle.  Otherwise the structure may fall apart later on in the process.
Yep.  That pig blanket measures 2 feet across the diagonal.
Don't forget to add the dry rub of your choosing
The next step is preparing the sausage mix that will be spread over this lovely lattice of pork.  First, mix the 3-pounds of sausage in a large bowl. 

Then, turn your attention to one of the new 'secret' ingredients - the Chipotle peppers.   I was aiming for medium heat, so I chopped up 2 chiles and added them into the sausage mixture.  If you like a little more spice, just ad another chopped pepper or two.  Then, mince in 6 garlic cloves and mix everything together into a uniform mass. 

Hot and savory.  They should really fill out the flavor.
Now, take your sausage ball and spread it in an even layer over your bacon blanket.  Make sure to leave 1-2 inches around the outside of the blanket uncovered by sausage - you'll need that extra bacon later on when we wrap up the whole mixture.

Next, fry up 1/2 pound of bacon.  I prefer nice, crispy bacon.  It's easier to crumble and sprinkle over the top of the sausage.  Add 2 sliced onions and 1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce.  Then, you're ready to start rolling.
Those onions will simmer while cooking and provide some sweetness to the dish.
Take your time when rolling the sausage into a tight log.  Once you start, there's no going back.  Don't worry if it cracks or tears.  Just squish it back together again. 
Now it's time for our 2nd new ingredient - thin-sliced honey ham.  Layer the ham around your sausage log, overlapping to make sure you get complete coverage.  Take your time when lifting the log and adding ham to the bottom.  When you're finished, it should look something like this...

All right.  So far, so good.  Now, there's only one thing left to do: wrap it up in tight.  Roll this entire creature up tightly in your sheet of bacon.  Try to end up with the seam on the bottom.  Will it taste better that way?  No. It just looks better.  Tuck in the corners and it's ready to cook.
I put the can of soda in for scale.  That's an 18-inch, 7 pound mass of bacon, sausage and ham.

Now, as far as cooking goes, there's only one hard and fast rule: get the internal temperature over 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  There's no use bragging about your meat sculpture if everyone that eats it gets food poisoning.  If you have the time, a smoker is the best way to go.  You could also grill it over gas or charcoal.  In my case, I just baked it in an oven.  Go ahead and put this sucker right on the rack, but make sure you put something on the next rack down to catch all the juices.  Otherwise you're going to have a terrible mess, not to mention a pretty wicked fire hazard. 

I baked mine at 350 and used a probe thermometer to monitor the temp.  This took about 2 hours.  When it was finished.  It looked like this...

I think it goes without saying, but this is DEFINITELY a 'sometimes food'.
Last time, we sliced the Bacon Explosion into medallions and ate them on English muffins.  This time around, the medallions were up to 6 inches across.  We ate those suckers like steak.  If you look close, you can see every layer that was spiraled together - bacon, ham and sausage.

There you go.  One Bacon Eruption.  Guaranteed to fill your tummy with pork and your arteries with cholesterol.  

The Wife is out of town this week.  So, it'll just be me and the Bark 'n' Sniffer  The plan is to get some good longer workouts in.  I'm hoping to do a 10K race on Thanksgiving, but I'll probably wait until the last minute to sign up.

Don't forget to 'Like' me on Facebook, where you can find even more photos of the Bacon Eruption.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Off-Season Training - Room for Improvement

Around here, the next triathlon on the calendar is months away.  Heck.  I haven't event picked the next tri on my schedule.  Sure, there will be the occasional running race, but for the most part, entering the winter month means more training for maintenance rather than a specific goal.

In order to pick what I want to focus on, I looked back on the last year to see what my strengths were and where I'd like to improve.  Granted, I'd like to get stronger in all three disciplines, but since I'm not exactly a pro triathlete, I don't have an unlimited amount of time over the winter to dedicate to training.  So far, I've been averaging between 6 and 8 hours per week.  Its a fraction of the 18-22 I was slugging through last summer.

I don't think that there's any question swimming is my strongest event.  In all of my races, I finished closest to the front of the pack in swimming.  I even pulled off a 2nd place age-group swim at the Chaska Tri.  So, I'm comfortable pulling back a little bit so I can focus more on the other disciplines. So far, I've limited my swim workouts to 1/2 hour sessions over lunch - I'm fortunate that my gym is literally across the street from my office.  I'll alternate between tempo sessions, form drills, speed work, and kicking drills.  Sure, I'll turn up the volume soon, probably in February and March, to build towards next summer's tri season.  But the shorter, more frequent workouts seem to be working well so far.

On the bike, I've been, well, average.  Race results usually have me right in the middle of the pack.  That's not to say that I'm happy being there.  I'd certainly like to improve my performance next year.  I'm not too worried about endurance.  Having trained for an Ironman, I know how to put on the mega-miles.  But, since I'm not doing an Ironman next year, it's time to learn how to bike faster.

When the weather doesn't want to cooperate - which is most of the time around here - I'll be on the trainer.  For those of you not familiar.  A trainer is a device that your bike 'plugs' into.  It usually holds your rear wheel off the ground and inch or two with a roller pressing against your rear tire to provide resistance.  It's like turning your ride into an exer-cycle at the gym, except you get to use your own shoes, saddle and other goodies.

Anyway, the plan is to do more tempo, speed and strength drills.  Basically, I'll be teaching my body to tolerate the pain of pushing harder.  In the end, this should increase the upper limits of how fast I can go.  To quote Greg LeMond regarding racing at a higher level, "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster".


Let's face it.  Running is my weakest event.  It's where I dropped six places during the Chaska Tri, and where my day fell apart during the Ironman.  I know, I know.  Nutrition had more to do with my difficulty on the run for the Ironman, but it's still the event I want to improve on the most.

Long runs of 10-15 miles are still do-able, even if some of them have to be on the dread-mill, but I really want to focus on getting faster.  Again, I'll be turning to tempo and speed training for this.  You know, to teach my body to deal with the stress of running faster until holding a wicked-tough pace doesn't hurt so bad anymore.  I guess a nice silver-lining about using the treadmill is that I can be very specific about executing these tempo and speed drills and generally freaking out all the other people in the gym.

Now, even though it IS my weakest event, it's still the one that I've improved with the most over the last couple of years.  For example, in my first ever tri, an Olympic-distance event called Trinona, I finished the 10K (6.2 mile) run leg with splits of 10:41/mile.  Exactly 1 year later, I finished the 1/2 marathon (13.1 mile) run at the Liberty Triathlon with splits averaging 9:25/mile.

This is where stuff gets fun.  Hours upon hours of training can really wear on your psyche.  So, mixing in some fun sports is on the agenda.  I've been taking Pilates classes since September, mostly because a stronger core and better flexibility are good things.  But, it's also a good change of pace.  I gave roller-blading a try a couple weeks ago.  Lesson: it's hard to stop on roller-blades, and the ground is not as soft as it looks.  I'll probably start some light weight-lifting, not to get big, but to firm things up a little.

So that's the picture from 50,000 feet.  Now, the challenge will be developing a workable plan and sticking to it.  I'll keep you posted.

Oh.  Speaking of keeping you posted.  Don't forget to check me out on Facebook.  Lately, I've been posting photos from the past year.  Don't forget to 'Like' me and stroke my fragile little ego.  Then you'll automatically get updates the next time I try to do something crazy, like this weekend.  Hint: it involves a metric-crap-ton of pork, tiny burgers and a deep fat fryer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Captain Tan Lines Hits You in the Facebook

That's right!  You can now get notifications every time a new Captain Tan Lines blog post hits the Interwebs.  I did this for a couple of reasons.

1.  In the past, I was putting my new blog posts on my personal Facebook status.  That worked fine for a while, but I felt like it was time to give my friends and family a choice as to whether they wanted all those crazy updates about training, racing and kitchen adventures.

2.  I don't exactly follow a regular posting schedule.  Sure, lately, I've been posting about Fun in the Kitchen on a weekly basis, but the rest of my entries are coming at irregular intervals.  With an option to 'Like' my page on Facebook, you won't have to deal with the disappointment of checking my site only to find out that there's nothing new.

3.  Admittedly, I'm an attention whore.  Since discovering the Blogger stat-tracker, my self-esteem has been directly tied to the number of daily hits to this blog.   I'm hoping that a presence on Facebook will encourage more visitors, which will encourage more feedback, which will enrich the content on the site, which will encourage more visitors, which will stroke my fragile little ego.  Everyone's a winner.

Okay.  So what do you need?  Simple.  All you need is a Facebook account.  What?  You don't have a Facebook account?  Are you living in a CAVE?  Oh.  I get it.  You're one of those old-fashioned folks that actually talks to people in person or over the phone.  How quaint.  That's fine, even cave dwellers can get Facebook accounts.  So, go get one.  Then scroll down the right side of the page and click on 'Like'.

What is there to look forward to this week?  Well, I'll be tackling off-season training, taking another stab at the bacon explosion, and combining a deep-fat fryer with a local fast food delicacy.

Later Gators.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter Hits Minnesota

A week ago, I posted about a casual ride around Lake Minnetonka.  I mentioned that 'The Snow Was Coming'.   Well, now I kinda wish that I had kept my big mouth shut.  Yesterday morning, I woke up to THIS...

and THIS...

Yep.  We got 10 inches of heavy wet Slurpie dumped on us over the weekend.  You know, the kind of snow that weighs about 80 pounds per shovel-full.  The good news is that the snow should be gone in no more than 5 months.  *Sigh*

Yeah, I know. When you live in Minnesota, eventually winter is going to slap you around, give you a wedgie and push you down the stairs.  I also know that around here, we were blessed with beautiful fall weather.  But that's cold comfort (pun intended).  Now, I'm trying to come to turns with how my workouts are going to change.

Time on the bike will be indoors.  Sure, I've got a pretty nice setup where I can plop my trainer in front of the boob tube and catch up on 'my stories', but nothing can replace an outdoor ride.  I don't run at night much, so since daylight savings hit last weekend, I've already been doing most of my runs on the dread-mill at the gym.  I can still do longer runs outside over the weekends if the paths are clear.  It's just harder to pick my lazy butt up off of the sofa when it's below freezing outside.

My biggest fear is that it'll start to become too easy to make excuses NOT to train.  The last thing I want to do is put on 10 or 15 extra pounds over the winter.  I want to hit spring running (again, pun intended) and focus on getting faster rather than losing weight.

Maybe what I really need to do is get some more races planned.  Sometimes, the best way to get motivated for training is to lay real money down for registration fees.

Stay warm kids.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen #6 - A Simple White Sauce

Last week, we tackled a roasted chicken.  That was a fairly complex meal that took a bit of work.  But, the payoff was impressive too.  The week before that was mini-pizzas.  Sure, they were easy, but they're not going to knock anyone's socks off.  This week, you're going to get a little of both.  This white sauce only takes a handful of ingredients, plus, but it tastes great and can be used in about a bazillion different ways.  Plus, you can brag about you make your own sauce from scratch.  That's worth a couple of brownie points.

Butter - 2 Tablespoons
Flour - 2 Tablespoons
Milk - 1 Cup
I'm making a double batch, so just multiply all of the quantities by 2.  Easy-peasey.
Milk, Flour, Salt, Pepper and Butter - They're common ingredients that you should all have in your kitchen.

Start by melting your butter in a sauce pan.  For now, keep the heat at or below medium on the range.  You don't want to burn your butter.

After a couple of minutes, this...
turns into this...

Add your flour and mix it in.  I recommend a silicone spatula to get at all the corners of the dish.  In a minute or two, you'll have a nice, frothy blend.

It'll go from this...
to this...
Again, keep the heat at or below medium on your range to keep the mix from burning and sticking to the bottom.

Now, mix in your milk.  Once the milk is in, turn up your heat.  Keep that spatula moving and the sauce will stay smooth.  Stop mixing and you'll get lumps.

Mixing, mixing mixing...
Once the sauce reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low.
Okay, time to turn down the heat.

For the next couple of minutes, just let the sauce simmer while you keep mixing.  Things will start to thicken up pretty quick.  The longer you simmer, the thicker the sauce will be.  Go ahead and add a couple pinches of salt, pepper and any other spices you like.

I've been experimenting with coarse Kosher salt, but good ol' Morton's works just fine.
Sweet.  We're good to go.
Like I said, you can add this sauce to just about anything.  You could add some sauteed mushrooms and put it over a steak.  You could put it over grilled chicken, or, like me, you can just put it over some pasta.
Here's The Wife's plate.
I added a little ground sausage to mine.  Yum.
Start to finish, this sauce only takes about 10 minutes, and you've probably already have the ingredients in your home.  Plus, it's a good recipe to start with if you're still stretching your legs in the kitchen. 

That's it for now.  Good luck in the kitchen and have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rembering one of my favorite vets

My sister shared this photo with me today.  It's my grandpa and some of his shipmates from World War II.  He's the short wiry guy in the front row with his arms crossed.

He was a SONAR man stationed out in the Pacific.  When I was growing up, he didn't talk about The War much, and I didn't know enough to ask him about it.  To me, he was just 'Grandpa', the guy that took me for tractor rides and called me 'Speedy'.

Most of the stories I heard about him and The War were 2nd or 3rd hand.  Still, it's pretty cool knowing that Grandpa was out there getting the job done.

Grandpa's not around anymore, but his legacy seems to be living on pretty well through his kids and grand-kids.  So, if you know a veteran, get off the computer, go buy them a beer, pat them on the back, and tell them 'thanks'. 

Well done, gentlemen.  Well done.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Images from the Monster Dash - AKA: I got bombed by a Sconie

The other day, I got an e-mail with a link to photos from the Team Ortho Monster Dash.  "Sweet", I thought.  "Maybe they got a picture of me."   As nice as it was to get some good snapshots from the Ironman, I was shuffling along rather than running fast, and that doesn't exactly make for a dynamic photo.  For the Monster Dash, I actually ran fast, well, fast for ME at least.

The first photo I came across turned out pretty well.
Head High + Chest Out + Smile on Face = Not too shabby.
The second photo they had was a little different.  Without trying to sound conceited, I thought I looked pretty good.  My form was great and they even caught me on the down-stride, so my quad was all flex-y.  I even remember when they took the picture.  I had just passed a group of 4 runners in costume.  Each were decked out in football attire.  Little did I know that the little 'Zombie Packer Cheerleader' would BOMB MY AWESOME RACE PHOTO.  AARGH!

Notice how 'Russ' the Chicago Bears fan is just jogging along, minding his own business.  Meanwhile, his little Packer buddy is pooping in everyone's Cornflakes. 

All kidding aside.  I can't really be mad.  We're all trying to have a fun time out there.

One thing that I would like to see changed is how the sales of race photos are managed.  For the Monster Dash, prices for a single photo start at $13.95.  They're not unique with their prices.  A single photo for the Ironman starts at $16.95   Now, I get that these folks are in business to make money, and I would love to buy more race photos.  However, prices like this are cost-prohibitive.

Some people are going to buy photos regardless of price.  I get that.  But with these costs, I won't buy ANY photos.  How much money did they make off of me?  Hmmm...that would be $0.  Now, if they sell photos for $5 each, well, then I'll probably buy 3 or 4.  How much money have they made off me now?  Up to $20.  That's how much. 

Now, I don't have a business degree, but I'd like to think that if prices were lowered, the increased business volume would offset the change in their 'profit per photo' numbers.  That's all.  Rant over.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Late-Season Ride around Lake Minnetonka

In Minnesota, November weather can be a real crap shoot.  Athletes around here know that we're working on borrowed time.  Make no mistake.  The snow is coming.  Sure, the hardest of the hard-core will keep running and cycling even if it means crampons and studded tires.  Us mortals though, well, we have several months of treadmill work and trainer sessions ahead of us.  Ugh.

On the other hand, sometimes November will bless you with a perfect fall day.  It'll be cool enough to demand an extra layer or two, but warm enough so that you never feel chilled.  That's what I got today, and I sure wasn't going to waste this opportunity.

The wind was coming from the South and West, so naturally, I started by heading South and West.  I wanted to earn a good tailwind for the 2nd half of the ride.  The first stop was the boardwalk that runs along the Southern edge of Medicine Lake.

Then, I kept heading South and West towards Lake Minnetonka.  My aim was to circle the southern half of the lake, so I hopped onto highway 101 and took it to Minnetonka Boulevard where I could follow the lake shore into Excelsior.

The roads around the Western half of the lake are excellent for cyclists.  The shoulders are wide, the traffic usually keeps it below 40 MPH, drivers are courteous and there are usually plenty of other riders out there.  During the summer, I usually ride these roads at least 3 times per week.  It's good stuff.  In any event, I kept following the shore line until it turned East and I came into Wayzata.  Be careful in this town.  The local authorities are notorious for ticketing cyclists that don't come to a complete stop at stop signs.  There's no rolling through allowed.  They want you stopped, un-clipped and with a foot on the pavement.  Don't get me wrong, they're doing the right thing.  If I want to use the roads, I should follow the same rules that everyone else has to.  I just wish all the motorists that rolled through stop signs got tickets too.

After passing through Wayzata, it was only a two-mile jaunt until I could hook up with the same trail system that would eventually take me back to Medicine Lake, and then home.

I couldn't really ask for more.  Sure, soon it'll be nice to have another goal to work towards.  You know, something at which I can focus my effort.   But sometimes it's fun just to enjoy biking, because, well, I actually DO enjoy biking.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen #5 - The Bird is the Word

Okay.  I went easy on you last week.  Four ingredients and a finished meal in 5 minutes?  Yeah.  That's pretty easy. Well, you're getting more this week.

Disclaimer: I'm not a chef, and I don't play one on TV.  I'm just an average dude that likes to goof around in the kitchen.  Be smart.  FULLY COOK YOUR MEAT.  If you make dumb choices in the kitchen, you're probably going to regret it.  Don't come crying to me after getting your stomach pumped.

Getting into cooking can be a scary proposition for some people.  The more ingredients you add to a recipe, the more intimidating it can get.  There's also something unsettling about tackling an entire animal, rather than just pieces of it.  I'll give you an example.  Anyone can grab a frozen chicken breast out of a bag, thaw it in the microwave and toss it on the Foreman grill for a few minutes.  There's nothing wrong with this.  It's easy.  It's safe.  Things get a little more complicated when you're dealing with a whole chicken.  This isn't just some chunk of meat.  This thing actually looks like a creature - albeit headless and featherless.

Today we'll be roasting a whole chicken.  Fear not.  We'll be fine.

Let's start with the ingredients.  This dish has a dry rub and a sauce that will be applied during the roasting.  Do you HAVE to use these specific ingredients?  Absolutely not.  Feel free to play around and experiment with whatever you like.
We've got one chicken, crushed red pepper, sage, butter, chili powder and ground coriander.
Oh.  And don't forget the side dish - potatoes & onions.
Red potatoes, onions, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.

The Chicken

We'll start by making a quick dry rub.  Chop up some sage - about 1 tablespoon, and fresh garlic - 2 cloves.  Don't worry if you can't get the fresh stuff.  A little dried sage and garlic powder can do the trick too.  Add to this a little crushed red pepper - 1/2 teaspoon, chili powder - 1 teaspoon, and ground coriander - 1/2 teaspoon. Mix it in a bowl and you've got a dry rub.  Now, you'll want to make two batches of this rub.  We'll use the 2nd batch later on while it's roasting.

This festive little pile is going to go under the chicken's skin.

This part is going to get a little messy.  You'll want to peel the skin away from the body of the bird.  You don't need to be gentle.  Just work your fingers in there and separate the skin from the muscles.  It'll slowly peel apart and you'll be able to reach most parts of our bird.  Just try not to break through the skin.  Then, work some of that dry rub into the space BETWEEN the skin and the muscles.  If you have any leftover rub, work it into the cavity (you know - up the 'butt').

Put the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.  Then put the whole thing into an oven that's been pre-heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and start a 30-minute timer.

If you look carefully, you can see the skewers I used to keep the wings pinned back and legs hugged tight against the booty.
To keep an eye on the temperature, I highly recommend using a model with a sensor that you can leave in.  Of course, you can always use a traditional thermometer.  Just get used to checking the temp every couple of minutes later on.
I set mine to go off when the thigh reached 180 degrees.

Potatoes 'n' Onions

While the chicken roasts, let's turn our attention to the side dish.  Chop up some potatoes.  In my case, it was just The Wife and I, so I did 4 red potatoes.  Try to keep the pieces smaller than 1" across.  Then, you'll want to chop up some onion - 1/4 cup,  Rosemary - 2 tablespoons and Thyme - 1 teaspoon.  Add to this some olive oil - 2 tablespoon, salt - big pinch and pepper - little pinch.  Mix everything together with the potatoes and they're ready to go into the oven.  I also chopped up 3 onions into larger chunks.

One Big Happy

Grab that 2nd batch of dry rub (see...I TOLD you we'd be using it again), melt half a stick of butter and mix it all together.  Once the chicken has been roasting for 30 minutes, slide it out of the oven and spread some of the butter-and-spice mixture over it.  One of those little wooden kitchen paint brushes works really well.  Before putting the chicken back in, spread your potatoes and onions around the base of the bird.  Slide it all back into the oven and set your timer for 60 minutes.

Okay.  That roasting pan is a little too big.  It's leftover from a Thanksgiving a couple years ago.  Hopefully, your chicken, potatoes and onions will be a little more cozy.

The next hour will be mostly waiting.  Although, if I were you, I'd start cleaning up your mess.  When you present your mate with with dinner, you want them to say "Hey.  Thanks for making me a delicious feast!", and not "Hey.  Lot at how dirty you made the kitchen!".

Every 20-minutes or so, paint on a little more of that butter 'n' spice mixture.  Once the thermometer reads 180, which for me took another 57 minutes, take the roasting pan out.  Resist the urge to yank a drumstick off of it Henry VIII style and let it sit for a few minutes.  While the bird cools, you can spoon out the potatoes and onions.

Oh yeah.  Nice and golden brown.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, it's time to clean it.  Cut out the legs and thighs - just aim the knife at the joints and the cuts will be easier.  I kept my drummies separate from the thighs, but it's just as easy to keep them connected.  Cut off the wings.  Then, flip the bird over and carve out the breasts.  Try to find the breastbone, then cut down into the bird on either side of it to take out the breasts.

Chicken, potatoes, onions and a bottle of 3-buck-Chuck.  This dinner is DONE.

There.  That wasn't so hard now, was it?  We went from raw animal to delicious meal.  Nice.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Election Day!

Go vote.  Seriously.  If you're a US Citizen and you haven't voted yet, stop reading this and get your butt to the polls.  I'm not kidding.  Get moving.

After all, if you don't exercise your contitutional right to vote, you can't exercise your contitutional right to bitch and moan about the election on Wednesday morning.

If you don't know who's running, shame on you.  Fortunately, there's this thing called The Interwebs that can provide you with all sorts of information about the candidates in your area.  Search it.  Use it.  Love it.

So get out there, pull your lever, color in your circles and pick up your 'I Voted' sticker.  You'll be glad you did.