Wednesday, May 23, 2018

It is time to retire...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
I HAVE to stop taking these breaks from writing!  At least this time I didn’t take a break from working out.  Quite the opposite, actually.

My riding became less frequent as my time to hike in the Adirondacks drew nearer and the rains continued unabated.  I also got caught up in the numbers game my Fitbit has created…counting steps.  At one point, I did over 30,000 steps in three consecutive days.  My feet were quite sore after that period and it was a good test of what it would be like to walk multiple days of more than 20 miles, as I would be likely to do when trekking whatever long course I hike.  I also did over 193,000 steps in one seven-day period, marking a new record by far for a week.  I am on my way to crushing my one-month total, as well.

And I do get caught up in these numbers and I don’t know why.  I always have gotten caught up in the numbers.  How many miles did I run in a week?  What was my fastest time on a particular course?  How many miles did I ride for the day, week or month?  What was Carl Yastrzemski’s batting average (he won the American League batting title in 1968 – the year of the pitcher – with a .301 average.  It was the lowest average ever to win the league title before or since)?  The very important numbers only.

I climbed Hopkins Mountain in the Adirondacks last Friday on probably the best weather day I have ever climbed.  With a cloudless sky overhead and temperature hovering in the mid-sixties, I did the ascent in two hours using a casual, enjoy the serenity, pace.  Once on top, I marveled at the views and deep blue of the sky overhead and found myself mesmerized and unable to leave for over an hour.  That part was okay, but doing so without a cover on my head was not.  I burned my dome to the point of blistering and by the end of the day Saturday must have been suffering from some kind of sun poisoning.  That was colossally dumb.

And so now I find myself without a specific, immediate goal.  I am heading for Augusta and Fort Gordon this weekend to spend some time with Jack.  It’s a struggle to get in good hikes around that area as the roads are busy and there are no parks nearby.  I’m thinking of packing up my bike and doing a morning ride while Jack sleeps in, which he normally does any chance he gets away from an Army routine that has him up by 4 a.m.ish.  When I return home, I think I will map out a strategy for the summer to include several weekend trips of hiking and biking.  That will keep my focus where it needs to be – on the training and conditioning I need to maintain as I head into retirement.

Oh…and I did actually notify the farm that I want to semi-retire at the end of this year.  It was a watershed moment for me to actually commit to it on paper and with the organization.  When I think back over my life at the things I never really thought about or thought would actually happen, this is surely one of those moments.  It scares me.  It excites me.  The unknown will do that to you…
Hike: One hour and 20 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 70 - 90 bpm.
Calories Burned:  475.
Bonus: 22,000 steps.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Riding with pain...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
“My back is pretty sore.  I was doing ditches again today and the pain is wicked.  I may just skip riding and take it easy tonight,” I said to my cousin Donnie as I drove home.

“Good thinking, Maddox Man (my childhood nickname stemming from my love to dig holes and trenches with a mattock).  Even superheroes need a rest now and again,” he said.

But by the time I got home, the guilt of not having ridden the night before and the thought of not riding for two nights in a row was too much for my limited brain function.  I suited up and headed down the road.

Everything was fine for several miles, but then I felt it at the base of the spine.  Nothing serious or I wouldn’t have ridden, just that nagging fatigue that comes from doing too much lifting.  I cut the ride a little short, doing only 25 miles and after walking around for the rest of the night doing mundane chores, I have to say it was much better.  I know my body and sometimes it is actually preferable to work through the ache.

The Boston Celtics knocked off the Philadelphia 76’ers, so the CAVS have their opponent for the championship round of the NBA playoffs.  If LeBron and company can manage another upset, Boston was seeded second in the east, they will head for the finals.  If LeBron does that, it will be the eighth consecutive trip – something never accomplished in the history of the NBA.  He may be the best the game has ever seen.  Sorry, Mr. Jordan.
Bike Ride: One hour and 45 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1,500.
Bonus:  26,000 steps.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Breaking from the Paleo Diet...

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Last Saturday I made a concession to the weight loss I’ve managed since going on the Paleo Diet and dropping ten pounds.  My belt has not been doing its thing, which is to hold up my pants.  I had it on the last available notch, so I took matters into my own hands deciding it would be more economical to punch a hole into a perfectly functioning belt than it would be to buy a new one.  I used the end of 5 in 1 scraper and worked a hole through the leather.  I pushed the hasp through the new notch and eureka – my pants stayed up and I saved like $10 on accessories.

The grass has been getting out of control on the farm and the storm ditches along the front of the property needed cutting badly.  I took my hand mower down and began the arduous task of cutting them.  The angle is wicked it took a couple of hours slipping, yanking, pushing and pulling to complete the task.  My back ached the entire time, but it had to be done and I’m the only one available.  Retirement keeps looking better and better.

I got out of the car slowly after pulling in the driveway.  I thought, ‘this would be a perfect day to ride and tomorrow is going to be in the eighties’ but decided that my back needed some rest.  I already had 25,000 steps for the day from all I’d done at the farm and so took a 2-mile hike with Dakota just to give her some exercise and to push my total over 30,000 for the day.  When we returned, I did another un-Paleo thing and made Amish casserole for dinner.  It has turkey meat (good), canned cream of chicken soup (bad), noodles and cheese (even worse) in it, but I needed something different that tasted good.  I made it, I ate it, I enjoyed it.  And then I felt guilty.
Hike: 40 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 70 - 90 bpm.
Calories Burned:  275.
Bonus: 31,000 steps.

Back twinge...CAVS sweep...

Monday, May 7, 2018
I never watch basketball.  I find it rather boring, to be honest.  The see-saw nature of the game drives me crazy and it feels like it’s going to come down to the last couple of minutes anyway, so why watch the other 46?  In any event, I went to bed whispering a silent prayer that LBJ and the CAVS would take care of business and sweep Toronto out of the playoffs.  As is often the case, I woke up around 1 a.m. and decided to check my smart phone for the results of the game.  CAVS: 128  Raptors: 93 flashed across my screen.  I mean wow…that was a royal ass-kicking if there ever was one.  I was surprised that I hadn’t received a late-night notification from Jack about the sweep, but he gets up at 4 a.m. so he probably missed it.

I texted him on my way to work, typing one word – ‘Wow’.  He wrote back, ‘the CAVS got out the broom’.  And so they did.  Sweep of the number one seed complete.  Now let’s see if they can make it to the finals for the fourth straight year.

It was a rugged day on the farm.  Mitch and I shoveled, pulled fencing, cut grass, hung a heavy fan from a ladder, and other miscellaneous things to the point that I was feeling soreness in my back by the end of the day.  I’d actually been experiencing some discomfort since the previous week when I’d moved a couple tons of stone and limestone screenings onto the service drives in an effort to repair holes created over the winter.

I drove home thinking it was the absolute perfect day for a long ride.  The temperature was in the low sixties and not a cloud in the skies.  I suited up with Dakota watching and thinking she was going along.  She never has taken up bike riding and I’m not sure where the optimism comes from, but that’s her.  “I’ll take you for a walk when I get back,” I said guiltily.

It was another of those rides where I felt ready to rock for hours.  My legs weren’t feeling the previous day’s ride in the least, but as I got up out of the saddle to ride up a short hill, I felt a twinge in my lower back.  Odd.

This pattern continued throughout the ride and I knew my back was messed up.  Nothing serious, mind you; I know the difference, but it was something that could use some rest.  Yet I had lots of heavy lifting to do at work and many miles to ride in the coming days.  Rest for a sore back is unlikely.  We will see…
Bike Ride: Two hours.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1,500.
Bonus:  25,000 steps.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Good hiking, good cycling and amazing Lebron...

Sunday, May 6, 2018
Thursday was the hottest, most humid day yet.  Hovering around 80 degrees, I took Dakota and headed out for our hike.  She was not exactly thrilled and lagged consistently behind me by about 50 yards…but she did keep moving.  We did our long hike, climbing out of the valley on Everett Road and she perked up as we made the half-way point and turned for home.  With another day of more than 30,000 steps though, I was beginning to feel it and thinking about doing this and more day after day with a pack on my back on the North Country Trail.  Ah well…I’ll be ready when the time comes and if I’m not, I’ll die.

Friday was nicer and the hike went more smoothly, but my right hip was hurting enough to keep me awake at night.  I worked on it all day Saturday at Mimi’s, but decided against a hike afterwards and instead made some dinner and watched the inspirational true story of Boston Marathon bombing victim, Jeff Bauman, as he dealt with the physical and emotional pain of having lost both his legs.  Jake Gyllenhaal is amazing in the role as Jeff Bauman, but when isn’t he amazing?

By Sunday, I was determined to ride…and long.  I was on the bike on a somewhat chilly morning by 10 a.m. with the intention of going at least forty miles.  I picked a course I’ve been riding with the intent of adding a couple of loops to make up the difference.  As I rode up and out of the valley on Everett Road, I could tell I was going to have an excellent ride.  I climbed in a harder gear with no real effort and continued attacking hills throughout the course.  I dropped back into the valley, but then decided to climb up and out again near the end of the ride for the extra miles…and punishment.  But with the excellent climbing gearing on ‘Locke’ and my conditioning and decreased weight, it went easily.  As I crested the hill for another descent, I felt like I could keep doing this all day. 

I arrived back home after two and a half hours in the saddle feeling fantastic.  Perfect way to end a ride, too.  I still needed to get out with Dakota for a hike, which didn’t concern me as the hip felt fine once again.

I’m holding my weight at 190 with some cheating.  I went out Saturday and scored a pint of Maple Nut ice cream, eating it all while watching the movie.  I had walked a record 188,000 steps for the week, crushing my old record of 168,000 easily and thought I deserved it.

Jack did call late Saturday night to announce the outcome of game three between the CAVS and the Toronto Raptors.  When I saw who the call was from, I knew they’d won.  He’d never call to discuss a loss.

“Did you see LeBron’s final shot, dad?” he asked excitedly.

“Did he miss it?” I asked.

“He…what…no!  He’s the most clutch player in the history of playoff basketball!” he said.

Well…sure.  He’s LBJ.  He was in The Land. 

He coaxed me to get out of bed, Google the last shot on YouTube and watch it with him on the phone.  I did and it was amazing, but it’s LBJ and so should we be too surprised?
Bike Ride: Two hours and 30 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1,875.
Bonus:  188,000 steps in one week.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Summer arrives. Where did spring go?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
“They’re gonna sweep, dad,” Jack said, matter-of-factly.

I had just asked him how the CAVS, having squeaked by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, would fare against the number one seed, the Toronto Raptors.

“They’re going to beat is four straight?” I asked, innocently.

“NO DAD!  We’re going to sweep THEM!” he said…as if I didn’t know what he’d meant in the first place.

And so we went to Toronto for game one and, in overtime, beat the Raptors by a single point.  I hope you’re right, Jack.

I’d worked all day in a hot, humid sun and was driving home thinking about abandoning my ride.  I was exhausted.  This happens when the weather changes suddenly from winter to summer with no spring in-between.  That it how it seems.  Sunday morning, it was snowing in Pennsylvania and now it’s in the eighties.  My body has not acclimatized and yes, that’s a real thing.  Your body has to retool itself to dissipate heat after spending five months trying to conserve it.  It can take a week to ten days, less for a highly conditioned person, but I’m not that right now. 

I reached home and had convinced myself I’d be a little girl if I didn’t get out on the bike, so I suited up, filled up both water bottles – one with Gatorade – and headed out on my 25-mile course.  I struggled over the last several miles, but was proud of myself when I rolled back in the driveway, spent.

I took Dakota on a short walk, acknowledging that she too needed to get used to the sudden heat wave.  She moved slowly, but steadily for our 2-mile hike and was glad to be back in the cooler house in the end.  Though unwilling to concede it easily, I will have to watch her closely this summer.  If that ‘dog years’ thing is accurate, she’ll be in her 90’s and maybe I need to consider shorter hikes.  She looks fit, trim, and young and mostly acts that way, but it’s something to watch for.

Thunderstorms are in the forecast so the next couple of days may be tough for riding.  With the Adirondacks only two weeks away, I feel ready.  My weight remains down and I’m working out every day.  It’s going to be a good summer.
Bike Ride: One hour and 30 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1,125.
Bonus: 26,000 steps.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Carrots anyone?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
For the past three years, I have been meeting regularly with two life-long friends, Don and John, for spaghetti dinners and then watching something related to baseball.  We’re all junkies.  Don and I were in the fitness business together beginning in the early eighties when we were Fitness Directors for the Back Wall Athletic Clubs.  We started our own fitness testing/cholesterol screening business afterwards and stayed close over the ensuing years.  Recently, he told John and I how he was juicing six pounds of carrots a day and drinking the 48 ounces he got from his efforts.

“You’re going to turn orange.  I read about Steve Jobs doing that and he turned orange,” I said.

He was pretty sure he wouldn’t since he’d been doing it for a couple of weeks and was still pale.  We teased him anyways, but he kept drinking.  Yesterday, we went to Fisher’s for ribs where he told us he had an interesting story to tell.

“I’ve had a non-aggressive form of prostate cancer for two and a half years,” he said.  He went on to describe how he had chosen to just keep an eye on it with his Cleveland Clinic doctor because he wasn’t ready for the alternative chemo or radiation.

“Eighty percent of my patients opt for an aggressive approach because they are uncomfortable with cancer in their bodies.  You don’t need to do anything if you’re comfortable with that approach, though.  We will watch your PSA and do the exams we need every three to four months,” he told Don.

And so it went – until his last exam when his doctor told him he had a large mass and it was growing fast and aggressive.  “We need to take quick action,” he told Don.

“I went home and did some reading – like all people do who get this diagnosis – and I kept reading about mega doses of carrot juice.  I checked with Bob (our good friend and incredibly thorough nutritionist) and he assured me that there was not toxic buildup of vitamin A as long as it came from a plant source.  I told the doc’s office what I was doing and put off the biopsy for a couple of weeks so I could give it a chance to work.  They told me there was nothing to support what I was doing, but as a pharmaceutical rep, I know who puts the money into medical research and it’s not them if there is no drug to sell if it works,” he said.

For the next six weeks he juiced and drank his concoction.  He had his biopsy three days ago – fourteen samples were taken – and the doctor had called him with the results just before he joined us for dinner.

“The doc was kind of emotional.  He said he’d never seen anything like it before, but my cancerous mass and any sign of cancer – was gone!”

I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know he’d had it and he was telling me it was gone and of course I was extremely happy for him and dumbfounded by how he’d accomplished it. 

“In your reading, was the carrot juice option limited to prostate cancer or would it help will all cancers?” I asked.

“Any cancer,” he said.

It has me thinking about getting a juicer and turning orange.

I managed a hard ride before dinner, going 25 miles on a hot and sunny afternoon.  I also hit 30,000 steps for the second consecutive day, which is something I’ve never done before.  Today is should be a good riding day if the thunderstorms hold off until evening.
Bike Ride: One hour and 30 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1,125.
Bonus: 31,000 steps.