March 25, 2014 § 17 Comments
“Here!” Mrs. WM said accusatorially, flinging the black Pearl Izumi base layer tee across the bed. “Smell onna that!”
I picked it up and took a whiff. “Kinda gamey, huh?”
“It ain’t no game! Itsa ammonia smell from your stinky underparts!”
“You mean my underarms. Not ‘underparts.'”
“Itsa stinky onna underarms, too. How come you such a stinker? I washed onna your bikin’ undershirts three times and still onna nasty old stale ammonia stinky underparts. It’s infecting onna other clothes inna laundry. Itsa infecting onna my bras and underpants so I can’t onna wash ’em together. How come I gotta do extra separate washing loads because of your stinkyparts? How come?”
“Honey, I’m a man. And I exercise a lot. So, I guess I stink. But I read an article on Google News that says men who are super clean are less sexy than guys who have, you know, a kind of ‘manly’ smell about them.”
She turned up her nose. “Sexy stinky? Thatsa gross. I like a sexy clean.”
“But guys work out and they sweat and they smell. It’s just the way we are.”
“I do onna Zumba exercise an’ you wanna know what?”
“After I get onna body sweat after booty shakin’, you wanna know what I do?”
“I take onna bath! How come you can’t take onna bath after bikin’ and how come you can’t use a underparts deodorant stick before you going onna bikin’? I got you fifteen underparts smell sticks and you ain’t usin’ up even one of ’em.”
“I hate deodorant. Plus, all those chemicals right next to the lymph nodes in your armpits is not healthy. Probably causes cancer.”
“You hate onna deodorant but everybody else hatin’ on your stinkyparts. Every time you pointin’ or liftin’ up your skinny arm itsa big poison gas cloud comin’ out onna your shirt sleeves makin’ everybody can’t breathe without makin’ screwed up face. Itsa nasty.”
“I still think those chemicals might cause cancer, the way they get absorbed by your lymph nodes and distributed throughout the body. Ten years from now we’ll find out that stuff is worse than lead poisoning.”
“You’re standin’ inna elevator old Mr. Stinkyparts and I’m tellin’ you everybody wishin’ they had cancer and was dead by it so they don’t have to be there with tears runnin’ outta their eyes because of stinky.”
“Okay, I get it. I smell bad. Anything else?”
“Anything else is jus one thing. Wear onna deodorant and quit infectin’ onna my underwear inna laundry basket.”
“Okay. I promise.”
She smiled. “I’m gonna take a shower and get clean. You should get onna clean, too.”
Sounded kind of like an invitation.
October 25, 2013 § 45 Comments
I’m a wuss. When I tried to get out of bed this morning, and couldn’t, I immediately assumed that my anterior cruciate coliform had fractured in the Big Tuesday Crash. “Honey,” I said. “I gotta go to the hospital.”
Mrs. WM doesn’t like being awakened at 4:30 AM. “You onna what?”
“The hospital. I think I broke my coliform nexus prospangerineum.”
“I ain’t onna goin to no hospital.”
“No, honey, I can’t get out of bed. It really hurts.”
“How come you onna gettin out of four o’clock bed? Itsa sleepy time onna three more hours.”
“But I have to get up and pee and I can’t get up.”
Now she was alert. Mrs. WM always gets alert when it comes to bed wetting. “You ain’t onna bed pissing again?”
“No, but I need help to the toilet.”
“If you onna bed pissing, you changing the sheets. I ain’t onna touchin your hot bedsheet pisswater.”
“Please … ”
She relented, and helped me up. As soon as I sat on the toilet, I had to number two. But the pain in my side was so acute that as soon as the log rolled down through the logjam and started peeking at the door, a tremendous stabbing pain shot up my side, so bad that it took my breath away and forced the log back up the chute.
“Why you onna gaspin?” she asked.
“Oh my dog,” I moaned. “I gotta crap but can’t.”
She stuck her head in the door. “It sure stinkin like you can.” She held her nose.
“I almost can, but then I can’t.”
“Well, I ain’t onna holdin that for you. Grabbin on the little chin-chin to pissin in the bottle I can do, but I ain’t onna helpin you poopers.”
The spasm came again. “Gimme that garbage can,” I said. She handed it to me, and I flipped it upside down, putting my right foot on the can and thereby raising my right knee high above my pelvis.
“How come you doin onna pilates?”
“It’s not pilates. I’m trying to find the right position.”
“Now you know how a girl feels onna lovemakin. Gotta get the leg up and the middle parts down low. Better onna action traction.”
Deep in the throes of Jakeleg Facing Dog Grunting Stool, I completed the mission, dressed, and headed off to Torrance Memorial.
Marcus Welby, M.D.
I limped into the admitting area of the E.R. “What’s your issue, sir?” the woman asked.
“He ain’t got onna no issue. He just don’ wanna go onna office. He was drinkypants last night like nobody’s business.”
“I fell down,” I said.
“From where?” the lady asked.
“My bike.” The pain was so bad I could barely stand, but they clearly thought I was flopping, especially after Mrs. WM had alerted them to last night’s drinkypantism.
In triage they examined me carefully. “Where does it hurt?”
Mrs. WM, who had sneaked in with me, piped up. “It’s hurtin’ onna place he can’t be drinkypants. He drinkin onna beer last night he wasn’t complainin. But he gotta go onna office all of a sudden he can’t walk or poopers.”
“How would you rate the pain on a scale of one to ten?” the nurse asked.
“Thirty,” I said.
“Let me go get the doctor.”
As we sat in the room we listened to the people outside pleading their case to the doc. “I just need the prescription refilled, Dr. Smorgasbord.”
“I’m sorry, I just don’t see the need at this point. You stubbed your toe four weeks ago, and we’ve refilled your Percocet-Vicodin 12,000 mg prescription seven times.”
“But I’m in such pain, doc. You can’t imagine.”
Next it was our turn. “Well, Mr. Davidson, the x-rays came back negative. No fractures at all. I suppose you’ll be wanting some pain meds?”
“No,” I said.
She looked at me funny. “We were going to give you an injection. For the pain.”
“I don’t want one.”
“You said you were in enough pain that you couldn’t get out of bed.”
Mrs. WM chimed in. “He’s just onna complainin. He ain’t hurtin. Just puttin’ a leg onna trashcan and poopin like a drinkypants with too many chili burritos.”
The doc turned to me. “Your hip and back show significant bruising. How fast were going when you fell down?”
“You should really take the injection.”
“Just one question, doc.”
“After the injection, can I ride my bike?”
“Of course not.”
“Well, that settles it.”
And it did.
August 12, 2013 § 32 Comments
At the start of this morning’s Wheatgrass Ride, several riders were comparing ailments.
“My spine hasn’t recovered from that lumbar fracture of five years ago,” said one.
“I’m so sore throughout my entire body after a hard ride that I have to get a full-body massage and bathe in Epsom salts,” said another.
“After that separated shoulder, broken forearm, and hip replacement, sometimes it’s hard to even get out of bed,” said a third.
The talk continued; it was a litany of serious illnesses, broken bones, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Pretty soon the conversation turned to treatment and the reputations of various doctors, sports medicine specialists, orthos, chiros, massage therapists, acupuncturists, osteopaths, podiatrists, natural healers, and horse veterinarians.
I really felt for these folks and the obstacles they had to overcome simply to ride their bikes. Of course, I’d recently experienced a physical ailment myself, and I shared it with them.
Anatomy of an ailment
In well over thirty years of cycling, I’ve been fortunate to have escaped injury. Sure, there were the inevitable Cat 4 crashes when I first started racing in ’84, but I never broke a bone and never got more than minor road rash. Likewise, I’ve never had discomfort on the bike. I’ve never had back pains, neck pains, knee pain, hip pain, jaundice, leprosy, stinkybutt, or any other discomfiture except for the misery that comes from getting hammered and dropped.
However, last week, after doing the SPY Tuesday morning ride, I awoke on Wednesday with a muscular pain just above my right hip and off towards the left, in that soft spot between the backbone and the hip bone where I keep my fat stores for the winter. It was somewhat uncomfortable.
Each time I turned around, or when I pedaled to work, this small muscular/fatty area emitted a kind of sore feeling. On the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale, I was a solid “2.” Perhaps it was even out of the 2 and even into the lower 3, but not by much.
This soreness occurred throughout the day at intermittent times and it was very annoying, almost painful, in fact. The discomforted area was about one inch in diameter, and although I could relieve the sort-of-but-not-quite-pain by pressing it with my finger for a second or two, an hour or so later after I had stopped pressing the afflicted area, the kind-of-soreness would return.
Getting old is hell
I’d heard my friends talk about the pains, illnesses, and aches that come with ageing. Until I got that sore spot I hadn’t taken them seriously, but now I can really empathize. This uncomfortable spot went away after two days, but while it was there it almost bothered me a lot. And although it was one of the worst experiences I can recall, it made me a better person because I can now really empathize with my cycling friends. It also made me realize how important it is to continue cycling, because the pain and discomfort of riding hard is what made it possible for me to get through those two days. I like to think that cycling has given me a sort of “toughness reserve” that I can draw on in times of almost feeling like I’m in pain.
I’m going to start taking better care of my health, too. This was a real wake-up call, the way that little sore spot just stayed sore for two entire days, on and off. It made me think, “If I’m already getting a little discomfort spot at age 49, what’s going to happen when I’m 60? Or 70?” Now’s the time to be proactive, folks, and to stop taking good health for granted.
So, I’m not trying to sound preachy, and certainly not trying to beg for sympathy, but it’s the tough times in life that let you appreciate the good ones. Take care of your bodies, folks, it’s the only one you have! Below is a true photo of the affected area. It was really partially uncomfortable some of the time. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
August 6, 2013 § 32 Comments
A buddy came into the office a few days ago to showcase his brain damage. Actually, he came in so that he could show me how to run a new piece of software, and he started off by telling me about his nephew’s success in a recent road race.
“It was awesome,” he said. “They put him up on the podium, gave him a big bouquet and a cool race leader’s jersey. According to my brother, he’d wear it to bed if they’d let him.”
An hour later we took a break and talked bike racing. Then we talked about crashing. He’d had a severe fall about a year ago that left him unconscious for about ten minutes. This summer he’d crashed again, equally hard, and although he hadn’t been knocked out, his helmet was shattered into three pieces and he’d been “dizzy and throwing up for about ten minutes.”
“Two severe concussions in a year?” I asked. “That’s pretty serious.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I haven’t recovered from that last one. I can’t remember things that I should, and can’t focus on things very well, either. You know, shit that’s mindless, like filling up a water bottle.”
“Yeah. I’ll have to think extra hard about really little things and a lot of the time no matter how hard I think I can’t ‘get’ what I’m trying to get. It’s frustrating as hell.”
“You’ve got brain damage, dude.”
“It’ll take a while to heal up. A year, maybe two, easy.”
“Or maybe never?”
“Well, you were pretty thick-headed to start off with, so it might be hard to tell.”
He laughed. “Hey, man, my nephew won his junior’s road race a couple of weeks ago. He was so stoked. They put him up on the podium, gave him a big bouquet, and a cool race leader’s jersey. According to my brother he’d sleep in it if he could.”
“Yeah, it was awesome.”
“I thought it was awesome, too, when I first heard about it.”
“You heard about it?”
“You. About an hour ago.”
We looked at each other.
Those goofy bike racers
We all know plenty of bike racers who are a little “goofy,” not to mention the ones who are “out there,” and of course the ones who are “batshit crazy as hell.” I wonder how much of that is due to brain damage? Anyone who’s raced regularly for more than twenty years has almost certainly hit their head; racers who are particularly aggressive (i.e. successful) may have been dinged in the brain a dozen times or more over the course of a career.
These are hard hits, too. One buddy who got whacked by a car and was knocked unconscious took almost two years to fully recover his mental faculties, and he claims he has never fully recovered. I believe him.
What’s oddest isn’t the extraordinary danger involved in road riding, let alone racing. It’s the ease with which we forget, or rather the rapidity with which we internalize the horror and the trauma of bad accidents.
Whether it’s the buddy with a broken neck who spent six months in a halo and then had major surgery to have bolts put into his neck and a piece of his hip fused onto his spine, whether it’s the buddy who hit the deck on a concrete velodrome at 40 mph, whether it’s the group ride gone haywire when five buddies went down hard in a field sprint, or, what sometimes seems just as bad, whether it’s the fear and terror and shaking when you’re lucky enough to navigate through the mess of bodies and screaming victims and broken bicycles, the incredible thing is that we blithely continue on racing our bikes knowing full well that if you race often enough it’s not a matter of whether you’ll crash but of when and how badly.
What could possibly explain it?
Please set dial to “adrenaline”
The easiest explanation is that after a certain number of years, what is “fun” becomes nothing more than the thrill of combat. One buddy who smashed his hip so badly he was told he’d never walk again, then crushed an elbow, then broke a collarbone, the broke his other hip, then fell in a bad track accident, has stopped riding after each accident just long enough to recover. Once the bones heal he’s at it again.
It reminds me of men in combat who, despite suffering grisly injuries, couldn’t wait to return to their units. We get so used to the terror and the calamity that it’s not merely normal, it’s part of our mental fabric.
A few weeks ago one of my buddies went down mid-sprint at Manhattan Beach. He’s a big guy, and he hit so hard that you could hear his body smack the pavement as far away as the exhibitor tents. Just watching him inert on the pavement was terrible. He fixed his bike and was racing full-bore again at Brentwood.
PTSD: It’s not just for soldiers anymore
Two more buddies suffered catastrophic injuries in the past year; one in a race and one while training. Buddy A was so traumatized by the accident that he can barely ride his bike, let alone race despite being completely healed. Buddy B almost bled to death, then almost had a leg amputated, and is still disabled after numerous surgeries and extensive physical therapy. Yet another buddy who was run down from behind by a psychotic cager still has mental problems riding his bike. He can’t relax. The sound of approaching cars freaks him out. He’s recovered from his injuries, on the outside anyway.
What struck me about all of them wasn’t just the awful nature of their injuries but the battering taken by their psyches. They’re not the same ol’ girl they used to be. A part of them is missing, and you don’t have to talk to them long to figure out what it is. They’re in shock. Delayed, long-term, lingering emotional shock.
So with the brain injuries, concussions, shattered bones, broken necks, shredded faces, mangled digits (I didn’t even mention the people who’ve had their fingers sawed off while working on fixed-gear bikes doing things as innocuous as wiping a chain), and countless other horrific injuries to which the bicycling flesh is heir to, it might cause you to wonder why you keep doing it?
I think for most of us the answer is the same.
“I don’t know. Let’s ride.”
February 24, 2013 § 41 Comments
Have you ever wondered why you can’t lose weight cycling? Here’s how it goes: You look in the mirror. “Sheesh! Is that me?” You grab the flab and squeeze it in disgust.
“Dogdamnit! Tomorrow I’m going to start riding that shit off!”
So you embark on a weeklong massive bump in mileage, going from your normal 175 miles to 300+. You call it “BWR Prep” or “Strava Wanker Challenge” or “Bill’s Big Adventure” or something.
Then, at week’s end, you’ve gained five pounds.
What’s up with that?
The reason you can’t lose weight cycling is partially because you don’t understand arithmetic, and also because, as a cyclist, you’re already at your “good” weight, which is defined as “Being too fat to climb well but hellz lighter than if I ate all this pizza and drank all this beer and wine and didn’t cycle at all.”
In order to get off that comfortable number you have to start eating less, but unfortunateley cycling is designed to make you eat more. Not less. Here’s why:
- You eat back your ride before you even finish. One of those gooey GU things has 100 kcal. You’re supposed to eat one every 45 minutes, but since you’re hungry you stuff your jersey with seven or eight of them and devour them all on a three-hour ride. On that three-hour ride you burned 2,000 kcal if you were working it, minus the 800 in GU goo. So you’re only 1,200 kcal down.
- Your Accelerade-type sugarpop has about 180 kcal per bottle. If it’s even remotely warm you go through two big bottles, for 360-400 kcal; three bottles if it’s hot. Boom. You’ve eaten up 1,200 kcal. That’s the entire ride, back to zero. You’d have been better off on the couch.
- Somewhere along the way, maybe at the end, but sometimes in the middle, you pop in for a froo-froo latte with all the fixins. Wham. 600-800 kcal. And the 550 kcal muffin. Now you’re in an 1,100+ kcal hole.
- The flail really begins at home, though, because you just put in 3 hours on the bike and you’re HONGRY. Imagining that your middling ride is somehow the equivalent of a large chicken sandwich, a salad with ranch dressing, a beer, and part of a pint of Hag, you inhale all three…for lunch. Now you’ve actually gained 3,000+ kcal for the day thanks to your healthy cycling habits. Except the day’s not over.
- Your morning ride ramped up your metabolism, so you’re still hungry for dinner, and still in fantasy mode regarding what you’ve actually burned on the ride. Dinner winds up being a 2-3,000 kcal extravaganza, including that nice Pinot and the “healthy” yogurt with all the “healthy” fruit.
What’s a feller to do?
The first step is to jettison all advice and marketing poop about “energy and electrolyte replacement” while riding. Drink only water.
“But,” you protest, “won’t I feel like shit two hours in?” No. You’ll feel like shit one hour in. But the point isn’t to feel good, it’s to get rid of the baby fat, which is cute on babies but ridiculous on your pear-shaped, middle-aged man frame with the stooped shoulders, pot belly, and bony elbows.
Next, jettison all the Barbie food. That stuff is awful for you anyway. Check the active ingredients: It’s sugar + endocrinal sebaceous secretions of testicle of newt. People somehow built the Panama Canal, the Grand Coulee Dam, and the Great Pyramids of Cheops using shovels and their bare hands, and never even had a swig of Accelerade. Somehow you’ll manage to survive that 21-mile pedal along the bike path in between coffee shop stops.
“Oh, but my coach says I’ll wither up and die without the electrolytes!”
Okay, he’s probably right. No human being can make it through the day without lots of electrolytes, and since you’re a battery we’ve got to make sure you’re absolutely charged to the top with potassium, sodium, and chloride. Don’t forget to throw in some high-grade sulfuric acid, because no car battery runs without it, and you’ve got a lot more in common with a car battery than a human. What’s good for the A/C Delco is good for you, I guess. Except I don’t.
Wankmeister’s advice? If electrolytes are really such a major concern, get a big circular salt lick like they put in rabbit cages, tie a string through the middle, and hang it around your neck or other dangling appendage. When your battery loses all its electrolytificationnessizingtion, take a big ol’ lick on your salt ring. Costs .35 per pound, one ring lasts twelve years, and it’s lighter than the ten gel packs you have crammed up your pants leg.
Getting to “buy”
If you’re still unconvinced and believe coach’s advice that “All non-electrolytified cyclists die during workout” then you should take Wankmeister’s advice: Go buy yourself some dates.
The Barbie food, whether it’s Gu or Clif, costs a couple of bucks per serving. The sugarpop costs about the same. That’s $10-$12 bucks in Barbie food per ride, minimum. Dates, which have only been sustaining humans for about 4,000 years, cost $4.99 per POUND. (Note: If you eat a pound of dates in one sitting you will have a complete colonic cleanse in about eight minutes, and if you’re not careful the cleanse will also cause you to poop out a lung and your pancreas.)
Dates are super high in the only thing that matters on a bike ride: Instant sugary calorie energy. One medjool date has about 66 kcal and its primary sugar is glucose. This means it’s better for cellular reticulizing de-absorption ratios than fructose, sucrose, or chocolate. (Just kidding about the chocolate. Nothing’s better than chocolate.) And they’re way better than Muscle Milk, which of course has NO MILK and does nothing for your muscles, and whose active ingredients are maltodextrin and high fructose corn syrup. You’d be better off with a box of cane sugar in your jersey or a bottle of Karo dark molasses in your water bottle cage.
To review: Dates are cheap. They’re yummy. They have a pit that will crack your jawbone if you’re not careful. They work instantly due to the glucose. But there’s more!
They fit perfectly in your jersey. They don’t spoil during the ride. They’re super easy to chew and swallow except for the pit, on which you can choke to death. Yes, they leave a gooey, sticky film on your fingers, but this is where you learn that in addition to performing embarrassing acts with your significant other, your tongue is perfectly adapted for licking food off your fingers.
Best of all, dates look like aged baby turds, so no one asks you to share. How many times has some wanker on bonk’s door wheedled away one of your Gu gels, or your last Clif bar? Every frigging ride, that’s how many times. But it’ll be a cold day in hell before anyone wants to eat one of those shriveled, sticky, poop-a-likes that you’ve fished out of your sweaty jersey pocket, even if the alternative is getting dropped in the desert and not making it home alive.
Where to buy?
Trader Joe’s sells medjool dates, but the quality is spotty. They’re usually smallish, and old, and kind of expensive. Occasionally you’ll get a box with about half of them being rotten. Eating a rotten date makes a great fraternity hazing ritual where you want the pledge to froth and have seizures and spit up his stomach lining trying to get the thing out of his system, but it’s worse than swallowing a dried chancre when you’re on a bike ride.
If you’re in the South Bay, try the “International Market” on Hawthorne and PCH. What it really should be called is “Market of Arabs and Middle Easterners And People Who We’re Told Are All Tearists Even Though The Real Tearists Are The Ones Who Drone Bomb Civilians And Children For Fun And Profit.”
They’ve got a display case at the back with a stern-faced old fellow, and if you ask for a “pound of dates” he’ll look at you like you’re the idiot who walked into the bike shop and asked for “a bike.” What kind, dude?
They’ve got pitted dates, unpitted dats, medjool firm dates, medjool gooey dates, yaller dates…a date for every social event, including public stonings. Just point to the batch that are brown and wrinkled and aren’t the most expensive, and the old fellow will shovel in a couple of pounds and you’ll be set.
And don’t forget to tell ’em that Wanky sent you.
On second thought, you can forget that part. Unless you want to sample the stoning as the guest of honor.
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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?
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 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.