Be a Human Guinnea Pig, Win Cool Prizes

01.16.2007 | 7:04 am

You know, a couple days ago I upgraded my Internet hosting package — for the second time. Which means buying server space for this blog is now costing me about $40 per month. Which, I can promise you, is more than I am making from those Google ads nobody seems to want to click.

I should also point out that when negotiating ads for my blog, instead of asking for money to run on my blogs, I instead asked for schwag I could give to my readers.

And, of course, there’s all the time I put into this blog. The writing. The fretting about writing. The taking of abusive comments about my writing.

I give, and I give, and I give. And do I ask for anything in return?

Well, yes. Now that I’ve got you thoroughly guilted-up, I am asking you for something in return.

I’m asking you to volunteer to participate in my son’s science project on the effects of caffeine on heart rate.

First, Let Me Engage Your Self-Interest
Since I’m fully aware that most of you are guilt-proof, let me point out that by participating in this contest, you’ll automatically be entered in a random drawing to win one of three very cool prizes:

  • A Fat Cyclist Jersey: any size (when available) ($60 value)
  • Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 ($100 value)
  • Handmade Bike Chain bracelet (either men’s or women’s style, any size), designed by Susan Nelson ($75 value)

Not bad, eh?

What The Science Project is About
The thing is, you’ll probably find that this experiment very interesting. You will probably, in fact, be as interested in the results as my son is. His question is, how much does a couple cans of caffeinated soda affect your heart rate?

A lot? A little? None at all?

(Special Note to biochemists and armchair know-it-alls: please keep your “I already know the answer to this” wisdom to yourselves. Thanks.)

Participating is easy. All you need to do is get to your resting heart rate, drink a couple cans of caffeinated diet soda, and then check your heart rate every fifteen minutes for an hour.

So just think. You’ll get to sit on a couch and watch a movie completely guilt-free, knowing that you’re helping a very smart kid do great on his science project.

Plus, you’ll be earning valuable Fat Cyclist brownie points (not redeemable for actual brownies; sorry).

Plus you might win some very cool stuff.

You can get all the details at my son’s science project website: click here.

Time is of the Essence
My son needs to start collecting and analyzing data right away. So, please don’t put this off. Be a guinnea pig this very evening. Or tomorrow, if you must. But by all means, please finish it by Saturday, no matter what — that’s the last day he can accept data.

Cancel other appointments if you must.

You owe me. You know you do. Help with this, and I’ll call it even.


I Have an Awesome Idea for a Video Game

01.15.2007 | 10:29 am

When I woke up this morning, it was -1 (Fahrenheit) outside. That’s -18.3 Celsius for all you metric-minded folk. Regardless of how you gauge temperature, that’s cold.

When it’s cold like this, riding outside is out of the question. It’s rollers, the trainer, or nothing. The thing is, though, after a while you get tired of movies. You get tired of music. You want to ride with your friends. You want to race.

And that’s why I’ve invented — in my mind, anyway — the most awesome video game for cyclists ever.

I call it “Bicycle Race(tm).”

Here’s how it works.

The Concept
In Bicycle Race (BR for short), you ride your actual bicycle, either on a trainer or on rollers. You compete against other cyclists — either computerized racers based on historical cycling champions, or other real riders in online mode — as you race several kinds of events.

Instead of using a handheld controller like most video games, BR comes with a wireless cadence sensor and a wireless speed sensor, which relay info to your gaming console (I’m thinking Xbox, cuz it’s got a good established gaming network established). You then ride either your rollers or trainer to play the game. Easy!

Game Modes
Without even trying hard, I can think of a number of great playing modes for BR. For example:

  • Drag Race: You and as many online friends as you would like race over whatever distance you would like. First one across the finish line wins.
  • Velodrome: Race against others in a virtual velodrome. If you touch wheels, you “virtually” crash, getting to see what the velodrome pileup  looks like, without the inconvenience of the actual carnage. If you’re riding a non-fixed-gear in the Velodrome game, your cadence will be monitored: you coast, you crash.
  • Team Time Trial: See how good you are at working together as you and your teammates (either computerized or real players online) race against other teams (also either computerized or actual online teams). Careful of touching virtual wheels! Best time wins.
  • Race the Legends: Of course, you don’t actually have a chance of racing with the legends, but what if Lance Armstrong were forced to carry an extra 150 pounds? Could you beat him then? Choose your handicap, and then see if you can hang.
  • Race Yourself: Last week, you did your favorite TT course in 19:15. How fast can you do it today? Race your “ghost” and improve your best time.
  • series: Get together a group of guys, call yourselves a league and have a whole series of races, keeping cumulative score of who’s on top.

The possibilities are close to endless.

I Know, I Know
Yeah, I know that there are trainers out there that let you race against the computer. But those things are expensive. As in thousands of dollars. I, on the other hand, am talking about something that plugs into your Xbox, attaches to your bike, and uses the trainer or rollers you’ve already got. I’m talking about something that costs $150, tops.

It’s not like the technology for this kind of game isn’t out there. My kids play Dance Dance Revolution online — jumping around spastically (I had no “good dancer” genes to pass on to my kids, alas) on the dance pad controller, competing against other kids all over the US (and elsewhere, for all I know)

BR will be a huge hit. I’m confident of it. Now, I’d appreciate it if you’d loan me a couple million dollars to develop it. Thanks!

In Praise of the Crockpot

01.11.2007 | 9:57 am

My wife and I have had a crockpot since the day we were married. In fact, I think we might have been given a couple of them as wedding gifts. The only way we’ve used that crockpot, though, is to make my twice-cooked chili (chili’s best if you cook it once, let it set overnight, and then heat it back up — the flavors have time to blend and settle).

In the past week, that’s all changed.

For I have discovered the miracle that is the crockpot.

As you probably know, I’ve gained all the weight I lost over the summer back, and maybe a wee bit more (so I guess not everything about middle age is wonderful). But while I’m serious about losing the weight I need to have a great racing season, I don’t want to do it by eating nothing but celery.

So, last Monday morning, while puzzling over how to eat right without being miserable, I thought about the crockpot. In the mood to experiment, I got out a half-dozen chicken breasts (uncooked) and put them in the crockpot, dumped in a jar of salsa (mild, because if it worked I wanted my wife to like it too), added a little chicken broth, chopped in an onion and a couple green peppers, and turned the crockpot on to low.

Then I went to work.

When I got home, I found that my wife had had the idea of getting out our rice cooker (I’m a big fan of the Zojirushi) and making a batch of brown rice to go with the experiment.

The chicken shredded on contact, making a gumbo that went over the rice nicely. On top of this I added a little fat-free sour cream (how is this possible?) and a dozen shakes of tobasco (for my bowl only).

It was delicious. I mean, really, really delicious. And as far as I can tell, we were being seriously calorie and fat conscious too.

Another Experiment
So I tried another crockpot experiment. This time, I poured ready-made spaghetti sauce over the chicken breasts in the crockpot, chopped in an onion, and threw in a can of sliced olives.

Then we let it cook for eight hours.

Again, delicious (though if I were stack ranking, the salsa-chicken was better).

So I now have this theory that you can throw chicken and pretty much any kind of liquid you like into a crockpot, add an onion and the vegetables you like, leave it alone for the day (or overnight), make some brown rice to go with it (seriously, get a rice cooker to make brown rice; it’s so much easier), and it will come out perfect.

Tonight, we’re grilling teriyaki salmon, but tomorrow I’ve got this notion that I can do a good sloppy-joe-style barbecue chicken in the crockpot: chicken, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, onion, olives, celery, green peppers, liquid smoke, a little bit of honey.

I tell you what: the crockpot may be the best cooking tool a cyclist could ever imagine.

Next up? I’m trying to figure out how I could do a good low/no-fat chicken curry. Or some kind of teriyaki chicken.

Has anyone else discovered the magic of crockpottery? What do you make? (Easy, low-fat recipes only, natch.)


01.10.2007 | 11:48 am

I occasionally wonder if anyone in the history of the world has embraced middle age as fully as I have. As a 40-year-old, I observe the following:

  • I have less hair to worry about. Until I was about 30, my hair was so thick it was a nuisance. Barbers remarked they really ought to get out a lawnmower to get the job done. My hair care budget was exorbitant. Now, however, my hair is obligingly simultaneously thinning out and backing off. The day where I shave it off once and for all is not far off.
  • I am mellower. Once upon a time, career stuff freaked me out. So did the future. So did politics. Now, very few things freak me out, and nothing freaks me out for long.
  • I can own a red sports car with impunity. I’ve always loved red sports cars. As a middle-aged man, owning one is now my right.
  • I am entering the prime age for the kind of cycling I like best. Go to any endurance cycling event and you’ll notice: most of the guys are 40-55 years old. Now I’m one of them.

The thing I like best about middle age, though, is my newfound ability to — after an epic ride — take a nap.

I haven’t always been able to take naps, you see. Until about a year ago, no matter how tired I was, I simply couldn’t sleep during the day. I’d go on a big ol’ hundred mile training ride, get home, eat everything that looked even a little bit like food, and then drag around the house all day. Totally useless, but awake.

Or, on the rare occasion when I did fall asleep during the day, I’d wake later with a logy feeling, a low-grade headache, and an unfocused grouchiness.

And then I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night.

All that’s changed now. After a four-hour ride I’ll come home, eat everything in my zip code, go take a shower, and come back downstairs to the family room, still feeling beat.

“I think I’ll lay down here for a few minutes,” I’ll tell my wife, as I stretch out on the couch.

This is not a signal to my wife to keep the kids quiet. It is not a signal to her to do anything out of the ordinary, except maybe not give me the phone if someone calls.

Part of the magic of my new nap-taking-gift, you see, is that I like sleeping with the family around. The kids are still playing, my wife’s still working on jewelry, and I’m close by. While I definitely get wakened a few times during my nap, it doesn’t bother me.

40 minutes — or maybe sometimes an hour — later, I wake up. And I feel good. Not headachy. Not logy. Not grouchy. Good.

Real good.

Better than I usually feel after a full night’s sleep, actually.

And I know that I’ll be able to sleep just fine that night, too. Naps don’t throw me off my sleep cycle at all.

I tell you, a nap after a long ride is pure magic. I’m so glad I can enjoy them now.

“Scheduling Conflict” Theories

01.8.2007 | 1:12 pm

I, like most Leadville 100 junkies, was looking forward to racing with Lance Armstrong this August. In fact, I had spent a great deal of time and had gone to considerable expense to figure out my strategy for beating Lance Armstrong at the Leadville 100. I feel confident I am not revealing too much when I say that these plans involved the procurement of:

  1. 18 specially-trained sheepdogs
  2. A goat
  3. A pair of pliers
  4. A very, very powerful magnet
  5. An oscilloscope disguised to look like a giraffe
  6. 50 gallons of vinegar
  7. One cubic foot of baking soda
  8. A tangerine, impregnated with iron filings
  9. All the strawberry jam I could find

I don’t think that I need to point out that acquiring these items was not easy, nor was it inexpensive, nor did it raise my standing in the community to have 18 sheepdogs in the backyard.

I did not let the naysayers, the detractors, nor the tut-tutters distract me, though, because I knew my plan was foolproof: using these items (among others which I shall not here name) in a certain combination, at a certain place, at a certain time, virtually guaranteed that I would beat Lance Armstrong in Leadville this year.

And now, of course, he has backed out of the race.

I am so angry.

Speculation on Scheduling Conflicts
The vexingly-brief announcement Mark Higgins — Lance Armstrong’s manager — made to cancel Armstrong’s participation in this race is, well, both brief and vexing: “Lance had a scheduling conflict come up and he regrettably cannot participate in the event.”

“Scheduling conflict?”

“Scheduling conflict?!”

Is there anyone in the world who does not agree that “scheduling conflict” is an excuse you use to get out of doing one thing, so you can do something else you’d rather be doing?


OK, so the real question is: why isn’t Lance racing the Leadville 100? I, fortunately, have some helpful theories to address this question. I’m sure one of them is correct.

  • Possible Real Reason #1: The Landis factor. Sure, most bloggers think that Armstrong isn’t racing the Leadville 100 anymore because Landis might be, and Armstrong doesn’t want to have to train for this race like it’s the Tour de France. To this, I answer, “Lance, you don’t need to worry about Floyd. What do you think the magnet and tangerine are for?”
  • Possible Real Reason #2: Lance now weighs 317lbs. Since ending his cycling career, Lance has been eating nonstop. Anytime you see him on video, that’s actually CGI animation. Including the NY marathon. But it’s a well-known fact that CGI animation doesn’t work above 10,000 feet, so Lance would have to actually lose half his weight by August. The prospect of having a bunch of 50-year-old guys shouting condescending encouragement to him was simply too humiliating to face.
  • Possible Real Reason #3: Studio time is hard to reschedule. It turns out that Lance will be recording a cover of Sheryl Crow’s song, “Are You Strong Enough to be My Man,” with Matthew McConaughey. This is Dug’s theory. Frankly, I have no idea what this means or who Matthew McConaughey is. Oh, wait a second…
  • Possible Real Reason #4: Doing some stupid cancer fundraising thing. Oh, brother. Pulling the ol’ “I’m raising bazillions of dollars and improving and saving thousands of people’s lives” card again, eh, Lance? If you don’t want to do the race, just say so.
  • Possible Real Reason #5: Found out that this “mostly singletrack” race is in fact “no singletrack whatsoever.” Nowadays, Lance is all about the singletrack. He’s a soul rider.
  • Possible Real Reason #6: Lance is afraid of me. Sure, I did everything I could to keep my plans secret, but you can’t by eighteen sheepdogs without attracting a little bit of attention. I’m guessing that when I put the vinegar on the credit card all kinds of red flags went up. Armstrong’s probably being told by the authorities not to race, for his own safety.

PS: Do something for me would you? You know, I’d love to say I’m the “Award-Winning Blogger Known as the Fat Cyclist” instead of just “Fatty.” In order to do that, though, I need to win an award. So why don’t you do me a favor and go nominate me for something in the 2007 Bloggies. Most Humorous? Best-Kept Secret? Best Sports? All three?

Please. I’m begging you.

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