Shedding Meat…

Last month was the 48th anniversary of my first visit to a weight room. I still remember the 45-pound barbell falling to my chest — my muscles too weak to do much about it. I somehow managed to extended my arms and return the bar to the top position. The man spotting me was Officer Ray Bingham of the Denver Police Department. He was part of a program to help delinquent kids like me learn to lift weights. My parents thought it might be a better outlet than vandalizing neighborhood mailboxes and cars — something I excelled at as a 12-year old. 

Bingham told me to lower the bar again which I did, but it didn’t go much better the 2nd time around. Once again I returned it to the top position — my right arm doing most of the work. In addition to the bench presses, we did some leg extensions that day, some lat-pulldowns, and sit-ups. I was so sore the next day I couldn’t go to diving practice. With that soreness though, came a sense of purpose I’d not previously known. 

I’d spend the next 48-years lifting weights for an hour per day, nearly every day. I built my entire life around lifting weights and eating to support my workouts. Since pre-adolescence, getting the gym and getting enough protein each day have held more real estate in my head than any other ideals. Though I never developed a world-class physique, I’ve always had more meat than most.

This past March, after some 15,000 workouts, I made a decision I would’ve thought unimaginable even six months earlier — the time has come to quit chasing meat. That is, I’ve made the decision to back off on my strength training sessions, and the dietary support of required to gain/maintain muscle mass, and enjoy a more moderate lifestyle — and this time I mean it. 

I make my living teaching people my age and older that they shouldn’t worry about gaining more muscle mass. The focus, I suggest, should be on getting better at using the muscle they already have. Keep it active, keep it strong, not to worry about making more of it. I believe this is a good way to be over the age of 50. Still, when I’ve been in the weight room and as I’ve prepared each meal going back to preadolescence, my mindset has always been about increasing my muscle mass. 

Age though, and the law of diminishing returns have been asserting their will against me. By my early 50s, I possessed every gram of muscle I would ever have. It’s been a gradual decline since. That’s not to say I’m getting weak and frail. I just don’t have the meat I had in my 40s and 50s. And to be clear, I still enter the weight room every day — because being strong is a good problem to have. 

My workouts today are still challenging, but the intensity and the volume have decreased. The workouts are geared more toward everyday strength — the kind of strength that stays with me when I leave the weight room. In the modern age, physical autonomy is a virtue, but seems to be on the decline with many. 

Though I no longer look like an action figure, I do look athletic and that’s going to have to do. Most importantly, my workouts are less stressful these days, and walking into the weight room has been less daunting and less intimidating. Perhaps for the first time in a decade, my workouts fit me like a glove.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

Last week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 157

Climbing: 6,800’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 9,000

Seat Time: 10 hours 26 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Stevie Wonder. Enjoy…

Tour de Palomar…

Over the weekend I took a two-day bike tour to the top of Palomar Mountain — and back. After riding across the Mojave in May, I promised myself I’d do at least one overnight trip each month, and this was my first.

I went with low expectations. I’ve never even been to the top of Palomar in a car, let alone a bike, and didn’t take time to scout the ride. I watched YouTube videos of area cyclists and became aware that this is the climb in San Diego bike culture.

What I couldn’t find, despite using every key search term imaginable, was information about bikepacking on Palomar — riding to the top, but with camping gear like a bicycle tourist. I was surprised and began to question whether this climb was doable with gear.

Some common terms from cyclists who’ve documented their climbs of Palomar not carrying gear included hell, torture, pain, and never again. What would an extra 25-pounds do to my experience…? I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

From my house, it’s just 40-miles to the top — a distance I ride regularly. And most of that ride was easy, with roughly 2000’ of gradual climbing to get to the base of the mountain. The 16-mile ascent though, took me nearly 4-hours. By comparison, the ascent the following morning took just under 30-minutes.

I booked a space at Observatory Campground, just a few miles from the observatory itself. I figured once I got my tent set up, I’d leave my gear, do a little hiking, and take some pictures. A funny thing happened on the way up…

It was the hardest physical challenge of my life. Just-3 miles into the climb, I decided I couldn’t do it — I quit. I took out my phone and called the Lazy H Inn, a country motel just a few miles from where I stopped. I was going to ask if they had a room for the night. Then I thought about my friend Andy, who in support of my ride, ran to the highest point in his community in northern England earlier in the day. I hung up my phone and continued my ride. For 13-miles I just kept repeating Andy‘s name. It was slow going and it was hard, but I wasn’t going to quit. I was also reminded of my friend Tim a few weeks back crossing the Mojave… “We’ll be fine…”

About 3-miles from the summit, my legs began cramping. With my experience in fitness, I knew how to minimize cramps. For the last few miles, I’d ride roughly a half-mile, stop, stretch, do some deep squats, and rest for about 10-minutes. That was the protocol to the top. I finished all my liquids in those last few miles.

When I arrived at the convenience store just beyond the summit, it seemed fitting that the attendant was closing the door as my bike entered the parking lot. I was less than 50-feet away when she flipped the sign in the window to CLOSED. So much for Powerade. When I arrived at my campsite, before setting up my tent or unpacking my gear, I went to the water spigot and drank two bottles and did a little more stretching. The cramps soon subsided. 

The campsite was a fun 5-mile descent from the summit, which felt good after climbing all afternoon. When I reached for my phone to text my love ones I’d made it, there was no service. I asked a fellow camper if he knew where the nearest service might be. He said the closest service was in the parking lot of the convenience store I’d just left. I didn’t want anyone worried about me so I got back on my bike, rode to the convenience store, and sent several texts letting people know I was okay.  

Back at the campsite, I setup my tent and sleeping roll. The other thing I failed to take into consideration, along with a lack of cellular service, was the profound infestation of flies and mosquitoes that have claimed Palomar. I didn’t count mosquito bites, but the fly bites hurt worse. I took caution to keep the door to my tent closed except when entering and leaving. Without bug spray, the tent would be my salvation. 

Of course with no cell service, there was no music, no YouTube, and no movies. Just writing and thinking — two of my favorite things. Since I needed one more frustration, along with the bugs and the lack of Internet to complete the trifecta, the campsite beside me had 6 matching sky blue tents — all filled with pre-teen girls from an area church. So help me God, everyone of them was named Morgan. After getting settled, I was tempted to face Mecca, bow, and pray for a while. I chose to just sit quietly for a moment and give thanks to God instead. 

Exhausted from the afternoon, I took a short hike as the sun was setting, but made it less than a half-mile before I turned around and climbed in my tent for the night. Dinner was two Annie’s vegetarian burritos and a Larry & Larry vegan cookie. From the window of my tent, I watched the moon pass through some pines and decided to turn the light out.

Photos below are from earlier in the week…

The church girls beside me giggled into the night, and the White Trash Family Robinson arrived at the campsite on the opposite side a little after 10pm. They listened to Foreigner and shotgunned beers as they set up camp. When I woke Sunday morning, there were actually three recliners beside their campfire — they simply took their living room for a drive.

At 5am I began stowing my gear. I was on the road by 5:45. Descending Palomar was spectacular. The morning light highlighted the views through every hairpin turn and overlook. From the time I left the summit, I didn’t take a single kick for 16-miles — it was a total freeride. I rode slow through the orchards and groves of the Pauma Valley with a sense of pride from what I’d accomplished. I was home by 10am. 

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll do this again. I’m glad I did it — and glad that I didn’t quit. The ride was the epitome of Type A fun — the kind of fun that’s made up of exhaustion and determination, and doesn’t actually become fun until it’s over. Okay, I’ll probably do it again or something similar, but I’m definitely going to pack lighter.

This is what I think about when I ride it… Jhciacb 

Last week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 171

Climbing: 14,000’

Mph Avg: 12.6

Calories: 13,000

Seat Time: 13 hours 38 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from The Inmates. Enjoy…

On The Adversity Of Others…

At some point during each ride, I find myself contemplating the trials and tragedies of others. Not for amusement, but out of humility. I think about those in my periphery — friends, family, and acquaintances, as well as those I’ve crossed paths with via social media.

As I stand out of my saddle and pedal up steep grades or glide down the other sides hoping to pass cars ahead of me, I chew on the adversity of others more than I think about my own. By comparison, I often think, I don’t even know what adversity is. This the exercise within my exercise — an excellent daily reminder of how blessed my life is.

Completing the adversity of others is a grounding reminder that many I know have interruptions in their own blessings, and that sometimes those interruptions are severe. I love them and I always pray for them.

It’s been a decade since Gretchen died. She was in her late-40s, a client and friend who I occasionally hiked with. One afternoon, while walking across a restaurant floor on her way to the restroom, Gretchen suffered a heart attack. The EMTs revived her, but she passed away the next morning. Only minutes before, she had texted another friend that she was having one of the best days of her life. There hasn’t been a week go by since, that I have not thought about that, at least a little bit.

A few years later, the 13-year-old daughter of another friend passed away suddenly, on her way to a family outing with her parents and two brothers. That loss has crossed my mind a few times a day ever since. Though I never knew Clara, the suddenness of her loss impacted me as much as any.

Several years ago a friend in Colorado allowed a tree to get between she and a fantastic downhill run she was having that day. She spent several weeks in the hospital, suffered multiple broken bones, a short term head injury, and some permanent scarring on the right side of her face. The scarring is minimal, she is skiing again regularly, and she has since finished college. She refers to the scars on her face as “The signature of good fortune“.

Because I ride past his house daily, I think of Dave. He was a client who was complaining about shoulder problems about a few years back. He was concerned our workouts were causing the pain he was having under his upper right arm. After a doctors visit and a couple of referrals, is shoulder pain turned out not to be workout related. The pain was coming from his lymph nodes, the result of lung cancer that he was unaware of. After a couple years of fighting it, the cancer won.

Those are just a few examples of adversities that have touched me, but have clearly touched those connected to them far more. With each passing year there’s always one or two more. At some point, there might be so many adversities that I’ll be able to think of little else.

The joke in my family is this…

I don’t have to get an annual physical. I just get my blood work done when I visit the emergency room each year. Though I do land in the emergency room frequently, I’ve been quite fortunate that nothing putting me there has caused me much difficulty. There have been setbacks, but nothing that approaches the term adversity.

Maybe it’s because I ride by markers each day where cyclists have been struck by cars. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen more than a handful of gurneys being loaded into ambulances driving away from the remains of mangled motorcycles, bikes, and cars. Most likely though, it’s because I know the risks involved with daily cycling, that I think about the adversity of others and the impact it has had on their families and friends.

As much as anything, these daily thoughts remind me of just how good my life is, and how I should strive to protect and appreciate it.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 183

Climbing: 8,100’

Mph Avg: 14.7

Calories: 10,300

Seat Time: 12 hours 26 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Spooky Tooth. Enjoy…