Tag Archives: First Draft

Getting (Re)Started

Six years ago I completed my first century (100 miles) bicycle ride; less than a year later my first Half-Ironman triathlon. I considered an hour ride or a three mile run a warm up. I was one of those guys and loved every minute of it. My fitness level eclipsed even my Marine Corps days. At 39 years old I found myself in the best shape of my life.

Fast forward to today. I am fifty pounds heavier and my idea of a workout is taking the dogs down three flights of stairs for a walk around the pool. My mood has soured, as can be seen in my last few blog post. My confidence is shot and I am quite peeved for allowing myself to get this way. Oh sure, there are excuses: life, stress, marriage, moving, new jobs, and finishing my novel. But excuses are all they are. I can clearly recall myself telling others that exercise must be a priority in your life. Only then will you find the time. I know how to fix my situation and I have finally been doing something about it.

For the last week or two the wife and I have been taking increasingly longer and more intense walks. Because of them my mid-day energy levels have increased, my motivation is elevating (although in small increments), and I can feel a twinge of the old self lurking under that 50 pounds of fat. This past Sunday morning I took it to the next level. Running at my age and weight will tear up my knees and inflame the plantar fasciitis of my right foot. I needed something that will allow a long cardio workout while keeping the impact low. The obvious answer has been sitting on my porch for the last year — my bicycle.

I must admit that getting the bike, the bike rack, and my cycling kit down three flights of stairs was a workout unto itself. I seriously considered tossing everything over the balcony or just skipping the workout altogether. I held fast and headed to downtown Fort Worth. Less than a mile into the ride, I had more doubts. My thighs were tight and trying to maintain a pedal cadence of 92 rpm (rounds per minute) seemed impossible. Being over a year since my last ride, I realized that I’d have to start slow; let my muscles loosen up and get back into the routine. I slowed down the cadence and eased into the aero-bars for a long ride. Over the next 7 miles I realized a few things.

 

1) There is a LOT of construction going on along the Trinity Trails.

2) My 50 pound belly makes leaning over while pedaling very uncomfortable.

3) There have been some massive changes along the trail — all for the better. (Thanks to the Fort Worth Mayor — may God bless her and keep her in office for another term.)

4) Road bike seats are not very comfortable when your ass isn’t used to it.

5) MapMyRun app for iPhone is cool as shit — it even gives you mile splits without turning off Pandora.

6) I’m slow as hell.

 

At the 7.5 mile point (my turn around) I took a five minute break. Stretched, clean my glasses, and hoped I could make it back without passing out. Back on the road I could feel that I had a tailwind, which help out tremendously. By this time, my legs had eased into the routine and my belly fat had shifted enough for me to go into the aero position with suffocating or crushing my testicles. I know it is probably my imagination, but I could almost feel my system cleansing itself of the toxins that were injected into my body over the last few years. I didn’t just stink of sweat, I reeked of ammonia. But, then again, that is one reason why I am out there.

I finished my 15.5 mile ride in 1hr 9min 56sec. It’s nowhere near my pace of five or six years ago, but this is an older, rounder, and slower self. I really don’t mind too much, I’m going to use it as a benchmark — my starting point. Less than an hour after the ride and I felt great. The rest of the day I had energy and felt productive. I got out there, pushed past my boundaries, and finished. I am better for having done it and I know it is only the beginning. That is the hardest part — starting. Get started and it will be easier from here out. I know it, I just need to keep reminding myself.

The Man In Progress has started once more!

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Looking Like a Bad Ass

On a Saturday in late June my wife and I headed down to the firing range. An associate at work organized the event with a friend of his. As it was a class on learning basic safety of firearms and how to shoot them, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring her. The wife has become increasingly jealous of Kari Byron from Mythbusters, for having a job that allowed her to blow shit up and shoot big ass guns. It would also be a chance to show-off my self-proclaimed masterful skills with a firearm.

In fact, my last trip to a firing range was in 1989 while serving in the Marine Corps. I’ve fired weapons since, even once shooting a hole through a friend’s truck’s glove compartment. Truth to be told, I think that was the first and only time I fired a pistol. As a Marine we were required to qualify with the M-16A2 (rifle) but we only had one day to shoot the M1911 (pistol) and I had chosen that day to be in sick-bay with the shingles.

We arrive at the firing range a little late and head up the hill to where the rest were waiting to begin the class. The instructors go through the safety rules and talk about the basics of marksmanship. B.R.A.S.S. Got to love easy acronyms. Finally, we get out to the range and begin shooting. The wife takes to it really fast. I do have to admit, seeing her with a Bereatta 9mm in her hands was sexy and scary at the same time. I replayed the days events to make sure I didn’t piss her off for any reason before handing her the loaded magazine. We fired a range of pistols and a M&P15-22 (rifle patterned from the civilian AR-15). After things started winding down, Todd brings out the big boy, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 with 8 3/8 inch stainless steel barrel (see the picture). The original bad ass gun made famous by the original bad ass himself – Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.

Being the gentlemen we are, the women had a chance to fire first. A few opted out, but not my wife. She pushed her way to the front and grabbed that bad boy. If her holding a 9mm was scary, seeing the 5’4” petite woman brandishing a mini-cannon was down-right terrifying. After pulling the trigger she couldn’t help giggling. She looked at me with an expression of “don’t mess with me” written all over it. Not to be out done, I had my go at it. I must admit, that first trigger pull is a bit unnerving. After that, it’s an adrenaline rush with each pull. Even more surprising I was on target. That’s one less tennis ball.

Throughout the day we took pictures. For her, it was to prove to her daughter she actually did it. For me, it was to look like a bad ass.Epic failure. The image in my head of my cool shades aiming the stainless steel long barrel looked pathetic compared to the massive ring that has settled around my mid-section. I looked like a deflated Hersey Kiss standing on tooth picks. The only thing Dirty Harry about the image was the .44 mag. Lesson learned: don’t take pictures if you aren’t prepared for the result.  A lesson I’m going to discuss in my next post. For now, I’ll enjoy the memory of feeling like a bad ass for just a little while longer.

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The Joys of Madness

Our mornings are a blur of rushed half-asleep commotion, followed by hours of mind-numbing meetings, then a flurry of exhaustive chores before retiring for the night. On the weekends, we try to squeeze every ounce of fun we can into our measly 48hr pardon, before the cruelty starts all over again. Day by day and month after month we continue in this endless cycle. Occasionally, we need to stop and smell the roses….

Okay, I know it’s an old cliche with an obvious meaning. Take a moment and enjoy the things that life has to offer us. But that is different for each of us, especially different between men and woman. Take my wife and I for example. She is one to take the phrase literally. She will walk through a garden and smell the roses, the gardenias, and what ever flora is in bloom. And, if her ever-present allergies are flaring up, a trip to a local shoe store will suffice as much as any garden. Not sure why, but she says shopping — shoe shopping more specifically — is a relaxing therapy.

Yeah, no.

Not for me. Crowds of people, endless lines at the check-out, and countless outfit changes is not a day for me. Personally, I prefer seeing the mall pass by at high rates of speed. A rose by any other name is still a rose, but getting a bug splattered on my face shield is pure adrenaline. That’s for me.

This past weekend I took the cruiser in to get the front tire replaced and have the 12K service done. Three hours they told me. My fast pace life screamed to a halt. With so much to do and I’m stranded for a whole three hours. What was worse, the weather was perfect for riding. I chatted about it with the owner, who took pity on me and offered a joy that only a man could appreciate. (okay, there are some adrenaline junky women out there, but let me have my man-moment). Out comes the keys to the Holy Grail of super sport bikes. A machine that is said to top out at over 200mph, one that will do 0 to 60 in three heart beats, a bike that separates men from the wannabes. HIS Yamaha YZF-R1!

Can I get a man-grunt?

I consider myself a calm and collected adult, but the sight of those keys dangling in front of me had man-drool dripping from my lips. Just imagine Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter “Oh! OH! Me! Me!!”. I’m so excited I barely acknowledged the text from my wife – “make sure you wear a helmet if your going to test ride”. What else is a kid going to say? Okay, no problem. I can do that. Besides, sand and a bald head don’t do well at high speeds. Helmet on, and a quick lecture on the “changes” he’s made to the bike, and I’m out on the road. Well… not really. I had to stop once or twice on the back street to allow my hips to relax from the weird angle.

I typically ride a cruiser, a bike made to sit upright or to recline BACK. A sports bike (or in the R1’s case a super sport) is designed to lay the rider FORWARD over the gas tank — with your legs behind you. If you are not used to it, expect some adjustment time. Like to the end of the block.

The light turns green and I lean into the turn and up the ramp to the highway. In mere seconds I’m in second gear and doing 60mph. I hit third and I’m doing 80mph. I notice the speed, hit fourth and throttle out. I’m cruising at 70mph in fourth and the bike is like holding back a leashed cheetah. The beast under me roars with caged excitement and I realize I have two more gears! Traffic keeps my speed at an almost legal velocity, but I can’t help feathering the throttle. That’s all it takes, a little twist and the beast screams from 70mph to 100mph. I’m in fifth gear and see the exit to 161 south. A new highway of three lanes and very little traffic.

Not one to pass up an opportunity, I throttle and shift down to lean into the turn, at 65mph. I know its insanity, but the R1 takes the turn with ease. Ahead of me is a long stretch of concrete heading onto the super clean highway. I jump down to third and release the animal. The end of the ramp I’m at 100mph and fifth. Seconds later the wind is screaming by me at 130mph and I’m straining to keep my head down and looking forward. Just a word to the wise. An open face helmet with a little sun visor clipped in place is NOT a good choice for facing speed in excess of 120mph. It took all I had to keep my head straight as I broke through 135mph.

I approached a small rise in the road and thought it would be a great place for Ft. Worth’s finest to hang out, so I throttled down. I crested the hill and there he was. My speed? 80mph! Ha. I avoided a big one!

The trip back saw the speed frequently in the triple digits, but I was also testing out the nimbleness of the crotch rocket. In and out of traffic with ease, and the tight turn of 161 was taken at an un-godly speed. I’m not really sure how fast I was going, I know I was leaning very close to the concrete and my mind just kept screaming “please don’t kill me” over and over.

Was it insane? Hell ya.

Would I do it again? In a heart beat.

My wife can buy all the shoes she wants, so long as I get to play with the joys of madness.

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Man-lit

Under construction…

Middle-aged Richard Blubaugh (aka me) has coasted through life, living what he thinks is the American Dream: a house, two cars, a wife and daughter, and pets.  In October of 2004, the dream ends when his wife of 12 years announces she is leaving.  Now, Richard must start life anew while dealing with an emotional divorce.  During his transition, he learns to enjoy life as an adventure, rather than something to survive.

Man-lit is a memoirs / creative non-fiction based my life during my separation and divorce. In fact all my previous posts in this blog take part in the story of redefining the man I am. The act of writing the memoirs bring to light my transitions and transgressions. At the moment most of the book contains memories of significant events of my life during that time. I’m still needed to figure out the thread which tie these events together – or the ones I need to delete.

Here is a segment from Man-lit:

There existed no doubts in my mind about having the vasectomy done, until I walked into the examination room. The nurse explained that the procedure was an office visit and would be done in the examination room.

“Great, I think.”

The nurse left, saying the doctor would be with me in a few minutes.

Lovely.

I slumped back into the chair and let out a sigh that sounded more like a tire going flat. I crossed my left leg over my right and then switched back.  I stood and paced the small examining room avoiding the cushioned table with the white paper. My stomach knotted like a pretzel — the table was meant for me. God would I kill for a pretzel right then.

On one of the sterile walls, I examined a large poster of a man’s ego splayed out like a dissected frog on a biology table. The image was familiar but not in the detail presented — nor the size. Various parts were carefully labeled with words my brain would not comprehend. Near the door, I browsed the rack of magazines: Golf, Men’s Health, Popular Mechanics. I didn’t have examine too closely to know they were over a year old.

For the tenth time, I fell back into the chair, my face buried into my hands, and took a deep breath to settle my pounding heart.

“What the hell am I doing,” I muttered.

My lists of reasons ran the length of my arm. The top of the list were all selfish. But I was once more my own man and only need to answer for my actions. God would have it out with me when the time came, but for now I would make my own choices.

The door opened and the young Dr. Frey walk in. “Well Mr. Blubaugh, are you ready for your vasectomy?”

At that point, I knew the doctor would have to work for his money, because my testicles took that moment to hide behind my liver.

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