Friday, October 19, 2012

Busy Week

Lots and lots going on these days, most of it work related.  Not to exciting I'm afraid, but then again, "exciting" is like art-all in the eye of the beholder.

Since Anne's left, it's been a whirlwind of work, work, and trying to ride my bike when I can.  These days I'm lucky to get in 3 rides, so I've been supplementing my riding with weight work and running.  Getting back into both has got me riding better than I have in a while, as well as feeling much more balanced in the process.

Like I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm VERY into kettle bells these days.  Not only are they something I believe can make you stronger and more explosive, but they're something that can balance you out at a much quicker rate than anything I've done before.  I've found that detecting imbalances is something that's hard to do with traditional gym equipment and even yoga.  Sure you may feel that you're not stretching in a certain way, or that one leg is stronger than the other, but in truth, it's difficult sometimes to put a finger on exactly what it is.  For me, kettle bells have pointed out a severe imbalance I had going in my back-one that I may not have stumbled upon otherwise.  Through their use, I have quickly and efficiently addressed it and made myself a more flexible and powerful athlete.  It sounds like a bunch of "hocus-pocus" talk, but kettle bells are the closest thing I've ever encountered that resembles a true "miracle" piece of equipment.

As for the running, I can't say that I've 100% fallen back in love with it as in it will replace my bikes, but for certain it is a viable substitute when I'm crunched for time or can't make it to the trail.  It's just easy to tie up the trainers and head out the door.  Getting to the trail can take time and planning.  Sure it can be done, but on a day to day basis where you may have clients calling last minute to either work out or cancel their sessions, having a pair of running shoes with me means I can run anytime, anywhere when I need to.  Of course I've taken things out of the gate a little too hard and I'm dealing with a bit of a knot in my calf at the moment, but hey, at least it's getting me to think outside of the box a bit with my exercise instead of being glued behind my handlebars.

I have to say that for the first time in a long time, running doesn't seem like work.  Yeah it hurts and yeah I'm not able to run as easily as I did a couple years ago, but as the muscular system gets up to par and weight goes down a bit, it'll come back sure as anything.  It's fun again and keeping it that way is my biggest priority.  No GPS.  No HRM.  Just trainers, dorky tights and/or shorts, and a relaxed mind.

Another new thing (or old as the case may be) is that I'm considering buying a new road bike.  It's been a while since I've been out on a road bike, and now having sold my old faithful Trek before the summer began I've got nothing to ride.  I've been offered a really sweet deal from a local shop and I just may take them up on it.  Only problem is I'll have to sell one of my other bikes to get it.  I'm definitely not looking forward to that, but in reality, getting fit again and making a purchase that I'll use more than what I'm selling seems like a reasonable thing.  I'm still in the process of thinking it all through, but a skinny tired, suspension-less bike may soon be in my future.

Otherwise it's just keeping my nose to the grindstone and getting work whenever and wherever I can.  I've got a lot to look forward to in the coming months: A trip to England, seeing my beautiful Fiance, and enjoying the beginnings of the next chapter in my life.  To say I'm happy would be an understatement.  Right, time for a run!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's talk about bikes, baby...

...let's talk about you and me, let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that can be!

I felt it appropriate to blog about bikes and the good and bad things that they bring today in light of the recent developments regarding Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team.  What a shit-show it's all become.

I'm not going to sit here behind the keyboard and say whether or not I believe Lance Armstrong to be innocent.  To me, at this point, it doesn't really matter.  It's more than clear cycling has been dirty, and the recent news drags it further into the mud.  It's too bad because there's really been so much done to clean things up, and I'd bet money that this past year's Tour de France was one of the cleanest on record.  Yes, there will always be cheats, but it's getting (seemingly anyway) harder and harder.

Anyway, moving on to where I'm going with all this...
I started thinking a lot about riding this morning when I got an email from some cycling website I joined (I really can't remember the name) asking me how riding a bike has changed my life.  As I thought about it, I can say the clear winner in what cycling has brought me is my future wife, Anne.  I met her because of triathlon and subsequently because I rode a bike.  If I hadn't gotten into cycling and then into triathlon, I never would have been in a little village outside of Spain in 2009 attending a training camp where she worked.  If you'd asked me if riding a bike would bring me the woman who I love so dearly, I can't honestly say I would have believed it.  So awesome.

As I thought more throughout the day, I started getting into more and more aspects of my life that have been effected by my two-wheeled passion.  At first all I wanted was to be fast-faster, faster, faster!  I had my skinny tired road and triathlon bikes and my life was filled with numbers, training sessions, more numbers, heart rate monitors, power meters, and lycra.  Fun was tempo sessions, trainer sessions, and back to back long rides.  After getting sick with the predictability of riding the road, I got into cross country mountain biking.  I transferred the fitness built over a couple of years dedicated to road riding to mountain biking and enjoyed it for a bit.  But still I wanted more.  Mountain biking provided the excitement I needed, but the endurance races I was doing began to remind me of my days riding the roads.  Long, long sections of fire road climbs and descents coupled with single track that was just too mellow had me thinking of bigger and harder challenges.  So I bought a full suspension trail bike.  Five inches of travel front and rear had me trying things I never would have thought of ever doing when I was training for the road.  I was hitting drops, rock gardens, and jumps with reckless abandon and dedicating myself to improving not just my fitness, but more importantly, my SKILL on the bike.  I moved onto racing downhill and enjoying more than ever the adrenaline rush I got from shredding my big, heavy bike at speed down steep and technical trail.  I find myself now enjoying trail riding more than anything.  A mountain bike with 150mm of travel front and rear is the sweet spot for me-allowing me to climb and to bomb nearly any trail, grinning the whole way.

So through the story I've told, I  realize I've learned more and more about myself and the type of person I really am.  When I was on the road and doing triathlon, it was all about competition.  When was the next race?  What was my average power for a 10k TT? A 40k TT?  Numbers, numbers.  Now, after having decided to step away from all the pressure I was putting on myself, I'm just enjoying riding my bike.  I'm enjoying hitting the trail with friends and not worrying about pace, distance, or time.  Just riding and having a beer at the trail head when we're done.  I'm allowing myself more room for personal development and more time to go after the other interests I have in life.  While my life still revolves around the bike, it actually doesn't.  If I ride I ride, but if I don't it's because I was doing something else that's important to me.  So, in this regard, the ultimate result is more balance.

And then we're brought to today where I landed my first 180 on a dirt jump bike.  Again, pushing my skills to another level and developing myself further on the bike.  From the person I was back in 2006 when I started riding road bikes to the person I am 6 years later is phenomenal.  It blows my mind that I can still get as excited as I was when I got that first race bike back in 06.  It's a wildly different bike and a wildly different style that I could have imagined, but it's still two wheels, pedals, and handlebars.

So when I see how cycling has been brought through the mud and I see the sorry state of what a "joke" sport it has become to many people around the world, it saddens me only a little bit because I know it's so much more than that.  I've experienced so much more than just lycra and skinny tires.  So much more than just big suspension and mud tires.  Though I've really never mad much from it, I've gained a fortune in life by being on two wheels.  It's an amazing thing.  Lance isn't cycling.  The old US Postal team isn't cycling.  The kids on BMX bikes are cycling.  The 40 year old soccer mom that wants to get fit is cycling.  Don't get it twisted.  Bikes are a way to travel, gain freedom, and do something that might just change your life whether you know it or not.

Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live.  ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I know, I know...

I'm terrible at updating this blog.  Every time I say that I'll "elaborate" or "fill in the blanks" on something, it takes me ages to get to it.  Even with the best intentions, I usually fall short simply because there are other things going on.  I guess it's a symptom of society and the never ending attitude of instant gratification.  In the past couple years I feel that my attention span has just gone to a fraction of what it used to be.  I find it hard to actually read anything that's more than 140 characters (thanks Twitter!).  We're just so into speed and efficiency as a society it's crazy.  I'll have to force myself to actually sit down and breathe every once in a while.  Maybe reading a book or two might help!

Anyway, I dropped a bombshell (actually 3) in my last, "mini" post the other day.  Of course, I'm more than just a little bit excited about being engaged.  I feel like the luckiest man in the world to have found someone that I not only love with all my heart, but that makes me a better person every minute that I'm with her.  She's the most beautiful person, inside and out, that I've ever met, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with her.  I could go on and on with the cheese, but I'll spare anyone reading from all my mushiness.  Bottom line is I couldn't be happier. Period. :)

As for the running, I've again found a pair of trainers and the road.  I had been wanting to get back into the swing with it, but, because I'm a paranoid type, I laid off until the beginning of October.  Back in April, I tore the skin apart between my toes on my right foot.  I was mountain biking and hit a downed tree trunk with my foot.  The sharp edge of the trunk tore through my shoe, splitting my toes apart and causing the injury.  It wasn't a puncture, but rather a result of the toes just being spread so far apart so quickly.  I didn't realize how bad it was at the time, thought at worst that I'd just broken my toes and rode on.  It wound up taking months to heal and I was off the bike for a while.  Not fun, but I didn't want to re-injure it.  So, because of the obvious nature of running, I wanted to give it a bit of extra time to really heal.  Soft tissue is a bitch to heal, and the last thing I wanted to do was start running too soon, mess it up, and spend more time off my bike.  If you have to choose between breaking a bone and tearing some skin/ligaments/tendons, I'd advise you to break the bone.  If it's clean and "run of the mill" it'll heal faster.

Well, I got back into running on Monday and it was fantastic.  The only drawback to having not run in nearly 1 and a half years was that even though my heart and lungs were still well conditioned from all my riding, my legs are not nearly what they were.  I made it about 5 k before I started to get soreness.  Still, not bad considering the length of my layoff, and I wound up being able to run again the following day.

I think the reason for my layoff was nothing more than just simply burning myself out to the point where I didn't even want to see a pair of running shoes.  All of the technical aspects and "training" I was doing really took the fun out of it.  For now, I'm happy to run for as long as I want when I want.  In no way to I want to start to train for any races or to run for any other reason than it just makes me happy.  I don't care about pace, I don't care about time, and I don't care about distance.  I just care about being out there, moving my feet, and enjoying being outside and not tied to anything other than my feet hitting the ground.  While I love my bikes and nothing makes me smile (except my fiancĂ© of course!) more than shredding single track, the simplicity of running makes me calm and settled unlike anything else.  There's no equipment to worry about, no terrain to travel to, and nothing besides the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet needed to get fulfillment.  Very cool and I'm glad to be back into it.

So finally, for the vegan thing...
Simply put, my diet has been shit.  I blame this mainly on triathlon (because I blame triathlon for everything!).  Really though, it's more a function of being young and being able to get away with it.  Before I got into racing tris, I was into MMA fighting and bodybuilding.  Both of which require you to eat cleanly and target your training around being a specific weight (MMA more so, but there is a similarity).  So, because of that, I paid a lot of attention to my diet and ate rather cleanly for a guy in his early and mid twenties.  When I found triathlon, I got into the habit, like most I suppose, of eating anything and everything around.  Yeah, some may not do this, but when training for long distance tri, it's pretty hard not to.  I have a lot of respect for those people (my fiancĂ© included) that can remain disciplined enough to eat healthy AND race long.  To me, it was hard enough to get in the calories with junk food, much less pounds and pounds of fruit and veg.

Fast forward to the present and you have a nearly 32 year old, ex-triathlete-mountain bike rider-kettle bell swinger-runner-personal trainer.  For the moment, I'm very concerned with setting up things for my future wife and I, getting work straight, and taking care of the "life" things that I was able to put on the back burner for so long when I was pursuing my racing goals.  Sure, I could still race and get all these life things together, but I'm the type that becomes so obsessed with competition that I could never be productive in both.  I'm happy being in a supportive role now for Anne, and that's where I'll stay until things get a bit more settled.

So, the vegan thing.  It's really more to do with being healthy than anything else.  I don't think that I would ever become a strict non-meat eater, but I do think it's a great way for me to get the jumpstart I need.  By focusing on a plant based diet for at least a little while, I think I can start to get in the habit of making better choices and change my attitude toward those healthier options that I've neglected for quite a while.  Along with this, I like what I've read in researching it along the lines of heart disease and cancer incidence, both of which run in my family.  This is becoming more and more important to me as I see my father deal with his cancer.  It's a real "C. U. Next Tuesday" of a disease, and I'd like to never have to deal with it again.

And that's all folks!  I promise to get more pictures up on this thing sometime soon, as well as TRY to document my experiences with the vegan experiment.  I plan on easing into it gradually over the next week or so.  This should make things a little easier when giving up all the good tasting crap I've been eating!    

Monday, October 1, 2012


Ok, 3 big statements and then I'm out for the time being. (Until tonight when I elaborate on all three!)

1. I'm in love with running again.
2. I'm changing my diet RADICALLY (and that includes possibly going vegan)
3. I'm engaged!  (This is by far and away the best of the three, and the reason I left the best for last!)

That is all for now.