Monday, May 18, 2015

Mid Life Crisis

I keep catching myself referring to people slightly older than me as "middle-aged".
Then I stop for a moment and realize that indeed, I am a middle aged guy.
Genetically speaking. I am most likely on the downhill side of my life. My Father bucked the trend of my paternal line and made it to within a month of his 78th birthday. His Father died at 67. His Grandfather at 68.
In two months I will be 39. So IF I live to 78 I have fewer days remaining than past.
For some reason recent weeks have been full of reminders of the passage of time. My time specifically.  Watched the Kurt Cobain documentary. I remember hearing he had killed himself from Chris Comer in Newspaper class my senior year of high school. That was 1994 kids. Bill Clinton hadn't even "not had sex with that woman" yet.
Each night recently I have been watching the final shows of David Letterman. I have been watching Letterman since 1990. I remember because I moved into a downstairs bedroom of my Mother's house and escaped an enforced bedtime. I felt like I had become an adult. That was 25 damn years ago.
I bore you with this because I am reaching for the reason that I am so utterly out of shape.
I have been riding since my last post. Not quite like I should. The man gear has been feeling better. Only occasional pain which doesn't seem as bad. But I am finally getting out. The SHIT weather we have had lately has not helped. Mountain biking has basically been backburnered until probably sometime in late August. It rains every, damn, day.
What I am finding when I ride is that I have gotten much worse than I had suspected. So slow. So off. This morning I rode to Timp Cave. It is a good metric for me. It is a quick little run I can do and not be late for work. If I am shooting for Strava glory and finish with my eyes bulging out of my head I am historically under ten minutes. This morning was not, that, way. While I finished with eyes bulging and bile in my throat I dare say my time was comfortably over ten minutes. My shame has not allowed me to upload my rides to see where I actually stand. I am banking them on my Garmin and hope to upload a bunch of them in a few weeks so I can see how far I've come.
The best part was coming home and jumping on the scale. I am now up 5 pounds since I started "training". When I decided it was time to get started again I was nervous because I had crept over the 190 mark. Two weeks ago, I was 193. This morning I was 198. Two pounds away from my all time highest weight. The freaking Deuce.
I am seriously beginning to doubt that I am capable of finishing the Crusher in July.
Which really would be hard to handle for me. I have never had any delusions of what I am in that race. Pack fodder at best. At worst I am a sad, doughy middle aged guy hoping to be capable of finishing. But I am such a fan of the race and have talked about it so much to people that not finishing due to fat and lazy would just be embarrassing.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Well. It's springtime in Utah. Usually this time of year I am itching to ride every chance I get and working hard to get somewhat race ready.
Some years are more successful than others.
This year has been different. With the difficulties of 2014 behind me I was enjoying winter with a new toy. I jumped on the fat bike bandwagon and was getting a few rides in a week in the dead of winter. It was fun and I thought it was going to make for a killer headstart on summer.  An extremely dry and warm winter put an early end to that season and there I was in spiritual limbo. Still enough snow on the trails to make them sloppy and unridable and not nearly enough snow to make fat biking fun.
Fair enough, I would wait for the normal season to start. No rush.
In February I had another rash of shit luck and found lots of excuses not to ride the road or take road trips to the sun and dirt.
Chief among those excuses has been what doctors have generically termed "Chronic Testicular Pain". Literally this spring has thus far been a pain in the balls. After a general practice physician, two surgeons and two urologists all took turns juggling my nuts. The final course of action was to do nothing.  I have been told that this is a common malady and surgery frequently makes things worse not better.  The prognosis is that the pain usually subsides after about a year.
I am now four months in and while I haven't seen a significant improvement I have seen changes that make me think things could improve. My genetic pessimism makes me think they won't, but only time will tell.
While the pain has not been debilitating it has kept me off the bike. Not because riding makes it worse or has any effect. It is like having a headache that only occasionally goes away and frequently plants my ass on a couch for a few days at a time. Not bad enough to miss work but enough to make me not want to do anything else beyond my workday.
As a result, I have about 100 miles in this year.  No shit. 100 miles.
In good years that is my weekly minimum.
Today however, I have had enough. I am fast approaching critical mass. The dreaded "deuce" is in sight and if I don't start riding I will soon be fatter than I have ever been.
So tonight I went out and dusted off the road bike.
I intend to ride in the morning. And hopefully the next morning. And the one after that.
Although I am not quite as fat as I have been in the past, I am less fit than I have been in years. The only race I have signed up for this year is The Crusher. It is two months out. Time to get cracking or I won't even be able to finish it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I Lost A Year

Sitting here on Christmas Eve, now Christmas. Unable to sleep.  Different than past years when I couldn't sleep because I was an excited child, or an excited parent, or putting together some ridiculous dollhouse. This year I can't sleep because I can't stop thinking about the last year.
Last time I wrote anything here was the end of 2013 and I was pleased with myself for being slightly better than mediocre in Cyclocross.  Oh, those halcyon days.
This year went a little different.
In January I lost my religion. I suppose more accurately I should say I left my religion. It has been a pretty traumatic experience for my family and my marriage and it isn't something I have talked about much with people outside my inner circle but it happened, it is a work in progress, and that is all I care to say about it semi-publicly on a medium that hasn't been valid for 5 years.
Soon after things settled down from that, I began the process of losing my father.  This process actually began several years ago but in May we began to measure time in weeks. Then days. Then hours. Until in June we lost my father.
I was blessed to have a chance to spend time saying the things that needed to be said, and hearing the things I needed to hear. We did not discuss the fact that I had left the church he raised me in. Frankly it never came up. I can't say that it was easy to say goodbye, but the idea of knowing that time was growing short added an urgency that I found comfort in. We buried him on Monday, June 30. My daughter's 7th birthday.
Later that week, on July 4th. My sister found out that her 8 year old daughter had a rare and terrible tumor growing on her brain stem. The original prognosis was very grim. After many second opinions, and a lot of research they came up with a treatment plan that has been difficult but so far successful. She still has a long road ahead.  We spent the summer doing fundraisers and bake sales. It has had a strengthening effect on my family. It has had a positive effect on my view of the world. So many people, friends and strangers alike have helped us in ways we can never thank them enough for. My niece has proven to be an incredibly strong and resilient person. Far more than many adults.
It feels like I may be coopting my niece's struggles. I can't claim a relationship with her that is more special than anyone else's in my family. I am basically the "pull my finger" uncle. But the fact is the time immediately following the death of my father was spent on our heels collectively as a family.
The year has been a blur. Frankly it seems like it can't possibly have all  happened, and yet here I am.
I have never spent much time in reflection at this time of year. But if any year warranted retrospect in the past 38 it is this one.
Lying in bed as Ma was adjusting her kerchief,as it were, I could hear the sound of the St Peter's Christmas Mass playing on the TV in the other room. I have always turned it on after the kids went to bed for the simple fact that it was what my father had always done. I thought about how that is how I heard it as a kid. My room was adjacent to my parents and the old man would go to sleep each night with the bedroom TV up surprisingly loud. The realization that I was once again listening to the English translation play-by-play of the pope from the other room on Christmas Eve soon had tears streaming onto the pillow. It was the impetus for this meandering entry.
It was the first time in a bit that I realized the loss of my Dad. It snuck up on me that I had also lost the entirety of 2014.
This isn't what I usually write about here. It doesn't have much to do with losing weight, or riding bikes. But I needed to say these things "out loud". It is cathartic for me to have them somewhere.
I won't be posting this link to Facebook, or begging for people to read this sad sack journal like I usually do. If you read this you stumbled onto it. Which is how I will leave it.
Merry Christmas. Here's to a brighter 2015.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Cyclocross season is in full swing.  P-town kicked it off early and right now Wednesday nights are spent in Provo and Saturdays are spent with UTCX.  That usually means driving to freaking Ogden.  My results weren't much better than they had been.  Mid pack.
The first race we lined up at Draper and by the end, I was eleventh.  Which was good, but when you looked at the finishing order 11 of 27 was still...slightly ahead of mid pack.  But still better than I have ever been in my life.
Down at P-town I had a passable excuse, or two.  Ridiculous starts and big packs on a tiny course.  By ridiculous starts I mean we usually start 30 feet from a turn into wooded singletrack.  Last week, for example we started 10 feet before a barrier.  Then thirty feet to the wooded singletrack.  Ridiculous.  Another tough thing is the black and red line across the front.  While most of us are shooting the shit and whining about the dumb starts a certain team(dressed in red and black) is staking out prime real estate at the front. 5-6 dudes wide which is usually the width of the lane.
Then two weeks ago something changed. The start time got bumped up to 5:30 which I believe made it hard for "the team from up north" to get there on time.  Coincidentally that night they had a normal start.  Full width lane for a good 300 yards.  I pushed my way up to the front.  Much easier without our friends from Davis County.
At the start I got away with the front few guys.  First lap had me in 2nd place. It was cool.  Successive laps had me still towards the front. Despite a stupid mistake that had me on the ground and trying to straighten my bars and get my chain back on. Even with the troubles, I came in sixth.  A pretty good finish.
At UTCX I had two 11th place finishes.
The cool thing that happens with finishing in the front half is that you get more points on the series.  More points on the series means that 11th place two weeks in a row puts you in the top ten on the series.  Which
In six years racing cross I have never had a call-up.  And then this Saturday it happened.  There I was, number 6.  Call up means that you get pulled from the crowd and allowed to start front row.  As long as you don't screw it up, it means you don't have to fight your way through the pack.  It turns out this is a huge advantage.  On a flat, fast course with nothing to break it up besides on difficult barrier section, it was full tilt boogie for eight laps.  I couldn't hold on to the leaders but I did come in 6th.  Basically where I started.  My best finish ever in a UTCX race.  I am still only in the B's but I am pretty pleased with myself.  Don't think I got slaughtered by the leaders, but there was some podium shame going on from the announcers booth and it looks like at least one big-dog in the category may be upgrading next week.
What will that mean for our hero?  We will find out next week.
Weight wise I am holding steady.  Pretty incredible since I have basically stopped training.  Have you noticed it's dark in the morning? Also, cold.  Had a pretty tough time dragging my ass out of bed lately.  When I do I find I have lost the ability to tolerate the cold.  I have been known to race cross in 16 degree temps and snow with bare legs.  Not so much anymore.  Temps in the 40's have me wearing many layers and shivering by the time I get home.  I can do the dark, and I can do the cold.  But the dark AND the cold has sucked the life out of me.  If I am going to have a hope at the podium this year I have to figure something out.  I hope it's not spin class.
Diet wise, I am not doing too bad. Weekends are terrible.  Then I do pretty good most of the work week and maybe hit the Wing Shak once a week.  Cause I'm naughty.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Okay, Ten.

Almost two months ago I pointed at the center field fence and swung for another 20 pounds.
Swing and a miss.
I have lost another ten though.  That's right, my tub now carries 30 pounds fewer guts than when this Greek tragedy started. Incidentally Greek yogurt is packed with protein and beneficial probiotics.
So, if I am measuring by the masthead on this sad little blog I look significantly better naked, but much to my chagrin I am not a significantly faster cyclist.
Last year I raced B's in cyclocross and consistently performed terribly.  Back of the pack.  Usually @1(that means I got lapped by the leaders for those of you who don't speak cyclocross). A few weeks after the Crusher I signed up for the Midsummer's Night Cyclocross race in Park City.  This is one of the few sanctioned cyclocross races that happens in Utah.  Weird. You know, categories with numbers instead of letters.  Crazy.  Anyway, I signed up Men's 3/4 because that was the lowest option.  Then I got lapped.  By kids.  I was crushed.  I dragged my sorry butt home and cried the tears of a homely teenage girl.  I dug deep and tried to lose a few more.  It didn't happen fast but eventually I was in the unfamiliar territory of the high 160's.  People I don't see often were starting to notice that I had lost weight.  I had the confidence of that guy in the Extenz commercials.  I was hitting a lot of PR's on Strava.  Disclaimer: Strava is lame but it is a pretty easy way to track your own performance. No better way to tell if you are actually getting faster or just riding with slow people. Anyhow, I was looking forward to the P-town Cross series that started last week because I thought maybe I would finally have a grand return to racing.  Like returning to Junior year with your acne all cleared up.  I had my bike pretty dialed, bibs didn't fit like sausage casings and I was optimistic.  Then the race started.
I did...okay.  Last year I would have been ECSTATIC with slightly ahead of mid-pack.  It was simply not a possibility.  This year I have lost THIRTY DAMN POUNDS.  I am finally comfortably under ten minutes from the booth to the cave in AF canyon.  I am back in 32" pants.  Why am I not killing it? Why is Cobourn who has been on a bike precisely twice since Crusher only two spots behind me? (Mostly that was to point out that he WAS behind me)
I don't know.
It seems that I have moved on from gluttony to pride.  Possibly greed. There are seven deadly sins gentlemen.  As Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt will tell you none of them turn out well. If I was a badass I would say that at tomorrow night's P-town I am going to try WRATH!  But big talk with no follow up makes for embarassing facebook mockery.
Taken as a whole I have made marked improvement. But now I want more. I don't just want to fit nicely into my Dad jeans, I want a freakin' six pack.  I once thought if I hit 165 I would have one. 165 is in sight and guess what.  That ain't happening.
So, I will just keep plugging away. I will eat small healthy breakfasts.  I will pack my lunch.  I will swill zero calorie energy drinks. I will ride my bike as much as possible. I haven't given up on the next ten but the last week has put things on a bit of a pause. Busy, lazy, etc.
I also gave up on the Crossfit thing. Okay, I actually never tried it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Next Twenty

Every time I do the Crusher I swear off all bike races for the rest of the year.  At least while I am actually racing the Crusher.  This year was  no different.  I'm pretty sure I am done racing bikes til cross season.
At this point, for this go around, I have lost as much weight as I ever have I am down 20 pounds since the dreaded deuce.
I have become a faster cyclist.  Faster than I was anyway. I am also looking pretty good naked if I do say so myself.  I have to because no one else will say it.
But I am not done.
I look at all of the guys who are slaughtering these races and they are still at LEAST 20 pounds lighter than me.  At the risk of sounding like an anorexic high school girl.  I want to be skinnier.  I still have a big wad of chewed bubble gum around my waist. I am not sure how much weight I need to lose to get rid of that. But I am ready to move into phase two which is to lean up. The improvement I showed this year at the Crusher starts the wheels turning that I might be able to improve that much again.  I am certainly not predicting that next year I will be competing for a top ten spot in the age groupers at the Crusher but I now believe that it is as least plausible that I could improve that much.  There is a whole winter between me and next year so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
With no event on the immediate horizon to shoot for I am going to have to find a new goal.  I haven't quite sorted that out yet. I would like to lose another 20 pounds. I have at least that much in man-breasts and gut.
I am debating taking a drastic step.  I may start doing something like Cross Fit.  Cobourn asked me if that means I have to buy a pair of those stupid Vibram toe shoes.  God, I hope not.
I don't really know anything about Cross Fit other than there are probably going to be kettle bells involved. I have used weights a little in the past and they seem to have helped a lot. Not totally committed on the Crossfit thing yet.  I'll have to fast and pray about it.  Heavy on the fast.
Short term, keep eating better and riding.  Long term, try to make the changes permanent.  Just say no to the breakfast burrito.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Done Crushing.

Phew.  Crusher number 3 is done.
Last week I was in the unusual position of trying to decide the best way to taper before a big event.  In the past I have always joked that I was tapering when I didn't ride.  Others were gradually doing smaller easier rides, riding less often, making a plan.  Luckily, a busy schedule helped me make the decision to do one short ride in the week leading up to the Crusher.  Probably not ideal.
I didn't ride much, but I didn't do anything nuts food wise.  Maintaining my weight in the upper 170's.  I was optimistic.  I think it was that optimism that started to work against me.  I became nervous about the race in the few days before it.  Not sure why.  I knew I could finish the race.  I knew what to expect.  But I was pretty nervous.  Jeff pointed out that it was because I had let expectation creep into my mind.  In previous years I either didn't know what I was getting into, or I was in such bad shape that simply finishing was going to be an acceptable outcome.  I had done a lot of work(for me) and was beginning to worry that it was all going to be for naught.
So, stomach butterflies in check Cobourn and I headed for the Fillmore Beaver area.  The weather was going to be perfect for me.  Which is to say miserable for most.  Heavy rains all day Friday.  As we drove up to Eagle Point Ski Resort and our accomodations there was an active mudflow across the road.  We checked in and began preparations for the next day.
The Crusher is a mechanically self supported race.  Meaning that if you have a problem with your bike you better be able to take care of it on your own.  There is mechanical help available, but if you accept it you do not receive a placement in the rankings.  I have always fretted about this and so I loaded three pounds of spare tubes, tools, and CO2 onto my bike. With water bottles my 19# Beverly was now a chunky 25#.
Saturday morning we headed down to the start without breakfast.  I hit a C-store and grabbed a bunch of high calorie stuff.  Peanut rolls, Nutter Butters and a Monster Energy drink.  Pro.
The larger field this year was noticeably less friendly.  No wise-cracking, no laughter.  All game face.  Lighten up boys, you aren't going to win. At the gun we headed out of town fast.  the group stayed together longer than it has in the past.  We soon caught the big group of 30-34 racers that contained Cobourn.  They hooked on and the group was now nearly twice as big.  We held together until a couple miles before the pavement end.  At which point I thought it wise to let the bad men go.  Once onto the dirt the packs tear apart. This is where I settle into a pace. I was running a little on the ragged edge of where I was comfortable.  It was possible that this would betray me later.  As I neared the top of the first climb I found a second wind just as I got into the big meadow and the second aid station. Metallica's "Motorbreath" went on repeat in my brain.  This was a good thing.  Soon I was at the top of the big downhill.  In the interest of having plenty of brakes I turned a barrel adjuster out to where my rear brake was actually dragging a little.  It worked perfectly and I was comfortably heading down the steep, rutted, washboard road. Once you hit the pavement you get the only recovery in the entire race.  A 35 mph coast into Junction.  This leads into a paved climb and a headwind. I found myself alone.  I usually try to tuck into a pack at this point but there wasn't one to catch.  I found a lone dude on a mountain bike but I don't think he understood what "work together" means.  Sitting behind me and when I would pull of, riding next to me. Silently.  Luckily a swift pack came up behind us and I jumped in with them.  Or at least I tried.  I was hurting all of the sudden.  We were doing 18-20 across the flat into Circleville and I just couldn't hang on.  I was worried I was falling apart.  We turned onto the dirt and into the Sarlac pit.  This is officially the worst part of the race.  Hot and sandy. Loose.  Just a desert grind. At which point I remembered something.  My rear brake was still adjusted to drag.  DERP!  Quickly spun it out and started feeling better.  So much better that I made it up the KOM climb.  For the first time.  Ever.  No stops.  No walking.  No cryi...nevermind.
 I had been trying not to check the clock.  I wanted to just ride my own race.  I had a goal of 6h30m in mind. I thought this was attainable and was better than I had ever done.  Pulling out of the last aid station I checked the clock and started thinking that I might actually come in around 6 hours.  Maybe less.  I wasn't exactly feeling like a rockstar but I was surviving.  Soon I was on the white gravel of Gun Sight Meadow. Or as I like to call it "Angel Push Meadow". The road smooths and the wind is frequently at your back. The road rolls up and down and you are bolstered up by the knowledge that the worst is over. The last rough dirt descent takes you onto the pavement and the three mile to go mark. I was slightly under 6 hours.  I pushed as hard as I was able.  At this point that wasn't much. I was once again all by myself. I soon came to last sadistic mile. 500 feet of climbing in one mile.  At the end of the hardest race I have ever done. I passed the one mile mark and my Garmin beeped it's hourly chime.  That was six hours.  Damnitt. I pushed through to the finish and came in at 6h10m. The disappointment of not coming in under six hours was soon overcome by the elation of being nearly an hour faster than my previous best time.  A full hour and a half faster than last year.  I am elated.
What a day.  What an event.
The other day in the bike shop I was asked if I was "...ready for another participation ribbon at the Crusher."  The point was understood. I am at best a civilian and at worst a hapless wannabe.
I have never been so proud of a participation ribbon.  Or beer coozy as the case may be. . I came no where near the overall winner. I came in just ahead of mid pack in my category and I couldn't be happier.
Once a year I go to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and do the hardest thing I am ever likely to do.  This year I did it faster than I have ever done it before.  Next year I intend to do it faster.
God Bless Burke Swindlehurst and all those who help him put on the Crusher in the Tushar.
See you next year.