Laughing Right Out Loud

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Long, Cold Winter

My last post talked about how much I have admired the scenery around me when I ride and how I vowed to stop and enjoy the scenery even more. Sadly, I have not been able to do this because my riding was put on hiatus in early December.

For many months prior to December, I have awakened at 5:00 a.m. and gone out for a 24-mile ride before work. I had every intention of keeping this ritual going throughout the Winter. However, one early December morning, despite bundling up as best I could in thermal tights, wool socks, and multiple thermal jerseys and pairs of gloves, I suffered what I believed was a mild case of frostbite on my hands and feet. Later that day, my riding partner and I made the decision that we would only ride in the morning if it was higher than 35-degrees. We never seemed to have too many of those days for the rest of winter.

However, the Winter was not a total loss. I did complete my 4th century ride of the year (and my life) a couple of days before Christmas. I also logged my 4,000th mile of the year (and my adult life) on New Year's Eve. Also, several pick-up rides held in December introduced me to more local riders with whom I greatly enjoyed getting to know. I logged only 68 miles for January and 227 miles for February. And my longest ride, so far this year, has only been 56 miles.

A couple of other achievements that happened this Winter include: I raced in my first 5K on my 40th birthday - the Rudolph Run in Huntsville - and I have been able to sustain the weight loss I worked so hard for last year. I have worried that less riding, and thus less calorie burn, would lead to weight gain, but I have tried to diligently adhere to making smart eating decisions. While I haven't done as good with eating as I did last year when I was trying to lose weight, I have been able to solidify the loss of two more inches in my waist. I have now gone from a 44-inch waist to a 32-inch waist. My final weight loss for the year was 120 pounds. I am not trying to lose any more weight, but am dedicated to eating healthy and not abusing myself with the emotional and comfort eating that dominated my habits for so many years.

The mornings are beginning to warm up and Daylight Savings Time starts in less than 2 weeks. Both of these factors should lead to more riding time. I sure hope so, especially because I have named two goals - 6,000 miles and 6 centuries. I look forward to making many more friends through cycling (and possibly running) and hitting my goals. And, as discussed in my last post, taking time to enjoy the world around me.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Nice Change of Pace

I ride a bicycle. A lot. Most of my rides happen before sunrise around 5:45 in the morning. These rides, which last only about 22 miles, help get me focused for work and give my metabolism a boost as I start the day. Since I am constrained by time on these rides, they usually are at a quick pace that offer me little time to enjoy the scenery. Over the 3,000 miles I have ridden this season, I have seen so many beautiful sunrises, magnificent hillside landscapes, and many wonderful lakes, streams, and rivers. I have always told myself, "One day I'm going to come back here and bring a camera". I decided today needed to be that day.

I am truly blessed to be able to explore middle Tennessee by bicycle. It wasn't that long ago that it seemed impossible for me to be able to get out and ride like I do. This area is full of magnificent sights and I have decided that occasionally I will take a camera with me, take lots of pictures, and give a ride report for anyone who is interested in reading.

Today's ride started around 9:15 and, after about 3.5 miles, I had to call Felicia to come bring me a baselayer to put under my jersey. Once she showed up, I pedaled toward Ledford Mill, hoping to get a nice picture or two of the old mill. Having recently visited Falls Mill in nearby Belvidere, I had great expectations for what this mill would look like. Unfortunately, Ledford Mill, which no longer functions, is tucked away in the woods and I could not get back in the woods far enough to take a picture of the water wheel. I took a few pictures of the mill from the dam above the mill, but there are still too many leaves on trees to get a clear shot.

I got back on my bike and went a few hundred feet to a small roadside waterfall that I always enjoy looking at. After leaving the waterfall along Shipman Creek Road, I pedaled toward Rowesville Road with the idea of heading toward Normandy to check on one of my favorite restaurants, The River Cafe. I have never taken this route to Normandy before and didn't know what to expect, but I had looked at the road on a map and decided to give it a shot. Normandy sits along a big lake and is at a fairly low altitude compared to the rest of the area. Turning off Rowesville Road onto Normany Road, I saw the start of a very big hill. Once I got the top of that hill it leveled off for about 20 yards and then kept going up. I totally was not expecting that, but hammered my way through it and enjoyed my 45 mph descent into the little town of Normandy (see the picture, this is the whole town).

As I mentioned, Normandy is in a low-lying area. There are about 4 ways to come out of Normandy and everyone of them involve a good climb. I decided to come out via Cascade Hollow, the home of the world-famous George Dickel Distillery. The Dickel distillery is quite tiny compared to the behemoth Jack Daniel Distillery in neighboring Lynchburg. Like Jack Daniel, all Dickel whisky is produced right here in middle Tennessee. Both distilleries offer free tours and have some very pretty landscaping. Dickel is a little off the beaten path and seems to never be busy. I stopped there today for a couple pictures of the creek, the general store, and the old fire hose cart that is on display in front of the visitors center.

After this, I put my camera back in my seat bag and hammered up Cascade Hollow Road back to town. After a couple of big hills, I felt that I deserved a donut, so I made a quick stop before returning home. My total ride was only a little over 23 miles, but very enjoyable and, as mentioned in the title, a very nice change of pace. I look forward to offering more ride reports in the coming weeks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What a Ride! - HOT100 Review

I completed my first century ride today! I attempted a century ride back in May, but fell short due to lack of daylight, finishing with just 86.5 miles. Today I rode the 20th Annual 102-mile Heart Of Tennessee century, in and around Murfreesboro. My riding partner, Steve, told me a couple of weeks ago that he planned to ride this event and I wasn't sure if I was going to or not. This past Sunday, I decided to go for it. I have ridden several 50+ mile rides without rest stops and such, so I figured the 102 mile ride was completely possible.
Every morning before work, Steve and I ride about 22 miles. I know that is not a long distance, but we always take one of our several very hilly routes. Turns out all these mornings that I push myself to get up those hills has conditioned me very well to power through a ride such as today's. The HOT100 rolls through the old Civil War grounds of Rutherford and Cannon county. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and, in some cases, breathtaking.
There were two "significfant" climbs of over 500 foot gain and another with about a 400 foot gain. Outside of that, the day was full of rollers and lots of twists and turns. On each of the larger hills, and also some of the shorter ones, we passed folks who had climbed off their bikes to walk up the hill, and even several who had pulled over and called in the SAG wagon to come pick them up and take them back to the starting point. Each time I was able to power past these folks, I got another shot of adrenaline. Just 7 months ago, I had not ridden a bike in over 20 years. Plus, I was carrying 110 extra pounds of fat and something like this was completely unfathomable. Completing this century today was a very big accomplishment for me and I even teared up a little at mile 98 when it hit me that I was about to finish. Not to sound dramatic, but I truly feel that cycling has saved my life. I believe that my change in blood pressure, cholesterol level, etc and overall general health has moved me out of the high heart disease risk factor category and added years to my life.
I am planning another century in 3 weeks and a metric century (62 miles) before that. I look forward to sharing more success stories like this.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Finest Days are Behind Me!

Six months ago, I bought at 8-year old Fuji Finest to help me lose weight and get in better health. Since, then I have ridden over 2,000 miles and lost a total of 110 pounds. Recall, this was all without diet pills, shots, etc. Just lots and lots of hills and miles and eating right. I'm where I want to be with respect to weight and have been trying to "maintain" for the last several weeks. I've still got to figure out how to quit losing though (I guess that's a good problem to have). To commemorate my accomplishments, I indulgently went out today and bought a new bike. My new Fuji CCR2 full carbon bike with 105/Ultegra components is totally awesome! I can't wait for my next 2,000 miles!

And to show that it's "not all about me", I also got Felicia a new Masi Alare. This is her first true road bike. She asked if I would help her along her journey. I'm really surprised she had to ask if I would be willing to ride more. Kinda rhetorical don't you think?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1990 or 2010?

I could have taken this picture in either 1990 or 2010, but not in any of the twenty years between. With this number showing on my scale this morning, I can now say my push toward weight loss is all but over. On January 3 of this year, I weighed in at 293 and now, on June 15, I am at 198. That's a loss of 95 pounds. My original goal was to lose 63. Then 83. Then "let's just see where it goes", but I knew I wanted to be under 200. I may still lose a few more, no more than 10, but I do feel a certain drive to get to "normal" on the BMI chart.

There are so many people that have followed my journey and offered lots of support and encouragement along the way. My lovely wife Felicia has been supportive and understanding of my drive as I crawl out of bed early in the morning to cycle before work and when I disppear each Tuesday night and some saturday mornings for those longer distance rides. My pal Steve, who I met the first week I started pedaling, has ridden beside me and encouraged me up some monster hills and never got frustrated even when I was a much slower rider. My brother, Scott, planted that initial "seed" that got me interested in cycling, which has been a huge factor to my results. And my brother's friend, Brady, who I have never met, has offered frequent comments on my blog that have been a major source of much encouragement. I appreciate all the support each of you have given me. I appreciate all the encouragement and "pats on the back" that all my Facebook friends have shown.

As my posts about weight loss end, please remember to check back in for updates on where my rides take me and to keep up with everything else going on in my life.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

First Century Ride

Five months ago, I would get winded walking from the bedroom to the kitchen and back for a cup of water. Yesterday, I embarked on a 100-mile bicycle ride with my wife.

We first came up with the idea about a week before and we carefully planned every little thing about our day. We made a long list of supplies to carry in a pannier, planned our rest intervals, planned where we would eat lunch. All we had to do was wait for Friday to get here and we would be set! We chose to ride the Chief Ladiga Trail from Anniston, AL to the Georgia state line. In Georgia, the trail renames as the Silver Comet Trail and continues on to Smyrna, just north of Atlanta. The trails are part of the Rails To Trails Conservancy project where old unused railroad beds are converted to bike/walking paths. Given the distance and populartity of these adjoining trails, the Cheif Ladiga/Silver Comet Trail has been awared a place in the Rails To Trails Hall of Fame. We planned to ride 50 miles into Cedartown, GA, eat lunch, and turn back.

After spending 3.5 hours driving from Tullahoma to Anniston, we started our ride around 8:30. We did not try to rush at all. We just took a leisurely pace and made plenty of time to snap pictures and enjoy the wildlife (well, except for the snakes).

After leaving Anniston, our ride took us through the campus of Jacksonville State University and the town of Piedmont (the Piedmont Welcome Center is pictured above) before coming to Gateway Park at the state line. Once we hit the state line, there was absolutely nothing until the town of Cedartown, some 15 or so miles away. We had packed plenty of granola bars, but by the time we reached Cedartown, we were starved. The trail leads to the old train depot, which now serves a welcome center. We stopped in and asked the attendant for a restaurant suggestion. She told us of a little country cafe about a block down the road. We found the place, relaxed there for an hour or so, went back to the depot to refill our water bottles and hit the trail to return to Anniston.

Recall, I mentioned that we had meticulously planned the whole ride? Seems I forgot to check the actual mileage to Cedartown, which we were certain would be our turnaround point. We reached the town at 43.25 miles, which meant that our total trip would come in at 86.5. We made a plan to return to the start of the trail and then ride 14 more to and from Jacksonville to make the complete century. However, the sun set on us and our last two miles were in the dark, so we had to abandon our plans of completing the ride. With that said, I realize there will be plenty of other opportunities to do a century ride. I am considering going back to that same trail by the end of summer and doing 114 miles, the additional 14 to make up for yesterday's deficiency. Even without logging the full 100 miles we set out to complete, yesterday was a very monumental day in the fact that Felicia's prior longest ride was 17.8 miles and mine was 32 miles. We both accomplished so much more than we could have ever dreamed possible.

Along the way, there were some great bridges with breathtaking views of the creeks and rivers that ran along and underneath the trails. We snapped lots of pics, stopped along the way to talk with other cyclists and, overall, had a great day together.

I have posted pictures of the ride on my Facebook page. If you would like to see them and are not already a FB friend, just let me know and I will add you.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

MILEstone Day!

Today is a MILEstone day for me. I have now ridden 500 miles since I started riding on February 17. In that same time, I have lost 43 pounds for a total loss of 75 pounds since January 4. Through cycling, I have improved my health, seen much more of my town, and made new friends.
I am looking forward to my next 500 miles and I am sure they will come a lot quicker given the warmer weather.
(Thanks to Steve for photo credits and for stopping halfway through our morning ride to take the pic).