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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cycling – What They Don’t Tell You About It As A Kid…

When I took up cycling two years ago (at 40) I had no idea how much pleasure and enjoyment I was really in for.  I made the mistake of assuming that cycling and mountain biking as an adult was the same as riding a bike as a kid – and I rode some bike as a kid.

We lived in a small town about an hour from Detroit and back then we were considered “corn country”.  Most of the roads were dirt, with little traffic, so our parents bought us bikes early and we rode the wheels off of them. As a younger lad, in addition to riding around the neighborhood, I rode to friends houses up to ten miles away and to middle school (about twelve miles each way). In short, bikes were our way to get around when mom and dad couldn’t drive us or a mode of transportation that allowed us our freedom years before we could think of a driver’s license…

As an adult, cycling is so much more than just a mode of transportation. Cycling is a social event, an escape from everyday stress, a great way to start a date with my wife, a way to stay slim, build some awesome legs, a way to escape or avoid heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, a bad attitude, get a badass tan and on the right mountain road – fly. Cycling these last two years has brought me more joy and allowed me to make and keep more new friends than almost anything I know of.  The list goes on and with a little more thought, could easily double.

I can remember rollerblading as a young buck and thinking it couldn’t get any better (and I put in some miles – up to 40 miles on a weekend day). Oh how wrong I was!  Cycling is just as, if not more, enjoyable.

This was my mistake:  I had a cheap big box mountain bike back then.  Steel frame, cheap plastic thumb shifters (on top of the bar), one size fits all, cheap plastic seat (I’d hardly call that a saddle even if that’s technically what it was)…  To ride that bike was actual work – a lot like riding a bike as a kid only now that bike had to compete with the fact that I had a car.  In other words I was looking at it all wrong.  I had no idea there was an actual cycling community out there – one large enough to accommodate any level of cyclist and that I didn’t have to be stuck with a bike that was literally pain in my butt bike…

If you’re thinking about getting into shape but believe that doing so on a bike will be anything like it was when you were a kid, reconsider – that simply isn’t so.  Save yourself some trouble and skip the big box stores.  Instead, hit your local mom & pops bike shops.  They’ll help you save a lot of time and effort by not only selling you a decent bike that fits, they’ll help you get plugged into the local cycling scene.

AMEN! Be sure to check out this excellently written post.

Talk 2 the Trainer

What Motivates You? Part 1 of 3

Money, Fast cars, extravagant homes. Maybe your thing is exotic vacations or philanthropy. Success, Wealth, social acceptance? Could it be that possibly social acceptance isn’t good enough? For you, being at the top of the class is much more important than simply being in the class. It’s all a matter of perspective and everything we do is relative to where we’re trying to go. 

The problem is that too many people don’t actually have any true idea of “where they’re trying to go”… How can you get to a place if you don’t know where it is you want to be? So many people wander aimlessly through the year with resolutions that become faint dreams and broken goals that they become disillusioned with the idea that they can even find true success. It becomes a chore to wake up in the morning and…

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So let me get this straight…

Ok, so let me get this straight. Immigrating illegally to the US is just “breaking the rules” and shouldn’t carry any real consequences. Really?

Excellent. In that case when we gun owners buy, trade and sell all of those weapons you jokers are trying so hard to ban you’ll treat that the same way, right?

A note, Mr. President…

Political Science 101: The laugh line above is why you politicians generally take things a little slower – one big ticket item at a time. It gives the general public the four weeks it usually takes for them to forget the idiotic arguments you guys (and gals) used in the last fight. Move too fast and you can’t square what you said last week – especially if you’re a Democrat! Even the media can’t spin that shit into sunshine at that point.

Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest.

Where Does This Term Come From?

Here’s a neat little trivia question:  Where does the term “the whole nine yards” come from?

Tip – it’s not football…  And please don’t bother trying to cheat with Google.  It won’t help because most of the sites that pop up claim it’s a mystery.  It’s not.  There is an answer.

We have a winner…  Below the fold (more…)

I Refuse To Let Being Sick Slow Me Down…

I wrote a post on Saturday in which I explained that I refused to get sick. This has worked for me in the past but let’s face it; If the rest of the family is sick and you’re worried about getting it, going for a 12 mile run in temperatures below freezing is probably not the wisest thing to do. In my case it wasn’t too bright. I wasn’t feeling too hot by Saturday evening. I woke up Sunday feeling pretty gnarly but I had a big day on the docket.  I had my flooring in the kitchen and laundry room scheduled to be done.  I woke up early but wound up falling back asleep after my second cup of coffee. I slept until just before my carpenter showed up at 10, got ready and we hit it running.

We've always been into fixer-uppers

We’ve always been into fixer-uppers

We had about 220 sf of floors to do but it was a tricky install… Lot’s of cuts and tough corners to get into the laundry room. We wrapped up just after 5 so I wolfed down my dinner and ran out the door for bowling (surprisingly, I did quite well in the first two games before bonking quite spectacularly in the third – I just ran out of gas). By the time I got home at 9 I was absolutely fried. I crashed watching the last of the Red Wings game. Then yesterday I had another big day – a big project to work on that’s due today at noon, so there was no phoning it in even though I felt pretty rough. I woke up at about 4 am, had my two cups of coffee and headed out the door. By 11 I was through the tough part of the project so I took a pretty easy recovery spin and was feeling quite a bit better.

When I got home everything caught up.  I was out like a light by 5 and slept until dinner (though lightly, I had a few business calls to handle during my nap) at 6:30.  I woke up sore.  After eating I was back on the couch watching Jackass until sleep took me (I know, I know, but as depraved as that show may be, I can’t help but laughing my butt off).  In one of the episodes Johnny Knoxville went to yoga class with an exceptionally bad case of… uh, flatulence.  I hate to admit it but I’m a little Old School – nothing beats a good fart joke and I haven’t laughed like that in a while.

I woke up this morning, still a little sore but otherwise feeling like a hundred dollars.  I like those times when I can just be sick and miserable but every once in a while but in this case it was nice to push through it.  Thank goodness for a healthy immune system.

Iowa TriBob Wins The What’s Wrong With Jim’s Hamstring Sweepstakes

Iowa TriBob Wins The What’s Wrong With Jim’s Hamstring Sweepstakes!!!

Well, technically it isn’t a sweepstakes, and there’s no real “prize” other than recognition in this post, but whatever.  I wrote the other day about some severe hamstring problems that I had (and had been monitoring for weeks) on a 12 mile run.  I had several great folks offer their advice but the one thing that really fit came from Bob.  He wrote:

“… I actually was having some right hamstring problems on my long runs (especially when I tried to climb hills or pick up the pace).  I had my run analyzed and found that my stride was too long and I was pulling with my right leg, vs. pushing off.  Meaning my feet were landing way ahead of my center of gravity which was causing me to stress my hamstring to pull my body ahead.  I shortened up my stride considerably (now hit 86-87 strides per minute) and focused on landing my feet either directly below me or even slightly behind if I could remember to lean forward a little.  I haven’t had a hamstring issue since and if I do start to feel it on a run I go right back to focusing on stride and it immediately goes away.  No idea if this is remotely your case but thought I’d share”.

Well, Iowa TriBob, you hit the nail on the head my friend.  I’d actually tried successfully, on more than one occasion, during that run to shorten up my stride and the pain was greatly reduced for as long as I could maintain that – usually when we had some decent footing.  This usually isn’t much of a problem but with trying to keep a decent pace on the sloppy snow, my stride was considerably longer than normal.  This explains why I ended up with the protesting hamstring.  So Bob, thank you so very much for posting your comment.  I owe you one brother.


The War Against GM Farming: Um, Oops, Yeah, We Really Didn’t Mean That…

I have long been a fan of genetically modified farming. I know, there are those who shriek in horror at the thought, but let’s face it, GM farming feeds the world. For instance, it has been estimated that upwards of 2.5 to 3 Billion people would have to die if we went to wholly organic farming. It’s not rocket science.  Humorously enough, it’s always those who push less productive farming who assume they won’t be amongst the one’s ruled not fit to live.  In fact, knowing a grocery store chain owner, I’ve been told that organic foods are a good way for big farming to separate you from your money. Actually me from my money too. My wife buys organic as much as she can. While I think it’s goofy, I love her and the extra money is worth it if she’s feels good for spending it.

That notwithstanding, via Power Line, comes word that one of the founding members of the War on GM Farming has issued an apology. What surprises me is that it’s a real, honest to goodness apology, not some “caught with the hand in the cookie jar” pap (kind of).  See for yourself:

“I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale.

And this is the challenge that faces us today: we are going to have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully much less poor people by 2050 on about the same land area as we use today, using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides and in the context of a rapidly-changing climate.

Let’s unpack this a bit. I know in a previous year’s lecture in this conference there was the topic of population growth. This area too is beset by myths. People think that high rates of fertility in the developing world are the big issue – in other words, poor people are having too many children, and we therefore need either family planning or even something drastic like mass one-child policies.

The reality is that global average fertility is down to about 2.5 – and if you consider that natural replacement is 2.2, this figure is not much above that. So where is the massive population growth coming from? It is coming because of declining infant mortality – more of today’s youngsters are growing up to have their own children rather than dying of preventable diseases in early childhood.”

There’s much more in the full speech, here. Do check it out. Though it appears Mr. Lynas is still a global warming huckster, who knows, maybe he’ll come to his senses on that as well.  Somehow I doubt it, which brings us to my guess for the mea culpa in the first place…

For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.

Now, if I had to guess, and that’s all I can really do because these folks are so rarely fully honest, Mark Lynas was catching flack for the shoddy science on the War on GM Farming and that was beginning to effect his income/believability on the equally (if not more so) shoddy science on Global warming – so he’s distancing himself from the one in hopes of saving the other.

The main point, and the reason that I wrote this post is to highlight exactly how shoddy much of the environmentalist movement usually is – and how easy it is to get one of these hoaxes to gain traction.  I think the best way to look at these things is like this:  If the solution is for some government entity to take your freedom, your basic rights and your cash, be skeptical – there’s a 99.5% chance you’re being shystered.

10.91 Miles + An “Oh Crap”.

I went for that 12 mile run with Pete and Jeff today on snow-covered back roads. The sun was shining and the wind, she was a blowin’. It was a chilly day, around 20 degrees but the sun really helped out. We decided on an easy pace and kept it around 9:30’s to start. After three miles we started picking up the pace, dropping down to 8:45’s for a bit… Pretty average on good road, but moving at a pretty fair clip on the snow. Around mile seven we slowed it back down again to keep from blowing up at the end. From there it was low 9’s till we hit mile 10.91. The course Pete had picked out was hilly as all get out and we were all getting tired of them. Pete started walking up a nice one – I joined him and that was my undoing. I could feel my left hamstring tighten up immediately so I gave it a quick rub and got back to running. Unfortunately it cramped up big time – I was certain I was cooked. I tried to stretch it but that just caused worse cramping, with just over a mile to go… I limped along for a few hundred yards, then turned into the wind for the last mile. I froze my butt off, quickly. Just as I was starting to get nervous about hypothermia (sweat, 20 degrees (F) and wind don’t mix well), my hamstring loosened up. Not wanting to hurt myself any more, I took it very easy, just fast enough to keep my body temp up. I went into Pete’s and sat down. That wasn’t too bright. Pain shot up the back of my leg so I tried to slowly stretch it out a bit. After five minutes or so the pain was manageable enough to drive home. On making it back I immediately started on my stretches and actually feel a lot better than I normally do after a long run, though the hamstring is still really tight. I’ll have to see how it goes, but I have pretty high hopes that a couple weeks of stretching will get me back to square and that I won’t have to take any time off.

I Refuse To Get Sick…

The flu has been going through our house… My youngest had it last weekend through Tuesday and just as she was getting better the oldest started in with the fever. I have had moments where I thought I was coming down with it too but so far I’ve managed to refuse to get sick. Now I mean that how it sounds. I freakin’ refuse to allow my body to get sick, and it works – not every time – but often enough.

I’m curious, have you tried to refuse to get sick?

I Have A Hangup With Training…

I have a hangup with training.  I admit it freely.  I love riding my bikes – I mean it, I freaking dig it, but I just haven’t found a way to translate that into actual training.  It’s like this;  you hit 42 years-old and you think back on when you were a kid.  It’s summer break and all you’ve got to do is ride ten miles over to your buddy’s house to hang out, shoot pellet guns, jump old bmx bikes into the pond, play some baseball and fun the summer away…  That’s how I feel when I ride my bikes.  Honest to God – I feel just like that.  I like running too though it’s not quite as sexy to me.  Running takes a back seat to riding any day.  More importantly, if I go too long without running or riding, I feel 42.  I get grumpy, my body starts creaking in ways that it normally doesn’t – it’s all bad.  I need me some endorphins.

That said, I’m horrible at actual training.  While I do push hard, especially on my bikes, I have a serious problem getting into the interval training, staying in certain “zones”, messing around with specific diet plans…  Last year I had planned on doing a half Ironman at the end of the season.  About four weeks into the training, that feeling was fleeting.  All of a sudden it wasn’t about just going out for a ride – I had to get my miles in, I had to ride this far and run that far and work in some intervals…  I lost the summer break feel so I dropped the training.

This year I seem to be doing a little better with it though.  I’ve managed for two straight weeks to bump up my trainer miles and I’ve kept up my running miles where I wanted them so who knows, maybe I can break through this year.  On the other hand, maybe I don’t…  Maybe I lose that summer break feeling again.  That will remain to be seen, but I can tell you this – if I feel it slipping away again, that half Ironman is off the docket again.  I love being in this position.  To be fit enough that I can pick and choose what I want to do and whether or not I want to put the effort in to do it – and it won’t make a difference either way.

That said, it looks like I might be running twelve with English Pete, Aaron and Jeff tomorrow…