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

  • A Familiar Feeling

    We went up to Jim Thorpe early Sunday morning, Anne and Donna to do a trail run and me to do a short MTB ride while they did it. We started at the lake, and I basically did a loop on the Switchback.

    I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of some rhododendrons or mountain laurel in bloom, but I think it was a bit too late. No cicadas either, but I didn’t feel disappointed. Maybe it was the look of the trail surface — sandstone and dirt with reddish bark and pine needles — or maybe it was the particular environment I rode through, a certain combination of vegetation and soil that I associate with the Alleghenies, and the giant anthills of Allegheny mound-builders though I didn’t see any, and with rides at Michaux and West Virginia, but I felt a sense of nostalgia, of having come home again.

    Anyway, the ride itself was fairly uneventful, if extremely pleasant: I went up the Switchback to the Upper Switchback, across the ledge over that RR tunnel/cave, took the Wagon Road back into town (I had trouble at that same spot I always have trouble, but rode it all better than usual) and finally climbed back up to the lake on the Switchback. I was done just about the same time as the ladies, and we drove off — we were home by about 11:30. What a way to start the day!

    That evening was the Pennsylvania Sinfonia “Valley Vivaldi” concert in Allentown, and drinks with friends at Brew Works.


  • Grit And Flow

    So I’ve had my new Garmin Edge 830 fro a week or two now, and my verdict is: meh, it’s better than the 810 but it’s not magic. The map it comes with is OK, but I plan to put an OSM map on instead — I think I can do this, but I’m not going to try for a while — and there are a bunch of other features I haven’t explored yet, which don’t do much for me (yet), such as connectivity to Strava, map connectivity to TrailForks, and some new MTB measurements: Grit, Flow, and Jump.

    “Jump” seems pretty straightforward, it measures something about how much or how well you jump on the bike, but “grit” and “flow” remain a mystery to me, even after reading their explanations. “Grit” apparently is a sort of trail difficulty score, based on turns and elevation changes, while “flow” senses the rider’s performance as a function of maintaining momentum. Maybe they’re useful, but they sure don’t seem to tell the whole story — where does rockiness, or trail roughness generally, come into the equation? We’re talking Pennsyltucky riding here, after all…

    Anyway, for now the unit shows me where I am and where I’m going, and I can explore what I think of the other, new features over time.


  • Philly Biking

    We (Anne and I, and Scott S) went in to Manayunk yesterday morning. We met Ben there, got some coffee/breakfast, and then lit out for Philadelphia proper via bike paths. This was part of a CAT investigation of bike lanes and similar infrastructure in nearby cities — Anne and others did New York last week — so, with Ben, and some maps provided by Scott, as our guides, we rode through a bunch of areas and neighborhoods: West Philly, South Philly, Center City, etc, trying the various bike lanes on for size.

    We were meeting Sarah Clark Stuart (executive director of the Greater Philly Bike Coalition) in Center City, but we were early so we grabbed lunch at the diner inside Reading Terminal Market. After lunch we did laps around Market Street and JFK Boulevard, met with Sarah, and took the Schuylkill River Trail back to Manayunk.

    We had a bit of trouble back in Manayunk: while we were out riding, someone hit our car in the trailhead parking lot. It was ugly, a smashed quarter panel, but there seemed to be no actual frame or mechanical damage, like to the radiator or whatever, and there was a police report with insurance information on the windshield so we just drove home — slowly — and are now dealing with insurance, estimates, and so on.

    What did we learn? I have to digest my experiences, but I will say this: Philadelphia is a fun place to ride a bike.


  • Playing Catch-up: Some Rides

    Last week was a pretty good week for me: I managed over 100 miles total on the bike, and got in rides with Doug and also with Anne.

    • I did a towpath “semi hot lap” ride on Monday.
    • Wednesday I rode to the Museum and back, and then met Doug for another towpath ride.
    • Saturday was another towpath ride, my first Trail Patrol ride of the year.
    • Anne and I did a nice ride north of town, visiting Housenick Park and then riding out to Georgetown Road.

    I also started using my HRM again, and some of those rides were done as training, or rather “training,” rides. This week has been cold (and rainy yesterday), so there’s been no riding, and I don’t think I’ll have the same miles. But spring is definitely here.


  • Spring Sprang Sprung

    It was a perfect springlike day Monday, so I hopped on the Iguana to do a little OpenStreetMapping — there was a note on the website saying that a Moravian spiritual retreat just outside of town had been closed, and I thought if I could go there and confirm it on the ground, I’d go ahead and make the change when I got home. The former retreat was right next to a new park too, so I could also do a little exploring when I got there.

    My ride was pretty low-key: I was just out in street clothes and boots (and my helmet), something I’d been doing lately for casual riding; I was also inspired to keep it simple by Bike Snob’s recent article… I tooled up Main Street to Macada, then Altonah, then made a right onto Santee Mill Road, which is basically as bucolic as the City of Bethlehem gets. I was looking for a road/path off Santee Mill to take me into the park, but never found it (I saw later it was smaller than a sidewalk and very easy to miss). No matter, I continued forward, back into civilization, and entered the park from the front. Just outside the park entrance was a house where the retreat would have been; the house had posts out front, from which there might once have hung shingles, and the shingles might once have said “Spiritual Retreat” or whatever, but the shingles were gone now and there was a big “Private” sign by the driveway. So Phase 1 of my exploration was complete…

    That left the park — officially, “The Janet Johnston Housenick & William D. Housenick Memorial Park” but apparently just called “Housenick Park” by normal people. This is a parcel of land donated by Janet Johnston Housenick, granddaughter of Archibald Johnston, the first mayor of the consolidated City of Bethlehem (he was also chief architect of that consolidation, and a high ranking executive at Bethlehem Steel — he was as Bethlehem as it gets). The land was once part of the Johnston farm/estate, and it includes the old Archibald Johnston Mansion. The park is fairly new and still under construction/renovation, but there are a bunch of new footpaths and old carriage roads, and I cruised around for about an hour, taking pictures.

    It’s hard to believe looking at it, but the estate only dates from the 1910’s or 1920’s — it looks typical of a farmstead from about 100 years earlier — and the house was built using Bethlehem Steel beams. There was a boat house and tennis courts (or the ruins of them), but there were also lime kilns and the remains of orchards, ornaments in a hobbyist’s historical reenactment of country-squire life.

    The ride home was uneventful, and pleasant though the day was getting breezy. I returned via Township Line Road, which eventually becomes Altonah, and basically retraced my steps from there. I went about 16 miles all told, and total ride time was just over 2 hours


  • Winter’s Last Hurrah

    Posted on by Don

    I went out XC skiing this morning — I noticed, on a little towpath hike yesterday, that the snow still seemed pretty decent, so I went to bed early and rose early with the plan, if the temperature was below freezing, to get in one more session.

    I was not as early as I would have liked, but I managed to get out for about two hours on Ilick’s Mill recreation fields (behind the swimming pool) and the golf course, covering just over three miles.

    me in snow
    Me at Ilick’s Mill

    Conditions were not the absolute best, but there was a lot of area still covered with snow, and a lot of the snow was still in pretty good shape; the skiing was actually pretty good, especially on the Ilick’s Mill side. There were multiple tracks already laid and crisscrossing each other, and I followed one track or another depending on what looked interesting. (I could see what looked like the same at the golf course, but the only tracks I found when I got there were goose tracks.) Since I expect this snow to be gone by tomorrow I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to see everything before I left even though my legs were getting tired, but conditions deteriorated as the sun, and temperature, climbed; I turned around when my skis started sticking.

    snowy field
    The public golf course in winter.

    This snow was the stuff that fell last weekend, which I’d thought was no good and only likely to get worse, but there was a cold snap this past week, and conditions were awesome when I got out Wednesday night. Go figure, O me of little faith…

    This was at Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus, my first time there, night-skiing (also a first) with Renee. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, skiing along with a bicycle helmet (which is what my light mounts to), but I had fun. Besides, it was dark.

    Now the sun is out, the temperature is in the mid 40’s, and tonight looks like rain — there may still be more snow this season, but the air has felt like spring for more than a week now, and I think that today was winter’s last hurrah.

    By the way, this was me in Vermont, when we were out in “real winter,” with daytime temperatures in the single digits:

    me in snow
    Booger Man! It’s really just condensation. Mostly.

  • The Sap is Rising

    The days are getting longer, and the air is feeling more spring-like even when there’s snow on the ground. That spring air is starting to get into my blood too, and I’ve started doing morning exercises again (pushups, sit-ups and dumbbell exercises), as well as grabbing some easy saddle time. It’s coming…


  • Wissahickon

    We were at an afternoon/evening holiday party on Saturday where I ran into my friend Renee; she gave me grief about my being AWOL for recent bike rides, and having more excuses than rides lately. She had a Sunday ride planned with Hope at Wissahickon, and after being called out I couldn’t come up with an excuse so I said I’d join them, and so it was decided… I got up early yesterday, and carpooled down with Renee to the Chestnut Hill parking area where we met Hope. We then proceeded to have the most awesome, pleasant ride.

    We got in about 15 hilly miles on the dry and frozen trails — the place drains well, and surface conditions there were primo, about as good as it gets in winter. Hope (who rides there regularly, and actually was there the day before) and Renee were both strong, but we rode sociably, with plenty of stops and bull sessions, and despite my recent reduced fitness it was not the beat-down I was expecting.

    It was a busy day in the park, many other bikers out, and hikers and dog walkers, especially near the trailheads — deeper into the woods and it was just us and the occasional other cyclist.

    Hope, me, Renee and fallen tree at Wissahickon

    That’s us, pretty close to the end of the ride. We were getting back to civilization, and saw this fallen tree that had been cut into pieces near a trailhead. Renee counted rings and estimated it to be 120 years old.

    And then we were done! Once again, I went on a ride and did not regret it — there’s a lesson in there somewhere!


  • New Project: Down the Rabbit Hole and Still Digging

    I started looking into my new project the other day. The first steps will have to be extracting information from GPX or FIT files, and adding the information to a PostGIS database. I managed to do this in several ways, mostly through a combination of GPSBabel and ogr2ogr, though no single way has done exactly what I want yet: ogr2ogr automatically adds GPX data to the tables in a manner similar to what I want, but extension data (heart rate, temperature) is not treated the way I want, while the FIT data needs to be extracted first into a format readable by ogr2ogr, and then put in the right table form after being put in the database, all of which turned out to be surprisingly easy. (Even so, I may just choose to go with adding the data from GPX for now.)

    The biggest problem I’ve run into so far is that GPSBabel does not extract all the data from the FIT file, and FIT is a proprietary, binary file format — I can’t get lap information, for example, just by scanning the file with awk or something. I may have to download and use the (again, proprietary) FIT SDK, in a C or other program I write myself. This may fit in well with what else I have to do, since I can call the parts of ogr2ogr I specifically need, directly from C.

    Before it gets to that point though, I have to decide what I especially want to do with this data, which will tell me what I need to extract, what I need to save, and what I can disregard, or discard after processing. Do I want to build a full-blown replacement for Garmin Connect, where I keep all relevant data? Or do I want to just build something, like a web badge, to show a minimum of data about the ride, data like distance, duration and a map of the ride, with maybe a link to the ride’s Garmin activity page? I am leaning towards the minimalist approach (which would entail just saving one record per activity, with fields containing aggregate data), but I think I want at least some of the individual track point data because I may want to graph things like elevation or heart rate.

    But maybe I don’t need to keep trackpoint data to build my graphs on the fly. Maybe I can make small graphs as PNG’s or GIF’s for the badge, and store those images in the database — hopefully they would be smaller than the trackpoints themselves. Alternately, I could store the entire FIT file (which is actually pretty small) in the database, and extract whatever I need on the fly. (I would still do a one-time analysis to get and store my aggregate data, since this might be a little too slow for on-the-fly data generation.) These choices will depend on the results of all the little coding/database/GIS experiments I’m doing now, extracting, converting and aggregating sample data.

    Ten Years Gone: This is what I wrote on this date in 2008. We voted today, and I remain hopeful, but it is certainly not as happy a day as that one was, and even with good news I don’t think we’ll match that day.