Why I ride (and why I need your money).

My fat pants
As just about anyone who would read this blog would know I’ve worked pretty hard over the last couple of years and have dropped some serious weight.  I’m literally half the man I used to be.  It seems somewhat traditional for folks to pick a big physical challenge to train for when they are nearing or have reached their weight loss goals. Running isn’t my sort of thing, but I’ve always found cycling to be interesting.  It comes with interesting fashion choices (viva le spandex!) and any sport that consumes this much carbon fiber has to be awesome, right?
I decided to set a goal that would be a stretch goal – and the one I’ve picked is the AIDS/LifeCycle 12.  From June 2nd – 8th I will be riding from San Francisco to LA.  545 miles in 7 days.  It still sounds kind of crazy to me, but then I have to remind myself that I went from no bike to riding in an organized century in 5 months.  As long as I follow the training plan I’m sure I’ll be ready.
But being ready isn’t enough.  The most important part about ALC is that it raises money to provide life-saving treatment to folks living with HIV/AIDS.  So I also ride to raise awareness that this disease is still with us, to help remove stigma, and to do what I can in general for a very worthy cause.
If this is a cause you also believe in and would like to support me, then please consider heading over to my participant page and donating what you can.  It is all greatly appreciated!

My new bike

My new bike
Yeah, I finally got a road bike.  I got out and did some test riding – the Domane 5.2, the Ultegra version of the Synapse, and this.  This is the one that honestly felt the best.  And the looks don’t hurt one bit either.  It’s the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert Compact and it’s my new steed.  I’m sure it can take me all the way to LA.

My First Century

 As I posted on Facebook: 2 years ago I weighed 460 pounds.  5 months ago I didn’t own a bike.  On the 20th of October I did this:

When deciding to do something like this, I decided I wanted to do it with some friends.  My friends Eric and Greg had suggested we might do this – they had done it in the past.  Greg had said that if I elected to do the full century (as opposed to the metric century) he would stick with me – and that he did, as did Eric.  Also along for the ride was my college roommate Ricardo and the 4 of us made a pretty fun group.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Cycling Club
Eric and Greg headed to Davis directly from the Bay Area – I decided to come to Sacramento on Thursday night to cut down on the driving on Saturday morning.  But Friday night I was too amped up to sleep right away, so when the alarm went off at 4am I had only been asleep for 3 hours.  Not as rested as I wanted to be, but it would have to do.
I picked up Ricardo at around 6am and put his bike on the back of the Man Truck and headed off to Davis.  We got there right around 7, found parking, and picked up our packets.  Then we prepared our bikes and ourselves and headed out.  My Garmin says I hit “start” right at 7:24am.  The light was JUST coming out.
The 20 miles to the first rest stop were pretty easy and flat.  The morning was beautiful, and there were several hot air balloons to be seen.  I was feeling a bit of pressure – I had been worried from the start about being fast enough to finish.  The first rest stop was swamped and it took a while to hit the port-o-potties.  I did grab some of the tasty snacks (banana mini-muffins!), slammed a gel, refilled the water bottles, and then headed on.
The next section included our first little hill of the day.  As I said to Ricardo it was an amuse bouche of suffering.  A taste of things to come.  Seeing the heart rate get right up there to 160 was fun as always. After that little bit of fun there was a nice downhill and some easy riding to a water stop at mile 37.5  Greg and Eric had rushed ahead because they needed the port-o-pottie really bad.  There was a REALLY long at the water stop, but we got back on the road as quickly as we could.
After the water stop it was a short 13-ish miles to lunch.  I even spent some time leading a paceline which I hadn’t done before.  I was just grinding out the miles as usual.  After doing that I had my first mechanical challenge of the day – a dropped chain.  No problem, except that I was by myself at this point and I suck at doing it on my own.  (It helps to have someone to hold the bike.)  Another cyclist stopped by and asked if I needed help and he held the bike for me while I got the chain back on.  And yes, I used my plastic gloves.  No need to get dirty.
Lunch was at this little school.  Sandwiches and munchies and whatnot.  I didn’t want to eat too much because I was well aware – perhaps too aware – of what was coming up.  The vast majority of the climbing on this ride was doing to be in the 20 miles after lunch.  So I took my time resting, enjoying the music and the shade and getting fueled and hydrated to do some climbing.
The first hill up was the Circle Oaks Summit on Highway 128.  It was certainly the steepest hill of the day.  Three quarters of the way up I started hearing a strange sound from my rear wheel and notice that it had developed a couple of cracks.  As I was checking it out a SAG car stopped and asked if I needed help.  I told him I didn’t think so, but if I did I would call him on the radio.  (I had brought my mini-handheld ham radio with me.)  Once at the top I showed the cracks to Ricardo and he said yeah, I was gonna need a new wheel.  But at this point I decided to push on and see if I could make it – although fear of the wheel failing did color the rest of the trip.  Given this uncertainty about my rear wheel I was unable to enjoy the all-to-brief descent.  I tried to keep my speed pretty low just in case something went wrong.  
Heading on there were a couple of minor hills and a bigger descent before the other big climb of the day – Cardiac Hill.  Given the name I was worried it was going to be insane.  The reality was that while it was definitely much longer, with at least one false summit.  All there was to do was to gear down and spin it out.  I would stop when necessary (and did, several times).  But no hill goes up forever, so eventually I got to the top.  Once I did then I knew I’d be able to finish the ride – as long as the bike held out.  
After Cardiac Hill there was one minor bump at Monticello Dam, and then the last rest stop.  It was in a nice shady little park.  No waiting at the port-o-potties, nice cool water, and a good sense of accomplishment.  I had conquered the hills and now just had to get back to Davis.  The ride back in to town was nice and flat, and it went along Putah Creek.  It turns out that the little stream that runs through the UCD campus is not really Putah Creek – and it’s almost a river!  
Following the creek we ended back on roads we had been on earlier in the day.  This time, however, I was much more tired than I had been going out.  My knee started to bother me quite a bit and my quads were burning.  I knew what they meant about “the wall” at mile 80 for sure.  We stopped at one point at mile 90 just so I could stretch my back and it was a bad idea – my knee hurt a lot more than before we stopped.  One thing I knew for sure – no more stopping until I was back at my truck!
The last 10 miles were hard.  Covell Boulevard had felt nice and quiet in the morning, but was busy with trucks and cars now.  And I really just wanted to get back to my truck so that I could get off the bike (and out of my bike shoes).  Soon enough we returned to where we started.  I looped the bike around a bit to get the mileage over 100 since the official distance for Foxy’s was 98.5.  I wanted my first century to be an actual century, and sure enough it was.  I was pretty happy about being done.

Victory
So there it is.  After 5 months of riding I went from doing 2 miles on my bike in jeans to being a spandex-wearing, bike-cleat using road warrior.  As I start shopping for a “proper” road bike I don’t think I need to worry about using it – clearly I’ve found my sport.

It’s gotta be the shoes.

After debating and debating I decided it was time to take my riding up a notch and the way to do that was to start using clipless pedals.
I find the whole terminology confusing (and broken).  They’re called “clipless” because they don’t have the old fashioned toe clips like on bikes in the 80s.  And yet they call using the “clipping in”.  Basically you have a fancy cycling shoe that has a mechanical attachment point on the bottom that connects to the pedal, basically attaching you to the bike.
There are many advantages to doing this.  To start with the shoes tend to be much stiffer than regular shoes, so it means that less of your energy is going into flexing the shoe and more is going into the pedals (and this the bike).  Secondly I found that after a certain point (about 85 rpm) I was having problems keeping my feet on the pedals.  Not a problem anymore. (My “comfortable” cadence is about 90 rpm now.)
There are a couple of downsides, mostly in the safety department.  You have to move your feet a certain way to get out of the pedals – and failure to do so will likely lead to a slow speed fall.  This has already happened to me once – I was practicing doing a panic stop and I didn’t get out in time.  A slow speed fall and nothing injured except for my pride.
I’ve been practicing on my regular daily ride for about a week and change now and this weekend I’ll be using them on a longer ride.  We’ll see what happens.
For those that are curious the shoes are 2012 Specialized Pro Road shoes:
(and I do kinda wish they weren’t quite so shiny)
The pedals are Speedplay Zero Stainless:

The yellow part is actually the cleat that goes on the shoe and the part that looks like the lollypop is the pedal.  
So far I’ve been enjoying using them.  Hopefully that will continue.

It’s not about the bike.

Except when it is.
First off: Here we are mid june and I’m at about 248.  That’s down about 30 from the start of the year.  Frustrating to say the least.  Yes, it is progress and yes it is over 250 pounds from where I started.  But no it is not the speed that I would like.  (Hint: it never is.)
On a more interesting note: this weekend I spent money (something I’m excellent at) and bought a bike.

It’s a Specialized Sirrus Comp.  It’s even got some carbon fiber bits!  Although they call it a hybrid it’s really more of a flat-bar road bike. Skinny tires, road gears, etc.  It’s a very nice dark dark grey (which they call “slate”) and black combination.  And to continue the theme I got a black/grey helmet: 
We’re going for a Johnny Cash theme here.   
So what brought this on, you ask?  I shall tell you.  I’ve been looking for ways to be more active.  Going to the gym is fine and whatnot, but it’s not fun.  It’s boring as hell.  Yes, it can be fun when I go late at night and there’s no one around to see my lip-synching to my Glee playlist (Hungry Like the Wolf and Rio mashup? Excellent!) but in general it’s just work.  Riding a bike in the real world seems more interesting than riding a fake bike in the gym.  
I thought I’d start off with a very simple goal – trying to ride my bike to Yahoo!.  It’s only 4.5 miles each way – an easy enough of a goal.  But I was concerned about the lack of flexibility that had built up in my knees so I started some physical therapy to restore flexibility and it seems to be working.  They let me start off with 5 minutes on a stationary bike at a time and then we added 5 minutes a week.  When I was up to 20 minutes they said I could go bike shopping.  (No need to tell me twice!)
I had initially looked at a Trek FX 7.5 but the lack of ability to put bar ends on it kind of killed it for me.  Plus, and I know this shouldn’t matter – I didn’t like the looks all that much.  I went to Cognition Cyclery and fell in love with the Sirrus Comp.  Their staff was amazing and I was able to get expertly fitted by Vanessa – she is VERY awesome.  Can’t recommend her highly enough.    I also went to REI and took advantage of their big sale to get a Thule Helium 3-bike rack for the truck, the aforementioned helmet, and a few other bits and pieces.  
I have quickly realized that my goal of riding to work isn’t much of a goal – it takes about half an hour.  Or about 10 minutes more than it takes to drive and park.  (Parking at Yahoo! is a PITA.)  But I also have a more long-term goal in mind – the AIDS LifeCycle in 2013.  A 575 mile ride from SF to LA.  That goal may seem crazy, but what is the point of losing all this weight if I can’t do crazy things?  If I enjoy road riding (and I think I might, since it involves machines and going fast-ish) then why not do something like this?  Nothing to motivate you to get out there like training for something.  
I’ll keep you posted.

Yes. I’m lazy. Get over it.

I haven’t been updating things.  I know.  

Here we are at the beginning of 2012.  I’m at about 280.  I’ve lost about 180 pounds.  Almost all of it was in the year 2011.  So as far as that “lose weight” resolution goes…I think I nailed that one.
So what about 2012?  Well, it’s time to focus on getting to my goal weight and trying to figure out what that will mean.  Pretty soon I’m going to get some immersion body fat testing done to find out what my lean mass really is, but I’m guessing my goal will be around 200.
One thing I do need to do is get off my butt and figure out if my bike can be made rideable again or if I just need to get a new one.  I do want to start riding pretty soon with my eventual goal being riding the bike to and from work.  If I get going then it should only take me about 20 to 30 minutes (as opposed to the 10-15 that driving takes) and give me a bit of extra exercise during the day.  

The current state of affairs…

Yes, the updates are not as frequent as they have been.  Sorry about that.  And I suppose I should write about things other than losing weight.  I’ll see what I can come up with.

Anyway, as of this morning I was at 305lb.  That makes for a total weight loss of 155 pounds.  
I’ve crossed one major milestone having lost over 150 pounds.  And I’m also closing on what may be an even bigger milestone – changing that left most digit from a 3 to a 2.  I honestly can’t remember when that was last true.  It’s some time in my childhood – high school at the latest.  I might have some old weight watchers log at my parent’s house but I’m not going to look too hard for it.  That milestone could happen this week.  Next week at the latest. 
So one annoying thing – the clothes that I had just started to fit back in to are getting too big again.  I suppose it’s a good problem to have, but the fact is that I won’t be replacing them for a while.  I’m going to go through a period of several months where I honestly have nothing to wear but jeans and t-shirts.  I might buy a nice shirt or two if I have to but I’ll try to avoid it.  The goal is to save up money for when I reach goal.  Then I’m gonna go on a shopping spree.  
We’re supposed to throw out our clothes that are too big.  The idea is if you keep them around then if you gain weight you can just “grow back in to them”.  They tell me that the act of having your clothes be too tight and having to shop for bigger clothes might help you get back on track.  That does make sense, but as my mother’s son throwing out anything is rather difficult.  I’m still wearing, on occasion, 5x shirts that are FAR too big.  Even some of the 4x stuff is too big.  It makes it hard to go out on a date if you’re trying to look impressive.
Regardless of what I do I will keep the size 66 jeans that I got for Christmas last year.  When I get to goal I’ll take one of those “look at how fat I used to be” pictures.
I’m also planning on taking my bike to the bike shop and getting it fixed up (if it can be).  I think it’s time to start riding again if my knees will let me.  My hope is to eventually be able to ride to and from work and maybe go riding for fun on the weekends.  I’ll start with my bike from college and if I stay with it I’ll consider something better. 
There’s all the news from the weight loss front.  In the immortal words of Timmay – have fun!

What I’ve been up to…

Some folks had noted I hadn’t updated a while.  I’m glad to report that no, I haven’t gone completely off the wagon, but I have hit a bit of a rough patch.

My friends on Facebook and whatnot know why, but for those who don’t – my mother passed away on July 21st.  She had been in the hospital recovering from a femoral bypass and things just took a turn for the worse.  She was in the ICU for about 5 weeks and we were even hoping she’d be make it to a rehab hospital but it was not to be.  I missed my trip to Florida and spent as much time as I could in Sacramento – a lot of it with Mom in the ICU.  (The ICU staff at Sutter Memorial were amazing.  It’s the people that make the hospital, not the building or equipment.)
Needless to say this has been a fairly stressful time and I have strayed a bit from the plan – I’ve been “out of the box” on occasion, to use HMR speak.  It can be hard.  For example the day of Mom’s funeral I had to pick up car up from the dealership after having been repaired.  The car made it 10 miles and then completely died.  I called a tow truck and the first tow truck showed up with a broken winch and I had to wait for a second.  It made for a long afternoon and by the time I got back home my dad had ordered pizza for him and my sister.  I looked at my diet food and just said “screw it”.  (Well, I didn’t use screw.  But I did use a similar word.)
Fortunately with all that went on the damage was slight – by the time I checked in again I had gained 4 pounds.  (The first week that this had all gone on I had lost 12.)  That’s already off.  I’m down to 330 now, so that makes a loss of 130.  Since I had listed 200lb as my original goal weight I’m halfway there – but I’m starting to think 180 now, so I need to lose 10 more pounds to get there.
The benefits of losing weight showed up a lot on my vacation to Maui.  After all of the stress I felt I needed to do something and when Chris’ timeshare interval came up I talked him in to going.  (I didn’t have to talk very hard.)  Being able to walk places and move better was very nice.  I needed just a bit of a seatbelt extension on the plane but I was able to use the tray table in first class for the first time.  (They’re in the arm and come out and down over your belly.  For me my tummy was always in the way.)  Look for another post on Maui after I get my first set of pictures uploaded. 
Anyway I’m trying to be back on track with mixed results.  We’ll see.  I don’t want to give up at all, but things are challenging right now.  I’m told it will get easier.

It’s gonna be up in the triple digits today…

So usually when someone who has been on an intense diet and blogs about it but doesn’t update for a while it’s usually because “life happened”, they went off the plan, and they don’t want to admit it.  These folks also often talk about having been “out of the box”, which is HMR speak for eating things you’re not supposed to. 

Fear not – that’s not the case here.  I’m just lazy.  (This is the secret to my success on HMR.)  My official HMR stats are 79 pounds in 17 weeks.  The actual total weight loss on *my* scale is about 104 pounds.  (That also includes the weight I loss in between attending the HMR orientation and actually starting the program – about 1.5 months.)  I’ve been entirely in the box for these 17 weeks – and that’s why the scale says what it does.
When I ducked under 360 that was pretty big for me because I remember seeing the scale at 460 and going “OMGWTFBBQ11!1!!!!”.  I’m also looking forward to 350 since that’s the max weight for many things like bicycles and gym equipment.  Sadly, that milestone isn’t very far away so it’s gonna be here quick.  The next one will obviously be seeing the most significant digit go from “3” to “2”.  
I really need to dig up some pictures or something – when I look in the mirror the changes don’t look that dramatic to me.  They do to some folks, not to others.  I know there are changes though – for Christmas my dad bought me 2 pairs of jeans that had 66″ waists.  I just bought a new pair (of actual Levi brand) jeans that were 60″.  That’s 6″ off.  Plus things fit better in the leg and butt.  (A large part of the loss has been in my butt.  Don’t ask me how I know.)  I also had to pick up a new belt because even with all the extra holes the old belt was just looking wrong.  (Hey Rochester here’s a hint – when your house brand belt is the same price as the Ralph Lauren belt I’m going RL.)
The one thing that was cool was that my “nice” clothes fit again.  I started buying some pimp gear at Rochester Big and Tall back in 2002-ish.  Lotsa stuff with horsies on it.  None of it had fit for a while. (Heck, I’ve got a pair of pants that still have the tags on them.)  I weigh much less now than when I bought it – more proof that it’s not coming off my belly as fast as it is coming off from other places.  But then again it’s stuff that barely fit when I bought it.  It really fits now.  “Shopping in your own closet” is nice and doesn’t cost much.  I don’t think the stuff will fit for long but I’ll enjoy it while it does.  I’ll dress up and scare my co-workers.  (Wearing nice clothes to the office usually means you’re interviewing somewhere.)  Obviously I’m trying to avoid dumping too much cash into clothes right now.  But at a minimum I need to have, at any given time, two pairs of jeans that fit, underwear, a belt, and t-shirts.  I’m gonna buy jeans one pair at a time – see if I can wait until I’m down to 56-ish before buying another pair.  I guess I’ll usually have one pair that’s a bit snug and one pair that’s a bit loose. 
I also needed new undies and have discovered the magic of boxer briefs.  How did I not know about these things?  They’re awesome.  My giblets are pleased.  I’m *really* looking foward to hitting 3X size because I think stuff like the compression gear that Under Armour makes will be helpful.  Things are getting flabby enough that I wanna keep it strapped down.
I’m looking forward to my trip to Florida – I wonder if I’ll still need a belt extender.  Maybe.  I’m sure the seat will be more comfortable.  I’m still flying in first class – I’m not ready for the trauma of coach yet.  But I’ll just make a shake (or eat a cold bean entree – not too bad) and enjoy the ride. 

HMR – Core Overload

I’ve now completed the 12 weeks of the HMR “core program”.  I will be continuing on into the “ongoing” program, which operationally is just like what I completed – the only difference is the class content.  I will be continuing with my 3 shakes/2 entrees meal plan (averaging about 1100 calories a day) and continuing doing my exercise.  

Over the 12 weeks of core I lost 54 pounds (by the way HMR does math).  The only real complaint I have was that towards the end of the program I hit a two week plateau.  At two weigh-ins in a row I had lost 0 pounds.  This may or may not have been related to the cold I had, but it was very frustrating and I do feel like I didn’t get a lot of support during that time.  It’s very frustrating to do everything like you’re supposed to and see no results.  Also, the plateau means that I didn’t make my hope for an average of 5lb/week during core, but 4.5 isn’t too bad.
Our class, that had about 15 people in it, lost 359 pounds total.  Since I only represented about 6% of the class, but 15% of the weight loss, I assume that I lost more than some people.  They wouldn’t say who lost how much however – it’s not a competition.  (Yeah, right.)
On the exercise front things are improving.  I started off doing no exercise, then 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week, then 35 minutes, then 45 minutes.  Now it’s 45 minutes 4 times a week and soon to be 5.  I also have started working with a personal trainer for strength training, flexibility, and stability.  My stated goal is to start riding a bike soon – then I’ll be working on getting good enough to ride to and from work.