Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pictorial of our trip to Jeju Island in Korea

Last weekend we went to Jeju so that Suzanne could speak at a conferance on building. It also gave her some great networking opportunities. We met some great people on a professional and personal level and we look forward to expanding those relationships. Below are a few pics from the trip. The video is not related to Jeju but highlights a significant issue at the Kimpo airport when using the subway.

Goings on (Tour of Korea) Part I

Can I say that life has been just a wee bit crazy over the last 3 months? Thanks for the understanding and letting me ramble on. I will break this down into several events that have been going on so you can take time to grab a beer, change the oil in your car or shave.

I want to warn you about two topics I am compelled to write about. Both are about Korea and I refuse to wear kid gloves or preface with some weak acknowledgement about my own country’s shortcomings. Korea needs to put on some bigboy pants on these two issues. I will tell you when they are coming.

Before we get started, here’re a few cooking tips:
· Do not heat lime or it’s juice and don’t add lime to recipies that are still cooking. It makes the lime very bitter.
· The same can be said for Rosemary. Wait until the end or add it when cool.

In February I caved in and accepted an offer to ride with the Seoul Stork team in the Tour of Korea. Obviously I am not in my former shape and even then I could not hang with the real professionals. But, for people like me there is a 9 day stage race that piggybacks the UCI pro race that that covers the peninsula of Korea. It’s shorter but no less exciting for us. The date was usually in early June and provided me with enough time to scrap together some fitness. Our sponsors Korea Harley Davidson and Storck bicycles furnished our A team and B team with full custom Pearl Izumi kits, radios, and three team vans. We rolled in style that had the other teams dazzled.

In March we started to hear a rumor about a date change for the race. Not later, but sooner! Not a little but a full 6-7 weeks. WTF!? Turns out the Korean government wants to put on a “green” face and show how bike friendly they are and pairing up events with the race is just how they planned to do it. Let the bitching begin. Not only did they immediately cut out full time workers who had already applied for vacation, they moved the race into prime Yellow Dust season and they stuff is deadly for some folks. Racing in it is downright dangerous for your health. How did the UCI react to this? Pro teams plan race calendars well in advance and that includes allotment of riders, airfare and other resources. You can’t just tell a pro team and their sponsors what you are gonna do when it impacts them first. UCI refused the date change so the Korean government thought it would still be ok to have the amateur race date moved up. No problems jacking with the working man. I’ll just say that midweek racing saw half of the riders we saw on the weekend.

Aside for the scheduling clustertruck, how was the racing and how did I do? I’m glad you asked. The first two days reminded me of the terror of racing the Friday night crits under the lights in St. Louis. It was truly scary but in clear daylight. Riders and carbon fiber bits everywhere. The start list was about 210 riders. I am confident 30 crashed out that day including a good friend of mine, on his new Cannondale Cad 8, got hit from the side. He was totally without fault. The bottle cage was ripped from the frame, effectively destroying it. His thumb was sprained in the process. I would put most riders in the race at a skill level of cat 5 but a fitness level of a good category 3. We also lost contact with our team mate Pablo, nixing our goal of riding in unity. Had we taken the time to ready the radios this would not have happened. There was just too much going on.

The next day turned out far worse. Our injured rider worsened and we started without him. On a long decent after a tough climb I had my head down and was battling back. I came upon a crash with my mate Pablo propped against the median and bike bits everywhere. 20 meters of black rubber later I turned around to check him. He was a mess but hanging in. turned out he’d ran into a sudden pileup in front of him. The team van showed along with the ambulance (Note: Paramedics suck here. Ambulances are for transport and not much more). They took him to the body shop with me in the team van following. Pablo was later taken back to Seoul with a 4 point clavicle fracture. It was down to our team leader Dave and myself to finish the Tour.

The next two days were fabulous racing, maybe the best I’ve ever participated in. The weekend riders who could not get vacation went home. The field was in the low 100’s and pretty seasoned by this time. For the next two days Dave and I rode smart (to the side for escape) and slowly increased our aggressiveness. We remained committed to finishing together and helping each other. I had limited fitness and Dave was tuned for longer rides at lower intensity since he thought we would have 6 more weeks of training left. On the 3rd day several members of our A team stopped for “nature breaks” but that left them off the back. Well, if there’s one thing I am good at, it’s providing a draft for Koreans. It became customary for Dave and I to pull the A team back to the field after breaks and this did not go unnoticed. It was one of several events that brought us closer and bonded us. It felt good to do it but it felt better to see how much it was appreciated. We repeated it and the bonds strengthened.

Wednesday morning was sunny and calm. I was starting to heat up and so was Dave. We were coming on form and ready to start moving up. While waiting for the morning message and embrocation I got comfortable sitting on the tailgate of the Harley Davidson van. A staff member needed into the van and jumped up on the gate, breaking the chains, sending me directly to the pavement while tearing open a hole in my arm on the way. My ass hurt and I was sure my coccyx was broken but others ogled my bleeding arm. Yup, I had a bloody boo-boo that made Dave the Fire Chief cringe. He said there was no option but the hospital for stitches. It was 1 hour to start time and I get a trip to the body shop. All the riders of both teams stood there side by side as Jeremy drove me away. They felt bad for me and I could feel it. My chin wrinkled, my throat ached, my heart hurt.

Jeremy drove like an insane man getting me to the hospital in no time and checking me in. They irrigated the wound, stitched it and then we got to wait, and wait, and wait for the meds. Once in hand we bolted back to the race but it was already underway. My arm and ass hurt but my psych was devastated.

For the next 5 days I took on the roll as staff and was happy to help. I initially thought that I would catch the ferry back to Incheon once we got to Makpo but I could not leave. The caravan was exciting to drive in, Jeremy and I were becoming friends, Dave was racing his heart out (and doing well) and the team needed me. I was not racing but the satisfaction was there. Watching Dave roll up after the last stage, safely into the arms of his family and friends was fantastic. Having riders enjoy my cooking repaired my broken heart. I was able to see the beauty of Korea and its people. This I will never forget. I am greatful to Pablo, Harley Davidson of Korea, Storck of Korea, Jeremy and Ray, te South Korean government for providing such a great race, and especially Dave for the companionship and guidance.

Insert warning here!
Oh, so how did we do? Dave moved up nicely without me. I believe he breached the top 40. Scott Stillwagon of the A team was 6th, if I recall. He was the top finishing foreigner (Waykook) and received a special award for it...just before they erased all foreigners results. Per Wikipedia: "In 2009, reportedly, KCF will only allow international competitors with the requisite that those competitors will be ineligible for any prizes. This makes the 2009 Tour de Korea the first cycling event in history in which one group of people of a certain race and ethnicity will be eligible to win while, racing alongside that group and affecting the race, another group will not be eligible for those prizes." That's right, you can come play but don't expect that you'll more than marginalized or omitted. This is extra thick weak sauce and does not step outside of xenophobia. This is the only race that omits people based on race in the modern age. They worked hard and many others did too in supporting them. We knew waykooks cannot win the race (per the rules) but at least let the results show the effort. Nothing like winning a solo circle jerk.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Recipe for heart healthy Tomato Bisque

Below is my recipe for Tomato Bisque that I created for the American Heart Association and was printed in the Suburban Journal. The link takes you to the full article but below are the first two paragraphs. When it comes time to make this recipe, consider your personal health situation and feel free to modify the cream and broth salt levels. A little more of both really makes this baby POP! Remember, everything in moderation.


HEART-Y Bites: Savory tomato connects to summer flavors

By Stanley Crocker Tuesday, November 28, 2006 9:15 PM CST


This is the time to look for new sources of warmth, but there is no reason to leave all the perks of summer behind.A tasty and nutritious reminder is canned tomatoes – especially when they are fire-roasted and part of hearty and delicious bisque. Their smoky flavor adds a warm smolder just right for leaf raking or a day on the Katy Trail.Tomatoes are technically a fruit, because they develop from the ovary in the base of a flower. Using them in savory dishes lets them work under cover of a vegetable year-round. Regardless of their alias, tomatoes are a tasty addition to a healthy lifestyle.

In processing, some fruits and vegetables can lose nutrients, but not canned tomatoes. They retain most of them, including lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce risk of some cancers. Lycopene also gives tomatoes their brilliant red color.The tomato doesn’t stop there. One tomato provides a boost of vitamins A and C and potassium.The tomato is starting to look more like a fruit all the time.Many of the soups enjoyed today, particularly canned ones, are loaded with salt. Moderation of salt is important for those concerned with high blood pressure or kidney disease, but everyone should monitor its intake, because it is so pervasive in purchased food.Current dietary guidelines recommend limiting daily intake of sodium to 2,400 milligrams per day. Most people can achieve this by limiting processed foods and focusing on whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.One serving of this lower-sodium soup leaves room for some more in other foods throughout the day. Paired with a fresh green salad and crusty bread, it makes a hearty and healthy meal.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Events and goings on

Last friday I got myslef up to Seoul and met the lads at Storck bicycles. We left at about 4 for the qualifier for the Tour of Korea Amateur race. It was quite a caravan with two teams, two team vans, and a bunch of support. The B squad and A squad loaded into their respective vans. Both teams are sponsored by Storck and Harley Davidson of Korea.

After arriving on the East coast we checked into the hotel, with well appointed rooms for a mere W40k or about $30. I bitch about a lot of stuff but this really was a sweet deal. We had some dinner that we had brought and hit the hay.

The next day we got up and readied ourselves and took a drive around the qualifier course. There was loads of debate about approaches but we all knew the pack would likely (A) crash a lot and (B) break into splinter groups. Both came true. I'll spare the details but it was required that we average 30kmh (18 mph) over the 63km. That sounds slow but the walls we climbed along the ocean front put that into perspective. I felt pretty good in the first 10-15km but then my git-up-and-go got-up-and-went. No amount of hope was gonna help my gasping. WTF? My legs felt pretty good and I managed my way up a hill or two in sight of the the wee ones. On a flat section of the second loop I realized my average was about 33kmh and I was pretty safe to roll in at my own pace while still qualifying. The rest of the team qualified as well.

After arriving at the finish I was immediately cold. I scurried back to my room to shower and refuel. Still cold. Later, on the ride home the sinuses started cracking and popping. My muscles also had a weird resistance to releasing (Mg+ deficient?). I crashed at a friend's place that night in Seoul. I woke up to a packed head of snot and bilateral earaches. "This should be fun for my 10k run in the Incheon Marathon this morning". Stranger yet, the legs felt great.

Suzanne and I ran the Incheon Marathon (she hates the pics so I'll respect that). She dusted me by 5 seconds and I have to applaud her effort put into training. It make me so proud of her when she does something good for herself like this. We then got blind drunk on beer and Chicken at my runner/bandmate friend's house. Good times. Ok, not so blind drunk. Tipsy maybe.

Now, I've been sick for 4+ days and the lungs are just disgusting. I'm off my training plan for the Tour of Korea until I feel it's safe to resume without progressing to pneumonia. So I did not do a good job of sparing the race details, I WILL spare you the lung cookie details.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oh, I remember what that feels like...

Last 4 weeks have seen me scramble to assemble presentations on sports nutrition as well as take myself from the casual MTB racer to a training roadie. It's been rather inspiring for myself yet exhausting. My days revolve around fitting in cooking for the wife, some light cleaning, shopping, intervals, hill repeats, and long tempo rides out to the sea.

Yesterday was great. I rode with an expat friend for 80 km. The ride took us across a 12 km seawall to a series of three islands connected by bridges. The road shoulders were a bit dirty but wide. The roads on the last island wound up and down the hills and through through the rice patties. Smooth, clean and black lines with clean white paint. Few cars if any. We've been in Korea for 1 full year now and I forgot how great it was to actually ride to someplace and have the feeling that the scene changed. The boats in the water, the sea air, the funky little pensions all fulfilled that. A successful 12 hr week of riding and I'm all smiles.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tokyo to Nagano

Day One

We made an easy trip by cab to the Incheon airport. Suzanne took off this Friday and we slept in a bit before we took off. It was nice not to get up at 4 AM for an international flight. We arrived at the airport, checked in the snowboard and luggage. The counter staff informed us that there was an upgrade performed on our tickets so we were no in the economy plus section which sports 5" extra legroom.
We and then rolled off to the lounge. We can't claim to sport much bling (bikes excepted) and seldom roll like big money but Suzanne's numerous trips to Asia for work provided access to the Star Alliance lounge and that is a fine thing indeed. Free beer, wine, spirits, food. We were set for a comfy flight.
We arrived at the Narita airport in Tokyo (tO-kyO), made our way to the train and reserved a seat. This train is pretty plush and guarantees you won't have to stand for the next hour or so. I watched the countryside roll by, short steep hills punch out of the landscape and are woven with 6' wide roads with perfect pavement and no cars. I dreamt of my road bike. Only the rice paddies reminded me of South Korea. Houses instead of high rises. The absence of burning plastic smoke rising up to the polluted sky at least in this part of Japan.
We exited at Shinjuku and made our way to the hotel. It struck me as we purposefully walked along that people walked in such an orderly fashion, not like machines but there was certainly a rythme. Signs embedded in the sidewalks warned smokers that this was not accepted on the streets. Small streets accommodated people and cars easily. Pavement was in perfect condition. Zero litter. Hybrid taxis abound.
We unloaded our gear and called our friend Miki for dinner. He met us on a corner not far from our hotel. He waved down a cab and off we went. We drove through one Ku (ward) then another until we arrived. We dined at a place Miki really enjoys. The was indeed fantastic. I think I second-hand smoked a pack of cigs during that meal. You can't smoke outside but there are no holds barred inside. Smoke ém if you got ém!

After dinner we hit a real karaoke joint. Suzanne had actually been there years ago when she lived in Tokyo for a summer. The sake was smooth but the operation of the machine was not so easy. The quality was not great either. The only saving grace was
that their systems precisely measure exactly how many calories you burn for each song. Crap-tacular! However, South Korea has done itself proud with the high quality karaoke experience know as Noraebang (노래방) or song room. Go Korea!

Day Two

Saturday we spent the entire day with Miki. He met us at the shrine and showed us more of this wonderful city.

As we walked the streets my eyes caught a small alley pub with a Belgian beer list. Tears welled up as I saw the place did not open until 5:30. Miki promised another place after we see more of the area. I would not be let down. There are at least three places in Tokyo featuring Belgian beers. One had over 300 different beers. This is how I know God loves me AND Tokyo.

During our day we had the pleasure to see a performance artist rocking to his brand of hypnotrance music and energetic art. Only 100 meters away in a quiet park setting was hundreds of young people, dressed in Alice in Wonderland style clothes and beyond. All were doing a some sort of group dance in small clusters. it was curious to say the least. You gotta take a picture right? Well that prompted a couple people to approach us and ask that we not post pictures. It was safe to assume that many of these kids do not want to be found here or found at all. The kids weren't hurting anything or anyone, only one or two seemed to have alcohol, and they were exercising. I say more power to you freak fest! The picture attached should not give away too much, I hope.

We also did a bit of clothes shopping. Japan is very hip to used clothing and fashion unlike some countries that insist on having brand new, poorly made crap. No furs were bought but admittedly they look OK and work well. The reality is a bit much though.

We ended our day in the company of Miki's parents. I should add that their energy and love was contagious. It was refreshing to see an older couple display such warmth and affection. Although our respective languages seldom matched, Miki led us through a fine evening of upscale sushi and saki. On an interesting note, Mr. Matsumura displayed a fine grasp of the Korean language which he took upon himself just for something to do. We live in Korea and can only say a few polite things and order beer.

Day Three
Sunday morning we awoke to the alarm. Actually I was already awake. I just can't handle knowing that the buzzer is going to happen at some point so my neurotic self lies there, awake, all night, waiting. It finally happened and we readied ourselves for our trip to Nagano to ski. I lugged some junk down to the lobby and looked for coffee. A man in running clothes entered the lobby and got a cup of the lobby brewed coffee that I was not keen on sampling. He slurped then "Ahhh"ed with each drink, making sure he stepped on my very last nerve. Suzanne arrived and immediately knew who was getting my goat. We enjoyed a great cup of coffee at the restaurant next door. later, outside, we stood in the calm until Mr. Slurpee joined us. He flung himself hither and yonder in an unabashed display of Raggedy Ann-takes-PE class. Flailing was accompanied by various grunts, phlegm clearing, and other sounds. The topper was his tossing of a used facial tissue into the immaculately clean bush edging the sidewalk. Those kind are everywhere, right?

The cavalry arrived in a Honda (Miki) and took us towards Nagano. Breakfast was truck stop food with the Yakuza. We bought our meal tickets from a machine then claimed our meals. I joked a bit about their presence (I mean really, where is written that if you are in the mafia you have to dress like that and comb your hair with buttered toast?) but Miki was adamant about withholding comment and kept his eyes low. I flashed some gang signs with my chop sticks, by accident, and they knew to stay clear of me. We took off and I dreamt of riding my road bike over the hills and along the streams that the highway cut through until the snowy mountains stole my attention.

We dropped the car and luggage off at the small, cozy lodge and headed for the resort base for an afternoon of boarding. Miki had a care package of food for us. It was a big box full of staples to get us through the trip without him. The man took serious care of us. He claims he appreciates the care Suzanne and Lisa gave him when he lived in Kansas going to school. Now we owe him back. I hope it never stops.

Miki brought Suzanne a board to use so could to try it out. Miki spent the entire time instructing her and proving encouragement while I went off on my own. As expected, boarding did not come naturally and the icy conditions did not help. Bruises gathered but Suzanne remained a trooper. A night at the local hot spring was in order after a genuine Chinese meal.

The meal was good but the hot springs were divine. Segregated, we showered then dipped into the rocky pools to ease our ills. An hour later we were ready to head back to the lodge and see our friend Miki off. He drove us 4 hours to Nagano, provided free boarding lessons, then drove back to Tokyo. We had stolen a long weekend from our friend but we are glad to have gotten so close. We are looking forward to spilling him in April here in Korea.
Day Four

We woke up late, grabbed some cereal and headed to the sloped bright and early, say eleven-ish. Suzanne rented some skis from a local shop and we hit the slope. The small snow from the night before offered some relief from the icy surfaces the day before. The snow continued a bit throughout the day but never made it perfect. The rains from the week before had crushed the snow and it will take a half meter of fresh stuff to fix the damage.

Day Five
More skiing of course but we moved over to a smaller mountain rumored to have better snow. The jury says the snow was no better and the layout of the mountain was horrible for boarding. Winter Park Colorado and numerous where snowboarders must dismount and dog-leg it or walk. This place had 3 such places requiring bullet train speed to cross but all of them were designated slow areas. One such place was ice ruts and narrow. This section caught a boarder's edge and landed him on his ear, separating his shoulder. Suzanne took off for the medic area and radioed me to confirm that they were coming. Two crusty skiers showed up in no time to provide med-assist. Both guys were from North America and seamed well seasoned.

The end of our ski adventures fell up on us. We turned in the skis and fancied a drink to cap it off. We hit a pub at the bottom of the lifts and perused the beer menu. Hmmm, Yona-Yona. One taste and we knew there would be more to come. A real ale with a handcrafted taste like we have at Schlaffly's in St. Louis. I don't particularly care for this flavor over something like a Trappist style ale but by-golly it was fine and a long time since I'd had similar.

The crowd at the pub was decidedly Western or English speaking and having a good raucous time, especially the snowboarding Aussies. I think I threw out a slur about some one's mom and we became fast drinking mates. They were drinking RedBull and Jeagermeister until they ran out of money...shortly after we ran out of money and begged a few Yen to buy more beers. They understood and felt our pain. One guy, Steve, was hip to mountain biking or anything off road. Suzanne mentioned that she is a fan of Crusty Demons and the boys all swooned. Aussies love Crusty Demons. The beers and drinks dried up, hugs were exchanged, and home we went to ready for the next day.

Our stay at the lodge was pleasant. The owner, Yoko, makes no bones about the place being simple. Each room was ready to sleep up to 6 people in the matt floor. Bedding was a well padded futon mattress with a massive comforter. The room was heated by it's own gas stove which is pretty common in Japan. If we left the heater off all night the room would easily be freezing in the morning making it tough to escape the bed. Yoko provided a small continental breakfast of toast and cereal with fruit. Works for us.

The best part of the lodge is the stories Yoko has to tell and that is definatly part of the charm. She lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado while racing on the collegiate team. Look closely at the hat picture. I guessed whose it was before I looked inside. It gave me goosebumps.
Yoko has ski racing in her blood. Her father AND aunt were both slated for the Olympics but Japan's financial state was not yet recovered. Her father went on to design one of the other ski areas locally. He is also quite a legand with the town's people. Only a few nights earlier he had had a "few"and then crashed his car. His landing pad happened to be none other than his childhood friend's house. What are the odd of that. Well, I guess pretty damned good with that guy on the roads. You gotta give a hero a bit of rope occassionally. If you like to ski and you like good stories and pictures, hang with Yoko.
Yoko drove us to the bust stop were we caught the plush ride to Tokyo. We stopped every hour at truck stops and were duly reprimanded when were returned. "OVERTIME!". It became a joke with the other English speakers. I watched the snowy road turn to smooth black pavement, perfect for riding all the way back to Tokyo.

Back in Tokyo we caught the train to Narita. My neck hurt from watching out the window for the last time until the sun finally turned down and the landscape went gray. The roads were gone now.

Short summary

The good:

  1. Our friend Miki
  2. Cleanliness and orderlyness of Japan
  3. The polite and well manored people
  4. The Belgian brew pub + the local micro brew was delicious.
  5. Skiing in Nagano where the Olympics were held
  6. Getting to Japan was cheap ($260 RT)

The so-so:

  1. Smoking inside restaurants....but not outside?
  2. Getting around Japan once you are there is pretty expensive but it works well.
  3. A few more fresh veggies with meals would be nice.
The bad:
  1. Ski conditions were not great
  2. The cost is pretty prohibitive in general due to the dimished dollar and already high prices for some items. $12 beers hurt.
Do the math. We can't wait to return. Maybe we will go in the summer with the MTBs.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

From the WTF files...

Living in a foreign country, any foreign country, presents one with the opportunity to experience new takes on language and culture. Without much of an intro, I present the image to the left, that of an ibuprofen brand called "FULLOPAIN". I don't know about you but merely opening the box made me nervous as I imagined a giant boxing glove on a thick coil spring flattening my nose and launching a few drops of blood. Maybe someone could have asked a native English speaker about this before taking it to market? Or not.