And How That Similarity Should Guide Everything Related to Your Rides
By Kevin Kolodziejski
The quick and clever comeback that shuts up the guy trying to make a fool out of you. Can there be anything more verbally memorable — or pleasurable to recall — than that?
Based on the fact that a former teaching colleague I hadn’t seen in years remembered such a two-word retort of mine made a dozen years ago — and how it made me feel when he did — I’ll say no.
Shutting Up the Science Teacher
I had covered another teacher’s class during my designated lunch period, so I ate later and with a different group of teachers in the faculty room that day. But we were all acquainted, and they knew of my healthy and austere eating habits. Besides, they were in the midst of some serious superintendent bashing, so when I sat with an egg-white omelet on my plate and a mix of steamed cabbage and canned tomatoes in my bowl no one said a word.
Until I grabbed the shaker of the sodium-free salt alternative I had left on the table for anyone to use and sprinkled a bit on both.
Then the science teacher — who had once told me my diet was “over the top and off the wall” — grabbed the shaker, read the ingredients, and boomed out, “Potassium chloride.” The superintendent bashing immediately stopped. So did any bodily movement. Or breathing, it seemed. Like a hanging judge, he next announced, “You know that stuff’s lethal.”
Everyone looked my way. I chewed and chewed until I gathered my thoughts and finally said, “So’s water.”
Someone said, “Ouch,” a couple teachers chuckled, and soon the superintendent bashing picked up where it had left off.
Why I Brought the Salt-Free Alternative to School
I bet you know why I brought a sodium-free salt alternative to school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90 percent of all Americans get too much sodium, and about 40 percent of what’s in a salt shaker is just that. In fact, the CDC estimates the average American adult consumes 2.3 times the amount of sodium per day that the American Heart Association deems ideal, 1,500 milligrams.
Research shows a strong relationship between the amount of sodium consumed and an adverse increase in blood pressure. Left unchecked, high blood pressurebecomes what the CDC calls a “major risk factor” for stroke and heart attack, as well as a cause of kidney disease.
Why the Science Teacher Said What He Did
But besides the fact he’s an obnoxious know-it-all, do you know why the science teacher said what he did? It’s because what I still use to enhance certain foods also happens to be the main ingredient in a solution used to euthanize anesthetized animals. Yes, you got that right. Veterinarians use potassium chloride in a supersaturated solution to make pets go permanently night-night.
But the key word here is supersaturated. To put my life in danger, the best medical guess is at my weight of 150 pounds I’d need to consume about 70 grams of the stuff at once, roughly 60 times the suggested serving size — or 25 percent of the entire 11-ounce container I’m presently looking at. Ingesting the same amount of sodium in one sitting, by the way, would be just as perilous.
So what’s all this leading too? What I next said to the science teacher while the others resumed slamming the super. “You need to read Thomas Sowell.”
Why the Science Teacher Needs to Read Thomas Sowell
The American economist, author, and social commentator Thomas Sowell was obviously not commenting on my choice of mineral compounds to flavor bland foods, but one of his best-known observations about ethics and politics applies to it. As well as just about everything related to your bicycle riding — which is why you’re reading about a verbal jousting match in a junior high faculty room 12 years ago.
Sowell says, “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”
He’s right, you know, and so was I when I said, “So’s water.” It’s a truth made tragically apparent last summer.
Excessive Potassium Chloride Can Kill; Ditto For Drinking Water
While on a boat last July, Ashley Summers began feeling lightheaded and dehydrated, so she drank some water. Well, not really some. The 35-year-old mother of two guzzled four, 16-ounce bottles — about two-thirds of what the average female needs every 24 hours — in about 20 minutes. This quick overhydration created the cerebral edema that killed her. This is an awful but obvious example of an aphorism fully in step with Sowell’s aforementioned observation: that the dose does indeed make the poison.
Both are true for just about everything related to your cycling, including what you do this offseason.
To Tractor Pull or Not to Tractor Pull
Stealing from Shakespeare only really works here as an attention-getter. Because all but the most casual cyclists should include what Hunter Allen of the Peaks Coaching Group calls tractor pulls, what you may know as big-gear intervals, when forced indoors this winter. According to Hunter, doing them “is just like going to the weight room.”
I mention tractor pulls specifically because one offseason I decided a steady diet of them — at least 12 intervals twice a week — was the solution to my sprinting woes. So I did as Hunter advises: shift to the biggest gear you got, start from a slow speed, stay seated, and then “try to break your handlebars off” for about 30 seconds. And I did sprint better the next season. Marginally. Instead of losing a position or two or three in a small bunch sprint at the end of a breakaway as I used to, now I could at least hold my spot or even move up one.
But this was not a solution at all, but merely a trade-off. For that little bit of extra seated power somehow hurt my climbing while standing. Two or three times that season, I got dropped in road races by the best billy goats on really steep climbs — something that hadn’t happened once the season before.
So a word to the wise: Keep Sowell’s observation in general in mind when you decide what sorts of riding and lifting — and maybe even dieting — to do this offseason.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.