Sunday, November 11, 2012

What are you aiming for?

 I receive emails from Chris Carmichael this week, and it struck a very major chord with me.  It's something I  had already experienced, and after getting through it and looking back, it's such a major reason why so many people "quit" or in my case took too long to try.
You have to continually focus on where you’re going to be and how you’re going to get there. In the early days of a new business, the start of a long education process, or the beginning of your path to an athletic goal, where you are stinks. You can barely support yourself, nobody gives you any respect, and you’re working terribly hard for what seems like very little reward. A lot of people get stuck there, because they spend too much time focused on where they are and too little on where they’re headed.
The simple fact is this - as long as you are focused on doing what you are doing now, you will not get to where you want to go.  I spent years wanting to lose weight.  I thought "if I was just 20, or 30, pounds lighter things would be so much better.  My focus was always on the weight.  The simple fact is weight does not define you, it can only limit you.  Once my focus changed from weight to activities, I saw change.  Now I look at goals, and my goals get larger.  Yeah, I like a good burger from time to time, and I like pizza.  I like standing on top of White Oak mountain, claiming victory over a grueling ride.  I like coming back tired and sore from a hard shop ride, knowing that I at least kept the group that I couldn't stay with in sight as I was getting dropped.  I like that I feel like I can go out and DO things.  The difference is that I'm not defining myself by food, but rather by the other things that need to be in my life.

This is a major change for me.  Last year at this time I was struggling with just going 7 miles without having to stop for a break.  I had to make hard decisions, and decide what was important to me.  If that means getting in miles during lunch, and having to heat up my lunch while on a conference call while not being able to  change until after the call is over.  Having to chase that last bit of daylight, and having a late dinner because I have to get to the gym.  If I'm not going to make the time to do these things, I'm not going to get stronger.  It's a hard reality.  As I face down my 38th birthday, my goals only get larger and more seemingly Ludicrous.  I mean, is it feasible for me to expect to be able to ride the Assault on Mt Mitchell in 2013?  It's 100 miles of riding and 10,000 feet of climbing.

It's just another stepping stone in my active lifestyle.  It means a lot of hard work over the next 6 months, but I look forward to standing at the highest point in the Eastern United States, victorious.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Forgiveness and Hero-worship

It's been a while since I actively updated my blog, but it hasn't been because I haven't been doing anything.  It's been a busy summer for me, and the Hincapie Gran Fondo marked the end of my active cycling time, and the start of my training for the 2013 challenges I've set before myself.  I'm hoping to get more good miles in between now and the end of the year, but we'll have to see how the weather cooperates.

The Gran Fondo was a blast, but the bigger news this month has to swirl around the controversy of drugs in Pro Cycling.  At this point there is stated evidence that 20 out of 21 podium winners of the Tour de Fance from 1999 until 2005 were doping.  This number is staggering, and tells me that it's not just "Lance made me do it" or that the "USPS team were the only ones cheating".  It means it was a culture of evil that put the wins ahead of the riders safety for the benefit of the teams (and thus the sponsors).

For those that are not heavily into cycling, there have been 2 common ways that cyclists (and most endurance atheletes for that matter) can "cheat".  The first is to use blood transfusions of their own blood to replenish their red blood cell supply and recover faster.  For stage races where you are riding for 100+ miles a day for 3 weeks, this is a huge advantage.  The problem is that this is expensive to do, requires a lot of medical equipment and a lot more people involved.  It becomes a "scheme" or a "plot" not just "cheating".

The second commonly used tactic is to take Erythropoietin, or EPO.  This naturally occurring hormone in the human body increases your red blood cell count.  It's been synthesized since 1983 to be used by doctors to help heal patients.  More red blood cells means more Oxygen for your muscles, thus you can ride longer and harder.  The danger is that it also means a higher chance of developing blood clots.

The crux of this post wasn't for me to give a history lesson in doping in cycling, or to give a medical dissertation on EPO.  Both of those are easily found on the Interwebs by people much more suited to be experts in their fields of study (or their own minds).  The main point I'm getting to is about forgiveness, and how as fans of the sport as well as followers of Christ what we are called to do.  Again, for an actual bible study on forgiveness I'd defer to someone better trained than myself, but I wanted to state my feelings on the matter.

Several folks I have talked to have stated how much they dislike the cyclists who testified against Lance, either because their careers were a lie (because of cheating) or because they "turned on Lance".  For me personally, I've forgiven them in my heart for having to go through an extremely dark part of their life and having to relive it again years later in the public spotlight.  These are not "super human beings" that are supposed to be better than us.  They are people chasing a dream to ride with the best in the world and take on challenges that I cannot even fathom.  They spend more hours a week on a saddle (or as some folks like to say an ancient torture device) than I do in my comfy desk chair each week.  Just to earn a paycheck they have to keep healthy, injury and sickness free, and produce on a bicycle.  It's a level of stress that I cannot even start to imagine.  I ride to escape and enjoy God's splendor.  It calms my mind.

Some of these folks had a choice of walking away and being "disgraced", or facing what was happening int he sport.  They have been brave enough to come out, even if it took a major investigation.  When we are faced with our own demons, we tend to lie and avoid them.  This isn't something we have to be taught to do, as any parent of a toddler rightly knows.  These gentlemen, who had never been officially caught using drugs, had to summon up the courage to admit to what they were doing, and tell a federal Anti-Doping Agency what they had done.  There was, and is, a good chance that their careers could be over.  I still feel that Lance is stuck in a place where he cannot face those demons because of the web that has been spun around him.  The USADA gave anmesty to the folks that testified, giving them what amounts to slaps on the wrist for what they did.  To my knowledge, being an armchair investigator, Lance has no amnesty from the US Justice Department and the potential Perjury charges that he could be facing if he came clean.  When facing physical jailtime versus holding the line hoping it'll just go away, I can understand why he is still holding the line.  I think it's a natural human defense.

That said, Fat Cyclist probably summed it up well in his blog in regards to the Levi effect.  I will take it a bit further and say that for the folks staying in cycling, and trying to make things better, even after having to admit to doping, they come away as stronger individuals.  I don't need for them to personally apologize to anyone but to God, nor do any penance for what they've done.  It is obviously a very black part of the history of cycling, where the technology of cycling outstripped our ability to handle morality.  They were chasing a dream, and made a wrong turn.  They don't need our scorn and rejection, for more than likely they have been and will be facing their own inner demons for years to come.  They need our support and love, like any recovering individual.   Hopefully they have come to remember the joy of cycling without the drugs, and can continue to chase their dreams.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

US Pro Championships and the Stars and Stripes Challenge

Monday was Memorial Day, a day I have been looking forward to for months now.  But instead of sleeping in and having a cookout, it was time to get up early and head downtown for the US Pro Cycling Championship road race.  It was also time to get to ride the pro course on the Stars and Stripes Challenge!

I have to say that the event actually lived up to the hype.  I got there and got the bike all set up, and rolled over to the starting area.  We had the national anthem played for the group, and even a gunshot as we took off.  Many of the roads were not closed off, but several of the busier ones were.  The course was extremely well marked, and with the number of riders on the course it was really easy to know where the turns were, even if you weren't familiar with the roads.  I was familiar with at least 2/3 of the course already, although I had not been on US276 before on the bike (for good reason!).

The halfway point of the loop is Paris Mountain, which has a 2.2 mile rated climb.  While I conquered it back in January is not a challenge I deem I have mastered anytime soon.  Paris Mountain a strong climb, and really tests to see if you can keep to your own pace and gameplan, especially in a group.  By the time we started up, the ride had thinned into much smaller packs, but there were still at least a dozen folks nearby as I made my ascent.  It was a perfect time of day to ride up, with a slight fog/cloud cover that we rode through.  Nothing thick enough to really coat you with water, but it was a nice mist that kept you cool.  When I reached the final tenth of a mile, I decided it was time to give it all I had and sprint to the top, passing 3 or 4 people that were ahead of me while I was at it.  I still struggle with going "over the top" during efforts like this (I think it's a mental thing of once I get 90% of the way up I slow down too much), but I love having the power at the end of a climb like that to just give everything in the tank to finish really strong.

The way down Paris Mountain may have actually been more fun than the trip up, though.  Typically I have kept my speed down while decending for multiple reasons, the least of which is control.  Going 40mph on a bike can be pretty frightening if you aren't very familiar with the turn ahead of you.  Heck, it can be frightening knowing the turn ahead of you!  I had spent some time over the weekend learning the proper way to take corners, so I was eager to test it out.  I was still keeping a pace on my speed, but being able to up the pace slightly as we descended was nice.  What was a blast was blowing through the intersection that the police had blocked off at the bottom going ~40mph, though.  Typically we have to stop there and wait for the light before going through to Piney Mountain, but with the traffic stopped we could go all out.

The rest of the trip downtown was pretty uneventful.  I can't say I love the climbs on Main Street (to be honest the longer flat climbs are probably my least favorite, because I get stuck between pushing hard and finding a pace.  I typically gas out about 3/4 of the way up them and have to just spin the best I can through it.  We went around Cleveland Park, by the Zoo and the Dog park, and back up to downtown.  Coming back through the start/finish line was something special.  I had decided beforehand that I really wanted to attempt 2 laps of the circuit, even though I knew that I couldn't complete the 2nd lap by 10am, which was when they were closing off the start/finish line to start staging the pro's.  Mentally I had told myself that I had to finish the first lap in under 2 hours to attempt the 2nd lap.  I actually finished it in 01:25:54.  I had plenty of time to run a second lap up to but not including the start/finish line!  This second lap was more for "me", something I could enjoy and take in more of what was going on than trying to keep a pace or worry about times.  The second time of Paris mountain I wasn't pushing for a person record, but I just enjoyed the fellowship, and got to notice the signs that P3Group put out along the route for all the reasons people rode.  I even saw the sign we made in honor of my Grandfather, which was about 2/3 of the way up the climb.

Once I got back and changed, I had a chance to watch the Pro's take on the course.  It was awesome to understand the course and know the challenges, and see the Pro's just tear it up.  Watching them make moves and play off each other was just spectacular.  The crowds were out in force, and there was plenty to do in between the laps when the riders would make it back around the circuit.  It made for a fantastic finish to a great day!  I got to learn a lot more about more of the Pro riders than I knew before, and so many of them I have so much respect for.  I'm sad to see the US Championships leave Greenville this year, but I feel blessed that I got to take part in it and that it got to be here for as long as it did.  Next year the Championships are in Chattanooga, which is only a few hours away.  It will definitely be worth the road trip!

2012 US Pro Cycling Championships

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trying to reason with Hurricane Season (will get you very wet)

Since "Hurricane Season" is only a week away, and we already have our first named storm in the Atlantic (I think the Hurricanes are stalking us right now, to be honest), I thought it very fitting to use the Buffett song as a tribute to the ride from last night.

As I have been told already, the weather forecast in the upstate is extremely volatile.  It can change at a complete moments notice.  Growing up on the barrier island in Florida I'm somewhat used to this phenomenon, as it can be raining on one side of the street while being sunny and dry on the other side at times.  The problem is that I haven't gotten accustomed to scouting out how long between "oh it's just drizzling a little bit" and "you'll want to wring out those clothes before washing them" is right now.  Thus what happened last night.

Around 3pm 7am I start checking the weather.  It's Tuesday, so it means SC-TAC rides out in the country.  This was one of the events that I look forward to every week, and really is a baseline for my fitness routines.  I see a high chance of rain, getting worse as the evening goes along.  The trick is that at 6pm there is only around a 25% chance of rain, but it gets higher by 7:30 or so.  I decide it's worth the risk, and thus after work I get changed and head over to the meeting spot.  I had already decided I really didn't want to do a major warm up like I had the last few weeks, because I wanted to do the entire 30 mile loop instead of cutting it short at the end and not riding Perimeter Road afterwards.  It gets to be about 5:30 and while doing a small warm up to make sure everything is good on the bike we learn that because of the rain the official rides are canceled.  It had started to drizzle at this point, but the roads weren't wet and it was tolerable.  Thus I talked both myself and Paul into doing at least one loop of Perimeter road.  It's only a 7 mile loop, thus at any point we're only 5 or 10 minutes from being back to the parking area, right?

We start out, and we get about 1/3 of the way around the loop, and the rain starts to pick up some.  It's now getting to the "it's going to be uncomfortable" level, but we're keeping a good pace, and while my glasses are starting to get wet the water isn't really impacting my vision and the wind isn't horrid.  Honestly I didn't even consider turning around at this point.  I was already wet at this point, I might as well get the loop in.  At this point Paul's comment to me was "who's idea was it do to this loop, anyway?".  I acknowledged it was my bright idea and some references to a company I formerly worked for were made, and we kept moving on.

By the time we got to the golf course, the wind was starting to pick up.  As a note, the golf course is at about the halfway point on the loop, and also starts the area with most of the climbing.  Not a great place for the wind to be picking up, but it was still somewhat manageable.  Since it's the halfway point, there was nothing really to do but keep moving and get back to the vehicles as fast as we could.  Then, we got to the "last little climb".

I call it "the last little hill" because that's the name of the segment inside of Strava.  It's a half mile stretch on the back side of the road that has a nice 85 ft climb.  For me it was one of the first segments I ever "attacked" while using strava, so it has become one of the markers by which I determine how I'm doing riding.  It's not vicious, in fact I've taken it as a pretty decent clip in the past.  This time was definitely an adventure, though.  The first quarter mile is the real climb of the segment, and it's a place you can really attack.  When I got to the start of the segment I had a decent speed going, and I wasn't completely gassed out, so I took it as strong as I could.  Just about the time I got past the main climb to the "false flat" at the top, the wind decided it was time to give me a real challenge.  The rain turned from being just wet to being sharp (and wet).  Sharp like needles, and it managed to find every possible way to get past my glasses and attack my eyes directly.  At this point my glasses were slightly fogged up as well, but the push on the bike from the wind wasn't bad, it just slowed me down.  After attempting multiple times to determine how to actually see while moving on, I determined that looking mostly down so I could just watch the white stripe was my best bet.  I kept my speed down to a manageable level, and just did the best I could.

At this point I made the turn that marks the end of the segment.  I was dealing with a cross wind, but I also knew that I had one more turn and then it would be a tailwind.  At this point I figured I was dealing with the worst of the weather I'd have to struggle through, because once the wind was pushing me the water should be mostly out of my face and I could concentrate on getting back to the van.  Outside of just keeping my head down to keep the still sharp water out of my eyes, this segment was mostly uneventful.  We made it to the turn for the last stretch on perimeter road before the parking area.  This is where Mother Nature decided to have a real sense of humor.

We made the turn, and we were dealing with mostly a tail wind (somehow wind never really acts like you think it should on the bike), but the rain changed from the sharp little droplets into entire buckets at a time being dumped in a single drop.  At the same time the wind seemed to increase in speed and visibility was not improving at all.  My shoes quickly transformed from light and breathable into bailing buckets for the air.  I think I had an extra 15-20 lbs of water soaked into my clothes, and I was extremely happy that I had decided to put my wallet and phone into a ziplock bag before we left.  Up to this point, while I'm sure I was wet to the core, I had not really considered the wet to be a real negative.  It was something I had to deal with.  Now, it was uncomfortable.  My socks were now soaked, my body was soaked from top to bottom, the water was just dripping from everywhere while more was being poured onto me.  I started feeling like Mickey from "the Sorcerer's Apprentice".  All I was missing were brooms carrying buckets.

I finally made it back to the van, and had to figure out how to get everything into the van without needing to bail water once I was done.  The best I could do was do everything quickly, getting the bike, my shoes, helmet, socks, hat and gloves thrown into the back, and myself as quickly into the front as possible.  I removed what I could of the drenched clothing to not soak the upholstery any more than I had to, and started off for home.  It might have only been 7 miles, but it will probably be the most interesting ride of the week.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cancer's Impact (or Why the Fundraising for P3 is important to me)

Benedict Kupchunos was my Grandfather.  The first born of immigrant farmers from Eastern Europe, his mother could not Speak English fluently.  His father had an alcohol problem, and left the family when he was in the 6th Grade.  He ended up dropping out of school and working in the textile mills at night (along with working the fields during the day) in order to support his family.  He ended up getting married and having two daughters.  He was known for being a strong individual, and one that had a strong moral standing.  His family survived moving to a new country, the harshness of being immigrants in the Northeast United States during the turn of the century, being a single parent family at a time when it was unheard of, along with the Great Depression and the daily toils of being a farmer.  He was forced to be a Man well before any of us would want our kids to have to deal with the realities of earning a living, and helped to raise his younger brothers and sisters so they could live a better life.  The one thing that he could not overcome was the fight with cancer.  He went home in September 1977.  I was not quite 3 at the time.  I never got to really "know" my grandfather.  Pictures like this are how I remember him.

In the past 35 years, cancer research has come a long way.  I know of countless cancer survivors, and the chances of early detection and treatment are significantly better than they were back in the 70's.  I have known friends, coworkers and other family members that have been blessed to have cancer detected at early stages and to have been able to get quick treatment to be able to move on.  Just in my extended family I am blessed to know people that have been cancer survivors for decades.  Without the efforts that are put in every day to improve our ability to combat cancer, though, these people wouldn't have had a fighting chance.

It is estimated that this year 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer.  35% of them will not make it 5 years past the time that they are diagnosed.  I have an opportunity to help in the fight against cancer in a way that I have never been able to before.  I've been blessed with the opportunity to be in the upstate of South Carolina, and to have been introduced to cycling.  I've been able to improve my fitness so I can take on the Stars and Stripes Challenge.  This is a way for me to honor the memory of my Grandfather and to help others both past, present and future in their fight against cancer.  The funds that the P3 group collect as a part of the fundraising for the Stars and Stripes Challenge goes to cancer research as a part of the Greenville Hospital System's Cancer Research Center as well as to Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer.

I have already had several others willing to help support me in my fundraising goal, but I'm still short of the $500 that I wanted to raise to help.  If you are able to donate to help me reach my goal, I'd be honored.  If you want me to remember someone you love that has fallen to cancer or is battling with it, let me know in the comments or in a private message.  I'm planning on finding a way to remember those that have been touched by cancer ride with me during the ride in some fashion, along with being in my prayers this Memorial Day.

Palmetto Peloton Project's Donation Page

Monday, May 7, 2012

Run, Bike. Zipline?!?

Yes, I think that would be the strangest triathlon ever.  It would also sum up one of the busiest weekends that I have been through in a VERY long time.

It started Friday evening with the 2012 Swamp Rabbit 5k. This would be the rest of the family's first 5k that they participated in, along with over 4,000 other people.  To say it was crowded would be an understatement.

Yes, that's the starting line way up there!

Even with the massive crowds, we had a good walk through Traveler's Rest and on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  We ended up walking at the back of the pack, and had times near the 1 hour mark, but the goal was to enjoy the event instead of posting up record speeds.  I found out later that this is one of the biggest running events in the state, as well.  It also was interesting because of the climb that you have to do about 1/3 of the way through the course, as well as the hairpin turn around mile 2.  Afterwards I treated the girls to an ice cream cone and dinner at the cafe inside the hardware store.  It made for a late night for everyone, and I had an early day 2 the next morning!

What was day 2, you may ask?  It was a 30-mile charity cycling event for LLS that Ride-On Bicycles hosted!  I spend a lot of time in Matt's shop, and I feel that they are one of the best places in Greenville to get a bike, as well as get it serviced.  When they posted up that they were hosting a charity event, I knew that I wanted to support them.  Even if that meant that I would have an event packed weekend.  The ride was spectacular, as it was only my second time through the vineyards over in Laurens County, and I put forth several very good efforts.  I was glad to participate and help out a great shop and a great cause.

After the ride we ended up going to Free Comic Book day and just having a little more relaxing time at the house.  I really needed that because Day 3 of the weekend was another big event for us:  YMCA Camp Greenville Family Fun on the Mountain Day!  This year marks Camp Greenville's 100th anniversary (a Centennial, even), and I was very grateful to be able to spend the time up there.  They had so many activities going on that we couldn't even remotely do them all, but we managed to go to the horseback riding, zipline, birthday party for the park (with candy drop!) as well as Archery and spending some time at Pretty Place Chapel.  My only regret from yesterday was that we didn't get to do more in the day.  I found out that the Y has 6 volunteer days throughout the year to help with Camp Greenville.  I will definitely be putting as many of those as I can onto the calendar to help out whenever we can.  Hopefully we can send the girls to summer camp up there soon, although the price is rather prohibitive to us this year :(

FFotMD photos!

By the time we got home we were exhausted.  That said, there isn't a single event of the weekend that I would have not done.

Friday, May 4, 2012

USA Championships to leave Greenville

I picked up the newspaper this morning, and my wife looks at one of the headlines and was shocked to read this, but it looks like this is the last year for the USA Cycling Pro Championships in Greenville, SC.

USA Cycling announced today that after seven years in Greenville, South Carolina, the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships will move to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2013, as part of a new four-year partnership with Volkswagen of America. In addition to venue change, the championship event will at long last bring the professional women's national title race into the fold beginning next year.
While this makes me sad, it also means that this year is even more special for me as this will be the only time I get to ride the pro course here as a part of the Stars and Stripes Challenge.  I know that physically I can complete the course, and that I should be able to put in a good time, but now the real challenge of the fundraising becomes the key for me.  For this, I'm going to need help.

I have a goal set up of $500 that I need to finish raising between now and May 28th.   I'm still right at 50% of the way to the goal, and I hope I can get the rest of the way there.  The money raised is given to the Greenville Hospital System's Oncology Research Department as well as Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer. If you can help support me with a donation, I'd be completely honored.  I'm including the letter that I've sent out to several folks with more information as a quote on here as well.  To make a donation online, use the following information:

P3Ride's Donation Page
Select "Brian Lube" from the rider list

Some of the finest research in the war against cancer is taking place because of people like you and me. This year I am signing on to participate in the Palmetto Peleton Project’s Stars and Stripes Challenge Presented by Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer. The event is part of an exciting weekend at the USA Cycling Professional Championships and I need your help.

Over the last 5 years, the Palmetto Peloton Project (P3) has raised over $1 million dollars for cancer research and advocacy and contributed these dollars to such programs as:

• Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center’s Institute for Translational Oncology Research (ITOR)
• And this year’s Amgen Breakaway from Cancer partnership

As I ride to honor friends, family members and colleagues touched by cancer, our dollars raised will make a significant contribution in shorter recovery times and better programming to support that recovery. Pedaling a course designed for professional cycling competition will put me to the test. But just consider what others have been through who have experienced a cancer diagnosis.

Over 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with cancer each day. In fact, 1.5 million new cases were expected to be diagnosed in 2010. The National Institutes of Health estimates the overall costs of cancer to be $263.8 BILLION dollars last year.

This event is very important to me because nearly everyone I know has been touched by cancer. Please join me as I participate in this significant event to raise awareness to the importance of advocacy, outreach, and research towards treatment and cure.

I am asking for your support. Your tax-deductible cash donation would help me reach my fundraising goal of $500. You can make your contribution in support of my efforts on line at (Click Donate under the Stars and Stripes logo, and find my name in the drop down menu there). Then follow the prompts to complete your transaction.

The battle against cancer is significant and grows every day. Whatever your desire or ability to contribute it will be meaningful. The Palmetto Peloton Project (P3) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization making your donation tax deductible to the extent of the law.

Thank you for your support.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Wheels for Meals 2012

Originally I had set myself some rather meager goals for this year, mostly in preparation for the Stars and Stripes Challenge over Memorial Day and in general being able to hang with the Donaldson Tuesday night Country Loop.  After having such a spectacular time going through Rob's Big Losers, when Rob invited me to ride on the Wheels for Meals charity ride I couldn't say no.  I was honored that he'd think of me and invite me to come out!  That said, he helped me get my registration information in, and I was all set for last weekend.  I decided to challenge myself and make this trip my first Metric Century (100km or ~62 miles) as well.  I knew that this would be rough, but I also had a few friends that were planning on taking on the course and said they would ride with me.

It was a nice cool morning as we headed out from Furman University heading towards the base of Ceaser's Head Mountain, which was very much a blessing.  This course was extremely challenging for me as a less experienced rider.  The terrain was non-stop for the entire 100 kilometers.  Unlike several courses I've personally done already where you get some longer stretches of flat or near flat and enough downhill to recover for the next push uphill, this was true rolling hills, where each downhill was greeted with more climbing.  The event was extremely well organized and well planned out, so the water stops were really when you needed them, and the snacks they had on hand made me regret packing a bit heavy for the trip.  I had packed snacks, extra electrolytes and an extra water bottle not knowing for sure what to expect.  I also made a mistake in having both my main water bottles be full of my electrolyte powder, which was way too strong and too much for my body to handle while at speed.  Until the first water station, where I refilled one of my main bottles with just water and sipped the electrolyte drink when I felt I really needed the extra, I was really hurting to keep up. Once I made that adjustment it was good.

The "main event" for the day though was really going up Callahan Mountain right by "Camp Old Indian".  This one mile stretch of road is 400 feet of elevation at an average of 7% incline.  There are sections of it that are over 10% at times.  It was also the midpoint of the ride, so I had to ride what was typically a "full" ride for me, then climb this gruntastic beast, then ride another 30 miles.  The water break was about 2 miles before the start of the climb made a huge difference, too.  When we got to the base of the climb, we were able to scale it efficiently and had reserves to keep on going.  As we got to the 50 mile mark, I was really ready for that last water stop, though.  Just the time with our feet down to let my legs rest was a much needed break for me, even if I didn't need much more than a water refresh to keep on going.

The most difficult part of the trip was the last 4 miles, though.  When we got back into Traveler's Rest, I was very prepared for the route to push us onto the Swamp Rabbit and a nice easy spin back to Furman.  Instead we went beyond the entrance to SRT and into the neighborhoods to the west.  We got to go by the TR YMCA (which looked to be a really nice facility from what I saw of it) and around to a little golf community on the side of a hill.  There were some very challenging climbs in here, not as long as anything like Callahan, but steep for the little bit of time you were climbing them.  That plus the 60 miles that were already on my legs made the end extremely challenging for me.  At the end we paced over 15mph through the course including stops, and got back just in time for lunch (which was Pork with Rice and Beans!) and a nice cold beer.  I am definitely looking forward to going on this ride again next year, as it was a lot of fun and benefits a great organization.

At the After Ride luncheon!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Pirate Looks (down) 40

As I blogged on Feb 24, I promised myself that I would write an entry that was in reference to the Jimmy Buffett album when I got to a total of 40 lbs of weight lost in this journey.  Since I do not have an accurate starting point from before January, I'm using what I have as reference.  That is to say, I started at approximately 255 lbs when I started in January, and I was chosen to be a part of the Rob's Big Losers.  It is now April, and I am weighing in around 215 lbs, which marks a whopping 40 lbs that I lost during the 12-week journey!  It was not "easy", and honestly I would be disappointed if it had been.  The hard work that I put into just fuels me to keep going further, to enjoy the new lifestyle, and to want to give back to others to help inspire them to do more.

My Before and After photos from the Rob's Big Loser journey!

When I look at photos like this, I cannot believe that I am this different person now.  I don't see myself in the mirror and say "wow, I've changed a lot", but if the camera adds 10 lbs, it adds it equally.  I don't see the 5 INCHES I have removed from my waistline, but I have the measurements to know it's gone.  I have now completed my first 5k, I have my first Metric Century (100km) ride scheduled for Saturday, and another 5k planned for next week.  These are things that the old me would have found awesome, but would have been physically impossible for me.  Now I know that "all things are possible through Christ who gives me strength".

I look at my current body makeup and I realize just how far of a journey I had from the start, and the limits that I was putting on myself.  I mean, I've lost 40 pounds off of my frame.  In January I hoped to get down into the 220's for the first time in about 20 years, and I had the artificial barrier of having "plateaus" and I didn't fully understand my goal weight at all.  For years I've believed that I couldn't get down under 200 pounds, as the one time I was close it was because I was sick.  Now that I'm at 215, I realize that the end result on the scale isn't really the imporant thing, but that I can trim a LOT more off of my frame than I realized.  I love that my body is responding to the challenges that I put it up to, and that both mentally and physically God has gifted me with the ability to create new challenges for myself.  What I realize is that I am a continual work in progress, and while I still struggle with artificial barriers to what I can accomplish I don't need to let them limit me.  I may not be able to run a marathon today,  but I can set goals to do it, and work towards my goals.

I cannot wait to blog about completing my first 100km ride on Saturday.  It should be a fantastic trip!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Graduation (but not the end!)

I kept wanting to figure out how to title this entry.  I had several different titles come through my head, but honestly today has felt more like Graduation than any day in my life.  I missed out on my High School Graduation as a kid, but in many ways I have many of the same feelings right now that I had right before then.  I've made so many new friends in the past 12 weeks, and I hope that we can continue to help motivate and encourage each other as we start the next legs of our journeys.  It's not the end of my Journey, but it's the end of this 12-week challenge.

And if it's the end of the 12-week challenge, that means it's time for the 5th Annual Eastside YMCA Run 4 Fun 5k!  Today we got a chance to see just how far we've come, weigh in, and put all the effort into one event to launch us into the next stages of our lives.

The day started at 7am when we had to report in early to get weighed in and get our run packets.  I got number 112 and I tallied my final totals for the contest.  While I lost more weight in the final 6 weeks of the challenge, my total body fat % change leveled off at right under 25%.  I am not upset over this total, as it shows that I am in the "normal" range.  Later I found out that I came in 2nd for the contest, which I'm proud of.

At 8am the fun run started, and my two younger kids got to participate.  On the way to the run I ended up giving my middle daughter some advice on how to run for distance, sharing tips that Rob Dempsey had given me as a part of the Rob's Big Losers.  I was so impressed when she took the advice and I saw her chugging along on the track for the fun run, keeping an awesometastic pace.  Being able to be a Dad that gives advice on how to be more active and be able to extend yourself to my daughters was just a complete blessing.  Both of them crossed the finish line strong!

Once the fun run was finished, it was time for the 5k to start.  We got down to the starting area, and I ended up deciding to start near the back with Amber, Lisa and Nina (our wellness coach).  George went up near the front, and we could tell that he was ready for a strong run.

The gunshot went off, and I started at a steady pace trying to make sure I saved something for the return trip.  As we moved out, I slowly started moving up in the pack, going through some of the slower people.  Trying to wade through people was a bit challenging, but in the end it helped me to figure out the strategy on how to get through the race.  What I ended up having to do was pick up the pace in between packs, and then slow down when I reached them until there was a way to get beyond.  It ended up being a lot like interval training, and allowed me to push a little harder and set my goals 1 pack at a time.  We made the first turn, and as I came up to the water station I was disappointed, as my time was over 11 minutes.  Just after the water station we reached the 1 mile mark, and I had a time of 11:55.  Not bad, and definitely a strong first mile.

The second mile went by easier.  At this point the packs were less and less, and I was focusing on catching the people in front of me one at a time.  I had gotten into a rhythm at this point, watching my heart rate as a way to determine my intervals.  I'd let my heart rate come down to approximately 148, and then pick up the pace until I was in the 170's.  Rinse and Repeat.  As we reached the end of the 2nd mile, I noticed that my time had improved, but I really didn't pay much attention to the segment time at this point, I was looking at the people in front of me and setting my sights for who I could catch and when.  By the time I reached the water station on the return trip, I could see Jenna (one of the other big losers) in front of me.  I didn't think I could manage to catch up to her, but I kept going through the intervals and doing my best.

The third mile seemed like it was the easiest and the hardest at the same time.  I ended up catching Jenna before the turn home, and slowed down to run with her some.  I am social in the fact that I like to keep with folks that I know and keep company, especially on rides and runs.  It definitely makes it more "fun" for me than just the pure competition.  Jenna was concerned about getting in under her previous record, which was somewhere in the 34 minute mark.  I just wanted to finish strong at this point.  About this time Rob came jogging up to run with us back in to the finish line.  I started to up my pace, and he kept encouraging me to keep it going, knowing that we were close.  I knew my heartrate strategy at this point would probably be out the window, and I just wanted to keep under my max for the final sprint.  Even before I started the race, I knew that I wanted to put everything I had into the final stretch, and run my heart out to the finish line.  As we turned the final corner, I took off.  I ended up passing a bulk of folks that were trotting in at the end, and just bared down to the finish line.  I crossed the line at full steam, and had to find a way to stop as several folks were stopped in the middle of the corral at the end to turn in their tags.  I got my tags turned in, and got a water and started to cool down.  I ended up being the 2nd of the Big Losers to cross the finish line.

the gentleman right behind me ended up in 3rd place in my age category.
 I was just blessed to finish in under 34 minutes!
After finishing I went back up to see if I could find George and then look for the rest of the GHS folks.  After a bit Terra came through, and we ran for a bit with her down the last tenth of a mile, and I went back up again.  Lisa and Nina came up a little while later, and I went up to meet them and run the last 1/4 of a mile with them back in.  After that I stayed at the end and didn't try to go back up, as I started to really feel sore!  I did some stretches, and I got a snack to help refuel, and I rested.

Later on I found out that George got 3rd place in his division.  There were several other Big Losers that won medals, and even though I'm sure that I finished ahead of the guy that won the 3rd place for my division, I realized the medal wasn't the important thing for me today.  Last year if I had attempted anything of this level, I would have walked it at best (if I could have completed it at all).  Today I ran a 5k and finished in under 34 minutes!  Regardless of anything else, the biggest thing I could have won today was the confidence to go out and put in that level of effort, and the Ability to be a witness to the Love and Power of Jesus when you trust him with everything, including your wellness.

At the end of the day all of the other Rob's Big Losers were the biggest winners for what we had done together.  I hope that we can continue to encourage and inspire each other, and maybe even convince each other to show up to events and keep in touch.  It's been a complete blessing for me on this Journey, and I look forward to being able to give back to help inspire even more folks to take the first step and see where God really and truly wants to take you!

 I've uploaded all of my pictures from the day to Picasa.  Check them out!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Making an Impression on a Group Ride

Reminder - I'm still hoping to find folks willing to sponsor me for the Palmetto Peloton Project's Stars and Stripes challenge.   I need approximately 10 people to donate $25 each to help Cancer Research and Support in order to reach my goal.  The money that is raised is given to the organizations helping current cancer patients as well as funding research here locally in the Upstate.  If you can help support me, please go to the donation page and select "Brian Lube" from the drop down list.  If you have already donated to support me, please drop me a line and let me know so I can make sure that your donation is properly documented.  Thanks again for all the support during this journey!

This week I found out about a group ride that was being sponsored by one of the local racing groups in support of one of their sponsors:  Proaxis Therapy.  The purpose of this ride was to gain awareness for the services that Proaxis has and provide knowledge to the riders that may be beneficial.  It sounded like a really good time, thus I signed up to attend.  After church on Sunday I suited up with a brand new Jersey (my favorite Star Wars one is just too big now at XXXL, the new UCF one I'm wearing is a nice L with a little room in it at this point.  I'm calling it "club fit") and headed to the meet point.

I got there and met up with a bunch of the Brookwood Church folks that usually are on the Sunday ride that I attend, and we all had a chance to chat and such.  One of the guys that I knew even won the door prize of new water bottles from Greenville Cycling Center!  After the door prizes were handed out, we headed out on the ride.  We took off through Heritage park, and I made note that they have Train Rides for $2 over there, and enjoyed the scenery.  Through much of the first part of the ride I was mostly aware of the area that we were riding in, and with the large number of people in the "B" ride (there had to be 25+ of us in the group) I wasn't having to put out a large effort.  I did get separated from Joel at the beginning, so I was looking to drop back some, but I was happy overall with my position in the group.

Then, about 30 minutes into the ride, it happened.   I was attempted to signal that the right shoulder wasn't clean, and I ended up instead hitting some of the "not clean" section of the right shoulder!  The next part is a blur in memory, but I remember knowing that I just had to hang on and not do anything drastic.  I knew that oversteering or overbraking at this point would mean disaster, and would more than likely hurt someone else more than it would hurt myself.  I felt myself heading deeper into the shoulder, and saw brush (and wasn't sure if it was a fence, too) on my right side.  All of the sudden my handlebars touched the brush, and the rest became history.

I got up rather quickly to proclaim "I'm alright", with the response of "no you're not!" coming back and me rather quickly.  I took a quick survey of the bike and myself, and I didn't feel anything that was out of place or broken.  I found both of my water bottles, and I checked my front tire which was still round and in fact still inflated.  I then tended to a few of the cuts that were deeper, and the SAG vehicle came over and helped me clean up a bit more and bandage up my finger which had the worst of the cuts.  A few ants, mostly scrapse and one decent cut.  Not too bad.  I gathered up the rest of the stuff that fell off, fixed my front light (which was now pointing to the ground) and started testing everything out.  Next I figured out that my front Derailuer was turned, such that I couldn't move the chain.   A quick adjustment to move it back to in line with the crank, and I thought I was good to go.  I got about 200' up the road and something didn't feel right. Come to find out, my rear tube was completely flat!  A couple of folks had stayed back with me (thanks Jerry and Ken!) and quickly Jerry had the rear tire off and was switching out the tube.  The "C" group goes flying past, and we're still putting the bike back together.  After a grand total of about 15 minutes, I was finally able to get back up and rolling.

Now the fun started.

We gave the "B" group a 15 minute head start, and the "C" group had passed us before we started moving, but I just got onto Jerry's wheel and we took off.  We went through just some amazing countryside, and a part of me is wondering how I was able to admire it as we went into Spartenburg county, and I learned about the estates out there with vineyards that had grapes that started with S (Jerry couldn't remember the name off hand) and we kept on moving.  I wasn't really paying attention to the speed, except to see that the average speed on my bike computer kept increasing.  Then we started seeing other riders.  We found the C group!  We found them, and proceeded to go right through them on our way to see if we could catch up with the B's.  About 10 minutes later while climbing one of the tougher hills of the afternoon we see Dan jumping into the back of the SAG truck to change a flat.  We rolled up and had to exclaim "we didn't know we could change the flat on the back of the truck" as we went through.  It had only taken us approximately 40 minutes to close a 15 minute gap that had been created by the crash!

After we got caught up, we stayed with the group for a bit, until we got back to 101.  At this point there is a sharp right turn, and then a steep hill.  We came to a stop, and I didn't manage to get into the proper gear in time.  It became an epic struggle to get up the hill, and at this point Joel had a pretty decent gap between himself and the back of the group.  I dropped back with him, and the two of us ended up just teaming up the rest of the way home.  For all the times that Joel has stayed back with me when I was off the back, I felt honored and priveledged to spend the time back there with him yesterday.  To me that was better than any time trial or any personal goal out there on the road.  We made it back without any additional incidents.  When we got back, I had plenty of folks that were commenting on the ride, and how surprised they were that I wasn't more seriously injured.  To that I give all the credit to God, as he was the one in control of that situation.  I know I sure wasn't, and I know luck has nothing to do with situations.

The most interesting part, though, is the comments that I have gotten since last night:

Epic wipeout indeed! Didn't even miss a beat...tried to jump right back on the bike like nothing happened!
epic wipeout indeed! I heard something behind me and turned my head to see your bike flying upside down into the the brush. I rode back thinking I would see someone badly injured, but you seemed to only have picked up a bunch of leaves and grass and a few ants.
I can't wait to read your blog about the ride today!
Were you doing full spandex cycle jousting? 

I will say that I definitely made an impression with a large number of people yesterday, although honestly I'm not sure if I can say if it was a positive or negative overall impact.  I would suggest that if you are looking to meet new people and cycling is your thing, areal acrobatics will definitely get you attention (although you may require medical attention as well!).  After my experiences, I think any career in "full spandex cycle jousting" will have to wait, though.

I do count myself as absolutely blessed that not only was I not injured as a part of this ride, but that after the crash I was able to get back on the bike and complete it.  Not only does it remove any lingering fear that I may have had regarding riding again, as I got back up and got back on the bike immediately, but it showed me that I'm not invincible on the bike without causing myself a lot of damage.  As it is I think this week is going to be a "resting" week for me as I prepare for the 5k on Saturday, and the upcoming Wheels for Meals ride on April 28th.  Letting my body mend and having good fresh legs for the weekend I think are going to be key this week.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Paris Mountain Repeats

Over Easter weekend I didn't get a chance to really push myself riding, so today I decided I would attempt to do an up-over-back on Paris Mountain.  I knew it would be rough, and I knew that the temptation to not go back was going to be rough.  My original hopes was that I'd go through the neighborhoods around the base of Paris Mountain, depending on how my legs felt after the repeats.  The ride up was speedy and a nice warm up, and I felt strong as I started up the Furman side.  What I didn't expect until I hit the lap button is that I managed to get to the top in under 20 minutes.

The ride down was good, and I didn't press myself to get to the bottom so I had a little time to recover before the trip back up.  Once at the bottom I turned right back around and started back up.  At this point my legs were tired, and at the wall I realized that my legs weren't as fresh on this side as they were on the Furman side. I really wanted to power up the segment and have a strong finish, but instead I had to gear down and just spin up it.  Again, what I didn't realize is that I actually did power up it.  By the time I got to the top the second time, my legs were monstrously tired, but still had enough energy to finish the ascent.

I can tell that the bike fitting as well as the work I've been doing afterwards are really starting to pay off.  I'm starting to feel when I'm driving my knees right, it's like I can feel the power transfer right to the pedals.  It's hard to explain the feeling, but it feels right.  I'm still noticing times when I'm pointing my toes as well as times where I'm overcompensating and pressing my heel down.  It just shows I have work to do, but when it's all moving I can tell the improvements.

Monday, April 2, 2012


As a reminder - I'm riding in the Palmetto Peloton Project's Stars and Stripes Challenge this memorial day to help raise money for Cancer Research and support.  If you can, I'd love it if you would help sponsor me.  The majority of the money stays in the Greenville Area locally to help with Cancer Research, the rest is donated to Amgen to help Cancer patients and survivors.  You can support me by making a donation on their website ( and selecting "Brian Lube" in the drop down list of riders.

I've found it more and more difficult to blog after every workout.  It's not that I'm not going out and riding, in fact last week I managed to not only do one of my best runs ever, but I was on the bike for almost 100 miles as well!  It's more that I don't want to just post up "went for yet another 31 mile ride today" or something minor.  I feel like I need to write about more than just what I did, but how this journey is changing and how I feel.  That said, I had a fantastic run/walk last week, where Rob Dempsey from HISRadio really pushed my limits.

It was interesting, because I didn't intend to work as hard as I did there, and I really didn't expect to be running with Rob that evening at all.  I had emailed out to our Big Losers group that I was planning on doing a run/walk that evening, as I knew that I spent too much time on the bike and that the 5k was about 3 weeks away.  I got there, and Rob was just running up, and I saw a few others already out walking.  I let Rob know that the others were out on the course, and I set off to catch them.  A few minutes later Rob caught up with me, and it ended up that only two of us were really able to run that evening (a few of the others have had foot/knee issues that make them unable to run at this time).  Thus the two of us take off around the outside loop of Brookwood church.  Rob gave me some awesome advice on how to work on my pace, and he was encouraging me to push a little longer than I thought I could go.  The end result was a 1 mile lap that was faster than I've ever run, and a renewed sense of heightened expectations for myself.

Listen to my conversation with Rob and Kristen on their highlights page!

Expectations are always a weird thing to me.  Typically they are pressure that I feel from outside forces, but I am always my own worst critic.  I feel like I can do more, be faster, work harder, be stronger.  Although it seems strange, I also tend to put artificial limits on what I can do, or should be able to do for longer term goals. At this point in my journey, I see that there is nothing beyond my scope of vision that I cannot accomplish if I put my heart into it and let God determine the pace.  I may not compete in an Ironman tomorrow, but if I keep working at it I know I can.  Right now my focus is on SCTAC tomorrow night, and experiencing that level of group ride for the first time.  After that is the 5k at Eastside YMCA to cap off the end of this 12-week warm up to the rest of my life. In May is the Stars and Stripes Challenge by P3group and Amgen to help raise money for Cancer Research.  There will be new events and new challenges that I will be training for, but as long as my focus is on my journey and I let Christ be the focus and the glory, I know that all things are possible.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zumba Night - 2 guys, 947 girls

After the Boot Camp, several of my friends in Rob's Big Losers had stated that they were going to the Zumba class at GHS YMCA on Monday evening, and had invited me to come along.  Now, knowing that I'm so into music that I've been known to be cutting a rug at 3am, I figured this would be easy.  Truth be told, I don't go dancing, and the idea was slightly frightening to me.  Monday nights is Zumba for All, though.  Thus we packed up the girls and we ALL went to Zumba.  

As a very brief summary of the event follows, along with what I learned about Zumba as vehicle for my personal fitness.  I have nothing against Zumba itself, there were a lot of folks that were having a lot of fun dancing around to the routines.  That said, the music definitely wasn't in my range of acceptable.  It was alright, but it wasn't anything I was going to go make a mix tape of or anything.  There was a definitely salsa-esq rhythmic beat to it, though, which I would assume makes following the routine easier if you can keep up with the routine in the first place.

Most of the routines looked so simple when I saw that little skinny thing doing them up on the stage.  Amazingly, though, during the course of the last 10 weeks on this journey God has not mystically replaced the feet I was born with with those of Fred Astaire (or even Jerry the Mouse!).  Also, after attempting to go through the routines, I realized I am not a rear-engine body type, and certain things cannot move in that fashion!  Lastly, I realized I was sorely needing different workout clothes to the ones that I came in.  I say this because I felt very "uncontained" at times jumping around.  This is just not a feeling that anyone really wants to have.

All said and done, I had an okay time, although I was more than slightly self conscious in the class.  Not having "the moves", or even really understanding the routines, puts me into an uncomfortable state of feeling like a dork while waving my arms around being an idiot.  I did take several positives away from the experience.  

First is that I tried something outside of my "norm".  In general I'm a "bike 3-5 times a week" type of person.  Heck, I can easily get into ruts where I eat the same thing and even start wearing similar clothes throughout the week because it's comfortable.  Changing my workout routine I know will help stave off  the evil "p" word, which I'm already starting to battle.  Second, which is a lot like the first, I learned more about what vehicles I want to take in my fitness journey.  While I don't think a steady dose of Zumba is really the thing for me to move myself towards God's image of me, it's definitely something different and something the whole family can do together.  Third, it's a strong reminder that I cannot just do something new and expect to be good at it.  I know this already, but getting a healthy dose of reality is always a little bitter to take.  Lastly it has made me think more about what I need to be doing during my "rest days" on the bike.  I need to figure out how to get the other things I want and need to do into the program, so I do not neglect anything.  I have the 5k coming up in a few weeks, I need to do more strength training, and I want to spend more time in the pool.  All of that won't fit into my current cycling schedule at the same time, but I'm thinking maybe I can rotate through them in such a way as to make it all work.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

RBL Boot Camp #2 - It was so brought.

This morning was the second of the Rob's Big Losers BootCamps.  This time we were at the Adam's Mill YMCA center, and this time it was outside.  I felt like I was in 5th grade again, having a field day (in every sense of the word!)

We started out doing some warm up exercises, and they were okay.  Then we moved into a "field games" exercise.  During this we had several stations set up, and for the first round we did each station for 2:30.  The stations were as follows:

  • 4-corners station:  In this station was set up in a square, where we started at the first cone.  
    • run from first to second cone
    • side step to the third cone
    • back peddle to the last cone.  
  • Kettle Bell station:  At this station we worked in pairs.  The first person would run up to the kettle bell (about 15 yards away) and do hip thrusts, then run back and tag the second person.  
  • Medicine Ball Station:  We did side extensions, swinging the medicine ball from bottom one side to top the other 4 times, switching, then tossing the ball to our partner.  
  • Ladder Drill:  We ran through the ladder doing different drills along the way, the drills were
    • Straight through
    • Double step
    • Straight through
    • Side Step
    • Straight through
    • in and outs
  • Punching Station:  At this station we did punching drills, including hitting some punching targets from time to time.  The last minute we did uppercuts the whole time.

After we completed all the stations, we repeated them but this time for only 1:30 at each station.  A couple of the stations were modified for the second time around.  The 4-corners station had high steps and then 5 jumping jacks when you reached the second cone, and sprinting from the third to fourth cone instead of back peddle.  The medicine ball station was squat tosses the second time around.

At the end of the stations, we lined up in two teams, shoulder to shoulder.  From there we handed a medicine ball down the line, and the person at the end of the line had to run the medicine ball to the other end and start the ball going again.  Once the person that started the ball had run to the beginning of the line, the whole line had to move to the other end of the field (maybe 30 yards) and do the drill again.  We had a friendly competition between the teams as we went (but my team won!)

The last event was a water race.  We had buckets set up maybe 20 yards apart, one empty and one full.  We were then given an 8oz plastic cup and lined up, again in the two teams.  We had to go one at a time to the full bucket, fill the cup, and run back to fill the empty bucket.  The first team to fill the bucket "won".  It was a really close race until team 1 accidentally knocked their "fill" bucket over!  Our team had planned to help them after we filled ours, but once we had filled the bucket Rob ran over with team 1's "full" bucket and helped them out.  Notice that my team won again ;)

After we were done with the games we did a round of cool down and stretches, then gathered for prayer and had some fellowship time.  Lisa had said we should all gang up on Rob, so he started to run away.  I decided to give chase and eventually "tagged" him!  If anyone should happen to have a photo of that, I'd love to get a copy.  After the stressful week that I had with all sorts of personal hurdles that I managed to jump knock over, this was just like being a kid again.  It was 1000% what I needed to refuel me.

I can say for absolute certainty that everyone that showed up today was 100% a winner.  We had a fantastic time with a bunch of courageous folks that have started a fantastic journey together.  I cannot imagine a better way to spend the first gorgeous spring weekend than outside, being active, with great friends.  The 5k is just weeks away at this point, and I look forward to seeing everyone again, and it not being "the last time".   I wonder if Rob has "reunion" workouts for all the RBL Alumni that everyone could get together and have fun?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making me "FIT"

When I originally thought about this title, it was with the thought of talking about the "fit" on my bike, including my clothes.  What I realized as I started writing, though, is that my "fit" has much to do with my "FIT"ness, and the obvious double entendre was plain as day.   Which brought my thoughts down a completely different path.  So far this week, I've managed to get out on three rides:  Sunday I rode by myself, Tuesday was another warm up for the SCTAC season, and Wednesday was a recovery/fit ride.   I say "fit ride" in the sense that I had to adjust my saddle height yet again, since on Tuesday night my knee was extremely sore about halfway through the route.  This time, however, it wasn't in the spot where I know I have some patellar tendinitis, but rather higher up on the knee, near where the knee meets the quad.

Thus last night I went out and brought the saddle up again, this time an additional 1/4 of an inch or so (maybe closer to a 1/2 inch total).  I still have a few measurements and adjustments to do (as well as a few rides) to make sure I have the height set correctly, but with no noticeable pain after a 20 mile ride up the Swamp Rabbit trail, I think I'm pretty close.  That said, I have a new issue:  Neck/Shoulder pain.  It's not really that new, but after the trip last night my shoulders HURT.  I typically call that my back, but back implies the lower back.  This is up near the shoulder blades.  Before this pain was closer to my neck, and just getting some good stretches helped out immensely.  Now, I'm pretty sure this is saddle distance from the bars, especially when I'm in the drops.  I say this because I had already known I was "shrugging" a lot on the hoods before, and now that the angle is sharper (with the seat higher), I'm figuring I need to adjust it.  

This all ties into the second "FIT" of this post:  My overall fitness.  When I first got this bike 6 months ago, I could ride with no noticeable pain at all.  I rode for over 1,000 miles, and the worst I did was started to aggrevate a knee that had a prior injury.  After doing a little more reading, that tendinitis is something I should expect, as there is scar tissue from the Osgood Schlatters on the entry of that tendon to my shin.  Then again, that was at least 30 lbs and 1,000 miles ago.  I wear pants 2 sizes down from before.  My jersey (which was a club fit XXXL should really be a size L.  I started with 3XL pants, I'm now wearing XL bibs.  

When I have thought about weight loss, or "FIT"ness, I have always just assumed I'd be smaller, but in specific ways.  I'm realizing that the new me "FITs" into a whole host of things differently.  The journey has just started, but moments like this are definitely the roses to enjoy along the way.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dealing with Self Image

One of the most difficult things I've dealt with recently hasn't been a trip up the Watershed, or my knee bothering me, or even being hungry all the time:  it's been my self image.  For the majority of my life, and all of my adult life, I've been a large individual.  Even at my "game weight" when I was a kid playing baseball, I was considered large.  Even when I could run the bases faster than almost anyone else on the field, when I could make the plays and put my heart into it, I was "large".  Thus is my body type, and some of my self image issue. I've always seen myself as large, so how can I deal with the idea that I could be skinny.

Fast forward to last Thursday.  I took a ride to the top of the Greenville County Watershed, on a road that leads from Tigerville, SC to Saluda, NC.  We only went as far as the state line before we turned around, but it was a fantastic trip.  At the top my friend John took a few pictures of my "triumph".   One of the shots he took really make me take a step back and re-evaluate what my self image should be.

I've posted the other pictures in various places, but this one really speaks volumes to me.  In this picture I'm not "bulky", and you can tell that the jersey I'm wearing is a few sizes too big.  To me it shows the level of commitment and effort that I have put into this Journey over the course of 1,000+ miles and countless hours on the bike.  I don't look "fat" or "large", but I look like a work in progress that is starting to take shape.  I know that I still have 20+ lbs on my belly that need work.  I know that I'm not "in shape" yet.  I know that I have muscle and endurance to build.

But I also know now that I'm not always going to be "large".  I can be "Brian".

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Inside My Numbers: Februrary

When I watch ESPN, they have a segment called "Inside the Numbers", which talks about the numbers associated with a stat/sport.  In reverence for how amazing some of these numbers are, I titled this post accordingly.  I took a look at my numbers from February, and there are some interesting factoids in there that I want to go over, and the format from the ESPN segment seems the most appropriate.  Most of these stats are based on my information on SparkPeople, as this is currently where I keep the majority of my data.  I keep wanting to switch over to TrainingPeaks, but the momentum is a bit overwhelming for me right now.  I have 3 months of data in SparkPeople, and the tracking is easier there.  I really don't like having to enter things in more than one place at a time, which is also a drawback.   That said, the numbers:

1580:  The number of Fitness minutes that I logged during the month of February.
201: Distance traveled, in miles, during the month.  This is both walking and cycling
669:  Daily average calorie burn over the month
45762:  The total calorie differential (estimated).  This is BMR + Exercise - Eaten for the entire month
13:  The amount of weight lost between 2/3 and 3/2

These numbers show just the level of effort that I was blessed enough to put out in February, and just how much work it takes to drop the weight.  What I've realized is that these numbers are not realistic to maintain for an extended period of time, and honestly I don't want to.  At some point I have to gain more muscle mass than fat loss to get to my goals.  And building weight costs calories, and not calories that can be created by stored fat.  But seeing the numbers in front of me gives me a level of effort, and a level of accomplishment for completing it.  I'm still 20-30 lbs from my original "goal weight", and I'm still not convinced it's realistic, but it also means I'm to the half way point of the "weight loss" part of my journey, mentally.

But like any great journey, the destination is never the goal.  The goal is the journey itself.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

(A Few of My) Favorite Things

Last Sunday marked the start of Daylight Saving Time here in SC (and in most places in the United States, for that matter).  Now in general I'm not a fan of DST, I end up feeling sluggish for a couple of weeks while I adjust to the new time schedule.  What I do like about it is that it marks the unofficial start of Cycling Season here in Greenville.  The daylight is long enough that you can get out and have a great time riding.  Officially the SCTAC season starts on April 3, but that didn't stop ... well, anyone it seemed, from showing up at the old Donaldson Center and getting in some time on the bike on a beautiful Tuesday evening.

John, Paul and myself got out a little before 5:30, giving us just over 2 hours of daylight to complete the country loop.  For me it was a chance to see what my real fitness was, and how I'd handle the course prior to the start of the SCTAC rides, so I knew which group to try to go out with.  The course is also just under 32 miles, so that meant that with stops we had to pace at 16mph to complete the course in daylight.  The pace was absolutely no slouch, and for the most part I was able to keep up.  I'm still struggling on the climbs some, which honestly I'm not surprised with right now.  I have gained a lot of leg strength, but I have a bit to go before I'm going to be strong on climbs.  With all of that said and done, we completed the loop in under 2 hours, and my moving speed was at over 17mph!  I'm not sure I want to go out the gun in the "C" group, but knowing I can keep that pace and potentially keep with the group is inspiring.

Now, what exactly of that are "a few of my favorite things", you may ask?  A beautiful spring day, good friends, a spectacular countryside to ride in, and the fitness to be able to enjoy it.  I praise God for these gifts, as they are wonderfully made, and make my heart sing.  Sitting here today I look forward to the heat of summer being able to ride that loop.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spinathon Day 1

Today was day 1 of the GHS YMCA Spin-a-Thon.  This is an event that is supporting their Open Doors Campaign, to help folks that cannot afford to participate in the Y's programs.  Considering the gift that I have been given, I feel very strongly for this campaign and helping others to have an opportunity to have access to resources and equipment to make a fitness journey that could change their lives.

Today started out at 5:15, getting on a spin cycle.  Except for a 30 minute break I took to have some breakfast around 7:15, I was on the bike for the entire time.  Instead of giving a play by play, I wanted to documented my feelings for the event.  I had an incredible time, and even though I sit here tired and sore, I'd sign up to do it exactly this way again.  The only thing I regret is that I was unable to raise as much money for the cause as I had wished to.  Riding for over 5 hours was very rough for me, and the last hour was very rough.  I was thrilled to see my fellow Rob's Big Losers on the bikes, too!  Over the course of the past 6 months I've come to love cycling as a way to get fit and have fun at the same time.  Things that get folks onto a bike and enjoy themselves, including spin class, to me is absolutely priceless.  Tomorrow is Day 2, and I hope to see the rest of my team mates out there on the bikes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Going Bananas!

Originally I was going to title this entry "I Hunger", in reference to the classic Williams arcade game "Sinistar".  That said, I worried there would be too many click throughs that I didn't really want to end up here.  My geek and gamer side does show through sometimes while dealing with this journey, though.

This week seems to be dealing with Hunger more than anything else.  For the first 5 to 6 weeks of this Journey, my body seemed to be handling the changes well.  I was getting in good exercise, I was feeling great, and I was blessed with being kept from temptation and hunger.  Then about a week ago, things started to change.  Now I don't have many cravings, but when I go by the pastry counter at Panera I definitely go "hrm. that looks really good" more.  In fact, I had a great conversation this week with Rob and Kristen about hunger along with the how much my family has been a major supporter (and participant) on this journey.

Listen to my conversation with Rob and Kristen!

That seems to have sparked several other conversations about eating, exercising and overall hunger this week.  One of my friends and co-workers, who also happens to be a coach at Greenville Cycling Center offered up some advice as well
Make sure you're getting calories on your longer rides. Not a lot and not from sports drinks. Maybe 300 calories for a 2 hour ride. You shouldn't end a ride hungry. The other days, rat some real food within 30 minutes. Something with protein and carbs. Even a glass of chicolate milk.
 I even posted up a question to the about all the nutrition items out there in the "snack" isle at the local bicycle shops, and had a great response from Peg over at

Check out the article on!

That said, I'm working on eating more often, and having a larger variety of foods during the day.  I've even been adding Bananas to the mix, and for those that know me at all, for me to say I had a banana in something else is weird, let alone by itself!   The workouts are going well, and I want to fuel my body to continue to burn through my fat stores so I can reach my goals, not just for this first 12 week journey, but every journey I have planned in the future.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Means Paris Mountain

Mondays have come to mean training on Paris Mountain for me.  After the great ride yesterday, I was curious to see how my legs would handle the Monday ride.  Last week they were a bit tired, but were strong enough to do well through the course.

The big difference I see this week is the change in heart rate.  I'm not sure if this has to do with my legs not having to work as hard because of the brace, or if there is just a plain placebo effect in place because of the brace.  What I am seeing is definite data differences between using and not using the brace.   There isn't a lot to say on this ride, outside of being a lot stronger than last week.  I'm still seeing improvement on the main assault up Paris Mountain.  It may only be 6 second improvements, but those 6 seconds are showing a lot of strength as I go.  The only thing of note from the ride is that it looks like I'm able to recover in the saddle a lot more than I was 6 weeks ago.  It's hard to believe that 6 weeks ago I was barely able to muscle my way up the mountain, and now it's a weekly trek.