A Fat Man's Journey (Working my way back…)

An Attempt to Journey from Fat to Fit in a Lifetime. Eat right, Eat less, Move more


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The Cold of the Winter


Not a Fan

When I was a teen and then in to my early twenties I enjoyed the cold.  It rarely bothered me.  I would shovel the snow in a T-shirt.  I walked two miles after a blizzard to see my girlfriend when I was sixteen.  Winter was not a problem for me.

It is now.

I hate the cold.  Truly hate it.  I rarely ride in the winter.  I barely get out to hike.  I dream of a job transfer to the dessert southwest….

I haven’t cross-country skied this winter.  Not nearly enough snow most of the time and a little leery of it since my concussion last winter.

So I sit and wait for spring.

Winter?  Not a fan.

Plans for Spring

I have the usual bike ride planned this year.  I am doing the 5-Boro Bike tour again.  I went off the deep edge and paid for the VIP package so I can be sure to start near the front of the 32,000 riders.  Nuts?  Yes.

I am doing the Ride for Autism as I do every year.  It is the one ride it would hurt me to miss.  Eighteen people have signed up to ride as a member of the team.  I hope we get more before the ride in June.

I hope to lead the beginner/intermediate bike rides again for the shop.  If I don’t lead I will still partake.

I didn’t come anywhere close to my mileage goal last year.  I hope to get the miles in this year.  If all goes well I may be able to limit working at the shop to Sundays.  That would certainly make Saturday an easier day to get in the miles…  Maybe get some club rides in.  I haven’t ridden with the club in three years.  I pay dues…  I really should get out on a club ride or two.

Spring is only 6 weeks away, not matter what the forecasting rodent says….

Cooking

Udon and VEgetable Soup.  Perfect for this cold winter night

Udon and VEgetable Soup. Perfect for this cold winter night

This time of year there is a positive for me: I cook.  I make soups.  Pot upon pot of soup.  Today I made my “everything in the pot” veggie soup.  Whatever is in the fridge and the freezer and is considered a vegetable gets tossed in and I cook it until it is soup.  Today it was mushroom, onion, kale, corn, broccoli, sugar snap peas, tomato and tofu.  Cover with water, season, cook…

I served it with Udon noodles…  It made for a wonderful dinner.

Tomorrow I will roast some squash and make roasted squash soup…  Fill up the freezer, it is a long winter.

I also plan to bake some breads.  I am picking up a computer from a friend and I am going to bring him some breads to thank him for his help.  Good man.  Deserves some fresh-baked breads.

I love to cook.  I just wish I could get out of the house…  I need to hike… I need to bike…  Cooking will have to do.  And the treadmill….

My Weight

I am doing OK.  Not great.  OK.  I have put on a little weight, 10 pounds, this winter.  It is slowly coming down.  Lost 5 last week.  Want to lose 20 more by the end of March and then 20 more by June.

I sometimes stop fighting the fight.  I admit it is hard to always say no to pizza and cookies and donuts.  I do.  I still do.  But the fight is hard.

I have been fighting The Black Dog again.  It has had the upper hand recently but I can feel that I am pulling out of it.  Missus is so tolerant when I am in the cave.  She waits, knowing I will pull out of it somehow.

I have some very big decisions to make and I am struggling with the choices.  It isn’t always easy to know what to do with one’s life.  I am still trying to decide what to be when I grow up and here I am in my mid 50’s….

So eat right, eat less, move more….

It is always a struggle.  I will not be fat again.

A Little of my prose:

One advantage to being depressed is I write….

 

I wrote this last week.

The Photograph of the Moment

1/24/2015

 

Sitting on the hill, waiting to take photographs in old style with film, sitting on the ledge looking out to the valley with a camera ready in hand.  Looking for that moment when the light would be just right, the perfection realized, sitting still up on the hill waiting for the sun to set.

 

Sitting in the special quiet and looking out to the distance where a bird is gliding. Sitting waiting for that perfect moment in old style with film, when the moment would be just right, nearly perfect, sky and earth one.

 

Sitting, now watching as the sun begins to set, sitting on that ledge, sitting as the slight chill sends a shudder along the arms.  Sitting on that ledge as the sky begins to glow a softer light, nearly perfect, nearly right.  Sitting on that hill with the old camera in hand, film is wound and shutter cocked and the light is nearly there.

 

Sitting on the hill with the camera at the ready, sitting watching for that moment coming soon, with the sky now orange and the clouds now fringed with light, sitting on the ledge, feet near the edge, watching for that perfect moment, that perfect light. The sun now setting in amber, the sky now perfect, the moment is now and then nothing.

 

Sitting on the hill, the moment passes, camera hanging from the hand, the sky was perfect, too perfect to photograph in old style on film.  The moment committed to memory where it will stay in perfect light. Now standing, now walking away from the ledge.  

 

 

Peace


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One-Thousand Ninety-Six Days


I Awoke one morning

Though taken in July, 2011, this is pretty much how I looked in December 2011.

Though taken in July, 2011, this is pretty much how I looked in December 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011.

I awoke that morning and I got out of bed.  Well, almost.  What I did was roll on to my left side and got my left arm under me.  I then swung my right leg up in the air and then down in an arc while pushing up with my left arm.  In this manner I propelled myself in to a sitting position.

Once there, I took my two blood pressure medications and prepared to push my body in to a standing position so I could start my day.

As I sat there, still clearing the morning cobwebs from my mind, reminding myself that I didn’t have work, that I was still on vacation, I came to a remarkable realization.

I was tired of being fat.

I realized I was ready to do something about it.

I was ready to change my life.

To this day I cannot tell you what clicked.

I only know that something did.

It was three years ago today.  One-thousand and ninety-five days ago.

I awoke that morning.

Finally

Where would I be?

I have no clue the course my life would have taken had I not altered my trajectory.  I wasn’t a little overweight.  I was morbidly obese.  I was FAT.  I was more than 100 pound overweight.  I was barreling towards an early demise.  Worse?  I didn’t seem to care.  I wasn’t doing anything at all to exercise.  I was eating a horribly unhealthy diet.  I was drinking Diet Coke by the case full.  10-12 cans a day was not unusual for me.  Five-thousand calories a day was not unusual for me.

I went for a walk.  I remember it as a cold and gray day.  Not sure if I remember that correctly but that is how I see it in my mind’s eye.  I drove to the High School track and walked one mile and I sat down and I panted for ten minutes afterwards.  And then I drove home.

Had I not done that….  What would have happened?

I took the first steps.

I haven’t stopped.

I lost weight fast.  I changed my diet.  I eventually gave up red meat and poultry.  I increased my activity level as I decreased my intake.  I lost the weight.  I have kept it off for the most part.

Had I not started this Journey….

I would not have made many of the friendship I now have.  I would not have developed others that have grown stronger.  I would not be in the cycling world.  I would not have the life I have now.  I might not have a life.  I might not be alive..

Where would I be?  I would be fifty-three and fat, assuming I did not succumb to high blood pressure and heart disease.   I am not trying to be dramatic here.  This is fact.  My odds were very bad.  My health was deteriorating.  It was getting ugly.

Here I am.

It has never gotten easy

I figured on this early on my Journey.

I figured it would never get easy.  It might get easier.  Never easy.  I was right.

The temptations are still there.  They still tempt me.  I made the mistake of thinking I could indulge.  I was wrong.  The weight came back fast.  I blew up to 235 pounds FAST.  I fixed it.  I refocused.  The weight is coming down.  The holiday season has been harder this year.  Not sure why but it has been.  It has not gotten easy.  It hasn’t really gotten any easier.

The traps are still there.  Portion size increased as it had to once I went in to maintenance mode.  The portion size increased too much and the weight started to climb.  Scaled that back.  Fought to control it.  Getting better at it.  Weight is stabilized and starting to come down again.

It has never become easy.  I expect it never will.

Beating the odds

I am beating the odds.

The odds said that I would gain back fifty percent or more of what I had lost within one year of reaching my goal weight and within two years I would have gained it all back.  The statistics are depressing.

I am beating the odds.  More than 2 years after hitting my target weight I am still within 20 pounds of it and I am back on the downward trend.

I slipped.  I gained some back.  I overate.  That was much more the issue than my activity level, though that two has slipped some.  Plenty of reasons but no excuses.

I will not give up or give in.

I am not going to fail.

I will not be fat again.

Where I am now

This is who I am and who I will stay

This is who I am and who I will stay

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One-Thousand Ninety-Six Days later where am I now?  I am fit.  I am off the BP meds.  My at rest heart rate is 64 Beats Per minute.  I can cycle 75+ miles.  I can hike and climb.

I am a “near” vegetarian.  I don’t eat red meats or poultry.  I still eat fish a couple of times a week but for the most part I follow a vegetarian diet.

I spend a great deal of time with my wife and my boys.  I have the energy now.  The Younger one likes to walk with me.  He counts my bleacher sets when we go to the school track.  The Older one likes to watch TV with me.  We also go for walks sometimes.

Missus and I walk together and have date-night a couple of times a month.

I work 11-12-hour days at my regular job and I work Saturdays most weekends at the bike shop.  I cut back on the Sundays.  I needed the rest… Come Spring I will get back to leading the Sunday Rides (I Hope).

Mostly where I am is in a good place in my mind.

Loving life

I am happy where I am right now.  Not happy that I gained weight back.  Mad as hell at myself about that.  Happy that I cared and stopped it.  Glad that I go it at 25 pounds and not at 75.

I am loving riding, hiking, walking.

I am loving having the energy to keep up with my boys.

I am loving the sense that I have control over this.

I am happy with the person I am now and pleased that the growth continues and I am still moving forward on the Journey.

I still have a plan.  I still have my goal.

I awoke on that Tuesday morning.

I am glad that whatever it was finally clicked in.

Peace


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Three Days


 Back at it.

I am back at it.  Three days.  Back to the plan, focused back on the goal.  Eating Right, Eating Less, Moving More.  I have pulled my calorie intake back to weight loss mode (sub-2000 calories) and I am making the point to do laps of the plant floor a few times a day.  Started Monday Morning.  3.6 pounds back off as of this morning.

I am not sure why I drifted.  Tired? Stressed?  Both?  Don’t know, and this is what concerns me.  For more than two years I was able to stick to it and then I drifted off and put 20 pounds back on much faster than I took it off.  Scary and frustrating.

Back at it.

Eat Right.  Eat Less.  Move More.

I know how to do this and so I am doing it.  I am making it happen again because getting fat again is not something I can allow or will allow to happen.  I didn’t like begin fat.  I was miserable, depressed, sad….

Since I lost the weight I have felt better physically, mentally, emotionally……  All ways imaginable.  Riding the bikes, climbing the hills. Hiking the trails and paths are all things I could do fat and I am not going to give them up.

I had gotten up to 230.2 pounds.  This morning I was 226.6.  Tomorrow? Well, who knows.  All I do know is I am back at it.  Eat Right.  Eat Less.  Move More.

I will get back under 210.  There is no option for failure.

 

Peace


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Losing Myself


A Hard Stretch

I haven’t written in a very long time. I just haven’t had my brain in the game.

I will not make excuses. I have put on 15 pounds and I am not pleased with myself. I know why. I have been eating too damned much. And I know why I have been doing that. The Black Dog has won a few rounds recently.

I have been working 12-14 hour days at my regular job. I have been working Saturday and Sunday at the bike shop.

When I take time off on the weekend it has been for organized rides or to attend to family responsibilities.

What I have not been doing is taking time for me.

And I am paying a price. Maybe a very high price.

I am exhausted. My abnormal heartbeats have returned. I am not sleeping at night. If I had much hair I am sure it would be falling out.

It is hard to put to words exactly what I have been feeling. Almost numb but not numb enough.

Vacation would be good but I am out of vacation time.

This has been a hard stretch and I don’t see an end.

I took Sunday off this past weekend. I had hoped to do the Tour De Bronx, a nice relaxed pace ride around The Bronx, but shoulder pain is keeping me off the bike right now. I hiked instead. MT and PB, my hiking partners of the past couple of years, and I went on a hike here in North Jersey. 7 miles or so. Not too difficult. Fun. When the hike ended, we went to lunch and shared some good conversation. I didn’t really want the afternoon to end but they went their way and I went home. Reorganized and rearranged our bedroom. Relaxed.

Not nearly enough but it helped.

Yes, this has been a hard stretch.

Finding me.

The last couple of months I have had the sense that I am having trouble finding my center.

In the past just being on the bike has been enough for me to clear my mind, correct my mood, get me centered.

Lately it has not worked.

Riding has been painful. My right shoulder. The muscles between my shoulder blades.

I last rode three weekends ago. My shoulder still hurts. Deep in the joint.

Cycling never hurt before.

Now it is hurting every time I ride and I am developing a fear of the pain.

I am trying to rest the body, give it time to heal, give me time to rest.

But not cycling hurts the mind. I miss the feeling of the bike under me. I miss the rides.

The last time I was off the bike for any length of time was in 2012 when I injured my knee. I am not enjoying this right now anymore than I did then.

So I have to find a way to find me. A way to blow out the buildup of stress. Away to clear my mind. I need to find a way to focus on me so I can focus on my family, my friendships, my life that does not include working.

I have 15 pounds to lose.

I have a mind to refocus.

I have much to do.

 

Peace.


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Ramapo Rally, Cycling and Reasons


It started with an injury

It is well-known that I love to ride my bike. I take every reasonable opportunity to jump on the bike and ride. I take the long way from A-B so I can spend more time on the bike.

So why would I give up a perfectly good Sunday to work the rest area of a large ride rather than ride in it myself?

It started with an injury.

In the early summer of 2012 I signed up to do the Ramapo Rally in New Jersey. I had heard great things about the ride: well run, well supported, challenging and beautiful routes. I heard the rest areas were well stocked, the volunteers were fun and enthusiastic and that a good time was had by one and by all. As I was just getting in to good shape and had just missed out on doing the Five Boro Bike tour (sold out before I registered), I was looking for a challenge and I figured the 50-mile route would be JUST the ticket.

June 22, 2012 is the date I registered for the ride.

June 23, 2012 is the day I went on a Club Ride.

Twenty-five miles or so in to the ride I dropped my chain, spun out and tore the meniscus in my right knee.

The ride was out.

The club was fantastic and refunded my registration fee. That is unusual. Most rides will not refund money and for good reason. The money goes towards planning and if everyone who had second thoughts about a ride got the money back it would be impossible to plan accurately.

Seeing as I had the injury and had JUST registered… They were very kind.

Now the thing to know is that I was able to walk, climb stairs, stand… All without pain. Cycling hurt like crazy.

So I offered to volunteer and I was assigned to a rest area. We worked like crazy that day. And I loved it.

Last year I did it again and I supplied 14 dozen of Missus’ home-baked chocolate chip cookies and three of my wonderful apple cakes (recipe below). It was a fantastic time. So, this year I did it again and supplied the same fresh-baked goods.

At the Ramapo Rally Rest Area

At the Ramapo Rally Rest Area

Yes, most times I would rather ride. Most times I would rather feel the road under my wheels. Once a year, for this ride, I love to give my time and encourage the other riders. I do a number of organized rides each year. Most years I try to do the Five-Boro Bike Tour, The Ride for Autism, The NYC Century, Hub on Wheels and The Turkey Ride. The friendly faces at the rest areas, the tech support from the local bike shops, the banana, the cookie and the refill of the water bottles are very welcome. They add to the experience in a very positive way when done well. They are usually done well. On my first Ride for Autism I was pretty shot when I rolled in to the rest area at the 40-mile mark. I had ten miles to go, had become separated from my friend, and was really wondering if I should take the SAG (Support And Gear) wagon the rest of the way. After stopping at the rest area, getting the enthusiastic greeting, getting some encouragement and a quick bite, I felt revived and was back on the road, found my friend and finished the ride with him. Sometimes the rest area volunteers are the difference in finishing the ride on the bike or finishing in the SAG wagon.

So my knee injury turned me in to a volunteer this one ride per year. It was the best thing to come out of that injury.

Sticking to it

I looked back at the blog post I wrote about the knee injury. I realized I am still doing so much of what I was doing then. Eating right, eating less, moving more. Yes, I have gained a few pounds back, I am over the goal weight I had set of 210 pounds. I am not thrilled with this but I am OK with it for now. The weight will go up and go down. I understand that. I just have to stick to the plan which has worked so well.

I find that looking back at the posts helps me. It reminds me of the steps I have taken and the steps I need to keep taking. I will never give up this way of life. I am not going back to eating indiscriminately. I am not going back to being a couch potato.

I am sticking to it and I am enjoying the life I have now.

Yesterday at the rest area I so enjoyed being a part of the cycling community. I know so many of the riders and I have even sold a few of them bikes. They recognized me and I recognized them and we got to chat, we got to laugh and we shared that thing that cyclists share. The love of riding.

So I stick to it because I love it. I know what I was. I know what I am now.

This is why I do it.

Saturday Mornings

If I leave my house early enough, 6:30 AM or around there, I can get in a nice long ride before I need to be at the Cycle Shop for the day. If I plan it right , I get to SmartWorld Coffee at a little after 7:00 to 7:15 and I have time for a good cup of coffee and a whole wheat muffin, a few minutes of relaxation and then I get back on and ride another 25-30 miles to the shop.

This Saturday past was just such a day. On the road by 6:40, at the coffee shop by 7:15, coffee and a muffin, a little chit-chat with a fellow sitting outside at the sidewalk tables and then off on my ride. 2 hours and 51 minutes of riding got me to the shop on time and I had 40 miles under my wheels.

A muffin, a coffee and a bike.... Life is good....

A muffin, a coffee and a bike…. Life is good….

It was exactly the type of ride that I love most. A solo ride at my pace, my challenge and a little break to refresh the body and the soul.

The simple fact is this: I work long hours at my full-time job and there is a good deal of pressure. The Sunday shop rides are wonderful and I love leading them. They are fun and I enjoy the groups and the individuals but the rides are not relaxing. I watch out for the new riders, try to remember the route, try not to lose focus watching out for the other riders and crash (did that, not fun) all the while watching the clock and making sure we are going to make it back to the shop on time.

It is the Saturday morning rides that refresh me, clear my mind, rejuvenate my spirit. When I am riding on Saturday mornings I am alone with my personal challenges. I am free to fight my way up the hills, blast down the other side, watch my cadence, keep the pace up, challenge myself to ride better, not just faster. I am free to clear out the cobwebs and fight my personal battles on my own terms. Flying along the roads of Morris County NJ I am able to focus sharply on the task at hand to the point that it is almost as if nothing but the bike and the road exist. I hear the cars, I see the animals along the roads, I feel the air and hear all the sounds around me but I am not thinking about work, or pressure, or deadlines or anything but the focus of the ride.

Alpacas and a Synapse....  The farmlands of New Jersey

Alpacas and a Synapse…. The farmlands of New Jersey

It is on these rides that I understand the adage that cycling is as close to flying as you can get and still be on the ground.

There are times I want company on these rides and I will ride with others if I come across them on the ride. I have a friend with whom I have done a Saturday morning ride and we had a great time.

Mostly though, Saturday Morning is my personal time. The time I get to be alone with my thoughts, my energy, my efforts and my needs. I can ride as fast as my legs will take me. I can attack a hill in my way, not worrying about keeping up or waiting up…

I can stop for the cup of coffee without concern for another rider and whether or not they like a coffee stop on a ride.

It is my most selfish time. On these rides I am accountable to no one but myself and the rules and laws of the road.

Soon enough I will pull in to the parking lot and it will be time to clean up and get to work. The Floor Manager of the Day will have tasks for me to do, there will be prep work for opening up, shelves to fill, floors to vacuum.

Soon the customers will come in and I get to talk about bikes all day and be paid for it. A great way to spend the day. There are joys in the job. Selling a youngster his or her first “good” bike, a man my age getting back into cycling and the smile on his face when he rides the bike in the lot, the husband who comes in with his wife to buy her a bike and buys one for himself as well after seeing how much she is enjoying the test ride… This is why I love selling bikes.

But it is the Saturday morning ride that reminds me why I love cycling.

Peace.


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Thoughts on Life


Been Looking Back

I was reading some of my old posts today. One was remarkably like the one I posted last week. Only the passage of about 18 months and the perspective that brings really differentiates last week’s post from the older post.

I think this is telling. I think it points to a truth about this Journey. For all I have learned about myself and my needs and my motivations, the same thoughts, fear, concerns, and questions exist today as when I started. The truth is that it will always be this way.

And I am ok with this. I understand that the scars never really heal over. It never really goes away, the urge to eat; the desire for food is always there. It is controlling it that matters.

If I have learned a lesson on this Journey, it is this: each day is important. Each meal matters. Everything I do will affect what I am trying to accomplish. For all the weight I have lost, for all I have learned about myself, I am nowhere near the end of the Journey. I can still fail. I don’t fear it as I once did. The potential will always exist.

I have kept the weight off longer than most who lose a great deal of weight. This does not make me immune to the traps and pitfalls all around.

I have a healthy fear of gaining the weight back. I know how easily I can fail, fall back, slip up…

Cutting back

I love working at the bike shop. If I could go back in time to my early twenties knowing what I know now I would find a shop like this one and BEG the owner for a job and I would do it for the rest of my life. Too soon old, too late smart…

All this said, and as much as I can use the income, working at the shop had one notable drawback. I have so little time to do the things I love. I have less time with my family, less time to ride, no time at all to hike.

I think come fall I will ask the owners if I can cut back to just Sundays and the occasional Saturday and weeknight. I would never cut back now. Summer is BUSY season and I think I am a help. At this point I have gained knowledge and experience and I would not want to leave the owners short-handed. They have been extremely good to me and there is no way I would leave them short.

I just need more time for family. I need more time to hike and ride.

We will see. I hope that it would work for them..

Weekend Plans

The July 4th holiday is coming right quick. No work ANYWHERE on Friday. Golden opportunity for a long bike ride and a hike.

I have a couple of people interested in a fifty-plus mile ride on Friday morning. I think that would be a great time if the weather agrees.

Afterwards I would like to get a hike in. I should see if PGB and MT are available. It has been a very long time since we have hiked together. In between I will spend time with my family, cook on the grill, have family time… Mixing the two is a challenge but I need both to maintain my sanity (such as it is).

Saturday I will ride in to the shop and on Sunday I will ride in and lead the Sunday Ride. I Evening with Missus and Da Boys.

Bliss.

Oh, the Younger One is nearly my height now. He just turned 14.

Sigh.

He will pass me soon.

An Interesting side effect of the weight loss: I shrunk in height.

I was just under 6’2″ when I was at my peak weight. I am now JUST a hair above 6’1″. Makes some sense I guess. My shoes size dropped from a 12 EE to an 11.5 D and my hat size dropped as well. Ya lose weight nearly everywhere… Just hard to imagine I could drop nearly ¾ of an inch.

It’s OK. I would rather be lean and shorter than what I was and taller.

Thinking about this: What I was…

What I was and taller. Interesting that I should write it that way.

What I was…..

What was I?

I was fat and I was miserable and I hated who I was and what I was.

I think about this a great deal because I have never stopped exploring why I got so heavy.

What I was….

I will never be again.

 

Peace.


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Climbing Hills and Other Points Along the Road


Living this way.

If you read this blog with regularity, you know the date. December 27, 2011. That was the day I began the Journey. I wanted to lose 75 pounds. I weighed 306 pounds and I figured losing 75 pounds would be a heck of a good thing. That would bring me down to 231-230.

I revised that quickly. A few weeks in to the Journey I decided that 210 was a better weight and that became my target. I wanted to lose 96 pounds.

I really didn’t know what I was doing. I started this blog so I could keep a diary of the trip and to keep me motivated.

On August 8, 2012 I reached 210 pounds. I have been below that weight for much of the journey since and I have learned to love the way I live.

I am so far from that person. The FAT person. The man in the pictures, hiding behind everyone else, trying to not look so large. I was “The Great Carnivore”. My diet was heavy on meat. Also heavy on Peanut Butter and Jelly. And White Bread.t

And I was fat.

Now? I have not had red meat since March of 2012. I rarely have poultry. I sometimes eat fish. I haven’t had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in more than two years. I will have a piece of whole wheat bread with a light spread of peanut butter about once every two months.

I was sedentary. Sitting on the sofa and watching TV was my evening, my weekend day, my activity of choice for times away from work.

I ride my bike now. I lead rides. I often do 40-mile rides. 60 miles? 75? Yes. I rode 3000 miles last year.

I eat right. I eat less. I ride my bike.

I am living this way. I am not afraid of regaining the weight. I know I have to watch it. I know I have to be careful. I can’t get careless but I know I have the plan, the knowledge and the habits developed to stay in my weight range.

This is how I live. It is not a fad, a DIET, a “program”. It is my life.

I understood right from the beginning that this had to become life. Diets are designed to end. They are designed to fail. “Programs” end. Programs Fail.

I had to make this the way I live. For the rest of my life.

Climbing Hills

It is a matter of perspective.

I love to ride. I am good on the flat roads, the rolling roads and the down hills (I LOVE DOWN HILLS) but I am not good on the hills.

Now BP, my boss at the bike shop, says I lack perspective. We are all bad at hills if we compare ourselves to others. And there is a good point there.

Here is my point: I am a weak hill climber. I climb them anyway. I am better than I was two years ago. I am better than I was last year. I may never be a really good hill climber but I am getting better. My point is that I am doing it. Despite how much I hate the hills, I am doing them. Despite how much I struggle, I am doing them. I am in the game. I am fighting my way up the hills.

Bad at running? Run anyway. Bad at hill climbs? Climb them anyway. Get in the game.

One the first shop ride I went on in early 2013 I had to walk a couple of hills. The group had to wait for me. I was the slow rider in the back.

I stayed in the game.

By July I was leading the ride.

I am not good on hills. I climb them anyway.

I am better at climbing hills than everyone who doesn’t try.

All a matter of perspective.

The Man in the Mirror.

I cried. I stood there and cried. I was seeing me, it seemed, for the first time. I cried.

Never again

Never again

I was in my late forties. 48, on the cusp of 49 I think. I was looking in the mirror and for some reason I realized just how big I was. I cannot tell you why. I think I have written about this before. I still have no answer.

I was around 320 pounds. Looking in the mirror that day I saw the roundness of my face, the second and third chin and the sheer size of ME.

And I cried. For a moment. I stood there and I cried.

It was the second time that I realized just how very large I was. The first was a picture taken at a family celebration a few years earlier.

This time… Looking in the mirror. Not able to blame the ten pounds a camera puts on.

I cried.

This weekend I looked in the mirror. I was getting ready for my Saturday morning ride (more on that later) and I saw a different me and I have to tell ya… I didn’t cry.

I saw the lean face. I saw the lean neck and shoulders. I saw a me that is very far from the person I was 5 years ago, 3 years ago, even two years ago.

Thought I would mention it.

The Saturday Ride

I have not been getting the miles I want on the bike.

The irony of working part-time in a bike shop is how little time I have to ride. I work my regular job Monday through Friday and I work the shop on weekends. This leaves precious little time to ride.

The nice weather helps on Saturdays and I lead the shop ride on Sundays.

Saturday is my solo time. It is the ride where I push myself and challenge my abilities. I ride as hard as I can for as long as I can within the 18 miles or so on the route to the shop.

This weekend I changed the routine. I changed my course.

I left earlier and I plotted out a course to take me about 29 miles with a little treat at the halfway mark.

At a little after 7:00 AM I mounted up and set out.

Now to really appreciate this ride I need you to remember what I said about climbing hills..

The first quarter of a mile of any ride from my home is downhill. If I turn right at the bottom of the hill I can stay on a generally downhill course with only a couple of climbs all the way to the shop over the course of about 18 miles. If I go straight I have a nearly two-mile climb. The first part is relatively steep. The rest is just long.

I went straight. I had my third best time climbing that hill. Proud of that.

Elevation Map from the ride on Saturday

Elevation Map from the ride on Saturday

Then I continued on past some beautiful farm fields, winding roads through wooded areas, a couple of nice climbs and then a ride through one of the underappreciated towns in New Jersey, Denville. A quick stop for a small coffee at Smart World and back to the ride.

Along the Route of the  Ride on Saturday

Along the Route of the Ride on Saturday

Some rolling hills and a couple of short climbs, a wrong turn or two and I saw a friend from the shop cycling in the other direction. I waved, he waved and I rode on. A few minutes later JS rode up to me, deciding that riding with a friend was worth diverting from his planned route. We rode the remaining eight miles together, a little chatting but mostly just two well matched riders enjoying a roll through the towns along the route. JS could easily ride away from me if he wanted to but we ride well together. It was fun.

At the end I had 29 miles in and a new route to follow on my way to the shop.

It was joy. Challenging myself, picking the harder, longer route. And to ride it so well.

Yes BP, you are right. It is a matter of perspective.

 

Peace