Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bats Are Gross

First things first - some maintenance. Before setting off for an evening ride I had to address the squawking brake rotor on the rear of my bike. I pulled off the wheel and checked the pads. They looked fine. Definitely not worn out. Next, I resurfaced the rotor. Never done this on a bike, but have on a car. Its the same thing. I just took a Scotchbrite pad, dipped it in alcohol (rubbing of course, don't waste the good stuff). Scrub away in a pattern that's not in line with the path of the pads on the rotor. Um, I just kinda followed the "spokes" of the rotor for direction from inside to outside.

I did both sides of the rotor. It's perfect when whenever you tilt the rotor you can see very fine scratches in one direction - but when you tilt in another direction you scratches in another direction. Kinda like those Cracker Jack prizes that have a moving picture...

Next I recentered the caliper after I put the wheel back on. I loosened the mounting bolts squeezed the brake lever then held as I tightened up the bolts. Here a little trick. When you squeeze the brake lever with the bolts loose, notice which side of the caliper moves the most. Tighten that bolt first.

It worked. No more squawking! I took the time to give the front caliper the same treatment... I'm in braking bliss right now!

Time to go for a ride...

I boogied down to Buffalo Bayou park. On my commute to work, I've noticed this sign for the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony. I went to check it out on the bike, rather than catching a glimpse in the truck. Well, it's not so great. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but its nothing more than a bunch of bats that live (and poop) under the bridge over the bayou. The entire underside of the bridge is covered in bat poop. Yech. I didn't know bat poop stinks. The whole "colony" area stinks. I hurriedly rode under the bridge holding my breath as much as possible. It was kinda cool hearing the bats, but I won't be back...

Other than the bat poop, I love this part of town. It's home to Houston's best (though short) disc golf course. It's the only one with any elevation change! I wonder if I can get a disc in my Camelback?

This wonderful greenspace in the center of town is a real nice feature of this city. A city that doesn't get much credit for it's beauty. OK, it's not Austin, but the smack center of Houston is a lot prettier than Katy. I took some photos of the greenery in the shadows of the skyline to illustrate.

Always in the shadow of downtown, but not feeling the concrete jungle blues!

I rode almost to downtown. And had to giggle with my riding partner about the painted sidewalk near the Art Park...

It was a good ride today, almost 17 miles of mixed pace. It's sometimes hard to maintain pace on the trails, as they are mixed use with lots of pedestrians. Sometimes you have to time things to go around the joggers.

The bike needs cleaning, and that will happen tomorrow. Also, tomorrow the stability ball workout looms... ooohhh this is gonna be good!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Whoa!

Two of my goals this season are improving my core strength and increasing my flexibility. I located a great set of exercises using a stability ball. My first thought was, this is kinda goofy, maybe a bit girly, and should be very light exercise... oh boy was I wrong!

The set took less than 45 mintues. I did it just before I got ready to meet a friend for dinner on Satuday night. Didn't feel like a very strenuous workout. But, by the time dinner was over my muscles were stiffening up...

By Sunday... I was hurting and walking like Fred G. Sanford! What I thought was a goofy, make sure the curtains are closed, type of exercise set...took me to my knees. I have a whole new respect for those balls!

I'm still closing the curtains though!

Recovery Ride, Take 2...
Needless to say, tonght was a recovery ride. Unlike my last one, I acutally did a recovery ride. Like my last one I enjoyed a post ride Sunshine beer. I was still tempted to bring the heat, but I kept it in a medium gear, and just free spun. My sore legs appreciated it. After a hot soaking bath, I can walk normal again. Almost as good as George Jefferson. YeeHa!

Harbinger of Problems?

My rear brake is squawking. Not squeeking or chirping - SQUAWING! It got so bad that I had to stand up to apply it. The vibration passing up the frame and through the saddle felt very, ummm, tingly on parts that aren't supposed to tingle during a ride! Maybe it's a design feature, but I don't like it.

I took a glance at the rotor...

It looks like there's atleast some funny wear going on here. It may be time for pads. I don't know I didn't bother to investigate any further. I just put the bike away and hit the tub. I found all the tech for the brakes here on Avid's website. Armed with enough knowledge to really mess things up, I'm pulling the the wheels to take a look tomorrow - perhaps during lunch.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Catching up!

Bruise watch...
The bruise on my arm from my attempted blood donation is finally starting to look better. My elbow's not stiff anymore, so that's certainly good!

What a wide variety of colors a bruise can make! I only wish my camera could capture the shades and hues. Here's what it looks like today...

If you still have an appetite...
I'm a transplanted Cajun, so I had little exposure to (real) Tex-Mexican food before I moved to Houston. That's why I'm not sure what to call this dish. Quesodillas maybe? There is some cheese, but mostly it's veggies... It's flat so its not a taco... Hmmm, I donno what to call it but its good! I took a tortilla and some chopped-up, left-over BBQed chicken breast meat. Then I piled it high with sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, spinach, and some jalapeno peppers. Added a light dusting of shredded jack cheese. Comme ca..

Covered with a second tortilla and baked in the oven (~450F) until the tortilla edge was just a bit crispy. Turned out really good! Load up on the veggies, skimp on the cheese, and end up with a very tasty, filling yet low-cal, low-fat dish.

Why I love my neighborhood...
I managed to squeeze in a decent ride yesterday afternoon between the daily monsoon/rain. Needless to say, this was a road ride not a trail ride. My neighborhood has several "dog parks" where everyone brings their dogs to socialize. As I rode by, on one of the benches was a guy playing his flute. So I stopped, and listened. He was good! It was a purely random event of being out for a ride and running into a free concert in the park! I hung around and played with some of the neighborhood doggies, visited with folks, and just had a good relaxing time. This is typical of my neighborhood, and why I love it so...

Anyway, off I went, without remembering to take a picture of our floutist (?) for the blog. DOH! I guess this is why I'm not a news photographer... So sorry Josh, your picture didn't make the blog...

Monday, July 23, 2007

In Recovery

I pedal away from the house.
My legs feel like goo.
Heavy, sore, sluggish, slow.

Good thing today is a recovery ride.
No reason to push hard.
Just ride along, ride along.

What is this I feel?
A loseness in my legs?
A freedom of motion?

Instinctively my legs speed up.
Push a little harder.
And off I go.

So much for recovery.
Because this feels good.
Too good to slow down.

Time for reward.
If I can't have a recovery ride.
I'll have a recovery beer.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Daily Double

Went riding twice today! The morning ride was testing. First was a two mile bench mark time trial. After warming up, it's two miles AFAFP. I spent about 20 minutes recovering... then I did a anaerobic threshold (AT) test as described here.

What did I find out? Two things. I think my maximum heart rate (MHR) is about 182. That's not too far of my theoreticaly MHR of 186 (220-age). I may have had a bit more left, but if I did it wasn't much. Factoring in the 90° heat I'm sure doesn't help. My aerobic threshold looked to be about 160-165. It's tough to run the test accurately. But, that's what I came up with.

This afternoon I went for a second ride. This started out as a JRA. But I decided to concentrate on breathing better. I focused on pushing hard on exhaling and simply allowing air to refill my lungs. This technique works! It seems like I didn't struggle as much. I also decided to try out that 160 BPM aerobic threshold rate and tried to ride at that heart rate consistantly. I quickly found out, I can ride at that level of effort all day. Then I kicked it up a notch... At 165 I'm just on the brink. but I can maintain. At 170 I can maintain for a while, but I can't maintain it for more than 2 or 3 minutes (if that). Looks to me like my AT is 165 BPM.

I took a moment to snap this picture under the Heights Blvd. overpass.

That picture was taken under the watchful eye of a local homeless guy. I see this guy all the time by the side of the road around this area. He never has a sign. He never asks for money. He just chills out with this dog. I think he's a hobo and not a bum... there is a difference.

Anyway, after my ride, I decided it was time for some dinner. So I made two Pita Pizzas using a metric butt ton of veggies. I wrote up instructions for those a while back. They were good.

Wrapped up my day planning what to eat next week, then going to the grocery store to buy it. Stay tuned, I'll be posting some good eats.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Blood Bath Under My Arm

Attempted to give blood today. I say attempted, because I wasn't successful. Things started out well enough. I went through the questionnaire, etc... The gal put the needle in, and it didn't even hurt. Well ok, but it wasn't a big deal. So I relaxed and looked out the window... then the gal checked on me and said "Oh, you are going slow..." then she started messing with the needle. She move it once, no big deal - she checked the bag, moved it again... OOOWWWWEEEEE... it hurt the the dickens!!!

I knew immediately, this wasn't normal. She called the other guy over, and he just kinda looked at it... she pulled the needle out, and I looked down to see a huge knot forming... uh oh. They put a bandage on it and gave me an ice pack for it. They must have asked me 50 times if I was ok. I was fine! I could tell the gal that stuck me felt really bad. No big deal, just a bit of pain, and I certainly wasn't angry at her. She was competent, and sometimes things happen... Here's the result...

I've got one sore elbow! The bruise is actually more dramatic in person. It's puffy and blood was oozing through my skin pores. Lovely. I'm having a hard time straightening out my elbow. I think some of the blood may have run into the joint... This one's going to keep me off the bike for a day or maybe two... Luckily, I planned on that anyway for the blood donation.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Garmin Forerunner 301 Rawks!

I've been getting by with a simple bike computer and a el-cheapo wristwatch mounted heart-rate monitor that I paid $40 for. The heart rate monitor isn't very accurate. Typically I have to take readings 3 or 4 times to find the real rate. Sometimes the readings vary upto 20 bpm. It also does not continually monitor. You press a button, it displays your rate. That's it. Having to stop during a ride to check my heart rate was a pain. And since there was no memory I'd have to keep the results in my head (also not very accurate).

I set out to buy a better heart rate monitor that would provide a continuous readout. I wanted something that could sum up the amount of time in 5 heart rate zones. And if possible have it downloadable into my PC. I found one, and it cost $139.99. It only kept three zones and couldn't interface with a PC. I could live with that. I didn't get it, because I wanted to look at another store.

A bit more looking around, I came across the Garmin Forerunner 301 HRM. This is a GPS bike computer, plus heart rate monitor. Best of all, I found it for under $200. For less than $60 more I could get a GPS computer and heart rate monitor that handled the five zones I wanted and download to my PC. I never like having a sensor on my fork. It just gets in the way when changing a tire. So, I could eliminate that. A quick review of the features of the Forerunner 301 made the $60 a slam dunk! Here's how it looks mounted to the bike...

One thing I couldn't stand about my previous computer was the lack of backlight. I often ride at night. So checking the speed progress involved stopping under a street light. The 301 provides that...

It comes with Garmin's Training Center Software for downloading history from the GPS. Here's a screen shot...

Training center provides ride summaries, and time in heart rate zones as I desired...

And it provides graphs of heart rate, speed, and other things...

And it provides a map of your route...

Well, OK, that's a pretty crappy map! You can used a third-party software such as MotionBased or SportTracks to provide better mapping. I chose SportTracks because its free. I can't remember where I downloaded it, but I'm sure a Google search will quickly provide a link.

Here's a screen shot of the main window, showing my path overlayed on a satellite image...

You can zoom in and get pretty detailed. For those familiar, that's I-10 to the south. The large street to the left is Studewood, and to the right is Taylor street. The bayou in the center is White Oak. I guess I should note that these are in Houston, TX USA.

You can zoom in even further. You can see my truck parked on the street in this view!

The inevitable question... worth the money? Yes! The Forerunner 301 worked great. Kept my heart rate throughout my test ride today, and kept an accurate speed, distance and path. All without a wired or large wireless fork mounted sensor. I'm still learning the features - it does a lot of stuff - so I'll keep updating the 301's performance.

Homemade Soft Tacos

Last night was Taco Tuesday. Start off with some fresh veggies. What you see here are: shredded lettuce, and diced tomatos. In the black bowl are some diced red onions and bell pepper that are marinating in balsamic vinegar and a touch of salt. Let them marinate for about an hour.

When the onions and peppers are ready take the balsamic vinegar and pour it into the diced tomatos. Then sautee the peppers and onions in a hot skillet until tender.

When you finish sauteeing, strain the vinegar off of the tomatoes. Don't let them sit longer than this.

I also decided to have a refried bean shootout. I bought three for a taste test. Here are the contestants:

The Old ElPaso Traditional won for best taste. Of the three the Old ElPaso Vegetarian had the highest amount of fat and calories per serving. Always read the labels. Just because the outside label leads you to believe it's healthy, t'isn't necessarily so. I've found the same problem with "Low Fat" foods. Often they are every bit as high in calories as their regular siblings. You aren't going to lose an ounze eating those foods.

Anyway, I put the refried beans, veggies, some seasoned ground beef, some shredded cheddar cheese, and a bit of salsa on a pair of tortillas. Then I ate them.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Clipless Cleat Adjustment

I'm really lucky. When I first put my cleats on my shoes everything worked great. I couldn't understand how people had such a difficult time going to clipless pedals. It seemed natural to me. Just a little flick and *pop* I'm out of the pedals.

Then I decided, I want to adjust my cleats closer to the toe. No reason, just to see how it felt. I didn't like it at all. I lost a lot of control and balance. I (thought) I put the cleats back where they came by moving them toward the heels. But now it was a real struggle to get out of the pedals... More adjustment was necessary. There's the cleat position's I started with.

Here were the problems. My release point on the right foot was WAY toe in (heel out). Here's a picture of the point when the cleat started to apply pressure on the pedal binding:
As you can see the toe of the shoe is already hitting the crank arm, but it hasn't released yet. I could only get out of the pedals when the crankarm was at the top. You can also see from the bottom right hand corner of the photo that the toes of my feet point out. So my feet had to swing through this big wide angle, at the top of the pedal stroke - which twisted my knee really bad - It was almost impossible to unclip.

I adjusted the cleats to move my shoes outward - away from the crank by sliding them over in the cleat grooves. I also pointed the cleats to adjust the release angle. Here's what I ended up with to the right. Compare that with the first picture in this post.

Just for fun I fired up Photoshop and overlayed the change in release angle on top of each other. Here's what that looked like. It doesn't look like a drastic change, but it makes a huge difference in being able to flick out of the clips. No more knee wrenching! As a final check, I ensured that I had clearance from the chainstay wiht the crankarm back. I can release to the inside if necessary here. And I checked to ensure that I wasn't going to stepping on the crank arm either when the crank is to the front.

To me the most interesting thing was that I did none of this the first time. I must have been very lucky to get a good position on the cleats. This makes me wonder how many people that despise clipless pedals have taken the time to adjust them properly.