Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dam tot Damloop 2010

Once a year, Niek and I take part in one of Amsterdam's biggest running races, the Dam tot Damloop.  It's a 10 mile race that takes you from Central Station in Amsterdam (The Dam) through Amsterdam-Noord to Zaandam (the "other" Dam) on the other side of the water.  Here's a little map I made for you in gmaps pedometer shows you the race.
Going to Amsterdam-Noord is like entering into a completely different world, one that doesn't have a lot to do with the goings on in the city.  Zaandam, as far as I know, is famous for its ties to the shipping industry, a visit by Czar Peter the Great in the seventeenth century, and delicious Verkade cookies.  I was trying to make a comparable analogy for the relationship between Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Noord to big cities in America, but the best I could come up with was the New Jersey/Manhattan or San Fernando Valley/Los Angeles relationship.  I kept thinking I should shy away from those, however, because they are loaded (super-loaded) with negative connotations for the areas that aren't considered as urban, and I mean Amsterdam-Noord no disrespect, nor do I mean any disrespect to New Jersey or the S.F. Valley.  In fact, I absolutely love this race and all the people who come out to support it.  Only about the first half-mile is run in Amsterdam.  After that you enter a tunnel that takes you under the water of het Ij and spits you back out in Amsterdam-Noord.  The course of the race feels like a ten-mile long street party as you pass through neighborhoods ready to take on the day with beer tents, speakers blaring upbeat 90's music (really, Jump Around by House of Pain made my run just that much better), and friendly updates on the Amsterdam vs. Rotterdam soccer game.  I especially loved the woman calling out encouragement to all the runners by saying, "Water hier en in Zaandam een bier." Water here and in Zaandam (the finish) a beer, because the promise of a good beer would make anyone run faster.  I believe that tactic worked just as well for me during a half-marathon in Green Bay a few years ago.
I especially love the fruit stop somewhere around the half-way mark.  The race has your normal water and sports drink stops with the truly disgusting Dutch sports drink, AA, which tastes kind of like an orange lollipop and coats your mouth like candy.  Why so many people clamor to grab their cups of it, I have no idea.  I have avoided it ever since my first (and last) sip.  At least the race isn't that long, and I wasn't in it to win it so I just stuck with the water.  But back to that fruit stand...It's about four cafeteria tables long and it was full of banana slices, orange slices and fresh melon slices.  Whoever decided this needed to be a staple of the race is a genius.  Without that little break, my last five miles would have been much less enjoyable.  I have started to look forward to getting to that stand, and I'm grateful to the jolly Amsterdammer in the apron just chopping away at all that fruit. Seriously, he looked really happy to be chopping up fruit.
All in all, I absolutely loved the Dam tot Damloop this year even if my legs felt like lead and a slightly annoying guy kept passing me and slowing down, passing me and slowing down.  Great running music on the course and lots of slightly inebriated spectators made for an enjoyable afternoon.  Niek had a great race and improved on his time from last year by almost fifteen minutes.  He's so awesome.  The only complaint I have, why no water at the finish? I do wish they would hand that out instead of a bottle of AA Drink, but I don't think it's in the Dutch genes to reach for water.  They think Americans drink too much of it.  I'll bet plenty of runners even ran to the nearest coffeehouse after the race to quench their thirst.  Oh, wait, that's what Niek and I did, and yes, my latté was quite delicious (after I had had my bottle of water).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The End of Summer

After a week that found me buying tights and unpacking my boots not to mention scrambling to find the season's first pumpkin for pumpkin soup (hooray), we got a Saturday with blue skies and a warm breeze.  I think the plant world knows that this might be summer's last hurrah before we settle down for some hearty stews chock full of root vegetables.  The grocer's stand seemed to bursting with peaches, melons, tomatoes and currants.  I had a hard time containing myself, and I would have bought those quinces if I hadn't remembered that my canning supplies didn't make the trans-Atlantic boat ride last fall.  I'm still mourning the loss of my mom's canner, but the sadness was quickly replaced by, let's face it, a disproportionate for the situation feeling of joy when I saw the crate full of ARTICHOKES.  I didn't even know artichokes had a fall season, which explains my surprise.  We scooped them up along with some great Hass avocadoes that were on super sale and hurried home so we could get on with the rest of our day.

I love Amsterdam in the waning days of summer, because everyone celebrates a warm weekend day like it will be the last one for at least six months.  Strangely, that seems to be the action Amsterdammers take whenever there is a warm weekend, but maybe it felt more pronounced to me today, because I know the short days of fall are right around the corner.  We took the dog to the park, just like every other dog owner, and threw tennis balls until he flopped into an exhausted heap under a tree.  We window shopped, browsed the bookstore and finally made it to the knitting store.  All in all a wonderful Saturday in the city.  I still can't believe I was craving pumpkin soup on Tuesday and today all I wanted was a salad and steamed vegetables.  Judging by the number of people eating ice cream cones or drinking a white wine, we weren't the only ones in a summer mood.

So here was my tribute to the end of summer in Amsterdam: steamed artichokes, broiled salmon with avocado and lime with a simple salad.  Thank you, Dutch grocers, for making this meal possible.  I'm a little disturbed how the picture highlights my obsession with the color green and my love of Finnish design.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crossing over to the carb side

I just want to post a little note about a particular eating habit I picked up rather seamlessly last week.  The first time I was in the center of the city running some errands, and I was starving.  I could have bought a candy bar or a little bag of chips, but instead I made a beeline for the nearest bakery and bought a croissant for €0,70.  The second time was on Saturday morning while Niek and I were doing our grocery shopping.  We had just finished going for a run, and there wasn't much in the way of food in the house, hence the grocery shopping trip.  Right after we purchased our three loaves of bread from the baker (that's not a typo, the two people in house consume three whole loaves of bread per week) which also consisted of an embarrassing incident involving the woman behind me in line making a comment about me kissing the loaf of still warm bread in my hand and my stuttering reply that I was merely smelling the bread and not kissing it in some sort of strange ritual which is what she had assumed, I practically ripped open the bag to eat a piece of bread for breakfast.  Apparently I've passed over into the Dutch universe where it is the norm to always stave off hunger by eating bread and just bread.  If you couple this eating habit with my newly found ability to ride a bike in the rain while I hold an open umbrella, you almost can't tell the difference between me and the Nederlanders around me.  If only I could grow about eight more inches...then you really might start to think I was Dutch.

That is all.  Back to yet another overdue chapter, a looming deadline, and a conference panel application, etc., etc.

I think I write a lot about bread on this blog.