“YOU CAN CHOOSE”

September 25, 2013

Never really mentioned this to anyone – not that it’s a “secret”, just hasn’t come up – but the era of my fitness that saw me FINALLY break through my 209-pound plateau / floor / ceiling where I was mired for months, was driven by this single, simple, beautiful quote from the movie Minority Report.  An otherwise freaky and downright disturbing movie, nonetheless this semi-whispered quote stood out to me as if shouted loud as I watched it one weekend.  “You can choose”.  It hit me like a rock.  You can CHOOSE to achieve superior results.

Lately I’ve been mired in yet another plateau around yet another major benchmark.  I recently officially declared a 100-pound loss, having gone from 284 to 184 lbs.  However, for the last longer-than-I-care-to-look-right-now, I’ve been treading the same 6-pound range, between 184 lbs and 190 lbs.  I’ll develop good habits and then drift after a couple days.  Develop good habits and then drift after 9-10 days.  Aaaand repeat.

As recently as two days ago I was wrestling with something I never wanted to face.  Have I become CONTENT with my progress.  Am I CONTENT to have achieved what I have?  In a way that eludes my ability to capture in words, the answer was both yes and no.  I found that PART of the reason for my lack of “eye of the tiger” lately is that I am, in fact, satisfied with what I’ve achieved.  But even at the same time that was true, a part of me was dissatisfied with that comfortable acceptance.  This part was saying, “Really?  Yes you’ve done great but really? You still have a very ample belly, your cardio still isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can’t run much distance at all (for example)”, etc.

Then yet another movie quote came to me, which, though it may sound odd to you the reader, prompted me turn the entire thing 180 degrees and look at it differently. This one came from the movie Wall Street (itself paraphrasing Friedrich Nietzsche):

A man looks into the abyss, sees nothing staring back at him. It is in that moment that man finds his character.  And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.

That quote really resonates with my recent experience.  I was definitely looking into a kind of abyss of a future, thinking “well if I’m not striving to move forward, what AM I doing?”  In that moment, I found my answer, and that answer is what PROVIDED the direction.

Quite suddenly, as with my previous “YOU CAN CHOOSE” moment, I realized that yes, I can simply DECIDE to continue making progress.  I can DECIDE to put away any BS excuses I might allow myself to buy into.  I can DECIDE that I’m not yet satisfied with the progress to date – proud, definitely; relieved, VERY, but not satisfied.

I can CHOOSE. And I’ve chosen.

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weight_184So after stumbling in August and gaining weight month-over-month for the first time in 12 months, I righted the ship toward the end of August, and for my official September weigh-in I registered 184 pounds.  This was my second major weight-loss goal since I began (the first being 209 pounds), and means that I’ve officially lost 100 pounds from my all-time heaviest!!

Also as a related sidenote, when filling out a health assessment recently I realized that I passed another kind of cool milestone:  at 5’6″ and 184 pounds, my BMI is now 29.7, which means that for the first time in many, many years (I’d guess at LEAST 10, probably more), I am now officially only “overweight” and no longer “obese”.  Granted, I’m right at the top of the “obese” range – and I already know I still have a lot of progress yet ahead of me – but to see that change in category is a pretty cool thing.

Now I finally begin formally navigating to my THIRD major weight-loss goal – 174 pounds.  Ten down from current.  My goal is to reach this by Thanksgiving.  And I still wonder at what body weight I will feel fairly “normal” and no longer feel overweight or at least no longer feel fat.  I’m guessing at least 167 lbs, maybe lower.  This is actually exciting to me rather than daunting or discouraging – it means I do in fact have a lot of improvement still ahead of me, and I’m going to achieve it!

To health!

So in late August I suffered from, as chronicled in recent posts, a fairly epic burnout from cycling.  It was varying parts physical and psychological / mental and, as is often the case, these varying dimensions cross-multiplied synergistically and with deleterious effect on my bicycling.  Quite suddenly cycling felt like a “chore” to me, a “job”, and something that I, to be frank, just dreaded doing.

After a successful but very short streak (which I didn’t do a great job of chronicling in these pages) in August where I ramped up my rando riding (I successfully finished rides on 8/11, 8/14 and 8/18), my “other life” of really frightful eating caught up to me and just dragged me down.  That’s an abyss I’ve already discussed at some length here, won’t ever relive again, and don’t intend to discuss much now.

Fortunately it was short-lived.  Some encouragement, wisdom and support from Sensei Ron A and my friends and family helped; and finally I decided I’d done enough torturing of myself with food as well as self-beratement, and I drew my line in the sand and returned to the good path nutritionwise.

Then, yesterday, I returned to the dream.  Randonneuring.

There was a recent article in American Randonneur, the quarterly newsletter of RUSA, in which an accomplished rando was asked how he managed to keep a positive attitude even during the rough stretches of long rides.  His basic answer was that he continued to remind himself that, whether it was sunny out and 75 degrees or cold, windy and rainy, he was living the dream and was doing what he’d chosen to do.  Browsing recently through some photos taken on my phone of a couple of the rando rides in August, I completely concur.  It occurred to me that – sorry, this sounds overly sappy but it’s just being honest – I have RARELY in my life felt more content than I was in that very short span of time when I was doing these long rides every few days,  building up my RUSA “resume”, and progressing with cycling and with my fitness.  I texted Ron A that even though these pictures were only from a couple weeks prior, it felt like it was years ago, so far had I been beaten down psychologically.  But in that moment I reminded myself that yes, for me, this IS the dream.  I’ve wanted to get into randonneuring since basically the day I learned that it existed and started to educate myself.  I worked hard to get into the shape where I could do the entry-level (still damned impressive IMO) RUSA distance of 100 km (62 miles) under RUSA conditions.  I looked forward to the day when I could FINALLY start my rando career rolling, start building a “resume”, start working towards various annual & lifetime awards RUSA offers. And when I finally got there, it was every bit as fun as I thought it would be.  Again, I’ve rarely in my life BEEN more content.

I realized it was so foolish to throw this away for the sake of some cheap-thrill terrible food that savaged my soul, my spirit and my body.  This wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, and I knew it.

Fortunately I am back “clean” now; and with it, the entire mindset has flipped 180 degrees as if overnight.  Cycling no longer seems like a “chore” but rather it’s what I found many months ago that I had a deep affection for; and happily, yesterday I returned successfully to randoing with a completion of the Wander to Welda route.  I’ve now ridden this route for 6 of my 10 successful RUSA rides; soon I will diversify out further, although the choice of 100-km local routes is a short list.

The ride surely wasn’t easy; it was a HOT mother of a day, topping out at 100+ degrees.  The bank clock in town read 100 when I finished the ride.  I felt great and was DOING great for the first roughly 47 miles; the last 15 were sheer hell.  I dialed back on my hydration just when I needed to really up it due to the growing heat of the day; and I suffered mightily as a result.  I definitely went into dehydration territory, and despite crawling to the finish (yes at a trailhead rest I thought of Julie Moss – Google if ya don’t know) and then drinking very aggressively for the afternoon & evening to rehydrate, I didn’t really feel “normal” again till this morning, after an 8+ hour sleep.  But, as I told a friend this morning, I DID in fact recover (or at least, I’m nearly back to 100%) and I learned some lessons & emerged a stronger rider.

And, this ride was notable for three other important reasons.

One, relating to heat – I’ve now put the really hot months in my aspirational P-12 streak behind me.  June, July, August and September are in the books.  Now I’ll have 1-3 mild months, 1-3 downright cold ones, and end on a couple mild ones.

Reason two – I did in fact extend my P-12 streak to five months.  I rode once in May, twice in June, three times each in July and August, and now added September to the streak.  Five months down with seven to go.  Of course, my intention isn’t to magically “stop” after 12 months.  I intend to knock out a 100-km RUSA ride every month for as long as my fascination with cycling holds.

Reason three – I earned my RUSA 1000-km award!!  Harkening back to a much earlier post, I set the goal to win this award (given to riders who ride 1000 RUSA kilometers in a calendar year) this year.  At that early point, I intended to do it “only” (quote-unquote) by doing my one ride per month for the P-12 plus a couple additional rides (since I started in May not January); I didn’t at that time envision ramping up and trying to do 2, 3, 4+ RUSA rides in a month.  But that’s the plan now. I’m very gratified and excited to have earned this award – my first RUSA award of any kind (I will receive it in 2014 of course), and now want to continue to up my mileage for the year.  I HOPE to achieve a 3000-km award for this year; although that will be pretty aggressive. We’ll see what comes; but to have achieved my 2013 goal with nearly four months to spare is wonderful.

No randoing for me till, at earliest, midweek the week of September 16th – so roughly 9ish days away.  But, soon it’s my intention to return to at least one RUSA ride per week if not more.

And I am VERY content to be living the dream once again.