I’ve been an avid trail bike rider for a number of years. I've ridden long miles over multiple days on trails across the US. In April of this year I retired from my daily newspaper job so I could ride as much and whenever I wanted.
Over Labor Day Weekend I went to a Kansas trail with some of my younger cousins to ride. About 15 miles in on the first day I got severe cramps and light headedness - so bad I had to call the EMTs to come get me off the trail. Two bags of IV fluids and a couple of hours in the ER and I was up and going again. Fortunately I did not damage myself physically.
This was a wakeup call for sure. I'm about to have my 75th birthday. I was 30 pounds overweight and not very strong. I knew I had to change or give up riding trails and long distances.
When I got home, I hired Blake Mullen as my personal trainer and began to work. Four months later, I am halfway to my weight goal and much stronger. I've learned new nutrition habits, how to stand up straight and breathe and how to rest and recover.
It's an ongoing journey I’d like to share.
I have struggled with weight loss and gain most of my adult life. Through 30 years of alcohol abuse and drug addiction my body has been sickly thin at times and bloated beyond comfort at others. In May of 1988, after two treatment centers and years of AA meetings, I decided to give sobriety a chance. What followed was emotional and economic stability leading to steady weight gain.
In the fall of 1997, I moved back to Oklahoma from Mississippi and went to work at the newspaper in Enid. Several of my co-workers were involved in Weight Watchers. At 180 pounds I was the heaviest I’d ever been. I began that weight loss program, and within a couple of years I reached my goal of 135. Having achieved the goal, I was tired of counting points and tracking steps and everything that went along with success.
Over the next couple of years my weight crept up another 20 pounds. It was at this point that I discovered the joy of trail riding. I took a trip with Road Scholar to the Katy Trail in Missouri.
Needless to say, I was too heavy to do the 30-50 mile days in the program, but they had a SAG wagon. When I couldn’t ride any further, I could get in the van. I came from that trip absolutely in love with trail riding and began scheming where and when I could go next.
I knew I was too heavy to successfully ride the miles scheduled on any trip I looked at. So once again I began to diet and exercise. This time I ate a keto diet and rode my bike for training. This program worked, and I was fairly quickly back to my weight goal. In September of 2017, I flew to Pittsburg and met a Road Scholar group again. We rode from Pittsburg to Washington D.C. on the GAP and C&O Canal. It was awesome. Up on over the Continental Divide! A ride of a lifetime.
I’ve since been back to the Katy Trail twice and have ridden the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota and the Flint Hills Nature Trail in Kansas several times as well.
Wake Up Call
Saturday morning, September 2, was a beautiful, bright, sunshiny day with hardly any wind in Ottawa, Kansas. I was waiting for some of my riding family to arrive to ride with me for the day and next morning. I’d been there the day before to check out the trail and see where I wanted to take them. I was the experienced rider, and it was the first time for them on a trail. We had planned this trip for months and were all excited for the day to arrive.
I had retired from my newspaper job in April and had been preparing for the trip, but not the right kind or enough preparation. I was fat again (167 pounds). I was eating low carb food, but it wasn’t having the same effect as years earlier. That morning I ate low carb cereal and drank protein coffee, filled my two water bottles and was ready the ride.
How wrong I was. Looking back I should have drunk a couple bottles of water and eaten the sausage and biscuits on the hotel breakfast. Then I would have had fuel and hydration for the day.
We rode out and enjoyed the trail, stopping every mile or so to marvel at the beauty and sip some water. About 12 miles into the ride, one of the guys had a flat. My girl cousin and I rode on thinking they would catch up soon. After a couple of miles they didn’t shown up.
“I’m getting a little tired,” I told my riding companion. “Maybe we should go back.” The temperature had risen to 94 degrees. The trail was canopied with trees, so there was no breeze.
Shortly after we turned back, cramps hit both of my legs in the inner thighs. I was in pain and unable to pedal. Fortunately by that time we were back to the two guys who were still working on a flat. I got off my bike to ease my legs and nearly passed out. I sat down on the ground to keep from fainting and falling. But nothing I drank eased the cramps, and I couldn’t stand for fear of fainting. I knew I would need help getting off the trail, and that I would not be riding my bike back to the hotel.
I called 911, and fortunately the operator was able to get a good lock on my location. We were fairly close to a crossroad. Shortly the EMTs where there in a pickup truck. They sat me in the front seat and carefully backed out of the trail to the ambulance. As soon as I was stabilized, they started IV fluids, and the cramps began to ease.
In the ER I recovered and rested and thought about what I’d done. (Fortunately my Medicare A & B were current and processed correctly so I didn’t have to worry about that. I walked out free and clear. There are advantages to being a senior!)
I came home, joined a gym, and hired a personal trainer. Needless to say, I was greatly intimidated and really really did not want to do any of it. The first day with him was September 11, and the gym was having a 9-11 Step Climbing Event. He put me on a huge, scary Stairmaster and it was not fun. But I did it and went through the other exercises he had for me. Then I went back in two days to do it again. And again in couple of days. I was working out with him 3 days a week for a couple of months. Now I see him on Mondays and Fridays and workout on my own Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I track my food on a phone app, trying to eat 900-1200 calories with 50% of those calories coming from protein. I walk at least 10,000 steps a day and burn enough calories to leave a 500 deficit between calories eaten and calories burned. It takes 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat. Being mindful each day is the key to success.
I am 9 pounds from my goal of 135. Hopefully this time I am learning a lifestyle that will give me more years and more trails. My trainer says he can make me live longer if I do what he says. I believe him.
June 2, 2024 I will be back on the Katy Trail in Missouri for a 6 day, 230 mile ride. All the miles each day is the goal!
Side note: Thankfully, sobriety hasn’t suffered the on again off again weight loss scenario. I have been clean and sober since May 11, 1988.