Monday, March 13, 2006

The Stairmaster, Hbar Patio, Gimping

Saturday was a gorgeous, gorgeous day in Chicago. High of 66 degrees and sunny. Glorious. It was also a ‘work day’ for Hbar owners as we attempted to excavate the backyard to prepare for laying our new patio.

Working outdoors on a gorgeous day seemed like a grand idea. Very quickly reality set in, though. It is over five years since I labored at the tire warehouse. Apparently a lot of things change in five years – primarily the softening of flesh and skin. My hands have long since lost their protective callouses and quickly became tender after weilding the shovel, spade, pickaxe and wheelbarrow. This is to say nothing of my upper body strength. Shocking as it might seem, parking my ass in front of a computer all day long has not sustained my former upper body strength. Digging in the dirt quickly lost its appeal and revealed its true nature: hard work.

I began to realize the beauty of prison work crews and imagined a bunch of convicts shackled together and making quick work of this project. More seriously, I suggested that something diesel-powered would be more appropriate to complete the job. Todd agreed that sweat equity wasn’t going to get this job done fast enough for our April 8 deadline. His solution was to bring in a crew of day laborers. Briliant!

That decided, I turned my back on digging and focused my attention on a much more fun project: creating a large pan of foccacia bread in the design of a bike wheel. I filled a 18" diameter pan with dough, rolled out a long ‘rope’ of dough to represent the tire, a smaller rope for the hub, and then while studying a bike wheel, used my pastry wheel to slash proper ‘spokes’ in the dough. It was slathered with garlic-infused oil, raised and baked. This bread was for the after party of the final stage of the Tour.

I also had the Hbar cooks prepare a huge batch of veggie chili for the party. To cart this to the party, I slapped a hitch onto the Julep so we could pull a fresh air trailer. My plan was to volunteer for the Stairmaster, then to ride up to the Hbar to load up the trailer/chili/bread and bike back downtown to the after-party.

During the pre-race gathering, I felt great and considered racing in the Stairmaster. My achilles was barely bothering me and the weather was just so damn fine that I wanted to join the group. However, I was wearing 4" heels, and I knew that doing this race would end up badly for my achilles. Then it started to rain.

The rain turned into pouring during the Stairmaster, including thunder and lightening and the temperature also dropped considerably. A thick fog fell upon downtown and I worried for the safety of the racers. I stood at my checkpoint cold and wet while I waited for the race to come through. There were going to be three laps to this race. The first was a ‘neutral’ lap to show racers the course; the second was the real beginning of the race and the third was an optional lap. The race went through my checkpoint twice on each lap. I don’t know what took so long, but we waited forever for the first practice lap to come through. The riders mostly looked miserable. Many people bailed because it was dangerous/miserable. Apparently there were several crashes during the practice lap.

The rain lightened up and the racers started coming through. At first we marked up the sodden balled-up manifests, but soon just gave up and waived people through the check point. Some people did get markers on their faces or hands if they desired. Overall, the racers now seemed more energized and happy than miserable. When they came through the second time they looked tired.

After the race I scooted up to the Hbar to get the trailer & chili. It was hours after the 9:30 that I told the cooks I would pick up the chili. Once on the road I realized something: I never pulled a trailer with the Julep before. With her gearing, she isn’t the best bike for hauling stuff because she is hard to start and it takes a lot of muscle to bring her to a stop once she is moving. When I have pulled a trailer before I have started in a low gear and used the hand brakes to stop – much easier on the knees. Anyway, it also wasn’t great for my achilles – which started to flare up.

On the way there I saw a small group of riders and, assuming they were going where I was going, I tried to catch them. I kept pace for a few blocks, but couldn’t close the gap – damn trailer. When I reached a multi-track railroad crossing, I hopped off the bike and pushed my rig over, and they blinkied out of my sight. In a few blocks I was at the party – there were bikes upon bikes upon bikes – locked three high on every post in sight and in huge u-locked mounds.
Carrying the five gallons of chili up to the fourth floor sucked ass and felt horrible on my foot. It seemed crazy to ask any of the racers to carry this burden after running the 1600 stair gauntlet. So I gimped it up myself. I realized that doing the Stairmaster would have been impossible.

Once people realized I had food they swarmed around me hungrily. I had the sensation of being at a petting zoo with a can of corn and surrounded by goats who threatened to knock me over if I didn't feed them fast enough. I got the food and utensils out and then ducked out safely as the swarm of bikers descended ravenously on the chili & bread. The bread was gone the next time I looked – I suspect my meticulous bike-wheel carving was done in vain. Oh well, it’s good to know that it this creation worked out – I’m sure I’ll recreate it in the future.

The party was quite fun, and I got to speak with the number two girl, Anzie, a messenger. Previously I didn’t know who she was and I had been looking for her. She was really cool. All of the messenger girls have been really cool, with no signs of the ‘cooler-than-thou’ or social reject attitude that many messenger boys seem to have. She said that she sees my cute bike all over town, and I was blusing on behalf of the Julep. Then she told me that during the first race she heard my streamers flapping behind her and couldn’t believe it when the Julep passed her. She expressed surprise that I hadn’t done better in the Tour, and I had to confess my intersection cowardice and tendency to get lost. She said that she feels most comfortable riding in the rear of the lead group, ans suggested I join her there next year. I’d like to hang out with her and Jen, another messenger girl, more in the future.
I woke up on Sunday morning with high plans of being super-productive in the nice weather. I stretched in bed and realized that I felt beaten up. More stretching revealed that many of my muscles were sore. My arms and upper body were achey from digging and swinging the pickaxe at the Hbar; my achilles was puffy and felt horrible, and; my ass and quads felt as though I had raced the day before. Apparently the trailer is a great training tool that compresses a hard sweaty workout of 20+ miles into a barely sweaty workout in under 10 miles.

Trailers – the training tool of the future.

My planned super-productive day turned into: brunch with friends, napping with Paul’s cats, chatting with John, and napping with my cat. Finally at 10:00pm, after another thunderstorm ended, I returned the trailer and chili container to the Hbar. My friend Steve was there, so I increased the productivity of my day by adding alcohol consumption to the eating and napping with cats. Another storm was pouring down water and flashes of lightening lit up the sky as I rode home.

I have a doctor's appointment on Wednesday. Enough of this gimping bullshit.


At 6:50 AM, Blogger George said...

I liked your foccacia bread bike wheel!

I'm a pastry chef, I'm gonna try and make one as well.

If it turns out, I'll put a pic up on my blog.....


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