Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winter ride reminder (don't let this happen to you)

Don't let this happen to you. I saw this on the news last night and thought of my fellow outdoor junkies. Remember to keep a careful eye on things while you're out in the cold. I'm sure we can all second guess this guy's instincts on keeping running AND not checking his feet even though they were "frozen", but it's up to each of us to make sure our body parts stay intact through the cold season.

With this being my first winter of riding, maybe I'm a bit more cautious than the seasoned veterans, but I try to keep a wary watch on how my extremities are feeling when I'm out in this stuff. Shoot, I'm used to being cold as a veteran of numerous years of ice fishing without a shack on local farm ponds, but I'm usually wearing several layers plus heavy pack boots on my feet so I don't worry much. With just some wool socks and mountain bike shoes on, I'm a lot more sensitive to how cold my feet are getting. I made the mistake a few weeks back of throwing on an extra layer of socks which made my shoes very tight. This actually compounded my issues because not only did my feet get cold, but now the circulation was compromised and made them even colder. After the first loop on the trails, I peeled off the outer layer of socks, leaving just my new wool toe socks. I also made the mistake of sticking my feet under the heater in the truck for a few minutes hoping for a quick warm-up. As I'm sure many of you have experienced, that is nothing but a recipe for intense pain! I quickly abandoned that thought, laced back up, and headed out for round two. My feet were still cold this time around, but they were definitely warmer with the added circulation coming back into play.

Good luck to all riding on the gravel hundy this weekend. Wish I could go, but work forces me to be in Okoboji this weekend. At least I'll get to freeze my fanny this weekend.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No weekend riding

I had every intention of riding this weekend... No, really, I did. I couldn't really find anyone crazy enough to get out in the negative temperatures with me this weekend. At least I ended up slightly productive by cleaning our office and starting to get ready for tax season.

I'm such a procrastinator when it comes to taxes. We've filed for extensions the last 2 years in a row. It's not that I'm trying to put off paying as I don't think we've ever had to pay, it's just that with running a couple small side businesses, I have a ton of extra paperwork to get filed and for anyone that knows me, I don't tend to keep up on organizing them through the year. I do just fine on keeping all of my receipts together and being able to find pretty much everything once I get to doing it, but there are literally hours of sorting involved that I dread!

Saturday, I finally got out to the garage for the first time this year and the first time in quite a while actually. I have my own car/engine project to finish and one for a customer that has been dragging on for almost 3 years waiting for payments and such. It's finally paid in full and about 90% of the parts are here for that project so it was time to figure out what was left to order for both the projects and see how that impacted my fun budget. As it turns out, I had quite a few of the bolts, seals, and misc parts all ready bought for the customer's project so I just need to finish out my build list of parts and get it going. The nice thing about my garage, even though it's a bit packed with material since my enclosed trailer is doing storage duty for my parents, is that I have it heated with a pretty kick ass 90,000 BTU radiant heater that runs on propane. Even with the outside temps completely negative it was 60ish in the garage! As I shut everything down for the night I noted a few places where frost was actually building up from the cold air outside coming in through gaps and hitting the warm moist air in the garage. It's pretty wild to see steam coming into the garage.

Sunday was a bit more of the same household stuff with the exception that we got a few hours kid free in the afternoon thanks to Grandma! It was a nice change of pace to be kid free since little one has been sick this past week and extra clingy/whiny. I'm sure any of you parents (or spouses) probably know that whine and cry they get when they're sick. Definitely a nerve wracker! So, with her out of the house we got some productivity in the office and the bedroom ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

That's using your head

This weekend was full of riding the center trails both mornings. We met for a hearty breakfast and coffee around 7 and headed to the trails at 8. I chased the group for close to 2 hours each morning and ended up totally soaked with sweat by the time I was done.

Saturday I was initially worried about the trail conditions as they were a glaze of ice the previous weekend and we opted to do a road loop instead. As I was fiddling with my bike I didn't notice the group head off to tackle Rollercoaster so I found myself off the back before the ride even started. I never really got close to catching them after that. I passed them a few times where the singletrack makes a close pass while it's winding back through Denman's woods, but that was about it.

My fears about the ice had been alleviated by the light skiff of snow that had fallen a few days earlier making a semi grippy crust on the ice. Sliding around was fun, but not hair raising like the last ice ride I did with Fuller. I saw him lawn dart it numerous times and went down hard a few times myself on that ride.

About halfway through Denman's I was making pretty good time for me and just enjoying the flow of the ride. As I was coming through a relatively easy section, I got a bit too close to a tree with my left shoulder. I smacked it fairly hard (I didn't realize until later that day when the bruise showed up) and then shot off to the right side of the trail. As I was in the process of being propelled off my bike from the force of the hit, I managed to stop myself. Unfortunately, I was stopped by driving the top of my head dead center into a tree that was a good 4 or 5 feet off the side of the trail. I remember hearing a distinctive crunch as I hit the tree and rolled off to the side groaning loudly.

As I flipped onto my back with pain shooting down my neck and into my back, my first thought was how long am I going to have to lay here until someone finds me. Luckily I ride with my cell phone and thought about grabbing it to call the group right away. I slowly cleared out of my daze though and realized I could still feel and move everything just fine. I lay there for a minute or two getting my wits back about me and sat up to survey my situation. As luck (ha!) would have it, I wasn't seriously hurt and my bike was just fine. I did later find that I'd twisted the handlebars about 1" off center line.

I gingerly got back on the bike and resumed my chase of the group. I kept the pace down through the rest of Denman's and started to slowly pick it back up again once I got to Squirrel's nest. Just shy of getting to the old firepit, I ran into the group making the return loop so I called it good for the day and turned around. I didn't last long hanging on the tail, but managed to catch up and share my tail of woe back at the parking lot. My helmet still looked to be in good shape with no visible damage other than some scratches to the outer shell. I'm still planning on replacing it which pains me a bit as it is less than a year old. Luckily I found it for closeout at half the price I paid new so I don't even need to think about trying for a crash replacement through Bell.

Sunday we repeated the ride right down to breakfast and were joined by a few different riders in the group. I didn't fall off the back as quickly and managed to make the firepit before meeting up with the group returning again. I even avoided all the trees. Squirrel was kind enough to shoot a picture of a few of us hanging out for a second at the firepit.

Even though my neck and back were hurting off the bike, I felt great on the ride and really enjoyed being out on such a beautiful day. I'm slowly getting back to feeling normal about now. I saw the chiropractor first thing on Monday and though he adjusted me, it didn't do much for the overall "cramped" feeling I was having in my back. At least that's starting to subside just in time for the weekend! Now I just wonder if we'll be riding in the new powder and frigid temps...

Shameless self promotion

I'm pretty sure there are still very few people reading the blog, but for those that do, I've got a bit of a self plug here, so bear with me.

We're having a sale for Valentine's day at our lingerie/toy store. Check it out and hopefully you find something you like.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming, whatever the hell that may be....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesdays with Punks?

The last two Tuesday mornings I've managed to drag my butt out of bed in time to make it downtown for coffee with these fine people. The banter is mostly light and fun with some great people who've been very inviting even though nobody there really knows me from Adam.

As I sit here and should be fiendishly working on my projects, I can't help but ponder a few random thoughts. It's been a number of years since I've worked to make any new friendships other than with people I'm thrown into some situation with i.e. coworkers, friends of friends, etc. The last group of people I found myself entwined with of my of volition were a group of various people on one of the car forums I frequent. I just showed up one day, starting reading the forums and engaging various members. Soon enough I guess I'd built up some street "cred" and even had people referencing some of my posts and such. I even managed to meet up with a guy that happened to live about 20 minutes from me who was another maniacal tinkerer. We struck up a great friendship and sadly we've actually both moved into other areas of interest for our hobbies so the friendship has drawn down to a low simmer.

So what does this all have to do with cycling? Nothing much, other than they're the object of my effort to make some new friends. I definitely found a few new friends by attending the group rides all summer last year and I have to say the vast majority of the people I met were extremely nice. The odd thing about this time around is that there is no security blanket of a forum to learn, expand, and be recognized in. Other than reading some of the local blogs and stirring the pot a bit, I actually have to show up and meet people without really know them which is a bit odd for me. While I wouldn't necessarily classify myself as a loner by any means, I do seem to keep a pretty limited amount of friends at any given time, with few of those being what I'd consider close friends, and rather find myself spending a lot of time hanging out and doing my own thing.

I think part of that mentality about hanging out alone is what brought me to the sport of cycling. It gives me the opportunity to go out and be by myself while engaging in an activity that I can focus on in lieu of the million other things that typically run through my head in a non-stop stream. Yet, the ironic part is I find myself wanting to be a part of the fellowship of riders and slowly driving myself to be a better cyclist to better fit in. Of course, the funniest part of all is, it's all in my head. I'm sure I could show up at just about any given race, ride, coffee time and be treated just as nicely by any of these people. They're really a great lot.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Remodel woes

I'm sure my ones of readers missed me over the holidays. OK, so I was too busy, stressed, and otherwise unmotivated to post anything up for a while, but I'm back for better or worse (probably more the latter). I'm sure any of my close friends, who I'm pretty sure don't even know I have a blog, have heard me drone on and on about my basement remodel. Now I'll entertain you good people with the same tales of woe....

My source of frustration, stress, and late nights this holiday season was not the holiday itself, but a simple mandate from my loving wife?! We were to have a family Christmas at our house, but in order to do so, I needed finish our basement remodel or at least have it presentable enough that we could entertain down there. A little back story is that I've been slowly working my way through our basement turning it from a semi-finished 70's hangout and my high school/college bedroom into a place we'd actually willingly put people up in. I started the project over a year ago by ordering all of the construction material we'd need at once which was my first big mistake. Having all the lumber, drywall, electrical, and insulation material sitting in the midst of the area you need to remodel isn't the best plan of attack.

I started off with great enthusiasm and some good help from my lovely wife. We stripped out the old finishes and painted the bare block with some new waterproofing and sealer. After that, we had various friends come help with a couple projects in trade for my labor on some of their projects. I put in a new egress window, framed, drywalled, and ran electric in the new guestroom. This first phase seemingly only took a month or two. Then the project sat while we worked on a few other things. I think namely this was about the time our daughter was born and I had to turn my attention to prepping her room for arrival. Eventually I got back to the basement and another long weekend with help had us framing half the main room and having drywall put up. This phase then took on a death of it's own and sat pretty much untouched from last winter through most of the summer.

As summer wrapped up to an end, the idea was again floated of having family Christmas in the space and that I should probably start working again. I slowly managed to get most of the mudding and sanding finished up in the first half of the space. As I briefly mentioned before, it was a huge mistake having all the building materials for the entire project delivered at once. I'm not sure how many hours were spent working around or laterally moving various piles of material. Finally, late in October it was decided that I really better get my butt in gear on trying to finish this off if we were indeed going to have family over to celebrate. I put together my schedule of work to complete and managed to have a full week off before Christmas. Heh, anyone who knows me or has worked on remodels, knows the schedule never rings true. As such, I worked every night and weekend for at least 6 weeks to transform the main living space in the basement into something worthy of having friends and family gather in.

Here we are roughly the end of the summer:

Here's a shot with about 12 days left until Christmas:

I won't leave you with a cliffhanger, so suffice it to say, my hard work did pay off. Although we didn't set our tree up until Christmas eve and there still remains a few evenings worth of odds and ends work, everything that needed to be done, was done.

Here are a few pictures of the (semi)finished product:

First road ride of the year

With the warm temps outside on Saturday, the roads were beckoning. As luck would have it, I scored information and an invite to tag along with a group ride mostly comprised of guys from All 9 Yards and a representative of the local orphanage. As I suspected, I was severely outgunned for the ride, but alas, such is the life of a non-racing, newbie roadie.

Even though I showed up with a gun (regular road bike) to a knife fight (knobby tired cross and mountain bikes) I still ended up getting slashed to bits as soon as the road turned steep. I actually did pretty well on the flats and slight grades, but as soon as we started hitting anything over 5% grade I flew out the back of the pack quick as lightning. Unfortunately for me, the only slower rider was even further back which meant riding by myself for the back half of the ride. Poor Steve fared worse than I bringing a rock to the fight as he was on an old steel Schwinn that looked like it was built to the same standards as a Sherman tank and probably weighed roughly the same.

All in all, the ride was an excellent burn. 48 miles, 2000 feet of climbing, some good conversation (when I could keep up), and enjoying the sun on my face. I couldn't ask for a lot more other than that pesky quad cramp that threatened to send me to the ground sobbing like a baby.... but I digress. I guess one of my goals for the year should be trying to keep up with the fast group for an entire ride. I'm sure I'll get used to being shot out the back!

Sunday was supposed to be a couple hours of winding my way through the center trails on the mountain bike. Alas, it was not to be. With the warm weather I was anticipating slushy and wet conditions, but not ready for the single track to be hard packed ice due to thaw and refreeze. After a scant hundred yards or so, my friend and I decided we'd fare much better and probably with less pain by heading out on the pave trails and road. We looped through Water Works, through Gray's Lake, and around Principal Park for a relaxing 14 miles. It was just enough to get some endurance miles in and keep from stressing the muscles relaxing from the day before.