Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My 5Ks, November/December 2010

I ran three 5K events in November and December of 2010. They were the first time I'd ever run since my weight loss, and they will be the last. Not that I hate running, or think its bad. But just as a person with my severe knocked knee condition should never have attempted these events, so a person with artificial knees shouldn't run. So while I consider myself as able to to anything, there are limitations I'm not going to challenge. Yes, I could walk the entire course, but that's a little not what a run is for. So while A Taste For The Woods celebrates what I can do, this post is going to be a memory of what I'm no longer capable of doing.

The passages between the rows of asterisks were written just prior to my first 5K, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Phoenixville, and immediately following the event.

Last time I ran was in high school. I attended a private school that had no more clue what to do with a bent, bookish, fat kid than anyone else. When I wasn't shunted off to the weight room by myself, unsupervised, because they thought I couldn't handle gym class, they tried to come up with other things for me to do. I ran a couple of times on the school grounds, and one time turned in a 14 minute mile. I was apparently such a wreck afterward the gym coach never had me do that again.

A quarter century later, I ran some short sprints as I lost weight, but nothing serious. First time was by accident - I was late for work and ran to my office. I was so excited I could run I started running in the hallways to show people I could do it. They asked me to stop running in the hallways.

I'm not properly built for sustained running. In addition to the excess weight, my left leg doesn't have a full extension, hence my limp. Both knees are knocked, and the right one has been dislocated twice. Still, I'd like to try this at least once, if only because five years ago I couldn't walk a city block, and my limitations are self-made.

While Sayre Kulp has been the guy pushing me to do this, if only because he wants to hold myself accountable to my words and not sell myself short, my interest was kindled by my friend Dan Lucas, editor of Chess Life, who is training for his first half-marathon. (Not all chess players are sedentary.) Dan's given me advice on running, and I'll see how much of it I can apply Saturday.

My big fear is that I'm going to beat up on myself regardless of the result. I'm expecting I'm going to have to walk much of the course this weekend. I considered taking on the shorter 1 mile "fun walk/run" simply because I thought I could spend a greater percentage of the time running, but I was argued down. "Don't sell yourself short" I was told. I'm still not entirely persuaded, but I'm going to attempt the longer distance.


Well, folks, I did it. I walked most of the course, but I completed the "Burn off The Bird" 5k in Phoenixville on November 27. My official time was 50:13, but that's highly suspect since they didn't have a clock up and no one had a stopwatch out aside from my friend Sayre. His time for me is about 55 minutes, and that's seems right.

Here's my reaction to learning that I finished in under an hour, which was my goal.


My second 5K was in Reading, part of the "Shiver By The River" series of winter running events. In the week between events I was on such a cloud of enthusiasm that I ignored all the danger signals I was experiencing.... the feeling like a stuffy headcold in the kneecap, hamstrings and tendons that were sore in ways I'd never known. Enthusiasm led me on, enthusiasm for both running and my participating in runs with Sayre. It felt good to be treated as a peer by someone I respected; I could never be in his class as a runner, but class wasn't important for either of us.

While we improved our times - if I recall correctly it was Sayre's first sub-30 5K - I was a wreck after. I look happy because I felt happy, but my body was screaming "no more!" Also, I'd lost nearly 20 pounds in the six weeks prior to Shiver By The River, putting me that much nearer to goal weight. So even as my knees ground as I walked and I took Ibuprofen by the handful I was bargaining, hoping that I'd recover enough function to run one more time..... and to avoid the knee replacement surgery I knew was coming.

I don't have any photos from my final 5K, held in Pottstown on a rainy Sunday in December. Sayre wasn't participating, I felt horrible, and I wound up walking the entire course. II was in constant pain by this point. I saw my doctor, and we began the process that put me on an operating table a year later.

I don't regret knee replacement. It gave me my life back. But damn, how I miss running.

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Weigh in, January 15, 2014

Finally the number on the scale is moving in the right direction. I'm down to 316 this week, a five pound drop from last week's shocking number. I credit paying closer attention to what I'm eating, and tracking, for the change. My exercise level was very low last week, and in addition to the continued tracking, I'll work to be more active as well. I have hikes scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, and possibly Sunday. Also, my friend Sayre is working up a gym routine for me.

I've decided on a short term goal of getting my weight below 300 pounds by the end of April. I think the 17 pound loss is doable in that time. Onward and downward!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bautieri! - Stony Creek Trail, Harrisburg, PA, October 2007

On rereading this nearly seven year old post I'm struck by how nervous I was meeting someone not like myself. Recovering super-obese people often have problems adjusting to life at a normal size, and its clear something that wouldn't have caused a moment's thought in a thinner person - meeting someone a generation younger than yourself - caused me stress. When a fat person gets struck as often as I was every handshake is viewed as a potential punch. Being me, I turned my fear into an essay. 

Seven years I'm still friends with Bautieri, and he's since married and become a father. And I'm a lot more comfortable around other people. 


"Crabbed age and youth
Cannot live together
Youth is full of pleasance,
Age is full of care;
Youth like summer morn,
Age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave,
Age like winter bare;
Youth is full of sport,
Age's breath is short;
Youth is nimble, age is lame;
Youth is hot and bold,
Age is weak and cold;
Youth is wild, and age is tame...."

I've had the pleasure of meeting many people online before I'd met them in person. And it's nearly always been a pleasure to meet someone with whom I've exchanged electronic correspondence. Certainly so in the case of cyclists.

But I had some concerns this morning as I drove out to Harrisburg to meet "Bautieri", a poster to Bike Forums. One was because this was going to be a ride on Excelsior, my Trek Navigator. Ex and I haven't ridden together in two months. Another worry was that the ride was to be on the Stony Creek Trail, which is considerably rockier than most trails I've traveled.

But my biggest doubt was about Bautieri himself. No, I didn't think him a nutcase, or dangerous in any way. From all I could determine beforehand, he seemed an intelligent, level-headed young man.

And the last two words explain the concern. Bautieri was a young man. Very young. As in 'young enough to be my son' young. See the picture alongside this posting to understand just how young Bautieri is. I'd graduated high school before he was born.

"What am I going to say to this guy?" I thought. "What are we going to talk about?" Was I going to bore him? Would I slip into "old man giving advice to young man" mode? Would he turn out to be as empty-headed as I find many young people to be?

As usual, I worry too much. Bautieri and I hit it off. We talked bikes and other topics for 23 miles, the years between us melting away. Yes, he's faster than me and a better cyclist, but I tried my best to keep up while bouncing from rock to rock. "Youth is nimble, age is lame...."

I did catch up with Bautieri at one point, but I wish I hadn't. My companion decided to ride over an enormous pile of stone on the side of the trail while waiting for me. As I passed him I turned my head to ask him to ride over it again, when I heard from behind the stone pile "I've taco'd my wheel." Fifteen minutes of adjustments and banging the rim with a rock put the wheel into ridable shape, but we turned around and went back to the trailhead as a precaution against further problems. Bautieri's bike is headed for the shop, not the trail, and so we headed back to my new friend's home for dinner.

Afterwards, as I drove home, I reflected on the day's ride. I had fun riding my bike, and that made me young at heart, I thought. Being young at heart, I could certainly ride with Bautieri again, and he seemed to want to ride with me in the future. In fact, I could ride with anyone. And nothing is less like crabbed age than that.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Weigh in, January 8, 2014

Not a good result, and not one I expected. I am up eight pounds, to 321. I could come up with excuses, but excuses are cheap. I'm clearly not active enough and I'm not tracking thoroughly. I've begun logging my eating again, and I've asked a lifting friend of mine to come up with a gym routine for me. I hope to be back to the gym by the end of the week, and the corrected eating should show some result on my weigh in in a couple of days.

With the idea that transparency will both help me and possibly some reader of A Taste For The Woods, I've added my complete weight history for the past decade to the sidebar on the right. I've also included it in the post below.  It's good to remind yourself that weight loss is never once and done. I'll be working to keep my weight under control for the rest of my life. I might as well show what I've done, as well as what I'm doing.

Although I've not included all data points, I think there's a clear pattern of my partial regain over the years, in that I tend to put on weight following an injury and then never lose it. August 2008 I was 260 following a nearly two month layoff due to a broken rib. In 2009 and 2010 my knees began to give out, and in 2012 I was operated on. In 2014, God willing, I should be healthy, and I want to reverse my gains.

January 8, 2014 - 321
December 25, 2013 - 313
December 13, 2013 - 313
September 1, 2013 - 306
January 1, 2013 - 343
March 1, 2012 - 325
January 8, 2011 - 279
December 1, 2010 - 285
October 15, 2010 - 296
May 30, 2009 - 285
August 30, 2008 - 260
March 1, 2008 - 255
October 1, 2007 - 255
August 1, 2007 - 242
July 17, 2007 - 243
July 2, 2007 - 245
June 23 2007 - 245
June 16, 2007 - 246
May 4, 2007 - 247
April 7, 2007 - 249
March 1, 2007 - 252
January 31, 2007 - 262
January 5, 2007 - 275
December 1, 2006 - 280
November 1, 2006 - 285
October 1, 2006- 290
September 1, 2006 - 297
August 1, 2006 - 300
July 1, 2006- 310
June 1, 2006 - 320
May 1, 2006 - 330
April 1, 2006 - 340
March 1, 2006 - 350
February 1, 2006- 360
January 3, 2006 - 385
2003 to December 2005 - 400 + pounds


2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show, Harrisburg, PA

I'd had a horrible week. Canceled plans due to the cold weather, a burst pipe flooding my living room, the heater going out, discovering I've added eight pounds over the holidays, and turning 48 put me in a bad mood. And being indoors drives me nuts anyway. So when a friend suggested a trip to the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Saturday, I jumped.

Continuing my theme of distress, I'd had only four hours of sleep and a queasy stomach when I met my friend at 9 AM for our carpool to Harrisburg. I hate driving in and around our state capitol, as the roads are a mess of interchanges and I invariably take the wrong one. I wasn't driving, so that wasn't a problem this trip. And despite the heavy rain and traffic, we were soon enough at the offsite parking lot and on the bus shuttle.

The Farm Show is the largest in the United States, drawing 585 thousand visitors last year over eight days. The show celebrates agriculture, which brings more than five billion dollars into Pennsylvania's economy. And while there are more than a thousand animals on display, there are a range of exhibits for all tastes.... including fans of butter sculpture, apparently.
 I enjoyed the show, but all the walking around and the heat eventually made me as tired as Passion the cow. I had to sit down for a few minutes and rest outside an overheated exhibition hall. Adding in some walking before and after I hoofed over three miles that day. I felt better after drinking some water and later having a "Mapleade" - lemonade sweetened with Pennsylvania maple syrup. For the record, mapleade is a very odd flavor - like lemonade but lacking the tartness of lemons.

 While the macro is what's celebrated at the Farm Show, its the micro I enjoyed - the small items, like the displays by young people, the terrariums, the model gardens... I could do without the crowds of people, the schlock vendors, and the endless booths selling 'heavy' food.... although had my stomach been more settled that morning I might have indulged in a trout sandwich or the deep fried cheese cubes.

My favorite exhibit at the farm show was the display of Fred Foster's dioramas of farming in in the 1950s. For the past dozen years Foster has exhibited his models at the Indiana County Fair, and this is the first time he's shown his models here. The bridge in the photo is modeled on the Trusel Bridge over Crooked Creek in Indiana County. The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic in 1990, and is the shortest of the county's four covered spans.

Despite some complaints and a bad week, I had a good time at the Farm Show. Its always nice to be with friends and meet new people. Even if the new person is a mushroom.


Heroic Tales - Bartram Trail, Hamburg PA, October 2010

Saturday morning I set out to ride the Bartram Trail section of the incomplete Schuylkill River Trail. I was still sore from a crash the weekend before, and didn't know how much riding I had in me, but I'd been off the bike for three days and I missed it. Also, the fall colors were calling me. So fortified by three Ibuprofen tablets, I headed an hour's drive north.

The plan had been to meet Sayre Kulp for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Hamburg at 10:00 AM for his post-race breakfast. I was running very late, and unfortunately Sayre's cell phone died on Friday. At 10:40 I was walking through the Cracker Barrel looking for my friend. As everyone stopped eating and stared at the sight of a fat man in Lycra, I scanned the faces in the crowd and didn't see my friend. So I left and went on to the trailhead at the desilting basin, and started down the trail. I thought I'd glimpsed Sayre's car at the trailhead and figured I'd see him on the trail at some point.

The Bartram Trail is the most scenic section by far on the Schuylkill River Trail. The two to three per cent grade climbs up along the rock face, looking down on an active rail line and the river, and across to Blue Mountain. The six miles completed here pass by two towns, but not through them, and currently ends at an abandoned bridge. I rode carefully but with vigor, walking through bollards as a precaution, and soon reached the end of the trail. I didn't see Sayre. I thought about asking other riders and walkers on the trail if they'd seen him, but become stuck on how to describe him. "It's not like he's big anymore," I thought. "He could be anyone here."

I met a group of riders at the trail's end and spent 20 minutes talking with them. After I'd convinced them they all needed to ride the Great Allegheny Passage - yes, I am predictable, aren't I? - we turned around and headed back. Not before they took my photo, however.

I hadn't gone a hundred feet before someone I knew pulled up.

After Sayre filled me in on his race, the problems he encountered and overcame, his winning a medal, and I congratulated him, we rode back down the trail. I didn't take photos on the way up, and now we stopped frequently to get shots. Sayre and I contemplated Blue Mountain:

We stopped at Port Clinton to admire the train station below. Sayre climbed down the Appalachian Trail steps while I observed from above.

As we rolled along our discussion turned thoughtful. My friend, as his recent thread about his 2011 goals shows, is still working through the fact that he's not 425 pounds anymore. To "turn away your former self" is a heroic tale; fortunately Sayre is up to the task.

Back at the trailhead Sayre borrowed my phone so he could call his ride. While we waited I let him ride Roark to get a feel for a Brooks saddle. He rode Roark like he stole him! I got my bike back, of course, and I might have just sold another saddle for Brooks. Then it was a quick trip down to the dam. The road was bumpy, but it was short and the drivers courteous. And the view was worth it.

We rode back to the trailhead, Sayre greeted his wife and loaded the bike on the rack, and they left. I still had a good bit of the day left, and with 14 some miles done I still had riding I could do. First I got food from a nearby gas station, and was rewarded when the clerk started flirting with me. She wasn't my type, and I was polite but cool. Still, in the parking lot, I thought "I'm a fat, sweaty, sloppy mess, and I'm not only awesome, but I still have "it."

I finished the day with a mile's walk in Port Clinton to see the train station Sayre had hiked down to, and then added another seven miles of riding into Hamburg, back down to the dam, and a mile back down the Bartram Trail to photograph a bridge. By now the bruised ribs were bothering me; I'd forgotten how much of the core muscles get used in riding. As the sunlight faded and my stomach began to bother me, I headed home.

I slept nearly 12 hours that night, and felt wiped out the next day. Obviously I overdid it, considering my injury.

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A Taste For The Woods: 2014-01-12

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A Taste For The Woods