Sunday, December 16, 2012

Alone With My Thoughts

It was too cold to ride yesterday.  I just couldn't make myself do it.  So I stayed inside, down in the basement near the warmly radiating furnace and worked on a scale model.  A phone call came it from my Mother in Law Margaret pleading for tech support, she had replaced the batteries on her iMac wireless mouse and now it wouldn't do anything, and she was in the middle of writing an important paper.  So I dropped what I was doing, put on my heavy jacket and gloves, and mounted the Kaptein Dutch bike for the 6 block ride to her house.  Man it was cold, and it made me glad I didn't go on a road ride.  I fixed her mouse and TV remote control then rode home.  It hadn't warmed up a bit.  When I got home I had the house to myself and I spent the whole day in the basement working on my project.  I don't know where the time went.

I used to build models exclusively back in the mid '90's.  We had a very young son and I found going off to my little outdoor closet to work on a model was a great temporary escape from constant home duties.  I found that the process of working on the model allowed me to tune out everything.  I am so focused on the process that everything else disappears.  Its like magic, and it gives me a feeling of contentment.  Yesterday for example, I couldn't tell you what I was thinking for 6 hours.  I don't think I was thinking at all, which is astonishing.  That's the beauty of a hobby you can fully immerse yourself in.

In a way its the opposite of cycling, at least solo cycling.  When cycling I find my mind is engaged in constant chatter, observations, and random dialogs.  Today for instance.  The weather had warmed enough to be inviting.  I bundled up in my winter kit from head to toe, although in reality it was only 51 degrees at the coldest.  I know a lot of you in cold climates are laughing right now, but this is California, not Norway.  This is cold for us.

I woke up at 6am or with a bad headache.  I hate it when this happens.  I call it the "random headache" as it happens occasionally but I can't really pin down the reason.  It's pretty bad, in the sinuses, and it makes me a tad nauseous.  Once I get up and out of bed, vertical, it usually goes away in an hour of so.  The random headache is closely related to "the unfair hangover", which afflicts me once or twice a year.  The unfair hangover is a full on hangover brought on by no more than one or two glasses of wine or beer, amounts that normally have no effects on me.  Why this happens I don't know.  The worst unfair hangover I can remember happened on the day I was attempting the epic feat of climbing Mt. Diablo (elevation 3200') three times in one day.  I woke up feeling like shit.  I had only had two beers at a party the night before because I knew I would be testing myself the next day.  I woke up feeling like I had drank an entire barrel of cheap beer.  I still managed to bag 2.5 climbs of Diablo that day, each pedal stroke was like a hammer banging on my head.  Oh man, it was bad.

All this was going through my mind as I mounted my bike and set off for the hills.  I vowed to go easy and just enjoy being out, and I did, the bike felt smooth and fluid, my legs fresh and strong.  The sky was still and gray, with a hazy yellow glow here and there.  I like the way the world looks on a day like this.  I started thinking how lucky I am to be able to still ride the hills, that I am healthy enough to do it, that fate has been kind to me, things happen everyday to people that puts a sudden end to the things they love.

I started pondering last week, in which I did two back to back hill rides, and how that drained me over the week, an energy drain that I call "the hollowness".  The hollowness is an actual physical feeling of not having anything inside me, like I am an empty shell of muscle and bone, but the internal organs are gone.  I get through work fine, but around 5pm, I feel so hollow that I am virtually useless.  Eating always helps, and with each passing day the feeling fades, until around Friday, I feel like myself again and eager to do it all over again.  I've come to find that big exertions on the road, such as spirited challenging of other riders are definitely a cause of the hollowness.  I use up so much extra energy going hard that it drains my batteries deeply.  I usually start feeling it two days later for some reason, and last week I gave myself a double dose of it.  When I am hollow I have zero interest in riding.

I was enjoying today's ride and as I was climbing Tunnel Road, I was getting warm under my layers.  I wondered to myself just what causes warmth during exercise?  What is it about the way the body's cells are turning glycogen into energy that actually makes heat?  Is it a chemical reaction?  It must be I suppose.  And what about sweat?  Why does water and salt start to excrete from the pores of our skin?  That one is easier, its about evaporation and its cooling effect, which, really, is nothing more than wind chill.  A wanted and needed wind chill.

Just then my anatomical musings were distracted by three riders who passed me, one was a young woman all in white.  I noticed the flesh colored roundness of her butt contrasted with the white chamois of her shorts.  Dang, its almost as good as X-ray vision!  Those shorts, in that light, were translucent, and I was enjoying her display of riding prowess.  Then it occurred to me that someone ought to make either all flesh color, or clear plastic bike shorts, or large mesh boudoir style back panels for those who want to flaunt their buns of steel.  After all, super tennis star Venus Williams does it and I have to say she really pulls it off:

But maybe its not such a great idea because its only a matter of time before this guy is wearing it:

So upon arriving at the summit of Tunnel Road, I stopped at Sibley Park to use the bathroom.  Standing in front of the toilet, I dug down beneath my layers to get at the plumbing parts, and as I touched my stomach I thought "hmm, cold and clammy down there".   It dawned on me that I had been using this expression all my life and in reality I had no damned idea what a clam actually feels like.  Who does?  Maybe if you are a clam hunter and suck them into a bucket with a long tube-like thing, or maybe you work at a fish market, then I guess you would know what a clam feels like.  Cold?  Slippery?  What does that have to do with people sweating?  And this one "happy as a clam"  What the hell does that even mean?  If there ever were a case of inappropriate anthropomorphizing, that it it, right there.  I suggest replacing "cold and clammy" with "dog nose-y" because we all know what a dog's nose feels like, cold and snotty-slippery, but playfully so.  If you are a guy, you reach into your cold, sweaty, saturated with chamois creamed shorts and think,  "hmmm, dog nosey---nice!"  So, as I was draining the lizard... wait a minute, there they go again!  What is it with animals that make us want to relate to them?  Busy as a bee.  Slow as a snail.  Spank the monkey.  And on and on.  I jumped on my bike and beat it out of there like a bat out of hell!

And on it goes, random sights or happenings trigger chains of thought that lead to other chains of thought.  I think this is why I became a bike blogger, because when I ride, all this stuff comes up, I can't stop it unless I focus way inward on something like modeling.  

I had a fine ride of 28 miles, and it was only a tad slower than my normal pace.  Not slug-like at all.  I don't feel the least hollow right now.  Check back with me on Tuesday about that.

Pedal on,

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