P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll – Phoenix, AZ

In my last post I mentioned Patricia and I were taking on the challenge of running 11 half-marathons this year. Our first stop on the tour was on January 19th, in sunny Phoenix, AZ for the P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. For this particular trip we did it as a whirlwind overnight trip.

Phoenix Airport

We flew into Phoenix Saturday morning, the flight on Southwest was relatively short so we didn’t leave until around 9am. Our first stop in Phoenix after the airport was the expo in downtown at the convention center. To get there we hopped a light rail train from the airport to downtown. The first thing I noticed as we headed to downtown was just how desolate and well, brown everything was. The entire town seemed to be made up of 2 story brown buildings.

Arriving downtown we picked up our race packets at the fairly packed expo then went hunting for some food.

Cartel Aricha

We ended up checking out Cartel Coffee Lab at their downtown location. There we sampled some pretty tasty coffee’s that they roast, along with some tasty food bites. If you’re ever in Phoenix or passing through the airport be sure to check out Cartel as they know what they’re up to when it comes to coffee (see my coffee review for one of the coffees at: ).

Cartel Croquets

For food we got some beef croquettes which were pretty tasty. If I’m ever back in town I’d love to check out some more of their food options.

After a bite to eat we headed to the Hotel which was located in Tempe, AZ home to Arizona State University (ASU). To get there we hopped back on the light rail where we journeyed by even more short brown buildings. So far Phoenix wasn’t really looking like a place I’d want to live. ASU itself didn’t really give a very good impression either, on getting off the train we saw a guy take a piss on the shelter for the tram stop. He couldn’t be bothered to water a bush directly behind him.

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start Line

The race itself was pretty fun, we got up early and walked about a mile to the start. The start line was pretty packed, once we got around to the starting side. The race itself ran through Tempe, then headed north into Scottsdale. Most of the race ended up running past more of those short brown buildings. Sadly the parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe we journeyed by didn’t really give us anything to look forward to.

Top of the race

There were a couple of scenic parts at the end. Mile 10 was an uphill battle and put us at the top of a butte overlooking downtown Phoenix. This was probably the best view of the entire run, my iPhone picture doesn’t really do it justice. On the way down from there we ran through the desert botanical gardens which were pretty in a desolate sort of way. We also ran by the spring training facility of the Oakland A’s which is in Scottsdale.

Ra Ra Riot

The band at the end of the race was one of the best I’ve seen for a Rock and Roll run. The end of the race band in this case was Ra Ra Riot whom I saw last year at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Oddly no one was into the band and it was possible to get right up in front. I felt sort of bad for them since they flew all the way out to Phoenix from New York just for this event. Patricia had a lot of fun and found some energy to dance around despite having just finished a 13.1 mile run.

Four Peaks Brewing Sampler

After the race we made our way over to Four Peaks brewing the local microbrewery where I had a sampler of beer and a sandwich along with some “beer bread”. While the food was  pretty good the beer was nothing to remember. In fact their flagship beer is a scotch ale, one of my favorite styles but the one in the sampler was pretty meh. I thought their best beer was Peach Ale which was as advertised a peach flavored ale. Even that wasn’t top of the heap as I prefer the fruity beers from Lost Coast up in NorCal. In the end none of the beers were really bad, but nothing was particularly stand out either.

Phoenix Castle

Patricia has a friend living in Phoenix and we met up with him at Four Peaks and after dinner he took us on a brief tour of greater Phoenix/Scottsdale. At this point we saw the “rich” side of town which looked a bit less run down than what we’ve seen so far. We saw some multimillion dollar homes, and he took us up a ridge where we saw a castle and the sun setting over the city.

Sunset over Phoenix

After checking out the rich side of town we went looking for some good coffee and ended up back at Cartel Coffee Labs, this time at the original location. Turns out the roastery itself is also a small nano brewery with a tiny 10 gallon brew sculpture.

Cartel Coffee Porter

Cartel Coffee Labs Brew Sculpture

There I had a coffee brown ale which was excellent. It was a nice nutty brown ale with some cold brew coffee flavors. It was definitely on par with Surly’s Coffee Bender which is one of my favorite brews. I also tried a taste of their F.Y.T.I.M. which was a not too hoppy (but still hoppy) imperial IPA. It was probably on par with some of the west coast DIPA’s such as Pliny the Elder.  These guys seem to know what their doing with both coffee and beer which is an interesting combination. Finally we hitched a ride with Patricia’s friend to the Phoenix airport and headed back home to the Bay Area.

The Marathon Project

In August of 2013 my then girlfriend, now Fiancé, Patricia and I decided to take on a crazy endeavor, run 11 half-marathons in a year. Why might you ask are we running 11 half-marathons this year?

Good question, I’m not sure myself. Partly because I wanted all the Heavy Medals from the Rock and Roll marathon series; but probably more I wanted to push myself to try some feat of physical fitness. I also wanted a way to work some vacation/travel in and this gives us a bunch of excuses to visit different places around and outside the country.

It should also force me to whip myself into shape, or at least I hope it just falls out from all the running.

I plan to update this blog with some of our adventures from the runs and what we see along the way.

I’m not dead yet

In case anyone happens to follow this site, they’ll notice I haven’t been very active recently. In fact my last post was back in February of 2013, over a year ago by my count. Well it turns out not much has changed. I’m still really busy, still looking to buy a house (prices are even WORSE now), the beer hoard has gotten worse, I took off and put back on weight (back to 220ish in Jan), and I still don’t have much time for gaming.

That said there have been a few good spots. Patricia and I took a road trip up the west coast around my birthday of this year. We went up highway 101 until it hit Seattle and came back down via I-5, and OR97 hitting up a ton of breweries and food places along the way (probably where I gained back any lost weight). At some point I should post some reviews or list a few of my favorite stops.

In November over Thanksgiving Patricia and I got engaged, while a joyous event it does leave me a bit further from my goal of buying a house. Prior to the whole engagement thing we decided to do something bit crazy and decided to commit ourselves to 11 half-marathons over the course of 2014. Yes, 11, in fact we completed our first Marathon of the year back in January. Anyways I plan to do another post about the whole marathon thing. As for the engagement we don’t have a date for a wedding or anything. That’s going to have to come after we finish all those marathons and find a house since we don’t really have time to plan a wedding with so many trips.

Even longer between updates

As you can see I don’t actually update this site too much anymore. Been so very busy the last couple of years. In fact you might have noticed I just published a post I wrote last year, making it about two years since I updated anything here. (I decided to publish that post without really proofreading/fixing it.)

This last year I lost and regained about 10 more lbs, dropping down to a low of 208.9 in August just before running another San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon (2:11:44 slightly faster than last year). Post Marathon I put all the weight back on and I’m back up to 220ish. This year I’m planning to run the San Francisco Rock and Roll Half Marathon in April and I need to get back on track with my training. I injured myself in December and had to take a month off running, so I only have a couple of months to get myself back up to 13.1 miles.

Probably the biggest factor in my slip was that rather than doing long runs or bike rides on the weekend I’ve been looking to buy a house here in the Bay Area. To that end I’ve spent several hours each weekend looking at houses in my price range trying to find one I like. So far I haven’t had any luck, and the prices are just going up, up, up here. Coming from the midwest it’s so painful to find out that if I want a home with a reasonable commute I’m looking at spending $600-800k for a 1,300 sq ft house.

Besides looking at housing I started “hoarding” beer this last year and have quite a collection of craft beers. I probably should start reviewing them here so I have an excuse for the collection. I sadly need to start actually drinking some of these beers before they get bad, which sort of goes against my goal to lose weight.

My goal for the next couple of months is to get on track with my health again and should start sharing my weight log/graph on this site and logging what I’ve been up to to keep myself honest. I just have to figure out how to link this from Google Docs.

In addition to all the extra curricular activities I’ve been a lot busier at work this last year. I got a “promotion” to a lead position which basically means I’m now doing everything I used to do plus another person worth of work. This plus the house hunting has left me with no time to play any games or see many movies this last year.

Long Time No See

Well I can’t believe it’s been almost an entire year since I last posted to this thing. Originally I had hoped to be making a post within a month or so of my last one with the news my weight loss had continued and that I had moved out of the “obese” category and become only “overweight”. Sadly that was not to be as I’ve had a busy year and haven’t been able to keep up with my diet.

So what has happened with me over the last year? So much I’m not even sure where to start. Probably the biggest news is that in late February of last year I met a wonderful girl who’s company I enjoy greatly. This turn of events has taken up quite of bit of my time over the last year so I haven’t done too many long bike rides over the last year. Just not enough time on the weekends to spend 2-4 hours pedaling around the bay. I think this year I need to try and make some more time for biking since I still want to try to bike to San Francisco from San Jose. Though I also have to balance this with finding time to hang out with my Girlfriend, since she’s not the biggest fan of two wheeled vehicles (though she does like that whole running thing).

I did continue with my plan to go running and have managed to go from not being able to run for more than 10 seconds in Nov of 2010 to finishing all 13.1 miles of the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon with a time of 2:12:58 in October 2011. That’s a about a 10 min/mile pace. The 10k I mentioned in my last post was my first run (and was really the Bay to Breakers 12k), and there I managed 7.46 miles in 01:23:25 (11:12 per mile).

In addition to running I did a couple other outdoor activities this year. I went skiing a couple of times last winter. I also took a couple lessons and actually learned how to “parallel” ski instead of just do a wedge down the hill. With a couple lessons I went from being afraid of the “blue” hills in Tahoe to managing a trip down a Black Diamond rated hill.

Once it warmed up a bit I went backpacking with my Girlfriend and a few friends and we did the Skyline to the Sea Trail through Big Basin State park. This was a lot of fun and I’d love to do another backpacking trip this year. I just need to go find myself a pack.

I bought a Motorcycle which has been fun to drive for those occasions where my bike is a bit far/slow for where I want to go and I don’t need the extra space of my car.

I did manage to lose another 10-20lbs but I’ve been stuck around 225 for the last year. Hopefully next year I’ll make some more forward progress.

One Year and 55lbs

So I’ve been a large person for many years, one year ago today I decided to start recording my weight and do something about it. My original goal was to lose about 100lbs in a year. To attain that goal I made some changes to my diet, and added a lot more physical activity to my life. I now eat a lot more  vegetables and I’ve cut a lot of unhealthy food out of my diet.  I also bike 3 miles to work everyday, fit in a 20-40 mile ride on the weekends, jog a couple times a week (hoping I can run a 10k in May), and lift weights 3 times a week.

Despite all that it turns out losing weight is hard and one year later I didn’t hit my original goal, though I do feel a lot better than I have in years. In the last year I went from 289lbs down to 234lbs, a net loss of 55lbs over the course of a year. I’ve also shaved 6-8 inches off my waistline since I started last January.

Not my original goal, but still within the “healthy” weight loss rate of 1-2lbs a week. Looks like I have another year or so to go to hit my final goal, though perhaps I can do a bit better in this new year.

The Land of the Rising Sun (2.0)

Starting early tomorrow I’m taking off for the land of the rising sun for my second time. This time around I’ll be spending two weeks in Japan though I’ll only be visiting Nikko, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo this time. I sort of wish that we could travel a bit more, but I’m meeting my brother who’s studying abroad and he doesn’t qualify for a Japanrails pass. Without the pass a lot of train travel would be prohibitively expensive, especially since he’s on a college budget.

But it should be fun in any case, I’m excited to see more of the Temples in Kyoto, actually make it to Nara, and see the National World Heritage site in Nikko. I’m also looking forward to some shopping in Akihabara, seeing the Tokyo National Museum, and the Studio Ghibli Museum.

Everything is booked/lined up for us except train tickets, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a ticket to Nikko from Narita with little hassle. My biggest concern is that the Hotel I’m staying at says the front desk closes at 10pm and the earliest I’ll be able to make it to Nikko is 9:42pm.  Hopefully everything goes well and I can catch the right train connections.

Anyways I plan to take a few notes of my adventures and take lots of pictures. Maybe I’ll post a summary of the trip here when I get done.

Travel Time

Tomorrow morning at 9:05am I fly out of SFO on my way to a 10 days in Rome and Venice, Italy. If you couldn’t tell from my lack of blog updates I’ve been pretty much just working long hours, sleeping, and occasionally studying Japanese since my last post. I’ve also taken up playing Dungeon’s and Dragons every other weekend which is suprisingly fun, and not too nerdy (I hope).

So right now I’m looking forward to the trip and spending time away from computers and work! (Sorry I doubt I’ll blog while there, but I might bring a notebook!) Even so I’m not going totally tech free on this trip, while the laptop will stay at home, I picked up 32GB of CF cards for my dSLR  and 4GB of cards for my point and shoot camera so I should be taking lots of pictures. I’m also bringing my PSP for some entertainment while on the airplane. Hopefully, I’ll have some fun photos or stories to share about my trip when I get back. I also might actually beat more than 2 mission in Final Fantasy: Tactics.

Also besides this big trip to Italy tomorrow I have a few other exciting trips planned. I’m going to a friend’s wedding back in WI in the middle of July, and in August I’m taking a couple days off to go to Blizzcon!

There is such a thing as too much Garlic

For Christmas this year my Mom and Dad got me a KitchenAid Pro mixer. I had been planning to get one of these for awhile since all I have for mixing is a wooden spoon. While a spoon works for many things, it makes baking more work than it’s worth.

Today I  cleaned up my kitchen a bit and made some room for the mixer. This thing is huge and takes up a large chunk of my counter. Honestly, I don’t really have enough room for this beast. Especially as I still have a deep fryer from my last cooking “experiment” sitting around.

Anyhow, after rearranging and wiping off my counter I whipped up a batch of pizza dough (recipe courtesy of my graduate advisor’s husband). Making the dough was a cinch with the new mixer. Just add water, yeast, flour, oil, salt, and sugar. Turn on the dough hook and wait 10 minutes. Of course I had to wait an hour for the dough to rise but at least I didn’t make a huge mess kneading it.

So once I got some finished risen dough I put it to use,  sadly I couldn’t make a pizza since I had no cheese. Instead I decided to make a few small balls of dough, and bake it up as a pizza dough twists to go with the pasta I was making.

To top the rolls I made an olive oil, garlic, basil, and oregano pesto like mix to coat the buns. Since I had no recipe I pretty much threw these ingredients in randomly. Sadly I put way too much garlic powder in. In fact I had enough the rolls had a bit of a garlic “bite” to them.

While the rolls were still good this is one case were I’d say I used too much garlic. Despite the overabundance of garlic I think my first mixer experiment was a success. I’m now considering starting to bake my own fresh bread since it was so easy.

Late to the TV Party

On the recommendation of a friend I checked out the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time. I started by watching Season 1 via Netflix. While this is a great service it can be painfully slow while watching a TV show. So I did what anyone who has become hooked on a show does, I went out and bought all 7 seasons on DVD. What I discovered was that I missed a damn good show on TV from 1997-2003.

If you’re like me and somehow managed to miss this show the first time around I’d definitely recommend checking it out. Especially if you like Joss Whedon’s other shows like Firefly. The only downside to all this is that I ended up going through all 7 seasons in < 3 weeks.