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.


solobreak said...

The new look is curiously artsy and professional...

Screw cycling. Buy some sledgehammers and work it girl! That will delay your descent into madness more than anything.

zencycle said...

solobreak said...
Screw cycling. Buy some sledgehammers and work it girl! That will delay your descent into madness more than anything.

"becasue it's illegal to use children and pets"