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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another…?

I’ve quit a lot of things over the last 20 years in the pursuit of happiness.  Let’s look at a partial list in order:  Baseball, Playing the Saxophone, Cheating, Stealing, Drugs, Booze, Catholicism, Depression, Golf, Flirting, Caffeine, Chewing Tobacco, Cigarettes, Caffeine/Coffee (again), Cigars, Sweets (this one only really lasted about a week), Fast Food, Golf, Coke (the sugared beverage), Kicking my own @$$ (mentally) for no good reason, Chewing Tobacco (again), Politics, Golf (again)…  Some have stuck, some are in progress and still others haven’t.  The important ones (the things that will kill me or destroy my life), Theft, Drugs, Alcohol, Chewing Tobacco, Depression, Cigarettes, Flirting and Cheating are well in the rear-view and I don’t do shades of gray.

At some point though, not too long ago I realized that I’ve quit just about enough.

Coffee

Take coffee for example – while Coke is well behind me because I need the 4,500 empty calories a week like I need a hit in the head – caffeine, in the form of coffee, isn’t going anywhere.  I don’t care who says what, at some point you just have to stand your ground(s).  I love my coffee and I refuse to give it up – especially based on “what somebody read on the internet”.  Besides, there is no food on earth that has more free-radical eliminating antioxidants.  Was the study somewhat subjective?  Sure it was as some anti-coffee complainers will point out in their attempt to foist on their choice to quit coffee to others.  Of course, as is usual, the complaints against coffee are highly subjective as well and I would suggest on a much more egregious level than the studies that show benefits funded by the coffee industry.  Let’s look at some of the benefits of a daily diet that includes at least 5 cups of coffee:

Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Parkinson’s, Liver Disease (and Cancer), Oral and Esophageal Cancers, as well as Breast Cancer (modest), Endometrial and  Prostate Cancers.  In addition, it’s a mild laxative, is not a diuretic (at best it shows extremely mild diuretic properties – less than 5% that of water).  There are negatives to coffee consumption as well, but I really don’t care.  I love coffee and it’s staying.

Fast Food

There is no doubt that fast food is bad for you when it is consumed without moderation.  I don’t do that, so at least for the time being, I’m going to continue to enjoy my #11 with an additional 4 pc chicken nuggets and BBQ sauce – Oh how I adore you, Fish-O-Filet.

Running

As crazy as that may sound, there are still people out there who believe that running is bad for you.  Normally in those cases I simply suggest selling stupid somewhere else, but that’s not very nice, now is it?  I’ll have to work on a nicer approach.  In the mean time, any doctor worth their degree will tell anyone who will listen that running is good for your joint system and health.  There are caveats, of course:  If you have suffered an injury that alters the motion of the leg during a running stride, you should find another exercise – after consulting a doctor who knows more about this than you do (I would recommend a Kinesiologist of course).  Also, if you’re overweight, you should start out slowly.  The trick is if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.

Riding on the Road

Road riding is a slightly more dangerous than riding the couch – at least in the short-term, but I’d sooner give up eating.  Remember, less than 3% of all bicycle related fatalities occur when the cyclist is following proper cycling etiquette (riding with traffic, on the road – in lieu of the sidewalk, using caution at intersections, etc.).

The Active Life

An active life is no place for a nervous person.  While there must be a balance between placing ourselves in danger – especially when we have a family to think of, there are risks inherent with being active.  It just is what it is.

The Liebster Award

Socially Fit graciously awarded me with the honor of the Liebster Award today.

They describe the award as follows:

“This award we’ve discovered is given to bloggers who inspire you and have less than 200 followers. The Liebster Award takes its name from the German word meaning ‘Beloved, Dearest or Favorite”.

Color me tickled.  The author and I have come to find out that we are a lot a like in many ways.  I am honored for certain, thank you for this.

There are rules that come with this honor.

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.

2. Post the award to your blog.

3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value (It’s a great way to get to word out there about other blogs, so we’re in!!)

4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have received this award.

I have absolutely no idea how to check the count of the people that follow another blog, so I just picked five whose authors have displayed, in one way or another, pure awesome.  The five that I choose for the honor are as follows:

It’s All About The Legs  Michael Fioretti, if I remember correctly, was the first – and has been the most prolific commenter on my blog.  He always has fantastic advice for an old fart (he’s somewhere around half my age).  If there were anyone in the WordPress world that I’d like to go for a ride with, it would be him.

Bike V Car  Absolutely the best dry sense of humor I’ve read.  I always look forward to Mr. BikeVCar’s posts.

Blue Hen Cyclist Hands down, Steven Francisco is one of the most accessible collegiate racers and an incredible writer – his posts about races always have me on the edge of my seat.

Joseph Lampen  Joseph is one of those tougher than nails, deep freeze, hard-core cyclists.  Just recently we’ve begun a science project together – more on that in another post…  lol.

Mymultiplepersonality  I happened on this site because the author stopped by and “liked” one of my posts.  I could take 500 words talking about this site.  The author is simply gracious as you get.

Saddle – Sore No More Part Deux…

Well, today was my first real triathlon brick day.  It started with my normal 12.5 mile ride down to the running club.  What a difference the new saddle makes.  My hamstring isn’t near healed yet but I felt a lot better after the ride.  This was partially due to the fact that I kept my speed down to save some for the run and subsequent ride home, but I was still at 17.5 mph but I’mreally pleased with the new saddle – surprisingly enough, the additional padding wasn’t missed in the least.

For the run, I decided on a 5k because Mrs. BigdaddyJim and I are going out on a date tonight with the kids away at grandma’s house – there’s no way I’m going to be hobbling around for that.  It was a fairly quick 5k for me:  23:48, a time I am absolutely pleased with.  Mile times were 7:36, 7:54 and7:37.  I was rather saddened when my running buddy Marc suggested we should probably not run together though.  He does have a heck of a point.  I really respect him as a runner so I try my hardest to keep pace with him and he is well aware of my admiration for him so he tries to live up to it.  When we run together we end up pushing each other well beyond our fitness levels and it’s taken the enjoyment out of his Saturday runs.  I also wasn’t able to complete my ride home.  Alas, the weather just wasn’t going to cooperate two days in a row so I hopped a ride home from one of the guys.  Tomorrow’s another day and with the forecast of 66 (F) and sunny, a ride is guaranteed.

Training miles are way up already at mid summer levels from last year:

3/12-3/18:  104

3/12-Today:  102

An Hypothesis It Is… Or Can We Call It A Theory?

Fellow Michigander and cyclist, Joseph Lampen and I have teamed up to form a new hypothesis:

In addition to the value associated with regular exercise and endorphin release, there is an intrinsic value to completing said exercise out of doors, in nature – or creation.

We could go with calling it a theory, but the definition of hypothesis is easier and is, technically, impossible to prove or disprove (other than the benefits of added benefits of Vitamin D from the exposure to sunlight which is already well documented):

  1. A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.
  2. A proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth.

Feel free to weigh in with your comments.

UPDATE:  Socially Fit weighed in with this gem: 

“Outdoors is always best! In the gym only 5-50 people can witness your awesomeness”.

Indeed, well said!

Saddle – Sore No More – Le Slush Fund Du Bgddy Takes A Hit

This will be a highly technical post about saddles before it’s through.  If you don’t know much about them, stick around, I promise you it’s an important issue and picking the wrong saddle can not only be painful, it can be costly as well – if you already know all of this and notice a mistake or omission, please let me know.

In my last post I mentioned a sharp pain in my right hamstring that’s come on in the last couple of days.  It makes a little sense, I’ve been riding my butt off lately, pushing it pretty hard so I was almost ready to accept it as a sign that I need a day off – almost.

As I wrote earlier, I tried to ride that out with a high cadence, easy ride which was quite enjoyable, but did nothing to alleviate the pain which was intermittent and dull, but relentless…something was absolutely not right.  I had no idea what was going on so I did what every noob should do – I made a beeline for my local bike shop on the way back to the house to see if they could help with a diagnosis.  Had I not fixed this, the end results would have been bad.

The Diagnosis

I walked my bike into the shop where my favorite tech, Walter, greeted me.  I explained my hamstring problem and added that it seems as though the pain originates (I’m trying to think of a delicate way to describe the location)…  Uh, well I’ll say “on my right sit bone” for the sake of the squeamish or pious, but that’s not how I described it to him.  I then interjected that I couldn’t believe how that would be possible (for the pain to extend all the way to my hamstring), but that’s exactly how it feels.  Well, I got an important lesson today.

Walter examined my saddle, much to my surprise – I figured we’d need to lower the saddle a little bit or something.  To my noobish understanding of what a saddle should be, it’s got the best of both worlds, a straight road design with the all important cutout and a lot of gel padding, all covered in a strong leather skin.  He asked how long it would take on a normal ride to feel any pain.  I’d thought the pain normal, that I just needed more time in the saddle, but I explained that it was normally after 14 or 15 miles.  What confused the issue for me was that I’d been on a 35.5 mile ride last week in which it didn’t hurt a bit until the very end.  He asked if that could have been due to adrenaline – first long ride of the year, etc. and I had to give him, that was definitely a possibility.  It was my first longer ride of the season, I’d pushed it really hard and it was the first nice, sunny day of the year – I was absolutely stoked to be out there.  He then explained that which we’ve all heard but find hard to believe…  On anything over ten or 15 miles and at slower speeds, the gel seats are great.  On long rides, they become uncomfortable because they staunch blood flow – as I understand it, they cradle your sit bones, because the gel gives, the saddle ends up covering more square footage of skin.  He then pulled out a gel filled pad, set it on a bench, had me sit on that with my feet raised on a box to bring my sit bones to bear on the specially designed pad that holds its form for a short time.  When I got up, he looked at the measurements on the board that the pad was attached to.  It showed that I need a saddle with a 143 MM sit width – the saddle on my bike is a 155 MM.  Now really folks, does it really have to be that technical?  Apparently.  I’ll get into how that applies to riding position in a moment, but the ramifications must come first and foremost.

When The Leather Hits The (Sit) Bone

I was riding on a saddle that was too wide for my sit bones.  This caused me to ride up toward the nose of the saddle, always attempting to find a comfortable spot that fit right, everywhere on the saddle except the right spot.  I couldn’t sit on the proper part of the saddle because it was too wide for the space meant to straddle it.  What ended up happening is that I was putting more pressure on the right sit bone than the left because I couldn’t get in the right spot on the saddle (I’ve felt this, if minutely for a month, trying to fix the problem by tinkering with the angle of the saddle, but with my recent rapid jump in mileage, the problem has advanced quickly – imagine the princess with the pea in the mattress – you know something is off, but you just can’t explain it and think “it just must be you”).  I was riding off-center, favoring my dominant leg.  With all of the miles I’ve been putting in and over time, I’ve developed a hot spot, that is likely inflamed, and that inflammation started affecting my hamstring and how it works.

Now Pay Attention, This Gets Tricky…  Riding Position Matters

Riding position has quite a big effect on saddle size.  If I were riding in a more upright position (see photo) then I would actually require a 155 MM saddle, but I’m not – I’m always trying to be as aero as is practicable so I can keep my speed up – I prefer 20 mph infinitely over 13 mph – I like the speed.  Because of that, my measurement changes to 143 MM – a difference of a half inch.  This may not seem like much (it sure didn’t to me), but it’s huge.  Walter slapped on a 143 MM Specialized Romin Comp Gel and the results were amazing (after about 20 minutes of messing around with height and distance from the bar).  I’ve never ridden so comfortably…and I hit some pretty gnarly pavement on purpose.  I certainly don’t know how you can go from a nice, cushy gel seat to a piece of hard plastic with minimal padding and have it feel better, but it surely does.  So my slush fund took a hit.

Here’s The Important Part:

Rather than wander about aimlessly on the net trying to figure this out, or simply accepting that it must be something I was doing wrong and trying to beat a problem with more miles – that probably would have sidelined me – I went to the experts.  Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200.   I just did a search of cycling, hamstring injuries…  I’d have been pooched, off my bike for a week or two and I’d still end up coming back to the same problem – one of the articles even said that the hamstrings are on the front of the upper leg if you can believe that (they’re in the back).  Instead, if the weather holds, I’ll be riding to the running club this morning.

And Let’s Face Facts…

It cannot be denied, any closet weight weenie would be pleased as punch with the switch – the Romin is half the weight of my original saddle and a whole lot prettier.

By the way, here’s a very informational (if commercial) video from Specialized explaining the measurement process – and it shows the padded measurement board that I wrote about earlier:

Fitness Quiz Of The Week

So, let’s have a fitness quiz.  Allow me to set the table for a multiple choice story problem:

You’re blessed enough to work from home on Fridays which means you wake up at the normal time and get right to work rather than showering, shaving, getting ready and driving to the office.  That means you get your work done really early.  As far as work goes, you’ve just had one of the most successful three weeks in the last six years.   The Weather Channel is calling for rain all day but remarkably it’s sunny and the temperatures are mild yet brisk.  Your significant other is leaving for a weekend convention in less than an hour and Grandma is coming down to pick up the kids and take them up north for the weekend in three hours.  You decide to take a quick half hour sprint ride (24 minutes – 8 miles actually) before the weather rolls in.  During said ride, you notice a sharp pain in your right hamstring – it’s not bad all of the time, but it’s uncomfortable to be sure.  Everything else goes off without a hitch and you even catch a fifteen minute power nap.

Here’s the quiz:  It’s early afternoon and the weather has unbelievably held off much the the chagrin of the Weather Channel – it’s sunny and 65 (F) and you’re picking up your dad from the old folks home to take him out to dinner in two hours.  Do you:

A.  Kick up your feet and relax, content in a job well done and turn on the tube to watch [insert whatever it is you watch here].

B.  Start scouring the cupboard for [insert ridiculously sugar laden snack here], then eat like eating is going out of style – tomorrow – at dinner, content that you’ve had two successful high mileage weeks in a row.  After all, you deserve a “treat” day that you’ll invariably regret in the morning, which will inevitably lead to your falling off of the exercise wagon because once you’ve messed up this bad, you might as well go all the way.  I mean what gives with this exercise crap anyway – that’s for “lucky” people.

C.  Get your kit on and try another 16 miles of slower speed, higher cadence riding in an attempt to work out whatever is bugging that hamstring.

I’ll give you one guess as to what I did.  I didn’t get the hammy worked out though – more on that in the next post.

Thank God, a new, more shirted me…

I’m not big on having my picture taken during sporting events – I rarely pay attention to the camera so the photos rarely turn out.  Well, the wife and I hit the great outdoors yesterday, before my ride, and while the weather was warm so I could get some photos to replace my current “Gravatar” – which was the only decent photo I had of me “in action”  taken in the last five years.

So thankfully, the photos associated with my blog have been changed to a more clothed look.

A multiple topic post…

On Exercising Out Of Doors

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern lately…  I have absolutely no scientific data to back up what I’m about to write, but when I really thought about it, the same thing happened last year.

Things have been very good lately.  With the weather cooperating I’ve been able to get out on my bike every day and it’s done a lot for my mood which has translated into good business decisions – but this all started with my wife and I working through a few issues that needed to be remedied.  All of the sudden I’m finding myself in a winning streak of epic proportions.  It’s been several prayers answered, really.

A fellow blog friend, cyclist and Michigander wrote a comment yesterday in response to my post “Don’t Quit Five Minutes Before The Miracle Happens”:

“…But, I found that I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand not being outside. I did take a break, no doubt, but rather than the month that many of my other friends would take, I took only a couple of weeks and then just eased back outside for pure joy rides. In addition to your point about the stress release of exercising, I have begun to believe that there’s also an element of simply spending time outside connecting with nature (creation). I don’t know if there’s anything too that, I’m not a scientist, biologist, or theologian, but I recognize a distinct smile when I find time to just be outside doing anything”.

Now my training was a lot more intense this last winter – more than any other winter before it, but it was mostly indoors.  Since I’ve been getting my daily exercise riding outside, my mood has really improved – my wife would undoubtedly back this statement up.  So the question becomes is this causal or casual?  Personally, I’m not one to question such things – I’m much more happy simply accepting it and calling it good.  There is no doubt, however, that being outside has a noticeable and good impact in my outlook on life.  I love me some vitamin D.

The impact on sleep

In the last two weeks since I’ve been getting outside a lot more often I haven’t been sleeping as much.  In fact I’ve gotten so little sleep that I’m actually getting a little nervous about the possibility of an impending crash.  Sunday night into Monday morning and Monday night to Tuesday were decent enough at about 6-1/2 hours (normal), but Tuesday night I only got 3-1/2 hours followed by 4-1/2 on Wednesday night.  Last night I did manage 6, though I almost woke up after 4-1/2 – I had to force myself to go back to sleep.  It’s not all bad, I used the time to my advantage and got to my office very early which allowed me to get a few important issues resolved and I managed to pick up a nice chunk of work in the process.  It also allowed my to get home a little earlier each day so I could enjoy some great miles in on the 5200 without the rush hour traffic.  In the end, I’m probably making a mountain of a mole hill.  With the weekend here and a lot of rain in the forecast, it’ll be time to catch up (yes, I am aware that many doctors say you can’t catch up).

Rollerblading my way to a happy life.

In the infancy of my sobriety, back in ’93 and ’94, I was big into rollerblading.  I was extremely fast – in fact I was as fast on my blades back then as I am on my road bike now – around 20 mph, and I used to go out a lot.  I’d put in around 40 miles on weekdays with a Saturday jaunt of either 32 or 40 miles on an eight mile loop at a local Metro park.  After a couple of years, I moved a town over and that made getting out more difficult.  In addition the powers that be started enforcing a 10 mph speed limit, a helmet regulation and knee/elbow pad rule.  I didn’t so much mind the helmet rule, but the speed limit and pad regulations we ridiculous…  In the years I’d been blading there, I didn’t have one issue with other users of the path related to my regular quadrupling the speed limit on some of the bigger hills – and I wasn’t about to double a normal 24 minute trip around the loop – it was just too boring.  In any event, I hung onto my blades over the years and I’ve managed to get out and knock the rust off from time to time and now my oldest daughter is turning into quite the skater herself (YES!) as we’ve gone to a few school sponsored skating parties.  In fact, we went to one last night and she’s downright impressive – she made me one proud papa.

You’d think that would be the happy life part – but it’s only a piece of that pie.  Any married man knows that the happy life hinges on a happy wife.  When I put on my blades and skate with my wife, her entire demeanor transforms into something fantastic – she looks at me like a rock star, and every husband needs that from time to time.  Rollerblading, as it turns out, makes a happy life for the both of us and you can’t beat that with a stick.

Training Changes

Since I dropped my aspirations to complete a 70.3 Ironman last week, the pressure has been off and I’ve been thoroughly been enjoying my rides over the last several days – I’ve been able to back off just a bit on pushing so hard on every ride.  I’m not perfect – I still love to hear my Endomondo chick say “Lap Time 2 minutes and 23 seconds” [that’s per mile, they count a mile as a lap] as I’m ticking them off, but knowing that we’d be taking the kids to the skating rink last night I was able to hold my average speed down to 18 mph.  Not quite a recovery ride, but certainly a lot easier than my norm.  After all of the riding and the skating last night I’ve got a tight hamstring to stretch out today, but otherwise I’m in great shape going into the weekend.  I’ve got 63 miles in so far this week (not including rollerblading last night – I didn’t even think to track that).  If the rain holds off today and gives us a break tomorrow I’ll be able to hit 100 easily.  If it pours, I’ll have Sunday.  It’s supposed to be sunny and 66 (F) – cooler than usual lately, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Michigan Weather

For all of the Michiganders out there concerned with the upcoming weekend weather.  I’ve been tracking Michigan weekend weather since I was in the fifth grade – my father was a weather man in the Air Force and passed some of the knowledge and excitement for the weather on to me when he helped me complete an incredible fifth grade science project where I tracked every aspect of the weather three times a day for three months – the old fashioned way.  In any event, the more weekend weather is shaky in the spring, the better the weekends are in the summer.  Conversely, the nicer the weekends in the spring, the rougher the weekends during the summer.  Take that to the bank, it’s been holding steady for more than 30 years.

Making My Phone Life Proof

I just purchased my first iPhone the other day and I’m telling you what, that’s some business phone right there.  I’d always been a fan of the Blackberry because they were always number one in my book, but after a few days with the iPhone, they’re relegated to number two, if you know what I mean.  In fact, up until my new iPhone, I’ve had only Blackberry’s – from the very first one, thirteen years ago.

In any event, because I rely on my phone so much, I’ve decided to Life Proof it, across the board.

My running/riding buddy Pete has the case and has nothing but good things to say about it – after frying more than one phone with sweat, he bit the bullet and purchased the best iPhone case on the market (at least that I know of):

Now before you go getting all excited, these cases are NOT cheap, and to go whole hog with it is a pretty penny, but I’m all for being able to take underwater films with my phone – and if I can do that, I won’t have to worry about taking my phone with me on a run and destroying it (quite often I’ve got guys working on Saturdays and odd hours, so I have to have my phone with me at all times – it’s just a bonus that I get to track workouts with it).

With that, I picked up the case, the belt holster, the bike stem mount and the swimming (yes, swimming) arm band.  From the way Pete loves his case, I won’t even bother with a review unless something turns out to be less than perfect in fit and function, it should be a no-brainer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Quit Five Minutes Before The Miracle Happens…

Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens…

In recovery we have a saying that applies aptly to fitness as well.  Fitness, like recovery is a finicky thing.  It’s tough to get going, to build the time to exercise – whatever form that may take – into our lives.  At first it is work, thus the name workout.  I’ve read figures that show as many as 70% of people who start an exercise program won’t last more than a month before they decide that it’s too hard.  This post is for those 70%.

Generally speaking there is a reality that at some point fitness ceases being work.  Often this will take some time as it did in my case, for others it happens quickly.  We fit folks, the one’s you see cruising about the neighborhood every day (or every other day for the runners), eventually come to a point where we need the exercise.  I’ve explained at length in the past my need to exercise – in my case, my day job is exceptionally stressful.  I have no healthy outlet for that stress if I’m not exercising.  In the past, I’ve gone several weeks without lacing up the running shoes, usually during the cold winter months and I can tell you, by the third week I’m miserable.  Fortunately, I have a lot of friends that I run with and when I explained being miserable to a couple of them they pointed out that I’d missed running for a few weeks and that they weren’t surprised that my balance was off.  For those who don’t have that kind of support, that mild depression can devolve into full blown depression in a hurry – and when I’m in that state, the last thing I want to do is work.  Running becomes a depressive paradox, or pair of ducks if you will.  I don’t want to go running because I feel like crap, but running is the only thing that will make me feel better.

As my tolerance for mental anguish has decreased over the years, and as a full blown alcoholic it was quite high, especially when I first quit drinking (meaning I could tolerate a lot of mental anguish before it motivated me to get off of my @$$), skipping runs decreased because I couldn’t tolerate the stress as well since I found an outlet.  This shifted into high gear when I began riding regularly last June.  When I started out, on a Huffy mountain bike, the best I could do was four miles in about 16 minutes (about 15 mph which is pretty fast for a mountain bike that’s two sizes too small) three times a week with my normal running.  By the time October rolled around, I was riding every day 12-16 miles @ 18-19 mph (on a road bike) and still running twice a week.  As much stress as I could build up in a day at work, it would be worked out before I ate dinner.  As the stress decreased, so did my tolerance for it.  As my tolerance for stress decreased, my need and enjoyment of exercise increased

Exercise has changed from something I had to do to lose weight to something I want to do to feel good.

That’s the miracle.  Don’t quit five minutes before you get that.