Birthdays and Bicycles – Part 2

There was a little more of a gap between Part One and Part Two than I would have liked.
As I mentioned in Part One, I was concerned about going into a local bike shop and being told (politely or not) that they wouldn’t be able to help me. I’m still a magnificently fat bastard, after all- 365 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, even if it IS a hundred+ less than my peak weight. That overwhelming fear of rejection and ridicule drove so much of my day that it was kind of shocking to have it rear its head so strongly again. It DOES still influence me deeply, and honestly, I am quite sure it always will. There will always be a little voice that says “You’re the picture people see when they think “Well at least I’m not as bad as THAT ONE GUY.” You’re the Worst Case Scenario.” That’s better than it was (seriously; I leave the house willingly now. I go shopping and walk the streets without prodding or bribery from H4rpy), but I have a lot of work to do still.


I was being a complete dumbass. 365 pounds of pure, Grade AAA, All American, Corn-Fed DumbAss. I knew I was. H knew I was. You ALL knew I was. So I told The Little Voice that I was going to sack up and do this, and if he didn’t like it, he could suck on a teabag.
We made the drive to Oklahoma City and were at the bike shop for all of 30 seconds before the owner we were supposed to meet came right out and greeted us. It was probably all of 120 seconds later (after a few questions to make sure he had his numbers right) that he led us over to a couple of bikes that he thought would do the job. I gravitated strongly towards one in particular, largely because of some options it had that I knew I wanted in my next bike (disc brakes and lever shifters, plus a better gearing ratio. I knew I wanted a hybrid because I was going to be mostly on the road, but I can’t handle the riding posture of a true road bike yet.)
He talked with us about the bike (a 2014 Giant Roam 2) for another 10 minutes or so while his crew got one ready for me to test ride (the one on the floor was a large frame, and he thought I would benefit from a medium frame since I have short legs but a very long torso.)(He was quite right.) I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the one- the price was right, the size was right, and it was a huge upgrade over what I had, but not a jump all the way to top-of-the-line (with the price jump that would entail.)
Once the bike was ready, we took it outside and I hopped on for a test ride. H saw the smile on my face and that was it- we knew we were coming home with it.
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So for the last week I’ve been an insatiable monster, wanting to ride the new bike everywhere. No matter how much my ass screams about the tiny new seat, I scream back louder: “YOU WILL GET USED TO IT, ASS.” I feel like I’m cheating, because it’s so easy to ride and I can go so much faster than I could on my Schwinn (better gearing and larger tires.)
After having it for a week, I decided it was time to give the Schwinn an overhaul.
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The Blue Bomber (and its sister, pictured above shortly after we bought them) has a fair number of miles on it, badly out of adjustment brakes, a broken spoke, an out of round rear wheel, and generally just needed a lot of love. So I spent most of this last Saturday working on it. I taught myself how to disassemble the rear freewheel, remove the cassette, install and properly tighten a new spoke, retrue wheels, etc etc etc. After I was all done, it was time to go for a test ride to make sure I didn’t ruin anything.

Something unexpected happened.

I fell in love with the Schwin again.

Don’t get me wrong. The Giant stays, and it will indeed get the lion’s share of my Ass->Seat time. But riding the Schwinn after riding the Giant for a week made the differences between the two immediately, SCREAMINGLY apparent. The Schwinn is indeed a comfort bike. It rides like a cloud, soaks up every bump, goes slow, handles like a tank, and is perfect for a leisurely cruise to the store to get some milk, or for a jaunt with H. It felt good to ride the Schwinn again- the Giant made me appreciate all the things that felt the same between them, all the things that were RIGHT about my Blue Bomber, and now I realize I didn’t just get a new bike for my birthday.
H got me two new bikes- the one I always had and had forgotten about, and the new one from the store. I love them both and I’m going to use them both.

In the next 12-24 months, those two bikes are going to take me down to 200 pounds.

That’s what H gave me for my birthday, and I love her for it. 

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Do you ever wonder if people intentionally let themselves drift into stereotypes because they’re comfortable with the definitions? How often do they pick up hobbies or find themselves watching shows that they think they’re supposed to like? I suspect everyone does this at one point or another because we all like to belong to something, but I’ve noticed a weird trend in myself as I get older. My likes are all over the place now.

I still love music and reading. I still love cats. I still love tripey TV shows and movies (here’s lookin’ at you, Elvira). But video games have fallen off my radar to be replaced strange new habits I never really thought I’d develop. This new stuff is great. However, what strikes me lately is how wildly different my hobbies have become. It all seems to fall into two categories: Little Old Lady and Fitness Beast.

Little Old Lady Things
Seriously, when did this happen? And why is it so fun?

Freaking glorious!

Gardening. I love to plant flowers, grow food, and feed the legion of tiny birds that now inhabit our yard. Cardinals and finches are my new mascots, and my morning glories are freaking glorious. Oklahoma Gardening is one of my favorite shows now. Tending to my plants and the neighborhood cheepers brings me peace likes nothing else does. It just makes me happy. You should see my gardening gloves. They are lavender, for feet’s sake!

Cooking. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned to cook and have really come to enjoy it. I’ve always loved to bake, but branching out into foods that won’t put you into a sugar coma has been rewarding. I wrote about this when it started and am glad to say it’s still going strong. Thanks to cooking shows and, our menu has become much more varied than it was in the distant Hamburger Helper Era. It’s actually fun now!

Homing. As in, home improving. Yes, I know that’s not what homing means, but I like consistent headings, so nyah. One of my other new favorite shows is This Old House. Watching it and planning for the things we’ll do to our own home when we buy one is fun to the point of making it a hobby. I even get This Old House Magazine! And read it! What?!

Fitness Beast Things
And now for something completely different (not The Larch). Getting fit makes me feel like a total beast. I *love* it.

Strength Training. The gym started out as a means to an end (weight loss/health), and I am still very dedicated to that goal. But the feeling of power when I picked up the first iron plate and started lifting has grown exponentially every session. It has become a part of my weekly routine and I have no intention of ever stopping. The benefits are just too awesome, which leads me to the next beast thing.

Muscle Definition. Okay, I am vain. Call it a character flaw, but at least I’m honest. Being able to see the muscles in my arms and legs, and the beginnings of a defined core line in my stomach, is the most incredible physical accomplishment I’ve ever had. Even as a skinny kid I was never this strong or defined. After spending the last 20 years in various states of lardery, I’m ecstatic over this change. /flexflexflex

Endurance Training. This part has been slow to start because of the aforementioned lardery, but the progress is so gratifying. I’ve begun running in intervals, increasing the time and number of sprints every week, and have been amping up the distance/speeds in the bike rides as well. My heart rate during burns has vastly improved. Thanks to this training, I’ll be more able to survive the zombie apocalypse (because cardio)! Bonus!

You see what I mean, though? These two categories are what most of my free time is split into now. I’m always researching when I get a bit of downtime, and it’s either about gardening/cooking/home stuff or fitness. Sesame Street called and sang “one of these things is not like the other” to me. This stuff shouldn’t really go together. But for me, it does, and I embrace the weirdness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do bicep curls while watching Antiques Roadshow.

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Birthdays and Bicycles – Part 1

There are two things I wanted to write a bit about this week, and they’re kind of related. My beloved H4rpy (I know it’s weird to say that someone you call “Harpy” is beloved, but that’s another blog) is participating in a 6 week challenge where you set your own goals and win warm fuzzies for completing them. One of her goals is to ride 60 miles over the course of that 6 weeks. That’s not a huge distance for experienced riders, but H is just gearing up to get serious about it now.

That challenge started this week, so we’ve been going on medium distance rides (7-8 miles) out to the edge of town and back. She’s learning about gearing and how to tackle inclines and how to share the road with not-always-observant drivers. It’s amazing what just a couple of extra 1 hour bike sessions a week do for you (and TO you), both physically and mentally. The whoops of joy as she found top gear and pushed down the road at a maintained 18mph for a mile long stretch was music to my ears and made the pain of the ride back (20 mph cold headwind, and even 100lbs down, I’m still more like a sail than a beanpole, so ANY wind causes me to have to work a lot harder) so very much worth it.
So H is riding now and we’re both loving it. We do pretty much everything together, but this was one fitness activity that we’d kind of grown apart on, and for us to both be doing it feels very right.
Our bikes are nothing special- they’re nicely built Schwinn Link series comfort bikes picked up at The Great Blue Satan (aka WalMart) back in 2010. We got them somewhat on a lark:
I had come home from a trip to Colorado where my mother had passed away. As my stepfather, my sister, and I were going through things he mentioned that her bikes would need to find a new home. She and he were avid riders and had very nice equipment. At the time I hadn’t ridden in years, and I had no way of getting her road and mountain bikes home. I couldn’t use them, and I wasn’t sure H would want them, so I declined. I kick myself about that to this day- not because of the quality equipment, but because they were hers. Grief makes people do stupid things!
So I came home with things and started learning how to live again.
A month later, H and I were shopping at the aforementioned Satan and I saw all the bikes at the store. I mentioned how I could have brought my mother’s home for her and she lit up happily at the idea. We kicked around the idea a bit and the next thing you know, we bought a pair right there, took them home, and rode for the first time in years… in the middle of one of the worst summers in Oklahoma in the last 50 years, in the middle of the day, in the middle of July. We didn’t make it very far!
Anyway, the point of all this is that our bikes were chosen on a whim based on what we thought would work. At the time I wasn’t yet at my heaviest weight, and H was carrying more than now as well. It amazes me that the poor thing could even hold me up without breaking spokes- we got lucky and actually picked one that could hold me without knowing any better.
So the years and the miles began tacking on. The particular bike I had chosen was not assembled with great care, so it had some problems at the start. Never one to be afraid of disassembling things I know nothing about, I wrenched in and did my best to repair everything, with general success. Then I had my first run-in with a texting driver, and I ended up in a ditch with a banged up bike and blood all over me. I managed to make it home and patched my bike and myself up and resumed riding a few days later, only to find that there was actual serious damage to my bike (the crankshaft sheared into 2 pieces), so we had to take it to the nearest LBS (Local Bike Shop), which is 40 miles away and is so busy they need a week or more to fix even small problems.
Over the course of the 3 years I’ve had my Blue Bomber, I’ve had 3 accidents (2 due to texting drivers, 1 due to malfunction) but none have been especially serious after the first. The bike has held up well, but I can tell the miles and the strain of carrying 470lbs, then 400lbs, now 365lbs on a bike designed to carry no more than 300 or so is adding up. I intend to ride it until the frame starts to split, but here’s where the wrinkle comes in…
…my birthday is coming and H wants to do something nice for me.
She wants to get me a new bike so I have two in case one goes out of action for a while, and so I have a fancier, shinier one than my Blue Bomber.
I’m more than a little freaked out at entering an actual bike shop to buy a new one, especially one run by a pro rider, when I have heard and read so many horror stories about people being told to leave and “come back when you weigh 200lbs.” She has a contact who we’ve been assured is wonderful and kind and won’t do that at all, but I still freak a bit a the thought of being told “Nope, sorry mate, you’re just too damn fat. We don’t have anything that can hold you.” (Having to drive an hour and a half to Oklahoma City to be told that, then coming home empty handed, would be further sauce for the goose.)
So, we will see how that plays out- we might go up today, or perhaps Monday. More to come on that front.
So there’s part 1 of the bicycle chapter. Part 2 and the birthday chapter will come soon.

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The Challenge

Well, I’ve gone and put my foot in in it now. My new favorite forum community at Nerd Fitness has started another Six-Week Challenge, and being a newbie around there, I went all in. Stating specific goals, for which people will hold you accountable, rather increases one’s ability to stick to a game plan. I’m really excited to do this. It’s like playing an MMO, but with tangible rewards and no Butt Creep!*

Here are my current goals, which lead to my main goal of fitting comfortably into my jeans the next size down.
—Continue the strength training program three days per week.
—Transition from rack pulls to full deadlifts.
—Ride 60 miles on the bike.
—Post to this blog at least once per week.

Bad. Ass.

I still need to put together the grading system to quantify how well I do at the end of the six weeks, but this is a good start.

Part of the challenge is also to state your motivation for undertaking it. Mine is simple. I want to keep improving my life balance, because the healthier I get, the more I accomplish and the happier I become. Also, I want to look like a badass. Think Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. Bad. Ass. Muscle definition rocks.

So, that’s what I’m up to lately in addition to work projects. I’ll update you guys here as things move along and as the spirit moves me. If you’re working on a challenge or have questions about mine, let us know in the comments. Let’s keep it moving, folks!

*You know, Butt Creep: when you sit at the computer so long your butt begins to creep toward the edges as it grows to fit the chair. I might have just made that up.

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See the Incredible Shrinking Man!

Below is a cut and paste of my first forum post on MFP, made as I approached my 6 month mark with the site and community. I have come to realize that while I may well be able to do this on my own (with H’s support, of course), why should I? We don’t live in bubbles- our lives create ripples that shape and guide those around us, as we are shaped and guided by them.So I decided to post and see if I could make some ripples.I  then decided this morning that a proper narrative to keep track of my progress would be useful later, even if only to remember the journey when I look back. I wish I’d noted things down earlier, but we’re still early enough on that not too much has been lost.I can’t promise it will be entertaining, or frankly, even worth your time.. but it feels important for me to do it, so I am going to.

When I’m at goal and feel like a new man, I don’t ever want to lose sight the man who started the journey.

Hello, fellow MFP’ers!
I began my journey to get down to a healthy weight a couple of years ago. I was kind of watching what I ate, but that time was really about starting the long process of becoming mentally ready to REALLY change my life. My wife was going through the process with me. She really is the driving force behind a lot of this, and she’s a MFP’er as well (H4rpy.)
Well, after a while, I’d lost about 50 pounds, going from a monolithic 475 pounds down to 425, but I was stuck there and going nowhere fast. H was also stalled out, and one morning, we were both ready to get serious. We joined MFP in March ’13 and never looked back. We got used to measuring our portions, and controlling what we ate instead of it controlling us, and 3 months later (now June ’13,) we joined a gym.
I’d spent a fair amount of time in weight training in college, so as we got used to going to the gym together, we ended up on a lifting program that we both like and works well with our schedule.
I was hopeful I’d be able to say I’d lost a hundred pounds by my birthday (Sept 22nd), and much to my surprise, I blew through that goal about two weeks ago. I’m elated about that, but also very aware of the fact that I still have somewhere around 150-175 pounds still to go, and that it’s going to get harder with each pound lost. That’s where the MFP community comes in!
I like to think I have good willpower and I won’t falter between now and when I get to my goal. I know my wife will do everything she can to keep me motivated and encouraged, just like I will to her.
I want insurance! I want some more MFP friends to keep me honest and keep me on track as these coming weeks turn to months, and the months to year(s) to get me to my goal, and then to maintain it once I get there.
So if you want a MFP friend to share in your victories and help lift you through your setbacks, or if you just want to watch and see if a quarter-ton man can become a 200lb man the long, hard, slow way… send a request! I’d love to hear from you all. 🙂
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