Gotta Be The Shoes

I decided today it wasn’t worth it. All the sweat, all the pain and anguish, all the hard, hard work. It’s not worth it. I decided that, but I did it anyway. I took a big breath, and did something that scared the heck out of me:

I went and looked for shoes.

This whole running thing is going to be expensive. I know it. $100 running shoes every few months? Not something I’ve ever budgeted for in the past. Shoes, in general, aren’t in my budget. Right now I have six pairs of shoes:

  • Tan Loafers (my work shoes)
  • Winter boots
  • Everyday sneakers
  • Workout sneakers
  • Black loafers
  • Riding shoes

I think this is the largest amount of footwear I’ve ever owned. I got the two pairs of sneakers from my late step-father. My mom kept trying to foist his clothes off on me, and even when I weighed 240 pounds they were too big for me. Besides they were old man clothes. I took the shoes mostly to keep her from bugging me. The black loafers I got when I bought the suit I wore to my son’s wedding.

The suit, by the way, was the first suit I had purchased in several decades. When you lug a camera around for a living, there’s very little call for one. Can ya tell I’m not much of a fashion plate?

So getting running shoes puts me right out of my comfort zone. Not only do I have to go and purchase clothing, but clothing for a specific purpose, about which I know nearly nothing. Fortunately, I’m becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable, so I steeled my nerves and walked into the store.

I chose a small little shop not too far from my office which specializes in equipping triathletes. In my mind I expected some sort of snob who would belittle my goals. Of course, what I found was a genuinely nice man whose own goal was helping folks like me reach their goals. I also told him I was just starting my search, and wasn’t going to leave with a purchase today. He spent a lot of time with me, discussing the functions of running shoes and different types of supports, and even got me onto a treadmill and videotaped me running on it to show me why I would need the type of shoe I will eventually buy.

And then I tried on some shoes. The first few were okay. Each one had something that didn’t feel right to it. One rubbed me on the fibula. Another squeezed my little toe. But one…wow. Very comfortable. I think I’ve found my shoe…the first step on my way to running.

Get it? First…step? Yeah, I went there. It’s a running joke!

I didn’t buy the shoes, mostly because I told myself I wasn’t going to buy today. But I did have him put them aside with my name on them. There’s other running stores out there and I may try and get to some of them this weekend. But I think I found the ones I want.

Of course, one of the things that sets me apart from most 50-somethings who decide to do triathlons is that I also have to shop for a leg, but that’s a story for another day.



Sunday, May 22

This morning’s ride: 1:44:42 Distance: 27.44 miles

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I’ve been on my bike. Well, actually, it hasn’t. I’ve done a couple of short trips, but nothing of substance. The weather has not been agreeable to riding here in the past week–especially in the early morning hours.

I haven’t been shirking, though. I have been spending a lot of time at the Y. Spin classes seem to have a bad reputation as a rather sissy way to work out. I can tell you that this is not the case. They’re freakin’ hard. At least, they are at the Y. Well, the 5:30 am ones are hard, at least. As well as the 9:15 am Sunday class. In addition, I’m going on my lunch hour 3-4 times a week with Dave. This past week I’ve been spending some time working on my upstroke. Rather than pushing down on the pedals, I’ve been pulling up on the cages. I’ve gotten so I can go 15 solid minutes at the same pace and resistance as my downstrokes. The difference, of course, is that on the downstroke, I can continue that pace for a couple hours. On the upstroke, I can’t go much more than 15 minutes. Otherwise my hamstrings will curl back up on themselves, and no one wants that to happen. Well, at least I don’t.

May 22. Less than three months to go. I’m a little bit freaked by that, to tell you the truth. Although I’m in better shape than I have been in my adult life–hell, my entire life–right now, I’m not certain I’m in good enough shape, or that I’ll be in good enough shape when the time comes. Right now, I’m hovering at around 194, which is the least I’ve weighed since probably 10th grade. I still have 14 pounds to lose. And a lot more stamina to gain.

Actually, today’s ride showed me how much I’ve gained in that department. I did the ‘Three Parks’ ride I tried the last time I got on the bike. I started by taking a couple of trips up and down Cobb’s Hill–which has lost a lot of height, apparently, in the past couple of years. At least, that’s the way it feels to me. Then I went down to Ellison Park, where I rode up a rather long incline to get to the southern entrance. It was one of those gradients that was too long to get up out of the saddle to climb, so it was just a long hard sitting slog to the top, followed by a nail-biting ride down a pothole-filled road with a blind curve into a steep river basin, and then straight up out of that basin on the north side. I managed to take that hill at a very respectable pace, out of the saddle most of the way. It’s my goal to make it up standing up before the month’s out.

From there, it was a slightly hilly ride down to the canal, where I did a 10-mile sprint that took me through Genesee Valley Park, and up the river to downtown. For most of this part I was going 20 mph. That’s a serious bit of cranking, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could keep it up.

I got a bit of a late start this morning. I left about 20 minutes later than I had hoped I would. I wanted to make the spin class–the one where the instructor gave me the look. Remember? That was almost exactly three months ago. If I rode home to change out of my riding stuff into a more conservative t-shirt and sweats, I wouldn’t be able to make it to that class on time. So, I rode straight there instead, and took the class in my riding gear. Then I rode home. The time and distance include the ride home, but not the hour spent in spin class.

This is interesting. The class that kicked my ass three months ago, I take almost as an afterthought, after a pretty difficult ride, and I’m scared I’m not making progress.

My friend Mike tells me I have a tendency to make molehills out of mountains, but only after I climb the mountain. Maybe that’s the case here. I hope so…

Thursday, May 12, Friday, May 13

Thursday’s ride: 42:21 Distance 10.9 miles. Friday’s ride: 50:08 Distance: 11.93 miles

Cherry blossoms hurt. Yes, they do.

I discovered that during today’s very disappointing ride.* The wind picked up and was blowing fiercely in my face, and when that wind included cherry blossoms, oy. Talk about your death of a thousand cuts.

I had planned out a really nice ride. I called it the Three Parks ride: First to Cobb’s Hill Park, where I would ride up that steep but short road three times, then off to Ellison Park, where I would be able to ride up that long, long incline to the back entrance of the park, and then up the steep, long sraight climb out the front entrance, then down along majestic East Avenue, where I would pick up the Erie Canal path and ride straight to Genesee Valley Park, and up the river to downtown, then home.

But the kids dawdled in getting ready to go to their mother’s, and I dawdled too, and by the time I got out the door, the skies had darkened and the wind picked up, and the cherry blossoms sliced. And, halfway between Cobb’s Hill and Ellison, lightning flashed in the distance, and the raindrops fell. Well, more accurately, the raindrops flew, pushed on by the wind.

So, rather than a 25 mile jaunt, I got a facefull of fragrance. And, of course, it ended up not raining.


*Yesterday’s ride was a typical predawn ride. Wore too much clothes which I’ve discovered is better than wearing too little clothes. At least, it is when it comes to riding.

Tuesday, May 10

This morning’s ride: 40:12 Distance; 10.22 miles

I’m riding Tuesdays and Thursday mornings right now. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I take a 5:30 am spin class. Once the weather gets consistently warmer, I’ll probably drop the classes, even though they do give me a good workout. I just feel that even the hardest spin class is not as hard as a good ride.

This morning’s ride was pretty good. Not my best time–not even the best of the year, but I did keep a good cadence, and didn’t get too cold.

And when I got home, after I cooled down and did my morning meditation, but before I got into the shower,  I stood on the scale, and weighed 186. Holy cow. I’m not counting that as my ‘true’ weight–we fluctuate greatly throughout the day, so I’ve decided that after lunch on Wednesdays is my weighing time–but it’s still pretty impressive. I haven’t weighed this little since probably early high school. Once I get a few consistent weighs under 190 I’ll contact the race people and officially get off the Clydesdale list.

Wow. I’m pretty pleased with myself, I don’t mind saying.

Monday, April 20

This morning’s ride: 1:23:05 Distance: 20.57 miles

I got up at 5 this morning to do a spin class. That felt good. Want to know what felt better? Going back to bed afterward. That felt awesome. It’s something I’ve wanted to do just about every morning that I’ve gotten up this early. And today was the day I got to do it.

I slept for three hours. Not sure if that constitutes a long nap or a short sleep. Don’t care. I loved it. I even had a good dream. It was a bicycle dream: I was at the base of Mt. Washington, getting ready for the ride. I took my Surly off the back of my car, which raised lots of eyebrows.  Surly’s are not lightweight bikes. Mine weighs about 26 lb, stripped. That’s probably a third again as much weight as the average bike, and probably twice the weight as some of the pro’s bikes.

So, in my dream, I was feeling somewhat inadequate about this. Suddenly, a friend was there in my dream, telling me that it was OK–that I would have no problems with the bike, the ride, or anything else. Usually, when someone expresses faith in my abilities, I get nervous because I think I’m going to let them down, but I didn’t get that way in this dream. It felt comforting and right that someone was confident in me.

I know a guy who’s studied dreams. He tells me that everyone in my dreams is me, Which makes sense, since it all occurs in my head. So, the doubts are mine. But then again, so is the confidence. I don’t care if that’s true or not. I’ll take all the faith in myself I can get, from any source–inside my head or out.

So that was where my mind was when I took off for my ride this morning. And even though it was late morning, the day was cold and blustery, with a few snowflakes making an appearance. Luckily, the wind wasn’t as bad as yesterday.

Unluckily, there was construction on the road. It was in a residential area filled with meandering lanes and cul-de-sacs that I didn’t know very well, and it was reduced to a one-way route, and it was going the wrong way. I briefly considered ignoring the signs and riding against traffic, but the two large construction vehicles coming my way sorta talked me out of it. I chose the sidewalk instead.

The sidewalk was uneven and bumpy and filled with joggers. I had to slow down for them because it was too narrow to pass safely. and besides, I dropped my light. Well, I didn’t drop it as much as it fell off on its own.

You may recall that a week or so ago I hit a pothole so hard it broke my tail light. I bought a replacement, and when I tried to install it, it became readily apparent that it was only going to really fit if I installed it upside down. I th0ught it would hold. I thought wrong. I heard it clatter to the pavement, so I uttered an oath,* climbed off the bike and reattached the light to its mount. I didn’t go 30 feet further when it fell off again. So I repeated the process, uttering a slightly stronger invective,* and picked it up again, this time clipping it to the top case on the back of my bike, where it sagged and essentially did little but warn the ground directly below my rear tire.

When I went to remount, I had somehow gotten the cuff of my tights caught up in the pedal of my bike, and it took me an awkward minute to extricate myself from that predicament. All of this was happening under the amused watch of the road construction crew, and I was surprised to discover I didn’t give a damn. The only thing that bothered me was that I wasn’t riding.

This is a big thing for me. Cycling clothes are designed to protect the rider. This makes them tight (to avoid chafing, getting caught in gears, and for wind resistance) and bright (because a big part of protecting the rider is making us visible to drivers), and with my helmet on (which in this case was sporting a neon yellow wind and rain cover) I looked very much like a giant fluorescent banana.

Fear of ridicule has always been a big thing for me. It’s what’s kept me from doing many things in my life. I’ve come to see how limiting this can be, and how liberating it is to ignore it, and instead embrace those quiet voices of support that are also there–inside my head, and out.

The giant fluorescent banana shall ride again!


*I believe I said “Fiddlesticks!”

*”Rat farts!” This is a completely acceptable utterance because I heard a guy who played a priest say it in the movie Caddyshack.

Wednesday, March 2

Five months and 18 days til this bear goes over the mountain.

This morning’s spin class was the first since I started the new food plan. No flour no sugar no caffeine no alcohol.

No stamina.

At least, not right now. Hey, it’s only been four days–I know that. Eventually I’ll have a lot more energy, but right now, I’m eating in a way that will cause my body to start consuming the fat it’s stored. This is going to cause me to shed weight.  But it’s also a rather ‘dirty’ fuel, and so it doesn’t really give me all the energy I need. Especially if I’m working out like I did this morning.

I threw myself off the bike this morning, by the way.  Gary the instructor has this thing about sitting. He apparently doesn’t like to do it. At least, not on a bike. He wants us to get out of the saddle. But not for long. And not always in the same position. Leaning over the handlebars, straight up, sliding back towards the saddle..all of those things are things he likes to do. And they are good for working various parts of the body.

Including some parts I ain’t got no more.

So, when getting in and out and up and down on the saddle while riding, there are places where having a right calf and an ankle that flexes would come in real handy. I have to redistribute that muscle work to my thighs and my arms, as well as make sure I don’t get myself in a position where my immobile ankle gets underneath me, and leverages my left foot out of the stirrup and launches me off the bike.

I failed to do that this morning. I didn’t really leave the bike, just suddenly pushed myself up over the handlebars and back down again. I got right back into it in a moment, but it was a bit frightening. If I had done that riding my bike, it would have been quite dangerous.

Speaking of my bike–it’s ready. My guys have done its annual tune-up and it’s good to go. I was going to get it last Saturday, but it was snowing so much that the owner called me up and told me he decided to not open. The weather’s bad enough that I wouldn’t be out riding much anyhow right now. But hopefully, starting next week I’ll get back to it!

I’ll still be going to the Wednesday spin class though. I’m not through with that bastard Gary yet…

Saturday, February 26

Five months and 25-ish days ’til my legs turn to Jell-O on the side of a mountain.

I got an email today from one of the organizers of the ride, telling me that registration was open for a training ride up Mount Washington in July. Yeah. Like I’m gonna ride my bike up that thing twice. Then I got another email from  her stating there was a problem with the site and someone was working on it. She then thanked me for my patients.

Oh, doctor.

She may be able to ride circles around me,* but at least I can still be a word snob.

No exercise today. I’ve been on the go with commitments for 17 straight hours. What little time I had to work out I used to prepare myself for my upcoming food regimen. Which starts tomorrow.

Here’s my food:

Breakfast: I cup oat bran, cooked. 4 oz frozen blueberries. 1 hard-boiled egg.

Lunch: 4 oz chicken. 6 oz grilled scallions, peppers, and spinach. 8 oz salad (mixture of iceberg and green-leaf lettuce, carrots, scallions, and cucumbers), with 1 tbsp. blue-cheese dressing.

Dinner: 4 oz grilled hamburger, 6 oz mixture of steamed broccoli and asparagus, 8 oz salad (mixture of iceberg and green-leaf lettuce, carrots, scallions, and cucumbers), with 1 tbsp. blue-cheese dressing.

This is an approximation of the food plan from the program I’m going to be using, but I have yet to be able to get to one of the meetings, and I won’t be able to get to one tomorrow. In fact, the earliest I see myself getting to the meeting would be Tuesday evening, and I don’t want to wait that long to start changing the way I eat. I’m fairly certain that there will be changes to that plan once I get into the meetings and get a sponsor–a person who’s already successful in the program, who will tell me how to structure my food going forward. But what I’m eating tomorrow will be close. It will certainly be closer than what I’ve been eating lately.

After breakfast tomorrow, I’ll be going back to spin class with my friend Dave, which is good. Then after that, I’ll be going to a meeting, and that meeting will be filled with sugary, floury foods, and caffeine-laden drinks. Which will be less good. We’ll see how well I can handle it. I’ll just have to remind myself that it’s not my food.

Somebody might be getting a phone call. You know who you are.


*I lie. There’s no ‘may be’ about it.

February 20, 2011

Six months until the hill climb. Exactly sixth months.

I’ve registered. I’ve paid my money. I’m in. Six months from today I will be riding a bicycle up a very steep mountain for a very long time. Six months from when I’m actually writing this, I’ll know if I have succeeded or failed in this quest.

Oh, God. What have I done?

Actually, I only feel that way part of the time. The part where I’m awake. (rimshot) Thank you! Tip your waiter!

No, really. There are times where I’m panic-stricken and completely afraid of doing this–or, more accurately, attempting this and failing. Failing horribly. Dropping out after a mile, or some such thing. Coming home completely shamed. Stuff like that.

And there are other times, where I’m not at all afraid of this quest. Where I know that, although it’s going to be incredibly difficult, it’s still something I can do, or at least attempt to do. And even if I fail to reach the summit, it will be a learning experience and I will be a better man for attempting it.

Right now, these two mental states are running fifty-fifty in my brain. So, I’m going to do whatever I can to skew my mental state towards the latter. Because I believe that my attitude is at least as important as my physical state. And one of the best ways I know to get past these feelings of negativity and failure is to expose them to the light of day. Which means you may be getting more than one posts about fear in the next six months.

So that’s that. Let’s move forward.

Okay, one last bit of old business: Where the hell have I been?

Around. You know how it is. I don’t post for a day, and then the next day’s just as busy, and then suddenly a week’s gone by and then a month and I think “well, there’s really not much to report other than ‘I went into the basement and pedaled'” so I don’t bother to report anything at all. Plus, when I last posted anything, I had said that I was going to have pictures taken for promotional use, and that got delayed in a way that would probably make an interesting post sometime. So there were lots of very good, extremely legitimate reasons for me to not report for the last four months.

I believe the technical term for that last paragraph is: bullshit.

Let’s get one thing straight: The main reason I’m writing this is not because I’m all that interesting. I’m writing this to hold myself accountable. I know me. I need to live my life in the open if I’m to have any sort of life at all. If I set a goal for myself, and keep it to myself, I will have no incentive to keep working towards that goal. My failure will be private, and inevitable.*

So I blog. I take the time to post. To tell you what’s going on. Because I know that I’m only as sick as my secrets.

Six months to go. Exactly six months. I get to choose how I feel about this. Right now I’m feeling pretty happy.

One more thing: Here’s some pictures of me:

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Okay, one more one more thing: If you’re interested in helping my cause, you can donate in my name here.


*It’s for that reason that you’ve never seen my Emmy-award-winning sitcom, nor have you read about my deliriously happy life with Jennifer Aniston.