Friday, April 23, 2010

A Collection of Disjointed Thoughts

I'm feeling the need to post something, since a few days have flowed under the bridge since the last update, but it's Friday night, I got up extra early this morning and drove to the Bay Area, and I had to wear itchy clothes for a client meeting because the clients have already seen all my non-itchy "respectable" attire. It only took two meetings. So the best I can muster this evening is the following.

  1. My bike has not given me any further problems, and I think I have found a Local Bike Shop (LBS) that will command my loyalty. Natomas Bike Shop, tucked into a nondescript shopping center between a Papa Murphy's and a Round Table Pizza (no, I'm not kidding), has the combination of service, character, love for bikes, and droll repair dudes that makes me happy. After my last set of misadventures, I took the bike back there. They made everything right; they made me laugh and they charged me very little.
  2. I notice that I can ride up onto the Jibboom bridge from river level pretty well now. When I first started riding again, that really was a tough climb for me. BFFC Minor Triumph.
  3. Louis Garneau Sensor bike shorts in plus sizes rock. I had a pair last spring, I lost them somewhere. Austin? The back of my closet? I finally admitted they were gone for good and screwed up my courage to spend another $90 on another pair. Now watch, I'll find the old ones. That'd be ok though because they are sooo comfy. The waistband in particular. I got a nice Terry sleeveless bike jersey too. Gotta shout out to the places that make high quality technical wear for high quality larger athletes. Team Estrogen, Louis Garneau, Shebeest, Terry, Moving Comfort and of course the gals at Enell are faves.
  4. I still haven't done any yoga. But my neck and back are all feeling pretty good right now. Touch wood.
  5. I've had a couple jog/walk sessions in the last week that felt pretty decent. I'm being super cautious, but I've worked my way up to 40 steps jogging, 60 steps walking (after a sensible walking warmup of course). I can foresee the time when I might actually jog a mile again. BFFC Minor Triumph #2.
  6. Noticing that I'm jealous of my Facebook and other friends who are already racing. But I'm not there yet. I'm pretty close, but I want to be able to jog/walk 5k easily before I venture back out on the course.
Well, that's probably it for tonight, sports fans. Physical activity plans for the weekend include a swim if I get done with Capital Stage fundraiser prep in time, and a long, uneventful bike ride on Sunday. Have fun out there.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Further Maintenance Woes

I just posted this review on ARRGH!

Velo Sport Bicycles

1615 University Ave
Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 849-0437
1 star rating
I rarely write a negative review, but I was so freakin' frustrated by my experience that I'm going to lay it out there.

After I picked my bike up yesterday from another bike shop (which will get its just desserts in time), I noticed some seatpost slippage. I went to tighten it this morning when I got to work, and the collar bolt snapped. Ack. So at lunch I head up to Velo Sport on my new WigglySeat (TM) to get a replacement bolt. On the way there, my front tire flats. Grrr. So I finally make it there and ask the dude to find a replacement bolt, please, and change the front tire.

This little desiccated shaggy guy starts looking for bolts, fiddles around for a long time and finally finds what he thinks is right. All the while stammering and hemming and hawing and trying to explain what he's doing and why the other bolt lock was stripped etc. etc. Which is normally interesting enough but he is taking FOREVER to explain it and meanwhile he's dropping his tools and dropping the bolt and generally acting like a tweaker. I tell him (pleasantly) I just need a temporary fix so I can get home and take it to the shop that might have screwed it up. Then he gets all defensive on me. Argh. I tell him it's fine, just find something that can work and let's get 'er done.

FINALLY the bolt is in place and tightened, along with much hand-wringing by Dessicated Weasel Dude about the groove and a needle file and how this will slip again etc etc. I point to the tire and look at him expectantly. 'Ooohhhh, yeah," he says. "Right. Well, I don't want to try and do it while you wait..." I took pity. "OK, why don't I get some lunch and come back? in about a half hour?" I said. "OK?" He agreed.

I have my lunch and come back for my bike. "Oh," says Weasel Dude. "I didn't do it yet." By now I am starting to get a little steamed. "Well, can you do it now?" I ask. Still pleasantly. He thinks he can. I tell him I will look around the shop - I am usually happy looking around a bike shop. This bike shop has some interesting things: touring bikes, messenger type bikes, vintage bikes. But it also feels depressing. Maybe it's just me. And the other guy working there looks like he sleeps under an overpass. Ick.

20 minutes later Weasel Dude shows up at the counter with my wheel in one hand and a tire in the other. This is not good. Turns out he thinks my rim strips are too wide and that is causing the tire to not seat properly, making it hard to change the tire. Well, I could have told him that they are 1991 Wolber rims and don't mate well with modern tires, and that's why it's hard to change them, but I stupidly said, "OK, go ahead and put a narrower rim strip on."

20 more minutes go by. Finally Weasel Dude appears with my bike. I go to pay and then he decides he wants to have a conversation. Unbelievable. I answer him politely and make some motions with my credit card like "I want to pay you and leave. NOW." He rings me up and I'm about to be gone when he says, "Wait! I have to sign off on the work order." So I have to give him back the paperwork so he can painstakingly scrawl his name.

Two hours after leaving my office, I return, stunned. I had no idea a bolt and a tire change could take that long. (ok, 20 minutes was because of having the flat in the first place, but the rest was all WD's fault)

And, on my ride home, the seat post started to slip again. WD had warned me it would, but I didn't think it would be after just 15 minutes on the road.

Bottom line: maybe it's just Desiccated Weasel Dude, but I will NEVER go to this shop again. Ya lost me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I'm not good at maintenance. My car goes unwashed, its oil unchanged. My houseplants die, usually; my yard remains unkempt for long periods of time. I can lose weight, and I can definitely gain weight, but I can't maintain a weight - any weight. I don't like to stretch and do core work. I'm much better at deadline-based work, whether it's a grant, a book, or a race.

Having said that, there are a couple of areas where I am pretty good at keeping things shipshape. Not British Navy shipshape, but shipshape for me. I take reasonable care of my bike, for instance, wiping down the chain, cranks, and cogs with some regularity, keeping it in the garage, and even getting it into the shop once a year for a professional tuneup. For a few weeks now, though, my chain has been slipping off my middle cogs, depriving me of my most comfortable gear ratios. While this has forced me to be creative in my rides, spinning at a high cadence or working my quads in a high gear, I don't like it when the bike is malfunctioning. But I've been a combination of busy, unwell, or apathetic on the days when I could have taken it to the shop.

So after another couple of days of strange virus-y sensations last week, I finally determined to get the bike taken care of. I took a chance on Natomas Bike Shop, located in a nondescript shopping center between a Save-Mart and a Papa Murphy's. It's not in one of the cycling-centric neighborhoods of Sacramento, like Midtown or East Sac, so I was afraid it might be all cheap mountain bikes, kiddie bikes and cruisers. But I went inside and found a nice busy repair shop, some road bikes in stands, and an atmosphere of down-to-earth bike culture. So I'll have a few links taken out of my stretched out chain, some derailleur adjustments, and some lubrication, and be ready to go again in a few days. Meanwhile I might take the LeMond out for a spin. Its setup is a little harder on my back, and my feet have gotten a bit fat to feel comfortable in the shoes that have the cleats that match its pedals. So we'll see.

On Sunday I actually felt a spurt of energy for the first time since Thursday, so I laced up the New Orleans Saints-colored running shoes, donned a semi-coordinating SF Giants hat against the howling wind and imminent rain, and went out to walk and trot and lunge along the neighborhood paths. Lower back was tight, but I did my faux pushups at the trail gate much more easily than in the past - chalk one up for the swimming and cycling there. Lunges were off-balance and wobbly, but the knees held up. I walked about 2/3 of my steps and jogged the other third. When I got home after a half-hour, I even lay down and stretched my hips and back and did a few crunches. Maintenance. Have to do it, especially on the weeks when there's not much progress.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Holding Pattern

Again, I don't have a lot to report on the BFFC. I've been kind of going in and out of feeling unwell, and I'm not sure why. Headaches, fatigue, a little dizziness, a sore gland here and there around the throat and jaw.

When I've felt good, I've gotten out and done a little just to keep from total backsliding. Ten miles or so on the bike, a walk of a mile or two, a couple of houseworkouts and gardenworkouts. Most gratifyingly, Tim and I built a little retaining wall around a tree in the front yard which has been annoying us ever since we moved in. It's a lovely tree, apparently some form of "non-fruiting plum" (?), but it has a tendency to throw up shoots from the roots, and if we're not on top of it every minute, the base of the tree looks like its own private jungle. So we're tamping it down with weed block fabric, rocks, and the aforementioned wall. The wall blocks were concrete and heavy.

So we lifted and carried, and of course we went back to Home Depot to get more blocks, and lifted and carried some more. Then I laid them down and lifted them back up again to level them with topsoil. This is not a gardening blog; I rarely even garden, let alone write about it. But it was pretty vigorous exercise, and I tried to look at it as such.

My friends and correspondents are starting to gear up for tri season, and part of me is impatient to be in actual training. Part of me is hanging out, being patient, and part of me thinks it will never happen again. Need to squelch that part.

More soon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

DISC Golf! DISC! Redux

So, you know, a week goes by and things happen. For those of you who are newsily/BFFC inclined:
  1. I didn't have any major training breakthroughs. Or even minor ones.
  2. I stayed moderately active (some walks, some swims)
  3. My back was sore most of the time. Suck.
  4. I have had a headache for 30 hours now. Double sucky suck nasty.
OK. So back to the disc golf. It's already sort of fading from my mind and into the murk of my unreliable memory. But a few things really stood out for me about caddying during a professional disc golf tournament. First off, those women were pretty darn good, but not so incredibly accomplished that I couldn't see myself learning to do what they do. This is a novelty for me when watching professional sportspeople. Carrie "Burl" Berlogar, with some incredibly high world ranking, won the tournament with a score of 2 under par. Par is pretty much 3 for most holes, unless they're monstrously long. Everything at Shady Oaks is a par 3. Burl rarely missed a putt, drove with power and accuracy, and made her up shots when she needed them, at least the first round on Saturday, when she and Indigo played in a fivesome together (crowded tournament). No other woman in the tournament cracked par, even the world champ. The middle of the road crowd made some great shots, and some that were average, and a pretty fair number of "D'oh!"s. I could sort of see myself learning to do this well enough to play with them.

Another fun thing about the sport is the funny positions that people get themselves into. You have to place your forward foot behind your disc (or the marker), and then you need to put your other foot somewhere where you can throw from. If you are in the trees or bushes or the side of a creek, this kind of looks like outdoor Twister. Besides the footwork, there are some shots that cracked me up, like the "straddle putt," which looks like Big Bird working hard to pass gas, and the "loft putt," which looks like a parody of ballet in light hiking boots. See pic below, which doesn't even capture the hilarious squatting and bobbing motions which precede the straddle putt.

What I really liked, though, was on the last day of the tournament, when Indigo played in the second or third foursome. Some of the women in this group still had a chance at the last places in the money, though that money was paltry, to say the least. But they were cheering each other's shots with real enthusiasm, high fiving the successes and bemoaning the tree shots of everyone in the group with a spirit I found totally engaging. Maybe it's because of the game's roots in stoner/college culture, maybe it's just that even pro disc golf is pretty much on the fringes of American sports and attracts a different kind of competitor. It made me happy though.

A week later, I went walking with my friends down at Discovery Park, and Russ and I took my two new discs along and practiced tossing them around. Russ has played a lot of Ultimate and golf; he has a variety of tricky shots. I sort of got the hang of the driver and learned to shoot it straighter and with a little more predictability. I've looked up some more local courses online, though Shady Oaks seems like the best one within a half-hour of here. Watch this space for more...