Chest Pain

02.14.2008 | 12:44 pm

This is going to be a kind of melancholy entry.

A week ago or so, I started having some pain in my chest. It felt like heartburn, but lasted a long time. Like multiple days.

I let it go for a few days, then started thinking about it: the one thing my family didn’t need right now was me in the hospital. And then I started thinking about heart attacks. And of course once I started thinking about heart attacks, I couldn’t think of anything else.

Finally, I went and saw a doctor. They asked me a barrage of questions, and I answered enough of them "no" (Have you been nauseous? Have you had pain in your arms?) that I started realizing that my big fear — that I had had a heart attack — probably wasn’t something to worry about.

They did an EKG and said my heart’s great.

Then they did a blood test and said they’d phone me with the results.

I was embarrassed over the fact that I had worked some chest pain up, in my head, into a heart attack, and decided not to say anything about it in my blog.

Today, though, I got the results back — in the form of a phone call from the receptionist — from the bloodwork. I have high cholesterol. Really, really, high cholesterol. Except for the good kind, which is low.

I asked if I maybe should come in.

"No," said the receptionist. "We’ll write you a prescription, and you should start a low-fat diet and start exercising."

"You mean, lower than the 20-25g of fat I eat daily right now, and more than the two hours of exercise I do right now?" I asked.

"Do you eat a high fiber diet?"

"Yes, I do. Quaker Oats sends me a "thank you" card every year," I said. Actually, I just made up the Quaker Oats thank you card part just now, which is too bad, because that’s a good line.

"Well, we better set you up with an appointment," she said.

"Better make it a long one," I said. "I never did my 40-year checkup, and my left wrist has been hurting for four months now. Let’s take care of everything in one shot."

"Four months? Why haven’t you come in before now?" she asked, not unreasonably.

"I don’t know," I said, cleverly. "I keep thinking that it will get better soon."

So, anyway, I have an appointment with the doctor this Monday, where I expect I will get a Lipitor-ish prescription. Which I assume I will need to take for the rest of my life.

I have no illusions about my age — I know I’m 41. I knew that I had high cholesterol (though I didn’t know it was this high). But I’m still bummed about what feels like the first step of a slippery slope.

I’m about, I assume, to start taking a pill every day for the rest of my life. Not something to cure me, but to fight off one of the effects of age.

From here on out, I can only expect to have the number of daily pills increase. One for my cholesterol now. Next up, something for arthritis. After that, I’m sure, the prostate. And after that, something else.

This must be what a midlife crisis feels like. I’d better go buy myself a really, really nice bike to help me feel better about myself. And pronto.

PS: You kids get offa my lawn.


An Open Letter to the Members of the Core Team, Each of Which I am Certain Will Offer Different Excuses for Why They Won’t Come Ride the STP with Bob and Me This Year

02.12.2008 | 9:54 pm

Dear Core Team,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I know you are all busy people, so I consider it a kindness that you would carve time out of your schedule to consider what I have to say.

Or, in the case of Rick M., I appreciate your assistant taking the time to read this, briefly summarizing what she reads to you during one of your thirty second breaks between meetings, and then writing me back, usually within three business days.

I have two matters to bring before you today.

Item 1
The first item I want to bring before you is a plea for you to join Bob and me as we ride the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic this July (July 12, to be specific).

I have reasons, which I consider both good and sufficient. They are as follows:

  1. We rarely do epic road rides together. We have done a lot of mountain bike rides together. We have done a lot of long mountain bike rides together. We have done a lot of road rides together. But we have not done many epic road rides together. And that’s a shame. We should do this ride, we should do it together as a group, and we should do it this year, before senility takes over and we forget who each other are.
  2. It’s in a different kind of place. Let’s face it, we’ve gotten kind of stale. When we go on a trip, it’s to Moab or Gooseberry or — sometimes — Leadville. All three of those are good places. But Seattle is an incredible city, and Portland’s very cool too. And while I’m confident Bob doesn’t know his way around Seattle even though he’s lived there for ten years, I’m equally confident that Nick does know his way around. I know, I should probably know my way around Seattle too, but I’m actually worse than Bob at that kind of thing.
  3. It’s a beautiful ride. There’s something about this ride that feels huge. You’re going point to point, between two big cities and across a state line, through untold numbers of small towns and through hundreds of miles of beautiful countryside. It’s just a great ride.
  4. There’s a certain novelty in riding at sea level after living at 4500 feet. Riding at sea level after you’ve been living in the mountains makes you feel incredibly strong. You’ll notice that you can ride at a good brisk clip while still breathing through your nose. You’ll marvel at how good you feel, even at the end of the day.
  5. There’s even more of a novelty in hearing the locals call their cute little rolling hills “big climbs.” This ride is, essentially, flat. But people act like a couple of the rolling hills are big deals. They aren’t. I intend to ride my SS road bike on this ride, and I’m going to put a big gear on.
  6. It’s astonishing to be in a 10,000-person mass start. You know how the start at Leadville seems huge? Imagine ten times as many people.
  7. It’s wild to be on a ride where there’s an aid station every couple of miles. All you’ve got to do is carry a couple of water bottles and a fifty. You can eat every twenty minutes, if you feel like it. Most of it’s free, some of it’s fundraisers for local high schools, which I think is very cool.
  8. We owe Bob. Bob travels out to ride with us a couple times a year, in spite of the fact that he’s deathly afraid of airplanes and feels acute embarrassment about his fainting spells. It’s our turn to go see him, to show him that we like him in spite of his shortcomings.
  9. Nick will be there. Nick, as you know, is a tall Australian who is happy to pull all day. Really, most of the rest of us will be feathering our brakes more often than we pedal.

Item 2
While I am confident in the persuasiveness of my points above, I am equally confident that each of you will have a meally-mouthed excuse for why you don’t plan to go on this ride. Below I anticipate and answer your objections.

  • It doesn’t sound like my kind of trip. This is just you saying that you aren’t willing to do something new. For crying out loud, break out of your rut. Try something you haven’t done a thousand times before. You’re starting to act old. What’s next, yelling at kids to get offa your lawn?
  • It’s not a race. I know, Kenny. But it’s possible to do a long ride without it being a race, and still have fun. Seriously. Try riding with us. We’re not so bad.
  • I don’t think my wife will approve. Perhaps your wife wouldn’t lord over you so completely if you weren’t such an uxorious milksop.
  • I’m busy taking the children camping that weekend. Your kids called. They said they’re sick of going camping every weekend and would like to have a weekend with the Nintendo, and without your interference.
  • I’m afraid. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Seattleites and Portlanders are remarkably tolerant, even of Utahns.
  • I can’t afford it. Financing plans are available. Reasonable terms.

I look forward to your commitment to ride the STP with Bob, Nick and me. Your reply, forthwith, is appreciated in advance.

Kind Regards,

(The core team likes to pretend I am not as famous and important as I am, and as such, prefers to call me by my given name. I humor them.)

PS: I don’t do a lot of blog recommendos, but I’m a big fan of “PuddinRider,” who is a frequent commenter here as “SoreLegs.” He’s a rider who is just beginning cancer treatment and is blogging about it with humor, intelligence, and courage. I’ve added him to my blogroll and recommend you go pay a visit.

Two of the Seven

02.11.2008 | 9:42 pm

Getting back on track, diet-wise, is not easy for me. For two reasons: I get cranky, and I get tired.

It’s entirely possible the two are related.

It’s easy to tell why I’m tired at the beginning of a diet: sleep becomes a real problem for about a week.

First off, there’s the constant peeing.

You see, one of the secrets of succeeding at any diet is to drink a lot of water. A gallon per day, if you can. It reduces the amount of salt in your system, and it makes you more regular, both of which help you lose weight.

But you also have to pee. Pretty much always. It’s a weird sensation to feel like you need to pee just as you finish peeing.

And even if you quit drinking an hour or so before bed, you’re still getting up, all the time, to go pee again.

The more irritating problem, though, is the hunger. During the day, I cope with hunger just fine. I’m working, I’m playing with the kids, I’m writing, I’m reading. I’m occupied. It’s easy to keep my attention off my stomach.

But at night, I’m just laying there. And I’m hungry. And since I’m just laying there and I’m hungry, I start to think about food. And, being who I am, I have a mental inventory of pretty much everything in the fridge and pantry. I’m combining and improvising foods in my mind, and my stomach is weighing in on the merits of each idea.

Hint: it likes all of them.

I’ve mentioned many times that the ability to fall asleep instantly is one of my superpowers. I guess it could be said, then, that hunger is my kryptonite.

Perhaps because I’m not getting as good of sleep, or perhaps because my brain is adjusting to a leaner mix of fuel, I get downright grouchy for the first week of a diet.

High-pitched squeals from the twins, for example, usually just make me simply flinch. Right now, though, I find myself barking in my special angry-authoritative-brooks-no-dissent fatherly voice: “There will be no squealing in this house!”

An identical rule applies to screaming, whistling, and high-pitched singing. Yodeling, too, I expect, though nobody’s tested me on that.

Other symptoms of grouchiness:

  • Minor work crises seem like major work crises.
  • Bad weather seems like it’s personal.
  • I have no tolerance for bad plotlines when riding on my rollers.
  • I am sarcastic to everybody, but tolerate sarcasm from nobody.

Still, it’s only Tuesday, and I’ve already beaten my goal for Friday (I’m down three pounds so far this week). Which means all this sleepiness and grouchiness isn’t for nothing.

Meanwhile, watch your step. I’m likely to bite your head off. Or fall asleep and drool on you.

PS: Hey, my friend Carlton Reid of is up for three awards for his QuickRelease.TV video blog. Do him a favor and click here to learn how to vote for him.

So You Want to Be a Mountain Biker?

02.11.2008 | 8:37 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article up at today. You can read an excerpt below, or click here to go to BikeRadar and read the whole thing.

As a road cyclist, you have no doubt asked yourself, from time to time, the following question:

“What would happen if I road my bike offroad?”

Well, the answer is quite simple. If you took your bike offroad, your brainpan would be shaken loose and your tires would explode, right before your rims crumpled in a heap.

But that may not have been the question you meant to ask. Maybe you meant to ask, “What would it be like to ride a mountain bike on these trails I sometimes see intersecting the pavement? Would it really be that much different?”

Yes, it would be different. Here are seven key tips and tricks to help you prepare for your grand offroad cycling transformation.

1. You must get a tattoo. Before you even begin thinking about shopping for a mountain bike, let alone taking your first mountain bike ride, you must get a rad tattoo. It’s the law. There are actual mountain bike police out monitoring the trails, and they are liable to ask you if you have a tattoo. If you don’t, they are authorized to give you one — of their choosing — on the spot.

Now, I’m certain that you are thinking, right this moment, “I’m pretty sure I saw a mountain biker without a tattoo, once.” I assure you: that mountain biker had a tattoo. It was just more discretely placed than most, probably because that biker still lives at home and is afraid his mom will find out.

So the question is, what should your tattoo be? Well, the mountain biking bylaws stipulate that a chainring must be one of the graphical elements, a mystical Asian glyph must be included, and there must be a whimsical third symbol: wings, a skull-and-crossbones, or a cloud are all good examples. I recommend a yin-yang symbol inside a chainring, peeking out from behind a cloud, as if it were the sun.

Feel free to make up your own story as to what this means.

Click here to continue reading “So You Want to Read a Mountain Biker?” at

It’ll Be Just Like Starting Over

02.7.2008 | 8:50 pm

I got a postcard in the mail yesterday. It’s the postcard the Leadville 100 organizers send out, letting you know that your race entry is accepted. You’re in. Or, more to the point, I’m in: my 12th Leadville 100 in 12 years.

When I got that card, I knew that my 2008 riding philosophy — take it easy and don’t worry about it — was a sham. I don’t want to just barely finish Leadville. I want to finish it strong. I probably don’t have enough time to train toward a sub-9-hour finish, but I bet I have enough time to train toward a sub-9:30 finish.

Or maybe I have enough time to train toward a singlespeed finish.

Frankly, I don’t know what kind of goal I ought to set for that race yet. But I do know that it’s time for me to start training again, and to start working on losing weight again.

Son of the Return of the Original Fat Cyclist Giveaway
When I first started this blog, the stories and fake news were a sideshow. The real reason I created this blog was to humiliate myself by posting my weight, complete with goals and a penalty for failure, every day.

It was simple. Here’s how it went. And for that matter, how it will go again.

  1. On a set day each week, I posted my goal weight for the upcoming week. I also set the “jackpot” amount (more on that in a minute)
  2. Each day, I posted my weight.
  3. On the same day the following week, if I had not met my goal weight, I gave away the jackpot amount to some reader, in the form of an gift certificate. If I did meet my goal weight for the week, the jackpot got bigger. So the stakes got higher for me to stay on track each week.

The problem was, the jackpot would grow and grow and grow until I finally missed my target, and I’d wind up giving away a huge jackpot, even though I’d been doing great for a long time. There was no carrot, only a stick.

So I’m doing this contest again, only this time I’m setting a new rule: Every time I can meet my weight loss target five weeks in a row, I get the jackpot, which I will use to buy something I want.

So, how much will the jackpot increase by each week? $50. So I could, potentially, be giving away $250 per month on this blog.

And I want to be clear on one thing: This contest is not going to be turned into a “raise money to fight cancer” thing. I actually considered doing it that way for a second, but then realized: if, when I fail, I donated money to the LAF, I’d feel good about losing. I don’t want that. So, for this, it has to feel like losing an old-fashioned bet. If I fail, I have to give someone — and it’s best if it’s someone I either don’t know or don’t particularly like — my hard-earned money, even though they don’t deserve it.

My logic is twisted, but deep down, you know it’s sound.

Anyway, all the stats — my current weight, my goal weight for the week, the jackpot amount — about the Fatty’s Sweepstakes will be tracked in the right sidebar. In fact, it’s there right now. Whaddayaknow.

And your first chance to win money from me will be next Friday, followed by a new chance every Friday, until I hit my weight goal of 150 pounds.

PS: I got an email today about George Hincapie helping with a “Breakaway from Cancer” charity ride in conjunction with the 2008 Tour of California. I love to see things like this. Check out the site.

PPPS: I’m going to put a Disneyland trip together for my family before Susan has to go back on chemo mid-March. If someone out there is a Disneyland guru with exceptional knowledge of best places to stay, best ways to get good ticket prices, and who to contact about special considerations Susan might need while there (she’ll be in a wheelchair and may need a place to rest during the day), please email me.

PPS: I plan to do a group weight-loss contest, like last year’s B7, but I need to figure out a few things.

  1. How can I do it without it eating a lot of my time? I really am maxed out. Last year, moderating that thing ate up hours of my time every month, and I didn’t even do that good of a job.
  2. How can I do it so that quitters are penalized? Last year, a bunch of people joined the B7 and then disappeared, either because they lost interest or weren’t doing well. We’ll never know. This year, I think there’s going to be some kind of entry fee. The winners will split the pot, everyone who completes will get something (I haven’t figured out what yet), and the quitters will be out of luck. What do you think of that idea?
  3. How can I discourage sandbagging? I’m not implying there were sandbaggers last year, but hey, we’re cyclists. Sandbagging is in our nature.

Your answers to these questions, ideas on how to conduct the contest, and an indication of your likelihood of participating are all welcome and appreciated.

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