Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Worst ride ever

It is a strange and twisted coincidence that couple of weeks after writing here about the best ride ever, I got to experience the worst one ever. Well, as much as I love biking I must stay true and report the difficult times as well.

It was our regular "mom's on bikes" weekly ride. We decided to do Arastradero preserve again, which we were all well familiar with. On that day, only 3 brave women arrived, M, O and of course my lovely who has never missed a ride.

Lovely's power climb

We started with a different route then usual, just to make the ride a bit more interesting. The ride started great, the weather was wonderful and the 3 brave ladies were willing to take on some new riding challenges. Bravely off course. We had few glitches along the way: About 20 minutes to the ride, my bike chain broke. Not a big deal, I quickly fixed it and moved on. Then (still rather usual for these rides) we almost hit a rattle snake that was warming up in the sun right in the middle of our trail. Could that have been a sign that the ride was not going to end as smoothly as we all thought...? We took a picture of the snake off course and moved one.

After a short snack stop (no ride is perfect without a snack brake) we reached the "Bowl". the "Bowl", for those of you who don't usually bike at Arastradero, is a deep hole, shaped like a "Bowl" where riders usually decent very fast from one side and climb on the other.

Minutes before...

We've seen the bowl before but this time I decided to go down, with full intention to go back up and no intention for the brave mamas to follow me. Do you think I could present 3 courageous women a challenge and ask them not to take it? Not really...

M was the first one to take the plunge (no pun intended). She wanted me to video tape her and so I stayed down in the "bowl" making sure history is documented. O was the second one to give it a try. It seemed they really liked it. Probably were afraid as hell, but still liked it. Believe me, it was a scary one. Last one to go was lovely.... It did not feel right to me. I was too scared when I saw her wanting to go down. It just felt wrong. After some hesitation, she took the decent and made it almost all the way down when she suddenly lost control and crashed. At first it seemed like an simple, not to big of a deal crash. Off course I dropped everything and ran to her.

When I got there, she was lying with no movement. I thought she is just closing he eyes with fear so I called her name. M suggested to call 911, "Leave it" I said, she will wake up in couple of seconds... After a few times of calling her name with no response I realized that it was not a simple crash as I thought. Fear crawled up my spine. Lovely kept lying there, her eyes closed as if she soundly asleep....

... Head injury...thats not good.... Ok, call 911 I told M, while asking O to get me some water,

After few minutes (which seemed like eternity) Lovely opened her eyes, "Where am I?" she asked, "What day is today?" she seemed very confused.
M started to explain the 911 operator where we are, I checked the GPS for trail crossings, and about 10 minutes later a ranger got to us and brought some oxygen. I think at that point I needed oxygen just as much but since I was not the one with a head injury I didn't dare to ask...

As the minutes past I realized that Lovely lost her short term memory. She was going in and out of consciousness and when she was awake she was very confused and disoriented. I then heard the ambulance sirens from distance.
5 minutes later another ranger arrived, carrying 5 Paramedics that couldn't go off road with their vehicle I imagine, They took over, deciding to call a Helicopter for evacuation. They started to take care of Lovely and we could all soon hear the Helicopter arriving.

The medics told me I wont be able to get on it. "ok..." I thought, "I have to get to the hospital ASAP". I jumped on my bikes, got a map from the ranger who promised to keep Lovely's bikes, and was already on my way to the parking lot...

The parking lot was minutes away but it seemed like the longest ride ever. It hit me how bad the situation was and how terrible it could end. Then the guilt came. big time. And then... what do I tell the kids... ? There were so many thoughts while riding the fastest I have ever ridden..."I should slow down before I end up like her" was the most rational thought I had at those moments.

Reached the car, dropped my bikes in and then off to Stanford hospital.
I guess I was driving really fast because I reached the ER with the helicopter around the same time.

"Your wife is in the trauma room, but we don't know anything..." the wait in the hospital was definitely a traumatic experience. one of many that day.

It took about 30 minutes until got some information about Lovely's situation, 15 more before they let me in. The scariest 45 minutes of my life so far...

To make a long story short, Lovely was OK. She suffered from a severe concussion, shoulder sprain, bruises everywhere but no permanent damage to her head or spine.
We are all very lucky!

She did lose her new biking cloths in the process (did you know that the paramedics just cut them all?) and wont be able to mountain bike for a few good months... but the main thing is that she is OK and she is still lovely. Can't ask for more.

So the morals of this story and my own 2 cents to all my dear blog readers, while I'm at it:
If you do not feel comfortable about taking a certain risk, no matter what are the circumstances, just don't. Listen to your gut. Lovely did not want to take that decent but she did it anyway. We all know it could have ended much worse than it did.

Stanford hospital Trauma Room, this is where
Lovely was treated in the first few hours

We are now waiting for the helicopter bill to arrive :-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snow over black mountain

It has been raining for a week non stop. You can probably guess what this kind of weather can do to the emotional stability of someone who loves to bike... I don't think it's very typical for this area in this time of year. Usually the rain stops after a couple of days and then comes back. Or maybe it is typical and it's just that I never cared enough to notice it before...

The worst thing about this weather is that it forces me to go the gym more often, which is not really my favorite place. Going there sweating with a bunch of other guys (and girls if i'm lucky), with not much of a ventilation system, just to keep up with my running shape and lift some weights, is something I can deal with once a week. However, three times a week is just too much, especially when my bikes are staring at me from the corner of my garage, begging me to take them outside for a ride...

While I do have my complaints about this constant rain (spoiled Californian, that's what I am) I have to admit that this winter-like weather has it's hidden gems. One of them which I discovered a few weeks ago.

It was a rainy week, similar to this one but when Sunday came I woke up to a perfect sunny morning. I immediately got on the bikes, and started pedaling towards Montebello road. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, Montebello road, is one of the nastiest yet most beautiful climbs there are around here. It's about 2000 feet of climb along 5 miles, 7% grade in average, and the most intoxicating feeling of accomplishment and amazing views when you reach the top. Definitely worth the pain.

Typical view from Montebello road

On the way to Montebello , I met two friends, bikoholics like me, and together we started the climb. Our plan was to return through the beautiful Stevens Canyon which is a combination of single trails and fire road descending through a natural forest, cross a water pass, and then get back home.

About 2/3 of the way up, we noticed some white spots... several feet further the spots got clearer. Snow!
Now let me set the record straight for those of you who are not from around here - snow is usually something you drive about 4 hours to see. Definitely not something you usually stumble upon so close to home.

As we kept climbing the snow got deeper and deeper
Alex and I on my first snow ride

And finally at the peak:

Once we were done admiring the sight, there was still a minor issue of getting back home. After a week of constant rain the ground was all soaked with water and so were we. Somehow we got down to that small water crossing we planned to get to, only now it looked more like the "Amazonas" river... despite my fear that I would fall and get all wet which might have been a good idea considering the fact that I was covered with mud, we all managed to cross it successfully and get home safely.

This is me crossing the Amazonas

Let me tell you, there's nothing like coming back from a wet, freezing, muddy ride, and getting into a steaming hot shower. Well, not before I had to undress in the garage, leave all my muddy riding cloths there, and cleaning myself from any mud leftovers (yes, it was 40 degrees fahrenheit in the garage... but trust me, my lovely can be very persuading when mud is involved).

That was THE BEST RIDE EVER! a living proof that a crazy weather can be a wonderful experience for mountain bikers. I keep smiling this big stupid smile every time I look at the pictures we took. yes... we only took about 200 of them...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Moms group with a twist*

Quite some time ago I realized that there's more to this life than just looking for what you can get out of it. Let me risk in sounding corny by saying that I actually started thinking of doing something that would fall in the category of giving (well, the girls scout cookies that I keep buying from our neighbor's kid also count for something, no?) for a change.

Throughout my own journey of loosing weight I was surrounded by people who helped me, people who gave me quite a lot, sometimes without even knowing that they did. There was that friend who shared the "how to get in shape" secretes with me and motivated me to move pass my fridge, there were the guys who invited me to their mountain bike group, one who even loaned me my first bikes, without knowing me. Not to mention the huge support I keep getting from my good friend Alex who is my bicycle guru. I am not sure I would be where I am today without their giving.

Getting Ready

Anyway, a little over a week ago I came back from a bike ride and decided to share my philosophical thoughts with my lovely wife. After taking my temperature and almost calling 911 on me (apparently she was not used to me having philosophical thoughts or any thoughts whatsoever) she actually came up with a great idea: "Why won't you start a biking group that you can guide and mentor?" She immediately suggested that it should be a women's group (her included of-course). "Maybe I'll finally understand what is there about biking that causes you to come home with that stupid smile on your face every time ..."

I hesitated at first, but soon I realized that it would be great to share the joy I find in riding with others, and if they end up falling in love with biking like I did, my place in heaven is guaranteed (with a pair of "specialized" bikes waiting there just for me). Motivated to do some good (and also knowing that my lovely rarely takes "no" for an answer) I decided to go for it.
After the big climb

I was still very skeptical about who would like to join such a group. The lovely, who often functions as the "brain" in our family, quickly put together an email and sent to all her female friends. Within less then a week, 7 brave women signed up on my blog. The ride was on and there was no way back (well, actually there was since signing up did not mean anything and they could change their mind anytime they wanted... but it sounds more dramatic this way, no?)

A few days before the first ride, everything was arranged. I selected the appropriate area for the ride and I rode it 4 times to make sure I was familiar with all the trails. The last thing I wanted was to get lost (while in charge of 7 women, lovely included!). So on a Sunny afternoon we all met at Arastradero Preserve, Palo Alto CA to have our first group ride!

Single trail

* Credit to Marit (one of the brave) for the post name.
Believe it or not, I enjoyed that ride tremendously. The girls were awesome! The ride wasn't easy at all. I am not even sure if I could make it as my first ride, but they didn't give up, they rode and climbed, walked the bikes when it was too hard, but then immediately jumped back and pedaled the minute they could. The views were incredible, the moral was great, and we did it: over 6 miles, close to 700 feet elevation gain. did I say incredible?!

Although it was hard work and I'm sure they were all exhausted after the ride it was great fun too. How wonderful is that- to have a full serious workout while enjoying great company, beautiful nature and even some laughs along the way.

I am SO waiting for our next ride...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Eat to live or live to eat?

If you didn't guess by now, let me tell you: I like food and even more I like to eat it! Judging by my old pictures "like" is an understatement. "Madly in love" would be a better definition.
So with this mad love for food, how the hell did I loose 90 pounds? you might ask...
Well... my eating habits were and still are an issue.
I usually eat more than I really need (and it's still less than I would really want, trust me) but today I am fortunate enough to have my biking and my workout routine that helps me get rid of all these excess calories. However that wasn't always the case. There were times when I wasn't exercising that much and still managed to lose quite a bit of weight. I had no choice but to watch my diet...

I decided to look back at my diet to find what helped me along the way in terms of eating habits and food. I was able to come up with a few rules which I'd like to share.


Being the food lover I am, I never had any intention to stay away from it (apparently It had no intention to stay away from me either). I would not be parted from my Haagen-Dazs, you hear?!
Since I wanted to have a relative freedom in what I eat and still lose weight I had to decide on some restrictions to my diet. In order for the restrictions to stick they had to be the kind that I could live with. Something like, "Never eat desert again" would not hold for long in my case not even a minute. To be completely honest, I decided not to deprive myself from things that I love to eat. Did anyone say ice-cream??.
The key for me was portions sizes. Just watching how much I ate and designating my portions ahead to eliminate endless refills. If I wanted to eat ice-cream for example (did I mention that's my all time favorite?) I would decide how much I would eat of it (measuring and counting calories of course) and would stick to it. This way I could eat one or two scoops instead of gobbling up the entire container as I used to do before. I guess it's not a lot different from Weight Watchers or other weight loss programs that are available these days, but I was more of a DIY than a "let's all hug and support each other" kind of guy.

Once upon a time...I used to sit in front of the TV at nights and eat. and eat. and eat. Fruit, snacks, whatever I could consider a TV style food and would be available in our kitchen.
You can see the "chubby" consequences in the picture bellow (and the chubby one I am referring to is not the sweet baby, which happens to be my daughter) :

When I started getting serious about losing weight I realized that I needed to stop that night snacking habit. My lovely wife came to the rescue with all the health-related information needed to support my decision (and a very angry look each time I got near the kitchen after 7pm). Tea/coffee were allowed and with time this became sufficient. Having no food after dinner enabled me to feel lighter when I was going to bed and especially when I woke up in the morning. For someone who weighed 260 pounds, feeling light, even for a few hours, was definitely a big deal.

Well, you can probably manage without, but it's not as fun...
As soon as my lovely wife realized that I was finally serious about losing weight, she immediately joined the battle. She planned my daily menu, made my dinners lighter, and started to base most of the meals on vegetables, lots of them, and in so many variations. It was amazing to discover how many different dishes could be created out of vegetables. I am still impressed with my wife's ability to be so creative with broccoli and green beans (in cooking!). Yes, I know that vegetables do not sound tempting (well, maybe if you cover them with mountains of melted cheese or cream, but that would kinda miss the point, right?) but surprisingly, everything that came out of my lovely's hands and kitchen was so yummy, and best of all - I could eat almost as much as I wanted of it.

The lovely wife's support was not only in her cooking but also in encouraging me every step along the way. I would lose half a pound and she would cheer for me as if I climbed mount Everest. I would complain that I was still fat, and she would remind me again and again (and again) what a long way I've gone. I would reach for the chocolate bar hiding in the back of our pantry and she would appear out of no where, tackling me like a professional football player, shoving a carrot in my hand. Not sure I could have done it without her...


What keeps working for me is that I eat whatever I like, (including ice cream, cakes, chocolate etc...) BUT I pay attention to quantities. I am AWARE of what I eat and manage portions accordingly. I am generous with the veggies and more strict with the ice cream. If once I would eat 4 scoops preferably with chocolate chips, peanuts and cookies inside, ho and don't forget the cream on top, today I'll just settle for one scoop of Vanilla ice cream. Yes, it's not the same but if I would want "the same" it would mean my old measurements too, don't you think?
Now, don't get me wrong. I am still human and I might loosen my own rules from time to time but I go back to them whenever I notice that I have gained some weight. Yes, you read correctly occasionally I still gain a pound or two (or four). After all, fat guy or not, I still love food and even more, I love to eat it...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Biking! Whats the fun in it?

This blog is mainly about two things: my love for biking and my journey (or shall I say struggle) to lose weight and and maintain it.

Today, I would like to focus on the fun that got me into biking and left me there to stay. After all, I don't think I could keep running at the Gym for much longer. If you're not really into running but you do it 3-4 times a week like i did, most likely you'll stop sooner than later. Unless off course you enjoy the treadmill torture, the boredom and the unattractive smells around.

I was lucky, thanks to Assi and the gang, I found biking, a sport that although can be super challenging, is it also full of enjoyment. Here's why:

Ladybugs at Purisima creek
Nature. Always loved it. The views,smells, the wildlife. I am lucky enough to live in northern CA where my bikes takes me to places I have never been to and would probably wouldn't get there on my own.
Such an awesome feeling seeing all those beautiful views and visiting all those amazing places that I can later go back to with my family.
Not to mention the little treasures you find while in nature. In one of the rides, near HWY 35, we stumbled upon a Bee guy that was selling local raw honey from his beehives. Another ride we got to a place where the trees were all covered with thousands of ladybugs. It seemed almost unreal.
There are many more little unique, nature related stories that I constantly come back home with (my lovely wife who has to listen to them every time I get back excited from a ride, can testify for that). I'll save some of them for future posts.
    The Guys. It is always fun to ride with bunch of great people. There are the ones you already know and happy to see again and there are new ones you meet who share your love for the sport and the fun of it. You are not alone in places and situation you rather have guys around and you learn... you learn a lot! Most of what I know about biking today (and other stuff too but that's for a completely different blog I'm afraid) is thanks to those guys I've been riding with for the past year and half
    Dani, Gil, Yishai, Alex and Assi, THE GANG!

    The Exercise. Biking is a long aerobic exercise. My fitness keeps improving, my weight stays the same more or less (more when the lovely wife cooks like crazy and less when she's busy) and I can afford eating almost everything I want.
    Mountain bikes are a great form of exercise because when you cycle, even slowly, you burn plenty of calories. It is a great way of toning muscles so whether you are trying to lose weight or simply tone up you are bound to be happy with the results.
      The Challenge. Mountain biking can be hard. Some trails are easy and allow a more relaxed ride while others are intense with uneven terrain, lots of hills, and obstacles (trees, bushes, rocks, logs, etc.) It requires skills and focus, and it always keeps you alert. Since there are so many places to get to, I am constantly encouraged to improve and make it to the next challenging trail, climb or what have you. I'm the kinda guy who loves a good challenge and biking provides plenty of those :)

      The Coffee. Every good story should end with a good cup of coffee, no? No doubt, the best thing after the ride and sometimes a good motivation to go on with rider, especially in wet conditions is the hot latte or cappuccino that is waiting for you in the finish line. Yes, a bunch of us coffee lovers manged to arrange some wonderful rides that just happen to end right at the door of a good coffee place. I believe we deserve it ;).

      Biking all around. Biking just brings a lot of interest into my life. I love looking at bikes, talking with other bikers, planning the next trail I'll do, buying accessories for my bikes (this one is not as loved by my bank account though). It's hard to explain, but at the end of the day, for bike freaks like me it's more than just a sport. It's the feeling you get where in the middle of your life (or close to it) you find a new love that does not necessarily gets you in trouble with your wife. how cool is that?! (Stay tuned for the story about my new mountain bikes)

      At some point I got into road biking as well. I believe that's a whole different experience and I will tell you about it in my next posts. In the meantime, enjoy the images...

      and another one....

      Alex in Russian Ridge