It Was The Best Of Rides, It was the Worst Of Rides

When I do something particularly well I imagine the next time will be as good or better. Assuming an upward trajectory is a common mistake. Reality more often is a series of hills. If you are good, over time the overall elevation gets higher but there is always some up and down. (Not sure if that analogy worked as well as it did in side my head. What do you think?)

Two weeks ago I rode better than I had in years. I woke up sluggish and the first few miles on the bike were nothing special. The conditions were good but not great (3.5-4.0 on a 5.0 scale). Temps were in the mid 60s and a modest wind from the east which had little effect on my mostly north-south ride. But soon something magical began to happen. I decided to push the pace and my body actually responded. I felt strong the entire first half of the ride. Instead of merely pedaling I was pedaling hard.

OK. This was the first half. This has happened before. More often than not when I feel like a hero I discover that the wind has been at my back. I turned after 27 miles. Waiting for the wind or for my legs to begin to beg me to slow. Never happened. I felt great. I forced the action for the next 28 miles. I rode 55 (it was my birthday and I rode one mile for each year on the planet.) I averaged a hair under 16 mph while riding which was more than .5 mph faster than my best time so far this year. I cannot remember averaging that speed for that long in several years. The difference between my total time and my ride time was only 8 minutes. That was one 3 minute break at 30 miles and lots of stop lights. I have been semi-seriously riding for 6 years and my speed had plateaued. Riding faster has been a desire for several years. On that day I did feel like a hero.

Fast forward to yesterday. Yes I completed 52 miles. But I can’t really count this as a 50 mile ride. I struggled from the beginning. Barely able to move for ward. The signs were there at 17 miles that I should not make this a 50 miler. (Visualize in cartoon fashion a big sign saying “Rick Turn Back NOW!!!) I had to stop, I was breathing hard and my legs ached. But I am stubborn. Or stupid. On I went.I ended up making several stops along the way. Towards the end I stopped every few miles. I only can hope that the effort I put in burned a whole bunch of calories. If not the 4+ hours I spent were for naught.

So how did I fall from my best ride ever to hell on wheels? Certainly part can be explained by the weather. Yesterday was 85 with high humidity. It was my first ride in the heat. And yet the delta was too great for the heat  to be the only factor.

I can think of several possibilities. I had not gotten enough sleep that night or for the past week. After many weeks of relatively healthy eating I had given into candy on several occasions recently. I do consider sugar to be a poison. Just a particularly tasty one.  Lastly I had not gone swimming for two weeks. Swimming adds to my aerobic capacity and overall feeling of goodness.

Whatever the reasons, I have until tomorrow to contemplate what this means for the future. Was my birthday ride an anomaly and destined to be the pinnacle of my riding success? Will i be able to adjust to the summer heat? Can I ride enough to complete a century ride by the end of the summer? That is my ultimate goal. As of yesterday the answer is no way in hell.

But tomorrow thanks to the extended holiday weekend I will ride again. The intrigue of the unknown consumes my thoughts. And I hope for the best.

Advertisements

15 Pounds In 50 Days By 55

Yesterday I realized that in 50 days I will turn 55. That starts to seem more old than middle-aged to me. Next big birthday is 60.  When did this happen? Last I remember I was having a surprise 40th BDay party.

I have been carrying extra weight for the last few years. Can’t seem to get it off. I think it has been 4 or 5 years since I was consistently at an acceptable weight. So yesterday I vowed to lose 10 pound by my birthday.

I went to the gym for the first time in 6 weeks today (much of that was due to a lingering virus/sinus infection/coughing thing).   Got on the scale. 10 pounds will only get me to FAT. So the new goal is 15. That will get me to HEAVY BUT IN SIGHT OF A REASONABLE WEIGHT.

The scale registered the highest weight I have ever recorded. I am sure that at various times I have weighed more but if I thought I was that heavy I just would not mount the scale.

192.

I am all of 5’7″ with a medium build. I think the height/weight charts call for 160 pounds. From experience I know that I look and feel good below 175 and am skinny at 170. A long way to go.

The thing with me is that I have to do it my way. That means no famous diet, no counting calories and nothing that will help lose the wight but I would not continue once the weight is initially off. The only concerning thought is that “my way” has gotten me to 192. Still as the great philosopher Popeye said, ” I yam what I yam”.

Less food. Cutting down on coffee. cutting processed sugar to as close to zero as possible. I may have to kill the coworker who brings candy in every day.

Wish me luck and provide as much support as possible. I will provide periodic updates on Facebook and if something blog worthy happens during this journey you can read it here.

Drumming Circle

What creates happiness?

I am sitting on a folding chair, one of 20 in a large semi-circle, in a gym, in a small school an hour’s drive from my house. I am smiling. Everyone in the room is smiling. Why is that?

There is a short, late 20’s/early 30’s guy with a shock of wild, thick black hair in the open part of the horseshoe made of chairs. At various times during the 75 minutes he is hitting two wooden objects together or hitting some skin or dancing. He changes cadence from time to time. He is why we all came to this place. He is the instrument of the smiles but not the root cause.

The root cause is music or in this case more specifically rhythm. Rhythm causes happiness. Especially when you participate in making the rhythm.

This is the monthly drumming circle for the developmentally disabled adults that live in the Illinois group homes run by St. Coletta of Wisconsin. My younger sister just celebrated her 25th year as part of this community.

The short guy with the wild hair is a musician who for the past couple of years had lent a couple of hours every month to sharing his joy of rhythm with this community. That makes him one of life’s under-recognized heroes.

The smiles for most in the room come from banging 2 drum sticks together. playing with tambourines or bongos and generally making noise— as a group.The best was at the end when one by one they got to come up and play on the musician’s drum set. Each person had their own rhythms to share but all of them had a huge smile when they finished and received a round of applause.

This week the adults were joined not only by a few family members and the staff but by two of the cutest little girls on the planet. Elly and Eddie (short for Eden) are 6 and 4.5 respectively. I was told by Elly that there is an older sister Emma who is eight and a Brownie but she was at a birthday party. Their Dad teaches at the school and was doing some work in another room nearby.

As I said, most of the smiles were from making rhythm. There were two exceptions. My sister’s smile was in part from watching Elly and Eddie. She loves hanging out with little kids. And while I enjoy banging drum sticks together as much as the next man, my smile came from witnessing all the other smiles in the room.

Can’t wait for the next Drumming Circle.

Like A Good Neighbor…

Technically, the Whites were not “Like” good neighbors. They were good neighbors. Our next door neighbors.

They moved into the house next store to us 26 years ago. That would be 10 years before we arrived. So what did we find when we moved in? Barb and Will greeted us warmly. I especially needed that since I had just entered a very different life which at that moment included a wife, child and home all at once and all for the first time.

That first year in particular I was overwhelmed and we were not doing all the things neighbors do in terms of keeping up their homes. That first summer I admit our lawn was out of control. While some other neighbor left a nasty, anonymous note threatening to report us to the city, Will came by after I had finally cut the lawn to ask “if I would mind” if he trimmed our lawn with his gas trimmer. He did not just offer the trimmer to me but offered to help! I needed that.

Will and Barb were meticulous about their house. They worked hard to keep up a beautiful flower garden in their back yard. Yet, having raised several children they did not go ballistic as our very young son would end up throwing or kicking balls in their yard. The fence was only 18 inches high. We apologized, they smiled. They liked our son a lot. I think they enjoyed have a youngster around.

They gave us one of the greatest gifts possible…their youngest daughter Theresa as our first babysitter in our new home. She was a high school junior at the time. She was the best of all babysitters in so many ways. 1. often available. 2. Great at engaging and entertaining our young and high energy son. 3.Responsible 4. This was the best of all, I did not have to drive her home at the end of the night. I would open the back door and watch as she stepped over the low fence and walked into her back door. (This was such a treat for two years that when our second baby sitter lived down the block it seemed like a “burden” to walk her home.)

Will has an energy and sense of adventure like few people I know. His work had him traveling all over the world and he made sure that he provided opportunities for his family to experience the world and to have a sense that exploring the planet was just another thing that one does.

After he retired he bought a scooter. Not a motorcycle, a scooter. At first this was for local trips but later he took the scooter to Texas and the east coast to visit family. I had visions of Will on the highways pushing that scooter as fast at it could go, a sudden rainstorm not even slowing him down for a moment.

Barb is one of the sweetest people on earth. Dedicated to her family, easy to talk to and someone you wanted to chat with. She is a doer but would also enjoy occasionally sitting on the back porch and reading or just “chatting”.

Over the 16 years we have been Will and Barb’s neighbors most of the conversations occurred “over the fence” while we were in our respective backyards. In addition to discussing family, I would ask questions on how to keep up a garden or do simple household chores. They were always interested in what our son was up to and stories got traded about the local schools or activities in the area. We were not close friends but this is what I had always envisioned as a good neighborly relationship.

Will and Barb are a number of years older than we are. Not actually sure how many. More than 15 probably less than 25. The house had become too much work. Bard has some illness that limits her ability to climb stairs and be as active as she was. A few weeks ago they moved to a condo. They are no longer our next door neighbors. For us this was the end of an era.

Over the years we tried to return the favors. Just the week before they moved I dug their garbage cans out of the six feet of snow that covered theirs and mine. I saw Will as they were putting the very last load of stuff from their house into their car. He thanked me for moving the snow. (Said he would not repeat what another neighbor did. Maybe we are not the only ones getting nasty, anonymous notes.)

They live not far away and I expect that we will keep in touch. I have not met the new neighbors yet but I hope they understand the high standard that the previous owners of the house set. I understand they are a “young” Couple. Perhaps it is my turn to set the example.

The Joy Of S

Swimming.

I have never been much of a swimmer. Only once in my life had swimming ever been a part of my regular exercise routine. That once was 20+ years ago when I figured that I could finish a triathlon as long as I didn’t drown during the first leg since I was running regularly and I knew how to  ride a bike. Over the past few years I would get in the pool once every few months.

The last 4 weeks I have made it to the pool each week. So where is the Joy you ask?

The first time,  I was barely able to swim a lap. After every lap I had to stop and catch my breadth. For me, swimming a lap is equivalent to out-and-out sprinting — even though I am and will always be the slowest swimmer in the pool. (Old ladies, 4 year olds and people working on their dead man float all pass me.)

So where is the joy?

Four weeks later and I am up from 10 laps to fourteen. I still have to catch my breadth between most laps but I twice went 1.5 laps and once completed 2. The beginning of Joy.

Then came today. In case you don’t know, it is cold and full of snow in Chicago. But today I swam outside. Fourteen laps. All it took was a 4 hour plane ride and an hour in a car. I am just outside of Key Largo. I will be here for less than a day. It is a business trip. I will then have a 6 hour trip back home.

However, for 30 minutes I got to swim outdoors in the middle of February.

The Joy of swimming.

When All You Can Do Is Laugh

Comedy is tragedy that happens to someone else. Some days I live in a sit-com.

Another long day on top of a string of long days. Morning meeting in Cleveland, fly on a tiny commuter jet, and  run back North to a 3 hour meeting.  (I know, you are thinking, stop whining before you get out your tiny violin.)

Come out of the meeting. I am limping. Not sure if it from too many plane rides, too little exercise or old age. Go to my car. I am holding my sport coat in my hand and I want to lay it on the back seat. I flick my wrist to get the jacket to lay flat. Car key in same hand. It goes flying. Fortunately into the car.

I am bending over checking the floor and then crawling around my back seat. Half in and half out of the car. It has gotten cold. I am tired and just want to go home. Can’t find the key.

Remember the scene in Young Frankenstein when Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman go to the cemetery to dig out a body. Remember the classic line? “Could be worse, could be raining.” Suddenly it is.

To recap. Cold. Tired. Limping. Add wet. Twenty minutes to find the stupid key.

I start laughing out loud. By myself. Like a crazy person. Nothing else to do when all you can do is laugh.

p.s.  I come home to a note telling me there is a squirrel tail laying just outside the back door. No squirrel seems to be attached. Please remove.

Anything else world?

Styling At The Ritz

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. 

I remember the birth of the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago in 1975.  I was 21, a senior in college.

The Ritz was not a place I would frequent. We were middle class but just barely and the Ritz was…well The Ritz. For wealthy people.

I was there a few short weeks ago. For a business meeting. I was dressed in a suit. On some level the distance between The Ritz and me did not seem as great as before. Yet in some ways…

The lobby of the Ritz is 12 floors up from street level. You come off the elevator into this great room. As you enter the restaurant, very chic, is on your left. In front of you on the other side of the room is a series of floor to ceiling windows looking north over the Loop.  There are chairs and couches near the window. A great vastness separates you from the other side of the room.

Slowly cross the room and what do you see.

Besides the kind of  well-appointed, yes stylish, room you expect from the Ritz, what I noticed most were the people. These were not necessarily beautiful people but they were definitely stylish people. And lets put the other business people aside, those like me who were well dressed but in costumes there only for a performance. I refer to the people who seemed to be staying at the hotel or were visiting or were there for lunch.

Each one was nicely dressed. Nicely appointed. Without being ostentatious.

Those who know me know that I am fashioned challenged. To some degree more accurately I am fashion ambivalent. Yet I appreciate clean lines, unwrinkled and color coordinated outfits.

In these outfits were women and men who moved with quiet confidence. I admire that even more.

Sure, maybe these are the privileged. Maybe they come from money and clothes and confidence comes easy. Maybe… maybe not. I did not sense an air of privilege.

It was cool. On this day, at this moment I stood in a large, airy, sun filled  room and took in nothing more than style.