Monday, May 2, 2016

The Mental Wanderings of a Fat Kid in Spandex

A good friend of mine called me the other day to openly express to me his affinity for spandex and the bike that goes along with this sputnik space age material. His recounting of his stretchy short conversion was so money that I felt he needed to share his message with the F word nation. Enjoy the, “Mental Wanderings of a Fat Kid in Spandex!”

Growing up, I was one of those kids who wore “husky size” clothes—My grandmother (Nanny) taught me eat like a grown man in the summer of 1986—she was accustomed to cooking for a big family, and since I was out for the summer she encouraged me to eat like a big family. So, while I have always been a bit bigger than average, I have always been fairly active—I grew up cross country skiing, riding bikes, hiking, lifting weights, playing football, and baseball. As I turned into a teen ager I grew into my weight a bit-- not that I was ripped, but I looked less like Chunk from Goonies than in my formative years. While in college, I found open blocks in my schedule allowed me to go for jogs-- I really enjoyed jogging—it helped me clear my mind, get outside, organize my thoughts, allowed me to listen to music (yellow Walkman in a neoprene hip pack), and it kept me in pretty good shape during my party years. When I finished school my wife and I decided we needed a dog, so we got a 1 year old lab—I caution you on this move, buying a one year old lab into your home is like inviting a crack head who eats furniture into your life. In order to sleep, I needed to wear him out, so I took up running once again. It was a great way for my dog (who is now 15 and in dog years would have been born during Grover Cleveland administration). As I became a productive member of society—working more and traveling, I began running on a treadmill in gyms and more recently in hotels—which is not too rough on the joints but in my mind I’m basically in prison. Hotel exercise rooms are like janitor’s closets. When at a gym, I’m convinced the chest and arms (only) steroid guys in tank tops want to jump me in the shower, and the pretty girls with too much make up are actually skinny gender bending vatos. No judgment here, but involuntary shower love and trannys are NOT my jam.

Being a part of generation who is rapidly becoming not younger-- I have had to change many of my habits to compensate for the onset of my 30s crumbling in the rear view behind me. I can no longer consume mass amounts of pizza and chicken wings, party like a rock star, and participate in life the next day like it is not a problem. Truth be told, when I watch TV with my wife, I can no longer stay up past 9:30 without nodding off, jumping into a conversation I have no business participating in and making random statements about “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, how the government should be decentralized and how “I’m good … I’m not tired”.. but I digress. One big change for me, is I can’t jog outside anymore without feeling like I am living out some “Catholic guilt” driven penance for failing God.  Now days, while I’m jogging, I don’t get a runner’s high, I don’t appreciate being outside, I don’t have a sense of accomplishment about the miles I have covered… In fact, I spend most of the run praying that a meteorite will kill me, or Sasquatch will jump out of someone’s yard, tear me apart limb from limb and make the misery end. For a time, I loved running but as my body changed (additional weight and my joint’s ability to absorb a pounding) I have been forced to consider other options.

Some guys struggle with putting on mass, I do not—good and bad. I can add muscle pretty quickly, if I am not careful, just as easily I can grow man boobs and middle aged spread.  I currently stand 6’0” tall and I weigh 230 lbs-- according to a BMI index, I am morbidly obese and have failed society. Good news, I’m actually in decent shape, my waist is 36”. So stocky, but no longer husky. I am probably built to be a weight lifter (stocky and compact) I still do some strength training and I definitely see the value in this but I really like to be out and about doing cardio. Really, my mind is always firing on all cylinders, and anaerobic exercise is too stop and go for me to get my crap straight. Lifting weights feels like sitting in traffic on the 880 between Oakland and Berkeley at 4:30 on a Wednesday. Cardio, allows me to stretch it out and file all of my mental wanderings so I can function in society. While adding mass and lifting weights are some people’s goal, they are not mine. In fact, when I played baseball as a kid, I longed to track down balls hit to the gap like a graceful lanky center fielder—instead, being built like Chunk, I was a catcher. While making appropriately timed comments about opposing batters mother’s fidelity or lack thereof was fun, it was not fast or graceful. When running I have always been a plodder—short choppy strides (I am totally the jack hammer sounding guy on treadmills—I can’t help it) I have never been fast, just determined.

Recently, I moved to an area where there is a great road cycling scene, and this has been a revelation. I could go on all day about why road cycling is awesome, but I will give you my top 10 reasons why cycling is better than running:

  1.   Stocky guys can be fast. Olympic sprinters can run like 25 MPH in short bursts; I have hit speeds in excess of 50 MHP coming down a good grade. Scary? Yes; but fast, and fun—just don’t wreck.
  2.  You don’t beat up your joints like you do running. If you ride hard, you’ll know it—from your gootch to your quads and hammys it will burn but it’s good for you.
  3. Bikes are cool. Don’t get me wrong, moisture wicking shorts and a pair of Saucony shoes are cool… I just lied to you, these things are not cool. Bikes are cool.
  4. You can go a long ways in a reasonable amount of time, you can ride 35-40 miles in two and a half hours.  I can ride through other towns, the country, foothills, and the mountains in this amount of time. If I ran for 2.5 hours at some point I’m going to contemplate running head first into a bus.
  5.  Spandex. This is a necessary part of being a cyclist, if you have the confidence to rock spandex in public there are not too many situations in life that should make you uncomfortable.
  6. Family time. My kids don’t want to jog, but I can get them to go for a bike ride.
  7. Variation. Mountain bikes, road bikes, beach cruisers—all good my friends.
  8.  Cool accessories: helmets, glasses, gloves, clip in pedals, lights, tools.
  9.  One of the only man and machine relationships that is healthy. You can power a machine and see the world, if you work hard and take care of your machine it will take you further than you might imagine going.
  10. Climbing hills teach you that if you are slow and steady you can accomplish your goals.
  11. Stay hydrated, bring some additional fuel, don’t wear ear buds on the road, use sun screen, be mechanically self-sufficient (spare tube, pump/C02, tire levers, multi tool), keep a light on the back of your bike, get a good mid-tempo song stuck in your head (I recommend the Golden State by John Doe or  The Way We Get By by Spoon). 
If you are a runner, honestly, good for you—I no longer am. But remember this, if a fat kid can grow up to rock spandex in public and climb some hills, so can you. Editors Note: I am a runner and I take great pride of making fun of our spandex biking brothers, but then again I wear the man spanxs when I pedal my bike so it all equals out! Have a great week and don't forget to do your part to justify the F word.