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and now, for something completely different.

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Stuck in the 90s again

2013-11-29 15.33.12It was a time of Seinfeld, X-Files, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when we were still open to the wonders of computerized special effects in Jurassic Park (they had not yet been abused by George Lucas).  Accessing the world outside your computer was predominantly BBS and 14.4 modems.  It was a time when I was young – physically, mentally (not that this has improved), and to Calgary itself.  Moxy Fruvous said it best: we were stuck in the 90s.  Grunge was king (hey, at least they wrote their own music), U2 was riding high on Achtung Baby and Zooropa, and I was in high school in downtown Calgary. Western Canada High School was and is about French Immersion and the IB program.  I’ll be honest up front, I am not an overachieving kind of guy, and French Immersion was my entrance ticket to Western.  Lucky ticket, though; golden ticket.

2013-11-29 15.33.43For a lot of people, high school is painful, stressful, lonely and difficult: hormones are firing on all cylinders in both sexes, and it’s a time in our lives when average people likely experience the worst in themselves, as a result. For me, though, and quite a few of my friends (Erik, for example), high school presented some of the best years of our lives.  From September, 1990 to June, 1994, I called WCHS my home and met many people whom I still consider to be family.  Maybe it was my oblivious nature that shielded me, or maybe I was lucky, or maybe it was a deep-down desire to have fun wherever I was (I vote this, and I vote my friends shared this sentiment), but I avoided the bullying and cliques that found painful memories in so many people.

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One thing at a time

Mine and the boy's skates, ready for a test drive at the local outdoor rink in perfect winter weather.

Mine and the boy’s skates, ready for a test drive at the local outdoor rink in perfect winter weather.

First, the good news.

Well, it doesn’t start well. I have plantar fasciitis and it hurts a lot. When I developed this, quite a few things I love got put on the sidelines because of the pain. Skiing, skating, and hiking all got pretty difficult, for example. I would have to take my ski boots off for ten minutes after one run – not enjoyable.

Skating is a lot of fun and I’ve always prided myself on being a pretty good skater. I could never score goals, but I was fast. With the deterioration of my feet, it became too painful. We’re talking severe pain within a couple of minutes of lacing up, sometimes before I even hit the ice. I was pretty sad about it, especially since before all of this foot nonsense I’d just gotten some new CCM 652 Tacks.

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Riding… Snacking…

Photo evidence! Bikes parked at the candy shop.

Well, as summer winds down, we reflect.  With family and things happening around us, we didn’t get a chance to ride as much as we wanted.  We did do a couple of great (easy, low-impact) rides with our friends Russ and Lucie though, and I thought I’d share.  We did the Canmore-Banff Legacy trail along the river, and we also did a loop from our house to downtown Calgary and back.  In both cases, we took full advantage of our surroundings halfway through the rides to snack.  Hey, if you’re riding, you need to reload, right?

Canmore-Banff Legacy Trail

Here’s the GPS plot.  First off, we need a rematch on this ride.  It was Adena’s first ride on her roadie in quite some time, and we ended up stopping a few times to make adjustments and repairs as we went.  That’s fine, but it detracted from the rhythm of riding a bit.  She was thrilled, though; she loves going fast on the road bike way more than riding her mountain bike.  Whenever we’d stop to make an adjustment, it was like she was being tortured… she wanted to go!

The only trouble is that the trail starts on the Canmore side just at the park gates.  There’s also nowhere to park there.  The way we did it was to park in Harvie Heights (right here), ride along a trail towards the park gates, and then go the wrong way over a one-way overpass to the other side of the highway.  Once there, we rode about 1km up the Trans-Canada against the flow of traffic (the move looked like this going from B to A).  A bit unnerving, but there were lots of people making the journey and it’s the only way to hook it up.  Access:  a small oversight on the trail designers’ part!

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Carrots, Cross-eyed, and Electric Bikes.

I’m gunna git ya!

It’s hot in Calgary right now.  I know there are a lot of places a whole lot hotter than Calgary right now, but when we have been struggling to make it over 20 degrees for all of “summer” so far, a sudden blast of 30 degrees makes everyone both happy and sad right now.  The same way that we laugh at other cities in Canada who shut themselves down after a foot of snow, people laugh at us for when the heat goes above 25 and we have to start having rolling blackouts because the system can’t handle the sudden load of air conditioners turned on for the one week of the year we might “need” them (because, it still drops to almost 10 overnight… seems like a decent air-conditioner to me).  Well I don’t have an air conditioner, and I do have a lot of grumpiness, so here goes.

I did a nice commute route home tonight, as can be seen here.  I don’t get to do it in 30 degree heat that often, so I take days like this as being a bit of a treat.  The wind seemed favourable today instead of the usual blast out of the west straight into my face on the way home, so I lengthened it to the funny finger-trap bridge before looping back towards the northwest.  As always happens when the weather improves, the fair-weather commuters appear on their bikes to get to and fro.  I’m 100% behind this, I think it’s great that more people get out and on their bikes, it’s just too bad a lot of them don’t know the rules of polite cycling on city pathways.  Seriously, buy a bell, people; the pedestrians will thank you – they thank me!

Now let me state this outright.  I don’t like you, electric bikes.

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New Ride – 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

Well, the time has come.  After a lot of years riding my excellent and faithful Trek 2200, it’s time for a bit of a technology leap.  I went out looking with only a couple of requirements in mind:  I wanted carbon to improve my ride quality/comfort (not just to have carbon), and I wanted Shimano Ultegra.  Well, it’s landed, and I ended up with a 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert X2, in American Flyer Red:

The New Hotness, 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

I had expected when I started poking around last year that I would end up in the Trek camp again after I shopped around for a while.  The Trek Madone 5.2 was right around the requirements spec, and at the time the 2011 models were being blown out.  By the time I got to it, they were sold out everywhere, otherwise I would likely be riding one now.  I was offered a blow-out deal on a 2012 , but I didn’t pull the trigger as the two bikes I wanted to sell to help fund this project didn’t sell in the fall.  I test rode the 2012 Madone and I liked it, so I sat back to wait until spring.  Now, even the regular price on the 5.2 is good (it’s one of the better mid-high-end values out there), but when the blow-out offer was rescinded when I started to look a few weeks ago, I began to explore a bit more.  Boy, am I glad I did.

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Yoga for Toddlers

Graham is very health conscious.  Here you can see him winding down from the busy day with his favorite wind-down exercise: yoga. Every time I see him pull a pose, I am jealous of his strength and flexibility. I guess that your strength to weight ratio at 30 pounds is a little better than decent. Hopefully he keeps up with his regime, so he won’t be quite as creaky as me when he reaches my age. 🙂

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More of his amazing skill after the break.

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Baby Making Noises

I have to say, you don’t really understand until you’re a parent just how much fun it is to watch a baby grow up.  Graham is big now, and we can talk, and he can tell us what he wants (or doesn’t want), but it wasn’t that long ago that he was doing exactly what Sabrina is doing in the videos below.  They only have a year and a half between them!  Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that Sabrina wasn’t even capable of making eye contact!  How quickly things change and children grow.  Now Sabrina loves to grab things, and she’ll shift her body to the optimal reach position to get at something she wants, which makes her hard to carry sometimes.  She’s super-tiny (25th percentile or something like that), but that doesn’t mean she’s lacking in strength!  She also smiles whenever mom or I walk into her field of view, genuinely happy to see us.  It’s so much fun to watch.  I’ll stop gushing now.

First, here’s how you make a bib really wet, really quickly:

Second, here’s just how funny a bouncing ball really can be:

We have an absolutely excellent video of her talking as well, I’ll try to get that online tonight.

Trail Run on the Coulee

After not being able to run on Saturday with the other monkeys (Graham, sick, asked very sweetly to play with blocks with him and I couldn’t say no), I made it a mission to get out for a trail run on Sunday.  I know the monkeys went down and up the same trail, but I just decided to make a loop out of it from my house.  The weather was fantastic, at about 0 degrees, still cold enough that the creek was frozen enough to run on.

I decided to take out my Salomon trail runners as opposed to the regular Brooks running shoes.  They were awesome on the trail, but the second half of my loop was on pavement and they were really not good for that.  I ended up with sore knees and feet by the time I got home.  I know part of that might be my gait, and I continue to try to work on that.  I also used Yaktrax on this run, which made it much easier to keep my feet on the trail.  Still, I was surprised how much sliding out I still did on some of the really side-cut parts of the trail; definitely not safe to ride a couple parts of this right now!

Here is the loop and the run profile.  It ended up being 78ish meters of climbing  over what looks like about 2km, based on the proportion of the loop that was in the ravine.  I was too lazy to just measure the distance in the GPS software.  I loved running the coulee, but the loop back through my neighborhood was so boring.  I have a nice running loop through Silver Springs that is somehow much more satisfying.  I don’t know what it is about running around Scenic Acres, but it just sucks the will to live right out of me.  I digress, the loop:

Loop on the map, 7.2km

Run profile

Video after the break.

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Riding the Rollers

OK, with renos nearing completion, we’ve got most of our house back.  That means I’ve managed to carve out a space in the basement to set up the rollers again.  I was always big on the idea of using my own bike on a trainer indoors, as opposed to an exercise bike, but this takes it to the next level.  With a static trainer, you’re riding the geometry you’re used to, but the bike is supported by the trainer itself.  You spin, and that’s the workout.

With the rollers, it’s an entirely different story.  It’s like a treadmill for your bike.  When you supply power, that spins the two rollers supporting the rear wheel of the bike.  They are attached via belt to the front roller (which provides additional resistance).  The front roller spins the front wheel.  It’s actually a fairly simple design, and with both wheels spinning you create the force required to keep the bike upright.  In essence, you just ride the bike.

As for the workout, it’s much more intensive than a static trainer.  Because you’re riding the whole bike, you’re using stabilizer muscles to keep the bike upright and pointed straight, muscles that you could otherwise be lazy about on the static trainer.  You have to be smooth too, so it can help improve your balance, cadence and tracking on the bike.  You don’t know how bad you ride until you try to take it to a roller!

With all the benefits highlighted, some folks have said that it looks a little dangerous.  What if you fall off?  Well, I do fall off occasionally (way less than at first).  Because you have no momentum, you can just kind of step off sideways and put your foot on the ground.  If the bike wheels happen to hit the ground, you just get a “whizzzt!” as they stop suddenly, but that’s about the worst of it.  There is no flying into the wall or anything.

Hopefully I can figure out how to start without having to hold onto a chair, because I still do have to do that.  Anyways, here’s what a roller workout looks like:

It’s good to have help (part 2)

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When he hits with the hammer, it goes "knock knock..."

Well it’s 2am and the little one is up, so I thought I’d post a good picture of the terrific amount of help the older one has been providing around the house. We all know he has the aptitude, as we learned in part 1 of this helping series.  The extra set of hands has been invaluable.