Breaking the shut out

27 01 2011

It was almost a shut out.

January is a tough month for riding.

It’s dark. It’s usually cold and wet.

Last year I managed one ride in the first month, 60 km on the road. The year before I accomplished an amazing two rides.

After a great finish to December, with a brisk 60 km road ride on the last day of 2010, it was looking like I’d be riding a donut for January. The weather gods just weren’t smiling my way. We’ve had a lot of wet. So I’ve been doing four km runs a couple of times a week, and I did one mind-numbing session on the trainer, resigned to hoping February will be more bike friendly.

Than, just as hockey goalies fear even thinking about the word shut out will jinx their quest for perfection, the rain stopped, the sun came out, the temperature warmed up.

As the east coast endured this:

Another big snowstorm wallops the east coast.

I was doing this:

What better way to mock their meteorlogical misfortune than go out for a ride.

Sure it was only an evening trail ride out at UBC, but the night air was invigorating. Though my lungs felt a little depleted, my legs felt strong, it was good to be out. We spooked a coyote. The trails were a soupy, sloppy mess, so much so I had to stop at a car wash on the way home to clean the muck from my bike; I wouldn’t want to incur the wrath of my fellow condo dwellers as I lug it through the lobby.

Perfect placid evenings like this are rare in January.

Alas, the forecast for the next few days isn’t very encouraging. It looks like this will be my only ride of the month. It’s a start. And I broke the shut out.

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I am I am Superman

22 01 2011

Superman has his kryptonite. The Incredible Hulk has his temper. Achilles has his heel.

My nemesis is the trainer.

I loathe it.

But when the weather is cold and damp and dark, it’s an option I can’t ignore. Especially with a 103 mile Gran Fondo a little over nine months away.

I finished work today while it was still light, but the clouds had thickened through the afternoon, so it likely wouldn’t stay light long enough for a decent ride. I could have gone for a run, but seeing  plenty of cyclists out and about during my workaday travels, I wanted to ride.

That left the trainer.

Katie had me bring it down from storage so she could cross train while watching True Blood on Blu-Ray. I couldn’t possibly let her show me up from that.

So I clamped in the Orbea and faced my stationary demons. It wasn’t pretty. It never is.

TV remote in hand, I'm ready for anything on the open... floor.

Riding the trainer is the cycling equivalent of water boarding. Pure torture.

Not that it’s hard. It’s just excruciatingly, stultifyingly boring.

When I ride the road, I can pretty much split my brain so that part of me is lost in thought, pondering problems, creating ideas while the other part pays attention to the road, the traffic, the world rolling by. The exercise is almost incidental, automatic. It’s easy for two or three or four hours just disappear.

But inside, without the visual and aural stimulation of the open road, there’s only my legs, the sweat on my brow, and whatever I happen to find on the tv or the blu-ray library. I’m not going anywhere, so there’s no motivation from watching the mileage tick off on the Garmin. There’s clocks all around me, reminding me how long I’ve been pedaling, mocking my lack of fortitude.

Even a show as good as True Blood can’t distract me from the monotony. Over the years I’ve tried various television strategies: dvd’s of the Tour de France, U2 concerts, Underdog cartoons, documentaries, Seinfeld reruns, the news. Sure, they help the time pass, but they also mark the time. Every commercial break, every new scene, every song just makes you more aware of how long you’ve been pedaling on that infernal trainer.

Today, on my first trainer session in a couple of years, I survived for 50 minutes.

 





Brokeback ve

16 01 2011

Oh Ikea, why can’t I quit you?

I wish I could say I’m over my love for Swedish pre-fab furniture. It was a good choice during my student days, and for my bachelor apartment (and seeing as I was a bachelor for a really long time, I’ve been through a LOT of Ikea furniture). It’s inexpensive, stylish and just durable enough to last until I got tired of it and wanted something new.

But now that we’re two, and fully condo-ized, I’d really hoped we could graduate to real furniture. Besides, Katie loathes the Ikea.

We made some progress when we acquired a leather couch and easy chair from a little boutique that specializes in furnishing lofts and small condos. But other pieces proved more elusive.

Real dressers and beds and night stands tend to be ugly, and outlandishly expensive. Any time we did see something we liked, it always seemed to be way out of our budget. Or more than we were willing to spend.

So we resigned ourselves to an Ikea bedroom.

The dresser took me eight hours, and more than a few expletives, to assemble. I mean seriously, could they not include at least a few words in their instructions? And what’s with those curiously neutered dudes with the stupid smiles holding Ikea wrenches telling me I should put together all Ikea furniture on the carpet because it’s so poorly made it’ll crack into pieces should I construct it on a hard floor?

It’s taken me 20 months to recover from that trauma; the companion bed frame and nightstands were delivered Friday morning. I needed almost two full days to work up the fortitude to tackle them.

Do these instructions make sense to anyone????

 

O woe, what have I got myself into?

Success! Let's just hope the whole thing doesn't collapse...

That’s because I spent most of a day putting together an Ikea wardrobe for Katie’s office.

The downside of loft living is a lack of closets. We have three; the bedroom closet for our clothes, the bike room closet for our athletic gear, a small closet in the entry way for coats and shoes. Katie was getting frustrated with the clutter beneath and around her desk.

I suggested a wardrobe. We searched antique shops, we looked into other options. But we kept coming back to a unit we’d seen in Ikea. It’s siren song was enticing; it was the right color, it had a number of shelves and it wasn’t super expensive.

Reluctantly, and alarmingly, Katie conceded it might be the best choice.

I wish I could say it’s the most awesome piece of furniture ever, an heirloom to last for generations. Alas, it’s big, and has plenty of storage capacity.

 





Oh the weather outside is frightful

11 01 2011

It’s the calm before the storm.

Supposedly.

For the past few days, we’ve been promised a significant snowfall beginning some time this evening. The Wednesday morning commute will be hellacious, we’re advised, before it all turns to slop and rain. Salting and sanding trucks are standing by, transit is prepared, schools are monitoring the situation. We’ve been forewarned.

Supposedly.

Having grown up in colder climes, I’m quite accustomed to “storm hype.” The advent of 24-hour weather channels, Doppler radar and perky presenters has only made it worse. There’s a lot of air to fill, and “cloudy and cool” just doesn’t cut it. So as soon as there’s even an inkling of weather drama on the horizon, the forecasters are all over it. Even if that hint is still tickling the coast of Japan.

Of course, this is the “Wet Coast,” where we choose to live precisely because we don’t usually get a lot of snow or cold weather; so the advent of either, or, God forbid both at the same time, is a noteworthy occurrence. And given our innate inability to cope with such horrific weather conditions, a little advance notice so we can

• create massive backlogs at the local garage to get snowtires installed on the car

• create massive lineups at the grocery store checkout as we stock the pantry to ride out the storm

• create massive congestion at the video store as we stock up on movies to help us weather the weather

• create an early rush hour as we race home to try to beat the weather

• create busy signals as we clog up all phone circuits by phoning our friends and family around town and around the world to discuss the imminent armageddon

So it was with the massive cloud of doom looming that Katie and I set out for a little run before dinner. We were secretly hoping the snow had started, because it would be kind of nice to feel the flakes on our faces before the route iced up. As soon as we left the warmth of the condo building, the cold night are bit our noses and braced our toes. But there was no snow. It was already three hours past its scheduled arrival time.

Even the sidewalk is ready for the much-hyped snow storm.

Are we once again victims of storm hyperbole, in which the severity of the forecast storm is actually the inverse of its advance billing?

* Update: It’s now actually snowing.

 





In the (Gran Fondo) mood

9 01 2011

I’ve got another Gran Fondo to train for.

Saturday was my birthday. Now I’ve never been a huge birthday guy, but Katie loves them. In fact, she’s a firm believer that birthdays are actually three-week celebrations. Which causes her a bit of consternation when mine falls two weeks after Christmas and one week into the new year.

A while back Katie asked me whether I wanted to go out for dinner, or have her make me dinner. The former is easy, we can do that any time. But the latter would be a truly rare and special occurrence.

Katie makes no bones that she doesn’t cook. In our time together, she’s cooked me dinner maybe three times, twice for previous birthdays. But each of those was spectacular, a delicious chicken dinner and, last year, pasta with fresh tomato sauce and mussels.

She spends days stealthily researching recipes on the internet. She frets about shopping for the ingredients. When she starts to get busy in the kitchen, I disappear into the bike room to stay out of the way, her culinary crafting occasionally punctuated by expletives and gasps.

A rare sight indeed, Katie at the stove, smiling between curses.

But once again, the result was outstanding, pasta in a Pino Grigio wine sauce with shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, clams and shrimp. Her timing for a loaf of home-baked olive bread didn’t quite work out, but it will make great sandwiches for the rest of the week. And the coup de grace? Chocolate brownie Junior’s cheesecake! (I think I drooled a little just typing that)

But the result is sooo worth it!

Deeeeelicious!

Birthday cake aka home-baked Junior's chocolate brownie cheesecake!

NOT 80 candles!

Our bellies more than sated, Katie could barely contain her excitement for her gift surprise.

Since mid-week she’d been hyping it, asking me again and again whether I was excited for my birthday, whether I had any idea what she’d gotten me.

The plastic shopping bag had been sitting in a corner of the couch since late afternoon. Apparently its origin was of some significance, but I had no clue. And there was a specific order.

First up was a wrapped envelope. Inside it was a bib, no. 1962 for the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge Gran Fondo in October in Sonoma, California! We’re going to California!

Excitement!

I’d expressed some interest in tackling this Gran Fondo as a follow-up to last year’s Whistler Gran Fondo. In its third year, it’s got a great reputation as a well-organized ride along a beautiful route along oceanside cliffs, past vineyards, up and down rolling hills of northern California. Leipheimer and some of his pro cycling buddies ride it, as do celebrities like Patrick Dempsey. Participants get a cycling jersey.

We’d been hoping it would be scheduled in quick succession with the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, as it was last year, so we could make a holiday bookended by each of our respective exercise passions.

Alas, this year they’re three weeks apart, and I told Katie I’d find another Fondo.

And I guess that’s when her scheming started!

The rest of the shopping bag – from a bike shop, natch – was essentially a swag bag  of stuff I’d need for the ride like a water bottle, cycling magazine, t-shirt, musette, chamois butter and a Larabar energy bar!

Swag! Just like the real thing!

What an awesome surprise! From a spectacular wife!

Sonoma here we come.

The Big Ring rolls on!

All resemblance to an actual King Ridge Gran Fondo bib is purely the result of Katie's creative hard work!





Running at the mouth

2 01 2011

Bravado got the best of me.

On New Year’s Day, Katie and I got up and got out early so she could race in a “Resolution Run.” It was only five kilometers, two loops around a small lake, but it would be her first real run with other people since the Portland Marathon, an important milestone to kick off training for her next challenge.

The morning was clear and cold, very cold. My toes tingled as I walked the path looking for a good photo position, while Katie jogged ahead to warm up.

Resolution runners on their way around the lake.

When the race was over, the grin on Katie’s face was as bright as the winter sun. She was back.

Katie had been struggling recently with her motivation but she’d just run a personal best, more than two minutes faster than her first five km race almost four years ago. What a great way to start the year, she said, and she was ready for more.

Which is when I said, “maybe next year, I’ll run the race with you.”

Then, this self-avowed non-runner proceeded to stick my foot even further into my mouth when I upped the ante further, “maybe I’ll even beat you.”

The gauntlet had been thrown, the glove slapped across the cheek.

“Oh yeah?!” she exclaimed incredulously.

Might as well put something at stake, I suggested; loser cooks dinner for the entire following year.

Seeing as I already do that, I wasn’t really risking too too much, I reasoned. Katie doesn’t cook; while she bakes like there’s no tomorrow, her culinary skills begin and end with eggs.

Which means, if we follow through with this little wager (and given Katie’s legendary capacity to never forget any slight or challenge, I doubt she’ll let me forget it) and I prevail, there will be no more dinner delights like that night’s pizza margharita, made entirely from scratch utilizing my new pizza stone!

Home baked pizza margharita.

Thank goodness Im NOT a runner…