Thursday, January 20, 2011

Running the Mile

To do it all over
Again and again
Back to the end
The sum of my dreams
And everything I ever wanted to be
-Lily Frost

I remember high-school the first time and running the Mile. I wasn't particular physically active back then either. I was/am American after-all. I remember running around the track at Western Guilford, Coach Hollifield yelling atrocities, the stares, the competitiveness, and the group of smoking girls walking the whole time and gossiping. Then, I pulled a respectable sub-ten minute mile. Today, like some time travelling do-over, I was about to do it again. Worse, while I was running about a year ago, it's been at least six months since I've done anything but walking. It's rather scary to wake up in a body that's now a third of a century old (don't do the math) then line up with a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings at school, then realize you're about to run around something ten times. Something that looks nothing like a 1/10th of a mile, something that looks like the belt-loop of a major city.

This was my day.

Not that I'm complaining. I wanted the chance to prove to myself that I could do it. In fact, I was doing this for all the people who have spent the last decade shoveling burgers down their throats, drinking too much beer, and participating in haphazard recreational activities. This was my moment, and I was going to shine.

I've had sciatica that left me immobile during my early twenties, was partially paralyzed in my upper right arm for six months after an accident in Colorado. I had heat-stroke in Arizona and these days I'm as diabetic as the rest of the United States of Fatties. You don't grow old without a certain amount of war wounds. None of this was going to stop me. Today, I would take fat faster than it's ever been before. I would accelerate my large orbiting waist mass around the track at such a high rate of speed that the centripetal force in the corners would punch a hole in space and time and send me back to 1995 to tell myself  "put down the cheeseburger fat-ass!".

I had Shan stretch me out this morning and left for school where I emerged from the gym changing room with my I-Pod loaded with Rocky songs sans leg-warmers (I was tempted). The class lined up at the starting-line and we were off. A slow and steady pace was my strategy as I managed a jog for 2.5 laps, passing a few people before it became obvious that my extremities weren't receiving oxygen. (Thank you to my cat for the Asthma.) They (the back of the pack) of course looked at me and said "we can't let Fatty-the-Hut beat us." and then proceeded to pass me. This went on for about nine laps until I realized that they had quit. Being that they didn't lap me, this left me to conclude they stopped short of ten laps, not finishing the actual tenth lap or I became so lightheaded by the wheezing I lost count. "They only ran 9/10ths of a mile! WTF?" Oh it was now on! I knew they'd never know but I was determined to finish it for myself. I ran as hard as I could while maintaining one hand on the waist-band of my fresh new K-mart biker shorts which would not stay up while my boobs were flopping out of my bra. Meanwhile,  I'm calculating my re-entry trajectory and I'm bringing it home. I'm sure to everyone else it looked like I came in last, but in my head, I knew I beat the cheaters. The eagle had landed and I ended up with a time of 16:32. It isn't pretty but considering I was shooting stuff out of orifices I didn't know I had and I survived without the need for resuscitation and I didn't cheat, I'm not going to lie about my time, it was just me against the world. 

 To me, the most amazing part of all of it was the opportunity to do life over again and have a chance to prove to myself that I can still be everything I wanted to be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Forget the Plumber! How to fix a broken toilet closet flange & rotted floor.

I'm T-minus two days from spring semester. It's supposed to a time of relaxation and zen, but the last 24 hours have been anything but. As I've mentioned before, I can't stand skilled tradesmen who don't do jobs right. Doctors, mechanics, and now the individual who laid the tile in the bathroom. Why do I always end up having to fix their incompetence? Is there no one left in this world good at their job? It's not like I wanted to learn what the heck a closet flange is, or that when you install ceramic tile you should also know the closet flange should be between 1/4" to 3/8" above the surface. I didn't want to learn any of this, I wanted to stay stupid. That's why we pay other people to do the work for us. (or in this case my dad payed for the floor.) However fate had different plans for me when Chance flushed the toilet and water shot out from under the toilet.

To make matters worse is that the closet flange had been repaired previously using a spanner bridge, and now the wood around it was rotten. So even the fix for the flange was no longer viable. It was beginning to look like I was going to have to tear up the 3 year old tile floor for a completely new sub-floor. A huge endeavor, requiring re-plumbing the drain, tons of money, and time. I seriously don't need this stress. Luckily I did find a fix. Technically it's a combination of three fixes. It takes a lot of effort, but it just might save you if your flange is rusted out, the sub-floor is rotted, and you still want to keep the tile. It took me about 8 hours and about $70, but the toilet is in and working, secure, unlike my tile man's rigged installation.

This is what it looked like when I first removed the toilet. Notice how the flange is below the surface of the floor. This was the problem all along. If the tile man had installed a simple flange spacer / extender originally, I wouldn't be doing this today:

Clearly there will no be screwing into the sub-floor where a standard flange would fit. Furthermore, you can't use the flange anymore since it's disintegrated. So first go buy one of these: (link below to find it online)

It's a floor & flange support kit, to fix a wobbly toilet. It allows you to basically support the flange by screwing into the "distant" surrounding sub-floor rather than the rotted area. Only one problem, without extending the sewer flange to mount it above the tile, and if your tile man did what mine did, you'll have get down to the sub-floor to install this piece below the sewer pipe. You do this buy marking a outline of the support flange with a marker, and chiseling away with hammer and chisel. (or cheap flat-head screwdriver) It's a time-consuming process to get it right, but worth it to save an expensive floor. Sit cross-legged on the bathroom floor and serve your penance, this is the penalty for waking up today.
Now that we've pretty much replaced the sub-floor mounting with the metal support kit, it's time to add back in the closet flange. Since we don't want to go to the trouble of replacing the entire pipe, we need something called a Moss Bay Flange which is basically a two piece interlocking flange that screws in to the support kit and sub-floor:

It takes some effort to get this aligned right, (yes go get the measuring tape!) and is often helped by small taps of the hammer. Once in place you'll drill some holes in the support flange and screw it into place.

We are now back at the fatal moment when tile boy fatally installed the toilet. Though this is clearly a better and more robust installation than the "bridge" repair he made, we could have done as he did and failed to research how high a toilet flange should be above the floor covering. Being he got paid, and I'm having to pay (for his mistakes) I'm surprised he didn't go out an by the necessary part to raise the flange to 1/4" to 3/8" above the flooring as you're supposed to- to prevent leaks, head-aches, and violent screaming at children when they blow your bathroom apart in a single flush. So I decided to track one of this mystery parts (a flange extender or flange spacer) that was clearly too much effort to install the first time down from my local Lowes:

Choose the right extender (there's a 1/4" and a 1/2" which can be combined if necessary), drill 4 more holes through both the closet flange and the support, (oh did I mention you should buy a nice set of metal drill-bits for this job?) tighten it down, lop a new heavy duty wax gasket with curtain on the puppy and your ready to re-mount the toilet on your heavy-duty, reinforced super duper pooper toilet flange.

And that's it. I re-installed the toilet, tapped in a couple PVC plastic toilet shims to level out the bowl from the unlevel tile floor, and tightened down the bolts. While the sub-floor was damaged from the water, my hopes is it will continue to dry, and last many, many years. I'm impressed with the sub-floor support, and definitely would use it as my first fix if I ever ran into a similar situation again. I was able to buy all the parts a Lowes luckily, but they're not cheap. Each item is about $15, but it's all priceless when you gotta go, and have no where to do it.

If you have trouble finding the support flange (Lowes initially said they didn't have it and I ended up showing their staff where it was and how to use it so YMMV), you can order it online by Googling "Toilet Flange Support Kit".

So that's it... I'm done playing with other people's crap today.