BikeTown Chronicles #3

How do I get myself into these shituations?

Oh, yeah…I’m stubborn.

And…competitive.

Fine, but I can still whine about this stuff, right?

After a gorgeous weekend through which I suffered through what The Fox likes to call bubble guts, I was feeling pent up. And, yeah, a bit frustrated that I hadn’t managed anything active during the good weather.

Sunday was our most beautiful and warm day of the year thus far and Monday was projected to be the same. So, I’d committed to getting outside after coffee. I was a little torn about completing some actual responsible tasks before my ride, but talked myself out of it since I was only planning a 90 minute/20 mile ride.

I’d be back in plenty of time to get to the FedEx/Kinkos to print out some documents for my unemployment hearing next Tuesday and get them in the mail.

Then as I was leaving my neighborhood coffee shop, the barista asked what my plans were.

“Bike ride! It was touch and go between bike or hike, but the ride wins out today!”, I told him.

The Fox had told me that our barista had been telling him about a 70 mile ride he’d done recently. “Told me” as in “I interpreted it as a dare”.

So, I leave the cafe after vocalizing my intent to take off on a little 20 miler. Saying it out loud makes me accountable, right?

Then I go home and get sucked into Netflix for an hour.

I end up leaving the house around 12:30, still plenty of time. Home by 2, showered and planted in Kinkos by 3, probably done by then, realistically.

My usual short ride out the Springwater Trail ends at the 6.5 mile mark, preventing me from having to cross any real major thoroughfares on my urban trail ride. It’s a 1.5 mile trip through the waterfront to the trail, so I come up a couple miles short of my 20 mile goal. I’ve offset that by taking a loop over the Tilikum Bridge and back around the waterfront to make up the difference.

I noticed my water bottle hitting my leg as I ended that loop and thought that I hadn’t placed it completely back in its cradle after my last drink.

Wrong.

I’d somehow lost a screw and that was causing the whole contraption – including my bike pump – to pivot on the remaining screw. I pulled over to tighten shit up and got back on the road, satisfied that I’d gotten the situation secured.

I get to the 6.5 mile mark and am feeling pretty good. My butt is tolerating the seat pretty well and I think, “Let’s just go to 30”. This is where my competitiveness and mild OCD kick in. I get to the 30 mile turn around point and it’s in the middle of the path, versus one of the park areas or major intersections. I decide to ride on so that I can fill my water bottle at my turnaround.

That happens at the 35 mile point and I think, “35 miles? That’s not a ride. No one does 35s”. I haven’t done a 40 since last year and decide to push on, thinking back to a conversation Little Buddy and I had during last week’s hike. She mentioned that most of her and 2.0’s rides were 40-60 mile affairs…so, why not?

I get to the 40 mile point in Gresham and think back to last year, when I was last here and decided not to push further to the end of the path. I also recall last weekend’s ride where I’d run into my friend, Casey Adler, and we’d rode along for a bit together toward the end of his ride.

He’d gone all the way to the end of the trail in Boring.

I was going to go, too.

This mentality is how I get myself into these situations.

The path out to Boring was lovely. It’s newer than the rest of the Springwater, so it’s also in really good shape, which is nice because my bum was beginning to ache.

At the 45 mile turnaround point, I do question my rationale for completing a ride that is 60% longer than my prior ride. Then I ignore myself and keep going because I’m gonna need to refill my water bottle, right?

I arrive at the Boring Trailhead Park and stumble off my bike in need of a little stretch. I walk it out around the little bathroom hut and realize that I’m not alone. There’s a “serious cycler” on the other side of the bathrooms getting ready to ride out. I decide to stretch until he leaves, not in the mood to be passed by a fit someone that is just starting his ride.

Once he leaves, I go to the water fountain to refill my bottle before getting under way.

Broken.

Ugh…I set my sights on refilling at Gresham City Park and gingerly head out. GCP is kind of new, I think maybe it was added when the Springwater was extended, but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that there’s no water fountain.

I get back on the trail. I’m beginning to resent the overt associations the Springwater Trail has with…water as my thirst gets real. I think this as I’m cycling past signs telling me that I’m in the Johnson Creek Watershed.

Water, water everywhere.

Somehow, I manage to catch my fit serious cycler as I peddle toward the next park – a baseball field – in hopes of hydration. I’m in a mid-range gear in sprint mode because my knees are beginning to complain. I decide to follow him for a bit and ratchet my effort back to avoid overtaking him.

Yes, I’m judging him while also telling myself that he’s probably still in his warm up mode.

Then I see he’s wearing dress shoes.

Chuckling – and rejudging – I think that maybe he’s a bike commuter and forgot to pack his cycling shoes. It is Monday, after all.

No, I tell myself…

A) Who lives in town and works in Boring?

B) He’s gotta be on his way home at this time of day, so he rode to work in the same shoes.

Now I’m curious.

And passing him.

I pull into the baseball field and begin cruising around for a functional water fountain.

Jelly legs.

As I’m refilling my bottle for the second time after immediately draining the first refill, fit serious cycler guy cruises past and I mentally say farewell, absolutely setting my sights on not catching him again.

I succeed!

But I do run into a couple of other curious characters on my ride back in.

The first was a motivationally fit fella out on the path in just bike shorts.

Well, spandex shorts. When he’d passed me heading toward town, I’d appreciated his bare torso and turned to appreciate the rear view after he passed. No pads in his shorts!

This time, as he passed me on his return to whatever outer region of town he called home, I wondered, “Where the hell does he put his keys?!?”

Or his emergency $5?

Or his ID?

My parents raised me well. My zippered back pocket held all three.

Sexy and dumb. Maybe I should chase him down…nah. Peddle, Xtopher.

The second character I passed on my ride back into town was resting shirtless on a bench by my 30 mile turnaround viewpoint. He made some vague hand signal as I passed by that appeared to me to be an offer of oral sex but I convinced myself was some cycler code greeting.

He should have been wearing a shirt.

After passing him, I reach down for my water bottle.

Gone.

I’m not totally surprised, because it never fit snuggly into the cradle. Then I notice the cradle, too, I’d gone. As is my bike pump.

Fuuuuuuuck!

It’s ok…I’m inside the final 15 miles.

That optimistic thought evaporates as I pass the perpetually wet spot on the trail that I always amuse myself by thinking, “Here’s the spring the trail is named for” as I pass through it.

I pull off to stretch and rest my bum for a few minutes. Shortly after I get back to my ride, Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy passes me. I think that he must have been riding pretty hard to catch up after so long just as he drops his hand and makes yet another weird, finger waggly hand gesture to me.

What the hell is this guy on about?

I’m approaching the segment of the trail called Tres Bridges because there are three bridges in relatively short succession taking riders over some industrial land, train tracks and Hwy 99. After my prior four rides this season, I’m remembering the rhythm of the bridges’ uncomfortable bumps so I can stand to avoid the ass abuse they create. I don’t need that this far into my ride.

I’m in the final ten miles.

I come off the last bridge and the shirtless guy is there, pulled off at a bench again. This time, as I pass, he laughs maniacally at me and laugh tracks me from my approach until I can’t hear him any longer.

“Oooooh”, I think, “He’s a crazy”. Ok, that tracks.

It’s Portland.

As I come out of Sellwood and get back onto the last leg of the Springwater before it becomes the Esplanade, I begin to feel…crispy. It’s now that I realize my spontaneous 50 mile ride is going to come in at a smidge over four hours.

Without sunscreen.

In a sleeveless tee.

“It won’t be that bad”, I think, considering the base tan I’ve developed on my bikes and hikes from earlier in the season.

That thought was wrong.

Oh, well…might as well get my sunburn out of the way.

Plus, now I’ve crossed a half century ride off my summer bucket list. I’m also well prepared to talk myself out of future aspirational endeavors.

And, hey…there’s always the two-day mail option to get my unemployment hearing stuff in before the weekend!

Oh, btw, my fitness tracker is convinced that I somehow burned 1300 kcals on my ride. That’s 1.3 million calories. However, since I woke up still fluffy today, I’m going to choose to believe that my fitness tracker is either broke or crazier than Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy.

BikeTown Chronicles #3

I Live in BikeTown, USA

Don’t let the title fool ya, I’m a fair weather cyclist. Part of me dreams of being an intrepid cyclist type that commutes to work regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.

But I’m not.

I had tentative plans to find the path to the airport and bike to work “once the weather got good” a few times this summer. Instead, I quit my job. The only thing worse than a bad job is a bad job that you also have saddle rash while doing, right?

Ok, maybe there’s worse things. Probably that’s no contest,

But outside of the weather, I’m leery of becoming a regular bike commuter for two reasons:

A) I saw a UPS truck going the wrong way on a one way street the other day.

Now, my faith in humanity is pretty low, I won’t lie. To that end, I look both ways before crossing a one way street. But I don’t expect to see a professional driver pulling a bonehead move like that.

B) Bike Commuters are mean. At the very least, intimidating. Probably to some degree because of their hyper vigilance on the road due to the folks in example A, but even within their own ranks, their pretty fucking judgy.

But, Portland has had its False Spring and now that nice weather has come around for the second time, I can reasonably expect the weather to be decent more days than not and I’ve trotted out the old bike to try and blend in.

That’s a lie.

I’m trying to pedal off my Winter Layer.

I’ve managed two rides in the last week and am heading out on my third this morning, but am also enjoying being trapped under Mistress Myrtle while sipping my Monster so I thought I’d tap this out before I go…I’ve just got to get out before all the Cubicle Dwellers finish their First Brunch of the weekend and get outside.

That was one of the many things I re-learnt on ride number one.

Second Spring arrived on a Saturday and I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and went out for an afternoon ride on the Eastbank Esplanade and out the Springwater Trail.

Mistake!

But it was only my first of this short ride.

Everyone was there. They also seemed largely to be suffering under the delusion that they were the only people on the planet. I expect the Esplanade to be busy with strolling couples on a weekend. Lovey-dovey shit going on is gonna happen. The only way I’ve discovered to avoid it is to be…y’know, me. But on top of those slow strollers, you’ve got the other fair weather athletes out getting their shakedown runs and rides on the books.

Oh, and the actual athletes that probably were hating on all of us.

But it was a shit show.

No one was paying attention to anyone past the immediate obstacle they represented. Sure, they were going around them, but not thinking past them to what might be ahead.

Around the figurative next bend, if you will.

Here’s an example:

A jogger comes up behind a slow moving couple walking hand in hand and moves around them by running down the center of the path. There just happens to be a cyclist coming the opposite direction, but it’s ok…the path is wide enough to accommodate four abreast.

Ok, that example NEVER happened.

It was close, but:

Maybe the couple wasn’t walking hand in hand and there was a person width gap between them.

Maybe the jogger passing the strollers was a fair weather athlete and as he passed, a real athlete came up and decided to pass him simultaneously, not realizing that jogger was passing a couple he couldn’t really see.

Maybe the oncoming cyclist was two abreast instead of single file.

Unattended toddlers.

Wandering geese.

This shit show created a lot of Matrix worthy action as everyone just carried the fuck on.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at oncoming traffic before I try to pass someone and occasionally hold up behind them until oncoming obstacles go by, only to see some jerk-wad pass me and the people in front of me and almost die in a head on collision with oncoming traffic he didn’t see ahead.

Sidebar: I’m not being sexist when I say “he”, we men are typically at fault when it comes to single minded selfish behaviors. Outside of nothing, I never saw any of the many women doing their fitness do any of this stupid alpha male bullshit behavior.

What really surprised me was that this general cluelessness continued onto the Springwater Trail. I wasn’t expecting this. The Springwater is a 25-ish mile long path that runs from Downtown out to the ‘burbs. It’s actually got an extension now out to the Netflix-famous town of Boring, Oregon, so maybe it’s even longer these days.

That said, it’s not a path that really affords a casual “let’s just get on the trail” type of experience. The entrance and exit points are fairly distant, so once you’re on, you’re on for a while. Seeing so much casual traffic was confusing to me because I couldn’t figure out their motivation or destination.

It became clear to me a few miles in when I encountered the first couple just suddenly reversing course.

No looking around before they turned.

No stepping to the side to let any trailing traffic pass and check to make sure it was clear.

Just, “we’re going back now” and <poof>, they were suddenly facing the other direction.

This happened three times on the Springwater during my nine mile ride on it – 4.5 out and the (after pulling off at a wide point by a bridge) 4.5 back to the Esplanade.

Really, I left the Springwater hoping for more Wandering Geese. At least I couldn’t fault them for their brainless behaviors.

That earlier sexist disclaimer aside, I cane upon a weird situation that just ended up being a racist stereotype trap by Oaks Park during my ride out.

There was a woman seated on her BikeTown bike seat walking her bike instead of pedaling. She was in the middle of the outbound half of the trail. The way she was moving, I thought she might be injured. I slowed down to make sure and check as I went by – on the right side of her. Naturally, the runner behind me just blew by on the left as some oncoming cyclists passed a slow mover on their side so we almost all died.

Turns out, the woman I thought was injured was just Asian and the slow mover in the oncoming lane was only her boyfriend trying to snap an “action” shot of her “riding” her BikeTown bike in front on the Oaks Amusement Park roller coaster in the background.

Idiots.

The rest of my Mistake Moments on this inaugural ride of the season were gear related.

Remembered: Helmet, tunes, water bottle and sunglasses.

I did pretty good for my first ride.

Forgotten: Padded underwear and cycling gloves.

Now, this was only a 12 mile ride. I was intentionally taking it easy because I’m prone to injury.

The injury I wasn’t prepared for was the hamburger ass I ended up with for forgetting my padded underwear.

It was ONLY 12 miles!

But, sure enough, every little bump on the ride back in was an exercise in agony.

Bicycle seat + cargo shorts + cotton underwear + my lame yet frustrating excuse for a vestigial tail = the perfect recipe for saddle rash. Regardless of the shortness of the ride. Add to that a good sweat on a nice day and you get “Oh, c’mon!” type irritation for your ride home.

As if my trail cohorts weren’t irritating enough.

But, lessons learned so that future rides were more enjoyable, right?

Sure enough, my second ride of the season was mid-week and much less crowded. Poorly timed, it seems, if only because all the shirtless runners were heading into town as I was heading out.

It took me the first three oncoming joggers to really relax into appreciating the oncoming displays of masculine beauty.

The first one was a slender but muscular runners framed guy with a smooth chest and impossibly thin waist. My internal pedo alarm went off and I warned myself against ogling truant high school boys.

The second jogger that came my way prompted the same perversion diversion behavioral subroutines to activate. I began thinking that I’d wandered out during a HS track team practice run and prepared to tuck my lascivious nature away for the duration of my ride. Just as I began to look for a place to pull off and put on some Indigo Girls music to tamp down my inner dirty old man, the third, fourth and fifth shirtless runners passed by, visually reassuring me that the first two were just flukes.

I was relieved. Guy-Candy is such a motivator for me when it comes to exercise. I enjoy being a fair weather cyclist. I love the urban nature Portland has to offer and I unapologetically consider shirtless athletes to be part of that urban nature.

So, motivational visuals safely intact and padded underwear securely in place, I confidently set my sights on a 20 mile ride.

It was great.

Not too crowded.

Actually, the best Portland stereotypes were out.

Recumbent cyclists.

Superfit granola-y type people in their 60s or better out slow-jogging.

Rollerbladers, because Portland Weirdos still do that.

Combination standard/recumbent dual bicyclists – that’s a new one one me.

No list of Portland’s finest would be complete without Segue Riders or the poor man’s Segue, the Razor Scooter.

All out on display on this gorgeous day.

Not too hot, but sunny!

Gorgeous scenery. The aforementioned male pulchritude and the riverside greenery and occasional wildlife.

My favorite part was the 5-way intersection on the way back by Oaks Park where the Springwater crosses a road. A driver coming out of Oaks had the right of way, I was next and then there was a car coming to a stop on the road.

Now, this lady could have been through the intersection before I even stopped at my sign. I was gauging this and thinking about whether I should stop just to be sure the second car didn’t pull a California stop and kill me in exercising my right of way.

But, no…this being Portland, the first driver waited for me to stop so she could yield her right of way to me in true Portland fashion. But I’m certainly not going to complain about someone being considerate!

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out onto the trail for my ride before it gets too people-y. I’ll proof read later.

Maybe.

Oh, PS: I still forgot my damn cycling gloves last time. This caused some good numbness in my forearms during my ride, but my achey knees made up for the lack of feeling in my arms. But I’ve got the gloves safely stowed in my helmet for today’s ride.

PPS: I’m thinking this might have to be a summer blog series…thoughts?

Ciao for now!

I Live in BikeTown, USA

Fitfy:  fin

Well, it’s happened…my odometer has rolled over.  Today is the start of my sixth decade of good fortune and ridiculousness that I’ve trademarked as my life.

While I don’t know what my fifties will bring to me, I spent last year course correcting myself after reflecting back on my first five decades during the timeframe between the holiday and my birthday.  Realizing I’d spent too much time investing in things I can lose – job, relationships and wealth – with little control at the end of the day, I committed to spending the year brushing up my favorite human.

Or, who I realized should have been my favorite human and really wasn’t.

I don’t want to dwell on the pursuit/reward cycle I’d caught myself in, unawares.  I wasn’t happy to call myself on being trapped in that unfulfillingso-called lifecycle.  I can acknowledge that I slipped innocently enough into it, having ended a relationship, slogged through career transitions, physical injuries and retethered my base of operations back in my fabulous hometown of Portland, OR over the prior five years.

But it was time to get back to a life lived with a more massive modicum of intent.

Resetting lifestyle and fitness expectations from the far outdated ideals, habits and even rituals of my renegade bachelor 30s and 40s and find an equanimity with those expectations that would provide me emotional and physical stability in this late-middling part of my life.

Fitfy.

I’d reached late December feeling accomplished, having deconstructed a lot of the fitness patterns that led to repetitive injuries.  How boring those quickly become.  Having healed up and sustained, I had found a fairly functional regimen that was private, not going to the gym was providing a sense of accomplishment vis-a-vis home workouts and stair running.

Diet was a part of that accomplishment, plenty of treat-eating and reasonably balanced meals of salads, grains and protein.  Nowhere perfect or sufficiently sustained to declare victory, but definitely a good tragectory.

I should have known that the ingrown toenail I complained about at the start of the year was just a harbinger of obstacles to come.

I awoke one day after that had cleared itself with a tender and throbbing big toe.  Walking was a less than graceful exercise in ambulatory necessity.

I assumed I had kicked my table the prior night on a hazy trip to the head.  I’m not quite familiar enough with my new digs to make my usual nightly zombie bathroom walk without running into something.

Each way.

Getting through my 6-8 miles of daily walking at work was struggle enough, stairs were out.  At least for the week.

This past and final week started with me uneating at 4 am on my way to the MAX stop on my way to work.  Barfing on the streets of Old Town very early on a Sunday morning – or very late on a Saturday night – like a drunk white girl.  How humiliating.

Plus, I missed a day of work.

Two days of eating anything other than crackers and soda water basically had emotionally landed me here

Of course, I mention it to my substitute needle man that week.  

The disturbance in my gut.

My idiomatic toe injury.

Of course, I’m typical, snarky Xtopher when I tell her.

“I dunno.  I’ve got, like gout or something.”

“That does look a bit like gout, you should talk to your PCP about it”, she says, all too chipperly.

I miss my regular Needle Man.

I email my PCP when I get out of the office and he replies with the doctor-equivalent of, “Nah”.  You could probably interpret a fairly accurate amount of disdain for eastern medicine in his reply, but at least it’s back to being just another unconfirmed trauma in my life.

Plus, a couple days later and acupuncture has done its hoodoo magic and I’m back to 85-90% big toe function.

But I’m not self-soothing with junk food and booze like I had previously when injured.  That’s a good outcome for a year of inwardly focused intentions.  My injured physical self wasn’t adversely affecting my mental self.  

I was just injured, not physically depressed, and that injury wasn’t bleeding into my mental state.  

I’m still about 10 lbs heavier than I want to be, but it’s no longer driving me to punish myself.  And during the last couple of physically busted up weeks, I’ve legitimately held steady at the same weight.

That’s actually a fine place to set off on this fresh year and decade.

Imperfectly satisfied.

Who really saw that coming?  

Fitfy:  “Cheers, bitches.” <dumbbell drop>

Fitfy:  fin

Fitfy 49:49

Well, I guess this would be my golden post? 49 weeks into my 49th year…

Some different things have been going on lately, too.  It’s been kinda nice to experience these last few weeks of the Galby existence.

I’ve been pretty consistent about exercise recently, pulling off a steady three workouts per week.  My shoulder tried to register its complaint initially, but slow and steady got me through my ramp up without actually re-injuring myself.

A while back, I also commented that I needed to start getting my legs more involved in my workouts.  I wasn’t sure how to effectively integrate this opportunity into my home-based exercise regimen, until it hit me:  stairs.

Talk about two bird(leg)s with one stone.  I’m running 30 flights of stairs three times a week as part of my regimen.  30 flights up, 30 flights down.

Running.

That carrot my acupuncturist dangled a while has actually inspired me to find a way to re-incorporate my favorite form of exercise back into my routine.  Little warning twinges from my foot and knee reminded me to take it easy at first.  Warming up to the fresh movements after a three year absence with 10 flights initially allowed my grumpy old joints to get accustomed to the idea of this repetitive motion again.  Taking the stairs has actually been less stressful than plain old road running.

At the end of the day, I’m feeling great about this addition to my routine.  It provides that ballistic movement to my exercise once again.  I finish my workouts feeling like I’ve accomplished something.  Not just getting sweaty, but also shaking off some of the mental drama of my day.  Stuff that would have carried through with me to bedtime is just gone.

Once again.

This is the part of running that I missed most. The piece that retiring from running most significantly impacted me, the mental benefit of this physical fitness.

I’ve missed it so.  

Happy Galby.

Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still the grumpy guy I’ve always been, but I find my grumpiness has more perspective now.  

Or, again.  

Whatever.  

That’s helpful, like I said, less important stuff doesn’t remain with me.  I’m clearer about what actually bugs me and can focus better on more significant frustrations…hopefully in order to actually be able to effect change.

All while quitting soda and significantly curbing my caffeine intake.

And no one died.

It happened quite by accident.

I was out of soda and it was cold, so I remained out of soda.  

People were getting sick around me at work, so I started hydrating at work instead of grabbing a soda or coffee to drink absentmindedly.  

After a few days, I didn’t want soda.  I found myself at the grocery grabbing some bullshit hipster bubble water to satisfy my carbonation craving instead of grabbing a Diet Coke.  Bad news for Coke stockholders, good news for me.

Before I knew it, I was five days in without coffee or soda.  On my days off, of course I indulged in my weekly coffee time with the Silver Fox.  Walking away from that with the thought, “Two days a week for coffee ain’t bad”, which was all the impetus the universe needed to dangle temptation in front of my nose.

It came in the offer of coffee from a co-worker.  I love the message that I take away from offers like these, that I’m not an entirely evil boss.  If someone that reports to me wants to take me out for coffee?  I take that as a good sign.

Way better than someone that reports to me simply wanting to take me out.

Of course, I accepted – albeit with the admonishment to not spend their hard earned money on me.  Hey, that’s still only coffee three days a week.  It’s an average I’ve been able to stick to, too.  At most, three times a week.  It makes coffee a reward versus a ritual.  That’s a good thing, in my book.

Also, sorry to you people with money in coffee stock.

But wait…there’s even more!

I was eating well, too. Don’t worry, that couldn’t possibly last.  But it’s – once again – pretty much due to me being out of food and it being cold.

For those of you keeping track, the cold has officially dealt me a triple whammy:

1) no soda

2) ran out of healthy food

3) you should see my Double Oh C recycling.  “Out Of Control” is the Chrisenese to English translation you were looking for there, BTW.

But I’ve come off of that week-plus of solid healthy eating with a sense of moderation when approaching things like hamburgers or pizza.  That ain’t bad.

All this led up to two solid days of exertion when I moved last week.

Alone.

Naturally.

My family were all out of town at the ‘Phew’s basketball thingy.

The Fox was helping his some move, and also being sick.

So I just did it.

I am a SNOB, after all…Society if Native Oregon Born.  Home of Nike, so I just do it, naturally.

Hush, Diezel.

Bed?  Moved.

Sofa?  Moved.

Bookcases?  Moved – or sold.  The new place is slightly smaller.

Dresser?  Moved.

Ok, that last one was a bitch.  But, just done.

After all that, I expected to hurt.

For a while.

But I just didn’t.

I’ll chalk that up to doing a lot of little good things for myself consistently.  And that’s what this year has largely been about.  That and accepting my present physical situation for what it is and fixing what I reasonably can while accepting – forgiving – what I can’t.

Honestly, there’s still room to fix or improve.  And I will.

But The Brazilian made another guest appearance in my life the other night, and when he complimented my butt…I didn’t correct him!

“Alex, I’ll take Self Acceptance for priceless, please” – Me!

I can live with this.

Fitfy 49:49

Fitfy 49:45

Well, it’s getting on to tic-toc time, eh?

The last 7 weeks of this journey toward my big 5-oh.

It’s been interesting.  I started out convincing myself that I was doing similar things but with a different mindset I called intent.

Yeah, that was bullshit.

I was doing the same things and expecting a different outcome because I was being honest with myself about my actions.

Turns out, motivation is quite the bitch.  If you don’t have motivation, you get no results.  If you’re motivated toward the wrong goals or for the wrong reasons, you end up failing.  

I wasn’t looking for a pre-fifty phyrric victory.

I was looking to find a balance between my self care – diet, exercise – and the reality of living in an aging vessel.  In an effort to change my mindset around what constituted successfully defining a healthy lifestyle, I had to extract the mental vision I had of a 30-something robust male physique as the definition of success.  

That mental imagery was holding me back and shaping my decisions as well as informing my actions.

No bueno.

A guy pushing 50 shouldn’t be chasing that reality.  Well, maybe in pursuit of a bedmate, but not in a reflection from the mirror.  With that realization, I admitted that I was really at square one in my journey.  I’d made strides toward eating better and exercising differently, but all with the picture of myself with a ripped torso laughing as he drank as much as he wanted.

How depressing.

So I dialed it back.  I began working out at home, no one to compare myself to except that reflection I hated.  That helped.  

Suddenly, I was finding motivation to not get home with a drinking plan in place:  run in, feed the Mistress, change, run out to meet friends.  Now I was selectively coordinating my detox drinking with the Silver Fox, who’s much more disciplined than I am.  He’ll have one beer, two when he’s getting crazy, and then stop.  I needed that example and company to reign me in.  So, we’d have three beers or a bottle of wine between us when we met up, I’d stop occasionally on the way home and get a six pack that would last me close to a week and eat something, have one or two more and Bob was indeed my dietary uncle.

Getting my drinking consumption-to-frequency ratio in line was helpful.

The Filipina Fox was also helpful.  She gets me to a spin class occasionally, but at $18/class, less than she’d like.  

Less than I’d like, too.  

I appreciate that she forwards me deals from ClassPass, but I found a studio I like with equipment that is good for my body and that’s the studio I want to go to.  I’ll go when I can, but at this point I don’t want to compromise and end up on equipment that hurts my body.  It’s just as delititerious to my goal as surrounding myself with people who are at an age where they can achieve results that I can’t while living the lifestyle I want to.

So there it was.  The challenge to accept that I can socially live like an urban 30-something, but I had to forgive myself for looking like a middle-aged man in the process.

Being left with the option of working out in isolation has helped.

Tremendously.

My gut is tightening up, but I’m not looking for signs of abs.  I know they are there, I can feel them…I have to forget that other people may judge me on their personal inability to verify their existence.

Their problem, not mine.  If there were visible abs in my future, those same people would find something else on which to judge me negatively.

I gotta do me.

So, I’ve embraced my FUPA – Fat Upper Penis Area.  See, now I’m gonna be in trouble with the big girls for stealing their acronym.  

Middle-Aged White Guys ruin everything.

Now, instead of catching myself absent-mindedly juggling my chesticles I catch myself poking or bouncing my little belly.

And chuckling at myself when I catch it happening.  I’ve changed my belly perception from rejection to acceptance.  

It’s here, queer, get used to it.

That said, I’ve got to get some remedies in place for lower body exercises at home.

Right now, my belly fat detente is in a physical stalemate that I can appreciate:  it’s there but it’s not too heavy so that it pushes my pants down. 

Some of my shorter torso shirts raise up when I put on a coat or lift my arms past shoulder height, exposing my little “butt in front”.  That has gotten to…not a comfortable space, but a conscious space.  I’m mindful of it and move accordingly to prevent showing it off in public, but I don’t run past the mirror to avoid seeing it.

If I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna have a butt in front.  Instead of denying that reality, I’m looking for ways to alter the reality of the butt in back.  Shifting the focus to something I not only can change, but want to change.

Taking the stairs whenever practical is one thing, but not enough.  I think I’m ready to cautiously add squats into the home workout mix.

This shift to working out at home has taken me back to my days of participating on the Golf Team in High School – yeah, I fucking lettered in golf!  Golf is a solo sport, much like running.  

You compete against yourself.  

Focusing on – dwelling, really – on my inability to run any longer had lent itself to my disabled mental state and contributed to my lack of physical motivation.  Comparing my home workout results to my past performance like I did with prior golfing performances has allowed me to find a balance between efforts versus results while also factoring out my habit of comparing myself to others.  That behavior fuels the unhealthy motivations that led to excessive use of metabolic enhancers in my 30s and early 40s.  It also led to exercising too frequently and not allowing my body enough time to recover between workouts. Those are both factors that contributed to my arrival at 49 after two decades of my cavalierly undisciplined approach to exercise.

Coming out of this year with that balance and perspective to carry forward into the next two decades of my physical fitness life is the other half of the equation needed to get there healthily instead of crippling myself further along the way.

Fitfy 49:45

Fitfy 49:39

Missed these little check-ins from the final year of my fifth decade?

Fret not, they’ve not been pushed far from the front of my mind…they are only a trip past my bathroom mirror away, as a matter of fact.  But, this final week of the third quarter of this trip around the sun for me seemed like a good time to check-in again.

First some obvious accountabilities:  exercise and diet.

Exercise:

I’ve quit my gym.  That may not seem like anything but a big step backward, but I think it’s not.  Sure, this was initially a financial decision, the money I spent on gym membership could be better spent on wine, after all!  

I kid.

What I came to realize, though, was that at this time in my life, lifting weights was problematic.  More of a tether or a crutch for my old fitness mindset of recreating or restructuring my physical self…making it into something it’s not.

I have some 4-25 lb dumbbells at home that I can use for a variety of toning exercises when the mood hits.  Overall, that’s what I want to rediscover: tone.  My arms were as thick as my neck in my 30s – don’t get excited, I’ve been called pencil neck before. My chest and ankle measurements might make you wonder if my “father” was, in fact named Frankenstein.

What happens to that forced physique when you stop feeding it iron plates is not pretty.  Over the past three months, as I’ve changed my exercise regimen up – mostly changed it to “rest” – is that those muscles have softened.  My chest does not have as much in common with a 35 year old man as it maybe does with a 50 year old woman.

And that’s ok…for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want either of those racks.  But it’s a stop on the way to slimming down.

So, what’s this new regimen?

It’s more intense cardio based, as far as structured exercise goes.  Spin class.  God bless RevoCycle and the Filipina Fox for getting me back into spin!  I really love it…it’s prohibitively expensive, so I’ve been on a little break for the last few weeks, but the time commitment vs results impact is exactly what I want as I try to return to a slimmer silhouette overall.

The remainder of what I’ve been doing outside of mini weight workouts at home and spin class is lifestyle exercises.  Things designed not to get me out of the house and into the gym, but rather to get me out of the house and outside.

Hiking, mostly.  I live in the Pacific Northwest…God’s Country.  I have 40 miles of trails in Forest Park, a quick two mile urban hike away.  I live on Park Ave – between 8th and 9th St in Portland’s Alphabet District.  My stretch of Park is between Everett and Flanders – do not  stalk me…you’d be gravely disappointed.  Forest Park has an entrance at about 28th and Thurman.  That’s 14 blocks over and 19 blocks up.  

Easy.

Until you see this, anyway.

We all need a little touch up now and then, eh?  That’s what this year-long theme is about!  But I found an alternate entrance a few blocks further up the hill and have had myself a couple of nice 10 mike hikes over the last few weeks.  It rained almost all of last week, but today on my weekend agenda…yeah!  More hiking!  

Now

Diet:

Ugh.

Remember, what I didn’t want to do was overcorrect here and go radical self-deprivation by only allowing myself chicken and broccoli for dinner.  That usually leads to chicken and broccoli for most lunches, too.  And that leads to Unhappy Xtopher.

Also, I didn’t want to not drink.

I wanted to eat real food, have real junk food and get my drink on when I wanted to.  Be that when hanging out with friends or doing a little self-soothing after work.

I’d say the one thing my diet is missing right now is protein.  In eschewing chicken, I’ve become cognizant of the fact that I’m not chewing enough of anything that used to be alive.  Almonds, peanut butter, lunch meats and tuna ain’t cutting it.

Non-Dad-Bod Xtopher needs some red meat.

Shut up, Diezel.

Other than too much pasta in my diet, I’ve been happy with my intake.  Oddly, I’ve found myself craving kale lately.  I should definitely give into that, I bet my body is feeling less nostalgic than it’s actually trying to tell me it needs something.

My alcohol consumption is steady, I know you were worried.

I find that my drinking has become less…binge-y and more consistent.  Neither in a bad way.  When I was drinking before, I’d drink for several hours, ignoring the fact that I was setting records with how many drinks I could consume in an hour.

I’ve gone from drinking 2-3 drinks an hour for several hours to drinking 2-4 drinks a night.  Maybe I drink 5-6 nights a week versus 3-4 nights a week, but I’m not waking up groggy after and I find myself deciding to have another beer versus just giving into habit or simply being handed one by an attentive bartender.

All this came to the front of my mind during last week’s acupuncture appointment.  My Needle Man had been diagnostically probing my abdomen and when he was done, instead of quickly pulling my shirt back down and making a comment about covering my shame, I began absent-mindedly playing my belly like a drum.  He smirked at me and when I realized what I’d been doing, smiled sheepishly and apologized.

He made a comment about enjoying seeing such self-acceptance in today’s body shaming culture.  Someone just innocently enjoying their body without realizing it – literally, in my case, he said – was refreshing.

I told him that I planned on enjoying my body in not so innocent ways later, which gave us both a chuckle.  That may sound a bit depraved to you, but we talk about my sex life almost as often as we talk about my digestion.

If we’re gonna talk shit, nothings off the table.  Plus, there’s a couple of treatments he does that have a great reproductive side effect.  It may not be strictly necessary in my case, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be appreciated!

The conversation eventually led to – well, directly led to – how self-acceptance was kind of the theme of 2017 for me.  I described how nothing I did physically replaced running in my life, how I could run in the rain but cycling and hiking in the rain were no-goes for me.

“Why don’t you run anymore?”

So, I gave him the back story and then short-handed it to “bone density issues in my lower legs”.

I’ll short-hand his response to “There’s a needle for that”.

Me:  Do not get my hopes up.

Not at all, he told me, cautioning me that it will take time and be something I have to build up to, but there’s probably no reason I shouldn’t count on running again.

So, as I enter the last quarter of this Fitfy (mis)adventure, I find myself looking forward to an unexpected and welcome gift for my 50th birthday…an evening jog to close out my work day.

It’s just what I wanted.

Fitfy 49:39

I’m A Hypochondriac…

Kinda.

It’s hypochondria, but in a cute way.  For my own amusement, really.  It’s like a non-fatal version of The Red Shirt Diaries.  Just a little mental entertainment.

Am I secretly an only child?  Someone who grew up as part of a brood shouldn’t really have developed this idiosyncratic inner realm of self-sufficient entertainment.

Maybe I imagined my siblings as part of this rich (now semi) private head-world I retreat to.  Do you think my parents just play along with it?

“Humor him.  He might be dangerous.” – The Parentals

More likely, this is all the fault of the prophet Bill Murray and HBO.  One too many viewings of What About Bob during my delayed onset formative years.

Too much hair in my sink?  Alopecia. 

Stiff neck?  Cancer, obviously.  This is actually happening right now.

Gastric distress?  Norovirus.  No way that it could be too much garlic in last nights dinner…

But at the same time, those self-diagnoses have created some interesting ironic moments in my doctors office.

I say interesting, he says, “Stop googling symptoms and just come into the office”.

I don’t know why he’s such a killjoy.

Well, maybe one or two for instances come to mind…

Like the time I had self-diagnosed with shin splints.  I’d been increasing my running after making myself single again in an attempt to rid myself of the dreaded Relationship Body.  Somewhere in there, my mind decided I was at that age where I needed to dip my toe into the realm of Extreme Sports, as people do as they age.  Nothing crazy like the Iditarod…just the Seattle Marathon.  

Having been (note the tense…foreshadowing!) a lifelong runner, I just decided to gradually lengthen the duration of my runs.  Some training plan, eh?  It was that increased training intensity that led me to attribute my lower leg pain to shin splints.

Power through, bucko…just a few weeks left and then you can back off.

Or, y’know, mention it to your totally self-absorbed doctor during your annual check up.  I hadn’t planned on it, I was just so caught off guard when he asked me about me during my appointment that it just sort of came out.

Like premature ejaculation.

Literally, since he followed up with, “How long has this been going on?”

“About a month…maybe six weeks?  But I just assume it’s normal with the extra training.” AKA: it happens to everyone.

And just like that awkward sexual encounter, my running life was over.

“Call this guy and make an appointment.  And for gods sake, stop running.”

Me:  

Him:  You fractured your tibia.  You’re retired from running.  Find some other way to exercise.

Me:  <puts gun in mouth>

But I’ve written about that struggle in other blogs.  Go find it if you’re that curious.  

Then there was that time that I’d followed orders and not googled my symptoms.  Just meandered across the intersection and into the office.  

It’s really great when you live diagonally across the street from your doctors office.

I mean, no reason for google.  It was just a cold I couldn’t shake.  But it was terrible:  headaches, snot, fever.

“Do you have allergies?”, he asks like he doesn’t have my entire medical history right in front of him.

“What, are you playing solitaire on that thing?!?  You’ve been seeing me for almost a decade!  Of course I don’t have allergies.” I get cranky when I’m sick.

Crankier.

He goes on to make his case, trying to sell me on his theory.

I’m sitting there, shaking my head and thinking I got that doctor that finished last in his class.

Desperate for relief, I ask – for the sake of argument – what the treatment would be for allergies.  Maybe there would be some benefit even from the wrong medicine.

Him:  I’ve already sent some prescriptions to your pharmacy.

Smug bastard.

Turns out, I have allergies.

So, maybe he wasn’t the worst student in his med school class.

That doesn’t mean that that pain in my knee wouldn’t be better served by my insurance company approving knee replacement as an elective surgery.  Acupuncture is working just fine at reducing the pain and increasing functionality, but, c’mon…it’s just delaying what is obviously the inevitable.

To a recreational hypochondriac, anyway.

I’m A Hypochondriac…