Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is this calculus?

So, genius idea of the year - taking an unnecessarily tough calculus class. To be fair, I wanted to take it for several reasons: the puzzled look I get when people find that I'm an environmental scientist way outta my league, to get into an engineering hydrology class (geography one would be a joke), and to learn how to model objects (subterrainian water flows) with a  function that I have created (integrated, if you will) all by myself.
A few notes about calculus class. I jumped into this course without taking its precursor, and without having taken calculus in more than 2 years. The teacher is one of the most popular profs on campus with a cult-like following. Engineers are a fun breed, it truly is like a cult, teacher says good morning and 600 people say with enthusiasm (every time!) "GOOD MORNING!" teacher says put down your pens, and you hear the clatter of everybody in the room dropping their pens. He also has his "Friday special" which is more often than not excruciatingly painful, and his jokes about math (which he has undoubtedly been using for 20+ years)
The only good Friday special

Even has his own brochure thing in the University Centre and all restuarants on campus..

Learning calculus from scratch again at the accelerated rate that I was forced to this semester would be an incredibly tough task all on my own, and that's how it was looking. My good friend (a girl who joined the bike club this year) told me that there was this guy named Brian that she knew, who is not only a wizard at math, but also wants to be a prof when he grows up, REALLY wants to be a prof apparently. She said she would ask him to help me out, of course I couldn't just let this happen, so I said no. The more she talked about Brian (and the more that the prof said anybody who hadn't taken the precursor last semester would need to study with someone who had) the better the idea seemed. I introduced myself one day, explained about my head injury (scar tissue where it is and what the doctors have told me about my newly limited math abilities), and how long it had been since I took anything like this. Basically I said that I was a far cry from where a normal student would be and I would understand if he didn't want to take on the liability of that's fine - most people wouldn't.
Aren't I glad I got into my study group! Smart kids I tell you! Multiple 100% achieving gold star students for Chris to try to keep up with! I had people to help keep me on task, and who I could ask questions to, and it made me feel pretty good to get my work done.
Quick study break with my friends, reading the writing on the wall and playing piano

One time Brian also said
"You know, you're not at all what I thought you'd be like, you're actually very smart"
This was an amazing thing to hear after what the doctors had said, and even though I'm not as good as they are at calculus, it meant a lot to me.
Today was a midterm. Yep, there are 7 days of class left (only 4 calculus classes left) and we had midterm number 3. Also this week has been known as my week from hell since I first mapped out my work for the semester (see brilliant calendar below), with a midterm, and two practical lab finals. Fun.

 I managed to allocate a good amount of time to studying for calculus. But what is studying for calculus? It drives you a little crazy after a while...
What can't a corkscrew go through? No problem with calculus notes!

But the last time I was studying for a calculus midterm I also outstandingly busy, which meant I left 2 days to study (and by 2 days I mean more like 2/3 of a day really). Midterm 2 was tough, and I didn't have my study group. After going to the review class for the midterm, I was waiting for the bus home (it was cold and I was in a hurry okay? I walk almost all of the rest of the time.) when some guy smoking a cigarette with a scraggly beard who looked like a 3rd or 4th year came up to me and started talking.
"You're in calculus right?"
"Gonna be a tough test eh?"
"Oh yeah it is"
"You ready?"
"Not at all.."
"Oh, I've been studying, I'll help you out, lets study tomorrow."
So some stranger just offered to help me in calculus. Too good to be true right? Of course I agreed to meet up.
Next day rolls around and we meet up, me and this guy who hasn't shaved in months, has long hair, and an old "Hooters" shirt on, good times. He seemed a bit rusty on the part that I had studied, so I got him up to speed, but when we got beyond what I knew, he still had no clue. I ended up teaching this guy the whole first of 3 units on the test, and not seeing the last 2 before writing it. Needless to say I got perfect on what I had studied, and bombed the rest..
So I have to get a good score on test 3. We'll see how she turns out..

To be continued! midterm in 4 minutes! wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The big day of the big bike's arrival!

Quite a day! Started out with the typical wake up too early, fall back asleep, sleep in too late routine, then wander upstairs for eggs (that's honestly pretty much all that I eat). Hop on the bike to go to the super secret printing lab early (to print an assignment for the crazy prof that took a few of us about 12+ hours to complete this weekend), and managed to get my assignment printed on time.
Then I called home.
"Hello is there a bike there please"
"Wha? No Chris no bike"
Get out of first class.
"Hello, may I speak with bike?"
"That doesn't even make sense and it's not here yet"
20 minutes into the second class (papers were being collected so I made a quick call)
"Is there a fine you bicycle present"
"We'll call you Chris."

Seems Purolator hadn't been by, and I needed to make sure that there would be somebody at the house for when they came, to accept the bike.
12:08pm, phone rings, it's my housemate. I'm in class, stupid stupid calculus class! That's ok, out in 12 minutes, I'll call then. Receive a text message though which read
"I just finished taking your new bike's virginity....It was aiight!"

Not only had they opened the box of the thing I've been looking so forward to,but had violated it in some ways? Unacceptable, surely they must be joking. 12:20, class is over, I call.
"Bike's there? You guys didn't open the box did you?"
"Dude didn't you read the text? Jordan's been on it too, really nice bike man congratulations."
"That is by far the least cool thing you guys have ever done! No way you did that."
"Gotta go get the bus, can't talk, bye."

What? They had opened my bike? My custom made, custom everything bike that I had worked 4 jobs for and survived a poor poor student lifestyle and they just open it?? THE AUDACITY!

Spent most of the rest of the day very disappointed and moping a bit (I think I was justified, right?) until finally I couldn't wait any more. HAD to go home to take a look at the bike! A quick stop at the bike co-op on campus to order a sweet wavy 140mm rotor and then home to see what was there!

I walked into the house and saw the best thing I could see, an unopened box! Stupid housemates messing with me! They're fired! But at least it was fresh still! Super smiley, I reached to my pocket, opened up my pocket knife and laid into the box! Yep, my bike is definitely bigger than yours, it's going to be pretty emasculating on the start line.  Unfortunately I gashed my finger pretty good - that bled for a couple of hours, but I taped some paper towel to wound and made sure the bike stayed clean!
Action shot
There was a bit of a mixup/catastrophe(if you ask me) to do with the bike parts! I had spent hours ordering what I wanted and choosing parts so I know what was missing, that's why I won't put up a full picture yet. Going to have to hash this out and pimp my bike out! There were good surprises though too, like the tires, they used to be my favourite tires before I started racing for Schwalbe (though they are mega-heavy..).
More to come! Let's see if this bike gets to where I want it! BEAUTIFUL frame though!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A steed to remount on

You like that catch line? Could you tell what it's going to be about? Well you're reading my blog again, so it worked! Right now I'm reminiscing on the process and the choices that led me to my choice in my beautiful new race bike for the 2011 season. The bike that as I try to surpass what I once was, and rise up to a new level of competition, will be a great partner as I try my best at my favourite sport again.
But what bike will roll as my first mate? And respond to my captainship? Additionally, who is going to sponsor a guy who will have taken more than a year and  a half off racing? Because let's face it, I can't afford to be an elite cyclist.
After getting the doctor's word on being able to race again (I am still very highly at risk, but it is important not to live in a bubble - just don't expect another miracle recovery) I made my first phonecall to Johnny, the guy who organizes the team I had raced for. He's a great guy who always has my best interest in mind, and also is the xprezo sales rep in Ontario. Of course he was stoked to hear I'm back at it, and quickly started seeing what he could do for a bike.
We checked with Cycle Solutions, I would have been able to get a *pretty good* deal on brands that they sell (Specialized, Giant, Kona, Yeti, Santa-Cruz...), but an impoverished university student is looking for a REALLY good deal (not that I actually deserve one - these guys are amazing for supporting me through my year off cycling, and I'm excited to say I race as a part of their team).
This bike not only has to be the right price, but come on! If I'm getting a sweet new bike to pour my effort into the sport with once again it had better be a nice bike! Everything the way I want it! You just can't do this with big companies..
I found out that xprezo was having a demo day at Buckwallow (a cycling trail system near my house in Bracebridge) on Hallowe'en weekend, and if I came, showed interest, and showed I can ride a bike properly - there was a shot at getting a deal. I was also excited that my friend Jac wanted to get into riding, and she might earn a spot on the team. So we traveled to Bracebridge, Derek, Jac and I in a Volkswagen campervan, in cold October, to go ride new bikes and show our worth!
Have you ever ridden with the guy who built your bike? Chances are no. They are likely from Taiwan, and don't have the opportunity to ride like us, building bikes is a job, not a passion. If your bike was built by some cool Canadians from Quebec who speak kind of funny, but are always grinning, and helping out at races, chances are they're actually pretty fast too. These guys were great to ride with! And so were their bikes!
The thing with Xprezo is that they're "Oldschool", keepin' it real with steel. I fell in love with the feeling of their T-29: it is a full steel 29" wheel bike (as opposed to the conventional 26") made by hand in Bromont Quebec. This thing was sweet. Myself being a pretty tall dude, I can handle a 29er (so far) in the trails, and I think I will have the power to push those heavier wheels around too. The 29 inch wheeled bike was tougher to turn because of a high centre of gravity, but if I learned how to turn nicely, it would keep its momentum and just roll where ever I pointed it it seemed. Testing was a dream. I surprised myself and some others while riding, and the guys at xprezo were happy to speak with someone in Ontario who is actually bilingual.
Whether it is because of my riding, or just their generosity, we ended up working out a deal.

I'm riding for xprezo.

Got myself suited up on a SWEET T-29 bike with my choice of every component, colour (orange bike, white stickers, and all white components), and know that I have some people with a real passion for biking and compassion for athletes supporting me. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity, and kind of danced when I ordered the bike...Like this

The bike is coming in the next few days, I can't wait to see her! This is so exciting! I'll keep you posted on what happens!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A big weekend!

After getting through a pretty nice week (shorts and Birkenstocks all week, rides outside, and only 1 midterm) I had big plans for the weekend: a massive structural geology field trip, a good sized house party (at my place), and what I really wanted most: my little brother coming!(which took a lot of convincing to get my mom to be okay with this idea)
Firstly- my brother (Nik) is a 16 year old kid, nice guy (I guess), seems pretty smart (though undoubtedly not as smart as I am!), likes sports (opposite to mine), and was generally excited for the weekend. Nik got to Guelph around 11 at night on Friday, and we proceeded to pack up lunch (which was AMAZING thanks to a good friend of mine), and headed to bed. For lunch we managed to pack a 30L pack totally full, including home made pizza, panzerottos, a bag of apples, numerous clementines, dried fruit, dates, muffins (from mom), chicken sandwich, etc. Big day out in the field where we learned how to measure strikes and dips, observe all sorts of stuff, and take 13 stops to do so. We moved 30km in 6 hours, this got to be PAINFUL by about the 4th stop. Don't get me wrong! I love learning, the stops were just all redundant, and I was running on little sleep, and frankly did not learn anything new anyway.
Nik-working hard!

But my little bro was loving it! The kid picked up momentum as the trip went on, and he always wanted a compass to measure with, which was good for me; I took a measurement, he took a measurement, and we would share them with everybody!

Whatever passed the time most efficiently...
Upon return to Guelph, I took Nik to see a very close friend of mine who lives on campus, and then bussed it home. Nik listened to some good stories of life in first year, living in residence, and the marvels of living with several thousand other people your age. He still lit up on the bus ride - having never been on public transit.

Upon arrival at my house, the party was booming! There was a live band upstairs, a full DJ setup downstairs, and super energetic people all dressed in white (the theme this year was white-last year was red and the previous was blue - it was my French housemate's birthday). First thing was first. The snack table! Rice salad, chicken alfredo, brie, marshmellows, white russians, and many other snacks were there for us weary travellers to lay into. I felt pretty cool too when I gave my brother a beer. Great festivities, and an unexpectedly amazing night ensued.
Singing out loud in my sexy geologist hat!

Monday, March 14, 2011

It makes sense that this happens...but why THIS morning??

So I had 3 options to write about today...Midterm, Bike stuff, or Haircut.
Big midterm today, I was pretty riled up over it, Structural Geology is probably the hardest course I've ever taken in University. Day started with material review and 3 eggs, then I promptly hopped on my bike to get to my 10:30 exam. Left the house at just after 10:30 (ooops..), but I don't like waiting around with everybody who is all nervous and tense anyway. So I show up at least 3 minutes late every time.
Upon making the turn onto Stone Rd, (about 300m from my house) I felt a flat tire. Are you kidding me? That's unfortunate...
A very quick inspection showed that my tube had ballooned out. Well that just sucks. Looks like the bead on my favourite (no longer in production) rear tire had failed! I can't replace it! And I'm too poor to anyway!
But what to do? Run home to fix it? Run to campus because I'm probably 10 minutes late for my exam? I chose the latter. Locked the poor bike to a sign, and went to write my [very challenging] exam.
Poor thing was on it's own in the snow all day...

When I got back to my poor lonely steed at about 10 at night, I realized that the tube had not merely ballooned, the rim had finally given up. It had come apart just behind where the valve is. Unreal! These wheels don't owe me anything...10+ year old v-brake wheels that I got for free anyway...It's a little sad though...

There are 2 bulges like this on the rim..

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Seatbelts Everyone!

Field Trip!
The great thing about being in the Environmental Sciences is that there is an outdoors component to virtually every aspect of the field. Today was the day of the big Glacial Geology field trip! Out to follow what many of us refer to as our "Crazy Russian Prof" around for the day, drawing sketches, making observations, and lots of bus ride time.
I guess that I should justify the "Crazy Russian Prof" thing. She's not so crazy, but she is indeed Russian, and likes to be intense about things. Day one of class her introduction was (in a fairly heavy accent)
"Hope you have good Christmas. Was in Russa. No Christmas in Russia."
She then proceeded to intimidate us with how hard her classes are, and that Canadian Universities aren't the hardest or top rated in the world, and that we have it easy so she's going to give us a hard time (each week an assignment worth 3% of our mark that takes 8+ hours). Her midterms also feel like a cold-war attack or something. The first one in Structural Geology was a slap in the face. She set up a 30 question exam, worth 30 points, each question worth 1 point. The questions were ridiculous, you could be working visualizing a 3 dimension subsurface rock fold and measuring with a protractor and ruler for 5 minutes, or just answer a multiple choice or fill in the blank. Each. Worth. One. Point. Also fill in the blanks are obscure things she had mentioned during class like who invented this obscure device, or how deep the Mariana's Trench is. I don't study those things, I want to understand material, not have obscure facts in my head. But, she is pretty brilliant, I have learned more in her courses so far this semester than I will in my other classes for the year, and I do love geology.
Back to the story! I'm up bright and early, pack my lunch (cauliflower, broccoli, grapefruit, a couple sandwiches, and a couple of apples), and head to school. My buddy and I were some of the last on the bus (which had 2 university students in each seat, even the Prof''s), so I had to sit up with some stranger, she was really quiet. We were given handouts to follow, with big mammoths on it, I still feel cheated that I didn't find a woolly mammoth today...
Stop 1 was at a gravel pit, to stretch my legs I went down a steep slope to the ice below, and made the coolest footprints I had ever made; each step had a spiderweb of cracks out from the centre, super rad! On the way back up my buddy and I decided to climb up the pit, which we didn't realize was almost vertical until we got to within a few feet, by which time we had an audience, and there was no turning back. Being an ice climber (no big deal, did it once see below!) I got up on the first attempt, my poor buddy must have had half a dozen tries, and was out of breath for about 10 minutes, but he got it (I think it's because my boots were pointier than his, we'll have to bring cramp-ons for the next one). I found a cool piece of sandstone that was shaped like a heart on the way across to the group, and gave it to the prof. She was super stoked about the shape and said I should give it to a girl some day, to which I replied with a big smile "No, I picked this up for you :)" She kept it. [Bonus points!]
photo: KE

If only you had a wardrobe like that right?

A little later we found ourselves at the top of a steep hill, listening to Glacial Geology jargon, so I decided to make a big snowball. This sucker got to probably 3.5 feet in diameter (at least), then it was a good idea to roll it down the slope right? Great idea! It picked up mass and speed, and smashed into pieces from hitting a tree.

photo: KE

Another spot was at an esker (glaciofluvial landform), and by this turn I just needed to pee, so I climbed up and over the thing and did my business. By the time I was back near the group I realized that they were walking down the path I did to pee. It was kinda funny to have a bunch of people pass "CHRIS" written in the snow with...well you know... 
As the group ambled on down the trail, building a snowman seemed like a great way to pass the time, thus Lester from the esker came into existence. We used him for scale in photos:
Lester from the esker! in front of some very well sorted esker sediment deposit!
Some more funny, more delinquent things happened on the trip, but I may be stoopid to post in on the internet. No matter what we were supposed to do, and how bleak the day looked, it was tons of fun, goofing around in a new manner at every stop and learning at the same time.
An aspiring geologist! stoked to learn!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Every body deserves a shoe that fits well!

It's that time of year again! The bike show! yay! Basically like Christmas time to the mass hoards of cyclists, triathletes, and unfortunately those freaky recumbent people (yep there are indeed people out there that want to sit back and relax with a backrest and everything on a bike. bunch of freaking junkies). I started working at the bike show last year, it is a 3 day event some building at the Exhibition Centre in Toronto where new stuff is put on display, products are marketed, and shops set up booths. As I am currently suffering one of my once a semester "I'm way to broke to exist" portions of life, the bike show is a good idea, whether you're going to pay me in money or just cut out the middle man and give me stuff for my bikes-it helps.
Weekend started off with me on the way to Toronto with my buddy Alex and his buddy Chris, we got there, I snuck them in through the exhibitor entrance and that's it-all is good. Cycle Solutions brought the heavy ammunition for the show-a couple of commuter bikes, maybe 3 mountain bikes worth less than $1000, and everything else up to $7000. These guys were drooling checking out the stuff, and I got to act like a bigshot, proud to be involved in "the business".
Day one I was reminded that as a bike racer (not a real salesman) I would get the shaft for jobs-this meant selling shoes. I'm particularly good at selling shoes it turns out, and I think that's because I live far enough from my sponsors that I have to order stuff sight unseen and hope for the best. Of course shoes are almost impossible to do this with (sizing differences, I'm a 10.5..what's that in European?), so distinctly remember ordering some sweet shoes, them being too big, and an extremely disappointed naive 18 year old Chris, wanting to keep my shoes that were too big for me, and being told that apparently shoes that fit are important in cycling. So you can see why I might get excited about someone finding a shoe that fits well?
Everybody deserves a proper fitting shoe. And an excited guy selling you shoes is pretty disarming I guess. 
Had a funny exchange though-

"Hey can I help you find a size? What kind of cycling do you do?"
"Oh we're recumbent cyclists!"
"Oh..."[walks away]

So I sold lots of shoes, but eventually wandered over to the bikes. I also get very excited about people getting new bikes! Everybody should have a sweet bike! If everybody had the same bikes, races would be more interesting,t and the sport would be a lot less exclusive (people buying bikes-that's what pays for me to rock out on my stuff too right?).
There was an inevitable process to me selling bikes though. I try to help, and to answer questions, but I'll almost always get caught at something. It's like this:
"What about ______?"
"Uhhhh...hmmmm....I'm guessing that ______ but I'm just a racer for these guys, I'll get find out though!"
"WAIT! You race for Cycle Solutions?" (this is where they realize I'm not trying to get their money, and Cycle Solutions looks good for sponsoring young kids)
"What do you race on?"(Now I get excited to hype up my stuff!)
"Yeah check this out!"

That little exchange sells bikes, and really impresses the bosses that the meathead racer can sell bikes. promotion! 

I didn't pack anything for the show really, 4 pairs of underwear, 1 shirt, and my birkenstocks (yeah I know eh? almost as bad as lunch the other day-a can of tuna and an old grapefruit from under the bed). So I had to be resourceful for food! Of Paramount importance to the weekend was the Powerbar booth (milkshakes, granola type things, and winegummy things!), the Gears booth with their scones (I was fiending for those things!), and this wicked booth of all natural granola bars (they told me to buy my own case though...).
On my foraging walks through the show, I came across quite the bike:
Pretty eh? $20,000 pricetag.
Whaaaa? $20,000? Well damn, that's some serious tuition money. Heck I could get a nice car for that! 
After staring with my jaw down at this specimen I moved on (you can see the wheel of the next bike to the right).
Besides looking like a transformer, this one is $28,000.
Okay. Seriously? I would LOVE if one day I have a car worth that much! If you can afford this bike, I think you should give back to the cycling community! Sponsor some races, youth development, or hey, this blood doping thing is expensive, wanna help me out? (seriously kidding. I will NEVER take performance enhancing drugs. I have been through too much to cheat. I'm proving to myself and to the world that I can ride a bike, drugs make a mockery of real athletes, dopers suck. They are not at all the people they try to look like they are, and when confronted with problems they take the shortcuts.).  Back to the bike! This badboy shifts with the press of a button, had a ribbed aerodynamic downtube, a wheel with a $2500 pricetag on it, and let's face it-I look good riding something that's Italian and the blue goes with my kit (bike term for skin tight spandex outfit).
Next was probably the funniest finding of the show. Roadies are, as I have been told by a British guy "A bunch of wankers". They obsess over brands and the weight of their bike. OBSESS over it. (Lighter is better)

The next big happening of the show was that a photographer came by! Roger (one of the guys who owns Cycle Solutions) quickly grabbed me for a photoshoot. I had to walk like a bit of a goof in front of some nice lighting, while holding two bikes (later to be referred to as steeds). Apparently this would get me into the newspaper.
Page 2 of the Toronto Sun. Shameless self promotion? Loving it.
While I have grown to dislike the bike show a lot, I love to be involved, and in the end it's always worth it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quick visit to the gym

So today I didn't figure I had much time (school is tough these days), so I thought a quick half hour tempo run would be good just to sustain me. Get out for a run, get over to my lab, and decide the gym for some core would have to happen too, but was thinking of something that would potentially be embarrassing at the gym (no, not the fact that I am consistently the skinniest guy in there).

Friday I shaved my Legs.

I have been made fun of for a long time for not shaving my legs, and all the cool kids are doing it, but it has always seemed like more effort than it's worth. After a cost-benefit analysis, I figured it was in my best interest to have some nice clean legs that would not be messy if I fell in that crazy long race in the states (where I have no health insurance, among other things). This was a good enough reason for me to justify doing it.


It takes forever, you feel ridiculously vain, and you wonder whether you'll actually ever fall? Prior to this event I had always just shaved around cuts to keep them clean, but it still gets messy with a big enough rash. Not sure how long it took but I did it.

It's harder than it looks-I swear
One shaved one not shaved (sexy, right?)
Oh you should see the tanlines after the race!
Glad I've got that out in the open-now for the story!

Anyone who frequents the cheapest gym in town knows what you're in for. You've got what I like to call the "resolutionaries", the older guys who are trying to be healthy, the older dudes who are trying to get back into the shape they were when they were 20 (these typically wear an OLD varsity shirt of some sort), the skinny guys looking to get buff, the guys who go to the gym to sit on the benches and text, and the monsters who will carry a protein shake all day with them, and leave the bracelet on their wrist all day. Some of these groups are more frustrating than others, but I have tons of respect for anybody who takes care of themselves, and is making a conscious effort to stay in good health, so no ranting today!

When I go to the gym just for my core, I might as well go to the nice big core mats in the cardio room, there are big exercise balls, lots of space, a more positive atmosphere, and, well, it's all girls-so it's a lot less gross and intense. The girls in the cardio room are an interesting bunch. There are a few varieties, ones losing weight, ones keeping fit, and ones that just want to have a nice bum and be more hot. They also all realize that most guys in the cardio room are there just to get their attention, stare at them (which some of the girls love and are there for), and just to generally try to pick up. Most of the girls have their headphones on, and try not to ever be caught looking at one of the guys, or to talk to them ever. Once in a while you have a nice chat though, and today I met a nice girl, she didn't have headphones, was smiling, stayed after her friends left, and wasn't afraid of eye contact. I chatted her up about leg shaving, she said it was OK and then I left-didn't try to get a number and I'm sure she'll say hi next time too.

Ultimately this is a message to the girls in the gym.

1-Yes I have shaved legs, and good tanlines-no need to stare.

2-If you don't know what you're doing, ask somebody or just share the equipment better please :)

3-Not all guys are out to get you, getting smile goes a long way when you're working hard on your own, so brighten up!

4-Can I have your number?