Saturday, March 28, 2015

Half a Beast

So, you may be familiar with my race number.  

The plate of the beast

But lately, I have been considering trading number 666 in for 333.

Why?  Because I'm only half a beast. 

See, like most cyclists, my lower half is strong. But my upper body is composed mostly of kittens and mush. 

I'm kind of like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Big powerful legs, tiny useless arms. 


I knew this already, but I didn't know how bad it was until I started working with a trainer. 

Now, I know what you're thinking - and no, I am not training to become a professional eater. Or a circus bear. 

Actually, you can tell this is a cyclocross bear by the tutu

Let me explain. See, I recently signed up for a bunch of mountain bike races. Had to. I am now part of a team. (Not the A-Team, sadly). I get to fly the Breakaway-Quickdirt flag, because they are sponsoring my mediocrity this year. And, in exchange, I have committed to 7 races this year, wherein I will stretch their team kit to the breaking point. 

Road racing in France has a following like NASCAR does in the US

What does it mean to be on a sponsored team?  It means I get to hang out at races with a bunch of good people.  And, it means I get first class service and discounts at Breakaway Cycles, and they get half a beast wrecking in the woods while wearing their kit.  Pretty sure I'm getting the better end of this deal. 

Now I know that, at bottom, local novice mountain bike races are mostly just a bunch of middle-class, middle-aged guys trying to outrun heart disease. I try not to take it too seriously. 

Still, I'm pretty competitive. In fact, I can't help myself. That's why I don't play board games with my kids. 

Don't judge me. You don't know my pain until you have been "mercy ruled" by an eight-year-old playing Monopoly. Smug little third-grader.  

Anyhow, I don't want to just line up and go slow. I want to compete. I hope I can even manage to snag a podium spot this year. We'll see. 

So, in the meantime, I have engaged the services of a fit young man. No, not like that, you dirty SOB. 

Let's see how this plays out.
I am working with a personal trainer. His name is Matt. He's a nice guy, who doesn't laugh at me. 

In our first session, Matt gave me a fitness test to see where I was at. I managed to run about 8 mph for 12 minutes. And I leg pressed 740 pounds (could have done more). 

My own, overdeveloped legs

So, as far as cardio and legs are concerned, I rate "superior" in comparison to most guys my age. 

But not superior to the German track champions

But then came upper body. Ugh. I did 12 push-ups and half a chin-up. When it was time to do bench press sets, I could only manage 3 sets of 10 at 100 pounds. Depressing.  Because usually cyclists have such well developed upper bodies. 
Guessing he's maybe got a touch of OCD

But, surprisingly, this put me at good/average for my age.  This is actually more of a reflection of my peers than me.  But let's not go there.   

Worst of all, I have 28% body fat and, at 5'11" and 220 pounds, I have a BMI of 31 - obese). 


Dang. At my lowest, a few years ago, I weighed 193. 

Why are bacon and beer so delicious?

After all, nobody's normal, right? Everyone needs to be loved for who they are.

It's a little late to start trying to get upper body strength, because the first races are pretty close. And, after my first session, I can barely lift my coffee cup to my mouth anymore.  But I'm starting anyway. 

You may remember, I took lessons from Lee McCormac. I know that I cannot be half a beast and still do mountain bike kung fu. It takes complete body strength to move like Lee.  So, here we go. 

Lee keeps the teakettle balanced and screws the bike to the ground.  Dayum!

Why am I telling you all this?  Maybe because I'm an oversharer.  Maybe because I'm hoping that, by putting this out there, it will keep me honest.  Indulge me. Will I be able to increase my muscle mass and lose fat? Will I get back under 200 pounds? Can I grab a podium this year?
We'll see. In the meantime, it's good to have a goal. And it's better than hypertension and diabetes. Truth is, fighting the spread is a full time job.  For me, if I take my eyes off it for even the shortest amount of time, the fat comes back.  Riding and racing is a good way to give myself a reason to fight to be fit. 

And a personal trainer may be expensive, sure.  But what would you pay for a few extra healthy years in your life?  What's it worth to fight illness with fitness instead of drugs?  I wish doctors would prescribe personal training.  Take a mountain bike and call me in the morning. 
Not really rock and roll, I know. But fuck it, I'm getting old. Hey-ho, let's go! 
Be brave, and do it on a team.