Archive | November, 2009

5000 Miles in the Thanks Tank

28 Nov

At some point toward the end of the commute last Monday I did it – 5000 miles for the year!

That includes overall ineptness/newness; learning how to train, sustain, measure while not forgetting the pure biking pleasure; a demoniac personal trainer in a gym filled with people half my age and twice my fitness; a “very weak core” according to my first professional fitter in Feb and “not a bad core” per the second fitter later in the year; super crappy weather with intermittent snow days in Jan – March; hitting my long-ago weight goal in June and then setting a new one; getting the Poprad as a result of the former and an inspiration/path to the latter; the broken collarbone which threw me for a loop right when I was at my Icarus/hubris heights post S-T-P, spending the first month eating like an ascetic monk then getting depressed and alarmed and eating like an anathematized monkey, downward mental-physical spiral and then slowly clawing my way back by focusing on the one constant, bike commuting to work while learning that it’s not a good idea thinking you’re going to start your ‘new training year’ during Rains-giving November; and finally, the main achievement, along with SurlyLady and KonaLad, planning, prepping and completing said S-T-P – my main goal for the year.

So here’s to adding to that number in 2010!

And here’s to all the folks who’ve been so nice to me: SurlyLady of course, but also KonaLad for training/partnering and IbisLad for advice. LitespeedLad too, for daily “on your left” encouragement on the Burke. And most of all I’m thankful to the bumpy, bruising Burke Gilman, that long concrete thread that’s tied the story together for myself and the ‘Lady in 2009 and hopefully beyond.


Novemberment Plan

27 Nov

November, I forgive you for everything. All that rain, all those dark days…it’s okay. You were so perfect today that I totally want to be friends again.

hello, gorgeous.

The lad and I went to work a little late and ducked out a little early, so there was some glorious sunshine in both directions. This meant I got to see all my favorite things. The leaves, the puffy little clouds, the “Eat My Ass” graffiti…especially that. I love graffiti that’s both nonsensical and clearly issue-driven. What would make someone say that, much less write it on pavement? Are they driven by the urge to write it, or the urge to have it read? Fascinating. I have this profound curiosity about the human mind and what motivates people, especially when it comes to language and communication. Because of this, I’ve determined my ideal career lies in Corporate Anthropology. I’m pretty sure no one would pay anyone to do that, but they should! Think about it: as things are now, managers are expected to first identify and understand their employees’ behavior, then to either correct or validate it. Lots of people are good at one of those things, but hardly anyone is good at all three. So in my scenario, everyone would go about their business as usual, except in my official capacity as Corporate Anthropologist I would observe all the meetings through a two-way mirror (ideally soundproofed so they wouldn’t hear my giggling, but I’ve gotten pretty good at that trick where you make an incredulous guffaw sound like an uncontrollable coughing fit, so soundproofing’s not completely necessary). Once I determine whether someone’s train of thought is chugging toward Crazy Town or staying at Sensical Station, I route them to the Validation Department or the, um, Department of Corrections. I think this would improve productivity by approximately 5000 percent, and probably make me eligible for a peace prize of some kind. But I’m not greedy, all I really want is a sweet parking spot:

Reserved For Employee of the Month

Holy Poseidon Adventure!

25 Nov

This morning couldn’t have been lovelier, rosy sky, vapor-trail lines of clouds that contextualized the rosy expanse. I was Crank-along Cassidy this morning, feeling pretty good until I hit a vicious headwind coming up the Fred Hutch hill that caused my legs to seemingly turn to oatmeal.

Note to self: come up with lyrics to an old sailor’s dirge/lament/ditty along the lines of how bikers always seem to be headin’ into the headwind, sung in a style of a cross between Woody Guthrie and Phil Liggett. Then sing it while watching the Poseidon Adventure on days when I feel my world is turning upside down.

At work, while wistfully watching most everyone else crowd out early for the holiday-eve get-out-of-jail dispensation I wrapped up some work then wrapped myself in woolens to get outside to try to catch the precious last bit of rain-free dusk only to find: rain. Lots of it. Horizontal, frontal. Bleck.

In the absence of having anything substantive to say, and in a change of pace from the strictly correlative/scientific/objective journalism normally present on this blog I might as well indulge in more gear reviews, exercise those subjective muscles which, if I may so, are primed for the gun show! I mean, bike show! Or, gun & bike show!

So on those lines, tonight proved a good test ride for the new rain gear. Happy to say both key pieces, new jacket and new booties, did very well. The booties finally gave way about 15 minutes away from home in that I could feel the shoes getting a little wet, mostly from the top around the ankle. However, when I pulled off the booties in the garage I was surprised to find the shoes were only wet in splotches, and my wool (the smell of Defeet) socks were mostly dry. Huh. I guess, even after the hour-plus breakdown, these booties kept my toesies mostly warm and dry. That’s just awesome, considering the rain tonight was about as close to riding through a bathroom shower (horizontal, plentiful, and whenever Surlylady metaphorically flushed the toilet, even from a distance, I found the water to suddenly and sharply get hot for a minute or so). The jacket similarly held up, and while there was some sweat equity inside (don’t think I’ll ever find a way around that) it definitely breathes better than my old one, and in fact kept me way drier on the inside. The only water spot on my wool jersey was at the neck where I had unzipped the jacket a bit.

Next, I must make mention of my knickers. Ladies, please, calm yourselves. I mean, self.

A few months ago I purchased some Cutter Tech Knickers:

I'm too sexy for my knickers.

Basically, I love ’em. I didn’t realize at the time what I was really getting, to be honest. I hadn’t read any reviews etc. I just knew I was a little tired of walking around my department wearing lycra shorts and having to tell girls and guys, “Hey, eyes up here!” These knickers have worked out very well. No chamois, so I recommend a pair of padded underwear. No, not Depends. Although if it comes to that it would strictly be for monetary/comfort reasons. Best of all these things are kick ass during cold weather and rain. I don’t have to wash them often, due to the separate underwear (or I even use a removable insert from my mountain bike shorts), which is nice for a commuter. I wash them about every three rides, I should say. Secondly best of all are the pockets. I love putting in the garage clicker, seat cover (easy access in sudden shower) and a granola bar. I know that bike jerseys have pockets, but there’s something so killer about having side pockets, cargo pockets if you will, Mr. Gap. The only down side is that these are expensive. I bought some when they were on killer sale, but I think that the regular price is more like $150, which is insane when I think about it. $80 is more than I’ve ever paid for any work pants/trousers, to tell the truth.

As a back up, I also picked up these knickers, by Race Face:

I'm not nearly sexy enough for my knickers.

These are only $45 at Universal Cycles. They’re pretty darn good. There’s more of an articulation in the knee. There’s a contrast stitching, and the pockets have heavy-duty zippers with grommet-style button closures. Can you tell I used to write for an online retail company? What got me fired was my Woody Guthrie attitude and Phil Liggett accent. Hmph. Any rate, these pants are the bees knees as well. They do almost as well in the rain as the Cutters (the hem tonight got very heavy with rain and in the pedaling action sort of swung up against my shins, not a big deal but felt kind of weird, but this was mostly uphill). If I had to choose between the two, the edge would go slightly to the Cutters: their fabric is a little softer, and the fit is absolutely perfect. However, the Race Face ones are about 1/3 the price, so you could get three of ’em. Sheesh.

Enough gear review. Book review time. Started reading Lolita again. Never made it very far before. It’s not the subject or subject matter. It’s the style; not a bad thing, but almost like it’s sort of insipid. I already have a tendency to mimic things that I read/hear/see and so Lolita is sort of like a big juicy donut sitting on the table that nobody seems to want, in the eyes of a serial overeater. That’s uh, referring to me. There’s this pithy antipathy, this sort of pre-post-modern gadfly style based on a stew of post-antebellum (WWI/WWII) émigré intellectual posturing preening punning thing… ack, see, I don’t know if I can continue. No, I’ll continue. This time I can do it. Next up, Gravity’s Rainbow! But then I’ll get so sick to death of bananas I won’t be able to go on. Maybe I’ll alternate between the two.

I’ve got a review too!

23 Nov

I am not a fan of shopping for clothes. Partly because I’m a tightwad when it comes to that kind of thing, and partly because I’m built like a plumber (“a lady plumber”, says the lad reassuringly) and surprisingly few clothes are designed for the lady plumber demographic. But I finally managed to find a real rain jacket! I got the Endura Gridlock, modeled here by a happy lady who is not me:

I’ve had a really hard time finding a waterproof jacket that fits well – most are ridiculously huge in the arms, which makes my poor little muscles feel inadequate. This one fits fairly snugly, though I still had room for a woolly base layer and armwarmers (my poor little muscles get so cold). Best of all, it has a nice mesh lining so I don’t have to touch that creepy, crinkly waterproof material that makes me think of that scene in Silence of the Lambs where the psycho is making the girl in the well put lotion on to prepare a skin suit.

Anyhoo! I’m trying to avoid rainy day riding, but I rolled out this morning after that lying liar Rich Marriott said it’d be dry until the evening, and surprise! It was pouring within 15 minutes. The new jacket was great, nice and breathable, and it totally held up in the driving rain. Then, this afternoon when I accidentally dumped my water bottle out on the inside of the jacket while I was heading down to the bike room (haha! this was not the first time!), the quick-wicking liner, um, wicked it away quick!

So, in summary, if you’re lady-plumberesque with puny arms and a tendency to spill water on yourself, you will probably love this jacket as much as I do.

Hot Diggity Dog

23 Nov

Not sure why but, in synch with the Surlylady, I’m in a good mood today. I think in part it’s because I was back on the bike again for the commute jungle. Last week was a wash (literally) ‘cept for Monday. That day that I sort of, heh, complained about so much.

In the interim, after dissolving so much last Monday, I had resolved to get some new gear. In particular, a new rain jacket. I’d had an orange Novara waterproof jacket for a long while (first thing I bought back when I started commuting) but that thing was like wearing a Turkish sauna. So much so, in fact, every time I took it off, no matter where I was, standing nearby would be an elderly fellow in a buff-and-burgundy uniform waiting patiently to hand me a crisp white towel, the one off the top of a stack of such. It couldn’t have been a very profitable business model for Novara/REI to do that.

Today, then, I was cloaked in a new rain jacket, one that breathes incredibly well… so much so it almost seems to be like a regular windbreaker (do they still use that term?). I’m talkin’ ’bout the O2 Cycling 3Flow Rain Jacket – don’t for heaven’s sake get the 4Flow one! Whoa!

Straight up jacket

Thumbs up on this jacket. It’s nicely taped & seamed, and kept the fairly heavy rain this morning nicely at bay. Like I said, plenty breathable. I especially like the fabric, it has a softer touch than other rainproof jackets I’ve worn. As you can see, it also had a nice long tail section – if needed, it could double for formal wear, or if you need to serve a stint as maitre’d at a bicycle restaurant.

On the other foot, I also got some new booties – picked ’em up at Gregg’s: Endura MTB500.

Divers (not diverse) booties.

As soon as I saw these I was sold. Well, after I tried them on over my riding shoes, the ones with an apt brand name Lake which, by the way, I like so much better in rain than the Shimanos, coming as they did with a small vinyl sticker to put in place over the cleat hole with an instruction that says “good luck with this, hah!”. This morning wasn’t that wet, a fairly strong rain, but these new booties were fantastic. They’re made mostly out of neoprene, so thery’re sort of more like diving boots. Water rolls right off this material; my old booties, the Sugois, seemed to stay slick and streaming always, with the fabric bits around the zipper almost perpetually soaking in between rides. These Endura booties are super stout, with beefy doublestitching around the two holes on the sole, with a substantial toe section made out of thick rubber with a nice grippy bottom to them. Best of all is the rear zipper, again more like a wet suit in construction with a nice, nearly wraparound velcro section so you can tightly close the top.

Freddy and Fredericka

21 Nov

Didna ride all week, past Monday. A confluence of work constraints and bad stormy days – Friday in fact was supposed to have featured two storms in succession, although I didn’t notice much difference.

Did receive the new fenders yesterday, along with some buddy flaps. I also bought some new Marathons for the SurlyLady’s bike, and I’ll take her hand-me-downs for the Trucker. Those Marathons on the Trucker have put in well over a year’s worth of noble service, a little under 4000 miles in total; never had a single flat in those 4000 miles either, after two with the original equipment tires; definitely the Schwalbe’s are worth the few extra bucks.

What do we Seattle-ites do when it’s constantly raining outside? No, besides getting drunk and playing Yahtzee. No, besides making tater tot casseroles and surfing We read books, or start grunge bands!

In my case, more the former. The latest is a wonderful book called Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin. Now, I am a huge fan of his A Soldier of the Great War. I’m maybe not such a fan of his conservative bent (Bob Dole, Washington Post eds), but, I’m open minded. The way I figure it, if an author is going to write compellingly or convincingly in different voices, they’re by definition not the blinders-heavy draught horse of the neo-con wacko right, right? Anyway, a fellow at work recommended this book, with the interesting note that not a single one of his friends or family members he’d similarly recommended it to had liked it, much less finished it. Immediately intrigued I picked up a used copy at Third Place Books. I read two others before getting to it, so maybe the intrigue wasn’t quite that immediate. Now that I’ve finished it I wish I’d taken a couple of days off of work, sent the pup to a kennel and the girl to her mom’s house and stocked the larder with lardened footstuffs like canned beef stew and saltines in order to gulp this wonderful, amazing book down in one shot.

Freddy und Fredericka

Dis is da shiznit.

At the risk of outright heresy and alienating my own friends and family, this book has to rank alongside A Confederacy of Dunces… maybe the achievement is even a notch or two greater. Confederacy absolutely nailed the parish-level patois of a low-caste cajun catechism fugue set within the strict confines of New Orleans.

F&F, while equally funny, with linguistic slapstick on par or greater even than Confederacy, takes on ‘larger’ issues, both high and low caste situations and humor, more Platonic and tectonic, more national and inter-national than Confederacy. Because of this enlarged scope, essentially a road-trip story of discovery for the Prince of Wales, it’s almost astonishing to me how successful it is, how I not only laughed out loud nearly every other page (don’t read it on a public bus, you’ll soon gain a hernia from not trying to laugh out loud like some kind of – sympathetically – mental patient) but I also was deeply affected by it. Beyond the fun-arious and fun-ereal fireworks of plot and language and character there’s something deeper. Sure there’s the pitch-perfect nailing of the personal and political character of not one but two countries, but all this is just a large silk ribbon bow on a deeper gift, a central theme of a simple love story between two formerly estranged people, slowly coming together while one of them comes to terms with his destiny. The scope of the book, now that I look back on it, seems nearly breathtaking in premise, and more breathtaking in fulfilling the promise of that premise.

The odd thing is this: while reading it, I felt alternately humbled, inspired, devastated, hopeless, hopeful and full of heed, all while laughing like a hyena. Having finished it today, I now feel curiously better, cleaner in spirit, back-straightened yet also humbled again.

I can with confidence say this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Freddy will in fact be one of the rare handful of books I’ll keep on my mental list to revisit over time. As such it’ll join the ranks of other notables, including Confederacy, Magic Mountain, Pierrot Mon Ami/Odile/Bark Tree, Crying of Lot 49, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Lucien Leuwen as well that other Helprin book, A Soldier of the Great War.

It seems fitting that precisely when I finished the last line today, David Bowie’s Kooks was playing on our stereo. For a few moments while I let that sort of tingling sensation creep over me when I’ve finished a really good book, I pictured the movie adaptation of Freddy and Fredericka, with Hugh Laurie as Freddy of course, ending with a black screen and Kooks starting up… but the producers will probably instead go for the previous song on Hunky Dory, Life on Mars, which would work well too.

note to self

20 Nov

Today I started feeling pretty acutely like I took this summer for granted. I still have the tan-line ghosts of my awful STP sunburn on my legs to remind me, and roughly a zillion pictures of hikes, bike rides and ice cream stops to prove I was out there enjoying it, but on a dark day like this I think of those occasional weekends when I slept in, and those times I went to an afternoon matinee instead of hitting the road or trail. So much squandered sunlight! My vitamin D-deprived self is kicking my summer self so hard right now. But! My pollyanna self is telling itself this self-pity is such a stupid waste of time, and by indulging it I’m actually taking this day for granted. Man, this is exhausting! All of this is my convoluted way of convincing myself that life is pretty sweet. Which is not something I usually have to talk myself into, but this week has been rough, work-wise. Though I guess the pollyanna in me is winning out, because as soon as I type that sentence out I want to take it back. I’m so lucky to a) have a job and b) have this job. I mean sure, it’s a big place that’s all about the benjamins, but within that I managed to find a little pocket of creativity where they actually encourage me to be my weird self, and surround me with a bunch of other creative, joke-cracking weirdos. It’s not a bad way to spend the day.

I know a little something about crap jobs. I grew up poor, and my parents were the ultimate odd jobbers. My dad would hang out on the side of the road at passes during early winter storms and charge people $20 to put their chains on for them, and once my mom had an exceptionally treacherous gig assembling wreaths at a holly farm. Holly hurts! I knew early on that I was way too lazy for that kind of manual labor, so college and a cush job were my goals. Of course I had to pay my own way, which meant racking up some crap jobs of my own. I spent those years doing some weird things, like “cleaning” the already-spotless estates of some richies who would just follow me around and chat the whole time, and compiling really depressing lien reports for a credit bureau, and, worst of all, hosing down all the equipment in a grocery store meat department on the graveyard shift (gross gross GROSS). Not fun, but now that I have that cush job of my dreams I like to keep those memories in a mental rolodex for days like this, to remind myself just how good I have it.