Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

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Book of the Week: Run Until You’re 100 by Jeff Galloway

This is another Jeff Galloway classic. I have written about one other book of his – he is a prolific writer.   It’s been around for a while but I finally decided to buy it a couple of weeks ago after about 6 or 8 months, maybe even longer, of nagging injuries. Also, it was after I had turned sixty. After reading the book I decided to finally give his method a try.

Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of the run walk strategy. It sounds kind of counterintuitive and I resisted it for about 2 years now although I’ve recommended it to other people. I just didn’t think it was for me. But after turning 60, and after those nagging injuries I referred to earlier left me sidelined, unable to run, I decided I needed to give it a serious try. I committed myself to one week of running and walking. The results were surprising and dramatic.


Not only was I able to run without injury or nagging aches and pains, I ran faster. I trained with a Polar heart monitor, and I discovered something pretty amazing things from the data. For one thing I ran dramatically faster. I’ll be posting some of the screenshots this week from my app  but it was pretty amazing. What was also amazing is how my heart rate responded with this run-walk method as compared to when I usually run. It’s my belief, and I’ll discuss it in another post, that the run-walk method not only reduces injuries and lets you run faster, it mimics high intensity interval training (HIIT)!

When I got back into running several years ago I entered several 5k races and some 10k events. I’ll tell you a secret that I haven’t written.   There were these guys that would run past me, and them  I would pass them latter on while they were walking. However, after that, when I was tiring, they seemed to get stronger and they would pass me again.  Often  I wouldn’t be able to get in front of them that one last time before they crossed the finish line ahead of me. My guess is they were using the Galloway method. Well, God willing, I’m going to be using that method this summer for some upcoming races. I’m especially looking forward to the Show Me State games.

I am a believer. I think I will be using the Galloway method for the rest of my running career.  The injuries really are down, my times are better than they would be otherwise, and I think it will keep me running longer.  This method may not be for  younger runners, but for this sixty year old it is the way to go.  Better than sitting on the porch.

 

Evening Bike Ride

Surly Cross Check on the New Trail Bridge

I took an hour ride after work today.  Beautiful night, great workout weather, and wonderful fall trees.  I rode the Surly!  Starting to love it, but the stock  brakes are HORRIBLE. Is it just the pads? Worse than a tandom I had, which vastly  improved with just a brake pad upgrade. My bike shop is moving 100 yards from my house so that problem will get solved soon.

As you can see Fall is beautiful here in the Midwest.

I arrived him as it was getting dark. Commuter traffic is so dangerous here. One car turned tight toward me as I was making a left, and they were making a right, off of a residential side street.  That stretch is treacherous, and especially so during rush hour when when it corresponds with dusk.

Safety First

I love the new battery powered LED lights.  Finally bike lights worth the money.


My Bicycle Commute Home

Today I decided to document my ride home from work.  It was a beautiful fall day.  So, this is just a picture essay. The pictures start outside the building where my office is, and then end about a quarter mile from my house.  There is also one picture of me – for the record.

I am so glad I took these photographs.  It helped me to appreciate the incredible trail network we have here in Columbia, Missouri, and it made me notice the beauty and diversity of my ride home.  Columbia is one of the top 50 bicycle cities in America according to Bicycle Magazine.  For good reason.  Also, for once I paid attention.

NOTE:  I just updated this.  The slideshow was not working so I made a quick change – now the pictures are just presented in order.

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Sunday Ride on the Katy Trail 

First long ride in my Surly Cross Check. After 17 years on my trusty Schwinn hybrid it was an adjustment, but things are looking up. From straight bars to drop bars will take awhile. A great bike, but the stock brakes on this 2009 bike are atrocious.  The new ones have brakes that are simply outstanding.  If anyone from Surly reads this please take pity and send me a replacement set!

On that ride my son in-law and I rode about 27 miles, roundtrip  from McBain heading West past the famous old railroad tunnel in the river town Rocheport.   Several miles outside of Rocheport we scouted a camping site before heading back.

We were on the Katy Trail.  A rails-to-trail project here in the Show-Me-State that runs over 240 miles parallel to the mighty Missouri.  From one end to the other, and it is the longest such project in the United States. I have hopes of riding the whole thing in 2017.

Here are some pictures I took along the route out.

This last picture below  is the state champion Burr Oak which is somewhere between 350 to 400 years old.  During the short while we were there the stately tree received nearly a dozen visitors.

Injury & Weight Gain: An Update

The Bad News

About a year ago I started to gain weight, and went from 165 lb average, to a 175 average, and that creeped up to a 185 lb average. Waist size went from a rather loose 34 to a rather snug 36. The problem started when I tried to maintain my weight at 165, then 170, and failed.  In the meantime I injured my left knee, and have just confirmed that it has arthritis.  I will know more after May 22ed when I visit an orthopaedic sports doctor.

The Good News

There is still lots of good news. My peak weight, before I started to loose, was up around 245 plus pounds, and a size 46 inch waist size was tight. I would have been satisfied with 185 if I had been convinced it would stop there.  I did not.  I have given up running for the meantime, but suspect that the doctor’s advice will be to continue to avoid the sport I love.  During the process I learned a lot, and am taking up competitive race walking under the theory that it will not be so hard on my knee. The weight is starting to go down, partially because it is warmer now, and I am out of school with more free time.  Less stress.

What I Learned

What did I learn?  A lot, and I plan to learn more.  First of all I think I lost the weight too fast, and that steep weight lose has had an effect on my metabolism.  Most BMI calculators say that I should be able to eat 2000 calories net per day.  I have found that number to be too high.  For me it is 1400 calories.  I suspected my metabolism might have had something to do with it, but was pretty much convinced after I went back down to 1400 net calories per day, renewed  a stricter diet  (avoiding high glycemic  foods such as pasta, potatoes, etc.), and then started to see the weight come off again.  At around the same time the Biggest Looser story broke which told how research had shown that most of the contestants gained back a lot of weight, and an altered metabolism was suspected as the culprit.   Thinking it was starving, the body wisely went into a survival mode as it slowed down metabolism. We use a scale, the body seems to have other metrics. You can read the article online at the New York Times. Was that what had happened to me?  Maybe, and then again maybe not.  I suspect there are a lot of factors that come into play with weight loss, and the science is just not there yet.  In the meantime, I have resigned myself to the 1400 calorie ceiling and found a way to keep it that seems to work for me now.

The Way Forward

One strategy that I found that worked for me was a schedule that included shifting my meals to later in the day, and essentially eating four of them.  Around 300 – 350 calories at noon, the same amount at 4 p.m., and then 600 – 800 for supper at around 7:30, and finally a late snack.  Noon and lunch do not vary much at all.  Supper and the late snack calories vary depending on how active I have been. I know it breaks a LOT of the rules but it works for me.

I also discovered how much it meant to me to have fitness goals, and  incorporate competition into my goals.  Not that I was that competitive for my age class as a runner, but because I found those competitions to be tremendously motivating.  What to do?  Race walking. It has always appealed to me since I was a kid when the renowned race walker Larry Young could be seen around town training.   Walking VERY fast. By the way, Larry Young competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, and is the only American ever to medal in race walking in that venue.  Larry attended Columbia College on the ONLY race walking scholarship ever awarded by a college in the United States.  Hometown boy made good.

Race Walking

I know I could just go out and walk.  There is also Nordic Walking, and fitness walking, and then just kind of making up your own thing. Strolling.  While walking is natural to us, race walking requires a very specialized technique that you have to learn. Starting with Larry Young  I have a rather long history of being interested in race walking which I will write more about later. For now, suffice it to say that the first and only time I have race walked was over thirty years ago, with my oldest daughter and we were both disqualified.  I plan to do something about that.  I will compete again this summer, fully expecting to be disqualified, but have decided that next year my goal is to be competitive in my age group while  avoiding being disqualified for the wrong technique.  Stay tuned.

WillPower: The Book

The single best nonfiction book I have read this year, and maybe the best one I have read in three or more years, was Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister, and  John Tierney published by The Penguin Press in 2011.  I will save you the trouble and provide you the Amazon link here.  According to Wikipedia Roy Baumeister is the internationally known “Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.”  You can also visit his faculty web site.

This book offers remarkable insight into the obstacles we face when losing weight, exercising, and otherwise trying to lead an organized, healthy, fulfilling, and productive lifestyle.

I always highlight, and write notes when I read, if the book is intriguing. I then go back and take notes.  I have not done that yet, but below is a list of the most memorable, and useful items, that I remember from my first visit. In no particular order:

  • although we can increase our capacity for using willpower, it is also something that can be depleted.  When it is depleted you make bad choices you regret later.
  • making too many decisions too fast can deplete willpower. This phenomenon is known as decision fatigue and is related to the next item:
  • willpower requires energy (our brain is 2% of our body but consumes a whooping 20% of the total calories we burn).  If our energy is depleted our willpower, along with other functions, decreases.
  • we can have too many goals.  It is not a good idea to have a large  laundry list of goals (and goals are not to be confused with tasks).  Finishing a degree, writing that novel, and remodeling the house, while you are trying to lose weight is probably not a good idea.
  • organization is the friend of willpower.  The more organized you are the less stress, and cognitive energy, goes into finding things, doing things at the last minute or missing deadlines, and worrying about what has not been done.  Unfinished business, commitments, and obligations creates an “open loop.” This leads to yet one more item:
  • I personally think that it is essential to have some kind of organizing system like the Getting Things Done (GTD) system of David Allen which postulates the aforementioned “open loop” problem.  Tame your tasks. Unfinished business creates an open loop and we often have lots of little, and big, unfinished tasks, commitments, and promises. We are into something else, or maybe two other things, and suddenly remember another thing we forgot to do because we have no system of keeping track of what needs to be done, and what has already been accomplished.  That is known as a todo list my friend.  Get one, and love it.   The GTD system is specifically mentioned in the book and I have had fantastic results with it so far and I am just in the early stages of learning it.  I will be reviewing that book next since I am still reading it.
  • avoid having to make too many decisions and especially trivial ones.  Make a decision, and unless it is a disaster or obviously the wrong one stick with it.   Either have yogurt or egg whites for breakfast and stop worrying about it. They are both good choice.  Wear the gray or black socks.  Does it Preplanning meals, workouts, and activities is a best practice.  You can be flexible but don’t fret too much about first world problems or matters that well, don’t matter.
  • habits are your friend.  If something is habitual you don’t have a chance to think about it.

I also think that reducing clutter (in all areas of your life), and practicing some degree of minimization is helpful.  Everything is connected.

The book is not the complete instruction manual for building willpower I was hoping for.  It was also written in 2011, and I am sure there has been a lot of good research since then.  But, it is entertaining, and filled with lots of great information that you can apply.  I will be investigating the phenomenon of what we call willpower from the psychological and neuroscience perspective to try to see what best practices are being developed.  It is a fascinating and useful field.