Ouchies

Warning missing skin ahead!
You probably think I fell off my bike.  Well no! I fell off my skateboard so there!  Oh dear, should 36 year old men really be saying such things.

When you ride one of these most awesome boards:

Freebord

Freebord (sic)

And one of the center caster breaks like this at 15 miles an hour:

Busted center

Busted Center

You end up like this (hint here comes the missing skin):

kneeKnee

Elbow

Elbow, note the bottom lip 🙁

The studious amongst you might notice that I shave around my knee so that I could add and remove the Tegaderm more easily.  I’m so smart that I’m learning from previous road rash, yes really smart I tell you.  The brown stuff is Betadine.  I leave it as an exercise to reader to try and take a photo of their elbow.

Things that make me feel like I’m living in the future.

It’s odd the things that make me feel like I’m living in the future.  As a kid (if I no longer am)  I don’t think I thought about living in space, or having flying cars or streaming HD videos to my TV.  Which is odd given my predilection for sci-fi books. I do remember the first time I played a video game (the original Space Invaders) at a fish and chip shop (when they cost 20c a turn, or about half my pocket money) it was something pretty special.  The latest video game graphics still amaze me, even if I never really became a gamer, but what really makes me feel like future me is the convergent device.  You know the things that cram everything into one, sometimes, easy to use package.  Mobile phones are a bit of a counter point to this as they seem to take two steps forward 4 steps back (I mean yay I can stream live video but the battery last 20 minutes).  My current favorite future thing is my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS.  Look at this thing:

Firstly it’s the size of a watch. Okay a very big watch, but that’s fine I have big wrists. Secondly it contains an entire GPS, heart rate monitor, etc. In the size of a watch! The GPS means that it’s talking, well listening, to satellites.  In space! Thirdly I can work out how to use it without getting terribly confused. Fourthly the battery lasts a reasonable amount of time and charges off  USB, I think everything should charge via GPS. Fifthly, it’s the size of a watch! Sixthly it plays nice with my computer and the software I like to use with it. Actually I find the software ,SportsTracks, a bit confusing sometimes. But then I’ve written reporting interfaces far worse so it’s not really worth complaining.  So this magical “watch” can be used for running, which I used to do more of, and riding, which I now do a lot of, and just walking around if you feel like it.  All this for $220, that’s around about 22 morning coffees + lunches. You should all go buy one now.

“But wait!” I hear you ask.  I hear you because I’m in tune with you gentle reader. “What can I actually do with ‘Future Watch’?” Glad you asked because you know I like to insert pictures in here to make it look like I can write.  Well firstly you can do stuff like this:

Monterey Route Map

Maps!

When Capt Cook sailed to New Zealand he drew a “map”.  While it was considered to be amazingly detailed at the time, there’s obviously things wrong with it. Like Stewart Island is connected to the mainland and Fijordland doesn’t exist.  See calculating longitude was really hard and people spent a lot of time trying to work it out.  If you ask me, and why wouldn’t you, they should have skipped all the exploring and gone straight to designing sattelites.  What Cook, and lots of other early explorers, needed was a GPS watch.  All that guesswork gone, I bet Cook would have felt like he was living in the future. But what else can it do! Behold one of my favorite things in the world, a graph (or chart if you’re from the USA):

Road 9-12-2009, Speed - Distance,Elevation,Cadence

Graph!

Here’s a simple and easy to read chart showing speed, heart rate, cadence and elevation vs distance…. okay, okay hang on.

Road 9-12-2009, Speed - Distance

More sensible graph!

This show speed, in blue, and heart rate, (in red) against distance. You can see the when I suddenly go faster I’m probably going downhill and my hear rate drops.  There also seems to be a downward trend in both speed and heart rate as I get further into the ride.  I think this means I got lazy, but hey it was a long way.  Seriously though these charts are really useful if you know how to read them, they can give a really good indication of your fitness.  Seeing that I have no idea on how to read them I just make it up. There’s more I could go on with, you can load in track data ahead of time, use the pre-programmed interval workouts, etc.  There’s not much to do with moving that it doesn’t do.

If you’re still reading this and haven’t gone straight out and bought one of these then I don’t know what else to say.  Garmin is not, currently, paying me to write this stuff (although I’m open to test units) so I really mean it when I say the future is here and it’s a watch.  Mind you I wouldn’t say no to a flying car too.

A nice day for a bike ride.

I am not a morning person.  If this statement is true, and it undeniably is, then I’m really not a 4:15am person.  You can therefore imagine my bleary eyed confusion when I was woken by thunder and around 4:15am on Saturday morning.  My internal monologue went something like this:

“Wow, thunder….. and lightening…. and rain.”

<snooze>

“Isn’t that unusual for this time of year?”

<snooze>

“I wonder what riding 120 miles in the rain is like?”

<snooze>

“Wait! What? Rain! Today! Get out of here.”

<snooze>

“Oh I can’t hear rain. I wonder when my alarm is going off. Oh look it’s 5:48am and I’m getting up at 5:15am…. Wait! What?”

See I told I’m not a morning person, at any other time of day it would have no more than a minute for all of that to run through my mind.  For those not in the know, Saturday was he Oakland Yellowjackets annual Monterey ride and I was planing on riding 120 miles (193.12128 kilometers for the down unders) from Pacifica to Monterey. The good news was that it wasn’t technically raining at that point, there was so much fog that the air was completely saturated, but not technically rain falling from the sky.  The bad news was that I was now half an hour behind schedule because I’d set my alarm for 5:15pm instead of am, maybe I’m not a night person either?  I fixed this time deficit by not eating breakfast and walking out the door.  Not being a morning person I’d packed the car the night before and put my water bottles in the refrigerator.  This meant that I’d stuck a piece of tape on the back door holding it shut with the text “Water Bottles!” written on it.  For some reason I remembered then water bottles and forgot the tape, the loud tearing noise as I opened the door certainly helped get me into the next level of awakedness but caused me to drop a bottle.  My downstairs neighbor may also now be aware that I’m not a morning person.

Once in the car and on my way things started to settle down somewhat and I could finally be excited.  My previous longest ride was 80 miles around Petaluma, so I was really looking forward to a new milestone as well as having some trepidation that I could even ride that far.  After all I’d only decided on Monday that I wanted to do the ride on Saturday. I pulled into the Pacifica parking lot, checked in, topped of my tires and parked the car, and after checking that I had everything maybe 10 or 15 times headed to check-in.  I manged to breakfast on some muffin and a banana and pedaled around the lot a couple of times.  Mary and Al called us over for a quick run through of how things would work.

Pacifica Breifing

Foggy Pacifica start.

Due to the amazing work of other people in the club the route was marked with fluro yellow route markers on the road meaning that reaching for the paper route sheet wasn’t quite as necessary as usual.  Once the briefing was over we headed off at 7am as promised (the one time a year the Yellow Jackets leave on time).  After following the first few markers we ended up at the bottom of Devils Slide, it was about this point that I realized that maybe the people I was riding with were a little stronger than me.  They quickly disappeared off into the fog leaving me to spin my granny gear up the climb.  After a close encounter with some hay I was a the top. I decided that maybe I was wrong about the people ahead being stronger, and that if I put in a bit of effort now I’d catch them on the short decent. This was a naive and wrong assumption, I saw then again for a second in Pescadero and then not again until Monterey.  Later I was talking to Bruce who got to Monterey quite some time before anyone else.  It turns out he does this sort of thing quite a bit, actually he’s ridden 550 miles in 43 hours. Wow!

At some point before Pescadero Kevin, and then Barry, caught up to me. Without knowing it Kevin taught me a valuable trick to doing 120 miles, coast down the hills.  Seems obvious and I’m guessing most people know this but it took me a hill or two to work it out.  Pedaling down the hill only gets you a few more miles an hour and just uses that extra bit of energy you’ll be thankful for later. In the midst of the rolling hills Pescadero appeared. It was nice to jump off the bike in Pescadero, fill the bottles and grab some snacks.  As I started riding up the next roller the lack of breakfast started to catch up with me and I decided I need to eat a Clif bar and munch on some Shot Bloks.  The shot bloks are so much nicer than gels, it’s like eating jello cubes and that’s never a bad thing!

P1000103

Sunny Pescadero

The fog was slowly lifting and it was great to be able to see bits of ocean and pumpkin fields rolling by. I’ve never ridden past a pumpkin field before and it took me a second to work out what the flashes of orange along the rows of the field were.  Pumpkins in Australia tend to be green or gray which I guess is why this was a new thing. Santa Cruz couldn’t come soon enough for me at this point, the calories I’d eaten hadn’t really started to kick in and I was really looking forward to getting off the bike and having lunch.  Lunch therefore looked a lot like this:

Lunch!

Lunch!

Lunch was perfect, turkey sandwich with BBQ sauce, pasta and some brownie where exactly what I needed and I started feeling better right away.  The riding after lunch took us through Santa Cruz and surrounds.  All was going well until the route markers lead me into a closed off street having some sort of festival.  Someone pointed at a detour and I managed to find my way through to the other side.  Barry and I rode along for a while before he stopped to check out something, and after a couple of minutes solo I saw the yellow jackets of the Yellow Jackets bunch up ahead.  We ended up in a loose bunch until the next rest stop.  Unfortunately about 5 minutes before that rest stop a small dog decided to run after me. I decided a good reaction to this would be to ride into the thigh deep ditch beside the road.  In hindsight this probably wasn’t a good tactical move, and  I was in far more danger of injury from the ditch rather than the dog.  Unfortunately nobody was around to witness this because it must have look hilarious to see a 200 pound man drive into a ditch while being chased by a 10 pound dog! The upside of this maneuver was a) I wasn’t hurt and my bike was okay but for some slightly bent bars and b) the dog was so confused by my actions that it went to a nearby field and watched me sort myself out.  The final rest stop was apparently a shell of it former fruit stand glory, there’s literally only a shell of a fruit stand left.  Anyway we had the truck with water to top up bottles and after couple of orange quarters I had the energy to make it to the end.  Still confused by my ditch incident I didn’t take a photo of the fruit stand so here’s some people surfing in Santa Cruz.

Surfs up

Surf’s up!

Kevin, Barry, Ronald (maybe?) and I then battled the strawberry field headwinds, even giving a draft to a passed touring cyclist.  A few more rolling hills later and we were approaching the end.  I realized I was going to make it and I felt good! After negotiating a Triathlon finish line that appeared in Pacific Grove (Barry tried for a 3 hour 32 minute finish but ducked out at the last second) we powered up the last hill like Lance and the Schleck up Mont Ventoux. Actually it might not have been quite like that but anyway we got to the park and descended on the lunch leftovers and some awesome cupcakes. Yum!

Finish!

Finish!

We checked in, showered and ate more. I felt no guilt in eating, my computer seemed to think I’d burnt 8,000 calories! (Please don’t tell me it’s wrong! 🙂

Dinner

Al lets us know how “unlucky” he is.

Some stories were swapped around the fireplace and then I was off to sleep. I kept dreaming about riding, which seemed like an extra effort I didn’t need. After breakfast and a stroll to the beach the next morning we jumped into the bus and vans and headed back to Pacifica and reality.

Asilomar Surfer

Asilomar surfer

A huge thank you to Al, Mary and everyone in the Yellow Jackets who helped organize this great ride.  Special thanks to the SAG drivers who followed us around all day, you were awesome. Also thanks to everyone for trying to decipher my Australian accent and for all being such a great welcoming bunch of people. I had a great time, sign me up for next year and see you Saturday!

More reasons it’s really quite nice around here.

Firstly I went riding, I refuse to bore you with the details so don’t ask. We rode up Palomares.

Palomares

Doesn’t look steep does it?

Then I got home and Corwin rang to say he was heading to Waddell so I went there.

Waddell at dusk.

Doesn’t look sharky does it?

Some mellow kiteboarding ensued. The fog bank was being particularly impressive.

Fog Up Close

It looks out of focus, but fog is out of focus.

I liked the ominous look of this.

Ominous

Thanks foreshortening you helped a lot.

That is all, go about the rest of your weekend content in the knowledge that a) I can ride at the front of a pack of cyclist “Like a tank!” (a good thing I thing) b) I “certainly have the legs for it” as noted by tank man and c) I have “aerodynamic shoulders for leading” (meaning they’re so wide everyone can hide behind them).  See aren’t you glad you didn’t ask?

How about that heat?

Something felt like it clicked yesterday, and not my ever aging knees. I was able to ride along at 18mph on the flat (28kph) without blowing a gasket, I climbed really well for me, and by the 30 mile mark of the 60 mile ride I felt really good.  I’d been eating my Cliff Shot Blocks earlier than usual and really keeping hydrated. We were, in theory (oh foreshadowing again), riding out to a hill called Calaveras. What a strange bunch cyclists are, riding 30 miles  so they can ride up a hill.  It makes sense when you’re doing it though. I took my camera but kept forgetting to take pictures.  Here’s one from about 15 miles in:

View

We’re heading off into the distance.

Not long after we go to a piece of road called the Dublin Grade.  It was hot, very hot, and it continued to get hotter as we rode.  Eventually we got to the oasis called Sunol:

Sunol

Oasis

We refueled and re-hydrated. Luckily this caused a few people to come to their senses and suggested that seeing as it had reached something over 100F (38C) it was maybe a good idea to back track. I was a little disappointed,  but certainly wasn’t going to go alone. 45 minutes later, as I tried not to faint riding back over Dublin Grade, I decided that the Yellowjackets are geniuses and I should always listen to the group consensus.  It also made me a little relieved that I hadn’t gone with the advanced group which I’d considered doing at the start of the day as they’d probably gone the whole way. While this wasn’t as long as some of the rides I’ve done recently I got home more exhausted than after the 80 mile Petaluma ride of a few weeks ago.  I may have even had a short power nap after a cold shower.

Here’s the route:

Road 8-29-2009

Next week, more reviews, and I finally reveal why I went Lycra.

Product Reviews: The new Vegemite ‘experience’

Firstly, because I’d hate to get to a point straight away, let me explain why I rarely make bread.  Shortly before I moved to the US Celia helped me “harness the mania” of making bread.  Specifically sour dough.  I thoroughly enjoyed the technical aspects of how it all worked (who’d have thunk it?) and, naturally, buying the required gadgets.  Not that there’s many, some scales, bowls, a scrapper a bakers hat with your website printed on the side…  Come to think  of it Celia really did harness the mania and supplied me with nearly all of the aforementioned, not to mention more flour than I could ever use. I proceeded to bake a lot and bore people at work during lunch with stories of crumb structure and it’s relation to hydration (76% is about optimal for the flour I had, just in case). Anyhow, I moved and expected the bread to be terrible and my new skills would make me the envy of ex pats across the Bay Area. I underestimated the US, something I did quite a few times before moving here.  The standard bread is indeed not to my taste, note I don’t say its bad as I’m about to talk about Vegemite and well it doesn’t seem right to judge (that’s foreshadowing). However this is California and not 5 miles (8.04672kms) from here there are two amazing bakers Semifreddis and the slightly smaller ACME (so authentic they don’t have a proper website).  At my local “grocer” (read expensive supermarket) you can get yourself the most amazing Sourdough Batard you’ve ever seen for about US$4 (about AUD$120, but hey when you’re earning locally). If I happen to go to REI or the nearby bike shop I also happen to end up across the street from ACME. It’s not surprising then that yesterday  I happened apoun this:

acme loaf

Ciabatta

Which contains crumb that looks like this:

P1000047

Crumb

I love Ciabatta, stuff squeezes so nicely into the holes. They also had some Not Cross Buns:

NotX

Bun

As I bought direct the grand total was $4.75, or something below US$5 (about AUD$12, that exchange rate fluctuates wildly, and who doesn’t love unit conversion humor?).  I tell you I’d pay $10 per bun, bundles of rasin and dried fruit joy I tell you. Anyway as I had recently received a shipment from my dealer of smuggled Australia food (I don’t want to give away her identity so let’s call her “DanC” nee “DanY”) containing Cherry Ripes, Crunchies and a jar of the brand new as yet un-named Vegemite ‘experience’ I figured that the Ciabatta’s stuff carrying properties would be perfect for a review. First the jar:

jar

The nameless jar

Now Vegemite is readily available here, requiring only a bank loan and a dangerous goods wavier to purchase a small jar from most grocery store.  At our local it’s in the “English” section, but oh well. My theory with Vegemite is that you need to be exposed at a young enough age that eating food that looks and smells like tar and tastes like discarded brewers yeast is something that you don’t question. I’ve heard the “Americans only like sweet stuff” theory, and I don’t buy it.  People here, on average, seem to have about the same sweet tooth as Australia and it’s not like every single thing that’s eaten in the USA is sweet. Try some buffalo wings or BBQ sometime if you don’t believe me. Hmmm Buffalo wings…. My other theory (I have a lot, if you ever need one I have spares) is that Kraft made the ‘experience’ to take Vegemite to the world.  The idea is that they’ve mixed Vegemite and cream cheese into one container, thus negating the need to add butter to the base layer (the substrate if you will) that carries the Vegemite into your belly. The slacker in me finds this appealing, mainly because it stops me getting Vegemite in the butter container which just make honey on toast taste odd.

In order to taste test I applied a generous amount (had had pretested before this review as suspected that a “more is more approach was required) of the ‘experience’ to an approximately 1cm thick slice of ACME Ciabatta.  I was feeling lazy and therefore did not toast the bread.  Many of you will find this sacrilegious but if that’s the case you’d be better of finding a proper religion and not worship toast spreading rituals. The result looked something like this:

spreadonbread

Spread on bread

Now here’s my first issue, it looks even more like Nutella than the original Vegemite which was one of the reason those not brought up on it didn’t like it.  It looked like it should taste different to what it does.  Of course it also looks a little scatological or greasealogical, depending on which side of the anal retentive line you fall,  not adding to it newbie appeal.  However this was a mute point to me and so I chomped on down.  And here’s where I got disappointed. See I’m a heavy ‘miter, I lay that stuff on thick and go relatively easy on the butter (yeah right).  The ‘experience’  takes away the fine tuning option, and I guess that’s the point, it’s Vegemite for people who don’t really like Vegemite. And the problem with that is that people generally know, in the US at least, what Vegemite is and that they probably already don’t like the idea of it which means they’re probably not going to go out and buy this. The caveat to this is that if you can convince someone to try Vegemite as an adult, then you should probably break them in with the ‘experience’, then wean them off it and get them onto the real thing. After all it’s best to harness the mania, no matter what it is!

Rating on the Chris Scale: Would not buy again. Nobuy

Boo Kraft the first review and I had to make the thumbs down photo first!

Tomorrow, a review of the Performance Cycling $20 jersey.  There’s no way I could write 1000 words about that right?

UPDATE: Maybe I’ll do something I love, like my GPS.

8.04672

Riding around the Oakland Hills

Or, why the bay area is awesome.

Firstly let me setup why I’m attempting to start blogging again.  A few years ago I read some biking articles by a guy called the Fat Cyclist. He was/is hilarious, especially a post on why cyclists shave their legs (it’s okay I haven’t gone there).  Through Lance Armstrong’s twitter I found him again.  Things had changed a lot, his wife Susan was fighting cancer and there was Eldon sharing his life with everyone in a way that impressed be beyond words.  Susan passed away a few weeks ago and I was deeply moved by her and Eldon’s story. Really go away now and read some of his blog, if you don’t laugh, cry  (sometime both at once) and feel like should should do something to help fight… well I don’t know what, but you should.  I was so moved that my self pity at reaching 100kgs (220 pounds) again seemed so insignificant and easy to fix that I got my bike out, my aim is to join Team Fatty for next years Livestrong Challenge, so be prepared to be pestered for donations.

If you’ve know me for a while (i.e. any time greater than about 20 minutes), you’ll know I tend to get reasonably “into” things from time to time.  For a while in NZ I mountain biked, a lot.  Mainly shuttling up the hill and riding down.

dhbiking

What a cool dude, dude.

Since I moved back to Australia and then to the US I’ve been riding sporadically (I bought a road bike not long after I got here), mainly because I’ve been hanging around on the weekends hoping there would be enough wind to kiteboard.   Then I realised I’ve done a lot of kiting in the last 10 years, and riding a bike would be a good way to make a few new friends and lose the weight I’ve managed to gain waiting for the aforementioned wind.  I turned up at the Oakland Yellow Jackets weekly ride about 3 weeks ago, after having done a few after work rides, and rode 54 miles (86 kilometers, sorry I’ve had to finally convert to miles so people have some clue as to what I’m talking about when riding).  I guess I had a reasonable amount of fitness left over from the occasional lunch time runs PC and I do.  Needless to say I was hooked.  The amount of stuff you can see in 50ish miles is pretty impressive so I was pretty exited to ride 77 miles (120 kms) the next weekend.  We ended up riding a bit further thanks to a helpful local who sent us up a windy, bumpy hot road on an extra 4 mile loop.  More ride reports on those rides later.  For now lets try and reach something like “a point”.

Today I had a something to do in the afternoon so I had to do a ,now short feeling, 30 mile (48km) ride so I was home by lunch time.  I rode up a hill I’ve been riding after work and down the other side.  As Celia had convinced me to finally get a decent camera I figured I’d take a few snaps along the way.  Problem being, I’m an idiot and don’t like stopping so you get about 4 photo’s and a map.  Impressive huh? So let’s begin.

startHere’s the start, I’m heading up into the hill in the background.  It’ll take about 1/2 an hour and a small gear to get there.

tunneltopI get to the top and need to remind myself I’m in northern California.  There are so many Eucalyptus trees.  If I had smello-web it would have that wonderful scent of vics vapour rub.

oaklandvistaThis house has an amazing view.  In typical San Francisco summer weather it’s foggy first thing in the morning.

downWeeee I get to ride down the hill into the canyon on the other side of Oakland, although I was thinking most of the way down that I would have to climb back up again to get home.

moragaHere’s where it gets amazing. 5 miles (8km), as the crow files from my house is this sort of countryside. 5miles in the other direction is the city of San Francisco.  It’s so amazing to be able to pop over the hill and be truly out of the city, on quiet tree lined roads surrounded by redwoods. I love it, a lot.

redwoodsAnd now I pay for all that downhill fun.  This is the famous Redwoods Rd climb.  It’s not steep, but it lasts a while.

cockpitHere’s what it looks like crawling up the hill in my granny gear (the small easy one for the non cyclists who suck with me this far).  The speed is embarrassingly slow and the cadence isn’t great either, but hey I’m not built for climbing okay?

liveineastbayHere’s another reason I love the east bay.  Under that cloudy fog is San Francisco, it’ll burn off by 2 or 3, just in time for it to roll in again around 7.  The east bay is either clear by 10 or doesn’t get it at all.

So there we are back at the top and felling pretty weary.  After the last photo is a final nice down hill then home for coffee and lunch. There’s a little bit of what my morning was like. Nice huh? In weeks to come be prepared for more ride reports and some revolutionary honest reviews of cycling products.  Of course, plans of blogging and actually carrying through on it are two very different things.

We managed to do the Bay2Breakers, which is a San Francisco institution.  Here’s the map.

bay2breakers

It took me 1:33:49 including the 15 minutes it took to cross the start line.  It was great fun, with a huge turnout of runner and spectors.  I’ll do it again for sure.