Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mid-80s Training Montage: Ten Degrees

A few years ago, I found myself about 50 pounds overweight. I was looking down the barrel of high blood pressure and, potentially, diabetes. So, I started watching what I ate and took to the treadmill. Lost the weight over the course of about a year and a half. The motor eventually burned out, and I wound up joining the neighborhood association gyms. Although I’ve never been much of a runner, it’s feels nice to get on the treadmill once a week or so.

The wife and I drove to New York for a wedding last weekend. After six hours in the car, we needed some time to decompress. For her, that meant taking a nap and a hot shower. For me, that meant hitting the treadmill in the hotel gym (note: the hotel bar wasn’t open yet). I set my pace for 6.5 mph – my usual not-blistering-but-not-nothing run. The default was 60 minutes, which is 10-15 minutes longer than I usually run*, but I had an hour to kill and decided I should Man Up. Bold, red font and everything. This was, in hindsight, probably a bad idea.

After about 10 minutes, I had to jump off the treadmill to grab a towel. After half an hour, I had to slow down the pace twice (from 6.5 to 6). Finally, at 50 minutes, soaked through with sweat and feeling very nearly dead, I hit the Cool Down button and brought my run to a merciful end.   

It wasn’t until afterwards that I thought to check the thermostat: 82 degrees.
Results from the Heart Rate Monitor**:

Max HR
Avg HR
Warmup Zone
Fat Burn Zone
Aerobic Zone
Anaerobic Zone
Speed/Power Zone

This morning, I went back to the regular gym. Jumped on the regular machine, plugged in the usual numbers – 51 minutes, 6.5 mph. Felt good enough at the 45-minute mark to jump the speed up to 7 mph. Still felt good enough at the 10-minute mark to bump the timer up to a full hour.

Results from the Heart Rate Monitor:

Max HR
Avg HR
Warmup Zone
Fat Burn Zone
Aerobic Zone
Anaerobic Zone
Speed/Power Zone
So, I went at a higher pace for a longer time, burned 100 more calories, but my heart rate was lower and I felt pretty good afterwards. The thermostat in the gym was set to 72.

I have learned a thing today: Keep the room cool, and I can put up an hour without feeling like I'm about to die. 

*U16 and U18 hockey games run 45 or 51 minutes. Figured that’s a good target to aim for.

**It warrants mentioning that I have no idea what these numbers mean, or whether these numbers are "good" or "bad," or whether I should be on the phone with a cardiologist instead of writing this blog post.  

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Beer Mystery Status: Solved

The wife recently started a blog to talk about and share recipes from our CSA box, which made me think "hey I have one of those," which made me realize it's been almost a year since I've posted. So, from the "Better Late than Never" department, an update to The Mystery of Beer.

So, thusly informed, I put Batch 6 (an Octoberfest) in the much cooler basement. We’re bottling it next weekend, and should be able to tell whether we’ve solved our problem. 

Short answer: We solved our problem.

Long answer: The reason none of our beers tasted quite right was that we'd let the fermentation temperature get out of control. The yeasts we used liked to do their thing within a fairly narrow temperature range, generally between about 65 and 75 degrees. Conveniently, that's about room temperature, and the instruction kits said "put this in a dark place at room temperature." So, into the ~75-degree closet they went. Work complete!

The problem with that approach is that fermentation is exothermic. As the yeast get busy, they generate heat, much like I do when I get on the treadmill or that time I set my hair on fire. The upshot is that, while the room was right around 75 degrees, the beer was closer to 80 or even 85 degrees, which caused all sorts of unpleasantness.  

We put the Octoberfest (batch 6) in the basement, which is cooler than the upstairs closet. That beer turned out a little better, but still wasn't quite right. Turns out, we hit on the solution when we "built" the swamp cooler for the Steam beer (batch 7). Here's the very labor-intensive process we followed:

  1. Buy a sufficiently large tote from Target
  2. Place tote in a cool, dark place
  3. Put fermentor in tote
  4. Fill tote with Howard County's finest tap water
  5. Throw in a couple of frozen water bottles
  6. Periodically check the temperature and replace ice/bottles as needed

It winds up looking something like this
Deer Park: Damn, that's good water

The water in the cooler draws the heat out of the fermentor. Periodically adding ice/bottles keeps the temperature nice and low inside the fermentor and out, which keeps the yeast from causing off-flavors and unpleasantness. Science, bitches! The active fermentation  (read: the heat-generating bit) lasts a couple of days, after which you can get lazy about replacing the water bottles. If there's one thing I'm all about, it's being lazy.

Since that post, we've used the swamp cooler for the Steam Beer (batch 7), Brown (batches 8 & 10), Porter (batch 9), all with great success. I have an Amber Ale bubbling away in there now. Time will tell how that one turns out.