Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Does Everybody Have to Pick on the Fat Guy?!

When I finished my ride last Wednesday, my neighbor took notice of my new cycling jersey, a brand new jersey that I got for Christmas.  In big, bold letters on the front and the back is the name "FATCYCLIST".  My neighbor chuckled and said, " I like your shirt, but it doesn't suit you anymore."  I was touched by this simple statement, and it was very uplifting to me.  As much as I espouse that I think I look thin, I more often than not look at myself in pictures and in the mirror and see a chubby person looking back. 

Since the beginning I have always been able to admit that I was a fat kid.  If one only knew me in junior high and high school, they may not think that, but from first to fifth grade I was a fat kid.  And it has always been the events in my life that took place during those few short years that have shape how I look at myself ever since.  Many times when I look in the mirror, I see that sad, chubby little kid looking back at me.

I remember my parents had bought me a nice yellow hoodie and had my last name and the number 7 (my favorite at the time) printed on the back.  I liked the sweatshirt and I wore it a lot.  Then one day in 3rd grade art class one of the girls pointed to the back of my shirt and said as she giggled, "Hehe, Ful-ton.  You're a full ton!"  Then another kid chimed in, "No, he's seven full tons! Ha Ha Ha!"  I don't think I cried, but I wanted to, and I am sure that I wore the sweatshirt again, but I never liked it as much.

When we were picking teams on the basketball court at recess, to other big guys and myself got lumped together and the others kids called us the "Hillbillies" because I guess they thought hillbillies were fat.  Again, I never cried but I also never forgot being excluded and labeled because of my weight.

But the worst was something that is still uncomfortable to talk about.  I was riding to my aunt and uncle's house across country by car with my mom, sister, and a family friend.  We were somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas or Nebraska.  I had been listening to my Walkman and staring out the window for what seemed like days.  When suddenly on the horizon I saw those golden arches and with joy in my heart said, "Can we go to McDonald's?" I realize that it had only been a few hours since we had last eaten, by I was young, growing, fat, and fucking bored!  McDonald's sounded like a great idea to me.  My request was met with a response that I did not expect from a person that I did not expect.  But the family friend, driving the car at the time said, "God, does that kid ever stop eating?"  I am sure that she never meant anything by it the statement and was probably just as frustrated and bored with the trip as I was, but that statement crushed me.  It was bad enough getting harassed by the kids at school, but here was an adult bagging on the fat kid!  I immediately put on my sunglasses and began to weep behind the lenses.  I remember turning to look at my sister and while she had sympathy in her eyes, she shook her head as if to say, "Don't cry.  It's gonna make it worse." But I couldn't help it and soon my tears were audible as I sniffled.  My mom turned to ask me what was wrong, and I blurted out "I'm sorry that I'm hungry!"  And unfortunately, my mom was in an unfortunate situation of being stuck between her son and a friend.  We eventually pulled off at McDonald's and got a cheeseburger for me. While we waited my mom asked me to stop crying because our friend felt really bad.  And I am sure that she did, and so did everyone else, and so did I.  I attempted to stop crying, but there I was a fat kid stuffing his face with McDonald's as he wept behind sunglasses.  I felt terrible that I was hungry, but when I feel terrible I want to stuff my face.  I remember the cheeseburger tasted a lot like shame with dash of salt from my tears.
I hate still feeling like that fat kid.  I hate seeing fat kids get picked on in movies.  It took me years to finish Lord of the Flies because of the way the other kids treated Piggy.  I was taking a look a the upcoming Ebertfest line-up and I noticed a review of one of the movies, "Terri".  It is the story of a fat kid that gets bullied in school.  I sounds like it has some heart-warming parts, but I don't think I will ever watch it.

I want to look at myself the way my neighbor looks at me, not fat.  But sometimes I wonder if I will ever get rid of that kid in the mirror.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Small Ring

With so many bike rides and a triathlon this year, I have decided to spend more time with Roxanne and get out for some rides.  When the weather report came out for Wednesday, I knew it was going to be great temps for riding.  But I also saw that it there could be 15 to 20 mph winds!  Oh well, you can't always have the PERFECT day.

I got home from work and immediately changed into my gear.  I already had the route mapped out in my head, a quick, beautiful 25 mile route that follows along the Sangamon River north of town.  As soon as I started riding I knew the ride home was going to be tough because the wind started at my back and I was riding at some pretty good speeds. 

I had made a tactical error during the day.  I knew I was going for a ride Wednesday night, but I figured it was only 25 miles and I should probably stick to my normal workout routine, which consisted of an early morning leg workout with burpees, lunges, and squats, and followed that up with a lunch hour, 3 mile run!  I considered that my legs may be tired, but with the wind at my back I pushed even harder to take advantage of the increased speed.

At mile 6 or so, I got the first glimpse at my future as my path turned into the wind for about a quarter of a mile.  Just to keep my speed, I was forced to get up off the seat and do a little pounding on the pedals.  I was thankful to turn back to the north and out of the wind.  Otherwise, the first 13 miles went without incident.  It was a beautifully sunny day.  The trail takes me over the river in several locations and has several well-wooded areas, a relative oddity in Central Illinois.  While much shorter than I would have wanted, the ride would have been darn near perfect if I had stopped there.  However, I would have been far from home.

So, reluctantly I turned into the wind and headed for home.  Right off the bat, I knew it was going to be a tough ride.  The wind immediately smacked me in the face and my pace slowed significantly.  In order to compensate for the greater effort, I had dropped my gearing down a couple of notches.  When I got to the first "hill" (it is difficult to classify anything in central Illinois as a hill, but I struggle with them nonetheless), I dropped down a couple a couple of more gears and had to get up out of my seat to make it all the way.  I knew from that point it was going to be tough.  At the next hill, I downshifted a couple of gears again and half way up, rather than get out of my seat, I downshifted one more time.  When the hill continued to challenge me, I went to downshift again but when I hit the lever, nothing happened.  I hit the lever a couple of more times and then looked down at my drivetrain.  My chain was actually at the top of the cassette!  I had exhausted the downshifting capabilities of the my big, front ring!  I got out of my seat and pushed hard to get to the top of the hill.  I barely made it!

And that was when it hit me, I was going to have to move to the small ring!  I am sure that for many seasoned riders in varying part of the country, this would not be that big of a deal.  In the flatlands of Illinois, I took it as a sign of defeat.  Thankfully, I could blame the defeat on Mother Nature and her ferocious wind, and not at all at my inferior training and abilities!  Seriously, who can truly defeat Mother Nature?!

With the realization of moving to the small ring came some concern.  I didn't even know if it worked, or which lever to hit to get to it, but I definitely needed some practice before the next hill.  So, I impatiently presses the levers on my left hand (I still don't know which one actually made the chain move), and it took the front derailleur some time to come to life, but eventually my chain came down and I was riding the small ring.

I rode the remaining 6 or 7 miles home in the small ring.  There were times when I could have moved to the large ring again, but they were far outnumbered by the times I was happy to be riding in a little lower gear.  And I learned a valuable lesson in the process: Pride can be painful!  I had been riding in strictly the big ring out of a strange matter of pride, but the small ring was incredibly helpful and probably was the only reason I was able to make it home!  So, in the future I promise to forget my pride and embrace the small ring.  I will never judge others who may or may not be riding in their small ring.  I will continue to be impressed by single speed riders who fore go the luxury of gears.  But I will never ride in Granny gear!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What I Did On My Spring Vacation

So I was off of work all last week, which is why I did not post anything, and really enjoyed my Spring vacation.
There were plenty of things that I did NOT do.  I did not wake up before 6am.  I did not do many of my workouts.  And I did not shower or shave very often.

There were also plenty of things that I did do.  I did some minor improvements to the kids play structure, which included installing a sandbox and removing enough sod to fill a New York City apartment.  It was quite ridiculous how sore I was from the sod removal, but bending over and swinging a spade for a couple of hours, while only taking breaks to wheelbarrow the remains around the house, can be a pretty darn good workout! 

I also tilled one of the flower beds in our backyard.  I think that this is normally not too difficult of an endeavor, and considering the acres of leaf mulch I have added to this particular bed, I assumed it would go pretty smoothly.  Boy was I wrong!  The leaf mulch had done nothing to penetrate the clay that is our backyard.  It hadn't rained in some time so the clay had nearly morphed into slate!  I struggled to hold onto the handles as the tiller bounced and jumped as the tines attempted to breakthrough the impenetrable soil!  After another couple of hours of this, I believe I had done a decent job of churning the dirt, but my arms were exhausted.  It was the best arm workout I have ever had!  My arms were so sore that I could hardly bring my hands to my mouth to eat.  I considered requesting a pureed meal and straw, but that did not sound appetizing in the least.

Oh and I consumed a bunch of food while on vacation as well.  I had pizza 2 or 3 times, probably half a dozen of Mom's buttery-rich, chocolate chip cookies, and a big old steak and potatoes.  I consumed many liquid calories as well, having plenty of occasions for beer and wine drinking.

In an attempt to counteract these indiscretions, I walked 18 holes of golf, and when you play like me you spend a lot of time walking (read: "searching") after my ball.  I also went for the first bike ride of the season. The wind had been pretty significant most of the week, so I avoided the idea of riding my bike in those conditions.  But then one day, it was like 58 degrees out and the wind was very calm.  The sun was shining and it was quite possibly the most perfect day for riding a bike.  I went for a 20 mile ride around Allerton Park.  I did not have any encounters with mother nature, which I often look forward to, but I did have a great early season ride and I look forward to getting a few more of those under my belt before June.

I also took my kids to school nearly every single day.  I had lunch at school with my son, played in the sand with my daughter, and continued to prep our garden for the upcoming growing season.  I also hosted a Footloose-themed prom for neighbors and friends! All in all, I had a great vacation.  It was nice to get away from work and even better to spend time with family and friends.  What has everyone else been up to?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

One Great Run

With the upcoming Easter holiday and my family's usual holiday travels, I decided that I was going to do my long run this morning.  However, it seemed as though the universe was conspiring against me.

I went swimming again Tuesday night (1450 meters straight, a new personal record!), and really enjoyed the opportunity and the workout.  But when it was time to go to bed that night, my body and mind were still amped up a bit.  I was also starving.  So, I ate a snack, but was still wide awake until nearly 11:30pm.  I slept like crap all night, waking up constantly.  I was so tired that I skipped my Wednesday morning workout, and my body was really sore from the extended swimming.

Then I decided to do my long run, and I skipped my lunch hour run, saving my energy for the 10 miles the next morning.  My lack of sleep was apparent at 8:30pm when I was tired and cranky, and sad that my alarm was going to be going off at 3:30am.

I woke up before my alarm at 3:14am.  I was tired, but excited to go out for a nice long run.  I got the fuel belt ready, loaded with Carborocket, and I decided to return to some static stretches (read "toe touches").  I had gotten away from these recently because of some recent articles about dynamic stretching (read: "skipping").  However, as I have been searching for my lost speed, I decided to go back to some of my old tricks in the hopes of finding the answers.

And I must have found it because I felt great when I went out for the run and I did my first mile in 7 minutes!  I knew I was pushing a little bit too much, so I pulled back a touch and aimed for 7:30 miles.  At mile 4, I slowed to a walk and drank half of my bottle, planning to drink the remainder at another stop.  I caught my breath and walked a couple of hundred yards.  When I took off again, I felt great!  I completed the first 5 mile loop in 38:30, or 7:42 per mile.  Considering the walking break, I felt like I was spot on with my speed.

The wind was picking up during my second loop, but any rain managed to stay away.  I was ripping off miles at a pretty consistant 7:30 pace.  Some of the hills were a bit tougher the second time around, and I knew I was pushing my abilities a bit, but I was so excited to be having such a great run.  At mile 8, I extended my walk a little bit further and refueled once again.

This time when I started running again, I did not have the energy that I did at mile 4.  But I concentrated on my form, making sure that I was using my arms to pull me along, and I pulled in front of my house at exactly 1:17:02!  I ran 10 miles with two refueling breaks at a consistent 7:42 pace!  It really felt good!  I knew I had had one great run! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Runnin' Shit!

New York was AWESOME!  We ate great food, visited some wonderful friends, saw an absolutely hilarious Broadway show, took in the sights and sounds, and had an overall wonderful weekend!  A couple of us even got to take a run in Central Park!

After the show Friday night, we went out for drinks with a friend and that turned into a long evening that included drag queens and show tunes.  It also meant that we did not get back to our hotel until 2:30am!  I had wanted to get an earlier start, but when I finally got moving at 8:30 the next morning, I knew it was going to be a tough run.  My sister opted out of the run in favor of some much needed rest, but Katie soldiered on and came on the run with me.

It was an truly incredible experience.  Central Park is such a blessing to the concrete jungle of NYC.  There are so many trees, rock formations and grassy areas.  There are also a ton of trails and roads for running and biking.
The weather had failed to cooperate and it was cold and drizzling when we started our run.  I had a vague idea of the route that I wanted to take, but when you are actually in the labyrinth of trails it is difficult to recollect which path you are supposed to be on.  So we tended to follow everyone else.

There were many runners in the Park, and I have to figure that is a regular occurrence.  While we were running I did make note of an interesting notion.  On an island of more than 10 million people, and literally hundreds of runners in the Park.  Most people still choose to run alone.  I know running can be a solitary hobby, and I frequently run solo, but with so many people out at one time I was amazed at how many were doing it on their own.  There were certainly groups of runners as well, and they all seemed to be a part of an organization or team, but they were far outnumbered by soloists.

Another thing that occurred to me was that for being located on a relatively flat coastal island, Central park is freaking hilly!  All told we ran about 5 miles or so, but with all of the up and down, it was way more difficult than my normal  5 mile jaunt.

Eventually, we came upon the Jackie Onassis Reservoir.  A pretty big lake in the middle of the Park.

Katie and I decided to run around the lake.  Katie was a little apprehensive at first, but I assured her it was not nearly as far as it appeared.  The trail up next to the reservoir was water-logged so we opted for one of the other three trails that circumnavigates the water.

Shortly though, some of my poor decisions from the night before began to make their presence known.  I had to take a crap something fierce! I have commented on my need to poop on the run before, but this time I was about a thousand miles from home and there was no Hardee's to be seen.  We continued to slowly run but never came upon a public restroom.  So I decided that we had to get out of the Park and find a restaurant or something. 

Funny thing though, there is not a restaurant or any commercial businesses on Central Park West Drive.  I assume it is because the real estate is just too valuable and rent would be astronomical.  We finally saw a subway stop and we went underground.  I asked the attendant, "Where are the bathrooms?"  There are none!  I thought about asking where he takes a dump, but I did not have time to argue.  I finally came to the conclusion that there had to be a restroom in the public park, somewhere.

We went back in the Park and finally found a map and there was a bathroom about 200 yards away.  It was the longest 200 yards of my life!  My sister had awoke and was calling to find out where we were. Tthe sweat was running down my forehead as I clinched my butt cheeks for those last few desperate steps to the bathroom.  When I got in there a homeless man was trying to dry his clothes at the hand dryer and I was actually thankful for the background noise as my bowels finally unleashed there tormentor.

A couple minutes later I was all better.  Katie and I jogged maybe another mile, caught up with my sister, and went out for brunch.  I was very thankful to have narrowly avoided a very embarrassing situation, but I think I am coming a bit of an expert as I so frequently am faced with these emergency situations. 

The rest of the weekend was without incident, and as I said before we had a wonderful time.  I was glad I got the opportunity to scratch a Central Park run off my bucket list.  Up next on the list, running the Great Wall of China!  Do you think they have porta-pottys?