Friday, March 14, 2014

Cycling: the Sport of Freedom and Some Technical Stuff

I'm pretty sure it's because I lived my childhood on a bike, but I never feel free-er than when I'm on a bike.  I first received a fixed-gear pink one with training wheels when I was maybe four, and I finally graduated to a mountain bike when I was closer to ten.  Before my bike, I was relegated to the park across my street, but when I had a bike, I could go to all the parks.  
I went to the library a few times, and that was across the whole town (big accomplishment for me at the time).  After around sixteen, I didn't bike as much for some reason.  It wasn't until the end of community college that I decided I would pick it back up.  I currently own a Lotus 3000M mountain bike.  Apparently it's vintage.  I bought it at a Play It Again Sports for $50. 

Admittedly, I have a hard time getting into the more technical aspects of cycling, like seat height or changing to the correct gear.  In fact, I usually just stick to the hardest gear (until I discovered hills, anyway).  I don't draft, I don't have fancy jerseys, I don't wear gloves...I ride a mountain bike on roads, for chrissake.  I just discovered that the appropriate psi for my tires is between 40-65.  My spoke broke not too long ago and I didn't even know that they break.  I have a lot to learn, so I have done a few things differently this year:

I bought a Terry bike seat.  There's a lot of hype online regarding Terry saddles and how great they are for women, so after suffering through a Wal-mart Bell seat, I bought a Liberator X at REI (I love REI).  I tried it out for the first time the other day, and I did feel some relief.  I might pair it with some padded shorts in the future, but I'm still giving it a chance.  I only rode on it for fifteen minutes, after all.
The other thing I did for myself is that I downloaded this cycling tracker app on my phone called Strava.  It tracked me on my ride via GPS and I got to see a map of my route, time elapsed, and the elevation change.  I'm not quite sure how the elevation works, however.  I have to look into that.  I was hoping it would track each and every hill, but it seemed to just give me one number.
The last thing I did for myself was attempt to power through some real hills.  All of last summer, I had a usual route that was pretty much flat and I would ride it as hard as I could for an hour.  I thought I was doing really well, since I was going maybe 13-15 miles three or four times a week. Unfortunately, I had to cut last year's riding short since I was called for a dig and didn't bring my bike (regret!). I currently live in a hilly town (though certainly not as hilly as San Francisco or Denver) and I thought I could really challenge myself to work my muscles in this new way.
My cardio does not approve.  It thinks hills are bullshit.  Remember how I said I only rode for fifteen minutes?  I lied.  I might have ridden for eight, and then I was walking up or down hill for the remainder of the time.  I discovered going downhill is kind of scary (too fast!) and going uphill is impossible (too hard!).  My breath was all ragged and everything.  I managed to go 1.3 m and apparently had an elevation gain of 101ft.  I was also able to write some notes regarding my ride:
"More hilly than I thought. Tires need more pressure. Terry seat not bad. Pretty sure townies think I'm a wuss. Temp: 38. Conditions: Mostly melted snow, puddles, roads are a bit cruddy. Some wind from S. Heartrate achieved (HR): ????? Maybe I should get one of those fancy straps."

Hopefully the townies don't actually care, and that next time I do better.  We shall see. I shall conquer these hills yet!  On my to-do list is to properly clean and lubricate my bike, as well as add the appropriate amount of air in the tires.  I might also fiddle around with the seat to see if I can make it even more comfortable.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crochet Hats

I'm a sucker for a good cause, so when my Facebook friend said that she needed people to knit/crochet hats and scarves for veterans in Detroit, I jumped on the chance.  Admittedly, though, I haven't crocheted with much frequency in, like, ever.  I've made a few things, but not really all that well.  Honestly, I didn't even know how to read a pattern until a month ago!  I picked up some Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool from Jo-Anne Fabrics and discovered I had bought a bamboo-handled Susan Bates G6 hook a few years ago at a now-closed yarn shop in Dekalb.

I also discovered I have not one, but two joined needles for knitting.  Do I knit?  No.  I suck at it, but I have them anyway for the day when I don't suck!  That's how I roll.  Anyway, I had to sift through a lot of different hat patterns on the internet in order to find the simplest pattern possible. My favorite pattern is, by far, this one.  She calls it "The Husband Hat".  What I love about this pattern is that the rows are kept even (instead of spiraling into unending chaos) through slip stitching the rows together, turning, and beginning the next row.  Before reading this pattern, I didn't know I could do that.  I learned crochet in the first place from a teacher in junior high, and then, instead of reading a book or something, I kind of made up my own way of crocheting.  It wasn't perfect, to say the least...but I learned.  Or so I thought, since the hat isn't supposed to look like this:

Ugh, so bumpy!  Very bad.  Ick.  Somehow, I got my stitch count all screwy. I unraveled the whole thing.  I couldn't stand the thought of donating an imperfect hat.  You see, I had made this hat before, so I thought I could do it again without looking at the pattern.  I figured, "Well, it's so simple...", but somehow I mucked it up.  Curse my hubris!  Anyway, I went back to the drawing board and re-Googled the pattern.  I began again, and now it looks much better:

Now it's much better.  Another four inches, and it'll be long enough to call "done".  Gotta cover those ears!  

I'll add that I also modified The Husband Hat in that I don't add double crochet stitches at the end.  Hopefully the vets will like this and any other hats I make.  By the way, the yarn says that it contains the natural oils of the wool.  Nothing I like more than quality materials!   

And if you were wondering, yes, that is Bingo napping behind me... :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rock Climbing!

Well, hello again!  Glad you could make it to the second life of My 20 Hobbies... :)
Me, standing on a recycled rubber floor with topropes hanging in the background.
While traveling for my job last year, a couple of my coworkers invited me to go rock climbing at a Vertical Endeavors in Duluth, MN.  I had no idea that there was such a thing as a rock climbing gym.  I was hesitant at first, as I was afraid of heights a bit.  I went ahead and tried it, and for the first week or so of my new hobby I wasn't so much climbing as I was learning to trust the auto-belays!  I didn't mind, though.  I figured, well, I must look silly...may as well keep going!  That's right, my first goal was simply to not be afraid--of heights, looking ridiculous, failing, whateves!  That's how all hobbies get started, IMHO.  Eventually I got all the way up my first route...and then Sean and I bought harnesses, shoes, and chalk bags for our third anniversary...and then the next thing I knew, I was hooked...or, maybe, roped would be a better word?

Sean with colored routes in the background, after our toprope belay lesson at Climb Iowa in Des Moines.
 There's something that is very satisfying about climbing for me, whether or not I get to the top of a route.  Perhaps it's the adrenaline, but I also think it is a good sport to engage in as it is not only a complex physical sport, but it is also quite mental.  In order to get up a route, one cannot expect to succeed on purely physical attributes.  It requires careful thought to be able to place the body where it needs to go in order to achieve what one wants.  I'll be thinking, for example, "Should I pinch this hold or hang from it?  What if I put all my weight to the right?  Are my feet in the best position?  Man, that handhold seems too high...maybe if I did a dyno move..."  In short, I suppose, there is a lot of technique involved.
The many routes of the toproping area of the Vertical Endeavors in Warrenville, IL.
For me, the only other sport that I have found that I have obsessed about is bicycling (though, arguably, fishing is a sport, albeit not as sweat-inducing).  I think I have not been good to my body since the holiday season, so going to a rock gym when I can has been quite a relief.  I still can't wait to get on my bike, though.  I just bought a Terry seat!  Hopefully all this snow disappears soon.  If it doesn't, I might just take up cross-country skiing.  I mean, what else is one to do in this polar vortex!

Anywho, this summer I'd really like to climb some real rock.  I'm thinking Devil's Lake, WI.  It's apparently a mecca of sorts for toproping and it offers a lot to the outdoor adventurer.  There's a wide variety of hiking trails, great fishing, a doggie beach, small cliffs to jump off of into the water, non-motorized boat rentals, and much much more.  My family goes there every year for a picnic, and before learning about climbing, I thought Devil's Lake was just a place where people ate bratwurst and then swam it off!  I can't wait until I find an opportunity to plan it out.  Hopefully I'll have enough money to go for two or three days, including my family picnic.  I'm crossing my fingers!