Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meathead or not Meathead

Ok. Forgive the mostly serious nature of this post. I want to give anyone reading this a sense of where I've been, where I'm going and how I got here.

It's about time I talked a little about bicycling. But first;

Hi, my name is eric and i'm a recovering meathead. I was a powerlifter for about 30 years. Bench, deadlift and squat.

I've got the aches and pains to prove it. I also got to 270 pounds and as I approached 50 I realized I simply could not carry that weight around anymore. Enter my bicycle.

Like many I biked as a kid. Hey, when you're too young for a license it's walk, bike, snivel for a ride or stay home. I snivel with the best of 'em but you know, the bike was just sitting there and my mom didn't have to know where I was really going....

Of course 16 changed all that. A car, dates, parties. Well a car anyway. The bike got put away never to be seen again.

High School and football. I got started on my meatheaditude. Lift, get bigger and stronger. Hit that guy in the face! Testosterone, pimples and chicks. Woo Hoo!

Fast forward to my 20's. Just out of the Army and starting a career that required some martial prowess. I fell back on what I knew and hit those weights. Bigger, stronger, more and more. At my biggest (at 44 years old) I was 5-11 and 270 pounds. 54 inch chest, 20 1/2 inch arms and a 38 pants. I was nearing that magical 1500 pound total. Then in 2004 I got hurt.

Ironically it was 2 wheels that bit me. A motorcycle. I went down hard. Concussion, Damaged hip and crushed Sciatic nerve. Rehab and the realization that I couldn't quite hit the weights the way I had. At least at first.

Oh, my weight stayed but the pure muscle started to go.

By 2006 I was getting back into the groove. I virtually stopped deadlifting and my squat suffered but I was back to benching big numbers. Then I got hurt again.

This time it was my achilles that went south and man, did it ever go all the way south. Surgery, rehab and more time spent out of the gym. My weight stayed right up there though. I'm just lucky that way.

My hip and sciatic hurt all the time. My knees hurt. My achilles caused ankle, foot and back pain. I couldn't squat anymore. Lost time hurt my bench. I lost weight but it was mostly muscle. Something had to give.

I've always been fascinated by endurance athletes. Probably because I couldn't do it. Not since the Army anyway. When I got out I had stopped runnung and now my injuries pretty much precluded that type of activity. Way back in 1996 we bought a couple of Gary Fisher MTB's. Just for fun. Mine was a silver Marlin. I liked it but we had a couple of dogs and it became a hassle. Walk the dogs or go riding? The dogs won out and the bikes got put away virtually unused.

Fast forward again to 2008. 4 years of rehabbing hip, ankle and back. Weight still too high and activity level dropping. Trying to do my best in the gym. August and I got hurt again.

Left shoulder this time. Rotator cuff. Surgery and more rehab. Not as bad this time. The injury wasn't as severe as feared and the doctor (a brilliant surgeon who I will love for the rest of my days. He put me back together twice) fixed it arthroscopically. It was mostly scar tissue from a previous injury/surgery and bone spurs. I was back in the gym in 6 weeks.

This time was different. I felt weak and was constantly worried about a new injury. My weight was still too high (mid 250's) and I felt sluggish and old. I got rated as 17 percent disabled. Disabled. A very ugly word indeed. Then inspiration hit me.

Lu and I started watching the Tour De France in 2005 and every year since. Again, I was fascinated. The riders, the machines, the fitness, the effort. I'd always liked to ride. Was this my answer? In 2008 I decided to see if the Leopard really could cange it's spots.

I dusted off the Gary Fisher's, mounted some road tires and saddled up. 2 things helped me. First, in October my daughter Jenny and the grandkids came to visit for a few months. She needed to lose some weight and was having some trouble with it. She loves to ride and we decided to tackle it as a team effort. The second was that when I got Lu's bike back in shape for my daughter, she decided she liked this riding thing as well.

Jenny and I started out slow. I mean slow. Over the months we got better and better. The weight dropped off and I spent less and less time pining for the gym. Oh, i still went (and still go) a couple of times a week but instead of 2 to 3 hours concentrating on high weight, low rep strength training, I started doing conditioning lifting. My reps went up, my intensity went up but the poundage came down. And I felt fantastic. The hip felt better, the ankle and knees felt better. The shoulder felt much better. Hey, this was working!

Jenny and the kids left in January (They're in Hungary and Jen is buying a new bike in a bike crazy culture. She lost weight and let loose the athlete within while we rode together. She's going to do great).

Last month Lu and I decided it was time to upgrade. We bought a pair of Giant FCR2's and started doing some serious riding. Well, serious for me and Lu anyway. We love the new bikes and we put the knobbies back on the Gary Fishers so we'll be doing some trail riding as well as road.

Last month I did 83 miles. I've gotten in 41 as of the 10th of February on my way to my first 100 mile month. It may not seem like much but it is for me and it's the next step in my transformation from meathead to endurance athlete. Or as near to it as I can get.

So, am I actually a meathead in transition or will the iron bug bite me again? Only time will tell but I will say this. I'm just shy of my 50th birthday and I can honestly say I've never felt better. My wind is good. My weight is going steadily down. My blood pressure what it was when I was 25. My knees are better as is my leg and foot. Lu says my butt looks great. That's worth it right there. Woo Hoo again!

And I'm loving the riding. It's especially nice because I've had 2 great riding partners, my wife and my daughter. Thanks guys. I couldn't do it without you.

In a perverse way, weightlifting may have actually helped me on the bike. My legs are very strong and serious, heavy lifting requires a level of suffering that's kinda comparable to hard riding. The difference is in duration, not effort. Riding hard requires extended pain where lifting is pain in short doses. It hurts just as bad but you get a chance to shake it out between lifts.

I'm starting to actually contemplate goals I thought were forever beyond me. I want to do a Century. I'm waiting for Jenny to get back so I've got 2 years to train for it. I told her I wont go without her. We'll do it together. My mileage continues to go up as my weight decreases and my cardio fitness improves.

Jenny also turned me on to 2 guys who have unknowingly helped, dug and The Fat Cyclist. Check my links and go visit their sites. And please donate to the Lance Armstrong Fund fighting cancer on Fatty's site. It's a great charity helping to fund research into a disease that touches us all. They're funny, occasionally poingnant and always inspiring. I also owe both of them a big thanks. Of course they've gotten me thinking about the Leadville 100 so they're not entirely blameless.

So that's it. My story, such as it is. I'm sure you were underwhemed but don't worry, I've got many more sub-standard stories just waiting to be told. Ah, sweet anticipation!

Now lets go riding!



John Wolfe said...

Hey there, Big Boy, glad to hear from you. So you're into cycling now, huh? Very cool! My father-in-law, Orland, who passed away this last August at age 77, was an avid rider for the last 10 years or so. He would ride practically every day and during the winter (he lived in Kansas) he set up a trainer in his basement so he wouldn't lose his edge. While he never competed for money, he was always going to races all over the southwest, and when he & Mom came to visit us, he'd bring his bike along!

Anyway, I only mention this to let you know that unless you finally get bored of the sport or, heaven forbid, you injure yourself, you've got many, many years to ride. When you feel you're up to it, you can come visit us here in Texas and ride the "Hotter 'n' Hell 100", a race held every year in Wichita Falls, Texas which is about a 2-3 hour drive from our house. Of course, it's called that for a reason as it's held around the August time frame, when temps can get quite searing!

Besides, it'd give a reason to hang out for a while. I think the last time we saw each other was at the family reunion at Grandpa's house.

I'll be tracking this to see what kind of interesting (or not) stuff comes from your mind.

Cousin John

eric said...

Thanks for the kind words John. That ride sounds great! It's great to hear that your father in law rode so late in life. It gives me hope.
I'm retiring in June. I'm applying to go over to Iraq for a year training the cops over there. If I get I'll plan on coming out as soon as I get back. If I don't, plan on seeing us this year.
Take care.