Pedal Strike

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March 1st, 2010

moving…

It’s official: I’m taking off the training wheels [so to speak] and moving to my own domain.

But like any move that involves more than one bicycle, glitches might happen, and changes might be a little slow. I’m working on all of it, though, so stay tuned!

And in the meantime, please update your links/rss feeds/bookmarks to…

http://pedal-strike.com

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February 25th, 2010

velo bento – feb. 25, 2010

A few days ago, Mike sent me a link to this Friskies commercial which is probably the trippiest thing I’ve seen this year. Apparently someone tweeted it, claiming that it might be better than Avatar. I believe it [I haven’t seen Avatar yet!].

I remembered that video yesterday, with the turkeys bowing down and the cows munching away at the grass and the giant fish boat, all participants oblivious to the fact that they were already slaughtered and made into catfood, when I got to school. I was drenched. Soaked. Miserable. But then I pulled out my lunch.

Lunch! Yum!

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Yes, I love food. I think we all do. I have a theory that even those with eating disorders love food; they just haven’t figured out a way to manage that love. It’s like going into priesthood because you can’t get away from the all-too-human desire to bone hot chicks. But back to food – I love it, you love it, cyclists all love it. And because I’m Japanese I like to put it in containers and carry it around. And blog about it.

Because putting containers of food on your back and transporting it via bike can result in some interesting stuff. So while my lunches haven’t achieved the status of “bento” [I think that requires more thought and effort; my mom set the standard high in our family], I’m convinced everyone wants to see what I’m nom nom nomming on. And to keep it interesting, I’m posting what it looks like before and after the short commute to school.

Yesterday was mixed greens [I could live off that stuff], topped with spicy tofu, some avocado, and grape tomatoes [sorry about the pink-ish light in the above picture]. That got double bagged with an orange, then carefully placed on top of my laptop, book, change of clothes, and essentials. Of course, by the time I got to school, it looked like this:

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It looks so sad, I know! But well tossed, right? FYI, despite how it looks, it was pretty delicious.

I’m working on better containers [I love containers]. And more interesting meals. I doubt they’ll ever be as cool as my mom’s, or induce hallucinations and highs like Friskies might, but you’ll get to hear all about it. Oh, and if you know any container makers in China or something, let me know. I have a few ideas…

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February 24th, 2010

a mixed bag

Other than the whole addiction to work thing, my mom and I are not that similar. She’ll mention that we are when both of us are somehow awake at 3am, pursuing our passions, but at first glance, I’m much more my father’s daughter. On the other hand, people don’t have a hard time recognizing my sister as one of my mother’s daughters. Me, they express slight surprise and search my face for similar features. And meanwhile I’m like well, I don’t think I’m adopted…?

But if you judged only by my and my mother’s addiction to shoes and handbags, we are clearly of the same genetic material.

My closets at home are bursting with bags of all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. My mother and I vie for space to cram our plethora of shoes. It’s a friendly obsession that we share…until, of course, space gets tight. Then we point out the unused parts of our respective collections while we simultaneously try to hoard as many bags or shoes as possible. My mom once advised me to pick one to focus on: shoes or bags. I asked her why she got to do both. [She claimed that she chose shoes, but I’m not buying it.]

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I still have a huge box full of bags here in my small apartment, but these days, the choices are slim. And when the weather forecast tells me that it’s going to rain/snow all week, the choices dwindle even further.

I have, as you may have noticed, two main ones: the giant Ortlieb and the small Baileyworks. Both have protected my life laptop from the harsh elements thrown at me by cars full of teenage boys and the wheels of huge trucks blowing through slush or giant pools of water. I love both, too, and if you have stronger arms and shoulders [thank you military presses, push-ups, and planks], neither is an issue even on a bike with more aggressive geometry. But when you know the sky is going to dump large amounts of water on you all week, and that therefore you’ll be carrying not only your essentials [laptop, books, lunch, tools], but also your entire wardrobe on your back, you really sort of start wanting at least a rear rack. And then you start to wish you had panniers, which is kind of a bad thing, because that is a slippery slope, people.

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I know, I know, it’s not a bad thing, per se. The thing is, if I’m going to be in the dorkiest attire in the entire world [read: rainpants] this week, arriving at school with eyeliner down to my chin, the last thing I’m going to be seen with are a pair of saddlebags draped across my rear wheel [I have enough of those on my hips? HA HA…okay I set myself up for that one]. I have enough trouble as it is sneaking into a bathroom – one of those with only one stall so you can completely lock people out – unseen, trying to creep there unnoticed while those damn rainpants swiiisshhh, swiiishhh like some extreme dork alert. At that point, panniers would not only slow me down, but spell instant death to any presumption that cycling can actually be cool.

Not that my classmates would know or care if I was seen with panniers. They’ll probably just say, “oh, is that a new bag?” and be on their way. But it’s the principle of the thing. Just like I wouldn’t ask you to wear a helmet or a jersey that doesn’t match your bike [the horror…the horror…say it like Brando]. Yeah, I might be obsessed/addicted/whatever, but who said that precluded looking good…or at least less dorky?

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February 22nd, 2010

pumping iron

I really love that everyone’s referring to my unnamed friend in Friday’s post as “Mr. 15-25hours.” Hilarious. You guys know how to make me laugh.

And while that email initially had me whimpering in a corner, I was totally okay not training this weekend. Even when it was in the 40s and gorgeous out. Even if I saw a few familiar riders headed west. Even if spring’s on its way and I haven’t gotten on my rollers in about…um…more than two days…

Wait, that’s not entirely true; I did spend some quality time rolling out my IT bands which are feeling like pieces of wood, again. One side was so tight that my knee was starting to feel it, which meant that I spent more time rocking back and forth on a foam cylinder, mermaid-style, than in the saddle this weekend. But unable to get away completely, I was – close friends would say predictably, at this point – pumping iron.

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I know it goes counter to everything that serious cyclists would tell you; that you should really just let your arms waste away into wisps and do nothing but move those pedals up, down and around. Pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, curling, pumping, huffing, puffing, and otherwise using muscles that you only discover off the bike means that it’s not going to do you any good on a ride. It might have you looking jacked, ripped, toned, or just plain sexy, but in the end, it’s extraneous effort that will have most roadies turning up their noses in disgust.

Even so, I knew that a real ride would just have my IT band doing the equivalent of falling over and dying. I don’t enjoy that feeling, which meant that I woke up on Saturday with leaden arms, abs burning from the previous day’s bicycle crunches [see, “bicycle” was sort of involved!]. My addiction to email overcame the lactic acid built up in my biceps and just as I felt an accusatory glare from my neglected track bike, an email from a friend appeared, linking me to a post on Rivendell’s site.

It’s worth a read, especially if you’re a woman. Or if you’re “chunky.” Or, if you’re “chunky” and a woman who is also afraid of getting osteoporosis [read: me!]. Yeah they tell you to get off the bike once in a while and do – of all things – burpees, but they have a valid point. And no, it’s not – as far as I can tell – motivated by a sadistic desire to see manorexic cyclists attempt to do dips and push ups [hell, I can only do…hold on…about 2 real push ups]. There’s no harm [and actually a lot of benefit] in doing the occasional push-up and some load-bearing exercises, though. It’s not fun at first, especially after you find out how weak you really are, but progress is fast and as I’ve learned, there’s nothing quite like the burn of sore muscles in your inner thighs, obliques, glutes, and arms.

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There’s nothing quite as addicting, either. In between the pedalstrokes, I’m fast slipping into a subculture that celebrates tone and muscle definition. After a deliciously indulgent dinner last Saturday, I found myself immersed in the world of bodybuilding circa 1975, via the documentary Pumping Iron. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the muscle tanks and short shorts, gaped at the bulging muscles of Franco Columbo, and was appalled by Schwarzenegger’s psychological manipulation of his fellow competitors.

Yeah, yeah, I didn’t get in a ride all weekend. But hey, sometimes a girl’s just gotta channel a little Lou Ferrigno on her days off. Minus all that green bodypaint, of course.

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February 19th, 2010

in limbo

To be honest, it was sort of hard to even look at my track bike the past few days.

It’s more than a little embarrassing to admit, but this time last year, I hardly knew what a derailleur looked like. I naively thought that only things with cogs and lockrings mattered. Sure, I had friends with road bikes, but those never seemed to get ridden. It was fixed or nothing.

Ironically, it was when I decided I wanted to put some decent miles on my legs that I suddenly found myself in an uncomfortable limbo. I was hanging out with roadies, but given their inability to go less than 30mph on “easy” rides, even if they were female, I’d never be able to keep up. Solo rides on a single speed were [and continue to be] my destiny. Sure that meant I got to go at my own pace, at whatever time I wanted, without worrying about being categorized as “deadweight,” but that’s not to say that I didn’t get more than a little discouraged or lonely last summer.

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For the record, people did offer to ride with me. But I didn’t want to be a pity case; I never want to be a pity case. So I politely declined and went it alone, but tried to absorb as much from competitive cyclists as I could. And between the talk that didn’t involve bikes, but pieces of our lives, it almost seemed like it didn’t matter how much I couldn’t ride. They asked about my bikes and answered my never-ending train of questions; I asked about their girlfriends/wives/fiancees and was even seen in their presence with no eyeliner on. But then, in a response to an honest email I sent which was really only meant to inform about my own current cycling-related battles, came what felt like an electronic bitch slap:

“If you spent 15-25 hours a week training and racing and immersed in the side of cycling that I’m in I could see why you’d [think that]…”

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To be fair, the email did tell me to just be myself, but it stung more than the last time I had to spray Bactine onto a knee that was clearly missing flesh. In hindsight, I should have just told the respondent that I never got the memo on how to be his friend, and left it at that. In reality, after a further snarky exchange, I managed to [electronically] spit back that if 15-25 hours of training was required to win his [or anyone else’s] respect, that I didn’t want it. And if he chose his friends based on their training programs, I honestly didn’t care if I didn’t make the cut.

I know, aren’t I immature?

To his defense, I still think he’s a nice guy. But it was a harsh reminder of my perpetual status in limbo [or lack thereof?]. There’s nothing I’d love to do more than ride on a banked ‘drome and try to get dizzy in the corners, but simple enthusiasm doesn’t really get you anything. And when the only sport I’ve competed in involves wrapping my legs around a one ton animal and trying to hang on, maybe he was right when he said that I’ll “have to work hard to dig [myself] out of that hole.”

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That email scrolled through my head again a few days ago, as my attempt to crest a hill with gusto tapered off into out of the saddle climbing, face screwed up in an effort to complete the pedalstrokes. It was snowing, and as usual, I was ill-prepared for the weather. A man drew up beside me: a super commuter, the kind with more than one shade of neon on his back, lights on both his helmet and bike [front and back, mind you], and a bundle securely fastened to his rear rack. He told me he was headed to Natick, “from here, only about 11 miles,” and shamelessly drafting off of him, I went down that hill faster than I would have ever tried it alone in those conditions, and pedaled faster through snow than I probably should have.

It wasn’t an ad hoc race, or a competition of any kind. He knew I was behind him, but made no effort to drop me or prove what I already knew: that despite his pretty dorky attire, he was a better cyclist. None of that mattered, because we were both precariously balanced on two wheels in weather that most people try to avoid walking in. Yeah, we weren’t about to win any UCI points, but that was okay. We were having fun. And in the end, that’s what it really should be about, anyway.

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