Monday, April 28, 2008

A Blister In The Sun

As an amateur bike racer with the delusion that I might someday win a race of some significance (even in a local age-graded event) I generally approach exercise and diet with consideration of how it will affect my performance on the bike. I generally shy away from any sort of upper-body workouts, since they don’t translate into cycling performance very well. In the winter I’ve been known to do seated or stand rows, since the upper back gets used extensively in sprinting, although simply for tone and endurance - low weight/high reps. Other than that, I do crunches and back extension quite frequently, but everything else is from the waist down – squats, leg ext/flex, calf raises, running, snow shoes, indoor bike work outs, stairmaster, pliometrics, etc..

Now, for the typical office professional and home owner, this wouldn’t ordinarily represent a problem.

Welcome to My World.

About 5 years ago, my lovely and talented young wife and I decided to purchase a 100+ year old Victorian home. While it wasn’t a ‘fixer-upper’, It had suffered from at least ten years of abject neglect, with little ‘major’ maintenance before that. This did not bode well for a smaller dude who had purposely been avoiding upper-body workouts for the past 15 years. What I _did_ have in the way of shoulder and arm muscle mass was quite solid, very firm and tone, there just wasn’t very much of it. Sure, we could hire people, but we _are_ on some what of a budget.

The first test came in the form of the old pool deck. It consisted of 240 2 foot square by two inch thick concrete blocks. I had to move them all so the Italians could come in and pour a real deck. They weighed about 125 pounds each. I lifted them onto the back of a trailer (6 per trip) and then stacked them on the other side of the yard.

Then came the heating system. The house had a forced-hot water system that had started life as a steam system. In the interest of efficiency, those 100-year-old, six-inch-diameter, cast-iron pipes had to go when the new furnace got installed. I cut them up into 6 foot lengths, and hauled them outside. A few cast iron radiators were replaced with base board next, two from the second floor, again, hauled outside.

Then came the concrete. Lots and lots of concrete. The south fieldstone foundation was crumbling. We could either jack the house up and rebuild the wall, or build a form and pour a new concrete wall inside. Rebuilding was incredibly expensive, disruptive, and time consuming. Both engineers we consulted said pouring a wall would accomplish the same goal.

This time, I had my father to help me, and even though he’s in great shape far a 65 year old, he had just turned 65 (remember, I have no friends). We had 3 pallets – 180 bags, 80 pounds each, delivered. WE carried them into the basement one by one, since there was no place to leave them outside where they would not be exposed to the weather. Then we commenced to mixing. One bag at a time. Then pouring, one five gallon pail at a time, the last pallets worth had to hoisted up over the top of the form. Five solid days.

Next, came the retaining wall in the back yard. Dig a 40 foot trench over 4 feet deep (below the frost line, but we had a back hoe for that. Even still, there was a lot of shoveling involved), then stack two pallets worth of concrete block, then mix and pour two pallets of concrete to fill the block. Dad helped with that too. By the time that was done, it would have been twice as fast, a lot less work, and only marginally more expensive to build a floating block wall that would have looked ten times nicer than cinder block.

This past weekend was the garden. I rented a gas-powered tiller and fought with that bitch for two hours, then proceeded to excavate and fill the area with five yards of loam, with a shovel.

So, I do one of these events about once a year. I’m a little sore today. I hope that’s all my lovely and talented young wife has in mind this summer. My shoulders are starting to get a little too big.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Perfect Week

A rider I've known for the past 20 years once noted that the perfect week for a cyclist is one that you never start your car. I almost made that this week. I did commute by bike 5 days, but I have to make a trip tomorrow to work on my money pit in manch-vegas, so, it's been a perfect commuting week. In addition, I rode during the day with a couple co-workers, both of whom ride for fitness, bu neither have ever raced. This was a ride that lasted an hour, so by the time I ride home tonight, I'll have a hair over 100 miles for the week. The trick,I've found, with regards to therapy for my achilles tendon, is to keep it elevated as much as possible. I've found that alot of standing really aggravates it.

As far as the numbers go (the metric), the parameters have changed slightly. I figured that since all my rides are going to be short for the foreseeable future, I should alter my riding style to enhance power development. So this week I put it in the big ring and left it there. Keep my cadence about 70, and work the hard gear, concentrate on form. I'll have to generate a few days worth of numbers
to come up with a goal.


I really don't have alot of friends. This isn't a whiny post, it's a statement of fact. I think I understand what a friend is. In my interpretation it's someone who you can call and chat with, you have some similar interests, you call each other when one of you has tickets to to some event, you can show up at each others house unannounced and it's appreciated and you genuinely care for each others best interests. So, I repeat, I don't have alot of friends.

For some reason - I realize - I'm really not that likeable. I'm not as unlikable as other people I've met. You know the type - people go out their way to avoid them. I know this is not the case with me. When I show up for rides, people say hi with a smile, talk about other shit than cycling, and are willing to work with me in a break or chase. These people aren't exactly 'friends'. They are 'friendly acquaintances'
But when push comes to shove, I'm not going to get asked over to anyones house for dinner. Part of the problem is that I really don't know too many people socially outside of cycling. I immersed myself so deeply into it 20 years ago to the point that I really know no very few other people socially. To be real, mea culpa.

I was a member of the board of directors for the Northeast Bicycle Club (NEBC) for 6 years, including two as vice president and two as president. When I left the club, there were no complaints. I rode for them for 8 years, and towards the end I _was_ in fact the guy that people wouldn't wait for on a ride, the guy people would avoid.

I went to the next club, BOB, and was accepted as a misfit, as I really am a misfit. But, this club was full of misfits. Everyone got along playfully berating each other, insulting each others families, etc. But even we had the one guy, that no one wanted to be around. I put ten years into BOB. It was a small club, no real money, we bought our own clothes.

But, things change. We got a whole bunch of new people that followed the money of a big sponsorship. Guys that take it entirely too seriously. In general, the same type of people that were attracted to NEBC. I was told by a few people, 'If you don't like the deal, you don't have to join the club', as if the club had always been the new big money team and I was the usurper. Now, I'm the guy again. No calls to go for rides, no calls to just chat, no one just drops by, and my attempts at the same are seemingly met with disregard. There are notable exceptions, but even those relationships are not exactly reciprocal.

Now, I realize I have this annoying habit of poisoning relationships. People seem to just tire of me. I'm getting older, I'm not really going to change.
Recently, on the club message board, I was pretty told my presence was no longer appreciated, almost exclusively by the characters I noted above (the ones who showed up after the money), and completely exclusively by members whose contributions to the club have consisted of sitting at a registration table a few times over the past years. I quit racing for the team last year, but was still a paid member of the club. My ten years of working for the club at our races instead of racing them seems to be irrelevant. As I noted above, my social sphere consisted almost entirely of the bike racing world. So, when that bed gets shit in, I have no where to sleep.

But really, it's me. I know it's me. If it wasn't me, I would have had people defending my position. There were none. I'm not saying I was wrong. I'm saying I held a position no one else did, and my attitude and ego helped poison the debate to the effect that my appearance on the message board is no longer appreciated. to be completely fair, my antagonists were no more graceful than I was. It's easy to see where that would end up. Because of the nature of the argument, there are very few people I can still see and they smile when I show up.

So, it's for me to move on.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rode in again today. I can feel slight pain (heat) in my achilles tendon, so I'm thinking ice tonight and take tomorrow off.

I saw No Country For Old Men over the weekend. I had heard it was up for a bunch of awards, and really had no idea what it was about. I can tell you it wasn't anything like what I had in mind. After I found out it was by the Cohen Brothers, I thought I was in for something smooth and thought provoking. Smooth, it was not. The post production took it's toll on the ending, with some obvious hacking. I'd like to see a directors cut.
Tommy Lee Jones' character has a remarkable monologue at one point:

"You know Charlie Walser? Has the place east of Sanderson? Well you know how they used to slaughter beeves [cattle], hit 'em with a maul right here [points between his eyes] to stun 'em... and then string 'em up and slit their throats? Well here Charlie has one trussed up and all set to drain him and the beef comes to. It starts thrashing around, six hundred pounds of very pissed-off livestock if you'll pardon me... Charlie grabs his gun there to shoot the damn thing in the head but what with the swingin' and twistin' it's a glance-shot and ricochets around and comes back hits Charlie in the shoulder. You go see Charlie, he still can't reach up with his right hand for his hat... Point bein', even in the contest between man and steer the issue is not certain."

Nothing is certain, which is kind of the point of the movie.

Nothing is certain. It's been a while since I actually considered that phrase. Nothing in life is very certain - the possibilities are endless. Take, for example, the case of the Large Hadron Collider, a giant particle accelerator being brought on-line by CERN this year. There have been lawsuits filed to prevent its completion due to fears that an accelerator of this size could generate a micro black hole that could swallow the earth, or, produce Stranglets that would 'vaporize' the entire universe. While CERN admits these possibilities exist, they aren't likely enough to warrant concern. As the philosopher/scientist Stephen Gould once quipped "I suppose the possibility exists that the apples might rise back up to the trees, but the possibility doesn't warrant discussion in the classroom".

Nothing is certain. Many will argue there is one thing certain in this life - death. We all die, or do we? It's pretty certain that our current life functions will stop, though I expect sometime in the near future they'll have working versions of devices that can keep a severed head 'alive' indefinitely. But still, what happens when you die? Worm food, or transcendence? Are we all destined to become merely a meaningless blip in the evolutionary path of our species; "erased. over. out." Or will we as Jim Morrison rants 'break on through to the other side'?

I don't know.
You don't know.
No one does.
Because nothing is certain.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A first attempt at commuting - pansy assed training report

Kudos to Solo for doing an intense weekend. I'm currently living my racing life vicariously through him and guys like Duano (sorry, no hyperlink there, Duano is conspicuously non-net savvy).

So I rode in today. It was a pretty easy ride from an intensity perspective, and even took a slight detour to take out the one appreciable hill. The point of course, being to not stress the achilles tendon any more than I have to. I averaged 18.7, mostly because I sat and spun up what little hills I had. Average HR of 162 - just over 80% max, trip time of 33 minutes.

Of course, today being the first commute, I was bound to forget something.


I'm pretty good at improv though. So I cut a couple of insoles out of antistatic foam, stuffed them in my booties, and voila! I have tre chic cycling casual footwear.

I kept my air cast on all weekend, I figured I should err on the side of caution after the way my heel felt after thursdays' light workout. It may have worked, I'm not in any discomfort right now,

This is really frustrating. I had planned to have well over 1000 miles by now, been commuting for the past month, and working in the Tuesday Night Fights (BOB ride), races, and long hilly rides on the weekends. As of right now I can't get an hour in without having to rehab. One of my early season goals was to run the Wild Rover series of running races. I had planned on riding to the races, running them, then riding home. As it turned out I preregd. and didn't run any of them, and was in the cast for the entire series.

Just to keep myself goal oriented, I'm coming up with a new metric: speed over heart rate. The larger the number, the more fit I am. I don't have a power meter, and I'm not getting one anytime soon. I figure, since I'm probably not going to be able to do much of anything besides my stupid little commutes any time soon, a solid number that directly relates to my level of fitness might be a good point. Since the route will remain the same, the only factor will be wind. So the bigger the number, the better the performance.

This morning: 18.7/162 = .115

Compare that with a few typical morning rides from late last season. On october 4 '06 I did 20.2/154 = .131, on sept 26 '06 I did 20.9/159 = 131.

My goal will be a .125, or 20/160. I'll throw out days that I catch a truck draft.

Friday, April 18, 2008

boring training post

You might want to get up, stretch, do some star jumps*, or jumping jacks, and refill you coffee, otherwise you might not make it through this one without nodding off.

My achilles tear seems to be responding acceptably, albeit slowly. This week I got in two 'power walks'. While it isn't anywhere near the level of intensity _or_ duration I had hoped to be at, it was productive in that I did 30 minute + efforts (if you can call them that) on monday and tuesday, with no ill effects. Wednesday I tried a jog for about 30 minutes, and again, no pain in the ankle, but my _left_ knee and hip felt stressed. I'm guessing this is because I was compensating for so long. I was surprised at the level of atrophy in my right leg. I didn't think six weeks in the cast would have that much of an effect, though I'm sure it only _appeared_ so because my left leg may have developed slightly from the extra use. The difference wasn't noticeable unless you looked closely, but I can tell during my walks based on the how the fabric stresses against my legs.

Yesterday (thursday) I brought my bike to work and went for a 20 mile spin at noon. This ride is incredibly flat. It's as falt as you get around here without riding along the ocean roads (rtes 1 and 1a salisbury and north). IT's actually the Northeast Bicycle Clubs' old TT route in Boxford. The TT course is 13.2 miles and has about 400 feet of climbing. From where I work the course is about 3 miles away, with another 50' or so.

I actually felt good from a fitness perspective, considering that it's the first time I've been on the bike since my trip to georgia. I managed to keep a reasonable cadence in my 42x16 into a slight headwind on the way out (from work the route goes due east, until boxford center, then takes about a 2 mile southward leg, the west all the way back). Then, the trip back had a slight tailwind, so I was in my 15 for most of it. The way back has the only 'hills' on the route, a series of little rollers in the 3% range. I just popped it up to my 19 and spun up those. I never went anaerobic or even reached my AT.

Last night I could feel it in my achilles though. It wasn't painful, but it definitely told me that was a bit too much. I iced the hell out of it and ate some tylenol and aspirin. I was going to start riding into work today, but I decided to put that off until next week.

My commutes can be as short as 9 miles with very little climbing (~ 200 feet). I figure if I just start doing that, it will build fitness and won't be long enough to inflame the heel.

* the links at the very top of oregon u. page are all broken, but the specific jump exercise links under that are all good. If you want to look at more pages on that site, the links at the _bottom_ of the page work.

ok, you can try to get back the five minutes of your life you just lost reading this post now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Hardware – The Bestest Mountain Bike

I worked for Hewlett-Packard a number of years ago, and got laid off when their managerial ineptitude became glaringly obvious in the wake of the tech bust of 2001. Since I was in one of the first rounds in the US, they were still rather generous with their severance package. As I got another job (that really SUCKED) right away, I decided to take half of what was left – about 4 months pay – and buy a bunch of fun things. I bought a new HD compatible 46” TV, a complete Pioneer Elite series home theater system, and an Independent Fabrications Custom Deluxe Ti. It took two months to show up, and I bought the components to build it up myself.

Rock Shox SID
Race face – bars, stem, seatpost, crankset, headset
Sram - shifters, deraillers, brakes, cassette
Mavic Crossmax UST wheels
Ritchey Vector Pro seat
Time ATAC pedals
Continental Twister Pro tires

This bike is the most stable, predictable, and comfortable bike I have ever ridden, ever. It goes exactly where I think it should, holds the trail exceptionally well, climbs well, and handles descents as well as any hard-tail I’ve ever ridden. The bike just about becomes part of me on the trail. I will be buried with this bike.

I placed the order when the disk brake rage was just starting, and as a result, they didn’t offer a the Custom Deluxe with a rear disk boss. I had a severe issue with this as in the fall after I bought the bike (I took delivery in april ’02) I was at pedros fest, and what did I see at the IF tent? A custom deluxe Ti with a rear disk dropout. I asked the guy about it, and he said they released it that summer.

I told him I placed the order for my bike in march and was told they didn’t have a rear disk option.

He said that was true in march.

Me: When did you decide to offer it?

Him: last fall

Me: why didn’t they tell me it was in the works when I ordered the bike?

Him: uh, I wouldn’t be able to know that unless I knew who you talked to.

Me: well that sucks, I would have waited if I knew. Can this one be retrofitted?

Him: no.

Me: why not?

Him: the whole geometry of the bike has changed, this dropout will only fit with these stays, so we would have to replace the entire rear triangle. And since the geometry would be incompatible, would have to replace the front triangle too.

Me: so I be buying a whole new bike

Him: yes

Me: that sucks

I just walked away. I felt sort of like I had been sold a top of the line 8-track tape player right when cassettes were hitting the market.

Still, it doesn’t take away from the bike. The bike, I don’t have a problem with, but I had a few choice words for the company.

Monday, April 14, 2008

another installation of "my previous life"

I've never actually owned a new car. Ever. The closest I came was leasing a 1988 Volkwagon Golf Wolfsburg Edition in 1987. I also drove a brand new 1990 Taurus Station wagon when I had my field service gig, but that was the companies.

Part of the reason is that I'm very rough on cars, and I tend to like to make them 'mine'. That is, loud stereos, little aesthetic appointments in and out (remember that for later), I eat and drink in them, up until I got married I used to fuck alot in them, I take them off road, throw dirty mountain bikes on the roof (adding roof racks, of course), Carry my kids and their friends around, and now that I'm a home owner and landlord, I load stuff like gardening and construction supplies in them. As a result, they don't stay new for very long, and I'd rather let the deprciation occur when someone else has it and thinks that taking care of the car might actually help it hold it's value (you know who you are). So I'll buy an older one for less than 1/2 price that's been taken care of. Then I can beat the shit out of it and not have guilt pangs of defiling a new car.

In 1995 I bought a one-year-old pontiac grand am, and decided a visit to Newbury Comics (my favorite store) was in order, for stickers.

Below is the result of the shopping trip plus left over stickers I had from the ones that came with bike parts.

This is the Right Rear of the car. The spot to the right of the smiley face had a sticker that read "FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING FUCK". My mother scrapped that one off. I remember coming home from work one day, and noting someone in the car behind me who kept pulling closer then pulling back. He didn't look like he was laughing. Then he did the stupidest/funniest thing. He pulled real close, then tried to take a picture - from _inside_ the car - with a flash....yeah, that worked.

This is the left rear:

This is the rear window. I really like the little guy in the 3rd eye brake light. I don't know what he's called and I can't find him anywhere anymore. Web searches have turned up nothing (it's kind of hard to search on 'that round hairy thing flipping the bird').

Before this I had the coolest little '87 ford EXP two seater coup, covered with stickers as well, but I don't think I have any pictures of that one.

I'm trying to hold myself back this days, but it isn't working. I'm driving a vulva wagon. It just isn't me. Before this I was driving a ford taurus wagon that I liked alot. I'm going to trade the vulva in on something more me - I don't know what that is yet - after I get the sunroof fixed. Since I'm a parent now, I will have to refrain from the profanity on the stickers, but everything else is fair game.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Back to it/The Hardware - Old Faithful

OK, I realize, this is supposed to be a blog about cycling. In fortunately, in light of my recent injury, There hasn't been a whole helluva lot of that going on.

Last sunday, I tried sitting on the mag trainer for a while, easy gear, cadence ~80. I managed 45 minutes with no pain or discomfort. I went up to take a shower, and felt a slight burning sensation in my heel, and the swelling started soon after. I thought "great, I just set myself back a few weeks"

I went to the Dr on tuesday and got an 'all is going well' assessment. I'm out of the boot now, Her interpretation of the previous mag trainer workout was just that I over did it. Prescription: Short duration ~(20 min) low impact workouts and stretching. She suggested speed walking. She suggested, on a weekly basis upping the time by ten minutes. When I can get in an hour workout with no pain or swelling the next day, I can consider going back to a regular training schedule.

Which brings me to the first in another categories of blog entries: Bikes - The Hardware. I have currently nine (9) fully assembled and ridable bikes.

This entry features my favorite road bike - Old Faithful

This is a Merlin Road frame, Circa 1991. I have probably 50,000 miles on the frame. Currently, I use it as my commuter/weekday trainer.

wheels - Rolf Vector Comp
fork - Easton EC90 bars - Easton EC70 Stem - Easton EC70
post - Easton EC90 saddle - flite Ti
shifters - Campy Veloce Ergopower 9sp derailleurs - Campy Chorus Cassette - Sram 11-21
brakes - Campy Athena Crankset - Profile Designs Carbon 53/42

A few years ago I had it painted by Ted Wojcieck. It's held up OK, especially considering how well it's beat upon, and the fact that Titanium doesn't take paint very well. I love this bike. After riding something else, it always feels like I've come home. I can't say enough about the wheels, They've been commuter/trainers for about 8 years, and have a good 40,000 miles on them. The bearings are silky smooth (should be after all those miles) and I've never had to replace a spoke. Let me say, I don't exactly baby this thing. Yes, that's a fender. Since I commute on it, I ride alot when it's wet. I was amazed at how much better it is riding when you don't have water spraying up on your crotch.

This bike was one of my most satisfying purchases. This is one of the bikes I want to be buried with. Its ride is true and predictable, and exceptionally comfortable. It's one of the Tom Kellogg designed frames. I don't race it, really just because it doesn't have that out-of-the-saddle snap that you need for a good racing bike. Perhaps as I get older and _my_ snap ceases to be anything of interest I'll start racing on it again.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What are they trying to sell?

Taco Bell's new Beefy Cheesy Melt.

Mind you, I'm a pervert. I admit it. Even as much as I appreciate it, I thought this was a little to overt for a prime time commercial. This is the first thing that popped into my mind whe I saw the commercial:

Is it just me, or is it................yeah, it's just me.