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Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

New Toys

March 16, 2011 1 comment

It’s been a week for new toys. I think I’ll start with the one that is directly mine.

That is a Trek 7300 bicycle. I picked it up last Friday. It isn’t the first Trek I’ve owned; I had a mountain bike a few years ago that I sold about a year before I moved back to Illinois. This bike is a  little different; they call it a hybrid. It has thinner, faster tires like a road bike, and the slightly more upright seating and mild front suspension of a mountain bike. It’s good for both bike path and recreational road riding, which is what I plan on doing. I live a couple blocks away from a bike path that gives me access to a pretty huge trail network. I also have a lot of very quiet, rural roads surrounding town. The trail is still very soft from snowmelt, and still snow and ice-covered in spots, so my first few rides have been on the roads around town. My first ride on Saturday, I made about 3.5 miles before my legs completely gave up. Two months on the elliptical has done great things for my cardiac endurance, but there’s some different muscles at work when actually biking.

As you can see, my ‘bike computer’ is a bit of overkill. It’s my iPhone running Cyclemeter. I also tried Runkeeper‘s app, but I found Cyclemeter a little better for what I wanted. It uses the iPhone’s GPS to both map my rides, and track my speed. I may add an actual bike computer in the future; the GPS is a little iffy for instant feedback on speed, although the ending average is pretty spot on. Cyclemeter also syncs with Dailymile, so I’m tracking my workouts over there. Feel free to spy on me.

The last two rides I’ve done have been just over 6.5 miles, which makes me feel like I’ve gone somewhere. I have friends who run further than that as a quick workout, though, so I have some work to do. That particular loop is a pretty fun one to ride, although the last mile and a half is mostly uphill on a gravel road. Ow. I should get a bit faster on that last mile once the road dries up and solidifies a bit more. I can add mileage pretty easily by taking a loop around the south of town for when I start blowing through the 6.5 miles. And, eventually, it’s a 32 mile roundtrip to McHenry via bike path…I think I’ll get there. Actually, I’m not worried about getting there. It’s the 16 miles back, and the fact that the return trip is mostly uphill. Eek.

So that’s my toy. Now, let’s look at my father’s toy that I plan on playing with this spring:

That is a 2010 Agco DT225B. This is the last model year of tractor that will have an Agco brand name on it. Dad wanted it, even though the tractor it is replacing was only a couple of years old. Agco is phasing out the orange paint, and consolidating brands. Moving forward, it’s red paint with the Massey Fergusuon brand name, or yellow paint with a Challenger brand name if you want to pay a bit more money for some fancier options. It’s a bit sad; Allis Chalmers orange was an iconic brand in the tractor industry, and it’ll be sad to see it finally go away completely.

My family has always had orange tractors; none of this red and green stuff everyone else talks about. The recent DT series has been absolutely excellent. I’ve driven recent models from all three major tractor lines, and these tractors take a back seat to none. Agco is putting a Continuously Variable Transmission (essentially, no shifting! No gears! 0-32mph in one smooth acceleration) in all of their large tractors, now, and it is light years ahead of anything CaseIH has, and much better than Deere’s IVT. The DT 220 that we’ve run the last two seasons had a CVT in it, and I loved driving it both for primary tillage, and running the grain cart in the fall. I’m really looking forward to running the new machine for NH3 application this spring. Need to arrange that around my work schedule at the coop, somehow.

One thing this tractor has that the DT220 didn’t is an autosteer system from Topcon. It’ll take some of the stress out of NH3 application and primary tillage. We were out at the dealership today to get a little training on both the autosteer  system and all the computerized tractor controls. The Topcon reminded me of some of the systems I’ve run from Trimble, but I think Dad was a bit overwhelmed. The tractor itself has a lot of complicated settings and capabilities, as well. I see a lot of manual reading in our future, and I’ll have to see if I can get over there some weekend after the machine is delivered to ‘play’ with it before we try to do any serious fieldwork.

The dealership had this sign on one of their buildings. I think it came off the old Allis Chalmers factory in Milwaukee. In any case, the only part of the AC brand left was the orange paint, and now that’s gone, too. But Dad’s got one of the last new orange tractors!

On a More Personal Note

March 7, 2011 2 comments

Lots of ag, not much life on the blog, lately. It’s been a long, sometimes difficult winter. I’m never in the best of moods during winter; it’s decidedly my least favorite season. Just ask Jenne about putting up with me through most of January. So I’m really, really looking forward to putting winter behind me, and moving into the part of the year where I actually accomplish things. That said, this winter wasn’t a complete letdown, I tried to lay the groundwork for a couple of things I really want to accomplish this year.

First, I started actually working on my personal fitness. It’s always been something I basically ignored, and tried to convince myself that walking around corn fields and throwing seed bags for a few months out of the year would keep me ‘in shape’. The fact is, that my weight has been creeping up over the last couple of years, and tossing 20 bags of seed got me winded a lot faster than it used to. My cholesterol levels in the blood test I took for life insurance last year showed the ‘bad’ stuff somewhat higher than it should be. When I go to meetings for work, many of my older colleagues are decidedly round, overweight, and look like they’d have trouble walking to their truck outside, much less a mile across a field of corn stubble. I don’t want to be that guy. So, I started to think about what to do to NOT be that guy.

I got lucky, and ended up with an unused elliptical machine from a couple of friends who were moving cross country, and didn’t want to take it with them. I’ve kept up a pretty regular schedule 3-4 times a week since mid-January on the machine. Aside from a brief flirtation with a gym membership a few years ago, I’ve never exercised regularly, so this is something of a breakthrough. I don’t know what I weighed when I started (didn’t own a scale until recently), but I currently weigh in at 185…I’ve been as high as 210 in the past, so anything under 190 makes me pretty happy. My endurance has increased a lot, and I think I just generally feel a bit better…I almost look forward to coming home from work and running. I should probably figure out something to do upper body-wise, but for getting the heart rate up, this has worked well.

I have a Trek 7300 bicycle on reserve as soon as I bother to get down to the bike store in Woodstock and pick it up. As soon as the weather warms up, I’ll be out on the bike path near my house, seeing if I can put on some mileage. I’ve set myself a few goals. I want to bike to work, occasionally. That’s 7 miles one way, all on the path except for the trip through town at the end. Once I can manage that, I want to make it to McHenry for coffee via The Prairie Trail. That’s 17 miles one way, and I’d have to do the return trip for a total of 34…maybe be a bit much to bite off right away. If that goes well, I might try the 50 mile route of the Harmon Hundred in September. Maybe. I know me…I sometimes have wild-eyed, lofty ideas that never quite get followed through on…but I think I’d like to do this.

Speaking of wild-eyed, crazy ideas, Jenne and I are still thinking about the jam-making business. I haven’t been as pro-active about this as I probably should have, I’ve been a bit despondent about actually finding a commercial kitchen to rent, and if I can’t find that, there’s little point in doing any of the other prep work. Jenne has continued to fiddle with recipes (we need to give away more jam. Anyone?), and I finally got the idea to talk to the county health inspector. We had a phone conversation last Friday, and he seemed to know where I was going with things. We have a meeting this coming Thursday, and I’m hoping he can help me make sense out of the confusing morass of regulations and statutes that I’ve been reading. And maybe give us a lead on kitchens.

And in the ‘oops’ category, I’ve blown my attempt at a 365 photo project. I made it almost all the way through February, which is actually farther than I thought I would make it. And although I can’t claim to have taken a picture every day this year, anymore, I’m still going to take a lot of photos on a lot of days. Here’s one of my favorite shots from the month, to close out with.

February 5

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