Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cold Free Beer

An old friend of mine used to quip, "Beer is good. Cold beer is better. But cold free beer is the best." Thanks to my brother, Stephen, who is the general manager of The Half Shell, my wife and I enjoyed dinner on the house; in addition to a tasty blackened catfish po-boy, that dinner included a couple of bottles of Samuel Adams Noble Pils--a crisp, hoppy (but not at all bitter) spring beer from the good folks at the Boston Beer Company. (Stephen is sufficiently forward-thinking to regularly update the beer specials offered by the restaurant--good man.)

Running log for this morning: 6.25 miles on neighborhood streets.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Humble Energy

As I did at about this time last week, I find myself again with several undocumented days in my wake. I did have several runs over the last few days and drank several different beers in different contexts--Fat Tire on tap at the timeos for my friend Brandon Saturday evening, multiple Sierra Nevada Pale Ales before and during my band's show Sunday night at the Full Moon Club, a Saranac Pale Ale (an English-style pale ale with a different hop profile from the Saranac IPA) last night with tasty chicken fajitas, and Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan ale on tap tonight at the P&H with my friends for trivia (we did not win, alas).

It was my run on the Wolf River Blue (out) and Yellow (back) trails yesterday, though, that seemed an abstract of my greater life experience lately.

Knowing how muddy the Blue trail surely was, I nonetheless started my run with the enthusiasm that accompanies an adventure. "It'll be fun because it's hard!" I told myself as I dodged the first puddle merely a few yards in.

And, sure enough, it was a hard run. But the difficulty lay less in the condition of the trail (I was prepared for that) and more in my own fatigue. A mile or so in, I felt the familiar sluggishness that often descends at just about that point in a run; I became a little lightheaded, even dizzy; my peripheral vision began to dull, so that I seemed to be running through a green and brown tunnel.

Experience has shown that, if I can just muddle through the sluggish spell, I'll eventually reach a point at which I'll get a second wind. But that boost seemed slower than usual in coming; my favorite trail was reduced to an endurance test.

Finally, at about mile marker 3, I did feel a little less tired. The renewed energy I sensed, however, was not like the rush and excitement that I experienced at the outset of my run; it was, if I may say so, a "humble" energy, an energy that did not allow for or reward quick sprints but that, nonetheless, seemed sufficient at each moment. It was as if my body was saying, "I may not get you there quickly, but trust me--I'll get you there."

Because the rush was gone, trusting this humble energy was really an act of faith, step following step, not looking ahead except just a few feet at a time. Breathe in, breathe out. Wipe the eyes, wipe the brow, wipe the mouth.

I finally did make it back to the trailhead--exhausted.

But I got there.

Running log:

Saturday: 5 miles on the treadmill (Nuber Y)
Sunday: rest
Monday: 7.25 miles on the Blue and Yellow trails
Today (Tuesday): 6.25 miles on neighborhood streets

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Internal Stop-Sign

Like many folks, I suppose, I'm a big fan of excess, especially in the world of creature comforts. When I find a record or CD that I really enjoy, I listen to it over and over, sometimes for weeks on end without trading it out for another. I've used words such as Super-Size, Biggie Size, double, triple, extra, refill, and the like many, many times when ordering food and drink. Without some sort of discipline imposed from without, I could very easily become the servant (read: slave) of my own fondness for "good things"; I wonder whether the traditional fasting disciplines of the Orthodox Church were put in place for people just like me.

I even tend to overdo activities that, in themselves, require discipline and effort. Just about all of the running-related aches and pains I've experienced the last few years (IT band syndrome, hip soreness and weakness, Achilles tendon injuries) are overuse injuries. Running often moves from pleasurable diversion to obsession, and my not-quite-youthful bones and joints suffer.

Fortunately, though, one of the results of excess is an exhaustion that precludes bigger problems. Last night, I (literally) ran into that reality in two ways:

First, I had planned a nice 6-mile run after work; because of thunderstorms in the area, I decided to run at the Y instead of outside. The extra-long run from Monday and speedwork from Thursday seemed to have taken their toll, though, as I had to bring the run to an abrupt end at 2.5 miles...the legs just said, "Stop!" Goal unattained--but possible injury avoided.

Back at home, I chose Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA as my first beer of the evening. A good friend of mine introduced me to this beer a few months ago, but I hadn't had one since then. In a word, it was magical--hoppy enough even on first smell to catch my attention, then big and tasty from first sip to last, with flavor that, as I like to say, filled "my whole mouth." I knew in my heart that I had nothing left in the fridge that would come close to matching that first one, so it was in vain that I poured a glass of Abita Amber. I'd had other Abita brews, and I'm sure this one would've been just fine on most occasions. But it didn't stand a chance after the Dogfish Head and became one of the few beers I ended up pouring twice (into the glass, and then into the sink). I should've obeyed the internal stop-sign I saw after finishing the first, and the Abita ended up a casualty of my scofflaw ways.

And then I fell asleep.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Speedy post

Running log: 4.5 miles on treadmill--speedwork.

Beer log: (1) Xingu Black Beer, from Brazil. Not bad, but not as crisp as I remembered; either my memory is faulty, or this was just not a great bottle. (2) Dos Perros, from Yazoo Brewing Company in Nashville. Not a "black beer" but a nice dark, malty yet hoppy brown ale. My favorite from Yazoo, and one of my favorite beers period.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's not about the run, sometimes

I really did not want to run this morning.

Or, to be more precise, I wanted TO HAVE run, but I really did not feel up to engaging in the actual activity (almost like when Jack Eaton used to say, during a close Tigers game, "I wish it were over and we'd won."). My legs were extra tight from my long run and basketball playing Monday and my not-quite-as-restorative-as-I'd-hoped bike ride to and from work yesterday.

Maybe because I seem to have developed some good habits about running in the morning, or perhaps because of sheer vanity ("Remember what you ate yesterday!"), I brewed and drank a cup of coffee, donned my running garb, and headed out the door at about 5:45. I started slowly, wincing a little at each step. "I'll loosen up as I go," I thought. A mile into the run, my legs were still stiff. Two miles, no real improvement.

The sky slowly began to lighten. I noticed other runners, fellow early risers, running in pairs, chatting. I saw several cats darting beneath cars and underneath bushes (my dog loves to chase cats, and I seem to have acquired his habit of looking for them when I'm walking or running outside). And then, over in the Yorkshire neighborhood at about 6:15, I saw the azaleas. Some larger homes had rows of them extending twenty, thirty feet or more. I love seeing the azaleas in April; it may be my favorite thing about Memphis. The best are those that do not seem to have been planted for neatness' or symmetry's sake, but just splash pink against white against red against fuchsia, colors elbowing colors, blossoms overflowing onto the grass as if they'd been poured into a glass too quickly. The Yorkshire neighborhood absolutely bursts with azaleas.

Despite my vanity, despite my aches and pains, and despite my sleepiness, for those few, fleeting minutes, I was thankful.

Running log: 6 miles on neighborhood streets.

Beer log (evening update): Having purchased a 4-pack of Unibroue Trois Pistoles for a friend, I decided to drink one of the bottles of the same I'd had in my fridge for some time. Unibroue's slogan is "Drink less, drink better!" With beer this tasty (and strong--9.0% ABV), I could follow that imperative.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Recap and Night-Cap

Lots of beer- and running-related activity over the last few days. To summarize:

Friday Evening: I attended the Wild World of Beer and Wine at the Memphis Zoo with my wife, my brother, and my sister-in-law. In addition to trying a nice variety of wines both domestic and foreign (the highlight of which was the Quady Electra Orange Muscat, which is the first wine that my wife has ever truly enjoyed), we sampled beer varieties from Sierra Nevada (the previously reviewed Kellerweis and the very "beery" and tasty Summerfest) as well several beers under the Saranac label from Matt Brewing Company in Utica, NY. The Saranac beers were all flavorful and fairly full bodied (and resembled in many ways the beers from our local Ghost River brewery); I tried the Pale Ale, Adirondack Lager, and Black Forest Ale, with the last one being my favorite. The event was held at the Teton Trek Lodge and gave me a great night out with my family.

Saturday: I ran the Youth Villages 5k Saturday morning. I wasn't sure that following a night of beer and wine tasting with a race would be the best idea (I'm still not sure it was), but several cups of water overnight seemed to neutralize any untoward effects of the WWWB and I was able to finish in a record time (for me) of 20:17. (I've signed up for a 10k on May 1...maybe a similar pre-race beverage regimen will produce a similarly good race result?) After the race, I ran about 7.5 miles on the blue trail south of Shelby Farms; since I ran about half a mile warming up before the 5k, I'll round off my total Saturday mileage at about 11 miles.

Sunday: No running. After my first liturgy at St. Paul Skete (and a wonderful catfish lunch thanks to the hospitality of Mother Nektaria) and an afternoon band practice, Cindy and I visited friends for dessert, lovely conversation, and (for the menfolk) beer--Ghost River Hefeweizen, which, out of a freshly opened growler, is always tasty, but especially so when shared among good company. Cheers, Charlie!

Today (Monday): Long run, again at my favorite place to run, the Wolf River Trails. I ran mainly on the blue trail, with some time on the yellow trail as well as an accidental detour on an unmarked connecting trail between the blue and yellow trails...there's something slightly scary yet also thrilling about running when you have no idea when you'll return to familiar territory--you just have to keep moving. Total distance = about 14.5 miles. After somehow summoning the energy to play basketball with my good friend Donnie, I ended the evening with a night-cap of Chimay Triple as I read a chapter from C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves. I'm nothing like an expert on Belgian Trappist ales, but I know a "sipping beer" when I taste one, and this one did not disappoint.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oooh, baby, baby, it's a...

...Wild World of Wine and Beer, tomorrow night at the Memphis Zoo.

To ensure that I properly enjoy this event (and the fact that it's held during the time of the Pentecostarion means that I will enjoy it), I'll most likely (though by all means not definitely) forego my usual beer or two during tonight's band practice.

By the way, Southwestern Distributing (home of the Beer Cage mentioned in a previous post) will supply the beer and wine for the WWWB event.

Running log: None this morning, though the goal is to squeeze in a run between work and said band practice.

Evening Update:
I was able to run 6 miles at Sea Isle before band practice. And despite my stated goal, I did not abstain from beer at practice, but my imbibing was done in the name of scientific inquiry--namely, the comparison of Sunshine Wheat and Mothership Wit, both wheat ales from the New Belgium Brewing Co. Without getting all technical, if the Sunshine Wheat is Jeannie (as in "I Dream Of..."), then the Mothership Wit is her sassier, saucier sister.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bicycles and the Magic Hat

I went for an evening bicycle ride downtown last night with a good friend who is also a cyclist (as opposed to someone like me who simply "rides bikes" now and again). During our ride, he described a major, several-person bike crash that occurred in a race in which he was competing last week. My friend was not involved in the wreck; his dad (who is on his racing team), however, was: he apparently flipped forward and landed directly on his head. Fortunately for him, his helmet did its job, and not only did he escape serious injury, but he was able to get back on his bike and continue the race.

Appropriately, we partook of Magic Hat #9 upon reaching Bardog, our destination of whim and choice. Lighter tasting than it truly was in alcohol content (ABV=5.1%) and with a very subtle hint of fruitiness, #9 will never be an everyday (or every week) beer for me, but it was plenty refreshing on a still-warm evening.

(And, yes, I wore my helmet for the ride to and from Bardog.)

Running log: 6 miles at Sea Isle Park, with alternating easier (>9:00) and faster (7:10 - 7:25) miles.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

V for...

Victory Whirlwind Witbier. And that's not even my favorite of the two Belgian-style wheat ales I had yesterday; that distinction goes to White Rascal, from Avery Brewing Company. Of the various wheat ales I've tried lately, that one was easily my favorite (and went well with our All-American meal of grilled hot dogs, bakes beans, and chips...I love warm spring evenings!). The Victory ale was also quite tasty, and perhaps I might've rated it even higher had I tried it first rather than the White Rascal.

Running log: 6 miles on the road Sunday, 6.1 miles on the Tour d'Wolf trail yesterday...the joints seemed to appreciate the softer surface of the latter. (Running was preceded by an epic sleeping-in, from-scratch buttermilk pancakes made by my sweet wife, and general relaxing, and it was followed by basketball with my good friend Donnie, soccer and frisbee at the park with my wife and with my brother's family, and the aforementioned dinner. Pretty much a perfect spring day.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Coffee, Beer, Wilco...

Many of the diversions I enjoy--foods, beverages, music, works of literature--were not, for me, love at first sight (or taste, or listen, or read). As I mentioned in a previous post, Wilco may be my favorite band. But that wasn't always the case, though; in fact, I jumped the Wilco train only a few years ago, a long distance into its journey. For various reasons, I just never seriously gave them a close listen. Once I immersed myself in one of their records, though, I was hooked.

The same goes with coffee, something I didn't truly enjoy until I served a brief stint as a part-time barrista/part-time bookseller at the Bookstar Bookstore and Cafe in the mid-nineties, and beer, for which I did not acquire a true taste until I spent much of a summer in London during grad school (also in the mid-nineties). Not that any of those now-acquired tastes marks any sort of achievement or merit on my part; but there is something satisfying in making that journey from dislike to a small way, it's almost like the work involved in developing and nurturing a skill or craft--something one must try, fail at, practice, fail at again, and, then, maybe, over time, finally see progress for.

In that light, I'll just mention that I tried the Chicory Stout from Dogfish Head Brewery. It was...not bad. Fairly OK. Somehow, though, I wonder if I wasn't "ready" for it: I love stouts overall, and do enjoy chicory in coffee...but this beer, while interesting, just didn't knock me out. Maybe it was the combination of the fairly bitter coffee (and chicory) flavors juxtaposed with a seemingly large amount of carbonation. I will say, though, that letting it sit in the glass for several minutes did allow it to mellow some, which made it much smoother and (to me) tastier and more drinkable. And maybe it'll eventually grow on me in a Wilco-esque way.

Running log for today:
9.45 miles, mainly to and from my nephew's soccer practice.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Czech, please

Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti!

I have indeed run and have indeed quaffed a few pints since my last post, but blogging has not been my priority the last few days, as I celebrate Pascha (starting late last Saturday night) and also said goodbye (for now) to the sister of a very dear friend of mine (Memory Eternal, Esther!).

Last night after dinner, though, I did drink a bottle of Shiner 101 Czech-Style Pilsner, the 101st Anniversary brew from the Spoetzl Brewery. I've slowly been making the transition from heavier ales (my usual favorites) to lighter beers as the temps climb, and Shiner 101 seems to be a nice choice for a warm spring evening--crisp, light, nicely carbonated, and tasty. Per past experience, I'm pretty sure this Shiner seasonal will be in stores only for a short spell, so I'll probably plan to grab a couple of 6-packs (further convincing my wife that I'm a beer hoarder--separate post coming soon) while they're still readily available.