A Few New Gigs: How A Love Of Others Finally Surfaced, And Finally Slowed Me Down…

A Quick Inventory…

It wasn’t that long ago, that I was immersed in the relentless pursuit of all things physical – or as many as I could fit into a day.  Lifting heavy weights daily.  On a rapid hike.  My stair-stepper, treadmill, or bike. I have used all these to escape from the world around me.  As recently as two years ago, I might have done all those things in a single day.  That was my pace for years.  Sitting still, I have long reckoned, left me vulnerable to the chaos of the world around me, and more so, to the turmoil within.  In mathematical terms…

Spare Time + Movement = Escapism

I would fit in time for work as I needed to, but only because I had to – work is what supports my movement.  In hindsight, between work and exercise, I left little room for anything or anyone else in my life.  As I consider this now, it seems I have spent the past 2 decades running away from the chaos of the day, and from the puppets in my head, soliciting lesser thoughts to my weakness.

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Wars, natural disasters, school shootings, the relentless media and social media, the strained relationships of my past, and the abundance of ignorance around me, have never been fast enough to keep up with my racing heart and trekking feet.  My daily action has also been a method of self-medicating one (possibly more) mood disorders, and increasingly, I wonder where I fall on the spectrum.

As the distant worlds though, and the worlds more proximate to me have grown more complex, and seemingly more chaotic, the worlds within me have simplified.  Though I still find value in my daily action – strength training cycling in particular, my need for a physical release has lessened, and my desire for escapism has minimized, or shifted.  Rather than running away, I find myself running toward…

The Guillotine Chop…

If there was one factor – one moment that helped me revaluate my disproportionate level of physical activity, it is the day my mother moved in with me.  Okay, if comparing mom moving in with me to a guillotine chop sounds unsavory, I’m being kind.  In truth, her moving in was more like a dull bread knife cutting into the fragrant baguette that was my self-absorbed life.  Deep down though, I knew what I was getting into, why I was doing so, and honestly, I have never questioned it.  As my mother ages, she is going to require more from me – and that’s a most honorable gig.

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Shortly after moving in, my mother quit driving.  Step 1 of my changing life began.  If my mother was not going to drive, I would make certain that she would still get out of the house each day of her life.  My hiking time, would become my time to take mom shopping, to her exercise class, or to lunch.  There were several other reasons that I gave up my daily hike, but that it consumed nearly 3-hours of my day, and was usually in the middle of my day, was reason enough.  This would now be mom’s time.

Paging Doctor Doolittle…

One day in 2012, a friend observed my dog sitting on my lap as we watched TV.  She pointed out that as I stared at the TV, my dog had his head pressed against my heart as he stared up at me – like I was his world.  Though I’ve always been a dog person, that was the moment I became a Dog Person.  The entertainment my TV brought to me was meaningless drivel to occupy my mind.  But to my dog staring up at me as I watched TV, I was his entire world.  From that day forward, I have dedicated no less than a large chunk of time to sitting down each day, and holding my dog on my lap – feeling his head pressed against my heart.  My workout my might get shortened, or skipped altogether in favor of my dog’s attention.  Yet another honorable gig…

Shortly after mom moved in, and after my dog won my heart – again, a cat named Mischa entered my life.  My soulmate family grew by one more.  Mischa, like Stroodle, requires a certain amount of lap time each day.  I provide this to her, unquestioned.  So, as the love of my mother and of my pets has expanded, there has simply been less time for running away from the world via exercise.  No complaints though.  In exchange for my time, I receive dividends of love. However, I have also noticed that taking mom to the thrift shop, petting my cat, and walking my dog – and doing so for them, are also ways to escape from the worlds around me.

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Friendship And Community…

As I have found myself giving more time to my mother and to my pets, I have begun to question why I haven’t been giving as much time to my neighbors and my community. I have long believed that volunteerism in a small town is what is keeps community blood flowing.  I have not done much in the ways of volunteering here in Fallbrook.

This week I submitted an application to join the local Rotary Club.  Shortly after, I sent an email to the director of the local Senior Care Foundation, offering my services to conduct workshops on balance and walking for the seniors in my community.  I know time spent engaged with these organizations will cut into time otherwise allotted for physical escapism.  Two more honorable gigs…

The Life Of Pie…

As I reapportion the 19-hour pie that I refer to as my waking life, the thing I’m most coming to realize is this…

…my need to escape from the chaos of the day is very real.

However, it’s just as gratifying, perhaps more so, to run toward something than to run away.  Maybe…  Jhciacb

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Trauma Drama: The Return Of Schleprock…

This is what I know, and what I think I know…

I had just ridden to the end of the strand by the Oceanside pier.  I was half-way through one of the best rides in recent months.  It was a beautiful day by the water.  I stopped, took a picture of my bike against the waves, and walked around for a few minutes taking in all the scenes of the beach.  I then got back on my bike, ready for the journey home.

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I keep a workout towel wrapped around my handlebars to wipe sweat from my eyes when I ride.  I’m always cautious that it stays wrapped around the handlebars so it won’t drop into my tire spokes.  I must have been too at ease from the high of a good outing.  I had pedaled less than a mile and was just south of the Oceanside pier dodging between pedestrians with dogs, slow moving cars, and other cyclists.

I have no memory of this, but my sweat towel must have fallen from my handlebars into my spokes.  I was going roughly 20 mph.  In what was later suggested to me as a sudden and immediate stop, I was flung over the handlebars and knocked unconscious.  My next memory would be the paramedics transferring me from the ambulance to the helicopter for a flight to Scripps Trauma Center in La Jolla.

I clearly had a bad concussion – no helmet.  I know.  I know.  My shoulders and hands were in pain, and I had a gash beside my left eye.

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I was in the trauma center for a couple of hours.  A CT scan indicated that there was no brain damage.  I had a small fracture of my left cheek bone and a smaller one in my left clavicle.  I begged them to glue to gash beside my eye shut rather than close it with stitches.  The doctor agreed.  I was released and headed home with a friend who picked me up.  My bike is being held by the Oceanside police.

I’m pretty banged up.  Very stiff, pretty much everywhere.  My left shoulder is hard to move – it’s what I’m most worried about.  I have been on a tear of good riding, good strength workouts, and the best eating I’ve done in years.  I don’t want to see that progress fade.

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I hope to be back at work by the end of this week.  Possibly, on my bike again and in the weight room by next week, but we shall see.

I may be on social media a little less this week, despite that I have a little extra time.  This was humbling.  A closer call than what I’m letting on, and could have been much worse.  Funny, each ride in an ambulance or helicopter grounds me a little more, and helps streamline my priorities.

If there was one disappointment in all of this, while in the helicopter flying along the beautiful California coastline, I asked the flight trauma team if I could sit up and enjoy the view.  They said, NO!  Something about some spinal protocol and the board I was strapped to.  Pissed me off… Jhciacb

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Passing Thoughts…

I’m taking my cycling more seriously these days.  I’ve been taking advantage of the long summer days and recommitting myself to improvements in conditioning and fortitude.  Due to my work schedule and my responsibilities around the house, I’ve been riding early in the day, often just before or at sunrise.  And no, this isn’t about how I pass all the other cyclists I see on the road each morning as I ramp up my training intensity.  Actually, it is about that, kind of.

I pass between 5-10 cyclists each morning as I sprint around the perimeter of Fallbrook.  I blow by them these days.  When I pass by these other early morning riders, I feel like I’m on EPO.  I spy one ahead of me, push a little harder with each stride, and within seconds I pass him as though he’s a mailbox.  It’s as though they aren’t even trying.  Well, that’s because they aren’t trying—not to beat me anyway.

You see, the cyclists I blow by each morning could give a frog’s fat ass about me passing them.  They have no idea what a PR is, how fast they are going, or if they’re going to beat their time from the day before.  The riders I pass each day are on their way to work, and if they’re on one, a bike is the only transportation they can afford – if they are so lucky to get one from a thrift shop or a garage sale.

These are the grove workers and day workers that help support my community.  From the agriculture here, to the aesthetics of homes and businesses, my community owes much of its riches and beauty to the men who ride rickety bikes through the hills each morning at sunrise.  In their denims, long-sleeve shirts, and work boots, and with backpacks weighting them down even more, they ride early because their workdays begin early.  They don’t pedal fast because they need their energy for the physically demanding work that awaits and occupies them until the day’s light fades.  And when it’s all done, they ride home again.  It’s not exercise for these men, it’s transportation.  They ride The Tour De Opportunity.

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In truth, I take no pride whatsoever in passing these men each morning.  In fact, I feel equal parts shame, guilt, and humility.  Shame, that I complain about so much in my life in comparison to theirs.  Guilt, that my life is so sweet, so free, so and easy in comparison to theirs.  Humility, that I am reminded by them all I am and all I have, as I glide by grateful for it all.

Each morning I ride my bike by choice, in pursuit of achievement, thrill, and satisfaction.  Almost immediately though, and throughout my ride, I am reminded just how little achievement, thrill, and satisfaction matter in the scope of putting food on the table.  I bow down to the men I pass each morning, who pedal the same roads I peddle.  They do so for more noble reasons, and with much more fortitude…  Jhciacb.

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The Value Of Weeeeeeeeee…

Road Trip Moment…

A car drives along a country highway, no sign of civilization in sight.  Up one hill, down another.  Up another hill, down one more.  A father whistles behind the wheel, mindful of his precious cargo.  His wife is beside him in the passenger seat, reading a book.  A young boy, buckled safely in back looks out the window in wonder, enjoying the ups and downs of the hills.  Suddenly the young voice exclaims…

“Daddy, I have to go wee…!”

The father responds…

“Okay son, in just a little bit…”

Five minutes later…

I have to go wee…!”

The father responds again, hoping to get in a few more miles before breaking the rhythm of his trip…

“Okay.  Soon.  I promise…”

Five minutes later and at the top of his lungs…

DADDY, I HAVE TO GO WEE…!”

The father abruptly pulls the car to the side of the road, shifts into Park and as dust from the road flies about the tires he looks back to his son…

“Okay.  Okay.  There’s a tree right over there…”

The boy unbuckles his seatbelt, throws his arms in the air, and as though he’s at the peak of a roller coaster exclaims at the top of lungs…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

Again…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

One more time…

“This drive is so much fun!  Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

“Okay, Dad, we can go now.  I just needed to get that out…”

The dad snickers because he knows he’s been played.  The boy’s mother smiles a secret smile.  Tires scratch dirt as they hit the road again fueled by a bit of family laughter.

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Losing Weeeeeeeeee…

Around the age of 10 or so, we abandon the concept of weeeeeeeee.  Letting go the idea of weeeeeeeee, is the first evolutionary step on the path to a life less fulfilled.  How different might each day be, of our dreary adult lives, if just once or twice a day we got to throw our arms in the air and go weeeeeeeee…?

I’ve often been accused of having a good attitude – as if it’s a crime in this era of perceived social turmoil.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in less than 2 seconds, but it doesn’t happen often these days, even under the worst of circumstances.  At the core of my good attitude, I am certain, is the calming effect that comes from making time most every day of my life to go weeeeeeeee.  For all my BS, the child i once was in that backseat, is still alive and well and living on my shoulder.

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Wake Up, Go Wee.  Then, Go Weeeeeeeeee…

Though strength training has been central to my exercise life, for most of my life, I have always found peripheral salvation in intense cardio activities such as running, hiking, swimming and cycling.  Due to the current structure of my life, for the past year and a half or so, road cycling has been the beer chaser to the straight shot of strength training I swallow each day.

Each morning, 7 days per week, I ride a 10-mile loop around my community.  This is an early morning ride that takes me roughly a half-hour.  My cycling friends who enjoy riding 20, 30 or even 50-miles on the weekends, may scoff at the idea of doing a meager 10-miles.  This 10-miles though, is a full-on sprint.

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Fallbrook is a community with almost no flat ground.  Throughout my 10-mile ride, I’m either going downhill or uphill, but am never flat.  I push the uphill sections hard – this this is where the exercise comes in.  At some points, my heart-rate may exceed 170-bpm.  Going uphill is where the challenge lies and where I find mental clarity.  Pushing my bike hard uphill makes me stronger, inside and out.  Since there is more work involved, and gravity works against me, the uphill sections take much longer to negotiate than the downhill stretches.

Downhill though, is where the weeeeeeeee comes in, and that provides a whole different kind of mental clarity.  As worked as my body may be, as much as my heart may pound and as dead as my legs might feel at the top of each hill, I always throw my hands over my head as I crest each hill, and glide to the bottom.  Even if I don’t say it aloud, I am thinking it as I ride; weeeeeeeee…!  I’m certain I always smile as I do this.

When my ride is done and my breath is caught, I am on top of the world, if only for a moment.  Part of that is from rising to a physical challenge of pushing the uphill sections hard while most still sleep.  Part of it too tough, is that a half-dozen times before my workday even begins, I get to go weeeeeeeee, just like a I did as a child.

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Footnote…

A running friend recently called me out…

“Roy, if you ran for that 35-minutes instead of riding your bike, you’d burn a lot more calories and get a much better cardio/conditioning workout…”

True, I told him, and then reminded him I have run marathons and countless lesser races; 5K and 10Ks.  There’s no weeeeeeeee in running, I told him.  When there’s time on the weekends, I may get out and ride 20 or 30-miles, but my 10-mile sprint each morning, with a half-dozen or so weeeeeeeee sections mixed in, helps keep me fit, and keep me young.

Like you, each morning I wake up and immediately go wee.  Within a few minutes of that, I also get to go weeeeeeeee, and that’s just one more reason to have a good attitude and a good day…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Arrested Devlopment.  Enjoy…

 

 

Mariah Sucks…

The wind can go fuck itself.  Really, it can.  And no, this isn’t going to be some mindful shtick, like my usual shtick, with a touchy-feely message woven into it by the end.

The wind can go fuck itself.

I have been proximate to, or affected by every natural disaster except for a tsunami.  Volcano, hurricane, tornado, mudslide, dust storm, flood, blizzard, avalanche, earthquake, fire, and probably a few I can’t recall, have each threatened my family, my own life, or my home.  Wind, to some degree, is a colleague to many of these, though not always.

Truth be told, I love natural disasters and extreme weather phenomenon.  I look for them when I can, and enjoy them when they find me.  I will go out of my way and take great risks to stand at the shoulder of a disaster, or even within that disaster, and always in awe.  When in the throes of an organic upheaval, I am like a child on a thrill ride.  And what is a natural disaster, but the ultimate thrill ride…?

I have always accepted wind as a necessary ingredient to propel and expand most these phenomena.  After all, what is a fire, or a hurricane, a tornado, or a blizzard without wind…?  Wind on an otherwise clear day though, is the ingrown toenail of weather phenomenon.  At best, wind on a clear day is annoying.  At its worst, it’s hateful.

We’ve had 3 weeks of on again off again rain here in Fallbrook, and with some very powerful winds.  Despite the devastation which resulted from these storms, I have enjoyed every moment, though it has kept me from my cycling routine.  Today I woke to a blue sky, and a day which promised to be clear all day and near 70 degrees.  Thanks to a couple of cancellations at the peak of the sun, I found myself with a warm afternoon off.  My bike was calling me.

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I wasn’t too far from the house when I turned from northbound Main Avenue to the eastbound Mission Road  when it hit me; a dry Santa Anna which slowed me immediately and nearly stood me up.  Oh, and I was then heading uphill.  I found myself tucked and hiding behind my lower gears like they were my momma’s apron when I was a child.  I was defeated before I had gone 2 miles.

I hate riding in the wind.  Hate.   New York Yankee hate.  Dallas Cowboys hate.  Adolph Hitler hate.  Albertson’s grocery store kind of hate.

A quick right turn and I was headed home, beaten and demoralized before I got out of town.  I would return to my fitness studio and spend an hour or so on my stationary bike to undo the shame.  I pushed it up to the window where I would peddle and watch the wind blow the eucalyptus and palm trees like they were weeds in the distance, but even with the windows and door open it wasn’t the same.

No sense of freedom.  No immersion into nature.  Just mechanical cardio to clear my head.

Despite that I exercised – that I did do more than most people do on a given day, I couldn’t shake that I am quitter, a loser, and that I suck as a human being for tucking tail and heading home, beaten by the wind.

But unless it’s accompanying the natural disasters which so amuse and entertain me, the wind can just go fuck itself.  It just can…  Jhciacb

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Unfinished Business

This is Part I of an intermittent series I will be writing and intermingling with unrelated essays over the next few months.  Part II of this series may be in 2 weeks – or it may not be for 2 months. Only time will tell, and time is like a carnival mirror.  Stay tuned, and enjoy.

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Wake Up.  Move.

Nearly 3 years ago I gave my Jeep away in favor of being a bicycle commuter.  Roughly every 12 hours, six days per week, I have been on my bike peddling the hills of Fallbrook for 30+ minutes in each direction.  Later this week I will be merging my home and my fitness studio into a single location.  Once again I will be working from home and my bookend bicycle commutes will take their place in the story of my timeline. 

My morning ride, often before sunrise, has set the tone for my day, and been the calling into action of my body and my senses for 3 years.  Through the heat, the cold, the morning fog, rains, coyotes crossing my path, low flying owls, skunks blending into the blacktop, drivers texting and mismanaging their coffee as they fail to see me, I would become alert.  I became awakened though, from the exhilaration of climbing the hills, and feeling of the wind in my face riding them down. 

My new commute will simply be the act of stepping over Stroodle and trying not to spill coffee on him as I enter my studio each morning.  How will I call my senses into action now…?

Stroodle; the newest obsticle in my commute…

 The Jericho Mile

In the late 1970s a made for TV movie made an imprint on my fitness psyche that would last for decades.  To this day, The Jericho Mile, starring Peter Strauss, is one of the most inspirational movies I have seen with regard to athletic courage.  The Jericho Mile is the fictional tale of a man who was imprisoned for a murder he committed while trying to defend his stepsister from an abusive father.  While in prison, woven between several other story lines, Strauss’ character, Larry Murphy, spent most of his time in self-imposed isolation.  He would use that time to establish himself as a world class runner.  Impressed by his talent, prison officials even attempted to qualify him for the Olympics from behind bars.

In one scene, Murphy and a would-be running coach from the outside were discussing the feeling of a runner’s high.  They compared the experience of running to floating – running without feeling the ground beneath their feet.  I found that description simply poetic.  It left me wanting to experience it for myself.  Despite my blossoming passion for weightlifting, that floating analogy instantly made me a runner at heart.  The fact that I had never enjoyed running now had opposition.

After watching The Jericho Mile, at the age of 18, I felt I had to become a runner.  After my first week of running, I came to two conclusions; that running is both hard, and stupid.  I would not attempt to run regularly for another 25 years.  However, I really wanted to connect to that ideal of poetry from physicality – the floating thing.  Soon I began mentally mining that sensation from my weight training.  I began to view my strength training as analogous to anything poetic – and I still do.  That mind-set has served me well for 30+ years in the gym.  From that one scene in The Jericho Mile, I have developed an appreciation for the beauty and poetry that lies within all forms of challenging athletics. 

Running Men

My first exposure to the ideal of running came years before seeing The Jericho Mile.  In the early 1970s, my father, then a weight-conscious individual, took to running as a means of better health and weight control.  They called it jogging back then but that would soon change.  Jim Fixx’s book, The Complete Book Of Running, turned jogging into running, and running went from fad to fiber in the American fitness psyche.  In the late 1970s, you couldn’t throw a cat 50 feet without it hitting a copy of The Complete Book Of Running.

Around the same time my father began jogging, my brother, four years my senior, began competing for his high schools’ cross country team.  Suddenly, I was surrounded by running.  But I was a weightlifter.  Full biceps, a respectable bench press, and an obvious v-taper were my only agenda.  Running, I reasoned, was not consistent with my goals, and so it went for about 30 years.   Then, in my mid-40s, I became engaged to be married – to a woman who wanted to run a marathon.

If she was going to run a marathon, so would I.  That’s what a relationship is.  If she had chosen to become a cross-dressing Nazi sandwich maker, I too would have become a cross-dressing Nazi sandwich maker.  But she didn’t become a cross-dressing Nazi sandwich maker, she became a runner.  Shit.  Following my fiancée’s lead, in 2007 I began preparing for a marathon.  Over the course of a year or so, I trained for and completed the 26.2 mile event which most runners consider the supreme accomplishment within their sport.  Through it all though, I never considered myself a runner, and the so-called runner’s high had eluded me.  I never floated when I ran.  I had run many races in preparation for my marathon including 5Ks, 10Ks, and a half-marathon, but I never felt as though I was a runner – not in the spiritual sense.

I am a hoarder of fitness values.  That is, once I attain a new physical ability, I won’t let it go.  I simply add new values to my physical repertoire and expand it over time.  Through the mid-2000s I had worked hard attain the ability to run and did not want to let it go.  After my first marathon I kept running mixed into my fitness fold, and I have been running ever since.  Despite my cycling, strength training, hiking, stretching, and other conditioning activities, I still make time to run each week.  Running is something I continue to do because I feel I should.  After all, fitness is what I do for a living, and running is synonymous with fitness, yes…? 

Next Up, Floating…

With my bicycle commute not longer needed to start my day, I have decided to run each morning prior to starting my workday — in quest of floating.  I now seek to become a runner in the spiritual sense.  This process will begin later this week, and I will be writing about it intermittently over the next few months.  Whether I ever float or experience a runner’s I high, I won’t predict.  I will though, remain committed to my early morning run come rain, shine, or tonsillitis, as I did with my bike.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Oh, and there is this from Mike Stinson, formerly of The Replacments.  Enjoy…

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