Archive for December, 2010

Cycling Christmas

December 25, 2010

My Sweet Ride

Went for a ride today. Originally planned to bike to Balboa Park. But realized that I could get challenged just as hard by the hills on the way to the Lake and back. Took the Alvarado frontage road over to the 1st hill: Lake Murray Blvd. And crushed it. Rode seated all the way up, at a pace that only lost acceleration half-way up the grade. Breathing heavy at the end as I topped the hill and coasted the flat road over to the left turn onto the lake’s inlet street. My head’s still stuffed with wet cotton from this damn cold, so I was forced into mouth-breathing. Still proud of handling that hill. The road around the lake still was pretty wet in patches. I cursed the draining banks and rode slow as I could through the water slicks. Nice brisk day for a ride.

On the way back, got honked at by an aggressive motorist who didn’t want to share the road. We were both coming up on the 8 West on ramp at the bottom of Lake Murray Blvd. Obviously, I wasn’t going to enter the freeway, but I guess he was piqued by having to slow down and switch lanes around me. Dunno what he wanted. Perhaps for me to humbly stop pedaling, pull over submissively till he passed. Gave him the appropriate hand signals in passing. Then–filled with aggression by this unwelcome encounter–I handled the 70th St. climb with brutal committment. No dismounting, no walking–just a standing power ride up that hill that will make powder out of less trained cyclists. Went down a side street and onto Montezuma Road. Some wild redheaded college girl burst out of a side street on roller blades ahead of me. She word skin-tight black cotton leotard slacks and a black sports bra. Her hair was like a long rolling flame bank running down the alabaster skin of her naked back. Tried to keep up, but she was too fast. Split off onto Art Street, feeling too old again. Wondered if the 99cent Chinese Wall Restaurant was open for biz. Nope. It was all dark behind the plate-glass windows as I rode past. Same for Zumwalt’s Cyclery down the street. Rode east, past the 7-11, old Music Trader, new Aztec Tattoo (open till 8 pm. for all the impulsive drunks from the Boulevard Bar 3 blocks east) and twenty or thirty fast food joints on the way back to 70th street. The only store open besides the 7-11’s was the Smoke Shop just before 70th. And I wasn’t going in there. It’s been 4 and 1/2 years since I smoked tobacco. And I don’t need any of the other supplies, either. Coming up on the Yum Yum Donuts, I considered continuing on to Vons in search of celery for the stuffing for my Christmas roast chickens. Just didn’t want to get off the bike. But made the turn after all. Good thing, as a quick Google search confirmed no supermarkets are open today. The chickens are roasting in the oven nonetheless, with cornbread stuffing containing pineapple, jalapeno, olives and onions. The warm smell of roast chicken is filling my place now. Smells like Christmas. Finally.

Christmas Clearing…

December 25, 2010

Rain stopped last night. Sun shone whole day today. Gym closed early for Christmas Eve. Called down to Imperial and asked the clerk when they were actually closing.

“We close the doors for workout at 3 o’clock,” the guy said over the phone, ” but if you get in before 2:30 you can still get a workout in. We aren’t closing the gym down completely till four….”

It didn’t matter in the end. My son and I went on a bike ride around the lake, instead. The water is still draining out of the ground around the lake. We rode through the water streams across the road. Sonny got a little upset about the water kicked up onto his new bike frame. He must really like his new bike, ‘cuz he slowed down at every water crossing, and insisted on cleaning the dried mud off his frame and wheels when we got home.

It was truly winter at the lake. The water level is way up with the accumulation of four days of pelting rain. The marsh grass is all turned brown and it was just plain cold out there. Was glad I made Sonny put on a long-sleeved heavy Rugby shirt he likes. He still wore his Levis shorts. That kid never puts on long pants. I wore long-sleeves myself and a set of Wal-mart nylon running pants. Saw a lot of rabbits: three or four ran across the road in front of us while we rode past. Maybe the water flooded them out of their burrows. Had a nice ride. The Spin Classes have really increased my outdoor cycling abilities. Was able to accelerate up steady grades while staying in the saddle. Felt strong on the bike again. It was only ten years ago that my back was so weakened by car crashes that I couldn’t extend out over the top tube. So happy and thankful to be healthy on the bike again.

Other than that, it was a nice, low-key Christmas Eve. Grateful to spend time with Sonny. Gave him a BoSox Phiten Chain he wanted for Christmas. His favorite present is still the bike I gave him early, but he was jazzed to get the Phiten. Drove him home to his mom’s around 6 pm. It’s never ideal not to have him for a holiday, but that’s our arrangement. He tried to put a brave face on it, telling me “it was a great Christmas, dad,” as he put a smile on for me.

Fell asleep on the couch watching Hot Fuzz again after a year or so. Woke up at midnight and went for a walk on the Boulevard. Predictably, it was dead. Almost no cars on the road. Went past the neighborhood tavern. Saw only one person moving around through the big windows: the bartender closing up early. That’s good she got to go home. A bar has to be the loneliest place to be  for the Holidays.

And so I wrap up another year and put it away under the tree. Merry Christmas everyone.

Brett Favre, I Feel You

December 23, 2010

This morning, after 10 Consecutive Starts on the saddle, I put myself on injured reserve. Battling the flu-like symptoms* well into the night sapped all my energy reserves, making it impossible to report for game time over at College Grove with Annette @ 5:30 am. And so ends my personal best streak. But I am resolved to turn it into a positive. These last 10 days have demonstrated the possibilities offered by my unique furlough/work schedule. I plan to start the new year with a newer, longer streak of consecutive days spun in the saddle. Now, I’m going to dress for work and go to Wal-Mart for some cold medicine. Merry Christmas.

*I say ‘flu-like’ because I got a Flu Shot, and this current minor malady cannot therefore be considered to be The Flu. That is a longer streak with me: 9 years of Flu Shots & No Flu. Unlike my lamented spinning streak which ended today, the No Flu Streak remains intact.

Sweating Out the Virus

December 22, 2010

Not sure which is sicker right at this moment: the body or the mind. Came down fast with flu-like symptoms this morning: feverish, stuffed up head, organized sneezing fits, non-stop nose drainage and phlegm collecting in my throat till it gets thrown up by normal respiration. At high noon, my head felt like it was packed with cotton and I felt the familiar elevated temperature indicating a fever.

Called down to Imperial Marketplace to check whether I had booked a reservation for Sandy’s 7:30 pm ride. The guy checked the roster and answered affirmative. So I booked out of work on time and headed onto 805 south. Sandy is un-closeted and strong as steel pedals.

“I really like colors,” he told us once, “for obvious reasons.”

That either meant he’s an artist who wants a full palette available, or he’s rainbow-friendly. Either way, he shows up about 15 minutes before class starts, does some stretches over in the area that’s roped off for personal training, then takes the room over from the Yoga-ites and rocks it hard for a full hour.

Tonight, as he brutalized us with an up and down drill at a level 8, Sandy explained why he was exhorting up to keep our heads up.

“You need to keep the air-way clear,” he said, “I know CPR, but I don’t want to use it on any of you. It won’t be any fun for me, or you either.”

Sandy wears 3 heart monitor straps, one on his chest, one on each of his knees. He fairly danced on the pedals during several of the songs in his set. He raised his right arm up and over head level , palm flat and bouncing, like he was tapping our collective heads in time to the beat: a physical blessing and benediction. I kept my gray long-sleeved T-shirt on for half an hour. Going into the class, I wasn’t really sure I could make it. My nose drained snot down my upper lip in the bathroom and my head wasn’t good. I thought I might take a bike in the back and just lay back. But then I got into the room, and my competitive nature wouldn’t let me take anything less than a front row seat–the same spot I always grab.  And I felt okay and was grinning like a fool ten minutes into the hour. Sandy had us do some seated drills and jump right up and run–1st at a 7, then an 8. Last night, Cody explained that the object of working out is to “confuse” the muscles.

“Your body is an amazing machine,” he told us, “it adapts super quickly, and the only way to gain benefit from anaerobic exercise is to confuse the muscles.’

Sandy worked of that tip sheet tonight. First, it was graduated resistance increases while sitting and alternating between sprints and beat-tempo spins. Then, it was standing runs at graduated resistance levels. It was all therapeutic for me. I used the 1st half hour to keep covered up and sweat out the sickness. My shirt felt heavy with sweat when I finally stripped down to the white jersey underneath.

Sandy worked us the full hour. He played a speeded up Christmas instrumental standard at the end–recognized the melody even speeded up, but can’t name the tune. Sandy rode balls out and we dutifully followed. Soaked in the jacuzzi for a while, imagining I was feeling better. But my nose is still putting out liquid and my head is still cotton candy. Going try to ride w/Annette @ 5:30 am over at College Grove, but may just roll over and hit snooze instead. We’ll see. Only 2 more days to ride before Christmas closes the gym for the weekend. Have ridden something like ten straight days now and would like to keep it spinning like a record, baby.

So Dizzy

December 21, 2010

There’s a point on the bike when I get light-headed. This usually occurs after a set of up-and-down intervals: four on the seat, four standing, four double-time standing and back down to the seat, for example. When I’m up there, heart pumping at the top of what all the instructors refer to as “the red zone,” it feels dangerous. It feels like I’m alive, but I could easily keel over and die right there on the gym floor. That’s the way I want to go, if I have my choice. Doing something I really love, something you can only do if you’re alive and in the moment to the fullest possible extent. If I did expire that way, it would be a real nightmare for the instructor and assorted front desk flunkies, but hey, I’m on the automatic deduction program: membership dues come right out of my bank account. So if I do die on the gym floor, at least I’ll be paid up.

Rode with Cody tonight at Mission Valley Center. Think I’m going to really like him as an instructor. Caught him once before he went on an extended Thanksgiving vacation. He’s an animal, disguised as a skinny, effete guy. He showed up to find only 8 of us there for his class. The San Diego River runs right through the flood plain of Mission Valley, and everybody was saying it was flooding up over its concrete banks. I dunno, I never saw any signs of flooding, and I came in from an exit west of the gym and left from the eastern-most on-ramp. Whatever. The unsubstantiated rumors guaranteed me a spot. I’m not complaining.

Cody rides low to the ground. His knees look like they never get to un-bend. But he was in a nasty (albeit smiling) mode of self-flagellation. He kept exhorting us to help him work off the “whole can” of Turtles he ate after Thanksgiving Dinner.

“No,  seriously, the whole can,” he repeated for emphasis.

There’s a part of me that believes working out is just another form of self-loathing: that we flail and thrash the resistant weights about to force our bodies to change–to achieve our mind’s eye ideal for ourselves.

Cody personified that belief tonight, and I salute him. Two of the females bailed out at the 45 minute mark. It didn’t faze Cody.

“Come on,” he said at the 50 minute mark, “who wants to burn another 100 calories with me? We’ve got ten minutes left. We can do this…”

I look through open doorways of other group exercise classes and I just don’t see the same level of effort that I sense all around me in a Spin class. I’m not knocking those other classes; I just want to be in a class where I feel light-headed from the extreme taxation I’m forcing my body to endure. I’m proud to take time wiping up the sweat that drips down off my shoulders and arms onto the hardwood floor during my work-out.  That’s why I spin. Again and again.

I’ll Take the Sublime Moments Where I Find Them…

December 21, 2010

Fourth day off from work; fourth straight dayof rain. In Southern California: where it allegedly never rains. Today the intensity turned up from misting showers to droplets pelting in sheets.

Got up early and rushed out the door to catch Steve K. riding over at Rancho San Diego. Washed hair and face in kneeling position under the tub faucet. Brushed teeth in a hurry, but didn’t shave. Rained all the way on the freeway. Rush hour traffic not to bad, but then again, I was headed away from the city. Hoped that the rain would keep the Spin pass seekers home in bed, but I knew that was just fantasy. Fighting the weather to get to the gym only sweetens the challenge.

I walked up to the counter only a couple minutes late for the start of pass handout. I grabbed one and went straight to the bike room to mark my bike with a towel and my water bottle. Then I headed upstairs to warm-up. Every 24Hour gym has it’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Rancho San Diego has an additional set of single M/F bathrooms upstairs. But they don’t have a really good weighted Ab crunch machine. And their elipticals are the old style: the kind that hurt my knees. So I did a lot of stretching, and jumped rope for about 90 revolutions. I did use the Ab crunch machine, hating it the whole time. The elbow pads are too close to the top grips, so my shoulders get banged repeatedly on the down stroke. I pumped out 120 reps anyway. Climbed on the incline bench for some incline sit-ups. Only got in about 15.

Steve K. came in to the locker room, carrying his travel mug and a big gym duffel. I could smell the coffe from four lockers down. His physical proximity made it my brush with greatness for the day. I took a long time to put my jump rope away and stage my towel and flip flops for the post ride routine.

I walked in 5 minutes late and saw a tall grey/blonde lady riding the bike I marked with my water bottle and towel 50 minutes earlier. I walked towards her, overwhelmed by that feeling of disorientation. The mirrors in the room were already fogging up. The water in the air from the rain combined with an A/C malfunction. It was uncharacteristically bright in the room. All the overhead lights were still up on full power. Usually, the instructor dims them to start the class. The brightness, and the loss of my bike made me feel very out of place. Everybody was up and running in place to the bass heavy music. Then, I just snapped out of it, brushed by the thieving older woman to retrieve my water bottle and towel off the stereo stand next to Steve K.  The woman said something to me as I passed.  I didn’t hear her well enough through my earphones. It didn’t matter what she said: there’s no explaination or apology for what she did. I may not be part of that clique that shows up for class there every Tuesday at 8 am. But I still didn’t deserve to be displaced.

So anyway, I grabbed the empty bike right behind her. The mirrors were all fogged up by now. One reason I like the front is the ability to watch myself work. With fogged mirrors, that wasn’t an option. The toe straps were mis-installed on the pedal clips. I had to remove and re-thread them. The seat height couldn’t seem to reach a satisfactory position. So I redid that 4 or 5 times. It all was a way to work out the frustration with being displaced. Finally, I was up and joined the rest of the riders.

“Those of you who haven’t taken my class before will find it’s a little different,” Steve K. said, as he always does.  “My rides tend to be more like an outdoors ride, with lots of hills and not too many breaks. Unlike some other instructors, I won’t give you a break after every push.

Steve K. talked about his family for the 1st time ever.  I’ve ridden with him for maybe 15 classes this year. He ‘s always chatty: about the fact he’s a triathlete, and he hurt his heel, which stopped him training and forced him to forfeit an entrance fee for a triathlon recently. He also makes references to his “partner,” e.g. “my partner and I were out on a hill climb and some girl was stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. But instead of trying to repair it, she was just waiting for some guy to come along and do it for her.” He’s mentioned his partner so often in anecdotes that I just figured he was gay. Today, he spoke of his “wife” and we learned his son works for a Clio, a manufacturer of heart rate monitors. Must be the effect of the holidays, bringing out all this personal info.

After I settled down, and got my head right with the ride, I turned in an okay performance. But, with being late and monkeying with the bike, I only got in 40-45 minutes. Maybe I’ll ride at Mission Valley Center tonight. I have a spot reserved. Steve K. was really happy with the overall performance of the class. He congratulated us a couple times on our determination.

After I got out of the bike room, I wanted a jacuzzi. Rancho’s Jacuzzi is outside, with the pool. It was still raining hard. I looked through the plate-glass windows lining the hallway to the locker rooms and watched the rain drops hitting the pool water like little bombs. So I took my red umbrella out and held it over me all the way into the jacuzzi. I sat there, umbrella overhead, feeling like a dork. But then, I happened to look up at the sky. A movement caught my periphral vision and I looked up under the umbrella. And watched as the water beaded into little bubbles atop the transparent nylon. These little beads were shaped like mercury. When they got big enough to be heavy, they began rolling until they caught up against the umbrella’s outer fabric seam and broke into rivulets that ran off in clear pipettes, down to join the hot bubbling water all around me. I stared at that simple show for several minutes, suddenly feeling renewed and somehow more alive. That two or three minutes was the best part of the whole morning.

A Two-fer

December 21, 2010

“A writer writes. Everyday.” so said Billy Crystal in Throw Momma From the Train.

Rode 2 classes today: one @ 9:30 am @ Balboa and a second @ 7:30 pm @ Imperial Marketplace. Took the kid w/me to Imperial. He rode for 40 minutes of the hour then called it. I was still very proud. He’s overweight and doesn’t have the stamina yet. But’s he’s working out with the pass I bought him, so that’s a start.

Tiffany was the Instructor for the morning. She rode us hard, but had “a meeting” she couldn’t be late for, so she didn’t pull the full hour. I remembered why I remembered her when she started fiddling with her 5th gen Nano and telling us she couldn’t shuffle on it. That must be why she bought the new touch-screen Nano that I remember her having so much trouble with during the first class I rode with her. She couldn’t get that one to fall in line either.  She got some tunes out of this “old” Nano and pushed us pretty good. She pitted back row against the front and a couple of other fun exercises. She’s always extremely chatty. Today’s theme was Christmas. She asked for a show of hands: who was done with Christmas shopping? Then she told us she was going to have to start avoiding the Mall scene. Some 17-year-old guy tried to ask her out at the Mall. Twenty minutes earlier, she casually mentioned she had a kid. She looks like a Sorority Girl–who gets up and runs 5 miles in the morning and never eats any empty calories. She’s a little tiny Sprite with a little girl’s body. And she expressed disbelief that young boys are hitting on her.

“Now if he’d been 25..” she smirked, “but 17? That’s just disgusting! I don’t even want to think about it.”

Tiffany spent a lot of time off the bike today, pacing in front of us, gesticulating and shouting at us to go FASTER a la Richard Simmons in his Hey.  I did feel worked when I left the room. I went in early. I wanted to get a self-port pic for the background/sidebars. But I didn’t bring a suitably fierce outfit, so I scrapped that plan. Went home and took a nap, instead.

Nicole held court at Imperial tonight. She’s a little tiny energy ball herself. She played somewhat better music tonight. Sometimes, she plays tunes that have difficult treble beat patterns, e.g. “Tuh-dum-dum, Tuh-dum-dum” instead of just the basic “dum-dum-dum” beat patterns. The basic pattern is more conducive to a strong work-put in my opinion. The regulars there are mostly women, though Flo & Eddie, the older black couple which also rides with Jeff B. on Sundays, were there as well. I wore my white Reebok mesh football jersey. I realized some time ago that I dress fairly gay for Spinning. I also decided not to allow myself to worry about it.

Nicole always has a challenging hill climb as part of her routine. She made us ride it standing–for 10 minutes at a level 9 intensity. I loved it. My kid sat down for some parts of it, and that’s okay. Nicole pushed us all the way to then end.

“I need you to leave here,” she said sternly as she brought us up out of the saddle with only 10 minutes of class time remaining.

I don’t do 2 classes on the same day often. My work furlough schedule allows me 5 days off about every other week. When I get a weekday off, I indulge in things I have to squeeze in throughout the working week. Spinning, for example. I used to go over to Rancho San Diego and ride two classes back to back: John and then Haitham. But that’s too heavy. This way is much more manageable. I’ll definitely do it this way again.


December 20, 2010

Only rode one class with this one. She was subbing at Balboa. She’s one of the little female Instructors: less leg height to move around the pedals, a healthy metabolism and very light on the bike. Makes for a lot of lightning drills. Lee was cheerful and upbeat and I enjoyed the challenge. Rates a 4 on the Butt Kicker Scale.


December 20, 2010

My friend Ed from Grossmont Sunday morning class warned me about this lady. Sitting in the Jacuzzi one Sunday after Spin class, Ed started talking about some of the instructors. Some of the guys were okay, he allowed, but “that little girl” Julie “nearly killed” him. Ed was verbalizing the concept of  Butt Kicker. Typically, I didn’t listen. I saw Julie listed on the schedule at College Grove for a 5:30 pm class on a day when I’d already ridden a class earlier in the morning. I moved my life around, dropped the kid off at his moms, and headed back to the gym for another spinning class. Julie is a tiny little thing, the most dangerous type of female Instructor. They’re carrying less body mass, and are closer to the pedals. Halfway through Julie’s class, I was in pain. My feet were hurting. I wore Vans back then, and I simply had nothing left in the tank. Julie is relentless. Her patter consists of exhorting the cyclists in front of her to work harder–telling them they can lose up to a thousand calories if they only work harder. She leads by example, and she’s tough to keep up with. Rates a solid 5 on the Butt Kicker Scale.


December 20, 2010

Heather fooled me at first. I caught her ride at Mission Valley Center, where she was subbing for Cody. She wasn’t really on that night, and it was difficult to achieve a full work-out. The next time, she was subbing again. I did a mental eye roll when I saw her name listed on the schedule. But Mission Valley Center is my only option for a 7:30 pm ride on Tuesday nights after work. So I went. And Heather surprised me with a good, tough ride. She mentioned she broke her toe at the starting line, and had to pull up out of the pedal a few times. But the mere fact she rode at all impressed me. She’s also cute, a little too young for me, of course. Unlike some of the other women, she’s got curves: a muffin top, full hips and healthy upper torso. She’s the girl next door of the women instructors.  I rode with her at Hillcrest last week. She was on the ellipticals when I walked in an hour early. She stayed there till it was class time, then led a ride that was so strenuous I found myself getting light-headed. Rates a 4 on the Butt Kicker Scale.