Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Another year, another dang hobby...or two

Last year around this time, I'd just bought a bike. We were living in temporary housing while our house was being rebuilt from the fire, and I was riding to work. What I didn't realize was that I was just about at my heaviest, having just recently crossed the 170lb mark.

In spite of the fact that I put 99 miles on that bicycle in April of last year, by June I was at 175lbs, and my size 34 pants were starting to feel a little snug. Given that I'd ironically worn size 36 jeans in college, I did not find this the least bit amusing.

Clearly something needed to change, and the impending World Cup gave me the opportunity I didn't know I was looking for. On April 10 I happened to find a German training jersey at Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked it up to show my support for the country, along with a couple pairs of soccer shorts. The thought was that I would be coaching the kids' team again, so why not look the part?

But the shorts felt like they were cutting me in half, and every time I looked down I just saw a bulge of belly. Twas gross.

So I went through the Spring riding my bike, running with the kids on the soccer field, all the while gaining more and more weight. But by the end of their season I knew I wanted to play some actual soccer, and watching Germany DESTROY the competition solidified it.

In July, one month after I started logging every piece of food I ate (in MapMyFitness), I put my name out on the regional soccer league's web site. I wanted in.

I got radio silence for a few weeks, but in August the phone rang, and I was on a team. We were a bit of a mess, with most of us returning to the sport after many years away, but over the course of the season we started to figure it out, and by the end of the season I had dropped 20lbs and could almost stay on the field for 30 minutes without feeling like my lungs were coming out.

The team ended up with a losing season, overall, but it was good enough to convince us to take on an indoor league over the Winter. By the time that season started, I'd lost another 5lbs and was starting to think about turning my treadmill training into something productive.

I signed up for the Monument Avenue 10K for the 3rd time (after swearing I'd never do it again in 2010) and got serious about running, both for stamina on the soccer field and for its own sake.

In March I convinced Alastair to sign up for a .5 mile run, benefiting his school. On the day of the race, I weighed myself at 145.9 and decided, on a lark, to join the 5K happening at the same event. I ended up coming in 3rd place overall, my first ever competitive running podium. What's more, Alastair came in 3rd place in his run, absolutely tearing it up out there.

With 2 weeks left until the 10K, I felt pretty good about my chances to improve on a PR of 52:11.

The soccer season started around the same time, and I was astonished to realize how much faster I was on the field, and how much longer I could stay in the action.

Race day, though, was below freezing and windy. Lots of self-doubt crept in during the mile+ walk to the starting line. Once the race started, though, I found a pretty steady rhythm (thanks to my Garmin watch) and a couple of rabbits to chase, and ended up blowing my old PR out of the water by over 5 minutes with a 46:44. That's a solid minute off the pace I wanted to keep, so now I already have a goal for next year. Sigh...

And to make it worse, I just signed up for another 5K this morning: the Hanover County Pooch Pursuit. I keep telling myself that I hate running, and that I only do it for stamina on the soccer field, but I'm kind of addicted to competition.

The good news is that, barring injury, I can now go a full 45 minutes on the field before old age gets the better of me, and my weight is a full 30lbs down from last Summer.

Now to just find the time and space to take that fancy bike out for a ride...

Monday, March 24, 2014

I don't do hobbies very well

Years ago I got into rock climbing. Ordinarily this would be No Big Deal, as many other people were into rock climbing at the time. All I should have needed was a harness, shoes, maybe a chalk bag, and partial ownership of a rope. But that is not how I do things. I had to have my own rope, rope bag, helmet, spare harness (just in case), webbing, carabiners, ascenders, belay devices, and eventually a rappelling rope, because you know: the elasticity is different.

Then came computers. I worked as a tech at several PC shops around town, so I collected everything I could get my hands on, while my rock climbing equipment gathered dust. I had, at one time, a computer room with no heat or AC that stayed warm in the Winter and blistering in the Summer because it had 8 workstations in about 80-sq-ft of space. This obviously wouldn't do, so I built a rack with help from a friend, and grew my collection to 11 workstations, a KVM to manage it all, a domain (for educational purposes, dontcha know), a huge homemade L-shaped desk built on 4x4 posts, laser printers, color printers, laptops, Macs, and I think at one point a Linux box that I was never quite sure what to do with.

Then came fitness. In 2002 (I think?) I signed up for a gym membership. Numbers became my obsession. Weight, weights, reps, cardio. 3 nights per week, 2.5 hours at a time. Rock climbing equipment came back out for a brief foray, but how can you track numbers if you're out getting dirty on the rocks? You can't: that's how. So back into the shed it went, and over the next 3 years I got into a shape that I was VERY pleased with. I even ran my first 5K. Numbers were my life.

Then I found a new set of numbers. Horsepower. Torque. Lap times. Towing capacities. PSI. Fuel-flow rates. I (have) spent 8 years (so far) chasing automotive performance numbers, while blithely ignoring the financial numbers (I do track them, but it's far more depressing).

When the race car broke, that attention turned to slot cars. 15 digitally-chipped cars, ~80 meters of track, a purpose-built 8'x8' table, and 2 digital powerbases can attest to that. Since we won't have full-time access to the house until June or July, though, that's on hold. Le sigh.

So when I decided to buy my son a new bike a few months ago, it should have come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that I would obsess over it. They tell you to buy the biggest frame your kid can fit on, so that your kid will get the most use out of the bike. But at his size, he could barely hold the steel bikes that fit him upright. So I looked at aluminum and bought him the nicest thing I could afford: a Specialized Hot Rock 24'. It's nice, light, and while it's huge for an 8-year-old, the seat post fits low enough into the frame to just barely fit him. This bike should honestly last him several years.

So if he can have a nice bike, why shouldn't I? Uh oh.

I got it in my head about a month ago that my old bike, a Roadmaster Savage 21-speed, is just painful to use. It was inherited, so it was never sized properly, and half of the hardware has spent way too much time in the elements. Riding with my son would not be fun on the ol' rusty girl.

I started looking, and realized that I didn't want to spend more than $1000, because I know how poorly I do hobbies. I looked at Specialized, Trek, and ultimately a Giant Roam 2. It has hydraulic brakes, Shimano Acera shifters, all aluminum construction, a 27-speed drivetrain, and rang in way under the prices of similarly-equipped bikes from other brands.

But as soon as the credit card came out, I realized I'd done it again. 4 days have passed since I bought the bike, and in that time I've ordered luggage racks & luggage (for picnics in the park!), lights, lock, bottle cage, cell phone mount, tools, gloves, and I'm starting to look at cycling clothes (blech). I've found an app that can track my rides and report on fitness numbers (because after gaining ~20lbs in the past 2 years, that obsession is back in full force, too), and I'm actively looking for parent/child cycling groups. I found a bike-rack that Katelyn's parents gave me a couple years ago which now lives in the Miata's trunk, and Alastair and I went for rides both Saturday and Sunday.

And now that I've ridden with him, I'm getting itchy to upgrade his bike. With only 7 speeds, he does a great job climbing, but has no cruise speed to speak of (front derailleur: $$$), and his rim-brakes are always on, even when they're not, so he cannot coast very well (disc brakes: $$).

But so far, while my butt may be a bit sore, we are LOVING our bikes. Alastair has never really had an opportunity to get out and ride free, and the idea of tossing the bikes on the back of the car and just going out to explore has really resonated with him. And now that I can get my all-important data, I think we've found our 2014 obsession.

Maybe my 2015 obsession will be 'saving for retirement', because so far that's not a hobby I've excelled at.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here Be Dragons

The inside of my head is a terrifying place.

This evening I sat down to bang out a dispassionate reply to a business email, and before I knew it I had as many Powershell sessions open on about as many servers as my wife does tabs in Chrome. I will point out that her idea of browsing the internet typically comprises opening a tab for every page. She commits chromacide on a regular basis.

So there I was, trying to put together a simple checklist for a simple request, when I started wondering the stupidest thing ever to wonder before bed: what if? What if I was wrong about access restrictions? What if I can't manage this step? What if I try these steps in a stable environment?

Seemed simple enough, but invariably those questions lead me to the discovery that the 'stable environment' I intended to test was not quite so stable, and that of course meant more work, diagnostics, testing, querying, ooh-shiny-object-ing, and suddenly I'm migrating file servers in the middle of the night. And demoting domain controllers. And testing attribute-manipulation and export. And by God if I've gone that far, why not migrate DHCP and print servers? Maybe it's time for some overdue patching, too. Wonder if those SQL databases are in production. Why not screw around with those, too? And now I'm remembering why in hell I logged onto a RADIUS server 2 hours ago and abandoned the session.

It's a terrifying thing to be in here with all this crap. There's hardly any room for me. Because in spite of what I may be accomplishing in the middle of the night for my clients, I have yet to suspend my home phone or my satellite service, in spite of the fire having been almost 2 weeks ago.

But that's another part of my brain. One that I truly do not like to access: the one that uses the phone. Phones make me angry on principle. I find it far simpler to convey my thoughts in written form than verbally, even though others tend to disagree after reading one of my technical documents. I can be more specific where I think it's necessary and gloss over the minutiae. When I'm on the phone I tend to blather and over-share (who, me?), and I have trouble hearing people clearly on the other end. And the delay that cell phones impose is enough to make me want to scream., you...sorry...wha...GODDAMMITFUCKALLWHOGETSTOTALKFIRST?

So rather than take care of a few undoubtedly simple phone calls that would make me stop paying for services that I can't currently use, I sit here in the dark banging away at Powershell commands, making incredible discoveries that greatly simplify my job and increase my capacity to service my clients, assuming I remember them in the morning.

And wait...wasn't I working on some sort of checklist?

Dragons, indeed.