The following blog entries are about my preparation and participation in the 2011 Ride to Conquer Cancer. They have very little to do with food, but will give you the background to some of my comments in the current blog, particularly those referencing kidneys, spin classes, and truck drivers who keep their testicles in small wooden boxes.
Sat, Apr 30, 2011 @ 4:05 PM
When you think of me, Darin, what's the first image that comes to mind? If you said "skin-tight bicycle shorts and rippling quadriceps", then you must have received this in error, because you obviously don't know me.... Or, you may have already heard that I have entered a 220 km bike ride this summer to raise money for cancer research.
I have started my training, which mostly consists of "spin" classes (apparently named for what the room does after I stumble off of the bike at the end of class). Nina, the vaguely German fitness instructor, won't let me cheat, so maybe I do have bicycle shorts in my near future. (I won't be offended if no one asks for pictures.)
So, I have Nina "Leave Everything You've Got on the Bike!" Dusseldorf (okay, I made that up...I don't actually know Nina's last name)...anyway, I have Nina helping me with the fitness part, and now I'm looking for some help with the fundraising part. To participate, each rider must raise $2500 (yeah, I know), and I suspect that bake sales aren't quite going to get me all the way there. Fortunately, my three teammates and I are getting some sponsorship from our company, and we do have a few fundraisers planned. However, I am hoping that you might also be interested in sponsoring me for this worthwhile cause.
I know, this is the part where you say, "We don't hear from Darin for months (or years) and when we do, he asks for money!" Well, you've got me there. All I can offer in response is that, based on the concerned looks Nina throws my way in class, I don't think she expects me to survive 220 kms. So this should be a one-time request.
If you are interested in supporting me, the organizers of Enbridge's Ride To Conquer Cancer have made it very easy to donate through a semi-personalized webpage. If you would like to support me in fighting cancer (and couch potatoage), you can make your donation right online. Or, you can even send a donation by good old-fashioned letter. I promise to write back, and who knows, it might even start something.
You spin me right round, baby...
Sat, Apr 30, 2011 @ 4:15 PM
So, my spin classes are getting easier. I don't even cheat anymore! For those of you wanting ideas on how to cheat in your spin class, my personal favourite was this: when the instructor would tell us to increase the tension (i.e. pain) on the bike, I would cup my hand over the dial and turn my hand in the air and then make a face like I was trying to do my taxes in my head.
I'm not proud of it, but it was a matter of survival.
Fortunately, my fitness level has increased enough that I am now quite willing to turn the dial for real. (I still make the "taxes" face, but it's more of a performance art now.)
Spin Classes & Spinal Taps
Sat, Apr 30, 2011 @ 4:28 PM
I told you before about Nina, my vaguely-Germanic class instructor. Well, I have since found that spin class instructors are a lot like drummers for Spinal Tap and secretaries for Murphy Brown.
In the short time I've been training, our class has gone through no fewer than seven instructors. Which would be okay, except they all use different terminology. One will tell us to start pedaling in Zone 4, another will say Level 9 to mean the same thing, and another will ask for 85rpms "as if you were biking through tall grass after a light rainfall before the dew has had a chance to dry". (Okay, that last one might be a slight exaggeration....but only slight.)
The most memorable instructor so far has been Cathi (yes, with an "i"), a middle-aged, bleach-blond, sun-tanned hard-rocker who was obviously a body-builder in recent history. You know those bad-asses in movies who sneak up behind guards and snap their necks with one effortless twist? Cathi could totally do that without putting down her beer.
Ignorance is bliss...and healthy.
Sun, May 01, 2011 @ 7:00 PM
It's in the blood.
Mon, May 02, 2011 @ 9:57 PM
I got the dreaded call from my doctor's receptionist: "your blood test results came back, and Dr. Squires needs to see you". Of course, all kinds of scenarios went through my mind: the family history of diabetes has caught up with me and I'll never get to eat another Pumpkin Pie Blizzard, or maybe God's sense of irony has given me leukemia because I entered a ride to end cancer, or maybe that spider that bit me was radioactive! Yeah, let's go with the radioactive spider. I bet Alison could even sew me a costume.
You've gotta be kidney...
Wed, May 04, 2011 @ 8:15 PM
Big Gulp (in reverse)
Sat, May 07, 2011 @ 12:07 PM
Sat, May 07, 2011 @ 12:14 PM
Dew the Don't
Thu, May 12, 2011 @ 5:46 PM
A Tale of Two Kidneys: The Movie
Sun, May 22, 2011 @ 12:56 PM
The View From Behind
Thu, May 26, 2011 @ 11:30 PM
I bought my first pair of bike shorts. Ah yes, I can see by your uncontrolled laughter that you are imagining me wearing them. No, no, you go ahead, get it out of your system. I can wait....
Better now? No? Fine, you just let me know when you're ready. Don't worry about me; I was expecting this, so I brought a book.
Yes, I know it hurts your ribs when you can't stop, but look, the rest of us want to move along here. You can catch up when you've caught your breath. So, as I said, I bought my first pair of bike shorts on the advice of many people who have biked long distances before me. For those who had decided against bike shorts, the word "chafing" came up a lot. "Rubbing" was also in heavy rotation, not to mention "abrasion". These are exactly the kinds of words you want to hear when picking out the perfect sandpaper, but not when you are talking about your nether-regions. Apparently, dressing like a French weightlifter is the only way to prevent such discomfort. This is something I'm going to have to take on faith, because it feels a lot like I just sealed my genitals in Tremclad. Also, because of the deceptively bulky built-in padding, I've been given a glimpse into my distant (I hope!) future relationship with another brand name: Depends.
On the plus side, my ass looks amazing. Admittedly, I've always had a pretty fine butt. At an age when most men find their derrieres drooping, their gluteous no longer maximus, my heiny is still proudly held high. (Getting sick yet?) Honestly, I think it is because, as close to the ground as my cheeks already are, gravity hasn't bothered to drag them down any further. But add bicycle shorts to the mix? Well, I just feel sorry for any cyclists behind me, 'cuz their concentration will be anything butt!
(Sorry about these horrible puns. I think I might have crossed a line this time, and I deserve a spanking...in my new bicycle shorts!)
I wish I could be as optimistic about the scene just above the shorts. Any illusions I had about my waist getting trimmer have been completely dashed. Hanging my gut over the shorts isn't pleasant for anyone, and trying to tuck it all inside looks like someone forgot to mention that fanny-packs should only be worn over my clothes.
I have a lot of sit-ups to do in four weeks.
Highway to Hell
Fri, Jun 03, 2011 @ 12:04 AM
Mind the Road
Sun, Jun 05, 2011 @ 10:30 PM
Saddle Sore Point
Tue, Jun 07, 2011 @ 3:53 PM
Nina, the spin class instructor, was putting us through our paces last night. Between taunting us for wanting to take a 30 second water break and seeing if it would be possible to get a participant to fall off of a stationary bike (trust me, it's definitely possible), she asked us to do something she hasn't asked before, loudly commanding, "Grab that seat with your buttocks!"
Grab my seat with my what??
I remember a TV program about ten years ago about a woman who had been born with no arms. To compensate, she learned to use other parts of her body to do what you and I take for granted and normally do with our hands. She would write with her mouth (with better penmanship than mine), lift watermelons and peel bananas with her feet, and (I could be remembering this wrong) she would use her left ear to fold hundreds of origami cranes. It was inspiring to see the physical - and mental - dexterity she utilized to accomplish day-to-day tasks. I can't even lift a foot off the floor to remove a sock without falling over, and she would use hers to cook dinner. (Her feet, not her socks.)
But you know what she didn't do?
She didn't fold, spindle, throw, catch, pick up, put down, carry, clean, twist, manipulate, lift, peel, grind, shake, spin, button, zip, unzip, tie, toss, write, flip, grasp, hold, or grab (!!) anything with her ass.
So I'm sure as hell not going to.
Lactose Intolerant But Water Resistant
Sat, Jun 11, 2011 @ 3:49 PM
Objects in Your Pants May Appear Smaller in a Truck
Sat, Jun 18, 2011 @ 9:37 PM
I tried out my rental bike today to get used to it and make sure I have everything set right for my wee hobbit legs and arms. I took it out on the highway, and very quickly I began to notice something. You might have wondered this too:
Does buying a truck turn some people into dumb-asses, or does being a dumb-ass make a person want to buy a truck?
Because I have to tell you, I wasn't nearly run over by any coupes, hatchbacks, SUVs (nope, not even SUVs), motorcycles, wagons, minivans, RVs, or Smart cars.
And it wasn't an isolated thing either. They seemed to take great pleasure in cutting me off at exits and edging way too close to me even when I was riding on the shoulder.
Now, I have heard that many men (yes, the drivers were all men) purchase large trucks as a way to,......let's just say, compensate. So I would imagine, with a greater need to compensate comes greater anger and a larger 4x4. Then, when faced with a symbol of masculine virility (i.e. Darin in a pair of bike shorts), they must become nearly blind with rage and seek to destroy the object of their fury. The level of their wrath, and apparently their commitment to vehicular homicide, is naturally proportional to the size of their pickup, which is inversely proportional to the size of their...um, fuel injector.
In light of that, if I ever encounter a eunuch driving a Ford F-750.....I'm a dead man.
What Happened to Truth in Advertising?
Sat, Jun 18, 2011 @ 11:09 PM
This past Thursday I missed my spin class. Wait, before you start calling me a slacker, it was for a good cause. In fact, I have discovered something even more painful than spin class:
A junior high school talent show.
My eldest son, Will, and his band were going to perform. So, being Time Magazine's Father of the Year 5 years running, I was naturally going to attend. Now, Will is a teenager. Which means that things like times, dates, locations - you know, those little things called "details" - are as foreign to him as personal hygiene and financial planning are to his 9-year-old brother. That's why we arrived believing this was just a one hour event. When we got there, we were informed by other parents - who must have purchased their information on the more reliable black market - that it was a 2-hour show. It gets even better: Will's band was the very last act.
Then, to the surprise of everyone, one of the teacher judges announced that there were 49 performances. Forty-nine??? Even with a conservative average of 4 minutes per number, peace would be arriving in the Middle East before we were leaving this gymnasium.
Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a play-by-play of everything we saw and heard. Let me just highlight a few things I learned:
1) Contrary to popular stereotyping, Asian kids are NOT all violin playing prodigies. In fact, I heard some who made stirringly convincing arguments against that notion.
2) Usually, when someone is performing, the polite thing to do is give them your full attention. When that performer is a 14-year-old girl wearing an outfit that would make the Solid Gold dancers blush, and she is doing the splits while "getting jiggy with it", the most appropriate response for a 40-year-old male is to immediately engross himself in checking his email on his smartphone (even if the concrete walls of the school gym are completely blocking his reception).
3) When a teenage boy says he's going sing a medley of three popular romantic tunes while accompanying himself on the piano, what he really means to say is he plans to sing all three songs in their entirety, pausing only briefly between each song to update all the "young ladies in the audience" on his dating status. And yes, you lucky girls, he's available.
4) When singing, projection can be a very good thing. As well, modern amplification (i.e. microphones) are also very good things. However, trying to project to the back row (of the building across the street) while also using a PA system being run by a volunteer teacher who doesn't know a decibel from a cowbell...well, that can cause the kind of physical pain that PETA wouldn't allow animals to be subjected to.
5) Contrary to what is often portrayed in movies and TV, you rarely need someone else to point out that you are bleeding from your ears. I refer you back to points 1, 3 and 4.
6) Apple does not have an app that turns your iPhone into a wrist-slitting razor. I checked. And at minute 173 of the talent show, I tried using the edge of the iPhone itself, but it's not sharp enough to do more than leave a red mark.
7) Finally, I might have misjudged Simon Cowell. I have always thought he was an insensitive, mean-spirited bastard whose "heart was two sizes too small". Now after experiencing just three hours of what he has to literally sit through days of (St. Simon the Martyr!), I can conclude that his only fault is to turn down the drugs that his co-judges must obviously be taking.
"So, how did Will do?" you might ask. Well, my son reported that several girls came up to him after the show and told him that he "looked really hot with his guitar." In other words, as far as Will is concerned, the talent show was an unqualified success.
The Road Warrior, Part One
Tue, Jun 28, 2011 @ 1:42 AM
Just give me a moment to pull on my tweed sport coat, light my pipe (cough, cough...maybe not), and sit myself down by the roaring fireplace, because I have a tale to tell:
The starting line was at Spruce Meadows, a show-jumping venue located on the south-west corner of Calgary. There were 2200 riders and the weather was perfect for a long bike ride: sunny sky, cool air, and a very light breeze. A second bit of good news was soon announced to the crowd anxiously waiting for the "starter's pistol". (They didn't actually use a starter's pistol. We've all seen the panic that ensues when horses hear a gun go off in movies, and this place was the home to more horses than a glue factory.) Anyway, the Master of Ceremonies announced that the event's participants had earned more than $8.6 million dollars for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Wow.
The first leg of our ride took us over back-country roads. They were paved, probably before I was born, but we didn't mind a bit of bumpiness. This was exactly how we had pictured the event: surrounded by beautiful weather, picturesque scenery, and by throngs of smiling bikers. (For those of you reading this blog for university credit, this is what we in the tweed-wearing circles call "foreshadowing." I believe it's Latin for "bad shit is going to happen later.")
Our first stop was Okotoks, a growing community south of Calgary, and we dropped by to visit our company's local branch. They were prepared to greet us with Freezies. Never has frozen sugar-water in a plastic tube (specially designed to slice the corners of your mouth) tasted so good! So good, in fact, that I made sure to try one of each flavour.
I should now say a few words about my bike seat cover at this point, because this was when the attitudes of other riders regarding my bike seat were beginning to change.
While we were waiting to begin the ride back at Spruce Meadows, I heard the giggles, the guffaws, and the mockingly feigned interest of other riders asking each other, "What is that thing made of?" Well, the answer, when they bothered to ask me directly, was "caribou." That's right, my bike seat was covered in the remains of a close relative of Dasher and Vixen. My wife, Alison, bought me this bike seat cover about 15 years ago. It is ridiculously comfortable; a comfort that is only matched by how ridiculous it looks. It has a thick, decadent appearance and texture, and I could imagine Barry White with an ottoman made out of the same stuff. Only difference is: this fashion would fit in perfectly with a mid-1970's swinging bachelor pad. But on my rented road-bike, the pinnacle of 21st century engineering, it kinda stuck out like a Hutterite in a Sony store. In fact, until this big ride, I had never actually used the thing. (Too embarrassed.)
But as the day proceeded, derision slowly turned to admiration, then to envy, then to bribery, and finally threats of bodily harm. (Granted, the violent threats came from one of my teammates....) Between the caribou seat cover and the padding in my bike shorts, my backside was probably the only part of my body that wasn't experiencing pure misery by Day 2.
Things were still pretty good right up to lunchtime. Lunch was provided for the riders in a town called Longview, which apparently everyone knows produces the best beef jerky in the world. Everyone except me. How could I have missed such a vital fact?
However, immediately following Longview, which is located in a valley, was an enormous hill. I don't think they officially name hills, so let's just call this one "The Widowmaker". Every time we thought it had finally crested, the road turned left or right and rose even further. By the time we reached the top, my legs were screaming, my neck was in agony, and all the riders around me were starting to speak foreign languages (that's a Biblical reference...look it up).
But with refreshments and moral support supplied by one of our teammate's mom, aunt, and daughter - providing us with rest-stops between the official pit-stops - we persevered and, soon after crossing the 100 km mark, we caught sight of our destination, Chain Lakes campground. Suddenly, I found untapped reserves of energy and sprinted to the city of tents.
The Road Warrior, Part Two
Tue, Jun 28, 2011 @ 1:48 AM
I am proud to say that I did not cheat. I made the entire 200+ kms on Darin-power alone. (Not everyone was so honest. Our bikes were all installed with plates displaying our names, and I saw one "Rebecca" with some very full facial hair.) But we did, how should I put this.....make the most of our available resources. What I am saying is that we took one look at the Spartan conditions of our sleeping quarters and hightailed it out of there to stay overnight at Alison (not my wife, but my teammate named Alison) and Steve's house. They live out in the boonies between our campsite and Calgary, and it was no contest between a tent surrounded by (potentially drunk) revellers and a real bed. So, call it cheating if you want, but it took no time nor distance off our ride; we were just going to be much better rested than everyone else.
The Road Warrior, Part Three
Tue, Jun 28, 2011 @ 1:58 AM
I awoke, lifted my head from my Princess pillow and looked past Sock Monkey and Hello Kitty to see that it was raining outside. No, I wasn't delirious from the exertions of the day before; I was borrowing the room of our hosts' daughter for the night. They told me it was because it was one of the rooms the cat never entered (I have slight allergies), but I suspect it was actually because nobody else could fit into a 7-year-old's bed. Really, I didn't mind. It was very cozy, and there is something comforting about Ernie and Bert being the last things you see before you go to sleep.
But there is nothing comforting about waking to find rain when you have another 100+ kms of pedalling ahead of you.
We had a quick breakfast, drove back to the campsite, pulled our bikes out of the mud, and started the return trip back to Calgary. It was so cold. And the wind! Somehow it could still reach me through a rubberized rain-parka, a hooded sweatshirt, a cycling jersey, under-armor, and 30 years of body hair growth. This misery lasted for more than two hours, and before we had even reached 20 kms, dozens of riders had dropped out of the ride and were being shuttled back to Calgary.
My mood swung wildly from despair to deeper despair, and then I remembered: the previous night I had stuffed my bike bag with a bunch of easy-to-eat snacks, including Peek Freans! (For those of you who don't know about Peek Freans, they are a wonderful cookie made, ironically, by the British. They have two "biscuits" sandwiching a layer of butter crème and a fruit jam center. Yummy.) Not wanting to stop (because I would probably not start again), I reached for the bag, struggled with the zipper, and dug around until I found the familiar shape of a Peek Frean 2-pack.
Okay, here's the problem: you can't daintily nibble on a Peek Frean - as I am sure the British intended - whilst (hey, that sounded British!) riding a road bike in the pouring, freezing rain. ("Lovey, would you be a dear and pass me another biscuit?" "Certainly, my buttercup. And another spot of tea?" "Oh yes, that would be delightful. By the way, have you seen Chauncey recently?" "Oh dear, no. I'm afraid he was run over by a lorry just past the 15 km mark while snacking on a Peek Frean." "Oh, that's a pity. I thought Chauncey was such a nice fellow. Do you suppose the second Peek Frean survived the collision?") So, no, of course you don't nibble. You just shove the whole thing into your mouth. No-one's going to correct your manners out here.
But back to the problem. You see, when riding a bicycle in the cold, cold rain, your nose tends to instinctively plug itself up, becoming more congested than the Plus Size aisle in a Walmart. So, after putting a full cookie in my mouth, I was suddenly unable to breathe. The cookie exploded from my mouth, missing the garbage-bag clad rider in front of me by just a few inches. What a waste.
At lunchtime, we finally caught a break when we hit Turner Valley. We had lost what must have been hundreds of riders to the weather that morning, but those of us remaining were rewarded by sunshine for the duration of our mid-day meal. Well, you might call it a reward. I call it giving a false sense of security.
We had only about another hour of rain after a break from the original downpour, but the wind just doubled its efforts to compensate. Really, having to pedal downhill is just cruel, and I can't tell you how many times I was sorely tempted to give it up and wave down one of the road crew to carry me home. Honestly, when you start to seriously weigh the option of having a passing car just clip you, not full-on run you over, but just disable you and/or your bike enough so that you simply cannot continue the ride....well, some might call that less than healthy.
Up to this point, Kevin and I had become the only members of our team to remain together, but at the last pit-stop he had found his second wind and I was still railing against the one blowing all around us. I told him to go ahead ("Save yourself!"), and I rested for a bit longer, psyching myself up for the last 20 km leg.
Strangely, the last 20 didn't feel like 20 and it wasn't long before I saw Spruce Meadows' rows of international flags waving in the distance. I stopped and tore off my rain-parka and hoodie to reveal my jersey. I was going to finish this ride in style, looking cool and triumphant.
This bubble was quickly burst by a stranger named Jarrod, who slowed down to see if I was okay and offered me encouragement to make the last kilometre to the finish line ("You can do it, buddy!").
Jarrod, with a knee brace.
Jarrod, who had a yellow flag on his bike identifying him as a cancer survivor.
Jarrod, the 22-year-old lung cancer survivor.
Jarrod, who I found out later hadn't even started his chemotherapy...because he wasn't healthy enough yet.
Wow. I must have looked anything but cool and triumphant if Jarrod thought he needed to give me encouragement. Pretty humbling.
I climbed back on my bike and headed for the flags. But before crossing the finish line, I reflected on some of the things I had learned on this ride:
- I wasted good money on a vasectomy. I'm sure two days on that saddle did the same job by cutting off my circulation and slowly starving my wedding tackle.
- Hills can't be uphill both ways, but the wind can definitely blow against you both ways.
- When the wind is blowing against you, it feels like the hills are uphill both ways.
- Who am I kidding? I swear some of those hills moved overnight to make themselves uphill both ways. I dare you to prove me wrong.
- God really does have it in for members of the Gregson clan, and He's quite willing to make 2200 other people suffer to get at one of them.
- After seeing many cancer survivors and the surviving loved ones of cancer victims complete this ride, I really have nothing to complain about. (Not that it'll stop me from complaining because, really, do you want to read a blog about some guy just counting his blessings? Nobody wants that.)
So, that just leaves one final question:
"Darin, are you going to do this again next year?"
Oh, I sincerely hope not.
"Darin, are you going to do this again next year?"
Oh, I sincerely hope not.