Where has all the subcutaneous fat gone?

December 8, 2017 Comments Off on Where has all the subcutaneous fat gone?

I was riding with a friend the other day and we had started going up a hill. I got out of the saddle. “Hey!” said the friend. “You have a little vein there poking up in the bottom of your calf!”

I got really excited because my legs have the muscularity and vascularity of Velveeta. “Just one?” I asked.

The friend paused as I pushed down extra hard. “No, there may be a second tiny one next to it. Or maybe it’s a hair.”

Which kind of sums up what biking legs used to look like. Do you remember, like thirty or so years ago, when pretty much all the local people who were any good all looked the same? They were:

  • Skinny
  • Had little muscles
  • Had definition but nothing crazy
  • Didn’t have veiny legs that looked like Tokyo road maps

Other things about most good bike racers back then:

  • Pretty small upper bodies
  • Pencil-type necks
  • Looked like they might break if you dropped them

Of course there were always exceptions; people who had really crazy-cut legs and maybe the occasional rider who was veiny as all get-out, pros of course and of course some sprinters, and some track racers, and chunky riders who were simply tough and good, but basically bike racers weren’t very muscular or even athletic looking. Greg LeMond’s early racing photos looked like he was auditioning for the Reduced Lunch Program.

What happened?

You go to a race now and lots of guys look like body builders, with razor-cut necks and forearms and biceps, and crazy-defined calves and thighs that look like they’re going to break out from under what appears to be translucent paper-thin skin, there’s so little fat underneath it. What’s weirder is that this phenomenon is most pronounced in masters races, the exact time of life when your body has less muscle mass and more fat, and where developing and keeping on big chunks of lean meat flies in the face of everything we know about biology.

I suppose the human body has evolved since 1984. Yeah, that’s it.

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Photo of blobby calf © 2017 by Jay Yoshizumi, used with permission.

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White out

October 6, 2017 § 37 Comments

A few hours ago it became really clear that my right rear knee’s banjo wasn’t going to be ready for the Donut Ride on Saturday. The first part of my treatment plan, “Get off yer fuggin’ bike,” I had followed religiously for 24 hours. Okay, not quite 24 hours, but almost. I didn’t ride at all while I was in bed. Several people had emailed and posted curative comments such as “ice,” and “RuggedMaxx 2,” but it was too complicated for me to implement so instead I cleaned my shoes.

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Then on Tuesday I decided to “give ‘er a try” so I pedaled up and down the street a few times and it felt okay. “Road to recovery,” I decided, and cleaned up my shoes some more.

On Wednesday I “gave ‘er another try” and pedaled up and down the street and it still felt okay. Well, okay, not okay, but it didn’t hurt. It felt a little tender, kind of like when you were a little kid and your brother had smashed you in the face twenty times the day before and the next day if something pressed against your lips, like air, it was tender. Tender like that.

On Thursday I was 100% sure that I was good to go because the day before I had spent five or ten minutes or two hours hand washing all of my white Base Cartel “South Bay Cycling” socks and they were screamingly ready to be worn along with my white shoes which had been rubbed down with some saddle soap, then glossed over with neutral wax and white scuff cover.

If crazy clean white socks and spanky white shoes won’t fix a raw banjo string, nothing will.

I put on my bicycle suit and rode across the street. I knew that it would be a bad idea to immediately ride anything hilly, especially anything steep, so I rode and up and down Old Hawthorne, which is completely flat except for the steep uphill parts which were in my way. My white socks and white shoes were firing on all cylinders, but what really got all of my tendinitis-curing white blood cells swarming was my bleached white shoelaces, which were sparkling in the sun. It had only taken a couple of hours to hand wash them and soak them in bleach and then rinse them out and then sun-dry them on the balcony; totally worth it.

After five minutes my banjo started hurting like a fucker, but that was just because it had been sitting there mostly unused for a few days and it was going to feel great once the white blood cells warmed it up. After ten minutes it was hurting like ten fuckers, so I stopped and adjusted my white shoelaces, thinking they hadn’t been laced up tightly enough to squeeze the white blood cells out of my feet up to the affected area. After fifteen minutes my tendon or my ligament or my bone knob or whatever it was, was hurting so dogdamned bad I could hardly pedal, so I limped back home and wrote a nasty letter to my sock supplier and to Giro shoes, advising them how badly their products had failed to cure my tendinitis.

Today is Friday, Donut-minus 24 hours, and it’s not looking good for the leaky prosate team. Does anyone out there have a white summer kit and some RuggedMaxx 2 I can borrow?

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early. Gussy, you can show up this year, just to say hello.

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Tender is the nitis

October 3, 2017 § 48 Comments

I went for a bike ride on Friday. It included a bunch of steep hills, things I ride from time to time, and they were all in succession, something I don’t do so much.

Also, this hill climbing was done with an undersized cassette. Cove Climb, Alley, Millionaires by the Sea, Ganado, Anchovy, Friendship Park, Monaco, Whitley Collins, all slogged out on a 23-tooth rear cog. Let’s just say my rpm’s were more like rph’s.

I was tired from the riding but the next day when I hopped on my bike for a quick pedal, I had a twinge behind my right knee. “Probably just stiff from yesterday,” I thought, knowing that the back of my knee has never ever been stiff “from yesterday.”

After an hour or so of easy pedaling, it didn’t go away and in fact it worsened. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I once had tendinitis, the patellar variety. At the time I didn’t know what it was so I rode longer hoping it would go away but it didn’t. A doctor gave me an anti-inflammatory called Feldene but that didn’t work.

I ended up getting off my bike for almost six months. That’s how long it took to heal. Every month or so I’d get on the bike to test it out and it would feel good for a few minutes and then start to twinge again. You can’t heal tendinitis with anything but rest. That’s my opinion.

This tendinitis is different because it might be a ligament instead of a tendon. It’s hard to tell which string on the banjo behind my knee is affected. I hear that ligaments heal even slower than tendons. The good news is that it’s a fresh wound and I got off it shortly after realizing the problem. Scratched Sunday’s Santa Clarita Fondo off my list and am scratching off Westlake Century, too. Bummer.

If anyone knows a magical cure for irritated banjo strings, I’m all ears. Not that I’ll believe you, you understand …

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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One foot in the grave

September 20, 2017 § 45 Comments

After finishing that very long bicycle ride back on September 9, all 243 miles of it, I have been very tired and very hungry. At least one of my co-conspirators has also felt like, how shall we say it, shit?

Falling asleep at weird times, eating compulsively, general mental and physical malaise … it’s obviously going to take my fragile old skeleton a while to get back to its normally fragile old state. This has caused me to reflect about the toll that this kind of effort takes in a big picture way, not in a “When will I feel good enough to hammer the Donut?” way.

There is a lot of sciencey evidence that says long-interval endurance sports aren’t particularly good for a whole particular bunch of people. Basically, your heart has a finite number of beats. How do you want to spend them? Because riding your bike hard for long distances will get you less mileage out of your heart, not more.

One friend has answered that clearly. She went from suited-up, middle-aged hammerhead to helmetless, floppy shorts-and-flipflops on a beach cruiser. She still gets in 100 miles or so a week, looks great, goes super slow, knows everyone on the beach path, and doesn’t get any closer to a Fartlek than I do to cigar bar.

If you think that lots of hard exercise is good for you, and you believe in science, you have a problem. A study recently came out that says triathletes’ hearts stop a lot more often than other people’s, to the tune of about 1.74 times per 100,000. If you’re over age 60 and for some incredible reason still trying to do three sports badly, your risk skyrockets to 18 per 100,000.

That is crazily out of whack with ordinary Americans, who are the world’s fattest, least active, least healthy people on the planet. In other words, if you’re a couch-sitting, Cheez-it scarfing, beer-swilling slug, there are about .5 heart attacks per 100,000 people. If you sell the couch, swear off the beer, burn the Cheez-its, cancel your 24/7 NFL subscription and start your fake middle-aged-wanker bikeracerunswimming career, your chance of having a heart attack skyrockets to 1.74 per 100,000. If you are in the leaky prostate division, it’s 36 times higher.

[*Note to people who don’t believe in global warming: Since all of the above is based on science and numbers, the same things that drive your Strava account and Garmin, you can ignore it. Please pedal harder for longer.]

It’s easy to understand why all this activity is bad for you. Your heart is a muscle and it wears out. It’s also easy to understand why this would be the same for other activities that require your heart to be more or less pinned for hours at a time, like my ride to Santa Barbara. The effect of extended exertion on the heart has been well documented in an article by Leonard Zinn, published a couple of years ago in VeloSnooze.

We all have sat up after a particularly nasty effort and laughed, nervously, while we said to ourselves or out loud, “This can’t be good for you.”

Well, it’s not.

To which I say, so what? Or better yet, to which I say, listen to this song and get back to me.

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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Making a difference

September 18, 2017 § 20 Comments

On Sunday I got up and rode to the Center of the Known Universe, where about a hundred fellow lizard collectors had gathered to do the weekly club ride. We left CotKU in a rather unruly fashion, as might have been expected.

I hadn’t wanted to go because I was tired from the day before, and from the day before, and from the day before, all the way back to last Saturday. But it was going to be the annual club photo followed by a club video riding out on PCH. The photos and video were being shot by our club’s biggest sponsor, BeachBody Performance.

bbpl-products-energize

Every year they pour a very significant amount of money into our club. Not fake money, cash money. In addition to that, they provide the club with mountains of their energy/protein/magic powders. One of the mountains is free, the other mountain is at a greatly reduced cost. The total value of the real cash plus the powder mountains approaches six figures. For all I know, it exceeds it.

Our club, unaffectionately known as Team Lizard Collectors but affectionately known as Big Orange Cycling, cannot possibly generate six figures in sales for BeachBody. I know this because scientists have shown over and over that no organism is as cheap and tight-fisted as the serious avid recreational Internet-coached profamateur delusional hobby Cat 4 bicyclist.

What does BeachBody get out of it? For the last few years they have gotten this: A plague of brightly colored lizard collectors swooping through the streets of coastal Los Angeles doing what we lizard collectors do best, that is, have fun. Whether we are in Mallorca, Holland, France, Italy, Croatia, Japan, or home in Los Angeles, we are all oranged-up in our, er, distinctive kits (some of which, for a club called “Big Orange,” are inexplicably all-green), and we prominently display BeachBody’s logo and demonstrate BeachBody’s ethos, which is to go forth and have fun even if you look pretty silly doing it.

This sponsor has been directly responsible for the addition of countless riders into organized cycling. Our club offers skills training, urban riding skills classes, racing clinics, and a weekly club ride that focuses on getting yelled at for five solid hours by Dear Leader G3, which is probably the best simulation for bike racing ever. Some of our most highly talented new riders such as K-Sulk have learned to tell people to “Fuck off!” with the ease and practiced raised middle finger as if he had been racing for decades.

In short, without telling Big Orange what to do, BeachBody Performance has made it possible to expand programs and activities that popularize cycling and that make cycling safer. More fun. More safety. Healthier lifestyle. Have a nice day and here’s a wad of cash to go with it!

And although most people use BeachBody goodies and find them very beneficial to their fake bicycling careers, not everyone in the club consumes our sponsor’s replacement drinks, electrolytes, and radiator fluid. Some people, like me, drink water for the first hundred miles of every ride and bonk for the rest of it, suffering horrible exhaustion, cramps, diarrhea, logorrhea, vomiting, migraines, graphomania, and rectal dysfunction for a couple of weeks. It’s not because we don’t like the sponsored product, it’s because we are simply used to doing things the old-fashioned way, i.e. dumbly.

In the same vein, all riders don’t utilize all of the other sponsors’ services. For example, not everyone gets run over by a car in order to purchase a certain bike injury lawyer’s services. Not everyone replaces all of the windows (Nuckles), breaks all of the indoor plumbing (Penta), or purchases 300 pairs of socks (Torrence) simply to satisfy the sponsor. BeachBody doesn’t care. They only insist that we keep riding and that we keep having fun.

They continue to be a committed and genuine advocate for riding bikes in LA. They make a difference, and it’s appreciated. And as hard as it is for us to go out and ride our bikes and have a good time week in and week out, it’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make. Thanks!

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

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Sugar blues

September 12, 2017 § 28 Comments

I once had the prettiest girlfriend named Kerry. She had red hair, she was Irish, and she was from the County of Kerry. She was also a ranked tennis player and a really good triathlete. I don’t know what she saw in me and eventually she didn’t either.

One evening I noticed a book next to her bed called “Sugar Blues.” Maybe the fact that I was in her bedroom and checking out her books was part of what was ultimately missing. It was such a good title though that I couldn’t help opening it up. Maybe the fact that I was in her bedroom at night and reading her books was the other part of what ultimately was missing.

The book was all about how sugar was the reason for the downfall of every civilization since the beginning of time, and ours was next. It was a wacky book but attention grabbing. “Hey, look at this!” I excitedly told her as I browsed through the part about Babylon. I still remember her sitting on the edge of the bed in a negligee not looking especially excited about me being especially excited about the role of sugar in ancient Babylon.

“Oh,” I thought, and threw down the book. But it was too late.

I did later buy a copy of the book and read it. It was nutty except for its premise, that refined sugar isn’t very good for you. I tried to quit eating sugar for a few days but, uh, no fuggin’ way.

A couple of months ago a good friend of mine got Keto religion. The Keto diet is like the Paleo diet except even less fun, which is like being depilated with an electric iron, except less fun.

Every time I would check in on my friend, she would report on her Keto diet. Leaving aside the fact that she looked fantastic, the diet had been good for her. Blood sugar had dropped from pre-diabetic to normal, etc. So I was glad for her but also insanely jealous, mostly because I knew there was no way in hell I could ever do a Keto diet. My last foray into weight mismanagement had been several years ago with the infamous kimchi diet, self developed in the laboratory of Seth Davidson, Bicycle Injury Lawyer, and it resulted in significant weight loss accompanied by world class flatulence, notable even for a blogger and bike racer.

So I knew the Keto diet wouldn’t work for me, not only because I’m a Capricorn but also because, at 153 pounds and 5’11”, I’m already what the World Health Organization calls “malnourished.” Yes, we may ideate Jeff Konsmo’s 132 pounds of bone, translucent skin, and subcutaneously visible gristle, but recent data suggest that even he won’t be racing the Tour this year, so, no Keto diet for you, old feller.

But, but, but …

I did like the idea of no refined sugar and I am a touch competitive and what if?

So a couple of months ago I quit eating sweets. And if a thing obviously had sugar added to it, I quit eating that, too. And I haven’t missed any of it. In fact, when I dug into my wife’s blueberry cobbler on Sunday after the Big Day ride, I was done after one small piece. She uses very little sugar, but it was so cloyingly sweet I could barely choke it down. Here’s what I’ve found after this little experiment:

  1. Your sense of taste gets much more acute, just like when you cover your eyes for a few minutes and your hearing immediately sharpens. I think sugar overwhelms all other taste perceptions, and once it’s gone, you actually start to taste more.
  2. Naturally sweet things are sweet beyond belief. Bananas now are almost too sweet to eat. Half a banana sweetens an entire bowl of oatmeal, and I do mean “sweetens.”
  3. No weight loss. Sorry.
  4. I had my one and only physical about 30 years ago, so no idea what effect it’s had on my blood sugar, but I’m guessing it’s less sugary.
  5. No more sugar spikes followed by sugar crashes.
  6. On our Big Day on Saturday, I took a few squares of bread and unsweetened peanut butter. It did just fine. When I finally ran out of gas at Cross Creek, 30 miles from home, I drank a small bottle of whole milk and washed it down with a can of Starbucks espresso. Yes, it had sugar, and yes, I got a quick spike, but the fat in the whole milk is what got me the rest of the way home. Plus I was fuggin’ desperate and Surfer Dan was actually eating a foot-long Subway.
  7. You realize that everything is flavored with sugar.
  8. I enjoy the taste of things that were previously inedible without sweetening, and it reminds me of when I was in Iriomote-jima, where the only vegetables available were tropical vegetables. Tropical vegetables are to vegetables what British cuisine is to cuisine. At the time I couldn’t believe how bad everything tasted. But now I realize that all of those strange things simply had their own taste and if you didn’t spend a lifetime salting and sweetening everything, you’d probably learn to like it. Especially if you were hungry.
  9. Diminished hunger.

There you have it.

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

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The skinny

September 5, 2017 § 25 Comments

Back in April I was reading Steve Tilford’s blog and came across one of his musings on air conditioning/heating and whether or not it caused weight gain. He thought that being hot and sweating burned more calories than sitting under the AC.

It makes sense. So I thought about it as a general proposition. Maybe the solution to trying to stay warm when it’s cold out, or trying to stay cool when it’s hot out, starts with foregoing as much clothing as possible and letting your body do the regulating.

I chucked my hoodies and knit caps and started going around in a t-shirt full time. Of course in Southern California that’s no great feat, since the weather here is pretty much perfect year-round. But if it’s so perfect, why do so many people wear so much warm clothing in the winter? And why do they wilt any time it gets over 90 degrees?

The obvious answer is that no matter how balmy the weather, when you depend on clothing and climate control to make things perfect, anything less than perfect sends you scurrying for a jacket or howling for an air conditioner.

My experiment is about four months in, and I can assure you that it hasn’t caused any weight loss. But what I have noticed, especially during my recent jaunt to Las Vegas, is that my body quickly, almost instantaneously, adjusts to the ambient air temperature. I could go from the frigid casino to the outdoor inferno and acclimate right away. I could re-enter the air-conditioned environs and within a minute or two be sufficiently warm to not even think about putting on a jacket.

The only time during my three days in Vegas that I had to wear a dress shirt and sport coat, I was unbearably hot. I’m not claiming that I could easily walk around in the extreme Vegas heat, either. One day I spent about thirty minutes on the Strip mid-day, and I took a pounding. No natural acclimation in the world will accommodate 110 degrees.

But upon returning to the South Bay in the midst of a horrible heat wave that saw (gasp!) temperatures in the high 90’s, I had no problems at all. It was hot but far from unbearable, or even miserable.

We’ll see how this fares when we hit the frigid winter temps that will certainly dive down into the low 60’s or even high 50’s; brutal stuff. In any event, I’ll save on winter clothes.

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