Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spinning to Train

Earlier this week, my secretary who is just back from maternity leave asked me where I was going. I told her I was doing a spinning class over lunch hour. She laughed and asked if I was the only guy in the class. People have preconceived notions of spinning being some kind of glorified aerobic dance class. That isn't the case, at least at the Gold's Gym downtown. More and more cyclists are using spinning as an opportunity to stay in biking shape year round.

Over the winter I decided to do spinning classes to stay in shape. Starting in December I did spinning classes 5-6 days per week, or about the same number of times as I rode outside during the season. My thinking was that it wouldn't keep me in the same shape as outside riding, but it would give me a decent base from which to start the season.

At the end of last season I felt like I was dragging. Hills were a struggle and I couldn't climb out of the saddle for very long. Once the weather started to break this year I headed out on the road. I feel much more powerful on hills. I'm able to maintain whole climbs out of the saddle, use a series of quick out of the saddle repeat sprints to power with speed over other hills, and I can also now use hover lifts over the saddle for quick bursts to accelerate.

I attribute this to the spinning classes. They really have helped me to strengthen those areas of my legs that control out of the saddle support. Also I used a heart rate trainer in the classes. I rarely use it on the road. So, in every class I was cognizant of exactly what I was trying to do with my aerobic threshold. By taking classes from a lot of different instructors I working various different exercises. Some of the classes focused on climbing, others sprint repeats and others jumps. Some days they focused on endurance and other classes were for power. Although none of the instructors are road riders, some had routines that seem to be perfect for road riding: not many jumps but lots of climbing and sprinting. I enjoyed all of the classes, although one in particular named Michelle has a sadistic streak. Classes ranged from 45 minutes to two hours.

Last weekend I did two rides with several tough climbs. I found myself getting to the top well before my riding partners. Nothing makes riders angrier during the early part of the year to see one of their equals powering out of sight up the hill, only to see him waiting for them of the bike and looking bored at the top, as they spend themselves to finally reach the peak. I have a feeling that more riders will be populating spinning classes soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

Remember that old song "Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down." Although it seemingly rains all the time in Pittsburgh, it was clear yesterday. If I was the least bit musical the song I would be singing would be "Ahole Drivers On Mondays Always Get Me Down".

Lesson One: Don't lend your car to your adult child
Lesson Two: If you missed Lesson One don't leave anything you need in the car when you lend it to an adult child.

I guess I missed school both of those days. I loaned my car to my daughter for a few days. When I got in it Monday morning, the parking pass for my garage at work was missing. I lay no blame, but vaporization during transitions is a known phenomena. No big deal I thought. I will just drive to the parking lot, take a ticket, park, go to the parking office and get a new pass. Unfortunately the best laid plans are corrupted by Murphy's Law. I actually saw footage of Murphy once. He was a military scientist who was the model for the crash test dummies. I saw video of this fool as a volunteer during rocket speed testing. As the rocket came to a stop, most of Murphy's body also came to a stop, but his retinas did not comply.

So as a I pulled into the garage I noticed a sign "Leases Only". Hey, I have a lease, I just don't have my pass. I pulled up to the ticket machine, pushed the button and no ticket came out. I looked into my rear view mirror and noticed an SUV behind me, with other cars behind him. The SUV driver was either singing to a very nasty rap song or he was directing a tirade of profanity at me. Fortunately I can not lip read and I could not hear him - yet.

I was blocked in. A gate was in front of me and the SUV was behind me. I tried motioning to the SUV driver to back up. For some reason this apparently made him angrier. So, instead I noticed a parking lot employee a few feet in front of me. I called to him and signaled. He ignored me. I pleaded with him to either open the gate so I could pull over or ask the cars behind me to back up. He continued to ignore me, but at least he smiled.

This left me with the only option, to get out of my car and ask the middle aged office worker rapper in the SUV to back up. This conversation did not go well. As he alternated profanity with addressing my heritage, my family, my sexuality, my reading ability and my intelligence, I wasn't getting far. Ultimately I think he realized at this point, if he was angry because I was delaying him, he was only making things worse. He backed up while continuing to swear and yell. Honestly, I reacted to him first trying to explain that I could read, but simply did not have my pass. When that didn't work I decided try to be bilingual and converse in his language. My topics were primarily comparing him to body parts that are generally covered by undergarments.

I was able to buy another pass in the office after my pal moved. I did suggest to the parking lot management that it would have been nice for their employee to take charge of the situation and direct the other drivers to back up. Their response is that they directed him not to do that because the last time he tried he caused an accident. I wonder if they ever thought that it might be a good idea to hire someone as a parking lot attendant who had the ability to direct traffic? As far as my friend the SUV driver, I wondered what could be so great or pressing in his office on a Monday morning that he was willing to blow his stack and get his week off to an angry and bad start.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Ride

The highlights of today's ride were Pittsburgh's greatest view and taking advantage of the ride through one of the city's nicest parks. We went through the Southside as Carson Street became 51. After a left through the Corliss Tunnel we got our first nice climb of the ride. Nice is a matter of perspective. It was nice when we hit the peak. A few minutes earlier some may have disagreed. The climb changes from long and steady to quite steep by the end. Just as you are ready to curse the idiot who made you climb like this before you were ready, you see this incredible view (upper right) of the city unfold before you.
Looking across the Ohio we could see the Observatory in Riverview Park on the Northside peak. We thought "Why Not." Actually Will said "why not." So we headed back down to 51, through the Rocks, back across the river - the Ohio not the Mon, and began ourclimb to the Obesrvatory. Surprisingly the view from there isn't so great. No question though, the ride was great.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cool Riding

Today we went for the first ride of Spring. Funny, it still felt like winter. The temperature was in the mid-twenties when we pulled away from Coffee Tree. It didn't feel so cold with my fingers wrapped around a latte, but as soon as they were hanging in front of the brake levers at 20mph I knew it was cold.

You see so much more on a bike than you ever see from a car. We rode through Highland Park and down Allegheny River Boulevard to Oakmont. We hung on to the back of some young riders. Drafting and focusing on not looking/feeling old helped me forget about the cold. After crossing the Hulton Bridge we decided to climb Guys Run Road. Somehow the road got longer and steeper over the winter. As we were in the first part of the climb I noticed an unmarked sheriff's car on the right. The casually dressed deputy was standing by the car. Across the street a scruffy older guy was coming out of the house. Another unconcerned deputy was standing by him as the man was taking a box out. I noticed the window was posted. The reality of the recession hit me. The man was being evicted. As I slowly worked my way up the climb a real life Grapes of Wrath was unfolding in front of me. This recession is not worthy of a fine natural food like a grape. If someone writes the great American novel of this time it should be something like the Doritos of Wrath.

Somehow the scene of the man losing his home made me forget about the effort of going up the hill. While pondering where the old guy will go now, the peak of Guys Run came upon me. We continued through the beautiful large homes of Fox Chapel, then through Sharpsburg across the river, and climbed the hill into Morningside. It's amazing that as soon as you cross back into the city that the roads turn to absolute crap. Not only does riding around here take physical effort, but it calls for serious concentration or else you will flat out or bend a rim. Call it the Pittsburgh twofer: firming the body and sharpening the mind.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Welcome to the Technology Connection Age

I forayed into the world of LinkedIn, which led me to connect with long lost friends. It also, finally led me to enter into Facebook, which I avoided for some unknown reason. I also signed up for Twitter, not really sure what I can do with it.

Any way, the amazing power of these tools lead me to three friends from college, none of whom I have seen or really heard from in the last 20 to 30 years. This has been a real gift. It has brought me back to those times in the 70's. Sure the pictures on these sites show middle aged guys, baldness and gray, but the minds and topics still seem like those of guys in their 20's.
I remember sitting around late at night talking. There were dreams of climbing mountains, and one of us actually did! There was talk of using our artistic talents as our careers. We have all done it in one way or another, but probably not as directly as we hoped or expected.
The years did not dull the connections. If anything the experiences of the 30 year gap may have made things easier to understand.

I remember in college, my one friend telling me he had become quite religious and had changed his name. I had the hardest time adapting to the new name and asked him if he would excuse me if I slipped and called him by his old first name. It seemed so mysterious. Now though, it seems so normal. After 30 years our worlds have broadened. The world is full of all types of names, looks and backgrounds, but deep down we are still the same people. Diversity makes is better. 30 years ago, would we have rallied around a president with a name like Barack Obama? We should all have pride about how our minds have opened instead of closing over 30 years.

So, hopefully soon, the four of us will get together face to face, the old fashion way. I'm sure there will be awkwardness about that 3 decade time warp, but I expect soon we will be talking about things as easily as we discussed the relative merits of Steve Grogan, as some new silly show called Sports Center played in the background on the TV.