One helluva title, no?
NOTE: This is a rambling, unedited stream of consciousness post, so apologies for that.
Things have been…well…things…since the last post.
The diet went to shit. I sort of knew this would happen, so it’s not that surprising. I can only do low-carb for so long without it snapping back at me. So, lotsa weight came back.
The eating was also in part due to stress/burnout/depression over work. I’m in sort of a losing situation and I get like that when I realize that I’m hosed. The pisser is that it’s a good company, but my reporting structure is wrong – the way it’s set up creates a conflict of interest and my department is on the losing end. Of course, we are facing increasing standards and scrutiny, with limited to decreasing support. So that sucks.
Fortunately, I already had vacation scheduled that happened to coincide with my 1 year anniversary. This was 5 days/6 nights bicycling through Glacier NP, up to Waterton Lake Park in Canada and back down again. Overall, it was a good trip, gorgeous scenery and a total of ~160 miles. Originally, I thought we would be doing 300 miles, but there were different options that – considering my deteriorating physical state (see diet/eating, above) and emotional state (see burnout, above and another development, below) my mental state was very much off-step, so the “fuck it” option was selected more than I had originally planned.
So, burnout. In addition to work burn out, I got burnt out on riding about 6 weeks before the trip. To be honest, this could be more related to work than riding, as I was not pushing huge miles, in my opinion. There were other things – mainly schedule (assholes scheduling 8:30am meetings, having to be on call at a different campus, etc…) that contributed, but in the end, my heart was not in it. Oddly, now that the trip is over and there’s no real pressure, I’m sort of looking forward to riding again.
Now, the “new” development that helped my mental game deteriorate: My brother died, rather unexpectedly. One week before his 51st birthday. He was already in the hospital to get a cancerous tumor removed from a kidney, but that had a great prognosis. In fact, no cancer had actually gotten into the kidney tissue; it was all on the surface. But, something got botched up during surgery and he started throwing blood clots, so when he came to, he had lost mobility from he waist down. That was fucked. The doctors figured that he had a stroke in his spinal cord above where the anesthesiologist put in the needle for the epidural (which caused bruising). So, again, fucked, but everything from the waist up was just fine, just he’d be facing the next 20 to 30 years in a wheelchair. I last saw him in the ER on a Tuesday (he was admitted, but they could not move in upstairs as there were no beds). I had taken a couple of days off to be down there for the surgery and was heading back up to work. The plan was to come back down on the weekend to get a bead on the situation, and then tell mom (who knew about none of this). The last thing I said to him was “see you later.” On Thursday afternoon, I got a call from my sister in laws phone – it was an ER nurse saying that my brother was having trouble breathing. When I asked what they think it was, she replied that they thought he was having a heart attack. I tell the nurse to let my sister in law know that the cavalry was coming, shut down, let my boss know, and got on the road.
This meant I was trying to cover 165 miles, 50 of which are in Bay Area traffic, at 3:30 on a Thursday afternoon. I gave him even odds that he’d be alive when I got there. I called my girlfriend and let her know that I would not be coming over that night. I called another close friend of mine, who – coincidentally enough – had just lost her niece in a car accident and was still dealing with that. About an hour later, as I was driving through south San Jose, I got another call from my sister in law’s phone. It was my brother’s boss (he had been visiting earlier in the day; SIL had called him back as soon as my brother had trouble breathing). He introduced himself. In the background, I could hear my sister in law sobbing. “Well, judging by the sound of my sister in law, I’m guessing you have some bad news for me.” And that’s when he told me that my brother had died. He offered his condolences and I told him that I knew this was a hard call to make and that I appreciated that he did so and thanked him for working with my brother for many years. I can’t remember how I ended the call. I called my girlfriend. She happened to be in Gilroy at the time, so I agreed to stop and see her before continuing on. I called my friend. The day before, I had reached out to our company EAP to line up time with a therapist to talk about my brothers paralysis as it was weighing heavy on me. In addition to getting in-person sessions, they also said that I had access to 24×7 phone counseling, if things got heavy. This qualified, so I called them. I was still numb, but I knew that I’d have the chore of telling our mother that her son had just died. I called another friend. I called another friend. I was on the road for most of the trip down. I got to Fresno and told mom. She was numb; she didn’t really believe it at first. Not that she thought I was lying, but it just didn’t sink in. I spent most of Friday on the phone – fielding phone calls from family and talking to the hospital and coroner, trying to get an autopsy lined up. I was spent by 4pm. My girlfriend came down on the weekend and helped out. My sister in law and mother thanked her and said that I really needed her. I didn’t feel that way, but I guess that I was telegraphing things that I wasn’t aware of. Not that I wasn’t happy for her to be there, but I thought I was holding my own. I spent Monday trying to sort out his financial affairs. Being the opposite of me, he spent a little more than he made, so some things were past due. I made sure that the utilities and house payments were current for the month. I reached out to lawyers. I instructed my sister in law to contact his HR department for life insurance. We went to a mortuary and lined up cremation. I did not cry once, through all of this.
The following Tuesday, I was a back at work. I figured there was nothing to do in the time being, and we had a global department meeting that I wanted to attend. One of the managers said that she was surprised I was there. The senior manager said the same, but said that he was happy to see me there. I resorted to humor “Do you think I’d miss an opportunity to editorialize about our programs? It’s very therapeutic!” We had a good laugh. If I could stay focused on work, then the numb, heavy pressure on the front and top of my head could be kept at bay. Once my mind was no longer occupied, the heavy numbness would increase. During a break, my manager handed me a sympathy card signed by everyone in my department. I started to open it, and saw the front and felt the tears coming up: “I’m not going to do this now” and closed the envelope. Later that night, I read it at my girlfriends house and was fine. Waiting for my flight to SEATAC, I re-read it with the same effect.
I saw a therapist the Thursday before I left for vacation. She said that going on the vacation was a good thing, as well, so I was happy to be validated. This is a new person I got through the company EAP, so she’s not used to my sense of humor. But she did note that I do have one and said “When someone asks you how you are doing, I can see you saying ‘I’m sad, but I don’t know it, yet’.” Shit, she got it in one. That’s how I feel.
I wanted to touch back on drinking, before I wrap this up. Back in February 2011, I wrote this. When I wrote that, I did not know how long I would not have a drink. At the time, I think it was a temporary stop; just a pause to chill out, regain composure and not make an ass of myself. That temporary stop lasted almost 5 1/2 years. 5 years, 5 months and 3 days later, I had a drink. We were sitting in the Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park on our second night of the trip. Earlier in the day, they made reference to whether or not I would want a beer, to which I gave them my “Well, that has merit” face. This led to the discussion that I was the only one really making me do this; it’s not like there was a judge that made me. So, before dinner, my friends wanted champagne: “Would you want some, if we ordered it?” I thought for about 5 seconds: “You know what? Why the fuck not.” My reasons were simple: 1) I missed the taste, generally, 2) I missed being able to have a drink, and 3) after my brother had unexpectedly died, I realized that things can end just like that, so I should enjoy the things that I enjoy. Mind you, I’m not looking to get hammered, and I’m avoiding drinking when I’m experiencing emotions. But, I have been having a beer or a scotch or a glass of wine, without getting drunk. I look forward to meeting with friends that I used to drink with in the future for a beer or two. I haven’t told my girlfriend yet, but I think she’ll be OK with it because I’m going to be OK. And that’s how 5 years, 5 months and 3 days of being completely sober ended.
I’m tired, now. I’m still on Mountain time – 1 hour ahead – and want to go to sleep.
Nothing really exciting, today…
I’ve been following a couple of different eating plans – for lack of a better phrase – since the start of 2015. At the beginning, I was off of all foods that knowingly had added sugar. I say knowingly as it seems every goddamn thing has high fructose corn syrup in it – even stuff that isn’t sweet – and I’m intermittently good at reading labels. So candy was out, but tomato sauce makes it past the censor. The only sweets I ate were fruit and carrots; everything else – pasta, bread, meat, corn chips, etc… – were fair game.
That sort of worked for the first 6 months of 2015 – I lost about 20 lbs. Then what happened was life stresses and a job change. So while I was still avoiding added sugars, the stuff that I was allowing myself to eat was increasing in volume. Eating in volume is something I’m really really good at. If I’m lucky these periods coincide with compulsive exercising so – at worst – I maintain my weight. In this case, 10 lbs came back on.
At the start of this year, I went low carb. Pasta, bread and chips are now exiled and eggs, bacon, cheese and meat meat – in their various luxurious forms – are in, as is low-carb candy (no sugar, but artificial sweeteners…which is probably going to give me cancer of the spleen, or something, but you gotta go sometime). This came about due to two things: Some friends did low carb and lost weight, and I read Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog, by Grant Petersen. The low carb/weight loss correlation does not surprise me as I did the Atkins diet in the early 2000’s, and it worked. So, I initially dropped about 15 lbs, I think (I didn’t weigh myself exactly on January 1, so I had a few days to lose water weight). Anyway, the last few weeks, I haven’t been so good – at least on the weekends. The first weekend was Easter which there was a thing at the Girlfriends brother and sister-in-laws…I had some chips. Then we went to a big wheel race party in SF…and I had everything else. But I got back on the plan on Monday (if not Sunday night). Then last weekend was Carmel and this weekend was…this weekend. No real occasion to speak of. OK, to be fair, we went to a child’s birthday party – a friend of my GF’s daughter; they had cake. And chips…and therein lies the rub.
Like the last time I did a low-carb diet, I certainly was not hungry. But then, I don’t normally eat for hunger. I mean, I do, but stay with me here: I eat for most other reasons in addition to hunger: I’m happy, sad, tired, well-rested, stressed, relaxed, etc… But the thing that low-carb lacks – the thing that I start to crave – is crunchy food.
Don’t start in about almonds and celery and such, either; you know what I mean. I want chips. Corn chips, tortilla chips, potato chips, you name it.
Also – as I’ve intimated above as well as probably in earlier posts – I don’t stick with any one thing over the long term. I can be great for 8 months and then BANG! It’s over.
So, that’s how I’ve been doing with that.
As for riding, the past two weeks have been low on mileage. Naturally with Easter and being out of town, I did not get my normal weekend ride in. Also as I was on call last week, I could not realistically cycle commute. But today, we did a 34 mile training ride and I noted that I can spend a lot more time in the big ring…something that I rarely ever spent time on. This tells me that – despite having slacked off the past two weeks – my fitness is increasing. So I’m thinking that my commuting on the fixed gear might be paying off.
It might be time to do more weekend rides on the fixed gear to see how well I do.
Enough of this.
Just some random stuff going on since the last posting. Been trying to get out on the bike more for training, but the past couple of weeks, that’s been limited to commuting on the fixed gear; I’ve missed my weekend rides due to scheduling conflicts (last weekend was Easter and this weekend I took the GF to Carmel as a sort of late birthday trip/end of holiday getaway).
The commuting itself has been good, but I’m trying to get into consecutive days of riding in order to get my legs used to it. The rains have stopped for now, so they’ve been fairly dry rides. The only irritating thing was that I’ve developed a creak on the non-drive side crank, so part of today’s thing was to throw some more torque on the bolt, which seemed to do the trick. Also, I lowered the basket a bit, which allows a better hand position in the drops (the handlebars are too narrow for the basket, so it’s right up against the drops).
I still haven’t put on the new stem and handlebars on the adventure bike. I started to this afternoon, but didn’t feel like dicking with it…so I took it up and down the block a couple of times and put it back…maybe later…
This weekend, we’re doing a training ride in the Devils Slide area in Pacifica, so hopefully that will get me back into some hill work and maybe some longer distance (I need to start doing >24 mile rides). Backroads just took the final payment for the trip, so I guess this is actually going to happen!
I’ve been thinking about what I’d do if I only had room for one bike. Would I keep any of the bikes I have? Or sell them all and buy something completely different. Would it be geared or single speed? Fixed or freewheel? Upright bars or drops? I think if that ever came to pass, I’d have to have some deep conversations with Tahn to sort out those details.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought an Olympus XA-2 – a 35mm point and shoot camera, with a 35mm f/2.8 lens – to take on the trip to Glacier. I did a test roll of random stuff from around the neighborhood and it came out perfect! No light leaks, meter works great, lens is sharp. I’m going to load this up and try to keep it on one of the bikes for impromptu shots while on rides.
I have a couple of old SLR’s – a Minolta XG-7 and a Pentax K-1000 – that were discovered to have light leaks. Around Christmas, I ordered new foam seals for them and have been dragging my ass on actually replacing the seals. The job is not hard, but a little tedious…it can get messy and you have to do a fairly good job of getting all of the old foam out of the camera body, or there won’t be a good seal. Also, you have to be careful to not get any schmutz inside of the camera or it will foul up the film and other mechanism. I did all of the seals on the K-1000, save for the mirror seal (which looked OK) and the hinge seal on the Minolta (I had it CLA’d and resealed around 2000, so I think they’re still in good shape. Now, they’re sitting open to let the acetone vaporize off (needed that to remove the old seals) before I reload them with a test roll to see if I fixed the problem…or made it worse. Side benefit: While I was at the table working on this, I was chatting with a housemate who used to be a professional photographer – he offered me up his remain stash of Fujifilm Velvia 100 slide film…so that worked out nicely.
I’ve been shooting with the SRT-100, which is a great, manual camera. However, I’m finding some limitations: 1) It only goes up to 1/500th shutter speed (which can be a problem when shooting in bright light) and 2) it’s a little big and heavy to carry around all the time…you don’t notice it at first, but after a while, you feel your forearm straining. Also, after handling the XG-7 this evening, I did not appreciate how small and light it was. So, if my light leak fix works, I might put the SRT up for sale and use the money to buy some lenses for the K-1000.
The girlfriend and I drove down to Carmel for the weekend. It was sort of an impromptu trip – her daughter was going to spend part of the weekend with her aunt and her father, which gave us the idea to head down the coast for a day trip and she picked Carmel, which was fine by me. This worked out well in that normally, for her birthday (which was last month) I take her up to Mendocino for the weekend, but due to scheduling issues, we weren’t able to make that happen, so I was glad we were able to do this all the same. Also – as she’s a teacher – this was her last day of spring break before heading back, so she needed a final bout of relaxation before entering the back stretch of the school year.
I hadn’t been to Carmel in 20 years and it was…nice…but not thrilling. The thing about Carmel – it’s a great place to eat and buy expensive, yet things (e.g. Artwork, tchotchkes, expensive clothes (which all are very flowing…for women, at least), but once you’ve done those things, there’s not much else to do – sort of like Monterey. So after wandering through shops, we grabbed dinner, had a coffee and were back at the hotel by 8:30 watching TV.
So, we’re not the most exciting people.
To be fair, we’d probably be doing more if she were more of a drinker and if I drank at all, but even then, there’s a limit to that.
This morning, after lounging around and having a late breakfast we wandered down to the beach until the fog burned off, then headed back on home.
Not much of a finish for this, so there you go. Tomorrow, back to work for the next 5 days.
I reckon sooner or later this – like the Ghostbusters remake – was bound to happen. They say there will be another MIMW, but – also, like the Ghostbusters remake – I don’t have high hopes.
So now that I have the Bob Jackson sorted out in fixed gear trim, my attentions returned to the Jamis. For all intents and purposes, it’s together, but needing dial in. The chain was too long, so the derailleur collapses upon itself when in low gear. Also, the handlebars are are too low for my taste and the stem is at max height. Finally, I wanted to pick up a set of dirt drop bars to try out.
When I buy something, I have a general rule: If I go into a shop and ask questions about a product, I buy it from them. Conversely, if I can do my own research and figure out what I need, and am willing to wait, I’ll buy online. Never, will I ask questions about something in a shop, then buy it online…that’s just tacky. Tonight, however, I did the opposite: Researched online and bought in a store. I know I paid about 25% more for the handlebars, stem and quick link (including the quick link tool that I didn’t know I needed until the guy showed it to me) than if I bought them online. But, that’s OK. I like that there’s a place that I can walk in to and ask 90 questions and get decent answers from, so it’s not too bad of a premium. Also, truth be told, I get a little charge from going into the shop. You don’t get that from buying off of Amazon.
Back to the Bobby J, I took the derailleur cables off, the other day, as my tape up job was loosening and the cables were flopping around and looking Jenky. I’ve decided to hold off on swapping out the 15T cog after reading that Sheldon Brown had his bike set up at 42/15…if he can live with that, then I sures the hell can gut it out for a while.
Related, methinks I’m starting to gain some fitness. Last Sunday, I did my normal Canada Rd loop and the climb to Polemus Rd at the end was not as arduous as it usually is. Also, I wasn’t completely wiped at the end of the ride, like normal. So I got that going for me…which is nice.
Unrelated: Did I mention I got into film cameras, last year? Nothing like eschewing technology for something that may or may not be better. Anyway, for the trip to Glacier NP this summer, I’ve decided that none of the 8 or so cameras I already have are small enough for bike touring, so I’m now trolling eBay. I’ve settled on an Olympus XA-2…small, light, excellent optics, 3 focus settings and a thumb wheel for winding (so no extra batteries needed for an autowinder). Problem I’m having is that folks overvalue their 35 year old cameras, so trying to find one cheap is going to be a challenge. But I’ve got time…
First, I’m typing this on the iPad as my MacBook died and I left my work MacBook at…well…work (don’t like taking that on a bike commute). So, if this is poorly punctuated, or spelled, you know why.
Anyway, maiden voyage on the Bob Jackson after I converted it to fixed. What’s nice is that the FG muscle memory from 5 years ago (yes, it’s been that long) stuck around, so I picked it right back up, no problem. As suspected, however, the 15T cog is geared crazy tall, so it was a push on all surfaces except the slight downhills.
Uphills are a thing…I mean, they alway were, but now I can’t drop down to a 34T cog and go for it. Also, did I mention I live on the side of a hill? Nothing massive, but enough to that I have to stand on the pedals to get up them Hell I have to stand on the pedals to get going from a stop while on the flats. If there’s a stop sign going uphill, I check my 9, 12 and 3 and go for it. Pisser with that is that I lose my moral high ground when it comes to other assholes that regularly blow stop signs.
Also, I fitted a Wald medium basket to the front. I noticed that when I have full panniers on the back, it gets light in the front, so now I have a way of balancing it out, a bit. Small challenge was that the basket it just barely narrow enough to fit between the drops, but I was able to mount it low enough to make it work. The few pounds up there do seem to make a difference, handling-wise.
So the verdict: I like it! I missed riding FG. While I’m overgeared, I’m inclined to gut it out with this configuration in order to get in to shape. Maybe after a while, I’ll either get a bigger cog or even one of those slick Surly dingle x cog things.
…I built up a fixed gear.
So, to be fair, fixed gear and masochism are not always linked. Fixed gear and living on the side of a hill and cycle commuting with about 15 to 17 lbs of stuff, plus being on the heavier side anyway….that’s masochist. Also, did I tell you that I’m running 42/15 for a sweet 2.8:1 gear ratio? That’s great for the hills, no? Because I’m not an idiot, I put an 18T freewheel on the other side.
To be fair to me, I set out to get something closer to a 16T rear cog. But once I got to Walt’s, they were all out of 16’s (I guess that’s a popular size). Channeling my inner Veruca Salt, I wanted it now, so I said “Screw it” and got the 15T that was on the peg. Using the magical Sheldon Brown Gear Calculator I figure I got 75.6 gear inches with the 15T; 63 with the 18T freewheel. I think I’m over geared. But at least I have a fixed gear bike, again…though I might be pushing it up some parts… They say that you gain fitness by riding fixed…I sure hope so, or I’m about to subject myself to some serious torture for no good reason at all…
I also have a basket on it, now. I ordered one of those Wald medium baskets because when I put fairly loaded panniers on the back, the front gets light. So maybe I can put some clothes and shoes or something up front to even out the load. It’s a bitch as the handlebars are a little too narrow and they rub on the basket, but I think I mounted it low enough that I might be OK. The bummer is that the clamps for the basket took up the little free bar space I had for a light and bell. Regardless, I look forward to trying to ride with a load on the front to see how differently the bike handles.
As for training, I’ve found a loop that takes me from the girlfriends house along a routed with varying hills for 22 to 25 miles, depending on if I turn or do an out-and-back. Last Sunday, however, a friend and I did 32 miles through Woodside, primarily on Canada Rd. I was on the Raleigh, which has taller gearing than the touring bikes, so it was a decent workout. One day, I might be good enough to do that on the fixed gear.
Also, members of the bike tour group signed up for the 100K Tierra Bella route at the end of April. That’s going to be interesting, I think. I figure that if we can complete the 62 miles, then we’re in pretty good shape for the bike tour. I got 2 months to get in to shape. Oiy.