A Fat Man's Journey (Working my way back…)

An Attempt to Journey from Fat to Fit in a Lifetime. Eat right, Eat less, Move more


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A few Thoughts in the Aftermath


Just a thought, something to think about:

16996455_10154384967016593_6380890565890889414_nI was not in an accident. “Accident” implies something unpreventable, unavoidable.

I was in a crash, a collision.

Everything about what happened on Friday was 100% preventable.

I was traveling at nearly 23 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. There was no reason for the vehicle to pass me.

I clocked it on the video. Seven seconds elapsed from the time she began to pass me until the point we collided.

In no more than two more seconds, had we not collided, I would have passed the entrance to the parking lot. Had she waited behind me instead of passing me she would have reached the parking lot entrance three seconds later than she did by passing me.

She risked my life to try to save three seconds.

If I had been in a car traveling 23 miles per hour, two miles per hour under the limit, she would not have even considered passing me.

Fact is, I am not aware of any Bike/Car collisions that were not preventable if either the motorist, the cyclist, or both had exercised a little more care, attention and consideration.

Is the life of a cyclist really not worth three seconds of your time?

Mental Changes

The collision occurred at about noon on this past Friday.  It is Wednesday morning as I write this.

In the five days since the collision I have run through every imaginable emotion.

In the immediate aftermath I tried to make the people around me more comfortable.  I was joking with the police officers and EMTs.  I was lighthearted and casual on the phone with Missus.  I was trying to reassure them and myself that I was ok.

Then I was frightened.  I was in pain.  More pain, covering more of my body than I can remember ever experiencing before.  I was starting to feel the effects of the concussion and that frightened me.

in waves came despair, anger, fear and more anger.  I was confused, felt guilty for getting hit, worried in turns about getting on the bike again, worried about missing work….

I really don’t know how I will feel when I am able to ride again and I get on a bike for that first ride.

I do know how Missus will feel.

She watched her husband get on his bike and ride off.  She fully expected that she would see me in about two hours, tired but smiling and ready for a shower.  If she got a call during the ride it would be a mechanical problem I couldn’t fix on the road and a “please come get me”.

Now when I go out the door and she watches me go down the road she will fear an entirely different phone call.

I won’t forgive the motorist for that.

On The Grand Scale.

This is not all that bad.  I am alive.  I should be grateful and move on I suppose.  I get that sense from some of the comments I hear.

A friend and cycling buddy suffered a far worse collection of injuries from a car/bicycle collision.  EJ was hit when a driver turned in front of him from the left.  It was also a t-bone but where my bike and I were pushed sideways, EJ hit straight on.  The results were nearly fatal.

I know of others who had it worse than me.

I know this but this is me.  This is my trauma.  Make no mistake.  This is a trauma.

My head is feeling the effects of the concussion and will for months.  My left leg is in constant pain.  The damage to the skin will take weeks to heal, months to fully heal. My right shoulder is in steady pain and I face weeks of physical therapy to get the shoulder moving right.   My arms, hands and fingers are all dealing with some sort of physical issue.

And I feel fear about riding again.

SO I get it.  I know that on the GRAND SCALE I am alive, all my injuries will heal, I will be able to ride again and I get to go on with my life.  I know.

But I am hurting.  Physically and emotionally.  I always trusted my riding skills.  I always trusted my decision making skills out of the road.  I believed that my awareness of everything around me would help protect me.  Maybe it did.  Maybe this was the one I could not have prevented.  Maybe this one required the driver to care enough about me as she did about saving three seconds.

 

Peace.  And be safe.


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That didn’t go as Planned (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)


 

Friday, February 24, 2017

What a beautiful day it was going to be! The weather forecasts for the New York City area promised a late spring day in February: Seventy-two degrees, clear blue skies and nearly no wind. To a cyclist that is as perfect as it gets.

I decided on Thursday that Friday would be a vacation day. I would do a little work on the house in the morning and go on a 25-30 mile bike ride at midday. The temperature would be perfect, the roads less heavily traveled.

I was excited. I would take my brand new bike on its maiden voyage. A Cannondale Synapse Black Inc.  Like a Porsche for the cycling world.   The local bike shop had built it up over the winter and it stayed in my living room until the weather and road conditions were favorable. Friday was the day.

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Cannondale Synapse Black Inc Edition

At 11:30 AM I changed into my cycling gear, put the GPS and video camera on the handlebars, filled my water bottles, pumped up the tires, kissed The missus and my older boy and at 11:50 I turned on the GPS and rode out down the street.

 

Less than 5 minutes later my first ride of the year was over.

1.34 miles from my front door I was lying semi-conscious on the roadway. I could hear people running towards me and I heard them yelling to me not to move. I was face down but my face was not touching the road surface. I remember taking inventory. I could feel my toes. They wiggled when I told them too. I knew I was in pain. A great deal of pain. People were now at my side and I felt hands on me. Very gentle hands. I remember someone asking me if I could hear him. I remember mumbling yes. He asked if I could feel everything and again I said yes. I heard sirens and very soon I recognized that EMTs were at my side. I could hear people talking about me. Someone said I was hit by an SUV, another said I went flying. My brain was starting to assemble disconnected fragments.

As my wits came back to me I started to remember what happened. I remembered the red Chevy SUV passing me on my left, slowing and then turning right directly in front of me. I remembered the realization that I was about to crash. The next thing I remember is people running towards me and telling me not to move.

A police officer on routine patrol was already near the collision scene when it occurred. He later told me he saw my bike flipping in the air though he did not see the actual impact. As soon as he saw the bike flipping he turned on his lights and accelerated to the scene. It was his gentle touch I felt on my back and his was the voice I heard asking if I could hear him and feel his touch.

Soon I was on a gurney and in an ambulance. My bike was in the back of the police car. I was on my way to the hospital. My sense of humor was still there. Video after the crash picks up my laughter and me cracking jokes with the EMTs and the police. From the ambulance I called Missus and told her as gently as I could what happened and asked her to please come to the hospital.

Once at the hospital my wounds were cleaned and examined and bandaged.

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Let Leg Road Rash

I was a bloody mess. Both hands were bleeding; my left leg was raw from my lower shin/calf to my knee. My right leg was also bleeding, as were both elbows. I suffered a head concussion and a strained neck. It hurt to swallow. My left shoulder ached. My right shoulder was agony.

 

I was given a cat scan of my shoulders, neck and head and x-rays from my ankles to my shoulders. The left shoulder was only bruised. The right shoulder was separated.

By the grace of genetics, luck, and a great deal of milk as a kid, I had no broken bones.

By 4:30 PM I was back at home, trying to rest, my right arm in a sling, my head feeling like thousands of tiny bubbles were floating around inside.

DATA

I ride with a Garmin Edge 810 Cycling GPS unit on my bike. It records all sorts of information about the ride. It records every inch of the ride, speed, altitude, distance and so forth. I have a surprising amount of data from this four minute and thirty-four second ride. I know I traveled 1.34 miles and my moving time was 4 minutes and 34 seconds and my average speed since leaving my home was 18.2 miles per hour.

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The blue graph shows the sudden stop

I know I went from 22.9 miles per hour to zero in less than 3 seconds. It is that last bit that tells me how violent the stop was.

 

How do I feel today?

Compared to Friday after the collision I feel much better. Compared to Friday before the collision I feel like hell. The good new is the right shoulder is feeling a little better with not nearly as much pain. It is still very messed up, it feels weak and disconnected and I can feel all sorts of pops and snaps when I move it. I can lift my right arm higher than shoulder height now. Saturday I could barely lift it at all. The bruises and the road rash are painful and raw and stinging.

My head still feels “not right” and it will take days, maybe even weeks for that to resolve. Concentrating on a task is difficult. It is taking me forever to write this post! This is my fourth or fifth concussion over the course of my near 56 years. I know the drill at this point. I really shouldn’t even be working at a computer screen…

What’s Next

I am not working. I cannot drive. I hope to return to work by Wednesday if I am feeling head clear and able to function.

I have to get the police report and file claims with insurance. To make sure I am not missing anything, I am contacting a lawyer we have worked with. I want to make certain I cross all T’s and dot all I’s.

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Closeup of the cracked seat tube

The bike is wrecked. First ride on the bike. It lived all of 1.34 miles. I will work with insurance to replace the bike. Mostly I am focused on getting healthy. This was quite a shock to the system, proof that it is the sudden stop that gets ya.

 

Helmets

As a cyclist and as someone who works at a local bike shop on weekends I get to hear a great number of comments about helmets.

  • “I never wore one as a kid, I’m fine”
  • “Helmets are just marketing to get you to spend money”
  • “I hear they are more dangerous than not wearing one”
  • “My friend wore one and he got hurt because of the helmet”

My helmet died a hero.

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The road surface imprinted on the front of the helmet

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Some of the cracks from the impact

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My head tattooed with the pattern of the ribs inside the helmet

The front of the helmet clearly shows the imprint of the road surface when my head hit. The inside of the helmet is cracked from absorbing the impact. The top of my head showed the imprint of the ribs inside the helmet where they pressed into my head on impact. I have no doubt that without a helmet my injuries would have been severe, even life threatening. It would have been my face that impacted the road, not the helmet. It would have been my skull that cracked, not the helmet.

Remember in the first part of this post I mentioned I was face down but my face wasn’t touching the road? My helmet was toughing the road. It was my helmet keeping my face off the road surface.

The helmet didn’t prevent the concussion. It did prevent much worse.

I implore you: wear a helmet if you ride.

AFTERMATH.

I have received well over two hundred good wishes from friends, family and people in the cycling community. So many people imploring me to take the time I need to heal properly, not push it and to count my blessing. Many people reminded me how much worse it could have been and to look at my family and realize that I am at least still here for them. I could not agree more.

As a cyclist I know how risky this sport can be. I know that when a 20-pound bike and 200-pound rider meet a 5000-pound SUV the results are always worse for the rider than the driver. I know that, considering the violence of the collision, I came away in pretty good shape. I’m walking, talking and laughing and crying. I am hugging my children and kissing my wife. I am texting and talking to friends.

At 2:00 AM on Saturday, I awoke with a start. Sleep was fitful at best but I must have finally dozed. My eyes popped open and I realized I was shaking. I had the clear realization that I was lucky to be alive. It was suddenly clear to me in the dark bedroom at 2:00 in the morning that I could have been killed. I knew it intellectually. I knew it when it happened. At 2:00 in the morning on Saturday, 14 hours or so after the collision, I understood it at an emotional level. The adrenaline had worn off. Now I was just lying in bed with my aches and pains and the certain knowledge that I could have died. Not the intellectual knowledge that tells you “it could have been worse”. This was the emotional knowledge, the sudden gripping, gut wrenching, wide eyed, suddenly ill to my stomach knowledge that hits when you don’t expect it.

In a few weeks I expect I will be healed enough to get on a bike.

I will wheel my All-City Mr. Pink (my other road bike) out of the living room and on to the street out front of my house. I will throw a leg over the bike and I will snap into the pedals and I will start down the road. I have no idea how I will feel. I don’t know if I will feel the exhilaration I have always felt getting on a bike or if I will feel a new found trepidation.

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Mr. Pink becomes the primary bike for a bit

I know I will ride. I have to ride. It’s in my DNA. It is who I am. I can’t let this change that.

 

 

Peace and Stay Safe


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The Journey, The Shoulder, The Winter and the Coming of Spring


The Journey

Long time. How are ya?
This winter….

Despite the impression some may have, I am not done with my Journey. I took a break from writing because I wasn’t sure I had much to say. After this difficult winter, the pressures of my job (I got a promotion!) and the depression I have been dealing with over some physical issues, it just wasn’t in me to write. I am still working on a healthy life, eating right, moving more. I did gain weight this winter, a little over 20 pounds, but nothing like the weight I have lost and nothing that sets me too far back of my plans and goals or discourages me. I knew from the start that I would have successes, failures, victories and setbacks. Admittedly, this winter was not a victory and it was not a success. It is not how many times you fall that determines success. It is how many times you get back up. I keep getting back up. I am back up now.

The Journey, as I have said from the first, is a life-long thing. There is no final stop but there are many stops along the way. I know what I want from the Journey. I know what I want from me. I want to be fit. I want to be reasonably lean, 200-210 pounds. I want to eat right and still enjoy what I eat but in smaller portions and without snacking and indulgence.

I want to encourage other and to be encouraged by other. I want to recognize in myself the issues that have driven the obesity. Why I overeat if I let my guard down. I want to be optimistic but cautious and practical in my approach. I want to ride my bike, go on hikes, be comfortable in my skin and happy with the course my life is taking.

I see in some people a disturbing tendency to revel in the failures, misfortunes, missteps and pain of others. I feel sad for those people. Sad and twisted little beasts who cannot enjoy the success of others because their own life is hollow and riddled with failures they cannot see as their own.

When I learned that I am responsible for all that I am I was able to start this Journey and make of it what it is. It is a ride. I have had up days and down. I have lost weight, gained a little back, lost it again, gained a little back….. I blame no one because this is not an issue for blame. It is a part of life, my life, my Journey.

Anyway, Hi, I am back and I hope you will stop by and read a little….

My Right Shoulder

A couple of years ago while doing longer rides I started to experience pain in my right shoulder and between my shoulder blades. In 2013, while riding the NYC Century, the pain became so sharp that I nearly abandoned the ride at the 35-mile mark.   I continued on despite it all and I was able to ride 75 miles. It was a week before the shoulder stopped hurting. It has been a constant issue since then and it has really caused issues with my riding. Anything over 35-40 miles and the pain in the shoulder and between the shoulder blades became hell. The pain in the shoulder became a constant companion. Something like a dull toothache with occasional flares of eye-crossing pain. Since I crashed last summer there has not been a day without some pain in the shoulder. Since last fall it has been a steady presence.

I finally went to the Doctor about it last week.

The news was not good but it could have been worse.

Torn Labrum

Bursitis

Arthritis (this getting old stuff…)

 

A cortisone shot has helped with the bursitis. We are taking a wait and see with the rest of it.

The upshot is that I was able to ride yesterday for the first time in a long time. I did a short ride, fifteen miles, and I didn’t push it but I rode and I didn’t have pain in the shoulder.

This is a victory.

I am out of shape, carrying 20 pounds more than I want to, but I rode and it didn’t hurt.

It’s a start.

Winter

Maybe winter is finally leaving? We had snow just a few days ago. Not much, an inch on the lawns, sidewalks and cars…

But still snow.

My mother used to have the “winter blues”. Today they call it Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I too do not deal with the long winters as well as some. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have SAD but I don’t like the winters the way I once did. I didn’t do any cross-country skiing this winter; I didn’t ride my bike at all. I went outside only so much as necessary. And this has been the winter that refuses to end.

Yesterday made it to the low 60s and I rode my bike for the first time since last November. It is a grey day today but warm enough to ride and I will get in another hour ride today. Tomorrow I will hike with my friend PGB. Starting to get outside again. Starting to get fresh air in my lungs.

It is finally feeling like spring. Finally feeling like there will be warm sun on me.

Though my ride yesterday was short it was a great feeling. The wind over me, the legs pumping, the heart beating harder the lungs pulling in the air… I love the feel of sweeping through a turn, bike leaning, tires digging in to the road. I got that feeling yesterday and though I only averaged around fourteen and half miles per hour I did have short stretches of good speed. And it felt wonderful. It was the type of first ride of the year that makes you want to get back out the next day.

So, yeah, winter seems to be leaving and spring, though a little later to the party, seems to be bringing with it the excitement I usually feel when spring and cycling season arrive…

The Journey…

Peace


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One-Thousand Ninety-Six Days


I Awoke one morning

Though taken in July, 2011, this is pretty much how I looked in December 2011.

Though taken in July, 2011, this is pretty much how I looked in December 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011.

I awoke that morning and I got out of bed.  Well, almost.  What I did was roll on to my left side and got my left arm under me.  I then swung my right leg up in the air and then down in an arc while pushing up with my left arm.  In this manner I propelled myself in to a sitting position.

Once there, I took my two blood pressure medications and prepared to push my body in to a standing position so I could start my day.

As I sat there, still clearing the morning cobwebs from my mind, reminding myself that I didn’t have work, that I was still on vacation, I came to a remarkable realization.

I was tired of being fat.

I realized I was ready to do something about it.

I was ready to change my life.

To this day I cannot tell you what clicked.

I only know that something did.

It was three years ago today.  One-thousand and ninety-five days ago.

I awoke that morning.

Finally

Where would I be?

I have no clue the course my life would have taken had I not altered my trajectory.  I wasn’t a little overweight.  I was morbidly obese.  I was FAT.  I was more than 100 pound overweight.  I was barreling towards an early demise.  Worse?  I didn’t seem to care.  I wasn’t doing anything at all to exercise.  I was eating a horribly unhealthy diet.  I was drinking Diet Coke by the case full.  10-12 cans a day was not unusual for me.  Five-thousand calories a day was not unusual for me.

I went for a walk.  I remember it as a cold and gray day.  Not sure if I remember that correctly but that is how I see it in my mind’s eye.  I drove to the High School track and walked one mile and I sat down and I panted for ten minutes afterwards.  And then I drove home.

Had I not done that….  What would have happened?

I took the first steps.

I haven’t stopped.

I lost weight fast.  I changed my diet.  I eventually gave up red meat and poultry.  I increased my activity level as I decreased my intake.  I lost the weight.  I have kept it off for the most part.

Had I not started this Journey….

I would not have made many of the friendship I now have.  I would not have developed others that have grown stronger.  I would not be in the cycling world.  I would not have the life I have now.  I might not have a life.  I might not be alive..

Where would I be?  I would be fifty-three and fat, assuming I did not succumb to high blood pressure and heart disease.   I am not trying to be dramatic here.  This is fact.  My odds were very bad.  My health was deteriorating.  It was getting ugly.

Here I am.

It has never gotten easy

I figured on this early on my Journey.

I figured it would never get easy.  It might get easier.  Never easy.  I was right.

The temptations are still there.  They still tempt me.  I made the mistake of thinking I could indulge.  I was wrong.  The weight came back fast.  I blew up to 235 pounds FAST.  I fixed it.  I refocused.  The weight is coming down.  The holiday season has been harder this year.  Not sure why but it has been.  It has not gotten easy.  It hasn’t really gotten any easier.

The traps are still there.  Portion size increased as it had to once I went in to maintenance mode.  The portion size increased too much and the weight started to climb.  Scaled that back.  Fought to control it.  Getting better at it.  Weight is stabilized and starting to come down again.

It has never become easy.  I expect it never will.

Beating the odds

I am beating the odds.

The odds said that I would gain back fifty percent or more of what I had lost within one year of reaching my goal weight and within two years I would have gained it all back.  The statistics are depressing.

I am beating the odds.  More than 2 years after hitting my target weight I am still within 20 pounds of it and I am back on the downward trend.

I slipped.  I gained some back.  I overate.  That was much more the issue than my activity level, though that two has slipped some.  Plenty of reasons but no excuses.

I will not give up or give in.

I am not going to fail.

I will not be fat again.

Where I am now

This is who I am and who I will stay

This is who I am and who I will stay

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One-Thousand Ninety-Six Days later where am I now?  I am fit.  I am off the BP meds.  My at rest heart rate is 64 Beats Per minute.  I can cycle 75+ miles.  I can hike and climb.

I am a “near” vegetarian.  I don’t eat red meats or poultry.  I still eat fish a couple of times a week but for the most part I follow a vegetarian diet.

I spend a great deal of time with my wife and my boys.  I have the energy now.  The Younger one likes to walk with me.  He counts my bleacher sets when we go to the school track.  The Older one likes to watch TV with me.  We also go for walks sometimes.

Missus and I walk together and have date-night a couple of times a month.

I work 11-12-hour days at my regular job and I work Saturdays most weekends at the bike shop.  I cut back on the Sundays.  I needed the rest… Come Spring I will get back to leading the Sunday Rides (I Hope).

Mostly where I am is in a good place in my mind.

Loving life

I am happy where I am right now.  Not happy that I gained weight back.  Mad as hell at myself about that.  Happy that I cared and stopped it.  Glad that I go it at 25 pounds and not at 75.

I am loving riding, hiking, walking.

I am loving having the energy to keep up with my boys.

I am loving the sense that I have control over this.

I am happy with the person I am now and pleased that the growth continues and I am still moving forward on the Journey.

I still have a plan.  I still have my goal.

I awoke on that Tuesday morning.

I am glad that whatever it was finally clicked in.

Peace


1 Comment

Three Days


 Back at it.

I am back at it.  Three days.  Back to the plan, focused back on the goal.  Eating Right, Eating Less, Moving More.  I have pulled my calorie intake back to weight loss mode (sub-2000 calories) and I am making the point to do laps of the plant floor a few times a day.  Started Monday Morning.  3.6 pounds back off as of this morning.

I am not sure why I drifted.  Tired? Stressed?  Both?  Don’t know, and this is what concerns me.  For more than two years I was able to stick to it and then I drifted off and put 20 pounds back on much faster than I took it off.  Scary and frustrating.

Back at it.

Eat Right.  Eat Less.  Move More.

I know how to do this and so I am doing it.  I am making it happen again because getting fat again is not something I can allow or will allow to happen.  I didn’t like begin fat.  I was miserable, depressed, sad….

Since I lost the weight I have felt better physically, mentally, emotionally……  All ways imaginable.  Riding the bikes, climbing the hills. Hiking the trails and paths are all things I could do fat and I am not going to give them up.

I had gotten up to 230.2 pounds.  This morning I was 226.6.  Tomorrow? Well, who knows.  All I do know is I am back at it.  Eat Right.  Eat Less.  Move More.

I will get back under 210.  There is no option for failure.

 

Peace


2 Comments

Ramapo Rally, Cycling and Reasons


It started with an injury

It is well-known that I love to ride my bike. I take every reasonable opportunity to jump on the bike and ride. I take the long way from A-B so I can spend more time on the bike.

So why would I give up a perfectly good Sunday to work the rest area of a large ride rather than ride in it myself?

It started with an injury.

In the early summer of 2012 I signed up to do the Ramapo Rally in New Jersey. I had heard great things about the ride: well run, well supported, challenging and beautiful routes. I heard the rest areas were well stocked, the volunteers were fun and enthusiastic and that a good time was had by one and by all. As I was just getting in to good shape and had just missed out on doing the Five Boro Bike tour (sold out before I registered), I was looking for a challenge and I figured the 50-mile route would be JUST the ticket.

June 22, 2012 is the date I registered for the ride.

June 23, 2012 is the day I went on a Club Ride.

Twenty-five miles or so in to the ride I dropped my chain, spun out and tore the meniscus in my right knee.

The ride was out.

The club was fantastic and refunded my registration fee. That is unusual. Most rides will not refund money and for good reason. The money goes towards planning and if everyone who had second thoughts about a ride got the money back it would be impossible to plan accurately.

Seeing as I had the injury and had JUST registered… They were very kind.

Now the thing to know is that I was able to walk, climb stairs, stand… All without pain. Cycling hurt like crazy.

So I offered to volunteer and I was assigned to a rest area. We worked like crazy that day. And I loved it.

Last year I did it again and I supplied 14 dozen of Missus’ home-baked chocolate chip cookies and three of my wonderful apple cakes (recipe below). It was a fantastic time. So, this year I did it again and supplied the same fresh-baked goods.

At the Ramapo Rally Rest Area

At the Ramapo Rally Rest Area

Yes, most times I would rather ride. Most times I would rather feel the road under my wheels. Once a year, for this ride, I love to give my time and encourage the other riders. I do a number of organized rides each year. Most years I try to do the Five-Boro Bike Tour, The Ride for Autism, The NYC Century, Hub on Wheels and The Turkey Ride. The friendly faces at the rest areas, the tech support from the local bike shops, the banana, the cookie and the refill of the water bottles are very welcome. They add to the experience in a very positive way when done well. They are usually done well. On my first Ride for Autism I was pretty shot when I rolled in to the rest area at the 40-mile mark. I had ten miles to go, had become separated from my friend, and was really wondering if I should take the SAG (Support And Gear) wagon the rest of the way. After stopping at the rest area, getting the enthusiastic greeting, getting some encouragement and a quick bite, I felt revived and was back on the road, found my friend and finished the ride with him. Sometimes the rest area volunteers are the difference in finishing the ride on the bike or finishing in the SAG wagon.

So my knee injury turned me in to a volunteer this one ride per year. It was the best thing to come out of that injury.

Sticking to it

I looked back at the blog post I wrote about the knee injury. I realized I am still doing so much of what I was doing then. Eating right, eating less, moving more. Yes, I have gained a few pounds back, I am over the goal weight I had set of 210 pounds. I am not thrilled with this but I am OK with it for now. The weight will go up and go down. I understand that. I just have to stick to the plan which has worked so well.

I find that looking back at the posts helps me. It reminds me of the steps I have taken and the steps I need to keep taking. I will never give up this way of life. I am not going back to eating indiscriminately. I am not going back to being a couch potato.

I am sticking to it and I am enjoying the life I have now.

Yesterday at the rest area I so enjoyed being a part of the cycling community. I know so many of the riders and I have even sold a few of them bikes. They recognized me and I recognized them and we got to chat, we got to laugh and we shared that thing that cyclists share. The love of riding.

So I stick to it because I love it. I know what I was. I know what I am now.

This is why I do it.

Saturday Mornings

If I leave my house early enough, 6:30 AM or around there, I can get in a nice long ride before I need to be at the Cycle Shop for the day. If I plan it right , I get to SmartWorld Coffee at a little after 7:00 to 7:15 and I have time for a good cup of coffee and a whole wheat muffin, a few minutes of relaxation and then I get back on and ride another 25-30 miles to the shop.

This Saturday past was just such a day. On the road by 6:40, at the coffee shop by 7:15, coffee and a muffin, a little chit-chat with a fellow sitting outside at the sidewalk tables and then off on my ride. 2 hours and 51 minutes of riding got me to the shop on time and I had 40 miles under my wheels.

A muffin, a coffee and a bike.... Life is good....

A muffin, a coffee and a bike…. Life is good….

It was exactly the type of ride that I love most. A solo ride at my pace, my challenge and a little break to refresh the body and the soul.

The simple fact is this: I work long hours at my full-time job and there is a good deal of pressure. The Sunday shop rides are wonderful and I love leading them. They are fun and I enjoy the groups and the individuals but the rides are not relaxing. I watch out for the new riders, try to remember the route, try not to lose focus watching out for the other riders and crash (did that, not fun) all the while watching the clock and making sure we are going to make it back to the shop on time.

It is the Saturday morning rides that refresh me, clear my mind, rejuvenate my spirit. When I am riding on Saturday mornings I am alone with my personal challenges. I am free to fight my way up the hills, blast down the other side, watch my cadence, keep the pace up, challenge myself to ride better, not just faster. I am free to clear out the cobwebs and fight my personal battles on my own terms. Flying along the roads of Morris County NJ I am able to focus sharply on the task at hand to the point that it is almost as if nothing but the bike and the road exist. I hear the cars, I see the animals along the roads, I feel the air and hear all the sounds around me but I am not thinking about work, or pressure, or deadlines or anything but the focus of the ride.

Alpacas and a Synapse....  The farmlands of New Jersey

Alpacas and a Synapse…. The farmlands of New Jersey

It is on these rides that I understand the adage that cycling is as close to flying as you can get and still be on the ground.

There are times I want company on these rides and I will ride with others if I come across them on the ride. I have a friend with whom I have done a Saturday morning ride and we had a great time.

Mostly though, Saturday Morning is my personal time. The time I get to be alone with my thoughts, my energy, my efforts and my needs. I can ride as fast as my legs will take me. I can attack a hill in my way, not worrying about keeping up or waiting up…

I can stop for the cup of coffee without concern for another rider and whether or not they like a coffee stop on a ride.

It is my most selfish time. On these rides I am accountable to no one but myself and the rules and laws of the road.

Soon enough I will pull in to the parking lot and it will be time to clean up and get to work. The Floor Manager of the Day will have tasks for me to do, there will be prep work for opening up, shelves to fill, floors to vacuum.

Soon the customers will come in and I get to talk about bikes all day and be paid for it. A great way to spend the day. There are joys in the job. Selling a youngster his or her first “good” bike, a man my age getting back into cycling and the smile on his face when he rides the bike in the lot, the husband who comes in with his wife to buy her a bike and buys one for himself as well after seeing how much she is enjoying the test ride… This is why I love selling bikes.

But it is the Saturday morning ride that reminds me why I love cycling.

Peace.


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Climbing Hills and Other Points Along the Road


Living this way.

If you read this blog with regularity, you know the date. December 27, 2011. That was the day I began the Journey. I wanted to lose 75 pounds. I weighed 306 pounds and I figured losing 75 pounds would be a heck of a good thing. That would bring me down to 231-230.

I revised that quickly. A few weeks in to the Journey I decided that 210 was a better weight and that became my target. I wanted to lose 96 pounds.

I really didn’t know what I was doing. I started this blog so I could keep a diary of the trip and to keep me motivated.

On August 8, 2012 I reached 210 pounds. I have been below that weight for much of the journey since and I have learned to love the way I live.

I am so far from that person. The FAT person. The man in the pictures, hiding behind everyone else, trying to not look so large. I was “The Great Carnivore”. My diet was heavy on meat. Also heavy on Peanut Butter and Jelly. And White Bread.t

And I was fat.

Now? I have not had red meat since March of 2012. I rarely have poultry. I sometimes eat fish. I haven’t had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in more than two years. I will have a piece of whole wheat bread with a light spread of peanut butter about once every two months.

I was sedentary. Sitting on the sofa and watching TV was my evening, my weekend day, my activity of choice for times away from work.

I ride my bike now. I lead rides. I often do 40-mile rides. 60 miles? 75? Yes. I rode 3000 miles last year.

I eat right. I eat less. I ride my bike.

I am living this way. I am not afraid of regaining the weight. I know I have to watch it. I know I have to be careful. I can’t get careless but I know I have the plan, the knowledge and the habits developed to stay in my weight range.

This is how I live. It is not a fad, a DIET, a “program”. It is my life.

I understood right from the beginning that this had to become life. Diets are designed to end. They are designed to fail. “Programs” end. Programs Fail.

I had to make this the way I live. For the rest of my life.

Climbing Hills

It is a matter of perspective.

I love to ride. I am good on the flat roads, the rolling roads and the down hills (I LOVE DOWN HILLS) but I am not good on the hills.

Now BP, my boss at the bike shop, says I lack perspective. We are all bad at hills if we compare ourselves to others. And there is a good point there.

Here is my point: I am a weak hill climber. I climb them anyway. I am better than I was two years ago. I am better than I was last year. I may never be a really good hill climber but I am getting better. My point is that I am doing it. Despite how much I hate the hills, I am doing them. Despite how much I struggle, I am doing them. I am in the game. I am fighting my way up the hills.

Bad at running? Run anyway. Bad at hill climbs? Climb them anyway. Get in the game.

One the first shop ride I went on in early 2013 I had to walk a couple of hills. The group had to wait for me. I was the slow rider in the back.

I stayed in the game.

By July I was leading the ride.

I am not good on hills. I climb them anyway.

I am better at climbing hills than everyone who doesn’t try.

All a matter of perspective.

The Man in the Mirror.

I cried. I stood there and cried. I was seeing me, it seemed, for the first time. I cried.

Never again

Never again

I was in my late forties. 48, on the cusp of 49 I think. I was looking in the mirror and for some reason I realized just how big I was. I cannot tell you why. I think I have written about this before. I still have no answer.

I was around 320 pounds. Looking in the mirror that day I saw the roundness of my face, the second and third chin and the sheer size of ME.

And I cried. For a moment. I stood there and I cried.

It was the second time that I realized just how very large I was. The first was a picture taken at a family celebration a few years earlier.

This time… Looking in the mirror. Not able to blame the ten pounds a camera puts on.

I cried.

This weekend I looked in the mirror. I was getting ready for my Saturday morning ride (more on that later) and I saw a different me and I have to tell ya… I didn’t cry.

I saw the lean face. I saw the lean neck and shoulders. I saw a me that is very far from the person I was 5 years ago, 3 years ago, even two years ago.

Thought I would mention it.

The Saturday Ride

I have not been getting the miles I want on the bike.

The irony of working part-time in a bike shop is how little time I have to ride. I work my regular job Monday through Friday and I work the shop on weekends. This leaves precious little time to ride.

The nice weather helps on Saturdays and I lead the shop ride on Sundays.

Saturday is my solo time. It is the ride where I push myself and challenge my abilities. I ride as hard as I can for as long as I can within the 18 miles or so on the route to the shop.

This weekend I changed the routine. I changed my course.

I left earlier and I plotted out a course to take me about 29 miles with a little treat at the halfway mark.

At a little after 7:00 AM I mounted up and set out.

Now to really appreciate this ride I need you to remember what I said about climbing hills..

The first quarter of a mile of any ride from my home is downhill. If I turn right at the bottom of the hill I can stay on a generally downhill course with only a couple of climbs all the way to the shop over the course of about 18 miles. If I go straight I have a nearly two-mile climb. The first part is relatively steep. The rest is just long.

I went straight. I had my third best time climbing that hill. Proud of that.

Elevation Map from the ride on Saturday

Elevation Map from the ride on Saturday

Then I continued on past some beautiful farm fields, winding roads through wooded areas, a couple of nice climbs and then a ride through one of the underappreciated towns in New Jersey, Denville. A quick stop for a small coffee at Smart World and back to the ride.

Along the Route of the  Ride on Saturday

Along the Route of the Ride on Saturday

Some rolling hills and a couple of short climbs, a wrong turn or two and I saw a friend from the shop cycling in the other direction. I waved, he waved and I rode on. A few minutes later JS rode up to me, deciding that riding with a friend was worth diverting from his planned route. We rode the remaining eight miles together, a little chatting but mostly just two well matched riders enjoying a roll through the towns along the route. JS could easily ride away from me if he wanted to but we ride well together. It was fun.

At the end I had 29 miles in and a new route to follow on my way to the shop.

It was joy. Challenging myself, picking the harder, longer route. And to ride it so well.

Yes BP, you are right. It is a matter of perspective.

 

Peace