Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Toast to Ed, Farrah and Michlael

Yes. I'm still riding. I bumped that 26 mile mountain bike ride up to 30 miles a week later. More water and snacks made it a little easier, but I was still in pretty bad shape near the end. I'm just riding beyond my capabilities. I guess that's not quite the correct way to say it, because I did survive, and I did make it back to the car. I figure if it doesn't hurt, I'm not making any progress, or breaking any new ground, right? I'm out to do some cycling, not to just take a bike ride. The pain and the exhauston and the feeling that I'm doing something just a bit stupid is supposed to be the point. To top the 30 mile mountain bike ride, I did another 40 mile ride on the road bike this week when the temps were well above the 90 degree mark. I drank a LOT of water but still found myself getting some chills as I had run out of sweat near the end of the ride. It was just crazy, and I couldn't wait to get off that darn bike. But now I find myself looking forward to the day I have time to go again. Maybe a quick ride tomorrow morning...

But, to my point of checking in today.

Ed, Farrah, and then Michael.

All three were a little crazy, and had struggled with substance abuse. Two of them ended up pretty much broke. But all three were push pins marking significant memories on the timeline of my life. Never really occurred to me until I sat here reading about them.

Ed - When I was even younger than my beautiful daughter, I would often spend the night with my Grandma on my Dad's side. My "Mamaw". She would kick "Papaw" out of the room for the night, or he would be working at the steel mill and I would get to sleep in her room. That was pretty much the only time I was allowed to stay up late enough to watch Carson. We'd be playing cards in bed, she'd be smoking her Pall Malls and Johnny would come on. I can remember hoping and praying that Burt Reynolds would be on, or a comedian, or one of the guys, like Jack Hanna that brought the wild animals on. The first time I ever saw Steve Martin was on his show, and I was never the same.

Farrah - Well, of course, the famous poster of her in the red once piece bathing suit. 1976. I was 9 years old. It was the first time that I remember experiencing those curious sensations that would one day grow to be desire while looking at a girl. And then of course Lee Majors, the bionic man, went and married her. This act winning him the crown as the coolest guy in the world to me, dethroning The Fonz. Later, after I had become a greasy, gangly teenager, he would surrender his crown to Eddie Van Halen when he not only married Vallery Bertinelly, but also got himself a Lamborghini Countach.

And then Micheal. High school. MTV. Friday Night Music Videos. Getting to drive the car over to a friends house, hang out late watching music videos, ordering pizzas, and drinking far too much caffeinated soda. (it would be a couple more years before the beers began making the scene) And encountering the redoubling of those sensations that Farrah had started years ago. Unfailingly the girls would insist on popping in a video taped recording of the Thriller video and watching it ad nauseum, making every boy quietly ponder the idea of taking dance lessons.

It all just has me wondering who or what will leave push pins on my kids timeline.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ohhhh... So THAT is what "bonking" is

So, I decided to hit the Des Plaines river trail on the mountain bike again.  'Cept I decided that I wanted to complete the whole southern section of the trail.  So rather than jump on the bike here at the house and head over to the path at Irving Park, I loaded the bike onto the Subaru and drove over to the forest preserve parking lot at Algonquin.  My plan was to ride south to North Av, and then turn around and head back.  Well, first of all it was a great day.  At one point, not long after I had set out, I happened onto a group of kids who were out on a nature walk with their teacher.  The cool thing was that this paticular group of kids happened to include my own beautiful daughter.  She was very excited to see me, and I think that for just a moment there, she may have actually thought that her old man was kind of cool, although she didn't come right out and say so...

After a quick chat with her and her classmates I continued on and made it to North Av. it pretty decent time.  I was feeling good and the weather was perfect, so I decided to continue south from North Av. on a surface street that paralelles the river just to see if I could pick up the trail again, which I did pretty quickly.  It was a pretty tight single track, but it was a trail.  I came to a rail road bridge that was still too muddy to pass underneath so I carried the bike up and over and then continued riding.  Then I crossed Chicago Av and continued south but not very far past that point I just completely lost the trail.  The river has been well over its banks during the winter and either I was following the wrong path to begin with, or the trail has just been washed clear.  I didn't feel right blazing a new trail, the ground was still fairly soft, and it occurred to me that had a pretty good distance to go to get back to the car.  So I felt it was a good time to turn back.  I hadn't brought any snacks (mistake #1) and I had finished off about 1/2 my water bottle by this time.  I only carry one bottle on the mountain bike, but it is a big honkin' thing so I thought I still had enough to get by (mistake #2).  Back at North Av, it occurred to me that I could stop at the drug store that is right nearby, and grab a snack and refill the water bottle, but as I was still feeling pretty good, I just continued on (mistake #3).  By the time I was about half way back to the car I was getting really tired.  And at about 3/4ths of the way I was really, really tired and out of water.  A whole new kind of ache had started in my legs.  Rather than just one or two paticular muscle groups being sore, my whole legs were aching.  I have never wanted to just lay down on the ground and take a little siesta so badly in my life.  I had tossed an apple in the car when I left the house that morning, so I just kept thinking about how delicious it was going to taste, and I just kept pedalling.  Many explitives were uttered along the way, but I made it back to the car.  And that apple was amazing.  I sat in the car and devoured it like a ravenous ferrel dog and while I did so, my legs cramped up like nobody's business.  I managed to waddle around well enough to get the bike loaded back onto the Subaru and headed for home.  Back at the house I constructed, and feasted on, a most prodigious sandwich and then went ahead and grabbed that siesta I had been fantasizing about earlier.  The whole ride only ended up being 26 miles, but I was far more tired than I had been after my longest road bike ride last season.  Poor preparation.

Here are a couple pictures I've taken with my cell phone while riding this trail:

Nifty old mountain bike near a nifty old railroad bridge

Spring on the Des Plaines River

Monday, June 1, 2009

Forgive my Inattentiveness

The volume of e-mail coming from 40 year old cyclists worldwide demanding that I post an update to this blog has been so overwhelming that I can simply no longer continue my laxness.

OK, maybe not.

But I recently finished reading a book from my favorite author and it got me in the mood to sit down and type a few lines again.

The good news is that although I have not been writing, I have been riding.  However, I have to admit that the road bike has not seen nearly as much use as the mountain bike has this season. For a couple of reasons, I just find myself enjoying the mountain bike more than the road bike this year.  I did take the road bike out a couple of days ago for a nice 20 miler.   I had every intention of going twice that distance, but the wind picked up, the temperature began dropping and it began raining ever so slightly. The clouds were ahead of me, and it was sunny back over my shoulder, so I turned the bike astern and headed for home. Aside from that ride and one other of about the same length, the road bike has not seen much use. My farthest ride so far this season has been 28 miles and that was done on the mountain bike with only 8 of those miles being pedaled across tarmac.  The other 20 was ridden in the dirt, which is a bit of a task I must say.

Faithful readers will recall that last season when I was riding to work, I often took the mountain bike because it allowed me to ride along a bike path that follows the Des Plaines river.  This path was quiet, scenic and kept me away from the morning traffic which does tend to be slightly agressive.  Well, I read somewhere on the Internet that if I were to take that trail in the opposite direction, south bound from Irving Park Road rather than north bound, I would find that it becomes a slightly tighter, more technical, honest-to-goodness mountain bike path.  So I started exploring that route awhile back and for awhile I was unable to finish the path due to muddy conditions along the route.   The Des Plaines has a nasty habit of overflowing every spring and covering the bike path.  This does a nice job of cleaning the path and smoothing the previous seasons ruts, but does leave it soggy for quite some time.  But I have since ridden the path to where I think it terminates at North Avenue and what a fun path it is.

The second issue I have been having has been with my neck. I know I probably sound like a creaky, tumble-down pensioner, but back at my old job (Oh yeah, I'm now currently unemployed thanks to the closing of the company that I used to ride my bike to, but that is another story) I spent a good deal of time sitting at a massive old steel desk with my computer monitor, that was too small to begin with, positioned too far from my face.  This caused me to essentially lean in at my monitor all day long which began causing some neck pain over time. Lately, riding the road bike has exacerbated this problem.   Being pitched forward on the bike and having to basically look up while riding has really caused me some neck pain on the last couple of rides. To the point where it is difficult to look back over my shoulders for traffic or other bikes.   On the mountain bike I am positioned slightly more upright and thus, the ol' neck does not get fatigued nearly as much, or as rapidly.

And then there is still the whole aspect of being away from traffic and people and whatever. Especially now that I do most of my riding on the weekdays, it is not unusual for me to not see another soul during my whole ride.   Finally, the sheer quantity of quality dirt paths around here has just drawn my attention away from the roadie this season a bit.

But I am riding and I think that is what really counts here.  I'm still working toward riding a century at some point later this season, but I haven't picked one yet, and I'm not entirely sure which bike I'll ride it on.  It kind of depends on this neck business a bit. I'm hoping now that I'm no longer at that wicked old green desk, it will begin to improve. Stay tuned there.

Oh, I also changed riding shoes recently. My charming and delightful bride and beautiful daughter gave me a nice gift certificate for a local bike shop for my birthday (42!). So I picked up a new computer for the road bike that keeps track of my cadence in addition to the other usual data points, and a new pair of Shimano riding shoes. I switched from the non-recessed, arduous to stroll in style of shoes to an SPD style touring shoe that I can actually walk in when I'm not on the bike. I was digging around in some old boxes in the garage rafters one afternoon and happened upon the pair of 12 year old, unused SPD style pedals that originally came on my mountain bike. So those are now on the road bike and I'm planning to pick up a pair of single sided units for the mountain bike. I've only worn the shoes once, and some adjustments are still needed, but they did not seem any better or worse feeling on the bike.   A little easier to clip out of and much easier to walk in.  Aside from that my toes still fall asleep.  But this phenomena even occurs when I'm riding on the rusty old platform pedals on the mountain bike.   Eh, who needs feeling in their feet anyway.

More to come. But I hope this is enough to becalm the anxious masses who have been filling my inbox to its capacity almost daily.

Or something like that.