Ride Report 3

Circumstances have been wrecking our training schedule, so we had to take the leap this morning. We hadn’t yet come close to our goal distance and we were running out of time: The Dehydrator is next Saturday. Rather than over-train trying to step up incrementally, we decided to just go out and see if we could do it.

As it turns out, we can.

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Duncan Hospitality

I’ve learned a lot about myself on my many cycle rides over the past few years: how far I can push myself before my legs give out, how anger at the wind can drive me to overcome it, how much I value (and need) the serenity of a quiet morning with just the sound of bike tires and birds. I’ve also learned a lot about other people, though the teachings haven’t been nearly as positive (or as much fun for me.)

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Ride Report 2

Welcome back to the Ride Report! We didn’t have one last week because I was working overtime and didn’t have enough cranial power left for blog posts, but we also didn’t ride last week due to said overtime and crazy weather. Our training was cut short this week as well; Brian’s bike had a mechanical issue and caused him a gnarly wreck on his way to work Tuesday morning. He was pretty banged up and needed some time to recover, but we did get in a good, challenging ride yesterday morning because he’s such a boss. Here are the ride details.

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Ride Report 1

After last week’s post I made an executive decision to round up the ride reports and plop them into the Sunday verbings so my friends won’t disown me. We ride three days a week, so here are the reports from our most recent outings.

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Training

Last year Brian decided to ride in The Dehydrator, a multi-distance bicycle ride set up each July to benefit the local high school band. Being a former band nerd myself, I felt it’d be a fun thing to do together and signed up with him. We ended up having a great time, even though we had to go the shortest distance to accommodate my healing innards, and we knew we would participate again this year. We started our training a bit later than optimal this time due to my pants-wetting terror of being chased by large bitey dogs, but we’re making great progress.

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Brr! It’s Cowd.

Plant sprout in snow

[My poor little garlic shoots are snowed under, except for this one hardy fellow.]

Our birds and plants have absolutely no idea what’s going on. In early January, we were bathed in 70 degree temperatures and covered by clear, sunny skies: a warm blanket of Solar Love. Late February has been a whirling dervish of ice, wind, and gray: an iron maiden of Frigid Hate. I’m ready for Spring.

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The Ride

This post has been a long time coming. It’s my own fault. I let my brain go on vacation for a few months while I tried to get back into the work groove and have had a hard time getting it to re-fire. Some days it’s as uncooperative as my bod. Some days one works while the other isn’t interested, and some days both are firing on all cylinders. The latter are not as common as I’d like at this point, but recovery isn’t always a linear process. It’s a bumpy, frustrating, rewarding pain in the ass. The rewarding part is what I want to focus on today.

Overall, I’ve had a pretty smooth, complication-free recovery. The surgeon cleared me to resume normal activities at my six-week checkup after surgery, so we decided to celebrate that weekend with a bike ride to see how it felt. We went a little over seven miles up some gnarly hills. While it wore me out, being able to push myself that far felt rather awesome. Given that performance, we figured I could probably handle the 10-mile route of The Dehydrator, the annual ride to support the Duncan Band Boosters, which was scheduled a little less than a month away. We had been planning to join this ride since last year and were excited that we wouldn’t have to skip it after all.

Training began immediately. We started riding several times a week, going a little farther each time while working on cadence and speed. Having a goal to meet and something to look forward to were good for my brain and, along with the exercise, helped me heal. I was having a difficult time keeping up with Brian on our training runs, though. When we first started to ride a few years ago, we bought a couple of “comfort” bikes from Walmart, and they were great to get us going. Then last year I bought Brian a Giant Roam commuter hybrid for his birthday and haven’t been able to catch him since. My old Schwinn was definitely comfortable, but it was not built for anything resembling speed.

So, as an extra bonus and birthday gift two weeks before my birthday, Brian bought me my own Giant commuter bike (a Rove) for the big ride. He had been saving up all year to take me to the bike shop and the surprise blew me away. This bike is sleek, light, and fast. I love it. Remember when you were a kid and your best friend let you ride his new bike while his mom wasn’t looking? Riding my Rove feels like that. The stupid grin on my face every time I get on it should be sufficient proof. Our training rides for the week and a half before the Dehydrator were made of pure wheeeeeee. I felt like I’d been fired out of a slingshot.

Me and the Rove out gallivanting with hubs this past Wednesday.

 

We were both excited when the day finally came, even picking up our rider packets the night before because I was paranoid about being late. We got up at 5:00 a.m. to make sure we were fueled and ready to go for the 7:00 a.m. start. The morning was unusually gorgeous for late July as we pulled into a half-filled parking lot just after 6:00. The sun rose over a fairly large herd of enthusiastic cyclists preparing for the different routes ranging from 10 miles to 82. The array of bikes and fancy road gear kept us entertained until it was time to line up for the start. We listened to the mayor welcome everyone, the band director thank us for our support, and a few other announcements (sadly no one said “gentlemen start your engines”), and then we were off!

I had been nervous about riding in a group with hundreds of other cyclists, but that actually turned out to be the best part. Everyone gave each other plenty of space, so being in that huge pack at the beginning fostered a feeling of good-natured solidarity. Nobody was in a hurry. And, to be honest, it gave me a brief little thrill to pretend I was in a race as all the long-distance riders went whizzing past me on their road bikes. Brian and I didn’t see many other people on the short route, but it was a beautiful morning for a ride and the ladies at the way-station cheered us on as we rolled past the halfway point.

We hung around after finishing our route and found out when we went in for the luncheon that I had even won a door prize (free bike maintenance, woo)! So, in addition to giving me free stuff, the Dehydrator got me out of the house, out of my head, and back into the world after a pretty crappy few months. Talk about doubly rewarding. And neither of us are super social people, but we really enjoyed feeling like a part of something positive at that ride. The experience is worth repeating, so next year will see us going for one of the longer routes!

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How to Find Out What You’re Made Of

MIA

I’ve been pretty much completely missing in action from the internet this year. I haven’t made a post on this blog in a very long time. I haven’t made a blog entry at www.myfitnesspal.com in something like 8 months either. I haven’t been tweeting, or plussing, or pinning, or even sharing much on Facebook.  I’ve never been a particularly active person in terms of writing content for others or sharing existing content across the internet, but to stop everything online for the better part of 8 months is unusual, even for me. So what was going on?
 
I was discovering what I was made of.

Some Context

Frank Herbert’s seminal work Dune had a profound impact on me when I read it at the tender age of 14. While I didn’t appreciate the full scope of the book’s (and later books’) meaning until adulthood, the book was key in shaping me into the person I am today. Early in the book, young Paul Atreides is being tested by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. His hand is placed in a pain-inducing box, and he will be killed if he removes it. He feels pain beyond anything imaginable; as though his hand is being burned off completely. He passes the test and is shocked to find his hand intact afterwards. “The pain,” he says, and is cut off by the woman who tested him. “A human can override any nerve in the body,” she tells him. Her lesson is that humans can elect what to feel and are not slaves to their biochemistry and instinct the same way animals are.
 
That lesson resonated strongly with me, and it’s something that I came to appreciate the truth of more than ever over the last 7 months.
 
Heather (aka H4rpy on myfitnesspal) and I have been changing our lives over the past two years. Her write-up of the past few months spells the tale out far better than I could. Do yourself a favor and read it (and marvel at the strength and courage of this incredible woman), then pick this post back up.
 
 
I’ll attempt to summarize, but she really tells it better than I ever could.
 
If you didn’t read Heather’s write-up, you should. If you don’t want to, here’s my version. Hers is better.

Trial By Fire

 Heather has been infertile her entire life. This isn’t an especially big deal for us as children have never really been something we felt we needed in our life together. Over the last couple of years, she’s changed her lifestyle (and I’ve changed mine at the same time) for the better. We both eat properly, exercise frequently, and have lost significant amounts of weight.
 
This January, I told Heather about my intention to ride in the Dehydrator, a bike ride with various ride lengths that’s hosted here in Duncan, OK every July. I wanted to ride at least the 25 mile course, but was hoping to do the 50 miler. I was surprised that Heather expressed interest in doing the ride with me as well. We decided the 25 mile course would be a good goal for us, since she doesn’t have as much riding time as I do and would need more conditioning to get ready.
 
In February, she noticed a big lump in her abdomen. Heather has always had a number of small uterine fibroid tumors so small lumps were nothing out of the ordinary. This wasn’t small, and more concerning, it moved from day to day; sometimes up to 12 inches. One morning it would be down near the top of her pelvis, then next morning, 3 inches above her belly button. We knew something new was wrong, so we scheduled an appointment as soon as possible, which was about a month away.
 
As the days turned into weeks, Heather’s condition began to deteriorate. She was in a significant amount of pain and was rapidly losing endurance. She had to stop going to the gym in late February. She couldn’t go to the store on her own in early March. By early April, she could barely work anymore because she couldn’t sit up long enough to accomplish anything meaningful at the computer.
 
We went to the appointment and were referred to another doctor, who saw us a week or two later. Heather had to undergo a battery of tests, including a CT scan. I looked over her CT scan when we got home since it was going to take a day or two to get all the results, and I immediately saw the cause of the problem. I have no medical training, but I do have a pretty solid understanding of basic human anatomy. None of her organs were in the right place. Where her spleen, stomach, intestines, and reproductive system should have been was a solid mass of grey matter. On a CT scan, that means solid tissue.  Heather had something in her somewhere between the size of a large bowling ball and a small tire. I could even see where one of the lobes of it was pressing on her spine in the exact place she had herniated one of her discs a couple of years before. The conclusion seemed obvious to me- immediate hysterectomy.
 
When we saw the doctor, everything she said backed up what we’d seen. Heather had to have a hysterectomy as soon as possible. The largest fibroid was 26 centimeters in diameter. It had numerous brothers and sisters nearly as large.
 
Heather underwent the next set of examinations and tests to rule out any complications before surgery- tests for cancer, infection, etc. The day after those tests, I was on an unscheduled trip out of town for work for the day (my job often carries me around to various parts of the state) when she got a panicked phone call from the doctor.
 
She was pregnant.

She was totally infertile, but she was pregnant. There are any number of possible reasons, but we both feel pretty strongly that her new, healthy lifestyle was the catalyst. The cause doesn’t matter. She was pregnant.

She drove to the hospital (I can’t put into words how I hate myself for not being there to take her) and I left the work site immediately to meet her there. The ultrasound confirmed that she was indeed pregnant, and also that she was hopelessly riddled with fibroids, all of which were growing in overdrive due to the increased blood and nutrient supply that were supposed to be nurturing our unexpected child.
 
Unfortunately, she was also bleeding.

Trial By Thermonuclear Fire

She started on the way to the hospital and it got worse each hour. The pain mounted until she could only sit with a glazed expression on her face, fighting to hold herself together. Heather and our child fought for life, but there was never any hope of going full term. A bit over a week later, our family of three was two again.
 
We were, of course, crushed. I can’t really express the feeling. I don’t think anyone can. I think trying to would fail to do it justice, so I won’t.
 
This is where Dune comes in. I wanted to scream and rage and kick and yell about the unjustness of it all. I wanted Heather to stop hurting, to be able to smile more, to be able to cry less. I knew that what I wanted didn’t enter into the equation, and that screaming, raging, kicking, yelling, and crying would do precisely nothing to make her feel better. My focus became laser pointed: I would do anything and everything I could to make it easier for her to endure what she was going through. Doing so would help me to keep the stress and grief at bay.
 
This was when I began to feel the strain. Work had been insanely busy for the first four months of the year and wasn’t winding down. The financial strain of making sure we were going to be okay with all of the medical expenses was daunting. The stress of watching and fearing for Heather was beginning to wear me down. One night I was thinking about all that had happened so far, and I remembered that section of Dune. I thought about the fact that there was a deeper lesson to be learned.
 
Animals react to what they are given, or to what is done to them. A true Human doesn’t choose to disregard their reaction. They choose how to react to what has happened.

I decided that I was going to see for myself what I was made of.

The Power of Choice

I had been doing most of the house duties already, but I endeavored to be more diligent with them. I tried to find things that needed doing so that I could do them before she asked. If she didn’t have to ask, she didn’t have to worry about it.  I spent every free moment on the weekends tearing apart our flower beds and building huge new raised beds and containers for her, then planted a multi-level flower display and a small but robust vegetable garden for her. It felt good to nurture things, and I’m sure it was a subconscious need on both our parts to watch something grow under our care, if only to reassure ourselves that we would have been good parents to our little bundle.
 
Her surgery was finally scheduled in mid-May, and it went off without a hitch. She followed her doctor’s orders to the letter, walked when she was supposed to, and we got to leave the hospital after only two days.
 
Heather spent the following weeks at home with me. I finally got to take off work for a bit to help her recover, so we both got to rest a little. We sat in her new garden, which had just started to bloom. We ate fresh tomatoes and green onions from the vegetable beds. We watched the birds raise their young and teach them to use the feeders we set up. I biked, and I spent time in the work shop, building and tinkering. Our love for one another, always strong, somehow grew stronger still.
 
Heather’s six week post-operative appointment came and went in June with flying colors. The doctor pronounced her fully recovered, and gave her the official blessing to carefully begin working out again. I knew our chances of riding together in the Dehydrator were slim to none. We had a month to go and she hadn’t ridden a bike in well over half a year. I hadn’t ridden more than ten miles at a time in five months.
 
The day after her release, we went to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, hiked up a hill with our bikes, and rode around one of the scenic loops of the park. Heather did this with a twelve-inch incision in her belly that was barely healed. She spoke cautiously of wanting to do the Dehydrator, even if only the 10 mile.
 
I bought her a new bike for her birthday a bit early, and we did a few training rides to see if it was possible.
 
On the 26th of July, Heather and I completed the 2014 Dehydrator. She was 11 weeks out of surgery. It had been a bit under four months since we found out she was pregnant, and then found out that she wasn’t pregnant.
 
So I got to spend the last six months or so finding out what I’m made of.

The Power of Fusion (Or When Two Become One)

 Heather tells me often how glad she is for my strength. She’s glad that I was there to do all the small things around the house. She’s glad I built a garden for her. She’s glad I pushed her to ride. She’s glad I went to every appointment with her. She’s glad I stayed in the hospital with her. She’s glad I stayed up all night to make sure she slept. She’s glad I cooked her what she wanted and took her out to eat when she wanted. She’s glad I was there, waiting on her hand and foot, watching and hovering like an overprotective mother hen.
 
She says these things as though they were hard for me. Not doing them would have been far harder. It would have been far harder to let her endure in silence, to know she was crying alone at night without an arm around her.
 
I found out what I’m made of.
 
I’m made silver and glass. The strength that Heather says she’s so proud of me for showing is just a reflection of the strength she’s shown me every single day of our life together.
 
 
To all of you who helped us through our tests this year, whether you knew you were helping us or not: thank you.
 
We love you.
 
–B
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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.

 Anyway.

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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