Day 7: Quito, Ecuador.

Today Marc and I got off to an early start because we were going to be heading south of Quito to Cotopaxi National Park to hike near the Cotopaxi Volcano. For context, Quito is situated at an altitude of 9350 feet so that’s pretty high for the Becks’. Our travel medicine clinic advised us to bring altitude sickness pills for this part of the trip and a future part of the trip. Due to some of the other meds we will be taking (i.e., malaria pills at a minimum), we were hoping that because our stay in Quito is relatively brief that we could skip them for this component of the trip. 

Marc and I met our guide, Carlos (wearing a Yankees hat so I knew we would get on just fine), at the park entrance and he took us to a few sites along the way to head up to where we would do our walk. The weather definitely improved from a viewing perspective as the morning progressed. We saw other volcanoes such as Rumiñawi and Sincholagua, as well as Laguna Limpiopungo. You can still see lava rocks from the 1877 eruption along the way to Cotopaxi.

Cotopaxi tops out at 19,347 feet and is the tallest active volcano in the world. It is part of the Andes mountain range. For comparison, Rainier tops out at 14,411 feet. The parking lot for the Cotopaxi Volcano itself is at ~15,000 feet. Maybe the highest altitude I had hiked previously was around 10,000+ feet.

Given how high the summit is, people who are climbing to the top generally get to the park a few days early to acclimatize themselves. We did not have that option. Our goal was to hike to the refugio from the parking lot. This refugio is the last point hikers can take shelter before they attempt to summit Cotopaxi. The hike was less than a mile and went up 1000+ feet.

The only catch for what seemed to be a short hike was that we were starting at 14,765 feet and hiking to 15,960 feet where the Refugio Jose Rivas was located. It was cold. I still had a decent amount of layers and felt slightly “Michelin-man” like. Truthfully, were not as properly prepared as we should have been from a  clothing perspective. That added to the challenge of being at such a high altitude. 

I took lots of breaks, and did a fair amount of huffing and puffing but we made it there in roughly 50 minutes. I was gassed and I definitely felt the altitude. Of course, I forgot the aforementioned altitude sickness pills and left them at the hotel. DUH! Lonely Planet called this hike a ‘lung buster’ and, yeah, that would be an accurate way to describe it!

Fortunately we took plenty of pics on the way up because as we were coming down, Cotopaxi definitely started to hide behind some clouds. I also saw a guide with a Red Sox hat - glad he wasn’t our guide! We decided that we were going to skip lunch and have our driver, Mario, take us from Cotopaxi straight to the “Old Town” area of Quito. 

As Marc mentioned yesterday, traffic in Quito (and in Lima, for that matter) is pretty bad during the day, especially at rush hour. Since both cities do not have any kind of real mass transit, everyone drives or takes a taxi, which is essentially the same as driving. You also get to breathe in lots of toxic fumes while sitting in traffic. So we timed our return to Quito for the middle of the day to avoid traffic, which still was pretty bad by US standards (yes, even Seattle standards). 

Mario walked us around “Old Town”, which had some impressive architecture. We started at Plaza Grande, which has the Presidential Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral. We then walked to the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, which had some pretty jaw dropping designs on the ceilings and the walls. Construction on the church began in 1605 and didn’t finish until almost 1800. We also walked through the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco.

Then we checked out Casa del Alabado. The focus of this place is around pre-Columbian
(not Colombian) artifacts. Some of them were made as far back as 4000 BC! The artistry and handiwork on these items really blew us away, especially the detail on the really small pieces (think the size of your thumb). We have all of the pics, along with some descriptions on Dropbox here.

Walking back to the car in the public garage, we kept hearing car alarms going off. I don’t even know if people really pay attention to car alarms anymore. I feel like 20 years ago (when I was living in NYC), they went off so much that people just were desensitized to them. But they go off constantly. As a matter of fact, we had car alarms going off constantly near our hotel until about 3am last night!

On the way back to the hotel with Mario, I observed that Quito has their own version of “squeegee guys” - anyone who lived in NYC in the 80s/early 90s knows what I am talking about. We saw lots of people selling various things like fruit and water along the side of the road, but then we saw one guy who was juggling machetes in a “very liberal way”, which was a Marc quote. Go figure. 

We did some laundry (yay for upgrades that have a washer/dryer in the room), packed and had dinner at Zazu. Excellent local ingredients that were well prepared and great service. Tried some wine from Ecuador, which was good and a first for us. I submitted my football picks for the next 2 weeks and hope that the lack of a working injury report won’t kill me any more than when I do have one to reference in my “pick’em pool”.

Marc and I are ready to head off to the next phase of our adventure, which is the main event for Operation Cincuenta - the Galapagos. We may have internet. We may not. In the event we don’t post for the next week, we will stockpile our posts and upload them when we are back on land. 

On The Road Again....

Mixed marriage time:
Broncos vs. Giants in Denver
Well, gosh. It has been awhile. I mean, really. Much has happened. Since the last post, I took a job at a healthcare technology company called Change Healthcare, and have been on the road quite a bit. It is not an exaggeration between work and personal travel to say that I have travelled 150,000+ miles in the past year alone (mostly for work, but a couple of trips to Europe interspersed in there). Pro tip: Once you hit 40,000 miles on Alaska Airlines, they give you free chocolate. Who knew? 

So what else is new? Well I am anxiously awaiting Game 7 of the ALCS tonight where my Yankees are taking on the Astros. Really hoping CC Sabathia brings it along with the offense. We went to Denver last weekend to see Marc's Broncos take on my Giants, and the completely opposite outcome happened that we were expecting (Giants won). Speaking of Marc, I'm doing my best to make him a Yanks fan for this fall.
Yanks visit Seattle
Let's Go Yankees!

I said farewell to Facebook on Thanksgiving, 2016 as I felt it was way too toxic for me from a political perspective. I felt all sides were too vitriolic for me and the time spent on the platform just left me feeling negative and pissed off. You can find me on Instagram though where I get to look at pictures of beautiful places, funny people doing great things and whatever else my peeps like posting - although anything political gets an unfollow. 

The business travel has been a lot. I know, many of you know me from when I used to do that a lot, but I was much younger. Plus I really like being home, spending time with Marc and keeping to a routine. It is really hard to eat well and keep working out at a regular cadence when on the road. I put some pretty hard rules in place for my business trips when I started the role around exercise in to mitigate the impact of eating out all of the time. Yay for being a runner and for doing CrossFit! Lots of #viewfrommyrun pics posted on Instagram.
On top of Mt. Si. with Rainier
in background

Last summer was fairly insane with travel from Seattle to Augusta, Maine every other week, so this summer, I decided to wrestle some control back. This has led to Marc and I getting in some hikes in a number of gorgeous places. Some were pretty technical and on one of them, I was just dreading going down because of how treacherous the trail was [spoiler alert: I survived but it took longer to get down than to go up].

In other news, I continue to brush up on skills around R, Python and SQL because it falls into that whole 'trying to suck less and challenge myself more' thing? While I have no intention of becoming a software engineer, I find taking the time to focus on this kind of thing helps me as both a Product Manager and a Program Manager. I'm reading a book on Submarine Design because someone told me it would be a great way to understand multivariate design as a whole. I'll let you know how that works out but this might fall into 'you can't make this stuff up'.
Top of Lone Cone in Tofino, BC

Marc and I decided to dust off our golf clubs, and the best thing about that from my perspective is that I didn't kill anyone at the range.... yet. 

We will see how long it will be before I post again, but in the meantime, thanks for tuning in and GO YANKEES!

If You're Not Willing To Inspect, You Can't Expect

I heard the quote at a yoga workshop I took today. Sometimes I will hear quotes and truthfully, they won't resonate with me too much. It's probably more of a slight against me than about the quote. This one did strike a chord with me.

Yeah, it can seem hokey to the many cynics in my life but if you think about it - when have you been able to proactively make impactful changes to your life without taking a hard look in the proverbial mirror? 

The past 12 months have been challenging for me on every front. Personally, professionally and everything in between. It's required me to take some time to look within and see how I can be better. Better as a wife, an aunt, a sister, a friend, a professional and any other role that I have. Getting focused on what matters. Yoga and running have helped quite a bit. Our friends have been awesome. Family members have stepped up. But I found another ally in the aim to be more introspective - reading books.

I find that reading books helps with those kinds of efforts because it requires a focus that reading current events, social media, etc. does not. And I am a current events junkie so it takes a fair amount of restraint to not check to see the latest and the greatest happenings locally, domestically and abroad. That said, the events of the past year have required me to focus and look within more than I can ever remember. It wasn't easy and most of it was not fun or enjoyable.

One of the first things I decided as part of this new chapter is that I was going to significantly reduce multitasking. I started this around 11 months ago after an overwhelming amount of evidence started coming out that multitasking actually makes you LESS productive. The focus on reading books more recently has reminded me that I do have the ability to focus and to concentrate on the critical things in my life that need to be done. 

As I was trying to assess what my next professional move was going to be (outside of consulting for small businesses), I was recommended to read Steve Blank's "The Four Steps to Epiphany". Given that I have been a co-founder 2x and have consulted on and off for a number of years, I was stunned that I hadn't read this sooner. I don't know if it made me feel better but it reinforced why certain decisions were flawed from the start in both endeavors. Let's just say that it was a HUGE EYE OPENER for me and if you're thinking about starting your own business, you should read it. 

On a similar theme, I follow a number of entrepreneurs on Twitter including Ben Horowitz of a16z, a venture capital firm in the Bay Area. I enjoy his tweets and blog posts. When I found out he recently wrote a book called "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", I knew I needed to read it. He wrote very candidly about some of his biggest lessons learned and all of the warning signals he missed as he was making critical decisions. And this past year has been about making hard decisions and yes, some collateral damage resulted which is unfortunate.

A recent read included "On The Edge" by Alison Levine, which recounts her experiences climbing Mount Everest and ties in some leadership lessons. It helped that I had read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer a number of years ago and then saw the recent movie "Everest" which was based on the same events of 1996 but from a different perspective. As far as quick reads go, "Into Thin Air" was one of them but it was good to get a different perspective of events by Beck Weathers, who was with Krakauer on that ill-fated expedition. 

Another fast paced read included "Orange Is The New Black". OK, I am probably one of the last people in the world to read this book but it was enjoyable and more so because a great friend gifted it to me when I broke my hand a couple of years ago and needed some reading material. I am only sorry that it took me so long to get to it. No, I don't watch the TV show and nor do I plan to. But I did find the book entertaining.

Awhile back, one of my running buddies asked if I had read "The Boys In The Boat" by Daniel James Brown. I mistakenly said yes thinking that they were talking about "The Amateurs" by David Halberstam, which I had read 2 or 3 years ago. Both were about rowing and competing for the US Olympic team but in different eras. 

Halberstam's book was very good. His books were very high quality. I particularly enjoyed "The Teammates", which discussed the friendship of 4 teammates from the Boston Red Sox (yes, this New York Yankees fan just wrote that) - Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams, who remained close for 60+ years. I'm fairly confident you wouldn't see professional sports players roadtripping today as these boys did, which is what was documented in the book. 

Speaking of the Red Sox, a couple of years ago I read Terry Francona's "Francona: The Red Sox Years", which he wrote with Dan Shaughnessy of 'The Boston Globe. Why did I read a book on the manager of the Red Sox team that crushed me in 2004? I like Francona and can't believe the amount of BS he put up with when managing those teams. He always seemed gracious and thankful that in spite of the crap that he thought he was the luckiest guy around.

I finally got around to reading the book by Brown while we were in Santa Barbara last weekend. Absolutely loved it. It made me sad following the story of the main character and his upbringing. It made me happy how much he was determined to overcome the many challenges he faced. Pick it up, download it to your e-reader or borrow it from your library when you have time. The research done for "The Boys In The Boat" was impeccable and was hard not to appreciate as the story unfolded in the book.

In different ways, all of these books have reinforced what I heard in my yoga workshop today about basically looking within before having any expectations - whether of myself or of others. Taking the time to bring life's insanity "down a few pips" by reading helps me get more calm and focus on the goals I have set for myself. I know that being a bit more introspective has helped me achieve some of those goals and am hoping that it will continue to be rewarding for me on all fronts.

WWC 2015 vs. 1999 - Differences.

The town where Lisa and I grew up was very soccer crazy. Most kids played in the local league growing up at one time or another. I never even gave it a thought that it would be possible to make a living as a soccer player. Then 1999 changed the game for so many, and it looks like 2015 is the result of all of the hard work of the '99ers.

We recently had the opportunity to attend the Women's World Cup Final in Vancouver, Canada - a quick drive from Seattle. Lisa, my sister, and I have been working on this for just over a year and while good planning always helps, we had some luck along the way. This luck manifested itself with the USWNT making it to the final and then being right above the goal where they would score their 1st 4 goals.

The game was shocking in a good way, given how the 1st 20 minutes or so played out. The crowd was at 95%+ USA fans and it was loud. In short, it was awesome. We rented a house in Kitsilano, just outside of the main downtown core, which made it easy to walk in and out of the city. Marc and I even went to yoga at a sibling studio of the one we go to in Seattle. How times have changed (at least until Marc is back to 100%)!

I thought it was worth discussing the differences between what my viewing experience was in 1999, when Lisa and I attending the opening match for the USWNT in NJ and watched the final in a bar in NYC, and what it was over this past month in 2015.

In 1999, it's safe to say that the players were marketed as "All American girls" in the sense that they were pretty, athletic and feminine. A couple were mothers so they were deemed "the ultimate soccer moms", which was good. Most of the attendees I saw in person or on TV were either people like me (women who played when they were younger or current playing in rec leagues) or young girls who were currently playing soccer in youth leagues. 

The only men you typically saw (outside of the WWC final at the Rose Bowl) were likely fathers taking their daughters to matches. I am pretty sure that no men's clothes were available for sale for the Women's World Cup. The market wasn't there. When Lisa, Keri (a long-time friend of ours) and I watched that final in 1999 at that bar, we had one TV on the match. The other TVs were on MLB and other assorted sports going on that day. By the time the match went into OT, 90% of the TVs had been shifted to watch USA vs. CHN. And it was loud. Unfortunately that momentum did not translate to success in a US professional league for women.

Fast forward to 2015 - 16 years later. If you go to the Nike website, you can buy men's and boy's gear that commemorate the US Women's National Team. This is definitely progress. The other major observation was the demographic of attendees of the USA matches. Many, many more men. Lots of boys. The American Outlaws have had huge showings at USWNT matches and it was no different at the final. They are awesome.

On our current WNT, we have stars who are openly gay and no one seems to care. This is fabulous. We have the Moms, which is great. What is even better is that a new focus is in play that the women are talented players with tremendous athleticism and skill. Yes, we have players who are capitalizing on their looks to snag more endorsement deals. Given the pay disparity between men and women for the World Cup, I have no issue with that. But those players who may not have received endorsement deals in 1999 are starting to receive them now (Abby Wambach). And those players are role models to the youngsters playing on local teams. Everyone is different and it's ok to embrace who you are.

The women's game is growing. Parity is improving. You saw England and Australia make great runs this year, and many of those players have other jobs (READ: non-soccer) that help pay the bills. Here's hoping that the success this past month translates into improved compensation and more opportunities for those ladies.

Oh and we had a great time with the #teamof8 in Vancouver. Many much needed laughs. 

Bringing 2013 To A Close (Oh, and Becks Are Now Employed).

It is amazing that 2013 is almost done. Fortunately for Marc and I, it was mostly a pretty phenomenal year and we are incredibly grateful for that.

We had the Australian Walkabout for 3+ months, which was an awesome experience and way more worthwhile than we ever could have hoped for.

We watched our parents get healthier and defy their respective ages. We also made our brother-in-law a CrossFit convert after he resisted for so long. :-)

We hosted another successful "Open That Bottle Night" (after we did one in Australia!!!) and JDRF dinner, and we had "Beck The Halls" storm back into our lives with a vengeance! Our families and our friends continue to make us chuckle and to be supportive of our endeavors.

We had visitors from all over, including 4 of our nephews and nieces. We got to spend Thanksgiving in NY and Christmas in SoCal, both of which were so much fun.

We mostly remained injury-free to pursue our fitness activities around swimming, running and CrossFit.

The decision to close Purple Teeth Cellars. Yes, this is a positive thing because we were able to close the business down on our terms so we can focus on other projects going forward.

We both found jobs that we are excited about (more below). It was worth taking the time off and then taking our time to find opportunities that we are passionate about.

And most importantly, we are both healthy and very thankful for that.

Some of the "not so great" things in 2013 include:

The broken hand and recovery with the "purple claw".

3 of our close friends being diagnosed with some form of breast cancer. Fortunately they all seem on the road to recovery. But HUGE dislike here.

The Yankees and the New York Giants 2013 campaigns (ok, this only negatively impacts one of us for this one and truthfully - not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things).

So in reality, it was a very good year for the Becks.

I'll let Marc decide if he wants to talk about his role, but he is happy and excited which is all that matters to me.

About 3+ months ago, I asked a close friend if she wanted to move forward on an idea that we had only talked about in passing. She said yes pretty quickly, which was pretty exciting but a little scary.

Reason it was a little scary was that this is a completely new space for me. We have created a non-profit called "uPower" that will focus on getting underprivileged kids in Seattle to after-school fitness activities. My role is "Executive Director" - aka the "GSD" person. The initial emphasis will be working with local CrossFits here in Seattle and pairing up with local schools.

It's been a busy few months trying to get this off of the ground, but we have made a ton of progress. You won't find a website yet as that is still in development, but behind-the-scenes... trust me, I have been busy working with my co-founder on building the best infrastructure we can so we are hopefully in a position to scale this concept properly. 

I am fortunate to have an awesome Board of Directors to help me out so we can move this concept forward. We are lucky to have a network of people who can connect us with experts as we get more educated on a myriad of topics. And yes, it's a whole new subject matter for me but I am embracing the challenges ahead.

So with that, onward to next year. Hoping for all of you to have a wonderful 2014!

"Green" by R.E.M. is 25 Years Old.... Wha????

Yes, that awesome album/CD/tape (whatever format you had when it came out) is now 25 years old. How the heck did THAT happen? Wow. It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right? Of course I will age myself some more and indicate that this brings me back to the years of Massapequa High School... Oy!

Many of our regular readers are baseball fans. And almost every baseball fan complains about how absurd the scheduling is for their respective team. Great little "30 for 30" on the husband and wife team who did the scheduling by hand.

I wouldn't say that I am a huge NBA fan. I lost interest in the Knicks thanks to the idiocy of James Dolan and his blind loyalty to Isiah Thomas. I know some of the players, particularly the ones on the marquee teams, like the Miami Heat. I was pleasantly surprised to come across this article by Chris Bosh in WIRED about the virtues of being able to write code. He also mentioned an interesting non-profit called '', which has some really interesting ideas about incorporating programming into education. Check it out.

Remember the adage "don't run 1/2 marathons on back-to-back weekends"? You don't? That's probably because most people do not need someone to tell them that. They just are smart enough not to do it! Unlike moi. Yep, ran the Snohomish River Run the week after the Nike 1/2 Marathon and let's just say it was a fight the whole way. Legs had no mojo and missed my PR by ~40 seconds. A bit disappointing, but given that I was sick for most of October and the hard 13.1 the previous week (even though it wasn't race pace), I can't complain too much.

Final races for the year seem to be a 5K in about a week and a 4-miler about a week later. Then I think I will be good. I look forward to spending some time building up at CrossFit and working on a project that has been in the works for a few weeks.

We have been doing some fun things on the home cooking front. Picked up a new cookbook from "Gramercy Tavern", a long time favorite of mine in New York. Then I do some experimenting with a cookbook from a wonderful place in Sydney that we ate at called "Quay". 

One of the birthday gifts that Marc picked up for me was "Modernist Cuisine At Home". Interesting take on cooking because it is written as if cooking is more about the science as opposed to some of the art involved. I like a little bit of both. We actually went to an exhibit currently showing at the Pacific Science Center showcasing some of the photography used in the book. Definitely unique.

Even with all of the science, I have been able to use the cookbook on a few recipes over the past couple of months and look forward to using it for a dish in celebration of a close friend's birthday. Lucky me!

Keeping Busy In San Francisco.

We just came back from a pretty busy weekend in San Francisco, which was filled with great times with family and friends. I also managed to squeeze in a half marathon, which we will cover in a separate post.

The plane ride and some recovery time after the race allowed me to read Wheelman: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever. Not sure I would recommend it because it just confirmed what I already thought of Lance Armstrong. That's not a knock on the authors from the WSJ, as it was meticulously researched, but it just provided more insight as to what a diabolical and selfish person he is. If you're interested in how pervasive the drug culture was in cycling and the extent to which Armstrong wanted to protect his legacy, read the book.

Our time in SF had us hitting some excellent restaurants. Coqueta, which focuses on Spanish cuisine, was the standout. We went to Frances to celebrate the 1/2 marathon finish, which was also excellent. Great service too. Rich Table had so much hype, so it was slightly disappointing that it didn't knock your socks off. That said, it was very good and even better to catch up with some of the SF cousins.

We went and visited with a former neighbor of mine from Massapequa, who is now a paramedic with the SFFD. It was really fun catching up with him, and he told us of a museum we never heard of called 'The Disney Museum'. It's historical artifacts from the Disney family about how Walt Disney & Co. became the massive entertainment company that it is today. Not really for kids, but for those of you who grew up with Disney as they grew up, you'll appreciate it.

Marc is a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and it just so happened that the Cartoon Art Museum is showcasing an exhibit on some of the drawings used in 'The Sandman' series. It was interesting, but unfortunately they had some other kind of festival going on that made things very loud and chaotic in there, which took away from wanting to read more about the drawings.

It wasn't what we would call an awesome sports weekend by Beck standards. The Broncos lost and the Red Sox advanced to the World Series. The New York Giants are about to kick off for MNF, so no news on if they will put their 2014 1st draft pick status in jeopardy.

And yeah, Congress and Obama finally got their act together.... until we get to do this again in January-February, 2014. Good job, elected officials! Idiots - all of them. But props to Chris Christie for giving up the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey - progress for my friends who live there!

All in all, a fun and a busy weekend in SF catching up with a bunch of people. Now back in Seattle to face reality and the Giants playing on Monday Night Football.

Interesting Reads, Cooking Adventures, Etc.

It's been a busy month, thus far. Running, cooking, CrossFit, friends, quick trip to Whistler, getting ready for the JDRF dinner and helping Harvalicious with his "Barbells for Boobs" fundraiser. 

I never get around to reading as much as I would like, but found a few articles over the past 3-4 weeks that have been interesting:

I had NO IDEA that if you declare bankruptcy that pretty much every debt will be forgiven, except for student loan debt. I am not sure which "genius" decided on that, but it has the potential to stifle innovation and risk taking in America. I am all for paying your debts but this is absurd. You try and get a new start, and your student loans will always be with you (but not your credit card debt). Not good.

Fascinating read on the sequence of events that took place after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Good job, Esquire.

What a cool story about a "sommelier on wheels". Shows that you can always pursue your dream if you really are passionate about it. It would be interesting to understand what was involved in the service portion of the Master Sommelier exam. 

I am convinced that Gianni Agnelli was "The Most Interesting Man In The World" before Dos Equis came up with the moniker for their very hilarious ad campaign.

It's not looking good for the Yanks to make the playoffs. I am pretty much "anyone but Boston" at this stage, but I think it would be pretty cool if the Indians and Pirates made it to the Fall Classic. The Giants are off to a horrific start. No O-Line and a leaky defense. Not sure how Kevin Gilbride still has a job and how much more of a pounding Eli Manning can take.

Running is going well mostly. Some aches and pains, but getting through the workouts and improving efficiency.... hopefully.

Spent the long Labor Day weekend in Whistler, BC. Hung out with a good friend, golfed for the 1st time since getting the broken hand fixed and cooked some lasagne. Good times.

On the home cooking front, Marc picked up for me "Modernist Cuisine At Home" as a gift and I have been busy trying things out like "Sous Vide Pork Belly" for an upcoming dinner party challenge, omelettes, pressure cooked vegetable soup, amongst other things. It's definitely educational and I look forward to seeing how I can "up my game". Other recipes I have worked on include an heirloom tomato salad from "Down Home: Downtown", which was great, and Chocolate Pudding Souffles with Almond Butter Ganache, which was adapted from "Michael Mina: The Cookbook". Yes, you read that right - Jill baked.

We are still fundraising for JDRF (will be through mid-November) and have our big dinner on Saturday. The dinner is sold out, which is awesome. Hovering around $18,000. Thanks to all who have donated to date! Harvalicious (aka Dad) is also fundraising to provide mammograms for those who can't afford them. You can donate here! Harv is going to do a special CrossFit workout with his "box" on October 5th for the cause! More to come on this.

“When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join a circus. With the Yankees I’ve accomplished both."

Who said that? Quick, quick....

Well, it was apt at the time it was said (~35 years ago) and it seems really appropriate now. The quote was made by Graig Nettles, while playing for the Yankees in the late 70s. Sportswriters, followers and players referred to the chaos surrounding the team as the 'Bronx Zoo'.

Now we have what one writer called the 'Bronx Zoo 2.0'. I don't appreciate cheaters, but I dislike NOT following 'due process' even more. The situation with A-Rod has just devolved into such absurdity that no one knows what to believe. But what if the A-Rod situation (replacing Reggie Jackson) was happening with George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin alive, and reprising their roles in the 70s, except with Twitter accounts? Now that would be awesome.

Numerous baseball players have complained that A-Rod gets to play while he appeals an unprecedented suspension. But they seem to forget that THEY voted on the collective bargaining agreement that grants players to RIGHT to play during an appeals process. So if they really want this to stop, they can call upon their union leadership to open up the CBA and change the process. Until then, they are sore losers since, somehow, the Yankees have started hitting again.

Last night's game was beyond awesome after Dumpster decided to be the moral arbiter of MLB and plunk A-Rod. BTW, it only took him 4 tries. Maybe Dumpster (funny how autocorrect was working last night on my phone and iPad) can ask David Ortiz about his failed PED test that he promised to get to the bottom of if he is so outraged. Anyway when A-Rod clubbed a home run to deep center, I was pleased. After Dumpster loaded the bases soon after, got pulled, then received a standing ovation walking off of the mound, I jumped for joy when Brett Gardner knocked in 3 runs on a triple.

BTW those runs got charged to that pitcher who had just received the standing ovation. Nice job, Boston fans. Yanks ended up winning and Dumpster got the loss. Golly, hope that loss doesn't affect playoff placement for the Red Sox. ;-)

We also had some more VIPs visit in the name of Marc's parents along with our nephew and niece from SoCal. They stopped in for a couple of days en route to Alaska, so it was good to see them. Marc got to play tour guide and show the kids the local, fun places. And I got to showcase some healthy cooking ideas for Dee & Bruce in between some meetings. 

In other news, my runs are progressing. I had a solid track workout and will be able to move on to mile repeats tomorrow. Never thought I would be excited about that, but that's what happens when you're injured for a bit. I did some hill work on both Saturday and Sunday with mixed results on my times, but helpful from a mental perspective as I got to work out some frustration from earlier in the week. The workouts have increased in intensity for both Marc and I in swimming (MB), running (JB) and Crossfit (both) over the past few weeks, so by Sunday afternoon at an engagement party for close friends, we were gassed and made an unfortunate early departure.

Good times on many fronts. That said, when I recommended to Marc to take a 'recovery week' like Coach T prescribed for me this week, he jumped at the suggestion and said, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea." So there you have it. An easier week on the workout front for Marc and I this week. Thankfully.

Phil the Thrill.

I wouldn't say I am a huge golf fan, compared to say baseball or football (US), but after taking up the game once I moved to Seattle, I definitely started to appreciate it more. I never was a fan of Tiger Woods. He just always seemed to be arrogant and a poor sport, especially given how much success he had playing golf and how much money he made as a result. The events in late 2009 only cemented my disdain for him. His conduct on the course has finally become a topic for discussion, which was well overdue since it seemed like sportscasters just kissed his rear for fear of angering Tiger. Oooh.

My beloved grandmother, Mollie, was a Phil Mickelson fan. I remember watching the US Open with her in 2002 on Father's Day when it was played just down the road from us at Bethpage Black. I somehow became a Phil fan on that Sunday afternoon even though he lost to Tiger. He just always seemed like he knew that he had it really good and knew his role was to golf and entertain the fans. And he played to win, and not just collect a paycheck.

Phil can be maddeningly frustrating to watch. Winged Foot. Merion. But when he pulls something out of nowhere, you get just as rewarded. His win yesterday at the Open Championship was a shock and thoroughly enjoyable. And he has done something Tiger hasn't - Phil knows how to win majors from behind

I have no idea what Phil is like in private, but I know that he realizes his job is to be with the fans and thank them for supporting the game, in addition to golfing. I like that. I LOVE that he doesn't slam his club down when he hits a poor shot, swear incessantly after a mishit, and doesn't treat interviewers like garbage when he has a bad round.  So congrats, Phil, and I know Mollie had a celebratory G&T "upstairs" in your honor.

Of course we have the other side of the spectrum in bad behavior in Ryan Braun, who finally admitted to taking PEDs. I hope the sample collector who Braun demonized and caused to lose his job sues the pants off of him. Braun was so adamant about the collection process being flawed and blaming this person that one can hope that karma comes back to Braun's checkbook. Speaking of reformed cheaters, I always wonder if Lance Armstrong ever apologized to Emma O'Reilly after making her life miserable?  

Moving back to being positive, I had a good week on the running front. I actually hit my assigned paces/HR zones on my runs this past week, so I am incredibly pleased. The work is paying off, but we have so much more work to do to get me where I need to be for my race. My stretching program is helping and more routine, so that is good. I definitely got inspired watching my former coach race and place 2nd in her age group in yesterday's Lake Stevens 70.3 Ironman.

Moving on to food, we were able to hit Crush for dinner -- one of Marc's faves. We chatted with Jason (chef and owner) about his new restaurant, our visit to Quay in Sydney and the awesomeness of the Big Green Egg. Really great restaurant with the food and service, plus we opted to sit at the bar so we saw some of the interesting prep they do in the kitchen.

I signed us up for a Gluten-Free Doughs class (focused on pasta) at the Pantry at Delancey. It wasn't Paleo-oriented but it was good to learn a few more tricks when working with non-traditional flours when making pasta/dumplings from scratch. We only wished that the class started at 5:30pm instead of 6:30pm because we didn't eat until 9:15pm, which is a tad late for us. I don't think we're at the "early bird special" stage yet, but still... we're not in NYC either. That said, I am somewhat inspired to experiment some more on this front with Paleo "doughs". Stay tuned for more in this space after last year's sweet potato gnocchi (success after FIVE attempts!)

I also attempted some other dishes in the kitchen last week. Two of them are Paleo versions of existing recipes from 'Avec Eric' by Eric Ripert and 'Simply Ming One Pot Recipes' by Ming Tsai. A third night consisted of a meal from 'Practical Paleo' by Diane Sanfilippo so obviously no versioning required to make it Paleo.

Recovering from A Near Miss on the PR Front.

All in all, it wasn't a terrible year on the running front. 

I did need some time to separate myself from the result in PDX a week or so ago. I actually was so mad right after the race that I signed up for another race at the end of the month that I was "confident" I could crush with a new PR. Especially with the Whistler PR invalidated because the court measured short. Don't get me started on that one.

Then reality set in. And lethargy too, to be honest.

I ran a lot this year. I had success at Ragnar by running 25+ miles over a short period with 3 legs, including the anchor leg. I ran it almost exactly to plan by going z1 in the 1st and 2nd legs and going for broke in the 3rd leg. Too bad that steep uphill in the heat got in the way for 1/4 of a mile!

I broke a new PR about 6 weeks ago in the 5K and actually placed 2nd in my age group (not a typo). I paced Marc to a new PR in the 5K, which I was really proud of - meaning proud of him because he hates running and I had the privilege of helping him for a change. 

Oh - and I did PR in NYC earlier in the year, in spite of my own ineptitude. So that's something.   :-)

We also had our JDRF Dinner and are inching close to raising almost $20,000! You can still donate here. Thanks to all who have donated to date.

So yep, we have been busy. And now we have the NFL in full swing along with the MLB playoffs. I wish I could say that the Mariners have gotten a clue about how to run a baseball team, but they haven't. The Yankees overachieved to get past Baltimore and were summarily swept by Detroit.

The Giants have started off in an uneven way, as per usual. They continue to have to come from behind in order to make wins happen, or make it close at the end and lose. The Broncos have also gotten off to an uneven start with Peyton Manning now the starting QB and recovering from his neck surgery. So who knows? 

We are testing out a new blogging tool for an upcoming project we are working on, so we will see how it works with respect to hyperlinking, inserting pictures and what not that we can typically do from a regular laptop as opposed to a tablet. If things look wacky, please bear with us as we figure it all out!

Unedited Race Report from PDX Half Marathon.

It's fair to stay that I was probably at around 80-85% heading into race day, 'the day before' "carboloading" at VooDoo Donuts notwithstanding.  I thought that by keeping up with extra cardio and mimicking the heart rate that I would have on my z2 runs that would help compensate for the fact that I was not able to run for extended periods of time without being in some pain.  So the focus became getting the runs in once a week and focusing on speed work.

And before we know it on race morning, I am off.  Find a groove, stick to it and take the 1st quarter of the race in a conservative manner since the only real hill was in that section.  At this stage, I was really happy that we drove the course the day before because I knew when the hill was going to be over and didn't have to guess when that might be.  I was really happy with the mile 3 split of 8:45.

I decided that I was not going to check my Garmin for "real time split" during each mile.  I would look only at my overall lap time over the course of the entire race and my elapsed time, and figured that would be enough to manage the race.  Once I crested at the top of the hill just before the 5k mark, I reminded myself to pick up some speed but not get ahead of myself on the downhill.  Again, didn't look at the watch and saw a 7:58 at mile 4 so I was pretty happy because I definitely felt like I was not taxing myself.

The only snag in this was that I was so focused on keeping an even cadence up the hill that I forgot to take my gel at :25 mins in.  I took one at :40 and decided that I would take another one at 1:05 and at 1:25, and figured that would be ok.

Miles 5 - 10 honestly felt really good.  I saw Marc at mile 6+, kept taking in water and was thinking that this was a pace that I felt I could maintain for awhile.  I was sticking between 8:10 and 8:20 for those splits, and was happy but knew the real work was in the last 5K of the race.  I can't say there was much to report in the middle section.

Somehow in mile 11, I started feeling very fatigued and my breathing was starting to labor.  I deliberately decided NOT to look at my watch in the middle of the lap (mile) to see what pace my watch said.  If you have learned anything this year, it's to go with your feel, Jill!

Needless to say when I saw my mile 11 split, I was not happy.  The course is flat and I was giving everything I had.  I tried going faster and maybe I increased my exertion level, but it didn't really help when I saw my mile 12 split.  I saw Marc and he actually ran with me for about 1/4 mile, and I was just struggling.  I was giving everything I had, trying not to give up even though the goal time was out the window.  My legs were going, but the results were not commensurate with the effort I was giving, which was a real downer.

I took the turn off of the main highway finishing mile 13 and just tried to beat my PR from NYC.  I tried to get my legs up that hill quicker.  It just wasn't happening.  I couldn't find my exact time because of issues with tracking, but I was pretty sure I came within 5 seconds of my PR. On the wrong side. Sure enough my official time was 1:49:54 - 3 seconds slower than my previous PR in NYC.

That sucked.  Obviously I was injured but to get THAT close and not at least beat it was a true bummer. Logically I know I gave a great effort and did the best I could considering I hadn't run 13 miles in one stretch since June (!).  In my heart though, I am disappointed and frustrated because I really don't know what else I could have done to better manage the race.  Would micromanaging miles 12 and 13 helped after I saw problems in mile 11?  I don't know.

  • Managed most of the race without micromanaging it and it worked really well for the 1st 10 miles.  This is good.
  • No matter how much elliptical time I log, I am now past the point where I run a pace that necessitates getting out and hitting the pavement more than I did in August and September. Yes, was in a lot of pain but would it have been worth it to take 2 Tylenol Extra Strength before the run and during the run while I was training?  I think I would consider it now even though conventional wisdom is against taking pain relievers so you don't mask an injury and do something worse.
  • Doing the mileage I did at Ragnar (25+ miles) was a mistake if I have a fall race longer than a 10k on my calendar. I'll have to stick to 15-17 miles total going forward.
  • I gave everything I had in this race, so I guess there is something to be said for that.  I didn't give up and didn't leave any time out there, although I almost left some of my insides just after the finish line but fortunately got myself together. Yeah, lovely....
  • Not sure how to measure sweat rate but I get pretty salty after long efforts, even now with taking the Power Bar Gels. I don't know if I need to take Hammer Enduralyte tablets even for half marathons now as opposed to just full marathon efforts.  My clothes were absolutely soaked.
So that's the recap.  Like I said, the effort was there and I did the best I could with training, but the result wasn't.  And that is no one's fault.  It's just a part of racing, I guess.

But at least Big Blue and the Pinstripes won! Unfortunately the Broncos lost though for Marc, who deserved better for being such a great cheerleader. Other positive was great friend, PNak, PR'ing the full marathon and coming in under 4 hours and celebrating at Paley's Place later on in the evening! Plus we had good meals earlier in the weekend at Pok Pok and Wildwood, which caught Marc in a somewhat overwhelmed position looking at the SAVORY menu (normally it's the sweets!)

Trail run? Really?

So we are two weeks post-NYC and the best thing I could say about my recovery period since then is that I actually rested.  Not really by choice, but because I caught whatever cold/flu thing has been going around as we returned home.  It has really knocked the wind out of me, but I finally had enough and decided to venture back to Crossfit yesterday.  I took it really easy, but was happy to get back it. And clearly I did enough squats to make my rear end sore.

I didn't know what I would be doing today, but last night one of my friends (and running buds), AK, decided to e-mail me with an interesting proposition -- do a 4-5 mile trail run near our respective houses.  For those of you that know me, trails are NOT my thing.  I tend to do dumb things like sprain an ankle, lose a shoe in a bog of mud (yes, this happened), etc.

KK and AK's collard greens with bacon!
I decided to accept because I needed to get a run in and having an excuse to take it easy, and AK has been wearing me down to get me on the trails.  We had her, her husband and some others for dinner last weekend and she was definitely doing some lobbying over some amazing pulled pork and collard greens.  :-)

As I was chatting with Marc last night about it, I said one of the things that I need to focus on during a proper trail run is that I need to ignore pace and focus on effort, along with the experience of just being on a trail.  Turns out that AK asked me about that same thing as we drove to the park, and she concurred that I needed to just recalibrate what I should expect to get out of a trail run.

We went out this morning and it turns out that it probably ranked pretty low on the technical side, and didn't have 'too much' on the "Rocks and Roots" side (H/T to other friend: RP).  I trusted AK to know a course where I could feel challenged in a good way, and have a good time, and of course, I was right.  It also seemed poetic after the body of "Caballo Blanco" was found yesterday. His story was a major focus in Christopher McDougal's, "Born To Run", which I read last year and enjoyed.  RIP, Caballo Blanco.

Big Green Egg Pulled Pork!
AK was great in giving me some tips and at times, she was more aggressive on the downhills (my weakness on trails - all mental).  It was good.  She would slow down to let me catch up.  While it felt hilly, it wasn't too bad on the elevation scale.  It did feel like a harder effort just because I hadn't run in 2 weeks (or done much of any physical activity) and because of the lingering cold.

Unfortunately I had some issues with the Garmin so I am showing AK's capture of the run.  The weather ended up being pleasant, and while it was pretty windy elsewhere, we were protected from it in the trees (as predicted by AK).

Paleo Twinkies by MMKR!
Going back to the pulled pork (which was smoked in the BGE!) and collard greens discussion, one of our good friends MMKR brought over one of her baking creations known as "Paleo Twinkies".  While a couple of tweaks needed to be made, they were tasty and Paleo!  Other dishes have been conjured up at Chez Beck recently like smoked whole duck, cassoulet, lasagna (made with leftover BGE pulled pork - holla!) and some Bo Ssam for Super Bowl Sunday -- and of course a Big Blue win!  OTBN, as usual, was a huge success with great friends, amazing food and some stellar wines.

Marc, Erik and Dave getting ready to carve one of the smoked ducks!
Finally we are officially into baseball season, although you wouldn't really know it.  You probably missed it that the Seattle Mariners played 2 real season games in Japan against the Oakland A's.  And yes, those games counted and pretty much no one in those markets saw the games because they were at 3am PST.  But somehow MLB Network and ESPN are advertising "Opening Day" for this upcoming week.  

I think it was a disaster all around because the Mariners have now gone back to playing pre-season games after playing 'real' games.  Huh?  One of the many reasons I, along with many others, continue to think Bud Selig is a schmuck.  But hey - Go Yanks!

Before I forget, special congrats to my awesome coach, Kim, for her awesome performance in Texas this morning in her Ironman!

Next on the horizon...

Well as I talked about in the last post, Rock ‘n Roll didn’t go as scheduled due to a stomach ailment. Things are a little better and I would say that I am about 70% of full strength (with meds – need to get off of those soon). But it was definitely the right call not to race as for the 3-4 days after what would have been the race, I wasn’t consuming anything but smoothies. As a result, dropped 4 lbs. in that timeframe, which is a decent amount for someone of my height. I had worked out later in the week at Crossfit and did a couple of easy runs around Green Lake just to keep things moving, and the pain was tolerable.

Fortunately I was able to get back into gear by the time one of our close friends came to town for a visit for July 4th weekend. Nat arrived on Saturday morning on an absolutely gorgeous day in Seattle, and we immediately did what any proper host does – whisked him up to Woodinville, where many of the best wineries in Washington state have tasting rooms. OK, we did have an amazing brunch at Barking Frog first. Gotta get some food in the system, right?

Unfortunately the one winery that Marc wanted to check out was by appointment only, so we couldn’t visit those folks. We did, however, stop by Pepperbridge, DeLille and Page and properly introduced Nat to some of our favorite wines. He enjoyed all of the places we showed him, but seemed particularly enamored with DeLille. After some wine tasting in the sunshine, we headed back to the house to watch some baseball and get ready to have some friends over for dinner.

We decided to do our tried and true rib-eye recipe on the Big Green Egg. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be much difference from when we grilled it on the regular BBQ, and let’s just say that I was wrong. Big time. Our friends each brought some great dishes over like kale salad, sautéed Swiss chard, meringues and “chocolate peanut-butter goodness”. It was a very fun time and some amusing discussions took place amongst the group that really didn’t know each other beforehand. The entire group works out regularly and I received word on Sunday morning that one of the more “hard core” folks had such a good time on Saturday that they needed to “get some grease” at McDonald’s the next morning prior to starting their training bike ride. Guess we did a good job as hosts! J

On Sunday, the Mariners were in town and Nat is a huge baseball fan. Actually, he is a Red Sox fan. But we have known that since the start of our friendship and have embraced the rivalry and what that brings. We ended up having nice weather for the game and I showed Nat some of the really cool features of Safeco Field, where the Mariners play. Then we ended up meeting another friend of ours, Erik, for dinner at the newly opened and much raved about RN74. It’s named after one of the main roads in the Burgundy wine region in France. The owner, Michael Mina, has a restaurant in San Francisco with the same name, which Marc and I have been to.

For a place that was opened 3 weeks ago, the quality of the food and service was really top notch. I have been to a number of places when they were just getting their feet wet, and they definitely had kinks to work out. We really couldn’t find anything to criticize. The team took great care of us and ended what was a really fun day. Oh yeah, we actually got to start the day with a run and then a visit to Elliott Bay Books in their new Capitol Hill location. So yep – outstanding day with Marc and close friends. Nat had to leave early on Monday unfortunately, but we hope he comes back soon (and not alone)!

My next 2 races are pretty close to each other, but they are not typical “races” as in a 5k, 10k, half-marathon. Both are relays, which encompass a completely different line of thinking and training. And the running is going to be at the hottest part of the day in both relays. So I asked Kim of TN Multisports to get me back on track, and she assigned me a pretty tough track workout yesterday. Since it was a pretty warm day by Seattle standards (high 70s and complete sunshine), I decided to hit a different track that had no shade and waited until about 2:30pm to do my workout.

My stomach was a bit upset, but my legs felt good and my cardio seemed strong, so I was happy with the effort. I am hoping that my stomach will continue to trend in the right direction in getting better, and then hopefully getting off of the meds that I am currently on. In preparation for the relays, I am also going to have to start doing something I have never done before since I started running – double running sessions. It’s more of a mental thing, but it needs to be done. Stay tuned as I try and tackle that challenge.

Does Everyone Automatically Default To Cheering For The Underdog?*

Question: Do you always cheer for the underdog if "your team" is out of contention (that is where the asterisk comes in)? If you don't have time to read the whole blog post, just skip to the comments and answer the question if you don't mind.

Most of you know that I grew up in NY, which means that I am a Yankees fan and a Giants (football) fan. Some people out here have tried to get me to switch those primary allegiances to Seattle teams, but most people know better. That also means that I actively cheer against division rivals such as the Cowboys, Red Sox, Rays, and the Eagles.

I have been having a debate with a friend (I'll call him "Tony") about cheering for the underdog, which started out of my pronouncement that there was no way in hell that I would be cheering for the Seahawks this weekend. Let me clear, "Tony" is not one of the people who has said "cheer for the Mariners because they are nice guys". He has his primary allegiances, too – one of which is one of the above mentioned rivals, no less! We have debated about our shared division, etc., and have agreed when both of our respective teams have sucked or performed well (or if the other person's team sucked or performed well).

Even though I have happily resided in Seattle for the past 8 years, the only local team that I have been remotely interested in cheering for has been the Seattle Sounders. The fan base for that team is consistently engaged and very knowledgeable about the sport. I have made my dislike for the Mariners organization and their fans well known here and here. I haven't talked too much about the Seahawks, and my disdain for the team and their fans. Let's leave the Sonics out of the equation for now.

We are in football playoff season so now we're in crunch time. I am more disappointed in the Giants choking than anything and I don't think they deserved a playoff spot. Let's make that clear. But something happened for the 1st time ever. A team with a losing record made the playoffs by winning their division – and yes, that would be the Seattle Seahawks. While I think it is lame that the Seahawks made the playoffs with a losing record, I understand why every division needs to have a seat at the table.

What I think is a disgrace is that a team that has won 4 more games, the New Orleans Saints, has to travel across the country to a team that has a losing record. Yes, it is the current system but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be changed to reward teams that win more games (you can add in strength of schedule, etc., but at least it is more of a meritocracy). Furthermore the Saints managed to win 11 games in a division that also holds the #1 seed for the NFC, and the 3rd place team won 10 games! Clearly the talent was in the NFC South this season! I can only hope that the competition committee changes things in the offseason to seed the 4 division winners and 2 wildcards that rewards talent and consistency as opposed to mediocrity. Sorry – winning your division with a 7-9 record is mediocrity and even that's a stretch when you have a losing record.

Anyway Tony and I have been having a debate this week about me not cheering for the Seahawks. I am going to do my best to not exclude context to be fair to him, but I am not going to include all of the text because it's a lot. LOL.

["Tony" – if you're reading this, and you feel I misrepresented you, I apologize. That is not my intent.]

Some statements from "Tony":

  • "Finally, most people root for the underdogs in games like these. i can't imagine why anyone not from New Orleans could possibly want the Super Bowl Champs from last year to win. What a great story ... if the Hawks could win!!!"
  • "What I don't get is why you would actively root against your current home town? It is so exciting to be in a town with the buzz of a winner, especially if your team is out. That is why I cannot fathom how you could root for the Saints."
  • "Oh come on. You are saying you don't want a positive buzz in your home city because the fans are fair weather? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face..."
  • "And [sic] i still don't understand why the prospect of this city...the city you live in...regardless of how fair weather you believe the fans to be...would want you to be actively against this team."
  • "I think you are completely wrong. Most people root for the underdog and will root for the Seahawks. They ALWAYS root for the underdog."

To add some additional context and I am hoping that this makes it more fair to "Tony", I have made it clear that Seattle fans are fairweather – see above. And to be fair, I think "Tony" meant to say "home city" as opposed to "home town" since he knows where I am from. So please disregard that distinction. And my disdain for Seahawks fans started when the Giants played here a few years ago and lost by 3 points, and the Seahawks fans went around saying they crushed the Giants. Whether it is bitterness or not, the reality is that the arrogance of the fan base turned me off to the Seahawks for the forseeable future.

So now we are having this debate on Facebook and now I am asking you – do you always cheer for the underdog if "your team" is out of contention?

I happen to disagree with "Tony" that most people will tend to root for the underdog and in this weekend's case, will root for the Seahawks (BTW, this excludes Seahawks fans from the conversation since that is "your team"). Here is why:

  • Pre-scandal, Tiger Woods had tons of fans cheering for him to break Jack Nicklaus' Grand Slam record. Ironically, I was not one of those people because even before he became a regular on the NY Post front page, I thought he acted like a petulant brat. But there is no denying his endorsement abilities and the fan base that enjoyed watching his talents on the golf course. Tiger may be an underdog now, but he had plenty of people in his corner wanting to watch greatness happen and to say that "they were there".
  • I do not know many people who were cheering for Virginia Tech (the lower ranked team) in the Orange Bowl when they played Stanford. There was so much authentic buzz around Harbaugh and Luck's next move that people wanted to see them dominate. I also think that people think that athletes actually go to class and are held accountable at Stanford as opposed to most D-1A schools.
  • I do not think people are going to be cheering for Green Bay because they are the lower seed against Philadelphia. My thoughts on Michael Vick aside – there are many people who have some very strong feelings about his past actions (and rightfully so), and wish him nothing but failure. The positive thoughts for GB outside of Wisconsin are probably more about hoping the Eagles lose than GB winning.
  • People want compelling match-ups as they move forward in the playoffs. They want higher caliber play. Do they always get it? No. But that's what the fans want. And the NFL doesn't want blow-outs as the advertising rates increase throughout the playoffs. As another friend of mine said, who ironically is a fan of a baseball rival of mine, "they [Seahawks] played like crap all year and are being rewarded for being only slightly less crappy than the Rams." We'll call him "Dustin". LOL.
  • I managed to get home in the 6th inning of Roy Halladay's no hitter in the playoffs this year. I am no Phillies fan, but I have a lot of respect for Halladay and how he dominated the AL East – probably the strongest offensive division in baseball. I was cheering for Halladay and pacing while I watched him achieve this feat. Sometimes you cheer for a specific player. Halladay happens to be one of those players for me. And I am happy he gets to compete for the post-season (realistically it wasn't going to happen for him with the Blue Jays) because he is one of the best over the past decade.
  • Has anyone met the marketing arms of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Manchester United, Liverpool, Los Angeles Lakers or the Dallas Cowboys? Yeah, those are some dumb people how they somehow have converted millions to cheer for those teams all over the world (and aren't hometown fans).

Now these are examples and I can cite many more. "Tony" can make legitimate arguments countering the above bullets, but my point is that who you cheer for is not always an exact science. Sometimes it is about the underdog (like Oregon vs. Auburn). Sometimes it is about a perceived injustice (like Arkansas vs. Ohio State). I became a Drew Brees fan on March 14, 2006 when he signed with the New Orleans Saints after being with the San Diego Chargers. I was actually at the game in SD when he dislocated his shoulder against the Broncos. That's when AJ Smith decided to go with arrogant and obnoxious Philip Rivers and cut ties with Brees. What Brees has done since on and off the field has been nothing short of incredible.

So based on the lameness of Seattle fans – not just mine, but many other Seattle transplants who have experienced crazy fandom, I am not cheering for the Seahawks. They don't deserve my passion. Maybe they don't need it. I don't care. As "Dustin" said:

"I like "authentic buzz" which you don't get around here (except with the Sounders). I was turned off for good when I realized that the only cheering you ever get in Safeco is that which is prompted by the scoreboard or the hydro races on the centerfield screen. For all the enthusiasm of some fans here, the sports IQ is terrible (even this morning one radio host talking about how it would be great to have "a couple of more home games" if the Seahawks win this one on Saturday!). I have a different tack on the fans here though - I think they are not demanding enough. Ownership of these teams has been lame for years and the fans do not make them accountable enough. Fans are getting hosed but they don't seem to notice or care."

There you go. If you're still with me, just answer if you always default to cheering for the underdog if you have no skin in the game (i.e., your team is out of contention).

Yanks and Non-Running Musings

As a Yankees fan, it would be easy to talk about how disappointed I was that they didn't win the World Series. But the team that won had absolutely dominant pitching and deserved to win. The Yanks weren't the best team in baseball and the flaws that they were able to work around during the regular season… well, they couldn't be overcome in the playoffs. We'll get back to the Yanks in a bit, but I wanted to call out something very baseball related but not related to the Pinstripes.

I was very sad about the passing of Dave Niehaus – the longtime voice for the Seattle Mariners. The thing with Mr. Niehaus was that he brought the same enthusiasm and positive attitude to his job day-in and day-out, even when the Mariners completely sucked, which was often especially in 2008 and 2010. I am sad for the game of baseball that he is no longer calling games, but more sad for Mariners fans who feel as though they lost another grandparent who educated them about a great game.

In other news, Marc and I also survived Cousinpalooza and Harvest 2010 for Purple Teeth Cellars. We managed to squeeze in a trip to Portland and Willamette Valley for some wine tasting. Paley's Place, Joel Palmer House and the Allison Inn & Spa were all fabulous. We were fortunate enough to host our 4th annual JDRF Wine Dinner, and raised over $20,000 for finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. We have also been doing a fair share of cooking and have no doubt that this will pick up some steam as we roll into the holidays. At Paley's Place, I was educated by the chef about his vision for one of my favorite recipes – Duck Wellington with Mole Sauce, so I am completely inspired to try it again.

But let's get back to the Yankees and switch the sub-topic from the 2010 playoffs to the new national nightmare known as "will Derek Jeter sign with someone other than the only organization he has ever known?"

I seriously doubt he is going to sign with another team, but if he does, I'll offer my thanks for his many years of great service to my team. Yes, he deserves our thanks and gratitude for being an excellent ballplayer who never flinched at being in the spotlight of New York. I'm all for someone to test out the market to see what their services are worth. Right now, multiple sources are saying that the Yankees have offered Jeter, who is 36 years old and had one of his worst seasons ever, a 3-year contract for $15 million/year (note: unlike football, baseball money is guaranteed unless you retire). So a message to Derek:

Captain Jetes, if you can find a better offer than that given your declining skills at shortstop and at the plate, go ahead and take it. Seriously. I'll be sorry to see you go, but if it is just about the money with you, then just say so as opposed to talking about your legacy of winning championships and being a Yankee.

My take on this is that Jeter is annoyed that his BFF/enemy, Alex Rodriguez, received more money from the Yankees when he has had less tenure with the club and doesn't have as many World Series rings. This is dumb. Let's face it. Both are going to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But Jeter is more well-liked and more respected in athlete and non-athlete circles. I would bet that Jeter makes more money in endorsements than A-Rod because of him spending his entire baseball career in New York. Seriously though, we're talking about Monopoly money – ok, so Jeter has made $200 million over the course of his career thus far ON THE FIELD, and A-Rod is probably around $300 million. Spending $200 million vs. $300 million – whatever. It's like a bad scene from Brewster's Millions, which starred the late Richard Pryor. And again, we're not talking about OFF THE FIELD earnings at all.

Furthermore, Jeter has always maintained that he is about winning championships. How many teams can legitimately say that they can compete year-in and year-out for a World Series title? And how many of those teams would be willing to commit more than 3 years and more than $45 million to an aging shortstop, a position that requires lots of physical agility?!?! I have a feeling that a number of teams may revisit the A-Rod experiment in Texas where Tom Hicks paid him an insane amount of money, but it ended up crippling the club financially. They had trouble signing other big market players (until of course A-Rod was traded to the Yankees) and eventually Hicks put himself in an untenable position financially.

So is someone going to tell me that some mid-market team is going to bring on Derek Jeter at more than 3 years/$45 million to instill a winning culture while the team labors through the summer because the suck and can't afford to sign anyone else (READ: Mariners, Seattle)? Unlikely. Let's not visit the small-market teams because that would be a waste of time. And don't forget that Jeter is a big city guy who dates a woman who is an actress so that pretty much puts it to LA and NYC. He always talks about always being in a position to compete and play in October. That is going to remove many teams from the equation,

The big-market teams consist of the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and maybe the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Dodgers' are literally in divorce court and will most likely be forced to sell the team but this wouldn't happen until it's too late for the 2011 season. I do not see Jeter fitting into the models that have been built for Anaheim and Boston, but you never know. That leaves the Mets. New GM, new manager and new "who knows what else". Yes, same city, but really – the Mets always play second fiddle to the Yanks, right or wrong but they do. I don't think Jeter is going to want to be a part of that, but ok – I could be wrong.

Bottom-line – this is all dumb posturing by Jeter's agent and the Yankees. It's gotten ugly even though my money is on everyone making up at the end and getting the deal done. I don't think Jeter is worth the initial offer the Yankees made, but if that is what they want to start with as their initial bargaining point, fine. It is not my bank account. I would rather them put their money towards more reliable starting pitching (READ: Lee, Cliff).

Well I Finally Got To See Disneyland…. Uh, Sort Of

As I am typing this, I have my left leg sitting in a garbage can full of ice and water. I'll admit that the pain is worth it because of what happened during a race I ran yesterday with a good friend of mine, Nat. Nat is a lifelong runner and once I was able to build up to a ½ marathon, we knew that we needed to run a race together even though we live in different cities. It almost happened 18 months ago, but a last minute snafu prevented that from happening.

Fortunately the opportunity arose again when Marc decided he wanted to fly down for a reunion with his club swim team being organized by his former coach, Lori (for those of you who have made comments about Marc's talents in the pool or lake, talk to Lori as she was responsible – LOL). During that same weekend was the Disneyland Half Marathon, which would be perfect for Nat and me to meet and run together.

Since Marc is the less-verbose of the two of us (ahem), I always enjoy it when I can meet people from his past that can share some stories with me. Coach Lori was no exception, and the most notable story was about Marc's refusal to follow her instructions about tapering before a big meet. Marc ended up doing really well in the meet, but apparently Coach Lori still uses my husband as an example about the concept of tapering. It was meeting some of his friends from that period of his life. Oh, and it was hot. Like 100+ F hot. Given the race the next day, I was calculating how much to hydrate without completely weighing myself down and feeling bloated. Plus I knew we were drinking wine that night when meeting Nat and Ric for dinner, so I had to account for that as well. It's not easy being me.

Marc and I met Nat and Ric for a great meal of protein and carbs (inc. above mentioned red wine), and then we went to bed relatively early. The race started at 6am and we were told that we needed to be in our start groups by 5:30am at the latest, which ended up being not true. But nothing like getting out of the elevator at 5am and seeing a bunch of people wearing Mickey Mouse ears pop up right in front of you. I then remembered – yes, I am running the DISNEY half marathon. OK.

See Nat and I had a different plan – given his Red Sox loyalties and my Yankee loyalties, we decided we would be thematic in our race attire with respect to supporting our teams. For those of you who wondered why we didn't race each other, it's because it wouldn't even be close as in Nat just effortlessly glides as he runs and coached track for many years. So yeah, he would kick my a** if we raced.

I didn't sleep well the night before and as a result, my right shoulder was barking a bit (this is related to the leg injury I have been rehabbing, believe it or not). My concern about racing with an injury probably also contributed to my anxiety – this is new territory for me. But I was at the start, so I was "in". It was dark when the gun went off and I figured we had about an hour before the sun would come up and really make its presence felt. It was also warmer and more humid than the forecasted temperature, which wasn't making me feel awesome. I had to decide if I wanted to get as far as I could before the heat started or just stay steady and consistent. Nat and I were pleasantly surprised that we didn't have to do the normal weaving in and out of people. Marc and Ric were waiting for us at the start of mile 2, and waved. I think Ric already had his tea – LOL. Clearly he doesn't mess around.

I started out pretty fast for me for the 1st couple of miles just to see how I felt. Nat was kind of just doing whatever I was doing. At mile 2 ½, you actually start running through Disney's California Adventure and then you run through Disneyland. You run through both parks in their entirety. Characters were everywhere and I'll just say that it was super fun. I knew at that point I wanted to come back and run it again, but not race it so I could take pictures with the characters. They had plenty of dance troupes and musical bands (like marching bands) all over the park. It was a blur, but it definitely brought a smile to my face throughout that phase of the race. Going into mile 4, I noticed my average pace was 8:27/mile. Whoa Nellie!

I told Nat that I needed to bring it back a few pips, which we did. My shoulder was still really hurting as we left the friendly atmosphere of Disneyland and hit the streets of Anaheim at the start of mile 5. The course was very flat with the exception of going over the freeway at mile 5 ½, so I appreciated that for sure. We saw Marc and Ric again just before we finished mile 6 and at mile 7 ½. They were great and Marc of course knew when to give me my beverages, etc. I yelled out to them that they looked good, which got some chuckles from the surrounding spectators and a high five from Nat.

The sun looked like it was about to come up and heat up everything, so I kept throwing water on myself at the aid stations to stay cool. They always say you don't want to do this once you feel really hot or dehydrated because it's too late, so I was trying to be proactive.

Halfway through, my shoulder is still hurting and I started getting annoyed. I think I must have gotten so annoyed that my shoulder got the message to shut up because I didn't have any pain there for the rest of the race.

Meanwhile, Nat and I were keeping score about how many cheers for Boston vs. New York were happening along the course. He was up 2-0 at this stage. We knew we would be running through Angel Stadium later on in the race, so we knew we were going to have to say something in the "non-kid-friendly" camp about the Rally Monkey, which is a mascot of some kind for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. We ran past the Honda Center where the Anaheim Mighty Ducks play hockey and then we hit some dirt path along something that looked like a wasteland.

I literally yell to Nat and say, "what the bleep is this [the wasteland]?" He informs me that it is a river (Marc later informs me that it is the Santa Ana River). Note that there is not a smidgen of water in this thing. He informs me that we are in Southern California and essentially, I should lower my expectations. We have a good laugh and trudge on to Angel Stadium, which is at mile 9 ½. We run into it together and are just taking it in since we literally got to run around the perimeter of the field along the warning track. We even saw ourselves on the Jumbotron and of course, we said what we had to say about the Rally Monkey. :-)

At this point, I should talk about the diversity of the bands that we saw along the course. Many high school bands and dance troupes. It really made the Rock 'n Roll races look lame just because the entertainment was so fun and diverse – think mariachi and African dance acts, for starters. Plus they probably rounded up every high school cheerleading squad in the greater LA area and bussed them in. They were loud and boisterous – everything you would want on the sidelines as a racer. It was fabulous and really kept me in good spirits. My splits are staying within a good range as I slowed up a little in the middle, so I could save something for the end.

I saw some Yankees hats and got some cheers, but felt I had to dock myself ½ a point because someone was wearing a RED Yankees cap. Huh? Nat ended up winning this contest. LOL.

At around mile 11 ½, one of the toes on my right foot started to really throb – a lot. To the point that I noticed that I was running with a weird stride. This wasn't good and apparently I had the same chat with myself that I had 5 miles earlier with respect to my shoulder. This led to me running with my normal stride again. We finish mile 12 and have 1+ miles left. Nat then says, "Jill, we only have one more mile to enjoy this." I yell back, "Are you freaking kidding me? I'm happy we have one more mile but I'm not going to enjoy it." Granted I was laughing as I said it, but I was working hard at this stage because once we left Angel Stadium, I knew I had a chance for another personal record (PR) so I was busting my rear to really get in under the wire.

Nat is just cruising at this stage and making it look so easy, and I am definitely huffing and puffing. We get into Downtown Disney and I know the finish should be appearing anytime, but it was one of those finishes where the finish line wasn't straight ahead where you could see it from ¼ mile out. Nat then yells out, "I see the finish!" Of course I yell out, "I can't!" I then saw it and we sprinted through the finish. I knew I had a PR – not by more than a minute, but still. My sister then texts me with a message from my nephew saying "Yay Aunt Jill!", so she must have gotten the alert that I finished. She then texted me that my time was 1:52:15. A PR by 48 seconds! Woo woo!

We get our picture taken together, and unfortunately missed out on the character pictures, but it was so much fun. We find Marc and Ric, who definitely admire our finisher medals. I then realize that I am soaking wet from throwing water on myself about 5 or 6 times, so a shower is in order and then breakfast with the guys. I wasn't hungry yet, so I opted for chocolate milk, which is a fabulous recovery drink and then a Mimosa. Yep, the breakfast of champions! We say farewell to Nat and Ric, and head off to spend time with the family, but we really had a great time and hope that THEY WILL COME TO SEATTLE SOON (yes, I'll make the cassoulet).

If you ever decide that you want to run a ½ marathon once in your life, do this one. The course is flat and the spectators are everywhere. So much fun. And oh yeah, I almost forgot. The sun never came up. We had the marine layer that has been so pervasive in Seattle this summer. What a lucky break! Thanks to Nat for running with me and keeping me in great spirits, and thanks to Marc and Ric for getting all over the course to cheer us on!

Pics here, but will add more once we get the e-mail that the official photos are ready.


My final long run before the Seattle Rock 'n Roll ½ marathon had me running in a section of town called West Seattle. For the New York-based readers, it is similar to the "West End" in Long Beach. As it's now crunch time for both the runners and the triathletes, the normal gang is sometimes split up as the triathletes are doing their long bike rides, as opposed to their long runs, on Saturdays. Because of this, it gets more challenging for Coach to support both groups.
As such, Coach Lesley asked me about getting to West Seattle about an hour earlier than the originally scheduled time for a few reasons that made sense. Getting up even earlier on a weekend is typically not something that I am a fan of. I thought about it and decided to do it even though Marc wondered why I didn't just do my run on my own and he'd help me out with fluids, etc. Given that the weather forecast was looking pretty nice and I knew the views would be pretty stellar of Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains, I didn't want to miss it.
As soon as I started running along Alki Beach, I was SO GLAD that I started earlier. It felt pretty warm even before 7am and the sun was out. It was a pretty nice course, but I had business to take care of my run. I was assigned a "cut-down run", which basically meant that I needed to get faster as the run went on. The 1st and 11th miles were supposed to be warm-up and cool-down miles, so that left 9 miles for me to do some math.
The course was pretty flat with the exception of one mile that had me huffing and puffing quite a bit (ok, I was swearing too). That mile was pretty hard for me to improve upon my pace from the previous mile, but other than that, I did better than I expected. It's pretty hard for me to manage my pace to an exact time, so I tried to get within 5 seconds (pace per mile) of what Lesley told me to do. But overall the 2nd half of my run was definitely quicker than the 1st half, so I was pleased even though something tells me I went a bit harder than I was supposed to (oops).
When I hit the end of mile 10 to start my final mile, I tried to tell myself to make it a cool down mile and go slower but I think my body just wants to just finish the run, so I ran the last mile at a pretty fast clip (more oops). Fortunately when I hit 11 miles, I still had about a ½ mile to walk to my car so that kind of worked out as a "pseudo cool down" which also included some stretching.
I still had lots to do after the run, including heading to Pike Place Market to get some newly caught salmon for a dinner party we were hosting later. As Marc is not a seafood fan, I don't have many opportunities to perfect my seafood culinary skills. Fortunately the dish was well received by our friends (Marc had a "special" dish for him). Made some strawberry bellinis for the 1st time, which seemed appropriate given that it finally seems as though summer has arrived in Seattle. Our guests had us chuckling throughout the evening. It was a great way to end a fun day, especially with the Yanks winning again and the USA playing to a draw against the English in the World Cup.
Let's just hope it's not TOO WARM on the morning of June 26th – the day of the Seattle RnR. And now the taper begins.

Accountability anyone?

Accountability was a theme for me this week.

This was a pretty eventful week in baseball - one perfect game by Roy Halladay, one "almost perfect game" by Armando Galarraga (more on that in a bit) and Ken Griffey, Jr.'s retirement. As someone who is pretty familiar with Halladay from his days of pitching with the Toronto Blue Jays and how he dominated the toughest offensive division in MLB, I thought this was just another reason that he should be a lock for the Hall of Fame – for the non-baseball fans, only 20 people in the entire history of baseball of 100+ years have achieved this accomplishment. I hope he does not get burned by not having a gaudy win total because he was on a team that didn't generate much offense while he pitched for them.

Griffey's retirement was bittersweet. I was actually fortunate enough to be at the game where he got his last hit, which led to a walk-off win for the Mariners. I did mention to my colleagues at the game when he came up to bat that if he won the game for the Ms, he would retire right after. As soon as the hit happened, I felt sad that Marc wasn't there with me. Griffey is probably the reason why Marc got into baseball. It took about 10 days for Griffey to release a statement about retirement. I believed it was time for him to retire and didn't think he should have been signed in 2010, but with all of that said, I was bummed that Marc didn't get to see him play this year. The walk-off was one of those moments that should have been shared with Marc, even if I was at Safeco Field for a work function.

Now to the "almost perfect game". To sum it up, Galarraga retired the 1st 26 batters of the opposing team. To get a perfect game, you need 27. The 27th batter hit a ground ball and was erroneously called safe when he should have been out, which would have given Galarraga his perfect game (the 21st in MLB history spanning over 100 years). The replays showed the batter was out by a good margin within 20 seconds and outrage hammered Twitter, Facebook and every other social media outlet known to the world.

Now baseball doesn't have instant replay for this scenario, so the only way the call could be overturned was if another umpire saw it differently. Jim Joyce probably had the best angle, so that wasn't going to happen. Joyce went into the umpire's room in the stadium and asked to see the replay. He was horrified by what he saw and immediately sought out Galarraga to apologize. Note that when the call was made that the batter was safe, Galarraga didn't argue at all and kept his composure. Joyce wanted to make his apology in-person and he faced the man who he robbed of being a part of MLB history. Bravo, Jim Joyce although when people say he "manned up", it makes me gag.

While it is great that Jim Joyce was immediately accountable for his mistake, I think it is sad that accountability is now the exception, as opposed to the norm. Everyone is praising Joyce for doing the right thing, but shouldn't people be accustomed to doing the right thing? What does it say about society today when we are shocked that someone owns up to their mistakes? Read here about more graciousness the next day, which will probably make me a fan of Jim Leyland and Galarraga for a long time (except when they play the Yanks, of course).

Peggy Noonan of the WSJ (disclaimer: I am a huge fan of her writing) wrote an eloquent column linking baseball, the "almost perfect game" and the fact that there is an instruction gap in our country about accountability. She put it as, "What was sweet and surprising was that all the principals in the story comported themselves as fully formed adults, with patience, grace and dignity." Too bad our elected officials (both parties) do not have the ability to demonstrate the same qualities as they try to figure out how to solve some of our nation's woes.

Accountability is a big thing for me. I was brought up to be accountable, although there were times I screwed up on this when I was younger and paid the price. While I am not perfect, if someone calls me out on something, I'd like to think I am able to acknowledge where I wronged someone and do what I can to make things right with the individual(s).

This week, I ended a friendship with someone who felt that they didn't need to be accountable even though they screwed up in a major way and multiple times. Their ego got in the way, which, in retrospect, I suppose is why this person was on thin ice to begin with. I won't say it wasn't a difficult decision, but it was something that had been brewing for some time so I had come to grips with it some time back. When I finally made the decision to end the friendship and communicated it to this person, they finally decided to own up to their actions. Up until this point, this individual had been given multiple opportunities to be accountable and they refused. It wasn't so much that they refused; they also deflected responsibility, which is also bad. When you finally get to the point that you decide to end a friendship, apologies don't really resonate.

Maybe this person will take a page from Jim Joyce and learn what accountability really means. Maybe they won't. But accountability for when you mess up is pretty important. None of us are perfect, so it's a pretty good idea to learn early on how to take your lumps, be humble, learn the value of apologizing and yes, be accountable. Normally I don't cover such personal topics on the blog, but given the events of the week, it just seemed appropriate. Life is too short to associate with people who do not understand how you treat meaningful folks in your life. Onwards and upwards!

And RIP to another high-character role model - John Wooden. Most of us could only aspire to handle ourselves with the dignity and class that he lived by.

Why Don’t You Cheer For The Mariners, Jill? They Are Such Nice Guys!

Yes, this was actually said to me during my 1st baseball season in Seattle while I was working at Washington Mutual. This person was seriously convinced that he could lobby me to leave my lifelong devotion to the Yankees and start cheering for the Mariners. My immediate response to him was, "if you moved to New York, would you become a Yankees fan?" Of course, he said no but he still seemed dumbfounded on why I couldn't support the Mariners as my #1 team because "they were such nice guys!"

Let me be clear. If the Mariners do well, it is good for the city of Seattle, which is good for me. More people spending money downtown around Safeco Field and in the stadium is good because that means they need more people to serve the patrons of those establishments. That means jobs and those folks then pumping money into the local economy.

With that said, my loyalty will ALWAYS be with the Yankees no matter how long I live in Seattle. It is the team I grew up with and the team I chose when my brother and I were fighting as kids when we were 5 or 6. He warned, "Once you pick a team, you can't change." And whatever Glenn did, I did the opposite and hence, I was welcomed to the "Bronx Zoo". For some reason, my parents chose NOT to tell me about the infamous "wife swapping" incident that took place a couple of years earlier. Wonder why?

I know most people think that Yankees fans are insufferable, arrogant and entitled pains in the neck. I get that but I won't apologize for it. I am proud to support a team that has an owner that is 100% committed to putting the best product out on the field. And if he has to line the pockets of his competitors in the process to do it (see 'tax, luxury'), so be it. The Steinbrenner family is committed to playing for the World Series every year, and that makes me very happy.

I have friends that say that they respect the Yankees but do not like Steinbrenner. Why? Who paid for the players to be on the roster? It wasn't the 'Tooth Fairy'. Has George Steinbrenner done a few controversial things? Yeah, but let's start digging into all of the owners, right? But George has also been very loyal to former Yankee greats who have had their share of problems post-baseball. We won't even get into the many "under the radar" charitable donations that are made by the Steinbrenners, including numerous ones to the "Jimmy Fund", the primary charity of the Boston Red Sox.

So how does this impact my ability to cheer for the Mariners? The 2010 season is quickly looking more and more like the debacle season in 2008 where the Mariners achieved the dubious distinction of spending over $100 million dollars and still losing over 100 games. The season was over for them by this time 2 years ago and attendance was an absolute joke except when the Yankees and Red Sox came to town. We had partial season packages for 5 years prior and after 2008, when the Mariners decided not to give discounts for 2009 to the folks who had to SUFFER through 2008 or throw in extra games, we were done. We figured that we could just buy tickets to the games we were interested in and that would be it. It's clear that the Marketing people for the Mariners are not nearly as bright and in-touch with the fan base as the folks who work for the Sounders are.

Obviously there was lots of tension and infighting in the clubhouse given the amount of losses, so the new GM (Jack Z.) decided to bring back the Mariners' savior in the mid-90s – Ken Griffey, Jr. To me, it was a cheap move to get people to buy season ticket plans after the '08 nightmare, especially considering that Junior was way past his prime even if he just DH'ed. As it turns out, the Mariners overachieved in 2009 and the clubhouse was way more loose and cohesive, probably because of Junior's influence. I was wrong about the impact Junior would have on the clubhouse. We went to Junior's last game of 2009 thinking this would be the end considering his bat was gone but knowing he was integral in changing the clubhouse for the better.

WRONG! The Mariners decided to bring Griffey back for another year. Why would you go into the season knowingly having a platoon DH (Designated Hitter), one of whom you know can't really hit anymore? Isn't that the whole point of a DH?? When you start making moves like those, that tells me you are not committed to putting the best product on the field for your fans.

Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were both available as free agents, and definitely would have done damage in Safeco, plus they had already succeeded in high pressure markets. They are both considered "good clubhouse guys". And while Johnny Damon's arm is terrible for throwing, at least he could fill in as an emergency left fielder (he actually played 1st base a couple of times for the Yanks during some tough times with injuries on the roster). And the DH market was crowded, which meant there were definite bargains out there.

With just over 6 weeks into the season, we are in the midst of "Sleepgate" here in Seattle with Ken Griffey being ratted out for sleeping during a game and not being able to pinch-hit in a close game. No one knows what happened, but it seems odd that the TWO people who acted as the sources for this story made this up. And no evidence has really come up to contradict this. I'm sorry, Mike Sweeney threatening to beat up the sources in a locker room fight and no one taking him up on that offer – that just doesn't count as evidence that the beat writer made the story up. Of course, the big joke is that some people were hoping that Sweeney would fight someone so he could throw his back out and go on the DL – again (!), so someone else could be added to the roster.

The 2010 Mariners team was put together under the mindset that pitching and defense are supreme. Well, the starting pitching has been phenomenal for the most part. I am not kidding. But since the bullpen is a disaster and since there are no real offensive juggernauts, except for Ichiro, it leaves no room for error in your pitching and fielding. So now you have 4 out of the 5 members of the starting rotations sporting very solid ERAs, but too many one-run losses and walk-off losses to show for it.

Another thing that irks me about the Mariners is how much they cater to Ichiro Suzuki. Apparently it is common knowledge among the Japanese media that Ichiro and Hideki Matsui are not BFFs, although I am told it is more because Ichiro has always been in Matsui's shadow. Well if Ichiro was focused on winning, he would have lobbied the Mariners execs to bring Matsui over (Seattle is a VERY Japanese-friendly market) as a DH. Matsui had just won the World Series MVP and it was evident that the Yankees were going to let him go as a free agent.

Furthermore when the Mariners signed Chone Figgins as a free agent, my take was that he should bat lead-off and Ichiro should bat 2nd. Why? I've seen Ichiro's power and while Ichiro is fast, I felt like Figgins was more aggressive on the basepaths and remembering him causing the Yanks a lot more havoc if he got on base. But everything I read said that Ichiro was going to retain his #1 line-up spot. Now someone is saying to bat Figgins 9th, so Ichiro can follow him when the line-up turns over. Nothing for nothing, Ichiro has been hitting #1 for quite some time now and it hasn't really resulted in any playoff appearances. Maybe it's time for a change.

Finally, do not even get me started on the blind love affair that people in Seattle have with Ken Griffey, Jr. after he essentially forced a trade out of Seattle in 1999 and handcuffed the organization into who they could trade with. The Mariners could not maximize the value they could have in return for who arguably was the game's best player at the time. If that is not selfish, I don't know what is.

But yet, Alex Rodriguez is vilified every time he visits Seattle. As a matter of fact, it is the most noise you will hear from Mariners fans all season – pathetic. Don't start blaming the PED stuff because the hatred was visceral before that came out, and you never know who else was on that infamous 2003 list or did stuff prior to the new drug testing rules. A-Rod left as a FREE AGENT and some players have come out and said that they feel an extraordinary amount of pressure to take the highest offer and not take a "hometown discount". See Morgan Ensberg's take here (scroll through comments). At least the Mariners got free agent compensation in the form of draft picks of their choosing as opposed to whatever was available in the Reds farm system (yech!).

As a baseball fan, I do not want to settle for sentiment over talent, or loyalty over ability. I want to cheer for a team and an organization committed to winning. It doesn't always happen, but I know the Yanks do their best.