Thursday, January 21, 2010

High Altitude Training and Carbo Loading in Yosemite

Sometimes, you just have to break the monotonous routines of life, to refresh by experiencing new things and breaking routines. And so was glad I recently spent a long weekend with some friends at a cabin inside Yosemite National Park. In addition to seeing friends I haven't seen in a while we were also celebrating my girlfriend Linda's birthday.

And while I've found it's important to establish a training routine for running success, breaking this routine once in a while is always helpful. Races often create some unexpected adversity, so dealing with new and different barriers in training from time to time helps to prepare for whatever the race throws at you. So I appreciated getting a couple good high altitude runs in through the trails in and around the town of Wawona inside the park, which seemed to rejuvenate my legs a bit, having gotten into a little running rut.

Of course during the weekend, we spent a day in the Yosemite Valley, taking in the surreal, iconic landscape that's inspired generations. As I stood amongst the majestic pine trees, with the Merced River rushing by, and gazed upwards at the famous cascading waterfalls shooting down the shear cliffs thousands of feet above me, one question immediately jumped into my mind: What's the beer like around here?

Fortunately, I did not have to wait long for an answer, as we took a break at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and enjoyed an Ahwahnee Amber Ale from Mammoth Brewing. Amber Ale is a often a rather uninspiring style, but maybe that's because few Amber Ales are as good as this one. We all enjoyed the rich, lightly roasted malt flavors that gave way to a slightly, astringent hop bitterness. Well composed, balanced beers like this are a wonderful thing. I honestly can't remember a better amber ale than this. (This beer is normally sold as The Real McCoy Amber Ale.)

Later in the Ahwahnee Hotel gift shop, I picked up a six-pack of Yosemite Falls Pale Ale from Snowshoe Brewing in nearby Arnold, CA. Back in the cabin, I found this to be a rather malt forward pale ale, with lots of bread-like character to go with a light orange peel bitterness. I wasn't blown away by this one, but it did start to grow on me after the third bottle over the course of the weekend. (This beer is usually sold as Snowshoe's Thompson Pale Ale.)

After poking around the Yosemite Village Store, and a little gift shop and grocery store in Wowona, I picked up a few other offerings from Mammoth Brewing. Their Epic IPA could have passed for a slightly hoppy pale ale, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This brew had the malty backbone of a well done biscuit, which blended well its light citrus and floral hop character. Not what I expected for an IPA, but really nice combination of flavors. And I found Mammoth Brewing's High Country Pilsner to have a minerally character, with a slight tartness, and subdued hop finish. While not the classic pilsner flavor profile, Linda and I found it quite refreshing. Both the Mammoth's IPA and Pilsner were unlike the classic styles, yet both were quite unique, memorable, and enjoyable. Wasn't I talking about virtues of breaking routine and predictability just a few paragraphs ago?

There were some nearby breweries I wanted to visit, but just couldn't find the time. Of course, when your girlfriend is celebrating one of life's milestones with her closest friends, and you're out and about, searching for beer, well, women get emotional about stuff like that. But I'm a pretty lucky guy hanging around a closet hop-head, and we've shared many tender moments that often involve me asking about her feelings as I pointed to a beer, with her responding with a heartfelt "Go for it!".

Babe, here's to celebrating lots more birthdays with you!

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