Monday, September 29, 2008

What a nice ride…..

I took a ride the other evening with a buddy that has been off the bike for a while. Knowing this, we set out with the goal of a nice relaxed ride. And we accomplished that. We took it easy, we saw wild turkeys, we chatted the whole way out and back and we generally had a nice relaxed ride followed of course by a couple of beers back at the truck.

The next day we were talking and I commented about how much fun it was to just cruise along, relax and enjoy the ride to which he responded “..of course it was, you know Rich you don’t have to kill yourself on every ride…”
Obviously this comment left me dumbfounded because I had never really thought of that. I mean, after all, riding is exercise right? And the goal of exercise is a certain level of fitness right?

I spent a couple of beers I mean hours thinking this over and came up with the following formula:
Level of Fitness(X) = Intensity of Exercise(IE) x Amt of Time Available(ATA)

Therefore X=(IE)x(ATA)

Now, if you assume that a basic level of fitness requires at the very least 1 hour, 3x per week, then you factor in the fact that each week has only 168 hrs.
Factor in the basic assumptions that you need to sleep 6 hours a night and most of us work 9 hours a day.
In addition our spouses and families demand to see us somewhat regularly. If you own a home then the project and chores need to be done and if you hope in any way to have a social life or friends then there’s the basic life requirements on your time….

After you incorporate the following other variables into the equation (W) work, (L) Life, (P) projects uncompleted, (K) kids and (S) Spouse, the equation ends up looking like this:

X= (IE) x (3/168)X((ATA)-(W+L+P+K+S)
X= -4

Now granted, I wasn’t a math major, but I come up with somewhere around -4 hours at the end of every week and I haven’t even begun to figure in eating….

Now, although my buddy was right and riding is fun…..I don’t think there’s time for fun in my previous equation…

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Happy Sad Camping Trip...

This past weekend the entire family (inc. dogs) went up to Silver Lake for the end of the season camping trip.
It was a Happy Sad camping trip.
The weather was really nice, warm but not hot during the day and cold at night. The lake is pretty low, although the Silver Fork River was flowing nicely.

Deb and I and the two dogs headed up early Friday since the campground is first come first served and we actually made it out of the house by 7:45 which was only 15 minutes later than our planned start time.
Of course by the time we stopped to do the grocery shopping and at Walmart for a couple of items, we didn’t get into camp until almost noon.
Also of course, things never go quite as planned. Our goal was to get camp set up followed by a nice nap on the new cots. What we didn’t realize was that after the last camping trip, one of the tent poles got put away with Michelle and Chris’ tent so our nice nap on the new cots wasn’t going to happen. That’s ok. A truck with a camper shell and a couple of blankets works just as well.(although it’s a tad bit more “cozy” with the both of us and our two large dogs)

The kids, who thought they’d be up there about 9ish, finally rolled in about 11 and we got to work setting up the tents (afterall, grandpa’s bedtime is usually 9)

Mornings camping are my favorite time and Saturday morning was one of the best. We all got up, got the fire going, made a pot of coffee and started on a nice big breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon….with a few sweet rolls thrown in to tide everyone over. (probably not on the AMA’s heart healthy diet sheet)

The day ended up being a great day, we got a little hike in, the boys did some fishing (you’ll notice I said fishing and not catching….no catching was done this weekend) and everyone had a nice relaxing day that ended with s’mores around the campfire.

I titled this blog the Happy Sad Camping trip for a reason though. This trip was set up as the last family trip of the year before the youngest heads back down to UCSC for the school year and that feeling definitely came through on Sunday morning as we packed up. I could tell Deb was feeling it and as I sat there having my coffee, it dawned on me that, like my oldest, my youngest is going to move out someday and these times will be fewer and farther between.

Deb and I are really blessed in the fact that it seems both of our kids actually enjoy hanging out with us. And, to be honest, we mostly like them as well. So, since we’ve already found with Michelle that you can’t lock them away and keep them to yourselves, we’ll be moving Christina down to Santa Cruz this evening and she’ll start on her last year of college. Oh well, it’s not that long till Christmas break…..

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Having fun and touching lives ….

It’s interesting how you can set out to do something you enjoy and have it wind up touching so many other people’s lives….
My wife and I went to a fundraiser dinner the other night for my buddy’s team that is doing the Coast Classic ride form SF to LA to benefit the Arthritis Foundation.

I’m not sure how Jerry got involved with the Arthritis Foundation other than he loves to ride and it’s a good cause. I don’t know that he is directly connected to anyone that has suffered from this disease.

We went mainly because we thought it would be fun and to help him raise some money. I figured that’s probably why most everyone was there….

What I didn’t realize was that the team Jerry is on is called Team Also-Touch and they have a very specific reason for getting involved in this cause. The family that started this team lost a 10 year old daughter, Christiana, who suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and although, she passed away as a result of another illness, the two are connected in some way that I don’t understand.(

The thing that really amazed me at the dinner, in addition to the ribs and mashed potatoes, was how many people were involved and what their stories were. There’s Jer, who has been involved in the ride from the beginning. There’s the father, Dwight, and his oldest daughter, there’s the doctor from Stanford that attended to Christiana, there’s a spin class coach who got one of his students involved. The student, rides with a bike club in Tracy and he got a couple of his riding friends involved, then there are all of us that just know Jerry from his rides…

It’s interesting how fitness and fund raising go hand in hand. As a kid I can remember doing a walk-a-thon where people pledged a certain amount of money per mile walked. And, now we’ve got literally hundreds of walking, running and biking events that raise money for a good cause.

And of course there’s the Tour de Donut….which although it’s not a fund raiser, looks like something I could definitely have a chance of winning…..
The Tour de Donut bicycle "race" starts with a mass start

The route has varied slightly from year-to-year do to road conditions/construction and is over rolling terrain with two donut stops. Riders must stop at the two checkpoint stations (donut stops). Donut consumption is not mandatory, however, a five minute bonus is awarded for each donut consumed and recorded. After the race placement awards are presented for best Elapsed Time, Adjusted Time and Most Donuts Eaten. Door/Attendance prizes and a grand prize are also awarded.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Riding at that place known as …..the Edge….

I know you’ve been there. It’s a great place to ride….as long as you stay within the Edge and don’t go over the Edge…..

Some days getting there is easy….you start off feeling great….start cranking along and pretty soon you’re there….just rippin it up at the Edge. Legs turning, lungs pumping but not burning, wheels humming along effortlessly over the bumps and dips and washboards….it’s almost as if you and the bike are one. Perfectly balanced and fluid.

The challenge though is to not go over the Edge. This is where your lungs feel like they’ll explode, you can feel your heartbeat in your ears, every bump throws you off your line and you just can’t get in the groove….

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the Edge is not a specific place as much as a mental and physical state. And it’s fun when you’re there. I’ve had some great rides there. Rides where I’m really strong going uphill and really smooth and fast going downhill….I love those days…..

But, last night was not one of those days…

One of our group suggested a new route and we, like the lemmings we are, joyfully agreed. The first part is nice. It cuts out some miles and a couple of the climbs. The problem is it also cuts out the one long climb and replaces it with a shorter climb. Which, I assumed, would be a good thing….well, you know what they say about assuming….it was only after getting a little more than half way up that it dawned on me that I still had to get to the top of the ridge and substituting a long grinding climb with a shorter one would require the shorter climb to be steeper….MUCH steeper.

I quickly went over the Edge….I could feel my lungs preparing to explode, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, I couldn’t get enough air and did I just feel something “pop” in my calf???? Whose FREAKIN idea was this route anyway?????

And…to top it all off, when we finally did reach the top, which I must confess required walking, I find out that the genius that suggested this route had bailed and was headed back to camp (with some lame excuse about mechanical failures….riiiiight)

But, we survived and eventually made it to the top where we crossed the road and caught on to our normal loop. The worst part is that I never really did recover from going over the Edge. Sure, my heart rate settled down and I was able to shove my lungs back down into my chest where they belonged but my rhythm was off the rest of the evening. I somehow left my groove halfway up that first hill.

The only upside to all of this is that the guy that picked the route will end up spending a lot of money on a new bike which for some sick and twisted reason does make me feel a little better….

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So....what's next Mr. A???

A couple of months back as I was dragging one of my buddies, (we’ll call him Mr. A) up the Alp d’ Huez, and we got to talking about what he was planning on doing with his future….(ok, I was doing most of the talking since he couldn’t really keep up with me, fight for breath and talk at the same time) I mean, he’s done the Tour de France thing enough times that he’s proven himself one of the greatest racers of all time, he ran the Boston marathon in under 2:50 and although he didn’t win the Leadville 100 he still finished second which is a pretty impressive feat for a non mt biker…
So what’s next? I asked…..

Well, of course at the pace I was setting for him, he was having a hard time breathing and at the time, I wasn’t sure if it was oxygen depravation or if he was really serious, but he said “I have several goals in my life right now……one, is to pose naked on the cover of a women's magazine, the second is to win an eighth Tour de France title and the third is to someday run for Govenor of Texas.....

Now, granted, I had been pushing this tired old 37 year old to keep up with me as we crested mountain after mountain in the Alps, and he was probably just blustering to save his self esteem since he was getting his butt kicked by an old, fat, balding guy on a single speed, but could he really be serious? Could he really try to win another Tour?

Well, of course he could….just look at the past Olympics. We had a 41 year old mother win three silver medals in swimming. The age at which we’re expected to slow down and relax, our golden years continues to go up. Many athletes are still competing well into their 30’s and even 40’s …Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Nolan Ryan to name a few…

So anyway, once we were done with the ride and Mr A had gotten his heart rate back under control and was able to talk in full sentences again I asked just how serious he was….and although at our age “as serious as a heart attack” isn’t a phrase we use too often, he said he was really serious…..

I guess one of his goals has been attained...and he's pretty committed to the second one..,

I actually think he can pull this off.....and the fact that he'll get back in racing shape will definitely halp in the fact that I won't be waiting for him all the time at the top of the climbs......

(Note - the author makes no claims whatsoever to the validity of the above stated claims and in no way guarantees, implies or by any statement attests to the accuracy of the above stories....esp as regards a certain middle age,out of shape, balding rider having ridden with or being forced to wait on a certain famous unnamed rider/racer/cancer survivor/superhero)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Workin out….Old Skool…..

Saturday was supposed to be my grandson’s 2nd birthday party. And since I’d rather hang out with him and eat cake than ride my mountain bike, I passed on the Big Basin ride with the gang…..
Turns out, the little guy had some sort of a virus and a fever so not only did I not get to see him, but there was no birthday cake in my immediate future AND I had bailed on a really fun ride….
So, in an effort to avoid the crankiness that usually comes with sitting idly on a weekend, I launched myself into some projects.

First, I finished and painted the trellis I started a few months ago. Then I wired up and installed the lights for said trellis. It looks really good if I do say so myself.

Then, with a big chunk of the day still in front of me, I decided to split some firewood that I had piled on the side of my driveway back in the Spring.
Now, other than riding and running and an occasional game of basketball, I don’t really work out anymore. I mean, at least not in the traditional weight-lifting sense….
Even though, I still tend to think I’m in fairly good shape and figured I’d have no issues splitting about a half cord of wood…….yeah, I was wrong…!

Between the lifting of the rounds, the swinging of the sledge for the maul, and then the ax for the smaller chunks, loading it in the wheelbarrow and later stacking it in the backyard…..I was tired. Reeeealllly tired…..The tired that comes from having done something. Which is different than the tired that you get sitting on the couch watching football as I did yesterday.

The really crazy thing is just how sore I was today when I got out of bed….I’m sore from my shoulders to my waist with the majority being in the trunk area. My sides, abs and back feel like I just did about a gazillion situps. My shoulders are sore and tight and my forearms are tired to the point that I have no strength in my grip…..

Which got me to thinking….I can remember my grandfather having a grip like a vice, zero body fat and wiry arms that looked like cords of rope under his t-shirt when working in the yard and he never lifted weights or did any “exercise”….he just worked….

Hmmm……..I think I’ll sit on my back patio with a beer this evening and see if there are any lessons I can learn here….now, where did I put that cookie????

Friday, September 5, 2008

Do I look anxious to you??????

For the past couple of months I’ve been having these weird “episodes”. I call them that based on the fact that no-one seems to be able to tell me what the real issue is. Basically it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and my arms go numb. Now, normally this sounds like a heart attack right? But it’s obviously not since it never happens when I’m running or riding and passes in less than a minute with no other effects. It happens less than once a month and only at times when my heart is normally at rest.....sitting at the desk, walking through the mall, driving in my truck...watching TV.....

In an effort to figure this out (and appease my wife that I'm not the walking dead) I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. He’s a runner and a pretty straight shooter and after taking my blood pressure, asking me a bunch of questions and listening to my chest, he agreed that it’s probably not my heart, but wanted to schedule an EKG, chest xray and stress test just to rule everything out.
So, I went down to the lab, had the EKG and Xray done and then setup the stress test for this past Tuesday.

The stress test is actually pretty interesting...
Basically you take off your shirt, the nurse wipes you down with alcohol wipes that I’m pretty sure are frozen solid for your enjoyment, then they use sandpaper to rough up your skin - honest, she told me it was sandpaper - and they attach about 12 million little wires to you. (I think in some countries this would be considered foreplay)

After you’re all prepared the nurse explains that the treadmill will automatically increase in speed and elevation regularly until you reach your max heart rate….not sure how they tell what your max is….unless they keep increasing it until you actually die….

Once I’m all set up and on the treadmill (with 12 million wires hanging off me) the cardiologist comes in and starts asking questions. Why are you here, describe your symptoms, when do they happen, what’s your diet like, how often do you exercise…..etc.

I explained that I didn’t think it was my heart since I never have an issue when I run or ride and that I was mainly having all this done to prove to my wife that I didn’t have heart problems.

Immediately, whether from his tone or his posture I wasn’t sure, but I got the distinct feeling he pegged me as a hypochondriac….which I’m not. Ask my wife, I’m the last person to complain about my health and I rarely go to the doctor. Either way, I was now feeling somewhat defensive.

Anyway, when he asked about exercise I told him that I ride my bike about a hundred miles a week and that I had ridden about 40 miles the day before.
To which he replied, “Why do you ride so much?” I was a little dumbfounded by his question and just said, because I enjoy it and exercise is good for you….right?
Well, yes he says, in moderation…but not that much, that’s just excessive. And why would you ride on Monday when it was so hot? You could have died….

I explained that we were in the City so it wasn’t that hot on Monday and I hardly think 3 rides a week to be excessive.

He then went on to ask me, why, if you think you have a heart condition would you be exercising at such an extreme level….again, it’s not extreme and as I stated before, I don’t think I have a heart condition….oh, so now you’re a doctor he asks????

What the h#**? Did I do something to offend this guy? Isn’t he supposed to encourage my healthy lifestyle? Why do I feel like he thinks I’m some sort of idiot? Maybe I should just start smoking and sitting around so he can prescribe some pill and justify his million dollar education….

Anyway, the treadmill starts going, and going, and going…..and finally he says well, you’re on level 7 and aren’t at your target heart rate, you’re obviously healthy, I don’t know why you even came in. (well, it sure as heck wasn’t my idea)

He then asks if I want to keep going or end the test… now, I really don’t like this guy and knowing he’s probably late for his golf game or something I tell him Yes, I want to keep going….. finally, at level 8 I reach my target heart rate. Which he says is 150 and he starts slowing down the treadmill, tells me I’m fine and says once the nurse unhooks me from everything I’m free to go…..

At this point, I’ve learned absolutely nothing about these “episodes” and it’s obvious my doctors know even less so I ask him….well, what is it… which he replies….it’s obviously just anxiety…… huh? Me?? Yeah, pretty sure he pulled that one out of the back of his fancy smock…..

The good news is my wife is no longer shopping for more expensive life insurance and hasn’t started selling my stuff on Ebay since she’s resigned herself to the fact that she’s stuck with me a little longer

The icing on regular doctor, whom I actually like, emails me today and says everything looks good but if I want to talk to a "professional" about my anxiety he can set it up.... I DON'T HAVE ANXIETY DAMMIT!!!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's a little warm out there....

It’s funny how now that we’ve passed Labor Day, the unofficial end of Summer, and are heading towards the Fall that we’re having some of the hottest rides of the year.
Last week, when we started our Wednesday afternoon ride up and over Redwood Rd, my truck showed 100 degrees. Last night was quite a bit cooler showing a brisk 99 degrees in Castro Valley. The loop is a quick 20 mile out and back with about 2000ft of climbing so it’s perfect for an after work ride.

It’s amazing to me how much of an effect the heat has on my performance. In the Spring I do this ride with one water bottle and finish feeling pretty good. Last Wednesday and again last night, I went through both bottles and finished feeling much more tired than I should have for a 20 mile ride. As a matter of fact, one of my buddies, who is a very strong rider, ended up stopping in the shade part way up last week just because it was so freaking hot.

My question now is, are there any added benefits to riding when it’s so hot or is it just more dangerous? I’ve read that you burn more calories when it’s hot since your body has to work harder to cool you off, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not.

Maybe like some of my buddies (you know who you are) I should stay home and have a beer when it’s too hot to ride……

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some days, you just get lucky…..

Its funny how sometimes things work out even better than you expect….

I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that I probably wasn’t going to get a ride in this weekend. I had way too much stuff to do around the house and figured I’d spend most of my Labor Day holiday actually…well… laboring…..

But, Saturday went so well and I got the two major projects I had to complete done in one day instead of the two I had planned. That just left the normal weekend chores to do and Deb had gotten most of the house and laundry taken care of Saturday so all I had to worry about were the yards….

So on Sunday, talking to Jer, we decided we were going to ride on Monday and blow off any responsibilities we may have. We’d go from Chrissy Field, across the Golden Gate, through the Marin Headlands, Sausalito and the Paradise drive loop.

Now, I’m sure everyone has heard the famous quote about the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. And it’s true. You never really know what you’re going to get for weather over there. Some days it’s cool and clear, some days it’s foggy and damp and once in a great while you get a perfectly clear bluebird day and guess what??? Monday was a perfectly clear, bluebird day!

As a matter of fact, when I went to early Monday morning to look at the weather for SF and Marin, they listed it as “abundant sunshine”….don’t think I’ve ever seen it listed that way before and decided that was a very good omen and a sign that I was meant to be riding and not mowing lawns and pulling weeds.

We rode across the bridge enjoying the “abundant sunshine” turned and headed up Conzelman Rd into the headlands…, this was a FANTASTIC idea!!!

When we got to the top we were rewarded with the most amazing views. The City looks great from the headlands, the bridge practically shines and you could see all the way to Mt Diablo in the distance.

One of the coolest parts of this ride is coming down the backside, the first part of the descent is steep and with the sharp curve makes it look like you’re going to ride right off into the ocean. After that you go by some very cool old military batteries that were built back in the 1900’s to protect our shores from invasion. (side note – these batteries had 12” guns that could fire a projectile 15,000 yards)
One of these days I’m going to have to come back here with the family to explore and take pictures.

From there we rode through Suasalito, where we saw the beginnings of a fire at the local hotel, (although we didn’t know it was a fire at first) then on to Tiburon for lunch at the Shark Deli, up through Paradise drive and back to Chrissy Field.
I was amazed at just how busy Chrissy Field was when we got back. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people out there other than possibly during fleet week.
So, what looked to be a long weekend of chores actually ended with a fantastic ride on one of the most beautiful days in the City.....and I have the sunburn to prove it.