Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas !!!

            Christmas 2009 is almost here. In Maryland, we will be having a white Christmas for the first time in quite a while. It is a little 'too' white for me. 1 or 2 inches on Christmas eve, staying on the ground for Christmas Day and melting away on my birthday (that's December 26th... there is still time to get those gifts in the mail.). 20 inches of snow is, like I said, a little too white.

             Cycling in this much snow is nearly impossible. The 5:45 group got our last ride in on Friday morning with a trip to The Hard Bean at City Dock. We all knew that if we got the amounts of snow that were being forecast, it would be a while before we would be riding again. On the ride back, plans were made to move the Christmas Party from Saturday to Sunday because of the forecast. This turned out to be a very prudent decision. This past week emails have been flying about how 'itchy' every one is to get out and ride. I rode the trainer this morning... it's just not the same.

              On Saturday morning, I looked outside to see what amounted to about six (6) inches of snow on the ground. I thought "This isn't so bad, we must have missed the blunt of the storm." ... I was WRONG. We had not gotten to the worst of the storm yet, and the computer models had Annapolis directly in the path of the worst of it. I waited a couple of hours until 'some' of the neighbors would be awake before I ventured out to begin making a dent in the snow. I was not worried about getting the snow moved, after all, I do have a John Deere lawn tractor with a snow blade on it. As long as I don't let the snow get too deep, I should be just fine, right?. WRONG again. For those of you who have never seen our driveway, it is about 35 yards long, wide enough for 4 cars and the top and funnels downhill to a single lane at the bottom. Not a HUGE driveway, but lets just say, I was happy to spend the couple hundred dollars for the snow blade so I wouldn't have to shovel it any more.

             I did have the foresight to bring the John Deere down from the shed and parked it in the garage, plow facing out. When I opened the garage door, I noticed that the couple hours that I had waited (or wasted)  had turned the six (6) inches on the ground to nine (9) inches with snow still falling. I fired up the John Deere, lowered the plow and pushed the first load of snow down the hill. I pushed as much as I could before the wheels started spinning. I tried to back up to get to the top of the driveway, but my wheels were spinning in that direction as well. I was not able to get any traction on the hill. I had plowed this driveway before with only minimal problems with traction. What was going on here? Maybe I went too straight down the hill. Now that I have one strip of the driveway partially cleared with my first push, if I could get back up the hill, I would plow side to side across the hill, instead of up and down it. This did not seem to work either. I was not able to get traction at all in the driveway. Then it hit me... the last time I plowed this driveway, I had an extra 100 pounds of traction. I was certainly missing that traction now. I managed to get about one third of the driveway done. Any neighbors looking out their windows must have gotten a good laugh watching me plow. What I did was attach a long rope to the bumper of my 4-Runner in the garage. I would hold on to the rope while I was plowing, and when I got stuck, I would put the rope over my shoulder, lean back as far as I could towards the garage, grab the rope and pull forward like I was doing a sit up . I am the only person who can get a good ab workout while plowing a driveway on a John Deere tractor. Once I had reached the end of my rope, both literally and figuratively, I put the John Deere back in the garage, shut the door and went inside to warm up. I was defeated.

               Sunday came and I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to actually use a shovel to dig out a path down the center of the driveway so that I could get the John Deere through and just 'nibble' off a little snow at a time from either side of the main path. I started shoveling and shoveling... and shoveling and I was surprised at the progress that I was making. I was also surprised at how good I was feeling doing it. I was breathing heavy, and sweating a bit, but my back was not killing me and I didn't feel like I was going to die right there in the snow. SO, the 100 pounds of traction that I was missing on the tractor, I was certainly not missing while I was shoveling. It felt good, and since I couldn't ride my bike I could get a work out by doing this.

               After shoveling for a few hours (which would have been impossible a year ago) Bev brought me a cup of coffee. Just as I sat down in the garage to enjoy it, I saw my neighbor, Tom, at the bottom of the driveway with his snow blower. I honestly think I heard the "William Tell Overture" (for those of you who don't know... Google it). The only other time that I have heard that in my head was when I saw our friend Charlie show up with his bobcat when we were trying to spread topsoil. Words cannot describe how happy I was to see him. He cut a path up the driveway like a hot knife through butter. I got the measuring tape and measured 17 inches of snow in our driveway. The snow blower gobbled up and spit out the snow in record time. Good neighbors are SUCH a blessing.

               Because we were all dug out, we were able to attend the Severna Park Peloton Christmas party at Clint and Sherri's house. That was a GREAT time and Bev got a chance to meet the crazy guys that get up and ride at 5:45 in the morning, and their spouses. We got to see a video of Clint and John's America by Bicycle trip, talk about the epic brevet in the snow that some of the members did a couple of  weeks ago and generally laugh and enjoy a great time with a bunch of great people. I think Bev enjoyed herself, I know that I did. Clint and Sherri were wonderful hosts.

               I mentioned in an earlier post that the Christmas party was really a recruiting party for the Ashland brevet. Well, it's on. I have committed to riding on January 9th. One of the other members of SPP who just began riding seriously this past year sent me an email asking if we could ride together. This is fine with me, because some of the people who ride these are doing them to set course records... I am just trying to finish in the allotted 13 hours and 30 minutes. So, to have someone that will ride with me will be help to keep us both  motivated. There are currently 13 SPP riders signed up for this brevet. It is my understanding that the brevets usually only have about 30 riders anyway, so it will be nice to have nearly 50% of them be people I know.  I have also found out that the people who do NOT ride in the brevet wait anxiously on pins and needles to read the ride reports that the riders do after the brevet. I will make sure that I post a painfully honest report of what it feels like to ride 125 miles in one day.

               Tuesday was weigh in day (right before Christmas... good planning) and I lost 3 pounds. I was pleased with that considering what I ate at the party Sunday night and without riding since Friday morning. The total is 103 pounds, because I had to re-lose the two pounds I gained last weigh in. I am thrilled with those results and I am motivated to keep moving forward. I took a couple days off from eating my 'normal' foods. Tuesday after the weigh in I brought in Cream of Crab soup (made with half and half) to share with everyone in the office. Other people brought in bread and butter, cookies and chocolates. Then Tuesday night Bev brought me to fado' for dinner to celebrate my birthday. (My birthday is not until Dec 26th, but I have 2 daughters and a step daughter and a fiance, they get to have birthday "weeks" so now it is MY turn to extend my birthday celebration) I enjoyed my dinner and dessert but them I realized that my body was not enjoying the stuff that I was feeding it. My stomach did not feel good at all Tuesday night or most of the day yesterday. I am back to eating my 'normal' foods today.

               Tomorrow is Christmas, I hope everyone who reads this, and their families, have a VERY Merry Christmas. I will post again soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just chuggin' along

        It has been a week since my last post, so I wanted to get another post up here so you didn't think that I had lost so much weight that I withered away to nothing and got swept up by the wind. I was going to post on Sunday, but Bev and I spontaneously went to see The Rovers perform at a breast cancer charity event. As always... The Rover ROCKED! Thanks Eddie for my pink santa hat. I will post a picture of me wearing it soon.

        It has been a pretty crazy week. I had jury duty on Wednesday. This involved going to the courthouse and sitting there in the prospective jury area until the judge decides that you are no longer needed. They give you your $15, pat you on the head and say "Thanks for coming." Then you have to call back after 5:00 pm the rest of the week to see if they need you to repeat the process. Fortunately, I only had to report one day. Christmas must be the slow season for the courts.

         As far as riding, please check out my training log (see the link) to get an idea of how much and how hard I have been riding. I have taken a few days off during the week and I have found that my legs have responded to that quite well. Yesterday's ride was GREAT. During the ride a couple of the guys saw a meteor shoot across the sky. I didn't see it, and I am not sure that I have ever seen a meteor before. I have seen shooting stars and maybe they are the same thing... I don't know. In any event, 2 of the guys said WOW at the same time, so I don't doubt that they saw it. We also saw the crescent moon through the fog, which was a pretty awesome sight. Now, I have seen shooting stars before and I have seen a crescent moon before, but there was just something different about seeing them from the saddle of a bike at 5:45 in the morning.

         Each of the past couple mornings, there has been a LOT of chatter (and recruitment) about "randonneuring" and "brevet's". (I will let you wiki or google the two terms). Basically, randonneuring is long distance, unsupported endurance cycling. Focus is not on competition, but on self sufficiency. The distance of the events (called a brevet) vary from 200 K (125 miles) to 1200 K (750 miles). Each distance has a time limit in which the rider must finish. For the 200 K you must finish within 13 hours and 30 minutes, for the 1200 K you get 90 hours. The time limits do not seem to bad... 125 miles in 13 hours 30 minutes, just under 10 minutes per hour. Keep in mind that the clock runs constantly once the event begins. You are given a card that has certain control points on them, and each control point must validate your card to prove that you were there. So the time that it takes to get your card stamped at the control points counts against your riding time, as does time to get a cup of coffee, something to eat, go to the bathroom and so on. It is about friendly camaraderie and not competition.

           The big recruitment push in the mornings is to get as many SPP riders as possible to ride the brevet that is coming up on January 9th. It is a 200K brevet that begins in Ashland, VA and rides out to Tapahannock, VA and back to Ashland. It has rolling hills, but no steep climbs (or so they say), so it is very tempting. It will certainly be a great gauge for where I am fitness-wise for the New England classic in July. As the weather gets better, I want to be riding as much as possible.. Even though the brevets are not supported rides,(meaning no support vehicles if you break down, no predetermined 'rest' stop, no free coffee, bananas and bagels etc.)  they are with a group of people that I know and enjoy riding with. I have found that it is so much easier and more fun to ride in a group as opposed to riding alone. SO, barring any scheduling conflict that can't be resolved, I am hoping to do the Tapahannock brevet. Stay tuned for a full report.

             This past week I have also been busy trying to organize and compile materials for my upcoming fundraising effort for the New England classic. I am sure that you will all be hearing about that more as the time gets closer. I have a personal web page on the America Diabetes Association website that I will link from here once I have it set up. Donations can be made online at that website. If any of you have any creative fund raising ideas please leave them in the comments section below.. I am willing to do just about anything (as long as it is legal and doesn't involve painting) to raise these funds. Thanks for your support.

              Thanks for reading my blog. I have found out that it is not only my Mom, Bev and Emily that read this blog. (Emily only reads it because I pay her to.) I appreciate you all taking the time to check it out. Thanks.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A metaphor for life...

       This past October, Emily and I rode in the Tour du Port, which is a 40 mile bike ride in Downtown Baltimore. As the cyclist gathered at the starting area, Emily and I overheard another rider saying that he has ridden this course before and it is flat... there are no hills in Baltimore. Later on that day, Emily and I were BOTH looking for that rider, hoping to run him into a ditch. If anyone tells you that Baltimore has no hill I will refer you to Emily, who will tell you differently.

       As we were riding together Emily and I started talking about how cycling is pretty much a metaphor for life. At the start area there were people of all shapes and sizes, riding bikes of all different makes and models. Not an entirely inclusive representation of the human race, but you get the point. As we started the ride (which offered 12, 24, 40 and 50 mile routes) some cyclist sprinted away and opened a sizable lead on the group, while others stayed back and waited for the group to get ahead so that they could move along at their own pace without the pressure of either keeping up, or keeping ahead of the group. Very representative of the varied personalities of people we come across everyday. As Emily and I got further into the ride I mentioned to her that I was looking forward to the pizza that they were having at the end of the ride (the pictures from last years ride showed boxes and boxes of pizza). I had been eating healthy over the summer and the thought of having a piece of pizza sounded really good. Emily and I used that as motivation to help us pedal over the hills, knowing that even though it is harder to pedal over this hill, if I can keep pedaling and make it to the top I will be that much closer to my goal... PIZZA! Just like in life when  weset a goal, there are usually at least a couple of hills that have to crested before you reach your goal. Granted, these were not the Alps or the Pyrenees that we were trying to cross, but they were hills that stood between us and our pizza.  The importnat part was that we continued to pedal up and over the hills. (By the way, Emily made it up all the hill and finished the 40 mile ride. We were disappointed that they didn't have pizza at the end, but we did get pizza at the airport before she flew home. We deserved it!)

       The reason that I told you that story is because my ride on this weight loss trip has been relatively flat, with very few hills. However, with Thanksgiving (two of them) and fado' for more calories, my 100 pound crab cake celebration and just the warm fuzzy feeling that "if I am exercising I don't have to watch what I am eating so closely" has brought me to the first incline in my trip. I gained 2 pounds over the past two weeks. Now, I am not going to lie and say that I am happy about that, but I am not devastated either. I know what caused it to happen and I can control those things by paying more attention to what I eat. I will do a better job over the next two weeks. I am determined to keep pedaling over the hill. I am still down 100 pounds, and I took a couple weeks to enjoy that accomplishment. Now, I have more of the journey ahead of me.

       Thanks for everyone's support and for checking out my blog. Check back soon. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Midnight Madness...

        Midnight Madness is a shopping event in Downtown Annapolis where the stores along Main Street (City Dock area) stay open later, have musicians playing outside and some of them have wine and cheese and snacks in the stores. This is all in an attempt to get as many people out shopping as possible. The theory is, that there is a better chance that people will buy things if they are actually in your store. Sound logical.

       So for Midnight Madness Bev and I got in touch with our inner leprechauns and went to fado', an Irish Pub in Annapolis,  for an open air dinner and entertainment from our favorite local band "The Rovers".  If you have looked at my training log recently, you may have noticed in the "Notes" section that I have struggled with the hills this past Monday and Wednesday. These are hills that are formidable, but I have ridden up them before. Last week I struggled to get up them and when I did finally pull myself up the hills I was not able to keep up with the group. All this riding was suppose to be making me better, not worse. So, I did what I usually do when I am faced with a problem that I can't wrap my head around... I search the internet. I found that word for what happened to me is called "bonking". My body did not have enough fuel to power my legs to get me over the hills. So, what they were telling me was, I needed more calories for my body to use on the hills. This was some REALLY good information to have prior to dinner at fado'.

     The first thing that we ordered was hot coffee. Now, typically Bev and I do not drink hot coffee with our meals, but we were eating dinner outside and the temp. was around the mid 40's. There were table warmers (propane heaters that are about 6 feet tall that are placed strategically among the tables) but there was also a breeze that was making it a bit nippy. For an appetizer we ordered Chicken Boxty Quesadillas. Typically, quesadillas are made with flour tortillas but at fado', because it is an irish pub, they are made with boxty, which are thin, grilled potato pancakes. Bev and I both agreed that they were the best quesadillas we had ever had. For an main course I had a flat iron steak and chips (steak fries) and for dessert Bev and I split an Apple tart with brown bread ice cream on it. It was all SO good. I was caloricly loaded for the hills on Friday.

     We warmed up during dinner when The Rovers started playing. I can't say enough about how much we enjoy their shows. They are thoroughly entertaining. The band interacts with the crowd and encourages crowd to participate to the point of occasionally putting people on the spot. I would challenge anyone to go to one of their shows and try to stand still. If you can do that, have someone check your pulse and make sure that you are alive. Check out their website and see them when you can, if you can.

     Because of the impending rain and snow, Friday morning's 5:45 ride was more heavily attended than usual (or maybe it was because we were planning a trip into Annapolis for breakfast at Jack and Irene's). Because of this, the group did not take the right hand turn in Round Bay that brings us to the aforementioned hills. However, going into Annapolis, we would have to go over the Naval Academy bridge twice and "oh shit hill" once. I have to say that I felt very comfortable going over those hills, so I think the more calorie theory is proven to be true. With more calories, I am less likely to bonk on the hills. I will have to get the recipe for those quesadillas!!!

     Emily was here this weekend again, so most of the rest of my weekend was spent with her. On Saturday

night Myself, Bev, Emily, Tiffany and her boyfriend Josh went over to Bev's Mom and Dad's for another Thanksgiving. (You can NEVER have too many Thanksgivings). Bev and I had originally planned this because Emily was not going to be with us on Thanksgiving (she changed that, which was fine) and we knew that Tiffany would be with her Dad and Josh's family. So this was our time to get together and celebrate Thanksgiving with them. We changed the menu a bit and had Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Butternut squash, Cream Style corn, Baked Beans and cornbread muffins. No cheesecake for dessert, but Mom mom made a butter cake with chocolate frosting...and like I have said before...NO ONE makes a cake like Mom mom. It was ALL very good. It was nice to spend time together and enjoy some good food.

     Sunday morning I got up the courage to ride to The Hard Bean in Annapolis despite the cold temperatures and the 1/2 inch of snow and ice on the ground. The roads were OK when I left the house. They had some patches of ice and snow on them here and there, but for the most part they were clear. The trail however, does not get plowed or salted, so the areas that were not sheltered by the trees still had a coating of crunchy snow, and in some spots a thin layer of ice below the snow. A few spots had bamboo that hung across the trail under the weight of the snow and ice. Typically when I ride I have a focus in mind, either to work on my leg speed or my leg strength. Sunday I mostly worked on my balance. I was glad to make it on the trail without having the bike slip out from under me. Although it was absolutely beautiful to ride on the trail surrounded by snow, I decided that on Monday morning I would ride on the trainer in the garage. Much safer in there.

     Thanks for reading... check back soon!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tour de Cure --- New England Classic Announcement

      So here is the BIG announcement that I alluded to in a previous post. In July 2010, I will be riding in the New England Classic, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association. It is is a 7 day, 550 mile bike adventure that travels through 4 of the New England states. It includes rides through historical sites, scenic seacoasts and bold mountain ranges.

       I chose to use this ride as my training goal for several reasons. The first is the setting of the ride. The ride takes place in New England... land of my birth... the place that I call home. New England always has and  always will have a special place in my heart. I have commented to Bev many times before that I love City Dock in Annapolis so much because it reminds me of a seaport town on Cape Cod or along the coast of Maine. The color of the leaves in the fall, the rolling hills and winding roads, the two days of summer... all wonderful reminders of New England for me. What better way to experience that then on a bicycle?

      Another reason for choosing the NEC is the novelty of the ride. In just about any state in the US you can find a 150 mile ride that spans a weekend, or a Century ride (100 miles) on a Saturday or Sunday. Rarely do find rides that go further or last longer than that. This is a unique ride, and being part of something different is an attraction for me.

      My most important reason for wanting to do this ride is to give back. As I mentioned before, this ride is sponsored by the American Diabetes Association and during the past year this disease has hit very close to home. A friend and former teacher of mine who had struggled with diabetes for several years died tragically due to complications related to this disease. Even closer to home, Bev has been diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

       Riding in this bike ride to raise money and awareness is the least that I can do for her, because Bev saved my life. Here is how. Most of 2008 was a waste for Bev and I. Neither of us had any energy to do anything. We would get up, go to work, and when we got home, we were asleep watching TV before dinner. We both suffered from headaches ALL the time. I remember one day before flying to Chicago I showed Bev how much fluid I had on my ankles. Pushing two fingers into them was like pushing on a piece of memory foam. The indentation stayed there for almost a minute. I was not sleeping very well either. So, I went to the doctor's about the fluid and he ordered an echo-cardiogram.  I had that done and it showed nothing out of the ordinary. The cardiologist said that my ticker was good, but I should have a sleep study done, because my problem may be sleep apnea. So, me being the good patient that I am did NOT follow up with the sleep study. I didn't want to go somewhere and be wired up and have people watch me sleep... besides, it is fluid on my ankles, I am probably eating too much salt and the Doctor said the ticker was fine. Fast forward a couple of months, Bev decided that she was sick and tired of being sick and tired. She said that the doctor's always say that she has chronic sinusitis, but they never do anything for it. Antibiotic for 10 days, you feel better, then 2 days later... BAM... headaches again. Bev made an appointment to see an ENT to get the sinus thing figured out. She had an appointment with Dr. Meek (I call him Dr. Meek-dreamy because he reminds me of Patrick Dempsey) who ordered a sleep study... that she can do AT HOME. I had gotten no better, still have fluid on my ankles... I can do a sleep study at home? Ok, I'll give it a try. I made an appointment with Dr. Meek-dreamy and just by looking at me sitting in the chair he told me that I had sleep apnea. He looked down my throat and said I definitely had sleep apnea. Ok, so i'll do my AT HOME sleep study, right? WRONG.  He had other ideas. He could tell that my apnea was severe and he wanted accurate numbers on me, so I was going to the sleep clinic for a FULLY WIRED sleep study. The results were that I stopped breathing an average of 124 times an hour and my oxygen levels dropped to 62% (that explains the headaches). After talking to Dr. Meeks staff and the people who provide the CPAP machines I found out that Dr. Meek was right, my apnea was severe. Fast forward again... I get my CPAP machine (and I use it EVERY NIGHT) my body begins doing what it is suppose to do, fluid on the ankles goes away, pounds of fluid go away, energy comes back, I can exercise again, more pounds go away and so on and so forth. Which brings me to my appointment with Dr. Meek-dreamy yesterday. I asked him what would have happened if I had NOT treated the apnea. He said that within 7 - 10 years I would have been dead. He used some medical terms that I didn't quite understand, but basically, my heart would have stopped in my sleep very similar to what happened to Reggie White (football player for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles). A VERY sobering thought. If Bev had not made the appointment with Dr. Meek, there is no way of knowing if I would have ever gotten treatment for my apnea, and without treatment it would have been the death of me.

        Like I said before, riding in this ride is the least I can do for her and for everyone else who is affected by this disease. Please keep coming back to the blog to see how my training and fund raising for the ride is going.

Thanks for reading... come back soon.