Monday, June 29, 2009

Rock Climbing

After work on Tuesday I went with a coworker to see Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi's new movie. Other than that Mac guy, it was pretty awesome genre fare. There were a lot of gross-out gags that had me cringing. At one point early on, I was really sorry to be eating at that moment.

I went rollerblading Monday, rode the bicycle Wednesday and Friday and hiked the hill of life 3 times on Thursday.

I slept a lot later on Saturday than I have in a long time, until 8:45. I puttered about for a while, then I went to the South Austin Rock Gym for the first time. I had a bit of trouble finding the place at first, since it's in an industrial complex with very few signs to tell you what's inside. When I got there around 10:30 I found it was a generous space, but not huge, with the walls covered in rock climbing holds. I signed a release and put on rental climbing shoes, then got a quick lesson in belaying. I didn't know they didn't have an auto-belay system, so without a partner I couldn't do the walls that require ropes. I did get some pretty good use out of the bouldering walls, starting out with a few easy routes. I was a little uneasy with the height at first, being about 10 feet off the ground with only some padding to break my fall. I felt a little more confident after I completed a route or two and made it back to the ground safely. I tried some of the harder routes, but didn't make it very far, so I just played around, using whatever holds I wanted. By noon my arms were getting pretty tired and I was losing grip strength, but I didn't want to leave, I wanted to get my money's worth. Since there was nobody on the high roped walls, I did some climbing and traversing staying within ~8 feet of the floor. I finally threw in the towel around 1 when I could barely grip the easiest holds. Overall, it was pretty fun, and a pretty good workout- in addition to the burning forearms I was sweating despite the A/C. It was kind of expensive, and not really applicable to the Rainier climb, so I won't be in a rush to go back. I went and had lunch at Home Slice, then went home and took a nap. Once I finally woke up and dusted off the cobwebs, I had some dinner and went to check out the sale at REI. I bought a few things, then went and parked along the hike-and-bike trail. I set out on a jog and actually did better than I thought I might. I maintained a jogging pace all the way from MoPac to Lamar, about a mile and a half. I got into a decent pace, keeping my heart rate around 175. I took something of a breather on the Pfluger bridge and stretched a bit, then started jogging on the other side of the river. I didn't make it nearly as far, I slowed down to a walk when I got to the Barton Creek bridge, then started to jog again at town lake. I barely made it any distance before my legs started hurting and I slowed back to a walk for the rest of the way back to the car.

I woke up close to 9 again on Sunday, but had a hard time getting out of bed since I'd stayed up until 2:30 for no reason Saturday night. After breakfast I packed up the big bag and went to the greenbelt to do the hill of life. I was sweating pretty good the first time up the hill, and was soaked the second time up. I went down a third time and went all the way down to the water. I took off my boots and went in. The water wasn't all that cold, but it was refreshing. We've been in a drought for so long, the creek is barely flowing- I was at the only falls with water. That made it a little popular, but it was such a hot day there weren't many people in the greenbelt. There were four people there when I got there, then two more showed up, chatted with two that were already there, then those two left. I had a bit of lunch while I drip-dried. When I was mostly dry I put my boots back on for one last trip up the hill. I thought about doing a little bit extra, but it was hot and I was tired, so I just went home and took a nap. After an overly long ~2 hour nap I took a shower and had dinner at Doc's, then watched the drag race for a while.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lost Maples Sweatfest

My bicycle problems on Monday got even worse. When I went to change the inner tube, I realized the only replacements I had were actually a size smaller than the tire, so it looked under inflated even with it blown up as much as my miniature pump could manage. After a couple of miles, the little plastic tab holding my lock on sheared almost completely off, so it was flopping back in forth and getting in the way of my legs. When I stopped to take it off of the bike and put it in my backpack, I found a cut in the sidewall of my back tire. Either it happened during the short distance I rode on the rim in the morning, or it was from some other incident I hadn't even noticed. Fortunately the tire held together long enough to get home, but I had to replace it.

At lunch on Tuesday I went to the bicycle shop and tried to replace that one tire, but they didn't stock that type any more, so I wound up getting two new tires of the same size but different tread pattern. As I went to leave, I discovered my car's battery was dead all of a sudden. I figured that rather than try to get a jump, I would replace the battery, figuring it was probably time anyway. The good thing is that I was on Lamar, where there are lots of car repair shops and at least one auto parts store. The problem was that the store was on the other side of the busy street. I ran across, bought the battery, and ran back. Then I realized I didn't have any tools in the car, so I went to the bicycle shop to borrow an adjustable wrench. It was really dirty, but I replaced the battery pretty quickly, and the car started right up. I returned the wrench, drove across to the auto parts store to get my core charge back, and went back to work. My stereo has a security feature where it requires a code to reactivate after power is lost, so I had to go digging in my glove compartment to find the code.

On Wednesday after work I went up and down the "hill of life" two-plus times with my big backpack weighing about 32 pounds. I rode the bicycle in to work again on Thursday, this time without incident. On Friday I did the stairs with the big backpack.

Saturday morning I repacked the big backpack and amazingly had enough gear that it was full to overflowing, leaving my small stool to be strapped on the outside. Including 5 liters of water the pack weighed about 40 pounds. It was about 9 by the time I got out of Austin. I skirted San Antonio, then to Bandera where I stopped at a gas station for a drink and something resembling a lunch. I probably shouldn't have been trying to eat it while driving 60 miles an hour on a narrow winding road, but it worked out okay and I got to the park around 11:30. I checked in and drove to the parking area. I ate the rest of my "lunch," changed my shorts and traded my sandals for hiking boots, then started down the trail. The trail to the ponds is pretty flat and despite the heavy pack I made good time. After 15 minutes, I was thinking I must have covered at least half the one mile distance, when I realized I was almost there. I set up camp along the water at the far end of the camping area, trying to be as far away from traffic as possible. When I left to do some more hiking with about half my gear, there was one tent and a few people along the shore. When I got back around 2, there was nobody- even the tent was down and gone. That afternoon made me want to start some sort of "quiet in the backcountry" campaign- while I was at camp I could hear people yakking on the trail above me, and on a ridge overlooking the ponds I could hear people practically yelling to each other, even though they were right next to each other. I was a little sweaty when I got back to camp, but it wasn't really that hot out and there was a nice breeze, so I cooled off pretty quickly. I decided to go for a swim anyway, at least to rinse myself and my clothes off a little bit. I swam across to the limestone cliffs, undercut by the water, and chilled out on a big rock that was at the perfect depth to stand on. The water was really nice and refreshing, but I didn't stay in for too long. I got out and dried off sitting on a bench reading, then went back to my tent and continued reading. After a while I actually started feeling bored and I thought about going in to Utopia for dinner and (even though it's against park rules) getting a six-pack to bring back. Kind of hoping it was after 5, I checked my watch thinking that if it was after 5 I would just stay. Since it was only 4:45, I put my boots on and hiked out to my car. The irony was that people were just starting to show up again, so maybe it wouldn't have been boring. I had a burger at the Lost Maples Cafe and then, since Utopia is apparently dry, I drove 15 miles west to Leakey. I got gas and some beer and drove back to the park. I sat at camp reading and drinking the beer (in a water bottle to be less conspicuous) until the bugs started eating me up. It was kind of hot in my tent, but my little battery operated fan helped a lot. By the time I went to sleep it seemed like everybody else had already turned in- the couple with their two children and I'm guessing the grandfather; and the group of boyscouts I'd seen a couple of times during the day.

I didn't sleep well, I woke up a few times and eventually it was cool enough that I got into my sleeping bag. I did ultimately sleep until 7, however. It was an overcast and muggy morning. After breakfast and packing up I was already starting to sweat it was so humid. I started along the West Trail at 8:30, and after about a mile and a half I decided to take the West Loop Trail, a two and a half spur off of the main trail. There weren't many people in the park in the first place, but that corner is certainly the least visited, so it was particularly quiet. I was sweating so much at that point that when I started going up a hill, my hat started sweating- it had gotten so saturated that the bill was dripping. Just as the trail started back downhill, I stopped for a snack and to rest. When I got up to leave I noticed that the rock I had been sitting on was wet from my sweat. When I got back to the main trail a a boy and girl, roughly in their early teens, went by in the direction I was headed. I was starting to feel tired already at that point, and to my disappointment, I never quite caught up with either of them. After a while, their father caught up with me, and passed me when we got to the uphill portion. I fell further behind them when I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. I saw them again sitting on the bench I had been fantasizing about resting on. They got up and continued on their hike as I approached and I had the whole plateau to myself. I had a real proper rest- I took my boots off, had a snack, and laid back to read a chapter of my book. As is usually the case, however, I was feeling stiff and sore when I had to get up, put my boots back on, and reshoulder my pack. When I finally got back to the car around noon, I changed out of my sweat-soaked, gamey synthetic clothes into my much less so cotton clothes and sandals, and started home with the A/C blasting. It was a good ways down the road, in Kerrville, before I was feeling cooled off and stopped to get a Dr Pepper. I got home at 3, took a shower, and laid down to take a nap. I didn't fall asleep, just read a magazine, then played on the computer before deciding to go out for dinner. Having just read an article on steak, I headed to the roadhouse, but just as I was pulling in to the parking lot, Jimmy called and said they were heading to the Texican, so I went there instead. After eating too much at dinner, I went over to his place and drank beer on the deck until too late, then went home and straight to bed.

Monday, June 15, 2009


On Tuesday I finally actually rode my bicycle in to work. It went about as well as I expected. The stretch of road I was most worried about was mitigated by going through shopping centers and waiting for a couple of long lights. I stopped twice going uphill on 360 to catch my breath. I got to the office drenched in sweat and went to hit the showers. I had to wait a few minutes since two other guys rode up on their bicycles just moments before I did. I brought lunch instead of my usual going out, and ate it a little at a time throughout the day. I left the office around 5:30 after changing back into my workout clothes, which were ickily still wet after having sat in a plastic bag in the bottom of my backpack all day. It was quickly apparent that my legs were still tired from the morning ride, even though I was going downhill. It was really nice to whiz past all the crawling traffic, but past the bottleneck traffic light I had to worry about getting run over. I stopped to catch my breath near the top of the hill just before the shoulder pinched off. When I was rested a bit, I had to wait for a break in the traffic to get going again in a traffic lane until I finally got to a sidewalk. Down Manchaca I stopped at the farmers market to get some fruit before riding the last 3 miles home.

On Thursday I decided to blow off training for a few days for the annual Republic of Texas biker rally here in town. I rode the Night Train in to work Thursday and Friday. After work on Thursday I went to bike night at Twin Peaks. There were a few bikes when I got there, but they kept coming, eventually filling the parking lot. I ate dinner, then wandered around outside to look at bikes and of course the women hired to promote one thing or another. I went back in and sat down with some people from the HOG chapter, but jumped up to see the ladies competing in the bikini contest. When we saw the weather report including tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, and a big angry radar blob headed our way, we all hurried up and headed out. I left around 8:30, earlier than I had expected, but I did make it home before the rain hit. Fortunately there wasn't any hail at my house, at least not enough to do any damage.

I didn't get out of the office until 6:30 Friday. I stopped and had dinner at Uncle Billy's on my way downtown. I parked just west of Congress, and started wandering. I went up Congress and got a beer as much for the novelty of drinking in the middle of what is usually a busy street as for thirst. I went up as close as I could get to the setup for Robbie Knievel's jump, which still didn't allow me to really see much of anything. I wandered down Sixth, checking out bikes. It was still on the early side, so bars were either empty or packed, depending on whether or not a group descended upon it. I made my way back to Congress, where the parade was starting to stream in. I watched for a bit, then ventured to cross the street. I went to the Gingerman, amazingly for the first time since they moved around the corner in March. A bartender I always talk beer with asked what I thought, and I gave a pretty noncommittal "it's nice." Really, it's a nice place, but it doesn't have the character (and certainly not the soaring ceilings) of the old place. When I closed out to leave, I found I'd only been charged for half the beers I'd drank, but I didn't complain. I wandered some more and started to look for a place to stand where I could see Knievel's jump. I sat down at 11th and Brazos on a railing such that I could stand up for a better view. It turned out that was the takeoff side of the jump, so Robbie was making runs up just past the crowd and fence. I couldn't see much of him as he went by, other than to know he was there. He did several passes before the actual jump, probably at least partly to build it up, since he was riding a wheelie at least one time as he came back up. When he did make the jump, I could only see a little bit of it through the trees between me and the site. There was a bunch of pyro, and then it was all over and people went on their way. I walked back to my bike, rode home and went to bed.

I woke up at my usual time on Saturday, had breakfast and went to the Harley shop, getting there about 8:20, and reported for duty as a paid "volunteer." I was originally scheduled to be working in the t-shirt area, but the motorclothes manager pulled me off of that to help in the helmet area. Because of increased police enforcement, they had been selling a lot of helmets that weekend, and needed someone who knows something about fitting a helmet to help out. There weren't many customers at first, but the started coming in more steadily after 10. By noon, the shop floor was one giant mass of people. I didn't have nearly as many people to deal with as the actual employees, but I was still pretty busy. Because helmets are all sized differently and nobody's really sure about the fit, I had to run back and forth to the stock room a lot. That was one of the challenging parts of the job, since there wasn't a lot of walking space to begin with, and with so many people it was tough to get through. Fortunately, everyone I dealt with was patient, even the group of people who weren't really that serious about actually buying a helmet. At noon I was pretty hungry and took a break to eat some of the mediocre pizza they'd ordered for everyone, then went back to work until 1:30. I was signed up to work in service for the afternoon, but I was going to talk to the coordinator to stay in motorclothes. Before I could talk to either of the ones in charge, another service volunteer grabbed me and dragged me back there. The service assignment was not nearly as good of an assignment. The biggest problem was that it was a lot warmer in that area, since the doors rarely stayed closed, and I was in and out the whole time. The other thing that made it an inferior job was the much drabber scenery. The only female who works in service is not nearly as cute as the motorclothes girls, and female customers weren't hanging out in that area. The job was to write tickets for any customers showing up to get service on their bikes- just basic information like name, address, and what was wrong- then ride the bike inside, and the professionals handled everything else. The work was really lumpy- there would be nobody for 15 minutes, then 3 bikes would come up in the next 5 minutes. There were three volunteers, and we would stand around and bullshit when there weren't customers. I was getting pretty tired of standing by 6:30, and there were almost no customers coming (plus they were planning to close up around 7), so at 6:45 I checked out with the service manager and went to check out with the volunteer coordinator. I had to wait a little while with a growing group of volunteers for her to come back prepared with cash and gift cards. I went home, changed clothes, and went over to Jimmy's for some dinner. We were all vegetating in front of the TV around 9:30, so I had to pick myself up and drag myself home before I fell asleep right there.

I woke up early Sunday morning for no reason. I tried to get back to sleep, but didn't manage, so I got up and went for a hike before it got back up to 100 degrees outside. I hiked along Barton Creek from MoPac to Camp Craft, starting at 9:30. I was hiking with my new 80L pack, stuffed with two pillows and weighted down with my mountaineering boots and crampons, plus 5 liters of water. I had previously weighed the pack at 20 pounds with only 2 liters, so it was somewhere around 27 pounds. The pack didn't bother me, but I was sweating within 15 minutes of starting, mainly from the temperature. The trail was pretty flat until right at the end, which I've heard called "the hill of life." My plan going up was to take a break once my heart rate hit 185, but I stopped at a nice little spot at 183. I drank some water and continued the little bit further to the very top. I walked back to the spot I had stopped and ate a snack. I decided I hadn't had enough vertical gain, so I decided to drop my pack and jog back to the top. On my way back to my car, I went down to the creek to investigate the sound of running water. There was a small falls and pool, with a few people bathing. I seriously considered jumping in, and probably would have if it was a few degrees hotter, but continued, getting back to my car around 11:30. According to the trail map I saw, the distance I hiked was about 2 1/2 to 3 mile each way, so I felt pretty good about it. I got lunch nearby at a taco place I sometimes go to, then went home for a nap. I slept too long, from 2:30 to 4:30, and was really groggy once I finally woke up. Once I did, I ate a snack and then around 7 I went skating at the veloway. My first 5K lap went pretty well, so I just kept going for a second. I contemplated doing some more, but decided not to push it, plus the sun was starting to set. Overall, I was feeling a lot more fit than I had in a long time.

Of course, I'm paying for it today. I rode my bicycle to work again, and my legs are feeling it. I discovered I had a flat tire from a staple within sight of the office, so I decided to just push the bike the rest of the way rather than change the tube. My legs were already tired, but they were burning trying to get to the office without getting run over. My legs are still a little sore, and now I have to fix my tire and ride home...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Multi-Sport Training

After work on Friday I went to the veloway and went inline skating for the first time in about 6 months, and only the second time since breaking my ankle. It didn't start out too badly, it took me just a minute or so to get my "skate legs" back. However, it was quickly apparent that skating is a lot harder on the shins than anything else I've been doing. I was already feeling it when I got to the steep hill, and barely made it up. I almost stopped for a break at the top, but kept going on the flat section. The next small hill wasn't too bad, but the final hill had my shins burning. I crouched down through the final chicane and almost fell on my ass when I stood back up and lost my balance. I managed to avoid falling, and made it to the bench to sit and rest. I stretched my legs as much as I could and decided to go for a short lap. One short lap went about the same as the first full lap, so I did another after a short break. After the second short lap my legs were burning and my ankle was really starting to hurt, so I called it good enough for a first time back. The big difference between this session and the previous one, is that the previous time (while I still had the metal hardware) my ankle was hurting for a week- this time my ankle didn't hurt even the next day.

My legs, of course, are a completely different story. After a HOG chapter lunch ride and an afternoon nap, I decided to try a jog along the hike-and-bike trail. It started okay, I jogged until my heart rate hit 185 (which was probably about a half mile), then walked until it came down to 150, then started jogging again. It was only seconds after starting to jog again that my shins started burning. I slowed to a walk again, but even that was brutal after a few minutes. I sat down on a bench to rest for a couple of minutes and stretch my legs some, even though it didn't seem to help. I kept walking, and may have even jogged a couple more steps, but sat down once more before I got to the Lamar bridge. In order to replace fluids, carbs, and essential electrolytes, I walked to Uncle Billy's for some beer and dinner. At dusk I walked the rest of the way back to my car along the now nearly deserted trail.

On Sunday I decided to do something that would be a form of exercise that didn't use my legs, as well as being cool on a hot day, and kayaked along Lady Bird Lake. I rented a kayak from a place along the hike-and-bike trail, and started upstream. I stopped for some lunch about 15 minutes in under a tree next to a broken-down old dock. It was at that point that I realized that the cargo area of the kayak had holes, and was filled with water (the same as the seat and feet areas). Nothing really got wet, since I had prepared for my pack getting wet, but it wasn't exactly a welcome revelation. I continued upstream, all the way to the dam. I went around Red Bud Island and started back downstream. It was a bit easier going downstream, especially keeping the boat headed straight, but it was into a headwind, so it didn't really feel that much easier. I ate a little more along the bank, then headed down past where I started and went up Barton Creek. The creek was full of boats, so much that it was a bit of a challenge navigating the narrow waters. I took a rest under a bridge, then went to just below Barton Springs where there were a bunch of people swimming, and turned around. I went further down Lady Bird Lake, all the way to Congress Avenue, then started back. I abandoned my original plan of trying to go all the way to the other dam, since it was already 2 and my hands were really cramping up. I thought it would be silly to be on the water all day and not go in, so under the South First bridge, I jumped in for a second. I got back to the rental place at 2:30, walked back to my car and went home. Overall, it was a good time, but it at least didn't feel like great exercise. The only time my pulse was really elevated was when I paddled my hardest, and the only place I felt any muscle soreness was in my shoulders, and a little bit in my back. However, today I don't feel sore from the paddling, but my legs are still a bit sore. Now to see if some stair climbing exacerbates that or not...