Saturday, August 2, 2008

Physcially Strong

I gave some thought to the Scout Oath today as I went on my noon-time bike ride. "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

At 11 a.m. today I was fed up with working on the computer and got suited up for a bike ride. I just had to get those muscles working and get the restlessness out of my bones. I ride a titanium steed with dura ace components, ksyrium wheels and use Carnac shoes with Shimano SPD-SL road bike pedals. The bicycle weighs about 17 lbs. A dog bought it for me! Well, not really. The insurance company of the owner of a dog that took me down several years ago bought it for me. The outfit that I wear when on the road is the Saunier Duval yellow outfit. I like it because it is so VISIBLE. No one can run me over and tell the judge that they did not see me. It just so happens that the Saunier Duval kit that I have was used by Chris Horner, an American rider from Oregon, when he rode in the Tour de France several years ago. When he left the team he sold his kit on eBay and I purchased it. I also like it because it makes people think that I am a fast cyclist. I work on that deception. The Spanish Saunier Duval team withdrew from the Tour de France race this year when two Italian riders on their team were caught using drugs. I will have to keep my eyes open, checking to see if more of those yellow outfits will now show up on eBay as riders get rid of their 'tainted' team clothing. I have no problem wearing the Saunier Duval clothing since I, too, use drugs. Daily I take half an aspirin and half a Zocor pill for cholesterol. Besides, I subscribe to the scout law wherein I am to be "thrifty." Maybe in this case I am not thrifty but cheap. I am not about to dump these rags for something else merely because of the morally corrupt behavior of several cyclists in Europe.

I am six foot two inches tall and weighed 167 lbs today at the YMCA when I came out of the shower. I try to keep my weight at 165 or less. On my way into the YMCA there was a nurse taking blood pressure readings so I stuck out my arm. 110 over 60. Not too bad for a 78 year old I would guess. My health insurance company pays the membership fee to the Y for my wife and myself and for our disabled son. I think that is a good policy as being physically fit keeps us away from the doctors and hospitals until we really need them. Besides, one can think better (mentally awake) and just feel a hell of a lot better when in good physical condition.

Today I headed north. There were quite a few clouds in the sky and a bit of a wind from the south. The temperature on the reader board at the bank said 68 degrees F. I rode alone. In ten minutes I was out of town on a two lane country road that went along Bellingham Bay providing beautiful views of the water and the San Juan Islands off to the west. For awhile there was a wide shoulder but soon that disappeared and I took the lane (rode in the center of the lane.) I try to get a good work out on my ride which is usually between one hour and an hour and a half in duration. On the level portions of the road I ride about 23 to 25 miles per hour. I generally average between 17.5 and 18.5 mph on rides over one hour duration. [ On my 72nd birthday I did a ride of 72 miles at an average speed of 18.9 mph. but I have to admit that I was 'sucking wheel' (drafting) much of the way.] On uphill grades I slide back in my seat and push hard. I rarely stand as that is very inefficient. When going down a hill I rarely go over 37 miles per hour. In a race at times I will go up to 45 mph but I guess I am too chicken to go faster. My strategy to win a race now is to out-live the competition since bicycle racing is by age categories. I got a gold medal in the Washington State Time Trial Championships several years ago. Not only was I the only rider in my age group, I was 12 years older than the next older competitor. There were very few cars on the road today and they gave me wide berth when passing. Often when riding in the country I will see bald eagles, red tailed hawks, blue herons, wild turkeys and, in the late fall there are flocks of trumpeter swans but for some reason today I saw few birds.

On the road heading south I had wonderful views of Mt. Baker, our local snow capped peak, glistening in the distance to the west, a mere 50 miles from my house to the snow line.
As I came back into the Bellingham city limits I noticed another cyclist who had stopped and was looking at a map. So I stopped to offer help and found that he was from Japan and had flown to Canada to participate in a supported 1,000 mile bike ride. Now that the ride was over, having ended in Vancouver, BC, Canada, a mere 50 miles from Bellingham, he decided to ride to Seattle which is 90 miles to the south of us. He will take his plane home from there. He spoke excellent English and is from Kobe. When I told him I expected to be in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, Japan in October and would be taking my shoes, pedals and helmet with me and would be borrowing a bike so I could ride each morning he said he would ride from Kobe to Tateyama (hundreds of miles away) and go on a ride with me! I led him into town and offered to buy him lunch but he declined as he had eaten not too long before. It is a habit of mine to treat any long distance cyclists from other parts of the US or other countries that I encounter on the road to a lunch at a small restaurant in town run by a highly competitive cyclist. It is a hang out for cyclists, runners, tri-athletes, etc. I have been treated to so many meals as a scout travelling in scores of countries that I have hundreds, if not thousands, of meals to repay. I rode with my new friend to the southern edge of town and saw him on his way down Chuckanut Drive, the magnificent road that winds along the edge of the waters of Bellingham Bay, one of the most scenic roads in America. Ah, yes, a Scout is 'friendly' and 'helps other people at all times.' I did not offer help to this Japanese cyclist and befriend him because the Scout Oath and Law mandated that I do so. I behaved as I did because that was my way of life, my modus operandi. I had internalized the Scout Oath and Law as a kid so it was part of my life and needed no conscious checking against the Scout manual to see if I was on the right track. These Scout values shape us as individuals and make us what we are. I am talking about behavior, not rhetoric as I note in my comments at the end of this bit of musing.

Then back to the Y to clean up. Total time on the bike = one and a half hours. I do this at least three times a week. Sunday mornings I do a 30 to 50 mile ride. Today was my level ride, i.e., no real hills. Other days I will ride to the south which begins with a four mile up hill climb. That is a good work out. Sure it is hard but is there a way to keep physically fit without pushing the body a bit? There is an expression in cycling called 'empty miles' when one is not getting aerobic benefit nor anaerobic benefit from the effort expended. It is just sauntering along but on a bicycle. I didn't get into serious cycling until I was about 65 years old. A friend of mine who was a former national level racer saw me on a club bike ride one day and convinced me that I should dump the 'hybrid' bike that I had for a real bicycle. "How much?" I asked. "$1,800" was the reply. When I broached the subject to my wife she 'went up the wall' at that price tag. I countered that the cost was less than a month in a nursing home and would keep me out of one for at least ten years....therefore a good investment. "Only if you ride it" she said, "so buy it but get your a== out the door and put on the miles". Shortly afterwards, at a meeting of parents of developmentally disabled children, I met a newcomer to town with an autistic child. He asked me to help get his son specialized programming in the local schools. I said I would do so if he would give me help in learning cycling skills. In our conversation I found out that he had been the coach and trainer of the Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) bicycle racing team. So for about a year I had some really good, physically rigorous training. I complained to him, calling him a sadist, when I felt he was pushing me too hard and he responded that I was a physical wimp, that I had to learn how to suffer! I finally agreed with him, not that I was a wimp but that to achieve one's goal of physical fitness one had to push oneself to the edge of current ability and to excel one had to learn how to suffer, i.e., push till it hurts.

Frankly, I get ticked when I visit a troop meeting and find that the Scoutmaster has a belly that hangs over his belt so far you can not see the belt buckle. What kind of an example is he giving the boys? Isn't the Scout Oath for him also? When on one of my Sunday morning rides (this one a 55 mile ride) I noticed a Boy Scout Pancake Feed advertised at a fire hall. So I pulled off the road to use the facilities and chat with the scouts and troop leaders. I found four of the adults, the scoutmaster and several other troop leaders in full uniform, outside the fire hall smoking! and with big bellies! I am afraid that I made them a bit uncomfortable as I challenged them to abide by the values they supposedly were teaching the youth. Oh, they had all the patches on their shirts showing all their accomplishments, camps attended, rank, etc. but that big belly and a cigarette cheapened those proud insignias of Scouting. I told them my feelings before I took off, saddened that more self discipline wasn't shown by the scout leadership in that group. Strangely, I had not been a registered Scout or involved in the Scouting movement for over 50 years and yet I still felt that way.

'nuf for tonight.

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