We make holes in teeth!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fa Fa Friday

Gotta be honest, I'm ambivalent about Friday right now. On one hand I am required by law to look forward to Friday each week as it ushers in the weekend and allows me to enjoy longer bike rides, family time, and of course I don't have to work (in theory, reality is very different these days). On the other hand summer is here and that means every free day is filled with doing something. Add it all up and the weekend means I dig myself a deeper sleep hole that I never seem to climb out of. Sometimes it's just much less tiring to go to work.

Some comments before I talk about biking for a change.


"Hey man, the deal was the weigh your clothes after they DRY in order to get an approximate measure of how much salt you are losing."

Well now this is interesting. I would really need to do this before a long ride, say at least 3 hours because in order for my kitchen scale to even register it would need to be in the realm of 5 grams. That's a lot of salt but if it does weight that much then it sure would be an indication I lose a colossal amount of salt. Interesting thought. Something to think about.


" all i really want to know is how you manage to "pen" all of this on your crackberry w/o your fingers falling off. :)"

It's all in the thumbs, which admittedly hurt some days especially when I cut my thumb nail too short. It's funny this thing has allowed me to become consistent with my writing though. I would love to be able to sit down and just write away but frankly I get too bored too fast if I have the choice to get up and do something (like eat or drink beer or not ride my bike). Being forced to sit on the train for an hour each way gives me a lot of time to burn. The ride is much shorter for me when I'm clicking away on this.

Jake Part 2

"norm, i know EXACTLY how you feel. one very unexpect week in the midwest = many beers + kids are sick + me not sleeping = me not riding < class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_4">bueno. that is the formula for fatarse."

I guess it's really not as bad as I've been feeling but it still does fee like there's a world of shit to wade through some days, most days. Plus summer equals lots of food and beer every time you turn your head. How does this serious biking thing square with that? I don't know which is why I hesitate to call myself a serious biker at this point. Not that there's anything wrong with that it just doesn't jive with everything I've been doing since January.


"Wow just came across this. Good read, I can relate, with 3 kids. To each age its share of things that keep us busy though... Get out and race man! With all this biking it would be a waste not to, plus you don't ever get any younger; unless you push yourself. Cheers! Maurice"

Yeah no doubt it keeps you busy no matter the age. In some ways I feel like it's much more tiring this year than last year but then I'm pushing myself more this year. It would be a waste if I don't end up racing in the next few weeks but I'm not sure about Stewart just because of the bike. Still uncertain right now but I will say I'm pretty fed up with the biking industry at this point.

There's still a lot of year left and the 2 Allamuchy races in addition to Ringwood and the Dark Horse 40 are out there. Plus there's Michaux as well as some MASS enduro stuff that I'd love to squeeze in. Plenty of time to try not to cramp at a race again. I should really put a priority on fixing my bike this weekend.

I'm going to save the coffee comments for another coffee post next week. Now I can actually talk about how my biking is going. Yes I do still ride my bike even though I may be a tub of lard. I've pretty much gotten out of the Build 1 period and I'm sort of slowly transitioning into the Build 2 period. Last week was whatever I could put together. This week has been a little better.

I posted on Tuesday about being too busy so there was just a blurb there. Here is the ride link from that:

[ride link missing because motionbased is down]

I have to say I really enjoy the pattern of the route on the map and I may start planning routes in an attempt to draw pictures. Now that would be a neat little endeavor. I think Tuesday's ride looks like a spoon:

[no image which makes this part of the post useless]

I mentioned I felt good and when I picked up with the paceline riders I was almost surely the strongest of the group, though who knows if they were a light group or not but hanging with them was zero problem at all. They tried to keep it zippy as they passed but I had much more power than the collective and closed the gap without even having to stand. So that made me feel pretty good about where I am right now.

Then I rode Wednesday before we went out to my parents:

[ride link missing because motionbased is still down]

Nothing special in the pattern there:

[nothing special here so no big deal]

That was a nice solid loop with a fair amount of climbing. The real nice thing on this ride is that everything clicked on Wednesday. I climbed better than I have all year which makes me think things are coming together in some ways. To keep a 17.1 on that loop with that much climbing is a pretty solid pace for me. Very happy with that ride.

There was no Thursday and Friday rides because of the rain. I have to be honest I was pretty happy to wake up at 5:00 this morning and see that it was wet out still. I went back to sleep for another 45 minutes and caught the early train. I think it's pretty official that my motivation is gone. It probably boils down to the fact I'm overtired all the time which makes it hard to wake up and easy to eat too much. I haven't put myself in a position to have a sustainable bike season right now.

The dead bike doesn't help either. Right now the Stumpjumper is still in pieces. I took the linkage off and now I need to tap out the old bearings and press in new ones. Unfortunately I don't have a really long bolt to make it work well but I did find a C-clamp over the weekend. The important thing is to not damage the bike in the process. Boy it really would be nice to have the bike to ride the trails again soon. I find it ironic that the owner of the shop I go to bought a new road bike and gave it to his mechanic as a gift. Gee I wonder who helped pay for that?

My weekend is half up in the air as always. I'm going to do one of the hilly 50 mile rides on Saturday but I'm not sure which one. More than likely it will be the big Califon loop. I think that will be over the 3 hour ride limit I am imposing on myself while I get back in the swing of things but it's close enough. After that I have a birthday party a few towns over. I don't have to go but I'm putting in some karma time there.

Sunday the Stewart race is possible but I don't feel like riding it on the old Trek full-rigid since I haven't ridden that bike in well over a year now. I'm sure it would be fine but I'm pretty unthrilled about the idea overall to be honest. So if I don't do that I'll probably keep it on the road and in the 2 hour realm. Then I can spend some time trying to fix my bike so I can race the LMC on it next weekend.

Just for the edification of the readers, ambivalent means pretty much the opposite (or at least the half opposite if that makes any sense) as indifferent. A lot of people think those words are synonyms but that's not the case. While I was ambivalent about including this at the end of the post, I am indifferent if you care. Now how's that for word usage?!

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Coffee Tastes Good

Warning: Like the Garmin post, this is very long. And I don't have a lot of time at work to edit so forgive the raw nature of the post.


Just curious how you go about roasting your coffee beans? What equipment do you use? How long does it take? and is there much of a learning curve? Where do you get your raw beans? Questions, questions, questions. This is mtbdawgJeff BTW.

Let me start by saying there are startup costs that aren't exactly tiny. So consider yourself warned. On the other hand I will never go back to not roasting my own coffee. It is my strong opinion that if you're going to do this you should drink it black because you won't get the full flavor with sugar and cream/milk in it. You're also entering a whole new world of coffee here. This world will ruin every other cup of coffee you ever drink. OK that's my preface.

You can get more than you need to know at Sweet Maria's. That's where both Cliffy and I get our beans. They also have equipment but you can find it cheaper elsewhere so use it as a reference but but at Zaccardi's or wherever. The first thing you need is the green beans which I generally buy in 2 pound bags from SMs. I find 1 pound too little to get a good feel and 5 too much if it sucks. You can get a good look at the selection here. Tom reviews and scores every cup he sells which I find helpful. I think Cliffy's tastes don't line up quite so well though. YMMV.

My suggestion would be to start with some basic stuff, maybe a few Brazilians, Columbians, and maybe a Costa Rican or two. I think the best 2 bags I've ever had came from Costa Rica and Columbia. The downside on all those is that they're pretty boring after a while. They generally produce consistent beans but you're not going to get real strong flavors, especially with the Columbian. You'll get a little more variety with Brazil but also a bit of harshness at times. Costa Ricans are probably the most consistently good of those. Also, I find the peaberry beans the easiest to work with in terms of getting the roast right. You can experiment with other regions like Ethiopia (yirgacheffe specifically) or some of the Indian coffees, but stay away from the monsoon stuff. I would limit experimentation though until you get your feet wet.

There are other online sites but none hold a candle to SMs in my experience. Just about nothing is in stock year around so if I find something I really love I buy a 5 pounder soon - the green beans keep forever, or 2 years apparently. Otherwise it will be gone the next time I order. Average price per pound is something like 5-6 bucks unless you buy Blue Mountain or Kona, a total waste of money since those beans are really difficult to work with and not really that great at the end of the day.

Then of course you need to roast. I started with a small and reasonably priced machine but it wasn't really cut out for the big time and it started to fall apart too soon. I then went with an iRoast and both Cliffy (I think) and my mother-in-law as well as sister-in-law and a friend of my mother-in-law have all followed. The roast takes anywhere from 6-10 minutes and the cool cycle is 4 minutes with that machine. So total time is 10-15 minutes and you get about 5 ounces per roast, maybe a hair more.

If you do roast you need ventilation. I do mine in the basement under a window with a window fan blowing out. If you have a super industrial kitchen fan that will also work, but it needs to be super industrial. If you do it out in the shed be careful when the temps in the winter because the roast will stall. As for the roast itself it will take you maybe a few roasts to get a start. You might nail a good one on the first roast and then never match it. That just happens sometimes. Plus you're always going to think those first good roasts were the best ever. There's a lot of good info at SMs on this and this page is a good resource for getting an idea on how to hit the various roasts. I would recommend starting with a city or city-plus roast which is just after the first crack, which is very audible and drawn out. The second crack comes fast and furious and if you're not careful you can make a lot of smoke very fast as the bean oils rapidly try to escape and start to burn. Generally you're in throwaway territory then. Or Spanish coffee which is like liquid coal.

The roaster is going to cost you in the realm of $175 if you get that one. After I roast I put the beans in a reasonably airtight container, I have a small beehive white ceramic sealed jar. I think SMs say you should air them out but in my experience this does no good. The opening and closing of the container you store it in plus the fact it's probably not really airtight give it plenty of "breathing" potential. I find it tastes best 2-4 after I roast.

After you roast you need to grind. Now that we're in the wonderful world of good coffee you don't want a blade grinder. You want to pony up for a burr grinder, one that is easy to clean. I'll leave that step up to you but in general you'll need to drop at least $50-100 to get a good one. I think I found a Capresso grinder on sale for $50 before I bought a far too expensive model when we got the espresso machine, the next natural step in the coffee addiction. On grinders, the thing is that coffee beans are really volatile and if you grind it with a blade it gets hot and bad things happen to the taste at that point.

Then there's the brew. If you have a drip pot that you can't clean completely it's probably not really worth it. I have a french press and IMO it makes coffee so much better than drip that we don't even have a drip pot in the house anymore. We now have 2 different french presses, a small one for single cups and a big one for up to 3-4 cups. You can clean every single piece of it or put it in the dish washer. No rancid oils ever build up. But if you go french press, never ever ever drink the last sip. That's where all the super fine grinds collect at the bottom of your cup.

The process might seem involved but it's just the way we do it now. And once you start getting a good taste for it you'll see why you need to be so particular about all the details. If I don't wash the press completely before I brew - I mean even if I brew 5 minutes after my wife - I can taste the oils going bad from her brew. If you grind and then brew it an hour later, the quality isn't as good as it could be. If you go too far into the roast the flavor starts to change rapidly. Over the first few days the flavor will start to change. There are all kinds of little variables that can change the way it tastes. This is why you will never get a cup of coffee that's not either stale or overroasted. Starbucks standardizes their stuff this way, by overroasting their beans.

So if you're the kind of guy who likes the same cup of coffee the same way day in and day out, this is probably not something you'd want to do. If you enjoy the unknown here and can accept that you might never be able to nail that perfect cup of coffee but love trying, I don't really think you can go wrong. No, actually you can't go wrong.

In terms of cost, you need to drop the money on a roaster. And of course you need to buy some beans but you presumably buy coffee already so it's a wash there. The grinder is probably the least important of the details for day 1, especially if you do use a french press. But eventually you probably want to get a decent one that's not to hard to clean (very important, the ability to clean). And a french press can be had for less than $20. If you put together a bunch of stuff on EBay I'm sure you can get a lot of it cheaper as well.

Personally I think it's totally worth it and like I said, I would never go back at this point. I mentioned above that you really can be all over the map with the way it comes out. But I think the worst cup I've ever made is still better than the best cup of store bought coffee, be it brewed or ground or whole beans. I've never found a "freshly roasted" coffee that's remotely close.

As for learning curve it's really not that steep. If you overroast you probably end up tossing it and starting over in 2 hours when the machine cools off. If you underroast it gets tricky because you really don't know it until you've had a cup or 2 and it's just overly sour. You'll quickly learn by the cracks and the color of the bean what you're doing.

That should be a good amount of info to get you started. Maybe Cliffy has some input on what he thinks, since he's pretty much in the same boat I am with all this stuff. If you're interested further I can answer more questions or find a way to get you some roasted beans to try. Or you can come over one day and check it out, since you probably drive by my house on the way home every day when you pass exit 30 on 287.

Yes I still ride my bike. Maybe tomorrow I'll talk all about it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Too Busy

I'm out of my gourd here at work so I have to save the coffee post for another day. Sorry Jeff. I have it mostly written up but I need to do a little bit of searching for links and whatnot. So for now all I have is my ride notes for the day...

I did get out this morning and had a decent loop planned. But when I got to the junction point I cut it off short because I didn't think I could pull off the big loop and still make the 7:27 train. I picked up with 4 guys riding and flew around with them for about 10 minutes until they dropped off to fix some minor mechanical one of the guys was having. It was during that little foray that I realized I'm a lot stronger now that I'm letting on since I had no problem catching up with the 4 of them as they pacelined past me. The unfortunate reality is that I'm probably about peaking right now, and I didn't even ingest any LSD. The previous 2 weeks saw such a reduction in volume that it's pretty much got to be the case. So this week should be good on the bike but on the other hand it's kind of wasted. No matter, this is a nice little break right before the build-up for the Allamuchy race. Lots of tempo riding in the days and weeks to come. I'm sure you'll hear all about it.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Tub of Lard

That's what I'm turning into right now, a tub of lard. Suffice it to say that I'm probably at my lowest point in terms of biking since my daughter has been born almost 15 months ago. Yeah I'm still faster but nothing is right at this point. Here are the weekend numbers:

Saturday: 1:04, 17.4 miles
Sunday: 0:45, 12.5 miles

More numbers:

Saturday: 8 beers
Monday: 194 pounds

Yeah somehow I packed on 5 pounds again this weekend. I don't think I can claim I'm a serious biker at this point. I mean its the beginning of July, I rode maybe 5 hours last week, had 10 drinks, and have gained 8 pounds in 2 weeks. You know that Hindenburg picture, the flaming blimp? That's me right now.

I hesitate to make a post like this because it's not really that bad. The stars have just not lined up in the last 2 weeks and this is just how life goes. Between being sick, work sucking eggs, and the madcap weekend I'm just taking steps back right now. There's not much I can do but sit here and watch it go by and somehow try to fight through it.

The weight gain is disappointing. When I was sick I exploded which happens. And drinking so much Saturday night is also going to wreak havoc on my body which is another reason I blow up like that. By the end of the week I should have stabilized a bit. But when it comes down to it, I'm not helping myself. Sickness and work are out of my control, more or less. But the beer and amount I ride are, and I'm choosing to do what Donny Don't Does.

So the weekend. Same as usual Saturday morning. Alarm, snooze, snooze, work in basement. By the time I got on the bike I didn't have much time so I short-lopped it for just over an hour. My wife suggested I take it easy since it was going to be a long weekend.

About the weekend my wife was right. It wasn't as bad as I expected. We left Saturday at 9:00 am and decided to try the Turnpike based on a neighbor's suggestion. Well surprise surprise there was almost no traffic. Other than the merge it was clean. I had no idea it would be so easy that early. As for Julia, she was content for 1:05, then a little cranky for 15, then kinda high-maintenance for 25 minutes. All in all she did exceptionally well. We didn't have to stop and there was little traffic. Just over 1:45 to get there.

The weekend itself was OK. I don't really love the parties down there because the neighbors don't really do it for me. So we don't get to hang out with Vinny and Bridgette much and their kids are generally insane because there are a million kids around. Since Cliffy and Melissa bailed and Woody was also a no-show I really had little else to do but sit and drink beer. On the bright side Vinny and I went out to get 2 bottles of this which we drank before the party started:

Click here for eternal bliss

At $7.99 a bottle this isn't something you drink very often. Having said that it was pretty damn tasty and I'll have to get it again someday. In the future. Far in the future. Like maybe when Haley's Comet comes back.

Julia loved the pool and hot tub which Mom was in charge of. Since I don't care to expose my mostly naked self to the world-at-large mom handled that while I sat around working on my figure with beer and food. After the 120 Minute IPA it was mostly Michelob. Hey at least the first beer was tasty.

The ride home was even better. Julia had woken up at 5:30 and by 9:30 was pretty toasted. We left at 9:56 and she was asleep by 10:00. There was less traffic on the return trip and it took 1:40 to get home. Julia slept for 1:15 of it then woke up happy as a clam. Really incredible how easy she was in the car all weekend.

When we got home I eventually got on the bike and felt more or less as you would expect. I picked a short loop which turned out to be shorter than I thought. On the last 20 minutes I felt strong but jeez a 45 minute ride? Should have laid in some pig shit instead.

So there you have it. A bike oriented blog has devolved into stories about 4th of July parties, my daughter in the car, and beer. There can be no better indication - other than the scale - that my season is rapidly going down in flames. There's another race up at Stewart this weekend which I should force myself to do but I probably won't for the usual reasons. 3 hours of driving for a 1:20 race. I think what I really need is a lot of volume over the next 2 weeks to get myself back to form, at least mentally. I doubt I've really lost much fitness at all. I just feel like crap right now when you add up the last few weeks.

Off to work now. The next 2 days are a bit more insanity then I get a day off with more car time for Julia as we head out to my parent's in Pennsylvania. I'm hoping to drag myself out of bed and get a real ride in tomorrow but at 48 degrees this morning that's a tall order. Then Wednesday the plan is to do something substantial before we go. And my vacation day is tentatively scheduled for Thursday now, so maybe another high volume day there. And Saturday before the kid party gives me maybe 3 hours then Sunday is more or less a free day, either I race or do a 4 hour road ride. So if I play this week right there's no reason I can't shock myself back to form with a solid 12-14 hour week.

Alternately, I make a push to top 200 pounds. Wish me luck either way.



Accommodation in aviemore