Just before leaving, I dropped my bike off at the shop for a “tune-up”.  One thing that I did ask them to do was put new tires on it since I have 1500 miles on those tires and I’m trying to be a little pro-active. Still, I did fllirt with the idea of packing my bike to Uganda.  I would be the only white cyclist out here.  I did see one black roadie and while there are a fair number of people riding beaters , but Boda Bodas and cars seem to be what most people use for transport (if they aren’t using their own two feet).  And believe me, you can see it in the air. While my next trip to Africa might include some road cycling, I have to improvise this time around for my exercise.  I’m on the 6th floor of the hotel (which makes it the 7th floor since they use European floor numbering).  So I run up and down the stairs several times a day.  Instead of getting a driver to take me back to the hotel (c’mon! I can’t be that posh all the time!) I’ll walk the mile or so back uphill. I doubt I’m burning the 1500 calories/day I was at home, but if I can just remember that I don’t have to eat EVERYTHING I’ll be alright.

Today, I spent most of my time waiting on a server. I couldn’t get Ubuntu to install on a Dell Poweredge server. Suse worked fine, though.  (It looks like I might have avoided some of the problem by changing a bios setting from “I2O” to “Mass Storage” but there doesn’t seem to be a good reason that Ubuntu wouldn’t work where Suse could.) This meant even more waiting for downloads over a very slow, African satellite connection.  The installation CDs I had for Suse didn’t have Java 1.5 and, joy of joys, I couldn’t find Java RPMs Suse 10.  So I’m downloading an installer from Sun.  17MB. Oh, and did I mention that KnowledgeTree needs OpenOffice running in the background?  Another 170Mb download.  (And why is the OpenOffice download finishing before the Java one?) While I waited, I sympathized with a fellow American suffering from a recurrence of Strep.  She had used up her pennicilin just before we left on the trip.  She was fine when we got here, but then seemed to have a flare-up. Of course, being used to the American medical system, we didn’t realize that you can purchase pennicillin (and most other drugs) over the counter here after talking to the pharmacist/chemist.  Even though my brother and brother-in-law are both pharmicists, I’ve often wondered what exactly they were supposed to be doing besides complaining about drug-ignorant doctors.  Seems like the Ugandans (and many other countries, for that matter) have the right idea. Instead of treating doctors like health-gods who are supposed to know everything (when the evidence clearly shows how ignorant many of them are about drugs), it would seem like they could work more closely with the dispensers of the drugs to make sure they get the right drug and dosage to a patient. In a related note, I had to get an anti-malaria drug, Malarone, for my trip to Uganda.  I knew I was up-to-date on all my other meds since I traveled just south of here a few months ago.  So, instead of going to the Travel Nurse again, I went to my family doctor.  (He had been bugging me to come in anyway when I saw him at church.)  He gave me a perscription for Malarone that the pharmacist was willing to fill, but forgot to put down a dosage. That’s the perfect situation for getting the drugs directly from the pharmacist without requiring the bother of a scrip-writer as the middleman. Still, it was gratifying to see my doctor.  I hadn’t been in for 3 and a half years and, in the meantime, had dropped 30 lbs.

On Monday, Eric asked me why I thought I would need to use a consistent route to get back to 20 miles today. Today I went out at 6:30 in the morning to ride for an hour and half over that 20 mile ride that I used to do and I thought of the answer. Like the Mennonite man that passed me by, it is easier to compete against yourself if you are covering the same ground every day. You can push yourself to go a little faster and get done a little quicker. If you have a Heart Rate Monitor (which I plan on getting), you know that today’s readings are comparable to yesterday’s readings. Also, less thought is involved in the process. Fewer decisions (“Turn this way?” “Turn back now?”) mean I have time (like the woman Nathan ran into) to pray. I try to use the Jesus Prayer. It works something like this: (Inhale)Lord Jesus (Exhale)have mercy (Inhale)on me (Exhale)a sinner. Of course, you can tell by the fact that I was thinking about Eric’s question and coming up with answers for it that I am easily distracted from prayer.

Today’s ride started on the rail trail when I deposited and the kids at the top of the hill and then drove to the bottom to leave the car for them there. I met them on the way up. From there, I rode 30 miles back home. I had to stretch it some by zig-zagging across the turnpike a few times. On the last couple of miles, a mennonite man overtook me on his bike. I kept up with him and when we hit a light, I said “Thanks! I need someone to keep pace!” “Men can’t let go of a challenge, eh?” “See, I have an excuse. I just rode 30 miles. That, and I’m old and fat.” “Keep up the riding and you’ll be thin!” Thanks, random mennonite man.

After complaining about it a little calorie calculators, I have some empirical evidence to back me up. I loaded this spreadsheet up in Google Spreadsheets and put in some approximate numbers. It confirms what I’m thinking: all those calculators assume you’re covering flat land. But add in a 9% grade and the energy used changes dramatically. Now, I realized I’m not going to be hitting a 9% grade consistently. I’d die. But at least I can see that I am going to be burning a lot more calories than what the calculators are telling me.

Yesterday, I didn’t ride. My excuse was I had a flat and was so into work that I didn’t get to the shop to get a new tube (I had already patched the tube). Today, instead of going for distance, I decided to try some hills. I didn’t have a lot of time (only 45min) and I wore myself out pretty quickly. Nevertheless, I managed to do 3 reps on a 9% grade (120ft climb/0.25miles). Plus another ~9% grade to get home. I may start alternating climbing days with distance days. Till now, I’ve only really focused on distance, but perhaps that is a throwback from living in the relatively flat southern Louisiana. So, tomorrow would be a distance day.

Nathan Powell is turning into a maverick. I should take up smoking so I can quit and become a maverick. As it is, even though likes running, I can’t stand it. I’m way too self-aware, for one thing and, for another, I hate it. Still, I’ve gotta drop another 10 or 20 pounds before the year is out. And I need to make sure I’m doing something about my blood pressure. I found some BP and weight readings from four years ago — before I gained about 40 pounds — and I had some very healthy readings. I hope to get back to that within the next year. My exercise of choice is cycling. Given my “large” frame, this NYT article really helps me understand why cycling is such a good fit for me: anybody can do it! Well, that and you don’t have to be a string-bean to be a good cyclist. And I’m past 32, so I’m not gonna even fantasize about being a professional.

Finding out how much my blood pressure could peak to was a shock because two people I know under 40 had heart attacks this past year.  My grandfather had a bypass surgery. Last year, I told a friend I would race him to lose 50 pounds.  Both of us slacked, but in the mean time, I lost 10 pounds by just thinking about it (and cutting back on the donuts). Seeing damog’s confession of obesity (with nifty by-country comparison) reminded me that the last time I checked, I was technically obese.  I did the calculation again and discovered that those 10 pounds saved me from the label. From now until I can drop those other pounds, I’m no longer obese.  just fat.

This past weekend I bought a car from Eric’s wife, Shana, and spent some time hanging out with Eric, Nate and Patrick.  I won’t be doing that again! Just before I left, Eric brought out his Sphygmomanometer and let Nate use it.  He and Patrick both got readings that neither found out of line, so I decided to try it.  On the first try, my blood pressure measured something like 186/101.  Shocked, I quickly took another reading.  160/101.  Hrm… Maybe I wasn’t using it right.  I adjusted the fit and tried again.  Back up above 180. Now, I know I am overweight, don’t get enough exercise and probably inherited a tendency to high blood pressure, but this was ridiculous.  The three other guys took turns giving me advice on getting it down and telling me not too worry, I couldn’t be that bad off.  Just before I left, I half jokingly said I’d try the sphygmomanometer at my local Wal-Mart. I had enough time on the drive back home to mull it over that I drove straight to the Wal-Mart.  When I got there, I took a couple of readings that hovered around 140/90.  Not great, but much better than 180! Today, I tried again.  127/73 (pulse under 60).  Phew!  It must be the company I was keeping. I’ll try again tomorrow on yet another sphygmomanometer.  I’ll get this thing below 100, yet!