Birthday miracle, part 2

I thoroughly enjoyed my birthday yesterday. I woke up at my lowest weight in 2 years (313), I only worked a couple hours, and Rach wound up having the day off. We ate a little more than normal, didn’t work out at all, and I even drank a beer.

The day after an intentional “off day” from our healthy lifestyle, I normally don’t get on the scale. But after lunch today on a whim I decided I’d see how much work I’d need to do the rest of the weekend. When I saw the number, I got off and checked it again just to be sure.

Yep, 311. For realsies. Couldn’t believe it. I lost weight 2 days in a row. So, um, clearly I’ve been going about this the wrong way. Out with eating healthy and working out, in with cheeseburgers and beer. Seriously though, I think this simply my body’s response to the fact that I finally had an off day, took the chance to recover.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend, and I won’t interrupt your time away again. I’ll be back Tuesday with a recap of the weekend, including my next feature on bicycle maintenance.

It’s a birthday miracle!

Today is my 36th birthday. I got my frist present the minute I woke up. It was a present I gave myself yesterday by swimming 2400 yards in the morning and running 3 miles last night. The present I gave myself was being able to get on the scale and have it read 313 pounds. While my wife is buying me a surprise today, and I’m looking at some bike parts this afternoon, this is probably going to be the best gift I get.

If you look at my race results, you’ll notice that I track my weight for every race. A little over 2 years ago my weight was 313 when I did a 5k put on by my then employer. I was still walking every step back then, and my finish time was ~43:00. Last night, I did my 3 miles in 39:59, so an average pace around 13:20 a mile. The first mile I actually did in 12:46, and the next two were a bit slower as I had to walk a little more during each. The first mile I ran all but 2 minutes, and had I been able to run straight through, my time would have been even lower. In fact, stamina is the only thing keeping me from running sub 13:00 miles regularly, as I am apparantly getting faster in my running.

I still have a long way to go, but both the weight loss and the time I put in last night are really encouraging. I’ve had times faster than last night, but not on a regular basis, and that was all walking, with no running. Last night was the first time I’ve ever run a mile faster than I could walk it. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. When I’m finally able to run a mile straight, and keep a pace similar to last nights, then I’ll be making some serious strides.

The main goal now is to take this 3 mile effort and build on it towards a half-marathon. My best half-mary time previously was ~3:45. If I could average 13:20 for 13.1 miles, that would take almost 50 minutes off my time, and give me a good sized buffer to making sure I can finish Timberman inside the time limit.

Notes:
- Not going to overdo it today, just some relaxed fun, a nice dinner (I’m wanting a black and bleu salad), followed up with Berryline. They have Blueberry froyo at the Fenway location that I’m a huge fan of, so that’ll be tonights dessert.
- I’m looking at parts today that’ll take my bike up to the level of a standard road bike. Nothing too fancy, other than integrated brakes and shifters (“brifters”) similar to what Rach has on her bike. It’ll be a slow process that may or may not be in place for the next race, but certainly by the MA State Triathlon in July.
- We haven’t figured out our Memorial Day plans yet, but you can be sure it will involve being outside, and hopefully swimming.

All things being equal

I’ve been eating pretty carefully for a while now, actively tracking my points, and working out like a demon. And yet my weight has stayed consistently around 314 over the past couple weeks. I know enough about losing weight to understand salt and water retention, that it’s not just the points, but what makes up the points, and that eating exercise points is the same as not having exercised.

I also understand that because muscle is denser than fat, when muscle takes the place of the same volume of fat, you can actually gain weight from that process. All things being equal, the most obvious answer is usually the right one. So I’m beginning to believe the gain in muscle is what has temporarily slowed my weight loss. I’m getting better on the bike, better in the pool, and sort of better slightly less terrible in the run. While the number on the scale is only moving ever so slightly right now, my clothes are starting to fit differently.

When we last visited my parents in December, I used my dads leather punch to put a few new holes in my belt. I started using one right away, and a couple of months ago I started using the next one. This week, I’ve had days where my pants were sagging in that hole, and so I moved it in to the last new hole including today.

Yesterday was a crazy mess of heat and humidity, and our pet hamsters were a little worse for wear. This lead to me spending time putting in the window A/C, which spiraled into cleaning the house instead of working out. Rach complained of dead legs during 2 attempts at running, so at the time I guessed it was for the best anyways.

This morning we had a long swim on the books, 2400, almost all freestyle except a couple hundred of the warmup. Including warmup, breaks, and cooldown, the entire 2400 took 90 minutes. I felt strong throughout, though I did tire in the last 400. The rest day definitely gave me a stronger swim today, and while I need to maximize my use of the next 85 or so days, I’m definitely going to remember to mix in some rest.

Notes:

- Checked in again with CBJ PR. No word from Tyler, but they’ll be checking with him shortly.
- The cheating in cycling story has blown up even more with a fully detailed letter from Floyd Landis on how he cheated, and how cyclists could beat the current anti-cheating programs. It’ll be interesting to see how that all pans out. USA Triathlon implemented a stronger testing program this year for its pros, and some of the pros have reported finally getting their first blood tests as of this week. While this doesn’t apply to most amateurs (though reports indicated amateur cheating is on the rise), it just speaks as a whole to the integrity of our sports, their records, and ultimately their athletes.

Adjustments

It’s funny what you can get used to. 3 months ago I was fighting to do a hard hour on the bike without feeling like my legs would fall off. Yesterday, the only fighting I was doing was with the pedestrians who don’t seem to understand what the dotted lines in the middle of the path are for. Seriously, it’s paved like a road, painted like a road, how come people can’t see you should treat it like one?

Now that I have that gripe out of my system, I’ m happy to say we’re really getting some good training weather right now. By good training weather, I mean hot and humid, the kind of weather that is hard to prepare for without having it to train in. Living most of my life in the Midwest, I’m familiar with summer heat and humidity. I’ve never done this much training or a race of this magnitude, so understanding the effects of the weather, and how to prepare for it are some key things.

First and foremost, I’ve been cramping in my feet during some longer swims. Some of this might be technique, but I believe a lot of it is how much swimming takes out of me. It’s more of a whole body workout than biking or running, and I’m always down at least a couple pounds meaning some dehydration is probably occurring. Being that it happens in a body of water is ironic; “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink”.

One of the prizes we won from the Season Opener giveaway was a bottle of Endurolytes, an electrolyte replacement capsule. I don’t yet know how much it helps, but I took it yesterday before our hour ride in the heat, and didn’t feel like I had lost much juice at the end of the ride. I don’t recommend all Hammer Nutrition products (Heed, their Gatorade competitor, tasks like ass), but their Hammer Gels are good, so I’m going to give the pills a try on the especially hot and humid days, or before the really long swims. Plus, making sure I’m getting enough water is a big part of the puzzle.

Another adjustment I’ve been making is to my running stride, trying to eliminate some of the heaviness in my step. I’m not moving towards a barefoot running stride or anything like that, just something that I feel will help with the strain on my knees and allow me to run for longer periods, which is the single area I can improve most, even when it comes to hills.

Finally, I’m working to adjust my sleep cycles. i have a tendency to be a night owl, and I am constantly having to watch how late I stay up. Especially the night before we have a big early morning workout. There are nights it can’t be helped, but I’m shooting to be in bed by 11 PM every night. Hopefully this will allow me to be better prepared to get up early, as I feel best when I get in that work to start the day.

Hopefully these small adjustments can help lead to a big result: a better rested, better prepared, and better nourished me.

Notes:

- I’m adding a page on the header bar for “Team Tyler”. While I still haven’t heard anything new, I’m still optimistic I’ll will soon. This is a busy time of year for the hockey folks who have Tyler’s role, and it’s likely between training and work duties, plus getting some time with his family that he simply hasn’t had much opportunity to sit down and give me a call. Even if he never does call, it’s still a worthwhile charity to promote.

- Wheelworks Multisport has a list of races they focus on each year. Two races that make the list every year are the state and regional championships. The state championship happens while we’re away for the honeymoon, but the regional championship is the week after Timberman. I know it might be pushing our luck a bit, but we’ve decided for sure to sign up for this race. WWMS has won the championship several times over the past few years, and we want to be a part of that. It’ an Olympic distance so it won’t be nearly the effort of Timberman, and should feel not much different than the training work we put in this past Sunday

- Yesterday was a fairly easy hour on the bike. We only average 12 MPH for our rides along the river, but most of that has to do with all the stopping. The GPS tells me we regularly hit 16+ MPH, but then we’ll be stopped for 2 or 3 minutes to cross the street. Finding some more open roads is something I’ll be working on this weekend while Rach is busy at soccer camp.

Nirvana

I learned something big and important yesterday. No, it wasn’t how with no money down, I can buy houses, refurbish them, and turn a tidy profit (though that might be nice). I learned that there’s a place deep down in me that doesn’t care if I’m tired, if I’m hungry, if I’m hurt; it’s a place that only wants to keep going and reach the goal.

I’ve been tired and sore before during road races. I’ve been hungry, or had to hold a nature break for a really long time. But I haven’t really previously reached a point where I was tired, sore, cramped, needing a potty break, hungry, thirsty, and well, just ready to completely give up. I got there yesterday while training.

If you read yesterday’s entry, you’ll know that we had a big training day on Sunday with training in all 3 disciplines. It was a long hot day in the sun, and at the end, I was beat. I actually looked forward to Mondays scheduled workout of 2000 yards in the pool, thinking it would be nothing compared to the previous days effort. Either I forgot how much I had given on Sunday, or didn’t think about the cumulative effect of this bigger workouts back to back for the first time in a while.

Yesterdays swim was a complex one; it started with a 200 yard swim and ended with a 200 yard pull (swimming with just arms, holding a float buoy between your legs). For the 1600 yards in between, we didn’t go any longer than 50 yards without switching strokes. The default stroke was freestyle, but we alternated that with breaststroke (my strongest) and using a kick board (by far my weakest).

I started strong with a relatively strong push through the first 600 (200 swim plus 400 alternating every 25) yards, which was meant to be the warm-up. Then we got into the meat of the workout: 75 yards alternating swim-breast-swim, and 75 alternating swim-kick-swim. We got 10 second breaks between each set of the 2. After about 6 sets, I was about 50 yards behind Rach, and thought I was looking at finishing quite a bit slower than she did.

But that’s when something took hold; I was already tired, and I was getting hungry, but I knew I could push through. Then I started cramping, first in one foot then in the other. I was probably still a little low on electrolytes from the previous days effort, and it was coming back to haunt me. But even though this was just a training swim, I wasn’t going to give up.

Giving up in practice leads to giving up in the race, and the thing you’re fighting most against in an endurance race is against the hurt and exhaustion in your body making the voices in your head yell at you to give up. I’ve never had a DNF, and even if I’m the very last one across the line before the time limit, I’m NOT getting my first at Timberman. So, while I cramped, and my swim turned slow and sloppy at the end of each lap, I pushed on. I had reached a sort of swimming nirvana, where the pain and the hunger and the fatigue couldn’t reach me.

Finally, I reached the last 200 which gave my cramping legs a much needed rest because of the small pull buoy. Getting a reprieve from the cramps, I found strength in my arms that I didn’t know I had, and got myself through the last 200 pretty quickly. I took everything I had just to climb out of the pool, but in the end I had done 2000 painful and glorious yards in an hour and 20 minutes. Thankfully, there isn’t a kick board element to Timberman, or else I might not make the cutoff.

We’ve got a lot of work to do over these next couple months, and some workouts will be even harder than this one. But I know now that no matter what, I can get through them.

3 months

Timberman is now a mere 3 months away, or at least it was as of Saturday.

It’s a good thing too, because I am so not ready yet to take on those distances in succession. Independently, I’ve swam 2100 yards in under the time limit, and my longest walked 1/2 marathon time is 3:45. Even though I consider the bike my strength, I’ve never actually ridden 56 miles, and I am slow on hills; so there’s a lot of work left to do.


Our training has really started to pick up, as we move towards longer distances. Saturday, I did a quick 7 miles just to get work on. Sunday, we really put the hammer down with a mini-triathlon of our own; 1000 yards in the pool, 18.5 miles on the bike, and a 2 mile run. The swim time and run times were fine, but the bike time was no where near what it needs to be.

Our bike was slow in part because we did hill training. We decided to just go out and ride, and take on hills as we found them. And find them we did, with a surprisingly hilly area just north of Cambridge, MA. For a while it seemed every time we turned we were headed up; even when we turned back towards home. Let me say that not knowing whats coming around the next bend isn’t helpful; I prefer to know where the pain is going to come from.

For her part, Rach was good on the hills dancing away on the pedals as I watched her slink on up each hill, gapping on me every time. She’s clearly more ready for the climbing than I am. Thankfully, I’ve been learning more about the full capabilities of my bike, and as I get to a hill, I drop down into the “granny gear” up front, and changes gears as needed in the back. On several climbs I was able to make it to the top without dropping into the lowest gears, while on others not only did I hit the small ring up front; I was on my 2nd lowest in the back too.

And I still had to stop along the way. It’s not my leg strength that’s causing the problem, it’s my cardio fitness. On each of the 3 longest hills, I had to take about a 1 minute break halfway up to catch my breath. I get out of breath trying to haul my big lumpy self up the hills. I can manage well on less steep climbs, but as the climb turns up, so does my breathing, and I just don’t have the practice I need yet.

The other part of the speed issue is that we kept getting lost. We stopped several times to figure out where we were. I was getting tired from the hills and so when I wasn’t sure what the next turn should be, we stopped and out came the GPS. It got to the point where I was tired enough that Rach had to make sure I was reading it right (It was hot yesterday, and I didnt bring any Gatorade, just water, so I was running low on sugar to be sure). Eventually we got it straightened around, and got headed back the right direction.

The good news is that I’m clearly making progress. I didn’t have to walk any of the hills, and I was probably no more than 2 minutes behind Rach on any of the climbs. If we have 80 days left of full on training time before we taper in August, minus the honeymoon, I should be able to get in 35-40 more rides. My speed in the flats is fine and is easy enough to keep up. Now I just need to climb every single chance I get.

The weird part about yesterday is that the run felt like the easiest part of the day. I hadn’t swam in a week, and my climbing sucks, but I’ve been running enough that I’m guessing I did 2 miles at 13 minutes each. Rach beat me back but said she wasn’t waiting for much more than 5 minutes. I’m thinking it was closer to 8, but I’ll take it. I didnt have the GPS with me on the run, so I only went by feeling, but I know where the 1 mile turn around is. I jogged way more than I expected, though I didn’t do it consecutively until the end. It was like 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off, but I felt pretty good. I could have done more but was glad I didn’t have to.

Knowing where we are now, I’m glad we’ve done all the training that we have, but I’m just as glad we still have time to get where we need to be.

Notes:

- We were supposed to swim at 5:30 this morning, but my body simply wasn’t up for that. 1800 yards in the pool as a workout for the day will seem easy at the end of the day. But to start the day, my body wasn’t into it.
- Rach is working a soccer camp this weekend, and taking the car both days so I’ll have time to work on my areas of weakness without making Rach wait at the top of every hill. It’ll be interesting to see how I do for training motivation when making sure she doesn’t have to stop riding too long isn’t in the back of my mind.
- When you train with someone you love, in traffic, on bumpy roads for fast winding downhills, it’s hard not to think about their safety. I find I do it constantly with Rach, especially when we’re exploring new territory. She’s good on her bike, but doesn’t know anything about maintenance, so wouldn’t have the first clue what to do if she had a problem. That’s another thing we need to work on before Timberman. She has a nice bike, but I need to teach her to change flats and other basics.
- After yesterday I’m more optimistic about my upcoming race with the in-laws. I don’t expect to beat anyone, but I think I’ll put in a PR, especially if our running these next two weeks lets me hit that distance (5k) regularly.
- Lastly, the scale this morning showed 314. My next weigh in should put me at a 3 year low.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and 6 years ago

Good morning, gentle readers.

Please excuse my absence yesterday, I took a mental health day. Not that I am any healthier (especially mentally) but I was feeling a bit tired and stressed (mostly by work), and it lead to a rather upset stomach, so I just took the day completely for myself. While the rest of you spent your day at work, I spent my day switching between the chair and the couch, in search of the ideal TV watching position. I wound up doing some work anyways on a project that couldn’t wait, but I was relaxed sitting around in my boxers which doesn’t happen at work.

What this usually means for my wife is dealing with me whining and moping while I switch endlessly between channels, or being tortured by watching me play xbox. Yesterday, she came up with her own form of torture, by forcing me to watch Grumpy Grandpa and Crazy Blonde Regis and Kelly. While it does have a quirky appeal for millions of housewives, to say it’s not my cup of tea is an understatement.

Thankfully, prior to her waking up, and after she returned from work, I got to watch cycling. In the morning, it’s the webcast of the Giro d’Italia, and in the afternoon, the Tour of California. It was a big day in both races, and even though he was only in one of the two races (and neither after he crashed out of the Tour of California), Lance Armstrong had some involvement in both. Mostly because Floyd Landis, disgraced 2006 Tour de France champion finally decided to come clean about doping during his career (except of course about the one test that he failed), and started naming names; including Lance.

I bring this up because outside of the fact that cycling is inherently a part of triathlons, and something I enjoy watching, most people don’t know Armstrong started riding as a world class junior triathlete before getting seriously into cycling. He’s spoken several times about coming back to triathlons once his days of professional cycling are done. He’s even spent time training this season on the IM Kona bike course.

Whether Armstrong’s guilty or not (I personally believe he’s not), the point of this is that Landis is living in the past, and because of it, he can’t move forward. I find that I get caught doing that myself sometimes, though no where near to this extreme. Being stuck in the past can be very self destructive, especially if you have goals that require you to live in the now and look towards the future. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given in to temptation because I thought “I’m always going to be this way so why am I fighting it”. It served as a good reminder that today is not yesterday.

Between the 2 races, the non-stop cycling talk surrounding the doping, and the return of nice weather, I was dying to ride but was stuck in the doldrums of my work worries, so I didn’t get off the couch yesterday. Thankfully, the nice weather held, and being National Bike to Work day (I think this is the last mention of bike month), I had no choice but to get my ass in gear and ride in.

The day of rest seemed to pay off as I felt strong the entire ride in, and including several traffic stops, finished the 5.5 miles in 27 minutes. Not super fast, but I’d estimate the riding was closer to a 15 MPH average with several minutes of stops. Not bad for the hilly roads between home and work. Practice makes perfect better, I guess.

Tomorrow, Rach has an all day conference, so I’ll be spending a full day concentrating on the bike. The Giro, the Tour of California, and a long ride. I haven’t decided where yet, but perhaps a trip up and down the Minuteman Trail. Not too hilly but a good quick ride. And maybe I’ll mix in a run too.

Notes:

- I never weigh myself following a sick day, because the number is always unrealistic and temporary. Either I’ve purged a couple pounds I’ll quickly add, or I eat too much and the numbers will quickly drop. I’ll take a look monday after a good strong weekend of training and see where I stand.

- No updates on the interviews, but I still have lines in the water and I’m baiting a couple more hooks.

Maybe cyclists are the audience…

Before I started riding, I was like many motorists in that I never really paid that much attention to bicycles. Sure, I was careful around them, and never went out of my way to cause them trouble even if they were slowing me down. It wasn’t until I started cycling myself back a couple years ago that I started to open my eyes to the relationship between bikes and cars on the road and how commuter cycling seems to be viewed by the general public. You’re either too poor for a car, an environmental nut, or a college student. And regardless of which of these you actually are, you are a hassle to motorists everywhere. 


When I first learned about national bike month, bike to work work, etc. I assumed the audience for these events wasn’t actually cyclists. Here in Boston I see the daily battle between bikes and cars and while there are a lot of events aimed at cyclists this week, I always figured that the point of all this was to raise awareness of cycling to the folks in cars. If you can get people in cars onto bikes, or at least to have a healthy respect for the people they “Share the Road” with, it could reduce the amount of tension on the streets and make being on the road safer for everyone. 

Sadly, I’m beginning to think that it’s often less the motorists who need an education, but rather the cyclists. This will be an unpopular point among my cycling brethren, but please hear me out. There are two key points that I think identify who actually needs the education:
  • Laws. There are laws that cover just about everything you can and can’t do in a car, and those laws seem to get more stringent every day. Red light cameras, anti-texting laws, and insurance requirements; nearly anything you can do wrong in a car has some punishment attached to it. And in cases where you are at fault, you’re required to be fiscally responsible for it. And yet, as we drove down Comm Ave yesterday, while Rach and I saw several people holding up traffic at green lights due to texting, we also saw a guy flying down the road on his bike doing the same thing. Yep, texting on a bike. Sure, probably not a widespread problem, but as younger folks consider texts a part of their daily life, where there’s one there’s bound to be more. While these same laws are set to govern cyclists, I see them disregarded by cyclists on  a daily basis. 
  • Safety. We have laws that you must wear your seatbelt in the front seat of a car. Even without the law most people do it because they know how well it works. Airbags became standard in the 90′s and it’s impossible (maybe even illegal at this point) to buy a car without at least front, and probably side airbags. All of these devices built into a vehicle (and mandated to use) strictly for your own protection. And while neither of these devices would be applicable to a bicycle, there are standard safety devices namely helmets and brakes, that are applicable. And yet I see someone nearly every day on a bike without either a helmet or brakes, and often times both. And somehow wearing a helmet on a bicycle is still not required by law. Brakes may be required in some states, but it’s actually a growing movement not to have them, in order for your bike to be more aesthetically pleasing.
I’m not saying cars are inherently safer in general. I do believe in the current environment on city streets here in Boston, it is safer to operate a car than it is to operate a bike. And if cars were suddenly removed from the road, we’d see the number of road related fatalities plunge by a huge percentage. What I’m saying is that in this day and age when people are so preoccupied with their own life that they don’t put much thought into the lives of those around them, you can be less cautious in a car and still survive because of the mandates and protections you are afforded. But the same can’t be said for cyclists; Any additional risk, whether it be a lack of helmet, brakes, or just not paying full attention to the laws of the road can be fatal because of the presence of vehicles.

I hadn’t planned to be so heavy handed about bike month/bike to work week, until yesterday when I learned that a cyclist was killed in Newton on Monday, very nearby to my own commute. Any time the report reads “cyclist was not wearing a helmet” it’s meant to give off the immediate impression that it’s the cyclists fault he’s dead. While journalism is meant to be impartial, that kind of writing has a pretty obvious slant. Sadly, the cyclist in question chose to not only ignore a simple safety precaution, he took a stupid risk by driving into the intersection.

Maybe he made a mistake; maybe he thought the car would be clear in time. Maybe he had a mechanical problem and couldn’t stop himself in time. Maybe he was just in a hurry and wanted to get somewhere in a hurry. In any case it shows that for every driver out there cutting off cyclists or laying on the horn when we’re slow getting started at a green light; there’s a cyclist out there with no helmet and/or no brakes, rolling through an intersection. 

This death is just an example that while educating motorists as a whole to “Share the Road” will provide the biggest net safety increase, a little caution and personal responsibility from cyclists is the surest way for each individual to stay safe out there.

News:

- Great commute yesterday. I climbed the hill again on the way in and was several minutes faster getting into work. With the weather turning colder and rainier in the afternoon, I took the bike trail route home as it lets you only interact with vehicles at pedestrian crossings, reducing risk.

- My work schedule today made it basically impossible to ride to work. I need to visit our corporate headquarters and have to look my best while over there. If I were a skinny guy who sweated less, or didn’t have to put as much effort into riding in, I could pull off a shower and maintain a professional appearance while walking back and forth the 10 minutes between offices. I’ll be back on the bike tomorrow, and still looking forward to the big hill on Friday.

- Still quiet on the interview front. Frankly, I’m a bit bummed. Hoping yet to get this stuff up and flying. Have ideas for other folks to talk to, and will get that in motion this week.

Hiding in plain sight

Growing up I was too skinny, smart, and mild mannered for my own good and got picked on a lot for it without fighting back. After a couple months of therapy in 5th grade, I was better able to handle it. I learned Kung Fu humor as a defense mechanism for the insecure feeling I got when the teasing got to be too much. Later on, I did learn karate for when the bullies went from words to fists. Thankfully, I only ever used it once, but things did get a lot better for me after one fight in 9th grade.

While I learned to deal with most of the insecurities of my youth, becoming overweight added a whole new set of adult insecurities. Whether it was dating, buying clothes, or just going out in public, while I didn’t really realize how big I’d gotten I did start to notice that there were things I didn’t do as easily as others. Learning to play hockey for instance was a lot more work for me than the rest of my friends who while they may not have been in perfect shape, had less stamina and weight related top-heaviness to overcome.

To get to the point, I still get insecure sometimes when I am lining up at a race or just getting on the bike. It happened at the Season Opener the other week when I stood there amongst all the folks in our wetsuits; I must have looked a bit like Shamu. It doesn’t happen every time, as there are plenty of times when I am just totally in the moment; happy to be working out or racing against other folks. When it does happen, I try to remind myself that I’m doing something I love, that finishing is way more important than finishing first, and that each step I take brings me closer to a time when I won’t stick out amongst the other athletes in such an obvious way.

Having learned Lowell 1st run is “dry”, I secret “the keg” under my winter running shirt

Racing in Ohio is a good bit different than racing in Boston. While there are a lot of beginners here drawn in by the abundance of races throughout the year; overall Boston is home to a higher grade of amateur athlete than Columbus. Maybe it’s just my perception, but after participating in a good number of races in Ohio during the 2 years I raced there, the elite amateurs here make up a larger percentage of the group and the middle of the pack is faster.

That’s not to say I’m not getting faster or that I’m putting down Columbus in any way; it’s just different. In fact, it’s a compliment to the racing establishment back there that they were able to take someone like me and help me to grow enough to not feel completely on the outside looking in while competing here. Plus, I’m taking on larger races here with more participants who have more experience. That I’m not scared out of my mind (most of the time) to do it says something about the people I competed with before, and about me. 
And even though I’ve grown in some ways (and thankfully shrunk in others) a lot over the past couple years, like I was saying above I still get insecure. Thankfully, that humor defense still kicks in when I need it. Getting ready to ride on a day I’d eaten poorly and needed to be sure I didn’t just sink into the couch, I got ready to get on the bike. And though I didn’t need to, I put on my “That Butt Stuff” jersey as I rode through the city. Sure enough, at least 3 times on that ride, I hear laughter followed by “look at that!”. 
Sure, they could have been laughing at a fat guy on a bike. But I’m pretty sure they were laughing at some guy wearing a shirt that has the word “Butt” in huge letters on front and back. Allowing the insecure fat guy on the bike to hide in plain sight.
Thanks Mr. Moore for your use of the “literal naming convention”.
Todays notes:
- The first day of bike to work week was a smashing success. I knew it immediately by how tired my legs were and how hungry I was at work most of the day. The ride home was even faster, and I can already tell that dealing with less flat terrain each day on my commute is a good starting point for getting better on hills.
- I sold the Fuji last night. First guy that came to see her bought her. He’s doing rehab for a soccer injury and seemed like he’ll take good care of her. I got more than I paid for the new bike, and more than covered the cost of all the extra parts I put on the old bike (except the rear wheel and Look pedals, both of which I kept).
- I submitted my questions to Tyler Wright via the CBJ PR mechanism and they’ve been forwarded on. They have a link to the site on the CBJ Foundation page related to news coverage. Hopefully I’ll get a call or an email response shortly on this. I just wish I hadn’t given the wrong phone number the first time. 
- I’m still getting used to bike commuting each day. For example, today it’s a lot cooler and overcast, and I forgot my bike gloves on the way in. Thankfully the new handle bars are far more comfortable than the old ones and while I noticed not having them it wasn’t something that caused any trouble. It’s better than forgetting my underwear like I did yesterday.
- I don’t know about anyone else but I’m watching the Tour of California with interest this week. Aside from the obvious Lance sighting, the fact that the best of US cycling is doing the premiere US road race is a big deal. Yesterday the coverage wasn’t very good due to the weather, but today it’s expected to improve and they really start climbing pretty soon, which is where all the fun happens.

A great weekend biking leads into Bike to Work Week

Finally, a weekend in Boston where the weather cooperated. All weekend long, we had nice weather. So nice in fact that Rach managed to get a pretty good sunburn volunteering at BU’s graduation ceremony.
Friday,  I wasn’t in a very good mood because I am neither going west for E3 or helping my in laws move; no June trip for me. We wound up not doing much other than watching hockey, and having dinner at a bar by the arena. Even eating perfectly all day til dinner, 2 beers turns into 2 pounds the next morning. It’s REALLY frustrating that I can’t do even such minimal relaxing on a day I don’t workout without a jump in weight. Sorry for the griping, just sometimes it gets to me.
Saturday, I was feeling a lot better thankfully, and I decided I wanted to put what was left of my plane ticket money towards a new bike. While clearly my weight is the biggest hindrance to my riding, my bike has been tasked with something it really wasn’t meant to do; namely racing. The Fuji Absolute 4.0 is an entry level hybrid, really designed for commuting and recreational riding. I don’t get as much out of my bike, and therefore myself because of the mostly upright riding position. While I love my bike, I am determined to make big performance strides this year, and some of that will be improved by just getting a new bike.
So while we didn’t find anything at any of the shops in the area, and Craigslist brought only a couple of near misses (a couple of Fuji frames; one cracked and one an hour away), we did do some exploring and wound up in Salem to see some of the witch related sites. It’s still amazing to me that we live a mere 30 minutes from amazingly historical places like this. 
This is what happens when you make me drink when I’m trying to lose weight. 
When we got back, Rach was tired, having gotten probably a little too much sun, and didn’t want to work out. As I have a lot more work to do both to get ready for our next race, and most importantly to lose the damn weight. So out I went on the bike, determined to get in a solid ride and learn to climb some damn hills.

And so I did.

Ok, make that Hill. There was just one hill of any significance on my 10 mile ride. Then again, because I did the same 5 miles out and back, I climbed each side of the hill so I guess you could say it was 2 hills. It was city riding at it’s finest, well timed lights and a few roll-throughs at empty traffic stops. A good solid effort into and then with a stiff breeze. It felt great having pushed myself to get out there on a day I could just as easily have stayed in and taken a nap with Rach.

The other reason that ride was important is that it’s the last I’ll ever take on my Fuji.

Just as eating grilled chicken with salad is different than eating a cheeseburger with fries, riding a bike designed for performance is different than riding one designed for fun. I knew that it was time for a change, and while I definitely still want a high end road bike, I’ve learned enough to know that even a bike with less than stellar components (my Fuji for example) can be a good starting point.

So while cruising around on the web Saturday night I started thinking outside the box, which led me inside the box. The big box. I wound up on Walmart.com, and I found this:

Yes, that’s the new bike shine captured in all its glory

It’s a road bike. A GMC Denali branded road bike (made by Kent Bicycles) to be precise. It’s not anything special, but it’s a bike with honest to God road geometry. I picked it up early Sunday morning, and moved the important pieces (wheels, pedals, saddle, and accessories) from the Fuji to the new one, and put the replacements on the Fuji. It’s amazing what a little mechanics knowledge and 3 hours can get you. Then I hit the road.

It’s funny, you’d think after riding for 18 months that riding a couple miles would be easy. But the difference in geometry actually had me using muscles in my legs that I don’t think I’ve used the entire time I’ve been back on a bike. Being that I don’t have a full shops worth of bike tools, I rode hard for the two miles up to the bike shop for some break tightening and a quick checkout that everything was assembled properly. It’s an uphill ride from the house, the kind of slow gradual climb that normally knocks me down a little, but not too much.

By the time I got through those 2 miles Sunday, I was pretty much gassed. Clearly, I have a lot of work to do to get used to this bike. But the fact that I put in another 5 1/2 miles after I was done at the bike shop tells me I’m going to get that work done.

Notes:
 - While the whole month is Bike Month, this coming week is National Bike to Work week. Normally, I only ride Fridays, but I’m riding every day this week. In fact, about the time this pops up on the web, I’ll be on the new bike on my way into the office.

 - No news on the interview front. I’m going to send along my questions, and hope it either prompts a phone call, or I get back an email with all the answers. Tyler’s training blog shows him to be further along than Rach and I are for a race only a week before ours. He’s going twice as far though, so that he’s about twice as far along makes sense.

- I didn’t get to the Review page this weekend with everything that’s going on. I’ll get it up this week.

- I put the Fuji on Craigslist Sunday afternoon. I’ve gotten a bunch of calls and emails, and I expect it’ll be gone by dinner tomorrow. Then I can start looking at the next set of upgrades the bike needs.

- We signed up for the Minuteman Sprint Triathlon on 6/19. It should be a perfect prep race for the Olympic we’ll be doing in July.