BikeTown Chronicles #4

I returned to spin class today.

I’ll wait for the applause and trumpet fanfare to die down.

This isn’t the typical type of cycling that I’d include in a BikeTown post. The reason this is a milestone of note is more the reason for my absence from spin versus the return itself.

Back in late July – maybe early August? – I’d finally pulled the trigger on returning to spin. My original BikeTown efforts had been derailed by the temporary closure of the Springwater Trail, my normal cycling route. The city was upgrading a culvert from the Willamette River to a nearby marsh – which ran under the Springwater – in an effort to provide salmon a more attractive conduit to a spawning area.

Y’know, your basic salmon bom-chika-bom-bom moment brought to you by America’s kinkiest city…everyone is getting their freak on here!

The trail closed in early July, which significantly expedited my not-working-weight-gain. In the three months prior to July, I had put on 20 lbs. Between July 1 and 31, I welcomed another ten pounds into the – ahem – folds.

However, by mid-August, while I was easing back into spin, my diet and weight and overall feeling of well-being had pretty much stagnated.

So…I took a temp job. I know this is redundant information to regular readers, but the important aspect of this job is the to and from and not the job itself.

I rode.

It was just a 3.5-3.7 mile ride each way, but four days a week I was working in the equivalent of a spin class during my “work” commute. That was doubling my spin workouts.

I’m not sure why my ride home was two-tenths of a mile longer than my ride into work…but it’s not like I’m trying to tell you it was uphill both ways. I think that gives me a little latitude on the accuracy of my GPS tracking.

The effort was more significant than spin class, too. I found a range of gears that afforded me a good challenge throughout my ride. This was easier than figuring out my easy-challenging resistance settings on the spin bikes.

And, while not both ways, there was a hill on my commute. During spin classes, I hadn’t found a comfort level rising up out of the seat to simulate a hill climb. My knee was just not having it.

However, my daily ride took me past Montgomery Park

which was the old Montgomery Ward building back in the day.

<pours one out for Montgomery Ward>

There’s an S-shaped hill behind the building that transitions down from Thurman Street and effectively out of the Alphabet District and onto St Helens road, which took me into the industrial part of town. That hill was fine and dandy on the way to work, but ~8 hours later, the uphill was…likely to be a walk.

Except.

I learned there were only a handful of bike commuters working at my Amazon location. A max of six during my temporary assignment’s duration and on a couple of nights, just me.

And then there was Minh…

Me being dirty old me, I immediately registered the fact that two of the regular four riders during my work week were attractive young guys. The other regular rider was an Oldie Hawn, like me.

Ben, one of the two young uns, usually arrived early and left late. He was all about those hours.

Minh was not. He usually beat me out of there at the end of the shift.

I realized this first on my second night of work. Night one, I’d ridden the bus because I was unsure of the bike parking sitch.

I’d ran/walked home the next morning because the shifts end at 430 and the bus came around 5. Who needs to wait around in the dark for a half hour?!?

Well, just for a bus, at any rate.

That second morning, I set off on my bike for home. I pedal at a pretty good clip because I want the workout. However, after having my ass handed to my by about about 1500 boxes during my shift had me wondering if there was a way around that Montgomery Park hill. Mentally, I was assuring myself that when the road forked to go uphill, that other fork surely came out on the other side of the complex.

But why risk getting lost? I’ll just ride up as far as I can and then walk the rest of the way in the protective anonymity of darkness.

Unfortunately for my elderly ego, just ahead of me was Minh. I somehow seemed to be gaining on him…like there was a tractor beam in his butt.

This sent me into a frenzy.

The gaining on him, not the butt. Although…woof.

If I caught up to him and then died on the hill, that would be tragic. Moreso than simply being “that old guy that stares”. Still uncertain of the alternate routes, I dialed back my pace and hoped for the light to change and stop me.

This is me we’re talking about, though, so naturally that didn’t happen.

I cruised up on to the hill as Minh disappeared around the first curve. I rode as far up as I could – about a quarter of the way – before giving up. To my surprise, while I thought I was quitting, my ego was telling my body to rise up off the saddle and keep going.

Ok

It wasn’t pretty, but I actually ended up making it to the top without stopping…and I gained ground on Minh, who had not even stood up while ascending the hill.

Obnoxious punk.

I think what really got me to the top was not the fact that I was gaining on the kid. Rather, I was pretty sure he could hear my labored wheezing behind him and if that stopped he’d either know I’d quit or think I’d died. I couldn’t bear either fate.

So, pedal, did I.

Cycle Yoda-speak!

The next day, I made sure to call out Minh for taking the hill without standing up. He made it sound like no biggie, so I decided that I’d keep riding up the hill versus finding out where that other road led.

I started counting off my pedal strokes. At first it was to drive my pace, to avoid losing momentum up the hill.

One-two, one-two, one-two

There were 50 one-twos going up.

The next week, I just counted pedal strokes. Sure enough, there were 100. At least I was being consistent.

The third week, the other Oldie Hawn told me about the other fork in the road. “Much easier”, he told me.

I think I’m going to take the hill for the whole month, then I’ll think about changing

I thought those were crazy words, certainly not words I would have imagined speaking on Day One.

Do exactly so, I certainly did!

But you better believe that on commute 19, I absolutely sailed right through the light at the bottom of the hill, veering left toward parts unknown instead of right to the hill that I now called my bitch.

I’m proud of my cycling accomplishment during my regular two months of work at Amazon. However, I am also aware of several opportunities during that time where my BikeTown blog crossed over into Red Shirt Diary territory.

First off, (mom, stop reading) since it was only three and a half miles each way, I didn’t wear my helmet. Bad, old Xtopher, I know! However, only one of the regular four actually did…so, somehow that makes it better, right?

Then there was the whole, riding at night without a head or tail light. Yeah, pretty suicidal. But, I did follow fairly well lit roads. There were a few dark areas where I could safely assume homeless people had taken out the street lights in order to give them better darkness for sleeping. Or whatever they were doing under that cardboard. Fortunately, there were only a couple of near miss swerves to avoid large sticks or…shoes. Why are there so many discarded shoes on Portland streets?!? Oddly, the only direct impacts I suffered sounded like license plate frames.

But I never fell. Hooray for my short clad legs and helmet-less brain bucket.

My practice had been wearing my reflective safety vest during my ride. However, in the middle of my assignment, my family took off for the Oregon high desert. When I dropped my bag in my room, I discovered an optic orange Nike vest that my sister had brought along for me.

Yay, substitute mom!

The trip coincided with my nephew checking into college in Bend. I’d already been watching as my sister inched closer toward an empty nest. By watching, I mean receiving random care packages over the course of the summer countdown to college.

A Captain America tee shirt she picked up for me at the Costco.

Some cookies.

Shorts and another couple of shirts. I suspect these were a result not only of her frustrated mom gene, but also self defense for her eyes since they were having to watch me trundle around in clothes that hadn’t fit in a good 15 pounds.

So the vest was not a huge surprise, but that it was also my favorite color was all the more “aw” for me. Of course, I laughed pretty hard at myself when I learned the vest was originally for my brother in law, but hadn’t fit his meatier, mor muscular frame.

Then I thought, “How dare she buy him a vest in my favorite color!”, like I somehow had reserved rights to all things orange.

Don’t I, though?

Nevertheless, the episode afforded me a more fashionable alternative to night time visibility than my tattered old safety vest.

The most strange of my Darwin-esque Red Shirt moments involved those damned e-scooters. Yeah, there was more than one.

The first was simply me mistaking an oncoming headlight for another cyclist. I was fairly nonplussed at the fact that the oncoming light was on my side of the road. Ascribing the poor behavior to the overt asshole-ness of Portland cyclists, I moved to give the bastard a wide berth. Psychotically, the headlight started weaving. As it whizzed by me at about 15 mph, I realized it was a scooter and not a bike. This was as I was also making a last desperate swerve to avoid a collision with the oncoming erratic swerving maniac.

The second instance was also a case of vehicular mistaken identity. There were two scooters traveling side by side, I mistook them for a car. I was pretty surprised when the driver’s side of the car split off from the rest to swerve into my lane. Realizing my mistake, I hugged the parked cars as tightly as I could to remain out of the way of the scooter, which was now traveling toward me in my lane.

Asshole

was the most affable salutation I could muster for this jag as he passed within inches of my handle bars.

Helmets, scooters, hills and poor visibility aside, I survived my two months of bike commuting four times a week to work and back! It was a great way to get amped up for a night of work, but also a surprisingly welcome cool down on the way home. I’d been anticipating hating the ride home after work and expected myself to take it easy along the way.

I didn’t.

I’d arrive home each morning; panting and sweating, leg muscles twitching. Also surprising was logging some of my best commute times on the longer ride home. Those are results I can take!

The end result was returning to my spin class today, 20 pounds lighter than I’d been on the last class I’d attended. I’ll take it!

But what I appreciated most about those morning rides wasn’t chasing Minh most of the way. No, it was leaving work with a stiff back and sore shoulders and arriving home feeling like I’d worked those kinks out.

Not a bad way to end a couple of months of long day’s nights! Of course, neither was chasing Minh…story of my life, right there. <shrugs>

BikeTown Chronicles #4

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

About three weeks ago, I was out running some errands and after being mildly inconvenienced by a couple of reroutes found myself close to Washington Park. I had planned to take a hike to Forest Park that afternoon anyway, before it got too hot. Since I was probably less than ten blocks – that’s for you, mom! – from the entrance, I decided to just carry on since the temperature was already tending toward balmy.

I know from a similar errand-running excursion earlier this week that the my house<the Safeway<Freddy’s<home loop runs about three miles. Well, 3.4 with a coffee reward after Freddy’s. Factoring that out, I’m calling it an even three.

Freddy’s is only a block away from my personal google maps nemesis

So I had to successfully avoid that obstacle in order for my plan to succeed.

Figure that when I got to the entrance to Washington Park that I was about 1.5 miles into my errands plus another 3/4 mile from Freddy’s to the entrance, right?

It’s that last three quarters of a mile that’s the real killer. In addition to avoiding Taco Bell, there are also pretty steep streets up toward the park. What upset me when I got to the top of the hill was how out of breath I felt and how excessively sweaty I was.

Super not cool.

“Well, that’s probably just diabetes and coronary disease knocking on the door”, I pessimistically told myself. I opened up my MINDBODY app and bought a spin package.

I was also talking via messenger with the Filipina Fox, who is an obnoxiously fit friend and fitness instructor at not only my spin gym, RevoCycle, but two other studios in my neighborhood as well. Those are her second, third and fourth jobs in addition to her primary full time job. Then there’s the gym she belongs to for her personal workouts.

I dunno how she finds the time or the energy, but hats off to her! However, if I hadn’t been chatting with her, I probably wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on buying a spin package.

Nevertheless, there she was, providing me unintentional inspiration in my return to gym-centric exercise. She joked about the gym having an AED, just in case and I made another about having a DNR tattoo on my chest.

Then it was off into the park. I’ll write more about my walk through Washington Park in another post, it also is home to the Japanese Garden, which the Silver Fox took me to as a guest a few months ago. I want to share my beautiful pics from both visits.

For now, though, my point is that during my less than record breaking hike the temp went up 10% to 80 degrees at the end but I was just spent: I’d sweated through my clothes and was sucking air like a fish out of water.

No bueno!

The next day, I was at RevoCycle for my noon class. They call it Power Lunch and it’s just 30 minutes, designed to allow worker bees to get a ride in during their lunch hour. I wasn’t sure I could actually pull off a full “hour long” class, which usually runs 50 minutes. The half hour class allowed me to dip my toe back in the water.

I’d discussed my concerns – and reasons for my absence – with the owner and leader of the lunch class, Michael.

While I had been cycling and hiking pretty regularly through mid-June, my knees bothered me during and after the activities. Then, the powers that be had closed down my entrance to the Springwater Trail, which took away half of my exercise options anyway, since that was a major part of my cycling route.

The goal was to get salmon back to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife refuge by replacing a 70s era salmon culvert.

The culvert allows salmon to move protected from the Willamette River through the underground culvert and into the wildlife refuge.

It’s just a small project.

That completely closes down my access to my preferred cycling route.

And my back up route.

FML.

But, three months and $9 million later and at least the salmon will have a safe place to get their spawn on.

Meanwhile, that plus my persistent unemployment afforded me an option to gain 20 lbs. Most of which seemed to arrive in about an eight week period.

See the above FML.

So, Tuesday three weeks ago, I’m back at spin for a Tuesday and Thursday routine and I’m happy to say that I’ve only missed one class on the ensuing three weeks. I’ve also managed at least one hike per week and even one interval run!

Of course, after that, I couldn’t walk right for three days, but I’m happy that I accomplished it…proving to myself that what my acupuncturist has been working on – paired with running right for my body – has paid off.

The good news is that I’m down 8 pounds in three weeks and feel better, too! I’m not leaving a pool of sweat behind after my half hour class anymore and my knees are tolerating the intensity well!

Of course, since I’m kind of mean to myself, I have chosen a gym conveniently located two blocks away from the modeling agency I worked for in my late 20s. And, since it’s on my way home from the gym, I stopped off last week for a selfie.

Already looking better than I did halfway through my five mile hike to Washington Park two weeks prior to taking this! Still in no danger of anyone from my old agency chasing after me.

Plus, it helps to have a sweat towel…

In my conversations with Michael over the past few weeks, I’ve become aware of a few things:

First, the smoke and ash in the air recently has likely been mostly to blame for my wheezing and excessive sweat, especially on that Washington Park outing.

Second, the mental benefits from regular exercise are more immediate than the physical results. And the mental benefits feel great!

Third, it looks worse than it is. Yesterday, I faced a personal fear: being the only person in a class. Michael likes to focus on being present with your body during a spin class – it’s like the focus on mindfulness and breathing you experience in a yoga class – and usually checks in with the heart monitor wearers in class to see how they’re doing. I don’t wear one, but he kept asking me how I was doing, “How’s your breathing, pretty heavy?” or “How many words could you say right now?” types of things. When he asked me if I was at my max heart rate after one sprint and got a palms up response from me, he taught me this easy little formula.

220 – a person’s age = max heart rate

“So where is your heart rate at?”, he asked after timing off a pulse check in.

178

“What’s your max, I dunno how old you are…how does that compare?”

My max is 170.

“Great! That’s fantastic…you’re probably in better shape than you were worried about!”

I guess it looks worse than it is.

But I’m still ecstatic that I’m doing something physical that ties me to a routine!

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

Motivation Monday

There’s a reason I include “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” in just about any conversation that I can.

It’s hilarious. Even if only in a What About Bob way.

However, there’s a very real answer to the question, too. As I found out today, shortly after leaving the house all amped up to check a few errands off my to-do list…my goals:

Get my recycling dropped off and go to the bank.

Simple, right? I just wanted to get them done before it got too hot.

What.

Could.

Possibly.

Go.

Wrong?

I’d slept amazingly well after popping a melatonin – courtesy of the Silver Fox – around midnight last night. I slept straight through the night and woke up at 9:00!

Seriously.

I’ll take those results.

The Safeway where I drop my recycling and the credit union I bank at are equidistant from my house. In completely opposite directions, of course. I’ve been procrastinating these tasks for close to a week each, so after a great night of sleep, this really seemed like the day to tackle them right off.

I was even leveraging my coffee against completion of the task.

I could go to OnPoint first thing and then stop by f&b – my usual coffee haunt – on the way back. More than likely, I would run into someone outside f&b on my way to the bank and get sucked in, derailing everything.

With that in mind, I was leaning toward recycling first. Originally, I planned to take my recycling with me before my lunch time spin class and drop it off beforehand, since the Safeway is right next door to RevoCycle.

There’s no lunch time class today.

See? This is one of those many possible answers to my question-slash-mantra.

Deciding against putting off my recycling until tomorrow, I bribe myself with coffee fresh from my favorite roaster – Nossa Familia. It’s what they serve at f&b, but they just brew better drinks at Nossa. It’s across from the Safeway in the opposite direction from my spin gym, so very adjacent to my errand running.

I slap my ID label on my green BottleDrop bag and head out.

I have an ongoing struggle with recycling through BottleDrop.

It’s easy, since I don’t have to jockey for position in line with Portland’s homeless to use a reverse vending machine to redeem my bottle and can deposits. I just label my bag, hoof it across the Pearl, scan my card, drop my bag and wait 3-5 days for them to process my redemption refund.

It’s about $.01 per can or bottle, but it’s not too high a premium to not have to do it myself.

I think I made myself dizzy with that last sentence.

Here’s the wrinkle: they lose track of bags all. the. time.

Seriously.

I think they’ve correctly counted and credited three of my bags this year! The rest, I’ve had to wait 7-10 days to make sure they weren’t just behind, email them, wait about 5 more days for a reply and then – like this morning – get an email saying they credited me for my “average bag” value.

I didn’t say it was convenient, right? Here’s what bugs me, if they’ve only credited three of the dozen or so bags I’ve dropped this year…doesn’t that dilute the accuracy of my “average bag”?

I think it does.

I also think one of their processors is stealing bags and selling them to homeless people. I have a jaded, criminal mind.

So, that’s what can possibly go wrong when using BottleDrop.

Also, in a new twist, this can go wrong.

Ok, that I did not see coming.

Also, I just said “not see”…

I pulled a Basic White Girl move and went inside to talk to the manager. Turns out, the drop door is somehow broken. I decided to believe someone tried to break in. He offered to do a manual count for me and immediately followed it up with “I’ve already called someone to do a hand count for another customer”…so, not for me, then.

I decided to accept his co-op offer, knowing the other “customer” he was referring to…the homeless guy I passed on the way in. Then I decided to go across the street to Nossa for my coffee, knowing from prior experience that I had time. If the employee that the manager called to help the other guy showed up while they made my coffee – iced, as always – I’d go back over. Homeless guys, I also know from experience, usually only have about 50 cans at a time to recycle. I learned this during my time working in grocery.

I was telling this to my barista, who then wondered aloud what my plan was if the associate the manager allegedly called didn’t show up.

I told her I’d just run up to Freddy’s – our local branch of Kroger.

To understand why she was amazed, you have to know two things:

First, remember that I don’t drive, so I’m literally hoofing across town,

Second, the Pearl District is part of what Portland calls the the Alphabet District, which is pretty much all contained in the NW quadrant of town.

East-West streets are named sequentially from B-Y, excepting for X and Z, which have no streets. “A” – Ankeny – is on the other side of Burnside, which is in the SW quadrant of town since Burnside divides Portland’s North and South sides.

The North-South streets are pretty much numerical. There are a few standouts like Park, which I live on. My street is between 8th and 9th on Park at Everett.

So, my barista – who is hipster versus lazy – was standing behind her La Marzocco espresso machine at the corner of 13th and Lovejoy. I’m five blocks West and seven blocks North from my place. Her amazement is in my declaration of intent to go from 13th and Lovejoy to Freddy’s which is at 20th and Burnside.

What’s that…seven blocks further West and 10 blocks South? Remember, hipster not lazy. I chuckle and laugh as I grab a napkin to wipe the sweat off the head three feet over my fat gut.

I can use the exercise.

I take my iced, quad shot hazelnut latte and head out, noticing the homeless guy is still waiting for his hand count. Plan C, it is!

I am buoyed by the recollection that there’s an OnPoint Credit Union on the same block as Freddy’s, so this isn’t all bad! I won’t have to hike into SW to do my banking.

Bright side, right?!?

Riding my frustratingly endless wave of no income, I don’t have much reason to visit my credit union these days. But last week, I decided I wanted to rearrange my furniture to open up my lil one bedroom condo and make more room.

The only problem?

I have too much furniture. Well, technically, I probably have just enough furniture. Unfortunately, my bedroom has these really user unfriendly built ins that displaced my dresser to the living room.

It’s a TV stand now.

Luckily, I have – had – two dinner tables. One folds down and converts to a side table. I figured I’d sell that one initially. Once I started rearranging, though, it made a better flow to get rid of the other one.

So, I did.

Then I finished rearranging my living room and went out to treat myself to a congratulatory beer. I actually only had time to do this since one of the Fabulous Baker Sisters had had to cancel our plans to get together that afternoon. Since I was flying solo, I went to a gay club in Old Town I don’t get to too often. CC Slaughter’s is one of the closest gay bars to my home – 3rd and Davis, in case you want to do the math – and the least douche-y. It’s also home to an acquaintance of mine, one of only three drag bartenders in the country, Madame DuMoore. This was her look the day I visited.

But, she changes it up every damn day, so you never know who you’ll run into when she’s behind the bar.

And she’s just an amazing person and persona, so when she’s not busy, she’s fun to talk to, too!

That wasn’t the case this visit, left with no one to chat with while I drank my beer – I went into the video poker lounge. Truth be told, I was chatting with the guy sitting next to me, my usual MO…only this ‘mo was starting to get a twinkle in his eye, so I decided to make myself scarce.

I had a $50 that my table buyer had used as part of his payment. I mentally waved goodbye to it and slipped it into the machine.

I won $300.

I celebrated with another beer.

And then another.

I had paid myself back my $50 and kept playing with the rest.

I.

Kept.

Winning.

Feeling full, belly and pockets, I left the bar with $1200. Being slightly – what’s the word? – buzzed, I made it a block toward my place before thinking, “Hey, $1200 is almost my rent money! I should keep going.”

Drunken Logic is so prudent.

I leveraged my “wisdom” with a limit of one beer and headed over to a dive at 5th and Couch.

Well, that beer turned out to be too expensive, so I stayed for another. Boy, that beer was all over the map. I ended up only managing to leave with $1000 still in my pocket, but still presenting me with a too rare reason to visit a bank.

Long stories for two tasks, eh?

Well, this is my life…I can usually find something funny in even it’s most mundane tasks. Or something to grump about…while still chuckling at my frustrations.

Feeling accomplished, I decided to keep my Monday motivation going. At 20th and Burnside, I was pretty close to Washington Park, where I don’t get to that often. I know it somehow connects up to Forest Park, though I’ve not managed to get lost enough to figure out exactly how or where. Since I’ve only been there once this year, I decided on an urban hike.

I cracked out a nice lil sweat and a five mile hike. But that’s s blog post for another day. Time to fold laundry!

Motivation Monday

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

Farewell, Summer

Yesterday was the first day of Fall.  It certainly showed here in the PNW, too, all cool, gray and drizzly.

Wonderful!

Another reminder of how pecadelicious – Chrisism- my body is.  With my AC set at 70 in the Summer, I’m comfortable.  With my heat set at 70 in the winter, I’m freezing.

However, I was reminded as I noted the change of seasons that I never shared my vacation story, and it’s been a month.

It’s funny, I’m about to step into my sixth decade – ok, stumble or possibly stagger – but I can still be the bratty kid that complains to my parents that we haven’t had a family vacation forever.

I really rather rely on my elder and only sister for this type of stuff.  Her three younger brothers are borderline loners – at best.  Once Mom-Donna officially retires from her holding-the-family-together duties, the mantle will be hers to wear.  Mom has tried a few slow steps back from her matriarchal role, but still steps back in with statements of the, “I’d like to host one more holiday while I still can” type.  

She’s such a Prince Philip sometimes.

The result of my mild tantrum, nevertheless, was the parental gift of a summertime family vacation this past Christmas.

Finally, after a long break we were getting the Galby clan back together again in Central Oregon’s high desert retreat, Sunriver.

It’s always fun.

Always.

We’re together under one roof again, yet still free to pursue whatever we want throughout the day, coming together each night for dinner as a group.  Everyone takes a night of cooking duties, which is enjoyable for everyone.  Dad’s night – being the patriarch – is hosting dinner out at a restaurant.  The ‘Phew, as the youngest on the other hand, dips into his hard earned Birthday and possibly allowance fundage to treat us all to pizza delivery on the night of our arrival.

It’s a good ritual.  Plus, it provides me a chance to cook for people, which seldom happens outside of MNSC.

It just occurred to me that the last couple of family get togethers in the desert have proved near – or actually – fatal.

The last trip out for a Christmas getaway a couple years back was interrupted by a Christmas phone call from my ex, Sacha to tell me he had colon cancer…a story for another time.  Maybe.

That Christmas holiday was – more importantly to me – also marred with our family’s collective concern for dad, who had recently had a coronary procedure after which he wasn’t feeling well.

The trip before that was Rib’s first family vacation.  This was maybe five years ago?  Before the pizza even arrived, we were booking a flight for him to ABQ to attend his grandmother’ funeral.  Enviably, as I tap this out in a coffee house, he is with his new beau and family at Munich’s Oktoberfest.​

​I love that this video he sent me of his family vacation was so timely as I reminisced about mine.

Beyond those recent vacation danger moments, I’d say our other vacations were reasonably trauma free.  

Well

There was the Bike Ride Incident and The Nose Hair Situation, both of which I blame exclusively on my Black Sheep Brother.  Only one of which is near funny.  Black Sheep Bro and I went trail riding with the ‘Phew, I think he was still aged in single digits at the time.  We were having a blast leading him through the trails with a vague goal of finding a path to the ever elusive Benham Falls when he just barely nicked a fallen log that had been cut through to preserve the bike trail’s passability.

He.

Went.

Flying.Poor kid.  Right into a tree.

Little fucker scared the hell out of me and BSB before walking it off.

Talk about a dodged bullet.  I thought for sure my only nephew – at the time – was going to spend the rest of his Halloweens dressed as Stephen Hawking.

Things have changed since then.

I’d sent my bike home with mom and dad the week before after they came to town for a lunch date.  Er, doctor’s appointment.  When they picked me up, all I had to do was show up on the curb with my suitcase.

And a case of wine.

That’s a good change, in my opinion!  My sister had put in a request for some of that good stuff I’m always going out to Hood River for, so I took two bottles each from two of my favorite wineries out there.  I was reserving those for my night of cooking.  But since it’s also Summer, I rounded out my case with eight bottles of Rose.

My parents clucked their tongues at my “extra” baggage.  Not only because their car was also full of their bags, food for the week and doggie travel needs, but also because they had also brought a case of wine.

Great minds…meet the Galby clan!

We made it all fit.

Plus, a growler I’d gotten at 2.0 and Little Buddy’s wedding the day before.

And a huge watermelon The Silver Fox had gifted us.

As we made off on our way, I rationalized two cases of wine being barely enough if even four of the six legal drinkers partook with any regularity.  Really, that’s an easy three bottles a night, closer to four.

Five.  Five a night, tops.

As I mentioned, we all still take our bikes, but only my sister’s family unit rode together.  I put in daily rides, except for arrival and departure days.  It was good.  I’d spent the prior couple of weeks in spin class to trim up a bit.  But nothing prepared my ass for 15-20 mile rides in the saddle of a real bike.  My butt was less bun, more hamburger by the time I left.  But a nice 60+ mile four day stretch was good for me.  

After a successful jump start in spin, with minimal discomfort to my never-healing knee, I had aspirations of riding to the top of the Cinder Dome of the mega-volcano Newberry Crater.  Once the hills hit “straight up” status, my knee straight up refused.

Oh, well.  I still got plenty of exercise and just enough sun, even without the view from the top of the dome.

For my brother’s part, he pedaled to the store one evening, only to return grumpy or confused.  Hard to say.  He was all disturbed at how everyone he passed greeted him.  

I told you…loners.

Anyway, I’d noticed it on my rides. too.  It hadn’t bothered me, though.  I enjoy the social nicety of greeting passersby.  I was more interested in the range of greeting; from the apex vocal salutation to this:which was kind of a very minimal entry.  It was also an indictment for the homogenized environment we were spending the week in.  The darkest skin in this high desert mecca was simply overexposed and under sun screened.

This was the first time we didn’t – not a single one of us, let alone the group – spend time laying about at the pool.  There was a sister’s family rafting trip and a brother and nephew kayaking excursion, otherwise it was fairly pedestrian adventures.  Shopping in Sunriver or heading into Bend for some…shopping.

My sister and brother-in-law took the ‘Phew to look at COCC – that’s for you, Diezel.  He was considering Central Oregon Community Colkege for his first two years, but came back ambivalent.

I cannot believe I’m days away from having an 18 year old nephew!

While they were doing campus tours, the rest of us took off for the High Desert Museum.  Quite a way to spend an afternoon, with some self-improvement undertones.  It’s a nice mix of self-guided educational exhibits and nature path wanderings.

There were way more pics taken than I can comfortably squeeze into my humble blog post, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw something in just for Diezel’s enjoyment, so he knows he’s never too far from my thoughts.

So, enjoy, my friend and chosen family member!

Just to shake it up, no humans died or had close calls this time around.  But Buddy, my parent’s dog decided to give us all a scare, with a late day trip to the vet.  The local Sunriver vet wasn’t equipped to handle his situation and escalated him to Bend, 20 miles away.  This resulted in a doped up doggie and my parents enjoying my carbonara reheated.

But, in spite of the changes, the important things remain…

Each of us, being there, for one.  It was touch and go for me.  Mom and dad had picked a seemingly random week in August, the month that usually works for all of us.  Little did we know that we’d signed on for the biggest travel debacle in Oregon highway history: the 2017 eclipse.  

With the increase in tourists traveling in and me working at the airport, I was fairly certain I’d be asked to cancel my vacation.  The request was just to be back for the two days prior as people landed and one million tourists and 27,000 rental cars hit the road.

I was more than willing to fly back instead of risk the road trip…ODOT was tactfully suggesting that people take not only plenty of water for their travel, but also relief vessels, if you get my drift.

I don’t want to be that close to my family.  Hello, Alaska Airlines!

In addition to being there, also the food!

I think cooking for people is the simplest way to show love.  It’s demonstratively caring for them by providing sustenance.  Sharing stories and time over the table.  Figuratively or literally breaking bread together…there is – to me – no better way to illustrate family.

And every night, there we were…gathered at the table celebrating our bond.

Not a bad Christmas gift, parentals…thank you!

Farewell, Summer

Fitfy: 49.33

I originally set out to make this theme a weekly check-in for this final year of my 40s.  The larger goal was to motivate myself into finding a balance between a reasonably healthy physical self and mental and emotional satisfaction with how that state of physical being manifested itself.

Y’know, to ditch the body-negative mindset that I’ve been emotionally kicking the shit out of myself in pursuit of for the last 20 years or so.  I didn’t quit this theme so much as I took a hiaitus in order to refocus on that goal when I found myself falling back on the same habits that had delivered me to where I found myself on Jan 22 of this year: injured, eating emotionally, physically and mentally depressed…your basic nightmare.

So, that’s what I did.  I put down my phone, walked away from the laptop and WordPress app – at least as far at Fitfy was concerned – and focused on collecting myself mentally to re-engage with diet and exercise.

I addressed diet first.

Before it addressed me.

Also, because I’d gotten comfortable being physically lazy.

I’d been having a real challenging time at work with a really unhealthy emotional situation with Capt Can’t.  I’d been drinking too much and too often to self-soothe instead of dealing with the situation.  I went 29 out of 30 days with more than four drinks in me.

In addition to the drinking – as if that much alcohol wasn’t enough of a red alert – I’d been eating crap.  Candy and coffee for breakfast and chips or popcorn with my alcohol for dinner.  

It’s a wonder I survived the month.  Luckily, I had my righteous rage to sustain me.

But, changing the diet was hard.  I needed some crutches.  Like sharing my bottle of dinner wine with the Silver Fox instead of hiding out in my living room overfilling my own glass.  

See?  That’s a 50% reduction in consumption right there.

Ok, 60/40 since I’m kinda tricky.

Fine!  70/30 because he’s more disciplined than me to begin with…but, still – a reduction in consumption!

Other nights, I would switch to a diet soda overdose to distract my way through a couple days of not drinking.

Then there was reintroducing real food to my diet.  I focused on significantly reducing my “reward days”.  Actually, the goal was more to flip the ratio of healthy meals with bullshit junkfood reward meals by 180 degrees.  I had to be willing to allow myself to waste food while doing this, because normally I will resist cooking at home under the auspices of not liking leftovers.

Step one here was a win-win because I challenged myself to cook food that created leftovers I can tolerate eating, like Italian food.  The bonus here was that I had a couple days of lunches afterward.

What I was most proud of with this first step was that I was eating friggin’ Italian food.  This isn’t something I would have entertained back in June after slipping back into my old food punishing ways of plain grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner.

And lunch.

I was making fun, carbolicious food that felt like a mother’s hug in my belly.

It was a treat, but still healthy-ish.

It wasn’t popcorn.

There were a few nights I’d steer myself away from eating take out for dinner and cook up some tasty red meat protein at home, not great for me…but good enough.  Yet on other nights, I’d order that pizza and then only allow myself one reasonably sized meal off of it.  No eating the entire thing in one sitting or breakfast pizza the day after.  Wasting food isn’t my favorite thing, but I needed to force some discipline into my diet while fending off a potential binge by making myself feel deprived.

If a few slices paid the price, so be it.

Ok, enough of my public diet shaming…it’s making me crave chips for dinner.

The other piece I needed to address was exercise.

I’d already gone butt-wild at the gym early this year and ended up reinjured for my troubles.  The healing break that caused in my gym goings came at a not awesome time:  right on the heels of my Capt Can’t work stress and subsequent medicinal regimen of booze and comfort food.

I think I put on 15 lbs in 30 days.

That also didn’t help with my healing – carrying around a bunch of extra weight.

So, coming off the bench, my mind was set on cardio to slim down versus focusing on those gay muscles.  A nice chest and arms is aesthetically pleasing, but I’d have to look pretty hard to find anything darker than a dotted line between my Fitfy Mission Statement and chesticles.

Complicating the matter, the cardio machines at 24hr Fitness tended to tweak my knee injury pretty easily.  This is something I wished to avoid.

Cycling, it was.

Sadly, I wasn’t getting home from work until around 5 each day, which made getting on the bike for a couple hours hard. Particularly when you factor in that I’d need to come home, shower, make dinner and hopefully be in bed by 8 for work the next day.

I was averaging one ride a week.

No bueno.

Fortunately for me, The Filipina Fox had just started her new spin instructor gig at RevoCycle, just a few blocks from my house.  She taught Tuesday and Thursday nights and encouraged me to use the first two free gymcentive – Chrisism – to try the gym out.

I was skeptical.  

I loved the results that spin produced as a workout, but these classes are in the $13-18 range.

Too rich for my broke ass and its paycheck to paycheck existence.  I’d already let my 24hr membership lapse in arrears, though, so in this particular moment, “free” was just inside my price range.

Of course, I loved the workout.

It was all the usual good stuff about a spin workout: intensity, intervals, instruction, motivation…but their equipment was unique, too!  Their bikes are free-wheel affairs, like a real bike versus the typical weighted wheel you usually find on spin bikes.  The free-wheel meant no added stress on my knee.

Being able to walk pain free the day after class:  priceless.

After my week of free classes was up, it was time for an overdue vacation and time with the fam.  I swear, I will get around to writing about it, but for now, just know that I spent plenty of time on my bike.  And, my parents being the awesome folks they are, they slipped their broke ass boy some walking around money before putting me on a plane.  I swear, this whole “walking around money” phenomenon that happens in my family before someone gets on a plane?  I’ve always been a little jealous when I’m not the one traveling. 

But, thanks to the parentals, I had a few shekels for some spin classes.

And that’s where I’ve been putting my exercise effort, 2-3 times per week.  It’s nice, most of the classes I take are 40 minutes of spin and 20 minutes of what they call body sculpt.  Basically, that’s a 20 minute barre class…which is just enough to finish kicking my ass.

It’s been a great few weeks – this is the last week of my pass, so someone start a GoFundFatty to raise money for my next pass!  I’ve dropped enough fluff to fit quasi-comfortably into my 33″ waist shorts.  That’s a nice benefit…one that doubles my shorts wardrobe, too!  I’m still closer to 200 lbs than I’d prefer to be, but I’m moving in the right direction and I also know that some of my weight loss is camouflaged by lean muscle gain as I begin to regain leg muscle that has eroded over the last year of poor exercise.

It’s nice to see some definition peeking out from the shorts I now fit into again.  I call those muscles my eighths but people who are not cursed with chicken legs would call them quads.

Best part?

The last month of exercise has been largely pain free!  Like I said earlier, I can walk without soreness the day after class. That’s a huge plus.

My one instance of suffering was not so much a result of my exertion in class as much as it was a side effect of my usual gracefulness.

I’d been pushing myself hard in this particular class.  It was my second of the week and I’d noted the drop off in performance compared to the first class of the week earlier in my month-o-spin and wanted to push through it.

Mostly, I succeeded.

Mostly.

We were doing climb intervals.  Slowly increasing resistance until you were forced out of the seat to finish the interval, then repeating the process – the climb, if you will – about three times during a song.

It was the second song, second climb.  I already felt like I’d left it all on the last climb, so I was struggling…but determined.

Once that second climb ended and the Filipina Fox gave us permission to return to the seat…I sat.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t just sit, I fucking sat.

Hard.

Right on poor little lefty, if you get my drift.

No idea what he was doing hanging out back there, but I’ll tell you this…I didn’t pedal right for the rest of the class.

Meh.  It’s ok, though…it’s not like I’m using those muscles anyway, so I guess it could have been worse.

Fitfy: 49.33

The Ongoing Saga of EOG

I am happy to report that this week has been a very successful return to a consistent exercise regimen.  Perhaps slightly excessive, but within reason.  Two days with Lifting/Cardio combinations.  Two days of Spin with the Filipina Fox at Muv, where she instructs, and one stand-alone Cardio sesh at 24.

Which is where this Early Onset Grumpiness tale begins.

I’ve just returned and had a little post-cardio cottage cheese.  Such a disgusting food, but such an easy source of protein.

Hush, Diezel.

Also, I stink.  But fear showering before putting my story down will result in another day of blog-silence.  After the social lovefest I received on Facebook yesterday…well, I just don’t want to be quiet today.

Also, Myrtle is keeping her distance versus trying her normal keyboard dance while I try and type.  I’m attributing that to my malodorousness.

I was heading out to run a couple of errand relative to the sale of my condo up in Seattle, so I was dressed in my basic bro tee-shirt and jeans attire with a backpack containing my gym clothes.  Now, there’s a story in and of itself that ends with me sending a six page fax to my realtor.

It was $12.45.

I handed over three $1 bills and got a puzzled look for my effort.

When the clerk re-iterated the total, I calmly replied with one of my grandfather’s chestnuts, “Jesus Christ!  I wanted to send a fax, not buy the whole place!”

She laughed and tried to tell me that long distance was expensive.  I countered with the fact that she was obviously right…cell phone carriers giving their long distance service away in unlimited quantities and all these days.

I don’t think she was as amused as I had intended.  Maybe she was.  Maybe I was a dick.

Naturally, once I arrived at the gym I realized that I had forgotten not only my earbuds but also my water bottle, I was primed for the milking that buying water at the gym is.  The picture below has the last bottle of water I bought at the gym, a 24 ounce bottle of water for $2.

Pretty crazy.

And obviously not worth it…since drinking it has not made me *smart* enough to remember to pack my damned water bottle for the gym in the first place.

 
The bottle on the right in the picture is the bottle I bought today after realizing that the gym has changed its water assortment since last week when I forgot last.  Yes, I know you aren’t really supposed to use water bottles like this over again.  I take reasonable precautions, though.  Like not expecting to live for freaking ever.

Back to the great Water Fiasco of 2016…it was $3.50 for 34 ounces.

Three goddamned fifty.  For water.  For real.

Of course, I didn’t want to trot out the same pilfered Chrisism twice in 20 minutes, so I couldn’t respond in the same manner that I had in the Fax Fiasco.  Instead, I glumly stated that “When I was a kid, this stuff was free!” which prompted what I suspect was a genuine giggle from the pretty young lady behind the counter.

At least my grumpy charm was back in working condition.

Seriously, though…Smart Water was $.08/ounce last time I bought it at the gym.  This Propel business – which I have never even heard of – is $.11/ounce.  Who do they think they are?!?

What I knew for sure was that I was definitely going to suffer through what this gym calls music while I worked out versus even looking at new earbuds.

They’d probably be $75.

Now, in other news…after the aforementioned Facebook lovefest last night, I really intended to get on the old laptop and polish up an old draft.  Somehow, I Hemingway-ed myself out of that with a nice bottle of red and some Netflix instead.  I don’t know how he did it.  But, apparently, my writing and creative proficiencies are not anywhere near Papa’s level yet, so this is what we get today.

On the upshot, my Friday night plans might have just washed out <gasp!>.  Maybe I will have some time this evening to Smith around some words.

What?  That was a legitimate gasp…my plans were with friends, not Biscuits.

The Ongoing Saga of EOG