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Posts Tagged ‘seattle’

Fall Break

This weekend marked the middle of my first semester of PT school, which meant I got to enjoy a 4-day weekend for my fall break.  Not only did I not have any studying to do over the weekend, I also didn’t have any classes on Monday or Tuesday which meant  no long commute.  Not spending 2 hours in the car every day was easily the part I enjoyed the most, and instead I hung around the house and rested, cleaned and baked up a storm.  (I made pumpkin ice cream, squash butter and pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.  It was a tasty and productive couple of days.)

I also, somewhat inadvertently, took a break from running.  I had a whole bunch of it on the schedule this weekend: 8 miles Saturday, 20 on Sunday, and another 8 on Tuesday.  I tried to get out there to get it all in, but, for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen.  Saturday I got a mile into the run and realized I was exhausted – my legs were tired, I felt like I was running through molasses, and it wasn’t getting any better as I got warmed up.  I thought about cutting it down to just 4 miles and then realized I didn’t even want to do that.  Instead, I enjoyed the mile walk back to the house on a perfect fall morning and then took a nap.

Sunday was a somewhat similar story.  I got up, had breakfast, and got all geared up to go out and run my 20, but after a mile and a half?  I realized I just wasn’t mentally there.  Physically I felt fine, and gave some thought to at least getting 10-12  miles in, but I just couldn’t get the motivation worked up to do so.  I flat out didn’t care, so I ran back to the house and told myself I’d go to yoga later instead.  (I didn’t.  Instead, I sat on the couch and watched football all afternoon and read.)

Planned total for the weekend: 28
Actual total for the weekend: 4

I’d feel bad about it, but the fact is this: the marathon is still 6 weeks out which means I still have plenty of time before the race.  I was feeling completely fried from all of the long training runs, and I could push through (with the risk of feeling equally fried every weekend for the next 3 weeks until I hit my taper) or I could just give myself the break I very clearly needed.  I’ve got a race this weekend and another 20 on the schedule two weeks after that, so I’m pretty sure I’ll still be just fine for the race.

As for yesterday?  Yeah, I had an 8-miler on the schedule… but it didn’t exactly happen.  In theory I had plenty of time to get it in, but instead I spent the day in the kitchen baking.  I’ll be perfectly honest: it was awesome.  I’ll head out to speedwork tonight and get the training train back on the tracks, but I’m pretty convinced that I did exactly the right thing for myself this weekend by taking a bit of a break.

***

In totally unrelated news, I’ve picked up a gig writing for the newly relaunched Sweat & The City web site.  You’ll find me on the Extra, Extra page babbling on about various adventures in fitness on a weekly basis.  This week’s article is on barre workouts and site content typically refreshes on Monday or Tuesday.

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Today was the third Mobile Chowdown in Seattle, which is best described as a gathering of all the local food trucks in one place. The first one was last summer, and Irwin and I attempted to go, but when we got there it was an absolute zoo. It was less an “event” and more of a “hey, let’s park all the trucks here this afternoon!” sort of thing, so they were completely unprepared for the crowds that showed up. When we arrived two hours into the event trucks were out of food, the lines for all the trucks were insane, and the parking lot they were gathered in was just too small to contain the number of people. You couldn’t tell where one line ended and the next one started, never mind move around to get into a line. I’d done a long run that morning and was approaching a Desperate Need for Food, so we abandoned ship and got lunch somewhere else.

This time, things were much, much better. It was an actual event sponsored by Seattle Magazine, and they were set up in the Seattle Center where there was plenty of room for people to walk around, form lines, and sit and eat. The trucks themselves also seemed better prepared, as I didn’t see any indications that the trucks were running out of items. Plus, I made sure to get there right at 11 a.m. when it started, so my initial wait in line was incredibly short. Sadly, Irwin was busy today, so he didn’t get to join me. I took myself and the camera and spent a couple of hours sampling the highlights. There were too many trucks for me to try everything, so I tried to stick to things that looked interesting that I hadn’t had before. The first truck I happened upon was Maximus Minimus, which totally wins for “Best Truck Design.”

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They specialize in BBQ sandwiches, so I ordered a pork sandwich with maximus sauce and Beecher’s flagship cheese. On the side, I got a bit of the minimus slaw.

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This was outstanding. My only complaint is that the sauce wasn’t as spicy as I was expecting. It was good, but there was absolutely zero heat to it – I would order it “with hurt” (extra spicy) next time. The cheddar-like cheese was a nice complement to the pork (although I think pretty much everything is improved by the addition of cheese) and the bun had the perfect texture – it was firm enough to have a good chew to it and to stand up to the saucy pork without getting soggy, but it was soft enough to bite into without squooshing all of the sandwich contents out the back of the bun. The slaw was pretty simple – cabbage, a light dressing and dried cranberries – with a sweet refreshing flavor. I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on where these guys show up in the future.

I did a lap of the trucks after finishing my sandwich, scoping out my options and forming my plan of attack. My next stop was Koi Fusion PDX, a Korean-Mexican fusion truck that had made the trip up from Portland for the event. Since they aren’t local and had a pretty sizeable line, I figured they were worth checking out. Their menu featured Korean BBQ meats (bulgogi, short ribs, spicy chicken, etc) served in tacos, burritos and quesadillas. I ordered a bulgogi taco, which came topped with hot sauce, slaw, onions, tomatoes and cilantro.

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Again: outstanding. The beef had a nice, sweet flavor to it that was well-balanced by the toppings. I would have liked a bit more spice in it, but since bulgogi isn’t really a spicy dish to begin with, I can’t complain. What I can complain about is the fact that this truck is based in Portland, since it means it’ll be a good long while before I can sample their wares again. This was the longest line I waited in – it was a little over an hour from the time I got in line to the time I got food. I was OK with that, though, since it gave me time to digest my sandwich from Maximus Minimus before being faced with more food.

At this point, I took a break for dessert. I’d spotted a “build your own ice cream sandwich” option on the menu of the Street Treats truck, so that’s where I headed. They had several different cookies and flavors of ice cream available for you to design your own dessert. I went for dark chocolate ice cream on peanut butter cookies (although the peanut butter ice cream on chocolate chip cookies was a strong contender as well).

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The peanut butter cookies were great – crisp enough to not get soggy, but soft enough to eat without forcing the ice cream out the back. The dark chocolate ice cream was pretty good. It wasn’t overly sweet (which was good), but it struck me as more of a “chocolate” than “dark chocolate.” It didn’t stop me from enjoying it, but I was hoping for a slightly stronger flavor.

My last stop of the day was at the Marination truck, where I ordered a miso ginger chicken taco and an aloha pork slider.

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I promise that pile of food is actually two separate items. The taco? Was fantastic. It was served with slaw, pickled jalapenos, lime and their special sauce. The sauce was sweet and tangy, which was a nice counterpoint to the spicy jalapenos. The lime juice added a lovely brighter note to the taste, as well. Sadly, the slider wasn’t quite as good for me. The pork was very heavy – it reminded me of a rillette, actually. I don’t know if it was the heat, but it just wasn’t appealing to me at all. It was too heavy and too salty and overwhelmed the freshness of the slaw it was topped with. That said, the bread that it was served on? Was delicious. It was a Hawaiian sweet bread, and I ate most of that even though I barely touched the meat.

The one truck I didn’t make it to that I would have liked to try was Where Ya At?, which was serving New Orleans-style food. The menu included po’ boys, muffaletta and beignets. I tried to work up the desire for a po’ boy, but it just wasn’t happening. I was just too stuffed. Irwin and I will just have to try and catch these guys at some other time (a plan I’m sure he’ll be 100% on board with).

I had good intentions of running some errands while I digested and then heading out for a (much-needed) run this afternoon, but it never happened. By the time I was done driving around, I was so wiped out from being in the hot sun all day that I just couldn’t fathom the idea of running in it. I suppose I could have gone running this morning, except I woke up when Irwin did (his second alarm went off while he was in the shower this morning), so I joined him and his friends for a pre-event breakfast at Brown Bag. As soon as I saw the special board, I knew exactly what I was going to order: peanut-butter banana french toast.

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French toast stuffed with a peanut butter-cream cheese filling, topped with bananas. I skipped the whipped cream and syrup, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Even better: the peanut butter filling was made with crunchy peanut butter, which is my absolute favorite. Totally made up for the unnecessarily early wake-up, for sure.

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Firecracker 5000

When I ran the Great Kilted Run at the end of May, the announcers were promoting another race that was being put on by the same organizers. It would be at midnight on the Fourth of July in downtown Seattle, and that just sounded like way too much fun to pass up. Since it was only a 5K, I decided to squeeze it in to the busy schedule for the weekend.

Irwin came with me, and when we arrived at the Seattle Center, we discovered it was way chilly. I was wearing my Brooks singlet and arm warmers, and I knew that I’d be just fine once I started running, but standing around before the start was a little rough. Since my running (well, exercise in general, really) has been a little sporadic over the past couple of weeks, I didn’t really have any big expectations for the race. I knew I wasn’t going to run another PR, so my goal was just to run hard and have fun. I lined up halfway between the 8:00/mile and 9:00/mile in the start corral, figuring I’d be able to run something in the 8:30-9:00 range.

A few minutes before midnight, we were off! We had to go up a small but fairly steep hill to get out of the stadium where the start/finish line was, but I just reminded myself that going down that same hill at the end would be really nice. We came out of the stadium, made a few turns, and were on the roads of downtown Seattle. I knew this wouldn’t be a flat course, and it didn’t take us long to hit our first hill with an underpass. I let my legs stretch out on the downhill and powered up the other side as fast as I could. The first mile or so of the course headed back towards the expressway, so there weren’t a lot of spectators. That didn’t matter, though, since I was just enjoying being out and going for a run in the night air.

I totally missed the first mile marker – it was on the right side of the course and I was on the left – and I quickly decided I just didn’t care. I was going to run my butt off, and if I had to stop and take a wee little walk break to catch my breath? That was fine.

Somewhere around the 1.5 mile mark, we started up a loooong uphill. I remembered it was there from the Livestrong ride I’d done a couple years ago, and I was just as displeased with it. It just seemed to go on forever. On the plus side, there were a couple of bars along this stretch where the customers were standing on the street cheering us on. The encouragement definitely helped, and we passed a few more bars between that point and the stadium.

The course was two loops – a 2-mile and a 1-mile, more or less – so we passed by the stadium right around the 2 mile point. I hit that point around 16-minutes, so it was fun to see the race leaders heading down the final stretch to the stadium before I turned off for my second loop. The second loop was mercifully short, and when I heard the finish line as we ran around the back of the stadium, I gave it everything I had left. Coming around the last corners, I knew I wasn’t going to beat my last 5K time, but I was going to be right around it. Perfect. I was expecting one more turn to get into the stadium, but it was just a straight shot.

I hit the downhill into the stadium hard and threw myself across the finish line.

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Final time: 26:42. Just 11 seconds off last time. I was just thrilled to pieces to reproduce that sort of effort on a more difficult course, since it tells me it wasn’t a fluke. (I didn’t really think it was, but it’s still nice to have it confirmed.) After crossing the line, I found Irwin, who wasted no time in letting me know how much running he had done, with all his camera equipment and everything, so he could see me both on the course and at the finish. I patted him on the back as I told him how proud of him I was, to which he simply said, “Ew, you’re sweaty. Don’t touch me.”

Well, he left me no choice there, so I showed my appreciation for all his hard work with a big sweaty hug. He was totally asking for it.

After terrorizing my fiance, I made my way through the finisher chute and collected my post-race refreshments. In this case, that included Top Pot donuts, which go down as the second-best post-race food ever. (First place goes to the watermelon that was after the Mayor’s Half in Alaska.)

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Irwin got a donut, too, which I offered to put on a string so he could have a medal. For some reason, he turned it down.

Overall? It was an excellent way to kick off the Fourth of July, and totally worth staying up past my bedtime for. The only thing that could have made it better was fireworks at the finish.

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Two weeks ago, I was supposed to run the Kirkland half marathon.  Part of the course runs along roads that I run on all the time and the start/finish line is just a few miles from the house, so why wouldn’t I run it?  Initially it was supposed to be part of my training plan for the Mayor’s Marathon in June, but since the logistics of it were so easy, I left it in the schedule even after I decided to drop down to the half marathon at Mayor’s.  However, that morning I discovered something that I’ll need to remember for next year: that race is cursed.

At least it is for me.  When I was supposed to run it two years ago, I woke up that morning with lady cramps bad enough that the idea of running for a couple of hours was enough to send me back to bed.  Last year, I didn’t register for it because I was still rehabbing The Foot and I just wasn’t in shape to run it.  This year, I was healthy, I was in shape, and I was convinced I was going to have an awesome day.

Which I did, for the first three miles.  Then something happened and my digestive system staged a rebellion, for reasons that are still unclear to me.  I walked a bit to let things settle down and feel better.  Then I realized I needed a bathroom.  I’d passed one about a mile back and, thinking the next one was much closer than it was, I decided to just keep walking to the next aid station and go there, rather than backtrack.  I wound up walking another 2 miles before coming up on the nearest facilities and at that point?  I was done.  The pit stop didn’t make me feel any better and I had no desire to stick the race out because… why?  I know I can run a half marathon.  I know I can run it well.  And I know that if a ride home is waiting for me a half mile up the road, I’m going to take it rather than spend 2 hours dragging my sorry behind over another 7 miles.  So that’s what I did.  I was just grateful The Boy was still there waiting for me instead of assuming he’d missed me and moving on to the finish line.  (Happily, we were close enough to home that, had that been the case, I would have just gone straight to the house.  I was that done.).

As tempting as it’s going to be to run that race next year, I might just accept the fact that the universe is trying to tell me something and pass on it.

Happily, the 5K I ran this past Sunday has a much happier story.  Based on my time from the 10K I ran in March, McMillan told me I could run a 5K in 27 minutes.  That sounded totally reasonable to me, so I made that my goal.  Sort of.  A 27 minute 5K would mean a pace of 8:40 per mile, but I decided to shoot for 8:30s… just because.  I have absolutely no logic for this outside of, “It sounded like a good idea.”

Naturally, after a week of sunny 65+ degree weather, race morning was windy, overcast, drizzly and… 45 degrees.  A bit brisk, especially since we were all wearing kilts and standing on the lakefront while waiting for the start.  Happily, once people started to congregate around the start, I was able to position myself in the middle of the crowd so I was protected from the wind a little bit.  I’m not sure if it actually helped, but I told myself it did.  I positioned myself about halfway back in the pack and impatiently waited for the gun to go off.

When the race started, I immediately realized that I should have stuck myself way, way closer to the start line.  I was passing people left and right, which made me wonder if I was going out way too fast.  I don’t wear my Forerunner for races, instead relying on a plain old watch and mile markers to tell me how fast I’m going.  It’s a system that’s worked well for years, but in short races like this where I want to go out aggressively, I don’t get any sort of feedback on my pace until the end of that first mile, and this was one of those races where that mile lasted forever.  I checked my effort level with myself a few times and, yes, I was going pretty hard but, yes, it still felt OK for a 5K effort.  I convinced myself I was right where I needed to be and didn’t need to change anything until my time at the mile marker told me otherwise.  When it came along, my watch read 8:35.  Exactly where I needed to be.

The surprising thing is… I was still passing people.  Even more surprisingly, the crowd I was running with was mostly guys.  And I was passing them.  Sure, they’d probably spent some quality time warming up in the beer garden before the race, but I was still passing by them and, stranger yet, the women on course were few and far between.  I kept chugging along and hit the second mile marker with a split of 8:28.  Perfect.  One more like that and a bit more and I was home free.

The third mile took us back to the starting area which meant running directly into a headwind in a few places.  That was less than enjoyable and it slowed me down, but just a wee bit.  The Boy had joked pre-race that I needed to run this one fast so he wouldn’t have to stand in the chilly weather all that long, and when I passed by him around the 2.5 mile point I asked him if it was fast enough for him.  To which he replied, “Run faster!”  Smart ass.

I hit the mile 3 marker with a split of 8:37 and dumped everything I had left in the tank into that last tenth of a mile.  I’d been hanging on the back of a guy for the last quarter-mile or so and I tried desperately to pass by him, but couldn’t quite get there.  I was OK with that, though, since as I crossed the line the time on the clock had a “26” in front of it.

Final time: 26:31.  A new PR by over a minute and, get this: good enough for 5th in my age group.  Yes, it was a small race and no, there weren’t a lot of fast women (the first woman crossed the line in 21:05), but that’s all beside the point.  I was in spitting distance of placing in my age group for the first time ever, and it felt pretty darn good.

Additionally, this race was also a wee baby step towards my big pie-in-the-sky goal of someday qualifying for Boston.  To do that, I need to run a marathon in 3 hours and 4o minutes.  Now, since my fastest marathon to date was around 5 hours and 20 minutes, this clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  However, the pace that I ran this short little 3 mile race at?  Is the same pace I need to run a marathon at in order to go to Boston.  Yes, I’m still a very, very long way away from being able to do that, but this race puts me one little baby step closer and makes me feel like running Boston may eventually be possible.

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Well, that's done.  It was somehow both better than and worse than I expected.  The endless wait to actually get in the stairwell?  Horrible.  The climb itself?  Not too bad.  I used my arms to pull myself along the railing all the way up, and while I started out taking the steps two at a time, my legs decided they'd had enough of that by floor 7.  So I single stepped it the remaining 49 floors.  I wasn't trying to run (not that I could have, with my heart rate through the roof as it was), but I just got into a good groove with a steady pace and made my way on up.  They had water on floors 15, 30, 40 and 50 (good call to have it more often towards the end!) and I stopped at the first three to grab a drink and take a wee small break.  I skipped the stop on 50 because I was almost there and, dude, just finish it up, eh?  I can't decide if the last few floors went by really fast or seemed endless – it was sort of both at the same time.

The worst thing about it, though, was the temperature in the stairwell.  They had the fans in the stairwell cranked up to full speed blowing outside air in, so it was pretty chilly on the stairs.  Once I got warmed up it didn't really bother me, but I was still breathing 40 degree air which, for some reason, did not work with my lungs.  When I hit the top I tried to walk around and catch my breath, but it hurt to get more than just a little air in my lungs, so I was feeling pretty miserable for a while.  It started feeling better almost immediately once we got back down to the lobby where the air was warmer, but, man, not good.

I'm not saying they shouldn't have had the fans on – if they hadn't, that stairwell would have turned into an oven with hundreds of sweaty people hauling themselves up it.  However, the amount of cool air they were pulling in was probably a little aggressive.  That said, I was the only person of the 8 on my team that had any sort of issue with it, so maybe I'm just a bit of a wuss.

My final time was 12:13, which was good enough to place me in the top third of all women and well above the halfway mark for women in my age group (25-29), so I'm pretty happy with it.  I also passed quite a few people on the way up which never hurts the ego.  (We're not going to talk about the little boy that flew past me like I was standing still.)  That said?  I'm pretty sure the whole stair climb event falls squarely into the category of "things I won't be doing again anytime soon."

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As soon as I decided to do the New Orleans half, I decided I was going to incorporate races into my training.  I could make up some reason about how I think it's important to have race day practice and running something like a 10K would help me relearn how to maintain a controlled pace in a crowd and all that, but really?  It's because I think racing is fun, so why not?  I picked this one because, well, it was on a Sunday (my Saturdays are currently occupied by a volunteering commitment) and it was during a weekend that I'd be in town.  Winner!

It was a 5K race around Seattle's Green Lake.  There's a running path that circles the lake and is about 2.8 miles around – to make up the extra .3 miles we did a little out and back past some basketball courts around mile 2.  I've never run on the path but I've heard good things about it and I can now confirm: it's a lovely little path to run on.  Probably even more so when it's not being taken over by 800 racers.  Considering this was the first year they ran this race and the weather was crappy, I think they had a pretty excellent turn out.  Any more people and it would have been far too crowded at the start.

My goal for the race was to run it faster than the Seafair 5K I ran in July, and I figured I could do that if I held a 9:30 pace.  That sounded totally reasonable, so I went for it.  Despite the crowds, I hit the first mile marker in 9:25.  Perfect, right on target.  I continued hauling my butt around the lake and hit mile 2 with a split time of 9:16.  Awesome.  On target for my goal with a bit of breathing room.  I was working hard, but felt pretty good.  I was definitely in a place were I felt like I could keep it going for another mile or so.

If I had a complaint about the race, it would be this: there was no water station.  Almost every other 5K I've run has had a water stop somewhere around the halfway point (in fact, I can't remember the last one that didn't have a water stop there).  Sometimes it's closer to the two mile point, but it's there.  Now, I'm not faulting them for not having one – it was a 3 mile race in 40 degree weather.  No one was about to die of dehydration or heat stroke or anything.  Heck, I'm not entirely sure I would have wanted the water had it been available.  However, I discovered today that the water stop is an important part of my 5K race strategy.  Even if I don't take any water, it gives me an excuse to walk for a few seconds and mentally refocus myself.  I can adjust the pace if I've gone out too fast and hit the second half of the race with a fresh start.

About a half mile from the end, I found myself needing that fresh start.  I knew we were closing in on the end, and for that reason I resisted it for as long as I could, but the fact was I was going a bit faster than I really wanted to and I needed to reset myself.  So, even though I felt like a giant lame-o, I stopped and walked the next 100 feet or so.  Happily, that was all I needed.  I picked the pace right back up, felt much better, and hit a mile 3 split of 9:25.  (Which, if that's the split I had even with the walk break?  Well, that explains why I needed the walk break – clearly I was going a bit too fast.)

As I passed the mile 3 marker, I noticed a middle-aged guy on my left shoulder.  I was planning on giving that last tenth of a mile all I had, but I decided right then and there that I wasn't going to let this guy beat me.  I was going to win this one, because some dude with a bit of a belly was not going to get the best of me.  Unfortunately, it seemed that he had also decided he wasn't going to let himself get beat by a girl because as I picked up the pace, he was right there with me.  He even got a bit ahead of me for a bit.  That's when I gave it all I had.  I felt woozy and dizzy and sort of wanted to throw up, but the finish line was in sight and I was not about to let him cross it first.  We both got passed by a ton of kids who'd barely jogged most of the race given how fast they were plowing through the finish line, but neither of us cared.  We weren't going to let the other one win.

I crossed the finish line ahead of him, but just barely.  I have no idea who he is, but I'd like to thank him since I'm pretty sure I finished about 10 seconds faster than I would have otherwise.  I meant to tell him something along the lines of "nice finish" as we worked our way through the finishing chute, but by the time my lungs were safely back in my chest he was long gone.

My finishing time was 29:01, which was a full 40 seconds faster than the race I ran in July.  Considering that up until a month before the race I was only running sporadically, I'm pretty happy with that improvement.  The best part of the race, though?  Cupcakes at the finish!  One of the local bakeries had a little booth with bite-sized cupcakes, so I grabbed one on my way back to the car.  Definitely a nice way to end it.

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Today was the first day in months that I didn’t have anything to do.  Nothing scheduled, no reading, no studying, and no homework.  The Boy had a puzzle thing scheduled, which meant that I also had the day to myself.  I’d originally planned to sleep in, but found myself awake at 9:30 for some reason.  (Although, in all fairness, given my recent schedule, 9:30 was sleeping in.)

Since I was up, I decided to head down to the Market and grab brunch.  While I was there, I also wanted to check out the flowers that were there to get an idea of what’s in season at the end of August.  I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do for the wedding, but I wanted to see if they were in season to make sure they wouldn’t be stupidly expensive.  I figured it would also be a good opportunity to play with the 50 mm lens that I recently inherited from The Boy when he bought a new one.

Of course, as I was wandering around taking pictures with the Big Fancy camera, I was also grabbing snapshots with the little point & shoot I recently picked up to grab pictures of wedding things over the next several months (snapshots of the venue, pictures from trying on dresses, etc, etc).  I can’t even imagine how much of a nerd I must have looked like taking pictures with one camera while carrying around another.

On the plus side, it was a worthwhile trip.  Not only were the flowers I was thinking about plentiful and inexpensive, I also got some other ideas while I was there and a bunch of really great pictures with the Big & Fancy:

Pike Place Market (14 of 18)

Pike Place Market (8 of 18)

Pike Place Market (5 of 18)

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