The results of the health experiment continue

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I’ve embarked on a new dietary path to improve my health markers. This week was one of the big tests, as I got my cholesterol levels tested again. I can honestly say that I was as anxious for this test as I was for any test I’ve gotten.

Moving to a completely different dietary path is a challenge. I’ve been a vegetarian before (college and high school), but going completely plant-based (vegan) takes it up another notch. When I was a vegetarian in college I probably could have also been labeled a “cheese-a-tarian” with how much I loved the yellow and white stuff.

I actually gave up straight milk a long time ago, but processed dairy has always been a staple in my diet. When I went vegan at the end of May, I never really missed meat that much, it was cheese that tugged at me. I’ve tried a couple vegan cheeses and they’re OK, but not the same. Fake cheese sauces are closer to the mark for me, and some local places that make fake mac and cheese are really good. I have also developed a solid love of hummus.

But here’s the question… was it worth it?

The test results are in, and my scores are the lowest that they’ve ever been! My overall level is 157, with an HDL of 45, and an LDL of 88. To put this in to context I’ve never had an LDL below 119 (in the past 10 years), and my most recent (May) LDL was 180. This was a HUGE improvement for me, and although I want to bump my HDL a bit more, I’m very happy with where things landed.

In many ways, it would have been easier to accept defeat, get a bad test result, start taking a statin and go back to my old eating habits. But seeing such a major change makes the challenge all worth it. Now, it’s about changing the mindset and simply recognizing this as the new reality. I’ve discovered a ton of amazing foods over the past 3 months, and thankfully, living in a major metropolitan area means that I have a lot of resources at my disposal for a vegan lifestyle. I think this is all going to be just fine.

And hey, beer is still on the menu!

The streak has ended, but…

Back at the end of March I decided to join up with #30daysofbiking. The goal is to bike, even just a little bit, every single day of April. Things went so well in April, I opt’d to keep it going and see how long I could ride at least 1 mile every day.

Then, this weekend hit. On Saturday morning I went for a nice 25K run, and when we got home we headed up to Father Hennepin State Park for a day-trip. It was a glorious day, taking a short nap to the sound of waves nearby. We walked around the park, and enjoyed a couple quick brewery stops on the way home.

And then I forgot.

That’s right, after 123 days of at least 1 mile of biking per day, I forgot.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I had forgotten until I was out on today’s ride. That’s the problem with streaks, just because you get into a habit, it doesn’t mean you still don’t need to work for it.

However, to cap off this 123 day achievement, today’s ride became a celebration, not only of so many days of biking in a row, but also a new all-time distance. I was on a ride with some friends, and we managed 100K across the Twin Cities, from Woodbury, back to Minneapolis, and then up to Fridley. It was longer than I had ever ridden in a single ride, and my legs are certainly feeling it. But, it seems like a worthwhile capstone to the end of my bike streaking.

I’ll for sure still be biking regularly, but at least now I won’t feel pressured to do a quick ride around the block, just for the sake of a streak. Happy biking all!

Why I’m sticking with Garmin

This past week was not a good one for Garmin. Their ransomware attack was one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. I’ve spent over 20 years in IT and I’ve never seen a company become so paralyzed for so long. Everything seems to be back up and running now, but a lot of people in the fitness communities are asking if it’s time to move away from Garmin. I considered it briefly, but I have one very strong reason for sticking with them, and it’s actually what saved their bacon in this outage.

Direct file access.

Unlike most fitness watches on the market place, you can still plug your Garmin in to your computer and grab your .fit activity files, and do whatever you want with them. It’s why most people were able to continue to upload to sites like Strava just fine during the outage. You can still use the watch, and access your data, without the intervention of an online site. Granted, it’s not as slick and cool as the full interface, but it works, and I know my data is safe. That’s the key.

My wife used to own a Suunto, and their MovesCount platform seemed to have issues periodically. When that happened, she was S.O.L. The Suunto watches don’t have any way for you to get into their file system, leaving your only gateway, the app and online service. Coros appears to be the same as well.

So despite having one of the worst cybersecurity breaches in history, I’m going to stick with the tried and true, that gives me the most flexibility at getting access to my data. Thanks Garmin for that, even if you need to work on your cybersecurity infrastructure.

BikeWing trailer hitch bike rack

For a while now, I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to transport two bikes in addition to my camper. One of the first things I tried was a hitch attached bike rack from Curt that used a spring loaded mechanism to hold it to the hitch post. As I stated in my review, it was somewhat lacking, and I haven’t really used it much since my initial outings.

We’ve also tried just putting the bikes inside the trailer, but that involves laying the bikes on top of each other, and if we wanted to access the bikes on a long trip, it would mean having to jack up the trailer and open it back up again. Also, laying the bikes on top of each other isn’t really something I like doing often. So it was back to the drawing board.

Then I came across the BikeWing bike rack which looks like it solved all of my problems. It’s a large v-shaped piece of metal that attaches to the hitch post, and you attach the bikes to the hooks on the V. I decided to order one up and check it out. I arrived I got it all set up.

First off, installation was dirt simple. Just some simple tools (that you probably own if you own a trailer) so secure the mounting post to the hitch. The four bolts that hold it down are very secure, and it feels incredibly solid. It was then time to assemble the V portion of the rack. This took a bit more fiddling, but once you understood what each part does, it wasn’t difficult at all. The nice thing is that many of the components just use lock pins, meaning that you can take the entire thing apart really easily for storage.

Once I had it assembled I grabbed my bikes, and came across my first problem. I had mounted the rack towards the back of the hitch, and it meant that the bikes bumped into the battery that is stored there. Thankfully, the product comes with an extender that lifts the rack higher, and angles it in one direction or another. However, it still wasn’t tall enough to get over the battery, so I reversed it and directed the rack the other way, moving it closer to the end of the hitch where it attaches to the car.

The next issue is that it’s apparent that this rack was designed for bikes that have a flat-bar design. Trying to get the drop bar handlebars on our two gravel bikes to line up appropriately was an exercise in frustration. I managed to get them on, but it wasn’t pretty or easy. Feeling frustrated I put the whole thing away for a while and decided to come back at it the next day.

In thinking about the problem overnight I decided to try something different. First, I moved the mount point from the back of the hitch to closer up front. That meant I could use the extender to push the rack closer to the trailer, but not so close that it interfered with the battery.

Second, I loosened the handlebar bolts and rotated the handlebars to the side. This got them out of the way of interfering with each other, and it’s a simple process to lock them down again when you take the bikes off. It’s an additional step I was hoping not to have to take, but the solution is simple enough.

Once I had done this I got both bikes mounted with minimal difficulty and the rack appeared to be far enough away from the car to not interfere with cornering. The real test will be an actual trip.

This past weekend we headed to Kilen Woods State Park, and even though we were only planning a short trip, we brought the bikes along anyway. I loosened the handlebars and rotated them to the side, and mounted each bike on the frame. It took a bit of fiddling to get all of the attachment points in just the right spot, but once I did, everything locked down secure. The only issue I ran in to was that things were a bit tight with the racks on our bikes. It still all fit, but it was snug.

Once loaded we headed out for a 3 hour trip. Although there appeared to be a fair amount of sway in the arms of the “V”, the actual rack components stayed put, and were solid the entire time. The bars that the bikes are attached to comes with padding that helps ensure your bike don’t bang around too much. When we arrived to our destination, it appeared that everything worked as advertised.

On Saturday I pulled the bikes off the rack and we did a short ride. It didn’t take very long at all to get them set back up, just tightening a couple of bolts. Putting them back on the race was also pretty simple. The entire process only took 5-10 minutes total.

Even though it’s only been one trip, I’m feeling pretty good about the Bikewing. It does what it’s advertised to do, and aside from dealing with the drop bars, it was simple and easy to work with. We got our bikes to and from our campsite with no issues, however, I do think a future purchase will be a cover for each bike for during travel. A lot of dirt and grit gets kicked up from behind the car, and some protection would be good.

It’s taken quite a while, but I think I’ve finally found something that will work well for our needs. Additionally, if we every upgrade our trailer, there’s a different mounting system that works with A-frame style hitches, so I’d just need to swap out that one part, and could continue to use the wing. If you’ve got a trailer and are struggling with how to transport your bikes, this is certainly something to check out.

Camping in the rain

This weekend we hit Kilen Woods State Park. It’s a small little park south of Windom that was recommended to us by a friend. It’s surrounded by farm fields and the Des Moines river, existing in a strange place that is neither deep woods, nor open prairie.

On Saturday morning I work up and checked the weather to discover that the storm predicted for later in the day was going to be arriving early. In fact I only had a half an hour or so to move about before it was time to dodge raindrops. Thankfully, we come prepared with a canopy that we set up as soon as we make camp. I was able to grab the cooking gear and make my oatmeal without more than a couple drips of rain on me.

Our camper keeps us dry for sleeping and one of the most relaxing things is lying in the bed listening to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof. Being made of fiberglass and plywood, the sound is unique. It’s not the dull thud of a typical roof, or the ‘pwang’ of a metal overhang. It’s sharp and quick, as if the rain has somewhere else to be and only has time for a brief “Hello.”

Having the morning rained out isn’t a disappointment. It forces us to simply ‘be’ and decompress. We’re pushed into a moment of pause and reflection. The sharp pebble-y sound on the roof, the cool breeze pouring through the small openings in the windows. It’s peace. It’s the point of being here. It’s why we do this.