About a month after I started my effort to lose weight, I was contacted on Facebook by Scott, an old friend from the Vox days (whose current personal blog I can’t find). He was acting as mechanic for a team at the Cincy3 Cyclocross Festival. Would I want to come out and say “hi?”
I did, as I also wanted to check out the festival. Cyclocross is an off-road cycling discipline that actually predates mountain biking. The bikes started as modified road bike, and are raced on a relatively short course (2-3 miles), typically grass and gravel–not as rocky and rough as what a mountain bike might take on. The courses twist and turn, and, at various points, there are barriers the riders must dismount and carry their bikes over. Over the last several years, it has become the fastest growing segment of cycling, with the Cincinnati area being one of the hotbeds.
As I watched the racers take this on, I leaned over to my wife. “When I hit my target weight, can I get a cyclocross bike?” She agreed, not knowing the madness that would ensue..
In August, I hit that weight, and got a Fuji Cyclocross 4.0. It was just in time for a series of cyclocross time trials put on by the Cincinnati Cyclocross group, to raise money for a junior development team. After a few sessions getting pointers from other riders, I took to the start line. Ultimately, I did five out of the six in the series (missing one to see the Piano Guys).
Sports Illustrated posted an article called “Grueling Yet Addictive, Cyclocross Pushes Boundaries of Physical Limits,” which is a great overview of the sport. “Grueling yet addictive” is an apt description. After every time trial, I was anxious for my next one. I got a license to race from USA Cycling, cycling’s governing body in the United States, and joined a cycling team, 7 Hills Racing. I’ve worn jerseys from pro teams before, but that was much like wearing a Cincinnati Reds’ jersey–just being a fan. Wearing the kit of my team is special.
In addition to the time trial series (which was more intermural practice), I’ve competed in three mass-start races for USA Cycling points. I’ve been finishing in the middle of the pack. For a middle-aged guy starting in the sport, I regard these results as “credible.” Each race I can tell I’m going a bit faster, executing smarter tactics, and my skills with the barriers are improving.
During my first ride in team kit, I realized that this was a dream come true. I used to want to race bicycles, starting in college. I realized, even then, the Tour de France was out of the question, but for a local club was a reasonable ambition. I was always too heavy or too slow to really be credible. However, between losing the weight and the time on the bike that helped achieve that (and was inspired by that), it became a reality. While the bicycle may have been the material prize, this was my true reward.
My wife’s dance group, Celtic Rhythm Dancers USA, performed at the 2014 Cincinnati Celtic Festival.
For pretty much my entire adult life, I’ve been overweight, or even obese. I really don’t know what I weighed when I graduated high school, but, certainly by the end of college, my Body Mass Index (BMI) was over 25, likely over 30. I can find pictures from the late Nineties when it’s pretty obvious. Yet, my wife still married me when I looked like this (from 1998):
A family member had a double-bypass in 2001, which was the year after I started bike commuting. This got me thinking a bit more about what I ate. I stepped up my cycling, something I did half-hardheartedly since college. While I was 194 pounds for a couple months in 2004, pretty much, since then, I danced around 208 pounds, varying a bit depending on season, my attitude, stress, etc. This put my BMI just a hair under 30, the line between “overweight” and “obese.”
I had the best of intentions of dealing with it. I was very unhappy at work, so I allowed myself to stress eat. I knew what I should and shouldn’t eat, and how much. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Some level of depression and unjustified guilt kept me from riding as much as I probably would have liked. I kept telling myself: get a new job, then we’ll work on the weight.
There was part of me that was honest with myself. It’s easy to imagine that, if I were to get a new job, giving myself a pass “for a few months while I settle in.” Or some other excuse. Without admitting it, I had resigned myself to being 208 pounds, give or take, for the rest of my life. Change, after all, is hard.
Last spring, my wife started to leverage a few tools to try to lose weight. And, it worked very well for her. Work got a bit better, and I started to realize that I could not put my life on hold for a job hunt. A year ago today (September 26, 2013), I started to use her system, tweaked a bit for my preferences. It was right at the start of the “Renew the Zoo” campaign.
The tools centered, for me, around My Fitness Pal, where I logged everything I ate, and any exercise I did. I already captured a lot of information from cycling, so that went in there. A FitBit captured “incidental movement”–walking to and from the bus, at the grocery store, etc. As Fall turned to Winter, I got to the gym more regularly, doing videos from The Sufferfest. Pants became loser, then replaced. I started setting personal bests on the bike in February, a time when historically I lost strength.
In April, my BMI went under 25, moving from “overweight” to “normal” for the first time since…well, I couldn’t really tell you. I continued with the process, carefully weighing and tracking what I eat and exercising. What surprised me was that, while not “easy,” how quickly I adapted to cutting out a lot of the crap I was consuming. I still enjoy things, just that I’m more selective. I’m better about choices being “or,” not “and.”
As of last Saturday, I lost a total of fifty-five and a half pounds. I still have a bit more I want to lose, mostly so I’m more cleanly in the size pants I currently am wearing. However, I feel a lot better, both physically and mentally. I’ll continue to these tools, or ones like it, as I work to maintain my weight. This does not strike me as a problem. As we say in the Information Technology business, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This is simply a way I can manage my body better, giving me control. I hope to continue to make healthier choices, stress-biking rather than stress-eating.
It’s been amazing to see the change. The snowball effect of losing weight, eating better, and exercising more consistently has made me feel better. Even my daughter says I’m happier now. When I look at the results–pictures, bike logs, or scales–I can easily see why. It’s my hope I’m able to keep this moving forward, and sustain this.
This is the latest round of Quotes from My Journal, representing the middle third-or-so of my Leuchtturm 1917 journal. As always, I found them are either somewhat inspiring, amusing, or simply make me smile.
“There’s a power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”–Amy Poehler
“Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.”–Melanie Joy
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”–Bill Nye
“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”–Alvin Toffler
“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes–then learn how to do it later.”–Richard Branson
“The best teachers are the ones who show you where to look, but don’t tell you want to see.”–Alexander K. Trenfor
“In science, it often happens that scientists say, ‘you know, that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful, but it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”–Carl Sagan
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant threat winding its way through our poltical and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”–Isaac Asimov
“Defending wildlife is not an act of charity. It is an act of justice.”–Dr. Paula Kahumbu
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”–Tony Robbins
“If I were giving a young man [or woman] advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”–Wilbur Wright
“It’s amazing what you can learn when you know you have to.”–Coworker