Sunday, November 23, 2008

(Last?) Dirty Dozen training ride

A nice, relatively mellow ride. Simple plan; ride hills until I got sick of them. No minimum, no maximum; the only plan was to start at the beginning and see how far I go.

As a preliminary step, I peeled most of the non-essential stuff off of the P-38. Fenders, kickstand, rack, etc...all gone the way of the dodo. I kept the two bottle cages, and a seat-back bag for sundries like tubes and tools, but that's about it.

Met up with David at Center, and started the run. Center was entirely uneventful. Ravine is still closed, but has enough room for single-file cyclists to meander up the hill. Amusingly enough, there's also a screw jack engaged across the path; I was low enough to not care, but most of the upright folks will need to duck their heads to make it through. I shudder to think of how many of the eager types will stress-test their helmets on the steel bar. On the bright side, the construction changed the appearance of Ravine enough that my usual psychological barrier to climbing that hill was circumvented; it was a "new hill", so not nearly as intimidating.

Berryhill was particularly anticlimactic; it just doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. Logan was rough, as usual, but I made it to the top with only a few cars brushing by within a foot of my elbow. Due to my dislike of heading down Rialto, and David's desire not to go too far out of the way, we skipped Rialto and Suffering-Hellish-Burning in favor of going directly to Sycamore. At that point, it became apparent that, strangely enough, the sun was going to go down in another hour or two, so we chose to do Welsh, then call it a day, as neither of us were clever enough to bring lights.

All in all, not bad. Seven of the thirteen was a reasonable achievement, especially as, while certainly not feeling fresh after Welsh, I wasn't feeling too bad either. If it weren't for lighting concerns, I'm quite confident that BHE and Flowers-Tesla would have been more-or-less a stroll in the park.

I'm still concerned about my ability to do Canton and Boustead at all, as that 30%-ish grade seems to be the magic number where I start to really have problems; however, we'll just have to wait for next Saturday (forecast: rain/snow, high in the mid-30s F...heheheheh!) and see what happens.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New job, commuting, the Dirty Dozen, and suchlike.

As of October 6th, I've been employed at DynaVox, a nice little company on the South Side that makes various and sundry products to assist people with various communication difficulties. It's been a bit of an adjustment, considering that I was with McKesson for darn near a decade, but I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing now.

More importantly, at least from the pedal-powered perspective, is that my new office is a measly 8 miles from my house. That, plus no laptop, means daily commuting is now so simple as to be practically unavoidable. It's quite nice to be able to either commute by bike or work from home five days per week; it's even nicer to realize that I'm filling up the tank on ye olde Subaru about once every six weeks or thereabouts, rather than once a week or more.

Commuting has been a bit of a learning process; for example, it took me a few days to realize that sweat was okay, and that bike shorts in the office, while a bit of a bold fashion statement, would not be grounds for termination or merciless mockery. The highlights of my day now include the befuddled gaze of passers-by when I cruise by on the 'bent, with steaming coffee mug raised to lips and a look of almost indecent contentment on my face; the cheers of approval (or so I choose to interpret them) from the colorful characters hanging out behind the Salvation Army; and the joy of comfortably keeping pace with (or, not infrequently, outpacing) traffic on the Boulevard of the Allies on the way home. Not that I mean to wax overtly rhapsodic or anything; it's just such a pleasant change in my life, and I haven't really grown accustomed to it yet.

I've also been fortunate, in that I've now got a nice bunch of folks in the area for potential lunchtime riding partners, some of whom not only are crazed enough to agree that it's a good idea to ride three or four Dirty Dozen hills over lunch, but are also patient enough to wait for me to haul my flabby carcass up the slopes in their wake. Thanks, Brian, Robbie, Dave, etc...

Speaking of such things, Dirty Dozen training proceeds apace. I'm not sure if I'll be able to take Canton or not, as I've been utterly incapable on the Rocket, and the P-38 barely made it a third of the way at last attempt. Regardless, I'm feeling pretty good about it; been riding the hillz at least twice a week for the last month, and, while I'm still slower than a wide gamut of very slow things, I'm happy with my progress. I'll give it a shot; since points are so far beyond my reach as to reside in the realm of wildest fantasy, there's really no pressure whatsoever. I get to go out, have fun, push myself a wee bit, and hopefully demonstrate that recumbents aren't solely bound to rail-trails and velodromes.

Ah, yes. Almost forgot. Wintry crapola has officially descended, so the commute is becoming more interesting. I threw a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winters on the Rocket; they're heavy, and sound like they're rolling on a perpetual trail of Rice Krispies, but I have this unfounded hope that they'll help keep me moving in a more-or-less controlled fashion when the weather turns to utter frozen shite. Nice tires, from what I can tell on short acquaintance. They handle much like the stock Marathons, with the addition of a bit of buzz from the carbide spikes. Mine are in the 42-406 size, so are quite beefy; like most Schwalbe models, they're available in a ridiculous number of sizes and diameters, including a 35-622 that looks just spiffy for commuters on 700c wheels. If and when I set myself up with an upright all-rounder, I'll probably invest in a set of Marathon Winters for that as well, assuming that these hold up well enough to vaguely justify the ludicrously high price tag.