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Monthly Archives: July 2016

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Those Excuses for Choosing to Live Unhealthy… They Don’t Work the Way Most People Think They Should.

I’m a recovering drunk.  It’s plain and simple.  If I put alcohol or drugs into my system there’s no telling when I’ll be able to stop, shy of passing out.  It is what it is.  There’s no changing it, no reversing the clock, no going back to a time when I could drink responsibly.  If I pick up a drink, within a matter of weeks I’ll be right back where I left off.  Period, end of narrative.

I’m sure there are millions of people out there who think that last paragraph is horseshit, that if I just practiced some magical self-control, I’d be able to drink like normal people.  This is perfectly okay with me.  My reality does not require anyone else’s blessing or understanding.  I’ve tried enough different ways to regulate my consumption of alcohol to know the only thing that really works is complete abstinence.  I am perfectly happy with this reality – better to be happy than dead in a ditch.  There are no acceptable excuses for my choosing to live as a practicing drunk, not even heredity (for which there is a mountain of scientific data).

In my case, as in almost every “excuse” case out there (including obesity), my excuse is all the more reason to abstain from that which will surely kill me.  Let’s use obesity as another example to make the case as obvious as possible.  Let’s say I overeat and under-exercise and I end up obese.  A typical excuse would be, “Well it runs in the family, it’s genetics”.  The excuse itself is all the more reason that I should be living a healthier life, not a reason for my being overweight.  Let’s say, just for fun, I have a history of heart disease that runs in my family.  This is not an excuse for needing heart surgery after a lifetime of eating unhealthy foods, it’s all the more reason I should be concentrating on foods that are better for my heart and a lot of exercise.

Let’s look at this with another disease, Alzheimer’s:  Even though there is no evidence of dementia and heredity (if anything there is scant evidence that it “skips” generations), I know good and well I get every one of my dad’s genes.  Comparing photos at the appropriate ages, we could have passed for brothers.  While never obese, he did have a stint at “overweight” as well.  Due to these realities, I adapted the way I live so that I give myself the best chance to avoid problems in the future – I eat “brain food” and exercise regularly (the latter is better against Alzheimer’s than the former, according to research but why not go with an “all of the above” approach, eh?).

There is a flip-side to this, however.  I also know that I don’t do righteous indignation well.  I wish this were otherwise.  Alas, it isn’t.  If I concentrate on how much everyone else is doing wrong I just end up miserable because I can’t do anything about what someone else chooses to do (no matter how much I don’t like it).  Not only that, when we concentrate on what we think others are doing wrong, we tend to miss the stupid $#!+ we screw up all on our own – and therein lies the rub.

Sadly, I’m like most anyone else, I’m nowhere near perfect.  I just do my best to be happy and call the rest good, keeping in mind that my happiness centers rigorous honesty.  Not rigorous honesty about other people, places or things…  I can’t control any of that.  I can only control the person I look at in the mirror every morning before I put shaving cream on his face….

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The Trick to Fitness is Sticking to It, No Matter What

My family and I just got back from an excellently active, yet lazy, vacation.  Even with some kind of ridiculous desert every evening and with only one day in nine on the bike, I only put on three pounds…  I’ll have that off by Friday.

We arrived home last evening around 11:30 (I think, I wasn’t really paying attention).  We unloaded only the necessary stuff from the truck and went right to sleep.

We had to.  Even with rain in the forecast we had some riding to do.

I awoke to an alarm at 5:30, had my usual two cups of coffee and commenced unloading the rest of the truck.  After that I prepped the bikes, got the water bottles ready and got dressed to go.  Rain was forecast to hit at 9 and we were meeting at a local school nine miles from our house at 7:30.  Brad called and we talked about shortening the ride to beat the worst of the yellow, orange and red on the radar. 

We rolled out shortly after 7:30.  We only got 15 miles in before it started raining so we cut it short and headed back to the school.  

Just 19 miles for the day but I spent all but 2 miles of the ride up front.  It felt great to get on the bike and my legs felt awesome after the week-ish off.
It would have been real easy to look at the radar and bow out, opting to ride the couch for one more day.  Better yet, I could have skipped my ride and gone out to the donut shop and had three or four donuts for breakfast before riding the couch whilst watching the final day of the Tour de France!  Yeah, then I could have made that three pounds I’ve gotta work off, four.  

Yeah, I’m not that guy.  I could be, all it takes is a decision, but not today.  Give me a  good lunch with a side of miles.

Another Vacation comes to its Glorious End…

It’s been a week since I last pedaled a bicycle.  It wasn’t supposed to be that way but when you’re swimming and tubing like it’s going out of style, why ride?!

The reality is, I was tired.  I needed a break and I took one.  A long one.

My wife and I had fun joining a club ride last Saturday.  It was a beautiful 28 mile road course with a lot of climbing.  It never ceases to dumbfound me how much I love taking a bike up a hill.  It makes no sense whatsoever, but it is what it is…  I like to go up.

Other than that, we swam and tubed every day until we were toast.  Then we napped, ate, played spades… and did it all over again after a good night’s sleep.

This is Heaven to me.  We vacation with my wife’s sister, her husband and their kids. I don’t need to go on shopping sprees or flit about some far off town.  In fact we didn’t eat one meal outside of the house (except sammiches on the boat every day).  We had steaks and burgers.  We barbecued ribs and chicken and had enough salad to make a herd of cows jealous.  We drank a ludicrous amount of coffee.  

And we laughed.  Long and loud… hard enough that each of us had one beverage or another coming our of our nose at least once a night.  

So we’ll be home shortly, well rested and saddle sores healed… and riding tomorrow morning.  I miss my bike, I can’t wait.

This was exactly what I needed.

Oh, we had to turn our rented pontoon boat in by 5 pm yesterday…  we pulled into the marina with one minute to spare and two minutes before the skies opened up…

We don’t mess around.  We used up every last minute we could.

An Athletic Lifestyle, Health and the Heart…

It wasn’t until after my buddy, Mike called to give me the full story on his upcoming heart surgery that I had a quick thought about why I live like I do.

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First, while I refuse to buy into the silliness that is vegetarianism or worse, veganism, or any of the other diet fads, I didn’t always eat as well as I do today.  I’ve never shied away from fast food, and even embrace it during cycling season, but I’ve cut back considerably from my younger days.
I eat healthy, well balanced, good food today, and it’s not because it tastes good.  Sure, my homemade burgers are fantastic, even better than a Whopper (Burger King) and heads and shoulders better than anything McDonald’s or Wendy’s can turn out…  Fast food is an experience.  It’s no work eating.  Pull up to a drive-thru and they throw a hot, cooked meal at you within a minute or two.  I love easy.

Mike likes easy, and much more frequently that I do.

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Unfortunately, three of the arteries leading to his heart are currently pretty pissed about his enjoyment of “easy”.  Mike eats like $#!+.  He liked to think he got a free pass on crap food because he’s active.  Not so, and he’ll be acutely aware of this as he is trying to heal from his upcoming open heart surgery.

Too often, making the right choices is an abstract thing (in food and exercise).  One never sees the concrete result.  You simply don’t die (or one lives a little longer, however you want to look at it).  Oh, some people claim to feel better if they avoid certain foods but how one “feels” is highly subjective anyway.  It’s not often one can actually put their finger on a health problem and say, “Okay, I’ll eat better because my crappy diet caused “X”.

My buddy Mike can, and the rest of us who know him and care about him can.  His artery blockage is a direct result of diet.  He does everything else right.  Hasn’t had a drink in decades, doesn’t smoke, and exercises like his life depends on it.  If a crappy diet were okay, he should have shiny, healthy arteries.  Instead, he’s going under the knife to have new arteries put in.

There’s a flip-side to this though…

He’s been an athlete for decades, having qualified for Boston every year and regularly running sub-three hour marathons (if I remember correctly, his pace for the Crim 10 miler – our local standard for how fast one can run – was less than 60 minutes).  When he started having knee trouble he switched to cycling and has always been in the 20+ mph club.  My buddy’s heart found new ways to get blood to it.  It grew new branches to the arteries and while inefficient, because he was such an enthusiastic athlete, his body found a way to keep the effort up.  If not for his fitness, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what his likely fate would have been.

In the end, we all know what must be done, it’s just a matter of being willing to do it.  Eat healthy and lead an active life.  This won’t guarantee longevity, I wish it did.  What it will guarantee is that we get to live the healthiest, longest life possible.  If we’re fortunate enough to find happiness, especially in the fitness end of that equation, we’ll also get to enjoy it as well.

Ride hard my friends.

Shared from WordPress

The Secret to Cycling Fast – 20 mph Plus – Revealed… And It’s Not What You Think! – http://wp.me/p248iZ-3Lz

Reposted by request….

I was working on another post when, just by happenstance, I stumbled onto something big.  The real reason I can ride as fast as I do.  Now, please don’t misconstrue that statement – I am faster than the average cyclist, but I’m not all that fast.

Beyond the pedaling tips, pedal in a circle, scrape mud, pull on the backstroke, high cadence… Beyond the nutrition (which is absolutely critical to cycling with any speed btw)… Beyond the training tips, Attack the hills, intervals… Beyond the bike and the gear. Beyond the daily rides and the workout schedule…

All of that stuff is great…

Read the rest at the link.

A Cyclist in Mourning…

I found out yesterday that my friends and I are going to lose one of our best cycling buds for the rest of the season, possibly for good.  The wall of his heart is too thin after a lifetime of pushing it.  He’s going in to have open heart surgery.

He’s cancelled all of the rides he’s signed up for and has been ordered to stay off his bike entirely until after he’s healed from the procedure and is well into his rehab stint.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, what would happen if we lost one of us.  Our dynamic over the last year and a half has been quite spectacular.  We each know our role and we each fit to make a complex human cycling puzzle that works like a finely tuned machine.

The logical part of me knows that all will be okay, that no matter what, I’m going to help my friend back to the best shape he’s allowed by his doctor.  I know that I’ll ride no matter what, as will my wife.  I know that the rest of my friends and I will take part in some epic rides together…  Still, there’s that nagging range of “what if’s” that I’m struggling to suppress:

What if this is the end of the awesomeness?  What if my buddy really was the glue that held us all together?  What if he can’t make a full recovery, if he’s relegated to hour-long spins at 15-16 mph (he will not be pleased)?  What if cycling is never as fun anymore?  What will I do without the one guy who is the most like me of all of the guys I ride with, if he can’t come back?

Damn, it’s too depressing to think about.

I know the proper way to think about this, it’s just tough to keep from contemplating those selfish scenarios.  Mike is, after all, one of my best friends and cycling won’t be the same until he comes back.

My goal over the next several months will be to become the guy who can take his place my group needs until then… and unfortunately that means fixing a few personal character defects so I can be that guy – selfishness is chief among them [see, it’s started already].  Humility sucks.

UPDATE:  I spoke to my buddy a short while ago…  It’s good news!  Well, as good as can be hoped for where open heart surgery is needed.  He needs a change in diet and a triple bypass. Because he’s been an athlete for so long his body grew new arteries around the blocked one’s.  They just have to graft new arteries on the existing to get a little more blood to his ticker.  In terms of a full recovery, the news couldn’t be any better.  Good news indeed.

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With What Shall I Climb It, Dear Liza, Dear Liza…

Mrs. Bgddy and I were off, on our way to a hill climbing adventure when I began singing the title of this post to lighten up her nervousness.  

She was not as amused as I’d hoped.  I completely messed her up because she feared having that song stuck in her head whilst, and at the same time, climbing hills.  Fortunately, when I saw the first incline I forgot all about it… as did my wife.

This begs an interesting question though…  With what shall I climb?

My choices:

The Venge

16.7 pounds, 52/36 Pro Compact S-Works crankset, 11-28 10 speed cassette.

The 5200

21 pounds.  52/42/30 Ultegra triple crankset, 11-25 9 speed cassette.

I’ve climbed with both bikes and the Venge is nice because. FIVE POUNDS.  On the other hand, that 36/28 last gear is a little harder to get around on double-digit grades.  So the question comes down to the weight of the bikes:  Is the ease gained by the triple crankset cancelled out by the weight of the bike?

The Trek is the better climbing bike. 

I make no bones about the fact that my Venge is the better all-around ride even if it is a thoroughbred race bike.  It’s slightly more comfortable, a lot easier to make go fast, and better in a pace line.  It’s also infinitely more reasonable at speeds over 50 mph (what goes up, no?… and if we’re coming down, it may as well be fast).

All of that notwithstanding, the actual “going up” part is hardest and the Trek isn’t that bad on the descent to warrant opting for the Venge.  I can hit an easy 50 mph on the Trek without worry and Michigan hills can rarely beat Escape Velocity (45 mph) anyway.

If there must be a point, my friends, it’s this:  We enthusiasts, myself included, can get bogged down in the bicycle weight weenie discussion.  The thinking that weight is everything when talking about inclines is rampant.  Weight is important but there are other factors that can counter overall weight as well, as is the case with measuring my Venge against the Trek.  By all means, if you want that 15 pound bike and have the  $5,000 handy, buy it!  You will feel the impressive difference on the way up…  On the other hand, if you don’t have that kind of money, look at the gearing and save $4,700.  

Of course, my Venge with 50/34 chain rings and a 12-32 cassette could match the Trek’s gearing and I’d still get the five pound benefit… but who puts a compact crankset on an aero race bike?!  Sheesh.