So I am spending a lazy day with my 2 year-old while it is a balmy 21 degrees Fahrenheit outside my window. I am recovering from too much BBQ, beer, pie, and not nearly enough bike riding. My New Year’s resolution is not to make any resolutions and just stay committed to my goals. My son is talking to himself as he puts himself to sleep, and I recline on my bed reflecting over the past year of bike racing, fitness improvement, and over all health improvement.
I am an unlikely bike racer. Sometime in August of 2009 I was struggling with exhaustion, major mood swings, and with being tired all the time. On the way home from work, I fell asleep at a red light in it was only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. At my wife’s encouragement, I decided to have a sleep study performed that proved to be positive for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). I was weighing in at a whopping 236 pounds! The regimen for my OSA included the dreaded “Darth Vader” mask, a small air pump next to my bed to blow air into the mask from hell, and a small humidifier to help prevent my airway from drying out. None of that worked to relieve my OSA, so I went back to the doctor. The doctor prescribed a sleep aid to, hopefully, get me to tolerate the mask from hell better. Well when that didn’t work, and the several different mask types didn’t work, and the dental prothesis didn’t work, my doctor had his secretary tell me the only thing let to do was to have surgery and have the extra tissue removed that blocking my airway when I actually fell into deep sleep. That scared the shit out of me.
As I went through the process of OSA relief I had decided to seek a more permanent solution. My solution was to get back on a bike. I had raced as teenager, but I hadn’t ridden a bike for almost 20 years. I new, however, that I wouldn’t put my heart into it if I didn’t have something to aim and shoot at. I decided that I wanted to compete again.
I competed in the 2009 Utah cyclocross season, and as you would suspect I got my ass handed to me every single race. As a matter of fact, I was the last person to cross the finish-line each and every race that I participated. I finished the series in 16th place because of the fact that I participated in all the races. I was happy with the placement, but I was more happy with the weight loss that had occurred through the season-I had lost 14 pounds in 3 months. At the 2009 season’s ending party I met and spoke with “The Rev” about joining The Church of the Big Ring, and he welcomed me aboard and said that there might be a chance of a Big Ring road team for the upcoming 2010 road season.
2010 began and I started putting what I called “serious mileage” on my bike. I would ride 3-5 days a week with a maximum of 2-3 hours on my bike. Who the hell am I kidding? The only 3 hour ride I did, I had to have my wife come and pick me up because I couldn’t finish it. In April I joined the Rev, Rachel, Dave, Brian, and Tim for a training ride up East Canyon as they prepared for the East Canyon road race. I was dropped within the first several feet of the ride, but my teammates waited for me at the top of each of the climbs. I was worked, and it was only a 60 mile ride. I decided that I would root for my team at the race instead of racing it myself.
Several weeks later I joined several from the team as they prepared for the High Unita Classic stage race. Once again I was worked, but the Rev asked me a question after the ride, “So are you gonna race this one?” I told him that I didn’t think I was ready, but he encouraged me to just do it. So, I did. I would like to say that I had a great race, but that would be a lie. I was so far back off my starting group, I had to protest the results of Stage 1 just to get the chance to compete in Stages 2 & 3. My first stage race since I was 17 year’s-old and it was fantastic even though I finished last of those who actually rode all three stages.
I ended up racing the Antelope Island Classic Road Race, the Powder Mountain Hill Climb (at 220 pounds… yikes!), several Miller Motorsports Park criteriums, the High Uinta Classic stage race, the Capitol Reef Classic stage race, and the Sanpete Classic road race, and of course the entire Utah cyclocross series.
I am weighing in at a much leaner 185 pounds, but I’m still not satisfied. I want to be at 160 the East Canyon road race. I feel that I will have redeemed myself for not competing in the race the prior year. I have also been sleeping much better and my fatigue seems to have vanished. I have decided to get a followup sleep study performed just after the East Canyon race to see if my OSA has been permanently cured.
One thing I have purposefully left out of my story is one of the other health problems I have faced during this entire time. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism. My thyroid wasn’t putting out enough hormones, so my metabolism was too slow. the main side effect of hypothyroidism is weight gain and weight retention. I had a convenient excuse for being fat and staying fat, but I refused to be sidelined in my racing progress and weight loss. I began taking the medication and training and watched my weight fall to my current 185.
I would highly recommend competition to everyone, especially those that are too fat to sleep at night or too fat to climb a flight of steps. I would also recommend joining a team or a group of people who can spur you on. I received so much encouragement from my team members for which I am extremely grateful. I want to sare a couple of encouraging stories from the team that helped me when I thought I was done.
During the High Uinta Classic, I was dropped on the initial climb up Bald Mountain within the first 8 miles of the 80 mile stage. Brian, one of the Big Ringers who started several minutes behind me in a different group, rode by me at mile 9. I was struggling alone, and I heard Brian yelling, as he struggled up the hill with his own group, “Hang in there Ronnie! Hang in there… Don’t give up!” That was all I needed to spur me on the remaining 72 miles. The next day, at the criterium of the stage race my teammate Mike got sick of listening to me self-deprecate about my weight. “Quit being so hard on yourself,” Mike told me. These two statements spurred me on for the rest of the season.
Each of the guys and gals on The Church of the Big Ring has had a roll in my successful season, and I just wanted to express my appreciation to each of you!