Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What should we do?

I was reading Chris' post this morning over at The Chainring Report in which he talks about Earth Day and how he had planned to honor it, but changed his plans due to the weather.  he also mentions how his planting of food crops felt right.  It certainly got me thinking about Earth Day and our existence on this planet.

I know we are currently living in a way that is unsustainable long term.  Our decisions and lifestyles are such that we are spending our children's futures and this cannot continue. there was even a report published recently that says the main source of water for the Las Vegas valley, Lake Mead, will only last 22 more years. The continued drought and changing weather patterns are causing the main source of water for this city of more than 2 million people to dry up.

One of our main problems here in the USA is that we are a very car-centric culture and we live with the idea that we need cars to survive.  Long term this is going to be our demise.  We are already past what has been termed Peak Oil which means we are now experiencing declining petroleum availability.  This will increase prices and decrease our standard of living. Not only that but the exploration for and retrieval of petroleum is causing more and more environmental devastation. We've gotten most of the easy to get oil, now it becomes more and more difficult to get the remaining oil, like from tar sands, and the environmental impact is ever increasing.

Do I have a sure-fire quick solution to the issues?  Nope, unfortunately not.  Do I enjoy many of the benefits of relatively cheap petroleum in terms of being able to move about freely, enjoy A/C in the summer, Heat in the winter and water in the desert? Of course, but I also recognize that change is coming and we need to look hard at how we are using these precious, dwindling resources.

I have said before that if we had a better cycling infrastructure here in the valley, I would start cycling to work. Sure we have areas where they have embraced cycling by building interconnected bike paths and bike lanes, but unfortunately where I live in the valley there is no good route to get to where these exist. I have been driving one or more of my grand kids to or from school as well lately. I also sweat a LOT when I ride in warmer weather and have concerns about no shower facilities at work when I arrive. I need to look neat, clean and professional while in my cubicle and in front of employees. I realize there are solutions to these issues, but right now those are not acceptable alternatives.

One solution to the bike commute dilemma is to move closer to my work and take advantage of those areas that have cycling infrastructure. My issue there is that affordable houses in desirable areas with this infrastructure are hard to find. I am ever looking a the available housing options and may, one day, fond an acceptable alternative.

The other thing I look at is how we are generating power for our various electric and electronic devices, One resource we have in abundance here in the desert is sunlight and solar energy is a very viable player in power generation. There are a few smaller solar power plants which have recently come on line, but this only represents a small percentage of the total power picture. These are expensive to build and maintain and therefore are still not cost-effective when compared to fossil fuel generation options. One technology I love is called a Solar Updraft Tower or a Solar Chimney.  I've actually written a blog post here about it.

Its a passive system that harnesses the convective forces inside a greenhouse and chimney to produce electricity using wind turbines.  The one big drawback is the cost of construction, but once built the cost to maintain and operate the plant is minimal.

While I don't have many answers, I do believe change is needed and we have to be the instruments of that change or our children and our children's children will be paying the price for our current lifestyle. So on reflection we need to extend many of the ideals of Earth Day beyond just one day and make them a year round focus.

Eat Better.

Get on your bike and ride!

Save the earth!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Riding weather is here

Saturday was a sunny day, with highs around 82 degrees and almost no wind.  Not a bad day at all to get out on the bike.  So as I was sitting in the house thinking about riding, I got up, changed and headed out on my bike.  I thoroughly enjoyed my ride.  It wasn't far, only 8.3 miles, nor was it fast, but I got out there and I enjoyed it!

This morning I got out again before work.  The weather was again wonderful - temperature around 70 degrees, almost no wind.  I had my alarm set for 4:00 am as usual when I get out before work.  It went off and I didn't even hesitate, I got right up and started getting ready.  Shorts, jersey, socks and headed downstairs and grabbed my Garmin.  I have a Forerunner 305 which I've had for 3 1/2 years now.  I love it, but the last couple of times I've used it, I had to wait almost 5 minutes for it to acquire the satellites and be ready to go. I'm wondering if it might be time to start looking at a new device.

After getting a stick of gum, I headed out to the garage and put on my shoes.  I then topped off my tires.  It amazes me how the low volume of air, losses pressure so fast.  They were up to 84 psi on Saturday.  This morning I had to pump them up from about 72 psi.  Once I had them up to pressure, I grabbed my helmet and gloves, hit the opener and headed out to get ready to ride.  I started my Garmin, put on my gear, turned on my lights and waited for the Garmin to be ready.

And waited. And waited.  It was almost 6 minutes before the Garmin finally showed that it was ready to go.  I had debated just using my phone and Strava, DailyMile or MapMyRide to record the details of this morning's efforts, but decided to wait it out since i wanted to update all 3 sites with the data.

Yes, I am on all 3 sites, plus a fourth called Plus 3 where logging my rides earns money for charities.

Fortunately once it found the satellites, it performed flawlessly and recorded my ride.

The ride itself was uneventful.  I was feeling it a bit after 5 laps and had to push through to make the 8 I completed.  The interesting part was that it wasn't my legs so much that felt it, but my arms and hands.  I guess I'm just not used to riding as much as I should be.  That will change as I am riding the next 3 mornings as well as at least one day over the weekend.  I plan to repeat the morning rides next week in preparation for the Tour De Cure on May 3rd.

I hope the weather is improving in your area and that you were able to get out and ride as well.

Remember, eat better and get on your bike and ride!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A good weekend of competition

This was a good weekend for 2 teams I am captain of in the Las Vegas Corporate Challenge.  Our Tug O War team took 3rd place, winning bronze medals and our Laser Tag team tied for 2nd which won us Silver.  I am so proud of my teammates and all the work they did to achieve these results!

I wish I was in a better position to pull for the tug o war but replacing myself as a puller with 2 strong people worked well.

It was a double elimination tournament.  We won our first pull, lost our second, won the third and fourth, but lost the 5th.  The only 2 teams to beat us were the 2 teams in the finals for the top 2 spots so it all worked out.

Sunday at Laser tag we were in the arena with 5 other teams for 2 games.  We dominated the 2 games to be among the top 6 teams overall who advanced into the finals.  The finals were a tough game against the other top teams.  we held our own and ended up tied with the another team, team NNSS for second place.  The winners were team Zappos.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Strava and KOM's

Chris Chainring over at From the Pavement's Edge wrote a couple of posts recently that talk about Strava and King of the Mountain honors.  Bike Noob has also recently become a Strava convert as he mentions here.  Both of these got me thinking about the whole idea of an application that tracks various segments of roads and trails and allows riders to measure their riding of these segments not only against themselves but against others who have ridden and tracked their cycling along the same segments.

Previously I've mentioned looking for local segments and riding them just to see how I could do against other riders.  In this post I talk about a quick ride and looking for local segments. I'm not obsessed with the segments, primarily because I know I am not fast, but it is fun to compare myself to others and watch my progress as I set new PRs (Personal Records) on the various segments as my cycling ability improves.

One thing that annoyed me, however, was that some other local cyclist seemed to be segment hunting to see if they could achieve KOMs (King Of The Mountain) on those segments.  I had created a personal segment which I had unfortunately made public. My purpose for this was simply to measure my own progress by letting Strava tell me when I had improved on my previous best time.  All was well and good until these faster cyclists saw it and decided to do their thing, completely destroying my time!  Here is the current leaderboard from that segment:

As you can see, Joe Lindner was the first to beat my time back in 2012, then a year ago Jason and Terra apparently rode the segment together cementing their KOM and QOM titles.  Quite a difference between what they did and what I did, but the important thing is that my PR on 8/1/13 is over 2 mph faster than my first try after creating the segment back in April of 2012.  Progress has been made.  My goal is to increase my PR on this segment this year by at least 1 mph.  We'll see if I can do it.

This is what Strava is for, measuring oneself against previous accomplishments and against others. The key is to not get obsessed with the numbers and comparisons to the point where the riding is work and no longer fun.  Its the fun that keeps me riding and really nothing else.

Eat well and Get On Your Bike And Ride!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It helps to do the right things

I had a pretty good, active weekend.  My weight doesn't show it though because I ate some of the wrong foods and not in moderation.  I wasn't extreme by any means, but I didn't stick to my limits. In the activity department, I walked a bunch, rode my bike twice, played some Laser Tag which was a blast and didn't sit as much as usual.

The problem is my weight is up today and significantly and I can only attribute that to what I ate.  I need to re-evaluate my eating plan and make adjustments.

I am increasing my physical activity leading up to the Tour De Cure on May 3rd.  I got in a couple of rides over the weekend and am increasing my distance and duration.  I'm also walking more at work to help with the weight loss.  I have a couple of competitions coming up this weekend, the Tug O War and Laser Tag.  I am going to be leading my team, but not pulling at the tug o war due to some back strain.  I will be participating in the Laser Tag competition, though.  Both of these will help increase my physical activity levels.

Salty foods seem to be the culprit in the large weight gain over the last week. Some Sushi with soy sauce, Chinese Curry Chicken, pepperoni, bacon and pizza all were on the menu over the weekend.  This will stop.. Back to healthy salads, fruits and veggies.  Back to oatmeal for breakfast and not bacon and eggs or processed meat breakfast sandwiches.  My sodium intake was much too high.

There has been some added stress lately as well and that is always an inhibiting factor when you are trying to lose weight.  Changes are occurring at home with our daughter and grand-kids moving back in so there needs to be some adjustment time as well.  I know I am a stress eater on top of stress hormones blocking weight loss. This will change as the routines are worked out.  I love having them at home, but there is always a period of adjustment.

So, eat well and get on your bikes and ride!

I just have to follow my own advice. :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Prank - NOT!

I had considered writing a post in honor of the April Fool's Day prank tradition that other bloggers have followed but I find I'm just not that clever or witty.  I can't come up with something that is believable enough so as to not be a transparent ruse. With that in mind I offer a link to Fatty's post for today which is well done.  He has a tradition of these posts going back several years.

With that said I want to talk about my lack of motivation for riding of late and my upcoming Tour De Cure.  I have been slacking in my preparation and this is unacceptable to me.  There is a general lack of motivation at the moment and I fear part of it is the fact that I have very little support for my ride in terms of donations.  In fact, besides myself I have had only one other person make a donation.

I will do the ride.  In fact I will make a pledge that if I do not finish the 20 miles ride on May 3rd, I will personally match any donations made.  I was going to honor a money back guarantee, but the logistics would be a nightmare.  This is a better option as it will force me to put my money where my mouth is for this worthy cause.

Please help me to get motivated and support my training efforts by making a donation here.

I think you and the American Diabetes Association thanks you.

Get on your bikes and ride!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Track And Field Competition

Saturday was the day.  It was the track and field competition for the Corporate Challenge her e in Las Vegas.  I was signed up for several events and was determined to earn some points for our team as we tried to win an overall medal. I did what I could but not as well as I had hoped.

To get ready I actually went out with my Grandson's on Friday evening to throw the softball around and try to work on my form.  I knew that if I could get the ball up more, I could greatly increase my distance.  We headed out to a local park and found an open ball field.  I started at the pitcher's mound, throwing at the backstop.  The first few throws were line drives that hit the plate then went crashing into the backstop.  They were great if I was throwing out a runner sliding into home, but horrible for distance throwing.

I took my time on the next throw, not throwing as hard, but concentrated on getting the ball up.  Marked improvement.  A few more throws and I was hitting the back stop about 4 or 5 feet in the air.  Now, I only had 4 balls to work with so after every 4 throws the grandsons were playing ball retrievers and then taking their turns to throw.  At 6 and 8 years old they were getting pretty good.

I then decided to move out to second base, again throwing towards the plate.  The first throw from here I was back to a line drive because I was throwing too hard.  It barely made the plate.  The next couple of throws I eased off and got good altitude on the throws and eventually hit the backstop about 3 feet up.  At this point my shoulder was getting sore so I knew better than to keep throwing with the competition the next day.  I felt I was ready.

Saturday morning we were up early and out for a decent breakfast before the event.  I had the ham bacon, sausage and cheddar omelet.  It was good and I was ready to go.  We had the 2 youngest Grandsons with us again and headed to Rancho High School, the site of the competition.  I was amazed at how many people were there.

Now, I was never an athlete in high school so I never went to any of our athletic competitions. I had no idea what to expect.  It was impressive to me how they were able to handle so many athletes in so many events and keep it all straight.  There was an army of volunteers doing everything from check in to measuring and officiating on the various events.

There were 3 divisions of companies competing in each of 7 events - 4 running, the softball throw, the shot put and the long jump.  Fortunately for me the Division A softball throw was one of the first events and the shot put one of the second..  After checking in at the registration table, I met up with several of my team mates and we started reviewing where we were at and organizing ourselves for the competition.  I found out that the Captains had actually signed me up for 4 events just in case I could compete.  Besides the Softball Throw and Shot put I was listed for the Long Jump and the 100 yard dash.

There was no way I was doing either of those events, but it was nice to have the option.  I had actually toyed with the idea of trying the long jump but thought better of it once I saw them competing.

I had brought the softballs and did a few warm up throws with the grandsons to keep them occupied and to loosen up a bit. We then headed up to the grandstands to wait.

At 8:00 they called the teams to line up for the first events.  I didn't realize how many people would be competing in the Division A softball throw.  Fortunately some teammates got in line not too far back and were holding our place.  I sat with my wife and the grandsons for a bit watching some of the competitors. There were a few who really launched the ball.  It was very impressive.

After the first few throwers I got in line with my teams and it was a bunch of standing and waiting.  The line was moving quite slowly.  I felt my calves and back tightening up and knew i should go sit down for a bit.  I can't stand just standing and waiting.  I headed back to the stands to watch some more just as they were calling the first of the running events - the women's 1600 meter.  I thought it was interesting that we were doing the softball throw in the center of the track while they were running races on the track.  It made getting to and from the events a bit tricky if you weren't watching what was going on on the track.

After about 10 minutes I headed back to the line with my team, bringing one of the softballs with me.  I figured a few throws to warm up while waiting would help to pass the time and keep my back from getting too tight.  We threw about 20 balls back and forth and I got back in line.  I was fairly loose and ready.  10 minutes later our team started their throws.  We were doing pretty good it seemed, but we really had no idea where we were in relation to other throwers in our age group.

It was finally my turn and I got to the table, showed my id and got ready to throw.  I hoped i could get a decent loft on the ball and not throw it in the dirt.  I should have been focusing on what I should do and not what I shouldn't as I threw pretty much a line drive for my first throw.  I was kicking myself as I knew it wasn't very long.  I tried to regroup for the second throw.  I did get a bit more loft but it was still fairly short.  My official distance was 74' 9".  I did what I could do for the day. I would have liked more distance, but it is what it is.

As I walked off the field Nick and Dillon said 'Good job grandpa.  You did your best."  I was feeling distinctly better having heard that.  We decided to head towards the shot put which was away from the track over by the soccer field.  As we headed that way it seemed like we were heading the wrong way so we headed back towards the stands and had a seat for a couple of minutes to rest my back.  As we were sitting we heard another competitor inquire how to get to the shot put and confirmed we had been heading in the right direction.

We headed toward the shot put about 9:15 and were waiting as the C division athletes were finishing their throws.  They were doing pretty well.  There had been a lady following us over towards the shot put and come to find out she was a C division competitor.  I overheard her checking in at the event and she is 70 years old.  I was impressed that she was even attempting the shot put.  She did her 3 attempts and ended up with a 13' 9" as her best.  I complimented her on how well she did and she commented that in college she had done 22'.  I was still impressed that she was able to do what she did at her age.

They finished up any C athletes that were around and closed the C competition at 9:30.  They took a couple of minutes to get organized and then started the A division 20 minutes early.  Fortunately I was second in line when they started.

When it was my turn I got to the circle and got ready to compete.  Not having measured our distances last week, I had no idea how far it was going to go.  I tried to concentrate on form for the first attempt and it seemed to go pretty well, but I knew I hadn't gotten the proper elevation.  On my second attempt I did manage to get it higher, but my follow through wasn't there.  It did go further than the first, though.  I decided to put everything I had into my third attempt and it was the farthest of the 3 but I knew it could have been better.  I ended up with a distance of 23' 9" which I thought was pretty good.

I had a good cheering section and Michele and the boys were cheering me on with each throw and the volunteers said I had the best cheering section for the day.  Thanks Michele Dillon and Nicholas!

Of course being second up for the entire division I had no idea how anyone else in my age group had done.  I was tired.  We were hot as it was a nice sunny day.  The boys were complaining they were hot, my back was getting very tight and I needed to sit down and enjoy some A/C so we headed on out not knowing how I had done in my events nor how we were doing as a company.

As of this morning they haven't posted the results online.  When they do, I will update this post.

UPDATE:  Results have been posted and I placed 5th of 5 in both events.  I'm happy with that.  I earned points for our team and helped us to take 3rd 2nd place overall! (There was a missing score on the worksheet)  Yay team!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Weight loss and dieting

So, since the first of the year I have been mainly trying to count my calories and basically eat healthier than I had been.  I've been trying to also increase my weekly step count which means an increase in my daily physical activity. I've been using MyFitnessPal ( to track my food intake and my FitBit ( to track my daily steps.  This combination has been working as I have gone from 470 lbs on January 1st to 429 lbs on 2/28. Now the majority of this loss was the fluids from when I was in the hospital.

Unfortunately as I got into March, I wasn't quite as disciplined as I should be and the Biggest Winner competition, part of the Corporate Challenge 2014 appeared.  Because I wanted to do my best in the competition, I was a bit liberal with the food and drink leading up to the initial weigh in on March 4th. My starting weight per the official scale was 440 lbs as detailed here. Since then I've lost some weight, but the results have not been as good as I would like seeing as this is a competition.

With that in mind, I have changed my eating.  Instead of simply limiting my caloric intake to 2000 calories per day, I have changed my diet back to a low carb one.  I started this only 4 days ago and I am already seeing very nice results.  I made this decision because this is a weight loss competition.  Am I going to eat like this for the long term, probably not.  I enjoy too many fruits and vegetables which are high in carbohydrates.

This is a short term adjustment to push for rapid weight loss. I know this is not a permanent change and once the competition is over, I will go back to a slow and steady, sustainable eating plan, but for now I am doing what I can in order to lose weight quickly.

Saturday is the track and field competition and I hope to do well in the softball throw and shot put but we will have to see.

The other thing I really need to do is to get on my bike and ride!!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Technique is important

On Saturday we had a practice session for the upcoming track and field event I signed up for as part of this year's Corporate Challenge.  We are lucky to have someone who has many years of shot put under his belt and is a patient teacher - Thanks Luke!.  4 of us met at a local park which actually had a ring and toe block so we could learn a little something about how to put the shot.

In my mind I figured - "no problem!"  I'm a big guy so I should be able to do this.  No big deal.  Well, this is where the mind outstrips the body's abilities.  Luke showed up proper form and in my mind I was doing it exactly as he was, but obviously that wasn't the case.  My throws were much shorter and I just couldn't get any rotation to go with the throw.  After about 30 throws I realized that with all of the time it was taking I wasn't improving much, if any plus my shoulder was starting to feel it.

At that point I stopped practicing as I realized the amount of time available between now and Saturday was insufficient for any real improvement.  How far did I throw?  I don't know as we didn't have a tape measure there.  If I had to guess I would say in the 20 to 24 ft range.  I hope to do better on Saturday, but not holding my breath.

What was really bad was attempting to throw the softball after the shot put.  I was terribly uncoordinated.  I was throwing line drives and sinkers like I was throwing out a runner sliding in to home plate as opposed to getting loft on the ball for distance.  The softball was too light after the shot put.  I was expecting more resistance and just couldn't get it right.  Add to that my back was tightening up and after 10 throws I was done.

The good news is that the softball throw is first on Saturday so I am going lighter to heavier and I hope that will improve the situation. I have to focus on form and technique and worry a bit less about power.

So I am practicing the motions without the shot - Elbow up, thumb down.  Shot tight to the face.  Use the opposite arm to pull your through to open up and then push the shot up and out with a finish flick of the fingers. Reset. Repeat.  I have no idea if this will help but figure it can't hurt.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My 200th Post

I realized this morning as I was looking at the blog that I had written 199 posts since I started the blog almost 4 years ago.  For some 200 posts is no big deal, but I actually find it a bit amazing that I've found enough things to write about that I've written that many posts.  I like to try and keep things interesting here by not posting the same things over and over again.  Sure I could post daily about what I ate, how many steps I've taken, how far I've ridden and daily weigh ins, but I want this blog to be more than that.

I want to highlight the more human side of what I'm doing and since I have a relatively quiet life and have periods where very little exciting is happening, I tend to not write for a while.  Today, though I'd like to reflect on what I've done and been through over the last 199 posts.

I've ridden in various bicycle related events from the Viva Bike Vegas to the Tour De Cure to the Bike:MS Vegas Challenge and even a Corporate Challenge race.  Heck, I've even completed the Pumpkinman Sprint Triathlon.  Beyond that I've eaten right and lost weight only to fall off the wagon and gain it all back several times.  I've explored various tools for watching and tracking both my weight and calories, I have a Strava account as well as post all my rides to Daily Mile.

I have found friends through this medium of the Weblog and I appreciate all of you.  Thank all of you for reading, it does mean a lot to me to know you are out there even if you aren't commenting!

I am planning on continuing to share my adventures and I may give a bit more of the mundane details as I successfully conquer my weight and make a permanent lifestyle change.

Get on you bikes and RIDE!!!!!