Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When Excess is Moderation

I support the notion that all things in moderation leads to contentment. It hasn’t always been so. For a long period of my life I was an early adopter, and devotee to the notion that if a little is good, then a lot is better, and way too much, well that’s just right.

Time and again I have suffered the ill consequences of a life lived in excess. Sprains, strains, financial setbacks, (terrible hangovers!) love life and friendship disasters: many of these set backs are easily traced to a life lived in excess.

Well no more! Now find me coming to a convenient turnaround point and I’m as like as not to actually, conveniently, turn around. But recently I had an experience that helped me find my way onto the Mobius strip of the logic of moderation. Humor me here….

If you believe in “all things in moderation” then what does that suggest you should do in the case of excess? Why, you want to practice excess … in moderation of course! Here is an example:

Monday I was planning to bike commute. But my wife and I had a ‘date’, Monday night was our wedding anniversary.

So no riding, rather eating out. I tried to dine in moderation, but we all know in restaurants these days, that is a very challenging proposition. Oh sure it can be done, there is the ever present cup of soup and dinner salad. But that’s not featured, EVER on the hot sheet, or even the regular menu. It’s there, but far from being featured. The cup of soup is down somewhere near the bottom of the page, easily confused with the name and email address of the outfit that printed the damn menu. And the dinner salad, somewhere on the next page, lumped with the iced tea and the ‘lo-cal’, or ’50 plus favorites’.

So, I had the bowtie and pesto pasta with the prawns. Let’s see, pasta, soaked in a half cup of olive oil and crushed pine nuts with some basil for color. Pure excess. Well, I did go for the iced tea, that counts as moderation ….right?

So to make up for it, I rode the bike in on Tuesday morning. This is due penance as I must start riding no late than 5:00am in order to have time to ‘freshen up’ before the work day begins.

I made it. I was slow, but that’s ok, I was able to sleep for the first hour. Not really, that sunrise was like a kids paint by number: The mountain was starkly white with spines of black rock standing out. The high clouds above were ripples of dark gray and lavender with shocking cranberry highlights on their under belly.

There were two little bucks and a doe to contend with (‘what’s HE doing out here at this hour?’) and a big pheasant rooster who flushed from the tall grass just at the roads edge. My reflex actions wanted to swing the old double barreled Winchester onto the noisy bird. They always sound like a coffee can full of gravel as they get off. I’m not sure their noisy departure isn’t a survival strategy meant to momentarily startle any potential predators as they make a hasty getaway.

The day ran its course. I was tired and I knew that if I rode home, I was going to feel it. I debated through the day, but recurring thoughts of that bow tie and olive oil excess haunted me so that when Ms C called for the third time and asked “have you decided yet?” I said “Sure, I’m riding home”. It will be a recovery ride, not compensatory excess. Up to this point I have not ridden to and from work in the same day since last year. Today’s adventure could hardly be defined as obsessive, or excessive.

And so the sad tale of excess, in moderation, continues. It was a good day for it, no clouds, warm air, and bright sun, what we have been waiting for here in the dank northwest for the last six months. Hell yes I’m riding!

A little side bar here:

In the triple ten weight loss challenge (week nights at 7:00pm on the Reality/Excess Channel, check your local listings) Tuesdays are weigh day. So I am sure my partners/competitors were all both starving themselves and madly working out on Monday. One fellow said he’d eaten like a pig (his words) all weekend so ended up working out on the cardio machines For 3 hours Monday evening to get back to even (he actually lost a pound). Is my obsessive concern for my pasta eating excess and my compensating excessive 5:00 am bike ride now a little more understandable?

Well, as it turned out, I lost a fair amount of weight last week, four pounds! Which brought me to my personal weight loss glass ceiling, a total loss of 10 pounds in three weeks! I believe I was the ‘winner’ of week three, the week of quiet diet deaths! Bring on the excess! I’ll have another helping please, I’m going to ride my bike home into the relentless wind of the Chehalis gap with a triumphant snarl the whole damn way!

Another moemtary side track if you don't mind:
Last year my oldest son sent me a B-day card with a pic of an old geezer in a baseball uniform on the front. It said “I think of life as a game” open it up and on the inside it said “Age is just another way of keeping score”. So yes, perhaps I was swept up in the moment and it blurred my vision of the “all things in moderation’” route to contentment.

Often when I get on the bike I have an instinctive feeling for how the ride will go. I think this is true for most experienced cyclists. In this case it was nice to be on a bike on a sunny day, to be riding away from the office but my legs told me quite clearly that this would be no day to shoot for a PR, or to undertake sprint intervals, or to do much more than to just keep the pedals turning over until I rolled into the garage.

Along Black Lake I felt pretty good but I still had that 'lead in the legs' sensation. No problem, I have this in hand and still might turn in a pretty good ride.

Three miles later as I was starting the climb into the Capitol forest I was compelled to pull over ….and quiver. In the space of a few miles I had gone from ok to tremors. I had bonked, and hard. In this state you feel that the bike has just magically been turned into kryptonite, and you are trying to pedal up hill through sand. Maybe your legs quiver (mine do) and you get something like a tingly sensation, and for me, I just want to get off the bike and lay down on the grass. It also messes with your mind (insufficient glycogen to the brain). A bonk often comes on sort of like the batteries running down in a flashlight. In this case it was more like unplugging the blender: one moment humming along, the next moment, nothing.

I stopped and pulled the trusty months old Cliff bar from the front bag. I am sure that if you could find a Cliff bar inside a mummy’s tomb in Egypt, it would be just as fresh and delectable as it was the day it was pooped into the air tight wrapper several thousand years earlier. I choked this little delight back with most of a bottle of water, then had a more crunchy and slightly salty Cliff Mojo bar (mmm, mojo: this has to have some hipster pixie dust in it, right? Now I’m going to be filled with mojo?) This too obligated more water.

At this point you have the choice of waiting (for recovery) or trying to pedal you way back to consciousness. I always pedal. It is so pitiably slow that I’m not positive I get where I am headed any sooner, but I am a firm believer that walking is faster than sitting, and riding is faster than walking. So I rode, however slow.

And man, was I slow. This has to happen at the start of the only real climb of any consequence on the ride home. These days, I’m slow here anyway, but on this day we’re talking wobbly front wheel slow.

Several miles later, over the top and then down onto the flats in the forest I was feeling much better. The shoulders had been swept since last week. The shoulder in this case is butter smooth asphalt, the road proper was repaved a couple years ago with particularly nasty chip seal but they missed the shoulders! Riding was delightful again. In the forest there is dappled sunlight, and protection from the afternoon wind. Really easy to remember why we like to do this, the memory of the bonk receding fast.

But at the half way point, this ride changes it’s character like Jekyll and Hyde. After the turn to Littlerock, you emerge from the forest onto Mima Prairie. It used to be farmland, so there is no dappled forest sunlight and no protection from the prevailing winds. And in the spring, as the air temp warms up the wind tends to howl in off the coat. Today is no exception and on the Mima-Gate road, past the Weyerhaeuser tree farm, I was paying a high price for my excess.

Where I turn off Moon road onto Sickman-Ford there is a huge Osprey nest. The birds are back and nesting. This is farm country, lots of blueberries, sod farms and nurseries. And this is a busy time of year for sod farmers so lots of tractors and flat bed trucks hauling bright green instant lawn to the yuppies in the burbs in their new houses. None of this wheeled traffic causes these birds the slightest bit of concern. But when the huffing, chuffing, wheezing, coughing brightly colored cyclist comes creeping by it is another story altogether. The hen pops her head up when I am about 80 yards out. At about 60 yards she starts that peeping whistle of alarm, and by the time I am inside that 50 yard ‘zone of discomfort’ she’ll gracefully ride off the nest. Wings spread she lets
the ubiquitous onshore flow gently lift her off in a large lazy circle, to light back on the nest once I am comfortably about 50 yards on the other side of the pole. This scene is repeated about a half mile down Sickman-Ford as I plod past the second Osprey nest.

I feel bad for causing the disturbance, but I also really enjoy seeing these magnificent birds navigate so effortlessly in their environment. They really are something and add an obvious counter point to my very inelegant transit of their territory.

Mrs C was both alarmed and relieved to see me roll in to the garage. She was worried when she got home and I had not yet arrived. She knew it was going to be a hard trip and half expected me to call for the ‘broom wagon.

Get a lift part of the way home? Are you kidding? This was my day of excess … in moderation.

1 comment:

  1. At least cliff has changed their packaging so you know when you find that silver wrapped one that its really old - I found one in the cabinet the other night - Now where did that fitness go from last year? Oh yeah - if you don't ride the bike or do other stuff you suffer even on the commute home - 9 miles was too long yesterday.