Sunday, August 26, 2007

Change Of Plans

This weeks training goal was mileage. Sometimes plans must change. First there was this, something that hasn't been seen in Houston in a looong time...

I was beginning to think it would be winter before it stopped raining long enough to see Memorial Park open again. But open it was. A quick check of the forecast showed rain predicted for Monday and Tuesday. Which I know will keep the trails closed for a week. So, I took advantage of the opportunity and rode Mem. Park!


It was a tough ride. First, I left the house early in the morning and rode until early noon. I typically ride in the evenings. The mornings are tougher. You start out with cooler temperatures that rise as you tire. It's like climbing a hill! Secondly, it's been a long time since I've been on a trail! Thank the rains for that. The trail flat kicked my buns!! I couldn't get a flow going. It just felt like the bike was trying to buck me off, rather than me guiding it across the roots. It's been a long time since I've rode up any steep (for Houston) terrain. I chickened out too much on the downhill stuff!


Riding back to the house, I came to an intersection. Now, I realize that people have a difficult time judging the speed of bicyclers. But, this was ridiculous. I was about 50 yards from an intersection where crossing traffic had a stop sign. Some lady drove up and stopped. She had time to go. She had time to go around the block and go through the intersection again before I was going to get there! But she just sat there. I waved her across, but she just sat there looking at me like I was stupid... so I figured she was going to wait for me to pass, technically I had the right-of-way...

Then she decides to go, right as I get to the intersection!!!

I jumped on the brakes, got stopped. WHEW! But in my panic I didn't clip out and promptly fell over. DOH! Managed to jamb up my index and middle finger bad enough that I couldn't grip my handle bars... luckily I was close to home.


Between the trail and crazy lady I ended up with a skinned up knee...

and elbow...

badly swollen, and possibly broken, fingers...

(no picture, can't really see it)

and saddle sores...

(no picture, for obvious reasons!)

... from a crappy pair of shorts (thankfully) were given to me.

Was it worth it? OOOHH YA! It felt great!

I had a 60-mile road ride scheduled for today, but I got a lot more out of the trail ride. Every time I get on the trail I learn something about my riding skillset. Today, I learned that I need to spend more time on the trail. Which means more weekend travels. It sometimes feels silly being a mountain biker in Houston, TX. I've been up and down W. Mount Houston Road, looking for that darn mountain but never found it ... maybe someday I will.

Great Shorts Debacle II

I went on an early morning quest for bike shorts. My first stop was a certain (nameless) bike shop, that appeared from it's online pictures to have a great selection. Unfortunatly, it was quite a drive from the house. Upon arriving, they had a grand total of 3 pairs of bike shorts. None of which fit. Hmm... So off to another store...across town peruse their selection. They had a couple of pairs of shorts, same as I own, and I like them, so I bought two more pairs.

Now, when I was checking out the guy at the store says "Did you try these, on they are sized kind of wierd." I found this out with the Great Shorts Debacle I. I quickly dismissed him, "Yeah, I've got the same pair at home, I'm just getting the same size". So I thought! I get home and checked the tags of my older shops... nope... not the same, so back to the store for an exchange.


Because of a misunderstanding about the time/location of a wedding, I ended up with no time to ride. So went over to my buddy Brett's place. I wouldn't even mention it, but doing so gives me a chance to post a picture of his dog Kerri...


My friends Kristi and Matt knotted up Saturday night. The ceremony was beautiful. Bride and groom were beautiful and handsome, respectively. Here's the happy couple arriving at the reception. Aren't they a great looking couple?

I had to put up a pic of my friends Bryan and Sarah, just be cause they looked so sharp. I'll be attending these kiddo's wedding in November...

I don't know if Lake Chuck will be the same after that wedding!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Visit From the Pie Bandit

Pie is a thing around our office. Our vendors bring us pies. Good pies, from the Flying Saucer. They bring them often. Why can't they bring us fruit? Me and the marathoner in the office usually pass on the sweet delights laid before us in the kitchen. We often get challenged by mischeivous co-workers to bow to temptation. Today, I went to the restroom and returned to find this on my desk...

Banana Crème, my favorite. I gobbled it down. It was good. Really good. I'm just glad it was a small piece. No one has fessed up to leaving it. Yet.

I didn’t feel like sleeping when I got home. I felt a smidge of guilt for taking a cheat day, too. So I went for a short, yet intense 8-miler. I did a simulated race start, because they are really good for getting a good workout in a short distance/time. It felt good, for sure!

Somewhere I have to fit a 30-miler, a 60-miler, and attend a wedding between now and Sunday. Things are going to be hectic this weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sometimes You're Up, Sometimes You're Down

Sometime within minutes... Part of my regular lap lies along Heights Blvd. There's a nice bike lane that gets used a lot. Today I caught a roadie, who was dressed up in full kit! On a mountain bike that's quite a feat. I considered jumping on his wheel to draft, then realized, I don't really know how to draft! I realized that he's probably on a recovery ride. Or just really slow. Don't get smug I thought to myself...

I made the turn at 20th and headed south. I saw someone gaining on me very rapidly. It wasn't the guy I cought northbound. I threw an eye over the shoulder to know when to let him by. Before I expected he was really close. ... obviously a roadie I thought to myself. I moved over and gave way... he was on a mountain bike ... couldn't even tell what kind because he blew by me so fast! No danger of smugness after that... ;-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bike Bathing

Today's ride was a 8-mile recovery ride. After the last two days of riding, it was time for a bike bath.

So I chucked the bike in my workstand and wet it with a gentle flow of water...

I let that soak for about 10 minutes to saturate the dried, caked on mud, then scrubbed it with a brush...

Including all the nooks and crannies...

Until the nooks were clean...

And the crannies too...

Then I cleaned the chain. Followed by a lubing of the pivot points, rear shock, fork stanchions, and most importantly the seat post...

Lithium grease in a spray can works great for this. Now I have clean and happy bike. The bike and me are ready tomorrow's ride. I hope it's dry.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Ride That Almost Didn't Happen

For some reason the local tap water just doesn't agree with my stomach. If it's not cold, it makes my stomach churn. I makes me feel like I'm going to hurl. This is not something I want to load into my Camelback.

I usually keep a 2.5 gallon jug in the fridge and a spare in the pantry. But with my travel, I didn't make my usual grocery run, so no spare. An my fridge jug was less than half full. Go buy some more right?

Nope. With a possible hurricane bearing down on us, the run on water had already began. I had enough to fill my CamelBack, but that was about it. I didn't want to have to drink tap water until after the storm passed, so what to do? Get up early and get to the grocery store, that's what! By 9AM they were already almost bought out. Everyone was buying water. They were panic'ed. I just wanted to go riding!

I had to wait for some thunderstorms to pass, then finally set out... Today's goal was high mileage with a steady (zone 4-5) pace. I ended up with about 47 miles total. Not too bad. There were some wet spots on the trails. This made for a dirty bike...

And a dirty rider...

While riding through various puddles and muddy spots I realized that the person that invents a mechanism to automatically wipe sunglasses for bike riders will be a very wealthy man.

I also had a nice hole in my Pearl Izumi gloves that are less than a month old. I'm disappointed, because they fit really well, but shouldn't I get more than about 6-7 rides on a pair of gloves?

Otherwise, it was a pretty boring ride. Just base miles. The dirty bike had to spend the night outside as I'm too tired to clean it tonight.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rainy Day Off

With the area rains, I took Friday off from training. Yesterday was gym day, so this was a good plan. I couldn't just sit around, though.

I’ve been having problems with my thumb joints. The joints closest to my palms have been sore and stiff off-and-on over the past couple of weeks now. It wasn’t until my ride last Wednesday that I made the connection that it’s coming from the bike. I thought maybe I was getting arthritis! My thumb was actually going numb during that ride and the joints were achy and stiff the next day. So, I thought I’d finally get around to putting on a pair of Ergon grips that were given to me months ago to see if they help.

I don’t know if there is a more miserable job than changing out bike grips. Grips are designed not to slip. Yet removing them requires you to slip them off! Thus, it can’t be easy to do! This was the result after about 25 minutes of twisting, pulling and cajoling…

Whew! By this point as I had created a blister on the palm of my hand. No jokes about my rosy palms please. By the time I got both grips off, my wrists and forearms were sore!! Wow.
Luckily the new grips are lock-ons, so they slipped right on…

I took a short spin with the new grips, and they are really comfortable so far. I’ll know more after a long ride tomorrow.

UPDATE: I wasn't sure how I was going to like these. Seemed kinda gimicky to me. But I L-O-V-E them. I had experimented with the angle of the grips a bit, but once I found the comfortable spot, they were awesome. No more soreness. Comfortable.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stupifying Heat

I usually don't mind the summer heat, too much. I am reminiscent of a female body part when it comes to cold, but the heat, meh. Usually. But this heat wave has got me beat. Exiting the air conditioned office is like a sucker punch to the face. The heat is attention grabbing to say the least.

I was contemplating doing the 12-mile trail time-trial that is part of the Hotter'n Hell 100. Then I realized that my friend Kristi is getting married that weekend. And I've got a date, so I guess I better show up. While perusing the website I ran across some great information about heat. Here is a direct link to a slideshow about heat and it's effects. There is also some good information about heat stress treatment protocols HERE. There is some important and useful information there. Worth the few minutes it takes to read through it.

...makes getting motivated a monumental task. The training plan called for a pyramid of zone 5 intervals. I took a look a that protocol and just laughed. NFW. The thought of doing a 6-minute zone 5 interval in triple-digit heat just bewildered me without even getting on the saddle.

What I did do was a race-start pace 6-miler, just before sunset. Then I met some folks at Onion Creek for some refreshing beers! After the refreshments, and some cooling off, I rode home doing some 3-on, 1-off intervals. Not as intense as I would have liked, but better than nothing.

With a tropical disturbance moving in it looks like the remainder of the week is going to be spent in the gym or on the trainer. Cameron Park in Waco is also a possibility for the weekend if it’s going to be dry up there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Inbound Houston!

My name is Dave, and I'm an addict. It started innocently enough. Over the past week I've had several periods of downtime waiting for various things. During my boredom, I found this gave on my BlackBerry called BricksBreak. And now I cannot quit. It's really a simple game. Not much more complex than the pong console game we had in 1978. But sadly, I am hooked. I'm glad to have it because...

We hydrotested my pipeline component last night. The process is simple. We hooked up a pump to the pipe, and pressure it up to about 9600 psi and close a valve. Now the pipe is sealed and under pressure.

We watched the pressure gauge to see if it leaked, for 8-hours. Yes, it's just as boring as it seems. You check the pressure gauge every 30-minutes. The rest of the time you find creative ways to entertain yourself. Unfortunately we didn't start the test until almost 7:00PM. We finished up around 4:30AM when the paper work was all done. A long, boring process, but necessary to ensure we don't leak anything into the gulf waters. I didn't mind too much because...

We put everything on the boat that will carry this monstrosity to its final resting place 3,600-feet below the Gulf of Mexico. I'm heading back to home after a good day/night's sleep.

It will be good to get back and resume a more robust training schedule. The Fall race seasons is coming soon. With the heat, fall seems so far away. But it isn't. Why is it that prime training season happens during the worst of the weather seasons? The heat of summer and the cold of winter. I suppose it just makes us that much better prepared if we utilize it the right way. I'm going to try to remember that for next year's training plan.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Out of Gas

Took the day off from training. The combination of being on the road and working in the heat of the day was too much. The heat index was 103 today - AT 7:40 AM! The heat index maxxed out at 122. It was a hot day. Luckily, we moved our project into the shop building at the end of the day. Tomorrow should be better.

This is a photo of Richard, one of the hands working on my project. This dude is talented with a torch! I've never seen anyone this good. Here, he's cutting 2-inch thick solid steel, almost perfectly straight.

To me it doesn't matter what a person is doing. If they are excelling at what they do with skill and mastery, it's interesting to watch. Or maybe I'm just a nerd!

Surprisingly, I had some bike relevant action in the fab yard today. A broken bike chain can be a real headache. If you think a broken bike chain is bad, how would you like to fix a broken chain on this guy?

The chain tools are just a bit different than what we bikers used to...

An eight pound sledge and a pick! Here's the broken link...

Here is fixed chain derailleur on this one...

Instead of riding tonight, I visited Rouses supermarket. Rouses is a local supermarket chain, that is just in the SE corner of Louisiana. Despite their limited corporate size, they have a really great grocery store. It has more variety than a mega-food-store, but it's smaller so it's easier to find what you're looking for. It's also arranged really well. And there are a lot of speciality items we don't get in Texas. When in season, Rouses also makes awesome King Cakes.

Anyway, I went over to Rouses to get some more Abita Fleur-de-Lis Restoration Ale. Abita is a micro-brewery in... obviously... Abita, LA. They have a great brewpub by the way.

While there, I happened to spot Jack Miller's Bar-b-que sauce! Oh Sweet Mamma! I bought 3 jars! I haven't had Jack Millers in years!! It's a Louisiana original, made in Ville Platte, LA. When cut with vinegar, it makes an awesome basting sauce. I can't wait for the next BBQ!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Training, Riding, Eating, On The Road

Travel and training don’t mix well. My last work trip lasted almost two weeks, and I didn’t keep up with my training. I didn’t like the results of that “break” either! So, I’m determined that this trip will not result in me falling down on the training schedule. Here are my thoughts on training while traveling...

I recently made up a pre-race checklist, and this was a good opportunity to check the checklist. There is a lot to bring - helmet, shoes, gloves, heart rate monitor, clothes, “just in case” tools, etc. Use the list, because, finding bike supplies in a small town (like Houma) can quite a challenge, just like being in a remote mountain bike race location. If you need it, it’s best to already have it. For instance, I found that I don’t have chain lube on my list… and I need some.

Being away from your social scene can cause boredom. Boredom can give rise to the munchies. Hotel vending machines can lead to junk-food snacking. Having good snacks available helps. This trip I brought along some healthy food. Here’s the scene in my hotel room “buffet”.

Oh, there is one sacred rule of the road. After work beers don’t count on the training diet when out of your area code!

There’s no better place to sleep than home. I’ve added some significant volume to my rides this week to enhance the fatigue. It’s helped me fall asleep faster, and sleep sounder than usual. The extra volume helps with the lunches too! I’m over my planned mileage for the week, and that includes skipping my ride to drive down here Monday. Maybe I should do this more often?

As you drive to and fro around your new surroundings, look for suitable places to ride. Yesterday, I ended up riding a very long way down a busy 5-lane highway only to end up in a sketchy neighborhood. That did wonders for my pace! I could have kept up with a roadie! But, I didn’t feel safe.

I’ve never had a desk clerk object to me bringing in my bike into my room, but I can see the potential for it. Being nice to the clerk can get you an outside hose hooked up - to rinse off your bike after an encounter with mud. It’s best not to leave tire tracks through the lobby leading up to your room door!

Like much of daily life, travel is only as big of an obstacle to training as you let it be. I keep reminding myself that training is not easy, and that’s what makes it meaningful. That said, I will be happy to be back in Houston!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

On The Road Again

This week finds me in Houma, LA. for work. This after a trip to Corpus Christi, last week. My tour of the Gulf Coast continues. Perhaps when I'm done in Houma, I'll keep going east for some beach time in Florida! I seriously may do this. A couple of days of R&R in New Orleans would be OK too... Hmm, ideas...

I was down in the Corpus area to check on things for a deepwater oil & gas platform I'm working on. I only managed to get a couple of pictures of the hull column. This thing is going to be huge.

This is one quarter…

Of one half…

of three legs that will make up the floating portion of the platform. Obviously, we have a long ways to go before this thing floats out its final home in the Gulf of Mexico...

I made it back to the Houston area for a special Saturday. My college roommate and great friends Todd & Amanda held a 10-year vow renewal. I was best man at his wedding and was very proud to stand again for this event.

Almost the entire wedding party from 10 years ago was there for the renewal festivities. It says a lot that not only are Todd and Amanda still by each other's side after 10 years, but so are their friends. They are just that kind of people and I'm grateful for both them. Here are the bride, groom, and their first daughter Addison:

They are expecting their second child in January. Todd and Amanda are very lucky to have each other.

Pinkgurugal started it. Last week Pinkgurugal posted some wonderful pics of a home-cooked Asian (Vietnamese) meal. This gave me some serious envies for the distinct aromas and flavors that you can’t get at P.F.Changs (blech!). My introduction to real Asian food came when I lived with a Chinese family while I was attending LSU. It’s been so long since I had the real thing, I wasn’t sure if I could pull it of by myself. But when the envies call, they must be obeyed. Why not try?

Armed with a vague recollection of ingredients, I embarked on an expedition down Bellaire Blvd. I strolled into the same Asian food store we (me & Chinese family) used to shop at years ago. Yep, still smells the same. (Nothing smells quite like an Asian grocery store). Yep, still the only white dude in sight! Everyone looks at me like I'm lost. What an adventure!

I bought a bunch of stuff based on 10-year-old and very hazy memory. Packaging was important, because some things, well…I can’t read the labels! But I did remember the shape and color of the containers! As I was shopping my memory of how the food tasted was translated into ingredients. Quite frankly, Chinese food is really, really simple when you get down to it. Anyway, I ended up with a bunch of different sauces for flavoring, dried cuttlefish (my favorite), a box of instant noodles, two kinds of tea, some medicinal potions (White Flower Oil rawks for muscle soreness), a type of dried mushroom known only to me as "fungus". Oh, also the obligatory huge bag of Thai jasmine rice. Picked up some veggies and beef, too.

I returned home, and performed the chopping of the vegetables. I’ve always wondered why chop sticks are called chop sticks. You can’t chop anything with them. All the chopping is done before the food is cooked. I entertained myself with this quandary as I continued to chop... I ended up with beef, spinach, broccoli, onions, celery and a bunch of garlic...

The spinach is real simple. I heated about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in my deep skillet. Sesame oil is key. It’s got a great flavor that meshes well with spinach. I tossed in the garlic. I don’t really measure when I cook. But it was about this much:

Call that one palmfull. When the garlic started getting warm the fragrance was exactly what I wanted! I pitched the spinach in… beware it cooks down a lot. A bunch of water reduces out. The juices are super tasty. Don’t overcook, as it will get bitter if you do. It cooked down a lot, too. Here’s the before and after :

Now my kitchen smelled like it was supposed to. Familiar. Bouyed by my success, I pressed on - making the broccoli. This one was just a guess. I took about a tablespoon of sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, some water. I have no idea how much of each. I just kept adding a bit of this and that until is smelled right…. I ended up with this...

For the beef I started with… you guessed it… sesame oil, about 1 tablespoon. Then I added some soy sauce, some Shirracha chili sauce, some other sauce (I have no idea what to call it), a dash of Teriyaki, and threw in the onions until they cleared. Added the celery and beef...

While all this is going on my rice was cooking. Got the good stuff from Thailand, it really is better. Viola, here’s my Chinese buffet.

Yeah, I go straight to leftover containers. You can do that when you are a single guy…

That’s a bowl of goodness right there.

This was a really simple meal. Nothing that can be compaired to Mama Elaine's, or Pinkgurugal's folks. But, it did have the distinctive flavors I was looking to satiate.

When I get back from this trip I'm going to try some other things I think I can remember how to cook. My favorites being Bai Chi (white chicken) and Ma Dao Dofu (spicy tofu)...oh, and a chicken dish flavored with tequila. I also want to cook up something with a bunch of ginger too...hmm... can't wait to get home!