Monday, April 27, 2009

April 27: 100 psi girl

Jennie and I have been doing a lot of cycling lately, which has reminded me of my university days when I rode my bike everywhere. Yesterday, prior to our 25 mile ride, she made the comment that she is always waiting on me to leave the apartment before each of our bike rides.

"Why, of course dear, I apologize that I am always making you wait while I MAKE SURE THAT YOUR BIKE IS READY!"

Now, do not misunderstand me - I love tinkering on our bikes. I generally cause more damage than what I fix but there are certainly some zen-like qualities to spending hours crawling around your machine tinkering away and learning how things work. Now, being married, I find that I spend twice the amount of time working on bikes (mine and hers) and sometimes I am a little pressed for time making sure that they are both ready before our rides.

So, with that being stated I proceeded to tell Jennie, "Honey, I love working on your bike, but if you do not love waiting for me, perhaps you could learn a to do a few things to help me out to get out the door quicker?"

"What can I do?" was her response.

"Well," I replied, "The number one thing to remember in bike maintenance is to respect your tires and air pressure. The rest of your machine can be in shambles but ultimately it is your wheel goin' round 'n round that gets you home."

"Ok, no problem," she says, "I will top up the air in my bike tires."

So, Jennie proceeds to loosen the valve cap, unscrew the valve, trys to attach the pump, unlocks the pump, retrys to attach the pump, looks at me confused, trys to pump the pump, realizes that is still not attached properly, unlocks the pump, again retrys to attach the pump, hears a lot of hissing but cannot get the pump to lock again, looks at me in desperation, takes off the pump, pushes the pump back on, gets the pump to lock but realizes it is not on all the way, unlocks the pump, steps back from the bike, recomposes herself, looks desperately at David and waits for him to step in.

I step in, attach the pump correctly then hand it back to Jennie and say, "Ok, pump."

Jennie starts to pump...well she pushes the pump 1/2 way down and says, "Wow, the tire must still be full!"

I look at the pressure gauge, which reads 90 psi, and tell Jennie that I normally fill both of her tires to 120 psi. Jennie's eyes suddenly look alarmed and full of disbelief. "120 psi!!! How the heck am I supposed to fill the tire to 120 psi?!"

So she continues to struggle, trying everything from leaning on the air pump, sitting on it, and generally hoping that she will be able to will the pump to does not. She finally gave up at 100 psi. She is my 100 psi girl. (If you are interested, once I shooed her away from my work space, I got her bike to its normal "ride-ready" state, which includes 120 psi air pressure in the tires...)

So that takes me today...Jennie was awfully quiet while waiting for me to leave for our bike ride after work today...hmmm, that is strange....normally she has so much to say to me while she is waiting....!!!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 25: Great Day!

Today I finally had my 'life partner in crime' (aka the wife) back with me for the weekend from her recent trip to Houston and Boston and so we headed out for the same bike ride that I did last weekend. However, while we are the topic of Boston I would like to give a very special shoutout to this guy, who continually inspires me with his no-nonsense approach to training and running, to this guy whose motivation and training is just completely awesome, and to this guy who I just met prior to leaving Houston but makes me often wish I could be on the west side for what I am sure would be some great runs and great conversation. I also need to congratulate my sister-in-law for posting a PR of 3:34 at Boston. She has run 4 marathons now and every single one of them has been a Boston Qualifier...that is just awesome!

Also, my brother turned 32 yesterday! He is in Perth and experiencing the new learning curve of life right now. This can be both a very exciting time and a very challenging time! As the French would say, Bonne Chance! Happy Birthday Jon!

Ok, back to today. Jennie and I got on our bikes nice and early this morning and rode 50 miles outside of Paris. I was really looking forward to taking Jennie on this ride and to taking some pictures to show all of you the beauty of the trip. Unfortunately, as it turns out our BRAND new camera that Jennie took to Boston with her kissed the pavement along the Freedom Trail (or what I will now refer to as the 500 Euro trail) so we are (again) without a camera. For those of you who keep up with this blog, you may recall that Jennie decided that our previous camera should be introduced to the pavement beside that Eiffel Tower just several months before! So after our ride we went shopping to replace it but all of Paris is out of stock of the camera I wanted. Regardless, we pre-ordered it and are currently waiting for our new camera to be delivered, which we should get prior to our vacation to the Czech Republic and Poland May 9-18.

So, although I do not have pictures to show you I can tell you some weird highlights. Just along the Marne River we saw a donkey (looked just like Eeyor (sp?)) eating grass with no tether or person nearby in a highly urban just seemed out of place and was quite unexpected. Later in our ride we came across the Paris Pompier (the firemen) pulling a dead body out of the canal. A mile later I saw a guy fishing but decided that it would probably be too much effort to try and tell him that he may not want to eat the fish in the canal today...Bon appetite!

Also of note, Jennie is still getting used to riding with clipless pedals, which she says really hurts her ego (especially when she falls sideways at a stop sign infront of traffic trying to clip out of the pedals!!). I thought it was really cute...but the bruise on her elbow does not agree!

Jennie showed me this on You tube today and I thought it was hilarious! What Jennie and I thought was interesting was how many people just sort of ignore this guy but if they just stopped to enjoy the world around them they would realize that there is some pretty fun things going on (instead of going home and watching it later on the iternet!). Enjoy!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 19: Cycling Along the Marne River

After stumbling on this website (which, so far, has been a great resource), I finally decided that this would be the weekend that I would bike outside of Paris. I was really looking forward to having a nice, peaceful ride. I attempted this ride on Saturday with EPIC (not good) results. In summary I took a few wrong turns, riding in rain the whole time, got 3 flat tires, broke the stem on my tube AND on my spare tube, had to walk 7 miles with my bike back into Paris (through Parc Vincennes), take the RER back to L'arc de Triomphe, fell on the stairs while carrying my bike, walked another mile to get home, completely destroyed the cleats on my riding shoes by all the walking, and got home at 4:30 when I thought I would be home before noon.

Today, I wanted redemption and headed out again. It was drizzling for most of the ride, but nothing serious. I only had one flat tire (where did that glass come from?) and did not have any navigational issues. In a nutshell, this ride was absolutely spectacular. There are are a few, very brief sections of riding on roads with no shoulders. Otherwise, it was mostly bike lanes or extremely quiet and friendly roads. I apologize for not having pictures but Jennie has the camera right now (but I will take her for a ride on this route when she gets back and update with photos!)

Total Distance (from door-to-door): 50 miles / 80 km's

The following directions are basically for my own benefit so I know where to go next time!

Big Scale

1. Riding through Bois de Vincennes. You can either spend extra time enjoying this park, or you can take one of the most direct streets through as indicated. The important thing is to end on Ave. de Gravelle heading East.

2. Both yesterday and today I get tourned around here. I always want to veer right, which takes me quite a distance away from the Pont de Jaunville (where I need to cross the Marne River). After the bridge, take a u-turn to the right and follow the bike path back to the river. Turn right and enjoy the ride for 6-8 miles!

3. Once the bike path starts looking 'more urban' again, and after a sharp meander to the East, cross over on the pedestrian bridge just prior to the islands in the middle of the Marne. Turn right on the road (Quai de Mariniers) afterwards.

4. I ate lunch at the NE corner of this long (2km) retangular lake in the Park of the Nautical Basin of Vaires. Beautiful view.

5. Details to ride through the town of Vaires-sur-Marne.

6. This is where I got my flat tire. This is also where I noticed that EVERY house in this area has big dogs (German Shepard or larger).

7. Making my way to Villevaude.

8. Entering Villevaude. There is a pretty monster hill that leads into town (this picture and the next). Before entering town you ride alongside a field with MASSIVE powerlines/poles. This sleepy little French town must use the same amount of electricity per capita as the average North American!

9. Riding through and leaving Villevaude. The road after the traffic circle has no shoulder and can be tight. However there was little traffic and this section is short.

10. Crossing under the two highways here is the only real urban riding (not counting getting out of Paris) required on this route. I had a lot of fun here though because I was keeping up with traffic and since I was, I was treated with real respect as a car (not just an annoyance on the shoulder of the road).

10. Riding through Villeparisis. I had to walk through the market just before turning onto the canal to go back into Paris. The market was packed. This would be a good place to check out if you had the time.

Once you get onto the canal, you just follow the path, which is clearly marked, all the way back to Parc de Villette in Paris. This is VERY enjoyable section that winds through the national forest for a bit too! Before the forest, the path will make a u-turn. However, there is another pass that veers right - take this path! Then follow it until it leads back to the canal.
All 'n all a great ride...I hope to do it again very soon!
For those who made it this far, after the ride I met up with a guy I met at a birthday party on friday and ran ~12 very enjoyable miles through the Bois de Bologne.
Now my pizza has just been delivered and I do not want pizza sauce on my keyboard, so go read someone else's blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April 15: BRIGHT Test

Today I finally bit the bullet and re-wrote the BRIGHT test. What is the Bright Test? Well, it is simply a quick and efficient way in which I can prove that my French language skills still suck. It is a test, scoring from 0-5, that my employer uses to gauge one's fluency in any language. The Frenchies have to take the English Bright test and I have to take the French Bright test.

Theoretically any employee has to score 2.5 or better to be allowed (I mean, given the priviledge..ahem) to set foot in the promise land to work. I scored a 1.0 before coming to Paris, which basically meant that I could hold a french conversation with a orangataun at the Paris zoo. So how did I manage to work here then? Ah yes, of course, I promised that I would only stay for a short while EN ROUTE to Nigeria. It is amazing the policies that they overlook as soon as someone volunteers to go to Nigeria!

So I rewrote the test and scored 2.1! What does this mean? Well now I could probably not only talk to the orangataun but to his keeper as well (but nothing more than the weather and to tell him to go fetch me a banana as well!). Hmmm, now that I think about it even talking about the weather is a little sketchy. If it is a nice and sunny day I could probably nail it, but if there are variable conditions and storms I may just have to tell him to call me when it is sunny and leave quickly.

I am actually quite happy with my score. It is a huge improvement from the first test and has given me some (much needed) confidence with my language. Generally I feel that this language thing will never happen for me and it can get quite discouraging. A good result like this certainly helps. This is just in time before I move, excellent!

ps - only 1 run in the last 10 days (8 miles with Jennie). But I have been riding 20-25 miles/day since Easter.


Monday, April 13, 2009

April 12: Paris

Spring is here!

So after going to Epernay, Jennie and I recovered by enjoying the garden's of Paris in the beautiful weather.

Jennie in Parc Monceau.

David reading one of his bilingual books (hence the stern look of concentration during his 'relaxation time') at a fountain just off the Champs Elysee.

Jennie on the same bench as David, but having a little more fun because she is not reading a bilingual book!


April 11: Epernay, Champagne Region

Today Jennie and I headed out to the village of Epernay, the capital of the Champagne region in France, with two of our other friends Jen and Andrew. The day, of course, was centered around champagne tasting, champagne drinking, and all 'round just acting important!

After a 1 hour 20 minute ride from Gare l'est in Paris we arrived at Epernay. We started by first touring the champagne house of Moet & Chandon. This is the company responsible for introducing the Dom Perignon brand to the market in the late 1920's so it was, obviously, worthy of our first visit. For those of you who like bags (I know I have at least one reader who does), Moet & Chandon is a merged company with Louis Vuitton. It also is the champagne supplier to Queen Elisabeth II.

According to legend, after much experimentation with the double fermentation process to create champagne and its successful discovery Dom Perignon ran through the abbey shouting, "Brothers, come quickly...I'm drinking stars!"

Jen and Jennie infront of the statue of Dom Perignon outside the Moet & Chandon house

Jennie in the wine caves. The numbers on top of the board are code that only the champagne makers know that indicates to them the specifics of each batch. The lower number is the number of bottles in that particular rack.

More wine racks.
There are a lot of wine racks! 26,000,000,000 bottles of Moet & Chandon champagne is sold each year.
David in the Moet & Chandon wine caves.

To make champagne a second fermentation process occurs in the bottle by adding yeast and sugar. This is done to create carbon dioxide, which is ultimately responsible for the bubbliness of the champagne. The dead or residual yeast precipitates out and is left in the bottle.
Here is a bottle of champagne currently undergoing the second fermentation process.

Champagne bottles.

The Moet & Chandon champagne caves.
After touring the champagne caves we experience the best part - the tasting (and it was not even noon yet!). Jennie, Andrew, and Jen...getting warmed up for a great day in the Champagne region!
Jennie leaving the Moet & Chandon champagne caves.
The Church of Notre Dame in Epernay.
When shopping for some champagne for a little picnic in the park I came across this. Although I am not sure of the quality of this champagne, I figured someone who reads this blog may think it is probably the best.
We ate lunch on the grass of the town-hall. Eating baguettes and sipping champagne in the French countryside.
David with his desert (Nid de Paques).

Andrew and Jen...did he have any help with that bottle of champagne?!!
David in the garden.

Jennie relaxing too.
Jennie on the Avenue de Champagne.
We decided to do a second tour at Mercier champagne. This is the number one selling champagne in France. Infact, 80% of their total production is consumed in France alone - I guess it is so good that the French do not want to share it with the rest of the world!
Jennie and I on their laser-guided train. Andrew and I decided that any tour that included a ride on a laser-guided train was one worth doing.

Jennie in the Mercier champagne caves.
Jennie and I tasting the Mercier champagne. We tasted 3 of their champagnes (brut, 2004 vintage, rose).
Jennie tasting the Mercier champagne.

Grape vines outside the Mercier champagne house.
Our final stop was at C-Comme. From what we could gather this is a collection of many of the smaller champagne makers who have pooled together to still have a presence amongst the larger champagne houses in Epernay. Here we bought and drank several different bottles to finish the day with class!
Jen acting important with the local champagne experts.

This is supposed to be a picture of us "in love". But Jennie could not take me seriously.
The next morning I woke up with a slight headache but well worth a great day in Champagne!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 5, 2009: Run in the Merde

After reading Stephen Clarke's 'Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French" I have been inspired to recapture my experiences of running with the Frenchies in the Paris Marathon using the same format. Although the commandments are the same, their application will be slightly different.

1. Tu Auras Tort (Thou shalt be Wrong)
Being a foreigner who is lucky enough to run on French turf and who is priviledged enough for the French to even allow you to run behind their scrawny spandex butts, you WILL yeild to all French runners who decide at the last second to turn 90 degrees and run straight towards the refreshment's table to get a bottle of water. Should you happen to catch a piece of their heels at this sudden and unpredicatable motion, then shame on you. Lucky for you, your French is still so bad that you have no idea what insult he is yelling.

2. Tu ne Travailleras Pas (Thou Shalt Not Work)
Although there are plenty of port-o-john's and even portable urinals at every possible place for runners to use prior to the race, standing in line would be just too much work and effort. Instead, it would serve you better to just pee on the street while waiting for the starting gun to go off. Lucky for the people standing downslope from you the Champs Elysees is composed of cobblestones that allows the pee to percoloate around the cobbles on which you stand instead of around your shoes.

3. Tu Mangeras (Thou Shalt Eat)
Why settle for pre-packaged Gu's and Power -Gel's to be given out near the end of the course? Instead demand fresh seasonal fruit such as oranges, apricots and plums. If this does not wet your appetite perhaps you will be more interested in raw, un-cut cane sugar? Just because you are making your legs and lungs suffer does not mean that your taste-buds should be sacrificied either.

4. Tu Seras Malade (Thou Shalt be Ill)
After finishing the marathon and walking through the area where the runners will reclaim their drop-off bags, do not be surprised to see some runners who could not wait that extra 5 minutes to find someplace more discreet to change out of their sweaty running clothes. If running the marathon did not make you sick, seeing a bare, sweaty 'n salty ass will definitely cause the stomach to churn. Although France has, arguably, one of the finest public healthcare systems in the world, I do not believe I can find a prescription to help me for this ailment.

5. Tu Parleras Francais (Thou Shalt Speak French)
With plenty of crowd support along the course it is imperative to understand what the spectators mean when they are yelling "Allez, Allez-bien" and "Allons-y"! They are saying, "Hurry up, get off my road! I just need to cross it to buy my cigarettes and croissant."

6. Tu ne Chanteras pas (Though Shalt not Sing)
Around mile 16 the marathon route becomes confined to an underground tunnel for approx. 1 km. I started to get lost in a trance of listening to the echo's of the collective breathing and of the accentuated foot-strikes around me. This trance was soon broken when a runner directly behind me would sing/yell a high-pitched note every 10-15 seconds that would reverberate down the tunnel. At the time I found him very annoying. As it turns out, most people when they go through this tunnel yell in unison from back to front creating a vocal wave throughout the tunnel. I guess it is one of those things that if everyone is involved it would be fun and exciting. However, if it is just one it is just annoying (Fermez la bouche!)!

7. Tu ne Sauras pas (Thou Shalt not Know)
After abandoning my Garmin and watch during my regular runs prior to the marathon, I decided to run "sans Garmin" (without Garmin) for the marathon as well. The only time that I knew my pace was when I caught up to the 3 hour pace group at mile 15. "Merde," I thought, "this is much more aggressive than I wanted to be today. I better slow down." My legs had forgotten the punishment that 26 miles is capable of and were cruising as if I were only going to run 15...they did not know the tenderizing that lurked ahead.

8. Tu n'Aimeras pas Ton Voisin (Thou Shalt not Love they Neighbor)
Although I wanted to slow down after catching up to the pace group I found that I had run into a wall of people all clustered around the pacers. My natural running stride became shorted as I delicately danced between the maze of intertwined and determined legs. After 1 mile of this nonsense I dropped the pace group on a small incline along the Seine. A move I knew I would regret, but one that allowed me to run under the shadow's of the Eiffel Tower alone and in peace.

9. Tu ne Seras pas Servi (Thou Shalt not be Served)
The people handing out the sponges at the sponge station near mile 10 were exceptionaly energetic. Instead of waiting for you to run up to them and take a sponge they would just throw the sponges up into the air and let them rain down into the crowd of runners coming at them (because I am sure they must have been well warned about commandment #1). If you wanted a sponge just reach up a catch one!

10. Tu Seras Poli (Thou Shalt be Polite, while being simultaneously rude)
Although the spectator may mean well when yelling, "Go, go, keep running..." I have to bite my tongue when they finish by saying, "you are almost there", although you just passed the 17 mile mark.

Final Time: 3:04:55

David - Marathon Expo

David - Infront of the L'arc de Triomphe before the race.

David - In the Red Corral before the start of the race.

Champs Elysees - Prior to the marathon

1 km - The Lead Pack

David - Reason to smile again!