Indianola Stop Over for RAGBRAI

I just heard on the news that RAGBRAI will be overnighting in Indianola this year. I guess that means we better fire up the grill, open up our basement and backyard while we house some cyclists.

I might even have to ride a day or two this year provided the schedule works.


The Daily Grind...


It seems I have only been able to manage about 5 - 6 hours a week on the bike (C7i exercise bike in the basement that is) knocking out my endurance rides of 1 hour, 1 1/4 hours, 1 1/2 hours, 2 hours plus my 2 days of Power Phase weight lifting. I was hoping for 7 hours a week minimum in this phase, but I do have 12 days left in this phase so I will see if I can up my hours. I'm not counting my daily morning rides outside with the dogs as that is snail's pace riding on the snow and ice and rarely lasts more than 20 minutes.

I may have to go to 2 a days for the rest of this phase to up my hours with my busy work schedule. The weight lifting ends this Sunday, so next week will be on the bike only to finish out the endurance phase. I will get a well deserved rest week before moving into the SMSP interval phase in mid-February.

Annual Heart Examination

I had my annual Iowa Heart Clinic exam yesterday. Three items are now checked in the high risk category. In 2007, only 2 items got a check mark (which was enough to warrant me visiting the Heart Clinic as preventative medicine in the first place).

Over age 45 - check
Family history of heart disease - check
High Cholesterol score - check (this is the new check mark since 2007)

My HDL is very good at 65. Triglyceride levels are very low. It's the bad stuff, the LDL, that has risen. And here is the kicker. I'm not overweight. I exercise religiously. My diet is perfect. I don't smoke (never have). So it's the 75% of cholesterol production that has nothing at all to do with my diet, but everything to do with my genetics that I have to fight. Well, that number has increased 30 points since 2007 in spite of all my natural efforts to keep it at bay through diet, weight and exercise. So the Doc and I are on a quest to fight this and prevent me from following the course of my family history. It's preventative and considering the alternative, I feel I must not let history repeat itself.

I hate medicine. I detest medicine. The only thing I take is one daily baby aspirin which is the typical recommendation for us over 45"ers. I take a seasonal allergy/asthma pill during the spring/summer allergy season for a few weeks to keep my suffering limited. Outside of that - no meds. The Doc is trying to convince me to add a generic, low cost medication to lower the bad LDL number and then check my blood in 2 months again to see if it works. He says my numbers should be down in 6 weeks time, but at the 2 month check if the numbers are good enough we can lower the dosage.

Hmmmmm......so I am researching everything I can about these nasty drugs, side effects, interactions, recommendations, pros, cons, effects on muscles and exericise, etc... . The internet is filled with horror stories about statins which I have to wade through to pick the wheat from the chaff.


Manhandling the C7i in the basement...

Even with my rock music blaring, water bottles filled, and everything all comfy on the C7i exercise bike in the basement - man it can get boring doing these endurance phase/base building rides indoors. 30 minutes I can handle. 45 is a piece of a cake. An hour is good and I can tolerate it. But you cross into the 1 1/2 - 2 hour time frame and ugghhh....

Let's see, last night my son was across the room playing away on his Play Station, KGGO was firing up all the old heavy metal classics on the Bose next to me, I had my laptop open and on the display of the C7i to do some reading while sweating away and the smell of dinner was wafting down from the kitchen. Plenty of stimuli for the workout, but the prescribed 1 1/2 hours seemed to drag on in spite of all the things around me. But I made it through the workout and got the full 90 minutes under my belt in the proper HR zones. And I actually felt really good afterwards. I went upstairs and showered, ate, folded laundry, changed the sheets, chatted with the wife and kids for about an hour and then hit the hay.

TGIF!! Tonight I'm attending an opera up in Des Moines with my wife. My colleague at Simpson wrote it and Opera Iowa is performing it before heading out on tour with the piece which is about George Washington Carver.


Watch out for parked cars!!!

I thought I was just about in one of those goofy clips from the old show "Laugh In" this morning where the bike hits the curb or a parked car and the rider falls over before they cut away to Goldie Hawn in her bikini.

On a street where I have ridden with the dogs for the past 5 years, I was buzzing along this morning all bundled up in my winter garb out in the cold taking them for their morning walk. I was looking down and checking my brake housing or something on my bike when all of a sudden I saw just a few feet in front of me a parked car. I hit the brakes hard and stopped just shy of an inch or two from the rear bumper. Glad the disc brakes were working so well!!! I've never, ever seen a car parked in that section of the street (it's a no parking zone) in 5 years time and I have no idea how I missed seeing it coming around the corner and riding along. Hey, at least it got my heart rate up which never hurts while exercising, right?

As one of my favorite bumper stickers and t-shirts has said the past few years "January 20th, 2009 - the end of an error" finally happened today. Man, that took incredible patience not only for many Americans, but most of the world. The page now turns and forward goes our history....


Power Phase begins...

I extended the Strength Phase of weight lifting an additional 2 weeks, took a week off and entered the Power Phase yesterday. This is the fun one where you cut back to a lower percentage of your 1 Rep Max and do sets of 8; 6; 4; 3 reps adding weight with each set and doing them "fast and furious", hopping off the floor and generally raising eyebrows in the gym. It felt good to do yesterday as all those heavier loads are now set aside for the lower body to enter this power phase which includes work on the bike as well.

There is a 30 minute challenge going on at my gym to improve your distance covered on the LifeCycle exercise bikes. You are allowed to warm-up, but once you start your 30 minute segment one is not allowed to change the power level. So you pedal for 30 minutes, and following your "ride" you list your power level and distance on the board to compare with other people in the challenge.

For whatever reason yesterday after lifting weights, I decided to "peg" it and see if I could top my previous distance covered last week. This is my month of building up aerobic endurance, so I knew I would be taking myself out of the proper zone if I went too hard. I warmed up for 15 minutes and then took some water and headed into my "challenge 30 minutes". Well, pretty soon the heart rate climbed right up to the 163 - 177 area which is getting a bit high for my January goals, but I rode it out for the 30 minutes wondering why the gym felt so "warm" in the middle of January. HA! Well, in spite of my effort I missed last week's distance by less than a 10th of a mile. Odd, I was in a higher power level which I thought meant I covered more distance with each pedal stroke. I was keeping it at 97 - 103 rpm for the entire 30 minutes, but I guess last week's one notch lower power level and slightly higher cadence covered more distance. Oh well, I was cooked for the day with the weights and 45 minutes on the exercise bike (with it's very wide saddle).

Tomorrow's ride will be a little tamer in terms of cadence, but I will shoot for my target duration (1 1/2 - 2 hours) provided I get home from work in time to get it all in before dinner. I had to have the mini-van towed away today since it wouldn't start with or without a jump. I will call tomorrow to see what the damage is going to cost to get it up and running again. It's reached the point of being 11 years old and these repairs are cropping up more than I want...

Edit: It was just the battery. I guess it was so dead and dry that it wouldn't take a jump. I'm a little miffed at myself that I didn't buy a battery myself and give it a try before calling the shop for a tow. Especiallly miffed because I thought of that and had time to do it before work, but I really thought it was something worse since I couldn't jump it. Bottom line, the repair was about $100 more than had I done it myself.


Rest and Recovery Day...

Well I made my 3rd day of the block training ride in the basement yesterday after work with classic rock blaring in the background to motivate me. I started the ride a bit later than I was hoping to as I didn't get out of the office right at 5 as planned. This meant I had to cut the trainer session short at 1 hour 20 minutes when the dinner bell rang. I was hungry. Very hungry. So I hopped off the trainer, wiped myself down and headed up for salmon and whole wheat basil stuffed pasta to rebuild.

After this morning's jaunt in the neighborhood on the bike with the dogs in this balmy -11 degree weather, I'll take 2 days off the bike to rest and recover. Weights on Sunday followed by some mileage on the trainer. 6 pounds dropped so far this month during the endurance phase. That may change this weekend with the festivities around the house of a birthday dinner/celebration that includes prime rib and all the trimmings. I've got a rest and recovery week coming up the last week of this month, so I have one more week to accomplish a bit more body weight trimming in this endurance phase.


10 miles in the snow...

I usually haul the bike out every morning and do a mile or two in the neighborhood or on the country gravel roads near our house with our dogs, Max and Zoey. I've been getting a lot of stares this winter from folks thinking I'm crazy riding out in the ice and snow, but with the proper tires and clothing, it's normal in my book. Keeps my cycling interest up from all that work in the gym and in the basement on the trainer.

Yesterday, due to the -8 temps and -20 to -30 windchill, I suited up in full snow shoveling/ski gear and headed out for a ride. The dogs love the snow and the cold, so they were in hog heaven and kept pushing me to go on down the road a bit more. Me? I was good for 20 minutes until the fingers started to get numb. It was cold. North Dakota type of cold. The lobster mittens are warm critters for most climates, but not at those temps. I needed a NASA liner for them, but I forged ahead in the new 3 inches of snow with numb fingers.

I had a facemask, Russian faux fur hat, full length mountain parka, hiking boots, wool socks, long johns, sweat pants, gore-tex ski pants and was nice and toasty outside of my digits. I did a full 10 miles before pulling in the driveway and going inside to try and find my fingers. They came back to life with some warm water and a cup of coffee. Then I headed out and shoveled the driveway and walks which pretty much proved futile. The wind was so strong, I basically just rearranged the snow a bit. Oh well, it'll be 40 degrees by Monday and things will melt.

In an effort to attack my weight and add some cycling base (what I'm doing in January), I did 1 1/2 hours on the trainer after work last night to make it a two training session day. I figured it would help me sleep. Well, here I am wide awake in the middle of the night for the 3rd night in a row. The Doc put me on a medication due to my bloodwork last week and promised me no side effects. Hmmmmmmm.....nobody mentioned it would keep me up at night...

Today is supposed to be even colder, so maybe just a few blocks around the neighborhood on the bike with the dogs frolicking to avoid any frostbite before going to work. Indianola public schools are canceled for today due to the -30 windchill and -14 base temperature. I don't understand that cancellation as it's not like we haven't seen those low temps before, but I'll file it away in the bunch of wussies file. They sent everyone home at 1pm on Monday as well because a "blizzard" was coming. It didn't hit until 6 - 6:30pm. And they sent the kids home early in December with a "big storm" that was coming. It didn't start to snow until midnight that time. What's with all these precautions? We need to send everyone up to Minnesota or North Dakota for a winter to toughen 'em up!

And, since my wife works for the AEA, no school means her work is canceled today as well. She can take care of the teenagers in the house today. Simpson is open for business as always, so I'll head off to work in the crisp air while everyone else plays forced hooky here at home.

Training for tonight is another 1 1/2 or 2 on the trainer in this block before I earn my 2 rest and recovery days. And perfect timing as my wife's birthday is this weekend and we're having a big dinner party on Saturday to celebrate.


Holocaust survivor - my mother-in-law...

The upcoming movie, Defiance, features the Bielski brothers who led Partisan members during WWII. My mother-in-law joined one of the Bielski brothers Partisan groups near the end of the war after she was kicked out of her own group (as a teenager) for failure to accept the "advances" by the leader of that particular reconnaissance group that spent a lot of time trying to blow up Nazi trains and train tracks. My mother-in-law was invited to a special screening of the movie Defiance and my wife and I can't wait to see it.

On top of that, my mother-in-law met the niece of Oskar Schindler (Schindler's List was about him) today in San Francisco and had a nice conversation. The telephone has been ringing off the hook for my mother-in-law with the upcoming movie, Defiance. But it is just one more item in a long list of things documenting her life. Steven Spielberg chose her interview as one of the live interviews about WWII to be featured at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. several years ago. It has been bittersweet to see her relive her experiences leading up to, during and after the war these past 18 years. Suffice it to say, that she has lived an incredible life. Here we are 65 years later documenting all of it on film, interview and through stories. To say it all took a toll on her would be the mild version of it. I doubt any of us could ever imagine what she has been through in her 83 years of experience on this earth.

Not much to say beyond that. The blizzard hit about 2 hours ago and the wind is howling. I got an hour in on the trainer today and am in weight loss mode for the rest of January. I took Zack to pick up his school permit today, so he will finally start driving himself to and from school and school activities starting tomorrow (providing the blizzard has blown on through town....).


GP Doc's Clearance....and playing the role of the guinea pig.

The first week of January always brings up my annual physical and this year did not disappoint. I headed in at 8 am on January 6th after fasting for 12 hours so I could have blood drawn, pee in a cup and have the once over by the Doc.

There was a new twist this year that I've got to mention. After the nurse weighed me, took my temperature, took me back to one of the rooms to check my blood pressure and heart rate she asked me if I would mind if a third year medical student attended my physical with my GP. I said it was fine. So in walks a 5' Asian young woman who started the physical on her own. She checked my ears, nose, throat, listened to my chest, checked my lymph nodes and in walked my GP (who is a great guy and probably the best Doc I've had to date).

He took over and did the same thing that she had done and then we moved to the fun part. He sat in the chair, had me stand up and drop my trousers and drawers for the old turn your head and cough routine. Then, down sat the young female med student and we did the turn your head and cough routine again. She did fine and checked for lumps very gingerly. Then my Doc says, here's the fun part Bruce. Bend over and smile. So I obliged and he put on his rubber gloves, greased 'em up and checked the old Mr. Walnut (prostate). Then came the second round as the young female med student put her gloves on, greased up and.....and.....and....and...

She couldn't couldn't find the entrance to the park! My Doc says, "spread 'em, and reach in there and feel." She kept trying to get in and finally I turn to her and say, "Hon, you're about 2 inches too high. The gate is a little bit lower than where you are currently poking." Okay, so she's nervous and finally after feeling around she's in. Then my Doc says, "No. You have to turn your finger over in the other direction to feel properly." So, rotation inside my inner regions is felt and her little fingers grapple around trying to feel Mr. Walnut. Finally she emerges and my Doc commends me on being such a good sport while he hands me a box of Kleenex to clean up the party.

I wiped, tucked my shirt in, hitched up my pants and belt and then visited with the Doc about my health. He said Mr. Walnut is actually quite small - so that's good news and always really one of the main reasons guys over 40 head in for their annual exam in the first place. We checked my left shoulder which I thought surely had a torn rotator cuff the way it was clicking and feeling. Nope. Not the rotator cuff at all after a series of physical therapy tests/moves. It was tendonitis. Told me to take Aleve before lifting weights and then ice immediately afterward. The "clicking" was the swollen tendons passing over each other when I would extend my arm out and reach for something. That was all good news to me in case I want to play any golf this summer.

Everything else checked out fine and now I move on to phase two for my annual tests up at the Iowa Heart Clinic. I'm a regular there (every 6 months) after we found a little blockage in one of my 4 arteries back in 2007 in the heart via the calcium scan. I had been complaining of chest pain for 2 years until I finally got somebody to believe me and run some tests. Sure enough, I had a little blockage in one of the main 4 pipes. Nothing major, but enough to register in the scan. This scan, by the way, is not covered by insurance and runs about $99 - $110 each visit. However, I gladly pay as I want to know what I'm dealing here with my genetics being what they are. I'm due for another scan and treadmill test this year and will see if my altered eating and regimen has kept the blockage at bay and if my cholesterol #'s have improved since my last visit this summer. My "bad" cholesterol #'s have always been nice and low, but the "good" cholesterol #'s were in need of a tad bit of raising. I'm hoping I hit my #'s this time. I like my Doc up there as well since he is exactly my age and went to med school in Austria, married a gal from lower Austria and still keeps a home over there. We speak the entire checkup to each other in German.

In the meantime, I am just finishing up week one of the endurance/base building phase. Outside of my one trip out on the bike where I met my fate with some ice, all riding has been in the basement on the C7i with my music cranked up on the Bose. It's nice to be burning the calories again. I've dropped 3 pounds in week one and am being very careful not to overeat or lose too much weight. Sweets are out and pie season is over. Rats!!! I think ideal would be 2 pounds of weight loss per week for the month to get back to racing weight, but we'll see where I end up. I didn't gain as much weight this year during the weight lifting phases as last year in spite of lifting more weight this year (which was based on my maximum rep tests to set my weights). I also didn't eat everything in sight this time around so kept the weight gain at bay. It's hard not to eat a lot since the weight lifting phases are right during the prime holiday eating season. And the endurance phase burns so many calories, it is difficult not to grab whatever is within reach to eat I am so hungry. But, I'm sticking to my plan.


Back Pain!!!

The fall I took a couple of days ago has me in pain at the moment. There is a big old lump on my lower back where the cellphone and my wallet were in my jersey pocket and is the spot my full force hit the ground. I didn't feel too bad yesterday and spent a couple hours in the gym doing my strength phase weights and about 45 minutes on the exercise bike. I felt good during and after the workout. I've managed to shed about 3-4 pounds of that holiday goodness in the past few days which, of course, is the usual plan for January.

I woke up this morning and felt the pain in the back immediately. I couldn't stand up straight and my usual stretching treatment and physical therapy back care did nothing for the pain. It hurts to stand. It hurts to sit. It hurts to lay in bed. So I'm kind of stuck in hurt. I gave in and popped 4 Ibuprofen mid-afternoon which didn't do much for me at all. I took a shower around 4:30 pm and felt the knot in my back which really hurt to touch. No external bruising yet, but it wouldn't surprise me to see some emerge by tomorrow. I'm hoping the back is less ginger tomorrow as the work year starts up again in full force.

When I fell off the bike on the ice covered path, I didn't realize how hard I hit. My body is now informing me...


2009 has arrived

We went to Minneapolis for a few days this week to hit the Mall of America and enjoy the indoor waterpark at the Radisson Hotel. My niece was visiting for a week from California. My wife, son and I hit the exercise room at the hotel every day. I ran on the treadmill, lifted some free weights and didn't really do much more than keep the blood flowing for 30 - 45 minutes each session. Of course I walked a few miles at the Mall of America between treats. '-]

We got back to our home in Iowa and I noticed that a chunk of shingles had blown off the garage roof during the ice melt. I'm sure the ice on the roof, combined with the gale force winds, did the damage. Getting it fixed is on my immediate "to do" list and I've already called a couple of contractors for an estimate. Of course, nobody was working today so I'll have to wait.

I had planned on my January 1st being a rest day to catch all the football games and recover from the previous night's celebration. We went over to Chuck and Gayla's house for venison, bubbly, vino, Grappa and a good visit. So today, the 2nd day of the year, I was ready to exercise. I took Max in for his scheduled appointment with the Vet this morning at 7 am for surgery on his eyelid and to get his teeth cleaned. They told me to pick him up after 3 pm, so I went home and took the Dos Niner out for a 28 mile out and back - or at least that was the plan.

The sun was shining and temps were warm enough that a few layers of biking gear and long johns did the trick along with my lobster mittens. The problem is, there was a lot of ice on the Summerset bike path. About 8 miles into the ride I went down pretty hard. I had my cellphone in the rear jersey pocket along with my wallet. I landed right on that pocket and "wounded" my cellphone. Only 1/2 of the screen lights up now, but the phone still works. I just can't read the top half of the screen. Luckily, I'm due for a new phone since I just extended my plan. So that's one more thing on the "to do" list.

I got up and had to walk through some ice sections and then bagged it at the Summerset road when all I could see for the next 1/2 mile in front of me was solid sheet ice from the overflow of the Middle River during the ice melt a few days ago. So I turned around and rode home being very careful to not ride on the ice. Although walking in cycling cleats is probably even worse! I only got about 1/2 the workout I was planning on getting, but tomorrow is a planned gym day and I'll put some time in on the exercise bike while I'm there after I do all of my lifts.

It's time we all got back to work and school on Monday in this household. Three weeks of enjoying each other's company has the tensions mounting. ;-)

Here's to a Happy New Year to all.