• Category Archives the sporting life
  • Biking, running, weights, yoga…

  • Spanked!

    Another day, another awesome MTB ride… I rode again with Greg H, but we hit Sals this time. I think I did a but better in the rocky stuff than the other day, but even if I think [redacted] is a bit tougher, with more difficult trail challenges sprinkled here and there, Sals is relentless — it never stops being rocky, or uphill, or both…

    Tomorrow is a rest day, going in to Philly to see Ben, and Saturday, if the weather holds, we’ll be doing the “tour of Christmas lights” ride.


  • Rest Day

    I had an awesome ride yesterday, with Greg H at a local place that shall not be named — and if you’re in the know you already know where I mean — where, in contrast to Monday’s slop fest, the ground was snow-free and fairly dry. Chalk it up to good drainage, and maybe hilltop exposure to sun and wind, but conditions there were almost as good as it gets.

    My riding, however, displayed a certain lack of courage…

    On the way up the hill I was in front, and thinking to myself “enjoy it while you can,” because I knew the rough stuff would remove any fitness advantage I might have.  My recent riding follows the same old pattern: my fitness is the first to return (and the last to fade even when I’m slacking), but technical skills, and confidence, atrophy quickly and take forever to return. (I also got skunked by the fact that there were more technical features there that are just above my usual ability; I can clear them sometimes but am frequently knocked off my game. I used to call this my over/under. If things were just a little easier I would have been a lot better/faster/whatever, I swear…)

    Anyway, we had a good time, and I am getting better even if he has to wait for me after the difficult sections. We were supposed to go again today but Greg couldn’t make it, so it’s on for tomorrow.


  • Back Out In The Muck

    Yesterday’s ride along the canal was a slopfest, clothes and bike gray & gritty from the gravel/cinder surface, and I was whooped by a 14 mile ride over soft paths. So today, I’m heading out again — this time with Greg H to some actual trails, which stay dryer and more solid, hopefully. I’m heading out in a few minutes, just after blogging and a little lunch.

    A quick aside on the mapping front: I took a long time dithering about it, but I wrote my own chainage routine, and my own ascent/descent calculation function, both in PL/pgSQL, and both — especially the ascent routine, where there was a lot of room for improvement over my PyQGIS script — worked perfectly. (The ascent routine took about 20 minutes to run everything, as opposed to 4-8 hours for QGIS.) I still have to zero out the data at bridges, but I am now back to where I can wait for outside data (recommended routes, etc) to continue.


  • Motion

    Getting ready for a towpath ride; I’ll be out on the singlespeed which needed a little bit of work, tires pumped etc before it was ride-worthy, but looks to be in good shape — there are not a lot of moving parts. Not much to say otherwise..


  • Go, But At What Cost?

    Listening: “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers

    Well, so much for my previous experiment — don’t compartmentalize, just write — the real task is to actually take the time to write something. I haven’t been motivated lately  to do any writing, but in my defense there have been a lot of things to write about, which might have caused a bit of vapor-lock. Among other things, I’ve still been volunteering at the Canal Museum and at CAT, we did another overnight trip up to Jim Thorpe, and I’ve been exploring mapping and routing again.

    Listening: “Colossal” by Wolfmother

    Listening: “Beautiful Red Dress” by Laurie Anderson

    ON THE BIKE:

    We did another trip up the towpath: Anne and me, Sarah A and Dianna H. We rode to Jim Thorpe, lunching in town and camping overnight at the lake. Breakfast in town, then Anne continued north on her own from there while Sarah and I did the return trip (Dianna met her husband in town and got a ride home). Anne’s destination was Watkins Glen, and I caught up with her by car there a few days later. I brought my road bike, but we didn’t do much cycling, just some hiking at the Glen, then a trip to the Museum of Glass in Corning on the way home.

    Listening: “Help Me Mary” by Liz Phair

    I kind of got the mountain biking itch again: I did a ride on some seriously “old school” trails, with Greg H up in the Poconos near his cabin, probably my favorite ride of the year so far (except for a persistent creaking out of my pivots). Got the pivots fixed, rode Nox on a weekday with Anne, and did Deer Path/Pine Tar in Jim Thorpe Sunday. I’ll be doing a towpath ride later today.

    In between these things, I also took the Cycling Savvy course. Really fun, and though it covered a lot of the same ground as Road 1/LCI, I came away with more than a few choice new insights. I also rode across the Hill-to-Hill Bridge with my sister-in-law, which should have been a crazy idea, but by the time we did it (as part of the course), it was easy enough to be a bit anticlimactic.

    Listening:“Drumming Song” by Florence + The Machine

    We also managed to do some riding as part of Lehigh’s Car-free Day.

    Listening: “Make You Mine” by Heather Nova

    All this music just lets you know how slowly I write, and also how many in my “Favorites” playlist are female vocalists…

    READING

    I re-read The Mathematician’s Shiva recently, as well as all the “Expanse” books (which didn’t hold up to a re-read as well as I would have liked), and China Mieville’s Iron Council (ditto), the most recent new book was Walkable City by city planner and walkability expert/advocate Jeff Speck. Interestingly, he once was commissioned to do a study of Bethlehem, and gave a talk at Lehigh about his findings. (The town skipped over a bunch of his advice, but they did incorporate at least some of it, some parts more slowly than others.) It was fun (at first) to see him name-drop Bethlehem, and CAT, likely referring back to his study, but it became annoying after a while since it was mostly examples of what we were doing wrong…

    Case in point: I had just finished the “Cycling Savvy” course when I got to Speck’s critique of “Vehicular Cycling,” where bicyclists are trained to bike (on the roads) as drivers of vehicles — in other words, “Road 1” and “Cycling Savvy.” His contention, and there is some merit to it, is that while this may help an individual graduate be safer, it makes cycling grim and scary, a turn-off, thus reducing the number of actual cyclists on the road — and since the biggest driver of cycling safety is not cyclist skill (or wearing a helmet or whatnot), but the number of cyclists on the road, the vehicular cycling approach actually reduces general cycling safety. Oh well, he has a point, but I still liked biking over that bridge.

    Listening: “Old World” by The Modern Lovers

    FUN WITH POSTGIS

    I’ve been playing with a new project recently: building a web map for cycle commuters in the Valley. In the end it will show the major Lehigh Valley towns, and the locations of the major employers, and recommended routes that a cycle commuter might use to get around; I used Leaflet to get these basics down, but then I thought that what the map really needs is routing, and I thought it would be best to build a custom routing engine using PostGIS and pgRouting.

    Listening: “Wildewoman” by Lucius

    So, I’m back to my routing kick; this will be part 2 but I’ll be abandoning my previous project in favor of the web map.

    Listening: “Twenty-first Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson

    First step (of many) was to make sure I had pgRouting installed properly along with PostGIS, and they both were, no problem. Next up was to build my road network — for right now I’m working on a smaller area, a part of Bethlehem City. I got the road data from OpenStreetMap and used the osm2pgrouting utility to get the roads into the database. So far so good, and the whole process was surprisingly easy.

    Using the routing functions took me a while to work out, but in the end they were also pretty straightforward. PostGIS/pgRouting seem to be easier to use, and easier to do sophisticated things with, than the original QGIS networking utilities.

    Listening: “White Unicorn” by Wolfmother (oh no the same band again!)

    Two things in particular came more easily: dealing with one-way streets, which I ignored in the first project since it seemed more trouble than it was worth (you could always walk your bike) and the actual “cost” of cycling.

    The basic idea behind routing is to find a path through the network that minimizes some function, the total of the “costs” of moving from each individual point to point within the network. The default cost function for my first project was distance (the default, and by far the easiest thing to do), which is a pretty good cost function as far as it goes. But with bicycling, elevation changes could also play a major role, and with pgRouting it’s easy enough to define your own costs.

    Listening: “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.

    So I decided to consider total ascent, every meter climbed, as part of the cost; I found some studies that cyclists generally take a meter of ascent as equivalent to eight meters of travel — that is, you  might go eight meters longer to avoid another meter of climbing. I also thought that grade would affect that eight meters, and found another online study that multiplied ascent by a factor proportional to some power of grade. I eventually opted to go with a geometric factor, doubling elevation cost every 5% change in slope.

    Listening: “Strangeness and Charm” by Florence + The Machine

    I’ll get into it some other time, but I got QGIS to break up my network for finding ascent, and SAGA to assign elevations from DEM data, then wrote a Python script to extract and calculate the elevation costs. Took some doing, mostly dealing with my own typos, but finally I got the whole thing to work, and it routes beautifully — in QGIS, on my machine.

    Listening: “There There” by Radiohead

    I learned a few interesting things about elevation along the way. A sanity check of my cost results showed some anomalies, especially on 8th Avenue — it turns out my original “elevation data” was raw Space Shuttle radar data, and it picked up the top of the old Martin tower which screwed up nearby elevations. (This difference between ground elevation and radar/lidar elevation readings, the realm of buildings and trees, is — according to the Internet — very important to telecommunications people, who call it “clutter.”)

    So for my second iteration I used actual DEM data  (“digital elevation model,” the elevations at the surface of the Earth, as if it were scraped clear of buildings and vegetation), and that fixed the Martin Tower problem but revealed another one: bridges, my nemesis… I’ll have to figure out how to adjust elevations on bridges so they don’t follow the depressions (creeks, rivers) they jump over.

    Listening: “Furr” by Blitzen Trapper

    Well, that’s it for now…

    “But I still dream of running careless through the snow,

    And through the howling winds that blow

    Across the ancient, distant flow

    To fill our bodies up like water till we know.”

    … now let’s ride!

     


  • The View From Musikfest

    Pretty good night last night: we went with some of Anne’s orchestra friends and saw a trio (violin, piano, clarinet) doing Mozart and a few more modern classical pieces at the Moravian Church, then grabbed a beer at the Sun Inn, which was amazingly quiet compared to the street just outside. Left there, went home for some quick food, then caught Scythian — or the first half of their show anyway, thunder and lightning clearing the metal-pole tent. Doug & Lori joined us, as well as John & Donna who stopped by their place to grab some Scotch they got in Scotland. Much fun ensued, studying the relative merits of different Scotches… (This morning started a bit more slowly than we’d planned.)

    We caught another chamber music trio earlier this week, as well as a Faroese folk singer one evening; both of these were at the Moravian Chapel behind the church — these both were firsts for me, being inside these buildings. We also saw the Skatalites at Volksplatz, but other than that, and last night’s rained-out adventure, we’ve been avoiding Musikfest after dark. With age comes wisdom?

    Speaking of wisdom, I realized that my use of categories here (“the sporting life,” “cultural ramblings,” etc) has caused me to fragment my writing, trying to keep myself to one subject per post. I usually don’t have enough to say about any one thing to sustain a full post though, not on any regular basis at least, so my posting has dropped off and I’ve ended up not writing about anything. Therefore, I think I’ll make a conscious effort, to go back to my previous diary-like mishmash of whatever pops into my head, or into my life. Thus…

    Reading: The other book I read in Canada was A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles. This is the story of a Russian aristocrat who is sentenced by the Bolsheviks to house arrest for life in a luxury Moscow hotel. The novel has som many surprising twists that anything else I reveal would be a spoiler, so I’ll just say that this was a great book, and well worth reading.

    What else has been going on? I was back volunteering at the Canal Museum on Wednesday, but while there I heard that they had so many bike rentals last weekend that they needed to get some of the spares out of storage, and their tires were low on air, etc. So, I went in yesterday and went through all the bikes, making sure that they would be ready for use if needed this weekend. I also did some volunteering at CAT on Tuesday, building up a bike with Anne. In terms of actually riding bikes, Anne and I did a road ride, with lunch in Riegelsville, and Doug and I rode Jacobsburg on Thursday. Yesterday was rainy, and tonight threatens more, so if I ride tomorrow it’ll probably be a road ride.


  • Huckleberry Hounds

    Posted on by Don

    We just got back from a trip to Brady’s Lake to pick blueberries, the high-bush kind that may or may not actually be huckleberries rather than blueberries — these are big berries, and huckleberries are supposedly smaller (and grow on evergreens), so I’d still go with blueberries. Two hours of picking, and I think we got more than three quarts — and it looks like there’s a lot more to be had as the season progresses. No bear sightings, though…

    Yessssssss! Successsssss! The keyboard crapped out on my laptop a few weeks ago, with the “S” key sticking more and more — very frustrating. I finally brought it in to a repair shop yesterday, where I had the keyboard replaced, as well as the insides cleaned (like, the fan/air vents) and the heat sink refurbished. I thought it would be days, but he called in about an hour saying it was done, and I picked up my cool-running, feels-like-new laptop that afternoon. Sweet!

    No Bearings On The Case We rode to Anne’s orchestras summer picnic yesterday, along with Shari, an orchestra-mate who lives in our neighborhood. It was a reasonable distance, maybe 14 miles one way, but we were going slow and I wanted to be wearing normal clothes/shows when we arrived. So, I took the Iguana, for its first big ride since I re-worked the headset last Tuesday at the CAT office. That was a bit of a disaster: I took off the stem, lock nut and spacers, then as I was taking the upper race off all the ball bearings fell out of the bottom bearing and scattered bouncing across the floor. Turns out the seal was gone, and the bearing cage was mostly gone, so once I loosened the fork there was nothing holding them in. I managed to retrieve most of them and replace the missing ones, put them into what was left of the cage with a whole lot of grease to act as “glue,” and put it all back together. This is a temporary fix until I can get a new bearing/cage assembly, but despite everything, the bike’s steering feels better now than it has in years.


  • Sprinter’s Blues

    Posted on by Don

    I’ve fallen so far behind my normal riding fitness this summer that I decided to take a drastic step:  intervals.

    Yes, I began doing them last week, on a standard towpath ride to Easton and back — I added three 1-minute intervals (with approximately 2 minutes rest between) on the return, and it beat me into the ground. Today I did a harder but more structured workout: 10 minutes warm-up, then the same 1 minute all-out, 2 minutes easy for five intervals (basically, from the Minsi Trail Bridge to the ball-field), then did the rest of the ride at an easy pace. It was totally doable this time, but now my legs have a lot to say about it.

    Tomorrow I’ll be riding in to the Canal Museum, but that (and the later “Ladies’ Ride”) will be fairly easy. Thursday morning will be a run, and then Friday morning will be the next interval workout. Two days a week is pretty hardcore, but I should start seeing results within a month.

    But…. well, ugh. I guess all I can say is that I did it to myself.

    PS I also did a short run this morning. One mile at a really mild pace, no knee issues.

     


  • The Fever Broke

    Posted on by Don

    Pretty cool today, and rainy too. I’m just hanging out, arguing with people who are wrong on the Internet (Facebook specifically), claiming that pedestrians do not have the right of way at every crosswalk, whether marked or not. FYI: unless there are traffic lights to otherwise control the intersection, pedestrians do have the right of way at every crosswalk (which includes the implied continuations of sidewalks, etc. across and through an intersection), not just the ones that are marked. Now you know — and now so do they, but they won’t believe me…

    Meantime, I got in a few good rides this week, including one “hot lap” on the towpath: pushed the pace on the way out, then did intervals on the way back. I was beat up, but still managed to join Anne, John, Dianna and another rider for a more leisurely, evening towpath ride, followed by burgers & beer al fresco at Brew Works. (Anne and I did a nice rode into Easton the other night, and had a nice beer at Two Rivers.)

    I may take a walk over to Southside for some sort of lunch, where I will also be buying tickets for Southside Film Festival for tonight and tomorrow.


  • Getting In The Miles

    Posted on by Don

    We just had a string of nice days this past week, and I finally got in some decent riding: I did a towpath ride on Monday, a decent (if slow) lap at Sals on Wednesday, followed by another towpath ride Wednesday night with Anne and some friends, and I took the towpath to get to and from the Canal Museum yesterday. (I also got in a good ride at Jacobsburg last Friday, as well as that aborted Nox ride on Sunday.) The rides are currently a bit Towpath-centric, but I had a lot of fun at Sals and the ‘Burg so I think I’ll be branching out. I still have yet to get out on the road bike.

    Today is rainy, and tomorrow and Sunday might prove to be the same. Blogging, bike maintenance, listening to the blues…