Posted by: fizzhogg | January 4, 2013

Of Baby Steps and Product Pimping

Welcome 2013!

My first ride in the new year was a staggering 5.2 miles. That’s not a typo. Five miles… and I loved it. And I froze my freaking face off.

But let’s start from the beginning.

I have lost battles with my weight on many occasions since the Unfat Project began. But this most recent one has resulted in a different reaction than previous battles. Before, I always snuck off to a corner, licked my wounds, and waited for some divine intervention to get me back on the bike — usually in the form of a group ride, or great race on tv, etc.

This time I feel different. When I was researching my year-end post and discovered the total amount of weight I had actually lost during these past two years, I was stunned. If I had gained back only twenty percent of all the weight I’ve dropped since January of 2010, I would be typing this right now at a svelte 175 pounds.

Holy Richard Simmons, Batman!

And that’s including a 20% failure option. So, to say I am motivated for this year is an understatement. Add to that, divine intervention arriving on Christmas Day in the form of this:

Skratch Labs

The official Skratch Labs cookbook. Wheee!

Filled with truly delicious (and fairly easy) recipes that are designed for the athlete, this book is awesome. Try the pork fried rice before you eat anything else!

Started by Allen Lim — a man who knows more about nutrition and how it relates to cycling and the body than probably any other human — Skratch Labs drink mix is the definitive alternative to everything else that contains bad sugars, colors, and anything else that keeps the mix from giving your body the very best.

Lim has worked with the biggest names in cycling and endurance sport. People pay him HUGE sums of money to advise their athletes, cook meals for them, and basically get their bodies to perform at the very highest level.

What’s great is that all this world-class knowledge works for us HillSlugs, too. If we can perform better on the bike (ride longer, train harder, etc) it results in faster weight loss, and simply just better fitness on all levels. I feel a definite difference (a positive one) when I have Skratch Labs in my bottles than when I have anything else. I perform better on the bike with Skratch labs, and thus ride harder and farther, and lose weight faster.

Anyway… the cookbook is awesome. And the information in the book a plus.

I have also drawn inspiration from some of you, specifically Steve — our defending Comment Champion. Reading about his frosty rides (and those of some others out there) caused me to think that weather is simply… weather. Black ice notwithstanding, so long as you dress appropriately, you can ride in pretty much any weather.

So I bought some Gore Bike thermal booties and insulated gloves, and my lovely wife gave me a Castelli Zoncolan jacket. Let me pause here to discuss this jacket.


Holy Himalayan Sherpa, Batman! 

This jacket is sick. Like, crazy sick warm. But it is not binding, nor heavy. It fits like a cycling jersey. It has 3 rear pockets, it wicks sweat, and did I mention it is WARM? It is. With a Rapha merino base layer under it, I rode today in sub-30 weather (with wind) and my body was completely warm and comfortable.

I wore it in Tucson the week after Christmas on a 28-mile ride in the 40’s, and had to remove it near the end of the ride because I was too warm.

So, with my new booties, gloves, my trusty Hincapie Arenberg bib tights, and my new Zoncolan, I set off this morning with the thermometer reading 24 degrees. I had never ridden in anything below 34 degrees.

It was awesome. Everything on my body was warm and comfy… except for my face.

My feet were good, my hands were good, my head was good, my body was good… even my face was okay as I rolled out of my neighborhood, down Chad, and headed for the levee trail. But then I stopped.


Holy Burl Ives, Batman! 

While the roads were clean and clear, my levee trail was snow covered. No problem, I thought, I will continue on, riding the lovely bike paths around here.

So I did. And it was awesome… until I turned into the headwind.

Now, I have dealt with some massive headwinds in my short riding career. I think 27mph is the record. So, a little 8-10mph headwind like today shouldn’t be a big deal… except it was less than 30 out.

When you turn into a headwind like this at this temperature, with nothing covering your face but skin… freezer burn comes on rather quickly.

I actually said “Holy crap!” out loud, and had to ride one-handed or no-handed, alternately covering my face with my gloves.

It was brutal. It was painful. I turned off as soon as I could and tried to continue the ride, all while avoiding going west. But that really doesn’t work, if you want to get back home.

Eventually, I had to pack it in after just five miles. My face was stinging. My eyes even hurt.

But there is nothing negative about my first ride of 2013. I realized that all I need now is a balaclava and I will be set. The rest of my body was toasty warm, and if I’d had something covering my face, I know I could’ve ridden for a couple hours, easy.

I am excited about 2013. I am excited about conquering the cold. I am excited about riding more and posting more. One of my goals for 2013 is to include more photos on this blog. I find myself enjoying the photos on other riders’ blogs and realized you all probably feel the same. So here’s to 2013!

thin ice

Eat better.

Ride your bike.

Brave the cold.


Fair winds and following seas, Willy


  1. LOL! I sympathize with your predicament, Fizz. As I rode about last night, wearing my clear lens glasses (1st year – previous winters required me to ride without glasses at night), balaclava (3rd year – nice on the ears and neck and you can easily move the front over the mouth and/or nose as required), winter shoe covers (2nd year), winter cycling gloves (2nd year), and purpose-built winter cycling jacket (1st year), I reflected on how much easier it is to ride at night and in the cold when you have the right gear.

    The problem is all that junk costs money and its hard to get it all at once. Just keep slowly adding to your inventory (or convincing loved ones to buy stuff for you like your jacket!) and it will only get more comfortable. Good luck!

    • Weird… I was just leaving a comment on your blog when I saw the ping telling me you’d left one on mine!

      Hopefully, I can get to Virginia in 2013 for one of your historical marker rides!

  2. Good for you getting out and riding in the cold…thankfully our NYD ride was gorgeous. It was cold in the am, 40something, but warmed up to the mid 50s so we had a great ride.
    And you’re right, as long as you’re dressed accordingly, it’s not too bad.
    Also just ordered the book on your recommendation. Was hoping to get it for Christmas, but alas…evidently I’m not quite on the good list
    Happy New Year!

  3. A light balaclava works great down to about 15…

  4. I don’t like balaclavas. They just don’t feel good to me–plus the ones with clever nose parts fog up my clear goggles at stop signs.

    I use a neck gaiter and a microfiber skullcap which, together, add up to balaclava coverage, but more flexible. You can adjust them independently (or take one off) instead of being stuck tugging a one-piece balaclava around.

    Comfort on long distances is important to me (stuff that feels fine at mile 60 sometimes doesn’t feel so fine at mile 120), and this really works for my head and neck.®-neck-gaiter

  5. Great post, thanks for sharing and also enthusing all us other “Hillslugs”, I just love that descriptive name. Cheers.

  6. It’s hard when you don’t hit the goals you had in your mind, but years are just arbitrary units to measure your life by. Looking at the bigger picture since you decided to really change (like you did) is better. I too missed my goals for 2012 and publicly flogged myself on my blog. But I’m not too down as I realize it is more about the lifestyle change than any number.

    Keep it up, I enjoy the posts!

  7. Hi Fizz, I would like to challenge Steve for the most comments this year! I once road in the cold without gloves. After 5 miles my hands were so cold I took off my sock and cycled the remaining 20 miles with them on my hands. Lovely and warm, but looked a little strange. We all miss our goal because we set them so high.

    • Steve is a formidable champion, best of luck!

  8. Love the post. I can relate to it even though I’m in what is supposed to be the warm desert. We’ve been under average for the past 3 weeks. Even had hard freezes over the weekend! I definitely need better gear for this weather. Makes one not want to venture forth.

    I can also relate to the gaining and losing of the same pounds over and over, but I’m hoping this time will be different. Let’s keep it as a lifestyle change and not a diet and I think we will get to where we want to be.

    Keep riding!


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