Chef John Malik

a writer trapped in a cook's body

July 13, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Umm…May I borrow your bathroom?

Hydration. That’s the buzz word amongst cyclists.

“Are you staying hydrated in this heat?”

Geez, am I ever. I’m putting away the water like an Egyptian camel at the beginning of tourist season. And not just on rides but constantly. We all know that our bodies are made up of 93% water (who else has never believed that?) but no matter the actual figure, water plays a critical part in many of our body’s functions. It keeps your muscles working properly, your brain functioning properly, lungs, kidneys, etc. So it’s critical to keep the right amount of water and the best way to do that is keep drinking. Last week I quit alcohol and I’m only having one cup of coffee. And I’m dieting. Sort of. Lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meats, easy on the salt and fried foods. And lots of ice cream. ūüėÜ

Since making my #SCRTR commitment less than 30 days ago, I’ve ridden almost 500 miles and lost 8 & 1/2 pounds. And I’ve probably stopped at every rest room between Simpsonville and Asheville.

The bathrooms at QT and Chick Fil A are always clean. For some reason the smaller, family run convenience stores still haven’t caught on to the idea of a clean bathroom.

Orangeburg

The Ride to Remember is the largest fundraiser for the SC Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a 252 mile bike ride across South Carolina and we depart on Friday, July 15th. Like to come along? Click here and make a donation and I’ll even memorialize your loved one on my bib.

 

July 9, 2016
by ChefJohn
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39 in a 35

Yes, that’s 39 miles per hour. That was my maximum speed attained on this past Thursday’s ride.

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I’ve gone faster. I’ve actually hit 55 mph (that’s a story for another day.)

And yes, I know it’s dangerous to go that fast on a bike with only a thin layer of lycra as protection. I also know that there’s almost 40, 000 people killed in traffic accidents, almost 80,000 from diabetes, almost 600,000 from cancer, over 600,000 from heart disease and almost 100,000 a year from Alzheimer’s.

I know, you’re still shaking your head and calling me crazy. Fair enough. It’s a crazy I’ve chosen.

To many of us, adrenaline is like coffee, we need it to complete our day. Personally ¬†don’t ride like that on a daily basis. I might only hit that kind of top speed a couple of times a month and I don’t do it when I’m riding with strangers or the weather, my bike, and road conditions aren’t perfect, or close to it.

So what’s this got to do with the whole Alzheimer’s thing?

Cycling to me is more than a hobby. It’s a way to connect with this earth, my inner self, my friends, and my Savior. When I put in the miles, I see everything. The green of the tree line set against the blue of the sky, the song of dozens of birds, the undulations in the road, the mechanical chatter of a friend’s bike, the steady hum of ¬†my tires. When one is on a bike, you’re exposed to the elements and if you can get your mind past the danger, the rest is gravy. It’s great aerobic exercise, easy on the knees, it’ll take you places you can’t get by running, you can get out in the countryside, the camaraderie…cycling is so much more than exercise.

And one weekend a year I get to participate in a fundraiser for a dreadful disease while cycling across the state. ¬†And when I reach the top of a long climb and the rod starts to lose height and my speed builds, that’s when I’ll count my blessings, absorb myself in the moment, and thank the Good Lord for giving me the opportunity to rush across the face of the earth at 40 mph.

The Ride to Remember to support the SC Alzheimer’s Association departs in five days and I’ll be ready. Care to ride along with me? Just make a donation in my name by clicking here.

July 8, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Going Up?

I got out of the house early today because I knew the afternoon temps would be unbearable. And by 9:00 am I was in Traveler’s Rest and headed for Paris Mountain.

The #SCRTR ¬†will be a contest in endurance, man and woman against machine, with the machine being the bike. You’ve got to be able to climb on your bike and control it over a variety of terrain, roads, and weather. I’d love for this event to take place in mid May when the weather is nice and cool, but how many riders would we get and how much money would we raise? The reason we ride in summer is because, it’s summer. The kids are out of school,¬†schedules are more flexible,¬†free time is easier to come by and people are more likely to travel. The #SCRTR is really a five day event because you’ve got a three day bike ride bordered by travel and recovery days on either bookend. No one will feel ready to take on the world the Monday after this event. And that’s why we need to do this in summer. And it’s going to be hot, just like last summer. Damnit.

#ALZSucks

Alzheimer’s is brutally destructive, and that’s why I did three laps of Paris Mountain today. Because #ALZsucks.

I don’t want to be out in the heat all blessed day so that’s where proper training comes in. And that’s why I rode over Paris Mountain three times today. As I said in an earlier blog, sometimes it’s all about the grunt. And I need to be able to know that I can push myself and my body will respond.

On a long distance event such as this, a cyclist’s biggest fear is cramping. The medical jury is out on exactly what causes cramps but there’s preventive measures one can take and number one is training. You’ve got to go out and push yourself, find your physical limit then a couple days later, go out and exceed your limits. Do this for three or four months and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. Day one starts at 8:30 am and it’s the shortest day at 67 miles. Days two and three start at 7:00 am so my goal on those days is to start at the front, stop as little as possible, and get the work done by 12:30 or so before the day really heats up. Otherwise I’ll bake in the sun and all that sweating and exertion will put me at risk of cramping.

So even though I only rode 35 miles, I got in almost 3,300 feet of climbing. And more importantly, I felt solid and strong, especially on my last trip over the mountain. I won’t do that much climbing in the entire RTR so with six days before we depart, I think I’ll be okay. I’ll have a recovery day tomorrow, a hard ride on Sunday, an easy day on Monday then I’ll hammer with my guys on Tuesday evening. Wednesday and Thursday will be very light days but I’ll eat and hydrate like nobody’s business.

Would you like to tag along with me across South Carolina? Then just make a donation to my efforts by clicking here.

July 5, 2016
by ChefJohn
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See Food

The old joke of a cyclist during racing season was the “I’m on that See Food diet. When I see food, I eat it.”

And that’s how I feel right now. Last week I put in almost 250 miles and this week I hope to match that. And of course my metabolism is through the roof. ¬†I’m always hungry and it seems like I’m always eating. My car is full of crumbs, the sink is full of dirty ¬†dishes and my cycling jerseys are full of wrappers.

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A cyclist’s snack.

That’s the thing about cycling. It’s a compelling combination of mechanical and aerobic energy. Unlike running, or crossfit, or kayaking, or surfing, or stick and ball sports, cycling has a mechanical component. So the cyclist must produce enough energy to propel his machine forward and in turn, the machine carries the rider. Consequently, the aerobic component can be significant. On last year’s #SCRTR, I estimated almost a 20,000 calorie burn. ¬†So not only were my legs constantly spinning, my jaw was constantly moving, too. It has to be done, though. On a multi-day event such as the #SCRTR, you have to eat today before to provide the fuel for tomorrow. And if you don’t keep up with your calorie intake, you probably won’t recover in time for the next day’s ride. So that means leading up to the ride, you have to get your body to the place that it can hold that much energy; diet, water intake, and aerobic activity leading up to day one is critical.

Your muscles burn glycogen, not ice cream. That’s the fuel that your body makes out of food. Like a car at a gas station, the digestive machine of your body loads up your muscles with glycogen and the heavier you’re exercising, the more efficient your body is at converting and storing glycogen. If your body doesn’t need the glycogen, the extra calories become fat. Right now, I’m converting a lot of chicken, potatoes, broccoli, Chick Fil A, oats, and pizza into glycogen. ¬†And at the start of the #SCRTR, I want my gas tank crammed with as much fuel (glycogen) as possible. ¬†And when I’m loaded up with glycogen, I can sense it. Like a properly tuned car waiting for a light to turn green, my body positively buzzes with anticipation. And having the proper amount of fuel will keep me going, prevent cramping, keep me motivated, etc…

As of today I’m off alcohol, down to one cup of coffee a day (alcohol and caffeine are diuretics) and drinking a lot of water. I’ll have a few craft beers once we arrive in Charleston.

Busters 6

“Road Work”

Would you like to join me on my journey across South Carolina on the Ride to Remember? Then please click here and make a donation and your money will motivate me to ride all the way to Charleston.

 

July 4, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Ain’t That Tough Enough?

The best way to approach a long distance event such as the #SCRTR is through a six month, properly planned, concerted effort. ¬†Well if you’ve been following along, you know that I don’t have that luxury. Most of the riders would likely start their training efforts in January or February and gradually up their mileage until a week to ten days before the big event, then taper down. You don’t want to do a big effort a few days before a huge effort. Trust me.

Since I’m short of time, I’m concentrating on saddle time and sheer grunt. Saddle time because I need to toughen up all those body parts that will take a beating over three days, and grunt to get me mentally prepared. I know cyclists that spend a lot of time in spin classes or on the Swamp Rabbit Trail in the belief that this is enough training to get them through the #SCRTR. Maybe so, but that’s not going to work for me. So this morning I did a double of Paris Mountain. And good gosh almighty was it hot and muggy.

Why a double? Once you’ve climbed over a mountain, any mountain, it feels great to get to the bottom. And it’s tough to convince yourself to turn around and climb the damn thing again. It’s quite the mental challenge and the first couple hundred feet really hurt. It’d be much easier to roll into the 7-11 and grab a Gatorade. So that’s why I do it.

Strava

Because no spin class, no trainer time, no cross-fit session, and no treadmill can instill the desire to force yourself back up a mountain you’ve just climbed. Especially when it’s 91 degrees and 80% humidity and all you want is a Gatorade and an ice cold swimming pool. There’s just no substitute for the road.

So I turned around at the bottom of Altamont and pushed myself back over that damn mountain. Was it hard? Yes it was. But imagine the amount of suffering and trauma a family goes through when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. So I turned around and climbed that damn mountain. Again.

The Ride to Remember (#SCRTR) is a 250+ mile bike ride across South Carolina and it’s the largest fundraiser for the SC Alzheimer’s Association. Would you like to join me on my mission to be a cog in the wheel of the mechanism that finds a cure for #ALZ? ¬†You don’t have to climb Paris Mountain with me, you can make a donation, any amount will do, and it’ll go to the Alzheimer’s Association. And your donation will be the fuel I need to get me across South Carolina.

11 Days before we ride and I’m feeling more confident.

And if you need a reminder of why I’m doing this, your answer is right here.

 

July 3, 2016
by ChefJohn
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The Recovery Ride

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When one is seriously training, you cannot afford to take a day off. Even though I had a long ride yesterday, this morning I got out and put in 20 miles. I didn’t push myself but rather concentrated on keeping my legs turning at a steady pace. I need to keep my legs loose and if I were to take a day off, it might feel good not to train but I’d probably set myself back. Keeping the legs turning helps prevent cramping and it keeps the tendons and muscles loose. 12 days until the #SCRTR.¬†

July 2, 2016
by ChefJohn
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The 20 mph Vista

It’s the vista. When one climbs onto a road bike and heads out for a ride, the beauty of God’s creation is at your beck and call. Whether you ride at a 15 mph average or 20 mph average, the opportunity to get out and experience the glory of this earth is well within your capability. On today’s ride we traveled through Greenville, Laurens, and Spartanburg counties.

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Today was a long day, 58 miles with some folks from Team Vive and my teammate, Julian Loue. Also on today’s ride was Craig Rogers, owner of Border Springs Lamb. Craig is a rock star in the world of food and he’s one of the best known producers of lamb in the US. We’ve chatted via social media but never met face to face. Craig is also a damn cycling machine and he knows how to put down the power. Craig is also new to cycling and in a year he’s lost 80 pounds. I said 80 pounds. So not only is cycling able to transport you through beautiful countryside, it can also have amazing health benefits.

We got a late start this morning and the heat really got to some of us. We made several stops for water and with the early afternoon temps approaching 93, we really needed it.

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Today’s course courtesy Strava.

 

Even though it was hot, we had gorgeous views and blue skies. Today was all abut time in the saddle. When you prepare for a long distance ride, it’s not just your legs that have to get into shape. Shoulders, butts, hands and neck can all take a beating so you’ve got to toughen up all those areas. Stretching, weights, and yoga can all help. But nothing takes the place of riding.

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This is about the 40 mile mark. As you can see, I’m pretty comfortable on a bike and riding hands-free isn’t a big deal.

So for the week that just ended, I’ve put in 213 miles. If I can have another week like this, then I should be ready to roll come July 15th.

The #SCRTR is 13 days away.

Would you like to come along with me? Then make a donation to the SC Alzheimer’s Association and I’ll write the name of a loved one (that’s passed away or is challenged by #ALZ) on my jersey number.

 

July 1, 2016
by ChefJohn
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The Cheers of Buntings

During the summer time, the Upstate is visited by thousands of Indigo Buntings. These gorgeous little birds are commuters. They come here during the spring and summer to enjoy the scenery, the great food, the beautiful countryside, and to raise their families in peace. In the fall they’ll head home. To South America.

Indigo Bunting

Buntings have a beautiful call and I find that there’s a slight variance in the call. These guys prefer to hang out on the edge of a tree line and sing. So if you’re a runner, walker or cyclist, you’re liable to hear them.

Today I rode with my buddy Julian Loue. We’re both behind in our training and on a long climb that hurt way more than normal, I pointed the bunting’s call out to Julian.

“So if you’re feeling sorry for yourself on this climb, just listen to the call of this 4 inch tall bird. He’s probably saying, “Hey asshole, I flew here from freakin’ South America. So get your ass up that hill you puny human.”

Of course I could be wrong.

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Yours truly with my fellow Coast Buster, Julian Loue

If you’d like to fuss at me while I’m climbing up a hill, feel free. Just make a donation first to the SC Alzheimer’s Association. And thank you.

As of today I’ve got 14 days before the #SCRTR. Today I rode 31 miles and that included almost 1500 feet of climbing. This week I’ve put in 155 miles and set a P/R up Paris Mountain.

And if you’d like to hear the call of the Indigo Bunting, just click here.

July 1, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Remember This Rider

That’s my grand parents, Thomas and Blanche Baylor. They were cattle ranchers and they were legendary amongst other cattlemen. Tom called my mother Zinzy and at the age of five she participated in her first rodeo. Tom P. Baylor was something else and I loved being in his company. When he passed away, our entire family was heartbroken.

Baylors

Taken at the Ojo Ranch in Durango, Mexico, probably in the early 1950s.

The official cause of death was atherosclerosis of the brain. Hardening of the arteries which sadly led to dementia which led to his passing. Grandaddy was a pretty tough guy. He worked from sun up to sun down six days a week and half a day on Sunday. He was a true cowboy, professional cattle rancher and a veterinarian that could perform field operations on anything from a dog to a horse. He learned most of it through osmosis, he paid attention to everyone around him, took mental notes, and practiced what he learned.

In the late 1965, when John Wayne was in Durango filming The Sons of Katie Elder, he was asked to meet Tom Baylor. John Wayne thought he could learn some cowboy-ease from my grandad so the film crew sent word to the ranch and grandaddy invited John Wayne into the Ojo. Tom P. Baylor was a busy man though, and the way I heard it, John Wayne was offered to come along on the day’s chores. John Wayne preferred to share whiskey and trade stories so they quickly reached an impasse. Grandaddy had work to do, movie star or no movie star. ¬†Blanche did cook supper for the folks from Hollywood so all was not lost.

Grandaddy kept us moving. When we would visit, we were up before the sun and off to work. We would return in the heat of the day for a few hours and in the late afternoon we were back at work until the sun went down.

Today I found the time to ride for two hours. The Ride to Remember starts on July 15th in Simpsonville and finishes in Charleston on July 17th. 252 miles in the heat of a South Carolina July. And I’m behind in my cycling and my fundraising. Our recent move was incredibly stressful and time consuming, so I’ve got a good excuse. But it’s still an excuse. So as of today I’m only interested in results. Today I got out and did two laps of Paris Mountain and set a P/R on my first ascent. Yeah I’m not setting any records but I’ve got a couple of weeks to toughen up and I’m done with excuses. My biggest challenge right now is pushing my endurance threshold. Day one of the RTR takes us to Newberry, day two Newberry to Orangeburg, and day three is Orangeburg to Charleston. Day two is the toughest. It’s an 89 mile day on undulating roads and if you’re not careful, you’ll burn up and not have anything left for the last day. On day three, I want to ride with the fast guys and gals up front. So in order to do that, my endurance threshold has to be stretched considerably in the next two weeks.

Last week I briefly considered skipping the ride and just going along as a course volunteer. But Grandaddy would’ve been very disappointed in me. I would’ve had a great excuse, but Grandaddy hated excuses.

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I hope Grandaddy approves of my “horse.”

His daughter, my mother, Virginia Baylor Malik, passed away from Alzheimer’s related dementia just a few short years ago. She also hated excuses.

Would you like to join me on my journey across South Carolina? Then please make a donation to the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Association and I’ll write the name of your loved one on my number.

 

May 27, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Good Humor is the Clear Blue Sky of the Soul

Not that long ago, just off the coast of south Florida, our country stood at the brink of an all out nuclear exchange. ¬†Russian and American submarines, surface ships, aircraft carriers, fighters, soldiers, and strategic bombers gathered in and around the island of Cuba and stared each other down. The US Army had almost a half million troops in south Florida and the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command shuttled bombers to bases across the Gulf states.

McDill Tampa

McDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL, late October of 1962. The flight line is choked with B47s, F101s, and F100s.

Why?

The causes that led up to this event are multi-layered and rife with political blunders by both sides, and the outcome was a brush with a global catastrophe the likes of which our planet probably wouldn’t have survived. Yet the only combat casualty was a native son, a humble man that loved Greenville and laid down his life in the quest for peace.

It’s tough to imagine such a scenario where two superpowers would rush into such a saloon fight with nuclear weapons, but that they did. At the time, both nations routinely threatened each other with mass destruction and this was less than 20 years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, so the destructive capability of these weapons was no secret. So when Russia began deploying nuclear tipped missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles south of Miami, President Kennedy would have nothing of it and he ordered a blockade of Cuba. And of course, that sent off a global pissing contest between himself and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev. For 13 days in October of 1962, all that stood between us and a nuclear exchange with Russia was the discipline of a handful of our leaders.

US NAvy

Russian submarine shadowed by a US Navy Sea King helicopter off the coast of Florida.

 

Takes spray over the bow while steaming in heavy seas, 12 January 1960. Note S2F type airplane at the rear of the flight deck, with its engines turning. Other planes visible, amidships, include AD and F4D types. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

The USS Essex played a critical role in the Navy’s blockade of Cuba.

In the days before Google Maps, there were photographs, taken on film that had to be carefully processed. And that’s where Rudolf Anderson shows up.

Rudolf Anderson is Greenville’s most famous veteran and the pilot of this iconic aircraft that takes center stage in Greenville’s Cleveland Park. ¬†Major Anderson was an Eagle Scout, a Greenville High and Clemson University graduate who joined the Air Force in 1948. He was also the sole combat casualty of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

F 86

“Good Humor is the Clear Blue Sky of the Soul” ~ Rudy Anderson’s quote in his Greenville High senior yearbook.

During the height of the crisis, President Kennedy and his advisors needed daily intelligence on what was happening in Cuba. Kennedy was receiving mixed signals from the Russians and the only way to verify was through photographs. And Rudy Anderson was one of the Air Force’s best photographers. He was a U2 pilot that gained his reputation during the Korean War flying a camera-armed RF-86, similar to the one in Cleveland Park.

Knowing that Cuba was heavily armed with surface to air missiles that could be used against him, he suited up and flew his mission. After Major Anderson’s aircraft had spent an hour taking pictures, the Russian commander of a missile battery grew irritated and gave the order to shoot him down.

Several American commanders assumed we would immediately retaliate so bombers were loaded up, soldiers geared up, and carriers turned into the wind to launch strike aircraft. Yet Kennedy didn’t believe Khrushchev¬†was the one that gave the order to shoot down the U2 and he bravely continued on a diplomatic path. General Curtis LeMay, head of the Air Force, would later refer to this as “the greatest defeat in our history.” Sorry General but a nuclear war would’ve been our greatest defeat.

When the original monument was being planned, many in Greenville wanted a U2 to serve as Major Anderson’s memorial but its wingspan is an astounding 103 feet and it just wouldn’t fit in that space and there weren’t a lot of U2s for sale, either. I think the RF86 fit quite nicely.

U2

The U2 reconnaissance aircraft similar to the one Major Anderson flew in October of 1962.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to pause and reflect on those fighting men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice to our country, and why we celebrate this day. And be especially grateful for the gift of a humble kid from Greenville who dangled his toes in the Reedy River, rode his bike down Augusta Road, and perhaps dreamed of becoming a pilot as he ran to class through the hallways of Greenville High.

Maj Anderson

Major Rudolf Anderson, USAF

Have a blessed and safe Memorial Day weekend.

And if you enjoy my writing, perhaps you would enjoy my novel, Doughnuts for Amy, published this year by Winter Goose and set in Greenville.