Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Bike for All Seasons

Well, y'all may have noticed that I haven't been posting lately. That's because there's been a new addition to my little family.

She's an old-school aluminum framed mountain bike, with a front fork shock and big knobby tires... probably a 1998 model, but it looks like someone upgraded her crankset to make her a bit lighter and give her lower gearing. Got her for a mere $100 on Craigslist and spent the past few weeks fixin' her up. This picture was taken on her inaugural trip. Here's the view facing the other direction:

See that trail off in the distance? That was the easy part... before we got to the "highly technical switchbacks." Suffice it to say that our next trip will be on an easier trail!

But I'm absolutely thrilled, because now CatMan and I can get out and enjoy the mountains, which we haven't been able to do for a while. I probably haven't mentioned this, but CatMan has some nerve damage in his ankle leftover from a pretty serious mountaineering accident that he was in twenty-some-odd years ago.

It means that he can't really bend his ankle without setting off extreme pain. So walking is difficult for him, and things like hiking are pretty much out of the question. But he can ride a bike with no problem, so we're really hoping that the addition of the mountain bike to my "stable" will allow the 2 of us to enjoy the beautiful rocky mountains this summer.

Anyhow... this means that I now own three, count 'em THREE bicycles.

Now, there was a time that I would have considered this to be excessive, but here's the thing - all bikes are not created equal. They all have different purposes, and the older I get, the more I have come to believe that you really do need the right tool for the job.

Soooo... I now have Ruby, my road bike. She's super light with a carbon fiber frame and her job is to ride fast for long distances.

This photo was taken when she was brand new... she now has clipless pedals which require special road bike shoes. This bike is probably worth more than my car (which isn't actually saying much) but there's NO WAY I would ever leave her unattended. She even comes into the bathroom with me on pit stops!

Anyhow, the point is, this is NOT a bike you ride for running errands around town, and you also would NEVER want to take her down something that looks like this:

Then there's old Gertrude:

Gerty is probably over 30 by now. I bought her used from a friend of my Ex, and she's gone through several incarnations over the 20+ years that I've owned her. This photo is a few years old, she's now got more bags, a big comfy saddle, slick tires for less riding resistance, and ergonomic handlebar grips.

She's actually not a bad bike, but she's got a heavy chromoly frame (steel - probably weighs over 35 pounds). She's got old-school shifters that are sorta um... challenging to use, and I've got her outfitted with baskets for hauling stuff from the grocery store.

But old Gerty is the perfect bike for running errands around town. I can ride her in street clothes, and while it would be a major bummer to lose her, she wouldn't be worth much on the used market, so I don't have to worry too much about leaving her locked up someplace while I go shopping or whatever.

So there you have it, I've officially become one of those people, with a whole pile of bicycles.

The only thing now is that my new bike needs a name! I'm thinking it should be something rugged and gritty, that conjures up images of the back country... something in the Jeremiah Johnson or Rooter Cogburn vein, but with a feminine twist. Got any suggestions?

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Month of Mornings

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but I'm not exactly a morning person.

OK, that might be a tad bit of an understatement. To be honest, getting my little self in and out of bed at a reasonable hour has been something I've struggled with my entire life.

I have tried to reform about a million times, but generally it lasts about a week at most before I fall off the wagon, and very quickly I'm back to staying up past 4am and sleeping well past noon.

While I have pretty much accepted that being a night owl is just part of my essential nature, I also really, REALLY miss the daylight. Especially now that the weather is getting nicer I find myself longing for more hours when I can be outside.

So I decided to give it another shot and this time I decided to approach it differently.

In the past I'd always tried to reform by attempting to slowly move my bedtime and waking times a little bit earlier every day. This always seemed like the best approach to me, but the truth is it just never worked.

Then I remembered something I'd heard once about how circadian rhythms work. I heard that melatonin levels actually peak twice throughout the day, once at bedtime, and once again about an hour or two before you awaken. The theory was that the body needed a little extra dose of drowsiness to keep itself asleep as it becomes more rested throughout the night. 

Now, I cannot remember where I heard this, and I have no idea whether this is actually true or not. I'm starting to suspect that it might not be, because when I went to find something to link to for this post I couldn't find anything that even remotely supported this theory. 

But, the veracity of this melatonin theory notwithstanding, I decided that this time I was gonna try the cold turkey approach rather than the gradual one that had failed so many times before.

I figured if I could get up before the extra surge of drowsiness came on, I might be able to physically withstand it.

To give it an extra push in the same direction, I decided to time my experiment with the time shift to daylight saving time so that the net effect would be going to bed and getting up approximately 4 hours earlier than I had been.

Now, if you've ever tried to go to bed 4 hours early, you probably know that it ain't as easy as it might sound. Seriously... how can you go to sleep when you're just not tired? 

Well, I decided this time to give myself a little boost in the drowsiness department and started taking both a low dose melatonin supplement as well as a bit of magnesium (which promotes relaxation) at bedtime.

I also had heard that a vital component of resetting the circadian rhythms is to expose yourself to a lot of light in the mornings. So my plan was to set the alarm, get up and have some coffee and get as much light as possible.

Now, I've gotta say that the first few days were pretty horrible. I'd wake up OK and manage to get out of bed alright, but then an hour or two later the intense sleepiness would hit and I'd feel my typical morning nausea, shakiness and general purpose yuck.

But... I stuck with it, and after about a week or so it actually started to get a bit better. And after a month of this I'm starting to think I might be able to live with it.

It's still not what I would call easy. It takes enormous discipline to make myself go to bed instead of launching into a movie or project after midnight.

But once I get the melatonin and magnesium into my system I do start to feel sleepy so I'm able to fall asleep by around 1:30 most nights.

And while I'm sure the morning people out there are incredulous that I would consider getting up at around 10:30am to be early, I do have to point out that there is an AM after that 10:30, so it is technically morning, which is a significant improvement over my previous habits!

I've gotta say that it's really, REALLY nice to feel like I'm getting out of vampire mode.

I'm soooo hopeful that I'll be able to maintain it this time.

So are there any other hopeless night owls out there who have ever tried to reform? I'd love to hear what has or hasn't worked for you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Enjoyment vs. Satisfaction

So, I had an interesting thought today. Look out! She's thinking again... it could get dangerous!

I was reading a book review over on The Frugal Girl about a family who decided to try to cut out all sugar for a year. In the discussion section someone pointed out that for some people moderation works best while others do better with all out abstinence. I could immediately relate to this comment.

If you remember my Food Foibles post of about a week ago, the constant theme was that with many of my "trouble foods" once I start, I simply cannot stop. I speak as a person who has managed to down the equivalent of three giant chocolate bars in a week's time! Oy!

Anyhow... it got my little brain twirling and I realized that, for me at least, there is a HUGE difference between enjoyment and satisfaction. Many of the foods that I find to be really enjoyable, I also find to be intensely dissatisfying.

I'm not really sure how to put the sensation into words. It's sorta like when I eat chocolate, or ice cream, or dried fruit etc, it's pleasurable, but not quite as pleasurable as I want it to be, so I always feel like I need just a little bit more to be satisfied. And before you know it three chocolate bars have disappeared, and there's still no sense of satisfaction!

With the really sweet stuff like cake or frosting it's even worse. I always expect it to taste good, but it never really does. But somehow I become convinced that if I just eat a little bit more it will eventually taste as good as I think it should.

It sorta reminded me of a story CatMan once told me. I asked him if he ever tried cocaine back in his hippie days. He said he tried it once and immediately realized that it was a trap, because all it felt like was more.

It strikes me that this must be how addiction works, and it sorta turns my mental image of addiction on its head. I guess I always assumed that when a person is addicted to something it's because they really, REALLY like the substance or activity.

But now I'm starting to think that it's much more complicated than that. If my little enjoyment vs. satisfaction theory is correct, then people experiencing addiction aren't repeating the behavior because they like it so much, they're doing it because the experience leaves them in a state of being almost satisfied but not quite.

Is this just completely crazy, or has anybody else out there ever experienced anything like this? I'm dying to know what y'all think about my crazy little theory.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Breakfast of Champions!

So I have whined repeatedly about my food allergies, but I'm not sure how often I have mentioned the specific condition that I suffer from. I have a very rare syndrome called Food Dependent Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis.

Yup... even my abnormalities are abnormal! Seriously, this syndrome is so rare that most allergists have never even seen a case of it. Not sure how I got so lucky.

Basically, it's pretty much like it sounds. If I eat something that I'm even slightly allergic to, and exercise while it's still in my system, it provokes an anaphylactic reaction - which is a very severe allergic reaction - think bee sting, swelling up like a sweet potato, rush her to the emergency room before she stops breathing - type of reaction.

I've had a grand total of 4 said reactions in my lifetime, before I had the great fortune to have stumbled upon a doctor who was up on her reading and managed to diagnose it. Since then, I've had to be extremely careful about mixing food and exercise, but I have managed to avoid repeating the experience. Though I do carry an Epi-pen with me just in case.

My general strategy, aside from avoiding all foods that I'm allergic to, has been to wait at least 2.5 hours after eating to do any sort of exercise. Now this worked when "exercise" used to mean a workout of 45 minutes to an hour, but my strategy wasn't quite so successful once I bought a road bike and started cycling regularly for 3-4 hours at a time.

Suffice it to say, I was suffering from grumbling tummy syndrome BIG TIME!

So, here's where it helps to have a stepmother who is also an allergist. She was able to work with me to determine that there are a few foods which I can safely mix with exercise, so I can eat right before I ride rather than having to wait a few hours.

Basically, at this point, my "safe list" includes, potatoes (either white or sweet) eggs and salt. Sooooo... on days when I'm planning to ride, my breakfast looks something like this:

Boiled eggs and sweet potatoes
Appetizing, don't you think? Actually, it's not too bad, and it's a helluva lot better than trying to ride when you're starving!

But it sorta got me to thinking about breakfast in general, and wondering what most people consider to be "normal" breakfast foods.

When I was a kid I ate eggs every single morning of my life. My mother believed in a high protein breakfast, so we generally had eggs with toast and orange juice, and on special occasions she'd add in some sausage or bacon and hash browns.

My dad, on the other hand, is a high-fiber low-fat breakfast man, so for him breakfast has always been either bran flakes or oatmeal with skim or powdered milk.

When I lived in Norway, the morning meal usually consisted of open faced sandwiches of cheese or cold cuts, and maybe a soft boiled egg on special occasions.

As for me... my breakfast habits have changed numerous times over the years, but presently since I'm trying to eat as many veggies as possible, breakfast on non-riding days tends to be some sort of veggie and egg dish with the occasional piece of fruit on the side.

Fried Eggs with Fiesta Style Veggies
In my younger days I could get away with a mostly-carb breakfast like oatmeal, but it still left me quite hungry an hour or two later.

And I've never understood the people who seem to be able to eat dessert foods for breakfast like pancakes, waffles, muffins, sweet rolls, donuts, toast with jelly or jam, sweet cereals, fruit juice, etc.

My taste buds would LOVE it, but I fear my blood sugar levels would not, and it would be sorta like a migraine in the making for me.

Anyhow, I'm curious to know... what do you usually eat for breakfast? Did you get your breakfast habits from your parents, or did you come about your morning menu in a different way?