August 20, 2022 Comments Off on Sprint, ride, walk
Two days ago I sprinted. Rather, I did sprints. Rather, I did eight 30-second sprints with one-minute rests. I’ve been doing them once a week now for a month.
Kristie persuaded me that high intensity intervals were incredibly beneficial to doddering, mostly dead old fucks, and she did it the way she usually does. She sent me a bunch of research to read. Fortunately it was lots easier than the stuff about myokines and lactate and phosphorylation and the Cori cycle. Basically, in this study they took some old fucks and put them in a lab and made them do:
- 60 seconds of jumping jacks with 90 seconds rest
- 60 seconds of squats with 90 seconds rest
- 60 seconds of sprinting in place with 90 seconds rest
- 60 seconds of squats with 90 seconds rest
- 60 seconds of jumping jacks and hopefully a cold beer
Then they made a different set of old fucks do the same thing at home with no supervision.
Then they made a different set of old fucks do nothing.
The incredible results were that the old fucks who did nothing DID NOT CHANGE.
And the old fucks who did a few jumping jacks and stuff CHANGED. And, crazy, I know, it made no difference whether they were being supervised (a/k/a gym) or on their own. The gym industry is not stoked about this study, I guess.
Their blood pressure lowered. The pennation angle of their muscles increased (go look that up, lazy). Their VO2 max increased. Their LDL dropped. All this with five lousy minutes of intervals, three times a week.
Of course Kristie, whose nickname at work used to be Bitch Pudding, makes me do intervals way harder than that. To even start my intervals I have to climb a thousand feet, barefoot. Then when I sprint I have to do track sprints. Still not sure what these are but they involve much nausea. You might be wondering how these have affected me?
Well, on sprint days, when I wake up I get pre-nausea. Then after the sprints, the rest of the day is a fucking piece of cake. The more I do them, the more I realize that no matter how fast I run, I’m not outrunning death. He’s just having to work harder to catch me.
After the sprints I rode around the lake. This is one of two throwaway rides here. It’s 39 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing, along with about 5 near-death encounters with RV’s and pick-them-ups. When you start the day with running sprints, the bike riding is really easy. According to my coach, this is because sprinting is what’s known as acute VO2 max training, and its effects last up to 48 hours, making whatever subsequent thing you do seem incredibly easy. Of course since the subsequent thing is almost always sleep, I’m not sure this proves a lot.
The next day I felt like shit so I stayed home.
This morning I felt great so I left the house at 5:20 and walked to the grocery store in Kernville, which is just under seven miles away. As I walked along the highway a car pulled up. It was Mike, the butcher. “You walking by choice?”
“Okay. You’re usually on a bike, so just wanted to check. No ride?”
“No, but thanks. See you in a bit.”
I got to Kernville and went to the meat counter at the grocery store, where Mike dished up a pound of hot Italian sausage. I got the rest of my stuff, including two half-gallons of milk, but they were in glass bottles. When loaded, my pack was about 30 pounds.
You see a lot more when you walk. For example, I found a little dirt road that parallels the main highway that I’ve never seen despite a hundred or more rides along this stretch of road. Some local fellows had painted a start line for a quarter-mile race track. I bet that after a few beers and the exercise of 2nd Amendment rights that gets even more exciting.
I also got to examine the two dead people memorials that have been there for a long time. I guess that having high speed limits and no meaningful DUI laws makes the deaths worthwhile.
The local tattoo parlor is pretty cool in the early morning light. But I noticed a tiny placard in the window for a lawyer in “Suite C.” Lawyer officing with a tattoo artist. Sounds about right.
The walk home was miserable, hilly, and hot. Now I know why PCT through-hikers don’t carry a lot of glass bottles. But when I arrived, Pepper was waiting for me. He’s like a dog. He meows when I come home and then wants to be petted and fed, but not in that order.
I like dogs, too.
August 11, 2022 Comments Off on Bilbo’s retirement
I was standing in line at the Dollar General with a gallon of milk. The Dollar General is the Wal-Mart for tiny towns that are too tiny for a W-M.
The lady in front of me was really large. She was wearing a baggy pair of shorts and a tank top. She had long gray hair and might have been in her late 60’s, although she could have easily passed for 80. She was holding a can of tomato sauce and a six-pack of hotdog buns.
In a voice that shook the store, she shouted, “I’m so god-damned sick and tired of this god-damned heat! I’m going on strike! Who’s with me?”
The old boy and old gal in front of her were about the same age and about the same degree of imploding health and exploding body mass. He was wearing a dirty gimme cap, short sleeves and Dickies, and she was dressed like the lady going on strike except the entire left half of her face was green-black-blue, like she’d been hit with a board.
“Hell, I’m with you!” the man shouted.
“Me, too!” his wife shouted.
“I hate this god-damned heat!” she said again.
The cashier looked over the plexiglass barrier. “It’s pretty hot but it’s not as hot as it was last year.”
“I don’t give a good god-damn about last year. I’m hot now!”
“Well,” the cashier replied, “when my cousin committed suicide back in 2017, my then-husband, the other one before the one before Joe, he stayed here and I went up to Oregon for the funeral. It was 65 degrees there and when I called him to tell him about the viewing, they had done an amazing job with her head, had put it back together you wouldn’t have known she’d shot herself in the mouth, and you know what he said?”
“What?” the striker asked.
“He said it was 117. And I told him it was 65 in Oregon and so we decided that was where we were going to retire, but then he ran off with that crazy lady who owned the antique shop and I’m still stuck here.”
The striker shook her head. “65 sounds about right. I can’t stand anything over 73. I am impervious to the cold, though.” She gestured at her outfit. “I dress the same way in the snow.”
The old boy nodded approvingly. “Me, too. Short sleeves every day of the year. Cold don’t bother me none.”
No one seemed to make the connection that fat insulates, and their resistance to the cold wasn’t a function of hardiness and good conditioning but the reverse.
I said nothing and as the folks ahead of me were still climbing into their air-conditioned trucks I got on my bike and pedaled home, sweating profusely, thinking about those retirees in the Dollar General and Bilbo Baggins.
Maybe you remember when the fellowship arrived in Rivendell, after being chased by the Riders? There was a happy reunion between Frodo and Bilbo, who puttered around in a sort of makeshift office, absentmindedly organizing his papers and planning the big book he was never going to finish.
It was the idealized retirement of an academic, Tolkien the Oxford Beowulf/Chaucer scholar projecting his own imaginary retirement onto Bilbo. It’s a fantasy entertained by most in one form or another. My father most definitely imagined that his retirement would be a time to do those projects he “really” wanted to do, the writing he “really” wanted to write.
Probably the most common fantasy variation is travel; “I’m finally going to see the world/this great country/my own home state,” followed by “spend time with my family/grandkids.” Maybe a few imagine that they’re going to do a triathlon at last or bike across the country or run a marathon.
The reality? Most retirees spend their time, in the following order, by doing nothing, watching TV, and sleeping. Wow. That sounds fun. What happened to daily fucking, crossing the Himalayas on a yak, and learning trans-Pacific sailing?
What all of these fictitious active retirement scenarios have in common is that they are fictions. Retirement for almost everyone means staring at the maw of death, wondering when it’s going to chomp down, and while waiting for life to kill you, doing everything you can to KILL TIME. Do you think those retiree greeters thought they would be enjoying the milk and honey years of retirement saying, “Welcome to Wal-Mart. Cosmetics? Aisle 762.”
My dad was too prideful to ever work at Wal-Mart, though it might have delayed his sad cognitive decline. Instead of greeting customers he would wake up, check email, read the news, take a walk, and be done for the day. In the evening he’d watch TV with his wife. His retirement was a colossus of boredom punctuated with trips, anniversaries, dinners out, and the rare time spent with family. In between those punctuation marks were a wasteland of boredom, sleeping, doing nothing, and television. Needless to say, the research and writing he “really” wanted to do were incinerated with him in the crematorium.
The old bad poetry that bids us to “not go gently into that good night” is exactly what retirement programs us to do. Go quietly, creakily, weakly, degenerately, passively, and to expire in a dusty pile of used-up memories. My grandparents all died that way and my dad died that way because that’s what retirement is for, to help you die off without making too much of a fuss or taking up too much space.
The people in the Dollar General were already well-groomed for death. They were obese, medicated, shot full of bad food, immobile, and unable to thermoregulate beyond the narrowest of ranges. It didn’t take any imagination to foresee what they were going home to: the recliner/couch, the alcohols, and the TV. Living near the bottom of America’s retirement income demographic, their lives are virtually indistinguishable from my dad’s, whose demographic was towards the very top. Retirement blends economic differences into a smoothie of obesity, immobility, disease, and cognitive decline.
Human physiology does not well endure a sedentary lifestyle. The older you get the more radically active you have to become. Whether it’s life in an RV, watching TV, surfing the Internet, streaming movies, or walking for an hour and considering yourself “active,” you cannot live better by doing less, for the one good reason that my grandmother often reminded us of: “Old age is hell.”
Whether he intended it or not, Tolkien’s portrayal of Bilbo ended badly. Frodo returned to Rivendell a year later from his quest, where he found a senescent hobbit futzing away the days in anticipation of his Final Trip to the Grey Havens. Even elvish magic, it seems, can’t invigorate the death inspired by inertia.
July 24, 2022 Comments Off on Quittin’ time
I was never tired. So why the hell would I want to be retired?
I look around me and see the wasteland of retirement, people who quit because they were so fucking tired they could no longer see anything except the money. One guy kept talking about retiring but he never did because he could “stay on” as a “contractor” and “keep getting paid.”
What the fuck was he talking about?
Another guy I know bought a bunch of land in Hawai’i and was going to retire as soon as he built his dream house. But he never did. Never could. Never will. All he ever saw were the four corners of that fucking office and the moneys. He died years ago, but still goes to the office. Every. Fucking. Day.
I know a guy who might be worth a billion dollars by now; got his start buying foreclosures and now owns a $15M house on the Strand in Manhattan Beach, among other palaces. He’s fat, sickeningly stressed, and once confided that he wasn’t ready to retire because he “wanted to mentor the young folks in his company.” Haaaaaaaa! The “young folks” in his company were praying every fucking night that he would step aside and make room for them. Go out to pasture. Enjoy the fruits of his rapine labor. But of course he never did because moneys.
Then there was the guy who was going to retire in style. He was so bone tired from making all those moneys that he couldn’t wait to be retired. So eventually he bought a junk hauler, quit his job, and retired by driving it around to parking lots where other tired people could check timber and moneys and ruminate about how free they were to no longer be so damn tired, only retired. That guy aged ten years in the first six months.
The problem with being retired is that you may have been sick of work but you were never really tired. You were worn out but not tired. And when they enter retirement, most people see it as some kind of reward for some kind of thing they did for all the time they spent doing something they hated, in a place they couldn’t stand, around people they detested.
What happens when they retire is that they quit moving. They reason that they worked so hard and were so dogdamned tired that it’s time to REST.
Well, the fact is that if you weren’t doing manual labor, you weren’t doing anything worthy of the word “tired.” And I’m speaking physiologically, not emotionally. Sedentary desk jobs where you send emails, talk on the phone, read things, have meetings, and accrue moneys don’t meet the physiological criterion of work. In short, work means movement. Motion. The contraction of skeletal muscles such that more energy is consumed than is taken in, a condition resulting in caloric deficit that can only be remedied by eating.
And the bad news? By rewarding yourself in retirement with a life of ease and leisure you are literally killing yourself. Not softly and not slowly, either, but fatly, slovenly, lumpily.
The first myokine, interleukin-6, was only discovered in 2008. Before that, people thought that muscles existed to move things, and that’s it. But with the discovery of interleukin-6 as a myokine, biologists learned that the skeletal muscles, which comprise up to 40% of your body mass, are a core part, if not the core, part of the human endocrine system. Myokines, which are created and secreted by skeletal muscle, play an astounding role in every aspect of human health.
Myokines affect cognition, the growth and development of neurons, fat oxidation, tumor inhibition, and a slew of other activities throughout the human body, enhancing health and fighting disease at the molecular, cellular, and organ level. Our understanding of myokines is faint, to put it mildly: with over 600 of these protein and protein-like substances identified to date, only a tiny number have been investigated in any depth at all. Hundreds more are suspected to exist that haven’t even been discovered.
So why should you, as an inert, “retired,” sedentary slob in an RV care about myokines?
Because they are created as the result of muscular contractions. In order for myokines to do their job, you have to move. And the motion isn’t limited to our beloved aerobic activities such as cycling and running/walking. Anaerobic activities, especially those that involve weight resistance, are also key to the production and secretion of myokines from skeletal muscle. Sarcopenia is suspected to result from the lack of muscular contraction, and simply riding your bike won’t remedy it because the types of activities that stimulate production and secretion of myokines are diverse. It’s almost as if humans didn’t evolve riding bicycles.
The very concept of retirement, that you are so tired out and now need to sit on your ever-widening ass as a reward for all your hard work, is a complete and total physiological fallacy. The only thing that will keep your retirement from degenerating into the immobile, alcoholic stupor of chronic TV-watching ensconced in a recliner, is motion.
And a lot of it, along with putting down the fork.
Not only a lot of motion, but a lot of hard, continuous, vigorous motion such as wood chopping, 10-mile hikes, grueling bike rides, hours and hours spent practicing ballroom dancing, heavy lifting, hard labor, and a veritable cornucopia of challenging, stressful activities that engage your skeletal muscles and force you to move A LOT.
You don’t know tired.
February 27, 2021 § 15 Comments
There is nothing like a little kid to remind you about what matters.
My two older grandsons had never been camping, so their dad and I decided to take them on a one-night camping trip.
At their home everyone speaks Japanese, so their English is definitely in developmental stage. Like everyone’s …
The plan was to drop them off at preschool on Thursday and pick them up at noon to drive up to the Angeles National Forest. They were so excited about the trip.
Note: Adults should not need a two-week excursion to Fiji to get excited about going somewhere.
At school that morning they ran up to their teacher. My oldest grandson said, “Camp!”
“Oh, you went camping last weekend?”
His response was one of the best and most concise expressions of English in the history of English. He said, “No. Camp. Fire. Fire sticks. Marshmallow. Do.”
Note: Adults can speak simply and clearly if they really want to.
We reached the campground and the boys jumped out of the car. They began scouring the campsite and immediately found discarded bottle caps. After a couple of hours they had a giant collection of them.
Note: Adults can find interesting things all around them if they only look. No shopping necessary.
We made hotdogs and then started a big campfire with the “fire sticks.” The boys enjoyed the hotdogs with amazing enthusiasm, and when they got to toast the marshmallows it was as if the finest dessert on earth had been prepared.
Note: Adults don’t need fancy food.
After the sun went down we all crawled into the tent. Everyone was very tired and cold. We lay there and slept deeply. Sometime very late that night, about 3 AM, my eldest grandson awoke, opened his eyes, and sighed happily to no one in particular, “It is so warm!” And then he went back to sleep, snuggled against his brother and dad.
Note: Adults should always snuggle.
The next morning up they popped and out of the tent they hopped. It was very cold. Instead of complaining, they ran over to the other side of the campground where the sun was shining and where it was warm. They sat on a rock and for a long time watched birds drinking water out of a small puddle.
Note: Adults should know that the best television is nature.
Next, we had hot chocolate and cereal. I broke camp, we packed up the car, and before leaving we all took a walk up a long dirt trail. The boys ran, skipped, and found countless rocks and sticks with which to play. The walk finished, we got in the car and drove home.
“When can we go again?” they asked.
January 30, 2021 § 4 Comments
It has been demonstrated that, on their own, both exercise and stimulation from the environment can improve cognitive function and well-being in sad fucks. The combined effect of exercising in the outdoor environment on psychological function is less well studied because it’s so fucking obvious. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of an outdoor cycling intervention on cognitive function and mental health and well-being in older adults. A total of 100 older adults took part in the study (aged 50–83), 26 of which were non-cycling controls, 36 were conventional nutjob cyclists and 38 were wankers too lazy to cycle and therefore using an e-bike (a bike fitted with an electric motor to provide assistance to ego without causing negative side effects such as tiredness, work, or effort), as part of a larger project (www.cycleboom.org). Participants took part in the study for an eight-week period, with nutjob cycling participants required to cycle at least three times a week for thirty minutes in duration for each cycle ride while not discussing wattage or Strava. Cognitive function and well-being were measured before and after the intervention period taking into account the disappointingly low cognition of cyclists to begin with. For executive function, namely inhibition (the Stroop task) and updating (Letter Updating Task), both cycling groups improved in accuracy after the intervention compared to non-cycling control participants. E-bike participants also improved in lying about how hard it actually was to ride an e-bike, processing speed (reaction times in go trials of the Stop-It task) after the intervention compared to non-cycling control participants. Non-cycling control participants, however, were never mocked for wearing clown suits or pretending that an e-bike was anything other than a motorcycle for frissies. Finally, e-bike participants improved in their mental health score after the intervention compared to non-cycling controls as measured by the SF-36. One key finding is that e-bikes when used for exercise tended to raise one’s value during insipid conversations with non-e-bikers. This suggests that there may be an impact of exercising in the environment on executive function and mental health. In other words, cyclists may be crazy, but thanks to cycling they are less so. Importantly, we showed a similar (sometimes larger) effect for the e-bike group compared to the pedal cyclists. This suggests that it is not just the physical activity component of cycling that is having an influence, but rather the endless capacity of people to delude themselves about what they are doing. As an analogue, post-study interviews revealed that most sagging cyclist participants still believed that they had a shot at the Tour. Both pedal cycles and e-bikes can enable increased physical activity and engagement with the outdoor environment with e-bikes potentially providing greater benefits since the beginning baseline is so pathetically low.
Citation: Leyland L-A, Spencer B, Beale N, Jones T, van Reekum CM (2019) The effect of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0211779. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211779
Editor: Maria Francesca Piacentini, University of Rome, ITALY
Received: March 13, 2018; Accepted: January 22, 2019; Published: February 20, 2019
Copyright: © 2019 Leyland et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Funding: This research was part of the ‘cycle BOOM’ project (www.cycleboom.org), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC; https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/) under the UK Research Councils’ Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Programme (Grant Number EP/K037242/1), received by TJ and CvR. The funders had no role in
study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
January 22, 2021 § 1 Comment
I was in the passenger seat today for four and a half hours. I had forgotten what it was like to travel by car. My last car trip was back from Houston to LA in 30 hours, a foggy blur of exhaustion, cold donuts, and lots of night.
This time I was fresh. Rested. Eager to get out and about. See the world. Experience things. In a words: Travel.
Here are some things I noticed acutely.
- No wind. The wind on a bike is your most beloved friend, your most hated foe, or some combination of the two. In a car the only wind you really notice is from last night’s pot of beans.
- Lethargy. Sitting saps energy, but it’s not the tiredness that comes from exertion. You are kind of numb and get number until either a) donuts or b) coffee or c) both.
- Only huge things. You only notice huge things in the car, which consists mainly of other cars, trucks, buildings, signs. There’s no fine-grained detail like there is on a bike, where you don’t simply see flashes of roadside garbage but the actual color, size, and brand of the wrapper.
- Blame casting. When anything happens it’s always their fault–the road contractor, the idiot driver, the horrible traffic jam. On the bike when you fall off at inopportune times, or basically when anything else untoward happens, it’s almost always YOU.
- Tiny skies. The windshield restricts, chokes off the sky. While cycling you see the whole thing in its unobstructed beauty.
- Cops. Never been pulled over for speeding or drug running on my bike.
- Gas. The gas station experience on a bike means “I got a couple of elderly fried burritos and they gave me gas.”
- Peeing. On a bike I can pee anywhere. And do. No exit ramps or searching for a tree or a gas station. Brake, zip, whizz.
- Rattling. Cars rattle. And when the road’s rough or you nail a chug hole, you feel all the fat jiggle. Bikes are much smoother and less jiggly.
- Impatience. In a car you’re impatient to get there. On a bike you’re grateful you ever got there at all.
- Stop-and-go. There’s almost no stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper bike traffic.
- Fighting. Have you ever been stuck in a car with someone you’re fighting with? Talk about claustrophobic. Never been in a fight on a bike ride, at least not for long, and certainly not with someone I’ve not been unable to escape from.
- Time travel. Cars go so fast you have zero appreciation of changing landscapes, scenery, weather … bam, you’re there.
- Parking. Haven’t yet had to circle the lot to find a parking space for my bike.
- Back and neck cricks. Cars are cramped and they also give you leg cramps. Everything is sore from sitting. When biking it’s mostly just your ass.
For all the whining, there was one part of the drive that I was glad to be in a car, a 14-mile steep uphill, twisting canyon climb with absolutely zero shoulder and plenty of zooming truck traffic. If I’d been biking I’d have chosen a different route, of course. But depending on the route, some roads are best driven, for sure.
January 10, 2021 § 12 Comments
It is axiomatic that a January cyclist seeking maximum recovery and preparation for a grueling 2022 season must, on Sunday, eat sourdough pancakes.
These li’l darlins are filled with cycling-rich nutrients such as carbs, fat, sugar, oil, lipids, sucrose, fructose, triacylglycerols, glycogen, and of course phospholipids and sterols. In fact, this coterie of diverse nutrients has been scientifically proven to comprise a complete meal sufficient for a Tour competitor or even more intensely, a Peloton/Zwift subscriber.
But how do you make them?
The easiest way is to go to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, wait for two hours, and then consume a plate of soggy non-sourdough pancakes with soggy bacon and frozen orange juice for $34.98 (tip not included). The next easiest way is to purchase pancake mix that takes all six IQ points out of measuring and mixing stale and dehydrated ingredients. The most difficult way, utilizing all six IQ points, is to make them yourself.
Which is what we did. This meal contains a total of 250 kcals, 100% of your RDA for fiber, and .05% of the RDA for butter, fat, processed sugar, and guilt. So you can eat it knowing that you are going to crush it on the next group ride in June!
January 6, 2021 § 11 Comments
Have you ever lain in bed or sat on the couch waiting for a bolt of energy to invigorate you so that you could hop on your bike? Do the dishes? Start making the selection of which piece of junk gets to live and which gets to die before next week’s move?
Or what about THAT EMAIL?
You know, the one that sits in your inbox like Jabba the Hut, befouling every other email and your daily happiness as it dares you to tackle it? The one that’s been there since August?
Whatever the odious task, have you ever found yourself awaiting a visit from the Energy God? And then wondered why she never showed up? And then woken up the next day to find the same bike unridden, the same dishes besmirched, the same un-expanded cardboard moving box leaning against the bed?
The SAME Jabba the Hut in your inbox?
Well, there is reason that you cannot ride your bike when you are in bed or the recliner. It is because you are in the bed or the recliner, cf. Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch. The rule is simply that the more you sit, the more you sit.
The corollary? Equally succinct: The more you do, the more you do. It’s summed up in this well-worn adage: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”
This is the first time since my early 20s that I’ve spent so much time in bed recovering from, well, anything. And what I’ve noticed is that the less I do, the less I want to do. What happened to the guy who started his day in an ice-tent with a cup of gruel and then faced down a 9-hour solo ride into the emptiness of the West Texas desert?
Where is the fellow who, after spending all day grinding himself into a pulp, propped himself up in a tiny tent and with one crooked finger typed out a daily 500+ word blog? And answered work emails? And work phone calls?
I’ll tell you where he is. He is in bed. And from the looks of things, unless that lightning bolt magically strikes, he’s not going to be leaving it any time soon.
January 1, 2021 § 4 Comments
There is really only one new year’s resolution for cyclists. Everything else such as climb better, do more mileage, ride more consistently, train indoors in bad weather, eat better, do more long rides, do more intervals, all of that stuff is subsidiary to the one overwhelming, overriding, all-dominating wish of every cyclist ever, which is TO BE SKINNIER.
No matter that your ribs already show out from your back from a mile down the road, and no matter that you are still in the top one percent of all Americans for exercise, BMI, healthy eating, cholesterol, and everything else. Ya still gotta lose weight. However, none of the resolutions work, and that’s partly due to physics and partly due to reality, which are mirror images of the same thing.
When a cyclist makes a resolution, they don’t ever really mean what the words seem to mean. Below is a handy-dandy Cyclist’s New Year’s Resolution Translator so that you can help yourself or your partner to better understand what’s really going on in that confused jumble of a bicycling mind.
Resolution: I’m only eating cage free.
Translation: If it’s not in a cage it’s free to eat.
Resolution: I’m giving up refined carbs.
Translation: I’m all in on the rest of them
Resolution: I’m going to accept myself as I am.
Translation: As soon as I am the hottest fucking chick in the room.
Resolution: I’m going to watch what I eat very carefully.
Translation: I’ll be eating everything in the closet from now on.
Resolution: I’m going to lose ten pounds.
Translation: As long as I can do it without being hungry.
Resolution: I’m going to start eating healthy.
Translation: I’ll be eating everything I’m eating now with a sprig of celery and a leaf of lettuce.
Resolution: There will be a lot more greens at dinner.
Translation: We’re putting flowers on the table.
Resolution: I’m going to exercise every day.
Translation: I’m going to kill it at the gym tomorrow and take the rest of the year off.
Resolution: I’m going to have a more active lifestyle.
Translation: I’m going to move my couch an additional 5 feet away from the refrigerator.
Resolution: I’m going to start using a fitness tracker to exercise more.
Translation: After doing an exhaustive Internet search comparing and selecting the best technology available I’m going to use it for an alarm clock and turn it off every morning
Resolution: This year I’m going to run a marathon.
Translation: Over the course of the year my cumulative running distance will be 26.2 miles.
Resolution: I’m going to cut sugar out of my snacking.
Translation: I’m going to add it to everything else.
Resolution: I’m going to lose weight so that I can be healthy again.
Translation: I’m going to lose weight so that I can go clothes shopping again.
Resolution: I’m going to involve my partner in my healthier lifestyle.
Translation: We’re going to put bicycles on the back of our RV.
Resolution: I’m going to start taking walks every Sunday with my friends.
Translation: We are walking to the bar instead of driving.
Resolution: I’m going to drink less.
Translation: No fucking way.
Resolution: I’m going to find a fitness partner who can hold me accountable.
Translation: I am going to find someone lazier than I am.
Resolution: I’m going to get serious about cycling again.
Translation: I’m going to buy a new bicycle.
Resolution: I’m going to feel good about myself when I look in the mirror.
Translation: I’ll be focusing on the neck up.
Resolution: I’m going to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
Translation: Check out my FB feed with all those photos of how hot I used to be.
Resolution: I’m swapping out the beer belly for a six pack.
Translation: Of Coors.
Resolution: I’m going to get ripped.
Translation: Time for a steroid cycle.
Resolution: No more closet eating.
Translation: That’s why I have a car.
October 11, 2020 § 23 Comments
Often, the turning points in our lives don’t come with signposts and are only clear in retrospect.
What were yours? What was that moment in your life when you decided to do something, or you impulsively acted, and after that nothing was really ever the same?
Mine was August 17, 2019. I had dropped off my youngest son for his final year of college in Santa Barbara and was sitting on the 101. I had gone about twenty-five miles. In three hours.
I thought about the thousands of hours of my life that had been spent in front of a windshield. I thought about the ugliness of the freeway. The unhappiness of every single stranded, caged occupant, of which I was one. I thought about how many more thousands of hours in my life I was going to spend repeating this quintessentially unhappy act of driving, and compared it with the total number of hours I actually had left to live.
The calculus hit me hard and I made up my mind: Never again in this life will I drive a car, and to the maximum extent possible I will avoid even sitting in one.
At that moment I wasn’t simply mired in traffic, I was mired in life. My 32-year-old marriage was falling apart. My friends were giving me a wide berth. My kids were angry at me, or worse, hurt, or worst, angry and hurt. It seemed like there was nowhere to go but down and downer.
Little did I know it, but that decision to get out of the well-worn groove carved in asphalt for me and every other Californian unable to imagine life without being chained to a steel cage, was something that would lead to a cascade of changes, the sum of which would redefine my life and what I wanted from it.
Liberation from the cage meant that every client meeting, every court appearance, every trip to the grocery store, every task that had previously been done in a cage powered by dead forests would now be done on a bike powered by glucose. That thing alone sheared away so many needless activities because now the act of getting around was reduced to its true cost: Not the cost of a gallon of gas, but the caloric cost of pushing a bike for miles through traffic.
Did I say traffic? That’s a wrong word, because on my bike there was no traffic, only cages that I got to peacefully ride by as they stewed like tomatoes at red lights, construction, entry ramps, parking lots, gas stations …
Once the cost of getting there gets measured in calories, you go a lot less to there, and once the cost of buying or moving things has to be converted into lugging it up a tall hill on a heavy bike, you buy and move a lot fewer things, and the things you move are lighter. Way lighter.
With fewer places to go and fewer things to buy and have, life started to de-clutter. Insoluble problems, too vast and complex to even understand, began resolving themselves if not into solutions, at least into clearly defined problems. And each pedal stroke seemed to draw the problem even more clearly. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a pretty big one.
People had told me since late adolescence that I was “angry.”
“So?” I responded to myself. “It’s an angry world out there.” And as Chaucer would say, “For leveful is with force force of-showve.” It’s permissible to meet force with force.
But once I gave up driving I began to see my anger as something more unusual than the standard rage of a pissed-off driver or a rude sales clerk or, more commonly, a jerky bike racer. And with a little help from a friend, I was able to pinpoint it as the anger that comes from being repeatedly beaten by a parent as a small child. I won’t go into the steps of this analysis, but let’s see if we can agree on this much: When you are beaten by the parent who loves you and protects you and whom you admire more than anyone on earth, it makes you mad.
It took a lot more pedaling before I came up with a solution, because things that happen when you’re young become who you are. You can’t un-beat the pain and you can’t un-live the anger; you certainly can’t unwind the years.
But for me it came as a revelation, a revelation that everyone around me already knew, that anger and lashing out, as painful as they are to the recipients, are really nothing more than insecurity about my own self-worth. When your value as a child is wrecked by violence, then, I think, your psyche reframes the ego as a thing that is strengthened by violence towards others–physical and/or emotional.
In a word, I was terribly insecure.
That was almost funny because my avocation, bike racing, was a forum where I went to great lengths to demonstrate the opposite of insecurity. Hard rides, group ride beatdowns, bitter road races, challenging fondos, all these things were fora where the trump cards were strength, discipline, mental fortitude, toughness, the very things that are stripped from you when you are beaten as a child.
Likewise, my vocation of lawyering was a battlefield where competition, adversarial contests, wit, and resourcefulness reigned supreme. And it was on one long commute to San Diego that I recalled the words of a great trial lawyer and criminal law professor, Michael Tigar, who said “Every trial lawyer is a towering ego tottering on the abyss of insecurity and failure.”
He didn’t say every great trial lawyer. He said every trial lawyer.
There were many hundreds of more miles pedaled, turning over these self-evident truths and trying to figure out where they led, or more precisely, how to untie the emotional knots that had been so tightly bound during my eventful childhood. That’s when I got what sounded like a crazy suggestion. If my problem was that I’d had my self-worth stripped away, why not build it back up, and do it with words, and do it myself?
In January of this year I started getting up every morning, going into the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, and imagining my dad holding the four-year-old me in his arms. I waited until the picture was clear. I could see his big, black, bushy beard, his kind brown eyes, and could feel his strong arms cradling me in the crook of his elbow.
Then I closed my eyes and repeated this: “You are a good boy, Seth. You are a smart boy, Seth. I love you, Seth.”
And I did it for three or four minutes.
When I opened my eyes I realized that I felt better. My heart rate had dropped to almost nothing. My face had relaxed. I could stare at the guy in the mirror and see mostly the same person, but a little different, a little less tense. A little, very, very little, less angry.
I did this for a couple of months and though the anger melted slowly at first, after a few weeks I could feel it calving off like an iceberg into a boiling sea. When I finally stopped doing it, it was as if a huge cauldron had been cooled, and I knew it because things that heretofore would have whipped me into a frothing rage affected me little or not at all.
I began to have little or no reaction to politics. I stopped judging people as harshly, and eventually hardly judged anyone at all. I dissociated from all my social media accounts and eventually closed them. I found myself being quiet in groups, no longer on stage, no longer grasping for the brass ring of cynosure.
Most incredibly, I stopped screaming at motorists who tried to kill me, and eventually stopped even flipping them off.
With the covids came a cessation in recreational bicycle hostilities a/k/a group rides, and another piece of the picture came into focus: A lot of my enjoyment of cycling really had been anger management, finding an appropriate place to channel highly antisocial impulses and emotions. Once the group rides died, my quieted anger meant that I had no desire to join them once they started up again, however furtively.
The turmoil of the shattering marriage continued, but my angry reactions to its demise and my guilt at my responsibility for it dissipated the more I rode slowly and contemplated the relationship between anger and failure, anger and unhappiness, anger and the inability to see things as they really are. Because the real impediment to being angry is that it clouds reality, good and bad.
Anger clouds reality in a good way because it allows you to forge ahead where otherwise you’d quit and go home, but in a bad way because it allows people to deceive you as to their intentions. When the behavior of others was filtered through my anger, I couldn’t see them as they really were in relation to me, but only as they were in relation to my anger. Good people knew that and made allowances for it, but less good people used it to great manipulative advantage, made me their puppet, made me their dog.
Still pedaling, I took a rather long bicycle life, and 82 days later came back to a world that hadn’t changed much, but to a life that had changed irrevocably.