Fit, fast, and falling apart at the seams

December 8, 2012 § 16 Comments

This past year a number of fit, fast older cyclists here in Southern California have keeled over with various heart and cardiovascular ailments. The ones I know have survived. I’m sure that if they hadn’t been active cyclists, the illnesses would have been fatal.

We often treat cycling like it’s some kind of magic bullet against disease. It isn’t.

What cycling does, unfortunately, is mask some aspects of ill health by allowing us to engage in intense athletic activity. When we do the hard workout or finish the hard race, we imagine that we’re healthy. Sometimes, we aren’t.

The longest-lived people in the world, the Japanese, didn’t get that designation due to being competitive cyclists. They’re older than anyone else because of what they eat.

Every time I hear some cyclist proudly crow that “Cycling allows me to eat whatever I want,” I silently reply “No, it doesn’t.”

You can’t argue with the health benefits

I’ve met so many people who went from being a physical shambles to being in great health simply through cycling. A guy I used to be friends with in Japan, an undertaker, had high blood pressure, was about to go on beta-blockers, was at least eighty pounds overweight, had all kinds of joint pains, and looked about twenty years older than his real age of 40.

After one month of easy bicycling along the Tagawa bike path his blood pressure plunged to normal. After two months he’d dropped forty pounds. Once he upped the mileage and got “into” cycling he lost the remaining forty, shed an additional ten or fifteen, and became stronger and fitter than  he’d been since his football-playing days in high school.

While commuting home two weeks ago I ran into an older guy, mid-50’s, who’d also been told to drop fifty and get on blood pressure meds. Instead he started riding, and six months later, same thing: No need for medication, all the excess gone, and he was fit enough to do a daily climb up Via del Monte and a loop around the Hill after work.

Stories like this are so commonplace that they hardly bear repeating, as the pattern is the same. Person is fat and has high bp. Person takes up cycling. Person is transformed.

Cycling as an apology for bad habits

What we talk about less, especially among ourselves, is the other trajectory, the fit and fast cyclists whose lifestyles are posters for bad habits, but who, thanks to decades of hard athletic endeavor, can tolerate the abuse and still perform on the bike. They’re our friends, our acquaintances, our teammates.

Often as not, they’re shedding us from the group or breaking our legs, so who are we to criticize them?

What they also are is getting older, and no matter how tough or how able to tolerate the abuse, every human body has a limit where the booze or the grease or the big belly start to claim their due.  What I’ve seen this past year, and what I expect will become more commonplace as we age, is the “surprising” onset of heart disease among fit cyclists. It’s heart disease that would have or should have gotten underway lots earlier, and perhaps it did, but cycling somehow masked it or allowed the body to continue performing even as the illness progressed.

All this talk about health has made me hungry.

Pass the Hag bars, would you?

Every cyclist’s (twisted) dream

November 30, 2012 § 41 Comments

“How would I ride if I lost 25 pounds?”

Every cyclist has wondered what it would be like to shed massive weight and dramatically reduce body fat over the course of a few weeks.

“Would I climb that much better?”

“Would it make me that much faster?”

“Would it be worth it?”

“Is it even possible?”

“Why am I so fucked up?”


Wankmeister drinks the Kook-Aid so you don’t have to

There is a long story about how I fell into the black pit of the Hunger Diet, but it’s not worth telling other than to say that a big belly and some unflattering race day photography led me my current folly.

At first it was simply to reduce the belly roll’s jelly roll. Gradually the diet took on a darker, more morbid aspect, as it became dieting for the sake of dieting. Having numerous educated, experienced people caution me against my methods only spurred me on.

At 146 pounds I’ve almost reached my “goal,” not that I ever had one. My beginning weight was 167-170; guesstimated body fat was 25%. I’m now down to 12.2%, maybe 11%.

At 6 feet, 1/8 inch, this has been a dramatic loss of weight in a mere seventeen weeks. If you’re considering something similar, I can’t advise you either way, except to say that only the somewhat unhinged have even a remote chance of “success” if you define success as being profoundly unhappy and lethargic. Likewise, I can’t say how this will affect your cycling, though I can say how it has affected mine.


The bulk of the Hunger Diet consists in being hungry. Not, “Hey, honey, I’m hungry. Let’s grab a bite, ok?” but more like “I will fucking kill anyone who obstructs me from licking these three tiny pieces of dried oatmeal stuck to the pan.”

It is like doing the hardest interval of your life, and each time you look up someone screams in your ear, “You’ve got another hour to go or we will tear your nuts off!”

This interval of hell continues as long as the diet continues, except for brief rest periods called “eating.” As soon as the eating stops, however, the hunger interval picks up where it left off. So it will suck to be you.

This type of diet can’t be healthy. I don’t know how it’s unhealthy, exactly, but you can look at my food log where I’ve blogged my daily eating plans and decide for yourself which aspects of my physiology I’m wrecking forever.

Aside from being an unpleasant and unhealthy experience, people will treat you like you are a total pariah, even more than they already do, I mean. As a cyclist you’re ten times trimmer and fitter than the other slugs in your office, and they secretly envy you and may even openly make fun of you when you prance around in your tighties.

Once you let them know you’re on the Hunger Diet, and you actually put a digital food scale in the lunchroom to weigh your raisins, they will fear you and hate you and despise you and envy you, all at the same time, occasionally accompanied by a public beating. Their feelings will manifest themselves in countless disparaging comments.

“You don’t need to go on a diet! You’re too skinny already!”

“Being too thin is very, very unhealthy!”

“You’re anorexic!”

“You’re going to lose all your muscle, which is metabolically active!”

“You look like a cadaver.”

“I like my [men/women] with meat on their bones.”

“Is that your lunch? I could NEVER eat that.”

“I hate [tofu/canned tuna/yogurt/fruit/nuts/anything that’s not soaked in lard and deep fried]. How can you stand to eat that?”

“Life’s too short to diet.”

“You’ll gain it all back.”

“How’d you like some of THIS?” [Holds a chocolate Hag bar in front of your nose, makes disgusting smacking sound.]

“It ruins the pleasure of food to count the calories in it.”

“Science doesn’t have all the answers.”

“You work out too much as it is.”

“It’s important to eat some fat.”

The list of demeaning and unsupportive comments is endless and can’t be combated. Just agree with them and keep methodically weighing out the raisins. Perhaps you can toss in the odd comment about the fact that there are 5.71 calories per gram of potato chip. You can’t refute them, though, as they’re pretty much right.

Massive weight loss and cycling

When you’re racing you can’t lose lots of weight because you won’t be able to race. When you’re training you can’t lose lots of weight because you won’t be able to train.

Slow and gradual is the ticket, but is impossible for one reason: You’re a fucking cyclist and you don’t want to do anything gradually.

But here’s what I’ve found. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that I’m…lighter. Even going slow, or bonked, or completely flailing off the back there’s no sense of sluggishness. My legs turn around a thousand times easier, it seems. If this is what PED’s feel like, no wonder people take them.

I’m not any faster or stronger, at least according to the Strava times of the routes I normally ride. On the other hand, I’m completely focused on losing weight rather than putting in big efforts, so it’s possible that I will ride faster if I’m able to build power and endurance at this new weight. It’s also possible that I’ll become a unicorn.

Although I am slower and weaker, it’s balanced by having lost all endurance such that I want to get off my bike and sob after about thirty minutes into any ride, regardless of intensity. So there’s that.

With regard to vanished endurance, when your body is in constant shrinkage mode, all of the reserves are gone. You know that funny burst of power and euphoria that comes right before a massive bonk? I get them all the time now…along with the bonking. In the chubby days, bonks used to send a pre-bonk notification via a well-dressed, manicured, clean-cut bonded messenger. “Excuse me, Mr. Davidson, our blood sugar center has indicated that recent withdrawals have exceeded deposits, and barring a reasonable infusion of sugary glop in the very near future, the bonk that has been shipped out will be arriving in approximately ten minutes.”

Now it’s a little bit different. The delivery dude hasn’t shaved in two weeks, is covered with “FUK U AND DYE” tattoos, and just barges in without even ringing. “Yo, fucker. Bonk here. Enjoy.” Then wham, just like that, he dumps the bastard on every muscle in my body and the whole thing grinds to a halt, immediately.

The plus side to riding while completely bonked is that it forces your body to consume gristle, bone, heart fiber, internal organs, and brain matter, which further reduces weight and impairs your ability to force yourself to stop losing weight. So you can put another big tick in the “plus” column.

As quickly and viciously and unexpectedly as the bonking happens, recovery is ten times quicker than it used to be. This is the one thing I didn’t expect and that I truly love. Recovery. No matter how hard I go or how deeply I bonk, I am completely recovered in minutes. “Recovered” as in “ready to go again at 100 percent.”

In the old days there would be a hard effort followed by a big message posted over the windows, which had been boarded up with enormous cedar timbers: “Closed for business until further notice.”

Further notice was usually Thursday of the following month.

Now, on the Hunger Diet, it’s like you’ve got a team of professional fluffers at the ready the second you infuse sugar or get off your bike for an hour or two. “2000-watt effort? Oh, noes! Don’t worry! Come on, boys…fluff!” Then there you are hard as porcelain and ready to go again. I’m talking about cycling, by the way. The other area in which hardness is so important, what with all the starvation and deprivation is, ah, shall we say, sadly under-performing.

More incredibly, on days where I do the NPR and then have to commute home at night, I used to be a dead man pedaling during the end-of-day struggle up the Hill. No more. The morning beatdown, no matter how vicious, leaves no imprint on my legs by five or six in the evening.

This feeling alone has made the whole ordeal worthwhile, that and the sensation of turning weightless legs. My cycling hasn’t improved in a competitive or performance sense, but it is worlds easier as an activity. No idea why this is so, but for me it is.

Postscript (Or: Why the experts are experts)

Yesterday I awoke with a new low of 145.5 and a massive stomach ache but nevertheless went on a fool’s errand. It was raining and cold and the NPR was going off on schedule, so I dutifully rode over to the 6:40 AM start at Manhattan Beach Pier to see how my new wonder weight would fare under the pressure of a full-on effort.

It fared worse than badly.

I stopped at the end of the alleyway to take off some gear and would have never caught back on had Jonathan Paris not waited for me. The group was driven by Stathis the Wily Greek, and without ever taking a pull I thought my legs were going to fall off. That effort alone, on a flat stretch of road sitting on a wheel, was all I could muster.

It went downhill from there.

The entire ride was an exercise in no power, no endurance, constant muscular pain, and a stomach cramp worse than any menstrual period I’ve ever had. Frozen and shattered at ride’s end I sat in the Kettle Restaurant back at the Center of the Known Universe and tried to atone for my sins with a massive breakfast of grease, huevos rancheros, grease, beans, and potatoes topped with grease.

This wise dietary choice got me as far as the office, where I showered, changed, and drove home, doubled over in pain. Six hours of sleep, and constant food throughout the day revived me (somewhat) so that I was able to drive back to the office, do some work, and ride back home in the rain in time for dinner, where I ate more food, completely abandoning all pretense of diet.

I went to bed at 7:30 and awoke at the point of 4:00 AM today, ravenous. Morning weigh-in confirmed the damage…149 pounds, a 3.5 gain in 24 hours.

The motivation to return to the Hunger Diet hasn’t abated one whit, though. One carefully measured 1/4 cup of oatmeal and some raisins later, and I’m raring to hit the gym and convert more of those brain, heart, and liver cells into muscle.

My only advice to you, though? Don’t.

Diet misery Q&A

November 18, 2012 § 42 Comments

I’ve been getting lots of questions about the New De-improved Wankmeister Diet. Answers below.

Q: Why are you doing this? Is it a test or a goal?
A:  I don’t know. Yes. Or no.

Q: What is the scientific basis for your approach?
A: Physics. Output > Input results in weight loss.

Q: Duh. I mean the health aspects. What scientific health principles have you based this on?
A: There are none. Except for my friends telling me I’m crazy.

Q: How much do you weigh right now?
A: This very moment? 151 lbs/68.492 kg

Q: How tall are you?
A: 72 1/8″, 183.2 cm

Q: What is your weight goal?
A: 145 lbs/65.770 kg

Q: That’s insane, isn’t it?
A: Perhaps. Today’s post-ride weigh in was 146.5 lbs, but that was mostly dehydration as I’d forgotten to take a water bottle and the ride lasted over five hours.

Q: You really are weird, aren’t you? And stupid?
A: Apparently.

Q: You earlier claimed to be doing this on coffee, starvation, and willpower. I call bullshit. You’re not still claiming that, are you?
A: The first phase was pretty much that, going down from the 168-170 range to the mid-150’s. Now I’ve devolved into more careful planning.

Q: Why?
A: The first 10-15 pounds were horrible, but easy, as they involved cutting out the obvious stuff. There is no more obvious stuff. And not much stuff either, for that matter.

Q: What “obvious” stuff?
A: Coffee went from heavy cream to whole milk to 2% to nonfat to black.

Q: Sugar. What about sugar?
A: Not a sugar-in-my-coffee kind of guy.

Q: What other “obvious” stuff?
A: Third and fourth helpings. Massive greasy gut-bomb dinners like Mrs. WM’s Famous Fried Chicken Strips, Mrs. WM’s Lazy Tonight Frozen Gyoza, Mrs. WM’s Gutbomb Chicken Curry and Rice by the Kg, Mrs. WM’s Extra Oily Salad Dressing Ladled on with a Shovel, Mrs. WM’s Heavenlicious Meat Sauce Made with Pure Yummy Fat Calories, and of course Mrs. WM’s Honey I Bought a New Prius-load of Hag Bars and Ghana Chocolate How Many Dozen Would You Like to Eat Right this Minute?

Q: Blaming it all on Mrs. WM, eh?
A: No. Taking charge of my meals. There’s a difference. And that stuff was pretty obvious. You asked about obvious, remember?

Q: Okay, okay. So what did you replace all that with?
A: Gnawing hunger.

Q: I mean food.
A: I started eating breakfast. Daily. To be more accurate, I’ve become so hungry that I will kill anyone who tries to prevent me from eating breakfast. I wake up three or four times a night now to see if it’s time to get up and eat breakfast.

Q: So in addition to destroying your health from a nutrition vector, you’ve wrecked it from a sleep/recovery angle as well?
A: Yes. However, I awake each morning at 4:30 AM so alert, hungry, keen, and poised to attack the day that, paradoxically, I have more power and mental energy than I’ve ever had in my life.

Q: Now we’re talking. So it’s translating into power on the bike?
A: No. I’ve lost speed, power, endurance, and acceleration.

A: But I’ve gained incredible recovery and lightness on the bike. I recover instantaneously. No matter how long the grade my legs feel light and they turn over the pedals effortlessly.

Q: So what if you’re dropped and going at a snail’s pace?
A: This isn’t a Bike Racing Improvement Diet. I’ve sucked at bike racing for thirty years. That won’t change with a different calorie allocation.

Q: Now that you’ve cut out the lard sandwiches, what do you eat?
A: Before I figure out what I’m going to eat, I figure out what I’m going to burn.

Q: Huh?
A: Lots of diets focus on intake, which is necessary. But they don’t also focus on consumption, especially consumption that swings wildly from day to day. On the NPR I burn 1,500-1,800 calories in the morning, and another 500-800 on the commute home at night. Tack that onto my basic caloric consumption of 1,585 calories and you have a potential 4,000+ day. Contrast that with Friday, when I don’t ride at all and spend two hours max in the gym, using at most 500-700 calories. Without a crystal clear picture the night before of what my burn is going to be, I can’t make a food plan for the following day.

Q: Oh, my Dog. You’ve gone off the deep end.
A: Really?

Q: Absolutely. What you’re saying is you not only count calories, but you micromanage them daily. I’m assuming that means meal by meal?
A: Yes.

Q: Sounds like you’ve taken all the fun out of life.
A: Not all of it. Just most of it. Especially when “fun” means gorging, regretting, and hurting like a dog while riding.

Q: Okay. So the positives are waking up four times nightly, getting up for breakfast at 4:30 AM, and having to memorize calories per gram for every food item in the pantry. What are the down sides?
A: Mood swings. Or rather mood swing.

Q: What’s that?
A: I now live in two states. The state of eating and the state of hunger.

Q: How’s your sex drive?
A: It drove away.

Q: I suppose that’s another “positive?”
A: You’ll have to consult with Mrs. WM on that.

Q: Do you expect to live like this the rest of your life?
A: No. Once I reach my target weight, if I reach it, I’m going to try to maintain it for an entire racing season and see if it’s as horrible and unendurable after a few months as it has been so far.

Q: Why should it change?
A: Because each time I plateau, I adjust and frankly don’t feel so hungry. It’s the constant bumping down to new levels that triggers the starvation response and the desire to eat my fork.

Q: Any concerns about proper nutrition? Losing your hair? Rickets? Pellagra? That kind of thing?
A: None. Breakfast is oatmeal (40g small day, 80g big day) sweetened with 40g of raisins, followed by zero-fat yogurt (100g small day, 200g big day), 84g raspberries, 90g blackberries, sometimes 50-90g banana (big day), and 40g trail mix (extra big day). There’s tons of nutrition in a breakfast like that. Plus a pot of searingly strong coffee.

Q: Lunch?
A: Used to be PB sandwich with coffee and cream. Now it varies depending on the day. Small day is half a block of tofu, one egg, teaspoon of soy sauce, and a large Fuji apple. Big day is whole block of tofu, two eggs, tbsp of soy sauce, can of tuna, 2 tbsp of salsa, apple and banana. Afternoon snack is 40g of trail mix and/or a banana.

Q: Dinner?
A: It varies. I try to incorporate Mrs. WM’s healthier leftovers into my own regimen. Beans. Edamame. Tofu. Boiled egg. Smattering of spaghetti flavored with some garlic and dried tomatoes and red pepper. Cut the oil.

Q: Any WM diet tips?
A: Sure. You can make a great dressing with one part balsamic vinegar to one part dijon mustard. No oil required.

Q: Any tips on dealing with the hunger?
A: Eat the high volume, low cal stuff first because it’s filling. Take the time to dice vegetables as thinly as you can. It brings out the flavor, takes longer to eat, and is more filling. A salad with 150g carrots, 150g cucumbers, 150g celery, 150g onion, 150g cherry tomatoes, and lettuce with the aforementioned dressing will feel like you’ve eaten an entire sandbag.

Q: Sandbags, huh? Sounds appetizing.
A: You want Chef Boyardee? That’s a different aisle.

Q: Now let’s talk reality. Dessert. Sweets. No Hag bar, Ghana scarfing dude gives up dessert? Really? How do you sate the sweet tooth?
A: Zero-percent Fage Greek style plain yogurt. It has the consistency of Hag, and tastes great once you get used to it.

Q: That’s what they say about anti-freeze, you know.
A: Hmmm. Mix in berries and/or thinly sliced banana. It’s pretty darned good.

Q: That’s it? Not buying it.
A: Well…

Q: Go ahead. Spit it out.
A: Every now and again…

Q: Yes?
A: You can add…

Q: Uh-huh?
A: A little tiny dollop of..

Q: Yeessss?
A: Hag vanilla. Or chocolate.

Q: Thought so. You fucking diet cheaters are all alike.
A: Yes, we are.

Q: Any plans to market this as the South Bay Wanker Diet?
A: No.

Q: Why not? It seems tailored to crazies, and the South Bay is filled with nothing if not that.
A: This isn’t a “program.” It’s an illness. If you want serious, long-term weight loss, go with a proven program. ViSalus seems to work for a lot of people.

Q: But not Wankmeister?
A: I don’t like being told what to do. And I like to dice my own vegetables.

Q: Ooookay. Any chance you’ll share the actual daily food plan details with us?
A: Sure. I can post them in the comments if you’re really interested. But it’s boring stuff.

Q: Any last advice?
A: Whether I stick with this or fail tomorrow, I’ve learned how to evaluate food. How many calories per gram? That’s so important and we just don’t learn it in the normal course of things. You can immediately see the difference between a carrot at .41 cal/g versus spaghetti, at 3.57 cal/g, and you can choose to increase the one and decrease the other. It’s huge, and once you start thinking this way, you understand why the food industry is so hell bent on obfuscating these values and making them hard to use.

Q: Soapbox alert…
A: Yeah. It’s extraordinary that menus actually have this info now, but it still takes practice and a calculator to figure it out. After a few weeks, though, you can start to eyeball. It’s great. It’s empowering.

Q: Empowering? So you think it’s eventually going to translate to watts?
A: Once I get to 145, assuming it’s not immediately followed by a graveside service, I’m going to try to build power at that new weight. Maybe it’s impossible, maybe not. But it’s going to be fun trying.

Q: That’s the first time you’ve used the word “fun” to describe any of this.
A: Well…it is fun…for me.

Q: I thought you said it was miserable.
A: No emotion exists in a vacuum, dude. Any way, gotta go.

Q: Dinner?
A: How’d you guess?

Brain pace

October 10, 2012 § 8 Comments

I finished work in Santa Barbara today around 3:30 and figured that this would put me back in LA at just the wrong time, so rather than rush back to sit in traffic I tossed my briefcase in the car and took a walk.

Before I could toss the briefcase, though, I had to walk more than half a mile to where my car was parked. There was plenty of parking near Carrillo and Garden, but of late I’ve taken distance parking to a whole new level.

For example, rather than park near the courthouse in downtown LA, I’ll park a mile or so away and walk. It adds time, and it makes me all sweaty and greasy, but parking goes from $9 to free and you always get to see some interesting stuff and you get to run the gauntlet of street people. Plus, you get to learn a new set of city blocks every time you go downtown.

And it’s exercise, the old-fashioned way. On foot. The way nature meant for people to move.

Walk a mile in your own shoes

It’s funny how perfectly adapted our brains are to walking speed. You can see everything: The tiny edges of the grate holes in the street drains, the new plaster covering the old stone walls of the presidio, the steel interior of the crazy dude’s car that has anti-prison slogans painted on it, the details of the pine bark on the massive trees near the Santa Barbara Bowl, and of course the gruppo on the rusting MTB resting against an old barbecue grill on someone’s dilapidated porch.

Thoughts move more smoothly on foot, swirling over the knots and rocks and bumps that make up the problems in our lives, covering them up or dissolving them or wearing them down with the effortless force of the mind going at its most efficient speed, which is to say the contemplative one.

The eye and the mind coordinate naturally with your gait, which is the gait you were born with and will have all your life, the gait you acquired without a computerized fit or a coach or a hex wrench stuck in your back pocket for endless micro-adjustments on the fly. The motion? It’s yours. It’s perfect, and can’t be fixed.

Speed kills

Everything becomes a tunnel compared to walking. Whether you’re blasting on a motor, cruising at 65 in your car, pedaling at 20, or even running, your brain shifts from observation and reflection to data intake, predict the next point, react, and repeat. Ideas come briefly and are immediately swallowed up in the moment. If the speed is high enough, or the exertion intense enough, your brain switches to glide, a continual conveyor belt of motion and action almost wholly devoid of reflective thought.

It’s one reason that, after finishing a bike ride, we feel so clean and refreshed. Our brains have been put on pause.

While strolling, it occurred to me that…

  • It’s astonishing how many people use cycling to effectively cope with the strains, struggles, addictions, pain, loneliness, sickness, disappointment, and unhappiness in their lives. The act of riding a bike isn’t so much a gateway to happiness, it’s a gateway of happiness.
  • Who is Peter Gabriel? Should I Google him? He’s playing at the Santa Barbara Bowl tonight, so he’s either not very famous or past his prime. Or both.
  • Nothing is more fulfilling and happiness-inducing as the camaraderie on all of our rides, with people calling you by your name, and encouraging you, and even giving you a push when you need it.
  • Clodhopper may blab about every car he’s ever owned, may remind you in copious detail of every race he’s ever won, but if there’s a more generous friend in my life, I’m not sure who it is, because he gave me a half-gallon of his homemade spaghetti sauce last week. I’d give it its own blog, but how much more can you say about something than “foodgasm”? Oh, and that one other detail…he always, always, always goes to the front.
  • Newly-minted Cat 2 and Everest race winner Stathis the Wily Greek cadged 50,000 feet of total vertical last week. Radar Domes sit 1,500′ above sea level. Mt. Ventoux is 6,000′ above sea level. The Cornice at Mammoth is 11,000′ above sea level. Maybe you can comprehend Stathis’s feat. I can’t even wrap my head around it, much less my legs.
  • I’m now too injured to ride my bike thanks to the pulled muscle from last weekend’s ‘cross race. That’s only the fourth time in thirty years of cycling that a bike-related injury has kept me from riding. Obviously, I should do more ‘cross races to see if I can increase the number and severity of injuries.
  • Everyone says Santa Barbara is a really cool place. All I saw were restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and hippies in Range Rovers. It reminded me of downtown Austin with twice the class and three times the pretentiousness.

Boy, for a contemplative walk those are some pretty slim pickings. Can’t wait to go out and get on my bike again, and switch into glide.

Any questions?

October 6, 2012 § 33 Comments

Below are the interim results of my de-ostrichization program, which was specifically begun to remove the plumpy cummerbund of adipose straddling my waist.

The first picture is from the time that Jack from Illinois (not his real name) was here, about the first week of August. The second one was taken today.

No jokes about the boxer shorts, please.

Yes, those are long johns from Academy.

Let’s get tinyful

October 3, 2012 § 10 Comments

Junkyard and I were pedaling back from the NPR this morning, comparing manorexic dieting notes.

“Down three in three weeks,” he said.

“That’s awesome.”

“Slow and steady.”

“That’s what works.”

“I’ve whacked out all bread and milk products.”


“You have no idea. Me and pastry, we’re like, man…” His eyes wandered off into the distance in a happy, loving trance as he envisioned chocolate croissants made of infinitely thin layers of buttery, hand-kneaded pastry dough.

“With the first ten pounds you can pick the low hanging fruit,” I said.

“Yep. That’s pastries and yoghurt and bread. What was yours?”

“Trader Joe’s extra heavy thick double arterial clotting whipping cream. Put that shit on everything. Coffee. Fruit. Black tea. Salad. Gyoza.”

“Heavy whipping cream on gyoza? Gross.”

“That was my other low hanging fruit. Gyoza. Mrs. WM would fry up four skillets-worth of those little boogers, sop ‘em in vinegar, soy sauce, raiyu, and garlic, and I’d go to town. Hell, between the gyoza and the cream, that was ten pounds the first week.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

“But the hard part’s coming.”

“How’s that?”

“After the low-danglers, each pound is a zillion times harder to lose than the one before it.”

“Hmmm. Kind of like when you start getting fit.”

“How’s that?”

“Going from flubbery sloth to your first century, you know, that’s a huge performance gain in a short time, right?”


“But once you’re race fit, those last few watts are exponentially harder to come up with.”

“You’ve got a point.”

“Hell, yeah. Intervals. Monastic celibacy. One beer per trimester. Over the course of a year, that’s maybe ten watts. If you’re lucky. What are you at now?”

“I bottomed out at 148, but am back up to 154. Fried shrimp for dinner last night, enchiladas with guac and beans and rice on the menu tonight, will be pushing 158 by the weekend. New Girl caught me eating a scone after NPR this morning and called me out in front of everyone sitting on the bricks. ‘Wanky’s getting fa-a-t, Wanky’s getting fa-a-at.’ Dangit.”

“No plans to get back down to the 140’s?”

“Plans, sure. But it’s not looking good. What about you?”

“A few years ago I hit 135.”

“Yeah, and a few years ago I had all my hair and most of my original teeth. But now?”

“Maybe crack the 140’s. That would be nice. I think I can do it if I just up the mileage.”

“That won’t help.”

“Why not?”

“‘Cause if it were just a matter of upping the mileage, Thomas Dekker would be in fighting trim for next year’s Tour. As it is, he’s already whining in CyclingNooz about needing to lose five more pounds, and the dude’s almost 6-2, weighs 154, and he trains 600 miles a week. So what hope is there for you?”

“Riding more won’t cut it, huh?”

“No. The only thing that will cut it is eating less. Which you can’t really do, because you’ve already cut out the low-danglers. Shit that’s left is the real food.”

“Man, I’m munching on stuff all day. It’s all healthy, low cal stuff, though. Organic oatmeal blossoms fertilized by free-range goat turds. Coconut water filtrated with reverse osmosis purified carbon filters. Special oxygen tanks filled with air from the Himalayas. Sugar-free sucrose, even.”

“Yeah, you’re hosed. You can’t lose weight by eating.”

“But it’s all healthy!”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t. I just said you can’t lose weight by eating. With the dark and awful place you’re trying to reach, the only path is cutting back. Living with the hunger. The wretched hunger.”

“You’re pretty fucked up, dude.”

At that very moment we were passing by Fukdude’s house. “Hey, let’s see what Fukdude’s up to.”

Fukdude was parked in front of his computer, surrounded by fourteen bikes, two stacks of C++ and .NET programming manuals, a home gym pull-up bar rig, and an upper spine-neck traction rig. “Hey, dudes, what’s up? You dudes want to buy some old programming manuals?”

“I’ll pass,” I said.

“Trying to quit,” said Junkyard.

“What’s with the neck traction rig?” I asked.

“Fuck, dude, I’m selling it on eBay.”

“You break your neck?”

“Fuck no. I had it hooked up to the ceiling and secured to my chin with this cup-holder deal, then filled this bag with 40 pounds of water and suspended it from a rope through that pulley there.” He pointed to a pulley that had been screwed into the ceiling.

“Jesus,” I said. “What’s it for?”

“Aw fuck, dude, I was having neck pains. Got it at Save Rite Drugs on a clearance sale. It was rad except for you had to perch on the edge of your chair and not move when you’re typing. You fucking move it’ll shift the weight hanging off the rope and jerk you off the chair by your chin, fucking hang you to death. Fucking rad way to die, dude.”

“Did it work?”

“Fuck no it didn’t work. Why do you think I’m selling it?”

“Did it at least help?”

“Fuck no. I was working a couple days ago and the fucking bag sprung a leak. Forty pounds of fucking water on my servers, and suddenly the weight goes to zero and I’m fucking falling backwards off the chair with my chin hooked up to a rope on the ceiling. Fucking fell against that stack of programming books, kept me from hitting the floor. Fucking saved my life, dude, but one of the books flopped down and sheared off that new SRAM rear derailleur. Fucking shit’s expensive dude. Cheaper than a funeral, though. Had to get new servers, too. Sell you the neck rig and the books, and throw in a reconditioned derailleur for $250.”

“Can’t, man. I’m broke.”

Junkyard nodded. “Me, too.”

“So what’s up?”

“We were just talking about losing weight.”

“Aw fuck, dude, you don’t need to lose weight. Why you want to lose weight for? You already look sick. And I mean that in a bad way. Terrible way, actually.”

“Trying to up my power-to-weight ratio.”

“Fuck dude, you need to up your suckitup-to-whinyquitter ratio. You can’t fucking win bike races when all’s you do is give up. Why not just eat an extra tub of ice cream and deal with it? You suck. No one gives a fuck. Life’s too fucking short to be fucking passing on the baked donuts just so you can go from last to third-from-last.”

“I’ve got plans for next year,” I muttered.

“Fuck dude, plans for what? You can’t even beat Jules on the Switchbacks. He’s thirteen, dude. You’re almost fifty. In dog years, that’s like 300.”

He was making a lot of sense. “But I’m working out at the gym, too.”

“Gym? You? What the fuck for? Nobody ever won a fucking bike race at the gym. Gyms are for people who can’t race. Go push around a bunch of fucking steel plates and think you’re getting somewhere, while the break rolls up the fucking road. ‘But I got a six-pack!’ Dude, no one gives a shit. Eat the fucking donuts. Want a beer?”

“It’s nine a.m.”

“So? You’ll lose your next race whether you start drinking now, start drinking after dinner, or don’t drink anything at all, ever, until you die.”

“I think he’s right,” Junkyard offered. “And he does kind of know what he’s talking about.”

Fukdude had just won the national masters scratch race championships, and the previous weekend had beaten a stacked field in the masters points race, after which he did an 80-lap madison with several US Olympic team members racing, and managed not to finish dead last.

“Maybe I will have a donut, if you’ve got any,” I said. “But just one.”

Fukdude laughed. “I don’t have any fucking donuts, dude. I’m on a diet. Jules beat me on the Switchbacks on Saturday. Gotta up my power-to-weight.”

148: Don’t try this at home

September 21, 2012 § 36 Comments

I got home yesterday, showered, and stood on the scales. 148.

So I re-stood. 148.

Then I re-stood again. 148.

There seems to be a 5-lb. variation band throughout the day. Yesterday morning it was 151; after dinner it went up to 153. Sometimes it seems like a marching band. But even if it was just for the hour and a half before dinner, I finally hit the 140’s.

That’s really fucked up

I’m 6’1″. This gave me a BMI of 19.5, squarely in the last column on the chart before you drop off from “skinny as shit” and onto “UN Famine Relief Program.”

Why do it?

The subtitle above should suggest part of the reason. People who obsess over their weight until it drops into this category are all fucked up, except for me, of course. I’m normal.

What began as a simple desire to shave off a swelling midriff degenerated into a mind-over-matter diet that has shorn about twenty pounds from my frame. I can’t tell you if it’s been worth it, but I can tell you what it’s like.

Switching to survival

If I wanted to weigh less, I would eat less. Pretty simple, right?

It’s not that simple. The minute I told myself that it was time to cut back, my entire body revolted…on a cellular level. I went from living an ordinary life where each day was an ebb and flow of eating whatever I wanted, to a bizarre life where the only thing I could think about was food.

Your body is programmed to survive, and even thinking about denying it sustenance triggers overwhelming hunger. The bad news? It never, ever went away. The worse news? The hunger got worse the more I lost. That’s all as it should be; the word “diet” spells “die” with the first three letters for a reason.

This whole process took less than six weeks. It has been an ordeal beyond any description, which is why it’s so awesome. Normally to create this type of epic adventure it takes rain, cold, wind, bad roads, and 120+ miles with lots of climbing. The key components of this home-based radical, unhealthy, bizarre, and masochistic weight loss were as follows: Hunger suppression, mental distraction, and portion reduction.

Hunger suppression

No mind is strong enough to override the body’s command to eat. Hunger is the strongest sensation there is. If we were to compare its power with the other huge human drive, hunger is to sex what truth is to FOX News. So I had to suppress the hunger. The best way to do this would have been chain smoking cigarettes along with some mixture of meth, crack, amphetamines, or narcotics. Since none of these seemed compatible with the Donut Ride or NPR (for long, anyway), I went with the weakest, yet cheapest and most easily obtained suppressant: Caffeine.

Continual caffeine in the form of coffee or tea was a must. There was no other way to suppress the screaming, raging, overwhelming, mind-altering hunger that shrieked at me without rest from the instant I chose to diet, even before I’d turned away the first jelly-filled donut.

I now know that any diet promising to alleviate hunger, unless it includes a serious chemical hunger suppressant, is a lie. I went from three small cups of coffee a day to seven or eight large cups of the blackest, nastiest, bitterest brew I could make, with strong green tea in between.

Mental distraction

Caffeine was not enough, though. Even though the sharpest, most awful edge of the hunger razor was slightly blunted by copious quantities of coffee and tea, hunger was far too powerful to be put off with a few cups of hot water strained through burnt beans.

Since in my daily life there was food everywhere, the only way I could keep from caving to biology was to busy myself  with a physical activity that would take my mind off the awful hunger. This was a radically different concept from using exercise to lose weight. Rather, was the recognition that unless my hands were employed in some physical activity, they were going to grab the edges of the nearest cheeseburger and shove it down my throat.

Cycling helped to a degree, but there was a limit to how much I could ride my bike, particularly when the lack of food had me moving around on my hands and knees. This was where the gym helped. I got tiny workout benefits, and toned up some of the looser parts of my anatomy, but for the most part the gym was a place where I could do something besides eat and besides thinking about eating.

I began going to the gym almost every day, even after pedaling home from work, as the hour or so between arrival and dinner was a deadly time period for massive eating. By staying occupied at the gym, even if it meant doing curls with 5-lb. pink dumbbells, I was distracted from food. Without this type of distraction, hunger would have won out and forced me to be healthy and normal. Only by artificially distracting myself was I able to stay committed to this path of physical and mental collapse.

Portion reduction

If I thought that hunger suppression was hard, and if I thought that dragging butt off to the gym when I was so hungry I could barely stand was hard, the truly hard part was harder still: Portion reduction. You’ll notice I’ve not included exercise anywhere in this regimen, even though I happen to cycle. It’s because I didn’t think I could really grind myself into a stick-like wraith of skin and veins with exercise. The key, and by far the most challenging and miserable and awful and dreadful and essentially impossible part of this process, was portion reduction.

Portion reduction was the hardest part for several reasons. First, most people don’t control what gets doled out on their plate because they either eat out, or someone prepares their food for them, or they eat prepared meals that already have the portion parceled out.

Second, even if you do control what goes on your plate, you’re almost certainly surrounded by other people who are hell-bent on relishing the only happy thing left in life after age 40, i.e. eating. These normal people (or enablers) will pile their plate high while you’ve allotted just the right amount, and before long you’ll be eating off their plate, or they’ll be sharing. Happens every time.

Third, you probably drink. Booze is caloric, but more importantly, it forces you to let down your diet guard. Boom! The buzz hits and you’re inhaling like a vacuum cleaner.

You can forget exercising off the fat

It won’t work. There aren’t enough hours in the day to burn off a bagful of burgers. I’ve ridden less and exercised less throughout this entire nasty ordeal and it’s worked. Just think about the times that you go out and do a century, then top it off with a huge lunch and beer. Fact is, you didn’t burn that much in six hours, and a casual glance at any pack of century riders will confirm that whatever they’re doing, “riding it off” isn’t it.

A manorexic retrospective

So, has it all been worth it? Nope. No way. Life has become a jaw-grinding time trial until the next meal.


  1. I’ve become picky about what I eat. Very little junk except for coffee. Haagen-Dasz isn’t junk food, right?
  2. My recovery on the bike has vastly improved.
  3. I climb better. Today on VdM I chased down some dude in his 60’s with hairy legs, panniers, and a triple, then dropped him.
  4. Suits, slacks, and dress shirts are no longer unpleasantly choking my parts.
  5. Every single bite of sustenance is a foodgasm.
  6. I’m on hyper alert virtually all the time, except when I’m fainting from hunger, which is any time I sit down.
  7. People who are overweight aren’t there because they lack willpower. They’re fighting biology in a life-death struggle, and biology has all the weapons.
  8. People consume far more than they need, unabashedly.
  9. Gym people are just as weird as bike people, and not nearly as much fun. No one at the gym wants to be tiny.
  10. Saying that you’re going to lose weight is a throwdown, like saying you’re going to take the sprint. Everyone’s secretly rooting for you to lose, you big mouth.
  11. Advice sausages of both genders love to tell you to eat more. Funny how they never told me to eat less.
  12.  Extreme, rapid weight loss can’t be good for you. Can it?
  13. This kind of obsessiveness is a short jump to anorexia and death, so travel the path with care.
  14. Constant hunger is mentally debilitating, even though it paradoxically makes you more alert.
  15. I can ride longer, farther, and faster on less food than I could before.
  16. Skinnier isn’t happier. Corollary: Neither is fatter.
  17. Everyone thinks I’m crazy(er).
  18. Your body quickly adapts to malnutrition.
  19. I don’t need a huge breakfast, lunch, or dinner in order to ride a hundred miles, but all of the above make it much more fun.
  20. Losing weight takes a few weeks. Keeping it off takes a lifetime.
  21. The morning log quickly becomes a twig.

I’d write more, but it’s time for some (more) strong coffee. It is, after all, another sixteen hours ’til lunch.

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