The Myth of Higher-Priced Games

Spend any time on a message board or in a videogame store and you're bound to hear people complain about the high cost of new videogames, most specifically X360 and PS3 games that retail for $59.99. Sure, I agree that the jump from last generation's standard $49.99 to $59.99 came as a bit of a shock and yes, it has led to a reduction in the number of games I buy. And I know a lot of people who cite it as their number one reason for leaning more heavily on rental services like Gamefly and also on the used-game market. While I don't buy used on principal -- developers and publishers never see a cent of that sale and it only furthers the need to pre-order new games since stores like Gamestop and Electronics Boutique prefer to sell used -- I did actually have a Gamefly subscription for a year or so. I finally cancelled it on account of not playing the games I would rent and now, instead, just make damn sure I really want the game I'm going to buy. That, and I spend most of my time with the X360 playing games on Live Arcade where the games only cost $5 to $15.

I have long believed that $40 was the sweet spot for videogames. You can sell a lot more games -- both good ones and bad ones -- at that pricepoint. There's a little switch in our gamer heads that sees that $40 sticker and thinks it's a value. We see $50 and we hesitate a little, we shop around a bit more, and we start to think about buying used. At $60 we take a much lengthier look at our finances for the week, we consider renting first, or worse yet, we simply put off that purchase for several months... and then buy it used or once it's been marked down. Remember the year NFL 2K Football was released at $19.99 and completely trounced Madden in sales? EA's responded not by making their product better to justify the $49.99 sticker or get into a price-war, they instead spent hundreds of millions of dollars securing an exclusive license with the NFL. We often forget what led to that, but it was the low, low price of 2K Football. I like what 2K Sports was doing when they undercut EA that football season, but they went too low and it cost everyone.

Game publishers and retailers were starting to come down from the rigid $49.99 price point halfway through the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation. If you looked around, you could regularly find brand-new games for $40 or less. That was a great time to be a gamer too, because there was a lot of good stuff coming out. I regularly bought 2-3 games per month back then.

But what about now? We see the $59.99 pricetag on the games in the stores and we cringe. Do we really have any right to? Well, of course we have the right to voice our displeasure at what appears to be a 20% jump in the sale price of the games, but historically games have always been this expensive. Actually, they've been even more expensive.

Kristin came home from work last night with a Kay-Bee Toy Hobby flyer from April of 1993. She found it stuffed in a box in her company's storage area. The circular heralds the anticipated release of StarFox for the SNES. It was on sale for $54.99.

Here's a few other SNES games listed in the flyer:
  • Super NBA - $64.99
  • Mickey's Magical Quest - $59.99
  • Super Star Wars - $56.99
  • Bulls Vs Blazers - $54.99
  • Madden '93 - $54.99

And, last but certainly not least is Street Fighter 2 listed at a whopping $69.99.

This was in 1993, folks. It's been over 14 years and only in the past 12 months have game prices risen again to what they cost in the early 1990's. Sure, I know there's some wiseguy out there who wants to blame the high-price of games back then on the manufacturing costs associated with cartridges instead of CD-ROMs and DVDs. There's no doubt that cartridge-based games cost more to manufacture. But, there's also no doubt that today's games cost millions more to develop and market than games back then did. I'm sure whatever the manufacturing difference between Mickey's Magical Quest and, say, Gears of War was, it was exceeded 1000 times over by the higher development costs of the latter. Yet, the games cost the same. Factor in inflation, and the 2006 Game of the Year, Gears of War, cost us less to purchase than Turtles in Time, a particularly forgettable SNES game that retailed for $54.99 back in 1993.

Okay, so we can forget about blaming the higher costs on the different media. Now I'm sure some would like to point to Nintendo's exorbitant licensing fees being the reason for the higher prices. After all, both Mario Paint and Super Mario Kart are listed below $50 in the flyer. I'm sure this does have something to do with the higher cost of the third-party SNES games back then, but it's also not my problem. It was what it was. Regardless the reason, the price was still the same (or higher) for games in 1993 than today. And SNES games weren't the only ones.

Here's some prices from the flyer for Sega Genesis games:

  • PGA Golf 2 - $54.99
  • NHLPA Hockey '93 - $54.99
  • Battle Toads - $49.99
  • X-Men - $49.99

and, of course, there's one that would make a shopper blush even today, Streets of Rage 2 selling for the price of $64.99.

And heck, even many of the Sega Game Gear games were all listed at $36.99. A far bit higher than the standard $29.99 that many of todays Nintendo DS and PSP games cost.

There's no denying that the elevated price of many of today's new games is changing people's buying habits (and quite probably a contributing reason why so many people buying the Nintendo Wii) but before you complain about the price, think about it how it used to be. I'm not saying it's good or that they wouldn't sell more games at a lower prices, just that it's not as unprecedented as people make it sound.

Link to Page 1 of Kay-Bee Toy Hobby Flyer.

Link to Page 2 of Kay-Bee Toy Hobby Flyer.

Refrigerated Air Inside

We had a little air conditioner problem last week when the unit arrived. We unpacked the box in the garage and I lugged the 90-pound, 3-feet tall unit up the stairs to my office. After a few minutes of fumbling with the sliding multi-piece window bracket (our horizontal sliding windows suck for this sort of thing, by the way) we had them configured in a way that would work and went to hook up the intake and exhaust hoses. They wouldn't reach.

I was already convinced that the air conditioner would throw the circuit breaker everytime it kicked on so long as it was plugged into an outlet in my office -- between my computer, monitors, game console, lamp, etc., etc., there couldn't be much juice left on this circuit -- but I at least expected the hoses to be more than 3 feet long.

We moved the unit (which fortunately has wheels) to the large room at the top of the stairs, just outside my office, as there's a vertical window there that the hoses should be able to reach. And they could. The only problem was that 1) the window bracket was too small, and 2) the air conditioner unit would have to sit in the middle of the hallway like some sort of robotic sentry. There was no way it would let us pass and I'm pretty sure it would give my dogs a nervous breakdown.

So we had a $700 air conditioner sitting in the middle of my office, seemingly worthless to us. I called the manufacturer and the distributor and neither had longer hoses available. I suppose I could put the thing on blocks in my office to raise it up so the hoses could reach, but pulling a maneuver like that could start me down a slippery slope. Before you know it, we'd have a working tv stacked atop a broken one and two rusted-out washing machines on our front porch.

I was pissed. The higher temps were coming and my office bakes in the summer. We need this damn thing to work. But I had a race to go to, so we just let it sit.

Yesterday, with temps in the Puget Sound area hitting 94 degrees, Kristin started looking for whole-house fans. She had sent me an email with some options and the prices and talking about returning the air conditioner. I wanted to give it one more try. It didn't need both hoses connected apparently, the second one simply helps increase efficiency in "boost mode". Makes sense to me that if you care at all about efficiency, you wouldn't turn on "boost mode" in the first place. Okay, one hose it is! I moved it to the corner of my office, worked some magic to get the window bracket to remain vertical, plugged it in, and...

The computer stayed on.
The lamps stayed on.
And the air conditioner came to life.

I quickly set it to the lowest setting and dialed down the thermostat to 69 degrees. I closed the door and went back downstairs to continue playing Forza Motorsport 2 (which I'll be writing about later tonight or tomorrow). When I went back upstairs some 25 minutes later, the room was not only much cooler than the rest of the house, but it was actually feeling chilly.

It was all I could do to keep myself from crying. Those who remember my posts about it being 100-degrees at midnight in my office last year will understand.

Fortunately I'm currently "between projects" (code for "I can sleep and play games all day if I want") so the a/c will be off most of the time. This also gives me some time to use a Dremel and cut a second hole in the window bracket down lower so the other hose can reach.

Just in case I want that boost mode after all...

PS: Yes, the title of this thread is for those of you who have eaten or worked at Jose Tejas.

Race Report: 24hrs Round the Clock

We all have an identity. It's those few short words we use to describe ourselves when meeting someone new... or when looking in the mirror. For some, it's their familial role. Others identify with their career. I like to think of the identity as that part of us that yields the memories we turn to when searching for motivation, inspiration, and some sort of sign that yes, we have persevered in the past and can do it again. Personally, I've always thought of myself as an athlete and while I do have plenty of inspirational recollections I can replay when in need of a little psyching up, many of those past experiences are growing stale. It's been a while since I've impressed myself.

The shelves of this corner of my memory have just been restocked.

We made the four-hour drive to Riverside State Park in Spokane early Friday morning and quickly laid claim to a prime camping spot right on the trail, about 50 yards before the Start/Finish line. The race didn't begin until noon on Saturday, but having an easily-accessible pit area is essential for solo competitors. So far so good. For those who are unfamilliar with the 24-hour mountain bike racing format, the rules are simple. This particular course consisted of a 14.4 mile loop of singletrack and doubletrack trail with 820 feet of elevation gain on which racers compete for 24-hours to see who can do the most laps. The majority of the entrants are there in the form of 5- and 10-person teams who typically alternate riders at the start of each lap. There were also a few 2-person teams. Then there are the solos.

"You see that yellow race number? That means he's sick. You have to be one sick bastard to ride your bike 24 hours. Good luck, dude! You rock!"

- Unidentified cameraman sometime Saturday evening.

I knew there would be a day that I would eventually solo a 24-hour race, but I didn't expect it to come so suddenly. After all, I only just got back into mountain bike racing this past February after a 5-year hiatus and I certainly haven't rebuilt my endurance base to where it needs to be yet. But, like I said the other day, I often suffer from the deadly combination of zeal and ignorance. Which is how I wound up at the starting line of the 24hrs Round the Clock endurance race this past weekend... with the telltale mark of insanity -- the yellow racing number -- attached to my bike. Fortunately, those of us riding yellow could point to the 7 guys with the blue racing numbers as the true lunatics. The blue numbers are reserved for the solo single-speeders.

The race began at high noon on Saturday under clear skies with the temperature in the mid-70's. The gun went off and the entire field of entrants began a 500-yard hilly run as part of the customary Le Mans start. I immediately settled into a super-slow jog and happily let the hundreds of teams move to the front -- less people I'd have to get out of the way of once on the bike. The course is a fast, flowy route with several moderately-technical rock-gardens and six noteworthy hills, the first of which is a half-mile of very loose, sandy double-track. The second one, "Devil's Up", wasn't as long but was quite a bit steeper and much rockier. One of my goals for the race was to maintain an average heart rate of 140bpm, which meant keeping myself in check during the climbs -- I never walked any of the hills during the 24-hours on the bike and actually found that riding one-handed and meditating on my breathing helped to lower my heart rate during the climbs. By riding the hills one-handed, I forced myself to relax and just sit and spin, instead of grinding up in too high of a gear and stressing my upper body. I passed a lot of people pushing their bikes up the hills throughout the entire race and I think this trick really worked out for me, as I never felt winded at all.

When i say I never felt winded during the race, I should add that I also never felt all that fatigued, sore, or "bonked" either -- not on my first lap, not on my fourth, and not on my tenth. I owe this to a perfect hydration/nutrition plan that I strictly followed, thanks in large part to Kristin's help. I had a water bottle of calorie drink on the bike (175 calories of PowerBar Endurance drink), a 45oz Camelbak filled with electrolyte-only drink (Nuun) around my waste, and a packet of Gu (100 calories) tucked up a leg of my shorts. Each lap took an average of 1:22 excluding my time in the pit area and I routinely drank most of the Nuun and at least half of the PowerBar drink during each lap. I also took the Gu (or sometimes a 100 calorie stick of Panda licorice) at exactly the same point on the course, right around mile 8. After each lap, Kristin would quickly swap out my water bottle with a fresh one of calorie drink and would top off my lumbar-Camelbak with more Nuun. I'd tuck another Gu up my shorts leg and would down a chilled 5 oz can of V8 (my secret weapon). I'd then either have some Cliff Bloks, some more licorice, or a bagel w/cream cheese or bananna while in the pit area to ingest a few more calories and carbohydrates. I also made a point to drink plain, cold water while in the pit area as sipping nothing but the equivalent of dillute saltwater for 24-hours can wreak havoc on your throat and lips.

Night had finally come after my 6th lap and it was time to take a longer pit stop and change my clothes. I took my time washing the dust and grime off my legs, arm, and face and switched to a pair of three-quarter length tights (ahhh, fresh Chamois Butt'r!), a clean jersey, and arm-warmers. The sun had set and the temperature was dropping into the 40's. My plan to ride until midnight and then call it a night was moved to the back burner. I was in 10th place and feeling great. I put on the 12-hour light that I borrowed from Erik, downed a pound of Kraft Mac n' Cheese, and got out there for another lap. Halfway through the lap I had to take a 10-second break to vomit some of the Mac n' Cheese. Apparently I didn't fully chew all of it. Game on!

I couldn't believe how fast time was flying by. By the time midnight had come around I had already ridden over 115 miles and was still, shockingly, feeling great. I had long since memorized the placement of every rock on the trail (even "Devil's Down") and was having a great time riding along, alone through the night, singing aloud with the tunes on my iPod. Although I pity the young kid who had to endure two miles with me while I barked out my own hoarse version of Journey's "Faithfully". Speaking of which, "earbuds" were outlawed before the race but I got around this by duct-taping them into the vents of my helmet while I went through the Start/Finish line, then would pop them back into my ears when the eyes of the law were out of sight. I always kept the volume low enough to hear those around me, though. I noticed a number of other solo riders with an iPod as well. It's practically necessary equipment, rules be damned!

I finished my 9th lap at 2am and was contemplating a 3-hour nap. I had a bit to eat (a delicious chicken caesar pasta salad from SafeWay) and drink, and took a minute to stroll past the results table. I was in 8th place! Holy shit! I ran back to "Basecamp Walsh" and asked Kristin to reset the alarm clocks to 4am. Two hours of sleep would have to do. When I awoke at 4am, I had dropped to 12th place. It was time to get back to work.

This is probably a good time to make a confession. I have never before ridden more than 105 miles at once. Not even on a road bike. I was deep into uncharted territory. And I feel I owe some of this to my bike. While it's obvious that I have indeed been training well and that I had the very best support person I could ever wish for, I have no doubt that my Mooto-X YBB was a big part of my success. Not to sound like a commercial, but not only did I never get a flat tire or suffer any mechanical problem beyond a momentary sticky chainring, the titanium frame and softail suspension did enough dampening of the rocks and stutter-bumps to leave my muscles feeling fresh throughout the ride. I was originally going to switch to the full-suspension bike if my back started to hurt, but I never did. And I don't know if I'll ever go back to that other bike again. I couldn't imagine a better bike for endurance racing (and apparently neither could the dozens of people who complimented me on the bike during the race). In the words of Ferris Bueller, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."

A funny thing happened as daylight broke: I started passing tons of people. From soloists to 5-man teams to 10-person corporate teams. If I saw them I passed them. And it felt great after having fresh-legged racers blow by me all day Saturday. My 11th lap was my third fastest lap of the race and I was in a great mood and feeling wonderful. Even the support crew for other teams started commenting on my "freakishly high energy level". Every time I said the next lap would be my last, I came back to the pit area psyched to go out and ride another lap. It doesn't hurt that the course was so much fun. Who would have known an area called "Little Vietnam" would be fun to ride over and over in the same day? At first I was happy to ride 10 laps. Then I was shooting for 12. After my 11th lap I told Kristin that 13 would definitely be it for me. And while I was out there on my 12th lap, I did the math and realized that 14 laps would put me over 200-miles. Fourteen laps it is!

And fourteen laps it was. The way the end of the race works is that if you swipe your timing chip before noon on Sunday you have to go and do another lap. If you swipe your timing chip at 11:59:59, you have to go and do another lap. Swipe it at 12:00:01 and you're done. As noon draws near a lot of racers will actually line up in the finishing stretch just so they don't have to go and ride another lap. They wait for the noontime gun to go off and then they swipe their timing chips one by one.

I finished my 13th lap at about 10:50 in the morning and while I was definitely happy with how far I had gone (and was starting to feel the soreness), a big part of my doing a 14th lap was because of how silly I would have felt to just sit there for an hour. The number of laps you do is the first determining factor in finishing place, so it doesn't matter if it takes you over 25 hours to finish so long as you finish that one extra lap. So I went out there and did one final lap and thanked the volunteers at the checkpoints as I pedaled by and rolled into the finish line at about 12:20 on Sunday afternoon. My first 24hour race was done. And I doubled my longest bicycle ride ever.

- 14 laps = 7th place overall in Solo Men out of 29 entries.
- 201.6 miles of trail.
- 11,480 feet of elevation gain.
- 1 crash
- 2 dabs
- 0 steps walked
- 0 flat tires
- 0 mechanical problems
- 2 hours sleep
- 1 giant snake encounter
- 1 kamikaze dragonfly
- 1 incredible wife who I couldn't have done this without.

Special thanks to my sponsors BradyGames and Re/Max on the Ridge for supporting me this racing season -- the uniforms inspired several gaming-related conversations over the weekend. I also owe a big thank you to Erik Alston for lending me his uber-expensive 12-hour HID light system and to Frank, Doug, Joe, Greg, and Brian of the 3rd-place finishing Arrogant Bastard racing team for cheering me on throughout the day and night for the offers of mechanical support -- although I'm glad I never had to take you up on it. And, of course, Kristin, whose support, encouragement, and motivation is more than I deserve.
Click here to view the race photos on my Flick'r site.


I'm downloading the new demo for DiRT from the Xbox Live Marketplace as I type. I'm a huge fan of the series formerly known as Colin McRae Rally and DiRT is definitely one of my most anticipated titles of the year. It's scheduled to release in June and while the recent batch of screenshots and videos do nothing to stoke my excitement for this title, I'm still holding out hope that it's going to be good. This demo will be very telling and I'll have impressions of the demo for DiRT as well for Forza Motorsport 2 later today, if not Sunday night after I return from Spokane.

Strategy Guide Giveaway

I've got two strategy guides to give away this month. If interested, just send me an email to this address stating which would book you'd like (one only please) and include your mailing address. I'll get those in the mail come Tuesday morning.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End
(for all consoles with emphasis on the X360 and PS3 versions)

Dawn of Mana
(for the PS2)

Also, I still have several copies of my books for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and MLB 2K7 if you're interested.

Commence Carbo Loading

This it it. In roughly 48 hours I'll be embarking on a 600-meter run.

At the end of which, I will pick up my bike and begin a 24-hour mountain bike race.

I've never raced a 24-hour event before. Not on the customary 5-person team, and definitely not as a solo entrant. The closest I've come was a 12-hour race that my 3-person team led wire-to-wire. Man, that was a good time. I really miss those "Bicycle Post Trails" in Greenville, NC. Good times.

But that was back in 2001 and my cycling has both declined and then improved a lot since then. So now, for one reason (ignorance) or another (overzealousness), I'll be driving out to Spokane tomorrow morning in the pre-dawn hours to lay claim to a good camping site close to the Start/Finish line and will embark on what will surely be my greatest test of endurance yet. Originally I was planning on riding from noon till midnight and then taking a nice, long, nap till about 6 or so in the morning, at which time I would try and squeeze in another lap or two before calling it a day. But now, as the juices start pumping and the quality of my support crew (i.e. Kristin) becomes evident, I'm beginning to allow myself to daydream about actually trying to ride through the night. My completely ignorant-of-what-I'm-getting-myself-into goal is 10 laps. If the map and elevation profile posted here is accurate, that would mean roughly 150 miles and approximately 13,000 feet of elevation gain. There are 29 entrants in the Solo Men class, another 7 in the Solo Men Singlespeed class, 6 Solo Women, and several hundred teams ranging from 2 to 10 people each. It's going to be crowded.

My nutrition and hydration plans are in place. My goal pace has been determined (this will be the first time I actually pay close attention to a heart rate monitor) and I'm going to have my Giant NRS with me as a backup in case something should (gasp of all gasps!) happen to render the Moots inoperable.

Anyway, it's time to start packing for the weekend and to continue my carbo intake of absurd proportions. It began last night with 5 slices of pizza, continued this morning with a couple of bagels, and will no doubt fail to cease until Sunday afternoon when we begin the long drive home from Spokane.

The Case of the Missing Trail Runner

Kristin went over to Cougar Mountain (just outside of Bellevue) to go trail running Saturday morning and found the place crawling with King County Search and Rescue personnel (SAR). Apparently a man had gone running there Friday morning and never returned. His car was still at the trailhead and there was no sign of his whereabouts. Immediate thoughts were that he fell into a ditch or abandoned mine; that he had fallen victim to a cougar or bear attack; or that he had been abducted. Kristin ran her usual 13 miles on the very hilly, heavily wooded (and heavily travelled) network of trails making sure to keep an eye out for anyone who matched the photo the SAR folks had shown her, but she never saw him.

And neither did anyone else for more than 3 days.

The official search was called off Sunday night although volunteers and family members continued to comb the woods looking for the man. He showed up at home on Tuesday.

Despite having been clothed in lightweight running attire (the weather was nice on Friday), he had apparently survived 3 nights of rainy sub-50 degree weather in the woods by covering himself with leaves and a fallen log after falling into a ravine, hitting his head, and knocking himself unconscious. He was coherent enough to allegedly drink from the runoff pouring down the hillside and, I'm guessing here, maybe had an extra Powerbar or Gu in his pocket for food.

There is no further police investigation into the matter, as the King County Sherrif's Office said they will be taking his story "at face value".

This miraculous tale of survival in the woods was a topic of conversation during last night's mountain biking ride. Among the ten guys in attendance, many of whom know a bit about the Cougar Mountain area woods (he supposedly ran to nearby Squak Mountain, hence the failure of SAR and their dogs to find him) and about wilderness travel in general we were in unanimous opinion that, the runner, was to be perfectly blunt, full of it.

We don't know the man. We don't know his background. But we do know that it would be extremely difficult to survive 3 nights in the cold, wet forest wearing nothing but running attire. Oh, and I almost forgot, he didn't need any medical attention. No signs of hypothermia or severe dehydration or malnourishment. And no mention of a contussion or bruise or any other type of remnant from a blow to the head. He was, in a word, fine.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm really glad the guy is okay. I would have hated to ask Kristin to avoid the area for a while had it have turned out to be a cougar attack or foul-play. That being said, I'd like to have seen him checked for glitter. Or, perhaps, the faint scent of perfume and spilled champagne. And sex.

While I think it would be extremely and utterly stupid to use "Hey, honey, I'm going running I'll see you in a couple hours" as an alibi for shacking up with your mistress for three days, I find it even less likely that his story is true. After all, it's not Squak Mountain isn't well travelled either; surely somebody would have spotted him during one of his water-fetching exercises. Which also leaves nothing to be said of the fact that if he was coherent enough to find water and wasn't injured, then why didn't he just go home?

When he finally did feel good enough to come home on Tuesday morning he didn't head to the nearest road and wave down a passing car for assistance. He simply re-traced his steps all the way back to Cougar Mountain where he found that his car had been towed. He then walked 5 miles home into the waiting arms of his wife.

Somebody's got some 'splaining to do.

Rain Falling On Duck's Feathers

I was browsing the web today looking at the upcoming Xbox 360 games and a game titled "Surf's Up" caught my eye. I surf. Or, at least I do once every 18-24 months when I travel someplace warm and coastal. But more importantly to this conversation is that I believe I've played every surfing videogame that's come down the pike. Heck, I spent every lunch hour in 8th grade (ahem, 1989, cough) at a friend's house playing the surfing mini-game in "California Games" on his Sega Master System. So how is it that a surfing game is releasing next week and I've never heard of it?

Upon further inspection, the reason was obvious. Also clearly apparent is that I'm going to have nightmares tonight from what I've uncovered.

"Surf's Up" is based on a upcoming children's movie. Strike one.

"Surf's Up" features animals surfing at fictional locales. Strike two.

"Surf's Up" contains gameplay that bears no resemblance to actual surfing. Strike three.

I learned all of this about the game and yet, for some reason, was still somewhat intrigued. After all, I've never passed on a surfing game in nearly 20 years.

So I watched the gameplay video on IGN. What I saw defies description. It was a penguin. On a surfboard. Flying through the air. I have no idea exactly what drugs the game designers were taking during development but with trick names like "Celestial Sun of Morning", "Cherry Blossoms Fall and Scatter", and "Flight of Swallow" (not to mention the inspiration behind the title of this post), it's clear they were on some good shit. The surfboard also apparently has an engine capable of spewing flames for extra propulsion. And propulsion is a good word to describe it, being that the penguin appears interested in actually touching the water's surface a scant fraction of the time.

Perhaps the most peculiar thing I saw in the video was that one of the tricks were called "Love of Truth". Hmm... I'll let you meditate on the irony within that one while I go take a shower. I suddenly feel very, very dirty.

Smells Like Roses

Another Kristin post.

She was headed downstairs to get a coffee refill and was nice enough to ask if I wanted a refill too. Sure, I said and quickly gulped down the last couple sips.

She put the mug down on the end of my desk and just stood there, kind of scratching her back, but also grinning at me slightly. She was up to no good, I could tell.

"Are you standing here, waiting to fart on me at my desk?"

She looked at my monitors, one was open to Word, the other to my Blogger site.

"Umm.... no, not while you have your blog open."

She's not a quick learner, my wife, but if you give her enough time she'll catch on...

She's Beautiful

So I was browsing the iTunes store tonight while Kristin was working at her desk across the room and I was talking aloud to myself about John Mayer's new acoustic EP. I was trying to find that song, "You're Beautiful" but I forgot who sang it. I like the song, both for the music, and also because I sing along in an incredibly annoying voice to get under Kristin's skin sometimes (which she says is only slightly more annoying that Blunt's) She doesn't mind when I'm singing along with music, unless I'm doing that voice.

"James Blunt sings that song."

I type in James Blount into the iTunes search box and come up empty. "Does he spell his name B-L-O-U-N-T?"

"No, there's no "O". Just Blunt. As in, 'If you sing that song to me in that voice you do, I'm going to beat you with a blunt object.'


Three Links From MJ

Was reading the newest issue of Men's Journal and just have to post links to three things that definitely caught my eye, not all in a good way.

First we have a 14-night mountain bike trip through small-town China. The trip is run in August and October and fetches a very reasonable $1650 per person and includes lodging, meals, bike, transport, and guides.

Next up, and almost as cool although not nearly as worthwhile a purchase, is the Blender Blaster. It's a gas-powered 4-cycle blender complete with a clutch and motorcycle-style throttle controls. Although the top-of-the-line Honda GX model costs $449.00, it'd be a pretty cool thing to have if you entertain outdoors a lot and want a cordless blender. Or if you just have a really small penis and need to compensate with gas-powered toys. I would never spend $449 on a blender, but I do like knowing we live in a world where such things exist.

Lastly, there's a eco-tourism resort in Mexico, 700 miles south of the US border, that operates a 3,000 acre park in which they -- get this -- simulate the thrillof being an illegal immigrant trying to cross the Rio Grande into America. They even have fake border-patrol agents who will chase you and fire guns at you (loaded with blanks, presumably). The link listed in MJ isn't working and a search only reveals a similar article in Harper's, but this was just too weird not to post about.

Ride Report: Two Counties Double Metric Century

"This is going to be the most miserable day in my life."

Those were the words I spoke to myself 10 miles into the 126-mile Two County Double Metric Century ride I was embarking on Sunday morning, outside of Olympia. The temperature was hovering around 50-degrees and the drenching rain had already soaked my shoes and numbed my feet. My hands were losing feeling as well and everytime I ran my tongue across my lips or teeth, it discovered a new fragment of putrid road grime. Visibility was poor, the roads were rough, and there was a bit more traffic on these "country byways" than I would prefer. These were optimal conditions for pain and suffering of a degree that has long since been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

To survive this day would require one of three things: 1) a full compliment of winter cycling apparel, 2) a level of a mental toughness that I only dare wish I possess, or 3) a cataclysmic shift in the weather conditions. I felt like Richie Sexson with men on second and third and the game on the line -- a strikeout was inevitable.

The one saving grace on this ride was that, despite riding 100 miles the day before, I actually felt pretty good. It took a few miles to stretch out, but the intense massage I received after the previous day's century ride left me feeling good and limber and with enough gas in the tank to at least struggle through what I expected to be seven hours of pedaling.

I made some concessions early in this attempt at 126 miles. For starters, I would stop at every aid station and take my time refueling. There was no need to get minimalistic or try for time or speed this day. It was about surviving. I also decided that if the opportunity presented itself to draft, then I would. That opportunity presented itself barely a mile into the ride (I again started over an hour after the course opened) as a tandem bike passed me with a friend of their in tow. I quickly hopped on and enjoyed 15 miles of effortless flatland cruising at 21mph. I was drenched from the spray -- nobody had fenders -- but I didn't care. I wanted this day over with as fast as possible. This, surprisingly, led to me abandoning the tandem and riding solo the rest of the way as they took nearly 20 minutes at the first aid station then followed that up by severely slowing their pace during the miles that followed. When they flatted 23 miles into the ride, I politely explained that I was simply too cold to stop and wait and that I had to keep going. Off I went.

Considering I was setting out to ride 126 miles, I have to admit that it was tempting to follow the course markings for the 35 mile option and call it a day. Fortunately, the rain started to let up by the time I reached the turn-off for the 70-mile route, else I may have opted for that distance as well. At this point in the ride, I was completely alone, struggling to make sense of the course and wondering where all the hills were. The course was very boring and terribly lacking in scenery. It was just flat countryside broken up the occasional set of railroad tracks or collection of row houses. When we finally did reach a lengthy hill I was so happy to get out of the saddle and climb it that I didn't even mind the rain's return. And I was so happy for a "free mile" during the descent that I zipped straight past the second aid station... as well as the point where the 126- and 85-mile routes split. I continued following the road markings (a large "2" with a circle around it) figuring I was on the double-metric course and when I arrived at what was supposed to be the location for the third aid station, and found it empty, I got confused. Fortunately, some other riders arrived and explained that I missed the split and that the second aid station was far off the road, on the side of a building. There were no signs to speak of and having not seen a cyclist for over an hour or so, I can only assume the aid station was empty when I went by else I would have certainly noticed someone.

I was about 6 miles past the turn-off for the 126 mile route and, was in effect, firmly on the 85-mile route. I didn't know how to feel about this. I really wanted the challenge of having to decide whether to go long or go home. I didn't want that decision made for me. If I was going to wimp out on the 126 mile route, I at least wanted the shame of having to make that decision myself. Yet, on the other hand, I was only 42 miles into the ride and my feet were frozen solid, as were my hands, and the course was incredibly lackluster and, apparently, not as well-marked as it needs to be. And did I mention the wind? Yes, the wind was also picking up and it was becoming frustratingly commonplace to be limited to 17mph during a descent because of the headwind. Not to mention I already rode 100 miles the day prior.

"I guess I'm just riding 85 then".

Any lingering feelings of disappointment I had were soon replaced by a sense of urgency to just simply "get this shit over with". I picked up the pace and soon passed another two tandems, as well as a number of other riders. It was weird to go for so long without having seen another rider and now to be suddenly catching and passing numerous people. I guess that is to be expected when you start an hour after everyone else...

I rode the remaining 40+ miles alone, with my head down, just trying to get back to the shelter of my truck -- and the fuzzy pair of fleece socks I always keep inside it. I spent a good bit of time at the final aid station, 20 miles out from the finish, eating a handful of very tasty oatmeal raisin cookies, and then made a hard push to the finish.

I finished the course with a time of 4:54 for a distance of 83.2 miles and 2,234 feet of elevation gain. My average speed was only 17.0mph, but considering the conditions I'm not terribly upset about this. I wanted a long, hard, training weekend as one last push before I attempt to solo the Spokane 24-hour race next weekend and although I rode 41 miles less than I wanted to, I'm happy with how it went.

And I was even more happy to get home, take a hot shower, and fall asleep on the couch with Kristin.

Ride Report: Tour De Cure Century

It was 5:30 in the morning and the rain was coming down pretty hard. I was working on 4 hours of sleep and not really in the mood to ride my bike 100 miles. So back to bed I went, for another quality hour of sleep. When I finally did drag myself out of bed, the rain was still coming down but at least I was a bit more rested. The century ride I was registered for started at 7:00 -- which I wasn't going to make -- but I figured I would just show up and ride the route on my own as a solo time trial. Could I average 18mph over the entire course without drafting? Let's find out.

The Tour De Cure is a series of bike rides, ranging from 20 miles to the full 100-mile century ride, and takes place around the country as a nationwide day of riding to raise money for The American Diabetes Association. There's an obligatory fundraising minimum that you have to meet, which I decided to just cover myself rather than pester people for donations. After all, I admit that I am a bit torn on the issue of riding a bike to raise money for diabetes reasearch. While I acknowledge that diabetes can be a very debilitating disease that affects many unfortunate people for unknown reasons (this is the reason I donated); it's also a disease that, for an ever-increasing number of people, could be prevented by simply maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent in the US thanks in large part (pun intended) to the rapid rise of obesity in America. Yet, at the Tour De Cure, everywhere you look you see people of average weight and at least average fitness. It might not be PC to say it, but shouldn't there be more of an effort to get the fatties out there on a bike, raising money to help fund the cure for the disease that they're likely to get? You'd raise more money and possibly prevent some illness at the same time. There, I said it. Somebody had to.

Back to the ride.

I finally shoved off from the starting line at 8:07 under dry skies and over an hour after the official start of the ride with the intent to go the full century without drafting for a second. I was equally determined to average 18mph for the entire ride without aero-bars. That would give me a 5:30 finishing time, which is nothing to brag about, but since I hadn't ridden more than 61 miles since 2002, I figured it was a good goal. And it made the math easy.

I realized during my ride on Saturday that, to pass the time, I dabble in handlebar mathematics. Averaging 18mph means that every 30 minutes I need to cover 9 miles. So, hour after hour, I would make a series of calculations in my head to see how ahead of the curve I am. After three hours I realized that I was 1.5 miles ahead of my 18mph average and that made me happy. I was feeling good and catching and passing lots of the back-of-the-packers who started well before me.

There were five aid stations out on the course, three of which I visited, and I must say that the volunteers and support on the ride were top-notch. Plenty of good fruit, energy bars, bagels, and water and Nuun. I've been using the Nuun electrolyte tablets (dissolved in water for a subtle-tasting sugar-free drink) and love them. And it's good to support a local company. I was thrilled to see them out on the course, and even more excited at the rest stop at mile 80 to see that Nuun has recently introduced a new caffeinated cola flavor. Believe it or not, but "flat coke" is one the long-time secrets of endurance athletes. You don't want the carbonation so you have to leave it sitting out for a while, but the sugar and caffeine make for a great pick-me-up in the late stages of a race. And now Nuun has the flavor available too -- and it tasted great! Very cool.

Anyway, by the time I had reached the aid station at mile 80, the course had already reentered the valley and, judging by my altimeter, I was pretty sure we were done climbing for the day. I was still ahead of my 18mph goal and had already logged over 4,000 feet of elevation gain on the route. The course was advertised as having roughly that much climbing, so I figured we were done with the hills.

Nope. It turned out the biggest hill on the whole ride came at about mile 86 and while I felt great going up it and kind of thought this "surprise twist" was rather funny (it wasn't to the dozens of riders I saw gasping for air on the side of the road) it did kill my average speed, especially since it was a long climb with a very short steep descent that was over in a blink of an eye. A total waste of elevation, as we like to say. I was pretty fried by the end of the ride and the last few miles of the ride were indeed painful, but I finished in 5:38 for an average of 17.6mph over the 99.4 mile course. Also ended up with 4,812 feet of elevation gain too, which is a fair amount for a century ride.

After finishing, the good folks at Chipotle Grill were there handing out some very tasty chicken burritos and Talking Rain had truckloads of their new flavored waters. Personally, I would have preferred just straight water than the artificially-flavored crap they were promoting, but at that point in the day, liquid is liquid. Once I got some semi-water and food in me and wiped the crust of salt off my face and arms, my mind instantly turned to Sunday's ride. I was registered for a 126-mile ride the next morning. I promptly walked over to the massage area and put my name on the list.

This would be a very painful weekend.

Double D'oh!

Ummm... about that post earlier concerning the Mariners and Padres being rivals.

I incorrectly quoted my own book about the Angels being listed as the Mariners other rival. According to the MLB2K7 videogame which I obviously based my listings on, it's the Rangers.

It shouldn't be, mind you. The Rangers are the Untouchables of the AL West and have yet to deserve polite eye contact let alone scorn. The only rival the Rangers have is with pitchers... especially their own. As for the Angels, the Mariners currently have several ex-Angels on their staff, one of whom hates the Angels organization nearly as much as President Bush hates the English language.

But hell, the game/guidebook also lists the Nationals and Royals as being rivals too. I hear it has something to do with a perennial battle for the first pick in the draft.

Where Did the Morning Go?

I've been home from our trip to Utah for six days now and I only just this moment realized my watch was still set to the Mountain Time Zone.

Umm... d'oh?

Interleague Rivalries Explained

Are you fired up about the big game tonight with the Padres?


The San Diego Padres, Seattle's National League rival.

Rival? The Padres?

Oh sure, didn't you see it in my strategy guide for MLB2k7? The Mariners official rivals are Oakland, Anaheim, and San Diego.

Umm... why?

Well, Oakland and Anaheim for obvious reasons, but I hear the Mariners and Padres share a spring-training facility in Arizona.

So, wouldn't that make them friends and not rivals?

Yeah, but the Mariners traded Jeff Cirillo to the Padres a few years ago and San Diego held a grudge. Now they have a very heated rivalry.

I can understand being mad at the team that gives you Cirillo in a trade, but how heated is the rivalry?

Well, I once ran into a Mariner fan who knew the names of no less than two Padres.

That's not a lot. How can they be a rival if nobody knows who they are?

We know who they are. They're the Padres. They play in San Diego and fans get free Snausages and Milk-Bones when they visit the ballpark care of the coporate sponsor. And Mike Piazza used to play for them (or so I read on the Oakland Athletics website).

Right, I get all that. But what about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Shouldn't Mariners fans know the names of most members of the Padres if you hate them so much.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I never said anything about hate. I just said that a videogame says they're our rivals. It must be true, right. The videogame wouldn't lie?


Fine, be that way. I've got tickets in right-field. I can't wait to heckle Tony Gwynn.

The Fate of Our Lives Depends On It

Today is a huge day. No, not because it's the rubber-game in a three-game series between the Angels & Mariners; not because I may end up envoking the "tradition" clause tonight; and not because we're finally getting the dying shrubbery in our front yard taken care of by a professional. It's a vitally important day because today, after over a month of waiting, Kristin goes to interview for a slot in the University of Washington's Executive-MBA program. Her application passed the first test, the rest is on her. No pressure.

While the title of this post may seem a bit melodramatic, I assure you it isn't. My whole life has been building towards this moment. Stop rolling your eyes right this second, I'm not speaking in hyperbole or being facetious, I'm as serious as a Robert Horry hip-check on this. For years I have strained under the intense pressure of being our family's primary income earner. The effort it takes to churn out enough copy about videogames to out-earn someone in Kristin's profession is staggering and it's taking its toll on my body, my mind, and I believe even my Chi is starting to come up lame. Kristin is a succesful member of the upper crust in a Seattle biotech company. Do you even know what biotech is? That's a combination of biology and technology -- working in a place like that requires knowledge of two topics. Not just one like all those physicist geeks, but two. And yet still, thanks to a tradition passed on by a long line of Walshes, I made certain to provide even more for my little blue-eyed sweety than she could possibly earn on her own. Heck, just last year my W-2 showed I made a whopping $554 more than hers. You know what you could buy with $554? A lot. Yeah, that's right. So, if I didn't feel the pressure to work as hard as I do, there'd be a lot my sweety couldn't have. But it's all right because the man's got to do what the man's got to do. Or is that what's good for the goose... No, that's not it. Anyway, that's the way I've been rolling. You get the idea.

But I've had it. I want a sugar-momma. While my father continues to wear the Honorary Ward Cleaver Badge of Sole Income Providership proudly on his lapel, I want out. I want to be Mr. Mom... but without the kids. I want to spend my days sipping lattes, whiling away the hours running complex statistical analyses on my fantasy baseball team, and sending angry letters to Congress on high-brow topics such as why the Halo series is as guilty as American Idol for ruining entertainment in America.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still work. Maybe not everyday, but at least a little bit every week; after all I'm not a bum and I do have plans. And the implementation of these plans requires a free, unburdened, creative lifestyle. It's hard to be creative and effective when tied to the stress of a full-time "normal" job. Sony's marketing department has proven this on a weekly basis for nearly a year now. I rest my case.

You see, I have several book ideas that I would love to get underway; I want to get more serious about my photography and do more shows; and heck, I want more time to ride my bikes dammit! After all, don't I deserve it? I've written nearly 60 strategy guides in the past 7 years. Sixty! Five dozen! You know how many five dozen is? It's a lot more than a baker's dozen, I'll tell you that much. And people are always raving about getting a baker's dozen. I piss all over your thirteenth muffin. I'm accomplished. I work hard. I have put my time in and, by golly, [some] people like me.

Isn't it time I caught a break? Isn't it time Kristin pulled her weight a little more? Sure, I can continue to work myself silly 8 months of the year to keep that extra $554 rolling in all gravy-like, but sometimes I just have to sit back and ask myself, "Doug, don't you deserve more?". I think I do. And it's up to the University of Washington to agree with me. My life depends on it.

Sure, I'll continue pulling myself out of bed by the ungodly hour of 10am every morning if I have to, but I'm not going to like it. And I'll even work straight till 2 o'clock before taking a two hour lunch. I don't want to keep doing this, but it's out of my hands. In more ways than one. The conspiracy theorist in me expects Kristin to take a dive during the interview -- she'll probably tell that joke about the gay stamp-collecting Senator with a Viagra addiction. Either that or she'll wear that dress with the see-through top. If she does that, it's back to the strategy-guide grind for another six years. But I pray she does what's right. I've been shouldering this load far too long. She's petite, I'll give her that, but she's strong. And in this day and age a strong woman can accomplish a lot. Hey, after all, I'm liberated. I don't mind gay marriage. I'll help save the whales if you need me to. And when it comes to women, I have no problem letting the door shut in their face if they prefer it. I don't need to hold it open. Just like I don't need to earn more. Or anything if it makes her feel better. That's what it's really about. I think some people are going to read this post and think that I'm lazy or that I'm just looking for a free ride. That's not it at all...

Okay, yeah it is. That's exactly it. I'd elaborate more, but I have to really try and get at least an hour's work done today.

Sucks, I know.

Suffer No More - Air Conditioning!

It's that time of year again. The temps are climbing, work is getting busier, and my west-facing home office is once again transforming into a sauna. Last summer I endured several nights in which the temperature in my office was still above 100-degrees in the middle of the night and no amount of fans helped make it tolerable.

Kristin and I have thought about having a house-fan installed in the attic. We've also considered splurging on having central air conditioning installed. Finances and a desire for a silent fix led us instead to try a portable air conditioning unit. Our neighborhood's bylaws prohibit window units so we opted for an in-room portable air conditioner that exhausts to the outside through small hoses that mount on the windows.

I opted for the Delonghi PAC T-100P which runs at 10,000 BTUs and has a double-hose system to ensure that all water taken from the air is evaporated back outside with no collection tanks to empty. The unit also works as a dehumidifier, a fan, and an air purifier.

A quick Google search revealed that the local big-box stores don't carry this particular model, but the Sylvane store (where I conducted much of my research) not only had it in stock, but was also offering free shipping. Sold!

The cheerful sales associate I dealt with on the phone said it should ship tomorrow and be here next week. I can't wait. It cooled off a bit today, but last night was already starting to get uncomfortable and the ridiculous temperature disparity between my office and the rest of the house was rearing its ugly head once again. Hopefully this air conditioning unit makes working this summer a little less painful than in years past.

I Hate to Say I Told You So, But...

Gamestop sent out an email to folks who pre-ordered MGS4 for the PS3 saying that the game has been pushed back to 2008.

Read Joystiq's blurb here.

I've commented several times since the 2006 E3 that I sincerely doubted that MGS4 would release before 2008. It was apparent to me at the show last year when Sony released their pricing structure for the console that it would take a while before a critical mass of PS3 owners made it worth Konami's efforts to rush it, and then, even more clear when less important titles started citing the PS3's poor sales (and by poor, I mean disastrous) as a reason to let their games continue to bake.

By no means is an email from Gamestop to be taken as the rule of law, but it is the first shred of evidence to back up what I had thought was simple common sense all along. Microsoft is in a position to step on the throat of Sony this year, if only they would stop tripping over themselves with manufacturing defects and by actually, in-effect, raising the cost of the X360 with the "Elite" model and ridiculously priced hard-drives. A drop in the price of the X360 in time for Forza Motorsport 2 and Bioshock and Halo 3 wouldn't be the final nail in Sony's coffin, but it would have them halfway buried.

Catan, Board Games, and Why I Don't Feel So Alone In the World

In what was the most sinister form of irony that I've experience in quite some time, my most anticipated Xbox Live Arcade game of 2007, Catan, released the morning of Wednesday, May 2nd, just as I was packing for my trip.

I didn't let that keep me from playing it for 2 hours though. And I must admit that I even delayed our departure by an additional 30 minutes that night because I insisted Kristin sit down and let me show her how the game is played. I figured she was simply amusing me and focusing on masking her frustration at the fact that we had a 17 hour drive ahead of us and I was on the couch playing Xbox, but her questions about the game later in the trip tells me she was actually paying attention. And I'm glad because the game is absolutely fantastic. It's everything I hoped it would be and more and I must confess that I yearned to be home playing the game several times during our trip. It's that good.

To understand my fascination with this game requires a bit of background. I grew up in a house that played a lot of games together. From Monopoly to Risk to Stratego to Balderdash to various card games, ping-pong, and, of course, loads of videogames. Going outside and playing touch football or riding bikes always took precedent, but when the rain came or when it got dark, or when relatives were visiting, you could bet your bottom dollar we'd be playing a game together. Finally being granted a position at the table with my father and uncles for a game of Risk was indeed a coming-of-age moment for me. Some boys get the birds-and-bees story or a can of beer to share with their pop. I was allowed to play Risk with the grown-ups. It was a major moment and one I looked forward to even more than that special Thanksgiving when I finally matriculated from the kiddie table.

Despite this game-heavy upbringing, I never surrounded myself with game-centric friends. Not in high school; not in college; and certainly not now in adulthood. I've never played Magic: The Gathering. I've never played Dungeons & Dragons. And the myriad strategic board games that have long since advanced the genre beyond the simplicity of Risk have always remained off limits to me. For years they intimidated me. Then they simply seemed too expensive. And when I finally had the money and the interest, I had no one to play them with. Moving across the country with a wife with no interest in strategic thinking does that -- the words "I don't like to have to think" will be etched on her grave. We play plenty of board games together, but none that require any more strategery than deciding whether or not to buy Boardwalk. But that's okay, I love her anyway.

Despite the lack of a group of friends to play the new breed of strategic board games with, I always make a point of browsing the aisles of a game shop when I see one. I read the box descriptions longingly; admire the box art; and lastly, I look to see how many players they require. I've held the box for Settlers of Catan in my hands numerous times and always bemoaned the fact that it required 3 to 4 players. I never played it but always wanted to.

And now, thanks to Big Huge Games and Microsoft, I finally have. The decision to bring a limited-appeal strategy board game to Live Arcade was, for me, a miraculous gift. And I have trouble imagining I'm the only one. Now, thanks to the online gaming community on Xbox 360 I can sit and play Catan whenever I want. Not many of the folks on my Friends list have purchased it yet ($10) but there are plenty of other people out there to play with and, even when there aren't (like this morning), there's the option to play against the rather sophisticated A.I. opponents. It's all I could do to steal myself away from the tv and get to work.

Catan, as great as it is, is not the only game of it's kind coming to Live Arcade. The hit game strategic-puzzle game Carcassone is also coming to Live Arcade this summer and rumors persist that the popular game Puerto Rico is also being digitized. For a budding strategy gamer who needs the assistance of an online gaming network to enjoy these types of games, this is all great news. Finally, thanks to Live Arcade, I'm not missing out anymore. And I can finally see what the fuss was all about. I suggest you do the same.

TR Training: Weeks 23-25

I've been pretty lax in my posting of weekly training data the past couple weeks, but I have to blame it on a combination of work and, of course, the fact that I was out of town for 11 days. I finally updated the stats on the column to the right to reflect the past couple weeks and I must admit that I've only ridden my road bike once in the past 3 weeks -- my lengthy roundabout trip home from the Honda dealership in Bellevue. That's going to change this week though, as I have two 100+ mile rides planned for this weekend.

Week #25 consisted of just one day of riding -- Day 3 of the Kokopelli Trail -- but nevertheless marked the first week in my "Base Transition" phase of my training. At this point in my training schedule, I'll be easing back on the percentage of time allocated to road riding and increasing the amount on the mountain bike. In reality I expect very little to change though as I have not been very dilligent in riding the road bike. I blame it on the winter weather and, well, because mountain biking is simply more fun. And more scenic. And now, as my Giant NRS could attest to if it were able to talk, I have the added excuse of it simply being really hard to leave a Moots in the garage to ride a Scattante. I need a bumper sticker for my sub-$1000 road bike that says "My Other Bike is a Moots" just so I don't get laughed at when I go to do STP this summer. Then again, I'd rather be the guy stomping people on the crappy bike than the guy getting schooled on the fancy one. Not to say that I'm going to be kicking butt at STP, but I do expect to hold my own amongst the one-day crowd.

And although my crotch is dreading it, the century and double-metric century I have planned for this weekend is going to aid in me being able to do just that. I just hope I can take these two rides easy enough so as to not leaeve me fried for next weekend's Spokane 24hr race.

Man, I go away on vacation, come back, and BAM! We're right in the middle of the racing season. And to think my TransRockies training plan is only 40 weeks long and I'm already on week 26. I'd say I'm getting scared but doing Kokopelli and feeling fresh afterwards has done wonders for my confidence. Bring it on.

Kokopelli Trail Slideshow

Rather than do up a lengthy photo-essay, I decided to assemble a quick 5-minute slideshow of my three days on the Kokopelli Trail. After all, a picture says a thousand words. Or so they tell me.

You can watch the slideshow here.

I'll have higher-res versions of many of the photos and a more detailed posting about the trip later in the week. The Kokopelli Trail portion was just 3 of the 10 days Kristin and I were in Utah and there's a lot more to share than just that. But I do have to get back to work now...

Greetings From Moab, Utah

It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm proud to say that yes, I did ride the Kokopelli Trail in its entirety from Fruita to Moab, finishing with a 17 mile descent down Porcupine Rim. Riding the KPT was a great adventure through beautiful country and gave me an excellent opportunity to focus on my riding and log three long, consecutive days in the saddle for a total of 152 miles and 16,600 feet of climbing. The Fruita singletrack on Day 1 was definitely a high point, as was the fast, bermy descent out of Yellow Jacket Canyon, the technical rock-garden descent of Rose Garden Hill near Fisher Valley and, of course, the descent down Porcupine Rim... even if I was already 41 miles (and 6200 feet of vert) into my ride when I reached the "super-secret upper entrance" to Porc Rim (which, by the way, merely cuts off a small bit of climbing from the main trailhead). I had a clean, dab-free run going until I hit the singletrack section then a couple of mandatory walks forced me off. Better walk than die.

And with no offense to those who were at one point or another supposed to ride KPT with me, I was actually really glad to do it solo. It was great to just focus on myself and ride my own pace and not worry about helping others navigate. Kristin was a huge help, always ready with food and drink for me every 3 hours or so at one of the pre-determined access points and would even have the tent pitched and recovery food ready at the day's stop point. Her help was priceless and I certainly couldn't have done it without her.

I have much more to write about my trip across the KPT, but will end saying that I managed to not only avoid any mechanical problems, but didn't even get a flat tire. Also, I'm very happy to report that I actually felt "fresh" during the final descent down Porcupine Rim (and passed numerous other riders). I definitely could have kept riding and had I needed to wake up this morning and do it all over again, I could have. I'm probably in the best cycling shape of my life right now and it feels great.

We're off to Canyonlands tomorrow morning then it's on to Lake Powell for a couple days of kayaking. Won't likey check in again until next week when I get back. Have a good week.

Reporting In From Fruita, Colorado

Found a coffee shop with free Internet near Colorado River State Park, where we camped last night and wanted to post an update. Heading out to begin my three-day journey across the Kokopelli's Trail today, with dark ominous clouds lying to the west -- our direction of travel. It rained hard through the night and it has been unseasonaly cold so far -- could you believe I found myself wishing for my hat and mittens last night?

Slickrock was awesome -- XXX Bike Porn photos coming soon -- and Arches was equally impressive. I'm a bit nervous about the Adobe soil turning to gloop with the frequent rains, rendering long sections of the Kokopelli unridable. We'll have to see.

Either way, I'll write again early next week once we're back in Moab and checked into a hotel -- a strange luxury at this point.

Fingers crossed for warm, dry conditions.

Feel the [Beezly] Burn

I downloaded the data from my Garmin tonight for Saturday's race and it turns out that I had an average heart rate of 165 for the race, which is about Zone 4.8 for me.

That's two hours of nonstop anaerobic exercise with an average heart rate of 165. My maximum heart rate is 186.

Here's the lap-by-lap HR numbers:

Lap 1: Average of 169, max of 184.
Lap 2: Average of 162, max of 180.
Lap 3: Average of 165, max of 180.

My lowest HR for the entire two hour race was after a downhill on the second lap in which it dropped briefly to 124 bpm, before jumping right back up to 171 a minute later.

There were four instances during the race in which my HR dropped below 140bpm (all descents) and none of them lasted for more than a minute.

It's no wonder I was so tired after the race and this is really good information to have.

I train with a heart-rate monitor more than I train according to a heart rate monitor but I know when I race the 24hrs of Spokane, it's going to be imperative that I keep my heart rate below 140bpm the majority of the time, else there's no way I'll be able to go for long. I'm actually going to be trying to keep it pegged at 135 for as long as I can. I think focusing on the numbers on the Garmin (and the music on the iPod) will help take my mind off the pain of trying to ride a bike for 24 hours.

The Food of Gods

We've been spending a bit of time in the store formerly known as G.I. Joe's (they've since dropped the "G.I", but since I have family members named Joe, I use the old name to prevent confusion). It's the sporting goods store that we use when we don't feel like driving to REI. I used to think there was nothing G.I. Joe's carried that REI didn't (except for guns, but that doesn't count) until I came across a little red bag of Kookaburra licorice one day. I was hungry and I love licorice ("liquorice" as it's spelled on the packaging) so I bought a bag. I had no idea what a treat I was in for. I was expecting some sort of Twizzler-like waxiness, but oh no. This was the filet mignon of licorice; the Dom Perignon of strawberry-flavored chewiness; the caviar of candy; the, err, you get the point. It was juicy, soft, fresh, and it was all I could do to not eat the entire bag during the 15 minute drive home.

Kookaburra Licorice is made by an Aussie company that, fortunately for me, opened a distrubition center in Monroe, Washington. I haven't seen the candy anywhere but at G.I. Joe's in Issaquah yet, but there is an online store. If you like licorice then you have to give this Kookaburra Liquorice a try. I haven't tried the black flavored variety yet, but the red/strawberry is incredible. You can buy it in a 10oz bag, a 12oz tub, or the 15lb bulk bag for $66.50.

I'm definitely thinking bulk bag.

My Nerd Senses are Tingling

Did I just type "I have a Level 19 knight" in the previous post?

Dude, what has happened to me? For shame, Doug. For shame.

Puzzle Quest Going Live

Very, very good news for those of you struggling to find a copy of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords for either the DS or PSP.

Officials from D3Publisher of America (D3PA), a subsidiary of Japanese budget priced publisher D3Publisher, have announced plans to provide downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade, including the critically acclaimed Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords.

Full article at here.

There's no mention of when any of the three games by D3PA are going to release on Live (the other two include a racing game called Mad Tracks and a miniature bowling game called RocketBowl), but I very well may buy Puzzle Quest again for the X360 Live Arcade when it comes out, as it's just that good. I have a Level 19 knight in my DS version and I have to admit there's not a day that goes by that I don't at least play the game for 20 minutes or so. Taking something as simple as the Bejeweled puzzle mechanic and wrapping an RPG around it was pure, unadulterated genius. And there is just so much to do in the game that it's impossible to put down.

In the meantime, if you're one of the folks who still hasn't given this game a try there's a free PC-based demo version available at the official site for the game.