Monday, June 30, 2008

Me As An Example

Example of what, you ask. Why, several things, I reply. Let me explain. I spend more time and miles on two wheels or feet than in a car. Thus, I am an example of a way the average person can conserve fuel and save a bit of cash. Also, improving my health. This will be a positive long term impact on not only the environment and health care system, but my mental well being as well. Nothing gets me out of a funk quicker than some quality exercise.

Everything is getting more expensive. I, being a diabetic, am a glaring example of this. Food is going up in price, especially the things I eat. Lean meat, fruit, and vegetables are following the rising fossil fuel trend. Trucking fresh, quality food to market is getting more costly by the day. I can't eat romen noodles and cheap, processed, crap and expect to maintain my health. Cuts have to be made in other areas to meet nutritional goals. It's starting to hurt.

My social life has to be pared down to minimum. The wife and I would hit the movie theater 2 to 3 times a month, eat out once or twice a week, and travel to the campground almost every weekend in the summer. Now, the spare cash isn't there. A year ago, a tank of gas in either of our vehicles would run @42.00 dollars. Last weekend, it was $69.00. So we drive less, go less places, pump less into the economy than we used to. Actually, we are spending the same, but it is concentrated in one area instead of several. This only helps one interest instead of several.

My wages aren't going up. At all. Not going to happen any time soon, as far as I can see. I'm not in a union, so no scheduled raises. No cost of living. The industry I am in is at a dead end standstill. It has been for several years. A radical shift in the way it's run and perceived is need before it can be considered a good occupation. The general public wants top notch service but doesn't want to pay for it. I often advise young people not to get involved in the industry, as right now it's headed for long hours, poor wages and benefits, no job security, in other words, a dead end.

Is there a happy ending? I hope so. Our parents went through much worse. They didn't have the rapidly changing technology and it's ability to help quickly solve problems that at first look insurmountable but when looked back on were fairly minor compared to what earlier generations had to deal with. I want to be in the generation that was the example of how to get it done.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Livin' The Dream

I caught the Discovery HD Theater special on the pre-ride of stage 16 of the 2007 Tour De France. 2 average Joes were picked to see how they could handle a mountain stage the day before the pros ran it. First, they were each given a new Trek Madone, sent to Spain for a ride in the higher altitude mountains with Tom Danielson to see what it's like.The next day was a casual ride with Levi and George. Then back to Colorado to get a bike fitting and V0 max tests at Carmichaels training facility. After that, they were on their own to train for 6 weeks before the Tour.

The most interesting thing was when they were talking with Johan Bruyneel about what they needed to do to get ready. One rider said he was riding 30 miles a day. Johan said to get in more miles. He seemed to hardly contain his laughter when talking to the other guy, who was about 50 lbs over weight. Basic instruction was ride more and loose weight. But concentrate on the weight loss. Duh!!

In the end, the big guy made 2 of the 3 climbs before throwing in the towel, and the other made the whole stage, finishing in a time that would have put him in the main field with the pros. But he hadn't run the previous 15 stages like the pros had. Al in all, an interesting look behind the scenes at Trek and Discovery. Some beautiful camera work and back drops made it a different experience than your stock Euro-tv coverage. I want to go to Spain and ride...

Dirt Spanker

I swung by the Dirt Spanker out at Mon Du Lac on Sunday afternoon. Got some shots of the Ski Hut team rider between the rain. Made for some slick single track and grass. Looked like the racers were having a great time though. Walking up and down the hill was a little tough on the knee, so I didn't stay all afternoon. A lot of family stuff going on, so my century plan got cut short. 25 miles on the MTB Saturday morning while following the Grandma's Marathon, the 30 mile on the road Sunday morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Giving Up

At the left you see what I would love to be able to give up - my daily habit. Hard earned through years of excess and lack of discipline. Pills and injections, none of it performance enhancing, either. At least the drug companies profit from my past and genetic predisposition to diabetes.

To truly give this stuff up, if it is possible to get totally off of all of it, except the non-prescription supplements, is a reversal of the past. Just say no ? That, my friends is the biggest obstacle I face. To change eating habits learned and reinforced over a lifetime is one tall hurdle, one that needs constant vigilance and support.

Everyday life doesn't always agree with my plan of attack. My family is typical in that they mean well, but don't always realize the implications of their well meaning but misguided actions. You just can't eat out or party all the time. There is very little a diabetic can enjoy at McDonalds or Burger King. Fast food= slow death. Time must be made for exercise almost every day. The daily regimen must be planned and followed. At this point, it isn't working that great for me.
With all the information out there, you'd think it would be easy. Unless those close to you take an active roll, failure may be unavoidable. If you're loved one had lung cancer, would you push cigarettes on them? How about drugs? Same deal. A quick survey of our pantry showed nothing but pasta and packaged garbage. None of which I shopped for. Cheap, high carb crap that would never get into my shopping cart. Let's face it, eating well is not inexpensive. But health care for diabetics cost much, much more. I'm lucky to have good insurance, but many aren't so lucky.
I'm going to have to give up many things we enjoy to get the weight and blood sugar down. Being constantly surrounded by temptation is getting the best of me, especially at the campground where it's a constant eating and drinking fest. And none of it healthy, believe me. I'm lucky that I can take off on my bike and ride, but being anti-social is not my style. Less time spent there is the short term solution. Long term is changing our family's understanding of diabetes and getting them on board with what needs to be done to get us all healthy. I will be a long row to hoe. But I think I can do it!

No Cone Of Smugness?

I took a ride up the shore last night. 75 and sunny. You just couldn't ask for anything more. At the left is a pic I took in one of those WTF moments. Then I realised this weekend is Grandma's Marathon. Mile 13 must be known for nature's call, as there was the highest concentration of Brent's Biffies along the route.

My knee is holding up well after surgery. Very little stiffness in the morning and it doesn't give out on stairs like it did before the repairs. Getting in and out of cars is still a little uncomfortable, but much better than before. I can climb out of saddle better than I have in a long time, but I'm still a snail compared to others I have ridden with lately. This will get better with more hill riding and weight loss. You just can't fool gravity, no matter how you try.

This coming up weekend, I'm planning a century on Saturday, probably down to the camper and back. Hopefully, the weather holds out. I'll take the Munger Trail, which btw, needs some work. The stretch near the Buffalo House is in bad need of resurfacing. Sunken areas and a lot of mini "volcano's" make for a bumpy and potentially damaging ride. I'm not sure who to talk to, but I'll find out and report my displeasure in the state of disrepair this great trail has fallen to. See you out there!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ramblings From Work

Yes kids, it's my Saturday to work once again. And, of course, the weather is very nice. At least, I can take an extended ride home, since the only ones there are the Cat4 crew. The rest of my tribe is at the camper till Sunday. Ah, the peace and quiet.....

I put my van up for sale. Why? We have decided we can get by with one car, I'll ride to work more, and we have a moped style motorcycle that gets 85 mpg. It's got a 150cc motor, does @ 60 mph, and is fun to drive. My wife and I work similar hours and ride share quite often anyway, so it's no big deal. I can put the money towards a new garage, plus it's one less car.

Stepped out the back door last night, fired up the gas grille to cook me up a tasty burger. 90% lean ground beef w/ garlic and onion bits from Tastefully Simple, and some fresh ground pepper. But the propane tank, she was empty. I didn't want to fry it, so I dug out my trusty cast iron griddle pan. Get glowing red and throw on the burgers. The smoke alarm went off of course, but they cooked perfectly. I need a better range hood, which is why I don't use it more often. Yum-yum.

Looks like the weather is going to give us a break for the next week or so. Just in time to mow the lawn again, get some quality mileage in for the July 19th Velo Duluth Split Rock tour. Hope you all can make the ride, it should be fun. I'm itching to get things in my life sorted out enough to start riding in some of the local group rides regularly. There are several in the area, so I need to make time for them. That's where one really improves their riding skill and improves the fitness. See you out there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why We Ride

Why do we ride, why the love affair we have with the bicycle? The reasons vary from person to person, from day to day. None are written in stone or are permanent situations. Friends and co-workers often don't get or appreciate our passion for cycling. Maybe to some it's not a passion, but part of daily life, such as commuters, or kids who use it for transportation out of necessity. Some, or I might think most, see it as a sport, recreation, and transportation.

Me, first and foremost is the simple, but hard to obtain, perfect day. That's when the legs are strong, the pedal stroke is smooth and fluid, the weather perfect. Could be a solo training ride, a hard group hammerfest, or just a cruise with buddies and no particular objective.

Next is for my health. I rode most of my life until a bad marriage and general lack of joy in life derailed my spirit and ambitions. 14 years and a bunch of pounds gained let diabetes slip one past the goalie. I bought a mountain bike for exercise and weight loss. I had assumed I would just get on and pick up where I had left off. Fat and gravity let me know otherwise. But I stuck with it and am getting better everyday. I'll never be fast again, but i remember what it was like enough to try to get back to it. Climbing is the toughest form to regain, and the most work.

Another thing I use cycling for is the mind clearing, stress relieving effect it has. My life recently has been one hectic, problem, health, and stress filled mess for a while again. But just an hour in the saddle clears the head and allows me to put things in perspective. I get the same impression from a lot of the blogs I read. If more people understood this concept and got in some good, hard workouts instead of drinking, drugs, overeating etc., the world would be a better place.

I've been riding to work quite a bit. Saves gas, cost of maintenance, improves fitness. A very small sacrifice of of time for big savings and gains in the wallet and health. Wakes a person up so you can be sharper at work, plus you can drop the work "baggage" before you get home. My drive/bike ratio is widening and I hope to make it a way of life. The hills suck on the way to work, but the speed on the way home is rewarding.

I could go on all day, but this is enough for today.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Perfect Day

I thought I would get in an hour or so of tempo on my road bike this morning. Nothing hard on the knee, just some flat, not climbing spinning. With temps in the low 70's, I was in hoping to have a nice jaunt up to Carlton and back. I got some pictures of the St Louis river where the rapids surge under the bridge, a white water kayaker's delight. I rode a little farther up the trail and stopped ate the way-side rest in Carlton. A couple of guys from the Twin Cities were having a sandwich before resuming their cruise down to Hinckley to meet their wives.
After chatting a bit, they were ready to go and asked if I wanted to ride along with them for a ways. Well, my knee felt perfect, the weather perfect, so I thought I would go another 10 miles before turning back. We took off, a formed a nice pace line, rotating in sync like I haven't done in years. My legs felt better than I can remember, though my turns were a bit shorter than the other 2 guys. They didn't mind and actually commented that I was pretty good for an "old, fat guy". We hit Mahtowa before I called it a day. I'm glad the wind would be at my back for the ride home, because I went a lot farther than I had planned.
I'm glad those guys weren't bike snob, as they were doctors and riding a Cannondale Synapse Carbon and a Specialized S-Works Tarmac. Super-sweet rides. That Tarmace with the Roval wheels in one nasty looking ride, bit the Synapes is pretty cool too. At least my bike has Ultegra and American Classic wheels. I did my pulls with no embarrassment, and had fun like I haven't had in years. Now that the knee is pretty strong again, I'm going to work on my climbing. I kind of wish I had a compact crank on this bike, maybe down the road.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Great Weekend

River view near Moose Lake
A group coming through a tree tunnel, which
provide some shade and wind relief on hot
summer days.

Another river view

Let's see Boonen ride these cobbles!

I got out last weekend for about 7 hours of saddle time last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The weather was perfect, the knee held up well, and did some exploration of the area back roads and trails for future rides.
The stitches were pulled and the knee inspected by the surgeon yesterday. All good, get back to normal life again, just keep up the exercise, keep the weight down, and all will be OK. At least for a few years. He showed me the pictures and it didn't look good. a large chunk of cartilage was removed, the meniscus tears were quite evident, and the knee cap is worn pretty deep. Probably won't be able to avoid a knee replacement down the road. But for now, just keep it strong and don't do anything dumb or extreme. I'll try, but I can't promise anything. I'm just not a sit around type.