Monday, August 29, 2005
by Blob

It's not called Chagrin for nothing.

Following my usual bike route, one comes to the intersection of SOM Center Road and Hawthorn Parkway. Turning around there makes a 9 mile ride and avoids the massive hill that lies to the east of SOM.

So, most times, that's what I've done. On a few occasions, however, I've felt up to pressing on. On each attempt, something unpleasant has happened.

Attempt #1: Kris and I had almost just begun to ride for the summer and so we didn't have the oomph to ride back up the hill. We walked.

Attempt #2: Riding alone, I sent both derailleurs to the lowest gear in preparation for the long ride back uphill. The chain jumped clear off the front crank. While attempting to put it back on the sprockets with minimal effort (and mess), I managed to get it wedged down between the frame and the crank. Eventually, pulling with both hands while pushing down the frame with my foot dislodged it and I was able to continue. I would later realize that I broke the sensor for the cycle computer.

Attempt #3: Also with Kris, while travelling on the path, 30MPH downhill around a bend, I saw —far too late— gravel strewn all the way across the path. I hit the brakes for a second, but as soon as I got on the gravel, the wheels locked and I lost control. I was ejected from the vehicle and landed shoulder first (head second: thank you, Mr. helmet), fortunately on the muddy embankment next to the path. I would later realize that I broke the cable which runs from the replaced sensor to the cycle computer.

Attempt #4: Riding alone, I threw the chain again, this time a mere 100 feet from the safety of SOM Center Road. Once again, I managed to get the chain wedged so severely that it took five minutes of work to get it dislodged. I did not, however, break my computer.

I'm not a superstitious person, but I'm seriously beginning to consider not going that way any longer. It just hurts too much.

Friday, August 26, 2005
by Blob

Isn't it amazing how quickly a month can slip by?

I've meant to write on a few occasions about different subjects but haven't done so for one reason or another, and next thing I know, it's a month later.

First, I wanted to talk about a revelation I had about a month ago:

I'm a terrible writer.

Which isn't to say that I write poorly. I've got a pretty good grasp of the language. I can convey my ideas somewhat effectively. It's just that I don't have any style, man. My writing is very clumsy and random. I gave NaNo a try1 last year and that's when I began to realize it. It really hit me when reading my blog. It's just pathetic.

I'm not sure if that's something I can fix or not. I may just not have any gift for words. That's okay, I suppose. I've got a number of other gifts. But writing is something that I'd previously thought I was fairly good —if not talented— at.

Don't take this as self-pity, or fishing for compliments. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, or so I'm told.

I should talk about my weight loss efforts. I've stayed (mostly) on track for the past month, but I haven't lost any more weight. In fact, I've either gained some weight or my mom's scale was lying to me. I finally got a scale of my own (and verified its accuracy), and it showed me 272 two weeks ago. I'm down to about 265 now. I believe that I've built quite a bit of muscle mass, which could also explain the discrepancy.

We're still eating smaller portions of better foods, although I've stopped watching my calories too closely. We've continued to ride our bikes; Renee actually did 24 miles on the towpath with me a couple of weeks ago. However, the sun has stopped being in the sky at 6:30am, which makes the whole morning bike ride much less appealing. So, we dug out our old Bally's cards and started going back to the gym, M-W-F evenings2. Either because I've become more disciplined about it or because Renee's there with me, the gym doesn't seem the drudgery that it did a few years ago when I signed up. Of course, we're only on our second week, so that could change too.

In other news, I found a better t-shirt printing service. Spreadshirt allows you to upload your images in vector graphics formats which means you can print them in different colors, have actual transparent regions, and they look good on fabrics in colors other than white. So, if you hit the Lurkerwear link on the left, you'll see a much better selection of shit. One feature request I'm going to send them is the ability to hierarchically group items. I'd like to have the front page show a link to each style, then the style page show a link to each type of product, then the product page show a link to each color available. But that's nitpicking. It's pretty sweet. Check it out.

I went to a Halo 2 party down in Canton a couple of weeks ago. I acquitted myself fairly well, playing against a bunch of young punks who play the game regularly. I was fairly consistently 2nd place in the deathmatch games and my team was teh winx0rz in most of the team games, so w00t. I'm having an XBox LAN party at my place tomorrow, so there will be more Halo 2 to test my mettle.

And that, dear reader, catches us all up, I think. Thank you for sharing this time with me. I feel like we've grown together. Can I have a hug?

13Bad, bad, bad. I don't embarass easily; I generally don't mind showing what a dumbass I am, but there is no way that story is going to see the light of day.

2Except last Friday, at which time we were packing up to go camping. We brought our bikes and went on the bike ride from hell.

One of my uncles suggested a route that took us up a hill that was a 90% grade for about 6,000 feet. On coarse, loose gravel. And it was hot. We walked a hundred feet, stopped, walked a hundred feet, stopped, etc.; nearly used up our water supplies— and that was just the beginning. I was supposed to take a turn onto a road that ran along a ridge at the top of the hill, and then back down to join with the (coarse, loose gravel) road that led back to the campground, about 8 miles.

Well, I'd walked this route a few years earlier, and I didn't recognize the road, so we continued on —it's literally named this— Big Hill Road until it went back down. So, now we're careening down a grade similar to the one we'd climbed on —you guessed it— coarse, loose gravel. We managed to avoid death somehow and found a paved road.

For a brief, glorious time there, it was a nice ride. Smooth asphalt, no traffic, and easy hills. But I gradually became aware that we probably should have turned where I first thought we should have turned and that I didn't know where this road was going, exactly. I was pretty sure that if I just kept turning left, I'd find a road I recognized and I was also pretty sure that the road to the campground (Wally Road) extended to a paved road to the south, so I couldn't hardly miss it. Well, that road turned on to a road that was more travelled and hillier. That road eventually turned on to State Rotue 514. 55 MPH speed limit, traffic, curvy, and hills that were worse still. But, I was pretty sure that this was the paved road that intersected with Wally, so I trudged on.

Poor Renee was dying at this point, having not started as early in the summer as me and being quite a bit less fit. I stopped at a farm for directions and confirmed that we were going the right way. Eventually we made it back after 11 tortuous miles. Just as we reached relative safety, Renee had a moment with her bike and wound up hitting the barbed wire which ran around posts on either side of the hiking/biking trail entrance to the campground. Fortunately, she escaped with just some bruises and scratches, but damn.

3I'm also not very creative. I really like what KJToo does with footnotes in his blog, so I'm blatantly ganking the idea. Oh, to have a personality of my own.

Monday, July 18, 2005
by Blob

The time had come to see if I could actually go somewhere on my bike. I'm strong enough now that I can do fifteen miles hard riding without too much difficulty and my bike was working as it should. My parents' house was a likely target. It's 12 miles away, and it's got a swimming pool, which is pretty much where you want to be after riding 12 miles in the heat and humidity.

Trouble is, they're on the other side of the Cuyahoga River Valley. Now, this isn't some piddly little dip in the road. There are ski "resorts" on the walls of this valley. I gamely undertook what should have been the biggest challenge of my biking career.

I set off in early afternoon. My route took me from my neighborhood up to Rockside Road, then across town on Rockside, to my parents' neighborhood, which is conveniently also right off Rockside (which is called Snow Rd. on the west side). The skies were grey, but they'd been grey all week. There was something like a 40% chance of rain, but what the heck?

I did very well at first; surprisingly so. I'd made it to Garfield Heights and the start of the great descent at an average speed of over 14MPH (excluding traffic lights; the computer stops counting when the wheel's not moving). Then, I got a clear road for the main downhill portion. I got so fast that I couldn't keep up with the pedals any more, so I just tucked in and let gravity do its thing. The computer tells me I hit 35.7 MPH. Then there was a little hump upwards, and another, shorter downhill section before the inevitable climb out of the valley. That's when the rain hit. A drizzle at first, but it quickly became so bad that I was concerned about drivers being able to see me and the efficacy of their brakes, so I pulled off the side and proceeded on foot for most of the climb.

After a stint at 3 MPH, I got back on the bike about 4/5ths of the way up the hill, after the rain eased off. By the time I reached the traffic light at 21, effectively the end of the hill, my average speed had dropped to 13 MPH, which was nowhere near as bad as I'd expected. However, it was still uphill most of the way to Parma, just quite a bit more gradually. By the time I got there, average speed had dropped to 12.6 MPH. Still quite respectable, if I do say so myself.

Renee had given me a half-hour head start before taking off after me in the SUVoID. She caught me at Broadview Road, in Parma, nearly there. She stopped to make sure I was alive, probably had a good chuckle at my soaked clothes, and then followed me the last mile or so, which featured the only heavy traffic of the trip. I had a heck of a time getting left to turn into my parents' neighborhood.

I had a nice swim, we got to see my adorable nephew, and we took mom out to dinner. All in all, a pretty good Sunday.

On Saturday morning, I rode about 10 miles, this time with Yotto and his wife. It was a nice, if somewhat more leisurely than I've been doing, ride to SOM on the parkway, and then back to the parking area south of Aurora, before heading home.

On Saturday afternoon, I finally made good on getting my sister's new countertop installed. On many occasions, I was lacking for the right tool for the job, so I managed to make a mess out of the project. True to form, I made a two-hour job into an all-day affair, but I was successful in the end, and it looks darn nice, I must say.

This morning, I set a new speed record for my 6.2 mile ride, with an average of 13.8 MPH. Woot!

Friday, July 15, 2005
by Blob

Well, oiling up the running gear did not help me on Wednesday. However, this morning I tried adjusting the cable tension on the rear derailleur and that seems to have fixed it. At least, I was able to ride hard today without the chain jumping on me.

Also, and I don't think I mentioned it before, I broke my helmet the day I got it. I didn't realize it right away, but I was using the strap-tightening-knob incorrectly and I caused something to break; after a while I couldn't tighten it at all that way. Fortunately, there are several sets of mounting holes for the strap, and so I was able use those to keep it tight. Then, the strap came apart from the knob, so I took the whole contraption apart to see if I could fix it. I had some success, but in the process I stripped the threads in the knob so that I couldn't tighten it properly and any adjustment would require more screwing. This morning, the knob popped off completely; the threads had been stripped that badly. I got some handy gaffer's tape, made a tiny roll out of it, sticky-side-out, pushed that down in there, and threaded the screw into that. This seems to work pretty well. For the time being, at least.

Drafting an 18-wheeler, while effective, should not be attempted if you don't have eye protection of some sort. I learned this the hard way this morning. I got all kinds of dust and grit thrown in my face. I wish my computer was working, though, 'cause I had to be doing better than 35 that way.

Also, today's ride did not involve the lowest front sprocket at all. Minimum gear was 2-2. It should have been 2-3, but I stepped down one too many at the end of the last hill at my turn-around point. I think I may have to invest in a new front crankset; the low sprocket is almost useless and the high sprocket isn't high enough. My legs were flailing as fast as they could while drafting that truck down the hill.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
by Blob

Because riding fifteen miles on Saturday wasn't enough exercise, I took it into my head to fix up the back yard a bit.

The previous owners (Renee's aunt and uncle) put in a neat little garden area behind the house. It's got a bunch of paving stones placed around flower beds and a smallish plastic pond. Well, we haven't much of anything with it for the last six years, and so the flower beds had become weed beds and there were also weeds —and herbs; oregano, basil, rosemary that were also planted back there that seem to grow like weeds— growing up around the pavers.

In addition, we had a row of shrubs on the south side of the yard, providing some privacy to/from those neighbors, but the shrubs were overgrown and causing the neighbors problems, so a couple of years ago, I, along with my professional landscaper friend Dan, cut them down and began digging up the stumps. Dan had to leave before we were done, but left me with one of his fancy mattocks to finish pulling them. Well, I managed to break his fancy mattock. Snapped the steel handle right off. I'm good that way. So, I put plastic down for the rest of the year and tried to kill and decay it all off. Well, of course, I didn't do a very good job with the plastic and several of the stumps wouldn't stay covered and some even managed to survive. The following spring, we took up the plastic, intending to plant something else there, but the money wasn't ever there, and so it became a very large weed bed itself.

Flash forward to this Saturday. We took the SUVoID down to Home Depot, picked up a non-fancy mattock, some heavyish plastic, and 10 ½-cubic-foot bags of gravel and two bags of sand. Total cost: $85. Most expensive item: 10'x100'x4mil black plastic. Total weight: Fucking heavy. I'd guess each bag of gravel/sand weighed at least fifty pounds and maybe closer to 70. I had to lift each one out of the bin and into the "cart", then I had to lift each one out of the cart and into the car, then I had to lift each one out of the car and into the yard. I'm fucking He-Man.

We'd already talked about what we wanted to do with the flower bed/paving stone area: rearrange the stones so there's one large gap, rather than several smaller ones, and put a Japanese zen garden-like thing in. So, Renee went to work prying up and moving the pavers while I went to work on the remaining shrub stumps. That process probably only took about 45 minutes, during which I managed to create and rip open a large, nasty blister on my left hand, just below the wedding ring. I had to spend the rest of the day without that ring. That's the longest it's been off in fourteen years. Weird. After I got done ripping up stumps, I helped Renee with the remaining pavers. We were fortunate that most of the weeds were actually growing on sediment that had collected on top of the old plastic the pavers were resting on.

We pulled up the old plastic, mattocked the heck out of the flowerbeds, smoothed everything out as best I could with a leaf rake that I immediately broke the handle of, put new plastic down, then the pavers, then the gravel. It actually looks fairly nice, if I do say so myself.

Then, the pond. The pond originally had fish in it. They lasted a year or two under our stewardship. Then came the big West Nile Virus Scare of 200(1?2?), when the neighbors insisted we put a pump/filter in there to keep the mosquitoes from breeding. Being a nice guy, I complied, and cleaned out the pond at that time as well. We've got a nice little fountain on the pump and it looks pretty cool. Well, we'd like to get some more fish in there, so we needed to put down a new substrate and stuff, so we cleaned out the pond again. When it was nearly out of water, it was loose in its hole, so I pulled out the entire plastic tub (thinking this was a shortcut) and poured out the rest of the water and hosed it down. Then I got to dig out the sand which had collapsed into the area the tub used to occupy and re-create the hole for the pond to sit in. To my surprise, the tub went back in fairly easily and we loaded it up with some of the sand, some of the gravel, and a lot of water and got the fountain started again. It, too, looks nice with its fresh, clean water. We'll let it naturalize for a few weeks before we buy some koi.

Then I dug up the rotting railroad ties which lined the old shrub area, put down more of the plastic, and used the railroad ties to hold it down.

Whew. It was almost as exhausting to write about as it was to do it. Hopefully next spring we'll have to money for some new shrubs.

The whole process was roughly equivalent to putting a spit shine on a turd, but it was rewarding nonetheless.

The best part, though, was that I got to drive the SUVoID into the back yard. I had previously thunk that it wouldn't fit between the trees and the A/C, but I was wrong. There's maybe even a foot to spare. But I sure as heck wasn't going to lug all that gravel from the driveway to the back yard by hand. Youch.

Okay. That's the end.

I'm really done now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
by Blob

My bike has apparently grown weary of hauling my fat ass up all those hills.

On Saturday, I was doing very well. I got to the turn-around point of my 9-mile ride and I'd done a good pace and had relatively little trouble with the hills, so I thought I'd keep going, down the monster hill and see what lies beyond it. Basically, the road goes down that hill and then ends at a recreation area, but the trail goes on, so I kept following it. After riding through some dense brush and across a wooden bridge, I came to another road and a hill back up. I started to climb this hill, but I'd just had to slow down for people blocking the entire trail, and so I needed to downshift. I threw both derailleurs into low gear at the same time and the chain just popped off the crank.

After recovering from the sudden loss of resistance, I stepped off the bike and tried to quickly re-attach the chain. Unfortunately, in my haste, I only succeeded in making the problem worse. One link of the chain had found its way deep into the pedal mechanism and got thoroughly wedged between it and the frame. So, I had to turn the bike on its back (forgetting the computer attached to the handlebars) and get my hands good and covered in grease to finally get it dislodged. I was literally pulling the chain with both hands and using my foot to hold down the frame.

About the time that I turned the bike back over, I realized that I'd just pushed the computer into the ground with a decent amount of force. I was relieved to find that it wasn't destroyed, and continued about my ride. I came to an intersection with another trail (which at the time I didn't realize was the trail that I'd been on a few minutes earlier), and my usually good sense of direction told me that left was the way back to Rt. 91, and ultimately, home, so I went that way and was rewarded with a downhill section. Only, it was part of the same downhill I'd already done. So, when I got to the bottom and recognized where I was, I turned around and started up the hill (again).

I made it up the hill, much to my surprise, without having to get off and push, albeit in low, low gear. About half-way up that hill, my computer wonked out. I thought perhaps that the magnet had become misaligned, and indeed when I got to the top of the hill, I adjusted the magnet and it started working again. I managed to do a moment at 34.3 MPH on the way home and finished the trip uneventfully. The computer read around 14.5 miles, but I think it was actually 15 or more, when you compensate for the computer missing wheel revolutions.

On Sunday morning, I set out again. While climbing the first big hill, the chain jumped for a second, giving me a start and costing me momentum. I sat down and switched into a lower gear for the rest of the hill and carried on. Then it happened again. And again. In addition, my computer lost about half a mile on the return trip and I didn't notice it.

On Monday morning, the chain was jumping whenever I tried to power up a hill and the computer gave up for good.

So, last night, I set out to try to fix the problems. I can't see anything wrong with the chain/sprockets/derailleurs, so I just oiled everything up and hoped for the best. On the computer front, I thought that I just had too much clearance between the switch and the magnet, so I bought some new wire ties and tried to remount it, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get a signal at all. I messed with it a bit and managed to (without pulling very hard), yank the wires from the switch (which it turns out is a very common and inexpensive reed switch). So, since it was wrecked anyway, I pulled apart the enclosure around the switch and found that it was broken. I had to give up at that point and I removed the whole contraption from the bike.

I got to bed too late last night and overslept this morning, so I haven't been able to test out my "repairs". I'll let you know how that goes. I'm hoping that I can grab a burglar alarm sensor from Radio Shack or something, since those have the same kind of reed switch in them, and adapt it for the computer, but I haven't had a chance to do that, either.

I don't want something like this to derail me. I've done a good job, keeping this up for five weeks, now. But damn, it's frustrating. Especially the hill-climbing problem. It's hard enough to do that, sucking air and trying to ignore the burning in the legs, but to miss a beat just completely throws me out of whack, and has the potential to throw me on the pavement.


Thursday, July 7, 2005
by Blob

When I decided to start riding my bike in earnest, it occured to me that I was A) Going to be riding on the public roads and B) Less immortal than I was twenty years ago. So, I went and got myself a helmet. A Schwinn helmet from Target. There were some other neat gizmos for the bike there which I wanted but did not pick up at the time for a lack of fundage.

I went and picked 'em up on Tuesday and got to use them this morning. I got a computer and a mirror. Here's the review, such as it is.

The computer, something —but not exactly— like the one pictured at right, is both a blessing and a curse. It's pretty cool to see exactly how far and how fast I'm going. (6.188 miles in 29:24, avg speed: 12.5 MPH, max speed: 33.6 MPH (I was very nearly speeding, if only for a few seconds!)) However, it's a harsh taskmaster. Every time I see the average speed speed slip below 12, I feel like I've got to work harder, even if I'm going uphill. It was installed and calibrated easily enough, so I could recommend it, if only I could find it on the internets. I can't. I tried.

The mirror is a strap-on-to-your handlebar thingamabob. Now, I need a mirror, 'cause every time I look over my left shoulder to see if there are cars coming, I inevitably drift left into the path of the oncoming cars. But this one is a pain in the ass, for two reasons: One, it straps onto your handlebar grip, which wouldn't be so bad if it was comfortable to grip, but part of it is velcro and the other is hard plastic, which has an unfortunate sharp bit protruding. I see sandpaper in its future. Two, it straps onto your handlebar grip, so if you're gripping hard, to climb a hill, for instance, it twists with your grip and ends up pointing at the sky or the road. You can very easily twist it back into place, but still a pain in the ass. But, I suppose you get what you pay for, and I only spent $5 or $6 on it.

So there you have it. At least the expensive ($25) one works well, even if I'm going to drive myself crazy with it. On a more positive note, the two days I took off this week (Tuesday: weather, Wednesday: up late working Tuesday) have pretty much restored my legs and I was able to ride pretty hard today without pain. Woot.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005
by Blob

I may just have to become a "fitness celebrity" and go get me some infomercials and make a bajillion dollars telling people to ride their bikes and eat less.

I don't have a scale at home, so other than the rather subjective evidence I can see in the mirror and on my belt, I haven't had any way to track my progress. Well, we were at my parents' house for an Independence Day celebration on the 3rd and they have a scale. I love my mom's scale, 'cause it says 262. It's been at least seven years since I was in the 260s. That puts me a little less than halfway to my goal.

My mom is very image-conscious. She's always gone to great pains to maintain her weight and she'll never leave the house without her hair and make-up on. Despite that, though, she never really harped on me about my weight. She'd encourage me to work on it, but she never judged me poorly because I wasn't as careful with my own appearance. True to form, though, she arranged a cookout menu so as not to sabotage my efforts: grilled chicken (sans barbecue sauce for me) and corn-on-the-cob, and other fresh fruits and veggies. I'd come prepared with some veggie burgers of my own: Morningstar's Fajita Burgers, just in case, and didn't need 'em. So, thanks Mom. I even snuck another sliver of rhubarb pie without feeling like I'd blown my diet.

On the fourth, we were supposed to have Renee's family at our place, but her sister cancelled, so we just cooked for us and her mom. I had the first red meat I've had in a while: bison burgers. Actually, just one each, plus salad (with low-fat dressing), baked potato (with skin and salsa on top), and fresh fruit. The burgers were the best I've ever made; I mixed in some diced onion, worcestershire sauce, garlic, pepper, and oregano before I made the patties. I'd also grilled up a couple of veggie burgers, thinking that the one wouldn't be enough, but I was way wrong. Not only did I not need it, but I was actually repulsed by the idea of eating more. Contrast with the good ol' days when I'd scarf three burgers without breaking stride. Oh, by the way, fresh pineapple, watermelon, and banana, as bizarre a combination as it sounds, makes an excellent fruit salad and also a tasty smoothie.

On the biking front, I've kept a steady pace of 5 days per week, 6.2 miles on three of the week days and 9 each Saturday and Sunday. Weather, work, and a back injury have conspired to keep me from doing 7 days a week, but that's probably good. My legs need some time to repair the damage I'm doing to them. With the holiday, I did another 9 miles yesterday (no walking this week, and lots of agressive hill-climbing), but my legs, particularly on the back, between the butt and the knee (don't know the muscle(s)), are aching for it.

So, obviously, I'm doing the right things, partially by design and partially by accident. If I can keep up this pace (but things I've read suggest that I can't), I'll be at my target weight by my birthday. How much would that rock? A whole lot, I'd say.

Monday, June 20, 2005
by Blob

Well, after all that patting myself on the back last week, I fell off the wagon a bit. I rode Wednesday morning (and did well as I recall), but on Thursday morning it was raining too heavily and on Friday I was recovering from the Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers show the previous evening, which got me to bed at 3am. (But was well worth it! What a show! It deserves a post of its own.) The diet persisted, though, and I got back into the swing on Saturday. 9 miles with Kris in under an hour and I kicked those hills to the curb; I was able to get up on the pedals and power my way up in the middle gears. On Sunday, I did the 9 miles in under an hour again, but my legs were griping and so there was less powering up the hills and more getting off the damned bike and walking for a minute. This was followed by a vigorous mowing of the lawn.

I think I may have gone over my calorie goal on both days, but I don't have accurate numbers. I'd guess ~1800 Saturday and ~2500 Sunday. If that NutritionData website's energy calculator is remotely correct, though, that still leaves me with a healthy calorie deficit. We went to my dad's place to celebrate Fathers' Day and there was lasagna, of which I resisted a second piece despite the first being small, but there was also rhubarb pie. My dad makes the best rhubarb pie on the planet; he grows the rhubarb in the back yard. I had a sliver and forewent the accompanying ice cream. On Sunday night, I was up late trying (and failing) to get some overdue work done and as such I overslept this morning, meaning no ride.

However, I realized today that my belt is buckled one hole smaller than previously, and there's room to spare. And, perhaps more importantly, I can see my belt in the mirror. Can you lose an inch in a week? That's pretty fucking cool, and some welcome encouragement when I needed it. I'm going to get back up on that wagon tomorrow.

Perhaps soon I can rename this category to Fitness?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
by Blob

On Saturday, June 4, Kris and I went on the first of what will hopefully be a summer full of bicycle rides. We left from my house and rode on the public roads to the Metroparks entrance (about 1.9 miles, mostly uphill). We didn't quite make it up the troublesome hill on Aurora Road, and had to walk up the last half or so. We took the bike/jog path about another 1.2 miles through the park up to Harper Road, which is at the end of another hill that we had to walk half of. At that point we decided to turn back, making it 6.2 miles in a little less than an hour. To say that it was unimpressive is no small understatement, but neither of us is in very good shape and it was my first ride in a year.

Coincidentally, my sister, who is an R.N. and concerned about my weight, gifted me a weight loss book by Dr. Phil McGraw the next day. I'm not a big fan of Dr. Phil, but I suppose that's more to do with the fact that he can make a living teaching people common fucking sense than anything to do with the man, himself. At any rate, the book is full of common fucking sense, most (but not all) of which I knew. So, there you go. Since I'd been trying to eat better since about March, these things have just given me the impetus to take it up another notch.

The following Saturday, we rode 10.3 miles (round trip) along the same route, making it past SOM Center Road and down a ginormous hill beyond. It took us about two hours with periods of resting and walking. We walked back up that puppy. On Sunday, I rode to SOM Center along that route alone, which is just short of 9 miles round trip. I made it without stopping in right around an hour, which made me feel pretty good.

Yesterday and today, I got up early and rode the 6.2 mile trip before getting ready for work. My legs are (understandably, I hope) quite sore from this sudden burst of activity, and on Monday I needed to walk three hills, but I made the trip in 30 minutes. This morning, it took 35 minutes, but I only needed to walk the last third of the hill approaching Harper Road. Also, last night, I did some crunches and pushups for about 10 minutes. According to this nifty website, I used about 4400 calories yesterday. I only ate about 1500, and didn't feel overly hungry. This seems like it should be a good thing.

I've had all kinds of energy. In fact, I want to go out for lunch and do some serious walking, but the absence of a shower at the office makes that a smelly proposition. I'm fidgeting much more than usual. I'm more alert than I have been. I'm looking forward to the next bike ride. That's a new experience for me. I've always felt exercise was drudgery.

This is now officially my second longest stint on an exercise regimen. When I joined Bally's a few years ago, I made it for two weeks before I started to peter out. Usually, though, when I get so fed up with my weight that I'm going to do something about it, I only stay fed up for a day or two. So, this is exciting, and encouraging. I fully intend to ride tomorrow morning, and the rest of the week for that matter. I'm thinking of riding to my parents' place on Sunday. That's about ten miles, but it goes down into and then back up out of the Cuyahoga River valley and that's a little scary, particularly on Rockside Road.

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but after only four days, there's a visible difference in my legs. If I tighten the muscles therein, I've actually got some definition my calves and a bit in my quadraceps. That's pretty fucking cool, I think.

For now, at least, I'm running on momentum. I'm sure that at some point in the not too distant future it'll get difficult and I'll have to see whether I pass that test or not, but I'm more encouraged than I've ever been about my weight loss efforts. So, dear reader, wish me well. I'll let you know in a few weeks whether it's made any difference.