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Archive for July, 2010

Vot Are You Sinking About?

Right, then.

July has been pretty good, exercise-wise, if I do say so my damn self.  Admittedly, though, it’s been primarily focused on running, the aforementioned ride to Martinez notwithstanding.  I’ve gotten into a fairly good running schedule the past few weeks – working on sprints or doing speed work on Tuesdays, trying tempo runs on Thursdays and long runs on Saturdays.  To add to all this now, I’ve worked in swimming.  I’m quite fortunate in that there is a city pool about 8 minutes walking distance from my house and that they have a masters program that allows for slow individuals, not unlike myself.  It is a bit spendy, but I make that up by canceling the climbing gym as I haven’t been there in about two months and do not have any desire to go back (which I knew would happen as soon as I bought my harness and shoes….I’m shitty like that).

Once again, swimming has proven to be harder than it looks.  This time, however, I was aware of it.  The last time I got into swimming was in 2001 when I was training for a sprint distance triathlon.  At that time, I was running ~5 miles day and – naively – felt that running would be the hard part.  Oh, Christ was I wrong about that one.  See, a friend and I trained in a pool at his apartment complex, and I never realized how much I actually used the walls to push-off.  Thus, about 150 yards into a 400 yard swim, drowning was starting to sound like a viable option.  That said, I soldiered through and was, in fact, the last person in my wave to get out of the water.  To illustrate this fact a) the next wave was coming up behind me, and b) a race worker told me that they were about to come in and get me – which would have just added to the humiliation.  (Of course, after that, I did the 11 mile ride on a mountain bike with off-road tires that were inflated to 40 psig…so a lot of lessons were learned that day.)

Now, it’s a different story; I know what sort of Suck I’m getting myself in to.  To be fair, it’s been a week, and I am seeing improvements.  That said, there’s a long way to go.  Case in point:  When doing side kicks, I’m fairly at the surface of the water until I turn my head to take a breath – then I sink.  Exactly what the fuck is that about?  This, of course, is on top of just general form issues:  Don’t reach so far on the stroke; point your fingers down into the water; don’t bring your head up so far out of the water when you breathe.  Don’t bring my head up so far out of the water when I breathe?  Howthebloodyhell am I supposed to get air in, then?  If I don’t bring my head out of the water, then I will…breathe in water.  Which leads to drowning.  Which is inconvenient.

Then there’s the whole sinking thing.  I’m a sinker.  I sink.  Now, through some vigorous Googling, I’ve learned that this has to do with more muscle mass than fat.  OK – that’s always a good thing to hear, but I have a good 25 lbs of beer and pasta ba fongul on me that should provide some lovely buoyancy.  But no – there’s just enough to slow me down, but not enough to keep me a float.  What bollocks.

Anyway, enough of this.  I’m going to try to do a brick (biking + running) today, before I go to a BBQ this evening, so it’s time to get off the damn computer.

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A New Bike and The Fourth of July

Right, then…

It’s funny how things shake out.  After riding the Tour de Cure, I started looking at light/fast bikes (like the Orbea Aqua TTG) for an entry into the premium bike realm.  During that time (about a week after TdC, actually) my roommate came home from helping some friends move.  He informed me that, amongst the stuff they gave him, was an old bike – he took it thinking that I’d like to fix it up.  Cool!  I’ve had visions of building a cruiser, so maybe I might have lucked out with an old Schwinn or something.

As he was taking the stuff out of his trunk, he mentioned that the joints on this bike reminded him of my current bike.  As we got to the frame, I realized by “joints” he meant lugs.  Better, the reason why they reminded him of my bike is because it is, in effect, my bike:  An early 1970’s Dawes Galaxy with a 60 cm frame (albeit green; mine was originally this horrid shit brown).

OK, then – a free bike is still a free bike.  Even in this case, all I needed to do was pump up the tires (wheels were upgraded to 700C by the previous owner) and it was somewhat rideable, though needing a tune up.  Cool – maybe I’ll build a roadster instead of a cruiser, then.  I could do this on the side while I’m shopping for fancy, lightweight high-tech go-fast bikes…

…that was the plan until last Thursday.  Until then, I was expecting some nice, lucrative work to be happening in August and September, that could help me rationalize such a purchase.  On Thursday, my expectations were altered.  The good news is that the work is still going to happen…in January and February 2011.  I’ll let you figure out the bad news… (NOTE:  To be fair, this isn’t “bad” news like completely losing my job or getting cancer…it’s more “inconvenient” news.)

The other day, however, I was puttering about the garage and went to move the “new” bike and I realized that it was somewhat light.  True, my current bike is fitted with a Brooks saddle and a rack and fenders and heavier wheels and tires,  which makes it a bit weight.  However, when it was first stripped down, the frame itself was surprisingly light.  I had forgotten that until I picked the new bike up.  So now, the plan is to see if I can convert this into something light/fast.  Better yet, I’m toying with doing most of the work, myself (with the help of friends and the LBS, mind you – I’m not that ballsy).  One key thing is going to be fit.  With my height and inseam, I should be riding a ~57cm bike; this one is 60cm, so right now then hopes are that crank and stem and seat post selections can make the bike fit me.

But on to other things, now.  My riding mileage has been down a bit as a function of travel, mainly being gone on travel for three weeks in a row.  I did, however, make up for some of is this weekend, when I rode to a friends house in Martinez from Santa Clara.  According to Google maps and MapMyRide, it was right at 65 miles.  That said, there were a couple of detours, when a) I missed a turn, and b) reality did not match How Google Views The World.  The first item cost about 10 minutes, maybe; the second, closer to an hour, I’d reckon.  I don’t know the details, but what I do know is that Iron Horse Trail does not start at Bernal in Pleasanton.

The ride, itself, was pretty good, however as a lot of it was on trails.  I started on San Tomas Aquinas trail in Santa Clara, wound up to Coyote Creek trail behind the Wal-Mart at 237 and 880 up to Dixon Landing Road.  From there, it was surface streets for a while – Dixon Landing to Milpitas/Warm Springs Blvd/Osgood/Driscoll to Mission 238 up Niles Canyon Road.  All of these exposed me to commute traffic in one form or another, and there was a certain coolness of thinking “yes, I understand you’re on your way to work, but I’m riding my bike to go dick off for the weekend, so there.”  Naturally, traffic eased up on Niles Canyon, but there was the added stress of no bike lane and little to no shoulder at places.  I was lucky in that the folks behind me were not in that big of a hurry (this would have been different on a weekend day, I’d reckon).

The Iron Horse Trail debacle happened shortly thereafter.  Per the map, I was to turn on to a trail about 750 feet after getting on to Bernal from Foothill Rd.  Fair enough, I turn and right there is what looks like a trail that runs along side of a creek or canal or whateverthehell you’d call it.  Sort of rough asphalt, but doable.  Then we shifted over to rocks, which got squidgy.  I looked across the creek/whateveritscalled and noted that the path on that side was paved.  Oh, son of a bitch – I turned in too soon.  Maybe there’s a bridge that I can get across on.  Nope, not one.  Perhaps I could just carry the bike down the embankment, across the stream and back up?  No – the water is too deep and filled with something that looked like algae and phlegm had a love child.  There is, however, a cross street waaay up ahead – I bet I can get across on that.  So after rocks and gravel of varying magnitudes, I get to that cross street…which turns out to be I-580.  To make matters worse, that’s where the trail stops – there is no continuation, so in effect, I went down a dead-end of shitty path, only to have to back track.  I am awarded no points; may god have mercy on my soul.

Well, shit.  So I head back to Bernal, then try to find the entrance to the other side – after wandering through the adjacent neighborhoods, I came up with nada.  So I took surface streets to the other side of I-580 and was able to pick up the trail again, stopping along the way to top off my tanks before setting out.

I like the concept of Iron Horse Trail.  It’s a former Southern Pacific right of way that has been converted thanks to the help of the nice folks at Rails to Trails.  One problem – unlike San Tomas Aquinas trail, which has underpasses for most of the way – Iron Horse makes you stop at every cross street.  Mind you, this also winds through suburban areas, so you can go less than a mile, then need to stop.  I did have thoughts of blowing the signs (much like the other riders on the trail), but a) I’m sort of self-righteous about stopping at signs and b) it’s best not to jack with police forces that in small, well-moneyed towns like Pleasanton, San Ramon and Danville.

The problem I dealt with along the way is that I never was really sure when I was supposed to turn.  I knew that I was now looking for Contra Costa Canal Trail, but I was afraid that – well – there’d be no sign.  That, and the fact that it was getting hotter led me to make a lot more stops to consult the map and sit in the shade a bit.  Since that touch of heat exhaustion during TdC (and damn near baking myself when I was training for the marathon last year), I try to be more aware of the temp.

In all, with stops for resting and detours, it took 7:05 (I figure about 1 hour for stop lights and resting; 45 minutes for the Iron Horse Debacle).  The best part was the reaction of my hosts, as they had no idea what I set out to do.  A veritable plethora off adjectives were hurled towards one – only some of which complimentary, most of which questioned my mental state.  Then again, I’ve never been accused of being normal.

The weekend itself was great.  Lobster and Tri Tip on Saturday.  Tri tip and lobster scampi salad on Sunday.  Along with lots o’ beerths.  Being one to know the existence of limitations, I took Amtrak home, which was an enjoyable experience – I did not have to fight to get the bike on board, and I got to sit back and watch the Bay Area go by for two hours.  I hopped off at the Santa Clara station and found myself riding home on the same trail I set out on, 78 hours earlier.

The nice thing about this is that, save for a little tiredness and a tweaked right quad (which could be as much from the running as anything) I’m fine.  Marathon running takes a lot out of me, but biking is a lot easier on the body.

Even with all the things that happened, I enjoyed it; I look forward to doing it again.

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