Friday, May 31, 2013

Pick it up and Put it Down

Yesterday saw lots of work on tap. For years I'd wanted to take our shed, which has a nice canted, overhanging roof with an open section, and close the open section off. My ultimate goal is to be able to take the shed proper, which is actually built less like a shed and more like a small camp, and finish it off as a guest room. Even more years back, I'd planned to build another shed all together. Using the some of the leftover PT lumber from the deck that we tore off of our house when we put an addition on, I'd gotten so far as to build the deck for the new shed.

That deck has been sitting there for years unused and unloved. A few years back it occurred to me that if I wasn't going to build a new shed, I could modify that deck which was 8x12' to fit under the overhang of the existing shed, which had no floor. The deck was made of 2x8' PT with 5/4" PT decking. It would need to move about 30' in one direction and about 10' in the other direction. How hard can that be?

So I started off yesterday with some prep work. That included first mowing the lawn with the antique and dilapidated $89 push mower that we bought at Walmart when we got the house. After that there was the matter of temporarily relocating a wood pile. Pick it up and put it down. Finally I was at a point where I could start doing some of the work that I intended to do.

My plan of attack was simple. Throw down some boards and skid the deck along into place with a set of come-alongs. I knew that it would work as I'd skidded numerous rocks and cars up unbelievable grades with this simple hand winch. I screwed a hook into the deck so that I'd have something to attach to, drove an iron prybar into the ground a few feet and then hooked onto it at the ground and started winching. It was by no means easy but steady progress was made despite a fair amount of plowing of the Earth underneath. Pick it up and put it down.

Eventually once I had the deck closer to the shed, I had to cut the excess from the side in order to meet the finish width of the opening into which it was going. This involved skinning a few rows of decking off the joist framework so that I could cut each of the joist. Pulling rusty nails embedded into wet and old PT is loads of fun. Once that was done I measured twice and started with the cuts. First I used a circular saw, which worked OK on the ends but not on the internal joist. Then I tried the sawzall which didn't work well at all and eventually chose the right tool for this and in honesty, most jobs; the chainsaw. Perfectly square cuts were easily made and no limbs were lost.

Next I had to add on a new outside PT header to tie the joist back together. I needed new as the header had to be longer, in order to tie into my 4x4" uprights that support the roof overhang. They are spaced 14' in total length where as my deck is only 12' long. That gives me a foot on each end of extra roof overhand that won't have as much snow collecting at the door. The result will be that the new closed in section will be slightly shorter than the old shed, which will help visually break up the total width and look better as well. It will also make it easier to tie back into the shed for framing up the ends and bottom line, I had a 12' long deck sitting there already that cost me almost nothing to use. Recycle.

For hooking the deck platform into the existing shed I wanted to hang it down a bit from the bottom of the shed in order to maximize head room in the new part. My idea was to use metal plates lagged into the deck header and then lag then into the header of the shed. I bought the hardware and got everything into place, re-centered my hook started dragging it into place. A bit of twisting, turning and wedging and it slid right into place. I then braced in up on the shed side and tied it into the shed header permanently. Then I moved to the outside, leveled it and lagged the overhanging ears from the outside header plate into the upright outside 4x4" posts. For the center upright I had to skin some decking off in order to get in and lag through the header to the 4x4".

The end result was rock solid, had good head clearance, reused something that I already had and was much better than what I had before. Still lots of work left on the first stage in order to sheath the side, frame and sheath the ends and then move the various doors from one shed to the other. That said, it is still forward progress and that feels good.

After the day of fun outside Cathy and I decided to go for a little bike ride. We headed to Gorham with plans of doing Pinkham Notch to Bartlett and then back. It had gotten quite warm and the wind had picked up a bit as well. We struggled mightily up the shallow flank knowing that if the easy part was this tough, the hard part would be brutal. Pick it up and put it down. Sure enough, it was. I usually hate out and back rides but for some reason this one doesn't seem that bad. The terrain and views make it worth while and frankly, you are too busy suffering to notice.

Another great day and many more to come. I'm not sure how ambitious the ride will be today though. I must admit that I'm pretty beat from yesterday.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nice Night for a Ride

With the weather that we have over the course of the bulk of this week, it is safe to say that any night that doesn't involve rain is a nice night for a ride. It seems that after having incredible drought for most of the spring thus far, the faucet has been turned on and we are now in a pattern of rain, at least for this week that is.

It was just last week in fact that I was lamenting having absolutely no collected rain water in my new rain barrel, meaning I had to use tap water for irrigation of the crops, aka our three small raised beds. Feast or famine it seems and for now my rain barrel runneth over. In fact it nearly flooded the walkout with its runoff. I guess that I should have paid more attention to the overflow downspout placement.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon putting together the new single speed MTB. Really, it is just a new Kona Big Unit frame that Brian and the folks at JRA Cycles hooked me up with. Additionally I bought a new Fox Float RL 29er fork and Cane Creek headset with the remaining parts coming from the old and slightly tired Soul Cycles Dillinger. I've really enjoyed the Dillinger and have spent many many hours aboard it on the trails. The SS MTB is by far the MTB most often ridden by me and it even saw some limited race action this year.Anyhow, the Dillinger was always a little on the short side and has also started to develop a crack at the back of the slot for the seatpost clamp on the seat tube. Common problem that has happened to nearly every hardtail MTB I've ever owned.

It always amazes me at how slightly dissimilar bicycle parts are and just how many standards there are, or are not depending on how you look at it. Take for example the new Fox Float RL I just got. First, when the heck did forks get so expensive? I realize that I haven't purchased a new suspension for in some time but wow are they expensive. I found a "deal" on this Float, which had the desired tapered steerer tube so went for it. I was running a F29 RLC on the Dillinger, both of which were 100mm travel and both of which had 32mm stantions so I figured I'd just swamp the damper out and upgrade my new shock.

Wrong, though the thread pitch on the cartridge cap that threads into the stantion is the same the diameter is 15/1000" different between the two with the new fork stantion ID being slightly narrower. Of course I figured that out after I'd put the old F29 RLC completely back together with the RL cartridge, which fit fine because the stantion was slightly bigger than the cap. I'd also gotten the new fork together with the old cartridge, which I'd made sure did start to thread in a turn, including the oil. Anyhow, lots shock oil and swearing flew everywhere as I tried and tried to get it to work before breaking out the caliper to measure.

I gave up and swapped back to the stock fork, cleaning all of the messes as I went. From there the rest was pretty straight forward. The tires I used, which are not tubeless specific, didn't want to hold air all that well and still don't, but that is par for the course using tubeless. Enough sealant and maybe some glitter and I should be set. The headset is a pretty nice annodized red Cane Creek Frustrum XX Z-3 zero stack inset which I scored off Ebay for $25 shipped. The sealed bearings are junk but unless you buy a Chris King, they all are from my experience. regardless, it went in smooth and seems good for now. The tapered steerer combined with a 15mm through axle makes for a nice stiff front end, perfect for the rigors of the SS.

So, more on the important part, the frame. It's a new Kona Big Unit which is a Scandium single speed  specific 29er that uses sliding dropouts in the rear to provide chain tension. This was the biggest draw to the frame, the sliding dropouts. I've used lots of different designs and these seem like the best bet by far, if of course they stay in place. The interface seems really beefy and it uses set bolts as well to held the dropouts in place. I bolted my Shimano XT crank/BB across from the Dillinger and threw on a set of Mavic Crossmax 29er wheels that had been on Cathy's SS but I stole for their 15mm axle interchangeability. In exchange my beloved Shimano 29er wheel system went to her bike along with the mounted Specialized Sworks Captain tires all set up tubeless, which I also liked greatly.

The result was a darn nice bike that while not a flyweight is no pig either. The bike exudes an air of beefiness though with the oversized tubing ovalized here and hydro-formed there. The head tube is massive as well as the longest 29er head tube I've seen. That coupled with the fact that I had a new fork with long steerer tube meant that I could run a stack of headset spacers and get away with a zero rise stem and flat bars. For the bars I used the Truvativ Noir carbon flat bars that came on my Scalpel and the old staple Thompson 120mm x zero rise stem that I've had since 2008. The post is a matching Thompson Elite layback with a Sella Italia Flite atop it. For gearing I'm still running the 32 x 18 with a Surly SS ring and Gussett steel cog with spacer kit, though I have a 34 tooth Surly on order which I plan to pair with a 19 tooth ring. This should yield some better ratios with the various cogs that I have in the stash.

Getting to the point of this post, last night wasn't raining, yet, so Cathy and I went out for a nice easy spin on the SS MTBs. This is a rest week, a legit rest week, the first that I have taken since I can't even remember when. That means nothing but short easy rides with no load and no stress. We started on the rail trail, then spun into Lexington on the bike path, then hit some connector trails and conservation lands. On the way back I decided to cut through the PR and see how the bike felt. Cathy led and we meandered around the woods taking things nice and easy. It was a great ride and the trails were in very good conditions. The bike worked perfectly and felt very comfortable. The short chainstays, steep head angle and stiff front end made for a very quick and responsive ride. I like it a lot and suspect that the more I ride the bike, the more that I will appreciate it.

Thank you for the excellent ride Cathy and thank you Brian for the help with the frame. I really appreciate it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Wall

It's funny how in training for endurance sports we walk a fine line, the line of peak fitness and assumingly optimum performance. The reason that it is a fine line is that building up capacity and endurance through repeated stress on the system takes a toll. That toll is cumulative if you are not careful and diligent about recovery. This is a basic principal in all physical conditioning, that the body needs time to repair from the stress the training puts it through.

Some times the most basic concepts are the hardest to come to grips with. For me, as a cyclist and one who relishes riding my bicycle, I've long struggled with this principle. Over the years I've made huge improvements but almost without fail I seem to get caught out by overloading. It's as if I know that the wall is out there looming on the near horizon but that I often misjudge just how rapidly it is approaching, until of course I slam into it.

Over the past few weeks I've known that the wall was just up ahead of me and that I was really moving way too fast toward it. The hard rides were still just as hard but were starting to feel a bit harder. The races were good but taking more toll. I knew it was coming and I knew that I needed to back off and get in some legitimate recovery. In fact, after racing the SS at the Wrath of the Boneyard MTB race I knew that I was fried and promptly confirmed an active recovery week for this past week.

The week started well with a short and super easy spin on Sunday followed by another nice recovery ride on Monday. Tuesday was the Turkey Vulture road ride but the plan was to just sit in. That was working great, well, OK, it worked great for three minutes and then we had mechanical issues and nasty traffic and then rage set in. Shortly after that finally subsided we started splintering and I worked to help pull riders back in. After that the strongest riders rode off the front and kept hammering, shelling people quickly from that group. Cathy and I picked up the stragglers and I was determined that with a coordinated effort we would chase the break down.

The problem was that the folks with me were already struggling a bit. We also seemed to hit every traffic delay imaginable while the break sailed right through. Never the less we continued on each person giving what they could. The unfortunate result was that I gave a bit more than I wanted to and ended up crushing myself, undoing any gain from the two recovery days and further digging myself deeper into the hole. The power details confirmed what I already knew, two hours at steady threshold watts was not what I needed.

Wednesday I was dead tired so did another easy recovery ride. Thursday was supposed to be a moderate geared MTB ride but one of the (fast) guys I race with was interested in a bike I was selling so came out to ride. He brought his SS so I switched to mine and the longer endurance ride turned into a shorter more intense ride. I felt pretty good though through much of the ride and had one of the best SS rides I'd had all year netting a couple of PR's on two of the legitimate Strava segments in those woods. On the final push out though I blew up, my legs having nothing at all left to give. We made our way back to our place for food and beers and later that evening after consuming too much I decided it would be a good idea to register for a road race on Saturday. On the surface that seems OK but the reality was that we already had an MTB race planned for Sunday.

My hope for Friday was that the legs would hold together for the weekend so we did one hard opener effort on the MTB, which also netted a Strava PR on a segment and then a nice gentle trail ride the rest of the evening. The legs felt OK so I was optimistic. Come the very early start to the Sunapee Road Race on Saturday however, the legs had a different story to tell. After a few hard efforts in early breaks that didn't get far I quickly realized the extent of my troubles. When we hit the rollers on the back side it was all that I could do to get over them. I had nothing to give and watched the large break ride away, choosing to stay instead within the shelter of the larger field who would pretty much be riding along to the finish the rest of the day. I didn't like it but understood the reality.

By Sunday I held hope that I would somehow recover from the further beating and that my legs would miraculously rebound. Unfortunately when Cathy and I started out with our pre-ride of the new Winsted Woods MTB course, which by the way was absolutely awesome, it quickly became apparent that it was not so. My legs immediately loaded up and simply refused to push. I was barely able to make it over some of the technical, high power low speed climbs. Further, I was struggling with the bike in the rocky technical sections, trying to baby it for fear of slicing a tire on the sharp rocks.

When the whistle blew I went as hard as I could and though really painful, I was hanging with the lead. The first rocky, loose climb was excruciating but I got over it and fumbled my way through the following technical section unscathed. Down the steep rocky descent I was still in a good spot but at the bottom hard right turn onto the access road I washed out and slid across a big root with my upper arm, ribs, hip and knee. This hurt like heck and took the wind completely out of my already deflated sail. I slipped back to forth position and barely made it up the long shallow loose rocky access road climb to the top of the course. It then took some time before I finally bridged back up to Mike W. who was sitting in third and almost the entire lap before I was recovered enough to be able to come around him. Meanwhile, Robert C. and Matt B. had both ridden away and were completely out of site.

Cathy finishing up strong.
A full lap later I caught a glimpse of Rob up ahead. He was riding super strong and having a great day, a just reward given all the work he put into the race coordination. A little more than half way through the lap I was able to put a surge in and come by, continuing to move forward. The long hills still gave me trouble and my legs felt completely empty. Coming through for the final lap I caught a glimpse of Matt who surprisingly, was only a short distance ahead. Unfortunately, he saw me as well and punched it leaving me with no response at all. The gap had increased substantially by the top of the first loose rocky access road climb and in the following technical section I hit traffic as well, allowing a bit more gap to run. By the second long loose climb my legs were throbbing and I could barely crawl up it. Matt was gone. I managed to hold position and finished up cleanly about 37 seconds after Matt.

So once again, I knew that the wall was looming out there in the fog ahead of me and once again, I ran headlong into it at full speed. As the old saying goes, there's no cure for stupid I guess. What's on tap for this week? Some legitimate recovery and lots of hoping that I didn't push it too far. I suspect that other than blowing two races, the real damage was minimal. Realistically this was just a big training block, a tear down period for which I hope the rebuild after recovery will allow me to take it higher still. 'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Five Hundred

Five hundred in a row happened today with the Wrath of the Boneyard MTB race in Meriden, CT. It lived up to it's name in spades and was one of the toughest race coursed I've done. Wet rocks galore made extra fun on the single-speed. It seemed like a good idea last night though in hindsight, the Yeti 575 would have been a very good weapon of choice.

No worries though as what doesn't kill you, and try as it might, it didn't, makes one stronger. I think that I've come to the realization though that single-speeds are a whole lot of fun to ride but really, really hurt to race. Guess I'm soft though as the real tough guys do it week in and week out.

This was a great old school course with new school layout and planning made for a tough but good course. Thanks a ton Fabian, Chris and Jill and the folks from the Meriden motorcycle club for letting us use your playground.

Day five hundred also ended a little better than day four hundred, which was spend racing in frozen slop in Louisville. Good times and good fun.

Today is also Cathy's birthday. Happy birthday to my wife and best friend. Thank you for spending another year, with me. You are my everything and I would be lost without you.

That's it.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Death by Meat

Cathy's folks came down for a visit Friday so I decided to load up the smoker again with a medley of meats. The premier cut was a big old pork loin but at staggered intervals I also threw in some chicken thighs and then some Polish beef sausage.

For wood chips I used some maple and some crab-apple from the wood pile cut into small slabs and soaked in water. Over the course of the afternoon the meats spent their time in the smoker and by 6:30PM I was set to pull them out. After a short rest I opened up the loin to find a juicy and near perfectly cooked piece of meat. The chicken although it looked to have shrunk a bit was also super juicy and tender, cooked just right as well. Even the sausage, which only had a couple of hours over the smoke and low heat was also very tasty.

Good times indeed and with the addition of some coleslaw and corn bread a great way to kick off the visit. We followed it up with a wonderful lemon cake from our friend Roni's bakery, Jake's in Nashua as well as some of her custom ice cream in group celebration of recent anniversaries, birthdays and the like. Hard to improve upon that, indeed.