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Daily Archives: April 24, 2013

Saddling Up To The Trough…

I had a pretty decent week despite the weather. By the time we hit dinner on Sunday evening I had over 100 miles, most of it riding in temps between 25 and 40 degrees. Between Saturday’s ride, Sunday’s ride and roller blading Sunday afternoon I’d burned off more than a pound’s worth of calories – in 26 hours.

There was a purpose to killing calories. Sunday evening we saddled up to the trough for our bowling banquet. This is a once a year ‘occasion’ (if you can call it an occasion) where we eat at a buffet. I view the buffet as ‘the trough’. The place where the regulars make a joke of trying to put the all-you-can-eat establishment out of business in one sitting. Let’s just say I, at 6′ tall and 160 pounds, look strangely out of place there.

I was gawked at as an alien, as I made my way from bar to bar, two plates in hand. I’m sure more than one regular thought it’s not fair that such a skinny guy can eat so much (I get this all the time). Not fair? They’re obviously missing something, eh?

I attempt to explain to them that it is fair, that a healthy and fit life has its advantages. That there really is something to daily strenuous exercise…

The excuses will come out. The hips, legs, arms or back are bad and therefore they’re doomed to their girth. It happens more often than you would think. The reality is very simple: you can’t eat like Michael Phelps if you don’t exercise like him. And I’d bet you my bike that if I asked their doctor, were they cleared for a daily ride on a mountain bike, 90% of those cases the doctor would say they’d been recommending that for years. Not only that, having battled the bulge, I know that most of their pains are due to a lack of activity. In other words, their pain is a product of their lethargy, not a result of activity.

So I headed into hell’s restaurant, feeling out of place and a little self-conscious (I always feel bad for eating at a trough, being a skinny guy – believe it or not I don’t like going through the refutation of ‘it’s not fair’ – I feel as though people will perceive me as “showing off”). The food was a whole lot better than anticipated and the company was pretty fantastic (my bowling team and I are quite a tight little group). Oh, and I stopped eating before I was full (just barely). In other words, even though I did eat a lot, I didn’t overeat.

Why the distinction? I am not (nor do I want to be thought of as) a unicorn. I am no different than most anyone else. I have good joints and muscles because I exercise them. I am thin because I don’t eat more than I burn in a given week. The trick to the trough is that if you’re burning a ton of calories and you generally don’t eat a whole lot in a sitting, your array of “cheats” can be fairly numerous. It wasn’t always this way. I struggled with Soda for years. I struggled with overeating, but only because I was so damned inactive. I struggled, I struggled, I struggled – until I didn’t have to struggle anymore. Not because my body processes food differently but because I eat it differently. What seems like a lot of food to me (three or maybe four pieces of pizza for dinner on pizza night) is an appetizer to most people… Then add to that the fact that I’m burning a thousand calories a day and you get the picture.

What A Difference A Millimeter Makes… The Cleats

I’ve written before about the importance of saddle height, of bike fit, stem length, bar angle and the lot but I ran into an interesting one last week that had a huge impact on my cycling and running…

Now, I should listen to Matt at the bike shop when he encourages me to try to fix and fit things myself. His theory is that it’s really tough to break a bike component when you’re simply adjusting it, so adjust away – if it gets worse, put it back, if you mess something up so bad that you can’t figure it out, bring it in and we’ll get you fixed and explain where you went wrong.

So over the winter while I’m riding on the trainer, I look down and notice that my left heel toes out just a bit. My Look cleats have a 4.5 degree float (this means that your foot is not locked in to a set position, the cleat will ‘float’ just a bit to the left and right). For some reason I naturally used up the float, to the left, on that foot. When I’m on the road I’m not looking at my feet so I didn’t know it was happening until I had some time on the trainer.

I hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should make the adjustment myself for at least a couple of months before I finally bit the bullet and made the change two weeks ago – just a millimeter or two on the cleat meant a centimeter at the heel and now both feet are dead straight when I pedal.

Here’s the reason for the hesitation: The equipment used to line my cleats up was extensive, blocks on the pedals with rods sticking out of the blocks, angles and measurements and probably 45 minutes… It was a pretty big production, so I hesitated, thinking “who am I? I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground as far as cleat alignment goes. Truthfully this is the one problem I find with going to the bike shop to get things fixed: Relying on the shop can lead to paralysis for simple adjustments. Of course, not knowing what you’re doing can end a lot worse, so there’s that too.

There are ramifications too… Over the winter I complained of a hamstring issue, the left hamstring to be specific. I thought the pain was from ramping up my running miles over the winter and running on snow covered roads (I wrote a couple of posts about this). So I pulled back on my running miles thinking I just needed to rest the hamstring and while it’s gotten better, there was still quite a bit of tightness during a run. Afterward there was a little soreness… After the cleat adjustment though, the hamstring pain is starting to fade away – even yesterday after all of the miles I put in over the last week or so, while there is muscle soreness to recover from, my hamstring is feeling a lot more “normal”.

Lesson learned, while I had my cleats fitted by one of the best guys in our State, with professional equipment that I didn’t have access to, that last final adjustment made all of the difference in the world. I’m getting a much better push from my left leg and the proper muscles are now taking the hit rather than my hamstring.