Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hrm. I think my motherboard is DOA.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Constant Overtraining:

"They" say you don't really realize when you are pushing the edge of over-training, and they're probably right. I mean, what is OVER training? Shouldn't you always ride more? And then there are those nutcases that seem to insist that all you should do is rest, take it easy, recover recover recover. When do you actually go hard?

Over the past few weeks I've been riding a fair bit less than when I was full-bore into the base of the winter. I've always said there is something pretty sick about Cascadian bike racers' training plans: essentially you have to put in massive hours in stupid weather that's just barely manageable to ride in. You know those days, when the low is thirty-five degrees and the high is forty-one and why on earth are you meant to put in back to back five hour days in this crap?

Then summer shows up and it's absolutely glorious outside and you can't even ride your damned bike because you've got a race in two days and you don't want to overextend yourself and blah blah blah.


Anyhow, and by riding less I mean that the twenty plus hour weeks have taken a break, and it's more like fifteen. This past week I took it pretty easy indeed, especially as I had to work a fair bit of overtime, and only trained about ten hours, plus my six mile daily commute. Pretty weird, eh? Well, I noticed when I did ride that, oh my gosh, I am fully recovered. No lingering fatigue in my legs, no internal protest at the thought of saddling up for the third time in a day.

This is probably good for me.

It was especially obvious riding from an interview to work, about five miles away, and I had to be clocked on in something like twenty minutes. Go-time. Riding up a moderate incline, I rose out of the saddle to maintain my momentum. Hauling my commuter bike, over forty pounds with two panniers full of clothes and shoes, a big u-lock, lights, and what have you, is a little taxing uphill. With a triple, it's easy enough to just relax and go at an easy pace, but a couple of months ago when I tried to just keep the thing rolling at big-ring speed, after a dozen pedal strokes I could feel the burn in my calves, my thighs. Yesterday I looked down to make sure I was still in the big ring.

The point is, if'n you ride every day, you might not know how tired you are until you back your mileage down. A lot. For a little while.

It's in my blood, though, all of it. I feel like one of those driving rock songs that start out with one gentle note before the overdriven electric guitar powers on scene, the subtly building drumbeat before the cymbals crash.

I remember -- none too fondly, I might add -- how my mind felt nightly before I started training. Wandering, restless constantly, forever feeling the need to do something, but with no idea what. Tossing and tortured 'till dawn.

No, it's far better this way, than that.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Throwin' it Away

After rescuing me from doubleflatland, M. Wrench and I were discussing the startling amount of garbage that Americans can produce. Cyclists have oddly close experience with it, strangely enough, since riding along the right side of the road at twenty miles an hour gives us a closeup view of the amazing volume of garbage that accumulates in the ditches and gutters. Seriously, it's like one of those PSA "protect your environment" videos we saw in elementary school, and all of this after considering how often litter patrols go by.

Well, my neighbors produce quite a lot of garbage, too. It seems like about a bag a day, perhaps two some days. The family that lives across the way I try hard not to stereotype. From the little I've interacted with them, they seem like nice enough people. She's got two young children: one is an infant and one perhaps three or four. Slender, blonde, and looks like she's seventeen going on thirty-five. I'd really be hard pressed to actually guess her age. He moved in recently, and works in construction, from the safety-orange t-shirts, with retro-reflective bars, he often wears. On two occasions the post has misdelivered something important addressed to her to me instead, from the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Services. I returned them to the Post Office as misdelivered rather than deal with the two-sided embarassment of "um, hey lady, here is your welfare check..."

(thanks to the City of Pittsburgh's website for this image. Since it's meant as a public service, I'm sure they won't mind the traffic.)

In any case, I have some knowledge of the amount of garbage my neighbors produce because they're in the habit of placing the full garbage bag outside their front door, immediately adjacent to my own, until they take it to the dumpsters. For a while, this would sometimes take a day or two, and sometimes two or three bags would accumulate. Now, really, this doesn't matter, and the last thing I wanted to do was say anything about it, so I decided to do the both somewhat passive-agressive and neigborly thing and throw the stuff away for them. After all, the dumpster-compactor is right on the way out of the complex, and if it's not too heavy I can just sling the bag inside, paperboy-style, without even slowing down, as I ride to work.

After a couple of weeks of this, the bags never accumulated any more, and though they still do appear regularly they are taken away pretty quickly.

This got me to wondering, though:

What the heck are these people throwing away? This is a pretty impressive volume of trash. My two-person apartment creates a garbage bag every week, perhaps, and while I grant that this couple has children, infants don't consume too many, um, consumables, and Yours Truly has to put away 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day, so I'm still a little confused. I'm not going to be a total creep and start opening the bags up, but I do notice a number of things that make me want to, you know, help.

Mister Anderson.

For one thing, they seem to throw away everything. Corrugated boxes, milk jugs, and other recycleables are often clearly visible through the plastic trash bags. Amusingly, they buy Organic juice reasonably frequently. Let it be known that our apartment complex has recycling on-site. Beyond that, though, I still wonder what is producing this volume of junk. Without studying it too closely, I'd wager a guess that it includes lots of cheap consumer products with extensive packaging, ready-to-eat prepackaged commercial food containers, and the broken remnants of these cheap consumer products when they stop working.

I considered what my own garbage can typically contained. While I cook and bake much of my own food, (even when it's only oatmeal or pasta), there are still those thin plastic baggies to get rid of. I re-use plastic bread bags for when I bake my own bread, and they're good for another couple of uses. Most food waste goes either in the garbage disposal or gets, um composted.

It's "um" because my version of compost is throwing it out my window, almost literally: there is a slight downsloping hill to a creek / wetlands area just out of my window, and I think it's probably better to let the critters take care of that cucumber that went bad before I could use it, than to send it to the dump.

Of course, I do make use of the onsite recycling for things like juice jugs, glass jars, and that kind of thing. I don't use a ton of consumer products, and most things like soap and shampoo come in recyclable packaging themselves, but I do throw away a decent handful of caps and lids. Cycling goods usually also have cardboard packaging, leaving only the zip-ties for the garbage. I threw away some junked out old cable housing and some expended stubs of brake pads recently.

What else?

Um, shoot. Coffee grounds go down the garbage disposal, too, but tea filterbags hit the trashbin. Napkins, since I've decided that using a paper napkin that would've been thrown away anyway and is made of mostly recycled paper besides beats a cloth on that I'd have to then recycle.

Still, really, this isn't very much. A guy at work that we've nicknamed Tom Boonen told me: "I like workin' with you because you remind me of Portland. You have a big vocabulary, and you recycle." Thanks, Tom, who grew up in Federal Way, WA, but went to college in Portland.

So, without being too nosy: what did YOU throw away last week? Where does all of this garbage come from?
Givin' it Away:

Yesterday I paid a fond farewell to my Match-built Schwinn Paramount -- or, at least, the remains thereof. That bike was my introduction to cycling, and while I can't really wax poetic about its ride qualities compared with any other bike, since thin-walled racing steel tubes are actually probably harsher than a modern carbon layup, it was a great bike. And now, hopefully it will be again someday, for a guy named Dave, who actually used to work for Match.

The Paramount was wrecked when I was hit by a car over two years ago, and I kept the frame around because lugged steel is certainly fixable. You just have to heat up the lugs, remove the damaged tubes, and either repair or replace them. If it were a cheaper bike in a different era, you could just quickly reweld or rebraze the thing together and call it rideable, but a custom job like this demands a custom repair. A little research into the matter showed that it'd cost more to source parts and have the thing professionally put back together than it cost me to buy it in the first place, and then I'd have to repaint it. I accepted that I was never going to reasonably do that, so I gave it away to Dave, who still has some spares of at least some of the custom tubes.

It's better than turning the thing in as scrap steel, that's for sure. Good luck to you, my man. Send a picture whenever it's rebuilt!

Also, They Come In Threes, haven't you heard?

Flats, in this case. I hadn't gotten a flat tire in some time, until yesterday. At least a couple of months. No, scratch that. I hadn't gotten a flat tire while riding in a couple of months. In rainy Cascadia, a lot of our flats are caused by little pieces of glass that work their way through the tire, and the leaks they cause are so small that you don't notice them until you go to ride your bike the next time, and it's sitting on the rim. Well, it's better than having to change it in the rain. Or, the hail, which I have decided after the past week is definitely my least-favorite weather to ride in, bar none.

Well, yesterday, coming over the Puyallup River bridge out of Tacoma, I didn't hit the brakes at all as I took the sharp, pothole-filled, gravel-strewn right turn into Fife. Yeah, well, if it sounds unsafe, I've taken the corner a zillion times, I've got a pretty good sense of where to lean it over. But I usually brake, just the same. 140-lb guys don't get pinch flats very often. I think this was actually my first! I didn't lift the front wheel just so over that double pothole, and bang. Literally probably three quarters of my flats have been rear ones, I forget how dramatically uncontrollable a sudden front flat is. Fixed, though, in the sun, and on my way.

Today I one-upped myself by getting two flats, and on a day that I only brought a single tube. The first was on highway 509, on that bit as you're heading into downtown T-town where it's actually a divided freeway. Great. At least there was a big enough shoulder at that point that I changed the thing safely. From there it's less than ten miles home, and though I wasn't ready to call it quits just yet, I headed for home to at least grab another tube. Of course, you know what's coming. At that SAME spot on 20th into Fife, my rear tire goes pop-hiss for a second time in a day. At first I'm mad at myself, since I have definitely not gotten the ENTIRE little piece of glass out of my tire on an occasion or two, but, um, this time it was a roofing nail. I counted myself lucky it didn't punch all the way through to the rim, but I had to call M. Wrenchead to come and rescue me. Thanks M.W. Crap, am I going to have to start carrying two tubes on every ride now? I guess, a second CO2 cylinder and patch kit would work.

Yes, I know I talked about Frame Pumps and how they are great assets. But, crap, while they fit so nicely on an oldschool steel frame, modern carbon monocoques are pretty opposed to them. I have seen guys rig up pretty solid setups, maybe I'll have to look into it. Even if it means zipping zip-ties to my frame.