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Don’t be Afraid (or Ashamed) of Who You Are… A Two-Wheeled Lesson on Life

When it comes to cycling, I’m a B guy.  I am a B guy because I don’t want to work hard enough to be an A guy (though it should be clarified, our A Group is ridiculously fast – 24 mph average on open roads).  I am more than content with 20-22 mph, which places me in the B Group.  This is who I am and I’m normally content with that.

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The other day I was hanging on with two of the A guys for the bunch sprint at the finish of our Tuesday night ride.  I wrote about the experience on Wednesday.  Now, I am one of the best B sprinters, there’s no doubt, but one of the A guys left me in the dust and crossed the line first by several bike lengths that night.  All I could do was watch him pull away.  As I wrote, “that’s the difference between an A and a B guy, right there”.

Most people would take that experience and turn it into a reason to revamp the training plan, to lose another five pounds, to eat better and work harder…. only to fall flat after a few weeks, and all based on getting beat by someone who happens to be a little stronger pedaling a bike.

I could do that to myself, but I won’t because I know something special: I don’t want to give up what that other guy has to in order to ride as fast as he does.  In the end, it all comes down to watts and “want to”.  Being faster or stronger won’t mean a thing when it comes to riding with my friends.  I’m already strong enough and fast enough to do more than my share for the group.  I’m healthy and my weight is under excellent control.  More important, I’m happy.

While the pursuit of better makes a great postcard, when it comes to cycling I’ve found something that I can call “good enough”.  I have no need to go any further or faster.  I am good enough for government work, as I like to say.

I recently had a friend from the A gang say to me, “I just rode a hundred miles and I didn’t enjoy one of them.”

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That won’t be me.  No amount of “fast” is worth that at my age.  That same day I rode a hundred miles and I enjoyed all but five of them.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t working hard, we still turned in a sub-five hour hundred miles, but my tongue wasn’t dangling down by my spokes either.

In terms of cycling, speed, and where I want to be in that mix, perspective is everything.

Such is life.  I can’t compare my totality, everything I “have” and everything I am, to someone else’s shiny exterior.  A friend of mine may have a nicer house, better vehicles, and a boat… but I also have to look at what he gives up to have all of that.  

If I’m not willing to give up what he does, well then it’s best to be content with what I’ve got.  I am.

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Saying Goodbye, or Conversely, Why I do What I do.

I wrote about my wife’s cousin passing the other day in a very short, simple post.  Today, we will say goodbye.

To be very clear, she drank herself to death at the age of 44.  

It wasn’t anything other than an over-consumption of alcohol over maybe 25-ish of those 44 years that killed her.  Her death was not pretty.  It was uglier than Leaving Las Vegas.  It was also completely unnecessary.  She could have quit drinking five years ago and been living a healthy life with a few simple choices, an entire tain-load of meetings, and working Twelve Steps.  She could have quit last year and gone on a liver transplant list.

The only thing between her and life was air and opportunity.  And choice.

I left that lifestyle in the rearview mirror when I was just 22 years-old.  I quit drinking when I was just getting good at it, because I saw what was coming.  I knew (or maybe hoped is a better word) I was meant for better than a bloated, yellow death.  Technically, I already had begun developing the telltale yellow hue.

I still get the inevitable “but how do you know you’re an alcoholic” question.  It’s generally followed immediately, and before I can answer the first question, by “how do you know you can’t drink anymore”?

The answer to the second question is simple and easier that the first:  I know I can’t drink successfully because I will always be a two-fisted drinker.  I don’t want to drink, I want drunk.

So that leaves, how do I know I’m an alcoholic, having quit so young?

Here’s the honest answer:  I take it on faith.  I don’t know that I’m not “cured”, that twenty-five years off of booze didn’t fix me…. Except for one little hitch in the giddyup; I don’t want to drink.  I want drunk.  As they say, “once you’re a pickle, you don’t get to go back to being a cucumber.”

I continue going to meetings, working steps, and helping others achieve sobriety because I don’t want anyone to have to watch me bloat up, change colors, have my teeth rot out if my melon, all followed  by a nap I won’t wake up from….  The real question is, “How could being able to drink a beer be worth that risk?”

Someone who isn’t an alcoholic wouldn’t have to ask the question in the first place.  

Saying Goodbye means no more of these moments:


Now, who in their right mind would trade that for a case of beer, and a quick death?

Extreme Athletics: How Much Fitness is too Much? (And other Fun Questions)

This post is about my experience, strength and hope.  My results may differ from yours.

I rode my bicycle more than 8,500 miles last year.  The year before was 7,500.  The year before was 6,000.  The two years before that topped 5,500.  Add my miles up over the last six years and I’m well into my second time around the world (38,000 miles and change).  I ride an average of better than six days a week, but I never considered what I do “extreme”.  Intense, maybe, but not extreme.  Extreme was for those crazy people who are running marathons through the desert, or who take a couple of weeks to cycle across the US…  Not me.

The last time I sat in a doctor’s office (something like 3 or four years ago), after having a full blood workup, my doctor said, “Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it”.  Cholesterol, blood sugar, my “inflammation” numbers… by every measure I was extremely healthy.  In that case, extreme was good.

Going back three doctors and a decade there has been concern over my EKG readings though.  The first cause for concern was the “spike”.  My “spike” is big.  Really big.  The spike led to an ultrasound of my heart and an “all clear”.  I even called my doctor back to make sure I’d heard right in his office, that I was clear to continue exercising as I had been.  The worry was that my heart was enlarged.  While it is a little bigger than normal, it was discovered that it’s not really that big, it’s just strong.

Over the ensuing years I cut days off the bike to a point where I’ll now go for a month or two without taking a day off.  I simply substitute easy days for taking a day off (three easy days a week).  That’s not “extreme”, right?

Well, maybe not.  It’s the duration.

According to my new doctor, who I know personally and have for years, and whom I trust to look out for me, there’s a new understanding that’s come about over the last three to five years about what happens after that spike in the EKG that I mentioned earlier.  I can’t remember all of the jargon, but there’s a drop after the spike (which is normal) but there’s a small rise after that drop followed by another small drop that shouldn’t be there.  It was once thought that the small rise was benign.  Sadly for me, “once” is a very big word in that last sentence.

Unfortunately, because Government-down Obamacare sucks, I can’t be referred to a cardiologist to have my ticker checked out because I’m too healthy.  While my EKG shows signs for concern, I’m not exhibiting any negative symptoms or problems related to that little rise….  On the other hand and thankfully, Democrats didn’t go full stupid for a Canadian-style socialized scheme so I can still pay for the consult and new ultrasound with a cardiologist out of my pocket.  In the next few weeks I’ll be going to see a cardiologist about how to make my ticker keep up with the rest of me.  Where this gets really fun, if there is something wrong with my pump, we’ll catch it early enough that the available treatment options will work excellently because I’m so damned healthy.

Anyway, back to the main topic:  How much fitness is “extreme”?  I don’t freaking know.  I always figured I was a little above average and maybe slightly nutty, but extreme?  We’re not even that fast, above average, yes, but I know a whole class of guys who ride a lot faster than my friends and I do… Then my buddy Mike pointed out over the phone yesterday, “Yeah, but it’s not about the speed.  We’re out there doing a hundred miles in five hours.”  And that’s precisely when I saw me as I am.  If the average person puts in 30-45 minutes a day, five days a week… measured against that…  Their week is my Saturday.  Or Sunday.  In those terms, I may not be hardcore, like someone who races, but “extreme” is fair.

Finally, and to wrap this up with a neat little bow, I still have a lot to learn about what is going on with me, whether it’s just genetics that is messing with me or whether I even have a problem to begin with.  There is one thing that keeps ringing in my melon, what my doctor said about how much I choose to exercise or ride my bikes…  Once you go from a normal amount of exercise to the extreme, the risks not only outweigh the benefits, there are no additional benefits.

That one hurts, and it fits me perfectly.

So, what’s next for me?  Well, it’ll be that appointment with a cardiologist and I’ll wait for his recommendations – and I’ll follow them.  If that means slowing down or limiting the length of time I’m on the bike, I’ll do whatever I have to for longevity.  I like riding fast.  I like being in the upper crust of endurance cyclists.  I like long rides with my wife and friends.  I also believe in one important axiom a friend of mine passed on to me:  “It’s real easy to talk tough about death, until the bus shows up for you.”

 

The Root of almost Every Social Ill is Fear.  What’s the Root of Fear?

The Root of almost Every Social Ill is Fear.

The Root of Fear is Dishonesty.

Period.  End of story.  Put a bow on it.  Just a thought.

Oh Apple, How I Hate You. Still Can’t Connect to My WiFi… I’m Done.

I’ve tried all of the workarounds (at least the first two pages of a Google search’s worth).  Even some of the stupid one’s.  I still get the “incorrect password” for my router when I know it’s the right password and the entirety of my family is connected happily to that very router except my sister-in-law who’s having the same problems with her stupid iPad.  In fact, guess how I’m writing this post?  On my lap top that is connected through that very router.

I’m almost tempted to run my data usage up so I can, in turn, stick that bill right up my provider’s ass…  But the truth is, it’s not my cell provider’s fault Apple’s operating software sucks my butt.  And don’t give me all of this, “well if you just reset network settings” crap…  First, I have, and second I shouldn’t have to reset anything.  I just installed a freaking brand new operating system (a 1.8 gig download [!!!] that I had to restart three times because the server stopped the download more than 3/4’s of the way through).  The point is, I shouldn’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to make a $700 f@cking phone work.  It just should because that’s exactly what the f@ck I paid for.

See, here’s the point folks.  Most people will go to any length to make someone else’s busted up s#!++y product work, because it’s expensive and they’d rather not go to all of the trouble of taking their crappy, yet astoundingly expensive, product back to the store to have it replaced.  They’ll hang on like ticks just to avoid that confrontation.  Don’t.  They owe you a product that works as advertised.  If it doesn’t, by all means take it back.  It’s the only real way to “make ’em pay”.

This has been happening with regularity since I went from my iPhone 4 to the 6 (Gold btw).

So, I’m done with you Apple. And this post is my middle finger to you.

You suck.

Any chance of bringing Steve Jobs back from the dead?  D’you at least freeze him ‘er somethin’?

Getting Your Kids Into Fitness – Patience, Persistence and Leading By Example are the Keys to Success.

My wife just completed her first Sprint Triathlon of the season the other day and she’s becoming quite the cyclist.  My cycling exploits are well documented over the last three years of this blog.  I used to run, before cycling, with a friend of mine when our kids were just stroller-bound.  We’d meet every Saturday at a friend’s house and Pete and I would plop our four kids (two each) into their kiddie running strollers and we were off.  It gave Pete and I time with our daughters and more importantly, gave our wives some alone time.  The fella, whose house we ran at, still gets misty when recounting the story of Pete and I passing him on the way out, pushing our daughters in their strollers.

My daughters have never seen the other side of me.  The overweight side.  The guy who stood in front of a mirror and said, “Heck with it, I’m just gonna get fat”.  I buried him when I bought my first pair of running shoes.  He’s got a grave marker that reads, “C’mon man, you’re too old for this…Or somethin’!”

My wife and I have pushed our daughters, well nudged is a better word, toward leading a fit lifestyle ever since they were old enough to understand what the words “fit” and “lifestyle” meant.  We had help too.  Many of our friends lead a fit life.  Grateful Jim, when our kids were too old to push in a stroller, used to take our kids to a pool to swim and then to lunch so I could get my run in.  I always made the mistake of saying he taught my kids how to swim but he corrects me, “I only taught them how to not be afraid of the water”.  Either way, he had a profound influence on both of my daughters who are now on a traveling swim team.  They’re eleven and eight years-old.

A month ago, I purchased a road bike for my eldest daughter.  She had been asking for one for a year but I wasn’t looking at some cheap big-box mountain bike with drop bars version of a road bike.  She was going to end up with the real deal because one of the great aspects of cycling is enjoying what you ride.  We settled on a full-sized 700c Specialized Dolce, with a carbon fork, a triple crank and a decent integrated brake/shifter component set.  Originally I was reluctant to drop almost $800 on a bike for an eleven year-old.  What if she didn’t like it?  My fear was fair but wrong in the end.  She took to that bike like she was meant to ride and she makes her dad proud.  Her younger sister inherited her mountain bike (a 21 sp, front suspension Trek) and loves it…  It couldn’t have turned out any better.  Or so I thought…

Monday, while on a training ride, my wife mentioned that my daughter was interested in doing the Aqua-Bike at next year’s triathlon, with my wife.  I contacted the organizers of the race by email and explained our situation and my daughter’s age – and also her level of proficiency when it comes to swimming and cycling and asked that she be allowed to compete even though she’ll be well under the minimum age requirement.  They responded that a special consideration will be allowed based on her proficiency as explained in my email.  Of course I’ll have her whipped into even better shape for the bike leg by that time and I’ll be riding the course myself, as neutral support for all of the cyclists (it’s a female only race).  She’ll be good to go and based on this year’s results, she’ll even have a very good chance at a podium spot – racing against adults.  In fact, I don’t know who’s more stoked about my baby girl in her first race, my daughter or me or her mom.

Getting to this point has taken patience – if we were to push too hard, we could have turned both of them off from fit sports altogether.  It’s taken persistence – always reminding them that their youthful bodies will get old in a hurry if they’re not moved pushed on a regular and consistent basis.

Most of all, it’s taken my wife and I leading by example…  Physical fitness and a happy, healthy life go hand-in-hand.  There is no cheating it, no miracle pill, no easy way around it.  There are no shortcuts, no days off.  We can pay now or pay later and for those who opt for the latter, “later” is usually way too early.  Living fit doesn’t guarantee a long, happy life.  It just makes that more attainable.  More probable.  My kids see this and now they want to be a part of what makes their parents so happy.

A fit life is not a theory, you have to live it… And that in living it, life is good.

Cycling for Speed: I Am Good Enough, I Am Fast Enough; Why You Can’t Get There…

First, before I get into this post, the title was meant to catch your eye, a little bit of a, “What the f—?” kind of deal – so please, give me a second before you get offended, if you’re happy with where you are, I’m not even talking about you anyway.  Probably.

I went for a 32 mile ride yesterday.  We had to cut Sunday short due to Easter festivities and it was supposed to rain both today and tomorrow.  When I got home, I got dressed and did my normal sixteen mile route, probably a little faster than I should have, if I were riding the Club ride tomorrow, but it was supposed to rain.  Then I did sixteen more with Mrs. Bgddy, who just learned how much damn faster she can be tucked down in the aero bars.  In other words, she really had me working for a few miles – once, I even had to tuck in behind her for a draft (dudes, she was flyin’ – 23 mph) for a mile.

So there we are, just cruising down the road and we come up to a left turn…  And boom, we’re done.  23 down to 15-16.

My wife explains, because she wasn’t breathing too heavy to not be able to, that the reason she slowed down was that her thinking got in the way.  She thought, “I can’t keep this up.”  “I can’t keep going.”  So she didn’t.  Now, I’d made the Cardinal error of letting her know how fast we were going…  She doesn’t like to know how fast she’s going because if she knows how fast she’s going, then her mind kicks in and messes her up.

I use my wife as an example only because she is honest with me about what she’s thinking, because I know her well enough that we actually talk about these things and because you don’t know her.

I am also the polar opposite, but only to a point – and I think this is where the subject gets tricky.

I have to cop to the fact that I don’t really understand what it is about people who mind-f@€k themselves into going slower than their potential.  I have no idea why anyone would do that to themselves.  I do understand what it’s like to put everything into going as fast as I can, only to come up short, though.  For instance, I can’t, no matter how hard I try to cheat and suck wheel, keep up with the racers in our group.  It’s fairly simple, my max isn’t good enough so I’d have to work even harder at it, if I want to go any faster – but my max is good enough.  I don’t want to go any faster. 

On the other hand, when I get back from a ride, I’m smoked. Drenched in sweat, out of breath, I’m done.  My mantra is, except when I’m on a recovery ride, “I can do better, I’m faster than this.”  I completely lack that mental piece that says to slow down unless I’m smoked – and here’s why.  I know that I have my limits, but I also know excuses are lies we tell ourselves that only we believe.  The notion that I can’t go a little bit faster for just a little bit longer is one of those excuses for me.  It would be a lie I told myself that only I believe.  Therefore, I started out fast and got even faster.  I still have my limits but I’ve been breaking those limits every year for the last four.

The point is this:  Too often it is the tape that we allow to play in our head that says “I can’t” that holds us back from our goals.  It holds us back from losing weight or getting faster.  Too often we hold the best of ourselves back because we fear “can’t”.  We have to save a little for one of two reasons:

1.  So we can “make sure” we have enough to get to the finish line.

or

2.  So that when we do fail, we can say, “Well, I never really gave it my all anyway.”

Both of those are bullshit when it comes to cycling.  They’re lies, and while you may be able to convince those who don’t know any better that it’s really unfair that it doesn’t work for you, one way or another, if you really want to keep up, you have to give it everything you’ve got.  Not for any heady reason like “it’s the right thing to do” but because that’s what we do.  You have to get rid of “I can’t” and insert “F@ck you, I will”.

This is the key to happiness and speed.

So, back to my 32 mile ride yesterday…  This evening is the club ride that the Weather Channel said would be rained out.  Lo and behold, they changed their mind and it’s going to be partly sunny, 52 degrees with 10 mph winds (that’s barely a breeze in Springtime – in other words, the ride is going to be fast.

What was my first thought this morning on seeing that we should have a great ride (and that I went too far and too fast yesterday)?  “Oh, this gonna hurt.”

What was my second thought?

“So what.  I know the route.  I’m gonna rock that shit till I can’t pedal anymore.”  I won’t hold anything back.

That’s why you’re slow and I’m not.  It’s that simple.

P.S.  There’s nothing wrong with being slow on a bike, by the way.  What is wrong is making excuses for why that is the case, why you can’t do better or more importantly, why cycling isn’t helping you meet your weight goals (the slower you go, the harder it is and longer it takes).  Whatever it is you choose to do, own it.